Lee Speaks About Music… #149

A Visit To Zoetermeer Live – Tiger Moth Tales



Pete Jones and his Tiger Moth Tales project have been busy more recently releasing quite a few live albums in the form of a digital download on Bandcamp, and if you were to look at the Tiger Moth Tales discography on Bandcamp you would in fact see that he has twice as many live albums in relation to the 4 studio albums that have so far been released. However, A Visit to Zoetermeer could be seen has his first ever official live album release simply because it is the only live album that has been released in the form of a physical product and released by his record label White Knight Records.

The other “First” factor about this particular release, is that it also comes accompanied with a DVD so that you can actually see the live concert besides just listen to it in audio only on the CD. To be perfectly honest a live DVD of Pete Jones is something I have been waiting to see get released for a while now and I myself would sooner watch a live concert than just listen to it on a CD or any format for that matter.

To be perfectly honest I have never been to see Pete Jones play live and it is without doubt something I want to do eventually as well. I have seen many live videos of him on YouTube but never a full concert like we have here, so this really was a must for my collection. Although what I would also say that even just listening to the many other self-live releases, he has put out on Bandcamp in the form of a digital download only. I can honestly say I enjoy those as well and this is really down to how he interacts with his audience and will quite often speak to them in between the songs he plays.

Pete Jones is not only quite an amazing talented musician, but he very much comes with a good sense and dose of humour that will also reflect in a lot of his own written material. The DVD that comes in this package also gives you a bit more, but before I go any further let’s take a look at how it has been presented.

The Packaging & Artwork…


The both discs come very well presented in a 2-panel cardboard DigiSleeve and I myself prefer this type of packaging in relation to the standard plastic Jewel Case. The one thing it does not come with is a booklet, so its perhaps a bit limited regarding having any additional informative information though it does have the usual linear and production notes printed on the inside as you can see in the photo below.


The both discs slot neatly into the slit pockets and the fact that the cardboard has also been printed gives it a smoother surface to protect the discs from being scratched. The discs also hide a couple of nice photos that was snapped at the concert and the back of the cover contains the set list for both the CD and DVD.

Overall, it’s a very neat and well-presented package and both DigiSleeves and Digipaks do in general cost one or two pound more than the price of a single CD in a Jewel Case. I do not mind paying that bit extra for this sort of packaging either. I purchased my copy from White Knight Records for £12 plus £1.75 for the postage & packing making a total cost of £13.75 which is very much a bargain considering you are getting a CD & DVD.

I also think it is cheaper than purchasing it from Bandcamp because you do tend to pay extra tax on that site and this may of cost between £15 – £18 knowing them from the past when I have ordered CD’s from there. The artist might also get to keep more of the money too with the 15% that Bandcamp charge for each sale.

The Artwork.

Like most live albums the artwork generally consists of a photograph taken from the live concert and that is the case here. The Dutch photographer Ard Van Der Heuvel took the photos and no doubt done a super job. I have no idea if the same person did the cover design and layout because the linear notes are missing that information. It may have been done by Pete’s brother Chris Jones but whoever done the design and layout done another super job.

A Visit To Zoetermeer Live In Review…

A Visit To Zoetermeer Live by Tiger Moth Tales was released on the 21st February 2020. The CD of the album comes with a running time of 70 minutes, 10 seconds which is like a double album of material. No doubt this time slot might be considered too long for a single studio album but a live concert can go on much longer and the 70 minutes here might even be considered as quite short. Though I certainly am not complaining and I am glad to see the release of a live DVD at last.

Tiger Moth Tales is very much the work of one-man Pete Jones and quite often he does go out and perform live on his own, though on occasions he also performs with the band he is also part of who go by the name of Red Bazar. It’s the musicians from this particular band that often lend him a hand to be able to perform his own material live and bring it to the stage with a fuller sound like you will find on his studio albums where he himself plays all the instruments.

For this concert all the members of the band were there apart from the keyboard player Gary Marsh, and I have to say they are all capable musicians of doing a GREAT! job and along with Jones himself they have well and truly brought the music of Tiger Moth Tales to the stage and put on an excellent performance and show. But before I go on to the show let’s first take a look at the DVD that comes in this package.

The DVD. 

The DVD that comes in this package has some very basic features and things about it and to be perfectly honest I was not expecting it to be anything more when I ordered it. For example, it’s hardly likely that Pete Jones and his project name of Tiger Moth Tales could hire somewhere like the Royal Albert Hall or even the Genting Arena here in my own town of Birmingham to put on a live show with all the trimmings. That’s not to say he has not played at such venues with the prog rock band Camel he toured with a couple of years ago, but he’s hardly likely to fill those type of venues under his own name so he has to play at more smaller venues.

So, it perhaps does not really need to have something that looks a bit more professional regarding the DVD menu. But surprisingly there is a couple of quality things about this DVD and it’s not all as basic as it may appear. It also comes with some of the promotional videos that were made for some of the songs which make for some good bonus content.


The DVD’s main menu is about as basic as you can get and it does only have the one screen as you can see above. This is basically down to the software they used to authorise the DVD and to be honest whatever software they used was quite basic especially regarding the lack of menus and how the only way you can play the videos is by using the select button on your remote control. For example, not even the “Play Button” on your remote will play the videos.

To play a video you will have to use the navigation dial on your remote to navigate over one of the arrow pointers till it is highlighted to a green colour as you can see how I have highlighted the first track “Toad of Toad Hall” in the picture above. Once it is highlighted you simply hit the select button in the middle of the navigation circle (on most remotes) rather than the “Play Button”.

The other basic feature is that it only comes with one audio track which is Dolby Digital 2.0/48K and I also was not expecting it to come with a 5.1 surround mix. But the stereo track is quite good and well acceptable. Overall, with both the main feature of the concert and the bonus content all being put together onto one single menu it perhaps does not look like that much in the way of a more professional presentation. But least everything is all in one place and can be easily accessed.

To be perfectly honest it does not cost that much to get some decent software that can do a much more professional and respectable job regarding the menus. Having dabbled in video editing and putting together a couple of DVD’s for my holidays a decade or more ago now, I came across an excellent piece of software for DVD Authoring and making professional DVD menus made by DVDFab. I cannot remember the version I had but I am pretty sure it cost me less than £80 and having just checked out the latest version of the software it still can be had for less than £100.

This short video demonstration gives you an example of how well you can build your own DVD menus with DVDFab and how it does look more professional. Though I will say that some of the icons I used in the DVD I made for my family holiday I used for the purpose of the kids and so too was some of the extra features I put in. But the software gives you an array of buttons to choose from and you can even make your own customised buttons and menus. It also includes 3D and animation and it’s nowhere near as complicated to use like some of the reviews of the software make it out to be.

These days DVDFab is more up to date and even caters for 4K and no doubt will pack in a lot more features. I am not saying it’s the best software out there but I have also used video editors that cost four to five times as much and they are not capable of doing menus like this and for its price point I certainly do not think it can be beaten. It will also do a much better job than whatever they used to make the DVD menu for this concert DVD which really is basic.

But regarding making this video demonstration. I did so not do it to promote DVDFab in anyway but to show that there is better software like this out there and hopefully this might provide some useful incite in how to go about making DVD & Blu Ray menus. I am no expert by any means and do not claim to be, you may have also noticed in some of my earlier reviews of DVD’s and Blu Ray’s that have basic menus how I have stated that I could have done a better job myself. In all honesty I could have done regarding the menus by using this software. But I am not employing that I would want the job and I certainly am no expert when it comes to video editing.

The Bonus Features.

The bonus feature consists of 5 promotional videos that were done to promote the last couple of Tiger Moth Tales studio albums The Depths Of Winter and Story Tellers Part Two. I have seen them before and some are even longer than the ones that were put out on YouTube on Rob Reed and Chris Fry’s tube channels. It’s really GREAT! to have included them here and this is one of the two quality things you get with this DVD.

Speaking of Rob Reed it was he who directed and done the video editing on all 5 promo videos and Andrew Lawson was the guy behind the camera doing the filming. They have both done a super quality job of them and the footage as been shot very well and captured in HD. In total the 5 videos give you an extra 22 minutes, 14 seconds of GREAT! bonus content.

The Picture & Editing Quality.

The Dutch film maker John Vis was the man behind shooting the film footage for the live show. To be honest there is very little I can find out about him and the linear and credit notes that come with the CD do not really provide you with any informative information and it simply states “Filmed by Jon Vis” and does not even mention how many cameras and operators were used. However, I can see he is no stranger to filming many of the live shows for the newer neo-prog bands and see he has filmed bands like Riverside, Mystery, Big Train and many others in the past.

Both the filming and editing is the other quality thing about this DVD. John Vis done an outstanding job in the way he has captured the live concert very well in full HD. To be honest by putting the DVD in my Sony Blu Ray player the picture quality in all honesty looks immaculate and as sharp and just as pristine as a Blu Ray and you would think it was a Blu Ray disc and not a DVD. I am fairly sure that around 3 cameras at least were used to film the concert and you can see they captured all the angles very well.

Geert Jan Schoonbeek was the guy who done the editing and pretty much a bang on job was done here to as well. Peter Jones is very much one of those artists you need to capture well especially when he’s playing the guitar and keyboards at the same time. I have seen countless live videos of him on YouTube and not one of them that have captured him so precisely like they have done here. This is by far the best live video footage I have seen of him and it displays this man’s talent and the other musicians on the stage 100%.

The Sound Quality.

The sound quality on the DVD is a very basic format they have used and it would have been better if they included a lossless format such as LPCM for example rather than a standard Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack. It’s quite good like I mentioned earlier but the sound quality on the CD is better. It’s a shame that more thought was not put into the DVD especially in relation to the stunning quality job that was done for both the picture and editing.

Musicians & Credits…

Musicians Pic

All songs written by Peter Jones. Recorded live at the Cultuurpodium Boerderij, Zoetermeer in the Netherlands on the 26th January 2019. Filmed by John Vis. Edited by Geert Jan Schoonbeek. Photos by Ard Van Der Heuvel. All Promo Videos Directed & Edited by Robert Reed and Filmed by Andrew Lawson.


Peter Jones: Vocals – Keyboards – Guitar.
Andy Wilson: Guitar.
Mick Wilson: Bass – Melodica – Vocoder & Backing Vocals.
Paul Comerie: Drums

On To The Show…

The music venue Cultuurpodium Boerderij is situated in the south Holland city Zoetermeer and was originally a farmhouse and part of an old vacant farm and back in the 70’s. It was converted into a large hall and manly used for discos and was used as a youth centre. Over the years it developed from an open youth centre into a cultural stage and more and more concerts were planned. As the population began to grow in Zoetermeer it created a need for a larger hall for pop music and the like.

Venue 1_Fotor

In 1998 the Boerderij moved to a newly built building (as seen above) and has since become a culture stage with a program offering consisting of concerts, dance nights, cabaret and theatre. It’s a much smaller venue than the 013 in Tilburg but like that venue it does have a couple of rooms you can hire to put on a live show.

Venue Collage 2

The biggest of the two rooms is the large hall and this holds a capacity for around 750 people and is where this particular concert was performed and the many other prog rock, blues and rock bands who have played at the venue which includes the likes of Steve Hackett, Alan Parsons, Fish, Paul Carrack, Deep Purple, Saxon, Uriah Heep and many others. The other room is a lot smaller and more like a bar to which they call the stage cafe’ and holds a capacity of around 100 people.

On With The Show…

When Pete Jones and his project of Tiger Moth Tales took the stage on the 26th January 2019 at the Cultuurpodium Boerderij it was the second time he had played the venue. He first played there exactly a year earlier on the 26th January 2018 when he was promoting his 3rd studio album The Depths Of Winter. On this occasion he is promoting his 4th studio album Story Tellers Part Two and I also noticed that on December 14th 2019 he played the same venue for the third time.

The live concert on the DVD has a running time of 74 minutes, 5 seconds and is near enough 4 minutes longer than what you get on the CD. Though for the life of me I could not tell you, or have not spotted what extra content you get with the 4 minutes and they both contain the same set-list. Both the CD and DVD also contain Pete Jones speaking to the audience as well and it’s not as if the concert on the CD has been edited down like many concerts of other artists have been by cutting out the talk in between the songs.

I can only presume that part of the talking in between the songs may have been cut out from the CD. The reason I have not spotted what parts is really down to me only playing the CD once. I do prefer to watch a live concert than just listen to it and for me personally any concert on DVD or Blu Ray is my preferred choice and it’s very rare I will even play the CD’s that come in most of these packages.

The 9-track set-list features material from 3 of the Tiger Moth Tales albums and the only album he does not play anything from is his 2nd album Story Tellers. The band enter the stage and Pete Jones greets the audience as he done so with the opening song off his latest album Story Tellers Part 2 entitled “Toad Of Toad Hall” to which he kicks off the show with. This is very much a song that features quite a lot of lead synth work and is structured around a dominant bass line and is a really GREAT! song.

Throughout most of the concert Jones is only on vocals and keyboards and he is using his trusty Technics KN6000 keyboard rather than a moog to which was used for the studio version. No doubt he uses it because he knows his way around it and to be honest it still puzzles me how he is able to change all the patches so quickly even for when he uses the split function to layer many more sounds. The bass player Mick Wilson also controls a lot of the extra sound and vocal effects such as the motorbike sound in this opening song via the use of an iPad or some similar device he has on a stand.

The other thing I noticed that was on a stand is a Stick Bass or Chapman Stick that was not used throughout the entire concert, it could have been that they played a Red Bazar set either before or after and why this set was so short in the first place.

However, Jones wastes no time rolling out the next number which is the 2nd part of the final track from his debut album “Feels Alright“. He tones things down another notch with another of his songs from his latest album “Match Girl” to which features mostly Jones on his own on the piano with Mick Wilson contributing a nice touch of Melodica to accompany him. It’s also during these last couple of numbers that Jones starts to have more of a conversation with the audience and reminds them he has CD’s for sale and needs to clear up more space in his garage :)))).

The first of two tracks from his 3rd studio album is up next and “Hygge” is not exactly the type of song to raise the tempo up and only slightly lifts it up a notch in the second half of it. I have to admit that The Depths Of Winter is my least favourite album and that is down many of the tracks being a bit too BALLAD ESC! and the fact that many of the tracks on it do tend to drag on longer than they really need to. But in saying that this is one of the albums better tracks and this live version is quite welcoming.

It also gives Andy Wilson a chance to play a lead solo on the guitar and the blend of the keyboards and guitar over its melodic parts give it that Genesis feel. Jones was no doubt influenced by that band when he wrote “Hygge” and part of its melodic structure does sound like it’s been lifted from “Ripples” although it’s not quite a classic like that particular song of theirs and it sort of crosses boundaries and sounds like some of the material that came off the couple of albums that followed it and his own input of course.

A couple of my favourite tracks from the last couple of albums are up next and the first of them is “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” and I was so pleased to see that he had included this in the set-list and this does help to pick the pace of show up more and Jones and the band more or less knock it out of the park. Another cracking job by all is done with “The Ballad of Longshanks John” and I quite enjoy watching how Jones can play different melody lines at the same time with his hands on the keys and he really can sound like an orchestra at times. I see they also brought along the voice of Jamie Ambler to which is triggered on the device Mick Wilson operates on many of the songs, he also uses it for some vocoder effect on this song and another.

The last part of the show is where things really start to cook on gas and they are certainly cooking up some excitement with this 3-course meal of songs that is on the menu to which all are from his debut album Cocoon. Playing different melody lines at the same time with both hands is perhaps even more evident when playing two instruments and this as always been part of the showcase and highlight of seeing Pete Jones or Tiger Moth Tales live.

I would also say he does need a band behind him to pull off “Tigers In The Butter” over its entirety like he did here and can be seen in this video that is taken from the live concert to which Rob Reed uploaded on his YouTube channel.

This is quite an outstanding performance of the song and captures much of the essence that was contained in the studio recording. It also gives Andy Wilson a chance to fly out a blistering solo on the guitar at the end and even Paul Comerie on the drums gets to really bash his kit out a lot more.

You can also see how well this show has been captured on film by John Vis and his camera crew and how it’s been skilfully edited by Geert Jan Schoonbeek not only to capture Jones but also the other members of the band. But the show is not quite over and the next couple of songs are also classics from the Cocoon album and “The Merry Vicar” is very much another of the songs that works very well with having a band behind him.

I quite like how Pete Jones and Andy Wilson have a bit of fun on the guitars on the introduction by playing little snippets of songs like “Day Trip To Blackpool“. “Smoke On The Water” and the theme tune to “Match of The Day” and this is a GREAT! fun song all the way and they pull it off extremely well. The band do not leave the stage to go off and come back for an encore and finish off the show in SUPERB! style with the classic “A Visit To Chigwick” and once again having two guitarists works very well with the fine melodies that are along this superb song. This really is quite a GEM! and the perfect way to end off quite a magical evening and very enjoyable show.


To sum up A Visit To Zoetermeer Live by Tiger Moth Tales. The fact the concert comes with a DVD besides a CD gives you the opportunity to see the amazing talent Pete Jones possesses and he is without doubt an artist you really need to see. The fact that I myself have not got around to seeing him live makes this package even more worthwhile and very much gives you much more of a picture than you would most likely get to see at a live show. I truly take my hat off to both John Vis and Geert Jan Schoonbeek who between them have captured everything about this live performance and have presented it to you with sheer quality.

Sure, I could argue the point that the DVD comes with a no thrills basic menu. I could also argue that the sound quality could of marginally have been improved if a bit more attention had of been applied to compiling the DVD. But these are only minor little niggles and take nothing away from the enjoyment and experience you will get from watching this live concert.

No doubt that Pete Jones is like an orchestra by himself but the well capable musicians he has with him on the stage do help bring the music of Tiger Moth Tales out to their full potential near enough and they all do very much a TOP JOB! I quite like the set-list of songs he chose to do and it does showcase some of the best material from 3 of the 4 studio albums and my personal highlights from the show are as follows: “Toad Of Toad Hall“. “The Boy Who Cried Wolf“. “Tigers In The Butter“. “The Merry Vicar” and “A Visit To Chigwick“.


In conclusion I would say that if you have not seen Pete Jones this package will well and truly give you the opportunity to do so and I am well and truly grateful that finally at last we have a DVD release and hopefully in the near future we will get to see more DVD releases especially if they come as good as this. The bonus material of the promo videos are also quality and I am glad to see that were included. But I still want to see him live in concert and still enjoy the many audio live concerts he has put out simply because he is very entertaining.

The very fact that this package comes with a CD & DVD for £12 means that they are giving you the DVD for practically nothing and both the picture quality and editing is truly STUNNING! Its price point represents amazing value for the buck and you simply cannot go wrong here and I highly recommend the physical product over the Digital Download.

You can purchase live album in the form of a Digital Download for £7 or the physical CD/DVD from for £12 from Bandcamp here: https://tigermothtales.bandcamp.com/album/a-visit-to-zoetermeer-3

It’s also available from other outlets such as Amazon and the CD/DVD can also be purchased from White Knight records here: https://www.whiteknightshop2.co.uk/store/Tiger-Moth-Tales-A-Visit-To-Zoetemeer-LIVE-DVD-CD-p173130588

There will be more to come from Pete Jones and Tiger Moth Tales soon, but coming up next for review is the latest Deluxe Edition of Marillion’s debut album Script For A Jester’s Tear which I recently added to my collection. But meanwhile “Stay Safe” well and keep your distance during this Coronavirus lockdown. But don’t isolate yourself away from the music. During these unfortunate circumstances, A Visit To Zoetermeer Live by Tiger Moth Tales is very much a concert you can still see and is just the ticket to add to your collection right now.

Step Inside The World Of Your Dreams…

The Live Set-List is as follows:

01. Toad Of Toad Hall. 4:27.
02. Feels Alright. 5:01.
03. Match Girl. 4:25.
04. Hygge. 8:38.
05. The Boy Who Cried Wolf. 7:00.
06. The Ballad Of Longshanks John. 7:22.
07. Tigers In The Butter. 14:07.
08. The Merry Vicar. 9:49.
09. A Visit To Chigwick. 9:47.

Lee’s overall Complete Value Rating…

The Packaging Rating Score. 9/10

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10

The Picture & Editing Quality Rating Score. 10/10

The Sound Quality Rating Score. 8/10

The Bonus Features Rating Score. 10/10

The Concert Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #148

On The Byways – Pravinand Maharaj



Well it’s time for something quite different again from me especially in relation to many of the prog rock albums I have purchased and reviewed in the past. In some respects, I would even say that this is a bit different to the artist in question that I have come to know since I stumbled across him a good 8 years ago now on Soundcloud. But there is a reason for that and it really boils down to the fact that this album was made a good decade before he even joined Soundcloud. 

The artist in question is none other than Pravinand Maharaj and most people on the cloud would perhaps be more familiar with his stage name persona of Johnny Minstrel that he goes under. Like many artists who upload music to Soundcloud in relation to the world outside it of mainstream artists, they are virtually unknown. But I am pretty sure that Pravinand has made a name for himself on the cloud and many of those on the cloud like myself who would have stumbled across him would have instantly recognised the gifted talent he has to write such GREAT! songs.  

The true art of being a GREAT! songwriter is having quality lyrical content to fit to the music. I would even say that when it comes to songwriters’ songs the lyrics certainly play more of an important role in relation to the musical content. Though it is good if you also have a good balance between them both, and having recently just listened to the latest song that Bob Dylan put out after 8 years on the 27th March entitled “Murder Most Foul“. I can honestly say that musically it SUCKED! big style. 

I must admit when I saw Dylan’s latest song was some 17 minutes long I thought he had ventured into the realms of prog rock :))))). But in reality, it’s nothing unusual for him and even in the past he has dragged many of his songs out in exactly the same way where the music goes absolutely nowhere. A good example would be “The Ballad of Hollis Brown” he wrote many moons ago, and although it was only 5 minutes long, it seems to go on for an eternity. 

This is basically because the music has been structured from verses only and there is no chorus to change anything and a lot of his songs are typically written that way too. The rock band Nazareth actually done a 9-minute version of that song back in the 70’s and managed to make it sound way less monotonous. But I would say that many of the artists who have covered his songs have managed to bring them more to life and done better with them in reality. 

I cannot deny that Bob Dylan is a GREAT! songwriter and that really boils down to the fact that guy is a pure lyricist. That is an art in itself and is one of the qualities I instantly picked up on when I bumped into Johnny Minstrel on Soundcloud. Although his debut album On The Byways might not reflect some of those finer qualities on some of the songs. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork. 

The Packaging & Artwork…


Well as you can see by the both the packaging and artwork there is nothing much to look at here at all. No doubt with any digital download it does not come with all the trimmings the physical product will give you, but for the many unknown artists out there it’s still by far the best way to get your music out there and the sensible way to go unless you have bags of money to throw down the drain and have the space to store a pile of unsold CD’s. Although it may not look much to look at, it does have a plus side to it and that is that it comes at a much cheaper price that will fit most people’s pockets.


As I mentioned the artwork or picture never gave us much to look at either, and that was perhaps my funny side of things in seeing that Pravinand had perhaps turned his back on us sort of thing. However, when this album was originally released it never had the picture it has now and it had a photo that was taken of him when he was only 2 years old as seen on the original album cover.

Original album cover_Fotor

The new photo was taken by one of his daughters Zai many years later whilst they were on a hike and was snapped at Kirstenbosch Gardens in Cape town. It was the leaf that fell on his head at the time that inspired her to take the photo and both his girls loved the photo and Pravinand did mention to them that maybe he should use it for an album cover hence the reason for it now being used instead.

To be perfectly honest I am not sure how any of the two photo’s tie in with the albums title of “On The Byways” but he certainly is not turning his back on the byways and over the years you could say that his music has been on a journey through them.

Pravinand Maharaj In Brief History…

Pravinand Maharaj was born and raised in Durban, South Africa and currently resides in the largest city in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal. Durban, is a coastal city in eastern South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, and is known for its African, Indian and colonial influences. KwaZulu-Natal is also referred to as KZN and known as “the garden province” so I guess you could say that there is a sense of beauty about the place in relation to how it was back in the 1800’s when part of it was occupied by the Zulu Kingdom.


He was also raised in a church which gave him an advantage with having a readymade audience, and it was their kindness, patience and encouragement that gave him the confidence to improve his song writing and to take it more seriously. By the time he had reached his mid-teens he was heavily influenced by the American hippy gospel songwriter Larry Norman which perhaps explains why today he still has long hair. Norman was considered to be one of the pioneers of Christian rock music and released more than 100 albums during his lifetime before he died back in 2008. 

Much of Christianity does reflect still in the songs that Pravinand writes today and it was the fact that much of the lyrics in songs had a touch of controversy and people never seen them as scandalous that further encouraged him to write songs about social issues besides love songs and songs with just a story to them. The songs he writes musically can also border across many genres that include folk, blues, rock, country and gospel. But foremost he is a singer songwriter and one hell of a good one too. 

Many people have covered his songs on Soundcloud including myself, though I have to confess that I could hardly give them the justice they deserve in relation to himself and the many others that have done so. To be perfectly honest in all the years I spent on Soundcloud I do not think I have ever come across anybody who has his ability to write such GREAT! songs the way he does. He writes songs that good that you wish you could of wrote them yourself. I would even stick my neck out and say that even if Bob Dylan was to listen to his songs, I bet he would have wished he had written some of them too. 

This song is just one of the many GREAT! songs he has written over the years and I could showcase many of his songs that would also give an account of just how well and truly this guy is when it comes to song writing. It’s understandable why many have covered his songs too and this one has also been covered. But this is him on his own with his guitar and harmonica as Johnny Minstrel. 

I chose this particular song “World Gone Bad” because it does reflect some of the social issues that came from the controversy around the world, he seen that inspired him to write songs in this way. I also chose it to prove that he is not just a songwriter who writes songs about Christianity that most people would find dumped into a religious bin sort of thing. There is a lot more to his song writing and a lot of truth reflects in the words that he writes as you can see with the lyrics I have also included here. 

I was born downtown on a bed of rats
From a dirty faced kid to a mean ol’ cat
Mama said son you look just like your dad
It’s hard being good in a world gone bad

Don’t wanna go where I don’t want to be
Don’t want to say what I don’t really mean
What a lowdown rotten life I had
It’s hard being good in a world gone bad

Gonna pull up my boots
Pick up my cane
Put on my hat
Get on the road again
Hit that trail before the break of dawn
You can wait all you want but baby I’ll be gone

Some get their kicks in the back of a hearse
Some drink blood just to quench their thirst
Me I’m on the edge going mad
It’s hard being good in a world gone bad

It’s also interesting how Pravinand came up with the persona name of Johnny Minstrel and I did fire a few questions at him to help out with this review. He told me that he was going through a rebellion against his surname of “Maharaj” basically because in some circles it was seen an exclusive high-class title. I did check it out for myself and seen that it is a Sanskrit title for a “great ruler”, “great king” or “high king”.  

He mentioned it to a group of friends he was with having a few drinks at the time and told them that he wanted to change his surname, and when asked what too? He immediately answered “Minstrel” without giving it any prior thought. He also felt that subconsciously it may have come from his paternal grandmother’s maiden name “Mistry” and he always loved the idea of a wandering singer.  

Pravinand Maharaj may not be the minstrel in the gallery that Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull may have proclaimed to be back in 1975. He may not have been Johnny Minstrel when he wrote the collection of songs that are found on the album On The Byways. He also may not have written as many albums as Larry Norman the very man who influenced him.  

But no doubt his songs would be fit and good enough to entertain the many kings and queens of this world and he has certainly written an array of quality songs under his persona name of Johnny Minstrel. Today he still writes GREAT! songs and feels blessed with his tolerant family and friends he has around him. He also loves what he does and long may it continue too. 

The Album In Review…

The album On The Byways by Pravinand Maharaj was originally released on the 1st November 2001. Although the original album did contain 14 tracks but he was never happy with how the album flowed and it was only more recently whilst being on the lockdown due to the Coronavirus that inspired him to trim the album down to lesser tracks, and by doing so it was the first time he enjoyed the flow of the album more. 

The new trimmed down version of the album would have been released around the 28th March 2020 and it contains 8 tracks that span over an overall playing time of 37 minutes, 36 seconds which is a very reasonable and comfortable time slot for an album. It’s also a time slot I very much prefer in that it’s easy enough to give the album several spins for me to be able to review it. 

I have to confess that I myself listened to the original 14 track album on Bandcamp a good few year back now and it did not entice me to buy it. It may have been that I felt the album never really flowed along properly, although one of my major reasons for not buying it was really down to the production side of how it sounded more than anything else, I remember at the time. Having listened to the new stripped-down version of the album on Bandcamp, it spoke to me enough to add it to my collection. 

The album was recorded somewhere between 2000 – 2001 making it more or less it’s 20th Anniversary now, so you could say it was due time for a remaster and a newer presentation. It was recorded on his trusty Tascam 34 4 track reel-to-reel Tape Recorder (which is the same as the one pictured below) presumably at his home in Asherville, Durban at the time. He still very much has the reel-to-reel today and uses it to record the biggest majority of his songs. 

Tascam 34_Fotor

Although when he recorded this album, he also had some other musicians that lent him a hand and he does have more or less have a band behind him. He also had an engineer in Michael Jacob’s who mixed and mastered the album and I have to admit that many of the things I saw about this album when I originally heard it with it’s 14 tracks appear to have vanished. 

Musicians & Credits…


All songs written and Produced by Pravinand Maharaj. Recorded in Asherville, Durban. South Africa between 2000 & 2001. Mixed & Mastered by Michael Jacob. Album Cover Photo by Zai Maharaj.


Pravinand Maharaj: Vocals – Guitar – Harmonica.
Sykes Maheeph: Lead Guitar.
Ryan Joshua: Keyboards.
Alistair Peters: Bass – Drums.

The Album Tracks In Review…

On The Byways is an album of songs that were written before Pravinand Maharaj became Johnny Minstrel sort of thing, and even though they are very much the same person there is something a bit different I personally can hear. Especially in comparison to how when I first stumbled across him much later on the cloud when he was known as Johnny Minstrel. One of the first observations I certainly noticed about Pravinand’s songs and how he delivered them with his approach in 2012 when I first came across him, that it was like hearing a cross between Bob Dylan and Bob Marley and that still resonates with me today. 

Though on this album there is certainly a lot more Dylan about it more than anything else, and there is only a couple of songs towards the end of the album that come across to me in the same light in relation to the way he wrote songs later on when he became Johnny Minstrel. However, the bit of difference I am hearing and the only way I can really pin it down is perhaps to the lyrical content more than anything else. 

As a rule, Pravinand’s lyrics can run deep in that they have a sense of a more meaningful purpose, they can also be spiritual and sometimes you have to dig deeper into them to to reveal what is really on the surface. I would also say that the couple of songs that are on this album where you do have to dig deeper and delve more into them might also reflect the “Byways” we have in the albums title we are going down. 

For example, a byway can often be an unsurfaced route or track and is not always visibly easy to see in relation to a road. They can also be described as green lanes where the grass has covered part of its path making it harder to see. Although to be perfectly honest I have no idea why he chose the albums title and my own observations might very well be running along too deep. 

The one thing that certainly has not changed is Pravinand’s voice and in many respects, I very much prefer it in relation to either Dylan’s or Marley’s for that matter. I do however, think there is a certain tonal aspect in his voice in the way he expresses certain words that does come across to me like Marley, and that in reality is what personally gives me that Bob Marley vibe besides just the lyrical side of things I see in both Dylan’s and Marley’s writing. 

Pravinand very much has a clear distinctive voice that delivers his songs in almost a speaking mannerism, it’s this characteristic in his voice and the way he expresses his words that really makes the words more coherent and easy to understand unlike Dylan for example who at times can mumble his words out through his nose.

But I would also say that the album On The Byways contains a certain amount of variety which does work very well in making it an enjoyable album to listen too so let’s now take a closer look at it as I go through the albums individual tracks.

Track 1. Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind.

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The album kicks off with a song that has that 70’s country blues feel about it that is perhaps familiar with artists like Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, The Band and many others were doing back then. Lyrically the words have more of a popular music familiarity about them in that this is a love song, but that is also something those artists I mentioned were also doing themselves back then as well. I would also say that the lyrics are pretty much straight forward, short and to the point which is all you need for a song like this. 

What makes a song like this work well is how it’s delivered and no doubt Pravinand’s voice does that with ease and it comfortably sits with it. Musically the song has a certain swing to it and is very much sounds bright and that might reflect on how the song itself has been structured more or less around a chorus structure rather than a verse. The musical interludes in between each chorus does help deviate your attention from how the song has been structured. 

The instrumentation works extremely well in particular with how the honky tonk piano and harmonica feed off one another. This is also the type of song where instruments such as a banjo and mandolin would fit in comfortably and amongst the acoustics it’s almost like I am hearing those instruments as well even though they are not present. 

Overall, “Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind” is a song that works very well as the albums opening track in that its brightness warms and welcomes you to it and pulls you in. The song has been very well recorded and its only really the addition of the scratched vinyl effect that was used that hampers the recording right at the end more than anything.

The idea to include it came from the keyboard player Ryan Joshua and I do think it works very well. But it is a bit too loud in the mix and I really think the extra bit at the end that comes back into play after the record as faded out should have really been removed. 

Track 2. Wasting Time.

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There is no doubt you can see that Bob Dylan’s influence does reflect heavily in the way that Pravinand has structured the music for his songs and this particular song has been structured in the opposite way from the opening track in that it uses verses only. Most of Dylan’s songs are structured this way and they work well just like this one when they are kept over a shorter distance unlike some of Dylan’s songs that can tend to drag on and on as if they are wasting time so to speak.

This song has more of a country folk feel about it and once again the musical interludes in between some of the verses help it along and the acoustic and electric guitars are very well blended together to give it more of an acoustic feel. Alistair Peters drums are quite subtle on most of the album and effectively work like a ticking clock to help each song tick over and flow very well and there is a nice cohesion with the vocals and instrumentation throughout.

The lyrics and the first word of the songs title are tied into the word “Waiting” and they relate the time it takes for something to happen or arrive. It’s a bit like waiting for a bus and the time that is wasted waiting for it and the time wasted could even perhaps be seen as flogging a dead horse sort of thing.

Track 3. Damn. 

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Once again, the Bob Dylan influence is present and this song even flows along like a Dylan classic, in many respects it’s like a fine wine with its rich blend of acoustic guitars and the harmonica is perhaps what contributes to making it sound DYLAN ESC! Musically the song is quite uplifting, joyful and instantly latches itself onto you. The drums are more up front with the vocals and have more of a dominant role. The song also has verse and chorus structures and there is a lot more going on for it especially in the lyrical department where a lot more thought has been applied. 

There is also a touch of BRILLIANCE! with how the songs title pertains in some way to a love song. Although this is far from any normal love song and I have to confess that at first when I tried to decipher the words we have here, I went off down the wrong garden path so to speak. 

The very thing that led me down the wrong path or road had a lot to do with the songs title. For example, the word “Damn” can quite often be associated with an “I don’t care” attitude sort of thing. Trying to associate the word “Love” with the songs title that came at the end of the first verse in particular (as seen below) is really what led me down the wrong path regarding the lyrics that Pravinand wrote. 

This is the movement/ this is the moment
This is the minute I did not plan
You came from some place/ walked into my face
Now I’m still displaced
I love you damn

For example, how this opening verse came across to me at first resembled something along the lines of how Rod Stewart described the words “Maggie, I wished I’d never seen your face” in his song “Maggie May” which pertain to that he wished that he had not been hooked in a way that he could not walk away from the situation. That one sentence alone at the end of that song really sums up that song in a nutshell and says it all. 

But as I went through the other verses and chorus in the song it was only then that I knew there was something more spiritual about the words he wrote here. Many of the songs Pravinand writes are not quite that simple that you can sum them up from one single sentence and the lyrics can run much deeper and have a much deeper meaning to them which is not always easy to see. 

I have to confess I was tearing my hair out trying to decipher these lyrics and even started to look up Narcissism because some of the words do have a narcissist way about them as well. But it was the word “Hereafter” in the second verse and the way many of the verses were written that led me to believe there was more of a Godlike thing going on here.  

Most of the confusion I had with the lyrics was really down to me associating the word “Damn” with the “I don’t care” attitude and it was not until I actually looked up the word “Damn” that I see in Christian beliefs it means to be condemned by God and that is more along the lines of what these lyrics are pertaining too. It’s quite interesting, unique and BRILLIANT! how he has managed to portray them in the same light as a love song. “Damn” is very much like a Dylan classic and its very much one of my two personal favourite songs on the album and it jointly merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! 

Track 4. Cuisine Of Madness.

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Well there might be a lot more cooking up than just food in this next song and love is also on the menu along with the bountiful palate of food that might be a lot more than what you would find in paradise or even in the palace of a king so to speak. This song has quite a Mexican vibe about it and it fits in well with the scene at the table in the restaurant that the story of the song puts across and portrays. The trumpet played on the keyboards by Ryan Joshua lend well to give it that Mexican vibe too.

Overall, “Cuisine Of Madness” is a song that provides a bit more spice and flavour, it also works very well in giving the album more variety. Alistair Peters bass stands out more on this track and Sykes Maheeph’s lead guitar is featured very well throughout giving it that extra touch to spice things up. Pravinand’s voice works as well as ever and cuts through the mix like a knife and they have all served up some good food here.

Track 5. Looking For You.

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This is another song that features Sykes Maheeph on lead guitar and they rock things up a bit more here, the opening riff on the guitar even has a slight touch of The Beatles song “Daytripper” although they are not quite taking the easy way out and are on the lookout for love. Ryan Joshua’s piano also features well and even a bridge has been thrown into the musical structure that works very well. It’s certainly different from most of the songs Pravinand writes and this is more of a pop song but once again lends very well to give the album more variety.

Track 6. Cathedral.


The last 3 songs on the album all have in one way or another a musical resemblance to Dire Straits certainly this song and the next more so than anything. The way this song runs along is a bit along the lines of “Sultans Of Swing” and it has that swing to its rhythm. The subject matter behind the lyrics however, is quite a different kettle of fish and I quite like the subject matter behind the lyrics we have here because they have a stab at religion. 

Pravinand was brought up and raised as a Christian and obviously his Christian beliefs are very strong. But you can see that he is not blind to what really lies beneath and behind many of the religions that were set up in this world. The chorus of the song does sum up the songs title and portray a lot of the truth about most religions. 

I’m leaving the cathedral of the fellowship of saints
I’m going where the windows are not stained glass panes
Maybe in Palestine
I will find
Something of the good man
Time left behind

The “Cathedral” is another excellent song on the album and it features some GREAT! guitar work from Sykes Maheeph on lead guitar and is a strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 7. The Only One.

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It’s time for some blues and they do not come much better than this CRACKING! song. Once again, I am hearing the Dire Straits resemblance only the influence is heavier on this particular song and it’s more to the style that was found on the bands final studio album On Every Street with songs like “You and Your Friend” and “Fade To Black“. I think the amount of reverb used on this song is more or less spot on to the amount used on those particular tracks on that album and why it resembles them so close. 

The songs title relates to Jesus Christ and the words convey how he tends to get the blame for everything and once again this is a very well written song and all have done a TOP JOB! here. This is the other personal favourite track on the album of mine and it may very well be down to the Dire Straits influence that made me choose this particular song to jointly merit the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! 

Track 8. The Ghost In Your Reflection.

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The final song on the album is the longest and weighs in at just over 7 minutes. It’s a song about the spirit crossing over to the other side and the ghost in your reflection could be seen as the spirit that is waiting for you to cross over in the afterlife sort of thing. Well that’s how I see it, but there might be a lot more to it and it is without doubt quite captivating, gripping and convincing with how Pravinand delivers the fine words he’s penned to this well fascinating story. 

This is a song that does come across like a cross between Bob Dylan and Bob Marley and has more of what I hear in Pravinand’s much later songs under his persona name of Johnny Minstrel. There is also a slight Dire Straits presence here too, although that is perhaps only in some of the touches that Sykes gives to it with the electric guitar which work very well. But the other thing this song reminds me of and it always has me thinking of it, and that is “Madison Avenue” by Bachman Turner Overdrive. 

To be honest that particular song by BTO most people might not have heard of and it comes from one of their later albums they made in 1978 entitled Street Action. It’s a song where the rhythm for the verses is driven along by the bass line and it’s the melody on the bass line that resembles this particular song of Pravinand’s. I made this short demonstration to give you more of an idea of where I see some similarities between the both songs but on the whole both songs are very much poles apart. 

Overall, “The Ghost In Your Reflection” is very much another of the truly GREAT! songs and what I personally see as another very strong contenders for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! It’s the perfect song to wind up the album and put an end to a very enjoyable album.


To sum up On The Byways by Pravinand Maharaj. It’s very much an album that will take you down a few byways with the variety it provides to the listener and runs along the borders of country, folk, blues, pop and even rock with its styles. There is quite a Bob Dylan influence along the lines of the songs on this album, but there is many other influences too. If you’re into the likes of others such as Eric Clapton, The Band, Crosby Stills & Nash, Dire Straits, Bob Marley, Otis Taylor and many more, then this is an album that I feel will appeal to your particular taste. 

Besides all the influences I mentioned there is no doubt that Pravinand Maharaj has his own way of delivering his own songs with his voice that very much gives him his own distinctive style that in many ways sets him apart. He is very much a lyricist who carves and sculptures out fine songs like a skilled craftsman which is how I described him a good few year ago, and even though the songs on this album were written a couple of decades ago now it shows that he had that quality craftsmanship back then too. 

Since he made this album Pravinand has gone on to write hundreds of quality songs, many of which can be found on Soundcloud under his persona name of Johnny Minstrel and he still very much continues to churn out truly GREAT! songs. I dare say he could even make many more albums out of the many songs he has written over all the years and my personal highlights from this album are as follows: “Damn“. “The Only One“. “Cathedral” and “The Ghost In Your Reflection“. 


On The Byways is an album that contains a collection of 8 very well crafted songs that make up quite a solid albums worth of very well written material. The songs have been very well placed throughout it to make it work and flow like a good album should. The album has also been very well recorded and comes with a very good production. Credit also goes to all the GREAT! musicians who contributed to it and to Michael Jacob who done the mixing and mastering.

This is very much an album that I feel would sit well in most people’s record collection and will provide them with many hours of satisfaction and pleasure. It’s also a very comfortable album to listen to being that it’s not over 40 minutes and will leave you wanting more. At its low price point of 4 US dollars you simply cannot go wrong and it offers amazing value for the buck.

You can listen to the entire album for free or even purchase the album in the form of a digital download from the link here: https://pravinandmaharaj.bandcamp.com/album/on-the-byways

No doubt there will be more to come from Pravinand Maharaj or Johnny Minstrel in the near future and I know he is currently working on a new album of new songs. He has also acquired the production skills and services of another truly GREAT! talented songwriter and musician namely Bas Kooman to lend a hand and I am well looking forward to it. But in the meantime, I highly recommend his debut album On The Byways and the least you can do is give the album a spin. 

Blame It On Jesus Christ, On The Burning Sun

The Album track listing is as follows:

01. Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind. 3:03.
02. Wasting Time. 4:13.
03. Damn. 4:16.
04. Cuisine Of Madness. 4:17.
05. Looking For You. 4:37.
06. Cathedral. 5:06.
07. The Only One. 4:52.
08. The Ghost In Your Reflection. 7:02.

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

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #147

Electric Castle Live And Other Tales (Blu Ray Edition) – Ayreon



It seems to appear that Arjen Lucassen has now caught the bug for playing live or rather is enjoying taking his music to the stage to present it in theatrical style like a rock opera. Since 2015, its the 3rd time now his music has been presented live but as ever the man himself plays very little part in the live performance and leaves it all in the capable hands of the musicians some of which who have played with him on his Ayreon project in the past. Arjen is without doubt one of the most successful musicians who does not have to go out and play live to sell his music by the bucket load, and he has been since he started out doing his own music projects back in 1995.

To be perfectly honest I cannot think of any other musician who can sit at home and make music and sell it at the rate he can. Selling music today is one of the hardest things in the world and the only way many musicians can generate any money from it is by going out on tour and playing as many live shows as they can. They have to travel all over the world as well to make their living. Yet here we have one guy who can put on one show over a few nights at one venue in his own country, and hardly play a part at all on the stage himself and still come out on top.

There are many people who would call Arjen Lucassen a genius, and there are many factors that come into the equation regarding how as an artist he has been so successful. The first of those would be that he was lucky that he came out in a generation or a decade before computers and the internet robbed many musicians of their livelihood. Secondly part of his success is really down to getting many other well-known musicians involved in his projects.

But the biggest part of his success is really down to having a business head on his shoulders. In any business you have to gamble and take risks, you have to be prepared to put your money where your mouth is and chuck loads of money at it. Selling music is no different to selling Coca Cola and at the end of the day it is a product you are selling and nothing more.

Marketing, presentation and packaging all play their part and the fact that over the past few years music has been presented to us in many other packages including expensive box sets, and with these type of products being more or less the in-thing today with the many artists who are releasing their products in this way. It is the very reason why Arjen can now take the risk with the vast amount of money it takes to put on a live show of this calibre.

He knows that should he loose out he will be able to generate the money back on the sale of the DVD and many other formats the live show has been put out on. In a way it’s a bit like having a safety net to fall back on and in reality, Arjen is not doing anything really more different than what he has done all along. He certainly does not make his money by performing live and he still very much makes it from the comfort of his own home more or less.

His latest release The Electric Castle Live And Other Tales is another spectacular live show like the last one he did back in 2017 with Ayreon Universe. Only instead of it being a show that showcased the best of Ayreon it showcases his classic 1998 album Into The Electric Castle and also features most of the original singers including Fish who was the very person that really introduced me to Arjen’s music and his project of Ayreon back in 1998. The biggest change is with the line-up of musicians that were on the original album, and only a few of them are here.

The “Other Tales” side of it features mainly live performances of some other songs from some of the other projects Arjen was involved in and a bit more besides. But before I go any further let’s takes a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…


The blu ray comes very well presented in a cardboard Digipak to which is around 20 centimetres taller than the standard size of a dvd or blu ray and I like the fact that despite it being slightly taller it still fits comfortably into most media storage shelving units. I personally prefer this packaging in relation to the flimsy blue plastic case that most blu rays come packaged in and it has a sturdy plastic tray to hold the disc in place and is also easy to retrieve the disc without getting your fingers over the disc. It also comes with a 12-page booklet that contains all the linear and production notes and photographs of all the singers and musicians who took part in the show. I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon on the week of it’s release and got it for £14.99.

I did originally pre-order the Earbook edition months ago when it was first made available to pre-order from Amazon. But cancelled it for two reasons. The reason why I did originally want the Earbook was because this is my favourite Ayreon album and I already have the Earbook of the new remix of the album Into The Electric Castle that was released in 2018.

My first reason for cancelling the Earbook was really down to the price point and usually when pre-ordering in advance any album on Amazon you do end up getting it a lot cheaper, only this time the price was not dropping down and it’s price of £47 I very much considered as overpriced and in reality it should cost less than £40. When I pre-ordered the Earbook of Into The Electric Castle it was also priced at around the same price and I ended up getting it for around £10 cheaper.

The second reason why I had to cancel was really down to the lack of my financial situation and how the Coronavirus has affected the cost of living with many supermarkets being empty and looking like something out of a Sci-fi movie with aisles of empty shelves. To get by I have had to do most of my shopping at my local corner shops to which are more expensive and I only generally use them to pick up the odd thing here and there and not my weekly shopping. This is what forced me in the end to cancel the Earbook and get the blu ray instead.

The Artwork.

The artwork, layout and design were done by Roy Koch and it kind of represents the cover of an ancient or very old book. No doubt the Earbook would help give it a better presentation than the blu ray being as it’s made with much thicker cardboard and the same cardboard that would have been used to make a hardback book. The back-cover photograph was taken by Eddy Jolen and the rest of the photographs in the booklet were taken by Laili Soeng, Cristel Brouwer, Tim Tronckoe, Robert Zant, Dorien Goetschalckx, Lorena All, Rik Bauters, Ton Dekkers, Matthias Kirsch, Jostijn Ligtvoet, Steph Byrne, Bert Treep and William Van Der Voort.

Media Release Editions…

The live album has been released in the form of 5 physical formats which give you a wide choice to choose from and a good variety of choice to suit your pocket so to speak. I dare say it will also be made available in the form of a digital download which might be the cheapest option for you to lay your hands on it. But personally I do not think that any digital download is worth any more than £5 in reality and I prefer something I can have in my hands and hold and look at.

The cheapest of the physical formats in reality are all you really need when it comes down to just wanting to listen or watch the live show and the first of them is 2CD + DVD edition for around £15 on Amazon UK.


This edition comes very well presented and packaged in a cardboard Digisleeve pack and is excellent value for the buck in that you not only get the CD’s to which you can listen to anywhere, but also get to watch it live with the DVD.


The other of the cheaper alternatives is priced the same and that is the Blu Ray Edition. With this edition you do only get the one disc and you do not get the audio only like you do with the other package that comes with the CD’s. However, you do get to watch the show in HD which is more of a superior quality and this would be my personal choice out of the two and I do prefer to watch a live concert rather than just listen to it. The other thing you get that the 2CD + DVD edition does not have is 3 hours of bonus content that includes interviews and the making of documentary.


For vinyl lovers who like all the snap, crackle and pop the concert as also been released in the form of a 3 LP box set which is priced up at around £23 on Amazon UK. The LP’s have been pressed onto Gold 180-gram vinyl and given the price of vinyl these days this package is also very well presented and comes at a very reasonable price. You do only get the audio only here though and you are also missing out on a couple of tracks due to vinyl restrictions. But this also comes with a free digital MP3 download which will include the couple of tracks that are missing.


Now we are getting into more of the deluxe or elaborate editions and the Ear-Book or Picture-Book edition in reality gives you the same content that you get with both the 2 CD + DVD & Blu Ray editions. The only real difference is the way they have been packaged and that it also contains an extra DVD that includes the 3-hour bonus content that was only on the Blu Ray edition plus a 44-page book. There is no doubt there is a real element of quality regarding the packaging as the discs come in a hardback book the same size of a vinyl album but the question is do you really need to have the same concert on all 3 of the formats that come in this package.

This edition retails at around £47 (49 euro) on Amazon UK and from the Mascot Label Group EU store which I personally think is overpriced by at least £10. Although Amazon is still the cheapest place to get it from down to the fact that you will also pay extra for the postage and packaging from Mascot Label Group which could bump the price up top around £55.


Finally, we have the most elaborate box set which is known as the Super Deluxe Wooden Box Set. This particular edition is only available on Arjen’s website and from the Mascot Label Group EU store and is priced up at a WHOPPING! 159 euro and is limited to 1,500 copies only. The box set contains all of the other 4 formats above and the only real difference is that instead of the vinyl edition coming on Gold coloured vinyl it comes with a Marble splattered colour instead. You do also get some other trinkets such as a picture disc, tee shirt, slipmat, poster and a signed certificate.

No doubt once again one really has to question if they need the concert on all of these formats and it is without doubt far too much of the same thing. But the craziest thing here has to be the packaging to which it does come in a real wooden box and by the looks of it, it looks like a dartboard cabinet :)))). It also looks as if the only way you could store this thing is by hanging it on the wall like a dartboard cabinet and it’s just as well that he has not thrown in a set of darts LOL..

Electric Castle Live And Other Tales In Review…

Electric Castle Live And Other Tales by Ayreon was released on the 27th March 2020. The Blu Ray contains the whole concert from start to finish that was performed and filmed during the last show that was put on at the 013 Poppodium in Tilburg on Sunday 15th September 2019. The 013 is one of the most popular music venues in the Netherlands and many artists have played there, it was also the same venue they had performed at back in 2017 for the Ayreon Universe show.


The venue holds a capacity of around 3,000 and the live performance was captured from one of the four live performances that were put on between the 13th to the 15th September 2019. The show was put on to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Ayreon’s 3rd album Into The Electric Castle and two of the live performances were put on, on the final day the 15th.

Once again Arjen had the keyboard player Joost Van Den Broek at his side to help set up the show and he most likely could of never have done it without him. Most of the original singers who helped make the original album are present and only 3 of them missing.  Sharon Den Adel who played the part of the Indian was very busy at the time and Simone Simons stepped into her role. Robert Westerholt who played one of the two characters to represent death was also unavailable and Mark Jansen stepped in to take his part. It was Arjen’s personal choice to replace Peter Daltrey who played the part of the voice and narrator and being a fan of the Sci-fi series Star Trek, he managed to get hold of the actor John de Lancie to play the part.

The biggest change is in the musician department and only 3 of the original musicians are present. They are his long-time drummer Ed Warby along with Thijs Van Leer on flute and Robby Valentine on piano. Though all the replacements that were brought in were certainly more than capable of filling in and doing the job, most of which also played on the last concert Ayreon Universe and no doubt Arlen certainly has a terrific line-up that is capable of putting on quite a SPECTACULAR! Show.

The Blu Ray.

You certainly get a lot for your money regarding the blu ray and it contains 335 minutes of content counting the couple of bonus features. Regarding the actual content of the concert and bonus features the blu ray is missing nothing at all and the only thing extra you are getting with the Earbook is the 44-page book and the way the package is presented to you. Although no doubt the Earbook would have also provided you with some very informative information.

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The main menu is very well animated and the picture of the original albums artwork has all the things flying around it and castle also moves about. The menu itself gives you the choice of 5 options to choose from “Select Track”. “Play All”. “Audio Set-Up”. “Behind The Scenes” and “Interview”. All the menus are very well animated and easy enough to navigate your way around.

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The “Select Track” part of the menu comes in two parts to cater for all the tracks has you can see in the picture above. This comes in handy when you want to play a specific track instead of listening to the whole concert, the tracks can be easily be navigated from one page to the other.

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The “Audio Set-Up” menu gives you the choice of two audio tracks to choose from Dolby Digital 2.0 and DTS 5.1 both of which are 48K. By default its set to stereo so you will have to go into menu to set it to the surround mix or alternatively use the audio button on your remote which allows you to switch between the both.

The Bonus Features.

The couple of bonus features that you get are very lengthy and the first of them “Behind The Scenes” comes with a running time of 1 hour 47 minutes, 27 seconds. In this footage you do get to see them setting up the stage and some of the rehearsals along with interviews with a good few of the singers such as Fish, Damian Wilson and the narrator John de Lancie and so on. Most of the footage is of Arjen and Joost Van Den Broek talking about the show and various other things relating to the music of Ayreon and so on.

The second bonus feature “Interviews” comes with a running time of 1 Hour 32 minutes, 23 seconds and even though this might look like you are getting quite a lot extra, there is not a lot different here in relation to what you get in the “Behind The Scenes” footage. To be perfectly honest I find it rather strange why they titled this bonus footage “Interviews” simply because the only people in it are Arjen and Joost Van Den Broek and the interviews with the other artists are in the “Behind The Scenes” only.

Overall, the bonus content is quite good although in reality it is only the “Behind The Scenes” footage that is really worth watching. Simply because around 90% of it is of Arjen and Joost Van Den Broek talking about the show and various other things and the same footage has been used to make up the other bonus feature “Interviews”. I think the biggest drawback is that there is very little content showing you actually behind the scenes and interviewing the other singers and musicians that took part in the show.

Picture & Editing Quality.

Panda Productions were the team behind filming and editing the live show and the video & post production was done by Jens de Vos and the use of a total of 12 camera operators including himself. To be honest for a venue this size 12 camera operators might seem over the top, but I cannot really argue with the end result. The concert has been very well captured visually and a TOP JOB! was also done on the editing side of things. Regarding the picture quality its quite pristine and that good that even the DVD would still look like 1080p full HD if you were to put it in a blu ray player with good upscaling.

The 5.1 Surround Mix.

Perhaps the biggest surprise regarding the 5.1 mix was the fact that for the first time ever Arjen actually used DTS. However, I would not get too excited because this is not a true master lossless format that is a common feature that is more widely used with Blu Ray these days, but I suppose he has to start somewhere and in a way it could be seen as some sort of improvement. Though not by a lot and that is really down to how he has gone about the mix and to be honest he has gone about it in the same way most 5.1 mixing engineers would do with a live concert.

The one thing the 5.1 mix certainly is not, is the way that Arjen describes it in the “Interview” section of the bonus material. To which he mentioned that most people say you have to be careful with these types of mixes but he just went over the top and put things here, there and everywhere sort of thing. To be perfectly honest if he was talking about the 5.1 mix, he done for the remix of the Into The Electric Castle album he did a couple of years ago I very much think that he would be right to make those observations. But this is a much more tamed mix in relation to that album and the 5.1 mix for this concert is not going to give you a better result by any means and it does not offer you that same exciting experience.

But like I said most live shows have 5.1 mixes like this where the rear channels are mainly used for the audience and not so much for the instrumentation and the backing vocals. Like many of these types of mixes they do have their moments in parts but you do have to wait and for much of the concert the music and vocals are only really using the front channels more than anything else. The only time the rear channels do come into play is in between songs with the interaction of the audience and the odd keyboard FX that have been thrown into the pot to add to good effect.

You will get to hear some of the guitars panned in the rear channels on “Garden of Emotions”. The synths also get utilised a bit more on tracks like “Castle Hall” and Evil Devolution” too, and the vocals get put to use in the rears on “Twisting Coil”. But the highlight of the tracks were the 5.1 mix gets utilised more is the “Tower of Hope” and besides the keyboards being put to good use on the beginning of the song it also gets very well utilised for the break in the middle where the musicians get to play their individual spots.

To be honest there is not a lot of live concerts out there that have really good or GREAT! 5.1 mixes and it’s very rare they will measure up to the better job that has been given to more studio albums. But this is really down to how good the engineer is in the first place and there is some very cable 5.1 mixing engineers out there that have to the ability to do truly stunning 5.1 mixes for live concerts. It’s unfortunate that those engineers are still very much in the minority and people are still not learning anything from them yet.

Like I have mentioned in my other reviews of Ayreon regarding Arjen’s ability to do a 5.1 surround mix to which he as been improving all the time and to be perfectly honest I do not see this mix in anyway as a setback. Personally, I think he has followed guidelines of what the biggest majority of mixers are doing with live concerts which is nothing really to write home about and nothing special or GREAT!  But overall, this is not that bad and acceptable, and both the stereo and 5.1 mixes are as good as each other.

Musicians & Credits…


Executive Producer Arjen Anthony Lucassen. Lead Producer Joost Van Den Broek. Production Manager Naomi Van Hak. Co-Producer & Storyboard Lori Linstruth. All music and lyrics by A.A. Lucassen (except Highlander & Kayleigh lyrics by Derek W. Dick. Barbarian Amazing Flight lyrics by Jay Van Feggelen. Egyptian melody line on Tunnel of Light & lyrics on Shores of India by Anneke Van Giersbergen. Out of This World lyrics by Marcello Bovio. Ashes lyrics by Astrid Van Der Veen. Twisted Coil lyrics by Lori Linstruth. Narration written by John de Lancie & Marnie Mosiman.

Video & Post Production by Jens de Vos. Camera Operators Jens de Vos, Jolien Artis, Nick Maris, Bart Sperling, Casper de Coninck, Erik Wijnen, Frederik Celis, Maria Munoz, Gilles Schijvens, Stijn Janssens, Michel Sequaris, Timo Vandiest. Stereo & 5.1 Mixes by Arjen Anthony Lucassen. Mastered by Brett Caldas-Lima at Tower Studios. Blu Ray Authoring by Scott Long. Blu Ray Menu by Scott Long & David Letelier. Front Cover & Layout by Roy Koch. Back Cover Photo by Eddy Jolen. Photographers Laili Soeng, Cristel Brouwer, Tim Tronckoe, Robert Zant, Dorien Goetschalckx, Lorena All, Rik Bauters, Ton Dekkers, Matthias Kirsch, Jostijn Ligtvoet, Steph Byrne, Bert Treep and William Van Der Voort. Visuals by David Letelier. Paintings by Jef Bertels.

Vocalists & Characters

Fish: (The Highlander)
Simone Simons: (The Indian)
Damian Wilson: (The Knight)
Edwin Balogh: (The Roman)
Anneke Van Giersbergen: (The Egyptian)
John Jaycee Cuijpers: (The Barbarian)
Arjen Anthony Lucassen: (The Hippie)
Edward Reekers: (The Futureman)
John de Lancie: (The Voice)
George Oosthoek & Mark Jansen: (As Death)


ED Warby: Drums.
Joost Van Den Broek: Keyboards.
Marcel Singor: Lead Guitar.
Ferry Duijsens: Guitars/Mandolin.
Bob Wijtsma: Guitars/Mandolin.
Johan van Stratum: Bass.
Ben Mathot: Violin.
Jurriaan Westerveld: Cello.
Thijs Van Leer: Flute.
Robby Valentine: Piano.

Other Vocalists

Dianne Van Giersbergen.
Jan Willem Ketelaers.
Marcela Bovio.
Robert Soeterboek.

On To The Show…

The concert is split into three sections and in total the whole show including the credits at the end have a running time of 2 hours, 38 minutes, 36 seconds. The show kicks off with its main feature to which they play the whole of the double album Into The Electric Castle from start to finish. It was also important to have a castle to make the show and the story look even more convincing and the one he had built provided the right backdrop to set the scene I personally think.


But you also had to have the lights and visuals to also make it work and  David Letelier done an excellent job on the visuals which included moving pictures and animation to complete the backdrop and make it look even more convincing, plus a camera crew of 12 operators to capture it all. No expense was spared here and the show is nothing more than SPECTACULAR!

Visuals Collage

Because Arjen had recently remixed the album a couple of years ago, he was not as concerned in having the same line up of musicians who played on the original album like he was with trying to get most of the original singers. Like I mentioned earlier it was only Ed Warby, Thijs Van Leer and Robby Valentine who played along with Arjen himself on the original album and Arjen was looking for something to give the album a slightly different edge or sound.

This particular band line-up is much the same line-up that played at the Ayreon Universe show and consists of 10 musicians. The newcomers to the line-up are Jurriaan Westerveld on cello, lead guitarist Marcel Singor and Bob Wijtsma on guitar and mandolin. The other good thing is that Arjen himself also makes more of an appearance in that he plays the original role as the hippie. He may only mainly feature on vocals but you do get to see more of him on this concert.

Part One: The Main Feature…

The stage is set and show opens up with with the albums opening track “Welcome To The New Dimension” to which is the introduction to the story that was set to the album. Although the actor and narrator John de Lancie has changed some of the words they still follow along the same lines and do not deviate away from the original storyline. There are very few musicians on the stage for this opening number and Ben Mathot on violin along with the keyboard player Joost Van Den Broek are the first to make an appearance on the stage.

The first glimpse of John de Lancie is on a large screen projection of him narrating the words above the castle at first and then at the end you see him standing on top of the right-hand tower of the castle. He very much narrates the words from different places on the set throughout the whole show and the way everything has been planned and set up really makes it quite an entertaining show and his role can be very convincing, authoritative and funny at times and he’s certainly done the business regarding presenting the story and is perfect for the role.

As the show goes on you get to see more musicians and singers come out of the woods so to speak and the next track “Isis and Osiris” is really where it all kicks off and the action starts to come more into play. This is where Fish makes his appearance and this is really a song where his voice does have more of a speaking role rather than singing and using some of the aggression and characteristics you would find in many of the songs he sang on his solo albums and from the days he was with Marillion.

So, this is quite a comfortable job for his voice and he is able to present it more or less spot on to how he did it on the original album even though he has lost a lot of the finer characteristics in his voice over the years and cannot project his voice like he could back in those early days. Many of the other singers who also featured on the original album 20 years ago also do pretty much a bang on job still today.

The album’s 3rd track “Amazing Flight” as always been my personal favourite track of the album and is one of the major highlights of the album. This is also where Arjen himself makes his first appearance and unlike Fish who is one of the first characters in the story to be killed off, he has more of major role to play in the story and for me Arjen has always had quite a good voice and he still very much has it as well as you can see in the video he put out on the tube from the show.

John Jaycee Cuijpers plays the part of the Barbarian who was originally played by Jay van Feggelen but he does an admirable job here and the interaction between him with Arjen works very well. I quite like how the flautist Thijs Van Leer of Focus makes his entrance and first appearance in the show through the castle doors. The projections onto the castle also make it more realistic including the ones on the doors.


You can also see how well the audience love this particular song by the reaction at the end in this snapshot I took from the blu ray. You can also see the smile on their faces although you may have to zoom in here and it’s not quite the same as viewing it on a much larger TV.

Well so far, I have only covered the first 23 minutes of the shows main featured album and I could go on about every track from that album simply because the way the show has been presented and the performances of everybody well and truly shines. Fish once again does an amicable job on “The Decision Tree” although he’s more low key alongside Anneke Van Giersbergen on the “Tunnel of Light“. The likes of Edwin Balogh and Damian Wilson provide the right power it takes to deliver “Across the Rainbow Bridge” which ended off the the first disc of the original double album.

The Garden of Emotions” is another of the albums highlights for me and this is a song that does have some really GREAT! progression along its path. It’s also a song that features most of the singing crew and musicians to pull it off as you can see in the second video Arjen posted on his YouTube channel from the show.

Into The Electric Castle is an album that has quite a few highlights to the songs that were written to its story and many will even like the soft touch that Anneke Van Giersbergen lends to “Valley of the Queens” with her fine voice and the Celtic feel the song has with its musical presentation. It would also be a personal favourite song for many I also feel.

 “The Tower of Hope” is another of my personal highlighted tracks especially for the interaction play between the musicians. But the biggest highlight of the show for myself comes from one man alone, and that is the track on the album that was named after him namely Robby Valentine. He actually featured more on the original album than he does on this live show, though the little spot he gets here when they roll out the white grand piano for him to play is pure BRILLIANCE! and it’s by far the most sophisticated part by a long shot.

The way Valentine knocks out some of the classical GREATS! on the piano in this 5-minute slot he gets is truly STUNNING! This guy is more convincing and SPECTACULAR! than the many pianists in the world of classical music and my GOD! he’s far more entertaining than those boring idiots by a long shot. He knocks classical music out of the park as if it was nothing to play LOL! and he honestly stole the show for me. His 5-minute spot is worth the price of the Blu Ray alone.

My personal second favourite track on the album is “The Mirror Maze” and Robby Valentine also gets to play the piano on this song before they wheel off the piano. They even bring Fish back for the final song despite him dying at the end of the “Tunnel of Light“. But it was perhaps understandable being as it was the final song of the album and everyone who took part in the show is on the stage to join in and put an end to the main featured part of the show which runs for 1 hour 48 minutes, 34 seconds. Overall, everybody involved in this show puts in 100% and they have done a truly GREAT! job of bringing Ayreon’s third album Into The Electric Castle to the stage.

Part Two: Other Tales…

This extra feature of the show is presented by Michael Mills via the use of a pre-recorded video of him that was used for the introduction. Most of the material the band perform here is new territory for me and is mostly from other projects that Arjen has been involved in over the years. To be perfectly honest there is very little in this set that would even entice me to go out and buy the albums the songs came from either. But I cannot take a thing away from the performance and it also gives some of the other singers a chance to take more of a part.

The only song I do recognise out of the 6 they perform live in this small set is the Marillion song “Kayleigh” to which gives Fish another chance to sing the song. It’s not the song he wanted to sing either and they had to work on him a bit to get him to perform it. I can perhaps see why Fish wanted to do another song instead and his voice cannot really project this song like he sang it many moons ago and it’s not on par with how he did it many years ago with Marillion and even his own band.

The only song that speaks to me out of the remaining 5 songs is the very last one they perform with the rather bizarre title of “Pink Beatles in a Purple Zeppelin“. It’s a song that came from Arjen’s second solo album entitled Lost In The New Real and to be honest I was unaware or never really paid that much attention that he had made any solo albums.


The album was released back in 2012 and it might be worth me checking it out at some point because I think this is a really GREAT! song and it works very well to round off this little small set of “Other Tales” which runs along for around 33 minutes.

Part Three: Speech And Encore…

The final part of the live show sees Arjen return to the stage to give his speech and show his appreciation to everyone involved in it all and to his fans in the audience. He also has an electric guitar with him to which he does play the rhythm to the final song he chose to end off the concert which is a song from his Star One project entitled “Songs of the Ocean“. This also gives everyone who took part in the show a final chance to return to the stage and take their bow to the audience for the final time.

Final Bow_Fotor


To sum up the Electric Castle Live And Other Tales by Ayreon. There is no doubt in my mind that Arjen has once again pulled off another truly GREAT! live show that is just as SPECTACULAR! as the one he pulled off for Ayreon Universe back in 2017.  A week after its release the live album hit the number one spot in Holland’s official album charts and it’s hardly surprising given the performances of all the singers and musicians.

For me personally it’s the concerts main event and how they pull off the whole of the double album Into The Electric Castle live from start to finish that is highlight of this concert and not so much the “Other Tales” side of it which does contain material from his other projects to which mostly are less interesting to myself. But I cannot take anything away from the performance and its certainly not enough for me to take away any points from my concert rating score.

The only real downside I can see in relation to the Blu Ray of both Electric Castle Live And Other Tales and Ayreon Universe is perhaps in the bonus footage department. You do get more bonus footage on this latest concert and a good 3 hours’ worth. But a lot of it does tend to be the same footage they have used across the couple of bonus features and it’s mainly set in the one location. It also does not show you that much of how the show was set up and its perhaps not so much behind the scenes like you got with the bonus footage on Ayreon Universe.


To conclude my review of the Electric Castle Live And Other Tales I would say that this is a concert or rock opera that provides truly GREAT! entertainment. I also think it’s more of a must to have a visual presentation of the show and both the CD/DVD and Blu Ray packages are all you really need to get the full benefit of a concert like this. They both have the same price point of around £15 and no doubt you are getting genuine real value for the buck.

The performances, production, visuals, theatrics, sound and editing make it what it is and its nothing short of SPECTACULAR! No expense has been spared to put on a show like this and I feel that this will appeal to more than Ayreon fans alone. It might even introduce more people to the world of Arjen Lucassen’s music and deserving so I might add. Who knows what is the next project for Arjen but whatever it is, it would not surprise me if he brings it to the stage yet again and I am looking forward to it?

Another Amazing Live Flight In Space…

The Live Set-List is as follows:

01. Welcome To The New Dimension. 3:10.
02. Isis and Osiris. 10:51.
03. Amazing Flight. 8:26.
04. Time Beyond Time. 6:30.
05. The Decision Tree. 5:44.
06. Tunnel of Light. 4:29.
07. Across the Rainbow Bridge. 6:05.
08. The Garden of Emotions. 9:00.
09. Valley of the Queens. 4:18.
10. The Castle Hall. 5:45.
11. Tower of Hope. 5:32.
12. Cosmic Fusion. 6:53.
13. Robby Valentine. 4:52.
14. The Mirror Maze. 6:52.
15. Evil Devolution. 5:00.
16. The Two Gates. 6:54.
17. Forever of the Stars. 1:39.
18. Another Time, Another Space. 6:18.
19. Shores of India. 5:23.
20. Ashes. 5:06.
21. Out in the Real World. 4:01.
22. Twisted Coil. 9:18.
23. Kayleigh. 4:14.
24. Pink Beatles in a Purple Zeppelin. 4:36.
25. Songs of the Ocean. 5:43.

Lee’s overall Complete Value Rating…

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10

The Picture Quality Rating Score. 10/10

The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 7/10

The Bonus Features Rating Score. 7/10

The Concert Rating Score. 10/10.