Lee Speaks About Music… #158

Masters Of Illusion – Magenta



Magenta is back with a new studio album since the release of We Are Legend some 3 years ago back in 2017. It could be said that the bands 8th studio Masters Of Illusion has a CINEMATIC! approach to its a concept and the music behind it all. However, there is plenty along its path in the PROGMATIC! department to feast your ears on too.

The one thing you will always get with anything Rob Reed writes is plenty of influences from other well-known artists and bands mostly from that glorious decade of the ’70s when progressive rock was at its peak. I like the fact that he and many other of today’s artists are still keeping prog-rock alive and that is what has attracted my attention ever since the 80’s when Marillion had resurrected that particular genre of music after punk rock had raised it’s ugly head in the late ’70s and swept it aside.

I certainly do not think the likes of both Yes and Genesis managed to keep prog-rock alive and very few of them did, not even Marillion after Fish had left them so I was always on the lookout for someone else to inject some new life into the genre. During the early 90’s we got to see a few more acts follow suits such as The Flower Kings, Spock’s Beard, and even a chap from the Netherlands namely Arjen Anthony Lucassen and his Ayreon project doing something to the keep the genre alive.

Although many of these flew under my radar at the time just like Rob Reed’s own CYAN and I only got to hear of Ayreon through Fish being involved with Lucassen’s 3rd album Into The Electric Castle. The other 2 bands I only got to know right at the end of the ’90s when they formed Transatlantic. As we entered into the new millennium many more bands started to creep out of the woods and even though prog-rock has never really been a popular genre or radio-friendly, there is a lot more out there these days still keeping this GREAT! genre of music alive.

The main core behind Magenta is very much Rob Reed, Chris Fry, and Christina Booth and the backline has quite often changed over the past 20 years. Though they have managed to keep the same backline of bassist Dan Nelson and drummer Jiffy Griffiths who appeared on their previous album We Are Legend this time around. It also features a few special guests on some of the tracks.

The release of the new Magenta album came as a bit of a surprise especially being that it was only a few months ago that Rob Reed had released another of his side projects Chimpan A to which is a collaborative project he did with Steve Balsamo who’s best known for playing the lead role in the London production of Jesus Christ Superstar during the mid-1990s. Apparently, The Empathy Machine is the 2nd album to be released under this collaborative protect and their debut album was released some 14 years ago back in 2006.

I do always pay a particular interest in Rob Reed’s Youtube channel and he does from time to time post and promote other artists besides many of the projects he works in himself. Having heard the material that was written for The Empathy Machine it was quite different to what he does with Magenta and his own solo work and had more of an 80’s electro vibe to it especially “Speed Of Love” and it was not my cup of tea at all which is why I avoided it.

The new Magenta album Masters Of Illusion, however, is certainly not an album to avoid and from what very little has been released on the prog-rock side of things so far this year, this could very well be the prog-rock album of the year. But before I go any further, let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…


Both the CD & DVD are housed in a 3-panel cardboard DigiSleeve also known as a Trifold DigiFile. It has die-cut inner pockets to hold the discs and 12-page booklet. The DigiSleeve as been printed on a matt coated finish which helps prevent you from scratching the discs when removing them from the pockets. The 12-page booklet comes with all the usual linear credit and production notes plus lyrics but does not include any additional informative information. Overall, it’s a very neat and tidy package.


The album covers artwork was done by the German musical artist Björn Gooßes who currently resides in Essen in his own country. He also done the album covers for Magenta’s 2013 album Twenty Seven Club and their 2007 album Metamorphosis. He mostly does the covers for many Metal bands and artists and is a member of the Essen based metal band The Very End. He primarily works in the field of digital compositing and uses a variety of techniques to create unique imagery between playful surrealism and colorful morbidity.

To be perfectly honest the artwork he does for many of the metal bands is very impressive and looks more spectacular than the artwork we have here. But what we do have here is all well and apt in keeping in line with the concept behind the album. I would also say that in relation to the minimalistic designs that were done for all the 5 albums I recently reviewed of GoGo Penguin. This is more like it 🙂

Release Editions…

The album was released in 2 formats the cheapest option being the digital download to which can be purchased from Bandcamp for £7.  The CD & DVD package can be purchased from Amazon UK for £12 and it is the cheapest price if like myself you are a Prime Member and it works out £2.75 cheaper than what it would cost on Rob Reed’s own store Tigermoth Records but either way, it’s still amazing value for the buck.

I actually did purchase my copy from Tigermoth Records because I also wanted The Lost Reel CD that features alternative mixes from the new album plus remixes from the band’s back catalog. You can only get it from Tigermoth Records and I purchased it along with the Masters Of Illusion CD & DVD for £20 plus £1.75 P+P. You can also purchase The Lost Reel CD on its own for £8.50 plus £1.75 P+P which I personally feel is well overpriced especially in that it only comes in a cardboard sleeve. But I managed to save £3.25 by buying them both together.

They did also release a very exclusive Deluxe and very Limited V.I.P. Edition that came in a tin mini canister film case for £25. Which also included 6 postcards and a sheet with the names of all the names of those who brought it on a V.I.P. sheet. I do remember seeing the reel case on Rob Reed’s website when they first announced the album was being released and available to pre-order. But what put me off was that it never mentioned how big the case was and I did not like the idea of storing the album somewhere else if it never fitted in my media storage.


Judging by the picture above (that was not posted on the website) it looks like the only things that would have fitted inside the canister case were the postcards and the V.I.P. sheet. It also looks as if it was pointless making the case in the first place 🙂 But then again I suppose it could be used for a display purpose.

This particular Deluxe Edition did sell out quickly and I am pretty sure that only somewhere between 200- 500 was made. One of them also included a Golden Ticket like Charlie and the Chocolate factory sort of thing and if you were the lucky one to have it you got a special prize. I am not sure what it was but it has been won. A further Golden Ticket has been put up for grabs and to stand any chance of winning it you have to write a review of the album and post it on your Facebook Wall.

There is also a Limited Edition Vinyl release that will be released later this year on the 2nd of October. It’s also strictly limited to 300 copies only and is available to pre-order. It comes on 2 180-Gram LPs and costs around £24.99.

The Album In Review…

Magenta’s 8th studio album Masters Of Illusion was released on the 1st of July 2020. The album contains 6 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 63 minutes, 14 seconds which is quite lengthy for an album and not far off a double album worth of material. They are all quite lengthy tracks as well so there is plenty here to take in and digest although the music does tend to more or less grab you quickly and it’s not an album that you would have to give many spins to really get to grips with.

Much of the new material on the new album Rob Reed wrote over the past seven years and has been left in his archives till now. Only a couple of the tracks have been newly written from scratch and the other 4 were lifted from his archives and have been reworked to make up the new album. Over a year was spent on putting all the material together and recording the album. In comparison to Magenta’s last album, We Are Legend many things have been stripped back and for me personally I am glad to see that they have too.

I found We Are Legend quite a difficult album to get to grips with at first and that was really down to Reed injecting the same sort of modern techniques and gadgets that Gem Godfrey injected into the last Frost* album Falling Satellites. Godfrey is still doing much of the same with their new EP Others that was released last month in June. From what little I have heard from it, in all honesty, it’s put me right off the band.

To be perfectly honest having seen the band live at the Robin 2 in Bilston back in 2016 killed that band for me and it was a dreadful gig. The only good memory I had of that night was bumping into Rob Reed who was doing the support act with the band Kiama and I got to have my photo taken with him 🙂

Me and Rob Reed_Fotor

The other good thing about the material that is on Masters Of Illusion is that it’s not too heavily influenced were as I thought their previous album We Are Legend was on the verge of overstepping the mark. It’s quite unusual for Reed because in general he reworks and reshapes melody lines from other well-known bands rather than completely nick the same lines and that is where part of his writing genius lies.

There are still a good few influences here on the new album, but far less and it feels more like their own input plays more of a role in making it more of their own sort of thing. For example, their 2nd album Seven is very much one of the bands strongest ever outputs and for many that album would be amongst their personal best. I love the album but that is an album that also contains many influences and a lot more than we have along the lines of this latest offering of theirs. This is where the new album I personally feel really works better and they are being more true to themselves.

Being that I also purchased The Lost Reel with the album I thought I would include a review of it here. The CD comes in a cardboard sleeve just like a single vinyl album would come in only a mini replica. Although the material on the disc is closer to a double album in that you get 9 tracks spread over and overall playing time of 73 minutes, 8 seconds and there is quite a bit to sink your teeth into here.


I would not say The Lost Reel is an essential part of Magenta’s discography and in reality, it’s just a compilation of alternative mixes and for those who want that bit more and cannot get enough of the band. To be perfectly honest albums such as this are not really my thing and remixes have never been my thing in reality. I used to get sick of those CD singles many artists released years ago where you got 4 tracks and 3 of them were just remixes of the same song. I honestly saw those things as a bit of rip off and would rather have 4 different songs any day of the week.

In many ways remixes are like covers and its very rare the original song can beat in the first place and very few have managed to achieve that accolade either. I would even go as far as to say that less than 1% of all the artists in this world have successfully managed to do something better than the original song. In general, it’s only because the original song was just a bare-bones stripped back basic acoustic folk song such as Bob Dylan’sAll Along The Watchtower” which is why Jimmy Hendrix managed to achieve it.

I think the title that is given to this release is very deceptive too and bears absolutely no relation to the material that is on the disc. I would also say that the biggest downfall is the fact that 5 out of the 9 tracks you get here are mixes of the songs that are on the new album Masters Of Illusion and one of those is the just an instrumental version of the albums self-titled track. It’s perhaps only useful for those who enjoy going to a karaoke for a sing-song 🙂

It’s practically like having the same album twice over and the only track from the new album that is not present is “Snow” and that is actually the shortest track on the new album. So you can see where the biggest majority of the time has been taken up on this release and just under 48 minutes of the 73 minutes as been devoted to the new album leaving just over 25 minutes for the remaining 4 tracks. The 5 mixes from the new album could of just have easily been put on the DVD as an alternative album bonus feature just like Robert Fripp did on the 40th Anniversary editions of the King Crimson albums.

To be perfectly honest I have always been an albums man myself and it’s very rare I will ever buy a compilation album like this or even a Greatest Hits and those Best Of albums. All those types of albums are only really aimed at first-time listeners in a way of introducing you to their music. They offer very little new material at all and if you have the original albums like me they do not really represent any great value for the buck and it can be pointless chucking money at them. It’s also generally only complete avid record collectors who have to have everything that generally throws their money at them.

I’ve been collecting albums since the early ’70s and in all that time I’ve only really come across a couple of compilation albums that were something different and gave you something different for your money. Those albums were the double album Living In The Past by Jethro Tull and B’ Sides Themselves by Marillion. Both of those albums are literally like having another new album because the material that was put on them never found their way onto any of their main discography of studio albums and that is what I call 100% genuine value for the buck.

So far everything I have said about this release is on the negative side of things so lets now take a closer look at just what extra you get here and see if it represents any real genuine value and is worth spending the extra cash. I shall start off with the 5 tracks that are on the Masters Of Illusion album and point out some of the differences. The first of them up is “Reach Out For The Moon” and they are calling this the Shadow Mix.

The first thing that is noticeable about this version is that its been stripped back to the piano and keyboard orchestration in the musical department. Without all the other instrumentation it’s now got the feel of an acoustic pop ballad and near enough 4 minutes has been chopped off to make it perhaps now more suited for a single release. Out of all the 5 mixes from their latest album, this is the only one with a significant amount of difference.

Then we get what they call Victor’s mix of “The Rose” and to be perfectly honest I have not got a clue who Victor is. Once again like most of the mixes its shorter than the original track on the album. The interesting thing is that it features Karla Powell on oboe who is not on the original mix. Given the fact that I can hardly hear much difference at all between this mix and the original, I am beginning to wonder if her name was left off the credits of the Masters Of Illusion album. The only other possible explanation is that Rob Reed must have played the oboe part on his keyboards.  Karla also plays oboe on a couple of other tracks on this album too.

Next up is a Band mix of “Bela” and it’s a couple of minutes shorter than the original mix to which it omits the orchestral intro. The only real difference is that the song now bursts into the action without its intro, it also feels a bit raunchier in the mix. But another notable thing is that Karla Powell also supposedly plays oboe on this track according to the credits on the back of the sleeve and for the life of me I cannot hear an oboe here at all and I am now beginning to wonder if  Karla is on this track at all 🙂

The instrumental version of the “Masters Of Illusion” is the only track that has not been cut short and it exactly what is without the vocals. Like I mentioned earlier these sort of mixes are for those who enjoy going to a karaoke for a sing-song. However, some instrumental tracks are interesting and enjoyable to listen to at times. These days many artists are including instrumental tracks as bonus tracks and some will even include a whole album worth of them. Personally, I never see these as bonus tracks and more of a thing to make it look like they are giving you something extra by including them.

The final of the 5 mixes from the new album is “A Gift From God” and they are calling this the Horn mix. There is no doubt that Karla Powell’s oboe can be heard throughout most of this mix and the original mix and I am now wondering if there has been a cock-up with credits on both albums because the oboe sounds identical on both mixes. The other notable thing on this mix is that Chris Fry’s guitar solo has been replaced with either what sounds like a French or English horn.

The other 4 mixes are all from different parts of Magenta’s 20-year career and they are all new 2020 mixes. The opening track on this album opens up with a new mix of “Legend” that was originally on their previous 2017 album We Are Legend. The significance here is that its only half the length and it’s performed more or less the way they play it live. The album closes up with a new mix of “Turn The Tide” which was originally on one of the bands least favorable albums Chameleon released back in 2011. I personally think this version is a much better mix and I am pretty sure that Rob Reed has replaced and replayed some of the instrumentation particularly the piano and orchestration. There is a lot more clarity and it’s got more of the atmosphere I feel the track needed and he’s managed to give it a new breath of fresh air.

I’ve saved the best two new mixes for last and I was quite surprised to see “Man The Machine” here and this has been reworked into a 5.5-minute version of what was originally the longest track on their debut album Revolutions from 2001. You could say you are only getting a snippet here as the original track was some 24.5 minutes long. I quite like what they have done here although its no match to the longer version. Revolutions is an album that is up there with the very best of Magenta albums and I did tell Rob when I met him back in 2016 that I would love him to do a 5.1 mix of the album. Unfortunately, I am still waiting but maybe if he reads this he might get his finger out 🙂

Finally, we have something that has never been put on any Magenta album and “Not In Our Name” was originally written during the early sessions for the We Are Legend album only it never made the album, or has it seen the light of day before now. It also features Andy Edwards on drums who was involved in the early stages of that particular album before he got dropped from the project in favor of Rob Reed wanting a new backline to try and inject something new into the development of the album. It’s a very good song and is certainly the highlight of this album.

Summary & Conclusion…

Overall, I feel that The Lost Reel is an album that does not deliver and bring enough new to the table to be worth its price point. I do not even see it as an album and it’s nothing more than really the sort of bonus material that you would get for free on re-issues of remastered albums along the line or included as bonus material on a DVD or Blu Ray for example. Personally, I think it should of been put on the DVD or the CD should have been included in a Limited Edition of Masters Of Illusion for a couple of quid more.

Albums like this you will only ever stick on once in a while for a bit of a change and nothing more. It’s far from an essential album to stick an £8.50 price tag on it and sell as one. You would get far more value for your money buying Chris Fry’s solo album Composed. It’s £1.50 more but it comes in a cardboard DigiSleeve and not a cardboard slipcase like this. It’s also a genuine album of newly written material and not a compilation like this.

The biggest downfall is that you are getting too much of the same thing especially by including 5 of the 6 tracks from the new album. I know Robert Reed said in his interview that has it was the bands 20th Anniversary he wanted to give the fans something special.  I certainly think the new album Masters Of Illusion does fit in with that statement but I would hardly call charging £8.50 for this extra bonus disc GIVING! his fans something special.

However, the one thing I would never accuse Reed of is ripping off his fans or anybody for that matter. As a rule, all the music he sells on his website is 100% value for the buck and cheaper than most artists would charge. My personal highlights from The Lost Tapes are as follows: “Not In Our Name“. “Man The Machine” and “Reach Out For The Moon“.

The tracks list is as follows: 1. “Legend [2020 Mix] 6:06”. 2. “Reach Out For The Moon [Shadow Mix] 5:44”. 3. “Not In Our Name [2020 Mix] 7:13”. 4. “The Rose [Victor’s Mix] 7:54”. 5. “Bela [Band Mix] 9:07”. 6. “Masters Of Illusion [Instrumental Mix] 16:37”. 7. “A Gift From God [Horn Mix] 8:31″. 8.”Man The Machine [2020 Mix] 5:32”. 9. “Tune The Tide [2020 Mix] 6:24”.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 6/10.
Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 3/10.
Lee’s Album Rating Score. 4/10.

Getting back to the Masters Of Illusion there is something on this album that for the life of me I cannot get to grips with and I will go into it further in the album tracks section of my review. The good thing about the package is that it does include a DVD and when it comes to mixes I would rather have a 5.1 mix of the album in relation to any alternative mix. The DVD also hosts a few other extras too so let’s now take a look at it.

The DVD.

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The DVD menu displays the album’s artwork and all of its contents on one single menu and is simple enough to navigate by moving the white arrow to your desired choice. Besides the 5.1 mix of the album, it also comes with the two promo videos that Rob Reed posted on his Youtube channel plus a 51-minute interview of the man himself speaking about the new album. All of this bonus content is in Dolby Digital 2.0 (stereo only).

The main feature gives you the choice of a couple of 5.1 audio formats both of which is 48K. The first being Dolby Digital which is the least quality at 448kbps and the other being my preferred choice of DTS which is a much higher quality format at 1.5Mbps.

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Whilst the main featured album is playing it displays the same bit of artwork from the album cover for all 6 tracks on the album. The only thing that changes is the title of the track that is playing. Overall, a GREAT! job as been done here and the bonus material is a nice inclusion and the interview provides some well informative information.

The 5.1 Mix.

The one thing you are sure to get with anything Rob Reed mixes is a quality job and I’ve yet to see him do a bad mix and he very much also has the right head on his shoulders to do 5.1 mixes and I have no complaints here. In saying that I do wish he would go back to doing 24/96K for his albums like we have seen him do in the past because sonically that higher resolution does help to deliver more clarity and definition through loudspeakers.

Where 5.1 wins over stereo are by having more channels to give far greater separation. In any stereo set-up, you are going to need very expensive speakers to compete with a decent set of headphones. Most mixes are best heard through headphones and where 5.1 has its own disadvantages is that you cannot produce that immersive experience in any set of headphones and trust me those 5.1 headphones are nothing more than a gimmick.

The 5.1 system is very much dependant on the source material and the way it’s processed through the AV Receiver. This how it can sonically compete with any set of headphones even without having to spend vast amounts of cash on loudspeakers. Most people will argue the point that it’s impossible to hear the difference between 44.1K, 48K, and 96K. Given the fact that our ears are not even capable of hearing anything above 18K, they would certainly be right to have that assumption. But the way it’s processed through an AV Receiver will make a huge difference and that is why Hi-Resolution Audio is instantly more noticeable on such a system and why I am a surround FREAK!

There are a few engineers who have successfully managed to deliver all the clarity and definition in 24/48K. But those mixes are very rare and I have yet to hear Rob Reed do that. I can instantly detect how much sonically better his first solo album Sanctuary sounds way better than Sanctuary II & III and that’s because it is the only one to have a 24/96K job done on it. This is why I wish he would return back to doing that high-res format. Better still re-release all the all Magenta and Sanctuary albums again in that format and lossless on Blu Ray and I would buy them all again 🙂

But overall, the 5.1 mix he’s done for the new album is very good and he’s done particularity very well with the placement of all the instrumentation and vocals across the 6 channels making it a very satisfying and very good immersive experience.

Musicians & Credits…


All music written by Robert Reed. Lyrics by Steven Reed. Mixed, Engineered & Produced by Robert Reed. Recorded between January 2019 – March 20202 at Big Studios Wales, UK. Artwork by Björn Gooßes @ Killustrations.com.

Christina Booth: Lead Vocals.
Robert Reed: Keyboards, Mandolin, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Classical Guitar, Backing Vocals,
Chris Fry: Lead Guitar.
Dan Nelson: Bass.
Jiffy Griffiths: Drums.

Special Guests:
Peter Jones: Saxophone (Tracks 3 & 5).
Troy Donockley: Uilleann Pipes (Track 5).
John Mitchell: Vocals (Track 2).

The Album Tracks In Review…

As with most of Magenta’s albums they generally run along the line of some sort of a concept and rather than a concept story the concept behind Masters Of Illusion takes me back to the same sort of idea they had with their 2013 album the Twenty Seven Club in that it’s based on famous peoples lives and how they lived their lives. Only this time around we are dealing with well-known actors from horror films and not rock stars who happened to have been in that club because they all had something in common, in that they all died at the young age of 27.

The interesting part about the particular concept with this album is that although the actors were more known for the character role they played in those old horror films from many moons ago, it’s based on their personal lives and not the characters they played or portrayed on the silver screen so to speak. The concept behind the title of the album is very much how they were all masters of illusion in that once the lights and cameras were off them, the act was over and they went back to being themselves with how they run their ordinary lives. So let’s now take a closer look at the album tracks and see how the album all pans out.

Track 1. Bela.

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The album gets off to a GREAT! start with its opening track and the person whose life this opening song portrays is of the Hungarian-American actor Bela Lugosi who was best remembered for portraying Count Dracula. It was also this particular character that he was also typecasted with which is quite strange really because he only ever played the role twice throughout his career and one of those films was a comedy film starring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.

Strangely enough, he was even paid more money for not appearing in Dracula’s Daughter and he very rarely got the leading role in any film and was mostly overshadowed by the likes of Boris Karloff. In total, Lon Channey Jr appeared in 22 films between 1931 – 1955 and he played the role of a vampire more times than he played the COUNT! himself. He also found it hard securing work in Hollywood by the early 1940s, as no producer would cast the actor in anything except horror films.

Bela Lugosi loved life and the fame and fortune that his acting career had brought him, although it was difficult at times to find work he got by, by putting in personal appearances and never really wanted life to end. I think Steven Reed has also portrayed Lugosi’s personal life very well with the lyrical content we have here.

As I mentioned earlier there is something on this album that for the life of me I cannot get to grips with and that is to do with the orchestral side of things. Just by listening to the orchestration, Reed has provided for the one-minute twelve-second intro sounds like he’s scored the music for another movie, and for my ears, it sounds totally out of place. It reflects sadness at first and then bursts into something that is a bit more adventurous like a voyage upon the sea or even fitting to the scene to the James Bond-like character in the Milk Tray advert years ago delivering a box of chocolates 🙂

Once you get past the intro that is really where the song kicks in and delivers the goods both musically and vocally. It really is more to the PROGMATIC! side of things they did for their 2004 album Seven and it features some really GREAT! synth work from Rob Reed and some GREAT! guitar solo work from Chris Fry. The whole band is firing along on all cylinders here and you can very much see that in this promotional video for the album that Reed put on his Youtube channel.

Overall, the opening track “Bela” is one of my personal favorites on the album it has bags of progression, twists, and turns along its path and is a very well structured piece of work. No doubt you will also hear a few influences along its journey and it catches occasional glimpses of Yes, Genesis, and a few others. It’s also a very strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 2. A Gift From God.

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Next up is quite an enchanting ballad of a song and the orchestration on the intro and other parts throughout remind me of the theme tune that was used for the game Tombraider. I guess that would be down to the sound of the harp. There might even be a touch of “Scarborough Fair” thrown into it as well and its a bit like a combination between them both. Once again, Christina Booth, does a GREAT! job in delivering Steven Reed’s lyrics and here she is also accompanied by John Mitchell who adds the odd bit of backing vocals to the song.

Besides the Tombraider influence, there is also BEAUTIFUL! touch of Genesis around the 4:02 mark with the 12 string guitar and the song lifts up from here on a bit and we get another GREAT! guitar solo from Chris Fry and both of these lovely touches works wonderous in the song and are my favorite highlights of it.

The lyrical content is based on Christopher Lee’s personal life and is reflected around the choices he made and could have made looking back upon his career. Like Bela Lugosi, Lee was another actor who was typecasted for his role of playing Dracula and he had played the part no less than 10 times during his career. Although Lee had more of a successful career appearing in no less than 146 films some of which were blockbusters such as Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and many others. Like Lugosi he was often cast as a villain though unlike him the only way Lee would be waiting for the phone to ring was to play a part where he was not a villain and it certainly would not have been cause he was short of work.

Besides acting Christopher Lee also had a bit of a musical career and had a fine operatic bass voice and sang on quite a few Soundtracks for movies and other artists albums such as The Wicker Man, The Return of Captain Invincible, Funny Man and Peter Knight and Bob Johnson’s (from Steeleye Span) concept album The King of Elfland’s Daughter. During the height of Italo disco, he provided vocals to Kathy Joe Daylor’s song “Little Witch“. He also sang backing vocals on a few heavy metal albums and in 2010 he released his first complete metal album.


Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross won the “Spirit of Metal” award from the 2010 Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards ceremony. The award was presented to him by guitarist Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath although it’s far from a metal album and more along the lines of a Theatrical Operatic album. It’s perhaps a bit like Jethro Tull winning the Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental in 1989 for their Crest Of A Knave album. It was also followed up by a sequel in 2013 entitled Charlemagne: The Omens of Death to which was his 4th and final album.

Overall, “A Gift From God” is a very fine well-written song and could be seen as the pop song of the album in many respects. It’s also one of the two new songs that were written for the album and the title reflects the many talents that were bestowed upon this fine actor and no doubt he was GIFTED! in many ways. There is, of course, other really well good sections that make it much more than a pop song, and its another contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 3. Reach For The Moon.

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This is what I call the ROCK! track on the album and what I like about this track is that it just bursts straight into the action without all this orchestral malarkey. There is some orchestration in the song though it’s only used as a supporting role and not like a theme as in the opening track on the album. To be perfectly honest I do not mind orchestral sounds mixed in with all the other band instruments and Rob Reed does a really STELLAR! job of it. But trying to associate a box of Cadbury’s milk chocolates with something from the Hammer House of Horrors is never gonna work 🙂

The lyrical content is based around the personal life of Lon Chaney Jr who lived in the shadow of his father’s footsteps and how he resented using his father’s name as a marketing ploy to gain work in his acting career. He was very much born into a theatrical family although as he grew up he did other work to make a living and did not want to follow in his father’s footsteps but did show some interest in his father’s acting career and studied makeup at his father’s side, learning many of the techniques that had made his father famous.

It was not until his father died when he was around 30 years old that he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps so to speak and he even had an interest in songwriting and attempted an early career in that. Lon Chaney Jr appeared in no less than 42 films during his acting career and mostly appeared in low budget movies. He is perhaps typecasted for his role in horror films especially as the Wolfman and he also played Frankestiens Monster on a couple of occasions he also played the Mummy and Count Dracula’s son and was the only one to have played all 4 roles. Although his most memorable performance will most likely be in the 1939 film Of Mice and Men and his role as Lennie Small in that film was his favorite role.

Musically this is a song that goes through nice changes and it’s one of the couple of tracks on the album that features Peter Jones on saxophone. There’s a nice little comedown section around the 4-minute mark and we get a lovely bit of lead guitar from Chris Fry and this short section reminds me a bit like how some of the comedowns you will hear in some of Fish’s songs and his voice would sit in perfectly in this little section. There is also a lovely acoustic Mike Oldfield touch around the 7:32 mark that is quite reminiscent of Ommdawn and overall this is another GREAT! album track.

Track 4. Snow.

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This is the shortest track on the album and in reality, the only short track on the album and even this weighs in at just over 6 minutes. The lyrics that Steven Reed wrote here portray the childhood experience of the horrors of living in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II that the actress Ingrid Pitt went through. The title reflects on her escape running over the hills through the snow. She even wrote a short animated film about her childhood experience entitled Beyond The Forest before she died in 2010 and it was her final film to be released back in 2011.

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Ingrid Pitt was born in Poland and she was best known as Hammer Films’ most seductive female vampire of the early 1970s. Her nickname was The Queen of Gothic Horror and although she appeared in many other film and TV genres she loved being involved in horror and even wrote several books mainly in the horror genre. She also did a monthly column in Shivers magazine and appeared at many horror conventions. She appeared in no less than 25 films although a few of them she was uncredited in and never had a significant role in them to be given a character name.

Musically the song is very much constructed around the piano and it’s more of a pop song though it also incorporates other styles such as jazz, funk, and rock. It’s perhaps more familiar with the material that Reed wrote for Magenta’s third album Home that was released back in 2006. It’s got a GREAT! short instrumental section that comes into play with Fry’s guitar solo around the 3:04 mark and it features some fine orchestral and electric piano work from Reed. The whole band is doing a GRAND! job and it’s quite a good song with some nice changes along its path.

Track 5. The Rose.

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This next song is a very interesting one in that it’s got some fine ballad qualities to it but it also has quite a few influences flying out of the woodwork. Mostly early Genesis ones and as soon as it opens up you will instantly notice the first one of them with the 12 string intro. It’s the second-longest track on the album weighing in at 11 minutes, 24 seconds, and contains some GREAT! transitional changes and progression along its path. It also features Peter Jones on Saxophone and Troy Donockley on Uilleann Pipes.

Lyrically the song pertains to the dying love that Peter Cushion had for his wife Helen who he married in 1943 and died in 1971. He never did remarry and although he was not religious he was a firm believer in God and the afterlife and believed that they would become one again when he eventually passed on. The loss of his wife affected him deeply and at one stage he thought of committing suicide and it was only a poem that his wife had written that prevented him from doing so.

In 1975 he wrote a letter to the BBC program Jim’ll Fix It asking that a new rose be bred and named after his late wife. Jimmy Savile the presenter of the show agreed and the process was filmed ending with the creation of a new strain of yellow rose being presented to Cushion, and that is what the rose is pertaining to in the song title.

Peter Cushion was very much typecasted for his horror films in very much the same way Christopher Lee was and they both co-starred in many films together and were the best of friends even off the stage. You could say the pair of them was the king of Hammer Horror films though they also starred in many other non-horror films and blockbusters at that. He appeared in no less than 67 films and several TV dramas and he also was not fond of horror or sci-fi films and preferred other films to them.

Musically there are some really GREAT!! Genesis influences that come into play around the 4:16 mark that incorporates a touch of Camel towards the end of it. Also, watch out for the Rick Wakeman keyboard riff that Reed has nicked around the 6:02 mark 🙂 Overall, “The Rose” might very well project itself like a love song but it’s also got some very good PROGMATIC! moments along its path and is another contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 6. Masters Of Illusion.

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The final song on the album is a 16 minute, 39-second PROGMATIC! epic and just as sure as the album kicked off with something that along the lines of the bands 2004 album Seven it also ends off with one. It’s also the second of the newer songs that were written for the album and you get lashings of GREAT! keyboard and guitar and bags of progression and influences along its path.

The final typecasted actor from the Hammer House of Horrors vaults is none other than the American born actor Vincent Price. He for me had the most distinctive voice of them all and it worked a treat on “The Black Widow” which can be found on Alice Cooper’s prolific album Welcome To My Nightmare. He also made no more than 100 films, appeared in many TV dramas, documentaries, and also worked in the radio and theatre and has 2 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for motion pictures and television.

Price and Christopher Lee were born on the same day (May 27th) and Peter Cushing was born on the 26th. All three are considered legends of the horror genre, and all three appeared together in Scream and Scream Again (1970) and House of the Long Shadows (1983). He must have had an attraction to films with “House” in the titles and eight of the horror films he appeared in all had “House” in the title. The one I perhaps recall the most is The House on Haunted Hill which was released in the same year I was born in 1959.

Both the Reed brothers have their own favorite film of his which happens to be the Witchfinder General from 1968. The lyrical content we have here is based around the making of that particular film and the blows that Price came to with the film director Michael Reeves. Musically it’s quite a different kettle of fish and it opens up with an orchestral introduction that reflects sadness and features a nice touch on the lead guitar by Chris Fry and allows Christina Booth to come in nicely with the opening verse.

The song then kicks into action around the 1:48 mark and you will get to hear a Marillion influence with the synth work and Camel influences with the guitar work. A bit further on around the 4:24 mark we get some Gordon Giltrap and Steve Howe influences. At 8:45 we get some Yes harmonies followed by more Howe like guitar playing and around the 13:18 mark and it all ends off with more of Howe’s influence. I am sure there is plenty of other influences along its lengthy journey and there is plenty enough here to keep you attentive and listening.

The albums self-titled track is my personal favorite on the album although I do think the lyrical content is certainly the weakest set of lyrics on the album and I find them very repetitive. I would also say that unless you had watched the interview on the DVD you would not have a clue what the lyrics were pertaining too and find them very odd. But the vocals are expressed well enough to carry the song along with the music and it very much merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!


To sum up my review of Masters Of Illusions by Magenta. I personally think Magenta has come back with a force and returned to much of the consistent form that can be found on their first couple of albums. But I would also say regarding its concept I do find that its a bit of an oddball especially in relation to how well the concept worked for their 6th studio album The Twenty Seven Club. The concept is not on that level and I also find some of the orchestration a bit of an oddball in relation to the Hammer House of Horrors actors that the concept is based upon. I know that it is based on the actor’s personal lives but it’s hard not to identify them with the character roles they played.

But having said all that the Masters Of Illusions is very much one of the bands stronger albums and does not disappoint really at all in many ways it’s like an album of pop songs with a load of prog thrown in for good measure. In some ways, it’s a bit like you are getting some of the finer pop qualities found on their 3rd album Home fused with the prog side qualities of their 2nd album Seven. It is only really the orchestral side of things that gives this album more of a new fresh approach more than anything else.

I personally find that once you get beyond the orchestral intro’s and the core of the band comes into play, that is where the excitement really lies and that is where this album becomes far more interesting and enjoyable. Most of the strength of the album is in its opening and closing tracks but there is plenty enough here throughout to keep your juices flowing and enjoy. The track placement as been very well thought out and the album flows very well from start to finish.  My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Masters Of Illusion“. “Bela“. “A Gift From God” and “The Rose“.


To conclude my review of Magenta’s 8th studio album Masters Of Illusion. It’s a very strong body of work with all the material that was written for it and there is nothing remotely enough along this album to really disappoint. As for it being the prog album of the year, I would certainly say it’s the most interesting one I have heard so far this year especially in that the songs were mostly written and structured around the verse and chorus structures that most pop songs are written. Yet there is still plenty of PROGMATIC! goodies that fly out of the woodwork to keep most prog-rockers happy and content and it’s certainly worth checking out.

It does not cost an arm and a leg to check out either unlike Rick Wakeman’s latest album which in my opinion is well overpriced. Plus you get a 5.1 mix of the album in this Magenta package and you are near enough getting the DVD for free. You cannot go wrong at its price point and you are getting 100% value for the buck.

Overall. Masters Of Illusion is near enough a solid album that has been very well written and produced and is near enough up there with some of the bands best output of work over the last 20 years. It’s got everything you would expect to hear from Magenta and you will hear some TASTY! influences from the likes of Genesis, Yes, Camel, Marillion, Mike Oldfield, and more. There is certainly enough to float your boat so to speak and they a really GREAT! band that contains quality musicians.

Let The Spotlight Shine On Me…

The album tracklisting is as follows:

01. Bela. 11:15.
02. A Gift From God. 8:28.
03. Reach For The Moon. 9:24.
04. Snow. 6:04.
05. The Rose. 11:24.
06. Masters Of Illusion. 16:39.

Lee’s Overall Complete Package Value Rating…

The Packaging Rating Score. 9/10

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10

The Bonus Material Rating Score. 7/10

The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 8/10

The Original Album Rating Score. 9/10

Lee Speaks About Music… #157

Long, Long Skies – Gordon Midgley



Well it was only a few months back at the end of May that Gordon Midgley released a 4-track EP entitled Guests and it was a very promising release that contained some more of his better works and well worth checking out if you have not already. Now he’s back with a 7-track mini album entitled Long, Long Skies to which was inspired by his trip to Chicago in the states last year.

It was also his trip to Chicago and his friends that helped him get back on his feet and recover after an almost all down low and the EP Guests was the first, we had heard of him for quite a while. I guess also with the lockdown due to the Coronavirus he also had a lot more time on his hands to work on more material hence the release of this new offering he has brought to the table. 

Like I have mentioned in many of my other reviews of Gordon’s music over the past few years he has been improving all the time regarding his production skills and he’s also been building up his guitar collection and even taken up the drums. He’s quite a talent and a very skilled multi-instrumentalist who knows how to knock up a GREAT! tune every now and then. 

Here you can see him on his Alesis kit playing to the intro of the albums self-titled track in this demonstration video he put on his Youtube channel to promote the new album. He’s picked up the drums very well and effectively he could be seen now has a complete one-man band. 

Since the death of his father back in 2018 Gordon has travelled to many other countries to get himself out of a rut of how low he was feeling inside. There was even a spell where had completely disappeared from Facebook so I guess he needed to keep himself busy in other ways to heal and take his mind off things. They do say that travel broadens the mind and the Long, Long Skies is an album that reflects his travels and perhaps runs a bit deeper. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The album 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.


The artwork for the album cover was done by Nathan Jon Tillet who is the other half and singer in the Napier’s Bones project. Nathan has the skills and knack of reshaping photographs and doing designs at a very skilful level and I’ve always admired the artwork he does. Here is has remodelled a photograph that Gordon snapped during his trip to Chicago and below is the original photo he took.


He’s completely polished up the city and it now looks very reflective with its polished tile floor and skyline and he has done quite an amazing job here. To be perfectly honest Chicago needs polishing up and it’s well noted for its notorious crime rate more so than any other city in the whole of the US. 

Long, Long Skies Album In Review…

Long, Long Skies is the 7th release from his output of music from his solo career since 2015. It was released on the 10th July 2020 and is another one of his mini albums in that it comes with 7 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 31 minutes, 36 seconds. The material on the album is made up of instrumental and vocal tracks and over its shorter distance it makes the album much easier to digest, take in and get to grips with in no time at all. I would also say this an album that needs a few spins specially to allow all the tracks to sink in properly. 

Like many musicians these days they have their own little studio set up in their homes and often associate their own little studio setup with a name. The material upon Long, Long Skies was primarily recorded this year at Scanulf Studios which is the name he’s given to his own little studio. You can also see him here in his home studio demonstrating one of the more recent guitars he’s been adding to his collection. 

I think it’s quite evident from this video that Gordon’s skills are branching out into wider areas with how he’s so professionally demonstrated and presented this video and gone into detail about the instrument. I found it very interesting and his confidence very much shines like many Youtube creators who do this sort of thing all the time to more or less to make a living out of it. Although Gordon’s intentions are very much more of a hobby and not for that purpose and I would like to see more of the same in the future.

Much of the material Gordon wrote for his 4-track EP Guests I felt did measure up to some of his finest output of his works like you will hear on albums such as The Fall of the House of Usher and the Napier’s Bones album Monuments. However, on this new album I am detecting something a bit different, it’s hard to quite put my finger on it but I feel some of the material on the Long, Long Skies has more of a song structure about it and a bit more in the rock department.

Although most of the PROGMATIC! elements are still very much evident and present and Gordon never really deviates too far from his own style of music and has never really changed over the years in particular with the biggest majority of work he has done on his solo and Napier’s Bones albums. There is also more of a prog-rock feel to the output of his music and I guess that is down to many of his influences and also the particular different scales he plays over on the guitar.

Speaking of influences I would say some of his usual guitar influences such as Steve Hackett and Brian May have taken a back seat on this new album and have been replaced by a few others and it has a lot more input of himself injected into it too.

Musicians & Credits…


All songs & music 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 Nathan Jon Tillet.

Gordon Midgley: Vocals – Electric Guitars – 6 & 12 String & Acoustic Guitars -Bass – Analogue Monosynth – Drums.

The Album Tracks In Review…

The material that makes up the album Long, Long Skies is a mixture of not only vocal and instrumental tracks, but also short and lengthy tracks. One of the more notable differences on this album is that it does not utilise a lot of keyboards and the music is more driven by the guitars, bass and drums that give some of the tracks more of a ROCK! feel and approach to the music. 

As with most of the material Gordon writes there is generally some form of a concept behind it all. Although with his previous EP Guests it was hard to detect if there was one and it perhaps needed more than 4 tracks to give it a bigger picture if there was one. Even though the Long, Long Skies is a bit longer and contains 7 tracks to which 4 of them have lyrical content. I would not say that it’s just a collection of songs because the lyrics do tend to pertain to a journey. They could also reflect his own personal travels out in the wilderness of nowhere-land and into the light of city. 

I will try my best to guide you through the void of this journey as we now take a closer look at the album tracks, but as with all lyrical content each will have their own path of how it comes across and speaks to them. So, let’s now take a closer look as I go through each track individually. 

Track 1. A Single Step.

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The album gets off to a flying start with its opening track “A Single Step” and this is quite a ROCKY! little number and you could say in a couple of ways. The first being in terms of how the music runs along and secondly with what the lyrical content is pertaining too, or at least what I think they are pertaining too. Regarding the lyrical content a single step could be seen as the first step of a journey of a thousand miles and no doubt Gordon has travelled thousands of miles and seen many other parts of the world. 

This particular journey very much reflects back to the days where he liked to travel out into the wilderness and climb mountains which was another one of his hobbies. It also reflects the dangers and risks that is involved in mountain climbing and how one wrong step can lead to one’s demise, and it reflects how close he has come to taking that fatal step. 

Musically this song totally ROCKS! even with how Gordon delivers the lyrics. It’s perhaps a bit like a combination of Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath in that it starts off with like a FLOYDISH! intro and for some reason the heavier guitar riff that comes into play at 1:07 does remind me a bit like Sabbath’sMegalomania” only slowed down a bit more. I even find myself sometimes singing the words “Feel it slipping away, slipping in tomorrow. Got to get to happiness, from the depths of sorrow”. Those lyrics may also pertain to nowhere-land too 🙂 

Overall, “A Single Step” is one of my personal favourite tracks on the album it has all the right elements to make it ROCK! and it’s got quite a powerful build to it all. There are plenty of other influences here and a lot of Gordon’s own input injected into the song. The pumping bass line on the intro also reminds me a bit like Queen’sFlash” and it’s very much a strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! 

Track 2. Riviera.

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This next piece is a short little ditty and the shortest track on the album. It features Gordon playing an acoustic solo on his acoustic guitar to which he has given the title of the “Riviera” to it. To be honest I have no idea what Riviera inspired him to write the piece and there are a good few of them dotted around the worlds landscape. The word itself is derived from Latin and maybe applied to any coastline especially those that are sunny and attract tourists.

I chose a picture of the French Riviera basically because it was the first one, I came across that had sun loungers on the beach to reflect the relaxation and warmth that the piece reflects. I have to admit that on my first listen to the piece it perhaps did not come across like that and I found it less interesting. But some tracks do take more than one spin to allow them to open up and speak more to you and that is how this piece comes across to me now and it’s a very pleasant little ditty.

Track 3. Discovery Awaits.

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The second of the 4 vocal tracks on the album has quite a funky groove in particular with the bass line and rhythm guitar it does also feel that it was constructed around the bass line. It’s perhaps something a bit different to the norm of what you would find from his normal output of work for his own solo work and his Napeier’s Bones project but it also has some of the darker and haunting presence you would find on his 2017 album The Fall of the House of Usher.

Lyrically the words are pertaining to taking a new course in direction relinquishing the past and turning over a new leaf so to speak. As a matter of fact, I think that the lyrical content to all the songs on the album are in some way tied to the subject matter of travel and they could be seen as a personal journey through life. I would also say the lyrics to this particular song hold the key to its concept. But then again, I could be barking up the wrong tree 🙂 

Musically it’s perhaps verging a bit more on the popular side of things with its funky groove. However the other elements such as the synth solo (most likely played on his Korg MS-20) that comes into play between the 1:26 – 1:49 mark and the guitar solo around the 2:25 – 3:10 mark plus the way it all ends off give it more of a PROGMATIC! vibe. 

It’s perhaps a bit hard to describe how it differs from the norm but its bit like he’s fused some of material he does with some of the other collaborative projects such as Bowling Tide he’s worked on in the past with some of his more usual style. It’s another of the tracks on the album that took a few more spins for to get to grips with and overall, what he’s done here works pretty well in particular with how the album flows and runs along and it’s an integral part of the story.

Track 4. City Song.

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This is one of two standout tracks on the album and this is a very well-crafted and structured song in both the musical and lyrical department. Lyrically the words continue from the previous song and there is a feel of a story behind the concept of this album depending how you look at it. I also feel it reflects his own personal journey out of the wilderness of the mountain range into the light of the city and travelling to other places and seeing all they behold could perhaps be his new hobby and the discovery that awaited him if that makes any sense. 

There are a couple of songs on this album that put me in mind of Roger Waters and this is one of them in particular with how it runs along musically and the elements we have here such as the environmental sounds in the background and the slide guitar. I’ve always loved how Gordon so well structures his music around both acoustic and electric guitars and everything he’s playing on this song is very well arranged. It’s a song that has plenty of progression and changes its moods with how some of the transitional changes bring it down and how it builds up its power to take it along its course. 

It’s got a GORGEOUS! acoustic section around the 3:03 mark and a GREAT! electric solo that lifts up its power towards the end around the 5:01 mark. The mandolin effect he’s playing on the guitar also works very well in the song. The “City Song” is another of my personal favourite tracks on the album and a very strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! 

Track 5. Dreaming Fields.

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This is another acoustic solo piece and this one is a bit longer and is more structured than the second track on the album. This piece instantly spoke to me and it’s perhaps more than just a little ditty and is a BEAUTIFUL! piece. It works very well to break the album up too and I like it a lot. It could even reflect on how Gordon likes to keep his feet firmly on the ground these days and hiking is another one of his hobbies.

Track 6. Long, Long Skies.

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The albums self-titled track is an instrumental track and happens to be the longest track on the album weighing in at 8 minutes, 22 seconds and it’s the most PROGMATIC! track on the album. This piece has bags of progression along its path and it kicks itself off with a very powerful opening that has quite a Rush influence to it. It also contains a really GORGEOUS! acoustic section that comes into play at the 3:19 mark that is very much influenced by early Genesis and utilises both 6 and 12 string acoustic guitars, and if that’s not enough it even has a slight touch of Mike Oldfield with how it ends off.

The influences fly out of the woodwork on this track and it features Gordon’s array of instrumentation of guitars, bass, synths, drums and they all have been put to good use. Even the mandolin effect he used on the 4th track makes another welcoming appearance and everything is manipulated to perfection.

The “Long, Long Skies” is my personal favourite track on the album but I would not say it merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! with ease because there are some quite strong contenders on this album with the vocal tracks too, especially the “City Song“. But this particular track is very much PROG-ROCK HEAVEN! and is up there with the very best of his works. It’s also the other stand out track on the album.

Track 7 First Rays.

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The final track on the album puts me in mind of some of the early acoustic material that Roger Waters done on Pink Floyd’s 1969 double album Ummagumma and the collaborative work he did with Ron Geesin on the soundtrack album Music From The Body in 1970. Certainly, the way it opens up acoustically and runs along over the first few minutes. It then develops into something a bit more raunchier and rocks up with the electric guitar solo to round it all off.

The lyrical content pertains to embracing the new discovery that was awaiting and this particular song rounds off the story behind the concept and the album very well. It’s very much another contender for the albums TOP SPOT!


To sum up Gordon Midgley’s mini album Long, Long Skies. It’s an album that yet again contains a strong body of work with the most of the material that was written for it. There is no doubt that since his 2-year spell of being away from music he has returned to form and is producing some of his best output of works that is on equal par with some of his previous works. I think even the EP Guests he put out a few months back also made that quite evident and it was very much a welcoming return to see him back. 

What also holds up well is the concept behind Long, Long Skies and even though I do think it’s more related personally to the man himself, I do feel there is a good story here with how he’s gone about writing the lyrical content and how all the songs on the album are tied to each other to portray it from start to finish. 

Though I could be wrong about the concept and I might have delved into the album too deeply, but that is how it comes across to me personally. I do also see it has a travelling journey and it’s a very good one at that and my personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Long, Long Skies“. “City Song“. “A Single Step” and “First Rays. 


In conclusion I would say that the Long, Long Skies is quite a solid enough album and it has enough influences to keep your juices flowing and light a few fires along the way. I do also feel it’s a strong output of work and enough has been done here to make the album flow from start to finish and make it a very satisfying album and one that excels in parts. The track placement has been very well been thought-out and I would even go as far as to say that both his EP Guests and this mini album Long, Long Skies are far too good to be given away freely and that is very generous of him to do so. 

Overall, the Long, Long Skies is very much up there with Gordon Midgley’s best output of works and there is no doubt that the right consistency is flowing through this man’s veins right now to be able to come up with something as good as this so soon. The production values speak for itself and so far, 2020 has been pretty much a dismal year for prog-rock and there is not a lot out there at all.  My advice is give the album a couple of spins and you may very well find that 2020 is not a bad year for prog-rock after all.

You can listen for free or even purchase Long, Long Skies for free has it does come at a buy it now name your price. However, I do feel its worthy of putting something in the collection tin after all the hard work that has been put into it. The album is available to purchase in the form of a digital download @ Bandcamp and can be found here: https://gordonmidgley.bandcamp.com/album/long-long-skies

There Beyond The Skyline, More Than Glass Or Steel…

The Album track listing is as follows:

01. A Single Step. 2:48.
02. Riviera. 1:22.
03. Discovery Awaits. 4:04.
04. City Song. 6:54.
05. Dreaming Fields. 1:50.
06. Long, Long Skies. 8:22.
07. First Rays. 5:56.

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

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #156

GoGo Penguin – GoGo Penguin



My final review in this 5 part uninterrupted series of GoGo Penguin’s discography is of their very latest album to date that got released last month and for some reason the band decided to give the album no title and only use their eponymous name as if it were their self-titled debut album so to speak. I am pretty sure that it was not done in a way as if to say they were turning their backs on their previous albums and music and this was a fresh start and were doing something completely different to what they had previously done in the past.

The one thing I will say about this musical trio is that they do always tend to come up with something a bit more fresh to keep their music interesting and that is something they have managed to maintain throughout their musical career. I would also say that since the release of their 3rd album Man Made Object back in 2016, they have also injected a bit more excitement along the way.

The other thing they have managed to maintain is a level of consistency and that is perhaps a much harder task for many artists and bands to do, but so far, I have yet to see this musical trio disappoint. Having said all that does the bands 5th album measure up to the standards of their previous albums and still carry a torch? Before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…


The CD comes in the same quality gatefold cardboard Digisleeve that was used for their debut album and like their debut album it does not come with a booklet. The linear and credit productions notes are printed on the inside of the gatefold sleeve and apart from those it does not come with any additional informative information. Overall, it’s a nice presentation that replicates a mini version of a vinyl album very well.

I pre-ordered my copy on the 17th May from Amazon UK for £10.99 and it arrived on the day of its release to which the release of the album was put back a week. It also came with a free digital download of the album which enabled me to listen to the album before the CD arrived. The album was released in 2 other media formats with the Digital Download being the cheapest option at around £9.90.

The other physical format was the Double Vinyl album which offered you the choice of either clear of black vinyl. The albums were pressed onto 180-gram vinyl with the clear vinyl being the most expensive option of a round £27. It’s also a Limited Edition. The black vinyl is still widely available on Amazon and retails at around £23.99.



The front cover displays the bands Logo and was designed by the bands pianist Chris Illingworth. It replicates the papier-mâché origami penguin that they found that inspired the name of the band. The layout was done by Paul Middlewick. Just like the bands second and third albums it does not display the bands name or title of the album. Although with the bands Logo printed on the front it does perhaps let you know who the album is by if you are familiar with their Logo that is.

Overall, it’s very much like all of their album covers being very minimalistic and they are not the sort of album covers you would really consider putting on display to look at whist listening to the music on the album. I think the only thing I can say about it, is that it is consistent 🙂

The Album GoGo Penguin In Review…

GoGo Penguin by GoGo Penguin was officially released on the 12th June 2020 a week later than its scheduled release date on the 5th June. The reason for the delay was to show their support for Black Lives Matter which had once again raised a global concern brought on by the recent tragic death of George Floyd at the helm of police brutality in Minneapolis in the States.

The album itself contains 10 instrumental tracks spread over an overall playing time of 43 minutes, 45 seconds which is very much suited to my personal time slot for an album making it much easier for the listener to take it all in and digest. It also goes to show how serious the band are when it comes down to quality by releasing it on a double LP. Most artists would not have laid out the extra expense and would have released it on a single LP despite the vinyl restrictions.

Once again, the album was very well received and it managed to reach Number 2 in the UK Jazz & Blues Official Album Charts. It appears that the Brits are paying more attention to the band for a change, and right at this moment in time of writing at the end of June it has entered the US Top Contemporary Jazz Albums Billboard Charts at Number 6. So, things are looking good for the band apart from the fact that they cannot take the album on road at the moment due to the effects of the Coronavirus.

The band decided to record the album at The Chairworks Studios which is situated in Castleford, Yorkshire, England. The studio boasts that it has the largest and finest residential studio complex and I must say it certainly looks quite smart and posh inside. To be honest with how less music sells these days and how many have set up their own studios at home, it surprises me how people can throw all this money at putting a studio like this together and still maintain it and make it pay.

Studio   The Chairworks Studios

I could not find out the history of when the studio was set up but from what I can gather it may have been around 2012/13 and the studio was the last of the final incarnations in a long heritage line of recording studios in the Yorkshire area. The studio itself is constructed in a late 19th century Victorian factory in Castleford which is one of the more bustling towns in Yorkshire.

The Studio A control room (pictured at the top in the photo above) has one of the largest collections of high-end outboard gear in Europe. Which is all built around what many believe to be the ultimate mixing console that is a well-maintained SSL 4000 G+ with flying faders, total recall and ultimation. One of the double-height live rooms was designed by studio legend John Wood best known for his work with Fairport Convention, John Martyn, Cat Stevens, Sandy Denny, Nick Drake, The Incredible String Band, Pink Floyd and Squeeze.

Studio Accomadation

Residential Studio Accommodation

The residential accommodation is well neat and adequate, it’s also got more room than an hotel room and looks more like a self-contained flat. You can see that no expense has been spared here and it must cost a few bob to record an album at this luxurious studio. Surprisingly most of the artists who have recorded at the studio I have never heard of such as the likes of British Sea Power, Skinny Living, Patrick Wolf, Gavin Friday and many more. The only ones I do know are the Kaiser Chiefs, The Fall and One Direction.

Once again GoGo Penguin used their faithful producers, recording and mixing engineers Joseph Reiser & Brendan Williams and the album was once again mixed at 80 HERTZ Studios. They also decided to use the same mastering engineer Norman Nitzsche who mastered their previous album, he also done the vinyl cut of the album too.

The one thing the band had in making the new album was a bit more time off the road which enabled them to a spend a bit more time in putting the new material together. It also gave them more time to spend at home with their families to take away much of the pressure constraints. They spent 11 days in September recording the album at The Chairworks and the album got mixed in November and mastered this year in January.

Musicians & Credits…

Band pic_Fotor

All compositions by GoGo Penguin. Produced by Joseph Reiser & Brendan Williams. Recorded at The Chairworks Studios Castleford, Yorkshire, England between 16th – 27th September 2019. Mixed at 80 HERTZ Studios Manchester, England between 4th – 8th & 18th – 22nd November 2019. Recorded & Mixed by Joseph Reiser & Brendan Williams. Mastered and Vinyl Cut by Norman Nitzsche at Calyx Mastering Berlin, Germany in January 2020. Artwork by Chris Illingworth. Layout by Paul Middlewick.

Chris Illingworth: Piano.
Nick Blacka: Double Bass.
Rob Turner: Drums.

The Album Tracks In Review…

According to a live stream Q & A interview with Chris Illingworth hosted by Andy Stott on the 4th June. The reasoning behind the self-titled name that was chosen for the album was down to them not being able to find a track from the new material that would represent the album as a whole. Whereas in the past they always had certain tracks that had a sort of concept or influential meaning behind them that would fit in with an appropriate album title. The other reason for the album having no title was so that is would stand out and say this is who we are so to speak.

The one thing that GoGo Penguin decided on from the start of their career is that they were a band which is why they chose a band name rather than go along with the name of one of the members from it like most Jazz Trio’s would do for example. Even though they appear to look like a jazz trio with the instruments they play, their music could not really be tied to one specific genre and they fuse many ideas from many different genres and styles to make it what it is. They also work as a group or a team in putting their music together and effectively it is done in the way of a statement to say this is who we are and what we do sort of thing.

The new material on their latest album in a way could be seen as extension or expansion of the material that was written for their previous two albums, it also really shows how the band are growing more with confidence. There is no doubt that the band have found their own unique style and are sticking with that formula so let’s now take a closer look at the album individual album tracks to see how it all pans out.

Track 1. 1_#.

T 1 b_Fotor

By the looks of the title it appears that the band have started to go more minimalistic with them as well 🙂 This opening track could even be seen as a sharp introduction and effectively that is what is. It’s the shortest track one the album and is a dramatic little ditty played on the keys, to which a bit of bowed bass harmonics and field recordings of the rain, wind, birds and children have been thrown in for good measure to make the piece more effective and interesting.

The sound of the rain pelting down on the windows or roof always gives me a feeling and sense of warmth and security when you are stuck indoors and out of the rain and this opening little ditty captures that. Listening to this piece I visualise myself looking out of a window at the blustery weather in a quiet room like a study and perhaps would have titled it somewhere along the lines of “The Study” or “Out Of It All”.

Track 2. Atomised.

T 2_Fotor

A change of pace from the much slower opening dramatic piece and the heat is turned up a good few notch’s and this is where the album kicks in sort of thing. Atomisation is a process that reduces things to fine or smaller particles and this is a piece that was constructed around a small particle or rather a 10 second piano loop that Rob Turner came up in Ableton.

Both he and Nick Blacka jammed around the small piece and it was when Turner incorporated a UK garage style beat into it that the bass line came together. Chris Illingworth refined the piano parts and added some classical-inspired flourishes over the top. It very much shows how the band work together has a team and how minimalistic ideas is very much a part of the process of their music.

The band decided to record it live and do a live video of it at Low Four Studios earlier on in the year and recently stuck it on their official Youtube channel to further promote the album and let people know its out there. They very much played it all as well instead of playing a radio edit of the piece and have got it down to a tee. Turner also incorporated a bit of hip-hop style on the kit to break it up for the change at the end.

It’s a very well worked out piece that contains some fine progression as it develops and works its way along and does wonders to inject a bit more adrenalin into the album with its faster pace. For many “Atomised” will be seen as one of the albums stand out tracks and it has to be a contender for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 3. Signal In The Noise.

T 3_Fotor

The longest track on the album weighing in at just over 6 minutes and this is a piece that was developed over many years and one they had kept toying around with ideas to try and make it work. They even incorporated parts from other pieces that they had been working on for years and it all started out from the drums to which Illingworth added further ideas into it. They even recorded a version of it for their last album A Humdrum Star but decided to leave it off that album and use it for this one instead.

It’s very much a piece that has bags of progression along its path with all the ideas and parts that have been put into it to make it what’s it’s become. There is a lot of rhythmical patterns that have gone into making it and Illingworth has managed to sculpture some fine melodic lines into the piece. It’s a piece that also uses some effects and all 3 musicians have worked their butt off to make it what is. “Signal In The Noise” is my persona; favourite track on the album and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 4. Open.

T 4_Fotor

This is a lovely piece that has more of a melodic structure to it, it also has a slight touch of an oriental feel to it as well and uses effects to which Chris Illingworth used an effects pedal on his piano. The pedal he used is a Tensor made by Red panda (as seen below) and it has all sorts of delays, reverse pitch shifting, time stretching and hold effects, it also has a looper and is quite a creative tool.

Tensor Effect Pedal_Fotor

It’s very much a very well worked out composition to which a lot more thought as gone into how the piece is written and develops along. The piece is very much structured around the piano and Illingworth is working his butt off on the piece going through many melodic changes and flourishes on the keys. You really do have to have some strength in your fingers to play a piece like this and they are doing a damn site more work that the effects pedal is doing that’s for sure.

To be honest although the effects pedal is doing its job with its swirling and swooshing reverse effect you could just as easily get away without it and it’s use is really bugger all in relation to the work that has been put into the piano, bass and drums. Nick Blacka literally has to weave his bass lines around the piano and he’s done it to perfection. Even his bowed work on the bass that comes into play around the 3:33 mark is a damn site more effective than the pedal 🙂

Rob Turner uses mallets instead of sticks to give it it more of a softer acoustic sound and it was their producer Brendan Williams who suggested the idea to him. It pays to have a good producer at hand and they work to very good effect on the track.

Overall, “Open” is a really GREAT! album track and even though the band are still working around minimalistic repeating sequences there is a lot more progression and thought put into its melodic structure and it carries a lot of weight. It very much another contender the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 5. F Maj Pixie.

T 5_Fotor

I can only presume that this piece is played in F Major judging by the title and the other smaller part in the title came from a riff that reminded them of the band The Pixies according to an interview with Nick Blacka I read. This is another wonderful piece with a GREAT! melodic structure to which once again came from the idea of an electronic piece that was developed in Ableton Live’s DAW. They had been working on a couple of ideas over a few weeks separately and in the end decided to put them both together and the result worked out very well, I think.

You can hear how well it all turned out in this other live video of the band that was once again filmed at Low Four Studios in Manchester which is taken from their official Youtube channel and they do a GREAT! job of it.

I quite like the quite dramatic change at the end too and that might have come from one of the other pieces they were working on at the time, but it all fits in very well and besides supporting the drums Blacka’s bass line also provides a very good counter melody to the piece. “F Maj Pixie” is another GREAT! album track that has a shining bright quality to it and you can see how well they work as individuals.

Track 6. Kora.

T 6_Fotor

The title is named after the African stringed instrument in the picture above and the inspiration for this particular piece came from hearing a chap playing one in Piccadilly Gardens which is nothing to do with Piccadilly Circus in London but rather a green space in Manchester city centre. It’s the sound of the instrument that fascinated Illingworth and he wanted to try and replicate the sound on the piano by muting some of the strings in typical Jamie Cullum style who he has met in the past and also has done the same thing on other tracks in the past.

You can see how effective the muted strings work and how like Cullum he has very much mastered the technique. Although the sound it makes very much gives it sort of an oriental vibe and is similar to the Koto which is a Japanese stringed musical instrument derived from China. But it is quite effective and has a plucky sort of characteristic to the sound it projects like the both of these stringed instruments. The live video was once again captured at Low Four Studios.

There is quite a great deal of skill that goes into pulling off a piano performance like this live and Illingworth needs to be on the ball all the time with his concentration and no doubt has his work cut out. It’s perhaps one of the most complex pieces on the album and all 3 musicians have done a GRAND! job on it. It’s very much like “Atomised” with its energy and with how the track stands out on the album and is another contender for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 7. Totem.

T 7_Fotor

This is another of the more dramatic pieces on the album and its one that starts off slowly and builds itself up to a comfortable pace to drive it along quite well. Once again, all 3 musicians are working their butt off here and do an amicable job on the piece. The title of the track was inspired by Grayson Perry’s novel “The Descent of Man” and in his book, he describes the financial parts of the city as being a forest of huge totems jutting into the sky.

It’s got quite a THEMATIC! feel to it with how the music is structured and the pace it drives along at. The bass line carries the theme throughout along with the piano which also builds up around the theme. Interesting enough Grayson Perry was into James Bond and military toys and I wonder if that was also another inspiration to inject a thematic approach to the piece. It’s nothing like a Bond theme but it does sound like they are on a mission here and it’s another fine album track.

Track 8. Embers.

T 8_Fotor

It’s time to soothe things right down to a more calming and relaxed pace and this piece was designed for that purpose and the band wanted something that would reflect the mood of sitting down in one place. They also wanted to create an idea of visiting a particular space briefly and before you know it’s gone. I suppose a fire and it’s burning embers matched that description and they done a very good job of it here and its perhaps not going to set the world on fire so to speak, but is pleasant enough to relax in front of the fire with a nice cup of drinking chocolate or cocoa.

Track 9. To The Nth.

Well the title sounds like it was inspired from the streets in New York but the original idea started out from something that Rob Turner had knocked up in Ableton whilst he was in Tokyo. Like many of the pieces that come from these ideas they very much get further developed and constructed into fine works of art and this particular piece does have more of a jazz structure to it and is lovely flowing piece of work.

There is a bit more of a nice steady flowing pace to this track and its got quite an harmonic and melodic structure to it and it even allows Nick Blacka to squeeze in a bit of bass solo around the 2 minute mark and I like how you can hear his bass strings rattling along with the vibration. I like how the piece builds up too and they all done another GREAT! job here. It perhaps does not have the energy of some of the earlier tracks on the album however, it does have an uplifting feel to it and it’s another really GREAT! album track.

Track 10. Don’t Go.

T 10_Fotor

Sadly, it’s time to go but it’s no use throwing a tantrum over it like the picture I chose here and no doubt they will be back with another GREAT! album sometime in the near future. This is another piece that was specifically designed to put an end to the album and once again the band recorded it live at Low Four Studios and posted it on their official Youtube channel. They do play the piece slightly faster than it is on the album and Illingworth does not mute the keys on the piano to give it that pluck sound either.

It’s very much more minimalistic in that it uses a repeated sequence of notes on the piano riff that are consistent throughout the short piece. Turner works his way very subtly on the piece and Blacka plays a semi improvised bass melody that works very with the piano. It’s quite an emotive piece and rounds off the album very well.


To sum up GoGo Penguin’s latest self-titled album there is no doubt that this particular album has all the makings of their previous two albums and it reflects certain similarities to the material that was written for much of the bands output and it very much all fits in with what the band is and who they are which is really what they saying with its eponymous title. 

However, I would not exactly say that the material on their new album could be seen has a step forward. But it still carries a torch and does measure up to their previous albums in that is does maintain their formidable style and that to me is more important rather than going in a completely different direction.  

Most of the albums strength and excitement I do tend to find has been injected into the first half of the album more or less and effectively it could be seen as an album that has two sides to reflect different moods. I cannot fault any of the material on the album but I do feel that juggling around with the track placement might have helped a bit in particular with how the last few tracks on the album tend to all flow along at a more steady pace and not having something a bit more upbeat to break it up. 

Like many of their albums they do come with a certain amount of standout tracks and this album is not short of them either and my particular highlights from the album are as follows: “Atomised“. “Signal In The Noise“. “Open” “Kora” and I would also include “To The Nth“. 


To conclude my review the new self-titled album by GoGo Penguin. I personally do not think it’s a solid album and on par with the strength of the material that was written for their last couple of albums. However, that’s not to say that some of the material is not on equal terms with those albums and there is nothing here to disappoint either and overall, its a very enjoyable album to listen to. Like all their albums they have been very well produced and sound GREAT! 

I certainly do not think that their record label Blue Note Records will not be wanting to extend their 3-year record contract with the band either should they choose to stay with them. What lies next for the band will very much be in the hands of their management who has very much steered them along the road of their success. 

The good thing about GoGo Penguin’s music is that it’s not only attracting the younger generation but people of all ages and you can see that by many of the audiences at their live shows. Speaking of playing live once all this pandemic has blown over and they are able to go back out on the road I shall very much try and find the time to see them play live and I know for a fact with how particular this band pay a good bit of attention in getting a good sound it will be worth seeing them live. 

You will get to hear them properly too unlike the biggest majority of these neo prog rock bands who sound totally SHITE! live because they play at ridiculous volume levels and make up some perthitic excuse that they have to play that loud to get a good recording. I’ve never heard of so much crap in my life before and I would not bother wasting my money again going to see a lot of them.  

Over the past month or so since getting into the music of GoGo Penguin who to be honest (like I said at the beginning of this interrupted 5-part series of reviews of their discography) have a name that I never thought would have attracted my attention in million years. I can honestly say that I enjoy their music a lot and all of their albums was well worth adding to my record collection and will sit proudly on my shelf. They are without doubt GREAT! well talented musicians who have brought something a bit new and fresh for my ears to enjoy. 


Selfie Released Penguin On The GoGo…

The Album track listing is as follows:

01. 1_#. 2:02.
02. Atomised. 4:23.
03. Signal In The Noise. 6:03.
04. Open. 4:47.
05. F Maj Pixie. 5:48.
06. Kora. 5:35.
07. Totem. 3:54.
08. Embers. 3:00.
09. To The Nth. 4:34.
10. Don’t Go. 3:39.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 8/10.

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

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.