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Reviews in this issue:
- Little Atlas - Wanderlust
- La Torre Dell'Alchimista - USA...You Know?
- Isildur’s Bane – Songs From The Observatory
- Product - The Fire
- Earthling Society - Albion
- Planet P Project - Go Out Dancing Part One ~ 1931 (Duo Review)
Little Atlas - Wanderlust
Tracklist: The Ballad of Eddie Wanderlust (7:34), Higher (9:37), Weariness Rides (6:25), The Prisoner (10:41), Home (6:41), On And On (5:53), Mirror Of Life (5:28)
Head to Miami in Florida and a trawl of the clubs and bars there and you would expect to come across a large number of different musical styles, but its’ fair to say that progressive rock wouldn’t be one of them. Yet this lively city is home to Little Atlas, a band formed back in the late nineties, with Wanderlust being their third release. To be honest I’m surprised I haven’t come across them before, as the band play a very melodic, upbeat and accessible style of prog which is sure to find an appreciative audience amongst fans of the genre.
Even on a cursory listen, the two bands who leap out as the closest comparators are Echolyn and Neal Morse-era Spock’s Beard. There’s a quirkiness to the material, a tight yet dextrous rhythm section, a fine ear for strong melodies and good interplay between the guitars and keyboards. Weariness Rides even features the kind of multi-layered harmony vocal section for which both bands are justly famous for. Yet it would be wrong to label Little Atlas as mere imitators, as they certainly have a sound that is distinctly theirs, helped by the fact that they incorporate influences from a variety of genres, are clearly good and imaginative songwriters, and are all talented individuals with their own distinctive playing styles.
Particularly impressive on this album is the work of guitarist Roy Strattman; his playing is slightly harder-edged than is the norm for the genre, which adds some pleasing bite to the material, and his melodic solo work is impressive throughout. Particular highlights of his playing include fine extended solo’s on both The Ballad of Eddie Wanderlust and Weariness Rides, some powerful hard rock riffs on The Prisoner, intricate South American folk-influenced work on the opening section of Higher and, perhaps most impressive (and surprising) of all, some highly technical guitar playing in the mid-section of On And On which recalls the complex and edgy inter-woven guitar work of Adrian Belew and Robert Fripp on King Crimson’s Discipline album.
Strattman works well in tandem with keyboardist Steve Katsikas, and there are several instances where the two trade solos together to good effect. Katsikas favours the sort of keyboard work you would have found on a mid-70’s Genesis album, whilst Keith Emerson is clearly also an influence – as heard on the very ELP-like solo reeled off in the mid-section of The Prisoner. Katsikas also provides the vocals, and its’ these that are probably the most likely aspect of the band’s sound to attract negative criticism from some quarters. Personally I quite like his voice – its probably not the best in technical terms, but he covers a wide range (albeit struggling a little on the higher notes) and has a dramatic, expressive style which works well in tandem with the music, and suits the sometimes quite poetic lyrics to a tee. The rhythm section of Rik Bigai (bass) and Diego Pocovi (drums) are, as I’ve mentioned, very tight yet fluid, carrying these often complex songs seemingly effortlessly through a number of pace and mood changes. Bigai’s playing reminds me quite a bit of the up-front style employed by Dave Meros (Spock’s Beard).
In terms of individual songs, although each of the seven tracks are strong compositions in their own right, its actually quite tough to pick out highlights as the album works best when taken as a whole. A couple that are worthy of an individual mention might be The Prisoner, which is the longest song on here, and perhaps features the most dynamic contrasts – kicking in quite heavily, with Katsikas’ vocals at their most aggressive, the track mellows out considerably in the mid-section, and even features a passage which bears a certain resemblance to the main melody line in Supertramp’s Dreamer (minus the high vocals!). Home, meanwhile, sees the tempo brought down a notch, and has a melancholic feel, helped by an evocative chorus. It even survives the fact that the opening melody bears a slightly worrying similarity to the opening to The Bangles’ Eternal Flame (not a band I thought I’d ever reference in a prog review!).
If there is a criticism, it relates to the above – although the album as a whole is well composed and enjoyable to listen to throughout, it does perhaps lack a real standout track, and doesn’t have those hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck moments that the top bands in the genre trigger on their best works. You could also argue that some of the songs go on a little longer than they should. Still, these are relatively minor criticisms of what is a very solid and enjoyable album of melodic retro-prog. If you’re a fan of the newer ‘old-style’ prog bands – not just the aforementioned acts, but also the likes of Glass Hammer, Magenta and The Tangent – then you’d be well advised to check out Wanderlust pronto.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
La Torre Dell'Alchimista - USA...You Know?
Tracklist: Intro [from Dvorjak's 'New World Symphony] - L'Apprendista (8:46), Intermezzo (1:32), I Figli Della Mezzanotte (5:01), Il Volo (5:34), La Torre Dell'Alchimista (7:09), Risveglio, Procreazione E Dubbio [part 1] (8:22), Delirio In C Minore (5:33), La Persistenza Della Memoria (2:36), Concetto Virtuale Di Viaggio Nel 2500 D.C. (4:43), Eclisse (6:34)
Eight years into their musical career, Italy's La Torre Dell'Alchimista (or TDA for short) release their second album. Unfortunately, for fans of their eponymous first album released in 1991, this live album, recorded at NEARfest in 2002, features seven of the nine tracks on that album with the only new material being a couple of new songs (one of which was unfinished) and a short improvisation. Despite the fact that TDA are seemingly rather reluctant to release a new studio album and the only stop-gap measure is a three-year old live show, one can't take anything away from the quality of the performance and recording on this rather bizarrely titled CD.
To those unfamiliar with TDA what can one expect? Well the six-piece band produce progressive rock that is immediately identifiable as coming from the Italian school. Dominated by keyboards, the obvious landmark is Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM), whose own music was influenced by ELP (blimey, all acronyms today!), also reflected in TDA's style. There are also reflections of other classic Italian bands such as Banco and Le Orme as well as some Jethro Tull (an inevitable comparison for any band that features flutes!). The six members of the band are main composer Michele Mutti (Hammond organ, piano, Fender Rhodes and synthesisers), Michele Giardino (vocals and acoustic guitar), Silvia Geraolo (flute and vocals), Elena Biagioni (piano and vocals), Davide Donadoni (bass and clarinet) and Noberto Mosconi (drums and acoustic guitar).
The album opens with a short excerpt from The New World Symphony (British readers think Hovis bread!) played mainly on the flute. This segues neatly into L'Apprendista featuring a variety of keyboards behind the lead melody of the flute. As with ELP, the diversity of the keyboard sounds masks the fact that there is no guitar. Intermezzo, a short improvised (?) piece featuring piano, flute and clarinet, leads into I Figli Della Mezzanotte, following along similar lines to L'Apprendista, although the vocals are more prominent and the old analogue synths get a working over. Changing the tone, Il Volo takes things down into a more reflective mode: acoustic guitars, more clarinet and the ubiquitous flute provide backing for the strongest vocal performance on the album, Geraolo and Biagioni's voices blending sympathetically to really make this a stand out track (definitely drummer Mosconi's finest hour as a composer). The concluding jazzy section is a nice touch sounding as if it was improvised on the spur of the moment.
La Torre Dell'Alchimista takes us back firmly into progressive territory with heaps of Hammond ably supported by a steady rhythm section that get quite funky at times. The variety of styles blend well and justify the claims that TDA had produced the finest symphonic album to come from Italy in many a year. Risveglio, Procreazione E Dubbio (part 1) gives the clearest indication of how the band had developed in the short time since their debut album and certainly gives promise that when a new studio album is released it could be one to look out for. From the off, the songs grip the listener and drags them along the various twists and turns of the song. Once gain, the combination of the male and female vocals works well and is hopefully something that will be exploited more in future recordings (Biagioni not having been a member of the group when they recorded their first album). It will be interesting to see where TDA go with this track, and where part 2 will take the listener. Delirio in C Minore, presumably a reworked version of the studio album track but in a different key, is quite delirious with the ending sounding like some late sixties adventure theme tune! La Persistenza Della Memoria is a classical sounding piano solo that owes as much to Keith Emerson as it does to any of the maestros from earlier centuries. Concetto Virtuale Di Viaggio Nel 2500 D.C. is the only other new song on this live album and is a veritable smorgasbord of synths. Final track, Eclisse (which was the opening number on the studio album) takes on ELP territory and even includes Mellotron effects included in the keyboard palette. The whole band combine, intermingling their instruments to great effect resulting in a song that will have the prog purists beaming.
Overall a very fine live album showing that the band can translate their recorded work to the stage. The quality of the recording is first rate with the acoustic instruments maintaining their clarity amongst the mass of keyboards often on display. Recommended on the basis of the quality of the music alone, although there should be sufficient on offer to tempt those people who don't have a lot of spare cash and are wary about buying a CD that overlaps so much with the material on the studio album.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Isildur’s Bane – Songs From The Observatory
Tracklist: People Are Afraid (2:07) Without Grace (5:20) Under The Wind (3:18) No Choice [I’m Still Here] (3:36)
I must admit I was a little surprised to see the release of this EP. Containing a mere three and a half minutes of new material, it would hardly seem to be an essential purchase. However, the other three tracks are only available on the DVD The Observatory – Islidur’s Bane Live, and therefore this EP is a more accessible way to enjoy the songs.
Isildur’s Bane is one of the most truly adventurous groups around, and has consistently produced high quality work, in a surprisingly wide-ranging variety of styles (including Zappa-influenced fusion, Symphonic instrumentals, and work with an improvising string trio to name but three). I assumed, when I heard these tracks on the DVD that this would be an indicator of their direction on their next album, but this EP makes me wonder if in fact they will have moved on to something different again, and are drawing a line by releasing these songs on their own.
Really, these intelligent, moody, introspective songs belong to newcomer Mariette Hansson (guitar, vocals), who made her debut on the DVD, and aside from marketing considerations, these songs would be more honestly and appropriately served if billed under her own name. This is not to say that IB fans will not enjoy this, nor is it to undervalue the group’s contributions in the form of some delicious, understated backing music.
In fact, this four track EP is a perfectly formed unit, with all of the tracks being enjoyable. The prevailing mood is downbeat, and I hear a hint or two of American influences, along with classical, folk and a modern beat or two. It’s thoughtful stuff which should grow on you with repeated listens. If you are a fan of Peter Gabriel’s more recent work, then this should definitely appeal. The material is song based – the brief length of each track not allowing for much in the way of instrumental passages – but there is a lot of emotional depth here, and Hansson is a very persuasive singer- I’d like to hear more of, and from, her.
I think this is a worthwhile purchase for IB fans, and would make a good first taste of the band, but may not give you much of a clue as to what the rest of their output is like. I can’t wait to see what they serve up next.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Product - The Fire
Tracklist: From The Tall Tower I (3:27), It Begins (5:41), World Of Nero (4:36), Netting (4:18), Don`t Talk (4:23), All Is All (2:43), Where Or Why (3:32), From This Tall Tower II (3:01), Jaded Love I (4:48), Age (1:13), Jaded Love II (3:16), Isis (3:33), Haze(4:27), It Ends (4:04), The Fire (9:29)
Pretentious, complicated and boring: could be a first impression of this new Product album. Pretentious because of the subject matter of this album: the fall of the Roman Empire. Complicated because of all the small fragments of music floating into the air. Boring because these fragments have neither start nor finish. But that is only a first impression, once you are able to recognize that the fragments do indeed create melodies, you will also find that these fragments floating around, create an atmosphere with just modest musical elements. Some elements return throughout the album, a mark of a true concept album. Listening to the album in this way shows this new album, sprung from the mind of Arman Christoff Boyle, is one to cherish and listen to again and again. Isn't it always like that: dislike it first grow to really love it?
From This Tall Tower I introduces the story with a couple of drum sounds, it then goes into a imminent guitar and bell sound. Soon taken over by It Begins which is the first instant that Arman Christoff Boyle's very good voice can be heard. Fragile at some points while firm at others. Nero notices the fire has begun. World Of Nero has a very nice build up, it has what could be called a controlled musical breakout. A senator sings of Nero's way of doing things. I have to say that Boyle's voice on occasion reminds of Neil Young and this comparison is most evident on Netting because the acoustic guitar sound could also be of Young's hand.
Don't Talk mainly creates atmosphere although the breaks contains a very nice melody. All Is All starts of with a banjo (?) sound and a very nice drum rhythm - the chorus is very catchy. Where Or Why is a more synthesizer and vocals oriented track. But as in the other tracks, again the music is most important not one single instrument. From This Tall Tower II continues where the first part left off. Jaded Love I starts with the sound of a crackling fire, a clear guitar is faded for a more rhythmic part and the song becomes forceful towards the end. Age is a small interlude to Jaded Love II a track that continues the first part by repeating the last two refrains. Isis is a very intimate track with vocals most prominent. Haze is also very intimate mostly because of (again) the vocals and the acoustic guitar. Nero is aware everyone has gone, no one there to protect him so: It Ends. The Fire closes the album, it has a dramatic atmosphere.
A lot is happening throughout the album and it is like music is always waiting to burst into existence. It is that tension that gives the music it's interesting quality (it also the thing not obvious at first). Even when the music bursts into a heavier guitar sound, they are not loosing control, the rougher parts are carefully constructed. The sound quality is very good. All the instruments are very balanced and the sound is very clear. Because Product consists of two members only, I assume a number of overdubs have been done to create this music. I can't image they have created this rich sound in another way.
Product compares their music to Pink Floyd and Salem Hill. For the Pink Floyd part: it is an accurate comparison. The guitar lines are much like Dave Gilmour. Salem Hill I am ashamed to say is not in my collection. I had not heard of Product before, something I find amazing after hearing this album. If their other albums are as good as this one those should also be checked out. If you are interested in more subdued, well thought of progressive rock and don't expect guitars ripping through your speakers Product should be in your collection. The first lines of this review are of course quite nasty, hopefully they managed to get your attention Product deserves it.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Earthling Society - Albion
Tracklist: Black Witch (7:29), Heart Of Glass (4:35), Albion (5:09), Outsideofintime (6:39), Beltane Queen (5:24), When It All Comes Down (5:09), Universal Mainline (14:07)
The frequently bizarre world of the music industry is summed up by Earthling Society - a quartet of musicians from Lancashire in England whose debut album, Albion, was first released in a limited edition of 500 copies by a small label in Chile. The success of the album prompted an equally small German label to sign the band and release 1000 copies of said album, half of which are on the supposedly 'dead' format of vinyl. What is more, neither deal includes releasing the album in the bands home country! Quite a strange situation for the band which comprises guitarist and vocalist Fred Laird, drummer Jon Blacow, bassist David Lyall and keyboard player Phil Pullen.
The music on Albion is lightly psychedelic with overt space rock influences - Hawkwind being an obvious influence. However, lyricist Laird avoids the science fiction bent of a lot of the genre and bases several of the songs on English myths and legends. As is typical with music of this type, distorted guitar is prominent with Pullen's synths adding atmosphere and sound effects rather than functioning as a lead instrument. Overall, there is a slightly mellow, tripped out feel to the album, the most energetic number being the opener The Black Witch which is replete with the characteristic elements of the genre - swirling keyboards, distorted vocals, steady bass, crisp treated guitar and even an ending similar to the middle of Floyd's Echoes where the main instrumentation is washed into the background by an overlay of synths. Two of the tracks are instrumental - Heart Of Glass is fairly innocuous with samples of spoken text underlying the instruments. Much better is Outsideofintime, a mellow groove of a song that flows along held together by Lyall's melodic bass lines.
The memorable melody of the album's title track is carried by the vocals and one gets the impression that live the band could really stretch out on this piece, the album version sounding almost restrained. Beltane Queen shows that the band are not afraid to mix musical styles as the underlying folkish tune, complete with recorders and acoustic guitar mimicking a mandolin, is given a psychedelic working over. The combination works well. In contrast, When It All Comes Down doesn't fit as smoothly with the rest of the album, sounding, particularly at the beginning, slightly like a bastardised 1980s dance/rock tune peddled by the likes of The Happy Mondays or The Stone Roses, never my favourite musical period. Final track Universal Mainline starts with electric piano picking out notes under heavily echoed vocals and gradually builds with the addition of drums and a dub-like bass line. The almost ambient quality of parts of the song is surprising, bringing in elements of Steve Hillage. One's view on this track in particular, will undoubtedly be based on the context in which it is heard. I can imagine that in a darkened room with incense billowing and a sweet mellow vibe, the music will drift along and be an eminently suitable soundtrack, otherwise it doesn't work so well and struggles to hold the attention.
Overall, Earthling Society have produced a reasonable debut that shows promise for the future, particularly if they continue to explore styles of music that make them stand out from other bands of their ilk, as on tracks like Beltane Queen. I found the recording a bit muddy in places, although that may have been the intention, and the vocals were relatively weak, but this was not really an issue as they were not a great distraction apart from on When It All Comes Down, but that may have been due to the overall style of that particular song. With a new album nearly finished and a performance at September's Sonic Rock festival alongside Hawkwind and Ozric Tentacles, Earthling Society have found their niche.
NB: The above details are for the Chilean release of the album. The band have recently signed with German label Nasoni who will soon reissue the album on CD and vinyl. Please check the band's website for further details.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Planet P Project - Go Out Dancing Part 1 ~ "1931"
Tracklist: My Radio Talks To Me (6:41), Join The Parade (4:29), Good Little Soldiers (5:12), Work (Will Make You Free) (4:49), The Judge And The Jury (5:02), The Other Side Of The Mountain (5:48), Waiting For The Winter (4:55), Believe It (4:04), The Things They Never Told Me (4:35), Where Does It Go? (5:03)
Tony Carey really kicked off his professional musical career as a keyboard player of Rainbow from the period 1975 to 1977. Those were probably his finest moments in the rock music industry, unless you would consider his many collaborations with German star Peter Maffay as a bigger accomplishment. Although never reaching serious fame he did work together with the likes of Joe Cocker, John Mayall, Eric Burdon, Milva and many more; apparently mostly stars that had their brightest moments back in the Sixties. But also on his own he's been very productive having over 30 albums to his name, produced several others and also made some name as a composer of film-music and soundtracks. Still you, just like me, will probably never heard of him, but maybe this album will change that?
Go Out Dancing Part 1 ~ "1931" was already released in 2003, but just as an internet download. Then in 2004 Tony released a more tangible copy independently and the copy I'm reviewing here is already the re-release from the same year released by ProgRock Records. The album itself was recorded between 1992 and 2003 in Germany where Tony clearly found his home base and also in Mallorca (one of German's favourite massive holiday resorts).
So the guy has worked over 10 years on this album which means either he was plagued by a big lack of inspiration and/or time, or this truly must be a one-off masterpiece. Well let me quickly deprive you of any unrealistic expectations; it surely isn't the latter! But before I focus on the music itself some last marginal notes:
The CD booklet consisting of just two pages doesn't provide much background information on the music, but worthwhile to mention is a part of the credits where Tony thanks German film director Fritz Lang for the helping hand (probably the one on the cover design) and Tony's clear lack of the historical significance of the Cyrillic alphabet by thanking "all Russian sites with those funny backwards letters that I hope are complimentary".
The whole concept behind this album is pretty pretentious as this is only the first album of a trilogy called Go Out Dancing! Part II called Levittown should have been released in November 2004 and Part III called Out In The Rain is already mostly written. Tony's biography mentions that the second Planet P Project release, "Pink World" from 1984, could definitely resist the comparison with Pink Floyd's legendary recording - The Wall. Well if you dare to make such a statement you had better prove you are right otherwise you'll make yourself absolutely ridiculous, but as I'm not familiar with that album I can't make that judgement. But it seems that with this current album Tony is on the same trail as with his 1984 album. Although not really a conceptual album there's clearly a story behind this trilogy and considering the subtitle "1931" it obviously has something to with WWII, but it has not become all too clear to me after several listenings what Tony is trying to bring across! Blame that on me since I'm never much focussed on the lyrics, but also on the fact that the album just didn't grab me in any way and the music is not emphasizing on what is probably the message!
The album starts with a sinister guitar solo and then a narration about people in Detroit and Berlin listening to the radio in 1939 (making me directly wonder why the album title mentions 1931) on which they hear Hitler giving one of his furious speeches. But when the music really kicks in it directly moves to an unexpected direction with a drum box and a heavy beat, a danceable, poppy kind of music that you would expect to find in the dance-charts but not on this site! It's almost like the Pet Shop Boys, Modern Talking and Jan Hammer joining forces in a futile attempt to make a serious statement.
It may be clear to you that the choice of musical style is not only rather unpleasant to my prog-ears, but also seemingly absolutely inappropriate with such a serious topic as the second World War. Alright, I know that both Charlie Chaplin and Mel Brooks have managed to turn such an emotionally loaded topic as the second World War into a successful comedy with a hilarious persiflage of Hitler, making it clear that even such an incredible tragedy can be turned in something to laugh about. But I feel Tony Carey has not succeeded in that! Hearing a frolicsome, musical-like choir sing happily "work will make you free" on song four with the same name clearly reminds me of the Nazi slogan "Arbeit macht frei" that was written above the gate of some Jewish-destruction camps, but the atmosphere of this song just doesn't relate to that. Surely Tony meant all this cynically and probably only intended to make a serious point in a more confronting method, but it just doesn't work with me in combination with his choice of music!
So soon enough you'll understand that the title Go Out Dancing gave away more of the musical direction of this album than you probably at first anticipated if you expected a prog CD. Tony comments to the title in the inner sleeve "I know, but that's why it's progrock", so obviously in his opinion this album qualifies as progrock just because it has a title that sets you on the wrong foot; again a rather strange opinion! Well I happen to disagree with him, although this album does have some minimal genuine progrock elements, the main sound and structure is some light-years away from proper classic progrock! The whole album stays in the same style; danceable computer beats, uncomplex songs, historical fragments and short narrations and all that with not much variation and certainly hardly any prog elements.
Names (that I know) that cross my mind when hearing this CD are Chris de Burgh, Steve Winwood, Chris Rea, Stan Ridgeway and the voice of Ray Wilson but then all added with a heavy beat, The Judge And The Jury even starts like it's a Moby song, but you surely can't call them a real reference. To my opinion Tony Carey should stick to making music for films or even musicals, but certainly not prog concept albums! I truly wonder if this CD should even be reviewed on these pages and I for one are certainly not interested in hearing parts II and II of this trilogy!
Strangely enough I kept coming back to this album, listening over and over again just in case I had missed something, but in the final analysis I think I'll probably go along with many of Joris' comments and overall analysis of this album. However before proceeding with a few observations, perhaps I should state that I'm not one for concept albums, mainly because they invariably don't work for me. There are notable exceptions, however this is not one of them. It suffers like many of its predecessors, by concentrating too much on getting across rather disjointed concepts or messages, rather than letting the story unfold through the music.
So what is the story? Firstly Go Out Dancing Part 1 ~ "1931" continues earlier projects by Mr Carey (Planet P Project from 1983 and Pink World, 1984), which I am unable to comment on. However as I far as I can make out, this album sets out to look at events preceding and during WWII, starting in 1931, although referencing within the lyrics appears to take us to the modern day. Therefore man's inability to learn from past mistakes seems to be the overall message - as far as I can determine. An over simplification, I know, but an indicator, hopefully.
For me therefore Go Out Dancing Part 1 ~ "1931" like many concept albums draws, comparisons with the "Musical" (a form I have never enjoyed), and as is often the case, it suffers from trying to achieve two things at the same time. A musical accompaniment to a visual, that attempts to narrate that visual and a visual that allows the music to direct its intentions.
Musically its a bit of a pot purée affair, as Joris points out, with a number of contrasting styles offered. Although in fairness I did think that Tony Carey had managed to adapt many of these styles fairly well and into a concise format. Years of experience as a band member and session musician have enabled Tony to craft together the music here. There are many referencing points to Pink Floyd and the most obvious one being The Wall. But unlike The Wall, Tony Carey has chosen to wrap his messages within a number of common time "dancey" rhythms. At best these drive the music along - at worst the drumming is banal and does very little to enhance the songs.
There are some saving moments on the album, the opening is atmospheric - although I could have lived without the narrations, and My Radio Talks To Me is a fairly cohesive piece of music. Lyrically and melodic the track is also engaging enough, but the programmed drums are a bad sign. Hopefully if Mr Carey does move onto Part II and III, he will do himself a favour and at least employ a drummer! The Other Side Of The Mountain has a good groove and the drums work well here - nice touches on the Rhodes piano and Hammond-like organ. I suppose whilst we are on the album's saving graces, we should mention Tony Carey's vocals and lyrics, which are again are a mixed bag. Lyrically Tony manages to convey his messages, if not particularly subtle, at least effectively. Vocally, well when they are good as in Waiting For The Winter the music is lifted to another level, however this particular track is followed by the truly dreadful I Believe. Half spoken, half sung lyrics fill the verses whilst the chorus (as Joris mentions) sound like some leftovers from an early Pet Shop Boys album. The chorus vocal delivery also reminded me of Prince's 1999!
So a fairly mixed bag all in all. I suppose if you have a liking for conceptual albums and don't mind them being encompassed in dance format, this could well be a number one album for you. Personally I couldn't get away with it, however many times I returned to it, so in the final analysis I have to agree with Joris on this one and award it the same numerical conclusion.