Things As They Appear – Red Bazar
The second part of this two-part mini-series of reviews of the music of Red Bazar focuses on the bands 4th studio album Things As They Appear. As I mentioned in my previous review it would not be long before Pete Jones’s role in the band would stretch to more than just being a singer, although the bands keyboard player Gary Marsh had not quite left the band at this stage. However, his role was now having to make some comprises and that is perhaps why this was the final album he appeared on.
To be honest it’s unclear just what Marsh’s role is on this album according to the album credits he’s not even a member of the band. Red Bazar is a band that doesn’t exactly make things easy when it comes down to researching information about them. They are not a band that keeps up to date with things such as photo shoots and although Facebook is about the most resourceful place for information on the band, there are times when you have to make your own observations, making it hard for reviewers like myself to go into any great detail about them.
I was originally going to make this a two-part series of the bands music and include their Live Concert DVD in this review partially because of not having that much to write or speak about. But in the end, I decided to turn it into a three-part series and felt it needed its own space. That’s not to say that the bands music does not speak to me and this particular album speaks to me a damn sight more than their previous effort. If anything Things As They Appear is an album where the band developed a style that I personally think is better suited to them. But before I go any further let’s take a look at how it comes.
Packaging & Artwork…
This is the bands second album to be released on White Knight Records and just like their previous album Tales From The Bookcase, they have gone along with the same Digipak idea that comes with a die-cut pocket to store the booklet. Speaking of the booklet this one comes with a 12-page one that contains all the liner, production notes and lyrics but does not provide any informative information.
Unlike their previous album, it can still be obtained from the White Knight Records store and I managed to pick it up my copy from there for a bargain price of £9.00 plus £1.80 p+p. Overall it’s a very neat package and for the best price, I would recommend you purchase it from the store in relation to other outlets.
The cover design and artwork were done by the bands keyboard player Gary Marsh. As I could not find any reference to Sawtooth Design who did the design for their previous album. That may have also been done by Marsh. I quite like the album cover and the hooded chap on front of it makes me think of the Neal Morse album Sola Scriptura although he’s perhaps taking a break from sweeping up the courtyard.
The Album In Review…
The bands 4th studio album Things As They Appear by Red Bazar was released on the 26th of January 2019. The album itself contains 8 vocal tracks that spread over an overall playing time of 55 minutes, 14 seconds. It’s perhaps too long to squeeze onto a single vinyl LP but nevertheless, unlike their previous album, I don’t find it a chore to get through in one sitting.
Upon listening to the material on this album it does appear that the band are heading in a new direction and the particular style of that direction is more rock driven which I feel is better suited to this band. I would also say that some of the material we have here is more in line with what I heard with their latest single “State Of Grace” which led me to check out this band in the first place.
I think the fact that this album is more rock driven is one of the main reasons why this album appeals to me more. It’s perhaps really down to how the bass player Mick Wilson and guitarist Andy Wilson’s contrasting styles can clash in particular when it comes to trying to play and do something more along the lines of progrock.
For example, there is no doubt in my mind that they have a PROGMATIC! bassist, whereas the guitarist has too much of a metal background and his lead solos can be at times less attractive and lack ideas for them to fit in with the PROGMATIC! and even CLASSIC ROCK! side of things.
That’s not to say that Andy Wilson is not a good guitarist and that is far from the case, though his lines can be more along the lines of shred and shrill which is perhaps more common in today’s music in relation to the many classic guitar solos that mostly came out of the rock world many moons ago. When it comes to guitar solos I rather think that Pete Jones has more ideas though they can be quite often borrowed from the likes of Steve Hackett and Gary Moore.
As I mentioned in my introduction it is unclear what Gary Marsh’s role is on this album and that really comes across to me via looking at how things have been worded in the booklet. For example, on the back page of the booklet (as seen below), you can clearly see that he is no longer a member of the band and special thanks have been given to him for keyboard arrangments for 7 of the 8 tracks that are on the album.
However, when taking a look at the inside of the booklet you can plainly see that his role extends to more than just keyboard arrangments especially when you take a look at the credits that have been given to him on those 7 tracks. You may have to use the zoom on your web browser to read the credits (I have outlined them with a red marker as seen below) but as you can see he also plays keyboards on 7 of the tracks although most of the keyboard solos are played by Jones.
Gary Marsh’s departure from the band came about well before the album was released, most likely a good 10 months before so they had obviously been working on the album for quite a while. Judging by this photo that was posted on the bands Facebook page on the 1st of May 2018 he most likely left the band back in April 2018.
Although the band never posted anything about why he left the band I am sure there is an amicable reason and they parted on good terms. It stands to reason that there was no need for two keyboard players and it would have added to further costs when touring and downsizing the band would have been the sensible option.
Oddly enough in terms of sales Things As They Appear did not attract the attention as their previous album Tales From The Bookcase. Though I must stress that my observation is a guesstimation and is based on the amount of feedback on their store or Bandcamp page that they have incorporated into their website and not from the sales of other outlets.
Musicians & Credits…
Produced by Red Bazar. All Songs Written by Wilson, Comerie, Wilson, Jones. Keyboard Arrangements on tracks 1,2,3,5,6,7 & 8 by Gary Marsh. Recording Engineer Mick Wilson. Mastering by 7Gate Media, Cover Art & Design by Gary Marsh.
Andy Wilson: Guitar.
Mick Wilson: Bass.
Pete Jones: Vocals – Keyboards.
Paul Comerie: Drums.
Gary Marsh: Keyboards & Arrangements.
The Album Tracks In Review…
Things As They Appear is not really what I would call a concept album however there does seem to be a theme going on regarding the lyrical content with how it generally tends to focus on one particular subject. Musically the album does tend to run along like a collection of songs in the way that none of the tracks run seamlessly into each other sort of thing.
I personally think this is where the band became a bit more cohesive and found their feet, and even though it still contains mostly lengthy tracks around the 6 to 7-minute mark, I do feel they have trimmed things down better and there is less overcooking in relation to their previous album.
Track 1. Temple.
The album gets off to a flying start with its opening track and launches its way in style and at quite a fast pace. Just like I felt the albums cover had a bit of Neal Morse touch to it so does this particular song in parts. Though I am sure there are many other influences flying out of the woodwork including once again the likes of Frost* who are a band that started off very well with their debut album and sort of lost the plot by applying too many modern gadgets and reverse effects to their music for my taste.
Thankfully this band have not gone quite that far and what we have here is a track that is perhaps a bit more on the PROGMATIC! side of things with its transitional changes though it does in many ways feel more ROCK! driven. I suppose the best way I could describe it is that it’s more like what the band Yes did with Trevor Rabin on albums like 90125 and Big Generator in relation to what the band did back in the early 70’s which was progrock.
Despite the influences, the “Temple” is, without a doubt, one of the stronger tracks on the album. The lyrical content pertains to cults and those who think they are above everything and It features some excellent guitar work from Andy Wilson including a BLISTERING! solo. The bass and drums hold it up very well and even though Pete jones is only singing on this track, he very much puts his “ORE” into it with how he uses different vocal characteristics to deliver it.
Track 2. Nothing Left.
Quite a comedown from the previous track and this is a song that lyrically deals with emotions that are tied around a broken-down relationship. It’s perhaps a song that has too much to say about the subject matter over the near enough 8 minutes you get here. Though I will say the words are put very well into context. Musically the song has very little to say and not even the lengthy keyboard solo played by Jones at the end adds enough to the tank. Overall it’s not a bad song but rather a mediocre effort methinks.
Track 3. Liar.
This next song is most likely aimed at politicians (as in the picture I chose) if anything it perhaps portrays the truth about politics. The song itself has more of a direct rock approach to it which I think suits the bands style very well if I’m being truthful myself. It also incorporates a nice little bridge that features some quite nice pumping bass work from M. Wilson and another BLISTERING! lead guitar solo from A. Wilson that adds an extension to it all.
Overall “Liar” is one of those songs that tends to run across the familiar ground of many popular rock songs and its more popular approach might not sit that well with fans of their previous album. However, the 6.5 minutes you get here I feel is very well utilised and is not overcooked. It also feels like it’s over in 4 minutes so the band must be doing something right.
Track 4. Rocky Bone Runway.
The longest track on the album is up next and regarding the lyrical content, there does generally tend to be a theme going on regarding false hope, leaders and dictators throughout the album. This is also the only track on the album that Gary Marsh took no part in and it was most likely written after he had left. Considering the song is just under 8.5 minutes it does tend to have too many words and perhaps says too much for its own good in some respects.
However, that’s not to say it’s a bad song though I do feel more thought could have been applied to the musical direction, especially over this distance and at times it does tend to be saying the same thing for too much of the time so to speak.
Track 5. Spiral.
There are times when I get the feeling that when it comes to writing and putting songs together the band tend to run out of ideas, especially when trying to do something a bit more PROGMATIC! and “Spiral” is a prime example. Musically the song starts off a bit like “Entangled” by Genesis with its melody line, however the vocal line sort of blends something else into it that gives me the impression of something that would suit a female singer for a Bond Movie sort of thing. At this point, the song is running more along the lines of a pop song and with its duration being some 7 minutes and 39 seconds long it even has me wondering where on earth are they going to be taking it.
The first thing they try to do is beef the song up a bit by injecting a bit of power into it that comes into play with A. Wilson’s guitar around the 3:09 mark. To be honest I am not really sure that this transitional change works and the very fact that it drags on for 40 seconds gives me the impression that the band are hanging around in limbo and have no idea where to go next.
The next few verses stay in the beefed-up mode and the vocal line injects a bit more aggression into it all which is all very well but once again I get the feeling that it is out of character with how the song started. The song then gets rounded off with a 2-minute 47 seconds keyboard solo played by Marsh that adds a bit more excitement to it but leaves me thinking that everything is out of context and was put together with the wrong pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
Track 6. Future Song.
The “Future Song” is another near-enough 7-minute song that tends to have too much going on in the lyric department once again. However, that may very well be down to the song’s chorus which is very repetitive in the way that it never changes the words and is utilised three times in the song. It does however feature a couple of nice solos from Jones and A. Wilson that at least break up some of the monotony of the chorus.
The lyrical content itself is verging on striving for better times and possibilities for the future and the only way that can really happen is when those in power give peace a real chance which it is more or less pointing out so to speak.
Track 7. The Parting.
The shortest track on the album happens to be my personal favourite and that’s most likely down to the band putting more into this just under five-minute song than any other track on the album. This is a track where the band really work to their full potential and the bass player, in particular, comes right out of his shell and does an excellent job plucking the hell out of the strings. It’s very much a song that kicks ass and the main riff is very heavy and a bit like “Into The Lens” by Yes. Only it has a lot more power and energy to drive it along.
The lyrical content portrays the dividing line in a broken-down relationship and inflicts all the anger and pain that goes along with it. Once again the words are very well put into context and Jones does an admiral job of delivering them. The whole band are on fire here and is firing on all cylinders. It’s also more fitting to Andy Wilson’s guitar style and in all honesty, I personally feel that this rock side of things is better suited to this band. You can listen to the song here:
It just goes to prove that you don’t have to make songs 9 to 15 minutes long to try and make them PROGMATIC! Especially when you can throw in just as much or even more into a 4 or 5-minute song like this. You also have to be just as skilful to pull off a rock song like this too and this song easily merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!
Track 8. We Will Find You.
The final track on the album is quite dark, sinister and different and certainly different to the more humorous side of things I chose with the picture. In many respects, it is something of a new approach or the sort of angle with what they have done with “State Of Grace” especially the lyrical content in that it’s about censorship that is sort of forced upon by the government. In many ways, it’s like being put under surveillance by them and Big Brother is watching you and is like something out of a spy film which is also the way the band dramatise it with the musical side of things too.
I personally don’t think this song will be lighting any fires with their fans and it perhaps lacks the vocal characteristics that were given to the song from their new album that is to come. However, what I do admire is that they are heading into a newer direction musical-wise and one that I personally think is better suited to the band. I don’t dislike this track by any means and it rounds off the album very well.
Summary & Conclusion…
To sum up and conclude my review of Things As They Appear by Red Bazar. I would say that it’s an album that gives me the impression that the band are heading in a new direction or approach to their music and are coming at it from another angle so to speak. It’s also an album where I do feel I got more for my money even if like their previous album it’s far from what I would call a solid album and once again only a half-decent one.
To be perfectly honest I feel this new direction is much better suited to the band simply because I personally feel that this is a band that needs to stick to shorter songs. The reason for my reasoning this way is that with the longer material I do feel that not enough space is given to the musical direction and they over utilise it by throwing in too many lyrics most of the time.
I did mention in my previous review that I felt there were better things to come from Red Bazar and upon my first spin of this album it really felt that way, especially with this new rockier approach they were applying to their music. The bands latest song release “State Of Grace” does appear to be continuing with this new direction which I like. Although as to if the rest of their forthcoming album Inverted Reality lives up to it we shall have to wait and see.
If it doesn’t I am afraid it will leave me no choice but to knock this band on the head, simply because I see no point in spending money on half-decent albums all the time and you would be better off buying tracks rather than the album. That is something I personally hate to see in this day being that I am more of an avid collector of the physical product myself. My personal highlights from the album are “Temple“, “Liar” and “The Parting“.
Things Might Not Be As They Appear At Times…
The Album Tracklisting is as follows:
01. Temple. 6:55.
02. Nothing Left. 7:58.
03. Liar. 6:29.
04. Rocky Bone Runway. 8:26.
05. Spiral. 7:39.
06. Future Song. 6:56.
07. The Parting. 4:53.
08. We Will Find You. 5:58.
The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
The Album Rating Score. 5/10.