Lee Speaks About Music… #195

The Other Life – Argos


I stumbled across this album by a post that Mark Wajdeman had shared in the Prog On Group on Facebook. He actually posted a link to the whole of the album that somebody had uploaded to Youtube. From the very instant I heard the opening song on the album I was immediately drawn into it and it was like listening to some of the GREAT! music that came out of the Canterbury scene here in the UK all those years ago. By the time I got to the albums third track, I popped over to Bandcamp and ordered the CD and it was most certainly an album that was ticking all the right boxes with every track and spoke to me very well.

Argos are a German progrock band well that is how I would describe them rather than the Neo-Prog tag that is commonly associated with their genre of music. To be perfectly honest having already been quite blown away by The Reflection Club’s album Still Thick As A Brick I not so long reviewed. It appears that Germany is the IN! thing right now for progrock and both of these bands are producing some of the finest progrock since I heard the Norwegian band Wobbler. Many moons ago it was my own country here in the UK that produced some of the finest progrock ever, and now in this day and age it appears other European countries have got more of an idea of how to do it right than us Brits 😊😊😊.

However, there is a niggly bit of a gripe and downside I soon discovered about this band to which I will go into at the end of my review. But for now, let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

The CD comes in a well made cardboard Gatefold Digipak with a Glossy finish and the booklet is stored on the left-handed side of the sleeve. The 16-page booklet contains lyrics, pictures and all the usual linear production credit notes and does not come with any additional informative information. Overall, it’s a neat presentation and my prefered choice of packaging in comparison to the standard plastic jewel case.

I purchased my copy from Bandcamp for €13 (EURO) plus €3.90 (EURO) for p+p which is approximately £14.36 in total here in the UK. It is a little expensive and perhaps a couple of pounds more than I would usually pay for a CD in a Digipak here in the UK. However, that is to be expected for an import so I have no real complaints and its price point is what one would expect to pay.

It did also take just over a couple of weeks to arrive which is also perhaps expected due to it coming from Germany and the present Covid pandemic. However, by purchasing it from Bandcamp least it came with a free Digital Download so I could listen to the album before it arrived.


The artwork was done by Bernd Webler and I have to say that is a very odd-looking contraption or piece of machinery that is on the albums front cover. According to Webler, it’s a Schöpfwerk centrifugal pump and it was most likely used many moons ago for the drainage of water. 

These days it’s perhaps used more as an ornament or attraction and this one (as far as I can make out) was situated at Trebur, Groß-Gerau District, Darmstadt District, Hesse, Germany and was the inspiration for Webler‘s artwork.

Having done a bit of further research these strange contraptions were most likely used for drainage and water regulation in the Ried which is in the district of Aichach-Friedberg in Bavaria in Germany. Another place they may have been used is Schwarzbach which is a village situated in the Ore Mountains in Saxony, Germany.

The name ‘Schwarzbach’ means ‘Black Stream’. One assumption is that there was a peat-cutting site in the village that dyed the water of the stream black. Schwarzbach is also situated in a valley of the eponymous stream, that flowed through the village from north to south. Whatever the strange-looking contraption was used for I am sure it did the job and served its purpose and it not only makes an interesting album cover but a good one and I quite like it.

Release Editions…

The album was released in 3 formats and the cheapest is the Digital Download priced at €7 (EURO) on the bands Bandcamp site. The CD release I have already mentioned which is my prefered choice priced at €13 (EURO) excluding p+p. This latest album is the first time the band have released a Vinyl Edition and that is perhaps down to the fact that the band are no longer tied to a record label and the album is Self-Released.

As you can see they have also released a couple of coloured Vinyl Editions though these are Limited Editions and only 100 copies of the Clear and Light Blue & Grey Melt have been pressed and are priced at €25 (EURO) each. I am well surprised they still have some left.

The Black Vinyl is unlimited and priced at €22 (EURO) and all the vinyl releases have been pressed onto 180gram vinyl so no skimping has been done here and they all come in a Gatefold Sleeve with a poly-lined inner sleeve to protect the vinyl.

Argos In Brief History…

The band Argos is originally the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist and composer Thomas Klarmann who back in 2005 was working on his own solo project. A year earlier he had joined Superdrama a band put together by the keyboardist and composer Robert Gozon and as far as I know is still an ongoing band. Although very little output of that band has really surfaced and it was not until a decade later that they finally put out an album entitled The Promise in 2014.

Gozon took an interest in Klarmann’s solo project and soon got involved and the pair of them put a few songs together and set up a MySpace page and put them on there to see what other people thought of their material. Drummer and composer Ulf Jacobs a passionate lover of progressive music happened to drop by on their page and took enough interest in the music that he offered his services to the pair. It was this trio of musicians that put together the bands self-titled debut album in 2008 and it was released on Musea Records in January 2009.

By 2010 the band had expanded to a four-piece adding guitarist Enrico Florczak to the equation and it was with this line-up that went on to produce another four albums Circles (2010), Cruel Symmetry (2012), A Seasonal Affair (2015) and Unidentified Flying Objects in 2018. He also played as a session player on the bands debut album.

Having spent a decade with the band on the 19th of January 2020 Florczak announced on the bands Facebook page that he had left for personal reasons. Later on the same page on the 6th of April 2020, the band announced their new guitarist Bogáti-Bokor Ákos and the rest is pretty much history.

The Album In Review…

The Other Life by Argos was released on the 20th of August 2021 and is the bands 6th studio album to date. The album contains 9 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 49 minutes, 38 seconds. The band have been described as the most British-sounding progressive rock band to come out of Germany. I certainly would not argue about that either and considering the orginal 4 members of the band are German I find it hard to believe just how English they do sound. They even sound like they came out of the Canterbury Scene here in the UK back in the early 70’s.

The new member of the band Bogáti-Bokor Ákos is from Romania and played in the band Yesterdays who are a Hungarian progrock band. Besides being a guitarist he is also a multi-instrumentalist, producer and mixing engineer which is most likely why the band decided to go with a self-release instead of a record label. You could say that the band now have a Romanian connection though he’s a very useful guy to have and a fine addition to the band.

Their latest album The Other Life was produced and mixed by Ákos and the new material was recorded in Germany & Romania between 2019 and 2020. The album was mastered at Tom-Tom Studios in Budapest, Hungry by Nyiri Sandor.

Tom-Tom Studios established itself as the most prestigious choice in Hungary with many major international clients. It has 4 studios built inside its complex and they even have a mobile recording unit to record live concerts. It specialises in multiple aspects of studio work including orchestral recordings and audio post-production.

One of the things I did notice whilst gazing through the bands back catalogue of music is that they always use session players and this album is no exception and comes with three of them. They are a good thing to have onboard especially for adding other instrumentation to the music and I’ve noticed that this is not the first album Marek Arnold has contributed Saxophone to their music or Thilo Brauss additional keyboards for that matter. I’ve even noticed Andy Tillison of The Tangent contributed some keyboards on their past couple of albums.

Argos strike me has a band that focuses more on studio work rather than a band that plays live on a regular basis to try and attract further attention to themselves. From what I can gather during my research the band has hardly played live at all and may have played no more times than the fingers I could count on one hand since they started in 2005.

I could be completely wrong but judging by the sales of their albums on Bandcamp it also supports my research and I would even go as far as to say that the members of the band have not quite given up their day jobs so to speak. However, they have been picking up more fans and gathering more interest over the last couple of years since the release of their previous album Unidentified Dying Objects. and with this latest album, I personally think they should do better.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced & Mixed by Bogáti-Bokor Ákos. All Lyrics by Thomas Klarmann & Robert Gozon. Music Written by Thomas Klarmann, Robert Gozon, Ákos Bogáti-Bokor & Enrico Florczak. Recorded in Germany & Romania between 2019 and 2020. Mastered by Nyiri Sandor at Tom-Tom Studios in Budapest, Hungry. Artwork & Layout by Bernd Webler. Band Photography by Bodo Kubatzki.

Thomas Klarmann: Bass/Flute/Keyboards/Lead & Backing Vocals (Track 4).
Robert Gozon: Lead & Backing Vocals/Keyboards.
Ákos Bogáti-Bokor: Electric & Acoustic Guitars/Backing Vocals/Keyboards & Bass (Tracks 3,6).
Ulf Jacobs: Drums & Percussion.

Additional Musicians.
Thilo Brauss: Keyboards & Organ (Tracks 1,4,5).
Marek Arnold: Clarinet & Saxophone (Tracks 4,8).
Stephanie Semeniuc: Backing Vocals (Tracks 2,5,9).

The Album Tracks In Review…

Listening to the bands music it’s easy to see that this is a band that draws from many influences from both the Canterbury Scene and English Progressive Rock from the late 60’s early 70’s. A few of the bands that instantly come to mind on this album are Caravan, Genesis, Stackridge, Gentle Giant, Gryphon, and so on. I have also noted from various other reviews that Peter Hammill of Van der Graaf Generator tends to pop up regarding the vocals. However, personally, I don’t hear that and if I did I can assure you I would never have brought this album in the first place simply because I don’t even rate him as a singer and his voice at times annoys me.

If anything Argos has applied a sweeter edge and perhaps more of a modern twist and approach to their music that tends to fit in with more of the melancholic side of things. The word “Lacksey Daisy” also springs to mind and Robert Gozon’s voice has more of a refined speaking mannerism to it all. Looking at the few bands I mentioned I am perhaps more driven towards Caravan and Stackridge with a modern twist. Whatever it is, it’s about as pleasant as you can get so let’s now take a closer look as I delve through all 9 tracks.

Track 1. Chameleon Sky.

I think the word “Lacksey Daisy” springs instantly to mind on the albums opening track and this could easily be my personal favourite track on the album. Although with this album I really do find it hard to pick a favourite track simply because they are all so darn good. Both Klarmann & Gozon wrote the musical side of things and Gozon was at the helm of the lyrics that pertain to quite a whimsical way of looking at a daydream sort of thing. They really are GREAT! playful lyrics and Gozon expresses them very well.

Musically it’s a very well constructed song that goes through some wonderful transitions that all tie in perfectly. The combination of guitar and keyboards works exceptionally well and they really have found a GREAT! guitarist to replace Enrico Florczak. The guitar tones Ákos gets out of his guitar are like a cross between Andy Latimer and Steve Hackett and he plays some very tasteful lead lines. I would also say the song is like a cross between Caravan, Stackridge, Genesis and Camel and it really all works WONDERS!

Track 2. Broken Mirror.

Another Klarmann & Gozon very well-penned song to which Gozon only contributes to part of the lyrics. It’s very much a dark song that pertains to death and musically and vocally is put across sweetly. Stephanie Semeniuc lends a hand with some harmonies on the chorus and accompanies Gozon’s voice and the words are put across very well and clear. The song itself is not so much PROGMATIC! and very much runs along like a conventional pop or folk song with its verse and chorus structure. However, the colours and textures from the guitars and synths do lean towards the PROG! side of things and it even incorporates a Genesis stroke Phil Collins drum machine pattern in the fine lead break.

Track 3. The Twilight Mind.

The pace moves up a bit here and being as this song was written by Klarmann, Gozon and Florczak (to which the latter is no longer in the band) and I can only presume that this song may have been written for their previous album Unidentified Flying Objects and left off the album. The title and subject matter of the lyrics also suggest that it was written back then too.

Judging by the GREAT! guitar on this album I certainly don’t think they are missing Florczak and Ákos is a very well accomplished player of the instrument and does some STELLAR! work on this track and even incorporate’s a very TASTY! wah, lead solo in the break. There is also some GREAT! keyboard work and Klarmann’s flute is very well utilised and in the section that it is utilised it reminds me of Wobbler. Though there are quite a few influences popping out of the woodwork here and it’s another GREAT! song to which they are all doing a TOP JOB!

Track 4. Johnny Head-in-Air.

This next song is quite a GEM! and the music and words were written by Klarmann. The lyrics are inspired by the children’s stories of Johnny Head-in Air which were written by the German psychiatrist Heinrich Hoffmann. Also known as Dr Heinrich Hoffmann. Klarmann also sings this song and I personally think he has more of a sweeter singing voice than Gozon, though both are really good and very much sound English and not remotely German at all. At times it’s pretty hard to distinguish a difference between the both of them because they both tend to sing in speaking mannerisms.

Putting music to stories is something this band do with BRILLIANCE! and the way they have worked around this song with the GORGEOUS! instrumentation and arrangement are as smooth as silk. Besides the fine work Klarmann, Gozon and Ákos are doing I quite like how Jacobs keeps everything ticking on the drums on this song and it’s far from straightforward and involves some intricate pattern playing. It also features Marek Arnold on clarinet and sax adding some wonderful JAZZY! flavours to it all.

Track 5. I Carry Light.

Another uptempo track and I quite like Klarmann’s dominating bass line on this one. The song also has quite a long intro and Ákos is doing another TASTEFUL! job on the guitar. He even gets involved in the writing and co-wrote the music with Klarmann and Gozon for the remaining tracks on the album as well as this one. Unlike the picture, I chose the source of light Gozon is pertaining to appears to be about a flower. There is some very TASTY! synth work on this one too and once again Semeniuc lends a hand with the harmonies and this is the second track on the album Thilo Brauss contributes some keyboards too.

Track 6. The Trial of the Pyx.

Next up we have the longest track on the album and this is quite a PROGMATIC! song and it kicks off in fine style and sounds a bit like King Crimson’sRed“. The subject matter of the song dates back to medieval times around the thirteenth century when coins made by The Royal Mint here in England were first put to the test to check they contained the right amount of precious metals. The ceremony gets its name from the chests that were used to carry the coins to the Trial, and the Pyx Chamber in Westminster Abbey where they were originally kept. From 1870 onwards the Trial of the Pyx has taken place each year at the Goldsmiths’ Hall, the home of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, in the City of London.

History books reveal that if the coins fail the test, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is the ceremonial Master of The Royal Mint, risks losing a hand as punishment. Gozon tends to play on the merciless side of things with his lyrics injecting a bit more evil into the proceedings even with how he expresses the words. It’s perhaps a bit like what Genesis did with “The Return of the Giant Hogweed” with how he goes about the story here and he makes it that more exciting in doing so.

This is the only song on the album in which Gozon’s German accent does show a bit and it breaks out in the way he expresses the words between the 2:20 – 3:22 minute mark of the song. “The Trial of the Pyx” is a song that goes through some fine transitional changes and not only allows space for guitar and keyboard solos but it also allows the space for the drummer to be more creative and they all do a GRAND! job here.

Track 7. Weak End.

Following the longest track on the album we now have the shortest and this is quite a synth driven track but also has many other characteristics about it in particular with the vocal harmonies and the way it all flows along. It’s very much a song that’s like a cross between Gryphon and Gentle Giant and I am sure you will hear the similarities in the official Lyric Video that Klarmann posted on his Tube Channel. I should also point out that the Gryphon resemblance is really from some of their mellow songs found on their 5th studio album Treason.

Personally, I think it’s GREAT! and this is a song that is full of vibrance and life. I quite like the disturbing side of the lyrical content too and it is perhaps insanely very good indeed.

Track 8. The Shall See Hotel.

Quite a strange title this one and one that starts off in a dreamy sort of way then slightly builds its way along with a rhythm quite a bit reminiscent of the band The Police before unleashing its full power. This is another GREAT! track that features some blistering guitar work from Ákos some of his attack reminds me a bit of Steve Howe of Yes on this one. It also features Marek Arnold on sax and it plays a part in smoothing things out a bit adding some contrasting jazzy styles reminiscent of the likes of Steely Dan and Weather Report sort of thing.

The lyrics were written by both Gozon & Klarmann and they were most likely inspired by some event or political issues, although like the title I could not tell you what they are pertaining to. They have also written them in a poetic way and I am sure there is a meaningful thing about them. Whatever the song is pertaining to it’s certainly one of the highlights of the album and another excellent job has been done on it.

Track 9. The Library of the Future.

The album is ended off in fine acoustic melancholic style and this is another of my personal highlights on the album. Gozon’s lyrics are well penned and perhaps pertaining to how the past can be part of the future after we have passed on sort of thing. I suppose in a way it could also be pertaining to what little remains of love as time goes on.

Klarmann posted an edited down version of the song on his Tube Channel a few months before the album was released to give people a taste of what to expect. You are also only missing 37 seconds and it is the second shortest song on the album.

It really is a GREAT! song and utilises acoustic guitar, piano, mellotron, synths, flute and even the drums play their role very well. All four members of the band do a super job here and it puts the album to bed very well leaving you wanting more.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up The Other Life by Argos. It’s an album that is about as solid as you can get where every track is very well written and constructed. I think the best way I could describe this album is that it’s a pure GEM! Albums like this only come along once in a while and looking at the bands back catalogue they don’t stick around for long either which brings me to my niggly bit of a gripe and downside I soon discovered about them that I mentioned in my introduction.

The downside may very well be down to their first five albums being tied to record labels and my gripe is that you can no longer get your hands on a physical copy of those albums unless you want to shell out silly money on the black market for them. Not only that buying the album second hand is hardly supporting the artist. Although it is something I do from time to time as long as I can get it at a reasonable enough price but I have my limits regarding spending silly money on such a product.

You can of course get them in the form of a Digital Download. Although personally, it’s very rare I would pay any more than £5 or Euro for a download simply because you have nothing to hold in your hand and no digital download is worth any more than that in my book. Giving somebody a download for their Birthday or Christmas is like giving them bugger all 😊😊😊. Buying a physical product is like owning it and you can see where your money has been spent and you have something of value you can look at and cherish.

In Conclusion I rather think that The Other Life is an album you could play in it’s entirity to death and never get tired of it. If this isn’t the Progrock album of year it’s certainly the most enjoyable one that’s for sure and my personal highlights are “Chameleon Sky“. “Johnny Head-in-Air“. “The Shall See Hotel” and “The Library of the Future“.

Personally what this band need to do is get out there more and play live to attract more attention to themselves, simply because what they are doing needs more attention and they deserve to be heard. From what I have heard from their other albums they are pretty much consistent with how they go about their writing and the material is very strong and quite often like this album a very strong body of work.

There is no doubt in my mind that if like myself you are into the progrock and the Canterbury Scene from all those years back this bands music should appeal to your taste and should be in your record collection. You can listen to The Other Life for free or purchase the album from here: https://argos.bandcamp.com/album/the-other-life

A Worthy GEM! That Should Be In You Record Collection…

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:
01. Chameleon Sky. 6:31.
02. Broken Mirror. 4:14.
03. The Twilight Mind. 6:45.
04. Johnny Head-in-Air. 5:25.
05. I Carry Light. 5:46.
06. The Trial of the Pyx. 7:58.
07. Weak End. 3:10.
08. The Shall See Hotel. 6:23.
09. The Library of the Future. 3:26.

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
The Album Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #194

For King And Country – Cyan


Robert Reed is no stranger when it comes to working on other projects he has in fact been involved in many over the years and with this new release, it appears that he’s rejuvenating his very first project from many moons ago. Cyan was his very first project and For King And Country he wrote whilst still in his teens at school and if you think along the lines of printer ink cartridges you can see how his second project Magenta came out of it. To be honest that is only my own observation as to why he decided to choose colours and I have no idea why he chose those names. But somehow I cannot see Magenta changing to Yellow at some point simply because the name has already been taken.

I am sure those who have followed Reed’s career over the years will be aware of this early project of his and I first stumbled upon it afterwards when I got into Magenta. I also have 4 albums of Cyan though only in the form of mp3 digital downloads because the CD’s are extremely hard to obtain at a reasonable price and like many albums that go out of print you can wind up paying silly money for them.

The original version of For King And Country was very much a one-man project album to which Reed made entirely on his own with the use of electric & acoustic guitars, keyboards & synths and a drum machine. He also sang on the original album although he was never happy with his own voice which is why later on he brought in other vocalists to do that side of things for him.

Now he’s decided to record the album all over again only this time with a band behind him and brought in some excellent musicians to which he has worked with before over the years. I am sure for those who never heard the original album this will be a real treat. But for those like myself who have had the album for quite a while, it may very well be harder to accept and not everything is going to be a bed of roses so to speak.

One thing that has most certainly improved is the albums cover but is the album an overall improvement? Before I go any further and answer that question let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

Unlike the original album that came in a standard plastic Jewel Case, it now comes very nicely presented in a 3-panel cardboard Digisleeve with die-cut pockets to hold the discs and the booklet. The 12-page booklet does not come with any detailed informative information but does come with the lyrics and pictures and the sleeve contains all the linear production notes and credits as you can see in the picture below.

Overall it’s a very neatly presented package and I pre-ordered my copy from Tigermoth Records for £12 plus £1.90 p+p making a grand total of £13.90 which is quite a bargain for a CD/DVD package that comes with a 5.1 mix.


The original artwork was done by Willebrord Elsing with Reed himself and although I think it’s quite eye-catching and a very cool cover presentation, there has been some vast improvements on this new version of it. As you can see by the two album covers below it’s a bit like playing spot the difference only the differences stand out a mile so it does not present you with much of a challenge on that score.

The original cover is more like a cartoon whereas the newer version has a couple of additions plus some changes to the rendering coming off the brickwork and it looks more like how modern games have improved over the years with the graphics and presents you with more of a virtual lifelike presentation.

The new artwork and makeover was done by Azim Akberali and I have to say he deserves a good pat on the back and personally I have always thought this was the best album cover of not only Cyan releases but also Magenta and his solo albums and now it looks even more spectacular.

The Album In Review

The new 2021 release of For King And Country by Cyan was officially released on the 24th of September though my copy surprisingly turned up 15 days beforehand on the 9th of September. The album contains the same 8 tracks as the original though due to being remade completely from scratch it is some 14 minutes, 40 seconds longer and comes with a total playing time of 67 minutes, 9 seconds. Although some of the songs on the album and the project go back to the early 80’s, the original album was not released until 1993 and it’s quite fascinating how Cyan originally evolved.

Cyan was originally a band that Reed put together with his brother Steven and a few close friends whilst he was still at school. His brother was in fact the lead singer of the band and although they only played a few gigs before knocking it all on the head, out of it came a demo of four of the songs we have here that were recorded on a cassette to which was passed onto various other people at the time.

Reed was quite a fan of the neo-prog band Pendragon and used to watch them play live a few times which is perhaps how one of the demo tapes got passed onto the founder of that band Nick Barrett. A good few years later in 1991, Reed received a letter from a record company in the Netherlands (who had received the demo from Barrett) offering him a contract and wanting him to write a few more songs and make an album.. Without a band, he decides to re-record the songs from the original demo tape and write a few more songs all of which he did by himself playing all the instruments.

In 1993 For King And Country got released on Silly Insect Records who were a division of the Dutch prog rock record label SI Music which was very active in the 90s. This short interview of Reed was most likely done around the same time and the rest is history.

To be honest he did not look much older than that when I met him at the Robin 2 a few years ago 😊😊😊. Though I am sure he had makeup on and he was also playing with Luke Machin that night in a new project band they had put together that went by the name of KIAMA.

Machin’s guitar skills were more than enough to convince Reed that he would be the right man to have on board in putting back Cyan as a band. He did not have to look far for the other musicians either and Dan Nelson’s capability on the bass was convincing enough for him to choose to play in Magenta. Another talented musician he has signed up to one of his other record labels White Knight Records which is a division of Tigermoth Records is Pete Jones. Jones has quite an incredible vocal range which is why he also plays in many other projects.

One of the strangest things I did find looking at the new line-up of Cyan is that they do not appear to have a drummer and only Reed, Machin, Jones and Nelson’s names appear on the front cover. It appears that Tim Robinson who plays drums on this album is only a session player, yet he played the drums for both Cyan and Magenta.

However, I did find an explainable reason for this in an interview with Reed and Jones and the idea of reinventing Cyan goes back 10 or 12 years whilst Robinson was still in Magenta and it was back then that Reed was tinkering about with the old Cyan material and got him to throw some drums on it.

Reed will often work on several projects at a time and it’s obvious that remaking Cyan’s debut album had been in the pipeline for some time and it was around 2018 that he was looking for a vocalist when sound engineer Chris Jones suggested Pete Jones even though he was extremely busy at the time working with Camel and other projects. However, Jones obliged and when Reed got the tapes back with his voice on he was well impressed and knew he had found the right vocalist for the rebirth of the project.

It was around the same time that Reed was working with KIAMA he got Machin to throw some lead guitar on the album and it was perhaps not long after Nelson joined Magenta a few years later he knew he never had to look far for a bass player. The album was completed in 2018 though Reed wanted to make a video to promote the album and had to wait for the right time to get everybody together which is why it took until now to release the album.

To be honest I found the interview with Reed and Jones more resourceful than the interview on the DVD. Speaking of the DVD let’s now take a quick look at it.


The DVD’s main menu is the only menu and it’s boxed standard and as basic as you could get. Nevertheless, everything is in one place making it easy to get at everything. Though I have to say when you have such a GREAT! album cover like this it would have been nice to have it on the main menu so we can see it in even more detail on our big screen TV’s.

Personally, you cannot beat an album cover being displayed in 1080p HD or 4K and it looks even better than a vinyl album cover, especially on my 50″ TV. You might be thinking that this is a DVD and not a Blu Ray but you would be surprised how sharp and pristine pictures can look on a DVD when played in a Blu Ray Player with good upscaling. I have several that you would not even notice the difference between the picture quality of a DVD and Blu Ray.

The main feature is the 5.1 mix of the album and as you can see you have the choice of two surround audio formats of Dolby Digital and DTS. Both come with sample rates of 24/48 and my personal choice is the DTS mix which comes at a higher quality rate of 1.5 Mbps instead of the lower rate of 428Kbps that Dolby Digital gives you.

The video content is the bonus material and I do believe that Rob has put all of this content on his Tube channel. Though it’s good to have it all in one place here and the video of “The Sorceror” is GREAT! to have.

The 5.1 Mix.

I’ve always been quite impressed by Rob Reed’s ability to do a good 5.1 mix and this one is no exception and is a very satisfying surround mix. I think some engineers can be a bit too subtle and be a bit too scared to be adventurous at times. Personally, I feel this one is more of a pleasant mix that is not over the top and will give you a good immersive experience.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced & Mixed by Robert Reed. Music by Rob Reed (except tracks 1, 2, 5, 8) Done with Carl Smith. Lyrics by Robert Reed (except track 3) Lyrics by Steven Reed. Artwork by Azim Akberali. 5.1 Mix by Robert Reed.

Robert Reed: Keyboards – Guitars – Backing Vocals.
Luke Machin: Lead Guitars.
Peter Jones: Lead Vocals – Saxophone – Whistles.
Dan Nelson: Bass.

Additional Musicians:
Tim Robinson: Drums.
Angharad Brinn: Backing Vocals.
Tesni Jones: Backing Vocals. (Track 6)

The Album Tracks In Review…

I very much find covering any song is one of the hardest things to do and there have only been a minute number of covers that have been better than the original. Judging by some of the other artists who have tried to remake their earlier albums from scratch in the past I find it hard to compete with the original especially after hearing it for all those years. In general, it’s usually in the live performance where you get to hear some of your favourite songs sound a bit different and that is the best place for them rather than try and re-create an album all over again in the studio.

I can perhaps understand why some artists would want to do so with how technology has moved on and them wanting a better overall sound and production. But even by doing that, it does not necessarily mean you as the listener are going to enjoy the new version better at all.

A couple of prime examples who have done such a thing are Camel who remade their iconic 1975 album The Snow Goose back in 2013 and Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash who back in 2005 re-recorded the bands 1972 iconic album Argus. In my own personal opinion, both of those remakes were a waste of money and I still play the original albums and not those things.

The only person I know of who has made their album sound better by doing such a thing is Mike Oldfield with his remake of Tubular Bells back in 2003. I play that version more than the original and it’s one of my personal favourite 5.1 mixes and sounds totally AMAZING! What Oldfield did is very hard to achieve though it’s really down to you as the listener and I dare say for many they might even prefer the original 1973 version of his iconic album.

At the end of the day, it would be nice if you could enjoy both versions and take something from them both as with Tubular Bells. You don’t want to wind up with an album you cannot play as I did with The Snow Goose and Argus and in all honesty, in Andy Latimer’s case, I thought it was a bit disrespectful to Peter Bardens who certainly contributed most of the writing to that iconic album. I don’t know what Latimer was trying to prove by doing such a thing and I would have loved to have seen a new Camel album rather than him waste his time like that. Especially after his long illness that put him out of action for a decade.

So let’s now delve a bit deeper into the new 2021 remake of For King And Country and see if it’s turned out for the better or worse. I am pretty sure it’s going to be a bit of a hit and miss but let’s see.

Track 1. The Sorceror.

If like myself you saw the video of this song prior to the release of the album there can be no doubt that it was the very thing that would have enticed you to purchase the album in the first place. Just looking at the skills it takes to play a song like this is very impressive and it is a very impressive video presentation that captures all the members playing their parts with precision. Though in reality, a presentation is precisely what you are seeing here and not a true live performance but something that has been made to appear that way using the studio recorded track, cameras and editing.

Even though they are miming they have done it very well and you could also say with precision and take it from me this bunch of musicians are more than capable of pulling off a live performance like this. What makes it more spectacular are the camera angles of how it’s been captured and edited.

You will also notice that Jon Griffiths is on the drums in the video and not Tim Robinson. Reed did originally ask Robinson if he fancied playing live again as he intends to do some live shows with the band but he was not up for it and spends his time teaching drums these days.

I’m gonna be perfectly honest and it’s plain to see that Reed’s voice is not his strongest point when listening to the original song which is why he brought in both Nigel Voyle and Christina Booth for the subsequent albums that followed. To be honest I was not sure that Pete Jones voice would fit a song like this. But he has the perfect voice for it in my opinion. It’s also been BEAUTIFULLY! accompanied by Angharad Brinn’s backing vocals and they fit in like a glove here too.

I would also say this new version has a bit more of a Celtic touch to it with the use of Brinn’s vocals although with the WIZARDRY! interplay between the keyboards, guitars, bass and drums, it still like the original, gives it that PROGMATIC! feel to it all.

I think another of Reed’s weakness’s back then was his guitar playing and it’s nowhere near the ability he has on the instrument these days. However, I should also point out that it is on this track only that I felt his guitar playing was weak and not the other tracks. The original version is much more keyboard orientated and you certainly will not even hear bass and guitar lines as we have on this newer version and I am pretty sure Reed even played the bass on a synth on the original. Both Dan Nelson and Luke Machin have really done the BIZZO! along with the rest on this new version.

What Reed has done here is completely rework the song and kept the main melody lines. It’s also near enough 4 minutes longer and personally, I think this is a lot better than than the original song. Though I have to confess that I still prefer the intro on the original in comparison to the orchestrated intro we have on the new version. Though I will say that the orchestration on the intro is well apt for the video and very much gives the picture that Cinematic look and feel you would get with a motion picture.

Track 2. Call Me.

This song has a slight extension to the original but perhaps the most notable thing is that it now has lyrics. To be honest I have no idea who wrote the lyrics either and there appears to be either one or two asterisk‘s missing on the booklet. Though I will stick my neck out and say they were written by Steven Reed being as the original was an instrumental piece. The music is also credited to Robert Reed and Carl Smith who was one of the original members of the band.

Personally, I think the instrumental version is a bit more PROGMATIC! and is a bit like what Tony Banks was doing on his second solo album The Fugitive back in the 80’s. Though it is perhaps an instrumental piece that is quite easy to see how the lyrics would have sat in with the original version and not much of the musical structure has been changed and it’s more of the arrangement and vocal side of things that makes the difference here.

With lyrics and Jones’s voice, it does tend to make it sound more like a pop ballad of a song and I think the lyrical side of things is also pertaining to the popular side of music too. The biggest difference between both versions is really the ending, and on this newer version, it is perhaps the only thing that leans towards the PROGMATIC! side of things and Reed even contributes some fine acoustic guitar to it as well.

One of the other notable things about both versions is that it does sound as if Reed has lifted part of John Barry’s theme to the “Midnight Cowboy“. However, It is perhaps more clearly noticeable on the original version though it’s still quite evident enough here too if you listen close enough. To be honest I still prefer the original but do I love how they ended off this newer version.

Track 3. I Defy The Sun.

It’s when listening to the original and the new version of this song that you get to realize just how bad Reed’s voice really was and Jones has really knocked this song out of the ballpark. The beautiful voice of Brinn also lends a hand here and this is another song that S. Reed penned the lyrics to and I think both versions lean more towards popular music than to PROG! despite the Genesis feel also given towards the very end which is more evident in the new version especially with the 12 string and HACKETT ESC! guitar phasing swells. The ending has also notably been extended.

There is also a slight touch of Mike Oldfield with the sweet lead guitar section that comes into play around the 3:12 mark after Brinn’s solo on the vocals. In the official video, you do see Machin play both the lead and counter melody to which I thought was both Machin and Reed playing. It still might be the case that Reed is playing the counter melody because it does have that Oldfield touch.

Overall I think there is no question as to which version is the better of the two and this latest version is a clear winner in my book and they all have done a very TASTEFUL! job on it.

Track 4. Don’t Turn Away.

There is quite a major difference been done to the new version of this song and strangely enough, the newer version is more keyboard orientated than the original to which Reed did do a lot better job on the lead guitar than on the opening track on the album back then. He also penned the lyrics to this one and both versions are quite PROGMATIC! The major difference is in the vocal section and that is perhaps where the newer version is a bit more keyboard orientated in relation to the original. Some of the flutey sounds even put me in mind of Tangerine Dream back in the 80’s with albums like Le Parc and Shy People.

It’s very much a song that has a long intro to get to the vocal section and one that goes through a good few transitions along its journey. The very opening intro has a medieval touch about it and sort of reminds me of the music they put to the game Tombraider which came out much later. Oddly enough on the original version when Reed comes in on the vocals it reminds me of the Kraut progrock band, Eloy.

There is no doubt the newer version has a better production but it’s one of those songs where I could take something from both versions and I could not pick a winner out of the two because they both have their merits and are enjoyable to listen to.

Track 5. Snowbound.

“Snowbound” is very PROGMATIC! and an instrumental piece that likes to fly. The original version is more along the lines of what Camel did on albums such as Mirage and Moonmadness and it’s very much keyboard-driven though Reed did also incorporate some fine lead guitar work into the piece as well. It’s quite Moog DELICIOUS! although I am pretty sure he never had a Moog back then and the keyboards used on the original album were the Ensoniq SQ1, Korg M1, Emu MPS and an Akai S100 sampler.

This newer version has kept the Moog sound for the main theme and it incorporates a lot more guitar into the piece and gives Machin the chance to fly. Even Jones gets to fly with the fine job he does on the whistles and it also sounds much better with real drums and Nelson’s bass work.

The middle section has been completely reworked and they have incorporated a bit of Genesis into it which sounds like the comedown section of Eleventh Earl of Mar from their Wind and Wuthering album. It even has me singing the words:

“Time to go to bed now
Never seems too keen
To be a guest now
In a house of dreams”

Personally I think both versions are excellent and will give you tremendous pleasure. Though you do get an extra 1 minute and 42 seconds with the newer version and I quite like the added Genesis touch they have given to it.

Track 6. Man Amongst Men.

The second-longest track on the album and they really have gone to town on this newer version and I have to say it sounds much better for it. The original version started with the piano whereas this version it’s been replaced with an acoustic guitar and has a longer intro before the vocals come into play. It features Tesni Jones on backing vocals and along with Jones’s voice the vocals are totally GOLDEN! on this song whereas Reed’s voice on the original is what really let it down but not only that so much has been done to this newer version to make it the clear winner of the two.

The interplay between the keyboards and guitar are quite outstanding and once again there is a touch of Genesis and on the original, around the 5:57 mark you will hear the same sound that Tony Banks used on the self-titled track “Abacab” played along to what sounds like the intro to “Watcher of the Skies“. That latter intro can also be heard around the 7:20 mark on the newer version to which is over 2 minutes longer than the original track, it’s also along this section that Reed plays some DELIGHTFUL! nylon guitar and they all do a TOP JOB! on the song.

Track 7. Nightflight.

Like “Snowbound” this is another very well crafted instrumental piece that goes through some very TASTY! transitions and is very much another excellent PROGMATIC! track with bags of progression along its path. It’s also quite a dramatic piece and reminds me a bit like Marillion’sShe Chameleon” with how it opens up on the pipe organ although it does fly in many other directions and once again there are some slight other influences from Camel, Tony Banks and a few others.

Regarding both versions, it is mostly the instrumental and musical arrangement that makes the difference rather than any real structured changes to the piece. You could say that the original version was both keyboard and guitar-driven and it does lean more decisively towards the PROGMATIC! side of things. Whereas this newer version gives it a newer and perhaps more of a lighthearted approach by incorporating a Latin or Mexican vibe with the nylon guitar, a touch of jazz with the use of the saxophone and even a touch of folk with the use of the whistles.

Although I personally think the original version is the most PROGMATIC! and has the edge of the two. I do think you can take something from them both and get pleasure out of them both.

Track 8. For King And Country.

The albums self-titled track has been given a revamp and personally, I think it needed one because the original version had me thinking of the Kraut progrock band, Eloy once again and the chorus had me thinking of some other pop song that I cannot quite get off the tip of my tongue. I think the only thing that impressed me with the original version was Reed’s guitar work and considering it was chosen as the albums self-titled track I thought it was amongst the weaker songs on the album.

To be perfectly honest I don’t think the newer version is the best thing since sliced bread so to speak however I do feel it has been improved in particular with how the vocal line has been newly constructed to allow Jones to give it a different impression and expression. The way things have been revamped even has me thinking of John MilesMusic” in parts and I can certainly enjoy this song now whereas before I couldn’t. I even think that it now puts the album to bed very well and overall I am quite impressed at what has been done to the album.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up the 2021 remake of Cyan’s debut album For King And Country. In many respects, the original album reminds me of what the keyboard player Clive Nolan was doing back in the 80’s and although they may have been quite impressive albums back in their day they do tend to wear off over the years, so I can perhaps see why Reed chose to try and do something new with it in the way of giving the album a new breath of life sort of thing.

There is no doubt that the album sounds better with what has been done here too although I think there is always going to be a bit of hit and miss if like myself you had the original album beforehand. But for those who never I can see this version appealing to them more. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “The Sorceror“. “Snowbound” and “Man Amongst Men“.

To be honest, looking back at the 3 albums Cyan did back in the 90’s there is quite a bit of good material that Reed wrote back then that is worth doing something with and this may very well be the best way to revive the project with what they are doing here. As to if this project continues we will have to wait and see but another bonus here is that at least you can now buy a physical copy of the album easily enough and it even comes with a very good 5.1 mix which is perhaps something that could not have been done with the original album due to contractual reasons.

To conclude my review I am going to start by answering a couple of questions and in answer to my original question in the introduction of is this newer release in relation to the original release an overall improvement?. I personally don’t think it’s a complete overall improvement in the sense of the word and in musical terms regarding the structure of the music. Though no doubt some tracks do sound much better having other GREAT! musicians onboard and for being reworked.

The biggest improvement is in the vocal department and I would say by changing the vocalist to do a remake of an album is the hardest thing for many to accept. For example, could you imagine Marillion remaking their debut album Script For A Jester’s Tear with Steve Hogarth instead of Fish? The thought alone makes me CRINGE! and I am not knocking Hogarth’s voice because he is a very good singer although his voice is very different and perhaps too different for it to work.

There is no doubt that Reed’s voice is not the best however if like myself you’ve had the original album for some time one can still get accustomed to it regardless of how much better the other vocalist you have brought in to replace the original singer. Although in this case I do find that the voice of Peter Jones does raise the game and his voice fits in like a glove. It’s as if the material was written for his voice and hearing him sing these songs does kinda show how bad Reed’s voice was in the first place. The backing vocals and harmonies of Angharad Brinn & Tesni Jones fit in perfectly with Pete’s voice too.

The new production standards are much higher on this newer version which is also to be expected and although I do not quite think that he quite achieved the level of standards that Mike Oldfield achieved by remaking Tubular Bells back in 2003, I do however feel you can take something from both versions and my money has not been wasted like it was with the remakes of The Snow Goose and Argus.

Overall For King And Country 2021 is not quite a solid album but quite an enjoyable new version and at its price point of £13.90 for a CD/DVD package that comes with a 5.1 mix you are onto a winner and I highly recommend it.

A Wizardry Production…

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:

01. The Sorceror. 15:10.
02. Call Me. 5:27.
03. I Defy The Sun. 5:28.
04. Don’t Turn Away. 7:44.
05. Snowbound. 6:22.
06. Man Amongst Men. 11:47.
07. Nightflight. 7:45.
08. For King And Country. 7:26.

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
The Stereo Mix Rating Score. 10/10.
The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 8/10.
The Bonus Material Rating Score. 8/10.
The Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #193

Surrender Of Silence (CD/Blu Ray Edition) – Steve Hackett


This year yet again sees another new album release by Steve Hackett and Surrender of Silence is his 27th Studio album release to date. I have to admit I was in two minds whether to buy this release when I first clapped my eyes on it and was put off by its more expensive price tag. At the time I saw it pop up for pre-order it was not available on Amazon and most other online stores were charging around £29.99 for the CD/Blu Ray Limited Edition I was after. A few days later I noticed it was available for pre-order on Amazon and even though it was priced at a cheaper price of £23.99 I still thought it was way over the odds especially as most other artists and bands generally charge between £17.99 – £19.99 for the same sort of package.

One of the other things that put me off was that I was getting a bit tired of all the orchestral sounds Roger King tends to play more of on his keyboards these days, and for me personally, if you want to make a progrock album you really need to strip things back to a band and throw the orchestra out of the window.

Hammond Organs, Mellotrons, Moog synths and even a piano are the basic ingredients and all one really needs as a keyboard player for that genre of music rather than try and blow the whole thing up with more of a CINEMATIC! approach to which I was getting tired of hearing. We’ve had the same thing for the last decade now with this orchestrated MALARKEY! and it started with his 21st studio album Beyond The Shrouded Horizon that was released in 2011.

However, I decided to pre-order it from Amazon and the package was quite deceiving from the many pictures I saw of it and it looked like the discs came in a Digipak with a cardboard slipcase as you can see in the picture above. Deceiving it was indeed and it was only when it arrived that I actually saw why it was priced a lot higher than any of his previous albums as you will find out as we take an extensive look at the packaging.

Packaging & Artwork…

As you can see it comes in a slipcase but instead of a Digipak it comes in the form of a hardback book just like the splendid packages Jethro Tull and Marillion have been re-releasing their back catalogue with and I am all up for this and don’t mind paying the extra simply because this form of packaging is what I personally consider to be the best way you can present a box set.

However, it’s perhaps an expensive way to put out an album when it only comes with 2 discs and considering this thing costs 30 bucks in most outlets I do think it’s overpriced. Especially in comparison to the latest Deluxe Edition of Marillion’s 2nd studio album Fugazi I have just reviewed which comes with 3 CD’s and a Blu Ray and only cost £21.99. Surely the Slipcase is not worth the extra 8 bucks.

Thankfully he never did what Fish did and charged you 50 bucks plus p+p and he must think the Slipcase is worth a bomb 😊😊😊. Because Weltschmerz was packaged in the same way as this thing no way was I buying that. Quite frankly he was taking the PISS! and it would not surprise me if he still has plenty left cluttering up his garage.

Unlike Fish at least Hackett had the sense to also put it on Amazon where Prime members like myself can save on the p+p and can often get a better deal. I think the price of £23.99 I paid for it was still a bit expensive but because of the packaging, I can also see where the money is spent and there can be no doubt that this kind of packaging is quality and will cost you more to put out like this. But nowhere near what Fish is asking and that I see as pure GREED! and I refuse to support it I am afraid.

Ideally, this packaging is more suited for what Jethro Tull and Marillion are doing and they give you more discs and an array of extra bonus content. They treat it like a box set and give you plenty for your money and you get your monies worth and even a bit more. A box set should be sold at a bargain price and offer you good value. The trouble is these days many artists tend to think that the packaging is worth more than the music content and charge way above the odds of what it’s worth.

Here is a prime example of where I am coming from and this only costs £3.99. But take a look at what you are getting for your money and in all honesty, this has to be the most ridiculous single release I have ever seen. You don’t even get a B-Side and yet it’s packaged up to the hilt to try and entice you to buy it. The records worth 99p and the other £3 you are paying for is the packaging 😊😊😊.

When people do this it’s no wonder the biggest majority are buying downloads and streaming music on streaming services. This is doing ZILCH! to support the physical product and is a complete RIP-OFF! No way would I buy it or support it.

Now I am not suggesting that the package we have here is a rip-off and it does give the album a very nice presentation. The problem is for what you are getting it’s still an expensive presentation and personally I think if you are going to use a package like this you would be better off doing what Jethro Tull and Marillion are doing with them by giving you a lot more informative information to make the book look more like a book and provide a lot more music media content to make it more worthwhile.

To be honest it does come with a 52-page book that does give you some detailed information about each track. It also comes with lyrics and the usual linear credits plus plenty of photographs. But it is the space that the photos take up that perhaps let it down for it to make a good read like a book and on that score that is where the Jethro Tull packages are by far the best you can get that have been put out in a Mediabook like we have here.

Hackett did notice himself that there was quite a stir as to why this new Limited Edition was more expensive and the original pictures of the package were deceiving as I mentioned. Four days after the release he got the record company to put out a video displaying the package as you can see here.

As you can see it’s exactly how I described it and as Javier De Las Heras pointed out in his comment there is no more content here than what we saw with his last 3 releases At The Edge Of Light, Night Siren and Wolflight to which cost way less than this package. I am pretty sure I even got two of these CD/Blu Ray Editions for the same price I paid for this package.

At the end of the day, it is the music that should be the selling point and not the packaging. After all, that is what you are trying to get out there to be heard and if you are going to present it in a premium package like this then you are going to have to put a lot more in the package to entice people to buy it. My incentive has always been for the 5.1 mix and as much as I like this form of packaging I would be damned if I would want to pay this price for an album all the time and if I had to pay the price most outlets are charging I very much doubt I would have brought it.


The artwork is another thing that can entice a person to buy an album. Though I have to confess Hackett’s choice of artwork for many years now has been boring, to say the least, and this artwork is no exception. Even though we have some form of fire on this album cover it’s not going to exactly set the world on fire that’s for sure.

I remember how he used to give praise to Kim Poor for the artwork she did for the 1973 Genesis album Selling England By The Pound who he eventually married. During the 26 years they were together she done many covers for his solo albums including Voyage of the Acolyte and Please Don’t Touch! That was artwork that gave you something to look at and was eye-catching enough to entice one to buy the album unlike we have here.

What we do have here is designed by Thomas Ewerhard who has done the album artwork for countless bands and artists over the years as you can see by a few examples below of his excellent artwork.

However, his work on this album, unfortunately, is only the design and the front cover was done by Amanda Lehmann and I have to say it’s completely boring, disappointing and does nothing for me. Sorry, Amanda but I have to shoot you down in flames for this one 😊😊😊.

Other Release Editions…

As far as I am aware of there is no Digital Download of the album and personally, I am all for that because it does support the physical product. That is not to say I would like to see the Digital Download disappear because for many unknown artists that is the viable format of getting their music out there and generally offers the cheapest option. The cheapest option for this release is the single CD release.

As you can see in the picture above it comes in a standard Jewel Case instead of a Digipak and you can obtain it from places like Amazon for as little as £10.99. I do believe you can still get a signed copy from Hackett’s website for £12.99 plus p+p which would probably work out to be around £16.

For vinyl lovers, the cheapest option is the black vinyl release and this can be had for around £25.56 on Amazon and once again with all these releases you have the option of paying more for a signed copy from Hackett’s website. All the vinyl releases come with a free CD and I am pretty sure being as nowhere appears to be bragging about the weight of the vinyl it could be that it’s been pressed onto 2 X 140gram LP’s to which side Side 4 has been etched on all releases and comes in a Gatefold Sleeve.

The Limited Edtions that come in various colours and have been pressed onto 180gram vinyl though you will genrally pay more for these. To give you an example the black vinyl is priced at £26.99 were as the red & black Nebula effect vinyl is priced at £34.99 on Hackett’s website. I am pretty sure that all the coloured vinyl were limited to 1,000 copies each and other colours are sky blu and has you can see exclusive to HMV it was pressed onto orange vinyl. I do believe a Transparent Sun Yellow colour was released in Germany though it was limited to 300 copies.

The Album In Review

Surrender of Silence by Steve Hackett was released on the 10th of September 2021. The album comes with 11 tracks spread over and an overall playing time of 57 minutes, 36 seconds and that perhaps explains why the vinyl release only comes with 3 sides and the 4th side is etched. They don’t make albums as they did years ago and when it comes to putting something like this onto vinyl it’s an expensive game because you need 2 LP’s to fit it on even though it’s not a double albums worth of material.

It’s no wonder there is a shortage of vinyl and the way I see it is that it is a format that was revived from the dead to exploit more money out of people because before it disappeared a good few decades ago the CD was the more expensive out of the two formats. The price of a CD has never really changed whereas the price of vinyl has shot through the roof.

Surrender of Silence is the second studio album he has put out this year and it was only at the beginning of the year that he put out Under A Mediterranean Sky which was the first acoustic album he has put out in quite a while. I did notice when he released it that it never came with a 5.1 mix which is most likely why I still have not brought it but I am sure I will eventually get around to it at some point. Being a surround FREAK! I do tend to spend my money on such releases like this than buy CD’s and it’s very rare I will even play a CD that comes in a package like this.

No doubt the pandemic has given him more time to write and he’s been making good use of the lockdown situation though he is finally back out on tour now and once again playing material from his solo career and his former band Genesis.

Speaking of Genesis I see they are also back out playing live and I must admit having watched some of the documentary of them rehearsing that was posted on the Tube I was not sure how it was going to work. Especially hearing Phil Collins struggle to sing. Having seen a few recent posts of them performing live it’s obvious that he has put a lot of work into it to get his voice back in shape and although that side of Genesis is not to my particular taste it’s good to see them still doing something and I wish them all the best.

Looking back in particular at his albums At The Edge Of Light, Night Siren and Wolflight it’s obvious that much of his inspiration is coming from travelling the world which is enticing him to bring in more World instrumentation to craft his music. It’s also obvious that Roger King is being utilised more like an orchestra instead of a keyboard player and just like Neal Morse things are starting to sound a bit too sterile and too much of the same thing.

I would aso say that this album is no exception and runs along the same path as those albums and even though Hackett’s formidible style and his writing still stands out and is still present, plus the fact that some of these albums I even gave a rating of 8 out of 10 for that reason. These albums for me will never be GOTO! albums in relation to how he worked more in the way of a band before his 20th studio album Beyond The Shrouded Horizon. His first four albums plus Highly Strung and To Watch the Storms are very much my GOTO! albums from his solo career.

Being as it is only since Wolflight that Hackett started to accompany his more recent studio albums with a Blu Ray or DVD with a 5.1 mix. You would think they would entice me to play the albums more being the surround FREAK! that I am. However, because of the CINEMATIC! orchestral approach I can find them a bit like doing the washing up where you don’t mind doing so once you have your hands in the water sort of thing. It perhaps does not say a lot about the music but I do find that when I do play them I can still enjoy them and take something from them. So let’s now take a look at the Blu Ray.

Blu Ray. 

The Blu Ray’s main menu displays a nicely animated picture of the albums front cover and as expected it looks sharp and pristine. The navigation is plain and simple and everything is accessed from the main menu without having to go anywhere else. As you can see you can in the picture above you can select any track, choose your choice of audio and play the bonus videos.

The main feature on the disc is the album which presents you with the choice of three audio formats all of which are lossless and come with a sample rate of 24/48. By default, it’s set to LPCM Stereo. It also gives you the choice of two 5.1 Surround mixes DTS-Master Audio and also a generous LPCM 5.1 mix in replace of the standard Dolby Digital format and it’s good to see more engineers doing away with the weaker format.

The bonus feature on the disc gives you a couple of videos that were made for his previous album Under A Mediterranean Sky. Both the videos are very picturesque in the locations they were filmed at though the audio is only in LPCM 48/16 which is still good enough quality. In total, you get an extra 11 minutes, 26 seconds and it was nice to see them included.

Another nice touch is that it displays the picture that is associated with each track in the Mediabook whilst listening to the album and the pictures look even better on the blu ray than in the book especially on my 50″ UHD TV.

5.1 Mix.

There is no doubt that Roger King is capable of doing a good and satisfying immersive surround mix and the 5.1 mix we have is no exception. However, I do feel there is room for improvement when it comes to making more of an exciting 5.1 mix sometimes you have to be a bit adventurous and daring which is what I will often find with 5.1 mixes done in the past by Hackett’s other engineer Benedict Fenner.

There is no doubt that King will give you more of an immersive experience by utilising all of the channels most of the time whereas with Fenner you do have to wait for things on certain tracks to pop out of the woods so to speak and there are times where the rear channels are doing nothing. However, when they do pop out they do give you more of an exciting experience and in general, Fenner will be more adventurous with the panning of the instrumentation to give you that exciting effect.

I often find that King will mainly utilise the rear channels for the orchestration and will leave Hackett’s guitars in the front channels and that is what he has done mostly with this mix. The other thing he quite often uses is reflections from the front put into the rears and this is where I am not that keen on any engineer using reflections and they really need to focus more on certain instruments and backing vocals that are better placed in the rear channels and use the channels for seperation for the instruments to stand out more clearly in the mix.

A prime example on this album is track 7 “Shanghai To Samarkand” and this is a piece that uses an array of world instrumentation such as an Oriental Zither, Charango, Tar, Dutar. But if you pay particular attention to the percussion department you will hear Tabla’s and a Bodhrán or something of that sort and these instruments would have been better placed in the rear. King has placed them in the rear but also in the front and louder in volume in the front than the rear so he’s merely reflecting them from the front into the rear which in my book is a very silly thing to do and they would have been far more effective placed in the rear alone.

Overall, King’s 5.1 mix will give you an immersive experience and mostly a satisfactory one. It is a good mix but I feel more attentive attention needs to be applied to the placement of the instrumentation and reflections need to be knocked on the head. I think it’s worthy of 8 out of 10 and I suggest he listens more closely to 5.1 mixing engineers such as Steve Wilson, Elliot Scheiner, Bob Clearmountain and Chuck Ainsley who are very much amongst the best there is in this field of mixing.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Steve Hackett & Roger King. All compositions by Steve Hackett (except tracks 2, 7, 9 by Steve Hackett / Jo Hackett / Roger King. Tracks 1, 5 by Steve Hackett / Roger King. Tracks 4,10 by Steve Hackett / Jo Hackett. Recorded Mixed & Mastered by Roger King at Siren. Additional Engineers Tamas Barabas, Shawn Dealey, Will McPhaul & Steve Rawles. Assistant Engineer Rachel Leonard. Design by Thomas Ewerhard. Front Cover Artwork by Amanda Lehmann. Photography by Lee Millward, Erick Anderson, Michael Amos. Juraboy Shavatovich, Mitchie Turpin, Tina Korhonen & Victor Lehmann. Blu Ray Authoring by Ray Shulman. 5.1 surround Mix by Roger King.

Steve Hackett:
Electric & Acoustic Guitars, 12 String Guitar, Charango, Oriental Zither, Harmonica, Percussion, Vocals.
Roger King:
Keyboards, Programming & Orchestral Arrangements.
Jonas Reingold:
(Tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10)
Rob Townsend:
Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Bass Clarinet, Dizi. (Tracks 5, 7, 9)
Christine Townsend:
Violin, Viola.
(Tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10)
Amanda Lehmann:
(Tracks 2, 4, 6, 9, 10)

Additional Musicians.
Craig Blundell: Drums. (Tracks 5, 6, 10)
Nick D’Virgilio: Drums. (Tracks 3, 8)
Phil Ehart: Drums. (Track 7)
Malik Mansurov: Tar. (Track 7)
Sodirkhon Ubaidulloev: Dutar. (Track 7)
Nad Sylvan: Vocals (Track 5)
Durga & Lorelei McBroom: Vocals (Track 4)

The Album Tracks In Review…

Surrender of Silence is an album that capitulates some of the darker sides of things going on in the world and you could say the silence one is surrendering to is the fear of not voicing their opinions sort of thing. Hackett will often draw from some of the fears from his childhood memories as he describes in the Mediabook and with the material he wrote for this specific album it does tend to be based around many of the things that are being ignored. Such as global warming, starvation and even how people are repressed by communism. They are all issues that need to be addressed.

As far as I can make out Hackett started work on this new album around the beginning of the year and completed the album in June. The album was produced by himself and as always with Roger King at his side. I dare say King recorded most of the musicians who live in the location of London at Hackett’s house, whilst others further away and in other countries recorded their parts at their own studios and sent the stems over for King to mix.

I think you will find most of the usual lineup of musicians over the past years are still very much present looking at the list above. So let’s now see how it all turns out as I go through all 11 of its tracks so to speak.

Track 1. The Obliterati.

The album opens up in fine style with a short but powerful and quite menacing instrumental piece. You could say that the album is bookended with short instrumental pieces however this opening piece was done in the way of an overture for the first 3 tracks on the album that tailspin into one another and is sort of like a mini-suite. It’s got his formidable style written all over it as he runs through a series of finger-tapping and builds it up into an electrifying frenzy backed up by heavy percussion and the orchestration at the end that sort of waltzes and marches its way into the next track.

Track 2. Natalia.

Apart from the bold orchestration, you could easily associate this song with some of Hackett’s earlier material. However, that is perhaps down to the way his voice is harmonised and blended in with other voices like it was years ago and with Amanda Lehmann’s voice behind him it still works that way today. One of the other good things about this song is the lyrics and once again they remind me of how well Hackett wrote songs back in his early days and this set of lyrics he wrote with his wife though I would say that he had the most input judging by how poetic they are.

The story behind the woman or “everywoman” in this song is set in Russia and it’s a very sad story that pertains to how communistic ways back then destroyed the free spirit and even the art of dance and music. As Hackett puts it himself “It’s extraordinary to think that the country which produced some of the most amazing musical magicians, as always been a hotbed of repression”. It is without doubt one of the stronger tracks on the album.

Track 3. Relaxation Music For Sharks (Featuring Feeding Frenzy).

The second of 4 instrumental tracks on the album and as the wild title suggests it gives Hackett the chance to go into a bit of a frenzy on the guitar. To be honest it is perhaps not so much of a frenzy as the opening track on the album and regarding the relaxation, it comes in the form of bubbling water and light vibes on the intro and outro. The piece is dramatically driven along by Roger King’s chasing orchestration and Nick D’Virgilio’s drums drives the pace along very well with Jonas Reingold on the bass and it gives Hackett the chance to fly his way along once again in GREAT! style.

Track 4. Wingbeats.

This is another Fine song and to be honest, I am not so much into the jungle vibe of things however the beat of the African jungle works very well here and as no drummer features on this track, I can only presume that the beat was programmed by King. Lehmann’s voice is in fine unison with Hackett’s and we also have the Gospel vocals of Durga & Lorelei McBroom to lend fine support too. Hackett’s lead guitar lines are well TASTY! on this fine song too although I personally would not say it was one of the highlights on the album like many others have. However, it’s not a bad song at all and a fine one at that.

Track 5. The Devil’s Cathedral.

The second-longest track on the album is one of the more adventurous and PROGMATIC! songs on the album and features Nad Sylvan on lead vocals, it’s also the first track that both wind player Rob Townsend and drummer Craig Blundell make an appearance and both are doing a GRAND! job with the rest here. This is a song that takes me back to his 2003 album To Watch the Storms and basically it’s down to King doing away with most of the orchestration MALARKEY! and he does an excellent job on the pipe organ.

Hackett and the band really rock things up on this one and around the 2:57 mark it very much sounds like he’s borrowed an old tune from his days with Steve Howe in GTR and you get to hear a bit of my favourite track from their one-off self-titled album “Imagining“. It’s very much another of the stronger tracks on the album and one of my favourite highlights from the 11 tracks we have here.

Track 6. Held In The Shadows.

This is a song that utilises both acoustic and electric guitars and is quite a powerful song and although it’s clear that Hackett is singing the verses and Lehmann also contributes to supporting him as always. It is also quite evident that there is another male voice singing in the chorus. Although no other singer is listed in the credits I can only presume the other voice belongs to Reingold. This is also the second of the three tracks that Blundell plays the drums on and once again this is quite good and they are all doing a GRAND! job here.

Track 7. Shanghai To Samarkand.

This is the longest track on the album and although it has a few words it is mostly an oriental musical journey that features an array of world orchestration instruments. At the heart of the orchestration is Roger king and I have to admit the orchestration does work really well on this song so does Christine Townsend’s delightful job on the viola and violin in the introduction. Also adding to the oriental sounds are Rob Townsend on the Dizy which is a Chinese flute plus Hackett on the oriental Zither.

It also features the virtuoso Dutar player Sadirkhon Ubaidulloev from Tajikistan and Malik Mansurov on Tar who both do an outstanding job and keeping everything on time we have the Kansas drummer Phil Ehart who also played on his second solo album Please Don’t Touch. “Shanghai To Samarkand” is another of my personal favourite tracks and highlights on the album it really is quite a magical journey and they all do a terrific job on it.

Track 8. Fox’s Tango.

This is another powerful song on the album and once again features Nick D’Virgilio on drums and it would not surprise me if he’s also singing the lead vocals because it certainly does not sound like Hackett’s voice. The song totally ROCKS! and that is down to there being no orchestration and the power is coming from the guitars, bass and drums. Hackett really lets it rip on the solo too as you will hear on the Visualizer Video that was put on the record labels TV channel on the Tube and this has to be another of the album’s highlights and is a really GREAT! song.

Track 9. Day Of The Dead.

This is another PROGMATIC! track that goes through a few twists and turns with its transitions and was inspired by the horror movie the Mexican Day of the Dead. Well according to the booklet Hackett does seem to think it’s a movie and describes it as the Zombie Apocalypse though I have never heard or seen a movie with that title. However, there is a Mexican day of the dead and oddly enough it’s actually two days instead of one and it’s a two day holiday on the 1st and 2nd of November where family and friends gather to pay respects and to remember friends and family members who have died.

It is quite an interesting song with its twists and turns and the way it opens up with Christine Townsend’s violin sort of reminds me of the animated little fella playing the violin on the Pixar short movie entitled One Man Band. If you have not seen that I highly recommend it and it has me laughing in hysterics 😊😊😊.

Like I mentioned it does go through a few transitions and the first part with the singing is mostly backed up by orchestration and perhaps has more of an eastern vibe than Mexican. Around the 2 minute mark it has quite a heavy SABBATH ESC! feel with the guitars and Hackett gets to fly along with some fine lead work as well. It also features Rob Townsend who also does an excellent job. The final section contains heavy drums and percussion and once again there is no drummer and King has programmed them.

I personally don’t think it’s one of the highlights of the album but nevertheless, it’s quite an interesting enough album track to which they all do a GRAND! job on.

Track 10. Scorched Earth.

I am pretty sure that I read somewhere that Hackett wrote this song a while back though I could be wrong. As songs go it’s quite a meaningful one and Hackett describes it as a lament for our struggling planet. It also has quite a strong chorus to which both he and Lehmann sing very well together and it also has some BEAUTIFUL! solo work by Hackett to which the first solo is reminiscent of something I have heard in the past that I cannot quite put my finger on. It really is a GREAT! song and another of my personal highlights from the album.

Track 11. Esperanza.

The album is BEAUTIFULLY” put to bed by a one-minute little ditty on the nylon string guitar to which is backed up by some stringed orchestration by King. Its title is written in Spanish and in English translates to “Hope” and Hackett thought it would be a good idea to round the album off with a bit of hope after all the doom and gloom that is focused on most of the darker side of the material that was written for the album.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of Surrender of Silence by Steve Hackett. As an album, it very much follows on from the consistency we have seen from the albums The Edge Of Light, Night Siren and Wolflight and if you like those albums there is no reason not to like what we have here. I personally don’t think there is a bad track on the album and I certainly would not call it the best of his solo albums but it has plenty to offer and still maintains the formidable style that has stuck with him for the past 46 years of his solo career.

I am not the only one by far who thinks that Hackett needs to change things though like some I certainly don’t think it’s the present line-up of musicians who have been with him for the past decade or so. I certainly don’t think getting rid of Roger King is the answer either and to be honest, I find it hard to believe that some are even suggesting such a thing because as a keyboard player he is a solid rock and as good as any keyboard player.

However, I would like to see the synthetic orchestration thrown out of the window and things stripped down to real keyboards instead of all this CINEMATIC MALARKEY! You can hear how well that works on songs like “The Devil’s Cathedral” and “Fox’s Tango” and those two tracks along with “Natalia“, “Shanghai To Samarkand“, “Scorched Earth” and “Esperanza” are my personal highlights of the album.

Overall it’s quite a good album and like I mentioned earlier once you dip your toe in the water (or put your hands in the washing up bowl to wash up) its not like hard work at all and becomes more of an enjoyable experience and you can reap quite a bit of satisfaction from the rewards of doing so. It also comes with a good immersive 5.1 mix which I am sure will delight surround FREAKS! and the couple of bonus videos on the blu ray are quite good as well. If I had any real complaints here it would be down to its more expensive price point of the package and not the material on the album.

A Feeding Frenzy Production Worthy Of Dipping Your Toe In The Water…

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:

01. The Obliterati. 2:16.
02. Natalia. 6:17.
03. Relaxation Music For Sharks (Featuring Feeding Frenzy). 4:36.
04. Wingbeats. 5:19.
05. The Devil’s Cathedral. 6:30.
06. Held In The Shadows. 6:20.
07. Shanghai To Samarkand. 8:27.
08. Fox’s Tango. 4:21.
09. Day Of The Dead. 6:24.
10. Scorched Earth. 6:02.
11. Esperanza. 1:04.

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 7/10.
The Stereo Mix Rating Score. 10/10.
The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 8/10.
The Bonus Material Rating Score. 6/10.
The Album Rating Score. 7/10.