Lee Speaks About Music… #109

Black Riders Part 1 – HeartScore

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Introduction…

The 6th album to be released by HeartScore sees the man behind the project Dirk Radloff going in a bit of new direction. Well I say a “bit” but this is perhaps more of a totally different direction and shift from prog rock too metal. His latest album Black Riders Part 1 is certainly nothing like its predecessors, and it appears to have unleashed the BEAST! out of him. There is quite a Mighty Wrath Of War going on throughout this latest release of his which was inspired by the dark poems of the famous American 19th century author Stephen Crane.

Well no doubt Judas Priest had their “Metal Gods” and Queen had their “Lap Of The Gods” but through Crane’s inspirational words, I suppose you could say that HeartScore now has it’s “Wrath Of The Gods” and this is quite a very powerful and masterfully well crafted piece of work. The way the album flows along it even comes across is like a concept album to some degree even if it’s not, but how all the tracks have been so well placed it can give you that impression.

I suppose in a way it is a concept based on author of the words himself Stephen Crane. Although setting music to poetry is nothing new for Dirk Radloff and 4 of his 5 previous albums were all set to the poems of famous authors who are no longer with us, and have not been for more than a century in most cases.

No doubt a lot of people would never have heard of Dirk Radloff and his project of HeartScore unless you was an unknown musician like myself who got to discover him and his music on Soundcloud and various other streaming sites alike. But before I go into a bit of the man’s background and his music, let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork as usual.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The CD comes in a very slender and neat slimline Digisleeve with a pocket on the right hand side to hold the disc in place. As quite often with some DigiSleeves they do not come with a booklet just like the one here, and all the linear credit and production notes are written on the sleeve itself. Overall it’s a very neat and tidy looking presentation and the fact that its slimline, it also takes up less space to store.

The Artwork.

The artwork cover and all other drawings were done by Alexander Stanton. The artwork concept, design and layout was done by Dirk Radloff himself. I like the way the artwork drawings have been printed onto a black background, and it perhaps gives one the impression that the drawings have been drawn onto a blackboard with how they stand out so well. You get a lot more of Stanton’s artwork if you buy one of the super packages to which also comes with a 48 page Hardcover Book.

HeartScore The Project And The Man Behind It…

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Dirk Radloff is a multi-instrumentalist from Germany who received formal classical training on the violin as a child and music very much ran in his family and his father also a played the violin & cello. He studied music at an early age and learned how to read and write music on the staff. He also took up playing the guitar and in his youth spent much of it playing live in various bands even playing American surf music similar to instrumental bands such as The Shadows with a band called The Golden Tornados and I do believe he was also the singer in a rock band at one stage. But no doubt music flowed through his veins and he had also studied the art of arrangement and composition.

By the time Radloff had got into his 30’s he very much decided to work on his own studio project to which he called HeartScore. No doubt Radloff had learned all the fundamentals of music well enough and had studied very hard in composition and arrangement. He had also picked up a lot about production work and in 2003 he released his first album Sculptures under the name of his own project HeartScore. The very name of his project implies two things. The first meaning that its music written from the heart or could even be seen as Art. The second means that the music was scored onto a musical staff or piece of paper.

To be honest you have to be very clever to be able to compose music in the way that Radloff composes his own music, and he does compose or write it before he’s even played a note of it himself. If Radloff has a weakness its certainly not in his musical capabilities but rather the lyrical side of things for his songs. Which is why when he set up his own studio project he decided to set his music to the poems of well known American poets, such as the likes of Edgar Allan Poe, Langston Hughes, and Emily Dickinson for example.

Radloff’s own musical influences are quite vast and come from a wide spectrum of musical styles and genres such as classical music of the many GREAT composers such a Wagner, Liszt, Chopin, Bach you could probably name them all. Rock, Prog Rock, Jazz, Metal, and even Pop such as the likes of The Who, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Steely Dan, Yes, King CrimsonVoivod, King’s XCaptain Beefheart and so on, and a lot of those styles can reflect in his own music he writes.

I would even say that his own vocal multi part choral vocal harmonies come from his love of Queen’s music, and they still feature in his music today, despite coming off the main vocal duties himself for a few years now, and these days he very much hires an American singer by the name of Chris (Courtesy of Studiopros) to take on the main vocal duties for him. He also appeared on his last album that was released back in 2016.

But hiring or bringing in other singers and musicians into his own project, as very much been a thing from the offset since his first album Sculptures. And even on that album he had Oliver Harstack contributing some dramatic vocals on 4 of the tracks of the album. Radloff’s debut album Sculptures is a very good album by the way, and one that he himself sees more of an experiment and having a weakness to it regarding his own compositions and perhaps the production side of things. These days he tends to shun away from it. You will not even see it on his own Bandcamp site where he sells most of his music these days either.

But I myself beg to dither, and this is an album that purely rocks, and it also comes with a very good production and has also been professionally mastered too. And later on in footnote of my review here I shall be giving somebody the opportunity to win the album in my very first ever competition. But please bear in mind that the CD is not brand new, but it is as good as new and is in excellent condition.

Also my reason for giving one person the chance to win it, is because I have the album twice as you can see in the picture below. So it’s not that I am going to be starting a trend of running competitions in my reviews by any means, and I am not that wealthy enough to go out a buy a brand new copy either to give away :)))))).

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As a musician Radloff is very talented and his main instruments he plays are the violin and guitar. Apart from those instruments and his voice, much of the other instrumentation is programmed such as the drums and keyboards for example, and occasionally he will bring in the odd musician now and then to play some of those instruments and others for him.

As a composer he is also very serious about his music, and is always looking for other avenues to market and sell his music. Not in the way of becoming rich and famous, but I suppose in the way of getting his music out there a bit more for more people to recognise and take a bit more notice of it. After all there is not much point in making records and releasing them in the form of a physical product only to find out that your basement is getting cluttered up with them :))))))).

For any composer who makes music in their studio only, who does not go out and play live. Its always going to be difficult to attract any great deal of attention to your music. Like many musicians like Radloff they also have a family and a job to keep a roof over their heads and only get the chance to make music is in their spare time. Most people create music in their spare time as an hobby and even give it away for free. But if you had spent all the years studying music to be able to create it in the skilful way he does, and threw in the money it cost to produce it as well. You certainly would not want to be giving it away, that’s for sure.

Making music can be very costly, and Dirk Radloff is not the type of person who will skimp on creating his music and getting it out there either. He is not the type of person to give up on it either, despite the fact that it costs him a damn site more money to make an an album, than what he will ever get back in return. It’s perhaps understandable because there is no doubt there is a lot of skill that goes into his music, and there are not many musicians even in the mainstream world who possess this guys talent, and can write music in this way of putting the pen to the paper first, and play it afterwards.

I first stumbled upon Dirk’s music a good few years ago now on Soundcloud and it appealed to me enough to buy it. I have been a fan of his music ever since and have even collaborated with him on occasions as many other have as well. But from also being an avid listener of music and not just a creator of it myself. I can honestly say you have to be some sort of genius to be able to create music the way he does.

I am not saying the music he makes will appeal to everyone’s taste, and this recent new change in direction could even be even be seen as a way of seeing if it does grab more attention and appeals to more people. Even if he is also quite heavily into metal himself. But he also has gone about things a bit differently with his choice of physical media formats he has chosen for this new release, and no doubt he is still looking into other avenues to get his music across to people.

Black Riders Part 1 Limited Editions…

Besides the usual Digital Download of the album you can buy. Black Riders Part 1 also comes in the form of 2 other physical media packages. Both of these packages also come with the option of a Super or Deluxe Package that comes with an Hardback Book. All of these physical packages are also extremely limited and only 50 copies of each have been made and are available to purchase. No doubt that Dirk Radloff has gone to even more expense in paying to have these type of physical media formats made with the less quantities he has ordered, in relation to getting them cheaper by ordering them more so in bulk.

But I guess he was fed up of stocking them by the masses in his basement :))))))). So in the long run he may have done the sensible thing. But there is no expense spared here and they are all quality packages to suit your personal choice.

CD Package

The CD package is perhaps one of the most common of the physical media formats these days and is my personal preferred format these days (apart from a 5.1 mix on SACD/DVD or Blu Ray that is) and its also perhaps more widely available even though they have re-introduced vinyl again these days. It’s also the most durable and reliable format and does away with all your surface noise and snap, crackle and pop marks :)))))).

This next media format is something you do not see so much these days, and just like vinyl it appears to making a comeback in some places, and somebody thought it would be a good idea to try and re-introduce the Cassette back onto the market.

Cassette Package

For me personally the Cassette was a format I was glad to see the back of in reality, although no doubt it served its purpose back in its day, especially for musicians to record their song demos on. Portable Cassette players were quite convenient to do so by simply picking up your guitar and hitting the record button and recording it onto a blank tape. These days it’s just as convenient enough to do so with your mobile phone or computer.

No doubt they used to also use this format for pre-recorded albums of mainstream artists back in those days too, but back then I can honestly say that I myself never walked into any record shop and brought one brand new, and I would not either. I would always buy the vinyl record back then rather than waste my money on such an inferior audio format. I am not saying they do not sound good and its really down to if you’re not the type of person who spends a great deal of money on HiFi and are not that bothered about genuine quality and forking out that much more for it. I would even say that a lot of today’s younger generation are not really fussed about genuine quality when it comes to playing their music these days, so this will certainly appeal more to them.

But the Cassette was perhaps more prone to get damaged and the oxide on the tape did not last that long before it started to deteriorate. So it was not the most reliable of audio formats and in reality I would even rate the digital download on MP3 a more reliable product even if it’s not a physical one. But no doubt seeing the rebirth of the Cassette is perhaps more of a novelty for the younger generation these days, so I can see why Dirk has decided to include it here.

Book Packages

Both the CD and Cassette packages also come with the option of buying them in a Super or Deluxe Packages as I mentioned earlier. All of these packages also come with a free digital download of the album too. But with the Super package you also get an Hardback Book, and the only way of getting your hands on the book is by buying it in one of these packages, as its not sold separately. No doubt this package will bump up the price and the book is a separate item and it does not come with CD or Cassette fixed inside the book like most mainstream packages. So you do get two quality items for the money here.

This is the package I opted to go for myself in the end has you can see by the picture below, and to be honest I am glad I did. You can also see that I went for my preferred choice of audio format too, and this what you get with with the CD Super Package.

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To give you a better look at the book itself, I decided to post a video presentation that Dirk did himself and posted on his own Youtube channel himself awhile back. It saves me making a video to show you plus he has a lot better means than myself of making such a video too, and the music you can hear in the background is the only instrumental track on the album and is titled “Gods” and no doubt it ROCKS too.

 

To be honest the book is certainly more impressive than how it looks in this video, and here Dirk mainly flicked through the pages, so you are not really going to see how impressive all the artwork Alexander Stanton has done here, and he’s certainly done plenty of it too. Besides the really GREAT! artwork the 48 page book also comes with all the lyrics and some useful informative information about the American poet Stephen Crane whose poetry is set to the music we have here. It really is a splendid well made package and GREAT! presentation.

The Album In Review…

Black Riders Part 1 by HeartScore was released on the 1st November 2018. The first day of November was specifically chosen to tie in with the date that the American poet and novelist Stephen Crane was born which was on the 1st November 1871. I pre-ordered my copy on the 22nd of October and it arrived a few days before its release a week later on the 29th which is not bad going at all considering it came from Germany.

The albums itself contains 20 tracks, and even though the biggest majority of them are very short and being around the 2 to 3 minute mark, the album still weighs in with an overall playing time of 60 minutes, 58 seconds making it the longest of all HeartScore albums. Though quite a few of his albums are generally around the 50 plus minute mark and his previous album only had half the amount of tracks on it, but was in fact only around 3 and half minutes shorter than what we have here.

Speaking of his last album which never came with a title and was the first album to feature a session vocalist by the name of Chris. The fact that album never had a title apart from Radloff’s own project name of HeartScore in many ways it perhaps marked a brand new direction for HeartScore with having a lead vocalist. But what you get with this new album is more of a change in direction to anything Radloff has ever done before regarding the albums he has put out over the last couple of decades.

To be honest over the years I have known Dirk I have always kept in close contact with him and his music on Facebook like a friend. I have most likely heard more or less nearly everything he has done regarding his music, and I have to admit when he first posted some of the new tracks he was working on for this album over the last year, I was not overly impressed with the new directional change from prog to metal.

Metal is not really my thing in relation to prog rock apart from bands like Black Sabbath who are not really thrashing it out, and neither do they have a vocalist whose doing nothing else but death growls where you cannot understand a bloody word they are saying :)))))). So that type of metal never did really appeal to me. Thankfully Dirk had never seen the need to change his vocalist, not even for this new direction he was heading in with his music. But speaking of the session vocalist he uses from Studopros Dot Com they do not come exactly cheap at 100 Euro per song. Especially when you have an album with 20 of them and the biggest majority of them are really short.

No doubt you do sometimes get a discount when you hire a session singer to sing more than one song in one session, and he would of also saved some money on one the tracks to which is an instrumental track. But I still would of reckoned it would of cost him well over £1,000 in my currency to hire Chris just to make this album, and that’s without paying for the session player to play a bit of Saxophone on one of the tracks too. So has you can plainly see, Dirk does take his music seriously enough to lash out the money in making it, and there is no skimping here at all.

Musicians & Credits…

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All songs written, arranged and produced by Dirk Radloff. All lyrics written by Stephen Crane. Mastering by Russell Sinfield. Artwork Concept Dirk Radloff. Cover Artwork & Drawings by Alexander Stanton.

Musicians.

Dirk Radloff: Guitars/Violin/Choir Harmonies/Make Noise O-Coast Modular Synthesizer/Programming & Drum Programming.
Chris: (Courtesy of Studiopros.com) Lead Vocals.
Gdaliy Garmiza: Saxophone (On Track 1 “In The Desert”)
All FX Sounds (On Track 10 “God In Wrath”) Provided by Free SFX Dot Co Dot UK.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Black Riders Part 1 is without a doubt an album that mainly consists of short tracks apart from 2 of them that is. But not even them are really that lengthy at 5 and 6 minutes. There is no doubt that Stephen Crane was a writer of short stories and poems and that is why most of the lengths of the tracks are quite short I would expect.

To be honest the fact that I seen just how short some of Cranes poems was whilst Dirk was in the process of making some of the tracks for this album, I felt that there is just no way that I myself could use poems like that to make songs with in the first place, and I would have had to rework them and add some more lyrics to them to work. Or even write my own words based around the subject matter of the poem itself, which would of been more of the way I would of went about things here personally.

I would even of thought that his singer Chris never had a comfortable job trying to put what few words we have here to sing to the music, and no doubt it is hard work with the music Dirk had presented to him to sing. But the fact that he had so little to sing and had to repeat some of the poems twice over may have even pissed him off :)))). I certainly know I would of been if somebody chucked these short poems at me to sing :)))))))).

But what I would also say is that certainly a lot of things have changed since I heard those first mixes awhile ago of some of the tracks, and the final mix and mastering of the tracks has certainly shed a lot more light even on the dark side of things we get with the wrath and anger of Cranes own words with how this album as actually turned out in the end.

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Stephen Crane

The American poet, novelist, and short story writer Stephen Crane was born in New Jersey on the 1st November 1871 he died on the 5th June 1900 at the age of  28 whilst he was in Germany from a series of haemorrhages he had for the last few months of his life. Though Crane being also a reporter and writer for newspapers spent most of his time travailing, he spent most of his life in New York. He became notable for his works in the Realist tradition as well as early examples of American Naturalism and Impressionism. He is recognized by modern critics as one of the most innovative writers of his generation.

His first book of poems The Black Riders and Other Lines marked Crane’s first serious venture into poetry. However it did not exactly go down very well and received mostly criticism, if not abuse, for the poems’ unconventional style and use of free verse. He wrote it 1895 the very the same year his second novel was published The Red Badge of Courage that gained him more attention and is perhaps his most notable works. His first novel Maggie: A Girl of the Streets was inspired by Emily Dickinson and the fact that Dirk had written music to some of her poetry in the past may have been the connection we have here for him to latch onto the works of Crane.

The music Dirk wrote is well apt to Cranes book of poems and if anything it projects and unleashes the evil monster and the beast that he portrayed as god in many of his poems. So let’s now take a deeper look into the individual tracks of the album and see how well it as all turned out in my review here.

Track 1. In The Desert.

From the moment the album kicks off you get the impression that we are in a war and a very bitter evil one at that. There is no doubt doubt that Stephen Crane’s poetic words are suited to the dark evil side of war, and being in a war where you have just about had enough and are at the end of your tether so to speak. I suppose it could make one want to rip his own heart out and eat it with how war can be so disappointing, needless and pointless at times, and these words could also pertain to the bitter side of war even if that was not Cranes real intentions here. To which they was more based upon showing how human nature can be so inherently sinful and corrupt.

In The Desert

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter — bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart.

No doubt the words we have here are more barbaric, and the creature in this picture and the words could just of easily have been a man. Cranes poems in his book The Black Riders and Other Lines may have been inspired by the wrath of god from the old testament in the bible interacting with disrespectful humans and was heavily criticised for the way he more or less portrayed god as the devil. But what we have in this poem could of easily related to the vision Crane had about war without him having battle experience that reflected in the book he wrote after it. The Red Badge of Courage to which won international acclaim for his writing about the Civil War that was more accepted by and praised by its readers.

Dirk uses electronic drums on this album and they do a pretty darn good job here pounding and stomping their way across the desert. As the track transcends along the drums are almost like machine guns pulverising and obliterating everything in sight. The drums really are like a heavy artillery. The heavy metal guitars follow the drums and project the the dramatics we have here too. Chris’s voice has the right direct and authoritative approach to deliver the words very well, and Gdaliy Garmiza’s saxophone adds that extra desert feel with his lines and along with the heavy guitars and it sort of gives this opening track a King Crimson feel with their album Red for example.

Track 2. Mystic Shadow.

The heavy artillery are still fighting in the desert by the sound of the drums spraying out more bullets in the middle section of this short track. This middle section is also quite punk rock like even though the drums and the heavy clashing of metal guitar are thrashing and thrapping it all out. We even get somebody trying to eat fire instead of his heart to pay for his sins so to speak :)))))))). You even get a slight bit of lead work from the guitar chiselling out some unusual mystic lines before it fizzles out at the end.

Crane very much wrote these dark poems based on some of his own personal experiences so its told, and no doubt he had some crazy shit going on in his head when he wrote them :)))))). They are all based on anti-religious themes and bring out the forces and presence of evil. The words we have in this short poem pertain to what he perhaps seen as the real the truth and not the truth that many believe as it should be. The god we have here is very much like the Damned :))))))) and the music we have here captures all the essence of it all.

Track 3. There Was A Crimson Clash Of War.

The album no doubt feels like a concept album with how each track bounces off each other, and how quickly they follow one another, they are almost joined together with how there is not much of gap between the tracks. It’s almost like each track is made of rubber with how they bounce and spring on you with a sense of dramatic action that is not going to stop. This track plants a picture in my mind of several Giant Locusts marching through the desert into war, and they mean action :)))))).

There is some great vocal expression from Chris and no doubt he’s done the business on all the tracks on the album. The drums are pounding and the guitars are menacing to drive the dramatic action we have here, and around the 1:50 mark we get a touch of the east with some fine lead lines to which are either coming from a synth, or Dirk may have even used his violin with some FX applied to it to make the sound we have here. Unless he brought in some Egyptian snake charmer :)))))). It’s very much one of the contenders for the Top Spot on the album.

Track 4. Behold The Grave Of A Wicked Man.

The story of a so called just spirit who prevents the maid from putting flowers on the wicked man’s grave, only her tears proved her love for the man more than the flowers, and the spirit was not just in the first place because he took his vengeance out on her and not the wicked man. Once again we get plenty of expression with the vocals and the music stomps it’s way along very well. We also do get more diversity with the changes on this track too.

Track 5. I Stood Upon A High Place.

Another short song with a short poem that works very well with all that Dirk has thrown into the pot here. He even manages to get his violin out for this track too. I suppose in some ways Crane’s words here could be seen as the pot calling the kettle black? or even a case of let he who is without sin cast the first stone?

High Place

I stood upon a high place,
And saw, below, many devils
Running, leaping,
and carousing in sin.
One looked up, grinning,
And said, “Comrade! Brother!“

Track 6. Once I Saw Mountains Angry.

Well the first thing that came to my mind when I seen this rather bizarre title, was the bizarre words that Jon Anderson of Yes wrote for the song “Roundabout” with the sentence “Mountains come out of the sky and they stand there” and this guy Crane must of been off his Rocker:))))). But I suppose the moral of this story is that there is no need to make a mountain out of a mole hill, or rather you can turn a mountain into a mole hill if you have the courage to face up to it in the first place.

Like I mentioned earlier the way the tracks have been placed on the album, it does feel like a concept album, and it even feels like the story is continuing on from the previous track with the subject matter of them both being about high places. This is a very powerful track on the album with some great metal power chords on the guitar, powerhouse stomping drums, even the bass line coming from the synth is spring loaded and another excellent job by Chris on the vocals, and this is another contender for the Top Spot on the album.

Track 7. Black Riders Came From The Sea.

Black Riders Came

Black riders came from the sea.
There was clang and clang of spear and shield,
And clash and clash of hoof and heel,
Wild shouts and the wave of hair
In the rush upon the wind:
Thus the ride of sin.

The albums titled track sees the battle raging once again against the forces of evil and despite the lack of lyrics here they are not rushed and do get spread out more over the course of this song. This is actually one of the longer of the short tracks on the album, and at its time of 3 minutes, 35 seconds does allow the musical structure a bit more scope. So you do get a bit more diversity with this one, especially in the middle section with the transitional change. This allows Dirk to use his more familiar choir harmonies, to which the last two lines of the words are used for him to do so. It’s quite melodic too, and the only words that do get repeated by Chris here are those in the first line.

Track 8. Behold From The Land Of The Farther Suns.

The modular synth runs an electronic sequence throughout this track and I have to say it works pretty well with the combination of the guitars and drums. Once again Dirk gets to use his choir harmonies too and Chris do his usual GREAT! job with the expressive vocal line. The words we have here are pertaining to the bible where God comes back to find out that the Devil has taken over the world he created, and undone all the good work he had done.

Track 9. Once I Knew A Fine Song.

It’s time to simmer things down with “Once I Knew A Fine Song” and Dirk really has turned it into a fine song too, and we get a break from the heavy metal to something with more of a melodic structure. The synth has been put to good use and here it’s been utilised with a bass synth to drive it along with the drums. I quite like the different tones in Chris’s voice on this song and he really does get to sing it with the more sweeter side of his voice that has more passion. Dirk’s choir harmonies are also very sweet too.

The rhythm on the electric guitar blends in very well and violin gets put to excellent use here and adds something like a bit of Paganini‘ touch to it. Effectively Crane’s words we have here once again have the feel that they are running along the lines of a concept story album with how they relate to previous track. For example where on the previous track God lost his world to the Devil, these words could be seen as God thinking back to the beauty before the Devil got his filthy hands on it. It’s a GREAT! song and very much a contender for the top spot on the album.

Track 10. A God In Wrath.

The Mighty God Of Thor hammers is way into the drama here and God takes his wrath out of the wicked man by beating several barrels of shit out him :))))). No sparing the rod of discipline here I can tell you :)))). He beat him that hard that his thunderous blows rolled over the earth so that people could hear it and come running to see what would happen to them if they did not play the ball game :)))).

A God In Wrath

This is one of the 2 longer tracks and the 2nd longest track on the album that runs for dead on 5 minutes. It runs along at a slow pace at first to allow God to hand out his beating and it uses a free sound FX sample for the thunderous hammering. The synth features throughout this track and crafts out the melody for Chris to sing along to. The hammering thunder rolls its way out after the first minute and half and Chris gets more support from the heavy guitars and drums.

It develops more into a song and allows Chris to express the words more over the next couple of minutes. It also picks up a bit more pace too, and the hammering thunder along with some percussion come back into play around the 3 and half minute mark to bring the pace back down and drive it home slowly. It’s quite a dramatic piece this one and the placement of it on the album works very well particularly after the change of mood  it follows from the previous track, and effectively it works like the calm before the storm to bring the album back up again on the track that follows it.

Track 11. A Man Saw A Ball Of Gold In The Sky.

Not all that glitters is gold and no doubt things do look different when looking up at them in relation to gazing down on them, and that is what is behind this strange bit of Cranes naturalism method of writing. This is quite a very well structured song and the shortest track on the album which is 8 seconds shy of 2 minutes. The song rocks its way along with the metal guitars, drums and percussion and I like how the heavy driven rhythm of the power chords slows down in parts too. The metal guitars are very effective on this song and its also another song where Dirk gets to accompany Chris with some of his fine choir harmonies.

Track 12. In A Lonely Place.

Things are hotting up very well and this is a very powerful track and my joint favourite track on the album that jointly merits the albums Top Spot Award. Everything about this song cooks on gas from the start with it’s howling feedback from the guitar on the intro  to its death metal powerful force the guitar brings out on this track. Once again we get more excellent expressive vocals from Chris and more fine choir harmonies from Dirk he’s done here and along with the drums this song purely ROCKS….

Track 13. There Was Before Me.

Another powerful track that has a King Crimson feel about it especially with its mystical intro. It’s another very well structured song with powerhouse drums heavy metal guitars, expressive dramatic vocals and it has a fine melodic section very fitting to the words of infinite beauty that was seen beyond all the snow, ice and burning sand in Cranes poem. It’s another contender for the albums top spot.

Track 14. I Met A Seer.

King Crimson meets Thrash Metal is perhaps the best way to describe this next powerful track and like many of these short tracks they power themselves along with GREAT! expressive force. This one even comes with some fine synth work and the drums are ricocheting bullets :))))))))))) and it’s another GREAT! track. This an early version of the song from over a year ago that Dirk made a video of in the way of an adaption to Stephen Crane’s words in the poem.

Track 15. Should The Wide World Roll Away.

Another song with plenty of the force driving it along and the opening melody that also runs in other sections of this short song remind me of something like a cross between The Prodigy and Adam And The Ants. You get the twisted fire starter and prince charming rolling this wide world away:))))) only with more fearsome MIGHT!.

STWRA

Should the wide world roll away,
Leaving black terror,
Limitless night,
Nor God, nor man, nor place to stand
Would be to me essential,
If thou and thy white arms were there,
And the fall to doom a long way.

There can be no doubt that Crane had a very strange way of putting things over with the words in his poetry, and even though this poem may strike doom and terror. But one could even turn the words we have here into being prejudice with the word “White” being the most positive word symbolising purity.

Track 16. Gods.

Gods” is the only instrumental track on the album and the longest of the shorter tracks on the album. It’s not even the title of one of Crane’s 67 poems he wrote in his book of poems for the Black Riders though no doubt it works very well as a theme. This is very much my other joint favourite of the album that merits the Top Spot Award of the album along with “In A Lonely Place“. It’s a terrific piece with some really great lead work on the guitar, which is something most metal albums really lack, and that’s perhaps why it appeals to me a lot more. It’s all very well structured with it’s chord progression and transitional changes.

Track 17. Places Among The Stars.

Another nice little change with this fine song with gives Dirk another chance to get the violin out and this has quite soulful swing to it. There is some fine synth work in this one too along with the guitars which do project a bit of power to it every now and then. I think Chris could even be dancing around the stars whilst he’s singing this one. Once again the track placement is very good here and it’s as if we do have a story concept with Crane’s poetry. Since the wide world rolled away all is left is the emptiness of space to roll along in, and that is how it could appear too.

Track 18. God Fashioned The Ship Of The World Carefully.

The powerful master force picks back up here with this powerhouse metal rocker that features more power thrashed out metal power chords driving it along with the synths and drums. The choir harmonies return and the lead vocals are expressed with convincing force. It’s another really GREAT! track that ROCKS HARD….

Track 19. Truth Said A Traveller.

Another track that stomps along with a GREAT! marching force and the choir harmonies we have here could even give this song a bit of a Queen presence and feel about it. Besides the guitars I like how the bass drives this along and it’s and GREAT! track on the album and like its abrupt ending too.

The story concept is perhaps a bit lost with these last few tracks, but even I still feel the tracks are very well placed on the album, and it’s not intended to be a story concept anyway, but it did have that impression to some degree I think.

Track 20. In Heaven.

The final track on the album is the longest and once again the modular synth is put to good use and it almost gives it the feeling of a Sci-fi horror on the intro. This is another track that paces its way along dramatically with Chris expressing the words every now and then throughout the song. The song itself is built up very well with guitars and drums adding force and might to it all.

In Heaven

In heaven,
Some little blades of grass
Stood before God.
“What did you do?”
Then all save one of the little blades
Began eagerly to relate
The merits of their lives.
This one stayed a small way behind,
Ashamed.
Presently, God said,
“And what did you do?”
The little blade answered, “Oh my Lord,
Memory is bitter to me,
For, if I did good deeds,
I know not of them.”
Then God, in all His splendor,
Arose from His throne.
“Oh, best little blade of grass!” He said.

Both the picture I pieced together and the words that Crane wrote depict God as being the Devil, and that is very much more or less how Crane seen God throughout the whole of his book of poems he wrote for the Black Riders and Other Lines. The God we have here only favours the sinners and not those who do good deeds. “In Heaven” is another GREAT! track on the album and ends off this powerful album very well indeed. It also sounds like all the other little blades of grass got exterminated :))))))).

Summary…

To sum up my review of Black Riders Part 1 by HeartScore I very much think that Dirk Radloff chose the right genre of Metal to put to Stephen Crane’s book of poems he wrote for his Black Riders and Other Lines. Most artists in this genre are always looking for something dark and evil for the subject matter for their lyrics, and no doubt Crane’s anti-religious themes portray not just the wrath of a god, but in an unjustly manner, and not just the evil that men do, but the evil their god does along with it. He could even be describing the barbaric side of war with some of his poems too.

To be honest most of Stephen Crane’s poems in the Black Riders are pretty hard to get the real gist of with how they have been written, and that’s why I did not go into them all in my review here. Plus the one’s that I did touch on, are very much my own interpretations of them to which even I myself may of not of fully grasped and could of got the wrong end of the stick with them. But I am far from any expert on Crane’s works and have not gone into any great detail about him in my research for this review either. His poetry I find is very bizarre to say the least, and it may even twist your own mind trying to decipher it all too :)))))).

What we have here is certainly a very powerful album where plenty of thought as gone into the placement of the tracks for it to work so well. The way the tracks have been placed does feel like it’s even done in the way of a concept story album with how the words in Crane’s poems follow one another. A lot of the first tracks on the album very much give you the feeling that there is one mighty battle of war going on. I like how there are also tracks like “Once I Knew A Fine Song” and “Places Among The Stars” to simmer the album down with their more melodic structure. They along with the two longest tracks give the album a bit more variety.

Conclusion…

Overall Black Riders Part 1 by HeartScore is quite a solid enough album that manages to make a very exciting powerful experience over its 61 minutes and will certainly ROCK! your socks off. I think even though the biggest majority of the tracks are short, the way they follow one another with hardly any gap at all between them, does also lend to giving the album more variety with how it flows and it helps to keep the listener more attentive with how it drives its way along.

Even an old prog rocker like myself can enjoy an album like this even if Metal is not really my personal cup of tea. But the material we have here is still very well structured with some great chord progression and the album is very well produced and mastered giving you genuine quality for the money. I cannot fault the written material and my personal highlights from the album are “There Was A Crimson Clash Of War“. “Once I Saw Mountains Angry“. “Once I Knew A Fine Song“. “In A Lonely Place“. “There Was Before Me“. “Gods” and “God Fashioned The Ship Of The World Carefully“.

Whether Black Riders Part 2 or not turns out to be the very next HeartScore album in the future, we will have to wait and see. But no doubt there are plenty more poems left in Stephen Crane’s book of the Black Riders and Other Lines. But Crane’s words are well fitting for an album like this, and I suppose I could say that Metal meets King Crimson and Other Lines maybe the best way to describe the new direction of HeartScore’s music, and no doubt Dirk Radloff has unleashed the “BEAST” and it ROCKS HARD…

You can find out just how well the album ROCKS HARD by giving it a blast or even purchasing it from Bandcamp from the link here: https://heartscore.bandcamp.com/album/black-riders-part-1

I Stood Upon A High Place And Saw Below Many Devils. One Looked Up Grinning
And Said, “Comrade! Brother!”…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. In The Desert. 3:00.
02. Mystic Shadow. 2:17.
03. There Was A Crimson Clash Of War. 2:51.
04. Behold The Grave Of A Wicked Man. 2:37.
05. I Stood Upon A High Place. 2:29.
06. Once I Saw Mountains Angry. 2:01.
07. Black Riders Came From The Sea. 3:35.
08. Behold From The Land Of The Farther Suns. 3:05.
09. Once I Knew A Fine Song. 2:57.
10. A God In Wrath. 5:00.
11. A Man Saw A Ball Of Gold In The Sky. 1:52.
12. In A Lonely Place. 3:01.
13. There Was Before Me. 2:22.
14. I Met A Seer. 2:21.
15. Should The Wide World Roll Away. 3:14.
16. Gods. 3:41.
17. Places Among The Stars. 2:49.
18. God Fashioned The Ship Of The World Carefully. 2:46.
19. Truth Said A Traveller. 2:59.
20. In Heaven. 6:01.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 9/10.

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

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.

_______________________________________________________________________

Competition Time

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As I mentioned earlier in my review I had a spare HeartScore CD going and it’s not brand spanking new but is in excellent condition with not a mark or scratch on it. The CD contains a 10 page booklet with all the linear production notes, lyrics and pictures. The album Sculptures was released back 2003 and it was the very first HeartScore album to be released. Back in those days Dirk used to sing the vocals himself and did so on his first 4 albums, and on this album he also had Oliver Harstack contributing some dramatic vocals on 4 of the tracks. The lyrical content is also very good and on this album he set his music to the poetry of Langston Hughes, Emily Dickenson, E. E. Cummings and Edwin Arlington Robinson.

The album Sculptures is very much a different breed of rock in relation to the metal we have here on his latest album Black Riders Part 1. It’s also my preferred choice of rock music out of the two albums as well. No doubt both forms of rock and metal music have more or less the same sort of power chords on the guitar to drive the music along, only one is more heavier than the other, but where rock music really has the cutting edge is with the lead guitar lines, and the album Sculptures certainly has all those elements.

Sculptures is a very well crafted rock album that contains some very well structured songs on it. Some of the chord progression even steps on the boundaries of prog rock and it contains two ingredients you do not see in Radloff’s music today. They are his own lead vocals and the bass guitar. The album is more less powered by the guitar, bass and vocals and even the programmed drums sound real. It also contains some keyboards on some of the tracks and to be honest I know that keyboards are not his instrument, but he can play a bit, and on this album he may very well have played them rather than program them like he does mostly.

Personally I do not think there is a bad track on the album Sculptures and the album comes with 10 of them and over an overall playing time of 44 minutes, 38 seconds. It’s got some classics along it’s path in my opinion too and I would even rate this album with a positive strong  rating of 8 out of 10. To be honest the album Sculptures is hard for me to describe what rock bands you could associate it with. I suppose Queen would be one of them, but the album also flows very well like a good Deep Purple album even if it’s nothing like that band.

My personal highlights from the album are “Blue Bayou“, “When Sue Wears Red“. “Aunt Sue’s Stories“. “The Saddest Noise, The Sweetest Noise“. “Judgement Day“. “Little Julie (Delinquent)” and “John Evereldown“. As you can see I even chose 7 out of the 10 tracks on the album just in my highlights here, that’s how good this album really is, and its certainly a very good album.

What Do You Have To Do To Win?

To win the CD Sculptures by HeartScore all you have to do is answer the following 2 questions which are both related to the music of HeartScore.

Question 1. Give me the name the first real drummer to play on an HeartScore album?

Question 2. Give me the name of the only song set to Stephen Crane’s poetry that HeartScore most recently published that did not appear on his new album Black Riders Part 1.

The Rules.

As with all competitions they must have some rules. The rules are quite simple enough and all you have to do is post your answer to the both questions in the comment box of this review. Please note you can only post your answers here and not on any other social media site. The first person to post both the correct answers wins the CD.

In order for me to send the CD to you I will need to contact you for your name and address to send it too. So you can either drop your email address along with your answers so I can contact you for your address, or email me your name and address at l.lucas@talktalk.net the CD is entirely free and I will pay for the postage myself to send it to you. All the best with the competition.

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Lee Speaks About Music… #108

Ichigo Ichie Live in Japan 2016 – Camel

DVD Cover

Introduction…

Well it’s been quite awhile since I brought a live concert of Camel on DVD though I do have most of the bands DVD’s and have all their albums. Though to be honest after Andy Latimer’s long term illness which put him out of action for more than a decade since they made their last album A Nod And A Wink back in 2002. I was hugely disappointed by the fact that he chose to do a re-recording of their classic 1975 album The Snow Goose in relation to doing an album of new material. In all honesty the re-recorded version was a complete waste of time in the first place, and not something that needed to be done at all, and for me it will never touch the original I am afraid.

So that very much put me off Camel for awhile although I was tempted to go and see them live when they announced their Moonmadness tour a couple of years ago. But the price of the concert ticket was a lot more than I ever expected, so I had to give that a miss as well. So I sort of lost track of Camel (apart from playing their albums every now then still after all these years) and to be honest I was not even aware that their keyboard player Guy LeBlanc had passed on in 2015 and was replaced by Peter Jones.

Although I did catch a video of one of their songs they performed live around a couple of years ago, that somebody put on Youtube and seen they had a new keyboard player. He was also playing the keyboards and saxophone at the same time, but I was not aware of who he was, but I never seen nobody do that before I can tell you :))))). But I also came across another video of Camel live on the tube which showed Andy Latimer playing seated in a chair, and I thought surely he’s still ill, and that sort of put me off Camel again seeing that to be honest.

I know a lot of musicians who will play till they drop down dead, and even just seeing videos on the tube of Ian Anderson these days croaking and struggling to get out the words to those Jethro Tull songs cause his voice is shot and has been for years. In all honesty I could not go and see that even if the concert was free.

Don’t get me wrong I love these artists to bits and the music they have made that has brought joy to my ears over all these years. But even when my own mother was in hospital dying of cancer, It got to the point after a few visits seeing her deteriorate and looking nothing like she used to be, that I could no longer go and see her. I was not there the day she died either. Even today when I think of her I often visualise how she used to look and not how she looked in hospital, and to be honest when I seen her in hospital, there is no way I would like that image of her planted in my brain.

I am not saying that the likes of these artists look anything remotely like seeing somebody die of cancer wasting away. But Andy Latimer did look seriously ill in that video I saw, and I felt that he should not of even been playing on the stage. But he also may have only had a bad back, and let’s face it, standing up playing a Les Paul is not exactly gonna do anyone’s back the world of good with the weight of them :))))).

Having just got into the music of Peter Jones over the last couple of months, very much made me take another look at Camel, and even though I only found one song from this concert on Youtube I did by accident stumble across a website in Japan that actually streamed the whole 2 hour concert and watched it. Having seen it, I was quite blown away by it and knew I just had to have and buy the DVD. It was good to see that Andy Latimer never needed a chair as well, and looked a lot better health wise and was in flying form. But before I go any further, let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The DVD comes in a standard DVD case, not the best of quality cases like Amaray for example, but nevertheless adequate enough to do the job and even the hub that holds the disc is quite good at holding the disc firmly in place, and it’s a simply case of pushing down on the hub to release the disc. It also comes with a few photos printed on a one sided leaflet like you can see here, and for those wondering if it’s a booklet, unfortunately they did not go to that much expense on the product I am afraid :)))).

I did try and order it from Camel’s own website but unfortunately they was out of stock at the time, and I had no idea if they was going to be getting any more back in stock. So my only real chance of getting it brand new was from left over stocks in other outlet stores, and some of those were charging ridiculous prices. To be honest I got a bit lucky when I ordered this from Amazon UK and the week I was gonna buy it, I had to many bills to pay and at the time it was also priced at £30 which in reality is double the price a product like this should cost.

Having put it off for a week it came down to £20 which is still expensive, but this was very much a concert I wanted. So I would of even paid the £30 if I had too, but luckily enough I never had to in the end. I do suggest you shop around a bit if you are after it yourself, and places in America might be the best option to get it at a good price. Although I did get mine here in the UK and it was on Amazon Prime too and only took a day to arrive.

The Artwork.

The artwork for the cover was done by Michael Munday its quite plain, simplistic and nothing really too look at to be honest. It also looks as if the red hot sun in Japan as burnt the couple of chaps beneath to a crisp :))))). The photographs on the leaflet inside the case were taken by Lenya Alec Bass.

Ichigo Ichie Live In Japan (DVD) In Review…

The live DVD was released by Camel Productions on the 15th January 2017 and is region 0 or free so it plays in all countries and comes in the American format of NTSC. No PAL I am afraid but nevertheless still of very good picture quality for a DVD. There is also nothing here for surround freaks like myself either I am afraid, but it’s been very well recorded and mixed and sounds great in stereo.

Ichigo Ichie is a Buddhist term that means “once in a lifetime” or “one’s lifetime” as in from one’s birth to death. The term is also often translated as “for this time only”. “Never again” or “one chance in a lifetime”. Although in reality none of these terms could really apply to Camel simply because they did play two nights at the EX Theatre in Roppongi Tokyo Japan and the live footage we have here was taken from both of those nights. So it was hardly a one off thing :)))).

The DVD…

SS 1

The main menu is simple enough to navigate around and only comes with two options “Play Concert” and “Select Track”. There is only 1 soundtrack for the audio and it’s your standard CD quality of 16 bit 44.1 Khz. You also get no bonus features which is a bit disappointing, and it would of been nice if they could of either made a slideshow with some pictures and some music, or done something in the way of a few interviews from the band members talking about the concert.

SS 2

The “Select Track” menu gives you the option to select a track from the setlist and here you can see the 15 tracks they played from the bands discography. It comes in handy if you want to play a favourite track or quickly show a friend something from the concert which may even entice them to go out and buy it.

This is something both me and my friend always used to do a good while back, when were around each other’s houses looking at what new music we had brought. It comes in handy if you have not got time to watch the whole concert so to speak. These days we still keep in touch via phone and email, and we still quite often talk about our latest music purchases.

Picture & Sound Quality.

Both the picture and sound quality are of good enough quality. It’s not a concert where they have gone to town on having it filmed with an array of HD cameras, and I dare say the concert was actually filmed by the TV studio crew of Asahi in the building itself. They may have even live streamed the concert in Japan or edited it to show at a later date on Japanese TV.

In reality the DVD is no different to the quality you would of got back in the early 90’s, and the only bit of today’s technology that helps it, is the fact that most DVD Players and Blu Ray players can upscale the picture anyway. So the picture quality does look that bit better for it. The concert as been well edited too, and is not over the top, plus the sound as been very well mixed. Overall the concert as been captured very well.

Musicians & Credits…

Band

Recorded live at the EX Theatre in Roppongi Tokyo Japan between 20th & 21st of May 2016. Filmed and Directed by David Minasian. Assistant Director Trinity Houston. Produced and Promoted by Nobu Maruyama. CO-Producer Atsuo Kurabayashi. Executive Producer Susan Hoover. Motion Graphics and Camera Operator Karla ‘Gaby’ Martinez. Monitor Engineer Toru ‘Yama’ Yamamuro. Backliner Hisazi (Char) Ootomo. Audio recorded by Robert Cooper & Bunny Warren. Mixed by Chris Binns. Andrew Latimer & Denis Clement. Mastered by Chris Binns. Cover Artwork by Michael Munday. Photography by Lenya Alec Bass.

Musicians:
Andrew Latimer: Guitar/Vocals/Flute & Recorder.
Peter Jones: Keyboard/Vocals/Penny Whistle.
Colin Bass: Bass Guitar/Vocals.
Denis Clement: Drums/Recorder.

The Concert In Review…

The EX Theatre in Roppongo in Tokyo is situated on the ground floor of the TV Asahi Ex Tower building which is a 17 story building that opened back in November 2013. Since its opening its become quite a popular venue for many mainstream pop and rock bands to play there. The theatre also hosts a wide range of performances such as musicals, film screenings, and even fashion shows. There are also facilities for trade exhibitions and various sports events. In addition, the second floor of the building features a spacious garden and a café.

EX TV Tower

The very same year it opened it also won the Good Lighting Award from The Illuminating Engineering Institute of Japan. The “EX” implies Excite, Expand and Experience. Over 300 pieces of customized 40PXL Traxon Media Tube were mounted and fitted onto the aluminium curtain wall on the facade of the building. The building not only lights up at night but it also showcases pre-programmed dynamic graphics such as the cartoon character “Go-chan” panda and advertisements such as the upcoming entertainment performances are displayed on EX Tower’s building.

TV Asahi is a major Japanese broadcasting company operating a television network of about 23 local affiliates with a successfully developed base for transmitting new culture and information to the public in Japan.

EX Theatre Stage

The theatre itself (although it does not look it) holds a capacity of near enough 2,000 people, 920 seated and the rest standing. Camel played the venue two nights running on the 20th and 21st May 2016 and I would at a guess of expected most likely to be playing to a packed out audiences on both nights being down to the fact that it had been some 16 years since they last played in Japan.

On With The Show…

The concert we have on DVD here, is made up of the performances from the both nights, and no doubt they would of taken what they seen as the best performances from the two shows and edited them and stuck them together to make the 2 hour live concert we have here. I am pretty sure the set list was also the same for the both shows and I have to say they certainly have packed in quite a few classics from the 70’s too, and it really is a terrific live show. Though to be quite honest regardless of what material Camel played from their entire discography between 1973 – 2002 you could not really go wrong.

In my eyes Camel are one of the most consistent progressive rock bands of all time, I think the only one of the 14 studio albums they made that was not up to their usual standards would of been their 1982 album The Single Factor. Though no doubt the material that was written for the albums Mirage. The Snow Goose and Moonmadness will be amongst many of the fans firm favourites including myself, and out of the 15 tracks you get in this set list, 8 of them are from those albums.

The band kick off with what I have always considered my favourite track from their 1973 debut album “Never Let Go“. This particular song as been used countless times to kick off their live shows with, I have even heard them end a concert with it as well. It’s another classic in my eyes and perhaps a good little number to warm up with as well. To be honest I am quite used to Latimer singing this song, but here Jones takes on the verses and Bass joins in with him on the chorus. No doubt the band are in full control and Latimer rocks it up a bit with his guitar solo too towards the end.

I would not say the opening song was the best live performance I have heard of it, but no doubt the band have rehearsed very well beforehand and do a comfortable job of it. They have obviously warmed up enough already for them to take on the next song to which Latimer does sing, and is one of my personal favourites from the Mirage album. Though any song from that album would be a fave no doubt and “The White Rider” is another Camel classic even if what you get here is only the third part of its original suite without its intros of “Nimrodel & The Procession“. Latimer still has his voice too and the band do a fabulous job it, and it gets ended off with the sound of an aeroplane flying over from the keyboards.

The classics are still rolling out and up next we get “A Song Within A Song” from the Moonmadness album with both Latimer and Bass sharing the vocal duties in unison with one another. Jones as pretty much got the original keyboards sounds more or less spot on for this song too. There is no doubt that Pete Jones is handling Pete Bardens notation on the keyboard note for note on this song. It must have been a lot fun playing Bardens keyboard lines too. But no doubt Jones will also add his own sounds and his own thing and feel to a lot of the numbers in this live set too.

To be honest I like the fact that Camel are back to a 4 piece band again just like they was when they first came out, and all 4 members of the band are pretty much in shape and on form here too. Being unsighted I am quite amazed at just how well Jones gets about the both keyboards when it comes to change all the patches for the sounds. Even with sight I would have difficulty trying to remember all these changes I can tell you.

It’s off to the bands 5th album Rain Dances and “Unevensong” is another of my faves from this album and we get Bass and Jones sharing the vocal duties in unison with one another here and no doubt the band are in flying form on it. Then we get a selection from the bands classic album The Snow Goose with “Rhayader / Rhayader Goes To Town“. “Preparation / Dunkirk“. Latimer gets on his Fender Strat for this set and his touch and tones really ring out on this super set. Jones work on the keyboards also works a treat even with some fine haunting sounds, and he also plays the penny whistle on “Preparation“. This really is an exciting concert and they are rolling out classic after classic for most of it.

It’s back to the Moonmadness album for the next three tracks and the first of them “Spirit Of The Water” features both Latimer and Clement on recorders whilst Jones plays the piano and Bass sings it. Jones take on the vocals on “Air Born” and his voice quite suits the song too, and even though I had read reviews regarding the sound of drums or even some people thinking they need another drummer. I can honestly say I could not fault the work Denis Clement contributes to this band one bit. He’s very much doing a bang on job and his timing is precise. The first hour and  7 minutes is dedicated to the bands first 5 albums and “Lunar Sea” ends it off superbly, not though they are taking a break though and this is a 2 hour set without any.

It’s off to the 1981 album Nude next and “Drafted” is the only song they play from this really GREAT! album. Nude as always been one of my favourite albums in the same way their earlier albums were I suppose, and its shame they never did a bit more from it here. Pete Jones introduces the next one which is “Ice” from the bands 1979 album I Can See Your House From Here. It’s the first album that Collin Bass played on and he has been with the band ever since. It’s also the first piece Latimer gave to Jones to learn when he joined the band in 2015. This piece gets pretty much played at every Camel concert and no doubt Latimer likes it a lot because it gives him chance to express some fine lead lines on his guitar.

They are moving on a decade for the next couple of tracks to their 1991 album Dust and Dreams and they have combined track 4 “Mother Road” with track 15 “Hopeless Anger” from the album for this fine performance, and Latimer rocks this one out on the guitar. You can also see the first part of it for yourself as this official video was released from the very same concert.

It’s a shame they never also never let you see “Hopeless Anger” because on this part not only do you get to see Andy Latimer still rocking it out on his guitar, but Pete Jones keyboard work on this piece is quite exceptional as he practically adds an orchestra to it.

Were almost finished now and the band do say goodbye with a track from another really GREAT! album of theirs Stationary Traveller and the final track from that 1984 album too with “Long Goodbyes“. They dedicate it to both Chris Rainbow and Guy LeBlanc who are no longer with us. But the show is not quite over yet as the crowd applaud for more, and they get it too with this sure fine classic “Lady Fantasy“. The best encore you could ever get, and just before they play and do a superb job of it Latimer introduces us to the band who along with himself have done a really superb job here. It puts an end to a very exciting concert in GREAT! style.

Summary…

Considering Camel had not played in Japan for 16 years, I am sure the fans at this concert had a terrific time and witnessed what can only be a superb concert with all the band flying and burning along on all cylinders. To be honest I suppose in today’s world this DVD could be described as a no thrills package being as the concert is only standard definition and in stereo without having any 5.1 surround sound like many artists are doing these days. But in saying that even if I did end up paying £30 for this DVD, I honestly think it would of been money very well spent, and it’s the next best thing to being there and that will cost you a lot more.

Having purchased this concert and watched it a few times now, there is no doubt that this is like many of the other concerts I have on DVD of Camel that I can still watch over and over every now and then and enjoy. It’s not the kind of concert you will perhaps buy and play a couple of times and let it gather dust that’s for sure, and they certainly roll out the classics here too. But like I said earlier, Camel have never really strayed away from their GREAT! style and are very consistent when it comes to their music. In my eyes they are the most consistent prog rock band I know, and no way on this earth could I say that about the likes of Genesis and Yes that’s for sure.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Ichigo Ichie Live In Japan by Camel. I would very much say that as old as Andy Latimer and Colin Bass are now, they are still very much playing at the level of their very best and with the younger members Denis Clement and Pete Jones the band Camel are just as much as a force as they was back in the 70’s when I seen them with their original line up. I am so glad to see Andy Latimer pull through his illness and that he’s still in fine shape to be able to keep this band going and still very much feel alive with how they can still skilfully perform these truly GREAT! songs from their excellent discography.

Just watching this concert on DVD as seriously changed my mind about paying the higher ticket prices they charge to see them play live these days, and the next time they do go on tour I am seriously thinking of going to see them. Because this band have always been up their with my elite prog rock bands, and they have never really disappointed me throughout their entire career. Just having this concert on DVD as brought tears of joy to my eyes and I cannot wait for their next live concert to come out from their last tour they did this year.

During the duration of putting this review together, I have noticed that the DVD is now back in stock on Camel’s own web store and is priced at £12.50. But this price does not include VAT and Postage & Packing. So I hardly think you will pick it up any cheaper than the price of £19.99 I paid for here in the UK from Amazon unless you live in America. But it’s well worth that price anyway and it really is an excellent concert.

Saw You Sitting On A Sunbeam In The Middle Of My Daydream…

The live DVD track listing is as follows:

01. Never Let Go .
02. White Rider.
03. Song Within a Song.
04. Unevensong.
05. Rhayader / Rhayader Goes To Town.
06. Preparation / Dunkirk.
07. Spirit Of The Water.
08. Air Born.
09. Lunar Sea.
10. Drafted.
11. Ice.
12. Mother Road.
13. Hopeless Anger.
14. Long Goodbyes .
15. Lady Fantasy.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 6/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Picture Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee’s Audio Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Live Concert Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #107

Story Tellers Part Two – Tiger Moth Tales

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Introduction…

The latest and 4th studio album release of Tiger Moth Tales is the sequel to the 2nd album Story Tellers Part One and I was so glad to that Story Tellers Part Two had been in the making and was to be the next album to hit the shelves so to speak. The album was scheduled to released on the 26th October, but got put forward by a week and I had a pleasant surprise when it arrived on Wednesday 17th October a day before it’s new official release date. So I thought I might as well get this review out the way first, rather than publish my review of Camel’s live DVD I recently purchased.

I am sure for those who brought Story Tellers Part One it’s perhaps an album that some may regard not being up to the standards of Pete Jones debut album Cocoon or even his 3rd album The Depths Of Winter for that matter. Some may even feel that he even went a bit too far by trying to put children’s stories to prog rock and some of the material may of been a bit too light hearted or even silly.

To be honest I never seen that particular album like that at all, and quite like it. But I also felt it was an album that may present Jones with a slight problem. Story Tellers Part Two without a doubt very much follows the same pattern as part one with its light-heartedness and silliness to a certain degree, but I personally feel it may very well iron out some of those slight problems part one may have presented him with. But before I go any further, let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork as usual.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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Well the package follows the same suit of Story Tellers Part One with its design and the disc comes in the same sort of DigiSleeve with a side pocket for the CD and another to store the booklet. The 12 page booklet contains the lyrics only and all the linear production and credit notes are printed on the inside of the DigiSleeve. Overall it’s another splendid little package, and I prefer this presentation in relation to the standard jewel case.

The Artwork.

The artwork was done by Gary Marsh and although I am not really sure because there are a couple of other artists who have the same name, but I am presuming this is the keyboard player from Red Bazar. To be honest this artwork looks quite familiar to me though that maybe down to seeing it a few weeks back now, but I quite like like it and it’s very fitting to the album.  I wonder if that path leads to the hundred acre wood :))))).

The Album In Review…

Story Tellers Part Two by Tiger Moth Tales was officially released on the 18th October 2018. The album itself contains 10 tracks (mostly vocal tracks) and comes with an overall playing time of 47 minutes, 40 seconds. Like most of the albums in this project Peter Jones likes to work mainly on his own doing all the vocals and the instrumentation. It’s perhaps understandable for many multi talented instrumentalists to work this way too. Though occasionally Jones brings in a few friends to lend an hand and once again we get to see a small contribution by Mark Wardle here too, and this is actually the third Tiger Moth Tales album he has appeared on now.

Once again his long time singing partner Emma Friend makes an appearance on this album, she also contributed flute to a few tracks on his previous album The Depths Of Winter. But here she contributes vocals to a couple of the tracks. His wife Kimberley also contributes some laughter to one of the tracks and his new dog Darby also contributes a bit of howling too. I think this is the first contribution by his new dog too, and his old dog Barley did get to feature on 3 of tracks over the years.

Putting music to children’s stories and presenting them in a funny and humorous way is something Jones is exceptionally very good at. As a musician Jones has studied very hard particularly on the keyboard, just listening to him play the piano you can tell immediately he is a pianist. That perhaps may not mean a lot to some people, but for me there is a difference between a piano player and a pianist. For example many people can play the piano including myself, but just like myself I am far from an accomplished piano player to even call myself a pianist, and a pianist I would class as very well accomplished piano player.

Being the pianist Jones very much is, means he can play a wide range of styles and cross styles which means he is capable adapting many moods, swings and drama into the music he can create. Dramatics plays a big part in film music and with his keyboards he can even orchestrate and adapt his music quite easily to fit into the big picture so to speak. A lot of that side of him was very much reflected in the music he wrote for Story Tellers Part One. He may have even injected a bit too much of it into that album for most prog rockers taste. But never the less there was still very much a great deal of skill that went into making that album, and no doubt the fundamentals of progressive rock music are still quite evident.

Story Tellers Part Two no doubt is done with the same sentiment in mind he created with Story Tellers Part One. Instead of Sleeping Beauty we get the Snow Queen. You still get the magical silly humour we had with “A Small Tale” which was based on the story of Three Billy Goats Gruff.  Only here we get the story of “Three Little Pigs“. But what we also have with Story Tellers Part Two is something a bit different, in that the parts he has used for the Snow Queen is not so much Cinematic in relation to the parts he did for Sleeping Beauty for example.

The new album if anything offers plenty more in the variety department, it also still contains a bit of the Cinematics no doubt, but it’s mainly been projected into only one the songs mostly and that would be the “Matchstick Girl“. I suppose both a small part of the intro of the opening track on the album would also have a bit of the cinematics too, and so could a song like “Eternity” quite easily fit into the bigger picture too. But there is a lot of prog in this album too and it’s all been so cleverly done even if it’s perhaps more Steve Hackett ESC so to speak.

But overall I think this is an album that will give Jones something more to take on the road with him and present to a live audience, which is perhaps where the material we got on Story Tellers Part One perhaps gave him a bit of a problem in the first place, and this is what I was getting at in my introduction.

One of the major problems that Jones will have by playing all the instruments on his albums is when he goes out to perform the songs live, especially when he plays live on his own rather than with a band. Most of the time Jones does tend to play on his own and to be honest I do not have a problem at all with him doing so, and even though I have only seen him play live on videos and not been to any of his concerts yet. I still very much enjoy those live albums he put out as a digital download only on Bandcamp that I reviewed in my previous review.

But having listened to those live albums even with him performing the songs on his own, there is no doubt that some of his own songs will be missing certain elements that tend to give some of those songs a lot less of a prog rock feel about them. I also find that most of the songs from his debut album tend to work for his solo performances more so than the songs he has played live from Story Tellers Part One.

For example take the self titled album track from that album “Story Tellers“. To be honest I have never seen or heard Jones do this song with a band, but the song does have the tendency to sound more like a pop ballad when he performs it on his own live, despite all the great chord progression that’s in the actual song. Play the same song on the studio album with all the keyboard layers and even the synth solo, and this track may still sound more like a ballad, but more like a prog rock ballad and it really has Tony Banks written all over it.

To be honest Jones does not tend to play a lot of the songs on this album live at all, and you may get the odd one or two from the album at some of his shows, but they are always mostly the same tracks such as this one. No doubt “The Piper” would practically be impossible to do live, and to be honest I thought the same with “A Kids Tale” too, but he has actually played it, and I thought it was extremely funny too. To be honest I have no idea if he has ever played the instrumental piece “Beauty Sleeps” live, but that would make a brilliant show piece and that one has Hackett written all over it too, just like a lot of tracks on this new album.

To be perfectly honest I have no idea whatsoever what songs Jones is capable of bringing to the table at his own live shows, but there is certainly a lot more to some of the material he has written for his previous 3 albums than presenting us with most of the tracks from Cocoon all the time for example. I am hoping that the material he has written for Story Tellers Part Two will iron things out a bit more for him to present more of it to us live, because it’s certainly a very promising album that really does have a lot to say for itself.

Musicians & Credits…

PJ 2018

Written Recorded & Produced by Peter Jones. Recorded at Peter Jones home studio sometime in 2018. Artwork by Gary Marsh. Additional contributions by Chris Jones.

Musicians.

Peter Jones: Vocals/Keyboards/Guitars/Clarinet/Irish Whistle/Melodica/Xaphoon/Vocoder/Drum Programming/Trumpet (Track 7).
Emma Friend: Vocals (Tracks 5, 10)
Kimberley Jones: Vocals (Track 2)
Mark Wardle: Cornet (Track 2)
Darby: Howling.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Story Tellers Part Two is certainly a terrific sequel to its first part that was made 3 years ago now back in 2015 and just like that album the concept is based around children’s stories. No doubt even his first album Cocoon is also a concept album about growing up from childhood to an adult, and even captures our fond memories of our own childhood. In many ways all 4 albums are concepts that tie in with the project of Tiger Moth Tales very well even if The Depths Of Winter may have had a more serious side to it, but we still got to see a story about of Robin Hood on it.

Although both the albums in the Story Teller series may appear to be aimed at more of the kiddiewinks sort of thing and Jones kept that in mind when he seen that even the younger children enjoyed the first part. Being a big kid myself I also enjoyed it, but also personally feel that Story Tellers Part Two does present itself with something a bit more for the grownups as well, and the proggy side does perhaps also stand out a bit more with quite a bit of the material that was written for it too.

There is no doubt that Jones is quite a fan of Steve Hackett and Genesis. He is also a fan of Big Big Train as well, and the Hackett ESC side even in the past as always stood out a bit in his music. On this particular new album it’s perhaps never been so Gorgeous and Lush just how those Hackett tones purely shine like the man himself. I suppose it may even present a problem with Hackett fans, and could even be seen as plagiarism to some people just like Rob Reed as also been accused of it in the past with his solo Sanctuary project that emulates the music of Mike Oldfield.

Well they can both certainly emulate the tones of those artists without a doubt, but the one thing you could never accuse them of is stealing the same melody lines, and they both have the ability to rework and reshape melody lines to make it very much their own on that score. That cannot really be seen as plagiarism but rather perhaps more along the lines of being a genius with how well crafted their music has been created. But there is also a hell of a lot more to Story Tellers Part Two than that side of things and like I mentioned earlier there is quite a variety along the path of this album and it perhaps has a lot more to offer by doing so as well.

One of the other things I certainly picked up immediately by listening to this album is the addition of a bass guitar. This is perhaps the first album that Jones as actually utilised the instrument and to be honest something I thought was missing on the previous 3 albums. If there is a bass guitar on any of those albums, he certainly never went out of his way to make it a dominant feature like he has here that’s for sure. So let’s now take a deeper look into just how effective the bass guitar and all the other instrumentation and things pan out, as I go through the individual tracks on the album.

Track 1. Best Friends.

The opening song on the album opens up with a short musical intro on the piano that plays a partial bit of melody line from “Story Tellers” perhaps to remind you that this is very much a sequel to that album in the way of children’s stories. This lasts for all of a few seconds, well 17 to be precise and then the acoustic guitar, bass guitar, organ and drums come into play followed by the vocals to put over the first of the stories which is based on Hans Christian Anderson’s story of the Snow Queen.

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The title Jones chose of “Best Friends” very much represents the two small children who lived next door to each other and grew up together Gerda & Kai as pictured in the scene above. They even grew up loving one another although the wicked Snow Queen had other plans to put an end to all that nonsense :))))). But of course all stories have to come with some form of adventure to make it that more interesting in the first place. As it happens this story also came with a song about roses that Gerda sang to Kai and Jones has very aptly fitted in a fine set of lyrics to put across his own song and tell the story here too.

It’s a very fine and well written song to be honest and it comes with a great uplifting upbeat, and I also love the fact that we do have a bass guitar for a change, and it plays quite a dominate enough roll on this opening song too. Like I said the bass was certainly missing from his previous albums, and on this album you will instantly notice the difference and it works much better for having the bass too. But the other very tasty thing we also get in the song is how the song changes it’s mood from light to dark to bring in the Snow Queen herself into the story to put a damper on things.

The transitional change Jones makes is certainly a very tasty one and it comes into play around the 2 minute 12 second mark. The change at first as more of a Genesis and icy feel and then we get this really Gorgeous Hackett like electric lead work on the guitar that is a bit like the intro to “Please Don’t Touch” and it all fizzles out out wonderfully with more of the icy feel with the ambient sounds from the keyboard. It also runs into the next track “Kai’s Journey“.

Track 2. Kai’s Journey.

Kai’s Journey” continues the story of the Snow Queen here, and I have to say the way both of these tracks work gives me the impression that Jones could of actually done the entire story in more of the way of a concept album with a continuous story that runs throughout, and it most likely would of worked as a superb progmatic version of it. To be honest if he composed these two opening tracks first, I would of thought he would of found it very difficult for him not to do just that with them. Rather than change the story next and placing the other tracks which he also wrote for the Snow Queen sections in other places on the album.

But for those other tracks he also wrote for it to work so well, he very much would of had to continue from the end of this track and write new material, and try and slot the other tracks he wrote where they may of worked or not at all. You simply could not gather up all the Snow Queen tracks on this album and piece them together to follow on from here that’s for sure. But effectively Jones could of quite of easily made Story Tellers Part’s Two and Three, and one of them could be a complete concept album based on one story.

Honestly the way these first two tracks work so well together, it certainly gives me the impression that it should of continued, and I was a bit disappointed that it never and came to an halt sort of thing. That’s not to say I am disappointed with the rest of material on the album, but I do feel Jones may have missed out on an opportunity here to make an epic Progmatic or ProgTastic album out of even a children’s story like this.

This second track “Kai’s Journey” is more of an instrumental piece even though there are a few words, screams and wicked laughter here :)))))). The wicked laughter is contributed by his wife Kimberley and Jones uses a vocoder to voice the words of the which telling Kai that he is all mine now and will not see Gerda again. He can be nasty at times this Jones fella :))))))).

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It’s a piece that builds itself up very well with glistening ambient keyboard sounds and some nice lead lines from the synth, the synth even plays much of the bass drive on this track too, and it even sounds like bass pedals have been used. As the piece transcends along we get some more very tasty Hackett ESC guitar phrasing.

This is also the only track on the album that features Mark Wardle who contributes the cornet too it, and it fits in very well. The piece builds up with more power towards the end and the heavy power chords on the guitar drive it along very well, and this particular section also reminds me of “The Isle Of Witches” from the Cocoon album a bit. It really is another excellent piece of work and another really GREAT! track.

Track 3. Toad Of Toad Hall.

The Toad Of Toad Hall is very much a character that came from the story of The Wind In The Willows written by the Scottish writer Kenneth Grahame. He also wrote the short story of The Reluctant Dragon and both books and the characters were later adapted for stage and film. The first of which was the Toad Of Toad Hall to which the English author A. A. Milne decided to adapt Grahame’s novel for the stage in 1930 around the character of the toad.

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Much later Mr Toad was brought to life by Walt Disney in 1949, and over the years the slippery little fella has appeared in several other adaptations for film and TV and just about anywhere they could accommodate the slimy chap :)))).

Well now Peter Jones has got his hands on the slippery, slimy, slidey chap and done a purely SynthTastic job of bringing the character to this song of his. This one even oodles with a superb bit of bass playing too, and he is right in the groove of things on this one. It was also great to see that an official video had been made for the song to promote it as well, and this is one of the two tracks you can get to see and hear for yourself.

Toad Of Toad Hall” is very much one of the strong contenders for the best track on the album. It’s a brilliant track that was created around the lead lines of the synth, and the synth work does have that early Genesis and early Marillion feel about it. The use synth lines like this to structure the song, is perhaps like how Marillion went about creating their song “Market Square Heroes” this really is a superb song and one I hope Jones gets to play live frequently, though no doubt he would need band for this and a bloody good bass player too :))))).

Track 4. Hundred Acre Wood.

This next instrumental piece very much tones the exciting pace of the album down a bit, and I have to say in very fine style too. The music we have here very much sounds as old as its title, and is played with precision by Jones on the piano and clarinet. I think he also chose the perfect title for it as well, and It’s a most wonderful bit of light sentimental jazz that would be very appropriate being played on a ballroom floor for people to waltz they’re way merrily along to it.

It would of course also be very fitting for Television and Film and it’s quite a masterpiece of a composition and really Gorgeous piece of work. So much so that this also has to be another contender for the top spot on the album. No doubt Jones has been digging through his oldies collection to come up with something like this and very well done Sir.

I was also so glad to catch this latest video for the piece too, before I published my review to be able to include it here. Even a serious elegant piece such as this can make you laugh with the way the video has been made. I also discovered that Jones tried to imagine Winnie The Pooh having some fun with his friends in the hundred acre wood.

Track 5. Eternity.

It’s at this point we pick back up on the Snow Queen and this song is very much a duet Jones does with his old singing partner from his pop days Emma Field. It’s also one of two of the songs she features on throughout the album. Once again the lyrics have been very well put into context of the original story, and to be honest the way this song has been done with them both, it would of even fitted like a glove in Disney’s animated film Frozen. To be honest its quite easy to put both films into the same context with how the story lines have been written so close to one another.

This is perhaps not one of those songs that will sit well well with many prog rockers, and to be honest I can even visualise Jones right now bringing this song along with Field to stage to perform it live. This is even perhaps one of the songs on this album he could even do without a band and make it work that way too. After all friendship goes a long way and I would not blame him of doing such a thing with it either. It would not put me off going to see him either.

There is no doubt that this is a very well written pop song and is sung and played with heart. To be perfectly honest this is not the sort of record I would personally buy myself, but on here it’s only one song on album, and it’s not like going out and buying say the soundtrack album to the Snow Queen or Frozen for that matter. So on an album like this it does not really get in my way, or even make me want to skip the track on the album when I am listening to it.

I can still very much enjoy a song like this, and there must be thousands of records I have heard on the radio over the years that I have enjoyed, but would not personally go and buy them. To be honest I do not even have one record by The Beatles in my record collection, but I enjoy listening to them on the radio. But I do also have an array of pop artists in my record collection including the likes of Gilbert O’ Sullivan. Elton John. Don Mclean and many others. I enjoy lots of music and I can even have plenty of respect for the quality both Jones and Field have done here which is very skilfully played and sung. What I also admire about this album is the variety it presents to you as well.

Track 6. The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf is one of Aesop’s many fables that came from a story about a shepherd boy who was forever playing a joke on people crying out wolf all the time when he was protecting the sheep and shouting it from the top of an hillside. In the end nobody believed his false claims and got fed up him and ignored him, and when the wolfs did finally appear for real, he got eaten up by them and they had nice little tasty snack :)))).

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The story dates back centuries to the classical times and originally came from Greece I believe. In the 15th century it got translated from Greek to Latin and centuries later the story was even used for educational purposes to stop children from lying all the time. Honestly I am not lying :)))).

The one thing I have always admired about Pete Jones is his sense of humour and I have to admit on a song such as this in the way he originally presents it from the start in a very serious manner, I was almost in shock of disbelief when I first heard this song and heard what he had done with it by injecting a bit of humour in it. I even think my first reaction would of been, how on earth could you do that to a perfectly fantastic song :))))). It came as a massive shock and surprise I can tell you. But it only took me another one or two spins to love this song to death.

This is really a special track on the album that does have a kind of Genesis feel about the verse and chorus sections, but the GREAT! thing about this song also is the transitional change of how it picks up it’s pace and Jones doing his bit of humour and the rather tasty lead guitar break. I was so glad to see the song fall back into the verse section at the end too and not just end off without the final verse.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf” is very much a song for the progsters its also another song where he utilises the bass guitar very well too, besides all the other goodies he throws in the pot here. One of the other things he has also thrown in the pot is his dog Darby and if his dog sounds like that I am glad I do not live by him :)))))). This for me is my personal favourite song on the album and merits my top spot award. Though to be honest it was a very difficult choice to make, because there are quite a few really excellent tracks on this album that could of quite of easily got that award, including the the very next track.

Track 7. Three Little Pigs.

The fun and humour still very much continues in the same superb style that we got on Story Tellers Part One and “Three Little Pigs” very much contains all the Magical ingredients that we got from tracks like “A Small Tale” and even “The Piper” from that very album. Both of those tracks were very much my personal faves from that album too, and this is yet another pure classic done with same sort of genius in mind that I would very much give to Danny Elfman when it comes to writing songs for children’s animated films. No doubt Jones has thought very hard with his choice of words to put this story over, and it’s all so very skilfully done too.

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The Three Little Pigs goes back to the 19th century and they first appeared in folk songs and in the earlier part of that century or even thought to be earlier. They eventually ended up in The Nursery Rhymes of England published by James Halliwell-Phillipps in 1886. However the actual story became better known 4 years later in 1890 in a book of English Fairy Tales that was published by Joseph Jacobs who also credited Halliwell-Phillipps as his source. The story as been pretty much the same ever since, even though it’s been adapted and adopted for film and television.

The music that Jones created on the piano especially the first few bars in the verses, reminds me of the clippety cloppety sort of thing one would associate with an horse and a cowboy film. Jones plays it at a slightly faster pace but I can even remember either back in the late 60’s or early 70’s that Trebor Mints used to have a TV advert where they used to sing “Trebor mints are minty bit stronger” whist riding into town on an horse. I tried to find it on Youtube to demonstrate what I am going on about, but had no luck finding it.

Three Little Pigs” is very much another one of my favourites on the album and is another contender for the top spot on the album. I remember when I brought Story Tellers Part One my Mrs thought I had gone mad because I could not stop saying “There’s a rat in my sock”. Now all she hears is “Rat a tat, tat. Who the heck is that” :)))). It’s bloody hilarious and Jones even rounds it off very well with the trumpet too.

Track 8. The Palace.

The Palace” is the longest track on the album and is an instrumental track that I am fairly sure it also ties in with the tracks for Snow Queen on the album. Although effectively this piece could actually stand up on its own with the Hackett ESC guitars, keyboards and orchestration. It’s certainly got more of that prog rock element about it just like the opening couple of tracks had for the story of the Snow Queen. It’s dark. mysterious and haunting and is another GREAT! track on the album.

Track 9. The Match Girl.

It’s back to the Cinematic style with this fine song and it’s another story that was written by the Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen. Effectively the sad story behind this could also pertain to the song that Phil Collins wrote about the homeless with his song “Another Day In Paradise“. Though Jones has done his own thing with it and once again done another really superb job of it. Besides his voice and the electric piano, he also makes great use of the melodica and it reminds me of Max Geldray on the harmonica from the good old Goon Shows.

This video of the song set to the animation from the Disney film very much says everything about what the song is all about and this is another really excellent well written song that may even have something a bit special about it too. The reason for that is that I noticed something this song can do, what non of the other tracks on this album can. It may not work out the same for everyone but I noticed it whilst writing out this review of the album.

Like I have mentioned in the past, I always like to give any new album at least 6 to 7 spins at least before I even attempt to work on a review. I always spend a few days writing any review as well and will often write it in various stages and spend an hour or two a day working on it, and doing some research. One of the other things I also do whilst working on a review is have other pages open on my computer including Facebook. Youtube and various others. So at times I can get distracted a bit.

Speaking of distractions and multitasking. Both of these is not really the best time to listen to music, because they both effectively can distract you away from it, even if your blasting it out in your Cans. I always rip my CD’s onto my hard drive to listen too whilst I am writing a review and working on my computer, and quite often when writing a review I will put the whole album on and have it set to repeat the whole album.

Even though I have the album playing it’s really easy to ignore it whilst you are deep in thought thinking of what to write, and looking things up. But what I found out whilst writing this review, was every time it got to the “Match Girl” I always stopped and listened to it before carrying on with the review. Not one of the other tracks ever did that at all, even though in reality I would put many of the tracks on this album above this one. So this song must have something of a special bit of magic about it, to make me stop in my tracks like that.

Track 10. Best Friends (Reprise).

The album ends off in Grand Finale style with a reprise of the opening track of the album. This version is shorter and apart from the few words that are sung after the short cinematic Disney style intro, it’s more of an orchestrated instrumental piece. but still contains some great Hackett ESC guitar along with the drums and bass besides the keyboard orchestration. Emma Field also accompanies Jones on the short vocal section too. It wraps up another album of wondrousness adventurous stories and puts an end to the Snow Queen.

Summary…

To sum up Story Tellers Part Two by Tiger Moth Tales. I personally feel that its an album that lives up to its predecessor that was released 3 years ago and makes an excellent, if not perfect sequel to it. I also feel that this album may even appeal to more people than Story Tellers Part One in the way that more of the material on the album does present itself in more of a progmatic way. I would even say that the album does contain more variety in the way that it does present itself and it works very well for it.

I think the overall allocated time of the album being just under 48 minutes, works a lot better in making it more easier for the listener to give it more spins to take in and digest. The track placement is very well thought out and the combination of short and long tracks works extremely well, and I personally could not fault any of the material on the album either. Overall it’s quite a solid enough album and my personal highlights from the album are “The Boy Who Cried Wolf“. “Toad Of Toad Hall“. “Three Little Pigs“. “Hundred Acre Wood“. “Best Friends“. “Kai’s Journey” and “The Palace“.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Story Tellers Part Two. I suppose the best way I could describe this album, is that it delivers perhaps even more than I expected, it’s an album that as the ability to be exciting, surprising, funny and even serene. It has the elegance of jazz with “Hundred Acre Wood“. The cinematic big picture with tracks like “Eternity” and “Match Girl” and can be both extremely funny and ProgTastic with the rest of the album tracks. Even with all the variety of the material you get here, it flows very well and works well enough to make it a very enjoyable album. There is nothing really not to like here and the album comes with a superb production too.

Peter Jones has managed to skilfully craft out another excellent album of out of children’s stories and there is something for everyone here, including your children and grandchildren. Though in relation to Story Tellers Part One. This album might have that bit more of a thing for the progsters, but no doubt it still very much has something for all and it’s not exactly going to cost you an arm and leg to add it to your collection either, and I highly recommend it.

You can listen to some of the tracks from the album for free, or buy it as a Digital Download or on CD @ Bandcamp here : https://tigermothtales.bandcamp.com/album/story-tellers-part-two

Alternatively you can also purchase both Story Tellers Part One & Story Tellers Part Two together at a specials discounted price here: https://tigermothtales.bandcamp.com/album/story-tellers-parts-one-two

Coming up next will be my review of Camel’s Live In Japan DVD which also features Peter Jones on keyboards to which the band play quite a spectacular concert of many of the bands classics from the 70’s.

Rat A Tat, Tat Who The Heck Is That. I’m The Big Bad Wolf Can We Have A Chat…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Best Friends. 3:14.
02. Kai’s Journey. 4:37.
03. Toad Of Toad Hall. 3:40.
04. Hundred Acre Wood. 3:16.
05. Eternity. 4:36.
06. The Boy Who Cried Wolf. 6:44.
07. Three Little Pigs. 6:33.
08. The Palace. 8:44.
09. Match Girl. 3:48.
10. Best Friends (Reprise). 2:28.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

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

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #106

The Digital Download Only Collection – Tiger Moth Tales

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Introduction…

Over the years of doing his main studio album releases of his Tiger Moth Tales project. Peter Jones has also released half a dozen other releases consisting of albums, EP’s and singles in the form of a digital download only on Bandcamp. Most of these recordings you get on these separate releases are taken from lives shows some official bootleg recordings to which he has played on his own or with a band. There are also some studio recordings which have more of a superior sound quality recording to them too.

But regarding all these recordings overall they are still very worthy of buying even if some of the live recordings do not have the more professional sound quality to have been released on CD or Vinyl in the first place. They are also very cheap to buy and some of them help to raise money for guide dogs for the blind.

To be honest I myself do prefer more of a physical format and some of these recordings are even good enough to be put on music media such as CD’s and Vinyl. I am hoping at some time in the future that Pete Jones may put out a compilation album in the future on CD or Vinyl with some of the quality recordings there is amongst this bundle of releases that are only available as a digital download.

As a rule with any digital download I generally download them in the MP3 320 kbps format to save on hard drive space. But I made the exception here and downloaded the Flac files instead for the better quality, and I have to say that I quite enjoy these releases a lot, and there are a few GEMS to be found amongst them as well. So having just reviewed the 3 Tiger Moth Tales studio albums I brought on CD. I thought it would be a shame not to review these releases, and I have decided to review all 6 of them in my review here in the chronological order of when they was released.

Live At The Borderline

Tiger Moth Tales Live At The Borderline was released on the 15th July 2015. The live album comes with 6 songs that came from the night he supported Magenta at The Borderline in London in the previous month on the 27th June 2015. The songs that Jones performs on his own in this live set are from his first album Cocoon plus a couple of songs from his new album Story Tellers (Part 1) which would not of quite been released back then, although you could obtain it at this live gig at the time. This particular live album comes with an overall playing time of 36 minutes, 23 seconds, and is perhaps short for a live set, but nevertheless this is a very well recorded concert and does not disappoint.

I would expect that around this particular time quite a few of the concerts Jones would of played would of been as the support act, and it very much gave him the chance to air out some of the material from his debut album Cocoon and get it circulated around more. A lot of his live performances are also of him on his own doing more stripped down acoustic versions of the studio tracks rather than being with a band. But listening or even watching him do these tracks on his own, can even be just as entertaining as they are done with a band with more of the elements that were put into the original studio tracks.

To be honest even when he’s with a band, there is no doubt that he is still the centre attraction and plays most of what is actually going on in his songs, and it would of also of been in this same year that Jones had bumped into the band Red Bazare in his own town in Nottingham and was working on writing some lyrics to sing for their music for an album they was working on at the time. Which would also give Jones the chance to have them support him at times at his own gigs. But even though Jones is on his own here, he still manages to deliver the songs very well and comfortably even without all the bells and whistles that were on the studio albums.

On With The Show…

One of the most unusual things about this live concert in relation to the other 2 live albums you can get that came after it, is the fact that he rolls out the first two numbers of the set before he says a word to the audience. It’s perhaps common with most artists to do this, but having heard and purchased the other couple of live albums beforehand, this is something I immediately picked up on. I guess this is most likely down to the shorter time slot he’s got, and the fact that the main band still had to come on and play their set.

But even Jones admits himself that talking is not one of his stronger points, which is something you certainly will not get that impression from him on those other 2 live albums. So my guess is that it’s not down to the fact or case that he has not quite yet found his confidence to talk to the audience. To be honest if he never spoke at all or they even edited out all the speaking parts of this performance, I would be a bit disappointed. Simply because he cannot only be funny, but it gives you more of that live atmosphere and makes you feel like you’re at the concert itself.

The couple of songs that Jones does roll out first are “Tigers In The Butter” from his debut album, and the self titled album track “Story Tellers” from his new album at the time and I have to say he does a grand job on them both. The first of the two “Tigers In The Butter” is perhaps less than a third in length of the original studio track. Jones mostly has one keyboard and an electric guitar lying down flat on a stand just above it on stage, so he can at times play both the keyboard and guitar at the same time. No doubt he’s playing the sound of the Sarod on the electric guitar and it does sound like the real thing.

To be honest even the sound of the acoustic guitar sounds remarkably like he’s playing an acoustic guitar and not an electric. I know he uses Line 6 for his guitar sounds and I love the full bodied sound he’s getting with sound of the acoustic on this track, and it’s been very well recorded too. He’s also putting in quite a bit with both hands on the guitar and in some parts it even reminds me of Gordon Giltrap. It really is an excellent acoustic version of the song to which he rounds it off on the piano, so he can go straight into the next song “Story Tellers” and he does another fine job with this song with the piano and his voice.

Jones then introduces himself to the audience and asks his audience if they all got in alright and I like the way he can make himself and the audience more at home with one another. He then proceeds with “Don’t Let Go….Feels Alright” and this is only half as long as the studio version, but somehow he seems to capture every aspect and essence in this live version of the both songs on the piano and guitar, and with his GREAT! voice. This live version is in every way as good as the studio version, and I personally think this is the best he’s ever performed this song too.

This amateur video captured on a phone is from the very same concert. To be honest the sound on this video is not very good at all and nothing like or nowhere near the quality you are getting on this live recording, but it does show you him playing the piano and guitar at the same time.

Effectively the way Jones sets up his guitar like a keyboard enables him to play them both at the same time, and anyone can play on the fretboard of a guitar using one hand and turning up the volume on an electric guitar will allow you to hear the notes more clearly. But what amazes me is how he can project some of the notes he’s actually playing with one hand on the guitar, and in most circumstances you would also need your rhythm hand as well to get some of these notes to ring out properly.

To be honest I do not even know if Jones is right or left handed, but even playing the accompaniment with one hand on the piano is quite difficult to do, especially with the two different melody lines he’s playing on the piano and guitar. He really is quite an amazing talent and a very skilful player on both of these instruments. It’s a change of mood and pace with the next song and Jones asks the audience if he should brighten things up a bit, and then proceeds to play a few bars of the intro of “The Battle Of Epping Forest” a Genesis classic and says maybe not we haven’t got all day :)))))).

But no doubt the next song “The Merry Vicar” does change the pace and brighten things up with this stomping song. He stomps his way through it with his feet and the piano and does another really GREAT! job here. It’s very much one of his own classics and so to is the next number he rolls out “A Visit To Chigwick” to which he announces as the last song to finish off his short set with. Even stripped down acoustically this song works very well live and this another fabulous job he does of it on his own. It does seem like its the end of the show but its not quite over yet.

Even though there is no mention of the extra song you get here on the album that’s on Bandcamp. Magenta do let him come back on the stage play another song. I think at this point they may have even cleared his piano and electric guitar off the stage to make room for the bands set. So you also get another song from his 2nd album Story Tellers (Part 1) and he comes back on the stage with an acoustic guitar and plays “The Quest For Beauty” to round off the night with and does another cracking job of it too.

Summary & Conclusion…

Tiger Moth Tales Live At The Borderline is a really GREAT! live album that captures the true essence of Pete Jones’s own songs even stripped down more acoustically and performed on his own. It also captures the early part of his career with his own project of Tiger Moth Tales and would of been more or less when he started to perform these songs live in front of an audience. Having this concert also gives you an insight to how he has progressed over the years with his live performances and how he interacts with an audience, and even at this early stage his talent and how he can handle an audience still very much glows and shines through.

I am fairly sure that Jones also played the Genesis song “More Fool Me” on this same night as well at this venue too, and it was most likely omitted from the album to showcase his own songs. But it did turn up on the EP he put out next. Live At The Borderline is a truly GREAT! live album for the little money it will cost you, and it comes with a very good quality live recording too. As with all of Pete Jones live concerts that have been released in the form of a digital download only. They really capture the warmth and live atmosphere plus the magical joy and humour of this guys GREAT! presence and talent.

You can listen or even buy the album @ Bandcamp here from the link below. https://tigermothtales.bandcamp.com/album/live-at-the-borderline

The track listing is as follows: 1. Tigers In The Butter. (4:05) 2. Story Tellers. (6:13) 3. Don’t Let Go….Feels Alright. (6:34) 4. The Merry Vicar. (6:12) 5. A Visit To Chigwick. (8:47) 6. The Quest For Beauty. (4:32)

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 10/10.

Selling England For A Pound

Pete Jones Plays Genesis. Selling England For A Pound was released on the 22nd November 2015. It’s very much a charity release that is sold at the price of £1 or you can pay more for it to help to raise money for guide dogs for the blind. So it’s all for a good cause. This is an EP that contains 7 (mostly short tracks) that span over a playing time of 20 minutes, 4 seconds. As you can gather by the title they are all covers of Genesis songs.

How this EP came about in the first place was really through the work that Jones does at Progzilla Dot Com. Every fortnight when he’s able to, he hosts a 2 hour radio show playing various new and old prog rock music, and being quite a fan of Genesis himself he used to play the odd Genesis song himself live on the air, and the shows were also recorded and put out as podcasts. He also would video himself playing some of the songs and put the video on Youtube.

During the several months of playing Genesis songs from both the Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins singing era of the band, he would quite often get requests from his fans asking to hear them. So he thought it would be a good idea to put together a little package of them on an EP, and this is very much it. So let’s take a look at what you get here for so little money.

Well considering it’s only a 20 minute EP this I have to say is quite a GEM. To be perfectly honest even though I have seen the Italian band The Watch live playing tribute to Genesis and have watched various other Genesis tribute bands including The Musical Box on Youtube. To actually spend money buying such a thing on an album like that, is certainly something I would never usually do at all. I have all of the bands original albums, so why would I want an album of somebody else playing them.

No doubt in my mind that you will never beat the real thing, but as the real thing is no longer still playing these days and have not done for a zillion years it seems like now :)))), I do not mind paying to see tribute bands play live, as long as the price of the ticket is reasonable and not some ridiculous price, and I have seen a few of them over the years. Come to think of it I am going to see The Watch again next month. But like I said you would not catch me buying an album of any tribute band.

Although to be fair to The Watch they also make albums of their own material, and that I would buy because they are very good. But if they made an album of them playing Genesis songs, that I would not buy, but if they was to make a live DVD or Blu Ray of them playing those Genesis songs. That I most likely would buy simply because I do prefer any live concert to be accompanied with a picture so you can see them playing live, rather than any audio recording.

My first introduction to Pete Jones was actually on Bandcamp and the first thing I heard him play was the Genesis song “Severn Stones” (which is not on this album by the way) and hearing him sing that song enticed me to check him out further. After I did so, I now have everything he has released, and have even pre-ordered his latest album Story Tellers (Part 2) that will be released later this month.

So what makes Pete Jones so different to all those other tribute bands that made even myself buy a tribute album like this, you may ask?. Well there are two reasons why I did and the first would be very much down to originality. A tribute band will very much try and imitate the lead singers voice, where as Pete Jones does not need to at all. His voice actually suits these songs. More so than even hearing Nad Sylvan sing them with Steve Hackett and his band.

The other thing that makes Jones quite unique at doing these Genesis songs is very much down to he performs them on his own acoustically. Effectively it’s a bit like him playing what would take the whole band to play these songs, and that’s how magical it can sometimes come across in his performance.

The second reason for buying this album is because I genuinely believe that all the proceeds from this album will go to the charity. I have not met Peter Jones personally, but from just hearing him live he comes across as a genuine loveable and very caring person, and after all he is blind himself so you can see why he would want to support such a charity for the blind. So let’s now take a look at the 7 tracks on the EP as I got through it briefly in my review here.

The EP Tracks…

The EP kicks off with a short instrumental piece which is basically Jones playing the piano intro of “Firth Of Fifth” that was originally from the 1973 album Selling England By The Pound. It’s a very complex piece that I have seen other tribute bands play it and Jones plays it quite skilfully. To be honest the only person I have not perhaps seen play this intro is Tony Banks himself. He never once played the intro to the song in all his live performances with Genesis. It’s always been my favourite track on the original album and it’s way too complex for even myself to even attempt to play it :))))).

Next up we have a song from the 1974 album The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and this short song “Cuckoo Cocoon” is quite a GEM with how Jones plays and sings it. His voice is very well suited to the song and he executes it very well with acoustic guitar and flute he also played on the song. To be honest even though we only have 7 tracks on this albums there are some real Genesis classics he’s chosen to do, and it’s very hard for me to pick a personal favourite. But I am very much going to award this little GEM with the top spot award on the EP.

The 3rd track “Harlequin” was originally released on Genesis 1971 album Nursery Cryme and once again Jones executes it very well with his fine voice and accompanies it very well on the electric piano and does another grand job here. Track 4 is “Guided Vocal” which was originally from the album Duke back in 1980. I have to confess that even though I did buy all of the Genesis albums it did not take long for this pop side of their career to wear off on me and gather dust. I think a lot of it was also down to the the way those albums were produced as well. I can even remember buying the album Duke on it’s release in 1980 and I thought that there must be some misunderstanding :))))).

To be honest I do not think I have played that album since the 80’s either, but hearing this particular track again refreshed some of the finer qualities that album had, even if it was not a personal favourite album of mine. This video shows you Pete Jones playing and singing it, and the video that follows it also shows you him playing the piano intro of “Firth Of Fifth” which is the first track on this EP.

No doubt Jones has done another GREAT! job here too, and I am fairly sure that both the recordings of these tracks on the EP came from this video too. Next up we have another track from the Selling England By The Pound album, and this is my least favourite track from that album too, and would of been perhaps better leaving it off the album.

However it was fairly short song and not enough to really annoy me enough. But even though I would consider that album to be my favourite Genesis album “More Fool Me” does not exactly do it any favours when trying to give that album a rating score, and in reality could knock off a point and prevent it from being a total solid album.

Honestly for anyone who is reading this, they may very well think I have something against Phil Collins singing :))))))) but I can assure you I do not, and the reason why I feel a bit negative about this song, is really down to the fact that it just sounds so out of place on that album, and does not fit with the rest of the material on it. Effectively it puts a downer on the album and that’s how it comes across personally to me on that album.

But once again Jones somehow makes the song sound quite like a GEM with this live performance of the song that was performed live at The Borderline and this is very much quite a strong contender for the top spot on the EP. Oddly enough although this performance of the song was recorded at The Borderline it was not included on the live album that got released back in July. I presume it was taken from that same night he was supporting Magenta on the 27th June 2015.

This video shows him performing the song at home or it may very well be at Rob Reed’s place judging by the setting. Even though this is another fine live performance of the song, I personally think the live recording we have on this EP is better.

The 6th track on the EP is another little GEM and once again its from the Nursery Cryme album and is “For Absent Friends“. Once again Jones voice really suits the song and every word of it rings out perfectly and he does another grand job on the acoustic guitar accompanying it too. This is very much another strong contender for the top spot on the EP too. The final song is also from the same album and is the classic “The Musical Box“.

This is another live recording and was recorded live in front of an audience at the CRS Studios in his home town Nottingham. For many this would have to be their favourite track on the EP and no doubt this is a classic song I love to bits. But this time around I actually prefer the version in this video which was once again recorded at the same place as the last video.

My reason for preferring this version is down to the fact that live recording on this EP gets a bit hampered by the microphone, and you get the feeling that any minute you are going to be getting a big hum feeding back off it, even though it does not quite do that it’s not that far away from doing such a thing.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of the EP Selling England For A Pound by Pete Jones. For the price of a pound and even though you only get 20 minutes of music, you are getting way more for your money at that small price, and it’s worth chucking in a few pounds more for it to help the charity raise money for guide dogs for the blind. I cannot fault a single track here and all 7 tracks are near enough GEMS. My personal highlights are “Cuckoo Cocoon“. “More Fool Me” and “For Absent Friends“.

There can be no doubt that Pete Jones has really done GREAT! justice to all the Genesis songs on this EP and his voice is also very much suited to them as well. It just goes to show that you do not have to sound like Peter Gabriel or Phil Collins to put these songs over in the first place for them to work. Pete Jones is also a very talented musician and in all honesty the way he has even played the songs here acoustically, does without a doubt give you the impression that this guy could do practically what the whole band did with these songs on his own.

Just listening to him perform these songs stripped down on his own, is also just as good as watching a tribute band play them, and for me personally Jones has more originality with how he performs them than what most tribute bands actually do with them. Like I originally said buying a tribute to Genesis is something I never would of really of considered doing. I prefer the real thing and I have them even in 5.1 surround sound. But I can still get a lot of pleasure from this EP and it really is a solid one too.

You can listen or even buy the EP @ Bandcamp here from the link below. https://tigermothtales.bandcamp.com/album/pete-jones-plays-genesis-selling-england-for-a-pound-charity-release

The track listing is as follows: 1. Firth of Fifth. (1:21) 2. Cuckoo Cocoon. (2:24) 3. Harlequin. (2:59) 4. Guide Vocal. (1:34) 5. More Fool Me (Live at The Borderline) (3:23) 6. For Absent Friends. (1:53) 7. The Musical Box (Live at the CRS) (6:30)

Lee’s EP Rating Score. 10/10.

The Wassail Song

The Wassail Song by Tiger Moth Tales is another charity release to raise money for guide dogs for the blind and was released on the 4th December 2015. You get 2 quite lengthy Christmas songs here for the price of £1 or more, and all the proceeds are all going to a good cause. The overall playing time of the 2 track single is 16 minutes, 25 seconds and you do indeed get quite a bargain for the money and it’s worth paying that bit extra to give some of that good old Christmas Spirit to help out.

The Wassail Song” came about by rearranging a few old Christmas Carols and making it into one traditional Christmas song with a prog rock feel. The “Wassail” itself  is an Anglo-Saxon phrase ‘waes hael’ and goes back to medieval times where people would celebrate Christmas with a drink of hot mulled cider, although originally the Wassail was a drink made of mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, eggs, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and sugar. But I suppose these days anything with alcohol in it, would be good enough to get you merry and have a good piss up to celebrate Christmas :))))).

Though looking at all the ingredients it takes to make such a drink. Jones has no doubt threw in a lot more by the sounds of things here, and besides all the other instruments he plays, he’s also thrown in some sleigh bells, whistles and even some kazoos. Oh I almost forgot his dog Barely too, and nobody is left out for the wonderful season’s greetings in this song. Speaking of the song itself it even starts off with quite a medieval folky style which is quite fitting to its tradition, there is quite a mixture of styles thrown into the pot as well as it transcends along.

Some the of electric guitar work is verging on the borders of Mike Oldfield and Brian May and we even get some cinematic orchestral sections too that give it a happy Disney style in some respects whilst Jones himself is wishing you all a happy Christmas and New Year. It also sounds like he brought in a choir too and it’s all very skilfully done as well. There is that much going on in the instrument department in this song that it would be a bit too much name everything he’s playing, but I like the fact that he also gets in a bit of a melody from “A Visit To Chigwick” on the guitar at the end.

Snowbound Snowman” is another GREAT! piece of work and the combination of putting a couple of other artists songs together, namely “Snowbound” by Genesis which came from their 1978 album And Then There Were Three and “Snowman” by Frost* which came from their 2006 debut album Milliontown. Not only has Jones combined the musical structures of these songs together, but he has also used the lyrics from both songs to make up the song we have here. Effectively I suppose it’s a cover of two songs at once Jones has done here, and he has done it his own way, though it does perhaps have more of a Frost* feel about it.

He even gets to throw in a GREAT! bit of sax into the piece as well, and although it’s very much got a frosty, snowy Christmas feel about it, lyric wise it’s perhaps not a joyous occasion and more of a dark and sad tale, that also reflected in some of the songs for his 3rd album The Depths Of Winter that came out a couple of years after this. This song may have even suited that album as well.

Summary & Conclusion…

Overall you might be only getting two songs for the money here, but they are certainly worthy of having and are both excellent pieces of work. To be honest I have always been an albums man myself, and singles are not the thing I really buy, but having heard them first on Bandcamp and the fact that these have not been released on an album. They appealed and spoke to me enough for me to buy them, and the fact that the money also will be going towards blind dogs for the blind will go to help the cause is another good reason to buy this single release. Both of the songs are very well produced and come with excellent sound quality so you cannot go wrong here.

You can listen or even buy the EP @ Bandcamp here from the link below. https://tigermothtales.bandcamp.com/album/the-wassail-song-charity-release

The track listing is as follows: 1. The Wassail Song. (7:47) 2. Snowbound Snowman. (8:38)

Lee’s Single Rating Score. 8/10.

Peter Jones Plays Geneis

Pete Jones Plays Genesis. Seven Stones Turned was released on the 3rd May 2016. Once again it was released to raise money for guide dogs for the blind. After the popular success of his first tribute to Genesis with the 7 track EP Selling England For A Pound. Jones decided to record some more Genesis songs and here we get 7 more tracks, only not so much on the short side of things this time around and this album has an overall playing time of 35 minutes, 15 seconds.

Unlike the previous EP Selling England For A Pound that featured more of the Peter Gabriel era of Genesis. This album features more of the songs Phil Collins sang, though you do get a couple of the earlier songs on the album too. The the other thing that Jones has done with some of the songs on this particular album, is to give some of them more of a different arrangement.

The Album Tracks…

The album kicks off with one of those songs he has done differently with “Follow You, Follow Me“. Which was originally on the bands 1978 album And Then There Were Three. I quite like the way Jones has gone about doing this song as well, and it is one of the better songs on this album, and very much one of the contenders for the top spot on the album too. I even like the way he handles the synth solo differently at first and gradually it gets to be a bit more like the original. His voice works very well on the song and we get some nice acoustic guitar, keyboards and flute from him as well.

Up next we have “Ripples” from the 1976 album Trick Of The Tail. It’s my favourite album of Genesis without Peter Gabriel this one and here Jones strips it down more and sings it well enough and accompanies himself on the electric piano. I think overall you do miss the acoustic and electric guitars, but nevertheless this is quite nice enough to listen to like this. The 3rd track is one of the earlier songs from the Peter Gabriel era, although “Harold The Barrell” was perhaps mostly sang by Collins originally.

It’s another song from the 1971 album Nursery Cryme and this must be one of Jones favourite albums of Genesis because he’s near enough covered every track from the album at one time or another. This particular performance is live and was performed at the CCA in Glasgow Scotland on the 18th December 2015. He played there with a lot of other artists and the event was called The Prog Before Christmas. You can tell at the end with his laughter that he enjoyed doing it as well. He does quite a job of it as well and once again entirely on his own with his voice, stomp box and piano.

Were back to the And Then There Were Three album with the next song “Undertow” and once again Jones voice suits this song really well. He also does a grand job on the keyboards and acoustic guitar on this song too. To be honest And Then There Were Three was one of the better albums Genesis done after Steve Hackett left the band, and for me personally its a lot better than any album they made after it as well. Speaking of the albums that came after it and Steve Hackett this next track “Invisible Touch” from the bands 1986 album of the same title is certainly different.

To be honest I am glad it is different as well, because even though the album Invisible Touch may have been the bands most successful album. I personally could not stand it :)))). But what we have here is an instrumental piece that certainly sounds more like something Steve Hackett would of done than it relates to the actual song itself. It’s the longest track on the album and weighs in at 7 minutes, 21 seconds. The only time you get to hear any resemblance at all to the song is towards the end where you get to hear the guitar play a bit of the melody from the songs main chorus.

Jones has done a really terrific job on this piece on the nylon guitar and fine orchestration on the keyboards. This is my personal favourite track on the album, and merits the top spot award.

We are off to the other 1976 album Wind & Wuthering next and with the last track from that album “Afterglow“. To be honest I quite like this Genesis album but it’s not as solid like the ones that come before it, and there are a couple of tracks on this album I am not that fond of, and this is one of them, along with “Your Own Special Way“. But once again Jones does a fine job here on the keyboard and with his voice.

The final song on the album is very much a classic and another one from the Nursery Cryme album. “Seven Stones” is very much one of my favourites from that album, and to be honest is was quite hard for me not to make it my favourite on this album too. But for me where the Hackett like instrumental version of “Invisible Touch” won it for me, was really down to the original creativity that Jones had done on the piece. Jones does a grand overall job on the song and gives it a bit of a twist with the arrangement and different instrumentation he puts into it. “Seven Stones” is another strong contender for the top spot on the album and it rounds off the album very well.

Summary & Conclusion…

Overall Seven Stones Turned is another really GREAT! album of Genesis tribute songs. For those Genesis fans who are more into the Peter Gabriel era of the band, the selection of songs Jones has chosen here may not suit everyone’s taste and the Selling England For A Pound EP he released earlier would be more of the thing to go for. To be honest that EP is my personal favourite out of these two releases, but they both have quite some GEMS on them in all honesty.

In many ways it’s also great to hear some of these songs from the Phil Collins singing side of the band. But what one should really take note of about these songs, is that Pete Jones is not singing the songs like they do and like many tribute bands would try and do either. These songs are also very well suited to his own voice too, and to be honest I cannot really fault anything about the way Jones has put these songs over either. If anything they even have a bit of a touch of originality about them too, even if they are not his own compositions.

My personal highlights are ad follows: “Invisible Touch“. “Seven Stones“. “Follow You, Follow Me” and  “Harold The Barrell (Live)“.

You can listen or even buy the EP @ Bandcamp here from the link below. https://tigermothtales.bandcamp.com/album/pete-jones-plays-genesis-seven-stones-turned-charity-release

The track listing is as follows: 1. Follow you, Follow Me. (5:51) 2. Ripples. (4:52) 3. Harold The Barrel (live). (3:07) 4. Undertow. (4:51) 5. Invisible Touch. (7:21) 6. Afterglow. (3:51) 7. Seven Stones. (5:22)

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Live At The Simmers End

Live At Summer’s End (The Official Bootleg) by Tiger Moth Tales was released on the 11th December 2016. The album contains 8 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 73 minutes, 21 seconds. 7 of the tracks were taken from the live set Pete Jones performed live with the musicians from Red Bazar at the Drill Hall in Chepstow Wales on the 1st October 2016. The 8th track on the album is a bonus track recorded live from another venue (more about that later) and this album gives you the opportunity to hear Tiger Moth Tales with a band in relation to his earlier album Live At The Borderline where he was very much on his own.

To be honest even though I have yet to see Tiger Moth Tales live with the talent Pete Jones possesses it would not really bother me if he was with a band or not. But hopefully sometime in the near future I will get to see him on his own and with a band. As with most of his concerts around this time, even though he only had a couple of albums out at the time in 2016 he tends to play most of the tracks from his debut album Cocoon. It’s perhaps understandable too because that is the album most of his fans are more drawn too. It really is a terrific album as well.

Although the album is classed as an official bootleg, the concert was recorded very well and this is just as good quality as the Live At The Borderline concert. But both concerts have honest recordings and contain no overdubs or enhancements so you even get all the imperfections and warts on a recording like this, and the concert has been captured very well, and sounds GREAT! for it.

The band line up is as follows: Peter Jones – Keyboards, Guitar, Saxophone, Vocals. Andy Wilson – Guitar. Paul Comerie – Drums. Mick WilsonBass. Gary Marsh – Keyboards, Backing Vocals.

On With The Show….

Like I said I have never seen Pete Jones live or even met him, but the beauty about a concert like this one is that it does in a way give you a very good idea and impression as to what his personality is like, and just by listening to this concert I get the impression that this guy is warm, loving and right down to earth. He is also extremely funny and even with his GREAT! talent he’s not big headed or egotistic, and from playing live he gets a lot of fun out it and enjoys it. He also likes the audience to join in with the fun as well by engaging with them in between songs and let them have a good time too. The funny side does also reflect a lot in his own music too.

If like myself you are into his debut album Cocoon you are in for a real treat here because he plays every classic from that album and kicks the show off with it’s opening instrumental track “Overture“. The power and adrenalin really flows on this keyboard orientated piece and having the drums and bass behind him with the band holds it well tight together. Having an additional keyboard player on the stage with him also helps to get all the right keyboard effects in the track and also allows him to jump on the sax for a solo too. Pete Jones and the band nail this track live on this performance and have captured all the magic elements (if not even more) that was thrown into the original studio version.

There is no doubt that since playing support for Magenta at the Borderline over a year ago that Pete Jones as gained confidence and is more at home with an audience to engage himself with them. I personally think that it’s great that they have also left the interaction he has with audience in this concert, rather than edit it out, and it makes you feel like you are at the concert too. Jones talks quite a lot in between the songs and is quite a comedian at times, by doing so I think he even makes you feel more relaxed and not just himself.

Having just played the first track from the album Cocoon he then proceeds to play the last track or rather the 2 in one song from the album “Don’t Let Go, Feels Alright” and once again this another excellent performance and sounds really GREAT! with the band with him. But even though Jones has a band behind him he’s still very much the one in command, and even plays both the keyboards and guitar at the same time on this song and several others too. Once again he also plays the sax on this song too and they really do a superb job of it.

It’s a change of album with the next song and “The Quest For Beauty” is the only song in the entire set that is not from his debut album. I am glad to see he got at least one of the songs from his 2nd album Story Tellers (Part 1) and once again with the band they truly capture it all as well. I love how he plugs the fact that he has CD’s and limited T-Shirts for sale, and makes out they only have 9 T-Shirts so they are extremely limited :))))). Up next we have the instrumental classic “The Last Lament” and this amateur shot video was shot on the very night at this concert when it was performed.

The piece opens up with Gary Marsh on the keyboards (who is out of shot on this video) and Jones on the sax and then he jumps on his electric guitar and makes it soar with such a superb guitar solo. It’s a shame that this was the only video of the concert captured, but it does sound very good as well.

It’s audience participation with the next song which is one of my personal favourites from his debut album “The Merry Vicar“. Being with a band really does this track justice live in relation to Jones performing it on his own. To be honest he also does it well on his own with just his voice and piano, but being with a band really brings out all the great prog elements you can hear on the studio version, with all the great synths and power that’s in the piece. They all do a superb job on this one and even the wicked laughter towards the end from Jones is also very much spot on to the studio version.

Another two absolute classics from the Cocoon album are up next and the first of them is another big favourite track of mine “A Visit To Chigwick“. To be honest this is one of his songs he also performs very well on his own, even if it is a song that may very well require a band behind him to pull it off as well. But how Jones plays this on the guitar does sound really good, despite the fact that on the studio version he would of used two acoustic guitar tracks to make it up. But having Andy Wilson on guitar as well, does help and the two guitars blend in very well and sound beautiful on this live version.

He ends the concert off with a truly outstanding live version of “Tigers In The Butter” and with the band he totally nails it. This live version is in every way as good as the studio version, if not even better. You even hear the Tigers roar in this version and once again Jones plays a blistering guitar solo at the end. It truly puts an end to the terrific concert in superb style.

The Bonus Track…

The extra bonus track you get here is a really super quality well recorded live version of his Christmas single “The Wassail Song” which was recorded live at the CCA in Glasgow Scotland on the 18th December 2015. It really is an excellent bonus track and another solid performance has been done on it.

Summary & Conclusion…

Live At Summer’s End (The Official Bootleg) by Tiger Moth Tales is a truly GREAT! live album that captures the all the classic tracks from Cocoon with more or less all the instrumentation that was put into the studio versions of those tracks. All the songs benefit really well by having a band with him, and even though Pete Jones can even sound well good on his own, there is simply no way he could present these songs to you like this on his own.

The recording is really excellent and this is once again another one of the better recordings out of all the live albums he has released in the form of a digital download only on Bandcamp. To be honest I even think this recording is that good that this could of been released on a physical format on CD and it would be well worth buying as well.

OK it’s not polished like most live recordings are of other major artists by them going to town on the mix before they put it out. But what you’re getting here is a truly honest recording with no overdubs or bells and whistles thrown into the pot. You also get all the imperfections and warts, and it even feels like you are actually at the concert.

Overall Live At Summer’s End is a very much a solid live album that not only captures Pete Jones and the band enjoying themselves on the stage, but the audience as well. It’s highly entertaining and truly captures what would of been a magical night. Even the bonus track you get is quality too, and this is my personal favourite concert out of the 3 he has released so far on Bandcamp. It’s one of those shows that I wished they would of filmed with video cameras and put on DVD as well.

You can listen or even buy the Album @ Bandcamp here from the link below. https://tigermothtales.bandcamp.com/album/live-at-summers-end-the-official-bootleg

The track listing is as follows: 1. Overture. (6:16) 2. Don’t Let Go, Feels Alright. (13:24) 3. The Quest For Beauty. (4:44) 4. The First Lament. (7:22) 5. The Merry Vicar. (10:10) 6. A Visit To Chigwick. (9:25) 7. Tigers In The Butter. (14:25) 8. The Wassail Song (Live at the CCA Bonus Track) (7:35)

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 10/10.

Mad Mothster's Tea Party

Mad Mothster’s Tea Party by Tiger Moth Tales was released on 13th December 2017. This particular album comes with 18 tracks spanned over a playing time of a whopping 106 minutes and 49 seconds and features 2 studio bonus tracks. The rest of the album captures Pete Jones playing one of his solo concerts that took place in the afternoon on the 30th September 2017 at The Islington in London in front of a small audience of around 100 to 150 fans. The concert itself runs for 92 minutes, 47 seconds and features quite a mixed bag of his own material and other artists such as Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Red Bazar and Big Big Train.

The whole thing about the Mad Mothster’s Tea Party goes back to August 2015 when Jones and his wife bumped into Mr & Mrs Trimming at a Big Big Train concert at King’s Place in London. They soon became close friends and Jones quite often travels with a guitar and Leo Trimming suggested to Jones that maybe he should play a gig at the pub next to the venue and instantly gathered up a sizeable crowd, and low and behold Jones was up for it and the gig took place.

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The gig was quite a surprise and went down well with the audience and they all had a good time, and a year later at the Summers End concert Jones played, he suggested they should do it all again sometime only at a bigger venue. They located the venue in the following year and the tickets sold out fast and the mad hatters donned their hats and had another jolly good time with Trimming’s being the compare and Jones doing what he does best.

Perhaps one of the strange things about this release is that the 2 bonus tracks that were recorded in the studio are placed at the beginning and at the end of the concert. To be honest with a concert this long I am not really sure why he never just put them out as a single release like he did with “The Wassail Song“. So for this review I shall discuss the bonus tracks at the end, and focus more on the live show first.

Like I have said many times before Pete Jones is pretty darn good even on his own as a one man band sort of thing, and he is quite capable of pulling off a very entertaining concert even by stripping down his own songs, and has a great sense of humour to make any audience feel at home and enjoy the show. The one thing about any live concert is that you are never going to get the same performance, and each live concert will give you something different, no matter what artist you go and see.

The concert we have here is entirely different with the set list he plays, and in some ways the way it’s so different from any other set list on the other couple of live albums, it kind of gives me the impression that Jones does not really need to write out a set list, and is quite capable of playing you anything at any time.

On With The Show….

The concert opens up with a warm reception from the crowd and after Jones says “good afternoon everybody” he opens the show up with a very impressive acoustic shorter version of “Tigers In The Butter” to which he blends into the ending of “Awaken” by Yes. He’s pretty much off to a good start and the one thing I do love about his concerts is his interaction with the audience, and like I said before he can be extremely funny.

Most concerts you would get inpatient fans wanting them to get on with songs rather than have a good chin wag with the audience, but you get no complaints at all and even I am grateful they have not edited it out. It really makes the concert that much more enjoyable I think. Next up we have “Feels Feels Alright” and being that he does not play the first song “Don’t Let Go” that comes before it on the Cocoon album, it seems like he chopping his songs in half for this show.

Having rolled out a couple of songs from his debut album, he then proceeds to play a couple of songs from his second album Story Tellers (Part 1). The first of which is the albums self titled track “Story Tellers” and the second one is a real surprise and one I never thought he would ever of been able to perform live. It’s also the first time he’s ever performed it live as well and that is “A Kids Tale“.

I have to admit I totally love this one and it’s hilarious on the original album. Here it’s perhaps even more hilarious, and I love how he handles all the voiceovers like he did on the studio version too. He gets the audience to participate in it as well and does quite an amazing job of it to be honest considering he plays it on the organ only. It’s obviously not going to have all the other elements of instrumentation that is on the studio version. But even this live version must of took some practice to do and I am so glad he got to do it live.

One of the songs from his new album The Depths Of Winter is up next “The Tears of Frigga” and at the time he played this concert, this would of been a new song to the audience as the album was not quite released then. He also plays “Migration” from the same album later on too, and does a fairly comfortable job with both of them.

The next 3 songs that follow “The Tears of Frigga” are tributes to Genesis and Peter Gabriel and two of these are quite a surprise. The audience applauds as they hear the opening notes on the acoustic guitar of “The Musical Box” and no doubt this is a classic. But then he gets on the keyboards and proceeds to play another Genesis classic from the same album Nursery Cryme and does a really GRAND job of “The Fountain of Salmacis” and rounds it off very tastily on the electric guitar too.

Jumping back on the keyboards he then rolls out “Family Snapshot” from Peter Gabriel’s third album and this certainly is turning into a different set indeed. He’s not quite finished with other peoples songs yet either and he then plays “The City And The Stars” from the Red Bazar album Tales From The Bookshelf. Though he did originally sing that song on the album and does a GREAT! job on his own with it here.

After “Migration” it’s back for another couple of classics from his debut album Cocoon with “The Merry Vicar” at first and it’s very much time for audience participation time for this classic fun song of his. It’s perhaps one of those songs that you do need a band with you to bring out everything he put into the studio version but always a pleasure to hear it even stripped down with just a piano his voice and a stomping foot. The other classic is “A Visit to Chigwick” and this video that was captured on a phone come from the very same concert at Islington.

He does this song justice even on his own and it’s another firm favourite of mine and the applause from the audience at the end is well deserved, even though they are clapping longer because he did say it would be the last song, and they wanted more to which he obliges and the next track on the album “Ting” is a little joke he plays on the audience by getting them to join in on it. It’s very funny indeed.

Then he reminds the audience why they are here, and what they come down for which is to see the band Big Big Train who are playing in the evening on that same Saturday and plays a tribute to them with “Big Big Train Melody“. I have to admit I do not know a lot about the band apart from the fact that some of the members of it contributed to a vocal version of Steve Hackett’s instrumental piece “Spectral Mornings” which was a charity release. He finally wraps the show up with another Genesis song “More Fool Me” and does another really great job of it on the acoustic guitar.

The Bonus Tracks.

Like I said at the beginning that it was perhaps a bit odd placing the 2 studio bonus tracks at the start and end of a live album like this, and the concert you get here is long enough anyway. But I suppose as the album is a digital download you can put them at the end or even put them in another folder. Both tracks are arrangements and were not composed by Jones either. The first of them “Noel Nouvelet” is very much and instrumental version of a traditional folk Christmas Carol that originated from France.

In English it translates to “Christmas Comes Anew” and I dare say this as come from some of the material Jones had originally had planned to make a Proggy Christmas album with. I would also expect that the fact that it was not one of his own compositions, may of also been the reason why it was not put on his 3rd album The Depths Of Winter. Though to be honest it’s quite fitting to that album with it’s folky flavour and all the elements of the folky instrumentation he’s used in it such as Uilleann pipes for example, which were most likely played on the keyboards here.

He’s done quite a grand job on the arrangement too, and the melody lines are very much structured around the vocal lines of the original carol. That would of most likely of been arranged for a choir of voices and sung, rather than accompanied by an instrument back in those days. I could be wrong and I am only guessing here, and it was well before my time or anyone alive today for that matter :)))))) and goes as far back as the 15th Century. Jones also plays some rather tasty lead lines on the electric guitar too.

The other bonus track “Last Train” is a cover of the Big Big Train song and to be honest I have never heard the original song before and gave it a quick blast on Youtube to see how Jones had gone about his version of the song. No doubt the original song is in a different key and I guess Jones transposed it to suit his own voice. It also has more of a dominant bass line to it as well, which is one instrument that seems to be missing in a lot of Jones own compositions to be honest.

I was quite surprised when I heard “Toad Of Toad Hall” last week which will be on his new album Story Tellers (Part 2) and I loved the bass on that song. But despite all that Jones does another grand job on this cover and tribute to Big Big Train and goes his own way and gives it more of an acoustic touch with the guitar. It’s perhaps something a bit like that same Genesis period back in 1978 on the album And Then There Were Three.

Summary & Conclusion…

Overall Mad Mothster’s Tea Party by Tiger Moth Tales is another very good live album, and it does give you something a bit more different with the set list in relation to hearing him play more of the same old thing over again with his own numbers, like you get on the other two live albums. Not that I am complaining about hearing his own material all over again, simply because no live performance is the same. But you get a few surprises with this concert and it’s all very entertaining and enjoyable.

The recording is very good but you do get some hiss in the recording like it was recorded on a Cassette, and bit of the crowd being a bit ignorant by talking during one of the songs a bit of the way into the show. But that is nowhere near enough to hamper or spoil the show. You are still getting quality for the money here even if it’s not quite up to the quality of the other couple of live albums with the recording.

But like all of these live concerts they are very honest recordings that do make you feel like you are there, and no doubt Pete Jones is the type of person who loves to perform live no matter what the conditions are and where he is. He does not have to hide the imperfections and cover them up with polish, he gives it to you straight out of the tin so to speak, that is what makes these recordings very special and worthy of having.

You can listen or even buy the Album @ Bandcamp here from the link below. https://tigermothtales.bandcamp.com/album/the-mad-mothsters-tea-party-the-official-bootleg

The track listing is as follows: 1. Noel Nouvelet (Bonus Studio Track). (8:00) 2. Tigers In The Butter + Awaken. (7:39) 3. Feels Alright. (4:57) 4. Storytellers. (7:03) 5. A Kids Tale. (7:39) 6. The Tears of Frigga. (7:11) 7. The Musical Box. (6:24) 8. The Fountain of Salmacis. (5:34) 9. Family Snapshot. (5:43) 10. The City and the Stars. (4:38) 11. The Quest for Beauty. (4:28) 12. Migration (2:56). 13. The Merry Vicar. (5:56) 14. A Visit to Chigwick. (9:05) 15. Ting. (2:02) 16. Big Big Train Medley. (7:21) 17. More Fool Me. (4:21) 18. Last Train (Bonus Studio Track). (6:02)

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 7/10.

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On A Final Short Note…

Overall each of these digital downloads offer tremendous value for the money and they was certainly well worthy of adding to my collection. They have also given me tremendous pleasure too, and personally I cannot fault any of these releases and some of them are also have the quality to have been released on CD as well. I suppose the next thing I would love to see is a live DVD or Blu Ray of Pete Jones in concert with or without a band. Speaking of which my next review does actually have him live on DVD, but with the band Camel.

Lee Speaks About Music… #105

The Depths Of Winter – Tiger Moth Tales

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Introduction…

It took another couple of years since the release of Story Tellers (Part 1) before we got to see a new album from Tiger Moth Tales and I guess since Pete Jones joined Camel in 2015 they kept him very busy. But it did not stop him from playing some of his own live concerts at certain venues and doing the odd bits of studio recordings, to which he also has a few albums that come in the form of a digital download only on Bandcamp.

I should add that even though the live material is not of the highest quality with how it’s been recorded and are more like official bootleg recordings. They are also very good and it gives you the chance to hear Pete Jones perform his own songs on his own, or with a band at times. He has also done a couple of albums in the way of a tribute to the band Genesis and some of the albums he has done are also to raise money for guide dogs for the blind with all the proceeds going to that charity.

Tiger Moth Tales 3rd studio album The Depths Of Winter is perhaps a different breed in relation to the first 2 albums, and there is perhaps more of a serious side to the material, rather than the humour you would also find. He has also brought in some other musicians to lend an hand and guest on the album, rather than do everything himself. But before we go any further, let’s take a look at the artwork and packaging as usual.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The CD comes in a quality Digisleeve with a slip pocket on both sides to hold the CD and the Booklet. The linear credit and production notes are on the inside of the case and the 12 page booklet contains all the lyrics, some pictures and some useful informative information about the process of the album and those who contributed to it. Overall it’s a very neat and tidy presentation and well made package.

The Artwork.

The artwork and layout was done by Chris Jones. Other artistic contributions were done by Pete Jones mother Mel and the photographs were provided by Chris Walkden and Emma Friend.

The Album In Review…

The Depths Of Winter by Tiger Moth Tales was released on the 20th November 2017. The album contains 10 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 71 minutes, 25 seconds which is long and more like a double albums worth of material. Most of the tracks are also quite lengthy and are mainly vocal tracks, but you do get a few instrumental pieces which are mainly the shorter tracks on the album. The albums concept is based around the feel of winter and contains some folk stories or tales about things that happen in the winter. It’s quite dark in places and takes in the sense of loss in the cold months of winter as well.

As I mentioned earlier Jones as brought in other musicians and guests to feature on some of the tracks on the album, though he has not brought in a drummer, and still prefers to program his own drums and percussion. To be honest I do not have a problem with him programming the drums and percussion, and it certainly sounds real enough for my ears as well. He does a bang on job programming them to be honest and I would imagine it would be very hard to be able to tell a drummer how to play the drums and percussion in the first place. I also think you would need an excellent percussionist to be able to cope with a lot of the percussion he throws into some of his pieces, and you would be needing somebody with Ray Cooper’s skills to do it as good.

The guitarist Luke Machin of Maschine and The Tangent gets to play guitar on one of the tracks and he also brought Mark Wardle and his Flugelhorn back along with a brass section. Jamie Ambler helps with some of the voiceovers and also is credited as a co-writer on an couple of the tracks, and his long term singing partner Emma Friend (whose stage name was Paine) from 2 To Go contributes a bit of flute on 3 of the tracks. Interestingly enough she is also contributing to some of the vocals on Story Tellers 2 that is due to be released on the 26th of this month.

Musicians & Credits…

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Recorded & Produced by Peter Jones at his home studio between 2016/17 in Nottingham. All tracks written by Pete Jones except “The Ballad of Longshanks John” & “The Tears of Frigga” co-written by Pete JonesJamie Ambler. Artwork by Chris Jones. Photographs  provided by Chris Walkden and Emma Friend. Other artistic contributions by Mel.

Musicians.

Pete Jones: Vocals/Keyboards/Electric & Acoustic Guitars/Ukulele/Clarinet/Recorder/Percussion/Drum Programming.
Mark Wardle: Flugelhorn (Tracks 2,3,4). Conductor & Brass Arranger (Tracks 2,,4).
Emma Friend: Flute (Tracks 1,2,7)
Luke Machin: Lead Guitar (Track2)
Jamie Ambler: Voice Overs (Tracks 4,9)
Sara Baldwin: Flugelhorn. Sarah Wardle: Tenor Horn. Joe Heartfield: Tenor Trombone. Andy Baldwin: Euphonium. Steve Bottomley: BBb Bass. (Tracks 2,4).
Barley: Barks (Track 6)

The Album Tracks In Review…

As I mentioned earlier the album The Depths Of Winter is a different breed and it’s certainly got more of a serious side to the writing, and no doubt this is an album that will need plenty of spins for it to sink in. It’s also easy to make other observations about an album like this on the first 2 or 3 spins, and I have to be honest because the tracks are quite long and there is a lot more information to take in over a long time slot like this. On those first few spins it will give you an entirely different impression of this album, and can even put you off playing it and leaving it alone for awhile.

For example upon the first couple of spins of this particular album my own observations was that most of the tracks were way too long, and were so unnecessarily and never needed to be that length at all. Basically because the material was something more like Chris Rea would of wrote in some respects, and you do not need any song to run over a distance like this to put your point across. It also sounded like he had stretched the songs out more over this distance, to try and give them a prog rock feel and element about them, and they sounded more like overstretched pop songs.

I think a lot of artists have the impression to make any song prog rock they have to make lengthy songs for it to be prog rock in the first place, and it’s far from the case at all. It’s takes a lot more skill to cram in a load of transitional changes over a shorter distance than any longer piece of music. Most people only make them that long in the first place so they can fit all those changes and progression into a song, and do not have the skill to do such a thing over a shorter distance.

Take a song like “Cakewalk On Easy Street” that Neal Morse wrote when he was in Spock’s Beard back in the 90’s for example. That 5 minute song is way more cleverly constructed and says a lot more to me than what a 78 minute song like “Whirlwind” does that he done with Transatlantic in 2009. Most prog rock bands would need 10 – 20 minutes just to cram everything that John Miles did with a 6 minute song like “Music“. That song is another masterpiece in my opinion.

Don’t get me wrong I have no problem listening to lengthy songs and “Close To The Edge” by Yes would be a perfect example of how well a track is done over a long distance and that is also a masterpiece. I also am not saying that Peter Jones does not have the ability to cram a lot of transitional changes over a short distance either, he’s a very skilful musician. But sometimes musicians are not really doing themselves any favours by making lengthy albums like this in the first place.

For example Roine Stolt and many other artists are the same, and they have the tendency to make long albums, to which for most listeners will not have the time of day to listen to enough for them to see what is really in the material they wrote for it to really sink in. This often will reflect in the review of such an album where the listener is not willing to give it the time to grow on you, which in some cases can take several spins and as much as 6 or 7 spins at least in some cases too. I often think of it as too much food for thought, and you are going to have to be a serious music listener like myself to get the best out of an album like this, and the many others who cram a double albums worth of material onto a single disc.

As with any review I do myself I always like to give any album at least 7 full spins from start to finish before I even attempt to write a review, and I can honestly say my original observations of this album being like something Chris Rea would of done has changed by giving it the time of day to digest all the material we have here. For example having heard the album a lot more now, I would say the material we have on this album is a bit more like the lighter and softer material we seen on Genesis albums such as Wind & Wuthering and the album that followed it And Then There Were Three.

So let’s now take a closer and deeper look into the material we have on The Depths Of Winter album as I go through the individual tracks in my review here.

Track 1. Winter Is Coming.

The first of the three instrumental pieces on the album and this opener is really an introduction to the album and the next track that follows it. In reality there was no need to make this a separate track at all, and it could of easily just have been put on the next track as the intro to that song.

It’s a lovely piece played on acoustic guitar and Emma Friend accompanies the guitar on the flute. It’s also has the cold wind blowing through it to provide the right ambience and depth and give it that wintery cold chilling feel and presence to the piece, and has quite a folky vibe about it too. A lot of this album is perhaps more focused on the folkier and meaningful side of things.

Track 2. Winter Maker.

Winter Maker” was the last track written for the album and effectively along with the opening track it works like an overture to the album and incorporates some melody lines that re-occur throughout the album. Lyrically the words are based around an American Native legend who goes by the name of Biboon who was  the North Wind spirit of the Anishinaabe tribes. His name means “Great Winter” and he was the spirit who was responsible for the bad winters that can inflict death upon many with it’s cold depths. He is perhaps also known as “Old Man Winter”.

It’s one of the lengthy tracks on the album and weighs in at near enough 11 minutes and runs along at a steady ballad like pace that allows Jones to use his voice very well to reflect on the story we have about old man winter here. The music is mainly structured around the piano and it features once again his long time friend Emma Friend on flute. It also has quite a Genesis feel to it at the transitional change around the 2:57 mark which is a bit like “Snowbound” from their And Then There Were Three album.

It also features a GREAT! brass section that was arranged by Mark Wardle to which features himself on Flugelhorn along with Sara Baldwin: Flugelhorn. Sarah Wardle: Tenor Horn. Joe Heartfield: Tenor Trombone. Andy Baldwin: Euphonium and Steve Bottomley: BBb Bass. Wardle also recorded the brass section in a pub of all places too, and that comes into play around the 4:54 mark of the song.

Later on around the 8:10 mark Luke Machin gets to play a tasty guitar solo on the piece and all is very well put together indeed to make the track work over this sort of distance, even though there is not really a lot of transitional changes along the path of this particular song. It’s one of the three longer songs on the album and is very much a contender for one of the best songs of the album.

Track 3. Exposure.

The longest track on the album “Exposure” was inspired from the Wilfred Owen poem of the same title which was based around the first world war, hence the sound of the guns on the intro. The darker feel for this particular song Jones got a bit of inspiration from working with Red Bazar on their album Tales From The Bookshelf. Jones has made great work of putting the inspiration of Owen’s poem into context with how he’s gone about writing the lyrics here, and how they very much reflect how some of the soldiers died standing in trenches from the cold weather of winter.

Musically it is perhaps a bit more modern with the use of the keyboard sounds he’s used and is different, and I suppose that came from that influence of the band Red Bazar. It’s also got quite a feeling of the orient in it for some reason as well. The song itself does tend to drag a bit with it’s slower pace, but a lot of that is perhaps to enable Jones to put over the meaningful words we have in the song. It does pick up towards the end we get some nice fast synth work that is perhaps a bit more Genesis like in some ways. It also contains some great guitar work from Jones and Mark Wardle contributes a bit of his Flugelhorn on the track too.

Overall “Exposure” I feel is another fine written song, and it does capture the darkness of those who lost their lives being exposed to the depths of winter in those cold winter months during the war. However the length of the song itself could of been shorter I feel, and it does not really help the album with its track placement by following another lengthy song immediately. It would of been better if it was placed further on along the album and followed some of the shorter tracks.

Track 4. The Ballad of Longshanks John.

I suppose if I was looking for tracks on this album that contain the excitement we got to see on the two previous albums by Tiger Moth Tales. “The Ballad of Longshanks John” is certainly the one on this album that stands out, and is perhaps more fitting to the Pete Jones project simply because we have more of a well known story and tale here.

The song is very much based around the story of Robin Hood and his last days that led up to his death. Being born in Nottingham himself, I suppose this would of been a more fitting story for Jones to embark on, and I have to say he’s done it superbly.

Once again we have some fine voiceovers on the intro and a bit further on in the song. We also get to hear Jamie Ambler (who also co-wrote this song with Jones) doing quite a good impersonation of Sean Bean’s voice. The music on the intro is also well apt to the story and has quite a merry medieval Celtic feel to it.

Once again we also get Mark Wardle his Flugelhorn and the brass orchestra of Sara Baldwin: Flugelhorn. Sarah Wardle: Tenor Horn. Joe Heartfield: Tenor Trombone. Andy Baldwin: Euphonium and Steve Bottomley: BBb Bass. to which was also recorded in the pub. “The Ballad of Longshanks John” is my personal favourite track on the album and merits the top spot of the album award. You also get to hear Jones play a Ukulele solo on the track too.

Track 5. Migration.

One of the shorter tracks on the album and a song that was originally meant for his 2nd album Story Tellers (Part 1) or even saved for Story Tellers (Part 2). The song itself is based around a story Jones had heard as a child on a Marshall Cavendish tape and is about an animal trying to find his way home in the winter. It’s a nice little ballad of a song and also features Jones on Clarinet.

Track 6. Take The Memory.

Another song that features the clarinet along with some lovely 12 string guitar and lush keyboard layers. Once again Jones’s voice also works wonders on a song like this. The song was written about the loss of his guide dog Barley and also features his dog at the end barking.

It’s not the first time Barley has been mentioned in his songs either, and he also plays a part in “Tigers In The Butter” from his debut album Cocoon and gets a mention in his Christmas song “The Wassail Song“.

It’s another very well written ballad of a song that can relate to losing our loved ones such as family, friends and pets, and holding on to the fond memories of them which keeps them still alive in some respects. I am sure they will always be in with us in our hearts and minds.

Track 7. Sleigh Ride.

The second of the instrumental tracks on the album and a very tasty one at that, and one of the better tracks on the album. Once again Jones has got the Steve Hackett influence on this particular track. It has a beautiful acoustic opening with the acoustic guitar and flute once again provided by Emma Friend and goes into more of an electric mode and slides its way across the snow very well indeed.

Even though it’s perhaps related to more of a Christmas sort of thing it still ties in with the winter concept of things, and once again we get some GREAT! keyboard layers and even quite a Disney orchestral ending. It’s another one of the albums exciting tracks for me personally, and this is an album that perhaps does not have enough of these type of tracks, and most of the songs we have are mainly ballads, but very meaningful ones. “Sleigh Ride” is very much another contender for the albums top spot award and is another excellent piece of work.

Track 8. The Tears of Frigga.

A bit of Norse Mythology from the 12th century or Danish Viking mythological history based around the fall or death of Baldur who was the son of the god Odin and goddess  Frigg. According to how legend has it Baldur must of been built like a brick shit house :)))) simply because no matter what people threw at him such as rocks stones and sticks and all that, they bounced off him leaving him unharmed.

However one of the disloyal chaps who went by the name of Loki was perhaps a bit jealous of the brother of the Mighty Thor and cleverly disguised himself and asked his mother Frigg do all things swear oaths to spare Baldur from harm? To which she replied “Oh, yes, everything except the mistletoe”.

The Death Of Baldur

Well as you can see from the picture above this chap Loki had no Christmas Spirit :)))) and made a spear and attached a mistletoe to the end of it, and that was the end of Baldur has legend has it. I suppose at the end of it all he must of felt a bit of a Prick :))))).

It’s the second co-written track on the album Jones done with his old school friend Jamie Ambler who once again contributes some voiceovers on the track. Ambler wrote the draft for the story and he was the one who had studied Viking history and put the idea to the music Jones had created. Some of the music Jones had written for this album was meant for a Christmas album, and this was one of the first pieces of music he had written for that idea. But eventually the story we have here wound up on it which was still fitting with his concept of an album about winter.

I would not say that “The Tears of Frigga” like some other tracks on this album is perhaps what I would call prog rock, and they do have some more of a light airy ballad flow and feel about them. Nevertheless it’s quite a very well written song with great keyboard and vocal work as ever, and he even has a glistening Steve Hackett like ending with the vibes that are a bit familiar with his track “Shadow Of The Hierophant“.

Track 9. Hygge.

Another one of the better tracks on the album and this also has quite a Genesis feel about it from there And Then There Were Three album. It even has some Hackett like guitar which was not on that album too. “Hygge” is perhaps the single of the album even if it’s over 9 minutes long. The title is very much a Danish word that translates in English to the word “Fun” and is pronounced like “Huger”. Although the word “Hygge” in Danish means something like “Cosy Time”

Which is more like how Jones describes it himself in that it’s like family and friends getting together, having cakes and hot coffee, breaking bread, lighting a fire and getting together in a community kind of way, enjoying each other’s company being warm. Which is very much like having a cosy time.

Lyrically the song pertains to the same sort of thing and being thankful for the warm air of spring coming in at the end of a long cold winter that has taken so many loved ones away, and welcoming the warmth of spring and being at home in the warm sort of thing.

A single edit video was made for the song by Rob Reed of Magenta and he also placed it on his own Youtube channel to which I thought would be appropriate to use for my review here. It captures Jones in the studio singing the vocals to the song and also him on the piano and guitars.

It’s a very well made video and “Hygge” is very much another contender for the top spot on the album, and no doubt it does have a bit of a warm lifting and even Genesis feel about it. It’s a very well written, thoughtful and meaningful song that even works very well over its longer distance on the album.

Track 10. Winter’s End.

The third and final of the instrumental pieces on the album is a keyboard track that has that wintery feel, and ends off with the sounds of birds chirping away happily with the traffic going by as spring arrives sort of thing. It’s a Pleasant enough little ditty to round up the album, but perhaps not necessary needed.

Summary…

To sum up Tiger Moth Tales 3rd album The Depths Of Winter. I think overall the material is well written enough, but the fact that there is a lot of it, and the album is some 71.25 minutes long will present a problem for most listeners. The fact that most of the tracks are more or less ballads does not really help it either over a distance like this. I also feel the placement of the tracks has not been too cleverly thought out either. Personally I feel it would of been better to go with a much shorter album and he could of placed some tracks on other albums or EP’s in the future.

I think if you are going to do an album over this length you need to make it more exciting, and most of the material we have here is of the more chill out variety than the up-tempo kind that has some grit to it. I honestly do not know why so many artists make albums over this length, and for me the old 40 minute time slot will always be the real winner. With a 40 minute album you can digest it easier and it’s not what I call too much food for thought to take in either.

I am fine with double albums that come on 2 discs, but sticking a double albums worth of materiel onto a single disc is too much in most cases. With the old time slot of 40 minutes I can fit more albums into the hours of a day for my listening pleasure, and get more satisfaction from those albums. Because there is a lot of material we have here and its more darker and sinister, it will take a lot more spins to get into an album like this.

I have played this album more than 10 times now and have digested it, and I am not saying the material is remotely bad at all, and it is very good. But it’s not a solid album, and some of the material I feel does not really belong on an album like this with how it was all put together.

I can see the pitfalls an album like this will present to many listeners, and even the placement of the two lengthy tracks “Winter Maker” and “Exposure” being put together like that, will cause the album to drag a bit, causing people to switch it off and come back to it later, or not at all.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of The Depths Of Winter by Tiger Moth Tales. There is no doubt it is a bit of a different breed in relation to the first 2 albums. I think that Pete Jones has captured the spirit of winter very well, but for me personally there tends to be too many ballad type tracks along the course of the album, and it has too little in the way of excitement to really lift the album up.

If anything The Depths Of Winter is more of a serious album that presents itself in a lighter and different mood with its dark and warm folk tales. It’s also one of those albums where you perhaps need to be in the right mood to enjoy its more laid back style. Speaking of which it’s more on the folky pop side of things rather than prog rock. I also feel it’s one of those albums that is made for the darker nights of autumn and winter, and those are the type of nights that will draw you in to play an album like this.

Oddly enough I do not quite know what it is about certain albums, but the darker nights of autumn and winter are also the times I tend to drag out most of my Jethro Tull collection to listen too. And I am not just talking about those songs that have a Christmas feel to them either. The darker nights always attract me to those old classic albums of Tull’s from the 70’s and I feel The Depths Of Winter is one of those type of albums too. So maybe Jones achieved what he was trying to do with this album.

Overall I cannot fault the written material on the album to which is very good, but this is not a GOTO album I feel like the first 2 Tiger Moth Tales albums very much are. It perhaps lacks the variety and the excitement that those first two albums have in the way it presents itself, and can be a bit like too much of the same thing with its laid back style. My personal highlights from the album are “The Ballad Of Longshanks John“. “Winter Maker“. “Sleigh Ride” and “Hygge“.

Old Man Winter, Cruel Or Kind. To the Suffering, Are You Blind…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Winter is Coming. 0:31.
02. Winter Maker. 10:50.
03. Exposure. 13:34.
04. The Ballad of Longshanks John. 6:58.
05. Migration. 2:58.
06. Take The Memory. 7:10.
07. Sleigh Ride. 6:40.
08. The Tears of Frigga. 11:42.
09. Hygge. 9:12.
10. Winter’s End. 1:50.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

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

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #104

Story Tellers (Part One) – Tiger Moth Tales

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Introduction…

It did not take Peter Jones long after the release and success of his debut album Cocoon to get to work on recording Story Tellers which was to be his 2nd album. Because his creative juices were still very much flowing at that time he wanted to carry on riding the storm sort of thing, he got some inspiration from the RPM website who run a project in February of every year to record an album in the 28 days of that month. So that is more or less what Jones had done here, and I have to say it’s quite an album that is very much worked as a spin off to his debut album Cocoon.

Most prog rockers get their inspiration for their lyrics from giant plants, mice, fables, squonks and all sorts of mythical magical legends and beasts. But what we have here is something quite different in the way of presenting children’s stories such as Sleeping Beauty, Three Billy Goats Gruff and the Pied Piper in a cinematic, funny and even in a progmatical way (if there is such a word) although he has thrown in a few rats and even the odd troll :))))). It’s very much a children’s playground in a playful world of imagination, and even for a 58 year old Rocker and Prog Rocker like myself. I have to say it works bloody wonders.

But before we take a deeper look into what magical wonders we have here. let’s as usual take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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A slightly different DigiSleeve this one and with this type you usually get 2 CD’s in them. But here the other side pocket is for storing the booklet. Once again we get an 8 page booklet with all the lyrics and some useful background information, and the both sides of the inner sleeve contain the linear production notes written on them, and once again we have a very well made quality package.

The Artwork.

Once again the artwork was done by Neil Martin of Complete Design who not only offer services for album art but also for website designs. Additional artwork was done by Annalese Maz of Society 6 Dot Com.

The Album In Review…

The album Story Tellers was released on the 1st July 2015 and was written in February of the same year and recorded at Peter Jones home studio. The album contains 7 tracks which are a mixture of vocal and instrumental tracks and has an overall playing time of 41 minutes, 25 seconds.

The album Story Tellers is certainly more based around the concept of children’s stories in relation to his first album Cocoon, and the inspiration for this particular concept was also part of the 28 day project he was working on the RPM website. Part of the challenge was to work around a concept of the famous authors who wrote children’s stories such as Sleeping Beauty, The Pied Piper and even the heroic struggle of three goats on a quest for greener pastures. Jones also makes some references to the likes of the great authors such as Hans Christian Anderson. Roald Dhal and J.K. Rowling.

The whole thing was an experiment just to see if he could do the challenge and it was never intended to be his 2nd album. He never even thought that his record label White Knight Records would be interested in releasing it either, and was quite surprised that they did. In some aspects I can perhaps understand his reasoning of how he seen this project he worked on being perhaps a bit too childish. But he also thought that the overall result came out pretty well, and even thought that even if his record company was not interested in putting it out, he could put it out as an EP on Bandcamp as a fan club sort of release.

To be perfectly honest every time I play this album it feels more like an EP. Basically because it seems to be over in about 10 – 12 minutes, and even I myself cannot believe this album is some 41 minutes and 25 seconds long. I think that it’s down to not having so many long tracks on the album, and the biggest majority of the tracks on this album are short, and it only really contains one track that is over the 10 minute mark. The other reason why it seems to be over in no time at all, is really down to the fact that it is an immensely enjoyable album from start to finish, and I can certainly see why the record company wanted to put it out.

Musicians & Credits…

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Written Recorded & Produced by Peter Jones. Recorded at Peter Jones home studio in February 2015. Artwork & Design by Neil Martin of Complete Design. Additional artwork was done by Annalese Maz of Society 6 Dot Com.

Musician.

Peter Jones: Vocals/Keyboards/Electric & Acoustic Guitars/Whistles/Percussion/Drum Programming.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Well as you can see from credits above not even Mark Wardle is on this album and Peter Jones done it all on his Jack Jones so to speak :)))). A lot of people can be put off by one man projects and think it’s all been done on a computer rather than played with real instruments, and to be honest there are a lot of people who do just that. Being a musician myself I am all for the musician and there are quite a good few multi instrumentalists in this world who are capable of making albums in this way by playing and doing everything themselves.

However it is a lot harder to do without a band, and you will need a band to perform an album like this live. But amazingly enough even though Jones does sometimes play with a band on stage, he is also very impressive at performing his own songs on his Jack Jones on the stage too. You only have to look at this guy performing live to see just how much of a talent he actually possesses and how capable he is of doing such a thing. The only thing he does not play are the drums to which he has programmed. But he does also play the odd bit of percussion he puts into his albums too.

He also has a great personality and can be extremely funny and is very clever at injecting comedy into his music, and this perhaps is one of those albums were it comes out very well too, especially on the 4th track on the album “A Kids Tale” in particular. So let’s now take a closer look at just at the album and it’s individual tracks in more detail.

Track 1. Beauty Falls.

The album starts off with quite a Majestic instrumental piece and even the keyboards sound as bold as brass on the intro. This is followed by some very tasty Brain May style  lead lines on the guitar and it then proceeds to launch into Gallop mode with the pace of the drums and features more very tasty keyboard and guitar work right up to the 2:10 mark to which it comes down very nicely with some pleasant glistening vibes and falls into a bit of Genesis mode with the guitar lines. This gets followed by some piano and it winds itself down nicely with some more keyboard orchestration to round it off.

It’s a really great start to the album and the piece has bags of diversity and progression along it’s path with some really great crossing styles along its transition. The interplay with keyboards and guitar is tremendous and very skilfully played. Overall it’s quite a cinematic piece that has the power to lift itself up and rock, and can be quite dramatic with its mood changes. It’s the first of 4 pieces adapted for the story of Sleeping Beauty that runs throughout the album and is a cracking start to the album.

Track 2. Story Tellers.

The first of the songs on the album which gives Jones a chance to use his great voice, and here we have the albums self titled track which is lyrically portraying what the album is all about which is stories that never end. Musically this has a very big Tony Banks influence, and is heavily influenced by his solo work in particular. No doubt Jones has studied Banks’s keyboard style and unusual chord patterns and changes down to a tee. But of course he adds his own thing to it as well and there is some really great progression in this song.

This video is a more stripped down version of the song with Jones performing it on piano only in the studio. It’s perhaps harder to hear the Tony Banks influence as much without all the keyboard layers and textures that are in the original track on the album. But nevertheless it shows the great chord progression in the piece and it’s even great to see the song done stripped down like this too.

Story Tellers” may feel a bit more like a pop song and that is down to the lyrics and it’s vocal attributes, but there is a lot of progression in a song like this and it’s not an easy piece to play either. The other elements of more layers and instrumentation on the album do give it that much more of a prog rock feel and it really is another excellent song on the album.

Track 3. Beauty Sleeps.

Well just as much as the 2nd track on the album is influenced by Tony Banks. This Gorgeous piece is more influenced by Steve Hackett with the classical guitar playing, recorder and wonderful orchestration. Once again it’s another one of the instrumental pieces on the album and this is very much one of my contenders for the top spot on the album and is a real beauty. It’s also the second of the 4 pieces adapted for Sleeping Beauty.

Track 4. A Kids Tale.

When I said that Pete Jones reminded me of Danny Elfman with some of his humour and his skills to create music in this way. I was not Kidding :))) and this story about 3 goats trying to get to the other side of a bridge where greener pastures lie, to which is guarded by a troll I have to say this track has me in hysterics and I am highly addicted to it :)))). Jones has the tendency to make these type of stories highly exciting with everything he throws into them. Some may think its childish, but you have to be very clever and a very skilled musician to create something like this in the first place.

A Kids Tale” very much rocks it’s way along with its keyboard and guitar sections at the sort of pace Rossini’sWilliam Tell Overture” would do. Jones puts over quite a few characters with his voice in the way of voice overs, and as perhaps imitated other actors voices to which he has done remarkable very well, and  it does sound like he has brought in some well known actors to do the voices. For example the voice he uses for the Troll sounds very much like Toby Longworth who does the voice for Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz in The Hitchikers Guide To The Galaxy. He’s most likely like myself and another fan of the series.

Effectively “A Kids Tale” is very much the sort of thing even your own children would like and is extremely funny and a very well crafted piece of work with how Jones has adapted the Norwegian Peter Christen Asbjørnsen’s children story of Three Billy Goats Gruff and put it to music. Once again Pete Jones has created an album which presents me with a problem of choosing a personal favourite track, and just like the album Cocoon it leaves me no alternative but to merit 2 tracks with the top spot of the album award, and a “A Kids Tale” is very much a joint winner.

Track 5. The Quest For Beauty.

The third of the four tracks on the album adapted around the story of Sleeping Beauty is another really great piece with great keyboard orchestration and a well tasty guitar solo and is also a vocal track unlike the first two parts which are instrumental pieces. Once again I have chosen a video from Chris Fry’s Youtube channel which has been put to some edited parts from the animated film and shows you parts of Jones recording the vocals and even the guitar solo during the animated clips.

Incidentally if you have not heard or got Chris Fry’s solo album Composed I highly recommend it, and he is another really great guitarist. You can find more about his magnificent album in my review I did back in May last year from the following link: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/lee-speaks-about-music-4/

Once again Pete Jones has done another fabulous job on this fine song and its another great song and quite a cinematic piece of work.

Track 6. The Piper.

The longest track on the album is Peter Jones adaption of the Pied Piper of Hamelin which is a story that dates back to the 13th century in Germany to which the town of Hamelin was infested by rats. Rattenfänger von Hameln, also known as the Pan Piper or (Rat-Catcher of Hamelin) was the man the council hired to rid the town of rats to which they tried to swindle him out of the money that was due to paid for the job. The Pied Piper decided to seek his revenge by luring all the children out of the town with his pipe and they were never to be seen again so legend has it.

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No doubt over the years there have been many adaptations of the story and once again Pete Jones has truly done a magical job of presenting his adaption with the music and characterized voices he puts into it all.  Once again Danny Elfman springs to mind here with the genius adaption of how skilfully this has been done. Like I said before you need to be a musician who can play cross styles to have the ability to pull this off so well, and just like “A Kids Tale” this track is also my favourite of the album and jointly merits the top spot award of the album.

This short video shows you a short excerpt of the song and once again the progression is pure brilliance from heavy guitars, excellent keyboard work including a very tasty Bach like bit of harpsichord. It really is an outstanding piece of work and a highly addicted track on the album that has both power and excitement.

Track 7. Beauty Awakes.

The album ends off with the 4th and final part of the Sleeping Beauty suite that features throughout the album. It’s more or less another instrumental cinematic orchestrated piece done on the keyboards and the guitar, but he does sing a few words as well, and you even get a reprisal of the albums self tiled track “Story Tellers” amongst the short vocal section. It’s a great way to put the whole concept of the album and the story to bed and is another really great piece of work.

Summary…

Putting children’s stories to prog rock may not be everyone’s cup of tea. To even say that Story Tellers is a prog rock album may perhaps not be the best way to describe it, but no doubt this is quite a complex album with bags of progression and diversity that you will find in a lot of prog rock albums and is like the work of a genius in parts. No doubt there are prog rock influences too, and I suppose the best way I can describe those is that it’s like a cross between Genesis, Queen, Tony Banks and Steve Hackett and even the Cinematic world of Walt Disney combined with the Brilliance of Danny Elfman is all thrown into the pot and the equation for good measure.

For me the personally the album Story Tellers is quite another solid body of work, and in many ways is a very fitting follow up to it’s predecessor Cocoon and fits in perfectly with Jones project name of Tiger Moth Tales. The material is very well written and I cannot really fault a track on the album either. Just like his debut album Cocoon there are some classics on this album and my personal highlights from the album are as follows: “The Piper“. “A Kids Tale“. “Beauty Sleeps” and “Story Tellers“.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Story Tellers (Part 1) by Tiger Moth Tales. Once again we have quite a magical album that blends in the serious side of Peter Jones with comedy. I suppose in many ways Pete Jones could even be seen as a comedian like Bill Bailey and both are extremely talented musicians. I do not personally think that Story Tellers is as strong as his debut album Cocoon but like I said I cannot honestly fault anything on this album. It’s an album that even your own children and grandchildren I think will personally love, and even for big kids at heart like myself this is highly entertaining good stuff.

Peter Jones captures the true spirit of children’s stories we all grew up with on an album like this, and brings those joys back to life. Having only just recently got into his world of music and purchased his first 3 albums, this is very much an album I was hoping it would not be long before he made the sequel and done a Story Tellers Part 2. Well I do not have long to wait for that, because whilst I was writing this review on the 1st October Jones announced he will be releasing a new album on the 26th of this month.

And it will very much be Story Tellers Part 2 and as soon as I seen the announcement I very much pre-ordered it. He even released a video of one of the tracks entitled “Match Girl” from the album which is a story by Hans Christian Andersen set to some edited footage from the Disney film.

The song very much has quite a Christmassy and has a Genesis feel to it, and in some respects the sad story behind it could even pertain to something like the Phil Collins hit song “Another Day In Paradise“.  Jones has quite a gift for working with songs about winter and Christmas songs, and both his own single release of “The Wassail Song” and his third and more serious album The Depths Of Winter (to which I will be reviewing next) show that side of his writing.

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But looking at the 10 track list of the songs we have on Story Tellers Part 2. I can see he will no doubt inject some more magic fun on tracks like “Toad Of Toad Hall“. “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” and “Three Little Pigs” for example. I could be wrong, but these are the type of stories I can see him doing that sort of thing with and I am looking well forward to this release as well.

Peter Jones is very much an artist who is not into making music to become rich famous and wealthy, he is very much a down to earth human being who is doing what he can do best to merely make a living out of his music, and he is very much an hard working musician who works his butt off to do such a thing. To be honest having just been on an extensive tour with Camel I am amazed how he has found the time to make a new album. Being blind he also supports charity and puts some of what he earns into blind dogs for the blind. You only have to look at the low price he sells his albums at, to gather that as well.

For example he generally sells his CD’s at around £10 which is really excellent value considering they come in quality Digisleeves as well. You can also now buy Story Tellers Part 1 and Part 2 (when it’s released later this month) for £16 from White Knight Records here: http://www.whiteknightshop.co.uk/page26.htm saving you even more money. You can also find his albums and more besides on his Bandcamp page here: https://tigermothtales.bandcamp.com/

You Need To Take Stock, There’s A Rat In My Sock. Get Rid Of The Rats Or We’ll Get Rid Of You…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Beauty Falls. 3:51.
02. Story Tellers. 5:39.
03. Beauty Sleeps. 4:42.
04. A Kids Tale. 6:07.
05. The Quest For Beauty. 4:27.
06. The Piper. 12:52.
07. Beauty Awakes. 3:47.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

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

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #103

Cocoon – Tiger Moth Tales

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Introduction…

I recently stumbled across a multi talented instrumentalist by the name of Peter Jones whilst listening to some other album on Bandcamp to which did not attract my taste buds enough to purchase it. But whilst I was over on Bandcamp I started to glance at the recommended albums on the bottom of the page and stumbled upon this album with Jones doing some old Genesis songs. I played “Seven Stones” from that album and was quite taken by how very well he sang it. Though I have to confess that as much as I can enjoy people doing tributes to Genesis tribute songs are not the sort of thing I would personally buy, though he did do something quite special I thought with that particular song.

The more I actually looked at the guy it also became more apparent to me that this is the same guy who has been touring with the prog rock band Camel and playing keyboards for them. And low and behold it was. Upon on doing some more research into his background and watching various footage I found of him on Youtube. I then found out that he is quite a good guitar player as well, and plays it just like Jeff Healey did on his lap like a keyboard, and when I stumbled upon this next video on Youtube playing and singing GenesisMusical Box“. That just blew me away enough to delve deeper into this guys life and find out more.

Peter Jones is quite young and his musical journey is quite a revelation in the way his own music career has evolved and developed over the years. His debut album Cocoon he put out under the name of his own project Tiger Moth Tales back in 2014 is certainly quite a change in relation to the music he was originally doing beforehand. But before I run briefly through his history and the rest of this truly really GREAT! album. Let’s take a look at the artwork and packaging.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The CD comes in a quality DigiSleeve with a slip pocket on both sides to hold the CD and the Booklet. The 8 page booklet contains all the linear production notes and includes the lyrics and is quite informative. The albums artwork was done by Neil Martin and overall it’s a very neat and tidy presentation and well made package.

Peter Jones A Brief Bit Of History…

Peter Jones was born in Nottingham England back in 1980 and went blind at an early age but music always played a major role in his life since he first heard it, and he had his first piano at the age of 4. By the time he reached 8 years old in 1988 he won the junior final of the BBC’s Song for Christmas competition. Over the years he took up learning to play many other instruments such as the recorder, clarinet whilst still at school, and a bit later after he had left school the saxophone and guitar. Also after he left school he formed a pop duo with his singer friend Emma Paine to which they spent the next 10 years playing pop covers and some original songs around his local town and they went by the name of 2 TO GO.

2 TO GO done quite well and in 2001 they were finalists on the BBC’s Star for a Night which was a British Talent show program that run between the years 2000 – 2001. I suppose in a way both Peter & Emma were a bit like the pop duo Peters & Lee that we got to see in the 70’s. In 2004 the couple entered the X Factor and once again were finalists and came 7th out of the 8 who made the final that year. This allowed them into the National Arena X Factor Tour that took place in 2005. This short video shows the pair of them performing on the X Factor and Peter has certainly changed over the years.

A lot of things have changed since those days and this next video clip taken from an interview with Peter Jones he gave a few years ago, explains how he made his decision to go into making prog rock music these days instead of wanting to make pop music.

I have to say it’s perhaps quite a phenomenal change to make in the first place, but no doubt this guy cannot only play and sing, but he also has the ability to write great music too. His project Tiger Moth Tales has certainly earned him the respect from many prog rock fans over the years, and enough to make even more well known prog rock artists to take note of him and his talent too. Andy Latimer of Camel certainly took note of his talent and he’s done an incredible job for the band since joining them in 2015 to replace Guy Leblanc who passed away in the same year.

The Album In Review…

Cocoon by Tiger Moth Tales was released on White Knight Records on the 15th December 2014. The album contains 11 tracks to which are a mixture of vocal and instrumental tracks and it comes with an overall playing time of 69 minutes, 20 seconds. The album itself is very much self produced and written and recorded by Peter Jones in his own personal home studio. He also plays all the instruments on the album apart from the flugelhorn to which a friend of his played and the drums to which he programmed. The biggest majority of the album was recorded on a Tascam 488 Portastudio MK2 which is basically an 8 Track Cassette Recorder like the one pictured below.

Tascam PortaStudio 488 MK2

For the final mix he used some Goldwave software and Audacity and a few other bits of software and that was basically it. I have to say he has done exceptionally well with the production with the use of what little he had in the first place. But the album was originally an experiment and not intended to be released in the first place. At the time Jones had a bit of writers block when it came for him to work on another one of his pop albums, and he could not decide what would be fitting to put out with the way the music industry was going in the pop charts.

At the time he tried to record something he was listening to the children’s program Trumpton and picked up on the music that Freddie Phillips used to write for those sort of programs including Camberwick Green and Chigley. So he decided to play his guitar around those type of tunes and started singing to it and made up some words to fit in with the music. The piece eventually developed into a 9 minute prog rock epic that was to become known later as “A Visit To Chigwick“. Having decided he quite liked his new creation, he more or less continued in the same style to complete the album.

Musicians & Credits…

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Written Recorded & Produced by Peter Jones. Recorded at Peter Jones home studio between 2013 – 2014 in Nottingham. Artwork & Design by Neil Martin.

Musicians.

Peter Jones: Vocals/Keyboards/Electric & Acoustic Guitars/Sarod/Saxophone/Melodica/Whistle/Zither/Bells/Percussion/Drum Programming.
Mark Wardle: Flugelhorn.

The Album Tracks In Review…

The name Tiger Moth Tales that Peter Jones came up with for his project is very much inspired by his love of the music done by Steve Hackett and Genesis. Tigermoth is also a story based song from Hackett’s 3rd album Spectral Mornings and there is no doubt that some of the music of Peter Jones is very heavily influenced by Steve Hackett.

I suppose in a way even the record label he is on White Knight Records also has a connection with the name, because the label itself is run by Rob Reed of Magenta who’s own label is Tigermoth Records and White Knight Records is a collaborative record label run by Rob Reed and Will Mackie.

Cocoon is very much a concept album and the word itself can also be seen as a form of self-protection and a sense of security from our early childhood days being protected by our parents and family, and later breaking out of our shells so to speak and coming to terms with growing up and all the things it presents to us. Including the imaginary and mysteries as well as the loss. The concept album is also presented to you in a theatrical, dramatic and even comical way in some cases.

It’s not an album that has a continuous story running throughout it, and is more like a series of events that come out to play during the stages of growing up and coming to terms with things, and perhaps takes in the changes just like the 4 seasons of the year. However my own observation of the 4 seasons is really down to the fact that for some reason there are 4 little ditties on this album named after the 4 seasons of the year, and I am not sure why they have been included. But basically Peter Jones could be seen as a person who is setting children’s stories and tales to prog rock music, and that perhaps reflects even more so on his next album that was to follow it.

To be honest I know very little about Peter Jones. But the one thing I can instantly gather by his music, is that this guy has a remarkable amount of talent and skill, and is quite a remarkable musician who has a truly great gift. Not all musicians have this guys talent I can assure you, and Peter Jones was perhaps blessed with his talent. So let’s take a deeper look into this truly GREAT album as I go through the individual tracks.

Track 1. Overture.

The album kicks off with a 4 and half minute instrumental piece with it’s “Overture” which is basically the beginning or a starting point. To be honest I not sure why he wanted to even have an overture as like I said this is not really a continuous story like War Of The Worlds sort of thing. If anything this piece is more like the sort of thing Clive Nolan & Oliver Wakeman would of done on albums like Jabberwocky and The Hound Of The Baskervilles which are continuous stories and not an album made up of different stories and situations sort of thing. So this particular track might sound out of place on and album like this for example.

However this quite dramatic, wondrous and adventurous piece does also take in some of the melodies from other pieces that appear throughout the album, the last track in particular. I can even hear some melodies from a track or two on his next album that followed it too though I could be mistaken. So effectively it is not really out of place and is placed as a starting point to portray the events that are about to unfold later on and throughout the album. I like it’s fast pace and it’s perhaps in Galloping mode and could even paint a picture in one’s mind that they are charging or riding into one big adventurous story.

Musically it’s very well structured and because it’s perhaps a bit more keyboard orientated and orchestrated sort of thing, it is something more like what Clive Nolan & Oliver Wakeman would of done rather than Steve Hackett or Genesis. You could also easily associate it with film and TV music as well, but this is also a track I would even be comfortable with listening to it as a track on its own as well. So you do not have to have the bigger picture for it to work. Jones also gets the chance to play sax on the piece as well and that is another instrument he can play very well too.

I also like the sound effects he used at the beginning which sounds like he’s inserting a VHS Video Tape into the machine to give you the impression that he’s putting a film on, and the album also ends off with him stopping the tape and taking it out. Over all it’s a GREAT! track and is a very promising start to what potentially could be a very exciting album.

Track 2. Spring.

The first of the seasonal little interludes that are placed throughout the album which all run for about half minute. They are all field recordings that capture the nature of each season and this season we get the sounds of the wind, river, birds and sheep and this one even gets accompanied by a bit of organ. It’s well apt and represents spring very well, although I am not really sure it fits being placed here as the 2nd track on the album, especially after an instrumental track.

But nevertheless these little ditties are quite pleasant and soothing and they are not long enough to really be annoying. I cannot imagine anyone who has the album on vinyl record, getting up out of their seat to skip the track either :)))))).

Track 3. The Isle Of Witches.

The first of the vocal tracks on the album is a story about 3 witches who dominate an island, and few wizards who decided to go into battle to take back the island and rid the witches of their evil powers sort of thing. The song or rather story itself opens with Jones narrating the words and telling you the story, and I have to say he’s not only got a great singing voice but the expression he uses in his voice for putting over a story like this, is really excellent. It even sounds like he brought in some famous actor to narrate the story for him.

The piece itself is 11 minutes long, and the first couple of those minutes of the track is utilised well enough for Jones to put across the very dark story and it’s like him reading the story to a classroom of kids sort of thing. Even the waves of the sea in the background is very appropriate for the setting. I like the way he opens up the story with the words “are you sitting comfortably” and that instantly reminds me of The Moody Blues song of the same title from their 1969 album On The Threshold Of A Dream which also has a wizard in it with Merlin casting his spell :))))). Although this is a completely different thing, but I wonder if Jones had any inspiration from that song.

The music that follows is very dramatic and there are quite a few transitions along its path, and it really is very well built up with the use of Gothic pipe organ, keyboards, saxophone and it’s almost metal like with the guitars in places and it’s quite a powerful piece of work. Jones also utilises his voice throughout the piece very well too, and you get some screams and all sorts going on vocally. He must be using some effects on his voice and I am pretty sure he is also using a vocoder in some sections to project his voice on parts too.

Overall “The Isle Of Witches” may not be a stand out track on the album, and it can take a bit to get going sort of thing. It’s certainly a track that will require further listens to get to really appreciate it as well, and will perhaps sound a bit like not enough has been put into it over the first couple of spins. But once you have gave it several more listens you will soon find that there is perhaps more in this track than meet meets the eye.

Track 4. Summer.

The second of the Seasonal little interludes presents us with the sounds of summer, such as an ice cream van, the sounds of birds and human voices, the sea and having a bit of fun at the seaside :))))).

Track 5. Tigers In The Butter.

This next song is very much one of the strong contenders for the top spot on the album and is quite an epic near enough 15 minute piece and the longest track on the album. No doubt the Steve Hackett influence is very heavy on this track and it is more guitar based. It sounds very much like something Hackett would of done back in 1983/84 with albums such as Highly Strung and Till We Have Faces. We get a touch of the east as well and Jones plays a Sarod on this track which is an eastern instrument a bit like the Sitar as pictured below.

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To be honest I have no idea if Jones is playing a real Sarod or using the sound of one on his guitar. You can never tell these days, but a Sarod is listed in the instruments he played on the album. So I presume he does have one and it does get very well utilised on this track too. I am pretty sure he also uses a Zither on this track too, which is an instrument that is just like an Autoharp. The use of percussion also gets very well utilised in this piece and we have the sound of the jungle thrown into it all for good measure as well. Effectively Peter Jones plays on his own what it would take Steve Hackett and his whole band to do, and Jones throws the works into this cracking song.

Lyrically the words are pertaining to growing up within a family and feeling that sense of security being at home and with your family to keep you free from any harm. It also takes into account some of our wildest dreams and fantasies we might have and takes you through that journey. It’s a very well constructed piece that features great vocals and lashings of great instrumentation throughout. No doubt for many this may very well be their favourite track on the album, and Jones as certainly done the business on it.

Track 6. The First Lament.

Another instrumental track on the album and one that utilises the electric guitar and features a blinding (no pun intended) guitar solo. Speaking of guitar solos it takes something special to come up with a piece like this over this distance of 7 minutes and 40 seconds, and you will certainly be looking at guitar GREATS! such as Gary Moore and Jeff Beck to pull something like this off as well, in the way it’s been done. Like I mentioned earlier that Peter Jones is more of a keyboard player but his skills on the guitar and other instruments are far from anything mediocre, and he has learned how to play all the instruments he plays to a very high standard.

Now as a rule I do not like to post videos of artists unless it’s come from the artists official Youtube channel and they have put it on their themselves or by their record company. But this live performance of the instrumental piece I actually found on Chris Fry’s Youtube channel the guitarist from Magenta. So hopefully I should have no come backs for sharing it here. This is very much an amateur video and to be honest the studio version we have on this album does sound the best by far and totally blows my mind when I close my eyes and just listen to it.

Here Jones is backed up by the band Red Bazar which is a band he also collaborated with and they done an album together entitled Tales From the Bookshelf. “The First Lament” is another strong contender for the top spot on the album and is a blistering track on this really GREAT! album.

Track 7. Autumn.

Time for another Seasonal little interlude and here we are once again by the sea, and celebrating bonfire night by the sounds of things. You also get the sound of a brass band to which I think might be Mark Wardle’s one of the two contributions he lends to the album with the Flugelhorn.

Track 8. The Merry Vicar.

When it comes to theatrics and humour Peter Jones totally nails songs like this one, and you get more of this kind of humour on his 2nd album too. I suppose there are two ways I could describe a song like this and the first would be its the sort of thing that Danny Elfman would of done for the Tim Burton film The Nightmare Before Christmas. To be honest I have always admired Elfman’s work and he’s quite a genius. The second way I could describe it is that it’s a bit like a cross between “Carry On Up The Vicarage” and “Darktown” by Steve Hackett and no doubt there is a quite a strong element of prog rock in a skilled piece like this as well.

This is very much what I call the “Wicked” track on the album and both this track and the one that follows it are both equally as clever and it’s very hard for me to choose which one of two tracks on the album is my personal favourite. In reality because “The Merry Vicar” is very well recorded and is the better recorded track of them both, it should merit the top spot on the album solely. But the way the both compositions are so well structured. I have very much decided to merit this album with 2 winners of the top spot on the album award.

The Merry Vicar” is without doubt an awesome composition that contains some awesome piano and keyboard work and some very heavy metal like guitars and purely ROCKS and PROG ROCKS it’s way along with skilful progression and diversity and some pretty nifty transitional changes. Jones is a very skilful pianist and keyboard player who has the ability to quickly cross styles. No doubt this will be a favourite with most others too and as a funny as a song like this can be, it’s also very much a highly skilled bit of prog rock heaven and it’s certainly a big THREE CHEERS FOR THE MERRY VICAR.

Track 9. A Visit To Chigwick.

No doubt if ever there was a place I would love to visit it would be this delightful place. A place just like places like Camberwick Green, Trumpton, Chigley and Tales From The River Bank were originally invented for the children’s TV back in the late 60’s and early 70’s and featured in a series called Watch With Mother. Freddie Phillips was the guy behind the music for most of these early children’s programs, and I myself even after all these years still remember them well, and the songs and music that accompanied them.

My actual favourite music from these children’s programs was the theme music for Tales From The River Bank which was not by Phillips and was written by Mauro Giuliani and was titled “Raccolta, op. 43, no. 6: Andante in C“. It’s a popular acoustic tune for most guitarists to latch onto and try an play and even Steve Hackett covered it himself. But even the piece that Phillips wrote still had acoustic articulations about them and notable unusual use of devices and utensils for percussion.

Peter Jones has very much taken note of all those acoustic articulations and reinvented a piece of childhood magic just like those good old days, and has created his own imaginary town and a well suitable story and words to boot. No doubt this another one of his Golden classics that just like the previous track merits the top spot award of the album and they both jointly share that award.

A Visit To Chigwick” contains some gorgeous acoustic guitar with fine melody lines and no doubt in parts it even touches on a few melodies from the Wind And Wuthering album by Genesis. The whole 8 minute and 50 second journey is a pure delight to take on and goes through some very subtle and nicely built up transitions along the progression we get here. It also gives Jones the chance to use his Melodica and his voice shines on the piece along with all the other great instrumentation he has thrown in along its path.

This is another video I found on Chris Fry’s Youtube channel which shows Jones mainly singing and playing the Melodica parts and few other bits in the studio. Once again the quality is not as good as the CD but it’s not too bad here on the Tube.

I also came across this amateur video of Jones performing the song live on his own in a more stripped down way with his acoustic guitar and piano, and just had to share this excellent performance of the song as well.

The song is that good it was well worth visiting the place twice, and no doubt Peter Jones truly has a gift, and I myself will certainly be keeping my eyes peeled to catch him live hopefully not too far in the future.

Track 10. Winter.

The last of the Seasonal little interludes that features Mark Wardle playing a bit of  “Silent Night” on his Flugelhorn to the sound of sleigh bells, trampling feet, horses hoofs in the snow and church bells. It’s  winter and that seasonal time of good will to all.

Track 11. Don’t Let Go, Feels Alright.

The final track of the albums actually gives you two songs for the price of one sort of thing. Once again there is a Genesis feel to this song and perhaps a touch of The Moody Blues and Supertramp too. The both songs give Jones the chance to use more of his GREAT! singing voice and once again we get some quality work on the piano. guitar and saxophone here too. Both songs perhaps have more of a serious feel and really are excellent quality compositions that fit and blend in with each other perfectly.

Once again I have chosen another video of him I found on Chris Fry’s Youtube channel of him performing the song in a more stripped down way as he’s on his own on this performance. The amateur  video is quite shaky but just how many people do you know that can play the piano and the guitar at the same time. Well this video certainly shows that it can be done, and it also shows the real quality of his voice too.

Don’t Let Go, Feels Alright” could also be seen as the title track of the album, especially the first of the two songs in that the word “Cocoon” is mentioned in it, and it puts the album to bed perfectly. No doubt its very much another one of the contenders for the top spot on the album too.

Summary…

Overall Cocoon by Tiger Moth Tales is a very promising and exciting album and Peter Jones is really an incredible multi talented musician who can play every instrument at a very high standard and at a very well accomplished level, there is nothing mediocre about any of the instruments he plays either. He also comes with quite a voice and vocal range that even allows him to not only to sing, but also use his voice in a characteristic way that not only works very well as a story teller, but his voice could quite easily fit into animated films voicing the characters.

His ability to compose music is also something quite remarkable, and he cannot only write great pop songs as a singer-songwriter, but it can even go beyond the boundaries of prog rock and into film music just like the level Danny Elfman is at when it comes to composing music and lyrics. The world of prog rock really is suited to his music and the fact that he can even throw in some humour and recreate not only his own childhood but even our own with his GREAT! music, is quite an achievement. There is nothing not to like about his project of Tiger Moth Tales and it’s all quite Magical if anything, and a particular style I hope he sticks too.

There can be no doubt that Peter Jones is very blessed with talent and their are not a lot of musicians in this world who have this much talent either. It appears to me that the blind can see more than we can to be able to achieve the skills he possesses and Cocoon is quite a remarkable piece of work and an highly addictive album that will keep you coming back for more. My personal highlights from the album are “A Visit To Chigwick“. “The Merry Vicar“. “Tigers In The Butter“. “The First Lament” and “Don’t Let Go, Feels Alright“.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review here of Cocoon by Tiger Moth Tales its perhaps not the first time children’s stories have featured on prog rock albums and even Peter & The Wolf had been done back in the 70’s. But what we have here is very much influenced and highly original material that has been very skilfully thought out and played to a very high level. Musicians like Peter Jones are not ten a penny and they do not grow on trees either. If you are into Steve Hackett & Genesis and the likes of the Moody Blues. Gary Moore. Jeff Beck and many other GREATS! including even Danny Elfman. I am pretty sure you will love this album as much as I do.

Cocoon is quite a solid body of work and truly GREAT! album. You can listen to some of the tracks for yourself free on Bandcamp along many of his other albums, and also buy it from there if you wish. From the link here: https://tigermothtales.bandcamp.com/album/cocoon

After listening to the 3 studio albums on there myself I was totally hooked and had to have the physical CD’s of them. I soon found out that I could buy all 3 of those studio albums from White Knight Records a bit cheaper and with free postage & packing here in the UK. And you can even save £5 if you order all 3 of them at the same time and get them for £25 just like I did. They all come in quality DigiSleeves too as pictured below. The link for White Knight Records is here: http://www.whiteknightshop.co.uk/page26.htm and scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the offer for all 3 CD’s.

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I can tell you they was well worth getting as well and have been very well produced. If Peter was to make 5.1 versions of them. I would certainly buy them all again as well, and such superb music would suit 5.1 surround as well with the many instruments he plays.  Coming up next for review will be the 2nd album Story Tellers by Tiger Moth Tales.

Was There Such A Place? Is There A Way We Can Go Back In Time…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Overture. 4:31.
02. Spring. 0:34.
03. The Isle Of Witches. 11:02.
04. Summer. 0:29.
05. Tigers In The Butter. 14:54.
06. The First Lament. 7:40.
07. Autumn. 0:30.
08. The Merry Vicar. 6:40.
09. A Visit To Chigwick. 8:50.
10. Winter. 0:37.
11. Don’t Let Go, Feels Alright. 13:32.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

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

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee Speaks About Music… #102

Live At The Apollo (Blu Ray) – Yes

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Introduction…

I have to confess that my world of Yes music does not really stretch further than the album Relayer that the band made way back in 1974. Although I did still carry on buying most of their albums up to the year 2001 when they released their 19th studio album Magnification in the hope of them reproducing more of the same GREAT! material that came from the bands output from 1971 – 1974 with the albums such as The Yes Album. Fragile. Close To The Edge. Tales From The Topographic Oceans and Relayer.

But overall I was hugely disappointed from the moment that Yes released Going For The One in 1977. From that moment and onwards, everything just seemed to spiral down the plug hole, and the fact that the band had made so many line-up changes just made it completely worse in my eyes. Most fans of the band may very well even consider an album like Going For The One, one of their better albums. But I guess that would also very much boil down to the fact of when you actually got onto the band Yes in the first place more than anything else.

If like myself you was into the band during those earlier years of the 70’s from 1971 – 1974 for example. It’s perhaps easier for those people and myself to plainly see that the album Going For The One in reality was very much not really that much different from the album 90125 they made with a different line-up in 1983. Though in reality both albums are both poles apart and that may even appear to be a ridiculous comparison. But in reality they was both highly commercial albums. Both albums were also aimed at attracting a more popular audience with the material that was written for them.

I think a lot of what really happened regarding the bands writing ability, was that after such a more futuristic album like Relayer the ink from the pen had dried up, and they had perhaps gone that forward into the future, it left them no way of going beyond it. So they had to revert to more or less going back to where they originally started at the beginning with their first couple of albums and go back to writing pop songs.

For me personally the only real prog rock song on the album Going For The One is “Awaken“. And that for me personally is the best track on the album and the only track I would also associate with Yes Music. That one track alone is the nearest the band ever got to the music they churned out so well between 1971 – 1974. Personally I do not think they ever got that near to it again afterwards either.

I am not saying that Going For The One is a bad album at all, and in reality its got a fine collection of songs that make it quite a good album if I was to be entirely honest. I also would say that as an album its perhaps one of their strongest after Relayer. But unlike those earlier 5 albums which I can still play with no problem at all and still enjoy today. All the other albums that came after Relayer I can only play the odd track from those albums now and again.

I have brought the odd live DVD or Blu Ray they put out over the years. But to be perfectly honest I never thought in a million years I would end up buying this particular line up of the band. But before I go any further, let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork as usual.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The disc comes in a standard Blu Ray case and contains a 3 panel fold out colour booklet which contains the linear production notes along with some photographs of the band. The information is not that informative for example, they tell you that Eugene O’ Connor was the Director of Photography but it does not even tell you who the photographers were taking the pictures.

But I guess they was stills taken from the video footage. It does not even tell you how many video camera operators there was, or who the hell shot the footage. However the camera operators are on the end credits at the end of the concert itself. The design was done by Stuart Green of Eagle Rock Entertainment.

The Release Editions…

Package

Live At The Apollo was released in 5 formats of your choice to choose from if you count the digital download. Oddly enough the fact that none of the physical packages have been bundled up will make this quite an expensive package if you want both the audio on vinyl or CD with a picture as well with either the Blu Ray or DVD. As a rule it’s quite common to see either the DVD or the Blu Ray come with the CD’s in one package which can be quite a saving if you’re looking to have the both. Just as well I am only interested in having the picture and the audio together with the concert, rather than just hearing it in audio only.

The vinyl package is the most expensive at around £35 for the 3 LP vinyl edition. Both the 2 CD and the Blu Ray editions are priced around the same price of £14.99 each and the DVD works out the cheapest option at around £12 – £13. No doubt all these prices can fluctuate and I used Amazon for the price comparison being as they are one of the cheapest outlets. However I ended up ordering the Blu Ray for £14.99 from HMV being as it had sold out on Amazon Prime, and I was not going to be paying the extra price for postage and packaging the other sellers were charging for it either.

Live At The Apollo (Blu Ray) In Review…

Live At The Apollo by Yes featuring Jon Anderson. Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin was released by Eagle Records & Eagle Entertainment Video on the 7th September 2018. It captures the band live on stage from the concert they played at the O2 Manchester Apollo on the 25th March 2017. The concert was released this year in a way of celebrating the bands 50th Anniversary.

Making up the rest of the band they have Lee Pomeroy on bass who has previously featured in Steve Hackett’s band over the years and Lou Molino III on drums who I have to confess I know nothing at all about. But apparently he has worked with Trevor Rabin before on his solo albums, and even played for the likes of Julian Lennon and Kenny Loggins as well as his main band Cock Robin.

The Blu Ray.

SS 1

The main menu screen opens up with a short video from the show of the band playing “Owner Of A Lonely Heart”. Well I say short but it’s actually about 3 and half minutes of it before it fades out and recycles itself to play it again. The menu itself presents you with 3 options “Play”. “Song Selection” and “Audio Options”.

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By clicking on the “Song Selection” it displays all the songs in the set list for you to choose from. I quite like how it does not load up another screen, and you can simply make your choice from the one menu.

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The “Audio Options” can also be simply selected from the main screen as well without having to load up a separate screen. By default the audio is set to LPCM Stereo. It also comes with a DTS HD Master Audio for 5.1 surround for sound freaks like myself. The multi-track Soundtrack comes in 24/48K which is the higher quality of the both soundtracks you get here, and the Stereo mix is in 16/48K only.

The Picture Quality.

The film footage was shot in high definition and was done with the use of 6 cameras and operators. You are getting that more extra with the picture quality over the DVD and this picture quality is quite pristine, which is more than I could say for the Neal Morse concert I previously reviewed. No doubt the cameras have captured the band and the concert very well, and they have also done a grand job with the video editing, and it does the band great justice for it.

The 5.1 Mix.

The 5.1 mix was done by Paul Linford and Trevor Rabin and I have to say they have done quite a very good job of it and used the wide space very well over the 6 channels. It’s a lot better and more fuller than the stereo mix as well. I do find the stereo mix is a bit on the light side of things and lacks a bit of bass too. I would also say the stereo mix is perhaps more on the flat response side out of the 2 mixes you get here. The 5.1 mix does project more ambience but still maintains the bass with good use they have made of .1 channel with the subwoofer.

It also presents you with more of a representation of the actual live sound in the arena even playing it straight with no added colourisation or DSP’s. To be honest I never use DSP’s and this recording does in some way sound like its already been recorded with the use of a DSP to represent the ambient sound of the actual arena. In some ways mixed like this,  its not the sort of thing I would generally go for and would not of felt it would work to my liking at all. But it is without doubt way better than the stereo mix and just by listening to the sound of Jon Anderon’s voice alone, you can plainly hear that the microphone has the right amount of reverb for his voice, where it’s more dry and flat on the stereo mix.

Considering that there was no ambient mics placed in the audience to pick up the audience in the first place this is a concert that does benefit more for the 5.1 mix you get here with how well they have done the mix. However the fact they did add the audience afterwards by using parts of another audience in some cases, they have been a bit silly with where they placed the audience in certain parts. This too has been picked up by most reviews of this release and I shall discuss more about it in both my “Fake Audience Causes A Stir” and in my “On With The Show” sections of my review. But overall the 5.1 mix is very good.

Musicians & Credits…

Yes

Recorded live at the 02 Apollo in Manchester England on the 25th March 2017. Directed by Blue Leach. Produced by Jim Parsons. Musical Supervision by Trevor Rabin. Audio Mixed by Paul Linford & Trevor Rabin. Music Mixed & Produced at Jacaranda Studios. Mastered by Tim Young at Metropolis. Camera Operators James Cullen. James Cronly. Nick Wheeler. Kelvin Richard. Joe Dyer. Rob Emannuel. Herbette. Edited by Reg Wrench & Tim Thomsett. Production Manager Melissa Morton Hicks. Director of Photography Eugene O’ Connor. Artwork Design by Stuart Green of Eagle Rock Entertainment. Management Brian Lane.

Musicians:
Jon Anderson: Lead & Backing Vocals/Acoustic Guitar/Harp/Percussion.
Rick Wakeman: Keyboards.
Trevor Rabin: Guitars/Vocals.
Lee Pomeroy: Bass/Backing Vocals.
Lou Molino III: Drums/Percussion/Backing Vocals.

The Concert In Review…

Like most old venues these days they tend to change the name slightly to cater for those who are now sponsoring the old buildings. And the mobile phone company O2 have sponsored most of them these days, and even though on the front of the cover it states the “Apollo” it’s actually the O2 Apollo these days and was also last year when this version of Yes played there.

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As you can see by the building and it’s art deco style its very much like one of those old Cinema Houses built many moons ago just like we have (or rather had) here in Birmingham, and perhaps more like the Shepherd Bush Empire in London. And that is what they was originally built for. The building was built in 1938 and was opened by the actress Margaret Lockwood. Back then and up until the 70’s it was very much mainly used as a Cinema House and was called the Apollo Theatre. Since the 70’s the venue stopped functioning as a Cinema House and has been solely used for concerts. It was refurbished in 2010 and has been called the O2 Apollo ever since.

To be honest I used to enjoy it back in the 70’s when the old Odeon Cinema House in New Street Birmingham used to function as a Cinema House and for concerts. But in the end they put a stop to the concerts and made into one of those multiplex Cinema Houses instead. But most of these venues have more or less the same size capacity although this one holds perhaps a third more than the Odeon and the O2 Apollo has a seating capacity of around 3,500.

Yes Over The Decades…

We are now living in a world where we have 2 bands going under the name of Yes and I have to say it’s just absolutely ridiculous how the name has been so badly tarnished over the years with its many band line ups. Having 2 bands you are perhaps faced with the choice of do you go and see the both? or simply make a choice which band has the best musicians in it?.

To be perfectly frank I would not pay to see either of them live and for those who think that ARW are Yes or even the current line up with Steve Howe and Alan White are Yes. I am sorry to say they are both miles apart from the band I call Yes. But I suppose if you still want to hear the good old Yes music played live, both bands are still capable of doing such a thing.

Though I do understand that Alan White is having a few problems playing drums these days, and at his age being a drummer it does require a lot of physical work. It’s also most likely why Bill Bruford has retired and Jon Anderson did originally approach Bruford to play for their line up of Yes. But he was not interested and was quite happy to be retired and doing the odd bit of teaching drums to students he does these days.

But for me personally there can only be one voice for the band Yes and that is without a doubt the voice of Jon Anderson. The fact that the Steve Howe side of the band picked singers to imitate Anderson’s voice was a very bad decision in my eyes. They turned the band into nothing more than a tribute band by doing such a thing. To be honest even if Chris Squire was still alive now, I personally think more would go to see the ARW side of Yes than the tribute side of it, because it is more original even if it’s not what I personally would of liked to have seen.

But then again if it was not for Squire’s death in the first place there would not be 2 bands going under the same name at all, and it was only down to an informal agreement that Anderson and Squire had regarding the name, which should be used for Squire’s version of the group only whilst he was alive. With both he and Anderson being the longest members of the band Squire was the only member to feature on all of their albums that they made at the time he was still alive. It was Squire’s wife who suggested both bands could use the name in the wake of his death. I suppose it stops all the arguments, but now there may just be a war with their fans arguing over which band is the better :)))))).

Well the one thing I will say is that a line up of Yes without Steve Howe is certainly never in a million years the Yes I knew and loved all those years ago. But I would also say the same to the other line up without Jon Anderson. These very two members of the band are the main ingredients who created Yes Music all those years ago. If back in 1971 the band had recruited Trevor Rabin as their guitarist instead of Steve Howe. I can honestly say that Yes Music would of never existed. They are both good guitarists but both have completely different styles, and Trevor Rabin is a rock guitarist and not a prog rock guitarist and that does make a massive difference I am afraid.

The last time I saw Yes live was on their Union tour back in 1991 at the NEC in Birmingham. The best part of that show was when they only had Anderson, Squire, Howe, Wakeman and Bruford on the stage playing a few numbers. I thought they was mostly overpowered and overcrowded the arrangements of the songs with them all on the stage. It was a bit too much and on the whole, and I felt that when I seen Anderson. Bruford. Wakeman. Howe at the NEC in 1989 they was much better at that concert. Even as impressive as Rabin may have looked when he played more or less note for note along with Wakeman to “Catherine Parr” at that Union concert, never once in my mind did it occur to me that he was the right guitarist for Yes.

Still to this day I do not believe he his right guitarist for the band either, but that all of course depends on what decade of Yes you like the most, and no doubt the 80’s was certainly more of a pop side of Yes than any prog rock side we seen of them in the early 70’s, and to be perfectly honest Howe could not play those 80’s songs like Rabin could either. So if you want to hear songs like “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” then no doubt this is side of Yes you should be buying and going to see in my eyes. But as for the earlier Yes songs from the 70’s there is just no way Rabin can play them like Howe could either. So one may just be questioning why on earth I brought this concert in the first place?.

Well it certainly was not so I could listen to 80’s pop music I can assure you :)))))). And in all honesty even though I knew this concert was being released. I never pre-ordered it beforehand either, like I would with most of the things I buy these days. To be honest I had no intention at all of buying it either. But after watching most of it on Youtube for bugger all there are two things that attracted me to buy it.

The first being I was quite taken away by how so well Jon Anderson’s voice sounds at the age of 73. He’s hardly dropped a note and it’s quite amazing to still have your own voice still more or less in tact after all those years. The second thing that attracted my attention is very much on the arrangement side of things, and just how much my God of the keyboards Rick Wakeman is putting into it all.

I would not by any means say this was the best Yes concert by a long shot. But what you do get here is perhaps something that bit more different with the arrangement side of things, even in comparison to what very little arrangement you got with the Yes Acoustic concert that got released in 2004 with the 1973 line up of the band. But there was another thing that also drew my attention to buy this concert, and that was the many bad reviews it got because the audience was not originally recorded and was overdubbed badly in the mix afterwards.

Fake Audience Causes A Stir…

Being a person who likes to write reviews, I do also like to read other peoples reviews as well. I also like to watch other people such as Darren Lock and such people do talking reviews about music and various other products on Youtube. Which is something I myself do not personally have the confidence to do like they can, and in some respect I wish I could. To be honest I quite admire how Darren Lock presents his interviews but I certainly do not agree with all his reviews.

Unlike myself who is willing to give any album the time of day by playing it at least 7 times over from start to finish before I even attempt to write a review. He can be a guy who in most cases will play an album once, and then makes his own mind up of it. That to me is not a fair review in the first place, especially considering that a lot of the good music in this world does take time to grow on you, and that is generally how many albums will stay the test of time over all those years.

Not everyone is like Phil Collins who writes music to instantly grab your attention by hitting you directly in the face with it. Only to find out later that after a month or so it all wears off and was rather thin in the first place. I am not saying that Collins made bad records by any standards, and they have to be bloody good to have that effect on a person in the first place. But I just found a lot of it soon became outdated. I could say exactly the same about 80’s Yes too.

I also noticed that Darren Lock had reviewed this same Blu Ray of this Yes concert, and a couple of days later he posted a short follow up about the people complaining about the added crowd noise being over the top, to which he started calling them all “wankers” for moaning about it. He even said he had to play part of the concert again to see what all the fuss was about and did admit there was added audience noise, but he did not think it was that irritating as the biggest majority of reviewers were slagging it down for.

So this is very much something I wanted to be able to hear for myself and make my own mind up about it all. I am aware there are many “Trolls” posting reviews on Amazon and a lot of them are not verified purchasers of the product from Amazon either. For example many will complain about how a concert has been badly edited when they have no real experience about film editing in the first place, or they have just started some miracle course learning about it and think they already know it all :))))). Others moan cause it’s not on Spotify so they can hear it for free :)))))).

Others just run a product down simply because they do not like anything about it, and cannot see why it got so many great reviews in the first place. I personally look for the more detailed reviews where at least the person does tend to have some real interest in the product even if it did not quite work out, and the ones that pinpoints the pros and cons about the product. I also widen my search on the net regarding any review and do not stick to one particular site to get what I am looking for.

After all I would not expect anybody to take one review as the bible sort of thing and certainly not my own either. When it comes to any form of music, we all have our own individual tastes, but for this review even though my personal taste of Yes comes from those earlier times in the 70’s and not the 80’s. I am trying not to be completely bias to the later material the band made and put out, and I have always liked some of it to a certain degree.

I would even go as far as saying that it’s good that you can get to hear it again in a concert like this, which does more or less focus on the 70’s and 80’s side of the bands output with the material they are presenting to you here. And that is what really finally persuaded me to buy this concert, not just so I could find out if those reviews about the crowd noise is unbearable.

The other good thing about this concert is that it also comes with a 5.1 mix, and I am a surround freak anyway. Though for this review I have also listened to the concert in stereo only as well, because of all the fuss of the crowd noise. So let’s now take a closer look at what we have here as I go through the concert itself, and find see if the added audience spoils the show so to speak.

On With The Show…

The show opens up with an orchestrated intro of “Perpetual Change” and the stage visuals of the band entering the stage (all but Jon Anderson at this point) have an old crackly vintage film look about it all, which I suppose goes with old orchestration that’s being played in this short intro. Visually it’s perhaps not fitting for the Blu Ray and at this point the picture does not even look like its been filmed in HD and perhaps is more fitting with an old film about the Phantom Of The Opera sort of thing :))))))).

Thankfully the intro is very short and the band proceed the show with the short instrumental piece from their 90125 album entitled “Cinema” and by now the picture quality is looking much more like it, nice, pristine and sharp and at the end of the short piece Jon Anderson makes his entrance and the band then actually play “Perpetual Change” and do quite a god job it. The way the band are rolling the numbers of the set list out throughout most of the show is by playing an old 70’s number, followed by an 80’s number and it works pretty well this way I feel too.

As I already stated earlier my favourite side of Yes is very much the early 70’s and not the 80’s side of the band at all. But I have no real problem with this concert and it is a bit of a treat to hear some of these songs from the 80’s again. To be honest most of them I have not heard since back then either. To be honest both the 70’s and 80’s songs have all been given a slightly different arrangement to them, and most of the time it works. I do not expect Trevor Rabin to play those older songs like Steve Howe did, and in reality Rabin would not want to anyway because he would rather put his own stamp into those songs and that I respect.

But no doubt Rabin’s guitar playing is better suited to the songs he originally done with the band and “Hold On” that follows next even gives Rick Wakeman a chance to play a bit of moog on it. He does even more so on “Rhythm Of Love” which is a bit further on in the set, and overall the other members of the band both Lee Pomeroy and Lou Molino III also contribute very well with the backing vocals and harmonies and they all tend to cope with all the numbers in this 2 hour live set.

Bar one song that is, and that song is “And You And I“. There is something not quite right with the performance of this song, and it’s not down to Jon Anderson. He is doing an incredible job on the vocals at his age and it’s not far away from his heyday either. I cannot fault Rick Wakeman here either, but somehow the back line of the band have not quite got it. You can even hear volume levels go up and down in this mix and it appears like they have tried to make the mix work for them to include the song here. I am not saying it’s a disaster by any means but it could of been done better.

But just as that particular song is perhaps lacking that bit of lacklustre, they certainly make it up on “Heart Of The Sunrise” and this to me is my personal highlight of the show and by far the best performance from the whole band. They have more or less nailed this old song of the bands. I was glad out of the songs from 90125 that they also included “Changes“. That was my personal favourite track from that album years ago, and they do justice to it here as well.

Regarding the “Fake Audience” that many reviewers have complained about. There is no doubt that the added audience they have put in the middle of some of the songs, rather than at the end of each song where it’s better suited, was a bit of a silly thing to do. But this has not been done on every song, and even though it may appear to be over the top so to speak, I can honestly say that it’s not that over the top as a lot of the reviewers have pointed out in saying that is has completely ruined the show for them.

I personally think Darren Lock was right, but not by calling them “Wankers” :)))))) but I have listened to this concert 3 times now, twice in 5.1 and once in stereo and it certainly never spoiled my enjoyment of the show. I agree with Darren and all I can say is that people must pay far too much attention to the audience rather than focusing on the band itself and watching what they are doing.

Don’t get me wrong some of the crowd noise is quite loud and does sound pathetic being added to the mix like that, and you can  hear it on mainly the opening songs and “Lift Me Up” me up in particular. But this is nowhere near as bad as watching something like the American TV program Happy Days where you can hear the audience laugh at the end of every sentence, and the fact that audience did do that, certainly never spoilt my enjoyment of watching that TV program.

I also think they have overdubbed some backing vocals for the 5.1 surround mix especially on “Rhythm Of Love“. But in all honesty none of the overdubs are as bad as what they did with the 5.1 mix of The Way We Walk DVD by Genesis from years ago. I only ever heard that at a mates house many moons ago, and everything they overdubbed in that mix was completely out of sync and no way would I buy that thing :))))).

To be honest the only thing that annoys me about this 5.1 mix is the one part in “Perpetual Change” where they have mixed Jon Anderson’s voice singing the words “Every Day” in the left rear speaker where it sort of echoes like a train in a tube station going down a track. Thankfully it only happens once in the song. But that to me is more annoying than the audience :)))))).

Other highlights from the show are “Awaken” to which they do a bit of a jungle intro and outro to it which is different. “Long Distance Runaround/The Fish” they also cope pretty well with and on “Owner Of A Lonely HeartWakeman gets out his KeyTar to join Rabin on guitar, and they both go for a walk in and around the audience. Overall the band look like they have enjoyed themselves and have had a very good night at the Apollo indeed, and they top it all of off nicely with an encore of “Roundabout” to end the show in fine style.

Now I have not mentioned all the songs they play in the set here, but I cannot really fault them either and the band do a grand job of them. One of the other songs they do is from the Union album and to be honest even though Rick Wakeman did not like that particular album, neither did I, but I felt they could of chose one of the better songs from that album instead of “Lift Me Up“. I actually preferred what they did on the Anderson. Bruford. Wakeman. Howe album in relation to that album and would of preferred something from that or another song from the Yes catalogue.

Summary…

To sum up Live At The Apollo by (AWR) Yes. I personally think the guys in this line up of Yes put on a really GREAT! show. I also think it was well worthy of buying and even for a fan like myself who is into the 70’s side of Yes this is a show that does not really disappoint at all. Having watched it 3 times already it still gives me enough to want to watch it again. I am not saying this is the best concert you will ever see of Yes, and no doubt I would still prefer to hear them on Yessongs and Yesshows and even watch them on DVD’s like Keys To Ascension and Live at Montreux 2003 with the 1973 line up of the band.

But I can still even enjoy DVD’s like Live from House Of Blues and Symphonic Live and they are all pretty much exciting shows, and to be honest I would rather watch a live concert on DVD or Blu Ray than just listen to a concert in audio only. If it comes with a good 5.1 mix then that is an extra added bonus and is a real winner for me every time. I would not say Live At The Apollo has an excellent 5.1 mix, but it’s quite good and certainly a lot better than the stereo mix. You can also turn the rear speakers down as well, so you do not even have to listen to the crowd. But I never did that, and prefer the crowd in the mix to give it more of that live feel.

No doubt the crowd noise seems to a bit issue with at least 50 – 55% of the reviews but I personally and certainly do not think it overshadows the concert, and I would not let those reviews put you off either, unless you are somebody who cannot watch a TV program where the audience is in the background laughing at every sentence sort of thing. The crowd noise is nowhere near as frequent as that for starters, and to be honest the way some people have described it is as if it was like The Beatles playing Shea Stadium and the only thing you could hear was the crowd for God’s sake :)))))).

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Live At The Apollo I know I originally stated that I would not pay to see either of the two bands that go by the name of Yes these days, and I personally  think it’s a real shame that at the end of the day its come down to all this.  But having watched this concert it does make me wish a bit that I was there, and I may of paid to see them live if the price of the ticket was not too high like most are these days.

There is no denying that Jon Anderson is the real voice of Yes. The fact that he still very much has his voice still very much merits anyone still wanting to see Yes which is perhaps more that I can say for Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull who I could not personally watch live these days, even though I love that band and Ian too.

Watching Jon Anderson even with this line up of Yes on Blu Ray is still very much a delight to see, and no doubt Anderson can still give it more or less his best even at his ripe old age. I am so glad that I decided to buy this concert in the end, and not let my own feelings of how I seen this line up get in the way. You simply cannot turn back the clock to the 70’s all the time and expect it still to be the same today. But even this line up of the band can take you back to the 70’s and the 80’s and they have managed to do a very good job of it all overall.

Dreamer Easy In The Chair That Really Fits You…

The Blu Ray track listing is as follows:

(Total Time 1 Hour 56 Minutes)
01. Medley: Intro / Cinema / Perpetual Change.
02. Hold On.
03. I’ve Seen All Good People
(I Your Move. II All Good People).
04. Lift Me Up.
05. And You & I
(I. Cord Of Life. II Eclipse. III The Preacher, The Teacher. IV Apocalypse).
06. Rhythm Of Love.
07. Heart Of The Sunrise.
08. Changes.
09. Medley: Long Distance Runaround / The Fish
(Schindleria Praematurus).
10. Awaken.
11. Medley: Make It Easy / Owner Of A Lonely Heart.
12. Roundabout.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 7/10.

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

Lee’s Picture Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s 5.1 Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Stereo Mix Rating Score. 7/10.

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

Lee Speaks About Music… #101

The Similitude Of A Dream Live In Tilburg 2017 – The Neal Morse Band

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Introduction…

Well I have been a fan of Neal Morse ever since I first got into the band Transatlantic back in the year 2000. Since then I very much started backtracking on the albums he done with Spock’s Beard and also have followed and collected quite a lot of his solo albums apart from his religious Worship albums that is. I also have most of his live concerts on DVD & Blu Ray he has done particularly with his solo career and like this one with where he has added a band to the end of his name, including the live Transatlantic concerts that were released on DVD.

To be honest because of the way I store my CD’s/DVD’s and Blu Rays on different shelves. I always find myself double (or even treble) checking what I do have or don’t have of  Neal Morse whenever I go and buy something he’s put out. He is perhaps the most artist I have trouble with when ordering anything he puts out, and on many occasions I have nearly ordered something of his I already have. Neal Morse can be very busy at times and can quite often churn out a lot of material with all the projects he is involved in. The fact that I enjoy what he does so much is why I buy a lot of his material including his live concerts which can be highly entertaining to watch.

Though I have to confess that since seeing him live with Transatlantic back in 2010 at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London. I would not pay money to go and see him live again. What I find with an awful lot of these newer prog bands is that they tend to drown the audience out by playing way too loud. That was a bad experience I will never forget and since then I have seen other bands like Frost* do exactly the same thing at their live shows. I can honestly say you will not get to hear the real quality of any of those bands live on stage and are way better off by buying the DVD or Blu Ray when it comes out, than paying the price of the ticket to go and see them live.

The Similitude Of A Dream is the 2nd of two albums Neal Morse has written with his main band. It was very much a double album and the original studio version was released back in November 2016. It’s one of his better albums and certainly the best out of the two he has done with his band. Though as to if it can compete with both the albums ? and Sola Scriptura that he done much earlier under his own name. I personally do not think so. However I think this live performance of the album raises the level of the album up a notch more and even works better live than the studio version I feel. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The Blu Ray edition comes in the more thinner version of the plastic case in relation to the normal thicker ones you would get a film in, and they tend to use these thinner cases for music these days. I have to confess I have never a real fan of Blu Ray cases and much prefer the way some artists like Ayreon package their discs in which is more like a cardboard DigiPak the same size as we have here. It’s a lot better presentation and these type of plastic blue cases do look really cheap and flimsy. Even a DVD case is made much more stronger in reality.

However I quite like the hubs that hold the discs in this case and they are a lot easier to retrieve the discs without much effort at all. They are perhaps not the best being as they can quite easily come loose off the hub, especially when being transported, but least they are not like some hubs that hold them a lot tighter that you have the risk of splitting the actual disc if your not too careful retrieving the discs. This presentation is no doubt done on the cheap and you do not even get a booklet with it :))))).

As with most music concerts they covers tend to be a snapshot of the band from the concert. The photography was done by Christophe Pauly and the layout by The Man In The Mountain whoever he may be :))))). All the credits and linear are on the back cover.

The Release Editions…

The Similitude Of A Dream: Live In Tilburg 2017 was released in two editions. The DVD Edition comes with 2 CD’s & 2 DVD’s. The Blu Ray Edition comes with 2 Blu Ray discs only and both are the same price on Neal Morse’s own website to which they are charging $25.00 each. Some other outlets are charging more for the DVD edition than the Blu Ray and I have to say that the price point of these things in my own country I would say are well overpriced.

I opted for the Blu Ray Edition and managed to get it for £14.70 brand new from a third party seller on Amazon called Uniqueplace Dot UK. They themselves were charging more for the DVD edition that came with 2 CD’s & 2 DVD’s and that was priced at £19.82. But I was not interested in having the CD’s and preferred the Blu Ray for my needs. Although the third party may sound like they are based in the UK. They are not at all and you do have to wait a couple weeks for it to arrive.

To be honest I am very wary about using third party’s on Amazon but I have used this seller in the past and the product is the genuine item and brand new, and comes sealed. Some people on ebay are even charging over £19 for the Blu Ray second hand. So it was worth the extra wait to get it at the best price, and for £14.70 that’s a bit of a bargain. Though I certainly do not think it should cost more than £20 for the 2 Blu Ray edition in the first place and £25 at most outlets over here is way above the price it should of retailed at.

The Similitude Of A Dream Live (Blu Ray) In Review…

The Similitude Of A Dream (Live In Tilburg 2017) by The Neal Morse Band was released on the 15th June 2018 and contains the whole of the double album played live along with a couple of tracks from Neal’s earlier solo albums and a couple from their previous album done with his band. The Netherlands is quite a regular jaunt for Neal Morse to pop over from his home country in America, and he has played at the 013 in Tilburg a number of times including with the other project bands he has been involved in over the years.

The venue itself is quite popular with most prog rock bands due to its smaller capacity to which many prog bands could not fill much bigger venues and the only bigger events you may get to see them at is more of and outdoor venues in a festival sort of thing along with a bunch of other acts.

To be honest an outdoor festival may very well be the best place to see these kind of more newer prog rock bands, simply because in an open field you can pick your own spot to get the best sound, rather than them playing at ridiculous volume levels like they do in these smaller indoor venues. When I say newer prog rock bands I am referring to those who came out much later than the 70’s just like Neal Morse who first started out with Spock’s Beard back in the 90’s.

I have never seen any prog rock band who came out in the 70’s play at the ridiculous volume levels these idiots play at, not even in the smaller venues like they play at today either. I seen many back in the 70’s play at the Odeon New Street in my own town of Birmingham which is pretty much the same size venue I seen Transatlantic live at Shepherds Bush. They was loud, but never that loud that you could not make out what the bloody band was playing like they do at them, and the musicians sounding out of tune with one another because the sound was bouncing off all the walls in the place.

The whole concert is spread out over the 2 Blu Ray discs and this as to be the first concert ever I have brought of anything of Neal’s that does not come with any extras in the way of bonus footage. As a rule he videos everything and sticks hours of extra footage on them, you even get to see him and the band eat lunch :)))))) but this one does not even have any backstage footage and comes with Zilch. Maybe the Slough’s they had on the stage and in the audience ate the extra footage :)))))).

Blu Ray 1.

D1 S1

The main menu opens up with an animated picture of the book. The menu itself is simple and easy enough and only gives you 2 options which are “Play All” and “Song Selection”. The Blu Ray only comes with 1 soundtrack which is just your basic stereo LPCM 48/16 format and not a Blu Ray HD audio format at all.

D1 S2

By clicking on the “Song Selection” it gives you the choice to choose from any track from all the songs that are contained on the 1st disc. It also plays a slide show of a few pictures that ran on the screen at the back of the stage during the live concert.

The first disc comes with 13 tracks in total, the first of which is an introduction that is followed by the 12 tracks that were on the original 1st disc of the studio album, and it has an overall playing time of 54 minutes, 45 seconds.

Blu Ray 2.

D2 S1

As you can see from the picture above the 2nd disc opens up with a different animated menu screen which shows some different pictures that appeared throughout the show.  Once again you get the same 2 options to choose from.

D2 S2

“Song Selection” menu shows you all the songs you have to choose from the 2nd disc and you get a slide show of some more different pictures that came from the backdrop they showed during the show. The menus are pretty good, however the fact that it comes with only 1 audio format and very little options has me thinking was it worth putting this concert on Blu Ray :)))))).

The second disc contains the 11 tracks that were originally on the 2nd studio album, plus 4 tracks they played in the way of an encore. This disc comes with an overall playing time of 93 minutes, 35 seconds.

The Picture & Sound Quality.

Well no doubt the sound quality which I have already mentioned is certainly not up to the standards or even fitting for a Blu Ray disc. So is the picture any better? To be perfectly honest no it’s not at all, and there is no real difference between buying the Blu Ray or the DVD. This has most likely been filmed on non HD cameras, put on a DVD and transferred to Blu Ray. If it was filmed with HD cameras they were not the best by a long shot, and this is not what I would call a pristine picture either that you would get with most Blu Rays that have been filmed with quality cameras.

You can very much get the same by playing a DVD in a Blu Ray player simply because it up-scales the picture and that is more or less the quality we have on this Blu Ray. The only real advantage of buying this concert on Blu Ray over the DVD is really down to the fact that you can get it cheaper and nothing really more I am afraid.

But that is not to say that what we have here is really bad at all, and the picture quality is without doubt still very good and so too is the sound even if it is in a much lower audio format and there is no 5.1 mix here. To be honest judging by the 5.1 mixes that have been done in the past for both Neal Morse’s and Transatlantic DVD’s. I honestly do not think you will missing a thing. Simply because the guys who have done the 5.1 mixes in the past have not got a clue how to mix a concert in 5.1 :))))). Thankfully they do a pretty decent job with the stereo mix.

Musicians & Credits…

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Recorded live at the 013 Tilburg on the 2nd April 2017. Sound Engineer Rich Mouser. Stage Technician Christian Kuhn. Lighting Director Mateusz Dudar. Camera Operators John Vis. Meriam Verkleij. Geert Jan Schoonbeek. Olivier Dague. Christelle Herbette. Studio Mix by Eric Gillette. Video Content Christian Rios. Photography by Christophe Pauly. Layout The Man In The Mountain. Tour Manager Daniel Schindler.

Musicians:
Neal Morse: Vocals/Keys/Guitar.
Mike Portnoy: Drums/Vocals.
Bill Hubauer: Keyboards/Mandolin/Sax/Vocals.
Eric Gillette: Guitar/Vocals.
Randy George: Bass/Bass Pedals/Vocals.

The Concert In Review…

The Similitude Of A Dream live tour kicked off in North America in the first month of 2017 and Neal and the band played 17 concerts over there between January 14th – February 7th. They also played a total of 17 concerts on the European tour between March 22nd – April 9th along with 2 more shows. The first being Israel on the 12th of April and at the Rosfest in Pennsylvania USA on the 6th of May.

The concert we have here was filmed at the 013 Tilburg in the Netherlands during their European tour on the 2nd of April 2017. The 013 Tilburg is the largest and most popular music venue in the southern region of the Netherlands.

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The venue is named after its postcode 013 and contains 2 concert halls inside the complex. The smallest of them holds a capacity of 700 people whilst the largest of the two holds up to 3,000 and the larger of the two is where the Neal Morse Band played. The venue originally opened up back in 1998 and in 2011 the director Guus van Hove of the 013 died of heat exposure along with his girlfriend in the Californian Joshua Tree National Park. He had gone there to try and find the tree that was on U2’s album cover of their 1987 album The Joshua Tree.

Although it’s a bit of a misconception to people thinking that the tree was actually in the Joshua Tree National Park and it is in fact 200 miles away from it. The tree also fell in the year 2000 and the only thing that remains on the spot is a plaque that someone planted in the ground bearing the words “Have you found what you’re looking for?” in reference to the song from the album “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For“. Though it is still a popular attraction for tourists.

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The concert opens up like a film with it’s introduction with the orchestral music and the picturesque landscape showing the names of the band that are featuring in the show. They have certainly made a big thing out of the show and it adds a nice touch. Though by the rather nice scenery I wouldn’t of minded watching a film like this, especially with that poor chap whose locked up in the cage :)))))).

After the rather big orchestral intro Neal Morse pops on the screen in a hooded jacket with the hood over his head, looking like he’s just come back from a Klu Klux Clan party :))))). Only it’s all dark and in the darkness his robe does look black, although later on it does appear to be white unless he has 2 of them. He starts off singing the opening track of the album “Long Day” unaccompanied which sets the opening scene of the story to the album and the band explode into action with its musical overture which picks things up very well indeed.

Throughout the show Morse uses masks, cloaks (hooded jackets) and a torch to try an portray and put across the story, and although it may appear a bit odd for him to do this, he’s not usually the Peter Gabriel kind of guy for using such things as a rule. To be honest with him having an hood on it reminds me of the cover of his Sola Scriptura album he done back in 2007. But the one thing I have always admired about Neal Morse is the fact he always puts his heart and soul into the performance and lets himself go.

He always gives it 100% and I could see that when I seen him live with Transatlantic back in 2010. Even though that show was hampered by ridiculous volume levels, there was no doubt both he and the band were giving it all in the performance, and I could see that just by looking at them. I see it in every live concert I have of his on DVD and Blu Ray as well and they are quite exciting to watch.

Since leaving Spock’s Beard back in 2002 Morse became a born again Christian and tends to focus even the prog rock side of his albums with his lyrics around Christianity and Religion. No doubt for some it may put them off, but I myself have never really paid to much attention to the lyrics in the biggest majority of concept and albums, and for me the music will always come first.

To be honest no matter how many times I have read the story behind The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway by Genesis I still cannot really tell you what it’s about, apart from it’s about some schizo off his head on acid :))))). Yet I still regard that concept album as the best there as ever been. The music and the way the lyrics are expressed is what rocks my boat and even amongst Morse’s lyrics you will quite often find something to grab you and latch onto. As like the song in this concept story the “City Of Destruction“. You can make your own world out of it, and get off on that.

The Similitude Of A Dream is based around The Pilgrim’s Progress which is basically a Christian allegory written by John Bunyan back in 1678. Bunyan was very much into religion and was imprisoned a few times basically because he would not stop preaching. He was first sentenced to 3 months in prison but as he refused to give up preaching it was extended to 12 years. They had certain stricter laws back England in those days unlike we have today, and Bunyan was basically preaching something more along the lines of Catholic religion which was still forbidden around that time down to King Henry VIII bringing in the Church of England in the previous century.

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Even after he came out he went back in again for another short spell. He wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress whilst he was inside prison, and he wrote it in a metaphoric way around characters, places and events to deliver a broader message about the real world and events that were going on in it. To be honest even though John Bunyan may of been some religious nut, the story we have here that Morse portrays is perhaps less religious than most of his albums, and we have some quite interesting characters in this one.

It’s perhaps something more like an autobiography of Bunyan’s life being locked up for preaching sort of thing. Like I say I do not really pay too much attention to the lyrics, and I have never read The Pilgrim’s Progress either and merely just read up on a bit of history about it all. But no doubt the lyrics that Morse has written around the subject matter are very well put into context to be able to dramatise it all in perhaps more of an exciting way. I suppose they beef it up that much more and Morse always makes it that more convincing in how he delivers it all. Just as well they do not lock people up for preaching these days, otherwise you will not be seeing another Neal Morse concert for a long while :))))))).

The other thing I quite like about this particular concert is that Morse has utilised his band very well for even them to play a part in the vocal duties, and the guitarist Eric Gillette also has a really great voice to project and portray the lyrics just as well as Morse can do himself. The band do a grand job on all the harmonies and even both Bill Hubauer and Mike Portnoy take on some of the lead vocals on some of the songs too.

What I enjoy a lot about Morse’s music are the musical interludes between the songs and this is really where the prog rock side of things comes into play allowing the musicians more freedom with the interplay and interaction between each other. A lot of the actual songs you will find in a lot of his concept albums are written in the way of normal singer songwriter songs or rock songs, and that’s basically how everything is all pieced together. None of his albums are really one continuous song not even a massive long song such as The Whirlwind he done with Transatlantic.

The Similitude Of A Dream album is certainly no exception either and is written in the same way. But how it’s all pieced and woven together works very well, but in reality a lot of the actual songs are certainly verse and chorus structured just like any song in reality. It’s not exactly what Yes done with a song like “Close To The Edge” for example to which even though it was pieced together with many parts, it works perfectly like one song. But what you do get with an album such as this, is certainly plenty of variety.

The other thing you get with this live concert is some pretty amazing musicianship, and let’s face it just how many artists out there can play a quite complex album like this live in its entirety, and that’s something Neal Morse does with the biggest majority of his albums. To be honest I do not even think Yes have played Tales From The Topographic Oceans in its entirety live on stage. Though no doubt they could play the whole album “Close To The Edge” live blind folded. But of course for any band to be able to pull it all off takes plenty of practice and rehearsing and they have to put in the hours just like Neal Morse and his band have here.

The whole concert is near enough 2 and half hours long and it’s perhaps just as well its been put on 2 discs in 2 parts. I am not saying I cannot sit here for 2 and half hours in one sitting, though it’s perhaps something not many of us could do all the time. So watching it in 2 parts is perhaps more convenient to fit in the time. For this review I am not really going to be taking you through all the tracks, and merely pinpoint very few highlights at all of the tracks and discuss more about the overall production and how it’s been filmed.

I would expect most people who brought this live concert would already have the studio album like myself anyway. But what I will say is that they have certainly done the album justice by this live performance, even if I do not think it’s the best live concert I have by Neal Morse and what I mean mainly by that, is how the concert as been filmed. For example you have 5 cameras filming the show and although I cannot fault the editing, because that is very good. Especially with how they pointed to the individual members of the band when they have their individual moments throughout the concert. But quite often the cameras are focused way too far away from the stage.

Effectively with how it’s been shot you could say it was like being at the concert, where you are struggling yourself to see them on stage if you are not close enough to the stage. But with any concert you buy on DVD or Blu Ray this is something you should not have this problem at all with. And it should be shot in a way where you can see everything more closely just like the difference you would get with watching a live game of football at the ground and watching it on TV. You will always see it a lot more clearer on the TV even if it cannot quite capture the live atmosphere of actually being there.

And before you start thinking perhaps they filmed it this way to try and make it look and sound more like the real live experience. I am sorry to say both the sound and picture quality is quite a margin away from being able to do that, and this is not even good enough to put it on a Blu Ray in the first place. They may just as well of put it out on DVD and CD only. I am not saying that the concert is extremely bad, but regarding the sound and picture quality of his other concerts I have on DVD. They are better.

To be honest I have always preferred to watch a live concert rather than just have it on audio and listen to it, and with today’s technology of Blu Ray and 5.1 they have come on in leaps and bounds and you can get more near the real concert experience, which is something that was never possible years ago. But with this concert you may as well just have it on a CD or a vinyl record, and this is not like most quality Blu Ray concerts that you can put in your player and listen to through your system without having to twiddle around with various settings to get it to sound anywhere near good.

My personal favourite parts are like I mentioned earlier are very much the instrumental tracks such as “Overture“. “The Slough” and so on and musical intervals they play between the songs, but the more stand out songs are perhaps those that do reoccur throughout the concert such as “City Of Destruction” and “Broken Sky” for example. Both “The Man In The Iron Cage” and “The Mask” are also great songs and the latter of those two where Morse actually puts on a mask (Though he does put on the mask much earlier on in the show too) is perhaps another bad example of how far the cameras are too away. Simply because you can hardly make out what the hell he is wearing :)))))).

The 4 tracks you get in the way of an encore are perhaps quite an unusual choice. Although both “The Call” and “Agenda” may not be as much being as they was both from the previous album Morse did with his band The Grand Experiment. You also get “Author of Confusion” from the One album he done back in 2004 and the self titled track from his 2012 album “Momentum“. But nothing from his days with Spock’s Beard and Transatlantic to which you would of got on his other concerts. I perhaps missed something from those two bands he was with as well, and some of those songs were classics in relation to the ones he chose here. But I suppose it’s something different and the band do a GREAT! job of them too.

Summary…

To sum up the Blu Ray edition of The Similitude Of A Dream: Live In Tilburg 2017 by The Neal Morse Band. The first thing I can honestly say regarding both the Blu Ray and DVD editions, is that in this case you may be better off buying the DVD that comes with 2 CD’s. Because in all honesty the Blu Ray does not give you a better picture and sound quality and it’s a bit of a farce putting it on Blu Ray in the first place.

I doubt very much that the concert was filmed in High Definition, and if it was the cameras they used were pretty basic and not really good enough to do a decent enough job of it in the first place. You get no HD sound quality formats either and regarding the sound quality it’s much more better suited to headphones. Overall this is not a concert that measures up to the higher standards Blu Ray can give to you, and is more fitting to the DVD market.

The DVD is also the better package, and in reality although they are priced up at the same price on Neal’s website, I can perhaps see why other outlets are charging more for the DVD edition. Though I must say for all those idiots in my own country who think that 25 American dollars is 25 British pound, and are charging that ridiculous price. That I am sorry to say is way over it’s price point.

25 US dollars is just over £19 here in England and in reality even considering I got the Blu Ray for £14.70 it’s not really a bargain at that price. I personally think the Blu Ray should cost between £12 – £14 even though it comes with 2 discs, simply because this is not up to genuine Blu Ray standards, and the DVD with 2 CD’s should be priced between £18 – £20. And those are more of a GENUINE HONEST PRICE for the both products.

Conclusion…

I am going to conclude my review about the concert rather than the formats its been released on, and even though it may appear in my review that concert was not filmed very well and is perhaps not up to the standards of Morse’s previous concerts he has released. Not by any means should those factors put you off. Simply because this is still very much a concert that can be enjoyed, and I also think that this live version of The Similitude Of A Dream is certainly more exciting than the studio version of the double album, and Neal and his band do a remarkable job of presenting it all to you.

During the time I spent over the last few days of writing this review. I have noticed that Neal Morse just announced that the Morsefest concert from 2017 is being released on the 2nd of November and it is available to pre-order from the 18th September. This is a concert that once again features Neal and the band playing The Similitude Of A Dream again plus Testimony 2 and a few other epics they have never played before.

For this release it also includes a 5.1 Soundtrack and in DTS as well. Though I have to confess regarding any release Morse puts out I would not be expecting too much from the 5.1 multi surround mix and no doubt that will not be as good as the stereo mix either. Simply because he uses engineers who do not have a clue how to do a 5.1 mix :)))))). Just like this release it’s also being released on both DVD and Blu Ray exactly the same way this release was.

But it also comes with a 2,000 copies limited exclusive edition to which you get a 50 page Artbook. 2 Blu Rays. 2 DVD’s and 4 CD’s. No doubt at a very expensive price as well :)))). There is no doubt it may look nice but I think having the concert once is enough for me, and I do not need it on Blu Ray and DVD. If this is filmed by the same camera crew I shall not bother with the Blu Ray this time around and pre-order the DVD.

But does one really need all these concerts? Well my answer to that is certainly not at all. But what I will say is that no concert is alike and hopefully this just might be better than this one I have just purchased. I would even say that if your thinking of getting this concert I have just reviewed. It may be worth hanging on a bit and get the Morsefest one instead. But overall I do enjoy a good live concert and no doubt Neal Morse does put his whole soul and spirit into his performances and I enjoy the experience even more so than the studio versions, even if they may not be as well recorded.

For I Have Seen The Broken Sky Turn Blue…

The 2 Blu Ray listing is as follows:

Disc 1 (Total Time 54:45)
01. Intro.
02. Long Day.
03. Overture.
04. The Dream.
05. City Of Destruction
06. We Have Got To Go.
07. Makes No Sense.
08. Draw The Line.
09. The Slough.
10. Back To The City.
11. The Ways Of A Fool.
12. So Far Gone.
13. Breath Of Angels.

Disc 2 (Total Time 1:33:35)
01. Slave To Your Mind.
02. Shortcut To Salvation.
03. The Man In The Iron Cage.
04. The Road Called Home.
05. Sloth.
06. Freedom Song.
07. I’m Running.
08. The Mask.
09. Confrontation.
10. The Battle.
11. Broken Sky / Long Day (Reprise).
Encore:
12. Momentum.
13. Author of Confusion.
14. Agenda.
15. The Call.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 5/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Picture Rating Score. 7/10.

Lee’s Audio Rating Score. 6/10.

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

Lee Speaks About Music… #100

Garden Shed (Golden Edition) – England

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Introduction…

Well I stumbled on this classic album from 1977 thanks to a guy by the name of Yoshiyuki Ooseki who had posted it in the PROG ON group on Facebook. It’s not that often I come across such Gems I missed out on back in that golden prog rock decade of the 70’s especially when it’s a band that came out of my own country. But apparently this is one of those albums that got released at a time when Punk Rock had raised its ugly head, and got very little promotion simply because the music scene was changing.

So for the band who went by the name of their own country England the timing of their one and only debut album Garden Shed that got released back then was certainly not in their favour. Had it of been released a few years earlier, it may have been a completely different story for the band, and by now I dare say they would of been far more successful and this album may have gone Platinum by now in sales.

I have to confess for the name of a prog rock band England may have been a bit of a crazy name to choose, especially has most people may have mistook it as something more associated with the football team, but when it comes to being crazy how many keyboard players do you know who would saw an authentic Mellotron from the 60’s in half :)))))). Well before I go any further, let’s take a look at the artwork and packaging as per usual.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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There have been quite a few reissues of the album over the years and I opted to go for one of the more recent releases which is the Golden Edition which comes with 2 CD’s and was released in Germany in 2015. This particular edition comes with the 1997 remaster of the original album on the 1st CD which was remastered by King Crimson’s engineer Tony Arnold. The 2nd CD contains bonus material which consists of old and newer material some of which no doubt has been released on other editions and was remastered by Robert Webb.

It comes in a 3 panel very well quality made cardboard DigiPak with plastic trays to hold the discs in place and a pocket to store the booklet. The booklet is a generous 28 page one and contains all the lyrics, credits and linear production notes along with some pictures. It’s quite informative too and is a very well made package overall.

For those who are after this Golden Edition I do seriously suggest you to shop around, simply because some sellers are wanting an arm and a leg for it. The cheapest price on Amazon was £29.99 and no way on this earth is any 2 CD Set worth that much. Others were charging as much as a £100 for it. I managed to get mine off ebay brand new for £17.99 and it arrived the very next day after I ordered it. It also came sealed and was the genuine item. So do not fall for these idiots who want ridiculous money for it.

The Artwork.

The albums original artwork was of a painting done by Mike Cosford who was a new up and coming artist at the time and had recently done the artwork for the various artist prog rock album Peter And The Wolf. Another excellent album and well worth sorting after too. Webb suggested to Cosford that he wanted the artwork to be based around the label that Robertson’s put on their jars of marmalade.

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His reasoning behind wanting the artwork based around the label is that a shed could be seen in a sense a form of something that could be about produce. For example you can store the garden tools in it that can be used in the garden to grow produce. The same as the shed could be used for other activities mostly men got up to and some may have even brewed their own beer in it or grew tomatoes and other things in it.

The fact the brand name Golden Shred rhymed with shed and it’s label could pertain to be seen as an earlier and better English social climate is what Webb seen in it. Mike Cosford also went on to do the artwork for the pop band Erasure. The photography for the other pictures in the booklet was done by Joolz Hooker, Karen McKenna, Maggie Alexander, Stephanie Mackrill, Sue Arber, and Warren Page.

A Brief Bit of England’s History…

Well it’s just as well that this bit of brief of history is about the name of the band and not the country, otherwise I would be here for an eternity :)))). The band England were formed in 1975 by Mark Ibbotson who was the bands drummer at the time, the other members of that incarnation of the band were bassist Martin Henderson, guitarist Jamie Moses and keyboardist Robert Webb. Both Webb and Henderson had previously collaborated on an unreleased album and it was not long after the band had played a few gigs at the Hazlitt Theatre in Maidstone Kent the guitarist Jamie Moses decided to quit the band and was replaced by guitarist Frank Holland.

In the following year in March 1976 having just played a showcase gig that resulted in the band getting a contract with Arista Records. The very guy who formed the band Mark Ibbotson and gave it the name, decided to leave straight away. He was replaced by drummer Jode Leigh and the new line up of the band spent the rest of the year rehearsing and recording new material for an album for Arista Records. But the one thing Ibbotson did leave behind when he left, was his MK II Mellotron and has to what happened to it is quite a very interesting story.

When the keyboard player Robert Webb got together with Mark Ibbotson back in 1975 Ibbotson happened to mention to Webb that he had a MKII Mellotron and Webb took an interest in it and thought it could open up a few more possibilities for the band. They even used it at a couple of the gigs they played at the The Hazlett Theatre back in 1975. But humping something like that around was a bit to much has it took 4 guys to carry it. Another fascinating thing is that when Webb asked Ibbotson where he got it from, he told him he brought it off the parents of Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones. Though it’s never actually been proven Webb thought that Ibbotson had no reason to lie.

It’s believed that each member of the Rolling Stones owned a Mellotron at one time or another, and there are numerous photographs that support this. There’s even a MkII under glass at the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, with a plaque that claims that this was Brian Jones’s instrument. However, its provenance is unproven, and it’s more likely that this is one of the other instruments owned or used by the band during their brief ‘oh my god, how can we possibly compete with Sgt Pepper?’ era sort of thing :)))))).

The Mellotron Brian Jones original brought was thought to be the ninth Mellotron to be made, and it was actually made in December 1963 and was originally an MKI Mellotron. Only 55 MKI’s were ever dispatched from the factory to Mellotronics in January 1964. Although the Mellotron was retained as the company’s demonstrator and upgraded to MkII specification in March 1965 and it was a MKII when Jones had originally brought it. No paper records no longer exist to really prove it.

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MKII Mellotron

As you can see from the photo above the MKII Mellotron is quite a beast and the fact that it was to heavy to cart around all the time, its most likely why when Ibbotson left the band he most likely left it behind with the band. Though later on in the 70’s the MKII had very much gone out of fashion since the arrival of the MK 400 to which most prog rock bands were using by now. Robert Webb would of no doubt would of preferred to have an MK 400 Mellotron but there was no way he or the band could afford to buy one. The MKII was way to heavy even for him to cart around so he decided to cut it in half and do some of his own modifications to it.

Luckily for Webb he had a fascination for modifying things since he was 14 years old, though not everything he did quite worked out as they was supposed to and were that successful. Although an MKII Mellotron may look like it’s an easy task to saw in half being as it has two keyboards, it’s far from anything as simple as that. It’s also just as well that he also had brushed up and improved on his electronics knowledge to which he did by reading the Electronics Today International Magazine and by taking lots of things to bits.

By 1976, it had become normal for Webb to modify almost every instrument he owned. But quite often his own modifications did not exactly end up looking that good. But he was not really bothered how it looked as long as it worked.

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The Half Tron

Well as you can see this hardly a nice piece of furniture any more that would of looked nice in anyone’s home after Webb got his hands on it :))))). To do the job he had to put the one keyboard in another cabinet. and it even looks more like something that you would of seen Keith Emerson sticking knives in and throwing about all over the stage :)))). Although it did look a bit better than the photo of it here and the cabinet was newly painted black with fresh paint. He even called it Black Melly and it was dubbed by many as the Half Tron.

But nevertheless this is very much quite unique and the only Half Tron in existence. As for the other half of the MKII. It ended up in a skip. Black Melly featured throughout the bands 1977 debut album Garden Shed. Whether it really was originally Brian Jones’s MKII Mellotron or not, it was certainly a fascinating story, and the story does not end here either, because after the album was made the band split up and he eventually ended up selling Black Melly to Dillon Tonkin of Quasar in 1982.

Some 21 years later in 2003 he received a phone call from the very person he sold it too. Asking if he was interested in buying a broken Mellotron he had in his garden shed.  Black Melly was in very bad condition though he took it home and called Martin Smith and John Bradley at Streetly Electronics and told them what he had bought. They immediately offered to collect it to see whether it could be resurrected. A decade later in 2013 Black Melly had finally been given a new rebirth and I have to say it looks very much a pretty picture now.

Black Melly

For the full story of Black Melly’s complete history you can find it by clicking on the link below and it was published in 2015 in the Sound On Sound Magazine. A magazine I used to buy myself many moons ago, and I wish I still had kept the mags I brought as well. https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/restoration-mellotron-halfatron

After the release of the bands debut album Garden Shed the band did go back into the studio to record more material and paid for the recording session themselves at Surrey Sound Studios. By this time the bands bass player Martin Henderson had already left the band and went to join the Jeff Beck band for his live tour of America. He was replaced by Jaffa and even though they did record more material it was not really completed enough to make a 2nd album. However they did make another album out of it and titled it The Last Of The Jubblies. It was finally released some 20 years later in 1997.

By the autumn of 1978 the band very much decided to call it a day and split up. Although in 1983 the bands guitarist Frank Holland got back together with the bands original drummer Mark Ibbotson and they recorded a couple of singles under the bands name of England. Both were released on the Jet Records “Victoriana” in 1983 and “The London Story” in 1984.

All the members from the band still stayed in the music business one way or another. For example in 1985 Mark Ibbotson became the manager of The Pretty Things and as managed the band ever since. The bands first guitarist Jamie Moses went on to work with Brian May of Queen and has been May’s rhythm guitarist since 1992. He was even part of the bands live touring guitarist when Queen got together with Paul Rogers and has played as a session guitarist for an array of well known artists over the years.

In 2006 both keyboard player Robert Webb and bass player Martin Henderson got back together and formed another incarnation of England along with guitarist Alec Johnson, drummer Steve Laffy and Maggie Alexander on vocals & keyboards to play a live concert in Kikimimi in Japan. They played near enough all the material from their debut album the Garden Shed and a few other songs besides. A live album on CD was also released in the same year on Strange Days Records.

More recently last year a Box Of Circles was released on Green Tree Records on CD and Vinyl. Though this is a compilation album and contains tracks that were never on their debut album and other tracks that got released on other albums over the years to which are more neo contemporary classical style and is completely different to their norm.

The Album In Review…

The original album Garden Shed by England was released sometime way back in 1977. The album contains 6 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 47 minutes, 35 seconds. Way over the allocated time slot to fit on a vinyl record and from listening to some of vinyl recordings of the tracks on Youtube some of them are quite muffled and suffer for it. Though I do not have the original vinyl album at all, but knowing from experience of vinyl recordings an album this long is genuinely going to suffer because of vinyl restrictions, and they overstepped the mark by trying to cram far too much onto it. Resulting in deterioration of the genuine quality of the master tape.

Though to be perfectly honest even though the CD does get rid of all the muffled dirt the vinyl album would of had, I personally think the CD could of been done better. I think it also may of been down to further mastering process that Robert Webb applied to it on top of Tony Arnold’s remastering work that may very well be to blame as well. No doubt the recording on the CD is very clear and very good, but it does sound a bit too high and light and as certainly lost some of it’s weight in comparison to the tracks that have not been effected on the vinyl album.

The 2nd CD that comes in the Golden Edition contains 8 tracks and has an overall playing time of 47 minutes, 51 seconds. This could be seen as a bit of a mixed bag because it contains a live recording from their Live In Japan album from 2006 and some other tracks the band wrote with various line ups as well as the original line up on the original album. it also includes some of the tracks that Robert Webb wrote for his own album Liquorish Allsorts. So there is nothing new regarding the material you are getting here. But if like myself you never had it, no doubt it would be new and seen as a bonus.

The material for the original album was written by the individual members of the band and recorded in various places by themselves on a multi track Revox Reel To Reel Tape Recorder to which they would share out with each other along with their instruments to record. Though they all agreed that all the writing credits should go to the band rather than be credited individually to themselves. The final recordings were done in the studio with the use of the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio at first and then completed at both Air and Morgan Studios in London.

It’s also said that although the original vinyl album was released in a single sleeve they wanted it to be released in a gatefold sleeve and had all the additional artwork for it at the time. But the record company wanted to get the album out and could not wait. But when it was released the album contained some information on the sleeve to which for the price of £1 you could send for a special booklet. Though all those who did send for it never received it, and the booklet never got as far as going to print. The money was never refunded back either to those who had sent for it either, and very much went to help the band out.

Musicians & Credits…

Band

Creative Director Robert Webb. Recorded on the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio in Maidstone and at Air and Morgan Studios in London & various other studios. Recording Engineers Robin Freeman & Robert Webb. Executive Producer Bernd Bruhn. Artwork Painting by Mike Cosford. Design, Layout & Typography by Diedrich Ausprunk & Nanette Consovoy. Photography by Joolz Hooker, Karen McKenna, Maggie Alexander, Stephanie Mackrill, Sue Arber, and Warren Page. Linear Notes by Maggie Alexander & Robert Webb. Remastered by Tony Arnold & Robert Webb.

Musicians.

Frank Holland: Guitars/Vocals/Mellotron/Leslie Guitar (On Yellow).
Robert Webb: Mini Moog/Hammond/Harpsichord/Mellotron/Fender Rhodes/Piano/Hohner Clavinet/12 String Guitar (On Yellow) Vocals.
Martin Henderson: Bass/Acoustic Guitar (On Yellow)/Vocals.
Jode Leigh: Drums/Vibes/Percussion/Bass (On Yellow)/Vocals.

The Album Tracks In Review…

When the album Garden Shed was released like I mentioned earlier the record company gave the album very little promotion, and it was just before the album was released that a new managing director of the company was put in place and he had no real interest in those artists that his predecessor had signed up. The only bit of promotion it did get was a full page AD in both the Melody Maker and NME. The Melody Maker described the band as Yes in a Toy Shop and no doubt there are some resemblances to Yes and Genesis on this album and many others too.

Because we have 2 CD’s in this Golden Edition I shall take on the both discs individually starting with the main album first and the bonus disc straight after it in my review here. So let’s take a deeper look at the material we have on both discs.

Disc 1. Main Album.

Track 1. Midnight Madness.

The album gets off to flying start with it’s opening track and was written by the bands keyboard player Robert Webb. The intro he done on his mini moog which you could only use one voice at a time and was recreated from the Revox multi track tape recorder version he recorded before going in the studio. They never had a sequencer back then and he started from the harp like sound which was used throughout the track. Even the fine orchestral brass section was done on the same mini moog.

The piece builds up well from its intro and then vocals come into play and the song opens up and is quite a majestic bit of prog heaven of a track. I cannot be sure but I think Robert Webb was also the bands main vocalist, though no doubt all the band are joining in on the harmonies in a lot of the songs on this a really GREAT! album. The band certainly have a strong back line with both Martin Henderson on bass and Jode Leigh on drums and in some respects it’s a bit like listening to Chris Squire and Bill Bruford.

Robert Webb does some outstanding keyboard work on this track and throughout the album, and even though this band do have some Yes influences, the music is actually more structured around the keyboards in the same way early Genesis could be at times with there more heavier and powerful tracks unlike the acoustic tracks they also done.

So this is not a band like Yes where the guitarist has a lot more to say like Steve Howe did for example in that band, and it’s not an album where a guitarist like Frank Holland is really going to stand out like Howe got too, or even Steve Hackett got to shine on some occasions, and you will have to listen more closely for the guitar because just like Genesis the keyboards have more of a dominant feature along with the bass and drums.

No doubt some of the vocals and harmonies are a dominant feature with this band, and they are really excellent. There are times  in particular when the harmonies are Yes like, but I hear all other sorts of bands with their vocals and they can even be like 10CC, Queen and even Sparks at times.

No doubt all 4 members of this band have great vocal qualities about them. There is even a couple of tracks on this album that do remind me more like Yes was a bit further on down the line in their career and not before this album was made, and this track is one of them with part of its musical structure.

For example the back beat or back line of this song in parts very much remind me a bit like “Into The Lens” that both Geoff Downes & Trevor Horn wrote a few later on and featured on Yes’s 1980 Drama album. It may not perhaps that evident with this song, but there is a song further on this album that I would certainly say that Yes may have heard and ripped part of it off :)))))).

I quite the lyrics to this song as well and they are very fascinating and very well written. It tells the story of a strange person who was in possession of a pocket watch that gave immortality to whoever was the owner of it. It’s all about being caught up in the mythical midnight madness of time sort of thing and it really is a superb piece of work and song that contains bags of chord progression and diversity. It’s also a very strong contender for the top spot on the album, and to be honest there are some tracks on this album that make it very difficult to choose a personal favourite.

Track 2. All Alone (Introducing).

The shortest track on the album is another one that Robert Webb wrote and the fact that it contains the word “Introducing” in brackets may very well suggest that it’s either introducing himself because it features him alone on piano and vocals, or it may be introducing the next track on the album, because it runs straight into it.

This short ballad is perhaps something you could perhaps associate with ELP’s Keith Emerson & Greg Lake in the way it’s put over with the fine piano and vocals. It’s a nice enough little ditty of a song that tones the album down nicely enough over the its 1 minute and 46 second time slot and works very well as an interval between the other material on the rest of the album.

Track 3. Three Piece Suite.

This is a piece that once again was written by Webb and it was actually written back in 1975 and even played live back than when the band were a 3 piece outfit with Mark Ibbotson on drums along the both Webb on keys and Henderson on bass. It was developed more over the following 2 years and I have to say the end result we have here is quite spectacular enough for me to merit it with top spot award of the album.

Strangely enough that first incarnation of the band England with those same 3 members also wrote and recorded a 24 minute epic track entitled “The Imperial Hotel” that never seen the light of day till 2006 when they played at that live gig in Japan. They also played a 10 minute version of it live at that show and gave the original 24 minute epic that was recorded back in 1975 away for free in the form of a 1 track EP at the concert and in the form of a digital download for their fan base on their website.

Unfortunately the website no longer exists and the only way you have of getting hold of it would be by selling a kidney ;)))))). I dare say to somebody who has it would be asking the price of the Queens Jewels for it :))))). From the reviews I read about it, it was not that well recorded and being as I could not hear it for myself and had no way of getting hold of it. I did find it on Youtube and gave it a blast and I quite liked enough to even download it illegally.

Naughty me but if the band want money for it, they should re-release it on an EP or even put it on a compilation album, and I would gladly buy it. But no way am paying silly money for it, especially for something that was given away in the first place.

Getting back to the song “Three Piece Suite” the song goes down quite a few roads with the progression and transitional changes that is along its path. The opening is very early Genesis like even if it’s got birds singing away in it like “Close To The Edge” by Yes. But when the vocals come into play they are perhaps more Yes like but like many songs on this album like I said before, they have so many different vocal phrases and styles they can sound quite like many bands.

For example you even hear some of the softer and sweeter vocals you may find in The Alan Parsons Project or Barclay James Harvest along the section that follows Frank Holland’s lead guitar solo where Martin Henderson’s bass gets a dominant feature also in this vocals section that runs between the 6.00 – 7:50 minute mark. But even more reminiscent are the vocal lines that accompany the up-tempo section that follows that section with the piano and organ, and the vocals that do come into play to the melody at the 8:15 mark are very reminiscent to the pop band Sparks and the high pitch sort of vocals you would hear on their hit record “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us“.

I should also point out that during Frank Holland’s lead guitar solo at precisely the 7:46/7 mark (how precise is that LOL) you get this piercing noise of either somebody screaming or they just got an electric shock :))))) and this can be quite annoying if you are listening to this on headphones like I do myself with the volume whacked up. Oddly enough there is another version of the song that was recorded at the Olympic Studios in London on the 2nd disc, and the piercing screaming noise is not on that version. So my ears have got less chance of getting damaged :)))))).

Three Piece Suite” is a brilliant song that contains lashing of mellotron and keyboards, a tasty guitar solo, drums bass the lot. But I could say the same more or less for the opening and final track on the album as well. It’s got GREAT! lyrics too and this is not about a piece of furniture and is perhaps more of a poetic journey through nature.

Track 4. Paraffinalea.

This next song “Paraffinalea” got released as a single from the album and I dare say just like the album got very little promotion meant that the single never really stood a chance of getting anywhere either. The band did have complete freedom over their album and it was even them who decided to release it as a single.

Single

But as you can see by the picture above the single was only released to radio stations to air and not sold in the record shops. Annie Nightingale gave the single a positive review and thought the band were destined for great things. The B’ Side “Nanagram” was left off the album and is an instrumental piece. It’s very good as well and the original studio version and live version from 2006 is on the 2nd disc that you get here with this package.

There is no doubt that this particular song does sound more like Yes. But there is a difference in just how Yes sounded earlier on in the 70’s to how they sounded much later on in the latter half of that decade. And this is the very song on the album that I mentioned where I feel Yes may have just ripped England off.

Though my theory about this is very much my own theory and it would be pretty hard to prove, especially as the song I am saying it’s like is not even played in the same chords. It’s also not even played in the same tempo either and the instrumentation is also quite different. But I can always latch on to a familiar melody line and that is what we do get in this song that does remind me of the song “Madrigal” that appeared just a year later on Yes’s 1978 album Tormato.

Paraffinalea” is played at a much faster pace and tempo than “Madrigal” but part of the melody line is certainly the same, even down to the fact that I could sing and make the some of the words from “Madrigal” fit into its vocal line. But no doubt England are also very much using Yes harmonies on this song, so in reality they have both ripped each other off :)))). But both are also pretty much very fine and good songs. This song was also written by Robert Webb too.

Track 5. Yellow.

Another fine song and in a way I suppose the title of the song could even be seen as “Mellow” and that is exactly what we have here with subtle melancholic feel the song gives to you.  This song was written by the bands drummer Jode Leigh who was also a multi talented instrumentalist like many of the others in the band. On this track they also swap their instruments around too, and Leigh plays bass on this one and also takes on the lead vocals to which they are double tracked.

The song opens up with the mellotron which is played by the bands guitarist Frank Holland and its a bit like the sound of the mellotron Rick Wakeman used on the Tales From The Topographic Oceans album by Yes. Although the song itself is much more like very early Yes or even some Crosby Stills Nash & Young would of done with how it all flows beautifully along. Holland also plays a Leslie guitar on the solo which was overdubbed afterwards.

Whilst both the keyboard player and bass player play acoustic guitars. Robert Webb on 12 string and Martin Henderson on the 6 string. Webb also overdubbed an acoustic and electric piano on it afterwards too. It’s very much another GREAT! song and one of the shorter ones just like the previous track on the album, and this one simmers the album down very nicely indeed.

Track 6. Poisoned Youth.

The last track on the album is GREAT! piece of prog rock that was written by Frank Holland & Robert Webb. It’s also the longest track on the album weighing in at some 16.15 minutes. Once again we get the Bruford like drums and punctuating bass lines throughout the song, along with lashings of mellotron, great guitar and even all the fun at the fairground with the keyboards.

The vocals and harmonies are also very well done as ever and you even get a touch of Freddie Mercury in this one. It also has all the great diversity and progression with it’s many transnational changes, and its perhaps has both subtly and power about it, with how it all builds up and runs along. It’s very much another contender for the top spot on the album and ends off the album superbly.

Disc 2. The Bonus Disc.

Track 1. Nanagram (Live 2006).

The bonus disc kicks of with a live version of the instrumental track “Nanagram” that was originally the B’ Side of the single “Paraffinalea” that was released for radio stations only. This particular version was also from the Kikimimi: Live In Japan album that got released in the same year of 2006. It features a new 5 piece incarnation of the band that consists of 2 of the original members Robert Webb and Martin Henderson. Making up the rest of the line up is Alec Johnson guitar. Steve Laffy drums and Webbs girlfriend Maggie Alexander who does the odd bit of vocals & additional keyboards now and then.

It’s the only live track you get from their live album on this bonus disc and they tend to do a pretty decent job of it live, though I would not say it was as good as the original studio version which is also included on this disc and from what little reviews I have read about their live album they are not exactly that promising. I have not got the album to make any judgement of my own about it, and it is very hard to get hold of, and even though the reviews are not exactly in favour of the album, those who do have it are charging the crown jewels for it second hand :)))))).

But the other bit of information I did find out about it with my research. Is that the band never had a mellotron on the stage with them, simply because of the cost of the insurance it would of been to transport it with them to Japan. The mellotron and some other instruments were overdubbed later in the studio. So the live recording no doubt is bound to sound that much better than the actual gig itself.

Track 2. Carmina Burana.

This track was previously unreleased at the time this Golden Edition was released back in 2015. However that is not strictly true at all, because it was in fact from Robert Webbs solo album Liquorish Allsorts which was released the year before in 2014. It also appears on the compilation album Box Of Circles that was released in 2017. This is very much an arranged version of “O Fortuna” to which the music was composed by Carl Orff back in 1935. The Latin text that was written in the form of poems and goes back as far as the medieval times way back to 11th and 12rh century and put to Orff’s music would of been something more your Gothic Operatic classical style music.

To be honest this is same sort of evil chanting stuff they would use in horror films and even though the music for the film the Omen was composed by Jerry Goldsmith this particular original composition is certainly something very similar to some of the music that was used in that film. To be honest I am not into opera or even Gothic rock bands and this sort of stuff is really only effective in horror films more than anything else, and it’s not really my cup of tea at all.

However the arrangement we have here is more rocked up, but it’s a long way off the mark to the material that was written for the Garden Shed. And in my opinion the music we have on the album Garden Shed leaves Carl Orff whoever he is in the dust :)))). To be honest this is not the type of tune I would even consider doing a cover of myself. it’s just bloody dreadful and the only people who may appreciate Orff’s composition more are classical music fanatics and horror film fanatics.

But in saying that I prefer Webbs more rocked up arrangement to the original and it’s not bad. It’s a bit of a funky rocked up version and the bass line and drums very much give it the funky groove. However I am not into vocals at all even though they may be doing a good job of it.

This line up of England which is on their latest compilation album Box Of Circles and is the same line up he had with him on his solo album Liquorish Allsorts which does have most of the bands original members but only in parts, and it also has an array of other guest musicians and singers on it. This is more of Webbs England and from his solo album Liquorish Allsorts and nothing like it was back in the 70’s that’s for sure.

Track 3. Fags, Booze & Lottery.

This is another song that is also on the latest album Box Of Circles and I believe it was written by the bands drummer Jode Leigh and Robert Webb. To be honest I quite like this one and this more like something Ian Dury would of wrote (especially lyric wise) rather than the two guys here and is very much just like listening to Ian Dury & The Blockheads and not England :))))). If you are into Ian Dury you will either love this or hate it for being a bit like plagiarism.

Track 4. The Ladies’ Valley.

Another song from Webbs solo album Liquorish Allsorts like many of them are on this bonus disc. Webbs solo album was put together with material that he had done over the last 40 years. He was also commissioned to write some pieces of music by Marco Bernard who was the producer and the guy behind putting together various prog rock artists for his project based on Giovanni Boccaccio’s novel the Decameron to which he completed way back in 1353. Apparently Boccaccio’s contained 100 short stories that became one of the most important books in all history.

Bernard started work on the project in 2011 and gathered an array of prog rock artists from old and new to put his massive project together. Which was released in 3 parts and each part contained 4 CD’s in each box set that got released between 2012  – 2016. Webb wrote 3 pieces for the project 2 of which are on this bonus CD and other one is on his solo album Liquorish Allsorts and all 3 can also be found on Bernard’s musical version of Decameron in parts 2 and 3 of that project.

The Ladies’ Valley” features Jenny Darren on vocals and it’s quite a lengthy track that’s some 7.75 minutes long and is like a game of two halves in some respects. It’s what Webb describes as an exploration of classical orchestra and operatic rock ballad. He was inspired by what Jon Lord did with Deep Purple back in 1969 with the Concerto For Group And Orchestra album. The first part is very much the classical operatic ballad side of things, to which runs into an instrumental orchestra section, and then is beefed up with the drums and keyboards to give you more of a prog section before it finally comes down and goes back into how it all started with the vocal section again.

It’s perhaps something you have to be in the right mood for, simply because the only bit of prog rock here is really in that great keyboard section. The rest is very much contemporary classical music with a lady who has a very good voice. It’s like I said this album is quite a mixed bag, and the very fact that we do have quite a contrast in the styles of the material you get on this bonus disc will certainly conflict with ones listening pleasure.

Effectively this track could be seen like sending for say an album by Yes and them sending you something more like Charlotte Church instead. Which although I have nothing whatsoever against Charlotte Church’s GREAT! voice but the genre is quite a margin off the mark if you catch my drift. Personally I feel it’s a very good song, but placed on an album like this, it’s really out of place and that is where it’s not really going to be given perhaps the right respect it deserves.

To put it in a nutshell. The whole classical side of things here really outweighs what bit of prog rock you get on it, and for those expecting more of the same as we got on the main album on the 1st disc, I can see why they may be a bit disappointed with the 2nd disc you get here. Pretty much most reviews of this Golden Edition also point to that as well, and I can see why.

Track 5. Masters Of War.

Here we have another cover version and basically this is a cover of George Gershwin’sSummertTime” put together with a set of Bob Dylan’s lyrics and sung once again by Jenny Darren in a blues style. This song is also on the compilation album Box Of Circles and once again it’s really down to personal taste, and as much as I do like George Gershwin this is not for me I am afraid. Though I cannot fault the instrumentation and the vocals, but even playing this in fifteen and half bars does not make this prog rock I am afraid :)))))).

Track 6. Three Piece Suite (Olympic Version, 1976).

A slightly earlier and shorter version of the track on the original album, and was recorded in a different studio. The song is more or less the same but you can hear a slight difference particularly in the way its been recorded as well. This is also the first original recording as well and is more of a rougher recording. But just like the version on the main album won my top spot of award of that album, it does here as well. I would even say the slight difference you get here is worthy of having as a bonus track too. It was also included on some other releases over the years.

Track 7. Heebeegeebee.

This is another song that ended up on Marco Bernard’s musical version of Decameron and this early mix uses musical ideas from the 1977 Garden Shed period which survived on a chrome cassette from those days Webb recorded on the multi track Revox reel to reel tape. Though the piece never had any lyrics at the time, Webb wrote some based around the biography of Giovanni Boccaccio.

Most of the keyboard ideas were written when the band England lived together in a house Crowborough Sussex and had the band have been able to continue, it most likely would of wound up on their next album. Steve Unruh of The Samurai Of Prog provided the drums and percussion parts and sent them to Webb via the internet.

I quite like this one and it’s certainly the best of the newer material that’s on this 2nd disc and for me the last 3 tracks on this disc along with the live version of “Nanagram” are the only real prog rock tracks on this 2nd disc, and are very much the best highlights from it.

Track 8. Nanagram.

The original studio version of the B’ Side of “Paraffinalea” that was made back in the days of the original album. This is certainly amongst the better of the bonus tracks we get on this 2nd disc and is great to see they have included it. Even though it’s an instrumental piece this perhaps would of been better putting on the original album in replace of “All Alone (Introducing)” though no doubt the album was already way over its allocated time slot for vinyl and it would of made it even longer.

Summary…

To sum up the Golden Edition of the Garden Shed by England. There can be no doubt the main album is certainly a GREAT! piece of prog rock heaven that came out of that golden decade of the 70’s. The 2nd disc you get here could not really be seen as a bonus disc, simply because of its price point of £17.99 does mean you are without a doubt paying more for this 2 CD Edition of the album. But in saying that just trying to get your hands on the single disc version will cost you a hell of lot more than the Golden Edition in some places. So you may as well get this instead.

The 2nd disc I would consider worthy of having for the odd few tracks, but it does not work like your getting an extra album, simply because the material is a mixed bag and does not really Gel as a bunch of tracks that would really be suited to fit together like a good album should. To be honest Robert Webb should of used some of the tracks that was put on the The Last Of The Jubblies album because they would of worked a damn site better as a companion disc to the Garden Shed. The other material from his solo album and other albums is really out of place, and the only real newer track that does work is “Heebeegeebee“.

No doubt that Webb was trying to circulate around some of the newer material and you cannot really blame him for trying either. But the fact that the genre is really out of place I feel makes it worse. I am not for one minute saying those particular tracks are bad, but the fact that they do not really belong on an album like this, I feel will put a lot of people off buying the newer material that is on an album like Box Of Circles because they certainly do not fit or belong here, where as they are very much are more suited to make an album like a Box Of Circles work better, and that is the album they do belong on.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review I shall conclude it by speaking about the main album the Garden Shed and not the extra disc you get in this package. There can be no doubt that if there is an England album that’s worth having this is the one. It’s very much a solid album from start to finish and I cannot really fault the material that was written for it at all, and it is without a doubt very clever from both the musical and lyrical aspect side of things.

The musicians are also very clever although they may not be a great live act simply because they never really got out enough to play that many gigs at all. They was not together long enough for us to really find out. But no doubt these guys can play and were capable of writing really great songs and it’s a shame they never stuck together and continued doing what they was doing back in the 70’s. But obviously they came out at the wrong time and the music scene was very much changing and a lot of new prog rock bands would have certainly of struggled to get a record deal back then.

I would say for anybody really into serious prog rock this is an album everyone should have in their record collection. Stumbling on it now after all these years very much makes this like some long lost hidden piece of treasure, and is truly quite a remarkable GEM. I would even say that this is kind of album that even if I brought it back on its release back in 1977 I would still very much be still playing it today. Simply because this is really music that was most certainly made to last the test of time, and is an immensely enjoyable album.

No doubt the band have plenty of musical influences like many bands do, and you will hear the likes of Yes. Genesis. ELP. Queen. Sparks and many, many more especially in the vocal presentation of the album. But no doubt they also had their own distinctive style as well. My personal highlights from the main album are “Three Piece Suite“. “Midnight Madness” and “Poisoned Youth“.

There is no doubt that album as good as this should not be ignored and in all honesty it should be more frequently re-issued to stop people charging stupid money for it. Even though I ended up paying £17.99 to get my hands on this album I personally feel the main album alone on the 1st disc was perhaps worth it, just to get you hands on it. But for double CD like this, it should really cost no more than £14.99 in reality and around £12 for a single disc version of the album.

Come Out And Join The Woodland Company…

The album track listing of both discs is as follows:

Disc 1.
01. Midnight Madness. 6:57.
02. All Alone (Introducing). 1:46.
03. Three Piece Suite. 12:59.
04. Paraffinalea. 4:13.
05. Yellow. 5:25.
06. Poisoned Youth. 16:15.

Disc 2.
01. Nanagram (Live 2006). 5:11.
02. Carmina Burana. 4:01.
03. Fags, Booze & Lottery. 4:48.
04. The Ladies’ Valley. 7:44.
05. Masters Of War. 4:28.
06. Three Piece Suite (Olympic Version 1976). 11:46.
07. Heebeegeebee. 5:38.
08. Nanagram. 4:15.

Lee’s overall Complete Package Value Rating…

The Packaging Rating Score. 9/10

The Price Point Rating Score. 7/10

The Bonus CD Rating Score. 5/10

The Original Album Rating Score. 10/10.