Lee Speaks About Music… #90

A Kingdom Of Colours II (2004 – 2013 Box Set) – The Flower Kings

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Introduction…

Well it’s time for another box set review and this is the follow up of The Flower Kings studio albums they have just recently released and it completes the discography of the bands studio albums. A Kingdom Of Colours II is very much a lavish box set that very much has style and is constructed in exactly the same way as the first box set that got released last year, only it comes in a different colour with a different collage of a picture.

For those who missed my review of A Kingdom Of Colours by The Flower Kings you can find it here: https://wordpress.com/post/leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/42753

It’s been almost 5 years since The Flower Kings released their last album Desolation Rose back in 2013 and since then even the bands official website has disappeared. The only activity regarding the band in the last 7 months as very much been the release of these 2 box sets consisting of the bands entire studio album discography. It makes you wonder if Roine Stolt as decided to put an end to the band he started back in 1994.

However this is not the first time it as taken 5 years for another of The Flower Kings studio albums to surface, and back in 2007 after the release of The Sum Of No Evil it was not until 2012 that we got to see the bands 11th album Back To Eden hit the shelves so to speak. So there still maybe some hope of a return, and one can never write off the possibility either.

A Kingdom Of Colours II (2004 – 2013) In Review…

A Kingdom Of Colours II by The Flower Kings was released on the 22nd June 2018. I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon 3 months ago back on the 22nd March and it arrived on the same day of its release. This new box set contains 9 CD’s and once again comes at the same bargain price as the previous box set, and can be had for around £35.

The box set comes with The Flower Kings last 5 studio albums they released between 2004 – 2013 to which one of those albums is a double album. It also comes with 3 bonus discs and just like the previous box set it’s also a Limited Edition Box Set to which only 3,000 copies have been made. It really is great value for the money and makes a great collector’s edition too.

So before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and contents.

The Packaging & Contents…

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The Box.

The CD’s come in a very lavish very well constructed cardboard box. This box is a lot better than any clamshell box and is much better quality with how it’s been constructed too. They have very nicely used a collage of the albums artwork covers to make the artwork picture on the front of the box. The lid fits on very nice and snug and as you can see by the indentation in the picture above its around 3 quarters of the length of the box.

The other thing I did pick up with this box is that unlike the last box set they made, this one comes with a white soft sponge (that can be removed) at the back of the lower part of the box has you can see in the picture below.

Inside Box

No doubt the sponge acts like a padding and prevents the contents in the box from rattling about. It also gives the contents more of a snug fit too. But in reality this box set comes with 1 disc less than the previous box set. But it also comes with less Gatefold Sleeves as well. So that’s why it’s most likely been used and it’s not been purposely designed like this to hold future releases.

The Contents.

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As you can see from the picture above all the discs come in cardboard wallets and unlike the previous box set, we only get 1 double album here that comes in a gatefold sleeve. Each album comes with the original artwork too and they represent a mini version of a vinyl album quite well.

Because of the way everything as been done this way there is nowhere to store all of the individual booklets for the albums. But it does come with a very thick 138 page booklet that contains all the albums lyrics, credits and production linear notes for every album apart from the 3 bonus discs. It also comes with a bit of informative information and pictures.

It’s a very well made detailed booklet. However the fact that there is no information of when the bonus material was made and where it came from for the 3 bonus CD’s you get here. Does not really help a reviewer like myself and I shall have to spend a lot more time doing some research on the net to find out the source of the material.

As it’s a limited box set. It also comes with a certificate showing you which number box set you have out of the 3,000 that have been made. Mine is 180.

The Albums In Review…

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 was originally released in chronological order. So now without any further adieu, let’s get down to the album reviews.

TFK - A&E

Adam & Eve

Adam & Eve is the 8th Studio album by The Flower Kings. It was released on the 3rd August 2004 and the album contains 10 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 78 minutes, 4 seconds. The bands main writer and guy behind the band Roine Stolt very much likes to get more or less the maximum use out of a blank disc and tends to fill them up with as much information he can cram on them.

I myself prefer the old 40 minute album time slot, especially when you have a large record collection. It helps you to devote more time to your collection as well. I cannot say I am a fan of this longer time slot and even down to the fact that this album is classed as a single album, it takes up the time slot of a double album back in 70’s, and an album this size would benefit more by sticking it on 2 discs in reality.

I am not saying I cannot sit here and listen to the whole album in one sitting. But I do feel making single albums this long will have some downfalls. The first being that it will certainly be a lot harder to make a solid album over this distance, and some could not even do that over 40 minutes never mind the 78 minutes we have here. So most albums this long do tend to come with gap fillers.

Secondly unless you can be completely on your own. The chances are that you have got more chance of being disturbed whilst listening to the album. And last of all. Albums this length may have also contributed as to why these days people would rather buy single tracks than albums.

Unless you are a serious music listener like myself, an album this long will be too much for some people. It’s not a case of the artist giving you extra value for the money at all, and I have never seen the longer album in that way. The art of making a good album is so that when the last track on the album finishes, it leaves the listener wanting more. By giving them more in the first place is never really gonna do the trick I am afraid.

But for those serious die hard music listeners when this album was released they also released a Japanese Edition that came with a bonus disc with 9 bonus tracks. Although 6 of them was originally released on the limited 2 disc edition of The Rainmaker. The other 3 tracks were bonus tracks that were left over from the Space Revolver album sessions.

The album Adam & Eve was recorded at the Cosmic Lodge from Jauuary – May 2004. Both the drums and bass were recorded at Reingold Studios. All music and lyrics written by Roine Stolt with the exception of “Babylon” & “Days Gone By” by Tomas Bodin and “Timelines” by Jonas Reinglod & Roine Stolt. The album was produced by Roine Stolt  and assisted by Tomas Bodin. The albums layout was by Hippified Art and the cover painting was by Ciruelo Cabral.

No real change in the band line-up that appeared on their previous album Unfold The Future apart from there was no guest musicians on this album. Daniel Gildenlöw was also no longer a guest and had now joined the band permanently. Although that did not last for long, and this was the only album he appeared on as an official member of the band.

The line-up of musicians are as follows: Roine Stolt: Vocals/Acoustic & Electric Guitars. Tomas Bodin: Keyboards. Jonas Reingold: Basses. Zoltán Csörsz: Drums. Hasse Fröberg: Vocals. Daniel Gildenlöw: Vocals. Hans Bruniusson: Percussion.

With myself going on about the length of albums being too long earlier, I would not exactly accuse Roine Stolt of making extra long albums and filling them up with gap fillers. Stolt is a workaholic when it comes to songwriting hence the amount of the material he does tend to put on his albums. He is also a very good songwriter too.

However I do feel that a lot of the melody lines he does use for his songs can sound very familiar, and a lot of his output of material can sometimes be like listening to same thing that came from other albums of The Flower Kings on that score. I would also say that this particular album Adam & Eve is not really one of my go to albums of the band for that reason as well. But that’s not to say it’s a bad album at all, and there is some very strong written material to be found on this album.

For example the 2nd track on the album “Cosmic Circus” will perhaps take you back to the album Stardust We Are. The same thing could be said of “A Vampire’s View” although this does have a bit more theatrics about it, but it also does contain that circus and carnival vibe too we got from that same album. But Stolt does tend to get off on that whole fun of the fair carnival ride into the land of theatrics.

Nothing wrong with that at all, and it’s something that can be very well portrayed in his music at times and shines for it at times too. I would even say the latter of those two tracks is the better of them. Even though Tomas Bodin wrote a couple of ditties for the album  with “Babylon” and “Days Gone By” they too can sometimes have that familiarity of older tracks too, but at the end of the day he’s keeping it all to that familiar sound that is associated with the band. The latter of these two I would also say was the better.

The album comes with a couple of lengthy epic tracks too, the first of which “Love Supreme” opens up the album and weighs in at some 19 minutes, 43 seconds. The 2nd of them “Driver’s Seat” comes towards the end of the album and is precisely 1 minute and 23 seconds shorter. No doubt you will hear some familiar lines on both of these couple of tracks and the albums self titled track “Adam & Eve” even regurgitates the main theme from the opening track on the album.

All 3 of these tracks plus “A Vampire’s View” I feel are the strength of the album. Though personally even though the both lengthier tracks of the 4 here are quite good, I do not really see them having quite the strength of both the “The Truth Will Set You Free” and “Devil’s Playground” from their previous album or many of the bands other long epics for that matter. Oddly enough the much shorter self titled album track “Adam & Eve” merits my top spot award on this album.

The remaining 3 tracks “Starlight Man“. “Timelines” and “The Blade of Cain” are a bit more on the mediocre side and my least favourite tracks on the album. “Starlight Man” does not really speak to me a lot and “Timelines” starts off very promising with its Frank Zappa esc vibe, but then it tends to fizzle its way out and the life sort of gets sucked out of it. “The Blade of Cain” for the most of it is an instrumental piece that contains a few words at the end to work as a sort of reprise of the opening track on the album. I think it’s a nice enough track but it tends to sound a bit disjointed and a bit out of place as the albums closing track.

Overall the bands 8th album Adam & Eve I do not see as one of the bands stronger albums and it’s not even a near enough solid album. Others no doubt may see this album differently to how I see it for that matter and rate it a lot more. Personally I felt a lot of the written material was embarking on older ground, and it was made at a time when Stolt was also busy with both Transatlantic and The Tangent. His mind may have been not totally focused on this particular album.

Despite all that, the album still does have some good moments though, and I would not say it was a bad album either. I cannot fault the albums lyrics and Roine Stolt as always done well on the lyrical side of things and he got his inspiration from Joni Mitchell’s Travelogue album whilst recording this album. My personal highlights from the album are “Adam & Eve“. “Driver’s Seat“. “A Vampire’s View” and “Love Supreme“.

Adam Was Handsome But Somewhat Bizarre, He Looked At Himself Like Some Kind Of Pornstar…

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Love Supreme. 19:43. 2. Cosmic Circus. 3:12. 3. Babylon. 2:34. 4. A Vampire’s View. 8:48. 5. Days Gone By. 1:13. 6. Adam & Eve. 7:57. 7. Starlight Man. 3:31. 8. Timelines. 7:43. 9. Driver’s Seat. 18:20. 10. The Blade of Cain. 5:03.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6/10.

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TFK - PH

Paradox Hotel

The bands 9th album Paradox Hotel was released on the 4th April 2006. Its another double album, and the 4th double studio album the band have made. Though in reality I find most of The Flower KIngs releases are like double albums with all the material that gets rammed onto a single disc, and ones like this are more like a 4 album box set :)))))).

You would need 4 vinyl albums to fit all the material comfortably that is on a 2 CD Set like this as well. So my bit of humour regarding the 4 album box set, is in fact the real reality of it all. Do you still think albums these days are not too long :))))).

The 1st CD contains 10 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 72 minutes, 52 seconds. The 2nd CD comes with 9 tracks and has an overall playing time of 63 minutes and 3 seconds. The album was produced by Roine Stolt and assisted by Tomas Bodin as ever and the album tracks were recorded at various locations between November 2005 – January 2006. The albums cover art  and booklet illustrations was done by Andres Pablo Valle.

The Flower Kings by now were always having a bit of a problem keeping a permanent drummer and Daniel Gildenlöw and Zoltán Csörsz had left the band. Gildenlöw left because of touring problems that would confront him and he refused to submit biometric data which was required to enter the USA. Csörsz had other plans of his own, though he did return for the bands next album.

The band recruited session player Marcus Liliequist to fill in for the spot on the drums. Although this is the only studio album of the band he was featured on, he also went on tour with the band afterwards to promote the album and also appears on the bands official DVD release of Instant Delivery which is an excellent live DVD I do also have.

The line-up of musicians are as follows: Roine Stolt: Lead Vocals/Guitars. Tomas Bodin: Keyboards. Jonas Reingold: Bass. Marcus Liliequist: Drums. Hasse Fröberg: Lead Vocals/Additional Guitar. Hans Bruniusson: The Odd Bit Of Percussion.

The double album Paradox Hotel is very much a nonstop concept album where each track runs into one another as it goes along. The double album is also split into 2 parts to represent two different rooms in the hotel. The 1st album is room 111 and the 2nd room 222. This album is more to my particular taste and has the power to excite and tone things down a bit very well.

It speaks a lot more to me than their previous album Adam & Eve and the material is more fresh, and even has a newer edge and approach to it all. I also feel it’s one of their stronger albums and certainly one of my more to go albums too. It’s also an album where Stolt allowed the other members of the band a bit more leeway with the writing credits, although most of the albums tracks are written by himself.

The album kicks off with a little bit of fun with “Check In” a title that one would presume relates to checking into an hotel, only here we are sort of at the Nasa control centre listening to the countdown of an Apollo mission only to find out they are about to play a bit of table tennis :))))). It sort of brings back the “Rhythm of Life” from the bands 2nd album Retropolis to which was also a Tomas Bodin idea.

Once the bit of fun is out the way we get down to the more serious stuff and get the longest track on the entire double album “Monsters & Men“. This one’s some 21:19 long and most of the other tracks on the album are relatively a lot shorter and the nearest to it appears at the start of the 2nd album with “Minor Giant Steps” which weighs in at 12 minutes. 13 seconds. Both tracks are very strong contenders for the top spot on the album but there is that much good stuff on this album, I personally could not pick a favourite and the album works very well as an whole.

The material on both CD’s is really excellent and very well written. I also like how all the tracks have been placed on the album too, and on the first disc for example you have a track like “Jealousy” which is perhaps more subtle and intimate and is immediately followed up by “Hit Me with A Hit“. Which at first might appear to be a pop song, but as it goes along you soon get to see that is far from the case with the bags of progression and transitional changes they have thrown in.

I personally do not feel that there is a bad track throughout the album and because there is so much here I am only really gonna highlight some of the tracks like I have been doing already here. Other great tracks on the 1st album are “Lucy Had a Dream“. “Mommy Leave the Light On” and “End on a High Note“.

Other highlights from the 2nd album are the “The Unorthodox Dancinglesson” which is an instrumental track and is quite like a cross between King Crimson & Frank Zappa. The Hasse Fröberg penned track “Life Will Kill You” is a smash and brilliant track. The albums self titled track “Paradox Hotel“is the Rocker of the album and “Blue Planet” has the right mood to put the album to bed perfectly.

Overall I quite like the slightly more modern approach you get from Paradox Hotel. Just like Unfold The Future this for me is one of The Flower Kings better double albums and is almost on par with that album. There is not a lot you can fault here and it’s more or less a solid album with the material that was written for it.

The Puppeteer Is Sending All His Boys To Kingdom Come…

The album track listing is as follows: Disc 1: 1. Check In. 1:38. 2. Monsters & Men (I. Seasons of War. II Prophets and Preachers. III. Silnet River). 21:19. 3. Jealousy. 3:20. 4. Hit Me with a Hit. 5:31. 5. Pioneers of Aviation. 7:42. 6. Lucy Had a Dream. 5:28. 7. Bavarian Skies. 6:38. 8. Selfconsuming Fire. 5:54. 9. Mommy Leave the Light On. 4:39. 10. End on a High Note. 10:43.

Disc 2: 1. Minor Giant Steps. 12:13. 2. Touch My Heaven. 6:08. 3. The Unorthodox Dancinglesson. 5:22. 4. Man of the World. 5:59. 5. Life Will Kill You. 7:02. 6. The Way the Waters Are Moving. 3:10. 7. What If God Is Alone. 6:59. 8. Paradox Hotel. 6:29. 9. Blue Planet. 9:43.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.

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TFK - TSONE

The Sum Of No Evil

The Flower Kings 10th studio album The Sum Of No Evil was recorded, mixed and mastered between March – July 2007. The album was produced by Roine Stolt and he also wrote all the material except for “Flight 999 Brimstone Air” to which was written by Tomas Bodin. The albums cover artwork was done by Ed Unitsky.

It was released on the 25th September 2007 and the album itself contains 6 tracks spanned over an overall playing time of 74 minutes, 55 minutes. The drummer Zoltán Csörsz had once again returned to the fold for the final time and the line-up of musicians are as follows:

Roine Stolt: Vocals/Electric & Acoustic Guitars/Additional Keyboards. Tomas Bodin: Hammond/Mini Moog/Grand Piano/Rhodes & Wurlizer Pianos/Synth & Mellotron. Jonas Reingold: Fender Bass. Hasse Fröberg: Vocal & Guitar. Zoltán Csörsz: Drums. Hans Bruniusson: Marimba/Glockenspiel/Percussion. Ulf Wallander: Soprano Saxophone.

The Sum Of No Evil is quite a different album and the band have no doubt come out of their shell a bit on this album and the musicians are stretching themselves out to the limit and beyond. There is quite a massive Frank Zappa influence on this album in parts too, along with many influences from other bands this is quite a melting pot of excellent progression and diversity. There is certainly a lot of complexed material along the lines of the album too.

Most of the material is quite lengthy and 3 of its tracks range between the 12.5 – 13.5 minute mark. And if those are not long enough for you the 2nd track on the album “Love Is The Only Answer” weighs in at 24 minutes and 28 seconds. There is quite a bit of the Zappa influence on this particular track and it has bags of diversity and progression amongst its path and just likes Frank Zappa’s music it’s also very complexed and a very strong contender for the top spot on the album.

The albums opening track “One More Time” kicks the album off in the bands familiar great style and takes even more shape from the 6:28 mark and contains some really excellent and exciting keyboard work amongst other things. It’s all quite complexed with some excellent transitional changes. It another contender for the top spot on the album.

You also get some more Zappa vibes and complexity coming from the albums self titled track “The Sum Of No Evil” and this is another superb track and merits my top spot of the album award, though I have to confess it was certainly an hard decision to make especially with how a lot of the tracks on this album are very well worked out superb compositions and are very strong.

Trading My Soul” is the only track on the album that really simmers things down a bit and Zoltán Csörsz’s return to the band was not wasted either and he features heavily on the shortest track on the album “Flight 999 Brimstone Air“. The final track on the album “Life In Motion” also has some real great progression and is another very well written composition and ends the album off superbly.

To sum up The Sum Of No Evil by The Flower Kings. It’s almost like an album that’s come from a different mould with how they have gone about things and presented the album. It’s also perhaps in some way one of the most complexed albums that the band have ever produced as well. They have even pushed their own boundaries I feel and it’s a very well worked out album that even feels like the band have come up with a new approach even though their distinctive style is still very much dominant.

It’s also near enough a solid album with how well and strong the material has been written and my personal highlights are the “The Sum Of No Evil“. “Love Is The Only Answer“. “One More Time” and “Life In Motion“.

Heaven Is A Place Where Wealthy People Meet….

The album track listing is as follows: 1. One More Time. 13:04. 2. Love Is The Only Answer. 24:28. 3. Trading My Soul. 6:25. 4. The Sum Of No Reason. 13:25. 5. Flight 999 Brimstone Air. 5:00. 6. Life In Motion. 12:33.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.

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TFK - TBOE

Banks Of Eden

It was to be a good long 5 years before the next album the Banks Of Eden came to surface by The Flower Kings. Many of the band members including Stolt himself spent some time away from each other to allow time for them all to work on other projects. For awhile now it seemed that most of the band were happy to be part of The Flower Kings but keeping a permanent drummer was becoming a bit of a problem for them.

The young German born drummer Felix Lehrmann was the guy chosen to fill the vacant band spot. Lehrmann had started his professional career on the drums when he was 17 when he embarked on his first European tour with Della Miles. Since 2002 he had worked with the band Rivo Drei and played in many other band projects and also done a lot of session work. He even played drums on Jennifer Rush’s 2010 album Now Is The Hour. So no doubt he was getting around a bit and Roin Stolt soon picked up on the young man’s talent and skills.

The Flower Kings 11th studio album Banks Of Eden was recorded between January – March 2012 and was released later that same year on the 18th June. The album itself contains 5 tracks and amazingly comes with a more moderate time slot of 53 minutes, 57 seconds. It’s the shortest album of all the bands studio albums and personally I think it benefits the shorter time slot making it much more easier to digest and get into. Even more so if you never had the original albums and you have all the albums in this box set to digest and get into as well.

Most of the albums in this box set though, also came in the form of limited editions that came with bonus discs, and this one originally came with 4 bonus tracks on the bonus disc. These have been included among with many others on the 3 bonus discs you get with this box set. Oddly enough they even put out a vinyl release of the album out at the same time, and the because the main albums was near enough 54 minutes they had to release it as a double album and included the bonus tracks on the vinyl release too.

The album was produced, mixed and mastered by Roine Stolt and the albums artwork was done by Silas Toball. The musicians are: Roine Stolt: Vocals/Electric & Acoustic Guitars/Additional Keyboards. Tomas Bodin: Keyboards. Jonas Reingold: Bass/Bass Pedal/Acoustic Guitar/Vocals. Hasse Fröberg: Vocals & Guitar. Felix Lehrmann: Drums. It also features vocals from Inger Ohlen-Reingold on “Rising The Imperial“.

Despite the 5 year break The Flower Kings had lost nothing regarding their sound and style and the title of this particular being the Banks Of Eden may suggest that it may of been a sequel to the 2004 album Adam & Eve though I am pretty sure it’s not and its just another collection of songs. Some reviewers have put this album down as a darker sounding album with the material that was written for it, but for me personally this album sounds much more lighter and airy and has quite a fresh feel about it.

The albums kicks off with a twenty five and half minute epic entitled “Numbers” and like many of the bands longer pieces that go over this long distance, they always tend to make them interesting by putting in many transitional changes and the right amount of chord progression to take the music in other directions and to other places. I feel the band have done it very well here too, though I personally do not think it’s in league with some of the bands earlier epics that go over this distance. Never the less “Numbers” is a great track and contender for the top spot on the album. It’s also one of the 3 of the tracks on this album that was written solely by Roine Stolt.

Next up we have a Stolt/Bodin composition entitled “For The Love Of Gold” and I get a bit of an Anderson/Bruford/Wakeman/Howe feel about this song in parts for some reason, that comes from that sort of calypso vibe they had on one of the tracks from that particular one off album they made. This one is also quite sprightly and airy with its approach and certainly does have that “Brother of Mine” feel mixed along with some other more familiar style melodies of their own.

Pandemonium” is the shortest track on the album with it’s 6:29 time slot and is another of the songs on the album that contains some fine progression and some rather odd vocals too. There is no doubt that the band are trying to go about things a bit differently here, but still manage to keep their distinctive style. This track maybe the shortest on the album but for me it merits my top spot of the album award. It gets followed up by “For Those About To Drown” and both of these tracks were penned by Stolt. This one has a bit of a Beatles feel to it and is another fine song.

The album finishes off with a Jonas Reingold written song that’s entitled “Rising The Imperial“. According to the credits in the booklet it also features Reinglod’s wife Inger on vocals on this song. No doubt she can be heard in some parts on the backing vocals but does not have a major part on the vocals. I quite like Stolt’s guitar on this one and it’s not a bad song, but nothing that will set the world on fire I feel. But ends the album off sweetly enough.

Overall the Banks Of Eden by The Flower Kings is an album that perhaps has more of a popular music feel to parts of the music mixed in with all the progression you get here. No doubt it’s an album that has a bit more of a light hearted approach in many ways. It also could be seen like a fresh start in some ways I suppose as well. It’s a pleasant enough album that flows very well from start to finish, though it’s perhaps not in contention with many of its predecessors on that score. But never the less a welcoming return after their 5 years break so to speak. My personal highlights from the album are “Numbers” and “Pandemonium“.

Cain Came Back Empty Handed…

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Numbers. 25:26. 2. For The Love Of Gold. 7:25. 3. Pandemonium. 6:09. 4. For Those About To Drown. 7:06. 5. Rising The Imperial. 7:51.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6/10.

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TFK - DR

Desolation Rose

The band managed to keep the same line-up of musicians and in following year and in between March – May they recorded the bands 12th album Desolation Rose. The album was eventually released on the 28th October 2013 and is the latest album of The Flower Kings to date. It could even be the final album of the band, but it’s perhaps too early at this stage to make any real presumptions and this is not the first time it’s took 5 years for an album to surface. As always the album was produced by Roine Stolt and once again the albums artwork was done by Silas Toball.

The album contains 10 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 59 minutes, 34 minutes. The limited edition release also came with an 8 track bonus disc, to which they also have included on one of the bonus discs in this box set. Most of the material on the album is written by Roine Stolt but the interesting thing here is that 3 of the tracks “Sleeping Bones“. “The Resurrected Judas” and “Dark Fascist Skies” were actually credited to the band. I am pretty sure that’s a first. “White Tuxedos” was credited to both Stolt & Reingold.

The album Desolation Rose is very much a concept album and even flows like one too with how all the tracks run along continuously and are joined to each other from start to finish. Though its not a story as such and the concept is more based around the lyrical content and subject matters of war, religion, politics, death and so on. The album also consists of shorter tracks too, and the longest track on the album is the opening track “Tower One” that weighs in at some 13 minutes, 37 seconds.

It’s perhaps not one of those albums that you could play a single track from with how it’s all been put together, but I have no problem with that because it does work very well from start to finish and I quite like what they have done here too.

Once again the band sound fresh yet still have that certain familiarity regarding the bands overall style and sound. I also think the material they have written here is a bit more stronger than their previous album Banks Of Eden. It’s not a solid album by any means and personally I feel it fizzles out a bit more from the half way point towards the end.

Overall Desolation Rose is quite a good album that does not really disappoint and makes quite and enjoyable album to listen to from start to finish. I certainly do not think its one of their albums you are going to pulling classics from to play now and then, like you could do with many of the bands earlier albums. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Tower One“. “White Tuxedos“. and “The Resurrected Judas“.

Dead Eyes Of A Raven Spell Global Disaster…

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Tower One. 13:37. 2. Sleeping Bones. 4:16. 3. Desolation Road. 4:00. 4. White Tuxedos. 6:30. 5. The Resurrected Judas. 8:24. 6. The Silent Masses. 6:17. 7. Last Carnivore. 4:22. 8. Dark Fascist Skies. 6:05. 9. Blood of Eden. 3:12. 10. Silent Graveyards. 2:51.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 7/10.

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Binus Discs 1 -3 - 2

A Kingdom Of Colours II (Bonus Discs 1 – 3)

The box set as I mentioned comes with 3 bonus discs. In total you get 31 tracks spread over the 3 discs most of which came from the bonus discs that came with the limited editions of the albums they released. You also get the odd few that may not have been released before that came from left over tracks they wrote for their albums, and never got included on them. And also the odd tracks that came from Fan Club releases from the bands website. They have also put the bonus material we have here in very much in a chronological order of the years they came out.

To be honest I am a bit disappointed that they have not included all the bonus tracks that came with the limited edition of the bands 2001 album The Rainmaker and have only included 1 of the 6 bonus tracks from that release. I think they have done that with all the earlier albums too that were made before the albums that came in this 2nd box set.

The fact that they never give you any bonus material in the first box set A Kingdom Of Colours does not really help either, and now I am hoping there will be a 3rd box set that will surface in the near future that will include them along with their live albums.

TFK - AKOC -B1

(Bonus Disc 1)

The first of the bonus discs contains material that written between 1996 – 2005. The disc contains 9 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 65 minutes, 31 seconds. Both the first 2 tracks “Kite” and “Buffalo Man” were a couple of tracks that never made the bands 2nd album Retropolis and came from those sessions for the album. However they did surface on a Limited Edition EP that was released in Québec in Canada only in 1998 along with a few other tracks. Both “The Flower King (re-recording 1998)” and also the “Stardust We Are (re-recording 1998)” were originally released on a compilation album the band released in 1998 which was called Scanning The Greenhouse.

Last Exit” was originally released in the year 2000 and came on the Japanese release of Space Revolver that came with a bonus CD containing 5 tracks. 1 of the other tracks from that bonus disc is also included on the 2nd bonus CD that comes with this box set. Both “Brazilian Woman” and “Dexter Frank Jr” came from the Harvest Fan Club release in 2005. This would of been only available from the bands website which is now distinct and no longer there. The track “Space Traveller” was also a fan club release that came out in 2004 and was written by Michael Stolt. And “Agent Supreme” was 1 of the 6 bonus tracks that came from the limited edition of The Rainmaker from 2001.

So as you can see there is quite a mixed bag here regarding the bonus material, and it looks as if they placed the tracks not particularly in the order they came out but near enough. They most likely shifted a couple of tracks around a bit to make it work a bit better and make it feel more like an album sort of the thing.

Overall the bonus material is quite good and they even included a 1998 re-recording of “The Flower King” that came from Roine Stolt’s solo debut album before the actual band The Flower Kings were born so to speak. I personally do not rate this new re-recording in comparison to the original though, and I would say the same thing for the re-recording of “Stardust We Are” as well, but they are not still pretty good and do have a different flavour about them. They are certainly amongst the better material and highlights on this 1st disc, and great to see they have been included here too.

I think it’s easy to see why both “Kite” and “Buffalo Man” never made the Retropolis album and they are both quite weak in comparison to the much stronger material that did wind up on the album. “Last Exit” is OK but perhaps does not make it that well over this distance and gets a tad weaker towards the end. The “Brazilian Woman” is a nice enough piece with nice nylon guitar though with the accordion is perhaps has more of European thing about it.

Dexter Frank Jr” is nice enough slow bit of jazz and I would also include this one amongst the highlights here too, along with the great up-tempo track “Agent Supreme” and the last track “Space Traveller” which is the longest track and instrumental piece on this 1st disc and merits my top spot on this disc. It’s contains some really gorgeous slide playing on the dobro guitar and reminds me of Mark Knopfler. The slide guitar indecently was played by Ola Gustavsson.

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Kite. 7:31. 2. Buffalo Man. 5:35. 3. The Flower King (re-recording 1998). 11:44. 4. Stardust We Are (re-recording 1998). 8:57. 5. Last Exit. 9:18. 6. Brazilian Woman. 4:18. 7. Dexter Frank Jr. 2:24. 8. Agent Supreme. 2:34. 9. Space Traveller. 13:10.

Lee’s Bonus Disc 1 Rating Score. 6/10.

TFK - AKOC - B2

(Bonus Disc 2)

The 2nd bonus disc comes with 10 tracks and has an overall time of smack on 53 minutes. The material for this particular disc was written between 2004 – 2007. It opens up with another track from the 2004 Fan Club release album “Petit Heritage” and is followed by “A Good Heart” which is the 2nd track and last of the bonus tracks they have taken from the Japanese release of Space Revolver that came with a 5 track bonus disc. Both “The Crown and The Cross” and “King of Grief” came from the 2005 Harvest Fan Club album release.

She Carved Me a Wooden Heart“. “Space Revolver” and “Jupiter Backwards” came from the Japanese release of the 2004 album Adam & Eve which came with a 9 track bonus disc. The other 6 tracks that on that disc was the same bonus tracks that came with the limited edition of The Rainmaker. The last 3 tracks “The River“. “Turn The Stone” and “Regal Divers” on this 2nd disc come from the limited edition bonus disc of the 2007 album The Sum Of No Evil.

The most interesting thing about this 2nd bonus disc is that all the material they have chosen for it is almost entirely instrumental. I also like the way it’s so very well been compiled as well with the placement of the tracks. In some respects its a bit like a game of 2 halves the way the first 5 tracks are all joined to one another and its a bit like a medieval musical journey.

The remaining 5 tracks are not joined but you still get this feeling of a magical journey with how they flow together especially from tracks 6 & 7 which are still at this point instrumental tracks. I am not for one minute suggesting that the guys in the band cannot sing but this is really sounding like a great album with how things are running along. Tracks 8 & 9 are the only vocal tracks on the album and the final track is an instrumental track that reminds me of the band Focus and puts a great end to this 2nd disc.

Overall the 2nd bonus disc is the best of the 3 you get here. This is very good strong written material that even works like you have another really superb album of The Flower Kings in some respects. It just goes to show that not all bonus material in particular is weak and it may of been the case that it was only ever left off the original albums because it was perhaps not fitting with their plans for them.

There is no doubt that this works like an album and flows superbly with how its been compiled and there is nothing weak here at all. My personal highlights are “The Crown and The Cross“. “King of Grief“. “She Carved Me a Wooden Heart“. “Space Revolver” and “Regal Divers“.

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Petit Heritage. 2:02. 2. A Good Heart. 5:21. 3. The Crown and The Cross. 4:57. 4. King of Grief. 3:51. 5. She Carved Me a Wooden Heart. 5:59. 6. Space Revolver. 7:29. 7. Jupiter Backwards. 6:26. 8. The River. 5:44. 9. Turn The Stone. 5:09. 10. Regal Divers. 6:02.

Lee’s Bonus Disc 2 Rating Score. 9/10.

TFK - AKOC - B3

(Bonus Disc 3)

The final bonus disc contains all the bonus material that came from the limited editions of their last 2 albums Banks Of Eden and Desolation Rose. In total you get 12 tracks over a playing time of 53 minutes, 53 seconds. They all run in the same order too and the first of the 4 bonus tracks came from the bonus disc of the Banks Of Eden the 1st being an instrumental piece entitled “Illuminati“. Once again this track has a nice Focus feel about it and I quite like this one.

The following 3 tracks “Fireghosts“. “Going Up” and “LoLines” are all vocal tracks and are all quite good too. My favourite of them perhaps being “Fireghosts“. 3 of the 4 bonus tracks were written by Roine Stolt and “Going Up” was penned by Jonas Reingold.

The remaining 8 tracks came from the Desolation Rose bonus disc which contains only 2 vocal tracks “Runaway Train” has a sort of Neal Morse vibe about it, especially with the use of the counter harmonies. But it’s perhaps one of the weaker tracks of the bunch here. The other vocal track “Lazy Monkey” is one of the shortest tracks on the album and is a very well written song. I like this one a lot and it’s my favourite track on this 3rd bonus disc.

The other 6 Instrumental tracks are all quite good “Interstellar Visitations” is the longest track on the album, and to be honest most of the tracks on this bonus disc are quite short. But that can also be a good thing at times. “Psalm” is the shortest track on the album and this has quite a lovely feel and flow to it and is quite subtle like the last track on the album “The Final Era“.

The other 3 instrumental pieces are quite more interesting and “The Wailing Wall” has a bit of a Ritchie Blackmore feel about it. Whilst “Badbeats” has a Santana feel in parts and “Burning Spears” has quite a Marillion feel about it, especially how it opens up, it’s almost like an intro to “Incommunicado“.

Overall the 3rd bonus disc is not as strong as the 2nd bonus disc but there is quite a few good tracks here to enjoy. My personal highlights are as follows: “Lazy Monkey“. “Illuminati“. “The Wailing Wall“. “Fireghosts” “Burning Spears” and “The Final Era“.

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Illuminati. 5:56. 2. Fireghosts. 5:50. 3. Going Up. 5:10. 4. LoLines. 4:24. 5. Runaway Train. 4:41. 6. Interstellar Visitations. 8:24. 7. Lazy Monkey. 2:24. 8. Psalm. 2:10. 9. The Wailing Wall. 3:18. 10. Badbeats. 5:24. 11. Burning Spears. 3:15. 12. The Final Era. 2:57.

Lee’s Bonus Disc 3 Rating Score. 6/10.

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Summary…

To sum up my review of The Flower Kings box set A Kingdom Of Colours II (2004 – 2013). Once again they have done the business on the packaging and presented it very neatly in a very well constructed attractive looking quality box. The second half of The Flower Kings discography still sees the band churning out some really great output with the 5 albums they made from 2004 – 2013. Personally for me both the double album Paradox Hotel and the single album The Sum Of No Fear are amongst the strongest albums they made during this stage of their career. But there is some Gems to be found on the other 3 albums too.

The bonus material is also very good and well worthy of having. The 2nd bonus disc in particular is my personal favourite out of the 3 discs you get here. In many ways it’s like having another solid album of the band. No doubt not all of the bands bonus material is included here, but it does tend to cover the extra material they released during the making of the 5 albums that are in this box set. The bonus material is also something I was glad to see in this box set too, and it’s something they never included in their 1st box set A Kingdom Of Colours (1995 – 2002).

Speaking of the previous box set and my review of it awhile back. I know I did have a bit of a moan about how the CD’s come in cardboard wallets rather than DigiSleeves. I have sort of got used to that idea now, and it would of been nice if they could of done things that way as well. But no doubt it would add to the cost and I cannot really complain how things have been done here, and this is still saving you a lot of money over the individual releases and is amazing value for the money.

Conclusion…

The conclude by review of A Kingdom Of Colours II (2004 – 2013) by The Flower Kings. It’s perhaps not a box set that is gonna give you anything extra, not even with the bonus material you get here for diehard fans of The Flower Kings who would most likely have everything that’s in here. But even for those diehard fans this could be seen as a very attractive collector’s edition that would look nice on their shelves with how well they have presented things here.

Not only is this package neat, stylish and attractive. It also comes at an attractive price point of £35. So it’s not entirely gonna break your bank account so to speak. The fact that it’s also a limited edition and only 3,000 have been made. Means that not only will this box set hold its price, but it may be worth even more in the future, so you cannot really lose out with a package like this.

For those who never had any of The Flower Kings albums, and are thinking of buying their albums having recently heard them. This box set certainly offers you the cheapest option and no doubt you are getting bang on quality for the buck by buying a box set like this. You are also getting several hours of really great quality music and it’s well worth the money. I would even recommend the 1st box set A Kingdom Of Colours (1995 – 2002) too, that contains the first half of the bands discography.

As to what the future holds for The Flower Kings it’s hard to say that this is the end. One can never speculate what the future holds, and I would think that even at this point Roine Stolt would find it very hard to say goodbye to this project he created. So it would not surprise me if we see a new album by The Flower Kings at some point.

It also would not surprise me if A Kingdom Of Colours III was to materialise in the near future either. A 3rd box set consisting of the bands live albums and DVD’s plus some bonus material perhaps. It’s something I would like to see and would also buy. Though I do have both Meet The Flower Kings and Instant Delivery already on DVD. Both of which I also highly recommend.

Coming up a bit later on this month for review we have more from Roine Stolt with his latest project The Sea Within which was released at the end of last month.

Lee’s overall Complete Box Set Value Rating…

The Box Set Presentation Rating Score. 10/10.

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

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Lee Speaks About Music… #89

L – 1VE – Haken

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Introduction…

Well the long wait is finally over and after 11 years we finally get to see a live album release, well live video album release in this case which captures the band live from last year celebrating their 10th Anniversary since the London based progressive metal band got together back in 2007. The band Haken have come on a long way since they put out a CD-R demo album Enter the 5th Dimension back in 2008 and been through a few line up changes along the way too.

2010 saw the release of the bands official debut album Aquarius to which they followed it up a year later with their 2nd album Visions. A couple of years later in 2013 their 3rd album The Mountain sprang upon us and in the following year 2014 the band reworked a few tracks from their original demo album from 2008 and released the EP Restoration. The bands latest studio album to date Affinity surfaced in 2016 and the band are also believed to be working on their 5th studio album according to recent interviews, and its expected to released by the end of this year.

So with this release and a future release in the pipeline, it’s looking like a very good year for Haken fans, and the band have certainly gave them a super bargain here with this live release. But before we go any further, let’s take a look at the packaging & artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

Packaging

Well as you see by the picture above the band have spared no expense in giving their fans quite a lot extra for the money. This particular package comes in a very well constructed 5 panel cardboard Digipak with mounted sturdy plastic trays to hold all 4 discs in place, and add support to the packaging. It even has a pocket on the middle panel to store the 18 page booklet that comes with it.

The booklet is mainly filled with photographs of the band from the live concert they performed, and is perhaps to be a bit expected being that it’s a live album release. So it’s not so much of a booklet that will give you a great deal of informative information about the event. But you do get 3 pages of well detailed linear notes on the whole production side of things.

Artwork.

The album cover artwork was done by Blacklake Design and the band have been using their artwork for quite awhile now, and they also done the designs for their EP and last two studio albums. Though those may be a bit more impressive than the way they have gone about presenting this live album.

I have to confess that even though the Digipak came wrapped in cellophane and sealed when it arrived from Amazon. Upon removing the cellophane it appeared that somebody had, had their filthy mitts all over the cover, and it even looked like they had even spilt their coffee over it :))))))).

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The picture above shows you the state of the cardboard Digipak and it was that convincing that some dirty bugger had their filthy hands on it first, that I was thinking about returning it. Till I checked out further images of it on the net LOL…

L – 1VE (Live 2 CD/2 DVD) In Review…

Haken’s first official live video album entitled L – 1VE was released on the 22nd June 2018. I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon on the 19th April and it arrived on the day of it’s release. The 4 disc set is amazing value for it price point and is around £14.99 at most online stores. Considering you are getting 2 CD’s and 2 DVD’s at such a bargain price, they have not skimped on the quality either, and the recording of this live show sounds mind bogglingly staggering even on the CD’s.

So far all 5 of the reviews that have come in on Amazon UK so far are all 5 Star reviews. The titled headings of some of those reviews range from the words “Fantastic”. Buy” and “Absolutely Stunning”. I would agree whole heartedly with all those.

To be honest as a rule I very rarely play the CD’s that come in a set like this, and prefer to watch the live concert with my own eyes on the DVD. But as with most of the music I buy on DVD and Blu Ray. The only real chance I get to play them is when the Mrs has gone out. The fact that Haken are more of a metal prog rock band, you do need to play them that much louder, and I do not think the wife would put up with that somehow :)))))).

But I was itching to hear this one, so I played the both CD’s of the live show first and blasted it out on my headphones. I was blown away by the quality recording and this band does really kick ass too.

The 2 CD’s.

Both the CD’s that you get here contain the whole of the live concert they played in the Netherlands. The 1st CD contains 5 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 49 minutes and 2 seconds. The 2nd CD comes with 6 tracks and an overall playing time of 65 minutes, 27 seconds. The track listing I shall post at the end of the review.

DVD 1.

SS 1

The 1st DVD contains the whole of the live concert and when loading it into your DVD Player it presents you with a short moving animated view of an office. The picture pans over to the left and stops at the old computer monitor to give you the menu options. The 3 option choices it presents you with are simple enough to navigate and I quite the way they have presented the main menu. The green monitor also flashes and distorts the wording on the options menu. So I took at least 3 shots of each screen to make sure the wording was not blurred.

SS 3

By clicking on the “Track Select” it lodes to another screen to present you with all the tracks of the live concert. A good option to have if you want to show a friend a track or two and have not got the time to show them the whole concert. As you can see by the display above, this computer is a really old Amstrad Microcomputer and would of been running on DOS and was built before Microsoft had made Windows. I just hope it does not come with any Syntax Errors :))))).

SS 2

By clicking on the “Audio Options” from the main menu it loads and presents you with the screen to make your preferred audio choice. By default its set to PCM Stereo and the only multichannel surround sound choice we have here is your standard AC3 Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that comes in 16/48K. Not the best choice for 5.1 mixes by far and I would of liked to have seen a DTS 5.1 mix as well. But I shall give you my verdict of it in my review of the 5.1 mix.

DVD 2.

SS D2 1

The 2nd DVD is the bonus disc and once again we get some more animation from the Amstrad Microcomputer that you get to see before we get to the main menu as seen here in the picture above. Once again we are presented with the same main menu options of “Play Concert”. “Track Select” “Audio Options” and “Extras”. The “Audio Options” are the same as what we got on the 1st DVD.

SS D2 2

As you can see from the “Track List” menu this concert is more of a mini concert and contains 4 songs. But some of these are quite lengthy and you get 47 minutes and 49 seconds of the band playing live on the centre stage at the ProgPower festival they played a year before in Atlanta USA on the 10th September 2016.

This is a great extra to have and none of the 4 songs you get here are on the main concert on the 1st DVD either. They perform both “Falling Back to Earth” and “Pareidolia” from their 3rd album The Mountain. “Earthrise” from their latest album to date Affinity and the epic “Crystallised” from their EP Restoration to which ex Dream Theater’s Mike Portnoy comes on at the end to bang a Gong :))))).  It really is another excellent show.

SS D2 3

The final bonus material we get here is in the “Extras” menu as shown above, and you can see that it contains 3 of the official videos all which came from their last album Affinity. All 3 of them are very good and with all the effects they thrown into them these would of really been suited for an HD release on Blu Ray. Overall the bonus material is really good with all you get here, it would of been nice if they had an interview with the band talking about the concert included on here. But at this price one cannot really complain, and you are still getting quite of a bit of really good bonus material too.

The Picture Quality.

Overall the picture quality of both the live concerts is very good. I do not think they was filmed with HD Cameras (but I could be wrong) especially as it was released on DVD only. If it was filmed in HD it would benefit even more so from both the picture and sound quality by putting it on a Blu Ray. But I cannot fault anything regarding the picture quality, and these days the fact that DVD and Blu Players come with upscalers in them. Makes DVD’s still very much worth buying and you are still getting really good quality too.

The 5.1 Mix.

Both the stereo and 5.1 audio mixes were mixed by Jerry Guidroz. He is known mostly for his work with Neal Morse and is not a bad sound engineer, although I can think of several a lot better on that score, and just who the hell uses Dolby Digital only for their 5.1 mixes these days. A good sound engineer would of had the sense to include a DTS 5.1 mix as well.

I also have a lot of Neal Morse’s DVD’s mixed by Jerry too but neither Neal Morse or his band mate in Transatlantic Roine Stolt no absolutely bugger all about real quality 5.1 mixes I am afraid. These guys are amateurs regarding 5.1 mixes and do nothing for Jerry’s recommendation I am afraid:))))))). But I cannot fault the stereo on their DVD’s at all for that matter.

To be honest Jerry Guidroz as done a pretty decent job on the 5.1 mix for both of the live concerts on this live release for Haken. No doubt the stereo mix is awesome and the overall sound quality of the stereo mix is better than the 5.1 mix. But that’s only really down to him using the lowest quality format for the 5.1 mix, and no doubt had he of also included a DTS soundtrack I think it would be up with the awesomeness of the stereo mix on that score apart from a few tweaks with the main vocals.

I like how he’s placed the instrumentation over the 6 channels and when dealing with heavy guitars like this it’s vitally important to get the placement right to get the best clarity out of the mix. I feel he has done that very well. I also like the way he’s effectively panned out some of the instruments for FX purposes to make it that bit more exciting. Especially on “Cockroach King” and a few other tracks too.

However I do feel he should of utilised the centre speaker more for the main vocals and kept the other speakers for the harmonies from the backing singers only and not shifted the main vocals too much. Sometimes there is a drop in the levels on the main vocals when they do come out the centre speaker, and it’s as if he’s shifted the main vocals to the other speakers so they could be heard properly.

Overall the 5.1 mix could of been better and it’s not a 5.1 mix that will bring out the dynamics that well at all like a very good 5.1 mix will do. But you can still enjoy the 5.1 mix and the panning of the instrumentation will make it that bit more exciting if your one for those effects. But I would say the overall sound quality of the 5.1 mix does lack a bit in comparison to the stereo mix. So this is not a 5.1 mix that is gonna blow your brains out I am afraid. But not bad and Jerry gets a 6 out of 10 for his effort.

Musicians & Credits…

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All songs written and arranged by Haken. Recorded on the 13th April 2017 at Melkweg Oude Zaal, Amsterdam Netherlands. Additional film footage recorded on the 12th April 2017 at Rockhal, Esch Sur Allzette, Luxembourg. Art Design & Layout Blacklake. Live photography by Stephen Schmidt. Joel Barrios. Jose Sanchez. Pierre Mennard. Simen Sandnes. Nico Reinders. Stereo & 5.1 mix by Jerry Guidroz. Stereo & 5.1 mastering by Rob Burrell. Post Production & Animation by Miles Skarin/Crystal Spotlight.

Musicians:
Ross Jennings: Vocals.
Richard Henshall: Guitars/Keyboards/Backing Vocals.
Charlie Griffiths: Guitars/Backing Vocals.
Conner Green: Bass Guitar/Backing Vocals.
Diego Tejeida: Keyboards/Backing Vocals.
Raymond Hearne: Drums/Backing Vocals.

The Concert In Review…

The concert took place and was recorded at the Melkweg Oude Zaal. In Amsterdam in the Netherlands on the 13th April 2017. It was the final concert they played on the first leg of their European tour in celebration of the bands 10th Anniversary. The main concert on the 1st DVD contains 11 tracks and has a total playing time of 1 hour, 54 minutes and 26 seconds and Haken have certainly put on a great set list for this live show.

It also contains some additional film footage that was from Luxembourg on the night before when they played at the Rockhal, Esch Sur Allzette. It states in the booklet that they added the additional footage from that concert for your audio and visual experience. Though to be honest having watched it I cannot see where it’s been added, unless it was footage of them behind the stage and of them entering the stage that was used to make it look that bit better.

The Melkweg is a popular music venue and cultural center in Amsterdam and Melkweg means Milky Way in English. As you can see by the picture below it’s a building that has quite a few halls inside for different events. It even has a small Theater and Cinema house inside. There are two halls that are used for concerts and the hall they call the Max is the largest of them and holds a capacity of around 1,500 people. It’s hosted more popular international artists in the past such as Prince and the Arctic Monkeys and is even used for parties, meetings and film projections.

Melkweg_en_Rabozaal

For lesser known artists such as Haken and the biggest majority of today’s prog rock and prog metal bands, they tend to use the oldest hall in the building known as the Oude Zaal which stands for Old Room in English. This has a lesser capacity and holds around 700 people. In the picture below you can see that the hall is long but does not have a lot of width to it. The fact that is does not have a lot of width does not really make it the most comfortable venue to film a live show.

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But despite the fact that the room does not have a lot of width, I have to say the camera men have done an extremely good job in capturing the live performance, and this is a lot better than most concerts put on DVD that have been filmed in small venues like this such as Arena and Conqueror as an example, where all you see is a full frontal view of the stage and nothing of the audience. They have managed to utilise the space of the hall with how they have gone about it all. I cannot fault the editing either and the whole crew have done a tremendous job.

Most of the material they play live is from their last two albums Affinity and The Mountain. But for those who prefer the material from the bands first two albums, I certainly do not think they will be disappointed. Simply because even though you only get 1 track off each of them, they happen to be the most longest tracks throughout the concert and both are over 22 minutes long.

On With The Show.

The band open the show with the first couple of tracks “affinity.exe/Initiate” from their latest album Affinity. In total the band do 6 of the 9 tracks from the album spread out over the near enough 2 hour show. The first 3 of the albums tracks are rolled out in the order they came from the original album, only we get a slight break from that album and they break into “In Memoriam” from the bands 3rd album The Mountain. This is the official video taken from the DVD that their record label Inside Out Music posted on their TV Channel on Youtube of the live performance of the song.

As you can see by the video the cameras have captured the venue very well even with long shots from the back of the hall. You do tend to get the odd reviewer moaning about the editing side of things these days, especially with the amount of cuts that they have done to show the different angles and capture all the musicians on the stage doing their thing. No doubt there are tons in this one song alone. But I am sorry to say that I prefer how this has been done like it is. It makes the show far more exciting to watch.

To be honest I am not personally myself into metal and watching any guitarist play metal I can honestly say he’s not gonna work up much of a sweat, simply because most of the work is coming from the hand that plays the rhythm and the hand that plays the chords basically is going nowhere in relation to say watching Steve Howe’s chord hand flying up and down the neck on a guitar whilst playing “Close To The Edge” as an example.

If you are gonna put still cameras on these guitarists they are gonna look boring I can assure you. The bass player is working up more of sweat than the guitarists do, and visually it looks like he’s doing a lot more as well. I am not denying that there is a technique to playing metal and it’s far from easy to play as well. But the technique is in the rhythm hand and not the hand that plays the chords and the notes on the neck. So for me the guitarists tend to look less interesting in these types of bands.

That’s why I much prefer prog rock to metal but Haken have their own approach to metal and mix it with prog rock to make it more interesting. This is a band that have their own unique way and sound as well, and that’s what I like a lot about this band. But even watching a show like this I picked up on a few things that I never noticed before, and will discuss them a bit further on.

The band are well warmed up now and proceed by rolling out both “1985” and “Red Giant” from their Affinity album. The first of those being the more exciting out of the two. But no doubt the band have worked out their songs very well for the stage and are they have a difference in the presence and feel about them in relation to the studio album tracks.

Speaking of being different next up we have the “Aquamedley” and here the band have successfully managed to squeeze the 72 and a half minutes of their debut album Aquarius into 22 and half minutes and this for me is my personal favourite track on the live album. Even the guitarists do not look boring on this one that’s for sure :)))))). But no doubt these are all very skilful musicians and are doing a grand job of it all.

Another good thing about this live album and this particular track, is if you do not have enough time to play the original studio album, the 22 and half minute live version of it does an excellent job of presenting you with the best of it. The band have really gone to town here and this is purely Fantastic.

The band kick off the 2nd part of their live set by rolling out 3 songs from their 3rd album The Mountain starting off with “As Death Embraces” which is a fine ballad of a song that features Diego Tejeida on the piano and it gives Ross Jennings a chance to stretch out his vocal chords a bit at the end. The band really do get to bring their songs even more to life on the stage I feel and they do a superb job on the next track “Atlas Stone” that features some really great interplay with the guitars and keyboards.

The final track they play from this album happens to be my favourite from it, and is the classic “Cockroach King“. This is perhaps one of the best highlights of the show and is quite Gentle Giant like this song with it’s 4 part harmonies and it’s time signature changes. The band do a superb job playing this live and this is quite a complex piece to pull off live, but they do the business on it.

The band then roll out another epic piece of work as they play the longest track from the Affinity album “The Architect” and boy can this band play. This is another of my personal favourites and highlights from this live show and they do such a superb job of it all. The other thing I picked up on whilst watching Haken live is there keyboard player can work in the same way Jordan Rudess does for Dream Theater at times with how they use guitar patches on their keyboards which contributes to making the sound even thicker and heavier.

To be honest it’s one of the things I can despise Jordan Rudess for at times because he does tend to go overboard with guitar patches played on his keyboards, and half the time if you listen to Dream Theater you cannot make out if Rudess is playing the guitar parts or John Petrucci. I sometimes get the feeling that he wants to make up his mind and decide if he wants to be a keyboard player or a guitarist :))))))). Thankfully Haken’s keyboard player does not go quite go over the top like Rudess does. at times with heavy guitar patches. No doubt Jordan Rudess is a class keyboard player and up their with the best. But I prefer his solo work and am not that much into Dream Theater at all.

The band hit out hard the last of the songs from their Affinity album with “The Endless Knot” and they have covered most of this album very well and done a really super job of presenting all their material live on this release. The video below is taken from the DVD and only 2 official videos from the show were posted on Inside Out’s Music TV Channel on the Tube. To be honest I wish I had the “Cockroach King” I could post here and that is without doubt one of the better highlights of the show.

The band close the live show off with the only track from their 2nd album Visions and do the complete epic self titled track from the album which is some 23 and half minutes on this live version you get here. Another superb highlight from the show and a Fantastic way to put an end to a really Fantastic live concert.

Summary…

To sum up my review of Haken’s first live Video/CD album release entitled L – 1VE (Live in Amsterdam). I personally think it’s a concert the band would most likely be highly proud of themselves with the fantastic performance they put on. The production of both the CD’s and DVD’s you get in this packages are quite stunning. The only real downside is perhaps the 5.1 mix, but even that is still quite good.

I would also say for those who have never heard Haken or even heard of them. This is the kind of live concert one could still get a lot out of and enjoy, and would even make a great introduction to the band as well I feel. My personal highlights from the live show are “Aquamedley“. “Cockroach King“. “Visions“. “The Architect” and “1985“.

There is no doubt that Haken are a great live act and I very much think that most of the material they play from all 4 of their studio albums, sounds even better live than on the actual studio albums. I very much think for all Haken fans this live release is a must to have in your collection. I even think for anyone watching a live show as good as this, they would have a lot more respect for the band, because they have truly pulled out all the stops and punches and put on quite a magical performance.

Conclusion…

Overall Haken’s latest new live release entitled L – 1VE is a live show that will simply rock your socks off and it offers outstanding value for the buck. You get a lot here for your money too, and at it’s price point of £14.99 for 2 CD’s & 2 DVD’s you simply cannot go wrong and you are not only getting 1 live concert, but an excellent mini concert and a few extras thrown in to boot. You get a hell of a lot more for your money and it really is a quality package, even if it does look like that some filthy mother fucker got his hands on it first :))))))).

Haken’s music is quite fresh and exciting and is a combination of both metal and prog rock, but there is even some modern pop elements in their music as well which all adds up to making this band something of a touch different from the rest. However you define their music, they not only have the power, but they also have the subtly and precision to pull it all off and give their fans what they want. This may be just the thing that will rock your boat, and at this price you simply cannot sink.

The Cockroach Sits On His Thrown With He Midas Touch Of Heat And Stone…

The 2 CD listing is as follows:

Disc 1.
01. affinity.exe/Initiate. 6:00.
02. In Memoriam. 4:42.
03. 1985. 9:21.
04. Red Giant. 6:31.
05. Aquamedley. 22:28.

Disc 2.
01. As Death Embraces. 3:51.
02. Atlas Stone. 7:12.
03. Cockroach King. 8:17.
04. The Architect. 15:59.
05. The Endless Knot. 6:34.
06. Visions. 23:34.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 9/10.

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

Lee’s Picture Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee’s 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 6/10.

Lee’s Live Concert Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee Speaks About Other Oddities… #2

Bored CD

Are Albums Too Long These Days?

Having just recently brought the recent box set of The Flower Kings A Kingdom Of Colours II which was released last month. Whilst I am still working on my review for the box set, the question of are albums too long with everything one tries to cram on a CD in particular did arise. I was also wondering if this also had an impact on why album sales were not that popular any more due to the fact of all the gap fillers they put on them just to make up the space, and the extra time it will take to listen and digest all the material.

There are many artists these days who tend to try and squeeze the life out of the space of a compact disc by filling them up to the brim with information. But could this also be too much food for thought?. Many artists tend to cram an whole double albums worth of material onto a single disc. But could this really be seen like giving their fans something more for the money?. It really begs the ?.

For example I myself prefer the old 40 minute album time slot, especially if you have a large record collection like myself. It helps you to devote more time to your collection as well. I cannot say I am a fan of this longer time slot and even down to the fact that shoving near enough 80 minutes onto a compact disc is classed as a single album. It takes up the time slot of a double album from back in 70’s, and an album this size would benefit more by sticking it on 2 discs in reality.

I am not saying I cannot sit here and listen to an whole album this size in one sitting. But I do feel making single albums this long could have some downfalls. The first being that it will certainly be a lot harder to make a solid album over this distance, and some could not even do that over 40 minutes never mind the 60 – 80 minutes they cram on the things these days. Also most albums this long do tend to come with gap fillers.

Secondly unless you can be completely on your own. The chances are that you have got twice as much chance of being disturbed whilst listening to the album. And last of all. Albums this length may have also contributed to why these days people would rather buy single tracks than albums.

Unless you are a serious music listener like myself, a 60 – 80 minute album will be too much for most people I would of thought. It’s a bit like an artist making a double albums worth of material with every release. The very fact that most artists only ever released their albums on CD over the past few decades, and are now these days finally getting around to putting them on vinyl now since it’s become a bit more popular again. Proves they was double albums in the first place. Simply because it’s going to take up 2 vinyl albums to put the material that came off 1 CD.

It’s not a case of the artist giving you extra value for the money at all by shoving more material onto a disc, and I have never seen the longer album in that way. The art of making a good album is so that when the last track on the album finishes, it leaves the listener wanting more. By giving them more in the first place is never really gonna do the trick I feel.

So what are your thoughts on the longer album time slot. Do you think there is any real benefit from artists making albums this long?. Do you see them as extra value?. Do you think it puts people off buying them because of all the gap fillers?. Do you think that the long album has contributed to why more people have turned to buying just certain tracks?. It makes you wonder, or am I just talking a load of Dingo’s Kidneys :)))))).

Lee Speaks About Music… #88

From Silence To Somewhere – Wobbler

W - FSTS

Introduction…

Since the release of the bands last album the Rites At Dawn in 2011 and the departure of the bands guitarist Morten Andreas Eriksen. I would of thought that a lot of people might have got the impression that the band Wobbler were finished and given up on them by time it took this album to hit the shelves so to speak in 2017. One might have thought that it took a lot of time for the band to find a new guitarist. But that was not so much of the case and the band did not have to look that far to find a replacement either.

Marius Halleland was no stranger to both Morten Andreas Eriksen and the bands bass player Kristian Hultgren. The 3 of them were inseparable in their early adolescence. The first band they was in together morphed into one of the two prototype bands that eventually evolved into Wobbler.

Whilst Eriksen & Hultgren wanted to explore and delve into vintage prog rock, Halleland had his own musical avenues he wanted to explore, and was perhaps more into metal than prog rock. He too had also enjoyed a long stay in the metal band Thunderbolt the same band that Wobbler’s former singer Tony Johannessen was in. Occasionally Wobbler’s now former guitarist Morten Eriksen would step in and play bass for the band to back then as well.

It was whilst the band Wobbler had a small tour of Italy planned that they invited their old friend to fill in the vacant spot on the guitar for them. What was supposed to be a temporary gig soon led to him joining the band on a more permanent basis. Just like all the members in the band Wobbler they all have a regular job and the band are not popular enough to live off their music alone. Besides being the bands new guitarist Marius is an high school teacher who teaches Norwegian to high school kids and refugees. He also teaches guitar to students in his spare time.

Marius Halleland officially joined the band in 2014 and once again the band went to work on a new album, an album that once again was quite different from their other albums and so far no Wobbler album sounds alike. But could they maintain their consistency of producing one great album after another. We shall find out, but first let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork as usual.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The limited edition (only) comes in a 2 panel gatefold Digipak and unlike both their albums Hinterland and Rites Of Dawn which came with an inside pocket to store the booklet in. The booklet is stored in the sleeve itself like a vinyl album. The 10 page booklet comes with all the linear production notes, plus a couple of pictures and the lyrics. However it does not come with any information regarding the making of the album, or even mention that they now have a new guitarist.

So its perhaps not that informative enough for folks like myself who like to write reviews, but you can find more resourceful information on the bands website and since writing these reviews, the band have also kindly told me that they would be more than happy to let me know any information I would like to know. Although I do tend not to ask and enjoy doing a bit of research myself for my reviews. So I would not take my own reviews as the bible so to speak, and their is a bit more room for error in them as well.

Overall the Digipak is nice and neat, small and compact and does the job very well.

The Artwork.

The album covers artwork is an illustration of the Cabala Mineralis by Simeon ben Cantara, courtesy of The Warburg Institute. To be honest on the CD version they may not look much in relation to the vinyl album, they do not even appear to be that interesting either. But having done a bit of research myself I certainly got more from this artwork than just looking at the CD.

Image 1

There are quite a few books or parts on the Cabala Mineralis and they are actual manuscripts where the artwork has been engraved onto the pages of them. The images are hermetic emblems and the emblems we have here come from the second book and are based on levity.

Basically this is all part of medieval neologism and it’s just as well the band decided not too base the concept of this album around the part of the manuscript that features the sea horse on urine. Otherwise they might have been taking the piss :)))))).

The other interesting piece of artwork is a gatefold picture of painting that you will find  in the booklet. And here we have a very fine painting done by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Robert Hughes. The painting pictured below he done in watercolours and it was inspired by one of Christina Rossetti’s poems entitled “Amor Mundi” (‘Love of the World’). Part of her poem reads the following words:

“Oh, what’s that in the hollow, so pale, I quacke to follow? Oh, that’s a thin dead body, which waits the eternal term”. It could be that our dead friend in the picture here needs a spot of medieval levity to raise it from the dead so to speak. But whatever it’s all quite fascinating stuff.

Cente image

The artwork was provided with courtesy of the Royal Watercolour Society and no doubt both Andreas Prestmo and Kristian Hultgren who wrote the lyrics for this album, have been hard at work and studying hard.

CD & Vinyl Releases…

From Silence To Somewhere was released on Karisma Records an independent record label based in Bergen, Norway. I have to say it seems rather odd that the band practically have their own record label Termo Records which was jointly owned by the bands keyboard player Lars Fredrik Frøislie and Jacob Holm-Lupo. Makes me wonder if they just changed the name of it. But whoever owns it no doubt perhaps named it after The Famous Charisma Label :))))))).

Vinyl

They also released the album with a choice of coloured and black vinyl. Both the Transparent vinyl with black marbling & Transparent orange vinyl with black marbling were limited editions and only 500 copies were pressed. They are long gone now. But the black vinyl album is still very much available as it was not a limited edition.

They also released it with 2 CD versions. The only difference between the 2 is that the limited edition comes in a Digipak where as the other edition comes in a standard jewel case. The limited edition is also sold out. However I did manage to obtain it brand new from left over stock from a shop in France called Season Of Mist.

But it did cost me a lot extra and I ended up paying £18.42 for it. I could of got the standard jewel case edition for £11. But because I have all their other 3 albums in cardboard Digipaks & DigiSleeves I wanted to match them up, and I do think jewel cases are a bit outdated these days.

Musicians & Credits…

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All songs written, arranged and produced by Wobbler. Composed & Recorded at LFF Studios and Vilthagen Studios between 2014 – 2017. Engineered by Lars Frøislie. Mixed by Lars F. Frøislie & Wobbler. Mastered at Tinfoil Audio by Jens Petter Nilsen. Front cover illustration from “Cabala Mineralis” by Simeon ben Cantara, courtesy of The Warburg Institute. Gatefold illustration by Edward Robert Hughes, courtesy of the Royal Watercolour Society. Band photos by Terje Skår.

Musicians:
Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo: Lead Vocals/Guitars/Glockenspiel & Percussion.
Marius Halleland: Guitars & Backing Vocals.
Kristian Hultgren: Bass Guitars/Bass Pedals/Bass Clarinet.
Lars Fredrik Frøislie: Keyboards & Backing Vocals.
Martin Nordrum Kneppen: Drums/Percussion/Recorder.

Additional Musicians:
Ketil Vestrum Einarsen: Flute (On “From Silence To Somewhere” & Foxlight”).
Øystein Bech Gadmar: Crumhorn (On “Foxlight”).
Renato Manzi: Spoken Word (On “Fermented Hours”).

The Album In Review…

Wobbler’s 4th album From Silence To Somewhere was released on the 20th October 2017. The album contains 4 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 46 minutes, 33 seconds. There is no doubt that the band had a bit of Yes vibe going on with there previous album Rites At Dawn. On this album we get more of an early Genesis thing going on. No doubt there is a ton of other influences here too, and thankfully you are not going to get Peter Gabriel like vocals, like we got with Jon Anderson like vocals and harmonies on there last album.

The album From Silence To Somewhere sparked quite a bit of interest and it was very well received upon its release. It was voted the best prog rock album of the year in 2017 by Progrock Archives dot com. To some that might not seem like that much of an achievement. But for me both progrockarchives.com and Classic Rock have been my go to bibles of progressive rock for the past decade and more.

I even used to write album reviews on them many moons ago and only stopped when I lost my password and could no longer get into them. I could of registered again with them, but did not fancy starting all over again under a new name. So these days I prefer to write and post my reviews here instead.

There is no doubt that the band Wobbler have still managed to maintain a steady relationship, and still have a very capable band line-up to produce such well crafted music despite the couple of line-up changes to the band. If anything the band are getting stronger and stronger and this promo video for their latest album From Silence To Somewhere shows you just how well they are all getting along with each other.

The band are getting stronger and stronger I feel with each new album release, and the fact that they are incorporating more vocals into their music is working very well for it. Like I have mentioned in my previous reviews of the bands albums, one of the only other possible bands I could think of today who can create 70’s prog rock like it was from that decade are the Swedish band Änglagård.

Earlier this month when I posted my review of Wobbler’s 2nd album Afterglow in one of the few prog rock groups on Facebook. One of the guys in the group who liked my review and the band suggested that I should also have a listen to another Swedish band who go by the name of Sinkadus. I managed to locate their debut album Aurum Nostrum on Youtube and gave it a listen.

I felt the music they did was very good, but for the life of me I just could not get accustomed to their vocalist and that is the very thing that prevented me from seeking out the 2 albums they made and actually buying them. For me personally I cannot fault both the vocalists who have been in Wobbler and this is where I also think they have the edge over both of these Swedish bands.

What I am also liking a lot more about Wobbler now is not only are they incorporating more vocals into their music, but also the lyrical content is also a lot stronger and like most prog rock bands they are looking and reading into good source material to base the lyrical content upon.

The Album Tracks In Review…

The album From Silence To Somewhere is like a continuation of what the band were doing on their previous album, in that they are both quite like concept albums with the subject matter of the lyrics that was written for them. Though both are different regarding the subject matter and they are not really intended to be concept albums in the way of a story with how the individual tracks have been placed on the album.

In some ways I can see what the bands debut album Hinterland could of been like when I look at this album and how they both have 4 tracks on them. The fact we have more lyrics and only 1 instrumental track on From Silence To Somewhere I personally feel works better, but no doubt both albums have their own strengths. Though I do like how the band have progressed since then and how all of it’s members are working more closer as a unit, and they are all contributing to the written material.

The bands new guitarist Marius Halleland comes with an array of different axes, and the picture below displays his weapons of choice.

Guitars

The only one of these guitars that never got used on the album is the Gibson Firebird. It’s quite a nice collection indeed, however I do feel that Marius needs to add a few acoustic guitars to his fine collection.

Now let’s take a look at how the album all panned out, as I go through its 4 tracks.

Track 1. From Silence To Somewhere.

The album opens up with its self titled album track which is quite an epic piece of work that weighs in at 1 second under 21 minutes. For me personally this is the main feature of the album, it’s also the first time any of Wobbler’s albums have kicked off without some short little instrumental ditty, and it appears that they are in a hurry to present to you their latest masterpiece of a track. A masterpiece it certainly is and it’s my personal favourite track on the album and merits the albums top spot award.

I would also say that this is the bands 3rd masterpiece to date, and the only album of theirs that never really had one was their last album Rites At Dawn. Though never the less it’s still very much a strong album with all 5 vocal tracks that were written for it, and it makes up for it. But what I love about this particular track “From Silence To Somewhere” is that the band are very much walking down the same long and lengthy road that we got with it’s other 2 masterpieces “Hinterland” and “Imperial Winter White“.

It shows that the band have not lost a thing over all these years, especially when it comes to constructing lengthy pieces such as these. You have to keep any piece over this distance interesting by using the right progression and smooth transnational changes to make it work so well in the first place. Any piece over this distance also needs to go in many directions for it to work so successfully to keep the listener attentive all the time, and this is where this band have nailed it, and in doing so, you end up with a piece just like this where there is never a dull moment.

The way the track opens up with it’s mysterious dramatic eerie dreamscape, one would think they was in some thick dense fog in the woods and some raging ravenous beast was about to pound on them and rip them to pieces. But no fear cause Martin Nordrum Kneppen is here and he rolls in around the 19 second mark and bashes the living daylights out of the beast with his sticks and allows the rest of the guys to play happily ever after :))))).

Play! the guys certainly do very well indeed for a good 2 and half minutes and it’s like they have combined Mountain’sNantucket Sleighride” with some other stuff from  Procol Harem and The Doors with how they are racing along here. The band simmer the action down very well and around the 2:45 mark we get this beautiful soothing early Genesis like section played on the guitar, synth and mellotron. This fine melody allows Andreas Prestmo to come in on the vocals around the 3:35 mark.

This vocal section and its fine melody is like a cross between Genesis and Magna Carta with its folky vibe and essence (it also gets repeated towards the end) it builds it’s way along up to around the 5:25 mark and we get a bit of Jethro Tull thrown in with the flute, and from the section that runs from 6:09 – 6:57 we get perhaps even more of a Genesis influence with the mellotron, acoustic guitars, recorders and flute. It’s very much a gorgeous section and runs back in with the Tull vibe again and starts to build up more with electric guitars over the vocal section and eventually comes down to allow a transitional change around the 9:30 mark.

From here on up to the 14:12 mark we get an instrumental break section that goes through many transitional changes and the band get to do their thing. You get some nice phasing guitar from Marius Halleland at first and later on it lets the guitar rip a bit more. Meanwhile Lars Fredrik Frøislie is ripping his way along on the hammond and even throws in some synth and is perhaps a bit reminiscent with ELP’sWelcome To The Show” sort of thing.

You get more Ian Anderson like flute thrown in from their regular session player Ketil Vestrum Einarsen. Kristian Hultgren punctuates his way along on the bass as good as ever and Martin Nordrum Kneppen is holding the fort up on the drums. These guys are even bringing in some great melodies and theme work along the way of this great instrumental section, and it all grinds down to an halt to bring in a short chanting section, and then falls back into Genesis mode to bring back in the vocals.

From here on we get some short instrumental passages in between the vocals and it builds itself up more powerfully and grinds down to an halt at the 18:35 mark. The final section is rounded off with Prestmo’s great refined voice and harmonies and is accompanied by some lovely guitar, dreamy keyboard sounds, bells and Hultgren contributes a bit of bass clarinet that gives it a nice touch too.

The lyrical content is once again based around old pagan religious beliefs that derive from Norse Mythology and Heathenry. However the Heathens differ from the Wiccans to which the lyrical content was more based around on their previous album, and neither do Heathens follow the Wheel of The Year. They do however believe in reincarnation and other gods and also told folklore stories just like we have here.

Track 2. Rendered in Shades of Green.

Well I suppose there had to be an instrumental piece somewhere and on this album and they have shifted it to the 2nd spot on the album. The piece is constructed from the piano and is backed up by strings to orchestrate it that bit more and has a sense of drama about it. It sort of works as an interval I suppose, and its short enough not to get in the way of things. Not really sure it was needed though, and it does not really speak with the excitement the rest of the material on album does for that matter either.

Track 3. Fermented Hours.

This is perhaps the more stranger of the other 2 songs left on the album and it’s one of those that does need further spins I feel to get a bit more accustomed to liking it a bit more. To be honest “Fermented Hours” I do not think will grab everybody like the first and last track of this album will, and even though like I said further spins may help you to get a bit more accustomed to it and liking it. It may not necessarily be the case at all.

Lyrically this one does go down more of the Wiccan road and they have broken away from the Heathen side of things and brought in a spot of witchcraft. To be honest I am not that struck on the lyrics we have here and it’s a bit along the lines of a cookery lesson that gives you the recipe and shows you how to bake a cake sort of thing.

The following lyrics from the song give you an example.

Then three onions and fresh water from the sea
Add lead and bring to a boil
Some cloves of garlic and the roots of ancient trees
Leave overnight to soak

Oh, barley
The food of gods and men alike

Grind it to dust
And mix it with
Beaten eggs and the salt from a toad

Two pounds of golden apples dug out from the earth
Slow cook until tender throughout
Peel gently and decompose them one at a time
It should be moist with no lumps

I am sure there is a lot more to the witchcraft thing the band are trying to put across here, but for me personally when looking at how the words have been written. It’s a bit like picking up a cookery book, opening it up to a page with a recipe on it and singing the words from the recipe to a tune. Funny thing about it is, that I have done things like that for a bit of fun in the past. But I would not have recorded it :))))))).

The song also features some spoken words in Italian from Renato Manzi. It adds a sort of dramatic bit horror to it. They really are cooking the books here and the Gnocchi Gnosis may just be all a bit too Fugazi :))))).

Musically its perhaps cooking on gas at the speed the band are flying along on it, they are perhaps cooking this nosh on high heat. It’s opening intro sort of reminds of a bit of a cross combination of “Sound Chaser” by Yes and “Impact” by Patrick Moraz. There is also a bit of Eastern vibe going on here with the music in parts too. It also features some great hammond organ and bass lines, and it has the power to rise to the occasion and fall down in the right places.

Overall “Fermented Hours” perhaps does not speak highly to me like a lot of the output this band have put out. I certainly do not think it’s a classic Wobbler song and even though there is some good progression here, it perhaps does not go in many directions and can say the same thing to me a bit more on that score. But I can still get a lot more out of this than “Rendered in Shades of Green” particularly from the music side of things.

Track 4. Foxlight.

The final track on the album sees the band return to the more early Genesis side of things. It starts off beautifully with some fine arpeggios over the chords on the guitar and has that folky sweet melancholic vibe like some of the songs on the album Trespass that had Anthony Phillips on guitar. As it transcends along a bit more you get to feel and hear the beauty we have here. Lovely job on the vocals/flutes/guitars/keys and percussion.

Around the 3 minute mark some fine electric piano comes into play and you start to get perhaps a bit more “Suppers Ready” vibe from the piece and as that track came from the album Foxtrot that may have also influenced the title we have here. The piece builds its way along and comes to a sudden stop at 3 minutes and 44 seconds. Then the band bring in a bit more power with the bass and drums to take it on another journey sort of thing.

The vocal section contains some really great interplay from the band in between the vocal sections that runs up to 7:18 mark, then we get this lovely subtle instrumental break that sort of has a nice Pentangle feel about it, it also runs into something that sounds like the opening main theme of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells which allows the vocals to come back in subtlety and it even falls back into a Genesis vibe with the flutes and it grinds down nicely to an halt.

At around the 10:08 mark the vocals and some more fine interplay comes into play for the last 3 verses of the song. They even bring in a nice bit of Crumhorn into the instrumentation played by Øystein Bech Gadmar to round it all off very nicely indeed. “Foxlight” is the 2nd longest track on the album and weighs in at 13 minutes and 19 seconds and is another really fabulous piece of work the band have put together here.

Summary…

Well in answer to my question at the beginning of my review to if the band can produce another great album. I very much think they have certainly achieved it. Wobbler’s 4th album From Silence To Somewhere may not be a solid album, but 2 of the tracks on this album make up a lot of the way to it being a very strong album, and perhaps an album one cannot simply ignore.

The albums self titled track “From Silence To Somewhere” is without doubt another masterpiece the band have come up with, and “Foxlight” is also a very strong composition, and for me personally these two tracks are the highlight of this album. Not that there is that many tracks on the album at all. The other couple of tracks are far from disappointing either, but I feel they do not have the same strength to be in with contention with the other 2 tracks on the album.

Conclusion…

The album From Silence To Somewhere may have won the best prog rock album of the year and in my personal opinion it quite rightly deserved to as well. Just like the albums Hinterland and Afterglow it very much contains a masterpiece. And to be perfectly honest when I gave the album Hinterland a 9 out of 10. I did so on the strength of its albums self titled track, and for me that is still the most outstanding piece of work this band have ever done.

My overall score for From Silence To Somewhere may appear that it’s my least favourite Wobbler album. But it’s far from the case. In reality I have gave it the score the album Hinterland should of had and is more of an accurate judgement to the strength of the written material on the album.

Wobbler Albums

All 4 of Wobbler’s albums stand very highly in my record collection and they sit proudly on my shelf. Right now this band are very much my in thing and without a doubt have contributed magnificently to the world of prog rock that is produced in this day and age. This is one of the very few bands who have the ability to bring to you the sound of prog rock from the 70’s and so far they have done it differently with every album they have produced and released.

Making music like this is not about having the best musicians in the world. It boils down to the art of composition. This to me personally is music that is made to last and will stay with you for the rest of your life. Just like all those classic prog rock bands did back in the early 70’s. It does not mean that Wobbler are better than Yes. Genesis. and many more of those greats who made such great music in the early 70’s to last you lifetime.

There is also no doubt that the band Wobbler have taken certain elements from those influences of those greats from the early 70’s. But their real skill lies in how they go about making their music, and that their music is highly original, and they have gone about things in their own way with how they present it to you.

I have a lot of respect and like a lot of bands in today’s world who are still keeping prog rock music alive. Whether it be neo prog rock, progressive metal and what any other form of prog you can think of. They are all great in my opinion and I have brought a ton of albums and still do of the many who are still making this great music today.

But deep in my heart Wobbler have come up with something that is a bit more special for my personal taste in this world of progressive rock. And I just hope I am still alive when they get around to releasing yet another album :))))))).

Proof Of The Undying Truth Beyond These Walls.…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. From Silence to Somewhere. 20:59.
02. Rendered in Shades of Green. 2:05.
03. Fermented Hours. 10:10.
04. Foxlight. 13:19.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 08/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #87

Rites At Dawn – Wobbler

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Introduction…

With the release of their 2nd album Afterglow back in April of 2009 doing quite well and the departure of their singer Tony Johannessen. There was no time to stop and a month later the 4 remaining members of the band started work on what was to be the bands 3rd album Rites At Dawn on the 17th May 2009.

Much of this year was spent slowly piecing together the music side of things by the bands 4 members, and it was not until around January 2010 that the bands new vocalist Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo was brought in to work on some vocal melodies.

I have no idea if it was a band member who originally brought in Prestmo or if the band auditioned for a new singer. Prior to joining Wobbler in 2010 since 1994 Prestmo had been part of the outfit The Chronicles of Father Robin, which coexisted within the same prog scene as Wobbler in the late 90’s-early 2000’s. He had also played Liverpool Music Week, Eurosonic, Popkomm and several other festivals for the music industry with the band Lukas Kasha. He had toured Norway many time and other parts of Europe to some extent, and released a couple of albums.

There is no doubt that each album Wobbler have produced sounds entirely different to one another. There is also no doubt the band work out their own melodies and do not copy anything. But they are without a doubt influenced by the likes of many of those prog rock giants from the 70’s enough to make their sound like them to some extent.

For example their previous album does sound like they was more focused on sounding like the band Gryphon. Oddly enough on this album they have one major ingredient that they never had on the last album, that is more associated with that band. And that is the Bassoon. Yet this album sounds more like Yes than that band.

But there is a reason why it does, and I will go further into it all later on in my review. But first let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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Just like the album Hinterland the CD comes in the same sort of 2 panel gatefold Digipak that is very well constructed and has a pocket to store the booklet. The 10 page booklet contains all the song lyrics and linear production notes but comes with no informative information about the making of the album. Overall it’s a well made package and presents the album very well.

The Artwork.

The albums gatefold artwork cover came from a photograph that was taken by Janne Rugland. Once again Trine + Kim Design Studio had the job of doing albums layout and by the looks of the photo they obviously noodled about with it. It does not look that interesting to be honest, but there is more to it than meets the eye so to speak, and you can find out more about it in my review of the 2nd track on the album “La Bealtaine” in the album tracks section of my review.

CD & Vinyl Releases…

The Rites At Dawn was released on CD only back in 2011 on Termo Records. The album was remastered a couple of years later in 2013 and it got it’s first vinyl release and was released on Pancromatic Records on black vinyl and also a limed edition of 100 copies were pressed on green vinyl.

The CD also got a remaster and my version is the 2013 remaster to which I got for £15.00 brand new from a seller on Ebay who go by First Rhythm Records. To be honest I could of got it from Germany for £11.49 with free post & package but this seller was the only one on Ebay advertising it has a Digipak, and I wanted to be sure I got that and not one that came in a jewel case.

It did take over a week to arrive. 8 days to be precise and it did come sealed. But the fact that First Rhythm Records stated they was based in London I would of expected it to arrive in half that time. No doubt this seller is advertising goods that he does not have in stock himself hence the reason for the delay. But I suppose things could of been worse and overall I was happy enough with the service even if it may have been a bit dubious.

Musicians & Credits…

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Produced Wobbler & Lars Fredrik Frøislie. Recorded at LFF Studios in Oslo and Hønefoss between May 17th 2009 and February 9th 2011. Cembalo recorded at Roth Händle Studios in Stockholm. Engineered by Lars Fredrik Frøislie. Mastered by Tinfoil Audio. Cover Design & layout by Trine + Kim Design Studio. Gatefold Photo by Janne Rugland. All songs arranged by Wobbler.

Musicians:
Andreas Wettergreen Strømman Prestmo: Lead Vocals.
Morten Eriksen: Electric & Acoustic Guitars.
Kristian Hultgren: Bass Guitars/Saxophone & Glockenspiel.
Lars Fredrik Frøislie: Keyboards & Vocals.
Martin Nordrum Kneppen: Drums & Percussion.

Additional Musicians:
Hanne Rekdal: Bassoon.
Ketil Vestrum Einarsen: Flutes.

The Album In Review…

The Rites At Dawn by Wobbler was released on Termo Records on the 18th November 2011. The album contains 7 tracks mostly vocal tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 45 minutes, 54 seconds. Unlike the 2 previous albums which the writing credits were credited to the band, the band members have been given individual writing credits on this album. The overall production is very good and the new remastered version sounds really great.

However having watched all 21 videos of the band recording the album, I am totally amazed how well it all came out in the end. Especially with everything being recorded onto a Laptop and the squalid place they recorded most of the instruments. No doubt the band are using quality equipment including Neumann Mics to record with, but this is a million miles from some of the squalid rehearsal studios I have used in the past, never mind Abbey Road :))))).

I am so glad the band documented or rather rockumented the making of this album with the 21 videos that can be found on the keyboard players Youtube channel, and it’s quite funny too. But more than anything it’s also very interesting seeing all the vintage keyboards Lars owns and how he looks after and maintains them all. These things are hard work and have to be tuned, cleaned and maintained all the time.

I have decided to post a couple of the videos and this is the very first one of them setting up the drums for recording at the farm house in Hønefoss Norway. I like how they give you a short guided tour and even show you the room where their last album Afterglow was recorded, which is now totally crammed up with junk :))))). The guitar, bass and some of the keyboards was also recorded here too.

This next video shows Lars recording the hammond and the piano again at the farm house in Hønefoss and he has many keyboards some of which are stored here. He also has an array of synths at his own studio in Oslo that you get to see briefly towards the end of this video too.

Through the series of videos you will even see him take delivery of both the Chamberlin M1 which is another mellotron he uses on the album besides the M400. And also the over 100 year old Marxophone that is also used on the album. Plus all the session players recording their parts for the album and them mixing in various effects for the final mix. It really is all very interesting including the humour of it all.

There is no doubt that the band had very little to say both lyrically and vocally on their last 2 albums. However now all of a sudden the band get a new singer and it appears that they have a lot more to say on this album for him. I have to confess that I felt sorry for their last vocalist Tony Johannessen because the band gave him very little to do.

Now all of a sudden they have a new singer and it appears that they are more impressed with his voice to give him a lot more to do. Or maybe it’s a case that the band had already lost one vocalist and felt they needed to make a few changes to make sure that it never happened again.

Like I mentioned in my reviews of Hinterland and Afterglow I felt that Johannessen was the best singer the band had. My reasons for thinking this way is very much down to what Andreas Prestmo had brought to the table with his voice on this particular album the Rites At Dawn and not the album that followed it.

I have to confess that upon first hearing the album the Rites At Dawn I was very much put off by the Yes like vocals and for some reason the vocals sounded out of place to the music. Something was not quite right here and the vocals did not seem to gel or fit.

At first I felt the band had somehow lost the plot, because this was very strange and I have to confess I had to give this album at least 7 spins and more to get to really appreciate it, and I think it took at least that many spins just to get over the Yes like vocals and harmonies.

Not that I do not like Yes at all that is. But I just felt it was taking away some of the originality this band had by doing such a thing, and I could not work out why on earth they would even want to do such a thing in the first place.

There is no doubt that if you listen to Wobblers 4th album From Silence To Somewhere you will get to hear Andreas Prestmo’s more natural voice. And there is no doubt in my mind that Prestimo is also a very good singer.

I would also guess that the band were looking for Jon Anderson like harmonies for this particular album Rites At Dawn and regarding this album having some sort of a Yes vibe about it. There is also no doubt it was intentional with the vision the band had mapped out for this album. However judging by the subject matter of the lyrics we have on this album. One would think that the band would of been looking for a singer like Ian Anderson and not Jon :))))))).

So before I go any further let’s take a look at the albums tracks to delve deeper into just what this whole Yes vibe is all about.

The Album Tracks In Review…

To be honest I could perhaps see a lot of people being put off by this particular album upon first hearing it, especially those who had heard the bands 2 previous albums. The Rites At Dawn is definitely an album that needs more spins to not only get to appreciate it more, but also to decipher just what the bands intentions are here.

It appears to me that for the band the Wobbler to work so effortlessly in trying to recapture the sound of the 70’s, that they have to take certain things from that decade to do so. No doubt their last album Afterglow sounded like Gryphon in parts from that decade by using some of the same instrumentation that band used.

On this album for some reason they decided they wanted something from Yes and I have to confess it took me perhaps 20 spins or more to work out just what the band were up to here, and I have to say it’s very clever what they have done.

Track 1. Lucid.

Well no surprise regarding the opening track being a short instrumental piece, and this is something the band also done to kick off their 2 previous albums. This short opening piece is more of a lucid and lurid soundscape that perhaps reflects the break of dawn that is portrayed on the albums cover.

A sort of dense mystic fog also springs to mind here with the reversed phasing effects they have used to create this piece with, and the word “Dawn” will certainly reveal and shed more light regarding the Yes influence on the next track. This opening piece has nothing to do with “Close To The Edge” either, even if the albums cover could suggest that it is regarding the intro of that song. But you may get a seasoned witch on the next one :)))))).

Track 2. La Bealtaine.

The title we have here goes back centuries and is derived from the Gaelic language and originally came from Ireland. It’s very much a Celtic festival that used to be held in May to celebrate May Day. It basically stends from Irish Mythology and all sorts of rituals and sacrifices were held at these festivals contrary to belief of course.

Later on it spread to Scotland and even later Germany and other parts of Europe. These countries also had their own myths, rituals, beliefs and different ways of celebrating it. Basically it’s all a form of paganism and even today there is even more modern versions of it. And I guess by 2011 it had spread to Norway and the band Wobbler lit a couple of fires to celebrate it in the Norwegian Woods :)))))))).

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Neopagan Wheel Of The Year

The neopagan wheel of the year shows the seasons of the year and “La Bealtaine” falls on the 1st May. The albums artwork also reflects this with its circle so to speak and the Celtic Knot work on the corners.

This particular song opens up with great pace and the band go about their normal meandering great style weaving their way along on their instruments. The interesting thing here is that it only takes 47 seconds for the vocals to come into play, unlike like waiting for an eternity like they did on their previous albums :)))))))).

There is also a nice come down section half way through here that allows some great bass lines to come into play from Kristian Hultgren. You do get a couple of vocal harmony Ah’s or chants before it comes down in the bass section too, and just before the main vocals. 3 seconds before the vocals come in you get this familiar change with the keyboards which does sound very Yes like to allow the vocals to come in and play their part. Which are also sang like Yes harmonies.

Straight away you are getting this whole Yes vibe about it all, even though musically it’s nothing like that band, but the vocals do give you that impression. Even some of the lyrics they have wrote would also give you that impression as well. For example “shapeshifters, coloured fish in my dream” the same type of bizarre lyrics Jon Anderson would write. But as much as these harmonies are like that of Yes the harmonies handled by both Prestmo and Frøislie are not all quite like Jon Anderson at all, and very much have a folky feel about them too.

There is no doubt that the band Wobbler have been very clever at recapturing the 70’s in presenting you with something that sounds like Yes but it’s entirely something of their own and not something that band did. However to make what we have here they very much have worked their way around something that Yes did back in 1973. And that was the album Tales From The Topographic Oceans.

They may have even thrown in a bit of the album Close To The Edge as well regarding some of the lyrical content we have here. But the lyrics are based around an entirely different subject matter that also has seasons, witches, rituals and even the dance of the dawn. Dawn also happens to be in the title of this album.

Speaking of the dance of the dawn which is the first track on Tales From The Topographic Oceans entitled “The Revealing Science Of God“. There is a sentence in that Yes song that may very well answer what the bands intentions were here on this album. Just like I mentioned earlier I felt that the vocals never married up with the music, and this was indeed done intentionally by the band, and is very clever.

The sentence that may of sparked all this off that can be found in “The Revealing Science Of God” is “disjointed but with purpose”. This of course is only my own theory, but having heard this album countless times over and over I can very much see the resemblance of it all. What amazes me is that they have actually managed to pull it all off.

There is no doubt that many who have heard this album for the first time may have not been impressed or liking it at all. Some may even say it’s a bit like plagiarism with them trying to sound like Yes. Some may even be put off by the vocals being disconnected with the music. But all of those things it is not!!! and you need to give it a lot more spins and dig down really deep to see what a remarkable achievement this actually is to even think about doing such a thing.

The music for this song was written by Morten Eriksen & Lars Frøislie. The lyrics were written by Andreas Prestmo.

La Bealtaine” is a really great song that perhaps seems more busy in relation to the material from the bands first 2 albums, and that really is down to band having less space in between the vocal sections to which there was not a lot of vocal parts on them in the first place.

Because we have more vocals here, the rest of the band have to work that much harder to get there instruments across. But they do it with ease and there is still some smaller sections in between the vocals for them to work on some interplay with one another on their instruments to which they do so well.

Track 3. In Orbit.

Listening to the lovely intro on this song will have you thinking that you was going to be getting another one of those great Gryphon sounding pieces the band did so well on their 2nd album Afterglow. This gorgeous intro lasts all of about 53 seconds and you get to hear Morten Eriksen strumming away nicely on the acoustic guitar to which is so beautifully accompanied by the guest musician Hanne Rekdal on the bassoon. Kristian Hultgren also works his bass around it very well too, and you get to hear a couple Ah’s nicely chanting away from guys too, I think one of them is also yawning with his deep voice :)))))))).

After this lovely intro it quickly changes and goes off in another direction, well many directions to be precise. “In Orbit” is the longest track on the album and weighs in at 12 and half minutes. The extra length of it all allows the musicians more space for lengthier instrumental breaks in between the vocals sections, more so than the previous track. I have to say it works out superbly too for them.

Once again you get this folky and Yes vibe going on with the vocals and the one thing I have noticed in particular about the Yes side of the vocals on this album, is that they sound more like the softer side of Jon Anderson’s voice that he used on the first 2 albums Yes made before they had Steve Howe. The music may also reflects that too.

The other folky kind of vocals could be perhaps associated with the likes of Peter, Paul and Mary. The Seekers. Crosby Stills & Nash. Creedence Clearwater Revival and other types of folkies from the 60’s and early 70’s. They add a nice touch to the more melancholy sections you get here too.

Musically there is bags of goodness in here that range from Steve Howe like sounding guitar lines from Morten Eriksen. Totally awesome bass lines as ever from Kristian Hultgren. You do not need Chris Squire this guy is just as good :)))))). He also plays saxophone on this track too and you get a King Crimson & Gong feel in the sections were he plays it. You also get some totally superb moog solos from Lars Frøislie. You sort of get a cross between Rick Wakeman and Peter Bardens with his keyboard work on this track.

You’re not gonna really hear Bill Bruford with how Martin Kneppen plays the drums, but he does a good enough job in holding it all together and keeping the band tight. I quite like this chap too, cause he’s into Gryphon :)))))). Ketil Vestrum Einarsen also plays some flute on this track too, and there is nice little section that is quite Steve Hackett like from his Voyage Of The Acolyte album.

Regarding the lyrics they are the thing that make this album a sort of concept album in that all the songs are based around the same subject matter of the seasons of the neopagan wheel and all the rituals and beliefs that went along with their celebrations and festivities. Some Neopagans celebrate it at the astronomical midpoint between the spring equinox and summer solstice.

In Orbit” is a really great track that once again has great diversity and progression along it’s path, to some it may very well be their favourite track on the album, and I rather think all the songs on this album are contenders for the top spot on the album. But this one for me is my personal favourite and merits the top spot award, though I will say  it was very hard to choose a favourite. Once again Andreas Prestmo wrote the lyrics, and the bands magic bass player Kristian Hultgren wrote the music.

Track 4. This Past Presence.

The band tone it down more acoustically on “This Past Presence” and it does not have so much of Yes thing about it with the vocals either. It features some lovely guitar work from Morten Eriksen and it even features some fine work by Lars Frøislie on the piano. You also get some fine mellotron work from him as well.

I like how this track also breaks out into more powerful lead break sections which allows the other members of the band to do their thing on it as well. Both the instrumentation and vocals are excellent and this is another really great track on the album. Both this and the track that follows it were written by Frøislie & Prestmo.

Track 5. A Faerie’s Play.

This one is the shortest of the 5 songs on the album, but boy do the band put a lot into it. You get lashings of gorgeous mellotron on this one, along with some superb interplay between the musicians and the band just totally kick ass on the whole thing.

It starts off acoustically and you even get to hear the over 100 year old Marxophone on the short intro. Then it takes off at great pace with power and dynamics and is another excellent track on the album.

It’s very hard to pick a favourite, simply because all the material on this album is very strong and very well written. I also like how the band are pulling away from the Yes like vocals on this track too and it seems less influenced. Although they may have had a “Passion” for Jethro Tull that may have influenced the title we have here :)))))).

Track 6. The River. 

Where back to the Yes vibe of things for the last song on the album and this is the 2nd longest track on the album and is another excellent track that has great diversity and progression. The band kick it off in great style with a rather fast intro that goes on for around a minute and 20 seconds, before it settles down to more of an acoustic vibe to allow the vocals to come into play.

During this quite tasty intro you get a bit more sax playing from Hultgren and some more Steve Howe style electric guitar from Eriksen. It really is a great build up and the band are flying along superbly.

After it all settles down Eriksen brings in a lovely melody on the rhythm guitar and Frøislie’s job on the mellotron adds that touch of melancholy to allow Prestmo to come in beautifully with the first verse. At this stage it’s perhaps sounding like a cross between Genesis and Uriah Heep sort of thing, but whatever it is, it’s wonderful.

The band then have a nice little interplay section from around 3:10 – 3:33 before the vocals come back into play, and a transitional change has come into play to enable the vocals to lift up and go in a different style and direction and we are getting back the Yes vibe at this point too, with the Howe like guitar and vocals.

As this vocal section makes its way along it then changes into even more of a Yes vibe at the 4:17 mark. I actually call this the “Parallels” section because I do feel the vocal line has been constructed around the melody line of a part of the vocal line from that Yes song from their Going For The One album. Prestmo is going “up stream, down stream” with them :))))) while Anderson was going more along the parallel lines of “When we are winning we can stop and shout. Making love towards perfection”.

From 5:42 – 7:56 the band embark on a lengthy lead break and we get to hear quite a lot of instruments thrown into the pot here such as brass, mandolins and I am pretty sure Hanne Rekdal contributes a bit of bassoon in this section too, although it’s not very effective like it was on the intro of “In Orbit“. The band then fall back into the “Parallels” vocal section to round it all off.

The River” is another excellent track on the album and perhaps the strongest contender for the top spot on the album. The music was written by Kristian Hultgren & Morten Eriksen. Eriksen also contributed to the lyrics with Andreas Prestmo.

Track 7. Lucid Dreams.

The album ends off with a different take of the opening track and rather than the phased reversed effects that was used on the opening track to make up the melody, on this slightly longer version. We get glistening vibes from the Glockenspiel played by Kristian Hultgren that reflects a bit more light through the density of the fog and the rising of dawn. It puts and end to a really great album.

Though in reality there is no doubt that it’s the songs in between the intro and outro of the album that contain the real magic and both “Lucid” and “Lucid Dreams” are perhaps more or less album fillers and were not really needed. Though they are also quite harmless and short enough not to spoil the enjoyment of playing the album from start to finish so to speak.

Summary…

The Rites Of Dawn by the Norwegian band Wobbler is yet another very good album the band have come up with. The material is very strong and very well written and there is nothing not to like here either. They premièred the albums release at the Terra Incognita Festival in Quebec, Canada. The album did very well worldwide and it brought in more fans and even more invitations for them to play at more festivals in Europe.

The album also brought in some mixed reviews from the critics and I would of expected that some of Yes vibes about this album would of contributed to those critical reviews. There is no doubt that this particular album does need that more attention paid to it by giving it a lot more further spins to see what really lies deep beneath it’s surface, and once you have done that you will get to reap the real rewards and pleasures from this album.

There is also no doubt that how the band have gone about putting this album together is extremely clever and there is a lot more to the whole Yes vibe than meets the eye as I pointed out earlier in this review. Just like all the bands albums each one is different and this one is certainly not so instrumental like the first two albums they made. My personal highlights from the album are “In Orbit“. “The River“. “This Past Presence“. and “A Faerie’s Play“.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Wobbler’s 3rd album Rites At Dawn I would say it’s quite a solid album and with the strength of the material we have here, I would even say this album is more of a solid album than the bands debut album. But I personally do not think there is anything on this album that will match up to “Hinterland” from their debut album. Or even “Imperial Winter White” from their 2nd album for that matter. But the material we have on this album works very well as an whole and makes up for those classics.

What we have here is still a very strong album that certainly does not disappoint and the band no doubt have found their feet a bit more to now work on more vocal songs with their new singer Andreas Prestmo. He also done a real great job on the lyrics on this album too, and nearly all of them were written by him.

Sadly though just as the band got a new singer, they also lost a guitarist and Morten Andreas Eriksen decided to leave the band not long after making the album. I have no idea as to why he left, but I would of thought that it may have been putting a strain on his family life and his family were more important than the band.

It’s never easy finding a replacement and no doubt that Eriksen was an integral part of the band between 2009 – 2011 and all 3 albums the band had made at this point of their career stand as a very good testimony to the role he played in the band.

The Rites At Dawn was the quickest album the band Wobbler had written and produced. It’s said that the band had found a faster way of composing songs by making them more chord structure based. It was an album that only took 2 years before it hit the shelves since the release of Afterglow in 2009. Yet it took 6 years for their next album to surface, and you can find out more about that in my next review of this great band.

Euclidean Space Inside The Observer Orbiting.…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Lucid. 1:40.
02. La Bealtaine. 7:51.
03. In Orbit. 12:29.
04. This Past Presence. 6:13.
05. A Faerie’s Play. 5:19.
06. The River. 10:04.
07. Lucid Dreams. 2:18.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 08/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #86

I Lost My Head (The Chrysalis Years 1975 – 1980) – Gentle Giant

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Introduction…

Well it’s time for another box set review, and this particular box set of Gentle Giant’s has now been reissued again this month after it is very much went out of print since it was first released back in 2012. To be perfectly honest I would love to see some of the albums in this box set get 5.1 mixes rather than buy them in a box like this, but no doubt this box set offers you tremendous value for the buck, and is cheap enough to even have as a collector’s item for the shelf.

Gentle Giant where quite an amazing band who very much made their mark in the world of progressive rock back in the early 70’s. Although this box set does not contain the bands first 6 albums, it does capture complete the second half the bands career. The latter half was perhaps where the band were aiming to be a bit more commercial has they went on. Its perhaps not the bands best output in relation to the albums they made in the first half of their career, but never the less there is still some Gems here.

As with any box set like this that comes with an array of albums. It’s perhaps a bit too much for me to take on all the individual album tracks. So for this review I am going to keep it nice and simple, and stick to the highlights of the albums with my review here. But first let’s take a look at what you get for the price of 20 bucks.

The Chrysalis Years (1975 – 1980) (Box Set) In Review…

This one

The new reissued Gentle Giant Box Set was released on 8th June 2018. I pre-ordered it from Amazon on the 19th April and it arrived on the day after its release. The Box Set only contains 4 discs but it does have 6 Gentle Giant albums spread over them. 2 of the discs have 2 albums each on them. The other 2 discs have 1 album each on them. Though you do get quite a few bonus tracks on one of those, and the other one contains the bands double live album.

The box set contains the albums Free Hand. Interview. Playing The Fool (Their official double live album). The Missing Piece. Giant For A Day and Civilian.

There is no doubt a box set like this offers quite a saving over the price it would cost you to buy these albums individually. Individually they would cost you from £10 – £14 per album. So let’s say £12 each for a rough guide which would mean that you would be looking at paying £72 for the 6 albums. This box set can be had on Amazon for £20.35 and retails around £20.75 so you are near enough saving £52 over the price of buying them individually which is a massive saving.

To be honest I myself can be fussy at times and would as rule want the individual albums. But I do already have 4 of the albums in this box set, but those are not remasters like your getting here. They also came in plastic jewel cases and these days I do prefer the cardboard Digipaks and Digisleeves. I am not sure if even the new remastered albums come in those either individually and are just in Jewel cases. Otherwise I may have been tempted to buy those again instead of purchasing this box set.

But for 20 bucks you cannot go wrong here, and if you have never heard of Gentle Giant I would think that even though you do not have the bands earlier albums in this box set. What you do get here would still make a great introduction to the band, and you even get a double live album that features a lot of their earlier material. Had the band not signed up to Chrysalis Records in 1975 they would of been able to release their complete discography in a box set I dare say.

It’s unfortunate that even today the band are still tied to record labels that prevent them doing such a thing. As far as I know of the bands first 6 albums on Capitol Records have never been released by that record company in a box set. So this particular box set may seem a bit of an odd one in the way that only the bands second part of their career have been released in this way.

The Packaging & Contents…

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All 4 discs come in a cardboard Clamshell Box and the discs are stored in cardboard sleeves that are a mini presentation of the type of sleeve a single vinyl album would come in. It also comes with a 16 page booklet that contains all the linear production notes of all 6 albums. Although they have not included the lyrics, it does come with some very good informative information based on the time they made all the albums.

No doubt it would of made a better presentation if they put each album on it’s own individual disc, and put the double live album on 2 discs and used a gatefold DigiSleeve for it. They could of easily done so and sold it at £25 instead of £20 and they would not be losing any money by doing it that way either.

I am pretty sure people would not mind paying the extra £5 either, and I personally think it would of made that much more of an attractive package and even attracted more sales. After all this is a 2018 reissue and there was no need to make it exactly like the 2012 release. But for 20 bucks I suppose you cannot really complain and it works out that you are paying around £3.35 per album and one of them is a double album.

The Band

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Gentle Giant had no further line up changes throughout the rest of their career and the following musicians of the band cater for all the instrumentation and vocals on all the albums in this box set.

Derek Shulman: Vocals/Saxes/Alto Sax.
Ray Shulman: Bass/Violin/Acoustic Guitar/Descant Recorder/Vocals & Percussion.
Kerry Minnear: Keyboards/Cello/Vibes/Tenor Recorder/Vocals & percussion.
Gary Green: Electric & Acoustic Guitars/12 String Guitars/Alto & Descant reorders/Vocals & percussion.
John Weathers: Drums/Tambour/Vibes/Percussion & backing Vocals.

The Albums In review…

Freehand

Free Hand

Gentle Giant’s 7th studio album Free Hand was released in September 1975. The album contained 7 tracks and had an overall playing time of 36 minutes, 42 seconds. It was the first album to be released on Chrysalis Records a move the band decided to take despite the improvement in sales of their last two albums In A Glass House and The Power and The Glory had with WWA Records.

The band had earlier supported Jethro Tull on their European tour and had taken note of how well they was doing under Terry Ellis of Chrysalis Records. They thought that they may get a bit more promoted by making the move and admired how Ellis went about his business. Hence the reason for wanting to make the change. But they was also having a few teething problems with WWA Records too, and they even reflected those in the words of this albums self titled album track.

No doubt the move did work for them with the release of this album, and Free Hand managed to beat their previous record by 2 places and reached number 48 in the American billboard charts. But unfortunately for them things were no better afterwards, and Free Hand was the bands most successful album they ever put out of all their 11 studio albums albums back then.

The album Free Hand more or less continues were the bands previous album The Power and The Glory left off. Musically they are both very similar and it’s only really the subject matter behind the lyrics that is the real change. To be perfectly honest I would of thought that for those who liked The Power and The Glory it would be practically imposable not to like Free Hand. They are both more or less solid albums and both contain very well written material and are up there with the bands very best albums.

Bonus Tracks.

This particular version of the album that comes in this box set also comes with 6 bonus tracks that were previously unreleased until 2012 when they was originally released on this same box set before it went out of print. The 6 bonus tracks are as follows:

1976 Intro Tape” (previously unreleased). “Just the Same” (BBC session John Peel). “Free Hand” (BBC session John Peel). “On Reflection” (BBC session John Peel). “Give It Back” (International 7″ mix) and “I Lost My Head” (7″ mix). None of the tracks were ever released on CD before, until 2012 that is.

To be honest most bonus tracks very rarely offer you anything either new or very good. You do get the some worthy bonus tracks now and then no doubt, and some of these I will say are very good. I particularly like the 3 tracks from this album they done live at the BBC and the live arrangement of “On Reflection” is very good and quite different to the original studio version to which they play the intro of it on their instruments, rather than start it off with the vocal harmonies.

The short “1976 Intro Tape” is also very good to hear it without the noise of the crowd and I think this is the intro tape they made for their live concerts they played in 1976. You can also hear it on the live album too, but it sounds way better here. The last couple of bonus tracks are just the edited single versions of two of the tracks that was to feature on their next album Interview. I always tend to see these sort of things pointless and prefer to hear the whole of the song on the album.

The Main Album.

The album Free Hand could be seen as a liberation and the break away from WWA Records after some of the legal tussles that had put the band in limbo for a short while. They did not waste time putting the album together for their new record company, and the whole album was recorded in 2 to 3 weeks at Advision Studios in London in April 1975. The band had spent time rehearsing the material before going into the studio to record it, to save on the cost and this was how the band had always worked back then.

Musically the band had very much stuck to their usual style using folk elements that have always been part of the bands trademark since the beginning. Both the tracks “Talybont” and “Mobile” are excellent examples of how well the band fuse other elements into folk music and the first of these two may very well be classed as medieval folk to some extent.

Yet it even contains classical elements, and the instrumentation that is used gives this fine instrumental track that prog goodness to it all. It’s also so masterfully played and is quite reminiscent to the style of music the medieval prog rock band Gryphon were doing back then too.

The latter of the two “Mobile” upon it’s intro you would think that you were listening to Fairport Convention. But after that short 20 second intro the band soon settle down to their usual style of complex time signature changes and bring other elements with the instrumentation and have the ability to take it somewhere else.

There is no doubt that even a folk rock band like Fairport Convention at times had prog rock traits in some of their music. They also had very capable musicians to do such a thing. But what Gentle Giant do with folk music is completely turn it inside out and outside in and give it a most unusual twist. It’s so unique that no other band were doing it. It’s almost like this band could play any style of music you threw at them and no doubt the musicians they had were capable of doing it as well.

Lyrically I think this album works better than their previous album The Power and The Glory and that is simply because it’s not harking over the same thing all the while and this album is not focused on one subject matter like that album was. Although by the opening track on the album “Just The Same” you would think the band were going down the same road with the lyrics they had wrote for “Proclamation“ that was from that album.

To be honest both tracks are excellent album openers and as soon as you hear “Just The Same” you instantly get this feel that both albums are quite alike with the musical presentation that was wrote for them. A lot of reviews tend point out that the album Free Hand was more of a commercial album. I personally think it’s nothing of the sort and this album is as close as you could get to The Power and The Glory and both albums have that ability to rock it out a bit more that’s all.

The album Free Hand contains great songs all the way it’s perhaps even hard to pick a personal favourite and it’s opening track “Just The Same” would very much be a very strong contender. So to would the track that follows it “On Reflection” which is more or less a fugue of vocal harmonies, vibes and percussion until it’s very end. But my personal favourite goes to the albums self titled track “Free Hand“. It’s a very well constructed song that goes in many directions with its progression and diversity and merits the top spot award.

Although “Time To Kill” is not a bad song, it is perhaps the weakest spot on the album when weighing it up to the rest of the material we have here. I would expect some would feel the same about “His Last Voyage” which is the longest track on the album. But it does have quite a sweeter side with Kerry Minnear’s voice taking on the lead vocals and it’s not only soothing but meanders it’s way along very well.

Overall Free Hand is quite a solid enough album and once again the band have come up with some great written material for it. Personally I do not think there is anything not to like here and the albums tracks have been very well placed to make it work like a great album. My personal highlights from the album are “Just The Same“. “On Reflection“. “Free Hand” and “Talybont“.

Just like the album The Power and The Glory. I feel that both albums are more accessible in relation to some of the bands earlier albums. They both have that more of a rock feel about them in parts, and in all honesty the material we have here is that close that both of these albums would of worked as a double album. Only the subject of the lyrics really prevents the both albums not working in that way.

Because both albums are that close and have equal strengths. I was left with no alternative but to give them both the same album rating score.

The original album track listing is as follows: 1. Just The Same. (5:33). 2. On Reflection. (5:42). 3. Free Hand. (6:12). 4. Time To Kill. (5:07). 5. His Last Voyage. (6:26). 6. Talybont. (2:42). 7. Mobile. (5:01).

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.

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Interview

Interview

The bands 8th studio album Interview was released on the 23rd April 1976. The band decided to do another concept album based upon the more frequent questions that got asked in the interviews on the radio they had encountered over the years. The interview they actually staged themselves in the studio and is very much a phoney bit of a spoof.

They also based a lot of the lyrics around numerous criticisms of the music industry, which was perhaps nothing that unusual on that score for this band, and they always liked to have ago at one thing or the other on their previous albums. Only here it was done with a bit more humour perhaps and the fact that they was tired of all the silly questions that they got asked repeatedly.

The album itself contains 7 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 36 minutes, 48 seconds. Once again the album was recorded at the Advision Studios in London and the band had spent a few weeks recording the tracks between March and April getting it all done. The band roped in the freelance journalist and music writer of Sounds Phil Sutcliffe who was also a long time friend to conduct and be the voice of the interviewer on the album. His voice is featured in 4 short places from the beginning to the end of the album.

According to the information in the booklet, the material for the album was written after an extensive live tour they had spent to promote their previous album Free Hand which left the band a bit shattered. It did not help with them writing it away from their home in Portsmouth either, and they was in a rush to get another album out for their now new record label Chrysalis. Some of the band members were also not happy with the end the result and reckoned they were under-rehearsed before going in the studio to record it.

Personally I do not feel the band needed to make any excuses because the album Interview how I see it is another great album and far from anything remotely bad at all. The band may have been a bit more dissatisfied by the fact that it only reached 137 in the billboard charts some 89 places lower than Free Hand had done previously done. I suppose having seen how well they was getting a bit more recognised with that album, that it would of put a bit of a damper on things and got them down a bit.

But no doubt the band still had their unique style on this album even despite throwing in a bit of reggae on one of the tracks. I still think the material they wrote here is also very good and is not that far from what they did on their last couple of albums. They are still continuing in that direction at this point of their career, and personally I feel there is nothing not to like here.

The album kicks off with its self titled track “Interview” and it s my personal favourite track on the album. Though both “Empty City” and “I Lost My Head” are also very strong contenders for the top spot on this album. These 3 tracks have that bit more progression and diversity about them for my own personal taste, and perhaps stand out more than the other 4 tracks. They even named this box set after the latter of those 3 tracks.

The interview that is conducted throughout the album is mainly focused on one question. That is, how would you describe your music?. It’s something not even the band can do or answer, and to be honest neither could I either :)))))).

I suppose if you can work out what the track “Timing” is about, you may find the answer. I am not even gonna try and decipher the lyrics they wrote for it. But no doubt Gentle Giant’s music is filled with time signature changes, complex rhythms, shifting patterns and is perhaps the strangest thing on the planet. “Timing” is another great track that also has bags of progression and diversity.

Just like the title of the bands second album there is no doubt you are gonna have to acquire the taste to get into their music. It’s very much this whole strangeness that keeps me coming back to it, and the good thing about it is that you can learn more about it each time you play it, and it may even take you years to fully understand it. This is what precisely rocks my boat about this band.

Just to prove how strange and weird this band is. On the song “Give It Back” they even throw in a bit of reggae over 5/4 and 7/4 time signatures. The band was inspired by the rawness of Bob Marley’s music at the time, so they decided to have a bit of dabble with it and decided to put their own stamp on it. It made me laugh when they said afterwards I am sure Bob would of choked on his spliff if he heard it :)))))).

To be honest “Give It Back” is not that completely strange at all even with the use of the different time signatures, its perhaps a bit more straightforward than the rest of the tracks on the album. No doubt it is something different for them to do as well, and it even reminds me more of 10CC than Gentle Giant.

Design” is another of those songs that features 4 part vocal harmonies that’s more associated with the band than reggae on that score. They also use an array of percussion to great effect as well. “Another Show” is much more up-tempo and it weaves and meanders its way along at quite a fast pace. It’s another song that features bags of progression along it’s path and a really great track that some may even put up there with the best on the album.

Overall the album Interview may not be as strong as the both albums that came before it. But it does not disappoint and presents itself more or less in a similar vein. I very much think besides the live album they released in the following year, that Interview was the last studio album Gentle Giant made before completely changing their style and heading into a completely different direction regarding the music that came after it.

My personal highlights from the album are “Interview“. “Empty City“. “I Lost My Head” and “Another Show“. I personally think the album was well underrated and it’s a damn site better than how many judged the album on it’s release. It’s certainly one of those albums that one may need to return to again later on to get to appreciate it more.

I would also think it’s one of those albums today where one is perhaps looking for some more golden nuggets that came out of the 70’s and have not heard this album, or did back then and never rated it. It’s well worth giving it another try because this may just be the real missing piece, and not the album that came after it.

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Interview. (6:54). 2. Give It Back. (5:11). 3. Design. (5:00). 4. Another Show. (3:29). 5. Empty City. (4:23). 6. Timing. (4:52). 7. I Lost My Head. (6:59).

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 7/10.

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Playing The Fool (Live)

Playing The Fool (The Official Live)

Released on the 18th January 1977 Playing The Fool was the only official live album that was released during the bands 10 year career. Originally released as a double vinyl album to which is these days is all crammed onto 1 CD and has an overall playing time of 77 minutes and 52 seconds. It captures the band playing live in certain venues in Germany, France and Belgium on their European tour between September and October of 1976 to which they put on in support of their last studio album Interview.

Because they had every intention of recording for a live album. The band rented Jethro Tull’s Mobile to record the live shows with. It would not surprise me if Ian Anderson never gave them a discount either :))))). But no doubt the recording mobile done the job, cause this is a very well recorded live album.

Although the band were indeed promoting their 8th studio album Interview at the the time, this particular albums set-list is not so much focused on that album, and it actually captures them playing material from all their 8 studio albums they had released at this time. Although it does only capture a small snippet from the bands 2nd album Acquiring The Taste which happens to be the self titled track of that album. Oddly enough it also gets played during the excerpts they are playing from their 4th album Octopus.

Unfortunately I never got to see Gentle Giant play live back in their day, just by listening to this live album you immediately get the impression that this was one pretty awesome live band. There is no doubt that this live album is the pure GEM in this box set. It features many of the bands classics and the how this band could improvise gives you an even better presentation of their songs in relation to many of the tracks done in the studio. There are also no overdubs at all and this is one pretty impressive live album that even sounds purely fantastic.

The first leg of the European tour that is captured here comes from them playing in Düsseldorf in Germany on the 23rd September and the album kicks off with both the opening tracks “Just The Same/Proclamation” from the albums Free Hand and The Power and The Glory. They also played “On Reflection” on that same night which is also on the album here and despite them doing a tour to promote the album Interview, there is more tracks actually from their 1975 album Free Hand than any other album.

A couple of days later the band played in Munich on the 25th September and they played one the songs from that show which happens to be the classic “Funny Ways” from their self titled debut album. This happens to be my favourite of the tracks they played here in Germany and they do a blinding job of it as well. No doubt the both opening tracks on the album are very powerful, but I also love how they done the opening instrumental intro on “On Reflection” which is how they played it at the BBC Sessions that is one of the bonus tracks on Free Hand I mentioned earlier.

On the 5th October the band were in Paris. France and 4 of the songs from that show they have included here. “Excerpts from Octopus” is perhaps my personal favourite of the album but in all honesty I would also have to include “Funny Ways” along with it, and there is nothing but complete magic throughout this whole album. So I am not even gonna choose a favourite. Amongst the excerpts you get here are “The Boys In The Band/Raconteur Troubadour/Acquiring The Taste/Knots/Ocean Bridge/The Advent Of Panurge“. They also include a famous quartet played on Recorders.

They also done “The Runaway/Experience” from In A Glass House. Another great song from The Power and The Glory album “So Sincere” and the album closes off with a short burst of “Peel the Paint” from their 3rd album Friends which runs into the “I Lost My Head” to which is the only song from the album Interview.

But before both of those you get the self titled album track “Free Hand” and a short instrumental piece entitled “Sweet Georgia Brown” which was a jazz standard pop tune from 1925 written by Ben Bernie and Maceo Pinkard. Both of these came from the shows they played a couple of days later on the 7th October in Brussels Belgium.

The latter of the two was done instantaneous on the spot as they was about to start to show only to see smoke coming out of Kerry Minnear’s keyboards. Being as Ray Shulman had his violin under his chin. Both he and Gary Green decided to play it whilst the engineers sorted out the keyboards. Their fans had a rare treat and it was most welcomed by them too.

No doubt Playing The Fool was one of the best live albums to be released back in the 70’s and even though this is a double albums worth of live material you get, it still leaves you wanting more. That’s how good this album is. My personal highlights are “Funny Ways“. “Excerpts from Octopus“. “Just The Same/Proclamation” and “Free Hand“.

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Just The Same / Proclamation (11:13).  2. On Reflection (6:24) 3. Excerpts From Octopus (15:35). 4. Funny Ways (8:35). 5. The Runaway / Experience (9:31). 6. So Sincere (10:22). 7. Free Hand (7:40). 8. Breakdown In Brussells (Sweet Georgia Brown) (1:15). 9. Peel The Paint / I Lost My Head (7:35).

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 10/10.

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The Missing Piece

The Missing Piece

A New Direction.

In 1977 when the band went back in the studio to record their 9th album The Missing Piece. By then we were starting to see the birth of Punk Rock here in the UK. Although this did not have a big impact on the American market, but the fact that the band were also touring both America and Europe and they was concerned with both markets for sales. It is said to have an impact on one of the band members, in particular their bassist and violin player Ray Shulman.

It was he who started to get into this new invasion and seen something in it that was new, despite the fact that this new invasion was introduced to put a mockers on the very genre of music they stood for, prog rock and he could even see that. It was not that he was into punk rock at all and it was more down to the fact that how simplified it all was. It was also mentioned by others that maybe their music was a bit over-complicated for more people to take an interest, and maybe toning it down a bit would create more interest.

Personally I never got what anybody seen so good about Punk Rock and despised it from the day I first heard it come from the Sex Pistols. This was a band that never spoke a dickie bird to me and still till this day they do not either. They was fucking dreadful and could not play or sing, how on earth any record company could sign that complete pile of shit to a record label is beyond me :)))))).

But to be honest I was amazed just what an effect this pile of crap had on people. Back in 1977 during the height of its explosion here in England. I was working in an Electro Plating factory with a load of Hells Angels and Cycle Tramps. And the one Monday morning I turned up for work, one of my work mates no longer had long hair and had it cut, spiked and died, he even had a bone through his nose.  I was both shocked and stunned :))))).

He even came in with a pile of rock and prog rock albums and was selling them from 50p to £1 each. I brought a few off him and around that time Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell had only just came out. I had only heard the title track of the album at the time, and thought for £1 it was a good buy. I remember when I got home and stuck the album on and as soon as I  heard “All Revved Up With No Place To Go” I thought that was a bit punk like and took the album off the turntable and smashed it up :)))))).

That’s how much I literally detested punk rock and anything that sounded like it at the time. I even went into Woolworth’s and brought a Sex Pistols single just to smash it up in the front of the assistant LOL…

Although Ray Shulman had not completely lost his marbles like some of my friends had around the time of this invasion. This did lead to the band changing their own musical direction. It was not just the punk rock thing either. He and the band had also took note of how bands like both Yes and Genesis were also heading towards a more commercial direction with their music.

The fact that Genesis in particular had a bit of a hit with “You’re Own Special Way” in the singles charts the same year very much spurred the band to record this album outside the UK which was something they had never done before. They even decided to book the very same recording studios in Holland that Genesis had recorded their album Wind and Wuthering that particular single of theirs came off.

The Album.

The Missing Piece was released on the 26th August 1977. The album contained 9 tracks and had an overall playing time of 36 minutes, 40 seconds. It was recorded at the Relight Studios, Hilvarenbeek, The Netherlands. Holland back then to be precise and I still prefer that name. They have gone double Dutch since and did not even qualify for this year’s World Cup :))))). The Netherlands sounds like something that came out of the Wizard Of Oz or even some childish thing Michael Jackson would come up with ffs :))))).

There is no doubt the band have acquired a new taste to their music and even though it’s meant to be an album of two halves, the 1st side being more like pop music and the 2nd side being more like prog rock. I beg to dither and this is certainly more of a pop album than anything else. I also think the way it’s been mixed lends to it being that way too, and because of the way the album has been produced, I very much think that there is only 1 or 2 tracks on this album that sounds remotely like anything the band did before it.

But having said all that, is it a bad album?.

Well I certainly think at the time they released it, a lot of their loyal fans may have been chucking bricks at them :)))))) and jumping off the band wagon so to speak. But to be honest it’s not that bad at all. But if I was following the band back then, I may well have been doing the same thing ;))))).

To put it in a nutshell I would of thought that when the band unleashed this album in 1977. To the loyal fan who had Acquired The Taste from the beginning of this bands career. It would of been like walking into your local shop to buy a jar of Nescafe’ and walking out with some cheaper best buy brand that was never gonna taste or say the same thing to you.

But that is not to say that these were badly written songs at all, and as far as pop songs go I honestly cannot fault most of the compositions on this album, and some of them are that good that I could see other artists even having a hit with them. For example I could quite easily visualize the rock band Aerosmith doing “Mountain Time” and having a hit with it. It’s perhaps more suited to their style than Gentle Giant themselves. I would even say the song had even got Stevie Wonder qualities about it as well.

Another bit of quality songwriting is the song “I’m Turning Around“. No doubt this song would of suited loads of pop artists and I could quite instantly see this being a smash hit if somebody had noticed it and recorded it. There is no doubt that Gentle Giant can write quality pop songs and in reality these are exactly that. They just was not a popular enough band for people to notice them in the first place.

This is where a band like Genesis had the edge over Gentle Giant by being that bit more popular. The other thing that made Genesis be more successful by changing their own style more towards popular music, is that they did it gradually and over a lot more time. For example the only real pop song on their album Wind and Wuthering was “You’re Own Special Way“. This was not enough to cause too much of an upset to their loyal fans at the time.

I think were Gentle Giant went wrong on this album is by trying to introduce way too much of a change all at once. It takes a lot longer for people to accept it, and some will not at all. But one of the major factors where they went wrong, is that they should of stuck to what they was doing in the first place, and not paid any attention to what was in the charts, or what other artists were doing just to get their records in them.

The fact that album also got to number 61 in the album charts which was considerably a lot higher than their previous album Interview. I personally think is why the band continued to carry on in the same direction. But it failed completely because the 2 albums that followed it, never even got in the album charts.

Even by listening to some of the songs on The Missing Piece you can even hear where the bands main singer Derek Shulman has even changed his voice trying to adapt it more for the record. Both “Betcha Thought We Couldn’t Do It” is most likely a stab at punk rock and “Who Do You Think You Are?” is perhaps a bit more reminiscent to some of the songs Steely Dan were doing.

Even though Gentle Giant were going in a new direction, I personally do not think it was through experimenting with new ideas of their own. If anything they was just listening to what other bands were doing in the singles charts more than anything else. They even changed the way they wrote songs, and basically all got together and had a jam, and as they wrote the songs they would even play them live to air them out before going in the studio to record them for the album.

For me personally the best song out of the 5 tracks on the first half of the album is the opening track “Two Weeks In Spain” and that’s most likely down to the fact that I loved holidaying in Spain myself, and it’s chorus is the sort of thing one might be singing from the top of their voice having just booked a holiday there, or being at the airport waiting to go there.

The 4 tracks on the 2nd half of the album do perhaps speak a bit more differently, but there is very little here to even say the what the band had previously done before. For example “As Old As You’re Young” we do get a bit of whimsical pleasant medieval thing going on here, it’s quite joyful and almost like a Christmas Song to some degree. It’s also the only track on the album that features Kerry on lead vocals.

For Nobody” is perhaps a much better effort although I have to say this album does not have a very good mix at all, and is the only one in this box set that suffers for it. This maybe down to the original tapes being lost for a lot of the tracks on this album (if it’s not, then they certainly did a bad job on the mix) the master tapes may have also worn down over the years. The band were certainly not onto a winner with “Winning” and this one actually gets the worst track on the album award.

There is no doubt that they have even simplified those songs to some extent as well, and none of those 3 songs are going to speak in leaps and bounds in relation to anything off the bands first 8 albums. The real winner on this album is by far “Memories of Old Days“. It’s even the longest track on the album and it’s perhaps the only track on this album that speaks the same language to what this band used to be about, if I am entirely honest. It also merits my top spot award and is my personal favourite track.

To sum up the album The Missing Piece by Gentle Giant it’s not an album that was aimed at their loyal fans, it’s an album that was made to try an attract a wider audience. It says very little for ardent fan and even though it does have some quality about the songwriting, the very fact that most of material was aimed at trying to attract a wider audience by writing pop songs that will not go in favour with most of their fans.

After the release of the album and in the new year the band played a one off concert at the Hippodrome in Golders Green London on the 5th January 1978. It was the first time the band had played in the UK for two and half years and was captured by the BBC for their Sight And Sound Concert Series for radio and TV.

The concert featured many of the tracks from The Missing Piece and a few of their older songs. It was officially released on DVD in 2006 and songs from the album were better performed live and even sound better than what they are on the CD.

The album The Missing Piece marked the first real change in the bands career and one that was to go even further downhill as they continued to go on in the same direction.  My personal highlights from the album are “Memories of Old Days“. “Two Weeks In Spain“. “As Old As You’re Young” and “For Nobody“.

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Two Weeks In Spain. (3:06). 2. I’m Turning Around. (4:01). 3. Betcha Thought We Couldn’t Do It. (2:25). 4. Who Do You Think You Are?. (3:36). 5. Mountain Time. (3:26). 6. As Old As You’re Young. (4:24). 7. Memories Of Old Days. (7:21). 8. Winning. (4:17). 9. For Nobody. (4:04).

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 5/10.

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Giant For A Day

Giant For A Day

Gentle Giant’s 10th studio album Giant For A Day was released on the 11th September 1978. The album contains 10 tracks with an overall playing time of 35 and half minutes. The album was recorded between May and April 1978 and some of the tracks were recorded at the Who’s Ramport Studios in Battersea and at Jethro Tull’s Maison Rouge studios and remixed at Scorpio Sound studios, Euston. London.

Ray Shulman remembers Pete Townshend still being around when they was recording at the Who’s studios and they had only just finished recording their album Who Are You at the time. Gary Green recalls the studios being an untouched 1890’s church hall and it was great for getting a good live sound. He recalls Keith Moon’s white Premier drum kit in the middle of the room with a sign on it saying “please don’t touch” only not noticing it and reckons they sounded great :))))).

Talk About Pop Music.

In the previous year when the band were recording their album The Missing Piece they also took note of the success Fleetwood Mac had with their album Rumours at the time. They also recalled how that particular band had changed quite marginally from their earlier blues days with Peter Green and still managed to be widely successful as a pop band. This also had an effect on Gentle Giant and they thought that making a new directional change was something they needed to do.

For the album Giant For A Day they decided to make a complete album full of pop songs most likely to see if it would attract further attention seeing their last album The Missing Piece got charted in the album charts and being more successful than their 1976 album Interview. They perhaps thought that has it worked for Fleetwood Mac they could do the same thing. But I am sure they overlooked the fact that the change Fleetwood Mac had made was really down to having much more of a different line up, and it was a case of them having to change their style.

Personally I thought Fleetwood Mac done well with Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks but I still prefer the music they made with Peter Green any day of the week in relation to what they churned out afterwards. Even a successful album such as what their album Rumours was, spoke very little to me, and it’s not an album I would personally buy. But my personal taste in music even back then did not cater for a lot of pop music at all. It still does not today either. Though I was partial to some of it back then, and even can be today to be honest.

The Album.

Gentle Giant’s 10th album Giant For A Day was voted as the bands worst album by their fans. I am pretty sure that still stands today. This is one of the albums in this box set I never brought previously. I think that would of been down to the fact that having brought The Missing Piece put me off both of their last 2 albums. No doubt all 3 of the bands last albums say very little in relation to what the band were doing beforehand.

I dare say if I was into Gentle Giant back in the 70’s I would of brought both the albums Giant For A Day and Civilian in the hope that they would of returned back to their norm. I often brought albums back then of my favourite artists without even hearing a track, and as rule was not that disappointed either. But later on in the late 70’s and 80’s most of them had changed their style to some extent even the likes of Genesis and Yes and they were much more disappointing indeed.

As with any album I have never heard before I will always play it at least 7 times before writing a review about it. I do not think you can honestly judge any album by just giving it one spin or even two or three spins for that matter. Although the album we have here is pretty much more straight forward music and it’s not really like an album one has to grow into by giving it more spins.

Those type of albums will speak to you differently the more attention you give to them, and that is where you will reap the reward from them by doing so. They are also the most likely albums to stand their test of time as well. An album like Giant For A Day is not gonna say anything different to you by giving it more spins like I did here.

Like I said in my review of The Missing Piece that there is no doubt that Gentle Giant had the ability to write some good pop songs. Giant For A Day is another album that does contain perhaps a couple of well written songs, but does not really say a lot more I am afraid.

For those who were into Gentle Giant way before this album came out, it’s easy to see why an album like this got voted as their worst, and gave it a very low score rating. But I would of also thought for those few who brought this album first, they still would not of gave it that much of an higher score either.

To be honest my final score rating for this album only comes from the fact that I am judging the album from a viewpoint of why I got into Gentle Giant in the first place. If I was to give my rating of it as pop album and how well the material was written for it. I honestly do not think it would get an higher score. The written material we have here is very weak.

To be honest some of the material on this album reminds me a bit like the pop band 10CC. There may very well be a reason why Gentle Giant do sound more like 10CC on this album too, and it’s down to the fact that band decided to write an album that had less keyboards in it. Which sort of left Kerry Minnear at a loose end. He was not in favour of it either, he even felt less connected with the writing on the album. It left him more or less using the electric piano more so on the album. Hence the reason it does have those certain similarities.

For example the opening track “Words From The Wise” may sound at first with it’s opening harmonies that it’s going to something more familiar with their own style. But soon as they are out the way, it’s something more like 10CC would do. Even the harmonies later on in the track sound more like 10CC and so do the the harmonies on the albums self titled track “Giant For A Day“. Although that track may sound like a dozen other pop bands as well :)))))))).

Tracks like “No Stranger“. “It’s Only Goodbye” and “Rock Climber” also might have some those 10CC elements slightly about them too, though to be honest the written material we have here is never gonna quite match up to that band I will say. The band were perhaps struggling for the material on this album, that much that even the drummer John Weathers co-wrote “Take Me” with Derek Shulman and was solely credited for “Friends“. The latter of those two happens to be one of the better tracks on the album to my ears, and it’s only a short 2 minute acoustic folk song.

Little Brown Bag” is perhaps the rocker of the album although this is something that would be more associated with the Rolling Stones than Gentle Giant. Which leaves “Thank You” to which the band released as a single from the album, and also the instrumental piece entitled “Spooky Boogie“. Both of these tracks for me personally are the best tracks on the album and this really is a poor album by all standards. It’s also easy to see why after they made it, they never bothered to go out on tour to promote it.

Overall the album Giant For A Day is a very weak effort from the band. I also felt that the pop songs they wrote on their previous album The Missing Piece were a lot better than what they did for this album. It’s no wonder the album never charted in America. I rather think more people would of got more pleasure by cutting the face out on the vinyl release and using it as a mask, and some even did :)))))))).

The album in this box set also comes with 2 bonus tracks making the overall playing time 42 minutes, 24 seconds. Though they are hardly gonna give you anything more, and are only the 7 inch edited down shorter versions of the two singles they released from the album “Words From The Wise” and “Thank You” which also never done a thing for the band and was perhaps a waste of time releasing them.

No doubt Gentle Giant were on a downhill slide from here on and my personal highlights from this album are “Thank You“. “Spooky Boogie” and “Friends“. There is no doubt in my mind that all those who voted this the worst Gentle Giant album were 100% right to do so. It really was a bad effort and was a million miles away from what this band were capable of doing.

I suppose the best way I can sum up the album Giant For A Day by Gentle Giant. Is that it would of been a bit like going into a painting & decorating shop to buy Wallpaper and coming out with Bog Roll :))))))))))).

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Words From The Wise (4:14). 2. Thank You (4:49). 3. Giant For A Day (song) (3:49). 4. Spooky Boogie (2:54). 5. Take Me (3:36). 6. Little Brown Bag (3:28). 7. Friends (2:00). 8. No Stranger (2:30). 9. It’s Only Goodbye (4:18). 10. Rock Climber (3:52).

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 2/10.

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Civilian

Civilian

The bands 11th and final studio album Civilian was released on the 3rd March 1980. It’s the bands shortest album of them all and contains 8 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 32 minutes, 46 seconds. The band rented apartments in Hollywood in 1979 and spent 6 to 7 weeks writing and rehearsing the material for the new album. By November of the same year they went into Sound City Studios in California to record the album to which Geoff Emerick was the sound recording engineer.

Emerick was the sound guy who had worked on the albums Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles and Abbey Road in the late 60’s for the Beatles. The Shulman brothers knew him from their days when they was known as Simon Dupree And The Big Sound. Things may have seemed a bit more promising for what was to be the bands final album apart from some of the band members now having their own families to look after and hated California and being away from home.

The band still had the Fleetwood Mac connection in that they recorded their 2nd eponymous album entitled Fleetwood Mac in the same studio in 1975. This was the first album Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks had recorded with the band, most likely why they wanted to use the same title as their 1968 debut album being that it was a new direction for them at the time.

There is no doubt the material for Civilian was much better than what they wrote for their previous album Giant For A Day. This is perhaps more of a pop/rock album and to be honest is just as good as anything the Alan Parsons Project was doing at this time, and is quite like the sort of material they would of been writing around 1979/80 as well.

It’s not a solid album by any means, and to be perfectly honest neither was a lot of Alan Parson’s albums either, and even he had gone more into pop/rock music by 1979. with the release of the album Eve. But what I will say about Civilian is that at least it’s got some better written songs on it, even if the band still have not captured the magic they had in their earlier career.

The album sort of flows along like a concept album in the way that some of the tracks blend or crossfade into one another, though it’s nothing of the sort. But it does work well and there is very little on here that does not really work and let it down. The CD in this box set does not come with the bonus track “Heroes No More” which they recorded and left off the album upon its release. It did appear on some later CD releases.

It’s perhaps not an album for everyone’s taste and no doubt most Gentle Giant fans are gonna either like it or hate it. But notice how I did use the word “like” in the last sentence, because this is personally not an album I do not think anybody would love. Though I would expect it does have more of a likeability factor about it.

All the tracks on this particular album were written by Kerry Minnear and Derek Shulman apart from the opening track “Convenience (Clean And Easy)” which was penned by Gary Green and Derek Shulman. The opening on the first track sort of reminds of Deep Purple with it’s intro, then as it kicks in it’s more like the Alan Parsons Project. It’s quite a good song. I also like how the next track “All Through The Night” blends into “Shadows On The Street“. Both are also very well written songs and the latter of the two is the only song on the album that Kerry gets to sing the lead vocals.

Number One” is much more up-tempo and once again like the opening track has that Alan Parsons Project feel about it.”Underground” is another great track and I quite like Ray Shulman’s dominant bass line on this one. But in saying that his bass playing does stand out more on most of the songs they have done on the two previous albums besides this one as well. It even appears much more of a dominant feature on the rock and pop material they have done.

Both “I Am A Camera” and the longest track on the album “Inside Out” are fine enough tracks too, and the final track on the album “It’s Not Imagination” is perhaps one of the weaker tracks on the album. It’s also said that they ended the final track off with the words “That’s All There Is” and used those words from the actual tracks on the album to say them as well.

For example the word “That’s” came from “I Am A Camera“. “All” came from “All Through The Night“. “There” from “Heroes No More” and the word “Is” came from “Inside Out“. The words only surfaced on a few albums and I would expect that being has the bonus track was included here, that they only later appeared on CD releases and not the original vinyl release.

Once again the album failed to even get in the charts after its release, but they did feel they had done better here and set up a 6 week tour in May 1980 to promote the album which ended June at the Roxy in Hollywood which was the bands final live performance. Kerry Minnear was more concerned with his family and made a decision to call it a day. Derek Shulman had also other ideas of being more of bigwig in the music business, and also felt that the band had nothing more to say.

The remaining 3 members Ray Shulman. Gary Green and John Weathers did have ideas of bringing in Eddie Jobson to keep the band going. But having seen the poor results that the album achieved and lack of interest they also decided to call it a day.

Overall the album Civilian was quite a good album and perhaps a lot better to end the bands career on than their previous album. I would even say that it’s perhaps more of a solid album in relation to both The Missing Piece and Giant For A Day. The only thing it really is not, is like any of the bands first 8 albums which personally for myself say a lot more than whatever their last 3 albums will ever say.

My personal highlights from the album are “Shadows On The Street“. “All Through The Night“. “Underground” and “Convenience (Clean And Easy)“. It’s a shame it all had to come to an end, but like many other bands that came out around the same time in the 70’s. I doubt that they could of returned to their formidable style with their songwriting that was on those first 8 albums of theirs.

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Convenience (Clean And Easy) (3:13). 2. All Through The Night (4:21). 3. Shadows On The Street (3:16). 4. Number One (4:47). 5. Underground (3:48). 6. I Am A Camera (3:32). 7. Inside Out (5:52). 8. It’s Not Imagination (3:57).

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6/10.

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Summary…

To sum up the Clamshell Box Set I Lost My Head (The Albums 1975 – 1980) by Gentle Giant. Its perhaps not an impressive box set with how they have presented the albums that you get inside by putting 2 albums onto 1 CD for some of them. Fitting the artwork of 2 albums onto 1 sleeve does not really work that well, especially for CD. I feel it spoils it’s overall presentation by them doing it this way.

On the plus side you do get a descent enough booklet with some very useful informative information. Plus of course at its price point it’s quite a big saving you get here, and for the it’s price of around £20 one cannot really complain on that score.

Another key factor on the plus side is that the CD’s have been remastered and sound really great. You are not going to get any better recording of them by buying the albums individually. The remasters in this box set are exactly the same recordings.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of the box set and Gentle Giant’s output over the the second part of their musical career. There is no doubt the music you are getting here is like a game of two halves with how the band decided to change its direction from progressive rock to pop music, and it’s certainly is a bit of a mixed bag in all respects to how their music does come across, with what you have here in this box set.

For me personally the real GEMS you are getting here are the albums Free Hand. Interview and the double live album Playing The Fool. These albums are without a doubt the only albums in this box set that speak the same language of what the band Gentle Giant were all about from the time they began their musical career in 1970.

1977 was the year the band perhaps changed it’s musical direction for the worse. To be honest it’s easy to see why they decided to do so as well, especially with how bands like Yes and Genesis were starting to do the same thing. Only they did it gradually and both of those bands were certainly more in the limelight to be more successful at doing such a thing and getting away with it.

I felt that Gentle Giant made the move to early and how they went about it was too much of a change with the majority of the material they wrote for The Missing Piece. They did try to make an album of two halves with how they presented that album. But I personally felt it never really worked, and by doing so they had lost some of the magic along the way. But some of the songs on this album do still contain some of the real essence of what the band was about more so than the two albums that followed it.

No doubt they was starting to lose the plot at this stage and they completely lost their head when they presented us with A Giant For A Day in the following year. In all honesty this is an album that merits very little regarding the band being songwriters. No doubt some of the pop songs they wrote on their previous album were very good. But this album was a complete disaster. There is very little to be had here.

The band finished their career in 1980 not where they started it, and they never really captured any of the magic that came from their output from 1970 – 1976. However their final album Civilian was a much better effort. The material was better written and even though it’s along the same lines of what a lot of rock and pop artists were doing at this particular time. I personally felt it was the strongest album out of the last 3 they made simply because it’s more of a solid album with the material they wrote for it. It also works better as an album of songs, and the material is not out of place at all.

It’s perhaps a good thing to experiment, but a change is never really a good thing in my book I am afraid, and a change of direction from one genre to another may work out for some bands such as Genesis who no doubt became far more successful by doing such a thing. But for me even their success was their downfall in my world simply because I am a guy who buys music for how it speaks to me in the first place. The moment it says something else and speaks differently, it will never say the same thing to me.

No doubt I went out and brought many of the albums of the artists I loved so much in the hope that one day the magic would return. But for most of the time it was like flogging a dead horse and it never did.

From the time Genesis released Wind and Wuthering in 1977 and I heard “You’re Own Special Way“. I knew that this bands best output was about to become extinct and they was never gonna speak the same language again. The same can be said for when Yes when they released Going For The One in 1977. And 1977 was the year that Gentle Giant also never spoke the same language again. All 3 of these bands never once recaptured that magic from their earlier career.

I Lost My Head, But Today I Can See…

Lee’s overall Complete Box Set Value Rating…

The Box Set Presentation Rating Score. 5/10.

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #85

Afterglow – Wobbler

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Introduction…

Well it’s time for another review of this amazing prog rock band from Norway who go by the name of Wobbler. Like I mentioned in my previous review of the bands debut album Hinterland the band have made 4 studio albums to date, and they all tend to be quite different with how the band have crafted out the material that was written for them. The bands second album Afterglow is very much different in the way that the band have combined medieval folk music with other styles that make up really great progressive rock music.

From the biggest majority of reviews I have read about this particular album. It’s been likened to what the Italian band PFM were doing back in the 70’s. I can see some resemblances from that particular Italian band, but nowhere near enough in relation to the 70’s band who not only created this fusion of medieval prog rock, but were the original masters of it back in the 70’s. That band was the English medieval prog rock band Gryphon.

Gryphon were perhaps one of the most underrated and unheard of bands that got to grace my ears back in the 70’s. Having reformed once again in 2009 (the very same year this album was released) they are still gracing my ears today. Now I have no idea at this point if this Norwegian band Wobbler have even heard of Gryphon.

But somehow they have more or less created an album more or less just like the music Gryphon would of presented you with back in the early 70’s. Even down to the use of instruments that date back centuries, such as the Crumhorn for example. The only instrument that is perhaps missing here is the Bassoon.

But despite all the likeness with the instrumentation and the way the music has been arranged with some superb acoustic intervals and passages. Once again Wobbler have not copied a thing regarding the written material, and once again they have so skilfully crafted and carved out something that is 100% their own, no matter where the influence of the instrumentation came from.

So before I go any deeper into this magnificent album, let’s first take a look at the packaging and artwork as usual.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The CD comes in a matt finished cardboard Gatefold DigiSleeve that gives quite a very good presentation of a vinyl album, only on a much more smaller scale. Although the cardboard is adequate that’s been used to make the package, because it’s made out of thin cardboard they do tend not close up so well, as you can see in the picture below.

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But this will not present much of a problem when storing it with your others CD’s stacked up against one another on the shelf. The CD also comes in a reusable polythene bag that is resealable. So there is no need to get a Swiss Knife to open it up otherwise you will damage it, and it will be unusable if you plan on using it again that is.

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The picture above shows the CD back in it’s polythene bag after I originally had opened it up, took it out and put it back in again. These type of polythene bags can be purchased in quantities, and are cheap enough to buy and are useful for keeping these type of cardboard DigiSleeves and Digipak’s clean.

It’s a shame that nobody yet as thought about making a mini version of those more quality gatefold polythene sleeves that you could buy for your vinyl albums years ago. Especially in this day and age where more and more CD’s are being released in Digipaks and Digi Sleeves. I am sure somebody would make a small fortune if they did.

Because this is a DigiSleeve and not a Digipak the one thing you do not get is a booklet. But all the production credits and linear notes have been printed at the bottom of both sides on the inside of the gatefold sleeve. The one thing they did not include was the lyrics. But to be honest there is very little of them. But they could of made more use of the back of the DigiSleeve by printing them on their perhaps.

The Artwork.

The albums artwork cover is of a painting done by the bands keyboard player Lars Fredrik Frøislie. It looks like the Wobbler’s are in Wobble Land having some fun. The one with the beard may even be throwing a Wobbler :))))). The layout was done by Trine + Kim at Design Studio, and additional photographs were provided by the band.

CD & Vinyl Releases…

The CD version of the album Afterglow was released on the keyboard players own record label Termo Records to which is jointly owned by him and Jacob Holm-Lupo. By now Lars had broken away from the American record label Lasers Edge to which their debut album was originally released on, and they were releasing their albums from their own country in Norway.

Oddly enough though when ordering any of their albums from Termo Records they still charge you in American dollars rather than their own currency.

As with most countries other than your own, you tend to pay more money for imports. But in all honesty I have brought quite a few albums from America and other European countries such as Germany in the past that cost me a damn site cheaper than what they cost here in the UK.

Now I got lucky with the bands 1st album Hinterland and got it from Amazon UK for £12.67. That is about the top price any CD should be priced at. Most CD’s are even less than that to buy here in the UK and the biggest majority are only £10.

Granted that most of those CD’s sold at £10 are from more well known artists who can afford to mass produce their albums to sell them at a lower price. But in all honesty I think anybody is a fool to try and sell their CD’s at a much higher price in this day and age when hardly anybody wants to buy a physical product any more.

Now the cheapest price on Amazon UK for Afterglow on CD at the time was £21.80. No way was I paying that and you would have to be a complete mug to do so as well.

So I ended up going to the bands website to buy the CD which directed me to Termo Records to which it was priced at 16 American dollars, which works out at £12.27 here in the UK. Now that is a reasonable enough price. But what is not reasonable is the fact that they are charging you another 7 dollars to send it to you, which is another £5.26 on top here in the UK.

I personally do not think it costs that to send a CD in a Jiffy bag by recorded delivery no matter what part of the world you live in. In the end through Paypal I ended up paying £17.80 for this CD. Which is way over the odds any CD should cost you.

I could understand if it was a DVD or a Blu Ray because they are more expensive discs to buy in the first place, and the quality you can put on those is lot higher than what you will find on any CD. But sometimes it can be cheaper using the bands website, and £17.80 was cheaper than paying the ridiculous price of £21.80 on Amazon.

The good thing was though, is that it did arrive in less than a week. But I dare say if I was willing to wait up to 2 to 3 weeks to get it. I could of got it from America a lot cheaper.

Just to make matters worse the day after the CD arrived I noticed some seller from Germany on ebay had only just put it up for sale brand new, and had 10 of them at £11.49 each with free postage and package. Bloody typical LOL..

The album was also released on both black and blue vinyl at the same time in 2009 and in 2017 it was remixed and remastered and released on clear vinyl. So to was the CD remastered and it sounds great…

Musicians & Credits…

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Produced, mixed and recorded by Lars Fredrik Frøislie. Recorded between June 2007 – October 2008 at various home studios. Mastered by Jens Petter Nilsen. Cover Design & layout by Trine + Kim Design Studio. Front cover painting by Lars Fredrik Frøislie. Gatefold Photo by Trond Bråthen. Additional photos by Wobbler. Remixed & Remastered by Lars Fredrik Frøislie at Lars Studio 2015 – 2016.

Musicians:
Tony Johannessen: Lead Vocals.
Morten Eriksen: Electric & Martin Acoustic Guitars/Voice.
Kristian Hultgren: Bass Guitar/Acoustic & Double Bass.
Lars Fredrik Frøislie: Keyboards & Vocals.
Martin Nordrum Kneppen: Drums/Percussion/Recorders & Crumhorn.

Additional Musicians:
Aage Moltke Schou: Vibraphone/Glockenspiel & Percussion (On Imperial Winter White & In Taberna)
Ketil Vestrum Einarsen: Flutes & Vocals (On Imperial Winter White & In Taberna)
Sigrun Eng: Cello (On In Taberna)

The Album In Review…

Wobbler’s 2nd studio album Afterglow was released on the 5th of April 2009. The album contains 5 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 34 minutes, 39 seconds. It’s the shortest album they have produced so far and is more familiar with the old 60’s and 70’s time slot, and is perhaps more known as mini album today.

The material that made up the album Afterglow was originally written back in 1999. 2 of the tracks were actual demo’s and the other 3 tracks were more or less complete. But they decided to record all 5 tracks again between 2007 and 2008. One of the tracks they even played at the Near-Fest festival in USA in 2005, and part of it can be seen in the live video I posted of excerpts from that concert in my previous review of Hinterland.

Most of the recordings for the album were done at the keyboard player Lars place at Hønefoss and Oslo. Lars Fredrik Frøislie is the bands producer and recording engineer.

Additional recordings took place at one of the session players house who is the bands percussionist Aage Moltke Schou. Both he and the the other session player Ketil Vestrum Einarsen who is the bands main flute player, also featured on the bands debut album Hinterland. They also play at a lot at the bands live shows too. Other recordings took place at Jens Petter Nilsen’s studio. He is the guy who does the final mastering for the bands albums.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Afterglow maybe a short album but it’s quite a Gem of an album. It also happens to be my favourite album of theirs too and no doubt this is an album that certainly sounds like it came out of the 70’s. It also reminds me a lot of the band Gryphon and judging from what I have now read up on of the band, I guess we have the bands drummer Martin Nordrum Kneppen to thank for the Gryphon influence here. Martin is also the bands Crumhorn player pictured here.

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Just like Wobbler’s debut album Hinterland the album Afterglow offered very little for the bands singer Tony Johannessen to do. As a matter of fact he had less to do on this album in relation to the bands debut album, and only got to feature on 1 of the tracks out of the 5. Afterglow is much more of an instrumental album.

Sadly Afterglow was to be Tony Johannessen’s last album he appeared on to which he left the band afterwards. It perhaps comes as no surprise because the band in reality gave him very little to do. Although I personally do not know his reason for leaving and like many of the other band members, they was also working in other bands besides Wobbler. Johannessen was the singer and keyboard player in the metal band Thunderbolt. Although I know nothing of that band and only found that out through my research for this review.

So now let’s take a look a deeper look at how the album Afterglow turned out over it’s 5 individual tracks.

Track 1. The Haywain.

The inspiration for the songs title came from their trip to London to see the medieval prog rock band Gryphon who was playing live at the Union Chapel back in 2009. It was whilst they was over there they popped into the National Art Gallery in London and they must of seen John Constable’s painting of the Haywain and thought it would make a good title for this short instrumental piece.

This was also the very year that Gryphon had finally got back together since they split up in 1977. It was also a concert I missed myself, but I have seen the band play live twice at the Robin 2 in Wolverhampton since, and I am also going to see them again this year twice. First at the Union Chapel in London and then back at the Robin 2 again.

There is no doubt that the band Wobbler are very much inspired by Gryphon’s music on this particular album and it reflects that well here on this opening instrumental piece. That much that I think that if you was to hear it on the radio without the DJ announcing who it was by. You would most certainly think it was Gryphon. Though once again they have created their very own melody lines, and it’s only the instruments that have the familiarity about the band.

The “The Haywain” is a really great little ditty and it appears that the band have a fetish for starting their albums with short intros that lead up to the main featured song on their albums.

Track 2. Imperial Winter White.

Well the band had a masterpiece on their debut album with the self titled album track Hinterland, and they have certainly come up with another one here. When the band originally wrote this epic back in 1999 it was titled “Imperial Winter White Dwarf” and they used to play it quite a lot at their live gigs way before this album came out.

The track bursts into action immediately and this particular track is some 15 minutes long and it takes precisely 7 minutes and 17 seconds for the vocals to come into play. But during this lengthy intro the band are certainly cooking on gas, and you’re going to hear lots of gorgeous keyboards including mellotron, flying bass and guitar lines driven along with force with the drums at great pace.

There is bags of diversity and progression with many transitional changes along this stretch and you are also going to hear some lovely intervals in between where they come down for a bit to let the flute, acoustic guitar play some most gorgeous melodies. There is even some nice glistening vibes that come into play and not only are the band members doing the business here, but the couple of session players are also playing an integral part.

Imperial Winter White” is unlike the opening first track and the last track on the album that do sound more like the band Gryphon. But it does have some resemblance to that band with the gorgeous acoustic guitar section you will hear between 4:00 – 4:46. In some respects you would even think it was Graeme Taylor of Gryphon playing it with how it sounds.

Wobbler do spend a lot of time and careful attention to how things were recorded and sounded back then and can spend hours, days and weeks trying to get every detail right in the studio.

Even though this is the only track that contains vocals on the whole album there is very little of them in here to be honest. There are only two small sections allocated for the vocal parts and the first section from 7:17 – 7:49 is the shortest section that gives Tony Johannessen all of 32 seconds to sing the first verse.

This first verse is also a more subtle part and Johannessen does great justice with his voice to it. They could of quite of easily of slotted in another verse along this section too, but chose not to, and the rest of the musicians get back on with it and meander and weave more magic into it with all interplay between the instruments and superb progression and changes.

Johannessen’s final part on the vocals comes back into play across the section between 11:18 – 12:28 and he does another terrific job. It brings out more aggression from his voice (Iron Maiden like) and the music allows him to express it all with how it all builds up. The rest of the guys play it out with more power to it reaches its climax and frizzles it way out with the mellotron to end it all off.

There is no doubt that “Imperial Winter White” could of went on much longer just like “Hinterland” did on their previous album. More vocal sections could of been easily put in and it still would of worked. But even as it is, there is no doubt that is still works superbly and is without a doubt another masterpiece the band have come up with. It’s very much my favourite track on the album and merits the top spot award.

Track 3. Interlude.

A short acoustic piece that puts a bridge between the previous track and the track that is going to follow it. It mainly features Morten Eriksen on acoustic guitar and Kristian Hultgren on double bass. It also sounds like there is a Cello in here too. But according to the musician credits Sigrun Eng only plays Cello on the next track and not this one.

So either they have made a printing error or Kristian Hultgren is also using a bow on his double bass. The only alternative is that Lars Fredrik Frøislie is playing it on the mellotron. It’s another fine piece and serves its purpose as an interlude very well.

Track 4. In Taberna.

Well we do have a very strange title here I will say, and if this so called “Taberna” is what I think it is, all I can say is that the band are certainly in a hurry to grab a bite to eat :)))))). The only reference I can find about the word “Taberna” is that it’s a single room shop covered by a barrel vault within great indoor markets of ancient Rome. If this is the sort of thing the title is derived from, I can honestly say that their musical presentation of it is perhaps a billion miles off the mark :))))).

Despite the rather unfitting title which certainly could of been better, this instrumental piece is quite another GEM. From the moment it kicks off it’s on fire and you are going to hear Keith Emerson like keyboards, lashing of gorgeous mellotron, superb cello and flutes that create superb melody lines to which some of them do actually give it that Roman feel. You even get a super little medieval section of it with the flutes too. The whole band is weaving out magic all the way on the piece, and the diversity and progression is quite staggering.

I guess “In Taberna” has to be another contender for the top spot on the album with all respects and it really is a fine work of art and brilliant track.

Track 5. Armoury.

The albums ends off with another medieval piece done in great Gryphon style, and once again you would think it was them with the use of the Crumhorn, flutes and percussion.  It’s another super piece that winds up the album superbly and it even has some great synths and quite a cathedral ending with the organ, and you get a magical madrigal 3 minutes here.

Summary…

To sum up Afterglow by Wobbler I personally think it’s one of the best albums since I heard the band Gryphon back in the 70’s. To be honest it will be interesting to see what Gryphon’s new album turns out like this year. There is no doubt the band can still play their old material and are immaculate musicians, but as to if they still have that magic with composition and arrangements about them today, I will be amazed if they can beat this album to be honest.

I find that many bands who had that brilliant way of composing and structuring music years ago, no longer have that magic at all I am afraid. But what Wobbler have done in every sense of the word, is in all honesty recapture that precise magic from the 70’s and like I have said before, there is not a lot out there today who honestly can achieve this.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Afterglow by Wobbler I would certainly say that it’s the best album I have brought out of everything I have brought so far this year. The album maybe short but it’s 100% solid with every track on the album. It’s purely a Golden Gem of an album and master-class piece of work in the way it’s all been so immaculately structured and composed. I just wished there was more bands out there like this today.

No doubt both the longer tracks “Imperial Winter White” and “In Taberna” are my personal highlights from the album, but the whole album is a real treat from start to finish.

Since the departure of Tony Johannessen there is no doubt the band have yet again gone in another direction with their new singer on their next album Rites At Dawn. And I shall be reviewing that album and their latest album From Silence To Somewhere sometime this month. But up next for review will be the reissue of the 4 CD Clamshell Box Set of Gentle Giant entitled I Lost My Head (The Chrysalis Years 1975 – 1980).

Besides buying the physical CD’s of Wobbler you can of course buy them in a digital download format as well at most places. The best of those would be perhaps Bandcamp because at least they give you a choice of higher quality audio formats such as flac and wave besides MP3. And they are very reasonably priced too at £4.50 which is around  5.13 Euro.

You can also listen to the album too on Bandcamp and here is the link to this superb album should you wish to give it a listen. https://wobbler.bandcamp.com/album/afterglow

The Faces Of Creatures Are Lying Alone In The Dark…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. The Haywain. 0:54.
02. Imperial Winter White. 15:01.
03. Interlude. 2:35.
04. In Taberna. 13:09.
05. Armoury. 3:00.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 08/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 6/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #84

Hinterland – Wobbler

W - H

Introduction…

Well I recently stumbled upon this superb prog rock band from Norway on the Progrock Facebook Group thanks to my good friend Dan Lockard. The band Wobbler originally formed back in 1999, although it was not until 2005 that they released their debut album Hinterland.

This 5 piece band who got together in the Norwegian countryside and had a burning desire and ambition to recreate some of the expressions with their instruments that came from the prog rock scene back in the early 70’s. That much that they more or less decided that the only way to capture the music that came out of that dark decade, was to use the same vintage instruments many of the prog rock bands were using back then.

Most of the time they spent between 1999 – 2004 was spent accumulating the instruments and structuring the music. For example they even went out and brought vintage drum sticks from 1973 off Ebay. Only to find out that they broke on the third stroke :)))))).

The bands keyboard player spent a fortune amassing vintage synths. Although having gone on the road playing live with them. He soon found out that the synths were too temperamental these days for the road and to the change of climate conditions. So to save on time and repairs, he had to purchase even more up to date digital keyboards for this purpose and use most of the vintage synths for studio work only.

The band were quite young and very inexperienced even down to working in a studio to get a good production for their debut album, and upon its release they was not very happy with the production despite all the hard work, time and money they spent on it. Though the album was certainly good enough to be noted by a small American label known as Lasers Edge and was eventually released in 2005.

Like many bands today who love and are inspired by progressive rock from those dark distant days of the early 70’s and go about creating their own version of it, it’s certainly a struggle to make a lot money out of doing such great music.

I am sure many of you have heard of the expression “Don’t give up the day job”.

Well despite the fact that the band Wobbler released their 4th album From Silence To Somewhere last year, and it getting voted the album of the year by Progarchives and the band caused a bit of a stir in Italy when they played there. The members of the band still very much have a day job and only get to make music in their spare time.

So before I go deeper into what floats my boat about this band so much, let’s first take a look the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The CD is stored in a rather neat 2 panel cardboard Digipak and I like how the disc is stored in a plastic tray which lends more strength and support to the case, and it’s easy enough to retrieve the disc from the holder without getting your mitts all over the disc surface. It also has a pocket to store the booklet and is a very nice presentation overall.

The 10 page booklet it comes with contains the normal credits and production linear notes, plus the lyrics, some photos and some background information of when the album was made. Overall it’s quite informative and not just a load of pictures like some booklets.

The Artwork.

The front cover artwork was done by the visionary artist Michael Bennett and it looks like this chaps either had a bad hair day, or had been throwing a Wobbler :)))))). It could also be that this Hinterland lies in a sleepy hollow deep within a Norwegian Wood.  The band photos were taken by Erik Skjerve and the new CD layout for the 2018 release was done by Tom Erik Kristofferson.

CD & Vinyl Releases…

The album Hinterland was originally released on CD back in 2005. Because it went out of print the bands keyboard player Lars decided to not only reissue the album, but also remix and remaster it due to it not having a very good production in the first place. It’s now said to sound better than ever, and the new reissued CD comes in a Digipak and was released this year on Termo Records which I was pleased to see, and I got my copy of it from Amazon for £12.67.

Termo Records is a small record label owned jointly by Wobbler’s keyboard player Lars Fredrik Frøislie and Jacob Holm-Lupo who is a guitarist who plays in a couple of other bands in Norway.

Also in 2016 a very short run of limited editions were released on both black and coloured vinyl. Only 350 copies were pressed on black vinyl and 200 copies were pressed on blue & gold vinyl. These were also remixed and remastered by Lars and released on Pancromatic Records. Those I would expect will have sold out awhile ago now. But for my money it appears that I have got into the band at the right time, and no doubt the CD does sound really great too.

Musicians & Credits…

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Produced by Wobbler, Jacob Holm-Lupo, Øystein Vesaas. Recorded and mixed between 19th June 2004 – 27th February 2005 at Lydkjokkenet Oslo Norway. Engineer Øystein Vesaas. Mastering Jens Petter Nilsen. Album Cover Artwork & Illustration by Michael Bennett. Band Photography by Erik Skjerve. New 2018 CD Layout by Tom Erik Kristofferson. Remixed & Remastered by Lars Fredrik Frøislie at Lars Studio 2015 – 2016.

Musicians:
Tony Johannessen: Lead Vocals.
Morten Eriksen: Gibson Explorer Electric & Martin Acoustic Guitars.
Kristian Hultgren: Rickennacker 4001 Bass Guitar & Saxophone.
Lars Fredrik Frøislie: Hammond C3/Minimoog Model D/Mellotron M400/Petrof Grand Piano/Berggren OG Bengzon Reed Organ/Glockenspiel/Wurlitzer A200/Rhodes Mark II Stage Piano/Hohner Clavinet D6/Zuckermann Harpsichord/ARP Pro Soloist/Arp Axxe Solina String Ensemble/Logan String Melody & Stylophone.
Martin Nordrum Kneppen: Ludwig Special Drums & Percussion.

Additional Musicians:
Aage Moltke Schou: Percussion (On Hinterland & Rubato Industry)
Ulrik Gaston Larsen: Theorbo & Baroque Guitar (On Hinterland)
Pauliina Fred: Recorder (On Hinterland)
Ketil Vestrum Einarsen: Flute/Backing Vocals/Vocal Arrangements (On Hinterland, Clair Obscur & Rubato Industry)

The Album In Review…

The album Hinterland by Wobbler was originally released on the 5th July 2005 in the US only on the record label Lasers Edge. The album contains 4 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 56 minutes, 48 seconds. 4 days after the albums release on the 9th July 2005 they played at the Nearfest prog rock festival in America. I guess the bands intention was to hit the American market first with them being tied to an America record label.

The band played the 3 main tracks from their debut album Hinterland at the festival. They also played “Imperial Winter White Dwarf” to which the studio version would later appear on their 2nd album Afterglow which was released 4 years later in 2009. This video I found on Youtube contains short edited excerpts from the live show, and it’s a shame they never had more of it.

Nearfest did also release a DVD of the bands that played at the festival back then. But it’s a compilation and only features the odd track that the bands played at the festival and not the whole of the set they played.

The only live video you do get of Wobbler is of them playing “Imperial Winter White Dwarf“. The British neo prog rock band IQ also played at the festival on the same day. Although personally even though I like IQ they do not quite cut the mustard regarding genuine prog rock music where as Wobbler certainly are more like it in my opinion.

Wobbler without a doubt are one of the best prog rock bands that came out much later than the 70’s. Their music is much more like the prog rock music that came out in that decade, and the only other band I can think of who did that, was the Swedish band Änglagård. Both bands produce highly original material that is very much their own, and is up there with the likes of Gentle Giant. Genesis. Yes. Gryphon and all those greats.

The other interesting thing about Wobbler is that out of the 4 albums they have made so far. They all sound completely different to one another. There is no doubt the band does have some musical influences from those greats from the 70’s. But the way the band go about writing their music is very much different. The only resemblances you will hear comes from the instrumentation they use.

The Album Tracks In Review…

The album Hinterland is perhaps more of an instrumental album rather than a collection of songs, and even though they do have a singer, he only gets to do his bit on 2 of the 4 tracks on the album. The band Wobbler are perhaps very much like the band Anglagard at this early stage of their career in the way that they like to be more instrumental and use the space more for the musicians to interact with one another on their instruments.

But where Anglagard have the advantage in presenting their music in this way, is really down to the fact that their singer happens to be one of their guitarists, so he’s not gonna be left twiddling his thumbs whilst the rest of the band carry on strutting their stuff so to speak, like poor old Tony Johannessen the singer of this band was doing.

I personally think the band should of paid more consideration to its vocalist and in reality the one of the two tracks Tony Johannessen did get to sing on this album is by far the best track on the album by a MASSIVE margin. Having heard all 4 of the bands albums, he was without a doubt the best singer they had in my personal opinion.

I do not know the reasons behind Johannessen’s departure from the band after they made their first 2 albums. But my guess is that the poor guy was bored out of his skull with the band giving him very little to do.

One of the other reasons why the band Wobbler may tend to focus more on instrumental pieces, is that the bands keyboard player and producer Lars Fredrik Frøislie has also composed a lot of music for films and television.

So having said all that lets see just how the bands debut album turned out as I take you through the albums 4 tracks.

Track 1. Serenade For 1652.

Well judging by the year in the title it appears that they had something to sing about in 1652 and I know the band had a big thing about getting all the of instruments that came out in 70’s that featured on many of those prog rock albums that came out back then, and the mellotron does play it’s part very effectively on this short orchestrated piece. But 1652 was quite a few centuries before the 70’s :)))).

But never the less this is a band that also very much considered much older instruments that would of came out centuries ago too, and personally this is what makes this band so unique and the fact they also include those instruments is why I love this band so much.

Serenade For 1652” is the shortest track on the album and is all of 42 seconds long, and in reality it’s an intro to the next track which happens to be the masterpiece on the album. They could of quite of easily of done away with making this a separate track and giving it a separate title.

Track 2. Hinterland.

The albums self titled track “Hinterland” is without a doubt a masterpiece and a master class composition. This without a doubt what I would call prog rock heaven and is an outstanding piece of work. This track alone is worth the price of the album as far as I am concerned, and the idea of using instruments from 70’s certainly paid off, and no doubt this very much sounds like a classic that came from that decade.

But of course just by going out and getting all those instruments that came out back then, does not mean you can make music like this. There is the fine art of composition and having the right musicians with the skill to pull it all off.

Not only do the band have a very capable keyboard player, but the bass player they have is quite remarkable, and the bass playing on this track alone is to die for. Combine that with the electric and acoustic guitar sections you will hear throughout this 27 minute and 44 second epic, plus the flutes makes it one sheer class exciting magical journey.

No doubt there are a loads of influences from other bands from the 70’s you will hear on this masterpiece, including the likes of Wishbone Ash and Black Sabbath besides all the other more noted prog rock bands like Gentle Giant, Emerson Lake And Palmer and many more. But this is all highly original material and nothing has come from any of those regarding how the music has been structured and composed.

The word “Hinterland” can have several meanings and judging by the lyrics we have here, my guess is that they have taken it from the German word which means land beyond.

The track opens up in quite a mysterious and haunting way. It sort of reminds me that the lonesome traveller is making his entrance into the land beyond from the sea which is portrayed by the keyboards and the use of a gong, all of which is the opening 21 seconds. Once on the land, our traveller sets off at a more speedy and menacing pace, and the band weave out a bit of magic here with the interaction and interplay of how they feed off one another over the next minute and it grinds to an halt at the 1:25 mark.

The next section the band bring in a rather nice transitional change with some fine rhythm guitar from Morten Eriksen and some really gorgeous bass lines from Kristian Hultgren and the bands drummer Martin Nordrum Kneppen is almost holding it all together in military style. This all allows the singer Tony Johannessen to come into play, and he makes his entrance around the 2:17 mark.

This vocal section from 2:17 up to around the 6:45 mark is what I call the Wishbone Ash section. Although this is nothing like that band at all in reality, and my observation comes from the soothing vocal section of the verses they sing on their song the “Warrior“. Johannessen’s voice very much has these fine refined vocal qualities about it, and no doubt he has a great voice.

Once again the band weave some magic in between this first vocal section in between the vocal parts and even the session player Ketil Vestrum Einarsen contributes to it on the backing vocals and flute. There is more musical interludes than the actual vocal parts in this section as well, and it all comes down nicely around the 6:45 mark. The acoustic guitar played by Eriksen plays a lovely short passage that leads into the next vocal section and change, which is perhaps even more serene.

Once again there are some gorgeous bass lines from Hultgren and it builds up into the next section around the 8:30 mark where a bit more power and aggression is injected into it over this short half a minute section, and at the 9 minute mark another really great transitional change comes into play.

This section runs for near enough 3 minutes and is quite like a cross between early Genesis and Gentle Giant. There is even some great acoustic guitar work and vocal chants and harmonies, and is quite menacing like Gentle Giant too with the chord progression and how it all changes. The session player percussionist Aage Moltke Schou also contributes some nice vibes on the vibraphone in this section too.

Then as if that section was not gorgeous enough, around the 11:52 mark another session player Ulrik Gaston Larsen comes into the equation on the Theorbo & Baroque Guitar. This short interlude runs up to where the main vocals come back into play around the 13:04 mark, and is accompanied by another session player namely Pauliina Fred on the recorder. The bands keyboard player Lars Fredrik Frøislie adds a touch of harpsichord to it, and makes it a madrigal piece of heaven that is sounding something more like the year 1652 which was in the title of the 1st track.

The fine melody continues with the vocal section for just over a minute, and at first Johannessen’s vocal approach being more serene and subtle, which gradually builds up once again to some power which takes us into the next musical section that comes into play at 14:08.

This section is more darker and this is what I call the Black Sabbath section because of its dark and heavier approach. I suppose you could also associate Uriah Heep with the darkness too. Although for some reason I am singing the words to the Black Sabbath’sElectric Funeral” but once again this nothing like that song, and it’s just my own way of being a singer myself can incorporate those words into this melody line. Just like I could do with the Wishbone Ash song I mentioned earlier.

This dark meandering section runs for about 3 minutes and 20 seconds and features some great synth and hammond playing by Frøislie supported very well by the bass, drums and occasional bits of flute. Then it builds itself up to a faster pace at the 17:22 mark with lead guitar being brought into the equation, then settles itself back down and runs into the next transitional music change that comes into play around the 18:58 mark.

This next section is once again meandering its way nicely along and even falls back into some of the earlier melodies. There honestly is never a dull moment throughout the whole piece, then at the 22:22 mark it goes into another lovely acoustic guitar passage and starts to heavily build itself back up for Johannessen to come back in on the vocals at exactly a minute later for the final verse.

This runs up to the 24:13 mark and it starts to descend into another change, at first with some rather jolly flute playing and then it runs into what I call the Emerson Lake and Palmer section. Well perhaps Keith Emerson to be more precise with the superb job Frøislie does on the hammond organ. We are now on the last run and the track ends itself off superbly with more great interplay from them all.

Hinterland” is without a doubt the best track on the album and is my personal favourite just as sure as I feel it will be for many others too, and merits my top spot award of the album. Quite frankly there is nothing else on this album that comes close to it. But that’s not to say that the last couple of tracks are bad by any means.

Track 3. Rubato Industry.

Quite a strange title and the word “Rubato” relates to the temporary disregarding of strict tempo to allow an expressive quickening or slackening, usually without altering the overall pace. It also translates to “Stolen Time” in Italian and judging by the excellent well written lyrics this song could relate to them both. Here are the words to the opening verse to give you an idea.

A lonely page in a music book
Is torn and blown across the lake
And by the water’s edge it stills
As the tide retreats in defence
Can these notes awake again?
Father time is slowing down
The flowing sand inside the hour glass
Unlike time, they can be free

By the way I do not need to translate these words because both the singers the band Wobbler have had, very well sing in English.

Rubato Industry” is perhaps more of an instrumental track in that it is has a lengthy 2 minute 55 second intro before Tony Johannessen comes in on the vocals. His part in it is all over at the 6:09 mark too, and in between the vocal section there is a lovely melancholy lead break that features Ketil Vestrum Einarsen on the flute again. The last verse is also beautifully sung by Johannessen too. and he ends it all off with some great power in his voice as well.

The remaining 6 minutes and 36 seconds of the song is all instrumental and personally I feel it would of worked a lot better if they spaced out the vocals a bit more, like they did on “Hinterland” rather than try and cram them all into one particular place early on in the song. You do get the odd vocal chant in a couple of small sections as it progresses along, but it’s not enough to make it work like a song as an whole.

No doubt the band are very skilful and the musicianship is top notch how they interact with one another. In some ways this is even a bit like King Crimson how it meanders it’s way along and incorporates some great melody lines, twists and turns.

But I do get the impression that the band maybe scared of the singer taking up more of a role of being more of a front man in the band, and it’s damn shame because they have a really great singer who would make a great front man of any band.

Track 4. Clair Obscur.

The second longest track on the album is an instrumental piece that weighs in at 15 minutes, 31 seconds. Another strange title and judging by the intro featuring a fine melody on the piano after the initial sound of the mellotron opening it up. One could get perhaps the impression that this is a very obscure version of Debussy’sClaire De Lune“. But that would have to be very obscure indeed :))))).

The opening movement is quite classical and has a sense of drama with it’s approach with how its been orchestrated with the mellotron and piano. After 2 minutes and 23 seconds the melody on the piano changes to a more cheerful mood and Ketil Vestrum Einarsen’s flute replaces the mellotron to give it that more of a melancholy feel about it.

At 2:57 the guitar makes a pleasing entrance, followed closely by the hammond organ, drums and bass, and it starts to take shape and end eventually kicks off into some more prog rock goodness.

The track has some great changes along its path, excellent progression and diversity to drive it all along. Even the guitar plays some fine lead lines besides the keyboards, and eventually it all ends off nicely in a similar fashion that it started off with on the piano.

Clair Obscur” is another really great track on the album that has some influences from King Crimson and Gentle Giant and I dare say some other great bands too, including the Moody Blues with its intro and outro. It even has a bit of Steve Hackett like phasing on the guitar has does some of the other tracks on this album too, and puts an end to a quite a remarkable album.

Summary…

To sum up the album Hinterland by Wobbler it’s more or less a solid enough album and no doubt the band got off to a great start with the material that was written for it. There is no doubt the band took a lot of time sculpturing and carving out the music they present to you, and this is not something you can knock up in a year. Since the band formed in 1999 they spent at least 5 of those years working on the material for their debut album and also wrote the biggest majority of the material for their 2nd album.

But you can plainly see that this band do not rush things out just for the sake of getting another album out to try and get a bit more money from its sales. And even though most of their 2nd album was written at this stage, it took them another 4 years to get it anywhere near the way they wanted it, which is why it got released much later on in 2009.

There is no doubt that their hard work as paid off. Because this in reality is one of the very few bands in this world today who actually make what I would call genuine progressive rock music. This album sounds like it came from the 70’s and the only other band I know who can do that today is the Swedish band Änglagård like I mentioned earlier in my review.

I know Robert Reed tried to make the last Magenta album We Are Legend sound like something from the 70’s. But he failed miserably and both Magenta’s first and second albums fared better to be honest, but Magenta are only really a neo prog rock band and could not do what these two bands can. Just like the many other so called prog rock bands today could not either.

There is no doubt Wobbler have made a huge contribution to the world of progressive rock music and have done it completely in their own way and style. It’s a real shame that a band like this cannot make a living from the great music they create, and still have not gave up the day job so to speak. This bands deserves way more recognition and are one hell of a force to reckoned with.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of the band Wobbler and its debut album Hinterland. Personally I feel that anyone who is into progressive rock needs to have this album in their collection. I would not say the whole album is a masterpiece as an whole, but overall it does not disappoint either.

There can only be one highlight from the 4 tracks on the album, and that is a masterpiece in itself. The near enough 28 minute epic self titled track “Hinterland” is worth its weight in gold. It’s a pure classic that not only belongs in the world prog rock music, but speaks the exact language that awesome prog rock music did back in the 70’s. It’s by far one of the best tracks I have heard in ages in the world of prog rock.

Hinterland is my 2nd favourite album of the 4 albums this great band has made so far. The album that followed it in 2009 Afterglow. Happens to be a pure Golden GEM and is my ultimate favourite album of the band. You can find out more about that great album in my next review.

A New World Springs From My Hinterland…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Serenade For 1652. 0:42.
02. Hinterland. 27:44.
03. Rubato Industry. 12:45.
04. Clair Obscur. 15:37.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 08/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #83

Double Vision – Arena

A - DV

Introduction…

Well it’s been a good 3 years since this band released their last album The Unquiet Sky.  But that is perhaps nothing unusual for Arena and they are a band whose members are all involved in other bands and projects. For example the bands keyboard player Clive Nolan has been in both Shadowland and Pendragon before even forming Arena. The first of those two bands he was in prior to Arena I have never heard. The latter I have and did not like at all.

The bands guitar player John Mitchell is also the singer and guitar player in It Bites and also plays guitar for the band Frost*. He has also been involved in other bands too throughout his career. But for me his best output is in the band Arena. I cannot say I am a fan of It Bites and neither do I rate him as a singer. If I was to be perfectly honest, the only album the band Frost* ever made that really spoke to me was their debut album Milliontown.

For me personally and my personal taste, the band Arena has always spoke to me a lot more than all those other bands the band members are involved in, they are a band that sound a bit like early Marillion back in the days when Fish was their lead singer. Oddly enough the bands drummer Nick Pointer was the guy who got sacked from Marillion after they made their first great debut album A Script For A Jesters Tear.

Although Arena formed in 1995. My first introduction to them was through one of these various artist CD’s you got free with the Classic Rock magazine back in the year 2000. The CD contained a track from their 4th album Immortal? which was released in the same year. The track was a classic entitled “The Butterfly Man“. That said enough to me to entice me to buy the album, and buy all their albums.

Over the years the band have had quite a few singers. 4 to be precise, 2 of which only lasted for 1 and 2 albums. The bands 4th singer Paul Manzi has now equalled the bands previous singer Rob Snowden. And both have featured on 3 studio albums each now. I guess we will have to wait another few years to see if Manzi beats the record :)))))).

To be honest I have quite enjoyed all the singers Arena have had throughout its career and all have been well suited for the job. If I had to pick a favourite it would be Rob Snowden. But Paul Manzi has slotted into the roll very well and is really an excellent replacement. Although I enjoyed the first album Manzi sang on The Seventh Degree of Separation. I did not so much enjoy their last album The Unquiet Sky.

Oddly enough I was the same with the 2nd album Rob Snowden sang on Contagion and never felt that was as strong as both Immortal? and Peppers Ghost. But the singers are not at fault at all, and it was just that both the albums Contagion and The Unquiet Sky did not contain strong enough written material for them, in relation to the rest of the bands albums which for me personally were stronger albums. But the bands weakest point was without a doubt their last album The Unquiet Sky.

So what does this new album Double Vision have to say for itself. Well personally I think the band have come back to form with the written material they wrote for it. But before we look deeper into it, let’s first take a look at the packaging and artwork as ever.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The CD comes in a very sturdy well made cardboard Digipak. The case has a nice matt surface finish on it and a inner jewel case tray to mount the CD on adds extra support to the strength of the packaging.

It also comes with a 14 page booklet that contains the production linear notes and lyrics, and it stores away nicely in the slip case pocket on the left hand side of the Digipak. The booklet is quite thick and printed on cardboard rather than paper. It also adds a bit weight to making the Digipak close up nicely too. Overall it’s a very well made and presentable package.

Artwork.

The front cover concept idea was by Mick Pointer and the artwork for it was done by the Portuguese artist João Martins (grendel). I am not sure what the “Grendel” is all about unless he’s a fan of early Marillion :))))). But he also done the artwork for the bands 9th studio album The Seventh Degree of Separation to which I felt was better than this album cover on that score. Antonio Rodriques was the guy who was the model.

The other artwork and photography inside the booklet was done by the bands bass player Kylan Amos and the graphic design and packaging was done by Graeme Bell @ Planet Twiq.

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I quite like how they have highlighted some of the letters in red to spell out the word “Vision” from the bands names, and how they have placed them in the order on the centre pages of the booklet.

The Album In Review…

Arena’s 9th studio album Double Vision was officially released in the 25th May 2018. Although if you pre-ordered it from the bands website they promised to deliver all orders from the beginning of May so you could get your hands on it earlier. I myself decided not to pre-order the album, basically because I felt it was overpriced at £15. No doubt you would also be paying postage and packing on top too.

So I brought it in the following week after its release date from Amazon and got the album for £14.99. Which is still overpriced in my opinion, but it was an album I very much wanted and it cost me a bit less in the long run being an Amazon Prime member.

The album comes with 7 tracks and has an overall playing time of 55 minutes, 56 seconds. All 7 tracks contains vocals and there are no instrumental tracks on the album. The albums title is also the name of a track from the bands 3rd album The Visitor that was released back in 1998. So maybe there is some sort of a connection here?.

The album is also dedicated to Phil Ray 1962-2017. To be honest I have no idea of who Phil was and the only thing I did come across upon my research is that he was a radio presenter. As to if it’s the same guy I have no idea. But whoever he was I am sure he will be sadly missed.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Clive Nolan. Mick Pointer & John Mitchell. Recorded at Thin Ice Studio & Outhouse Studios. Engineers Clive Nolan. Karl Groom & John Mitchell. Mixed & Mastered by John Mitchell. Front cover concept Mick Pointer. Front cover artwork Joao Martins (Grendel). Antonio Rodriques is the model. Artwork & Photography by Kylan Amos. Graphic design and packaging by Graeme Bell @ Planet Twiq.

Musicians:
Paul Manzi – Vocals.
John Mirchell – Guitars
Clive Nolan – Keyboards.
Kylan Amos – Bass.
Mick Pointer – Drums.

The Album Tracks In Review…

All of the instruments apart from John Mitchell’s guitars were recorded at Thin Ice Studios. The studio is owned by the record producer and guitarist Karl Groom who also used to play guitar for the band Shadowland that Clive Nolan is in. Karl was the founding member of the progressive metal band Threshold to which is his main band.

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The bands bass player Kylan Amos is pictured with Clive Nolan in this shot above. This is the 2nd Arena album Kylan has played on since joining the band back in 2014.

John Mitchell recorded the guitars at his own studios called the Outhouse Studios. Which is located in Reading Berkshire. This short video shows him working on the first track of the album Zhivago Wolf.

As to if the album Double Vision is some form of a concept album it certainly does not come across like one, simply because none of the tracks run into each other, and they all tend to be written like a collection of songs based around different subjects and situations. A bit like their album Immortal? in some respects.

But to be honest most of Arena’s albums do sound like they have been done in the way of a concept in the way they have been produced. All the tracks on the album Double Vision do tend to have the same atmospheres and feel about them. They have always had this way of making albums with the same atmospheres, so that none of the tracks on the album sound out of place.

It’s also interesting that earlier on this year back in February. The bands 3rd album The Visitor got remastered and re-released as a double album to which came with an extra disc of bonus tracks. Although it was the albums 20th Anniversary. But maybe there is some sort of a connection somewhere on this album, and also the albums cover may reflect on that too.

So let’s find out just what is going on here, as I go through the albums tracks individually in my review.

Track 1. Zhivago Wolf.

The album kicks off in great style and once the short atmospheric intro is over and it features some great heavy metal guitar style short riffs from Mitchell. Great keyboard work by Nolan and is all very heavily backed up and driven along by Amos on the bass and Pointer on the drums. The song raises its power and comes down in all the right places for Manzi’s vocals to work with it all very well, and he does a great job of it too.

I am not sure if the inspiration for the lyrics came from the wolves in Dr Zhivago or if they are just pertaining to all those TV programs we watched as kids, where some of the horrors from them got instilled in our minds and later on came out in our dreams and nightmares.

Clive Nolan is the bands main lyric writer and wrote all the lyrics on this album. He does quite often get inspired by films and television and that even reflects on a couple of his other albums I have of his he did in collaboration with Oliver Wakeman with Hounds Of The Baskervilles and Jabberwocky.

Zhivago Wolf” is relatively a short song like the majority are on this album. It’s the second shortest track on the album that weighs in less than 5 minutes and the music was penned by Mitchell/Nolan/Pointer. It’s quite reminiscent of some of their earlier material with its dark sense of drama and is a really great song and contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 2. The Mirror Lies.

From the second shortest track to the second longest track on the album is up next, and this is the only song on the album that is credited to all 5 members of the band. Lyrically the song could be aimed at those more popular politicians who put on a false mask so to speak and like to being the limelight. Donald Trump is a perfect example.

Musically the song is both powerful and melodic and has a strong chorus section. It’s a very well written song that gives Manzi the chance to express both his power and more ballad side of his voice. The music displays both power and even as an acoustic side about it. It’s another fine song and the band do a grand job of it all.

Track 3. Scars.

One of the 2 tracks on the album penned solely by Clive Nolan. The song both musically and lyrically to some degree has quite a strong familiarity about it to the bands earlier material, I am pretty sure you will find some of the melody lines from “Crack In The Ice” from The Visitor album and the words “Help Me” are sort of harking back to the bands debut album Songs From The Lion’s Cage. The song also features some excellent rhythm and lead guitar work by John Mitchell and is quite a strong contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 4. Paradise Of Thieves.

This song has quite an upbeat to it and is a song that one can instantly latch on too. I am not sure who the lyrics are aimed at here, but I somehow get the impression that they are pertaining to all those thieving bastards who rip off music. Well I would like to think they are :)))))). They are most likely not and if I was to write lyrics for a song that was about those bastards they would be better than this set of lyrics LOL…

No doubt a “Paradise Of Thieves” is quite a catchy little number, and it’s perhaps down to the songs chorus that does tend to get sung over more than anything else in reality. Its  perhaps down to the fact that little was written for it in the way of verses. But it works and it will soon have you singing along to the chorus.

Mick Pointer’s drums play a more domineering roll perhaps on this one too, and John Mitchell’s short guitar solo is very tasty towards the end too. The music was penned by Manzi/Mitchell/Nolan/Pointer and it’s another fine song.

Track 5. Red Eyes.

Red Eyes” eases it’s way in and out with it’s dreamy intro and outro on the keyboards. The bits in between are more power driven along. It’s quite more keyboard orientated too and in some ways I suppose a bit like some of the stuff the band Rush was doing back in the 80’s to some respect. It also contains a vocoder section in part of the song, and it was penned by Amos/Nolan/Pointer.

The songs lyrics are perhaps futuristic and the guy with red eyes can see into any room apparently, and either he has x-ray vision or he can see things we cannot :))))). But in reality I think the context of the lyrics we have here are about the breaking down of relationship where no matter what one does, the other person is no longer interested and therefore you become virtually invisible to that person.

It’s also perhaps one of those songs that needs a few more spins to really get to appreciate it more, and I have to confess that upon first hearing this song I was not that impressed at all with it and that maybe down to the fact that it does tend to be too keyboard orientated.

Track 6. Poisoned.

The shortest track on the album is quite a classic ballad of a song that was written by Manzi & Nolan. Many have likened this song to the other classic ballad “Friday’s Dream“. Personally I think it’s certainly is a great song they have come up with here, but I don’t think it’s on par with that classic from their Immortal? album but very close.

It’s certainly a beautiful acoustic ballad and a very high contender to take the top spot on the album. For some it may even be their favourite track on the album because this is a very well written song. Once again the words here are pertaining to a broken down relationship, and its another contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 7. The Legend Of Elijah Shade.

I have to confess when I first heard this 22 minute and 39 second epic, I was not liking it at all. I think my initial reaction to the song was exactly what Tony Banks said about the Genesis song “The Battle Of Epping Forest“. In that it was too busy with the lyrics and the vocal sections. To be perfectly honest I never had that problem with that classic song of Genesis and it happens to be my 2nd favourite track on the album Selling England By The Pound.

This is the longest track Arena have ever done throughout its 9 studio albums, and the nearest track to that is the almost 20 minute epic “Moviedrome” from their 4th album Immortal?. For any song to run over this distance it has to have something to keep the interest and contain many transnational chord changes, and have the diversity to keep the listener attentive and excited enough.

No doubt a song over this distance is not going to by any means immediately grow on you, and this one does need further spins to speak to you sort of thing. So it does need more attentive listening, but once you have given it that you will get the gist of the whole thing and appreciate it a lot more.

Personally I think this is better than “Moviedrome” even if you have to wait a good 14 minutes to get the first of the lead breaks where Nolan springs into action on the keyboards. There is also some rather nice pipe organ towards the end of his lead break too. You do get some short musical interludes in between the transitional changes too and John Mitchell’s guitar gets to soar towards it’s ending too.

There is plenty of power and subtleness throughout its journey and it does have more diversity and progression than any other song on this album on that score. This is the 2nd of the tracks on the album written solely by Clive Nolan and it’s my personal favourite track and merits the albums top spot award. It’s also the only song on the album that does also have a connection with the bands 3rd album The Visitor.

Summary…

To sum up the latest offering by Arena with their new album Double Vision. There is no doubt that the band are back on their true form regarding the written material we have here, and it’s quite a solid enough album that has plenty of strength to it.

Most of the material on the album is up there with their personal best, even if some of the songs do not quite contain the diversity and progression some of their earlier material had. But overall the album speaks very well and I am sure it will for many Arena fans alike.

My personal highlights from the album are “The Legend Of Elijah Shade“. “Poisoned“. ” Zhivago Wolf” and “Scars“.

Conclusion…

Overall Arena have come up trumps once again and managed to produce yet another great album, if there are any weak points I would say they are on the more keyboard orientated track “Red Eyes” but for many this may also be one of the stronger tracks on the album. But apart from that track there is not a lot I can really fault about the album. Like I said it’s quite a solid album.

Regarding its price point, I do think it’s pitched a bit high at £15 even though it comes in a rather well made Digipak. Considering were living in a world where hardly anybody buys physical music these days. I think the going rate for any CD should be £12 tops. The very reason I never pre-ordered this release was down it’s expensive price tag, and I am sure I am not the only one who will be thrown off by that either.

But for the money there is no doubt this a really great album that also works very well with the placement of the tracks on the album from to finish. For Arena fans alike I would say it’s a must to have in your collection.

The Big Bad Wolf In Sheep’s Disguise…

The album track listing is as follows:

01. Zhivago Wolf. 4:47.
02. The Mirror Lies. 6:57.
03. Scars Idee. 5:16.
04. Paradise Of Thieves. 5:10.
05. Red Eyes. 6:40.
06. Poisoned. 4:27.
07. The Legend Of Elijah Shade. 22:39.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #82

Un’altra verità – Conqueror

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Introduction…

The Conqueror’s last release to date came out in 2015. Though it’s not a studio release and is very much a live DVD/CD release that features the band back in 2014 at the Naxos on the 16th of May to which they was touring their last studio album to date Stems that came out in that same year. The live albums title of Un’altra verità is also one of the tracks that was on the bands 2014 album Stems.

Un’altra verità in English translates to “Another Truth“. It’s perhaps a strange title to give for a live concert and to be honest I do not know why they simply did not call it Conqueror Live. Or Conqueror Live At Naxos.

Oddly enough not one of the 5 studio albums they have made is titled by one of the tracks on their album. The only thing they ever released which did come with the title of one of their songs was the EP Sprazzi Di Luce.

Waiting for a new Conqueror album is like waiting to for the World Cup in football to come around :)))). Though no doubt when an album does eventually surface, its perhaps well worthy of waiting for. From what I can gather the band are working on a new album that will be arriving at some point this year, and I am waiting in great anticipation for that.

The live album Un’altra verità not only comes with a CD. But also a DVD that contains high quality video footage that wonderfully captures the live show. There is also an extra track on the DVD and a short documentary is also included as a bonus feature. The package is priced up for 18.50 Euro on the bands website. So let’s now take a look at the packaging and see what you get for the bucks here.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The album comes in a cardboard Digipak with 2 plastic Jewel Case trays stuck on the inside to hold both the CD & DVD in place. The plastic trays lend support to the overall packaging and the front and back cover have a soft matt textured finish on them, and it’s as if the artwork was printed onto a soft piece of foam with how soft it feels. It’s quite a nice neat little package.

Though it does not come with a booklet, the writing credits you can read clearly, and the information is on both sides of the Digipak when you remove the discs. The graphic design of the front and back cover was done by Enzo Puglisi and the photos used to make up the artwork was taken by Carmine Prestipino.

Musicians & Credits…

2014 Line Up 2

The 2014 Line-Up Of The Band

Recorded live at the Giardini Naxos Municipal Theater 16th May 2014. Video Operators Gianfranco Stracuzzi & Marcello Panebianco. Video Assistant Chiara Trimarchi. Video Editing (Studio 58) Gianfranco Stracuzzi. Audio Recording & Editing (Ludnica Studio) Ottavio Leo. Audio & Video Supervision Natale Russo. Sound Engineer Foh Rocco Cassaniti. PA Man & Facilities Maurizio De Cesare. Lights Antonino Siligato. Audio & Lights by DCS Service. Subtitles Translation by Isabella Miano. Graphic Design by Enzo Puglisi. Photography by Carmine Prestipino. Executive Producer Natale Russo. Produced by Conqueror & Ma.Ra.Cash Records.

Musicians:
Simona Rigano: Keyboards and Voice.
Ture Pagano: Guitar.
Peppe Papa: Bass.
Natale Russo: Drums.

Guest musician Valerio Valenti (Acoustic Guitar on False Idee).

Un’altra verità (Live CD/DVD) In Review…

For my review of this package I am mainly going to focus on the DVD rather than the CD. I shall also be pointing out the highlights of the live concert rather than give a well detailed review of every individual song that we get here. So first up let’s take a quick look at the CD that comes with it.

The CD.

The CD as I mentioned earlier comes with one song less than what we get on the DVD. To be honest I am not sure why it was left off, because they could of fitted it on the CD. Though they must of had their reasons for not including it. The CD itself comes with 10 tracks and has an overall playing time of 70 minutes, 55 seconds.

To be perfectly honest I could not tell you what the actual CD sounds like. Simply because with all these type of packages that come with a live concert on DVD to which they include CD’s in the package, I never play the CD’s at all and do not see any reason to when I can watch the concert with my own eyes on the DVD.

However I do rip the CD’s onto my hard drive in MP3 320 quality to listen to when I am busy at my computer, such as times like this whilst I am writing out my reviews. To be honest it sounds great even at this MP3 quality, though no doubt the CD itself will sound a lot better if I was to play it on my HiFi or on my computer for that matter.

No doubt the CD is also useful for the car, but I do not drive myself so it gets left in it’s package. But those who do, no doubt it will get to put it to more use.

The DVD.

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The DVD loads up with this screen shot of the band and is silent without any background music playing. The main menu is simple to get around and offers you 3 options to choose from as seen in the picture above. By clicking on the first option “Concert” it proceeds to play the concert.

The one thing that is not included in the main menu or anywhere on the DVD is an Audio option. This is because the DVD comes with one soundtrack only which is Stereo. So this is not a concert for surround freaks like myself, and there is no 5.1 here I am afraid.

But the concert still sounds very good despite it being only in more or less CD quality and it only coming with an audio format of 48K 16 bit. The biggest majority of DVD’s these days do come with better sound quality such as 48/24 and even better 96/24.

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By clicking on the “Chapter” option on the main menu, it presents you with the screen pictured above, which simply gives you the choice to play any one of the 11 tracks that are on the DVD. A useful feature to be able to quickly show a friend your favourite track.

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By clicking on the “Bonus” option from the main menu it presents you with the screen above. The bonus is a 20 minute documentary with 3 of the band members namely Natale Russo. Simona Rigano and Ture Pagano speaking about the concert, the making of the album Stems and some background of how the band the Conqueror started, and a general discussion of each album they have made.

I found it very interesting and it provided a good insight into the bands background. I was so glad they had also included English Surtitles too, so I could understand it all. It also comes with French Subtitles too.

The Picture Quality.

The picture quality is certainly more professional than the job they did with the sound. Though the sound in all honesty is quite acceptable and is excellent to be honest. The footage of the concert is quite pristine and looks sharp and captures the lighting and the band very well. Its most likely been filmed in HD and even though this is only a DVD it does have the HD quality look about it.

They have also done a great job with the video editing too, and the close ups of the individual band members, and control of the zoom and positioning is very good.  There is no doubt that this concert as been filmed with genuine HD Cameras and it does the band justice. It also makes it that more enjoyable to watch. Even though it’s not been put onto a Blu Ray. It still looks great.

The visual aspect though as been shot with a full on central viewpoint of the front of the stage. This may put some people off because you cannot see any of the audience by them filming it this way. Though personally I do not have a problem with this myself, and I do have other concerts filmed in the same way. The prog rock band Arena is a perfect example.

The reason why this is most likely done is down to cost, and with them only using 2 cameras to film the show, both cameras are perhaps placed at a central point of view to be able to make good use of the video editing afterwards. Playing in a small venue will also have a bearing on why it was filmed this way too.

You must also remember that a lot of prog rock bands make very little and struggle to survive, especially in this rip off world we have these days with many of the artists material being ripped off and put on the internet for free. Plus the fact that the likes of the Conqueror are not like a lot of more known major mainstream artists who can afford to play at bigger venues and fill them, and afford the cost of more cameras and operators to film their live concerts.

The Concert In Review…

Well there is no doubt that this particular concert was played around the time the band had not long released their latest album at the time Stems. It was actually played in the following month of its release. The live tour was done for that album in particular and features 6 of its 8 tracks from it on the DVD. You are also gonna have quite a wait to get to see the band do any other tracks from their back catalogue, simply because they roll out the first 6 tracks from Stems in the first part of the set list.

The Conqueror are a great live act, and even though both Simona Rigano and Natale Russo have been here from the time the band started putting out albums back in 2003. They have always brought in great musicians to replace those who left. This particular band line up is the same that made the studio album Stems.

Even though the bass player Peppe Papa only joined the band in 2013 and features on both the studio album Stems and this live album. He left the band not that long after. The guitarist Ture Pagano joined the band not so long after the bass player and features on the same two albums. But he did stay on longer with the band, and left in 2016.

The concert itself was performed at the Giardini Naxos Municipal Theater. It’s like a small cinema house in Taormina a province of Italy. The place is used for small concerts and other exhibitions and arts as seen in this photo below.

Giardini Naxos Municipal Theater

The view of the theatre above gives you more of a representation of what its actually like, and this concert was shot very much with a head on central view of the front of the stage, so that you can see the band more visually and not so much of the audience. As a matter of a fact you will be lucky if you see anything of the audience at all, because it focuses on the band all the way through the concert.

The concert opens up with the opening track from their Stems album with a song entitled “Gina“. The album Stems as quite a more modern rock approach to a lot of the tracks on the album, but they still have the diversity and progression that one would find in prog rock music.

This particular song is the longest track on the album Stems and as quite a dominant bass line that punctuates its way along very well. It’s perhaps more punctuating on the studio album though, but never the less the band perform it very well here.

The band roll out the first 4 tracks from the album Stems in the same order as they were placed on the album. This live video from the bands Youtube Channel is from this live DVD and shows how well the band perform live the 2nd track from the Stems album “Di Notte” which incidentally translates to “At Night“.

The band do a grand job on the first half of the set that features the songs from their Stems album and it was great to see them do “Sigurtà” from that album too. The band then continue on with the second part of the show which features a further 5 tracks from the back catalogue of their discography.

It was no surprise to see them kick off the second half of the show with “Pensieri Fragili” which is from the bands 2003 debut album Istinto. This is perhaps the most frequent song from this album they tend to play a lot at their live shows.

They also do another song from this album “La Strada del Graal” and even incorporate part of the instrumental track “Entropia” that comes from this album into “L’ora del Parlare” which is from their 3rd album 74 Giorni to end off the show with. The short track that proceeds this final track on the live album here “Cormorani” is also from their 3rd album.

My personal favourite and highlight of show is that they also do “No Photo” from their 2nd album Storie Fuori Dal Tempo which is my ultimate favourite album of theirs. It’s a shame they never played more tracks from this album, but it’s also interesting how well the band handle it with this different line-up being a 4 piece instead of a 5 piece and missing a woodwind player who plays the flute on it.

But they do a really great job of it, and Simona plays the flutes main melody on the keyboards as she does with many of the other tracks that featured a flute in them as well, and they do a grand job of it all.

Summary…

Overall the live concert CD/DVD Un’altra Verità by the Conqueror is a very enjoyable piece of live entertainment that captures this great band and their great performance very well on stage. The picture quality and editing is excellent and so too is the sound quality, and it’s a very well produced show and worthy of the price tag.

The band not only present the new material from their latest album Stems very well, but also capture the spirit of their older material even with this line-up of the band. I personally would of liked to have seen them do more of their older material, but no doubt the band were promoting their new album at the time, so it was to be expected most of the material would be featured from this album.

I hope in the future they get the chance to film another live show and I would love to see them play their 31 minute epic “Morgana” live from their 2nd album and perhaps a few other tracks from that album too. I very much think they are capable of doing that epic track as well judging from how well they handled all the material they played live here.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review Un’altra Verità by the Conqueror. For the price of 18 and half Euro around £16.24 in the UK it’s great value for the money. It’s a lot cheaper than travelling to Italy to see them play live, and you can watch them from the comfort of your own seat and home so to speak.

My personal highlights from the concert are “False Idee“. “Sigurtà“, ” Pensieri Fragili“.  “No Photo“. and “La Strada del Graal“.

The best and cheapest place to obtain the DVD/CD of Un’altra verità is from the bands website or via contacting the bands drummer Natale Russo on the following email nat@conqueror.it and paying via Paypal. Be sure to add on another 2 Euro to cover the postage and packing. I have provided a link to the website below.

We Lose Ourselves In The Evening In That Ray Of Light…

You can purchase the DVD/CD of Un’altra verità from the bands website here: http://www.conqueror.it/eng/stems.asp

The Live Set List On The DVD is as follows:

01. Gina. 11:12.
02. Di Notte. 7:25.
03. False idee. 7:31.
04. Un’altra Verità. 6:28.
05. Sigurtà. 9:37.
06. Echi di Verità. find out time 7:48.
07. Pensieri Fragili. 7:48.
08. No Photo. 6:43.
09. La Strada del Graal. 6:07.
10. Cormorani. 1:06.
11. L’ora del Parlare (end entropia). 6:58.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Picture Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Live Concert Rating Score. 8/10.