Lee Speaks About Music… #130

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 MernyóZoltán 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 CD’s.

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.

The DVD.

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.

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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.

S 2

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.

S 3

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.

S 4

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…

Band pic_Fotor

FOH – Gábor Kisfaludy.Monitor, Backline – Zsolt Ónodi. Lights – Gábor Farkas. Photos by Ferenc MernyóZoltán 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.


MOMkult Theatre

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:

CD 1.
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.

CD 2.
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.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 8/10.

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

Lee’s Picture Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Stereo Mix Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s 5.1 Bonus Material Rating Score. 1/10.

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

Lee Speaks About Music… #129

Life Is A Journey (The Sardinia Tapes) – Djabe & Steve Hackett



I quite often get emails from Amazon that relates to much of the music I buy and I mostly glance at them when it comes to new releases that are coming out and are available to pre-order. I also subscribe to the Burning Shed for that purpose as well and find both sites very useful and my GOTO! sites for that purpose. A few weeks back I noticed a new album by Djabe & Steve Hackett entitled Back To Sardinia that is due to be released on the 6th December. I have always liked Steve Hackett and do have most of his solo albums although I had never heard of Djabe before and decided to check them out a bit more and found out that Hackett had done earlier collaborations with the band. So, I popped over to YouTube and gave what I could find of the collaboration a BLAST! and was quite impressed.

Life Is A Journey (The Sardinia Tapes) was released back in 2017 and although Hackett has appeared on a good few other compilation albums and played live with the band much longer, it is the first studio album they have collaborated and put out together. The fact that it also comes accompanied with a DVD with a 5.1 mix of the album also did entice me to stick my neck out and persuade me to buy it.

To be honest it’s quite a strange and perhaps an unusual collaboration in that Steve Hackett is very much out of his comfort zone with a band like Djabe who are more of a jazz fusion outfit. It reminds me of when Phil Collins joined the jazz fusion band Brand X back in the 70’s. Only Collins very much sat and fitted in with that music easily and was more at home with it, whereas Hackett is very much out of place but strangely enough it works in a way of perhaps bringing something a bit different out of him. Although the band in many respects could easily function just as well on their own and would be perhaps more suited to their style of music without him.

If anything, Steve Hackett gives the band a bit more of an electric edge and spices things up with his electric guitar more than anything else and adds a bit more power to it all. Though I am sure it also works well in throwing a bit more attention Djabe’s way by having one of prog rocks more famous guitarists tag along with them, even though they have also played with many other more successful artists in the past. But before we take a deeper look into the album and a brief look at the bands history, let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…


The CD & DVD comes in a well-made cardboard 3 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 14-page booklet that contains some very informative information about the collaboration and comes with all the usual linear production and credit notes plus photos. Overall it’s a good quality package very well presented and well worthy of the money.

I got my copy from Amazon and I must admit I did make a bit of a blunder by popping it in my wishlist a few days earlier before I purchased it. On the day I popped it in my wishlist it was priced at £11.99 and on the day, I purchased it I ended up paying £17.62 for it. Though I cannot grumble at the price and that price is closer to its retail price for a CD & DVD that comes with a 5.1 mix and the only way a package like this is overpriced if they are asking over £20 for it.

I have stopped putting things in my wishlist on Amazon and there is no doubt they are tracking every move you make on it. I have also found that by book marking the item with your web browser instead you will find that 9 times out of 10 it’s still the same price when you go to buy it a few days later. For some reason if Amazon know you have an interest in something and put it in your wishlist, 9 times out of 10 they will put the price of it up.


The albums cover design was done by Attila Égerházi & Zoltán Kiss with the use of photographs that were taken in Sardinia where the band recorded the album at the time. Basically, it’s a photograph of some ancient old church and is the church of Nostra Signora di Tergu. It’s perhaps the sort of thing you would find on a pamphlet in a church or tourist centre rather than on an album cover. I would not say it entices one to buy the album either and even though the albums title is Life Is A Journey I would of thought they could of come up with something a lot better and it does look a bit  boring but that is how I see it and not many others on that score.

Djabe In Brief History…

Djabe originally formed by guitarist & percussionist Attila Égerházi in Budapest, Hungary back in 1996 along with bass player Tamás Barabás who is the bands main composer. Like many other bands the line up as very much changed over the years but it’s main two members have been there from the offset. The bands style of music is very much jazz mixed in with some Hungarian and African music and although Djabe might not be that popular enough to gather up a huge following they have won numerous domestic and international awards and recognitions. They are also notably the number 1 jazz/world fusion band in Hungary. But then again for all I know they could also be the only jazz/world fusion band in Hungary :))))).

The bands name “Djabe” comes from the language Akan which is spoken by most of the people who reside in the southern part of Ghana and is also spoken among 41% of those from the Ivory Coast and it means “Freedom”. It was around the year 2002 and upwards that the band got to play at bigger festivals locally and internationally and the band gave concerts in 42 countries throughout Europe, Asia and North-America. Djabe is one of the most invited Hungarian bands by international festivals. It would have also been back in 2002 and upwards that Steve Hackett played many of his concerts in Budapest which is the capitol city of Hungary were the band originally originated from and that would be how he most likely bumped into Égerházi and since then have been friends.

In following year 2003 Hackett got to appear on one of the bands singles entitled “Táncolnak A Kazlak/Sheafs are Dancing’ and since around 2007 onwards Hackett has appeared as a guest at many of the bands live shows and has appeared on many compilation albums and concert DVD’s with them too. Both Égerházi and Barabás also played the Indonesian instrument called the Angklung on Hackett’s 2009 album Out of The Tunnels Mouth.



Other noted artists who have played with Djabe over the past 24 years are Ben Castle, Sting, Jamie Cullum, and George Michael and they have also toured and been on the same stage with artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Carla Bay amongst others.

In 2016 both Égerházi and Barabás decided it was time to refresh the band with a newer line up but still one that would maintain true to the bands style of music and they brought in drummer and percussionist Péter Kaszás who also plays for Al Di Meola’s band. They also brought in the award-winning trumpet player Áron Koós-Hutás plus the keyboard player János Nagy. The drummer Gulli Briem also has featured with the band as a guest many times too. The bands new line up are still pretty much together and still make their own albums as well as doing collaboration work with Steve Hackett every now and then.

Life Is A Journey Album In Review…

Life Is A Journey (The Sardinia Tapes) by Djabe & Steve Hackett was released on the 6th October 2017. The album contains 11 tracks to which you could say are all instrumental tracks even though its self-titled track does have vocals repeating the name of the album in small sections. Most of the tracks are also quite lengthy and its 11 tracks span over an overall playing time of 72 minutes, 41 seconds. You are getting a double albums worth of material shoved onto 1 CD. The album was also released on vinyl and comes pressed onto 2 x 180 gram black and also clear vinyl LP’s for you vinyl lovers.


Double Album Edition

The album Life Is A Journey is the result of a 3-day improvised jamming session between Steve Hackett and 4 members of Djabe who for the first time apart from playing live on stage before had all been in the same room together and enjoyed each other’s company and playing together. Hackett decided to bring along his long-time sound engineer Ben Fenner who recorded the sessions on 24 track analogue tapes and they set up a recording studio in a house near the famous medieval church Nostra Signora di Tergu in north Sardinia. Hence the reason for “The Sardinia Tapes” being added to the albums title.


Nostra Signora di Tergu

The church and the remains of the annexed abbey are located in a countryside area outside the village and its one of the most outstanding examples of Romanesque architecture in the island. It was the first time the priests house had become a recording studio so to speak. The 5 musicians enjoyed the sessions so much that they thought it would be worth moving on further with so, both Djabe’s long time band members Attila Égerházi and Tamás Barabás got together to work out the concept and Barabás produced and composed the rather unique album we have here from the sessions. The albums title was inspired from this particular journey being out in the country side and soaking up all the atmosphere around them that inspired the music.

The DVD.

SS 1

The DVD’s main menu displays the front of the albums photo cover of the church to which funny enough looks like you have just put on a Tourist DVD you might buy from a travel agent rather than a record store :))))). Joking apart though what I will say is that album covers do look way better on your TV than on vinyl albums and are even larger than life depending on the size of your TV. Some of them even come to life by them being animated and I can assure you even though I no longer collect vinyl I am not missing out on the larger size the vinyl album gives you with these type of packages that come with most 5.1 recordings on DVD & Blu Ray.

The main menu presents you with 4 options “PlAY”. “AUDIO OPTIONS”. “TRACK SELECTION” and “EXTRAS” all of which are pretty much straightforward and easy to navigate. Clicking on the “AUDIO OPTIONS” presents you with the following screen.

SS 2

The audio comes with 2 choices to choose and both the Stereo and DTS 5.1 mixes come with Hi Resolution formats of 96/24 and this is quite a quality production that’s been done and both the stereo and 5.1 mixes sound GREAT! and a quality job has been done.

SS 3

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.

SS 4

The “EXTRAS” menu presents you with the bonus material. Sardo Moments is a 3 minute, 27 second bit of video footage captured by the bands drummer Gulli Briem and bass player Tamás Barabás and edited by the bands guitarist Attila Égerházi. It shows you the band having a good time and a bit of fun recording in the house and around the area outside in Sardinia. It’s also backed up by having the albums self-titled track running in the background rather than hearing the musicians speaking to each other. To be honest I would of much sooner have had a short documentary where you could have heard the band discussing the music with each other. A slightly longer edited version is also included on the Life Is A Journey (The Budapest Live Tapes) DVD and as expected the audio is in stereo only with a format of 48/16.

The final bonus you get is certainly much more interesting and better and here you get 21 minutes, 56 seconds of well shot footage taken from a concert they played at the Jazz Club in Budapest on the 3rd June 2017. This line up also includes János Nagy on keyboards who was not with them when they made the album in Sardinia. It’s not unusual for the band to also play and feature some of the material from Hackett’s solo and Genesis career has you can see by the set list. It also comes with the same Hi Resolution formats of 96/24 in both stereo and DTS 5.1 mixes too which is unusual for bonus material and is very good. The bands bass player Tamás Barabás is also an audio engineer who has won awards for his mixes too and we shall find out a bit more about that in the next section.

The 5.1 Mix.

Both the stereo and 5.1 mixes were done by the bands bass player Tamás Barabás who won the recognition of the experts at Abbey Road with the 5.1 surround mixing of “Sheafs are Dancing” and was nominated to Surround Music Award in Los Angeles back in 2004. I think it’s plain to see that Barabás is well into 5.1 mixes and might be a bit of a surround FREAK! like myself and not many sound engineers would do 5.1 mixes for the bonus material like he has done on this release. I have also noticed that with many of the bands albums do also come with a DVD with the 5.1 mix of the album which is a good thing in my book and something I think all major artists should do especially if they can do a good enough job of the 5.1 mix and that is something many cannot do and would be better off left to those who can do a proper job of it.

Overall, I think he’s done a very good job with 5.1 mix. But I would also say he’s also done a pretty darn excellent job on the stereo mix too and it’s that good that this particular 5.1 mix does not really bring out any more of the dynamics and clarity in relation to the stereo mix. I think he’s utilised all 6 channels very well and put all the instruments in the right places but sonically the stereo mix might sound a bit better. It would not surprise me if you put the CD in your DVD or Blu Ray player and hit Dolby Prologic X II on your AV Receiver that it would produce quite an impressive surround mix and I would rate the 5.1 mix 8 out of 10 and give the stereo mix top marks of 10 out of 10.

Musicians & Credits…


All jam and compositions by Barabás, Hackett, Briem, Koós-Hutás & Égerházi. Produced Arranged & Mixed by Tamás Barabás. Recording Engineer Ben Fenner. Stereo and 5.1 Mixes & Mastering by Tamás Barabás. Album Cover Design by Attila Égerházi & Zoltán Kiss. Sardinia Photographs by Ben Fenner, Jo Hackett, Gulli Briem & Attila Égerházi. Studio Photos by Imre Barta. Video Post-Production by Attila Égerházi.

Steve Hackett: Guitar.
Attila Égerházi: Guitar/Guitar Synth/Percussion.
Tamás Barabás: Bass/Percussion/Synth/Vocal.
Áron Koós-Hutás: Trumpet.
Gulli Briem: Drums/Percussion.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Even though Life Is A Journey is a collaboration between Steve Hackett and Djabe there is no doubt most of the material would of been written by the bands bass player Tamás Barabás and he is without doubt one of the most dominant players you will hear throughout the album. If you are a bass player yourself or love bass guitar this is very much an album that should appeal to you. This is also more of a Djabe album in terms of its musical style and direction to which is mostly smooth chilled out jazz mixed in with a bit of fusion. It’s a bit like combining Miles Davis with a jazz fusion band like Brand X and there is also no doubt that Hackett is playing with some very good skilled musicians and Djabe are a really GREAT! band. So, let’s now take a look at the albums individual tracks and take you through the album.

Track 1. Life Is A Journey.

The album kicks off with its self-titled track to which is the second longest track on the album weighing in at 9 minutes, 40 seconds. It’s the only track on the album that does have vocals on to which Barabás sings the words “Life is a journey” every now and then over the first 3 minutes, 37 seconds of the track. Like the rest of the album its more of an instrumental track than anything else. To be honest even with what little you get in the way of words here they are effective enough to make this track more memorable even to the point of making it the stand out track on the album. Don’t be surprised if you’re out shopping or doing something else that you suddenly burst out singing the words yourself :))))) because they easily catch on.

Although the writing is credited to all the musicians for all the tracks on the album you can plainly hear that most of the music was constructed from the bass line which is why I mentioned that Tamás Barabás would have had more to do with the writing. But as with most of the tracks on the album being quite lengthy there is ample room in them for the others to contribute and take the journey somewhere else with the transnational changes. “Life Is A Journey” does go through some lovely transitional changes and progression over its 9 minutes and 40 seconds and allows the space for all the musicians to slot into it with their parts and some to have a little solo spot.

There are two guitarists playing here so do not expect Steve Hackett to get all the best lead parts. Also note that Hackett is also only playing electric guitar and he gets the first solo on this track which is not as effective the second solo that comes in around the 6:01 mark after the bass line to which Attila Égerházi plays on the electric and he does all the nylon playing too on his Godin guitar. The final solo is played by Áron Koós-Hutás who perhaps plays a better solo than the other two guys on his trumpet. His trumpet also contributes to most of the chilled-out parts with the GORGEOUS! bass and rhythm section and blend of the guitars they are the chilling tones. “Life Is A Journey” is a super chilled out track and my second favourite on the album and is a very strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 2. Golden Sand.

This is a nice chillout track and Koós-Hutás’s trumpet sounds like the waves of the sea washing over you on the golden sand. Once again it has LUSH! bass lines from  Barabás and Hackett plays some nice effective guitar on this track that glides along with the smoothness of it all. There is quite a lot of guitar played by him and Égerházi on this track and even Barabás gets a small spot for a bass solo. Gulli Briem’s drums are always keep it all together and hold it all together very well.

The track is just over 7 minutes long and to be honest it only seems like it’s only over half of that distance. It’s perhaps just as well because it does run along in more of a straight line but is quite calm and effective enough to relieve the tension of boredom setting in. It’s not one of the stand out tracks on the album but flows along wonderfully.

Track 3. Castelsardo At Night.

Castelsardo is a picturesque historic town on the northern coast of Sardinia and you might probably of guessed by it’s name there is a castle there and the old town is fortified with a castle. It’s also an interesting and atmospheric place to visit from what have read about it. The track features longer solos on the bass and trumpet and also uses bags of percussion more than anything else. It’s also perhaps not as interesting as the place itself despite the GREAT! playing by Barabás and Koós-Hutás but even though it’s over a minute longer than the previous track, it does seem to be over in 5 minutes. I suppose there must something in here that’s is enjoyable for it to work like that but I do feel it needed to go somewhere else on that score.

Track 4. What’S The News Antonio?

They pick things up much better here and this is more of a composition like the opening self-titled track in relation to the last track which was more of an improvised jam. The title is a bit quirky too and perhaps a bit along some of the lines of the quirky titles Brand X might use for their instrumental pieces. I cannot quite remember the story behind the title but I did read somewhere that Antonio was either a newsreader they used to watch on TV to see what the latest news was, or he was a guy they knew and every time they seen him they always asked him “what was new”.

Musically the piece is constructed around a melody or theme to which most likely was written around the chords played on the keys. Once again, the back line of the bass and drums are well tight and Koós-Hutás trumpet playing sings sweetly along over the top of it. Hackett also gets to fly a good lengthy lead break on this number too. “What’S The News Antonio?” is very much one of the better written pieces on the album and one of the highlights that puts it in contention of being a contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 5. Around My Mind.

This next track is the longest track on the album and weighs in at eleven and a half minutes and it does not disappoint either and utilises its long distance very well with the progression and transitional changes it goes through very well keeping one’s mind more attentive to what’s going on. It runs along smoothly through some fine melodic structures over the first 6 minutes and this is perhaps the track on the album where Hackett gets to unleash more power and he comes into play around the 6:03 mark and totally ROCKS! and lifts it up. There is perhaps more going on in this track than any other track on the album and is most likely why I chose it to be my favourite track on the album and merit it with the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 6. Beams Over The Nulvi Mountains.

This GORGEOUS! ambient piece was inspired by the ancient Nulvi mountain village in Anglona in north-west Sardinia where the band was recording and it features  Áron Koós-Hutás doing a spectacular job on the trumpet. It’s one of those super chillout tracks that washes over you BEAUTIFULLY! According to Égerházi it was wind turbines and sunbeams that inspired the track and he also captured some footage of them and put the music to the background of it and posted it on his YouTube channel.

Beams Over The Nulvi Mountains” is another contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! that also features Égerházi on lead guitar whilst Hackett adds some atmospheric guitars to it. Barabás also added a bit of acoustic guitar to it as well but it’s all very effective and chills the bones perfectly.

Track 7. Building A Nuraghe.

The tracks on the album get shorter from here on and this piece would of most likely have been written by Égerházi with the use of a Looper Pedal which is something that Barabás uses on one of the tracks on the live album that followed it. Basically, it gives the other members of the band something to jam along to and is simple enough and perhaps not as strong as many of the other tracks on the album. But overall, it’s not a bad track and does rhythmically pick the album up a bit but not by a lot.

Track 8. Buzzy Island. 

The guys get into the funky groove of things here and Barabás does some fine slap bass playing on this track, it also features a fine solo from Hackett and Koós-Hutás whilst Briem sits in well on the drums and keeps it all together. It’s a GREAT! little track and a FUNKY DELICIOUS! one at that.

Track 9. I Will Always Remember.

The mood simmers down nicely to a lovely steady chillout pace and this has plenty of colour with rhythm guitars and a beautiful solo on the nylon guitar which is most likely played by Égerházi. It also features a beautiful bass solo by Barabás and Koós-Hutás does it bit on the trumpet in the first half of the track and produces some lovely tones from it as well. The opening groove of a melody that comes into play at 43 seconds for a short time played on the guitar reminds me of the song “Take A Walk On The Wild Side” by Lou Reed for some reason and I quite often find myself singing the words to that song to it as well. But there is a lot more to this GORGEOUS! piece and it’s another contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 10. Wake Up.

It’s time to wake up and this is another funky little number and the shortest track on the album at 2 minutes, 20 seconds. Once again, the bass and drums are the driving force and Barabás is on speed here with his slap bass playing. It also gives both Hackett and Koós-Hutás to fly in a couple of solos. It’s another GREAT! little track and picks the album up for the final time and works very well.

Track 11. After Limoncello.

Where back in the smooth jazz territory here for the final track on the album and it’s like the guys are drifting on in the sunset to put a BEAUTIFUL! end to the album as well. It really does round the album off in fine style and the musicians doe the BIZZO on it.


To sum up Life Is A Journey (The Sardinia Tapes) by Djabe & Steve Hackett. I would say that it’s a GREAT! or rather NICE! album to chillout too. To be quite honest being more of a surround FREAK! myself I play this album a lot on my Desktop computer whilst writing reviews and playing the odd game of Patience to which Windows 10 now calls Klondike for some reason. But I often used to play that solitary card game well before computers were even sold commercially. It’s also an album one could relax to in the late evening with their feet up with cuppa cocoa sort of thing and is perhaps more of a late-night album. But either way it works very well in the chillout department.

Since buying the album it even got me in the mood to buy their live album and bring my my Steve Hackett collection up to date with his last 3 studio albums to which I never had. The only thing I have brought of Hackett’s since he released Genesis Revisited II back in 2012 were very much live concerts on DVD and Blu Ray. So right now, I have gone Hackett mad and shall be reviewing the other albums along with more artists albums over the next month or two.


My personal highlights from the albums are as follows: “Life Is A Journey“. “What’S The News Antonio?“. “Around My Mind“.and “Beams Over The Nulvi Mountains“.


In conclusion I would say that if like myself you are into the prog rock music of Steve Hackett’s solo career. The album Life Is A Journey is not necessarily going to be to your taste. It is without doubt different and very much more a Djabe album than anything else. But for those into smooth jazz and jazz fusion this album may very well appeal more to your taste. I myself can very much like the both genres of music at times and even though I would not say the album is a solid one by any means, it is without doubt an excellent album to chillout too.

Overall, I would not say that Djabe’s style of jazz fusion has the excitement you would get with other bands such as Brand X and the Mahavishnu Orchestra and in reality, they are much smoother than those couple of bands regarding their own style and approach to their own music. They are however GREAT! musicians but whether that would entice me to buy some of their own studio albums is another thing, but they are GREAT! to watch live and they have one hell of a good bass player. I myself did buy the album myself because I do like Steve Hackett a lot more than any of the other individual members that came out of Genesis back in the 70’s, and the fact that it also came with a DVD and a 5.1 mix did also entice me to purchase it and to be quite honest I am quite glad that I did.

I would also say that the album represents very good value for the buck and can be picked up at a bargain price at some places. I did also rate my overall price point score down to the fact that it can be picked up for around £11 – £14 which is GREAT! value for a CD/DVD package like this. The bonus material on the DVD is excellent especially how the live concert footage you get has also been given the 5.1 treatment. It’s GREAT! to see Steve Hackett playing some of his own and early Genesis songs with the band too and they are GREAT! to watch together live.

Chilled Out In Sunny Sardinia

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Life Is A Journey. 9:40.
02. Golden Sand. 7:06.
03. Castelsardo At Night. 8:22.
04. What’S The News Antonio?. 6:30.
05. Around My Mind. 11:30.
06. Beams Over The Nulvi Mountains. 6:08.
07. Building A Nuraghe. 4:44.
08. Buzzy Island. 4:14.
09. I Will Always Remember. 6:32.
10. Wake Up. 2:20.
11. After Limoncello. 5:48.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 9/10.

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

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

Lee’s 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #128

Gentle Giant – Free Hand & Interview (Deluxe Editions)



I recently stumbled across the Deluxe Editions of both of Gentle Giant’s albums Free Hand and Interview to which I only discovered were released a few years back via some of the comments left upon Gentle Giant’s Facebook page when they was about to announce themselves, that they had unearthed some buried treasure of their own. As it happens for me personally, I rather think that the couple of little GEMS! I managed to get hold of here, were more of a TREASURE! than what the band were about to put out. But before I go into further detail about these GEMS! let’s take a closer look at what Gentle Giant had unearthed so to speak.

It Can Change, It Can Stay The Same…

It was back on the 19th September last month Gentle Giant put out a post on their Facebook page that they will be making a BIG! announcement the next day. To be honest I had already seen rumours floating around a week prior to this and it was obvious they was going to be putting out another release, and on the following day on the 20th September sure enough they made their BIG! announcement and it was that they were going to be releasing a new 30 Disc Box Set to which they had titled Unburied Treasure.

Box set

It’s very much a Limited Box Set to which only 2,000 copies are being put out and is available to pre-order and will be released on the 6th December 2019. It also comes at a WHOPPING! price tag of £250 and to be perfectly honest it is not exactly the thing I was hoping for and would of much sooner it would have been that they had done 5.1 mixes of albums such as In A Glass House. Free Hand or Interview for example. Even better if they were mixed by Steven Wilson who had already done the 5.1 mixes for the albums Octopus, The Power and The Glory and Three Piece Suite that I already have and have reviewed shown in the picture below.


The one thing that was obvious was that no way had the band suddenly got back together to make a new album. Especially as some of the bands members had given up playing their instruments many moons ago and moved onto other things. They even stated themselves over a decade ago that they most likely would not even be able to play like they did all those years ago so it would be pointless.

But personally, for myself, no matter how I look at this box set, it does not really offer me anything I do not already have which is why I have no real interest in it even though it does look like a very nice collector’s item. OK that statement is not strictly true and there are a few things I do not have here so let’s take a closer look at the contents.


Unburied Treasure Contents

The only unburied musical treasure you are getting in this box set comes in the form of 15 live concerts put onto 15 CD’s and the biggest majority of those some people may already have in one form or another. The chances are that the official double live album Playing The Fool that was released many moons ago (also included in this box set) is the best recording there is. For all we know some of the other live recordings might not of even came from the soundboard and are bootlegs just like most of the live material that came with the King Crimson box sets.

Looking at the live recordings you do get there is only 7 of them that have never been released before. You also get 7 that were not officially released by the band that most people might already have including the 1 concert that was never put on CD before that also comes with it. Live recordings are all well and good but a load of them can also present you with too much of the same thing at times and unless these recordings are up to the quality of the recording you get on Playing The Fool they are only really for nostalgic purposes and you would only ever really play them once, and if the recordings are really bad you might not even make it through a concert.

Now I am not for one-minute stating or suggesting that there is bootleg recordings and inferior quality recordings amongst the live material you get here and it’s not unusual to unearth good soundboard recordings from many of the radio stations and other engineers that recorded the band live. But it’s certainly an underhanded thing other bands have done in the past regarding the material they use to make up a box set like this to entice you to buy it. As far as I can see there is only a couple of things in this box set that are new, and one of those may not even be new either, but first let’s take a look at the 12 studio albums many would already have.

The box set also includes the bands original 12 studio albums to which it states that they have been remastered. As to if they have been remastered this year and for this box set alone is another thing, but regardless of any remaster it’s not going to give you anything new unlike a new remix of the album will, and the only thing remastering does is enhance the sound a bit more and nothing else. The only reason for remastering any album is really down to the new technology that becomes available over the years such as new plugins that might work better and they might want to experiment with. Basically, all they are doing is applying EQ to a 2-track stereo audio file and some of them may even use a bit of compression to try and enhance the recording a bit more. Some recordings sound better for it and others don’t.

They basically remaster albums when they have gone out of circulation and reissue them with a new remaster. Although some artists and record companies take the piss and do them more often than they should just to try and squeeze more money out of you. But in general, I would expect a new remaster to come out once in every 5 to 10 years or so or even longer.


Now it was only last year that I pre-ordered and purchased the brand-new reissue of Clamshell Box Set I Lost My Head to which was originally put out back in 2012. This new 2018 Edition comes with new remasters (or were they?) of the bands last 5 studio albums plus the double live album. The chances are that the new remasters of the albums in this box set are what you will be getting in the brand-new box set Unburied Treasure. It’s also most likely (when looking at the pictures of both box sets) that they have even used the same cardboard sleeves for Free Hand and Playing The Fool and just made cardboard sleeves for the rest of the CD’s to slot into.

Personally, for the price of £250 I would of expected the CD’s to be put into proper 2 panel Gatefold Cardboard Digipaks or DigiSleeves at least, not cardboard sleeves like they have done here. For those who think because the box set contains 30 discs you are getting value for the buck personally, I do not see how, especially when it’s presented to you like this and how you can get 6 albums in this Clamshell Box for £20. OK granted 4 of the albums have been shoved onto 2 discs instead of 4 but I have just pre-ordered The Police new box set which comes with 6 CD’s in 6 cardboard sleeves for less than £18.

The Unburied Treasure Box Set I personally think is well overpriced and it should retail from somewhere around £130 – £150 and that is more of a genuine honest price tag and it’s real value. But even at that lower price this box set is not for me and I certainly would not pay that price to get hold of the one thing in it that may interest me, and that is the Blu Ray that is also included in it. The reason I say it “may interest me” is down to the fact that I may already have it.

The Blu Ray supposedly contains the 5.1 mix of the bands self-titled debut album done by Steve Wilson yet only 3 of the 7 original multitrack tapes were ever found and was the reason why Wilson decided to do a 5.1 mix and only a compilation of the bands first 3 albums in the first place due to most of the multitrack tapes for those albums being missing.

When you look at all the multitrack tapes, he found to do that compilation that was put out and titled Three Piece Suite back in 2017. The only one of the three albums it would make more sense to do a 5.1 mix with would be the 3rd album Three Friends. Simply because only 2 out of the 6 multitrack tapes were missing from that album to which he could have done simulated Psudio mixes with those 2 tracks. Doing 3 x 5.1 mixes and 4 x Psudio mixes for their debut album is pointless. You might as well play the CD in your Blu Ray or DVD Player and turn on Dolby Prologic II on your AV Receiver it will produce more or less the same result.

There is of course a slight possibility that the remaining 4 multitrack tapes have now been found to do a proper 5.1 mix of the bands debut album. But I certainly would not be shelling out 250 bucks to find out. If it is the case then that would be one of the only two new things in this box set, I mentioned earlier that is the best thing about it. Hopefully if they have found them, they will see the sense to release the 5.1 mix of the album at a later date like they have done with the previous 5.1 mixes of Octopus and The Power and The Glory.

The only other new thing that you are getting with the box set is where most of the value and quality lies, and that is the 136-page coffee table hardback book. You do also get a 96-page tour history book and some other posters etc. but the hardback book is the real value you are getting here and worth around £30 on its own. No doubt it is crammed with useful informative information about the band and comes with quality glossary photos too. I love the way Jethro Tull have been re-releasing their older albums to celebrate the Anniversary of them every year and how they come in the form of a hardback book along with an array of discs that fit nicely into it.

Speaking of which I am looking forward to receiving the latest Force 10 Book Edition of the 1979 album Stormwatch that now gets released on the 15th November. It comes with a 96-page hardback book. 4 CD’s & 2 DVD’s with 5.1 and new stereo mixes done by Steven Wilson. At a very respectable price too of £30. So, do you really think that Gentle Giant’s box set Unburied Treasure is worth £250. Don’t be silly, but of course many of their loyal fans will buy it regardless and I hope they sell all 2,000 copies. But I am afraid it’s like I originally stated in that it’s not what I was hoping to see in the first place.

So now let’s get back on track and take a look at the couple of GEMS! I did manage to get hold of and it was thanks to some of the comments left upon Gentle Giant’s Facebook page that made me go DIGGING! for them in the first place.

Free Hand & Interview (Deluxe Editions) In Review…

This is going to be a different review and is not a review about the albums material because I have reviewed them both in the past. So, for this review I am going to focus on the difference between these Deluxe Editions in relation to the general releases of the albums. Both the Deluxe Editions were released back in 2012 in both Europe and Japan. The only difference between the both releases is the way they are packaged and nothing more. For example, the Japanese release comes in a CD-sized paper sleeve album replica, with obi-strip, extra paper sleeve for the bonus disc and insert of notes etc. Whereas the European release comes in what they call a hard-shell digipak which is basically a plastic jewel case that slips into a cardboard sleeve.

In general, you will pay more for the Japanese release and the fact that both of the Deluxe Editions are going out of circulation you will end up paying silly money for them. But regarding the actual discs that come in them, they have been remastered and mixed by the same engineers and the only genuine difference is the way they have been packaged. To avoid paying silly money for them I opted to go for the European releases. My main reason for wanting these particular releases in the first place is the extra disc you do get with them which is a DVD that contains a 4.1 mix of an adaption of the original Quadrophonic Mix that was done of both albums back in the 70’s.


As you can see from the picture above both the CD’s & DVD’s contain the original album tracks and there are no bonus tracks included. The CD’s were remastered by Fred Kevorkian at Avatar Studios in New York in the US, the very same guy who remastered the Clamshell Box Set of I Lost My Head back in 2012. When I purchased the re-issue of that box set last year it was advertised that the albums inside it come with new remasters done in 2018, yet there is no indication inside the booklet to verify they were new remasters and from listening to the CD’s in the Deluxe Edition it’s plain to hear that they sound exactly the same and the same CD’s were used for both the Deluxe Editions and the I Lost My Head Clamshell box set.

Now it’s been a good 7 years since these albums were remastered and the new box set Unburied Treasure might very well contain new remasters, but even if they are the same ones from 2012, I personally would not complain because they do sound very good. But they are not gonna give you the immersive experience and sound quality that the DTS 4.1 mix of the album will give you, and that is where a product like this means a hell of a lot more to me than any box set that contains nothing but a load of remastered CD’s or Vinyl albums. You are getting a damn site more for the buck with these Deluxe Editions than what that £250 box set is going to give you at an extortionate price. Which is why I would not personally waste my money on it and stick to box sets that give you good value for the buck when it comes to such CD packages. So, let’s now take a look at the DVD’s you get with these Deluxe Editions.

Free Hand DVD.

SF 1

The DVD opens up with a short animation of the album cover and a short bit of music from the album to accompany it and then presents you with its main menu as seen in the picture above. On the main menu if presents you with 3 choices of audio to choose from and by default its set to the original analogue stereo master. You also have 2 options to choose from for the 4.1 surround mixes the first of which a DTS mix and the 2nd is a standard Dolby Digital mix. Both the Stereo and DTS mixes come with Hi Res formats of 96/24 whilst the Dolby Digital mix in 48/24. Once you have made your choice it presents you with the following screen below.

SF 2

This menu gives you 3 options the first of which is to simply click on “Play Album” and it will begin to play the album from the start to the finish. The 2nd is “Songs” to which you can pick any particular track to play from the album and “Audio Choice” is there should you wish to go back to the main menu and change your desired choice for the audio. Though this can also be easily done simply by clicking on the Audio Button on your remote that comes with your DVD or Blu Ray Player.

SF 3

The screen above is the “Songs” menu and this is where you can simply select any of the albums 6 tracks to play. Clicking on “back” takes you back to the previous menu. It comes in handy if you want to play a quick track for a friend or you only want to listen to a few tracks on the album.

SF 4

When playing a track, it will display the album cover along with the title of the track you’re playing as seen in the picture above. The only thing that changes for each track is the title of the track only and it does not display any other pictures or a slideshow.

Interview DVD.

Si 1

Si 2

Si 3

Si 4

Si 5

As you can see by all the screenshots above the menus are pretty much laid out the same and the choices of audio is also the same. The only thing that is different is that the sky has been animated so it’s continuously moving and you do get a different picture displayed for each track as it plays on the Interview DVD.

The 4.1 Mixes.

The multitrack mixes for both of the albums was done by Peter Mew and I have to say he’s done a very good job of them. I am so glad he chose to do 4.1 mixes rather than 4.0 mixes too, simply because the subwoofer will make a lot more difference and gives you that extra channel rather than the 4 channels you would have had with a Quad mix. Quadrophonic for me personally never sounded right and never had the right balance and even by having that 1 extra channel it can make quite a difference in getting things to pan out right across all channels. Personally, I would have preferred a 5.1 mix but this 4.1 mix is pretty impressive although not quite as impressive of the job Steve Wilson done with the 4.1 mix of the 50th Anniversary Edition of Jethro Tull’s 1968 debut album This Was. But it’s well worthy of a good 8 out of 10.

The band originally done the Quadrophonic mixes of the both albums back in the 70’s but they never put them out. I know the original albums were recorded at Advision Studios and would of thought they was recorded on either 8 or 16 track reels and down to the fact that they are calling this an adaptation of the Quad mix it could be that the original multitrack master tapes were lost and not available for Peter Mew to work with, and he’s done the mix from using the original recordings of the Quad mixes that was done for both albums. But I have to say they do sound impressive all the same.

I would certainly love to see a 5.1 mix of them done by Steven Wilson in the future and would certainly buy them again. Although the only way that could be done is if they were able to locate the original multitrack master tapes and it’s hardly likely to happen. But for now, I am well happy with these.


To sum up my review of both the Deluxe Editions of Free Hand & Interview I would say for surround FREAKS! like myself they are well worth sorting after, but I would not pay silly money for them. They are becoming harder to obtain these days because they are going out of circulation and the chances are is that they will not get re-issued like the Clamshell box set of I Lost My Head did back in 2018. Interview is still easy to get hold of and I got mine brand new from Amazon UK for £14. Free Hand on the other hand is a lot harder to find and they very rarely can be found at a reasonable price and I was lucky enough to get it off a chap on the German eBay site in mint condition for 30 Euro (£27.84) including the 5 Euro he charged for p+p. So, I did end up paying double the price for it. But that is still cheaper than many are charging for the European release and I do not consider 30 euro to be silly money in relation some of the extortionate prices people are asking for them.

The best places to look for the availability of them is on Discogs and by Googling around and searching the net. For example, when I first looked on Discogs for Free Hand it came up with nothing, and on eBay UK the only copy it came up with was a Japanese release for over £100. It was via deep searching through google that I came across it on eBay in Germany. During this week whilst writing this review I did notice that on Discogs that a European release had popped up for £39.00 excluding p+p. Free Hand is quite hard to get hold of and I was lucky to get it for the price I paid and to be honest I do not think I myself would personally pay over £40 for it and I do have my limits. Please also note my final price point rating score is based on the original price of the Deluxe Editions which would be between £14 – £18 each.


Overall, I am well chuffed with my purchases of the Deluxe Editions of Free Hand & Interview and the 4.1 mixes have been done very well and bring out more of the dynamics, clarity and detail much better than any stereo release of the album. For me personally they are real GEMS! that so far are very much the definitive releases of these albums and are more of a TREASURE! to me than what you will find in Gentle Giant’s latest box set Unburied Treasure.

Don’t get me wrong I think box sets are all well and good and make GREAT! collectors’ items for those who like that sort of thing. I also think it’s GREAT! that Gentle Giant finally have the rights to their own music and this is the first time they could ever release all their albums together in one box set. But for myself it does not hardly give me anything that I do not have already apart from the rather nice hardback book that comes with it.

To be honest if they were to re-issue all their 12 studio albums and double live album on CD again in proper cardboard DigiPaks or DigiSleeves individually. I would most likely replace my existing CD’s with them. But as for the cardboard sleeves they have used for them in this box set. Those things are associated with much cheaper Clamshell box sets that cost around £20 – £40 and not box sets that come with a WHOPPING! price tag like this of £250. Any box set is supposed to offer you more value for the buck and I am afraid I do not see how the Unburied Treasure box set does and it is well overpriced I personally think. The best TREASURE! they could ever find is the multitrack master tapes so they can do 5.1 mixes with the rest of their albums like they have done with Octopus and The Power and The Glory.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 7/10.

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

Lee’s 4.1 Mix Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #127

Islands (40th Anniversary Edition) – King Crimson



King Crimson’s 4th studio album Islands is another album that I could never get to grips with just like their 3rd album Lizard and everything about the album including the album cover confused the life out of me. I always found the music quite dark and very dreary almost dull and lifeless, the combination of trying to fuse classical and jazz with traditional folk music was out of character and never really worked for some reason. Even Allmusic called it “the weakest Crimson studio album from their first era that “is only a real disappointment in relation to the extraordinarily high quality of the group’s earlier efforts.”. I have to admit having more recently rediscovered the album again, much of what I have just stated even confuses me why I would make those observations of the album in the first place. Simply because they are completely wrong and finally, I see the album for what it is, and oddly enough I would even say that the album Islands is certainly one of King Crimson’s more accessible albums.

To be perfectly honest Islands is so much more of an easier album to get into that for the life of me I cannot see why I had that much of a problem getting into it in the first place. The only thing I can possibly think of is that it’s not got enough in the excitement department and is more of a slow driven album. That’s why I thought it needed a stick of dynamite to wake things up a bit and was most likely what never appealed to me about this album in the first place. It’s perhaps more of a mature album if that makes any sense and I think the best way I can describe Islands in relation to Lizard is that’s its less busy and has a lot more space for the music to breath more openly and freely. I would also say that like the album Lizard it took Steven Wilson’s mix to get me to appreciate it more, and once again he has done a BRILLIANT! job on the 5.1 mix.

Since the departure of yet again more musicians during the making of their 3rd album Lizard and not being able to even go out to play and tour the new material live. Robert Fripp was now getting tired of it all and left it to one of the bands remaining members Mel Collins to audition the new potential candidates to make up the numbers. Bass guitarist Rick Kemp spent a couple weeks playing with the band though he refused to join them and left to join Steeleye Span. It was Keith Emerson who suggested to Fripp that he should get in touch with the drummer Ian Wallace who was lodging with Emerson at the time. Boz Burrell had been recruited as the new singer but has Kemp had left his bass behind when he left and the band still needed a bass player, Fripp taught him to play the bass. Much of the same session players also played on the album apart from Nick Evans who had left and they also brought in Harry Miller to play double bass on a couple of the tracks, plus a couple of uncredited string players and a female soprano singer by the name of Paulina Lucas.

With the new line-up in place by July 1971 they started to play a few gigs and book into the studios to record the new material for the album. During the months of July to October they very much spent that time playing live and was in an out of the studios getting the album together. The bulk of the recording of the album was done in September of that same year, most of the overdubbing and the final mixing was completed in early October and the album got released in the UK in December. For the first time since the release of their debut album In The Court Of The Crimson King back in 1969 King Crimson finally had assembled a band that could take their music out on the road, yet in the the following year of 1972 once again it all had fell apart.

Islands was the last of the albums in an era were King Crimson had struggled to exist and hold a permanent line-up of musicians. It was also the last album to feature its long-time lyricist Peter Sinfield who was the only member besides Robert Fripp who had been there from the offset. It’s an album that I personally struggled to come to terms with, and in my final review of the bands discography of 13 studio albums you will find out just how much it speaks to me now. But first of all, let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork as usual.

The Packaging & Artwork…


No difference regarding the packaging and all of King Crimson’s 40th Anniversary Editions come in a 2-panel cardboard DigiPak slipped inside a cardboard slipcase. Both discs are held firmly in place via the plastic trays with hubs that have been fitted inside and they are well good quality packages. It also comes with a 14-page booklet with all the linear production notes, photographs, lyrics and overall, it’s a very well-presented package for its price point which is around the £18 mark but can be obtained for less if you shop around a bit more. I did have to in this case because Amazon were charging £14 for Lizard and £18.50 for Islands so I ordered the both from Burning Shed and managed to get the both for £29 including the P+P.


The artwork for the album cover was provided by courtesy of The Institute of Technology and Carnage Institution of Washington and what you are seeing here is the Trifid Nebula in Sagittarius. The albums title and name were left off the cover and it was most likely a marketing ploy to get people to pick the album up and inspect it to see what it was all about and who it was by like many other artists were doing around the time. The inside of the gatefold sleeve was a painting done by Peter Sinfield of which he simply painted a few islands on a white background. It was also used for the American release of the album in the following year of 1972. But when the King Crimson catalogue was re-issued by EG, they standardised on the “Trifid Nebula” cover worldwide.


USA Release 1972

Personally, I think Sinfield’s version of the album cover looks dreadful and I do not get the point and am confused to why they used a picture of the star formation of the Trifid Nebula on the UK release, other than the fact that the album was released in December to which Sagittarius is the star sign of that month. The album Islands is about islands and the sea and not things that are associated with space. Unless they are guiding their ships by the stars that is and that’s the only logical explanation I can think of. I thought Sindield’s lyrics were ludicrous and hard enough to decipher at times and now it seems that even the album covers are getting ludicrous. I cannot say I am impressed by the artwork they chose for the album at all.

Islands The Album In Review…

King Crimson’s 4th studio album Islands was released in the UK on the 3rd December 1971 it contained 6 tracks (including a secret hidden track at the end of the album) and had an overall playing time of 43 minutes, 49 seconds. The album reached number 30 in the UK Album Charts and did not do quite as well as the bands first 3 albums. It also reached number 76 in the American Billboard Charts and surprisingly was the only King Crimson album to break into the top 40 of the German album charts reaching number 35. According to Sid Smith’s words in the booklet the album was recorded in a series of guerrilla-style raids at Command Studios between their gigs in the UK. They used the studios because they were cheap enough and could be had at short notice, it was not the best of studios due to the fact that you could hear the tube trains in London’s underground rumbling beneath it.

Command Studios was situated at 201 Piccadilly London it was known as the first of the giants and was opened up in the autumn of 1970. It was formerly the BBC Studios and In the thirties 201 Piccadilly had been a Lyons restaurant where the trendy set of those times used to collect at tea dances. Then the BBC took the place over as the Stagedoor Canteen, during the war years. It was used to broadcast troop shows such as Itma and the Ben Lyon series. Glenn Miller is said to have made his last broadcast from there too and in the fifties it became known as Piccadilly One and the BBC used it for shows from the Dales to Saturday Club.

Command Studios was setup by Jacques Levy and Denis Comper back then who had BIG! ideas for it and brought in John Mosely to help out and raise the money they needed. They spent a fortune on studio gear and converting the place into 3 studios. In addition to the studios are cutting rooms, editing rooms etc. and the studios boasted the most advanced technical specification in the world. Each studio was fully equipped for quadrophonic recording and the initial plans were for each studio to be 24-track though it was mostly 16-track.

Command Studios_Fotor

Many bands and artists used the studios to make their albums and smash hit singles including the likes of Pete Townsend, Vangelis, Roxy Music and so on. The group Slade even recorded their Slade Alive album in the place and artists such as B.B King and many others also played live concerts there too. Oddly enough Peter Sinfield also produced Roxy Music’s debut album and their smash hit single “Virginia Plain” in the place and King Crimson’s 5th album Lark’s Tongues In Aspic was also recorded there. Though the studio run into financial difficulties and it was all over for Command Studios by 1974 and much of its elaborate equipment had been sold to various other studios by the autumn of that year. But quite a lot came out of the place during its 4 years in operation including Fripp & Eno’s debut album No Pussyfooting.

The 40th Anniversary CD/DVD Edition of Islands was released on the 4th October 2010. The CD contains the new stereo mixes done by Steven Wilson and comes with 6 bonus tracks making of a total of 12 tracks over an overall playing time of 64 minutes, 15 seconds. The biggest majority of the bonus material is mostly alternative takes, mixes and studio run-through’s which have been previously released in various box sets over the years which are as follows: “Islands” (studio run through with oboe prominent). “Formentera Lady” (Take 2). “Sailor’s Tale” (Alternate mix/edit by Fripp). “The Letters” (Rehearsal/outtake) and “Ladies of the Road” (Robert Fripp & David Singleton remix).

The only bonus track that was previously unreleased is “A Peacemaking Stint Unrolls” to which is quite interesting in that it sees this band line up playing and utilising motifs that later appear as elements of “Lark’s Tongues In Aspic Part 1” and “Lament“. The DVD does pack in quite a lot of extras unlike the one that came with the 40th Anniversary CD/DVD Edition of Lizard. So, let’s take a look at that next.

The DVD.

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The DVD’s main menu displays the albums artwork rather nicely and presents you with 4 basic options to choose from. The first of which is “Play” and by clicking on that it simply plays the new Steven Wilson 2010 mix of the album. The “Playlist” will present you with the albums tracks should you just wish to play a certain track. The “Audio Setup” presents you with the choice of audio you wish to hear the album played back in and the last of the 4 option is the “Extras” which contains all the bonus material on the DVD.

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The “Audio Setup” menu presents you with the choice of stereo and surround mixes and by default it’s set to DTS 5.1 Digital Surround and they come with a hi-res format of 24/96. The PCM Stereo.mix is in 24/48. Please note it also comes with 5.1 and Stereo MLP Lossless audio formats both of which have a hi-res format of 24/96 when you insert the disc into a DVD Player that is hooked up to your AV Receiver via RCA (Phono) Cables.

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When playing the album or a track from the album it displays the title of the track and Peter Sinfield’s artwork he done for the American release of the album. Personally, I think it’s boring and they would have been better off displaying a slideshow of band pics or even the UK album cover.

S 4

The “Extras” menu contains all the bonus material and there is quite a lot of it contained in the 4 options you can choose from in the menu. The final option “Credits” displays all the linear production notes you get in the booklet. The first of bonus material is the original stereo mix of the album to which is the 2004 remaster they put out of the 30th Anniversary.  I can only presume that they felt that was the best remaster of the original album and is why it was included here. Although its good that it is included so you can make comparisons with the new Steve Wilson stereo mix.

S 5

Next up we have “Routes To Islands” and this section there is some interesting nostalgic material that consists of the Islands line-up of the band in the rehearsal studios rehearsing certain songs to play live at the gigs they played back then. It also contains a couple of rough mixes and live material too. Quite a bit of the material in this section is previously unreleased and in total there are 8 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 49 minutes, 57 seconds.

The only downside to the material in this section is that is very much low-fi in that it sounds like it’s been recorded on a Cassette Deck rather than from any mixing console or soundboard which is why it is also presented to you with a format of 16/48 rather than 24/48. So, it really is for more of a nostalgic purpose and not the sort of thing you would play more than one time sort of thing. It is interesting though hearing this line-up play “Pictures Of The City” in the rehearsal studios and if you are wondering what the track “Drop In” is, it’s “The Letter” and it also includes them playing it live at Plymouth too.

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The next section of bonus material is the “Alternate Album” and here you get 6 tracks that have an overall playing time of 20 minutes, 28 seconds which is less than half the time of the original album. Here they have included the previously unreleased bonus track on the CD “A Peacemaking Stint Unrolls” along with other various takes and rough mixes. It’s quite a good bonus feature though it’s mostly made up of snippets rather than the full tracks, but still very good and is presented with a stereo audio format of 24/48.

S 7

The final section of the bonus material is titled “Assorted Ladies” and it contains alternate takes and remixes of the 2 tracks on the album “Formentera Lady” and “Ladies of The Road” once again presented in stereo 24/48. In total there are 5 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 18 minutes, 56 seconds. Once again, it’s perhaps something you would only play once and is a bit too much of the same thing.

Overall there is quite a wealth of bonus material included on the DVD almost 90 minutes’ worth plus the original mix of the album and you are certainly getting a lot for the buck here. Even though much of it is nostalgic and more of the same thing rather than an array of material one has not heard before it has to be worth a good 8 out of 10 with the amount of it you get. I also think considering the price point it’s not as if you are paying any extra for the bonus material either. You get amazing value for the buck with this 40th Anniversary Edition of Islands and for me personally you are getting way more with the 5.1 mix of the album too, so let’s now take a look the 5.1 mix.

The 5.1 Mix.

Once again Steve Wilson has done an amazing job on the 5.1 mix and even though Islands is an album that does have a lot more space and is not cluttered like their previous album Lizard, it still works exceptionally a lot better for it with a 5.1 mix. The way he’s placed the instruments over the 6 channels brings out the true dynamics and resonance of how they should sound giving you the presence of being right up close to the musicians as if they were actually in the room with you. It really is another mix to die for and no doubt worthy of the 10 out of 10 rating I have given it.

Musicians & Credits…

King-Crimson Ilsands Lineup_Fotor

All song written by Robert Fripp & Peter Sinfield. Produced & Mixed by Steven Wilson & Robert Fripp. Recorded at Command Studios London. Engineer Andy Hendrikson. Stereo and 5.1 Mastering by Simon Hayworth. DVD Authoring & Assembly by Neil Wilkes. Cover Design & Painting by Peter Sinfield. Album Cover Artwork by The Institute of Technology and Carnage Institution of Washington. Photographs by Robert Ellis. Equipment by Vik & Mike. DVD Design & Layout by Claire Bidwell. Packaging Art & Design by Hugh O’ Donnell.

Robert Fripp: Guitar/Mellotron/Peters Pedal/Harmonium & Sundry Implements.
Mel Collins: Flute/Bass Flute/Saxes & Vocals.
Boz Burrell: Bass/Lead Vocals & Choreography.
Ian Wallace: Drums/Percussion/Vocals.
Peter Sinfield: Words/Sounds & Visions.

Additional Musicians:
Keith Tippet: Piano.
Robin Miller: Oboe.
Mark Charig: Cornet.
Harry Miller: String Bass.
Paulina Lucas: Soprano.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Islands is an album that sort of starts off like a concept album in the way that the first couple of tracks run into one another and many of the songs titles do relate to islands and the sea. Peter Sinfield’s inspiration for many of the lyrics did come from a holiday he had in the Balearic islands at the time. Although a lot of his lyrics do tend to be uncharacteristic at times and can often ponder on more of a sexual nature with groupies too and if there was a concept here it’s very much lost along the way. Though what I will say is that the lyrics he has written for this album, certainly make a lot more sense than the previous album Lizard and they are very good.

I have noticed in the musician credits in this 40th Anniversary Edition is that it leaves out the couple of uncredited string players who played on tracks 5 and 6 and also credits Harry Miller on string bass rather than double bass. Although Miller is without doubt using a bow on the double bass mostly and that is distinctly noticeable on the opening track of the album.

Even though around this time Robert Fripp had managed to gather up the musicians and King Crimson were a strong enough line-up to go out and play live at this point. He still struggled to come up with new material and some of it was sourced from older material to which he reworked for this album. So, let’s now take a look at the individual tracks and see how it all works out.

Track 1. Formentera Lady.


The album opens up with its dark dramatic introduction with Harry Miller using a bow on his double bass and soon it gets backed up with some fine flute from Mel Collins and Keith Tippet describing the waves upon the sea with the flourish of runs he plays on the piano. Apart from this opening track and the final track Tippett does not have a lot to do with the album and the piano is only utilised on the intro and again where the song comes back down of this lengthy 10 minute, 18 second track to which is the longest track on the album. Boz Burrell’s vocals comes into play at the 1:45 mark to which he subtly delivers Sinfield’s lyrics quite well which pertain to everything he seen on the island including his sweet and dark lover dancing away the night so to speak.

Around the 3:04 mark Ian Wallace comes in on the drums and percussion and Burrell’s simplistic one note on the electric bass sets the groove for him to sing along to and Fripp also follows along on the acoustic guitar in parts. The song then winds itself down to the intro again and the same groove is set for the rest of the musicians to meander their way along and fit into the piece and it very much runs along in a straight line and goes nowhere apart from the way it’s all built up which is quite well and quite haunting. They even work in some exotic eastern vibe to tie in with the lyrics and Collins let’s it rip on the sax a bit whilst Paulina Lucas does a bit of cat wailing by adding her Soprano voice towards the end and it then runs into the next track on the album.

It’s plain to see from this opening track that King Crimson are going down more of a folky road and trying to combine and fuse elements of jazz and classical music into it which might sound all well but it lacks progression and is quite simplistic. Whereas their previous album was perhaps their most PROGMATIC album there is hardly any elements of prog rock here at all. Overall, I think it’s a fine enough song but it’s not gonna exactly set the world on fire.

Track 2. Sailor’s Tale.

The album picks up the pace a bit on this instrumental piece and the sound we have here is perhaps more familiar how they funked things up on “21st Century Schizoid Man” from their debut album. This is much more like King Crimson we know and are perhaps more accustomed to in relation to the opening track on the album. Both the guitar and the mellotron are more evident on this track and it sounds like Fripp is doing something for a change rather than let everyone else do it all for him. Both him and Collins are going into a frenzy on this track and I quite like the change that comes in with Burrell’s bass line around the 2:33 mark and Wallace does well on the drums too.

I would not go over the top on the guitar work like many reviewers have and it’s nothing special at all in reality. But it’s not a bad track at all and considering its some 7 minutes, 36 seconds it does all seem to be over after a few minutes so it must be quite good. I quite like the fog horn sound too and the mellotron works a treat on the track.

Track 3. The Letters.

This next song is a reworking of a song entitled “Why Don’t You Just Drop In” from the 1968 album The Brondby Tapes by Giles, Giles & Fripp. It’s been reworked from the verse section of that original song only they have changed the lyrics and jazzed it up. I have to be honest I quite like the more subtle approach on the opening in comparison to the original and Fripp’s clean guitar works very well and in some ways, gives it more of a slower acoustic approach even if he is using an electric guitar. I also think both Sinfield’s lyrics and Burrell’s voice suit the song well, and I like how he can add some power to his voice here too.

They also beef it up more in the instrumental section to which I felt was good when it comes into play in typical Crimson style, however it does tend to sound like that Sooty & Sweep broke into the party and let all havoc loose on it in the way it’s been jazzed up. Although this is not so out of character with this bands style at all and does quite work well. In some respects, this is not that far off some of the songs they did later with John Wetton on the Lark’s and Starless albums though it’s perhaps not quite on par with those better written songs. The original song was certainly more rocked up and does have that 60’s sound about it as you can hear in this video I found on the Tube.

Personally I think both versions are pretty good although I do think this song could of been done a lot better with how it first started with its more acoustic approach and an acoustically arranged version of the original song may have been a better way to go about it, rather than jazz it up like this. But no doubt they did it the King Crimson way and it would be in many respects what you would expect to get from an album like this in the first place.

Track 4. Ladies Of The Road.


This is probably the most worked out song on the album in terms of composition and structure and here the band are very much playing the blues and even the sax that Collins plays here is much more controlled to sit in very well with the groove of it all. It also does not really fly off the handle or go over the top. They have even somehow managed to throw in a very BEATLES ESC! psychedelic section into the piece with very impressive vocals and harmonies. Lyrically the song pertains to groupies and they have all done quite a GRAND! job here. It’s certainly different in relation to the first 3 tracks on the album that proceeded it and so far, it’s the only song I would consider to be a contender for the TOP SPOT! on the album.

Track 5. Prelude: Song Of The Gulls.

The second of the only two instrumental tracks on the album, and this is the prelude or introduction to the albums self-titled track and is a lovely orchestral piece that features Robin Miller on oboe with a couple of uncredited musicians on strings that’s sounds more like a quartet. This is also not a new composition and the only thing that is different here is the arrangement and nothing more. The original piece is the second segment in a 4-part piece that made up “Suite No.1” once again originally done by Giles, Giles & Fripp back in 1968 to which can quite clearly be heard in this clip from the Tube.

Personally, I think this arrangement is much better and sounds a lot better for it too, though I have to confess that original “Suite No.1” as an whole does sound rather unique and is very well done. To be quite honest I had never heard or paid any attention to Giles, Giles & Fripp before and found this very intriguing even to the point of it being much more complex than the biggest majority of material on this whole album. It’s even tempting me to buy it and review it. “Song Of The Gulls” is very much a very strong contender for the best track on the album and is a GORGEOUS! piece.

Track 6. Islands.


The album closes off with its self-titled track “Islands” and this is quite a peaceful and tranquil song beautifully sung by Boz Burrell and his voice is really suited here. The song itself is written and structured around the piano and the vocal melody and this is Tippett’s finest moment on the album and he does a GRAND! job. The piano is also accompanied by Mel Collins on bass flute and Harry Miller using his bow on the double bass to give it more of a cello string sound on the introduction. I love the breaks in between the vocal sections that allows the session players to play their part on their instruments and you can easily identify them all. It’s the only track on the album that features Mark Charig on cornet, Robin Miller’s oboe is also here again and Robert Fripp contributes harmonium, mellotron and guitar on the track and Ian Wallace eventually gets to bring in the drums around the 5:43 mark.

Although “Islands” may appear to be the longest track on the album it is in fact a minute shorter than the opening track and is 9 minutes, 20 seconds long. You then get a 1-minute silence and the secret hidden track makes up the rest of the 11 minutes and 52 seconds that is given for the tracks timing. In the secret track you hear Fripp giving instructions to the musicians and them tuning up like a classical orchestra. This section also features the couple of uncredited musicians and they do not feature on the self-titled track. “Islands” is my personal favourite track on the album and merits my TOP SPOT AWARD! and it rounds of the album quite magically.


To sum up the album Islands by King Crimson. I would say that it’s an album that is not gonna exactly set the world on fire and was most unusual in relation to the bands previous output on their first 3 albums. To be perfectly honest I could even imagine those King Crimson fans who brought it when it was originally released back in 1971 would of very much thought WTF’s this lol and if you was buying albums by bands such as Yes and Genesis in the same year, an album like Islands would not stand a cats chance in hell of competing with them and would of been hugely disappointing.

I personally feel that Islands is an album you would have to mature and warm yourself towards to get accustomed to it, rather than an album that is going to hit you in the face and say something to you straight away. I guess that is why I never thought much of the album in the first place with how the music presented itself to you at first to which did not exactly entice you to stick the album back on again. if anything it was more than likely that it would be a good while before you even put the album back on and could even appear to be quite boring.

I myself got into King Crimson very late and it was not until I seen the DVD Deja Vroom at a friend’s house in the late 90’s that I got into them. To be honest none of us were ever into King Crimson and the only reason he brought the DVD in the first place was because he was like myself and would often buy artists we never knew a lot about or heard a lot of their material before simply because we are both surround FREAKS! and there was not a lot out there in 5.1 for us to test out our systems on at the time. Having watched the DVD, I was impressed and immediately went out and brought it. I then proceeded to buy all their albums a few at a time starting with Discipline and THRAK at first and then from the beginning and upwards.

So, what do I think of Islands today? Well the one thing I will say is that it certainly sounds a lot better than it ever did thanks to Steve Wilson and my personal highlights from it are as follows: “Islands“. “Prelude: Song Of The Gulls” and “Ladies Of The Road“.


To conclude my review of King Crimson’s 4th album Islands I am glad that I gave the album another opportunity by revisiting it, and it is an album that I originally never gave much attention to and stayed clear of rather than give it the many spins it does require to sink in and for it to actually speak to me. But even though the album speaks more to me now it’s not a solid album but a half decent one and does have some good moments and can be more enjoyed more so now. The 5.1 mix entices me to play it a lot more often these days even though I still would not put it up there with the best of the bands output.

In terms of a rating I would not put it quite on par with Lizard though it only scores a point less. Both albums struggled to say anything to me in the first place and I very much found them difficult to come to terms with. Although Islands is certainly more of a straight forward album and one of their most accessible albums. It was all a bit lack lustre to me in the way it presented itself and lacked the excitement I got from many of their other albums. Though the one thing that does not lack excitement is the 5.1 mixes that Steve Wilson has done with them and that is where the 40th Anniversary Editions are by far the Definitive releases of the albums.

For those who think that the 40th Anniversary Series is nothing more than a way of making them more money, there is far more than meets the eye in relation to the many reissues that came before them. For example, the only way this could ever be achieved was down to Robert Fripp’s long and expensive battle to regain the rights to Crimson’s music. Even though the 30th Anniversary editions were made with the best technology at the time when they got released in early 2,000’s. They they were only remastered. Remastering any album is never going to bring out what lies beneath the surface and you also have to take into account that many of these albums were only recorded on 8 and 16 track reels which meant they had to bounce down a lot of the other instrumentation which results in signal loss. This also meant that many of the previous reissues suffered from significant signal loss by working with the original master, culled from an eight-track tape, plus the result of significant bounce downs from other tape reels.

Having access to all the original, pre-bounce down tracks means that by doing a completely new mix its now possible to get greater attention to separation, depth and clarity and this is what makes them sound way better than any previous versions. In my opinion the new mixes are way better than the previous recordings I had regardless of them being in stereo or 5.1. But the best albums are by far the ones that Steve Wilson has remixed and he has not remixed all 13 of their studio albums. The only way I would ever buy these albums again myself is if by chance Wilson does get to remix the albums he never done sometime in the future. But the biggest majority of them are remixed very well also especially the ones done by David Singleton. The good thing about the 40th Anniversary Series is that it also includes the original mixes so there is no way even purists can really moan at all.


The 40th Anniversary Series.

When it comes down to my own personal taste in prog rock music. King Crimson would not make it into my top 5 of prog rock bands but I enjoy their music and their albums sit proudly on my shelf. I cannot deny that their debut album In The Court Of The Crimson King is a ground-breaking album in terms of prog rock and that album is certainly amongst my favourite albums of the band along with Lark’s Tongues in Aspic. Starless and Bible Black. Discipline. Thrak and I would even include In The Wake Of Poseidon. The album I dislike the most is Beat and not even the 5.1 mix can rescue that album like it did for me with both Lizard and Islands. No doubt each album will speak to us all differently and when it boils down to our own individual tastes, I am sure we all have our own islands.

Clutch Sailor’s Words, Pearls And Gourds Are Strewn On My Shore…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Formentera Lady. 10:18.
02. Sailor’s Tale. 2:36.
03. The Letters. 4:28.
04. Ladies Of The Road. 5:31.
05. Prelude: Song Of The Gulls. 4:18.
06. Islands. 11:52.
07. Islands (Studio Run Through With Oboe Prominent). 2:00.
02. Formentera Lady (Take 2). 2:23.
03. Sailor’s Tale (Alternate Mix, Edit). 3:35.
04. A Peacemaking Stint Unrolls (Previously Unreleased). 3:52.
05. The Letters (Rehearsal, Outtake). 2:40.
06. Ladies Of The Road (R.Fripp & D.Singleton Remix). 5:42.

Lee’s overall Complete Package Value Rating…

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 9/10.

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

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

Lee’s 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 5/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #126

Lizard (40th Anniversary Edition) – King Crimson



Having already purchased 11 of King Crimson’s albums all over again in the 40th Anniversary series I very much held back from buying the albums Lizard and Islands basically because I never liked them and could never get into them at all for some reason. But seeing how well the 5.1 recordings very much brought out a lot more dynamics and clarity to all of their albums and that Steve Wilson had done the new 5.1 mixes for both Lizard and Islands it very much enticed me to buy them and give the albums another chance to see if they could speak a bit more to me sort of thing.

To be perfectly honest I think the reason why I never gave both of these albums the time of day and never went deeply into them before was down to the orchestral brass side of things. They both literally BRASSED! me off for that reason too, and the other reason was that the original recordings also sounded like DIRT! and was never that well mixed in the first place. Both of these albums I could of literally of threw in the bin for all the use they gave me when I first brought them back in the late 90’s.

Not even Robert Fripp himself liked the album Lizard and he was quite critical about it calling it “unlistenable” and lovers of it as “very strange”. Although that might have been mostly to do with the circumstances that surrounded him in both making the album and afterwards. But he did also state that after hearing Steve Wilson’s surround mix of the album that it was the first time, he had ever heard the Music in the music. I would say exactly the same thing myself simply because you could not hear a great deal of it through all the dirt that was in the original mix.

So, in these next couple of reviews some 20 years later you will find out if I have changed my mind about both Lizard and Islands and see if they speak to me more today. I shall also dig deeper into my research to try and find out more about the background and how they come to produce both of these very bizarre albums. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the artwork and packaging.

The Packaging & Artwork…


No difference regarding the packaging and all of King Crimson’s 40th Anniversary Editions come in a 2-panel cardboard DigiPak slipped inside a cardboard slipcase. Both discs are held firmly in place via the plastic trays with hubs that have been fitted inside and they are well good quality packages. It also comes with a 14-page booklet with all the linear production notes, photographs, lyrics and overall, it’s a very well-presented package for its price point which is around the £18 mark but can be obtained for less if you shop around a bit more. I did have to in this case because Amazon were charging £14 for Lizard and £18.50 for Islands so I ordered the both from Burning Shed and managed to get the both for £29 including the P+P.


The albums cover artwork was done by Gini Barris who was commissioned by Peter Sinfield to come up with something. It was her first job since studying graphics at the Central School of Art and Design in London. She was the housekeeper for the American born, British-based folk recording artist Julie Felix at the time and that’s how she heard that Sinfield was looking for an artist to do the album cover, so she got in touch with him and presented him with the idea of creating medieval miniatures, which was a passion of hers, Sinfield “went for it” and commissioned her to do the job. The images she drew around the ornate medieval lettering were inspired by Sinfield’s lyrics and you will even find the Beatles and Rupert Bear and much more in there. Overall I think the artwork is quite good but the album Lizard has totally nothing to do with medieval music, but then again everything about the album is very bizarre.

Lizard The Album In Review…

The original album Lizard was released on the 10th December 1970. It contained 5 tracks and had an overall playing time of 42 minutes, 30 seconds and the albums self-titled track took up the whole of side 2 of the original vinyl album. The album itself was made with just as many session players as actual band members and ever since the bands debut album they had really struggled to keep a consistent band line-up. Both Robert Fripp and Peter Sinfield were the only original members that contributed to the bands first 3 albums at this point and Sinfield was only the lyric writer. Though at this point Fripp had the time to teach him how to play a few parts on the synthesizer to which he does play a few bits on this particular album.

Both Gordon Haskell and Mel Collins who contributed small parts on the bands 2nd album In The Wake Of Poseidon were now made pledged band members along with the newcomer Andrew McCulloch who replaced Michael Giles on drums. Although both Haskell and McCulloch quit before the album was even released. The noted jazz pianist Keith Tippett had even contributed more to the band and also featured on the bands 2nd album, but he refused to join even though Fripp had asked him to, so he remained very much as a session player even on their next album Islands.

The album was recorded at Wessex Sound Studios located in Highbury New Park London to which was the same studio they used to record the bands first 4 albums. Many artists recorded their albums including the likes of the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Theatre of Hate, XTC, The Sinceros, Queen, Talk Talk, The Rolling Stones, Pete Townshend and The Damned. At the time King Crimson used the studios it was owned by The Beatles who brought the studio in 1965 and eventually sold it onto Chrysalis in 1975 who also brought George Martin’s AIR Studios. In 2003 the Neptune Group bought the building and later converted it into a residential development known as “The Recording Studio”, comprising eight apartments and a townhouse.

Studio Collage

Wessex Sound Studios

The building has quite a fascinating piece of history and was originally built in the Victorian times back in 1881 as a church hall of St. Augustine’s Church. From 1946 to 1949, the hall was the home of the Rank Organisation’s ‘Company of Youth’ which was more popularly known as the ‘Rank Charm School’ where future stars of British films, such as Diana Dors, Chirstopher Lee, Barbara Murray and Pete Murray were tutored and paid about £10 per week. It was the Thompson family that converted the church hall into a recording studio in the 1960’s and they named it Wessex because their previous recording studio had been located in what was historically the kingdom of Wessex.

The 40th Anniversary CD/DVD Edition of Lizard was released on the 26th October 2009. The CD contains 8 tracks and includes 3 bonus tracks, all of which are new mixes done by Steven Wilson and has an overall playing time of 58 minutes, 44 seconds. The first of the bonus tracks is previously unreleased and is an alternative take of “Lady Of The Dancing Water“. The second bonus track “Bolero” was released on the 4 CD Box Set Frame By Frame back in 1991 and the only difference is that Tony Levin replaced Gordon Haskell’s original bass guitar. The final bonus track is a studio run-through with guide vocal from original sessions of the albums opening track “Cirkus“.

The DVD.

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The DVD’s main menu is very basic in that none of the albums artwork or pictures have been included and presents you with 5 options. The first of which is the “PLAY” option and via clicking on it will start to play the 5 album tracks and no bonus tracks are included. The “PLAYLIST” will present you with another screen displaying the albums 5 tracks to which you can choose and individual track or play the whole album.

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Via clicking on the “AUDIO SETUP” it presents you with 3 audio options and by default it’s set to Steve Wilson’s DTS 5.1 mix. It also gives the choice of playing the original stereo mix which is the 30th Anniversary remaster of the album done back in 2004 and the new 2009 stereo mix also done by Steve Wilson. None of the bonus tracks have been included and by clicking on any one of these options it will automatically start playing the album. All 3 mixes come with high end audio formats of 24/48.

It’s also worth noting that both the stereo and 5.1 mixes do also come with an MLP Lossless track too and you do not just have the choice of DTS for the 5.1 surround and PCM for the stereo mix. But you will need a DVD player that plays DVD A (Audio) discs to get the MLP format and the audio format of the MLP 5.1 mix is 24/48. Whilst the stereo MLP audio format is 24/96.

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The “EXTRAS” present you with the same 3 bonus tracks that are on the CD and there is very little in the way of extras you do get here too and they only come with the same stereo audio formats of above and have not been given the 5.1 treatment. It’s also worth noting that by clicking to play any of the 3 tracks no other screen is loaded up unlike the tracks on the main album. The final option “CREDITS” on the main menu displays all the linear production notes and credits that are in the booklet.

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The only pictures you do get on the entire disc are of the albums artwork whilst playing the tracks from the main album. Overall the DVD menus are not that exciting but at least you do get some pictures unlike the last couple of albums they released this year. It’s a shame more thought had not been put into them like some of the others in 40th Anniversary series but least the music makes up for it.

The 5.1 Mix.

Doing the 5.1 and stereo mixes for Lizard presented Steve Wilson with one hell of a challenge and it took months to sort out all the master tapes and he had no idea of what generation the recordings came from either. The way the album had been put onto the master tapes was as if they had no intention of ever using them again to do another remix, simply because there was bits and pieces recorded all over the shop on various tapes. For example, one recording channel could have a lead guitar one minute then it would move to a sax then to timpani a lead vocal and so on. It was like they were trying to squeeze 48 tracks onto a 16 track tape.

He had to spend many intense moments listening to all the various parts of the albums tracks and try and find all the fragmented pieces and piece them all together because none of the tapes had been categorized. It was also very difficult listening to 6 or 7 instruments all blowing away at the same time and when it’s free-jazz it’s very difficult to hear. It was always in the back of Wilson’s mind that Lizard was an album that would benefit a lot more for a 5.1 mix and he was not wrong either. I thought the 5.1 mix David Singleton had done for The Power To Believe was an excellent 5.1 mix but what Wilson has done here is totally mind blowing and this along with Close To The Edge by Yes that he done the 5.1 mix for are the best mixes of his I have ever heard him do and they are pure GOLD!.

Out of all the 13 King Crimson albums that have had the 5.1 treatment, Lizard is miles ahead of the rest and by far the best 5.1 mix of them all. Even listening to the new stereo mix done by Wilson you are never in a million years gonna hear everything that is on the album Lizard and even though his stereo mix is better than the original mix it’s sounds like you are missing out on well over 50% of what is actually inside the album in relation to the 5.1 mix. If you have not got a 5.1 set up then I can honestly say you have never heard the album Lizard.

I can fully understand why Robert Fripp stated “For the first time I have heard the Music in the music” and this was no gimmick to try and sell you the album either. I myself hated this album and not even Wilson’s stereo remix is gonna make me like it that much better either. But listening to it in 5.1 is more like listening to Frank Zappa and The Mothers 1972 album The Grand Wazoo and is a thousand times more exciting. What I would give for Wilson to do a 5.1 mix of that Zappa album too and that would most likely blow my socks and shoes off along with my head :)))))))).

The job that Steve Wilson has done with the 5.1 mix of Lizard puts it up there with the very best ever 5.1 recordings on this planet, and if you ever wanted to showcase just how much better 5.1 is over stereo it’s the perfect album to demonstrate it. I doubt very much people could ever go back to listening to the album in stereo simply because it sounds as if the album is incomplete and is not all there and that is the best way, I can describe it. Spinal Tap may have gone up a notch by going from 10 to 11 but here somehow Wilson has gone up several notches and this 5.1 mix is even well worthy of a 20 out of 10. The 5.1 mix has literally got me to love an album I could of thrown in the bin when I brought it years ago and that is literally down to the fact that there was just no way that stereo could project all that was put into the album in the first place.

Musicians & Credits…


All song written by Robert Fripp & Peter Sinfield. Produced & Mixed by Steven Wilson & Robert Fripp. Recorded at Wessex Sound Studios London. Engineer Robin Thompson. Tapes by Geoff Workman. Stereo Mastering by Simon Hayworth. Assisted by Joe Gilder. 5.1 Mastering & DVD Authoring by Neil Wilkes. Sleeve Conception Peter Sinfield. Outside Painting Gini Barris. Inside Marbling Koraz Wallpapers. Typography C. C. S. DVD Design & Layout by Claire Bidwell. Packaging Art & Design by Hugh O’ Donnell.

Robert Fripp: Guitar/Mellotron/Electric Keyboards & Devices.
Gordon Haskell: Vocals/Bass Guitar.
Mel Collins: Flutes & Saxes.
Andy McCulloch: Drums.
Peter Sinfield: Words & Pictures.

Additional Musicians:
Keith Tippet: Acoustic & Electric Pianos.
Robin Miller: Oboe & Cor Anglais.
Mark Charig: Cornet.
Nick Evans: Trombone.
Jon Anderson: Vocals (On ‘Prince Rupert Awakes’).

The Album Tracks In Review…

By the time of getting down to writing the album Lizard. Robert Fripp had taken much more of a commanding role of the band since they first started out with Ian McDonald and the Giles brothers and was further developing his writing skills. Both Haskell and McCulloch were not happy in the way that Fripp never allowed them any freedom to play and develop their own parts and were being more or less told how to play their instruments from the ideas that Fripp had floating around in his head at the time he was writing it himself. It meant the process of making it all took much longer and them having no idea and no sense of what the final shape of the material would be.

Haskell being more a devotee of soul and Motown music found it very hard to connect with the music and Sinfield’s lyrics and even criticised his lyrics. Coupled with technical problems encountered at Wessex Studios it was very much a fraught affair at times, it was no wonder both Haskell and McCulloch had left once the recording was finished and I am surprised they never left beforehand. Even two of the session players from Keith Tippett’s sextet Mark Charig and Nick Evans found working with Fripp a little unnerving and were not happy with how everything had to be re-recorded and why the first take was not acceptable as most jazz musicians work. I think the only chap who had an easy task was Jon Anderson of Yes who popped into the studios for all of about 20 minutes to record his vocal parts.

This line-up of King Crimson never did get to go on tour to play any of the material from the album live and even their tour of France that was scheduled for the band to play had to be cancelled due to both Haskell and McCulloch leaving. It was also around this time that the partnership between Fripp and Sinfield was starting to fall apart and because the both of them were only two members left from the original line up Sinfield wanted an equal 50/50 share of the profits and not the 60/40 he was getting. He may of got it in the end too.

During the making of the album both Fripp and Haskell had many heated arguments and sometimes it does not pay to bring in your old school friends and since leaving the band Haskell sought legal redress, because he believed that he had been cheated out of the money he was paid and was only paid as a session player rather than a band member. Oddly enough Fripp is now in dispute and fighting for performance royalties with the David Bowie estate for his work on both the albums Heroes and Scary Monsters. Personally, I do not think he has a leg to stand on.

Lizard is an album that is meant to have some form of a concept although unless you can understand Sinfield’s lyrics (to which I cannot) if there is a concept here you sure as hell are going to have to have a warped mind to try and find one. I am sure that even when he presented the lyrics to Fripp that the comedy team Monty Python sprang to mind and they are without doubt extremely silly. That silly that not even Gini Barris who done the albums artwork could match up the letters with the appropriate songs on the album and I am pretty sure she must of thought that Sinfield had lost his marbles.

The album could also be seen as more of a Robert Fripp solo album to a degree, especially in the way he controlled most of the musicians and how their parts were recorded on a start and stop basis making it much longer to complete the album than needed to be. No doubt quite a lot had been put into it so let’s take a look at the individual tracks on the album and try and make at least some bit of sense of it all.

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Track 1. Cirkus.

The opening track is perhaps the only track on the album that ever really spoke to me before I had this 5.1 mix of the album, and I did find most of the other tracks either inaccessible or simply not good enough compositions to really speak up and say anything that good in the first place. It’s just as well that I myself have always put the music before the lyrics otherwise this album would of been thrown in the bin when I brought it years ago judging by the lyrics we have on this particular track.

I can fully understand why Gordon Haskell criticised Sinfield’s lyrics and how hard they would of been for him to deliver them to the music we have here too. Though however bizarre and silly the words are I very much think that Haskell’s way of delivering them does make the song more intriguing and saves the day if anything. Though I would not say that he was that much of a singer either.

The fact that Sinfield also including another subheading to go along with the title which is the “Entry of the Chameleons” gives me the idea that the album does have a concept especially how a chameleon is a type of lizard that can change the colour of its skin to look like the colours that are around it and is seen as a person who often changes his or her beliefs or behaviour in order to please others or to succeed.

Regarding the lyrics I can only think that Sinfield put himself in the circus and was juggling around with words and not skittles. Though it would not surprise me if some of them are pertaining to political affairs in particular with the ringmaster in this song. They are without doubt a far cry from the lyrics he wrote for the first couple of King Crimson albums and I for one am not gonna give myself brain damage trying to decipher them. But despite the bizarre lyrics “Cirkus” is still very much my favourite track on the album and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! Musically like many of the songs on the album it can be very busy and at times can feel like all the performers in the circus are performing at the same time, though this track in particular does not have all that jazz sort of thing like most of the albums tracks and is all the fun of the circus.

Track 2. Indoor Games.

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This track does have more of a jazz flavour about it and a hell of lot more going on than the previous track with all the session players joining in and most of the parts were recorded on a stop and start basis. Both Mel Collins on the sax and Andy McCulloch on the drums feature quite heavily on this song and they both do quite a remarkable job here too. Considering McCulloch never had a clue of what to play during the recording sessions his drums are that tight on this track that even some of the musicians are finding it hard to keep to the timing in parts. Although I am pretty sure he did not like having less freedom and Fripp trying to get more of a Michael Giles feel out of him on the drum kit.

The Mellotron also plays a heavy role throughout the album Lizard and I would even say that it is utilised a lot more on this album than any other King Crimson album. But interestingly enough the EMS VC3 Synthesizer was also utilised on this album and besides Fripp himself using it gave Peter Sinfield a chance to broaden his musical horizons and he does play some small parts on this song and the one that follows it.


EMS VC3 Synthesizer

Sinfield also occasionally added touches on the synthesizer on the bands live tour in 1971 and ’72 and the other notable thing I did notice, is that on this 40th Anniversary Edition Sinfield’s contributions of the EMS VC3 Synthesizer on this song and the following have been left out of the credits. It was unusual for King Crimson to use synths and Lizard I am pretty sure is the only album they did do back in the 70’s. This short excerpt of an early studio session of the song I found on the bands official Youtube channel demonstrates the lines Fripp played on the synth.

Thankfully the song and the mix were further developed but it is interesting to see how the song was structured. Once again Sinfield’s lyrics are totally bizarre however you can make something out of them and they appear to be pertaining to putting down some of the antics and the sexual games of hanky panky that rich kids get up to living on daddy’s money. Overall “Indoor Games” is not a bad song and an is a bit like “Cat Food” from the bands previous album with its funky vibe, though it’s not on par with that song or with any of the songs from the first two albums.

I quite like the 2nd lead break and Haskell’s laugh at the end they left in because they thought it was wonderfully freaky. They also thought he was laughing because he understood the lyrics, but he stated himself in later interviews that he was laughing because he thought lyrics were ludicrous and it was just a lousy song that even made him sound dreadful. Personally I do not think the song was lousy but they could of done better.

Track 3. Happy Family.

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This is most likely the worst song in King Crimson’s entire history and it’s all one big mess around and the only musician who sounds like he can play in this song is Mel Collins on the flute, the rest of them are playing like SHITE! It’s all one psychedelic mashup that tries to captivate the sort of mayhem you will find in “21st Century Schizoid Man” from their debut album only they are doing a piss poor job of it all. Musically it’s just as messed up as the lyrics and unless you come from another planet you are never really going to understand those either :))))).

Sinfield’s lyrics do have references to The Beatles but once again he has gone about it all in a ludicrous way. The references are mostly about the Beatles breaking up and could even be seen as if he was happy that they did. They even show that if there was any form of a concept going on with what he wrote for the album that he very much lost the plot. I think the less said about this one the better.

Track 4. Lady Of The Dancing Water.

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The shortest track on the album and unlike the previous track this fine ballad of a song shows you that not only Mel Collins can play but so can the others when they want to, although his flute on this fine ballad is totally GORGEOUS! It also shows that Sinfield can write lyrics as well and this is the only song on the album that makes any logical sense at all. It is without doubt one of the finer moments on the album and they do a BEAUTIFUL! job of it.

Track 5. Lizard.

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From the shortest track to the longest track on the album and this took up the whole of side 2 of the original vinyl album and weighs in at 23 minutes, 34 seconds making the albums self-titled track the longest in the history of King Crimson. The piece is divided into 4 sections and part 1 “Prince Rupert Awakes” features Jon Anderson on vocals who does a stellar job as ever. It’s a story about Prince Rupert of the Rhine who apparently was a German army officer, admiral, scientist and colonial governor. He first came to prominence as a Cavalier cavalry commander during the English Civil War. To be perfectly honest when I originally heard it years ago, I never took much notice of it and thought the whole thing sounded like some sort of children’s pantomime. I never was one for history :))))). I also noticed that they depicted him as Rupert The Bear piloting a yellow aeroplane on the album cover.

Since revisiting the album again and with Steve Wilson’s mix you can clearly hear that there is a lot more to it than a children’s pantomime. Keith Tippet‘s piano work on this track is by far the best he’s played on the whole of the album, and once again Andy McCulloch’s job on the drums is superb on this first part. The 2nd part “Bolero – The Peacock’s Tale” sees the musicians fusing jazz with classical music and most of the rest of the 4-part suite is instrumental and they are all doing quite a stellar job of it all. McCulloch is doing a military role in the style of Ravel’sBolero” and the rest of the guys are jazzing it all up very well indeed. My favourite section is the beautiful melody lines that Robin Miller plays on the oboe, the melody line he’s also playing is a bit reminiscent to the melody he played at the end of Steve Hackett’sThe Hermit” on his 1975 debut album Voyage of The Acolyte.

The 3rd part “The Battle of Glass Tears” which is an artistic reference to the battle of Naseby and comes with 3 subheadings. The first of them entitled “Dawn Song” is sung by Haskell. Both “Last Skirmish” and “Prince Rupert’s Lament” are instrumental pieces. All 3 parts are much darker to portray the battle we have here. The glass tears were known as Prince Rupert’s Drops also known as Dutch or Batavian tears.


The drops are toughened glass beads created by dripping molten glass into cold water, which causes it to solidify into a tadpole-shaped droplet with a long, thin tail. He brought them to England in 1660, although they were reportedly being produced in the Netherlands earlier in the 17th century and had probably been known to glassmakers for much longer. It’s all quite fascinating stuff and I also found out that Prince Rupert pillaged my own town of Birmingham and tried to burn it to the ground. How dare the thieving varmit although it was most likely untrue.

The music is very dramatically portraying the battle over these final two instrumental sections of the 3rd part and we some quite chaotic jazz spasms raising the power when needed and the mellotron also gets put to good use besides all the brass and drums. It’s also been constructed with the musicians having a jam in parts. The lament brings it all down and with the kettle drums, bass and Fripp’s guitar sounding like bagpipes to put an end to the final battle. Part 4 “Big Top” is a very short piece that ties the album back to the beginning with all the fun of the circus from where the album started and rounds it all off very well.

Overall the “Lizard” is quite a piece of work and no doubt some would even say it’s a King Crimson classic but I personally do not see this doing what “Suppers Ready” did for Genesis fans or what “Close To The Edge” did for the fans of Yes. To be perfectly honest I do not see this doing what The Snow Goose would of done for Camel’s fans either and the “Lizard” is quite loose in parts and lacks musical composition in some of its parts. It’s far from a masterpiece of work even though there are some pretty good musicians playing along its lengthy journey. I would say it’s a strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT! though and I can appreciate it more today than I ever could thanks to Steve Wilson.


To sum up the 40th Anniversary CD/DVD edition of Lizard by King Crimson. I certainly think that Steve Wilson’s 5.1 mix has dug beneath the albums surface and shed a lot more light on it by bringing out everything that was buried deep down inside it that could never be heard before. It’s very much an album that had that many things going on at the same time that a 2-channel stereo mix was never enough to cope with everything that was being chucked at it. The album was way too busy for a stereo mix to cope with everything, even though Wilson’s new stereo mix does help the album a bit more it’s still never gonna give you what the 5.1 mix will and I still say to hear this album properly you need the 5.1 mix simply because stereo is never gonna give the album its real justice.

For surround FREAKS! like myself I very much see the 5.1 mix as a must and this is very much one of the best 5.1 mixes Steve Wilson has done. He’s not only just breathed new life into it but has completely resurrected the album from the dead and presented us with an album that is now far more superior than it ever was before. You do not get much in the way of bonus material but the price point is worth it for the 5.1 mix of the 5 tracks alone. Even if like myself you never did like this album, I would highly recommend getting it even if it’s just for demo purposes to show how good 5.1 surround sound can be and impress your friends with. Even the new stereo mix Wilson has done does shed more light on the album and is better than the original recording, but this is very much an album I would recommend for surround FREAKS!

Having listened to all 3 mixes that come with 40th Anniversary CD/DVD edition of the album they do reflect on how I would rate the album. My final rating score of 6 out of 10 is based on Steve’s Wilson’s new stereo mix and how I now can see that there is much more to this album than how I seen it years ago. No matter how I look at the album Lizard it’s far from a solid album with all the material that was wrote for it. If I was rating this album by its original mix it would still score the same as it did years ago and get a 3 out of 10. The 5.1 mix opens up a completely new way of hearing the album and it makes it much more exciting and even sound more like Zappa’s Grand Wazoo album which to me personally is a far better album than Lizard and a pure solid one at that. There is no way I could score the album any less than 10 out of 10 for the 5.1 mix it is really mind blowing and I cannot praise it enough.

My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Cirkus“. “Lizard” and “Lady Of The Dancing Water“.


Lizard is very much one of King Crimson’s more controversial albums and was an album you either loved or hated. Despite it being more of a blown-out jazz album it could also be seen as their most PROGMATIC! album especially with how it fuses jazz and classical musical together and I think for those who seen that side of it is why they most likely liked it or even seen it as a masterpiece. For me personally I always seen the material to be quite weak and the band overdoing things trying to be more sophisticated even though they were not at all well Fripp in particular certainly was not on this album and most of the other musicians shined above him on that score.

But then again King Crimson have always been a band where the musicians he chooses do tend to shine above himself and Fripp is a bit like Frank Zappa regarding that side of things and generally sits back to allow the others to play. Only on this album Fripp did tend to have more control over them and most of them would of had an hard and uncomfortable time in the making of this album and it’s no wonder there was not enough of them left to go on to tour at the end of making the album.

In conclusion I was so glad in the end that I did decide to finally revisit both the albums Lizard and Islands again and there is no doubt in my mind that it is thanks to Steve Wilson that I can now at last enjoy the album Lizard and overall I think it’s very bizarre but quite a good album. I personally do not think it’s the best or strongest output of the bands material and there are a good few King Crimson albums I would place above it. But it’s certainly the most exciting 5.1 mix out of all 13 studio albums the band has ever produced. Coming up next will be my review of Islands and we shall see if Steve Wilson’s mix has managed to rescue and restore something on that album for me to finally appreciate after all these years.

All The Fun Of The Cirkus!…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Cirkus. 6:42.
02. Indoor Games. 5:35.
03. Happy Family. 4:14.
04. Lady Of The Dancing Water. 2:46.
05. Lizard. 23:24.
06. Lady Of The Dancing Water (alternate take). 2:47.
07. Bolero (from Frame by Frame). 6:45.
08. Cirkus (studio run through with guide vocal from original sessions). 6:31.

Lee’s overall Complete Package Value Rating…

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 9/10.

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

Lee’s Bonus Material Rating Score. 3/10.

Lee’s 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6/10.