Lee Speaks About Music… #25

Easy Street – Karl Robins and John Carey

KR - JC - Easy Street

Introduction…

Another really great unsigned artist and another superb songwriter of folk songs I had the privilege to stumble upon many moons ago on Soundcloud is none other than Karl Robins. This fine man from Leeds in England has been playing guitar and writing songs for donkeys years now. He is without a doubt an extremely talented musician who can not only make an acoustic guitar shine and ring out, but he comes with such a great voice and can also use it to construct harmonies superbly as well.

Everything about this man’s quality song writing and his approach to it as always spoke to me highly and appealed to my taste. In many ways Karl is just like the fine songwriter Ralph McTell and in all honesty is in every way just as good as him. Why this guy is unsigned in all honesty amazes me because in reality he should of been snapped up years ago.

Easy Street Album Review…

The album Easy Street by Karl Robins and John Carey was released just the other day on the 28th August 2017. Though this is not exactly a collection of new songs Karl wrote and the album was originally done back in the 80’s and put out on a Cassette release to which Karl used to sell at the many local gigs he played back then. This new release of the album though has been digitally remastered by his old friend Gary Hetherington and I have to say he’s done a pure quality job of it as well. It sounds superb.

The album consists of 16 tracks and has a lengthy playing time of 67 minutes 50 seconds and is available as a digital download only on Bandcamp for the price of a pint of beer at £3 or more. For me personally this is more or less a double albums worth of material you are getting here in comparison to the time slot albums had back in the 70’s. I was even going to make it into a double myself when I downloaded it, simply because I prefer albums over the old time slot. But having given the album a couple of spins as it is, I enjoyed it that much I decided to leave it as a single album.

When I purchased this wonderful album. The first thing I noticed was that Karl had just stuck a picture of himself on there and it never even had the title of the album on the front either. So I decided to quickly knock up a front cover for it by simply focusing on the albums title. I basically used a street sign. A picture from the Charlie Chaplin film Easy Street and Karl’s original picture plus I grabbed one of John too and fused them all together. Sent it to Karl to use if he wanted too. He liked it and so this is now the album cover.

Previous Work…

Over the years Karl has written many songs and made at least another couple of albums somewhere down the line. One of his albums I do have that he sent me about 5 years ago now was a collection of the songs he was working from between 2011 and 2012. To be honest I am not sure if he made an official release of the album that contained one of his many classic songs entitled Solomon’s Song.

Then he released Spirit of Beblow: Impressions of Holy Island to which he did with a band he put together and they called themselves Dancing with Ghosts named after one of Karl’s earlier songs he wrote and put on the album. That album I did buy from CD Baby I think and was released back in 2014. It’s another really excellent album.

Album Credits…

All songs written by Karl Robins. Recorded in the 80’s on an analogue reel to reel system by John Carey. Originally sold on cassette tape. Remastered in July 2017 by Gary Hetherington.

Karl Robins – Vocals & Harmonies – Guitars.
John Carey – Fiddle – Button Melodeon – Whistle.

Back To Easy Street Album Review…

Considering the songs that make up the album Easy Street were done around 3 decades ago now. I have to say Karl has never really lost his great voice at all. It’s also interesting how well his harmonies were even back in those days too, and they are just purely awesome I will say. What I love here too is the fact that there is only a couple of songs I may have heard before so for me personally it is like a brand new album.

Track 1. Easy Street.

The album starts off wonderfully with the albums self titled track “Easy Street”  Lyrically its perhaps pertaining to looking back on those early days of our lives where everything was so easy and carefree. In many ways are childhood days were an easy street when we never had to worry has our parents had everything in hand. Life only really gets harder as we grow older and we can often find ourselves revisiting that easy street were we lived in many moons ago.

Both Karl and John do an excellent job on the instrumentation and Karl’s fine voice works a treat in delivering those fine lyrics. It’s a really great song and one of the contenders for the top spot on the album.

Track 2. Geordie Girls.

There is no doubt that Karl has travelled to many places and I dare say he’s been to Newcastle too. However this lovely song was written as he claims in his own words “for two excellent people under the misapprehension that they were indeed Geordie girls!! lol”.

Karl is such a great guitar player and he picks out the melody to this smashing song so beautifully. John supports the song so well with his fiddle and there is an air of brightness and happiness about Karl’s folk songs, unlike most traditional folk songs which are much more darker and have more of a depressing lyrical content to them. This has to be another contender for my top spot on the album.

Track 3. Changes.

Another beauty of a song this one and here Karl’s guitar and vocal is supported beautifully with John’s button accordion as well as the fiddle. There is a genuine beauty to the superb lyrics Karl wrote for this song. Many of us make changes throughout our lives and this is about how we handle them. I am only on the 3rd track and yet this is without doubt another contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 4. Drifters Heart.

Another fine song that features John once again on the button accordion and fiddle. Karl as ever does the business on the rest. The lyrical content to this one is based around all those wonderful things we might get to see perhaps in our land of dreams. Though there are also many things of beauty around us we can see if we open eyes, as Karl does in this beauty of a song.

Track 5. Day & Night.

Another contender for the top spot on the album is this wonderful love song. Musically part of the melody is a tad like McTell’sStreets Of London” though there is no doubt that Karl like us all may have influences, yet he is an artist with his own personal touch in his own right with how delivers his fine songs. This one has a piece of magic warmth about it and is about always being there. No doubt both Karl and John are there and on the ball on this beauty.

Track 6. Working For A Penny.

Well when it comes to lyric writing this one is pure class. John’s fiddle playing on this cracking song is superb and he also plays a fine bit of whistle on this too. He may have even threw in the kitchen sink so to speak and Karl throws his good pennies worth into the pot as well.

This one for me is personally my favourite track on the album and gets my top spot award. To be honest there is perhaps a dozen songs on this album that could of also grabbed the award and some musically maybe better structured in reality. It also most unusual for me to go for the best lyrics as well, but the combination between both music and words does the business on this song.

Track 7. Cheap Day Return.

I must confess that upon my first spin of the album this particular song never grabbed me that well. It was perhaps the only one of the 16 tracks we have here that never really spoke to me at first. It maybe that the previous track was that good it threw me out a bit. But having heard the album at least 8 times over now it’s not that bad and does not make me want to turn it off or skip to the next track sort of thing.

Though I still feel the lyrics are perhaps not the best on this one and do hark on a bit. It may have worked better as a bonus track rather than being placed here. But that is of course my own observation of how it speaks personally to me. For others this maybe even their fave on the album and it’s the longest track on the album too.

Track 8. Spinning Wheel.

John’s whistle and violin work superbly on the “Spinning Wheel“. The song has a great pace and feel about it and no doubt this is another cracking song that puts the album back on the right track. Karl’s guitar and vocals handles the song with ease as ever.

Track 9. Guiding Light.

The “Guiding Light” is another wonderful love song and a classic. It’s also very much another contender for the top spot on the album. Karl works his harmonies beautifully on this one, and his rhythm playing on the acoustic is crisp. John backs this one up very well with his accordion.

Track 10. Roll On Down.

Yet another classic on the album and this is such a beautiful ballad of a song that flows along beautifully with Karl’s voice and guitar, also with John’s violin working together in fine unison. Another contender for the top spot and there are just so many of this marvellous album.

Track 11. Coming Home.

Coming Home” features Karl backing himself up on the guitar and vocals superbly. Once again John uses his fiddle and accordion in all the right places and it adds up all perfectly for the folk elements in the fine songs. It’s also the 2nd longest track on the album and only by 1 second.

Track 12. Jenny Brady’s Memories.

Another classic and very much more done in the style of traditional folk with how this flows with superb instrumentation and a fine story that was inspired by a friend who was telling Karl about her grandmother. I have to say the inspiration worked superbly and this is another contender for the top spot on the album.

13. Borderline.

The shortest track on the album and more folky goodness from them both on this one too. It’s a song about the chaos of living on the borderline done in a fast paced flowing tempo. It’s also a song he did with his old band Clanjamfrie.

14. Rivers.

A song about how rivers can run and relate to how one runs their lives in some circumstances and all put into very good context with the lyrical content on this beauty of a song. Once again the vocals and instrumentation are a delight and it flows and runs like a river too. Another contender for the top spot as many of them are.

15. For You.

Another beauty of a love song put across with sheer conviction with Karl’s great voice and the wonderful instrumentation from them both. This old song Karl wrote on his first night he went to the Isle of Man many years ago. He also has a more updated version of it on Soundcloud he did around a year ago too.

16. Long Hard Road.

The album gets rounded off very well with the up-tempo song “Long Hard Road” and in some ways it’s a bit like Bob Dylan’sAll Along The Watchtower” with the guitar riff Karl is playing. Once again he makes fine use with the harmonies and John’s fiddle backs him up very well.

Summary…

There is no doubt Karl has been playing and writing songs for decades. You would of had to of been to be able write and play songs at this high level of calibre and standard. I would easily put him on the same par of Ralph McTell regarding being a really great  songwriter. He is like I mentioned earlier the brighter side of McTell.

Karl very much has the knack of writing a song that bright it will hit you in the face and it will instantly appeal to you in liking it. Yet amazingly even though they are done this way they still have the ability to last the test of time.

Considering these songs were written in the 80’s they are far from the pop music we had in the charts that outdated itself in no time at all back in that decade. Simply because there is so much put into the quality of the lyrics besides the great skilfully played music from both Karl and John we have on this truly great album.

These are songs that have a lot of meaningful words and if more people paid more attention to folk music they would get to see the beauty and pleasure it can bring to ones ears. For me personally music like this could never die because we have two genuine musicians playing everything you are hearing on the album.

There is no gimmicky or samples here it’s the real McCoy. It’s how music should be played, and I have the utmost respect towards real musicians who craft music out of their fine instruments in this way. Granted the album has a top production with how it’s been remastered by Gary. But you still have to able to play at this level to get this result as well.

Conclusion…

The album Easy Street by Karl Robins and John Carey is a very fine body of work of very well crafted and performed songs and is very well produced too. The songs speak for themselves and are like a very fine vintage wine that matures very well with age. There is bags of value here for the price of a pint and that is not gonna really dent anyone’s pocket either.

I myself have always been fond of folk music all my life, and it’s perhaps not as popular in relation to more popular music that many others may prefer. But for those who are getting older and looking for something else, you really cannot go wrong with this album I feel. It’s genuine quality your getting for so little and I am sure if you took the time to even give it a listen you might get to appreciate this fine genre of music even more.

Give the album a free spin for yourself, you may be surprised and find out that this is what you need right now and buy yourself a bit of pleasure that will last for years. Give the artists some support and something back for the great work they do. They truly deserve it.

You can do just that here on this link:  https://karlrobinsandjohncarey.bandcamp.com/album/easy-street

The track listing of the album is as follows:

01. Easy Street. 4:48
02. Geordie Girls. 4:43
03. Changes. 4:12
04. Drifter’s Heart. 4:20
05. Day & Night. 4:14
06. Working For A Penny. 4:21
07. Cheap Day Return. 5:33
08. Spinning Wheel. 3:52
09. Guiding Light. 3:45
10. Roll On Down. 4:13
11. Coming Home. 5:32
12. Jenny Brady’s Memories. 3:31
13. Borderline. 2:42
14. Rivers. 3:45
15. For You. 4:14

16. Long Hard Road. 4:06

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.

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Lee Speaks About Music… #24

Misplaced Childhood (Deluxe Edition) – Marillion

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Introduction…

On the 21st July the latest Deluxe Edition of Marillion’s 3rd album Misplaced Childhood was released. I had it pre-ordered on Amazon a good month before hand and sure enough it arrived on the day of it’s release which was a Friday. It’s took me quite awhile to get around to the review for it because it comes with 4 CD’s and 1 Blu Ray in the form of a 60 page hardbound book. The same way the new re-releases that Jethro Tull has been re-releasing his back catalogue of music.

This one I got for £25.11p at the time I ordered it, and even though it cost me £6 more than Jethro Tull’s Songs From The Wood I quite like these packages a lot, and I still think even at this price point they do offer you a lot more and give one more incentive to buy them. Even down to the fact that most people would have had the original album decades ago like myself. But with everything you’re getting here I would also say that at it’s price, its still very much a bargain.

I have to admit I was only ever a fan of the Fish era of Marillion and the day he left the band so did I. I would also have to admit that out of the 4 studio albums Marillion did make with Fish I always considered this particular album their weakest. In all honesty I would even rate the B’ Sides Themselves compilation album they put out after Fish had left, a lot better than Misplaced Childhood.

The Packaging & Contents…

The packaging is beautifully done in the same way a very good quality hardbound book is made with the use of the thick cardboard they would of used to construct it. Even the way it’s been printed is very high quality and the 60 pages contains high gloss photographs and its all very well detailed. It also contains written information based around the time the album was originally made.

The 4 CD’s are mounted in quality plastic disc holders and the Blu Ray they have housed inside a sleeve pocket, that even the inside of has been printed on with a gloss finish, so that you are not going to get any scratches on the disc when retrieving it from it’s pocket. So they have applied and paid very good thoughtful attention to how they have constructed the packaging to hold its contents.

Being has these kind of packages are a bit awkward to show with pictures. I decided to make another short video just like I did with my review of the Jethro Tull Songs From The Wood Book Edition I reviewed awhile back here: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2017/06/05/lee-speaks-about-music-6/  To give you a better look at the package itself.

Though this video I have to confess is not the best and I really should of done it again. The video was very dark due to not being in the right light and I had to up the contrast and brightness just so you could see it. It will not show the lovely colours up very well, but will still give you the basic idea of what you are getting here.

Fond Memories (Or Maybe Not So Much)…

I must admit the 80’s was a very funny decade for me personally regarding music. The very fact that most of all the artists and bands I loved so much in the 70’s were even changing their style of music to try and keep some sort of limelight still flickering I practically turned my back on music more or less completely. The charts was that full of new wave and retro keyboard oriented music that it just made me want to heave and throw up :)))))))))))).

Bands like Yes and Genesis were now churning out pop songs and even Jethro Tull had flipped their lid with the new trash they was churning out. Even the rock bands like Judas Priest and so on were now heading in a more commercial direction with the stuff they churned out and I think apart from the odd band like Dire Straits who still had some sanity to keep their musical style the same, they was the only really good band that was in the bloody charts :))))))))).

The only other band who came to my rescue in the early 80’s was the German electronic band Tangerine Dream. They was beginning to really flourish when they had both Johannes Schmoelling at first and later Paul Haslinger. These guys were now churning out prog rock with keyboards and quite frankly said a lot more than what the likes of Yes and Genesis were ever doing in that decade.

Because of all the confusion and me shutting myself off from around 90% of the music that was out there. Marillion completely slipped by me and it was not until I heard a couple of singles on the radio at work off their 3rd album Misplaced Childhood that they first caught my eye. But out of the 2 songs I did hear around 1985 which were “Kayleigh” and “Lavender”  it was only really “Lavender” that really spoke to me back then. There was something I liked about it’s melody line. But it still never enticed me to go out and buy them.

It was a couple of years later in 1987 I started to listen to the Friday Night Rock Show hosted by Tommy Vance again where I got to hear a couple of songs from their new album Clutching At Straws that drew my attention more to them. That was the first album I ever brought of them and I loved it.

Later on in the same year I noticed they released a live concert on VHS Video entitled Live From Loreley. So I brought that and loved it that much that I then backtracked on their back catalogue and brought all their albums. Then Fish left and I followed him having heard Marillion’s next album Seasons End. That album very much told me that Marillion were finished. Well perhaps not, but they was for me I am afraid.

Back in those years with Fish I felt the band were a bit like what Genesis were doing when Peter Gabriel was in the band in the 70’s. But where has the music Genesis made back in the 70’s can still stand the test of time and still hold up today. I do feel that Marillion can get a bit outdated at times, and I think the sound many bands had in the 80’s does tend to wear off over the years and become stale.

Misplaced Childhood (Deluxe Edition) Review…

The new 4 CD &-1 Blu Ray Box Set or Book Set of the Deluxe Edition of Misplaced Childhood by Marillion was released on the 21st July 2017. Besides a new 2017 remaster of the album on the 1st CD. You get a complete live concert which takes up the 2nd & 3rd CD’s. The 4th CD contains new remixes and the Blu Ray contains a 5.1 mix of the album done by Steven Wilson and some other bonus features.

The 60 Page Book.

Though the book does have some really great glossary photographs it does tend to take up most of the 60 pages we have here leaving very little for the information about the album. It will not take you long to read it, and the story takes up around 20 pages and it’s not gone into any real great depth in relation to what you will get with the Jethro Tull book editions of his releases.

CD 1.

Besides the 5.1 mix, one of the other things I was looking forward to was the new remaster of the original album. Basically this was because I personally was never happy with how the original album was recorded and mixed in the first place. It just sounded so dry and lifeless in comparison to the other 3 studio albums that the band done with Fish.

There is no doubt the day I brought this album 2 years after it’s release back in the 1987 it gathered dust, and the only way I could ever listen to it was on their live albums because that is when they actually did put some life into the thing.

I was quite surprised that seeing how Steve Wilson was brought in to do the 5.1 mix that he never did a new remix of the album. But according to him he reckoned the original album was that well recorded and mixed he did not see how he could improve anything by doing so.

I actually thought I brought this album on vinyl back then too, but I couldn’t have and by 1987 I was buying everything on CD having not that long having had a CD Player. My own real gripe with how Misplaced Childhood sounded on that CD I brought back then was the sound of the CD was very reminiscent to the tinny and lifeless first 2 studio albums the band Asia made. Once again those sounded way better on the live recordings than they ever did in the studio.

I have to admit having heard the remaster that comes in this edition it’s a way better recording and it makes the album a lot more worthy of putting on now. It’s an album I have not played in decades and only have really heard the live version of the songs more than anything.

I still however feel the material is weak and lacks a lot of balls in comparison to the albums Script For A Jesters Tear. Fugazi in particular and Clutching At Straws I also feel has better written material on it. Though there are a good few tracks I do like on the album. Maybe its down to it’s concept story which may mean something more to Fish in relation to anybody else, unless you happen to be Scottish or something :)))).

It may also be down to musically I feel the band robbed a lot of melody lines from their previous albums and reworked them to make this one.

Bonus CD’s 2 & 3.

Both CD’s 2 & 3 contain the full concert of the Live At Utrecht in the Netherlands in 1985. This is really great bonus material to have its a really great live show the band have put on and played over 2 sets. The 2nd CD contains the 1st set list which features the band playing material from their first two albums. Even though there are only 5 tracks here and the first one is only just a 50 second short intro. The 37 minutes and 28 seconds you get here is superb I have to say.

The 3rd CD is 72 minutes long and this 2nd half of the set features the whole of the Misplaced Childhood album played in its entirety from start to finish and also contains 3 more tracks from their first two albums that the band come back on stage to finish the show off with an encore. No doubt Marillion were a great live act and having this concert is a well worthy bonus.

Bonus CD 4.

The 4th CD contains some B’s Sides and new mixes there are even a couple of new mixes done by Steve Wilson as well in here. Most of the songs have different mixes and sound different to previous releases that we seen in other compilations and put out as bonus tracks. But for me personally the fact that most of them are from the Misplaced Childhood album it’s perhaps a bit too monotonous at this point.

I do not think the that the new mixes of the B’ Sides that came from the singles such has “Lady Nina” and “Freaks” are as good either and they have been given more of pop feel to them. I very much prefer the B’ Sides Themselves album over the material we have on this disc. But of course it’s all down to preferable taste and some may like what we have on this disc a lot more than myself.

The Blu Ray.

Besides the Steve Wilson 5.1 mix (which I will review later) the Blu Ray also contains a 72 minute documentary with the original line up of the band and the producer that they done the album with and was specially made for this Deluxe Edition release. They all meet up in the original studio were the album was recorded and discuss the process of how they made the album.

I have to say I found it quite disappointing and so unprofessional. Considering this thing is on for 1 hour and 12 minutes it’s just like the book and does not go into any real depth about it all. To be honest I have watched Brian May on YouTube discuss how they made “Bohemian Rhapsody” which is just one song in a studio in about 10 minutes and that was way more professional than what these guys did I have to say.

I was so looking forward to it as well and it was the first thing I put on out of all of what we have here in this Deluxe Edition. It was good to see them all in good spirit though and by watching it you can get perhaps something different regarding info on the album from the book, just as the book will also provide you with some info that’s not in the documentary.

The Blu Ray also contains 4 promotional videos. Which are “Kayleigh“. “Lavender“. “Heart Of The Lothian” and “Lady Nina” all of which were released as singles from the album. Perhaps a bit outdated these days, but never the less it was good of them to be included.

The 5.1 Mix.

The 5.1 mix by Steven Wilson is very good, well detailed and careful attention has been applied to the instrumentation and vocal parts he has moved from the front to place in the rear speakers. Although he has panned some of the more repeated vocal parts where Fish uses his voice very well over the 5 speakers, I do feel that some of the more hidden voice murmurings in the background would of been better placed in the rear for more clarity purposes. But overall he’s done very well with the mix and its very good.

The main menu of the Blu Ray (pictured below) displays all the options to choose from and in the top section we have the 5.1 mix section.

SS 1

When you click on “Audio Select” will present you with two audio formats. By default its set to DTS Master 96/24. It also has a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix.

SS 2

The 2nd section is the Stereo option so you can play the album in stereo and it still gives you the same high quality audio format of  96/24.

SS 3

The menus are very nicely done and as well a slideshow of several pictures, we also have an animated moving sky with a rainbow that moves along nicely as the music plays.

SS 4

Steve Wilson has also done a 5.1 mix of “Lady Nina” to which you also have the same Audio options as above. It’s a shame “Freaks” was not given the same treatment but I guess they never had the multitrack master tape for it.

For this bonus track we get a slideshow of the band instead of the albums artwork and I love then 5.1 mix on this track too.

SS 5

The final 2 options on the menu are for the Documentary and the Videos. Which are in stereo only. But overall the menu section is very good and I like it a lot.

Musicians & Credits…

The original album was produced & mixed by Chris Kimsey and recorded at the Hansa Tonstudio. Berlin Germany during the months of March – May 1985. Mixing engineer Mark Freegard. Recorded by Thomas Stehler. Sleeve design & illustration by Mark Wilkinson. With special thanks to Robert Mead. Collage by Julie Hazelwood. Cover concept by Fish.

Fish: Voice.
Steve Rothery: Guitars.
Pete Trewavas: Bass & Vocals.
Mark Kelly: Keyboards.
Ian Mosley: Drums.

The Album Misplaced Childhood Review…

The original album was released on the 17th June 1985. The album consisted of 10 tracks and had a playing time of 41:17.  Considering this is a concept album it’s perhaps very short to put over a story. Most artists and bands would have a double albums worth of material for such a concept but the band were very much under pressure from their record company EMI.

For those who think being signed up by a famous record company and making an album is going to make them rich. It’s far from the case I can assure you. By the time Marillion got to the studio to make their 3rd album they was already heavily in debt to EMI for the money it cost them to make their first 2 albums.  To lighten the load of cash they owed the company they decided to do a quick tour and release the live album Reel To Reel at a budget price to try and make up some of the money.

The reality of it all was that Marillion never sold enough copies of their first 2 albums and it cost EMI a lot more money for the band to make them, with them paying for the studio time and promotion of them. Marillion were very much in danger of EMI taking them off their books. The budget they gave the band to make their 3rd album Misplaced Childhood was very tight. The band were living in Germany in grotty 2 star hotels and were only given an allowance of £15 per day to make the album.

Though the band still at this stage were refusing to change their direction to more commercial music, the record company insisted on them making a single release. The band were well hard up and had to work their socks off to get the album done in time. So Rock n’ Roll is certainly not how many would see it.

Thankfully the end result proved successful and Misplaced Childhood was the most successful commercial album the band ever made and it finally got them out of debt. There is no doubt the band had changed its style slightly at this point, and they continued in a more commercial way with the album that was to follow it as well with certain tracks written more in the same vein as pops songs such as “Sugar Mice” for example.

I certainly still believe the bands best material is on their first 2 albums and they are much more to my own taste than the 2 albums that followed. Though their 4th album Clutching At Straws certainly contains stronger written material than what we have on Misplaced Childhood and I do love that album too, especially “Hotel Hobbies” it’s up there with their best material like “Forgotten Sons“.

To be honest to be able to make a debut album like Script For A Jesters Tear with all the solid written material it has upon it is certainly a remarkable achievement, and something that many bands and artists have failed to do. I am surprised it never did way better when it was released.

Track 1. Pseudo Silk Kimono.

The albums opens up with a short intro to get the story off to a start with “Pseudo Silk Kimono“. I have to admit the title alone is a mouthful to grasp never mind the lyrics. But Fish is without doubt a brilliant lyric writer even if all this does appear to be very confusing. Perhaps the 1st word “Pseudo” is more of the key here in relation to the silk Japanese nightgown in it being more pretentious and insincere. But of course the word “Pseudo” can also means false and unreal and that is more pertained to the ghost of a refugee who is appearing in this nightmare.

It’s a nice enough intro and as expected with most concept story albums the tracks run into one another with no stops. Though the 5 tracks that were placed on the 1st side of the vinyl album were all played together at once by the band. It was something they was even trying out on their live shows before the album was even recorded and Fish had yet to complete all the lyrics. This is most likely why the first half of the album seems to work better.

Track 2. Kayleigh.

Kayleigh” is a song about a broken down relationship. In this case it was written about one of Fish’s earlier girlfriends whose name was Key Lee hence the title we have here. because the song was so personal the rest of the band were dead against the idea at first but in the end Fish got his own way.

The funny thing is that the person Kay Lee herself had never even known the song existed (despite the song reaching number 2 in the UK Singles Charts) till a couple of decades later. Fish met back up with her in 2005 on his own Return To Childhood Tour in Edinburgh and gave her a copy of the album. She apparently died of cancer later in 2012.

Musically the guitar riff came from Steve Rothery showing his now wife who was his girlfriend back then how he creates music on his guitar. Mark Kelly thought it would be a good idea to use the piece they never used at the end of “Chelsea Monday”  for the songs chorus, and that’s how it was put together. Marillion were always recycling material and a lot of it shows on this particular album.

Track 3. Lavender.

A simple love song with a simple and very catchy melody line is what makes this short song perhaps stand up more so than it’s short time slot on the album. Though for the single release they did extend it and add another verse. This songs melody is that strong it gets repeated throughout other tracks on the album, and is perhaps used more than anything else as the main theme to let us know that this is still a story perhaps.

To be perfectly honest I am not entirely convinced that this album is a concept album and it is structured more in the way of a set of songs that are more verse chorus based. I think it’s a great song though and it’s easy to see why it also had a single release.

Track 4. Bitter Suite/Brief Encounter/Lost Weekend/Blue Angel.

The 2nd longest track on the album and for me personally the 2nd best track on the album that is a very close contender for the top spot award. “Bitter Suite” is perhaps the only track that really speaks to me in the same way those first 2 albums they made. It contains some gorgeous guitar lines from Steve Rothery before falling back into the “Lavender” theme again which perhaps takes up the largest section of the song. Once again the lyrics are excellent from Fish.

This is also the first track that makes the album feel more like a concept and they may have been better starting the album off with it. Even though the 3 subheadings the title does have here, is in reality only 2 pieces put together and not the 3 like it suggests at all.

Track 5. Heart of Lothian/Wide Boy/Curtain Call.

Heart of Lothian” is another one of those tracks that contains a couple subheadings. I feel here they are totally unnecessary even though they relate to the song’s lyrics. It’s quite a powerful track on the album where Fish gets to use his more aggressive voice which is very much a part of his voice I like a lot. This is another great song on the album and one that also be a contender for the top spot on the album too.

Track 6. Waterhole [Expresso Bongo].

The mighty marimba features heavily on this track played on Kelly’s keyboards. The whole thing kicks off with a good hurried pace about it and is perhaps more or less gives one the feeling they are rushing through a jungle rather than anything remotely having anything to do with a bar. I honestly cannot catch the drift of this song simply because the music is out of context with the lyrics we have here.

It’s at this point I feel the album very much starts to fall especially in relation to the first side. I am sure others will see it differently, but for the life of me I just cannot. It has to be the worst track on the album I am afraid. But once again its perhaps just another short intro of what is to follow it.

Track 7. Lords of the Backstage.

Once again the album picks up very well with this track and lyrically its perhaps pertaining to the groupies who show up at the back stage at the concert venues. There is no doubt that most of these tracks are short but the way they do lead into rach other is very well thought out and this side does perhaps work more in the way of a concept and is better to play the whole album in reality rather than individual tracks.

Track 8. Blind Curve.

The longest track on the album. It could even be seen as the title track of the album. Musically it lends lines from “Chelsea Monday” which in reality make it stand out so well. But it also has some great transitional changes even if it is for a repeating melody line of “Heart of Lothian” it ends off with. This for me personally merits it as my personal top spot on the album and favourite track.

Track 9. Childhoods End?.

The 9th track on the album is another really great song. It builds up very well with its power and as the title suggests in reality it builds up as if it’s the conclusion of the story and the final track though it’s not. Personally I think they should of ended the album here.

Track 10. White Feather.

In reality this track is just a banter from the previous track. It’s over in no time at all and I feel it was not even needed. To even say this is song or even a separate track is perhaps ludicrous I am afraid. They should of just given the 9th track a subheading and included this in it.

Though they do explain in the documentary why it was done this way and it was in fact something to do with releasing the album in America you needed to have 10 tracks to avoid a certain amount of extra tax that would be charged if it had less tracks.

Summary…

Misplaced Childhood was Marillion’s most commercial and biggest selling album. The album went straight to number 1 in the album charts and went Platinum in both the UK and Germany. It also produced 2 successful single releases with “Kayleigh” and “Lavender“. It was the bands biggest ever commercial success and still till this day they have never got anywhere near it.

Many of their fans accused the band of selling themselves out at the time of its release, but even though I think it is without a doubt their weakest album out of the 4 made with Fish I still think Marillion had managed to keep they’re great style to some extent at this point.

Conclusion…

Overall The 4 CD &-1 Blu Ray Book Set of the Deluxe Edition of Misplaced Childhood by Marillion is a very nice quality package. Both the remastered CD and 5.1 Mix on the Blu Ray is superbly done. For myself it perhaps restored a bit more faith in wanting to hear the album again. Though I still think that this particular album is the weakest out of the 4 they made with Fish.

I do not even think it holds up well like a good concept album is supposed to hold up either. It’s perhaps more of a personal album for Fish himself who got the whole idea for the concept story we have here from an acid trip. In my book it would not even get in my top 50 of concept albums.

Both discs 2 & 3 that contain the Live At Utrecht concert is perhaps the best thing in this package for me personally. However it would of been even more better if they actually had the film footage of it to accompany it rather than just the audio footage here.

The 4th disc I would not even give the time of day for I am afraid. But then again remixes have never really appealed to me at all and are mainly used as gap fillers, and we have an whole CD’s worth of them here :)))))))))))

The Documentary is also not that much to write home about and the videos are very much the same you seen back in the 80’s and provide a bit of nostalgia I suppose.

Having said all that was the package worth the £25 price tag?. My answer would be YES. Because to even put a package out like this in the way it’s presented its not a thing you can do on the cheap. 3 of the CD’s and the 5.1 mix outweigh the rest of the bad points I said about it. No doubt this kind of package with all its contents provide a massive incentive to buying this album again and I am well happy that I did.

I would especially love to see them do the same with other 3 albums they did with Fish. Maybe they could throw in all the material that was on the B’ Sides Themselves album on them too.

The track listing of the complete contents in the package are as follows:

CD 1: Misplaced Childhood (2017 Remaster)

  1. Pseudo Silk Kimono 2:13
  2. Kayleigh 4:03
  3. Lavender 2:26
  4. Bitter Suite 7:55
  5. Heart Of Lothian 4:04
  6. Waterhole (Expresso Bongo) 3:12
  7. Lords Of The Backstage 1:53
  8. Blind Curve 9:29
  9. Childhoods End? 4:32
  10. White Feather 2:24

CD 2: Live at Utrecht 1985

  1. Emerald Lies (intro) 0:50
  2. Script For A Jester’s Tear 8:41
  3. Incubus 9:41
  4. Chelsea Monday 9:59
  5. The Web 8:17

CD3: Live at Utrecht 1985 (continued)

  1. Pseudo Silk Kimono 3:15
  2. Kayleigh 4:00
  3. Lavender 2:20
  4. Bitter Suite 8:20
  5. Heart Of Lothian 4:02
  6. Waterhole (Expresso Bongo) 2:26
  7. Lords Of The Backstage 1:47
  8. Blind Curve 9:36
  9. Childhoods End? 4:13
  10. White Feather 5:48
  11. Fugazi 12:35
  12. Garden Party 6:14
  13. Market Square Heroes 7:24

CD 4: Demos & B-Sides (2017 Remaster)

  1. Lady Nina 5:50
  2. Freaks 4:08
  3. Kayleigh (Alternative Mix) 4:02
  4. Lavender Blue 4:22
  5. Heart Of Lothian 5:49
  6. Lady Nina (Steven Wilson Stereo Remix) 3:43
  7. Pseudo Silk Kimono (Demo) 2:18
  8. Kayleigh (Demo) 3:59
  9. Lavender (Demo) 2:37
  10. Bitter Suite: Brief Encounter/Lost Weekend (Demo) 2:54
  11. Lords Of The Backstage (Demo) 1:46
  12. Blue Angel (Demo) 1:46
  13. Misplaced Rendezvous (Demo) 1:56
  14. Heart Of Lothian: Wide Boy/Curtain Call (Demo) 3:49
  15. Waterhole (Expresso Bongo) (Demo) 2:00
  16. Passing Strangers: Mylo/Perimeter Walk/Threshold (Demo) 9:17
  17. Childhood’s End? (Demo) 2:23
  18. White Feather (Demo) 2:14

Blu Ray:

  1. Childhood Memories (Documentary 72 mins)
  2. Misplaced Childhood – Steven Wilson 5.1 Surround Mix
  3. Lady Nina – Steven Wilson 5.1 Surround Mix
  4. Lady Nina – Steven Wilson Stereo Remix
  5. Misplaced Childhood – 96/24 Stereo Remaster
  6. Kayleigh (Promo Video)
  7. Lavender (Promo Video)
  8. Heart of Lothian (Promo Video)
  9. Lady Nina (Promo Video)

Lee’s overall Complete Package Value Rating…

The Album: 6/10

The Bonus Tracks: 8/10

The 5.1 Mix: 8/10

The Blu Ray Other Features: 5/10

The Packaging: 10/10

 

Lee Speaks About Music… #23

Dancing in the Light – Lizzie Taypen

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Introduction…

Dancing In The Light is the new solo debut album by Lizzie Taypen one of the many great unsigned artists I got to hear on Soundcloud awhile back now. Her songs have always appealed to me a lot, and she not only has a great voice for folk music, but she also knows how to weave, sculpture and create great songs with her acoustic guitar and fine words.

Many would perhaps describe Lizzie’s folk style with Joni Mitchell and perhaps the way she writes the music may very well fit in with Joni’s style. Acoustically some of her songs could even be associated with early Genesis with how the chords are structured. Both Anthony Phillips and Michael Rutherford had a similar acoustic style in those early days.

But for me personally there is no doubt Joni Mitchell is a folky just like Bob Dylan and none of those two artists are really “Traditional Folk” which for me is where most of Lizzie’s output of music really lies. Which is why I would associate her songs and style more along the lines of Sandy Denny than Joni Mitchell. But she can also have a combination of them both mixed in with her own style no doubt.

A Clear Vision…

Over the few years I have known Lizzie now I soon got to notice that she does do a lot of collaborations with other artists. She very much takes note of the other talented musicians there are about Soundcloud. Not only musicians but lyricists too, and very much has a clear vision of choosing the right musicians and lyric writers to work with her on her own songs.

She realises the other elements of instrumentation and fine words it takes to make an album work so much more better, in relation to just putting out an album of acoustic songs featuring just herself singing and playing them on an acoustic guitar. She also values the production work that others can bring to the table too.

One of those great artists she works perhaps more closely with is Gordon Midgley a multitalented musician and self producer who I stumbled on Soundcloud around the same time as Lizzie. Has a matter of fact I am pretty sure it was down to Gordon’s great output of work that I found Lizzie Taypen in the first place. I have been a follower of them both ever since and always look forward to the output they both put out.

Previous Work…

Although Dancing In The Light is Lizzie’s solo debut album it’s not the first release she has been involved in with her many collaborations. Back in November of last year a 6 track EP was released entitled The Sacred Spring she did with Vocalatti. It’s available on places such as Amazon. CD Baby. Apple Music & iTunes. It also features both Gordon Midgley and Jim Moss who both contribute additions to 2 tracks each on the EP.

It’s another fine body of work and contains one of my favourite Taypen penned songs entitled “Sacred Shores” which is another one of her classic songs done very much in the style of traditional folk that she can deliver so well.

Dancing In The Light Album Review…

The album Dancing In The Light by Lizzie Taypen contains 8 tracks over a short playing time of 27 minutes 16 seconds. For many these days this may very well be considered more of an EP with the short distance we have here. But from the good old days I came from a lot of artists made albums over this time slot, including the likes of Donovan and Neil Young to name a couple.

It’s very much a time slot that was given to a lot of artists back in the 60’s and even ran into the early 70’s. Come to think of it even some of Jean Michel Jarre’s albums were only about 3 minutes longer in the late 70’s. Most albums were around the 40 minute mark back in the 70’s and EP’s were only around 12 minutes long tops.

Over the decades with the invention of CD we got to see longer time slots of even 60 minutes plus. For me personally being a guy with a huge record collection I prefer the older much shorter time slot, simply because it allows you more time to devote to all your other artists when playing albums. You can also play more albums of just one artist too this way, so you’re not ignoring all those albums you brought over all the years that much, and can still find the time to give them more attention.

I also often find with the longer time slot many artists will struggle to make a real solid album with the material they put on them. Most of the time they will even put material on them that is more considered as a gap filler just to fill up the extra space. I even think that most EP’s that were put onto CD were around the 17 to 24 minute mark which is why I very much see Dancing In The Light as an album and not an EP.

Production…

The album is produced by Gordon Midgley who I have to say is improving himself more lately regarding his production skills. He is very much another guy who has a great vision to skilfully blend in the other instrumentation to which he has added so well to the songs to make them work so well. His additions of guitars, bass, synth and pedal effects work very well and are nothing over the top and are quite beautifully subtle on some of the songs here. He also had the vision to bring in drummer Gary Reeves on the opening track who is another fine artist I know from Soundcloud.

Album Credits…

All music & lyrics : Lizzie Taypen except lyrics from Lorna Sherry on “I Wrote My Love“. “The Odeon” and “Dancer“. Mixed & Produced by Gordon Midgley. All Artwork Lizzie Pentland.

Lizzie Taypen : Vocals, acoustic guitar
Gordon Midgley : 12 string & electric guitars, fretless bass, keys
Gary Reeves : Drums on “Blue Rays

The Album Tracks…

Track 1. Blue Rays.

The album kicks off very well with its opening track entitled “Blue Rays“. It’s a song that has a short intro beautifully played on the acoustic guitar that soon gets washed over with some dreamy work on the electric guitar by Gordon to which has it goes along for around half a minute he brings in a lovely atmospheric lead guitar resembling something along the guitar sound and lines David Gilmour would of used on the intro of “Breathe” by Pink Floyd. This is also accompanied by some enchanting harmonies by Lizzie and all of which last for some 1 minute and 11 seconds.

Then in comes Gary on the drums followed by some lovely slide guitar by Gordon and Lizzie proceeds to sing along to it all wonderfully. In many ways song itself is like listening to a combination of prog rock, blues and folk all rolled into one and it works very well indeed for it.

Lyrically the song is about a sense and feel of freedom. It could also pertain to love just as it does to death. It could even be about Robert Johnson’s final moments on earth. The fact that they can draw these different interpretations from the listener makes them more the better.

Track 2. I Can See For Miles. 

This acoustic beauty of a song is very much a contender for the top spot on the album. Lizzie has the knack of writing very little words for her songs very much in the same way many poets would write. Her fine words on this song pertain to a place or a space of openness where one can take in the beauty and breathe in the country air perhaps.

It could even pertain to the changing of a season from the dark days of autumn into summer or spring. Whatever they do pertain to, once again they give the listener something to ponder over which is another very good thing.

Musically Gordon’s bass supports the acoustic guitars superbly from the moment of even its point of entry at 52 seconds, it manages to lift the song up beautifully. The break section of the song is once again a bit like Pink Floyd’sBreathe” and it features some simple lead notes on the electric guitar from Gordon which is all it really needs to embellish it with and is also supported beautifully with some fine harmonies once again from Lizzie. It’s a really great song that has a wonderful feel and flow about it all.

Track 3. Saille.

A very mystic atmospheric song which musically uses some superb use of pedals for the effects coming from Gordon’s electric guitar, he may also be using pads or either his keyboard to create some of the dreamy atmosphere we have on this wonderful track. The lead lines on his guitar are also very Flyodis’ too. It accompanies the wonderful melody on the acoustic guitar very well.

Lyrically its very much a love song and the title of “Saille” we have here is a Celtic and a very mystical word that refers to the measurement of time via the moon and comes from the Celtic calendar of many moons ago passed on by the Druids I believe. Though I must confess it was something I never knew and did have to look up :)))))))). Once again it’s another great song that Lizzie puts across so very well with her fine voice.

Track 4. Imbolc.

Another strange title and word that can derive from the Celts and also both Ireland and Scotland. In Gaelic the word “Imbolc” refers to a fertility goddess who went by the name of Brigid who was associated with the season of Spring. She was also associated with the powers of healing, poetry and smithcraft. I do believe certain rituals were held every year in celebration of this goddess of the Dawn.

I have to say Lizzie has very well constructed the lyrics around the subject matter here and it one superb acoustic song that features both Lizzie and Gordon on the acoustic guitars. Gordon’s other contributions of the synth and touch of electric guitar at the end work very well in the song too. In some ways this particular song also has a Leslie Duncan feel about it too. For me personally its very much another contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 5. Promise Of The Day.

The shortest track on the album is another fine acoustic song has they all are on this album. It’s another song that is very well supported by Gordon’s bass guitar and a sprinkle of electric guitar also adds to the support too. The words are once again very well written in the form of artistic poetry and pertain to the wonderful things that surround us from the time one arises and goes on through the day.

There are many good things on this planet one can see if they open their eyes to capture the beauty that is around us and Lizzie’s vision of capturing them and putting them into words is very well portrayed on this song. Lizzie as always expresses them very well with her great folk voice.

Track 6. I Wrote My Love. 

I Wrote My Love” is the first of 3 songs that does not feature Lizzie’s own lyrics. There is no doubt that Lizzie can certainly write excellent lyrics in the the form of artistic poetry. But her vision to see that in other people’s words is also a very good thing and I have to say the lyrics for the final 3 songs on the album are also very poetic and really excellent words written by Lorna Sherry.

To be honest it’s not often I take to love songs that contain the word “love” in them. But in this song they are used so beautifully and there is a paraphrase in the way that love blossoms and dies in this one. The words “I wrote my love with a silver pen and later on gold” is where love grows and really blooms. Then the pen later turns to a pencil and the words “I write my love in a cloudless sky” is a clear vision of how it all unfolds at the end.

Once again the way Lizzie can deliver the words is really something. Once again it features besides Lizzie’s wonderful voice, some wonderful acoustic guitar accompanied by simple lead lines on the electric guitar from Gordon that support the song very well. It’s all it really needs and is beautifully done.

Track 7. The Odeon.

No doubt the title refers to the Cinema House and the many picture houses here in the UK. There used to be 3 of them many moons ago situated in my own town centre of Birmingham and they used to be very popular back then too. These days only 1 of them still exists in New Street which happens to be the one that also held many concerts by popular artists in the mainstream world back then too.

I perhaps went to see more performing artists and bands play live there than I ever used it for the pictures to see a movie as child in my teenage years and youth. It certainly brings back some fond memories, even one where I skipped school to try and get a ticket to see Elton John. By the time I got there on that morning the tickets went on sale, all 3 nights concert tickets he was performing there had sold out in less than 2 hours.

I did however get to see some movies there as well and that’s exactly what this song is really about with the great lyrics once again supplied by Lorna Sherry. I even remember all the film stars mentioned in this song though I only think I got to see Steve McQueen in the film Bullitt at the Odeon.

I have to say that both Lizzie and Gordon have done a superb job in supporting Lorna’s great words here and its very much another one of my top contenders for the top spot on the album.

Track 8. Dancer.

For me personally the “Dancer” is very much the song of the album that does get my personal fave and merits the top spot of the album award. The lyrics very much describe the struggles and pain one has to go through to be perhaps a recognised artist in their own rights and their love of what they do. They could also pertain to an artist who paints, a musician and an actor or actress just as well as a dancer.

The song opens up with a very short phased effect from the electric guitar, followed by the beautiful melody picked out on the acoustic guitar and Lizzie’s great voice putting over the fine story here. Besides the phasing on the intro we get this wonderful tremolo effect that rings out from Gordon’s guitar with some lovely lead lines in the break and the bass supports it well towards the end.

Once again the great lyrics are penned by Lorna Sherry and once again Lizzie and Gordon have done a superb job in displaying them. It puts an end to one really super album.

Summary…

The album Dancing In The Light by Lizzie Taypen is very much an album that contains 8 very well written folk songs that would appeal to most I would of thought. Both musically and lyrically it’s a very strong body of work we have here that does not have a weak spot or link and there is not one single track that will disappoint. I pretty much feel that all 8 tracks we have here could easily be in contention of holding the top spot simply because they are all so well written.

Production wise I think it’s been very well produced by Gordon Midgley. I also think that with his additions to the instrumentation he has added very much given the album a more atmospheric feel with the textures and colours we have here. In some ways I suppose it gives it perhaps a Pink Floyd edge and feel. But Lizzie’s folk voice is still very stern and holds up strongly with the music enough for the folk genre to not be tarnished here.

I do however feel the music has taken away some of the more traditional folk side we have seen in the past by Lizzie though, and perhaps make it more of a Joni Mitchell & Leslie Duncan side of folk rather than Sandy Denny. But that is also a good thing because personally I feel folk music has always appealed to more people than the traditional side of folk, and there is no doubt that Lizzie puts her own stamp on folk music however it comes.

Conclusion…

There is no doubt that the album Dancing In The Light is very short over its 8 tracks. The fact that it is gives the listener that much time to enjoy it even more by giving it more spins, to take in the full potential the album has to offer I see as a good thing. One certainly cannot complain at its price point of £4 and at it’s price it’s a genuine bargain and will provide many hours of enjoyment to the listener.

It’s an album I myself cannot stop playing right now and it appeals to myself highly. I also feel it would appeal to many if they was to take the time and just listen to it. The written material is quality and so too is the production. It’s a solid album in the way that every track is so well written and presents itself to the listener. There are no gap fillers here and it gets my 100% recommendation.

You can listen to the album for yourself here by clicking on the link to Bandcamp below. It’s something I do suggest you do, and it’s only going to cost you 27 minutes of your time. It may even cost you £4 if like myself it appeals to your taste and at that price personally I think you will of brought yourself a piece of joy and happiness just as I did.

https://lizzietaypen.bandcamp.com/album/dancing-in-the-light

The track listing of the album is as follows:

01. Blue Rays. 3:34
02. I Can See For Miles. 3:34
03. Saille. 4:54
04. Imbolc. 2:30
05. Promise of the Day. 1:46
06. I Wrote My Love. 3:30
07. The Odeon. 3:56
08. Dancer. 3:32

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #22

Defector (Deluxe 2 CD/DVD Edition Box Set) – Steve Hackett

SH-D

Introduction…

Steve Hackett’s 4th album Defector is the 3rd and final individual release that came out of the Premonitions 14 Disc Box Set that was released back in 2015. 4 of the 14 discs that were in that box set were in fact DVD’s containing the 5.1 mixes of his first 4 albums. Though down to the fact that Hackett never had the original multitrack master tapes of Voyage Of The Acolyte and Defector they only had Pseudo 5.1 mixes done by software to convert stereo into a simulated 5.1 mix, and they was not genuine 5.1 mixes at all. These mixes were also done by Ben Fenner and not Steve Wilson.

The only 2 albums Steve Wilson did mix in that box set was the 2 albums I have already reviewed Please Don’t Touch and Spectral Mornings to which both have genuine 5.1 mixes. It’s also interesting as well that those 2 albums were the only ones to also have new stereo mixes done by Wilson too that was included in that box set.

To be honest I overlooked just what the 2nd disc contained in the 2016 individual Deluxe 2 CD/DVD Edition of Defector when I brought it, and thought just like the other 2 albums it had new stereo mixes done by Wilson of the albums tracks. But it does not at all and instead the 2nd disc contains the 8th disc that was in the Premonitions 14 Disc Box Set instead.

Early Thoughts…

In the summer of 1980 when I brought Defector upon its release my oldest brother Paul was helping out a friend of his run a Disco. I will never forget my brother’s friend whose name was Chris because he had curly hair and looked very much like Leo Sayer.

Chris as a rule ran your average pop disco and was well equipped with his DJ Equipment and had all the latest singles that was in the charts, to which he brought every week to keep up with. It was something I was never into myself and the only discos I ever went to was Rock Disco’s.

Two such places in my home town of Birmingham I went to quite regularly was one called the The Rio Grande which was a room in the Yew Tree Pub in South Yardley local to where I was living at my mom’s, and was held every Friday night. The other was in the main town centre in Needlers Alley off New Street in a pub called Uncle Sams & Mr Bills. The pub had an upstairs and downstairs and it was the downstairs bar they called Mr Bills that ran the Rock Disco on a Monday night.

The chap who run the Rock Disco in Mr Bills was a DJ who went by the name of Whiskey Mac. He had a very good reputation and a great record collection which is why he lasted for many years running a Rock Disco there on a Monday night.

Monday night was not the best of nights to attract enough punters to pack out a pub at the best of times, and it was only really perhaps by having a Dart or Pool Team which did help any pub in reality on those nights sell the beer. But Whiskey Mac must of been doing things right for him to be running that Rock Disco for the last 5 years or more.

Well anyway to get down to the point here it was 1980 that Whiskey Mac had gave up his Monday night spot there to go abroad to live. It was also my bothers mate Chris who decided to try and grab that Monday night spot in Mr Bills to run a Rock Disco.

To be honest Chris was already running a Pop Disco upstairs in the same pub in the bar they called Uncle Sam’s on a Saturday night. He was very good at his job and had my brother onboard with him to fix up his rig if something went wrong. He ran several discos throughout the week and made a living from it.

Though Chris was no rock DJ and was never into that music either, he was well aware of the people he knew around him including myself. Through my brother he got to know that I was a Rocker with a huge rock record collection.

It was then he approached me at first to see if he could lend some of my albums to run the Rock Disco in Mr Bills. To which at first I quite blankly refused simply because I took very good care and attention of my vinyl collection and no way was I having even the album covers marked never mind the records themselves.

He assured me he would take great care of them and even buy cases to transport them from my house every week to the pub and back. I made sure he got the cases and even went along with him to the disco every Monday to supervise and keep an eye on my record collection.

Chris got the job at Mr Bills and it was me who ran the Rock Disco there every Monday night simply because Chris never had a clue of what rock music to play to attract the punters to the pub in the first place.

To be honest even I myself found it hard to bring in the punters for the first 2 weeks simply because since Whiskey Mac left the place it had not had a disco on Monday night for about a month or so. But I soon brought the pub back to life afterwards with the music I played from my own record collection.

It was whilst running the Rock Disco that brings back the fond memory of the first time I played “The Steppes” from Hackett’s Defector album. The album was virtually fresh from release and I had loads of punters who loved it and came up to me to ask me who it was.

I will never forget the one young lad who was perhaps about 3 years younger than myself at the time. Tell me “Bloody hell I think I have been buying the wrong records by still supporting Genesis and buying theirs. This wipes the floor with them” (LOL)

My time as a Rock DJ never lasted long though and it was down to the fact that Chris was never at the disco like he should of been, and has his wife thought he was too. He played his cards wrong with another woman whilst I ran the disco and got burned out by his wife when she found out. She took him for everything including all his DJ Gear :)))))))))))

Defector Deluxe Box Set Edition Review…

Released on the 27th May 2016 this Deluxe 2 CD/DVD Edition of Steve Hackett’s 1980 album Defector is the 3rd and final individual release from the Premonitions 14 Disc Box Set. Though this release is different in comparison to both Please Don’t Touch and Spectral Mornings.

I have to say it still represents tremendous value for the money if you can get if from Amazon for the same price I got it for which was £9.48p. Some places are still charging £14.99 and you are getting your money’s worth even at that price tag to be honest when you weigh up what’s in the package here.

Once again let’s take a quick look at the package.

The Packaging & Contents…

20170807_130321

Just like the other 2 individual releases the packaging is very much the same and more details about the packaging can be found on my review of the Please Don’t Touch album here :  https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/lee-speaks-about-music-19/

Judging by the look of the contents in the Premonitions 14 Disc Box Set in the picture below. We can see that a new packaging was indeed made for the 3 individual releases from it.

Premonitions

I have to say just by looking at how this box set was packaged its very much been done on the cheap. Even down to the fact that I was not that happy how the DVD in these individual releases was stored in the cardboard pocket on the right hand side, instead of having a plastic disc holder as the other 2 CD’s were mounted onto.

I would honestly be concerned about getting scratches on the disc from the cardboard the discs are housed in and no doubt your fingers are going to putting finger marks on the surface of the disc trying to retrieve them from the pockets here.

For me personally I see the box set very badly designed and no real care and attention has been catered for the protection of the discs in the package. For a box set that costs £114 that is poor I have to say and no real thought and attention has been applied here.

Once again the individual release comes with some short readable magazine clips and a brief word about the album on the outer packaging about the album by Hackett. The artwork was once again by Kim Poor and the booklet does provide a bit of useful information on this album.

Back To The Review…

The original album Defector by Steve Hackett was released sometime in June 1980 and had a total playing time of 36:52 over the 10 original tracks on the album. It was Hackett’s 4th solo album and one that followed his album Spectral Mornings which was without doubt a very strong album making it very hard to try and compete with the material that was written for that particular album. But never the less the fact that Hackett had done such a great 3rd album made a lot of people buy this one and it even peaked higher in the album charts on its release by getting into the top 10.

At this stage of his career Hackett was still touring with the same line up of musicians that made up his live band and all featured on the studio album. Though his last album was recorded in the Netherlands Hackett very much decided to stay closer to home and recorded the album Defector at the Wessex Sound Studios in London during the spring of 1980.

CD 1. (Original Mix & Bonus Material)

The 1st CD comes with a 2015 remaster of the original album. I have to say a quality job as been done too and it sounds every inch as good as the vinyl record. Though it only comes with 2 bonus tracks in relation to the 2005 remastered CD version that came with 5 bonus tracks. Never the less as this package is different to the previous 2 albums in this Deluxe series of releases, the other 3 bonus tracks from that 2005 remastered CD are on the 2nd CD we get with this package.

The 2 bonus tracks we get on the 1st CD are “Hercules Unchained [*]” which is a really great rocker of a song, and “Sentimental Institution (Live at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane)” which featured the same line up of musicians who appeared on the album. Though this live recording was well before the album was released and performed on the 11th November 1979. Both are very good bonus tracks especially the 1st one here which was made for the B’ side of the single release of the “The Show“.

CD 2. (Live at the Reading Festival)

As we can see there are no new Steve Wilson remixes here and in fact Wilson had nothing at all to do with the material in this package. Instead the 2nd disc we get here is actually the 8th disc from the Premonitions 14 Disc Box Set which features 11 tracks of live material from the Reading Festival Hackett played during the tour of his 5th album Cured back in 1981.

It features a different band line up and it was only Nick Magnus the keyboard player and Hackett’s brother John that was left out of the original line up of musicians that played on both albums Spectral Mornings and Defector. Along with those 3 were drummer Ian Moseley who later went on to join Marillion. On bass and vocals was Chas Cronk.

This release as also been remastered and it is a very good recording despite it sounding like it was in a large vacuum and being a bit boomy sort of the thing. I certainly do not think it was as good performance wise with Hackett and Cronk handling all the vocal side of things and they are missing both Hicks and Cadbury on that score. But never the less you do get to hear the songs done a bit differently and it’s quite a good concert.

The 11 live tracks are as follows:

1. The Air Conditioned Nightmare 2. Every Day 3. Ace Of Wands 4. Funny Feeling 5. The Steppes 6. Overnight Sleeper 7. Slogans 8. A Tower Struck Down 9. Spectral Mornings 10. The Show 11. Clocks – The Angel Of Mons.

For those who are not surround freaks like myself and do not have a 5.1 setup. The fact that the 2nd disc here does offer one something perhaps far more different in relation to just new mixes of the original songs from the album, may very well give those more incentive to buy this release over the other 2 albums.

To be perfectly honest I myself has I mentioned earlier did overlook what was on the 2nd CD before I ordered it, and was under the impression that this also came with new mixes of the original album done by Steven Wilson. Had I have noticed it in the first place the chances are that I would of most likely not of brought this package at all.

Even though my own incentive is mainly based around the 5.1 mix of the album and this particular release is very much missing one. The fact that I did enjoy the slightly different feel and presentation Wilson did give to Please Don’t Touch and Spectral Mornings with those new mixes was the very thing that made me order this in the first place.

Has I have mentioned many times before in my reviews I would much sooner have a live concert with a picture than just an audio recording. The fact that they can these days produce high quality sound and pictures of live concerts is my real incentive of buying the array of concerts I already own on DVD and Blu Ray. I think we are very much spoilt with today’s technology but of course I can still get pleasure from a live album just as I did back in those old days, and my record collection also contains hundreds of them.

The DVD & Pseudo 5.1 Mix.

The fact that they could not locate the original multitrack tapes for the album Defector to do a genuine 5.1 mix is most likely why Steve Wilson wanted nothing to do with this album in the first place. So the best possible solution they could come up with was to make a simulated 5.1 mix (or one they are now calling a Pseudo 5.1 mix) which basically converts a 2 channel stereo track into a simulation of 5.1 over its 6 channels.

The software is far from anything new and has been out for years. I myself used a very similar and much more cheaper piece of software to do such a thing with years ago. It does have a good effect to some extent, but no way are you able to control the individual instruments to give them the right placement in the mix like you would have with a genuine 5.1 mix were one would also have access to all the multitrack stems.

Most AV Amplifiers and Receivers have their own onboard processing to do exactly the same thing. Such as Dolby Prologic X2 and DTS with things like Neo 6 and so on. My own AV Receiver has quite a few of them to simulate any stereo recording into 5.1. It even has 7 Channel Stereo that is just as effective as well on these type of simulations. The fact that the AV Receiver is far more capable of doing this sort of thing is why I gave up with the simulated software in the first place.

Ben Fenner is the man Hackett brought in to do the job on the Pseudo 5.1 mix for both the albums Voyage Of The Acolyte and Defector. The software he used to do it with is a very expensive plugin for Pro Tools from a company known as Penteo who claim that their upmix software is the nearest they can accurately get to doing the job successful.

Here is a picture of the software below:

penteo-7-pro-console  Penteo 7 Pro Plugin

Well however it looks I can honestly say for it’s price tag I would expect it to be a piece of hardware that comes housed in a metal case and not a picture on a monitor screen. Because this thing believe it or not will cost you $699 which equals 595 Euro or £537.

Having heard the result for myself. I can honestly say you would be way better off using the same amount of money to buy an AV Receiver which will do a better job with all your stereo recordings than what this thing would ever do. It’s a complete rip off and not even worth 50 dollars never mind $699.

SS 1

The only real advantage we have here as we can see by the menu here above. Is that the album on the DVD comes with a 96/24 audio format. You can also see that like the other 2 albums that came with genuine 5.1 mixes there is no Stereo audio format to choose from here. Why I wonder?. Simple cause basically the 24 bit 96K audio is Stereo only it’s been converted to 5.1 so when selecting it, all those extra speaker lights on your AV Receiver will light up with how the software as encoded it.

SS 2

Just like the DVD for Spectral Mornings the only thing that does change here is the title of the tracks as it plays. There are no animations but at least it looks better by having a picture of the albums artwork as well as its cover. This is much more suited and this one also does not bear the words Premonitions either.

So how does it sound?. Well to be honest it’s not to bad but it is without doubt quite spacious, and reflections to the rear speakers have been used to create the effect. You can also hear where they have accentuated the levels to the rear in certain parts too. But I think the only real advantage it does have when doing comparison with the Stereo CD using Dolby Prologic X2 is that the file they have used is in 24 bits and 96K.

By using the 1st CD and flicking through various presets in Dolby Prologic X2 I soon found that out that the nearest one that does match it, is in fact when in Game Mode and not in Music or Movie Mode. I would also go as far as to say that if you did have 24 bit 96K recording of the album you would match the sound of the Pseudo 5.1 mix spot on. I would also say that 7 channel stereo also produces better results on my AV Receiver.

The only advantage having a simulated 5.1 mix such as this is going to give to you, is that the sound will be consistent every time you play this mix, because it’s been recorded with the mix. You will most likely get variations from how your AV Receiver processes it every time.

But to be honest that would not bother me and it still sounds just as good as what we have here. You can play any stereo recording you like. Unlike paying for what we have here that’s been recorded on one disc.

A genuine 5.1 mix is also going to produce far better dynamics and clarity which will give you much more of a listening experience over any stereo recording. This is not going to give you this advantage at all and is merely an effect.

I am sorry to say the software is a complete farce especially at its high price tag and people must think we all live in cloud cuckoo land. To even say that this software is better than the one I used years ago for around £40 is a complete joke to be honest, and I am by no means exaggerating.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by John Acock & Steve Hackett. Recorded in the spring of 1980 at Wessex Sound Studios London. CD Package design & artwork by Phil Smee. Sleeve cover paintings Kim Poor. Original album sleeve design by Kim & Kobz. Photography: Armando Gallo.  5.1 Surround Pseudo Mix and Stereo remaster by Ben Fenner. DVD Authoring by Ray Shulman at Isonic.

Steve Hackett: Guitars – Roland GR500 Guitar Synthesizer – Optigan – Vocals.
Pete Hicks: Lead Vocals.
John Hackett: Concert & Alto Flutes.
Nick Magnus: Keyboards.
Chas Cronk: Bass – Bass Pedals – Vocals.
Ian Moseley: Drums & Percussion.

The Original Album & Tracks Review…

The album Defector is a very powerful album that Steve Hackett wrote most of the material. All apart from “Sentimental InstitutionHackett co-wrote with Pete Hicks. Incidentally Hackett also co-wrote “Hercules Unchained” with Hicks which was not included on the original album. It’s a really great rocking song but very different to the material and mood we have on the album. Which is understandably why it got used as a B’ Side back then.

In contrast to his previous album Spectral Mornings it’s a much darker album. It’s also the only album of Hackett’s where he does not do any of the lead vocals and his vocals are only used in backing up Hick’s the main singer. Some of the albums tracks were also played live a good while before he and his band went into the studio to make the new album at the time.

Track 1. The Steppes.

The album kicks off with the most powerful track on the album entitled “The Steppes” It’s a superb instrumental track that features a wall of sound and opens up with a wonderful bit of flute before the drum beat comes into play backed up by bass pedals, keyboards and Hackett’s guitar work is electrifying bliss.

It’s very much a piece the band had been playing live for a good while, even in the previous year of 1979. It was also a piece they called “Eric” before it was recorded for this album.

The track as a super build about it and gets hot. This opening track merits my personal fave for the top spot on the album. It’s purely Fantastic.

Track 2. Time To Get Out.

No time to stop on this side of the album, well the vinyl album that is and every track along it is very well woven into one another. “Time To Get Out” is another great song with some great work by Hick’s on the lead vocals backed up very heavily by the band.

In many ways the album is crafted in the same way as Spectral Mornings with its vocal and instrumental tracks, only the lyrics on this album are nowhere near as strong. Never the less this without doubt a cracking song as most of them are on this album though there is a lot more adrenalin with the material on this side of the album for sure.

Track 3. Slogans.

Another great instrumental piece on the album and one that features some great interplay with Hackett on guitar and Magnus on keyboards. Both Cronk’s bass and Moseley’s drums feature well too on the track and in some ways it sounds a bit like the battle in the middle section of “Gates Of Delirium by Yes. It’s got quite a fast pace about and is another excellent rocking track.

Track 4. Leaving.

The pace drops down for the next vocal track on the album “Leaving” it’s a song that has a typical Hackett feel about it. A bit like “The Hermit” from Voyage Of The Acolyte with its pace. The lyrics are much better on this song also and are written in the way of a poem has Hackett wrote the lyrics for most of his songs on his previous album.

Track 5. Two Vamps As Guests.

This beautiful instrumental ditty is the shortest track on the album and features Hackett on nylon guitar. It ended off side one of the vinyl in great style.

Track 6. Jacuzzi. 

Jacuzzi” started side two of the original vinyl album off very well, and no doubt this particular piece does have the same faster pace we seen with most of the tracks on side one. Though there is very much a different contrast in styles here in relation to the tracks we had on the first side of the album.

In some ways the album Defector is like a game of football that has two halves, whereas side one could really rock out, side two tends to have a lot more written structure about the material and this piece could quite easily be a TV Theme for a television series rather than be something stuck on an album such as this.

I have even heard it quite often enough used on the TV too for Holiday programs and no doubt the music fits like a glove to that side of things too. Personally I also feel that Hackett got some of the material he used for both the albums Defector and Cured a bit mixed up.

There is no doubt in my mind that “Jacuzzi” would of suited the album Cured a lot more even down to the picture of himself on the front cover of that album relaxing on a beach.

Hackett’s writing here was perhaps more on the Johnny Pearson side of things, even though this is not what one would call “Sleepy Shores” it does without doubt have the same quality of how well written it is.

Though in some of its parts it even gives one the impression of “Tigermoth” from Spectral Mornings and perhaps Hackett was trying to weave that element back into the piece to make it fit better on the album.

Personally as much I admire the piece more of an intelligent composition here it fails to make the album Defector stand up as well as a solid body of tracks that were all from the same mould and worked so well together like what we had with Spectral Mornings. It’s perhaps the key element why this album does not work in the same vein or light so to speak, because it tends to be slightly out of place.

Track 7. Hammer In The Sand.

No doubt about this track being more fitting for the album and more to Hackett’s ballad side of things. It’s actually hard to believe that this piece was not written by Magnus simply because there is no doubt in my mind it was composed on a piano. It’s so beautifully played by Magnus too.

It’s a lovely piece with a wonderful melody and feel about it. It also sets the mood right for the drama that is to follow it up as well. In many ways side two of the album is very much more dramatic.

Track 8. The Toast.

No doubt another piece inspired by Eric Satie to which both of the Hackett brothers were very fond of his music. This one has Gymnopedie No.1 written all over it’s middle section. There is some excellent orchestration here and John’s flute work is as solid as ever. Lyrically the song is perhaps weak but the music is what really holds this one together.

Track 9. The Show.

This track picks back up the pace on the album with it pumping bass line from Chas Cronk. The song certainly has a more of a pop feel about it, which is most likely why it got released as a single in the first place. For me personally it’s one of the weakest tracks on the album and once again may have suited his next album Cured much better.

Track 10. Sentimental Institution.

Well just as “The Ballad of the Decomposing Man” we got on Spectral Mornings I would of thought that “Sentimental Institution” was also not to the liking of many Hackett fans. I have to say myself I am a fan of both the songs and they both show another artistic side to Hackett’s great work and writing ability more than anything else.

To achieve the sound of the 40’s we get on this great song Hackett used an Optigan. For those who do not know what an Optigan is. It’s very much a keyboard that had a disc inside it and although the Mellotron worked with tapes inside it. It was more or less the same thing.

The Optigan later went on to become the Orchestron. Hackett used it on several other tracks on later albums too. The disc he had used for this track that was placed in Optigan was that of a recording of a big band.

You can find more information on the Optigan here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optigan

Sentimental Institution” is a great track with very well worked out lyrics very apt to suit the decade of the 40’s down to a tee. Pete Hicks does a remarkable job on the vocals on it. It’s never gonna go down with prog rockers in a month of Sunday’s :)))))))))) but I love the authenticity and just how close they managed to achieve to get to the sound of the 40’s. I am sure it was a lot of fun to make too.

Summary…

The 1980 album Defector by Steve Hackett no doubt has some fine material on it. Though the album was certainly made up out of a lot of the material Hackett had written at the time to make both the albums Defector and Cured. It’s here that I think personally Hackett got his wires crossed a bit in constructing the both albums as they was.

For example his 5th album Cured was certainly more of a pop album, and I think that Hackett did not want it to completely appear that way and stuck a few tracks of his more prog rock based written material on it. Tracks that would of been better suited for his 4th album Defector.

I very much think that if you was to swap both the tracks “Jacuzzi” and “The Show” with a couple of the prog rock tracks from Cured. Both albums would of worked a lot better for it. It’s really only down to this factor that both of those albums are not up to scratch with his previous album Spectral Mornings.

There is no doubt the album Defector does have the greater power about it, but that is certainly only really down to the first side of the album and not the second I am afraid. Being a fan of Hackett myself I still love the album a lot and there is not a shred of doubt that some of its tracks will appeal to many Hackett fans alike. But the album does miss the mark a bit down to how it was constructed with the tracks we got on it.

Conclusion…

For the final time I am going to sum up here with if it was worth buying this 2 CD 1 DVD Deluxe package release of the album. Well to be perfectly honest even though I mentioned earlier that I most likely would not have brought this edition down to the fact that is did not have a genuine 5.1 release, and never had any new Steve Wilson stereo mixes to which I mistakenly thought it came with. I am rather glad I brought it overall.

For its price point of £9.48 it’s peanuts to pay for what you’re getting here. Even the remastered CD is worth the price point on its own simply because it is superb quality that not even your vinyl album in reality is even gonna better. Plus your getting a great bonus track that was written at the time, but only appeared on the single at the time, and you do not have to get up to turn the bloody album over half way through either :)))))))))))).

The extra disc of the live concert from the Reading Festival is another bonus extra without a doubt. For many it may serve as more greater value than just having new mixes like we got on the 2nd discs in the other 2 packages in this individual series.

Regarding the 5.1 Surround Pseudo Mix. I honestly would not have brought this package for that, even if it is not bad. But it’s far from the genuine thing I am afraid and you can still achieve remarkable results just by playing the stereo CD’s on your AV Receiver with all the features they have to do such a thing with.

Even though his first album Voyage Of The Acolyte also only had a Pseudo 5.1 Surround Mix. I still would of brought it if the CD matched the quality of the remaster we got here and had some similar live footage or even Steve Wilson new stereo mixes on the 2nd disc. It’s a shame he never released it like all these 3 individual releases here, and at the these prices they have to be considered as genuine bargains.

20170808_135320

The track listing of the 1st CD is as follows:

01. The Steppes. 6:06
02. Time To Get Out. 4:12
03. Slogans. 3:57
04. Leaving. 3:05
05. Two Vamps as Guests. 1:56
06. Jacuzzi. 4:36
07. Hammer in the Sand. 3:10
08. The Toast. 3:43
09. The Show. 3:41
10. Sentimental Institution. 2:44
11. Hercules Unchained [*]. 2:45
12. Sentimental Institution [*] {Live at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London}. 2:43
The track listing of the 2nd CD is as follows:
01.The Air-Conditioned Nightmare [Live]. 4:41
02. Every Day [Live]. 6:48
03. Ace of Wands [Live]. 6:45
04. Funny Feeling [Live]. 4:17
05. The Steppes [Live]. 6:12
06. Overnight Sleeper [Live]. 4:52
07. Slogans [Live]. 4:32
08. A Tower Struck Down [Live]. 3:13
09. Spectral Mornings [Live]. 6:10
10. The Show [Live]. 4:32
11. Clocks: The Angel of Mons [Live]. 6:06

Lee’s overall Complete Package Value Rating…

The Packaging Rating Score. 8/10.

The Bonus Tracks Rating Score. 8/10.

The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 5/10.

The Original Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #21

Spectral Mornings (Deluxe 2 CD/DVD Edition Box Set) – Steve Hackett

SH - SM

Introduction…

The 1979 album Spectral Mornings was the first album that Steve Hackett decided to assemble a band for. He also toured under the name of Steve Hackett & Band. He had very much assembled the band the latter part of the previous year in 1978 so he could tour the material from his first 2 solo albums.

It was this line up of musicians who I also got to see live at the Birmingham Odeon in the same year. I also can recall the amazing high voice of Peter Hicks when he sang “The Lovers” that Sally Oldfield originally sang on his first album Voyage Of The Acolyte and to be honest I was gobsmacked cause it was at the time he sang it. I actually thought he had brought along a female singer or Sally herself to sing it.

It really was a superb concert and just like many other artists I got to see back in those good old days I still can remember them quite well.

The Packaging & Contents…

Spectral

No difference with the packaging of all 3 individual albums that got released from the  Premonitions Box Set. They all come with readable press clippings from various magazines around the time of the original album release, the booklet that comes with this one, I have to say contains very little background from that time, and as usual I am left sorting out other sources for information for me to be able to review these albums.

But at this low price point even though one of the discs is stored in just the cardboard sleeve as the booklet is at the other end. One cannot really complain and overall it’s a very nice presentable package.

Spectral Mornings Deluxe Box Set Edition Review…

Released the same time of the previous latest Deluxe 2 CD/ 1 DVD edition of Please Don’t Touch back on the 27th May 2016. I got this recently at a slightly cheaper price on Amazon for £9.16p. No doubt that Steve Hackett’s 1979 album Spectral Mornings was a masterpiece of his works and once again at this price it’s an absolute steal of a bargain, and well worthy of buying again.

CD 1. (Original Mix & Bonus Material)

Once again we get a 2015 remaster of the original album along with its bonus tracks giving it a total playing time of 47:09. Though what I will say is that you do not get nowhere near the bonus material that was on the 2005 remastered version which came with 8 in total. There is only 3 on this release and also no new material here either, and if your thinking “The Caretaker” is new I can assure you it’s the same as “The Janitor” that was the 8th hidden bonus track on the 2005 remaster.

To be honest it’s only that bonus track with Peter Hicks having a bit of fun as the cleaner pretending to be cleaning up the studios and complaining about all the mess the musicians have left behind that is any good here. Simply because the other 2 bonus tracks are only single versions of “Every Day” and “Clocks The Angel Of Mons” which are just very short edited down versions of the original album tracks.

CD 2. (The New Mix)

No doubt that the 2nd disc with the new Steve Wilson mixes do provide you with the real bonus here, and once again I really do not think his mix is better than the remaster on the 1st disc but it does present a slightly different way of hearing the album with how he has done it, and is something one can get some pleasure out of listening too as well as the first disc. There are no additions or subtractions so purists will not be put off and he has simply just placed things around in the mix a bit differently to achieve the results here, which I have to say are still very good.

Though the 2nd disc only features the original 8 tracks that was on the original album and no other bonus material. It is in fact 31 seconds longer and has a playing time of 39:40 instead of the 39:09 the original 8 tracks were played over. So some of the tracks here are slightly longer than were they was originally faded out.

The DVD & 5.1 Mix.

The 5.1 mix is quite a large margin better than how one reviewer on Amazon pulled it down and described it by stating it was not up to standards with the 5.1 mix on the Please Don’t Touch album. I honestly think if anything it’s the other way around. But in all honesty I cannot fault the both 5.1 mixes Wilson done for both the albums, and they do without a doubt present the album with far greater detail over the stereo mixes and by far have the major greater quality value of these packages.

I do however though agree with some of the points some reviewers made concerning the screenshots we get on the DVD though, and even though I am a big fan of Roger Dean’s artwork I myself just like those do not feel his artwork suits Hackett’s music. It’s by far not the first time we have seen Dean’s artwork put on an Hackett release though. The slideshow of pictures on the Please Don’t Touch DVD menu’s are better I feel.

Once again the DVD only contains the 8 original tracks that was on the album and there are no extras or other bonus material but I am not complaining, and the 5.1 mix alone is my real incentive and reason why I brought this album again in the first place.

Let’s take a look at the menu screens here.

SS 1

Notice how the main menu bears the words Premonitions. This was not seen on the Please Don’t Touch DVD and it appears the DVD itself has been taken from the Premonitions Box Set.

To be honest even though the Please Don’t Touch DVD does not bear the word Premonitions I could not tell you if it did have those words on the version that came with the box set, not having it myself. Though I hardly would of thought they would of made new menus for the individual releases.

SS 2

The screen above displays the choice of audio and once again it comes with both high quality audio formats of 96K/24 Bit Stereo LPCM and DTS 5.1 Surround mixes. It also features a lower quality Dolby Digital AC3 Standard 5.1 Surround mix.

SS 3

Has the music plays along the only thing that changes is the title of the track and none of the background scenery I am afraid. It’s not as good as the menus we seen on the Please Don’t Touch DVD and not even poor old Roger Dean can rescue the look of these menus I am afraid, but one must also not forget that’s it’s the music that counts the most and not the visual presentation.

But what would of been nice is if they did something like this that Nathan Tillett did with Hackett’s album cover originally done by the artist Kim Poor. Here you can see that just by the use of a little animation it gives it more of an effect.

Press the play button to see the slight effect it adds to the album cover. It does not take a lot of time to do something like this as well, and personally I think it’s a lot better than what we have on the menu screen to look at whilst the music is playing.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by John Acock & Steve Hackett. Recorded in January – February 1979 at the Phonogram Studios, Hilversum, The Netherlands. CD Package design & artwork by Phil Smee. Front cover Kim Poor. Sleeve by Cooke Key. Back cover photography by Tom Sheehan. Photography: Armando Gallo.  New Stereo & 5.1 Surround Mixes by Steven Wilson mixed in February 2015 at No Man’s Land Studios.

Steve Hackett: Electric & Acoustic Guitars – Guitar Synthesizer – Koto – Harmonica – Lead Vocals (Track 5) – Backing Vocals & Harmonies (Tracks 1 & 2).
Pete Hicks: Lead Vocals.
John Hackett: Flutes – Bass Pedals.
Nick Magnus: Keyboards.
Dick Cadbury: Bass – Bass Pedals – Violin – Backing Vocals & Harmonies (Tracks 1, 2, 7).
John Shearer: Drums & Percussion.

The Original Album Tracks…

Track 1. Every Day.

The opening track is an absolute classic bit of songwriting by Steve Hackett. There is no doubt that Hackett cannot only write great music but even his lyrics are shear poetic bliss. The song itself not only contains great vocals from Pete Hicks who is the lead singer on the biggest majority of the tracks on the album. But also the harmonies have all been cleverly arranged by the bass player Dik Cadbury.

Cadbury was a trained counter tenor (falsetto) singer who also along with Hackett backs up Hicks on 3 of the tracks throughout the album including this one. The vocals and harmonies are purely stunning on this song and so to his Hackett’s guitar work throughout it. No doubt this track features some of his best lead guitar solo work and even though the song is superbly done and good enough to grab my personal top spot on the album. It is without doubt a very worthy contender but still does not grab the spot.

Track 2. The Virgin and the Gypsy.

The second track of the album is a beautiful folk ballad that once again contains superb lyrics, vocals and harmonies. Only Hackett is backing up Hick’s on this track  It’s one of the 2 tracks on the album that also features Hackett on his Roland GR-500 guitar synth. It also happens to be Hackett’s personal favourite track on the album and it is without doubt certainly another top great contender to grab my own personal fave spot too.

Track 3. The Red Flower of Tachai Blooms Everywhere.

An instrumental piece and the shortest track on the album at just over the 2 minute mark. It’s a lovely oriental piece of music that features Hackett playing a Cantonese Koto. It also features Chinese Bamboo Flutes played by his brother John on the piece too. It as an excellent piece of work that leads into the next track which is an instrumental rock classic.

Track 4. Clocks: The Angel of Mons.

The most powerful track on the album and another superb track on the album that is another contender for my own personal fave on the album. “Clocks: The Angel of Mons” features Hackett not only finger tapping out the sound of the ticking clocks on his guitar, but also scraping it to it to great effect as well as some fine well tasty lead work from him.

The instrumental piece also features some great work from John Hackett on the Taurus Moog Bass Pedals some great bass work from Cadbury and excellent drums from John Shearer. No doubt it’s the powerhouse track of the album and has been featured in many of Hackett’s live shows.

Track 5. The Ballad of the Decomposing Man (Featuring The Office Party).

This whimsy of a song is perhaps not a favourite with some Hackett fans but I have to say myself that I find it hilarious and just love the whole vibe here. Ever since the day I first brought this album back on its release in 1979 the following lyrics “Just keep my nose clean, egg chips and beans. I’m always full of steam” that are in the song have always been stuck in my brain. Even till this day without not even playing the album in yonks I can still for no apparent reason find myself either waking up singing them or do so when I am cooking.

Hackett himself sings the lead vocals on this song and I have to say the way he puts it across it reminds me a lot of George Formby. Even though Hackett is a Londoner he can certainly put over a very good Lancastrian accent  It’s all great fun just like old Formby was himself in the films he made many moons ago. The song also features Hackett on Harmonica too and musically it kicks off in a Skiffle style and ends off with a wonderful Caribbean Calypso style and is very well done.

Track 6. Lost Time in Córdoba.

Lost Time in Córdoba” was the 1st track on the side 2 of the original vinyl album and this side of the album apart from a few words we get in the 2nd track on this side of album it is practically an instrumental side. The track features Hackett’s more familiar nylon guitar style typically accompanied by his brother John on flute at first, then gets some further accompaniment from Nick Magnus’s keyboards. It also works very well as an introductory piece of music to accompany the next track that is to follow.

Track 7. Tigermoth.

Tigermoth” is the longest track on the album and my personal favourite track too. Though I have to say it’s very hard to make a choice out of the strong material this album does have upon it, and in reality “Every Day“. “Clocks: The Angel of Mons” and the last track on the album “Spectral Mornings” are all marginally very close contenders for the top spot.

Here Hackett has very much wrote a very fine ghost story about an aeroplane battle that takes place in the skies, even down to depicting the characters that play a role in it here. It’s like Biggles at war and I guess that is what really grabs it all for me. I was never really a book reader as a child, but I did enjoy reading about the fictional hero of the skies back in those days.

Though Hackett’s story is a ghost story in it being about those who lost their lives in the war and are no longer alive and has nothing to do with James Bigglesworth who was nicknamed Biggles and an hero in those children’s’ books. The fact he does mention “Flight captain James at your service” takes me back to that character.

The track itself features some great work on the Taurus Moog Bass Pedals and is the 2nd track on the album that features Hackett once again on the Roland GR-500 guitar synth. In many ways the power and the drama in this piece reminds me of the brilliant track “Tower Struck Down” on his 1975 debut album Voyage Of The Acolyte. It’s a superb piece of work.

Track 8. Spectral Mornings.

Well if you ever wanted to round off an album in great style. I perhaps could not think of many tracks that do it just as well as the self titled instrumental track of the album does “Spectral Mornings“. It’s purely a delicious track that features Hackett as his best on the electric guitar playing lead lines of pure bliss with its most beautiful melody lines. I think for most this would be many peoples favourite track on the album. It very much speaks Beautification in every sense of the word and is purely a stunning piece of work by Hackett.

Summary…

There is no doubt that Steve Hackett once again broke the mould when he wrote the material for the 1979 album Spectral Mornings. To be perfectly honest it’s very hard for me not to give this album the best he ever made. But that still belongs to Voyage Of The Acolyte for me. Though no doubt this is a very close 2nd of my personal best of his solo output.

The album is 100% solid in every way the material has been written and will even put all the albums Genesis ever made after he left to shame. I would even go as far as saying that if Tony Banks could write an album as good as this one. I would drop dead I think.  To be honest his solo works were terrible in relation to this and a long way off the mark I am afraid.

Where has Hackett was experimenting with different musical styles on his 2nd album Please Don’t Touch. The album Spectral Mornings works superbly by having more or less the same atmosphere throughout on all the tracks upon it. It was more of Hackett’s personal style that he continued to keep close to with the biggest majority of albums he made after it.

Personally I think he has got close on some of the albums that followed, but he never has matched it with the well written material we have here. Even the lyric writing he did for album stands out.

Conclusion…

Once again I am going to conclude my review of the Spectral Mornings Deluxe Box Set Edition of whether it being worthy of purchasing again something you would already of owned and brought way back.

Well at this price of £9.16p from Amazon it’s hardly gonna break your bank account, and considering your getting 2 CD’s and a DVD with a 5.1 mix of the album on. It’s very much a complete bargain that is perhaps not to be sniffed at, and well worthy of snapping up whilst it’s going at this price.

For those like myself who are surround freaks it presents even more of a bigger incentive to buy the album again for the 5.1 mix, and Steve Wilson’s surround mix does not disappoint at all. It’s excellent. The new stereo mixes also done by Wilson on the 2nd CD are also very good in that it gives you a slightly newer way to hear the album, and just as I did with the Please Don’t Touch album I find myself treating it as a double album and playing both CD’s back to back.

It’s a bang on bargain for the buck and one brilliant album that very much makes this package outstanding value and has to be one of the bargains of the year.

The track listing of the 1st CD is as follows:

01. Every Day. 6:13
02. The Virgin and the Gypsy. 4:30
03. The Red Flower of Tachai Blooms Everywhere. 2:04
04. Clocks: The Angel of Mons. 4:17
05. The Ballad of the Decomposing Man. 3:49
06. Lost Time in Cordoba. 4:06
07. Tigermoth. 7:35
08. Spectral Mornings. 6:35
09. Every Day [*][Single Version]. 2:43
10. Clocks: The Angel of Mons [*][Single Version]. 3:37
11. The Caretaker [*]. 1:40

Lee’s overall Complete Package Value Rating…

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

The Bonus Tracks Rating Score. 2/10.

The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 8/10.

The Original Album Rating Score. 10/10.