Lee Speaks About Music #202

The Zealot Gene (Limited 2CD/BluRay Artbook Edition) – Jethro Tull


Well, it’s been some 19 years since we last saw a Jethro Tull studio album which happened to be The Jethro Tull Christmas Album released back in 2003. It was around then or just a tad later in the following year that Ian Anderson more or less decided to knock the band name on the head and do projects under his own name such as Thick As A Brick 2 (2012) and Homo Erraticus (2014) respectively. Albums of which even I thought were perhaps worthy of having the Jethro Tull name tied to them even if it was not the same band lineup.

Band line-ups have been forever changing since this band released their debut album back in 1968 and no doubt many will have their personal favourites over all those years. Though in all honesty it’s always been Anderson’s group and he has always contributed to the biggest majority of the output of music that was written for the band throughout its entirety. So you could really say that Jethro Tull is Ian Anderson.

The bands 22nd album The Zealot Gene no doubt has Anderson’s writing all over it which is why it sounds as many are already stating like a Tull album. The big question is, is it a good Tull album and does the band lineup really make that much of a difference to make it sound that way?

Well, I am sure many of us will have different perceptions regarding just what is a good Tull album and a lot of it will also bear relation to Anderson’s voice which has been shot for well over a couple of decades now. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork as ever.

The Packaging & Artwork…

As you can see I opted to go for the 2 CD/Blu Ray Limited Artbook and this is very much a different form of packaging Anderson has chosen for this release in relation to the Jethro Tull back catalogue of albums that were released in the form of a Mediabook. To be perfectly honest I still prefer the Mediabook in relation to the Artbook simply because it’s the size of a DVD and is much easier to store.

Whereas Artbooks are more convenient for vinyl collectors and take up much more storage space. My main purpose regarding the biggest majority of music these days is for the 5.1 mix so vinyl does not even come into the equation and I certainly would not waste my money on it either.

The good thing that both the Artbook and Mediabook have in common is that they are made of the same quality thick cardboard found with the construction of a hardback book. Once again Anderson has managed to keep the price down and I preordered my copy last year on the 6th of November from Amazon and it arrived on the day of its release. I also managed to get it for the price of £31.99 which I think is not over the odds and still at a very good price point.

The other thing I will also say regarding the Tull releases is that they do come with some very useful informative information and not just pictures like many other artists who release their media in Artbooks. This one actually comes with something I did not expect either and the best way to show you exactly what you get for the buck, was to make the following video to show you it.


The album cover artwork is based on a concept by Ian Anderson with both him and his son James Anderson at the helm of the photography. Taking care of the actul design is Thomas Ewerhard noted for his work with Neal Morse, Spock’s Beard and various other PROG! acts tied to the Inside Out Record label.

To be perfectly honest looking at the artwork would suggest this is an Ian Anderson album and not a Jethro Tull album simply because he is the only person on the front cover unlike some of the earlier albums for example. But when you look at albums such as Warchild, Too Old To Rock N’ Roll and Songs From The Wood for example they may have suggested the same thing in some respects especially regarding the front cover.

With the look of angst on Anderson’s face, it does perhaps suggest the title of the album. Though the quality of the picture on the Artbook is nowhere near the quality of the same picture on the Blu Ray itself which is actually in 4K. This is another reason why I prefer the multichannel format over a vinyl release because it not only gives you superior quality over the actual recording but also the artwork.

Release Formats.

The Zealot Gene was released in 4 formats and various packages to suit your pocket and as always the 12-File Digital Download would be the cheapest option of obtaining the album and can be had from places like Amazon for as little as £7.99.

The cheapest way to obtain the album in a physical format is with the single CD Edition and this comes in a 3-panel cardboard Digipak which includes a booklet. This can be had on Amazon for around £13 and a few other sites are charging a couple of quid more and throwing in the digital download with it.

For Vinyl lovers, you have a good few options especially with the coloured vinyl and some colours like blue, red and green I do believe we’re limited to around 1,000 copies each and were sold for around the £30 – £35 mark. Whereas the black and clear vinyl could easily be obtained from Amazon for around £27.99. All vinyl editions were pressed onto 2 X 180-Gram LP’s inside a Gatefold Sleeve. They also included a free CD.

My personal choice of the Limited 2CD+Blu-Ray Artbook is where the discs come neatly stored in a 36-page 12 inch Artbook and gives you extra bonus content on the 2nd CD plus the 5.1 mix of the album on the Blu Ray. This can still be had for around £37 on Amazon.

Finally, if you want to go the whole HOG! The Limited Deluxe Edition gives you the Artbook Edition along with 3 LP’s on 180-gram white vinyl plus a Slipmat for your Turntable to boot. I do believe this package is still available on Amazon for around £86 and is a lot cheaper than most outlets that charge a lot more for it.

The Album In Review…

Jethro Tull’s 22nd studio album The Zealot Gene was released on the 28th of January 2022. Given that the album contains newly written material it is in fact over 22 years since an album of all-new material of the band has materialised and their 20th studio album DOT COM from 1999 was the last album to do that. The new album itself contains 12 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 46 minutes, 45 seconds and surprisingly all are vocal tracks and it does not contain a single instrumental track at all.

I say “Surprisingly” simply because as I mentioned earlier Anderson’s voice has been shot for years and one of the reasons The Jethro Tull Christmas Album back in 2003 worked so well was down to it mainly being an instrumental album. I would even say that the only reasons why Thick As A Brick 2 and Homo Erraticus worked well were down to the additional vocals that were supplied by Ryan O’Donnell.

Although to be fair Anderson’s voice is not so bad on those two studio albums and even after another 8 years further on it still works in the same way because he is more or less talking his way through the words. Were Anderson’s voice really struggles is live on the stage and that is the reason why I could never go and see the band live again no matter what lineup he had on stage with him. Honestly watching him sing live on the tube these days makes me cringe.

Anderson originally started to write the new material for The Zealot Gene back in January 2017. Although he had written quite a good few of the songs back then the album got side railed due to other commitments such as finishing various live tours during 2018 and 2019, interviews, various other anniversary shows and working on many of the Mediabooks of the back catalogue of the Tull discography. Then the pandemic got very much in the way for the next couple of years and it was not until 2021 that he was able to write the rest of the material for the band and get them finished off.

Modern World Studio

The album was recorded at Modern World Studios which is in the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire, England. The studio was set up back in 1999 and these days it boasts that it has all the modern recording equipment and technology you would find in many of the studios in London. The fact that it has all the recording facilities and accommodation to stay in means that it gives people the chance to get away from the bustling city and be more relaxed in more of a peaceful environment.

Upon its release, the album has done quite well in sales and it’s the first time in 50 years that a Jethro Tull album has managed to break into the UK Top 10 Album charts. It went straight in at number 9 and you would have to go back to 1972 when both albums Thick As A Brick and Living In The Past peaked at number 3 in the UK Album charts.

One of the reasons why Anderson decided to go back with the band name was down to the fact that he had been working with the same musicians more or less for the past 18 years so he felt it only fair to give them a bit more recognition. The album was also produced and mixed by Anderson and because of Covid restrictions getting in the way of things he had to put down his parts to the remaining five songs alone at his home studio. The last five songs are acoustic-based and without drums, partly because Scott Hammond was unable to record at home.

The Artbook Package Contents.

When looking at the contents in the Artbook it does not really give you as much informative information or as many discs in relation to many of the Jethro Tull Mediabooks that have been released. Although this is perhaps to be expected with it being a new album as it perhaps does not quite have the history those earlier albums have. The informative content you do get over its 36-pages is very good though and along with the 3-Discs I certainly have no complaints. So let’s now take a look at the disc content.

CD’s 1 & 2.

The first CD contains the main featured album and its 12-tracks which I will review and go into more detail in the “Album Tracks” section of my review. In this section, we are going to be looking at the second disc which strangely enough is the only bonus content you do get regarding the actual music side of things that comes in the package.

The second CD comes with 13-tracks though it’s quite shorter than the main album and only has an overall playing time of 31 minutes, 9 seconds. Basically what you are getting on the bonus disc are all acoustic demos played by Anderson himself. The first 7 tracks in particular are shorter versions of the actual songs which are mostly played on the acoustic although you will get the odd bit of flute and mandolin that he’s also overdubbed on a few of these tracks.

The final 6 tracks are initial rough ideas of some of the songs and on these, you will hear Anderson talking and playing through the initial parts of a song such as the verse, chorus, intro and outro sections of the song. He will even tell you some of the chords and you will even hear the odd cockup now and then. Basically, this is the same thing I do myself when writing songs and I like to get it on tape (or these days video myself with my mobile phone) before I lose the idea.

Overall the bonus disc is nice to have especially hearing the acoustic versions of the songs that are on the first 8 tracks more so than the initial ideas with the final 5 tracks. So let’s now take a look at the Blu Ray and see what that has to offer.

Blu Ray.

The main menu of the Blu Ray is nicely animated and everything is on a single page and is well easy and comfortable to navigate your way along. You can simply play the album click on any of the tracks to play individually and at the bottom of the screen is where you have your audio choices.

By default, the audio is set to LPCM Stereo as you can see by the white speaker icon. You also have the choices of two surround mixes a DTS-HD Master 5.1 mix and a 5.1 LPCM 5.1 mix and all three mixes come with a 24 bit 48K sample rate. I like the fact that they have replaced the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix with a 5.1 LPCM mix which is a much better format.

Whilst playing the album you are presented with the name of the song and an even better picture of the album cover (as seen above). The text is also nicely animated and scrolls along. No doubt this picture of Anderson on the album cover has been shot in 4K and is way more detailed than the album cover and my own snapshot of it which I took in HD 1080p on my Smartphone.

Overall, an excellent job has been done on the interface of the Blu Ray and its single menu is pristine sharp and very fast to navigate your way through everything without having no other pages to load. The only real drawback is down to the fact that they have only included the album and no other bonus material. You would have thought with the many interviews Anderson has been involved in during the promotion of the album release that one of them would have been included here.

The 5.1 Mix.

With Steven Wilson now out of the frame having announced that he will no longer be working on any more multichannel mixes for Jethro Tull, the 5.1 mix was left to Anderson’s other choice Jakko Jakszyk. It’s not the first time Jakszyk has worked on mixes for the Tull back catalogue though he only ever mixed some of the live material and not the main studio albums that were left for Wilson which for my ears is understandable simply because when it comes to stereo and multichannel mixing Wilson really does have magic ears and the right head on his shoulders to work in the 5.1 field.

Being a surround FREAK! myself since the late 90’s and having some of the albums by other artists that Jakszyk has done in the past I can honestly say that I am not that impressed by his work on multichannel mixes, and for my ears, he does not have the right head on his shoulders to work in this field. To be honest not many engineers have the know-how when it comes to working in the 5.1 field and some can go overboard.

Talking about going overboard I very much feel that is the case with this 5.1 mix Jakszyk has done and it’s very much a case of taking too much out of the stereo field to place in the rear where the problem lies. To be honest he has not gone completely overboard by leaving a gaping hole sort of thing and I have to admit that some of the placement of the instruments really brings them out in GREAT! detail.

But what you are actually getting here is a different representation of how the album should actually sound in relation to Anderson’s original stereo mix and I have to say that for some reason Jakszyk’s surround mix makes the album sound boring simply because it’s not giving you the true representation of what it should sound like.

I think it’s interesting and the one thing I give in his praise is that he has done away with the Dolby Digital and gave us a 5.1 LPCM mix. But for my ears, Anderson’s stereo mix is the clear winner here and Jakszyk really should have paid more attention to the stereo mix and how it sounds and not taken too much away from the stereo field and perhaps used a few reflections in relation to taking chunks out of it.

Musicians & Credits…

All Songs Written & Produced by Ian Anderson. Recorded sometime between March 2017 – July 2021 at Modern World Studios in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, England. Recording Engineer Michael Nyandoro. Mixing Engineer Ian Anderson. Mastering at Fluid Mastering by Nick Watson. 5.1 surround sound mix by Jakko Jakszyk. Artwork Concept by Ian Anderson. Artwork Design by Thomas Ewerhard with Liner Notes by Tim Bowness.

Ian Anderson: Flute – Vocals – Acoustic Guitars – Mandolin – Irish Whistle – Percussion – Harmonica.
Florian Opahle: Electric Guitar.
David Goodier: Bass Guitar.
John O’Hara: Keyboards – Hammond Organ – Piano – Accordion.
Scott Hammond: Drums.

Additional Musicians.
Joe Parrish-James: Guitar (Track 11).

The Album Tracks In Review…

The Zealot Gene is something according to the Artbook that Ian Anderson had been planning to do since 2016 and that is when he first set out the original outline for the album by collecting a load of biblical text and quotes from the bible. Having read the bible myself many moons ago it’s easy to see why many different interpretations and meanings have come out of it and that is really why there is not just one religion and literally loads of them.

Zealots go back as far as 6 CE and were a group of religious nutters set up by Judas of Galilee to rebel against the Roman Empire and expel it from the Holy Land by force of arms, most notably during the First Jewish–Roman War. War is perhaps something that has been instilled into religion over the years and even today it perhaps caused more wars than anything else.

It’s not the first time that Anderson has had a stab or a pop at religion and the 1971 album Aqualung will certainly testify to that. Speaking of that old classic album Anderson likens this latest collection of songs to that album in that they are a mixture of electric and acoustic songs. He also expressed that just like that album The Zealot Gene is not a concept album. The question is does the material on the new album really measure up or even compete with that old classic from the dark days of the distant 70’s. Well, let’s take a closer look as I take you through the album tracks.

Track 1. Mrs. Tibbets.

The opening track is actually my personal favourite track on the album and that’s perhaps mainly to how its musical structure can veer off in other directions to make it that more interesting. To be honest, although the guitar is more power-chord riff-based it would not surprise me if this song was actually structured around the flute. The song itself puts me in mind of some of the material that was written for the 1995 Tull album Roots to Branches and that may be down to how some of the songs on that album sound like they were structured around the flute.

With some of the songs on the album you will fund that the lyrical content is based around social media events that took place at one time or another and this particular event, you could say went off with a big bang towards the end of the second world war. Enola Gay Tibbets was the mother of Paul Tibbets who was the pilot who dropped the first atom bomb on Hiroshima during World War 2. The B-29 Bomber that Tibbets was piloting was named after her.

As with most of the lyrics throughout the album, you would hard;y think they had anything in relation or any reference to the bible. To be perfectly honest when it comes to wars such as this I would perhaps be looking at Matthew chapter 24 and not Genesis chapter 19 like Anderson has done here in which he likens the event to Sodom and Gomorrah with how Lot told his wife not to look back or she would turn into a pillow of salt. In Tibbets case, he would have been blinded by the light so to speak.

It’s not only the first song that Anderson worked on but also the longest track on the album weighing in at just under 6 minutes and all the musicians do a fine job on it.

Track 2. Jacob’s Tales.

From the longest track on the album to the shortest and a tale of two brothers was perhaps the inspiration for this next song and once again Anderson turned to the book of Genesis as a reference. Though I am pretty sure his own words will put you in the picture here so to speak. “It’s really a song about envy and jealousy in the sense of sibling rivalry, and the idea that brothers and sisters don’t always get on. And when it comes to the inevitable passing on of family assets and treasures, things can get a little difficult”.

It’s very much one of the good few acoustic songs on the album that Anderson completed on his own and besides his acoustic guitar that structured the musical side of things, both the mandolin and harmonica get very well utilised. To be honest it’s quite good to see Anderson once again playing the old GOB IRON! and he really plays the instrument very well to which no doubt he did so on “My Sunday Feeling” back in 1968 on the bands debut album. Even though the instrument lends the element of the blues to the folky side of things, for some reason I also get the feeling of the band Supertramp with this song as well.

Track 3. Mine Is The Mountain.

The second of the longer tracks on the album and another nearer towards the 6-minute mark. To be honest most of the songs on the album are around the 3-minute mark and relatively short though I will say that they might have a lot more to say than this one. The main verses are structured around the piano which remind me of the slow approach that was given to the opening of “Loccomotive Breath” on the piano.

According to Anderson’s track notes, he refers to it as a late-life partner to “My God” from the Aqualung album. I can certainly see where he is coming from regarding the lyrical content although the musical side of things and how the song is delivered is a million miles from the same ballpark so to speak. To be perfectly honest this song does not even resemble a Tull song at all and in parts is more like singing a hymn in church on a Sunday and not “Hymn 43” that’s for sure 😊😊😊.

The biblical reference comes from the book of Exodus and is based around the time that Moses climbed up Mount Sinai to deliver the Ten Commandments and one of those refers to how god is a jealous God and did not like people making up their own gods to worship sort of thing which is what the song “My God” pertains to even down to its plastic crucifix and how basically they have created a God of nothing.

“Mine Is The Mountain” is a song that is not in a hurry and tends to drag on a bit especially with how the verses have been constructed and delivered. It does have a good instrumental section that breaks it up a bit but there are times I can either like this song or loath it if I’m honest.

Track 4. The Zealot Gene.

The albums self-titled track ups the tempo from the boring pace of the previous song and puts you more into the swing of things. The lyrical content very much reflects upon social media in today’s society living in a democratic world and the right to express your opinion with the freedom of speech. Though quite often with how certain rulers are ruling things that could be seen to go out of the window sort of thing. It literally takes in all forms of social media and the hurt it can do even on places like Facebook and Twitter.

It was the last of three official video single releases that were put out to promote the album prior to its release and was posted on the official Jethro Tull Youtube channel on the 12th of January this year.

I quite like the job the animators have done on all three official videos and I have to admit Anderson went to town on the lyrics here too. Even the biblical references he pointed out in Numbers and Ezekiel go to show that the world has not really changed at all with all the hatred that is instilled in it.

Track 5. Shoshana Sleeping.

Released back in November on Bonfire Night “Shoshana Sleeping” was the first of the video singles to put out and this gave us all a taste of what to expect from the new Tull album and there is no doubt the song sounds like Tull. The saucy erotic subject matter of the lyrics was inspired by the “Song Of Solomon” and in many ways puts me in mind of the saucy mannerisms that was put into “Kissing Willie” from the 1989 album Rock Island.

The musicianship is superb and Anderson’s flute playing is quite exceptional on this song. Many of the songs on this album take me back to the late 80’s to the mid 90’s from the Tull catalogue and even some of the material from Rock Island, Catfish Rising and Roots to Branches contained some really GREAT! songs even if they were not really solid albums.

Track 6. Sad City Sisters.

This is the second of the video singles that were put out and once again well before the album release in early December last year. The song was inspired by the memories of a Saturday night in Cardiff, Wales when Anderson was walking back late at night to his accommodation having played a concert at St David’s Hall. Like many towns and cities, the weekend can be seen as a time to go out and party and quite often the female of the species can go over the top and end up losing their dignity so to speak.

Ladies of ill repute or of leisure is perhaps the subject behind the matter of this song to which I am pretty sure was more or less the same subject matter that Anderson wrote for “Ladies” back in 1974 that appeared on the Warchild album. Although that song is perhaps more like the harlots and whores described in the biblical references that can be found in Ezekiel chapter 23 that Anderson chose and was perhaps more aimed at prostitution rather than having a bit too much of a drink as in this case.

Musically the song is very acoustic and folky. I am pretty sure most of the instrumentation is played by Anderson himself with David Goodier and John O’Hara accompanying him on bass and accordion respectively. The song is very much structured around the acoustic guitar and it also utilises both the mandolin and Irish whistle very well.

Track 7. Barren Beth, Wild Desert John.

It’s time to rock things up a bit and the band get fully utilised and the song itself was most likely structured around the guitar riff on the electric guitar. I must admit that the title oddly enough has me thinking of something from the Wild West for some reason. The person or people in question is Barren Elizabeth who gave birth to John The Baptist despite being too old and past childbearing years. She was also a relative of Mary who gave birth to Jesus. I must admit that Anderson’s lyrics make it more interesting than any Nativity Play 😊😊😊.

Track 8. The Betrayal Of Joshua Kynde.

Things continue in a rocky manner and the title of this one had me somewhat bewildered as to how it bore any relation to the bible. All I can say is that Anderson made up another name for the person in question because according to the biblical reference in the 24th chapter of Matthew, the person in question he is referring to is none other than the man who betrayed Jesus Christ for 30 pieces of silver and is none other than Judas Iscariot. Once again the band are on fire here.

Track 9. Where Did Saturday Go?

The remaining four songs are all acoustic songs that Anderson did at home and I am pretty sure all the instrumentation on this song is played by Anderson including the bass unless he got Goodier to throw some bass on for him which may have been the case. The song’s title might suggest that the lyrical content is based around that Saturday night in Cardiff where people went out on the razzle and had too much of the heady brew as Anderson mentioned in the track notes. Although I did find another of his explanations online where he refers it to the crucifixion of Jesus, and the Saturday following Good Friday before Easter Sunday, the resurrection day.

The biblical reference in Luke 23:52-56 does also point to that factor but also to the sabbath day. I suppose another way you could look at as “Where Did Saturday Go?” is by the Jewish Sabbath Day which is observed throughout the year on the seventh day of the week which is their Saturday and not Sunday like most of us. For me personally, Sunday as always felt like a day of rest and is more of a quiet day.

As songs go it’s got quite a nice relaxed feel about it and the good thing about how Anderson has put the words into context with most of these songs is that you make what you like of them and they are not religious words like Christian believers such as Neal Morse would put to his songs so to speak.

Tracks 10 & 11. Three Loves, Three / In Brief Visitation.

More pleasantry acoustic folky songs from Anderson and these two are intertwined into one another in that they use exactly the same tune to put them over. The first of which is a song about love and three different kinds such as the love of friendship “Philia”, spiritual love as in “Agape” and “Eros” in erotic and romantic love. The second song is how Anderson puts it in the track notes in that it’s about taking the rap for the rest of us as in noble sacrifice.

Track 12. The Fisherman Of Ephesus.

The album closes off in fine style and more like the opening track on the album regarding the progression and its diversity to go off in another direction. I would even say that it’s Anderson’s flute that makes up the most of how the song does progress and can go somewhere else. His flute playing on this album is exceptional and there are bags of it throughout the album. This song also utilises the whole of the band including new guitarist Joe Parrish-James who replaced Florian Opahle after he decided to quit the band in 2019.

Anderson does stick closely to the biblical stories on this song and it’s about guilt survival in the way that there is only one survivor of the family after some misfortunate event that has taken the rest of the family away. In biblical terms, he is referring to how the 11 of the twelve Apostles died of a gory death which left John as the sole survivor so to speak.

It is the only track on the album that Parrish-James plays on although he’s out there with the rest of the band right now playing the material from this album and much more on the stage. I suppose in a way he is the new member of the band unlike a session player with how I put him in the musicians and credits.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up my review of The Zealot Gene by Jethro Tull. I personally think it’s not a bad album at all and it’s not that far off a solid album with plenty of good songs to choose from. Though it’s not an album that ranks amongst the best of Tull albums from the past and I personally would not put it up with my GOTO! albums of the band in relation to the past either. However, if you like the albums Rock Island, Catfish Rising and Roots to Branches those are the albums I would more or less associate this album with and not albums from the 70’s such as Aqualung for example.

This is only the second Tull album that Martin Barre has not appeared on and although many of the songs on the album do sound like Tull I rather think that is down to Ian Anderson and not so much the band. The acoustic guitar and the flute are the real driving force behind most of the songs and not the electric guitar. As a matter of fact apart from the opening track, the electric guitar says very little in relation to the many songs that Barre played on years ago but then again that also might be down to the material the guitarist was presented to play in the first place.

If anything I rather think this new album goes to show more so that Anderson is Jethro Tull because we have no arrangements by Martin Barre, Dave Pegg and orchestral arrangements by Dee Palmer and I am pretty sure that Anderson would have handled most of the arrangements himself.

To draw my review to a conclusion I am mainly going to focus on is it worth buying this more expensive package over the CD or Vinyl album. The package itself is very well presented and contains excellent content regarding the informative information and that is what I prefer myself in relation to having a load of pictures. I would also say that the bonus content on the extra CD is also good and worthy of having and is a good inclusion.

The Surround Mix on the Blu Ray is the disappointing thing and being a surround FREAK! that is why I brought this package in the first place. What worries me, even more, is that Jakko Jakszyk will most likely be Anderson’s number one choice to complete the surround mixes on the rest of the Tull back catalogue now that Steve Wilson is out of the frame and in my opinion, he does not have the right ears to work in this field.

Don’t get me wrong the 5.1 mix he did will give you an immersive experience and as I mentioned it brings out the instrumentation in GREAT! detail. But he’s gone overboard and it makes the album sound boring and does not give a true representation of what it should sound like. Anderson’s stereo mix is the real winner here and you will get more enjoyment out of that but that is not the point or purpose of doing a 5.1 mix in the first place. A good surround mix will leave a stereo mix in the dust but unfortunately, this is not one although I will be generous and give it a 6 out of 10 because it does present the album in a different light sort of thing.

Anderson really needs to look for 5.1 engineers who have the right ears and know-how like Wilson and my suggestion would be the likes of Elliot Scheiner, Bob Clearmountain and Chuck Ainsley, or even Robert Reed who just recently done an outstanding 5.1 mix on both parts of The Ringmaster he put out last year and this year with what he’s calling himself “Reedaphonic Sound”.

Overall, I am still quite pleased with the package and still think it’s worth its price point despite the 5.1 mix. I would even go as far as to say that the stereo mix is the purist mix and if you are a purist I would opt for the CD or vinyl album.

Even with Anderson’s voice as shot as it is, I do think it is quite a good album and my personal highlights are “Mrs Tibbets“, “Shoshana Sleeping“, “Sad City Sisters“, “Where Did Saturday Go?“, and “The Fisherman Of Ephesus“.

Still Tullish In A Ripe Old Way…

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:

CD 1 (Main Album).
01. Mrs Tibbets. 5:53.
02. Jacob’s Tales. 2:12.
03. Mine Is The Mountain. 5:40.
04. The Zealot Gene. 3:54.
05. Shoshana Sleeping. 3:40.
06. Sad City Sisters. 3:41.
07. Barren Beth, Wild Desert John. 3:38.
08. The Betrayal Of Joshua Kynde. 4:05.
09. Where Did Saturday Go?. 3:52.
10. Three Loves, Three. 3:29.
11. In Brief Visitation. 3:01.
12. The Fisherman Of Ephesus. 3:40.

CD 2 (Bonus Disc).
01. Mrs Tibbets (Rough Demo). 2:37
02. Mine Is the Mountain (Rough Demo). 2:26.
03. The Zealot Gene (Rough Demo). 2:07.
04. Shoshana Sleeping (Rough Demo). 2:43.
05. Barren Beth, Wild Desert John (Rough Demo). 3:01.
06. The Betrayal of Joshua Kynde (Rough Demo). 3:17.
07. The Fisherman of Ephesus (Rough Demo). 3:04.
08. Jacob’s Tales (Initial Idea Demo). 1:24.
09. Sad City Sisters (Initial Idea Demo). 2:32.
10. Where Did Saturday Go? (Initial Idea Demo). 3:33.
11. Three Loves, Three (Initial Idea Demo). 2:04.
12. In Brief Visitation (Initial Idea Demo). 1:14.
13. She Smells So Sweet (Initial Idea Demo). 1:07.

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. 6/10.
The Bonus Material Rating Score. 7/10.
The Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music #201

Screams & Whispers – How Far To Hitchin


Paul Dews, his music and artwork are back so too is his project of How Far To Hitchin despite having moved even further away from the actual place. Screams & Whispers is the third album to be produced under this project of his and surprisingly it comes only a couple of years after the release of his second album Black Bead Eye. To be honest I was expecting it only to be a couple of years before another album surfaced but since moving to the Orkney Isles and setting up a new studio I was not expecting it to be released until later on this year.

For those who are not familiar with Dews work, he is very much like many multi-instrumentalists and musicians that sit at home and like to be creative and make their own music. The music of HFTH is hardly the thing you will come across in a pub or at a festival being played live like a band it’s very much the work of a one-man studio project.

Getting your music out there in the form of a studio-only project does have its downfalls especially when trying to attract attention to it. Though thankfully over the years and with the release of his last two albums he has managed to pick up a bit of a following and it’s no wonder with the strength of the material on his last two albums.

The other side of Dews creativeness is down to the artwork to which is all drawn and painted by himself. You will normally also find that the artwork he does for his album covers bears some reference to the tracks on the album.

What Dews likes to give you regarding any album he writes and works on is much more than just a solo music project but a whole visual and musical experience. I would certainly go along with that and I guess a lot of his music is inspired by his artwork and he presents it to you in one complete package.

Although his inspiration can also come from where he is actually living and perhaps one of the finest examples of that can be found on his debut album Easy Targets with a song entitled “The Peacocks of Birkby“. I would also suggest that album as a starting point because it is more accessible than his previous album to which I did find more subdued and restrained at first and it took a good few more spins to really sink in.

The music that Dews presents to you is verging on the PROGMATIC! side of things and in his case it might even be best described as ARTROCK! with how he presents both forms of art to you in one package. Screams & Whispers continues in much of the same vein as his second album and although the man behind it has moved on so to speak, the question is has the music itself? Well before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

The CD comes in a standard plastic jewel case and has been put together by Dews himself and for any unknown artist who is not going to be selling their albums by the bucket load, this is perhaps the most cost-effective way of putting your music out there in a physical format rather than spending £300 to have them done by a duplication firm. Besides this way, you can make as many as you want and not be left with hundreds of them cluttering up your garage so to speak.

It also comes with an 8-page booklet that contains all the lyrics and artwork related to them. It does not come with any real informative information and all the linear production notes and credits are printed on the back of the CD. Overall he’s done a very reasonable semi-pro job of making it and it’s understandable why any unknown artist would choose this method of at least getting their music out there in a physical format and not just go with a Digital Download release only.


As I mentioned earlier the artwork was done by Dews himself and I have to say it’s very impressive and gives me the impression that he’s echoing certain things from the past looking at certain things that are contained in there. Besides the actual CD, he is also selling Limited Edition prints of his artwork that give you the bigger picture so to speak and these are the size of a vinyl album cover at 12 inches X 12 inches. It also comes in high definition and on Canson Aquarelle Rag watercolour paper.

The picture above gives you an idea of what it will look like framed and put up on the wall in your living room and I have to say it does look a pretty picture indeed and a quality one at that. They say every picture tells a story and overall I think Dews has certainly come up with the goods once again regarding the artwork so let’s now take a look at the album itself.

The Album In Review…

Screams & Whispers by How Far To Hitchin was released on the 17th of December 2021. The album itself comes with 7 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 43 minutes, 45 seconds. It does like most albums from years ago have a very reasonable and what should be a comfortable time slot. It was also Dews own idea to make the album shorter than his previous albums, and something more like a vinyl album length. However, most of the tracks are quite lengthy and that does make the album a bit less digestible at first and I found that further spins were needed to let a few of the tracks really sink in so to speak.

Having set up a house in the Orkney Isles back in 2019 Dews spent most of his time settling in and working on building a new studio. Rather than use the name of his old studio Studio One-Seven-Two he went along with a new name and decided to call it The Rookery. Gazing at the artwork he has done for both his previous and this latest album I guess you could say he does have a fetish for birds. That of the feathered kind that is 😊😊😊.

As you can see in the picture above the new studio he set up in his garden and you could say that The Rookery has a porthole into the future of the music of HFTH. Although Dews is a multi-instrumentalist he is perhaps more predominantly a guitarist or stringed instrument player though he does also dabble with keyboards, and keyboard and drum programming and he even plays the flute.

He started work on the new material for Screams & Whispers at his new home back in the autumn of 2020 and finished it around the winter of 2021. As with his previous album he sent it to Russell Sinfield to do the final polishing and mastering of the album tracks. Sinfield has quite a reputation on Soundcloud for his production and mastering techniques and many have used his services in the past.

Musicians & Credits…

All songs written by Paul Dews. Produced by Paul Dews. Recorded & Mixed by Paul Dews at The Rookery, Orkney somewhere betwen Autumn 2020 – Winter 2021. Mastered by Russ Sinfield. All Artwork & Design by Paul Dews.

Paul Dews: All Vocals & Instruments.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Although Dews spent over a year writing new material for Screams & Whispers. The biggest majority of the material is actually reworked older material that he originally wrote back in the 90’s and out of the 7 album tracks only 2 of them are new. Though he did ensure me that the reworked material of 3 of the tracks no longer resembles the original material.

A couple of the tracks were originally written for a theatre piece directed by his partner Emma Gee. These have also been re-written and recorded and he chose both of these pieces because they fitted in with the general theme. Speaking of the theme the lyrical content is based around the concept of life and all it throws at us sort of thing and perhaps in this case DEATH!. So let’s now take a look at it all turns out as I take you through the albums individual tracks.

Track 1. Preparing For Life.

The opening track is more of an introduction and a short one at that. At 1 minute, 24 seconds it is fact the shortest track on the album and one of the two tracks that were originally for a theatre piece directed by his partner Emma Gee, to which has been re-worked. Besides the short keyboard intro, it is mostly a two to three-part harmonising vocal acapella to which has been very well worked out and skillfully done by Dews.

Turning towards the lyrical content the words are very well woven and very poetic and perhaps on the tongue-twisting side of things, a bit like the picture, I chose regarding which direction they are turning to or going. Preparing for life, in this case, may very well be the afterlife sort of thing and once again Dews has done an excellent job on them.

Track 2. Screams & Whispers.

The albums self-titled track is quite a synth and percussive built-up track and its opening reminds me of the sort of thing Genesis were doing in the 80’s especially the percussive side of things. The intro is sort of like a cross between “Mama” and “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” with a bit of the zoo and telecommunications thrown in sort of thing. It does have me thinking of those songs in particular with how it’s all been layered and structured with the use of synths and percussion.

The song itself came from one of his earlier demos he did back in the 90’s and once again it’s been reworked for this album. I quite like how a bit more meat and gravy is given to the keyboards to strengthen it up which allows the vocals to come into play and like most songs in the 80’s it’s very much a synth-driven song. I also get a Tony Banks feel with the sequencing and some of the material you will find on his 1987 album Strictly Inc. very much comes to mind.

There are quite a few influences here and oddly enough in parts, Dews’s voice reminds me of Steve Hillage in particular with how he is expressing some of the words. Once again the lyrical content is really good and the lyrics do come across like sentences that have been strung together with how Dews delivers them, they are also so well apt and in context with the song’s title.

The biggest majority of the song is verse and chorus structured and it is quite a lengthy track weighing in at 8 minutes, 13 seconds. However, he has thrown in a bridge around the 5-minute mark which takes you into quite an interesting instrumental section to round it all off and this is perhaps the most PROGMATIC! section of the song. Many other influences are also flying out of the woods here including Brian Eno and strangely the first guitar riff, in particular, has me instantly thinking of Tony T.S. McPhee of the Groundhogs.

Track 3. This Day.

Another reworked demo from the 90’s and this is another song that I feel once again has quite a Tony Banks influence and part of its melodic structure reminds me of “It’s Probably Me” by Sting. No doubt there is probably a good few influences that have been thrown into the pot here besides. This is much more keyboard-driven than the opening track on the album and it does contain some fine synth work in little pockets in the couple of the instrumental breaks throughout. I quite like how the bass sits in so well with it all as well and Dews delivers his fine words very well and is in fine voice.

It’s very much a fine ballad of a song to which he has structured quite well. Although personally for me it is perhaps a bit too long over its 7-minute duration and over this distance I tend to think it’s saying too much of the same thing musically and is not really going in any other direction for my personal taste. I’m not saying I don’t like the song and really feel it would have worked better over half of this distance like most ballads do.

Track 4. Rubber People.

No doubt the influence of Banks has played quite a big part in putting this album together and like his debut album, it is more keyboard orientated. This is another song that uses the same percussion that can be found in the Genesis song “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” though there are a couple of other influences I hear in here too such as the sequence that is used in the intro puts me in mind of “Tribal Statistics” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band from there 1982 album Somewhere in Afrika. You also get a slight bit of guitar towards the end that is influenced by Steve Hackett.

The Olmecs are generally known as rubber people or people of a rubber country because they extracted latex from Panama rubber trees (Castilla elastica) growing in the region and mixed it with the juice of a local vine. Although the rubber people in this instance has more political issues and is really a stab at those idiots who keep on voting for the same idiots that get into power. Once again Dews has done a GREAT! job on the lyrics with his cynical approach to them.

Track 5. Common Rise.

This is one of the two new songs on the album that were written for the album and although Roger Waters has a little black box with his poems in, you could say that Paul Dews stores his photographs and memories inside a metal box so to speak. The common rise in question here is a place in Hitchin which is in the Eastern region of England and where he grew up and the words are very much pertaining to times of the past.

The way the song opens up does put in mind of Waters and very much of his debut album Easy Targets which is my personal favourite album of the three he has now written. To be perfectly honest when I first played this album this song was very much for me where the album started and I would have used this song as the opening track and wrote the rest of the album around it. I am pretty sure his second album Black Bead Eye had that effect on me at first and it was like listening to an album that had two halves.

Dews posted a video he made for the new song back in August last year and I took the liberty of nicking it for this review. This is very much my personal favourite track on the album and an awful lot has really been put into it regarding the musical structure.

The music itself is structured around a very fine melody line played on the piano. The interesting part is really how it builds up you to which will hear many other countermelodies popping out of the woodwork from the synths and guitars. It does have that haunting presence about it too which is well-fitting the lyrical content and Dews voice on this song is GOLDEN!

Track 6. Entropy.

This is the second of the pieces that were originally written for Emma Gee’s theatre piece that she directed and has been re-worked for this album. This is quite a lovely instrumental piece that was structured on the guitar and it utilises 12 string and nylon guitar very well throughout the piece. Keyboards also play a part in it and it also has quite an interesting reverse guitar effect intro and perhaps some demonic voice put into the outro that also makes it interesting.

Entropy is a scientific concept as well as a measurable physical property that is most commonly associated with a state of disorder, randomness, or uncertainty. The piece and its effects in particular are well apt to the process of it all and it moves along quite dramatically as if it is describing the process of it all and is another GREAT! track.

Track 7. Cherish.

The final track happens to be the longest on the album weighing in at just over 10 minutes. It’s a song where more instrumentation comes out of the woodwork and both the banjo and mandolin are very well utilised and even to the point of them ticking over like a clock and working in the percussion department as well. So too is the bass guitar and this song has very much been constructed around the stringed instrumentation rather than the keyboards which is what I personally like about it.

The keyboards do get very well utilised towards the end of the song though I will say it is mainly the stringed instruments that provided the backbone to the progression you get here as well. It is the second of the new songs that Dews wrote from scratch for the album and the words are pertaining to cherishing everything including the memories of a loved one after death. It’s another really GREAT! song and it winds up the album very well.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up my review of Screams & Whispers by How Far To Hitchin. I think it’s very much an album that has Paul Dews stamp all over it with his many influences and his own formidable style that sits in well with the previous two albums. However, I personally do not feel all of the written material has enough to hold or glue itself together as well in relation to those previous couple of albums and it’s as if there is something amiss or not quite right.

It is like I mentioned an album that needs a good few spins for the material to sit with you and I would say that the way the first half of the album has been put together is not the best way. For example, the first half of the album does sound way too subdued and restrained and this would be down to the track placement of tracks 2 & 3 being very much subdued songs and rather lengthy material.

To be perfectly honest the way the first half of the album is put together put me in mind of Peter Jones 3rd album of his Tiger Moth Tales project The Depths Of Winter. I often do find that when the music is more restrained and held back and two tracks like that are placed together you are heading into SLEEPFEST! territory and you need something a bit more exciting to keep you awake especially over those longer distances.

In many respects the way I see how Dews has put this album together especially down to it being more on the keyboard orientated side of things. It does have me thinking that he was trying to recapture some of that old magic that made his debut album stand out so well. Shorter tracks such as “Rubber People” is a prime example though I personally don’t feel it quite makes the grade of the material that was written for Easy Targets even though its title has a familiar ring about it.

For me, it’s the fresh material on the second half of the album that stands out the most for my liking and has I mentioned “Common Rise” is the song I would have personally used as a starting point and built the rest of the album around. I also think that the way the second half of the album has been constructed with more stringed instrumentation and is not keyboard orientated is what makes it more interesting and enjoyable.

In answer to my question in the introduction. It’s perhaps not really an album that has moved on even though the man himself has. I think what you are getting here is a combination of his first two albums and they may very well reflect why it sounds like it comes in two halves so to speak.

In conclusion of my review of Screams & Whispers. So far I have mostly pointed out some of the negative points about the album and how I personally see it as an album or how it does not work that particularly well for me with how it flows. Though I can assure you there are perhaps more positive things about it than negative especially when it comes down to how much of the material has been very well constructed and written and with how well it’s been produced and mastered.

Screams & Whispers if anything still has enough to offer and is still very much worthy of adding to your record collection. My personal highlights from the album are “Common Rise“, “Screams & Whispers“, “Entropy” and “Cherish“.

You can listen to the album for free or purchase it in Digital & Physical formats from the following link: https://www.howfartohitchin.com/store

Hitchin Rises Again…

The CD Tracklisting is as follows:
01. Preparing For Life. 1:24.
02. Screams & Whispers. 8:13.
03. This Day. 7:12.
04. Rubber People. 5:51.
05. Common Rise. 6:54.
06. Entropy. 4:05.
07. Cherish. 10:06.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 7/10.
Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 8/10.
Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6.5/10.