Lee Speaks About Music… #86

I Lost My Head (The Chrysalis Years 1975 – 1980) – Gentle Giant

142511a

Introduction…

Well it’s time for another box set review, and this particular box set of Gentle Giant’s has now been reissued again this month after it is very much went out of print since it was first released back in 2012. To be perfectly honest I would love to see some of the albums in this box set get 5.1 mixes rather than buy them in a box like this, but no doubt this box set offers you tremendous value for the buck, and is cheap enough to even have as a collector’s item for the shelf.

Gentle Giant where quite an amazing band who very much made their mark in the world of progressive rock back in the early 70’s. Although this box set does not contain the bands first 6 albums, it does capture complete the second half the bands career. The latter half was perhaps where the band were aiming to be a bit more commercial has they went on. Its perhaps not the bands best output in relation to the albums they made in the first half of their career, but never the less there is still some Gems here.

As with any box set like this that comes with an array of albums. It’s perhaps a bit too much for me to take on all the individual album tracks. So for this review I am going to keep it nice and simple, and stick to the highlights of the albums with my review here. But first let’s take a look at what you get for the price of 20 bucks.

The Chrysalis Years (1975 – 1980) (Box Set) In Review…

This one

The new reissued Gentle Giant Box Set was released on 8th June 2018. I pre-ordered it from Amazon on the 19th April and it arrived on the day after its release. The Box Set only contains 4 discs but it does have 6 Gentle Giant albums spread over them. 2 of the discs have 2 albums each on them. The other 2 discs have 1 album each on them. Though you do get quite a few bonus tracks on one of those, and the other one contains the bands double live album.

The box set contains the albums Free Hand. Interview. Playing The Fool (Their official double live album). The Missing Piece. Giant For A Day and Civilian.

There is no doubt a box set like this offers quite a saving over the price it would cost you to buy these albums individually. Individually they would cost you from £10 – £14 per album. So let’s say £12 each for a rough guide which would mean that you would be looking at paying £72 for the 6 albums. This box set can be had on Amazon for £20.35 and retails around £20.75 so you are near enough saving £52 over the price of buying them individually which is a massive saving.

To be honest I myself can be fussy at times and would as rule want the individual albums. But I do already have 4 of the albums in this box set, but those are not remasters like your getting here. They also came in plastic jewel cases and these days I do prefer the cardboard Digipaks and Digisleeves. I am not sure if even the new remastered albums come in those either individually and are just in Jewel cases. Otherwise I may have been tempted to buy those again instead of purchasing this box set.

But for 20 bucks you cannot go wrong here, and if you have never heard of Gentle Giant I would think that even though you do not have the bands earlier albums in this box set. What you do get here would still make a great introduction to the band, and you even get a double live album that features a lot of their earlier material. Had the band not signed up to Chrysalis Records in 1975 they would of been able to release their complete discography in a box set I dare say.

It’s unfortunate that even today the band are still tied to record labels that prevent them doing such a thing. As far as I know of the bands first 6 albums on Capitol Records have never been released by that record company in a box set. So this particular box set may seem a bit of an odd one in the way that only the bands second part of their career have been released in this way.

The Packaging & Contents…

34755267_1721249087954638_8541447830022127616_n

All 4 discs come in a cardboard Clamshell Box and the discs are stored in cardboard sleeves that are a mini presentation of the type of sleeve a single vinyl album would come in. It also comes with a 16 page booklet that contains all the linear production notes of all 6 albums. Although they have not included the lyrics, it does come with some very good informative information based on the time they made all the albums.

No doubt it would of made a better presentation if they put each album on it’s own individual disc, and put the double live album on 2 discs and used a gatefold DigiSleeve for it. They could of easily done so and sold it at £25 instead of £20 and they would not be losing any money by doing it that way either.

I am pretty sure people would not mind paying the extra £5 either, and I personally think it would of made that much more of an attractive package and even attracted more sales. After all this is a 2018 reissue and there was no need to make it exactly like the 2012 release. But for 20 bucks I suppose you cannot really complain and it works out that you are paying around £3.35 per album and one of them is a double album.

The Band

e7UDqMvksEfqgrYwPu8nV6-320-80

Gentle Giant had no further line up changes throughout the rest of their career and the following musicians of the band cater for all the instrumentation and vocals on all the albums in this box set.

Derek Shulman: Vocals/Saxes/Alto Sax.
Ray Shulman: Bass/Violin/Acoustic Guitar/Descant Recorder/Vocals & Percussion.
Kerry Minnear: Keyboards/Cello/Vibes/Tenor Recorder/Vocals & percussion.
Gary Green: Electric & Acoustic Guitars/12 String Guitars/Alto & Descant reorders/Vocals & percussion.
John Weathers: Drums/Tambour/Vibes/Percussion & backing Vocals.

The Albums In review…

Freehand

Free Hand

Gentle Giant’s 7th studio album Free Hand was released in September 1975. The album contained 7 tracks and had an overall playing time of 36 minutes, 42 seconds. It was the first album to be released on Chrysalis Records a move the band decided to take despite the improvement in sales of their last two albums In A Glass House and The Power and The Glory had with WWA Records.

The band had earlier supported Jethro Tull on their European tour and had taken note of how well they was doing under Terry Ellis of Chrysalis Records. They thought that they may get a bit more promoted by making the move and admired how Ellis went about his business. Hence the reason for wanting to make the change. But they was also having a few teething problems with WWA Records too, and they even reflected those in the words of this albums self titled album track.

No doubt the move did work for them with the release of this album, and Free Hand managed to beat their previous record by 2 places and reached number 48 in the American billboard charts. But unfortunately for them things were no better afterwards, and Free Hand was the bands most successful album they ever put out of all their 11 studio albums albums back then.

The album Free Hand more or less continues were the bands previous album The Power and The Glory left off. Musically they are both very similar and it’s only really the subject matter behind the lyrics that is the real change. To be perfectly honest I would of thought that for those who liked The Power and The Glory it would be practically imposable not to like Free Hand. They are both more or less solid albums and both contain very well written material and are up there with the bands very best albums.

Bonus Tracks.

This particular version of the album that comes in this box set also comes with 6 bonus tracks that were previously unreleased until 2012 when they was originally released on this same box set before it went out of print. The 6 bonus tracks are as follows:

1976 Intro Tape” (previously unreleased). “Just the Same” (BBC session John Peel). “Free Hand” (BBC session John Peel). “On Reflection” (BBC session John Peel). “Give It Back” (International 7″ mix) and “I Lost My Head” (7″ mix). None of the tracks were ever released on CD before, until 2012 that is.

To be honest most bonus tracks very rarely offer you anything either new or very good. You do get the some worthy bonus tracks now and then no doubt, and some of these I will say are very good. I particularly like the 3 tracks from this album they done live at the BBC and the live arrangement of “On Reflection” is very good and quite different to the original studio version to which they play the intro of it on their instruments, rather than start it off with the vocal harmonies.

The short “1976 Intro Tape” is also very good to hear it without the noise of the crowd and I think this is the intro tape they made for their live concerts they played in 1976. You can also hear it on the live album too, but it sounds way better here. The last couple of bonus tracks are just the edited single versions of two of the tracks that was to feature on their next album Interview. I always tend to see these sort of things pointless and prefer to hear the whole of the song on the album.

The Main Album.

The album Free Hand could be seen as a liberation and the break away from WWA Records after some of the legal tussles that had put the band in limbo for a short while. They did not waste time putting the album together for their new record company, and the whole album was recorded in 2 to 3 weeks at Advision Studios in London in April 1975. The band had spent time rehearsing the material before going into the studio to record it, to save on the cost and this was how the band had always worked back then.

Musically the band had very much stuck to their usual style using folk elements that have always been part of the bands trademark since the beginning. Both the tracks “Talybont” and “Mobile” are excellent examples of how well the band fuse other elements into folk music and the first of these two may very well be classed as medieval folk to some extent.

Yet it even contains classical elements, and the instrumentation that is used gives this fine instrumental track that prog goodness to it all. It’s also so masterfully played and is quite reminiscent to the style of music the medieval prog rock band Gryphon were doing back then too.

The latter of the two “Mobile” upon it’s intro you would think that you were listening to Fairport Convention. But after that short 20 second intro the band soon settle down to their usual style of complex time signature changes and bring other elements with the instrumentation and have the ability to take it somewhere else.

There is no doubt that even a folk rock band like Fairport Convention at times had prog rock traits in some of their music. They also had very capable musicians to do such a thing. But what Gentle Giant do with folk music is completely turn it inside out and outside in and give it a most unusual twist. It’s so unique that no other band were doing it. It’s almost like this band could play any style of music you threw at them and no doubt the musicians they had were capable of doing it as well.

Lyrically I think this album works better than their previous album The Power and The Glory and that is simply because it’s not harking over the same thing all the while and this album is not focused on one subject matter like that album was. Although by the opening track on the album “Just The Same” you would think the band were going down the same road with the lyrics they had wrote for “Proclamation“ that was from that album.

To be honest both tracks are excellent album openers and as soon as you hear “Just The Same” you instantly get this feel that both albums are quite alike with the musical presentation that was wrote for them. A lot of reviews tend point out that the album Free Hand was more of a commercial album. I personally think it’s nothing of the sort and this album is as close as you could get to The Power and The Glory and both albums have that ability to rock it out a bit more that’s all.

The album Free Hand contains great songs all the way it’s perhaps even hard to pick a personal favourite and it’s opening track “Just The Same” would very much be a very strong contender. So to would the track that follows it “On Reflection” which is more or less a fugue of vocal harmonies, vibes and percussion until it’s very end. But my personal favourite goes to the albums self titled track “Free Hand“. It’s a very well constructed song that goes in many directions with its progression and diversity and merits the top spot award.

Although “Time To Kill” is not a bad song, it is perhaps the weakest spot on the album when weighing it up to the rest of the material we have here. I would expect some would feel the same about “His Last Voyage” which is the longest track on the album. But it does have quite a sweeter side with Kerry Minnear’s voice taking on the lead vocals and it’s not only soothing but meanders it’s way along very well.

Overall Free Hand is quite a solid enough album and once again the band have come up with some great written material for it. Personally I do not think there is anything not to like here and the albums tracks have been very well placed to make it work like a great album. My personal highlights from the album are “Just The Same“. “On Reflection“. “Free Hand” and “Talybont“.

Just like the album The Power and The Glory. I feel that both albums are more accessible in relation to some of the bands earlier albums. They both have that more of a rock feel about them in parts, and in all honesty the material we have here is that close that both of these albums would of worked as a double album. Only the subject of the lyrics really prevents the both albums not working in that way.

Because both albums are that close and have equal strengths. I was left with no alternative but to give them both the same album rating score.

The original album track listing is as follows: 1. Just The Same. (5:33). 2. On Reflection. (5:42). 3. Free Hand. (6:12). 4. Time To Kill. (5:07). 5. His Last Voyage. (6:26). 6. Talybont. (2:42). 7. Mobile. (5:01).

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.

————————————————————————————————————-

Interview

Interview

The bands 8th studio album Interview was released on the 23rd April 1976. The band decided to do another concept album based upon the more frequent questions that got asked in the interviews on the radio they had encountered over the years. The interview they actually staged themselves in the studio and is very much a phoney bit of a spoof.

They also based a lot of the lyrics around numerous criticisms of the music industry, which was perhaps nothing that unusual on that score for this band, and they always liked to have ago at one thing or the other on their previous albums. Only here it was done with a bit more humour perhaps and the fact that they was tired of all the silly questions that they got asked repeatedly.

The album itself contains 7 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 36 minutes, 48 seconds. Once again the album was recorded at the Advision Studios in London and the band had spent a few weeks recording the tracks between March and April getting it all done. The band roped in the freelance journalist and music writer of Sounds Phil Sutcliffe who was also a long time friend to conduct and be the voice of the interviewer on the album. His voice is featured in 4 short places from the beginning to the end of the album.

According to the information in the booklet, the material for the album was written after an extensive live tour they had spent to promote their previous album Free Hand which left the band a bit shattered. It did not help with them writing it away from their home in Portsmouth either, and they was in a rush to get another album out for their now new record label Chrysalis. Some of the band members were also not happy with the end the result and reckoned they were under-rehearsed before going in the studio to record it.

Personally I do not feel the band needed to make any excuses because the album Interview how I see it is another great album and far from anything remotely bad at all. The band may have been a bit more dissatisfied by the fact that it only reached 137 in the billboard charts some 89 places lower than Free Hand had done previously done. I suppose having seen how well they was getting a bit more recognised with that album, that it would of put a bit of a damper on things and got them down a bit.

But no doubt the band still had their unique style on this album even despite throwing in a bit of reggae on one of the tracks. I still think the material they wrote here is also very good and is not that far from what they did on their last couple of albums. They are still continuing in that direction at this point of their career, and personally I feel there is nothing not to like here.

The album kicks off with its self titled track “Interview” and it s my personal favourite track on the album. Though both “Empty City” and “I Lost My Head” are also very strong contenders for the top spot on this album. These 3 tracks have that bit more progression and diversity about them for my own personal taste, and perhaps stand out more than the other 4 tracks. They even named this box set after the latter of those 3 tracks.

The interview that is conducted throughout the album is mainly focused on one question. That is, how would you describe your music?. It’s something not even the band can do or answer, and to be honest neither could I either :)))))).

I suppose if you can work out what the track “Timing” is about, you may find the answer. I am not even gonna try and decipher the lyrics they wrote for it. But no doubt Gentle Giant’s music is filled with time signature changes, complex rhythms, shifting patterns and is perhaps the strangest thing on the planet. “Timing” is another great track that also has bags of progression and diversity.

Just like the title of the bands second album there is no doubt you are gonna have to acquire the taste to get into their music. It’s very much this whole strangeness that keeps me coming back to it, and the good thing about it is that you can learn more about it each time you play it, and it may even take you years to fully understand it. This is what precisely rocks my boat about this band.

Just to prove how strange and weird this band is. On the song “Give It Back” they even throw in a bit of reggae over 5/4 and 7/4 time signatures. The band was inspired by the rawness of Bob Marley’s music at the time, so they decided to have a bit of dabble with it and decided to put their own stamp on it. It made me laugh when they said afterwards I am sure Bob would of choked on his spliff if he heard it :)))))).

To be honest “Give It Back” is not that completely strange at all even with the use of the different time signatures, its perhaps a bit more straightforward than the rest of the tracks on the album. No doubt it is something different for them to do as well, and it even reminds me more of 10CC than Gentle Giant.

Design” is another of those songs that features 4 part vocal harmonies that’s more associated with the band than reggae on that score. They also use an array of percussion to great effect as well. “Another Show” is much more up-tempo and it weaves and meanders its way along at quite a fast pace. It’s another song that features bags of progression along it’s path and a really great track that some may even put up there with the best on the album.

Overall the album Interview may not be as strong as the both albums that came before it. But it does not disappoint and presents itself more or less in a similar vein. I very much think besides the live album they released in the following year, that Interview was the last studio album Gentle Giant made before completely changing their style and heading into a completely different direction regarding the music that came after it.

My personal highlights from the album are “Interview“. “Empty City“. “I Lost My Head” and “Another Show“. I personally think the album was well underrated and it’s a damn site better than how many judged the album on it’s release. It’s certainly one of those albums that one may need to return to again later on to get to appreciate it more.

I would also think it’s one of those albums today where one is perhaps looking for some more golden nuggets that came out of the 70’s and have not heard this album, or did back then and never rated it. It’s well worth giving it another try because this may just be the real missing piece, and not the album that came after it.

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Interview. (6:54). 2. Give It Back. (5:11). 3. Design. (5:00). 4. Another Show. (3:29). 5. Empty City. (4:23). 6. Timing. (4:52). 7. I Lost My Head. (6:59).

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 7/10.

————————————————————————————————————-

Playing The Fool (Live)

Playing The Fool (The Official Live)

Released on the 18th January 1977 Playing The Fool was the only official live album that was released during the bands 10 year career. Originally released as a double vinyl album to which is these days is all crammed onto 1 CD and has an overall playing time of 77 minutes and 52 seconds. It captures the band playing live in certain venues in Germany, France and Belgium on their European tour between September and October of 1976 to which they put on in support of their last studio album Interview.

Because they had every intention of recording for a live album. The band rented Jethro Tull’s Mobile to record the live shows with. It would not surprise me if Ian Anderson never gave them a discount either :))))). But no doubt the recording mobile done the job, cause this is a very well recorded live album.

Although the band were indeed promoting their 8th studio album Interview at the the time, this particular albums set-list is not so much focused on that album, and it actually captures them playing material from all their 8 studio albums they had released at this time. Although it does only capture a small snippet from the bands 2nd album Acquiring The Taste which happens to be the self titled track of that album. Oddly enough it also gets played during the excerpts they are playing from their 4th album Octopus.

Unfortunately I never got to see Gentle Giant play live back in their day, just by listening to this live album you immediately get the impression that this was one pretty awesome live band. There is no doubt that this live album is the pure GEM in this box set. It features many of the bands classics and the how this band could improvise gives you an even better presentation of their songs in relation to many of the tracks done in the studio. There are also no overdubs at all and this is one pretty impressive live album that even sounds purely fantastic.

The first leg of the European tour that is captured here comes from them playing in Düsseldorf in Germany on the 23rd September and the album kicks off with both the opening tracks “Just The Same/Proclamation” from the albums Free Hand and The Power and The Glory. They also played “On Reflection” on that same night which is also on the album here and despite them doing a tour to promote the album Interview, there is more tracks actually from their 1975 album Free Hand than any other album.

A couple of days later the band played in Munich on the 25th September and they played one the songs from that show which happens to be the classic “Funny Ways” from their self titled debut album. This happens to be my favourite of the tracks they played here in Germany and they do a blinding job of it as well. No doubt the both opening tracks on the album are very powerful, but I also love how they done the opening instrumental intro on “On Reflection” which is how they played it at the BBC Sessions that is one of the bonus tracks on Free Hand I mentioned earlier.

On the 5th October the band were in Paris. France and 4 of the songs from that show they have included here. “Excerpts from Octopus” is perhaps my personal favourite of the album but in all honesty I would also have to include “Funny Ways” along with it, and there is nothing but complete magic throughout this whole album. So I am not even gonna choose a favourite. Amongst the excerpts you get here are “The Boys In The Band/Raconteur Troubadour/Acquiring The Taste/Knots/Ocean Bridge/The Advent Of Panurge“. They also include a famous quartet played on Recorders.

They also done “The Runaway/Experience” from In A Glass House. Another great song from The Power and The Glory album “So Sincere” and the album closes off with a short burst of “Peel the Paint” from their 3rd album Friends which runs into the “I Lost My Head” to which is the only song from the album Interview.

But before both of those you get the self titled album track “Free Hand” and a short instrumental piece entitled “Sweet Georgia Brown” which was a jazz standard pop tune from 1925 written by Ben Bernie and Maceo Pinkard. Both of these came from the shows they played a couple of days later on the 7th October in Brussels Belgium.

The latter of the two was done instantaneous on the spot as they was about to start to show only to see smoke coming out of Kerry Minnear’s keyboards. Being as Ray Shulman had his violin under his chin. Both he and Gary Green decided to play it whilst the engineers sorted out the keyboards. Their fans had a rare treat and it was most welcomed by them too.

No doubt Playing The Fool was one of the best live albums to be released back in the 70’s and even though this is a double albums worth of live material you get, it still leaves you wanting more. That’s how good this album is. My personal highlights are “Funny Ways“. “Excerpts from Octopus“. “Just The Same/Proclamation” and “Free Hand“.

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Just The Same / Proclamation (11:13).  2. On Reflection (6:24) 3. Excerpts From Octopus (15:35). 4. Funny Ways (8:35). 5. The Runaway / Experience (9:31). 6. So Sincere (10:22). 7. Free Hand (7:40). 8. Breakdown In Brussells (Sweet Georgia Brown) (1:15). 9. Peel The Paint / I Lost My Head (7:35).

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 10/10.

————————————————————————————————————-

The Missing Piece

The Missing Piece

A New Direction.

In 1977 when the band went back in the studio to record their 9th album The Missing Piece. By then we were starting to see the birth of Punk Rock here in the UK. Although this did not have a big impact on the American market, but the fact that the band were also touring both America and Europe and they was concerned with both markets for sales. It is said to have an impact on one of the band members, in particular their bassist and violin player Ray Shulman.

It was he who started to get into this new invasion and seen something in it that was new, despite the fact that this new invasion was introduced to put a mockers on the very genre of music they stood for, prog rock and he could even see that. It was not that he was into punk rock at all and it was more down to the fact that how simplified it all was. It was also mentioned by others that maybe their music was a bit over-complicated for more people to take an interest, and maybe toning it down a bit would create more interest.

Personally I never got what anybody seen so good about Punk Rock and despised it from the day I first heard it come from the Sex Pistols. This was a band that never spoke a dickie bird to me and still till this day they do not either. They was fucking dreadful and could not play or sing, how on earth any record company could sign that complete pile of shit to a record label is beyond me :)))))).

But to be honest I was amazed just what an effect this pile of crap had on people. Back in 1977 during the height of its explosion here in England. I was working in an Electro Plating factory with a load of Hells Angels and Cycle Tramps. And the one Monday morning I turned up for work, one of my work mates no longer had long hair and had it cut, spiked and died, he even had a bone through his nose.  I was both shocked and stunned :))))).

He even came in with a pile of rock and prog rock albums and was selling them from 50p to £1 each. I brought a few off him and around that time Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell had only just came out. I had only heard the title track of the album at the time, and thought for £1 it was a good buy. I remember when I got home and stuck the album on and as soon as I  heard “All Revved Up With No Place To Go” I thought that was a bit punk like and took the album off the turntable and smashed it up :)))))).

That’s how much I literally detested punk rock and anything that sounded like it at the time. I even went into Woolworth’s and brought a Sex Pistols single just to smash it up in the front of the assistant LOL…

Although Ray Shulman had not completely lost his marbles like some of my friends had around the time of this invasion. This did lead to the band changing their own musical direction. It was not just the punk rock thing either. He and the band had also took note of how bands like both Yes and Genesis were also heading towards a more commercial direction with their music.

The fact that Genesis in particular had a bit of a hit with “You’re Own Special Way” in the singles charts the same year very much spurred the band to record this album outside the UK which was something they had never done before. They even decided to book the very same recording studios in Holland that Genesis had recorded their album Wind and Wuthering that particular single of theirs came off.

The Album.

The Missing Piece was released on the 26th August 1977. The album contained 9 tracks and had an overall playing time of 36 minutes, 40 seconds. It was recorded at the Relight Studios, Hilvarenbeek, The Netherlands. Holland back then to be precise and I still prefer that name. They have gone double Dutch since and did not even qualify for this year’s World Cup :))))). The Netherlands sounds like something that came out of the Wizard Of Oz or even some childish thing Michael Jackson would come up with ffs :))))).

There is no doubt the band have acquired a new taste to their music and even though it’s meant to be an album of two halves, the 1st side being more like pop music and the 2nd side being more like prog rock. I beg to dither and this is certainly more of a pop album than anything else. I also think the way it’s been mixed lends to it being that way too, and because of the way the album has been produced, I very much think that there is only 1 or 2 tracks on this album that sounds remotely like anything the band did before it.

But having said all that, is it a bad album?.

Well I certainly think at the time they released it, a lot of their loyal fans may have been chucking bricks at them :)))))) and jumping off the band wagon so to speak. But to be honest it’s not that bad at all. But if I was following the band back then, I may well have been doing the same thing ;))))).

To put it in a nutshell I would of thought that when the band unleashed this album in 1977. To the loyal fan who had Acquired The Taste from the beginning of this bands career. It would of been like walking into your local shop to buy a jar of Nescafe’ and walking out with some cheaper best buy brand that was never gonna taste or say the same thing to you.

But that is not to say that these were badly written songs at all, and as far as pop songs go I honestly cannot fault most of the compositions on this album, and some of them are that good that I could see other artists even having a hit with them. For example I could quite easily visualize the rock band Aerosmith doing “Mountain Time” and having a hit with it. It’s perhaps more suited to their style than Gentle Giant themselves. I would even say the song had even got Stevie Wonder qualities about it as well.

Another bit of quality songwriting is the song “I’m Turning Around“. No doubt this song would of suited loads of pop artists and I could quite instantly see this being a smash hit if somebody had noticed it and recorded it. There is no doubt that Gentle Giant can write quality pop songs and in reality these are exactly that. They just was not a popular enough band for people to notice them in the first place.

This is where a band like Genesis had the edge over Gentle Giant by being that bit more popular. The other thing that made Genesis be more successful by changing their own style more towards popular music, is that they did it gradually and over a lot more time. For example the only real pop song on their album Wind and Wuthering was “You’re Own Special Way“. This was not enough to cause too much of an upset to their loyal fans at the time.

I think were Gentle Giant went wrong on this album is by trying to introduce way too much of a change all at once. It takes a lot longer for people to accept it, and some will not at all. But one of the major factors where they went wrong, is that they should of stuck to what they was doing in the first place, and not paid any attention to what was in the charts, or what other artists were doing just to get their records in them.

The fact that album also got to number 61 in the album charts which was considerably a lot higher than their previous album Interview. I personally think is why the band continued to carry on in the same direction. But it failed completely because the 2 albums that followed it, never even got in the album charts.

Even by listening to some of the songs on The Missing Piece you can even hear where the bands main singer Derek Shulman has even changed his voice trying to adapt it more for the record. Both “Betcha Thought We Couldn’t Do It” is most likely a stab at punk rock and “Who Do You Think You Are?” is perhaps a bit more reminiscent to some of the songs Steely Dan were doing.

Even though Gentle Giant were going in a new direction, I personally do not think it was through experimenting with new ideas of their own. If anything they was just listening to what other bands were doing in the singles charts more than anything else. They even changed the way they wrote songs, and basically all got together and had a jam, and as they wrote the songs they would even play them live to air them out before going in the studio to record them for the album.

For me personally the best song out of the 5 tracks on the first half of the album is the opening track “Two Weeks In Spain” and that’s most likely down to the fact that I loved holidaying in Spain myself, and it’s chorus is the sort of thing one might be singing from the top of their voice having just booked a holiday there, or being at the airport waiting to go there.

The 4 tracks on the 2nd half of the album do perhaps speak a bit more differently, but there is very little here to even say the what the band had previously done before. For example “As Old As You’re Young” we do get a bit of whimsical pleasant medieval thing going on here, it’s quite joyful and almost like a Christmas Song to some degree. It’s also the only track on the album that features Kerry on lead vocals.

For Nobody” is perhaps a much better effort although I have to say this album does not have a very good mix at all, and is the only one in this box set that suffers for it. This maybe down to the original tapes being lost for a lot of the tracks on this album (if it’s not, then they certainly did a bad job on the mix) the master tapes may have also worn down over the years. The band were certainly not onto a winner with “Winning” and this one actually gets the worst track on the album award.

There is no doubt that they have even simplified those songs to some extent as well, and none of those 3 songs are going to speak in leaps and bounds in relation to anything off the bands first 8 albums. The real winner on this album is by far “Memories of Old Days“. It’s even the longest track on the album and it’s perhaps the only track on this album that speaks the same language to what this band used to be about, if I am entirely honest. It also merits my top spot award and is my personal favourite track.

To sum up the album The Missing Piece by Gentle Giant it’s not an album that was aimed at their loyal fans, it’s an album that was made to try an attract a wider audience. It says very little for ardent fan and even though it does have some quality about the songwriting, the very fact that most of material was aimed at trying to attract a wider audience by writing pop songs that will not go in favour with most of their fans.

After the release of the album and in the new year the band played a one off concert at the Hippodrome in Golders Green London on the 5th January 1978. It was the first time the band had played in the UK for two and half years and was captured by the BBC for their Sight And Sound Concert Series for radio and TV.

The concert featured many of the tracks from The Missing Piece and a few of their older songs. It was officially released on DVD in 2006 and songs from the album were better performed live and even sound better than what they are on the CD.

The album The Missing Piece marked the first real change in the bands career and one that was to go even further downhill as they continued to go on in the same direction.  My personal highlights from the album are “Memories of Old Days“. “Two Weeks In Spain“. “As Old As You’re Young” and “For Nobody“.

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Two Weeks In Spain. (3:06). 2. I’m Turning Around. (4:01). 3. Betcha Thought We Couldn’t Do It. (2:25). 4. Who Do You Think You Are?. (3:36). 5. Mountain Time. (3:26). 6. As Old As You’re Young. (4:24). 7. Memories Of Old Days. (7:21). 8. Winning. (4:17). 9. For Nobody. (4:04).

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 5/10.

————————————————————————————————————-

Giant For A Day

Giant For A Day

Gentle Giant’s 10th studio album Giant For A Day was released on the 11th September 1978. The album contains 10 tracks with an overall playing time of 35 and half minutes. The album was recorded between May and April 1978 and some of the tracks were recorded at the Who’s Ramport Studios in Battersea and at Jethro Tull’s Maison Rouge studios and remixed at Scorpio Sound studios, Euston. London.

Ray Shulman remembers Pete Townshend still being around when they was recording at the Who’s studios and they had only just finished recording their album Who Are You at the time. Gary Green recalls the studios being an untouched 1890’s church hall and it was great for getting a good live sound. He recalls Keith Moon’s white Premier drum kit in the middle of the room with a sign on it saying “please don’t touch” only not noticing it and reckons they sounded great :))))).

Talk About Pop Music.

In the previous year when the band were recording their album The Missing Piece they also took note of the success Fleetwood Mac had with their album Rumours at the time. They also recalled how that particular band had changed quite marginally from their earlier blues days with Peter Green and still managed to be widely successful as a pop band. This also had an effect on Gentle Giant and they thought that making a new directional change was something they needed to do.

For the album Giant For A Day they decided to make a complete album full of pop songs most likely to see if it would attract further attention seeing their last album The Missing Piece got charted in the album charts and being more successful than their 1976 album Interview. They perhaps thought that has it worked for Fleetwood Mac they could do the same thing. But I am sure they overlooked the fact that the change Fleetwood Mac had made was really down to having much more of a different line up, and it was a case of them having to change their style.

Personally I thought Fleetwood Mac done well with Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks but I still prefer the music they made with Peter Green any day of the week in relation to what they churned out afterwards. Even a successful album such as what their album Rumours was, spoke very little to me, and it’s not an album I would personally buy. But my personal taste in music even back then did not cater for a lot of pop music at all. It still does not today either. Though I was partial to some of it back then, and even can be today to be honest.

The Album.

Gentle Giant’s 10th album Giant For A Day was voted as the bands worst album by their fans. I am pretty sure that still stands today. This is one of the albums in this box set I never brought previously. I think that would of been down to the fact that having brought The Missing Piece put me off both of their last 2 albums. No doubt all 3 of the bands last albums say very little in relation to what the band were doing beforehand.

I dare say if I was into Gentle Giant back in the 70’s I would of brought both the albums Giant For A Day and Civilian in the hope that they would of returned back to their norm. I often brought albums back then of my favourite artists without even hearing a track, and as rule was not that disappointed either. But later on in the late 70’s and 80’s most of them had changed their style to some extent even the likes of Genesis and Yes and they were much more disappointing indeed.

As with any album I have never heard before I will always play it at least 7 times before writing a review about it. I do not think you can honestly judge any album by just giving it one spin or even two or three spins for that matter. Although the album we have here is pretty much more straight forward music and it’s not really like an album one has to grow into by giving it more spins.

Those type of albums will speak to you differently the more attention you give to them, and that is where you will reap the reward from them by doing so. They are also the most likely albums to stand their test of time as well. An album like Giant For A Day is not gonna say anything different to you by giving it more spins like I did here.

Like I said in my review of The Missing Piece that there is no doubt that Gentle Giant had the ability to write some good pop songs. Giant For A Day is another album that does contain perhaps a couple of well written songs, but does not really say a lot more I am afraid.

For those who were into Gentle Giant way before this album came out, it’s easy to see why an album like this got voted as their worst, and gave it a very low score rating. But I would of also thought for those few who brought this album first, they still would not of gave it that much of an higher score either.

To be honest my final score rating for this album only comes from the fact that I am judging the album from a viewpoint of why I got into Gentle Giant in the first place. If I was to give my rating of it as pop album and how well the material was written for it. I honestly do not think it would get an higher score. The written material we have here is very weak.

To be honest some of the material on this album reminds me a bit like the pop band 10CC. There may very well be a reason why Gentle Giant do sound more like 10CC on this album too, and it’s down to the fact that band decided to write an album that had less keyboards in it. Which sort of left Kerry Minnear at a loose end. He was not in favour of it either, he even felt less connected with the writing on the album. It left him more or less using the electric piano more so on the album. Hence the reason it does have those certain similarities.

For example the opening track “Words From The Wise” may sound at first with it’s opening harmonies that it’s going to something more familiar with their own style. But soon as they are out the way, it’s something more like 10CC would do. Even the harmonies later on in the track sound more like 10CC and so do the the harmonies on the albums self titled track “Giant For A Day“. Although that track may sound like a dozen other pop bands as well :)))))))).

Tracks like “No Stranger“. “It’s Only Goodbye” and “Rock Climber” also might have some those 10CC elements slightly about them too, though to be honest the written material we have here is never gonna quite match up to that band I will say. The band were perhaps struggling for the material on this album, that much that even the drummer John Weathers co-wrote “Take Me” with Derek Shulman and was solely credited for “Friends“. The latter of those two happens to be one of the better tracks on the album to my ears, and it’s only a short 2 minute acoustic folk song.

Little Brown Bag” is perhaps the rocker of the album although this is something that would be more associated with the Rolling Stones than Gentle Giant. Which leaves “Thank You” to which the band released as a single from the album, and also the instrumental piece entitled “Spooky Boogie“. Both of these tracks for me personally are the best tracks on the album and this really is a poor album by all standards. It’s also easy to see why after they made it, they never bothered to go out on tour to promote it.

Overall the album Giant For A Day is a very weak effort from the band. I also felt that the pop songs they wrote on their previous album The Missing Piece were a lot better than what they did for this album. It’s no wonder the album never charted in America. I rather think more people would of got more pleasure by cutting the face out on the vinyl release and using it as a mask, and some even did :)))))))).

The album in this box set also comes with 2 bonus tracks making the overall playing time 42 minutes, 24 seconds. Though they are hardly gonna give you anything more, and are only the 7 inch edited down shorter versions of the two singles they released from the album “Words From The Wise” and “Thank You” which also never done a thing for the band and was perhaps a waste of time releasing them.

No doubt Gentle Giant were on a downhill slide from here on and my personal highlights from this album are “Thank You“. “Spooky Boogie” and “Friends“. There is no doubt in my mind that all those who voted this the worst Gentle Giant album were 100% right to do so. It really was a bad effort and was a million miles away from what this band were capable of doing.

I suppose the best way I can sum up the album Giant For A Day by Gentle Giant. Is that it would of been a bit like going into a painting & decorating shop to buy Wallpaper and coming out with Bog Roll :))))))))))).

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Words From The Wise (4:14). 2. Thank You (4:49). 3. Giant For A Day (song) (3:49). 4. Spooky Boogie (2:54). 5. Take Me (3:36). 6. Little Brown Bag (3:28). 7. Friends (2:00). 8. No Stranger (2:30). 9. It’s Only Goodbye (4:18). 10. Rock Climber (3:52).

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 2/10.

————————————————————————————————————-

Civilian

Civilian

The bands 11th and final studio album Civilian was released on the 3rd March 1980. It’s the bands shortest album of them all and contains 8 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 32 minutes, 46 seconds. The band rented apartments in Hollywood in 1979 and spent 6 to 7 weeks writing and rehearsing the material for the new album. By November of the same year they went into Sound City Studios in California to record the album to which Geoff Emerick was the sound recording engineer.

Emerick was the sound guy who had worked on the albums Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles and Abbey Road in the late 60’s for the Beatles. The Shulman brothers knew him from their days when they was known as Simon Dupree And The Big Sound. Things may have seemed a bit more promising for what was to be the bands final album apart from some of the band members now having their own families to look after and hated California and being away from home.

The band still had the Fleetwood Mac connection in that they recorded their 2nd eponymous album entitled Fleetwood Mac in the same studio in 1975. This was the first album Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks had recorded with the band, most likely why they wanted to use the same title as their 1968 debut album being that it was a new direction for them at the time.

There is no doubt the material for Civilian was much better than what they wrote for their previous album Giant For A Day. This is perhaps more of a pop/rock album and to be honest is just as good as anything the Alan Parsons Project was doing at this time, and is quite like the sort of material they would of been writing around 1979/80 as well.

It’s not a solid album by any means, and to be perfectly honest neither was a lot of Alan Parson’s albums either, and even he had gone more into pop/rock music by 1979. with the release of the album Eve. But what I will say about Civilian is that at least it’s got some better written songs on it, even if the band still have not captured the magic they had in their earlier career.

The album sort of flows along like a concept album in the way that some of the tracks blend or crossfade into one another, though it’s nothing of the sort. But it does work well and there is very little on here that does not really work and let it down. The CD in this box set does not come with the bonus track “Heroes No More” which they recorded and left off the album upon its release. It did appear on some later CD releases.

It’s perhaps not an album for everyone’s taste and no doubt most Gentle Giant fans are gonna either like it or hate it. But notice how I did use the word “like” in the last sentence, because this is personally not an album I do not think anybody would love. Though I would expect it does have more of a likeability factor about it.

All the tracks on this particular album were written by Kerry Minnear and Derek Shulman apart from the opening track “Convenience (Clean And Easy)” which was penned by Gary Green and Derek Shulman. The opening on the first track sort of reminds of Deep Purple with it’s intro, then as it kicks in it’s more like the Alan Parsons Project. It’s quite a good song. I also like how the next track “All Through The Night” blends into “Shadows On The Street“. Both are also very well written songs and the latter of the two is the only song on the album that Kerry gets to sing the lead vocals.

Number One” is much more up-tempo and once again like the opening track has that Alan Parsons Project feel about it.”Underground” is another great track and I quite like Ray Shulman’s dominant bass line on this one. But in saying that his bass playing does stand out more on most of the songs they have done on the two previous albums besides this one as well. It even appears much more of a dominant feature on the rock and pop material they have done.

Both “I Am A Camera” and the longest track on the album “Inside Out” are fine enough tracks too, and the final track on the album “It’s Not Imagination” is perhaps one of the weaker tracks on the album. It’s also said that they ended the final track off with the words “That’s All There Is” and used those words from the actual tracks on the album to say them as well.

For example the word “That’s” came from “I Am A Camera“. “All” came from “All Through The Night“. “There” from “Heroes No More” and the word “Is” came from “Inside Out“. The words only surfaced on a few albums and I would expect that being has the bonus track was included here, that they only later appeared on CD releases and not the original vinyl release.

Once again the album failed to even get in the charts after its release, but they did feel they had done better here and set up a 6 week tour in May 1980 to promote the album which ended June at the Roxy in Hollywood which was the bands final live performance. Kerry Minnear was more concerned with his family and made a decision to call it a day. Derek Shulman had also other ideas of being more of bigwig in the music business, and also felt that the band had nothing more to say.

The remaining 3 members Ray Shulman. Gary Green and John Weathers did have ideas of bringing in Eddie Jobson to keep the band going. But having seen the poor results that the album achieved and lack of interest they also decided to call it a day.

Overall the album Civilian was quite a good album and perhaps a lot better to end the bands career on than their previous album. I would even say that it’s perhaps more of a solid album in relation to both The Missing Piece and Giant For A Day. The only thing it really is not, is like any of the bands first 8 albums which personally for myself say a lot more than whatever their last 3 albums will ever say.

My personal highlights from the album are “Shadows On The Street“. “All Through The Night“. “Underground” and “Convenience (Clean And Easy)“. It’s a shame it all had to come to an end, but like many other bands that came out around the same time in the 70’s. I doubt that they could of returned to their formidable style with their songwriting that was on those first 8 albums of theirs.

The album track listing is as follows: 1. Convenience (Clean And Easy) (3:13). 2. All Through The Night (4:21). 3. Shadows On The Street (3:16). 4. Number One (4:47). 5. Underground (3:48). 6. I Am A Camera (3:32). 7. Inside Out (5:52). 8. It’s Not Imagination (3:57).

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6/10.

————————————————————————————————————-

Summary…

To sum up the Clamshell Box Set I Lost My Head (The Albums 1975 – 1980) by Gentle Giant. Its perhaps not an impressive box set with how they have presented the albums that you get inside by putting 2 albums onto 1 CD for some of them. Fitting the artwork of 2 albums onto 1 sleeve does not really work that well, especially for CD. I feel it spoils it’s overall presentation by them doing it this way.

On the plus side you do get a descent enough booklet with some very useful informative information. Plus of course at its price point it’s quite a big saving you get here, and for the it’s price of around £20 one cannot really complain on that score.

Another key factor on the plus side is that the CD’s have been remastered and sound really great. You are not going to get any better recording of them by buying the albums individually. The remasters in this box set are exactly the same recordings.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of the box set and Gentle Giant’s output over the the second part of their musical career. There is no doubt the music you are getting here is like a game of two halves with how the band decided to change its direction from progressive rock to pop music, and it’s certainly is a bit of a mixed bag in all respects to how their music does come across, with what you have here in this box set.

For me personally the real GEMS you are getting here are the albums Free Hand. Interview and the double live album Playing The Fool. These albums are without a doubt the only albums in this box set that speak the same language of what the band Gentle Giant were all about from the time they began their musical career in 1970.

1977 was the year the band perhaps changed it’s musical direction for the worse. To be honest it’s easy to see why they decided to do so as well, especially with how bands like Yes and Genesis were starting to do the same thing. Only they did it gradually and both of those bands were certainly more in the limelight to be more successful at doing such a thing and getting away with it.

I felt that Gentle Giant made the move to early and how they went about it was too much of a change with the majority of the material they wrote for The Missing Piece. They did try to make an album of two halves with how they presented that album. But I personally felt it never really worked, and by doing so they had lost some of the magic along the way. But some of the songs on this album do still contain some of the real essence of what the band was about more so than the two albums that followed it.

No doubt they was starting to lose the plot at this stage and they completely lost their head when they presented us with A Giant For A Day in the following year. In all honesty this is an album that merits very little regarding the band being songwriters. No doubt some of the pop songs they wrote on their previous album were very good. But this album was a complete disaster. There is very little to be had here.

The band finished their career in 1980 not where they started it, and they never really captured any of the magic that came from their output from 1970 – 1976. However their final album Civilian was a much better effort. The material was better written and even though it’s along the same lines of what a lot of rock and pop artists were doing at this particular time. I personally felt it was the strongest album out of the last 3 they made simply because it’s more of a solid album with the material they wrote for it. It also works better as an album of songs, and the material is not out of place at all.

It’s perhaps a good thing to experiment, but a change is never really a good thing in my book I am afraid, and a change of direction from one genre to another may work out for some bands such as Genesis who no doubt became far more successful by doing such a thing. But for me even their success was their downfall in my world simply because I am a guy who buys music for how it speaks to me in the first place. The moment it says something else and speaks differently, it will never say the same thing to me.

No doubt I went out and brought many of the albums of the artists I loved so much in the hope that one day the magic would return. But for most of the time it was like flogging a dead horse and it never did.

From the time Genesis released Wind and Wuthering in 1977 and I heard “You’re Own Special Way“. I knew that this bands best output was about to become extinct and they was never gonna speak the same language again. The same can be said for when Yes when they released Going For The One in 1977. And 1977 was the year that Gentle Giant also never spoke the same language again. All 3 of these bands never once recaptured that magic from their earlier career.

I Lost My Head, But Today I Can See…

Lee’s overall Complete Box Set Value Rating…

The Box Set Presentation Rating Score. 5/10.

The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Advertisements

Lee Speaks About Music… #85

Afterglow – Wobbler

81Dn2xU+N0L._SL1425_

Introduction…

Well it’s time for another review of this amazing prog rock band from Norway who go by the name of Wobbler. Like I mentioned in my previous review of the bands debut album Hinterland the band have made 4 studio albums to date, and they all tend to be quite different with how the band have crafted out the material that was written for them. The bands second album Afterglow is very much different in the way that the band have combined medieval folk music with other styles that make up really great progressive rock music.

From the biggest majority of reviews I have read about this particular album. It’s been likened to what the Italian band PFM were doing back in the 70’s. I can see some resemblances from that particular Italian band, but nowhere near enough in relation to the 70’s band who not only created this fusion of medieval prog rock, but were the original masters of it back in the 70’s. That band was the English medieval prog rock band Gryphon.

Gryphon were perhaps one of the most underrated and unheard of bands that got to grace my ears back in the 70’s. Having reformed once again in 2009 (the very same year this album was released) they are still gracing my ears today. Now I have no idea at this point if this Norwegian band Wobbler have even heard of Gryphon.

But somehow they have more or less created an album more or less just like the music Gryphon would of presented you with back in the early 70’s. Even down to the use of instruments that date back centuries, such as the Crumhorn for example. The only instrument that is perhaps missing here is the Bassoon.

But despite all the likeness with the instrumentation and the way the music has been arranged with some superb acoustic intervals and passages. Once again Wobbler have not copied a thing regarding the written material, and once again they have so skilfully crafted and carved out something that is 100% their own, no matter where the influence of the instrumentation came from.

So before I go any deeper into this magnificent album, let’s first take a look at the packaging and artwork as usual.

The Packaging & Artwork…

33967234_1711676478911899_4357720530585911296_n

The CD comes in a matt finished cardboard Gatefold DigiSleeve that gives quite a very good presentation of a vinyl album, only on a much more smaller scale. Although the cardboard is adequate that’s been used to make the package, because it’s made out of thin cardboard they do tend not close up so well, as you can see in the picture below.

34123076_1711690678910479_3739618446850129920_n

But this will not present much of a problem when storing it with your others CD’s stacked up against one another on the shelf. The CD also comes in a reusable polythene bag that is resealable. So there is no need to get a Swiss Knife to open it up otherwise you will damage it, and it will be unusable if you plan on using it again that is.

34016228_1711692632243617_6353564078958444544_n

The picture above shows the CD back in it’s polythene bag after I originally had opened it up, took it out and put it back in again. These type of polythene bags can be purchased in quantities, and are cheap enough to buy and are useful for keeping these type of cardboard DigiSleeves and Digipak’s clean.

It’s a shame that nobody yet as thought about making a mini version of those more quality gatefold polythene sleeves that you could buy for your vinyl albums years ago. Especially in this day and age where more and more CD’s are being released in Digipaks and Digi Sleeves. I am sure somebody would make a small fortune if they did.

Because this is a DigiSleeve and not a Digipak the one thing you do not get is a booklet. But all the production credits and linear notes have been printed at the bottom of both sides on the inside of the gatefold sleeve. The one thing they did not include was the lyrics. But to be honest there is very little of them. But they could of made more use of the back of the DigiSleeve by printing them on their perhaps.

The Artwork.

The albums artwork cover is of a painting done by the bands keyboard player Lars Fredrik Frøislie. It looks like the Wobbler’s are in Wobble Land having some fun. The one with the beard may even be throwing a Wobbler :))))). The layout was done by Trine + Kim at Design Studio, and additional photographs were provided by the band.

CD & Vinyl Releases…

The CD version of the album Afterglow was released on the keyboard players own record label Termo Records to which is jointly owned by him and Jacob Holm-Lupo. By now Lars had broken away from the American record label Lasers Edge to which their debut album was originally released on, and they were releasing their albums from their own country in Norway.

Oddly enough though when ordering any of their albums from Termo Records they still charge you in American dollars rather than their own currency.

As with most countries other than your own, you tend to pay more money for imports. But in all honesty I have brought quite a few albums from America and other European countries such as Germany in the past that cost me a damn site cheaper than what they cost here in the UK.

Now I got lucky with the bands 1st album Hinterland and got it from Amazon UK for £12.67. That is about the top price any CD should be priced at. Most CD’s are even less than that to buy here in the UK and the biggest majority are only £10.

Granted that most of those CD’s sold at £10 are from more well known artists who can afford to mass produce their albums to sell them at a lower price. But in all honesty I think anybody is a fool to try and sell their CD’s at a much higher price in this day and age when hardly anybody wants to buy a physical product any more.

Now the cheapest price on Amazon UK for Afterglow on CD at the time was £21.80. No way was I paying that and you would have to be a complete mug to do so as well.

So I ended up going to the bands website to buy the CD which directed me to Termo Records to which it was priced at 16 American dollars, which works out at £12.27 here in the UK. Now that is a reasonable enough price. But what is not reasonable is the fact that they are charging you another 7 dollars to send it to you, which is another £5.26 on top here in the UK.

I personally do not think it costs that to send a CD in a Jiffy bag by recorded delivery no matter what part of the world you live in. In the end through Paypal I ended up paying £17.80 for this CD. Which is way over the odds any CD should cost you.

I could understand if it was a DVD or a Blu Ray because they are more expensive discs to buy in the first place, and the quality you can put on those is lot higher than what you will find on any CD. But sometimes it can be cheaper using the bands website, and £17.80 was cheaper than paying the ridiculous price of £21.80 on Amazon.

The good thing was though, is that it did arrive in less than a week. But I dare say if I was willing to wait up to 2 to 3 weeks to get it. I could of got it from America a lot cheaper.

Just to make matters worse the day after the CD arrived I noticed some seller from Germany on ebay had only just put it up for sale brand new, and had 10 of them at £11.49 each with free postage and package. Bloody typical LOL..

The album was also released on both black and blue vinyl at the same time in 2009 and in 2017 it was remixed and remastered and released on clear vinyl. So to was the CD remastered and it sounds great…

Musicians & Credits…

552e6b_a1de0506228946f88fbb386c2a21d76e~mv2_d_1446_1600_s_2

Produced, mixed and recorded by Lars Fredrik Frøislie. Recorded between June 2007 – October 2008 at various home studios. Mastered by Jens Petter Nilsen. Cover Design & layout by Trine + Kim Design Studio. Front cover painting by Lars Fredrik Frøislie. Gatefold Photo by Trond Bråthen. Additional photos by Wobbler. Remixed & Remastered by Lars Fredrik Frøislie at Lars Studio 2015 – 2016.

Musicians:
Tony Johannessen: Lead Vocals.
Morten Eriksen: Electric & Martin Acoustic Guitars/Voice.
Kristian Hultgren: Bass Guitar/Acoustic & Double Bass.
Lars Fredrik Frøislie: Keyboards & Vocals.
Martin Nordrum Kneppen: Drums/Percussion/Recorders & Crumhorn.

Additional Musicians:
Aage Moltke Schou: Vibraphone/Glockenspiel & Percussion (On Imperial Winter White & In Taberna)
Ketil Vestrum Einarsen: Flutes & Vocals (On Imperial Winter White & In Taberna)
Sigrun Eng: Cello (On In Taberna)

The Album In Review…

Wobbler’s 2nd studio album Afterglow was released on the 5th of April 2009. The album contains 5 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 34 minutes, 39 seconds. It’s the shortest album they have produced so far and is more familiar with the old 60’s and 70’s time slot, and is perhaps more known as mini album today.

The material that made up the album Afterglow was originally written back in 1999. 2 of the tracks were actual demo’s and the other 3 tracks were more or less complete. But they decided to record all 5 tracks again between 2007 and 2008. One of the tracks they even played at the Near-Fest festival in USA in 2005, and part of it can be seen in the live video I posted of excerpts from that concert in my previous review of Hinterland.

Most of the recordings for the album were done at the keyboard player Lars place at Hønefoss and Oslo. Lars Fredrik Frøislie is the bands producer and recording engineer.

Additional recordings took place at one of the session players house who is the bands percussionist Aage Moltke Schou. Both he and the the other session player Ketil Vestrum Einarsen who is the bands main flute player, also featured on the bands debut album Hinterland. They also play at a lot at the bands live shows too. Other recordings took place at Jens Petter Nilsen’s studio. He is the guy who does the final mastering for the bands albums.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Afterglow maybe a short album but it’s quite a Gem of an album. It also happens to be my favourite album of theirs too and no doubt this is an album that certainly sounds like it came out of the 70’s. It also reminds me a lot of the band Gryphon and judging from what I have now read up on of the band, I guess we have the bands drummer Martin Nordrum Kneppen to thank for the Gryphon influence here. Martin is also the bands Crumhorn player pictured here.

552e6b_b9a754a179a140cf8fc9d5ccd9dcc636~mv2_d_1800_1350_s_2

Just like Wobbler’s debut album Hinterland the album Afterglow offered very little for the bands singer Tony Johannessen to do. As a matter of fact he had less to do on this album in relation to the bands debut album, and only got to feature on 1 of the tracks out of the 5. Afterglow is much more of an instrumental album.

Sadly Afterglow was to be Tony Johannessen’s last album he appeared on to which he left the band afterwards. It perhaps comes as no surprise because the band in reality gave him very little to do. Although I personally do not know his reason for leaving and like many of the other band members, they was also working in other bands besides Wobbler. Johannessen was the singer and keyboard player in the metal band Thunderbolt. Although I know nothing of that band and only found that out through my research for this review.

So now let’s take a look a deeper look at how the album Afterglow turned out over it’s 5 individual tracks.

Track 1. The Haywain.

The inspiration for the songs title came from their trip to London to see the medieval prog rock band Gryphon who was playing live at the Union Chapel back in 2009. It was whilst they was over there they popped into the National Art Gallery in London and they must of seen John Constable’s painting of the Haywain and thought it would make a good title for this short instrumental piece.

This was also the very year that Gryphon had finally got back together since they split up in 1977. It was also a concert I missed myself, but I have seen the band play live twice at the Robin 2 in Wolverhampton since, and I am also going to see them again this year twice. First at the Union Chapel in London and then back at the Robin 2 again.

There is no doubt that the band Wobbler are very much inspired by Gryphon’s music on this particular album and it reflects that well here on this opening instrumental piece. That much that I think that if you was to hear it on the radio without the DJ announcing who it was by. You would most certainly think it was Gryphon. Though once again they have created their very own melody lines, and it’s only the instruments that have the familiarity about the band.

The “The Haywain” is a really great little ditty and it appears that the band have a fetish for starting their albums with short intros that lead up to the main featured song on their albums.

Track 2. Imperial Winter White.

Well the band had a masterpiece on their debut album with the self titled album track Hinterland, and they have certainly come up with another one here. When the band originally wrote this epic back in 1999 it was titled “Imperial Winter White Dwarf” and they used to play it quite a lot at their live gigs way before this album came out.

The track bursts into action immediately and this particular track is some 15 minutes long and it takes precisely 7 minutes and 17 seconds for the vocals to come into play. But during this lengthy intro the band are certainly cooking on gas, and you’re going to hear lots of gorgeous keyboards including mellotron, flying bass and guitar lines driven along with force with the drums at great pace.

There is bags of diversity and progression with many transitional changes along this stretch and you are also going to hear some lovely intervals in between where they come down for a bit to let the flute, acoustic guitar play some most gorgeous melodies. There is even some nice glistening vibes that come into play and not only are the band members doing the business here, but the couple of session players are also playing an integral part.

Imperial Winter White” is unlike the opening first track and the last track on the album that do sound more like the band Gryphon. But it does have some resemblance to that band with the gorgeous acoustic guitar section you will hear between 4:00 – 4:46. In some respects you would even think it was Graeme Taylor of Gryphon playing it with how it sounds.

Wobbler do spend a lot of time and careful attention to how things were recorded and sounded back then and can spend hours, days and weeks trying to get every detail right in the studio.

Even though this is the only track that contains vocals on the whole album there is very little of them in here to be honest. There are only two small sections allocated for the vocal parts and the first section from 7:17 – 7:49 is the shortest section that gives Tony Johannessen all of 32 seconds to sing the first verse.

This first verse is also a more subtle part and Johannessen does great justice with his voice to it. They could of quite of easily of slotted in another verse along this section too, but chose not to, and the rest of the musicians get back on with it and meander and weave more magic into it with all interplay between the instruments and superb progression and changes.

Johannessen’s final part on the vocals comes back into play across the section between 11:18 – 12:28 and he does another terrific job. It brings out more aggression from his voice (Iron Maiden like) and the music allows him to express it all with how it all builds up. The rest of the guys play it out with more power to it reaches its climax and frizzles it way out with the mellotron to end it all off.

There is no doubt that “Imperial Winter White” could of went on much longer just like “Hinterland” did on their previous album. More vocal sections could of been easily put in and it still would of worked. But even as it is, there is no doubt that is still works superbly and is without a doubt another masterpiece the band have come up with. It’s very much my favourite track on the album and merits the top spot award.

Track 3. Interlude.

A short acoustic piece that puts a bridge between the previous track and the track that is going to follow it. It mainly features Morten Eriksen on acoustic guitar and Kristian Hultgren on double bass. It also sounds like there is a Cello in here too. But according to the musician credits Sigrun Eng only plays Cello on the next track and not this one.

So either they have made a printing error or Kristian Hultgren is also using a bow on his double bass. The only alternative is that Lars Fredrik Frøislie is playing it on the mellotron. It’s another fine piece and serves its purpose as an interlude very well.

Track 4. In Taberna.

Well we do have a very strange title here I will say, and if this so called “Taberna” is what I think it is, all I can say is that the band are certainly in a hurry to grab a bite to eat :)))))). The only reference I can find about the word “Taberna” is that it’s a single room shop covered by a barrel vault within great indoor markets of ancient Rome. If this is the sort of thing the title is derived from, I can honestly say that their musical presentation of it is perhaps a billion miles off the mark :))))).

Despite the rather unfitting title which certainly could of been better, this instrumental piece is quite another GEM. From the moment it kicks off it’s on fire and you are going to hear Keith Emerson like keyboards, lashing of gorgeous mellotron, superb cello and flutes that create superb melody lines to which some of them do actually give it that Roman feel. You even get a super little medieval section of it with the flutes too. The whole band is weaving out magic all the way on the piece, and the diversity and progression is quite staggering.

I guess “In Taberna” has to be another contender for the top spot on the album with all respects and it really is a fine work of art and brilliant track.

Track 5. Armoury.

The albums ends off with another medieval piece done in great Gryphon style, and once again you would think it was them with the use of the Crumhorn, flutes and percussion.  It’s another super piece that winds up the album superbly and it even has some great synths and quite a cathedral ending with the organ, and you get a magical madrigal 3 minutes here.

Summary…

To sum up Afterglow by Wobbler I personally think it’s one of the best albums since I heard the band Gryphon back in the 70’s. To be honest it will be interesting to see what Gryphon’s new album turns out like this year. There is no doubt the band can still play their old material and are immaculate musicians, but as to if they still have that magic with composition and arrangements about them today, I will be amazed if they can beat this album to be honest.

I find that many bands who had that brilliant way of composing and structuring music years ago, no longer have that magic at all I am afraid. But what Wobbler have done in every sense of the word, is in all honesty recapture that precise magic from the 70’s and like I have said before, there is not a lot out there today who honestly can achieve this.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Afterglow by Wobbler I would certainly say that it’s the best album I have brought out of everything I have brought so far this year. The album maybe short but it’s 100% solid with every track on the album. It’s purely a Golden Gem of an album and master-class piece of work in the way it’s all been so immaculately structured and composed. I just wished there was more bands out there like this today.

No doubt both the longer tracks “Imperial Winter White” and “In Taberna” are my personal highlights from the album, but the whole album is a real treat from start to finish.

Since the departure of Tony Johannessen there is no doubt the band have yet again gone in another direction with their new singer on their next album Rites At Dawn. And I shall be reviewing that album and their latest album From Silence To Somewhere sometime this month. But up next for review will be the reissue of the 4 CD Clamshell Box Set of Gentle Giant entitled I Lost My Head (The Chrysalis Years 1975 – 1980).

Besides buying the physical CD’s of Wobbler you can of course buy them in a digital download format as well at most places. The best of those would be perhaps Bandcamp because at least they give you a choice of higher quality audio formats such as flac and wave besides MP3. And they are very reasonably priced too at £4.50 which is around  5.13 Euro.

You can also listen to the album too on Bandcamp and here is the link to this superb album should you wish to give it a listen. https://wobbler.bandcamp.com/album/afterglow

The Faces Of Creatures Are Lying Alone In The Dark…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. The Haywain. 0:54.
02. Imperial Winter White. 15:01.
03. Interlude. 2:35.
04. In Taberna. 13:09.
05. Armoury. 3:00.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 08/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 6/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #84

Hinterland – Wobbler

W - H

Introduction…

Well I recently stumbled upon this superb prog rock band from Norway on the Progrock Facebook Group thanks to my good friend Dan Lockard. The band Wobbler originally formed back in 1999, although it was not until 2005 that they released their debut album Hinterland.

This 5 piece band who got together in the Norwegian countryside and had a burning desire and ambition to recreate some of the expressions with their instruments that came from the prog rock scene back in the early 70’s. That much that they more or less decided that the only way to capture the music that came out of that dark decade, was to use the same vintage instruments many of the prog rock bands were using back then.

Most of the time they spent between 1999 – 2004 was spent accumulating the instruments and structuring the music. For example they even went out and brought vintage drum sticks from 1973 off Ebay. Only to find out that they broke on the third stroke :)))))).

The bands keyboard player spent a fortune amassing vintage synths. Although having gone on the road playing live with them. He soon found out that the synths were too temperamental these days for the road and to the change of climate conditions. So to save on time and repairs, he had to purchase even more up to date digital keyboards for this purpose and use most of the vintage synths for studio work only.

The band were quite young and very inexperienced even down to working in a studio to get a good production for their debut album, and upon its release they was not very happy with the production despite all the hard work, time and money they spent on it. Though the album was certainly good enough to be noted by a small American label known as Lasers Edge and was eventually released in 2005.

Like many bands today who love and are inspired by progressive rock from those dark distant days of the early 70’s and go about creating their own version of it, it’s certainly a struggle to make a lot money out of doing such great music.

I am sure many of you have heard of the expression “Don’t give up the day job”.

Well despite the fact that the band Wobbler released their 4th album From Silence To Somewhere last year, and it getting voted the album of the year by Progarchives and the band caused a bit of a stir in Italy when they played there. The members of the band still very much have a day job and only get to make music in their spare time.

So before I go deeper into what floats my boat about this band so much, let’s first take a look the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

33320391_1702926716453542_6422423829326331904_n

The CD is stored in a rather neat 2 panel cardboard Digipak and I like how the disc is stored in a plastic tray which lends more strength and support to the case, and it’s easy enough to retrieve the disc from the holder without getting your mitts all over the disc surface. It also has a pocket to store the booklet and is a very nice presentation overall.

The 10 page booklet it comes with contains the normal credits and production linear notes, plus the lyrics, some photos and some background information of when the album was made. Overall it’s quite informative and not just a load of pictures like some booklets.

The Artwork.

The front cover artwork was done by the visionary artist Michael Bennett and it looks like this chaps either had a bad hair day, or had been throwing a Wobbler :)))))). It could also be that this Hinterland lies in a sleepy hollow deep within a Norwegian Wood.  The band photos were taken by Erik Skjerve and the new CD layout for the 2018 release was done by Tom Erik Kristofferson.

CD & Vinyl Releases…

The album Hinterland was originally released on CD back in 2005. Because it went out of print the bands keyboard player Lars decided to not only reissue the album, but also remix and remaster it due to it not having a very good production in the first place. It’s now said to sound better than ever, and the new reissued CD comes in a Digipak and was released this year on Termo Records which I was pleased to see, and I got my copy of it from Amazon for £12.67.

Termo Records is a small record label owned jointly by Wobbler’s keyboard player Lars Fredrik Frøislie and Jacob Holm-Lupo who is a guitarist who plays in a couple of other bands in Norway.

Also in 2016 a very short run of limited editions were released on both black and coloured vinyl. Only 350 copies were pressed on black vinyl and 200 copies were pressed on blue & gold vinyl. These were also remixed and remastered by Lars and released on Pancromatic Records. Those I would expect will have sold out awhile ago now. But for my money it appears that I have got into the band at the right time, and no doubt the CD does sound really great too.

Musicians & Credits…

wobbler-band-4ff6d065-8ead-451e-8361-e0267a8df82-resize-750

Produced by Wobbler, Jacob Holm-Lupo, Øystein Vesaas. Recorded and mixed between 19th June 2004 – 27th February 2005 at Lydkjokkenet Oslo Norway. Engineer Øystein Vesaas. Mastering Jens Petter Nilsen. Album Cover Artwork & Illustration by Michael Bennett. Band Photography by Erik Skjerve. New 2018 CD Layout by Tom Erik Kristofferson. Remixed & Remastered by Lars Fredrik Frøislie at Lars Studio 2015 – 2016.

Musicians:
Tony Johannessen: Lead Vocals.
Morten Eriksen: Gibson Explorer Electric & Martin Acoustic Guitars.
Kristian Hultgren: Rickennacker 4001 Bass Guitar & Saxophone.
Lars Fredrik Frøislie: Hammond C3/Minimoog Model D/Mellotron M400/Petrof Grand Piano/Berggren OG Bengzon Reed Organ/Glockenspiel/Wurlitzer A200/Rhodes Mark II Stage Piano/Hohner Clavinet D6/Zuckermann Harpsichord/ARP Pro Soloist/Arp Axxe Solina String Ensemble/Logan String Melody & Stylophone.
Martin Nordrum Kneppen: Ludwig Special Drums & Percussion.

Additional Musicians:
Aage Moltke Schou: Percussion (On Hinterland & Rubato Industry)
Ulrik Gaston Larsen: Theorbo & Baroque Guitar (On Hinterland)
Pauliina Fred: Recorder (On Hinterland)
Ketil Vestrum Einarsen: Flute/Backing Vocals/Vocal Arrangements (On Hinterland, Clair Obscur & Rubato Industry)

The Album In Review…

The album Hinterland by Wobbler was originally released on the 5th July 2005 in the US only on the record label Lasers Edge. The album contains 4 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 56 minutes, 48 seconds. 4 days after the albums release on the 9th July 2005 they played at the Nearfest prog rock festival in America. I guess the bands intention was to hit the American market first with them being tied to an America record label.

The band played the 3 main tracks from their debut album Hinterland at the festival. They also played “Imperial Winter White Dwarf” to which the studio version would later appear on their 2nd album Afterglow which was released 4 years later in 2009. This video I found on Youtube contains short edited excerpts from the live show, and it’s a shame they never had more of it.

Nearfest did also release a DVD of the bands that played at the festival back then. But it’s a compilation and only features the odd track that the bands played at the festival and not the whole of the set they played.

The only live video you do get of Wobbler is of them playing “Imperial Winter White Dwarf“. The British neo prog rock band IQ also played at the festival on the same day. Although personally even though I like IQ they do not quite cut the mustard regarding genuine prog rock music where as Wobbler certainly are more like it in my opinion.

Wobbler without a doubt are one of the best prog rock bands that came out much later than the 70’s. Their music is much more like the prog rock music that came out in that decade, and the only other band I can think of who did that, was the Swedish band Änglagård. Both bands produce highly original material that is very much their own, and is up there with the likes of Gentle Giant. Genesis. Yes. Gryphon and all those greats.

The other interesting thing about Wobbler is that out of the 4 albums they have made so far. They all sound completely different to one another. There is no doubt the band does have some musical influences from those greats from the 70’s. But the way the band go about writing their music is very much different. The only resemblances you will hear comes from the instrumentation they use.

The Album Tracks In Review…

The album Hinterland is perhaps more of an instrumental album rather than a collection of songs, and even though they do have a singer, he only gets to do his bit on 2 of the 4 tracks on the album. The band Wobbler are perhaps very much like the band Anglagard at this early stage of their career in the way that they like to be more instrumental and use the space more for the musicians to interact with one another on their instruments.

But where Anglagard have the advantage in presenting their music in this way, is really down to the fact that their singer happens to be one of their guitarists, so he’s not gonna be left twiddling his thumbs whilst the rest of the band carry on strutting their stuff so to speak, like poor old Tony Johannessen the singer of this band was doing.

I personally think the band should of paid more consideration to its vocalist and in reality the one of the two tracks Tony Johannessen did get to sing on this album is by far the best track on the album by a MASSIVE margin. Having heard all 4 of the bands albums, he was without a doubt the best singer they had in my personal opinion.

I do not know the reasons behind Johannessen’s departure from the band after they made their first 2 albums. But my guess is that the poor guy was bored out of his skull with the band giving him very little to do.

One of the other reasons why the band Wobbler may tend to focus more on instrumental pieces, is that the bands keyboard player and producer Lars Fredrik Frøislie has also composed a lot of music for films and television.

So having said all that lets see just how the bands debut album turned out as I take you through the albums 4 tracks.

Track 1. Serenade For 1652.

Well judging by the year in the title it appears that they had something to sing about in 1652 and I know the band had a big thing about getting all the of instruments that came out in 70’s that featured on many of those prog rock albums that came out back then, and the mellotron does play it’s part very effectively on this short orchestrated piece. But 1652 was quite a few centuries before the 70’s :)))).

But never the less this is a band that also very much considered much older instruments that would of came out centuries ago too, and personally this is what makes this band so unique and the fact they also include those instruments is why I love this band so much.

Serenade For 1652” is the shortest track on the album and is all of 42 seconds long, and in reality it’s an intro to the next track which happens to be the masterpiece on the album. They could of quite of easily of done away with making this a separate track and giving it a separate title.

Track 2. Hinterland.

The albums self titled track “Hinterland” is without a doubt a masterpiece and a master class composition. This without a doubt what I would call prog rock heaven and is an outstanding piece of work. This track alone is worth the price of the album as far as I am concerned, and the idea of using instruments from 70’s certainly paid off, and no doubt this very much sounds like a classic that came from that decade.

But of course just by going out and getting all those instruments that came out back then, does not mean you can make music like this. There is the fine art of composition and having the right musicians with the skill to pull it all off.

Not only do the band have a very capable keyboard player, but the bass player they have is quite remarkable, and the bass playing on this track alone is to die for. Combine that with the electric and acoustic guitar sections you will hear throughout this 27 minute and 44 second epic, plus the flutes makes it one sheer class exciting magical journey.

No doubt there are a loads of influences from other bands from the 70’s you will hear on this masterpiece, including the likes of Wishbone Ash and Black Sabbath besides all the other more noted prog rock bands like Gentle Giant, Emerson Lake And Palmer and many more. But this is all highly original material and nothing has come from any of those regarding how the music has been structured and composed.

The word “Hinterland” can have several meanings and judging by the lyrics we have here, my guess is that they have taken it from the German word which means land beyond.

The track opens up in quite a mysterious and haunting way. It sort of reminds me that the lonesome traveller is making his entrance into the land beyond from the sea which is portrayed by the keyboards and the use of a gong, all of which is the opening 21 seconds. Once on the land, our traveller sets off at a more speedy and menacing pace, and the band weave out a bit of magic here with the interaction and interplay of how they feed off one another over the next minute and it grinds to an halt at the 1:25 mark.

The next section the band bring in a rather nice transitional change with some fine rhythm guitar from Morten Eriksen and some really gorgeous bass lines from Kristian Hultgren and the bands drummer Martin Nordrum Kneppen is almost holding it all together in military style. This all allows the singer Tony Johannessen to come into play, and he makes his entrance around the 2:17 mark.

This vocal section from 2:17 up to around the 6:45 mark is what I call the Wishbone Ash section. Although this is nothing like that band at all in reality, and my observation comes from the soothing vocal section of the verses they sing on their song the “Warrior“. Johannessen’s voice very much has these fine refined vocal qualities about it, and no doubt he has a great voice.

Once again the band weave some magic in between this first vocal section in between the vocal parts and even the session player Ketil Vestrum Einarsen contributes to it on the backing vocals and flute. There is more musical interludes than the actual vocal parts in this section as well, and it all comes down nicely around the 6:45 mark. The acoustic guitar played by Eriksen plays a lovely short passage that leads into the next vocal section and change, which is perhaps even more serene.

Once again there are some gorgeous bass lines from Hultgren and it builds up into the next section around the 8:30 mark where a bit more power and aggression is injected into it over this short half a minute section, and at the 9 minute mark another really great transitional change comes into play.

This section runs for near enough 3 minutes and is quite like a cross between early Genesis and Gentle Giant. There is even some great acoustic guitar work and vocal chants and harmonies, and is quite menacing like Gentle Giant too with the chord progression and how it all changes. The session player percussionist Aage Moltke Schou also contributes some nice vibes on the vibraphone in this section too.

Then as if that section was not gorgeous enough, around the 11:52 mark another session player Ulrik Gaston Larsen comes into the equation on the Theorbo & Baroque Guitar. This short interlude runs up to where the main vocals come back into play around the 13:04 mark, and is accompanied by another session player namely Pauliina Fred on the recorder. The bands keyboard player Lars Fredrik Frøislie adds a touch of harpsichord to it, and makes it a madrigal piece of heaven that is sounding something more like the year 1652 which was in the title of the 1st track.

The fine melody continues with the vocal section for just over a minute, and at first Johannessen’s vocal approach being more serene and subtle, which gradually builds up once again to some power which takes us into the next musical section that comes into play at 14:08.

This section is more darker and this is what I call the Black Sabbath section because of its dark and heavier approach. I suppose you could also associate Uriah Heep with the darkness too. Although for some reason I am singing the words to the Black Sabbath’sElectric Funeral” but once again this nothing like that song, and it’s just my own way of being a singer myself can incorporate those words into this melody line. Just like I could do with the Wishbone Ash song I mentioned earlier.

This dark meandering section runs for about 3 minutes and 20 seconds and features some great synth and hammond playing by Frøislie supported very well by the bass, drums and occasional bits of flute. Then it builds itself up to a faster pace at the 17:22 mark with lead guitar being brought into the equation, then settles itself back down and runs into the next transitional music change that comes into play around the 18:58 mark.

This next section is once again meandering its way nicely along and even falls back into some of the earlier melodies. There honestly is never a dull moment throughout the whole piece, then at the 22:22 mark it goes into another lovely acoustic guitar passage and starts to heavily build itself back up for Johannessen to come back in on the vocals at exactly a minute later for the final verse.

This runs up to the 24:13 mark and it starts to descend into another change, at first with some rather jolly flute playing and then it runs into what I call the Emerson Lake and Palmer section. Well perhaps Keith Emerson to be more precise with the superb job Frøislie does on the hammond organ. We are now on the last run and the track ends itself off superbly with more great interplay from them all.

Hinterland” is without a doubt the best track on the album and is my personal favourite just as sure as I feel it will be for many others too, and merits my top spot award of the album. Quite frankly there is nothing else on this album that comes close to it. But that’s not to say that the last couple of tracks are bad by any means.

Track 3. Rubato Industry.

Quite a strange title and the word “Rubato” relates to the temporary disregarding of strict tempo to allow an expressive quickening or slackening, usually without altering the overall pace. It also translates to “Stolen Time” in Italian and judging by the excellent well written lyrics this song could relate to them both. Here are the words to the opening verse to give you an idea.

A lonely page in a music book
Is torn and blown across the lake
And by the water’s edge it stills
As the tide retreats in defence
Can these notes awake again?
Father time is slowing down
The flowing sand inside the hour glass
Unlike time, they can be free

By the way I do not need to translate these words because both the singers the band Wobbler have had, very well sing in English.

Rubato Industry” is perhaps more of an instrumental track in that it is has a lengthy 2 minute 55 second intro before Tony Johannessen comes in on the vocals. His part in it is all over at the 6:09 mark too, and in between the vocal section there is a lovely melancholy lead break that features Ketil Vestrum Einarsen on the flute again. The last verse is also beautifully sung by Johannessen too. and he ends it all off with some great power in his voice as well.

The remaining 6 minutes and 36 seconds of the song is all instrumental and personally I feel it would of worked a lot better if they spaced out the vocals a bit more, like they did on “Hinterland” rather than try and cram them all into one particular place early on in the song. You do get the odd vocal chant in a couple of small sections as it progresses along, but it’s not enough to make it work like a song as an whole.

No doubt the band are very skilful and the musicianship is top notch how they interact with one another. In some ways this is even a bit like King Crimson how it meanders it’s way along and incorporates some great melody lines, twists and turns.

But I do get the impression that the band maybe scared of the singer taking up more of a role of being more of a front man in the band, and it’s damn shame because they have a really great singer who would make a great front man of any band.

Track 4. Clair Obscur.

The second longest track on the album is an instrumental piece that weighs in at 15 minutes, 31 seconds. Another strange title and judging by the intro featuring a fine melody on the piano after the initial sound of the mellotron opening it up. One could get perhaps the impression that this is a very obscure version of Debussy’sClaire De Lune“. But that would have to be very obscure indeed :))))).

The opening movement is quite classical and has a sense of drama with it’s approach with how its been orchestrated with the mellotron and piano. After 2 minutes and 23 seconds the melody on the piano changes to a more cheerful mood and Ketil Vestrum Einarsen’s flute replaces the mellotron to give it that more of a melancholy feel about it.

At 2:57 the guitar makes a pleasing entrance, followed closely by the hammond organ, drums and bass, and it starts to take shape and end eventually kicks off into some more prog rock goodness.

The track has some great changes along its path, excellent progression and diversity to drive it all along. Even the guitar plays some fine lead lines besides the keyboards, and eventually it all ends off nicely in a similar fashion that it started off with on the piano.

Clair Obscur” is another really great track on the album that has some influences from King Crimson and Gentle Giant and I dare say some other great bands too, including the Moody Blues with its intro and outro. It even has a bit of Steve Hackett like phasing on the guitar has does some of the other tracks on this album too, and puts an end to a quite a remarkable album.

Summary…

To sum up the album Hinterland by Wobbler it’s more or less a solid enough album and no doubt the band got off to a great start with the material that was written for it. There is no doubt the band took a lot of time sculpturing and carving out the music they present to you, and this is not something you can knock up in a year. Since the band formed in 1999 they spent at least 5 of those years working on the material for their debut album and also wrote the biggest majority of the material for their 2nd album.

But you can plainly see that this band do not rush things out just for the sake of getting another album out to try and get a bit more money from its sales. And even though most of their 2nd album was written at this stage, it took them another 4 years to get it anywhere near the way they wanted it, which is why it got released much later on in 2009.

There is no doubt that their hard work as paid off. Because this in reality is one of the very few bands in this world today who actually make what I would call genuine progressive rock music. This album sounds like it came from the 70’s and the only other band I know who can do that today is the Swedish band Änglagård like I mentioned earlier in my review.

I know Robert Reed tried to make the last Magenta album We Are Legend sound like something from the 70’s. But he failed miserably and both Magenta’s first and second albums fared better to be honest, but Magenta are only really a neo prog rock band and could not do what these two bands can. Just like the many other so called prog rock bands today could not either.

There is no doubt Wobbler have made a huge contribution to the world of progressive rock music and have done it completely in their own way and style. It’s a real shame that a band like this cannot make a living from the great music they create, and still have not gave up the day job so to speak. This bands deserves way more recognition and are one hell of a force to reckoned with.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of the band Wobbler and its debut album Hinterland. Personally I feel that anyone who is into progressive rock needs to have this album in their collection. I would not say the whole album is a masterpiece as an whole, but overall it does not disappoint either.

There can only be one highlight from the 4 tracks on the album, and that is a masterpiece in itself. The near enough 28 minute epic self titled track “Hinterland” is worth its weight in gold. It’s a pure classic that not only belongs in the world prog rock music, but speaks the exact language that awesome prog rock music did back in the 70’s. It’s by far one of the best tracks I have heard in ages in the world of prog rock.

Hinterland is my 2nd favourite album of the 4 albums this great band has made so far. The album that followed it in 2009 Afterglow. Happens to be a pure Golden GEM and is my ultimate favourite album of the band. You can find out more about that great album in my next review.

A New World Springs From My Hinterland…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Serenade For 1652. 0:42.
02. Hinterland. 27:44.
03. Rubato Industry. 12:45.
04. Clair Obscur. 15:37.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 08/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #83

Double Vision – Arena

A - DV

Introduction…

Well it’s been a good 3 years since this band released their last album The Unquiet Sky.  But that is perhaps nothing unusual for Arena and they are a band whose members are all involved in other bands and projects. For example the bands keyboard player Clive Nolan has been in both Shadowland and Pendragon before even forming Arena. The first of those two bands he was in prior to Arena I have never heard. The latter I have and did not like at all.

The bands guitar player John Mitchell is also the singer and guitar player in It Bites and also plays guitar for the band Frost*. He has also been involved in other bands too throughout his career. But for me his best output is in the band Arena. I cannot say I am a fan of It Bites and neither do I rate him as a singer. If I was to be perfectly honest, the only album the band Frost* ever made that really spoke to me was their debut album Milliontown.

For me personally and my personal taste, the band Arena has always spoke to me a lot more than all those other bands the band members are involved in, they are a band that sound a bit like early Marillion back in the days when Fish was their lead singer. Oddly enough the bands drummer Nick Pointer was the guy who got sacked from Marillion after they made their first great debut album A Script For A Jesters Tear.

Although Arena formed in 1995. My first introduction to them was through one of these various artist CD’s you got free with the Classic Rock magazine back in the year 2000. The CD contained a track from their 4th album Immortal? which was released in the same year. The track was a classic entitled “The Butterfly Man“. That said enough to me to entice me to buy the album, and buy all their albums.

Over the years the band have had quite a few singers. 4 to be precise, 2 of which only lasted for 1 and 2 albums. The bands 4th singer Paul Manzi has now equalled the bands previous singer Rob Snowden. And both have featured on 3 studio albums each now. I guess we will have to wait another few years to see if Manzi beats the record :)))))).

To be honest I have quite enjoyed all the singers Arena have had throughout its career and all have been well suited for the job. If I had to pick a favourite it would be Rob Snowden. But Paul Manzi has slotted into the roll very well and is really an excellent replacement. Although I enjoyed the first album Manzi sang on The Seventh Degree of Separation. I did not so much enjoy their last album The Unquiet Sky.

Oddly enough I was the same with the 2nd album Rob Snowden sang on Contagion and never felt that was as strong as both Immortal? and Peppers Ghost. But the singers are not at fault at all, and it was just that both the albums Contagion and The Unquiet Sky did not contain strong enough written material for them, in relation to the rest of the bands albums which for me personally were stronger albums. But the bands weakest point was without a doubt their last album The Unquiet Sky.

So what does this new album Double Vision have to say for itself. Well personally I think the band have come back to form with the written material they wrote for it. But before we look deeper into it, let’s first take a look at the packaging and artwork as ever.

The Packaging & Artwork…

33867124_1710484595697754_5975246484600258560_n

The CD comes in a very sturdy well made cardboard Digipak. The case has a nice matt surface finish on it and a inner jewel case tray to mount the CD on adds extra support to the strength of the packaging.

It also comes with a 14 page booklet that contains the production linear notes and lyrics, and it stores away nicely in the slip case pocket on the left hand side of the Digipak. The booklet is quite thick and printed on cardboard rather than paper. It also adds a bit weight to making the Digipak close up nicely too. Overall it’s a very well made and presentable package.

Artwork.

The front cover concept idea was by Mick Pointer and the artwork for it was done by the Portuguese artist João Martins (grendel). I am not sure what the “Grendel” is all about unless he’s a fan of early Marillion :))))). But he also done the artwork for the bands 9th studio album The Seventh Degree of Separation to which I felt was better than this album cover on that score. Antonio Rodriques was the guy who was the model.

The other artwork and photography inside the booklet was done by the bands bass player Kylan Amos and the graphic design and packaging was done by Graeme Bell @ Planet Twiq.

34089972_1710862098993337_5874504839806844928_n

I quite like how they have highlighted some of the letters in red to spell out the word “Vision” from the bands names, and how they have placed them in the order on the centre pages of the booklet.

The Album In Review…

Arena’s 9th studio album Double Vision was officially released in the 25th May 2018. Although if you pre-ordered it from the bands website they promised to deliver all orders from the beginning of May so you could get your hands on it earlier. I myself decided not to pre-order the album, basically because I felt it was overpriced at £15. No doubt you would also be paying postage and packing on top too.

So I brought it in the following week after its release date from Amazon and got the album for £14.99. Which is still overpriced in my opinion, but it was an album I very much wanted and it cost me a bit less in the long run being an Amazon Prime member.

The album comes with 7 tracks and has an overall playing time of 55 minutes, 56 seconds. All 7 tracks contains vocals and there are no instrumental tracks on the album. The albums title is also the name of a track from the bands 3rd album The Visitor that was released back in 1998. So maybe there is some sort of a connection here?.

The album is also dedicated to Phil Ray 1962-2017. To be honest I have no idea of who Phil was and the only thing I did come across upon my research is that he was a radio presenter. As to if it’s the same guy I have no idea. But whoever he was I am sure he will be sadly missed.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Clive Nolan. Mick Pointer & John Mitchell. Recorded at Thin Ice Studio & Outhouse Studios. Engineers Clive Nolan. Karl Groom & John Mitchell. Mixed & Mastered by John Mitchell. Front cover concept Mick Pointer. Front cover artwork Joao Martins (Grendel). Antonio Rodriques is the model. Artwork & Photography by Kylan Amos. Graphic design and packaging by Graeme Bell @ Planet Twiq.

Musicians:
Paul Manzi – Vocals.
John Mirchell – Guitars
Clive Nolan – Keyboards.
Kylan Amos – Bass.
Mick Pointer – Drums.

The Album Tracks In Review…

All of the instruments apart from John Mitchell’s guitars were recorded at Thin Ice Studios. The studio is owned by the record producer and guitarist Karl Groom who also used to play guitar for the band Shadowland that Clive Nolan is in. Karl was the founding member of the progressive metal band Threshold to which is his main band.

studio-double-vision-2018-II

The bands bass player Kylan Amos is pictured with Clive Nolan in this shot above. This is the 2nd Arena album Kylan has played on since joining the band back in 2014.

John Mitchell recorded the guitars at his own studios called the Outhouse Studios. Which is located in Reading Berkshire. This short video shows him working on the first track of the album Zhivago Wolf.

As to if the album Double Vision is some form of a concept album it certainly does not come across like one, simply because none of the tracks run into each other, and they all tend to be written like a collection of songs based around different subjects and situations. A bit like their album Immortal? in some respects.

But to be honest most of Arena’s albums do sound like they have been done in the way of a concept in the way they have been produced. All the tracks on the album Double Vision do tend to have the same atmospheres and feel about them. They have always had this way of making albums with the same atmospheres, so that none of the tracks on the album sound out of place.

It’s also interesting that earlier on this year back in February. The bands 3rd album The Visitor got remastered and re-released as a double album to which came with an extra disc of bonus tracks. Although it was the albums 20th Anniversary. But maybe there is some sort of a connection somewhere on this album, and also the albums cover may reflect on that too.

So let’s find out just what is going on here, as I go through the albums tracks individually in my review.

Track 1. Zhivago Wolf.

The album kicks off in great style and once the short atmospheric intro is over and it features some great heavy metal guitar style short riffs from Mitchell. Great keyboard work by Nolan and is all very heavily backed up and driven along by Amos on the bass and Pointer on the drums. The song raises its power and comes down in all the right places for Manzi’s vocals to work with it all very well, and he does a great job of it too.

I am not sure if the inspiration for the lyrics came from the wolves in Dr Zhivago or if they are just pertaining to all those TV programs we watched as kids, where some of the horrors from them got instilled in our minds and later on came out in our dreams and nightmares.

Clive Nolan is the bands main lyric writer and wrote all the lyrics on this album. He does quite often get inspired by films and television and that even reflects on a couple of his other albums I have of his he did in collaboration with Oliver Wakeman with Hounds Of The Baskervilles and Jabberwocky.

Zhivago Wolf” is relatively a short song like the majority are on this album. It’s the second shortest track on the album that weighs in less than 5 minutes and the music was penned by Mitchell/Nolan/Pointer. It’s quite reminiscent of some of their earlier material with its dark sense of drama and is a really great song and contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 2. The Mirror Lies.

From the second shortest track to the second longest track on the album is up next, and this is the only song on the album that is credited to all 5 members of the band. Lyrically the song could be aimed at those more popular politicians who put on a false mask so to speak and like to being the limelight. Donald Trump is a perfect example.

Musically the song is both powerful and melodic and has a strong chorus section. It’s a very well written song that gives Manzi the chance to express both his power and more ballad side of his voice. The music displays both power and even as an acoustic side about it. It’s another fine song and the band do a grand job of it all.

Track 3. Scars.

One of the 2 tracks on the album penned solely by Clive Nolan. The song both musically and lyrically to some degree has quite a strong familiarity about it to the bands earlier material, I am pretty sure you will find some of the melody lines from “Crack In The Ice” from The Visitor album and the words “Help Me” are sort of harking back to the bands debut album Songs From The Lion’s Cage. The song also features some excellent rhythm and lead guitar work by John Mitchell and is quite a strong contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 4. Paradise Of Thieves.

This song has quite an upbeat to it and is a song that one can instantly latch on too. I am not sure who the lyrics are aimed at here, but I somehow get the impression that they are pertaining to all those thieving bastards who rip off music. Well I would like to think they are :)))))). They are most likely not and if I was to write lyrics for a song that was about those bastards they would be better than this set of lyrics LOL…

No doubt a “Paradise Of Thieves” is quite a catchy little number, and it’s perhaps down to the songs chorus that does tend to get sung over more than anything else in reality. Its  perhaps down to the fact that little was written for it in the way of verses. But it works and it will soon have you singing along to the chorus.

Mick Pointer’s drums play a more domineering roll perhaps on this one too, and John Mitchell’s short guitar solo is very tasty towards the end too. The music was penned by Manzi/Mitchell/Nolan/Pointer and it’s another fine song.

Track 5. Red Eyes.

Red Eyes” eases it’s way in and out with it’s dreamy intro and outro on the keyboards. The bits in between are more power driven along. It’s quite more keyboard orientated too and in some ways I suppose a bit like some of the stuff the band Rush was doing back in the 80’s to some respect. It also contains a vocoder section in part of the song, and it was penned by Amos/Nolan/Pointer.

The songs lyrics are perhaps futuristic and the guy with red eyes can see into any room apparently, and either he has x-ray vision or he can see things we cannot :))))). But in reality I think the context of the lyrics we have here are about the breaking down of relationship where no matter what one does, the other person is no longer interested and therefore you become virtually invisible to that person.

It’s also perhaps one of those songs that needs a few more spins to really get to appreciate it more, and I have to confess that upon first hearing this song I was not that impressed at all with it and that maybe down to the fact that it does tend to be too keyboard orientated.

Track 6. Poisoned.

The shortest track on the album is quite a classic ballad of a song that was written by Manzi & Nolan. Many have likened this song to the other classic ballad “Friday’s Dream“. Personally I think it’s certainly is a great song they have come up with here, but I don’t think it’s on par with that classic from their Immortal? album but very close.

It’s certainly a beautiful acoustic ballad and a very high contender to take the top spot on the album. For some it may even be their favourite track on the album because this is a very well written song. Once again the words here are pertaining to a broken down relationship, and its another contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 7. The Legend Of Elijah Shade.

I have to confess when I first heard this 22 minute and 39 second epic, I was not liking it at all. I think my initial reaction to the song was exactly what Tony Banks said about the Genesis song “The Battle Of Epping Forest“. In that it was too busy with the lyrics and the vocal sections. To be perfectly honest I never had that problem with that classic song of Genesis and it happens to be my 2nd favourite track on the album Selling England By The Pound.

This is the longest track Arena have ever done throughout its 9 studio albums, and the nearest track to that is the almost 20 minute epic “Moviedrome” from their 4th album Immortal?. For any song to run over this distance it has to have something to keep the interest and contain many transnational chord changes, and have the diversity to keep the listener attentive and excited enough.

No doubt a song over this distance is not going to by any means immediately grow on you, and this one does need further spins to speak to you sort of thing. So it does need more attentive listening, but once you have given it that you will get the gist of the whole thing and appreciate it a lot more.

Personally I think this is better than “Moviedrome” even if you have to wait a good 14 minutes to get the first of the lead breaks where Nolan springs into action on the keyboards. There is also some rather nice pipe organ towards the end of his lead break too. You do get some short musical interludes in between the transitional changes too and John Mitchell’s guitar gets to soar towards it’s ending too.

There is plenty of power and subtleness throughout its journey and it does have more diversity and progression than any other song on this album on that score. This is the 2nd of the tracks on the album written solely by Clive Nolan and it’s my personal favourite track and merits the albums top spot award. It’s also the only song on the album that does also have a connection with the bands 3rd album The Visitor.

Summary…

To sum up the latest offering by Arena with their new album Double Vision. There is no doubt that the band are back on their true form regarding the written material we have here, and it’s quite a solid enough album that has plenty of strength to it.

Most of the material on the album is up there with their personal best, even if some of the songs do not quite contain the diversity and progression some of their earlier material had. But overall the album speaks very well and I am sure it will for many Arena fans alike.

My personal highlights from the album are “The Legend Of Elijah Shade“. “Poisoned“. ” Zhivago Wolf” and “Scars“.

Conclusion…

Overall Arena have come up trumps once again and managed to produce yet another great album, if there are any weak points I would say they are on the more keyboard orientated track “Red Eyes” but for many this may also be one of the stronger tracks on the album. But apart from that track there is not a lot I can really fault about the album. Like I said it’s quite a solid album.

Regarding its price point, I do think it’s pitched a bit high at £15 even though it comes in a rather well made Digipak. Considering were living in a world where hardly anybody buys physical music these days. I think the going rate for any CD should be £12 tops. The very reason I never pre-ordered this release was down it’s expensive price tag, and I am sure I am not the only one who will be thrown off by that either.

But for the money there is no doubt this a really great album that also works very well with the placement of the tracks on the album from to finish. For Arena fans alike I would say it’s a must to have in your collection.

The Big Bad Wolf In Sheep’s Disguise…

The album track listing is as follows:

01. Zhivago Wolf. 4:47.
02. The Mirror Lies. 6:57.
03. Scars Idee. 5:16.
04. Paradise Of Thieves. 5:10.
05. Red Eyes. 6:40.
06. Poisoned. 4:27.
07. The Legend Of Elijah Shade. 22:39.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #82

Un’altra verità – Conqueror

C - UAV

Introduction…

The Conqueror’s last release to date came out in 2015. Though it’s not a studio release and is very much a live DVD/CD release that features the band back in 2014 at the Naxos on the 16th of May to which they was touring their last studio album to date Stems that came out in that same year. The live albums title of Un’altra verità is also one of the tracks that was on the bands 2014 album Stems.

Un’altra verità in English translates to “Another Truth“. It’s perhaps a strange title to give for a live concert and to be honest I do not know why they simply did not call it Conqueror Live. Or Conqueror Live At Naxos.

Oddly enough not one of the 5 studio albums they have made is titled by one of the tracks on their album. The only thing they ever released which did come with the title of one of their songs was the EP Sprazzi Di Luce.

Waiting for a new Conqueror album is like waiting to for the World Cup in football to come around :)))). Though no doubt when an album does eventually surface, its perhaps well worthy of waiting for. From what I can gather the band are working on a new album that will be arriving at some point this year, and I am waiting in great anticipation for that.

The live album Un’altra verità not only comes with a CD. But also a DVD that contains high quality video footage that wonderfully captures the live show. There is also an extra track on the DVD and a short documentary is also included as a bonus feature. The package is priced up for 18.50 Euro on the bands website. So let’s now take a look at the packaging and see what you get for the bucks here.

The Packaging & Artwork…

20180314_084329

The album comes in a cardboard Digipak with 2 plastic Jewel Case trays stuck on the inside to hold both the CD & DVD in place. The plastic trays lend support to the overall packaging and the front and back cover have a soft matt textured finish on them, and it’s as if the artwork was printed onto a soft piece of foam with how soft it feels. It’s quite a nice neat little package.

Though it does not come with a booklet, the writing credits you can read clearly, and the information is on both sides of the Digipak when you remove the discs. The graphic design of the front and back cover was done by Enzo Puglisi and the photos used to make up the artwork was taken by Carmine Prestipino.

Musicians & Credits…

2014 Line Up 2

The 2014 Line-Up Of The Band

Recorded live at the Giardini Naxos Municipal Theater 16th May 2014. Video Operators Gianfranco Stracuzzi & Marcello Panebianco. Video Assistant Chiara Trimarchi. Video Editing (Studio 58) Gianfranco Stracuzzi. Audio Recording & Editing (Ludnica Studio) Ottavio Leo. Audio & Video Supervision Natale Russo. Sound Engineer Foh Rocco Cassaniti. PA Man & Facilities Maurizio De Cesare. Lights Antonino Siligato. Audio & Lights by DCS Service. Subtitles Translation by Isabella Miano. Graphic Design by Enzo Puglisi. Photography by Carmine Prestipino. Executive Producer Natale Russo. Produced by Conqueror & Ma.Ra.Cash Records.

Musicians:
Simona Rigano: Keyboards and Voice.
Ture Pagano: Guitar.
Peppe Papa: Bass.
Natale Russo: Drums.

Guest musician Valerio Valenti (Acoustic Guitar on False Idee).

Un’altra verità (Live CD/DVD) In Review…

For my review of this package I am mainly going to focus on the DVD rather than the CD. I shall also be pointing out the highlights of the live concert rather than give a well detailed review of every individual song that we get here. So first up let’s take a quick look at the CD that comes with it.

The CD.

The CD as I mentioned earlier comes with one song less than what we get on the DVD. To be honest I am not sure why it was left off, because they could of fitted it on the CD. Though they must of had their reasons for not including it. The CD itself comes with 10 tracks and has an overall playing time of 70 minutes, 55 seconds.

To be perfectly honest I could not tell you what the actual CD sounds like. Simply because with all these type of packages that come with a live concert on DVD to which they include CD’s in the package, I never play the CD’s at all and do not see any reason to when I can watch the concert with my own eyes on the DVD.

However I do rip the CD’s onto my hard drive in MP3 320 quality to listen to when I am busy at my computer, such as times like this whilst I am writing out my reviews. To be honest it sounds great even at this MP3 quality, though no doubt the CD itself will sound a lot better if I was to play it on my HiFi or on my computer for that matter.

No doubt the CD is also useful for the car, but I do not drive myself so it gets left in it’s package. But those who do, no doubt it will get to put it to more use.

The DVD.

SS1

The DVD loads up with this screen shot of the band and is silent without any background music playing. The main menu is simple to get around and offers you 3 options to choose from as seen in the picture above. By clicking on the first option “Concert” it proceeds to play the concert.

The one thing that is not included in the main menu or anywhere on the DVD is an Audio option. This is because the DVD comes with one soundtrack only which is Stereo. So this is not a concert for surround freaks like myself, and there is no 5.1 here I am afraid.

But the concert still sounds very good despite it being only in more or less CD quality and it only coming with an audio format of 48K 16 bit. The biggest majority of DVD’s these days do come with better sound quality such as 48/24 and even better 96/24.

SS2

By clicking on the “Chapter” option on the main menu, it presents you with the screen pictured above, which simply gives you the choice to play any one of the 11 tracks that are on the DVD. A useful feature to be able to quickly show a friend your favourite track.

SS3

By clicking on the “Bonus” option from the main menu it presents you with the screen above. The bonus is a 20 minute documentary with 3 of the band members namely Natale Russo. Simona Rigano and Ture Pagano speaking about the concert, the making of the album Stems and some background of how the band the Conqueror started, and a general discussion of each album they have made.

I found it very interesting and it provided a good insight into the bands background. I was so glad they had also included English Surtitles too, so I could understand it all. It also comes with French Subtitles too.

The Picture Quality.

The picture quality is certainly more professional than the job they did with the sound. Though the sound in all honesty is quite acceptable and is excellent to be honest. The footage of the concert is quite pristine and looks sharp and captures the lighting and the band very well. Its most likely been filmed in HD and even though this is only a DVD it does have the HD quality look about it.

They have also done a great job with the video editing too, and the close ups of the individual band members, and control of the zoom and positioning is very good.  There is no doubt that this concert as been filmed with genuine HD Cameras and it does the band justice. It also makes it that more enjoyable to watch. Even though it’s not been put onto a Blu Ray. It still looks great.

The visual aspect though as been shot with a full on central viewpoint of the front of the stage. This may put some people off because you cannot see any of the audience by them filming it this way. Though personally I do not have a problem with this myself, and I do have other concerts filmed in the same way. The prog rock band Arena is a perfect example.

The reason why this is most likely done is down to cost, and with them only using 2 cameras to film the show, both cameras are perhaps placed at a central point of view to be able to make good use of the video editing afterwards. Playing in a small venue will also have a bearing on why it was filmed this way too.

You must also remember that a lot of prog rock bands make very little and struggle to survive, especially in this rip off world we have these days with many of the artists material being ripped off and put on the internet for free. Plus the fact that the likes of the Conqueror are not like a lot of more known major mainstream artists who can afford to play at bigger venues and fill them, and afford the cost of more cameras and operators to film their live concerts.

The Concert In Review…

Well there is no doubt that this particular concert was played around the time the band had not long released their latest album at the time Stems. It was actually played in the following month of its release. The live tour was done for that album in particular and features 6 of its 8 tracks from it on the DVD. You are also gonna have quite a wait to get to see the band do any other tracks from their back catalogue, simply because they roll out the first 6 tracks from Stems in the first part of the set list.

The Conqueror are a great live act, and even though both Simona Rigano and Natale Russo have been here from the time the band started putting out albums back in 2003. They have always brought in great musicians to replace those who left. This particular band line up is the same that made the studio album Stems.

Even though the bass player Peppe Papa only joined the band in 2013 and features on both the studio album Stems and this live album. He left the band not that long after. The guitarist Ture Pagano joined the band not so long after the bass player and features on the same two albums. But he did stay on longer with the band, and left in 2016.

The concert itself was performed at the Giardini Naxos Municipal Theater. It’s like a small cinema house in Taormina a province of Italy. The place is used for small concerts and other exhibitions and arts as seen in this photo below.

Giardini Naxos Municipal Theater

The view of the theatre above gives you more of a representation of what its actually like, and this concert was shot very much with a head on central view of the front of the stage, so that you can see the band more visually and not so much of the audience. As a matter of a fact you will be lucky if you see anything of the audience at all, because it focuses on the band all the way through the concert.

The concert opens up with the opening track from their Stems album with a song entitled “Gina“. The album Stems as quite a more modern rock approach to a lot of the tracks on the album, but they still have the diversity and progression that one would find in prog rock music.

This particular song is the longest track on the album Stems and as quite a dominant bass line that punctuates its way along very well. It’s perhaps more punctuating on the studio album though, but never the less the band perform it very well here.

The band roll out the first 4 tracks from the album Stems in the same order as they were placed on the album. This live video from the bands Youtube Channel is from this live DVD and shows how well the band perform live the 2nd track from the Stems album “Di Notte” which incidentally translates to “At Night“.

The band do a grand job on the first half of the set that features the songs from their Stems album and it was great to see them do “Sigurtà” from that album too. The band then continue on with the second part of the show which features a further 5 tracks from the back catalogue of their discography.

It was no surprise to see them kick off the second half of the show with “Pensieri Fragili” which is from the bands 2003 debut album Istinto. This is perhaps the most frequent song from this album they tend to play a lot at their live shows.

They also do another song from this album “La Strada del Graal” and even incorporate part of the instrumental track “Entropia” that comes from this album into “L’ora del Parlare” which is from their 3rd album 74 Giorni to end off the show with. The short track that proceeds this final track on the live album here “Cormorani” is also from their 3rd album.

My personal favourite and highlight of show is that they also do “No Photo” from their 2nd album Storie Fuori Dal Tempo which is my ultimate favourite album of theirs. It’s a shame they never played more tracks from this album, but it’s also interesting how well the band handle it with this different line-up being a 4 piece instead of a 5 piece and missing a woodwind player who plays the flute on it.

But they do a really great job of it, and Simona plays the flutes main melody on the keyboards as she does with many of the other tracks that featured a flute in them as well, and they do a grand job of it all.

Summary…

Overall the live concert CD/DVD Un’altra Verità by the Conqueror is a very enjoyable piece of live entertainment that captures this great band and their great performance very well on stage. The picture quality and editing is excellent and so too is the sound quality, and it’s a very well produced show and worthy of the price tag.

The band not only present the new material from their latest album Stems very well, but also capture the spirit of their older material even with this line-up of the band. I personally would of liked to have seen them do more of their older material, but no doubt the band were promoting their new album at the time, so it was to be expected most of the material would be featured from this album.

I hope in the future they get the chance to film another live show and I would love to see them play their 31 minute epic “Morgana” live from their 2nd album and perhaps a few other tracks from that album too. I very much think they are capable of doing that epic track as well judging from how well they handled all the material they played live here.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review Un’altra Verità by the Conqueror. For the price of 18 and half Euro around £16.24 in the UK it’s great value for the money. It’s a lot cheaper than travelling to Italy to see them play live, and you can watch them from the comfort of your own seat and home so to speak.

My personal highlights from the concert are “False Idee“. “Sigurtà“, ” Pensieri Fragili“.  “No Photo“. and “La Strada del Graal“.

The best and cheapest place to obtain the DVD/CD of Un’altra verità is from the bands website or via contacting the bands drummer Natale Russo on the following email nat@conqueror.it and paying via Paypal. Be sure to add on another 2 Euro to cover the postage and packing. I have provided a link to the website below.

We Lose Ourselves In The Evening In That Ray Of Light…

You can purchase the DVD/CD of Un’altra verità from the bands website here: http://www.conqueror.it/eng/stems.asp

The Live Set List On The DVD is as follows:

01. Gina. 11:12.
02. Di Notte. 7:25.
03. False idee. 7:31.
04. Un’altra Verità. 6:28.
05. Sigurtà. 9:37.
06. Echi di Verità. find out time 7:48.
07. Pensieri Fragili. 7:48.
09. No Photo. 6:43.
09. La Strada del Graal. 6:07.
10. Cormorani. 1:06.
11. L’ora del Parlare (end entropia). 6:58.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Picture Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Live Concert Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #81

Octopus (CD/Blu Ray) – Gentle Giant

GG - O - Copy

Introduction…

Another truly great album of Gentle Giant’s that has been superbly remixed by Steven Wilson. Having recently purchased the CD/Blu Ray edition of The Power and The Glory and being blown away by it, the bands 1972 album Octopus very much was a must to buy next, and once again I am not disappointed, and overall I am over the moon by the treatment Wilson has given not only to the 5.1 mixes but the new stereo mixes. It’s a shame he has not done more of their albums like this, and I certainly would love to see the others get this treatment.

I know I stated in my last review of The Power and The Glory that is was my personal favourite album of theirs. I also stated that is was very hard to pick a favourite Gentle Giant album simply because I love them all, and since revisiting Octopus I can honestly say I am having second thoughts has to what is my favourite album of the bands. To be honest both albums along with Freehand and Acquiring The Taste have always been my main go to albums. Though no doubt there are classic songs on all their albums.

The title for the bands 4th studio album Octopus came from a suggestion of Phil Shulman’s wife Roberta having heard that the album was to contain 8 tracks. The word “Octopus” is also seen as being “Octo Opus,” which represents 8 musicals works. It was also the first album that the bands 3rd drummer John Weathers appeared on. Weathers remained with the band right up until the end when they split up in 1980.

It was also the last album Phil Shulman appeared on, having been with the band with his two other brothers from the beginning. Phil left the band to spend more time with his wife and family. He was the oldest of the 3 brothers, and just like them another very talented multi instrumentalist. Being part of the band was all a bit too much for him in the end, and he gave up music entirely. So it just goes to show that sex, drugs and rock n roll is not for everyone.

Before we go deeper into the album and more about the band, let’s first take a look at the packaging and artwork as usual.

The Packaging & Artwork…

32722996_1697001180379429_9016126370035531776_n

Just like both The Power and The Glory and Three Piece Suite the discs come in a 3 panel Digipak which has a plastic jewel case disc trays to hold the discs securely. It also comes with a pocket to store the booklet. The 14 page booklet comes with both the linear productions notes and lyrics, and overall it a very well made package.

The Artwork.

The album was officially released with 2 different sets of artwork by 2 different artists. Here in the UK and other European and international countries, the albums artwork was provided by Roger Dean. Not long after Dean had done the cover for Vertigo Records a legal issue emerged with the bands World Wide Artists management in North America and the company wanted a different album cover for Columbia Records for the release in both the US & Canada.

So whilst Derek Shulman was over there and in San Francisco he found a jar with an octopus in it and thought it was real cool, and brought it and gave to the art department at Columbia Records to use it for the new artwork.

45225d2353b239e789abe32903dca086

US & Canada Album Artwork

The artwork for this release was credited to Charles White and that concept and design was credited to John Berg. The US & Canada artwork is also included on one of the reverse panels of this Digipak.

The CD/Blu Ray Release…

Both the CD/Blu Ray and CD/DVD Editions of Gentle Giant’s 1972 album Octopus were released on the 30th October 2015. It was the second of Gentle Giant’s albums that Steve Wilson decided to mix and do a 5.1 surround mix for. Though unfortunately unlike The Power and The Glory not all the original multi-track master tapes could be located and 3 of the albums tracks could only be upmixed to 5.1 via use of software.

Considering this album is missing 3 of the multi-track master tapes, and the bands 3rd album Three Friends was only missing 2 of the multi-track master tapes. Once again it has me thinking has to why Steve Wilson did not decide to do the same thing he has done here by using software to upmix those tracks that were missing, instead of releasing it along with the bands first 2 albums as a compilation album on the 2017 release of Three Piece Suite.

Another thing what I thought was strange, is considering that only 5 of the tracks on Octopus have genuine 5.1 mixes unlike The Power and The Glory to which all the tracks were genuine 5.1 mixes. Why on earth are most places charging £4 more for it?. I find that quite ludicrous and in most stores its priced at over £21 including Amazon.

I managed to get my copy brand new on ebay from a place in London called Speedyhen and got it for a much more respectable price of £17.30 including P+P. They do have a speedy service too and it arrived in 2 days despite some of the bad reviews I found on Trust Pilot about them. I could not fault the service and was well happy, and shall certainly give them a good review on Trust Pilot too.

The CD.

The CD comes with the 8 original albums tracks, 5 of which are new mixes done by Steve Wilson. The remaining 3 tracks have been newly remastered by him and this was due to the fact that 3 of the multi-tracks master tapes were lost. It also comes with 1 bonus track to which is a medley of excepts from the album Octopus to which they played live at the Calderone Concert Hall in Hempstead, New York on the 3rd July 1976.

The total playing time of the 9 track CD is dead on 50 minutes. The 3 tracks that have been remastered only are “The Advent of Panurge“. “Raconteur Troubadour” and “The Boys In the Band“. The new mixes sound very good and to be honest you are not really going too notice that the other 3 tracks have been remastered only. But Wilson as always had the tendency to work close to the original mixes and does an exceptionally good job overall.

The Blu Ray.

SS 1

The Blu Ray comes with an array of extras just like we seen on The Power and The Glory release. Once again you get the Instrumental only versions of the 8 album tracks, and the original 1972 mix of the album. The main feature is the 5.1 mix and once again all the mixes on the disc come with an high quality audio format of 24/96K.

SS 2

By clicking on the “Audio Setup” by default it’s set to LPCM Stereo. So surround freaks like myself will have to click on the DTS Master Surround Mix before pressing “Play Album”. But of course you can also choose the audio options by simply hitting the audio button on your remote. I like the fact that when you click on an option in the main menu it simply pops up, so you can make your preferred choice instead of it loading to a separate screen to do so.

SS 3

Unlike The Power and The Glory Blu Ray you do not get any 3D Animated videos whilst listening to the music. You do however get to watch a video of a real octopus moving around throughout the entire length of the album on the 5.1 mix. It was filmed by Yael Shulman.

They have also included the live bonus track mixed in 5.1 too for this feature only. When you play the original and instrumental stereo mixes of the album, you do not get to see the octopus. However you do get to see some different pictures for each track.

The 5.1 Mix.

The 5.1 mixes have been once again done superbly by Steve Wilson and it’s a shame that 3 of the album tracks multi-track tapes were missing for him to be able to do those as well. He has used Penteo’s software to create a simulated 5.1 mix with the other 3 tracks, and to be honest they sound quite good too. Though he was obviously never going to be able to place all the instrumentation and vocal harmonies where he wanted to in the mix like he could do with the other 5 tracks. No doubt those 5 tracks that have a genuine 5.1 mix benefit the better.

But overall not having the multi-tracks for those 3 tracks does not spoil the enjoyment of listening to the album and before long you will hardly notice any difference, and I still prefer this over the stereo mixes and they do sound quite stunning too. Wilson also mixed the live bonus in track in 5.1 too, and it’s not bad, but the studio mixes on the album are without the best quality overall.

Musicians & Credits…

bL7fAQq4kevmhVhBuQSmfT

Produced and arranged by Gentle Giant for Alucard Produtions Ltd. Recorded at Advision Studios London between the 24th July – 5th August 1972. Engineer Martin Rushent. Moog Operator Mike Vicars. UK Cover Design by Roger Dean. USA Cover Illustration Design by Charles White. New Stereo & 5.1 Mixes by Steven Wilson.

Musicians:
Kerry Minnear: All Keyboards/Vibraphone/Percussion/Cello/Moog/Lead & Backing Vocals.
Ray Shulman: Bass/Violin/Guitar/Percussion/Vocals.
Gary W. Green: Guitars/Percussion.
Derek Shulman: LeadVocals/Alto Sax.
Phil Shulman: Saxophones/Trumpet/Mellophone/Lead & Backing Vocals.
John Weathers: Drums/Congas & Percussion.

The Album In Review…

Gentle Giant’s 4th studio album Octopus was released in the UK on the 1st December 1972. It was not released in America or Canada until more or less a couple of months later in February 1973. Like many of the bands albums most of the material was written before they booked a studio to save on the expense and in general the band always had at least 75% of it done before recording it. The whole album was recorded in 2 weeks at Advision Studios in London.

The album Octopus was the bands shortest album at this stage of their career and weighed in with an overall playing time of 34 minutes, 4 seconds. Although most of the bands albums were not much longer in reality. This is actually the bands second shortest album out of all the 11 studio albums they made, with only their last album Civilian being shorter.

Octopus is also noted to have been made when the band where at their peak, and for many of their fans it also can be seen as one of their favourite albums, and its perhaps understandable with the strong material that was written for it.

Even Ray Shulman stated that it was probably the bands best album with the exception of Acquiring The Taste. For both the newcomer John Weathers and the departure of Phil Shulman the album is noted as their swan song. I myself certainly think it’s one of their personal best albums, and it does contain some really great strong compositions.

The Album Tracks In Review…

As with the biggest majority of Gentle Giant’s music both Kerry Minnear and Ray Shulman are the bands main music writers. What as not already been written and arranged before they go into the studio to record it, generally gets finished their along with the odd bit of improvisation. The lyrics for this particular album were written by both Derek & Phil Shulman.

The album Octopus was originally intended to be a sort of a concept album with 6 of the tracks being associated with each member of the band, plus 1 track for the roadies and the remaining track to represent to the entire band as an whole. But in the end they gave up on the idea and perceived concept albums as being quite naff. Although it did not stop them doing the next 2 albums that followed it based around concepts :))))).

So let’s see exactly what we have here as I go through the 8 original albums tracks individually in my review…

Track 1. The Advent of Panurge.

Rather a strange title and the word “Panurge” comes from Greece and is associated with a rascal or a rogue. Though in the is case it’s the name of a character from a series of novels written by the French author François Rabelais about Gargantua and Pantagruel who were a couple of giants of all things. No doubt giants was the inspiration here, and most prog rockers tend to look to books about strange things for their inspiration.

Kerry Minnear wrote the music for this opening track and he also is taking on the lead vocals for the song too backed up by two of the Shulman brothers Phil and Derek. The music supports the story where the two giants first bump into one another and it’s very much like a sort of quirky funky theatrical approach to it all.

To be honest trying to describe the music Gentle Giant present to you is not an easy thing to do. They incorporate that many styles and genres even into a short 4 and 3 quarter minute song like this.

No doubt a major part of their particular style does come from folk or medieval folk music with some baroque harmonies thrown into the pot. But what makes it more interesting is how they also incorporate different rhythmical changes, time signature changes, a bit of rock, classical and all sorts in the way it all progresses along.

There is no doubt they do it all in their own unique way, and no matter how bizarre and strange it may all sound. It’s very much a fine art that is so unusual, yet there is never a dull moment about it all.

Track 2. Raconteur Troubadour. 

A medieval folk song about a travailing minstrel cheering everybody up with his jolly music to make the people dance is the subject matter behind the lyrics to this one. Once again there is some theatrics about this fine song and the band even incorporate some classical music passages with the lead breaks.

For those who think this is just another folk song, you seriously need to think again. The whole arrangement is very much a masterpiece. The very talented array of multi instrumentalists who made up the band Gentle Giant where that good at what they did, that they never had to hire an orchestra to play and arrange their music for them. The band effectively was an whole orchestra with the instruments they could play.

As good as many think The Beatles were, they were never this talented as musicians, and they had to have other people like George Martin onboard with them to arrange their music and an orchestra to play it for them. I am not denying that The Beatles wrote some truly great songs that appealed to a much wider audience, but in all honesty they were far from capable of writing and playing music like this.

Raconteur Troubadour” is another one of the 4 songs on this album that Kerry Minnear wrote the music for, and it is without doubt a masterclass piece of work. Derek Shulman takes on the lead vocals for the song and it’s very much a high contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 3. A Cry For Everyone.

A change of mood and the band shift away from the more folky side of things and rock this one out a bit. Its the first of the 4 tracks on the album that Ray Shulman wrote the music for. His brother Derek is on the lead vocals again. I quite like how the band interact with one another on the lead breaks throughout this song, and Minnear’s array of keyboards get utilised very well throughout them too.

The songs lyrics were inspired by the philosophical literature writer Albert Camus. He was known for his literature on philosophy of the absurd and no doubt these lyrics are absurd as well :)))))). But I guess the point that is trying to be made here, is that we are all born to die, and there is no point in crying over it, so one might as well cry for everyone because they are all in the same boat so to speak.

Track 4. Knots.

Another one of Kerry Minnear’s musical contributions to the album and this one features Phil, Kerry and Derek doing some very well constructed counterpart vocal harmonies. It’s quite a medieval folk madrigal that uses 5/4 and other time signatures to piece it all together in a sort of a jigsaw way. The songs title and the source for the lyrics came from the Scottish psychiatrist and poet R. D. Laing. His book Knots consists of a series of powerful, witty, unexpected dialogue-scenarios that can be read as poems or brief plays.

“Knots” is a very high contender for the top spot on the album and another brilliant piece of work done by the band.

Track 5. The Boys In The Band.

The second of Ray Shulman’s musical compositions for the album is fact an instrumental piece and the only one on the album. This piece was originally intended to represent the band with the idea they had at first of making a concept album. In the end they abandoned the idea of the concept, but it still represents the band in a very good way. The piece has some superb diversity and progression about and it’s even got more of Jazz feel about it as well.

The guy laughing and the coin you can hear spinning on the table in the intro, is the bands recording engineer Martin Rushent having a bit of fun. This has to be another very high contender for the top spot on the album and its another brilliant track.

Track 6. Dog’s Life.

Well just as the last piece was intended to represent the band. “Dog’s Life” was originally wrote to represent the bands roadies. It’s the shortest track on the album and the music was composed by Ray Shulman and his older brother Phil features on the lead vocals for the song. It features some lovely acoustic guitar from Gary Green and is a very well orchestrated by Ray Shulman on the violin and Kerry Minnear on the cello.

The arrangement is quite Beatles ESC and quite stunning, and this is yet another top song on the album that could be in contention for the best track.

Track 7. Think Of Me with Kindness.

My personal favourite track on the album is another one Minnear’s compositions and this one he also sings. Just like the previous track its got that Beatles ESC feel about it and the orchestration and arrangement is superb even down to the brass section. This is songwriting at its best and Minnear’s voice is golden on it.

To be honest it was very hard to choose this song as my favourite and this album is literally full of contenders and contains very strong well written material all along it. Most of which are even far more complex in to how they have retained the simple simplicity on this song.

Track 8. River.

The album gets rounded off with the longest track on the album, though all the tracks on this album were no longer than your average pop song back in the 70’s. The “River” is another song that Ray Shulman wrote the music for and features Derek on the main vocals. The song has a bit of a folk rock feel about it and features a bit of a rocked up guitar solo in the middle of it. It’s another great song and winds up the album very well.

Summary…

To sum up the album Octopus by Gentle Giant I would say it’s an album that contains some of the bands strongest well written material, that much so that I feel this is a stronger album than The Power and The Glory if the truth be told. This is what makes it hard to pick a personal best album of theirs.

The band were also pushing and expanding the boundaries at this stage of their career too, and were starting to incorporate other musical styles of rock and funk into their music, and they was expanding on their more familiar style of folk that was more noticeable on the bands first 3 albums.

Octopus is an album that perhaps marked the first real change and step into a slightly newer direction, and one that worked out really well for the band. Even though the band were still making music that perhaps would not of been accessible to a wider audience, some of music that was written for it is certainly more accessible I would of felt. Both “Dog’s Life” and “Think Of Me with Kindness” were more along the lines of really great songwriters songs that would certainly appeal to most people I would of thought.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Gentle Giant’s 4th studio album Octopus and this more up to date Steven Wilson mix of the album. I would say that without a doubt that Octopus could very well be seen to many as the bands finest album, and they would not be wrong either. It is without doubt a remarkable album and I can honestly say that it sounds even more remarkable with Steve Wilson’s 5.1 mix.

I honestly think these new CD/Blu Ray Editions are bang on for the buck and well worth getting if you’re like myself and into multi surround sound. The new mixes on the CD are also really great, but the real value in a package like this is the Blu Ray and that’s where you will by benefit the most with this type of package.

My personal highlights from the album are “Raconteur Troubadour“. ” Knots“. “The Boys In The Band“. “Dog’s Life” and “Think Of Me with Kindness“. To be honest I could highlight every track because it really is a solid album and the compositions are sheer class on that score.

Gentle Giant were without doubt certainly one of the most superb and interesting bands that graced us with their superb music back in the 70’s and there was no band quite like them, and there has not been since either. I would certainly like to see Steven Wilson give the bands other albums the 5.1 treatment, because these editions I personally do not think can be beat.

Memories Are Sorrow, When There’s No Tomorrow…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. The Advent of Panurge. 4:43.
02. Raconteur Troubadour. 4:03.
03. A Cry for Everyone. 4:06.
04. Knots. 4:11.
05. The Boys in the Band. 4:35.
06. Dog’s Life. 3:13.
07. Think of Me with Kindness. 3:35.
08. River. 5:54.
09. Excerpt From Octopus (Live At The Calderone Theatre) #. 15:40.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee’s 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Bonus Material Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #80

The Power and The Glory (CD/Blu Ray) – Gentle Giant

571b715eacaa7ddf71d36049ce57f50f

Introduction…

Well I have always liked Gentle Giant since I finally got into them which was a good couple of decades after they disbanded in 1980. I barely took any notice of them back in the 70’s and I am pretty sure it was through getting into Neal Morse in the 2000’s that led me on to investigate them more and to finally buy their albums. This particular album The Power and The Glory as always been my favourite album of theirs for some reason. Though I like them all to be honest and it’s perhaps hard to choose a particular favourite.

I have to admit I have been meaning to buy this CD/Blu Ray Edition for some time now, especially has it’s got the 5.1 mix of the album. To be honest I am surprised I never brought it before I purchased Three Piece Suite last year, and it was seeing a post by John McLoud of the album in the Progrock Group on Facebook. That jilted my mind to finally get it.

I shall also be getting the CD/Blu Ray version of Octopus soon too, and I was hoping to see Steve Wilson do 5.1 mixes for more of their albums as well. In A Glass House and Freehand I would love to see him do. Just do them all Mr Wilson and I shall buy them :))))). Even The Missing Piece and I might even have “Two Weeks In Spain” to celebrate :))))).

Incidentally I have also pre-ordered this box set of Gentle Giant’s that was originally released back in 2012. It’s been out of print for awhile now and they are reissuing it again with new 2018 remasters all for the price of £20.75.

ilostmyhead

It’s a 4 CD Clamshell Box Set that contains the studio releases of the albums Free Hand, Interview, The Missing Piece, Giant For A Day and Civilian and includes the much-loved live album Playing The Fool from 1976. It also comes with some bonus tracks and includes a 16 page booklet and is s due to be released on the 22nd June.

I shall look forward to reviewing that and now let’s get back to The Power and The Glory. But first as ever let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

31944887_1687556867990527_241868815531507712_n

The album comes in a 3 panel cardboard Digipak and the discs are held in place by the same type of plastic holders one would find in a jewel case. These type of holders offer great protection for the discs and you can easily retrieve the discs without getting your fingerprints over the disc surface, they also lend support in strengthening the cardboard packaging and the booklet stores nicely away in the pocket they have made on the sleeve.

The 12 page booklet contains the usual linear and production notes and contains some useful information based on around the time the album was being made and was written by the freelance writer Sid Smith. It also has a few photographs of the band from that time period, and although it does not go into great detail, it’s quite informative.

The Artwork.

The albums front cover came from a pack of playing cards the band brought whilst on tour in Germany. They simply passed on the pack to Cream Sleeve Design and asked them to do something with it.

The CD/Blu Ray Release…

Both the CD/Blu Ray and CD/DVD Editions of Gentle Giant’s The Power and The Glory were released on the 22nd July 2014. It was the first Gentle Giant album that Steve Wilson decided to mix and do a 5.1 surround mix for. Most likely because it was his favourite album. Steve Wilson’s new mixes also come in the form of a CD only and they have also released it on vinyl album.

Since then, Wilson has also done the mixes for the bands 1972 album Octopus and also a compilation of the bands first 3 albums which was entitled Three Piece Suite. The reason that was compiled was down to the fact that not all the original multi-track master tapes could be found for those albums to do 5.1 mixes for.

I decided to go for the CD/Blu Ray Edition and purchased it from Amazon for £17.12 and have to say it was truly worthy of every penny and Steve Wilson has without a doubt done a truly superb job on the mixes. I think with any package like this most of the bonus material comes more in abundance on either the Blu Ray or DVD and these are without doubt the real quality in these packages and not the CD.

Though obviously also with these type of packages the bonus material one does get is more or less is the same thing, and this is not an album that has a great deal of extra bonus tracks at all. So let’s now take a look at what we get on the contents of the both discs.

The CD.

The CD contains the albums original 8 tracks and also has a couple of bonus tracks. The overall playing time of all 10 tracks is 46 minutes, 23 seconds. All the tracks are also new mixes done by Steve Wilson though he has not added a thing to any of them, he has managed to mix the album really well, that well that I would even stick my neck out and say it sounds better than the original mix of album.

But for all you purists out there, the original master recording of the original album has been included on the Blu Ray. The two bonus tracks “The Power and the Glory” and the instrumental out take of “Aspirations” are nothing new (apart from being mixed by Wilson) and have featured on other re-releases of the album over the years.

The Blu Ray.

SS 1

The Blu Ray opens up with some fine 3D Animation of playing cards and presents you with the main menu (shown above) that also contains an animation through the shaped window of the playing card. The main menu presents you with 5 options to choose from “Play Album”. “Track Select”. “Instrumentals” “Audio” and “Extras”.

I quite like how when you click on the options they appear on the same screen for you to make your choice, rather than loading to another screen. The following screen shows you an example of the “Audio” option as an example.

SS 2

By default it’s set to my personal favourite choice of DTS 5.1 Master Audio. All the audio formats are in high quality 96/24 even for the other bonus and extras material. A couple of the of the added bonus features you get on the Blu Ray are the instrumental versions of all the tracks, including the 2 bonus tracks and the “Extras” option contains the original album mix of the 8 original tracks which is in stereo only.

SS 3

The other interesting feature on this Blu Ray comes when you play the 5.1 mix only. Each track features a different 3D Animation video for every track on the album, including the 1 bonus track you get here “The Power and the Glory“. These are a series of animated videos made by the bands bass guitarist and violin player Ray Shulman. You also get the lyrics to all the songs too which they have also animated.

There is nothing in the booklet that tells you when Shulman made the animation, and to be honest I doubt very much he would of been able to of made it the time this release was made. So the animation he made here was most likely done earlier on and intended for a documentary or something about the album that never got put out, and got used for this release instead.

The animation is really well apt to the lyrics and the whole concept that was behind the album The Power and The Glory. This is truly a great feature and quite a surprise to see included here.

The 5.1 Mix.

Both the 5.1 and stereo mixes Steve Wilson has done here are purely fantastic. But personally for myself the 5.1 mix will always be the real winner, and this is a stunning 5.1 mix he has done. The very fact that we have 3 Dimensional Animation works a treat with the quite like 3 Dimensional sound of how everything as been so well placed and panned out. Gentle Giant’s music suits a 5.1 mix especially with the array of instrumentation they use and their 4 part harmonies.

Wilson is very much a master at not going over the top and making sure that the album still sounds like how it was originally but somehow manages to breathe completely new life into the mix by bringing out the dynamics and the clarity. His vision for a 5.1 mix never ceases to amaze me and no doubt he improves all the time. He’s a lot better than Jakko Jakszyk in this field of working with 5.1 and I do prefer Wilson to do the mixes of these great albums overall.

There is no doubt in my eyes and my ears that this is without doubt the best mix this album has ever seen, and it is without doubt purely fantastic and I take my hat off to Wilson for doing such a grand job and making me want to play this album over and over again.

Though to be honest Gentle Giant have never been far away from my turntable so to speak, simply because they made music to last more than a lifetime, and I can enjoy listening to their albums every year on that score. Though this 5.1 mix will definitely be my go too choice of hearing this album from now on.

Musicians & Credits…

Gentle-Giant

Produced and arranged by Gentle Giant for Alucard Productions Ltd. Recorded at Advision Studios London between December 1973 – January 1974. Engineer Gary Martin. Cover Design by Cream. Illustrations for “Aspirations” by Lior Wix. Stereo & 5.1 Mixes by Steven Wilson.

Musicians:
Derek V. Shulman: Vocals & All Saxes.
Ray Shulman: Bass/Violin/Vocals.
Kerry C. Minnear: Keyboards/Cello/Vocals.
Gary W. Green: All Guitars.
John P. Weathers: Drums/Percussion/Vocals.

The Album In Review…

The original album The Power and The Glory was released on the 22nd September 1974. The album contained 8 tracks and had an overall playing time of 38 minutes, 7 seconds. It was the bands 6th studio album, and the last one that was released on WWA Records a subsidiary division of Capitol Records before signing up to Chrysalis Records.

By now and even on their previous album In The Glass House the band had slightly changed it’s style to more of an American way of thinking and it was also due to the American market taking more of an interest in the band with the imports they brought of In A Glass House that the band decided to release the album in the US and Canada first.

The Power and The Glory was the 2nd most successful album they ever had in America and it reached number 50 in the album charts. They also continued to release all the albums that followed it in the same fashion right up to their final album 1980 studio album Civilian.

Prior to the release of The Power and The Glory in America. They also made a more commercial song with the same name of the album. Though the single release of “The Power and The Glory” was never included on the album and it did nothing in America either, and never made a dent in the singles charts.

I am sure at the time many would of never heard the single release of “The Power and The Glory” and the album drew its title from the opening and closing tracks on the album “Proclamation” and “Valedictory” which was a reprise of the 1st track, and not the single release at all.

In the following year of 1975 with the band now signed up to Chrysalis Records. Capitol Records decided to release a compilation album entitled Giant Steps… The First Years to which they included the single “The Power and The Glory” and that was the very first album the song had ever appeared on.

I suppose the reason why the band never wanted to include it on the album, was down to the fact that it had more of a rock approach about it, and it was perhaps something they just made on the spare of the moment to try and break into the American market.

I find it rather strange however why they gave this single the same title of the album in the first place, and I would of expected if it did have more success that their fans would be wondering why it was not on the album in the first place :))))).

Concept Ideas & Interpretations…

Gentle Giant’s album The Power and The Glory is very much done in the way of a concept album only it’s not story based and each individual track is based around power and how it’s consequences can have an effect of how it works in society. Not only in the political sense but also the music business. Because the album was conceived at a time of great uncertain political events that were going on around the time. Most of the people associated it with Nixon’s Watergate scandal.

I have to confess trying to make head or tail of the lyrics on this album is not the easiest thing to do. I think you need to be some sort of professor or these guys were totally off their head when they wrote them :))))). It’s no wonder so many people can make so many interpretations out of them, and that in my book has always been a good thing.

I have to confess doing a review of any album, the research side of things is what I like the best about it. Though I cannot always be accurate with all the sources from the internet and the information I find in the booklets that come with these albums. I also find Youtube a useful source, by either watching documentaries or interviews of the artists, and even down to other people reviewing them.

I even enjoy other people doing album reviews on Youtube and I wish I had the confidence that they have to do them as well. I myself need a lot more time to think which is why I prefer to do written reviews like this, where I can take my time. But I quite like the reviews of these couple of guys (even if I do not agree with everything they say) and here they are reviewing The Power and The Glory.

I quite like how they think it’s not a concept album but does have some theme about a concept with the way it’s been packaged like a pack of cards, and they try and interpret the concept into a story based around playing cards with some of the titles on the album at around the 10:10 mark in the video.

I also like how another guy in one of the comments on the same video goes about describing the concept behind the album being a story as well. He puts it like this as follows:

“Proclamation begins with a dictator addressing his crowd. So Sincere comments that the dictator is a hypocrite. There is another character with high aspirations, who plays the game of power where cogs run in cogs. He realizes that no gods a man (so the dictator is human after all) and overthrows and replaces him. But as Valedictory recalls the first track, he succumbs to the same corruption as the previous ruler”.

I dare say there are plenty of other great interpretations of the concept behind The Power and The Glory and no doubt it would of certainly raised a few eyebrows when it was released.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Most of the material for the album The Power and The Glory was written whilst the band was still on the live tour of their previous album In The Glass House. Gentle Giant was very much a band that wrote most of their material outside of the studios to save on cost, and they recorded the demo’s of the basic ideas for the songs onto a cassette, and then spent the time in the studio piecing it all together and recording it properly.

They also spent more time putting this album together than they did with their previous album to which was more of a rushed out album to keep within the scheduled time of the record company. All the material was written by Kerry Minnear and the two Shulman brothers Derek and Ray. Although in terms of the music side of things, that is very much left to Kerry and Ray who have always been the bands main music writers.

So now let’s take a look at the 8 individual tracks that make up the album and see if we can make some sense out of the lyrics.

Track 1. Proclamation.

The album opens up with the longest track on the album which is just under 7 minutes. It opens up with the atmospheric sound that very much sounds like a fast tube train running along the tracks in a London underground. It most likely is too, although the sound can be seen as representing a crowd hailing the candidate they are voting in power.

Then in comes Kerry Minnear on the electric piano playing the main riff of the verse sections of the song with quite a funky vibe to it. Derek Shulman comes in with the vocals on the opening verse and he takes on the lead vocals on this song and gradually the other members of the band come into the action.

There is no doubt that Gentle Giant’s music can be very diverse at times with its  quirkiness and ever changing time signatures, and it’s short bursts and spasms with how they create melodies and rhythms that shift patterns in other directions even over short tracks. Though most of the material on this album is perhaps more heavier and more accessible.

I have always found their music very strange, but it’s that strangeness that as always drawn me to it more than anything, and I find it quite interesting and even exciting. The lead break section that runs from 2:10 – 3:20 shows that there is a lot more to a song like this than just a verse and chorus. Just in a space of 1 minute and 10 seconds there is a hell of a lot of shifting melody changes and even two part melodies running through it. The interaction between the musicians is quite breathtaking.

Proclamation” is very much the self titled track of the album in that the albums title is contained within the song. The lyrical content is very much about the politician who is running for power and wanting the vote and the confidence of the public with his manifesto that is aimed at changing the way things are. But all too often it remains the same, and at the end of the day just like the many that came before him, he ultimately becomes what he thought against in the first place.

It’s a really great song and very much a strong contender for the best track on the album. Just like the song that follows it too.

Track 2. So Sincere.

So Sincere” lyrically speaking about the way the words have been written in the way of a metaphor, could be seen as combining the first 3 letters of the word “Sincere” with “sincerity” which results in Sin being told with Sincerity. The lies told in any politicians manifesto are in fact sincerely told to try an win over the public votes. For every bit of truth he talks about you can expect the opposite. He will tell you anything just to get in power and try and win you over. It’s all hypocrisy at the end of the day.

There is no doubt that practically all the lyrics on this album are metaphors and it’s not always easy to put them all into context for one to really get the idea behind them. Looking at the way they have been put them into context could even have one thinking WTF is he’s going on about, hence the reason for me thinking they was off their head when they wrote them.

So these are lyrics one will have to dig that deeper into, to really get the point they are trying to put across here. Although basically the lyrics to all the tracks are literally based around the same subject matter.

The songs musical structure is built around the opening few notes in the melody line played on the violin, which is supported by the cello, bass and sax. Kerry Minnear takes on the vocals in the verse sections and the piano and drums add further support as the song builds its way slowly along in a sort of creepy awareness and dramatic way, almost like something one might find in a cartoon.

The chorus section it changes into is quite a frenzy of notes played on the keys and guitar and the Derek Shulman handles the vocals on the chorus sections. They also incorporate a small bridge section which allows Gary Green to go into a nice frenzy on the electric guitar. “So Sincere” is perhaps less accessible in relation to many of the songs that are on this album, and is more like the bands earlier folky side on that score. But this I like a lot and it’s my 2nd favourite track on the album.

Track 3. Aspirations.

Much more of a more straight forward song musically with the use of electric piano, bass, acoustic guitar and drums. Kerry Minnear takes on the vocals and he’s always had more of the sweeter voice in the band to take on a song like this, though he very rarely sang live so he could focus more on his keyboard playing.

Lyrically the words are pertaining to the hopes and dreams one hopes will result from having a new government in power, and reflects of how one lives in society with their current position and having a stable enough job to bring up their family. I suppose these aspirations could also apply to the music business too.

I quite like the animated video they have put to this song which shows a family outside their house, and how the house in the background can look in a bit of a rundown state, and changes into something more clean and new. It shows the line between poverty and wealth and that basically sums up what this song is really all about.

Track 4. Playing the Game.

Playing The Game” I suppose can be seen to as any politician who gets in power is in a no lose situation. The odds are very much stacked in his favour as soon as he becomes elected into office in that no matter what decisions he makes especially upon inflation and the cost of living, by the end of his term in office he will be wealthy enough to live comfortably for the rest of his life. Unless he gambles it all away that is :))))).

Musically this track is perhaps constructed around Ray Shulman’s bass line which plays a very dominant role here, it also features some great keyboard work and the marimba is put to great use in the percussion department. The vocals are handled by Derek Shulman on the verses and Minnear sings in the bridge section only.

Track 5. Cogs In Cogs.

Musically this song contains excellent progression and is perhaps similar to the same prog epic goodness found on the bands 4th album Octopus on the track “Knots“. Only this is not quite as minimalistic and certainly has a lot going on. The band weave out some magic on this track, and even though it’s the shortest track on the album at just over 3 minutes, it’s very much my favourite track on the album and merits my top spot award.

Once again Dave Shulman takes on the vocals and for all the remaining songs on the album. Its lyrical content is based around how each cog changes yet the wheels always move in the same direction just like the hands of power may change from time to time, yet nothing ever really changes with their so called promises.

Track 6. No God’s a Man.

Lyrically the song is more of the same thing and perhaps could be seen as the same old song when those in power at the end of day who always fail, and the same old song gets sung again with whoever picks up the next microphone to sing it so to speak. Also most often is the case that the party they voted in office in the first place, end up becoming those they now want out. Those who are put on pedestals soon fall aside with their deception and lies and man is far too imperfect to be a god, and no man is a god.

Gentle Giant without a doubt have their own way and style of creating music out of some of the strangest short melody lines and developing them like no other band has ever done. Their use of vocal harmonies also plays a big part in the arrangement of the songs they do, just like many of them on this album, they also feature the other members of the band joining in on the harmonies, and not just the main singers as I have already mentioned.

No God’s a Man” starts off with a well developed musical intro before the words come into play. Musically the combination of guitar, keyboards and bass are a dominant feature throughout the song and it’s a very well constructed piece of work with how they have intertwined all the melodies together.

Track 7. The Face.

The album picks up the pace on “The Face” and it’s a song that features Ray Shulman on violin and it was most likely written with that instrument too. Even Ray’s bass work on the track plays an integral part here and both he and Gary Green’s guitar feature very well throughout, and the lead break sees both the violin and guitar rocking it all up.

The lyrical content is based around the politician having to face up to all the wrong decisions and changes that’s been made during their term in office. Quite often it’s left for the next candidate to clean up the mess, and it’s all been a bit too embarrassing to face up to the carnage they have left the country in. It’s another one of my contenders for the top spot on the album.

Track 8. Valedictory.

The final track on the album is a reprise of the opening track “Proclamation” with a different arrangement to which is played at a slightly slower more rocked up hung back pace. I suppose when looking at the context of how all the lyrics on the album are based around political power. It was only fitting to use the last track in the way of recycling the whole thing all over again, to which no changes ever really get made and things remain the same no matter who’s in office. It puts an end to a really great album.

Summary…

To sum up Gentle Giant’s 6th album The Power and The Glory. Overall it’s perhaps a more heavier album in relation to the bands previous albums and it works very well for it. However although the concept does appear to work over all the individual tracks, it does perhaps tend to hark on a bit over the same subject matter throughout the album with how the lyrics have been written. So these are perhaps not the best lyrics the band have come up with on that score, but never the less the real strength of the album lies in how the music has been structured and how the lyrics are expressed with the music with how they put it all across.

Like I said at the beginning of my review that this album for some reason as always been my favourite. It’s also Gary Green’s though I can perhaps see why simply because the electric guitar does get utilised perhaps more on this album. Though I have to confess that I do miss a lot of the acoustic guitar that got featured on many of their earlier albums, so to even say this is my favourite album of the bands is a very hard thing for me personally because there are at least another 3 of their albums that are very much on par with it.

The band were no doubt branching out a bit more when they made this album and were heading into more rock territory to some respects, though they still maintained their unique style no doubt. My personal highlights from the album are “Proclamation“. “So Sincere“. “Cogs In Cogs” and “The Face“.

Conclusion…

The The Power and The Glory by Gentle Giant is quite a solid enough album, but then again I could say the same about most of their albums on that score. Even though The Power and The Glory could be seen as a more accessible album there is no doubt that their music will still sound rather strange to the biggest majority of people, and for many its perhaps still quite hard for people to really appreciate it and get into it.

They make music one has to grow into, and once you have you will reap the rewards and very much will have something that will last you a lifetime. Gentle Giant are a band that possess a load of musical talent, and they do things differently in relation to the biggest majority of bands in this world.

They are not the type of band who get together in a studio and create their music by jamming together. They very much sit down and write around 75 percent of it on a musical manuscript before they have even played it. Then they get together in a studio to finalise all the arrangements add in a bit of improvisation and play it and record it.

So however bizarre people may think their music comes across, it’s very much planned in advance to be that way in the first place with how they have so very well constructed it. This is what makes this band quite unique and they are very skilled musicians who have learnt their craft.

This particular CD/Blu Ray release I personally feel cannot be beaten, even at it’s price point of £17.12 it’s a superb package of high quality. OK you are not perhaps getting anything really new in the way of bonus material. But the fact that they have included the original mix and even the instrumental version of the album in 24/96K on the Blu Ray is a really great extra.

The added bonus of the animated videos is also a great feature and both the Stereo and 5.1 mixes done by Steven Wilson are superb, the latter of the two is simply stunning, and no doubt the real winner here is the 5.1 mix. Once again Wilson as done a top notch job with the album and breathed a new lease of fresh air into the mix. It adds even more excitement to it all and for all those surround freaks like myself. I would say that this is a must to add to your collection.

It Can Change, It Can Stay The Same…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Proclamation. 6:56.
02. So Sincere. 3:52.
03. Aspirations. 5:21.
04. Playing the Game. 6:45.
05. Cogs In Cogs. 3:08.
06. No God’s a Man. 4:26.
07. The Face. 4:13.
08. Valedictory. 3:26.
09. The Power and the Glory [*]. 2:59.
10. Aspirations [Instrumental Out-Take][*]. 5:17.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee’s 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Bonus Material Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.


Lee Speaks About Music… #79

Out To Sea – Fernando Perdomo

0012329895_10

Introduction…

Well a few months or so back I bumped into a post of this new album on another Progressive Rock Facebook Group I had just recently joined at the time called Prog On. It was actually the artist Fernando Perdomo who posted his latest album Out To Sea to which was available to pre-order on Bandcamp. To be honest I had never heard of the guy, but was taken in by the album covers artwork to which had a kind of familiarity about it.

So I popped over to Bandcamp and was quite amazed that even though the album was not scheduled to be released for another month or so, he already had the album on there so you could listen to it. I very much liked what I was hearing, though I have to confess I was not overall impressed by the sound quality I was hearing streaming it on Bandcamp.

But you can never judge an albums sound quality by hearing it being streamed, and no doubt all streaming sites have their good and bad days on that score when listening to music on them. I also noticed that he was also releasing the album on CD too, and that damn great album cover was still in my head and puzzling me of what it reminded me of.

It was then as I started to read up on the album more that the name Paul Whitehead was mentioned. This was the very same artist who did the album covers for the Genesis albums Trespass, Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot back in the early 70’s. So I added the album to my wish list on Bandcamp so I would not forget it, so I could come back for further listens to it.

Over the next few months I did return for further listens and knew this was an album I liked a lot and it was always my intention to buy the CD because of the great artwork. I am pretty sure the album was officially released on Bandcamp back in February. But with my funds being tied up with quite a few albums I had already pre-ordered. I knew it was going to have to wait a bit.

To be honest even though the CD was reasonably priced on Bandcamp at 15 American dollars which works out to about £12.70 here in the UK. I knew by the time Bandcamp had added their tax and price of the postage and packing. I would of ended up paying near enough £20 for the thing, and that to me is way over the odds of the price of a CD I would want to pay for.

So I do tend to stay clear of ordering CD’s from Bandcamp. But oddly enough a couple of weeks ago I noticed the CD on Amazon UK and it was not even available to buy there and then, and it was being released on the 4th May. So I pre-ordered it and it arrived on the day of it’s release and cost me £12.47. Very reasonable indeed I will say. I do believe he is now even releasing the album on vinyl as well. I am sure Paul Whitehead’s artwork will look great on it.

So before I get stuck into the review of the album and just who Fernando Perdomo is?. Let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

31914189_1686472594765621_6358556291245277184_n

The CD comes in a very slim cardboard Digipak that looks pretty neat and is a nice presentation. Although the CD seats well enough in the side pocket, the fact that the cardboard the disc is seated in does not have a gloss coating, will not protect the disc from getting the odd scratch mark, and your most likely going to get your fingerprints on the surface of the disc by retrieving it from it’s pocket. So one needs to be a bit more careful with it.

These are not the best quality grade Digipaks and are cheaper, but never the less even though they may not protect the disc as well as a standard plastic jewel case. I sill prefer this type of Digipak over them, and like I said they do look neat.

The CD does not come with a booklet however the production notes are on the back of the sleeve. The inside of the sleeve shows you all the guitars he used in making the album and also contains a brief bit of background history of how he was inspired by so many influences as a child and how he has progressed today.

The Artwork.

As I mentioned earlier the artwork was done by Paul Whitehead. Whitehead is a British painter and artist who was perhaps more known for his surrealistic work he did for Charisma Records back in the 70’s. His more noted album covers were done for the bands Genesis and Van der Graaf Generator.

To be honest I had no idea Paul Whitehead was still creating artwork for album covers and I quite like this one a lot. So glad to see he is still active and busy.

31950394_1686505134762367_1378579301087051776_n

I also pulled out the 3 albums he did for Genesis from my box set too, and this cover is perhaps more like the Foxtrot album with its colour and the ripple of the sea.

31924501_1686504998095714_1571834468421861376_n

But of course you will find better examples on Paul’s website by clicking on the following link here: http://www.paulwhitehead.com/Default.aspx

To be honest I have no idea how much professional artwork such as this costs, but I dare say it’s not entirely cheap. But it seems to be doing the trick and attracting the attention. I have even noticed that Cherry Red Records here in the UK have also noted it and are advertising it and selling it on their website too. I would even expect the vinyl release to do well too and that no doubt will display the beauty of Whitehead’s work the best.

So Who Is Fernando Perdomo?…

Well straight off like I said earlier, I have never heard of the guy. So I had to do a bit of research to find out a bit more, and the first thing I can tell you is that he’s an American singer-songwriter, musician, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer. As a record producer judging by the amount of artists albums and tracks he’s produced since 2010. The list is as long as the arms of a good few football teams. Though I cannot say I have heard of any of the artists or the material he has produced. But then again it’s a very big world, and I do not live in that part of it.

The other thing I can tell you is that he’s played in a couple of bands who I have also never heard of, and he also does not play prog rock as a rule, but does have many influences from a wide variety of genres, and even his record collection does contain quite of bit of prog rock from the 70’s. He’s also an extremely busy guy who tends to knock out music and albums every month judging by some of his releases, and I have to confess that I do not have enough body parts to sell to keep up with an artist who churns out music at this high rate :)))))).

And on a final note of what I discovered in my research. Is that he looks like an extremely cool dude and he’s a very talented musician who certainly knows how to craft, carve out, and produce quality music and songs. Creativeness seems to flow in his genes as you can see by this short video he posted on his Youtube channel.

No doubt his production techniques are very good and you can see that just by this very cool bit of creativity that he is a guy full of ideas. So let’s now get on to the album review.

The Album In Review…

Out At Sea by Fernando Perdomo was released originally on Bandcamp on February 9th 2018. The official UK release of the CD was released much later on the 4th May 2018. The album itself contains 8 instrumental tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 43 minutes, 4 seconds. Musically the album is very much mainly done in the way of a tribute, and was inspired by the many great progressive rock bands that came out in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

All the instruments guitars, bass, keyboards and drums were played by Fernando Perdomo with the exception of track 6 “The Dream“. To which the drums were played by Eddie Zyne. I found this following video of an interview of Fernando talking about the album very interesting and informative, it gives you a very good insight into his influences and even his record collection.

So now let’s take a look at how well the album came out, as I take you through all 8 tracks individually in my review here.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Not all the tracks on the album Out At Sea are tributes, and there are some that were influenced by other things, and although most of the album does contain mainly new written material, it also includes a couple of reworked older tracks that Fernando felt would work on an album such as this.

Track 1. The Architect. (Tribute To Peter Banks)

The opening track on the album is very much a tribute to Peter Banks back in the early days of Yes before Steve Howe had replaced him as the bands guitarist. I have to say that Perdomo has captured Banks’s style of guitar playing really well even down to all the right guitar tones and effects he used.

Musically he’s structured the piece around some of the melody lines of “Astral Traveller” and perhaps incorporated some of the other guitar sounds from Yes’s first and second albums they did back in 1969 and 1970. Perdomo has done a really great job here by not copying the original melody but reshaping parts of it and doing his own thing around it, yet it still sounds quite like Peter Banks. It’s a really great track and certainly a strong contender for the top spot on the album.

Here he is doing a live studio version of it with a band that he only just recently posted on his Youtube channel a week ago.

Both he and the band have executed the song very well and I wonder if he’s planning to take the band he has assembled here out on the road to play some live shows featuring the material from the album.

Track 2. Out To Sea.

The music to this piece was inspired by the albums front cover artwork done by Paul Whitehead. To be honest Perdomo perhaps sees something different in this artwork than I do on that score. For example even though there is nothing in the painting quite as bizarre as what was on those early Genesis album covers, there is still something about it that reminds me a bit of Genesis.

But musically this album says nothing about the band Genesis. But I do not think that was his intention at all here, and after all this is the artwork for his album and not that of Genesis.

The music we do have has quite a bit of power, and this is more like a battle on the sea. It’s got some great theme work and some fine progression along its path, but it does not tend to go in many directions and sticks closely to the theme work and melody lines of the musical structure. It also features some blistering lead work on the guitar and is quite good track on the album.

Track 3. De Boerderij. (Tribute To Focus)

No doubt that Perdomo has listened closely to the Dutch band Focus and I like this one quite a lot. That much that it’s my personal favourite track on the album and merits the top spot award. Once again Perdomo has sculptured his own melody lines and managed to make it all sound quite like the band.

There is plenty of diversity here and some fine transitional changes, along with beautiful melody lines played on the lead guitar. This one really is an excellent piece of work that has a lot thrown into the pot over its short distance.

Track 4. Roses Spread All Over the World.

The pace comes down here a bit and this is perhaps the ballad track of the album. “Roses Spread All Over the World” is quite a beauty of a piece that features some quite Steve Howe like guitar sounds, such as the choral sitar and even the flute like melody in the background on the intro reminds me of the English folk songwriter Alan Hull and is quite familiar with the flute on his 2nd solo album Squire.

No doubt this another contender for the top spot on the album and it’s title was inspired from a girl he knew, who went around selling roses.

Track 5. The Future According to Roye (Tribute to Roye Albrighton and Nektar).

The 2nd longest track on the album is a really superb piece that goes into plenty of places with its progression and diversity. It’s got some well tasty beautiful melody lines amongst all the power and energy we get here too.

To be honest I have never heard of the artists he’s paying tribute to here, but this to me is perhaps the most prog rock track on the album, and it was very difficult for me not to give it the top spot award. For many I dare say this could be their favourite on the album. No doubt this is a very high contender for the top spot on the album and it really is a superb piece of work and really great track.

Track 6. The Dream.

One of the two shortest tracks on the album and this lovely piece is built up using a strong theme played on the guitar that in some way even reminded me of the Dutch band Focus and the sort of material they did on their 1975 album Mother Focus.

It’s another really beautiful track and well crafted composition. “The Dream” is an older track that also featured on an earlier album of Perdomo’s and features Eddie Zyne on drums.

Track 7. Sonja. (Tribute to Sonja Kristina and Curved Air).

The shortest piece on the album is a tribute to the band Curved Air. This piece is quite up-tempo and has a bit of pace about it, and besides the rather tasty guitar playing the harpsichord is also put to good use, and that instrument was always one of Francis Monkman’s choice of keyboards too, who incidentally was the bands guitarist and keyboard player.

To be honest I do not know a lot about Curved Air and I really need to check them out, because I loved Monkman’s compositions the most when he was in the band Sky much later on in the 70’s. Perdomo also done a collaboration with the female singer of the band Sonja Kristina but his inspiration for this piece came from the bands 2nd album which was actually entitled Second Album they done back in 1971.

Track 8. Dreaming in Stereo Suite.

The final track on the album happens to be the longest and weighs in at just over 16 minutes. Once again Perdomo uses strong themes and melodies to craft out the piece and there is plenty of diversity and progression along it’s lengthy journey. It goes through quite a few nice transitional changes, moods and different styles too.

This is another one of Perdomo‘s older tracks that was originally from his band project Dreaming In Stereo back in 2010. The original music for that album did also contain words and vocals, and he felt has it was more prog rock it would suit this album. So he made up the suite we have here out of the instrumental sections of some of the tracks from that album and pieced it all together for this album.

It’s another really excellent piece of work and great track that’s very much another  strong contender for the top spot on the album, and puts an end to a very well crafted album.

Summary…

Overall Out At Sea by Fernando Perdomo is an album that does not disappoint in any way and it’s quite a solid album from start to finish. Everything about the material that’s on it works very well, not only with the right placement of the tracks but also with the way he has combined some of his older material with the newer material he has written for it.

The way he’s crafted all the tracks out so well with strong themes and melodies makes it very hard to choose a favourite track to be honest, because they all are so very well done. My personal highlights from the album are “The Architect“. “De Boerderij“. “Roses Spread All Over the World“. “The Future According to Roye“. and “Dreaming in Stereo Suite“.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Out At Sea by Fernando Perdomo. I very much think it’s an album that says everything about it that’s written on the tin. The tribute work to the fine artists very much reflects those artists down to a tee, and he’s gone about it with his own melody lines and a few reshaped ones along the way and captivated these great artists with use of his guitar and effects.

It’s a very well crafted album and even as an instrumental album it works really well and provides hours of enjoyment in that it begs you to return to it and give it more spins. I very much think he’s on to a winner with what he’s produced here, especially for those who are into prog rock.

But there is perhaps a bit more here too, in that the album contains elements of beauty with the lead guitar lines and fine melodies, and this is an album that will appeal to more than just your prog rocker on that score. I certainly think it’s an album that’s worth checking out and I highly recommend doing so. It might be just what you’ve been looking for and your cup of tea so to speak. It certainly floats my boat too.

Out At Sea can be purchased from most outlets in the form of a Digital Download or CD & Vinyl. You can hear the album for yourself here on the following link on Bandcamp : https://fernandoperdomo.bandcamp.com/album/out-to-sea

Wandering Where Lights Go, Leave Out The Body Load.…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. The Architect. 4:10.
02. Out At Sea. 4:15.
03. De Boerderij. 3:10.
04. Roses Spread All Over the World. 3:44.
05. The Future According to Roye. 6:23.
06. The Dream. 2:45.
07. Sonja. 2:34.
08. Dreaming in Stereo Suite. 16:03.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 07/10.

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

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #78

Who’s Next (SACD) – The Who

31576951_1681605498585664_8311002618180665344_n

Introduction…

Well I must admit I have always been a Rocker and I have always quite liked The Who. Though I have to confess I was never that mad on them, and the only album I did buy of the band was the 1973 double album Quadrophenia and a couple of live DVD’s of the band they done a few decades later. I did like some of their well known singles back in the 60’s and early 70’s such as “My Generation” and “Substitute” and have always admired Roger Daltrey’s great voice and the rest of the guys in the band on that score.

There is no doubt The Who rocked, but I suppose they rocked a bit differently in relation to the other rock bands that grabbed more of my attention back in the early 70’s such as Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Those are the type of bands that really rocked my world back then and very much floated my boat more so than what The Who ever really spoke to me. To me The Who were perhaps your more light hearted rockers in relation to the more heavier side of those bands, they were also perhaps a bit more commercial too.

I remember seeing the film Tommy back in the 70’s on the TV and I thought it was perhaps one of the most bizarre things I had ever seen. I am pretty sure I only watched it because I knew Elton John was also featured in the film, and I was quite a fan of Elton’s music back in those days too. But not even he could rescue that film and I thought it was just totally nuts and dreadful.

A close friend of mine back in those days quite liked The Who and had the album Tommy and lent it to me to listen too. The album just never said anything to me, and the only track that did on the album was “Pinball Wizard” and I even thought Elton John’s version of the song was a damn site better than what they ever did with it.

A few years ago the same old friend of mine even lent me the 5.1 version he had brought on SACD and the album still never said anything to me. I thought they did a great job of the 5.1 mix but the material I felt was so weak, and no way was I buying the album just because it sounded good in 5.1 :)))))).

To be honest even the 2 live DVD’s of The Who I only brought in the first place because they was in a bargain basket in Woolworth’s and both of them was brand new and dirt cheap. The one was The Who And Special Guests Live At The Royal Albert Hall which is a double DVD and cost me £5 and the other one was a triple live DVD entitled Tommy and Quadrophenia Live With Special Guests. Which cost me £7.97. The price tag is still on it as you can see in the picture below.

1 Who DVDs

As much as I love the album Quadrophenia I cannot say I am fond of the live version they do of the album on the latter of those 2 DVD’s. I think the guests they have got on it just ruins the whole thing and I would of preferred The Who to do the whole thing themselves. Actually the best DVD in that triple DVD set is the last one in there in which they play a lot of their hits. I quite like that one. The one at the Royal Albert Hall is very good I will say, and they do a lot of the material from this album Who’s Next as well.

So just what possessed me to go out and buy another album by The Who?.

Well I suppose I have to thank my good friend Dirk Radloff who I met on Soundcloud a few years ago. He’s quite a fan of the band and I noticed a post about the band he had put on his Facebook wall just recently.

Basically I told him my thoughts about the band and how it was only really the album Quadrophenia that only really spoke to me apart from some of their earlier hits. To be honest it’s come up before in an earlier discussion about the band we had. But not being so hooked on The Who myself I have not heard all the albums they made, and during this discussion Dirk recommended me to listen to the album Who’s Next.

Well the first thing I did was check out the band a bit more, and I noticed that this particular album was released after Tommy in 1971 and it was the album before their 1973 album Quadrophenia. Being as the 70’s is very much my favourite decade and I practically still live in it when it comes to great music. I located the whole album on Youtube and decided to give it a blast.

To my surprise I quite liked it, enough to even go out an buy it. Though I have to admit I did do a very silly thing regarding the format and the price I paid for it. More about that later under the heading of “Expensive Snake Oil” but first let’s as usual take a look at the packaging.

The Packaging & Artwork…

31910865_1686472708098943_4260641754161610752_n

The SACD comes in a standard plastic jewel case. You would think for the price of the thing it would come in a quality cardboard Digipak but never the less it offers great protection for the disc. The booklet that comes with it is mainly in Japanese and the only thing inside the booklet itself that is printed in English are the song lyrics.

Thankfully they have also printed the linear notes and production credits on the back of the booklet in English. But as for any other informative information. Unless you can read Japanese there is nothing else here to see :))))))).

The Artwork.

The front cover and the photography for the album was done by the American photographer Ethan Russell. Russell had previously done a lot of photography for The Rolling Stones and The Beatles he even did all the photography that inside The Who’s 1973 album Quadrophenia though he never did the front cover of that album.

The photo shoot was taken in a coal mining town in County Durham England known as Easington Colliery. The band had just urinated on a large concrete piling sticking out of a slag heap and the fact that the slab of concrete looked like the monolith from the 1968 film 2001 A Space Odyssey led both Entwistle and Moon suggesting the idea for the album cover.

According to Russell not all the band members had urinated over the concrete piling so he used to water from a canister to add to the effect. The photo Russell took for the rear of the album cover was taken at the De Montfort Hall in Leicester whilst the band were backstage. The layout of the album was done by John Kosh.

Expensive Snake Oil…

Over the decades Japan as always had quite a good reputation regarding the quality of their imported CD’s and no doubt you do pay slightly more for them. I have brought a few in the past, especially of artists who are lesser known in relation to pop artists such as Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman as an example, and their albums always tend to go out of print. In general I have always been satisfied with the quality of the recordings on them, and you could pay up to £5 more for such an import back in those days.

These days some people expect you to sell a body part to be able to pay for an album that’s gone out of print :))))) prices can shoot through the roof. Over the years I have seen some good things come out of Japan. This is a country who were world leaders in electronics and technology and were innovators when it comes down to new technology, and they are still are a country to be reckoned within that field.

But I have to confess they are also a country that can do some silly things at times. For example this is a country who have many brand name electronic companies such as Sony. Yamaha. Pioneer and so on, and these are companies that make Surround Sound Home Cinema HiFi and components. Yet for some reason when it comes to making high quality audio SACD’s they are not interested in producing them with a surround mix on them, and only tend to make them in stereo only.

They even refuse to use Hybrid SACD discs that come with a dual layer and they only use single layer discs, and the way they achieve this higher audio quality is by using a substance known as snake oil in the process of making their SACD’s.

Now many will find this process of using snake oil very strange and even questioning if the audio quality is any better than a conventional compact disc. To be honest this type of process is far from anything new, and years ago even back in the mid 80’s when CD Players first hit the market, some people did do some funny things that they reckoned worked in getting their CD’s to sound even better.

For example if you get a green felt tip pen and just run it all the way around the edge of the round disc. When placed into the CD player the laser will read the disc faster, therefore making some improvement over the overall sound quality. So the idea behind using snake oil mixed into the surface of a single layered disc will improve the way the laser reads it and it even adds a bit more stability to the disc, so they say.

Now most people will call this a load of old codswallop and quite personally I am not a fan of this process at all, and as a rule I genuinely avoid buying any SACD that comes with a Stereo mix only. As far as I am concerned you can use any magical substance you like on a stereo mix, you can even make the disc out of 24 Carat Gold for all I care. But no way on this earth will any stereo recording, no matter what you put on it, will it ever compete with the sound quality of a 5.1 surround mix.

You do not need any magical substance on the surface of a disc that comes with a 5.1 surround mix to bring out the quality and make it shine. The very fact that this is a multi track recording played through a 6 separate channel amplification stage is all the magic you need. 6 Channels are far more superior than 2 channels.

For starters the separation via using 6 channels is way beyond any 2 channel stereo amplifier could ever produce. It’s this factor that brings out far more clarity and much more superior dynamics out of any recording. To put it in a nutshell when Stereo recordings and HiFi replaced Mono back in the 60’s it left Mono in the dust. Just the same as multi-track recordings and 5.1 Home Cinema HiFi left Stereo in the dust as far as I am concerned. Though I still do like stereo myself and can enjoy it still. But as for mono you seriously have to be kidding me :)))))).

Personally for me putting a stereo mix on an SACD is pointless. No doubt it will sound better than any CD. But no way on this earth can that extra bit of sound quality justify some of the prices these things are sold for.

For example if a brand new CD cost £10. A Stereo SACD of the same album should cost you no more than say £12 – £15. That in reality is how much better the stereo SACD sounds over the CD. So roughly were talking 20 to 50 percent. Now the margin of sound quality between a CD and 5.1 SACD would work a lot higher and I would say its around 50 to 100 percent better. All of this depends on how good the mixing engineer was in the first place of course.

I have to confess I did make a silly mistake when I ordered Who’s Next on SACD. At the time I was looking at reviews for both the SACD versions of Who’s Next and Quadrophenia and naturally thought that because Quadrophenia had a 5.1 mix, that Who’s Next would be the same.

SACD’s can be very expensive and hard to get hold of for a decent price in most cases. For example on Amazon you can get Who’s Next on CD for £5.50. The SACD on Amazon is £65 and no way was I paying that. But I managed to get it from America in the end for £30. Still very pricey and at the time I did order it, I thought it came with a 5.1 mix.

After I had placed my order I spent an hour or so looking up more reviews about the SACD version of Who’s Next (to be honest all the reviews for the SACD pointed to it being excellent) but it suddenly tumbled in that this SACD and the album had never been recorded with a 5.1 mix in the first place, and was only in Stereo.

So I immediately emailed the place in America to cancel my order and asked for a refund. But unfortunately they was having none of it, and told me I was too late as they had already dispatched the item to me.

This is the very first SACD I have ever brought with just a stereo mix on, and had it of come with a 5.1 mix I would not of batted an eye lash over the price I paid for it. To be honest being a fan of Peter Gabriel. Many years ago when he released a lot of his albums on SACD I was going to buy them. But the fact that they was all in stereo only. I never bothered buying them, and I am not interested in buying them either. Maybe if they was £5 each I would. But these days even second hand copies will cost you an arm and a leg to buy and are sold at ridiculous prices.

The SACD Release…

The Who’s 1971 album Who’s Next was first released on an SHM SACD in Japan on the 25th August 2010 as a limited edition. Due to it going out of print Japan decided to reissue the limited edition again on the 26th November 2014. This later reissue is the one I got and both SACD’s only came with a stereo mix, and there as never been a 5.1 surround mix of the album.

I find it rather strange why The Who released both the albums Tommy and Quadrophenia with a 5.1 mix and not this album that lies smack bang in the middle of them. In general the main reason why no 5.1 mixes were made is because the multi-track master tapes have been lost. Yet all reports and reviews point to this album being mixed directly from the original master tapes to the SACD and not from a remastered copy.

Even upon the release of the SACD they was never sold at a cheap price and its retail price was sold at $50 in America. That’s £37 here in the UK and bloody expensive considering it’s only in stereo.

Back in 2014 you could still buy Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon on SACD with a 5.1 mix for around £12 new, and I can honestly say that would leave this thing in the dust :))))))). I actually got it on SACD in the early 2000’s for £5 brand new in Woolworth’s and I have to say it’s freaking awesome.

The Album In Review…

The bands 5th studio album Who’s Next was originally released on the 25th August 1971 here in the UK 11 days after the American release. It’s an album that contains 9 tracks spanned over a playing of 43 minutes and 38 seconds. 8 of the 9 tracks where written by Pete Townshend and John Entwistle penned the other one.

Pete Townsend was working on writing new material for a follow up to their previous album and rock opera Tommy to which he filed under the name of the Lifehouse Project. Much of the material from that abandoned project ended up on this album.

Prior to the release of the album an edited version of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” was released as a single in the UK a couple of months before the albums release. It broke into the top ten of the singles charts and peaked at number 9. It must have had a good effect because when the album Who’s Next was released it was the first album The Who had ever had that hit number 1 in the UK album charts. For many the album Who’s Next was considered to be the bands best album.

Musicians & Credits…

TheWho-1971

Recorded and mixed by Glyn Johns at the Olympic Studios London and Stargroves between April – June 1971. Produced by The Who. Associate Producer Glyn Johns. Executive Producers Kit Lambert. Chris Stamp. Pete Cameron. Violin on “Baba O’ Riley” Produced by Keith Moon. Album Design by John Kosh. Photography by Ethan Russell.

Musicians:
Pete Townshend: Guitar/SCS3 Organ/A.R.P. Synthesizer/Vocals/Piano (On “Baba O’ Riley”)
Roger Daltrey: Vocals.
John Entwistle: Bass/Brass/Vocals/Piano (On “My Wife”)
Keith Moon: Drums/Percussion.

Additional Musicians:
Dave Arbus: Violin (On “Baba O’ Riley”)
Nicky Hopkins: Piano (On “The Song Is Over” and “Getting in Tune”)

The Album Tracks In Review…

The recording sessions for the bands album Who’s Next began in April of 1971 at Mick Jagger’s house Stargroves using The Rolling Stones Mobile Studio in which they managed to get down the backing track for “Won’t Get Fooled Again“. Although the band had first tried to record the song a month earlier at the Record Plant in New York City. They then decided to record the rest of the album at the Olympic Studios London.

It was whilst they was at the Record Plant that they ran into the band Mountain and their guitarist Leslie West played the lead guitar on “Won’t Get Fooled Again” But it proved to be a bit too difficult for Kit Lambert to mix, so they decided to start from scratch again a month later. West also played the lead guitar on “Baby, Don’t You Do It” a song originally written by Holland–Dozier–Holland to which they used as one of the bonus tracks on the 1995 reissue of the album. He also played on a few other tracks too.

It was back in England a month later that Glyn Johns was brought in to help with the mix and production. Even Townshend’s synthesizer on “Won’t Get Fooled Again” that he recorded in New York was too inferior to use, so Johns decided to use the synthesizer parts from Townshend’s original demo tapes. Most of the bulk sessions of the albums tracks were recorded in May.

Just before the band started work on recording the album Joe Walsh gave Pete Townshend a guitar. It was a Gretsch 6120 and Townshend used it as his main guitar on the album.

G-6120_2

So let’s now take a deeper look into the tracks on the album and see if it lives up to being what’s considered as The Who’s best album.

Track 1. Baba O’ Riley.

The song was originally written for Townshend’s Lifehouse Project and it’s title came from a couple of his mentors who had a philosophical influence on him who was Meher Baba and Terry Riley. Roger Daltrey takes on the biggest part of the vocals on the song and it’s lyrical content is based around the effects that music has on the younger generation at large music venues, Woodstock as an example and how they can get brain damage from the use of drugs at such places. The words “Teenage Wasteland” is a reference put into context to describe such large concert venues. “Teenage Wasteland” was also the original working title for the track.

Musically the song uses a 1-5-4 chord progression and was written in the key of F Major. Though it was not recorded in concert pitch and the strings are tuned higher to 446 khz and not your standard tuning of 440 khz and is played on the A instead. The synthesizer on the intro is a built up sequence and it plays an integral part throughout the track. The song also features Dave Arbus from the prog rock band East Of Eden on violin.

Baba O’ Riley” was also released in some European countries as a single, though it never had a single release in the UK or America. The song was also used as the main theme for the American TV series CSI New York which ran from 2004 – 2013. It’s really great song and very much a strong contender for the best track on the album.

Track 2. Bargain.

The “Bargain” is a really great rocker of a song and it even sounds like the material Townshend wrote for the album Quadrophenia. The combination of the acoustic and electric guitars work very well, and no doubt both Entwistle and Moon are doing the business on the song too. Once again the main part of the vocals are handled by Daltrey and his voice projects with great power as ever.

The lyrics that Townshend wrote were once again influenced by the Indian mystic Meher Baba and though they pertain to a love song, they are very much based around giving up everything to be at one with God. This is another contender for the top spot on the album and a really great song.

Track 3. Love Ain’t For Keeping.

The shortest track on the album and one of the few tracks on the album not to have any synthesizers on it. This is another really great song and I like its much more acoustic guitar side of it. Although they did record the song first at the Record Plant in New York and it did have synths on it. It even had more of an heavier electric approach to it all too, and featured Leslie West on lead guitar.

Townshend does a great job on multi-tracking the acoustic guitars on it, and Daltrey’s voice once again shines throughout it all. Keith Moon plays the drums on a Ludwig Kit rather than his usual Pearl Kit. Even though Entwistle’s bass is more restrained, its still very dominant and sounds great in the mix.

The song has a great country blues feel about it, and even sounds a bit familiar with what Rod Stewart and the Faces where doing back then too. It was also another song that was intended originally for the Lifehouse Project. I really like this one and it’s another cracking song and contender for the top spot.

Track 4. My Wife.

The only track on the album that was not written by Pete Townshend and was penned by John Entwistle. The song features Entwistle on the lead vocals and besides the bass he also plays the piano and the brass horn section lead break. The particular horn section and the melody played around it, reminds me a bit of “5:15” which never appeared for a couple of years later on the Quadropenia album.

The lyrics are quite funny and he concocted a fictitious story about what his wife will do to him after him being contained in a police cell for a few hours for being drunk, and him thinking of ways to protect himself when she does finally catches up with him. I personally do not think it’s on par with the opening 3 tracks on the album, but it was perhaps a good bit of fun.

Track 5. The Song Is Over.

Another song that that came from Townshend’s Lifehouse Project and was intended to be the last track to finish off the story to it all. Both Townshend and Daltrey share the lead vocals on this track and it works very well with Townshned’s sweeter voice on the verses and Daltrey’s more hard edge vocals on the chorus. It’s very much a ballad of a song that also has a bit of power with how they have worked out the vocal sections between them. It’s also one of the two songs on the album that features Nicky Hopkins on the piano.

Lyrically it’s quite poetic and pertains to a dying man’s last words and how he would still like to be remembered after he’s gone. Once again this song reminds me like some of the material that was written for Quadrophenia and has that production feel about it. It’s another really great song.

Track 6. Getting In Tune.

Another great track on the album that shows both the melodic and and hard cutting edge of Daltrey’s vocals. Once again the session player Nicky Hopkins is at the piano and his work on this song is really excellent. Keith Moon is flying along on the drums on as ever and even though his drums and Entwistle’s bass are very domineering, I quite like how everything else manages to cut through the mix so well. It was another song that came from the Lifehouse Project and another of the few tracks that does not contain any synthesisers on it.

Track 7. Going Mobile.

A song that features Pete Townshend on lead vocals and Roger Daltrey sat out of this one and left the band as a trio to do it. Once again the song came from the abandoned Lifehouse Project. It’s not a bad song and Moon’s drums do a grand job on it. I personally do think Townshend’s voice does not do it any great justice, but then again the key that this song is played in may not of suited Daltrey’s voice either. Personally I think this song and “My Wife” are perhaps the only two songs on the album that do not quite make the grade.

Track 8. Behind Blue Eyes.

A fine ballad of a song and it’s great to see Daltrey once again on the vocals, especially after the last track :)))))). The song is alleged to have been written by Townshend back in 1970 after he was tempted to go with a female groupie after a concert they played in Denver. It’s also thought that his beliefs in his new spiritual leader Meher Baba prevented him from doing so.

The song was also first recorded at the Record Plant in New York and featured Al Kooper on Hammond Organ and just like many of the songs from those first recording sessions they were released as bonus tracks on later reissues of the album. This song also comes from the abandoned Lifehouse Project.

Track 9. Won’t Get Fooled Again.

The final track on the album also came from the Lifehouse Project and is the longest track on the album. Just like the opening track on the album the intro on the synthesizer carries it all the way through the song and is the songs main melody for everything else to play around it. A lot of the synthesized work was inspired from Townshend’s visit to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

Townshend had the idea that he could capture the thoughts in peoples minds with the use of electronics and synthesizers and feed the pulses of their brain patterns into electronic devices. Sounds like quite an experiment though in reality you could produce the same sound virtually on any synthesizer with a sequencer in it :))))))). I am pretty sure he was off his head at the time. But no doubt he created quite an effective sound and it works really well on the track.

Won’t Get Fooled Again” is my personal favourite track on the album, and I would expect that to be the case with most of those who brought this album. It merits my top spot award and the whole band play an integral part of making it all work so well. It ends the album off superbly.

Summary…

Overall Who’s Next by The Who is a very good album. I personally do not think it’s a solid album or the bands best album for that matter, but never or less it does contain 7 really good songs out of the 9 your getting on the album. I also personally think the material that was written for this album was a lot stronger than their previous album Tommy.

There is no doubt that Tommy was the album that changed the bands style more than anything, and was more of a commercial success for the band and set them in the right direction. It was also the starting point of where Roger Daltrey’s voice started to come more to shape with it’s own unique identity. His voice projects better on this album and the album that followed it Quadrophenia.

I personally feel Daltrey’s voice has even more balls on Quadrophenia which is perhaps why it’s my favourite album of theirs. Although I do also feel the material was very strong for that album and it is without a doubt a solid album on that score. But Who’s Next is a very worthy album and certainly one of the bands better albums. For any fan of The Who this album is still very much a must to have without a doubt.

To be honest I was never a massive fan of The Who but quite liked their distinctive style, and effectively it’s as if all 4 members of the band are playing lead lines and quite strange how it all works out so well. I cannot recall another band functioning that way either. Their style is very unique and it’s what makes them stand out from the rest.

I personally do not think I have heard another drummer like Keith Moon either. There is no sense of a pattern to how he plays the drums and it’s almost like a guy who’s never played the drums before in his life and getting up on the stage and saying I can play the drums and bashing the hell out of them :))))). You simply could never rehearse his style and I do not think he ever did either. He just done it there and then at the moment and somehow it worked so bloody well. He was perhaps the perfect natural.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of the album Who’s Next by The Who. I would say it’s an album that’s up their with their very best albums and a very worthy album of having. My personal highlights from the album are “Won’t Get Fooled Again. “Baba O’Riley“. “Love Ain’t For Keeping” and “Bargain“.

Although no way would I recommend buying this SACD version of the album and at it’s price point of £30 or more it certainly does not justify it’s expensive price tag over the CD or vinyl album.

To be honest I have never had the vinyl LP or CD to make any real comparison. But from the many albums I do have on CD and have heard. I would say the overall sound quality of this SACD is no more than 20% better than the CD you could buy for £5.50. No way is it worth it’s price tag and no stereo SACD is ever gonna give you that extra quality that a 5.1 recording will give you.

You can even buy the Deluxe Edition of the album that comes with 2 CD’s for £7.99 on Amazon and I would certainly recommend that over what little bit of extra quality you will get from this SACD.

I can honestly say with all my heart regarding Stereo Only SACD’s, I would never buy another one, and I certainly Won’t Get Fooled Again:)))))))).

Pick Up My Guitar And Play, Just Like Yesterday…

The SACD track listing is as follows:

01. Baba O’Riley. 5:09.
02. Bargain. 5:34.
03. Love Ain’t For Keeping. 2:10.
04. My Wife. 3:42.
05. The Song Is Over. 6:15.
06. Getting In Tune. 4:50.
07. Going Mobile. 3:43.
08. Behind Blue Eyes. 3:42.
09. Won’t Get Fooled Again. 8:33.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 08/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 2/10.

Lee’s SACD Rating Score. 5/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #77

Fish Out Of Water (Deluxe Edition) – Chris Squire

20180427_110939

Introduction…

The latest re-release of Chris Squire’s 1975 album Fish Out Of Water is another one of these releases from Esoteric Recordings. Having more recently discovered Esoteric Recordings myself, I have to admit they are perhaps a company that do some good things with these new releases, but they also have some bad points about them too, and do not always play the ball game in doing the right thing, and can be a company who want to milk you out of as much money as they possibly can.

For example the clamshell Sky Box Set I purchased last month, may seem like a good buy considering it was only £25 for all of Sky’s 7 studio albums and a DVD of a live concert thrown in to boot. To be honest the quality of the recordings of those studio albums on the CD’s is really excellent. But the fact that they could not be arsed to include a booklet in a box set such as this. In all honesty it’s ludicrous.

Just who in the right mind would go out of their way to make such a box set and not include any information about the product they are selling you. This is where this company really need to get it’s ass into gear. But half the time they just want to rush the whole thing out, and get their hands on your money.

Now I am not saying there is something missing in this Deluxe Edition release of Chris Squire’s Fish Out Of Water. But Esoteric Recordings are devious and cunning bastards in the way they have gone about releasing it. And I will go further into detail about how this company are not playing the ball game a bit later on in my review here. But first let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

31437319_1679638572115690_8139251544643076096_n

The Deluxe Edition comes in a nice well made box that replicates the vinyl album cover very well. The box is slightly bigger than the 12 inch vinyl album and is around half inch thick in depth so that all the contents that comes with this package fit like a glove inside it. I honestly cannot fault how they have gone about things making this package and it really is very well made and nicely presented.

Besides all the media contents that come in the box set it also comes with a 36 page book. To be honest for the price of a box set like this I would of expected it to be an hardbound book, but never the less the book is very well made and I have no gripe with that. My biggest disappointment is really down to the little information you get here. Though it is quite informative.

OK you do get all the production credits, notes and lyrics here. But as for the so called essay by Sid Smith that features interviews with Bill Bruford. Patrick Moraz. and Gregg Jackman. I very much think these so called interviews were done a good while ago and are nothing really new at all.

Considering this so called book comes with 36 pages there is very little in it to read. The biggest majority of it is filled with pictures and production credits and lyrics. I think Sid Smith got about 4 pages and Jakko Jakszyk only got 1 page :)))))).

For vinyl collectors a presentation box such as this is not really going to present them with a problem of storing a package like this. I myself gave up on collecting vinyl a few decades ago now, and my old vinyl records and turntable are still in the loft.

Even the original vinyl album of Fish Out Of Water is still in the loft that I brought on it’s original release back in 1975. And I have no intention of dragging my turntable out of the loft to play the newly remastered vinyl album that comes in this box set or the 2 vinyl singles for that matter.

But for people like myself a box set like this is certainly more harder to store and as you can see by the space it has taken up in my storage unit to display it in the picture below. This one has taken up the space you could quite easily of put 60 – 70 CD’s in.

CS Storage

Being more of a surround freak myself. I am much more into 5.1 surround recordings than any vinyl album or CD for that matter. Though I do still  buy CD’s, simply because not all artists can afford to make their albums with a 5.1 mix. Some are not even bothered with 5.1 and still prefer stereo in relation to it.

So the biggest majority of music media that interests me comes on the media formats of SACD. DVD & Blu Ray and my shelving system does not really cater for a larger package of this sort and it will be a lot harder for me to store.

I decided to make a little video so I can display the contents and how this is all very well packaged up and how everything fits nice and snug.

The Artwork.
The cover design, layout and photography for the album was done by Laurence Bernes. However the photograph of Chris Squire’s face behind the closed elevator doors on the front cover, was taken and provided by Brian Lane the manager of Yes at the time. The snap that Lane had taken was whilst Yes was on their US Tour in 1974 and it was taken at the Detroit Hilton on a Polaroid camera that Lane had just brought that day.

The poster that comes with the album of a fish is a picture that was taken of a stained glass window that Chris Squire had brought in France and had it put in his bathroom. Squire got his nickname of the fish from the other band members of Yes back in 1970/71. They gave him the name because he always took such a long time in the bathroom.

1 Fish

The name very much stuck with him enough to title his own contributed piece on the Fragile album “The Fish“. He also decided to use it in the title of this debut album of his, and the title of Fish Out Of Water is a reference to him working on dry land so to speak, and out of the comfort zone of the band Yes he was always more at home with.

The Art Of Greed…

The very reason Esoteric Recordings did not release the 5.1 version as an individual release is very much a tactical ploy to entice more people to buy the more expensive Deluxe Edition Box Set. This is where companies like this can be real bastards and are not being fair to the genuine music buyers or Chris Squire’s fans for that matter.

During the time I had pre-ordered the Deluxe Edition I got to read many of the comments that people had left not only on Esoteric Recordings Facebook page where they was promoting the release, but also on many other places on the internet who was also advertising it too.

I can tell you now that at least 87 percent of the many comments I read where from surround freaks like myself who were complaining about them not releasing the 5.1 mix of the album as an individual release. Most of those people were that disappointed by Esoteric Recordings tactical ploy and scam to squeeze more money out of people’s pockets, that they stated they would not be buying the box set.

Some of them even asked if Esoteric Recordings had any intention of releasing the 5.1 surround mix in the future, to which Esoteric Recordings replied “it depends on how well the box sets sell”.

In other words when all the box sets have been sold, which could take at least another decade judging by the disappointment by the biggest majority of the public. Then they will try and milk more money out of people by releasing the 5.1 mix in another package along with a couple of CD’s.

To be perfectly honest I myself usually avoid more expensive box sets like this, where companies like this are being nothing more than greedy bastards by not giving the artists fans what they want, and exploiting the artist after they have died.

Chris Squire himself stated that he would love to have a 5.1 mix of his solo album Fish Out Of Water. I am pretty sure that if he was alive today he would be just as disappointed how Esoteric Recordings have gone about this release and their tactical ploy to try and squeeze more money out of his fans for them to get their hands on it. I very much think the poor guy is turning in his grave right now.

It was in an interview back in 2004 that Chris Squire made a statement that he would love to have a 5.1 mix of his solo album Fish Out Of Water. But unfortunately at that time the multi-track master tapes could not be located and were thought to be lost.

In 2007 despite still not being able to find the multi-track master tapes and the album was out of print. Chris Squire decided to re-release the album again on his own label, Stone Ghost Records, distributed by Castle/Sanctuary Records.

This 2007 release came with a CD with bonus tracks and a DVD and was was released on 25 June 2007 as a Deluxe Expanded Edition. It even claimed that the album was remastered, though most reviews tended to point to remaster having little or no improvement at all.

To be honest I did not buy that release so as to how good it sounded I could not tell you. I did however buy the CD back in 90’s and that sounded dreadful in relation to the vinyl album I already brought back in the 70’s. But the DVD that came with the 2007 Deluxe Expanded Edition is the same bonus DVD that comes with this 2018 release by Esoteric Recordings.

The other DVD that comes in this Esoteric Recordings release, contains the very first 5.1 surround mix of the album after the multi-track tapes were finally found, and it’s a shame that Chris Squire never lived long enough to hear it.

The Deluxe Edition Release…

CS FOW

The Deluxe Edition of Chris Squire’s Fish Out Of Water was released by Esoteric Recordings on Friday 27th April 2018. This Deluxe Edition Box Set comes with the vinyl album. 2 X 7″ Singles. 2 CD’s and 2 DVD’s. I pre-ordered it Amazon on a couple of months earlier on the 2nd February and it arrived on the day of its release,

This particular box set is priced up on Cherry Red Records for £69.99. At the time I pre-ordered the box set on Amazon it was priced up at £77.22. Now as a rule most pre-orders from Amazon do come down and you end up paying more or less the same price it was priced on Cherry Red Records.

But for some reason Amazon’s price remained the same on the day of its release and I did end up paying £77.22 for it. In reality this about the same price it will cost you on Cherry Red Records by the time they have added the price of the postage and packing on a large item like this.

However as an Amazon Prime Member. One should not be paying the cost of the postage and packing, and I do feel that Amazon are playing the dirty here and I shall be putting in my complaint and keeping my eye on future pre-orders.

They also released the 2 CD version on the same day which is priced up at £14.99. But the one thing Esoteric Recordings did not release separately was the 5.1 mix of the album which comes on one of the DVD’s in this Deluxe Edition Box Set.

So let’s now take a further look at what you get for the money here:

The LP & Singles.
The new 180 gram pressing of the vinyl album and the 2 X 7″ 45 RPM Singles have been remastered by Paschal Byrne. All of them was cut at Abbey Road Studios in London. The replica is spot in every detail to the original 1975 vinyl release, even down to the label on the LP.

Out of the two 7 inch singles that come with this release. Only one of them was released in America only back in 1975 which was a shorter edited version of “Lucky Seven“. Chris Squire was not even aware that Atlantic had released the single at the time. The other single of “Run With The Fox” was released much later on in October 1981.

CD 1.
The first of the two CD’s contains the new stereo mixes of the 5 original album tracks, and was mixed by Jakko Jakszyk. I quite like these new mixes and the mix does feel more closer to you in the way all the tracks present themselves to you. There are a couple of things you will notice straight away regarding these new mixes.

The first being that it does not have the reverb that you could feel so much on the original mix. This makes this mix have a bit more punch about it, which is what you perhaps need to project Chris Squire’s bass and Bill Bruford’s drums. These have been brought up more closer and work really well for it.

The second thing you will notice, is very much something you never heard before on the original album. It was whilst Jakko Jakszyk was going through the original master tapes that he noticed that although there was no additional material on them he could use for extra bonus material. He did however notice that some of the parts on the original master tapes did contain some additional recordings that were muted. These muted parts were never included on the original album.

So he decided to listen to the muted sections that had been recorded at the time, and he quite liked them that much he thought it would be a good idea to include them in this new mix. I am so glad he did and overall it does present the album in another light to some extent, and it’s quite interesting hearing these new orchestral sections that were not included in the first place. Even the long ride on Bruford’s cymbals.

CD 2.
The second of the CD’s contains the 5 original tracks plus 4 bonus tracks. This disc does contain a new remaster by Paschal Byrne and I have to say it does sound a lot better for it, and sounds a damn site better than the CD I brought back in the 90’s. The bonus material is the same as what you get on the two 7″ singles.

To be honest the both edited down shorter versions of “Lucky Seven” and “Silently Falling” that you get here are really a waste of space, and I would much sooner listen to the full versions that was included on the original album.

The other 2 bonus tracks are more worthy additions and great to see here. “Run With The Fox” is a really great song that I have always loved, and it has that Christmas spirit and feel about it. This song was done by both Chris Squire & Allan White and released as a single in the UK back in 1981.

It was recorded just after their collaboration with Jimmy Page to which they was working on putting a new band together with him called XYZ. It was a project that they knew would not take off, so both Squire & White knocked this song out instead. They also roped in former King Crimson member Peter Sinfield to help out with the lyrics, and this song is credited to all 3 of them.

The other bonus track “Return of the Fox” was the original B-Side and is an instrumental version of the A-Side. I quite like this version as well, especially the lead synth work that plays the vocal line which incidentally was played by Alan White who played the piano and keyboards on these tracks besides the drums. Both of these tracks also feature the boys of St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir and orchestration by Andrew Pryce Jackman.

DVD 1.
SS 1

The DVD loads up and the album cover picture on the left hand side zooms in and out. The same goes for the picture on the 2nd DVD too. This first DVD contains the 5.1 Surround Mixes and Stereo Mixes and they are all in a high quality sound format of 96/24.

The DVD’s main menu presents you with 2 options and the first one contains the 5.1 Mixes of the new album mix by Jakko Jakszyk. The second option contains the original album mix in stereo only. Personally I would of loved a 5.1 mix of both the new mixed album and the original album. But I suppose you cannot have everything. By clicking on the first option it presents you with the following screen.

SS 2

This menu gives you 3 options, “Play Album”. Track Select”. “Audio Select” and the back button is to return to the previous menu. Both the Surround Mixes and the Stereo Mix are of the 5 original album tracks only, and there are no bonus tracks on the DVD. By clicking on “Audio Select” it presents you with the following screen.

SS 2 BHere you can select your preferred audio choice.  By default it’s set to the 96/24 Stereo LPCM Mix. My preferred choice is the DTS 96/24 5.1 Surround Mix. The 3rd choice is the Dolby Digital Surround Mix. As the music plays it presents you with the picture of the front album cover, just like the one on the previous screen shot but without writing on and just the name of the song title of the track that’s playing.

The 5.1 Mix.

Jakko Jakszyk’s 5.1 mix is quite subtle and with most of his mixes I do not personally think they have Stephen Wilson’s qualities in this field of mixing 5.1. But never the less he’s paid good attention to the placement of the instrumentation and not taken too much away from the stereo field in the front speakers to place in the rear, so that the album does not lose the way it originally sounded.

I quite like how he’s utilised the placement of the backing vocals and placed them in the rear speakers. You get to hear more of the clarity in the mix for doing so. Other things gets panned nicely here and there too, and the orchestral sections sound very well detailed too.

It’s perhaps not an album that you will benefit more in the dynamic department that a lot of recordings will benefit from a 5.1 mix. But overall it’s quite good but perhaps not that exciting in comparison to many real good 5.1 mixes done by other great more experienced sound engineers.

Personally I would have preferred him to have mixed the original album in 5.1 rather than his own new mix. This is simply because the new mix he done does contain things that was never on the original album in the first place. These of course are the muted sections that never got used on the original album, and not things he has recorded himself to put on here.

But for me the whole idea of any 5.1 mix is that it will bring out things from an original recorded album that could never be heard before, and placing these now un-muted parts in the mix is gonna distract you in some ways from hearing a lot of the other parts one could never hear before.

I will always prefer an original mix anyway in relation to any new mix where people have altered things. I like the new mixes, but I think any sound engineer with half a brain would have the common sense and decency to do a 5.1 mix of the original recorded album from the multi-track master tapes, and use his new mix for the CD only. That way he is getting more less two credits instead of one if he’s done the job right.

If your gonna be 5.1 sound engineer. Do the job properly and always put the original album first not second. If you want to do a 5.1 mix of your new mix, then make sure you do a 5.1 mix of the original album too.

DVD 2.
SS 3

The 2nd DVD features the bonus material. Most of this if not all of it is actually floating about on Youtube and I have seen before. But it’s still great to have it here too. All of this was also done back in 2006 when Chris Squire was working on the Deluxe Expanded Edition of the album that got released a year later in 2007.

The 2 promo videos of “Hold Out Your Hand” and “You By My Side” were made back in the 70’s. I can actually remember both of them back then as well because they were included in the film of Yessongs that got shown in some of the cinema houses. I went along to the Odeon Queensway in Birmingham with a mate of my mine to see it, and it was a late night screening and the film did not start till midnight.

Just like Yessongs the picture quality was never that good, and this is very much old nostalgic footage more than anything else and is not of any real good quality. The other thing about these two bits of film, is that even though they present themselves to look as if it came from a live concert. They was in fact recorded in a studio and were only miming along and not playing live at all. Even the orchestra were paid to mime and it cost Squire around £3,000 for half an hour of their time to do so.

The next bonus feature is a 42 minute interview with Chris Squire to which was conducted by Jon Kirkman back in 2006. This I have seen before a few years ago now and it might of been Classic Rock’s website rather than Youtube if I remember rightly.  I am not sure if it’s still on Youtube.

But this is really much more interesting and here they discuss the making of the 1975 album. I was glad to have this, because you will get a more information about the album from this, that you will not find in the book that comes with this box set. It’s especially useful to someone like myself to do my review here.

The final bonus feature I have seen on Youtube awhile back now and this is not Audio Commentary at all like its suggested in the way they have titled it here on the DVD. This is perhaps something they would call more so today as a “Vinyl Drop” and you get to see Chris Squire with your own eyes talking about the album as he plays the whole album to you.

So this is not like watching a movie and pressing a button so you can hear the actors talking about it in the background and you cannot see them. That is very much is what’s known as “Audio Commentary” and not what we have here. It’s another great bonus feature and runs for around 53 minutes.

Musicians & Credits…

Written. Arranged & Produced by Chris Squire. Recorded in Virginia Waters Surrey and Morgan Studios London between spring and Summer 1975. Sound Engineer Gregg Jackman. Assistant Sound Engineer Nigel Luby. Mastering by Trevor Spencer & Graham Preskett. Album Cover Design & Photography by Laurence Bernes. Front Cover Photo by Brian Lane. New 2018 Mixes & 5.1 Mix by Jakko Jakszyk. 2018 Remastering by Paschal Byrne. Lyrical ideas from Peter Sinfield. DVD Authoring by Ray Shulman at iSonic.

Musicians:

Chris Squire: Lead & Backing Vocals/Basses/12 String & Electric Guitars.
Andrew Pryce Jackman: Acoustic & Electric Pianos/Orchestration/Conductor.
Bill Bruford: Drums & Percussion.
Patrick Moraz: Organ & Bass Synthesiser.
Mel Collins: Saxophones.
Jimmy Hastings: Flute.
Barry Rose: Pipe Organ. (Track 1)
Nikki Squire: Backing Vocals. (Track 1)
Julian Gaillard: String Leader.
John Wilbraham: Brass Leader.
Jim Buck: Horns Leader.
Adrian Bett: Woodwinds Leader.

The Album In Review…

The original album Fish Out Of Water by Chris Squire was released on the 7th November 1975. The album contained 5 tracks over a total playing time of 42 minutes, 34 seconds. It was also quite well received by the critics upon its release and reached number 25 in the UK album charts.

It was towards the end of 1974 that the band Yes had finished off their live tour that promoted their 1974 album Relayer. After the tour the band thought it would be a good time to take a break and work on their own solo album projects. I have to confess I was a massive fan of Yes around this time and I personally felt it was a bad idea.

Though in all honesty looking back on it now, it was perhaps understandable why they took a break, especially having just made an album that was so far into the future, just where on earth do you go from there to be able to continue. Being the Yes fan I was back then I brought all 5 albums of the individual members of the band, as they came out.

Steve Howe’s solo debut album Beginnings was the first to materialise a month before this album of Squire’s. It was not until mid 1976 that the other 3 members solo debut albums appeared. To be honest I liked them all. But I always felt Chris Squire’s Fish Out Of Water was the best of them.

I am pretty sure Jon Anderson’s solo debut album Olias Of Sunhillow was the last one to be released, and his was perhaps the most Yes like album of them all. Though that was perhaps more to be expected because of his voice.

Allan White’s debut album Ramshackled was perhaps the furthest away you could get away from Yes music. But it did have one song on it that was Yes like to which featured Anderson on vocals and Howe on guitar, which was “Spring-Song Of Innocence“.

And Patrick Moraz”s debut album The Story Of It was perhaps a continuation of the futuristic music that he did with Yes on Relayer. Though he did also throw in some Brazilian percussion and even the jungle :)))). He even threw in the odd pop song, but it was a very exciting album.

Oddly enough I am pretty sure that Chris Squire’s Fish Out Of Water was the only album out of all of the 5 members of Yes that never had the Yes Logo stamped on it.

Chris Squire set to work on his studio album in the spring of 1975 and had it completed a few months later in the summer of the same year. Having already brought a new house, well mansion :)))) in the previous year and set up his own personal studio in the basement, which was also were Yes had recorded the album Relayer. Squire’s home would also be the perfect place to record his new album. Though he did also do some recording for it at Morgan Studios as well.

In most interviews you seen of Chris Squire he always tended to look back on his past and his choir boy days. One of his closest friends Andrew Pryce Jackman from those days was also in the same choir. The both had been friends since they was about 5 years old, and both were also in the band the Syn which was active between the years 1965 – 1967. It was Jackman who also suggested to Squire that he should take up the bass guitar.

Jackman was a keyboard player but Squire took note of how he was also a great arranger. Jackman had also learnt to read and write music on a musical manuscript and he could hum the tune and write it down without even having an instrument in his hands. He was more or less a classical arranger and this impressed Squire enough to bring in his close friend to help out on his new album.

Chris Squire even offered Jackman writing credits for his work on the album Fish Out Of Water and honestly thought he had contributed the most to the songs on it. But Jackman refused to take any credit for it at all.

Another old friend Squire brought in to help him out from his days of being in a choir with Jackman. Was the cathedral organist and Choirmaster Barry Rose. Rose was also in the same St Andrews Choir and he went on from their to be the Choirmaster at St Paul’s cathedral where they all played their first real gig as choir boys. Rose was one of Squire’s first real influences.

The other musicians Squire brought in was two previous members of Yes. Bill Bruford who had quit Yes to join King Crimson back in 1972. And Patrick Moraz who only not long decided to quit Yes and start a new solo career. He also brought in King Crimson’s Saxophonist Mel Collins and Caravan’s Jimmy Hastings to play a bit of flute.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Most reviews of Chris Squire’s album Fish Out Of Water tend to point as it being likened to a Yes album. I beg to differ and even though it may contain a few bass lines that was used on the Yes track “Close To The Edge” it sounds nothing like a Yes album. Unless you was to go back to their 2nd album Time And A Word which perhaps had familiarities with it having an orchestra.

But that early album of Yes as good as it maybe is not exactly what I would call Yes Music like the change we had when Steve Howe first joined the band. That was the first real change in a new musical direction and this album of Squire’s contains more of a jazz and pop influence on that score.

Fish Out Of Water is not a guitar album and is more focused around the bass guitar to which no doubt Chris Squire was a truly great bass guitarist and one of the very best. Besides his bass playing he has such a great voice to even be a lead vocalist, and this is where he wins over on this album as well in relation to some of the other members of Yes such as Steve Howe for example who is not the best of singers :)))))).

So let’s now delve a bit deeper into the album as I take you through each track.

Track 1. Hold Out Your Hand.

A song that perhaps has a pop approach about it in the way that it flows and perhaps more so with the melody of the vocal line and the way Chris Squire projects his fine voice on the song. It very much opens up with the pipe organ which was played by Barry Rose and recorded not long after midnight on the church organ in St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Immediately after the opening bar or two on the pipe organ enters Squire’s bass guitar which is a very dominant feature throughout the whole album. Squire’s bass works like a lead guitar sculpturing some truly superb bass lines that weave their way along immaculately. His bass guitar not only speaks with authority but it sings certainly as good as his voice that next comes into play.

I have to confess I have no idea what the lyrics are trying to put across or convey on this song. I know he did seek out some ideas for the lyrics from former King Crimson’s lyric writer Peter Sinfield but these are more like the lyrics Jon Anderson would write more than anything else. They perhaps pertain to more of a symbolic meaning in the way they have been writ.

No doubt many will have their own interpretations of what these lyrics are all about, and my own interpretation is that they pertain to perhaps waking up to a lovely day, being thankful and appreciating everything around you, and good things will come to you.

I am sure there may be a lot more to them than what I have described here, but in all honesty these lyrics are far out, and are no way the type of lyrics one would write for a pop song :)))))).

Chris Squire’s wife Nikki also backs him up on the chorus and it’s great to hear Squire playing around Bill Bruford’s drums again, no doubt Bruford’s work on this album is also immaculate. The song has a great change around the 2:30 mark with some excellent lead work on the bass, followed by a great little keyboard solo on the pipe organ.

Then at the 3:50 mark we get to hear the small chamber orchestra conducted by Andrew Pryce Jackman for the first time which brings in the ending to the song and leads it nicely into the next track that immediately follows it.

No matter how bizarre the lyrical content is on this song “Hold Out Your Hand” is a very strong song on the album, it’s the shortest song on the album, but certainly a very strong contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 2. You By My Side.

You By My Side” is slightly longer than the opening track and no doubt this perhaps is even more of a pop song than the album’s opener too. The lyrical content is much more easier to understand and this is a love song that Squire wrote for his wife.

The song features Andrew Pryce Jackman on the piano and was most likely written around the piano on that score. I love how it all comes down for the break in the middle section which features Jimmy Hastings on the flute and it’s got a lovely melancholy feel about it. No doubt Squire’s choir practice certainly came in handy and too fruition on the vocal harmonies he does along this section too.

It’s perhaps the least favourable song on the album for many I have seen over the years in reviews of the album, but personally I cannot fault it and its a lovely song. I love how the orchestra rounds it all off too at the end, and the one hit on the tubular bell that brings it to a close and leads it into the next track.

Track 3, Silently Falling.

The final song on side 1 of the original vinyl album and the whole of side one of the album sort of runs like a concept album with how all the tracks on this particular side run into each other. Though it’s not a concept at all. “Silently Falling” is my personal favourite track on the album and merits the top spot award.

It’s opening is played by the woodwind section of the orchestra. It’s a most beautiful section that utilises the oboe and flute and reminds me a lot of the orchestration that was used on Elton John’s 1971 soundtrack album Friends.

It’s a song that has a terrific build up and is quite powerful. Squire’s bass work is once again superb throughout and he even plays some fine rhythm work on the electric guitar on this track. It has great vocal sections and one massive break that starts around the 3:04 mark. Once again Andrew Pryce Jackman is on the piano and Patrick Moraz does a superb lead job on the Hammond Organ that comes into play around the 3:58 mark.

It all comes down to a stop at the 6:28 mark and 2 seconds later the piano and orchestration bring it back into play for the next vocal section and I love the change that comes in at the 7:25 mark for the final section of the song to drive it’s way home.

The string section of the orchestra features in this final section and it gradually builds up to another crescendo before it starts it’s fade out and Bruford’s drums hit hard and drive it very well home. It’s the 2nd longest track on the album and a really great track. I am sure for many this will also be their favourite track, although the final track on the album is also a massive contender.

Track 4. Lucky Seven.

This is one that was most likely inspired by the jazzy flavour of Bill Bruford’s drums. They do feature superbly on this song and “Lucky Seven” does have that element of jazz fusion about it, though it’s also got more of a mellow soul element about it as well. I can see why Atlantic would of put out an edited out shorter version of it as a single. It’s a very strong well written song that has a great hook and groove about it all.

The lyrics for the song are by far the best on the whole of the album, and they have been very cleverly written in the form of some really great poetry. “Lucky Seven” could be seen in the pretence to be about gambling or rather taking a gamble and edging your bets so to speak. But effectively it’s about a night on the town and going to a nightclub to see what bird you could pull :))))). The whole musical vibe of the song captures that scene perfectly.

Besides the great work by Squire & Bruford the song features Andrew Pryce Jackman on the electric piano and some excellent sax playing from Mel Collins. I really love this song and it just as to be another contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 5. Safe (Cannon Song).

The final track on the album is the longest track weighing in at some 15 minutes and 5 seconds. Musically the introduction with the piano and orchestra has that dreamy ocean sea voyage about it all. As it all builds its way along it soon starts to settle out into more of a structured song for the verse sections.

Once again Squire plays both bass and guitar on this track, and it also contains quite a few overdubs on the bass. The bass plays a very dominant role throughout the piece, and this is also the track where the orchestra is also most dominantly utilised more heavily. In some respects the orchestration contains the power that you might find on the Rick Wakeman album The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table being a perfect example.

It’s also said that Squire used some bass lines that he played on “Close To The Edge” by Yes though it’s perhaps hard to really spot them. But his bass work on this track is superb and speaking of Rick Wakeman. I absoloutly love Chris Squire’s bass work on the whole of the 1st side on his 1977 album Criminal Records. Squire only played bass to the first side of that album, but it’s every inch as good as this if not better.

Once again the lyrics are quite good on this song and they pertain to keeping ones family safe from harm no matter what storms are thrown at them. I suppose the (Cannon Song) bit in the title pertains to the strength of it all, and this is very much like being on a sea vessel on the ocean fighting a battle and a very dramatic one.

It really is another fantastic track and for some this will be their favourite track on the album too. The ending can be a bit repetitive in the way it does tend to repeat itself but it’s strength and build outweighs that side of things and carries it all. It’s certainly my second favourite track on the album and is a very high contender for the top spot on the album and brings the album to a close superbly.

Summary…

To sum up the album Fish Out Of Water by Chris Squire I personally think it’s a solid album and the best album he ever made outside of Yes. It’s his only solo album in reality that he did write, and it’s a shame he never got to make more of them. His only other solo album Chris Squire’s Swiss Choir he did in 2007 is a milestone away from this album and is merely a collection of traditional Christmas songs. I quite like the albums he done with both Billy Sherwood in 2003 and Steve Hackett in 2012. But once again they do not have the strength this album has to offer, and this album is a classic in comparison to those.

Fish Out Of Water if anything is a Chris Squire album that displays the best side of himself. It does not claim to be a Yes album and is nothing like a Yes album on that score. It displays and says everything about how a solo artist should go about making a solo album and it shows just how well he can do so without being tied to a band in wanting to sound like the band he was in. To put it in a nutshell this an album that perhaps shows that Chris Squire could of easily functioned as a solo artist and even had a comfortable enough solo career if he put his mind to it.

The album does have quite a bit of variety along the way, but the production helps blend  all the tracks together remarkably well and makes it all work together. No doubt the music contains the diversity that one will find in a progressive rock album, but it also contains some pop, folk, classical attributes and jazz elements that also make the album work so very well.

There is also no doubt Andrew Pryce Jackman played a massive part on this album, and just as much as he would not take any credit for his work on this album. These are his musical arrangements and not Chris Squire’s. He even contributed to some of the writing too without a doubt. I personally feel that this album could not have been achieved without his close friend. Both Andrew Pryce Jackman and Chris Squire will no doubt be sadly missed.

Conclusion…

I am going to conclude my review around this particular 2018 new Deluxe Edition box set release by Esoteric Recordings. There is no doubt that this is quality package that’s perhaps worthy of it’s price point of £70. But as with any box set that is made up of one album, does one really need the vinyl album, the CD and the DVD that comes with it saying exactly the same thing more or less.

People should be given a choice of what format it comes in, and the items in this box set should be made available and sold individually apart from say the book you get with it. The box set in reality should offer you the chance to buy all the individual items in one go at a cheaper price, for those who want all of them.

Esoteric Recordings are far from the only company doing things this way and some other record companies are charging even twice the price of a box set like this for the same deal.

The biggest incentive for me and many others in this box set will be the 5.1 release of the album. By not offering that side of things to the artists fans in an individual package is very much the wrong thing to do, and goes to show just how greedy record companies like this can really be.

They are treating the artists fans like a piece of shit and quite frankly I would not blame anybody for refusing to buy a box set like this. I myself was considering cancelling my order on many occasions and even the on the day before its release before Amazon had took my money, I was humming and harring as to whether to cancel it. In the end I never and apart from the 2 DVD’s the rest of this box set to me will just be something to look good on display.

Forward Motion, Life Promotion To Reverse Is To Repeat…

The 2 CD track listing is as follows:

CD 1. (2018 New Mixes)
01. Hold Out Your Hand. 4:15.
02. You By My Side. 5:01
03. Silently Falling. 11:21.
04. Lucky Seven. 6:56.
05. Safe (Canon Song). 15:01

CD 2. (2018 Remasters)
01. Hold Out Your Hand. 4:16.
02. You By My Side. 5:02.
03. Silently Falling. 11:57.
04. Lucky Seven. 6:56.
05. Safe (Canon Song). 15:05.
06. Lucky Seven (single mix). 3:29.
07. Silently Falling (single version). 2:59.
08. Run With the Fox. 4:11.
09. Return of the Fox. 4:02.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.