The Fall of the House of Usher – Gordon Midgley
The latest album The Fall Of The House Of Usher by Gordon Midgley was released just over a week ago now, it’s been an album I have very much been following along with its development on both Soundcloud and Facebook. It’s also an album I have been very much looking forward too.
It was only just over 5 months ago now that I first started this very blog site doing album reviews, and I started the whole thing off by doing a review of Gordon’s latest mini album at the time entitled The Darkness Of Error.
That album was his 3rd solo piece of work under his own name, and was also another haunting adventure, only it was an instrumental album just like his 2 previous releases. Now he’s back with another haunting adventure, only this one comes with songs with words to put across a very well known story based around the original story of Edgar Allan Poe done in the way of a concept album in Gordon’s own great style.
Gordon is very much a man who likes to keep himself busy, and besides working on his own solo albums he is very much involved in a few other musical projects. He not that long ago finished off doing some production work for Lizzie Taypen’s great album Dancing In The Light which I also reviewed a month ago on the 10th of August here: : https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2017/08/10/lee-speaks-about-music-23/
He is also involved in another project that goes by the name of Selena & Gordon’s Factory which is more of an electronic collaboration between Gordon and Selena Jay. He is the singer in The Bluebottles which is a 3 piece band that features David ‘ELT’ M on guitars & bass and Gary Reeves on drums. And perhaps more noticeable for his other main project Napiers Bones he does with Nathan Jon Tillett.
No doubt he has been involved in countless other collaborations with the talent he possesses in both his musical and production skills.
My Own Observations Of Poe’s Story…
Regarding the subject matter of the story here I have to confess I am not a great reader of books myself, and about the only thing I know about Edgar Allan Poe is that he wrote poems and stories. This so called story was one of Poe’s many short stories he wrote, and The Fall Of The House Of Usher he wrote way back in 1839.
Has it was a short story I actually took the liberty of reading it myself for this review. To be perfectly honest I actually read 3 different versions in total of the story, because having read the original manuscript of Poe’s story first I have to confess that it was certainly not like any book I have read in the past, and it was completely very strange to say in the least in the way he had actually gone about writing it.
Poe strikes me has the kind of person who would go all the way around the Wrekin 50 times before he got to the next part of the story or to the point of things. Has a writer of stories I feel he puts way too much emphasis on the surroundings that is around the characters in the story.
To put it in a nutshell. Poe tends to write a thousand words to many in between each part of the story, and it will take you an eternity to get to the point of things with how he goes about it. You will even get lost with the way it’s been written and it’s no wonder that the other 2 versions of his story I read was also different to each other.
I dare say there are countless versions of it, and I have to say the other 2 versions I read were more of an enjoyable read in comparison to the headache I got from reading Poe’s original version. Do not get me wrong he is a very intellectual and intelligent man with the words he chooses to describe all the surroundings, but I feel he just went completely over the top with them here.
The Concept Story…
The story behind The House Of Usher is a very haunting tale told by the narrator of the story who Poe never gave a name too. Besides the narrator there are only 4 other characters in the story and it’s mainly focused around the narrator who was a childhood friend of Roderick Usher who is now the proprietor of the house and last heir of the Usher family.
Both had not seen each other since their childhood days, and the fact that Roderick had no other friends and was very ill, he wrote a letter to his old childhood friend in a cry for help sort of thing.
The story begins with his friend the narrator (who knew very little about his friend) approaching the house and its surroundings, who has accepted the invitation to stay there for awhile and help Roderick out.
Two of the other characters in the story play a very small part and are the servants of the house. The first one to greet narrator and take his horse, and the 2nd servant takes the narrator through the large mansion of an house to the room where Roderick is resting and residing at the time.
The Usher family itself were quite a small but very wealthy and notable family. They was popular over the years when they was alive, and known for its understandings of the arts and there kindness to the poor.
They was not only painters but also musicians and had many stringed instruments lying around the house. Roderick Usher for example played the guitar and wrote songs. One of the songs he wrote in this story was “The Haunted Palace”.
I can see why Gordon was fascinated by this story in the first place having read it myself.
During the narrators stay at the house he notices that things are far from normal about the place, and even on his arrival before he entered the house, he noticed that the house itself reflected it’s evil and decay in the lake that stood outside. Not only is the house rotting but so is Roderick who does not appear to look as if he’s in the land of the living, and more like something from the living dead :)))))))))).
Also during his stay he gets to see the only other character in the story who happens to be Roderick’s twin sister Madeline, and she is not in the land of the living either :)))))))
It’s all quite a fascinating ghostly and ghastly horror story that is brought to an end by the narrator legging it from the house in fear of his life. The house of Usher itself is very much rotting away the very people who live inside it, and has the narrator gets as far away as he can from the house as possible, he takes a final look back to see it split in half and see it disappear before his eyes.
Though there are quite a few alternative endings and many things have been altered over the years to Poe’s original story, and some make a lot more sense as well I will say.
The Fall Of The House Of Usher Album Review…
The Fall Of The House Of Usher by Gordon Midgley was released on the 22nd September 2017 in the form of a digital download only. The album itself contains 10 tracks over a total playing time of 69 minutes 10 seconds. Most of the albums tracks are quite lengthy and this is near enough a double albums worth of material your getting here for its very small price tag of £4 so there is certainly value to be had for the bucks.
I have to confess I very much prefer the much more older time slot from years back over 40 minutes, and even an album over this distance could of been put out as a double album. To be honest I was myself very much considering making it into a double album myself, which is something that one could easily do being as its a digital download, just by re-tagging the tracks and putting them into 2 folders.
However seeing how it’s an album that is telling a story it’s perhaps more understandable to be over this distance to get it all across, and it works pretty well for the listener as a single album as well. So I decided in the end to leave it has it is.
Gordon’s fascination in Poe’s works goes back to 1978 when he stumbled upon Master Of The Macabre since then he became hooked on Poe’s passion for horror stories. In the 80’s Gordon attempted to write a mini rock opera of an album based on Poe’s house of usher, but soon gave up the idea after doing a couple of songs.
Now after all this time his passion for Poe’s great works is still very much with him, and regardless of if the world is ready for another version of The Fall Of The House Of Usher or not, he felt that the time was right for him to work on it, and unleash its haunting ghastly terror with his own interpretation of the story, and I have to say he has certainly made it not only Rock, but he also managed to create and capture the haunting atmosphere and dramatics of it all.
Album Credits & Artwork…
Gordon is a very talented multi instrumentalist and with his array and arsenal of instruments he very much knows how to craft and sculpture the many fine pieces he has written over the years. He is also very capable of doing everything on this album by himself. But he also included a couple of his friends from his other projects to lend an hand on a couple of the tracks.
Inspired by the genius of Edgar Allan Poe.
Music & Lyrics : Gordon Midgley.
Gordon Midgley : Vocals/Guitars/Bass/Keys.
Nathan Jon Tillett : Vocals (On Track 3 Doctor’s Warning).
Gary Reeves : Drums (On Track 8 Storm).
Madeline Usher as herself.
The artwork was also done by Napiers Bones vocalist Nathan Jon Tillett and I have to say he’s done a terrific job, not just on the haunted house, but also capturing the reflection and the ripples of the water on the lake.
Apart from track 8 on the album, all the drum programming on the rest of the tracks are also done by Gordon. He also uses an array of pedals for his guitars and I like the way he has also featured a ghost here in the credits here too :))))))))))
Back To The Album Review…
There is no doubt that Gordon has paid a great deal of attention to Poe’s short story of The Fall Of The House Of Usher and he was truly inspired by the story in the way he has so very well put all the words very well into context to put the story over and across so well in this fine musical adaption of Poe’s fine story.
Musically just like many of us are Gordon’s inspiration comes from an array of mainstream bands and artists, such as the likes of Steve Hackett. Pink Floyd. Rush. Queen and several others no doubt. But there is also a lot of other styles contained within the music here, and you will also get to hear some fine classical baroque acoustic and folk elements blended into the equation that gives it that extra appealing factor.
Now that I have a more clear vision of Poe’s story having read it for myself, let’s take you through the 10 tracks that make up this fine version of Gordon’s adaptation of the story.
Track 1. Painful Memories.
The opening track “Painful Memories” is a very well constructed song over the excellent lengthy 8 minutes and 10 seconds you get here. 2 minutes and 4 of those seconds are devoted to the very haunting dramatic musical introduction. It sets the opening scene of the story very well, and portrays the journey of the narrator on his travels through the dark misty countryside on his way to usher house.
Gordon has used quite an array of dissident effects with his guitars and keyboards and it’s built up very well with the support of the bass and drums too. I also fizzles its way out very effectively with the kind of effect Steve Howe used on the intro to the Yes song “Roundabout“.
Gordon plays the parts of the narrator very well with his speaking voice, and this first track portrays the purpose of the narrators visit to usher house very well with how he has put Poe’s original story into context. The narrators sections are also superbly backed up with some superb melodies and counter melodies on the acoustic guitar.
The song is very built up with its dramatic dreamlike transitions between the chorus sections, and it uses some fine lead lines on the electric guitar. Quite Brian May like it parts yet they also sound very haunting.
The chorus sections are very strong and Gordon uses his singing voice very and the puts the story over superbly in very much a minstrel style fashion. Ian Anderson maybe the Minstrel In The Gallery, but Gordon Midgley is perhaps the Minstrel In The Haunted House and this is one really superb piece of work and track on the album, that is certainly a contender for the top spot on the album.
Track 2. Last Rays.
The story heats itself up with its 2nd track “Last Rays” and this one features a lot of really great influences you can hear in this superb rocker of a track. It kicks off in great rocking style with its superb intro which is like a cross between “The Heat Ray” from Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds and Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” and just before it end’s for the vocals to come into play we even get a touch of Pink Floyd with the Gilmourish slide guitar.
Once again the words have been very well put into great context true to Poes story, and this is the scene where the narrator sees house and all its eerie decaying surroundings for the first time. Gordon does a very well good expressive job putting the words over too. The song features some superb lead guitar and synth lines, and ends off superbly in very much a great Steve Hackett style.
In many ways even though its perhaps hard to take a song from a concept story album like this. I do feel that this song has the strength and would be the track I would personally choose to release as a single, and this is my personal favourite track on the album that merits my top spot award.
Track 3. Doctor’s Warning.
The “Doctors Warning” is another really great song that features Gordon’s Napiers Bones partner Nathan Jon Tillett on vocals playing the part of the doctor. Though the doctor is not one of the few characters that does appear in Poe’s original story it, does mention the family doctor much further on than this part of the story in the book.
In the book it is Roderick Usher who mentions the doctor when he is telling the narrator about his sisters illness. But like all adaptations of Poe’s story Gordon’s vision to include the doctor as a character, and in an earlier part of the story in that the narrator encounters him on his way out of the house, as he is entering it works pretty well for it I feel.
It also works very well with both Gordon and Nathan working their parts in the way of a duet in this particular song, and they both express the words for the parts superbly.
Musically the instrumentation works very well and both the bass and acoustic guitar play a major feature in the song. The electric guitar adds powers it along and it certainly rocks even if it does appear to start off like a lullaby with its chimes on the keyboard.
There are even some more great familiar influences here such has Rush chord progression that comes in at the transitional change at the 1:57 mark, and another touch of Queen with a Brian May sounding guitar solo. It even ends off with a fine touch of Mozart on the acoustic guitar. No doubt this is another contender for the top spot on the album.
During the process of making the album. Gordon started to do some videos of its progress, and has this song was complete and such a great job had been done of it. I thought I would include here.
Track 4. Roderick Usher.
Well when Gordon had the idea of turning this haunting story many moons ago into a Rock Opera there is no doubt that he has succeeded to do so now in a very powerful way. The 4th track on the album “Roderick Usher” truly rocks big style. This is without doubt one of the highest contenders for the top spot on the album.
Once again the story is back on the original path of Poe’s original story, and here we are at the scene where the narrator enters the room where Roderick is resting, and catches first sight of him after all these years. Another super job has been done on fitting the words into context here too.
The song itself is very powerful with the use of heavy power chords on the guitar. and it even utilises the mellotron very well in the come down section too. Some great lead guitar work and the bass and drums support it in every way too.
I have to say considering that this a full blown out powerful rocker of a song. I would of felt it was one that he would have to call upon his old friend Nathan again to perhaps sing it. But Gordon has very much done a superb job on the vocals on his own on this one. Even his harmonies are superbly done too. He really has done the dogs bollox on this song and I can see it being many people’s favourite track on the album.
The second longest track on the album starts off on the piano in a fine ballad style, but soon changes it’s moods and styles to fit in with this scene of this particular part of story. The scene is set where the narrator first catches a glimpse of Roderick’s sister Madeline and Roderick is feeling much more at ease for a while and glad to have the presence of his friend there the narrator to put his mind at ease for awhile.
It’s also in this part of the Poe’s original story that Roderick picks up his guitar and starts playing some fine melodies on it, and Gordon has used his own words to take advantage of this scene very well indeed and once again has come up with a very well good structured piece of work.
This particular song features great chord progression and transitional changes throughout. Superb lead guitar solos with haunting atmosphere. Great dominant bass work and once again his vocals do the businesses on the song. Another very high contender stand out track for the top spot on the album without a doubt.
Track 6. Haunted Palace.
A most beautiful acoustic ballad of a song that utilises Gordon’s fine voice and harmonies accompanied by a 12 string acoustic guitar, fused with some fine blending of electric guitars into the piece. Once again Gordon has done very well with the lyrics here and has written his own version of Poe’s song based around the subject matter of the structures of the house.
It’s the shortest song on the album and like everything so far it’s far too enjoyable to leave out of being yet another contender for the top spot on the album.
Track 7. Announcement.
Once again the heat is turned back up for the 7th track on the album “Announcement“. Musically it starts off with the same theme and intro used on the 1st track of the album “Painful Memories” and then unleashes its power in another direction with the use of some great heavy power chords on the electric guitar followed by a great lead section before it comes to settle down for the vocals to come in.
Once again Gordon’s voice works very expressively to put over the words and the bass and drums drive it along very well with also some fine work on the synth adding some nice touches of lead notes along the way.
At this part of the story the scene is set where Roderick announces to the narrator that his sister Madeline is dead and has been placed in a coffin in the tombs in the lower regions of the mansion. Once again the lyrics are very well put into context by Gordon here and it’s another excellent song.
Track 8. Storm.
Another great rocking song that perhaps storms along too as its title would suggest. This one is driven along by the drums played by Gary Reeves from The Bluebottles. Besides Gary’s great job on the drums it also features some powerful lead solos on the electric guitar and some more great lead synth work.
Very little words are needed for this track, but the scene is the part in the story where Roderick is aware that the storm is coming and he even opens the window to let it in and even the narrator at this point feels it’s evil force and is looking for a way to escape from the place.
Track 9. Escapist Tales.
The scene continues where narrator has closed the window and comforted his friend by leading him into the library to read him a book to settle him down. Because of his urgency to escape himself from the house, he picks up the first book that he can find and begins to read to Roderick and plan his escape.
Gordon has once again followed Poe’s story very well here, even to the choice of the book, and once again has done a grand job putting them into context. Musically the song is quite a jolly up-tempo one, and once again we get some fine acoustic guitar and bass work with some more excellent Brian May sounding lead work on the electric guitars. It’s got a jolly good old ending too
Track 10. The Fall.
The final track of the album and the longest one on the album too weighing at some 14 minutes and 8 seconds. Another very well structured piece of work that goes through some excellent transitional changes with the excellent chord progression Gordon has used throughout here.
Once again it’s full of goodies in the musical department with some fine acoustic guitar work excellent Hackett style and other influences lead work on the electric guitars and some excellent synth and bass work. It’s full of haunting sections and the dramatics is very well portrayed with both the music and the expressive use of Gordon’s great voice.
Once again Gordon has done the business in putting this final scene of Poe’s great haunting tale to bed with how he has written the words very well put them into the context. No doubt this in another high contender for the top spot on the album and it rounds off the album superbly with haunting ending too in the way that it entered at the start.
To sum up The Fall Of The House Of Usher by Gordon Midgley. I honestly think he’s done quite an outstanding piece of work on the album, especially in the way he has very well put all the words he wrote into fine context, and he has done so without deviating too far away from Poe’s original story.
No doubt there are a couple of his own ideas he has thrown into the pot here, to fit into his own musical adaption of the story. There is also no doubt that the changes he has made are also very well done and work very well for it.
Musically I feel it works very well and Gordon uses quite a few styles of genres such as rock, progressive rock, folk, and classical to put it all over. It’s also combined with expressive voice and vocals and has the haunting dramatics to make it all stand together very well too.
As a concept story album I feel the album will work as it is to be able to get the story across to those who are not familiar with it. But if you already know Poe’s story. I certainly think you will enjoy it even more so.
I have to confess that I have had the album Tales of Mystery and Imagination by the Alan Parsons Project for many years. It’s an album I quite like that touches on the same story of Poe’s we have here. But I could not tell you a dickey bird what the story behind it all was about, because I have never read anything is about it up until now.
Not only have I enjoyed Gordon’s album a lot here, but I also very much enjoyed doing the research about Edgar Allan Poe for this review, and I got to learn a lot more about the man himself.
I got to learn about how death always surrounded his own life with his upbringing and the loss of many of his close family. How his own mind was tortured and he became insane in his latter days before he died. How he based the story of the Raven around his own autobiography, and even how the French composer Claude Debussy was working on an opera of this very story of The Fall Of The House Of Usher. But died before he completed it.
To conclude my review of The Fall Of The House Of Usher by Gordon Midgley. I think he has done a brilliant job here and it’s a very strong body of work, and a very strong solid album with all the material that has been written for it. I also personally think it’s the best album he has made to date.
You have to be a bit of a genius yourself and great all round musician to put together something like this, and as far as the story goes personally I feel that this album portrays it a lot better than the Allan Parson’s album I spoke of earlier.
The album is available in the form of a digital download only and can be had from Bandcamp for the small price of £4 or more. The album also comes with all the album cover art so you can print it out and make you own CD if you wish.
It also comes with a very descriptive well detailed video with Gordon himself speaking about the story and the process of making the album. Which is very good and a lot more informative than my review here.
You can grab your own personal copy here : https://gordonmidgley.bandcamp.com/album/the-fall-of-the-house-of-usher
Don’t You See It? Tell me, Can’t You Feel It?….
The track listing of the album is as follows:
2 thoughts on “Lee Speaks About Music… #32”
Quite a task to set this classic tale to music, but Gordon succeeded. I enjoyed reading your review and have respect, that you even read the original story of Poe as a preparation. I agree, that Poe sometimes gets lost in descriptions, but I think it’s just a matter of training to become familiar with his style. I want to recommend to you the story “The pit and the pendulum”, which is in my opinion more fluid to read.
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Thanks Dirk and I shall bear that other story of his in mind.