Lee Speaks About Music… #81

Octopus (CD/Blu Ray) – Gentle Giant

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Introduction…

Another truly great album of Gentle Giant’s that has been superbly remixed by Steven Wilson. Having recently purchased the CD/Blu Ray edition of The Power and The Glory and being blown away by it, the bands 1972 album Octopus very much was a must to buy next, and once again I am not disappointed, and overall I am over the moon by the treatment Wilson has given not only to the 5.1 mixes but the new stereo mixes. It’s a shame he has not done more of their albums like this, and I certainly would love to see the others get this treatment.

I know I stated in my last review of The Power and The Glory that is was my personal favourite album of theirs. I also stated that is was very hard to pick a favourite Gentle Giant album simply because I love them all, and since revisiting Octopus I can honestly say I am having second thoughts has to what is my favourite album of the bands. To be honest both albums along with Freehand and Acquiring The Taste have always been my main go to albums. Though no doubt there are classic songs on all their albums.

The title for the bands 4th studio album Octopus came from a suggestion of Phil Shulman’s wife Roberta having heard that the album was to contain 8 tracks. The word “Octopus” is also seen as being “Octo Opus,” which represents 8 musicals works. It was also the first album that the bands 3rd drummer John Weathers appeared on. Weathers remained with the band right up until the end when they split up in 1980.

It was also the last album Phil Shulman appeared on, having been with the band with his two other brothers from the beginning. Phil left the band to spend more time with his wife and family. He was the oldest of the 3 brothers, and just like them another very talented multi instrumentalist. Being part of the band was all a bit too much for him in the end, and he gave up music entirely. So it just goes to show that sex, drugs and rock n roll is not for everyone.

Before we go deeper into the album and more about the band, let’s first take a look at the packaging and artwork as usual.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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Just like both The Power and The Glory and Three Piece Suite the discs come in a 3 panel Digipak which has a plastic jewel case disc trays to hold the discs securely. It also comes with a pocket to store the booklet. The 14 page booklet comes with both the linear productions notes and lyrics, and overall it a very well made package.

The Artwork.

The album was officially released with 2 different sets of artwork by 2 different artists. Here in the UK and other European and international countries, the albums artwork was provided by Roger Dean. Not long after Dean had done the cover for Vertigo Records a legal issue emerged with the bands World Wide Artists management in North America and the company wanted a different album cover for Columbia Records for the release in both the US & Canada.

So whilst Derek Shulman was over there and in San Francisco he found a jar with an octopus in it and thought it was real cool, and brought it and gave to the art department at Columbia Records to use it for the new artwork.

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US & Canada Album Artwork

The artwork for this release was credited to Charles White and that concept and design was credited to John Berg. The US & Canada artwork is also included on one of the reverse panels of this Digipak.

The CD/Blu Ray Release…

Both the CD/Blu Ray and CD/DVD Editions of Gentle Giant’s 1972 album Octopus were released on the 30th October 2015. It was the second of Gentle Giant’s albums that Steve Wilson decided to mix and do a 5.1 surround mix for. Though unfortunately unlike The Power and The Glory not all the original multi-track master tapes could be located and 3 of the albums tracks could only be upmixed to 5.1 via use of software.

Considering this album is missing 3 of the multi-track master tapes, and the bands 3rd album Three Friends was only missing 2 of the multi-track master tapes. Once again it has me thinking has to why Steve Wilson did not decide to do the same thing he has done here by using software to upmix those tracks that were missing, instead of releasing it along with the bands first 2 albums as a compilation album on the 2017 release of Three Piece Suite.

Another thing what I thought was strange, is considering that only 5 of the tracks on Octopus have genuine 5.1 mixes unlike The Power and The Glory to which all the tracks were genuine 5.1 mixes. Why on earth are most places charging £4 more for it?. I find that quite ludicrous and in most stores its priced at over £21 including Amazon.

I managed to get my copy brand new on ebay from a place in London called Speedyhen and got it for a much more respectable price of £17.30 including P+P. They do have a speedy service too and it arrived in 2 days despite some of the bad reviews I found on Trust Pilot about them. I could not fault the service and was well happy, and shall certainly give them a good review on Trust Pilot too.

The CD.

The CD comes with the 8 original albums tracks, 5 of which are new mixes done by Steve Wilson. The remaining 3 tracks have been newly remastered by him and this was due to the fact that 3 of the multi-tracks master tapes were lost. It also comes with 1 bonus track to which is a medley of excepts from the album Octopus to which they played live at the Calderone Concert Hall in Hempstead, New York on the 3rd July 1976.

The total playing time of the 9 track CD is dead on 50 minutes. The 3 tracks that have been remastered only are “The Advent of Panurge“. “Raconteur Troubadour” and “The Boys In the Band“. The new mixes sound very good and to be honest you are not really going too notice that the other 3 tracks have been remastered only. But Wilson as always had the tendency to work close to the original mixes and does an exceptionally good job overall.

The Blu Ray.

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The Blu Ray comes with an array of extras just like we seen on The Power and The Glory release. Once again you get the Instrumental only versions of the 8 album tracks, and the original 1972 mix of the album. The main feature is the 5.1 mix and once again all the mixes on the disc come with an high quality audio format of 24/96K.

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By clicking on the “Audio Setup” by default it’s set to LPCM Stereo. So surround freaks like myself will have to click on the DTS Master Surround Mix before pressing “Play Album”. But of course you can also choose the audio options by simply hitting the audio button on your remote. I like the fact that when you click on an option in the main menu it simply pops up, so you can make your preferred choice instead of it loading to a separate screen to do so.

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Unlike The Power and The Glory Blu Ray you do not get any 3D Animated videos whilst listening to the music. You do however get to watch a video of a real octopus moving around throughout the entire length of the album on the 5.1 mix. It was filmed by Yael Shulman.

They have also included the live bonus track mixed in 5.1 too for this feature only. When you play the original and instrumental stereo mixes of the album, you do not get to see the octopus. However you do get to see some different pictures for each track.

The 5.1 Mix.

The 5.1 mixes have been once again done superbly by Steve Wilson and it’s a shame that 3 of the album tracks multi-track tapes were missing for him to be able to do those as well. He has used Penteo’s software to create a simulated 5.1 mix with the other 3 tracks, and to be honest they sound quite good too. Though he was obviously never going to be able to place all the instrumentation and vocal harmonies where he wanted to in the mix like he could do with the other 5 tracks. No doubt those 5 tracks that have a genuine 5.1 mix benefit the better.

But overall not having the multi-tracks for those 3 tracks does not spoil the enjoyment of listening to the album and before long you will hardly notice any difference, and I still prefer this over the stereo mixes and they do sound quite stunning too. Wilson also mixed the live bonus in track in 5.1 too, and it’s not bad, but the studio mixes on the album are without the best quality overall.

Musicians & Credits…

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Produced and arranged by Gentle Giant for Alucard Produtions Ltd. Recorded at Advision Studios London between the 24th July – 5th August 1972. Engineer Martin Rushent. Moog Operator Mike Vicars. UK Cover Design by Roger Dean. USA Cover Illustration Design by Charles White. New Stereo & 5.1 Mixes by Steven Wilson.

Musicians:
Kerry Minnear: All Keyboards/Vibraphone/Percussion/Cello/Moog/Lead & Backing Vocals.
Ray Shulman: Bass/Violin/Guitar/Percussion/Vocals.
Gary W. Green: Guitars/Percussion.
Derek Shulman: LeadVocals/Alto Sax.
Phil Shulman: Saxophones/Trumpet/Mellophone/Lead & Backing Vocals.
John Weathers: Drums/Congas & Percussion.

The Album In Review…

Gentle Giant’s 4th studio album Octopus was released in the UK on the 1st December 1972. It was not released in America or Canada until more or less a couple of months later in February 1973. Like many of the bands albums most of the material was written before they booked a studio to save on the expense and in general the band always had at least 75% of it done before recording it. The whole album was recorded in 2 weeks at Advision Studios in London.

The album Octopus was the bands shortest album at this stage of their career and weighed in with an overall playing time of 34 minutes, 4 seconds. Although most of the bands albums were not much longer in reality. This is actually the bands second shortest album out of all the 11 studio albums they made, with only their last album Civilian being shorter.

Octopus is also noted to have been made when the band where at their peak, and for many of their fans it also can be seen as one of their favourite albums, and its perhaps understandable with the strong material that was written for it.

Even Ray Shulman stated that it was probably the bands best album with the exception of Acquiring The Taste. For both the newcomer John Weathers and the departure of Phil Shulman the album is noted as their swan song. I myself certainly think it’s one of their personal best albums, and it does contain some really great strong compositions.

The Album Tracks In Review…

As with the biggest majority of Gentle Giant’s music both Kerry Minnear and Ray Shulman are the bands main music writers. What as not already been written and arranged before they go into the studio to record it, generally gets finished their along with the odd bit of improvisation. The lyrics for this particular album were written by both Derek & Phil Shulman.

The album Octopus was originally intended to be a sort of a concept album with 6 of the tracks being associated with each member of the band, plus 1 track for the roadies and the remaining track to represent to the entire band as an whole. But in the end they gave up on the idea and perceived concept albums as being quite naff. Although it did not stop them doing the next 2 albums that followed it based around concepts :))))).

So let’s see exactly what we have here as I go through the 8 original albums tracks individually in my review…

Track 1. The Advent of Panurge.

Rather a strange title and the word “Panurge” comes from Greece and is associated with a rascal or a rogue. Though in the is case it’s the name of a character from a series of novels written by the French author François Rabelais about Gargantua and Pantagruel who were a couple of giants of all things. No doubt giants was the inspiration here, and most prog rockers tend to look to books about strange things for their inspiration.

Kerry Minnear wrote the music for this opening track and he also is taking on the lead vocals for the song too backed up by two of the Shulman brothers Phil and Derek. The music supports the story where the two giants first bump into one another and it’s very much like a sort of quirky funky theatrical approach to it all.

To be honest trying to describe the music Gentle Giant present to you is not an easy thing to do. They incorporate that many styles and genres even into a short 4 and 3 quarter minute song like this.

No doubt a major part of their particular style does come from folk or medieval folk music with some baroque harmonies thrown into the pot. But what makes it more interesting is how they also incorporate different rhythmical changes, time signature changes, a bit of rock, classical and all sorts in the way it all progresses along.

There is no doubt they do it all in their own unique way, and no matter how bizarre and strange it may all sound. It’s very much a fine art that is so unusual, yet there is never a dull moment about it all.

Track 2. Raconteur Troubadour. 

A medieval folk song about a travailing minstrel cheering everybody up with his jolly music to make the people dance is the subject matter behind the lyrics to this one. Once again there is some theatrics about this fine song and the band even incorporate some classical music passages with the lead breaks.

For those who think this is just another folk song, you seriously need to think again. The whole arrangement is very much a masterpiece. The very talented array of multi instrumentalists who made up the band Gentle Giant where that good at what they did, that they never had to hire an orchestra to play and arrange their music for them. The band effectively was an whole orchestra with the instruments they could play.

As good as many think The Beatles were, they were never this talented as musicians, and they had to have other people like George Martin onboard with them to arrange their music and an orchestra to play it for them. I am not denying that The Beatles wrote some truly great songs that appealed to a much wider audience, but in all honesty they were far from capable of writing and playing music like this.

Raconteur Troubadour” is another one of the 4 songs on this album that Kerry Minnear wrote the music for, and it is without doubt a masterclass piece of work. Derek Shulman takes on the lead vocals for the song and it’s very much a high contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 3. A Cry For Everyone.

A change of mood and the band shift away from the more folky side of things and rock this one out a bit. Its the first of the 4 tracks on the album that Ray Shulman wrote the music for. His brother Derek is on the lead vocals again. I quite like how the band interact with one another on the lead breaks throughout this song, and Minnear’s array of keyboards get utilised very well throughout them too.

The songs lyrics were inspired by the philosophical literature writer Albert Camus. He was known for his literature on philosophy of the absurd and no doubt these lyrics are absurd as well :)))))). But I guess the point that is trying to be made here, is that we are all born to die, and there is no point in crying over it, so one might as well cry for everyone because they are all in the same boat so to speak.

Track 4. Knots.

Another one of Kerry Minnear’s musical contributions to the album and this one features Phil, Kerry and Derek doing some very well constructed counterpart vocal harmonies. It’s quite a medieval folk madrigal that uses 5/4 and other time signatures to piece it all together in a sort of a jigsaw way. The songs title and the source for the lyrics came from the Scottish psychiatrist and poet R. D. Laing. His book Knots consists of a series of powerful, witty, unexpected dialogue-scenarios that can be read as poems or brief plays.

“Knots” is a very high contender for the top spot on the album and another brilliant piece of work done by the band.

Track 5. The Boys In The Band.

The second of Ray Shulman’s musical compositions for the album is fact an instrumental piece and the only one on the album. This piece was originally intended to represent the band with the idea they had at first of making a concept album. In the end they abandoned the idea of the concept, but it still represents the band in a very good way. The piece has some superb diversity and progression about and it’s even got more of Jazz feel about it as well.

The guy laughing and the coin you can hear spinning on the table in the intro, is the bands recording engineer Martin Rushent having a bit of fun. This has to be another very high contender for the top spot on the album and its another brilliant track.

Track 6. Dog’s Life.

Well just as the last piece was intended to represent the band. “Dog’s Life” was originally wrote to represent the bands roadies. It’s the shortest track on the album and the music was composed by Ray Shulman and his older brother Phil features on the lead vocals for the song. It features some lovely acoustic guitar from Gary Green and is a very well orchestrated by Ray Shulman on the violin and Kerry Minnear on the cello.

The arrangement is quite Beatles ESC and quite stunning, and this is yet another top song on the album that could be in contention for the best track.

Track 7. Think Of Me with Kindness.

My personal favourite track on the album is another one Minnear’s compositions and this one he also sings. Just like the previous track its got that Beatles ESC feel about it and the orchestration and arrangement is superb even down to the brass section. This is songwriting at its best and Minnear’s voice is golden on it.

To be honest it was very hard to choose this song as my favourite and this album is literally full of contenders and contains very strong well written material all along it. Most of which are even far more complex in to how they have retained the simple simplicity on this song.

Track 8. River.

The album gets rounded off with the longest track on the album, though all the tracks on this album were no longer than your average pop song back in the 70’s. The “River” is another song that Ray Shulman wrote the music for and features Derek on the main vocals. The song has a bit of a folk rock feel about it and features a bit of a rocked up guitar solo in the middle of it. It’s another great song and winds up the album very well.

Summary…

To sum up the album Octopus by Gentle Giant I would say it’s an album that contains some of the bands strongest well written material, that much so that I feel this is a stronger album than The Power and The Glory if the truth be told. This is what makes it hard to pick a personal best album of theirs.

The band were also pushing and expanding the boundaries at this stage of their career too, and were starting to incorporate other musical styles of rock and funk into their music, and they was expanding on their more familiar style of folk that was more noticeable on the bands first 3 albums.

Octopus is an album that perhaps marked the first real change and step into a slightly newer direction, and one that worked out really well for the band. Even though the band were still making music that perhaps would not of been accessible to a wider audience, some of music that was written for it is certainly more accessible I would of felt. Both “Dog’s Life” and “Think Of Me with Kindness” were more along the lines of really great songwriters songs that would certainly appeal to most people I would of thought.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Gentle Giant’s 4th studio album Octopus and this more up to date Steven Wilson mix of the album. I would say that without a doubt that Octopus could very well be seen to many as the bands finest album, and they would not be wrong either. It is without doubt a remarkable album and I can honestly say that it sounds even more remarkable with Steve Wilson’s 5.1 mix.

I honestly think these new CD/Blu Ray Editions are bang on for the buck and well worth getting if you’re like myself and into multi surround sound. The new mixes on the CD are also really great, but the real value in a package like this is the Blu Ray and that’s where you will by benefit the most with this type of package.

My personal highlights from the album are “Raconteur Troubadour“. ” Knots“. “The Boys In The Band“. “Dog’s Life” and “Think Of Me with Kindness“. To be honest I could highlight every track because it really is a solid album and the compositions are sheer class on that score.

Gentle Giant were without doubt certainly one of the most superb and interesting bands that graced us with their superb music back in the 70’s and there was no band quite like them, and there has not been since either. I would certainly like to see Steven Wilson give the bands other albums the 5.1 treatment, because these editions I personally do not think can be beat.

Memories Are Sorrow, When There’s No Tomorrow…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. The Advent of Panurge. 4:43.
02. Raconteur Troubadour. 4:03.
03. A Cry for Everyone. 4:06.
04. Knots. 4:11.
05. The Boys in the Band. 4:35.
06. Dog’s Life. 3:13.
07. Think of Me with Kindness. 3:35.
08. River. 5:54.
09. Excerpt From Octopus (Live At The Calderone Theatre) #. 15:40.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee’s 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Bonus Material Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 10/10.

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Lee Speaks About Music… #80

The Power and The Glory (CD/Blu Ray) – Gentle Giant

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Introduction…

Well I have always liked Gentle Giant since I finally got into them which was a good couple of decades after they disbanded in 1980. I barely took any notice of them back in the 70’s and I am pretty sure it was through getting into Neal Morse in the 2000’s that led me on to investigate them more and to finally buy their albums. This particular album The Power and The Glory as always been my favourite album of theirs for some reason. Though I like them all to be honest and it’s perhaps hard to choose a particular favourite.

I have to admit I have been meaning to buy this CD/Blu Ray Edition for some time now, especially has it’s got the 5.1 mix of the album. To be honest I am surprised I never brought it before I purchased Three Piece Suite last year, and it was seeing a post by John McLoud of the album in the Progrock Group on Facebook. That jilted my mind to finally get it.

I shall also be getting the CD/Blu Ray version of Octopus soon too, and I was hoping to see Steve Wilson do 5.1 mixes for more of their albums as well. In A Glass House and Freehand I would love to see him do. Just do them all Mr Wilson and I shall buy them :))))). Even The Missing Piece and I might even have “Two Weeks In Spain” to celebrate :))))).

Incidentally I have also pre-ordered this box set of Gentle Giant’s that was originally released back in 2012. It’s been out of print for awhile now and they are reissuing it again with new 2018 remasters all for the price of £20.75.

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It’s a 4 CD Clamshell Box Set that contains the studio releases of the albums Free Hand, Interview, The Missing Piece, Giant For A Day and Civilian and includes the much-loved live album Playing The Fool from 1976. It also comes with some bonus tracks and includes a 16 page booklet and is s due to be released on the 22nd June.

I shall look forward to reviewing that and now let’s get back to The Power and The Glory. But first as ever let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The album comes in a 3 panel cardboard Digipak and the discs are held in place by the same type of plastic holders one would find in a jewel case. These type of holders offer great protection for the discs and you can easily retrieve the discs without getting your fingerprints over the disc surface, they also lend support in strengthening the cardboard packaging and the booklet stores nicely away in the pocket they have made on the sleeve.

The 12 page booklet contains the usual linear and production notes and contains some useful information based on around the time the album was being made and was written by the freelance writer Sid Smith. It also has a few photographs of the band from that time period, and although it does not go into great detail, it’s quite informative.

The Artwork.

The albums front cover came from a pack of playing cards the band brought whilst on tour in Germany. They simply passed on the pack to Cream Sleeve Design and asked them to do something with it.

The CD/Blu Ray Release…

Both the CD/Blu Ray and CD/DVD Editions of Gentle Giant’s The Power and The Glory were released on the 22nd July 2014. It was the first Gentle Giant album that Steve Wilson decided to mix and do a 5.1 surround mix for. Most likely because it was his favourite album. Steve Wilson’s new mixes also come in the form of a CD only and they have also released it on vinyl album.

Since then, Wilson has also done the mixes for the bands 1972 album Octopus and also a compilation of the bands first 3 albums which was entitled Three Piece Suite. The reason that was compiled was down to the fact that not all the original multi-track master tapes could be found for those albums to do 5.1 mixes for.

I decided to go for the CD/Blu Ray Edition and purchased it from Amazon for £17.12 and have to say it was truly worthy of every penny and Steve Wilson has without a doubt done a truly superb job on the mixes. I think with any package like this most of the bonus material comes more in abundance on either the Blu Ray or DVD and these are without doubt the real quality in these packages and not the CD.

Though obviously also with these type of packages the bonus material one does get is more or less is the same thing, and this is not an album that has a great deal of extra bonus tracks at all. So let’s now take a look at what we get on the contents of the both discs.

The CD.

The CD contains the albums original 8 tracks and also has a couple of bonus tracks. The overall playing time of all 10 tracks is 46 minutes, 23 seconds. All the tracks are also new mixes done by Steve Wilson though he has not added a thing to any of them, he has managed to mix the album really well, that well that I would even stick my neck out and say it sounds better than the original mix of album.

But for all you purists out there, the original master recording of the original album has been included on the Blu Ray. The two bonus tracks “The Power and the Glory” and the instrumental out take of “Aspirations” are nothing new (apart from being mixed by Wilson) and have featured on other re-releases of the album over the years.

The Blu Ray.

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The Blu Ray opens up with some fine 3D Animation of playing cards and presents you with the main menu (shown above) that also contains an animation through the shaped window of the playing card. The main menu presents you with 5 options to choose from “Play Album”. “Track Select”. “Instrumentals” “Audio” and “Extras”.

I quite like how when you click on the options they appear on the same screen for you to make your choice, rather than loading to another screen. The following screen shows you an example of the “Audio” option as an example.

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By default it’s set to my personal favourite choice of DTS 5.1 Master Audio. All the audio formats are in high quality 96/24 even for the other bonus and extras material. A couple of the of the added bonus features you get on the Blu Ray are the instrumental versions of all the tracks, including the 2 bonus tracks and the “Extras” option contains the original album mix of the 8 original tracks which is in stereo only.

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The other interesting feature on this Blu Ray comes when you play the 5.1 mix only. Each track features a different 3D Animation video for every track on the album, including the 1 bonus track you get here “The Power and the Glory“. These are a series of animated videos made by the bands bass guitarist and violin player Ray Shulman. You also get the lyrics to all the songs too which they have also animated.

There is nothing in the booklet that tells you when Shulman made the animation, and to be honest I doubt very much he would of been able to of made it the time this release was made. So the animation he made here was most likely done earlier on and intended for a documentary or something about the album that never got put out, and got used for this release instead.

The animation is really well apt to the lyrics and the whole concept that was behind the album The Power and The Glory. This is truly a great feature and quite a surprise to see included here.

The 5.1 Mix.

Both the 5.1 and stereo mixes Steve Wilson has done here are purely fantastic. But personally for myself the 5.1 mix will always be the real winner, and this is a stunning 5.1 mix he has done. The very fact that we have 3 Dimensional Animation works a treat with the quite like 3 Dimensional sound of how everything as been so well placed and panned out. Gentle Giant’s music suits a 5.1 mix especially with the array of instrumentation they use and their 4 part harmonies.

Wilson is very much a master at not going over the top and making sure that the album still sounds like how it was originally but somehow manages to breathe completely new life into the mix by bringing out the dynamics and the clarity. His vision for a 5.1 mix never ceases to amaze me and no doubt he improves all the time. He’s a lot better than Jakko Jakszyk in this field of working with 5.1 and I do prefer Wilson to do the mixes of these great albums overall.

There is no doubt in my eyes and my ears that this is without doubt the best mix this album has ever seen, and it is without doubt purely fantastic and I take my hat off to Wilson for doing such a grand job and making me want to play this album over and over again.

Though to be honest Gentle Giant have never been far away from my turntable so to speak, simply because they made music to last more than a lifetime, and I can enjoy listening to their albums every year on that score. Though this 5.1 mix will definitely be my go too choice of hearing this album from now on.

Musicians & Credits…

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Produced and arranged by Gentle Giant for Alucard Productions Ltd. Recorded at Advision Studios London between December 1973 – January 1974. Engineer Gary Martin. Cover Design by Cream. Illustrations for “Aspirations” by Lior Wix. Stereo & 5.1 Mixes by Steven Wilson.

Musicians:
Derek V. Shulman: Vocals & All Saxes.
Ray Shulman: Bass/Violin/Vocals.
Kerry C. Minnear: Keyboards/Cello/Vocals.
Gary W. Green: All Guitars.
John P. Weathers: Drums/Percussion/Vocals.

The Album In Review…

The original album The Power and The Glory was released on the 22nd September 1974. The album contained 8 tracks and had an overall playing time of 38 minutes, 7 seconds. It was the bands 6th studio album, and the last one that was released on Capitol Records before signing up to Chrysalis Records.

By now and even on their previous album In The Glass House the band had slightly changed it’s style to more of an American way of thinking and it was also due to the American market taking more of an interest in the band with the imports they brought of In A Glass House that the band decided to release the album in the US and Canada first.

The Power and The Glory was the most successful album they ever had in America and it broke into the top 50 of the album charts. They also continued to do the same thing right up to their final album 1980 studio album Civilian.

Prior to the release of The Power and The Glory in America. They also made a more commercial song with the same name of the album. Though the single release of “The Power and The Glory” was never included on the album and it did nothing in America either, and never made a dent in the singles charts.

I am sure at the time many would of never heard the single release of “The Power and The Glory” and the album drew its title from the opening and closing tracks on the album “Proclamation” and “Valedictory” which was a reprise of the 1st track, and not the single release at all.

In the following year of 1975 with the band now signed up to Chrysalis Records. Capitol Records decided to release a compilation album entitled Giant Steps… The First Years to which they included the single “The Power and The Glory” and that was the very first album the song had ever appeared on.

I suppose the reason why the band never wanted to include it on the album, was down to the fact that it had more of a rock approach about it, and it was perhaps something they just made on the spare of the moment to try and break into the American market.

I find it rather strange however why they gave this single the same title of the album in the first place, and I would of expected if it did have more success that their fans would be wondering why it was not on the album in the first place :))))).

Concept Ideas & Interpretations…

Gentle Giant’s album The Power and The Glory is very much done in the way of a concept album only it’s not story based and each individual track is based around power and how it’s consequences can have an effect of how it works in society. Not only in the political sense but also the music business. Because the album was conceived at a time of great uncertain political events that were going on around the time. Most of the people associated it with Nixon’s Watergate scandal.

I have to confess trying to make head or tail of the lyrics on this album is not the easiest thing to do. I think you need to be some sort of professor or these guys were totally off their head when they wrote them :))))). It’s no wonder so many people can make so many interpretations out of them, and that in my book has always been a good thing.

I have to confess doing a review of any album, the research side of things is what I like the best about it. Though I cannot always be accurate with all the sources from the internet and the information I find in the booklets that come with these albums. I also find Youtube a useful source, by either watching documentaries or interviews of the artists, and even down to other people reviewing them.

I even enjoy other people doing album reviews on Youtube and I wish I had the confidence that they have to do them as well. I myself need a lot more time to think which is why I prefer to do written reviews like this, where I can take my time. But I quite like the reviews of these couple of guys (even if I do not agree with everything they say) and here they are reviewing The Power and The Glory.

I quite like how they think it’s not a concept album but does have some theme about a concept with the way it’s been packaged like a pack of cards, and they try and interpret the concept into a story based around playing cards with some of the titles on the album at around the 10:10 mark in the video.

I also like how another guy in one of the comments on the same video goes about describing the concept behind the album being a story as well. He puts it like this as follows:

“Proclamation begins with a dictator addressing his crowd. So Sincere comments that the dictator is a hypocrite. There is another character with high aspirations, who plays the game of power where cogs run in cogs. He realizes that no gods a man (so the dictator is human after all) and overthrows and replaces him. But as Valedictory recalls the first track, he succumbs to the same corruption as the previous ruler”.

I dare say there are plenty of other great interpretations of the concept behind The Power and The Glory and no doubt it would of certainly raised a few eyebrows when it was released.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Most of the material for the album The Power and The Glory was written whilst the band was still on the live tour of their previous album In The Glass House. Gentle Giant was very much a band that wrote most of their material outside of the studios to save on cost, and they recorded the demo’s of the basic ideas for the songs onto a cassette, and then spent the time in the studio piecing it all together and recording it properly.

They also spent more time putting this album together than they did with their previous album to which was more of a rushed out album to keep within the scheduled time of the record company. All the material was written by Kerry Minnear and the two Shulman brothers Derek and Ray. Although in terms of the music side of things, that is very much left to Kerry and Ray who have always been the bands main music writers.

So now let’s take a look at the 8 individual tracks that make up the album and see if we can make some sense out of the lyrics.

Track 1. Proclamation.

The album opens up with the longest track on the album which is just under 7 minutes. It opens up with the atmospheric sound that very much sounds like a fast tube train running along the tracks in a London underground. It most likely is too, although the sound can be seen as representing a crowd hailing the candidate they are voting in power.

Then in comes Kerry Minnear on the electric piano playing the main riff of the verse sections of the song with quite a funky vibe to it. Derek Shulman comes in with the vocals on the opening verse and he takes on the lead vocals on this song and gradually the other members of the band come into the action.

There is no doubt that Gentle Giant’s music can be very diverse at times with its  quirkiness and ever changing time signatures, and it’s short bursts and spasms with how they create melodies and rhythms that shift patterns in other directions even over short tracks. Though most of the material on this album is perhaps more heavier and more accessible.

I have always found their music very strange, but it’s that strangeness that as always drawn me to it more than anything, and I find it quite interesting and even exciting. The lead break section that runs from 2:10 – 3:20 shows that there is a lot more to a song like this than just a verse and chorus. Just in a space of 1 minute and 10 seconds there is a hell of a lot of shifting melody changes and even two part melodies running through it. The interaction between the musicians is quite breathtaking.

Proclamation” is very much the self titled track of the album in that the albums title is contained within the song. The lyrical content is very much about the politician who is running for power and wanting the vote and the confidence of the public with his manifesto that is aimed at changing the way things are. But all too often it remains the same, and at the end of the day just like the many that came before him, he ultimately becomes what he thought against in the first place.

It’s a really great song and very much a strong contender for the best track on the album. Just like the song that follows it too.

Track 2. So Sincere.

So Sincere” lyrically speaking about the way the words have been written in the way of a metaphor, could be seen as combining the first 3 letters of the word “Sincere” with “sincerity” which results in Sin being told with Sincerity. The lies told in any politicians manifesto are in fact sincerely told to try an win over the public votes. For every bit of truth he talks about you can expect the opposite. He will tell you anything just to get in power and try and win you over. It’s all hypocrisy at the end of the day.

There is no doubt that practically all the lyrics on this album are metaphors and it’s not always easy to put them all into context for one to really get the idea behind them. Looking at the way they have been put them into context could even have one thinking WTF is he’s going on about, hence the reason for me thinking they was off their head when they wrote them.

So these are lyrics one will have to dig that deeper into, to really get the point they are trying to put across here. Although basically the lyrics to all the tracks are literally based around the same subject matter.

The songs musical structure is built around the opening few notes in the melody line played on the violin, which is supported by the cello, bass and sax. Kerry Minnear takes on the vocals in the verse sections and the piano and drums add further support as the song builds its way slowly along in a sort of creepy awareness and dramatic way, almost like something one might find in a cartoon.

The chorus section it changes into is quite a frenzy of notes played on the keys and guitar and the Derek Shulman handles the vocals on the chorus sections. They also incorporate a small bridge section which allows Gary Green to go into a nice frenzy on the electric guitar. “So Sincere” is perhaps less accessible in relation to many of the songs that are on this album, and is more like the bands earlier folky side on that score. But this I like a lot and it’s my 2nd favourite track on the album.

Track 3. Aspirations.

Much more of a more straight forward song musically with the use of electric piano, bass, acoustic guitar and drums. Kerry Minnear takes on the vocals and he’s always had more of the sweeter voice in the band to take on a song like this, though he very rarely sang live so he could focus more on his keyboard playing.

Lyrically the words are pertaining to the hopes and dreams one hopes will result from having a new government in power, and reflects of how one lives in society with their current position and having a stable enough job to bring up their family. I suppose these aspirations could also apply to the music business too.

I quite like the animated video they have put to this song which shows a family outside their house, and how the house in the background can look in a bit of a rundown state, and changes into something more clean and new. It shows the line between poverty and wealth and that basically sums up what this song is really all about.

Track 4. Playing the Game.

Playing The Game” I suppose can be seen to as any politician who gets in power is in a no lose situation. The odds are very much stacked in his favour as soon as he becomes elected into office in that no matter what decisions he makes especially upon inflation and the cost of living, by the end of his term in office he will be wealthy enough to live comfortably for the rest of his life. Unless he gambles it all away that is :))))).

Musically this track is perhaps constructed around Ray Shulman’s bass line which plays a very dominant role here, it also features some great keyboard work and the marimba is put to great use in the percussion department. The vocals are handled by Derek Shulman on the verses and Minnear sings in the bridge section only.

Track 5. Cogs In Cogs.

Musically this song contains excellent progression and is perhaps similar to the same prog epic goodness found on the bands 4th album Octopus on the track “Knots“. Only this is not quite as minimalistic and certainly has a lot going on. The band weave out some magic on this track, and even though it’s the shortest track on the album at just over 3 minutes, it’s very much my favourite track on the album and merits my top spot award.

Once again Dave Shulman takes on the vocals and for all the remaining songs on the album. Its lyrical content is based around how each cog changes yet the wheels always move in the same direction just like the hands of power may change from time to time, yet nothing ever really changes with their so called promises.

Track 6. No God’s a Man.

Lyrically the song is more of the same thing and perhaps could be seen as the same old song when those in power at the end of day who always fail, and the same old song gets sung again with whoever picks up the next microphone to sing it so to speak. Also most often is the case that the party they voted in office in the first place, end up becoming those they now want out. Those who are put on pedestals soon fall aside with their deception and lies and man is far too imperfect to be a god, and no man is a god.

Gentle Giant without a doubt have their own way and style of creating music out of some of the strangest short melody lines and developing them like no other band has ever done. Their use of vocal harmonies also plays a big part in the arrangement of the songs they do, just like many of them on this album, they also feature the other members of the band joining in on the harmonies, and not just the main singers as I have already mentioned.

No God’s a Man” starts off with a well developed musical intro before the words come into play. Musically the combination of guitar, keyboards and bass are a dominant feature throughout the song and it’s a very well constructed piece of work with how they have intertwined all the melodies together.

Track 7. The Face.

The album picks up the pace on “The Face” and it’s a song that features Ray Shulman on violin and it was most likely written with that instrument too. Even Ray’s bass work on the track plays an integral part here and both he and Gary Green’s guitar feature very well throughout, and the lead break sees both the violin and guitar rocking it all up.

The lyrical content is based around the politician having to face up to all the wrong decisions and changes that’s been made during their term in office. Quite often it’s left for the next candidate to clean up the mess, and it’s all been a bit too embarrassing to face up to the carnage they have left the country in. It’s another one of my contenders for the top spot on the album.

Track 8. Valedictory.

The final track on the album is a reprise of the opening track “Proclamation” with a different arrangement to which is played at a slightly slower more rocked up hung back pace. I suppose when looking at the context of how all the lyrics on the album are based around political power. It was only fitting to use the last track in the way of recycling the whole thing all over again, to which no changes ever really get made and things remain the same no matter who’s in office. It puts an end to a really great album.

Summary…

To sum up Gentle Giant’s 6th album The Power and The Glory. Overall it’s perhaps a more heavier album in relation to the bands previous albums and it works very well for it. However although the concept does appear to work over all the individual tracks, it does perhaps tend to hark on a bit over the same subject matter throughout the album with how the lyrics have been written. So these are perhaps not the best lyrics the band have come up with on that score, but never the less the real strength of the album lies in how the music has been structured and how the lyrics are expressed with the music with how they put it all across.

Like I said at the beginning of my review that this album for some reason as always been my favourite. It’s also Gary Green’s though I can perhaps see why simply because the electric guitar does get utilised perhaps more on this album. Though I have to confess that I do miss a lot of the acoustic guitar that got featured on many of their earlier albums, so to even say this is my favourite album of the bands is a very hard thing for me personally because there are at least another 3 of their albums that are very much on par with it.

The band were no doubt branching out a bit more when they made this album and were heading into more rock territory to some respects, though they still maintained their unique style no doubt. My personal highlights from the album are “Proclamation“. “So Sincere“. “Cogs In Cogs” and “The Face“.

Conclusion…

The The Power and The Glory by Gentle Giant is quite a solid enough album, but then again I could say the same about most of their albums on that score. Even though The Power and The Glory could be seen as a more accessible album there is no doubt that their music will still sound rather strange to the biggest majority of people, and for many its perhaps still quite hard for people to really appreciate it and get into it.

They make music one has to grow into, and once you have you will reap the rewards and very much will have something that will last you a lifetime. Gentle Giant are a band that possess a load of musical talent, and they do things differently in relation to the biggest majority of bands in this world.

They are not the type of band who get together in a studio and create their music by jamming together. They very much sit down and write around 75 percent of it on a musical manuscript before they have even played it. Then they get together in a studio to finalise all the arrangements add in a bit of improvisation and play it and record it.

So however bizarre people may think their music comes across, it’s very much planned in advance to be that way in the first place with how they have so very well constructed it. This is what makes this band quite unique and they are very skilled musicians who have learnt their craft.

This particular CD/Blu Ray release I personally feel cannot be beaten, even at it’s price point of £17.12 it’s a superb package of high quality. OK you are not perhaps getting anything really new in the way of bonus material. But the fact that they have included the original mix and even the instrumental version of the album in 24/96K on the Blu Ray is a really great extra.

The added bonus of the animated videos is also a great feature and both the Stereo and 5.1 mixes done by Steven Wilson are superb, the latter of the two is simply stunning, and no doubt the real winner here is the 5.1 mix. Once again Wilson as done a top notch job with the album and breathed a new lease of fresh air into the mix. It adds even more excitement to it all and for all those surround freaks like myself. I would say that this is a must to add to your collection.

It Can Change, It Can Stay The Same…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Proclamation. 6:56.
02. So Sincere. 3:52.
03. Aspirations. 5:21.
04. Playing the Game. 6:45.
05. Cogs In Cogs. 3:08.
06. No God’s a Man. 4:26.
07. The Face. 4:13.
08. Valedictory. 3:26.
09. The Power and the Glory [*]. 2:59.
10. Aspirations [Instrumental Out-Take][*]. 5:17.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee’s 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Bonus Material Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.


Lee Speaks About Music… #79

Out To Sea – Fernando Perdomo

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Introduction…

Well a few months or so back I bumped into a post of this new album on another Progressive Rock Facebook Group I had just recently joined at the time called Prog On. It was actually the artist Fernando Perdomo who posted his latest album Out To Sea to which was available to pre-order on Bandcamp. To be honest I had never heard of the guy, but was taken in by the album covers artwork to which had a kind of familiarity about it.

So I popped over to Bandcamp and was quite amazed that even though the album was not scheduled to be released for another month or so, he already had the album on there so you could listen to it. I very much liked what I was hearing, though I have to confess I was not overall impressed by the sound quality I was hearing streaming it on Bandcamp.

But you can never judge an albums sound quality by hearing it being streamed, and no doubt all streaming sites have their good and bad days on that score when listening to music on them. I also noticed that he was also releasing the album on CD too, and that damn great album cover was still in my head and puzzling me of what it reminded me of.

It was then as I started to read up on the album more that the name Paul Whitehead was mentioned. This was the very same artist who did the album covers for the Genesis albums Trespass, Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot back in the early 70’s. So I added the album to my wish list on Bandcamp so I would not forget it, so I could come back for further listens to it.

Over the next few months I did return for further listens and knew this was an album I liked a lot and it was always my intention to buy the CD because of the great artwork. I am pretty sure the album was officially released on Bandcamp back in February. But with my funds being tied up with quite a few albums I had already pre-ordered. I knew it was going to have to wait a bit.

To be honest even though the CD was reasonably priced on Bandcamp at 15 American dollars which works out to about £12.70 here in the UK. I knew by the time Bandcamp had added their tax and price of the postage and packing. I would of ended up paying near enough £20 for the thing, and that to me is way over the odds of the price of a CD I would want to pay for.

So I do tend to stay clear of ordering CD’s from Bandcamp. But oddly enough a couple of weeks ago I noticed the CD on Amazon UK and it was not even available to buy there and then, and it was being released on the 4th May. So I pre-ordered it and it arrived on the day of it’s release and cost me £12.47. Very reasonable indeed I will say. I do believe he is now even releasing the album on vinyl as well. I am sure Paul Whitehead’s artwork will look great on it.

So before I get stuck into the review of the album and just who Fernando Perdomo is?. Let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The CD comes in a very slim cardboard Digipak that looks pretty neat and is a nice presentation. Although the CD seats well enough in the side pocket, the fact that the cardboard the disc is seated in does not have a gloss coating, will not protect the disc from getting the odd scratch mark, and your most likely going to get your fingerprints on the surface of the disc by retrieving it from it’s pocket. So one needs to be a bit more careful with it.

These are not the best quality grade Digipaks and are cheaper, but never the less even though they may not protect the disc as well as a standard plastic jewel case. I sill prefer this type of Digipak over them, and like I said they do look neat.

The CD does not come with a booklet however the production notes are on the back of the sleeve. The inside of the sleeve shows you all the guitars he used in making the album and also contains a brief bit of background history of how he was inspired by so many influences as a child and how he has progressed today.

The Artwork.

As I mentioned earlier the artwork was done by Paul Whitehead. Whitehead is a British painter and artist who was perhaps more known for his surrealistic work he did for Charisma Records back in the 70’s. His more noted album covers were done for the bands Genesis and Van der Graaf Generator.

To be honest I had no idea Paul Whitehead was still creating artwork for album covers and I quite like this one a lot. So glad to see he is still active and busy.

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I also pulled out the 3 albums he did for Genesis from my box set too, and this cover is perhaps more like the Foxtrot album with its colour and the ripple of the sea.

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But of course you will find better examples on Paul’s website by clicking on the following link here: http://www.paulwhitehead.com/Default.aspx

To be honest I have no idea how much professional artwork such as this costs, but I dare say it’s not entirely cheap. But it seems to be doing the trick and attracting the attention. I have even noticed that Cherry Red Records here in the UK have also noted it and are advertising it and selling it on their website too. I would even expect the vinyl release to do well too and that no doubt will display the beauty of Whitehead’s work the best.

So Who Is Fernando Perdomo?…

Well straight off like I said earlier, I have never heard of the guy. So I had to do a bit of research to find out a bit more, and the first thing I can tell you is that he’s an American singer-songwriter, musician, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer. As a record producer judging by the amount of artists albums and tracks he’s produced since 2010. The list is as long as the arms of a good few football teams. Though I cannot say I have heard of any of the artists or the material he has produced. But then again it’s a very big world, and I do not live in that part of it.

The other thing I can tell you is that he’s played in a couple of bands who I have also never heard of, and he also does not play prog rock as a rule, but does have many influences from a wide variety of genres, and even his record collection does contain quite of bit of prog rock from the 70’s. He’s also an extremely busy guy who tends to knock out music and albums every month judging by some of his releases, and I have to confess that I do not have enough body parts to sell to keep up with an artist who churns out music at this high rate :)))))).

And on a final note of what I discovered in my research. Is that he looks like an extremely cool dude and he’s a very talented musician who certainly knows how to craft, carve out, and produce quality music and songs. Creativeness seems to flow in his genes as you can see by this short video he posted on his Youtube channel.

No doubt his production techniques are very good and you can see that just by this very cool bit of creativity that he is a guy full of ideas. So let’s now get on to the album review.

The Album In Review…

Out At Sea by Fernando Perdomo was released originally on Bandcamp on February 9th 2018. The official UK release of the CD was released much later on the 4th May 2018. The album itself contains 8 instrumental tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 43 minutes, 4 seconds. Musically the album is very much mainly done in the way of a tribute, and was inspired by the many great progressive rock bands that came out in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

All the instruments guitars, bass, keyboards and drums were played by Fernando Perdomo with the exception of track 6 “The Dream“. To which the drums were played by Eddie Zyne. I found this following video of an interview of Fernando talking about the album very interesting and informative, it gives you a very good insight into his influences and even his record collection.

So now let’s take a look at how well the album came out, as I take you through all 8 tracks individually in my review here.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Not all the tracks on the album Out At Sea are tributes, and there are some that were influenced by other things, and although most of the album does contain mainly new written material, it also includes a couple of reworked older tracks that Fernando felt would work on an album such as this.

Track 1. The Architect. (Tribute To Peter Banks)

The opening track on the album is very much a tribute to Peter Banks back in the early days of Yes before Steve Howe had replaced him as the bands guitarist. I have to say that Perdomo has captured Banks’s style of guitar playing really well even down to all the right guitar tones and effects he used.

Musically he’s structured the piece around some of the melody lines of “Astral Traveller” and perhaps incorporated some of the other guitar sounds from Yes’s first and second albums they did back in 1969 and 1970. Perdomo has done a really great job here by not copying the original melody but reshaping parts of it and doing his own thing around it, yet it still sounds quite like Peter Banks. It’s a really great track and certainly a strong contender for the top spot on the album.

Here he is doing a live studio version of it with a band that he only just recently posted on his Youtube channel a week ago.

Both he and the band have executed the song very well and I wonder if he’s planning to take the band he has assembled here out on the road to play some live shows featuring the material from the album.

Track 2. Out To Sea.

The music to this piece was inspired by the albums front cover artwork done by Paul Whitehead. To be honest Perdomo perhaps sees something different in this artwork than I do on that score. For example even though there is nothing in the painting quite as bizarre as what was on those early Genesis album covers, there is still something about it that reminds me a bit of Genesis.

But musically this album says nothing about the band Genesis. But I do not think that was his intention at all here, and after all this is the artwork for his album and not that of Genesis.

The music we do have has quite a bit of power, and this is more like a battle on the sea. It’s got some great theme work and some fine progression along its path, but it does not tend to go in many directions and sticks closely to the theme work and melody lines of the musical structure. It also features some blistering lead work on the guitar and is quite good track on the album.

Track 3. De Boerderij. (Tribute To Focus)

No doubt that Perdomo has listened closely to the Dutch band Focus and I like this one quite a lot. That much that it’s my personal favourite track on the album and merits the top spot award. Once again Perdomo has sculptured his own melody lines and managed to make it all sound quite like the band.

There is plenty of diversity here and some fine transitional changes, along with beautiful melody lines played on the lead guitar. This one really is an excellent piece of work that has a lot thrown into the pot over its short distance.

Track 4. Roses Spread All Over the World.

The pace comes down here a bit and this is perhaps the ballad track of the album. “Roses Spread All Over the World” is quite a beauty of a piece that features some quite Steve Howe like guitar sounds, such as the choral sitar and even the flute like melody in the background on the intro reminds me of the English folk songwriter Alan Hull and is quite familiar with the flute on his 2nd solo album Squire.

No doubt this another contender for the top spot on the album and it’s title was inspired from a girl he knew, who went around selling roses.

Track 5. The Future According to Roye (Tribute to Roye Albrighton and Nektar).

The 2nd longest track on the album is a really superb piece that goes into plenty of places with its progression and diversity. It’s got some well tasty beautiful melody lines amongst all the power and energy we get here too.

To be honest I have never heard of the artists he’s paying tribute to here, but this to me is perhaps the most prog rock track on the album, and it was very difficult for me not to give it the top spot award. For many I dare say this could be their favourite on the album. No doubt this is a very high contender for the top spot on the album and it really is a superb piece of work and really great track.

Track 6. The Dream.

One of the two shortest tracks on the album and this lovely piece is built up using a strong theme played on the guitar that in some way even reminded me of the Dutch band Focus and the sort of material they did on their 1975 album Mother Focus.

It’s another really beautiful track and well crafted composition. “The Dream” is an older track that also featured on an earlier album of Perdomo’s and features Eddie Zyne on drums.

Track 7. Sonja. (Tribute to Sonja Kristina and Curved Air).

The shortest piece on the album is a tribute to the band Curved Air. This piece is quite up-tempo and has a bit of pace about it, and besides the rather tasty guitar playing the harpsichord is also put to good use, and that instrument was always one of Francis Monkman’s choice of keyboards too, who incidentally was the bands guitarist and keyboard player.

To be honest I do not know a lot about Curved Air and I really need to check them out, because I loved Monkman’s compositions the most when he was in the band Sky much later on in the 70’s. Perdomo also done a collaboration with the female singer of the band Sonja Kristina but his inspiration for this piece came from the bands 2nd album which was actually entitled Second Album they done back in 1971.

Track 8. Dreaming in Stereo Suite.

The final track on the album happens to be the longest and weighs in at just over 16 minutes. Once again Perdomo uses strong themes and melodies to craft out the piece and there is plenty of diversity and progression along it’s lengthy journey. It goes through quite a few nice transitional changes, moods and different styles too.

This is another one of Perdomo‘s older tracks that was originally from his band project Dreaming In Stereo back in 2010. The original music for that album did also contain words and vocals, and he felt has it was more prog rock it would suit this album. So he made up the suite we have here out of the instrumental sections of some of the tracks from that album and pieced it all together for this album.

It’s another really excellent piece of work and great track that’s very much another  strong contender for the top spot on the album, and puts an end to a very well crafted album.

Summary…

Overall Out At Sea by Fernando Perdomo is an album that does not disappoint in any way and it’s quite a solid album from start to finish. Everything about the material that’s on it works very well, not only with the right placement of the tracks but also with the way he has combined some of his older material with the newer material he has written for it.

The way he’s crafted all the tracks out so well with strong themes and melodies makes it very hard to choose a favourite track to be honest, because they all are so very well done. My personal highlights from the album are “The Architect“. “De Boerderij“. “Roses Spread All Over the World“. “The Future According to Roye“. and “Dreaming in Stereo Suite“.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Out At Sea by Fernando Perdomo. I very much think it’s an album that says everything about it that’s written on the tin. The tribute work to the fine artists very much reflects those artists down to a tee, and he’s gone about it with his own melody lines and a few reshaped ones along the way and captivated these great artists with use of his guitar and effects.

It’s a very well crafted album and even as an instrumental album it works really well and provides hours of enjoyment in that it begs you to return to it and give it more spins. I very much think he’s on to a winner with what he’s produced here, especially for those who are into prog rock.

But there is perhaps a bit more here too, in that the album contains elements of beauty with the lead guitar lines and fine melodies, and this is an album that will appeal to more than just your prog rocker on that score. I certainly think it’s an album that’s worth checking out and I highly recommend doing so. It might be just what you’ve been looking for and your cup of tea so to speak. It certainly floats my boat too.

Out At Sea can be purchased from most outlets in the form of a Digital Download or CD & Vinyl. You can hear the album for yourself here on the following link on Bandcamp : https://fernandoperdomo.bandcamp.com/album/out-to-sea

Wandering Where Lights Go, Leave Out The Body Load.…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. The Architect. 4:10.
02. Out At Sea. 4:15.
03. De Boerderij. 3:10.
04. Roses Spread All Over the World. 3:44.
05. The Future According to Roye. 6:23.
06. The Dream. 2:45.
07. Sonja. 2:34.
08. Dreaming in Stereo Suite. 16:03.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 07/10.

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

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #78

Who’s Next (SACD) – The Who

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Introduction…

Well I must admit I have always been a Rocker and I have always quite liked The Who. Though I have to confess I was never that mad on them, and the only album I did buy of the band was the 1973 double album Quadrophenia and a couple of live DVD’s of the band they done a few decades later. I did like some of their well known singles back in the 60’s and early 70’s such as “My Generation” and “Substitute” and have always admired Roger Daltrey’s great voice and the rest of the guys in the band on that score.

There is no doubt The Who rocked, but I suppose they rocked a bit differently in relation to the other rock bands that grabbed more of my attention back in the early 70’s such as Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Those are the type of bands that really rocked my world back then and very much floated my boat more so than what The Who ever really spoke to me. To me The Who were perhaps your more light hearted rockers in relation to the more heavier side of those bands, they were also perhaps a bit more commercial too.

I remember seeing the film Tommy back in the 70’s on the TV and I thought it was perhaps one of the most bizarre things I had ever seen. I am pretty sure I only watched it because I knew Elton John was also featured in the film, and I was quite a fan of Elton’s music back in those days too. But not even he could rescue that film and I thought it was just totally nuts and dreadful.

A close friend of mine back in those days quite liked The Who and had the album Tommy and lent it to me to listen too. The album just never said anything to me, and the only track that did on the album was “Pinball Wizard” and I even thought Elton John’s version of the song was a damn site better than what they ever did with it.

A few years ago the same old friend of mine even lent me the 5.1 version he had brought on SACD and the album still never said anything to me. I thought they did a great job of the 5.1 mix but the material I felt was so weak, and no way was I buying the album just because it sounded good in 5.1 :)))))).

To be honest even the 2 live DVD’s of The Who I only brought in the first place because they was in a bargain basket in Woolworth’s and both of them was brand new and dirt cheap. The one was The Who And Special Guests Live At The Royal Albert Hall which is a double DVD and cost me £5 and the other one was a triple live DVD entitled Tommy and Quadrophenia Live With Special Guests. Which cost me £7.97. The price tag is still on it as you can see in the picture below.

1 Who DVDs

As much as I love the album Quadrophenia I cannot say I am fond of the live version they do of the album on the latter of those 2 DVD’s. I think the guests they have got on it just ruins the whole thing and I would of preferred The Who to do the whole thing themselves. Actually the best DVD in that triple DVD set is the last one in there in which they play a lot of their hits. I quite like that one. The one at the Royal Albert Hall is very good I will say, and they do a lot of the material from this album Who’s Next as well.

So just what possessed me to go out and buy another album by The Who?.

Well I suppose I have to thank my good friend Dirk Radloff who I met on Soundcloud a few years ago. He’s quite a fan of the band and I noticed a post about the band he had put on his Facebook wall just recently.

Basically I told him my thoughts about the band and how it was only really the album Quadrophenia that only really spoke to me apart from some of their earlier hits. To be honest it’s come up before in an earlier discussion about the band we had. But not being so hooked on The Who myself I have not heard all the albums they made, and during this discussion Dirk recommended me to listen to the album Who’s Next.

Well the first thing I did was check out the band a bit more, and I noticed that this particular album was released after Tommy in 1971 and it was the album before their 1973 album Quadrophenia. Being as the 70’s is very much my favourite decade and I practically still live in it when it comes to great music. I located the whole album on Youtube and decided to give it a blast.

To my surprise I quite liked it, enough to even go out an buy it. Though I have to admit I did do a very silly thing regarding the format and the price I paid for it. More about that later under the heading of “Expensive Snake Oil” but first let’s as usual take a look at the packaging.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The SACD comes in a standard plastic jewel case. You would think for the price of the thing it would come in a quality cardboard Digipak but never the less it offers great protection for the disc. The booklet that comes with it is mainly in Japanese and the only thing inside the booklet itself that is printed in English are the song lyrics.

Thankfully they have also printed the linear notes and production credits on the back of the booklet in English. But as for any other informative information. Unless you can read Japanese there is nothing else here to see :))))))).

The Artwork.

The front cover and the photography for the album was done by the American photographer Ethan Russell. Russell had previously done a lot of photography for The Rolling Stones and The Beatles he even did all the photography that inside The Who’s 1973 album Quadrophenia though he never did the front cover of that album.

The photo shoot was taken in a coal mining town in County Durham England known as Easington Colliery. The band had just urinated on a large concrete piling sticking out of a slag heap and the fact that the slab of concrete looked like the monolith from the 1968 film 2001 A Space Odyssey led both Entwistle and Moon suggesting the idea for the album cover.

According to Russell not all the band members had urinated over the concrete piling so he used to water from a canister to add to the effect. The photo Russell took for the rear of the album cover was taken at the De Montfort Hall in Leicester whilst the band were backstage. The layout of the album was done by John Kosh.

Expensive Snake Oil…

Over the decades Japan as always had quite a good reputation regarding the quality of their imported CD’s and no doubt you do pay slightly more for them. I have brought a few in the past, especially of artists who are lesser known in relation to pop artists such as Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman as an example, and their albums always tend to go out of print. In general I have always been satisfied with the quality of the recordings on them, and you could pay up to £5 more for such an import back in those days.

These days some people expect you to sell a body part to be able to pay for an album that’s gone out of print :))))) prices can shoot through the roof. Over the years I have seen some good things come out of Japan. This is a country who were world leaders in electronics and technology and were innovators when it comes down to new technology, and they are still are a country to be reckoned within that field.

But I have to confess they are also a country that can do some silly things at times. For example this is a country who have many brand name electronic companies such as Sony. Yamaha. Pioneer and so on, and these are companies that make Surround Sound Home Cinema HiFi and components. Yet for some reason when it comes to making high quality audio SACD’s they are not interested in producing them with a surround mix on them, and only tend to make them in stereo only.

They even refuse to use Hybrid SACD discs that come with a dual layer and they only use single layer discs, and the way they achieve this higher audio quality is by using a substance known as snake oil in the process of making their SACD’s.

Now many will find this process of using snake oil very strange and even questioning if the audio quality is any better than a conventional compact disc. To be honest this type of process is far from anything new, and years ago even back in the mid 80’s when CD Players first hit the market, some people did do some funny things that they reckoned worked in getting their CD’s to sound even better.

For example if you get a green felt tip pen and just run it all the way around the edge of the round disc. When placed into the CD player the laser will read the disc faster, therefore making some improvement over the overall sound quality. So the idea behind using snake oil mixed into the surface of a single layered disc will improve the way the laser reads it and it even adds a bit more stability to the disc, so they say.

Now most people will call this a load of old codswallop and quite personally I am not a fan of this process at all, and as a rule I genuinely avoid buying any SACD that comes with a Stereo mix only. As far as I am concerned you can use any magical substance you like on a stereo mix, you can even make the disc out of 24 Carat Gold for all I care. But no way on this earth will any stereo recording, no matter what you put on it, will it ever compete with the sound quality of a 5.1 surround mix.

You do not need any magical substance on the surface of a disc that comes with a 5.1 surround mix to bring out the quality and make it shine. The very fact that this is a multi track recording played through a 6 separate channel amplification stage is all the magic you need. 6 Channels are far more superior than 2 channels.

For starters the separation via using 6 channels is way beyond any 2 channel stereo amplifier could ever produce. It’s this factor that brings out far more clarity and much more superior dynamics out of any recording. To put it in a nutshell when Stereo recordings and HiFi replaced Mono back in the 60’s it left Mono in the dust. Just the same as multi-track recordings and 5.1 Home Cinema HiFi left Stereo in the dust as far as I am concerned. Though I still do like stereo myself and can enjoy it still. But as for mono you seriously have to be kidding me :)))))).

Personally for me putting a stereo mix on an SACD is pointless. No doubt it will sound better than any CD. But no way on this earth can that extra bit of sound quality justify some of the prices these things are sold for.

For example if a brand new CD cost £10. A Stereo SACD of the same album should cost you no more than say £12 – £15. That in reality is how much better the stereo SACD sounds over the CD. So roughly were talking 20 to 50 percent. Now the margin of sound quality between a CD and 5.1 SACD would work a lot higher and I would say its around 50 to 100 percent better. All of this depends on how good the mixing engineer was in the first place of course.

I have to confess I did make a silly mistake when I ordered Who’s Next on SACD. At the time I was looking at reviews for both the SACD versions of Who’s Next and Quadrophenia and naturally thought that because Quadrophenia had a 5.1 mix, that Who’s Next would be the same.

SACD’s can be very expensive and hard to get hold of for a decent price in most cases. For example on Amazon you can get Who’s Next on CD for £5.50. The SACD on Amazon is £65 and no way was I paying that. But I managed to get it from America in the end for £30. Still very pricey and at the time I did order it, I thought it came with a 5.1 mix.

After I had placed my order I spent an hour or so looking up more reviews about the SACD version of Who’s Next (to be honest all the reviews for the SACD pointed to it being excellent) but it suddenly tumbled in that this SACD and the album had never been recorded with a 5.1 mix in the first place, and was only in Stereo.

So I immediately emailed the place in America to cancel my order and asked for a refund. But unfortunately they was having none of it, and told me I was too late as they had already dispatched the item to me.

This is the very first SACD I have ever brought with just a stereo mix on, and had it of come with a 5.1 mix I would not of batted an eye lash over the price I paid for it. To be honest being a fan of Peter Gabriel. Many years ago when he released a lot of his albums on SACD I was going to buy them. But the fact that they was all in stereo only. I never bothered buying them, and I am not interested in buying them either. Maybe if they was £5 each I would. But these days even second hand copies will cost you an arm and a leg to buy and are sold at ridiculous prices.

The SACD Release…

The Who’s 1971 album Who’s Next was first released on an SHM SACD in Japan on the 25th August 2010 as a limited edition. Due to it going out of print Japan decided to reissue the limited edition again on the 26th November 2014. This later reissue is the one I got and both SACD’s only came with a stereo mix, and there as never been a 5.1 surround mix of the album.

I find it rather strange why The Who released both the albums Tommy and Quadrophenia with a 5.1 mix and not this album that lies smack bang in the middle of them. In general the main reason why no 5.1 mixes were made is because the multi-track master tapes have been lost. Yet all reports and reviews point to this album being mixed directly from the original master tapes to the SACD and not from a remastered copy.

Even upon the release of the SACD they was never sold at a cheap price and its retail price was sold at $50 in America. That’s £37 here in the UK and bloody expensive considering it’s only in stereo.

Back in 2014 you could still buy Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon on SACD with a 5.1 mix for around £12 new, and I can honestly say that would leave this thing in the dust :))))))). I actually got it on SACD in the early 2000’s for £5 brand new in Woolworth’s and I have to say it’s freaking awesome.

The Album In Review…

The bands 5th studio album Who’s Next was originally released on the 25th August 1971 here in the UK 11 days after the American release. It’s an album that contains 9 tracks spanned over a playing of 43 minutes and 38 seconds. 8 of the 9 tracks where written by Pete Townshend and John Entwistle penned the other one.

Pete Townsend was working on writing new material for a follow up to their previous album and rock opera Tommy to which he filed under the name of the Lifehouse Project. Much of the material from that abandoned project ended up on this album.

Prior to the release of the album an edited version of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” was released as a single in the UK a couple of months before the albums release. It broke into the top ten of the singles charts and peaked at number 9. It must have had a good effect because when the album Who’s Next was released it was the first album The Who had ever had that hit number 1 in the UK album charts. For many the album Who’s Next was considered to be the bands best album.

Musicians & Credits…

TheWho-1971

Recorded and mixed by Glyn Johns at the Olympic Studios London and Stargroves between April – June 1971. Produced by The Who. Associate Producer Glyn Johns. Executive Producers Kit Lambert. Chris Stamp. Pete Cameron. Violin on “Baba O’ Riley” Produced by Keith Moon. Album Design by John Kosh. Photography by Ethan Russell.

Musicians:
Pete Townshend: Guitar/SCS3 Organ/A.R.P. Synthesizer/Vocals/Piano (On “Baba O’ Riley”)
Roger Daltrey: Vocals.
John Entwistle: Bass/Brass/Vocals/Piano (On “My Wife”)
Keith Moon: Drums/Percussion.

Additional Musicians:
Dave Arbus: Violin (On “Baba O’ Riley”)
Nicky Hopkins: Piano (On “The Song Is Over” and “Getting in Tune”)

The Album Tracks In Review…

The recording sessions for the bands album Who’s Next began in April of 1971 at Mick Jagger’s house Stargroves using The Rolling Stones Mobile Studio in which they managed to get down the backing track for “Won’t Get Fooled Again“. Although the band had first tried to record the song a month earlier at the Record Plant in New York City. They then decided to record the rest of the album at the Olympic Studios London.

It was whilst they was at the Record Plant that they ran into the band Mountain and their guitarist Leslie West played the lead guitar on “Won’t Get Fooled Again” But it proved to be a bit too difficult for Kit Lambert to mix, so they decided to start from scratch again a month later. West also played the lead guitar on “Baby, Don’t You Do It” a song originally written by Holland–Dozier–Holland to which they used as one of the bonus tracks on the 1995 reissue of the album. He also played on a few other tracks too.

It was back in England a month later that Glyn Johns was brought in to help with the mix and production. Even Townshend’s synthesizer on “Won’t Get Fooled Again” that he recorded in New York was too inferior to use, so Johns decided to use the synthesizer parts from Townshend’s original demo tapes. Most of the bulk sessions of the albums tracks were recorded in May.

Just before the band started work on recording the album Joe Walsh gave Pete Townshend a guitar. It was a Gretsch 6120 and Townshend used it as his main guitar on the album.

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So let’s now take a deeper look into the tracks on the album and see if it lives up to being what’s considered as The Who’s best album.

Track 1. Baba O’ Riley.

The song was originally written for Townshend’s Lifehouse Project and it’s title came from a couple of his mentors who had a philosophical influence on him who was Meher Baba and Terry Riley. Roger Daltrey takes on the biggest part of the vocals on the song and it’s lyrical content is based around the effects that music has on the younger generation at large music venues, Woodstock as an example and how they can get brain damage from the use of drugs at such places. The words “Teenage Wasteland” is a reference put into context to describe such large concert venues. “Teenage Wasteland” was also the original working title for the track.

Musically the song uses a 1-5-4 chord progression and was written in the key of F Major. Though it was not recorded in concert pitch and the strings are tuned higher to 446 khz and not your standard tuning of 440 khz and is played on the A instead. The synthesizer on the intro is a built up sequence and it plays an integral part throughout the track. The song also features Dave Arbus from the prog rock band East Of Eden on violin.

Baba O’ Riley” was also released in some European countries as a single, though it never had a single release in the UK or America. The song was also used as the main theme for the American TV series CSI New York which ran from 2004 – 2013. It’s really great song and very much a strong contender for the best track on the album.

Track 2. Bargain.

The “Bargain” is a really great rocker of a song and it even sounds like the material Townshend wrote for the album Quadrophenia. The combination of the acoustic and electric guitars work very well, and no doubt both Entwistle and Moon are doing the business on the song too. Once again the main part of the vocals are handled by Daltrey and his voice projects with great power as ever.

The lyrics that Townshend wrote were once again influenced by the Indian mystic Meher Baba and though they pertain to a love song, they are very much based around giving up everything to be at one with God. This is another contender for the top spot on the album and a really great song.

Track 3. Love Ain’t For Keeping.

The shortest track on the album and one of the few tracks on the album not to have any synthesizers on it. This is another really great song and I like its much more acoustic guitar side of it. Although they did record the song first at the Record Plant in New York and it did have synths on it. It even had more of an heavier electric approach to it all too, and featured Leslie West on lead guitar.

Townshend does a great job on multi-tracking the acoustic guitars on it, and Daltrey’s voice once again shines throughout it all. Keith Moon plays the drums on a Ludwig Kit rather than his usual Pearl Kit. Even though Entwistle’s bass is more restrained, its still very dominant and sounds great in the mix.

The song has a great country blues feel about it, and even sounds a bit familiar with what Rod Stewart and the Faces where doing back then too. It was also another song that was intended originally for the Lifehouse Project. I really like this one and it’s another cracking song and contender for the top spot.

Track 4. My Wife.

The only track on the album that was not written by Pete Townshend and was penned by John Entwistle. The song features Entwistle on the lead vocals and besides the bass he also plays the piano and the brass horn section lead break. The particular horn section and the melody played around it, reminds me a bit of “5:15” which never appeared for a couple of years later on the Quadropenia album.

The lyrics are quite funny and he concocted a fictitious story about what his wife will do to him after him being contained in a police cell for a few hours for being drunk, and him thinking of ways to protect himself when she does finally catches up with him. I personally do not think it’s on par with the opening 3 tracks on the album, but it was perhaps a good bit of fun.

Track 5. The Song Is Over.

Another song that that came from Townshend’s Lifehouse Project and was intended to be the last track to finish off the story to it all. Both Townshend and Daltrey share the lead vocals on this track and it works very well with Townshned’s sweeter voice on the verses and Daltrey’s more hard edge vocals on the chorus. It’s very much a ballad of a song that also has a bit of power with how they have worked out the vocal sections between them. It’s also one of the two songs on the album that features Nicky Hopkins on the piano.

Lyrically it’s quite poetic and pertains to a dying man’s last words and how he would still like to be remembered after he’s gone. Once again this song reminds me like some of the material that was written for Quadrophenia and has that production feel about it. It’s another really great song.

Track 6. Getting In Tune.

Another great track on the album that shows both the melodic and and hard cutting edge of Daltrey’s vocals. Once again the session player Nicky Hopkins is at the piano and his work on this song is really excellent. Keith Moon is flying along on the drums on as ever and even though his drums and Entwistle’s bass are very domineering, I quite like how everything else manages to cut through the mix so well. It was another song that came from the Lifehouse Project and another of the few tracks that does not contain any synthesisers on it.

Track 7. Going Mobile.

A song that features Pete Townshend on lead vocals and Roger Daltrey sat out of this one and left the band as a trio to do it. Once again the song came from the abandoned Lifehouse Project. It’s not a bad song and Moon’s drums do a grand job on it. I personally do think Townshend’s voice does not do it any great justice, but then again the key that this song is played in may not of suited Daltrey’s voice either. Personally I think this song and “My Wife” are perhaps the only two songs on the album that do not quite make the grade.

Track 8. Behind Blue Eyes.

A fine ballad of a song and it’s great to see Daltrey once again on the vocals, especially after the last track :)))))). The song is alleged to have been written by Townshend back in 1970 after he was tempted to go with a female groupie after a concert they played in Denver. It’s also thought that his beliefs in his new spiritual leader Meher Baba prevented him from doing so.

The song was also first recorded at the Record Plant in New York and featured Al Kooper on Hammond Organ and just like many of the songs from those first recording sessions they were released as bonus tracks on later reissues of the album. This song also comes from the abandoned Lifehouse Project.

Track 9. Won’t Get Fooled Again.

The final track on the album also came from the Lifehouse Project and is the longest track on the album. Just like the opening track on the album the intro on the synthesizer carries it all the way through the song and is the songs main melody for everything else to play around it. A lot of the synthesized work was inspired from Townshend’s visit to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

Townshend had the idea that he could capture the thoughts in peoples minds with the use of electronics and synthesizers and feed the pulses of their brain patterns into electronic devices. Sounds like quite an experiment though in reality you could produce the same sound virtually on any synthesizer with a sequencer in it :))))))). I am pretty sure he was off his head at the time. But no doubt he created quite an effective sound and it works really well on the track.

Won’t Get Fooled Again” is my personal favourite track on the album, and I would expect that to be the case with most of those who brought this album. It merits my top spot award and the whole band play an integral part of making it all work so well. It ends the album off superbly.

Summary…

Overall Who’s Next by The Who is a very good album. I personally do not think it’s a solid album or the bands best album for that matter, but never or less it does contain 7 really good songs out of the 9 your getting on the album. I also personally think the material that was written for this album was a lot stronger than their previous album Tommy.

There is no doubt that Tommy was the album that changed the bands style more than anything, and was more of a commercial success for the band and set them in the right direction. It was also the starting point of where Roger Daltrey’s voice started to come more to shape with it’s own unique identity. His voice projects better on this album and the album that followed it Quadrophenia.

I personally feel Daltrey’s voice has even more balls on Quadrophenia which is perhaps why it’s my favourite album of theirs. Although I do also feel the material was very strong for that album and it is without a doubt a solid album on that score. But Who’s Next is a very worthy album and certainly one of the bands better albums. For any fan of The Who this album is still very much a must to have without a doubt.

To be honest I was never a massive fan of The Who but quite liked their distinctive style, and effectively it’s as if all 4 members of the band are playing lead lines and quite strange how it all works out so well. I cannot recall another band functioning that way either. Their style is very unique and it’s what makes them stand out from the rest.

I personally do not think I have heard another drummer like Keith Moon either. There is no sense of a pattern to how he plays the drums and it’s almost like a guy who’s never played the drums before in his life and getting up on the stage and saying I can play the drums and bashing the hell out of them :))))). You simply could never rehearse his style and I do not think he ever did either. He just done it there and then at the moment and somehow it worked so bloody well. He was perhaps the perfect natural.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of the album Who’s Next by The Who. I would say it’s an album that’s up their with their very best albums and a very worthy album of having. My personal highlights from the album are “Won’t Get Fooled Again. “Baba O’Riley“. “Love Ain’t For Keeping” and “Bargain“.

Although no way would I recommend buying this SACD version of the album and at it’s price point of £30 or more it certainly does not justify it’s expensive price tag over the CD or vinyl album.

To be honest I have never had the vinyl LP or CD to make any real comparison. But from the many albums I do have on CD and have heard. I would say the overall sound quality of this SACD is no more than 20% better than the CD you could buy for £5.50. No way is it worth it’s price tag and no stereo SACD is ever gonna give you that extra quality that a 5.1 recording will give you.

You can even buy the Deluxe Edition of the album that comes with 2 CD’s for £7.99 on Amazon and I would certainly recommend that over what little bit of extra quality you will get from this SACD.

I can honestly say with all my heart regarding Stereo Only SACD’s, I would never buy another one, and I certainly Won’t Get Fooled Again:)))))))).

Pick Up My Guitar And Play, Just Like Yesterday…

The SACD track listing is as follows:

01. Baba O’Riley. 5:09.
02. Bargain. 5:34.
03. Love Ain’t For Keeping. 2:10.
04. My Wife. 3:42.
05. The Song Is Over. 6:15.
06. Getting In Tune. 4:50.
07. Going Mobile. 3:43.
08. Behind Blue Eyes. 3:42.
09. Won’t Get Fooled Again. 8:33.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 08/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 2/10.

Lee’s SACD Rating Score. 5/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #77

Fish Out Of Water (Deluxe Edition) – Chris Squire

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Introduction…

The latest re-release of Chris Squire’s 1975 album Fish Out Of Water is another one of these releases from Esoteric Recordings. Having more recently discovered Esoteric Recordings myself, I have to admit they are perhaps a company that do some good things with these new releases, but they also have some bad points about them too, and do not always play the ball game in doing the right thing, and can be a company who want to milk you out of as much money as they possibly can.

For example the clamshell Sky Box Set I purchased last month, may seem like a good buy considering it was only £25 for all of Sky’s 7 studio albums and a DVD of a live concert thrown in to boot. To be honest the quality of the recordings of those studio albums on the CD’s is really excellent. But the fact that they could not be arsed to include a booklet in a box set such as this. In all honesty it’s ludicrous.

Just who in the right mind would go out of their way to make such a box set and not include any information about the product they are selling you. This is where this company really need to get it’s ass into gear. But half the time they just want to rush the whole thing out, and get their hands on your money.

Now I am not saying there is something missing in this Deluxe Edition release of Chris Squire’s Fish Out Of Water. But Esoteric Recordings are devious and cunning bastards in the way they have gone about releasing it. And I will go further into detail about how this company are not playing the ball game a bit later on in my review here. But first let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The Deluxe Edition comes in a nice well made box that replicates the vinyl album cover very well. The box is slightly bigger than the 12 inch vinyl album and is around half inch thick in depth so that all the contents that comes with this package fit like a glove inside it. I honestly cannot fault how they have gone about things making this package and it really is very well made and nicely presented.

Besides all the media contents that come in the box set it also comes with a 36 page book. To be honest for the price of a box set like this I would of expected it to be an hardbound book, but never the less the book is very well made and I have no gripe with that. My biggest disappointment is really down to the little information you get here. Though it is quite informative.

OK you do get all the production credits, notes and lyrics here. But as for the so called essay by Sid Smith that features interviews with Bill Bruford. Patrick Moraz. and Gregg Jackman. I very much think these so called interviews were done a good while ago and are nothing really new at all.

Considering this so called book comes with 36 pages there is very little in it to read. The biggest majority of it is filled with pictures and production credits and lyrics. I think Sid Smith got about 4 pages and Jakko Jakszyk only got 1 page :)))))).

For vinyl collectors a presentation box such as this is not really going to present them with a problem of storing a package like this. I myself gave up on collecting vinyl a few decades ago now, and my old vinyl records and turntable are still in the loft.

Even the original vinyl album of Fish Out Of Water is still in the loft that I brought on it’s original release back in 1975. And I have no intention of dragging my turntable out of the loft to play the newly remastered vinyl album that comes in this box set or the 2 vinyl singles for that matter.

But for people like myself a box set like this is certainly more harder to store and as you can see by the space it has taken up in my storage unit to display it in the picture below. This one has taken up the space you could quite easily of put 60 – 70 CD’s in.

CS Storage

Being more of a surround freak myself. I am much more into 5.1 surround recordings than any vinyl album or CD for that matter. Though I do still  buy CD’s, simply because not all artists can afford to make their albums with a 5.1 mix. Some are not even bothered with 5.1 and still prefer stereo in relation to it.

So the biggest majority of music media that interests me comes on the media formats of SACD. DVD & Blu Ray and my shelving system does not really cater for a larger package of this sort and it will be a lot harder for me to store.

I decided to make a little video so I can display the contents and how this is all very well packaged up and how everything fits nice and snug.

The Artwork.
The cover design, layout and photography for the album was done by Laurence Bernes. However the photograph of Chris Squire’s face behind the closed elevator doors on the front cover, was taken and provided by Brian Lane the manager of Yes at the time. The snap that Lane had taken was whilst Yes was on their US Tour in 1974 and it was taken at the Detroit Hilton on a Polaroid camera that Lane had just brought that day.

The poster that comes with the album of a fish is a picture that was taken of a stained glass window that Chris Squire had brought in France and had it put in his bathroom. Squire got his nickname of the fish from the other band members of Yes back in 1970/71. They gave him the name because he always took such a long time in the bathroom.

1 Fish

The name very much stuck with him enough to title his own contributed piece on the Fragile album “The Fish“. He also decided to use it in the title of this debut album of his, and the title of Fish Out Of Water is a reference to him working on dry land so to speak, and out of the comfort zone of the band Yes he was always more at home with.

The Art Of Greed…

The very reason Esoteric Recordings did not release the 5.1 version as an individual release is very much a tactical ploy to entice more people to buy the more expensive Deluxe Edition Box Set. This is where companies like this can be real bastards and are not being fair to the genuine music buyers or Chris Squire’s fans for that matter.

During the time I had pre-ordered the Deluxe Edition I got to read many of the comments that people had left not only on Esoteric Recordings Facebook page where they was promoting the release, but also on many other places on the internet who was also advertising it too.

I can tell you now that at least 87 percent of the many comments I read where from surround freaks like myself who were complaining about them not releasing the 5.1 mix of the album as an individual release. Most of those people were that disappointed by Esoteric Recordings tactical ploy and scam to squeeze more money out of people’s pockets, that they stated they would not be buying the box set.

Some of them even asked if Esoteric Recordings had any intention of releasing the 5.1 surround mix in the future, to which Esoteric Recordings replied “it depends on how well the box sets sell”.

In other words when all the box sets have been sold, which could take at least another decade judging by the disappointment by the biggest majority of the public. Then they will try and milk more money out of people by releasing the 5.1 mix in another package along with a couple of CD’s.

To be perfectly honest I myself usually avoid more expensive box sets like this, where companies like this are being nothing more than greedy bastards by not giving the artists fans what they want, and exploiting the artist after they have died.

Chris Squire himself stated that he would love to have a 5.1 mix of his solo album Fish Out Of Water. I am pretty sure that if he was alive today he would be just as disappointed how Esoteric Recordings have gone about this release and their tactical ploy to try and squeeze more money out of his fans for them to get their hands on it. I very much think the poor guy is turning in his grave right now.

It was in an interview back in 2004 that Chris Squire made a statement that he would love to have a 5.1 mix of his solo album Fish Out Of Water. But unfortunately at that time the multi-track master tapes could not be located and were thought to be lost.

In 2007 despite still not being able to find the multi-track master tapes and the album was out of print. Chris Squire decided to re-release the album again on his own label, Stone Ghost Records, distributed by Castle/Sanctuary Records.

This 2007 release came with a CD with bonus tracks and a DVD and was was released on 25 June 2007 as a Deluxe Expanded Edition. It even claimed that the album was remastered, though most reviews tended to point to remaster having little or no improvement at all.

To be honest I did not buy that release so as to how good it sounded I could not tell you. I did however buy the CD back in 90’s and that sounded dreadful in relation to the vinyl album I already brought back in the 70’s. But the DVD that came with the 2007 Deluxe Expanded Edition is the same bonus DVD that comes with this 2018 release by Esoteric Recordings.

The other DVD that comes in this Esoteric Recordings release, contains the very first 5.1 surround mix of the album after the multi-track tapes were finally found, and it’s a shame that Chris Squire never lived long enough to hear it.

The Deluxe Edition Release…

CS FOW

The Deluxe Edition of Chris Squire’s Fish Out Of Water was released by Esoteric Recordings on Friday 27th April 2018. This Deluxe Edition Box Set comes with the vinyl album. 2 X 7″ Singles. 2 CD’s and 2 DVD’s. I pre-ordered it Amazon on a couple of months earlier on the 2nd February and it arrived on the day of its release,

This particular box set is priced up on Cherry Red Records for £69.99. At the time I pre-ordered the box set on Amazon it was priced up at £77.22. Now as a rule most pre-orders from Amazon do come down and you end up paying more or less the same price it was priced on Cherry Red Records.

But for some reason Amazon’s price remained the same on the day of its release and I did end up paying £77.22 for it. In reality this about the same price it will cost you on Cherry Red Records by the time they have added the price of the postage and packing on a large item like this.

However as an Amazon Prime Member. One should not be paying the cost of the postage and packing, and I do feel that Amazon are playing the dirty here and I shall be putting in my complaint and keeping my eye on future pre-orders.

They also released the 2 CD version on the same day which is priced up at £14.99. But the one thing Esoteric Recordings did not release separately was the 5.1 mix of the album which comes on one of the DVD’s in this Deluxe Edition Box Set.

So let’s now take a further look at what you get for the money here:

The LP & Singles.
The new 180 gram pressing of the vinyl album and the 2 X 7″ 45 RPM Singles have been remastered by Paschal Byrne. All of them was cut at Abbey Road Studios in London. The replica is spot in every detail to the original 1975 vinyl release, even down to the label on the LP.

Out of the two 7 inch singles that come with this release. Only one of them was released in America only back in 1975 which was a shorter edited version of “Lucky Seven“. Chris Squire was not even aware that Atlantic had released the single at the time. The other single of “Run With The Fox” was released much later on in October 1981.

CD 1.
The first of the two CD’s contains the new stereo mixes of the 5 original album tracks, and was mixed by Jakko Jakszyk. I quite like these new mixes and the mix does feel more closer to you in the way all the tracks present themselves to you. There are a couple of things you will notice straight away regarding these new mixes.

The first being that it does not have the reverb that you could feel so much on the original mix. This makes this mix have a bit more punch about it, which is what you perhaps need to project Chris Squire’s bass and Bill Bruford’s drums. These have been brought up more closer and work really well for it.

The second thing you will notice, is very much something you never heard before on the original album. It was whilst Jakko Jakszyk was going through the original master tapes that he noticed that although there was no additional material on them he could use for extra bonus material. He did however notice that some of the parts on the original master tapes did contain some additional recordings that were muted. These muted parts were never included on the original album.

So he decided to listen to the muted sections that had been recorded at the time, and he quite liked them that much he thought it would be a good idea to include them in this new mix. I am so glad he did and overall it does present the album in another light to some extent, and it’s quite interesting hearing these new orchestral sections that were not included in the first place. Even the long ride on Bruford’s cymbals.

CD 2.
The second of the CD’s contains the 5 original tracks plus 4 bonus tracks. This disc does contain a new remaster by Paschal Byrne and I have to say it does sound a lot better for it, and sounds a damn site better than the CD I brought back in the 90’s. The bonus material is the same as what you get on the two 7″ singles.

To be honest the both edited down shorter versions of “Lucky Seven” and “Silently Falling” that you get here are really a waste of space, and I would much sooner listen to the full versions that was included on the original album.

The other 2 bonus tracks are more worthy additions and great to see here. “Run With The Fox” is a really great song that I have always loved, and it has that Christmas spirit and feel about it. This song was done by both Chris Squire & Allan White and released as a single in the UK back in 1981.

It was recorded just after their collaboration with Jimmy Page to which they was working on putting a new band together with him called XYZ. It was a project that they knew would not take off, so both Squire & White knocked this song out instead. They also roped in former King Crimson member Peter Sinfield to help out with the lyrics, and this song is credited to all 3 of them.

The other bonus track “Return of the Fox” was the original B-Side and is an instrumental version of the A-Side. I quite like this version as well, especially the lead synth work that plays the vocal line which incidentally was played by Alan White who played the piano and keyboards on these tracks besides the drums. Both of these tracks also feature the boys of St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir and orchestration by Andrew Pryce Jackman.

DVD 1.
SS 1

The DVD loads up and the album cover picture on the left hand side zooms in and out. The same goes for the picture on the 2nd DVD too. This first DVD contains the 5.1 Surround Mixes and Stereo Mixes and they are all in a high quality sound format of 96/24.

The DVD’s main menu presents you with 2 options and the first one contains the 5.1 Mixes of the new album mix by Jakko Jakszyk. The second option contains the original album mix in stereo only. Personally I would of loved a 5.1 mix of both the new mixed album and the original album. But I suppose you cannot have everything. By clicking on the first option it presents you with the following screen.

SS 2

This menu gives you 3 options, “Play Album”. Track Select”. “Audio Select” and the back button is to return to the previous menu. Both the Surround Mixes and the Stereo Mix are of the 5 original album tracks only, and there are no bonus tracks on the DVD. By clicking on “Audio Select” it presents you with the following screen.

SS 2 BHere you can select your preferred audio choice.  By default it’s set to the 96/24 Stereo LPCM Mix. My preferred choice is the DTS 96/24 5.1 Surround Mix. The 3rd choice is the Dolby Digital Surround Mix. As the music plays it presents you with the picture of the front album cover, just like the one on the previous screen shot but without writing on and just the name of the song title of the track that’s playing.

The 5.1 Mix.

Jakko Jakszyk’s 5.1 mix is quite subtle and with most of his mixes I do not personally think they have Stephen Wilson’s qualities in this field of mixing 5.1. But never the less he’s paid good attention to the placement of the instrumentation and not taken too much away from the stereo field in the front speakers to place in the rear, so that the album does not lose the way it originally sounded.

I quite like how he’s utilised the placement of the backing vocals and placed them in the rear speakers. You get to hear more of the clarity in the mix for doing so. Other things gets panned nicely here and there too, and the orchestral sections sound very well detailed too.

It’s perhaps not an album that you will benefit more in the dynamic department that a lot of recordings will benefit from a 5.1 mix. But overall it’s quite good but perhaps not that exciting in comparison to many real good 5.1 mixes done by other great more experienced sound engineers.

Personally I would have preferred him to have mixed the original album in 5.1 rather than his own new mix. This is simply because the new mix he done does contain things that was never on the original album in the first place. These of course are the muted sections that never got used on the original album, and not things he has recorded himself to put on here.

But for me the whole idea of any 5.1 mix is that it will bring out things from an original recorded album that could never be heard before, and placing these now un-muted parts in the mix is gonna distract you in some ways from hearing a lot of the other parts one could never hear before.

I will always prefer an original mix anyway in relation to any new mix where people have altered things. I like the new mixes, but I think any sound engineer with half a brain would have the common sense and decency to do a 5.1 mix of the original recorded album from the multi-track master tapes, and use his new mix for the CD only. That way he is getting more less two credits instead of one if he’s done the job right.

If your gonna be 5.1 sound engineer. Do the job properly and always put the original album first not second. If you want to do a 5.1 mix of your new mix, then make sure you do a 5.1 mix of the original album too.

DVD 2.
SS 3

The 2nd DVD features the bonus material. Most of this if not all of it is actually floating about on Youtube and I have seen before. But it’s still great to have it here too. All of this was also done back in 2006 when Chris Squire was working on the Deluxe Expanded Edition of the album that got released a year later in 2007.

The 2 promo videos of “Hold Out Your Hand” and “You By My Side” were made back in the 70’s. I can actually remember both of them back then as well because they were included in the film of Yessongs that got shown in some of the cinema houses. I went along to the Odeon Queensway in Birmingham with a mate of my mine to see it, and it was a late night screening and the film did not start till midnight.

Just like Yessongs the picture quality was never that good, and this is very much old nostalgic footage more than anything else and is not of any real good quality. The other thing about these two bits of film, is that even though they present themselves to look as if it came from a live concert. They was in fact recorded in a studio and were only miming along and not playing live at all. Even the orchestra were paid to mime and it cost Squire around £3,000 for half an hour of their time to do so.

The next bonus feature is a 42 minute interview with Chris Squire to which was conducted by Jon Kirkman back in 2006. This I have seen before a few years ago now and it might of been Classic Rock’s website rather than Youtube if I remember rightly.  I am not sure if it’s still on Youtube.

But this is really much more interesting and here they discuss the making of the 1975 album. I was glad to have this, because you will get a more information about the album from this, that you will not find in the book that comes with this box set. It’s especially useful to someone like myself to do my review here.

The final bonus feature I have seen on Youtube awhile back now and this is not Audio Commentary at all like its suggested in the way they have titled it here on the DVD. This is perhaps something they would call more so today as a “Vinyl Drop” and you get to see Chris Squire with your own eyes talking about the album as he plays the whole album to you.

So this is not like watching a movie and pressing a button so you can hear the actors talking about it in the background and you cannot see them. That is very much is what’s known as “Audio Commentary” and not what we have here. It’s another great bonus feature and runs for around 53 minutes.

Musicians & Credits…

Written. Arranged & Produced by Chris Squire. Recorded in Virginia Waters Surrey and Morgan Studios London between spring and Summer 1975. Sound Engineer Gregg Jackman. Assistant Sound Engineer Nigel Luby. Mastering by Trevor Spencer & Graham Preskett. Album Cover Design & Photography by Laurence Bernes. Front Cover Photo by Brian Lane. New 2018 Mixes & 5.1 Mix by Jakko Jakszyk. 2018 Remastering by Paschal Byrne. Lyrical ideas from Peter Sinfield. DVD Authoring by Ray Shulman at iSonic.

Musicians:

Chris Squire: Lead & Backing Vocals/Basses/12 String & Electric Guitars.
Andrew Pryce Jackman: Acoustic & Electric Pianos/Orchestration/Conductor.
Bill Bruford: Drums & Percussion.
Patrick Moraz: Organ & Bass Synthesiser.
Mel Collins: Saxophones.
Jimmy Hastings: Flute.
Barry Rose: Pipe Organ. (Track 1)
Nikki Squire: Backing Vocals. (Track 1)
Julian Gaillard: String Leader.
John Wilbraham: Brass Leader.
Jim Buck: Horns Leader.
Adrian Bett: Woodwinds Leader.

The Album In Review…

The original album Fish Out Of Water by Chris Squire was released on the 7th November 1975. The album contained 5 tracks over a total playing time of 42 minutes, 34 seconds. It was also quite well received by the critics upon its release and reached number 25 in the UK album charts.

It was towards the end of 1974 that the band Yes had finished off their live tour that promoted their 1974 album Relayer. After the tour the band thought it would be a good time to take a break and work on their own solo album projects. I have to confess I was a massive fan of Yes around this time and I personally felt it was a bad idea.

Though in all honesty looking back on it now, it was perhaps understandable why they took a break, especially having just made an album that was so far into the future, just where on earth do you go from there to be able to continue. Being the Yes fan I was back then I brought all 5 albums of the individual members of the band, as they came out.

Steve Howe’s solo debut album Beginnings was the first to materialise a month before this album of Squire’s. It was not until mid 1976 that the other 3 members solo debut albums appeared. To be honest I liked them all. But I always felt Chris Squire’s Fish Out Of Water was the best of them.

I am pretty sure Jon Anderson’s solo debut album Olias Of Sunhillow was the last one to be released, and his was perhaps the most Yes like album of them all. Though that was perhaps more to be expected because of his voice.

Allan White’s debut album Ramshackled was perhaps the furthest away you could get away from Yes music. But it did have one song on it that was Yes like to which featured Anderson on vocals and Howe on guitar, which was “Spring-Song Of Innocence“.

And Patrick Moraz”s debut album The Story Of It was perhaps a continuation of the futuristic music that he did with Yes on Relayer. Though he did also throw in some Brazilian percussion and even the jungle :)))). He even threw in the odd pop song, but it was a very exciting album.

Oddly enough I am pretty sure that Chris Squire’s Fish Out Of Water was the only album out of all of the 5 members of Yes that never had the Yes Logo stamped on it.

Chris Squire set to work on his studio album in the spring of 1975 and had it completed a few months later in the summer of the same year. Having already brought a new house, well mansion :)))) in the previous year and set up his own personal studio in the basement, which was also were Yes had recorded the album Relayer. Squire’s home would also be the perfect place to record his new album. Though he did also do some recording for it at Morgan Studios as well.

In most interviews you seen of Chris Squire he always tended to look back on his past and his choir boy days. One of his closest friends Andrew Pryce Jackman from those days was also in the same choir. The both had been friends since they was about 5 years old, and both were also in the band the Syn which was active between the years 1965 – 1967. It was Jackman who also suggested to Squire that he should take up the bass guitar.

Jackman was a keyboard player but Squire took note of how he was also a great arranger. Jackman had also learnt to read and write music on a musical manuscript and he could hum the tune and write it down without even having an instrument in his hands. He was more or less a classical arranger and this impressed Squire enough to bring in his close friend to help out on his new album.

Chris Squire even offered Jackman writing credits for his work on the album Fish Out Of Water and honestly thought he had contributed the most to the songs on it. But Jackman refused to take any credit for it at all.

Another old friend Squire brought in to help him out from his days of being in a choir with Jackman. Was the cathedral organist and Choirmaster Barry Rose. Rose was also in the same St Andrews Choir and he went on from their to be the Choirmaster at St Paul’s cathedral where they all played their first real gig as choir boys. Rose was one of Squire’s first real influences.

The other musicians Squire brought in was two previous members of Yes. Bill Bruford who had quit Yes to join King Crimson back in 1972. And Patrick Moraz who only not long decided to quit Yes and start a new solo career. He also brought in King Crimson’s Saxophonist Mel Collins and Caravan’s Jimmy Hastings to play a bit of flute.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Most reviews of Chris Squire’s album Fish Out Of Water tend to point as it being likened to a Yes album. I beg to differ and even though it may contain a few bass lines that was used on the Yes track “Close To The Edge” it sounds nothing like a Yes album. Unless you was to go back to their 2nd album Time And A Word which perhaps had familiarities with it having an orchestra.

But that early album of Yes as good as it maybe is not exactly what I would call Yes Music like the change we had when Steve Howe first joined the band. That was the first real change in a new musical direction and this album of Squire’s contains more of a jazz and pop influence on that score.

Fish Out Of Water is not a guitar album and is more focused around the bass guitar to which no doubt Chris Squire was a truly great bass guitarist and one of the very best. Besides his bass playing he has such a great voice to even be a lead vocalist, and this is where he wins over on this album as well in relation to some of the other members of Yes such as Steve Howe for example who is not the best of singers :)))))).

So let’s now delve a bit deeper into the album as I take you through each track.

Track 1. Hold Out Your Hand.

A song that perhaps has a pop approach about it in the way that it flows and perhaps more so with the melody of the vocal line and the way Chris Squire projects his fine voice on the song. It very much opens up with the pipe organ which was played by Barry Rose and recorded not long after midnight on the church organ in St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Immediately after the opening bar or two on the pipe organ enters Squire’s bass guitar which is a very dominant feature throughout the whole album. Squire’s bass works like a lead guitar sculpturing some truly superb bass lines that weave their way along immaculately. His bass guitar not only speaks with authority but it sings certainly as good as his voice that next comes into play.

I have to confess I have no idea what the lyrics are trying to put across or convey on this song. I know he did seek out some ideas for the lyrics from former King Crimson’s lyric writer Peter Sinfield but these are more like the lyrics Jon Anderson would write more than anything else. They perhaps pertain to more of a symbolic meaning in the way they have been writ.

No doubt many will have their own interpretations of what these lyrics are all about, and my own interpretation is that they pertain to perhaps waking up to a lovely day, being thankful and appreciating everything around you, and good things will come to you.

I am sure there may be a lot more to them than what I have described here, but in all honesty these lyrics are far out, and are no way the type of lyrics one would write for a pop song :)))))).

Chris Squire’s wife Nikki also backs him up on the chorus and it’s great to hear Squire playing around Bill Bruford’s drums again, no doubt Bruford’s work on this album is also immaculate. The song has a great change around the 2:30 mark with some excellent lead work on the bass, followed by a great little keyboard solo on the pipe organ.

Then at the 3:50 mark we get to hear the small chamber orchestra conducted by Andrew Pryce Jackman for the first time which brings in the ending to the song and leads it nicely into the next track that immediately follows it.

No matter how bizarre the lyrical content is on this song “Hold Out Your Hand” is a very strong song on the album, it’s the shortest song on the album, but certainly a very strong contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 2. You By My Side.

You By My Side” is slightly longer than the opening track and no doubt this perhaps is even more of a pop song than the album’s opener too. The lyrical content is much more easier to understand and this is a love song that Squire wrote for his wife.

The song features Andrew Pryce Jackman on the piano and was most likely written around the piano on that score. I love how it all comes down for the break in the middle section which features Jimmy Hastings on the flute and it’s got a lovely melancholy feel about it. No doubt Squire’s choir practice certainly came in handy and too fruition on the vocal harmonies he does along this section too.

It’s perhaps the least favourable song on the album for many I have seen over the years in reviews of the album, but personally I cannot fault it and its a lovely song. I love how the orchestra rounds it all off too at the end, and the one hit on the tubular bell that brings it to a close and leads it into the next track.

Track 3, Silently Falling.

The final song on side 1 of the original vinyl album and the whole of side one of the album sort of runs like a concept album with how all the tracks on this particular side run into each other. Though it’s not a concept at all. “Silently Falling” is my personal favourite track on the album and merits the top spot award.

It’s opening is played by the woodwind section of the orchestra. It’s a most beautiful section that utilises the oboe and flute and reminds me a lot of the orchestration that was used on Elton John’s 1971 soundtrack album Friends.

It’s a song that has a terrific build up and is quite powerful. Squire’s bass work is once again superb throughout and he even plays some fine rhythm work on the electric guitar on this track. It has great vocal sections and one massive break that starts around the 3:04 mark. Once again Andrew Pryce Jackman is on the piano and Patrick Moraz does a superb lead job on the Hammond Organ that comes into play around the 3:58 mark.

It all comes down to a stop at the 6:28 mark and 2 seconds later the piano and orchestration bring it back into play for the next vocal section and I love the change that comes in at the 7:25 mark for the final section of the song to drive it’s way home.

The string section of the orchestra features in this final section and it gradually builds up to another crescendo before it starts it’s fade out and Bruford’s drums hit hard and drive it very well home. It’s the 2nd longest track on the album and a really great track. I am sure for many this will also be their favourite track, although the final track on the album is also a massive contender.

Track 4. Lucky Seven.

This is one that was most likely inspired by the jazzy flavour of Bill Bruford’s drums. They do feature superbly on this song and “Lucky Seven” does have that element of jazz fusion about it, though it’s also got more of a mellow soul element about it as well. I can see why Atlantic would of put out an edited out shorter version of it as a single. It’s a very strong well written song that has a great hook and groove about it all.

The lyrics for the song are by far the best on the whole of the album, and they have been very cleverly written in the form of some really great poetry. “Lucky Seven” could be seen in the pretence to be about gambling or rather taking a gamble and edging your bets so to speak. But effectively it’s about a night on the town and going to a nightclub to see what bird you could pull :))))). The whole musical vibe of the song captures that scene perfectly.

Besides the great work by Squire & Bruford the song features Andrew Pryce Jackman on the electric piano and some excellent sax playing from Mel Collins. I really love this song and it just as to be another contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 5. Safe (Cannon Song).

The final track on the album is the longest track weighing in at some 15 minutes and 5 seconds. Musically the introduction with the piano and orchestra has that dreamy ocean sea voyage about it all. As it all builds its way along it soon starts to settle out into more of a structured song for the verse sections.

Once again Squire plays both bass and guitar on this track, and it also contains quite a few overdubs on the bass. The bass plays a very dominant role throughout the piece, and this is also the track where the orchestra is also most dominantly utilised more heavily. In some respects the orchestration contains the power that you might find on the Rick Wakeman album The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table being a perfect example.

It’s also said that Squire used some bass lines that he played on “Close To The Edge” by Yes though it’s perhaps hard to really spot them. But his bass work on this track is superb and speaking of Rick Wakeman. I absoloutly love Chris Squire’s bass work on the whole of the 1st side on his 1977 album Criminal Records. Squire only played bass to the first side of that album, but it’s every inch as good as this if not better.

Once again the lyrics are quite good on this song and they pertain to keeping ones family safe from harm no matter what storms are thrown at them. I suppose the (Cannon Song) bit in the title pertains to the strength of it all, and this is very much like being on a sea vessel on the ocean fighting a battle and a very dramatic one.

It really is another fantastic track and for some this will be their favourite track on the album too. The ending can be a bit repetitive in the way it does tend to repeat itself but it’s strength and build outweighs that side of things and carries it all. It’s certainly my second favourite track on the album and is a very high contender for the top spot on the album and brings the album to a close superbly.

Summary…

To sum up the album Fish Out Of Water by Chris Squire I personally think it’s a solid album and the best album he ever made outside of Yes. It’s his only solo album in reality that he did write, and it’s a shame he never got to make more of them. His only other solo album Chris Squire’s Swiss Choir he did in 2007 is a milestone away from this album and is merely a collection of traditional Christmas songs. I quite like the albums he done with both Billy Sherwood in 2003 and Steve Hackett in 2012. But once again they do not have the strength this album has to offer, and this album is a classic in comparison to those.

Fish Out Of Water if anything is a Chris Squire album that displays the best side of himself. It does not claim to be a Yes album and is nothing like a Yes album on that score. It displays and says everything about how a solo artist should go about making a solo album and it shows just how well he can do so without being tied to a band in wanting to sound like the band he was in. To put it in a nutshell this an album that perhaps shows that Chris Squire could of easily functioned as a solo artist and even had a comfortable enough solo career if he put his mind to it.

The album does have quite a bit of variety along the way, but the production helps blend  all the tracks together remarkably well and makes it all work together. No doubt the music contains the diversity that one will find in a progressive rock album, but it also contains some pop, folk, classical attributes and jazz elements that also make the album work so very well.

There is also no doubt Andrew Pryce Jackman played a massive part on this album, and just as much as he would not take any credit for his work on this album. These are his musical arrangements and not Chris Squire’s. He even contributed to some of the writing too without a doubt. I personally feel that this album could not have been achieved without his close friend. Both Andrew Pryce Jackman and Chris Squire will no doubt be sadly missed.

Conclusion…

I am going to conclude my review around this particular 2018 new Deluxe Edition box set release by Esoteric Recordings. There is no doubt that this is quality package that’s perhaps worthy of it’s price point of £70. But as with any box set that is made up of one album, does one really need the vinyl album, the CD and the DVD that comes with it saying exactly the same thing more or less.

People should be given a choice of what format it comes in, and the items in this box set should be made available and sold individually apart from say the book you get with it. The box set in reality should offer you the chance to buy all the individual items in one go at a cheaper price, for those who want all of them.

Esoteric Recordings are far from the only company doing things this way and some other record companies are charging even twice the price of a box set like this for the same deal.

The biggest incentive for me and many others in this box set will be the 5.1 release of the album. By not offering that side of things to the artists fans in an individual package is very much the wrong thing to do, and goes to show just how greedy record companies like this can really be.

They are treating the artists fans like a piece of shit and quite frankly I would not blame anybody for refusing to buy a box set like this. I myself was considering cancelling my order on many occasions and even the on the day before its release before Amazon had took my money, I was humming and harring as to whether to cancel it. In the end I never and apart from the 2 DVD’s the rest of this box set to me will just be something to look good on display.

Forward Motion, Life Promotion To Reverse Is To Repeat…

The 2 CD track listing is as follows:

CD 1. (2018 New Mixes)
01. Hold Out Your Hand. 4:15.
02. You By My Side. 5:01
03. Silently Falling. 11:21.
04. Lucky Seven. 6:56.
05. Safe (Canon Song). 15:01

CD 2. (2018 Remasters)
01. Hold Out Your Hand. 4:16.
02. You By My Side. 5:02.
03. Silently Falling. 11:57.
04. Lucky Seven. 6:56.
05. Safe (Canon Song). 15:05.
06. Lucky Seven (single mix). 3:29.
07. Silently Falling (single version). 2:59.
08. Run With the Fox. 4:11.
09. Return of the Fox. 4:02.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #76

A Can Of Worms – Parallel Or Ninety Degrees

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Introduction…

Well for those who read my review of Not As Good As The Book by The Tangent I posted last month, you may have noticed that I mentioned the name of this band Andy Tillison was in prior to forming The Tangent to which that band was merged together by some of the members of Parallel Or Ninety Degrees and The Flower Kings.

You may have also noticed that I did mention that I had never heard anything by Tillison’s previous band and I was thinking of getting this 2 CD compilation of the band that was released back in 2009.

I have to admit it’s very rarely I will buy a compilation album of any artist and prefer original albums. But the one thing I did notice when looking at the discography of Parallel Or Ninety Degrees is that there was more chance of a dead cat crossing the road than getting your hands on most of their albums.

So for me this compilation 2 CD Set which also contains unreleased material from 2002 of the band, very much seemed the way to go. But it was also the unreleased material on this particular compilation album, and the fact that it contained an unreleased track of the original version of “Four Egos, One War” that did make me want to get this particular compilation album.

Plus the fact that being as most of their albums was no longer available and out of print, it would give me the chance to listen to a lot of their earlier material that came off those albums back in the 90’s before The Tangent were born so to speak.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The 2 CD’s are housed in a double CD plastic Jewel Case that comes with an inged flap that holds both the CD’s firmly on both sides of it. It also comes with an 8 page booklet that is very informative in that it gives you a good insight of how the band was put together and how The Tangent came off the back end of it. It also contains all your usual linear production notes and I have to say the booklet makes a very interesting and quite funny read.

The Artwork.

The front cover was done by MBL Graphics and is a noodled photograph of the band and displays some of the bands album covers. It’s perhaps not as interesting or as funny as the photograph on the back of the booklet which was taken by Antonio de Sarno from Nobody’s Land. The funny side about this particular photo, is that the band are sitting on the steps outside Abbey Road Studios and they never even recorded an album there :))))).

The Compilation Album In Review…

The double compilation album A Can Of Worms by Parallel Or Ninety Degrees was released on the 27th January 2009. The very reason Andy Tillison decided to release this compilation album was down to the fact that most of the bands albums were out of print and hard to get your hands on.

The story behind the band Parallel Or Ninety Degrees how Tillison describes it in the booklet is really funny and the band were originally signed to a small record company known as Cyclops Records. I am pretty sure Robert Reed’s band Cyan were also signed to the same record company before they changed their name to Magenta. Both Parallel Or Ninety Degrees & Cyan never even dented the market when it came to record sales, and hardly anybody at all knew them at all.

Both bands became more successful when they put together and formed the name of the bands they now play in today The Tangent & Magenta and they both were signed up to Inside Out Music around the same time back in the early 2000’s. The very fact that both The Tangent & Magenta were now more known, caused a mad rush all of a sudden for their fans to buy all their earlier albums from Cyclops Records that they made in their previous bands, and that’s why Parallel Or Ninety Degrees & Cyan albums soon were hard to get hold of and went out of print.

As a matter of fact even this compilation album A Can Of Worms that was released in 2009 is not that easy to get hold of at a reasonable price. And most sellers on Amazon are charging over £20 for it. I managed to snap it up on ebay for £7.99. I cannot remember if it was sold as new or second hand. But it’s in mint condition and looks as good as new and it arrived all the way from Guernsey in a couple of days.

Both of the CD’s that come with A Can Of Worms are packed to the hilt and rammed with various tracks from their earlier albums from 1996 – 2001 and it also contains a few unreleased tracks from 2002 as well. There is barely any seconds of space left on both discs, and the recording space as been used to the maximum.

CD 1.
The 1st disc contains 9 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 79 minutes, 40 seconds. The material has been placed in no particular order regarding the chronological order of the years the albums were released that the songs originally appeared on, and the material ranges from the years of 1996 – 2002 and includes 1 previously unreleased track on this 1st disc.

CD 2.
The 2nd disc contains 6 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 79 minutes, 35 seconds. The material here ranges from the years 1997 – 2002 and 3 of its tracks are previously unreleased.

No doubt Andy Tillison had opened another can of worms when he released this compilation album in 2009. He also got the band back together in the same year to make a new album that was also released in the same year.

Over the years Parallel Or Ninety Degrees were together, just like the band The Tangent they had several line-up changes. Andy Tillison was also the main writer of the both bands material.

Musicians & Credits…

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Compiled and remastered by Andy Tillison Diskdrive 2008. Artwork by MBL Graphics. Photography by Antonio de Sarno. An MBL Production for Progjam Management and Progrock Records.

Personnel:

Andy Tillison: Keyboards/Vocals/Guitars/Occasional Drums.
Sam Baine: Keyboards.
Graham Young: Guitar (Disc 2. Track 1.)
Lee Duncan: Drums (Disc 1. Tracks 2,6. Disc 2. Tracks 1,6)
Jonathan Barrett: Bass (Disc 1. Tracks 2,6. Disc 2. Tracks 1,6)
Gareth Harwood: Guitar (Disc 1. Tracks 2,3,6,8, Disc 2. Track 6. Lead vocals (Disc 1. Track 6)
Guy Manning: Acoustic Guitar (Disc 1. Track 2) Vocals (Disc 1. Tracks 4,6) Electric Guitar (Disc 1. Track 4)
Alex King: Drums (Disc 1. Tracks 1,3,7,8,9. Disc 2. Tracks 2,3,4,5)
Ken Senior: Bass (Disc 1. Tracks 1,3,7,8,9. Disc 2. Tracks 2,3,4,5)
Dan Watts: Guitars & Devices (Disc 1. Tracks 1,7,9. Disc 2. Tracks 2,3,4,5)
Roine Stolt: Guitar/Vocals (Disc 1. Track 7)

The Album Tracks In Review…

As many may know back in 2002 some of the band members from Parallel Or Ninety Degrees merged with some of the band members from The Flower Kings to make up the band The Tangent. It was during this process that Parallel Or Ninety Degrees were working on a new album that was to be titled A Kick In The Teeth For Civic Pride.

But due to some of the band members new commitment to their new band The Tangent the album was never completed and got shelved. The 3 unreleased tracks that are on the 2nd disc of this compilation album were the tracks they had written for that album back in 2002.

The first thing I noticed when I stuck A can Of Worms on is that it’s a very punchy mix. To be honest I do not think I have came across a mix like this anywhere and in parts some of the instruments really kick you in the teeth and are quite powerful. I think the only time I ever heard anything like this before was back in 1990 when I brought Mike Oldfield’s album AmaRok.

That was an album that Oldfield had purposely whacked up the volume levels after about 10 minutes to annoy his manager at the time Richard Branson who he had fell out with at that time too. He knew Branson listened to his albums with headphones at quite a loud level. AmaRok was an album that Oldfield wanted released on a new record label and not on Virgin Records. But because he was still contracted to Virgin Records to make one more album, he thought he would get his own back on Branson.

In some ways some of the instruments on some of the tracks on A Can Of Worms do accentuate at louder volume levels and to be honest it works pretty well for it as well. So let’s delve a bit deeper into the individual tracks on the both discs that come with this compilation album.

CD 1.

Track 1. A Man Of Thin Air.

The opening track on the album comes from the bands 2001 album More Exotic Ways To Die. The song was penned by Andy Tillison & Dan Watts. The line up consisted of Andy Tillison on vocals and keyboards. Dan Watts guitars. Ken Senior bass and Alex King on drums.

The back line of the bass and drums are very punchy on this one and it also sounds like it was recorded in a cardboard box for some reason, though I do like the spring like sound of the bass guitar.

The drive on the guitars and keyboards is where the volume tends to accentuate louder, some parts in short spasm bursts. Other parts where the band raise the game are quite deafening and powerful, but the recording does tend to be a bit on the saturated side of things.

It’s perhaps more of a rocker of a song rather than anything I would associate with prog rock on that score, and Dan Watts does the business on the lead guitar towards the end of the song. Lyrically there is not a lot about it, and the lyrics are straight forward. It’s not a bad song but I would not go crazy about it.

Track 2. The Single.

Bit of a strange name for a title, and if the band were considering releasing it as a single I very much doubt that it would of made a scratch never mind a dent in the charts :)))))). The song was penned by Tillison and comes from the bands 1998 album The Time Capsule and features Andy Tillison on vocals & keyboards. Sam Baine on keyboards. Gareth Harwood on guitars. Guy Manning on acoustic guitar. Jonathan Bennett on bass and Lee Duncan on drums.

The way the song as been cross faded in from the previous track, you would perhaps think it came from the same album as the first track on the album. But I guess Tillison did it to save disc space so he could get as many tracks on the both CD’s as he possibly could.

Lyrically it’s perhaps another one of his protest songs and he’s having a cynical stab at the BBC and Cable news media about what’s put on it. It’s pretty hard to capture all the lyrics on this recording, and I cannot seem to locate the lyrics anywhere on the internet either for me to decipher them that well.

But it perhaps pertains to how the media have their moments blurting out fake news and how Tillison can perhaps have his moments and speak more truth with an ancient computer, a CDR and a cheap guitar :)))))). I could be totally wrong but I would need the lyrics to get the real gist of what he’s trying to portray here.

Overall it’s not a bad song and perhaps contains a bit more diversity than the opening track. Features some fine work on the keyboards and I suppose he gets to the point with whatever he’s trying to convey.

Track 3. Unbranded.

Another one of the many songs penned by Tillison and this one is the self titled album track from the 1999 album of the same name. It features the same band line-up as the previous track except that Alex King replaced Lee Duncan on the drums and Guy Manning is not on this track.

This one’s more of a longer track too than the first couple of tracks and it perhaps has more of prog rock feel about it. To be honest the laid back way Tillison sings this one it sort of reminds me a bit of Roine Stolt. The lyrical content is based around how kids and younger people tend to want clothes with a brand name, rather than some cheap crap from Taiwan :))))).

I do not know if it’s true, but apparently he got the inspiration from a conversation he had with Roger Waters who he met by chance on an aeroplane. But in all honesty he could of got the same inspiration from Water’s solo album Amused To Death he done back in 1992. “Unbranded” is one of the better tracks on the album and is a contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 4. Modern.

This track comes from another 1999 album entitled No More Travelling Chess and the only two musicians who are on it are Andy Tillison on lead vocals, guitar, keyboards, drums and Guy Manning on guitar, keyboards, backing vocals. The song itself was written by Peter Hammill of the band Van der Graaf Generator and the whole album was done in tribute to that band.

According to what I have read most of the material on the album No More Travelling Chess was done originally back in 1991 whilst they went under the name of Gold Frankincense & Disk Drive. They released the album on a cassette a year later in 1992. Both Tillison & Manning were nuts on the band and I guess that’s why he decided to re-release it in 1999.

I have to confess that Van der Graaf Generator was a band I could never get into, and anybody who says they was progressive rock wants locking up in a loony bin :)))))). They was very much more Avant-Garde than anything and no doubt Peter Hammill could play and sing, but half the time he just made a racket for my ears.

Modern” is very much my contender for the worst track on this whole album, it quite easily wins it too and sounds bloody dreadful :)))))))). Not even these guys can rescue this one I am afraid, and I am pretty sure you will find something better that’s been thrown in a garbage can :))))).

Track 5. The Media Pirates.

This track was originally on the 1996 album The Corner Of My Room. It’s thought to be the bands debut album and even though they had written other albums before it that were only ever released on Cassettes and CDR’s. This album only really surfaced as an official release when Cyclops Records signed them up in 1998. 

Once again the album this song came off only featured 2 musicians Andy Tillison on vocals, Hammond, keyboards, guitar, electronic drums, and his partner back then Sam Baine on piano, keyboards, electronic rhythm guitar.

According to what I have read up from reviews for the album The Corner Of My Room it was another album that was heavily influenced by Van der Graaf Generator. It’s even said to have some influences from the band the Nice too.

This particular track from that album was penned by Tillison and sounds a bit like a cross between the Nice and Jethro Tull. Once again there is great diversity and chord progression and it’s not that bad, though I would rave about it.

Track 6. Promises Of Life.

The “Promises Of Life” is another song that was originally from the album The Time Capsule and written by Tillison. It’s quite a nice laid back number this one and features some fine acoustic guitar from Gareth Harwood and a rather tasty job by Jonathan Bennett on the bass. It sort of sinks into the sunset with use of the effects and percussion at the end too. It’s another contender for the top spot on the album and I quite like this one.

Track 7. Blues For Lear.

Blues For Lear” was also originally from the 1998 album The Time Capsule only this version is an unreleased version of the song that Andy Tillison had writ for that album. This version was re-recorded in 2002 and it was recorded whilst both Tillison and Stolt got together and were working on putting The Tangent together. It was also intended to be used for The Tangents debut album but got left off in the end. 

This for me is certainly better produced and more precisely played. It features Roine Stolt on lead vocals and guitar. Andy Tillison on keyboards, and lead vocals. Sam Baine keyboards. Dan Watts on lead guitar. Ken Senior on bass and Alex king on Drums. To be honest even though I have never heard the original version, even if I was to get the album The Time Capsule. I really do not think it would sound as good as this version.

No doubt “Blues For Lear” is an excellent track and one of the high contenders for the top spot on the album.

Track 8. Space Junk.

Another track written by Tillison as most are and it’s another track from the 1999 album Unbranded. “Space Junk” is a real flyer of a track and is perhaps more like The Tangent in relation to the some of the other material on this album. No doubt this another high contender for the top spot on the album.

It’s got some great pounding drums and percussion, some well tasty keyboard work and the bass guitar even does the business. No doubt the songs are certainly picking up towards the end of this first disc and this one even explodes with the action you get here.

Track. 9. Petroleum Addicts.

The final track on the 1st disc is the longest track on the this disc and weighs in at some 16 minutes and 42 seconds. It’s another track that was originally from the 2001 album More Exotic Ways To Die and was credited to Andy TillisonSam Baine.

Although “Petroleum Addicts” is in fact only 11 minutes, 2 seconds long but still the longest track. You then get a 25 second gap of nothing, then a secret track which starts to play for the remaining time to which is a live recording of another song that may have come from the same album. It does not mention it in the booklet, and I cannot find any reference to it on the internet.

Petroleum Addicts” is another great track and it has a great come down section in it as well. The live track is not too bad either, and it rounds off the first disc very well.

CD 2.

Track 1. Afterlife Sequence (Including Dead On A Car Park Floor)

The 2nd disc starts off with the only track that is featured on the compilation album that comes from their 1997 album Afterlifecycle. Though this in the longest track on the entire double album and it’s near enough 28 minutes long and takes in most of the Suite that runs into various other sections that was on that album. This album must obviously be a concept album.

This is perhaps one of the bands better albums, and if it’s all like this it’s got to be worth sorting after I feel. Though this is a remastered version of the piece, and might sound better on that score. But if it was remastered and re-released, I would certainly add it to my collection.

This epic journey goes through several transitional changes and shows the band at what they do the best with the diversity and progression along its path. It features Andy Tillison on keyboards, guitar, electronic percussion, vocals. Sam Baine on keyboards, guitar, vocals. Graham Young on guitar. Jonathan Bennett on bass and Lee Duncan on drums. It’s another contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 2. Embalmed in Acid.

Another track from the 2001 album More Exotic Ways To Die and by its title you can tell :))))). It’s quite another fine track that does have that Tangent feel about it, and along with “Petroleum Addicts” I pretty much think both of those tracks are the best out 3 that are from that 2001 album.

Track 3. Four Egos One War.

The first of the 3 unreleased tracks that was intended for the 2002 album A Kick In The Teeth For Civic Pride that was never released. This track is the reason I brought this album for in the first place and a newer version of it was recorded and put on the limited edition of The Tangents 1978 album Not As Good As The Book that I just recently brought and reviewed.

To be honest I do not see how Andy Tillison hung on to this song for so long without releasing it. I thought it was a superb track on Not As Good As The Book and even though this features a different band line-up it’s still very much a stand out track and almost identical to the way that The Tangent played it.

All of these 3 unreleased tracks feature Andy Tillison on vocals, keyboards, guitar, and percussion. Sam Baine on keyboards. Dan Watts on guitar and Alex King on drums.

This is my personal favourite track on this album and it merits my top album spot award. Even this band do the dogs bollox on the track and it’s got to be the best prog rock track on the album.

Track 4. Fadge, Pt. 1.

Well I guess the band never got around to making a part 2 and again this is another unreleased track from the abandoned album A Kick In The Teeth For Civic Pride. It’s the only song also that was not written entirely by Tillison out of the 6 tracks on this 2nd disc. It’s another song Tillison he co-wrote with Dan Watts.

It’s also the shortest track on the entire double album at 3 and half minutes and has quite a driving force behind it and totally rocks. Not a bad cuppa tea at all I must say.

Track 5. A Kick in the Teeth.

The self titled track from the abandoned album that never seen the light of day till 2009 on this album. It’s a track that starts off quite smoothly and then unleashes it’s power and kicks you in the teeth. Another great track that would not gone a miss on a Tangent album I feel.

Track 6. Unforgiving Skies.

The album finishes off with another track from The Time Capsule album released back in 1998. Once again this features some nice acoustic guitar from Gareth Harwood and the song builds up very well and a lot more power gets injected into it as it transgresses along. It’s also another one of those tracks that claims to be 16 minutes long even though the original song was only just over 9 minutes long.

My guess is that is also includes the track that followed it on the original album which was most likely an instrumental track entitled “The Sea” unless somehow Tillison extended this version here. Once again there is nothing about it in the booklet, and it’s another fine piece of work that puts the album to bed very well indeed.

Summary…

Over all the album A Can Of Worms by Parallel Or Ninety Degrees gives you a good enough incite as to what this particular band were all about, and as a compilation album it works really well. In my opinion if you have not heard this band before, A Can Of Worms is perhaps the way to go about it. Listening to the double album it will certainly give you more of an idea of what was their better albums and the ones that never quite made the mark so to speak.

No doubt this is a band that had some fine moments and something to say, but they were perhaps not that consistent enough with every album they released. So they was a bit of an hit an miss on that score. There is no doubt there is quite a few Gems to be found within’ the discography of Parallel Or Ninety Degrees and there is a few on this compilation that may steer you towards wanting to investigate the band even more so.

For me personally I think apart from the unreleased material from 2002 you get here, to which is really good. I also think both the 1997 album Afterlifecycle and 1998 album The Time Capsule are worth investing more, and perhaps even trying to obtain if they can be found cheap enough.

It may also be a good idea for both Andy Tillison and Robert Reed to take a leaf out of Roine Stolt’s book by releasing the discography of Parallel Or Ninety Degrees and Cyan in a box set sold at a budget price like we got with the Flower Kings box set A Kingdom Of Colours. I am sure they would attract some interest if they did.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of the double compilation album A Can Of Worms by Parallel Or Ninety Degrees. I would say there is no doubt you’re perhaps getting your money’s worth with the abundance of material that has been crammed on to the both discs. I think it’s also certainly got more good points than bad with the written material here too. It’s not a solid album by an means and no doubt it contains some material that’s not even worth shouting about. But like I said there are some Gems here to be found.

You can certainly see how Andy Tillison‘s writing as improved over the years since he formed the Tangent. Though there is quite a few well written tracks that will very much remind you of the Tangent as well. So for any fan of The Tangent I personally feel that this 2 CD compilation is not really gonna disappoint.

If you can get it for the price of £7.99 that I paid for it, or even £10 – £12. I would say it’s well worthy of doing so. Though I would not personally pay silly money more for it. My personal highlights from the album are Four Egos One War“. Afterlife Sequence (Including Dead On A Car Park Floor)“. “Blues For Lear“. “Space Junk” and “Unbranded“.

Running Round In Circles From The Cradle To The Grave…

The 2 CD track listing is as follows:

CD 1.
01. A Man of Thin Air. 5:05.
02. The Single. 5:51
03. Unbranded. 8:33.
04. Modern. 6:31.
05. The Media Pirates. 10:12
06. Promises of Life. 7:41.
07. Blues for Lear. 8:29.
08. Space Junk. 10:32.
09. Petroleum Addicts. 16:46.

CD 2.
01. Afterlife Sequence. 27:46.
02. Embalmed in Acid. 5:44.
03. Four Egos One War. 19:57.
04. Fadge, Pt. 1. 3:31.
05. A Kick in the Teeth. 6:34.
06. Unforgiving Skies. 16:03.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 8/10.

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

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #75

Sanctuary III – Robert Reed

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Introduction…

Robert Reed’s latest and 3rd solo studio album release is upon us once again, and it’s title of Sanctuary III comes as no surprise I guess. I guess it was also not a surprise to see that it comes once again with 2 CD’s and a DVD with the 5.1 mix of the main album on it. I always get excited whenever Robert Reed announces a new release, especially when it comes from this solo project of his.

There is no doubt that Mike Oldfield’s music touched my heart back in the 70’s, it still does today in all respects, and the very fact that Reed’s solo project is based around resurrecting and breathing new life into some of Oldfield’s old melody lines by rearranging them is what I love about this project the most.

There is no doubt that Oldfield’s music touched Robert Reed’s heart and one could even say it even possessed and had an obsession over him, enough so to even go to the lengths of bringing in the very guy who produced Oldfield’s 1973 classic Tubular Bells to lend an hand, plus a couple of the great musicians who played for Oldfield back in the 70’s and early 80’s.

For Reed this must of been like having your greatest ever dream come true. I suppose the only way it could possibly be beaten was if Mike Oldfield himself got in touch with him to work on a collaboration or something like that. But for me personally I feel that Robert Reed is doing an amazing job of it all with his own ideas and how skilfully he can take a melody and turn it inside out, upside down and shape it anyway he likes. This is where the genius in him really shines.

Since Robert Reed started his solo career with this Sanctuary project of his. I can honestly say it’s brought nothing but a lot of joy and pleasure to my ears. Even to the point of his albums bringing tears of joy streaming down my face. There is a ton of emotional beauty that comes from this guys music, and some might even argue that it’s not his music at all.

Well there is no doubt that the music is inspired by Mike Oldfield. It will even sound like Mike Oldfield. But you will not find one single melody line that belongs to Mike Oldfield I am afraid. So just what do they really know?.

Well the one thing I certainly know!. Is that back in the 70’s and early 80’s. Mike Oldfield’s music brought me the exactly the same joy and emotion I am now getting from what Robert Reed is doing with this Sanctuary project of his. And I am certainly not gonna kick the guy in the teeth for doing that :)))))).

So before we look at the joys and beauty Sanctuary III has to offer. Let’s take a look at the packaging and see what you get for the price of £15.99 which includes the UK postage and packing.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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Well it really is another splendid package we have here. I like how the 3 tier gatefold Digipak comes in a nice glossy coated finish on its surface. The very fact it is gloss coated also adds protection to the discs when removing them from the cardboard pockets they so nicely slot into. It does not come with a booklet, but all the linear and production notes are printed out on the 3 tier gatefold Digipak.

It also comes with a warning which states “This album requires more than one play. A single nonchalant play will result in insufficient emotional stimulus”.

The Artwork.

The front cover picture is the work of Markus Reugels. He specialises in high speed photography and the use of water and colour to create what is known as Liquid Art. The black & white photographs on the inside were taken by Chris Walkden.

The Album In Review…

Robert Reed’s Sanctuary III was released on the 20th April 2018. Although the album was only released in the formats of both a Digital Download and a 2 CD/DVD Edition which I have here. There is also a Limited Vinyl release scheduled to be released on the 18th May of 300 copies only. So all you vinyl lovers had best get your pre-orders in early if you want to grab a copy.

As with all of Robert Reed’s solo albums and the Magenta albums. I always pre-order them from his website rather than Amazon. I do so basically because it’s generally cheaper to do so. Though the chances of you getting your hands on it on the day of its release can be slimmer. I am pretty sure I got Sanctuary II back in 2016 a day earlier, but my copy of Sanctuary III did not arrive till Monday 23rd April 3 days after its release.

Another thing I have noticed is that this 2 CD/DVD package is also a Limited Edition. Though I would expect it to have  a lot more copies of it pressed than the vinyl release is going to get. But also be aware because I did notice that when the 3 disc versions of Sanctuary II ran out. The next run of the album only contained the 2 CD’s. So if you are like me and a surround freak. You best get in there quick.

So now let’s take a look at the contents on the CD’s and the DVD…

CD 1.
The first disc contains the main album which is spread over 2 tracks Sanctuary III (Part 1) & Sanctuary III (Part 2). The disc comes with a total playing time of 1 second over 41 minutes. I quite like this time slot and prefer it to those who cram their albums up to the hilt, by trying to get as much out of the disc space as they can. It’s the old 70’s time slot  just like we got with both Sanctuary I & II and very much my preferred choice.

CD 2.
The bonus disc contains 7 tracks and comes with a longer overall playing time of 76 minutes, 13 seconds. The bonus material is not really new, and is basically different mixes of the material that’s on the first disc. For example you do get an alternative mix of the 1st side of the album which is titled the “Moon Singer Suite“. You get to hear more vocals in this mix, and it is quite different to the original track even with some of the instrumentation, to what’s on the main album.

You also get the whole of the album again on 2 of the tracks, which have been mixed by the man who did the mix for Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells namely Tom Newman. The 1st disc contains Robert Reed’s own mix. I quite like Newman’s mix simply because it’s like listening to the whole album again and there is a difference with the placement of instrumentation in the mix. Though my personal favourite and my preferred choice of them all, will always be the 5.1 mix of the album on the DVD.

The 4 other short tracks you get are titled “Troy’s Lament“. “Perpetual Motion“. “El Passo” and “Moon Singer Rising“. I quite like all these and once again they have been mixed a bit differently. They work well as short little ditties like this too.

Overall the bonus material is very good even if it is perhaps like having the same thing all over again in some respects. I can see myself playing the bonus disc quite a lot from time to time, just like I do with the one that came with Sanctuary II to which he’s basically done the same thing with the bonus material upon that.

The DVD.
SS 1

The DVD loads up and presents you with the main menu (shown above). The main menu gives the choice of 4 options to choose from. The “5.1 Surround Mixes” is the main feature of the DVD. The remaining 3 other choices of “Track By Track”. “Demonstration” and “Promo Videos” are all the bonus features. By clicking on the main feature the “5.1 Surround Mixes” it presents you with the following menu screen.

SS 2

From this screen you can make your preferred audio choice by clicking on either DTS or Dolby Digital. The DVD comes with 2 audio soundtracks only. Both of which are in 5.1 surround sound. It does not contain a stereo track and both the DTS & Dolby Digital audio formats are in 24/48.

To be honest I find it strange how only the first Sanctuary album came with an audio format of 24/96. Although it even stated on the sleeve that Sanctuary II was in 24/96. But it was only in 24/48.

The DVD Bonus Material.

The bonus material on the DVD is very good and by clicking on “Track By Track” it starts to play a 62 minute documentary with Robert Reed explaining all the segments and sections that make up the whole of the Sanctuary III album.

This is really interesting because he not only goes through the musical theory of how the music is structured with all its melodies, counter melodies, rhythms and voices. But he uses the piano to demonstrate and plays all the other instrument and vocal parts to show you.

He actually plays you the whole of the album on the piano over the 11 parts that make it all up. He also tells you his many influences that inspired him whilst composing it all. It really is a great feature and pleasure to watch. Here is a short extract Rob Reed posted on his Youtube channel of him playing one of the sections on the piano only.

By clicking on the next option “Demonstration” on the main menu. It starts to play you a 12 and half minute documentary of Robert Reed recording a short 3 to 4 minute section from the album. This is another really interesting feature where you get to see him make up the track from scratch and play all the instruments that was in the original piece, and how many tracks he used for each individual instrument.

The final option to choose from on the main menu is the “Promo Videos”. This section contains 4 promo videos that he made during the making of the album. Basically they are videos of the drummer Simon Phillips playing all his drum parts for the album in his home studio in America. And also the 3 female vocalists known as Synergy recording some of the vocal chants for the album, and a vocoder section.

My favourite of them is the video he posted about a week or so ago on his Youtube channel with Rob Reed & Les Penning playing this beautiful section from the album on the acoustic guitar and flute. You can see it here for yourself.

Overall the bonus material on the DVD is purely wonderful to have and there is quite an abundance of it and is very interesting to watch.

The 5.1 Mix.

Another one of the people who worked with Mike Oldfield over the years, was brought in to do the 5.1 mix and mastering. He is none other than Simon Heyworth. There is only one way I can describe this 5.1 mix and that is that it’s purely AWESOME.

Despite there being no 24/96 and only an audio format of 24/48 it is true to say that a good 5.1 sound engineer can produce the same great results just as one can achieve with an higher format of 24/96. Heyworth is a man who obviously knows what he is doing in the field of doing 5.1 mixes. The results are purely stunning in every detail on this mix.

This mix is purely gorgeous, and you can forget stereo and headphones, because they simply could never produce this quality and detail. Though of coarse it’s also superb hearing it in stereo too on the cans.

Musicians & Credits…

Recorded between January 2017 – March 2018 at BIG Studio in South Wales. Piano & Percussion recorded at Fieldgate Studio Penarth Wales. Synergy Vocals recorded at Umbrella Sound London. Drums recorded at Phantom Recording Studio USA. Produced, Engineered & Mixed by Robert Reed. Executive Producer Tom Newman. 5.1 Mix Mastered by Simon Heyworth. Cover Photograph by Markus Reugels. B&W Photography by Chris Walkden.

Musicians:

Robert Reed: Grand Piano/Electric Guitars/Acoustic Guitar/Nylon Guitar/12 String Guitar/Bass Guitar/Mandolin/Glockenspiel/Vibraphone/Marimba/Timpani/Banjo/Gong/African Drums/Snare Drum/Sleigh bells/Melodica/Recorders/Farfisa Organ/Solina String Ensemble/Roland SH-2000/Table/Bodhran/Tubular Bells.

Simon Phillips: Drums.
Les Penning: Recorders/Narration.
Troy Donockley: Uilleann Pipes/Whistle.
Gethin Liddington: Trumpet.
Tom Newman: Bodhran.
Angharad Brinn: Lead Vocals.
Micaela Haslam. Joanna Forbes L’Estrange. Heather Cairncross – Synergy Vocal Chants.
Shan Cothi: Opera Vocal.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Having watched the promos that Rob Reed posted on his Youtube channel prior to the release of Sanctuary III I got to see him discuss how once again this is different from the first 2 albums in this solo series of his. I also got hear how satisfied he was with it, how he thought that this was the best one so far. How it was more of himself this time around and how he also never held back by putting any restrictions of what to incorporate into the music.

It was perhaps a bit like what I heard prior to the release of the new Magenta album We Are Legend that was released last year.

I think with all artists they are bound to give some sort of praise to their latest creations, and personally I have nothing against that, and every new album they make is perhaps always aimed at trying to achieve something better all the time, and that in reality is what spurs any artist to continue what they are doing and trying to achieve it, even if they never quite manage to achieve it or make that perfect album.

For most artists its always about the new and not the past, even if they were far more successful in their past. But for any listener it’s perhaps a different ball game to accept what the artist considers to be his personal best, and how it comes across to them.

For example although Rob Reed mentioned all the good points he seen in his music about Magenta’s album We Are Legend and how he was happy with it, how he felt it was their best album since their 2nd album Seven. I myself personally thought it was not as good as the previous album The Twenty Seven Club never mind Seven.

There was something I picked up on about the album We Are Legend straight away, and to be honest it was perhaps the first time I had ever heard Rob Reed do this, and it ties in with his solo project of Sanctuary too.

There is no doubt that every Magenta album contains influences from the many great prog rock bands from the 70’s. There is also no doubt that his solo album project is heavily influenced by Mike Oldfield. But the one thing I had never heard Rob Reed do before in both of those projects is copy a melody line. Until I heard the album We Are Legend.

The very thing I have always admired about Rob Reed apart from his musician skills, is how he goes about creating his music by using existing melody lines, and reshaping them so that they may sound like they came from somebody else’s album, but they are nothing of the sort.

He has this genius way of sculpting something out of someone’s else’s music and making it his own out of it. There is no doubt many people will accuse him of plagiarism when they hear any of the first 2 Sanctuary albums, I dare say they even would with this new album too. But not one of his melody lines sounds exactly like you will find on a Mike Oldfield album even if it sounds like one.

I like the album We Are Legend and I think it’s a good album. But I also think he overstepped the mark a bit with some of the melody lines that are on it.

All this observation is my own personal view and how his music speaks to me as an individual. And every listener is an individual, will have their own observations and personal opinions about it all. And of course Rob Reed is also entitled to his own personal opinion of how his own music speaks to him.

So now let’s get down to my review of Sanctuary III and for this part of the review I am only going to be taking on the 2 individual tracks that are on the main album, and not the bonus tracks to which I have already touched upon earlier.

Track 1. Sanctuary III. Part 1.

The opening introduction of Sanctuary III will have you pining for Scotland with the wonderful sound of the Uilleann Pipes played by Troy Donockley. These pipes I have always loved and personally I think they produce much more of a sweeter sound and element of beauty in relation to the Scottish bagpipes.

You will often find the Uilleann Pipes used in a variety of Celtic music and here they very much portray that Celtic feel along with the use of the deep drone sound from the keyboards. To be perfectly honest I am not a fond lover of Celtic music, and my personal taste of most folk music is more of your English traditional folk, or English folk rock.

I was never fond of Mike Oldfield’s 1996 album Voyager either, and much preferred his earlier output back in the 70’s. I found a lot of Oldfield’s earlier music offered much more of a wider variety of music to them. Just like you get with Reed’s Sanctuary albums. But I have always loved the sound of the Uilleann Pipes.

The short intro is brought to an end with one heavy thud most likely on the timpani and at 1:08 the voice of Les Penning narrates the first couple of lines of a wonderful poem he wrote. The poem is also very apt and Celtic like in the way he’s wrote it and here is the poem he wrote.

Moon singer, your waiting is done.
Ye bring with the stars the flint fire of dawn.
We long for the stone whose voice is the wind.
Holding my hands while the embers alight.
Feeling the dance warming the night.

And the holy burns last, with a song of its own.
While piper and bellman call long for the sun.
We echo, still echo in times yet unborn.
The stone gift glowing in circles of straw.
The dancers are going, need never dance more.

Then in comes the first lot of vocal chants by the 3 lovely vocalist’s known as Synergy around the 1:22 mark. Unaccompanied at first, then the pipe organ comes in quietly at first and builds itself up louder to almost boiling point, then the guitars explode into action at 1:46 with some lovely lead lines backed up superbly with some fine instruments and percussion.

Sound wise it’s very Oldfield like with all the instrumentation, but these are Reed’s melody lines and not Oldfield’s. The power then simmers down and in comes a nice bit of work by Reed on the vocoder and at 2:23 Angharad Brinn makes her first appearance to sing the the poem that Penning wrote.

The interplay sections between the verses of the song are superb and at 4:02 Synergy come back for a few more chants and music builds up with more power and runs through some superb transitional changes, working both electric and acoustic guitars sections around the other array of truly great instrumentation.

Around the 6:15 mark it all simmers down nicely again and then at 7:30 in comes the section that’s in the video that features Rob Reed & Les Penning. This is what I call the Hergest Ridge section, simply because it very much reminds me of that album of Mike Oldfield’s. No doubt he as reworked some Oldfield’s melody lines in this section, but he has reworked and rearranged them, and not stolen them.

I have always loved Oldfield’s 2nd album Hergest Ridge he done back in 1974. To me it’s an album that contains some most beautiful melody lines and strong themes. This small section of Sanctuary III very much captures that beauty, even down to the use of the trumpet played in this section by Gethin Liddington.

There is no doubt you will hear many other snippets of reworked melody lines from other Oldfield albums. Right up to where I am up to now on this first track. I have heard bits of Incantations. Five Miles Out. AmaRok and I dare say there are many others too, even Light & Shade. But this Hergest Ridge section, is without doubt the strongest resemblance of them all.

The next section that follows is a vocoder section that’s perhaps a bit like the “Cookie Jar” vibe that was on Sanctuary II. This section once again builds up very well and at the 11:15 mark Simon Phillips drums come more into the action and it builds itself up into more of a crescendo and comes back down around the 12:23 mark.

Then we get another acoustic section that utilises the acoustic & electric guitars very well and it runs into a nice piano section and the angelic girls voices come back into play and it runs into a fine flute section and the choral voices come back to back it up along with some tasty lead work on the electric guitar. This then drops down into a lovely bit of nylon guitar and leads us into the next section.

This next section that comes into play around the 15;50 mark build it’s way into what Reed calls the Spaghetti Western section. It features some twangy electric guitar, banjo along with all the rest and even features the fine operatic voice of Shan Cothi that fits in perfectly to it all.

There is no doubt that Reed is doing things differently here, and doing a lot of things in his own way. The piano introduces the final section of part one and this section runs from 17:33 – 21:13. There is an array of goodies in the instrumentation department going on throughout it all, and it builds back up back into a crescendo and sizzles its way out more quietly at the end as it drops back down.

Even the way I have described the whole of part 1 here, there is just so many great things going on throughout it all, it’s impossible to take in everything that’s going on throughout this first part. But for me everything about it is so stunningly good. Each section is so well structured and the arrangements of the instrumentation and vocals is purely awesome.

Track 2. Sanctuary III. Part 2.

Part 2 opens up with the acoustic guitar and is perhaps a bit like how Oldfield’s Hergest Ridge opened up as well, only this is a completely different melody. But I do feel that a lot of Reed’s inspiration for this particular album did come from Oldfield’s 2nd album.

This particular section runs for about 5 and a quarter minutes, and builds its way along really well. You get more great instrumentation from Reed, chants from the girls and more great drums from Phillips. I also noticed the sound of a little laugh or it could be the sound of a dove cooing at the 3:08 mark. It’s a nice little touch and placed very well in the rear speakers on the 5.1 mix of the album.

The drums continue to play on in the next section and this is another really fine chanting section by Synergy that features some great lead guitar work along the way and it’s all uplifting and quite sprightly this section. It all comes down around the 7:22 mark with a nice few bars of piano before going into the next section.

This next section does have perhaps more of an Amarok feel about it, with the use of acoustic and electric guitars and it changes into more of a Tubular Bells II feel at around the 9:30 mark. It’s a bit like what Reed also touched on with Sanctuary II and the comical section of Tubular Bells II where the backing singers were having a bit of fun. Only here it’s a bit of a jolly instrumental section that utilises whistles and the banjo along with the other instruments and percussion. He also brings back the cookie jar bit of fun on the vocoder.

There is perhaps a fewer sections in the second part of Sanctuary III and around the 11:08 mark we get a reprise of the Scottish vibe section that opened up the album on part 1. This runs runs along and builds up into another fine crescendo up until around the 16 minute mark.

To be honest I would of thought that Reed would of used this section to end off the album as it started. But instead it comes back down with the piano and builds its way back up again for the grand finale, and comes down with subtlety once again on the piano to finish it all off beautifully.

Summary…

To sum up my review of Sanctuary III by Robert Reed. I think once again he has managed to carve out yet another masterpiece. I can certainly see why Reed thought this was the best one of them all so far and why he was happy with it. He was also right when he said it was more of his own input as well, even though it still sounds like an Oldfield album.

Certainly the biggest resemblance to Mike Oldfield on the whole of this album is the instrumentation he used and the way it all sounds. The electric guitars especially on that score. But he really as not nicked a thing regarding the rhythm and melodies. There is no doubt that this album has a lot more of Robert Reed about it too.

There is also no doubt that music done with a lot of instrumentation like this works purely fantastic for a 5.1 mix, and this one is real winner and is purely breathtaking to listen too. Mind you so are Sanctuary and Sanctuary II. Just as easy as I could say I love Sanctuary III to death. I could of course say the same about the other 2.

Conclusion…

Sanctuary III is a totally stunningly superb album. We are only at the end of April and quite personally I do not think I will see another album get released this year that will touch it. In many ways I could quite easily give it the 2018 album of the year award now. It’s one of the most gorgeous albums on the planet right now.

The bonus material on both the 2nd disc and the DVD is excellent, and there is quite an abundance of it you are getting for it’s price point. Its excellent value for the buck and worthy of every penny.

Listening to this album in all honesty with how it displays pure beauty and so much of it. One wonders how there can be so many hateful people in this world. I think if more people paid more attention to music like this and listened to it, there would be far less hatred in this world and more people would stop to think more about what they are doing.

Besides all the beauty that can be found on Sanctuary III by Robert Reed. It’s also one very truly exciting album that will give you tremendous pleasure for the rest of your life. I simply cannot stop playing it right now, and along with Sanctuary and Sanctuary II. These albums are very much stayers and personally I could never tire of hearing them.

While Piper And Bellman Call Long For The Sun. We Echo, Still Echo In Times Yet Unborn.

The 2 CD/DVD Limited Edition of Sanctuary III is priced at £14.99. The best place to order it is from Tigermoth Productions. For UK orders it’s only £1 extra for the postage & Packaging. European and International orders are generally one or two pound more. I have provided the link here : http://www.magentashopfront.com/page5.htm

The both CD’s are also available as a digital download separately from Bandcamp. The main CD is priced at £7 and the bonus CD is priced at £4. You can also buy the 2 CD/DVD Limited Edition from there as well. But knowing how Bandcamp also charge you tax, you will most likely end up paying more for it.

The link to Robert Reed’s Bandcamp page is here: https://robertreed.bandcamp.com/

The 2 CD track listing is as follows:

CD 1.
01. Sanctuary III (Part 1). 21:13.
02. Sanctuary III (Part 2). 20:48.

CD 2.
01. Moon Singer Suite (Chimpan A Mix) Pt.1. 21:52.
02. Troy’s Lament. 3:14.
03. Perpetual Motion. 3:41.
04. El Passo. 3:03.
05. Moon Singer Rising. 2:17.
06. Sanctuary III Part 1 (Tom Newman Mix). 21:28.
07. Sanctuary III Part 2 (Tom Newman Mix). 20:38.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

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

Lee’s 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Bonus Material Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #74

Stems – Conqueror

C - S

Introduction…

The Conqueror’s 5th album Stems sees the band heading in perhaps with more of a more modern flavour and approach, though the album still very much contains some great diversity and progression along it’s path that you will find on most of their albums. Once again besides the familiar 2 musicians of the band Natale Russo & Simona Rigano a couple of new musicians joined the band, and the band had reverted back to a 4 piece band rather than a 5 piece.

This is also the same line-up that they toured with to promote their new album at the time in 2014 and the live DVD/CD release of Un’altra Verità came off the back of that tour, and got released in the following year.

So far I have the bands first 2 albums and their live DVD/CD and have had them for quite awhile now along with this album and have already reviewed their first 2 albums Istinto and Storie Fuori Dal Tempo. Because I enjoy the bands music that much I shall also eventually get around to buying their 3rd and 4th albums 74 Giorni and Madame Zelle.

Though I have to confess that doing a review for the Conqueror’s studio albums is quite a task, simply because this is an Italian band where all the lyrics to their songs in the booklet that comes with the CD’s are in Italian, and you cannot find any of their lyrics on the internet so I can simply copy and paste them into a translator to understand what they are singing about.

To do any review of a Conqueror album I have to type the words in Italian into my word processor so that I can then copy and paste them into a translator. I have to confess this is painstaking process of doing things, which is why I sometimes get frustrated and it takes me awhile to even think of doing it. Hence the reason why these reviews take longer to surface, because I have to be in the right mood to tackle them :))))))).

I have asked the bands founder Natale on a few occasions now if he could send me the lyrics even if they are in Italian. I do not expect him to translate them and surely one of the members of the band must have them written down on a computer somewhere, so that he could simply copy and paste them into an email and send them to me.

I have even asked him to put them on the bands website and oddly enough it states on the back of the booklet that comes with this album. “For the English translation of our lyrics please visit our website”. Well I have been there loads of times and they are still not on there. It’s like banging my head against a brick wall :)))))).

So before I delve into the review of the album Stems. Let’s first as always take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The album Stems comes in a very well made cardboard Digipak and it even comes with a pocket to store the booklet and a plastic tray that seats the disc nicely and supports the packaging very well by adding that bit of extra strength to it all. All the linear notes about the production and the band and their instrumentation is in English. The 12 page booklet contains a few pictures and all the lyrics are printed in Italian.

The Artwork.

The photos in the booklet and the one on the front cover are credited to the Conqueror themselves. The photo editing and layout was done by Alberto Leo. To be honest I have no idea what the picture on the front cover is. It may be a piano or it could even be one of those weaving machines for all I know, and I fail to see how it relates to the albums title of Stems.

Personally I would of thought a picture of the stems that one records in their DAW on their computer would of been more appropriate, or even the stems from some flowers as an example. There is also a couple of pictures of flowers inside the booklet. But whatever this is on the front cover, it’s not a stem at all or any sort of stems I am afraid. I honestly do not get what on earth they was trying to portray here. Or maybe I am just as Thick As A Brick :)))))).

The only other logical explanation I can come up with to explain what we have here on the front cover is that a stem or stems can also be a central part of something from which other parts can develop or grow. This usually relates to a plant, but I guess if it is an actual part of a piano that’s on that front cover. I can see where they are coming from.

The Album In Review…

The album Stems by the Conqueror was released sometime in April 2014. It contains 8 tracks all of which are vocal tracks and contains no instrumental tracks. Though like most of their vocal tracks do tend to incorporate and inject quite a bit of instrumentation into their songs in the way of interaction between all the musicians that you would find in most prog rock music. The overall playing time of the album is just over 62 minutes.

Conqueror are not the kind of band who will knock out an album every year, and take their time working on the music they present to you when a new album finally arrives. Most of the tracks on the album Stems are quite long too, and the biggest majority of them are around the 6 to 10 minute mark.

So this is not like the bands 2009 EP release of Sprazzi di Luce which was more of a commercial release with shorter songs on it. In many respects even though this album may seem like a it has a more modern approach, the band have no doubt kept their distinctive style even with this current line-up. Even down to using poetry for the lyrics.

So let’s now take a look at the album credits and musicians.

Musicians & Credits…

The Band

The 2014 Line-Up Of The Band

Produced by Conqueror & Ma.Ra.Cash Records. Recorded and mixed at iXplon Studios between January – March. Sound Engineer: Ottavio Leo. Mastering by Ludnica Recording Studio. Studio Assistant Natale Russo. Photos by Conqueror. Photo Editing & layout by Alberto Leo. Art Direction by Natale Russo & Simona Rigano. Duplication by Houston Corporation.

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

The Album Tracks In Review…

All the songs on the album Stems was written, produced and performed by the Conqueror. It’s all original material though the band do also sometimes play other artists material from time to time, and have even appeared on a few tribute albums playing the odd song here and there of some of the more known prog rock bands from the 70’s.

To be perfectly honest I have seen quite a few tribute bands play live over the years and quite enjoy their live shows. But no way could I buy an album done by them unless they was exceptionally good at it. But overall I prefer original material and I buy the albums of the original artists and not that of a tribute band. I do have a couple of various artist tributes albums though that was done by various prog rock bands in tribute to other prog rock artists.

Though in general I am not even one for various artists albums or the best of and greatest hits albums. I tend to stick to original albums only such as this one by the Conqueror.

Like many musicians who wind up on a Conqueror album they do not tend to last that long before they leave. Apart from the main 2 members Simona & Natale that is. Some of the musicians who have contributed to their albums also may pop back once in awhile. But no matter who comes into the band, they tend to generally slot in and are well capable musicians to do a grand job of it all.

Both the guitarist Ture Pagano and the bass player Peppe Papa have slotted very well into the band for this particular album, and they also done a grand job on the bands live album and DVD Un’altra Verità to which I shall review next month at some point.

Both musicians joined the band in 2013 and the bass player Peppe Papa left the band not long after they toured the album Stems in 2014. The guitarist Ture Pagano did stay on with the band up until 2016 before he left, so no doubt there will be another new line up for their next album which is due to be released this year.

So let’s take a deeper look into the songs we have on the album Stems as I go through the individual tracks in my review here.

Track 1. Gina.

The album kicks off with the longest track on the album “Gina” and as the title suggests it’s the name of a person, so no translation needed at this point at all. Once again the band stick to their normal style of writing poetry for the lyrics, and the words are based around falling in love and knowing if you can put your trust in somebody enough to spend the rest of your life with them.

Musically I quite like the spring like sound coming from Peppe Papa’s bass strings on the intro. The sound of his bass on this studio version does not project quite as dominantly enough on the live version that’s on the live album Un’altra Verità.

The song also features a near enough 5 minute instrumental break which contains some fine transnational changes and features some rather nice keyboard and guitar solos. It’s a great start to the album.

Track 2. Di Notte.

The 2nd track on the album is very much a contender for the top spot on the album, it features some great keyboard and guitar work and the band interact really well with each other. The title translates to “At Night” in English and the lyrical content is pretty hard to decipher in the way that it’s been written in the form of a poem.

But it seems to pertain to night and day in the sense of some kind of passing over from one world into another, like when somebody dies perhaps and their spirit awakens in the morning to a new journey and new life.

Track 3. False Idee.

False Idee” or “False Ideas” is very much like a two part track in that near enough 4 minutes of it is an instrumental introduction, which features once again some great interplay between band. It even has quite a medieval Scottish feel about the first 25 seconds of the intro. Then it goes into a guitar section that is almost verging on some melodies lines from “Echoes” by Pink Floyd.

It’s not like Floyd’s epic piece at all but for some reason it does have me thinking of it. It goes through some fine transitional changes throughout the instrumental section with both the keyboards and guitar exchanging some fine lead work. It all comes down and the second part is more of an acoustic section which opens up with some strummed out chords on the acoustic guitar, allowing the vocals to come into play.

It’s also perhaps a bit more orchestrated with the piano and keyboards. The lyrical content is based around the false ideas in the pretence of how we see and perceive things, and how they can perhaps look different in the night time in relation to in the day. The words are very poetic and deep. It’s another great track and contender for the top spot on the album I feel.

Track 4. Un’altra Realtà.

The next track on the album translates to “Another Reality“. I have to confess I have no idea where the band got the idea for the poetic lyrical content and subject matter for the songs on this album. In the past the band based their poetry around legends and myths, and even ghostly tales. The material here is perhaps a bit different, though I dare say it was inspired from something they very much read about.

The lyrical content for this particular song is perhaps pertained to one choosing sincerity or hypocrisy or putting on a false mask to hide behind the truth. The song flows along very well and contains some fine chord changes and diversity, and the guitar solo towards the end lifts it up quite well.

Track 5. Sole al Buio.

This song starts very much like a love ballad with Simona‘s fine voice and her playing on the electric piano. In some respects this song is a bit like a reverse of “False Idee” in that it does feature a long musical section, only here it comes in after the vocal section and then the song goes back to where it started with the vocals after the break.

Though it may be sung like a love song, it’s title translates to “Sun In The Dark” and the lyrical subject matter is based upon beliefs in the way that the things we seen so many years ago back in our past, no longer speak reality as one gets older. I suppose it could even be about religious beliefs that was instilled into us as a child, that turned out to be nothing more than broken promises at the end of the day.

I quite like how the band put their lyrics into the context of fine poetry and this verse from the song perhaps sums up the title of “Sun In The Dark” we have here: “But where are the promises that have ended, reassured my needs closed in a box. Forgot left alone in the dark, abandoned like this”.

Track 6. C’est la Vie.

The title here is very much from the French language and translates to “It’s Life“. It’s quite a lively song on the album too and has a bit of zip and zest about it. I quite like this one and once again it’s like the reverse of the 2nd track on the album “False Idee” and is mostly an instrumental piece. The singing section at the beginning lasts all of about 1 minute and 25 seconds, then the band do the business for the next 4 minutes.

It’s also the shortest track on the album and features a very tasty keyboard and guitar solo. It’s certainly got some really great diversity and progression along its path. It does sound familiar to something else in parts and it’s ending reminds me a bit like the ending you would find on “Hocus Pocus” by Focus.

Lyrically the words are pertaining to how short life is, and how everything runs fast and how time only stops momentarily now and then for us to take it all in. It’s a really great track and another contender for the top spot on the album.

Here is the studio version of the track from the bands Youtube Channel.

Track 7. Sigurtà.

Well the only translation for the title of this one comes from the Maltese language and it translates “Sigurtà” to “Security“. When looking at the poetry we have here, the only way I can see they relate to security is perhaps by feeling more secure with all the natural beauty and colours that surround us. It’s another fine piece of work the band do here and I quite like how the song builds up towards the end and ends at its climax. It’ s very much another contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 8. Echi di Verità.

The final track on the album is the 2nd longest track and its title translates to “Echoes Of The Truth“. Lyrically most of the songs on this album refer to poetry and night and day, and a sense of finding the real reality. It’s almost like the poet himself sees something in his own poetry that is quite different to how things really are.

This is another one of those songs that comes with a long instrumental intro before the vocals come into play. It’s also perhaps more of an instrumental piece too and ends off the album very well.

Summary…

To sum up the Conqueror’s 5th studio album Stems. There is no doubt the band went about the material that was written for it in their usual great style of combining musical structures with poetry. The album does have some great diversity and progression along its path. I do however feel they went about a lot of the songs we have here more or less in the same way with how they have been structured and arranged. For this reason I find it very hard to choose a favourite track on the album, because it does not really have a stand out track.

I do not think the album Stems is as solid as the bands first two albums, but never the less it’s still a very enjoyable album from start to finish. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Di Notte“. “False Idee“. “C’est la Vie” and “Sigurtà“. It’s hard to pick a favourite from these 4 songs because they all speak to me in the same way and I do think they are the strongest tracks on the album, that stand out more so than the others.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Stems by the Conqueror. Overall it’s a pretty good album and nothing really disappoints at all out of the 8 tracks you get here and it’s quite a satisfying enough album. No doubt the album does have some sort of a concept about it, and even the ideas for the poetic lyrics have been inspired by some story or another and the band tend to stick to this format with all their albums in general.

No doubt the album is worthy of its price point of 15 Euro and unlike all the other albums of the Conqueror this particular album for some reason is not available to purchase from Bandcamp. So you can only buy the physical CD I am afraid.

The best and cheapest place to obtain the CD 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.

The Silences That I Never Have Forgot, Now They Come Back…

You can purchase the CD of Stems from the bands website here: http://www.conqueror.it/eng/stems.asp

The album track listing is as follows:

01. Gina. 10:57.
02. Di Notte. 7:37.
03. False Idee. 7:42.
04. Un’altra Realtà. 6:28.
05. Sole al Buio. 6:43.
06. C’est la Vie. 5:43.
07. Sigurtà. 8:28.
08. Echi di Verità. 7:30.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

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

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 7/10.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lee Speaks About Music… #73

Not As Good As The Book (Limited Edition) – The Tangent

TT - NAGATB

Introduction…

Well over the past 2 or 3 months I have been getting back into the music of the Tangent. This is a particular prog rock band I got into back in the early 2000’s when I had first gotten into The Flower Kings. I suppose in a way it was Roine Stolt and some of the members of The Flower Kings who helped Andy Tillison get this project of his on the road. It was also The Flower Kings that led me to The Tangent in  first place. It was also originally meant to be a one off album and project when the bands debut album The Music That Died Alone was released back in 2003.

Though after the bit of success they had with their debut album, it spurred the same line up to make the album The World That We Drive Through in the following year of 2004. Also the live album Pyramids and Stars came off the back of it and got released in the same year. Though it was not long after this that Roine Stolt left because of the many other projects he was involved on, plus still producing albums and playing for his own band The Flower Kings.

Though Stolt’s decision to leave did not deter Andy Tillison from carrying on, and he continued to keep the Tangent alive and an ongoing thing. A couple of the musicians from The Flower Kings also continued to play for The Tangent though over the years they have gone through many line up changes.

The bands 3rd studio album A Place in the Queue released in 2006 was my personal favourite album of them all. Though I enjoyed everything the band churned out at this point. But it was at this stage in my life that other things were going on around me at the time, and a lot of the bands I loved so much for keeping prog rock music alive, I sort of lost track of.

It was not until a few months back I recently got back into the Tangent by listening to some of the material from some of those albums I never had they had churned out over the past years, and a few live videos I found on Youtube that sparked my interest back into the band.

It Does Not Pay To Lose Contact…

I can tell you now losing contact with most prog rock bands can be a costly game simply because these type of bands do not have the popularity that most pop artists have, which means they cannot afford to mass produce their albums like those artists who are tied to major record labels can, and their albums and DVD’s can soon go out of print. Especially the limited editions.

Luckily enough I managed to find the limited edition of the bands 4th studio album Not As Good As The Book on Amazon and it was reasonably priced at £15.76. Though some of the bands media releases are a lot harder to locate, and when you do come across them, you get some people who will try and charge you the earth for them second hand.

I was so grateful that Roine Stolt decided to release the discography of The Flower Kings studio albums in a box set last year, especially having lost those early albums in the 1st box set entitled A Kindom Of Colours that was released. He is also releasing another box set now containing the rest of the albums in the discography, along with the bonus tracks that came with some of the limited editions I lost.

I pre-ordered it as soon as I clapped my eyes on it and will be looking forward to that in June when it gets released. I think this is something many of the prog rock bands should start doing. To stop people trying to rip people off with their own music by charging extortionate prices for them. Personally I would not pay silly money for music these days, not like I would have back in my youth.

Though if I wanted something desperate enough I may stretch my wallet to some degree. For example having stumbled upon some video footage that Andy Tillison had posted himself on Youtube that came from both the Tangent DVD’s he released awhile back. I very much wanted to get my hands on them, even though the footage on these DVD’s were not that professionally made.

Both the DVD’s of Going Off On One and Going Off On Two are very much out of print. When searching for the first one of these DVD’s on ebay and many other places on the net, the chances were you was only ever gonna get hold of it second hand. So finding one in mint condition was my first priority. I also noticed whilst searching for Going Off On One that there was a single DVD release and a limited edition release that came with a DVD & 2 CD’s. There was only 3,000 copies made of the limited edition.

Most of them on Amazon where ridiculously over priced from £80 to over £100 for the limited edition. The ones that came with a DVD only I seen on ebay at a cheaper price of around £20 and upwards looked well dodgy and like pirates people had made themselves.

After a couple of weeks searching I came across the limited edition on Amazon advertised as new for £35. It was the only one the seller had and he was in Germany. So I snapped it up.

Going Off On One

Even though it came wrapped in cellophane. I personally do not think it was brand new. But it was in mint condition and looked brand new. The white bit of paper by the way is where I pulled the price tag off it to take a snap of it when it arrived about a month ago. I did not quite finish peeling it off as I hurried to take the shot. But since then I have peeled it off and it looks immaculate.

Now if I had never lost touch with The Tangent back in 2006. I dare say I could of got this brand new for around £14 or £15. £20 less than the price I paid for it today. I am well chuffed I have it though and I get a lot of pleasure out of this concert. But no way would I have paid stupid money to get my hands on it.

I have located Going Off On Two in mint condition as well. The problem is the seller wants £50 for it. I did email the seller asking him if he would part with it for £40 but got no reply. He still has not sold it and that was about 2 months ago I put in my offer. So I do have my personal limits of what I will pay for music these days.

Now that’s out the way let’s get back to the review of Not As Good As The Book by The Tangent. But first let’s take a look at the packaging as always.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The Limited Edition comes in an hardshell Digipak which is basically a double CD plastic Jewel Case with an inged tray to hold both discs on either side and it stores neatly away in the cardboard box that comes with it. This particular package not only comes with a 16 page booklet that contains all the linear notes of the lyrics and production credits, but it also comes with an 100 page book or Novella as it’s called written by Andy Tillison.

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The book also stores nicely away along with the jewel case in the cardboard box. Overall its quite a nice package you are getting for the money here, and not only do you get some great music, but you also get an interesting book to read as well.

The Artwork.

The cover artwork for both the booklet and all the illustrations in the book was done by Antoine Ettorie. The layout was by MBL Graphics. I rather like it and it’s done in great cartoon style for both the booklet and the book.

Musicians & Credits…

TheTangent 1978

Recorded at MBL Aveyron Studios France between January – September 2006. MBL Auch Studios France between October – December 2006. Reingold Music Studios Malmo, Sweden between June – October 2007 and Burnside Studios Leeds, England between January – December 2007. Produced & Arranged by Andy Tillison Diskdrive. Assisted by Jonas Reingold & Guy Manning. Mastered by Paul Brow.

Musicians:

Andy Tillison: Vocals/Organ/Piano/Moog Synths/Electric Rhythm Guitar/Yamaha XV 535 Motorcycle/Music Stand (Hit with wooden rods) and a sheet of tinfoil.
Guy Manning: Acoustic Guitars/Mandolin/Bouzoukis/Vocals/Hand Harp/Bell/Slode Guitar.
Jakko Jakszyk: Electric Guitars/Vocals.
Jonas Reingold: Bass Guitar.
Theo Travis: Tenor & Soprano Saxophones/Flute.
Jaime Salazar: Drums.

All words & music written by Andy Tillison with nods of acknowledgement to Gus Manning on “Four Egos One War” originally performed by Parallel or 90 Degrees. Julie King – vocals (On Four Egos One War).

The Album & Tracks In Review…

The 4th album Not As Good As The Book by The Tangent was released on the 3rd March 2008. The limited edition comes with an extra disc and also an 100 page book. The 1st CD contains 7 tracks and as an overall playing time of 50 minutes, 45 seconds. The 2nd CD contains 2 tracks with and a total playing time of 43 minutes, 53 seconds.

Being as I have the limited edition I shall take on the both discs in my review here. But let’s take a bit more of a look into the background of the bands main writer Andy Tillison who incidentally wrote all the music on this album. Plus the 100 page novella that comes with this package.

The band The Tangent were originally merged together by 3 of the the members of Parallel or 90 Degrees namely Andy Tillison. Guy Manning and Sam Baine. I do believe that this particular band were also playing support to The Flower Kings and that’s how they got together with Roine Stolt and some of the members from his band. The biggest majority of the Tangent’s material is written by Andy Tillison.

To be honest I do not know anything about Parallel or 90 Degrees and never heard or took any time to listen to what kind of music they do. I also know that Tillison as been involved in some other bands in the past, some of which were Punk Rock bands I believe. The fact that I detest Punk Rock is most likely why I never took the time to listen to anything he was involved in apart from the Tangent.

To be perfectly honest it was not until around 1999 that I first took any notice of Punk Rock having watched some documentary on the television. About the only thing that ever spoke to me about Punk Rock was the lyrics. As for the way the bands presented the lyrics with their don’t give a fuck attitude and the way just bashed it all out and could not sing or play for toffee, just did not appeal to me at all, and that’s why I detested it from day one. I still do. Show me a record of the Sex Pistols and it will be me doing the throwing up and not them :)))))).

Though in all honesty I think the one thing that Andy Tillison got from his earlier days of playing Punk Rock was very much the lyrical side of things. There is no doubt Tillison’s lyrics in the Tangent are very good. But he can also be quite cynical in some respects, though mostly he’s basically speaking the truth, and I think we all can be can be cynical at times, and no matter how truthful we think we can be ourselves, we cannot get everything right all the time.

To be perfectly honest, in my world of how I perceive music. It is always the music that will speak to me first and not the lyrics. Though no doubt it’s always good to have good lyrics, though I do not personally take them all to heart, like many others would.

The Book.

Having read the 100 page book written by Andy Tillison that comes with this limited edition. I have to say there is no doubt that Tillison does have a way with words and come up with quite a bizarre Sci-Fi futuristic story based around his own childhood and is love for progressive rock that was instilled into him back in the early 70’s and upwards to the present day.

It takes in some of his own personal record collection and I guess what he’s really trying to say by the title of this album being Not As Good As The Book. Is perhaps no matter how people perceive today’s prog rock music, a lot of them perhaps cannot accept it like they still accept all those classics that came out back in those dark days of the early 70’s.

So effectively today’s prog rock music is not as good as the book that was written many moons ago. Which is why it will never quite sells that widely like a lot those albums by bands like Yes. Genesis. ELP and many others did back in those days.

The one thing I do admire about Andy Tillison is that he’s a bit like myself in some respects, in the way he not only thinks about his own music, but shows support for the many other bands who are still keeping prog rock music alive.

I myself can still live in the 70’s regarding my personal taste of music. But I also love many of the prog rock bands and artists who are still keeping such great music I have always loved alive today. I would also say the Tangent are one of them.

Onto The Album…

Coming off the back of a couple of years after my personal favourite album A Place In The Queue. Trying to live up to those high standards I would of thought was always going to be hard to beat or even get near.

Surprisingly the album Not As Good As The Book is also another great album. It still contains the same stabbing cynical lyrics at the music industry and Tillison’s general view of how music is today in relation to all those years ago. Musically it even borrows music from the bands previous album, and you get a few bars here and there of others music thrown in for good measure.

So let’s take a deeper look into the album as I take through the individual tracks of the both discs that come with the limited edition release.

CD 1.

Track 1. A Crisis in Mid-Life.

The album gets off to a flying start with its opening track “A Crisis in Mid-Life“. Musically it’s very sprightly with its up-tempo pace shows great diversity with some of the directions it goes in along it’s path. You get your familiar keyboard and guitar solos along the way of its intersections between the words, and he even throws in a couple of bars of Mike Oldfield’sCrises” at the 3:50 mark to let you know that the subject matter is based around a crises :))))).

Lyrically the opening verses are apt enough to the subject matter we have here. To be honest the lyrics in those first few verses are more about the struggles and strains one would find about a crises in mid-life. I think we all find life presents us with many struggles and strains as we grow older, and life is never easy to get through on that score.

Then the lyrics tend to change their direction and are more aimed at having a crises about music than life in general. Tillison even brings in some of his cynical views about music as it progresses. For example he at first goes into how when we was younger and in our teens or the days of our youth, and how music was an escape for us to turn to and shrug off anything that be-fronted us enough to ignore it. I think personally that’s true.

However his cynical stab of how all those artists who made loads of money years ago from their music, and how they are living it up these days and brought houseboats with their wives and there’s nothing left to sing along too, because we have grown up. Is either here or there.

For example I myself do find that for some reason even though I still very much buy music today of the newer bands and artists who are out there. It’s very strange no matter how much you still like the music of today, how for some reason the lyrics do not bury that deep inside of you enough to start singing them out like you did with the music you had years ago. I guess this maybe an age thing and he could be right again. Though it’s hardly a crises :)))))).

I have always viewed music as a product, and the only reason all those artists made loads of money from their music, was because they made a product that sold and people liked it enough to buy it, just like people buy Coca Cola cause they like it. Nothing wrong with that at all. The whole intention and purpose of making any product is to sell it. It keeps people in a job if they can be successful at it, and if you can be highly successful at it, you can get rich from it. Simple as that.

OK it may need promoting and cost chunks of money in advertising to get it more widely circulated and known. But that is what business is all about, and just as much as it can be successful sometimes, it can also be a big gamble and a big risk. Most artists got lucky back in those days having record companies to take a gamble and risk a lot of their own money in promoting and selling an artist.

No doubt most of the artists also got ripped off along the way too. But they was not the ones taking the risk in the first place. Personally I never thought artists like George Michael never had a leg to stand upon trying to get the rights to his own music in court and get out of the albums he promised to do for the record company.

Record companies do not give you all that money up front to make so many albums in the first place for old rope I am afraid. At the end of the day it’s them who have to spend all that money in promoting it and selling it. Most artists were lucky to be given that chance in the first place.

A Crisis in Mid-Life” is a really great song and very much one of the contenders for the top spot on the album. I even think the words “There’s nothing like a crisis in mid-life!” is perhaps something I may very well sing in the way of an angry anthem. But in a real crises :)))).

Track 2. Lost in London 25 Years Later.

Well the title harks back to the classic “Lost In London” from the bands previous studio album. Also the story here with the lyrics pertains to the story in the book. The album is very much a concept album based around the story in the book, only here the words are not as bizarre and put more into context, and also the book uses different names for the characters.

Once again the lyrics are refereeing back to Tillison’s younger days of going to rock festivals and trying to get into a jazz clubs. Musically it also incorporates some fine jazz into it around the half way mark. It’s perhaps not in the same league as “Lost In London” from the 2006 album A Place In The Queue but nerveless flows well enough.

Track 3. The Ethernet.

The “The Ethernet” is longest track on the first disc which is really the concept side of the limited edition. The 2nd CD contains a couple of more lengthy bonus tracks. It’s at this stage the story simmers right down to more of a smoochy mood and deals with the subject matter of love, risks and Cyber Sex. Both the music and vocals are well fitting here and each track runs from one track to another in the way of a nonstop album to make the concept story flow along even more so.

Track 4. Celebrity Purée.

The shortest track on the album is up next and is an instrumental piece that contains some fine diversity and progression and it sort of reminds me of something the band Spock’s Beard might do. It picks the album up more and is a great little track.

Track 5. Not As Good As The Book.

The self titled track of the album is my personal favourite track and merits my top spot of the album award. I also like how all the previous tracks build up to this track. The song runs along at a great pace with some fine melody lines on the moog synth and as well as the keyboard work it also features some fine lead solos on the guitar and the acoustic guitar works particularly well and it has a nice come down section in the middle.

Lyrically the song is pertaining perhaps around how different ones life as panned out over the years, and how the future did not work out how you quite imagined it would turn out. It’s perhaps not as good as the book makes it out to be, and in this case Tillison is embarking on Buzz Aldrin’s life and the conspiracy behind them landing on the moon.

It also raises the question about what little computer technology they had back then and could they really put their faith and trust in a computer with less than brains of a ZX81 to direct them back home. He may have a point.

Track 6. A Sale of Two Souls.

Once again the pace comes down a bit on “A Sale of Two Souls” it’s another fine song that musically adds perhaps a slight touch of melancholy with Theo Travis’s flute work and the acoustic guitar, it builds up well enough with all the other instrumentation.  It even sounds a bit like a cross between Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd in some sections and I guess you could also say it ends off with something perhaps more familiar with what you might find on the Who’s album Quadrophenia with the talking bit at the end.

The lyrics are based around the subject matter of growing old and perhaps still having the rights to still go on making and playing music and having that feel of youth back again, rather than being seen as some has-been or a dinosaur perhaps. I suppose the title could also be harking at how music lost its feel today and how it does not tend to sell like it did years ago and it no longer as that spark enough for people to want to buy it today.

Track 7. Bat Out of Basildon.

A song that once again touches on getting old and looking back how nobody writes those old bikers songs like they did decades ago like in the film Easy Rider and Meatloaf’sBat Out Of Hell” to which the title gets it acquaintance :))))). It’s quite a good enough song with great lyrics and even rocks in a jazzy style in some respects. It perhaps does not have the power of Meatloaf’s classic though. But never the less it puts the end of the concept of the main album on the first disc very well.

CD 2.

Track 1. Throwing Metal at the Sky: Part 1 Four Egos, One War.

The first of two lengthy pieces on this bonus album take in quite a different subject matter in relation to the first disc which is the main album, and is more of what is known as bonus material as you would get with a limited edition release like this.

This particular track weighs in at just over 21 minutes and the subject matter is very much that of war that gets portrayed over 5 parts. Part 1. Ours. Part 2. Theirs. Part 3. Ours Reprise. Part 4. His. and Part 5. Mine.

As far as I can make out “Four Egos, One War” was written back in 2002 for another one of Tillison’s project bands known as Parallel or 90 Degrees. Like I said earlier I know nothing about this particular band but apparently when they wrote this song back then it was never released on any of their albums.

It was only after the release of this album that they released a compilation 2 CD set entitled A Can Of Worms by Parallel or 90 Degrees that contained some material from the bands back catalogue of albums along with unreleased material such as this track. Although this particular version on Not As Good As The Book comes with a different arrangement to the original. It also features Julie King on vocals in parts.

I have to say though I have never heard the original version, this version on the album is very good and I am well surprised that this song never got released back in 2002, especially if it’s anything like this. In some ways it’s perhaps a bit familiar to how Neal Morse goes about writing his music. I am now even tempted to buy A Can Of Worms to see exactly what type of music Parallel or 90 Degrees is all about.

Like I mentioned earlier the subject matter is very much different regarding the lyrics, and in my personal opinion they are far from bizarre in relation to what we got on the main album. The subject matter of war is handled very well here and this is really excellent bonus material, that in all honesty should never have been bonus material in the first place.

Musically it’s very well constructed and put together, and even incorporates or borrows some melody lines in a small section from their previous album A Place In The Queue. It’s very much a contender for the top spot on the album and another favourite track of mine.

Track 2. Throwing Metal at the Sky: Part 2 The Full Gamut.

The 2nd of the 2 tracks on this bonus disc is yet another excellent piece of work. “The Full Gamut” is perhaps a bit like a theatrical opera or play that comes with some great diversity and progression throughout it. Tillison’s keyboard work on this track is perhaps the best on the whole 2 discs. It’s got some great transitional changes along it’s path with some excellent interplay from all the musicians.

It’s slightly longer than the first part of Throwing Metal at the Sky and is a very exciting 22 minutes and 42 seconds long. The whole thing is put across in 9 parts. Part 1. The D599 – Dusk. Part 2. Gothenburg. Part 3. Last Tango. Part 4. Studio Tan. Part 5. Not A Drill – A Storm In The Mountains Of Cantal. Part 6. Southend On Sea. Part 7. The A1 North Of Paris. Part 8. Four Last Days. Part 9. The D599 and the A61 (Dusk).

Lyrically the song is perhaps a personal thing about Tillison’s break up with his long time partner Sam Baine which is perhaps why this was released as a bonus track on a limited edition. So the lyrics are aimed at her and perhaps why he was having a crisis in mid life as the opening track on the main album suggests.

Sam Baine used to play additional keyboards with both Parallel or 90 Degrees and The Tangent and she even played on their previous album A Place In The Queue in 2006. So this was first album not to feature her after the break up. Effectively the lyrics are about the effects and strains it would put on a relationship with them both touring to earn a living sort of thing.

The word “Gamut” means the complete range or scope of something to which he is certainly portraying the full scope of his broken down relationship. It also means a complete scale of musical notes which no doubt you are getting with this offering.

For me personally I have always put the music first before any lyrics, so the the lyrics here are not gonna get in my way sort of thing, and personally I do think the lyrics are more or less aimed at anger and do not perhaps measure up to the quality of the lyrics we got about war on the first track on this bonus disc. They could be however a bit useful to a marriage guidance counsellor perhaps, though it’s perhaps a bit too late for one of those :)))))).

Joking aside I personally think that the musical structure we have here is the best on the entire album. And this is another track that merits the top spot award on the album. Though effectively this limited edition bonus disc is another album, and could of even been released as a separate album. But at the end of the day I guess it was the personal side of his relationship with Sam Baine was why it was not as I already mentioned.

Summary…

To sum up the 2 CD Limited Edition of Not As Good As The Book by The Tangent. It’s very much like getting two different albums for the price your paying in the way that both discs take on different subject matters. If you can get it for the price point I paid for it, then it is value for the buck because you do also get an 100 page book with it.

Regarding the book that comes with it and the story written by Andy Tillison. It’s perhaps like a cross between something you might find familiar with writings by Peter Gabriel and even Douglas Adams Hitchikers Guide To The Galaxy with its Sci-Fi and humour approach. It does make an interesting read even if it’s all a bit on the bizarre side of things. Although I would say that the music you get here is better than the book in this case :)))))).

My personal highlights from the both discs are “Not as Good as the Book“. “Throwing Metal at the Sky: Part 2 The Full Gamut“. “A Crisis in Mid-Life“. “Throwing Metal at the Sky: Part 1 Four Egos, One War” and “A Sale of Two Souls“.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of the Limited Edition of Tangent’s Not As Good As The Book. It’s perhaps an album that runs along the lines of a concept album in that each track more or less leads into one another. However regarding it’s concept it’s not what I would call a great concept album if I was going by the lyrical content which does not follow suit as a story sort of like Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds as an example. It’s perhaps a bit of a mishmash with its subject matter, and that may have been down to the fact that Tillison was dealing with perhaps a crises in mid-life and the breaking up of a personal relationship, that may have had an effect here.

I personally do not think Not As Good As The Book is as good as the bands previous album A Place in the Queue. For me personally that magic 3rd album they made is not only musically better structured, but the lyrical content leaves this album in the dust.  Though overall it’s still a very good enjoyable album and if you was to compare the bonus disc that comes with the Limited Editions of both of these albums. The bonus disc you get on this album leaves the one on their previous album in the dust.

The bonus disc for me is perhaps the winner with the limited edition of Not As Good As The Book. To be honest I have never come across another edition of this album but the limited edition. No doubt the both albums in this package have their merits and are well worthy of having if you can obtain it for the price I paid. I enjoy the both discs that come with it and it’s still a really great album to have and up there with their best.

What happened to the future? It’s not as good as the book…

The album track listing of both discs is as follows:

Disc 1.

01. A Crisis in Mid-Life. 7:13.
02. Lost in London 25 Years Later. 7:32.
03. The Ethernet. 10:13.
04. Celebrity Purée. 3:43.
05. Not as Good as the Book. 8:54.
06. A Sale of Two Souls. 7:16.
07. Bat Out of Basildon. 5:54.

Disc 2.

01. Throwing Metal at the Sky: Part 1 Four Egos, One War. 21:14.
02. Throwing Metal at the Sky: Part 2 The Full Gamut. 22:42.

Lee’s overall Complete Package Value Rating…

The Packaging Rating Score. 8/10

The Price Point Rating Score. 9/10

The Bonus CD Rating Score. 9/10

The Original Album Rating Score. 7/10.

 

Lee Speaks About Music… #72

Preliminaries – Artyfiction

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Introduction…

I recently stumbled across a post in the Progrock Group on Facebook by Mirosław Berg the bass player of a new Polish band who call themselves Artyfiction. He actually posted the 1st track from their debut album Preliminaries along with a message asking what people thought of it. I was not that busy at the time and the artwork caught my eye a bit so I decided to give it a blast.

Upon having a listen I was quite impressed, though I did notice that this was an instrumental piece and as it had quite an heavy rock feel about it and some fine progression, it had me thinking maybe this would not work if the rest of the album contained instrumental pieces only.

For example It would perhaps be like the band Rush making their album Moving Pictures out of instrumental pieces only, and as good as the instrumental track YYZ is and works as an instrumental piece, I think the rock part of that band does cry out for vocals, and I am not sure if I would of brought that album in the first place if it was filled with instrumental pieces only.

I generally find instrumental albums only work perhaps better for those bands who do music like Jazz Fusion like the band Brand X or even electronic music like Tangerine Dream as an example, rather than prog rock bands. So I was intrigued by what I was hearing with Artyfiction enough for me to click on the link to Bandcamp and listen to a few more tracks.

Upon doing so I soon discovered they did have a singer and he was even singing the words in English. Once again I was enjoying what I was hearing so I decided to try and find out more information about the band, and upon doing so I noticed that the vocalist was in fact only a guest singer and was not part of the original band line-up and they was in fact looking for a permanent singer for the band.

Well I had no intention of applying for the job :)))))) but this mini album the band had made certainly impressed me enough to buy it. So let’s take a further look at the band and its debut album Preliminaries

The Band Artyfiction

A Band

The band Artyfiction as far as I know of consists of 4 members and are from Wrocław in Poland. They are currently looking for a permanent singer to join the band so that they can put themselves about a bit more and play some live festivals to get a bit more recognition.

Many of the songs on the album was also written and they played them live under the band name of Laszlo Taxi a couple of years ago. Though from what I heard of those songs Laszlo Taxi did back then, they have arranged them differently today and obviously changed the name of the band to something more fitting to the bands music.

The current line-up of the band is as follows:

Wojciech Bator: Guitar.
Dariusz Kawa: Keys.
Miroslaw Berg: Bass.
Pawel Kardis: Drums.

Guest Vocalist Jacek Ziora. (on tracks 2,4 & 5.).

Preliminaries Album In Review…

Preliminaries by Artyfiction is the bands brand new debut album and was released last month on the 21st March 2018. The album contains 5 tracks, 3 of which are vocal tracks and the other 2 instrumentals and it comes with an overall playing time of 31mintues, 38 seconds.

It’s perhaps a bit on the short side of things for an album these days, but never the less this time slot was nothing unusual to find back in the 60’s and 70’s for an album, and I myself prefer the older time slot of 30 to 40 minutes.

It comes in handy (especially if you have a lot of albums like myself) and this lesser time slot allows you to give more attention not only to this record, but to all the other records in your collection so to speak.

The album was mastered and recorded by Przemysław Wejmann at the studio Perlazza. The albums artwork was provided by Anna Jeżowska and it sort of gives the impression that the band Artyfiction are into heavy metal, but if you was to look up the word Preliminaries which is the title of the album, you will soon find out that the artwork is very apt to the title of the album we have here.

The band Artyfiction consist of some pretty darn good musicians who certainly know their way around their instruments, and have the ability to carve and sculpture some pretty fine musical pieces and well crafted songs that have the diversity and progression you will find in most great progressive rock music. There is no doubt they also have their own distinctive style too.

So let’s take a deeper look into the music at the music the band are presenting as I go through the individual tracks on the album.

Track 1. Scamper.

The opening track is the first of the 2 instrumental pieces on the album, and also happens to be the longest track on the album weighing in at just over 9 minutes. It sort of launches itself straight into the action with some rather tasty lead guitar playing from Wojciech Bator and is supported very well by the back line of both Pawel Kardis and Miroslaw Berg on the drums and bass respectively, and a rather a fine vamping piano melody from Dariusz Kawa accompanies it very well.

I must confess on my first couple of spins I got the impression that this nice little intro came in perhaps a bit quick, and it perhaps needed to be either faded in gradually. or another intro needed to be developed to make it work better. But after a good few spins you soon get used to it, and the guys obviously knew what they was doing, and I no longer get this feeling about the intro.

The intro is all of about 28 seconds long and it comes down nicely enough with some nice little bass fills backed by the keyboards. Around the 43 second mark the band bring in the heavier artillery and the action really starts to take off with some great interplay between the band which goes through some fine transnational changes and incorporates some great lead work from both the keyboards and guitar.

Musically the piece is very well structured, it has great diversity, heavy power chords from the guitar with some strong melodies from keyboards that hold it all together. The piece builds up very well and runs into some really great sections throughout it all.

The interplay and interaction between the section from 4 to 6 minute mark is very good, and then a couple of seconds later Wojciech Bator comes in with a flying lead guitar solo played at blistering pace. Dariusz Kawa follows it up nicely with his own solo on the keys and the band get back into the same routine to end it all off very well.

Scamper” is a really great piece of work that displays the capabilities of all 4 members very well. It works well as an instrumental piece, and it could of easily been structured to incorporate vocals I dare say if they wanted too. It’s a very strong contender for the top spot on the album and is a really great track.

Track 2. Appreciate.

From musical structures to a very well crafted song that’s precisely what we have here with the first vocal track on the album “Appreciate“. Everything about this song is so good. It really has been structured very well both musically and lyrically, and the guest vocalist Jacek Ziora as provided exactly the right delivery for the song with the power and aggression with his voice. It fits the music like a glove. He also wrote the lyrics for this song.

It’s the sort of song of song that grabs you straight away, and one you might latch on too and want to scream the words out yourself when you’re in anger. To be perfectly honest I find a lot of songs today with the many artists I buy tend to lose that special thing about them that many classics had years ago.

I do not know if it’s down to my age or what, but I have always felt that a good written song is one where you can quake up in the morning, get out of bed and instantly find yourself singing a song for no apparent reason without even thinking about it. If a song can do that to you, then it as to be good. Hardly any song in today’s age has the power to do that. But this song the band have so well carved out I definitely feel is one of those songs.

Appreciate” contains the power, the dynamics and all the qualities of a rock anthem. To put it in a nutshell this record should be an instant smash and a massive hit just like the many rock bands did years ago like ACDC. Judas Priest and all those sorts did years ago. It’s every bit as good and purely rocks my boat. It merits my top spot on the album award and is an highly addictive song that grabs you by the balls.

This song is that good I decided to post it here from the bands Youtube channel.

Track 3. Moment of Revelation.

The 2nd instrumental piece on the album weaves its way along very well and is perhaps structured around the very dominant bass line and groove provided by the bands bass player Miroslaw Berg. Both the guitarist Wojciech Bator and keyboardist Dariusz Kawa craft some fine melodies around the bass and Pawel Kardis’s rhythm and pattern playing on the drums hold it all together very well, and the drums are also a great feature here.

The whole piece cooks on gas and once again contains some really great guitar and keyboard solo’s and this band work as a very tight outfit and feed off each other very well. The instrumental piece once again shows great diversity and progression along it path and it’s another excellent track.

Track 4. Perswadator.

The 2nd song or vocal track on the album comes with a rather strange title that is a made up word and a bi of a joke they was having. The bands bass player Miroslaw Berg wrote the lyrics. Miroslaw told me its a mixture of “persuasion” (Perswazja in Polish) and the “tor” is end of the words which are related to a kind of person like “ProwokaTOR” (instigator) etc.

I find the word “instigator” quite fitting to the song and this one even has quite a punk rock feel with how Jacek is delivering the words with his powerful voice. It’s quite a menacing song and familiar with many other bands with how Jacek is expressing his voice on this one. 

Musically the song is quite different to punk rock and the band are weaving some magic in and out of this one at some pace. No doubt the song has the power to rock, but personally I do not think it grabs me like the 2nd track on the album “Appreciate” does. Never the less the band are doing a grand job of it all.

Track 5. Viper.

The final song on the album sees the band going back in more of a prog rock direction that we got with the 2 instrumental tracks on the album. It’s quite interesting how Jacek has quite a bit of versatility in his voice, and how is more of a ballad approach in the opening verses works in relation to the more hard edge we got from his voice on the other 2 songs on the album.

No doubt the song does also contain the power for him to raise the game and bring out the harder edge side of things more and it works really well. Once again Miroslaw Berg wrote the lyrics for this one and this is another really well developed and constructed song that the band do the business on. It’s another contender for the top spot on the album.

Summary…

To sum up my review of the album Preliminaries by Artyfiction. I would say that it’s quite a solid enough album that contains both the power and adrenalin to rock and go in other directions with its diversity and progression. The band have certainly got their act together and have crafted out some fine songs and instrumental pieces and have what it takes to deliver the great music that’s contained on this first album of theirs.

It’s a shame that right now the band are still looking for another singer, and I think it will be quite hard to find one quite like Jacek Ziora who slotted in very aptly to the music the band presented to him here. He even contributed some really great lyrics on the song “Appreciate” which is personally my favourite track on the album, and it’s quite a smash hit in my personal opinion.

There is no doubt that the band Artyfiction have their own distinctive style and the combination of both rock and prog rock is perhaps along the lines of other great bands such as Creed. Jadis. IQ. Arena. Haken. Pearl Jam and many more. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Scamper“. “Appreciate” and “Viper“.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review here, if your into rock and prog rock I do not think you can personally go wrong here. Preliminaries is a really great album that deliverers the goods at a cheap enough price for anybody’s pocket, and at its price it will give you plenty of satisfaction. It certainly rocks my boat and I am sure it will rock yours too.

The album comes with a very good quality production and was recorded in the studios and mastered professionally so there is no skimping on the quality here. The album is available in the form of a digital download only with a choice of high quality audio formats to choose from. I have provided a link below.

As with any band it’s always hard to get off to a great start, and many struggle to gain the recognition they truly deserve for the hard work they put in and the great music they are putting about. No doubt this band is worthy of a lot more attention and I am sure they will provide great entertainment if only more people would take to the time to listen.

They certainly caught my attention and I wish them all the success for the future.

Check out the album for yourself. You might just Appreciate it…

You can listen to or grab your own personal copy of Preliminaries here : https://artyfiction.bandcamp.com/releases

The album track listing is as follows:

01. Scamper. 9:07.
02. Appreciate. 4:03.
03. Moment of Revelation. 6:25.
04. Perswadator. 4:07.
05. Viper. 7:56.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.