Lee Speaks About Music… #146

Solitude – Flávio Franco Araujo

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Introduction…

Over here in the UK the South American country Brazil is perhaps more well noted for two things, football and music, and the country no doubt is not short on GREAT! talent when it comes to either of them. Internationally over the many years the country has produced one of the very best football teams ever and no country has won the World Cup more times than Brazil. I myself have very fond memories of the side they had when they won the World Cup for the third time in Mexico back in 1970 and even the GREAT! team they had that did not win it in 1982. That side was by far the GREATEST! football team I have ever seen still to this day. It had the style, flare and the skill that was equivalent to what the Harlem Globetrotters gave to Basketball.

Musically the country is perhaps noted for being the birth place of Samba music although Bossa nova is also a well-known style of Brazilian music which was a new trend that was popularized back in the 1950s and 1960s. The music of Brazil was formed mainly from the fusion of European and African elements and rhythmically I suppose there is some of the elements that came out of Africa that is associated with the percussion side of things. But also, Latin American rhythms were also widely used and fused with jazz we get what’s known as Latin jazz or even Afro-Brazilian jazz, which includes bossa nova and samba.

The country is well noted for its many talented musicians in all fields of music including classical, folk and many other genres besides, and today have become more universally accepted worldwide. I have to confess I myself do not know a great deal about the country’s music and its many talented musicians. But I have watched many music documentaries that have nothing but high praise for the musicians that have come out of Brazil and I know what skill it requires to make the music that I stumbled upon Soundcloud a good few year back when I landed on BongÔMusics.

BongÔMusics was set up by a very talented multi-instrumentalist and producer who is known as  Flávio Franco Araujo. Over the many years he has set up his own studio and produced many talented artists and helped them make many records. He is perhaps more known as a producer and BongÔMusics is the name of his studio and not the name of a band so to speak. But now finally after all these years he’s got to release a very fine album of piano solos entitled Solitude, which really shows this GREAT! man’s talent as a pianist, a composer and as a very skilful arranger. But before we go any further into his history let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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Well as you can see the package is nothing to look at and that is just one of the many disadvantages a Digital Download will present to you in relation to a physical product that would also include things such as linear production notes and credits, along with lyrics and glossary photos and such. Though the Digital Download is perhaps more popular these days than any physical media format and quite often provides you with a cheaper alternative way of getting your hands on an album.

I have to confess that I myself am more of physical product guy and prefer something you can touch and hold in your hands in relation to the Digital Download. But I can also see the point of using this format especially for the lesser known artists who are not going to be selling their albums by the bucket load and will most likely end up with a load of CD’s cluttering up their basement or garage.

Let’s face it music is very hard to sell these days and the Digital Download is really the only way the artist can protect themselves from losing a pile of cash with the extra expense it costs to put your album out onto a physical format. So, for many lesser known artists this is really the best way you can go about getting your music out there.

Digital Download v Physical Format. The Way I See It…

Being more of a physical media guy my own personal view of how much a Digital Download should cost really boils down to all the things you are missing out on regarding the packaging and the extra content you get with a physical media product. I myself certainly do not believe any Digital Download should cost any more than £5. That is not to say that the music is not worth more than that and is really down to what more you get with the physical product.

For example, a Digital Download is a bit like buying a CD that comes with no packaging and all the other informative information about the product that comes with it. If you were to take a CD out of its jewel case and sell it on its own, the chances are that you would most likely get less than half of the price you paid for it with the packaging and the rest of the contents. The informative information that comes with any album is just as vital and important as the music itself to a collector like myself. It’s also one of the most useful things to have to write a detailed review about any album too.

Now I am not saying that all artists should charge no more than £5 for a Digital Download and at the end of the day it’s up to themselves what they think it’s worth. But it’s very rare I would pay more than £5 for such a thing and being more into the physical side of things is where I personally see more quality and value can be had for the buck. The Digital Download really should be much cheaper and should be sold as a cheaper alternative way of getting your hands on an album and not sold at the same price as a physical product which offers way more.

But you could also argue the point that because a lesser known artist is hardly likely to sell as many copies and hardly any at all in comparison to any mainstream artist. That you should pay more to give the artist support. But that does not reflect on the price point of the both formats in relation to what they are actually worth, and to charge the same price for a Digital Download as a CD will reflect that its price point is too high and overpriced.

The Artwork.

The artwork for the album cover was a photograph taken by Flavio himself and it was taken along with several other photos from where he lives. The photo he chose no doubt represents the albums title of Solitude very well I feel as you can see from the original photo below. He also edited the photo in Lightroom to give it that personal touch for the album cover and it also works very well I feel.

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Flávio Franco Araujo In Brief History…

Flávio Franco Araújo was born in Guararapes, Brazil and currently lives in São Paulo. Although São Paulo is not the capital city of Brazil it is the most populated city and I guess in some ways it’s a bit like how the many musicians here in England would have moved to London to get noticed with there being something more going on. Whether the city of São Paulo works that way or even that was the reason for Flavio to move there I could not personally tell you. But it is a city that does tend to have a lot going on for it and even the 2014 World Cup was hosted in the city.

Flavio is a practically self-taught musician and composed his first song at the age of 13. His passion and his love of music I guess goes back to the quality music he would have heard in his parents’ house when growing up as a child and the music of Chopin, Lizst, Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and great arrangers like Claus Orgeman and Quincy Jones would have influenced him in many ways. He was also passionate about cinematic music, especially from older films and they also provided an influence for him. He loves romanticism but he also liked to dare in other musical styles.

He plays various instruments, such as acoustic piano, keyboards, guitar, bass guitar and has learned all of them quite well, though I would say that it is his love of the piano and keyboards is where he excels the most and as a keyboardist and pianist, he has performed in jazz festivals such as Tatui with the group Amatuza and Paraty with the Rhandal de Oliveira’s quartet. He has also performed along with Ná Ozzetti, Raul de Souza, Sizão Machado, Duda Neves, Claudio Celso, Max Sallum, Adyel, Pete Wooley, among others.

Being also a producer the other instruments he plays no doubt come in handy and get utilised and sound quality and production is also another side of his passion in wanting to achieve the best there is out there by keeping up with the latest technology. It was back in 1993 that he founded and established the critically acclaimed studio, BongÔMusics, and focused on advertising campaigns and musical productions such as albums, soundtracks, post production, mixing and mastering. Flávio is currently working on children’s music projects, film soundtracks, publicity and his instrumental music albums. Throughout his career, Flávio has won several awards as a composer and producer at Brazilian popular music festivals and respected publicity celebrations.

The Album Solitude In Review…

The album Solitude by Flávio Franco Araujo was released on 7th February 2020. The album contains 8 instrumental piano pieces spread over and overall playing time of 46 minutes, 28 seconds. The 8 tracks on the album are all his own compositions and portray 8 moments of his life that were very important to him, most of which relate to his family and he also pays homage to his idol Bill Evans.

Solitude is very much Flávio’s debut album and is an album that contains 8 piano solos that he wrote over many years. He has spent perhaps more of his own time producing other people’s music and playing and arranging more widely known mainstream music than he has given to his own compositions. Time has no relevance regarding his own music and his philosophy is that he likes to wait for the right moment. For example, the albums self-titled track “Solitude” was written at a time or a moment where he revaluated everything and started to be a little more isolated.

He also told me that he was very connected to the universe at the time and most of his compositions are born that way. However, you look at his music you can see he is very proud and passionate about it. But the other thing that keeps him busy is live performance and he has performed with many GREAT! quality musicians besides doing live solo performances like the one we have here of him performing his own unique arrangement of the well-known Harold Arlen composition “Somewhere Over The Rainbow“.

This live performance comes from a free concert he gave at the Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall in the United States on March 5th 2019. Flávio also performed some of his own material that is on the album at the same venue along with a few more covers. From this live performance you can quite easily see how passionate he is with his approach to the keys and there is certainly a degree of skill than has been put into the arrangement he gave to the piece to which gives it a lovely jazzy flavour.

A couple of years ago Flávio did mention to me that he planned to do some travelling and do some live performances to get his name out there a bit more. He also set up a series of live performances with other musicians to which he called Vinyl Review. Although this was pretty much set up at his own studio or at another location in his own country as you can see from the picture below.

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The concerts they gave would also of been performed to friends who they had invited over. Vinyl Review was a really GREAT! series that I enjoyed a lot and they actually premiered and streamed live these performances at an exceedingly high quality, where both picture and sound quality were pristine. This is something that is very hard to achieve especially streaming it live over the internet. The quality was as pristine as blu ray too and it might be worth them putting them out on that format.

A lot of the concerts have now been edited down to single tracks to which Flávio has put on his own Youtube channel. But no doubt the musicians were class as you can see from this live performance of “Footprints” which he put out in January this year.

My guess is that Flávio chose the word “Vinyl” or “Vinil” in Portuguese (to which the Brazilian language is derived from and uses) for the series to represent the high quality. Although in reality I would say that the quality was much better than vinyl simply because vinyl does have its restrictions and is prone to surface noise. Though no doubt for many it is still regarded as one of the better media formats and is still widely associated and popular with many music collectors.

Quality has always played an importance to his and other people’s music and I guess when you are working with musicians of this calibre you want the best for them. The production side of music also plays a big factor and has a producer he is not short in this department either, and his production work and skills are of very high standards.

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Like I mentioned earlier Flávio set up his own studio BongÔMusics back in 1993 and over the decades he has maintained and kept up with the latest technology so that he is able to achieve such high-quality standards. However, this year his studio has been stripped down and his own debut album Solitude might very well be the last thing to come out of BongÔMusics. But even though it only comes in the format of a digital download it has also been made available in a hi-res 96khz at some outlets.

Musicians & Credits…

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All music composed, arranged and performed by Flávio Franco Araujo. Recorded at BongÔMusics studios Morumbi, São Paulo. Brazil. Recorded mixed and mastered by Flávio Franco Araujo. Album cover and design by Flávio Franco Araujo.

Musicians.

Flávio Franco Araujo: Piano.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Solitude is an album of instrumental solo piano pieces and you could say that it’s very much a family album in that the biggest majority of the pieces are dedicated to those in Flávio’s family, some of which were very much written to remind him of the wonderful times he had with some of those who are no longer here. There is no doubt that each piece will have a special place in his heart and you could also say that it’s also a personal album that has more of a personal meaning to him.

However, you look at any piano piece there is a certain feel of elegance, beauty and grace and the piano is an instrument that can capture many emotions and moods that can be quite captivating. I think there is a certain amount of pleasure one can get from playing any instrument and even I myself can get tremendous pleasure and joy playing the piano. Though I have to confess that I am far from an accomplished piano player or pianist like this guy is, but any instrument will give you a sense of reward and pleasure no matter what level you can play it at for that matter.

The very fact that I can play the piano to a certain degree does mean that I have a particular interest and love for the instrument. Though I have to confess that an album that consists of nothing but piano or even guitar solos is not the thing in general I would personally buy. I have done many moons ago in the past and they are the kind of albums that I would rarely get out and play these days. I like more elements of instrumentation thrown into the equation and prefer an album where only one or two solo pieces have been put onto the album.

So, without further ado lets now take a look at the albums individual tracks as I go through them one by one and see how the album all pans out and works.

Track 1. Sol Brilhante.

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The title translates in English to “Bright Sun” and Sol also happens to be the name of Flávio’s beautiful wife to which this opening piece on the album is dedicated too. You could say that the album gets off to a bright start with this opening piece too and it does sound bright and has an air of elegance and romance to the piece. It also dances itself along quite wonderfully as if it’s telling a story and use of 8va variants work well to lift the piece up and it also utilises some of the lower regions to provide a certain amount of weight to the piece.

Overall, “Sol Brilhante” is a really beautiful piece that has a certain amount of air, grace and elegance to it and contains a touch of darkness to give it a bit of shade with the added weight from the lower regions of the keyboard that comes into play around the 3 minute mark. It’s a piece that lends more from the classical side of things rather than jazz and the beauty it has is perhaps why he chose the piece for his wife. It’s a GREAT! start to the album in some ways it reminds me of some of pieces that Rick Wakeman wrote for his Country Airs album back in 1986 and I see this has one of the contenders for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 2. Solitude.
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The albums self-titled track is one of the three longer pieces on the album and is played at a more subtle slower pace and lends to the space with its movement to represent the emptiness and the loneliness that is associated with the word “Solitude”. It’s a piece he wrote in a moment where he started to revaluate everything and started to be a little more isolated. I guess there are many times when we want to be by ourselves at times and isolate ourselves and collect our thoughts. Although right now in the present situation with Coronavirus spreading rapidly around the world, having to isolate ourselves is perhaps not the same thing.

This is another fine piece that has more of a classical structure to it and has a certain feel of sadness and beauty and also has a sense of warmth about it. It fits the title like a glove and Flávio did feel he was connected with the universe when he wrote it. Even though that is not him in the picture I chose to use for this piece, I do also feel it fits the picture too and see it has him collecting his thoughts with the universe.

If anything, “Solitude” is a piece that very much has perhaps more of a chilliout mood to it and also a sense of purpose with its melody lines and the environmental recording of the rain and birds singing at the end works very effectively to round the piece off. It’s a very well-constructed piece of work and is played with precision and his fingers are quite magical with how he touches upon certain keys that add to the beauty of the piece. It’s very much a strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 3. Flavia Jogando Bola.
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Jogando Bola translates to “Playing ball” and this is a very playful piece that has a feel and sense of joy about it all. The piece itself reflects back to Flávio looking back on his past to the times when his daughter Flavia was a couple of years old and playing ball. I guess we all have fond memories and moments we like to gaze back at every now and then and this really is a GORGEOUS! little piece that dances along joyfully and the keys really do express and capture the joyful moment in time he was looking back on.

Track 4. Miss You.

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Miss You” is the longest track on the album and was inspired by the film music that Flávio’s father loved so much. It’s a piece that very much has a feel of loneliness like the 2nd track on the album “Solitude” only there is a lot more movement to the piece and it touches on jazz and classical structures to make it what it is.

It’s quite a powerful dramatic and expressive piece that captures many moods along its path and builds itself around melodies that contrast between light and shade. I would also say that you would have to have quite some strength in your fingers to be able to play a piece like this over its 10 minute and 19 second journey and it’s another very well worked out piece and one that has some really GREAT! chord progression along its path.

Track 5. Bella.

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This is a piece that Flávio wrote in a way of a dedication and remembrance of his dog Bella after she sadly passed away. Once again, it’s a piece that is built around a classical music structure in that it is built around a theme and variations of the theme. It’s a very well-crafted composition that has a sense of purpose about it, it starts off slowly and even though the piece builds up a bit quicker with its pace it constrains itself and holds everything together really well.

It’s not really a playful piece like the 3rd track on the album he wrote about his daughter and its perhaps done more in a way to represent the pleasure that Bella brought to him and his family over the 90 odd dog years she lived. It’s a very emotive piece that captures sprinkles of joy and a touch of sadness with how it presents itself to you and is a wonderful little journey through the life of Bella who is pictured in the photo above. It’s another of my contenders for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 6. Beautiful Flowers.

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This piece was composed in honour of Flávio’s father Florentino and the “Flor” in the first segment of his name means flower in Portuguese hence the reason for the title he chose here. His father was a true master of the craft and very much his hero and this particular piece has been very well crafted in a way of a dedication to him and is the second longest track on the album weighing in at 8 minutes, 44 seconds.

There is quite a lot of beauty here which is to be expected in that it deeply shows his love for his father, and this is a piece that has eloquence, grace and even romance and is another very well constructed piece of work with how it all builds up to its heights and goes through motions and emotions that take in both happiness and sadness. It really is a masterclass piece of work and he has also backed it up slightly in parts with some warm strings which support the piano very well. This is another strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 7. Mother.

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The second piece that Flávio has dedicated to his mother is much shorter and once again this is a piece that has a sense of purpose about it and is more constrained like the 5th track on the album. This is perhaps done in way to represent how mothers have more of caring aspect about them in that they keep us safe from harm and are more protective or sometimes even overprotective by watching over us sort of thing. Well that is how it comes across and speaks to me, and it is perhaps more sombre and reflects darker shades, yet still manages to shine some light and is another wonderful worked out piece of work he has composed here.

Track 8. For Bill.

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The final piece on the album pays homage to one of Flávio’s idols namely the American jazz pianist and composer Bill Evans. To be honest I have never heard of him though jazz is perhaps not that popular in my own record collection although I do love certain aspects of it and am perhaps more into jazz fusion and the sort of thing that Flávio does with the other GREAT! musicians he plays with.

But I do have tremendous respect for some of the truly GREAT! jazz pianists and one that perhaps amazes me is Oscar Peterson. I also love boogie and ragtime music and have seen many old vintage clips of some those GREATS! from the past way before my time play them and enjoy a lot.

To be perfectly honest when listening to the album Solitude it does tend to lend more to the contemporary classical side of music than it does to jazz. But this is a piece that really displays some of the more technical aspects of playing jazz and it’s as if Flávio is playing a serenade to his idol Bill Evans and he certainly does justice to him too.

He also performed this live at the Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall in Fayetteville Arkansas in the United States and done a GRAND! job of it as you can see in this video that he put out on his Youtube channel.

You can also find many more live performances on his Youtube channel including a straw of 3 of the other pieces from the album Solitude he also played live from the same venue. “For Bill” is a perfect way to put the album to bed and end off a very satisfactory body of work and a GREAT! album of fine piano pieces. It’s also my personal favourite track on the album and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Summary…

To sum up the album Solitude by Flávio Franco Araujo. I would say that the biggest majority of music that was written for the album does have more of a contemporary classical feel and lends itself more to that style more so than the jazz side of things. But that is perhaps to be more expected given that the album does have more of a personal side to it and is very much a family album.

I suppose in a way of categorising it in the way of giving it a genre, it’s bit like the genre of New Age that was given to the Country Airs album that Rick Wakeman had done back in 1986 and it is quite similar to that type of album. But then again how exactly does New Age really categorise a particular style of music especially when they have ambient electronic music, acoustic and all sorts filed under the same name tag. Like the many genres that evolved over the years they do tend to be ridiculous.

You can see that Flávio has put a lot of thought into the placement of the tracks on the album and it does flow and work very well in the order that they have been placed. The other good thing the album has in its favour is its overall time slot, which at 46 minutes is a very comfortable listening time that flies by in no time at all making it much easier to give the album another spin afterwards.

Reviewing any instrumental album presents a difficult task especially for me to convey how each piece comes across individually. But as with any album I review I do listen to the album several times and each track intensely. Though I may not be the best when it comes to wording things, especially when it comes to describing piano pieces. Solitude is an album that also presented me with quite a challenge to pick my personal highlights from the album but they are as follows: “Sol Brilhante“. “Solitude“. “Bella“. “Beautiful Flowers” and “For Bill“.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of the album Solitude. I personally do not think that an album filled with piano pieces is going to appeal to the masses, and it will appeal to those who are more into the piano than myself. But that’s not to say you cannot get tremendous pleasure and joy out of listening to an album like this or deny the skill that went into making an album like this either.

I would even say that given the current circumstances we are in with the Coronavirus and how we are all revaluating our lives to fit and work around it. An album like this might be just the ticket and the thing you need right now to focus on other things and I certainly think it will make you appreciate some of the beauty there is in this world.

Every musician in the world comes with their own appraoch and personal touch to their own instrument and that is where the real value lies within an album like this. For example, being more into prog rock myself Rick Wakeman has always been my personal god of the keyboards. But when it comes to playing the piano, he is no Oscar Peterson or even Flávio Franco Araujo for that matter and I would hardly say that his album Country Airs was one of his better albums. I personally do not think it’s a bad album but in all honesty the album Solitude speaks to me a lot more than that album of his.

The album Solitude is an album I highly recommend and contains a very fine strong body of work and I personally could not fault a single track upon it and each piece is very well composed, played and arranged and the quality production speaks for itself. It’s an album that I feel has a lot more to offer than I thought, even if it is made up of solo piano pieces and is not the sort of thing, I would personally buy these days. It’s also an album that one can truly appreciate and there is no doubt that Flávio Franco Araujo is a very gifted talented musician.

You can listen to the album for free on places like Spotify, Amazon Music and Apple Music or alternatively you can purchase the digital download of album from Amazon and many other outlets for around £9.99. You can even purchase an hi-res version of the album from here: https://www.prostudiomasters.com/album/page/55320

A Moment To Revaluate Everything

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Sol Brilhante. 4:35.
02. Solitude. 7:24.
03. Flavia Jogando Bola. 4:06.
04. Miss You. 10:19.
05. Bella. 3:48.
06. Beautiful Flowers. 8:44.
07. Mother. 3:49.
08. For Bill. 3:43.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #145

Ordinary Man – Ozzy Osbourne

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Introduction…

Well it’s been a good decade since Ozzy Osbourne released an album and three years since both, he and his former band Black Sabbath decided to call it a day and put an end to their career back in their own town of Birmingham England at the Genting Arena on the 4th February 2017.  Now he’s back with his 12th studio album and being that he is now an ageing 71-year-old rocker, this could very well be his final album. 

Given the condition of his health over the last year with having a bad fall whilst recovering from pneumonia and being diagnosed with a mild form of Parkinson’s disease, I guess we should be thankful that he was able to make another album. But then again, I am sure Osbourne has stated many times in the past that he’s extremely lucky to still be here given all the antics he has got up to in the past. But at the end of the day I guess he is still mortal and just like the new albums title suggests an ordinary man. 

Ozzy Osbourne has always been the crazy man of rock n’ roll but what makes things even more crazy is that despite him now being at the ripe old age of 71. Many will still go out and buy this new album of his including those still in their teens and not just the many who like myself who have followed him over all these years. 

I can remember going back to my youth and in my teens when I first heard artists like Frank Sinatra. For the life of me I could not imagine myself buying records by those particular artists who were perhaps more popular with my parents’ generation than my own. Back then I would have even considered them to be old bags making records and would have made fun about them with my mates. But of course, as you grow older you get wiser and get to have much more respect for those type of artists and the one thing Sinatra still had in his ripe old age was his voice and that is something Osbourne still has kept intact today. 

I guess you could even say that Ozzy is an extraordinary man and I’ve always found him to be quite a character and such a likeable and down to earth guy. He may not have the best voice in relation to many other rock singers. But for me personally when it comes to rock music and the music he made with both Black Sabbath and his own solo career, he and Alice Cooper are very much the only singers I have ever said that rule. Throughout his entire career there as only really been one album that never rocked my boat, but before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork. 

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The Deluxe Edition CD comes in a 3-panel cardboard DigiSleeve to which the artists name, albums title and tracks have been etched or stencilled in silver leaf effect. Both the CD and Booklet slot into side pockets or slots on the right and left side on the inside of the DigiSleeve and the 14-page booklet contains all the linear notes and credits plus the lyrics. Overall, it’s been very well presented and for me personally it was worth paying the extra couple of pounds more for the deluxe edition. I do prefer both cardboard DigiSleeves and DigiPaks in relation to the standard plastic Jewel Case. 

Artwork.

The artworks design and layout were done by Jeff Schulz who is an Associate Design Director at Sony Music Entertainment and an acclaimed creative director with 25+ years of experience guiding the vision of top brands, artists, and properties. Over the past near enough three decades Schulz has designed many album covers for artists such as the likes of Leonard Cohen, Miles Davis, Robert Cray, Bon Jovi, Patti Smith, Avril Lavigne, Whitney Houston and many others. Most of the album covers he has designed are worked around portraits and pictures of the artists themselves.  

The photography was done by Sam Taylor-Johnson and the back of the album cover photograph was taken by the albums producer Andrew Watt who is involved with a lot of things on the album. The bat illustration in the middle of the booklet was done by Jon Contino. Overall, the albums artwork looks pretty neat and cool and this is one bat that not even Ozzy will be biting the head off :)))))). 

Release Editions…

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The album was released in 7 formats counting the digital download leaving you the choice of 6 physical formats to choose from. Oddly enough the digital download is not the cheapest option and is priced up at £9.99 on Amazon UK. The cheapest of the 6 physical formats is the Cassette priced up at £8 and this format gives you the choice of 4 different cover art pictures to choose from on Ozzy’s website as seen below.

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It was also released with the choice of 2 CD editions and as you can see, I opted for Deluxe Edition which I pre-ordered from Amazon UK and got it for £11.98. You can also get it in a standard plastic Jewel Case which is a couple of quid cheaper for £9.99 on Amazon and they are one of the cheapest retailers to purchase the album from. The only difference between the standard and deluxe versions is the packaging and nothing more. 

For vinyl lovers you have the choice of 3 vinyl editions you can choose from and the standard Black vinyl version is priced at £20. The Picture Disc version retails for £25 and the Deluxe edition comes in a smoke Silver colour vinyl and is priced at £40. It’s also worth noting that on Ozzy’s website all vinyl albums have been pressed onto 140-gram vinyl and not 180 gram and I thought this might have been a typo error because most other outlets are advertising it as 180-gram vinyl. 

However, having stumbled across more recent reviews about the issues some people are having with the vinyl release, it does appear to be that the vinyl industry is cutting corners once again and giving you less quality at a premium price. This is one of the very things that got my goat up about vinyl years ago and why I finally gave up on it simply because the thinner they cut the vinyl the more static it attracted and it was also more prone to warp a lot easier too and generate more surface noise. 

This recent video I found on the YouTube talks about the problems of quality control that is still going on today regarding vinyl and Osbourne’s latest album Ordinary Man is at the centre of it with the vinyl release. 

In other recent news it appears that “Vinylgeddon” is upon us due to recent fire that has decimated Apollo Masters in Banning, California. The plant produced 75-percent of the world’s lacquers that is used to make the stampers to make new recordings of vinyl records, with Japan’s MDC providing the remainder. Although it’s not quite “Vinylgeddon” and many albums are pressed well in advance but it will no doubt slow things down eventually for a while and will take at least a couple of years to hopefully get everything back together if they can. 

This recent video I found on Youtube explains more about it and what it will mean for the future of vinyl. Although a lot of it is only speculation and only time will tell just how much of an effect it will have on the vinyl industry.

The Album In Review…

Ordinary Man by Ozzy Osbourne was released on the 21st February 2020. The album comes with 11 tracks and has a total playing time of 49 minutes, 21 seconds which is a very comfortable time slot though not so comfortable to fit on a vinyl album. Which is why these days a single album like this now comes on 2 LP’s instead of one to cater for vinyl restrictions although I am pretty sure the album was put onto a single LP. I think it’s good they are now catering for quality but no doubt it does also bump the price of the album up for vinyl lovers doing it like this.

It was after finishing the farewell tour with Black Sabbath back in 2017 that Osbourne kept working on new material though various health issues got in the way and he was even forced ho to cancel his “No More Tours II” tour that was scheduled to kick off in February 2018. The tour was cancelled again in 2019 and was due to start in North America in May this year but once again had been cancelled and rescheduled to start in the United Kingdom in October 2020.

In September 2019, he was featured alongside American rapper Travis Scott on American rapper Post Malone’sTake What You Want“, from Malone’s third studio album Hollywood’s Bleeding, which went on to become Osbourne’s first Billboard Hot 100 top 10 in over 30 years and is also included on this album. In November last year Osbourne announced that he had been working with the Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan, and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith on new material for a new album and since then we have seen 4 single releases between November – February surface prior to the albums release.

Most of the album was recorded at various studios a couple of which namely Electric Feel and Gold Tooth Music studios in the States are most likely home studios, but some of the tracks were also recorded at Abbey Road and Sarm studios in London, England. Sarm Studios were established by Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records, and it was originally known as Basing Street Studios. It has also been known in the past as Island Studios and SARM is an acronym of Sound and Recording Mobiles.

The studio is situated in Notting Hill in London and was built inside a former church that had been de-consecrated. The old church began its life as a studio back in 1969 though has a record producer Chris Blackwell’s career goes back much further and in 1964, he produced a cover version of Barbie Gaye’s 1956 song “My Boy Lollipop” which became Millie’s breakthrough blockbuster hit in the United Kingdom, reaching No. 2.

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Basing Street Studios.

In the 70’s Blackwell got to produce quite a few ground breaking albums including Led Zeppelin’s Volume IV and Jethro Tull’s Aqualung along with many other artists such as Iron Maiden, Bob Marley, Steve Winwood, Free, Bad Company, Robert Palmer, Jimmy Cliff, Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, King Crimson, John Martyn, Mott the Hoople, Quintessence, Roxy Music, Brian Eno, Sparks, Cat Stevens, Spooky Tooth, Traffic and many more. The studios were also used by notable non-Island Records acts, such as Madonna, The Clash, Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, The Eagles, Dire Straits, East 17, Boyzone, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Rihanna, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Genesis, Yes and so on.

The studio changed its name to Sarm West and in the mid 1970s, Sarm was the first 24-track recording studio in England and later became the first with 48-track facilities. In 1982 the producer Trevor Horn of Buggles brought the studios and the Band Aid smash hit “Do They Know It’s Christmas” was recorded in Studio 1 at Sarm West in 1984. In May 2011, two new studios and music business offices were added. The redesign also included living accommodation, to facilitate a return to the studios’ 1970s policy of long-term bookings. The studios are currently owned by SPZ Group, which is a holding company belonging to Trevor Horn and his late wife Jill Sinclair. The Sarm Studios complex also houses the offices of the SPZ-owned record labels ZTT Records and Stiff Records, and publishing companies Perfect Songs and Unforgettable Songs.

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Sarm studios.

Ozzy’s new album Ordinary Man was produced by the guitarist Andrew Watt who is also known for working with rapper Post Malone, both producing his songs and playing with him as a guitarist. He’s also collaborated with many more popular artists such as Justin Bieber to name one of them, and to be perfectly honest you would hardly think he was the right candidate to work on album for the prince of darkness. To be perfectly honest I have never heard of him or Post Malone for that matter and the likes of Justin Bieber is hardly going to raise my eyebrows and I would most likely PUKE! at the thought of him and Malone :))))). 

Though through my research I did get to discover that Watt got together with both Glen Hughes and Jason Bonham back in 2013 to form a hard rock supergroup who went by the name of California Breed and they made a one-off album together. So, he may very well have the credentials that are required though I was quite surprised not to see Zakk Wylde on the new album though these days when I look on Youtube there are literally thousands upon thousands of unknown guitarists who are quite capable of doing the job. Guitarists are very much ten a penny these days and not like they was many moons ago. 

Besides Andrew WattDuff McKagan, and Chad Smith who are the main musicians on the album it also features the ex Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash on a couple of tracks and Elton John also contributes piano and vocals to a track. It also features a few more musicians besides so let’s now take a look at the albums credits. 

Musicians & Credits…

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Executive Producer Andrew Watt. Recorded at various studios in the USA and United Kingdom. Recording Engineers Andrew Dudman, Dominik Gryzbon, Paul Lamalfa and Matt Still. Assistant Engineers Matt Jones and George Oulton. Mixed by Manny Marroquin and Alan Moulder. Mixing Assistants Caesar Edmunds, Scott Desmarais, Robin Florent, Chris Galland, Tom Herbert and Jeremie Inhaber. Mastering by Mike Bozzi and Dave Kutch assisted by Kevin Peterson.

All compositions written by Osbourne, Smith, McKagan, Tamposi, Watt (except Tracks 1 & 7 by Osbourne, Smith, McKagan, Watt. Track 4 by Osbourne, John, McKagan, Walsh, Watt. Track10 by Osbourne, Post, Smith, Watt and track 11 by Osbourne, Post, Webster, Walsh, Watt. Art Direction & design by Jeff Schulz. Photography by Sam Taylor-Johnson. Back Cover Photo by Andrew Watt. Illustrations by Jon Contino.

Musicians.

Ozzy Osbourne: Vocals – Harmonica (Track 6).
Andrew Watt: Guitar – Keyboards (Tracks 2, 4-10) – Piano (Track 4) – Bass (Track 7) – Backing Vocals – Programming & Arrangements.
Duff McKagan: Bass (Tracks 1-6, 8-10).
Chad Smith: Drums (Tracks 1-10).

Additional Musicians.

Slash: Guitar (Tracks 1 & 4).
Elton John: Co-Lead Vocals & Piano (Track 4).
Tom Morello: Guitar (Tracks 8 & 10).
Post Malone: Co-Lead Vocals (Tracks 10 & 11).
Caesar Edmunds: Synth Bass (Tracks 2, 3, 6, 9, 10) – Synth Programming (Track 1).
Charlie Puth: Keyboards (Track 1).
Travis Scott: Vocals (Track 11).

Backing Vocalists: Ali Tamposi. Kelly Osbourne. Holly Laessig. Jess Wolfe. John Bowen. Christopher Hann. Gareth Treseder.

The Album Tracks In Review…

There was certainly no expense spared that went into the making of Osbourne’s 12th studio album Ordinary Man and there are way too many people involved in the making of this album for me to list them all in the credits. I would even think that if this album was to hit Number 1 in many countries I doubt if he would even get his money back and this must be the most expensive album he’s ever made.

This is an album that uses many modern techniques that’s found in the biggest majority of today’s pop music and also involves many artists who are not fussy about using programming and loops. I very much doubt that Osbourne has ever made an album like this before and this was all new to him including many of the people he had worked with on the album. But it also includes many musicians and he even paid Andrew Watt to fly over to Abby Road Studios in London, England to get an orchestra put on some of the tracks, and had him fly over to Atlanta to get Elton John on one of the tracks.

I have to confess that when I look back at all the GREAT! musicians Ozzy has worked with and had in the past on his previous albums from his solo career. I was not expecting a great deal looking at the backbone of the main musicians who are featured on this album. I would even say that with Osbourne being 71 and not in the best of shape after his last accident in the many interviews I have seen of him. That he was not in any fit shape to make an album. So, let’s now take a look and see how it came out.

Track 1. Straight To Hell.

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Straight off the BAT! excuse the pun :))))) the album gets off to a flying start and this opening track sees Ozzy flying high again and the opening words “alright now” takes me even further back to that sweet leaf of his and just like both of those songs the lyrical content pertains to the harm that drugs can do to you and this is an anti-drug song like the many he has had done in the past, and just like the many it’s one HELL! of a song too.

There is no doubt that even Osbourne himself must of been well chuffed with how the song came out that he could not wait to get it out there, and an official video was made for the song and released last year on the 22nd November. The video perhaps describes hell as being more of a riot and Ozzy is perhaps portrayed has the instigator of it all in the way it’s been put across but it’s very well made and he looks GREAT! in it.

Straight To Hell” is one of the more rawer edged songs on the album that is perhaps a bit more minimalistic regarding what’s been put into it to make it ROCK! particularly in the music department but it has all the right elements for it to work so well. It features Slash on lead guitar and the solo is very well executed. Ozzy’s voice stands out as well as ever and the other singers backing him up have been mixed in extremely well and this has to be a contender for one of the albums best powerful songs.

Track 2. All My Life.

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I like how the lyrics have been put into context in this song and the lyrics are perhaps a bit more personal in that they relate to Ozzy’s past and even the present with how he’s still here and doing what he does the best. It’s not quite the end for him yet and he’s fighting to live on for eternity. Musically the song is low key and has more of a down tempo about it that effectively works very well to bring the album down a notch. Andrew Watt‘s guitar solo slots in very well and Osbourne’s voice is the only voice here and this a good example to show just how well he still has his voice and it’s a really GREAT! song.

Track 3. Goodbye.

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There is quite a Black Sabbath feel to this next song and the thumping of the bass drum on the intro puts me in mind of “Iron Man” then it changes into something more along the lines of The Police and their hit song “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” in particular with the structure of the verses and I could almost sing some of the words from that song to the melody here and it’s like it’s been fused with “Electric Funeral“. Even the transitional change we get in the song is very much along the lines of Sabbath and you can see that the musicians had listened extensively to Osbourne’s entire career to make the new material work so well for him. 

Once again, the lyrics are well written and put into context and you do get the impression that this album is meant to be his final album and its almost as if he’s writing his last will and testament to us all. There is nothing overcooked on these opening tracks and if there is any modern technology used you certainly cannot hear it and that is another excellent song that has all the right raw power to drive it along and another fine example how Osbourne’s voice has not changed a bit. 

Track 4. Ordinary Man.

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This song has quite a BEATLE-ESC! feel about it and it features Elton John on piano and he also gets to sing the second verse of the song. It also features Slash on the lead solo. Besides having such a GREAT! voice for rock music Ozzy has always had the characteristics in his voice to sing ballads exceptionally well and that even goes back to the 70’s when he was with Black Sabbath and “Changes” from their 4th album Volume 4 is a fine example and testament to that. Back in 2001 when I first heard “Dreamer” that song alone enticed me to buy the album Down To Earth immediately and I have yet to find an album from his solo career that has ever let me down.

Once again, the lyrics are excellent and they pertain to him wanting to be remembered after he’s gone and no doubt he will be, simply because he’s already made history as far as I am concerned.  I can see why Osbourne wanted an orchestra on this song and why he sent Watt to Abbey Road because he has always been a fan of The Beatles. “Ordinary Man” is my personal favourite track on the album and it merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

The official video was only released today and just in time for me to add it in for my review. I personally do not think it’s as good as the other two official videos that were made and it’s a reflection of Ozzy looking back on his past in a sad way.

Track 5. Under The Graveyard.

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Yet another really GREAT! track and I would say that the album was worth it’s price point at this stage and were not even half way through it. This was another of the early single releases that was put out last November. The song is a look back on Osbourne’s life around the time he was sacked from Black Sabbath with his battles with drug and alcohol addiction and how his wife got him back on his feet again.

No expense has been spared on the official video that was made to promote the release either, and I have to say how they found the right actors to play the part of Ozzy and his wife Sharon does look very much like how they were back in early 80’s. “Under The Graveyard” is my second favourite track on the album and is a very strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! I would even say that this may very well be a firm favourite with most of his fans.

Track 6. Eat Me.

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Ozzy gives you something you can get your teeth into like the title suggests and the lyrical content is on the black comedy side of things. The intro on the harmonica and the opening power chords from the guitars do have a Black Sabbath feel about them and hearing Osbourne on the old “Gob Iron” does cast my mind back to “The Wizard” from the bands self-titled debut album even if the melody line he’s playing sounds something more along the lines of a freight train rather than the haunting melody and sound he had on that old classic.

But that’s not the only thing in this song that takes me back to Sabbath’s debut album and around the 2:13 mark you will also hear they have nicked the vocal melody line from N.I.B. to which is played on the guitars. Though all these things are only little snippets to reflect back on the past and the song has much more to it and I would even say there is a touch of Alice Cooper thrown in along the way too. If anything, “Eat Me” is another very TASTY! album track and is yet another of the albums highlights and it contains some great bass work from Duff McKagan and Andrew Watt’s guitar solo adds very well to it all as well.

Track 7. Today is the End.

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The songs title is something more along the lines of what you might find for a movie and this song would even work well for a movie too. Most of the songs along the album pertain to Osbourne’s personal life and death as if it were the end for him. Although the lyrical content to this song is quite different, and if you dug deeper into them, they could be pertaining more towards some of the tragic events that have taken place in the world such a school shootings for example. Though I am sure there are many other things people will intemperate them too as well.

Overall, “Today is the End” is another GREAT! album track the lyrical content is a bit on the repetitive side but Ozzy’s expressive voice fits in it like a glove and it contains a really GREAT! guitar solo.

Track 8. Scary Little Green Men.

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Well no doubt the subject matter behind this song is entirely different and here we are touching on those scary little green bug-eyed monsters from another planet. The question really is is there anyone out there? It’s the first of two tracks that features Tom Morello on guitar (another unknown guitarist to myself) but I have vaguely heard of the band he is associated with Rage Against the Machine. He has also been involved in a few other bands and played with the likes of Bruce Springsteen in the past too.

Though I have to confess that for my own personal taste in music the Springsteen’s and Dylan’s of this world I have only ever seen as GREAT! songwriters and not performers, and I very much prefer their songs covered by other artists who I think done a damn site better with them. But we all have different tastes for sure. I am not sure who is doing the silly voice in this song but it sounds like the actor and musician Jack Black. I like how the song can simmer down and build up some adrenalin with how it flows along and this is another GREAT! song on the album.

Track 9. Holy For Tonight.

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This is yet another song that’s lyrical content pertains to how it’s coming to the end of Osbourne’s life and how he’s running out of time. In many ways this would have been the perfect song to end off the album and it’s the second of the truly GREAT! BALLAD-ESC! tracks on the album. Like I mentioned earlier with “Ordinary ManOsbourne’s voice works in a very powerful way when it comes to toning things down more and he can deliver songs like this with ease. This is another of the songs that contains an orchestra recorded at Abbey Road and another contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! 

Track 10. It’s a Raid.

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This next song features the Rapper Post Malone and although he’s actually singing rather than Rapping and to be honest his singing voice is fine and he does a good duet here with Osbourne on the song. The song itself does contain elicit lyrics to which Osbourne is certainly no stranger to himself however, the elicit lyrics in this song are more along the typical lines that is associated with most Rap artists and well over the top as ever. The song was released as a single on the day before the release of the album.

Overall, “It’s a Raid” is not a bad song but perhaps not up with there the rest of the tracks on the album and for me personally I would associate it more of a bonus track more than anything else. It also features Tom Morello on guitar and the guitar on this track has been distorted to death to which I personally feel sounds really cheap and nasty and it does nothing for me I am afraid.

Track 11. Take What You Want.

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The final track on the album is a bonus track and features Post Malone and Travis Scott on vocals and they’re vocal parts feature more on the song than Osbourne’s. To be honest I like how the song opens up with the melody line on the guitar and Osbourne’s voice on the opening verse sounds GREAT! and you get the instant feeling that this is gonna be a good song to end off the album. Then the song changes drastically into a modern pop song with stupid effects applied to Malone and Scott’s vocals and it just ruined everything about it all for myself. The only other good thing in it is the guitar solo but overall, this is a track I could do without and it does not speak to me personally.

Summary…

To sum up Ozzy Osbourne’s latest album Ordinary Man. I would say for those who have been waiting a decade to see a new album finally materialise it certainly does not disappoint and no doubt this is an album that has put Ozzy back in the limelight and an album I would personally consider a must for his fans and all those who are into really great rock music. The material that was written for the album is very strong both musically and lyrically and the only thing for me personally that really stops this album from being completely solid is the final couple of tracks on the album. 

The album has been very well produced and no doubt Andrew Watt has done an excellent job and had the right vision to pull it all off and make it work and suit Ozzy down to a tee. The album does not contain any of the more familiar musicians who have worked with Osbourne in the past, and although I myself would have preferred to see some of them here I do not think they are really missed at all when listening to the album. 

My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Straight To Hell“. “Ordinary Man“. “Under The Graveyard“. “Eat Me” and “ Holy For Tonight“. Though the first 9 tracks on the album are all equally as good and I could easily say they are the highlights of the album and the life and soul of the album. If it was not for the last couple of tracks this album would score 10 out of 10 with ease and be up there with his very best albums without a doubt. 

Conclusion…

Ordinary Man by Ozzy Osbourne is an album that purely ROCKS! and is a most welcoming return from the prince of darkness. It’s a very exciting album and one of the best rock albums I have heard in sometime. Ozzy comes from an era and decade that invented pure heavy rock music and when it comes to music that purely rocks in a heavy way there were only really 3 bands that stuck out above the rest and they were Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin and it was around the same time back in 1969/70 that all 3 of these bands churned out their finest rock albums ever. 

I would even say that Black Sabbath were the most consistent band out of those 3 when it comes down to churning out solid albums and the only album they ever made that never spoke to me was the final album Osbourne done with them back in that decade which was Never Say Die. The albums self-titled track was GREAT! but the rest of the album SUCKED! :)))))). Personally, I do not think Ozzy ever made an album in his entire solo career that sucked at all and they all can rock in a good way just like this album does. If this is to be Osbourne’s final album, he has certainly done justice for his fans and gone out on a high. 

Yes, I’ve Been A Bad Guy, Been Higher Than The Blue Sky…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Straight To Hell. 3:45.
02. All My Life. 4:18.
03. Goodbye. 5:34.
04. Ordinary Man. 5:01.
05. Under The Graveyard. 4:57.
06. Eat Me. 4:19.
07. Today is the End. 4:06.
08. Scary Little Green Men. 4:20.
09. Holy For Tonight. 4:52.
10. It’s A Raid. 4:20.
11. Take What You Want. 3:49.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #144

The Gathering – Osmosis

The Gathering CD Cover

Introduction…

Well the first of the new albums I have to review of the new year is another freebie that has only just been released and was very kindly sent to me by Gary Hetherington. Some of you may remember I reviewed Hetherington’s debut album Long Time Coming back in November which was an album of romantic pop songs, although what we have here is a collection of folk songs put together and compiled by four individual musicians hence the album being entitled “The Gathering” I would expect.

In many ways it takes me back to the early 70’s when a group of folk musicians mostly from the band Fairport Convention got back together and called themselves “The Bunch“. Only those fine bunch of folkies put together a compilation of rock n’ roll cover songs and called it Rock On back in 1972 when the album was released.

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It’s also worth mentioning that some of those musicians released what I consider to be one of the finest folk albums in that same year which was also a one-off album entitled Morris On.  I myself was a massive fan of Fairport Convention back then and from that one band alone the members of it went on to form many other well-known folk bands such as Steeleye Span, Fotheringay, Matthews Southern Comfort, The Albion Band and so on. Richard Thompson also went on to have one of most successful solo careers and is amongst the very best folk song writers and still is today.

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This particular album The Gathering in many respects follows along the lines of how those couple of albums were put together and the material was mostly written by others rather than themselves. The only odd thing I do find a bit strange is why they decided to call themselves Osmosis. The albums title I personally would of thought would have been a far more fitting name to go with. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

The CD comes in a single cardboard sleeve which replicates a mini version of a non-gatefold vinyl album. The song titles and some credits are printed on the back of the sleeve and it does not include a booklet to include the lyrics and more informative information regarding the linear notes and credits. The packaging is very well presented although because it is on the slim side it might present you with a harder task to locate the CD when stored along with your collection. But overall, you cannot really complain at the budget price the CD is sold for.

The Artwork.

The albums artwork is very fitting to the albums title and this bonny bunch of lads and lasses look like they have gathered together in a harvest field to celebrate the bringing in of the harvest. The artwork itself no doubt was not done by any of the members of the band and is in fact quite an antique piece of artwork entitled “The Harvest Home” and was done by the famous English artist and possibly the most famous caricaturist of the Georgian Era, Thomas Rowlandson who was noted for his political satire and social observation.

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Thomas Rowlandson

Rowlandson was a prolific artist and printmaker who produced a wide variety of illustrations for novels, joke books, and topographical works. This particular piece of artwork and illustration was used for the Dr Syntax series which tells the story of a clergyman who travels the countryside and gets up to all sorts of adventures. The British miscellaneous writer William Combe was the author of all three of Dr Syntax series to which he was chiefly remembered for and he used all of Rowlandson‘s illustrations for the series.  “The Harvest Home” was most likely used for the first series entitled “Tour of Dr. Syntax in Search of the Picturesque” that was first published in 1812.

The Album In Review…

The Gathering by Osmosis was released on the 6th February 2020. The album consists of 10 tracks to which 8 of them are covers and only contains 2 original songs and it comes with an overall playing time of 42 minutes, 26 seconds. A very respectful time slot for an album making it easy to digest for a reviewer like myself. It’s also in line with my preferred time slot of 30 to 40 minutes to which all albums were back in the 70’s. The album was produced by Gary Hetherington and even though he only features on a couple of the albums tracks, it was he who also provided most of the instrumentation throughout the album.

Osmosis are a 4-piece studio band comprising of Karin Grandal-Park, Sheree Hemingway, Peter Dunk & Gary Hetherington and all its members have worked with each other on other projects at one point or another. Like I mentioned in the introduction I did find it a bit odd why they decided to go with the name “Osmosis” instead of “The Gathering” for the name of the band. Osmosis for example, is the spontaneous net movement of solvent molecules through a selectively permeable membrane into a region of higher solute concentration, in the direction that tends to equalize the solute concentrations on the two sides.

But it also can be the process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas and that is perhaps why the name was used. Though being that all the members of the band come from all over the place from places in England such as Yorkshire, Kent and Lancashire. I personally felt that “The Gathering” would have been better suited for both the name of the band and album just like that classic album from 1972 was simply titled “Morris On“.

Work started on the album back in the first week of October last year and has Gary Hetherington was the main musician of the line-up it was he who had to make all the backing tracks for the other members to choose which cover songs they were going to do. As there were 4 members in the band, they each chose 2 cover songs each although being that it was Karin Grandal-Park who also contributed the 2 original compositions to the album, she got to feature on 4 of them.

The album is very well produced and Hetherington also seen the sense to include a couple of other additional musicians to lend a hand on a couple of the albums tracks. Both are really good guitarists and the one of them namely Karl Robins is certainly no stranger to Hetherington and myself and he contributes some fine acoustic guitar on a couple of the tracks. Alan Dublon on the other hand is someone I am not that familiar with, although I do have him on my list of Facebook friends. It might very well be that I came across him many years ago on Soundcloud collaborating with some other musician on the cloud and he contributes electric guitar on one of the albums tracks.

Musicians & Credits…

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Produced & Mastered by Gary Hetherington at The House. All songs are traditional covers and were written by various poets and hymnsters except tracks 6 & 9 written by Karin Grandal-Park and track 8 written by Joan Baez. Cover Design by Gary Hetherington. Painting by Thomas Rowlandson.

Musicians.
Karin Grandal-Park – Vocals (Tracks 2, 6, 9 & 10).
Sheree Hemingway – Vocals (Tracks 4 & 8).
Peter Dunk – Vocals (Tracks 1 & 5) – Bandoneon (Track 1).
Gary Hetherington – Instrumentation – Vocals (Tracks 3 & 7).

Additional Musicians.
Karl Robins – Acoustic Guitar (Tracks 3 & 4).
Alan Dublon – Electric Guitar (Track 4).

The Album Tracks In Review…

The Gathering is an album of traditional folk songs most of which were covered by many mainstream or signed artists who specifically are associated with traditional folk music. There is also some original written materiel along the album too and much of the lyrical content in many traditional folk songs can stretch back centuries to the medieval times and were quite often found in hymns and poems. For hundreds of years many folks have used the words to sing to and even put a musical accompaniment around them to make up a song.

Gary Hetherington has worked closely with the other singers and musicians to provide them with a backing track that they felt comfortable to work with and was suited to the way that they wanted to deliver each song. Well certainly in the case of the arrangements for himself and the two female singers on the album. Whereas Peter Dunk who contributes to a couple of the songs in the way of using his own voice as the main instrument, would have done his own arrangements though Hetherington may have provided the environmental elements in the background during the production process. So, let’s now take a closer look to see how it all worked out.

Track 1. I Live Not Where I Love.

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The words to the song started out as a poem that was written on the Virgin Mary, by Robert Southwell around 1596. Robert Morley set some verses of it to music around 1600 and the song has been covered by many artists including the likes of Steeleye Span, Linda Thomson, Tim Hart & Maddy Prior and Mary Black to name a few.

Peter Dunk’s approach to the song is more like an Acapella the sort of way Martin Carthy would do many a song back in the 60’s unaccompanied even though he was also quite an accomplished guitarist. Although Dunk is not entirely unaccompanied here and uses his Bandoneon in the way of a drone and it seats well in the background and supports his fine folky voice very well and is all it really needs.

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The bandoneon is a type of concertina particularly popular in Argentina and Uruguay. It’s a bit like the German squeeze box from hell the Accordion but without the register keys and did originate from Germany and was developed in the mid-1800s and named by the German instrument dealer Heinrich Band (1821–1860). It was originally intended as an instrument for religious and popular music of the day back then and by 1910 they were being produced expressly for the Argentine and Uruguayan markets who used the instrument mainly for the Tango and traditional Orquesta típica which is a Latin American term for a band which plays popular music as seen below.

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Overall, Peter Dunk has done a very fine job here and his voice is very much suited to this particular genre of traditional folk. It sets the right mood for the album and this is perhaps a love song that one would take to the grave so to speak and works very well as the opening track.

Track 2. Down By The Sally Gardens.

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Another song that came from a poem and was written by the Irish poet William Butler Yeats and was published back in 1889 in his first book of poems entitled “The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems”. Yeats spent his childhood holidays in the County of Sligo in Ireland and it’s been suggested that the location of the “Salley Gardens” was on the banks of the river at Ballysadare near Sligo where the residents cultivated trees to provide roof thatching materials.

His poem was subsequently first set to music by Herbert Hughes back in 1909 to which others followed suit such as the 1920’s composer Rebecca Clarke. Although the poem has been part of the repertoire of many singers and groups, the melody is mostly set around the song “The Maids of Mourne Shore” that Hughes originally put Yeats words from the poem too and we no end of artists have recorded the song including the likes of Marianne Faithfull, The Waterboys, Loreena McKennitt and even James Galway done an instrumental version of it.

Karin Grandal-Park takes on the vocals for this one to which she does a fine job and it sort of has a Vera Lynn feel about the way she delivers the song and I perhaps get that vibe from the way she tends to hold on to a word and stretch it out that bit longer. Gary Hetherington’s done a splendid job on the musical side of things which I do suspect was mostly done on the keyboards including the guitars, though he may of also played the odd touches on his acoustic guitar. The piano and the flutes work particularity well with the accompaniment and I am pretty sure it his voice that backs up Karin’s on the last couple of verses.

To be honest this is not a song I am familiar with and is quite new to me despite it being over a hundred years old. The way it’s presented here is quite pleasantly very soothing and they have both done a GRAND! job of it.

Track 3. Scarborough Fair.

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This song I think everyone is familiar with and the biggest majority of people would no doubt associate it with Simon & Garfunkel. Though the song itself was not written by them but Art Garfunkel did write the Canticle that accompanies their version and for me personally they exceeded all expectations and I certainly do not feel there has ever been a better version of the song and I have heard many different versions.

Gary Hetherington takes on the vocals for this one and takes on pretty much most of the instrumentation that is once again supplied by the use of his keyboards. It also features Karl Robins on acoustic guitar and one of the female singers have also accompanied him on the backing vocals and at a guess I think its Sheree Hemingway. They have not included the Canticle either but then again that was not part of the original song.

The lyrics to “Scarborough Fair” can be traced as far back as 1670 to a Scottish ballad titled “The Elfin Knight” collected by Francis James Child. But they only appear to have something in common with that version. Although the English references to the fair and refrain was brought to light much later in a tune by Frank Kidson in 1891.

Simon & Garfunkel’s version of the song was based around the Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger version recorded in 1957 that Martin Carthy had picked up on and rearranged for his own version in 1965. It was also Carthy who taught Paul Simon how to play the song on guitar. However, what Simon & Garfunkel did with the song was to present it in the way of a sweet folk ballad which really swept and stripped away all the traditional folk elements that many had previously done with the song and by doing so they made it more popular and that is why their version still stands out today.

This version that Hetherington has done is also on the sweeter side of things and that is really down to him having more of a sweeter voice. If Peter Dunk was to sing this song for example, it would most likely bring back all the traditional folk elements and would have a different arrangement worked around his voice which very much is more suited to traditional folk music. But overall, this is another fine pleasing and sweet version of the song and quite a good all-round job has been done here.

Track 4. She Moved Through The Fair.

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From one fair to another and this a song I know quite well being very much into Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention. Though thousands of artists have covered the song and oddly enough even Art Garfunkel recorded quite a lush version of it on his Watermark album back in 1977. It’s traditionally an Irish folk song although the earliest commercial recording of the song was done was done by a Scotsman back in 1936 namely Sydney MacEwan. It has been found both in Ireland and in Scotland and scraps of the song were first collected in County Donegal by the Longford poet Padraic Colum and the musicologist Herbert Hughes. The lyrics were first published in Hughes’s Irish Country Songs, published by Boosey & Hawkes in 1909.

This is the first of two songs on the album that Sheree Hemingway gets to sing and I have to say her voice is very well suited and she has worked wonders on the song. It also features Karl Robins on acoustic guitar and Alan Dublon on electric guitar who also both work wonders here. Regarding the instrumentation and arrangement this for me personally is the best worked out song on the album and really is GORGEOUS! and it has all the right elements in the instrument department. It’s very much a very strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 5. The Captain’s Apprentice.

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This is another song I am not familiar with and the song is derived from an event that took place back in the 18th century about Captain James who was brought to trial and hanged for the murder of one of his young servants who had only committed a trifling offence. The young servant or apprentice was tortured and abused by James and left to die of starvation, though this story has been portrayed in many different ways in songs over the years and quite often the lyrical content has been changed to put it across. Another title the song goes under is “The Cruel Ship’s Captain” and besides the many who have put the story to the genre of traditional folk, it’s also been set to operatic classical music as in the version done by Vaughan Williams.

Although the version we have here is very much done like many other folkies have portrayed the song by doing it unaccompanied as in a Acapella and Peter Dunk and his fine folky voice returns to do his second track on the album and does another GRAND! job of it. This time he is only accompanied by the sound of the wind which also works very well in the background. “The Captain’s Apprentice” is the shortest track on the album and both the songs that Dunk has taken on are only around the 2 – 3 mark, but he has done quite a stellar job on them both and they work wonders on this album.

Track 6. Down in the Deep, Deep Water.

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This is the first of the two original compositions on the album that were written by Karin Grandal-Park and here she is accompanied very well by Gary Hetherington on the piano and he also threw in some orchestral instrumentation into the arrangement too. The lyrical content pertains to to a dying love lost to the spirit of the water sort of thing, and although it’s done in sweet way, I quite like how it describes all the beauty that is lost above the deep water.

Many songs in traditional folk music do have a darker side to them and although this song might sound on the brighter side of things with how it’s delivered it does cross between light and shade with its lyrical content and is a very well written song and a fine job has been done here.

Track 7. Bold Fisherman.

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A popular English folk song that dates back to the early 19th century and lyrically this is perhaps one of the more cleaned up seductive songs in relation to many other songs in the realm of traditional folk music such as “The Bonney Black Hare” and “The Astrologer” for examples. One of the earliest recordings of the song was done by the Norfolk singer Harry Cox around 1950 and judging by the lyrics Gary Hetherington has followed those because the biggest majority of folkies who recorded the song from the 60’s onwards (when it became more popular) refereed to the meeting of the maid and the fisherman being in May and not June as in the Harry Cox recording of the song.

Musically Hetherington has done his own thing with the arrangement and give it more of a light-hearted pop folky ballad feel and approach which tends to take away the traditional folk side of how many other artists approached the song. Many artists did also use instrumentation rather than do an unaccompanied version like Cox did such as Tim Hart & Maddy Prior and Shirley Collins. Though one of the finest versions I have heard is the one done by The Young Tradition who were a trio back in 1966 when they recorded the song and they used their voices only.

To be honest the way Hetherington has done the song in his own way is a very good thing and it gives the song more of a pleasing aspect to it. But his voice I do feel is better suited to the sort of pop songs he done on his own debut album. In some ways the way he’s arranged the song around the piano sort of puts me in mind of how one would arrange a song for a TV series sort of thing.

For example, there a lovely flutey sound he’s put in that reminds me of the same sort of flute that was used in the theme tune to the American TV Series “Taxi” that starred Danny DeVito. The violin also has more of an orchestrated classical presence to it that one would also find in how they use strings for a TV Series rather than a fiddle that is more widely used in folk music. But overall, he’s done a fine all-round job here.

Track 8. Silver Dagger.

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This for me is the highlight of the album and Sheree Hemingway must have a fine drop of Irish blood in her or was born in Ireland. Once again Gary Hetherington has done a GRAND! job on the musical arrangement and the violins and uilleann pipes give it a Celtic feel. Hemingway’s voice is perfect for this song and in my opinion, it suits her better than Joan Baez who originally wrote and recorded the song back in 1960. I think one of the hardest jobs ever is to do a cover of a song better than the original and I personally think this version is better and that is why it merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 9. Gallows Tree.

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The second of the original songs written by Karin Grandal-Park takes on perhaps a familiar subject with many folk songs and Fairport Convention done a couple of them back in the early 70’s with songs such as the “Poor Will And The Jolly Hangman” and “The Hanging Song“. Once again Karin has done a fine job on the lyrics and delivers them very well with the subtle drone arrangement that Gary had provided here. I like how he even put ringing of the bell in towards the end too which is very haunting and fitting in with it all.

Track 10. Ae Fond Kiss.

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Karin takes on the final song of the album and this is very much a love song to which comes from a love letter that the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote to Mrs Agnes Maclehose who he had established a platonic relationship with and sent to her on 27th December 1791 before she departed Edinburgh for Jamaica to be with her estranged husband. The original words were set to the tune of “Rory Dalls‘ Port” and the musical score was published in the collection of Scottish folks’ songs known as the “Scots Musical Museum“.

Ae Fond Kiss” is Burns most recorded love song and has been covered mostly by Scott’s such as The Corries back in early 70’s although even the British folk and soft rock band Fairground Attraction done a version of it in the late 80’s. The first recording of the song was done by the Glasgow Orpheus Choir back in 1951 and both Allan Bruce and Niven Miller recorded the song in 1960. In other countries the song is also known as “Just A Kiss” and in 2004 they also made a romantic drama film directed by Ken Loach that was inspired by the love song.

I would say that because the lyrical content is based around love and romance, the song leans more towards the Celtic folk side of things with its approach more than it would to traditional English folk music where they would use instrumentation like mandolins, dulcimers and so on. For example, a light and airy approach that James Horner done for the arrangement of “My Heart Will Go On” which was the theme song for the Titanic movie sung by Celine Dion would even suit the lyrical content we have here.

I do personally feel with the arrangement that Gary Hetherington has done here with the piano and violin is more fitting to a song like this and he very much had the right vision with his approach to the music. It does also suit Karin’s voice and she delivers the words very well and they have both done a really GREAT! cover version and done justice to Robert Burns GREAT! words and it puts an end to a very fine album.

Summary…

To sum up The Gathering by Osmosis. I would say it’s an album like many albums you would find in the world of traditional folk and folk music where most of the material is arranged rather than completely written by the artist themselves. It is more of a covers album but that is also what even many artists in this field of music still do today regardless of them being able to write GREAT! songs of their own like Richard Thompson for example.

The fact that there is 4 people and 4 voices involved here, it does give the album much more of a wider variety and each song has been very well arranged to fit the voice that is going to deliver each song. Being more into English folk rock and traditional folk myself, I would say that the voices of both Sheree Hemingway and Peter Dunk are much more suited to that field of music. But not all the material on this album belongs to that field of music and that is where both the voices of Karin Grandal-Park and Gary Hetherington help out to give the album a bit more scope and variety and it works very well.

On the musical side of things Gary Hetherington has really done a FABULOUS! job on the instrumentation and arrangements throughout and the additions on a couple of the songs by both Karl Robins and Alan Dublon are most welcome and work very well. The couple of songs penned by Karin Grandal-Park also fit in very well amongst all the cover songs and I would also say that her voice on the “Gallows Tree” is also suited more to the traditional folk side of things. 

My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Silver Dagger“. “She Moved Through The Fair “. “The Captain’s Apprentice” and “Ae Fond Kiss“.

Conclusion…

In conclusion I would not say that The Gathering by Osmosis is an album that is going to set the world on fire, but what I like about the album is that the songs are short and not overcooked which all adds to making it quite a pleasant enough album that one could quite easily sit down with and get some pleasure out of listening to it, and at its price point I do feel there is good value here. The mixture of traditional and light hearted folk songs works very well and the album has been very well produced.

If traditional folk and folk is your tipple then I personally cannot really fault anything along the lines of this album and overall, it’s not a bad cuppa tea at all and a very good professional job as been done by all who have contributed to making the album. The album is not going to break your bank account at its price either and can be purchased on ebay here on the link provided: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Osmosis-The-Gathering/324065014119?entryapp=dlp

The album is now also available in the form of a digital download on Bandcamp which does give you the opportunity to listen to the album for free or purchase should you wish to do so and can be found here:  https://osmosis-music.bandcamp.com/releases

On Every Link A Heart Does Dangle

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. I Live Not Where I Love. 2:59.
02. Down By The Sally Gardens. 4:38.
03. Scarborough Fair. 3:50.
04. She Moved Through The Fair. 4:16.
05. The Captain’s Apprentice. 2:31.
06. Down in the Deep, Deep Water. 4:37.
07. Bold Fisherman. 5:38.
08. Silver Dagger. 4:55.
09. Gallows Tree. 3:50.
10. Ae Fond Kiss. 5:12.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #142

Of Humanity And Other Odd Things – P.O.E.

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Introduction…

The final album of 2019 I received as a Christmas gift from my good friend in Germany Dirk Radloff and although it arrived a few days before I did not open it until Christmas day. I was quite pleasantly surprised to see that Satan had also popped along to add a bit of darkness to the joyful time of the year, although I did wait till Boxing Day before I let him out of his cage so to speak :)))).

P.O.E. is an abbreviation of Philosophy Of Evil who are a 4 piece band from Italy who released their first EP “The Tell-Tale Heart” back in 2015. The whole concept and project of the band goes back a bit further and stretches back to the cold winter months of 2012 when the singer of the band Charles Wooldridge was experimenting in combining some of the evil texts from the famous author Edgar Allan Poe to put to the genre of metal.

Though it was not until around 2015 that he finally found the rest of the musicians to put his project into fruition and in the autumn of last year they got to release their debut album Of Humanity And Other Odd Things. It’s perhaps more of an album that verges along the lines of rock, prog rock and metal and you could even say the sort of horror rock you would get from the likes of Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson and is heavily influenced by those artists and many others.

Charles Wooldridge sounds more English than Italian and that’s because it’s only a stage name he’s using for the band. Whether the rest of the band members are using stage names I could not tell you, but my first encounter with Wooldridge was on Soundcloud around 2014/15 when he was collaborating with Dirk Radloff a.k.a. HeartScore and using what I presume is his real name Giacomo Rossi. He is a talented guy who is involved in many other projects and holds a Master’s Degree from the Modern Music Institute and also runs his own classes giving vocal lessons to students.

It was only last year that my good friend Dirk from Germany (who gifted me this album) further collaborated with Giacomo Rossi and decided to change the singer for his own HeartScore project. Back in November we seen the release of Black Riders Part 2 which is another GREAT! album well worth checking out and you can find my review of it here: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2019/11/08/lee-speaks-about-music-131/

This video of the song “There Was A Man And A Woman” that was put out to promote Black Riders Part 2 shows you the power and range that Rossi can project from his voice, and he really has what it takes to make a GREAT! rock singer.

In some ways both the projects of HeartScore and P.O.E. have something in common in that they both use the poetry of famous authors to create the lyrics. However, unlike HeartScore not all the lyrical content is derived from poetry alone and they have inputted some of their own lyrics and they have not only based their songs around Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry but also his stories.

The band P.O.E. are very much a 4-piece outfit that can take things a bit further by going out playing and performing live on stage which does have its advantages. I would also say that the music that the band present is perhaps not so much on the metal side of things like HeartScore and when Giacomo Rossi becomes Charles Wooldridge his voice does not project a lot of the power that is required more so for the HeartScore project he’s also involved in. But before we go any further let’s take a look at the artwork and packaging.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The CD comes in a standard plastic Jewel Case to which they are perhaps going out of fashion these days in relation to cardboard Digipaks and Digisleeves that I personally think give a much more quality presentation of your album and do prefer. Although in general the Jewel Case is still the cheaper economical solution when it comes down to the cost and they also do a good enough job of protecting the disc.

But I would not say that the Jewel Case was more robust in relation to Digipaks and Digisleeves and the plastic material that is used to make them is very brittle and can easily break and you do have to be more careful with them. Quite often the Jewel Case will not survive the postal journey it takes to arrive to your home from the store and this one did not survive the trip from Germany to England.

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As you can see in the photo above the front of the case was cracked and one of the pieces that attaches it to the main tray had snapped off. The spine was also damaged and all the plastic clips around the hub that holds the CD in place had also snapped off. Luckily the CD was not scratched or marked and the cases are cheap enough to buy and easy enough to replace them with. I always have a few spare cases at hand to cater for these situations.

The CD comes with a 16-page booklet that contains all the lyrics and some GREAT! pictures but no real informative information. The credits are also not informative enough simply because it gives you the names of the band only and does not even tell you who’s playing what instrument. The CD is self-made and was not done by a manufacturing company but nevertheless it is very well printed and quite a professional quality job has been done here.

Unless you were unlike myself who has made CD’s in the past, you would never notice the difference. The only thing it really lacks is that more attention could have been applied and given to the linear notes and credits.

Artwork.

The albums Artwork & Cover Design was done by Eddy Talpo and the photography was done by Anna Lisa Russo. I personally think it fits like a glove in relation the music the band are presenting to you and is well fitting with the haunting and horror you will find in a lot of Edgar Allan Poe’s works too. I like it a lot and it should attract attention I feel. Pretty much a bang on job as been done here.

The Album In Review…

The album Of Humanity And Other Odd Things by the Philosophy Of Evil was released on the 7th October 2019. The album contains 13 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 44 minutes. 58 seconds and is a well comfortable time slot for you to easily digest and soak in all its content. All the written material is original and all writing credits are credited to the band.

The album was released through a small independent record label known as Sheratan Records. Although like many small record labels they are perhaps irrelevant these days and only really serve a purpose in trying to make the product you are making look a bit more like it was professionally made and distributed. Though according to what little information comes with the linear credits and production notes on the CD it was also Sheratan Records that mixed, mastered and produced the album.

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Sheratan Records by all accounts offered a multi service for artists and bands ranging from artistic production, social media management, recording facilities and even included video making in their services. So perhaps they were more than just an independent record label and you can see that just by judging the professional standards of the videos of the band that are on their YouTube channel and Facebook page.

I would also say they provided a quality service and done pretty much a decent job for the band. It also looks like the band spared no expense in getting a quality job as you can see from this video of them covering and doing their own version of the pop song “Girls Like You” that was originally done by Maroon 5 featuring Cardi B.

To be honest I had never heard of the song before but did have a listen to the original version and I prefer this version by P.O.E. in relation to it. Whoever masterminded the script for the video also had a very good head on their shoulders too and it’s a really GREAT! video production that has been done here for sure.

The band also go out of their way to look the part as well with their image that really is suited to the music they are purveying and putting across. The makeup and masks remind of the likes of Kiss, Alice Cooper and many others.

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Everything about the band P.O.E. very much looks like they are going the right way about things with how they are promoting themselves including the photo shoots of the band. You certainly could not say they are not trying. I also think it’s very clever how they come up with the name of the band Philosophy Of Evil out of the famous authors surname and the abbreviation of it also serves well as a logo and looks the business on the albums cover. Even how the band describe themselves in their own words sums them up to a tee has you can see below.

“What we want is to express the dark, sick, evil side of human soul, that part of soul that lives in each of us and every day it’s powerfully trying to come to light in order to disrupt our being. It’s the tense for what is ugly, grotesque, unsettling that the genius of Edgar Allan Poe was able to describe sublimely with his poetry and his stories. This is all part of us and we try to celebrate it and, in some cases, exorcise it through our songs. That said, do not take us too seriously. We never do”.

Although everything with how P.O.E. are going about things and how it might appear to be looking on the ROSIE! side. Through my research of the band very little information can be found out about them and the only resourceful place to find out about them is on their Facebook page and YouTube channel. So far everything about the band appears to be coming out of Sheritan Records and judging by the fact that their website no longer there could mean that it no longer exists.

Like I mentioned earlier that being a band gives them the advantage to go out and play live and spread their name out a bit. But so far, I can see no physical evidence that they have played live as of yet, but they seem to have a couple of gigs lined up this year judging by some of the announcements and posters they have put on their Facebook page. It could also be that the band also need to rehearse the material well enough before they present it to an audience that has caused the delay and why they chose this year to do so. So, lets now take a look at the band line-up.

Musicians & Credits…

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All songs written by Philosophy Of Evil. Mixed Mastered & Produced by Sheratan Records. Artwork & Cover Design by Eddy Talpo.  Photography by Anna Lisa Russo.

Musicians.

Charles Wooldridge – Vocals – Piano & Keyboards.
Emmanuel Botch – Guitar.
Francis Gebirge – Bass.
Aleksander Ladislaw – Drums.

Additional Musicians.

Sofia Mazza – Vocals (You’re My Stream)

The Album Tracks In Review…

Of Humanity And Other Odd Things is an album that consists mainly of short songs and some very short instrumental pieces that are used as an introduction and intervals to the next song. The album can also flow along like a concept album and at times it feels as if it’s a continuous story. However, it’s not a continuous story and is made up of individual tracks to which most of them are only adapted around some of the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Only one of the tracks actually uses the lyrics from one of his poems and the rest of the lyrics are very cleverly written and put into context by the band.

There is quite a theatrical presence in the way the songs are delivered and it also slightly touches on classical music in particular with use of the orchestration on the keyboard. I would also say most of the material was written on the keyboard too. Besides the likes of Marilyn Manson and Alice Cooper that I have already mentioned. There is quite a mixture of influences here and even the Italian composer Vivaldi springs to mind in particular on a couple of tracks with some of the stringed arrangements. So, lets now take a deep look into the album as I go through the individual tracks.

Track 1. Prelude.

The title pertains to an introduction and this 33 second introduction that starts off the album is quite a haunting one that sounds like it came out of a horror movie. Perhaps something along the lines of Chucky. For all I know this opening might have come out of a film because there is a young girl speaking the few words here and I am pretty sure it’s not Charles Wooldridge :))))). Though he or one of the other band members might have whispered “Poe” at the end of this short ghostly evil poem.

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The musical box is used in many horror films and its put to good effect here, it’s also often used on many of Alice Cooper’s albums and here it also accompanied by some reverse effects and a musical saw and has been very well put together and gets the album off to quite a chilling and eerie start.

Track 2. Puppet Show.

The opening song of the album also has an Alice Cooper feel about it and a load of others no doubt, the strings in particular have a bit of a Vivaldi feel about them. I am pretty sure the band put this track out before the album was released to give people a taster of what was to come. The combination of the piano and metal power chords works extremely well together and the music has been very well constructed with how it crosses between the genres of metal and classical. It also contains some well tasty guitar solo work from Emmanuel Botch too and the changes and progression also work a TREAT!

The lyrics pertain to a puppet wanting to be free who would rather be dead than be tied to his master sort of thing. The lyrics are very well written as you can see from one of the verses below and Charles Wooldridge delivers them very well.

My life is the disgusting triumph of lie
You all soulless puppets without a brain
The noose is ready and we were prepared to die
In a theatre that has no wall or chains

To be honest I am not sure they are from any of Poe’s poems and stories although both manikins and puppets have been associated with many of the puppet shows that many have put on to put across some of Poe’s works. In 1995 A puppet adventure PC game entitled “The Dark Eye” was also based on his works. The “Puppet Show” is a really GREAT! song and the band are pulling all the right strings here for sure and its very much a strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! It could easily be a firm favourite for most too I feel.

Track 3. Horror Vacui.

The songs title “Horror Vacui” in physics reflects Aristotle’s idea that nature abhors an empty space. In visual art the Latin meaning of “horror vacui” is “fear of empty space” and in Greek “fear of the empty”. It’s a form of art that involves the filling of the entire surface of a space or an artwork with detail as seen in the picture of the fall of Babylon by the French Renaissance goldsmith and engraver Jean Duvet below.

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The Fall Of Babylon

The Italian art critic Mario Praz used the term “horror vacui” to describe the excessive use of ornament in design during the Victorian age. The interest in meticulously filling empty spaces is also reflected in Arabesque decoration in Islamic art from ancient times to present. There are many other examples of it too and I quite like how the way they have gone about the lyrics in this song in the way of a scientific approach to prove the nonexistence of god.

There is quite an influence from the Canadian band Rush in this song and even the way they have gone about the lyrics is the sort of approach the now just recently sadly departed Neil Peart gave to that bands lyrics. The way the song is driven along by the keyboards and guitars also reflects the style of music that band was churning out in the late 70’s and early 80’s and the chorus of song has a very strong Rush influence.

Overall, “Horror Vacui” is another very well written and constructed song in that it also contains a fine bridge and they have thrown quite a lot into it over the just under five minutes you get here. It’s very much another song I would consider as a contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! despite the heavy influence here.

Track 4. Love & Death.

A short piano interlude and introduction to the next song and I quite like how the effect of the stylus being dropped onto the record at the beginning with its crackle and pop gives it a warm feeling. It’s draws a picture in my mind of somebody sitting by the fire in a big house, perhaps even the House of Usher :))))).

It is only a short piece however, there is quite a lot that has been put into the melody of this piano piece and it’s a very well-constructed piece that does have you thinking that piece is twice as long as the one minute and ten seconds you get here. It’s quite strong with how the piece develops along and makes more of a bolder statement sort of thing and it sets up the next song very well indeed.

Track 5. You’re My Stream.

A powerful rock ballad of a song and one that was musically constructed around a very fine piano melody. Francis Gebirge’s bass works very well in accompanying the piano and strings and it also features Sofia Mazza who adds a touch of operatics to the song with her GREAT! voice along with Charles Wooldridge it works very well as a duet in putting over the lyrical content which pertain to restless love.

An official video of the song was put out on the bands YouTube channel that very well portrays the songs lyrics in the way of a picture animated storyboard sort of thing. The video was done by Davide Cilloni and he’s done quite a top job of it and it describes the story to the song right down to a tee.

You’re My Stream” is another really GREAT! song, it’s very well-orchestrated and arranged and everyone has done quite a top job on it to make it what it is. It’s also another strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 6. In Loving Madness.

The songs title is perhaps not what you would read in an obituary column in a newspaper or see on a headstone in a graveyard as in the words “In Loving Memory” would suggest. However, if you were one of the sick twisted tormented evil souls the title here maybe more appropriate so to speak :))))).

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It’s at this stage that the album does tend to sound more like there is a conceptional story going on and the lyrical content in this song does continue from the previous song. The lyrics are on the repetitive side in this song too but they do portray the power and strong bond of love in wanting to hold on to it in death very well, even to the point of being interwound and interlocked in the stream of their souls.

Musically it’s got some GREAT! progression here in particular with the key change that lifts it up around the 1:46 mark. I think most of the songs were written on the keys and once again we have some very good piano and orchestration here. The guitars also work their way in very well and the heavy metal section in the middle section is very well worked out and works wonders. There is also some Gothic choral sounds and bells that work very well in the piece and the band have really done a GREAT! job here.

Track 7. Sehnsucht.

Another short interlude and instrumental piece and the word “Sehnsucht” is a German noun translated as “longing”, “pining”, “yearning”, or “craving”. Some psychologists use the word “Sehnsucht” to represent thoughts and feelings about all facets of life that are unfinished or imperfect, paired with a yearning for ideal alternative experiences. Well that is how Wiki translates it and it sounds fitting to the effective piece done on the guitar here by Emmanuel Botch who I expect would have composed this little ditty.

Track 8. Shipwreck.

The next song is quite a theatrical and haunting bit of fun and is very different and sounds like something you might find in a Tim Burton movie. It’s like they are having a bit of a funfair carnival ride on this ship and its very cleverly done. It sounds like they have the crew joining in on the vocal side of things and if Charles Wooldridge done all the voices, I am hearing here that would be quite something special. Though I am sure there is also a female in this crew as well and it could be that Sofia Mazza may have contributed her voice to this song as well.

Musically you are not just getting all the fun of the fare with the organ, you also get a bit of a reggae vibe thrown in it which has me thinking of “Ghost Town” by the Specials. Although this is not so much like that song at all and they pack a lot more into it especially in the metal department with the guitars. Both Francis Gebirge’s bass and Aleksander Ladislaw’s drums play a good role in this very well constructed song. “Shipwreck” is a really GREAT! album track and another of the contenders for the albums TOP SPOT!

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It’s also worth mentioning that Edgar Allan Poe’s one and only completed novel entitled The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket from 1838 also included various adventures and misadventures about shipwrecks, mutiny and cannibalism. It’s also said that his novel predicted the future some 46 years after it was published, as a yacht sank in real life and 3 of the 4 survivors also decided to eat the cabin boy. I am sure he made a tasty snack too :)))))). Although the lyrics in this shipwreck do not pertain to Poe’s novel and is more like a bunch of Jolly Rogers onboard the vessel having a bit of fun :))))).

Track 9. The City In The Sea.

We’re staying on the sea or rather in the sea for this next song and this is the only song on the album that uses one of Edgar Allan Poe’s poems for the lyrics and his poem also contained the same title. There is no doubt that Charles Wooldridge has done an exceptional job of putting Poe’s words into the context of delivering them as a song. This is something I also felt he done another super job with how he handled all of Stephen Crane’s poems that Dirk Radloff presented to him for the HeartScore album Black Riders Part 2.

Poe’s poem tells the story of a city ruled by a personification of Death using common elements from Gothic fiction. Which is very much what a lot of the subject matter of the material on this album is touching on.

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Once again theatrics plays a part here with how Wooldridge delivers the words with both speaking and singing roles and there is some GREAT! progression thrown into the musical side of things. Like the biggest majority of the songs they are written on the keys and the organ in this song does give it a Gothic touch and even an eerie haunting feel to it. The guitars and drums drive the song along and both the guitar and bass play very much an integral role in making this song stand out even more.

The band also spared no expense again by having an official video made which was done by Video maker & Director: Mattia Maffini who specialises in promotional videos and he’s done a SUPERB TOP JOB! on this video and it looks very professional.

Overall, a TOP JOB! has been done executing Poe’s poem and this is another really well worked out piece of work. It reminds me of a cross between Alice Cooper and the band Sparks and this is another contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 10. Schizophrenia.

Roll up it’s time to take another carnival funfair ride into the world of madness and this is another short interlude and the final of the instrumental pieces on the album. It’s also a very well-orchestrated nice little ditty done on the keyboards.

Track 11. Ratz Everywhere!

Another song that would go down well in a Tim Burton movie and judging by the title it would perhaps suit an adaption of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Once again there is plenty that goes into making a song like this and you have to have quite a bit of skill to be able to pull it all off. I would also say that many of the songs on the album would present a challenge to be able to perform them live and they might need a couple of more musicians to do so.

There are quite a lot of influences in this particular song and even popular bands like The Police springs to mind in certain places. My favourite sections are where it comes down from all the mayhem and madness in couple of parts and brings in an acoustic section. In both of the acoustic sections Wooldridge uses the sweeter side of his voice and it reminds me a bit like Burk Shelley of the band Budgie with songs like “Riding My Nightmare“. Also, many others and it’s a really GREAT! transition that has more of a melancholic feel to it. “Ratz Everywhere!” is another really GREAT! song and yet another contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 12. Why Does The Rabbit Want To Kill Me?

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The title very much puts in mind of the killer rabbit that was in the Monty Python film The Holy Grail and its one of my favourite parts in that film and extremely funny. The rabbit in this song is not funny but you would not want to mess with him :))))). Besides the keyboards and heavy guitars Gebirge’s bass features very well in this song and the bass line on the intro of the song reminds me of “Don’t Forget To Breath” by Arena. This is another very well worked out song and GREAT! track on the album.

Track 13. A Strange Case.

The final track on the album is the longest and weighs in at 6 minutes 36 seconds. It’s a song that has some really GREAT! progression along its path and its intro is as bold as brass with the orchestration. Besides the orchestration that also is utilised in the song it also has some very good thematic and theatrical parts that is worked in with some heavy metal and once again this is a very well-constructed fine piece of work. There are also many influences along the way here too and the likes of Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and even a touch of death metal gets thrown into the pot.

The title chosen here is often associated with detective stories and Edgar Allan Poe’s short story entitled “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” has been described as the first modern detective story. That particular story was also adopted and adapted by a Play Group and “The Strange Case of Hotel Morgue” is freely based on that Poe classic. It’s also interesting that both Poe’s ”The Fall of the House of Usher” and Robert Louis Stevenson’s ”The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” are representative of the Gothic tradition and the key aspects of the genre include an eerie atmosphere and psychological introspection.

However, what we have here is very much a Charles Wooldridge & Co. adaption and many of the songs along this album deal with the torment of life and the torture of death. It also deals with the power of love and evil and how in particular it’s controlled, and the story ends off where it all began with the puppet master pulling the strings.

To be honest I am not entirely sure what the concept story if it has one is all about. But I do feel that there is one here with how everything relates with the lyrical content. In many ways I could also see that some of the lyrical content throughout the album is also touching on reincarnation in a way that the torture never stops sort of thing. However, you look at the lyrical content there is no doubt that they are fitting with the works of Edgar Allan Poe and “A Strange Case” is very much my personal favourite track on the and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! It also is like the chap at the very end was dying to put the album to bed as well :)))))).

Summary…

To sum up the album Of Humanity And Other Odd Things by Philosophy Of Evil. I have to confess that this was quite a difficult album to get into hugely down to the many influences it has along the way. It did take me quite a good few spins for myself to see the woods through the trees or the light at the end of the tunnel so to speak before I got to appreciate the album a lot more. My immediate and initial response to the album was that I have heard it all before and do I really need another album like this right now.

I think another one of the things that did not help is that although I think the album has been very well produced. I personally think it could have been mixed better and the mix does let a few of the tracks down a bit. Most of the tracks can be very busy especially in the keyboard department with all the orchestral and stringed arrangements, the mix really needed more width for everything to cut through properly.

Some tracks sound like they are in mono because of the close proximity in the mix and it needed a bit more attention paid to the incrementation to separate the instruments properly. Some tracks can sound a bit cluttered and muddy in parts too though overall, the mix is not extremely bad enough to spoil your listening pleasure and is acceptable. It’s far from a really bad mix and in all honesty, I have heard a lot worse from many mainstream artists albums in the past. I would also say that your average Joe would not hear none of the things I have pointed out about the mix either, and you would have to be somebody like myself who pays closer attention to detail.

Well so far, I have only pointed out the negative points about the album, but after several listens to the album all of those soon went away and more of the positive side of the album did shine through far greater and spoke to me a lot more. Because of the many influences you will hear I do feel that this is an album that is not going to instantly grab you straight away, unless you can brush aside those influences that many other bands have presented us with in the past.

But there is something that lies deeper within the surface and what makes the difference is the skill that has been put into the song writing especially with how well they have constructed and developed both the music and vocal lines, and that in particular is where this album can shine if you are prepared to give it the time of day so to speak. The lyrical content and concept are also very good and that is where it also quite interesting and different.

Conclusion…

Overall, P.O.E.’s debut album Of Humanity And Other Odd Things is a very strong well written album and there is not a bad track on it and it’s quite a strong solid album. It’s that strong that half of the tracks upon it are very much contenders as personal favourites and it was extremely hard for me to pick just one of them to be my favourite and I could have picked all the other contenders easily too. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Puppet Show“. “Horror Vacui“. “You’re My Stream“. “Shipwreck“. “The City In The Sea“. “Ratz Everywhere!” and “A Strange Case“.

The influences might be flying out of the woodwork but the way the band have carved and sculptured the material around the theatrical side of things, and blended it with metal, prog rock and classical music is quite a work of art and this is one very satisfying album that is well worthy of at least giving it shot. I am pretty sure it will not disappoint either especially if you want something to ROCK! your socks off.

The Philosophy Of Evil consist of really GREAT! musicians who certainly know there stuff to be able to knock out an album like this. Whether the band can take the album to the stage remains to be seen. But so far everything they have done in the way of going about things certainly appears to be right way and even the video production for the couple of songs on the album will testify to that. I do feel they need to get out there and play live to spread their name out a lot more. I also think they should do more to promote this CD simply because it’s very hard to obtain and they need to put it out in more outlets.

You can listen to the album on some streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music. You can also buy the Digital Download of the album and CD here on Amazon Dot Com. https://www.amazon.com/Humanity-Other-Odd-Things-Explicit/dp/B07YGNF8TH But it is not available to purchase internationally on Amazon.

Although according to the most recent news about the band I have only just discovered. They have now been signed up to Revalve Records for the worldwide distribution of their debut album “Of Humanity And Other Odd Things”, which will be released in a few months’ time on the 3rd April 2020. So, it’s good to see they are sorting things out and they need to because this is an album I highly recommend.

I Will Show The Darkness, I Will Love The Pain…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Prelude. 0:33.
02. Puppet Show. 4:19.
03. Horror Vacui. 4:54.
04. Love & Death. 1:10.
05. You’re My Stream. 4:31.
06. In Loving Madness. 4:13.
07. Sehnsucht. 1:27.
08. Shipwreck. 3:40.
09. The City In The Sea. 4:03.
10. Schizophrenia). 0:52.
11. Ratz Everywhere!. 4:41.
12. Why Does The Rabbit Want To Kill Me?. 3:59.
13. A Strange Case. 6:36.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #141

At The Edge Of Light – Steve Hackett

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Introduction…

Released precisely a year ago now At The Edge Of Light is Steve Hackett’s 25th and latest studio album to date. It’s an album that continues very much in the same light as his previous two albums Wolflight & The Night Siren but perhaps more like the latter of the two with its diversity and the way that it was recorded mostly at his own home in Teddington. Once again, he has brought in some other additional musicians as well as retaining the ones that have been with him for quite a while and a few who appeared on his previous album. 

In many respects you could say that these days Steve Hackett is going down the same road of Peter Gabriel regarding World Music. I would also say that this particular album is also verging more into the popular music side of things with its diversity and its wider range of musical styles. At The Edge Of Light may have PROGMATIC! and ROCK! elements about it, but he’s also introducing pop, blues and even gospel into the mix here along with the CINEMATICS! and DRAMATICS! 

There is no doubt that through playing and visiting many other countries that Steve Hackett has broadened his musical palette so to speak and is presenting you something a bit different each time to keep things fresh. In many ways he is taking his music to new heights and in new directions with how he’s going about things and he is expanding upon them. But is this new direction really working? Well it certainly appears to be and before I go any deeper into how it is let’s first take a look at the packaging and artwork. 

The Packaging & Artwork…

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Just like his previous two album releases both discs come in a high quality thick cardboard Digipak Mediabook which is the same material used to make a hardback book. Clear plastic trays on the left and right of the inner panels hold the discs firmly in place and it comes with a 28-page fixed booklet with all the linear credit production notes and lyrics. It also comes with some high-resolution pictures that are associated with the albums tracks. I very much like the presentation the Mediabook presents and these things are the kings of Digipaks when it comes to genuine top quality. 

The album was released in 4 media formats the cheapest of them being the Digital Download. A Double Vinyl LP. A CD only edition and a Mediabook that includes a CD & DVD. The Mediabook was my preferred choice and I purchased it from Amazon UK for £14.69 saving a few quid over its retail price. A Limited-Edition Double LP pressed that came with the CD was also released giving you the choice of black, white, blue, red and clear vinyl. 

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Artwork.

The artwork for the albums front cover and the photos for the Mediabook were done once again both Maurizio & Angéla Vicedomini. Much of the photos were used to represent each track on the album and were taken from many different countries. The layout and design were done by Thomas Ewerhard. The album cover represents the dark and light that pertains to the subject matter of the material written for the album and looks quite striking but nevertheless it does not quite grab me like some of Hackett’s earlier solo albums such as the artwork that was done for Voyage Of Acolyte, Please Don’t Touch and Highly Strung for example. 

At The Edge Of Light Album In Review…

Steve Hackett’s 25th studio album At The Edge Of Light was released on the 25th January 2019. The album contains 10 tracks that span over and overall playing time of 53 minutes, 21 seconds and Hackett himself described the album as a companion to his previous album The Night Siren. It also shared the same success as his previous album also by reaching number 28 in the UK charts and once again did better in Germany and peaked at number 13 in the official German album charts. 

2019 was a good year for Steve Hackett and a couple of months after the release of his new album in March of the same year he was awarded the best guitarist award by the Classic Rock Society. I am sure he was humbly honoured by the award and good on him to get it too, simply because there is no doubt, he is a very good guitarist and one of the many GREATS! out there. 

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Speaking off his guitar playing I have always admired his work on the nylon and acoustic guitar more so than his playing on the electric, but he can without doubt play some GREAT! solos on the electric. Much of his better solo work on the electric does come for the past more than the present. For example, the solo he played on the Genesis song “Firth Of Fifth” I am sure many people will never forget but in reality he never played a great deal of guitar solos with Genesis. Sure, he played some fine lead lines on the electric for the band but that particular song is the only guitar solo that stands out. 

A lot more of his electric stand out solos can be found on his earlier solo albums and the guitar solo he played on “Spectral Mornings” would certainly be another GREAT! stand out guitar solo. But more recently on his last couple of albums Wolflight and The Night Siren I have been paying attention to his solo work and it does appear to be standing out a bit once again. But on this latest album At The Edge Of Light is where I personally feel his guitar solo work has come out a lot more and is starting to shine once again and he really has put some GREAT! guitar work into this album. 

Steve Hackett had no old material left and everything was written new from scratch for this album. The same methods were used to record and mix the album and was mostly done at his own house in Teddington with the other musicians recording their parts at their own homes or studios and sending them to Hackett for Roger King to mix. Most of the core musicians who have appeared on his previous albums are here along with a few others such as bassist Jonas Reingold and drummer Simon Phillips to name a couple. There is also a real sitar player on the album and McBroom sisters who are more known for their harmonic backing vocals with Pink Floyd also make an appearance. 

The DVD.

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I am not entirely sure why Hackett decided to use a DVD rather than a Blu Ray for the Mediabook like he had done with the two previous releases but I do not think you are really losing out on anything regarding the audio and even the picture of the albums cover looks a lot sharper and brighter than the album cover itself. I like how they used the whole of the picture too unlike the way they did the menu for The Night Siren. The stars in the sky also twinkle besides seeing the lighting flash every now and then.

Speaking of the menus they have been done differently in comparison to both Wolflight and The Night Siren and instead of using drop down menus for the options which are “Stereo Audio” and “5.1 Audio” it does have to load to another screen to show you the further options as you can see in the picture below.

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By clicking on any of the “Stereo Audio” and “5.1 Audio” options from the main menu it loads to another screen that gives you 3 further options of “Play Album”. “Track Select” and “Audio Select”. It’s certainly most unusual for the “Play Album” option not to be included on the main menu and you do have to navigate a bit more than the way they done things for Wolflight and The Night Siren and I felt the way they had gone about the layout and navigation for those two albums were a bit better.

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By clicking on the “Track Select” option another menu drops down displaying the albums tracks for you to choose from and the options to go “Back” to the previous menu or to the “Main menu” are also included as you can see from the picture above. Pretty much the same for the “Audio Select” as you can see in the picture below.

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The “Audio Select” gives you the choice of 3 audio soundtracks and by clicking on “Stereo” (not seen on this display picture) it will playback in stereo. The other 2 surround mixes can be seen in the display picture above and by default the audio is set to the DTS Master 5.1 mix. There is also a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and a LPCM Stereo mix. All 3 formats are in 24 bits & 48K.

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Unlike both Wolflight and The Night Siren whilst listening to the album it displays the albums front cover for every track and the only thing that changes is the title of each track as it goes along. I have no idea why they never chose to follow suit by displaying a different picture for every track especially as the pictures in the Mediabook were designated to represent each track on the album. 

The bonus material seems to be getting shorter too and the only bonus feature is the behind the scenes documentary entitled “Somewhere at The Edge of Light” well that’s at least how it is refereed to twice in the Mediabook but on the disc itself they call it a making of documentary. But basically, you get a 20-and-a-half-minute video shot and directed by Paul Gosling showing you how they went about recording the album and speaking about what it’s all about. The audio is in 48k 16 bit which is well adequate for this purpose and it provides some useful informative information. 

The 5.1 Mix.

Once again, the 5.1 mix is all good and Roger King has done another very good job of it without going to overboard. There maybe a few places where he may of gone over the top for the effect on “The Eye of the Sun” for example, but overall he has done well with the placement and threw in some well good panned out parts across all the channels which do add to more of an exciting mix. Another example of that would be Hackett’s lead guitar solo on “Beasts of our Time“. I quite like how he’s panned the intro played on the dobro guitar on “Underground Railroad” in the rear left channel, and on that track, he has made well good use of separating the instrumentation throughout.  

The 5.1 mix works wonders for much of the orchestration too in particular on “Beasts of our Time” and “Those Golden Wings“. The 5.1 mix does bring out much more than the stereo mix and once again like the 5.1 mix he did for The Night Siren album it’s a very satisfying and enjoyable mix and well worth of a rating of 8 out of 10. 

Musicians & Credits…

2018 © Tina Korhonen/ www.tina-k.com

All tracks Produced by Steve Hackett & Roger King (except track 8 Produced by Steve Hackett & Benedict Fenner). All tracks Recorded & Mixed by Roger King at Siren (Except track 8 Recorded & Mixed by Benedict Fenner at The Paddock. Additional Engineering by Tamas Barabas (Track1). Johann Asmundsson (Track 3). Mark Hornsby (Track 5) and Benedict Fenner (Track 7).

All compositions written by Steve Hackett (except Tracks 2, 4 & 5 by Steve Hackett / Jo Hackett / Roger King. Tracks 3, 6 & 10 by Steve & Jo Hackett. Tracks 1 & 9 by Steve Hackett / Roger King. Mastered by Roger King at Siren. Design by Thomas Ewerhard. Photographic artwork by Maurizio and Angéla Vicedomini for Iconphoto. Blu Ray Authoring by Ray Shulman. 5.1 surround Mix by Roger King.

Musicians.

Steve Hackett: Vocals – Electric, Acoustic, 12 String & Dobro Guitars – Bass Guitar – Harmonica.
Roger King: Keyboards – Programming & Orchestral Arrangements (except on track 8).
Rob Townsend: Tenor Sax – Flute – Dudek – Bass Clarinet (Tracks 2 & 3).
Amanda Lehmann: Vocals (Tracks 3, 4, 5, 7 & 10).

Additional Musicians.

John Hackett: Flute (Tracks 2, 3, 5 & 9).
Jonas Reingold: Bass (Tracks 2, 3 & 7).
Dick Driver: Double Bass (Tracks 3 & 5).                                                                         Benedict Fenner: Keyboards & Programming (Tracks 7 & 8).
Christine Townsend: Violin & Viola (Track 5).
Gary O’Tool: Drums (Track 1).
Gulli Briem: Drums & Percussion (Track 3).
Nick D’Virgilio: Drums (Track 5).
Simon Phillips: Drums (Track 7).
Malik Mansurov: Tar (Track 1).
Paul Stillwell: Didgeridoo (Track 3).
Sheema Mukherjee: Sitar (Track 6).
Durga McBroom: Vocals (Track 4).
Lorelei McBroom: Vocals (Track 4).

The Album Tracks In Review…

One of the things that still remains in putting the album together is the synthetic aspect side of things. For example, even though there are 4 GREAT! drummers on the album they only get to play on one track each. So, most of the tracks the drums have very much been programmed. The orchestral arrangements are also still present for the dramatic side of things however, the fact that there is less of them I do feel this album works better for it especially in comparison to both Wolflight and The Night Siren. 

Regarding the orchestral arrangements I really felt sorry for Christine Townsend simply because her violin & viola was being mixed and blended in with the other orchestral arrangements that Roger King had done with his keyboards. If you read my last review of The Night Siren I did note that the orchestral arrangements were not like listening to Jethro Tull where you can hear the orchestral elements played with real instruments, rather than having everything far too blown up to the grandeur scale of things for you to hear her parts stand out and say that she is even on the album. 

Watching her playing her parts in the short documentaries that have come with the last 3 albums you can clearly hear the whole resonance that the violin and viola produce and it sounds way better than the end product where they have been mixed with synthetics. I can understand to a degree that they are trying to replicate a full blown out orchestra rather than a string quartet for example, but it does without doubt ruin the fine qualities the real instrument can produce and it no longer speaks the same language. 

As a musician you want to be heard and I am sure if people bumped into Christine and said “you’re that person who played on Steve Hackett’s albums” she would most likely reply “Oh yes I am on there somewhere” :)))))). Strangely enough she does only appear on the one track on this album. 

The other thing I feel works better on this album is that Steve Hackett is mainly sticking to his main instrument the guitar and he does utilise all of them to a great extent including the Dobro on one of the tracks. 

Although At The Edge Of Light is not a concept album it very much starts off and ends off like one with how the material was written for some of the tracks to tailspin and link up with one another so let’s now take a look at the individual tracks. 

Track 1. Fallen Walls and Pedestals. 

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The album opens up in GREAT! style with an instrumental piece that is done in a way of an introduction to the dramatic piece that it is to follow it. This opening piece is the shortest track on the album and features Malik Mansurov on Tar who also played the instrument on the previous two albums only here the instrument is only used at the very beginning for all of about 7 seconds. It’s also one of the 4 tracks on the album that real drums have been used and features Hackett’s long time drummer Gary O’Tool who retired from playing with Hackett’s band back in October 2018 due to wanting to spend more time with his family and concentrate more on the school of music he set up in Denmark Street, London to teach others to play various instruments.

The title suggests something along the lines of the battle of Jericho and O’Tool’s drum ignite the spark for the piece to explode into action. Hackett plays some blustering solo on his electric guitar which reflects the power of the battle and the falling walls and Roger King provides the backdrop for him to run his lead lines over with the orchestral strings that have an eastern flavour and add to the dramatics. It really does get the album off to a flying start and it very nicely tailspins into the next track.

Track 2. Beasts in Our Time.

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The first of the vocal tracks on the album is quite an epic piece of drama that sort of pertains to the beasts of today stepping into new shoes of those from the past and reflects on the horror that still exists sort of thing. The song is put across in stages and is sort of like a horror story or nightmare and in a way like “The Wheels Turning” from his Wolflight album. It’s like going from a pleasant dream into a nightmare sort of thing as in the official video that made to promote the album.

Steve Hackett handles all the vocals and harmonies himself and also utilises his acoustic guitar very well into the opening verses of the song which is how the basis of the song was constructed. The song contains some fine progression and transitional changes and features a blistering sax solo from Rob Townsend besides some GREAT! solo work on the electric guitar by Hackett.

There is also some really GREAT! interplay between Rob Townsend on the bass clarinet and John Hackett on flute in sections too. Roger King handles all the orchestral duties and also and also provides some haunting vibes on the keys and it also features Jonas Reingold on bass. The “Beasts in Our Time” is my personal favourite track on the album and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 3. Under the Eye of the Sun.

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For this next song they drop most of the dramatics and orchestration and Roger King gets to play some synth work for a change. There is a string section in it and it features both Jonas Reingold and Dick Driver on bass though the latter of the two is playing the double bass with a bow which adds to the string section more in the way of a cello. It also features Gulli Briem on drums and percussion that drives it along very well and at some pace. Both Hackett and Amanda Lehmann are on vocal duties and the combination of their harmonies give it a bit of Yes presence, it reminds me a bit like “Into The Lens” from their 1980 album Drama blended in with a bit of GTR sort of thing.

It has quite a mystic come down section in the middle and features Paul Stillwell on didgeridoo to which Rob Townsend plays the dudek. He also contributes bass clarinet and sax too whilst John Hackett’s echoing flute brings us back into the light and the song bursts back into the action with Hackett flying along on his electric guitar and it gets rounded off nicely enough with another string section. Overall, it’s quite a good song and good to get a break from all the overblown orchestration all the time.

Track 4. Underground Railroad.

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Another of the songs on the album that gives us a bit more variation and lyrically it runs along the same lines as “Black Thunder” from his Wolflight album in that the lyrics are pertaining to the freedom of slavery and back in the days of pre-Civil War in America many of the slaves who were digging the tunnels for the underground railroad did get to escape. Musically the song runs along the lines of blues, gospel and rock and Hackett does a well tasty job on the Dobro guitar as well as the electric and acoustic. He also plays the old Gob Iron (harmonica and bass on it too and both Durga and Lorelei McBroom (more notorious for working with Pink Floyd) add the gospel touch to the song with their GREAT! vocals and harmonies. 

The “Underground Railroad” is a really GREAT! track the way it’s been put together and how everything works its way into it. I also personally think it’s better than “Black Thunder” with how well everything slots into place like a glove. It’s another contender for albums TOP SPOT AWARD! and I do feel it’s one of the albums stronger tracks and it works particularly well in providing the album with some variety. 

Track 5. Those Golden Wings.

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The CINEMATICS! and DRAMATICS! are back in BIG STYLE! and this is the longest track on the album weighing in at some 11 minutes 19 seconds. It’s an epic love song that means a lot to Hackett as its about his wife and it reflects what he himself describes as her personal journey to get to where they are in their relationship. The song itself goes through some twists and turns and captivates the romantic side of things and the dangerous voyage and quest it took to get there. 

The way the song opens up with the orchestral side of things is like being at the movies watching something like “Gone with the Wind” or “My Fair Lady” sort of thing, but thankfully it’s only a short introduction and the 12 string comes into play to bring in the opening verse. Personally the 12 string and nylon work that Hackett plays on this song are my favourite parts about it. 

The melody line he plays on the electric that first comes into play around the 3:18 mark and gets repeated in other parts of the song. For some strange reason has me singing the words “In a most delightful way” to it, which are the very last sentence of the chorus for “A Spoonful of Sugar” that Julie Andrews wrote for the film Mary Poppins. I am sure it’s nothing like that song but for the life of me I cannot get it out of my head every time I hear it :)))))). 

The orchestra and choral sections project the grandeur scheme of things in BIGGING IT UP! sort of thing and once again Christine Townsend’s violin and viola and Dick Driver’s double bass lend support to the orchestration Roger King has provided for the piece. It works pretty well and Hackett rocks it up on his electric guitar which does lend a hand in breaking it up in sections, but there is quite a bit of repetitiveness that goes into stretching this one out. It also features Nick D’Virgilio on drums and John Hackett once again on flute. 

I think for many they would see “Those Golden Wings” as the highlighted track of the album and their personal favourite. For me personally there are certain aspects I can like and dislike about it and there are times I can enjoy listening to it and others where I think it’s too overblown sort of thing. I do see it has a contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! regardless because quite a lot has been put into it. 

Track 6. Shadow and Flame.

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This next song gives us another touch of an eastern flavour like we have seen on the past couple of Hackett’s albums only this time it features Sheema Mukherjee playing a real sitar. It was inspired by India and depicts the strong contrast of light and dark on the River Ganges, where life and death interplay within and at the water’s edge according to Hackett. Apart from the vocal side of things Hackett’s only other part in the song comes into play towards the end with his electric guitar and Roger King takes pretty much care of the rest.

The opening intro puts me in mind of Peter Gabriel’sExposure” but it soon goes off down another road and builds into a raga. Sheema Mukherjee does do a very good job on the sitar and there is a lot of heavy percussion thrown into the pot here. This sort of eastern music is not in particular to my taste but luckily enough it has not been dragged out and is only a 4-minute track.

Track 7. Hungry Years.

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The pop song of the album and this is quite a light and airy song and it sort of takes me back to 1981 with his 5th album Cured. The melody line in the verse section also is a bit along the same lines as the self-titled track from Camel’s 1978 album Breathless. It’s also a song where Amanda Lehmann gets to utilise her voice a lot more and it does work very well alongside with Hackett’s in particular with the harmonies too. It also features Simon Phillips on drums and Jonas Reingold on bass to which is bass line does stand out well during Hackett’s lead break on the guitar at the end. Overall “Hungary Years” is a very fine song and Benedict Fenner also gets to contribute some keyboards with Roger King on the track. 

Track 8. Decent.

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Descent” is the first part of a sort of 3-piece suite that work in conjunction with one another to round off the album. The first couple of parts are instrumental pieces and this particular piece is something that Hackett did with Benedict Fenner and was originally intended as a bonus track for the album. Steve Hackett got his inspiration for the piece from Ravel’sBolero“. However, it also sounds like a combination between Holst’sMars the Bringer of War” from the Planets and “Apocalypse 9/8” from “Suppers Ready” by Genesis. 

Track 9. Conflict.

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Spiralling out of the darkness of fear, the 2nd part of the suite represents a battle and sounds like something that you would associate with a spy or James Bond movie. It features Steve Hackett and Roger King and according to the credit notes John Hackett contributes flute to this piece also. Though you would be lucky to pick him out amongst the orchestration that King has provided. The piece winds itself down nicely to allow King to start the final part of the suite on the piano.

Track 10. Peace.

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A song of hope ends off the final part of the suite and the album very well and Amanda Lehmann returns to support Hackett on vocal duties and apart from his guitar on the track the rest is very much handled by Roger King. The chorus section of the song reminds me of Neil Young’sSouthern Man” and Hackett even has a bit of Brian May touch with the sound to it on the solo. “Peace” puts the album to bed very well and all 3 parts of the suite very well slot into one another and work very well to round off the album.

Summary…

In summary Steve Hackett’s 25th studio album At The Edge Of Light I do feel it offers slightly more variety with the material that was written for it. The acoustic side things is also more present here in relation to his previous album The Night Siren. Though perhaps not quite as present with his 23rd album Wolflight. You could say that his last 3 albums have been moulded together in the same way, especially regarding the synthetic aspects with orchestral side of things. Though what wins this album over for me personally is that it does have less of the fuller blown out orchestration and the wider variety it offers like I mentioned. 

The bonus material is very much on the slim side of things and I can only presume that the official video that was made for “Beasts in Our Time” would have been made after the DVD was finalized and rendered. But it was good to see that it was included on the Genesis Revisited Band & Orchestra live release. But the bonus content does appear to be getting shorter and shorter and they could have perhaps included the couple of bonus tracks that the Japanese release got. But I cannot really have any complaint as it does come with a very good 5.1 mix and that is the real bonus for me personally. 

Conclusion…

To round up my review of At The Edge Of Light by Steve Hackett and regarding if he is taking his music to new heights and in new directions with how he’s going about things and he is expanding upon them. I personally think regarding the PROGMATIC! side of things nothing has really changed and even by going along with more of a CINEMATIC! approach like he has over his last 3 albums could be seen as a newer approach to how he’s going about making his music these days. 

But in all honesty Hackett has always had a certain amount of dramatization within his music since the day he started his solo career. His approach to writing has never really changed either and the one thing that has never changed is his own formidable style and approach to his music and that is what I have always admired about him. He’s very much stuck to his gun’s and give his fans from day one what they want and he’s still very much doing that with this GREAT! album despite some of the synthetic aspects that have been thrown into the pot along the way.  

The Mediabook is well worth its price point and for surround FREAKS! like myself it’s well worth getting for the 5.1 mix. The bonus material is on the slim side but the documentary does give you some informative incite and is useful. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Beasts in Our Time“. “Underground Railroad“. and “Those Golden Wings“. 

Journeys Of The Dancing Fool Underneath The Merciless Moon…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Fallen Walls and Pedestals. 2:17.
02. Beasts in Our Time. 6:30.
03. Under the Eye of the Sun. 7:06.
04. Underground Railroad. 6:22.
05. Those Golden Wings. 11:19.
06. Shadow and Flame. 4:24.
07. Hungry Years. 4:34.
08. Descent. 4:20.
09. Conflict. 2:36.
10. Peace. 5:03.

Lee’s overall Complete Package Value Rating…

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

The Stereo Mix Rating Score. 10/10.

The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 8/10.

The Bonus Material Rating Score. 3/10.

The Album Rating Score. 8./10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #140

The Night Siren – Steve Hackett

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Introduction…

Steve Hackett continues down the same road of his previous album Wolflight by bringing in yet more musicians and instrumentation from World Music to spark up his creative juices and get them flowing for his 24th studio album The Night Siren. From the many countries he visits he seems to bringing back instruments from them to add to his arsenal and try and get a bit more creative with them. 20 people including himself is what it took to put this album together. Much of the regular and additional musicians who played with him on his previous album Wolflight are here along with a few others, and some of the written material that was used for the album came from what he had left over on that 23rd studio album of his as well. 

The Night Siren is the first album he actually felt like a vocalist and he cited the style of American singer Tim Rose as an influence. Hackett had been working on his voice since around 1981 and even I have noticed he’s improving over the years although that could be perhaps down to double tracking and adding more multi-part harmonies. The Night Siren is said to be a rock album, it’s also said to have some influences from the Beatles‘ psychedelia phase and classic science fiction and the latter of that might reflect on the artwork that was chosen for the albums front cover. But before we go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork. 

The Packaging & Artwork…

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Both discs come in a high quality thick cardboard Mediabook which is the same material used to make a hardback book. Clear plastic trays on the left and right panels hold the discs firmly in place and it comes with a 28-page fixed booklet with all the linear credit production notes and lyrics. It also comes with some informative information and some high-resolution pictures that are associated with the albums tracks and overall, it’s a very well-made high-quality package. 

The album was released in 4 media formats that come in the form of a Digital Download. A Double Vinyl LP. A CD only edition and a Mediabook that includes a CD & Blu Ray. Being a Surround FREAK! the Mediabook was my preferred choice and I purchased it from Amazon UK for £13.95 saving around £3 off its retail price. A Limited-Edition Double LP pressed onto green & black coloured vinyl that also came with the CD.

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Artwork.

Once again both Maurizio and Angéla Vicedomini took a lot of photos that Hackett liked and used in particular for the Mediabook. Much of the photos were used to represent each track on the album and many of them were taken in Iceland, such as the one that shows a couple of rocks with the Northern Lights illuminating in the background that was used for the albums front cover.

Hackett said that the two rocks give a sense of several things. The choice between two ways, the point of no return and the dangers through which we pass in life. The image as a whole is both awe inspiring and thought provoking. The design and layout were done by Thomas Ewerhard. Overall, I feel the rocks and backdrop are a bit like something from a science fiction movie which may look cool but it’s also on the dark and dreary side of things and does not do a lot for myself.

The Night Siren Album In Review…

Steve Hackett’s 24th studio album The Night Siren was released on the 24th March 2017. The album comes with 11 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 57 minutes, 40 seconds. Because of the popularity he was gaining from his Genesis Revisited tours the album broke into the top 30 of the UK album charts and peaked at number 28. It also done slightly better in Germany and well in most European countries. 

Since moving home Hackett does most of his recording in his own home in Teddington London and other parts are recorded by the other musicians in various other places across the world and sent to him for Roger King to mix. It’s not much different to how many musicians (including myself) would go about recording an album these days and saves a lot of cost in hiring a studio. But of course, having a good recording engineer onboard is something most people do not have. 

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The album was also mastered by Roger King at the same place but to make sure everything is all well and good Hackett then pops over to a friend he met through Chris Squire known as Charlie Dodd of Crooked Hand Productions for a final mastering process as seen in the video below.

Most of the tracks for the album were recorded between the spring and the summer of 2016 and they also made a start on the album as early as February in that same year. The Blu Ray that comes accompanied with the CD contains the 5.1 mix of the album and a short film of which this short video clip was taken from. So, let’s now take a look at the Blu Ray.

The Blu Ray.

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The Blu Ray’s main menu displays the albums artwork twice and may have been better without including the smaller picture of it and to have gone with just the one. It also has some words floating around in the sky that are appear between the lines of a sort of compass chart and I have seen this before on one of my Gentle Giant Blu Ray’s. Ray Schulman of that band does the Authorizing for most DVD’s and Blu Ray’s some of his ideas are bound to get reused, but it makes a very cool effect.

The menu itself presents you with 4 options “Play Album”. “Track Select”. “Audio Select” and the 4th option is the bonus documentary. It’s easy to navigate and because the albums artwork does have more of a dark and dreary landscape, it does not look as sharp or pristine as the artwork for his previous album Wolflight with how it presents itself to you.

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I like how both the “Track Select” and “Audio Select” have pop-up drop-down menus when you click on them rather than having to wait for the disc to load to another screen as you can see in the picture above and below. 

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The “Audio Select” gives you the choice of 3 audio soundtracks 2 of which are surround mixes and by default the audio is set to the DTS Master 5.1 mix. There is also a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and a LPCM Stereo mix. All 3 formats are in 24 bits & 48K.

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It displays one of the associated pictures for each track and the title of the track on the screen whilst listening to album. Once again, the decision to use a smaller image within the albums main artwork is not as effective as it was on the Wolflight Blu Ray and it would have been better just to show the complete picture. 

There is only one bonus feature on the disc and that is a 23 minute, 27 second documentary titled “In Deepest Darkest Teddington – The Recording of the Night Siren” filmed and directed by Paul Gosling. It’s quite good and shows you Steve Hackett working with Roger King in one of the rooms in his new house showing you the process of how they recorded the album. 

You also get to see a few of the other musicians who popped over to be recorded in the same room and others recording the parts at their own houses and studios. Plus, Steve Hackett popping over to Charlie Dodd of Crooked Hand Productions for a final mastering process. The audio is in 48k 16 bit. 

The 5.1 Mix.

The 5.1 mix was done once again by Roger King and thankfully I am glad to see that this time there were no faults with it like the surround mix he did for the previous album Wolflight to which was pointless and a waste of space putting on a Blu Ray disc. I am quite impressed by this 5.1 mix too and it’s not what I would call an all-round exciting mix, however it does have some quite exciting moments in parts but overall, I would say that it’s a very satisfying mix that bring out very good detail with the dynamics.

It works extremely well for the separation of the orchestral parts and I like how he chose to put most of the orchestral sections to separate them from the band by placing them in the rear channels. This works very well on most tracks and for opening track “Behind the Smoke” it gives it a more of a broader scope and field and works very well. I think the placement of the backing vocals, harmonies and some spoken parts benefit for being placed in the rears too and so does some of the ambient sounds. The guitars are panned across all channels to good effect on some tracks and “El Niño” is a good example of that and I like how the stamping feet on “In the Skeleton Gallery” also work out well to that effect. 

I would not say all the tracks have been done so well but the biggest majority of them have been and I do think Roger King has done a really good job here. I am well pleased with the result of the surround mix and it’s well worthy of a score of 8 out of 10. It’s even more of a shame now that the 5.1 mix for Wolflight was faulty and was never rectified for us to hear because King does have what it takes to do a 5.1 mix which is something a lot of engineers don’t have at all.

Musicians & Credits…

Photo by Tina Korhonen © 2016, all rights reserved.

Tracks 1 – 10 Produced by Steve Hackett & Roger King. Track 11 Produced by Steve Hackett & Benedict Fenner. All compositions by Steve & Jo Hackett (except tracks 2 & 4 by Steve Hackett / Roger King. Track 1 by Steve Hackett / Jo Hackett / Roger King. Track 3 by Steve Hackett / Jo Hackett / Amanda Lehmann. Track 8 by Steve Hackett / Jo HackettRoger King / Troy Donockley. Track 11 by Leslie-Miriam Bennet / Benedict Fenner. Track 6 by Steve Hackett).

Tracks 1 – 10 Recorded & Mixed by Roger King at Siren. Track 11 Recorded & Mixed by Benedict Fenner at The Paddock. Mastered by Roger King. Blu Ray Authoring by Ray Shulman. 5.1 surround Mix by Roger King. Design by Thomas Ewerhard. Photographic artwork by Maurizio and Angéla Vicedomini.

Musicians.

Steve Hackett: Vocals – Electric & Acoustic Guitars – Oud – Charango – Sitar Guitar – Harmonica.
Roger King: Keyboards & Programming (except on track 11).
Rob Townsend: Baritone & Soprano Sax – Flute – Flageolet – Quena – Dudek – Bass Clarinet (Tracks 1, 4, 7 & 9).
Christine Townsend: Violin & Viola (Tracks 3, 4, 5, 7, 9 & 10).
Amanda Lehmann: Vocals (Tracks 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9 & 10).
Dick Driver: Double Bass (Tracks 3, 4, 5 & 7).
Gary O’Tool: Drums (Tracks 3, 4, & 10).

Additional Musicians.

John Hackett: Flute (Tracks 2 & 10).
Gulli Briem: Drums – Cajon – Percussion (Tracks 7 & 9).
Nick D’Virgilio: Drums (Track 2).
Troy Donockley: Uilleann Pipes (Track 8).
Malik Mansurov: Tar (Track 1).
Sara Kovács: Didgeridoo (Track 3).
Ferenc Kovács: Trumpet (Track 3).
Benedict Fenner: Keyboards & Programming (Track11).
Leslie-Miriam Bennett: Keyboards (Track 11).
Nad Sylvan: Vocals (Track 7).
Jo Hackett: Vocals (Track 10).
Mira Awad: Vocals (Track 10).
Kobi Farhi: Vocals (Track 10).

The Album Tracks In Review…

The idea that Hackett sees behind the The Night Siren is that it’s a wakeup call to all the things that are presently happening in the world and how we tend to be moving into another dark age with some of the not so good decisions world leaders are making. By him gathering up musicians from all over the world is a cry out for peace in the sense that we can all get on with each other musically and this is how it should be rather than being at war with one another. It’s his response to the far-right ideas currently dominating the political landscape. 

I think beside the political landscape Hackett has also been drawing ideas from the landscapes of many of the countries he has visited. I would also say he’s been drawing from visualisations and in a way that he has also been incorporating more along the lines of a Cinematic approach into his music and this is something he has been doing on his previous couple of albums Beyond the Shrouded Horizon and Wolflight. 

Like both of those albums The Night Siren tends to have the feel of an album that has been made out of material that was written for an album that contains a collection of songs, and an album that is more along the lines of a soundtrack album that was written for a movie. The orchestration in particular is built along the lines of the sort of modelling that goes into making soundtrack material and besides the real instrumentation there is also synthetic aspects that goes into the making of the music. So, let snow take a deeper look into the album and as we go through the individual tracks. 

Track 1. Behind The Smoke.

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The albums kicks off with quite a powerful very well built up song that has a touch of the east, some dramatization that fits in with the subject matter of the lyrics are based around, it also contains a well good lead solo from Hackett. It’s a song that gradually builds its way along and is done in that way to portray and dramatize the seriousness of the subject matter the lyrics are pertaining to which are around conflicts of civil war in the Middle East, and the turmoil that the civilians are caught up in being stuck in the middle of it all trying to find a safe haven from their homes that are being destroyed. 

Considering there is an array of musicians who appear on this album most of the music for this opening track is done by Roger King. He’s very much done all the orchestral arrangements and played them on his keyboards, he’s also programmed the drums. The only other musician on the track is Malik Mansurov who contributes to the eastern sound on the tar, to which he has done quite a GRAND! job of too. Rob Townsend is also somewhere on here but he may only be playing a bit of percussion on the dudek or using his sax to add a bit of humph. 

Steve Hackett handles most of the vocals and Amanda Lehmann contributes to some of the chants on this particular track. In some ways because of how the vocal line is delivered in a dark manner and more or less at a spoken pace it kind of reminds me of Johnny Cash only instead of singing country he’s singing about another country and one that is in the far east. I like how Hackett does express the vocal line on the second verse that comes into play at around the 2:08 mark though I have to confess I am not a fan of Lehmann’s cat wailing :))))). 

Overall “Behind the Smoke” gets across the message with its lyrical content and the whole eastern vibe is well fitting in with the lyrical side of things. Though I have to confess I myself am not a fan of eastern music and the orchestral section is perhaps too blown up but nevertheless adds very well to all the drama and might even fit in with an adaptation of the Arabian Knights for a Walt Disney production, although I am sure they done a similar animated adaptation with of Aladdin. It also contains some well tasty solo work from Hackett.

Track 2. Martian Sea. 

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A touch of India is associated with this track and perhaps a bit of George Harrison’s vibe he gave to the Beatles with his association with Ravi Shankar and that country with the use of the sitar that is heavily utilised on this song. Steve Hackett does play Sitar Guitar on the track though I would also say that there are samples of the real instrument that have also been thrown in here. Though once again Hackett’s guitar work on this track is really good. The orchestral section that comes in at the 2:34 mark that Roger King has done also contributes to the BEATLE ESC! vibe and feel too. 

Spock’s Beard’s drummer Nick D’Virgilio plays drums on this one and Steve’s brother John Hackett contributes flute to it also, whilst Amanda Lehmann’s vocals are utilised every now and then to blend in with Hackett’s vocals has, we have seen in the past. The lyrics pertain to the alienation in a relationship that has gone wrong and become more of a one-sided affair sort of thing. Overall, it’s a very good song that throws in some psychedelic colour along the way and quite a lot has been put into it. It’s also perhaps more rocked up than what the Beatles did to some extent. 

Track 3. Fifty Miles From The North Pole.

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This next song was inspired by his trip to Iceland in 2015 when he performed with the band Todmobile and one of the places he visited was literally 50 miles from the north pole and it was freezing over there. It’s the longest track on the album and goes through some good transitional changes along its path. Once again Hackett’s solo work on the electric guitar is excellent and he even incorporates a bit of a James Bond theme into the track on the guitar too. 

More of the other musicians are involved on this track too which does help it and the string section works well with Christine Townsend’s violin & viola and Dick Driver’s double bass is used more like a cello in parts too where he’s using a bow on it. I do feel that Roger King might also be enhancing the orchestral parts with his keyboards too but it works quite well. 

It also features Sara Kovács on didgeridoo which the drone from the instrument is utilised in parts and her father Ferenc Kovács on trumpet which pierces its way into the song very well with its high pitch. Gary O’Tool is outstanding as ever on the drum kit and Amanda Lehmann’s voice gets utilised more prominently in a short gothic choral satanic like section that’s like something out of a horror film :))))). 

Overall “Fifty Miles from The North Pole” is both PROGMATIC! and CINEMATIC! and the combination of blending the two together works better than the opening track on the album I feel. There is quite a bit of diversity throughout this album that works and some do not I feel, however this is one of the better tracks on the album and a contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! 

Track 4. El Niño.

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Another arrangement or perhaps more of a orchestral arrangement of “Please Don’t Touch” which Hackett originally wrote the instrumental piece for his second album of the same title back in 1978. Since then the piece has most likely been arranged 20 times and has appeared on many of his albums under different titles such a “Hackett To Bits” for example. This version works very well and the orchestration takes it to other places. 

I have to admit when I first seen the title I was confused because it sounds like something associated with Spain or Mexico but it is in fact associated with a band of warm ocean water that develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific. It features all 6 musicians in the musician’s line up section and they all do a GRAND! job here and it’s another really GREAT! track and contender for the albums TOP SPOT! even though it may be embarking on material from the past. 

Track 5. Other Side of the Wall.

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Apart from the previous instrumental album track this is the first of the songs that has more of a Hackett feel and presence about it, and its most likely down to that it’s the first song on the album he gets on the acoustic. The “Other Side of the Wall” is a song where you do not need the Cinematics and Dramatics to be adventurous and this a truly BEAUTIFUL! well written song and it ventures along the lines of stories like “The Secret Garden” and was inspired by the garden or grounds at the back of a house in Wimbledon, London he returned to with his wife. 

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It’s a two-part song with how the song changes from the opening couple of verses and along with his acoustic guitars Hackett handles all the vocals & harmonies on this track and does a GREAT! job. Both Roger King and Christine Townsend combine the strings together and Dick Driver adds a touch of bass on the track too. In a way the song also reminds me a bit like a combination of two eras of Genesis music and the first section with the nylon guitar sort of harks back to the album Wind and Wuthering whilst the second section with the 12-string guitar takes me back to the album Nursery Cryme. It’s very much another one of my contenders for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! 

Track 6. Anything But Love.

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This song features less musicians and starts off very well with the acoustic intro which features Hackett playing some Spanish Flamenco style on his acoustic to which he’s backed up with the use of his guitar for the percussion by slapping it. Once the bass and drums kick in (which are programmed) it takes the direction of a song and he brings in the electric guitar which does rock it up more towards the end and he also plays a solo on the harmonica too. Amanda Lehmann is back to contribute some backing vocals. 

Personally, I like the intro more than the actual song and I do think the programmed drums are on the weak side of things here, especially in relation to how well Roger King has programmed the bass line. If anything, the bass line on this track is more dominant than any other track on the album. It does not do Dick Driver any favours either but I suppose he might not have been available at the time and Hackett wanted to get the album finished on time. 

Track 7. Inca Terra.

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This song was inspired by the trip to Cusco and Machu Picchu in Peru that Hackett and his wife went on and is quite a piece of work that crosses styles and continents. It’s a song that does have some Hackett ESC! familiarities about it especially with the vocal harmonies on the first verses. But it also has some more like Yes harmonies in it as well and he is going on quite a roundabout here :)))). Besides the vocal harmonies the music also has some familiarities and the way it opens up reminds me of the arrangement that was done for “El Condor Pasa (If I Could)” by Simon & Garfunkel. The charango that Hackett also plays on this album was the very Peruvian instrument that gave that song it’s unique sound to which you can very much hear on this song.

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Steve Hackett has acquired quite a few new instruments on his travels and most likely also plays the Oud at the end of the song as well has his acoustic and electric guitars. Another of the Peruvian instruments that also features on the song “El Condor Pasa (If I Could)” is the Quena to which Rob Townsend accompanies Hackett very nicely with.

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Besides the usual suspects Roger King, Christine Townsend and Amanda Lehmann doing their parts very well here Dick Driver returns for the final time on the album and his bass is quite dominant and oddly enough sounds more like an electric bass rather than a double bass. The Icelandic drummer and percussionist Gulli Briem make an appearance and this is the first of two tracks he plays on, and besides the drums the cajon he also plays is very much associated with the percussion side of Peruvian instrumentation. Nad Sylvan also contributes some backing vocals on this one track too. 

Inca Terra” is quite a PROGMATIC! track that crosses ravines, borders and many styles along its journey, it combines folk with rock with the use of the instrumentation and you may start out the journey in Peru and wind up in somewhere more eastern like India or Pakistan with how the piece transports itself along with its progression and transitional changes. It’s another fine piece of work and contender for the albums TOP SPOT! 

Track 8. In Another Life.

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A song that starts out and ends off like a folk song and gets rocked up with its middle section with the electric guitar which is perhaps the only part of the song that has any real HACKETT ESC! resemblance. It’s a story about some unsung hero in the highlands of Scotland and most likely harks back to the Battle of Culloden in 1775 with the notorious Redcoats who were ordered to root out and destroy Jacobite. I am not entirely sure if that is what it is embarking on and and I am no historian but it sounds a bit like Crosby, Stills & Nash meets Rainbow sort of thing and is quite different for Hackett I will say.

This mostly features Hackett & King and Lehmann joins in on the vocals as ever, but it does also feature Troy Donockley on uilleann pipes to which is an instrument I do like to hear. The only trouble is they are only used right at the end and it does not feature them enough to make more of a statement which is a bit of a shame. They do however project and stand out more so in the 5.1 mix though.

Track 9. In The Skeleton Gallery.

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Next up is my personal favourite track on the album and “In the Skeleton Gallery” is song that has two halves and a bit in the middle with how it changes and contains some really GREAT! progression and is quite a tasty one for prog rockers. Hackett’s voice really suits this song and I can understand why he did say it was the first time he felt like a singer. Amanda Lehmann’s supporting vocals are also very well blended in here too.

The song has quite a mystic Egyptian feel on the intro with the strings provided by Roger King and Christine Townsend and the first 1 minute and 45 seconds are dedicated to the singing section and this is the second of two tracks on the album that features Gulli Briem on drums. Lyrically the song is pertaining to the night terrors from childhood like in a nightmare or really bad dream and draws on that. There are some nice reverse guitar effects in the first section too.

The song comes down and Rob Townsend provides some haunting notes on his sax backed up once again by the strings and keyboard and some stomping marching feet and spoken words on this middle section and then at the 3:03 mark it launches into the battle with heavy guitars, and Rob Townsend plays quite a blistering solo on the sax and Hackett joins in for a bit on the guitar afterwards.

The song was used to launch and promote the album and was put on Inside Out Records YouTube channel. It’s unfortunate that no visual video was made like the picture above suggests that pertains to the song’s lyrics and the nightmare. “In the Skeleton Gallery” is an excellent track and is my personal choice to merit the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! and sounds excellent in 5.1 too. 

Track 10. West to East.

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This is a song that cries out for peace and could be seen as an anthem for peace in the way that it rallies over the chorus of the song. Besides Hackett & Lehmann on vocals there is also his wife Jo plus Mira Awad & Kobi Farhi. Both John Hackett on flute & Gary O’Tool on drums return and holding up the keyboards and strings are Roger King & Christine Townsend. It’s a fine ballad like song that’s sung with heart and contains some fine acoustic and electric guitar from Hackett.

Track 11. The Gift.

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The final track on the album is an instrumental piece that’s very well-orchestrated on the keyboards by Steve Hackett’s sound engineer Benedict Fenner and it also features Leslie-Miriam Bennett on keyboards too who both provide the backdrop for Hackett to play a BEAUTIFUL! sustained ambient solo on an electric guitar. The guitar he is using was previously owned by the guitarist Gary Moore who no doubt is missed. It’s the shortest track on the album and the only track that Hackett had no involvement in the writing and was written by both Fenner & Bennett and is a very tasty soothing way to put the album to bed.

Summary…

To sum up The Night Siren by Steve Hackett I would say that its quite a strong album but also one that contains some synthetic aspects that work in a way and not so much in other ways sort of thing. Like I mentioned earlier in my review with how Hackett tends to be going into a more of a CINEMATIC! approach to paint pictures with his music. It’s the same approach that is applied to soundtracks for motion movies and many of those who work in that field use many virtual orchestral sounds and samples to make the music to which is called “Modelling”. Once they have the “Model” of the music they then present it to a real orchestra to play it. Only here it’s not at all and that is where it does tend to fall short. 

For example, most of the music is very much done and mixed by Roger King. As a keyboard player and musician King is in every inch as good as Hackett himself, he’s also got more of a head on his shoulders in many respects too. We also have one very capable string player in Christine Townsend and she is another excellent musician who plays both violin and viola very well. The problem is that they are making her part sound larger than life in the mix and her violin & viola is being mixed in with strings that King is also playing so it’s very hard to distinguish the real instruments from the synthetic aspects. 

Another example, is if you listen to Jethro Tull you will hear real violins, violas and cellos. On this album you will also find it hard to distinguish the double bass that Dick Driver is playing on a few of the tracks, and his double bass sounds more like an electric bass on most of the tracks he is playing on. The whole orchestral presentation is way too blown up to make the bigger picture.

For me personally keyboards are about piano’s, hammond organs, mellotrons and synthesizers and not replicating a full blown out orchestra and the fact that you also have some of the real instruments like the violin & viola and even the double bass that can be used like a cello. They are being mixed in with the virtual orchestration from the keyboards and the sound of the real instruments is being swept under the rug with the mix to some extent.

Thankfully the 5.1 mix does let you get to hear some of the real instrumentation which is more than I could say for the stereo mix. Actually, the orchestral parts work exceptionally well on the 5.1 mix and Roger King has done a very good job of it. 

I am not saying this new road Hackett has been going down more recently by incorporating film music into his music is by any means bad, and there is a ton of instruments thrown into the pot for King to mix which he has done a GREAT! job of mixing. His past 3 studio albums have been quite good but if I was to go back the 3 studio albums To Watch the Storms, Wild Orchids and Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth he made before them. I personally feel those albums are better because they contain less synthetic aspects sort of thing.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Steve Hackett’s 24th studio album The Night Siren. It’s an album that offers quite a wide variety of styles. It’s not a solid album by any means but there is nothing remotely bad here either and it is quite a good album. It does not contain a lot of Hackett’s acoustic side like his previous album Wolflght does and I would say that his previous album is more of a winner on the acoustic side of things. There is a couple of good acoustic tracks and you will have to wait some 22 minutes to get to the first one which would be my personal favourite of them. But nevertheless, the album does have some well good written material and enough to make it marginally a bit better than his previous album Wolflight I feel. 

The Mediabook is well worth its price point and for surround FREAKS! like myself it’s well worth getting for the 5.1 mix. The bonus material is on the slim side but the documentary does give you some informative incite and is useful. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “In the Skeleton Gallery“. “Other Side of the Wall“. “Fifty Miles from the North Pole“. “Inca Terra” and “El Niño“. 

The Puppeteer’s Not Your Friend…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Behind the Smoke. 6:57.
02. Martian Sea. 4:40.
03. Fifty Miles from the North Pole. 7:08.
04. El Niño. 3:51.
05. Other Side of the Wall. 4:00.
06. Anything But Love. 5:56.
07. Inca Terra. 5:53.
08. In Another Life. 6:07.
09. In the Skeleton Gallery. 5:09.
10. West to East. 5:14.
11. The Gift. 2:45.

Lee’s overall Complete Package Value Rating…

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

The Stereo Mix Rating Score. 10/10.

The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 8/10.

The Bonus Material Rating Score. 5/10.

The Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #139

Wolflight – Steve Hackett

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Introduction…

I have always been into Steve Hackett’s music since I got into Genesis back in the 70’s and many would say that his first 4 albums are amongst his best work to which I would say the first 3 certainly had more of a solid body of material that was written for them and I do also like his 4th album Defector. But over the years of buying his albums I have got something from every one of them and it was back in 2011 after buying his 21st studio album Beyond The Shrouded Horizon I sort of lost track of him. I did buy the second Genesis Revisited album he put out in 2012 and even though that is classed as his 22nd studio album I see that has more of a compilation of Genesis material and not so much the music from his own solo career.

I blame Soundcloud for losing track of many artists material because I spent much more of my time making music of my own and collaborating with many others on it during 2011 – 2016/17. I did however still buy his live concerts he released on DVD & Blu Ray and I always like to watch a live concert and having more recently been back into my record collection and updating it over the past couple of years and the fact that I did see that he was releasing  Genesis Revisited Band & Orchestra: Live at the Royal Festival Hall last October to which I have just reviewed, made me check out the last 3 studio albums he had released between 2015 – 2019.

I also purchased all 3 of his last studio albums back in October that I never had and was very well surprised to see that Hackett was now entering into the 5.1 surround market and for a surround FREAK! like myself this was much more of an enticing reason for me to buy them. The other thing that is also very good about them is the way they have been presented with high quality packaging and no expense has been spared here at all. However, there is something very disappointing about Steve Hackett’s 23rd studio album Wolflight, but before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork as usual.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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Both discs come in a high quality thick cardboard Mediabook which is the same material used to make an hardback book. Clear plastic trays on the left and right panels hold the discs firmly in place and it comes with a 20-page fixed booklet and is a very neat and attractive quality package. The book comes with all the linear credit production notes and lyrics, it also comes with 10 high resolution photographs that are associated with the 10 tracks that was written for the album. The only down side is that the book does mostly consist of photographs and hardly includes any informative information.

The album was released in 4 media formats that come in the form of a Digital Download. A Double Vinyl LP + CD Limited package (now out of print). A CD only edition and a Mediabook that includes a CD & Blu Ray. Being a Surround FREAK! the Mediabook was my preferred choice and I purchased it from Amazon UK for a bargain price of £11.30 and at that price it’s a steal for a quality package like this. It does normally retail at around the £17 mark.

Artwork.

The design and layout were done by Harry Pearce and the photographic artwork was done by Maurizio and Angéla Vicedomini. The interesting thing about the albums front cover is that it shows Steve Hackett crouched down with a pack of wolves and most people would probably think the photograph had been done in Photoshop.

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But the photograph is genuine and Hackett (apart from the light of day which was altered) did have his photograph taken with real wolves and spent a good bit of time with the wolves for them to get used to his scent for the photo shoot to be taken. Like much of the photography and artwork in the mediabook it’s quite stunning and looks even more impressive on the Blu Ray disc itself.

Wolflight Album In Review…

Steve Hackett’s 23rd studio album Wolflight was released on the 30th March 2015 in the UK and on the 7th April in the US. The album contains 12 tracks (counting a couple of bonus tracks) spanned over an overall playing time of 62 minutes, 56 seconds and his is first original solo studio album since Beyond The Shrouded Horizon in 2011. It’s a album that Hackett got quite excited about and called it his best album, though I am sure many artists would say the same thing about their latest albums they had produced at the time.

The one thing I will say about Hackett’s music is that since he got together with his other half Jo his music does tend to have more of a film soundtrack feel about it and I think a lot of the inspiration for his music comes from the exotic places he goes to visit with her all over the world. He’s also introducing more of World Music into his style by using different instrumentation, though that is not that unusual for him and in the past on his 3rd album Spectral Mornings for example he did add some oriental flavour with the use of the koto. On this particular album he also played some instruments he had never used and played before such as the Oud and the Tiple and brought in other musicians with other instrumentation.

The one thing Hackett as always retained is his own style though I would say there is also a different approach to some of his song writing these days and this is an album that does contain some very well written songs upon it, and some maybe heading in more of a popular direction and approach in how he has gone about things.

Much of the material for the album was written and recorded between 2012 – 2014 and the album was put together in sections on paper like a plan or like storyboarding a film. It was also made whilst Hackett was selling his house and studio and 11 of the tracks were recorded and mixed by his long-time keyboard player Roger King at Map Studios in London. King also mastered the album there too.

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To be perfectly honest I am not 100% sure this is the right studio but it is the only recording studio that goes under the name of “Map Studio” though it is also known as Map Studio Cafe because there is also a cafe in the premises too and is situated in Kentish Town, London. It also has live recording rooms as well and the studio was founded in 1990 and over the years has played host to artists such as Skip Mcdonald, Roots Manuva, Miss Dynamite, Dawn Penn and others and I cannot say I have heard of any of them :))))).

If this is not the recording studio, they used the only other logical thing I can think of is that Steve Hackett’s own home studio was also called Map Studios. The final bonus track on the album was recorded and mixed by Thorvaldur B. Thorvaldsson in Hungary and some of the instrumentation from a couple of the musicians were also recorded in Hungary by Tamas Barabas down to Hackett’s connections with the band Djabe he has collaborated with.

The Blu Ray.

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The Blu Ray’s main menu looks pristine and stunning and a lot better than the artwork on the vinyl album and CD and some HD film footage of the clouds in the background add a GREAT” touch to it. It’s a lot better than the pictures I took of it too and looks more lifelike especially on my 50″ UHD 4K TV. The menu itself presents you with 4 options “Play Album”. “Track Select”. “Audio Select” and “Interviews.

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Navigating through the menu options is simple enough and by clicking on the “Track Select” a menu drops down displaying all the tracks without having to load to another menu screen as you can see in the picture above.

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The “Audio Select” gives you the choice of 3 audio soundtracks 2 of which are surround mixes and by default the audio is set to the DTS Master 5.1 mix. There is also a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and a LPCM Stereo mix. Only the main 10 tracks that make up the original album have the option of all 3 audio soundtracks and the 2 bonus tracks are in Stereo only. All 3 formats are in 24 bits & 48K.

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The “Interview” section contains the extra bonus material and all 3 interviews are of Steve Hackett talking about the making of the album. The first of which is a 7-minute interview of him discussing the recording of the album. The 2nd is of him discussing the artwork and comes with a running time of 7 minutes, 18 seconds. The final interview is the longest and he discusses each track on the album and it has a running time of 31 minutes, 24 seconds.

All the interviews were filmed by Paul Green of Film 24 Productions and are very useful for informative information especially has the 20-page booklet did not provide hardly any at all and was mostly pictures.

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Whilst the music is playing it displays a different hi resolution picture for each track. These are the same images that are also in the Mediabook and once again they look pristine and much better on the Blu Ray. The Blu Ray authoring was done by Ray Schulman and he’s done a TOP JOB! on the menus.

The 5.1 Mix.

So far everything about this whole package is of pristine high quality and it’s such a shame that something has to let it down especially for somebody like myself who is a surround FREAK! The 5.1 mix is the biggest reason for me buying most music these days and it does entice me to buy these types of packages a lot more than any other format. Since I have been into surround from 1994 onwards, I have come across many really bad 5.1 mixes. But I can honestly say that I don’t think I have ever encountered one as bad as this for what it actually does to the album.

To be perfectly honest whenever I buy a package like this that comes with a Blu Ray or DVD and is accompanied by a CD in the same package. It’s very rare I will ever play the CD. I do rip them onto my hard drive so I can listen to them on my computer when I am working away on it, and on rare occasions I may play the CD to test it out for a review I am doing of the album, especially if the CD is the only thing that contains the new mixes. But I will always play the 5.1 mix first most of the time.

Now both the stereo and surround mixes were done by Roger King and I think this was his very first attempt to do a 5.1 surround mix and as a rule Benedict Fenner does the surround mixes on most of Hackett’s live Blu Ray & DVD releases and apart from the surround mixes Steve Wilson done of Hackett’s first 4 studio albums I do not recall any other of Hackett’s studio albums being given a 5.1 mix until the release of Wolflight and the 2 studio albums that followed it.

Having put the Blu Ray in my player and playing the 5.1 mix I experienced one of the most abysmal experiences I think I have ever encountered. There was hardly anything coming out the rear channels and whatever was coming out of the front channels made the album sound like the most boring thing I have ever encountered before. At one stage I was going to send it back for a refund because the album did not do one single thing for me or say one single Dickie Bird to me and it was completely BORING!

The following day I decided to play it again and I got exactly the same thing and it sounded like there was a ton of things missing from the mix. I even put on other 5.1 content to check my system out to make sure there was nothing wrong my end. It was then that I decided to play the stereo mix and as soon as I did, I started to enjoy the album straight away. Like I said I have come across some really bad surround mixes before but I can honestly say I have never come across one like this where it sounds like half of the tracks are missing and it made it sound boring and diabolical.

I have no idea what Roger King was trying to achieve here but he’s completely COCKED-UP! the surround mix and its unplayable. You would have to be completely stoned out of your head or stick a needle in your arm to enjoy the surround mix because it makes the album sound nothing like it supposed too. There is no way I could even give him 1 out of 10 for the job he has done here and it is by far the most diabolical mix I have ever heard in my life LOL…

Musicians & Credits…

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Produced by Steve Hackett & Roger King. All compositions by Steve Hackett (except tracks 2, 7 & 8 by Steve Hackett / Jo Hackett. Tracks 4 & 5 by Steve Hackett / Jo Hackett / Roger King. Track 9 by Steve Hackett / Roger King. Track 12 by Thorvaldur B. Thorvaldsson / Steve Hackett). All tracks Recorded & Mixed by Roger King at Map Studios between 2012 – 2014 except (Track 12 Recorded & Mixed by Thorvaldur B. Thorvaldsson. Malok Mansurov & Sarah Kovács recorded in Hungary by Tamas Barabas. Mastered by Roger King at Map Studios. Blu Ray Mastering by Peter Van’t Riet at Fine Tune. 5.1 surround Mix by Roger King. Design by Harry Pearce. Photographic artwork by Maurizio and Angéla Vicedomini.

Musicians.

Steve Hackett: Guitars – Lead / Harmony & Backing Vocals (Tracks 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8 & 10). Oud (Tracks 5 & 9). Tiple (Track 7). Banjo (Track 8). Harmonica (Tracks 4 & 8). Percussion (Tracks 1, 4 & 7).
Roger King: Keyboards & Programming.
Nick Beggs: Bass (All tracks except 3). Chapman Stick (Track 8).
Gary O’Tool: Drums (Tracks 1, 2, 3 4, 5 & 8).
Rob Townsend: Saxophone (Tracks 4 & 8). Dudek (Track 5).

Additional Musicians.

Christine Townsend: Violin & Viola (Tracks 1 2, 3, 4 & 8).
Chris Squire: Bass (Track 3).
Hugo Degenhardt: Drums (Tracks 9 & 10).
Amanda Lehmann: Vocals (Tracks 2, 3, 4 & 8).
Malik Mansurov: Tar (Track 2).
Sara Kovács: Didgeridoo (Track 2).
Jo Hackett: Vocals (Track 4).

The Album Tracks In Review…

The album Wolflight is an album where everything merges and collides and breaks down barriers between cultures, human and animal worlds according to Steve Hackett. Much of the concept was inspired by the 20 countries he had visited. The album’s title reflects the hour before dawn which is when the wolves hunt and according to himself much of the album was written in the wolf light.

I think since the release of Beyond the Shrouded Horizon back in 2011 Hackett has gone down more of a Cinematic road and approach with his music and that is where some musical aspects have changed slightly. But there is an element of rock that also cuts through all the dramatization with his electric guitar that hardens up some of the smoother edges. Some of the material along the album also puts me in mind of his 2009 album Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth and even Chris Squire who featured on a couple of tracks on that album gets to play on one here. Sadly, it was only a couple of months after the release of this album that he died.

The album flows along like a concept album with how most of the track’s tailspin into one another and much of his regular long-time band are with him. It’s now become a writing team of 3 since he married Jo and she does a good job in contributing to many of the lyrics just like David Gilmour’s other half Polly Samson does for him. Roger King has contributed to the writing for many years and plays a major role in putting Hackett’s albums together more so these days. So now let’s take a look at all the individual tracks on the album as well as the couple of bonus tracks.

Track 1. Out of the Body.

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The album opens up with an instrumental track that Steve Hackett wrote and it’s also the shortest track on the album. Right at the start of the intro the wolves are howling hauntingly and the drums and other instrumentation kick in and takes you along in a hurried pace to represent following them along like in dream in the way of a chase. Both Christine Townsend (no relation to Rob) and Roger King take care of the orchestration side of things very well whilst Gary O’Tool and Nick Beggs provide the driving force and pace. Steve Hackett provides the power with his driving rhythm and lead work on his electric guitars, he is also contributing towards the percussion too and it gets the album off to a GREAT! flying start.

Track 2. Wolflight.

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The albums self-titled track is one of the 4 lengthier tracks on the album and opens up with Sara Kovács on the didgeridoo and Malik Mansurov playing a tar to which the both musicians were recorded in Hungary by Tamas Barabas the main composer and bass player from the band Djabe. Hackett had seen Mansurov play the instrument whilst he was playing in Budapest and was impressed by the fast speed, he could play it and likened him to a cross between John McLaughlin and Ravi Shankar.

The tar is an instrument that originally originated in Persia in the middle of the 18th century and is associated and shared by many cultures and countries including Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, and others near the Caucasus region.

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Tar

The body is a double-bowl shape carved from mulberry wood, with a thin membrane of stretched lamb-skin covering the top. The fingerboard has twenty-five to twenty-eight adjustable gut frets, and there are three double courses of strings. Its range is about two and one-half octaves, and it is played with a small brass plectrum. Though they can also come with less and even more strings and a different shape depending on the different countries that play them. For example, the Azerbaijani tar has 11 strings and is a slightly different shape from the Persian Tar and was developed from the Persian tar around 1870 by Sadigjan.

The intro takes up all of 33 seconds of the 8 minutes you get here here and then goes into an acoustic section with Hackett on his nylon stringed guitar accompanied by Christine Townsend on violin & viola, Roger King throws in some other orchestration and glistening bells on his keyboards which beautifully take you along for another 20 seconds. Hackett then switches to a 12-string guitar and the vocals come into play and although Amanda Lehmann’s voice is mixed in here in parts her voice is only really lending a bit of support and Hackett does take on all the lead vocals throughout the album apart from one of the bonus tracks.

Wolflight” is a song that utilises the 12 string, nylon and electric guitar in individual sections of it and Hackett excels on them all and it is also heavily backed up by the drums. percussion and orchestra and are built on GREAT! progression and strong themes throughout. The vocal section in particular reminds me of some of the material we seen on albums like Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth and Wild Orchids which are also quite strong well written Hackett albums and this track is up with the material on those albums and is an excellent piece of work.

The song is credited to both Steve & Jo Hackett and I know his wife contributes to the lyrics though it would not surprise me if Steve himself had an hand in some of these lyrics also because he is excellent with lyrics himself and these are excellent and pertain to the wolves fight for freedom in how their land and their light can be taken up by mankind. It really is GREAT! song and is my personal favourite track and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 3. Love Song to a Vampire.

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It’s not unusual for Steve Hackett to do songs about vampires and songs like “Vampyre with a Healthy Appetite” from his 1993 album Guitar Noir and some dark tracks like “Darktown” and “The Devil Is an Englishman” on other albums can have that haunting sense of horror about them too. However, this is perhaps a different appraoch in that it’s a love song to a vampire and was inspired from the film series of The Twilight Saga which was an American romantic fantasy film based on Stephenie Meyer’s 2005 novel of the same name. So, this do have a sweeter way at looking at things especially over the most part of the song and the darker dramatics play more towards the end of the song and Hackett wrote both the music and the lyrics for this one.

It’s the longest track on the album and weighs in at 9 minutes, 17 seconds and starts off very well with the nylon string guitar accompanied by the orchestration provided once again by Christine Townsend and Roger King whilst Hackett and Amanda Lehmann handle the vocal side of things. Hackett also plays a couple of GREAT! lead guitar solos on his electric and the first one is a bit reminiscent to Snowy White’s lead solo work. The second solo is more fat and aggressive and comes into play in the more rocked up section that comes into play after the orchestral dramatized section around the 7:47 mark. It’s also only in that final guitar solo section and during the first guitar solo that Chris Squire’s bass can be really heard more so, and he features on this one track on the album.

Overall a “Love Song to a Vampire” is a fine piece of work that contains some strong themes and is very well dramatized with the orchestral work and it contains some GREAT! lead solo work from Hackett and is a qite a good album track.

Track 4. The Wheels Turning.

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It’s all the fun of the fare next and I like these type of songs where you get the good old pipe organ music that is associated with most fairground rides and the fun fare and tracks such as “Carry on up The Vicarage” from his Please Don’t Touch album and the “Circus of Becoming” from To Watch Storms are classics of his. Steve Hackett oddly enough used to work at the fun fare in Battersea in London many moons ago before he became a professional musician, and used to be in charge of the one arm bandit machines in the arcade walking around with his bag of change for those who needed change for the machines. He’s always seen the funfair as a potential danger and would not go on some of the rides such as the high-flying rockets & roller coasters and preferred to keep his feet on the ground.

Mr & Mrs Hackett & Roger king penned this song and the lyrics reflect around the disaster that happened in the early 1970’s when the fairground suffered a major fire killing 5 children and injuring others. I suppose the wheels that are turning here starts the film and rewinds it back to the nightmares he has of the incident and the place.

The Wheels Turning” has every inch of Hackett’s GREAT! style about it and although it does not remind me of the first of those other two classics songs of his I mentioned it does a bit of the second one and the opening verse in particular has me thinking of “Camino Royale” from his 1983 album Highly Strung and there are other bits of his older material it reminds me of too. His wife gets to add a bit of vocal on this track and this is one of the 3 tracks that his long-time sax and woodwind player Rob Townsend play sax on. Hackett also plays the old Gob Iron (harmonica) at the end of the song too and its very much one of my contenders for the albums TOP SPOT! even though it’s already been grabbed. It really is a GREAT! track.

Track 5. Corycian Fire.

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This next track was inspired Hackett’s trip to Greece and the Corycian cave is supposedly the most important spiritual cave in mainland Greece for the ancients. Some called it ‘the golden cave’ because of the way it looked lit by hundreds of torches and there is a ton of other mythical history that has been buried in the place but I won’t go into all that malarkey. The song has a touch of the east and sounds more Egyptian or Arabic but also has a Gothic touch about it too and uses heavy percussion and chanting choir like vocals. Rob Townsend is also on this track and plays the dudek, it’s the first time he’s ever played it and Hackett gets to use the Oud he just brought on the track too.

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Oud

The oud is a short-neck lute-type, pear-shaped stringed instrument with 11 or 13 strings grouped in 5 or 6 courses. It’s commonly used predominantly in the music of the ancient Arabia, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Israel and many other places including Turkey and Greece. It looks like they went a bit too far with the neck bending though :))))).

Roger King does all the orchestration on his keyboards on this track and just like the previous one has a part in the writing credits with Steve & Jo. The intro starts with the Hackett on the oud and King accompanies him by playing the harp on the keyboards, he’s also programmed in some eastern stringed sounds which are quite familiar to some of the bowed stringed instruments some of the musicians Peter Gabriel uses for his soundtrack albums and this one does have the mystic eastern vibe that you will hear on Gabriel’s soundtrack album Passion for example.

After the intro the songs opening verse is more Hackett reminiscent and has it progresses along the eastern mystic vibe very much creeps back more so and takes over and the less Hackett like the song gets apart from a bit of a solo he does on the electric guitar to which he also plays a solo on the oud and it’s like they are having a battle with each other and fighting for priority. King also joins in the little battle on the keyboards and then the song goes more gothic to end it all off and is perhaps something more like a scene from the Omen rather than the music that Peter Gabriel did for The Last Temptation of Christ.

Track 6. Earthshine.

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A beautiful guitar solo instrumental piece is up next and these days rather than make an albums worth of them he does tend to throw the odd solo into his prog albums and they really light up the album in most cases and this piece certainly does shine and is quite a GEM!. Hackett’s nylon string and acoustic work is really where he gets to show his ability as a guitarist and it brings out the best of him and this is another track on the album, I would put in contention for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 7. Loving Sea.

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Another acoustic song written by Hackett and it was his trip to Mexico that inspired him to write the song. It’s one of those more light hearted relaxed songs like we got to see with some of the material Hackett wrote for his 5th studio album Cured back in 1981. He had also spent a bit of time having some vocal training and he uses 5 part harmonies to sing this one though in all honesty the vocals sound like many of his vocal tracks with the effect he has applied to the vocals and were much the same even back in 1981 on that Cured album. He also plays a Tiple on this track which is another member of the guitar family as you can see below in the picture.

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The first mention of the tiple comes from musicologist Pablo Minguet e Irol in 1752. Although many variations of the instrument exist, the tiple is mostly associated with Colombia, and is considered the national instrument of that country. It’s about 18% smaller than a standard classical guitar. The typical fretboard scale is about 530 mm (just under 21 inches) and the neck joins the body at the 12th fret. It looks very much like a smaller version of a 12-string guitar to me. He also uses his electric guitar for some of effects that give the impression of the sea’s waves washing over you.

Track 8. Black Thunder.

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Black Thunder” is another one of the longer tracks and the lyrics are based around the subject matter of black slavery in West Virginia. It’s very much a rock blues song and Hackett also plays banjo and harmonica besides his electric guitar. Both Christine and Rob Townsend return to lend support with the sax and strings which helps to bring in some of the dramatics that come into play later on as the song develops along, and Nick Beggs gets on the Chapman Stick for this one. It’s another of the better powerful tracks on the album and Gary O’Tool injects quite a lot of the power on the drums along with Hackett’s well driven guitar and GREAT! solo work. I like the jazzy ending too that Rob Townsend gives to the piece on the sax too.

Track 9. Dust and Dreams.

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Another of the tracks written by Hackett & King and the title very much depicts the desert and this instrumental piece was inspired by the desert in Morocco which is the place where Hackett happened to spot a couple of musicians playing the oud and made him go out and buy one himself.

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Both this and next track it leads into features Hugo Degenhardt on the drums and Nick Beggs is playing more of a dominant role on the bass which provides the backbone for Hackett to work his guitar around and for Roger King to fill in the orchestration of the desert flavour on his keyboards. I qutie like this one and Hackett’s solo work is quite tasty in that it does sort of sing to you.

Track 10. Heart Song.

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The final of the songs that was written for the album is a love song that Hackett wrote for his wife. It effectively works as a Segway in transporting you from the desert onto the beach and besides singing some loving words he also throws some lovely guitar solos and it winds off the album very well.

Track 11. Pneuma.

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The first of the bonus tracks is another delightful instrumental piece played by Hackett on the nylon guitar. Pneuma is an ancient Greek word for “breath” although this is perhaps more associated with Spain with how he’s playing here and it really is another little GEM! and excellent bonus track to have. It’s another contender for the albums TOP SPOT! even though it was not really written for the album.

Track 12. Midnight Sun.

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The final bonus track was written by Thorvaldur B. Thorvaldsson & Steve Hackett and was done with the Icelandic band Todmobile. Thorvaldsson is the real name of the bands guitarist who goes under the sudo name Þorvaldur B. Þorvaldsson. This is the only track on the album that Hackett does not sing on and the bands main singer Eyþór Ingi Gunnlaugsson takes on the vocals. He bumped into the band when he went to see them live playing songs by the Yes with the original singer of that band Jon Anderson in the previous year in 2014 and that’s how he got to do this song with them.

It’s quite a good song and parts of the vocal melody line remind me of the Blind Faith song “Can’t Find My Way Back Home“. Although it perhaps could even sound like a bit of a cross between GTR & Asia in some respects too in that it has a bit more of a popular feel about it.

Summary…

To sum up Steve Hackett’s 23rd studio album Wolflight, I think overall it’s a very good album but not by any means a solid one but then again solid albums are more of the rarer breed perhaps, but if you enjoyed albums like Wild Orchids, Out Of The Tunnels Mouth and Beyond The Shrouded Horizon I cannot see why you would not like this album even if I do not think it’s quite on par with those 3 albums I mentioned.

I do get the feeling that Hackett is heading in more of a dramatic direction with his music and also introducing more orchestral and other world music instrumentation to try and give you something a bit different. But his formidable style is still very much reminiscent and manages to breath freely and cut through it all.

To be honest I myself I am not so keen on a lot of world music and I’m not that keen on some of its instrumentation either, especially with how certain instruments sound such as tar’s and sitars for example. But they are OK! in small doses and I do think they can help to be a bit more creative in some respects too.

Thankfully they are only used in small doses and the one thing that helps this album a lot is that you do get a good dollop of Hackett’s acoustic playing throughout the album and that is where he does really excel and shine. The combination of both acoustic and electric guitars works extremely well on this album too. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Wolflight“. “Earthshine“. “The Wheels Turning“. “Out of the Body“. “Dust and Dreams” and I would also include the bonus track “Pneuma“.

Conclusion…

In conclusion Wolflight is quite a good body of work with the material that was written for it. There are bags of acoustic work throughout the album that does help it a lot and its self-titled track is a personal BIG! fave of mine and one of Steve Hackett top songs and up there with his strongest body of work. Both the instrumental tracks “Earthshine” and “Pneuma” are pure GEMS! and I personally cannot say there is a bad track on the whole album either.

The biggest let down for me was the 5.1 mix on the Blu Ray and from the many reviews I have read there is supposed to be a fault with the 5.1 mix and a couple I noticed said that they were aware of the fault and would at some point fix it. Obviously, nothing has been done to rectify the fault as many also pointed out and it’s a real shame especially has that was one of my main reasons that enticed me to buy the album.

I have no idea what Roger King done to the surround mix but just like I said in the 5.1 section of my review, this is the most extraordinary mix I have ever encountered and it makes the album sound completely diabolical and so BORING! It could be a case that he had some of the tracks muted when he done the mix-down because it does sound like tracks are missing and he must have put quite a few in the rear channels. The fact that you can hardly hear bugger all coming out of the rear channels makes me think that he did put a good few of the tracks in the rears. It’s that bad I cannot even give it anything more than 0 out of 10 and it does nothing for the album at all listening to it like this and is a complete waste of space on the Blu Ray disc.

Thankfully all is not lost and the stereo mix is very good even the 24-bit master stereo mix on the Blu Ray is very good too. The interviews on the Blu Ray are also quite informative and I would also say the bonus tracks are a worthy addition so it is worth getting the Mediabook over the CD especially if you can get it at the price, I paid for it or no more than around £12. These Mediabooks are of far more superior quality than the DigiPaks and DigiSleeves which is why a package like this gets the top marks and at that price point it’s still a bargain despite the disappointment of the 5.1 mix. There is still GREAT! value to be had here and it’s quite a good album.

Out Of The Body And Into The Dream…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Out of the Body. 2:29.
02. Wolflight. 8:00.
03. Love Song to a Vampire. 9:17.
04. The Wheels Turning. 7:23.
05. Corycian Fire. 5:46.
06. Earthshine. 3:20.
07. Loving Sea. 3:22.
08. Black Thunder. 7:32.
09. Dust and Dreams. 5:33.
10. Heart Song. 2:50.
11. Pneuma #. 2:53
12. Midnight Sun #. 4:31.

Lee’s overall Complete Package Value Rating…

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

The Stereo Mix Rating Score. 10/10.

The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 0/10.

The Bonus Material Rating Score. 7/10.

The Album Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #138

Genesis Revisited Band & Orchestra: Live At The Royal Festival Hall – Steve Hackett

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Introduction…

Another concert release which is nothing unusual these days to see from Steve Hackett though he does still continue to make his own solo studio albums. Speaking of which I did purchase his last 3 studio albums along with this new release this year and still have them to review though as I am behind with my reviews it will have to be in the new year when I get around to doing them.

This is actually the third in a series of Genesis Revisited Live concerts Hackett has released since he originally released a couple of studio albums in the same series that started back in 1996 with Watcher of the Skies: Genesis Revisited. Though in reality you could also count his last couple of live releases The Total Experience Live in Liverpool and Wuthering Nights: Live in Birmingham simply because both of those concerts also feature material from his solo career as well as material from his formative band Genesis.

For many people having all of this live material could be like having too much of the same thing, but every concert is different and the difference we have with Live at the Royal Festival Hall is that the band is accompanied by an orchestra. But does the orchestra really make a major difference one might ask? In reality it should do and, in this review, I hope to unveil just how much of a difference it makes and to see if this concert is worthy of purchasing. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The 3 discs come in a cardboard well put together 4-panel DigiPak that has plastic trays to firmly hold the discs in place and it also has a handy pocket to store the booklet. The 12-page booklet consists mostly of pictures from the concert and contains no informative information but does contain all the production linear notes and credits. The cover design was done by Thomas Ewerhard with the use of photographs by Howard Rankin, Lee Millward and Mick Bannister.

The concert was released in 2 formats only which offered you the choice of either a 2 X CD & DVD or 2 X CD & Blu Ray package. Out of the 2 packages it is only the Blu Ray release that comes with extra bonus material and I myself purchased the 2 X CD & Blu Ray package from Amazon for £15.88 which was a very reasonable and respective price.

Live At The Festival Hall In Review…

Genesis Revisited Band & Orchestra: Live at the Royal Festival Hall was released on the 25th October 2019 and captures Steve Hackett plus band and orchestra performing live at The Royal Festival Hall, London on the 4th October 2018. Speaking of his band it was not long after this concert and towards the end of the same month that the drummer Gary O’Tool announced his departure from the band to which he had been playing with for near enough the last 20 years. So, this could be the last Steve Hackett live release we get to see him on and that is sad news because he was not only a BRILLIANT! drummer but he also came with a GREAT! voice.

Since Steve Hackett decided to do a series of live concerts under the title of Genesis Revisited which kicked off at the Hammersmith Apollo in London back on the 10th May 2013. It has very much put him back in the limelight and he has certainly become more popular and once again able to play more bigger venues just like we seen when he took the band to The Royal Albert Hall later on in that same year on the 24th October 2013. Concert ticket prices to see him live have risen tremendously and gone are the days where you could see him live at smaller venues for the price of a Genesis tribute band such has The Watch and The Musical Box who also do quite an incredible job performing the Genesis back catalogue of songs.

No doubt it is not cheap to hire the bigger venues which does account for the higher ticket price and when you are dragging along a 41-piece orchestra as well as top class musicians it becomes even more of a gamble to make any money at all from putting on such a show. It can also go entirely wrong and end up costing you more money and leaving you out of pocket. But so far things have gone very well for him and I am glad to see he is doing well and still bringing good entertainment to his fans and even for those like myself who cannot afford the price of a ticket can still get to enjoy the show at home at a very respective and reasonable price point. Which is a lot more than I can say for Camel’s latest concert they have just released on Blu Ray and are charging £30 for it and it does not even come with any CD’s FFS :))))).

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The one thing I can say about Steve Hackett is that he does give you genuine value for the buck and I only paid £30 from Amazon for the Deluxe Edition of Live At The Albert Hall and it comes with 2 CD’s, 2 DVD’s & 1 Blu Ray in a 11¼” x 11¼” 44 page art-book with liner notes, photos and bonus interview features. You can still buy it on Amazon for £33 so how on earth Camel can justify the price of £30 for 1 single Blu Ray in a standard plastic case is beyond belief and well overpriced.

The CD’s.

The concert has been split of over the 2 CD’s that come with the package however, it excludes all the talking in between the songs so you do not quite get the whole show here, but you do get all the songs that were played at the concert. The first CD contains 8 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 53 minutes, 18 seconds. The second CD comes with 6 tracks and has an overall playing time of 61 minutes 6 seconds.

The Blu Ray.

The Blu Ray gives you more of the total experience and I always prefer to watch a show rather than just listen to it in audio only. Although no recording is ever gonna capture the genuine feel and atmosphere of a live concert, but it can in most cases let you see a lot more of the band than you would have done at the concert itself depending on your seating arrangement that is, especially if you are right at the back and the band on stage are smaller than action men figures. I actually prefer to watch football on the TV rather than waste my money watching it live where you simply have not got a chance of seeing everything that is happening on the pitch.

To be perfectly honest I am really disappointed with many of the new neo prog bands these days who are under the impression that they have to whack everything up loud so that they can get a decent recording of the concert. Having seen both Transatlantic and Frost* live I can honestly say I would not waste my money on travelling to see them again never mind wasting my money on the price of the concert ticket. Those live shows were completely dreadful and amongst the worst concert experience I have ever had the misfortune of witnessing. Bands in my local pub sounded way better than those idiots and their sound engineers were total idiots to even think that in the first place. Have they never heard of a recording level meter or know how to use one FFS!

All concerts are loud but there is no need to play the levels of Wembley Stadium in the small venues they played at. I did see Gryphon play the same venue that Frost* played at the Robin 2 twice and they sounded awesome. I even seen The Watch at the same venue and they sounded GREAT! too. Transatlantic’s Whirlwind Tour at the Shepherds Bush Empire I seen them at never made the live DVD they put out sound any better for playing at those ridiculous levels. But least I could hear the concert finally on that DVD to which the sound was bouncing off all the walls in the venue making them all sound out of tune with each other at the concert itself. It was a complete waste of my money and completely spoilt my day. These days you might be better off with the DVD or Blu Ray if this is what they do live.

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The Blu Ray’s main menu presents you with a looping bit of HD video footage from the show and displays individual mirrored pictures of the band set to the backing music of “Shadow of the Hierophant” from the show. It also presents you with 5 options to choose from which are “Play Concert”. “Track Select”. “Audio Select”. “Documentary” and “Videos” and everything is easy to navigate and the picture looks nice and pristine being of Blu Ray quality. The Blu Ray authoring was done by Ray Schulman and he’s done a very neat and tidy job on the menus.

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I like the way how everything functions on the one screen and by clicking on any of the options it does not have to load another screen and simply displays it on the Blu Ray’s main menu in a drop-down menu as you can see from the picture above where I have clicked on “Track Select” and it simply displays all the tracks of the concert.

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The “Audio Select” (as shown above) gives you the choice of 2 audio soundtracks and both the LPCM Stereo and 5.1 DTS Master surround mixes are in formats of 48/24. You will notice that each of the drop-down menus when you click on them hide the other options below and you have to close the drop-down menu to see them.

The other 2 bonus features which are the “Documentary” and “Videos” are included on the Blu Ray edition only and are not on the DVD edition. The documentary has an overall running time of 42 minutes 9 seconds and shows you behind the scenes footage and interviews with Steve Hackett and the other members of the band and various others from the orchestra talking about the concert and is mostly filmed around the complex of the Royal Festival Hall. It’s quite interesting and a good extra feature to have and the audio is in 48/24 LPCM stereo.

The final bonus feature is that it includes 3 videos that was made for 3 of the songs for his latest album At The Edge Of Light which was released at the beginning of the year in January. They are “Under The Sun“. “Beasts In Our Time” and “Peace” and come with a standard stereo audio format of 48/16. The drop-down menu gives you the choice of playing them all or playing them individually and overall the bonus features you get on the Blu Ray are very good to have.

The Picture & Film Editing Quality.

The concert was filmed, edited and produced by Film 24 Productions who specialise in high-definition multi-camera filming and have filmed many other well-known artists. The company is run by Paul Green who also directed and done the editing and post production and overall, he and his team have done a GREAT! job of capturing the band and orchestra and the show has been very well edited. He also filmed the behind the scenes documentary too. The picture quality is very good and you can tell that the concert footage was shot in HD and not with SD cameras.

The 5.1 Surround & Stereo Mixes.

Both the stereo and surround mixes were done by Steve Hackett’s long-time live recording engineer Benedict Fenner of Front of House Sound. The 5.1 surround mix does give you more than the stereo mix however, the 6 channels have not been utilised in the way they should have been and this 5.1 mix offers nothing in the exciting department and the rear channels in particular are their mainly for the audience and the odd reflection of sound rather than any of the instrumentation being placed in the rear. This does help give the mix a lot more body and depth but does very little for the band and especially the orchestra to which more channels could of been utilised to give more separation to the instrumentation for it to stand out more.

Most 5.1 mixes of live concerts can be disappointing however not all of them are and I have some excellent ones that have been given the right treatment with more qualified engineers who have more of a vision to work in this field. Unfortunately, Benedict Fenner is not one of those engineers who has the right vision for how a 5.1 mix should be treated but has done better 5.1 mixes in the past. For example, both Somewhere In South America: Live In Buenos Aires and Hungarian Horizons: Live In Budapest he mixed back in the early 2000’s and I regard them as his best 5.1 mixes and are better than what he is doing today. Although the 5.1 mix he done for Wuthering Nights: Live in Birmingham was very good too.

But overall with how he has gone about things here there is no denying it does add more width, depth and space and the sound does project a lot better than the stereo mix. You are also better off listening to the concert with the 5.1 mix over the stereo mix although the stereo mix perhaps benefits more to the use of headphones.

Musicians & Credits…

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Directed & Produced by Paul Green. Conductor Bradley Thachuk. Musical Arrangements by Bradley Thachuk, Steve Thachuk, & Thorvaldur Bjarni.  Concert Sound Recording by Martin Knight. Stereo & 5.1 Surround Mixes by Benedict Fenner. Editing & Post production by Paul Green. Design by Thomas Ewerhard. Photography by Howard Rankin, Lee Millward & Mick Bannister. Blu Ray Authoring by Ray Schulman.

Musicians.

Steve Hackett: Guitar/Vocals.
Roger King: Keyboards.
Rob Townsend: Saxophone/Woodwind/Percussion/Vocals/Keyboards/Bass Pedals.
Jonas Reingold: Bass/Bass Pedals/Variax/Twelve String Guitar/Vocals.
Gary O’Tool: Drums/Percussion/Vocals.
Nad Sylvan: Vocals/Tambourine.

Special Guests.

Amanda LehMann: Vocals/Guitar.
John Hackett: Flute.

The Concert In Review…

Unlike the CD’s the Blu Ray gives you the whole concert which has a total running time of 2 hours, 1 minute and 22 seconds it’s also the best way to experience it as well I personally think. The concert is played in two sets which allows the musicians to have a break in between and both set-lists feature both Genesis and Steve Hackett’s solo material and this concert is no different to The Total Experience Live in Liverpool and Wuthering Nights: Live in Birmingham in the way both sets of material run along. For example, they have not split the show up into a set of Genesis and Hackett songs and have combined them both together. The only difference between this concert and his other concerts is the 41-piece Heart of England Philharmonic Orchestra he has on stage with him conducted by Bradley Thachuk.

The concert was performed at the Royal Festival hall which is situated on the South Bank of the River Thames in London, England on 4th October 2018. This particular venue is used these days for concerts, dance and talks and has a seating capacity of around 2,900 seats. The London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment are resident in the hall and it was originally built as part of the Festival of Britain for London County Council, and was officially opened on 3 May 1951. The building is built like a complex and includes several reception rooms, bars and restaurants. It’s also known as the Southbank Centre.

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The Festival Hall was one of the first concert halls in the world to be built using the application of scientific principles, both theoretical and experimental. The building underwent a substantial renovation between 2005 and 2007 aimed at improving the poor acoustics and building layout. The refurbishment was estimated to have cost in the region of £91 million and a film documenting the refurbishment, entitled “This Is Tomorrow” was also made. Many well-known artists have played live at the Festival hall and continue to do so today.

Steve Hackett took the Heart of England Philharmonic Orchestra and his band on a short UK Tour with him during October in 2018. Besides playing at the Royal Festival Hall on the 4th of that month he also played at 7 other venues starting at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham on the 1st. Bridgewater Hall Manchester on the 3rd. The Birmingham Symphony Hall on the 5th. The Sage 1 in Gateshead on the 7th. The Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow on the 8th. The Regent in Ipswich on the 10th and ended up at the London Palladium on the 11th. It was a bit of gamble and only 3 of the shows were sell outs which were this one at Royal Festival Hall and the shows in Manchester and Birmingham.

The band Steve Hackett had with him is more or less the same band line-up (including the special guests) that was with him for the tour of the Wind and Wuthering album shows earlier in the same year and who appeared on the Wuthering Nights: Live in Birmingham Blu Ray/DVD apart from the bass player. Nick Beggs may have been busy touring with Steve Wilson or working on another album and was replaced by the Flower Kings bassist Jonas Reingold.

On With The Show…

The show kicks off the first set-list with a Genesis number which was the opening track on the Trick Of The Tail album “Dancing On A Volcano” to which they perform very well. But what I do find is the band can be too overpowering for the orchestra to be heard dynamically enough and you can hear the odd fart coming from the brass section in parts and more of a fine blend of the orchestra bleeding through later on in parts of the song. “Out Of The Body” is up next and here the orchestra can be clearly heard a lot more and I do find that the orchestra does have more of a say and the dynamics work better on Hackett’s own material more so than that of the Genesis material in some respects and “The Steppes” that follows this also works out very well for the band and orchestra.

The Genesis classic “Firth of Fifth” is one of the Genesis songs where the orchestra can be heard more clearly and the orchestra does help lift the song up and more space has perhaps been given to the orchestra. The band have perhaps gone less heavy with the bass pedals and not so overpowering like they were on the opening song. “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight” also works out quite well with orchestra and they add a bit more power to the song. Although I had to laugh when the camera was focused on some woman in the brass section blowing into her instrument and you could not hear bugger all coming out of it, and I find this with a lot of live shows that have not been recorded so well.

Blood on the Rooftops” is up next and I was so glad that Gary O’Tool was still with the band to sing it and he does a GRAND! job singing it too. Hackett plays a short 19 second intro on his nylon guitar before going into the song and for some reason they have counted it as an extra track on the CD. To be honest I do not think the orchestra really adds anything that much to this song simply because Tony Banks always orchestrated it so well on the original album with his keyboards. I also think that by Rob Townsend playing his sax in the middle section does not really help the orchestra to say anything more, although I like his contribution that ends the song off and they give it a bit more of a jazzy flavour to the ending.

The first of the special guests Amanda LehMann gets introduced to sing the next song “Shadow of the Hierophant” which ends off the first set. I think she does an OK! job but she does not possess the operatic qualities that Sally Oldfield has in her voice to pull it off like she does on the original album. It’s very much one of Hackett’s classics and even though the orchestra is more effective in the powerful ending of the song the dynamics are washed away by the either the recording or too much going on with the band and orchestra at the same time. In many respects you would have had to have been at the concert itself to get the best out of it though the singing section has been captured very well.

The second set kicks off with a couple of tracks once again from the Wind and Wuthering album and both “In That Quiet Earth” and “Afterglow” were on his last live release Wuthering Nights: Live in Birmingham and even though we have an orchestra here it’s perhaps too much of the same thing. Although the orchestra does inject a bit of power to first of these tracks the latter of the two is about as effective as the orchestra lent to “Blood on the Rooftops” and the only real difference is a bit at the end. I could think of many earlier Genesis songs that would have worked much better for the orchestra to play “Seven Stones” and “Stagnation” for example.

Hackett then proceeds with a couple of his own numbers “Serpentine Song” and “El Niño” and for the first of them he reintroduces Amanda LehMann back to the stage who contributes some backing vocals and guitar to the song. I am pretty sure she does only feature on a couple of the songs. He also brings on his brother John Hackett and once again he only gets to appear on one of the songs which is this one. Both John Hackett and Rob Townsend play more of integral part on this song than what the orchestra really lends to it.

I think the problem is with this song is that once again it’s more keyboard orientated and most of the orchestration is played on the keyboards by Roger King which does not offer a lot of scope for the orchestras strings to say anything different and apart from the guitar the best orchestration is played by both John Hackett and Rob Townsend on the flute and sax respectively. The second of these two pieces “El Niño” is where the orchestra does get to work much more just like we seen on “Out Of The Body” in the first set and on this the orchestra does get its own short section on its own and for me personally this is best piece out of the lot that utilises the orchestra the best.

Up next we have the epic “Suppers Ready” which for many including myself is the classic of all Genesis songs and here you get 28 minutes of it. Jonas Reingold plays guitar all the way through this song, he does on a couple of other songs and the bass is played on the bass pedals. This song and the instrumental piece “Out of the Body” are the only two tracks out of everything here that was not played at the Wuthering Nights: Live in Birmingham. The orchestra is effective in some parts and does inject a bit of power to the ending of it.

At the end of “Suppers ReadyHackett introduces the band and the conductor and orchestra and they leave the stage and come back to play the final encore which is “The Musical Box” and another old Genesis classic song. The orchestra only add slightly to this song and for most of it I am pretty sure that even though they are on the stage with the band, it’s the band that is playing the biggest part of it and if anything the orchestra adds more to the powerful ending of it. It winds up the show good enough though and at the end the special guests are come back onto the stage and they all bow gracefully to the audience in appreciation.

Summary…

To sum up Genesis Revisited Band & Orchestra: Live at the Royal Festival Hall by Steve Hackett and my original question in the introduction regarding of does the orchestra really make a major difference one might ask? Personally, I do not think it makes a major difference at all basically because the orchestral arrangements and the orchestra are too in line with the band and effectively the orchestra is merely following the band. Unlike the arrangements that was given to the couple of Genesis Revisited studio albums which were of a major difference and did make the songs sound and feel different, the live material here is more or less playing the songs how the original band played them in the first place, only you have an orchestra following along in the same path which is not enough to make the songs sound that much different at all.

That’s not to say that it’s not an enjoyable concert to watch, but if there were any real major differences here they have not been captured by the recording and you would have had to have been at the venue itself to hear the orchestra work more effectively. The only piece out of the whole set that is of a GREAT! difference is “El Niño” and the only other piece I would say the orchestra works extremely well on is “Out of the Body“. Both of which are of Hackett’s own solo material. The orchestra does work well in some other parts of the other songs but for most the concert the orchestra and band are more or less playing at the same levels and that does affect the overall dynamics of the orchestra being able to push their way through at times.

The 5.1 mix is better than the stereo mix but it’s nothing to write home about and is quite poor for Benedict Fenner’s standards and sound quality wise the Wuthering Nights: Live in Birmingham Blu Ray is a lot better. Both shows were recorded by the same recording engineer Martin Knight and the only logical thing I can think of why this concert was not recorded that well is down to them all playing too loud and they had not quite got the balance between the orchestra and the band sorted out. The overall sound is far from a disaster but something does seem amiss here and it should of been mixed a lot better I personally feel and my personal highlights from the show are “Firth of Fifth“. “Suppers Ready“. “The Musical Box“. “El Niño“. “Serpentine Song” and “Shadow of the Hierophant“.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of the concert I would say that at its price point you cannot really lose here. However, even a concert like this can seem like you are getting too much of the same thing especially with how the material that was chosen is far too close to the set-list you got on the Wuthering Nights: Live in Birmingham Blu Ray. To be perfectly honest I much prefer Steve Hackett’s earlier concerts he put out where he plays his own material and only the odd Genesis song rather than a concert like this and if you are going to do a Genesis Revisited concert he should stick to that material alone and not mix it up like he has done here and with his other more recent concerts with his own material.

I do admire Steve Hackett for keeping the spirit of Genesis going and I love the early Genesis material more so than his own solo material. But even though he was very much part of that band many moons ago and he perhaps does have more rights to play the old Genesis songs. to be honest I could not buy a concert done by a tribute band even if I can enjoy watching them. So, in a way Hackett does have an advantage over a tribute band even if he is playing a tribute to their music, but you cannot beat the original band. I think I will always miss Peter Gabriel’s voice and even Phil Collins to some degree especially with how he sang “Suppers Ready” on the double live Seconds Out album.

I think Nad Sylvan does do quite a good job and his voice is fairly close to Gabriel’s but nowhere near as close as Simone Rossetti of The Watch who is perhaps the nearest, I have ever heard to Gabriel’s voice. But then again, it’s not about having a sound alike otherwise it would be even more of a tribute band like Yes have become and I cannot buy them since they went down that road either. I guess that is why I like Gary O’Tool singing “Blood On The Rooftops” and the best performance of that I have heard him do can be found on the DVD of Somewhere In South America: Live In Buenos Aires where he was near enough 20 years younger.

To be honest I enjoy those earlier concerts more so than the ones he has put out more recently and can play them a lot more. Even the Steve Hackett Live concert that was released on VHS Video back in 1992 is a superb concert to have and he plays all his own material on that that one and it was recorded in the TV Studios in Nottingham. An edited down version of that same concert was also put out on DVD under the title of Live Legends and it’s well worth sorting out either of those releases. Although the VHS version will most likely not be in good condition and I completely wore my tape out with the amount of times I have played it.

Overall, I do think there was better Genesis material that could have been chosen to suit the orchestra and it would have been better to have more of a different set-list. But you cannot have everything and we are all different with how we see things and for many others this concert might be the bee’s knees. The bonus material I do think is very good and well worth getting the Blu ray over the DVD and at its price point it’s a worthy enough purchase.

On A Finale Note…

I would like to thank all my readers who have taken an interest in my reviews and wish everyone a very Happy New Year and all the best for 2020. I would also like to say that I am behind in my reviews of the albums I have had given me or purchased this year. So, my annual awards 2019 will be delayed till the end of January due to still having 4 albums to review.

The Pied Piper Takes His Children Underground…

The 2 CD Track List is as follows:

Disc 1.
01. Dance on a Volcano. 6:36.
02. Out of the Body. 2:30.
03. The Steppes. 7:15.
04. Firth of Fifth. 10:44.
05. Dancing with the Moonlit Knight. 8:33.
06. Acoustic guitar solo. 0:19.
07. Blood on the Rooftops. 5:53.
08. Shadow Of The Hierophant. 11:27.

Disc 2.
01. In that Quiet Earth. 5:19.
02. Afterglow. 4:24.
03. Serpentine Song. 7:10.
04. El Niño. 4:04.
05. Supper’s Ready. 28:01.
06. The Musical Box. 12:08.

Lee’s Overall Package Rating…

The Price Point Rating. 10/10.

The Picture Quality Rating Score. 9/10.

The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 6/10.

The Stereo Mix. 7/10.

The Bonus Material Rating Score. 7/10.

The Overall Concert Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #137

Every Move You Make – The Studio Recordings (Box Set) – The Police

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Introduction…

Well it’s been a good while since I’ve heard The Police and I have to confess that even though I considered them a really good band and liked their albums enough to buy all 5 of them on vinyl has each one came out many moons ago, they are not the type of band I would play these days and their music can even sound on the outdated side of things. The fact that my turntable has been stuck in my loft along with my vinyl records since the late 90’s also would play a part in as to why I would not play them these days and even though I did buy most of Stings solo albums on CD, I never did buy any of The Police albums on CD.

I doubt very much if I still have the albums on vinyl simply because when I did relegate my turntable to the loft, I did end up selling the biggest majority of them and only kept a few. Over the many years of buying records I have most likely sold just as many albums on vinyl and CD than what I have left in my collection now, in fact possibly a lot more. I have even brought many albums all over again some many times over and the pride and joy that sits on my shelves these days is mostly of surround mixes and they mean more to me than anything you can put on a CD or a vinyl record. Unlike those conventional stereo formats, they also hold their value and can fetch a lot more than what you paid for them as well.

But in all formats, there is generally something of a collector’s item you will pay a lot more money for, but in general CD’s and Vinyl albums can be had on the second hand market for PEANUTS! Which also happens to the be the title of one of the songs on the bands debut album and the very reason I brought this box set in the first place. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork first.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The albums come in a Clamshell Box and in total you get 6 albums on 6 CD’s and I was well surprised to see that all 6 CD’s come in Gatefold DigiSleeves and not just the single cardboard wallets you get in most of these type of cheap box sets. The one thing the box set does not include is a booklet though the linear credits and production notes have been included on the CD’s but it does not include lyrics or any informative information about the band. But overall no expense has been spared here and this box set offers you amazing value for the money and has been very well presented. I pre-ordered it from Amazon and got it for £16.66 which is around the same price I paid for the bands 5 albums on vinyl many moons ago.

The same box set was released on Vinyl last year to mark the bands 40th Anniversary and it does include a booklet but it also comes with a very hefty price tag of around £119 on Amazon. For the life of me I am sorry to say that I fail to see where there is any real value here in relation to the CD box set apart from the booklet. It’s ridiculously well overpriced and I thank my lucky stars I no longer collect vinyl.

Vinyl

Every Move You Make – The Studio Recordings Vinyl Edition

Although no doubt there are many vinyl lovers out there who would argue that it’s the best quality recording you can get. But in reality, the vinyl record has always suffered with its restrictions of what you can fit onto its format and is nowhere near as robust as the CD and is very fragile in relation to it. It also suffers from surface noise which does not help and regarding recording quality the CD is very much the real winner I am afraid. Where the vinyl album really wins is with the size of the artwork. But in reality, these days even DigiPaks cost more to make than a vinyl album cover which is also where I fail to see why a vinyl album should cost more money.

I gave up on the vinyl format 2 decades ago and can honestly say I do not regret it, because it is inferior in today’s world especially in relation to the more immersive experience 5.1 surround has to offer. SACD/DVD & Blu Ray are more superior formats and, in all honesty, this little poem I wrote I have entitled “Just For The Record” speaks the true reality of the vinyl record and I dare anybody to question the reality of it all simply because it speaks the truth.

Viny L your plastic pal the plastic all round mover
Whenever he took a needle he became a bit of groover
His surface was nice and shiny and needed a lot of attention
Otherwise he would snap crackle and pop which very few would mention
He attracted static and even scratched although he could not rust
Not even his anti static bag could keep away the dust
And if the needle got clogged up and stuck he would start to stutter
Viny L could even warp and was made to wow and flutter

But of course, for many the vinyl record has that nostalgic vibe and feel about it that many people cannot let go of. It is without doubt still a great format that still offers a good enough decent recording quality that is all well and acceptable and I have nothing against those who still prefer it. But as for how its price has shot up since the format came back from the dead from 2017 onwards. There is no way on this earth that it should cost any more than a CD and I do feel people are being ripped off.

The Police In Brief History…

The Police burst onto the scene at the same time Punk Rock had exploded here in the UK. The band even tried and make out they was a punk rock band with their first record “Fall Out” although it was merely a plan of action to try and gain a bit of reignition and get themselves noticed and they had no intention of being a punk rock band at all. They never did like that record they made either and even excluded it from this release. Although the fact that it was not included in this box set may not have even had anything to do with any of the band members at all, and this box set may very well have been compiled by the record company.

The Police were originally formed in January 1977 by American drummer Stewart Copeland and the English singer/bassist Sting (so nicknamed due to his habit of wearing a black-and-yellow striped sweater mirroring a wasp) the pair had originally bumped into each other in 1976 and exchanged phone numbers. Copeland was playing with the prog rock band Curved Air at the time and he originally worked as road manager for the band back in 1974 on their reunion tour and then as drummer for the band during 1975 and 1976. Having made two studio albums with the band they then decided to call it a day and the band broke up.

Sting on the other hand was a former schoolteacher and was playing in a jazz-rock fusion band called Last Exit in his home city of Newcastle and had been since 1974. It was in the beginning of 1977 that the band relocated to London but after a few gigs half of the band returned to Newcastle though Sting decided to stay and look for other work and sought out Copeland for a jam session. Having got together they decided to put a band together and brought in Corsican guitarist Henry Padovani to complete the line-up and spent some time playing mainly as s support act in various pubs around London.

It was this first incarnation of The Police that made the bands first record “Fall Out” to which was recorded at Pathway Studios in Islington, North London on 12 February 1977 with a budget of £150, was released in May 1977 by Illegal Records. Later on, in that same year they added a 4th member to the band the English guitarist Andy Summers who was a decade older than the other members. Summers started his musical career as guitarist for the British rhythm and blues band Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band in the mid-sixties. He also had stints with many bands and artists from the mid 60’s into the 70’s including the likes of Soft Machine, The Animals, Kevin Coyne, Jon Lord, Joan Armatrading, David Essex, Neil Sedaka and Kevin Ayers. In October 1975 he participated in an orchestral rendition of Mike Oldfield’s seminal “Tubular Bells“.

Summers first introduction to both Sting and Copeland came through Gong’s ex-bass player Mike Howlett who had quit the band and was putting a band together called Strontium 90 to which all 4 became a part of for a very short period of time. It was during this short period that the band had recorded some demos and one of them was “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” a song that was to later appear on The Police’s 4th album Ghost In The Machine. The foursome also performed at a London club as ‘The Elevators‘ in July 1977.

As a 4-piece band The Police only ever performed live twice in 1977 and Summers was never happy with the band as a 4-piece outfit and delivered an ultimatum to the band and Padovani was dismissed. The Police’s power trio line-up of Copeland, Sting, and Summers performed for the first time on 18 August 1977 in my home town at Rebecca’s club in Birmingham. What was to happen next very much became history though it was not until 1979 that they really made an impact and exploded onto the scene.

The Albums In Review…

Every Move You Make (The Studio Recordings) box set by The Police was released on CD on the 15th November 2019. Just like the vinyl release that got released in 2018 it comes with 6 CD’s. Because this is a box set and there is a lot to get through, I am only going to focus on the highlights of the albums and not go into great depth of all the individual album tracks like I do on most reviews. I shall also review each album as they were originally released in chronological order. So now without any further ado, let’s get down to the album reviews.

album_outlandosdamour

The bands debut album Outlandos d’Amour was released on the 2nd November 1978. The album contained 10 tracks all written by Sting (bar a couple which he co-wrote with the other two members of the band) and comes with an overall playing time of 38 minutes 11 seconds. The album never got the band off to a flying start and initially performed poorly due to low exposure and an unfavourable reaction from the BBC to its first two singles, “Can’t Stand Losing You” and “Roxanne” (about suicide and prostitution, respectively). The BBC even banned both the songs from air play and they never even dented the charts.  The reason they had a problem with ‘Can’t Stand Losing You‘ was because the photo on the cover of the single had Stewart standing on a block of ice with a noose around his neck, waiting for the ice to melt.

If it was not for Stewart Copeland’s brother Miles the album would have never got made because it was, he who decided to manage the band and put up the money to make the album. It was also him who had seen something in both “Can’t Stand Losing You” and “Roxanne” to release them as singles from the album. But all was not lost because the potential he did see in those records did pay off in the end when they got re-released a year later in 1979 and both became major hits and smashed into the top 20 of the UK Singles Charts. By 1984 the album had also sold over a million copies and went platinum.

The bands first 2 albums were recorded at Surrey Sound Studios which was a studio that a former doctor namely Nigel Gray had set up in 1974 and functioned as a recording studio between 1975 – 1987. Gray was a qualified medical doctor who followed his passion into music and was able to use his kindly bedside manner to coax three extraordinarily successful records from a band operating at the time on the tiniest of shoestring budgets. The first two albums were recorded in his converted studio above a dairy in Leatherhead in Surrey.

Surrey Studios

At the time the bands debut album Outlandos d’Amour was recorded in 1978 it was only recorded on 16 tracks and it was not until the following year that it got upgraded to a 24-track studio. Nigel Gray sold the studio in 1987 and retired in Cornwall. But during his time at the studio he got to record quite a few albums for other bands and artists such as Wishbone AshGodley & Creme, Hazel O’Connor, Siouxsie and the Banshees and more. He died in 2016 and all 3 members of the band paid tribute to him and said they could not have done it without him.

Most of the reviews for the album were unfavourable although the one it got from Tom Carson of the Rolling Stone magazine I did find interesting as he gave it some high praise for its technical abilities of all three band members, but was relentlessly disparaging of their attempt to tackle sophisticated rock and reggae while posturing as punks.

Personally, I myself thought it was quite a good album but far from solid and no doubt when The Police first came out they were posturing as punks like he stated, but that was really down to the Punk Invasion still being popular in England around that time. Where I give more praise to The Police more than anything is that they did create a style that was quite unique to anything that had come before it by fusing reggae with pop and rock and that is what really made me take notice of them in the first place.

I myself could never stand reggae music and I still detest it today just like punk rock. But they did something better with it by not making it so boring. Andy Summers was far too good of a guitarist to just stand there and look like a cardboard cut-out doing the reggae chop on his guitar and to me being a guitarist in a reggae band has to be the most boring job any guitarist on the planet could have :))))). I am not saying there is not an art to it but in all honesty, it just bores the life out of me and says the same TING! TING! thing with its rhythm and beat. If The Police were either punk or reggae there is no way on this earth I would brought them in the first place.

However, no matter how I look at The Police they have always come across to me as more of a pop band rather than any hard hitting rock band and though I quite like them and enough to buy them, they were never amongst my personal favourite bands I have in my record collection and no doubt it is their hit making potential that made them and not so much the other tracks that was on their albums. You could effectively say they were more of a singles band than an albums band and that is the difference between popular music and rock and prog rock music that came out earlier on.

The album Outlandos d’Amour is more or less driven by the 3 tracks that were put out as singles to which are “Can’t Stand Losing You“. “Roxanne” and “So Lonely” and I would also say they were by far the better written songs on the album. But that’s not to say that some of its album tracks do not have something to say and overall their debut album is quite an energetic album that is driven along at high speed in parts.

The album also kicks off at a high speed with its opening energetic song “Next To You” which drives along like a bullet. Although I do not think personally that this is such a good song and is really only driving along at this high speed to try and rock things out and like many punk rock bands who also done the same sort of thing at this high pace only did so to try and make it rock. But potentially it just does not work I am afraid and will never rock like the music many rock bands did such as Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin for example. It’s not a bad song but it does have a false pretence about it and fails to carry a lot of weight.

I could also say the same thing about “Truth Hits Everybody” and if I was looking for another track on this album that does stand out as a really good album track, that would certainly go to “Hole In My Life” which I do feel is up there with the potential the 3 singles had from the album and is a really good song. I quite like “Born In The 50’s” and that might be down to me being born in the 50’s and both “Peanuts” and “Be My Girl – Sally” are fun songs and are OK. The final track on the album “Masoko Tanga” is the longest track of them all and is perhaps more of a gap filler though it’s got some good rhythm to it and it is more reggae based, though I can take it in small doses.

Overall the bands debut album Outlandos d’Amour is far from a solid album and it’s not my favourite album of the bands either. It does however contain a few classics and my personal favourites from the album are “Roxanne” and “Can’t Stand Losing You” and I find it hard to separate them to make one more of a favourite than the other. I would not say it’s a bad album either and I have no problem putting it on and listening to the whole album without having to skip a track. But like most of the bands albums these days they very rarely get played and if I was to pull out an album of theirs to play this would not be my first choice.

Oddly enough the Rolling Stone magazine rated the album much later on as one of the best debut albums and in their poll, it reached number 38 out 100 of the best debut albums. In all honesty I have quite often found that magazine ridiculous and this album is nowhere near solid enough to even be considered as one of the best debut albums. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Roxanne“. “Can’t Stand Losing You“. “Hole In My Life” and “Born In The 50’s“.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced & Arranged by The Police. All songs written by Sting (except track 5. by Sting & Copeland and track 9 by Sting & Summers). Recorded between January – June 1978 at Surrey Sound Studios London, England. Recording Engineers Nigel & Chris Gray. Originally Mastered by Tony bridge. Art Direction by Michael Ross. Photography by Janette Beckman.

Musicians.

Sting: lead & Backing Vocals/Bass guitar. Harmonica (Track 2) & Butt Piano (Track 3)
Andy Summers: Guitar/Backing Vocals. Spoken Word & Piano (Track 9)
Stewart Copeland: Drums/Percussion/Backing Vocals.

Additional Musicians.

Joe Sinclair: Piano (Tracks 4 & 10)

I See You’ve Sent My Letters Back And My L.P. Records And They’re All Scratched…

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Next To You. 2:52. 2. So Lonely. 4:49. 3. Roxanne. 3:13. 4. Hole In My Life. 4:49. 5. Peanuts. 3:55. 6. Can’t Stand Losing You. 2:59. 7. Truth Hits Everybody. 2:54. 8. Born In The 50’s. 3:41. 9. Be My Girl – Sally. 3:19. 10. Masoko Tanga. 5:40.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6/10.

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The-Police-Reggatta-de-Blanc-album-cover-web-optimised-820

The bands second album Reggatta de Blanc was released on the 2nd October 1979 and contained 11 tracks span over and overall playing time of 41 minutes, 50 seconds. The other members of the band had more on an input into the writing especially Stewart Copeland. However, the bands hit making potential always came from its main writer Sting who really was the brains of the outfit. It was also the hits off this album that Sting wrote that had catapulted the band into the limelight so to speak. However, it could also be said that the re-release of “Roxanne” earlier in the same year did draw a lot more attention to the band and certainly helped to increase the sales of their debut album.

Once again, the band decided to record the album at Surrey Sound Studios despite their record company A&M wanting to equip the promising band with a bigger studio and more famous producer. I am sure the band made the right choice too especially in that the small budget (between £6,000 and £9,000) was easily covered by the profits of their previous album, Outlandos d’Amour, further ensuring that the record label would have no control over the actual creation of the band’s music. This also relieved a lot of the pressure on the band.

The band recorded the new material for their second album from scratch and it only took around 4 weeks over a period of several months. However, during the recording sessions they did find themselves short on having enough new material to make the album, they even considered re-recording “Fall Out” at one point. Both Sting and Copeland had to dig through old songs they had previously written in their former bands and used other elements to create new songs with some of them. For example, a lot of the lyrics to “Bring On the Night” were recycled from Sting’s Last Exit song “Carrion Prince (O Ye of Little Hope)” and “The Bed’s Too Big Without You” similarly started as a Last Exit tune. They were that short for songs for the new album that they even used the B’ Side of the single “So Lonely” they wrote in the previous year which was “No Time This Time” as a gap filler to complete the album.

Despite the problems they had to come up with new and existing material to put their 2nd album together, Reggatta de Blanc was an instant smash upon its release and not only did the album hit number 1 in the UK Album charts but it also spurned out a couple of number 1 singles in the UK’s charts. The album proved both more popular and successful than its predecessor Outlandos d’Amour and in the following year of 1980 the albums self-titled track earned the band their first Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.

The album’s title of Reggatta de Blanc is a pseudo-French translation of “white reggae”. There is no doubt that the music The Police were making was certainly a different breed of reggae in relation to where the music originated from. What this band were doing was giving it far more structure to the music by fusing elements of rock and pop into it. Even the chord structure of their songs was far more sophisticated than most of the 2-chord crap that was associated with 90% of the reggae music that surfaced from across the shores here in England in the early to mid 70’s.

The easiest way to cover any song is by doing a reggae version of it and you could do practically any song in 2 chords by doing so. This is why I despised reggae music so much and why it bored my pants off. To be honest the only way most reggae bands could play the smash number 1 hit that came off this album “Message In A Bottle” is by doing it in 2 chords and most would struggle like hell to play it how they play it. It’s quite sophisticated and a very well written structured song and it happens to be my all-time favourite song by The Police.

Message In A Bottle” was my first real introduction to The Police and the first time I ever really took any notice of them, the moment I heard the second single “Walking On The Moon” which also hit number 1 here in the UK it very much made my mind up to go out and buy the album. To be honest I vaguely recall hearing “Can’t Stand Losing You” beforehand in the charts and although I quite liked it, it did not convince me to go out and buy their previous album at the time. I think if I had of heard “Roxanne” besides, it would have enticed me to buy Outlandos d’Amour but somehow that record completely avoided me hearing it on the radio.

By the time of the release of their 2nd album Reggatta de Blanc in 1979 The Police had ditched the punk rock scene and any ties they had with it. Gone were the 100 miles per hour songs that I thought did not do their debut album any real justice to make way for some better structured material. Although I would not say this album was solid by any means either and the couple of songs I feel that let it down are the inclusion of the last two tracks on the album “No Time This Time” and “Does Everyone Stare“. I would also say that “Deathwish” which was one of the two written songs by the band is not exactly anything to write home about either and is more of a filler. But apart from those I do feel this album does work more like an album with the material that was written for it.

Band album 2_Fotor

Like I mentioned earlier I have always seen The Police as more of a singles band rather than an albums band and it is without doubt Sting’s writing that contributes to bands hits. But being an albums man myself I have never really seen an album of hits make a good album and that is why I stay clear of compilations and Greatest Hits albums.

Hit records are all well and good and no doubt in most cases they are best songs you will find on an album. But they can also be the songs you can get tired of hearing all the time and force you to skip them on the album so you can listen to something you do not hear as much. What makes the album Reggatta de Blanc work more like an album is the fact that other band members also had as much input in the writing as Sting and out of all 5 albums The Police made, this is the only album were the other members had something more to say.

Stewart Copeland’s contributions in particular make this album work more like an album and it contains some of the best material he has ever written for the band. “Contact” is an excellent song he wrote and more of a rocker than most of the bands songs and “On Any Other Day” is more of a fun song but nevertheless very well written. “It’s Alright for You” is more of your standard rocking song that he co-wrote with Sting but it works pretty well and sits well on the album. The albums self-titled track “Reggatta de Blanc” which was written by the band is a really GREAT! track and Copeland even chose it has the best Police record in the Modern Drummer magazine.

The other couple of songs that Sting wrote are very well written and “Bring On The Night” is up there with the couple of number 1 hits he wrote from the album and was in fact released as a single in the US, Germany and France. Though it was only in France that it made a dent and peaked at number 6 in the charts. “The Bed’s Too Big Without You” is perhaps one of the nearest songs The Police have been to reggae and in terms of a reggae song this is purely a classic and I personally think it’s a damn site better than anything that Bob Marley ever wrote in his life.

Overall, I do feel that the bands second album Reggatta de Blanc is only slightly marginally better than their debut album and it does tend to flow and run along and work more like an album in some respects. However, as an album it’s still not my go too album of theirs but it does contain my all-time favourite record of theirs and my personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Message In A Bottle“. “Walking On The Moon“. “Bring on the Night“. and “Contact“.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced & Arranged by The Police & Nigel Gray. All songs written by Sting (except tracks 7, 9 & 10. by Copeland. Tracks 2 & 5 by Summers, Sting, Copeland and track 3 by Sting & Copeland). Recorded at Surrey Sound Studios London, England between February – August 1979 (except track 11 recorded in 1978) Recording Engineer Nigel Gray. Originally Mastered by Tony bridge. Art Direction & design by Michael Ross. Photography by Janette Beckman (back cover) and James Wedge (front cover).

Musicians.

Sting: Lead Vocals (except tracks 2 & 7)/Bass & Double Bass/Backing Vocals & Bass Synth (Track 9).
Andy Summers: Guitar/Synthesizer (Tracks 1,6,9 & Piano Track 10)
Stewart Copeland: Drums//Backing Vocals/Lead Vocals (Tracks 7, 10 & Guitar Track 3).

Only Hope Can Keep It Together…

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Message In A Bottle. 4:51. 2. Reggatta de Blanc. 3:06. 3. It’s Alright For You. 3:13. 4. Bring On The Night. 4:16. 5. Deathwish. 4:14. 6. Walking On The Moon. 5:02. 7. On Any Other Day. 2:57. 8. The Beds Too Big Without You. 4:27. 9. Contact. 2:38. 10. Does Everyone Stare. 3:46. 11. No Time This Time. 3:20.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 7/10.

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album_zenyattamondatta

The bands 3rd album Zenyatta Mondatta was released on the 3rd October 1980. The album contains 11 tracks spanned over and overall playing time of 38 minutes 22 seconds and once again the album hit number 1 in the UK Album charts and it produced another number 1 and a top 10 hit in the UK Singles charts. I have to say that with how music was changing by now with the new wave, romantics and electric retro hitting the scene it was good to see that The Police were still just as strong as ever without having to change their style to fit in and stay in the limelight so to speak.

Mind you they were not the only band to still fit in with how much music was changing when we hit the 80’s and Dire Straits were in every inch just as popular and in my opinion a much better band than The Police too and were more suited to my particular taste. Dire Straits also created music that had a lot more longevity about it and I can still play them a lot today, were as The Police made records that can easily wear out and appear to sound a bit more on the outdated side of things today.

Although the album was once again co-produced by The Police & Nigel Gray for tax reasons, they could not record the album at Surrey Sound Studios even though they would of liked to have done. So, they decided to drag Nigel Gray along with them to the Netherlands so they could record the album there. This cost them more money to make than their previous two albums did combined together and was made for around £35,000. However, that figure was still exceptionally cheap for someone who by now were well established stars.

The Wisseloord Studio in Hilversum, Netherlands was officially opened on 19th January 1978 by Prince Claus who was the husband of husband of Queen Beatrix and the Prince Consort of the Netherlands from Beatrix’s ascension in 1980 until his death from Parkinson’s disease and heart and respiratory ailments in 2002. The studios were founded by electronics company Philips, to enable their PolyGram artists to record in a professional environment. Initially there were three studios, nowadays there are four and a lot more has been developed and added to it.

Dutch Coolage S

In the early days the studios were mainly used by Dutch artists. Later, international musicians such as Elton John, Paul McCartney, Phil Collins, Scorpions, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Tina Turner, U2 and many more have used the facilities. The studio is still running strong today and in 2010 it did close for a refurbishment and a major refit and these days it is much more than just a studio and it even has a writing campus.

The album is noted as being the last of the bands era regarding it’s style of fusing reggae and punk along with other musical elements though to be honest I don’t think the band ever really changed their style by any great margin at all. The material they wrote quickly too and would have been written whilst they were on their second live tour, much of it was recorded in 4 weeks. The band members have often expressed disappointment over it and it was down to them not being able to use the same studio and how they could only get to use the studios to do a couple of a songs at a time in between being on the road doing their live shows.

The bands third album Zenyatta Mondatta as always been my GOTO! album out all the 5 studio albums the band ever made. I think there are reasons for that too, and the first would be that even though most of the material was written by the bands potential hit writer Sting, most of the material he did write for the album was less commercial. The second reason is really down to the fact that a lot of the songs are way less commercial it makes the album work more like an album and more so than its first couple of predecessors. No doubt both “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” and “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” are the stronger written songs that stand out like hits, but the thing I like about the other songs Sting wrote is that they are not hit making material but still very well written songs that can say just as much in some respects.

Zenyatta Mondatta is the nearest album The Police ever got to be an albums band at this point in their career and it was more than a hit potential singles band and that is perhaps why it is my GOTO! album out of the bunch. What makes a good album is not the hits, those are the things you are most likely to skip because you have heard them more than the rest of the album tracks like I have mentioned before. Elton John’s Greatest Hits is never gonna be as good as his album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road for example. Simply because there are far better tracks on that album than the 4 singles that was released from it. I could say the same for Queen and many other artists and that’s why I do find most compilation albums boring.

However, when it comes to making very good albums personally I do not think The Police got it quite right like those artists I mentioned and many others. But this album is perhaps the nearest that they ever did. Besides the two hits Sting wrote for the album songs like “Driven To Tears” and “When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What’s Still Around” are really very good album tracks the first of those was one of the first politically themed songs The Police released, and the first that Sting wrote. But one of my particular favourites of his he wrote for this album is “Canary in a Coalmine“.

I also like “Man In A Suitcase” and that’s perhaps because I loved the TV Series from the 70’s starring Richard Bradford. Although the song does not pertain to that TV series. However, both “Voices In My Head” and “Shadows In The Rain” he also wrote are amongst my least favourable tracks on the album. The latter of those I thought he did much better on his first solo album The Dream of the Blue Turtles.

I personally do not think the couple of songs Stewart Copeland wrote were as good as the material he wrote for the bands second album Reggatta de Blanc. “Bombs Away” is another politically themed song that pertained to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan it was also recorded on a tape that Nigel Gray had just used with Siouxsie and the Banshees. “The Other Way Of Stopping” is an instrumental track and they are both not bad contributions and I prefer them to those couple of songs that Sting wrote.

I also quite like the instrumental track “Behind My Camel” which is the only writing contribution Andy Summers gave to the album. I think it would make a good theme for a TV series too and Sting hated the piece enough to even refuse to play the bass on it to which Summers had to play himself. It’s also said that whilst they were recording the album that Sting found the tape of it lying around and took it and buried it in the garden. Copeland was not that keen on the piece either but it was the first piece he had composed solely by himself during his career at the time and it even won a Grammy Award in 1982 for the Best Rock Instrumental Performance.

Overall, I would not say the bands third album Zenyatta Mondatta is any stronger than their second album Reggatta de Blanc regarding the written material that is upon both albums and the one thing The Police never did make in my personal opinion is a solid album. But there is just something about this album that draws me towards it more than their other albums, and it may be down to it sounding less commercial. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Don’t Stand So Close To Me“. “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da“. “When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What’s Still Around“. “Canary In A Coalmine” and “Man In A Suitcase“.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced & Arranged by The Police & Nigel Gray. All songs written by Sting (except tracks 6, & 11. by Stewart Copeland and track 8 by Andy Summers). Recorded at Wisseloord Studio Hilversum, Netherlands between July & August 1980. Recording Engineer Nigel Gray. Originally Mastered by Marv Bornstein and Frank DeLuna at A&M Studios (Hollywood, CA). Art Direction by Michael Ross. Design by Michael Ross and Simon Ryan. Photography by Janette Beckman (front cover). Watal Asanuma, Miles Copeland and Danny Quatrochi (back cover).

Musicians.

Sting: Lead & Backing Vocals (except track 8)/Bass/Synthesizer.
Andy Summers: Guitar/Backing Vocals/Synthesizer & Bass (Track 8) Piano Track 4)
Stewart Copeland: Drums//Backing Vocals.

Strong Words In The Staff Room The Accusations Fly…

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Don’t Stand So Close To Me. 4:04. 2. Driven To Tears. 3:20. 3. When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What’s Still Around. 3:38. 4. Canary In A Coalmine. 2:26. 5. Voices In My Head. 3:53. 6. Bombs Away. 3:09. 7. De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da. 4:09. 8. Behind My Camel. 2:54. 9. Man In A Suitcase. 2:19. 10. Shadows In The Rain. 5:02. 11. The Other Way Of Stopping. 3:28.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 7/10.

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The bands 4th album Ghost in the Machine was released on the 2nd October 1981 and contained 11 tracks spanned over an overall playing time of 41 minutes, 15 seconds. The album done very well and spurned out 3 UK top 10 singles one of which hit the number 1 spot. The album also done very well hitting number 1 in the UK Album charts and it went on to go into multi-platinum sales in the US selling over 3 million copies. Once again it was down to the bands successful writer Sting who wrote most of the material and for the bands fourth album, they decided to make a few changes.

By now the band were looking to get a different sound and decided to no longer go along with the budget idea of making the album and it was also by now Hugh Padgham was one of the producers making quite a name for himself and one of the hottest producers around at that time in the 80’s. I have to confess that these days 90% or more of the production work Padgham did for many major artists and bands back in those days does sound today mostly outdated and that outdated that I can no longer play it.

He was credited for creating the gated reverb drum sound that was so prominently used on Phil Collins‘ single “In the Air Tonight“, to which became the template for much of the recorded pop drum sound of the 1980s. He had this idea that because the drums sound so deafening when close up to them being played that the drums should sound larger than life on the record. Every single production he did for both Collins and Genesis back in those days was what made them unplayable today. To even think this guy won several awards for his production skills is beyond belief. Although in all fairness his production work did work for some artists and I do think he done quite a good job on this particular album.

The new material for the album was recorded between January and September 1981 and the band recorded all but one of the tracks for the album at Air Studios located on the Caribbean island Montserrat. Montserrat is nicknamed “The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean” and producer George Martin fell in love with the island and decided to build the ultimate, get-away-from-it-all recording studio. AIR Studios Montserrat opened in 1979 and offered all of the technical facilities of its London counterpart, but with the advantages of an exotic location.

Air Studio Collage

Many well-known artists used the studio and during the decade it ran for over 70 albums were made at Air Studios in Montserrat. The Police even recorded their final album Synchronicity at the studio. Dire Straits recorded their famous album Brothers In Arms at the studio too and Elton John used it to make 3 of his albums, the first of them being Too Low For Zero to which produced a couple of his hits “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” and  “I’m Still Standing“. However, it was unfortunate that a decade later in 1989 whilst the Rolling Stones had just finished their Steel Wheels album that disaster struck and Hurricane Hugo devastated the island and the Montserrat facility was severely damaged and was forced to close.

Damage Collage

Other artists who made their albums their included the likes of Ultravox, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Paul McCartney, Marvin Gaye, Gerry Rafferty, Rush, Black Sabbath, Midge Ure, Little River Band, Duran Duran, Sheena Easton and more. Hurricane Hugo destroyed 90% of its structures. The building and its equipment were irreparably damaged. The buildings are still standing but their roofs are failing, leading to extensive damage to the floors of the accommodation area and inner part of the studio complex making them unsafe to walk on. The facility is now a modern ruin, and is closed to the public.

The band had touched on political themes with a couple of their songs from their previous album Zenyatta Mondatta and they were to touch on it more with the material that was wrote for Ghost In The Machine. Sting was inspired by the Hungarian British author and journalist Arthur Koestler and the title of the album was the title of one of his non-fictional books he wrote back in 1967.

One of the other interesting things I have just found out some near enough 40 years later about this album is to do with the albums artwork which was designed by Mick Haggerty. The front cover displays a 16 segment as seen below.

Display

Ever since I brought the album on its release back in 1981, I had always seen the digits on the albums cover to be that of a display from a LED Calculator that had gone wrong or had been damaged. The fact that it had gone wrong very much reflected the albums title of “Ghost In The Machine” in the way of a Gremlin or Ghost getting into it causing it to malfunction. I would also say that my observation of how I seen the albums front cover was the most logical explanation as to what it represents.

I have to say the whole concept of what this 16-segment display was intended for is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard of. It’s said to represent the hair styles of the 3 band members and the band was unable to decide on a photograph to use for the cover at the time and settled for this graphic display of their hairdos. Sting’s hairdo is in the middle as he was the one with spiky hair. The album’s cover is ranked at No. 45 in VH1’s 50 Greatest Album Covers.

In all honesty I am pretty sure I could find 50 album covers done by Roger Dean that would absolutely wipe the floor with this album cover and to find out some 38 years later that the digits were supposed to be hairdos has me rolling on the floor in hysterical laughter LOL.. It has to be the stupidest thing I have ever come across :)))))).

As daft as a brush that the idea the band came up for the albums front cover artwork might sound, the album does sound a hell of a lot better and this is an album that I first noted for its bass drive and I very much used to use this as a reference album to test out the bass in my room when positioning the speakers for my HiFi back in those days. I have always nicknamed it the DUB album way before that genre came to light much later on and the bass on this album has more of a mass than any other album I have ever brought, and I have brought quite a few in my lifetime.

The bass drive on this album is to die for and it was not until 8 years later when Elton John released his 22nd album Sleeping With The Past in 1989 that I ever got to hear this same bass drive again and it was only ever on the 1st track of that album on a song titled “Durban Deep“. Still to this day no other album I have ever heard has this bass intensity as what this album and that track of Elton’s does. It’s so well controlled too in a way that it does not overdrive or override your HiFi system. I dare say there are other albums that have it and they most likely would come from reggae music which to me is more drum and bass and the fact that I do not like most forms of reggae music is why I have no other albums in my collection that have this intensive mass of a bass drive on them.

What used to draw me to play this album quite a lot back in those days was the bass more than anything, however once again this is an album where the 3 singles that got released off it are once again the best of the material on the album. The album also kicks off with all 3 of them which do give you the feeling that you are in for a good album. But the album does change its mood after those 3 opening hits and the right feel of how the album started off does not really return to the final 3 tracks on the album.

Invisible Sun” was the first of the 3 singles to be released and it broke into the top 10 in the UK charts and only just missed the number 1 spot and reached number 2. “Spirits In The Material World” was the 3rd single to be released from the album and although it did not quite make the top 10 it did reach number 12 in the UK’s charts. Sting wrote the song on a Casio keyboard whilst he was in the back of a van and it’s also said the it was the first time; he had ever played a synthesizer before in his life. Well if that was the case, I rather find it strange that he was also credited for playing the synthesiser on the bands previous album that was released in the previous year. So, someone has their wires crossed.

The number 1 UK hit was the second single to be released from the album “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” and this was the only track on the album that was not recorded in the Caribbean at Air Studios and was recorded at Le Studio, Morin-Heights, Quebec, Canada. Considering it’s the only song on the album that does have more of a Caribbean vibe and feel about, I find it strange why they went to Canada to record it. The song was originally a demo that Sting wrote back in 1976 and its notable for featuring a pianist (uncommon in Police songs) and the piano and keyboard arrangements were done by  Jean Alain Roussel who was noted as a session player for many artists during the 70’s and 80’s and was perhaps more notable for his work with Cat Stevens.

The following 5 tracks “Hungary For You“. “Demolition Man“. “Too Much Information“. “Rehumanize Yourself” and “One World (Not Three)” are perhaps more reggae based than their norm in the way they generally fused it with other elements on their first 3 albums. Sting also contributes saxophone on these tracks too, although the sax is used more like an horn section than anything else.

Hungary For You” he mostly sings in French and it’s quite a good track.  “Demolition Man” is the longest track weighing in at some near enough 6 minutes and I personally prefer the version that Sting later went on to do or even the version Manfred Mann’s Earth Band did over this version. I know Grace Jones also covered the song and it was used in the film of the same title starring Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes that was released in 1993 and it became a hit in that year too. “Too Much Information” is none too clever and “Rehumanize Yourself” penned by Sting & Copeland is something more along the lines of Bad Manners in some respects, and “One World (Not Three)” is perhaps the most REGGAEFIED! track on the album though it’s not too bad.

The final 3 tracks on the album are the better album tracks in my opinion and production and sound wise they are more fitting with the opening 3 tracks on the album. “Secret Journey” is the final song Sting wrote for the album is a very good song and was even released as a single in the US & Canada though not in Europe. Stewart Copeland’sDarkness” was used as the B’-Side and is quite a good song too and so too is the only contribution Andy Summers contributed to the writing with “Ωmegaman” which is perhaps the rocker of the album. It was actually chosen by A&M to be the first single from the album, but Sting refused to allow its release in single form.

Overall, the bands 4th studio album Ghost in the Machine could have been the best album of material they ever put together. However, where it falls down is in the way the album actually flows and changes direction with the atmospheric sound to make it sound like all the tracks marry up and belong on the same album. It’s very much jarred by the way overall sound does sound completely different on tracks 4, 5 6, 7 & 8 in relation to tracks 1, 2, 3, 9, 10 & 11. The bass drive is the actual thing that holds it all together in the way that it does work and that effectively is the best thing about this album. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Spirits In The Material World“. “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic“. “Invisible Sun“. “Secret Journey” and “Ωmegaman“.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by The Police & Hugh Padgham. All songs written by Sting (except track 7 by Sting & Stewart Copeland. Track 9 by Andy Summers and track 11 by Stewart Copeland). All songs recorded between Janury – September 1981 at at Air Studios, Montserrat except track 2 recorded at Le Studio, Morin-Heights, Quebec Canada. Recording Engineer Hugh Padgham. Originally LP Mastering by Ted Jensen. Remastered by Dave Collins & Bob Ludwig. Art Direction & design by Jeffrey Kent Ayeroff, Mick Haggerty, Vartan. Photography by Duane Michals.

Musicians.

Sting: Lead & Backing Vocals – Bass & Double Bass – Keyboards – Saxaphone.
Andy Summers: Guitar – Backing Vocals – Keyboards.
Stewart Copeland: Drums – Percussion – Keyboards – Backing Vocals (Tracks 5 & 11).

Additional Musicians.

Jean Alain Roussel: Piano – Synthesizers (Track 2).

It’s A Big Enough Umbrella But It’s Always Me That Ends Up Getting Wet…

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Spirits In The Material World. 3:00. 2. Everything Little Thing She Does Is Magic. 4:21. 3. Invisible Sun. 3:44. 4. Hungary For You. 2:53. 5. Demolition Man. 5:58. 6. Too Much Information. 3:43. 7. Rehumanize Yourself. 3:10. 8. One World (Not Three). 4:47. 9. Omegaman. 2:48. 10. Secret Journey. 3:34. 11. Darkness. 3:17.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6/10.

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synchronicity

The bands final studio album Synchronicity was released on the 17th June 1983. The original vinyl album came with 10 tracks and had an overall running time of 39 minutes, 49 seconds. However, both the Cassette and CD releases included the extra track “Murder By Numbers” to which is also not included on the CD in this box set. But they have included it on the bonus disc you get.  The album was nominated for a total of 5 Grammy Awards in 1984 and won 3 of them including the album of the year. It was the bands most successful album selling over 8 million copies in the US and once again was produced by the band and Hugh Padgham.

Once again, the album was recorded at Air Studios Montserrat and all the overdubs were done at Le Studio in Quebec, Canada and the title of the album and much of the material Sting wrote for the album was inspired by Arthur Koestler’s book The Roots of Coincidence. The album was recorded between December 1982 – February 1983.

Le Collage

Le Studio was a residential recording studio set in the Laurentian Mountains near the town of Morin-Heights, Quebec, Canada built in 1972 by recording engineer and producer André Perry, Nick Blagona and Yaël Brandeis (who was Perry’s wife) and was later renamed Studio Morin Heights. André Perry gained fame as a recording engineer working for John Lennon. Along with the Olive Company he went on to develop one of the first recording consoles with motorized faders feeding two 24 track Studer’s synchronized to provide 48 tracks. He moved to Morin Heights, where he owned a lake, and built his studio there. The idea was to give recording artists a venue where they could record and live in a creative atmosphere, near the Laurentian Mountains.

The Canadian band Rush made most of their 70’s albums at the studio. Other notable artists to use it was David Bowie, Cat Stevens, The Bee Gees, Chicago and many others. Perry sold the studios in 1988 and in 2008 the studio had gone out of business, and as of 2015 the property was up for sale. In 2017 the building was partially destroyed by a suspicious fire and the residential area of the studio was completely destroyed.

As an album Synchronicity is without doubt the most solid album the band ever made and it’s also more like a proper album regarding the material that was written for it. By now The Police had ditched most of the traces of reggae that was associated with the 4 albums that came before it and even though the album produced 4 hit singles the rest of tracks are more like album tracks and are mostly very well written and very good. Even though this is not my GOTO! album of the band I do think it’s the best album they ever made, and “Every Breath You Take” is amongst the best hit songs Sting every wrote and is up there with “Roxanne” and “Message In A Bottle“.

Both “King Of Pain” and “Wrapped Around Your Finger” are also excellent well written hits and the 4th single release “Synchronicity II” is another really great song. But the other GREAT! thing about this album are also some of the album tracks and “Walking In Your Footsteps“. “O My God” and “Tea In The Sahara” are certainly amongst the best of them. The opening track “Synchronicity I” is also quite good and Sting’s writing on this album is pretty much solid. The weakest tracks on the album are the ones written by the other 2 band members though “Mother” penned by Andy Summers is quite funny and Stewart Copeland’sMiss Gradenko” isn’t that bad either and there is not really anything remotely that bad on this album at all.

Overall, the album Synchronicity contains the strongest body of work that as ever been put on any of the bands albums it’s easy to see why they gained so much success and where at the ultimate height of their career when this album was released. It came as quite a shock when Sting decided to put an end to The Police whilst they were on top of the world and dominating the pop charts. The Police were one of the most successful pop bands of all time and very much went out on a high. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Every Breath You Take“. “Wrapped Around Your Finger“. “King Of Pain“. “Tea In The Sahara“. “Synchronicity II“. “Walking In Your Footsteps” and “O My God“.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by The Police & Hugh Padgham. All songs written by Sting (except track 4 by Andy Summers and track 5 by Stewart Copeland). All songs recorded between December 1982 – February 1983 at at Air Studios, Montserrat & Le Studio, Morin-Heights, Quebec Canada. Recording Engineer Hugh Padgham. Mastering by Dave Collins & Bob Ludwig. Art Direction & design by Jeffrey Kent Ayeroff &Norman Moore. Photography by Duane Michals.

Musicians.

Sting: Lead & Backing Vocals – Bass & Double Bass – Keyboards – Drum machine & Sequencing (Track 1) – Saxophone (Track 3) – Oboe (Track 4).
Andy Summers: Guitar – Backing Vocals – Keyboards – Lead Vocals (track 4).
Stewart Copeland: Drums – Percussion – Marimba – Co-Lead Vocals (track 5).

Additional Musicians.

Tessa Niles: Backing Vocals.

I’ll Be Watching You…

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Synchronicity I. 3:23. 2. Walking In Your Footsteps. 3:36. 3. O My God. 4:03. 4. Mother. 3:05. 5. Miss Gradenko. 1:59. 6. Synchronicity II. 5:03. 7. Every Breath You Take. 4:13. 8. King Of Pain. 4:58. 9. Wrapped Around Your Finger. 5:13. 10. Tea In The Sahara. 4:17.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.

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The bonus disc Flexible Strategies is an album that was included in both the vinyl and CD box sets of Every Move You Make. It’s also seen unofficial releases mainly from Russia since the vinyl box set was released back in 2018. Effectively it’s just a bonus album that features Non-Album B-Sides and the album consists of 12 tracks over an overall playing time of 43 minutes, 33 seconds. “Flexible Strategies” to which they have decided for the title of this extra album was the instrumental track that appeared on the B’-Side “Everything Little Thing She Does Is Magic” from the bands 4th album Ghosts In The Machine from 1981 and much of the material here goes back way further than that too and is an album were all 3 members of the band had more of an input in the writing rather than being mostly an album of tracks written mostly by Sting.

To be honest since having the box set I myself tend to play this album more than the others basically because I never had most of the material what you get here so it is all quite new to me even if it was made many years ago. I would not say the material was up to the heights in relation to the material that wound up on their albums but it certainly is an interesting album and well worthy of digging out and playing.

Some of the tracks on the album are very explicit and contain foul language and the album kicks off with “Dead End Job” which was co-wrote by Sting & Copeland. This song was performed live by the band before Andy Summers had joined them, however this recorded version was recorded when Summers had joined and Henry Padovani was no longer in the band. The original studio recording of the song was done when The Police were a 4-piece outfit in 1977. The version they included here was 40 seconds longer and recorded in January 1978 and was used for the B’-Side of “Can’t Stand Losing You“. It’s quite a raw powered and driven song and I love the banter at the end by Sting & Summers which is the explicit side of things.

Landlord” was another song that was originally performed live before Summers had joined the band. This version however was recorded much later and is credited to all 3 members of the band and was used for the B’-Side of “Message In A Bottle“. it’s one of those songs that runs along at 100mph. “Visions Of The Night” was written by Sting back in 1977 and although this song was used for the B’-Side of “Walking On The Moon” it’s the only studio song which features all four members of The Police including Henry Padovani’s rhythm guitar. “Friends” was the B’-Side of “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” and was written by Andy Summers. He got the inspiration for the song from Robert A. Heinlein’s sci-fi novel Stranger in a Strange Land. It reminds me a lot of Ian Dury with how Summers puts it across with his speaking voice, it also has Sting chanting along in it like he does on “Synchronicity II“.

A Sermon” was written by Copeland and was originally written for the band debut album Outlandos d’Amour but was left off the album. Eventually it found its way on the B’-Side of “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” in the UK and was also used for the B’-Side of “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” in the US. The instrumental track “Shambelle” was written by Summers and was used for the B’-Side of “Invisible Sun“. Like I already mentioned “Flexible Strategies” was the B’-Side of “Everything Little Thing She Does Is Magic” and that was credited to all 3 members of the band. It’s quite a funky little number too.

For Bonus album_Fotor

Low Life” is a really GREAT! song and was written by Sting and he wrote the song in Hamburg whilst they were working on the bands second album Reggatta de Blanc. It’s my favourite song on this album and should have been an A’-Side in my opinion or included on the album at least. However, in the end it wounded up on the B’-Side of “Spirits in the Material World“. It also features Olaf Kübler on saxophone who can play the instrument a damn site better than Sting. “Murder By Numbers” was the B’-Side of “Every Breath You Take” it was also included on the Cassette release of the album Synchronicity and later on the CD release of the album, although it was omitted from the original vinyl release. The song was co-written by Sting & Summers.

The much slower version of the song from their debut album Outlandos d’AmourTruth Hits Everybody (Remix)” was re-recorded during the sessions for their Synchronicity album in 1983. It’s a song the band toyed around with a lot and this version originally featured on the B’-Side of the maxi-single release of “Every Breath You Take” in the UK only. “Someone To Talk To” was written by Andy Summers and was used for the B’-Side of “Wrapped Around Your Finger” and the final track on the album “Once Upon A Daydream” was co-written by Sting & Summers and was the B’-Side of “Synchronicity II“.

Overall the bonus disc Flexible Strategies is a very welcoming inclusion to the box set and gives you a glances into some of the more earlier recordings the band did as well as some other songs that they recorded during the sessions they had putting all the material together for their 5 studio albums. For those like myself who were more album collectors this will feel like having a new album worth of material and even though the songs have been placed on the album in chronological order it still makes quite an enjoyable listen hearing them all put together like this.

It’s not a solid album by any means and after all this is a body of work of songs they were never really considered to put on an album in the first place and were mostly songs they wrote for the B-sides of their hit singles. But there is some really good songs here and my personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Low Life“. “Friends” “Dead End Job“. “Visions Of The Night“. “Murder By Numbers“. “Flexible Strategies” and “Someone To Talk To“.

No Rewards For Your Infatuation…

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Dead End Job. 3:35. 2. Landlord. 3:02. 3. Visions Of The Night. 3:06. 4. Friends. 3:36. 5. A Sermon. 2:32. 6. Shambelle. 5:10. 7. Flexible Strategies. 3:42. 8. Low Life. 3:45. 9. Murder By Numbers. 4:43. 10. Truth Hits Everybody (Remix). 3:47. 11. Someone To Talk To. 3:05. 12. Once Upon A Daydream. 3:34.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6/10.

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Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of Every Move You Make (The Studio Recordings) by The Police. I would say that it is a box set that gives you the chance to rediscover and capture the magic of this band all over again and its super low price point of around £16 – £18 gives you the perfect opportunity to do so. However, if you already have all their albums and even the Message in a Box: The Complete Recordings 4 Disc box set that was released back in 1993 this box set is not going to give you anything new apart from all the tracks being more up to date with the remasters.

Regarding the remasters which would of been done in 2018 I do feel they do sound quite good, although from what I can gather in many reviews for a better overall sound quality you might be better off sorting out the individual releases of the albums that was released on CD back in 2003. I would also say that the cardboard Digipaks that came with those earlier remasters were of better quality than the ones the albums come in this box set which are more on the thinner side of things with how they have been constructed and the print quality would of also have been much better.

I personally do not think these new remasters are better than the quality of the original vinyl albums I had when they came out and there has been some slight compression used on these new remasters though it’s not really over the top. I certainly would not lash out the extra bucks for the vinyl edition of this box set and they would have been remastered the same and you would be better off with earlier remasters or the original vinyl albums that got released when they originally came out. But once again for the price point of the CD box set you cannot really complain and the quality is certainly good enough and represents good value for the buck.

The Police were without doubt a truly GREAT! pop band that had their own unique sound which was much different to many pop bands and it was down to fusing reggae with pop and rock that gave them that distinctive style that stood out a mile from the rest. It was also Sting’s voice that also had those unique distinctive characteristics and his writing that made the band what they were and why he still continued to be just as popular and successful with his own solo career. They churned out many hits and they was without doubt more of singles chart-topping band rather than a band that made good solid albums with good album material on them apart from their final album Synchronicity.

They captured the limelight and was never ever really out of it and disbanded at the highest peak of their career. They made their mark and put their stamp on musical history and will never be forgotten. However the music they did write may have been more appreciated back in its day rather than how it stands in the longevity stakes certainly personally for myself and it was the fact that they was more of an hits band is why I personally could not play these albums as much today and it is perhaps down to that rather than their music sounding on the outdated side of things.

But I did enjoy revisiting the band again and this box set gave a bit more with the bonus album Flexible Strategies that was included in that most of the material on that I had never heard before. And at this price point its certainly worthy of every penny.

Lee’s overall Complete Box Set Value Rating…

The Box Set Presentation Rating Score. 9/10.

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #136

One Of A Kind To Me (Expanded & Remixed CD/DVD) – Bill Bruford

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Introduction…

Another individual release put out last month from the Seems Like A Life Time Ago Limited-Edition Box Set that Bill Bruford released back in 2017. Bruford’s second solo album One Of A Kind very much features the same line-up of musicians that appeared on his debut album (minus the singer) and followed along quickly in succession after his decision to quit the band UK after both John Wetton & Eddie Jobson fired guitarist Allan Holdsworth down to musical differences who Bruford had originally brought in to complete the bands line-up. He also took some of his own written material that was intended for UK’s second album to which wound up on this particular album. 

Now some 40 years later the album comes expanded and remixed. Although I would hardly say that one previously unreleased bonus track to which is only an out-take is much of a way of an extension or expansion, but nevertheless you do get that little extra thing on this re-issued release. The other thing you do also get is a DVD with a 5.1 mix and the original flat transfer of the album but before we take a closer look lets first take a look at the packaging and artwork as usual. 

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The packaging is very much the same as they were in the original box set and the both discs are stored in a 2-panel cardboard gatefold DigiSleeve that is a miniature replica of a double vinyl album.  It also comes with a 12-page booklet which also slots into one of the sides and it contains some informative information and comes with an essay written by Sid Smith along with the usual credit and linear notes. 

Just like the individual release of Feels Good To Me it also comes with black cardboard sleeves that the discs slot into (as seen below) and they might not of been included in the way they came in the box set and could of been added for the individual releases only. But not having the box set I could not tell you. I would also suggest you do store them upright and not how I have displayed them here which was done for display purpose only. unless you want your discs to drop out and end up damaging them. 

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Artwork.

The album cover was made up of photos by photographer John Shaw who done the photography for many artists albums during the 70’s and early 80’s including the likes of Jethro Tull, Wings, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, and even for UK’s live album Night After Night. Whatever the object is that Bill Bruford has his hands around reflects the albums title and it could be a Globe of light or a Cymbal with a light burst around it. It could also be Hell’s Bells for all I know :))))) and its sort of OK! Though perhaps something more like a one-off mythical creature or fiend might have also worked. The Art & Design for the 2017 layout was done by Martin Cook. 

One Of A Kind Album In Review…

The original album was released sometime back in June 1979 and contained 10 instrumental tracks (apart from some narration) spread over an overall playing time of 46 minutes, 28 seconds and just like his previous album was recorded at Trident Studios in London, England and recorded by the same studio engineer Stephen W. Tayler who also assisted Bruford in producing the album. 

Bruford was glad to get back to working on his next album after quitting UK and if the truth be told so was Alan Holdsworth who did not get along with both John Wetton and Eddie Jobson. But then again Holdsworth did find it hard to get along with most musicians and later on in many interviews expressed that he was not happy with the music UK was making and was glad to get out of it. 

The new Expanded and Remixed Edition of One Of A Kind was released on the 8th November 2019 and comes with 1 extra bonus track and in total has 11 tracks that span over and overall playing time of 52 minutes, 3 seconds. Once again it comes with new stereo and 5.1 mixes done by Jakko Jakszyk assisted by Bill Bruford. The CD features an extra previously unreleased bonus track which is an out-take of the 6th track on the album “Five G“. It was also not included in the 2017 Seems Like a Lifetime Ago box set. Most likely included to entice those who did purchase the box set to buy this individual release as well. 

Just like the individual release of Feels Good To Me that I previously reviewed it is only the CD in the package that does contain the new stereo mixes which were done by Jakko Jakszyk under the guidance and approval of Bill Bruford. Where I felt that Jakszyk had done quite a good job of the new mixes he did for Bruford’s debut album Feels Good To Me I cannot really say I am impressed with what he’s done on this release. It does seem to be on the lightweight side of things and the bass sounds too thin in the mix. It also does not really in any way present to you with what many new remixes will give you and sounds more like it’s been remastered rather than newly mixed. 

I certainly do not think it’s an improvement over the original mix on the DVD or the CD I brought back in the 90’s and you might be better off sticking with whatever other release you had before. To be honest the bonus track which is the out-take of “Five G” dynamically sounds much better than any of the other tracks on the CD. It is very much quite different too and only Bruford, Berlin and Stewart are playing on it so the bass is more dominant in the mix. So, with the CD out of the way let’s see if we can salvage anything out of this package as we take a look at the DVD that comes with it. 

The DVD.

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The DVD’s main menu is very basic and simplistic and presents you with the choice of either playing the new 2017 surround mix or the original 1979 album mix. Only 1 audio track has been assigned to each of the mixes and the surround mix comes with a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix with an audio format of 48/44.1khz and does not include a DTS or Stereo mix. To listen to the new stereo mixes you will have to play the CD.

The original 1979 album comes with a stereo audio track with a basic audio format of 48/44.1khz and does not include a Hi-Res 24-bit format. It’s unfortunate that everything about the way things have been done and presented here are so BOX STANDARD! I very much think that for all those surround FREAKS! who forked out the money for the Box Set just to get their hands on the 5.1 mix must have been hugely disappointed and it does suffer for not having a DTS audio track here.

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By clicking on any one of the 2 choices offered to you from the main menu it presents you with the albums playlist as shown in the picture above. Here you can simply choose a track to play or play all if you want to listen the whole album. The surround mix does not include the previously unreleased bonus track “Five G Outtake” but they have included it on the original album mix. 

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Whilst playing the album it presents you with the title of the track that is playing as shown in the picture above. It does not have any pictures in the way of a slideshow and the only other visual effect it does have is that at the end of each track the title fades out and fades in the name of the next track. Overall everything about how they put together the DVD is as basic as you can get and is presented in the same way that they done with the debut album.

The 5.1 Mix.

Once again, I do feel that this is one of Jakko Jakszyk’s better 5.1 mixes. I would also say that because the new stereo mixes he done do sound like more of a remaster and do not do anything sonically to make any improvement over the original mix, that even though there is no DTS track here you will get more from the 5.1 mix even with its lower format of standard Dolby Digital. He really has done well with placement of the instruments across the 6 channels and it’s a very well balanced and quite an exciting mix in some respects and will give you a GREAT! immersive experience. 

I think regarding both the 5.1 mixes he’s done for this album and Bruford’s debut album you are better off playing them on a day when you have not played anything else first to get the benefit and the most out of them, simply because of the fact that he has used the lowest of the low 5.1 formats. The 5.1 mix is by far the best thing in this package where as it was the CD with the new stereo mixes that were the best thing in the Feels Good To Me package and that is basically down the fact that he has not used DTS to make it sound sonically better. Because of that this 5.1 mix still only scores 7 out of 10. 

Musicians & Credits…

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All compositions by Bill Bruford except for tracks 6 & 11 by Berlin Stewart, Bruford. Track 1 Stewart & Gowen. Track 3 Bruford & Stewart. Track 7 Holdworth. Track 9 Bruford & Jobson. Produced by Bill Bruford. Assistant Producer Stephen W. Tayler. Recorded between January & February 1979 at Trident Studios London. Recording Engineer. Stephen W. Tayler. Original Sleeve Photography by John Shaw. 2017 Art & Design by Martin Cook. New Stereo & 5.1 Surround Mixes by Jakko Jakszyk & Bill Bruford. Mastering & DVD Authoring by Ben Darlow.

Musicians.

Bill Bruford: Drums/Cymbals/Marimba/Voice.
Dave Stewart: Keyboards.
Allan Holdsworth: Guitar.
Jeff Berlin: Bass.

Additional Musicians.

Eddie Jobson: Violin (Tracks 8)
Sam Alder: Narration (Track 5)
Anthea Norman-Taylor: Voice (Track 5)

The Album Tracks In Review…

Bruford’s second album One Of A Kind is seen by many has his best output from his solo career and many of the GREAT! reviews have pointed to that too. I myself find it quite hard to separate it from his debut album in terms of a rating basically because the material that was written for both albums is very strong. Musically the album could be said to be more mechanical in some respects and the other band members also had more of an input into the writing side of it as well. I would also say that this album is more rocked up to give it more of a PROGMATIC! side over the fusion and the production side of things is not so much like Brand X and has its own style about it. 

The other notable thing about this album is that unlike his debut album Feels Good To Me which was put out under his full name as a solo album. Bruford decided that this album was going to be more like a band and this was something he did discuss with the other musicians and he wanted them to be more involved in it like a band. Hence why the rest of his albums in this project was put out under his sir name only. However, this was to be Allan Holdsworth’s final album he did with Bruford and he left to go on to do other things just before the tour of the album and was replaced by John Clark. So’ let’s now take a closer look at the album as I go through the individual tracks. 

Track 1. Hells Bells.

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The album kicks off in a very promising energetic exciting and vibrant way and in all respects that is exactly how his debut album kicked off too. It’s a piece that mostly written by the keyboard player Dave Stewart (not be confused with the guitarist from the Eurythmics) who also has the same name.  However, he did borrow a couple of bars in the melody line from his fellow band mate Alan Gowen to which they both was part of the Canterbury Scene and in a jazz fusion band who went by the name of National Health. The band also actually managed to churn out a couple of their own albums in the same year that Bill Bruford was putting his second solo album together. He also got the bass player Neil Murray from the same band to help him out on his debut album.
 

Hells Bells” is very much a piece that is built around the main structure of the opening lead moog synth lines and it is the synth that carries the main melody to allow both Bruford and Berlin to play around. As the piece transcends along it gets further developed with a couple of transnational changes, the first to allow Holdsworth to fly some lead lines over it on his guitar and the second to make way for a bass solo and piano before falling back into its main melody back on the synths. It’s a very well worked out short piece and favourite with many, it’s also more of a prog rock piece and is a very strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! 

Track 2. One of a Kind (Part 1)

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The albums self-titled track comes in two parts to which the first part is the shorter of the two, the first part also runs along the lines of prog rock and it’s only really Holdsworth’s jazzy guitar lines that do add to the fusion here more than anything. Once again this is another heavy synth-based track like many on the album and this is perhaps where this album does differ slightly from the debut album Feels Good To Me. But even though it is a heavy synth-based album it does also offer bags of room for Holdsworth’s guitar and his guitar does feature more so on this album in relation to Bruford’s debut album. 

Once again there is some GREAT! melodies that are constructed from the synths which do make the piece have quite a statement so does Holdsworth on the guitar and the way they have incorporated it into the 2nd part is by simply bringing everything down to allow a smooth transition into it. 

Track 3. One of a Kind (Part 2)

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The 2nd part is more of the jazz fused section and with Stewart switching onto the Rhodes we get that Eumir Deodato feel like we got on the 2nd part of “Seems Like A Lifetime Ago” from his debut album. This also allows Berlin, Bruford and Holdsworth to work their way into it all to which they do exceptionally well. The first part was written by Bruford whereas this 2nd part he co-wrote with Stewart and you can see how Stewart had more of a part in how this 2nd part is constructed around the keys. 

As the piece runs along it builds its way back into the 1st part again eventually and it contains some really GREAT! interplay between all 4 musicians. This has to be another strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT! and is a very TASTY! piece of work indeed. 

Track 4. Travels With Myself – And Someone Else.

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Time to dim the lights and simmer things down to a smoother mood and feel and this piece certainly does that superbly and in style. Its title could be seen as one sentence but is split into two parts for some reason and it does give the appearance that there are two tracks all rolled up into one here, although this is one piece that has been very well constructed and was penned by Bruford. I would also say that Holdsworth is more restrained on this piece and plays the odd subtle lush ambient chords on his guitar and the only lead lines he plays are more or less at the end where it fades out. 

It’s a piece that showcases some fine keyboard work from Stewart in particular with the melody lines and he even incorporate a bit of nice theme into it as well. Bruford does a lovely more subtle job on the kit whilst Berlin works in some GREAT! bass lines and gets to throw in a bass solo along the way too. It really is another excellent track on the album like they all are I feel too. 

Track 5. Fainting in Coils.

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Another piece penned by Bruford and besides the drums he also throws in a bit of narration along with Sam Alder and Anthea Norman-Taylor who happened to be Brian Eno’s wife at the time. Fainting in coils is taken from Charles Lutwidge Dodgson’s novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland he wrote back in 1865 under the pseudonym name of Lewis Caroll.  It is also considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre and the sentence “fainting in coils” is spoken by the Mock Turtle in the story and in this case by Bruford whilst Alder does the most of the narration and Norman-Taylor does the voice of Alice.

Fainting In Coils” is the longest track on the album and weighs in at 6 minutes 53 seconds it’s also the most PROGMATIC! track on the album and goes through quite a few really GREAT! transitional changes incorporating different themes and melody lines from Stewart’s keyboards and Holdsworth’s guitars. All 4 musicians do an excellent job on the piece. I’s also my personal favourite track on the album and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 6. Five G.

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This next piece was written by Berlin, Bruford and Stewart and is a piece that would have been constructed around Berlin’s bass line and he does work his butt off on this track too and does an excellent job on the slap bass. Holdsworth flies over this track and is on fire too and it’s another excellent track that interoperates jazz funk into prog rock and is another firm favourite with many and is another stand out track on the album in contention for the albums TOP SPOT! 

Track 7. The Abingdon Chasp.

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This piece was written by Holdsworth and he plays both electric and acoustic guitar on this piece and constructs not only some fine melody lines but stronger themes with how he’s overdubbed his guitars into the piece. The piece was not intended to be for Bruford’s album and Holdsworth was asked to write and record a demo track for Virgin Records and he was joined in the recording session by Bill Bruford, keyboardist Jeff Young (later Steely Dan, Sting, etc), French bassist Francis Moze (Gong), and alto saxophonist Ray Warleigh (a long-time jazz partner who had “discovered” Allan back in Bradford). It was one of the rare occasions that Holdsworth wrote a piece without having a title for it first and it was sitting around for quite a while before he came up with one.

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Holdsworth also like the odd pint of beer or two and liked to travel to places that served fine ales and it was whilst he was in Abingdon in Oxfordshire England that he came across a fine pub which exclusively serves ale from the Morland brewery, and after a few pints with his mates the English word “chaps” got to be pronounced “chasp” and that’s how he came up with the title.

After doing the demo for Virgin they didn’t follow through and said the music was too ‘eccentric’ for their tastes. So, Bruford suggested that they could record it again and use it for this album and Holdsworth did a very TASTY! job of replacing Ray Warleigh’s sax with his guitar and I rather think that this is another contender for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 8. Forever Until Sunday.

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I love the way this track opens up and it reminds me of a bit of “Small Hours” from John Martyn’s 1978 album One World in some respects though it soon goes down a few other roads on that score. It features Eddie Jobson on violin who was originally uncredited on the original album. Although it was penned by Bruford this piece was actually performed live by UK prior to it appearing on this album. Jobson’s violin plays a beautiful melody which is then later replicated by Holdsworth’s guitar and they both do a sensational job on the piece.

Track 9. The Sahara of Snow (Part 1)

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The final piece on the album is split into two parts and the first part was written by Bruford. The opening ambient section portrays the title very well and it’s spiced or vamped up by Stewart’s hypnotic 7/8 piano rhythm to which allows Bruford & Berlin to get into the 7/8 groove of things and the second part of the vamped piano is backed up very well by the marimba and allows Holdsworth to work his way into the piece on the guitar and the first part is certainly the more interesting part of the two here. It’s also the longer of the 2-part piece.

Track 10. The Sahara of Snow (Part 2)

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The 2nd part of the piece was co-written by Bruford & Jobson and both parts were played live by UK on the last tour that both Bruford and Holdsworth played with them. It’s a bit more straight forward with both the piano and the bass vamping along and with the addition of the claps its perhaps a small party piece that would work well live for the audience to join in on the claps. Holdsworth’s lead guitar lines work closely with the groove harmony and even though its perhaps a less interesting piece it rounds off the album well enough. 

Summary…

To sum up Bill Bruford’s second album One Of A Kind just like my previous review of Feels Good To Me in this section I am mainly going to focus my attention on this new EXPANDED & REMIXED! Edition that was originally done back in 2017 and included in the Seems Like A Lifetime Ago box set. By having both new individual releases of these albums they do have some of the same drawbacks and some differences with how they have been mixed.  

For example, the same things I am seeing on both of these releases from the box set is the shoddy workmanship of not including a DTS Soundtrack for the 5.1 mix and their incompetence not to remove the unnecessary long pauses in between some of the tracks on the album. The only real major difference between them both is how Jakko Jakszyk has done the new stereo mixes, and where I felt he had done a good job on the debut album I honestly cannot say the same with how he’s done the new stereo mix for One Of A Kind and it is quite disappointing and not what I would expect to get from a new mix.  

In all honesty the CD that comes in this package may very well be the worst mix the album has ever received out of all the revisions and remasters that came before it, and it is simply not good enough. The best thing in this package is the bonus track and that may not have been remixed at all and the 5.1 mix. But even that could and should have been done better by including a DTS Soundtrack. That is really the only thing that lets the 5.1 mixes down on both albums because I do feel they have been done very well by Jakszyk. 

Conclusion…

In conclusion One Of A Kind by Bill Bruford or in the terms of a band sense Bruford is another quite solid album with the material that was written for it. It’s an album I have always enjoyed just as much as his debut album and terms of a rating I personally could not separate the first two albums and they are in every inch as good as each other. 

If anything, I would say that the album One Of A Kind does tend to be more prog rock based and does not have some of the more refined jazz elements that we got on the album Feels Good To Me. In many ways his debut album does have more finesse and a bit more in variety department. But both are very enjoyable albums that you can instantly like and feel at home with and they also have the longevity to stay with you. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Hell’s Bells“. “One Of A Kind (Parts 1 & 2)“. “Fainting In Coils“. “Five G” and “The Abingdon Chasp“. 

Overall regarding both of the new individual releases from the box set. I was glad to see them finally get released and the price point of £12.99 each does give you something but I may have returned them for a refund if they were priced any more. Simply because a lot more could have been done to present these albums with the quality, they both deserved to have. It’s such a shame with how they have gone about things here and the standards are low in comparison to the many other artists who are presenting their back catalogue of music by giving them a new lease of life with new stereo and 5.1 mixes by doing things properly and also giving the respect their albums deserve. 

Drawing, Sketching And Fainting In Coils

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Hell’s Bells. 3:47.
02. One Of A Kind (Part 1). 2:20.
03. One Of A Kind (Part 2). 4:01.
04. Travels With Myself/And Someone Else. 6:15.
05. Fainting In Coils. 6:53.
06. Five G. 4:46.
07. The Abingdon Chasp. 4:51.
08. Forever Until Sunday. 5:47.
09. The Sahara Of Snow (Part 1). 5:21.
10. The Sahara Of Snow (Part 2). 3:24.
11. Five G (Outake). 4:38.

Lee’s overall Complete Package Value Rating…

The Packaging Rating Score. 8/10

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10

The New Stereo Mix Rating Score. 5/10

The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 7/10

The Original Album Rating Score. 9/10