Lee Speaks About Music… #211

Tales From The Bookcase – Red Bazar

Introduction…

Red Bazar is a band I have known about for quite a while now although I will say that I had never heard of them until I came across the music of Pete Jones and his Tiger Moth Tales project. Jones very much uses the three members of this band as his backing band when he plays live sometimes and has been doing so for quite a while now. He has been involved in many projects since he started his own project back in 2014 though I have to confess I do draw the line when it comes to following offshoots and most of the time that would be down to cost.

To be perfectly honest in the past from what little I had heard of Red Bazar’s music it did not really float my boat and certainly never enticed me enough to buy any of their music or follow them. The only thing that sparked any real interest in them came about more recently when they released “State Of Grace” from their forthcoming album Inverted Reality as you can see and hear in the video below.

It was watching this video that persuaded me to take a closer look at the band and enticed me to purchase a couple of their albums and a live DVD. All of which I shall be reviewing over this month hopefully.

Tales From The Bookcase might not be the best place to start talking about the bands music, though it is the first album that Pete Jones first became involved with the band even to the point of writing the lyrics and the concept behind it. It was actually the album cover that inspired me to purchase this album. However, one should never really judge a book by its cover and you might want to take a closer look at its contents before diving in so to speak.

I did not however walk entirely blindfolded into this particular album and I did get to hear a live version of one of the tracks that also enticed me to purchase it. There was another reason as to why I ended up buying it which I will reveal at the end of my review. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

Well as you can see the CD comes in a 2-panel cardboard Digipak that has a die-cut pocket to store the booklet. The 8-page booklet contains all the liner, production notes and lyrics but does not provide any informative information. Overall, it’s a neat quality package and I purchased my copy new from Caerlly’s Music on eBay for £12.50 including p+p at a very reasonable price point.

Artwork.

The album cover was done by Sawtooth Design whoever the Dickens they might be and being as I cannot find any resourceful information about them I can only presume that it may have been done by one of the band members. There is perhaps a bit more of a Dickens going on with the characters on the front cover though they tie in very well with the concept which was inspired by some of Jones’s favourite books.

Red Bazar In Brief History…

Originally formed in Nottingham, England back in 2007 by electric and bass guitarists Andy & Mick Wilson along with drummer Paul Comerie. Red Bazar was originally a three-piece band or outfit that primarily played instrumental music. That also very much reflects on their first couple of albums Connections and Differential Being and a three-track EP they also put out entitled After The Ice Storm.

By 2013 the band expanded their sound a bit by adding keyboards for the material they wrote for their three-track EP After The Storm, and although Mick Wilson played them it was becoming a bit much for him whilst playing live. So towards the end of 2013, they recruited keyboardist, Gary Marsh.

This video shows you how well the band could function and perform as a three-piece outfit and here they are doing quite an impressive job of Billy Cobham’sStratus“. I should also stress that the band as a rule write their own material and is not noted for doing covers by other artists.

By 2015 the band expanded once again and decided to add words and a voice to their music and added the singer and multi-instrumentalist, Peter Jones to the pot. I am pretty sure that this worked out pretty well for Jones because he was now able to perform his own music live with a band behind him and it pretty much worked out like you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours sort of thing.

That just about brings us up to the point of their career where they are with the album I am about to review now and I will go further into the bands latter part of their career in this short two-part mini-series of their latter albums.

The Album In Review…

Tales From The Bookcase by Red Bazar was released on the 15th of March 2016. The album contains 8-tracks spread over a very lengthy timeslot of 72 minutes, 43 seconds. It’s perhaps a double album in relation to how albums were made many moons ago and apart from one track the album is made up of very lengthy material making it a lot harder to digest and a chore to get through in one sitting.

Though I certainly would not say that discouraged people from buying it. I would also say with the addition of Pete Jones to the bands lineup may very well have boosted the bands popularity, especially in terms of its sales in relation to that of their previous output. The album was even voted runner-up in the Classic Rock Society album of the year awards 2016 and the band played a large number of gigs throughout 2016/17 to further promote the album and further develop their live performance.

As far as I can make out in my research the bands 4th studio album Tales From The Bookcase took a couple of years in the making and it came about via Jones seeing the band play at a gig in Nottingham and suggesting to them that he could add vocals to their music. It was back in early 2014 that the band sent him a new piece of music to see what he would come up with and they were not only impressed by his voice but also the lyrics he had written for it.

There is no doubt that the musicians in Red Bazar are all very well-accomplished players of their instruments. I can certainly see why Jones took an interest in the band in the first place with the talent that they have and would have easily seen how they would fit in with his own music. Personally, I feel it worked out very well for them both.

I cannot be sure that the bands particular style of music had changed vastly with having the other two members on board at this point. Although the structured layout of the music to incorporate lyrics and a voice would have certainly changed things, especially in relation to the instrumental material they were playing beforehand. I do also feel that the material on this album tries to be more PROGMATIC! Though I must stress and emphasize that the word “Tries” is perhaps all it does and I do feel that this particular band have more of a rock approach to their style than anything else.

I think as time went on it was fairly obvious that with the many talents that Pete Jones possesses his role in the band would stretch to more than just being a singer and a lyric writer and at some point, somebody had to go. One of the other things that Jones did bring to the table was the record label and this was the bands first album to be released on White Knight Records.

Musicians & Credits…

All Songs Produced, Arranged & Performed by Red Bazar. All Songs Written by Wilson, Comerie, Wilson, Jones, except tracks 3 & 5 Written by Wilson, Comerie, Marsh, Wilson, Jones. Track 1 by Wilson, Comerie, Wilson and track 6 by Wilson, Comerie, Wilson, Harrison. Recording Engineer Mick Wilson. Cover Art & Design by Sawtooth.

Musicians.
Andy Wilson: Guitar.
Mick Wilson: Bass.
Pete Jones: Vocals.
Gary Marsh: Keyboards.
Paul Comerie: Drums.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Tales From The Bookcase could very be seen as a concept album in the sense of the whole of the thing, especially with how Pete Jones in particular decided to base the lyrics around some of his favourite stories. It’s nothing unusual to see Jones being influenced and working in this way when you look at a lot of the material that he has written for his own project of Tiger Moth Tales.

However, the stories he has chosen here have perhaps more of a serious side to them and are a far cry from the whimsical way he goes about things via the use of children’s literature and nursery rhymes with his own project. His inspiration for this album was drawn from authors such as the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle, Alistair McClean, Jean Raspail, H.G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke and George Orwell.

To be honest it perhaps brings something a bit different to the table especially when many other bands in the world of progrock tend to want to write about mythical fantasies, Greek mythology, foes fables and legends all the time. It even touches on a certain subject with the song that drew my attention to the album in the first place. So let’s now delve deeper into the album as I take you through the tracks.

Track 1. In The Beginning.

The album gets off to a very promising start and being as it is an instrumental piece you could say more or less the band has started where they left off so to speak. This is also the shortest track on the album and features some very tasty lead guitar from Andy Wilson. It also features some nice synth work from Gary Marsh whilst the bass and drums keep their steady pace in order and ticking over very nicely indeed.

It also works very well as an introductory or even prologue in this case (or should I dare say bookcase) for what’s to come so to speak. I feel that the band are in the right frame of mood or mode and it has the right dynamics and dramatics to send and drive the album very nicely on its way sort of thing and is one of the better tracks on the album.

Track 2. Queen Of The Night (Part 1).

It’s at this point of the album that you will be taking on one long journey after another and this particular track comes in two parts and you could say that both parts work as a bookend between the beginning and end of the album. Lyrically it does seem that all the fun of the circus has come to town. However, that is not quite the case and the story behind this tale is perhaps more of a tragic one where the events perhaps unveil themselves more so in the second part. Whereas the lyrical content in this first part perhaps ties in more with the artwork on the album’s front cover and this circus story comes from one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s short stories entitled “The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger” that he wrote for the many cases of the fictional detective he created widely known as Sherlock Holmes.

Musically the song very much ROCKS! it’s way along very well allowing Pete Jones to emphasise and express the words like he’s telling a story. He also uses different vocal characteristics to put the words across to try and put you in the picture so to speak. The words have also been put very well into context with Doyle’s original story. However, if do not know anything about the original story you may very well be left thinking what the bloody hell is he going on about 😊😊😊.

I have to confess that when I first heard this song I had not got a clue what the hell it was all about and it was not really speaking to me very well at all. If the music had more of a PROGMATIC! feel to it I doubt if the lyrics would have made a blind bit of difference because in general when it comes to progrock it is the musical side of things that will often speak to me the most especially if the music has the ability to take you somewhere else and go in other directions.

The song does, however, have power even if it does not have any solos. It also has the ability to come down smoothly in parts, the keyboard sound in particular in those sections puts me in mind of pop songs such as Tina Charles’sI Love To Love” or some of Stevie Wonder’s songs though I will stress that it is the sound that has me thinking along these lines.

It was only by researching other reviews that it shed a bit more light on it regarding the lyrical side of things that I got to appreciate this song more on that score. I do think many of the songs on this album take more than a few spins to really sink in especially when they go over a distance like this and say too much of the same thing. The good thing about this particular song is that once you have got into it, its 8 minutes and 50 seconds do tend to fly by. I would also consider it as a contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 3. Calling Her On.

I do believe this was the first song the band worked on with Jones and the melodic lines of its rhythm played on the guitar, plus the shimmering vocals on the intro put me in mind of the band Frost*. According to my research, the lyrical content of this song is more original and from what I can gather Jones made them up thinking along the lines of what happened to the wife of Major Tom from David Bowie’s smash hit “Space Oddity“. Perhaps a bizarre (or even BAZAR!) way of thinking and it’s very strange what is FLOATING! around people’s minds never mind tin cans in the vacuum of space.

I think the way Jones expresses the words we have here is all well and good. However, no matter how this song tries to go somewhere else it fails miserably and I find that vocally it is too busy and musically it’s not adventurous enough and is saying far too much of the same thing over its 11 minutes. Bowie put his point across in less than half this time and that’s why his song is a classic whereas this is a million miles from one I am sorry to say.

Track 4. City And The Stars. 

This next song is the one that attracted me to this particular album in the first place. What we have here is a song that has been very well structured musically and it also has a really GREAT! set of lyrics that have a lot of meaning to them. The lyrics were inspired by two famous SciFi authors namely Arthur C. Clarke and George Orwell and I have to admit that the way Jones has put the words into context to fit in with our world today is perhaps a touch of BRILLIANCE! on his part.

The certain subject that drew my attention to this song at first was that it mentions 5.1 and high definition and being a Surround Freak! it was bound to catch my attention. Though I must stress that those words have little importance to the whole picture that has been put here. The song also features a nice guitar solo from Andy Wilson that is perhaps different to some of his solos that tend to be more metal structured at times. This song personally for me is my favourite track on the album and easily merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 5. The Lights Of Home.

Alistair Maclean’s novel HMS Ulysses is where the inspiration for the lyrical content of this song came about. It’s the longest track on the album weighing in at some 12 minutes, 22 seconds although only by 3 seconds and pretty much most songs on this album are over the 10-minute mark. It’s perhaps one of those songs where the lyrics will only really speak to you if you have read the book or watched the film and as I am not really into war films they don’t say a lot to me personally.

Musically the song itself runs along at quite a fast pace and features some pretty impressive dominant bass work from Mick Wilson and Gary gets to fly and shred his way along with some blistering guitar work. Paul Comerie also does quite GRAND! job on the drums on this track too. It is more of a rocker of a song in relation to it being on the PROGMATIC! side of things and will perhaps rock somebodies boat more than mine on that score.

Track 6. Sunset For A New World.

This is another of the better tracks on the album and oddly enough even though it has words they were not written by Jones. It’s very much something the band had written before he joined and no doubt they intended to add a singer to the band at some point. This is also another of the shorter tracks over its 7.5 minutes and it has a bit of a Steve Hackett feel to it in particular with the harmonising vocals on the chorus section.

Musically the song flows like the river in the song’s lyrics and it has a nice steady relaxed pace to it all. Besides Jones’s voice, I do feel his saxophone would have worked well on this song and both lead breaks have the space to accommodate and it would have added a nice touch to the arrangement.

Track 7. Almost Over.

Depression is the subject matter behind the lyrics of this song and Jones decided to incorporate some of his own personal previous experience with it. It’s a song that builds itself along quite well and some of the musical sides of it give me the odd glimpses of Marillion’sGoing Under” and the ending in particular has a touch of Pink Floyd with the keyboards that drive it home. I am even hearing a touch of Alice Cooper with the guitar riff.

Overall I think it’s quite a good song though I do think it said everything more or less over 8 minutes in relation to the 11 minutes you get here. In reality, the extra 3 minutes do not really say anything more and only really work in a way of dragging it out that much longer and nothing more.

Track 8. Queen Of The Night (Part 2).

The second part of the “Queen Of The Night” is even longer and the second-longest track on the album weighing in at 12 minutes, 19 seconds. Musically it perhaps tries to be a bit more PROGMATIC! in relation to the first part in that it changes direction slightly, it also injects a bit of power in the way it builds itself along and includes a guitar solo to spruce things up a bit. The lyrical content also portrays a lot more of Doyle’s story in relation to part one and unveils more of the gruesome and tragic events of Eugenia Ronder’s plot that never quite worked as she had planned.

Once again Jones does an amicable job of putting across the words, although I do prefer some of the different vocal characteristics he used in part one on that score and even though the words have been put very well into context it does tend to sound like he’s reading them from the book sort of thing.

Overall the second part does not quite grab me like the first part and there are times when I think it’s quite good and other times where I get the feeling that it drags itself out a bit too much like the 5th track on the album. However, I do feel it adds a bit more strength to the album and works very well as a bookend to put the album to bed.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up Tales From The Bookcase by Red Bazar. This is perhaps one of the most difficult albums to sink your teeth into and that is really down to how many lengthy tracks follow one another. It is without doubt as I mentioned a chore to get through in one sitting and is verging on the point of overkill or being overcooked. In many respects, the way the album has been done like this puts me in mind of Tiger Moth Tales third album The Depths Of Winter.

Even though some of the material is very well written I would not say that it is really a strong body of work. There is no way on this earth I would suggest or recommend this album as a starting point to get into the bands music either. That is why I originally suggested you should never judge a book by its cover and it was the cover that attracted my attention to this album more than anything.

The other reason why I decided to get this album was that it was out of print. Although there are quite a few new copies still floating about and you can easily still obtain a copy without paying silly money for it. To be honest it’s unusual being as it’s on White Knight Records I am surprised they have not had further copies pressed. But I guess it’s down to cost and as many copies are still floating around at other outlets they perhaps don’t feel the need to have further copies pressed just yet.

To conclude my review of the bands 3rd album Tales From The Bookcase. I personally think that what this album lacks is diversity, especially in terms of progrock. It’s as if they have made the songs this long to try and be more PROGMATIC! and forgotten about transitional changes to take it somewhere else on that score. If you are going to be doing songs over this distance you need to put in a hell of a lot more to make it work and this is where many of the tracks on this album fall short.

To be honest Red Bazar does come across to me as more of a rock band, especially in relation to what Pete Jones puts into his own music with his Tiger Moth Tales project. Which I personally think is a lot more and why I prefer his music in relation to what we have on this album.

There are some good tracks on this album but not enough of them in my book and it’s only really what I would call a half-decent album if that. To be honest I am not sure I will keep it and may end up selling it on though I do like “City And The Stars“, “Queen Of The Night (Part 1)” and “Sunset For A New World“. I also like the short opening instrumental track so it might be a half-decent album after all.

I do however think there is a lot more to this band and like I mentioned they are all well-accomplished musicians and I could not take anything away from them on that score. I also think that this album may appeal to a lot more than myself on that score and just as well as you should never judge a book by its cover. You also should never judge a review of an album from one person’s own viewpoint.

As it happens I do feel there are better things to come from Red Bazar and they are only around the corner as you will find out next in my review of their 4th album Things As They Appear. I will also go into a bit more detail regarding the band and why I feel their 4th album is better suited to them.

Never Judge A Book By Its Cover…

The Album Tracklisting is as follows:
01. In The Beginning. 2:59.
02. Queen Of The Night (Part 1). 6:50.
03. Calling Her On. 11:06.
04. City And The Stars. 8:36.
05. The Lights Of Home. 12:22.
06. Sunset For A New World. 7:31.
07. Almost Over. 11:00.
08. Queen Of The Night (Part 2). 12:19.

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
The Album Rating Score. 5/10.

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