Lee Speaks About Music… #121

Easy Targets – How Far To Hitchin

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Introduction…

I stumbled upon a post on Facebook of an album that my good friend Russell Sinfield had recently mastered and the albums artwork drew in my attention straight away. I also noticed that the album was due to be released on the same day and it had a link to the artists website. Having clicked on the artists website I noticed that the new album had not arrived yet, but I decided to have a mooch through his website and I had noticed that he had already released his first album Easy Targets back in 2016.

Having glanced at the artwork for that debut album of his it suddenly dawned on me that I had been here before. It became even more evident that I had been there before when I clicked on the link to his Facebook page to which I had already “Liked” and his YouTube channel to which I had seen the videos before and noticed that I had clicked the “Like Thumbs Up” button already on them.

It can be very easy for me to lose track of somebody with all the music that comes out at a particular time. Facebook alone can be plastered with that much really GREAT! music that there is just no way you could buy and keep track of it all. For me to have liked something in the first place there must of been something about this chaps music I did like, so I decided to go back to his website and give some of the tracks from his album Easy Targets another listen. To be honest there was only 3 of the 12 tracks of the album that you could listen to all the way through on his music page. Upon giving those a blast, I was quite blown away and instantly knew this is one album I have got to have.

How Far to Hitchin is very much a one-man band project of Paul Dews and a project name he chose to go under. It’s quite strange name to choose though he was actually born in the market town of Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England. The name was inspired and comes from an English children’s television program called Gilbert’s Fridge that was broadcast back in 1988. These days he resides in Huddersfield and has for some time now, and he’s also a multi-instrumentalist and one very talented songwriter and musician.

He also has quite a talent in art too and I can tell you that his debut album Easy Targets is quite an AMAZING! album that gave me plenty to talk about. I also would say that it’s an album you need to get your ears around because this is quite a GEM! But before I get further into it and more about the man himself. Let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork as usual.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The CD comes sealed and wrapped in a reusable transparent cellophane sleeve and the CD is housed in a standard plastic Jewel Case which provides good protection and prevents the CD from getting marks and scratches. These days I do myself prefer cardboard Digipaks especially how they can give you the look of a miniature vinyl album and are more appealing. They are also more of the “In-Thing” I would say today in relation to the standard plastic Jewel Case.

I would also say that Paul Dews likes to have a hand in everything and I am pretty sure that he has made the CD himself rather than use a media manufacturing company which can be costly. Especially as many of them will only churn them out at a minimal quantity of around 200 or more in most cases.

It’s something I used to do myself in the past and it makes a lot more sense to do things this way too, especially as it’s not as if you are going to be selling them by the bucket load. I have seen many unknown artists in the past fork out the £300 – £400 to have them mass produced and made by such companies, only for the biggest majority of them to be left in the box and shoved in somewhere like their garage or basement.

To be honest it’s not that much cheaper to make them yourself especially with the cost of the ink and all the materials. But the advantage is that you can knock them out in much smaller quantities so that you are not left out of pocket and your CD’s are not cluttering up your own space sort of thing.

I remember back in the early 2000’s when I was knocking them out for some bands and even my own brother. It was still costing me £3.50 to make one CD. Mind you I was using quality double sided gloss paper to make the booklets and gloss labels to stick on the CD. I also forked out more money for the blank discs too, and only ever used Taiyo Yuden silver discs so that you could not see where the data was burned onto the disc. I dare say that it’s a lot cheaper to knock them out today though and many of those materials have come down in price rather than go up.

There are also a lot of cheaper ways of doing it than I did back then too, but I wanted something you could not tell the difference and looked every inch as good as what you brought from a record store. I think he’s done a very good job of it too.

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The CD also comes with a 6-page booklet that contains all the production and linear notes as well as the lyrics and some artwork illustrations for every song on the album. All of which was done by Dews himself. There is certainly a fine ART to everything Paul Dews does, so let’s now take a look at the artwork.

Artwork.

Well no doubt it certainly helps when you can not only be creative in the art form of making your own music, but also being an artist with a very creative mind who can paint and draw comes in handy too. The word ART very much applies to the both sides of Paul Dews creativity and he’s got quite an exceptional very creative mind in both of these creative forms of ART. There is also no doubt that both his music and artwork can draw you in too, and even though it may have been his artwork that originally led me to him in the first place. I would also say that his music alone could also easily do that too.

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Besides his music Dews also sells posters of his artwork on his website and it’s perhaps understandable when you have the vision to come up with something like this in the first place and can actually draw and paint it yourself. I noticed that the posters are also the same size of a vinyl album and no doubt the artwork for Easy Targets would pop out a lot more at you at that larger size.

The Album In Review…

Easy Targets by How Far to Hitchin was released on the 9th June 2016. The album comes with 12 tracks to which are all very well-crafted songs and it does not contain any instrumental tracks. It also comes with an overall playing time of 67 minutes, 34 seconds that may seem lengthy and is verging on to a double album’s worth of material. Though I certainly have no complaints here simply because this is one very well skilfully crafted and woven piece of fine ART! that has been so skilfully put together. It does not contain any gap fillers either and is highly addictive and will have you playing it over and over all day long.

Paul Dews describes in his own words that his music has been described as original, slightly off beat and difficult to categorize. He also says that some people think that he’s a bit prog in the same way that bands such as Everything Everything, Elbow, Radiohead and Midlake have been described. But he also goes onto to say that he can be a bit of everything and come across like bands such as Massive Attack, Blur, Young Knives, XTC and John Grant. Whilst at the same time hopefully retaining his own unique identity, and he would describe his own music as Alternative Experimental Art Rock with a twist of NeoProg.

I personally think that the way Dews described his music is pretty much spot on and is a combination of all of that he stated on his website and I could even throw in artists such as Steve Wilson, Roger Waters and The Beatles onto that list and many others too.

Oddly enough just looking at all those artists his music could resemble, the only artist out of that lot I have in my record collection is the one I mentioned Roger Waters. All those other artists have never spoke to me enough for me to go out and buy any of their records. But I have heard the biggest majority of them and the album Easy Targets does cover a range of musical styles ranging from pop, synth pop to melancholic NeoProg.

I would not say that Paul Dews music is like Roger Waters or Pink Floyd for that matter either. But my main reason for mentioning him in the first place is the fact that Dews does throw in a lot of other effects into the pot such as splashes, crashes, feathers in hats, water drops, peacocks and purring cats. He even sticks the kettle on makes a nice cup of tea whilst he’s at it :)))))). Environmental things and such other effects are the same type of things that Waters will often throw into his music and the fact we also get quite a lot of explicit language also reminds me of Waters.

I think the other reason why Roger Waters also springs to my mind is his association with such an iconic album he made with Pink Floyd back in 1973. That album was of course Dark Side Of The Moon and even though the album Easy Targets sounds nothing like that album there is no doubt Dews has crafted this album out of solid material that is highly original and sounds totally fresh with all the elements he has used to make it. I would even go as far as to say that the album Easy Targets is in every way just as interesting and will have you hooked just like that iconic album Pink Floyd made back then. Paul Dews has no doubt created a masterpiece of an album and yet he is hardly known and does not sit on a pot of gold like Roger Waters and the other members of that band.

Pink Floyd certainly broke the mold when they made Dark Side of The Moon back in 1973 and Paul Dews has managed to do it 3 years ago back in 2016 with this album. Albums like this are very rare and hard to beat and come by, effectively they are like those amplifiers where the volume knob goes beyond 10 and goes up to 11 as seen in the Spinal Tap movie. It’s albums like this that are worth their weight in GOLD! and for the life of me I cannot believe he has not received just as much recognition for it.

Dews started work on the album Easy Targets back in 2011 and it was a long process in the making of it. He set up a studio in the basement of his house in Huddersfield and called it Studio One-Seven-Two. To be honest I thought the studio was named after the number of his house but through my research I discovered that it’s approximately 172 miles from his house in Huddersfield to his mother’s house in Hitchin where he grew up. So, I guess he does know how far is Hitchin :)))))).

Considering Dews made the album at his own home its quite a remarkable achievement especially without any other producer onboard either. No doubt many musicians make their own music in the same way including myself especially with how it’s much easier and less expensive to make your own album these days. It’s no wonder that so many are doing such a thing.

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Dews is a very skilled multi-instrumentalist and quite a guitarist though he can also put his hands to the keys as well and he’s crafted some really GREAT! synth work for this album. If I am not mistaken the keyboard on that stand is a Yamaha PSR E303. I have one myself as a secondary keyboard. Being a multi-instrumentalist is also giving him the ability to add in a few other stringed instruments such as mandolin and ukulele which are utilized very well on some of the tracks on the album. He also plays flute and throws in the odd bit of percussion including household items, and he’s even a dab hand with a Kettle :))))).

He also played guitar in a progressive rock band in England in the 1980’s called 13th Hour. The band done a lot of gigs in the late 80’s in the south of England and became more of a pop band. In 1982 they recorded a single entitled ‘Stereo Smiles‘ and it reached number 7 in the Melody Maker independent charts. Like most bands they eventually broke up and Dews went off to study Art at Dartington College of Arts in Devon, South England. It was after he got his art degree that he moved to Huddersfield and wrote and played in another Progressive band called Chimera. After that ended, he decided to concentrate on writing his own solo material as a solo artist.

Easy Targets is actually the third solo album he’s written. Though the other couple of albums he wrote under different project names. The first album Belly Button he wrote under the name of Silly Automatic. His second album entitled Almost Everything was under the name of Potdog. Although he was happy enough with the songs he wrote in those earlier projects, he was never really happy enough with the recording to which were both recorded in the front room of his previous house on a combination of cassette porta studios and early digital workstations.

These days he uses Protools for recording and he uses EZ Drummer to do the drum programming. There is no doubt he’s achieving much better results too and he must have an extremely well clever head on his shoulders to be able to churn out something like this album that’s for sure. You can also see he must have a sense of humour with how he has also created a band line up out of his own name :)))))

Musicians & Credits…

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All songs written by Paul Dews. Produced, Recorded, Mixed & Mastered by Paul Dews at Studio One-Seven-Two approximately 172 miles away from Hitchen. Cover Art, Design & Graphics by Paul Dews.

Musicians:
Paul Dews: Vocals.
EP Dulsaw: Guitars/Mandolin/Ukulele.
Wes Ladpu: Bass.
Saul Pewd: Keyboards & Midi Keyboard Programming
Ade W Puls: Percussion/Flute/Household Objects/Drum Programming.

Narration by written and performed by Chris Hannon (Track 1).
Narration by written and performed by Emma Gee (Track 2).

The Album Tracks In Review…

In so many ways listening to the album Easy Targets is very much like listening to a concept album with how most of the tracks can run smoothly along and flow so well one after the other. No doubt a lot of thought as been put into how they are all placed on the album too. I would even say that it is a concept album in some respects and the easy targets are the all those things that can confront us throughout life at times and are things that can make us sad or even get our GOAT! up at times. Dews can quite often throw in some tongue and cheek mannerisms along this journey through life as well. Though thankfully no peacocks, cats or even his neighbors were harmed during the making of the album :))))).

To be honest with the many purely GREAT! songs there are on the album it could be like listening to a collection of songs that would make up a GREATEST HITS album. But what I would say is that you have to listen to the album from start to finish to get the full benefit and potential out of it. It’s not like a GREATEST HITS album where you could pick out an individual track to play on its own. There are a few you could pick out for sure, and “Helpless“. “Flowers from Burma” and “Shitbags” you could easily do that with. But the album will have a much greater effect on you by listening to it as an whole rather than playing individual tracks.

With the amount of truly FANTASTIC! songs over its 12 tracks it’s also so damn hard to pick a firm favourite, simply because they are all so darn good. To be honest I also think it would be very hard to pick a firm favourite track from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon because that is also a very well-made album that consists of solid material all the way just like we have here on Easy Targets.

I keep mentioning that Pink Floyd album don’t I. That’s because it is very much an iconic album and a album I could place in one of the four comers of the universe. It takes something very special to hold one of the 4 spots in my universe with all the music I have listened to over the years. Most of the music I do like does come from that decade too and I still very much live in it at times regarding my taste in music. I would also say that it is very rare anything regarding prog rock music that never came out of that decade could ever really speak to me in the same light.

But oddly enough if you were to ask me what my favourite prog rock bands are, Pink Floyd would not even get in my top 5. To be honest they might not even make it in my top 10. But that does not stop any band or artist from making at least one prolific album that could stand up so TALL! that it could reach up into space and find its way on one of those 4 special spots. I am not saying that the album Easy Targets could find its way up there either, but there is something very special about this album and I could also see this as quite an iconic album in the way the music presents itself to you.

It’s certainly one of the most interesting and fascinating albums I have heard in god knows how long, and just like when Dark Side Of The Moon came out in 1973 it presented me with something I had never heard done in that way before, yet it immediately drew my attention towards it. It does not take you long to get into an album like Dark Side Of The Moon and I can quite easily say the same thing about Easy Targets.

Even though both albums sound nothing alike, there is a very special thing I see in these types of albums and very few have been made. That special thing is that in general I myself usually find that it’s albums you have to grow into by giving them a lot more spins that will have the longevity to stay with you for the rest of your life. It’s very rare that an album one can instantly like will stay with you.

A prime example of that would be my Genesis collection. Those earlier albums they made with Peter Gabriel took me way more than a lunch time to get into. As a matter fact even when I managed to get into the albums Trespass up to Selling England By The Pound it took me another decade to get into the last album Gabriel made with the band The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. I took an instant dislike to that album for some reason when it came out and it was not until the late 80’s that I decided to give it another spin. Even then it took me many more lunch times to get into it. But once I had it became my number 1 concept album and it still is till this day.

I still went onto buy all the albums that Genesis made right up to Calling All Stations in 1997 which was made after Phil Collins had left. I guess I was still hoping for the band to do more of the material I enjoyed about the band in the first place back in the early 70’s which is why I hung onto them for so long. I even went out and brought most the band members solo albums though the only 2 that appealed more to my taste were Steve Hackett and Peter Gabriel.

Today I could quite easily throw all the Genesis albums that came after their 1976 album Wind and Wuthering and all Phil Collins albums in the bin. Simply because they went onto make music that instantly hit you in the face that wore off in no time at all. I very much think the way those albums were recorded and the production standards never really helped either. Simply because today they sound completely outdated. There is just no way I could play any of those albums today and they are certainly not stayers that will go with me to my grave like those earlier albums of Genesis would.

I do not think I could ever get tired of playing those early Genesis albums just as much as I could never tire of playing Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon and some of their other albums they made back then too. Those albums are that special that I have brought them many times over and the 5.1 versions I have of them are my pride and joy. They deserve to put on pedestals and even though I have only just got hold of the album Easy Targets and have no way of knowing what it will say to me after 20 years if I am still here :)))))).

I can tell that there is something very special here though and in some ways I am having the same experience and relationship I had with Dark Side of The Moon back in 1973. and for anything today to do something that special it’s a rarity in itself. Oh, and by the way, the album Easy Targets does not even remotely sound like it came out of the 70’s either. This is what makes it even more special.

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The other thing that is so very different with the material Dews wrote for Easy Targets is that even though he’s perhaps more of a predominant guitar player judging by his guitar collection and what very little he has spent on his keyboards. I would say that the biggest majority of tracks on the album are very much more keyboard orientated.

To be honest for any keyboard-oriented music to even speak to me you have got to be doing something very special. Especially when it boils down to songs and not the type of instrumental material that Jean Michael Jarre or Tangerine Dream would of done to which is also to my taste. But as for all that dribble I heard in the charts in the 80’s with artists like Howard Jones, Gary Numan and many others. I would not touch it with a barge pole LOL… If there is one decade, I detested for music it would most definitely be the 80’s and I literally hated it. “Like To Get To Know You Well” not bloody likely LOL.

Though there are also a couple of tracks on this album that do in many ways hark back to that 80’s retro and new wave era. But thankfully some of the other elements that Dews has thrown in such as the percussion in particular prevent them from completely sounding like they came out of that decade. No doubt the fact that we have not got some of the sloppy “Lovey Dovey” lyrics and dribble that many of those artists came out with in the 80’s as well, which also is what makes it much different. If anything, I would say that the album Easy Targets very much sounds like an album from the 90’s and that is very much the decade that it sounds like it came out of.

I would also say that the album Easy Targets will appeal to a lot more than prog rockers just like Pink Floyd’s music will reach out to a hell of a lot more people and is very more widely popular. The ART! is in the composition and this is a piece of well-crafted fine ART! in every sense of the word. The only logical reason I can see why an album like this is not sitting at home in your record collection, is really down to the fact that Paul Dews does not have the many hundreds upon thousands of pounds like those major record labels have to promote the album. It’s also most likely down to the fact that he does not take his music out on the road and play live gigs to even try and gather up a following.

There is no doubt that any musician will get a lot of pleasure out of sitting in their own houses in their own home-made studios creating their own music. They will spend hours upon hours doing such a thing too. But for 99.9% of those who do such a thing and make their own albums in this way, and are not willing to go out and put themselves about a bit more by playing live. They will be dead lucky if hardly any of their albums make it any further than their own front door.

I am not saying that Dews has not tried to go out of his way to try and promote his own music, and it’s even appeared on BBC Radio. But just how many people even bother with radio these days. It’s getting to the point where even the younger generation are no longer even watching TV, never mind tuning into the radio, and for most of the younger generation these days its streaming sites like YouTube that has become their TV.

These days you have to be doing something very unique to get noticed. The 2 Cellos are a perfect example. But I honestly believe that Dews has already made something quite unique but he’s not put himself out enough for it to get noticed. To be honest if I had a quarter of an inch of this man’s talent, I would be out in pubs playing live right now even if I was on my own. At least that way you could put your albums out to more people, even if they were of you playing the part of a whole band. But I am sure many out there would appreciate this guy’s skills on the guitar enough to even buy his albums no matter if they were of solo pieces or if they came with more bells and whistles so to speak.

But of course, that’s easier said than done and there are many just as skilful musicians out there who have not got the nerve to put themselves in front of a live audience and can get stage fright. Genesis first guitarist Anthony Phillips is a prime example of that and that is why he chose to leave the band in the first place. I know that Dews has played live in a band back in the 80’s and I know from my own experience that playing in a band in front of an audience is a lot easier than playing to an audience on your own.

Through my own research the only live videos I could find of him, was of him playing in front of a camera in his own studio. Come to think of it, that is the only way I have seen Anthony Phillips play live lately too, and he was in a studio in a radio station playing some of his own solo pieces on the guitar. It was a case of “No Audience Required” and he never had Phil’s jacket on either :)))))).

Dews only ever posted couple of  live videos on his Facebook wall a good while back and they were not on his YouTube channel. I was that well impressed by them that I got in touch with him and asked him if he did not mind me using them for my review. To save him the trouble of uploading them to his own YouTube channel I told him I could simply nick them from his Facebook wall and upload them unlisted to my own YouTube channel to which I have done.

The video I chose to show here has nothing to do with his own music and is nothing like what you will hear on the album Easy Targets. It’s quite a complex guitar solo that Steve Hackett wrote and originally played live during the encores at the first ever Womad Festival at Milton Keynes which was set up by Peter Gabriel back in 1982.

To be perfectly honest if I heard this piece on the radio and could not see who was playing it. I would swear blind it was Steve Hackett. That’s how well Dews has so precisely executed the piece. I like his sense of humour at the end too when he shows you the real ending, and no doubt that was a very extremely hard piece to play without fluffing it up at some point along the way.

But there is a lot more to this man’s talent with what you will hear on the album Easy Targets and the guitar is not the only instrument he can execute with fine precision. He plays bass like a proper bass guitarist, which is something many guitarists cannot do at all. His keyboard work is well TASTY too though he has programmed some of it, but I dare say he can play a bit too. Oh! and I almost forgot! He also has a GREAT! voice so now let’s get right back on track and get on with the review of the 12 individuals tracks on the album and take a deeper look into it.

Track 1. Resistance Is Futile.

The opening track of the album feels like it has a sense of purpose with its opening spoken words and is as if they are portraying the story or journey that is about to unfold upon us. The opening strings you hear right at the start remind a bit of the intro to Elton John’sSixty Years On” and the opening words also spring to mind how the Moody Blues opened up their 1969 album On The Threshold Of A Dream. Musically the song is structured from the bass line and everything else is built up around it.

Lyrically the words are pertaining to how sometimes we can get in a rut and not want to do anything at all or even care any more. Sometimes we need a stick of dynamite up our ARSE! to get off our BUTT! and go out and do something. I guess those who get into that situation the resistance to do anything about it can be useless with the hold it has on them especially where drugs are concerned and it can very much be their entire world. I am sure we have all been there at some point in our lives.

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Resistance Is Futile” is the longest track on the album and weighs in at around 8.5 minutes, it also features the English actor Chris Hannon who wrote the words he’s narrating on this piece. Hannon has appeared in many TV shows and TV movies and is more noted for his roles in The Forsyte Saga, Lunch Monkeys and he’s even featured in 12 episodes of Coronation Street between 2007/08. He’s a good friend of Dews and I am not sure how they met in the first place but through my research I did find out that Dews did take part in a live art theatre piece back in 2011 in which he played the character role of someone who was trying to give up cigarettes and miserably failing.

He also wrote this song to accompany him in that performance back then though he never had any intention of using it for anything else. But afterwards the song grew on him enough for him to further reshape and develop it, and the version here is the end result of it all.

It’s a super way to start the album and the song is very well built up and builds its way up very well to unleash its more powerful chorus. The bass, drums, percussion and vocals are the driving force and the narration and synths work a TREAT! too. There is certainly enough going on here to draw you in or even get you HOOKED! and I suppose you could say that the opening track of the album is quite an ADDICTIVE! starter. It’s also very much a contender for the the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!.

Track 2. Our Friend Is In The Meadow.

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As much as this next song sounds so wonderfully pleasant, it takes in the sadness of loss within its lyrical content and it is without doubt so BEAUTIFULLY! portrayed and done in a mellow melancholic and meaningful way. Our friend or friends who are in the meadow is more than likely pertaining to those who fought out in the battlefields and meadows and died on them. It could also relate to all those we have lost in that we get through the loss but never get over it, and with how we hold onto to their possessions and of course those treasured memories of them are never forgotten.

I have no idea where the opening TV or Radio comedy sketch that is used on the intro comes from, but it does sound familiar and blends in perfectly with the ukulele and mandolin to which Dews has so very well plucked out the basis of the song’s main melody in two counterparts. The way he has worked in all the other instrumentation of percussion, bass, keyboard vibes and orchestration all adds very well to the well-crafted arrangement. He even throws in a cuckoo whistle which works wonders too.

The orchestration really helps lift the chorus too as it transcends itself wonderfully along and his voice deliverers these really GREAT! lyrics BEAUTIFULLY! During the break section at around the 3:06 mark Dews works in a rather nice bit of guitar using his ebow on it for the lovely effect. We also get the sounds of the birds and nature bustling and whistling away with the cuckoo whistle whilst Emma Gee recites her own poem and it sits in perfectly with it all, and she has done such a BEAUTIFUL! job of it. For those wondering who Emma is, it’s actually Paul’s partner.

In some ways with how “Our Friend Is In The Meadow” flows so well along with its touch of melancholy. I can even get a Roger Waters feel from a song like this, especially from some of the songs he wrote and played himself back in the early days featured on albums such as Pink Floyd’s 1969 double album Ummagumma and on the collaborative album Music From The Body he did with Ron Geesin in 1970. It really is an excellent track on the album and is very much one of the many contenders along this album that is in contention to win the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 3. Gladhander.

There is a bit of a battle going on with the albums 3rd track on the album and “Gladhander” is very much one of the more synth driven tracks on the album. Musically it’s driven along by a heavy distorted bass line, a sequencer, synths and a bit of distorted guitar. Though the use of a rock drum kit and the orchestrated synth work that also comes into play give it the power to rock out a bit more and also add a touch of drama to it. I suppose in some ways the music gives you the impression that the Gladhander in this adventure is more of a hero rather than the smarmy conniving snake he is. Although the lyrics certainly portray exactly what he is in this modern-day battle for sure.

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Just like how the Gladhander is portrayed like a snake in the picture above, there are certainly many of them in the music business and in general such a person can try and get too close and be over friendly in an irritating way. No doubt they are a wolfs in sheep’s clothing and they never have any intention of keeping the bargains they will offer you and are only out for what they can get out of you. It’s another GREAT! song and there are quite a few songs on the album were Paul Dews voice can remind me of David Bowie at times, and they do a bit in the verses on this one.

Track 4. The Peacocks Of Birkby.

There is no doubt that Dews voice and approach to the more melancholic ballad side of things really suit his voice very well. He has that magical way of working both vocally and musically on these types of songs, and the ‘The Peacocks Of Birkby” is another GORGEOUS! song just like we got on the 2nd track of the album “Our Friend Is In The Meadow“. It’s these types of songs that both Roger Waters and David Gilmour done quite well with Pink Floyd before they made The Dark Side Of The Moon back in 1973. Come to think of it, Waters did them better than Gilmour and he had just as good as a voice as Gilmour back in those early days too. Later on, his voice developed into more of a speaking voice.

Though no doubt back in the late 60’s and early 70’s there was plenty of GREAT! bands and artists doing all that GORGEOUS! melancholic stuff. I still love all of that stuff today and music does not have to ROCK OUT! to ROCK! my boat so to speak either. I think one of the most of extraordinary things about this particular song is how Dews has the vision to turn something that makes his blood boil into something so beautiful. The idea for the lyrical content of the song came from where he lives, which is in a district called Birkby in Huddersfield.

The very thing that does make his blood boil is fly tipping, and I must admit it is a common thing everywhere in England where some people have no respect for the environment and dump any old rubbish on the streets to save them the time and money it cost to dispose of their household rubbish through the proper channels. It’s mainly the bigger household items such as fridges, cookers, carpets, beds, mattresses and sorts. Though once people start dumping those type of items in the street you will often find that other people will dump their regular household rubbish there too instead of putting it in their wheelie bins and leaving to for the dustman to pick up.

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Just around the corner from his house live a family who keep chickens, Guinea Fowl and a pair of Peacocks, and occasionally the Peacocks escape and can be seen majestically strolling around the neighbourhood. He was particularly struck by the strange juxtaposition when he came across these beautiful creatures as they made their way through some discarded mattresses, bags of rubbish and bits of old carpet. It was one of those days when he really wished he lived somewhere else. In the song he also mentions that he wishes he could be like the Peacocks, and I suppose it’s his way of avoiding all the mess that people leave behind and how they cannot see it as we do sort of thing.

Dews throws quite a lot into this song besides his GREAT! job on the vocals and lyrics which also makes it most intriguing and interesting. For example, on the intro you will hear something that sounds like a stapler, a bell, a cat purring away in content, the man himself making a cup of tea and what I can only presume is a Peacock squawking away. Unless he also has monkeys swinging around the trees in his neighbourhood too :)))))) I am pretty sure these are all sounds that Dews has very much recorded himself and his cat Natty is no doubt content too.

Then we get this sequencer fading its way in, it reminds of the sequence that was used on “Tribal Statistics” which was the opening track of the 1983 album Somewhere In Afrika by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. Though that sequence does run a bit faster than what we have here. I did ask Paul if he was influenced by their album and if also the tea making idea was influenced from the 1974 album Warchild by Jetrho Tull. Though he assured me he had not heard either of those albums.

After the initial intro to which he also plays a nice melody on the flute towards the end of it, we get this clanging percussion coupled with the acoustic guitar that leads us into the main section of the song and allows him to come in with the vocals. The clanging percussion in particular gives it a Steve Hackett vibe and feel and I am not sure what he’s banging away on, but it sounds a bit like a Koto or the actual strings inside a piano. But it’s most likely something more metallic.

Many of the sounds in the intro including the rather sweet melody on the flute reoccur throughout the piece, and along the build we also get some more really GREAT! stringed orchestration and a lovely bit of bass too. I love the way the song falls out at the end too and this really has to be another contender to win the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 5. Collateral.

This next track picks the album up the pace a bit more and bangs its way in on the kick drum. The title refers to collateral damage and is primarily a song about man’s inhumanity to man and the foolishness of war is how Dews describes it himself. The inspiration for it came from all the news reports we often get of wars that take place in other countries, and how they always show you the latest bombing raids.

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No doubt there are many innocent human beings that get blown to bits in these situations and I love how Dews has gone about the lyrics on this song and how it even betrays how humans can be so inhumane at times to see such as a thing as war being a cool thing.

Musically this song features plenty of guitars including slide, bass, bass pedals, synths along with its thumping percussion and drums. It does sound like something bands like Duran Duran and Depeche Mode would have done and is more like a classic pop song. Though not so much from the 80’s and I also think it’s much better than anything both of those bands could write to be honest.

It’s another really GREAT! song that drives along very well and lifts up very well with its chorus and is like a contrast of dark and light. It’s got quite a pumping bass line too and a touch of a continental flavour with the piano sound in particular which reminds of the type of piano you would hear in bands like Abba and on the theme music to the TV Series the Persuaders. The slide guitar in the solo gives it a touch of the east and you will hear it all in the video above.

Track 6. Push.

Another lively song that could be seen a pop song, though even with how it’s more keyboard orientated with its sequencer, synths and pads, the guitars and the vocals give it more of a cutting edge to rock it out more so it’s not so much like a song that would hark back to the 80’s.

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The opening lyrics has me in hysterics and it makes me laugh every time I hear it. Dews has a really good way of doing vocal harmonies and double take vocals to support himself, and there are times in this song where he reminds me a bit like Suggs the singer out of Madness with his expression.

Push” is the shortest track on the album and weighs in 20 seconds less than the previous track at 4 minutes, 5 seconds. The lyrical content is very much about what the title suggests and are about pushing oneself over the edge or too far that you fall back into yourself sort of thing. It’s another really GREAT! song and Dews can write just as well interesting pop songs as he can with any other genre and the way the tracks have been so well placed on the album, it’s tracks like this that can not only help in picking the album up a bit more, but give you that bit more excitement in how they immediately grab you.

Track 7. Grief Mining.

The album tones itself down with a darker mood for this next track. The subject matter of the lyrics pertains to those spiritual mediums who claim they have the gift to get in touch with those who have passed away to the other side so to speak, and how they make money from desperate grievers who feel the need to try and get in touch with their lost loved ones.

It’s a song that gradually builds itself along at a very slow pace and weaves its way along to its more powerful ending. It also has a bit of a Peter Gabriel feel to it in particular with the bass, keyboards and percussion, though vocally Dews does sound a bit more like David Bowie here in parts again, and a vocoder like effect has been applied to his voice.

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The saw-like synth and keyboard orchestration provide the haunting drama of it all. There are some really good transitional changes towards the end which allows the song to open up for its more powerful ending where he brings in the drums and guitars to rock it up and belt it out. It’s another excellent piece of work and GREAT! album track and very much another contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!.

Track 8. Helpless.

As I mentioned earlier regarding how it was so damn hard to pick a personal favourite track with all the quality written material there is upon the album Easy Targets. But I think everything about this song is so damn perfect with how well Dews has not just done the arrangement, but everything about how it builds up and how it flows along. Yet like many songs its quite simple with how it was basically structured with its chord arrangement and how it was written on the guitar.

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Listening to the unplugged version with just his voice and guitar you can still hear how good this song really is, and there is no doubt that many people would spot how good this song was a mile off with how he can perform and put it all across.

But with all the other elements he’s thrown in the pot on this studio version and how it’s so skilfully arranged, you will soon hear how everything about this song Reeks of Perfection. The arrangement is purely STUNNING! and so many magical influences just pop right out of the woods every time I hear it.

In this song I hear David Bowie’sSpace Oddity“. The Moody BluesNights In White Satin” and Crosby, Stills and Nash harmonies. Yet it’s all highly original material and his own. It’s one of the most BEAUTIFUL! songs on the planet, even if the lyrical content is touching on the sadness of how a loving relationship can be broken down by depression and mental ill health leaving us in a helpless situation.

Dews describes the word “Helpless” in every sense of the word with his GREAT! lyrics in this song, everything he has embellished around the acoustic guitar and his voice is purely magical and caresses the song with LOVE! The orchestration, bells, bass lines, synths, piano, drums and the GORGEOUS! flute solo in the break all contribute to lift this song up with JOY! and get us through the pain of it all. It is without doubt very hard to pick a firm favourite track on this album, but this song touched my heart enough for it to merit the albums TOP SPOT AWARD.

Track 9. Flowers From Burma.

This is perhaps the song on the album that potentially sounds something more like a throwback to the 80’s with its retro synth style and new wave feel. Even the bottle like clanging percussion cannot really prevent it from sounding like something that came from that decade either.

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The other thing this song does have in common is that you can see its hit potential straight off the bat and in reality, I could see this song along with “Collateral“. “Push” and “Shitbags” being pop chart hits. Though no doubt a couple of them may very well have been banned from being aired on the radio due to the explicit language. Though this song is not explicit like the other 3 I mentioned. It’s most likely why it got played on the radio too.

But what saves me from disliking a song like this is once again the lyrical content and there is an irony to them. they are also quite humorous with how he ridicules war. But musically this song is very much like all those synth orientated songs that came out in the 80’s. Though it does have quite a jolly bouncy feel to it all and in some respects even though it’s more keyboard orientated, the fun side of it can make it feel a bit more like what bands like Men At Work and many others and it really is another GREAT! piece of work and well worked out song.

Track 10. Shitbags.

I have to confess this is the most hilarious track on the album and has me in STITCHES! every time I hear it. I cannot stop singing it either it’s that addictive and funny. I personally think a song like this would not have a problem smashing into the top 30 of the UK’s single charts just like Pink Floyd’s single release of “Not Now John” from their 1983 album The Final Cut. Though just like that song it would also be banned from radio air play without a doubt :)))))).

Shitbags” is very much more of a ROCKER! of a song and tackles those niggly annoying things that can cause a rift or even a war between neighbours with the subject matter here. Oddly enough it was only last year I seen a couple of series appear on the television about how neighbours can be at loggerheads with one another, even up to the point of them wanting to literally kill one another. This would be the perfect song for those series to use for their main theme, especially how some of the irritating habits they have done can force one to think that even the fact that their neighbours habits of existing and breathing can get on their TITS! so to speak :)))))).

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I have no idea if Dews got the idea for the lyrical content from such TV programs or a real-life crisis. I do know that he is currently in the process of moving house again and he’s off to the Orkney Isles off the coast of Scotland which is even a lot further away from Hitchin. But whatever inspired him to write the song, there is no doubt he has done an all-round solid job on both the music and lyrics.

In a way a song like this can also be a sort of anthem and such songs I could of easily of BLASTED OUT! and annoyed the neighbours by doing such a thing back in my more careless free youthful days. One of those songs I remember doing such a thing with would have been Saxon’sPlay it Loud” from their Denim and Leather album back in 1981. Though that was a song about playing your music loud to give your neighbours hell rather than neighbours who throw cigarette butts in your garden and attack your privet hedge and have no respect for your property.

Though no doubt I have had neighbours that I have not got on with in the past, but basically, I was the nuisance and not them. These days I do have a lot more respect for my neighbours and the only way I could BLAST! this song out is in my Cans and not through the speakers. But even then, I cannot help singing along to the chorus and my wife very much reminds me that I had better not play that through the speakers LOL. “Shitbags” is another contender for the TOP SPOT on the album and I just LOVE IT!…

Track 11. Sick Little Monsters.

Another excellent album track and the lyrical content here is about those who get some form of entertainment out of watching someone else die. I suppose in a way this could apply to those who like to watch snuff videos that can be found on the internet or other things in the media such as war for example. Basically, it’s criticizing those who get a kick out of the sadistic things that go on in this cruel world and makes a plea for them to do something about it and reach out and help.

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Whoever the sick little monsters are in question here that Dews is describing those words he recites over a few times at the end of song having buried deeply into my mind for me to want to sing them, and quite often I will utter the words “you sick little monsters” at some of those bastards in power when I glance at the news.

Once again this is a very well-constructed and built up piece of work with a wonderful arrangement that features some GREAT! synth work and the lead break on the synth in particular is very much like Pink Floyd’sWelcome To The Machine” that can be found on their 1975 album Wish You Were Here. The song itself has both a Roger Waters and David Bowie feel about it, and the percussion can remind me of Peter Gabriel. I love how the acoustic guitar sheds some light into the darkness here when it comes in around the 1:10 mark. and once again there is some lovely orchestration in the piece.

The song tale spins into the final track on the album and is another song that is another contender for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 12. Secateurs.

The final track on the album was inspired from Dews visiting his parent’s house in Hitchin on a warm sunny spring day to which he was doing a spot of gardening with his father. The sound of them both clipping away the dead foliage inspired the rhythm and he describes all the fond memories of what he got to see on that beautiful day in the lyrical content here.

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Musically the song starts off and flows along in a dreamy mellow melancholy style with the dreamy scape and acoustic guitar he’s used to support his voice portraying the day’s events. It gradually build its way along and introduces a few other little nuances along the way a few vocal doobie doobie doo’s. The flute enters into the equation wonderfully and it picks up nicely around the 4;26 mark where the drums swings into action and is accompanied by some really excellent bass work and a touch of orchestration on the keys adds well to it all to drive it home very well indeed.

It’s another really GREAT! track and has a bit of Pink Floyd feel to it. It also rounds off the album wonderfully and puts to end one truly MAGNIFICENT! album.

Summary…

To sum up the album Easy Targets by How Far To Hitchin. There is no doubt in my mind that Paul Dews has created a very special body of work with all the material he has written for this album. He has somehow managed to craft out a very unique and very special album that will be very hard even for himself to beat. To be honest I doubt if he could ever come up with another album like this even if he tried for the rest of his life.

But then again even from listening to some of the songs he wrote before or around the same time he was working on this album. It’s easy to see that he is such a GREAT! songwriter and a guy who has a GIFT! and the right skills to weave out MAGIC! Both his songwriting and arranging skills are without doubt works of ART. Everything about Paul Dews is a work of ART including his album covers. The album Easy Targets is a form of ART ROCK and even though the album does have a few pop songs along the way, the ART! is how they have been placed on the album.

I do feel to get the best out of an album like this you will have to play it from start to finish. I also feel that the album was designed to be listened to in its entirety too, and that’s how an album like this can effectively work so very well even with the odd pop song on it. It’s very much like a concept album and to get the full benefit out this album you will have to treat it like one and play it through its entirety to reap the full benefit and pleasure an album like this can present to you.

For example out of the 3 of the 4 songs I consider on the album to be pop songs “Collateral“. “Push” and the “Flowers From Burma“. Would not have enticed me to buy this album at all, whereas “Shitbags” would have certainly made me investigate the album more regarding the 4 pops songs there is on the album. I am not saying that they are bad songs either, but they are very much the sort of keyboard orientated songs that would speak very little to me if I was to hear them individually on the radio on their own.

When listening to the whole album they speak to me much more and I can appreciate them more with how they work with the rest of the tracks on the album. They are also tracks I would not skip either, simply because every track fits so well together and it’s as if the album is a 12 piece jigsaw puzzle where all the pieces fit perfectly together to make it up. It is without doubt a very special unique album and one that I have not come across in donkeys of years. Everything I have stated in my review here is exactly how I see the album Easy Targets.

My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Helpless“. “Our Friend Is In The Meadow”. ‘The Peacocks Of Birkby“. “Grief Mining“. “Sick Little Monsters“. “Shitbags” and “Resistance Is Futile“.

Conclusion…

In conclusion I would say that the album Easy Targets by How Far To Hitchin is an album that has the ability to draw you in just like Pink Floyd’s iconic album The Dark Side Of The Moon can easily do. I would not say that the album Easy Targets is prog rock to which Floyd’s album certainly is more attached to that genre. But Pink Floyd are not all about prog rock and that is why their music appeals to a much wider audience and why they are far more successful than most prog rock bands. You are not going to get soaring atmospheric guitar solos like David Gilmour which is what makes that band stand out a mile either.

In many ways the album Easy Targets is deprived of guitar solos if anything. It’s an album that does not need guitar solos to reach out and grab you to warm and draw you to it. It works itself upon you in its own unique way and even though you will hear many influences from many other artists along its path. They are not necessary artists who are associated with prog rock.

I do hear some Roger Waters and Pink Floyd in small parts. I even hear the odd glimmer of percussion you would find on both Peter Gabriel’s and Steve Hackett’s albums. You may even get a slight touch of The Moody Blues. But you will also hear artists who are not really associated with prog rock at all such as David Bowie. Radiohead and many others.

But what you will hear more than anything is Paul Dews. Simply because the way he has gone about everything is so different just like Pink Floyd went about things differently when they made that iconic album Dark Side Of The Moon and that is what makes this album so special and unique in his own rights and even more so original. This is an album that simply has to be HEARD! and is quite a GEM!

You can listen to the album for free on Spotify here : https://open.spotify.com/playlist/71rpRIp2iKyN0T7CCFAd2f#_=_

Alternatively you can purchase the album in the form of a Digital Download for £7 or on CD for £10 from the official website here: http://www.howfartohitchin.com/store

I Am Sitting In The Dark, But I’m Not Hiding From You…

The album track listing is as follows:

01. Resistance Is Futile. 8:31.
02. Our Friend Is In The Meadow. 6:09.
03. Gladhander. 5:40.
04. The Peacocks Of Birkby. 5:15.
05. Collateral. 4:25.
06. Push. 4:05.
07. Grief Mining. 5:11.
08. Helpless. 6:54.
09. Flowers From Burma. 4:48.
10. Shitbags. 4:44.
11. Sick Little Monsters. 5:45.
12. Secateurs. 6:08.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 7/10.

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

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 10/10.

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Lee Speaks About Music… #120

The Seats In My Car – Steph Casey

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Introduction…

Well it’s a been a good 6 years since the release of Steph Casey’s GREAT! debut album Whisper & Holler, and now she’s finally back with her latest album The Seats in My Car. This New Zealand sensation I stumbled across on Soundcloud back in 2012 back in the days when I used to upload some of my own music on their myself. I am pretty sure I got to know of her and her music via another well talented songwriter and artist namely Gary Sunshine, the very guy who was in the American rock band Circus of Power many moons ago. It was around 2012/13 that Sunshine himself was collaborating with Casey on a couple of the tracks that also found their way on her debut album that was released back in 2013. I guess since I stumbled across both of them on Soundcloud I have very much been a fan of them both ever since.

Back in 2013 Casey caused quite a stir in her own country when she released her debut album Whisper & Holler, the album even went straight to number 4 in the NZIM Charts and sparked off a good few international reviews too. She even picked up the People’s Choice Award when she played WellyFest at the Wellington regional folk festival in her own country. 2013 is quite a while ago now so just what has Casey being doing for the past 6 years?

Well everything may of appeared that she had booked herself a ticket on the Stardom Express to SUCCESS! all those years ago, and was going to be the next big thing since sliced bread. But things are never that easy and I am sure that Casey never had any delusions of grandeur herself either. But there is no doubt in my mind she is one really GREAT! songwriter who cannot only hold herself up in a live performance, but hold her head up high just as many of the GREAT! songwriters on this planet can and she is well worthy of every bit of recognition she gets.

Most musicians in this world find it very hard to make a living out of music alone these days, and Casey is no exception and has to put food on the table somehow. Her job as a Graphic Designer is her way of earning a crust and she puts in the time when she can to make music. Over the past 6 years she has spent most them doing that and doing quite a few live gigs over those years too. I am pretty sure she even moved house at some point too and if I remember rightly, she had to downsize from the house she was living in at the time. Writing good songs is never easy and over those years she had written quite a few songs, many of which she never considered good enough for her next album.

This video of her being interviewed at the 13th Floor will give more of an insight into just what she has been doing over the past 6 years. It also includes some really GREAT! stripped down live performances of 3 of the songs in the studio from her latest album The Seats in My Car accompanied by Alan Galloway who does a smashing job on the electric guitar blending in some lovely touches that support the main chords played by Casey on the acoustic.

Steph Casey may very well be an unsigned artist in that she is not tied or signed to a record label but she still does a good job at promoting herself including getting up early to appear on breakfast time Television. A snippet of the video from her single release of “At a Bar Downtown” was even included on the Official NZ Music Charts TV Station on the feature they call “Ones to Watch” and even after 6 years she is still very much recognised for her GREAT! song writing talent. So, lets dive into the review of her latest album The Seats in My Car but before we do let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The CD comes in a standard Jewel Case which do a well adequate enough job of protecting the CD. I must admit these days I prefer cardboard Digipak myself but I can understand unsigned artists saving the pennies and after all it’s not like they are going to be selling them by the bucket load. It’s just as well that Casey does go out and play live and live gigs are the best place to be able to shift a few of them. The CD also comes with a booklet with all linear and credits plus the lyrics. Well I am presuming it does by looking at her last CD I purchased Whisper & Holler pictured below.

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I only have the download of her latest album at the moment and that is all I could afford right at this moment, but shall eventually send for the CD simply because I prefer physical media. But even if I had the money this week for the CD it would not get here for at least a couple of weeks and it would hold up getting this review published. But when I have the CD, I shall replace both of these pictures with a picture of it.

Artwork.

The artwork was done by Beetroot Creative which is Steph Casesy’s own Graphic Design Company so it was all done by herself. She has done album cover designs for other artists besides doing Branding/Print/Web/ and Illustration designs for many other clients. It’s quite a handy job to have and no doubt she’s done a good job of it too.

The Album In Review…

Steph Casey’s second album The Seats in My Car was released on the 26th July 2019. You can certainly see that Casey has struggled to come up with more new material just by glancing at the fewer tracks and the lesser overall time slot of the album. As a matter of fact, you would have to go back to the 60’s and 70’s to get an albums worth of material over this short distance, and today they would perhaps be regarded as mini albums or EP’s (Extended Play). Though even I myself prefer those old time slots in relation to having an album that’s done over twice that distance or more and is filled with some gap fillers.

The new album contains 7 tracks and they are all vocal tracks even though one of them does not really have any lyrics, and the overall playing time is 30 minutes, 24 seconds. Just like Casey’s debut album her new album was once again recorded at The Surgery which is Lee Prebble’s studio in Wellington. New Zealand who also recorded and mixed the album. Casey along with her new guitarist Alan Galloway produced the album. Galloway has been playing alongside Casey at many of her live shows for the past 5 years now. and the combination really works well.

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The Surgery

Just like her debut album Whisper & Holler the album is very well recorded, mixed and produced and has been professionally mastered by the same mastering engineer Mike Gibson at Munki Studios which is also in Wellington. New Zealand. It really does sound GREAT! too and no doubt you are getting genuine quality here for the buck. Casey also decided to record with a completely new line up of musicians for her latest album The Seats in My Car and has gave the album a bit of a different sound. More about that in a bit, but first let’s take a look at the musicians & credits.

Musicians & Credits…

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All songs written by Steph Casey. Produced by Steph Casey & Alan Galloway. Recorded and mixed by Lee Prebble at The Surgery Wellington. New Zealand. Mastered by Mike Gibson at Munki Studios. Cover Design by Beetroot Creative. Photography by Leigh Wallace.

Musicians:
Steph Casey: Vocals/Acoustic Guitar.
Alan Galloway: Guitars/Keys.
Murray Costello: Bass.
Caroline Easther: Drums.
Charlotte Kerrigan: Piano/Backing Vocals (Track 5).
Hanne Jostensen: Backing Vocals (Tracks 2 – 7).

Additional Musicians:
Alan Norman:
Hammond Organ (Tracks 2 & 5) Accordion (Track 2).
Tim L Brown:
Weissenborn Guitar (Track 5).
Emily Clemett: Trumpet (Track 2).
Annette Esquinet: Backing Vocals (Track 5).

The Album Tracks In Review…

There is no doubt the new line up of musicians has given Stacey a bit of a different flavour and sound in comparison to her debut album. Whereas the material on Whisper & Holler had a mixture of indie tracks and was on the folky side of things, the folky elements have disappeared to make way for more of an indie and country approach and feel with her latest album.

To be perfectly honest her new album The Seats in My Car does have a lot less in the instrumentation department to which many of those elements of instrumentation that was on her debut album added a lot of quality to it. I also felt they gave her a lot more air and space to breath in, in some respects too, and projected much more of a dynamic range. Though the dynamics are not lacking here that’s for sure and this album has also been very well recorded.

The new album is perhaps more of a standard band line up with its more familiar instrumentation of guitars. keys, drums and vocals. Gone are the cello, violin, mandolin and banjo to make way for a more stripped-down outfit. I think in many ways it would also make it a bit easier to get everybody together to go out on the road and play live too. So, this more stripped-down line up was perhaps more of a sensible move and something Casey may have envisioned to make it a lot easier to go out and perform live. Though I am also quite sure she is well capable of even performing her songs live acoustically on her own too. It could also so be that she wanted a newer sound for her new album, and by changing the musicians that is a very good way of achieving just that.

But even with the new sound the album The Seats in My Car will present to you, there is no denying that both Stacey’s voice and her song writing still very much shines through and is still distinctively recognisable and once again she has some really GREAT! musicians behind her. So now let’s dig a bit deeper into just how well her latest album has turned out as I go through all the tracks on the album individually.

Track 1. At a Bar Downtown.

The album kicks off with the song that Casey released as a single a few weeks before the album release. In some respects, the way the song opens up on the acoustic it’s a bit like “Nice to Almost Know You” from her debut album. After the first verse the drums and the rest of the band kick in and it takes it somewhere a bit more along the lines of something Neil Young might do with some of his GRUNGE! guitar. Only Alan Galloway’s swelling tremolo bit of grunge is not quite as heavy but quite effective.

The other well effective feature on this particular track are the backing vocals, and oddly enough none of the 3 people who are credited for backing vocals on the album are mentioned in the credits on this opening track. So, I can only presume they was done by Casey herself and they have been very well mixed to good effect. Caroline Easther does a GRAND! job on the drums on this song too and I love the subtle and punctuating way they support everything here.

An official video was also put out for the song and the animation, filming and video editing was done by Manan Fredriksson. The bird illustrations were done by Casey herself to which Fredriksson animated.

I think overall “At a Bar Downtown” is quite a good song and was the obvious choice for a single release from the album. However, I personally do not think it’s in the same league as the song that kicked off her debut album “Nice to Almost Know You” and it does also feel a bit cluttered and compressed in relation to that song. I also thought the video for that older song was much better too. No doubt Galloway’s effective grunge soaks up quite a lot of the space here and it is perhaps to be expected.

To be perfectly honest I think Galloway has done quite an excellent job on some of the guitar arrangements on many of the other songs on the album, and on this particular track he has even played more of a minimalistic role. I would not entirely say that he has drowned everything out either and you can still hear the acoustic guitar, drums and backing vocals shine and cut through very well in the mix. However, if Murray Costello is playing bass on this opening track it’s certainly not noticeable, though you can hear Charlotte Kerrigan on the piano now and then supporting the chords.

I have to admit than when I first heard “At a Bar Downtown” it did not instantly grab me and it took a few more spins to get more accustomed to what I was hearing here. The one thing I picked up straight away and noticed on many of the songs along this new album, is that her voice still sounds GREAT! but it’s not projecting the clarity on this song and few others that you could hear quite clearly on her debut album Whisper & Holler.

I would not say her voice has changed over the past 6 years and it’s still very expressive and she does a fine job on this album. Though I do feel you will need the lyric sheet to catch some of the words that project out of her mouth at times, and that is something you would not need at all on her debut album. But that’s certainly nothing to complain about one bit, and I could name thousands of artists whose voice at times you would need the lyric sheet to understand them, including Elvis Presley singing “King Creole” which is just one example. “At a Bar Downtown” is quite a good song just like I said and there is plenty more to tantalise your taste buds along this GREAT! album.

Track 2. The Tale of Hannah Mae.

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I remember Casey performing this song live on her own in her living room a couple of years ago back n 2017. She posted it on Facebook and it instantly had me thinking back to songs like “The Ballad of a Well-Known Gun” that Elton John did back in 1970 on his Tumbleweed Connection album. It was the songs title and lyrics that made me think of that particular album of Elton’s and it’s got a Western feel about them and draws a picture in your mind of being in some dusty town back in the wild west. Bernie Taupin was also fond those old westerns which is why quite a few songs about the wild west featured in some of Elton’s songs.

This particular song has more of a brighter and up key feel in relation to some the music Elton did write for Taupin’s lyrics about the wild west and they were mostly down key. Though I am pretty sure Casey is playing minor chords such as A minor and D minor for example. To be perfectly honest they both float my boat with the way they approached their own songs and this particular song of Casey’s is quite a firm favourite of mine and up with her best with how so well it’s put across and the lyrical story she wrote for it. Which is about a murderess who murders both husbands she married in revenge for the way they treated her.

There is also a lot more going on in the musical department on this song and it sounds DELICIOUS! for it. The addition of the trumpet played by Emily Clemett is very effective and works a TREAT! So too does the accordion played by Alan Norman who also contributes a bit of hammond organ on this track too. Listen to Galloway’s lead guitar during the break that comes into play around the 2:18 mark. It all adds up to the big Western sound and everyone is doing a GRAND! job on this song and it’s very much my personal favourite track on the album and merits my TOP SPOT! of the album award.

Track 3. Old Love.

Next up we have the longest track on the album and it comes with a familiar title that is also used for a GREAT! song of Eric Clapton’s. But no doubt I dare say the same title has been used for many a song. This is Casey’s favourite song on the album and I can see why because it really is GORGEOUS! It’s also a song that allows Alan Galloway a chance to let his guitar rip towards the end with a very TASTY! long guitar solo. Lyrically the words are more along the lines of one of Casey’s personal relationships, and that is what the name of the song and lyrics are pertaining too. The words to the albums title can also be found in this song and I suppose in some way it could be seen as the albums self-titled song.

In some ways Steph Casey can remind of both Sheryl Crow and Tracey Chapman when it comes to writing really GREAT! songs, and just like both of those artists she has got what it takes. I guess that’s what I seen in her regarding her many GREAT! songs and why she appeals to my taste a lot. “Old Love” is another firm favourite song of mine that is up there with the best of her fine songs. I could quite easily give this song the TOP SPOT! on the album just like I did with the previous song and it is without a doubt a very strong contender for my personal TOP SPOT! on the album.

I love the way that Stacey holds her voice around the 4-minute mark too. She did it so well live too when she was only accompanied by Galloway at the 13th Floor performance and really gave it her all. The whole band are doing do a CRACKING! job on this studio version and it really does sound GREAT!

Track 4. Long Drive.

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Another totally GORGEOUS! song on the album and yet another truly GREAT! song that could also be in contention to grab the TOP SPOT! on the album. I love the airy folky country feel of this song and this song does have the dynamics air and space like many of the songs did have on her previous album. The combination of the acoustic and electric guitars works a real TREAT! on this song and no doubt Galloway’s excellent guitar arrangement on the electric is what gives it that country feel. Some of the sounds he’s getting out of his guitar takes me back to Sandy Denny’s 2nd album Sandy she done way back in 1972.

The mix is to die for and sounds excellent and it has a really GREAT! chorus that has a lovely slight delay before it comes into play. Stacey expresses her voice beautifully on it and Galloway’s touches on the electric and the wonderful counter melodies he’s put in to end the song off work really well too.

Track 5. Gathering.

Well you could call this an instrumental track but it does also have a very fine voice that works very effectively even if there is no lyrics here. Stacey and all the backing vocalists on the album contribute here and do a SMASHING! job. Once again, the guitar arrangement is wonderful and Tim L Brown also contributes guitar on this track too and the bass and drums support it very well indeed. It’s another really GREAT! album track and even has the ability to speak to me without words.

Track 6. Hold On.

The shortest track on the album and another fine song, and this particular song does have a bit of a Tracey Chapman feel about it. The song’s lyrics relate to a relationship that develops from a distance, and in this case the couple are 9 thousand miles apart from each other and it’s a case of one of them breaking the dead line to make the move to hold on to what they have got.

I think since the birth of the internet and social media sites it’s perhaps more of a common thing with how people can be miles away in another country, yet through the art of conversation with one another it can develop into a loving relationship that makes a strong enough bond for one of them to make the leap and hop on a plane to meet up. For some people it’s worked out and for others it’s not the case.

It’s something that even I myself have had a personal experience with and back in 2006 I made a leap to travel over 10 thousand miles to Australia. Though it never worked out for me and even though some people would call it a brave or bold thing to do. I seen it as more of a stupid decision to make in the first place simply because I should have held on to what I already had in the first place with my wife. I guess I got into a tunnel and Casey and the band do another GRAND! job here.

Track 7. Sebastian.

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Casey ROCKS! it out for the final track on the album and she gets to belt her voice out a bit more and does a STELLAR! job here with the rest of the band. She really does wind up the album in GREAT! style and once again this is another firm favourite song of mine on the new album. No doubt this is also a GREAT! song to belt out at her live shows too.

I have no idea what Casey has been reading but there is another evil woman in this story telling song and just like the 2nd track on the album “The Tale of Hannah Mae” it’s another very well written song and a very powerful one at that. It’s another strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT! and puts to end another truly GREAT! album.

Summary…

To sum up Steph Casey’s latest album The Seats in My Car. I would say it’s an album that’s perhaps well long overdue, though once again there is no denying that Casey has delivered the goods with a very strong new set of songs that are very much suited to her familiar style in the way that she delivers them. There is no mistaking Casey’s style and excellent song writing and even after 6 years it’s quite plain to see that she has not been forgotten one bit. For those who were around to witness the birth of her superb debut album Whisper & Holler 6 years ago, I am sure they would have hanged on long enough and were well chuffed to see this new release.

There is no doubt that Casey has struggled to come up with new songs that she felt were good enough for an album and even the much shorter half an hour time slot of the album points to that. But what we have here is more or less a solid body of work with the songs that have made the album, and once again the whole production and sound quality is very much TOP NOTCH! There is nothing remotely disappointing along the lines of her new album either and I am sure it will attract even more attention right now and keep her and her musical career quite busy.

My personal highlights from the album are “The Tale of Hannah Mae“. “Old Love“. “Long Drive” and “Sebastian“.

Conclusion…

Steph Casey is back with a new band line-up and another truly GREAT! album that contains another fine set of GREAT! songs. The Seats In My Car is an album that will present you with a bit more EDGE! and GRIT! with some of her new songs, whilst containing some of the more refined quality that we got to see in the material she wrote for her debut album Whisper & Holler. To put it in a NUTSHELL! she has added another 7 QUALITY! songs to her discography of music and there is no mistaking her distinctive style across the couple of albums she has made to date.

There is no doubt in my mind that Steph Casey has once again came up TRUMPS! with her new set of songs. She can be GRITTY! INDIE, FOLKY!, COUNTRY!, ROCKY!, and her music will very much appeal to a much wider audience that should strike a resemblance of POPULARITY!. She deserves every bit of recognition she gets for her talent and song writing ability, she is a bit like a combination of Tracy Chapman and Sheryl Crow and I dare say many other GREATS! who have graced our ears with their fine songs. But most of all Steph Casey is herself and a fine artist in her own rights, and one who needs to be HEARD!

You can listen for free or even purchase Steph Casey’s latest album The Seats in My Car on Digital Download or CD by clicking on this link: https://stephcasey.bandcamp.com/album/the-seats-in-my-car-2

Shoot Him Cold With His Hunting gun, Slip Him Poison Till The Deed Is Done

The album track listing is as follows:

01. At a Bar Downtown. 4:09.
02. The Tale of Hannah Mae. 4:07.
03. Old Love. 6:34.
04. Long Drive. 4:44.
05. Gathering. 3:55.
06. Hold On. 3:13.
07. Sebastian. 6:47.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #119

The Empty Room – Frédéric L’Épée

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Introduction…

This is another one of those albums where I was approached by the artist himself to review one of their recent albums, and like I have said many times in the past in general I only ever review albums that I personally buy myself. However I am truly grateful for people taking an interest in my blog site here and have in the past had to turn down certain artists simply because their music does not appeal to me enough for me to give their album any real justice in giving their album a review, and on other occasions I have been quite blown away from the albums people have sent me to review, and it was a real pleasure to write a review for them simply because their music was genuinely down to my personal taste and rocked my boat so to speak.

To be perfectly honest this particular album entitled The Empty Room by the French guitarist Frédéric L’Épée is not an album that is going to set the world on fire that’s for sure, neither will it rock my socks off so to speak either. But it does have some very good substance and touches on certain moods that are appealing for my ears. The music is also based around a subject matter that I have experienced plenty of myself over the years too. But as with all the music that I have been approached to review I have never turned down anybody simply by giving their music one spin regarding of if I like it or not. I personally do not believe any album is really going to speak to you just by giving it a single spin. As a matter of fact, the best albums take many spins to enable you to grow into them, and those are the type of albums in general that will have more longevity and stay with you.

The other thing I do in many of my reviews is take out some time to study the background of the artist, and this to be honest is where quite often the case things start to get a bit more interesting and it’s something I get a lot of pleasure out of and enjoy doing. Most of the time I do my own research and can spend several hours doing so as well and I prefer to do my own research than simply email the artist and ask them for some background information about themselves. Though on occasions when I am stuck I will no doubt try and get the answers I am looking for and approach the artist for it.

Although I have never come across Frédéric L’Épée before now, I can tell you that this guy certainly has some history in prog rock music and has had quite an interesting career in music since forming the band he was in way back in 1974. So, let’s now take a brief look at the man’s fascinating history.

Frédéric L’Épée In Brief History

Frédéric L’Épée was born in France and currently resides in Berlin, Germany. He is a self-taught guitarist and back in 1974 he formed the prog rock band Shylock along with André Fisichella on drums and Didier Lustig keyboards. The band went on to produce 2 albums and were released on CBS Records. The first of which was the album entitled  Gialorgues released in 1977 to which L’Épée also played the bass on. Their second album was released in the following year 1978 and was entitled Ile di Fievres (Fever Island) to which they also added a fourth member to the line-up namely the bass guitarist Serge Summa to take care of the bass duties on the album.

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Shylock

Shylock like many bands did not last that long and only ever produced a couple of albums to which have seen more up to date CD reissues over the years, though they are pretty hard to obtain without paying over the odds for them. No doubt at some time in the future we will get to see further reissues of the CD’s re-surface and some company like Cherry Red with their Esoteric Recordings for example may eventually get hold of it and reissue it at some point because there is no doubt that Shylock made a dent even if it was a small one in the world of prog rock music and were a very good band. Only a thousand copies were pressed of their debut album Gialorgues back in 1977 on vinyl making it quite a rare album to get hold of these days especially in good condition.

Shylock were very much influenced by King Crimson like many other bands have been over the years, though having heard their debut album Gialorgues it’s pretty much easy to see that Shylock had their own style and were very much more of an instrumental outfit. The instrumental side of things has certainly followed Frédéric L’Épée throughout his entire career more or less as well. Shylock disbanded due to musical differences between the band members and relationships with girlfriends were now coming into play, and  L’Épée himself started up a family of his own and took around an 8 year break before embarking on his next project. During this time, he took up further guitar studies and even gave guitar lessons to make a living.

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Philharmonie

In 1988 L’Épée got together with another couple of guitarists namely Bernard Ros and Laurent Chalef and they formed what was to be known as Philharmonie. This French Trio went on to make and produce 5 albums between 1990 – 1998 and once again the King Crimson influence had stayed with the style so it appears and many even accused them of copying Robert Fripp’s LEAGUE OF CRAFTY GUITARISTS! Well just like I had never heard of Shylock up until now, I took the liberty to listen to Philharmonie’s 1990 debut album Beau Soleil and can honestly say that people really need to be more attentive to just what they are listening to before passing judgement and criticising it. Simply because this album is absolutely nothing like what Fripp was doing with his League of Gentlemen. The music we have on the album Beau Soleil is a thousand times better to my ears and is proper well-structured worked out composition and constructed music and not some flimsy experimental jam that does not make a lot of sense like much of Fripp’s music.

Don’t get me wrong I like quite a bit of the music King Crimson have churned out over the many years, but with its many incarnations their music has never really been that consistent and can be very disappointing at times. The bands 3rd and 4th albums Lizard and Islands I could quite easily throw in the bin for example. But then again just how many bands do make GREAT! albums all the time and I could say the same thing about practically every one of them 99.9% of the time. But regarding what Robert Fripp has done in his other projects and collaborative works, it’s never spoke to me enough for me to show any interest in it at all I am afraid. I am not saying it’s complete rubbish and we all have different tastes on that score, but having heard the album Beau Soleil by Philharmonie this is certainly tempting me to go out and buy it and investigate this fine trio of excellent guitarists further.

Though  Philharmonie were only really a trio on their first couple of albums and in 1994 they added the drummer Jean-Louis Boutin to the line-up and they ended up giving the band more of a rock style regarding the output of their music. Both Laurent Chalef and Jean-Louis Boutin had left the band and they brought in Volodia Brice on drums to make their final album LE DERNIER MOT they put out in 1998. I think it was this particular rock style and the fact that L’Épée was not involved in the writing as much as he would of liked to have been like he was with the band Shylock that he felt he needed a change. It was also around 1997 that L’Épée decided to write a few of his own solo albums and in the early 2000’s he put together another band together called YANG that also featured Volodia Brice on drums along with guitarist Julien Vecchié and Stéphane Bertrand on bass.

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YANG

YANG has so far to date have put out 3 albums between 2004 – 2017 and are supposed to be a bit more complex like King Crimson regarding their musical style. To be honest I was only able to locate the track “Pride” from their debut album A Complex Nature on YouTube to give a blast and in all honesty once again I was not really getting any King Crimson vibes here. I would also say that King Crimson was a bit more complex regarding some of their instrumental output particularly with their latter work with Adrian Belew and Tony Levin onboard especially on albums such as Discipline and THRAK for example.

But one thing has to remember, is that King Crimson are not entirely an instrumental band like the many of the bands L’Épée has put together. Even though the band Brand X can be more instrumental at times they can also throw in some vocals at times to take their music on another plane. To be perfectly honest I myself am not a big fan of instrumental albums that consist of instrumental tracks alone, and they have to be something that bit more special to grab my attention over the entire distance of an albums time slot. Though to be fair I cannot judge the band YANG on that one track alone and shall have to investigate them a bit more. But that track “Pride” for my ears was perhaps more of your typical rock track that sat in a groove to allow the guitarist to do his stuff over. It was not quite as special as what both King Crimson and Brand X can speak to me at times, and in all honesty Brand X are pretty more consistent than King Crimson when it comes down to doing instrumental tracks on that score.

I am not saying that I dislike instrumental albums by any means and to be perfectly honest I think when it comes down to them I will quite often prefer to have other elements of instrumentation going on in them, rather than sit and listen to an album that’s filled with just guitar or piano solos for example. Though I have some of those albums too and can still get pleasure out of them. To be honest I am not one who could sit down and listen to classical music either, though I have respect for it in many ways simply because a lot of it does have GREAT! musical structure to it, though at times even some of those GREAT! composers can go off the rails at times and be more sporadic for my own personal taste.

I can be quite diverse with my own taste of music, and even though progressive rock might be more suited to my personal taste for its diversity and just like classical music can go down other roads and take you along other paths with how its music is structured and created. I can still admire the singer songwriters of this world with their verse and chorus structured music with words to accompany it as well as the stranger styles of music I have come across in this vast world of music. I do also have one instrumental album that came out in 1975 that I could place on a pedestal and stick it in one of the 4 corners of the universe. That album is Camel’s Snow Goose which to me is an absolute masterpiece of beauty. It’s an album that can literally fill my eyes with tears of joy even today after all these years of listening to it, and they really did break the mould when they made that album.

As far as I can make out YANG is most likely still an ongoing project but I myself was certainly more impressed by Philharmonie’s debut album Beau Soleil and the material he did earlier with Shylock regarding the musical project bands L’Épée has put together over the years. I would also say it’s most unusual for even myself to take a lot of interest in 3 guitarists getting together and doing instrumental pieces as well.

For example I remember many moons ago when my brother Martin who is also a very well accomplished guitarist told me to watch the meeting of the spirits which was being shown live on the TV, to which consisted of John McLaughlin, Larry Coryell and Paco De Lucia and I can honestly say I have never seen or heard such a load of sporadic nonsense in all my life. It said absolutely nothing to me and is nowhere near as good as the material that is written for Beau Soleil. I have even watched it again more recently to see if it said anything different to me, and it still speaks the same to me today. But like I said we are all different when it comes down to our own tastes and how music comes across to us and how we perceive it.

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Lobotonics

Over the many years L’Épée has been involved in many other projects besides the ones I have just mentioned, back in 2013 he put together another trio which was more of a song-based project with American vocalist Peter Lippmann. Though Lippmann was not by any means a professional singer or musician there was something that L’Épée admired about his voice and his words when he bumped into him and it was enough for him to assemble an outfit to do something a bit different and give himself a chance to play more of an acoustic role. Lippmann also played flute and harmonica which was also a useful asset for them to go out and perform live. The multi-instrumentalist Moussa Koita was added to the line-up of the trio to handle the percussion side of things and throw in other more worldly musical instruments giving it more of an African vibe and he also played the bass on the 5-track studio EP they put out in 2013. Jean-Seb was later added to the line up to cater for the bass duties for their live shows.

Lobotonics is certainly a far cry and way different from the instrumental material that L’Épée had been doing over the biggest majority of his musical career, though in reality he had very much in the long distant past tried at some point to write more simple structured music and add a vocalist to Shylock back in the late 70’s. He was even working on a 3rd Shylock album that the record company CBS had suggested he should do for their next album. Though the idea was not very fruitful for both the band and the record company and was scrapped.

I took the liberty and gave the Lobotonics 5 track EP a couple of BLASTS! on Bandcamp and it’s very well produced and has very much a Caribbean Jungle vibe about it in some respects. The music flows very well and it has some lovely classical guitar especially on the 2nd track “Easy” which is my personal favourite track. Overall, it’s quite a joyful collection of songs mostly and I would even say that the lyrics can be a bit BANANAS! at times, but they all add to the joyful fun of it all I felt.

However, you look at the history of Frédéric L’Épée’s musical career with all he has been involved with over the years. It is without doubt a very fascinating one and he has many years of experience behind him as both a musician and composer. Music flows in his blood and through his veins and it’s still very much flowing through them after all these years and he has put in the many hours to carefully craft out his talented skills on the guitar and is a very well accomplished and skilful guitarist.

The Album In Review…

The Empty Room by Frédéric L’Épée was released on the 22nd May 2019. The album contains 12 instrumental tracks and it comes with an overall playing time of 60 minutes, 9 seconds. It’s L’Épée’s 9th album from his solo career if you were to include the first album Vent Pluie et Sable (Wind, Rain and Sand) he done entirely on a fretless guitar back in 1997 and released as a digital download only for free. Oddly enough he has also put out an experimental album even more recently on Bandcamp entitled Campanologie though you can only play the album on there and it’s only obtainable via purchasing his complete digital discography to which you can get all 10 albums at a discount price.

To be perfectly honest experimental albums can be fascinating especially for those who are fascinated by how one can achieve to get a certain sound out of an instrument via using various effects, but musically they can be a far cry from a more structured composition like some of the material we have on this album The Empty Room for example with how the music presents itself to you in a more natural way with its instrumentation.  But this album does also have a few experimental tracks on it as well.

I did take the liberty of listening to his first album Vent Pluie et Sable (Wind, Rain and Sand) and in many ways I could also see that has an experimental album with how he is using a fretless guitar to more or less replicate the sound of a Kalimba. I think he even managed to achieve that too, but out of the 5 tracks on the album it was only the last couple of tracks that really said anything to me musically. Oddly enough the final track on the album which was the only track that was not named after “Kalimba” and titled “Yabancı” to which I felt was very much stepping on King Crimson’s territory and parts of it reminded me a lot of the self-titled album track that opened up their album Lark’s Tongues In Aspic.

I also listened to the opening 3 tracks from the album Campanologie and that was even more experimental for my personal taste, and to be honest experiential albums are not really my cup of tea at all. Though no doubt there are those who will like these types of albums and find them far more interesting than myself on that score. Both of those albums were also done solely by L’Épée himself, whereas the album The Empty Room he brought in a few more musicians to help out on the some of the tracks on the album. Most of which I dare say he would have known and played with before such as the drummer Volodia Brice for example. Even the original drummer from Shylock André Fisichella also plays on one of the tracks. So, let’s now take a look at the musicians and credits that feature on the album.

Musicians & Credits…

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All music composed by Frédéric L’Épée. Recorded in various locations in Berlin, Paris, Nice, Toulon and La Turbie. Mixed by Frédéric L’Épée & Laurent James at Laurent James Studio at La Turbie. Mastered by Tim Xavier & Michael Kuhn at Manmade Studios, Berlin, Germany. Manufactured by Deine.CD in Berlin, Germany. Photography by Nuria Gregori. Cover art & design by J.C. Philippart.

Musicians:
Frédéric L’Épée: Guitars/Fretless Guitar/Guitar Synth/Percussion & Programmed Piano.
Nico Gomez: Bass (Tracks 2 & 10) Fretless Bass (Track 8)
Volodia Brice: Drums (Tracks 2 & 10).
Andre Fisichella : Drums (Track 1)
Laurent James: Guitar Solo (Track 10).
Olivier Innocenti: Bayran (Track 10)

The Album Tracks In Review…

As I mentioned earlier in my introduction the album The Empty Room is not exactly an album that will set the world on fire. I also mentioned that the music is based around a subject that I have experienced plenty of myself, and the subject matter in question here is about the loss of family and friends which is something that we all go through more so as we grow older. It’s an album that took 9 years in the making and the music reflects L’Épée’s personal big losses over those years although the music is not all based around grief with its moods, and I think that L’Épée sums it up very well in his own words which are as follows:

“The Empty Room is about mourning, but it doesn’t make it a sad album. It is more a questioning about loss, about letting go or handling pain, about how grief can turn into a vessel of serenity and peace. Though we all have to face it one day or another, the process is different for each of us”.

I think the artwork that J.C. Philippart done for the album cover is very well suited to the subject matter here too, and reflects the sense of emptiness and loss when someone is no longer with us.

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We all have our own ways of dealing with grief and the loss of our loved ones and quite often it’s New Year’s Day that hits me at times where I will take a moment to gather my thoughts. I have never seen New Year’s Day as a cause for celebration either, apart from being grateful that I am still around to see in the new year. But I always think of those who are unfortunate and no longer with us to see it in. Oddly enough it’s also a day I can look back on reflection and I have even written a couple of my own songs on that very day in the past too. Both “Another Year, And Another Day” and “First Day of The Year (Happy New Year)” I wrote on the 1st January. The first of which I wrote back in 2012 and the latter of the two I wrote this very year.

But overall another way you could look at the music we have on the album The Empty Room is that it’s an album that one could simply chillout too with it’s different flavours and moods, and it’s not all about chillout music either with how it can raise its tempo every now and then along the way. I think with every guitarist who plays in a band and makes their own solo albums it gives them the opportunity to express themselves in many other ways. No doubt you will also get the odd familiar track that is more like what they do with their respective bands they are in just like you would with guitarists such as Steve Howe of Yes, David Gilmore of Pink Floyd or even Chris Fry of Magenta and many others for example.

I know I also stated in my introduction that this is not an album that will rock your socks off either. But in all honesty neither of those artists I mentioned above will with their solo albums either, but I can certainly enjoy them just as much as I could enjoy guitarists such as Joe Satriani and Steve Vai who most likely would rock my socks off. But it does not make them any better guitarists at all, and every guitar player has their own style, feel and personal touch on the instrument and can touch my soul in many different ways and what Frédéric L’Épée is doing here can also do exactly that. So, let’s take a closer look into The Empty Room by looking at the individual tracks on the album.

Track 1. Badong.

The album kicks off in fine style with its opening track entitled “Badong” and the word “Badong” means both bad and wrong and relates to something either has gone wrong or bad. It’s also a county in the province of Hubei in China and my own observation of why this particular title was chosen is that the person who was taken away by either a bad incident that happened or they resided in that province in China. I could of course be completely wrong, and under the circumstances relating to the subject matter of the tracks on this album I am hardly going to be poking my nose looking for answers into one’s personal life.

To be perfectly honest the music we have here does have a sense of beauty and drama about it and flows along like a river. It’s driven along at a good steady pace too and has some really GREAT! passages along its path that allow it to slow or come down a bit, which allows other instrumentation to come into play very nicely with how it’s all so well built up with its musical structure with the guitars, drums and percussion. It also carries a bit of weight and inflicts some force and power into it all too.

Badong” is the second longest track on the album and weighs in at a good 7 minutes and features L’Épée on electric, acoustic, guitar synth and percussion. At least I think he’s using a guitar synth and not a real synth, it’s hard to tell these days. It also features his old bandmate from Shylock Andre Fisichella on drums and it’s good to see that after all those years that people can still get along with each other.

Some of the driven synth guitar does remind me of Robert Fripp in particular with the sound he’s getting out of it. The acoustic guitar is very well utilised in the piece too and comes into play right from the start though I love the section from 2:10 – 2:48 where the track first comes down and the acoustic guitar plays this WONDERFUL! melody line and the guitar synth plays a counter melody that actually reminds me of Tangerine Dream back in the 1980’s with it’s GORGEOUS! sound and it’s quite familiar with some of the voicing sounds they used back then.

The piece really builds up in with quite some power as it meanders it’s way along in a sort of stomping marching way, and the section between 3:56 – 5:21 is where L’Épée opens up the throttle and lets it rip, and watch out for even more power that gets injected into all the frenzy between the 5:48 – 6:28 mark where Fisichella does an excellent job on the drums and bashes them out in fine style. It really is a GREAT! track and has to be one of the top contenders for the Top Spot on the album. I dare say for many, this would be their favourite track.

Track 2. Inévitable Traversée.

The 2nd track on the album translates to “Inevitable Crossing” or could pertain to “Unavoidable Crossing” in English. It could suggest that the person either met their fate in a road accident or where one breathes their last breath at the end of their term in life and crosses over so to speak. Whatever the circumstances where, the piece reflects beauty and warmth in a way of remembrance of the lost one here for sure.

It features  L’Épée on clean electric guitars doing a splendid job on the rhythm and contains some  lovely lead lines that interweave there way along in GREAT! style. We also get some wonderful bass work from Nico Gomez and Volodia Brice does a very fine subtle job on the drum kit to accompany it all. It’s another beautiful piece of work and is very pleasing for the ears this one and is a really GREAT! chillout track and another track that could be a contender for the albums Top Spot I feel.

Track 3. En Descendant La Riviere Lente.

This next piece features L’Épée solely on his own like many of the tracks along the album, and here he is using guitars and guitar effects to create the soundscape we have here. The title of the track translates to “Descending Down The Slow River” in English and it’s well apt to the title with the pretty good job he done of it.

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To be honest even though this type of track could be seen as experimental to some degree, it does have the ability to keep you attentive to the sounds he’s creating here, and even though most experimental work is not really my thing, I quite like this piece. It would also work very well in a scene for a movie and a Soundtrack album is perhaps more fitting for a piece like this along with a few of the other tracks on this album.

I also find that even though the track is near enough 6 and half minutes long, somehow it only seems like it travels over half of that distance. So, it must speak to me rather than irritate me like most experimental music would on that score. Though no doubt if the piece was some 15 to 20 minutes long like some artists would do on their albums, it most likely would get my goat up, simply because over that distance I would expect the music to have much more diversity and travel down more or even many roads so to speak.  But overall this is quite a skilled piece of work.

Track 4. Amour Et Dissolution.

Love and Dissolution” is what we have here which could pertain to an action of formerly ending, a terminal departure from life or even a dissolvement from marriage as in till death do us part for example. Once again, this piece was created with L’Épée’s guitars alone, only unlike the previous track this is not so experimental and is created with clean and slightly distorted guitars rather than an array of effects.

The melody and counterpart melodies are very well worked out with how they interact in harmony with each other, and they create a sound like a clock ticking out the time at first, and as it develops along the bell ringing sounds become more evident and it gave me a sort of visualisation of being at a cemetery standing in the rain at a funeral. The final melody line that comes into play at the end the piece reminds me a bit of the main melody line that created the song “Message in A Bottle” by The Police. It’s a very well-structured piece of work and fits the title right down to a tee.

Track 5. Delta,

This is the longest track on the album and weighs in at some 8 minutes, 23 seconds. It’s also quite a dramatic piece that drives along as if we were on some sort of a mission riding the rapids on a river sort of thing, and being that a “Delta” is a landform that forms from deposition of sediment carried by a river as the flow leaves its mouth and enters slower-moving or standing water. I would very much say that, that is what L’Épée was also trying to convey here with the music, though I could be wrong.

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River Deltas

The piece does to tend run in one direction, however the way it builds up and transcends itself along with all the many parts on the guitars, does make it very interesting. There is also the sort of energy with how well its driven along that one would think the piece has drums to drive it along, but its all so very well constructed in a way that it does not really need them at all. “Delta” is very much another track on the album that is a contender for the Top Spot on the album.

Track 6. Hymne Aux Ancêtres 1.

The first of two tracks on the album that L’Épée created in a way of a dedication for his ancestors. “Hymne Aux Ancêtres translates in English to “Anthem To Ancestors” I suppose in many ways it could also be seen has an hymn to his ancestors. This is the longer of the two short pieces and features  L’Épée on guitars and percussion. It does have a tribal feel about it, and it sort of gives me the visualisation of an Aborigine out in the outback at a burial ceremony.

Track 7. Blessures Precieuses.

The title translates to “Treasured Wounds” and treasured wounds is often likened to treasured memories, which are memories of lost ones that can be stored in our thoughts and even having something in the way of a possession of our lost ones to hold onto such as a ring for example. Though treasured wounds in some parts of the world can go much deeper where the person will even wear the bones of their lost loved ones around their neck or wrist in remembrance of them. There was a Jawara woman who even wore the skull of her dead husband around her neck.

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I remember when I lost my son and my oldest granddaughter made a very strange request and asked me if she could have some of my sons’ ashes so that she could get a Memorial Tattoo in remembrance of him. To be honest just the thought of it made me feel a bit sick at the time, and even though I refused her request I did tell her that he will be forever with you in your memories and that is something no one can ever take away from you, and memories are very much precious treasures and hold all the fondest thoughts you could ever wish for deep within you. Apparently, Cremation or Memorial Tattoos are not nothing new and a select few are paying tributes to the ones they’ve lost in a different way.

Once again L’Épée is weaving his way along here with his array of guitars and the guitar synth is utilised very well in the piece too. I think he captures the mysterious side of the subject matter behind the title we have here and dramatizes it quite well. But it does tend to say the same thing at times.

Track 8. Brume.

This track features L’Épée on acoustic and electric guitars and Nico Gomez on fretless bass, and the title translates to “Mist“. To be honest I am not sure if the title is referring to a cloudlike aggregation of minute globules of water or has been used in a more modern way of saying “Missed” which would be perhaps more fitting to the subject matter and concept of the album. But I suppose either of them could fit to the subject matter depending on how one seen the person who is lost here. Musically it is perhaps leaning more towards the cloudy side of things and it’s quite a lovely piece with clean guitar lines and a very well-structured piece of music and another really GREAT! track I would see in the way of a very strong contender for the Top Spot on the album too.

Track 9. Parle-Moi Encore.

This next piece is GORGEOUS” and features L’Épée on one guitar and piano and it just goes to show how some of the simpler things can say so much. In English the title translates to “Keep Talking To Me” and this track certainly does speak to me, so much that it’s my personal favourite track on the album and wins my Top Spot Award. The simple one stroke piano chords are a bit reminiscent to the self-titled album track “Heartbreakers” by Tangerine Dream that was scored for the 1984 film of the same title and released on their soundtrack album in 1985.

Though this track is way better in my opinion, but Tangerine Dream did some similar things on some of their other albums a bit like this, and “Twenty-Nine Palms” from their Lily On The Beach album also springs to mind too. Though that did have more than just a single chord hammering down on the keys as it developed along. But no doubt the simple things at times can speak in volumes and I love this beauty that L’Épée composed here.  I suppose in many ways the memories of the loved ones we have lost, will always keep talking to us, and that may have been what L’Épée was implying here, and this piece touches my heart and soul. Thank you sincerely Sir!!!

Track 10. Souvenirs De Traversée.

The title translates to “Memories Of The Crossing” and accompanying L’Épée here we have Nico Gomez on bass, Volodia Brice on drums. Olivier Innocenti on bayran which is a type of chromatic button accordion developed in Russia in the early 20th century and named after the 11th-century bard Boyan. I suppose it’s a bit like Russia’s answer to the German Squeeze Box from hell and is very similar to the Accordion.

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Bayran

Though the unusual traditional instrumentation does not stop there because the track also features Laurent James who contributes a solo on an Erhu guitar and this comes into play around the 2 minute 40 second mark. The Erhu is a two-stringed bowed musical instrument that originated from China. It’s sometimes known in the Western World as the Chinese violin or a Chinese two-stringed fiddle and personally I think it replicates that sound more so than a guitar.

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Erhu

Besides all the other guitars played on the track by L’Épée, he also programmed the piano that runs through the piece. It does have a very good build to it and like most of the tracks on this album they do tend to be structured that way rather than be constructed over more chords. They also tend to run in a straight direction rather than go somewhere else and the skill is really in how well the piece is built up and how the other instruments and counterparts come into play. It’s another fine piece of work and every one does a GRAND! job on it.

Track 11. Hymne Aux Ancêtres 2.

The second part of the “Anthem to Ancestors” features L’Épée playing a solo on his fretless guitar, it does not give me the visualisation of an Aborigine out in the outback at a burial ceremony like the first part did with its other elements thrown into the pot. But it does have more of a Western World feel to it and it sounds more like an instrument that came from China in particular with how his fingers slide along the strings and hit the notes. Apparently, it’s also a piece in the way of a tribute to Confucius and he explains more about it in the description of this video he posted of it on his YouTube channel back in April this year, and here you can see him play the short piece.

Track 12. Wegschippernd.

The final track on the album is the shortest and is just over a minute long. L’Épée chose to put the title in German which is where he is living now and has been for some time, but it translates in French to “Voguant Au Loin” and in English the title is very much “Sailing Away“. I suppose it’s his way of saying Bon voyage has he sails off onto his next musical journey.

He uses just a guitar and some reverse effects to play the piece, and the opening lower region notes do rather sound a bit like a big ship in a harbour about to set sail, whilst the reverse effects give more of the impression of the ship sailing off into the sunset so to speak. It’s perhaps not the best way to end off the album but quite an effective way and he is saying goodbye after all.

Summary…

To sum up The Empty Room by Frédéric L’Épée I personally think overall, it’s quite a good album, but not a GREAT! or SOLID! album. However, if you were to look at what L’Épée was trying to achieve with the material he wrote for the album over the past 9 years, and take in the concept of the subject matter it was personally meant for. I very much feel that he more or less achieved his goal, and if you are buying an album like this, you are very much getting exactly what it says on the tin so to speak with how he originally described the album in his own words.

In many ways I could perhaps see quite a bit of the music that is on the album more suited to film music, rather than an album an artist would put out as their main album sort of thing. But on the other hand, that would also be very hard to avoid given that the material was specifically written for a special purpose with its subject matter and original concept. Dramatics would also play much of a role too, and the album is far from a mixed bag of material even though he has thrown in some experimental material. But it still works very well with how all the tracks have been placed on the album, so there has been a lot of thought put into it all I feel.

From what little I have heard of L’Épée’s music during the time of writing my review here, there is no question of the man’s ability to play the guitar and he has put in the hours and learnt the instrument very well. No doubt he has years of experience behind him too, and to be honest some of his earlier material in the bands he has put together will even speak to me a lot more than what J.S. Bach’s Sonata for Violin n° 1 in G Minor will to which he is playing in this video he put on YouTube last year.

There is no doubt that J.S. Bach’s music can be very complex and you would have to put in quite a bit of hard work practising a piece like this too. But for me personally a lot of the notes in this piece do not really make a lot of sense, and they are not exactly going to sing to you like a decent lead solo would or like a singer would singing a vocal line for example. I know this particular piece was written for the violin and it would perhaps say more to me with an orchestra behind it, but on its own as a solo I very much doubt it would ever speak to me at all no matter how impressive it may look.

The best lead lines for me are those that sing to you, and can even bite you, and for many guitarists that is really the best way they can make a mark and express themselves and give themselves a voice. Especially when the music you do is mostly consisted of instrumental material without a singer to give you a voice. But even with a singer the solo still has to sing and say something meaningful, and just as I mentioned earlier about John McLaughlin & Co playing a load of sporadic notes at lightning speed, it may look impressive but it’s speaking a totally different language as far as I am concerned and saying totally nothing to me.

Thankfully L’Épée’s own music is not like that and allows more space for expression and my personal highlights from the album The Empty Room are as follows: “Keep Talking To Me“. “Badong“. “Delta“. “Inevitable Crossing“. and  “Mist“.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of The Empty Room by Frédéric L’Épée. I would say that it is very much like I stated a couple of times already in that it’s not an album that will set the world on fire, but it does have some pleasurable moments along its path, and overall it’s a pretty decent enough album and one I can play from start to finish and still get something out of it. It’s not a solid album by any means and there are a couple of less interesting pieces, but nothing that bad to spoil my pleasure or even make me want to skip a track whilst listening to the album.

It’s perhaps more of an album you would expect from a guitarists solo career rather than what you would get from what they would do with a band for example, and the biggest majority of the material along the album is played by L’Épée himself. Which will have certain limitations no doubt. Much of the material can be a bit one directional and the real skill has been put into how it’s all been built up with the many counter melodies and textured layers he has applied. That is perhaps where the real artistry of his work lies on this album and he has done an exceptionally good job of it here.

To be perfectly honest in my world of prog rock music, the music does have to go in many directions for me to really appreciate it, and for it to really speak to me in the first place. It’s very unusual for me to see anything in music that is more one directional at all. So L’Épée must be doing something quite special for me to even take on an album like this and give it a review.

However that does not mean I am going to buy the rest of his solo albums, but I certainly will eventually buy some of the albums he has done in the past with his former bands  Shylock and Philharmonie which perhaps will rock my boat more so to speak, and I have certainly enjoyed looking into the background of Frédéric L’Épée’s musical career and found it most interesting and thoroughly enjoyed his music and working on this review of The Empty Room. So, no doubt I shall be reviewing more of this man’s fine talent and his albums in the future.

You can listen for free or even purchase The Empty Room by Frédéric L’Épée by clicking on this link: https://laspada.bandcamp.com/album/the-empty-room

You Will Always Be Here, So Keep Talking To Me…

The album track listing is as follows and I have put all the track titles in English.

01. Badong. 7:00.
02. Inevitable Crossing. 4:23.
03. Descending Down The Slow River. 6:28.
04. Love And Dissolution. 3:32.
05. Delta. 8:23.
06. Anthem To Ancestors 1. 3:15.
07. Treasured Wounds. 6:47.
08. Mist. 4:50.
09. Keep Talking To Me. 6:40.
10. Memories Of The Crossing. 5:44.
11. Anthem To Ancestors 2. 2:04.
12. Sailing Away. 1:03.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #118

Arteries –  Omnerod

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Introduction…

I recently received an email from a chap by the name of Romain from Belgium who is one of the main guys behind a 2-piece outfit who go by the name of Omnerod. Basically, they had not long put out a new album and he had stumbled across my blog site and asked me if I would give the album a review. As I have mentioned in the past I am not the type of guy who will review anything and mostly review the albums I buy myself, but having given the album a spin on Bandcamp it appealed to my taste enough for me to give it more attention, and give it a review.

It’s been awhile since my last post back in February and I did state then I would be taking a break and it’s been a lot longer than I expected. It was also back then whilst doing some decorating that my Desktop PC had broken down which put me completely out of action regarding doing more reviews. But more recently thanks to a good friend from Germany who kindly gifted me his old IMac. I am now able to write once again, and I really cannot thank my good friend enough.

As I mentioned Omnerod are a 2-piece outfit and it consists of guitarist Romain Jeuniaux and drummer Pablo Schwilden Diaz. Though they do have a couple of other guys onboard that lent a hand to their album Arteries, more about that later. Musically there is quite a mixture of influences and crossovers in the music that they present here, but I suppose if you were to nail it down to a specific genre, progressive metal would be the tag that fits the bill here. So. let’s now dig in a bit deeper and get down to the album review.

The Album In Review…

Arteries by Omnerod was released on the 30th May 2019. The album contains 8 tracks, 2 of which are instrumentals and has an overall playing time of 62 minutes, 55 seconds.  It’s the second album release by the band and their first album Ivory Dune was released back in 2014. Unlike their previous album which was released in both Digital Download and CD formats, their latest album Arteries has been released in the form of a Digital Download only. It’s perhaps understandable with how little physical media gets sold these days, and no doubt you do need to spread yourself out a bit more and get more of a following behind you as well. Otherwise you will just get left with a few hundred CD’s cluttering up your garage or basement, and I am sure many have been there.

Although none of the musicians have performed live under the name of Omnerod before and they have never had a stable lineup and have relied on session players to help them out. Plans are being set in motion as we speak right now, and this 2-piece outfit is at this present moment being extended into a 4-piece band and are currently getting things together to go out and play live in the second half of this year. Their latest album Arteries is very well produced and André Six who took care of the recording and production will be part of the bands new line up and will be the bands new bass player. The session vocalist Anthony Deneyer who handled all the growled vocals on the new album will also become a more official member of the band and also will contribute guitar as well as his death GROWLS!

Their 2nd album Arteries was mastered at Jens Bogren’s Fascination Street Studios in Sweden and was mastered by the capable hands of Tony Lindgren, who has previously worked on music from the likes of Leprous, Katatonia, Opeth, Enslaved, Vola, Marty Friedman, and many more. Many of which both Romain and Pablo idolized.

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The albums Artwork was done by Sushant Vohra of Vohrart Designs who is an art graphic designer mainly for album covers and T-Shirt designs and it seems that no expense has been spared in the making of the album, and I have to say a very professional top job as been done all round and not only looks good, but sounds GREAT!. Really GREAT! to be honest and perhaps too good for a Digital Download only.

Omnerod (A Brief Bit Of History)

The original origins of the band were put together in 2009 by the band’s drummer Pablo Schwilden Diaz and former guitarist Daniel Vornicu who was both very young at the time, Pablo being the youngest at 14 and Daniel 16. They spent a couple of years trying to get a band together with various musicians who came and went and the pair of them worked on material for what was later to become the band’s first album Ivory Dune and had written half of the material for the album. In 2011 Romain Jeuniaux joined them who was only 16 himself at the time, and wrote much of the other half of the material for their first album.

It was not long after the album was completed and put out in 2014, that Daniel left the band to continue his studies, and since then both Romain and Pablo have carried the flame and kept the torch ignited so to speak with Romain has the main writer and Pablo putting in all the fills with his drums. They also brought in session players when needed to make their new album Arteries and for me personally it’s a lot stronger than their first album and much more to my personal taste.

Musicians & Credits…

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All music composed by Omnerod. Engineered & produced by André Six. Mastered at Fascination Street Studios. Sweden by Tony Lindgren. Album Artwork designed by Sushant Vohra of Vohrart Designs.

Musicians:
Romain Jeuniaux: Normal Vocals/Guitars/Samples & Effects.
Pablo Schwilden Diaz: Drums/Percussion/Samples & Effects.

Additional Musicians:
Anthony Deneyer: Growl Vocals.
Thomas Clément : Bass Guitar.

The Album Tracks In Review…

There is no doubt that the album Arteries took a good while to make, and the 5 years it’s took to surface since their debut album Ivory Dune has really reaped the benefit of spending a lot more time on it getting it right. For me personally their new album is a different breed in that it contains more melodic prog rock structure in comparison to their debut album, and having listened the album Ivory Dune I can honestly say that apart from the last couple of tracks on the album, it never really spoke to me at all.

I am not by any means suggesting that it’s a bad album and no doubt for those who are more into death metal than myself, I dare say they will enjoy or even love it. To be honest I can only take so much of GROWL! vocals and can 99% laugh at them at being some sort of advert for Strepsils Lozenges for those with a sore throat :))))).

I do not mind them in small doses and on the new album Arteries both the normal and GROWL! contributions from Jeuniaux and Deneyer respectively have been very well thought out regarding where they are placed on the album. I also think the vocals on this album sound a lot better too and have improved a lot in comparison to their previous album. A lot has improved on this new album I personally think, even the writing and instrumentation is a lot stronger and it’s much more of a solid album. It’s certainly an album that appeals more to my personal taste and rocks my boat.

No doubt most bands have their own inspirations and influences, judging by some of the other reviews I did glance at for this album, a lot of them tend to be pointing to the band Opeth of being their main influence. To be honest not being into death metal myself and not hearing many of the other bands mentioned they are influenced by or even of Opeth for that matter. I am hardly the guy who could make any real assumptions has to who they sound like.

But I suppose in some ways not having heard the likes of those other bands can give one the impression that there is something a bit more fresh and new here, and this album is quite refreshingly vitalizing with how they have also incorporated more of a melodic cleaner, and even ambient approach in parts, and fused it with the more darker and heavier side of it all. It’s like having the right measure and balance of good and evil forces and knowing when to deliver them in all the right places. It’s something they have done extremely well and it brings out all the dynamics in light and dark shades with how it all runs along.

Omnerod’s new album Arteries runs along like a concept album with how each track runs into each other and there is no real pause in between each track even if there are a few stops along the way. It’s perhaps not so much apparent at first, but once you delve deeper into the album with how it runs along and how both the music and vocals are very much dramatized to portray a collection of stories, and also delve deeper into the lyrical content. You will soon find out that there is a concept going on and there is a lot more to the lyrical content than meets the eye.

So, let’s now take a deeper look into the album Arteries and see what it’s all about as I go through each track on the album.

Track 1. Lines.

The album opens up with the first of the two instrumental tracks on the album and its title of “Lines” could even suggest that this is the album’s title track with how it ties into the album’s title of Arteries. Artery or Arteries is the muscular-walled tubes forming part of the circulation system by which blood is conveyed from the heart to all parts of the body. But it can also be seen an important route in a system of roads, rivers, railway lines or even a highway to which the artwork on the album cover could also be pertaining to.

The track opens up with an eerie haunting whistling wind that is quite reminiscent to the same haunting wind that opened up Elton John’sFuneral For A Friend” back in 1973. Though there are no bells and synths here and instead it’s accompanied by some clean well down strokes on the guitar that give the impression of chimes. So, this intro does give one the impression of that particular Elton song and it could of been inspired by it.

Then around the 1:23 mark we get introduced to a few plucky lead notes from the electric guitar, which along with the change of the melodic rhythm notes that are cleanly ringing out from the guitar provide us with the main theme to which everything else is worked around. The track really opens up at the 2:11 mark where it unleashes its heavy BEAST! upon us, and no doubt there is a very powerful force of electric energy running through these lines. The piece runs along in a similar vein throughout with the use of its melodic structure and injects power where it’s needed, making it a very enjoyable track and kicks off the album in fine style.

Track 2. Guide Them.

The first of the vocal tracks on the album and the vocal duties are shared between Jeuniaux who takes on the verses, whilst Deneyer takes on the devil with his GROWL! voice in the chorus sections. The combination between them both works extremely and admiringly very well throughout the song, they also do justice to their respective parts and roles here too.

Portrait of a Devil. For halloween

Judging by the lyrical content it’s perhaps hard at first to see that there is a concept going on here, and it’s only really as you go along and follow the songs on the album that you will soon get the gist that each story is dealing with the diseases that cause death and inflict pain in an horrendous or evil way such as cancer and so on.

For example, I could make several observations and meanings regarding the lyrics for “Guide Them“. My first observation is that the devil has come to put in his claim on those who are coming to the end of life and dying by some disease or another and he is there to guide them to hell and try and prevent them from going along another righteous road or path to heaven.

My second observation is that there could be in some kind of napalm warfare going on here. However, you look at it something evil is going down that’s for sure, and it’s also a good thing when one can make their own interpretations of a set of lyrics. I personally do not think the album is a concept based on one continuous story, but rather a collection of songs that deal with how one meets their fate.

Musically there is also a sense of drama being portrayed here to the whole story and both the music and the vocals are portraying this story and playing their roles throughout it exceptionally very well. It’s a very powerful track with clean cut and heavy distorted guitars and vocals and has the backbone behind it with the bass and drums. Some nice diversity with the changes and progression and it’s very well built up with how it can inject power and tone things down very smoothly. It’s also my personal favorite track on the album and it merits the albums Top Spot Award. Though there are plenty of other contenders.

Track 3. Newt.

The second and final instrumental piece on the album. It also happens to be the shortest track on the album and even though it’s more of an acoustic track, it does also utilize the electric guitar later on into the piece. It’s opening and closing melody lines have a sort of sad and down feel about them and reminds me a bit of the band Wobbler with its folky feel. The piece builds up very well with the other instrumentation and you even get a mandolin sound from the guitar adding nicely to it.

It’s also quite dramatic with how it flows along, and we get this rather nice sort of carnival ride melody that comes into play in the middle which is a nice touch and welcoming change. I have to admit when it does come into play, I keep expecting Alice Cooper to come in and say a few creepy words :))))). “Newt” is a fine piece and simmers the album down nicely with its placement on the album. It could also be seen as an introduction to the next song on the album.

Track 4. Ascaris.

The infliction of pain and cruel ways of dying continues and Ascaris from what I can gather is a genus of parasitic nematode worms known as the “small intestinal roundworms”, which is a type of parasitic worm. Ascaris lumbricoides affects humans and causes the disease ascariasis.

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The song carries the melody on from the previous instrumental track at first with some subtle changes and then slots its way into another fine haunting melody.  Jeuniaux takes on the biggest majority of the vocals on this particular track, and his voice delivers the story superbly in both speaking and singing mannerisms. He also delivers quite a bit of power with his voice on this one too.

The song gradually builds itself along in fine melodic style and it’s a bit like a cross between Wobbler and Arena right to the point of where the more powerful changes come into play. I also like how they have very well crafted the transitional changes and it really does build up to a powerful force to allow Deneyer to inject even more vocal power with his GROWLS! The combination of them both taking on the vocals this way they have nailed to a tee.

“Ascaris” is another superb track and has to be another contender for the Top Spot on the album, and to be honest I could of also easily have made this my personal favorite track on the album as well. This is without doubt an album that is full of GREAT! tracks.

Track 5. Nothing Was Vain.

There is no doubt that Omnerod like to make lengthy tracks and I have never had a problem with that as long as they contain the right ingredients to take them over that distance, and do they not say the same thing throughout so to speak. Transitional changes and progression are the very ingredients that will keep any listener content enough, especially when there is plenty going on and they are going down other roads and paths to say something more.

Speaking of “more”, musically you do get a lot more in that department over the 11 minutes and 19 seconds you get here. Both the vocalists are still doing a GRAND! job, and the devil is still doing his best to claim more victims that have fallen along his path, including the fakers and hypocrites has he unleashes his wrath upon them.

There really is a lot of truly GREAT! changes in some of the lengthy musical interludes on this excellent journey, and perhaps more bags of progression in this song than any other track on the album. There is also a very tasty blistering guitar solo on the last stretch of the song to drive it home as well, coupled with the heavy guitars and the driving power of the drums and bass. To be honest I even think the band will have their work cut out trying to deliver to this song live to an audience, especially with how it’s all so very well executed and sounds on this studio version. “Nothing Was Vain” is another contender for the Top Spot on the album.

Track 6. Velvet Hooks.

It’s time to simmer the album down a bit again and the word “Velvet” in the title perhaps cushions the blow to bring to down a notch with a haunting ballad. Being that it is a ballad  Jeuniaux takes on the vocal duties solely on this song and his voice has the subtle and sweeter side to deliver it. A very good job as been done with the double tracking vocals and harmonies too. He also contributes some sweet guitar on the track too. I like the more subtle scope it has for the bass and drums too.

To be honest I know that Thomas Clément does play bass on 7 tracks on the album from what Romain told me, but I forgot to ask which one he does not play on. If I was to take a guess I would say it was either this track or the last track on the album. My reason for thinking it may be this track is that it does sound more like something that Jeuniaux and Diaz worked on alone. Diaz’s drums punctuate and resonate very well on this track too and he even does a nice bit of military style at the end too.

Overall, I think “Velvet Hooks” does a good job of bringing the album down a notch and works well in the concept of things here. However, I do think it’s 9-minute time slot is too much and this really needed to be cut down a lot more. I am not saying it’s a bad track, but at this length I do feel that there is a danger of more people reaching for the skip button sort of thing.

Track 7. Far From The Tree.

The album picks back up with a MIGHTY! force and this is one for the headbangers. “Far From The Tree” is perhaps the power house track of the album with its heavy metal power chord structure. I would expect for those who are more into the heavy death metal and GROWL! side of things this particular track would be more suited to their taste and would favor more with them.

Being more into the prog side of things myself, I much prefer the earlier tracks on the album that have more of a mix of melodic lines into the musical structure and fuse it in with more of the heavier side of things. For me personally that combination and even how they share the vocal duties works better.

Though in saying that there is no doubt the guys have done a Top Job musically and Deneyer’s GROWLS works very well throughout the track and does deliver justice to the power of it all. The other good thing for myself is that this is only track on the album that is perhaps more dedicated to those who are into the death metal genre, so it’s not really gonna spoil my listening enjoyment.

Track 8. Sleep.

The final track on the album is the longest and weighs in at 13 minutes, 42 seconds. Just like the 5th track on the album “Nothing Was Vain” there is bags more transitional changes and progression in this one, and this is much more to my personal taste and they chose a GREAT! way to end off the album. Or should I say put it to “sleep”, and there is more to the way one gets put it to sleep here perhaps too.

rSleep 2

Once again Jeuniaux takes on all the vocal duties, and I have to admit I think the 3rd verse and a few of the other parts where they beef things up with the raw metal power would have been suited for Deneyer’s GROWLS! To be quite honest upon the first few listens I was half expecting his GROWLS! to come into play, it could be something for them to also consider doing it that way in future live performances of the song too.

They have also used some samples from a movie on this track too, and though I know I have seen the movie, for the life of me I cannot remember which movie it’s from. No doubt most movie buffs will know it instantly.

Overall, I do feel that “Sleep” is another one of the better tracks and another contender for the top spot on the album, and is in more contention with how well the earlier on tracks on the album are so well written and woven together. It also contains its journey very well over its longer time slot too, and puts an end to quite a very well written powerful album.

Summary…

To sum up the album Arteries by Omnerod. I personally think it’s quite a strong album that for most of its part fuses some well fine melodic lines along with the rawer heavy power of death metal. It not only presents itself with all dirt and grit, but injects a good dose of cleanness and clarity to make it shine even through the much darker and ambient haunting side with how well the album has been recorded and very well produced. It’s an album that I also think will not only appeal to those into the heavier side of things, but to those who like myself are more into prog rock as well.

I think over the past 5 years both Romain and Pablo have learned a lot and Arteries is a much stronger well written album in comparison to their debut album Ivory Dune. I also think their latest album is well up there with a lot of more well-known bands who are out there making this same style of music. No doubt they have their own influences, but they also have their own way of going about things and have adapted a style of their own with how they put things across in this genre of music.

I do feel there is a concept thing going on within the lyrical content, especially with how the lyrics are all pertaining to sickness, disease, pain and death and how the devil himself could be tied into all the suffering here. I also think the material they had, they also managed to place the tracks on the album very well with what they had too. My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Guide Them“. “Ascaris“. “Nothing Was Vain“. “Lines” and “Sleep“.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Omnerod’s new album Arteries. I personally think it’s a very powerful, enjoyable and near enough solid album that will appeal to many who are into the heavier side of prog rock and death metal. The material is very strong, well written and the production standards are very high quality and it’s been very well produced and mastered to a high standard. No doubt the musicians have got their act together and the combination of having two vocalists works very well I feel, and I am glad to see that Anthony Deneyer is now more of an official band member and that band is now in full swing and getting ready to go out on the road.

No doubt they will have their work cut out playing this material live with how so well the album has been produced. But I am sure they will get it all together and I wish them all the success because their music certainly does need to be heard, it certainly ROCKS! my boat and I am sure it will for many others too. I highly recommend you give the album a spin, and you can download the album for free, or even give the band a contribution by paying for it, and no doubt it’s worthy of doing so too.

You can listen to all the tracks and download the album right here: https://omnerod.bandcamp.com/

Standing Over Us, Guiding, Scorching…

The album track listing is as follows:

01. Lines. 6:23.
02. Guide Them. 9:41.
03. Newt. 3:19.
04. Ascaris. 8:41.
05. Nothing Was Vain. 11:19.
06. Velvet Hooks. 9:08.
07. From The Tree. 7:05.
08. Sleep. 13:42.

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

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Other Oddities… #4

My Biggest Gripe With Apple.

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Introduction…

Just recently thanks to the very kind generosity of my good German friend Dirk Radloff, I was GIFTED his old 2008 24 inch IMac. He not long brought himself a brand new 27 inch IMac and knew that my old Desktop PC had broken down and I was struggling with an old CRAPTOP I had given me a good few years ago that I only recently got around to repairing. Basically because it was a Snail with an Intel Celeron processor is why it had been sitting in a cupboard for the past 5 or 6 years.

To be honest I could of brought another Motherboard to fix the PC Desktop I built back in 2010, but as I did build it with mainly components that came out around the same time of this IMac in 2008. It’s perhaps time to build another one, and I am not making any excuses has to why the motherboard packed in, but basically the computer was on when I started to heavily shift things around to to do some decorating. So that may have been why it sparked and fried it’s own chips and shorted the life out of itself.

Also it’s thanks to my good friends very kind generosity that I am once again able to write something on my blogsite once again, to which I have been absent for quite awhile now due to be being busy with the house. With my funds being more tied to the house it will be quite awhile before I can get to build a new Desktop. But this old IMac is certainly good enough to get me by for now, and I cannot thank Dirk enough for his kind generosity.

For this blog I very much decided to write about how I have seen APPLES computers and it’s operating system over the years. My own views are based on my own experience of building computers over the past 20 years, and how I personally see the MAC in relation to the PC. No doubt many will think that it is a biased review coming from a guy who has never owned a MAC computer before. But over the years I have always kept up with a lot of technology and seen many things go on regarding the good things and pitfalls on both sides of the camp, and to be honest this review is perhaps more aimed at the price point of things more than anything else.

I may very well do another review after I have had a good month or so to get more to grips and more acquainted with this IMac and go more into what I like and dislike about both Windows and MAC’s OS. But for now let me take you back to the year the 2000.

Part 1. Where I Am Coming From.

Over the past 20 years since getting into the world of computers I have seen the technology behind them change every year, or even in the space of every 6 months or less in some cases. There is no doubt that when you buy a brand new computer everything that may appear to be the latest tech can be old hat in 6 months or even less and that’s how fast technology can move on at times. The first Desktop PC I brought back in the year 2000 cost me some £2,000 and a bit more back in those days, and you certainly got nothing in relation to how things have moved on over all the years. Especially in the way that processing, memory, graphics and even hard drive space has improved vastly over each year. As a matter of fact as each year went by the more I was convinced that for the 2 grand I spent on my first Desktop PC. I felt I had been completely ripped off.

That first Desktop computer I purchased came with an Intel Pentium 3. 750Mhz CPU. 256MB’s of Ram, an ATI 128MB Graphics Card and a 750MB Hard Drive and has long gone. It was the first and last time ever I brought any computer from a shop and decided afterwards to build my own. Over the years I have built many Desktop PC’s not just for myself but mostly for other people, and repaired literally loads of PC Towers and Laptops.

It was through repairing peoples Desktops and Laptops that I had quite a few old Desktop PC Towers and eventually Laptops given me from the customers. Back in 2004 I managed to put together a much better desktop tower for myself out the parts of the towers I had given me and I only spent around £40 of my own money building it. Though it was still pretty mediocre but at least it had a Pentium 3Ghz CPU. 2 GB’s of Ram and a much better Graphics card and a 500 GB Hard Drive.

By 2010 I had accumulated an array of old desktop towers I had given me and stored them in the spare bedroom. I decided to build myself a better Desktop PC but there was no way I could build it out the parts of the old towers like I did with my last build. So for the new build I was going to need a bit of CASH!. So I decided to strip down all the old parts out of the towers and sell them individually on ebay. Surprisingly it did not take that long to sell them either and I had accumulated £730 from all the sales.

As much as I like to keep up with technology I have to confess that I myself am not bothered about having the latest stuff that comes out every year, and you will certainly pay a hell of a lot more for it too. So I like to hang on a year or two and buy it when  the prices have dropped down to a much more reasonable price. I am also not a Gamer so having a top spec PC does not really interest me and the only thing I am really looking for is what I know will do for my requirements and I can get by with. Basically I want something that is going to last me a good few years, or as long as it can still function well enough further on down the line, and for it to cope with what I throw at it in the way of music and video editing which is my hobby.

Back in 2010 the £730 I had accumulated from the sales of old PC parts and components was certainly enough to build a new PC Desktop Tower. But there was a couple of elaborate things I wanted for it such as spending £200 on a Soundcard and an £100 on a Graphics Card. So that took a good chunk from the money. The CPU was the most expensive part of the build and I did end up buying that second hand on ebay. Back then the latest 1st generation 2 Core Intel iCore CPU’s had not long hit the market and even though it had not long came out, the previous generation Intel 2 Core Quad Q9550 2.83Ghz CPU I had in mind for my build, had not really dropped down in price and were still selling for £285 new. I managed to get a good second hand one off ebay for £130 and that was the only second hand component I used in the whole build.

Lee's PC Tower_Fotor

The ASUS Motherboard I brought new came out in 2008 and I saved a good £89 by buying it in 2010 and got it for £100. It’s very rare I will buy anything in the same year it came out, and you can save literally a lot of dosh by hanging on a year or two. For example the Samsung 4K UHD TV I have recently brought brand new came out last year and cost £799 back then. The very latest 2019 model that has just recently came out to replace it cost £799. I got last years model for only £450 and that’s a massive saving. Some people may think or call me a cheap skate, but that is far from the case. I am just a bit more wiser where money is concerned, and I certainly do not have money to throw away.  So that is the world I am coming from, and that’s how I get along with it.

Part 2. Eye Catching Pretty Things.

There is no doubt that when it comes to design there are a lot of things in the world of materialistic tech that is built to attract the customer. Over the years in the computer world I have seen some really pretty eye catching PRETTY! things that have caught my eye that’s for sure. But even going back to the 70’s in the world of HiFi I learned an awful lot about pretty things and certain HiFi’s were built more like Christmas Trees with flashing lights on to attract the attention of most consumers who thought they was buying something of genuine quality. Only when you look at what was inside it, it turned  out that you got bugger all for your money in reality other than it looked good or PRETTY! on the outside.

In the world of computers I got to see the rise of the Sony Vaio and Apple’s IMac Desktop computers that are certainly eye catching PRETTY! things, and similar in design in that they are a monitor and computer all built in one. The all in one thing I have to confess never really took on with myself and I suppose it’s a bit like looking at an all in one HiFi or Music Center, or even a TV & Video Combo or a Washer Dryer for example. There is a certain risk that comes with these things and when one component breaks down the whole thing is knackered basically, and it’s gonna cost you a lot more money to repair, if it can be repaired. With separates they can easily be replaced or repaired if they can be.

Everything about the way a Desktop PC is built and designed is all separates and every component inside it can easily be replaced. There is no such thing has a PC that cannot be repaired and it’s easy to do and will cost you peanuts in relation to those PRETTY! things I have just mentioned. It’s that simple a child could do it and it can be like working with Leggo where everything simply slots and plugs into place and no soldering is required.

But a company such as APPLE in all honesty are against giving you something that simple you can get a screwdriver and fix it yourself. They go out of their way to design their computers so that it’s a lot harder to replace things, they even make them with special screws so you need special tools and not just a screwdriver to get into them. They do not like other people but themselves repairing them either. They want you to take it back to them so they can charge you an extortionate price to repair it. Everything about APPLE is GREED! and they can be ROTTEN to the CORE! in that respect.

Part 3. DESKTOPS & LAPTOPS.

I have to confess I have never liked Laptops and have repaired enough of them over the years and have always been a Desktop man myself. I just find them fiddly little things and they just have never really attracted me at all. These days you can get some really good ones and for portability they have always been really good. They have their uses no doubt, certainly for the business man and those on the GO! and even for musicians to use on stage for midi. But for myself who only really uses a computer at home, I have no real use for one at all and prefer the Desktop every time.

I would have to be really desperate to use one to be honest and it was only out of desperation of my PC Desktop breaking down that I did actually get to use one more recently to which I called a CRAPTOP. To be honest I very much give that name to every Laptop even the ones that are not like the Snail of a one I had given me some 5 or 6 years ago and recently only just got around to repairing.

Craptop_Fotor

Over the years APPLE have made a few Desktop computers, one of them even looks like a Trash Can :))))) . They are also not that far off launching their latest MAC Pro and they have gone back to the Cheese grater design by the looks of things.

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The giant Cheese Grater design I have to admit does look rather stylish, but how on earth have they got the gumption to only give you a 256 GB SSD Hard Drive with something that costs 6 Grand and that’s only for the Base Model. Regarding anything APPLE make the only thing you are paying for is the design, because I can assure there is nothing special about the components inside this base model and you can get all the components inside it for less than half the price.

For 6 Grand I am afraid I would want something more like this below, and this is LITERALLY! a Desktop Computer and cost less than that Cheese Grater that APPLE are trying to sell you. It’s damn site more stylish than that thing in my opinion as well and quite frankly it would mop the floor with APPLES Base version of the Mac Pro.

Real Desktop PC

It just goes to show how creative one can be when they put their mind to it in building their own computer, and the chap who built this is more worthy of an AWARD than guy who designed the Cheese Grater in my personal opinion. As I already mentioned there is nothing special about the components that are used to build APPLES computers. All the main components inside it can be brought from any computer store or even from places like Amazon. The only real hard thing you may find hard to get is the Logic Board.

So what’s with all the extra added cost that APPLE charge you for their products. What gives them the right to charge you 3 Grand for a case to put the components in, or even a Grand for a Monitor Stand. The only logical explanation I can think of is that some people are extremely stupid to pay that sort of money and know no better.

But then again APPLE do have a lot of loyal customers who support their products, and it’s perhaps not about how they go about building their computers (which is very good by the way) but they prefer MACS OS over Miscrosoft’s Windows. It’s perhaps understandable with some of the things Microsoft have done in the past and present and I cannot blame people from switching from a PC to a MAC or visa versa in some respects, because in reality both systems have had their problems and none of them are free of bugs either.

Part 4. Windows OS Versus MACS OS.

To be honest when it comes to operating systems I honestly do not have a problem with either of them and quite like them both. Over the years both Microsoft and APPLE have introduced newer things and changes into their systems, and they have both took things away from them as well. Not everything new both have implemented into them necessarily is a good thing either, and with what both have taken out and put into their systems has caused complaints from both sides of the camp.

Over the years Microsoft have always dominated the market share of Desktops and Laptops and that is mainly down to the gamer and the more wider variety of software that is made available for it. It’s also down to cost too of coarse. Though APPLE did see a rise with more people switching over to MAC OS a few years back but these days even more are jumping over to Windows especially those who do some seriously heavy powerful video editing with 4K and 8K resolutions.

The reason for this dramatic switch over to the Windows PC is down to cost and the fact that most of APPLES computers do not really have the power to cope with the rendering of 4K and 8K video footage, even the latest IMac Pro that costs a ridiculous 5 GRAND! is not good enough to cope with it either. MAC’s iOS does fair better than OS in the market with the sales of their iPhones and iPads, but even that has took a nose dive lately and Android have very much always been the leader in that market. when it comes to sales.

Regarding the stability of the both operating systems I personally think they both have had some serous issues over the years. No doubt the loyal MAC users will always try and make out that MAC’s OS does not crash like Windows does, and because it does not use drivers for it’s software it’s less buggy and prone to crash and more stable. But I can assure you this is far from the case.

No doubt most of MAC’s supporters are also going to tell you that if you pay a visit to the Tip you will see thousands of broken down PC’s. But when you way up just how many MAC users there are in comparison to Windows that is really to be expected. Most MAC users like to try and sell their broken down computers on places like ebay, and trust me there is also thousands of them about on there too. The same applies as to why MACS are not prone to viruses like Windows is as well.

I have come across complaints from it’s users over the years and it’s not all a bed of roses like many of it’s loyal long term users will try and make it out to be. It’s perhaps less prone to crash in relation to Windows but even MAC’s can have their own issues with Black Screen and basically Windows does have better hardware and graphics acceleration support and has to cope with a lot more being thrown at it. So to some degree it’s no wonder it can crash more often. In many ways MACS’s OS can be like an empty shell at times in comparison to how much more is put into the Windows OS. They both have different architectures to how they are built.

When it comes to presentation regarding the Desktop layout and interface of both operating systems they are completely different. Some may prefer MAC’s layout that is built on an APP based system making it more easier to get around, but for me personally I could not stand it when Microsoft introduced and implemented APPS into it’s Desktop when they launched Windows 8. Both operating systems have stolen ideas from each other over the years without a doubt regarding how files are organized and with things like Snipping Tools and so on.

MAC 1_Fotor

As you can see from the screen above of the way main Desktop screen is laid out on a Mac is that they do things a bit differently. For example the Tool Bar is placed right at the top of the screen instead of on the bottom like Windows Task Bar. Basically you still have the same options in the Tool Bar to restart, shut down or put to sleep the system and you can get into all your files via it. Though at first you do have to get used to it, and MACS “Finder” is certainly not gonna get you to where you want to go in comparison to how you can get there more quickly with Windows.

To be honest the first thing I noticed about having the Tool Bar at the top of the screen especially on a 24 inch IMac. Is that it seemed like an eternity trying to get to the top of the screen with the mouse pointer :))))). It’s not the best location to put it, but you soon get used to it and get more to grips with things as you go along. So I am not really complaining and quite enjoyed the experience to be honest.

I would also say that there seems to be a lot more in the Tool Bar but in reality there is less and much of the things along the top are only really shortcuts to get to other parts of your computer, many of which you could do on Windows by simply clicking the right mouse button. It is a useful Tool bar though and I quite like how you can click on the APPLE Logo and click on “About This Mac” and it displays everything about it, including your hardware, and even a link to show you the specifications of you computer.

Mac 3_Fotor

I do think that is a nice touch and it saves you from locating the website and downloading a PDF file to your computer for future reference. The bottom of the Desktop screen presents you with the APP Bar or Dock as it’s better known. Here you can simply click on an App and launch it. You will also find your trash can and download folder and the icon with a Rocket on it is the Launcher which opens up the screen where all your APPS are stored as shown in the picture below.

Mac 2_Fotor

It’s quite a neat and simple enough system and you can pick what APPS you want displayed in the Dock just like you can with the Windows Task Bar. But having the Launcher is handy and saves you from cluttering up the Desktop like many would on Windows with Desktop shortcuts for their programs. I dare say you could even place the APPS on the Desktop if you wanted to, but this system I feel is well adequate enough.

I have to admit that the MAC Desktop does not really present itself like a Desktop in relation to the Windows Desktop, and it gives you more of a feeling of being a kiddie in a sweet shop with a bag of Pick n’ Mix. It’s not that much different to their iPhone. Like I mentioned earlier I did hate it when Windows implemented APPS into it’s Desktop when they launched Windows 8. Being very much a Desktop Man myself I see things a lot more differently, and APPS to me belong on Smartphones and those things to me are not computers.

Win 7

The Windows Desktop as pictured above is more like an office Desktop, a place that has filing cabinets that are not open in full view with the files locked away inside. A Desktop for you to work on and a trash can to throw away the rubbish. It’s easy to see how this Desktop would appeal more to the office worker and why it’s more widely used.

To be perfectly honest I quite like the both Desktops and I am not suggesting that just because I pointed out that the MAC Desktop presents itself more like a Smartphone that it’s not a computer like those things are. I can be quite happy enough to work on both operating systems.

Part 5. Is APPLE’s IMac A Desktop Computer?

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Well so far I have discussed where I am coming from regarding computer builds. PRETTY! things like the IMac in the picture above (that I was very fortunate to have GIFTED! to me from my good friend in Germany Dirk Radloff, to which I simply cannot thank enough for his kind generosity). Desktops & Laptops and Operating Systems.

In this section I shall be going through a few of those things I have already touched upon, and will be pointing out where I am coming from with my own experience of building computers, and looking at APPLES IMac in the way how I see it. But first let me clarify a few things up here before I move ahead. First of all I am not claiming to be any computer wizard or expert regarding anything about computers, including building them and repairing them. It’s not my daily job and has only ever been an hobby.

Secondly there is no doubt in my mind that APPLE do make GREAT! computers. The one pictured above I had GIFTED! me is a testament to that they do, and was built in 2008. It maybe old hat in comparison to how technology has moved on today. But I can assure it still works well enough and functions very well for a lot of things to get by with even today. Though it does have a few issues, but it is without doubt a PRETTY! thing and it just goes to show that not all PRETTY! things that have an all in one build do break down. But that is down to the fact that it has also been well cared for over all those years.

To be honest the 24 inch display monitor on this old IMac is more more impressive than my 50 inch Samsung 4K UHD TV. It even puts my Samsung 22 inch Monitor to shame. It’s even as good if not better than the OLED AMOLED display on my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge Smartphone. To be perfectly honest it’s by far the best monitor I have ever had and because it has a GLASS front it can give the same presentation that today’s top LG OLED 4K UHD TV’s. will give you with it’s Glossy Polished finish. The only thing it cannot handle in relation to today’s TV’s is the bright WHITES. Apart from that if defies all belief and begs the question, has technology really evolved that much over the past 12 years regarding TV’s and Monitors.

But getting back to the original question of is the IMac being a Desktop computer?. Well many would say it is and it certainly looks very sexy sitting on a Desk. Though through my own experience of building and repairing Desktop & Laptops I would say that the biggest majority of it is built around the Laptop, and back in those days when it was built you could not really put a lot of processing power inside a Laptop simply because the case was to thin to fit in decent fans to cool it down.

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Though some had a go and done well including some Toshiba Satellites, but not all of them were that successful and you had to buy a cooling tray like the one pictured above to put them on. A few of Toshiba  Satellites ended up at my door for repair back then as well, and the only work around was to modify the fans inside them. The Toshiba Satellite received some very good reviews when they came out. But the company itself also received way more in complaints if the truth be known. Over the years since 2008 cooling technology has vastly improved which is why you can fit a lot faster processing power inside Laptops and things such as APPLES IMac today. Though even today they can still have heating and power issues causing Black Screen and other problems.

There are many aspects that relate to the Laptop with how the IMac was built. It’s thin case, the lack of USB & Peripheral Ports in relation to the many you get on a Desktop. The Optical Drive on the side of the case. A soldered Graphics Card and it’s also fitted with Laptop Memory. It’s most likely down to the thinness of the case and how much harder it was to keep things cooler inside it back then, that they decided to go with an Intel 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo rather than a Quad Core. But if they could of fitted a Quad Core there is no doubt that APPLE would of charged twice the price for this IMac even back in 2008.

Part 6. My Real Gripe With APPLE.

My BIGGEST GRIPE! with APPLE really boils down to 3 things. The first being the price point. The second is how little you get in the way of components for your money put into their Base Models. And thirdly the way they build most of their products around the same principles of a Laptop making it hard for you to upgrade, and use a special Logic Board so that you cannot really fit in any conventional Motherboard to upgrade it with a much better CPU, and better Graphics.

To put it in a nutshell the IMac may very well look more futuristic and a PRETTY! thing. But  they are not futuristic in the way that they were built years ago, and have been built that way so that they can get more money out of you in the near future. Even today they continue to give you nothing for your money with what little they put into the BASE Models. They still continue to even put Fusion Drives in the damn things as if they could not put an SDD for the ridiculous price they charge for the things. And if you want something with more BALLS! in it than the BASE Model, your going to have to remortgage part of your house with what APPLE will charge for it.

The major thing that put me off Macs is really how little they do actually put inside them for the money. For example this 2008 IMac when it came out cost £1,200 for the basic model. For that you got an Intel Core 2 DUO 2.6Ghz CPU. 4 GB’s of Ram an ATI Radeon Graphics Card and a 320 GB Hard Drive. The model I have came with a the same stuff only they gave you a 2.8Ghz CPU instead and charged you another £200 for it. Then the top model came with a 3.06 Ghz CPU and they charged £1,700 for that.

For that money it’s absolutely ridiculous especially when you could buy or build a PC with way better processing, graphics, more memory and a lot bigger hard drive for less than half the price. Don’t get me wrong I think MACS are built very well and the Monitors, well that is perhaps were the biggest majority of the money has gone into the build of this IMac to be honest. Because the monitor without a doubt is certainly way more impressive than the rest of the components they put inside that’s for sure, and the monitor is perhaps where the most money has been spent.

Every IMac on this planet is built the same way and when you look at what you get inside for your money, in all honesty it’s nothing and I would feel completely ripped off if I was to buy a new one. APPLE have never changed and they will charge you the earth for everything. If they owned the chocolate company Mars they would charge you £100 for a Mars Bar  and I am not kidding. That is really my BIGGEST GRIPE! with APPLE.

Conclusion.

There is no doubt that all those loyal MAC customers who have been with APPLE from the beginning or for a good while, will disagree with almost, if not everything I have said in this Blog. There are even those who are stupid enough to go out and spend 5 GRAND on the latest top of the range 2019 IMac Pro. But heed my warning, because there is nothing Pro about it, especially when the top of the range 2019 IMac that does not claim to be a Pro and cost half the price, is just as good, if not better.

Want a memory upgrade or any other upgrade? Get it from APPLE and pay a ridiculous extortionate price for it. This is how APPLE treat their customers and quite frankly they do not give a Toss about them, and will not change as long as they can still get their hands on your money. APPLE like to think they are Number One and because they do they are nothing more than SNOBS who look down on many customers like dirt unless they happen to be filthy rich. That is precisely how APPLE operates and if you cannot see that then you are either blind or one of the filthy rich.

Lee Speaks About Music… #117

Waterfront Station – Dave Friend/Shael Wrinch/Paul Harder

cover

Introduction…

Well if you’re into some soul, jazzy. bluesy and rocked up funk this is an album that certainly ticks all the right boxes for your particular taste and delivers it in style. It also comes right out of the heart of Vancouver in Canada where waterfront station is located. Although the music we have here does not quite date back to the 1920’s when that smashing picture was taken that graces the albums front cover, and is perhaps more along the lines of bands such as Chicago, The Average White Band and Steely Dan who’s music was gracing our ears back in the 70’s.

The album Waterfront Station was released at the end of last year and is an album that cumulates some of the hard work that Dave Friend has put into writing the material over the past 3 years or more. I first stumbled across Dave Friend back in 2012 on Soundcloud and I can tell you that both the music he plays and his production work is amongst the finest on the cloud, and no doubt this album does come with a solid production, and sounds really GREAT!.

Dave Friend is no stranger to working with many GREAT! musicians and doing collaborations with them and working on other projects. Sun Tower was perhaps his main project to which was very much a 3 piece outfit that wrote some pretty darn fine songs together to which they all took part in the production side of things. They was a very fine soft rock band that I have been a fan of since I heard them and are well worth checking out. Both Shael Wrinch and Bruce Warren were very much part of that line up and about 5 years ago it was unfortunate that Bruce Warren moved to America to take up an executive position with Microsoft, which put a damper on things.

Since those days Dave has very much worked with many other musicians on Soundcloud and as been involved in many collaborations and other projects such as another fine project he did with Kevin Sumner. Between the two of them they wrote some well good rocked up blues songs under the name of Hog Iron. He has also done a lot of impressive collaborations with Greg Hurley too, and pretty much everything Dave Friend has been involved in is very impressive I will say.

Waterfront Station is something a bit different and all the material on the album was written by Dave himself. He roped in his old friend Shael Wrinch from Sun Tower and another guy who showed a lot of interest in his music namely a saxophonist who goes by the name of Paul Harder, and here we have another fine 3 piece outfit strutting their stuff in GREAT! style. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the artwork and packaging.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The CD comes in a very well made and nicely presented DigiSleeve that houses both the CD and booklet in side slip pockets. The Booklet itself is only a gatefold, but nevertheless does contain all the lyrics and linear production notes, plus some very useful background information. Although 300 copies of the CD have been pressed, they have not been made widely available and some have been placed in local stores around Dave’s home town.

Being busy with his own full time job and his family he has had very little time to really promote the album. Though the album has been made more internationally available in the form of a digital download and can be obtained at many online stores such as iTunes and Amazon. I was very lucky and fortunate enough to receive my CD as a gift and feel very honoured and privileged to receive a copy.

The Artwork.

The album covers artwork is an old photograph that was taken in 1923 of Waterfront Station that was provided by the Vancouver Archives that are in public domain. It also contains quite a few more old snapshots from around the 20’s and 30’s around Vancouver. You will also notice that the name of the artists have been omitted from the album cover, though the album is credited to all 3 artists. I am pretty sure they was not mistakenly left off the cover, and my guess is that the album was originally intended to be credited to Dave himself has he wrote all the material.

Another indication as to why I feel that this is Dave’s solo album, is that on the back of the booklet it contains a bit of a biography about himself. Though knowing how thoughtful Dave is and aware of the GREAT! contributions that both Shael and Paul had contributed to the album. It would of been impossible to of left them out.

The Album In Review…

Waterfront Station by Dave Friend, Shael Wrinch, Paul Harder was released on the 17th December 2018. The album contains 14 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 56 minutes and 41 seconds and I can tell you that its Funky Delicious!. The album contains a mixture of vocal and instrumental tracks, judging by the titles of some of the tracks in particular you also get the feeling that there is a bit of a concept thing going on  based around Vancouver and its suburbs. Though the lyrics do also delve into political and other goings on around other countries as well.

No doubt most of the places would of inspired Dave to write about having lived and grew up around these parts and he’s seen a lot of good and bad things going on during his lifetime like most of us. But it was back in 2015 when Dave first collaborated with Paul Harder on the instrumental track “Waterfront Station” a piece that Dave himself was well happy with how it all came out that really ignited the spark enough for him to continue his work with Harder and make an album.

The style of funk music on the album is very much oldschool and sounds like it came out of the 70’s. Being born in the late 50’s myself, the 70’s is really the decade that appeals to my personal taste the most, and most of the time I still very much live in it :)))) especially regarding my own personal taste of music. But personally I would feel that the music we have here would certainly hit the spot with many more people with its funky jazzy and more popular style, and in particular how well it’s delivered which is really very close nit and tight.

Musicians & Credits…

Band Pic

Produced mixed and mastered by Dave Friend. All music & lyrics written by Dave Friend. Recorded sometime between 2015 – 2018. Photographs from the public domain in Vancouver’s archives circa 1920’s and 1930’s.

Dave Friend: Guitars – Bass – Electric Piano – Drum Programming.
Shael Wrinch: Vocals – Backing Vocals – Hammond B3 Organ – Percussion.
Paul Harder: Saxophones.

Bill Zickmantel: Bass Guitar (Track 7).

The Album Tracks In Review…

There is no doubt that the material written for Waterfront Station certainly has more funk to it than Dave Friend’s earlier project Sun Tower to which was more aimed at the softer side of rock with its more ballad ESC style. You still have Shael Wrinch’s fine voice here, but it’s perhaps the presence of Paul Harder’s sax that fits in more into this whole funky outfit to make it work so well to go down this road with this line up.

No doubt most bands would have perhaps more of a brass or horn section in their line up to achieve this amount funky goodness, and even bands like the Average White Band had quite a brass section of session musicians playing on their smash hit “Pick Up The Pieces” way back in 1974. But Harder’s work on this album really bridges that gap and makes it work superbly.

Funk music goes back to the 60’s and although I once read or seen a documentary stating that it was Joe Walsh who created it when he was with the James Gang and came out with “Funk 48” back in 1969, I rather think it goes back earlier than that, and perhaps to the Godfather of funk himself who was certainly James Brown. Although he also injected quite a bit of soul into it as well.

Over the years we have seen a few styles of funk music, and in the 90’s we got to see another really GREAT! band called the Spin Doctors give it a new twist and spin with their much fresher approach to it all. Although the style of funk we get here with the album Waterfront Station is definitely more of your oldschool that harks back to the 70’s I would say. So now let’s take a look a the individual tracks and see how it all takes shape and works out.

Track 1. Terminal City.

The album kicks off with the first of the 5 instrumental tracks that are placed throughout the album. It’s title can be seen as many things and even the city of Vancouver is also nicknamed after it. But it can also be a station such as Waterfront Station and most bus, train and even airport terminals can also be very busy and plenty of activity can be seen buzzing around such places. A terminal can also be seen as the end of the line where passengers have to get off and have reached their destination.

TCRG-RollerDerby

Interestingly enough Vancouver also has a women’s flat track roller derby league, and a team called the Terminal City Rollergirls. Musically the piece very much displays the busy activity of all these places the way it meanders and weaves itself along. The music is mainly structured around a guitar riff that has quite an hook which enables the other passengers or other elements of instrumentation to fit in very comfortably and smooth and iron things out a lot more.

For example you have this raunchy guitar riff with the lead and slide guitar lines playing more of a dynamic role making a statement every now and then, the sax also can play it’s role in places too adding to the dynamics. But both the sax and the rhythm guitar play more of a smoother role and irons out all the edges very well, whilst the bass and drums keep everything nice and tight and in place.

This particular track only features Friend and Harder and gets the album off to quite a flying and very promising start and engages the listeners attention very well with all the fine detail they have put into the piece.

Track 2. Virtual Battlefield.

A song that I suppose could pertain to gossip that so easily can be exaggerated that confronts us from day to day. Whether it be in a working environment or in a bar socialising there is no doubt political matters, the news and even fake news and conspiracies will at some point get on everyone’s tits so to speak, and that is what this virtual battle could be very much pertaining too.

Shael Wrinch provides us with the vocals and backing vocals and his voice instantly reminds me of the former band he was in with Friend namely Sun Tower. This particular song is perhaps also more suited to the style of that old band too.

Musically the bass guitar works wonders on this particular track and contributes a lot to its tightness and groove along with the drums. Harder’s sax plays more of a minimalistic role, but pops up in all the right places and contributes more of a dominant lead role in the little musical interlude breaks. I would also say that the guitar pretty much works its way into the song in the same manner too, and it’s a cracking little number and contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 3. Life Lives On.

The pace simmers down a notch but in fine style and this next track features some wonderful guitar work from Friend and Harder’s sax contributes not only some fine lead lines, but also punctuates and stabs its way along in parts to act like an horn section. Wrinch’s vocals do the business as ever and he also contributes a bit of percussion to the song too. The lyrical content we have here pertains to how the economic system no longer works between private parties, especially with how the government pokes its nose and interferes with economies and businesses these days. 

Track 4. Granville Street.

The second of the instrumental tracks on the album and once again the tempo is back up and this one swings into action in very fine funky style indeed. Just like the opening track on the album “Terminal City” we have another quite busy place here, and “Granville Street” is very much a major street in Vancouver and part of Highway 99 which is also known as the Fraser Delta Thruway south of Vancouver, and the Sea to Sky Highway, the Squamish Highway, or Whistler Highway north of Vancouver. No doubt that highway is on more than the road to hell by the sounds of things there :)))))))).

Granville Street 1959

Though as you can see by the photo above Granville Street is most often associated with the Granville Entertainment District and the Granville Mall. It’s filled with nightclubs and bars and it looks like you could have a GREAT! night out on the town here, it would also be GREAT! if you could swing into one of its clubs and catch these three guys knocking out this GREAT! tune live on stage. It really is a fabulous track that captures the swings and moods of it’s bustling nightlife and is very much another one of my contenders for the top spot on the album.

Track 5. Flip Side.

Speaking of contenders for the top spot on the album, the “Flip Side” is very much my personal favourite track on the album and merits the top spot award. The funky goodness is in full swing and flow here and it’s quite a catchy little number that instantly grabs hold of you with its funky hook and its rhythmic riff. Paul Harder’s sax is working as hard as the whole horn section did on The Average White Band’s smash hit “Pick Up The Pieces“. In some ways it reminds me of that smash hit with how it grooves along, and no doubt this could easily be the track on the album to put out as a single. I dare say back in the 70’s this could of also have been a smash hit. Check it out for yourself here on Youtube.

The song itself does have a bit more going on in comparison to “Pick Up The Pieces” particularly with its changes. It’s also got a very tasty guitar and sax solo too. I love the energy you get in a song like this and it very much drives along in a way that its always on the GO! sort of thing. You could dance yourself away merrily and happily whilst working to this song and it would very much cheer you up and make your day. It’s a GREAT! song for the car too, and I could quite easily put this on repeat for a couple of hours and not get fed up of it, and simply run along with its hook and groove.

Track 6. Routine Conflict.

Cpn

Once again Friend, Wrinch and Harder turn up the heat in fine style and this is a song that’s words are based around the type of conflicts that can cause violence and riots, not just in the way the picture I chose above either, which happens to be from the Stanley Cup. But conflicts can arise from all sorts of avenues including political and even religious disagreements, and those are really what this song is perhaps more directed at and pertaining too. Like most of the lyrics on this album they are quite minimalistic but very well thought out and well written.

Routine Conflict” has to be another one of the many GREAT! tracks on this album and is very much another contender for the top spot on the album. It features some really GREAT! guitar and bass work from Friend, and Harder’s sax playing is immaculate as ever, whilst Wrinch does the Bizzo! delivering the vocals and harmonies with his GREAT! voice. These guys really are cooking on gas and they sound as tight as Steely Dan. I suppose being as they are from Canada I could say they are as tight as a bears arse and play as sweet as maple syrup, and these guys certainly have got the FUNK OUT!.

Track 7. Don’t Say Nothin’.

The album continues to flow along in fine style and “Don’t Say Nothin’” runs at a steady smooth pace and has quite a funky hook, swing and groove to it. It also features Bill Zickmantel on bass guitar who makes his only contribution to the album on this track, and along the other 3 guys he slots into place very well indeed. There is some more gorgeous sax work from Harder on this one, and these guys really do things in GREAT! style and it’s another GREAT! and worthy contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 8. Here For Now.

Well if the last song was about being stuck in an hard place and was best to do or say nothin’. This one is perhaps about accepting the situation of where we are for now and getting on with it. I suppose in some way’s both songs could relate to certain things that go on in the world that are not acceptable and putting up with them till it’s time to move on. Once again the guys swing into the action with the groove from the bass line, and we get some more great solos from the guitars and sax.

Track 9. Metrotown.

Next up we have another one of the instrumental tracks, and this one happens to be the longest track on the album clocking in at 5 minutes and 1 second. Metrotown is a major connection point for the TransLink bus routes in southern Vancouver and Burnaby.

Sky Train

It has an elevated train known as Sky Train (pictured above) which is perhaps a bit like the one that opened in my own town of Birmingham back in 1984 to which was the first of its kind in the world. Back then it was called Maglev and the one over here connects Birmingham International Railway Station to the Birmingham’s International Airport. These days its known as Sky Rail and I am pretty sure that it’s original name of Maglev was used because the train is powered by magnets.

Metrotown is also one of the city’s four officially designated town centres, as well as one of Metro Vancouver’s regional town centres so it’s very much another very busy bustling place. There is no doubt that pretty much all the instrumental pieces on this album very much stand out and work very well aptly to the places they are portraying. It’s like making a bold statement without needing any words to do so, or even Wrinch’s GREAT! voice for that matter. Though his contribution to the many songs on the album are also a very important ingredient of what makes an album like this work so well too.

Metrotown” has to be another contender for the album’s top spot and both Friend and Harder are very much laying on the funk in superb style. It’s very well worthy of giving it a blast here on this video to hear for yourself.

Track 10. How Many Times.

The band rock it up a bit more with “How Many Times” and the lyrics we have here are pertaining to how life can be taken away from us especially through the lack of negligence that goes on in this world, which could pertain to many things such as the gun laws in America for example amongst many other things. Sometimes even I get the feeling that the world is being run by machines rather than intelligent human beings. How many times does it take for anything to sink into their tiny puny brains. I am pretty sure that is the message that’s being driven along here and once again they are doing it in GREAT! style.

Track 11. Gassy Jack.

All 3 of the guys contribute to this next instrumental piece and Wrinch plays Hammond on this one and they are all cooking on GAS very much so with the Funky Goodness. Though the gas in this piece does have a bit of history behind it, and his in fact about a person whose name was John Deighton who was originally from Hull here in England and was given the nickname John “Gassy Jack” Deighton back in the 19th century. Here is the very chap pictured below.

Gassy

Deighton was known as Gassy Jack because of his talkative nature and his penchant for storytelling rather than somebody who ate baked beans and spilled them out of his backside :)))))). He spent the last few years of his life running a bar in Gastown in Vancouver and the name stuck with him around that particular area. That much that they even built a statue of him and he’s popular with many tourists.

Gassy jack Statue

Musically the piece is structured around the swinging guitar rhythm and everything else punctuates and evolves its way magically around it all, and the guys really swing their away around the barrel on this one.

Track 12. Nasty Biz.

The nasty biz behind the subject here started in North Korea with Kim Il-sung back in the mid 50’s but can even been seen going back further to Marxism–Leninism and is a portal of communism and socialism and over the years can even be seen more as a religious cult. However you look at it, it’s all very much nasty biz and the guys weave, groove and meander their way along superbly on this one. The song has a great change in the middle section to allow for Friend’s guitar solo and Harder ends it off in style with his sax solo at the end too. It’s very much another cracking song that is another fine contender for the top spot.

Tracks 13. Promises.

The guys rock it out in a very smooth flowing way here with “Promises” and I have to say all the songs on this album have been very skilfully arranged for 3 members to play their part in it all, and this is another quality well written song that displays all the fine attributes that all  3 of the musicians contribute to making it work so well. I would not put my faith in any of the promises a politician would deliver, but what I will say what these guys deliver is certainly more promising and this is another GORGEOUS! track that cooks on the right GAS! and not the shit Vladimir Putin was playing with.

Track 14. Waterfront Station.

The final track on the album is the albums self titled track and is another Funky Delicious instrumental track. Waterfront Station was opened August 1, 1914. The station was designed by Toronto-­based architects Barott, Blackader and Webster, with building costs reaching $1 million. The building was refurbished from 1976 to 1978, transforming Waterfront Station into the transportation hub it is today.

Waterfront Colour

There are many shops and services that support the station and in 1987 the very first Starbucks outside the USA found its way here. It’s also said that Ghosts even reside at the station according the security guards on the late shift, and it’s also known as one of the most haunted places in Vancouver. Though I doubt that they came for the Coffee :))))). It could be that they were hoping to catch the Sky Train to heaven :)))).

The piece kicks off on the guitar in a very Plucky style with it’s opening riff, and it picks up the other pieces of instrumentation very well with how they all wrap their way around it all. It starts to open up and develop its way along superbly with its funky style, the combination of the guitars and sax from Friend and Harder do the BIZ! as usual and even Wrinch adds a nice touch of flavour to it on the Hammond.

It’s another contender for the top spot on the album and well worthy of giving it a spin here on the Tube to put yourself in the GROOVE! and puts an end to what can only be a superb album.

Summary…

To sum up Waterfront Station by David Friend, Shael Wrinch, Paul Harder. I would say that if you are looking for something that feels and sounds like something new and fresh, this album is not going to give you that by any means. However even though the music we have here is very much oldschool and sounds like it came out of the 70’s. It can very much revive and revitalise a lot of the really GREAT! Funky Goodness that came out of that decade and bring it back to life with how well the material has been written and played precisely. The material is highly original, and they have very much put their own stamp and edge with how its been so precisely delivered.

To put it in a nutshell, this sounds like an album and a band that came from the 70’s, and it is like stumbling across a lost GEM from that decade. The production values alone speaks highly for itself, and it sounds very much like the album was produced by a top professional producer and engineer who knew precisely what he wanted it to sound like. Regardless of if you have this album on CD or as digital download, the sound quality is to die for, and you will hear all the dynamics from the instruments with how well its been recorded. You are getting 100% quality bang on for your buck here without a doubt.

My personal highlights of the best tracks from the album are as follows: “Flip Side“. “Metrotown“. “Routine Conflict“. “Granville Street“. “Virtual Battlefield“. “Don’t Say Nothin’“. “Nasty Biz” and “Waterfront Station“. Although this is an album I could of easily have chosen all 14 tracks, simply because there is not a bad track on the album and its pretty much a solid one at that.

Conclusion…

In conclusion of my review of the album Waterfront Station. I personally think that if bands like Chicago, The Average White Band and Steely Dan rock your boat, you cannot go wrong here. The music you get here does very much have a funky, jazzy and even soft rock ballad ESC! feel to it in parts, which very much gives it their own distinctive approach and style to it all. I have nothing but praise for the production and these are pretty much excellent musicians who have a very good head on their shoulders and this album is nothing short of CLASS!.

The album is on many streaming services such as Spotify, Deezer and other places so that you can listen to it for free. It’s also available to purchase in the form of a digital download on many world wide Amazon stores and other places such as Google Play and iTunes and here on Amazon UK its currently priced up at £7.99. You might also find it slightly cheaper on other stores as well. But the album is well worthy of its price point and I think is well worthy of buying to support the artist as well, especially for something of this quality.

Waterfront Station is very much an album that contains everything I have said about it, and is simply Funky Delicious!. It Grooves! and ROCKS! in all the right places and its as tight as BEARS ARSE! and as SWEET AS MAPLE SYRUP!. It’s well worthy of adding to your collection and is worthy and deservedly of a lot more attention.

You can listen to all the tracks for free on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I75sS6xdmDk&list=OLAK5uy_m8VBLQkkzRyj6gpn9ng7PVSrJ0QmTmLpc

You can also purchase the album from here: https://www.amazon.com/Waterfront-Station-Friend-Wrinch-Harder/dp/B07LFMCQY3

Stuck In An Hard Place Between A Criminal And A Man From Outer Space…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Terminal City. 3:47.
02. Virtual Battlefield. 3:14.
03. Life Lives On. 3:49.
04. Granville Street. 3:53.
05. Flip Side. 3:23.
06. Routine Conflict. 4:18.
07. Don’t Say Nothin’. 4:31.
08. Here For Now. 4:21.
09. Metrotown. 5:01.
10. How Many Times. 3:43.
11. Gassy Jack. 4:35.
12. Nasty Biz. 4:00.
13. Promises. 4:07.
14. Waterfront Station. 3:59.

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

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #116

The Best Of Lee Speaks About Music 2018

LSAMA

2018 Awards

Introduction…

It’s been quite a busy year for buying both new and old music and I have amassed many more CD’s, DVD’s, Blu Rays, Box Sets and Digital Downloads to add to my music collection this year, and have had an exciting year listening and writing about them all. 2018 as certainly been more of a year for mainstream artists rather than unknown artists and I have purchased very little in the form of a Digital Download. In total I have added another 70 bits of music media that have come in the shape of all those formats I mentioned above.

As usual most of the music I have purchased this year comes from the past, and a lot of it would of been the case of me updating music I already had many moons ago with new reissued box sets and remastered albums. For example in total I purchased 27 new bits of music media that was actually released in 2018 and out of that lot only 14 of them were new albums. The other 13 of them were live releases on CD, DVD and Blu Ray and older studio albums that has been reissued in box sets.

Speaking of box sets I am going to kick off this year’s awards as I did last year by starting with them first. In total I did buy 8 of them this year, two of which were by last year’s winner of the award Jethro Tull to which seen the release of the 40th Anniversary of their 1978 album Heavy Horses, and the 50th Anniversary of their 1968 album This Was. Both are really splendid packages and come in the form of an hardback book just like the Deluxe Edition box set I brought of Clutching At Straws by Marillion who seem to have followed the same suit with how they are reissuing their back catalogue.

We also got to see the release of the 2nd and follow up box set from The Flower Kings with A Kingdom Of Colours II. Another excellent purchase and I also picked up some of the cheaper Clamshell box sets such as The Studio Albums (1979 – 1987) by Sky and even I Lost My Head (The Chrysalis Years 1975 – 1980) by Gentle Giant got reissued again. Another splendid package was Into The Electric Castle (20th Anniversary Earbook Edition) by Ayreon and the most expensive box set I purchased was Chris Squire’s Fish Out Of Water.

All 8 box sets were well worthy of buying and the biggest majority of them were focused on one particular album that comes with an array of bonus material, rather than just a collection of the bands discography or partial discography on CD sort of thing. But this award also takes into account of how well the package is made and presented, and not just the best artist sort of thing. So the biggest contenders up for this award will no doubt be out of Jethro Tull, Marillion, Ayreon, Chris Squire and The Flower Kings to which by far have the best presentations. And the winner is…

The Best Box Set Package Of The Year…

JT HH

Well as you can see Jethro Tull have done it again and to be honest both the DVD Book Edition Box Sets that were put out by the band this year were purely superb. Even though Marillion’s package is very much identical, it does not give you the vast amount of information you get inside the book that comes with the array of discs that you get in a package like this. I would also say that Ayreon’s package was also quite a very high contender because that also comes with a vast amount of information, especially on the production side of things and is another high quality package.

But it also comes down to practicality of how easy it is to store the package, especially for myself who no longer collects vinyl, and the size of the Ayreon package would be better suited for vinyl and not putting CD’s & DVD’s inside them. Whereas with the Jethro Tull packages they are the same size of a DVD and can simply be stored away on a DVD shelf along with all your other DVD’s. They are also easier to hold in your hand to sit down and read them, unlike the Ayreon package to which you would need to put on a table to able to read it more comfortably.

Heavy Horses is a terrific album and the second in the folk rock trilogy of albums that follows up from Songs From The Wood. Both are very much alike with the really GREAT! material that was written for them, and would of even made a perfect double album in reality. To be honest I never seen the 3 albums as a trilogy and I would  not say that the album Stormwatch was ever in the same league. You can read more about the album here: https://wordpress.com/post/leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/

BorderUp next we have the award for the best mainstream artist album that I brought in 2018. I know last year I only had about 3 new albums that were released in 2017 to choose from out of the mainstream albums I brought, which just goes to show you how much new music I buy ;)))))). This year looks slightly a bit better and I have 10 of them to choose from and they are as follows:

Neal MorseLife and Times. Robert Reed Sanctuary III. Fernando PerdomoOut To Sea. Arena Double Vision. Crack The SkyLiving In Reverse. The Sea WithinThe Sea Within. GryphonReInvention. Tiger Moth TalesStory Tellers Part Two. Jean Michel JarreEquinoxe Infinity and The TangentProxy.

All of them are pretty much decent enough albums and some are very strong contenders to win the award and there is a couple of really GREAT! surprises that got released this year, the first being Gryphon’s new album after some 41 years which was something I never thought I would get to see either after all this time. The other surprise was to see Jean Michel Jarre had returned to fine form after near enough 2 decades and he really done well with his latest sequel to Equinoxe.

There is also 3 newcomers to my collection from this lot too. Crack The Sky’s new album had quite a fresh approach and feel about its production which I thought was very good, and Fernando Perdomo also came out with quite an exciting prog rock album based around guitar styles from other prog rock bands from all those years back such as Peter Banks of Yes for example. Though both of these artists did not exactly float my boat enough for me to backtrack on their albums or follow them in particular. Unlike Peter Jones did who is the man behind Tiger Moth Tales. He was that good I snapped up his entire discography and the sequel he did to Story Tellers this year was a brilliant piece of work and album.

Both Arena and The Tangent produced very strong albums this year and Robert Reed once again came up with a masterpiece with his 3rd album in the Sanctuary series. Neal Morse produced a fine mediocre songwriter album and The Sea Within’s debut album featuring Roine Stolt & CO was perhaps a bit of a hit and miss album and perhaps my least favourite of this bunch. So there are at least 6 very strong contenders here. And the winner is…

The Best Mainstream Artist Album Of The Year…

RR- S

Before I even had this album and knew it was going to be released this year, I very much felt this could be the album of the year, and I was not wrong. All 3 albums Robert Reed has released in the Sanctuary series are all Masterpieces in my book. These musical masterpieces bring nothing short of joy to my ears as Reed emulates the music Mike Oldfield so skilfully crafted out back in the early 70’s, and even though he may use all the instrumentation and even rework and reshape some of Oldfield’s melody lines in parts, it’s still very much highly original material that produces the end result.

Effectively Reed brings back to life the sound of Oldfield in 70’s and early 80’s in his own way with these GEMS, and just like myself he has a genuine passion and love for Oldfield’s early music, some may call it plagiarism and style wise they may very well be right, but one thing you will not find in Reeds music is one single Oldfield melody line and to me he is another genius. He’s not only a very skilled multi talented musician, but he’s also a very good producer who not only brings you quality in stereo, but also in 5.1 and all his albums come with 5.1 mix as a bonus too with the cheaper price he charges for his music. Sanctuary III is just like Sanctuary 1 & II and give you 100% Satisfaction. You can find out more about the album in my review here: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2018/04/28/lee-speaks-about-music-75/

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Next up we have the award for the best Unsigned Artist album and whereas last year I had brought 19 albums done by 12 different bands and individual artists to choose from, this year I only have 4 albums to choose from and one of those is more or less the same artist. So there is not a lot of competition for one of the albums to win this year’s award. The 4 albums are Preliminaries by a new band from Poland I discovered who go by the name of Artyfiction. Monuments by Napiers Bones which is a project by Gordon Midgley and Nathan Tillett.

Another of Gordon Midgley’s projects which is a new one he done with Joan Silentio and Dirk Radloff’s 2 man project of HeartScore that sees him this year venture into Metal with his latest album Black Riders Part 1. All 4 albums are very good and very well produced though there can only be one winner and that is…

The Best Unsigned Artist Album Of The Year…

NB-M

Messrs Midgley & Tillett upped the game with this year’s new album Monuments and without doubt produced their best Napier’s Bones album to date. As a matter of fact this album is that good I would even put it in contention with many mainstream prog rock albums, simply because this is genuine quality writing and musicianship and is a very well produced album too. The albums material and concept is based around some very interesting historical people who not only made their way into history, but did enough to leave behind a monumental monument to make an impact and leave their mark on it.

If you are into prog rock I seriously suggest you check this album out, because it is without doubt up there with even the more wider known mainstream prog rock bands and it genuinely is an excellent album. You can read more about it in my review here: https://wordpress.com/post/leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/50127

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This year I got to discover a total of 7 new artists who I had never heard of before and all of them had been out for quite awhile too. One of those bands were England who released a one off album entitled Garden Shed way back in 1977 and was very much like finding a golden piece of prog rock treasure and no doubt is a truly GREAT! album. I also took a step back to the 90’s to what Andy Tillison was doing before The Tangent and purchased a double compilation by Parallel Or Ninety Degrees entitled A Can Of Worms to which I found interesting, but it was not enough to entice me to try and get any of their albums.

Fernando Perdomo’s album Out To Sea I felt was very good, but the fact that this artist tends to do too much all at once very much meant it would be far too costly to follow him. The unsigned Polish band Artyfiction I thought made a very good debut album, and I shall be keeping a look out to see what they come out with next. Another GREAT! band I got to discover was the Italian band Conqueror. Their 2005 album Storie Fuori Dal Tempo is a truly GREAT! prog album and I do still intend to complete my collection of this bands discography and shall do in the new year.

The two artists that impressed me the most I discovered this year are the one man project of Peter Jones who is Tiger Moth Tales and the Norwegian band Wobbler. Both of these artists impressed me more than enough for me to purchase their entire discography all at once more or less. Both of them I would also consider the most consistent artists to pick up this award too, but there can only be one real winner and that is…

The Best New Artist/Band Of The Year…

Wobbler

Wobbler are without doubt one of the finest prog rock bands there is in today’s world of prog rock. This is a band that crafts out music to make it sound as if it came out of that golden decade of the 70’s, and they have successfully achieved it by using very much the same instrumentation that those prog rock bands were using back in the 70’s. It all started for them back with the release of their debut album Hinterland back in 2005 and even though the band have made 2 line-up changes and produced a further 3 albums over the past 12 years, all 4 albums the band have released have been pretty much consistent and are excellent.

Wobbler Award

All 4 albums Hinterland, Afterglow, Rites At Dawn and From Silence To Somewhere could easily merit this award the band have never put a foot wrong, and all 4 albums contain individual influences from many bands that came out of that golden decade of the 70’s that the band have adapted and adopted to their own unique style. You can find out more about the bands 4 albums on the following links:

Hinterland. https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2018/06/08/lee-speaks-about-music-84/

Afterglow. https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2018/06/14/lee-speaks-about-music-85/

Rites At Dawn. https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2018/06/24/lee-speaks-about-music-87/

From Silence To Somewhere. https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2018/06/30/lee-speaks-about-music-88/

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Well next up we have the award for the best surround mix, and this year I certainly brought more CD’s and even some DVD’s and Blu Rays that do not even come with a surround mix at all. Being a surround freak it is surround mixes that entice me the most to buy an album all over again and in relation to any remaster and remix, this is where the real value and quality is by far, or should I say should be. Simply because not all surround mixes will blow your socks off, and it’s really down to the guy behind the mix in the first place to how they turn out. Some 5.1 mixing engineers are simply dreadful and do no real justice to surround sound and can be disappointing.

In total I purchased 15 items that come with surround mixes ranging from live concerts and studio albums that come on a DVD or Blu Ray and most were actually released this year even if most of the studio albums themselves were released many moons ago. Thankfully I have not had too many disappointments out of this lot and they range from good, very good, excellent and superb. Being as I always tend to score things from a scale of 1 to 10,  a score of 5/10 I would call “Fair” or “Mediocre” being as it was half way there sort of thing.

I suppose you could say if it scored 5 out of 10 it was half decent. But half decent would certainly not be something worth shouting about when scoring a 5.1 mix, and anything lower would certainly be “Poor” or even “Diabolical”. Both 6/10 and 7/10 scores I would call “Good” but in the world of a 5.1 mix I would also say that they could of been mixed better. So for any 5.1 mix to be really good they really need to score between 8 out of 10 to 10 out of 10. 8/10 being “Very Good”. 9/10 is “Excellent” and 10/10 is “Superb” and would be where you would have to be to win this award. So let’s first take a look at how all 15 surround mixes faired, starting from the lowest to the highest.

The Good Pile.

4 of the 15 surround mixes fall in the “Good” pile. Haken’s live concert entitled L – 1VE scored 6/10 and so too did Marillion’s studio album Clutching At Straws that came in the Deluxe Book Edition. Being a studio album Marillion should really be scoring a lot more points here especially as it is a lot harder to get a really GREAT! live mix in relation to recording in a studio. So even though it did score a 6/10 it was a bit on the disappointing side and I certainly would not be approving the both engineers who mixed it either, and they have a lot to learn when it comes to mixing 5.1.

To be honest both of these releases came with better stereo mixes, and the 5.1 mixes were not really an improvement at all. If there was any improvement it was on the odd track and certainly not by any large enough margin to be that significant. The other album we have in this pile was another studio album which was A Curious Feeling by Tony Banks. This I did give a 7/10 and it was mixed by the same engineer who did the 5.1 mixes for the Genesis albums Nick Davis.

This one does have a better 5.1 mix than the other 2 albums, but it’s not up to the par of the early Genesis albums he did the mix for, but I think this was perhaps a very difficult album to mix, and it’s perhaps not an album that is really suited for a 5.1 mix, and I certainly do not think even Steve Wilson could of give this one any better justice. Also scoring a 7/10 is Ayreon Universe by Ayreon and this is a live concert that comes on a Blu Ray though I will stress it does not come with the sound formats you will expect to find on a Blu Ray that’s for sure, and when it comes to doing 5.1 mixes Arjen Lucassen certainly has a lot more to learn.

However I give credit where it is due and I do think Arjen is improving and he did do not too bad here. But an exciting concert to which this certainly is, does need to have a more professional 5.1 mixing engineer to bring out the best here. He still has not discovered DTS yet, and the fact that his 5.1 mixes are in your box standard Dolby Digital do not really do them any real justice at all, especially as far a Blu Ray is concerned.

The Very Good Pile.

5 of the 15 releases made the “Very Good” pile and scored 8/10. 3 of this lot are live concerts and are all on Blu Ray and come with the lossless high end audio you would expect to find on a Blu Ray. I do not have any gripe with either of these concerts either and they all are very good 5.1 mixes. They are as follows: Steve Hackett – Wuthering Nights Live In Birmingham. Led ZeppelinHow The West Was Won (Blu Ray Audio) and YesLive At The Apollo. To be honest I even think the 5.1 mixes of these live concerts are slightly better than the both studio albums that are in this pile.

Speaking of the studio albums they are Chris Squire’s 1975 album Fish Out Of Water that came in the Deluxe Box Set to which I do feel the 5.1 mix could of been better. I would also say the same for Ayreon’s 1998 album Into The Electric Castle that came in the Earbook Box Set Edition but I so see another improvement from Arjen with this mix, but once again he uses the same box standard Dolby Digital surround sound instead of DTS decoding to which would bring out better quality.

The Excellent Pile.

2 of this lot made the “Excellent” pile and one is very much a concert film that’s been reissued on Blu Ray and although the picture quality is not a vast improvement over DVD Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains The Same certainly benefits in the sound department and this is quite an excellent 5.1 mix. But here we also have film footage which is perhaps more suited for 5.1 and most films in 5.1 in all honesty do fair better than music for 5.1 mixes, but even the live concert you get here sounds way better than the vinyl, the video and the DVD formats it was previously released on, and this is really an excellent purchase.

Jethro Tull’s 1978 album Heavy Horses that comes in the New Horseshoes Book Edition is certainly another excellent 5.1 mix that brings this album back to life. Though I must confess none of the Tull albums from 1968 – 1978 needed waking up for me, simply because this is a band who’s albums are never that far from my turntable and I have played consistently every year since I originally brought them back in those days. Having this album in 5.1 brings sheer joy to my ears.

The Superb Pile.

The final 4 of the purchases I brought this year fall into what I call “Superb” 5.1 mixes, in other words they are the superior 5.1 mixes out of them all, and it comes as no surprise to see that 3 of these albums were mixed by Steven Wilson. To be honest both the Gentle Giant albums Octopus and The Power And The Glory he did 5.1 mixes for are quite mind blowing and anyone of these two albums are well up to win this award. But even the 4.1 mix he did for Jethro Tull’s 1968 album This Was is very impressive as well. The other superb 5.1 mix is Robert Reed’s Sanctuary III album, and he is another truly GREAT! sound engineer who does a very impressive job of 5.1 mixes.

Like Steven Wilson it’s very hard to say who is better at doing 5.1 mixes, and they are both superb in this field. But if I had to choose between the both of them, it would have to be Steve Wilson. Simply because he works on other peoples albums that will present him with more of a difficult challenge. But both of these know the ins and outs of what it takes to do a superb 5.1 mix, and they have never let me down. No doubt all these 4 albums are worthy of picking up this award, but there can only be one winner and that is…

The Best Surround Mix Of The Year…

JT - TW Award

I would not say that the 4.1 mix of Jethro Tull’s 1968 album This Was is as mind blowingly staggering as both the Gentle Giant albums with their 5.1 mixes. But boy is this mix impressive and as brought out the sound of this album superbly and to be honest none of its previous recordings will even get near to how well this album sounds with its remarkable detail. This album literally breathes new life with how good the 4.1 mix is, and it’s by far the best 4.1 mix I have ever heard on this planet.

To be honest I am not into Quadrophonic and thankfully this does have a point 1 next to it, so it’s not Quadrophonic or a like those dreadful 4.0 mixes you can get. This mix leaves them in the dust by a massive margin and simply blows them away. Any surround mix that comes without utilising the subwoofer is purely a waste of space in my opinion, and you will never get the best from those type of surround recordings. If you want to hear what a real bass guitar and the low end of a drum kit sounds like, you need a subwoofer and this 4.1 mix sounds like the band are in your living room playing it. It’s purely FANTASTIC.

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For this year’s special album award it was very difficult for me to choose just one album out of the all the albums I brought this year. This final award goes to what I thought was something special that I brought this year and was worthy of a mention all the same, regardless of it being released this year or not. For example last year it was Chris Fry’s 2012 album Composed that won the special album award. I basically boiled it down to 3 contenders and the first that sprang to mind was the 1977 album by the English prog rock band that go by the name of England and their GREAT! album The Garden Shed.

Another truly GREAT! prog album that came out in 2005 was by the Italian band the Conqueror with their 2nd album Storie Fuori Dal Tempo. Both of these albums scored 10 out of 10 in my ratings and are certainly more prog rock than my third choice which was released this year which was the latest album by Tiger Moth Tales entitled Story Tellers Part II. Which incidentally scored 8 out of 10. All 3 albums have brought me tremendous pleasure and are new artists to my record collection that I only discovered this year. I would also consider all 3 albums worthy of this special award, but there can only be one winner unfortunately and the winner is…

The Special Album Of The Year…

Con Award

From the moment I stumbled across the 31 minute epic track “Morgana” on Youtube I instantly knew that this was a special album that would speak my language regarding prog rock, even though the band the Conqueror only sing in their own native language of Italian. The music will always come first to me with the biggest majority of genres of music in this world, especially when it comes to prog rock.

I mean let’s face it does Jon Anderson’s lyrics back in his heyday when he was with Yes make any real sense? Answer! Of course they don’t, and words are only really that effective with the expression a singer will apply to them and the way the vocal line contributes to the music. I am not saying all prog rock is the same regarding the lyrics they write about, but in general I find Singer Songwriters a lot more meaningful when it comes to lyrics, though half the time they are banging their head against a brick wall by making protest songs I will say.

What I have always enjoyed about prog rock is how the music can take you somewhere else, that is something any lyrics or story you write for it can only follow and in reality it is always the music that takes you on the journey. So even having an album like this that you cannot even understand what they are singing about, will not make a blind bit of difference as long as the music takes you on a GREAT! journey and every song on this album will do that precisely and in superb prog rock style that will even take you back to the 70′ itself with how skilfully this album has been crafted.

Storie Fuori Dal Tempo is one terrific prog rock album and even though it was released back in 2005. It very much feels like a long lost GEM from the 70’s. You can find out more about it here: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/lee-speaks-about-music-60/

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Well that about wraps up this year’s awards and it’s been another GREAT! year for music and my collection has grown a bit more. Things will however slow down a bit in the new year due to me saving up for a new TV and Blu Ray player right now, and I dare say I shall be buying some more films as these new devices will be in 4K. But I have no intention of reviewing films and it will be more than likely a new little phase that will take up 3 or 4 months of the new year leaving me very little to buy new music for awhile.

So my music reviews will be way less frequent during the first quarter of the year at least. But no doubt it will pick back up again later on in the year and no doubt certain new releases will certainly entice me to get them as well. Finally I would like to thank everybody who has taken an interest in my blog site and wish you all a happy and creative new year.

Music was my first love and it will be my last. Music of the future and music of the past…

The immortal words of John Miles….

Lee Speaks About Music… #115

Subjects – Gordon Midgley & Joan Silentio

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Introduction…

Subjects is the latest project and album by Gordon Midgley to which he has teamed up with the Polish singer songwriter Joan Silentio so it’s very much a joint project. Midgley is no stranger to working with other people on other projects and it was not that long ago we seen the release of the 5th Napier’s Bones album Monuments done with Nathan Tillett and what a terrific album that really was. Though it’s now been a year since the release of his last solo album Lifetimes Ago and over this year he has been keeping himself very busy and even added a drum kit to his arsenal of instrumentation, and Subjects is the first album that features real drums played by himself.

Another thing that Midgley is no stranger too, is that he mostly likes to work around the subject matter in the way of it being a concept in one way or another, and the biggest majority of his works are in fact concept albums. He also tends to focus on the haunting dark side of things as with most of his solo material, and this new album Subjects does have quite a dark feel with its atmospheres, and does also contain some of the finer ingredients one might find in prog rock along its path too. Though it does also step into more modern territories with its genres and styles such as dubstep and even a bit of hip hop is thrown in for good measure and the result is quite a mixture of styles and as well as the dark side of things, we also have a few shades of light perhaps.

I have to confess that I do not know a great deal or really anything at all about Joan Silentio, and even though I am not into all the projects that Midgley has been involved in, this one did grab my attention enough for me to purchase it. The album is also sold at a very reasonable price for a digital download, so its not really gonna break the bank and it suits my pocket so to speak. But before we take a deeper look at what you get here for your money, let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

Package

Well as you can see the packaging is nothing really to look at with any digital download and it will not give you something you can hold in your hand either. But for many unknown artists who have not got a massive following to sell their albums by the bucket load, this is by far the most sensible way to sell your music these days. But even a package like this once opened up, can give you a much bigger picture with the contents that are inside it, and the way the music presents itself to you.

Artwork.

The albums artwork was is a photograph taken by Joan Silentio and is very fitting to the albums concept which is based on the context of Christian mysticism back in medieval times, though at first glance the albums artwork instantly reminded me of this classic album by Dire Straits :))))).

Covers

Though I have to confess it was the border and not the actual photograph that gave me this impression, and there is a lot more to someone being in an empty living room living in dire straits here that’s for sure.

The Album In Review…

The album Subjects by Gordon Midgley & Joan Silentio was released on the 30th November 2018. The album contains 14 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 42 minutes, 26 seconds which is a very reasonable and comfortable time slot for my liking too I might add. The album itself consists mostly of shorter tracks ranging somewhere between a minute and half to the two to three minute mark. Only a few of it’s tracks are a bit longer and are around the five minute mark.

The material for the album was recorded during the autumn in both England and Poland and mixed and mastered at Scanulf Studios which is Midgley’s home studios. Apart from one of the tracks entitled “Sometimes” to which was mixed and mastered by Russ Sinfield at The Chaos Cookhouse at his home studio also in England. He also contributes guitar to that track as well.

Most of the instrumentation is played by Midgley himself whilst Silentio takes care of the vocal side of things, to which on some of the tracks she uses her own native language to put across the words, and others are sung in English. Silentio also contributes some keys to some of the tracks too, and I am pretty sure it would be mainly the electric piano that features on quite a few of the tracks. I would also expect that most of the musical side of things here, were also written by Midgley.

Musicians & Credits…

Credits pic

A Scanulf Studios Production. Recorded, Mixed & Mastered in England & Poland by Gordon Midgley at Scanulf Studios except ‘Sometimes’ mixed & mastered by Russ Sinfield at The Chaos Cookhouse. All texts derived from Meister Eckhart ‘Collected Works’. Cover Photography by Joan Silentio.

Musicians:
Gordon Midgley: Guitars, Bass, Drums, Keys.
Joan Silentio: Vocals & Keys.

Additional Musicians:
Russ Sinfield: Lead Guitar (On ‘Sometimes’).

The Album Tracks In Review…

The album Subjects is like I mentioned earlier based on the context of Christian mysticism and all the words we have here on the album are quotations that were made by Johannes Eckhart who was a German theologian, philosopher and mystic commonly known as Meister Eckhart back in the medieval times around the 13th and 14th Century. Although there is no authority for giving him the Christian name of Johannes, which sometimes appears in biographical sketches and its believed that his Christian name was actually Eckhart and his full name was Eckhart von Hochheim.

I suppose you could say that Eckhart was like most religious nutters who liked to derive their own interpretations of the bible and form their own religion by finding a suitable spot on a busy market day and stand there preaching a load of Gobble De Gook :))))). Only the Gobble De Gook he was preaching certainly had a darker side to it all. That much that his own teachings (and the fact that many people were taking notice of them) created a bit of a stir with the Catholic Church in particular. He was tried as a heretic by Pope John XXII and may very well had been burned at the stake, had he not died before the trial was concluded.

It’s said that Meister Eckhart can be considered a symbol of the intellectual spirit of the late Middle Ages. His teachings had a strong influence on the thinkers of the Reformation, including Martin Luther. Some of his ideas have been compared to Buddhist teachings. His texts and quotations put into historical context Midgley first encountered back in the early 2000’s. More recently he experienced a different kind of acknowledgement and resonance to them, and no doubt they would be well apt for the kind of dark haunting music he tends to focus on mostly with his music.

But even though the subject matter of Eckhart’s texts and quotations works very well here, does the albums title of Subjects one might ask? To be honest regarding the albums title even I am confused, especially considering some of the material on the album does tend to be more acquainted with the 11th track on the album “Sometimes” in the way of a reprise before you even get to it. So let’s take a deeper look at the album as I go through the individual tracks.

Track 1. In Darkness.

The album opens up with the longest track on the album which weighs in at 5 minutes, 36 seconds. Musically we have Midgley’s more Cinematic approach like we got on his first 3 solo albums Vanished Age, Out Of Doors and The Darkness of Error, only here we have the element of a voice added to the equation, and I have to say even though Silentio’s voice plays more of a minimalistic role on the most of the tracks we have on the album, it does effectively work extremely well for it.

Silentio is very much playing more of a speaking role on this track as with most of the tracks on the album, and also uses her own native language as well as English to put across the words just like we have on this opening track. The only words she does speak in English do happen to be one of Eckhart’s more popular quotations that reads as thus: “Truly, it is in darkness that one finds the light, so when we are in sorrow, then this light is nearest of all to us”.

I think the other thing that sets this album apart from his first 3 solo albums is that it does have more of an electronica feel to it with the use of the keyboards. No doubt you are still getting all the familiar guitar FX and Steve Hackett like lead guitar swells thrown into the pot, but even on this track I am hearing both early Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk.

For example the Geiger counter sound reminds me of Kraftwerk’sRadioactivity” and the section in the middle with the sound from the mellotron reminds me of Tangerine Dream’s3 AM at the Border of the Marsh from Okefenokee” from their album Stratosfear. I get a bit of King Crimson with the use of the mellotron in particular too. The piece does have a really GREAT! build to it, and I like the vibes from the Electric piano in that middle section too. It’s a cracking starting point for the album  and gets the albums off to a GREAT! start.

Track 2. Deserted.

The first of the few short pieces on the album that effectively build their way up to the actual 11th track on the album “Sometimes“. I do like how this album uses most of that songs melody lines to give you a hint, and this has quite a ThemeIstic relation to the 11th track and uses minimalistic parts of it, including the words.

Track 3. Shadowland.

Another piece where the vibes from the electric piano work very well and contains minimalistic words spoken in Polish. This is a very haunting and distant piece and the electronic side here also reminds me of the dark haunting fear that was projected into a truly GREAT! 1969 album entitled An Electric Storm by White Noise. That album also featured an electronic genius by the name of Delia Derbyshire. It’s certainly an album worth checking out if you have not heard it, and one that can strike fear into you and even makes dogs go NUTS :))))).

Track 4. Awareness.

No doubt Midgley likes to get into the groove with the drums and bass on most of these tracks and once again we have quite a theme going on with the guitar lines. It even sounds like he brought in a violin player especially at the beginning of the track. The minimalistic words once again go along with the flow and the groove and it’s quite an effective piece of work.

Track 5. Nothing Of Our Own.

This one starts off like Vangelis with the sound from the sequencer, and the sound of the lead guitar work quite reminds me of Mick Rogers back in the early 70’s with Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. The words are part of Eckhart’s teachings which are quite similar to Buddhism, and they also sound a bit like his own version of the Lord’s Prayer. He quite often taught the darker way to God and led people up the garden (or wrong) path so to speak, and both Midgley and Silentio do a GRAND! job here of it all here.

Track 6. Derested.

Here we have a reprise of the 2nd track “Deserted” and judging by the title we have here Midgley has either made a spelling mistake or has jumbled up the words in attempt to derail them a bit. Once again it puts the mind in focus of what is to come with track 11 “Sometimes” and I suppose effectively it could be like you are getting a reprise of that track before you have even heard it.

Track 7. Worlds Are Forming.

This is perhaps the first track on the album that Joan Silentio sings on instead of talking. Her voice works very well both ways to be honest, and on this track it sits very well in the groove of the bass and drums. The electric piano features very well here too along with a reversed cymbal effect, it also has a fine lead synth and nice bit of guitar adding to it’ touch towards the end. This is also the first track on the album to have more of a song structure in relation to the other snippets and is a really GREAT! piece of work.

Track 8. First Parting.

A dramatic change of mood here and apart from a couple of words this is more of an instrumental piece than anything else. It’s another step into the lurid territory of the dark and this actually gives me the impression of being stuck on an haunted battleship in dense fog with the picture the music paints. This track is also slightly longer than the other short tracks at its 3 minutes, but oddly enough seems to be over in no time at all and does not seem any longer at all.

Track 9. Ex Nihilo.

The title is written in Latin and means “Out of nothing”. It refers to the view that the universe, the whole of space-time, is created by a free act of God out of nothing, and not either out of some pre-existing material or out of the divine substance itself. It’s also the shortest track on the album at 1 minute 4 seconds and is another fine piece of work that utilises the bass, drums, guitars and synths and also Silentio’s voice in a minimalistic way.

Track 10. In My Heart.

This is quite a beautiful drifting piece with some lovely vibes from the electric piano that blends in very well with the more spacey pad sound and lead synth. Silentio’s voice is very sweet on this track and it reminds of some of the soulful intros you would get from some Tamla Motown Records back in the late 60’s with groups like Diana Ross & The Supremes and Martha & The Vandellas or even a bit later with The Chi Lites as an example.

It’s a really GREAT! track that I would of liked to have seen go on a bit longer and the bass and drums work well in it too. Had it have done I could of also have seen this making a very good single release from the album and it really is a strong contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 11. Sometimes.

Without a doubt this is the stand out track on the album, and even when I play this album it gives me the impression that everything was building up to this one track alone for some reason. Everything about this song tells me its a smash hit and this album is worth buying for this track alone. To me this is the ultimate track on the album and by far the best structured piece of them all. This is where Joan Silentio really gets a chance to sing on the album, and boy does she deliver the goods here.

I love how the album actually builds it’s way along to get to this point, and even in the previous track you can tell more of a song was starting to develop in relation to all the little small snippets that are all effective and have more of darker side to them all. The light on this album starts to appear on the previous track “In My Heart” and with “Sometimes” you get the whole reflection of the light and it truly opens up the light on the album and shines.

Sometimes” is very much like a combination of the Alan Parson’s Project, Pink Floyd and perhaps Donna Summer or some soulful singer like that. The combination we have here purely works a treat. The song contains a super stand out bass line, backed up by the drums, glistening vibes from the keys and rhythm guitar and one terrific guitar solo by Russell Sinfield that echoes David Gilmour. Oh and one hell of a GREAT! voice to marry it all up.

The song really is a potential hit and brilliant piece of work, and for me personally by far the best track on the album that merits the top spot award of the album.

Track 12. Love By Nature Flows.

This is another of the better tracks on the album that also contains some Pink Floyd elements about it, once again we get the glistening vibes coming from the guitar alone this time and the bass and drums are well good too and provide the GREAT! groove here. Silentio’s voice also works very well in both Polish and English, and  we also have a little operatic vocal sample thrown in here too by the sound of it. This is another very well constructed piece of work and both this track or the next one that follows it would potentially make a fitting B-Side for a vinyl release of “Sometimes“.

Track 13. One Good Path.

Here we are back to the electronic synth vibe, and once again the sequencing reminds me of Tangerine Dream, but once again it works very well with the electric piano adding to it, and it has a gorgeous lead synth sound to it as well. It’s another one of the more lengthier tracks that is very well constructed with its melody lines and use of Silentio’s voice in the all the right places.

Track 14. Fountain.

We are back in the darkness where the album began for the final track on the album, and this piece is more like Midgley’s earlier work on his first 3 solo albums that is spacious and uses great guitar and effects, only here we have Silentio’s voice and vibes on keys of the electric piano adding it all very well indeed. More GREAT! Hackett like guitar swells and once again Silentio gets to use her GREAT! singing voice for a change at the end too with the harmonies. It puts the album to bed very well and is another really GREAT! track.

Summary…

To sum up the album Subjects by Gordon Midgley & Joan Silentio I would say that having the extra voice is the key element to making this album sound different in relation to Midgley’s earlier material which tends to focus more on dark dramatic cinematic soundscapes. Much of that side of things also still exists on this album, and I would even stick my neck out and say that some of the material may of come from left over material from his other albums.

But it’s not only Silentio’s voice that makes the difference here, and her vibes on the electric piano are also a key element to that difference, not to mention the fact that Midgley is also working with real drums which also makes this album work very well for it as well. As a musician Midgley’s talent never ceases to amaze me, and he already seems to have found his way even on a drum kit after no time at all in learning how to play them over the short period of time he has had them.

One of the things I did notice about this album is that the writing credits are missing, and I could of easily of asked Gordon if he wrote all the music we have on this album, but my guess is that there is very much a joint thing going on regarding some of the written material we have here. I could be wrong, but it certainly does have some fresher modern elements along the path of this album that I feel could not have been achieved without Joan being onboard.

I feel the source of material used for the albums concept and the use of text quotations from Meister Eckhart himself for the words is all very fitting. I like how Gordon describes the album too in his own words of being “related musical and lyrical motifs are presented in different contexts at various stages of the journey” to which they truly are.

The only real thing that confuses me, is why the album was titled “Subjects” and that would of been more fitting of a name to call themselves, rather than the title of the album. The only re-occurring theme on the album comes from the track “Sometimes” and I do feel that should of been the albums title. I am sure they have a perfect explanation as to why it was not. My personal highlights from the album are “Sometimes“. “In My Heart“. “Love By Nature Flows“. “One Good Path“. “In Darkness” and “Fountain“.

Conclusion…

In conclusion of my review I very much feel that the album Subjects may appear to be an album that mostly consists of little snippets with the biggest majority of the short tracks you get here. But they all make up quite and exciting album that even has quite a wide variety of styles thrown into the pot, yet somehow maintains to flow quite consistently throughout. The analog synths on the album work a treat, though I do also hear what sounds to me like soft synths in some small parts on a couple of tracks, the operatic vocal on “Love By Nature Flows” for example reminds me of Omnisphere and I also hear some sounds that remind me of Camel Audio.

I like the minimalistic approach with the words and I do get the feeling that the album does work its way up through the darkness and builds up to what I would call the track that has the shining light on the album, which is “Sometimes“. Like I said earlier the album is worth getting for that track alone, but you do get much more for the small price of the album and its well worthy of its price point.

Once again the production values are high and there is nothing here that disappoints either, and I like the way both Midgely and Silentio work as a team. I hear all sorts of influences such as the Alan Parson’s Project, Pink Floyd, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, White Noise, King Crimson and loads more. I can even hear a bit of  Tamala Motown soul thrown in here too, and I never thought I would get that remotely from anything Gordon Midgley as ever done. Even down to the fact that is also touches on hip hop and a bit of dubstep, it’s not over the top and all works and blends together extremely well.

Overall the Subjects is perhaps a slightly different road for Gordon Midgley to go down, but I cannot take anything away from what both he and Joan Silentio has put into this album, and I would even welcome more of this in the future. Perhaps something more along the lines where Silentio can get to use more of her singing voice, because I do feel that “Sometimes” would make a hit record and it deserves to be heard a lot more.

You can listen to the album for free on Bandcamp, or even purchase it for as little as £3 and I do highly recommend you give it a whirl. https://gordonmidgley.bandcamp.com/album/subjects

Sometimes I Can Sense That It Is Dark…

The track listing is as follows:

01. In Darkness. 5:36.
02. Deserted. 1:58.
03. Shadowland. 2:06.
04. Awareness. 2:10.
05. Nothing Of Our Own. 2:34.
06. Derested. 1:26.
07. Worlds Are Forming. 2:36.
08. First Parting. 3:08.
09. Ex Nihilo. 1:04.
10. In My Heart. 2:22.
11. Sometimes. 4:58.
12. Love By Nature Flows. 2:54.
13. One Good Path. 4:42.
14. Fountain. 5:02.

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

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #114

Clutching At Straws (Deluxe Edition – Marillion

Main Cover

Introduction…

Marillion’s 4th studio album Clutching At Straws gets the Deluxe Edition treatment and this is the 2nd of their albums from the era when Fish was with the band to be re-issued in the same packaging as the Jethro Tull re-releases in these book editions that come with an array of discs plus an informative book. Clutching At Straws may not have had the success of their previous album Misplaced Childhood but nevertheless it still had quite a bit of commercial success reaching number 2 in the UK album charts. It was the bands 2nd best highest charted album and it also produced 3 top 40 singles. So it was not that far away from the popularity of their previous album and personally I felt it was a better album overall.

The band were at the height of their success back in 1987 and like many bands it can be also familiar for a band member to leave and go off to do something else at the pivotal point of their career, and this was to be the last straw for the bands front man Fish who bowed out a year later in 1988 after the band done a successful tour of the album. I also bowed out from the band myself and went on to follow him rather than the band, though Marillion still went on to make many more albums with their new front man Steve Hogarth and are still doing well and are going strong still even today.

Fish went onto have quite a successful solo career of his own just like Peter Gabriel did when he left Genesis back in 1975 and since they both departed from the success they had in their previous bands, many fans were hoping that one day they would return back to the fold. Unfortunately it was never to be and it’s way to late now for it ever to happen, even if it did I personally do not think they could never recapture what they had back in their heyday with their former bands.

The only way you really can go back to those magical times, is really by getting these type of new reissues to rekindle the old flame, and ignite the old spark to relive it all again. And I have to say that these type of box sets can really do that and the way they have presented them in packages like this, really does give the album the type of respect it deserves. So let’s now take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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As with all these Book Editions they are superbly constructed out of thick cardboard with plastic trays to hold the discs firmly in place and look like a quality hardback book. The fact that they are also the same size of a DVD makes them so easy to store too. To be honest the way these packages have been constructed is even better than most box sets that cost over £100. I personally think the way they have been designed, they are by far the best designed package you can get especially for a packaged box set that comes with CD’s/DVD’s and Blu Rays.

Artwork.

The artwork was done by Mark Wilkinson who also done all the artwork for the other Marillion albums during the Fish era of the band. He also done many of Fish’s solo album covers too and covers for other rock bands such as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. The setting for the artwork on Clutching At Straws was a picture taken at a British pub in Colchester called the Bakers Arms.

Fish wanted some of his heroes in the picture who had inspired the lyrics for the songs on the album, and amongst the crowd in the bar on the front of the album are Robert Burns, Dylan Thomas, Truman Capote and Lenny Bruce. On the back cover it had John Lennon, James Dean and Jack Kerouac.

Wilkinson expressed his disappointment with the artwork, and it was down to the fact that the record company had brought the release date of the album forward, that he was rushed to get it done which did not give him the time to add some more characters he wanted to include and put more detail in the overall picture.

Clutching At Straws Deluxe Released Editions…

Editions

The Deluxe Editions come in 3 formats the cheapest of them being the Digital Download which contains all the new mixes, demos and a live concert that are on the 4 CD’s and is currently priced on Amazon at £11.99. That’s quite value for money considering you are getting 4 albums worth of material here, especially when you consider that most single albums are generally around £7.99 for the MP3 digital download.

The 4 CD + 1 Blu Ray Book Edition Box Set is currently priced on Amazon at £35.90 though some places right now you can get for around £30 if you shop around a bit. This is the edition I opted for and got it for £22.73 by pre-ordering straight away on the 7th September from Amazon. It does pay to pre-order things before the release date and I saved a good £13.17 by doing so on this occasion. The vinyl release is the most expensive and you get 5 LP’s that come in a box for around £60.

The Album In Review…

Marillion’s 4th studio album Clutching At Straws was originally released on the 22nd June 1987. The album contained 11 tracks and had an overall playing time of 52 minutes, 14 seconds. Due to vinyl restrictions the vinyl release did not contain “Going Under” although they did release “Going Under” on the B-Side of the single vinyl release of “Incommunicado“. It was also the first Marillion album to be released on CD too.

Just like the bands previous album Misplaced Childhood it was Chris Kimsey who was again behind the production for Clutching At Straws and the album was recorded at Westside Studios in London which is now very much defunct and has been for quite awhile. To be honest this studio is so defunct that it’s practically impossible to find out any history of the place even though many artists recorded their albums there when it functioned as a recording studio.

The success that their previous album had brought the band meant that they was now more busier than ever with an heavy schedule of gigs booked up all over the world to play, they also had the pressure of coming up with another album to live up to the more commercial success that Misplaced Childhood had brought them. It was only the success of that album where the band made any real money to which all the band members could actually now go out and buy their own house at last.

The bands first two albums brought them nothing more than a heavy debt with the record company to pay off, and they had to play more live shows and release a live album just to pay it off. Being well off and more famous all of a sudden can bring all sorts of problems, and it’s not all like a bed of roses and easy to cope with for some people. It was during this period that Fish started to isolate himself more from the other members of the band and his addiction of drugs and alcohol did not really help him or his family out either.

Fame can be a struggle and too much to handle at times, and when you are the front man of the band you are always going to be the centre of attention for the press to get their teeth into. The only way to follow up success is to come up with something that was more of less a carbon copy of the album that brought in that success, and the band decided to try and do that by making a follow up to Misplaced Childhood.

They even wrote and recorded a few songs to try and do that, but soon found out they was not working out and they may have been trying too hard. So they scrapped that idea and those few demos they wrote can be heard on the 4th CD in this box set. So let’s now take a closer look at the package contents you get here.

The Package Contents…

With any package or box set like this it’s bound to come with an array of bonus material and extras in relation to just having the album on CD. Even the book that comes with it could be seen as a very good extra and good thing to have. Though the one thing I will point out is that the ones that come with these Marillion packages are nowhere as good as the ones you get in the Jethro Tull packages, and are nowhere near as informative.

For example you do get a 60 page book, but most of it is filled with pictures, the production notes and lyrics, and it contains very little informative information about the time the album was recorded. As a matter of a fact what little informative information you do get in this book is quite disappointing, and you get no more in reality than you would in a booklet that comes with a CD. I would even say you could read it in the time it would take you to have a dump on the toilet :))))).

The other difference between the Jethro Tull packages and Marillion’s is that we get a Blu Ray instead of a couple of DVD’s. To be honest apart from the documentary they include I cannot see any other real reason to use a Blu Ray disc, and effectively a DVD would of been just as suffice. They also give you 4 CD’s in relation to the Tull packages were they will give you 2 or 3 depending on the album and the bonus material they had around that time. Whereas it appears that Marillion are sticking to a format of giving you 4 CD’s and a Blu Ray by the looks of things. So let’s now take a look at the contents starting with the CD’s.

CD1.

The first disc contains the new mixes of the original album and as Steve Wilson was not available like he was with their previous re-issue of  Misplaced Childhood they have brought in both Andy Bradfield & Avril Mackintosh to do the new stereo and 5.1 mixes of the album. To be honest I have never heard of any of them before, but apparently they are known for mixing albums for well known pop artists such as Anastacia, Robbie Williams, Howard Jones and many others.

Hardly the right qualifications to mix a Marillion album I would of thought, but I have to say they have done a very good job on the new stereo mixes, they so sound fresh and it revitalises a bit of life back into the original recordings, something they may have needed too to stop them from being too outdated. Overall I am quite impressed with these new mixes and they are ticking all the right boxes here and have not gone over the top at all. I would even say they present you with a new feel in relation to the original album and it works very well for it.

You do not get any bonus tracks on this disc either, and you only get the original album tracks to which I like. In total you get 11 tracks spread over the original playing time of the original CD which makes the album weigh in at 52 minutes, 14 seconds.

CD’s 2 & 3.

The next 2 discs contain the whole of the concert the band performed live at the Edinburgh Playhouse on the 19th December 1987. In total you get 19 tracks spread over the 2 discs. The concert was mixed by Michael Hunter and it’s never been released before in its entirety, although 4 of the tracks from this same concert “Slàinte Mhath“. “Sugar Mice“. “Incommunicado” and “White Russian” was put on the double live album The Thieving Magpie that was released back in 1988.

This live concert is without doubt the best bonus material you get in this package and it really is a GREAT” live show they put on at the Edinburgh Playhouse. The 2nd disc contains 10 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 62 minutes, 9 seconds. Disc 3 contains 9 tracks with an overall playing time of 52 minutes, 14 seconds making the whole concert 1 hour 54 minutes, 23 seconds long.

It may also be worth noting that this CD Box Set also contains an incomplete recording of the last song they played at the concert which was “Market Square Heroes” to which the band also played “My Generation”. “Margaret” and “Let’s Twist Again” during it, though it does get cut off after 10 minutes, 9 seconds and I guess they must of run out of tape. But this track is not included on the vinyl Box Set.

CD 4.

The 4th disc contains a load of demo tracks and you get 13 in total and the disc comes with an overall playing time of 68 minutes, 14 seconds. The first 9 demos were previously released on the 1999 remastered edition of the album. The other 4 demos are all previously unreleased and the first of them is “Hotel Hobbies/ Warm Wet Circles” that are the original Mosaic Demos. The other 3 demos are of “Just for the Record“. “Torch Song” and “Slàinte Mhath“.

To be honest I never had any of these demos before and it’s quite interesting to hear their original ideas for the album, before they scraped a majority of them, and how the songs that made it on the album were developing. Some of these recordings are quite good too, though not all of them I will stress. Some of the music from these demos got uses on Marillion’s 5th album Seasons End to which John Helmer penned new lyrics for Steve Hogarth to sing them. Fish also used some of his lyrics from some of the demos on some of is solo albums.

The Blu Ray.

SS 1

The Blu Ray contains the 5.1 mix of the album and a few other bonus features that were not included on the CD’s. The main menu is simple enough to navigate and get around and I like how by clicking on some of the featured options it simply displays them, rather than having to load up to another screen. For example by clicking on the “Track Select” option at the top, it displays the tracks that have been given the 5.1 treatment as seen on the next snapshot I took with my phone.

SS 2

As you can see by the tracks it’s only the album tracks that have had a 5.1 mix done on them, and everything else on the Blu Ray is in stereo only. You may also notice on this screen that it’s also hidden the other bonus features and it looks as if it has loaded up another screen to get here. But it’s not the case at all and it simply just hid the other options. Next up we have the “Audio Select” which is only for the 5.1 mix of the album.

SS 3

All the audio for the 5.1 and stereo mixes in this section are in 48/24 and by default it’s set to Stereo. It comes with 2 choices for the 5.1 surround sound the first being my preferred option of the DTS-HD Master Audio and a Dolby Digital mix.

SS 4

As you can see from the picture above they have also included the original 3 videos that were made for the 3 singles that got released from the album. These have not been enhanced in anyway and not even the fact that your Blu Ray Player can upscale the picture is not really gonna exactly do any favours by doing so either. Even the audio on these things is not that good in particular either, and they are only really good for a bit of nostalgia more than anything else.

SS 5

The Blu Ray also includes the original 1987 flat transfer mix of the album and also contains the other 3 bonus tracks that was included on the 1999 remastered release of the album. They come with an audio quality of 48/16. The only remaining bonus feature is the documentary to which I will discuss in a bit.

SS 6

During the playback of the audio only album and bonus tracks it also plays a slide show of pictures and displays the title of the track you are currently playing. This is always good to have rather than one still picture that could potentially burn out your pixels or backlight and flat panel TV’s.

The Documentary.

Just like the Deluxe Box Set Edition of Misplaced Childhood you also get 1 hour documentary that features the original line up of the band being interviewed this time by  Mick Wall. Here they discuss the making of the album and the events that happened around that time, and even how most of the members of the band went out and brought a house from the success of their previous album  Misplaced Childhood. Mick Wall also interviews them in one room all together and also individually in some parts throughout the course of the interview.

To be honest just like the interview of Misplaced Childhood I reviewed last year, I was not that overall impressed by this interview either. There was some interesting points such as how Steve Rothery wrote about 90% of the music for the album and how Fish was left to do all the interviews with all the radio stations and magazines on his own all the time. How the band were busy gigging with them being on the road, and how they did not have much time to write any the new material for the album. It even touches on Fish’s addiction problems and why he decided to leave.

I have watched it a couple of times and I do like the fact that they all appeared to get along with each other as well, despite the fact that they were all interviewed separately on their own as well.

The 5.1 Surround Mix.

Both Andy Bradfield & Avril Mackintosh have done the 5.1 surround mix and sometimes or you would think that two heads are better than one. Here I am pretty sure it was not the case at all and this is not a mix to write home about and neither of these two really have the right head on their shoulders to do 5.1 mixes, and they are without a doubt missing Steve Wilson’s expertise this time around.

To be honest because the album does tend to have a lot of atmospheres throughout a lot of its music, it can make it quite a challenge and very difficult to do a 5.1 mix. It may not be the type of album that is really suited to 5.1 simply because of the way the atmospheres can reflect quite heavily in the first place in the mix, and this particular 5.1 mix they have done, does give you the impression that mostly they are bleeding reflections from the front into the rear channels too often, rather than focusing on the right elements of instrumentation to take out of the front and place in the back.

I personally felt the pair of them did a much better job with the new stereo mixes and were not really the right engineers to be put in charge of a 5.1 mix. This 5.1 mix is not very impressive at all and lacks quite a bit of focus and imagination when it comes to placement and the placement of the right instrumentation in particular you need to move around to make it work in a 5.1 mix.

I think overall they managed to do the mix without really going overboard and taking away the original way and feel the album should sound and project itself to you. But the 5.1 mix does somehow sound more bland in relation to the new stereo mix, and it does not quite grab me as much or really do anything to bring out any better dynamics or clarity. Overall it’s not bad but could of been better and it’s way off giving you a more of a spectacular way of listening to the album that really good 5.1 mixes can do.

Musicians & Credits…

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Produced by Chris Kimsey. All music written and arranged by Marillion. Recorded at Westside Studios London 1987. Recording Engineer Nick Davis. Assistant Engineer Richard Sullivan. Mixed at Advision Studios London by David Jacob. Assisted by Avril Macintosh. Sleeve Concept by Fish. Illustrations & Design by Mark Wilkinson. Photography by Janus Van Helfteren. 2018 Credits Mick Wall Linear Notes. Photography by Steve Rothery. Fish. Stuart James & David Plastik.

Musicians:

Fish: Voice.
Steve Rothery: Guitars.
Pete Trewavas: Bass & Vocals.
Mark Kelly: Keyboards.
Ian Mosley: Drums & Percussion.

Additional Musicians:

Tessa Niles: Backing Vocals (“That Time of the Night” and “The Last Straw”)
Chris Kimsey: Backing Vocals (“Incommunicado”)
John Cavanaugh: Dr Finlay Voice (“Torch Song”)

The Album Tracks In Review…

The album Clutching At Straws contains a set of songs that’s lyrics are basically a concept around Fish’s own struggles with handling success and the problems that came with it, such has his divorce from his wife, his abuse of alcohol and drugs and even down to the pressures put on the band by the record company to some extent. You could say that Fish carries the “Torch” for the character he portrays in the story who has all these problems including writers block and the character Torch evolved from the “Jester” from an earlier album cover of theirs. The album even starts off like a concept album with its opening 3 tracks which are very much joined together in the way of a suite, and all the other individual tracks are related to it all.

Clutching At Straws was very well received by the critics and for many of the bands fans it was their favourite album. Even today without Fish many of its songs are still being played live and feature strongly in a Marillion live set. No doubt it’s an album that fleshes out some of Steve Rothery’s finest guitar solos and it oozes and wreaks of them. For me personally as with all 4 studio albums the band made with Fish. it is he himself that puts the balls and grit into the bands music, and that was certainly something that was lost when he quit the band.

For me he is very much a singer that has dynamic aggression in his voice that can raise the game when it needs to be lifted up. Without him the band just never said the same thing to me afterwards despite having some really GREAT! musicians. Just like all 4 of the album he made with the band, they all contain some truly GREAT! classic songs. So let’s mow take a deeper look at the albums tracks.

Tracks 1. Hotel Hobbies.

The first part of a 3 part suite, and collectively the opening 3 tracks on the album over its 14 minutes have always been amongst my personal favourite tracks on the album along with the 9th track on the album “Slàinte Mhath“. Though no doubt this album does have a few other classics along its route over the course of the album too. “Hotel Hobbies” is the shortest of the 3 pieces than make up the suite and it kicks off with some excellent vibes from Mark Kelly’s keyboards to which he does use quite a lot on this album.

Another strong feature on this album is not just the bass guitar from Pete Trewavas but also the use of the bass pedals he uses, and they are put to good use here along with Steve Rothery’s guitar that features a lot throughout this opening track and lift it up along with the pace of Ian Mosley‘s drums. This song has quite a powerful build up that allows Rothery to let rip with his guitar and this part and the 3rd part of the suite do have more of a pace about them.

Fish has always had the ability of writing such brilliant lyrics, and the fact his voice can change in an instant from a more ballad-ESC style to something with a lot more grit and aggression, allows him to express his own words superbly and raise the game and turn up the heat so to speak. Effectively when you look at the lyrics and the character of Torch that Fish portrays here, you could quite easily make a comparison with the lyrics that Peter Gabriel wrote for the character Rael and story he portrayed for the Genesis album The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. They are both stories about being off the rails so to speak. “Hotel Hobbies” very much sets the opening scene and gets the album off to a flying start.

Track 2. Warm Wet Circles.

I suppose you could call this the come down section of the suite, though it does build it’s was up very well to lead into the more powerful section and final part at the end. It also contains a very tasty guitar solo from Rothery that very much has the same tone that Steve Hackett had on his guitar on “Spectral Mornings“. It’s perhaps my favourite part of the 3 tracks that make up this suite, though they are all extremely very well crafted pieces and fit perfectly together. “Warm Wet Circles” was the 3rd and final single to be released from the album and it was released on the 26th October 1987 and broke into the UK Top 30 and reached number 22.

The lyrics are pertaining to the character of Torch thinking back to his old haunts and seeing how his life used to be scares him, the warm wet circles are how most alcoholics will sit in a pub and run their fingers around the rim of their glasses, I suppose those with spirits in them like brandy and whiskey could be seen as a warm drink in that it can warm up the cockles of your heart or something like that:))))).

Track 3. That Time Of The Night (The Short Straw).

The atmosphere of how the final section of the suite opens up cinematically depicts the nights time with its presence. Both the bass line and drums are ticking over the hours and the delay and reverb on Rothery‘s guitar blend in very well with the keyboards and provide the perfect ambience. It’s the longest section of the suite at its 6 minutes and builds up to a more chaotic and melodramatic finish. The chorus of previous track “Warm Wet Circles” is reprised towards the end with Tessa Niles singing out the last few words of the song.

Fish describes the lyrics of the song as being a sort of resignation statement with how they relate to the arguments and sorting out all the problems for the band both existent and non-existent, into the early hours of the morning. He would often lay awake in bed staring at the ceiling considering his options of where he wanted to go with his life, He was tired of the touring and felt trapped. It ends off the 14 minute suite very well indeed.

Track 4. Going Under.

The opening 3 songs on the album that make up the suite are not the only part of the albums concept story based around the character of Torch, and “Going Under” and the rest of the albums tracks are still very much part of the whole concept. Though the only way you got the full story was with the CD release only and this track was left off the vinyl release due to time restrictions. Although it did get put on the B-Side of single release of “Incommunicado“.

The lyrics describe Torch’s concerns about his drinking habit though as with many alcoholics they can often think about how stupid it is with what they are doing, but do nothing to stop it. I have known a good few over the years and trust me giving them advice is like going in one ear and out the other. Trying to knock some sense into them is like fighting a losing battle yourself and many of my friends have gone under, and are literally 6ft under as well.

The lyrics in this song were also improvised and Fish sung them from the top of his head, and because they did not want to change the vocal line they left the as they were. It’s another atmospheric dreamy song and contains some fine guitar work from Steve Rothery though like many of the songs on this album, the lyrics pertain to the same subject more than being an actual story, and effectively most of the tracks on this album can stand up on their own with how they have been written. So even though this track was omitted from the vinyl release its not as if you are losing anything from the story.

Track 5. Just For The Record.

One of the more happy up-tempo tracks on the album that really pertains to having a good time at the bar knocking drinks back with your mates and forgetting all about your problems, and nothing else matters when this happens either, and sometimes you even forget you have a wife and kids at home and they are miles away. I know I have been there a few times myself in the past :)))). This is also a song that features some terrific keyboard work from Mark Kelly and it does sound quite a bit different from the other songs on the album this one.

To be honest the way I myself have always seen the more up-tempo side of this song and the way it projects itself, is that it sounds more like the pop side of Genesis with Phil Collins on vocals. The sort of thing they was doing in the 80’s with the songs “Another Record” and “Who Dunnit” from their 1981 album Abacab. I have always seen Marillion being more like what Genesis would of sounded like in the 80’s had Peter Gabriel had not of left the band with most of their songs, particularly on their first 2 albums and when they first started out. Here they are more like the 80’s side of the band but I do quite like this song and how it leaps and springs its way into the action.

Track 6. White Russian.

No doubt when it comes to spending your time drinking away in a bar, politics will always crop up in most conversations and all the shit in the world that is happening will come along with it. White Russian is very much a drink or cocktail made with vodka, coffee liqueur and cream or most often milk served on the rocks with ice, and no doubt after a few of these things you will be racing and chasing the clouds home :))))))).white_russian

The song itself is very much a Marillion classic and has it all with really GREAT! guitar and keyboard work along with all the grit, edge and aggression in Fish’s voice which is perhaps expected as the subject matter of the lyrics deals with the rise of neo-Nazism and violence in Europe during the 1980s. Fish got his inspiration for the lyrics from an encounter he had with a Jewish American DJ who was working in Austria whilst the band were tour there in 1986. It was an election year and the DJ was troubled by what he saw as anti-Semitism in the campaigning of some parties and was ordered not to voice his thoughts on the air about it which led him to resign. The President of Austria elected that year would later be revealed as a former Nazi and accused of war crimes.

White Russian is both a cocktail and a term for Russian anti-communists of the early 20th century. Ultimately the song is less about political ideology and more about personal conviction and courage. At this point in the story Torch is dismayed by what he sees and feels strongly that something must be done, but he lacks the will to do anything about it himself being in the mess he is in with his own addiction, and jumps on a plane and races the clouds home so to speak.

Track 7. Incommunicado.

The first of the 3 singles to be released from the album and it was actually released before the album in the UK on the 11th May 1987. It also broke into the Top 10 of the UK singles charts and reached number 6. The song is heavily keyboard based with it’s main riff played at a fast pace by Mark Kelly in the same kind of style they wrote “Market Square Heroes” much earlier. It’s also said that Kelly got his inspiration from Adam Wakeman whilst Fish may have been inspired by The Who with the lyrics.

Incommunicado” could be seen as a status of prisoners not being allowed to communicate with the outer world. But in a more verbal sense it can also refer to somebody (as Torch) not being able or not willing to communicate with people. Torch really wants to be famous but he doesn’t want the responsibilities that go with fame. ‘Incommunicado’ is another word for ‘pissed’ is how Fish would put it himself. It’s another of the many classic songs on this GREAT! album and features the producer Chris Kimsey on backing vocals.

Track 8. Torch Song.

Another really GREAT! song with atmosphere and one that portrays perhaps the romantic side of fixation to drink in the way that you are not really bothered if it kills you. It features the voice of John Cavanaugh playing the part of Dr. Finlay from the Scottish TV program Dr. Finlay’s Casebook that ran from 1962 – 1971. The coughing noises you hear are for real as Fish had a heavy night the night before :))))).

Track 9. Slàinte Mhath.

The title in Gaelic and means “Good health” and often used when someone buys you a drink in Scotland. It’s at this point that Torch reflects on the down and out stories one would hear in a bar, and as to where they are now in life. It also takes in some of the history where Fish grew up such as the Bilston Glen area in Lothian were several large coal mines which were closed by the Thatcher government in the 1980’s. The “‘Firing Line” refers both to Flanders and Bilston Glen\ Clydeside in the First World War.

In the more recent context, it refers to the lines of men waiting to see whether they would keep their jobs in the heavy industries, the implication being that the men of the 80’s unemployment lines were no more or less fucked than their grandparents standing in front of the guns. This is very much another superb classic song from the album that lifts up the album and the band rock it out.

Track 10. Sugar Mice.

The 3rd and final single release from the album once again broke into the top 30 singles charts in the UK and peaked at number 22. Fish wrote the lyrics whilst he was on tour in the US and in the very town that is mentioned in the song Milwaukee. They very much relate to the time spent away from his family being on tour with the band that led to his divorce from his wife. The fact that unemployment was also at an all time high in Europe is also mentioned in the song and he even dedicated the song to all the unemployed people in Europe when they play live at Loreley in 1987.

In an interview back in 1987 he quoted “Torch has run away from everything and everybody and gone in search of a dream that doesn’t exist!”. He also quoted “I ended up in some shit hotel, imagining what it would be like if somebody left their wife and kids in Scotland or whatever, and went half way across the world and ended up in a horrible hotel with a disgustingly sad bar downstairs. We checked in on a Sunday, and all you saw out the window was the dealers standing out on the corner, and that’s kind of what the song was about”. It’s another excellent bit of songwriting and really GREAT! ballad of a song.

Track 11. The Last Straw / Happy Ending.

The final song on the album is where the character Torch has gone that far down that the only way he can go now is back up, and he starts writing again and is back in the bar drinking again. I suppose you could say he’s back to square one with his own observations and look of life and realises he is no martyr and there is no point in trying to be like one, as deep down everyone at some point has a bit of Torch in them and ate some point we can all be clutching at straws so to speak.

The second part “Happy Ending” is just Fish yelling the word “No” followed by some muffled laughter fading off into silence, and Fish said himself that he does not like happy endings and there is not one here either, and it ends off a really GREAT! album and sadly it was to be the final straw for Fish with Marillion.

Summary…

To sum up the latest Deluxe Edition of Clutching At Straws by Marillion. I can only say that it’s another really splendid package that’s well worth getting, and the way it’s been presented with all 5 discs fitting neatly into a 60 page hardback book that will sit proudly along with your DVD’s on the shelf, will even make a GREAT! Christmas present for someone special at this time of the year. With all you get here it does offer extremely GREAT! value for the money.

The new stereo mixes done by Andy Bradfield & Avril Mackintosh are very good, and the fact that they have also included the original mix of the album on the Blu Ray is good to have too. So effectively you could sell or pass on your old CD simply because you have everything and more besides than what all the previous issues will give you. The bonus material is very good and it’s GREAT! that they have included the live concert they performed at the Edinburgh Playhouse. Which is personally my favourite bonus feature you get here. The demos are quite interesting too.

Although both Andy Bradfield & Avril Mackintosh have done a really GREAT job on the new stereo mixes, I cannot say that I am that impressed by their work on the 5.1 mix and things could of been a lot better had Steve Wilson been available to do it that’s for sure. To be honest the 5.1 mix is my main reason for buying a release like this in the first place and this 5.1 mix does not really impress me enough to say it’s any better than the new stereo mixes they done. But overall I am quite happy enough with the bonus material you get here, so I am not too disappointed.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Marillion’s Deluxe Edition of Clutching At Straws there can be no doubt that the bands 4th album is a truly GREAT! album, and even though it is done in the way of a concept album, it presents itself more like a collection of individual songs that are related to the same subject matter, rather than it being a continuous story and it works very well for it. For me personally this is an album that merits a 10 out of 10 score just like the bands first 2 albums Script For A Jesters Tear and Fugazi and is very much another solid album with all the material they wrote for it.

Personally for me I do not think a lot of truly GREAT! music came out of the 80’s, and around the time Marillion came out in the 80’s with Fish they was without doubt the nearest band you could get to early Genesis. These days there are several bands that try and emulate what Genesis did back in their heyday with Peter Gabriel. They was one of the very few bands that kept prog rock alive in the 80’s more so than what Genesis did themselves or Yes did for that matter.

Marillion were very much a force when they had Fish with them in the 80’s and the material they wrote back then even allowed both Steve Rothery and Mark Kelly to shine with their solos. Something that I felt went out of the window by trying to work around a totally different singer they got in to replace Fish with. I am not saying Steve Hogarth is a bad singer, but he was a bad choice and does not have the aggression and balls Fish had in his voice for the rest of the band to work in the same way it carried on.

They just totally mellowed themselves out of the game for my liking. You might just as well well buy a Porcupine Tree album, or an album filled with constant ballads and no balls. That is truly what Marillion are today I am afraid, and that is why they no longer speak to me at all, and why I went on to follow Fish rather than stick with the band. My highlights from the Clutching At Straws album are very much the first 3 tracks on the album along with “White Russian“. “Incommunicado“. “Slàinte Mhath” and “Sugar Mice“. Alternatively just simply stick the whole album on, it does not disappoint.

So If You Want My Address It’s Number One At The End Of The Bar…

The CD track listing is as follows:

Disc One: 2018 Andy Bradfield & Avril Mackintosh Re-mix
1. “Hotel Hobbies”
2. “Warm Wet Circles”
3. “That Time of the Night (The Short Straw)”
4. “Going Under” (Alternate Version)
5. “Just or the Record”
6. “White Russian”
7. “Incommunicado”
8. “Torch Song”
9. “Slàinte Mhath”
10. “Sugar Mice”
11. “The Last Straw”
12. “Happy Ending”
Disc Two: Live at the Edinburgh Playhouse 1987 (2018 Michael Hunter Mix)
1. “La Gazza Ladra”
2. “Slàinte Mhath”
3. “Assassing”
4. “White Russian”
5. “Incubus”
6. “Sugar Mice”
7. “Fugazi”
8. “Hotel Hobbies”
9. “Warm Wet Circles”
10. “That Time of the Night (The Short Straw)”
Disc Three: Live at the Edinburgh Playhouse 1987 (2018 Michael Hunter Mix)
1. “Pseudo Silk Kimono” (Intro)
2. “Kayleigh”
3. “Lavender”
4. “Bitter Suite”
5. “Heart of Lothian”
6. “The Last Straw”
7. “Incommunicado”
8. “Garden Party”
9. “Market Square Heroes” (incomplete, featuring “My Generation,” “Margaret,” and “Let’s Twist Again”)
Disc Four: 1999 Remaster Demos            
1. “Beaujolais Day” (Demo)
2. “Story From A Thin Wall” (Demo)
3. “Shadows On The Barley” (Demo)
4. “Exile On Princes Street” (Demo)
5. “Sunset Hill” (Demo)
6. “Tic-Tac-Toe” (Demo)
7. “Voice In The Crowd” (Demo)
8. “White Russians” (Demo)
9. “Sugar Mice In The Rain” (Demo)
10. “Hotel Hobbies/ Warm Wet Circles” (The Mosaic Demos) *
11. “Just for the Record” (Demo) *
12. “Torch Song” (Demo) *
13. “Slàinte Mhath” (Demo) *
* Previously unreleased

Lee’s overall Complete Package Value Rating…

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10

The Bonus Material Rating Score. 8/10

The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 6/10

The Original Album Rating Score. 10/10

Lee Speaks About Music… #113

Proxy – The Tangent

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Introduction…

The Tangent are back already with another new album and Proxy is the bands 10th studio album release and the band are now into their 15th year since they released The Music That Died Alone back in 2003. Well obviously their music has not died yet and they are still not alone even if Andy Tillison is the only consistent member in the band today who was on their debut album 15 years ago. Though Jonas Reingold was also with the band back then as where many of The Flower Kings when they merged together with Tillison to form the band and in the following year Theo Travis joined the band and a pretty much appeared on every album since 2004.

No doubt the band have gone through various line up changes since it began and have been lost in London on a couple of occasions, and even got lost in Ledston come to think of it. But despite all that, the bands music has remained pretty much consistent throughout its career with Andy Tillison being at the helm of the writing. Like many prog rock bands that came out in the 90’s and 2000’s most musicians tend to play in more than one band and some are involved in many other projects. Both The Tangent and The Flower Kings have found it very hard to keep the same bunch of guys together since they set out, but what still keeps them both running is the bands main songwriters and that pretty much keeps the both bands formidable style too.

Speaking of their styles they are also very similar in the way that they both like to incorporate and inject a bit of jazz into their music, they also like to write lengthy songs, and they both tend to cram a double albums worth of material onto one CD with every release. One could say they give you too much, and not all their albums are always easy to digest either. For example since I brought this new release I have only just got into their last album The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery having decided to give it another couple of spins, and it’s been over a year since it was released.

To be honest that 2017 release is giving me more enjoyment this year than what it ever did when I purchased it last year. I always knew it had a couple of good tracks on it, but quite often with any album where only a couple of tracks really speak to me, they tend to get put aside until they find a place in the queue again. I think there is another one of their albums in that last sentence somewhere, and that is perhaps still one of my ultimate faves of the band that did not take me a year to appreciate it either. So the big question now is will Proxy be the album of this year or the next? :))))).

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The CD comes in a very well constructed 3 panel DigiPak with a sturdy plastic tray to hold the disc and a side pocket to store the booklet. The 14 page booklet contains all your usual linear and production notes, pictures and includes the lyrics.  It does not come with any real informative information but overall it’s a very neat packaged presentation.

Artwork.

The artwork cover layout was done by Andy Tillison. The cover photographs (including Pawn) was taken by Martin Reijman. Additional photos by Casey Orr. It’s perhaps the most minimalistic artwork cover on any of the Tangent’s albums, though no doubt that little chess piece could be seen as an agent and procurator and power to act for another in a menacing world of evil doers.

Proxy Released Editions…

The album was released with 4 editions for you to choose from, the cheapest being the Digital Download on MP3 which is around £7.99. Next up we have the CD which was my personal choice and is priced at around £9.99 and I saved a few pence by pre-ordering it on Amazon and paid £9.85. Though for the price of a tenner it’s excellent value considering it comes in a nicely presented DigiPak. But even for vinyl lovers you are getting a very good deal too.

Coloured Vinyl

The vinyl album comes with a choice of your standard black vinyl and also comes with the choice of 2 colours of orange and yellow. They all come with the CD included in the price too and the Black Vinyl is priced at around £18.99 and the Coloured Vinyl is around the £22 mark. But considering you get both the vinyl and the CD for the price that’s quite a bargain and you could say you are getting the CD for free. Especially with the price of vinyl these days.

The Proxy Album In Review…

The bands 10th studio album Proxy was released on the 16th November 2018. The album itself contains 6 tracks (CD Only) and has an overall playing time of 67 minutes, 34 seconds. Though in reality it could be said that the new album only contains 4 tracks simply because one of them had been previously released back in 2013 and the other one is an excerpt from a new album and project by Andy Tillison and could be seen as an advert or plug :))))).

The vinyl release does only contain the 4 new tracks that were written for the album and this would of been due to vinyl restrictions so they did not have to use more than 1 LP to cut down on the cost. To be perfectly honest I very much prefer the old 30 to 40 minute time slot, and with the price of vinyl these days it makes sense to go back to that time slot too. Both Andy Tillison and Roine Stolt are well known for cramming as much as they can get on a single disc as I mentioned earlier, and I will quite often call it too much food for thought rather than see it as getting any extra value for your money.

Though being as this album comes with a track I already have heard and have, and a track that is a plug for another album :))))). It could be said that the album we have here with its 4 new tracks is only 47 minutes, 16 seconds long, which is much more of a manageable and suitable length to make it much more easy to digest and get into a lot more quicker than their previous album. For me personally if you’re gonna make a double album stick it on 2 discs and not one, and even by doing that it’s more of a manageable way to listen and take in the music.

To be honest I would even prefer the bonus material to be put on another disc, and in reality the vinyl version of this new release truly represents the album and not the CD with it’s bonus tracks on it. I know Andy Tillison likes a good rant and now I am having one :)))) simply because there is no need to cram as much as you can onto one disc at all and that is not the way to make an album either.

An album should be a collection of material you have most recently written for it. It’s not for sticking material off another album on it just to plug it :)))))) and that is the type of material you would present to a magazine that comes with a CD of various artists plugging their new material or present to a radio station and not stuck on an album like this. The new material written for any album should be the focus point, and it should not have anything on it to distract that focus point either. That is how you truly make an album and treat the albums new material with respect. For me the bonus material is irrelevant and should be placed somewhere else and not here, and that is my point.

I am not saying that I dislike bonus material or even the bonus material on this album. But it just maybe why people do go running back to the 70’s or 60’s for that matter and that is my hint :))))))). Because those are the decades when people made albums, real albums, and they did not just stick anything on the buggers either :))))). I can understand when artists remaster older albums and stick bonus tracks on them, and even box sets that come with bonus tracks, but no new album in reality should have a bonus track.

Bonus tracks are quite often the tracks that the artist wrote at the time and left off the album simply because they either felt they never fitted in with other material written for the album, or they did not think were good enough for the album. Not that this is the case here I should add. But in reality this album does have 2 bonus tracks and not 1 like it’s made to believe even if “Supper’s Off” has been re-recorded and had a few of its lyrics changed here and there.

Most of the newer material was written whilst they was on their last tour and they had sort of merged themselves together with the band that was double billed with them the Karmakanic. Some of the members from that band played with The Tangent and the name the Tangekanic was made out of the two names to which they released a live entitled Hotel Cantaffordit. The live album featured live tracks from both bands, and to me it was a bit of a mixed bag and did not entice me enough to buy it. To be honest I do prefer live concerts on DVD rather than just having them in audio only these days.

Musicians & Credits…

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Produced written and mixed by Andy Tillison at MBL Otley Yorkshire. Recorded in England, Austria and Sweden between Autumn 2017 – Spring 2018. Main Session at Woolpack Music Studios Otley Yorkshire England. Cover Layout by Andy Tillison. Cover Photographs by Martin Reijman. Additional photos by Casey Orr.

Musicians.

Andy Tillison: Vocals/Hammond Organ/Pianos/Synthesisers/Electronic Drums & Bass Synth (Track 4).
Luke Machin: Electric & Acoustic Guitars.
Jonas Reingold: Bass Guitar/Taurus Pedals.
Theo Travis: Tenor & Soprano Saxophones/Flute & Alto Flute.
Steve Roberts: Drums/Percussion/Assorted Gongs.

Special Guest Goran Edman backing vocals.

The Album Tracks In Review…

The latest album Proxy is not a concept album and is merely how Tillison describes it himself as being “a protest song, a reflection, a couple of regrets and a rant”. Nothing new there then :)))))) and no doubt Tillison has always been quite cynical and likes to have a good rant and he’s always had things to protest against too. Though people have been writing protest songs well before he and I were born, and they will never change the world I am afraid. Writing protest songs is like flogging a dead horse, and when it comes to politics, you may as well bang your head against a brick wall.

No doubt there is a lot of truth in his lyrics, but I can also see a humorous side to some his lyrics too, and some of the things he does come out with do make me laugh at times, even if I shouldn’t. But I am sure that’s how he also intended them to be as well. To be honest the world I drive through so to speak is the funny side of it, and I will always look for the funny side of anything rather than focus my attention on all the doom and gloom in the world. I am not into politics and do not see any point spending my time talking or moaning about it.

Life is short enough without wasting my time on all that shit. So I tend to stay clear of the news most of the time and am much more happier and enjoy life more for doing so. I am not completely blind to all the crap that goes on in this evil world. But if you cannot have a good laugh, you might as well be dead is how I see it.

Speaking of having a good laugh, this is what I do get out of the rant song on this album entitled “Supper’s Off” and I shall be treating it as a bonus track in my review here and talk about the both bonus tracks you get here first. The song was originally released on a companion album back in 2013 and effectively L’etagere Du Travail is an album that consists of out-takes and alternate mixes and was the companion to the other 2013 album Le Sacre Du Travail. This companion album is basically what’s known as the shelf off work that never made it on Le Sacre Du Travail.

It was also released through the Tangents Merch Desk from their official website and perhaps more of a fan base release than an official release like the the other album that was released on Inside Out Records and had a record label. Though to be honest in the past I have seen the album sold on Amazon, though nothing surprises me as to what turns up on that site :)))))). The album was released on CD and download only and has never seen a vinyl release.

But I suppose you could say by sticking it on this album it could be seen as having more of an official release. But it’s still not been put on vinyl like the new tracks written for Proxy have, and as this is a reworked older song it can only be really seen as a bonus track. Hence my reason for treating it as such.

The Bonus Tracks.

The version of “Supper’s Off” we have here is over a minute longer and has either been replayed completely by the line up of the band on this album or they have reworked part of the original songs structure in the music and lyric department. The song itself no doubt is a rant and one that pertains to how today’s prog rock bands do not really get a look in, especially in relation to the more successful prog rock bands from 70’s had and were doing so well, and how still today people tend to go back to that decade for their music rather than go along with the new sort of thing.

To be honest you could say that even I myself still live in that golden decade, and many of those bands from the 70’s made music to last a lifetime. I would even say the biggest majority of music I buy these days are new mixes of the albums I already brought back in that decade too. But I still buy some of the newer prog rock bands too, and being a person who likes to review the music I buy and post it in a few prog rock groups on Facebook. You would also have to be blind not to notice all the posts of the artists and albums that came out of the 70’s in those groups, and they are literally plastered with the same thing every day of the week.

Much of today’s prog rock or neo prog rock whatever you want to call it is done mostly by artists who loved that golden decades music too, and some are even trying to emulate the music that came out of the 70’s with their own music too. Personally I do not see this as a bad thing and for me these new bands are very much keeping prog alive today, even if it’s not really dead judging by the zillion posts you see in these prog groups on Facebook :))))). I think even with written reviews of their own music they even like to be compared to those GREAT! bands from the 70’s but it’s always a good thing to create your own style and many bands do just that too.

Getting back to the song “Supper’s Off” there is no doubt that The Tangent have their own particular style and when it comes to lyrics Andy Tillison can also incorporate a bit of that anger that was injected and fuelled by many punk rock bands with their protests and rants. He even played a bit of punk rock himself in the past and a lot of those type of lyrics have very much been part of him throughout his career. I myself detest punk rock but I cannot deny that some of those bands wrote some really great lyrics to their songs. But effectively what Tillison has done by changing the lyrics in the chorus in particular for this newer version of the song. Could be seen as it stepping away from its original title to which he has still kept.

But to be honest i  have always loved this song and even with the change of lyrics we have here, I can still laugh my bollox off at it :)))))). No doubt the songs title is pertaining to the band Genesis and their song “Suppers Ready” and the original version of “Supper’s Off” (which I would not say was a demo either) used the word “Genesis” instead of “Seventies” in the chorus so it’s now as thus:

We tried to change the world
But the world won’t take the hint
They go running back off to the seventies
And all the other bands are skint

It’s really GREAT! song and good to have another version of it even if there is not a real lot of difference between the two versions. It could also be one of tracks on the album that merited the top spot award of the album, if I was to include it with the albums new material here, which is another good reason to treat it as a bonus track.

The 2nd bonus track on the album is an excerpt from the 3rd track entitled “Jomakh” from Andy Tillison’s new project he calls Kalman Filter. The album was released earlier on this year back in June and is titled Exo​-​Oceans. The album itself contains 3 tracks spread over a playing time of 74 minutes, 57 seconds and this excerpt is 10 minutes, 25 seconds of the longest track on the album which is some 42 minutes, 17 seconds long. It also features his long time friend Matt Stevens playing guitar on the 1st track of the album.

To be honest over the years The Tangent have been going. Tillison will often stick the odd bonus track from his solo albums on The Tangent albums and its nothing new for him to do at all. After all he is the main man behind the music of the band so he’s bound to plug something from his solo material and other projects he’s involved in every now and then.

But this is perhaps something a bit different from his usual keyboard work to which is something a bit more familiar with electronic bands such as Tangerine Dream for example. What we have here is sort of electronic Jazz and is quite laid back ambient chillout Jazz and to be honest it’s pretty catchy too. That catchy that I actually gave this 42 minutes, 17 second track a blast on Bandcamp to which you can listen to the whole album here on this link. https://kalmanfilter.bandcamp.com/album/exo-oceans

To be perfectly honest I am glad I did give it a blast too simply because the 10 minute, 25 second excerpt you do get here is very good and even after some 22 mins of the 42 minutes, 17 seconds you do get here it still sounds good and was actually enticing me to buy it. Then all of sudden the Jazz went out of the window and we got something that was perhaps more associated with meditative music in that there was practically nothing there at all but some noise, and every now and then you got something that was perhaps more familiar with being in space with the keyboard sounds.

Honestly I would of got more satisfaction watching paint dry than the last 20 odd minutes of the track, it totally bored my pants off and was a complete waste of space. Then right at the very end you got Tillison telling Alexa to play “Slow Rust” by The Tangent :))))). I think meditative was the wrong term for it and I perhaps needed a sedative to calm me down from saying WTF’s this shit all the time LOL… He just totally ruined the whole thing for me I am afraid.

Now that I have got the bonus tracks out of the way let’s take a look at the 4 new tracks that were written for the Proxy.

The Proxy Tracks In Review.

Track 1. Proxy.

The album opens up with its self titled album track and this is really a GREAT! 16 minute track that many reviewers have already pointed out sounds pretty much like what you would expect from The Tangent’s music and to an extent I would also agree. But I would also say that there is not only The Tangent’s style here at all regarding the musical style of things in the musical intro, and there is some things here that very much remind of what The Flower Kings did on their first couple of albums Back In The World Of Adventures and Retropolis. Both of these albums are different in style to what The Flower Kings were doing when the both bands merged together to make up The Tangent when they first started, and those first couple of albums from the mid 90’s are also my personal favourite albums by The Flower Kings too.

The intro is certainly more around the lines of Jazz Funk with some superb bass work from Jonas Reingold. No doubt both The Flower Kings and The Tangent do tend to focus more on the jazz side of things with their music, its perhaps only down to the fact that they stretch it out more to allow for more transitional changes is where prog rock comes into its element more than anything else. Which can be a good thing about the both bands when it works well over a distance like this, and on this track it works very well with all it’s changes and keeps the interest and attention.

No doubt the lyrical side of things and Andy Tillison’s cynical approach to delivering them is very much the same, and to be honest with all the words he throws into his songs I have no idea how he can remember them all when it comes to perform them live on stage. To be honest it’s very rare Tillison’s lyrics will really grab me and perhaps the only time they do grab my attention is when they make me laugh most of the time. “Lost In London” is a prime example of those side of things. Most of the time listening to his lyrics is a bit like going down my local pub and listening to some fool babble on about politics all day long, and the subject of politics has never really grabbed my attention simply because it never changes and it’s the same old shit.

I suppose I could compare these type of lyrics to most pop songs that have nothing more than “I Love You” and “Baby Baby” in them, simply because they babble on about the same old shit too :))))) and these type of songs are not genuine songwriter lyrics that have a lot more scope and thought put into them. But I have always put the music first with any song in reality and if the music speaks to me then that’s fine with me. What I like about prog rock more than anything is how the music will take you somewhere else, and its not all verse and chorus all the time. And in the case of this song it is the music that will say something different with all it’s changes, unlike the lyrics which are basically saying the same old thing. I am not saying his lyrics are not good by any means, but sometimes it would be a good idea to change the subject sort of thing.

Like most of The Tangent’s songs they are driven by Tillison’s keyboards, and the “Proxy” features mostly the keyboards, bass and drums and is not a song that offers a lot of space for a guitarist like Luke Machin to really shine. I would also say it gives more space Theo Travis on the sax in reality. But the song flows and works well enough with all the progression you get, and it really is an excellent track and for those who want to start a war without anyone knowing who you are. You can now do it all by Proxy :))))) and this is one of my contenders for the top spot on the album.

Track 2.  The Melting Andalusian Skies.

The instrumental track of the album and this is a piece that runs along in a menacing and meandering way with its jazzy flamenco style. There are some nice twists and turns along the way and Luke Machin does get to feature more on this one and does a Grand! job too along with the rest of the guys. Besides all the meandering it also has a nice comfortable relaxed style about it too and this may have been inspired from a Spanish holiday and Tillison describes it as a sun-drenched Mediterranean fusion instrumental, more Chick Corea than Che Guevara. It’s another really GREAT! piece of work and a very strong contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 3. A Case Of Misplaced Optimism.

The shortest track on the album and one that the band described as an attempt to find the missing link between Porcupine Tree and Jamiroquai. Personally I do not get anything from those couple of artists that even remotely reminds me of them. Though I have to confess I have heard little from them both. But what we do have here is perhaps more of a real jazzy song and it’s quite a funky one at that.

To be honest everything about this track says more to me about Weather Report and Jeff Beck, that it will ever say to me about Porcupine Tree and Jamiroquai. Lyric wise it is something different for a change and the lyrics are perhaps something more along the style of lyrics that Sting would write.

It’s certainly got a 70’s sound and style about it all, and I could even associate many other artists with it too such as Stevie Wonder for example. It’s certainly got a dance groove to it as well and with that beep you hear every now and then that gives it that space feel, I could even perhaps associate it with the 70’s funk disco band Space with it as well.

In retrospect I could quite easily call this a class act and it’s been very well produced. That well that I doubt if it could be performed this tight live and sound as good as this. I am not disputing the talent of the musicians in the band, but this song I would say is the nearest The Tangent have ever been to real jazz and I love it. Enough to even merit it as the best track on the album, though to be honest all 4 of the new tracks could equally merit the top spot on the album.

Track 4. The Adulthood Lie.

This is perhaps the most talked about track on the album that I noticed way before the albums release. To be honest the way it was being hyped up as some massive dance track, I was half expecting something completely different and more along the lines of modern dance music, to which would most certainly would not of been to my taste or my cup of tea so to speak. It does have some modern touches to it, but it is not something that is that different regarding The Tangent’s style and output of music.

Lyrically we have the same sort of holiday thing like the previous track, only here they are pertaining to the music scene in Ibiza. Such as DJ discos, the nightclub party life and rekindling ones youth back to the times even to the extent of going back to vinyl records. I have to confess that in my youth I hated Discos and I have been to Ibiza once and would never go back there again either :)))))). As for vinyl records, I would not go back to those things either, and certainly do not think the price of vinyl these days should cost any more than the CD. So lyrically this song is never gonna say a thing to me in a million years :))))).

Having said all that though, this is quite a catchy song and it does have something quite mysterious about it, and for the life of me I cannot put my finger on it either. To give you an example of the mystery behind it, when I first heard this track on the album I honestly thought this was another song that The Tangent had already done a good few years ago and was not a new song. I should mention that before the album was released, I did get to hear the single version of it about a month beforehand, but I only listened to it once. I have even been going through all my Tangent albums to see if I could find it, but cannot.

So listening to it once a month beforehand somehow must of planted the idea in my brain that this was not a new song at all when I finally got the album. To be honest I am still confused and am sure this is not new :))))))). If it is new then it must of had a very catchy effect on me without me even noticing it. So there might be something a bit special about this song. But is it the best track on the album out of all the 4 new songs here?. My answer would be NO!. But then again out of all the 4 new tracks you get here on the album Proxy. I could not really pick a favourite even though I have, and no doubt this is another contender for the top spot on the album.

Summary…

To sum up The Tangent’s latest album Proxy. I would say the 4 tracks that have been placed on the vinyl version represent the album and not the other 2 bonus tracks you get the on the CD even though they are both very good bonus tracks. No doubt if like myself you enjoy The Tangent’s music you will not be disappointed with this new release and all 4 of the new songs have been very well crafted and are up there with some of the bands best material.

The good thing about it is that The Tangent’s music has never really changed and that’s what I like about it, and even though “The Adulthood Lie” may have been hyped up prior to it’s release, its nothing that new at all to my ears and thankfully it was not some mad rave or trance sort of thing thing either :)))))).

I like the placement of the tracks on the album and the fact that the couple of 16 minute lengthy tracks have been spaced out more, it makes it much more of an enjoyable album and a lot easier to take in and digest. Getting back to the question I posed in my introduction of will Proxy be the album of this year or the next? I would say unlike their previous studio album The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery this one grabbed me more and was way more easier to take in and digest.

I think the overall length of the 4 new tracks being just over 47 minutes is a way better suited time slot for any album even for a CD. Though even that time slot is not really suitable to squeeze on 1 LP due to vinyl restrictions and it will suffer slightly a bit for it. Many did it years ago too and that’s why I prefer the CD and will not go back to vinyl myself. Not only that I cannot be arsed to get up to turn the album over all the time :)))))).

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Proxy by The Tangent I honestly cannot fault a single track on the album, not even the bonus tracks on the CD either. I think for fans of the band this album has to be a must and no doubt the material is very good and right up there with their very best albums to be honest. The Tangent’s music will not suit everyone’s taste and to be honest I was quite shocked by the effect both this new album and The Flower Kings latest album had on an American reviewer from the Progarchy website.

He had been quite a fan of both bands for a good while, but having received both albums to review before they was released, it made him quit the Progarchy after some 6 or 7 years of doing album reviews and turn his back on both bands in disgust all over their political viewpoint with their lyrics. I am pretty sure it was the track “America” on the latest album of The Flower Kings that got his goat up, and to be honest I could not see WTF was wrong with it :))))).

Just as well I do not pay that much attention to politics and peoples viewpoint about it, and like I said in my review Andy Tillison’s lyrics have never really grabbed me only when they make me laugh, and for me the music is really the thing that has always grabbed my attention and not so much the lyrics. I certainly would not let any political shit stand in the way of the music I love so much either or even go out and buy an album just to burn it all over religion like some idiots did back in the 60’s LOL…

Overall the Proxy is a truly GREAT! album that has some really nice touches of jazz, funk and even dance groove along its path, and it flows very well throughout its entirety even with the bonus tracks. It very much has everything you would expect from The Tangent and very much keeps the world of prog rock still ticking over in the 21st century.

Let’s Do It All By Proxy, So We Never Have To Take The Hit…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Proxy. 16:07.
02. The Melting Andalusian Skies. 8:51.
03. A Case Of Misplaced Optimism. 6:13.
04. The Adulthood Lie. 16:05.
05. Supper’s Off. 9:53.
06. Excerpt From Jomakh (Bonus Track). 10:25.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

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

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.