Lee Speaks About Music… #184

Animation (Expanded & Remastered Digipak Edition) – Jon Anderson



John Anderson’s third solo album Animation is the latest to be re-released and reissued by Esoteric Recordings and I have to admit I quite like how they have been repackaging his albums in quality Digipaks. However, as to why any of these newly remastered albums in this series come advertised as “Expanded” sure as hell beats the life out of me. But perhaps one of the most disappointing things about all these reissues is that they do not come with a 5.1 surround mix and Jon Anderson or his record company Atlantic Records must have been very careless when he made these albums for non of the multi-track tapes to survive.

Like I mentioned in my other reviews I only ever had his debut album from many moons ago and this album is really new to me as I have never heard anything of it until now. To be perfectly honest having purchased his second solo album Song Of Seven I was not even gonna bother buying any more of his albums as I found it quite disappointing and only a couple of tracks really stood out. The thing that twisted my arm in the first place to buy this album and his second album was really down to the review I saw of Animation on Barry’s Classic Album Review to which he was unboxing it a month before it was due to be released. I was quite taken in by some of the strong positive comments left on his unboxing video and even his own views reflected a positive vibe for the album.

If you have not tuned into Barry’s Youtube channel I highly recommend it and he really is a guy who can speak about music and I always enjoy his reviews. I even used his affiliated link to pre-order my copy which gave him a few micro pennies for the good work he is doing.

Having read quite a bit of the praise this album got within those positive comments do they really measure up to it being a good album? Well of course we all have different perceptions of how we ourselves perceive music and my opinion and that of many others are bound to vary. One of the comments even pointed out that it was as good as any Yes album but is it really? Well before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

The CD comes in a quality cardboard Gatefold Digipak that replicates the original vinyl album cover very well. The good thing about Digipaks is that they come with the same plastic insert and hub to hold the disc in place as you will find in a standard jewel case so they do provide the same ample protection for the disc. I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon UK on the 28th of March and it arrived on the day of its release. It came at a very respectable price and I even saved 97p by pre-ordering it and got it for £10.02.

The album cover artwork was inspired by a photo that someone had taken and Anderson quite liked the effect they had done so he used it for the album cover. The CD Package Design was done by Meriel Waissan. I cannot say it’s the best picture of Jon Anderson I have seen and personally I think it’s the worst and I think the album cover looks dreadful 😊😊😊.

The Album In Review…

Jon Anderson’s 3rd solo album Animation was released sometime in April 1982. The album contained 9 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 41 minutes, 32 seconds. This new reissue by Esoteric Recordings was released on the 30th of April 2021 and has once again been defined as an “Expanded” edition. It contains 11 tracks over an overall playing time of 57 minutes. 22 seconds, though I beg to differ that a couple of bonus tracks would hardly make any album “Expanded” in the right sense of the word and there is nothing unusual when it comes to adding a few bonus tracks with CD releases. They have done so for years simply because Vinyl has its restrictions with what you can actually fit on it which is why bonus tracks are often associated with CD’s down to the fact that they have twice the capacity.

To “Expand” any album you would really need to be looking for material that was recorded during the sessions of making the original album. It could be material that was left off the album or longer versions of the original tracks that were edited down for the final album. One example would be the differences between the Vinyl and CD releases of Brothers In Arms by Dire Straits where the CD version is a lot longer and that version could very well be seen as “Expanded”. Other examples are where they place material that was recorded at the same time in between the tracks of the original album and not at the end which is the norm for the placement of bonus tracks.

Only one of the bonus tracks you get here came from the original recording sessions of the album and was used for the B-Side of the single release of one of the tracks from the original album. The other bonus track comes from another time period and was not done during the recording sessions of the album.

Animation is an album that has not been reissued that many times and it was not until 2006 that the album first surfaced on a CD. It was released here in the UK on an independent label known as Opio Media and due to the fact that many other of Anderson’s solo albums (and only his) have appeared later on this label over the years, suggests that it is Anderson himself who is running this label.

Opio Media

Judging by the design of the record labels logo above, also puts me in mind that it is Anderson who is behind it. This particular CD release was mastered by Daniel Earnshaw at Vortex Sound Studios in Boston, Massachusetts. Those who purchased it had nothing but complaints about its inferior quality claiming that the recording was not taken from the original master tapes but from a worn-out vinyl record.

It was also released in the same year in Japan only on the Arcàngelo label. This edition came in a paper sleeve and my guess is that they copied the UK CD release and popped in a paper sleeve and this is so typical of Japanese releases to which many claim are far more superior recordings. I am not stating that Japan does this all the time with recordings and some of them can be excellent and a proper job has been done with them. Though with my experience over the years with Japanese imports I would say the biggest majority of the time you will get ripped off and pay extra for the privilege as well 😊😊😊.

There is also another factor that suggests that Anderson was behind this 2006 CD release and that is down to the previously unreleased bonus track “The Spell” which is also included in this new expanded edition along with “Spider” which was officially released as the B-Side of “Surrender“. It’s unfortunate that “The Spell” only exists as a demo on a Cassette to which only Anderson has in his possession. Esoteric Recordings have replicated this 2006 release and rehashed it as an “Expanded Edition” when in reality it’s nothing of the sort. The quality, however, might be a bit better than that 2006 release apart from the rough demo to which nothing really could be done with it.

Most of the material that found its way onto Animation was written by Anderson in 1981 and recorded once again at his home studio between 1981/82. It was also a very busy year for him as he was also working with both Mike Oldfield and Vangelis at the same time. Neil Kernon who was noted for working with acts such as Brand X, Daryl Hall and John Oates was at the helm of most of the production and it also contains a song that was produced with Tony Visconti who is perhaps more renowned as a record producer and had worked with more mainstream British acts such as David Bowie and T. Rex to name a couple.

The albums title and self-titled track were inspired by the birth of his daughter Jade in 1980 and it was the beautiful way she moved in an animated way that made him choose the title in honour of her. I am guessing that the picture that was used for the album cover may have been taken around the time of her birth which is another reason he wanted to use it.

Animation did not sell well upon its release and did not quite break into the UK Top 40 Album charts like his previous album did and peaked just outside at number 43. In the US it did even worse and only reached 176 in the Billboard charts. Two singles were released from the album though neither of them managed to make a dent in the charts. He even put on more shows than his previous album and performed 23 shows in the US between the 7th of June to the 25th of August after the release of the album. All of the main core of the band that played on the album was assembled for the live tour apart from Simon Phillips who was not available and was replaced by Guy Shiffman.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Jon Anderson & Neil Kernon except “All Gods Children” Produced by Tony Visconti & Jon Anderson. All songs were written by Jon Anderson (except “All Gods Children”) by Jon & Jennifer Anderson. Recorded sometime between 1981/82 at Seer Green Studios in Buckinghamshire, England. Recording Engineers Mark Wallace & Raphael Preston (except for “Olympia”) Mike Dunne. Engineered and Mixed by Neil Kernon & Jon Anderson. Cover Design by Jon Anderson. CD Package Design by Meriel Waissan. Conducted Interview Essay by Malcolm Dome. 24-bit digital remastering from the original master tapes by Paschal Byrne at The Audio Archiving Company Hertfordshire, England.

Jon Anderson: Vocals – Acoustic Guitar.
Clem Clempson: Guitars.
Stefano Cerri: Bass.
David Sancious: Keyboards.
Simon Phillips: Drums & Percussion.
Chris Rainbow: Vocals.

Additional Musicians.
Dave Lawson / Ronnie Leahy / Blue Weaver: Keyboards.
Jack Bruce / John Giblin: Bass.
Billy Kristian: Guitar.
Ian Wallace: Drums.
Morris Pert / Brother James / Brazil Idiots: Percussion.
Brass Section: Dick Morrissey / Henry Lowther / Chris Pyne / Tony Stanton.
Delmé String Quartet: Arranged by David Ogden.
The Gosplets Choir: Arranged by Eugene Sister Moule.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Glancing at the musicians who appear on the album many of them played on his previous album only here they have been shuffled around a bit and both Clem Clempson and Simon Phillips are now in the main core of the band and not in the additional musician’s list. Chris Rainbow is the only one to have kept his place in the main core line-up and both David Sancious and Stefano Cerri who were not on the previous album make up the main core of the band. It’s also noticeable that Morris Pert who played the drums on the previous album has been relegated to the additional musician’s list and that may have been down to Anderson working with Phillips on the new Mike Oldfield album Crises at the time.

Although even additional musicians can have a sufficient role as a session player and according to the former Greenslade keyboardist Dave Lawson he had a vivid recollection of the 6 tracks he contributed overdubs to which he did them all on the 30th of July 1981 and was paid £517.50 for his time. The fact there are a total of four keyboard players on this album suggests that Anderson was looking for a more keyboard orientated album or even to give it more of an electronic approach. Technology was moving on with keyboards in the 80’s especially with the birth of midi and Anderson was very much aware of it.

I have to confess that keyboard orientated music is not really my cup of tea and it was down to that in the 80’s that made me turn my back on many bands even to the point of having no further interest in the radio especially as far as pop music goes. But once again he has onboard some highly skilled musicians but is that enough to turn things around for my personal taste? Well, let’s find out as I go through the album tracks and the couple of bonus tracks.

Track 1. Olympia.

Most people would associate the title of this song with Greece and sports. However, the Olympia that Anderson is refering to in these lyrics is an exhibition centre in London and the inspiration came from a time he came across a lot of new technology at the place to which opened up a new world to him. The technology that did interest him was the electronic side of things and you can hear that in this song although the opening guitar riff by Clem Clempson is nothing new around this time and it’s a bit remiscent to the sythesized sound Steve Hillage had on his guitar much earlier than this.

The song it’s self is very uptempo and perhaps typical of 80’s rock in that it all sounds rather lightweight. This song does not want remastering it needs a new mix to put some HUMPH! into the thing. It very much reminds me of how badly mixed Meatloaf’sBat Out Of Hell” was mixed where the frequencies are way to high. You cannot rock anything out with a tin box recording and that’s why neither of these two songs have the power to rock even if they have the energy. The only people who are gonna get off with this song are those who listen to music on transistor radios and tin boxes 😊😊😊.

Track 2. Animation.

The albums self-titled track is the longest track on the album (excluding bonus tracks) weighing in at just over 9 minutes. This has a lot more progression and transitional changes in it and it’s quite THEMATIC! and verging on CINEMATIC! in parts. The quirky rather bizarre opening is interesting with the use of keyboard and vocal effects and puts me in mind of Frank Zappa and the effects they used on “Ritual” from Topographic Oceans. Some of the thematic keyboard parts put me in mind of Asia and the heavy percussion works very well too.

Like I mentioned earlier this particular song was done in honour of the birth of his daughter Jade and the lyrics very much pertain to that and although they are meaningful lyrics I am not really sure that they fit the musical presentation we have here. Though Anderson does express them well with his voice and the musical structure and recording is much better than the opening track on the album.

There are quite a few transitional changes along the path of this song and the section from 3:50 onwards utilises the Delmé String Quartet: Arranged by David Ogden very well. The song also trickles its way out nicely in almost Vangelis style with Anderson’s voice and the electric piano. It is by far the best track on the album and might be the only good track on the album but let’s see.

Track 3. Surrender.

Anderson is in the tropical summer holiday mood like we saw with some of the songs on his previous album it was the main single release from the album. The way of surrendering is perhaps unusual in that it’s a peaceful way to do so and the words are pertaining to the government surrendering all the weapons of mass destruction so they can blow them up in space so everybody can celebrate in a joyous way. The intentions are good if anything else though it’s easy to see why the single release never did a thing.

Track 4. All in a Matter of Time.

Another single release from the album that pertains to the wonders of the world that we wake up to each day and I suppose it takes time to take them all in sort of thing. The song has the presence of happiness about it and Anderson’s voice is in fine shape for the song. The bass and guitars do a fine job here too, although a song like this is hardly going to set the world on fire no matter how much time it takes 😊😊😊.

Track 5. Unlearning (The Dividing Line).

Another song that has quite a dominant bassline and one that ticks over at a sort of uplifting pace. It’s quite a simplistic song and whoever out the two bass players is playing the bass is perhaps the most interesting thing here. The keyboard work is as straightforward as you can get and is just playing simple chords. Like the previous song it does nothing for me I am afraid and even the lyrical content is weird even if they do pertain to the title of the song.

Track 6. Boundaries.

This next song not only appeared later on Anderson’s 11th studio album The Promise Ring under the title of “O’er” but also on the Yes album Open Your Eyes under the title of “Somehow, Someday” in the same year. This version has more of a Celtic ballad feel about it that’s quite different to how Yes did it though both versions are not fitting to Yes Music which is why that particular Yes album never said a Dickie Bird to me when I wasted my money on it back in 1997. He also changed the lyrics for the Yes version whereas the other version on The Promising Ring was just a different arrangement to which he sang the original words and accompanied himself on a keyboard.

Track 7. Pressure Point.

This is very much a keyboard orientated song and my guess is that Anderson was trying to keep up with the electro vibe that many were doing back in the 80’s. The only thing that sounds remotely interesting about this song is the pounding drums and percussion and the keyboard solo which is verging on the synth sound that Patrick Moraz used. This is not my cup of tea at all and the less said about it the better me thinks 😊😊😊.

Track 8. Much Better Reason.

An uptempo love song to which the band are all in the groove and they GEL! quite well together here. The bass and drums in particular are well in the groove of things and the middle section has a sort of Calypso and Samba jive about it. Anderson also sings a bit of Italian along the way and lyrically it’s pertaining to feeling good with yourself. It’s a song one could dance to and one of the better songs on the album which is really down to how tight and close nit the band are and nothing else.

Track 9. All Gods Children.

The final track on the original album is perhaps like a Gospel Anthem sort of like Leonard Cohen’sHallelujah” only funked up in a modern way and if you are into song’s like that then this might float your boat so to speak. Anderson co-wrote this song with his wife and it was produced by Tony Visconti. It also features Eugene Sister Moule and The Gosplets Choir and to be honest I am not sure if it’s just the voice of Moule making up the choir himself or if he has a choir and is conducting and arranging them. However, all are doing a fine job here even if it’s not my cup of tea.

Bonus Tracks…

The first of the two bonus tracks is entitled “Spider” and was left off the original album and used for the B-Side of “Surrender“. According to Anderson, the song is based on an old Irish story about the 13th sign of the zodiac, the spider sign. It’s only a short song just under 3 minutes and he has his daughter Deborah explaining the story. It’s not a bad song and personally, I prefer it to the A-Side it also features a nice little guitar solo from Clemson.

The second bonus track entitled “The Spell” was a piece that Anderson recorded quite a while before “Animation” and it was originally called “Twins” and was a story he was writing in the way of a concept album but at the time the record company did not get it so it got shelved. What you get here is an outtake in the form of an 11 minute, 42-second rough demo and the recording came from a cassette. As rough as it is I personally think this is better than anything on this album and it puts me in mind of how he worked with Vangelis on the self-titled track “The Friends of Mr Cairo” with the dramatisation of the story.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of Animation by Jon Anderson. I found the more times I played the album the less I liked it and it had very little to offer over the original nine tracks on the album, even less than his second album Song Of Seven which was only a half-decent album. I think one of the key factors of how this album is let down is really down to the mix and the actual source of the recordings that were used. Out of his first three albums that have so far been remastered and reissued by Esoteric Recordings Song Of Seven is the only album that sounds alright whereas this album and his debut album are pretty much inferior recordings and I doubt very much they used any master tapes at all and if they did all I can say is that they were not in good shape.

It’s not so much the songs on Animation that let it down in some cases but these dreadful recordings. Although I will admit some of the material on the album is not my cup of tea at all, whereas tracks like “Olympia” and “All in a Matter of Time” may have appealed a lot more to me if it was not for the mix. This is an album that really needs to be remixed rather than remastered. The albums self-titled track “Animation” is my only real highlight from the original tracks on the album and I would also throw in the couple of bonus tracks to which I personally think is better-written material than the biggest majority of the tracks along the original album.

I did mention in my review of Olias of Sunhillow (in this three-part series of his albums) that I would give Anderson’s solo career another chance after 40 years because it was down to him changing his direction into a more popified persona that put me off in the first place. Having purchased this album I would say I wasted my money and this is where I now draw the line and have decided to knock it on the head and not bother with any future releases that Esoteric Recordings might have planned to release from his discography. You could say I Surrender 😊😊😊.

Sometimes it pays to go by your own gut instinct rather than go by reviews. As for any of the material on Animation being likened or as good as Yes as some of the comments pointed out. It’s nothing remotely like Yes Music and it’s really an album that personifies much of the keyboard orientated music that was going on back in the 80’s. If you are into that sort of music from that decade this album might float your boat a lot more than myself. I would also say if you have the original vinyl album I would stick with that rather than throw money at this release.

I Really Do Surrender…

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:

01. Olympia. 4:58.
02. Animation. 9:05.
03. Surrender. 3:55.
04. All In A Matter Of Time. 3:07.
05. Unlearning (The Divided Line). 4:55.
06. Boundaries. 3:19.
07. Pressure Point. 4:32.
08. Much Better Reason. 4:24.
09. All God’s Children. 4:30.
10. Spider (Bonus Track). 2:55.
11. Spell [Outtake] (Bonus Track). 11:42.

The Packaging Rating Score. 9/10.

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

The Album Rating Score. 3/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #183

Song’s Of Seven (Expanded & Remastered Digipak Edition) – Jon Anderson



Jon Anderson’s second solo album Song of Seven see’s him taking a different direction in relation to his debut album Olias Of Sunhillow not only in the musical side of things but also down to the fact that other musicians were brought in to lend a hand in the making of it. He did in fact bring in quite an array of musicians and gave them the title of The New Life Band. The album was made at the time Anderson had departed from Yes back in 1980 and it was very much down to its musical differences that were the reason I myself never took any interest nor bothered with it. I do remember him either on the radio or on the TV doing one of the songs from the album and it was not really my cup of tea and perhaps too popified for my liking.

Now some 40 odd years later and since the re-release of his debut album that’s been done in conjunction with Esoteric Recordings, I thought it was time to give his solo career a bit more of a chance and see if it speaks to me any better today. After all, the price point is very reasonably cheap enough to do so and it’s not going to break the bank in doing so. Not only that I quite like how Esoteric Recordings have repackaged these new reissues so before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork per usual.

Packaging & Artwork…

The CD comes in a very neat cardboard quality Digipak that has a glossy finish and overall gives the album a very stylish presentation. They certainly have not skimped here and neither did they with the 24-page booklet that not only comes with all the lyrics, linear and production credit notes but also you get a very informative essay written by Malcolm Dome that came out of the interview he conducted with Anderson back in September 2020. I got my copy from Amazon for £10.99 which is an excellent price.

The albums illustrative artwork was done by Ian Nicholson and although Anderson is credited for the cover design he simply left the artist to show him some ideas and rough sketches. The photographs were done by his wife at the time Jennifer Elizabeth Anderson and Alwyn Clayden provided the art direction. Overall, I think it’s a good enough album cover with the stained glass windows and they were something that Anderson liked himself.

The Album In Review…

Song of Seven by Jon Anderson was released on the 7th of November 1980. The original album contained 9 tracks spread over an overall time of just over 39 minutes. This new so-called “Expanded” edition was released on the 27th of November 2020 and comes with 2 additional bonus tracks giving the album an overall playing time of 47 minutes, 12 seconds. I say the so-called “Expanded” edition simply because the two bonus tracks that are included are merely edited down shorter versions of a couple of tracks on the album namely “Some Are Born” and “Heart of the Matter“. The reason why they were shortened down was for promotional purposes for release in the US.

Like his debut album, Olias Of Sunhillow Anderson recorded the tracks at his home studio in Seer Green Studios in Buckinghamshire, England, and recording engineer Mike Dunne was once again at the helm of it. Four of the 9 tracks on the album “Some Are Born“, “Days“, “Everybody Loves You” and “Hear It” was originally written and demoed during the Tormato sessions with his former band. I have to admit that particular Yes album was heavily criticized (by myself included) although in all fairness the material that did make it on the Tormato album was certainly stronger than what we have here and in all honesty, there is more quality and progression on the first couple of Yes albums than what we have here too.

It was most likely the disappointing reviews and heavy criticism that Tormato received that led to both Anderson and Rick Wakeman leaving rather than them struggling to record a new album. Anderson did say to put the band on hold to which quite rightly the other members refused to do hence why we got the Yes album Drama in the same year.

Having left the band in 1980 things looked to be on the up for Anderson when Virgin Records offered him a contract and a big fat cheque upfront in the hope of further catapulting his solo career into stardom. It was around the same time Phil Collins of Genesis was offered a contract with the record company and he was about to embark and launch his own solo career. To be honest it perhaps comes as no surprise why Virgin would offer Anderson such a contract when you look at the success he not only had with his former band but more so with Vangelis when it comes down to popularity and music aimed for singles in the pop charts.

However, what was to be an exciting prospect at the time all backfired when having heard a couple of the songs and ideas he was working on, the chaps at Virgin were not impressed and demanded their money back to which he handed it all back. By comparison to Collins, you could say that Anderson’s popularity was waning and perhaps more on par with Tony Banks solo career when it came down to popularity. Whereas Collins solo career ROCKETED! and he went on to sell more records than Anderson, Yes and Genesis combined.

In the end, Anderson signed back up with Atlantic Records basically because Ahmet Ertegun was not like many others who were hunting for potential hit records and let the artists do their own thing. The album was not widely received although it did manage to get into the UK Top 40 album charts peaking at number 38. In the US Billboard charts, it managed to reach 143. Four singles in total were released from the album both “Some Are Born” and “Take Your Time” were released in the US whilst “Heart of the Matter” was the UK single release. “Everybody Loves You” was a single release in the Netherlands though none of them was successful.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Jon Anderson. All songs written and arranged by Jon Anderson except track 4 “Heart of the Matter” written by Jon Anderson & Ronnie Leahy. Recorded sometime between spring and summer 1980 at Seer Green Studios in Buckinghamshire, England. Recording Engineer Mike Dunne. Electronics Brian Gaylor. Cover Design by Jon Anderson. Illustrative Artwork by Ian Nicholson. Art Direction by Alwyn Clayden. Photography by Jennifer Elizabeth Anderson. Conducted Interview Essay by Malcolm Dome. 24-bit digital remastering from the original master tapes by Ben Wiseman at Broadlake Studios Hertfordshire, England.

Jon Anderson: Lead Vocals – Acoustic Guitar (Track 2) – Keyboards (Tracks 1,7,8) – Harp (Track 9).
Ian Bairnson: Guitars (Tracks 1,2,3,5,6,7,8) – Bass (Track 2) – Backing Vocals (Track 2).
John Giblin: Fretless Bass (Tracks 1,3,6,7,8,9).
Ronnie Leahy: Keyboards (All Tracks).
Morris Pert: Drums & Percussion (Tracks 1,2,3,5,6,7,9).
Chris Rainbow: Backing Vocals (Tracks 2,3,4,6,8,8).

Additional Musicians.
Clem Clempson: Guitar (Tracks 4,9).
Jack Bruce: Bass (Track4).
Mel: Bass (Track 5).
Simon Phillips: Drums (Track 4).
Dick Morrissey: Saxophone (Tracks 2,4).
Johnny Dankworth: Alto Saxophone (Track 3).
Damian Anderson: Keyboards (Track 5).
Deborah Anderson: Harmony Vocals (Track 9).
Delmé String Quartet: Arranged by David Ogden (Track9).

The Album Tracks In Review…

As you can see by the list of musicians above there are some well recognisable ones and much of it was down to Anderson’s good friend and keyboard player Ronnie Leahy who knew a lot of musicians and he roped most of them in. Leahy first gained recognition as a keyboardist in the second line-up of Scottish band Stone the Crows back in the early 70’s. He also played on Steve Howe’s second solo album The Steve Howe Album and later went on to be the keyboard player for the rock band, Nazareth.

It was also Leahy who assembled the lineup of The New Life Band to take it on the road to promote the album towards the end of the following year that the album was released. Although it was not an extensive live tour and they only played six shows during December 1981 in the UK and one in Germany that preceded them a month earlier. Much of the lineup was the same core members of the band except for guitarist Ian Bairnson who was most likely doing something else and guitarists Les Davidson and Joe Partridge stepped into his shoes so to speak. The drummer Barry de Souza was also brought in to play alongside Morris Pert.

Song of Seven is not an album that has a concept unlike his debut album and is a collection of songs that make it up. As to the meaning of the album title, it illudes and confuses me with how Anderson says it’s obvious when describing it in the interview that was conducted by Malcolm Dome. He also went on to say the following:

The number ‘seven’ has always been very important. You think about it. There are seven days in the week for a start. And if you ask anyone to choose a number between one and twelve the chances are that they will opt for seven every time. So, as far as I was concerned, this was the logical choice for the album title. 

Personally, I rather think that making an album with seven songs would have been more fitting to describe the album’s title and it may have been the logical thing to do. As for asking anyone to choose a number between one and twelve I hardly think that is the case although the chances of seven popping up more times might apply when rolling the dice and seven has also been noted as a lucky number for some and there may be more logic in that 😊😊😊. But anyway let’s now take a look at the individual tracks on the album and see if we can find seven good songs out of the nine.

Track 1. For You for Me.

The opening song is very much heavily synth-driven by Ronnie Leahy’s keyboards, also Anderson plays alongside him on the keyboards on this song. However, John Giblin’s bass and Ian Bairnson guitar manage to cut through quite well were as Morris Pert’s drums and percussion are perhaps held back a bit too much in the mix but nevertheless lend a light-hearted feel to keep the song ticking over. Anderson’s voice conveys the words and the message very well and this is a song that runs along at the same sort of pace as “The State of Independence” that he went on to do with Vangelis a year later on their The Friends of Mr Cairo album. 

One of the strong points about this particular song is Anderson’s lyrics and although the song pertains to love the picture I chose does not really touch on everything to which the song is really about and it takes in the creation of our planet and how mankind has destroyed the home that was provided for us sort thing. He’s conveying the right message in the song and he’s penned the lyrical content very well into context.

The musical side of things (despite having some really GREAT! musicians who have played for countless other artists over the years) is where I feel the weakness of the song creeps in because although there is a chorus it all sounds the same and tends to run along in one direction.  

Track 2. Some Are Born.

This next song is one of the 4 demos that were written back in 1978 when Yes we working on their Tormato album. Here it’s quite evident that the song has been finished and in all fairness is a lot better than the demo he did with his former band. The lyrical content is almost intact to the original demo and it’s the arrangement where the biggest difference lies and he’s given the song more of an uplifting Caribean feel. In some respects, it puts me in mind of the Calypso vibe that was put into “Brother of Mine” on the Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe album that came along later. 

The song features Dick Morrissey on saxophone who does a solid job as ever and it’s one of the many songs to feature Chris Rainbow on backing vocals. In the interview that Malcolm Dome conducted with Anderson, he speaks highly of Rainbow’s voice, though I have to say the poor chap can hardly be heard half the time 😊😊😊.

Track 3. Don’t Forget (Nostalgia).

This song is sort of like the approach that Ian Matthews gave to the cover version he did of “Groovin’” penned by Eddie Brigati and Felix Cavaliere. It was a song that featured on his 1976 album Go For Broke and once again we have a Caribean, Calypso vibe going on with this song too. It’s perhaps the sort of song you could dance along to and the lyrical content is very much love related and basically, they are the typical words you will find in most love songs. Johnny Dankworth plays the alto sax on this one and like Morrisey also does a splendid job of it.

Track 4. Heart of the Matter.

Just by looking at the title of the song, it’s plain to see this is another love song and this one Anderson co-wrote with Leahy. Musically it’s very much uptempo and the band are well in the swing of things here. Jack Bruce plays bass on this one and his bass guitar is cooking on gas and is a dominant feature throughout. It also features Clem Clempson on guitar and Simon Phillips on drums. Morrissey is on the sax again and Rainbow’s voice is quite evident in this song. It’s quite evident that Anderson was going full-on pop with this album and it’s a long way away from what he was doing with his former band.

Track 5. Hear It.

This is the shortest track on the album just under two minutes, it’s also another one of the demos from the Tormato sessions. The original demo was well rough and I am fairly sure that only Anderson was playing on it. The version we have here is much better especially in the acoustic guitar department and Ian Bairnson has more of a dominant role-playing it. I would even say it is more guitar-driven in relation to the demo. Anderson’s son Damien Anderson also contributes some keyboards and Mel whoever that is plays bass on this song.

Track 6. Everybody Loves You.

This is another of the songs that came from the Tormato sessions and in comparison to the rough demo, this really puts the Yes version to shame. As far as pop love songs go this is about the best one on the album and I’m surprised it was only released as a single in the Netherlands. Giblin’s bass plays a dominant role along with Bairnson’s guitar. Anderson’s voice shines on this song and I like how they have ended the song.

Track 7. Take Your Time.

This next song is a real beauty and the arrangement is what makes it stand out regarding its musical structure. It’s got a laid back old fashioned feeling and that’s perhaps down the Euphonium. I guess it’s that instrument that makes me think of the Hovis TV commercial years ago that was filmed on the cobbled streets in Lancashire where Anderson was born.

Anderson’s voice is as sweet as a nut and Giblin’s bass work is also outstanding. It was released as a single in the US though personally, this is more of an album track I feel. It’s my personal favourite track on the album and merits the TOP SPOT AWARD!.

Track 8. Days.

This is another fine laid back song that once again features some outstanding bass work from Giblin. It’s the final of the 3 demos that Anderson took from the Tormato sessions and I have to say on this album they do really bloom with how they have been finished. Though it’s easy to see why any of these songs would be fitting for Yes music. The song nicely tailspins into the final song on the album.

Track 9. Song Of Seven.

The albums self-titled track is the longest track on the album weighing in at some near enough 11.5 minutes. It’s perhaps a bit more adventurous though it’s far from PROG! as we know it despite the progression along its path. It’s a piece that has been split into three parts and it utilises the Delmé String Quartet: Arranged by David Ogden on the first part in the way of an opening overture. It is, without doubt, a contender for the albums TOP SPOT! and for some, it could be their favourite of the album.

Personally, I think the transition with the piano that brings in the second part is not a perfect marriage although after a good few spins you get used to it. I also think the mix in this section is weak and lacks weight. This is the second song on the album that features Clemson on guitar and his solo that comes into play around the 7:30 mark is touching on Steve Howe’s style a bit and it was perhaps intended to make it sound like Howe.

The final part is quite interesting and Leahy’s electric piano has a Vangelis sound to it and with Anderson’s voice, it puts me in mind of “Besides” which was also from The Friends of Mr Cairo album. It makes you wonder if Anderson was working with Vangelis whilst putting this album together and that album was released in the following year. This section also features his daughter Deborah Anderson on harmony vocals and we have a bit of “Circus of Heaven” from the Tormato album going on again. There are some nice touches on the guitar from Clemson towards the end and it puts the album nicely to bed.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude Jon Anderson’s second solo album Songs of Seven it’s quite a different pedigree in relation to his debut album and it’s obvious that his intentions were to go down the road of trying to be a pop star. Anderson always liked The Beatles and Paul MacCartney in particular was who he wanted to be. Most of the material on the first side of the album is your fairly average typical run of the mill and it’s quite easy to see why Virgin Records wanted their money back when you look at the biggest majority of the material that was written. It’s hardly Top of the Pops material and the three of the four singles that were released from the album pretty much vouch for it.

The second side of the album is what really holds the album up and speaks to me a lot more. Both “Take Your Time” and the albums self-titled track “Song of Seven” are my personal highlights from the album and at a push, if I had to try and squeeze something else in here it would be both “Everybody Loves You” and “Days“.

It’s only really a half-decent album even though the musicians that feature on the album are very strong and well-accomplished players. It’s really the material on the first side of the album that is weak and lets it down. Though others might not see it like myself and after all, we all have different perceptions about the music we like. I personally don’t think I wasted my money and it does give me some pleasure even if it’s far from a solid album. 

A Half Decent Love Afair…

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:

01. For You for Me. 4:24.
02. Some Are Born. 4:06.
03. Don’t Forget (Nostalgia). 3:01.
04. Heart of the Matter. 4:23.
05. Hear It. 1:51.
06. Everybody Loves You. 4:04.
07. Days. 3:10.
08. Take Your Time. 3:30.
09. Song of Seven. 11:24.
10. Some Are Born [US Promotional Single Edited Version]. 3:47.
11. Heart Of The Matter [US Promotional Single Edited Version]. 3:32.

The Packaging Rating Score. 9/10.

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

The Album Rating Score. 5/10.


Lee Speaks About Music… #182

Olias Of Sunhillow (Expanded & Remastered Edition) – Jon Anderson



It appears that the former Yes frontman and singer Jon Anderson has just lately been repackaging and re-releasing his solo discography and they are being reissued by Esoteric Recordings who we seen put out Chris Squire’s solo album Fish Out Of Water back in 2017 in the form of a box set and later as a single Blu Ray release. However, it’s rather unfortunate that his debut album Olias Of Sunhillow has been given a somewhat lesser treatment. There are obvious reasons why to which I will go into later on in my review but I am no stranger to this album and all the solo albums the members of that band put out around the same time when Yes broke up for a two-year hiatus after finishing the tour of their album Relayer back in 1975.

I have to confess that out of all 5 members of the line-up that Yes had on Relayer, Jon Anderson’s solo career was the one that least interested me and perhaps Alan White (who only made one album) and I only ever brought his debut album. Whereas with the other 3 members Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Patrick Moraz I more or less brought all their solo albums. That’s not to say that I did not like Olias Of Sunhillow and it would have been down to him pursuing more of a pop career with his subsequent albums that later followed it in the ’80s. I did however buy the albums he did with Vangelis and The Friends of Mr Cairo was a terrific album and by far the best of the 3 albums he did with him.

Having spotted this new reissue by Esoteric Recordings I pre-ordered it and it even made me follow the series so far they have put out and I purchased both his second album Songs Of Seven and his third album Animation which is the latest to be repackaged and reissued. However, for the life of me, I cannot see why they are calling any of these new reissues “Expanded”. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

The discs are housed in a quality cardboard 4-panel Digipak or 8-panel if you are counting all the sides of it. I myself always refer to it has 4-panels simply because a panel has two sides. It does also represent the original vinyl album cover very well and the only downside is the minute size of the printing inside you cannot even read it with reading glasses and one would most likely need a special magnifying glass from NASA to be able to read it 😊😊😊.

However, it does come with two booklets the first being a 20-page one with some useful informative information about the time the album was made as it comes with a written interview that Malcolm Dome conducted with Jon Anderson. The second is an 8-page booklet that contains all the lyrics. Both booklets also come with reasonable size fonts which is more than I can say for the job done on the packaging itself.

I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon UK on the 9th February for £15.49 which is a reasonable price for a CD & DVD package. However, it did not arrive till a couple of weeks later after its release date due to some delay with Esoteric Recordings getting enough copies pressed out in time for the release date or something like that. I was not the only one waiting for it to get released I can assure you.


Due to Roger Dean being busy Anderson approached Hipgnosis to do the cover design and it was Dave Roe who was at the helm of it. Although looking at the Galleon Ship on the front cover you would think it was the work of Dean. You’d be right to observe that as well and I will go a bit more into the album cover and how it came to be later in my review. But I personally think Roe has done a good job here.

The Album In Review…

Jon Anderson’s solo debut album Olias Of Sunhillow was originally released on the 24th July 1976 and contained 8 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 44 minutes, 10 seconds. This new so-called “Expanded Edition” was released by Esoteric Recordings on the 26th March 2021 and contains the same amount of tracks spread over the same time, has to why they are calling it an expanded edition I honestly could not tell you. This new edition does also come with a DVD but in no way at all is it an expansion of the original album and there is not even any bonus tracks to extend the album. To be honest Esoteric Recordings generally do a good job with the old albums they reissue however, this new release is perhaps one you really should avoid and I will explain later on as I go through my review here.

Jon Anderson is most noted for his distinguished high pitch voice and his vocal range does extend in the higher regions and is really well polished and refined, its qualities are well-fitting with his former band Yes and PROG! music alike. Many have even voted him as the best prog-rock singer of all time and his voice does without any doubt shine.

His work with his former band Yes and Vangelis is exemplary and it is his voice and his writing ability where he excels the most. He is not really noted for playing musical instruments but over the years and even back in those days he did buy quite an array of musical instruments and liked to dabble with them. With his former band the Yes you would sometimes see him live playing guitar, harp, keyboards and percussion but by no means is he really an accomplished player when it comes to playing instruments.

It was at the end of the tour of Relayer back in 1975 that the band decided to put things on hold and take some time out to make their own solo albums. Anderson turned the garage of his house into a recording studio and locked himself up in there for 4 months playing and dabbling with the array of instruments he had acquired by then. Everything on the album is played entirely by himself. Here is a list of the instruments he uses to make the album.

Keyboards – Mini Moog, Korg Mini, Korg MK 1 & 2, Farfisa Organ, Rhodes 66 Electric Piano, Double Manual Mellotron, Beaconsfield Church Organ, Baldwin Baby Grand Piano, Freeman String Symphonizer. Guitars – Martin & Gibson Acoustic Guitars, Gibson Melody Maker, Hofner Violin Bass. Other Stringed Instruments – Gibson Mandocello, Sitar,  Saz, Irish Harp. Wind Instruments – Assorted African Wooden Flutes, Bazouki. Percussion – Brass Band Drum & Snare, Caribbean Long Drums, Navajo & African Skin Drums, Tabla, Wooden Blocks, Tambourine, Triangle, Marimba, Glockenspiel, Toy Xylophone, Thumb Piano, Cymbal Tree, Cymbals, Gongs, Bells and Cowbells.

I dare say many of the instruments were also hired as he went along making the album at least two-thirds of the album was at first recorded onto 8-track before transferring them to 24-track and he hired recording engineer Mike Dunne to give him a hand with the recording and mixing. Anderson was very cautious about his music and refused to play it to anyone including his wife and Atlantic president Ahmet Ertegun in case they never liked it. Although I am sure he never needed to worry because the album was quite well received upon its release and reached number 8 in the UK album charts and 47 in the American Billboard album charts.

As with most albums that come with a DVD it’s very much regarded as a bonus and in reality, should be a bonus. The thing is with this package is that it does not even make this an expanded addition or much of a bonus at all if the truth be told. So let’s now take a look at the DVD itself.

The DVD.


DVD Main Menu

The DVD’s main menu uses the album artwork for its backdrop and it does look quite nice. However, because this image has been blown up it’s not as pristine as it should look and it can look a bit more on the blurred side of things. Its navigation system is pretty straightforward to get around and you are presented with 3 options to choose from “Play Album”, “Track Select” and “Audio Select”.


Track Select Menu

The “Track Select” menu gives you the opportunity to play any of the album tracks instead of playing the whole album as you can see above. Although the menus navigation is well designed there is a slight delay as it loads from one page to the other, though they have added a nice wipe transition to make it look more effective. The other thing they have added to all the menus is some leaves or debris floating about giving it a touch of animation which works well to good effect too.


Audio Select Menu

The “Audio Select” menu offers you a generous choice of 3 Soundtracks as you can see above. Both the LPCM Stereo and DTS 5.1 Surround gives you the highest quality with them being 96k/24bit formats. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix comes with a lower format of 48k and is 448Kbps in relation to the DTS 1.5Mbps.


Track Display Menus

During the playback, you get a slightly animated picture from part of the album cover moving around the screen which is nice to see especially in relation to having nothing at all. It also displays the name of the track you are playing and overall a very good job has been done on the DVD.

Stereo & Surround Mixes.

It is really unfortunate that the multitrack master tapes were not located and the so-called 5.1 mixes we have here are only upmixed to 5.1 with the use of software and this is perhaps more commonly known as a Pseudo 5.1 mix and not the real deal. Having listened to both of the upmixes in DTS and Dolby Digital I do actually find that for some reason the Dolby Digital mix is clearer, it’s also louder than the DTS mix. However, neither of these mixes are going to give you an immersive experience and are really that disappointing and not worth bothering with at all in my honest opinion. 

The only real bonus regarding the DVD is that you have a high-resolution stereo mix and I would say that it is the best possible recording of the album you can actually get. The only real drawback is that the album was under-produced and quite loose and this recording will reflect that even more so. The stereo recording is the only real winner here and in all honesty, you would be better off sticking with whatever recording you have rather than purchasing this. 

Musicians & Credits…

Band Pic 2

Produced, Written & Performed by Jon Anderson. Recorded between 1975/76 at Seer Green Studios in Buckinghamshire, England. Recording Engineer Mike Dunne. Coordination, equipment and goodies provided by John Martin. Mastered at RCA by Brian East. Art Direction by Hipgnosis. Cover Design & Illustration by Dave Roe. Portrait by Jeff Cummings. Portrait colouring by Richard Manning.

Jon Anderson: Lead & Backing Vocals – Keyboards – Guitars – Bass – Assorted African Wooden Flutes – Drums & Percussion – Irish Harp – Thumb Piano – Bazoukie – Toy Xylophone.

The Album Tracks In Review…

The mystical story that Jon Anderson had written for the concept of Olias stretches back to 1971 and the inspiration came from the artwork that Roger Dean had done for the album Fragile. It was the flying ship in particular from that album cover that was the inspiration for his story plus the fact that he had been reading a couple of novels written by Vera Stanley Alder, notably The Third Eye and Initiation of the World. He also wanted Dean to do the artwork for his album and although he was busy at the time Anderson did keep pestering him to do it. I can only presume that the fact that Dean had refused led to the falling out between them both and why the next Yes album Going For The One’s cover art was done by Hipgnosis.

The story itself is like a Sci-Fi Spiritual Fantasy though I have to admit it runs along too deep and is too far out of this world for my liking, no doubt he has put a lot into it even to the point of creating another or even his own language so to speak. Anderson always had a way with words and even the words he wrote for classic Yes songs such as “Yours is no Disgrace“, “Starship Trooper“, “Roundabout” and many more from that particular period have had some folk call him a creative genius. He very much had a way of using any word that rhymed even if it made no sense at all as in these words from “Siberian Khatru“.

Bluetail, tailfly
Luther, in time
Suntower, asking
Cover, lover
June cast, moon fast
As one changes

I am sure like myself many have spent hours trying to decipher his lyrics and make some sort of sense out of them. I often thought his lyrics had some symbolic meaning years ago though these days they do tend to be meaningless and gobbledygook but that’s not to say I do not like them and you do have to be some sort of a genius to come up with them in the first place. They’ve always had me singing along to them as well and the good thing about many songs lyrics is that you can make your own interpretation out of them. 

Track 1. Ocean Song.


Most of the album is built up of instrumental soundscapes as with this opening instrumental piece and even though there is not a lot of progression here he has made it interesting with the colour and textures from the instrumentation. It’s far from any boring space soundscape that has been made on keyboards alone and in all honesty, even I could make one of those things if I fell asleep at my keyboard especially with today’s multitimbral keyboards.

The sounds describe the ocean very well with the heavy drone of rumbling wind on the intro and he has layered in the other elements of instruments very well here and even gave it a kind of oriental vibe sort of thing. It also sets up an introduction to the mystical story we have and gets the album off to quite a good start.

Track 2. “Meeting (Garden of Geda) / Sound Out the Galleon.


Many of the tracks on the album take in two or three parts to the story in that they have more than one title to them. It is perhaps uncommon for tracks like this to be titled that way because they are relatively short tracks unlike Yes songs. When it comes to the vocal side of things this track is really one of the few tracks on the album that stand out and like I said there is not much in the vocal department on this album at all apart from chants which are most unusual.

There is quite a bit of chanting going on in this song, however, the way he has layered all the three and four-part harmonies that make up the choir is very well done and quite clever considering there is only one voice here. The use of percussion also works well with this song. I quite often found with many of the early Yes songs that Anderson quite often chose to write about space and religion in his lyrics “Starship Trooper” and “And You And I” are prime examples and he crosses the two plains with the story we have here.

For example, the garden of Geda could easily be the garden of Gethsemane and in the meeting here they are looking at Olias to build them a ship to travel off to space. You also get the impression of Noah’s Ark with how the ship is to be built to hold all those they are taking with them. My own interpretation of this set of lyrics is that they are pertaining to getting away from this planet of evil and set up in a safer environment somewhere in space.

Track 3. Dance of Ranyart/ Olias (To Build the Moorglade).


This next track is really two tracks put together and as they are not joined together and two separate pieces I have no idea why Anderson decided to do this with them. The first part is an instrumental piece to which utilises the harp very well whilst the second part is a short song with vocals and the shorter piece of the two. It’s here in the story where Olias is building the Moorglade which is the flying Gallion of a ship to take everyone off to another place in the void of space so to speak. There is not much to the second part at all apart from it being a continuation of the story and it may have been that it was too short that he decided to put both tracks together. The instrumental piece is the better of the two-tracks here and more interesting in my opinion.

Track 4. Qoquaq Ën Transic / Naon / Transic Tö.


This three-part track does run over a longer distance and is the second-longest track on the album being a tad over 7 minutes, however parts 1 & 3 are the same mystical instrumental pieces that were constructed on the keyboard whilst the bit in the middle has more of a tribal rejoicing celebration going on with words and percussion. This is also where Anderson creates his own language as you can see by the titles we have here. The mystic Qoquaq is the one who unites all the 4 tribes to leave the planet whilst Olias is the magician and the architect of the ark. It’s all one big flight of fantasy the plot of this storyline.

Track 5. Flight of the Moorglade.


One of the better songs on the album and perhaps one of few real highlights on the album where Anderson gets to sing a proper song with more words to sing something about. He’s also done quite a good all-around job of it too and it’s my second favourite track on the album and he’s in full flight here. 

Track 6. Solid Space.


This is where our travellers are riding through the vacuum of space and although this is a song with words the music does tend to slightly overpower Anderson’s voice in the mix. The music also tends to run in one direction for the first 3 minutes, 17 seconds which can be a bit tedious and boring. However, it does have a nice key change at this point and the transitional change towards the end to take it into the next track is quite interesting.

Track 7. Moon Ra / Chords / Song of Search.


The longest track on the album and another one that comes in three parts. The first part is perhaps a bit reminiscent of the ending of Elton John’sCurtains” from his Captain Fantastic album that came out in the year before in 1975 with the “Lum-De-Lum-Day” sort of thing, though we do also get some words. The second part is a lot more interesting and although there is no real lead work on this album we do get a nice bit of acoustic guitar very nicely fingerpicked by Anderson. He did it that well that I actually thought he had Steve Howe playing it.

The final part is an instrumental piece and I am not really sure how it works as a third part because unlike the first two parts that interweave with each other with how they are joined, there is quite a pause before this comes into play. It does sound like another track and I am not really sure why it was not put on another track unless there was a certain rule by the record company of how many tracks the album should have. It is, however, very well orchestrated.

Track 8. To the Runner.


This track on the album does for some reason sound like it is separate from the rest of the albums concept story and it is not quite fitting with the rest of the material and it’s as if Anderson wrote it has an intended B-Side. However, it is personally for me the most memorable song on the album and my personal favourite track. It was also the very song I first heard from the album on the radio before it was released and persuaded me to buy the album. The instrumental section at the end is also very well orchestrated and round off the album quite well.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up the new Expanded Edition of Jon Anderson’s Olias of Sunhillow. I fail to see how this edition has been expanded and in all honesty, it offers nothing that the original version never gave you already. The 5.1 upmix is very disappointing but then again what do you expect with an upmix when you could just as easily use the upmix facilities that come with your AV Reciever such as Dolby Pro Logic II, Neo 6 and others. The only advantage the so-called High-Resolution Stereo mix on the DVD is gonna give you is that you can hear how more the album was so loose and underproduced. In all honesty, the CD sounds like they used a recording from a Cassette rather than any master tapes.

It is, without doubt, most unusual for Esoteric Recordings to do such a poor quality job but I guess they done the best with whatever original recording they had which was most likely several generations down the line. The best thing about this release is the package and even that is spoilt by the small print. This is one release that I would suggest you avoid I am sorry to say and stick with whatever copy you have rather than throw money at this is my advice.

As for the album itself, is not bad considering Anderson does not possess the technique and skills of the musicians in his former band at the time. It offers nothing in the way of any lead work however, he does manage to keep it interesting enough with the soundscapes and his voice. It does also sound more like the Yes in relation to what the other four members of the Relayer line-up of the band did with their debut albums at the same time. But that is really down to his voice and not much more.

I personally think Chris Squire, Steve Howe and Patrick Moraz done better with their solo debut albums and this album only really has a few highlights which are “Meeting (Garden of Geda)”/”Sound Out the Galleon“, “Flight of the Moorglade” and “To the Runner“. As concept albums go it’s not up there with the best of them that’s for sure and the mystical fairytale of a story behind it all is hardly going to set the world on fire. However, I do feel that the album has stood its test of time over the years even if this new release does not bring it back to life so to speak.

Expanded Yarn…

The CD & DVD Track Listing is as follows:

01. Ocean Song. 3:05.
02. Meeting (Garden of Geda) / Sound out the Galleon. 3:34.
03. Dance of Ranyart / Olias (Build the Moorglade). 4:19.
04. Qoquaq Ën Transic / Naon / Taransic Cö. 7:08.
05. Flight of the Moorglade. 3:24.
06. Solid Space. 5:21.
07. Moon Ra / Chords / Song of Search. 12:48.
08. To the Runner. 4:29.

The Packaging Rating Score. 9/10.

The Price Point Rating Score. 8/10.

The Surround Mix Rating Score. 2/10.

The Stereo Mix Rating Score. 10/10.

The Album Rating Score. 6.5/10.



Lee Speaks About Music… #181

Prelude / Deodato 2 – Deodato



Well I have picked up some right bargains in the past and when it comes to bargains the Dutton Vocalion website certainly have plenty to offer and they do not come much better than what we have here. What you are getting here is Deodato’s first two albums for the price of one, but not only that they come on one Hybrid SACD that gives you the choice of both stereo and quadrophonic mixes of both albums. If ever there was a reason for you STEREOHEADS! to go out and upgrade to a Multichannel Surround AV System I certainly think now is the time because what we have here is what I would most definitely call reference quad recordings that are simply to die for and simply cannot be beaten.

I have to confess that although my first introduction to Eumir Deodato was back in 1973 when I heard his version of Richard Strauss’sAlso Sprach Zarathustra“. I only brought the single release and have never heard or owned any of his albums before. As a matter of a fact I had not even heard Strauss’s version at the time apart from the introduction played on an organ to which is the part that Deodato decided to FUNK! up and was used for Stanley Kubick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey back in 1968. It was one of those records I heard on the radio at the time that instantly appealed to me to go out and buy it.

Now some 48 years later I am revisiting it again and I can honestly say I am getting more joy and pleasure from doing so today than I did all those years ago thanks to Michael J. Dutton who has done another excellent job of remastering these old recordings. Not only that he is giving you 100% value for the buck and these recordings are far more superior than the original recordings in my opinion. I have nothing but praise for what this guy is doing and I only wish all records were sold through his website with the great work he is doing with them.

Packaging & Artwork…

The SACD comes in a standard plastic Jewel Case which is perhaps a bit outdated these days in relation to Digpaks but nevertheless, it keeps the disc well protected. It comes with an 8-page booklet that provides you with some useful informative information in an essay written by David Zimmerman. It also comes with the usual linear and credits and a couple of pictures. I purchased my copy from Amazon UK for £12.99 which is excellent value.  

The original cover design for both Deodato’s first two albums was done by Bob Ciano. One of the downsides in a package like this where two albums come together is that you do not get to see much of the cover design due to both albums covers put together like they do with these types of packages. However, one should never put the artwork before the music and considering you are getting two albums not just in Stereo but also in Quadrophonic there is more of an upside to this release. The original photos were done by Duane Michals, Pete Tuner and Alen MacWeeney.

Deodato In Brief History…

The Brazilian pianist and composer, Eumir Deodato is perhaps best known earlier for his work in arrangement and that’s how he started out back in the late 60’s when he moved to New York and was hired by the record producer Creed Taylor of CTI Records doing arrangements for other peoples songs such as the likes of Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Wes Montgomery, George Benson and many others. Prior to that he worked as a freelance arranger for Odeon Records and formed his own band with Menescal in 1962. Although he strictly worked in the jazz genre he later went into production work and produced and arranged music on more than 500 albums including artists such as Kool and the Gang, Con Funk Shun, Björk, Christophe, and K.D. Lang.

It was whilst doing work for Creed Taylor at CTI Records in the 70’s that he got to work on his album Prelude which was to launch his own solo career and was produced by Taylor. The album was an instant smash in the US and his second album Deodato 2 which followed in the same year also picked up enough interest to break into the US and Australian albums charts. Although as far as albums go his solo career was short-lived and it was only the odd hit single release from some of his later albums that kept his solo career afloat.

Looking at the material that was contained on his first couple of albums it’s perhaps notable that Deodato was more of an arranger than a composer with what little of his own compositions appeared on both albums. Although he did write the scores for the films The Gentle Rain (1966), The Black Pearl (1977), The Onion Field (1979) and Bossa Nova (2000) respectively. It was his study of orchestration, conducting, and arranging that pretty much paved the way to much of his success throughout his musical career and he is quite a talented musician and one who no doubt made a mark.

The Albums In Review…

Both Prelude & Deodato 2 by Deodato were originally released in the months of January and July 1973 respectively, they were also released in stereo and quadrophonic back then too. The other notable thing about the two albums is that they were relatively short in length which is why Michael J. Dutton most likely decided to put them out as a two for one release. This particular Hybrid SACD was released by Dutton Vocalion back in October 2017 and its the first time the Quadraphonic mixes of both albums are now once again available and have been remastered from the original multitrack tapes.

Because I have two albums to get through I shall briefly run through the album tracks rather than go into more detail like I do in most of my reviews, but try and keep a focus on the main points and features and include more of his history along the way. So let’s now jump straight into it with his debut album Prelude.


Deodato’s debut album Prelude was originally released in early January 1973. The album contains 6 instrumental tracks spread over an overall playing time of 31 minutes, 42 seconds. The material on the album is very much fifty, fifty in that it’s 50% original and 50% arranged and it was the single release of one of the arranged tracks on the album that not only catapulted Deodato into instant stardom and success but also made people more aware of CTI Records and at the time very much put them on the map so to speak. I suppose in some respects you could liken Creed Taylor with Richard Branson with the way their record companies got off to a flying start although the outcome was certainly not the same.

There is without a doubt more to Deodato than what meets the eye and in my brief history of him, I have barely touched the surface of how well this guy is at arranging. Before he came to America he had already been involved in several collaborations and he appeared on several albums in his own country of Brazil. Having done several arrangements for the Brazilian guitarist and composer Luiz Bonfá, who was the guy who suggested Deodato go to America and even paid him his fare to get there. Having got there and putting himself about as an arranger in the states it did not take long for Creed Taylor to spot his talent to which he had him onboard at CTI as a session player and arranger.

There is no doubt that Deodato got to work with some of the finest jazz musicians in the world. Some of the finest musicians were also assembled to play with him on his debut album too. Though as much of the talent that was coming through the door of CTI Records there was not one of them that could touch the success that Deodato himself gave to the record company. It was his arranged version of Richard Strauss’sAlso Sprach Zarathustra” that done the trick.

The single version did very well on its release reaching number 2 on the American Billboard Charts. Ironically it was only held off the top spot by Roberta Flack’sKilling Me Softly With His Song” which came from an album that Deodato had written a couple of arrangements for. The single sold very well in other countries too reaching number 7 here in the UK charts and catapulted the sales of the album. Although Deodato was primarily a jazz musician he was now all of a sudden a pop star and attracting a lot more attention than those who worked in that field of music which was most unusual at the time.

It was through his success that CTI Records were able to expand their business and open up nine distribution centres across the US which was unheard of for an independent record label. Although financially this was not a good decision and they soon found they had to close down half of them. This would also lead to Deodato departing from the company not long after when they did not have the means to promote his second album.

VanGelderRecordingStudio_841_FotorVan Gelder Studios

Both the album Prelude and Deodato 2 were recorded at the legendary Van Gelder Studios in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey with Rudy Van Gelder at the helm of the recording and mixing. Van Gelder originally set up his studio back in 1952 at his parent’s house at 25 Prospect Avenue, Hackensack, New Jersey, and recorded many famous jazz artists and many of Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins albums were recorded there before he moved to Englewood Cliffs in 1959 to which many more jazz legends such as John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Art Blakey and many more would be rolling up at his door so to speak. His studio has been used to record many albums released by jazz labels such as Blue Note, Prestige, Impulse!, Verve and CTI.

The album Prelude was recorded in 3 days between the 12th to the 14th of September 1972 and a medium-sized orchestra of musicians were assembled to play alongside Deodato that included no less than 35 musicians counting himself. The line-up included a strong string, brass and woodwind sections as well as notable musicians Stanley Clark (Bass), Billy Cobham (drums) and Airto Moreira (percussion) who were more widely known for their roles in jazz fusion. Deodato not only arranged but conducted all the musicians so let’s now take a look at the musicians and credits.

Musicians & Credits…


Produced by Creed Taylor. Arranged and conducted by Eumir Deodato. Tracks 2 & 3. Written by Eumir Deodato. Track 6. Written by Eumir Deodato & Billy Cobham. Track 1. Written by Richard Strauss. Track 4. Written by Robert Wright & George Forrest. Track 5. Written by Claude Debussy. Recorded between September 12th – 14th 1972 at Van Gelder Studios in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. USA. Recording & Mixing Engineer Rudy Van Gelder. Cover Design by Bob Ciano. Photography by Duane Michals & Pete Tuner. Remastered Stereo & Quadrophonic Mixes by Michael J. Dutton.

Band Musicians:
Eumir Deodato – Acoustic & Electric Piano.
John Tropea – Electric Guitar.
Jay Berliner – Acoustic Guitar.
Ron Carter – Acoustic Bass / Electric Bass (Track 3).
Stanley Clarke – Bass (Track 1).
Billy Cobham – Drums.
Airto Moreira – Percussion.
Ray Barretto – Congas.

Orchestral Musicians:
Violins: Max Ellen, David Nadien, Paul Gershman, Gene Orloff, Emanuel Green, Elliot Rosoff, Harry Lookofsky.
Violas: Alfred Brown, Emanuel Vardi.
Cellos: Seymour Barab, Charles McCracken, Harvey Shapiro.
Flutes: Hubert Laws, Phil Bodner, George Marge, Romeo Penque.
Trumpets: John Frosk, Marvin Stamm, Marky Markowitz, Joe Shepley.
Trombones: Bill Watrous, Paul Faulise.
French Horns: Jim Buffington, Peter Gordon.

As you can see there is quite a strong personnel of musicians onboard though it is only mostly the main band that feature on the albums opening track “Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)” and I dare say the addition of “2001” in the title here was inspired by Stanley Kubick’s 1968 film. This opening track is the GEM! on the album by far and still till this day (since I brought the single back in 1973) I honestly cannot say I have ever heard a better rendition of how to play the Fender Rhodes. I can guarantee that whenever a conversation arises about an electric piano Deodato will instantly spring to mind every time. For me personally, he is my ultimate reference for the instrument and its vibe and groove on this FUNKED UP! version of Strauss’s music is the perfect demonstration of what the electric piano is capable of doing.

The beauty about the version on the album is that it’s the full version and 9 minutes long, something I had not heard until now some 48 years later and it’s a good 4 minutes longer than the single release and is PURE BLISS! Even more so hearing it in Quadraphonic. What makes this work so well is the syncopated rhythm played on the keys which drives it along with the rhythm section. It won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance back in 1974 and it’s hardly surprising.

Not only did Deodato funk up Strauss’s original introductory piece but he popularised it to sound like a smash hit record with words even though it was an instrumental piece. I have many times in the past mentioned how hard it is to make a cover better than the original and I honestly believe not only did Deodato do justice to the piece, but he did carve out a better version. The arrangement is what makes it the winner and that’s a skill that I do not even think Richard Strauss could have visualized at the time and I am pretty sure he would have approved and loved what Deodato had done to his piece.

Moving onto the next track “Spirit Of Summer” this is very much straight jazz and utilises a lot more than the band in the musician department. It’s another of the tracks I know from the album because it was used for the B-Side of the single. Thinking back now it might have been hearing this that deterred me from buying the album back then. I am not remotely saying that it’s a bad track and that is far from the case, it’s very skilfully done and a very well written piece I will say and shows just how good of a writer Deodato is too. Like a lot of his own written pieces on the album, they are perhaps reminiscent of TV Themes from the late 60’s and early 70’s which is very much a different vibe in relation to the opening track which is more along the lines of jazz-funk and jazz fusion.

The album does tend to switch from jazz-funk to straight jazz with how it flows and I suppose in a way it’s these contrasting styles that may have put me off getting the album. It does take a bit of getting used to and at first and I suppose it’s a bit like buying an album by Chic and finding Mantovani is also on it 😁😁😁. That’s perhaps not the best example and what he is doing here is perhaps something more along the lines of Weather Report who could do the same thing on some of their albums. I never could get into that band for that reason. There is a lot of beauty in this piece though and I do get a lot more pleasure out of it now hearing it in Quadraphonic. It also features a nice bit of trill playing on the acoustic guitar by Jay Berliner.

Another of Deodato’s own written pieces is up next and “Carly & Carole” is a piece he dedicated to the songwriters Carly Simon & Carol King hence the women’s names in the title. This is another bit of straight jazz that sounds a bit like the music that they used for comedy TV sitcoms like Man About The House and Robins Nest here in the UK back in 70’s. It also has a Burt Bacharach feel to it and reminds me a bit like Do You Know the Way to San Jose” that he wrote with Hal David for Dionne Warwick. It’s quite a relaxed piece and I particularly like how Billy Cobham’s drums are punctuated on this track and Deodato himself adds in a nice funky solo on the keys.

Baubles, Bangles and Beads” is a popular jazzy little number that was written by Robert Wright & George Forrest for the musical Kismet back in 1953. It was also the same year that Peggy Lee recorded the song which was the best selling version. Over the years it’s been a popular tune for JAZZERS! to have a play around with due to its beguiling melody and advanced harmonic structure and Deodato & Co. are well in the swing of things here. “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” follows next and here Deodato has chosen to arrange another classical piece and he’s latched onto the main melody or motif of Claude Debussy’s famous piece and funked it up a bit and done his own thing with it. It features solos from Marvin Stamm on trumpet and Hubert Laws on flute respectively and the percussion works some wonders on this piece too.

The album ends off with a co-written piece penned by Deodato & Billy Cobham entitled “September 13” to which the title was named after the day it was recorded on and was inspired by a Cobham drum beat which is why he was credited in the writing. They FUNK! things up very well here although it’s perhaps more of a jam than a written piece, but nevertheless it spices things up very well and gives the guitarist John Tropea another chance to let fly. The brass and flute section works very well with the arrangement and the percussion plays an eminent role too. It sort of puts me in mind of “Pick Up The Pieces” by The Average White Band sort of thing and it rounds off the album very well.

Overall, Eumir Deodato’s debut album Prelude is perhaps not quite a solid album but nevertheless one that works very well in giving you some satisfaction. The material is a mixture of jazz-funk and straight jazz that is more associated with light entertainment music but very skillfully arranged and played by well-accomplished musicians. If I was gonna pick faults regarding composition it would have to be with the final track on the album to which apart from the arrangement of the brass it does feel more like a jam than a written piece. However, like the albums opening track it does provide the fire to lift the album up. My personal highlights of the album are as follows: “Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)“. “Carly & Carole” and “September 13“.

The album tracklisting is as follows: 1. Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001). 9:04. 2. Spirit Of Summer. 4:07. 3. Carly & Carole. 2:42. 4. Baubles, Bangles and Beads. 5:22. 5. Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. 5:16. 6. September 13. 5:25.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.

71SDrH58RQL._SL1500_Deodato 2

Deodato’s second album followed very quickly and having seen how popular he was at the time Creed Taylor wasted no time getting him back in the studio and thought he would strike whilst the iron was hot so to speak. Once again Deodato decided to rearrange some popular classic tunes and wrote a couple of his own, most of the musicians who appeared on his debut album were also present along with a few others. The album was recorded at the same studios with recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder onboard and the material was recorded on a couple of days over the months of April and May allowing Deodato to write the material whilst he was on the road playing live shows. He also maintained a busy schedule as an arranger and orchestrated and conducted the Jacaranda album for his old friend Luiz Bonfá.

Deodato 2 was released on the 18th of July 1973. The album contained 5 instrumental tracks spread over an overall playing time of 32 minutes, 35 seconds which was slightly longer than his debut album. The fact that it also had one less track meant that much of the material was more on the lengthier side of things. The album hit the record shelves just as his debut album Prelude fell off the pop charts though it did not quite make the same impact. Although it did break into the top 20 of the American Billboard charts peaking at number 19. The single release from the album which was an arranged and adapted version of George Gershwin’sRhapsody in Blue” did not manage to break into the Top 40 and peaked at 41.

It was quite evident that the limelight was no longer shining on Deodato and the dimmer switch had been activated to which he blamed CTI Records for closing down half of its distribution centres to give the album the right amount of promotion. Deodato soon parted company with Creed Taylor and CTI Records and signed up to MCA Records. Five years later CTI Records ran into further financial difficulties and dissolved.

When looking back at many of the GREAT! musicians and albums that came out of CTI Records. I don’t think any of them sold the number of units that Prelude had done. It was really what Deodato had done with Richard Strauss’sAlso Sprach Zarathustra” that ignited the flame and brought in the sales. I even think that today the music is more associated with Deodato than Strauss himself. It was always going to be a difficult task to follow up despite the vast amount of music out there you had to choose from to arrange and adapt to your own unique style and make it work and stand out.

I think it’s even more of a difficult task when you choose covers over your own material simply because it is hard to do them any better than the original and I personally feel that his own material is a lot better constructed. I do feel on Deodato 2 it is what little we have of his own material that does tend to stand out more and would be the highlights of the album for the biggest majority of people I would have thought.

Musicians & Credits…


Produced by Creed Taylor. Arranged and conducted by Eumir Deodato. Tracks 3 & 4. Written by Eumir Deodato. Track 1. Written by Justin Hayward. Track 2. Written by Maurice Ravel. Track 5. Written by George Gershwin. Recorded on the 12th of April & 18th of May 1973 at Van Gelder Studios in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. USA. Recording & Mixing Engineer Rudy Van Gelder. Cover Design by Bob Ciano. Photography by Duane Michals & Alen MacWeeney. Remastered Stereo & Quadrophonic Mixes by Michael J. Dutton.

Band Musicians:
Eumir Deodato – Keyboards. John Tropea – Electric Guitar. Stanley Clarke & John Giulino – Bass Guitars. Billy Cobham & Rick Marotta – Drums. Rubens Bassini & Gilmore Degap – Percussion.

Orchestral Musicians:
Violins: Max Ellen, David Nadien, Paul Gershman, Gene Orloff, Emanuel Green, Elliot Rosoff, Harry Lookofsky. Harry Cykman, Harry Glickman, Harold Kohon, Joe Malin, Irving Spice.
Violas: Alfred Brown, Emanuel Vardi.
Cellos: Charles McCracken, George Ricci, Alan Shulman.
Arco Basses: Alvin Brehm, Russell Savakus.
Flutes: Hubert Laws, Jerry Dodgion, George Marge, Romeo Penque.
Trumpets / Flugelhorns: Jon Faddis, Alan Rubin, Marvin Stamm.
Trumpets: Burt Collins, Victor Paz, Joe Shepley.
Trombones: Wayne Andre, Garnett Brown, Tony Stud (Bass Trombone).
French Horns: Jim Buffington, Brooks Tilotson.
Baritone Saxophone: Joe Temperley.

Judging by the other musicians who were brought in it’s perhaps more evident that the string section has increased in size a bit and considering that Deodato also chose to play synths on the album it baffles me why he brought in a stronger string section. He made extensive use of the ARP Pro Soloist Synthesizer which was one of the first commercially successful preset synthesizers and was widely used by Tony Banks, Anthony Phillips, Vangelis, Tangerine Dream and Billy Preston around 1972 – 1977. It was even used extensively on Gary Numan’s 1980 album Telekon.

ARP_Pro-Soloist_FotorARP PRO Soloist Synthesizer

Unlike the ARP Soloist that was not taken seriously by musicians, the Pro version had 30 presets and stayed in tune. Donald Fagan used the ARP Soloist whilst making the Steely Dan album Countdown to Ecstasy back in 1973 and got that fed up of it going out of tune that he threw it down the stairwell in the recording studio and jumped up and down on it. The producer of the album Gary Katz decided to join in with some alcohol and they burned the ARP into a pile of melted plastic 😁😁😁.

The album kicks off with a Moody Blues classic and one of their most popular songs penned by Justin Hayward entitled “Nights in White Satin“. In all honesty, you are pushing things here trying to do an instrumental version and make it shine like the original without a voice, and no doubt Hayward certainly has one of the finest. I am even fairly sure that an instrumental version would have more chance of being heard in your local supermarket or on the TV when it closes down for the night and only broadcasts light music until the morning when it starts to broadcast TV Programs again than getting played on the radio where it would have attracted more attention back in those days. However, this is not that bad and the synth, guitars and brass section do quite a good job of beefing and rocking it up a bit.

The arrangement is quite interesting and Deodato decides to start it off by using part of the lead break section of the song before going into the main melody. The middle section is perhaps more interesting and it sounds like he’s lifted the lead break from “MacArthur Park” to make it up and I like how the Fender Rhodes drives this section along too. The string section gets utilised very well on Ravel’sPavane for a Dead Princess” and unlike what he did on his debut album with Debussy’sPrelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” by funking it up he’s very much playing the piece as it is. It’s quite a soothing piece though I still prefer what Isao Tomita and Joe Walsh did with their arrangements to what we have here.

The first of two of his own compositions are up next and “Skyscrapers” features Stanley Clarke on bass and they get to funk things up here and the brass section also makes a strong statement regarding its main melody. Both John Tropea and Deodato get to fly out some guitar and synth solo’s respectively and they really do the business here and it’s my personal favourite track on the album. “Super Strut” the second of his own written pieces got to feature on the Soundtrack for the video game Grand Theft Auto Vice City and was also covered by the acid jazz band The Apostles on their 1992 eponymous album. Once again the funk is flowing very well and the drums and percussion drive this along very well and we get some GREAT! guitar work from Tropea and Deodato on the keys and it’s another GREAT! track on the album.

The album ends off very well with him doing a funked-up version of George Gershwin’sRhapsody in Blue” and I do feel this is much more like the arrangement he did with  Strauss’sAlso Sprach Zarathustra” and it uses extensive use of the Rhodes which I personally prefer in relation to the synthesizer and is much more suited to his style. It also sounds like he’s utilised the whole of 19 strong string orchestra and with the rest of the band really do a very good version of it. This was also the single release from the album (only a shorter edited version was used) and I do feel this is a much better arrangement than the opening two tracks on the album and puts the album to bed very well.

Overall, I don’t personally think Deodato 2 is as strong as his debut album but nevertheless, it still has enough to offer I feel and its better moments are perhaps captured on the final three tracks of the album. My personal highlights from the album are “Skyscrapers” and “Super Strut” and I do feel his own compositions are the strongest output here. Though I could also throw in the arrangement he did with Gershwin’sRhapsody in Blue” because it is quite good and the funky vibe works well on it.

The album tracklisting is as follows: 1. Nights in White Satin. 6:03. 2. Pavane for a Dead Princess. 4:08. 3. Skyscrapers. 6:41. 4. Super Strut. 9:01. 5. Rhapsody in Blue. 8:52.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6/10.

Summary & Conclusion…

Overall you cannot go wrong with this reissue of Deodato’s first two albums by Dutton Vocalion and personally, both the stereo and quadrophonic recordings on this Hybrid SACD cannot be beaten and they are in every way reference-point quality recordings. It’s an absolute GEM! of a bargain too considering you are getting two albums on an SACD for the price of a single CD. Both of these albums are an absolute pleasure to listen to in quadrophonic and it was purchasing this SACD that really opened up my eyes and ears as to how good quadrophonic really is.

In the past, I have shunned away from Quad mixes and I think it was buying Rick Wakeman’s Deluxe Edition of The Six Wives of Henry VIII that was released in 2015 that put me right off them. But that is such a bad mix and no way is it Quadrophonic either. I have always preferred 5.1 recordings and never really bothered with Quad mixes at all and even though Pink Floyd’s Immersion Box Set of Wish You Were Here comes with 5.1 and Quad mixes. I always played the 5.1 mix until I listened to this release and boy was I surprised at how good the quad mix was of that album too.

Right now multitrack recordings have never been so good and it’s quite evident that more mixing engineers from years ago had the right ears to do a Quadrophonic mix whereas with 5.1 there are still very few who know how to do them right. For surround FREAKS! like myself, the very fact that many of the original Quad mixes from all those years ago are starting to surface means a lot more pleasure can be had from this niche market of surround sound. This release is simply a SURROUND FREAKS PARADISE!

The Package Rating. 7/10.
The Price Point Rating. 10/10.
The Quad Mix Rating. 10/10.
The Stereo Mix Rating. 10/10.


Lee Speaks About Music… #180

The Fields – Napier’s Bones


Messers Midgley & Tillett are back again and it’s been a few years since the release of the bands 5th album Monuments back in 2018. They did put out a compilation album in the following year though I don’t really count those albums and I very rarely will buy one either. Gordon Midgley the bands main writer and musician has also released quite a few of his own albums and worked on various other projects in the past and more recently has been demonstrating some of the new guitars and gear he has been adding to his collection on the Tube with his Long, Long Skies series of videos. It’s a very interesting channel too as you can see from one of his latest videos here:

I have no idea what Nathan has been up to lately as I left Soundcloud back in 2017 and I am not even sure he is on Facebook anymore. But it’s good to see the partnership in this particular project is still ongoing and he is very much the rock voice behind the project and for the music that Gordon presents for this project, it is needed to deliver the goods so to speak. He also is the one who designs the album covers and does a terrific job of them.

As with all Napier’s Bones albums there is always a concept story written for them and this one appears to have a bit of history behind it. I’ve never been a historian myself and I once remember Sting saying history will teach us nothing. However, what I find with a lot of Midgley’s concepts is that they are fascinating and they do teach me a thing or two and keep me busy doing some research for my reviews of his albums.

Their latest offering The Fields is perhaps not set in the “Fields Of Gold” or New York even if there are some Englishmen involved but set in the turmoil that followed the twenty-five years of the Napoleonic Wars back in the early part of the 19th century on St Peter’s Fields outside Manchester, England. Around sixty thousand men and women gathered and campaigned peacefully for freedom the rest is history and the rest also happened on the fields and they invite you to come with them upon this journey back in the past. It’s also done in this duos formidable style. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork as ever.

Packaging & Artwork…

Well as you can see the album comes in the form of a Digital Download only and that is to cut down on cost and a sensible decision on Gordon Midgley’s part considering music does not sell very well these days and it’s not as if he is an artist who is going to sell albums by the bucket load. Its price point of under-five English pounds (including taxes) is not going to empty your bank account or even your pocket and you are still onto a winner and a bargain here.

Nathan has always done an impressive job on the cover designs for all the Napier’s Bones albums and this one is no exception. The colour and the hands have a bit of similarity with the compilation album Five Years in the Wood as seen below and I quite like how the lighter shade of green has been blended with other textures.

Judging by the horseshoe on the cover of their latest album it appears that not even the horses had much luck on these fields 😊😊😊. Although I will say it is well apt and well-fitting with the albums concept story and another GRAND! job has been done here.

The Album In Review…

The Fields is the 6th studio album release to date by Napier’s Bones and was released on the 23rd of April 2021. It comes with 9 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 50 minutes, 8 seconds which is a very respectable time slot. The album itself was produced, mixed and mastered by Midgley at Scanulf Studios which is his home recording studio. I believe he started to work on the material for the new album back in December last year. Some of the ideas may have been earlier and the inspiration to work on the musical side of the new album came from making backing tracks for use on his Long, Long Skies project of demonstrations he puts on his Youtube channel to which he extended some of them for use on the new album.

Much of the material was also written between January – March this year and it was during those months that Tillett could not record any vocals due to the lockdown with his kids being at home from school. However, despite all the confrontations and complications, the pair are back with what appears to be another solid piece of work that is very distinctive to their formidable style.

For those who have never heard Napier’s Bones their music is very much a PROGMATIC! affair that incorporates many influences from the world of progrock, rock and other genres of music. They have also put their own stamp on it even though you will hear many other influences. Over the past 7 years since the release of their debut album The Wistman Tales back in 2014, their music has grown from strength to strength especially in production terms and it shows very much in particular on their last album Monuments how far they have come along, that particular album is also what I would call their personal best output.

Coming off the back of their last album it was always going to be a challenge to keep the rhythm of consistency flowing and measure up to its strength especially after 3 years. However, in terms of strength, I would say their latest album The Fields draws its strength from the story that it’s portraying and in musical terms, it is articulated in the same mannerisms of combining acoustic and electric guitars which is one of the best things I love about Midgely’s approach to music in the way he utilises them both.

Besides the many guitars, Midgley has added to his collection he also added a new synth and it features quite a lot on this new album and I will say he has put it to good use. It’s a very tasty looking synth too and one of Moog’s more recent synths to hit the market over the past few years.

Moog Matriarch

The Moog Matriarch is a semi-modular paraphonic analogue synthesizer that officially was debuted at the Moogfest in 2018. For those wondering what “Paraphonic” is, it is where multiple oscillators can be used to play different notes, but all of those oscillators route through the same signal path (VCF/DCF, VCA/DCA, etc.), as opposed to true polyphony, where each oscillator feeds its own filter, amplifier, and so on. It’s also a 4 note polyphonic synthesizer and I have to say once again that it really is a very TASTY! looking synth.

Over the past few years, Midgely also took up playing the drums and although they featured on both his EP Guests and the mini-album Long, Long Long Skies that were released last year, this is actually the first Napier’s Bones album to feature them. This video shows you him putting the finishing touches on one of the songs on the new album.

However, whatever song this extract was from for some reason or another did not make it on the album well I certainly could not hear it anywhere. I did confront Gordon about this because it was puzzling me as to why it was left off because it does sound very good even if my own video edit is not visually up to scratch due to the original video footage being captured on a mobile phone and not shot in HD. He did tell me that this was part of a 15-minute song and he was intending to make a double album at the time.

This next extract is also from the same track that never made the album and although Midgley has been adding more guitars to his arsenal and array of gear here he is using his PRS SE Custom 24 to which he may have further customised himself at this time by changing the pickups to Seymour Duncan JB/Jazz. He’s also using a couple of effect pedals to give it that extra swelling distortion and bite.

I have to say that is a well tasty guitar solo and was well surprised by how it was left off the album. Though he did inform me that It will appear on the 7th Napier’s Bones album and no doubt that will be something to look forward to in the future. I also edited his original video and thought it would be appropriate to put him in a field.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Gordon Midgley. All music and lyrics by Gordon Midgley. Recorded by Gordon Midgley sometime between December 2020 to March 2021 at Scanulf Studios Bradford, England. Mixed & Mastered by Gordon Midgley. Album Cover Design by Nathan Jon Tillet.

Gordon Midgley: Acoustic & Electric Guitars – Bass – Keyboards – Drums – Backing Vocals.
Nathan Tillett: Lead Vocals.

The Album Tracks In Review…

The album’s concept is based around the Peterloo Massacre that took place at St Peter’s Field, Manchester, Lancashire, England on Monday the 16th of August 1819. It was brought on from the second of two slumps to which the first was brought on at the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 which was accompanied by chronic unemployment and harvest failure and worsened by the Corn Laws, which kept the price of bread high. When the second slump occurred in early 1819 radical reformers sought to mobilise huge crowds to force the government to back down from raising the price of food to extortionate prices and a mass rally of protestors organised by the well-known radical orator Henry Hunt was put into action. Shortly after the protest was in place local magistrates called on the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry to arrest Hunt and several others on the platform with him.

The Yeomanry not only arrested Hunt but were butchers and charged into a crowd of around 60,000 people who had gathered to demand the reform of parliamentary representation and left 18 people dead and around 400 – 700 people injured and those are only the reported figures. The historic event was described as the bloodiest political event of the 19th century on English soil. The event was first labelled the “Peterloo Massacre” by the radical Manchester Observer newspaper in a bitterly ironic reference to the bloody Battle of Waterloo which had taken place four years earlier.

There is much more to this piece of history of Peterloo and I have briefly touched upon it and you can find out more about it on sites such as Wikipedia. Although Midgley has always been good at putting words into context and now it’s been brought back in a PROGMATIC! way and even a bit of theatrics have been thrown in for good measure. So let’s now go on this journey through the fields and see how it all pans out.

Track 1. From The Fields.

The album gets off to a fine start with its acoustic opening and not only does it get utilised on the intro and outro of the song but also plays its part here and there throughout. The way the music has been structured with its transitions to allow the other instruments and the vocals to come into play is very well thought out and this is a song that has some contrasting folk and rock styles and could even be touching on the Celtic side of things with the acoustic in particular.

Because of the way the music does tend to shift tempo and pace every now and then it is very much combining both the ballad and rock side of things together which allows Tillett to utilise his voice in both mannerisms and it works perhaps in more of a sweet way on this song in particular even if there are some parts where his voice is used with a bit more edge. Lyrically the words are very much written in the way of a prologue pertaining to all the events that are about to happen and have happened in the story which gives you an insight into what is about to unfold at the beginning and the end. I suppose in some ways it’s like they are bookended just like the acoustic intro and outro.

The transitional changes allow for both keyboard and guitar solos and there are quite a few influences I am hearing along its 6 minutes and 40 seconds including the likes of Rush, Genesis, Pink Floyd perhaps even Guns N’ Roses on the acoustic intro and outro when thinking along the lines of “Civil War” from their Use Your Illusion II album back 1991 and much more. The particular transition at the 2:19 mark even gave me an Alice Cooper feel for some reason. The Moog Matriarch has also been put to good use around the 3:50 mark and I do feel that the musical side of things not only give it a PROGMATIC! feel but along with how Tillett expresses the vocals it’s all fitting to this barbaric bit of history we have here.

Track 2. Something Changed.

The way this next song opens up with the synth pumping along with the rhythm puts me in mind of Fish’s version of Alex Harvey’s song “The Faith Healer” from his Raingods With Zippo’s album. The song has quite a long musical intro and incorporates some fine GILMOUR-ESC! lead lines on the guitar from Midgley. In some ways, it’s a bit like a new fresher approach to “Breathe” from TDSOTM. Regarding the songs title and the lyrics, I am wondering if an error has been made here because Tillet sings the words “Nothings Changed” instead and to be honest they are more fitting with the times we are talking about here in this piece of history and the events around it.

The same sun rises in the East to begin the day
The same village folk in darkness live then ebb away
Long gone hero’s welcome, that war ended long ago
Now with pain, despair, and hunger, nothing’s changed

The same sermons and their promised lands await the meek
They break their backs to feed the young who go in turn to feed machines
Lions once to looms now bound, a tyranny of smoke and steam
A sea of downcast faces, nothing’s changed

The lyrics, however, are very well put into context as you can see above and Midgley has always had a clever way of moulding his lyrics to make the story much more interesting and these are really good lyrics. The last two lines of the first verse I have highlighted is well apt to the Napoleonic War in 1815 and how the second slump occurred in early 1819 and in that respect nothing has changed.

Track 3. One More Lost.

Rather than welcome to the machine here we have a case of one more lost to the machine and there are some well interesting effects used in this particular song that might have you thinking once again of Pink Floyd and other sorts. By the sounds of it, the machines are also steam-powered and no doubt both keyboards and guitar FX have been very well utilised in quite a creative way. It’s a song that ticks or chugs its way along at a slow but steady pace for Tillett to deliver once again the well-written words and he’s also putting the right feeling into delivering the words very well.

We also get some fine swells from Midgley on the guitar that are more HACKETT ESC! Effectively this is a song that is used to portray the scene more than a song that is going to rock your socks off. Nevertheless, there is also a nice transitional break that breaks things up a bit around the four-minute mark and this effectively is what one might call PROGMATIC STEAMPUNK!

Track 4. A Better Way.

The acoustic is back out for this next song and Midgley also joins in with Tillett on the vocals in particular on the chorus and it even has a bit of a canticle thingy going on too. Like the opening track on the album, it’s verging on the Celtic side of things again although it’s perhaps more on the side of Folk-Rock. There are some lovely tones that he plays on the electric guitar and the effect reminds me of Richard Thompson back in his heyday with Fairport Convention

Midgley is using a Celtic tuning as you can see in this demo video he made during the making of the album demonstrating the part of the acoustic guitar. It’s quite an uplifting song with a tight dominating bass line and is almost like an anthem with how they end it off with their voices. 

Track 5. Restoring Order.

This is the longest track on the album weighing in at seven and half minutes and things are hotting up in the story and more power is needed. This is where things start to ROCK! up a bit and the opening riff on the guitar is like a cross between Black Sabbath and early Rush, although it perhaps leans more to the Sabbath side of things and is a bit reminiscent of “Electric Funeral” in parts. Midgley takes on the vocal duties solely on this song and he’s incorporated quite a tasty guitar solo into it that comes into play around the 4:47 mark.

Track 6. August Afternoon.

This is the part where a bit of theatrics comes into play and it takes me back to “Vox Populi” from their second album Tregeagle’s Choice with how things are done here only with the maddening crowd you get an acoustic guitar here instead of a synth. I suppose in a way it’s a bit like he has created pomp and circumstance with what he has done here and it really is excellent with how he’s incorporated his voice into the bustling crowd and background noise.

The way it opens up with the acoustic has me thinking of Floyd’s or rather Roger WatersGrandchester Meadows” only instead of nature singing in the background with the birds and bees you get Midgely’s voice and guitar mixed in with a bustling crowd. It’s very clever how he’s put all this together and it must have taken some time to get it perfected like this too. I also noticed he’s thrown in a bit of “Rule Britania” to end it all off.

Track 7. Break Out.

Tillett returns back to vocal duties and they continue to ROCK! things out once again and this is a well-driven song where they both share the vocal duties and play their role in putting this part of the story across. Besides the driving force of the guitars, the bass line pretty much cooks on gas on this song and is also a driving force with how well it stands out.

It’s very much a song that is driven and races along at a fast pace and I quite like the change that comes into play around the 2:38 mark which is sort of like a Rick Wakeman choral passage followed by some nice twin lead guitars that at first is perhaps reminiscent to Wishbone Ash and many others as it drives its way home. It is one of the more powerful tracks on the album and cooks on gas.

Track 8. Aftermath.

The synths are very well utilised in this next track and they do a very good job of dramatising the aftermath of the blood and tears left on the fields in this horrendous event. You do get the feeling that it’s an instrumental track until Tillett’s voice comes into play and once again he’s putting his heart into it to put it all across with his fine delivery. It also ends off nicely with a synth solo and another fine job has been done here by both.

Track 9. Back To The Fields.

Just like the album kicked off with a prologue it finishes off with the epilogue to remind us of the tragic event and the fear of never letting it happen again. They ROCK! things out for the final time here and once again the combination of the heavy guitar riff and the synth solo put me in mind of Sabbath and Rush. Tillet gets the vocal duties for the final time and once again does a stellar job of expressing the well-written lyrics penned by Midgley. It puts the album to bed in fine style.

Summary & Conclusion… 

The Feilds by Napier’s Bones is an album that works very well at portraying the tragic historical event of the Peterloo massacre that took place on the fields and the words have been very cleverly put into context. I would also say that it’s a solid album in that respect. It might not have the balls or quite the PROGMATIC! aspects that their previous album Monuments had and that is an album where they might have even excelled themselves. However, production standards are still quite high and there is nothing here that disappoints. Like all their albums it has their own distinctive style despite the many influences and the material has been been very well-thought-out, played and constructed. It’s also quite a strong body of work that merits its price point or more.

It’s an album that is perhaps less haunting in relation to many of the other conceptional stories Midgely has written about for his Napier’s Bones project and his solo works in the past. I do also think this is an album that is not going to hit you straight away and it needs more spins for it to really speak to you. But like most good albums you do need to grow into them and once you have you will benefit from the rewards it will return.  

Like many concept albums you are best listening to the album as a whole and this is how this album works best. Although there are a few tracks that stand out perhaps a bit more I did find it hard to choose a particular favourite one. If I had to choose one I guess I would go for it would be “Break Out” for the way it’s structured and along with “Restoring Order” and “Back To The Fields” they are my personal highlights from the album.  

If you like your music on the PROGMATIC! side and are into concept albums. The music that Napier’s Bones presents should appeal to you and I highly recommend checking it out. You can listen to the album for free or even purchase it for as little as £4 @ Bandcamp from the following link: https://napiersbones.bandcamp.com/album/the-fields

Historic PROG!…

The album tracklisting is as follows:

01. From The Fields. 6:40.
02. Something Changed. 4:12.
03. One More Lost. 6:06.
04. A Better Way. 4:50.
05. Restoring Order. 7:32.
06. August Afternoon. 4:04.
07. Break Out. 5:40.
08. Aftermath. 5:56.
09. Back To The Fields. 5:08.

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

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 7.5/10.


Lee Speaks About Music… #179

Daphnis Et Chloé – Tomita



This is the second of Tomita’s albums to be re-issued and re-released on a Hybrid SACD by Dutton Vocalion and this was actually the first of the two albums that Michael J. Dutton decided to remaster. I am well impressed by these new reissues from Tomita’s back catalogue of music and I do hope at some point we will get to see more of his albums get the same GREAT! treatment done to them. Obtaining what little multichannel mixes have been done in the past of his music is extremely hard to get hold of here in the UK and you will end up paying through the back teeth for them and are well overpriced. This is where I give praise to such record labels for giving you genuine quality at a GREAT! price.

Like his debut album Snowflakes are Dancing, Tomita returns to his love of French music, only this time instead of Debussy he decided to electronically create the music of Ravel. I have to confess that when I first brought this album I was not even aware of Ravel’s music, though classical music was not really my cup of tea so to speak so it was hardly surprising.

Like I mentioned in my previous review of Tomita’s Firebird album it was really him who introduced me to classical music though I had heard some of the music by more well-known composers such as Mozart, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky for example. I am pretty sure I would have heard “Bolero” used for the background music for ice skaters to dance to on the television too, but would not have been aware who composed the music and had no interest in it at all.

For me personally, what Tomita did with classical music was making it much more interesting and more appealing for my taste buds and I would even say he made it more accessible. In my youth the biggest majority of classical music I found very boring and still do today. It was through Tomita that I later spent a bit more time listening to classical music and in particular the pieces of music he electronically covered. I would not say that Tomita does everything better especially when it comes to pieces like “Clair de Lune” and for my ears that is a piece of music where its real beauty is expressed and brought to life on one instrument such as the piano. It’s more of the string section of an orchestra that bores me because it can lack variation at most times, unlike a violin solo which has much more expression.

My favourite genre of music progressive rock is very much derived from classical music and in general, the way that the music is structured and can go in many different directions and take you somewhere else is what I particularly like about it. That is the key and my definitive way to describe progrock and it has nothing to do with if the music is fused with genres of classical, jazz, folk, rock or whatever or even its strange time signatures. In some ways, even jazz fusion can be derived from classical music especially if you listen to Rachmaninoff whose music is more sporadic and nonsensical. No doubt it’s complex but just like the biggest majority of it does not even speak in musical terms to me and I find it can go right off the rails so to speak.

Maurice Ravel’s Daphnis Et Chloé is far from nonsensical and the way Isao Tomita presents it very much reminds me of progrock even though he’s electronically created it and once again he has managed to breathe new life into it. I also believe that Michael J. Dutton has also given us the opportunity to hear much of the life that was originally breathed into it with the Quad Mix, but before we go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

The disc comes in a standard plastic Jewel Case and I think that’s the norm with all releases from Dutton Vocalion and most likely used to keep the cost down. With its low price point of £11.99 plus a couple of pound postage & packing for a hybrid SACD that comes with Stereo and Quad mixes I certainly have no complaints here and this is a genuine bargain and streal at the price.


The albums design was done by Toshio Kajiura who used an illustrated painting done by Hiroo Isono for the front cover. Isono extensively travelled to varied forests and jungles in Japan such as the Yaeyama Islands and his main theme of work was often based around the subject of jungles, forests, or tropical climes and his art convey a serene atmosphere, coupled with the strength and appeal of Nature’s wonder. It really is a beautiful landscape and is well-fitting to beauty and romance behind Ravel’s music.

The Album In Review…

Tomita’s 7th studio album Daphnis et Chloé was originally released back in 1979. The original vinyl album contained 4 tracks spread over an overall playing time of around 54 minutes. The CD editions of the album split the second suite on the album up making up 8 tracks spread over the same distance. This particular Multichannel Hybrid SACD edition contains 8 tracks and was released on the 4th of January 2019. It’s the first time a Quadrophonic or multichannel mix of the album has surfaced since it was released on vinyl back in 1979 and back then it was released in Japan only.

The album was subtitled “The Ravel Album” and all the music on it was composed by the French classical composer Maurice Ravel who like Claude Debussy often had a touch of romanticism about their music. This is actually Tomita’s favourite album and he presented it to his daughter on her marriage. In the USA and Italy, the album was released under the title Boléro with different artwork and track running order. The artwork was done by Barron Storey and was also used for the 7″ and 12″ single release of “Boléro” here in the UK.


The single was released in 1980 in the UK by popular demand in the light of the success of the Movie “10” that featured Bo Derek and Dudley Moore and was scored by Henry Mancini. It even broke into the top 100 UK Singles charts and peaked at number 75.

By 1979 Tomita was expanding his studio and due to his success, he was adding more keyboards to his arsenal such as many Roland synthesisers including the Roland Vocoder VP-330 and he even added the BEAST! of keyboards to his collection the Yamaha CS-80 which is one of the rarest and most expensive synths widely still sort after today.


It was around this time that all those well-used analogue tape machines were about to witness the dawn of digital multitrack recorders, with the 3M and SoundStream systems. Tomita very much reached the peak of analogue overkill on this album at this stage of his career before venturing into the Digital Age that was around the corner.

I have no idea how well Daphnis et Chloé done on its release but I do remember its release avoiding me and I never even knew the album existed until it was released on CD in 1984. Back then you never had the internet to keep an eye out for new releases and had to rely on keeping your eyes open in the record stores and the odd magazine. I would not have thought this album would have attracted the attention in relation to his first four albums but nevertheless, it is an album that does have some fine moments and a well worthy addition to Tomita’s catalogue of music.

Musicians & Credits…


Produced by Plasma Music, Inc. Music Composed by Maurice Ravel, Electronically Created & Arranged by Isao Tomita. Recorded at Plasma Music Inc studios Japan 1979. Stereo & Quadrophonic Mixes by Isao Tomita. Remastered from the Original Master Tapes by Michael J. Dutton. Cover Design by Toshio Kajiura. Cover Illustration by Hiroo Isono.


Isao Tomita uses the following: Moog Synths: Moog HIP. Moog System 55. Polymoog. Scale Programmer 950-B. Bode Ring Modulator 6401. Bode Frequency Shifter 1630. Roland Synths: System 700. Strings RS-202. Jupiter 4. Yamaha Synths: CS-80. Strings SS-30. Vocoders: Roland Pulse VP-330. Korg VC-10. Fender Electric Piano. Hohner Clavinet C. Mellotron. Sequencer: Roland Micro Computer MC-8. Graphic Equalizers: 2 x Victor SEA-770. Roland GE-810 & GE-820. Mixers: Quad 8 Compumix (24 Channel). 3 x Teac Model 1 (8 Channel). 5 x Teac Model 3 (8 Channel). Tape Recorders: Ampex MM-1100 (16 Track) & AG-440 (4 Track). Teac 90-16. 80-8. A-3340S (4 Track). 7040GSL (2 Track). Sony TC-9040 (4 Track). Noise Reduction: DBX 187. 4 x Teac DX-8. Accessories: AKG BX20E & BX10 Echo Units. Roland RV-800 (stereo) & Revo 30 Reverb Units. Roland PH-830 Stereo Phaser. 4 x Korg MS-02. Binson Echorec “2”. Roland RE-201 Space Echo. Roland Dimension D. Eventide Clockworks Instant Phaser, Instant Flanger & Harmonizer. Fender Dimension 4. Leslie Speaker Model 147.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Like I already mentioned this album is very much like revisiting his debut album with the drama and the romanticism that is distinguishable of both Ravel’s and Debussy’s music. Tomita has a lot of admiration for the music and is not trying to analyse and arrange it through an oscillator but playing the orchestral pieces on his synthesizers. He has quite a unique way of extracting the dramatic essence even to the point of human breathing which is an element he also injected into his synthesizers and was inspired by watching the famous Kabuki actor Tamasaburo dance.

Pictures and colour are very much what Tomita likes to work with so let’s now take a closer look at the album and see how it all pans out as I take you through the individual tracks.

Track 1. Daphnis Et Chloé: Suite No.2. (a) Daybreak. (b) Pantomime. (c) General Dance.

Daphnis Et Chloé is Maurice Ravel’s longest piece of work and the original score is nearly an hour-long. The piece itself was split into two suites and three parts and Tomita chose to take on the final part of the story. The music itself was written for a ballet adapted by Michel Fokine who was a Russian Ballet dancer and choreographer to which Ravel himself referred to the piece as a choreographic symphony. His music was set to a romantic story written by the romantic Greek writer Longus and is thought to date from around the 2nd century AD.

What we have here is a piece that is in no hurry to build up to its climax in the final part over its near enough 18 minutes. The first two parts in particular tend to drag themselves along in a patient manner though as ever Tomita always throws something interesting into the pot. I did say that this was an album that had its moments and one of the magical moments on this album is the third part of this suite “General Dance” which is more like a battle or military affair and the most PROGMATIC! part of the album. Interestingly enough before it comes into play at around the 13-minute mark we get a touch of Vangelis which is perhaps unusual for Tomita.

Although this is a fine piece of work that Tomita has done with Ravel’s suite and he has tried to make it more interesting. There is no doubt you do have to have the patience to get through it at times and apart from the final third of the suite it does not merit enough to make this an epic track over this distance. In my opinion, Ravel is perhaps not one of the GREATS! in relation to many other composers and his music can be a bit tedious and boring at times and I put the blame on him and not Tomita.

Track 2. Pavane For A Dead Princess.

Although its title reflects the mournful side of things, strangely enough, that was not the vision Ravel had for the piece and it was more of a courtly dance from the Renaissance period and wasn’t for mourning the death of a princess and was more of a wistful daydream that the Spanish princess might have danced along too. Tomita’s approach perhaps reflects both the mournful and dance side of things in particular with the use of the pipe organ in the opening and perhaps turns it into more of a serenade by the time he’s finished with it. He really has done an excellent job with the arrangement and the sounds he uses are quite captivating and keep you attentive to the piece. It is, without doubt, in my eyes the best track on the album as a whole even if there are better standout moments in other places.

Track 3. Boléro.

Most classical music in general ventures down another path for it to go somewhere else just like good progrock music. However, “Bolero” is a piece I literally detest for not being adventurous and for it being more along the lines of punk rock with how it says the same thing throughout its entirety. Effectively it’s like listening to Alexei Sale say “hello John got a new motor” repeatedly over and over and it bores me to death 😁😁😁.

Not even Tomita’s electronic version rescues me from the depths of boredom I am afraid however he does make the panning effects interesting and even in stereo it works like a surround mix with how it circles itself all around you. It’s even more effective in Quadrophonic and I am pretty sure he must have used something like a ring modulator to produce the effect. He does also make it more interestingly by adding more elements in the arrangement and I personally think his arrangement is better in that respect.

To be honest Ravel’s piece might have worked better over a shorter distance rather than 9 minutes and that is what really kills the piece for me. No doubt it’s a piece that is more popular with other people than myself and even many other artists have covered part of it over the years, some rock artists, in particular, have even rocked it out on their guitars. But for me, it’s just a piece that builds itself up and travels along in one direction and is way too monotonous.

Tracks 4-8. Mother Goose Suite: (a) Pavane Of The Sleeping Beauty. (b) Hop-O’-My-Thumb. (c) Laideronnette, Empress Of The Pagodas. (d) Conversations Of Beauty And The Beast. (e) The Fairy Garden.

The final track on the album is another Suite and this was originally a five-part suite Ravel wrote as a piano duet for the  Godebski children back in 1910. Children’s fairy stories such as Sleeping Beauty, Tom Thumb and Beauty and the Beast is what he adapted the music around. A year later he orchestrated the work and expanded it into a ballet adding four new interludes and a couple of movements to it and the ballet premiered at the Théâtre des Arts in Paris, France on the 29th of January 1912.

Tomita based his version around the original that was written for a piano duet and orchestrates it in his own electronic way quite masterfully. The first part of the suite I first encountered on Joe Walsh’s 1974 album So What and had no idea it was written by Ravel. I quite like both versions and Tomita gives it more of a choral and orchestral way of presenting it in relation to the synthesized version of what Walsh did with it.

The third part is certainly one of the most interesting and another one of the standout sections or moments on the album and this is Tomita utilising some of the sounds that he used on “Golliwog’s Cakewalk” and “Ballet of the Chicks in their Shells” from his first two albums Snowflakes are Dancing and Pictures at an Exhibition. When you are thinking of music that is made for children as this suite of Ravel’s was this is more like it and it’s very playful.

Summary And Conclusion…

Daphnis et Chloé or The Ravel Album by Tomita might not have the fire and energy that can be found on some of his previous albums but nevertheless, its smoother edges and standout sections are perhaps enough to merit adding this album to your collection of his works. The original Quadrophonic mix done by Tomita makes it even more of a reason to add it to your collection and I would say this is easily the definitive edition and another reason to buy the album all over again. It does not come with any bonus tracks but considering the price point of this HYBRID, SACD is the same as a normal CD that is very much a bonus in itself and once again I have nothing but praise for Michael J. Dutton and his Vocalion Record company.

In the world of electronic music, Tomita is like a painter with a huge pallet of many colours and there is no doubt in my mind that he has skilfully painted his way through Ravel’s music and gave it a new lease of life. The beauty and romance in Ravel’s music are still very evident and even with the synthesis of electronics its captured its very essence in fine detail. I can see why it is Tomita’s favourite album even if it’s not mine, simply because it resembles and emulates in many ways some form of BEAUTIFICATION!

My personal highlights from the album are “Pavane For A Dead Princess“, “Daphnis Et Chloé: Suite No.2 (Part C)” and “Mother Goose Suite (Part C)”.

Ravelling Electronically With Ravel…

The SACD Track Listing is as follows:

01. Daphnis et Chloe: Suite No.2. (a) Daybreak. (b) Pantomime. (c) General Dance. 17:46.
02. Pavane For A Dead Princess. 7:19.
03. Boléro. 9:20.
04. Mother Goose Suite: (a) Pavane Of The Sleeping Beauty. (b) Hop-O’-My-Thumb. (c) Laideronnette, Empress Of The Pagodas. (d) Conversations Of Beauty And The Beast. (e) The Fairy Garden. 19:35.

The Package Rating. 7/10.
The Price Point Rating. 10/10.
The Quad Mix Rating. 10/10.
The Stereo Mix Rating. 10/10.
The Album Rating. 6/10.