Reviews in this issue:
Marillion - Don't Hurt Yourself [Single]
Tracklist: Don't Hurt Yourself [Single Edit] (3:44), Fantastic Place [Live] (6:16), The Damage [Live] (4.26), Don't Hurt Yourself [Video] (3.44)
After the relative success of the single You're Gone Marillion once again attempts to storm the charts by releasing multiple formats of their single. However, unlike last time, where there were three formats of the single, Don't Hurt Yourself is only released in two formats. The exact nature of the decision is unknown, but time constraints may be one of the reasons, the mockery of many a journalist on how Marillion rigged the charts by urging fans to buy multiple copied of the You're Gone single may be another.
In my opinion Don't Hurt Yourself is a much better single than You're Gone. It is a fun track, with a catchy chorus, and though it leans towards the sound of Tom Petty, it sounds a lot more like Marillion than the U2-esque You're Gone.
When I first saw the tracklisting for the different formats I was rather disappointed. If you only have two formats, why waste one of them by making it a two-track single? It turns out that this is part of the British chart rules. If you have multiple formats of a single, one of them has to be a two-track single with a running time of no longer than 10 minutes - a rule likely to come to the rescue of those poor one-hit wonder bands created by a marketing department of some record company, which in no way have enough material to fill a 20-minute maxi-single. Fair enough then for the two-track single, but after being spoiled by the You're Gone DVD single, the tracklisting of the Don't Hurt Yourself Tour Souvenir Digipack, aka single 2, is somewhat disappointing.
Anoraks will love the Steve Wilson mix of Angelina that can be found on the first single. The main difference with the Dave Meegan mix which graces the album is the lack of the somewhat overlong intro, but for the rest the differences between the two mix are trivial. It seems to me that there is more emphasis on the effects and the acoustic guitar, but I may just be entirely wrong.
The second CD is called the 'tour souvenir', as it features a couple of live tracks from their current tour, as well as a booklet with live photos. As can be expected, this is the one to go for of the two. Unfortunately it doesn't contain a live version of Don't Hurt Yourself, but the same edited version again.
It also contains the promo video to the new single, which is comprised of outtakes from a tour-documentary which has been made of the Marbles tour. The video is miles better than the rather tame video to You're Gone.
In conclusion this single is like its predecessor a decent, yet somewhat unsatisfying attempt to break the charts. And while I wish Marillion all the success with these schemes and they do deserve to have a chart success after such a long time, I feel that they could have given the fans a bit more value for their money.
Single One: 5 out of 10
Single Two: 7 out of 10
Haddad - Ars Longa Vita Brevis
Tracklist: Ars Longa Vita Brevis (5:09), Roma Atômica (8:59), Pinky's Boogie (3:11), Reddish Bonfire (3:39), Sierra Maestra (1:58), Saara (5:07), Trianon (3:12), San Francisco Bay (2:04), Ismália (3:02), Dança Das Aguas (8:33)
This CD is my first acquaintance with this Brazilian band and their music and I must say it was a pleasant one! Even so much that I was surprised to find out that no previous CD of Haddad has been reviewed on the DPRP...and they have already produced a fair number of five before this one saw the light of day in April 2004! Haddad was formed in the middle 80s by the brothers Gustavo and Leandro Haddad. Their first release was a mini-album called Gustavo Haddad and came out in 1988 (still on LP of course) and according to their own words mainly influenced by Pink Floyd, Camel and Supertramp. In 1993 their first proper and self-titled album came out under the name Haddad. Three further albums followed in the next years and now there's Ars Longa Vita Brevis which means "Art Is Long, Life Is Brief".
A special thing about this band is that it truly can be called a family band since the two brothers Haddad form the core of it and also a certain Gisela Haddad is credited for some photo's. But the most remarkable fact is without a doubt that their father is also a member of the band! It's clear that the two brothers are born with music in their blood, because their father Zezito (official name José Haddad Filho) has been a musician already for many decades and played in big bands and jazz groups in the 40's and 50's and in 1980 started to play and compose Rock and Roll. The addition of his sax makes the sound of Haddad very distinctive and special, without much doubt they're probably the rock band with the oldest band member as he already reached the respectable age of 83 (even the Rolling Stones can't match that)!!!
Now what do I like about their music and brought me that pleasure when I first listened to it? Well before I try to put that in words let's first see what they say themselves about their music on this album: They say you can expect to hear an experienced Brazilian band with sophisticated, but also straightforward music with nice melodies; I can acknowledge that all this is fairly true. But what about this description: 'Melodious, refined progressive music, partly instrumental with lyrical guitars, sophisticated melodies, lively rhythms and symphonic/neo-classic keyboards with a delicate melancholy full of freshness and positive vibrations'. So there you are; now you know what to expect..........or not? The band says to be influenced by Genesis, IQ, Marillion and Camel, but I honestly must say this sounds a bit like big names calling to attract buyers since I actually only could discover some clear similarities with Camel and in a minor way with IQ.
The CD kicks off with the title song that starts with a splendid sparkling keyboard based intro, which makes you instantly cock one's ears and think 'this sounds promising'. But with that thought you've obviously been mislead at first because after a minute this splendid intro ends and turns into some audio samples (for instance 'Singing in the rain' by Gene Kelly and a funeral speech) mixed into each other until the song continues in a mellow ballad-like song sung in Brazilian Portuguese. The second song Roma Atomica starts with a plain piano and then again some samples from radio broadcasts are mixed in, like for instance one about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. This builds up an exciting atmosphere as if you were listening to the soundtrack of an action movie, but when the music takes over again the song just turns into a strict slow bass-line driven song covered with simple keyboards tunes and a bit plane Portuguese singing. A very nice song though, although the short up-tempo intermission after 5 minutes makes you long for some more of this, but after an already slowed down again instrumental part (with some nice harpsichord sounds) the song just comes back to the slow drive of before.
Pinky's Boogie is a real surprise here, it's indeed a kind of boogie, just played by 2 spanish guitars with a South-American gypsy sauce; it perhaps has not much to do with symphonic or progressive rock, but I like it a lot! Reddish Bonfire is sung in English, I don't know why because also this band can't avoid a noticeable accent, I personally prefer the Portuguese vocals, even though I can't understand a word of it.
Haddad apparently pre-sensed my critism about the vocals and threw in some instrumentals here (that always works with me). Sierra Maestra has a strong Camelesque feeling about it, Saara offers a nice mellow keyboard sound, a bit in the style of Rick Wakeman and Trianon has a guitar beginning that reminds me of Santana, but the rest of the song does offer again some pleasant, but not over-exciting mellow keyboard sounds.
The South-American origin of this band comes out very clear in San Francisco bay that begins with some conga's and then (probably) a xylophone, but then the song takes up the same sound and mood as its predecessors. On Ismalia the vocals are back, but unfortunately not in the best way, especially the refrain is sung as if they can't quite reach the higher notes and since the song doesn't offer much other exceptional moments it's truly a disappointment. The final song Dança das águas is really one of the better ones, if not the best, from this album, with some nice sax pieces by dad Haddad and also a lot of variation, which was sometimes missing on the rest of the album.
All in all, I must say that this is a very pleasant CD to listen to, but judging it critically (as is expected of me) I also must say that I missed something. The album is a good tip for everyone who's into more mellow and smooth tunes and not so much in search for brilliant and breath-taking extravaganza of any kind (like me). The music is fine, pleasant, but not much more than that, it's sometimes a bit like enriched ambient music; you almost could expect to hear some of these tunes in an elevator. After several listening sessions it tends to get boring, lacking variation and missing that extra spark to totally lighten up the lot. So some more South-American passion and excitement wouldn't be bad for their next album!
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Tim Burness - Finding New Ways To Love
Tracklist: Count In (0:20), Open Man (4:34), Stepping Out (4:36), Returning To You (0:48), Heal Your Soul (3:15), Unstoppable Waves Of Joy (4:46), An Interlude With Monty (3:43), Beneath The Surface (1:30), Love For Giving (4:54), Tomorrow's God (3:36), Walk Through The Darkness (5:17), One Dream (2:51)
Tim Burness is a name that may be familiar to a lot of people who were around during the brief resurgence in progressive rock in the UK in the early 1980s. Tim, with his band Burnessence, supported many of the leading lights of the time including IQ and Pallas releasing a couple of independent albums along the way. However, lack of financial support and changes in the musical climate resulted in the band splitting in 1986. Resurfacing at the turn of the decade as a solo artist, the single Learning To Fly gained some national airplay providing a boost for the accompanying album Power In Your Hands. Seven years elapsed before the next release, Infinite Ocean, followed by another seven-year hiatus before the first release of the 21st century, and subject of this review Finding New Ways To Love.
Accompanied in the main by long-term musical associate Keith Hastings on bass, Pendragon's Fudge Smith on drums, Damned keyboard player Monty Oxy Moron and percussionist Martin Franklin, Burness has crafted a contemporary melodic rock album replete with ambient and atmospheric overtones. Opening song Open Man is a surprisingly simple yet very catchy pop song (for want of a better description) whose basic and insistent rhythm combines well with the melody. Rhythm is an important element in the next track, Stepping Out, although some chunky guitars on the chorus and acoustic guitars and e-bow elsewhere lift the song into a more rock and progressive style. A burst of backwards guitar provides a brief instrumental interlude prior to Heal Your Soul, a rather nondescript song that ends in an ambient guitar loop akin to elements of Robert Fripp of David Sylvian. Crossing genres, Unstoppable Waves Of Joy is an interesting instrumental hybrid of Steve Hillage and Steve Hackett, and rather glorious it is too!
As the title suggests, An Interlude With Monty is a solo piano piece by the erstwhile Damned keyboard player that betrays his jazz leanings while Beneath The Surface sounds like an attempt to get some work in the soundtrack world, particularly in the new series of Dr Who! The song returns with Love Is For Giving that features some interesting sound effects but is rather too much of an amalgamation of previous songs to make it stand out. Tomorrow's God, another instrumental, put me in mind of Tori Amos, the hammered dulcimer (played by Chris Cordrey) reminiscent of Amos' Bells For Her. Walk Through The Darkness is the big number that should have really closed the album, great chunks of organ, inventive drum patterns, a multitude of guitars and impassioned vocals really draws everything together even if the ending is a bit weak. I would have sequenced final track One Dream a bit earlier in the album and split the acoustic vocal section from the two minutes of ambient loops. Both sections would have slotted in between earlier tracks as interesting interludes.
On the whole a reasonable, if somewhat inoffensive album. Finding New Ways To Love is certainly an album I will return to over the coming weeks and months as it has an engaging quality that is somewhat hard to define. Perhaps, with the exception of Open Man, it lacks the ingredients to make it truly memorable, but a decent album nonetheless.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Screaming Shadows - Behind The Mask
Tracklist: Leaves Us Here (5:52), Eyes Of The Night (4:28), Come Inside (4:56), I Want You To Burn (5:57), Dark Shadow (3:34), Another War Cry (2:22), Pain And Tears (4:59), I'll Find My Freedom (4:37), Voices (5:25), The Cry Of The King (5:57)
Formed in 1997/1998 this band was firstly called Survivors and after that Eruption, finally settling for Screaming Shadows in 2001. From the the very beginning the band have been playing heavy metal that in time has become more 'refined' (quote from their web site). Behind The Mask is Screaming Shadows fourth shot at fame (a live album included) and again they have tried to do it all alone, as no record label is backing them. On the evidence here I don't think this album will be their ticket to fame, neither is it likely to make a record label interested in them. It might be called prog metal but for me it is much closer to heavy metal and is music that has been done and re-done over and over again. The names of bands from my past that spring to mind when listening to this music are : Helloween, Metallica, Megadeath - Screaming Shadows have not really moved on from that era and although the guitars are pretty good there is nothing new to be found in this music.
Screaming Shadows' then frontman Luigi Usai honors the first part of the bands name with his high pitched 'screams', sadly they are not very good and that might be the reason why he is no longer with the band. His voice is one of the factors that makes this band less attractive. Borne out by Another War Cry which is a very very enjoyable track and it is an instrumental piece, need I say more? The recording quality is not too good either, it all sounds hollow just as one might expect from an independently released album (although many others withstand that criticism).
It is not like they shouldn't have released this album, it is not all bad, some of the guitar work is even brilliant but unfortunately it does not make up for the rest of the music. So this music is not a torment but it is not too good either. Maybe with a new singer the band might be inspired to much more, because if they could put these guitar players to good use: who knows what may come of them?
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
New Eden Orchestra - Anyman
Tracklist: Jihad (8:01), That’s Life (4:43), Ode To The Ex (3:07), Siren’s Song (1:42), The Golden Fleece (4:47), Daydreams (2:41), Build A Better Mousetrap (4:07), Boll Weevil’s Flee Circus (1:01), Through The Looking Glass (3:22), Savanas (3:57), The Maelstrom (2:20), Death And His Half-Brother Sleep (1:09), Full (4:40), Catacombs (2:52), Deja View (5:41), Anyman (4:01), Echoes (1:13), Back To The Tribe (4:59)
The rather grandly named New Eden Orchestra are in actual fact a fairly conventional five-piece American outfit who have ambituously decided to tackle a concept album first time out. Anyman purports to depict ‘the various emotional states of an ordinary man confronted with the everyday drudgery of his life’. Musically, comparisons to the usual suspects are trotted out – in this case The Wall, Tommy and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway – and as is often the case the comparisons are rather spurious. The latter album is certainly a discernible influence, and indeed Genesis comparisons rear their head throughout Anyman (the fact that the band’s initials are NEO is probably no coincidence..), but they have an extremely long way to go before they can start comparing themselves to those prog greats.
In fact, the concept piece I’d compare this to is the title suite on Mike Rutherford’s 1980 solo effort Smallcreep’s Day, both in subject matter and in musical style. The problem is that Anyman is three times longer than Rutherford’s epic, and at times the musical ideas seem stretched very thin.
The band’s main songwriter, keyboardist Mike Lunn, clearly has an ear for a good tune, and to be fair there are some strong moments on this album – The Golden Fleece is a jaunty track with a strong central melody; Through The Looking Glass is a quality instrumental somewhat in the vein of early IQ; Full is a strong ballad with powerful guest vocals by guest Aubrey Garber, whilst Deja View is a surging piece of keyboard drenched symphonic hard rock.
Sadly, however, these highlights are outweighed by some very mundane material, which drifts into the realms of outright bad in some cases – witness the appalling tweeness of That’s Life and Build A Better Mousetrap, or the jumbled mess that is the opener, Jihad – not the best way to start the album. The thin production doesn’t really help matters either, with Scott Schrecengost’s guitar being particularly bereft of power; neither does vocalist Dave Marion, who possesses an AOR-style voice, along with a limited range; whilst it’s acceptable enough on first listen, I found it soon began to grate.
I don’t want to be too hard on this album – like I say, there are some good moments here. Lyrically, whilst sometimes lapsing into cliché Lunn does make some pertinent (and sometimes amusing) points, and its clear that a lot of time and effort went into the making of Anyman. The booklet is also very professionally presented. Overall though this just doesn’t do a great deal for me. I would say that if you are a fan of the neo/ retro prog genres, its probably worth trying the samples on the band’s site, as I imagine opinions will differ. Personally, I don’t think I’ll listen to this much in the future, as there is a lot of better stuff in this vein out there.
Conclusion: 5 out of 10
Sleepy Hollow - Goin' Over
CD One : Goin' Over [i. Broken Water, ii. Seedy Sale, iii. F.A.T., iv. Bad Reflection, v. Blast Off, vi. Collapse, vi. Farewell To A Friend, vii. Broken Wings] (19:57), Pay The Price (4:07), Under The Ground (4:30), 90's Child (5:00), Mare Crastinum (4:50), Rock Hard (4:25)
CD Two : Goin' Over [film soundtrack version] (36:56)
Sleepy Hollow are a quartet from New Jersey, at least they were a quartet! Since the release of debut album Goin' Over, drummer Fran Melick and bassist Frank Castiel have fled the coup, leaving organist (and producer) Joe Dell and guitarist, flautist and harp player Matt Schwarz to continue flying the Sleepy Hollow flag. Originally formed in the tail end of 1999, the group wasted no time in writing over a dozen tracks which, supplemented by a few choice cover versions, enabled they to play two-hour plus sets to growing numbers of supporters. In 2001 the band released an eclectic four song EP with each member of the band singing lead vocals on one track.
The diverse nature of the EP has followed through onto the album, which takes as its blueprint a heavy rock album and then mixes in elements of prog, metal, funk and even more pastoral acoustic folk music. The mainstay of the album is the title track, present in two forms. The first is the pure 20-minute musical version, split into eight distinct (and I mean distinct!) sections while the second, included as a bonus disc, has an extra 17 minutes of added dialogue that drives the narrative of the story along and tells in graphic detail the spiralling descent of a young man into drug addiction. Broken Water, an acoustic, almost medieval, flute and guitar piece opens the story before an organ and electric guitar take over on Seedy Sale providing a classic 70s rock accompaniment to the first introduction to drugs with the smoking of a joint. As the scene shifts to a dance club the music becomes a little funkier with F.A.T. where the protagonist is introduced to LSD. From there the only way is down with Bad Reflection taking on the faster pseudo thrash metal of a cocaine rush, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers-like funk metal of Blast Off representing experimentation with crack before the nadir is reached in Collapse which musically charts the transition from the harsh and energetic rush of the crack to the coming down and mellowing out of a first heroin hit which inevitably leads to death and burial (Farewell To A Friend). Final section, Broken Wings is a brief reprise of Broken Water only this time played on a harp (angel's wings and fluffy clouds etc!).
An ambitious undertaking and a clever idea to represent each step in the pharmaceutical 'exploration' by a different style of music, but I am not too sure it hangs together too well in the purely musical form. The 'screenplay' version may have the edge as the dialogue adds another dimension, although with as much talking as music, one probably wouldn't want to play it too often.
The rest of the album comprises five songs that are all pretty basic hard rock. The best of the bunch were the two tracks with the more prominent keyboards, namely the more commercial 90's Child and Mare Crastinum which sort of reminds me of The Cardiacs played at half speed! However, both these songs, particularly 90's Child, do feature some of the weakest lead vocals on the album. Final track Rock Hard was quite a poor way to end the album as it brought back memories of some of the very mediocre material that was released during the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. However, I imagine it would be a very good live number with its heavy repetitive structure and all four band members taking turns to deliver the lead vocal.
Sleepy Hollow have made a very brave and bold attempt at producing something different in the rock/metal field. What they do, they do with a fair degree of competence and originality and I am sure they will find an audience. However, ultimately it was not really my bag.
Conclusion: 5.5 out of 10