Lee Speaks About Music… #152

Fanfares – GoGo Penguin

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Introduction…

About five or six weeks ago I stumbled across what looked like a jazz trio and to be honest jazz is perhaps not really the sort of thing I would buy even though I have a GREAT! deal of respect for it, and my taste in jazz is more along the lines of jazz fusion. However, whatever these three young chaps were doing sounded quite different and in many ways fresh and new to me. It was also another kind of fusion in many respects and since I stumbled across them on Youtube I have more or less watched and listened to a rake of their music and watched live concerts of them. They go by the name of GoGo Penguin and are from Manchester here in the UK. 

I would not say what I heard in their music was entirely new but it was certainly a more newer and fresher approach to a genre of music that I myself over the last few years have got very bored of to the point that I can no longer really listen to it in large doses. That genre of music is electronic or electronica how its perhaps more described these days. It’s certainly not the style of music you would associate with acoustic instruments either, and that is what really drew me into what they were doing immediately and grabbed my attention. 

Today there is very little out there in the world of music that is that much different for it to be really fresh and exciting enough to immediately grab you. I would even consider myself to be very OLDSCHOOL! and still mostly live in the 70’s regarding my preferred musical taste. It’s very rare to find anything new and invigorating enough that is really going to stand out and make a new statement so to speak and the last time I seen anything like that was when I came across the 2 Cellos. 

In many respects with how GoGo Penguin go about their own approach to music I could perhaps liken them to the 2 Cellos in some ways. They both use acoustic instruments and effects and have a unique style and approach to music that appeals to a wider audience and attracts a lot of attention. Although these 3 guys are certainly not as flamboyant like the 2 Cellos and have not quite gathered the masses of popularity like they have accumulated. Though nevertheless their concerts sell out quite quickly and they are continuously on the road playing all over the world and they are without doubt attracting attention everywhere they go. 

Unlike the 2 Cellos who more or less gained their popularity by playing covers of famous rock songs to which was the very thing that had given a certain amount of popularity to the violinist Nigel Kennedy much earlier. GoGo Penguin very much play their own material which is perhaps why they are not quite as popular. The other difference is that their music can also be enjoyed by simply listening to it on record. Where as the 2 Cellos are perhaps more or less a dynamic duo you would get more out of watching them rather than just listening to them. 

Having listened and watched GoGo Penguin over the past six weeks I noticed they have a new album due to be released on the 5th June to which I have pre-ordered on Amazon UK. But whilst I was over their I very much decided to also purchase the rest of their entire studio album discography at the same time. So, I thought I would start this series of reviews from the very beginning of the bands career with their debut album Fanfares. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork. 

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The CD comes in a slim Gatefold cardboard DigiSleeve and the CD is retrieved from the side like a vinyl album. It also comes with the usual linear credits production notes although they do appear to have left out whoever done the artwork and it provides no informative information. Overall, it’s quite neatly presented and I purchased my copy from Amazon UK for £11.99. 

Artwork. 

Having done some research I found out that the artwork was done by Daniel Halsall, the brother of Matthew who runs Gondwana Records. It’s perhaps very minimalistic and looks a bit like they were trying to make the earth a pretty colourful planet. It has very little to do with albums title of Fanfares and the bands pianist described it like looking at the universe, from the outside and that perhaps make a bit more sense. 

GoGo Penguin In Brief History…

The three-piece trio who go by the name of GoGo Penguin all came about when pianist Chris Illingworth, bassist Grant Russell and drummer Rob Turner bumped into each other whilst studying at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England. They became good friends and would often jam together and never even gave any thought to them becoming a band or going out and playing live gigs. A friend of theirs was running a night at one of the many live venues in Manchester and one of the bands had pulled out so he asked them if they would fill the vacant spot. The band obliged though not having a name they had to quickly come up with one. 

It’s not clear how the band arrived at the name GoGo Penguin from my research of the interviews of the band I have come across. One example goes along the lines of them seeing a weird, stuffed papier-mâché kind of magpie thing that looked more like a penguin. The other is that a friend of the bass player brought a stuffed penguin for his girlfriend and she would not have it in her house as it freighted her. In the end the penguin had to go and it winded up in the bass players house. 

It was during these jamming sessions and playing live that the band created their own music to which they all contributed their own input to music with their individual lines complementing each other and fitting together to create a coherent whole. The band spent a couple of years working on the material that would eventually find its way on their debut album Fanfares. 

It was also during this period of playing live around Manchester’s music scene where they were spotted by the jazz musician, composer, producer and founder of the independent jazz label Gondwana Records Matthew Halsall and that very much gave the band a good starting point in the right direction. 

However, it was not the direction that the bass player Grant Russell had in mind and in late 2012 he left to continue with his own projects. The bassist Nick Blacka who they knew was recruited and this new line-up has gone on to make many more albums and are still going very strong today. The bands 5th studio album is about to hit the record stores next month so to speak. 

The Album Fanfares In Review…

GoGo Penguin’s debut album Fanfares was released on the 19th November 2012. The album contains 7 instrumental tracks spread over an overall playing time of 35 minutes, 12 seconds which is a very comfortable playing time for an album making it much easier to digest. That shorter time slot is also much more suitable for a vinyl release without having any restrictions to which many recordings put on vinyl certainly do have. Although the album was only released in the physical form of a CD and a digital download back in 2012. It did get released on vinyl 4 years later in 2016. 

Having played and reshaped the material that was going to be put on their debut album it did not take them that long to record it. The album was recorded in 5 days in early January of 2012 at The Lodge Recording Studios in Northampton, England. The studio was first established in 1979 and co-owned by Robert John Godfrey and Stephen Stewart and was situated in a large farmhouse in the Suffolk countryside. Famous artists such as Kim Wilde, The Ruts, Katrina and the Waves, New Model Army, Mari Wilson, Marillion and Paradise Lost used it on a regular basis until it closed in 1988. 

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The Lodge Recording Studios

In 1992 The Lodge relocated to Northampton, where it currently operates two studios. It’s co-owned by Jason Ducker of the British prog rock band The Enid and Max Read. Studio 2 was built in 2004 to cope with overflow work from Studio 1. The larger main studio still has the vintage 1976 Cadac analogue desk, which was originally installed in Battery Studios in London. Studio 2 has a digital desk and features a Yamaha G3 Grand Piano. There is also a large live recording area used mostly for recording the drums. 

The bands debut album Fanfares was very well received and picked up many positive and promising reviews. All About Jazz gave them the Band Name of The Year Award at the end of 2012 and in January 2013 it was nominated for the Jazz Album of The Year by Worldwide Awards. BBC Radio 3 invited them to play at the London Jazz Festival and they had a GREAT! turn out for their second gig in London at The Vortex Jazz Club. They really did get off to a very positive start. 

Musicians & Credits…

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Produced by GoGo Penguin. All compositions by Chris Illingworth, Grant Russell, Rob Turner. Recorded at The Lodge Recording Studios Northampton, England between the 3rd – 7th January 2012. Recording Engineer Joe Willes. Mixed by Joe Willes & Max Read at The Lodge. Mastered by Max Read at The Lodge. Album Cover & Design by Daniel Halsall.

Musicians:
Chris Illingworth: Piano.
Grant Russell: Double Bass.
Rob Turner: Drums.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Having heard some of the bands more later albums Fanfares is perhaps an album that is a lot more refined with how the music is presented to you. For example, the electronica side of things does not stick out or is apparent as much and you do have to open your mind up a bit more to spot it sort of thing even though no doubt it is still eminent in parts but not as much. There are more jazz and classical styles also lending to how some of the music is structured and it’s very clever how all three musicians have a unique ability to synthesis and develop each other’s melodic and harmonic ideas. 

All three musicians are no slouches and have studied their instruments very well and they are all very talented accomplished players and have studied hard. Both the drummer Rob Turner and bassist Grant Russell studied jazz whilst the pianist Chris Illingworth studied classical music and with them all being young and around the same age, they are all into the same modern-day music and they use elements from a wide range of musical styles. 

Combinations of classical performance, jazz improvisation, dance and electronica are all thrown into the pot and that is what gives GoGo Penguin their own unique distinctive style and makes them stand out from the crowd so to speak. Their debut album Fanfares is quite a strong body of work so let’s now take a closer look at it as I go through each track individually. 

Track 1. Seven Sons of Bjorn.

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The album kicks off very well with quite a sprightly piece that runs along at quite a good hurried pace, it’s one of the more up-tempo tracks on the album and gets the album off to a flying start. The title and the music is dedicated and a way of a tribute to the Swedish jazz pianist Esbjörn Svensson who was one of Europe’s most successful jazz musicians at the turn of the 21st century before dying, at the age of 44, in a scuba diving accident back in 2008. I am not sure what the “Seven Sons” in the title is pertaining to, but his 7th studio album is entitled Seven Days of Falling. 

Being a person who likes to have a tinkle on the piano myself. I can tell you now my fingers would be knackered trying to play a piece like this over its 5 minutes, 17 seconds and Chris Illingworth certainly has his work cut out and has a busy time throughout the piece on the keys. That’s not to say the other two have not got their work cut out either and Rob Turner certainly keeps everything tight nit on the drum kit. 

One of the interesting sections is the contribution that the bass player Grant Russell gives to the piece. Not only does he play the bass very well but with his double bass he can also effectively use it like a cello and that is what precisely he does in some parts and the section that runs from 2:20 – 3:18 is the part that breaks it up and the interesting section. I have no idea what the music is trying to describe but the way it runs along is a bit like being on a Formula One racing track and that section is putting across a sense of danger or fear. 

The “Seven Sons of Bjorn” is one of the couple of more exciting pieces on the album and it instantly draws you into the action and these young chaps are executing everything with fine precision. It’s my personal favourite track on the album and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! 

Track 2. Last Words.

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There is no doubt that some of the musical pieces the band write and play would be suited for film music or a play. 7 years later they did release a 5 track EP entitled Ocean In A Drop which was made for film music. Although oddly enough I feel that this piece is more suited to film than the material they wrote for that film and EP. I quite like the official video that Antony Barkworth-Knight animated for “Last Words” and he’s put quite a sad story which is well apt for the music to run along too.

Listening to this sad yet lovely piece of music you can literally hear how each individual member of the band have contributed to it and play their own role to go along with the story. The story in question portrays the day to day life of a family getting up in the morning and going about their daily routine of going to work, school and so on and how fate can sometimes play a part when one does not return. The last words so to speak are all we have left to remember them by.

Illingworth’s piano tinkles along like it’s ticking out the time, the bow on the strings of Russell’s bass resonate with the sadness (although they cannot be heard in this video and were overdubbed for the final mix that’s on the album) whilst Turner’s drums portray the hustle and bustle of it all. No doubt the story is very sad but the music not only portrays the sad side of things but also has a touch of elegance and beauty about it and it’s a very well good composition and another really GREAT! track.

Track 3. Unconditional.

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This next track changes the mood and tones things down to a darker shade and has more of a solemn or sombre feel to it and this would also easily be suited for a film or play. The title is often associated with the word “Love” and in the case of unconditional love it can have both a down and upside to it. Although “Love” is omitted from the title, it is as if both Russell’s bass and Turner’s drums are providing the downbeat whilst Illingworth is meandering along in a melancholic way lifting things back up to counterbalance things out.

No doubt the piece does have a jazzy flavour but you can also hear the classical side of things that Illingworth lends to it on the keys. It’s also a piece that reminds me of the material that Jon Lord wrote for his wonderful album Pictured Within which is my personal favourite album of his. “Unconditional” is a piece that will not set the world on fire so to speak. However, it does have a cosy and warm presence and feel about it and is also a lovely piece to chillout too.

Track 4. Fanfares.

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The albums self-titled track is very much like the album cover and bares very little or no relation to what the word “Fanfare” is generally associated with. OK! you could say there is like a bit of showmanship going on here but its not exactly as bold as brass to which brass instruments are more of the thing to make a bold statement and stand out for a very important person to which a fanfare is more widely used for. Even Keith Emerson had the common sense to use a bold brass synth sound to make such a statement when he did “Fanfare For The Common Man” with ELP. 

According to an interview it was Illingworth who came up with the title and the inspiration came from him playing one of the 18 piano études that the Hungarian composer György Ligeti had written that just so happened to have had the same title of “Fanfares“. He suggested to the other two members of the band that it would be good title for their own piece they were working on at the same time and they all thought the title was apt to their new piece and for the title of the album. 

However, I feel that they missed out on why Ligeti chose the title for his piece in the first place and the motif which could also be a short musical flourish that repeats itself (and is associated with music that is written for a fanfare) was also actually used in the second movement of Ligeti’s Horn Trio. It appears that even Ligeti himself seen sense to add some brass to the piece. 

I do feel that Illingworth had studied Ligeti’s piece very well though and this is a very complex piece of work he and the other two members of the Trio have come up with. Like the opening track on the album it runs along at a lot faster pace and helps to lift up the album and gives it more weight. This live video that is posted on the bands Youtube channel was performed on the 20th June 2013 a good 6 months after Grant Russell had left and features his replacement Nick Blacka on bass. 

It’s a lot more complex than it looks and all three members appear to play it a lot more comfortably but then again, they are very much all accomplished musicians. “Fanfares” is very much another strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT! 

Track 5. I Am That.

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This is another fine example of how each band member contribute their own individual parts to the writing. It’s got quite a sharp haunting introduction and Illingworth’s opening ambient keys on the piano cut through you like a guillotine. Russell is equally adding to the haunting horror with the effect of his bow on the strings whilst Turner’s drums are weaving out the role of the executioner. I do get the feeling that the title given to the piece describes the role of the executioner and not the poor chap who is hanging on the rope in the picture I chose here. Though I should stress that is my own interpretation of how the music speaks to me. 

Like the second track on the album there is no doubt that “I Am That” does have the dramatics for film music and once again it’s a very well good written piece where you can plainly hear how all 3 members had a hand in the composition. It is without doubt another GREAT! track and works very well with how it’s been placed on the album to bring things down from the previous track. 

Track 6. Akasthesia.

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This next piece is perhaps the least interesting track on the album for me and I certainly do not think the music fits the title we have here either and perhaps does the complete opposite of the disorder the title relates too. Akasthesia is quite a fiddly, twitchy and fidgety movement and disorder that makes it hard for one to keep still. It’s a feeling that creates constant, repetitive movements like pacing, rocking back and forth, or swaying and I do feel that the pace this moves along at is very much too much on the slow side of things for it to fit the title. Personally, I think they could have done something a bit more adventurous and been a bit more meandrous and meandered their way through it at a faster pace.   

That’s not to say it’s by any means it is a bad track and the first 2 minutes, 12 seconds features some GREAT! bass work from Russell and it’s around the 1:46 mark that he brings in the main melody that the other two work around and they help build it up a bit more. But apart from that there is not much more to it and over its 6-minute distance its mostly saying the same thing. You could also say that Russell wrote it as well even though it’s credited to all 3 members. 

Track 7. HF.

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The final track on the album has an abbreviated title and in general it can stand for either high frequency or have fun and as the latter of the two is typically used at the end of a conversation and this is the last track, I expect that is what its referring too. It’s the longest track on the album and although it does not have the energy of the albums opening and self-titled tracks there is more going on, certainly with the creative input that all three members of the band have put in to compose the piece and it does have more progression thrown into the pot too. 

HF” is a piece that starts off quite gracefully with its opening melody line on the keys and it gradually builds its way up into a powerful crescendo before coming back down to its opening melody line to gracefully end it off. Chris Illingworth’s classical influence is more present and he even mutes the piano keys in a short section which is the sort of thing that was very much a part of Jamie Cullum’s act. Although I am pretty sure other well-known pianists were doing it long before him. 

You can individually hear the work of all 3 of them have put into the piece and Rob Turner’s work on the drums and how he works them into it all is outstanding. During the powerful crescendo Grant Russell uses his double bass like a cello and it adds to the dramatics and like a train winding itself up to full speed. It really is another GREAT! track and another contender for the albums TOP SPOT! 

Summary

To sum up GoGo Penguin’s debut album Fanfares. I think it’s quite a strong album and very good body of work. It’s quite different in relation to the style that they do today and have been doing since the release of their 3rd album Man Made Object which came out 4 years later in 2016. There are more jazz and classical influences here although it still does have more of a modern approach and this is strictly not jazz or classical music by any means. I would also say that it’s not a chillout album and there is a lot more to the way the music presents itself to you and it’s a very comfortable album to listen too. 

The album is not only comfortable to listen too but is an absolute pleasure to listen too because it has been extremely very well recorded and mixed and I take my hat off to both Joe Willes & Max Read. This recording is very much what I would call a high-quality reference audio recording and mix and even these days they could be seen as a rarity to come by. I quite often find the biggest majority of stereo mixes are made for headphones and not for loudspeakers and in general with most stereo mixes you will get to hear more of the recording with headphones unless you have spent a good few grand on a pair of speakers. 

That is why I am more of a surround FREAK! these days and also prefer Hi-Res stereo recordings because they can sonically sound better and bring out more detail in your loudspeakers and you do not have to spend a fortune on them to achieve such results. It’s very rare that a CD or vinyl album can get anywhere near that quality and it’s only those that have been recorded so well in the first place that are capable of giving you these results. Every essence of the 3 acoustic instruments used has been well and truly captured in the recording including the resonance and vibration of the timbre. Listening to this recording is even like listening to a surround mix with how the sound projects and reflects across the room. 

No doubt most people would say that they cannot hear the difference between a CD and a 320kbps MP3 Download and even argue the point that Hi-Res recordings recorded at 24-bit 96khz or higher are no different to a recording at 44.1khz. I can assure you there are major differences in the quality and you would be seriously wasting your money buying a 320kbps digital download of this album. 

Conclusion…

Fanfares by GoGo Penguin is an album that mostly lends its style to a fresher and more minimalistic approach to jazz music without the swing sort of thing. It is quite different from the style that they went on to develop from 2016 onwards and to be perfectly honest it was the material that they was doing much later that attracted my attention to them in the first place. But nevertheless, I quite like this album a lot although its perhaps not an album I would recommend as a starting point to the bands music. But then again it might be worth starting from the beginning to see just how they developed and shaped the music to give it even more of a modern approach to jazz.   

Since discovering GoGo Penguin I have recently noticed there are more young musicians forming jazz trios who are doing more or less the same thing they are, and I have also noted that GoGo Penguin’s particular style has also been likened to some jazz trios who were doing it before them. I think it’s very good to see more young musicians who are developing a taste for jazz and doing something a bit more modern in presenting it. I also love the fact that they are playing real instruments and have studied their instruments very well to play them at an accomplished level. 

I have to admit it’s very rare for myself these days to step outside the boundaries of prog rock or even the new neo prog bands that we have today. But I do realise there are quality musicians in all genres of music and I like it when I see something different now and again. I can honestly say I am also enjoying all 4 of the albums I brought in one go and it is interesting seeing how further their music has developed over the years.   

Personally, I cannot fault anything on the bands debut album Fanfares and the recording is purely STUNNING! and is well worth it’s price point. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Seven Sons of Bjorn“. “Fanfares” and “HF“. 

Jazz In A Newer Form And Without The Swing…

The Album track listing is as follows:

01. Seven Sons of Bjorn. 5:17.
02. Last Words. 3:05.
03. Unconditional. 5:15.
04. Fanfares. 4:53.
05. I Am That. 4:05.
06. Akasthesia. 6:01.
07. HF. 6:36.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 8/10.

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

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #151

Guests – Gordon Midgley

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Introduction…

Well it’s been sometime since the last release we seen of Gordon Midgley and because he’s been out of the limelight for a while so to speak, he thought he’d best get a quick EP out there to show everyone he’s still around. By the look of the EP cover it also looks like he has been having some very strange guests over as well, but then again they may not appear to be too strange when you delve into some of his own solo and collaborative work projects he has been involved in the past.

Guests is actually his 6th solo release and having listened to it first on Bandcamp it was obvious to me that Gordon was back to doing what he does best and it immediately appealed to my taste to purchase it on the day of its release. In general, around 90% of the work he puts into his own solo material and his other project of Napier’s Bones does appeal to me a lot and he is a very talented multi-instrumentalist who knows how to knock out some well good written material. The only album that did not appeal to me was the last album he put out Lifetimes Ago.

Lifetimes Ago

Lifetimes Ago is an album that came off the back of what I would consider his strongest output of his solo works The Fall of the House of Usher and was released around 3 months after its release at the end of 2017. It’s a very different breed and is more of an ambient experimental body of works where the music is created by the use of Guitar FX to create atmospheric soundscapes more than having a great deal of structure to the written material. It’s perhaps not too far away from his first 3 works Vanished Age, Out of Doors and The Darkness of Error. However, those I do feel have a lot more structured composition about them even if they do run along the same ambient atmospheric route to a certain degree.

I would also say to a degree I can understand why Gordon decided to go down a different route and his other hobby of mountain climbing would of give him more of an inspiration to go down this road and this is perhaps an album that was made for the mountains and for those who are more into the experiential soundscape side of things more than myself. It’s nothing unusual for any artist to try something different and having heard it on Bandcamp a few times back then it did not entice me to purchase it.

The only thing on the album that did appeal to me were the last 3 tracks and after 3 years I decided to give the album another listen. It was still only the last 3 tracks that spoke to me but as the album was cheap enough and priced at a couple of quid, I decided to purchase it for a quid more because those last 3 tracks were very good. The couple of acoustic tracks in particular are really what I would call the GEMS! on that album and they have some really GREAT! melodic structure to them.

His latest offering Guests has plenty of well good structure to the material some of which I felt was strong enough to even work into a new album rather than an EP. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The 4 track EP is available in the form of a digital download only, which is a format and good platform for many unknown artists to get their music out there. It also saves on the expense it costs to put it out in a physical format especially if you are not going to be selling them by the bucket load so to speak. It’s also worth noting that on places like Bandcamp you do have the choice of audio formats to choose from so you still can match the same quality of the physical product and even Hi-Res stereo in some cases where they have made the album available in 24-bit.

Artwork.

The artwork was done by Gordon himself and he does quite often get out and about a lot and get many ideas on his travels. Not just for album covers but also his music with some of the things he spots along the way. Though that’s not to say that many of his ideas for his music can also come from the books and literature he reads. I quite like how he has noodled around with the pictures he took on this journey he had out in the countryside on his bike. You can also see from one the photos he took of the strange looking iron statues he came across in a field below where the idea came from.

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It now looks like a prehistoric rocking horse with a dinosaur or dragons head on it and looks very good with all the detail you can now see in it. No doubt these guests are very strange indeed and it’s very well suited for the title of the EP. I think the only thing I would have personally changed would have been the placement of the fonts, in particular the size of the word “Guests” to which is on the big side. I would have made that smaller and positioned it to the top right and centred the artist name. But overall, I quite like it.

The EP Guests In Review…

The 4 track EP Guests by Gordon Midgley was released on 22nd May and comes with an overall playing time of 24 minutes, 48 seconds which is not far off a mini album. I am pretty sure that most of the material would have been written this year and he also stated that he worked on it quickly and tried to maintain a degree of spontaneity in producing the EP. He also said it might be a little rough around the edges, though if it is I am not noticing it and has a rule Gordon’s production work over the past three years has improved in leaps and bounds.

Like most musicians these days they record everything at home and Gordon calls his own studio Scanulf Studios which is no doubt very well equipped and these are just a few of his many instruments and tools he uses on the tracks on the EP. It was only just recently that he added a 7 string PRS guitar to his heavy artillery of instruments.

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For the past couple of years or so he has also been learning and playing the drums and that was perhaps eminent on the collaborative album Subjects he did with Joan Silentio back in 2018 and he’s also utilised them very well again here. Although the material on Guests is certainly more in line with the work, he did for both The Fall of the House of Usher and the Napier’s Bones album Monuments and is more of a PROGMATIC! affair.

Musicians & Credits…

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All songs written and produced by Gordon Midgley. Recorded by Gordon Midgley sometime in 2020 at Scanulf Studios Bradford, England. Mixed & Mastered by Gordon Midgley. Album Cover Design by Gordon Midgley.

Musicians:
Gordon Midgley: Vocals – Electric & Acoustic Guitars -Bass – Analogue synths – Drums – Tambourine.

The EP Tracks In Review…

Listening to some of the material that was written for Guests it does give me the impression that Gordon may have been working on a new album at the time and let it go to get something out there. There are a couple of lengthy tracks along the way and to my ears the written material is quite strong and no doubt this is very much a welcoming return to form. So, let’s now take you through the 4 tracks of the EP.

Track 1. Perchance.

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The opening track is a bit like being in a dream-state mind or could even be seen as an awakening of coming out of a dream. It could even be seen as coming out of some of dreams he had on the mountains from his previous album Lifetimes Ago and although this is a soundscape I do feel there is more structure and much more going on to make me more aware of what has actually been put into it. I do feel it’s perhaps different in relation to the other 3 tracks you get here, but it’s quite an interesting piece that keeps you alert and attentive in many ways.

Besides the effective use of the guitars the cymbals in particular have been put to very good use. I can also hear little nuisances that have crept in most likely by accident and a good example of that comes at 1 minute, 42 seconds into the track where you hear like a bird chirping. It also gives it the feel that an environmental field recording may of been used but the sound is actually coming from his plectrum screeching across the strings.

There is such a thing in written music known as “Accidentals” and basically, it’s a symbol (♮) and natural that cancels out any of the sharps and flats that are written along the staff. I quite often refer to some of these little nuisances that creep in by accident as “Accidentals”. Although they are far from natural so to speak and was never intended in the first place. But I can quite often be amused and even amazed of how some of these little accidents work so well and have often been glad they happened.

The other thing that works extremely well are the vocal harmonies that Gordon has done and they are a bit on the Yes side of things and have been very well blended into the mix. It’s a piece that takes its time to build up and unveils some splendours with the guitars and voicing harmonies between the 3:12 – 4:02 mark before it comes back down and slowly winds its way out very well. It also includes some hand percussion and it even sounds like a choral sitar was used at some point.

The word “Perchance” means by chance and is often associated with sleep, dreams and even death and like I mentioned earlier Gordon does like reading and gets much of his ideas from books and literature. I am not entirely sure if he has read Hamlet by William Shakespeare and if he was inspired by him at all but I did come across these words from that play that old Shaky wrote.

“To die, to sleep – to sleep – perchance to dream:
ay, there’s the rub, for in that sleep of death what dreams may come
when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause.

Track 2. Signs.

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Signs” is one of the two lengthier tracks and the title put me in mind of Napier’s Bones 4th album Alpha – Omega Man. I would also say that what we have here would have perhaps been fitting with that project of his and it makes me wonder if he was working on a new Napier’s Bones album and he had a new concept in mind for it. The lyrical content behind both “Sign’s” and the final track on the EP “What Remains?” do appear to fit in with some sort of concept and although I am not 100% sure (not having asked Gordon himself) but the signs he is referring to here do tend to relate to judgement day.

To be perfectly honest I am not entirely sure if this whole EP is based around a concept. But I do get the feeling that a much larger picture was needed for them to run along that way and it needed an albums worth of material for it take more shape and not a 4 track EP. In some way I would even go to the point of saying that such a GREAT! song may have even of been wasted or rather too good to be putting on an EP.

It’s a song that is very well structured and has some GREAT! progression and transitional changes along its path. It has quite a melodic opening that sort of washes, glides and slides its way in and has a sort of trippy FLOYD ESC! feel to it. It’s a bit like a cross between “Breathe” and “One of These Days” or even earlier material that Pink Floyd done with how it also utilises slide guitar. Both the bass and drums are also very utilised throughout the song and provided a very strong backbone.

The first transitional change comes in around the 1:35 mark and a heavy guitar riff is brought in to thicken it up and take away more of the ambient trippy feel. It builds itself up very well into a powerful crescendo and is very neatly and tidily rounded off to bring in the next section around the 2:26 mark which is the acoustic guitar section that provides the backdrop for the vocals to come into play. Gordon’s voice works very well at delivering the lyrics in this section and the synth is brought into play for the next traditional change around that comes into play around the 3:40 mark.

This next section is even more powerful and the solo on the synth and some of the heavier power chords and bass give it more of a Rush feel and from here on until the end it’s a bit like a combination between Rush and the band Mountain crossing paths with one another and it really is an excellent piece of work. It’s also my personal favourite track on the EP and merits the TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 3. There Shall Be No More Night.

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This is a lovely melodic acoustic piece that utilises 6 and 12 string acoustic guitars along with some phased swells from his Gibson Les Paul that give it that Steve Hackett touch. Two 12 strings guitars are used and it gives it a sort of harpsichord effect or even an early Genesis touch. There is another little accidental that pops out of the woods here too at the 1:33 mark, and it sounds like a Cuckoo sneaked its way in to say hello. Once again, it’s caused by the fingers sliding on the strings and I often find these small things to be little GEMS.

The video demonstration that Gordon made above shows how he played the main melody on the 6 string and he pinpoints were the other guitars come into play. “There Shall Be No More Night” is the shortest track on the EP and is just under a couple of minutes. It could easily for me be another favourite track of mine and I love these little acoustic ditties.

Track 4. What Remains.

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We now go from the shortest track to the longest and final track on the EP and like I mentioned earlier the lyrical content is tied to the 2nd track and there is some form of concept going on around the dance of death or some other ritual or battle. This is another well written song and piece of work that has all the progression and changes that we got with the 2nd track “Signs” only this one does have a bit more power. I suspect his new 7 string PRS was utilised for the heavy opening and Gordon does ROCK! this one out a bit.

Once again Gordon is in fine voice to deliver the very well written lyrical content and I am hearing the likes of Rush again with the synths and even parts that put me in mind of Marillion’s self-titled album track “Fugazi“. There are also many other influences I am hearing along its 10-minute journey. Most of the track is very much power driven but it also has some well interesting comes down sections and even a couple of very TASTY! guitar solos along the way.

What Remains” is a song that has bags of really GREAT! progression and transitional changes along its path and perhaps too many for me to point out in detail. To be honest it was very hard for me not to give this the EP’s top spot award and I could of easily of give it to tracks 2, 3 & 4 and those are the tracks on the EP that I certainly feel will speak the most to many. It winds off the EP very well and it leaves you wanting a lot more.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up the 4 track EP Guests by Gordon Midgley. There can be no doubt that this could very well be seen as a very welcoming return, not to form but to doing what he does best and that is prog rock. Overall, the material on the EP is quite a solid body of work, however the opening track might sound a little out of place with the other 3 tracks because it is different and perhaps more fitting to the material that was written for his previous album Lifetimes Ago.

I think he was right to put something out being that he had not for quite a while now but on the other hand I cannot stop thinking that “Signs“. “There Shall Be No More Night” and “What Remains?” could have been put to better use on an album rather than an EP. Those 3 tracks are also my personal highlights and are the PROGMATIC! core of the EP.

I do also feel that all 4 tracks on the EP Guests are somehow tied to a concept and he may have very well been working on an album project here rather than an EP. As to what the concept and where the idea for the concept came from, I have not got a clue. Apart from that it may be tied to some sort of judgement day like I mentioned earlier. Whatever it is it rocks my boat and I cannot really fault anything here.

To conclude my review of the latest EP Guests. I would say that this is a must to add to your collection and 3 of the 4 tracks I personally think are the same level of par of what we seen on both The Fall of the House of Usher and Monuments and both of those are excellent albums. It’s another little chapter of many of the GREAT! pieces of work Gordon Midgley as skilfully crafted and is very well produced and I highly recommend it for all PROGSTERS! alike.

You can listen for free or even purchase GUESTS! for free has it does come at a buy it now name your price. However, I do feel its worthy of giving something after all the hard work that has been put into it. It’s available in the form of a digital download @ Bandcamp and can be found here:  https://gordonmidgley.bandcamp.com/album/guests

The Dance Draws Near…

The EP track listing is as follows:

01. Perchance. 5:38.
02. Signs. 7:06.
03. There Shall Be No More Night. 1:52.
04. What Remains?. 10:12.

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

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #150

Script For A Jesters Tear (Deluxe Edition) – Marillion

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Introduction…

Another of the re-issued box sets by Marillion is upon us and this is fifth one of their albums from their back catalogue to be re-released in what they call the Deluxe Edition. I think the band could have been a bit more adventurous like Ian Anderson with how he has titled the re-issues of the Jethro Tull back catalogue by giving each edition an associated name to go with each album, rather than just call it a “Deluxe Edition”. It’s rather confusing especially being that just over a decade ago many artists were re-releasing their back catalogue of albums as double CD or LP that included extra bonus material on the second disc just like the album pictured below.

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Marillion have also copied Ian Anderson with the packaging they chose to put out these new re-issues by putting all the discs in a hardback book. I very much favour this type of packaging in that they have a feel of real genuine quality and presentation about them and they can also be easily stored along with your DVD’s. The other thing the band are doing regarding these new re-issues, is that they are not re-releasing them in any particular order or to mark the anniversary of when they were originally released. They also stick to same format by including 5 discs.

The bands debut album Script For A Jesters Tear is the third album they have re-issued in these rather tasty packages that comes from the Fish era of the band. To be perfectly honest this is the only era of the band I am interested in which is why I purchased both the new re-issues of Misplaced Childhood and Clutching At Straws in this series and never bothered with the other two albums that got released Brave and Afraid Of Sunlight. The bands debut album has always been my personal favourite album of theirs and the only other album I am waiting for them to get around to is Fugazi and that will most likely get re-issued next year.

My main interest and reason for buying these types of albums all over again is really for the 5.1 surround mix of the album more than anything, but you do also get quite an array of bonus material thrown in along the way. Some of which has never been released before, so there is good value here plus you get a book to read all about the time when the album was made. They also come with a documentary with all the original band members speaking about when the album was made and oddly enough, they have titled it “Sackcloth and Greasepaint”. That would have been an appropriate name for this edition rather than just call it a “Deluxe Edition”.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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Personally, I do not think you can go wrong with these book editions and they really are genuine quality and the 5 discs store very neatly into the hardback book that’s made with thick quality cardboard and sturdy plastic trays to hold the 4 CD’s. The Blu Ray is stored in its own slip pocket and is gloss coated inside to prevent the disc from getting scratched. It also comes with a 60-page book that provides a brief look into the history of when the band started and their debut album and it also includes all the linear notes, credits, lyrics and a lot of photos and artwork.

The Artwork.

The artwork and design layout were done by the English illustrator Mark Wilkinson who done all the artwork for the band back in the days when Fish was in the band. He also went on to do most of the artwork for Fish’s solo albums as well as album covers for bands such as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. The artwork he done for this album is my personal favourite album cover of all Marillion albums, although it was the artwork, he did for the bands second album Fugazi that was chosen by Gigwise in 2012 that got rated the 29th best album cover of all time.

I have nothing but praise for Wilkinson’s artwork and I suppose Fish himself deserves some praise with the ideas he presented to him. I shall also touch on the artwork a bit later on in the bonus material that is included on the Blu Ray. The bands logo name was done by Joe Mirowski.

Script For A Jester’s Tear Deluxe Release Editions…

As far as I can make out unlike the previous Marillion Deluxe Editions there is no Digital Download for this release and it was only released in the form of two box sets. The 4 CD + 1 Blu Ray is the cheaper of the two and retails at around £30. It also gives you more bonus content with the addition of the Blu Ray.

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For vinyl lovers it has also been released as a 4 LP box set and is accompanied by 24-page booklet containing rare photos, new artwork and memorabilia. Plus, an extended essay from Prog Magazine editor Jerry Ewing. It does come at a higher price and retails at around £60.

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I cannot find out any information regarding the quality of the vinyl as to if it’s been pressed onto 180- or 140-gram vinyl but no doubt 3 of the LP’s in this box set will have restrictions regarding sound quality due to them being around the 46 – 48-minute mark. This is personally where I have always seen this format being inferior in relation to the CD and why I chose to relegate my turntable to the attic 20 odd years ago.

Marillion In Brief History…

The band was originally formed in Aylesbury which is in the county of Buckinghamshire in England by drummer Mick Pointer and bassist Doug Irvine at the end of 1978 after they both decided to leave the band Electric Gypsy and form a new band of their own. It was also Pointer who chose the name of Silmarillion, after J.R.R. Tolkien’s book. In 1979 they played one gig in London as an instrumental band with Neal Cockle on keys and Martin Jenner on guitar who were later replaced in the same year by guitarist Steve Rothery and the keyboard player Brian Jelliman. It was not until around March 1980 that this new line-up got to play their first gig.

At this point the band certainly was not going anywhere and it was not until the name was shortened to Marillion and Doug Irvine left in 1981 and they brought in a new bass player Diz Minnitt who only joined on the account that they also took in his pal Fish that things started to develop more. It was this newer line-up of the band that started to write and develop much of the bands earlier material and in this same year that they had also had written the demos of “He Knows You Know” and “Garden Party” that were to appear on the bands debut album.

Between 1981 & 1982 most of the material was written by the same line-up which is why 4 of 6 tracks on the bands debut album are also credited in the writing to Brian Jelliman and Diz Minnitt. However, it was not until Mark Kelly replaced Jelliman at the end of 1981 and Pete Trewavas replaced Minnitt in the beginning of 1982 that the material started to take more shape and the band were actually going places. Though even before Minnitt left the band had played over 100 gigs including Friars in Aylesbury where they built up a bit of a following.

It was Fish who was the one that got them out playing live more by getting the gigs. He also took on a more demanding role and control over the band, but he knew it was going to take a lot more than himself to get the band on the road to success. He decided they needed a press officer if things were going to progress and by chance, he landed on a good one who had a lot of connections in the music business. Keith Goodwin had worked with the likes of Yes, Black Sabbath and Argent who was the key to getting the bands foot in the door so to speak.

Not only did Goodwin get the band noticed in music magazines such as the Melody Maker, NME and Record Mirror, but also got them a prestigious session with the BBC’s Friday Rock Show which enabled them to get their foot in the door of London’s famous Marquee Club which led to further bolster their success. It was also at the Marquee Club that they were spotted by the Genesis manager and founder of Charisma Records Tony Stratton-Smith who later sent out a couple of chaps over in a flash roller to try and sign them up for a record deal. Although it was only a singles deal that was on the table at the time to which the band turned down.

In the end the band decided to sign up to EMI Records and sign over the publishing rights to Charisma and the deal was done at the Reading festival they played in August 1982. There was another Genesis connection when the band went into Park Gate Studios in Sussex to record their first single “Market Square Heroes” along with “Three Boats Down From The Candy” on the 25th October 1982. It was produced by David Hitchcock who was the same guy who produced Genesis 1972 album Foxtrot.

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They also released a 12″ single so they could include their epic 17-minute track “Grendel” on the B-Side. The reason they did was because it never fitted in with the tracks, they had planned for their debut album. “Market Square Heroes” did not exactly give the band instant Stardom and failed to break into the UK’s Top 40 and peaked outside it at number 53.

However, success was not too far away and neither was actually charting the single with their second single release on the 31st January 1983, that got released to co-inside with their debut album that would get released in the following month. “He Knows You Know” did manage to break into the UK’s Top 40 and peaked at number 35. To save wasting a track they used “Charting The Single” for the B-Side.

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The bands debut album Script For A Jester’s Tear did even better and broke into the Top 10 of the UK albums charts and by now they was on the road to Stardom though it would take at least another couple of years before they were lining their pockets with Gold so to speak and the rest is really history and a fascinating one at that.

Script For A Jester’s Tear (Deluxe Edition) In Review…

The original album Script For A Jester’s Tear was released back on the 14th March 1983. The album contained 6 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 46 minutes, 56 seconds. The album received commercial success in the UK on its release and peaked at number 7 in the UK album charts. Part of the albums success may of also came from the late Tommy Vance plugging some of the tracks from the album on the Friday Rock Show that was one of the popular rock shows on BBC Radio 1 back then.

The bands debut Script For A Jester’s Tear is the only album to feature the drummer Mick Pointer the very man who formed the band and gave it the name. It was down to both he and Fish not getting along that well in the end that led to his dismissal even though the bands guitarist Steve Rothery fought in his defence to try and keep him on. The dismissal hit Pointer hard forcing him to pack it all in and set up his own kitchen designer business to which did for the next ten years. Though like a phoenix from the flames he returned to the music business to prove his critics wrong and has had a successful music career with the neo-prog rock band Arena for the past 25 years.

The new Deluxe Edition of the album was officially released on the 3rd April 2020. Though due to distribution problems many outlets including Amazon put a hold on it for a couple of weeks and were not releasing it until the 17th. I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon on the 31st January and due to the Coronavirus also having an effect on the postal service it did not arrive until the 21st. Though I cannot complain and I got it much cheaper than the retail price of £29.99 and ended up paying £23.99 for it.

One of the advantages of having a residency at the Marquee Club was that it had its own in-house studio around the back of it which was mainly used for residents of the Marquee Club only. It was the band who chose to record the album there. It was also the perfect location for Fish and it was his watering hole. Although David Hitchcock had produced the bands single “Market Square Heroes” he had been injured in a car crash and Nick Tauber was brought in to produce the album.

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Tauber had produced Thin Lizzy’s early records, though he’d recently had success with the new-wave banshee Toyah Wilcox. He very much helped flesh out some of the superfluous bits and got the right layering to get them the right sound. The album was recorded onto a 16-track mixing console and the band were on a tight budget to record the album. The Marquee Studio closed in 1988 coinciding with the demolition of the Marquee Club. Many artists had recorded live and studio albums there such as the likes of Elton John, Vangelis, Toyah Wilcox, The Clash, Groundhogs, Ralph McTell and many more.

The album comes with an array of bonus material with this new Deluxe Edition that reflects that period of when the band first started out. So, let’s now take a closer look at what you get for your money here.

The Package Contents.

As with the other couple of Deluxe Editions I have of Marillion the book that comes with them provides very little informative information and is mostly filled with glossary pictures and artwork. Regarding the very little informative information they contain you can read it within a couple of minutes whilst sitting on the toilet taking a dump :)))) and they are nowhere near as informative in relation to how well written the new Jethro Tull Editions have been so well compiled and put together.

I would also say that this particular release certainly packs in a lot more extra bonus content in relation to the other couple of Deluxe Editions, though it’s not all good and there are a few things here that could have been done better. But on the whole, I still feel you are getting good value for the money here regardless. So, let’s now dig deeper into the contents of the 4 CD’s and Blu Ray that come with it.

CD 1.

The 1st CD contains the new re-mix of the albums 6 tracks done by Andy Bradfield & Avril Mackintosh and these were the same guys who did the new mixes for the Deluxe Edition of Clutching At Straws that was released in 2018. I personally thought the new stereo mixes they done for that album were pretty good, but the new stereo mixes they have done for this album is quite outstanding and they certainly breathe a very welcoming breath of fresh air to the album.

They have brought out much more clarity and dynamics with this mix and I am hearing things I have never heard before. It’s quite a BIG! improvement over the original mix and the album sounds way better for it. Avril Mackintosh is the one who specialises in vocal production and you can hear every single word as clear as a bell in this mix. It does not suffer with the lack of bass either and every instrument is very well refined and detailed and it’s certainly up their with the best new stereo remixes.

CD 2.

The 2nd CD contains or supposedly contains a new remix of the 3 track 12″ version of the Market Square Heroes EP that originally was released back in 1982. It also contains a remastered version of “Charting The Single” which was the B-Side of “He Knows You Know” that was released back in 1983. However, I have noticed in many reviews that quite a few people are kicking up a fuss regarding the version of “Market Square Heroes” they have actually remixed here and included as part of the EP.

To be perfectly honest I do not know what all the fuss is about simply because if you were a purist I hardly think you would be buying something that has been newly remixed in the first place, unless you buy these things to kick up a fuss that is :)))).

But I myself have noticed that this is not the original version that was on the 12″ EP that Bradfield & Mackintosh have actually remixed, and instead they have remixed the alternative (Battle Priest Version) that was included as one of the bonus tracks on the 1997 remastered album. It might have been that they were not able to lay their hands on the multi-track tape of the original version. There have been many alternative versions of this song that got released over the years.

The other couple of tracks “Three Boats Down From The Candy” and the epic 17 and quarter minute long “Grendel” are remixed versions of the original studio tracks that were included on the original EP. Overall, another GRAND! job has been done with these new mixes and they have more punch with the bass but still define very good well detailed clarity and I am certainly not complaining and they sound GREAT!

CD’s 3 & 4.

The final couple of discs contain a previously unreleased concert of the band playing live at the Marquee Club in London on the 29th December 1982. This a really superb live concert that captures the band playing all 6 songs from their debut album before it was released in the following year plus a few others including “Market Square Heroes“, “Three Boats Down From The Candy“. “Margaret” and “Grendel“.

No doubt this concert has been bootlegged over the years and most likely is floating around on Youtube. But the sound quality on this release is to die for and this is well and truly a GREAT! bonus to have included. So now let’s take a look at the Blu Ray.

The Blu Ray.

The Blu Ray contains all of the material that is on the 4 CD’s only there are some differences and good and bad points about some of them. It also contains a few more extras besides and they really have packed in quite a lot onto the disc. The one thing that they have not included with this release is the original mix of the album.

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The blu ray’s main menu displays Mark Wilkinson’s artwork that was done for the album cover and I must say it looks even better on my 50-inch TV. Speaking of the little TV in the picture on the far left, it has some concert footage on a loop of Fish singing along to “Grendel” and they have done a GREAT! job on the menu.

The menu gives you 6 choices to choose from, the first of which is the main feature which contains the 5.1 surround mix of the Script For A Jester’s Tear album. You will also notice there is no “Audio Options” on this menu and it is only the main feature that comes with a surround mix and the rest of the bonus material is in stereo only. The audio and track selection options are hidden away and a pop-up window (as seen below) displays the other options if they have any when you click on any of the 6 bonus features.

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The main featured album gives you 3 audio choices to choose from all of which are 24-bit 96K high resolution quality. By default, its set to the LPCM Stereo mix. The other 2 are surround mixes and you have the choice of either the 5.1 DTS HD Master or the 5.1 LPCM mixes. There is certainly no lack of high-end audio options here but I shall go into further detail later on in the 5.1 mix section of my review.

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Once you’ve made your audio choice for the album and hit the “Play Album” it displays another one of Mark Wilkinson’s SUPERB! pieces of art. This is the only picture you do get whilst listening to the album and the only thing that does change is the highlighted colour of each album track as it goes along.

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They have also included the new mix of the Market Square Heroes EP on the blu ray. I must admit I would have expected a 5.1 surround mix for the 4 track EP especially how other engineers have done so in the past for other bands and artists. However, I am certainly not complaining and the fact that we also have a 24-bit 96K LPCM Stereo mix sonically and fidelity wise makes all the difference.

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The same as also been done for the SUPERB! live concert they played at the Marquee Club and once again this concert is in audio only and includes a 24-bit 96K LPCM Stereo mix and it sounds FANTASTIC! The concert comes with a running time of 92 minutes, 49 seconds.

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They have also included the Recital of The Script DVD on the blu ray and this live concert captures the band at the Hammersmith Odeon in London on the 18th April 1983. It was originally released on VHS back in October 1983 and later released on DVD in July 2003 to which they included the extra video footage and only bit of video footage from the concert they played at the Marquee Club in 1982.

No doubt you will find this concert on Youtube and the fact that it was captured with video cameras back in those days and not 35mm film does unfortunately mean that there is no way of improving the picture quality. Today’s modern technology of flat screen HD TV’s and Blu Ray is not gonna exactly do it any favours either and will in fact make it look worse than what it was back in those days.

But for nostalgic purposes this is still good to have and no doubt the band gave another truly remarkable outstanding performance. However, this concert was not captured as well on video as the open-air concert Live At Loreley that caught the band 4 years later in 1987, and the Hammersmith Odeon is quite a dark and dismal place and the lighting was not the best in relation how well it has improved today. But one of its downfalls is that it was either badly edited or they never used enough cameras to capture the band properly, and for most of the concert you can only really see Fish more than anyone else.

But you do get to see Fish in combat and destroy house plants :)))) and I had to laugh even more when it came to Steve Rothery’s guitar solo on the opening track “Script For A Jester’s Tear” to which I was expecting the camera to point at him. Instead all you could see was the camera jerking around showing you Fish and Pete Trewavas and it was only at the very end of the guitar solo that you got see Steve Rothery from a distance standing in a spotlight LOL. Honestly some of these camera men have no idea and I do rather think this was more than likely only filmed with a couple of video cameras.

The concert has a running time of 81 minutes, 39 seconds and comes with a 4:3 TV aspect ratio and the picture has black borders on both sides of the video which is to be expected. It also comes with a LPCM 16-bit audio soundtrack which does sound very good. To be honest this concert I never had unlike Live At Loreley which I did buy on both VHS and DVD. I had seen in on Youtube and I am glad they included it here.

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The “Extras” bonus material is once again more nostalgic than any real quality and it does contain the extra 11-minute video footage of the Marquee Club that was on the Recital of The Script DVD. You also get the 3 videos that were made for the single versions “Market Square Heroes“. “He Knows You Know” and “Garden Party“. In total you get an extra 23 minutes here.

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The final extra bonus content you get on the blu ray is the documentary they have entitled “Sackcloth and Greasepaint” and this is longer than the documentaries they done on the previous Deluxe Editions and has a running time of 93 minutes, 29 seconds. They have also gone about things differently by interviewing all 5 members of the band individually rather than all in the same room at the same time.

Personally, I think this documentary is better than the previous documentaries and I quite like how they have also included a chapter index that details the various points about the album they are discussing as you can see below.

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The documentary goes into quite a lot more detail than what the 60-page book you get with the package and that is very brief. Besides the 5 original members of the band they have also included the bands ex-bass player Diz Minnitt in the interview who along with the bands drummer at the time Mick Pointer shed more light on how the band originally started. Another important person they brought along to interview is the artist Mark Wilkinson and this is interesting how he goes into more detail about the artwork he done for the debut album and singles.

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The artwork that Mark Wilkinson done for the bands debut contained quite a few references to the bands and even others music such as the posters on the wall and the records on the floor of the singles that got released. There is also a couple of albums on the floor Pink Floyd’s A Saucerful Of Secrets and Bill Nelson’s Do You Dream In Colour?

It also contained a couple of references to a couple of the songs that would later appear on their second album Fugazi. Such as the figure of Punch on the TV screen and the inclusion of a Chameleon and these would have been some of things Fish had asked to be included, simply because he had not heard a note of the bands music when he worked on the album cover.

The Jester was Fish’s idea and it was something he had in mind long before he had joined Marillion. He wanted to portray a struggling writer in his surroundings and Wilkinson took it on from there and decided to put him in his own surroundings of the bedsit he was living in at the time. He even painted his own fireplace and wanted to create the real sense of a seedy environment and included copies of Kerrang! Sounds and the Daily Mirror which featured the story of the Yorkshire Ripper on the front page.

Wilkinson was put under a lot of pressure to get the artwork for the album done in time for the albums release. Things would of been fine if he did not have to replace and make alterations to some of the things that he had put in at the last-minute sort of thing, and he was given a hard time by EMI. Some of the things he had to change were for branding reasons for example the Coca Cola can, the Fairy Liquid bottle and even the name on the ashtray which had a Fuller’s Brewery logo on it had to be changed.

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Originally the painting above the fireplace was a painting of John Lennon floating in water but he was asked to remove it by EMI due to not having enough time to get permission granted from Yoko Ono. A painting of Ophelia, who is mentioned in “Chelsea Monday” was used to replace it has seen above. One of the things that were left in was the words to Paul McCartney’sYesterday” that were in the empty violin case because permission was granted for them. McCartney was said to be impressed although he never got any work from him to do his album covers.

Overall, the documentary is very good and is another of the good things about the extra bonus content you do get with the blu ray. The one thing I did however notice regarding both the documentary and the book, is that it never gave one mention to the engineers who done the new stereo and surround mixes.

The 5.1 Surround Mix.

The surround mix was left once again to the same engineers Andy Bradfield & Avril Mackintosh who done the previous 5.1 mix for the Clutching At Straws album. I did mention in the review of the Deluxe Edition of that album that they never had the right head on their shoulders to do a 5.1 mix and it’s even more evident with this surround mix. The 5.1 mix they done for the Straws album was nothing to write home about and did nothing to bring out the clarity, and dynamics to give you the immersive experience that you will get from an engineer who knows what they are doing and has a lot more experience and imagination to do the job in the first place.

Like I have mentioned in the past doing a 5.1 surround mix is a totally different ball game and it really is all about placement and knowing what to take away from the front channels to place in the rear. It requires a hell of a lot more thought, immigration and attention than any stereo mix and just because an engineer can do an excellent stereo mix does not mean he can do the same for a 5.1 mix. In this world there is only around 1% of producers and mixing engineers who are capable of doing an excellent 5.1 mix and getting the right man for the job is a lot more difficult task.

But I suppose everybody has to start somewhere, but in all honesty these pair are not learning anything and are taking a step backwards rather than forwards. Where I do give them praise though is with the stereo mix and they have really gone to town and knocked it out of the park and that is the real winner and it was a shame they never included that remix on the blu ray in a Hi-Res audio format.

A completely new mix was done for surround mix and once again more reflections have been used for the rear channels instead of actually using any of the instruments. What instruments they have used to place in the rear are too low in the mix quite often and even though they have made the vocals clearer, there are certain parts where they are too low to hear and they could have perhaps utilised the rears for those parts.

Overall, the surround mix is very disappointing and its quite clear that they lack the vision and attention to detail to be even given the job of doing the surround mix in the first place. I honestly get ZILCH! from this mix and would not even bother to play it again. It’s a complete shambles in relation to how well they done the stereo mix on the CD and I would even go as far as saying that it was not even worth sticking it on the Blu Ray. I think even my rating of 3 out of 10 is on the generous side.

Musicians & Credits…

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Produced by Nick Tauber. All music written and arranged by Fish, Steve Rothery, Pete Trewavas, Mark Kelly, Mick Pointer, Diz Minnit, Brian Jelliman (Except tracks 1 & 5 by Fish, Steve Rothery, Pete Trewavas, Mark Kelly, Mick Pointer and track 3 by Fish, Steve Rothery, Pete Trewavas, Mark Kelly, Mick Pointer, Brian Jelliman. All lyrics written by Fish.

Recorded & Mixed by Simon Hanhart between December 1982 – February 1983 at the Marquee Studios London, England. Assistant Engineers Mark. Andy. Mike Martin. Illustrations & Design Layout by Mark Wilkinson. Art Direction & Logo by Jo Mirowski. Photography by Steve Rothery, Fish, Andy Phillips, Stuart James, Stef Jeffery, Simon Fowler, Alan King, Robert Ellis, Mike Eldon & Peter Sims. Remixed by Andy Bradfield & Avril Mackintosh. DVD Authorising by Ray Shulman. Linear Notes by Jerry Ewing.

Musicians:

Fish: Voice.
Steve Rothery: Yamaha SG 2000/Yamaha Acoustic/Squire 57 & Fender Strat Guitars/Marshal & Mesa Boogie Amps.
Pete Trewavas: Rickenbacker 4000 Bass/Fender Precision Fretless Bass/Peavey Amps.
Mark Kelly: Steinway Grand Piano/Harpsichord/Mini Moog/Roland JP8/PPG Wave 2.2 Emulator/Pro One/Yamaha CS15/Korg CX3 Organ.
Mick Pointer: Tama Kit/Paste Cymbals/Percussion.

Additional Musicians:

Marquee Clubs Parents Association Children’s Choir (Appear on “Forgotten Sons”).
Peter Cockburn (Newsreader on “Forgotten Sons”).

The Album Tracks In Review…

Marillion could be seen perhaps as the godfathers of neo-prog rock and they were certainly one of the more notable new bands to hit the scene that were venturing back down the road of prog rock after a wave of punk rock, new romantic, new wave and all the other so called retro electronic garbage many bands and other artists churned out in the 80’s. I quite often visualised and likened the band to early Genesis when they had Peter Gabriel and often thought this is what Genesis might have sounded like had Gabriel not left the band.

You could say that in the 80’s Marillion were my Genesis and in my opinion, they certainly wrote better material than they ever did in that decade. They also had a singer who like Gabriel had that bit more edge and aggression, and certainly churned out a way better debut album than they ever did as well. So. let’s now take a closer look at the albums individual tracks.

Track 1. Script For A Jester’s Tear.

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The albums self-titled track was one of the last to be written for the album and like many of the songs on this album it’s an absolute classic well written song that has a really GREAT! musical structure and well-thought-out lyrics. Fish wrote all the lyrics to the songs on the album and to be honest these are more like songwriters lyrics that you would associate with some of the GREAT! singer songwriters in this world, and not so much the fantasy and mythical stories that are commonly associated with many prog rock bands including early Genesis. These have far more purpose and meaning to them even more so than the lyrics that he wrote for “Grendel” which are more or less along the lines of that band.

The lyrics to this particular song pertain to the breaking down of a relationship and it could be said that this is “Kayleigh (Part One)” because they were inspired by the very same woman he had broken up with before he quit a secure life in the forestry commission to join the band. In my personal opinion this song is way better than that hit song that winded up on the bands 3rd album a couple years later, and this is the real playground of the broken hearts.

Musically there is some GREAT! progression along it’s path that allows the room for all the instrumentalists in the band to play their role besides the singer, and even though the song starts on the keys and the first section of the song is more developed by Mark Kelly’s keyboards it is very much more structured around the guitar. In the interview Steve Rothery stated that he had not quite developed his guitar sound at this stage and he did not really develop it till the bands second album Fugazi.

That may have been the case regarding the actual sound but his guitar work on this song and many of the other songs on this album outshine anything he went on to do when Fish had left the band. The guitar solos in this song are very strong and provide the main themes to drive it along. It’s a very powerful song that has a GREAT! come down section and features a nice blend of acoustic guitar, some dominant bass lines, well-crafted harpsichord and synth work and it all builds up to its powerful ending and allows Fish to use his voice with GREAT! expression and aggression.

The albums self-titled track a “Script For A Jester’s Tear” gets the album off to a very positive start and is one of the 4 songs on the album that merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! This is very much an album that is so hard to choose a personal favourite track and I could of easily chose 5 out the 6 songs on it.

Track 2. He Knows You Know.

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A song about the problematic problems that are associated with drugs to which in some circumstances will no doubt lead one to an early grave. The song is perhaps written more in the way of an anti-drug song to show the effects that drugs can have with drug abuse. The inspiration for the lyrics came from his own experience of suffering from stomach cramps brought on from bad speed. I know the feeling myself and have been there in my youth especially with blues more so than sulphate.

Luckily for me I soon seen sense to get off them and music has always been my own personal drug apart from a bad nicotine habit of smoking cigarettes. Fish is very much right when he stated “there are no different types, they’re all just drugs and anyone who takes them is weak-willed and has no part in society”.

The problem with any drug including weed is that those who take them are not living in the world of reality and can often be reckless minded and have an “I don’t give a FUCK!” attitude and inflict harm on others. I’ve literally seen a kid stab his best to death over a £20 bag of weed. So, for anyone who thinks weed is harmless, they are literally off their head. I know plenty of people who take them including some of my friends, and I call them all life wasting “CUNTS! who do not belong in society! But alcohol can be just as harmful when abused and mixed with weed it can be lethal as in that case.

This is very much another of my favourite tracks on the album and a very strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! It’s the shortest track on the album and is perhaps the only song on the album that was really suitable for a single release. I love the aggression in Fish’s voice on this song and the words “Problems. problems and don’t give me your problems” have seeped into my brain that every time I am in conversation with somebody and they have a problem I will quite often jokingly burst out singing this song :)))).

Track 3. The Web.

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The longest track on the album and this particular song just like “Grendel” is more like early Genesis and has more of a GABRIEL-ESC feel about it. Even lyrically this is stepping on Genesis territory and we have heroes and characters from Greek Mythology such as Ulysses and Penelope. But it also has been mingled in with words that pertain to some of the other tracks on the album perhaps to make it work like more of a concept idea to some degree, and this web is spinning quite a yarn and perhaps even too much of one for me to even try and decipher the lyrics we have here.

There is no doubt that all the band are doing quite a STELLAR! job on the song and it features some GREAT! guitar and keyboard solos and once again there is some really good progression along its path. I think it’s quite a good song, but personally for me it is the lyrics that let it down and the fact they are trying to sound too much like early Genesis but they are not on the same level or par sort of thing.

Track 4. Garden Party.

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Another of the many classics on the album and this is very much another one of my personal favourites that merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! The lyrics are based around a cynical outlook of the upper class who like to  entertain their guests by hiring bands to play at their garden parties and the reason for them having cucumber sarnies and other vegetable varieties is so they can throw them at the band if they are not all that good they can have a bit of snotty nosed fun. But it also gives the band a chance to intermingle and have a good piss up and have a proper party so they say :)))).

Musically the song was written and structured around Mark Kelly’s riff on the synth and this is a song that would have been written around the keys very much like how “Market Square Heroes” was structured. He also gets to fly out a really GREAT! synth solo too. and solo section is supported by some excellent bass work from Trewavas. Rothery also joins in on part of the solo playing along the same lines as Kelly, although his guitar is utilised more in the chorus sections which are more subtle to which he blends in some nice rhythm guitar and phasing FX.

The verse sections are where more of the power lies and Fish gets to express his vocals very well in the song and also gets to change its texture and give it another accent with the speaking parts. Something that Peter Gabriel used to also do with Genesis and they both are very good at doing.

I can perhaps see why “Garden Party” was released as a single because it is quite infectious with the riff on the keys that drives it along in much the same way that “Market Square Heroes” did. However, I prefer the full version rather than an edited down version and that is why is perhaps does not work for me as a single.

The video they made for it was a bit like something along the lines of the stories Enid Blyton wrote about the Famous Five. Only they were perhaps trying to do it in the same way that the likes of Adrian Edmondson, Dawn French and others did in the comedy series The Comic Strip Presents with Five Go Mad In Dorset. That incidentally was shown on Channel 4 in the previous year and it would not surprise me if the idea for the video came from that TV series.

Track 5. Chelsea Monday.

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If you like guitar solos then you should like this classic song and personally, I do not think that Steve Rothery did a better one that what is on this song. No doubt he got to play many GREAT! solos back in the early days when Fish was in the band, but this one as the cream on top of them all. His guitar work on “Chelsea Monday” is pure bliss and it charms me with its smile and its totally GORGEOUS!

If I had to make the choice to only pick one of the songs from this album to be my personal favourite, it would be this one down to the guitar work on it. Musically the song was even constructed around the guitar, only it was Pete Trewavas’s bass line that was at the core and was the basis of its structure. Everything worked around it including it and it’s a master-stroke piece of work and I could play this song till the cows come home.

The lyrics and the way Fish delivers them are SUPERB! and they pertain to a young girl’s dreams of becoming an actress and making it to the silver screen so to speak. However, rather than face the prospect of failure she decides that she’s going to commit suicide and go out in a blaze of fame, but she still managed to charm them with her smile. This is very much another song that merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 6. Forgotten Sons.

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The album ends off with yet another Marillion classic and although “Forgotten Sons” can be seen as a political song and has perhaps certainly become more of one, the lyrics that Fish penned for it were based around the chaos the IRA inflicted in England and their own country. The original idea came to him when he was working at the employment office seeing all these people wanting to sign up to the army because they could not get a job to which he thought they were crazy.

This is a song that goes through some really GREAT! progression and transitional changes, the songs versus are structured around the keyboards, bass and drums and the chorus is more guitar structured. There is also a couple of bridge sections that were developed for the spoken parts. They originally wanted the ITN Newsreader Trevor Mcdonald to do the spoken parts but he wanted something like 2 grand and has the band were on a tight budget and Peter Cockburn ended up doing them. It also features the Marquee Clubs Parents Association Children’s Choir.

I like how they have adapted and incorporated the Lord’s Prayer with different lyrics and “Ring-a-ring-a Roses” into the song and no doubt the whole band are firing on all cylinders. Pete Trewavas’s bass work is outstanding and once again we get some GREAT! guitar solo work from Steve Rothery and they are all out in full force to deliver the goods and put the album to bed in tremendous style. “Forgotten Sons” is the 4th track on the album to merit the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Summary…

To sum up the new Deluxe Edition of Marillion’s debut album a Script For A Jester’s Tear. I personally think for those like myself whose incentive to buy these albums all over again for the 5.1 surround mix will be hugely disappointed. However, the new stereo mix of the album on the CD is way better than the original mix and really brings the album back to life in many respects. Both the Market Square Heroes EP and the live concert at the Marquee Club are also superbly mixed and the fact that both of these have also been included on the Blu Ray in Hi-Res Audio makes this package even more worthwhile.

The rest of of the bonus material is also very good and although the 60-page book is not as informative as the documentary they have included on the blu ray, it still all comes very neatly packaged in a quality hardback book that will store nice and easy along with your DVD’s on the shelf and is a very well presented package well worth its price point.

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Now all I need is the new Deluxe Edition of Fugazi to complete my personal Marillion collection and I have heard that is scheduled to be released next year. I shall also be keeping my eyes peeled so I can pre-order it well in advance to get it at the best price.

Conclusion…

Marillion’s debut album Script For A Jester’s Tear is quite a force to be reckoned with and is a very strong body of work. Debut albums do not come much better than this and even though Led Zeppelin made quite a good debut album, it was the bands second album that spilled out all the guts and energy and in terms of how well this debut album of Marillion’s really is, it’s more on par with that album and not many bands have done that with their first album.

Out of the 6 songs on the album 4 of them are absolute CLASSICS! and “Script For A Jesters Tear“. “Garden Party“. “Chelsea Monday” and “Forgotten Sons” are very much my personal highlights from the album. But I certainly do not have any “Problems” playing the whole album that’s for sure.

The new Deluxe Book Edition of the album represents quite an expansive and broader look and way to showcase the bands debut album and all they were doing around this time period. My only real gripe would be with the surround mix and their unfortunate insight of them not including a Hi-Res audio version of the newly mixed debut album on the Blu Ray. But overall, with all you get here, it still holds a lot of GREAT! value for the buck and is well worth getting.

The Playground Of The Broken Hearts…

The CD track listing is as follows:

Disc One: Script For A Jester’s Tear (2020 Stereo Re-mix)
01. Script For A Jesters Tear. 8:43.
02. He Knows You Know. 5:23
03. The Web. 8:50.
04. Garden Party. 7:20.
05. Chelsea Monday. 8:17.
06. Forgotten Sons. 8:25.
Disc Two: Market Square Heroes EP (2020 Stereo Re-mix)
01. Market Square Heroes. 4:18.
02. Three Boats Down From The Candy. 4:30.
03. Grendel. 17:17.
04. Charting The Single (2020 Remaster). 4:47.
Disc Three: Live at the Marquee Club, London (29/12/82)
01. Garden Party. 8:47.
02. Three Boats Down from the Candy. 5:24.
03. Grendel. 19:24.
04. Chelsea Monday. 9:14.
05. He Knows You Know. 5:33.
Disc Four: Live at the Marquee Club, London (29/12/82)
01. The Web. 11:24.
02. “Script For A Jester’s Tear. 9:35.
03. Forgotten Sons. 11:25.
04. Market Square Heroes. 5:27.
05. Margaret. 6:45.

Lee’s overall Complete Package Value Rating…

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10

The Bonus Material Rating Score. 10/10

The Stereo Re-Mix Rating Score. 10/10

The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 3/10

The Original Album Rating Score. 10/10