Life Is A Journey (The Budapest Live Tapes) – Djabe & Steve Hackett
Coming off the back of the release of their first studio album Life Is A Journey (The Sardinia Tapes) the collaboration of Djabe & Steve Hackett followed it up in the following year with a live release entitled Life Is A Journey (The Budapest Tapes). This release captures the guys performing live from one of the two concerts they gave in Hungary during the same week of the release of their studio album back in 2017. It not only features tracks from the album played live but also material by Djabe and Steve Hackett and Genesis making it more on an exciting show. But before I delve a bit deeper into it lets’ take a look at the packaging and artwork as usual.
The Packaging & Artwork…
The CD’s & DVD comes in a well-made cardboard 4 panel DigiPak with plastic trays to hold the discs firmly in place. It also has a side pocket to store the booklet to which is a 10-page booklet that contains some information about the concert and comes with all the usual linear production and credit notes plus photos. Overall, it’s a good quality package very well presented and can be obtained from most stores from around £12 – £18. I purchased my copy from Amazon UK for £11.99 and that is quite a bargain for 2 CD’s and DVD and well worthy of the money.
The album cover is designed from photos that would have been taken at the concert and it’s the usual thing with live album releases. The photographs were taken by Ferenc Mernyó, Zoltán Gerebi, Nazim Isik, Attila Égerházi, Ben Fenner and Christophe Pauly. The booklet is also mainly constructed some very nice individual photos of the band members.
The Live Album Contents In Review…
Life Is A Journey (The Budapest Tapes) was released sometime in September 2018 and although it was released in Hungary, England and Japan in the form of a 2 CD/DVD DigiPak they also released what they call the essence of the concert in Hungary only onto a single LP pressed onto Gold vinyl. To be honest having looked at the track list of the vinyl album I can plainly see that is captures less than the essence and in all honesty I have to say for the life of me I cannot see why anybody would want to collect vinyl when you weigh up just what your missing out on. Personally, I would not waste my money on that thing :))))). But I suppose for those who like to hang it on the wall or show it off in a display cabinet, it may serve up some purpose.
The first of the 2 CD’s contains 11 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 57 minutes, 33 seconds. The second CD comes with 7 tracks and an overall playing time of 60 minutes, 5 seconds and also includes 2 bonus tracks that are not included on the DVD. They also came from 2 different venues to which they played a year later in 2018. The first of which was taken from a concert in Prague in the Czech Republic and is one of Steve Hackett’s own pieces that originally came of his 4th studio album Defector back in 1980 entitled “The Steppes“. The 2nd bonus track comes from a concert they played in Kaposvár in Hungary and is one Djabe’s pieces written by Attila Égerházi entitled “Distant Dance” that came originally from the bands 2002 album Evolúció and is featured at many of their live shows. The both bonus tracks are very good.
Although the DVD does not include the couple of bonus tracks found on the 2nd CD it does come with some other bonus features. I must admit that before I brought this release, I did make sure I could get it at a cheap enough price simply because over the few days I spent researching it on the net I could not find one review or any indication that the concert came with a 5.1 Mix.
There is also nowhere on the packaging or in the booklet that states it comes with a 5.1 mix either or is there a DTS logo on the packaging. The only logos regarding the DVD on the packaging is the standard DVD the classification certificate and the region. But deep down inside and from my observations of the bands bass player and audio mixing engineer Tamás Barabás. He struck me as being a Surround FREAK! like myself by all the albums the band had made that came with a DVD. I did gather that it would include a 5.1 mix and I was not wrong.
The DVD’s main menu opens up with a short video clip from the concert that repeats itself every few seconds and presents you with 4 options “PLAY”. “AUDIO OPTIONS”. “TRACK SELECTION” and “EXTRAS”. The menu is pretty much straight forward and easy to navigate your way around and by default its set to “PLAY” so you can simply hit the play although you may want to choose your preferred choice of audio first.
The DVD comes with two audio tracks and by default its set to Stereo. It also has a DTS 5.1 soundtrack for surround FREAKS! and that is always my preferred choice and I am so glad to see it does come in DTS too. Both audio formats are in 24/48 resolution. Once you’ve made your choice of audio you simply head back to the main menu and press play. You can also make your audio choice from your remote that comes with your DVD or Blu Ray player simply by pressing the audio button on your remote.
The “TRACK SELECTION” menu gives you the option to choose any track and comes in handy for those who want to play their family and friends a quick track or two or even if you do not want to play the whole of the album yourself. It also comes in handy if you only have time to play so many tracks and have other things to do, you can simply pick up from where you left off when you are less busy.
The “EXTRAS” menu presents you with the bonus material and here you 3 bits of bonus material all of which come in stereo 48/16 format quality. The first of which is the Life Is A Journey screen film which is a slightly longer bit of video footage than the same one found on the extras of the Life Is A Journey (Sardinia Tapes) DVD that comes with the studio album and is 6 minutes, 4 seconds long. The second bonus feature is the video that Attila Égerházi made for “Beams Over TheNulvi Mountains” and both of these videos can be found on his own YouTube channel.
The final bonus footage you get is basically a look behind the scenes and this footage is 22 minutes, 33 seconds long. To be honest I was looking forward to this so-called documentary basically because before I purchased it somebody stated in a review that is was really good. I have to say I was left totally disappointed by it simply because this is the sort of behind the scenes you would get from most artists live concerts only, they would speed it up and only make it a few minutes long and put a bit of music behind it.
It’s obvious that here they have not speeded up the video and the fact that it is only music you are getting and the band are not being interviewed or saying anything rather makes it all boring. The footage does show you them playing at some of the other venues but to call it a documentary is quite frankly a joke :)))))). Overall the bonus footage is not the best and most of it I had already seen on YouTube beforehand. It’s not something you are going to watch more than once either and it’s hardly worth rating to be honest.
The 5.1 Mix.
The stereo and 5.1 mixes were done by Tamás Barabás and once again he’s done a very good job of them, especially with the stereo mix which is very well detailed and even sounds GREAT! when ripped down to MP3 320kbps quality to be honest. The 5.1 mix is not an exciting mix but good enough for a live concert and he’s utilised the 6 channels very well by placing the audience in the rear speakers and even the drums work particularly well in the rear too from time to time. I personally do not think the 5.1 mix will give you any more dynamics and clarity over the stereo mix but it does give you slightly more of a concert feel of being there if anything over the stereo mix. But for those who do not have surround you are not really going to be missing out on anything because the stereo mix is excellent. In terms of a rating I would give the stereo mix 10 out of 10 and the 5.1 mix 8 out of 10.
The Picture Quality.
The concert was captured very well with good lighting and the cameras and all the camera operators have caught the band in action very well. These days most DVD and Blu Ray players in particular do a very good job of upscaling the quality making the picture look a lot better than it is and even though this was put onto a DVD rather than a Blu Ray disc it’s perhaps not as pristine or sharp like a Blu Ray will give you. But does look like it was captured with HD cameras and looks very good. The video post-production was done by Attila Égerházi and he’s done a good job of editing with the use of the footage from the cameras that have captured the close ups and angles very well.
Musicians & Credits…
FOH – Gábor Kisfaludy.Monitor, Backline – Zsolt Ónodi. Lights – Gábor Farkas. Photos by Ferenc Mernyó, Zoltán Gerebi, Nazim Isik, Attila Égerházi, Ben Fenner and Christophe Pauly. Audio Post Production by Tamás Barabás. Video Post Production by Attila Égerházi.
Steve Hackett: Guitar/Vocals.
Attila Égerházi: Guitar/Percussion/Keys/Vocal.
Tamás Barabás: Bass/Vocals.
János Nagy: Keyboards.
Áron Koós-Hutás: Trumpet/Flugelhorn.
Péter Kaszás: Drums/Percussion/Vocals.
Gulli Briem: Drums/Percussion.
The Live Concert In Review…
The concert took place at the MOMkult on the 4th October 2017 and you get 1 hour and 45 minutes of the concert on the DVD. The MOMkult is a small theatre that is situated in the MOM Cultural Center in Budapest, Hungary and is used as a venue for concerts, film screenings, theatrical performances, conferences, gala shows, balls.
MOM Cultural Center
The domed building was built back in 1951 and since it was renovated in 2011 it has become a major player in the cultural life of the capital, while maintaining its familial, direct character. MOMkult’s name is marked by popular festivals of national interest: The Jazzy Festival, the Get Closer Jazz Festival, and the Cziffra Festival of Classical Music.
The MOMkult is a small theatre that only holds a capacity of around 500 seats but is ideal for playing to smaller audiences and many bands and artists have played at the venue and these days it’s also ideal for older artists who have more or less semi-retired and have written autobiographies about themselves and go on tour promoting their latest book. Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden is currently on tour talking about his career with and without the band and being an aeroplane pilot. An Evening with Bruce Dickinson will be at the MOMkult in November this year.
On With The Show….
Although there are 7 musicians in total not all are on the stage throughout the whole of the show and both Steve Hackett & Gulli Briem are only guests Djabe are also with their full line-up which includes both the drummer & percussionist Péter Kaszás and the bands keyboard player János Nagy who was not involved in the making of studio album Life Is A Journey and it’s this 5 piece outfit that kick the show off first. The concert is very much divided into 3 sets and the first half hour of the show features Djabe playing 4 of their own compositions.
Set 1. Djabe.
The band kick off the show with a piece entitled “Lava Lamp” and personally for me steals this part of the opening set. It’s also the longest piece out of the 4 numbers they play together do and weighs in at around 11 minutes. Unlike the material on the album Life Is A Journey which is more smooth jazz and chilled out sort of stuff. “Lava Lamp” does have a lot more excitement about it and is more of the jazz fusion you would get with bands like Brand X and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. It’s also a piece where all 5 members of the band get their own solo spots. The piece was written by the bands bass player Tamás Barabás and he along with the drummer Péter Kaszás and keyboard player János Nagy make it that much more exciting and this really is a GREAT! track. Péter Kaszás really does a TOP JOB! on the drum kit on his solo and the drums throughout the whole of the track too.
The next couple of tracks are individual solo performances from Djabe’s 2 longest members of the band. The first of which is a nice little piece entitled “Life Spirit” that features Attila Égerházi on his Godin nylon string guitar. It’s a nice enough piece although I am not really sure they needed to tone down the show that much from its flying opener. It’s also a damn site better than what Tamás Barabás does with his bass guitar with a looper pedal on a piece he entitled “Buzzy Butterfly” which is up next and takes up twice as long.
The band are all back together for the final part of this opening half hour set and do more of their usual chilled out stuff with a smooth 8-minute piece entitled “4000“. Once again Péter Kaszás does a super job on the drum kit and Áron Koós-Hutás gets to do a bit more of his usual stellar work on the trumpet and both the first and last tracks in this set are my personal highlights from it. I felt that it may have been better for the whole band to have done something rather than have the 2 band members individual tracks here, but overall it’s a good start to the show and Attila Égerházi introduces the two special guests at the end that enter the stage for the next set.
Set 2. Steve Hackett.
With both the Icelandic drummer Gulli Briem and England’s own Steve Hackett entering the stage the second set consists of a combination of songs from Hackett’s solo and early Genesis career. Péter Kaszás moves over from the main drum kit to the smaller percussion kit whilst Gulli Briem sits in the hot seat on the drums. Briem is perhaps more of a power horse drummer which is needed for this particular set and he sits on the hot seat throughout most of the rest of the show. Although the combination between them both works extremely well here.
Over the next 29 minutes the 7-piece line-up make their way very well through the material to which is mostly instrumental pieces and instrumental edited down versions of a couple of Genesis songs. They kick off with “Los Endos” and the only words you get from “Fly On A Windshield” that follows is the opening sentence of the song sung by Péter Kaszás. Then we get one of Hackett’s older tunes which is the self-titled track from his 2nd album “Please Don’t Touch” to which is something he has not played live in quite a while now.
Though in reality this instrumental piece must have been incorporated into about 20 – 30 other Hackett pieces that have appeared on many of his albums under different titles. It was even included on the GTR album under the name of “Hackett To Bits” and still bits of it continue to surface even on the latest albums he still puts out today. This works its way into the famous lead break section of the Genesis classic “Firth Of Fifth” and they finish this set off with one of his later songs from 2009 “Last Train To Istanbul” to which he also sings himself. Overall the band do quite a good job with Hackett and playing with other musicians and you are bound to get more of a different arrangement. It’s not quite the same as what you will get with a Steve Hackett concert and that would be perhaps more exciting, but this is perhaps the most powerful part of the show and exciting enough.
Set 3. Djabe & Steve Hackett.
The final part of the show focuses mainly on the material that came from the album they are very much airing out and promoting, and they do 4 numbers from the new collaboration album that had just been released at the time including the albums self-titled track “Life Is A Journey“. I have to say considering most of the new album at the time consisted of improvisations and they had very little time to rehearse them they have done quite a TOP NOTCH JOB! on them all.
They kick off this set with an extended version of the 2nd track from the album “Golden Sand” and I prefer the live version to the studio version. Both “Buzzy Island” and “After Limoncello” have also been extended by a couple of minutes and sound a bit more exciting and invigorating and “Life Is A Journey” is kept to more less the same length and sounds just as good as the studio version. It’s also very close to the studio version apart from the extra keys and with the extra 2 musicians they have on stage with them and they really have knocked all 4 tracks from the album out of the park.
They finish the show off with an older Djabe piece entitled “Clouds Dance” to which all 7 musicians play this time, and Péter Kaszás gets to sit back in the hot seat on the drums whilst Gulli Briem moves over to the smaller percussion kit. Once again this is much more like it from the band and Hackett does a flying solo on this one and so do most of the other guys too and they finish the show off in style leaving you wanting more.
To sum up Life Is A Journey (The Budapest Live Tapes) by Djabe & Steve Hackett. What I like about the concert is that it gives you something a bit different in relation to the many concerts that Steve Hackett has put out himself. Even though it does include a set of Hackett’s solo & early Genesis material it does not necessarily steal the show and there is a good variety of Djabe’s own and collaborative material that also keeps the show quite interesting and entertaining enough for you to enjoy. I think the combination of prog rock and jazz fusion also blends very well together and the way the concert has been split into 3 sets also works very well too.
I would also say that Djabe are a bit more exciting to watch live and bring out that bit more than just the chillout stuff you would get from their own studio albums and they make it a bit more interesting. My personal highlights from the show are “Lava Lamp“. “4000“. “Fly On A Windshield“. “Last Train To Istanbul“. “Golden Sand“. “Buzzy Island” and “Clouds Dance“.
In conclusion I would say that Life Is A Journey (The Budapest Live Tapes) by Djabe & Steve Hackett gives you that something more different and offers GREAT! value for the buck and you do get quality for the buck. The concert has been captured very well and comes with a very good picture quality and has been edited very well. The sound quality is TOP NOTCH! and even though it does come with a 5.1 mix this is a concert I can also enjoy in audio only in stereo. The fact that you have the best of both worlds with a package like this that comes with 2 CD’s and a DVD you cannot really go wrong. The bonus material I personally think is disappointing but the concert certainly is not and for its price point its exceptionally good value and will give you many hours of GREAT! entertainment.
On The Last Train To Budapest…
The 2 CD track listing is as follows:
01. Lava Lamp. 10:58.
02. Life Spirit. 3:40.
03. Buzzy Butterfly. 7:01.
04. 4000. 8:14.
05. Los Endos. 7:33.
06. Fly On A Windshield. 3:11.
07. Please Don’t Touch. 4:52.
08. Firth Of Fifth. 5:50.
09. Last Train To Istanbul. 6:14.
01. Golden Sand. 11:14.
02. Buzzy Island. 6:30.
03. Life Is A Journey. 9:33.
04. After Limoncello. 7:31.
05. Clouds Dance. 10:15.
06. The Steppes # (2018 Prague). 7:59.
07. Distant Dance # (2018 Kaposvár). 11:14.