Issue 2006-034: DVD Special
Reviews in this issue:
- Pink Floyd - Pulse
- Iona - Live In London
- Mike Oldfield - Live At Montreux 1981
- Stream Of Passion featuring Ayreon - Live In The Real World
- Jon Anderson - Work In Progress: Tour Of The Universe
- Quidam - The Fifth Season (Live In Concert)
- Arena - Smoke & Mirrors
- Glass Hammer – Live At Belmont
- Ange - Live Tour 2003-2004 Par Les Fils De Mandrin
- Erik Norlander And Friends - Live In St Petersburg
- Landmarq - Turbulence (Duo Review)
- Satellite - Evening Dreams
- Barock Project - Live In Auditorium
- Gary Wehrkamp - The Shoot Interviews
Pink Floyd - P.U.L.S.E.
Disc 1: Concert Part 1 [72:47]: Shine On You Crazy Diamond (13:21), Learning To Fly (5:42), High Hopes (8:08), Take It Back (6:00), Coming Back To Life (6:51), Sorrow (11:12), Keep Talking (7:33), Another Brick In The Wall pt 2 (6:54), One Of These Days (7:02)
Bonus Material: Bootlegging The Bootleggers (25:11): [What Do You Want From Me? (4:26), On The Turning Away (6:47), Poles Apart (7:59), Marooned (5:57)], Screen Films (18:34): [Shine On You Crazy Diamond (8:25), Learning To Fly (1987) (1:57), High Hopes (8:11)], Learning To Fly (video) (4:44), Take It Back (video) (5:01), PULSE TV ad (1:05), Maps, Itinerary, Stage Plans
Disc 2: Concert Part 2 [71:27]: Speak To Me (2:09), Breathe (2:39), On The Run (3:43), Time (6:38), The Great Gig In The Sky (5:18), Money (8:42), Us And Them (7:07), Any Colour You Like (3:15), Brain Damage (3:47), Eclipse (2:58), Wish You Were Here (6:08), Comfortably Numb (9:35), Run Like Hell (9:21)
Bonus Material: Screen Films (27:31): [Speak To Me (graphic) (1:42), On The Run (3:44), Time (1994) (2:18), The Great Gig In The Sky (wave) (4:12), Money (1987) (2:48), Us And Them (1987) (7:13), Brain Damage (3:49), Eclipse (1:41)], Alternate Screen Films (18:24): [Speak To Me (1987) (2:06), Time (Ian Eames) (2:19), The Great Gig In The Sky (animation) (4:43), Money (alien) (1:45), Us And Them (1987) (7:28)], Say Goodbye To Life As We Know It (15:38), Photo Gallery (6:30), Wish You Were Here (with Billy Corgan) (10:31), Cover Art, Additional Credits
I would never have thought to actually be able to hold this thing in my hands. As most of our readers will know, this DVD was originally planned for 2002, and for reasons largely unknown got delayed time upon time. When EMI finally announced the tracklist in October 2005 everybody thought it would be released before Christmas, but the November release date got changed to December, then January, and all of a sudden came the announcement that the date was pushed back to September 2006! However, after the recent success of the David Gilmour solo tour, and with Roger Waters performing Dark Side Of The Moon live at festivals this summer, the record companies (EMI for Europe, Columbia for rest of the world) decided that now would perhaps be a good time to release the thing after all, so the September release date was brought forward to July 10th.
So was it worth the wait? Well, yes and no. Yes, because it is a great concert registration of a unique tour, but no because the endless delays have caused expectations for this DVD to reach mythical proportions with lots of speculation on what was to be used as bonus material. And despite having just typed nearly half a page of bonus material I must conclude that the two hours of extras that finally did appear on the DVD are somewhat weak and disappointing.
That is not to say the footage itself is without merit, quite the contrary, the sound and vision is absolutely stunning. It is just that over the years Pink Floyd have raised the bar so high that people have come to expect nothing but the best from the band. And while Storm Thorgerson created new artwork for the DVD, the packaging of a simple two-fold digipack with a four-page booklet is a far cry from the original CD release of Pulse, or other 'recent' releases like Is There Anybody Out There or even the Echoes compilation.
So to start with the extras, as this will be of most interest to those who already owned the concert on VHS (either bought or taped from a TV broadcast). A great feature is that the screen films are available to be watched separately. And to be complete not only the screen films that were shown during the gig that is in the main feature, also the alternative versions which were sometimes used for other gigs (when Dark Side Of The Moon wasn't played integrally) are presented. What struck me is just how relevant the 1994 version of the Brain Damage movie still is.
Another great feature is the Bootlegging the Bootleggers where the creators of the DVD have gone through great pains to edit videos from seized bootleg video tapes, and thereby giving us a few songs that did not appear in the main feature. So rather than seeing the performance from one shaky camera viewpoint, you see it from three or four different shaky viewpoints. The sound, though soundboard quality, has been mixed down somewhat to give it a more bootleg feel.
Say Goodbye to Life As We Know seems to start interestingly as it shows the member of Pink Floyd rehearsing in Dave Gilmour's studio, but it soon turns out to be the home video of a couple of roadies, which holds very little entertainment value to anyone except those roadies themselves.
More interesting is the video of Pink Floyd's induction to the "Rock n' Roll Hall Of Fame", which features a long intro by Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins explaining Pink Floyd to the MTV audience and a rendition of Wish You Were Here with Corgan on guitar. And then there are two promo videos of the singles Take It Back and Learning To Fly (the video to High Hopes is the same as what was used for the screen film, so it is obvious that this isn't presented separately), a TV-ad, a photo gallery, concept art and a tour itinerary. And that's pretty much it from an extras point of view. While certainly not meagre, the package could have done with some proper documentary, interviews or behind the scenes footage. At the time of the tour there have been specials such as these on TV, so the footage is already there. Heck, the EPK is even missing from the package, while this contains (all but 30 seconds) of interviews with the three band members. A missed opportunity.
On to the concert then. Most readers will have seen the original video at one point in their lives, so they'll know what to expect. Well, the DVD is exactly that, but better. The footage has been polished and looks stunningly new, as if it was shot with brand new digital cameras rather than mid-nineties video equipment. The sound has been re-mastered and sounds very full and rich - a tad heavy on the bass perhaps due to the subwoofer channel, but the added bass recreates a live concert feeling without drowning out the other instruments.
The soundtrack is available in stereo, as well as two surround channels: 'standard' 448 Kbps and enhanced 640 Kbps playback. Unfortunately no DTS (no room left, likely) but the 640 Kbps channel sounds just as good to these ears.
The 1994 Division Bell tour was probably the last ever example of the excesses of rock gigs in the seventies and eighties. A show of this magnitude simply would not be profitable anymore in this time and day. A custom made stage, with hundreds of rotating lights above, on, around and under it, with illuminating floor panels and lighting rigs that move up and down automatically. Film projections, fireworks, lasers, inflatable pigs, an airplane flying over the audience and crashing into the stage and a 10 foot mirror ball hovering above the audience. 'Awe-inspiring' only remotely begins to describe this show.
This was the tour about which Roger Waters said "Dave and Rick did tours [as Pink Floyd] and made huge fortunes. I've seen videos of those tours. With all due respect, it was sort of muck." Well, muck it may be, but visually stunning muck nonetheless.
The stage features Floyd's trademark round screen, which is used for the projection of custom made films during the songs. For the songs that did not have a video, the screen could be retracted, or the lights mounted on the outer ring were used to create effects. So during the start of Shine On the round screen rises up above the stage, like a rising sun, while during the finale of Comfortably Numb the screen tilts forward and hovers above the stage like some sort of UFO. The lasers are used to create a maze of light beams via some 20 ingeniously placed mirrors around the stage. This is used to great effect in Sorrow, with the lasers functioning somewhat as an oscillator during the guitar-intro and Keep Talking, where the beams also dance to the rhythm of the guitar solo.
Every song played is visualised with the lights, the video screen and the laser and occasional fireworks. Sure, this takes out any spontaneity of the show, as everything is strictly timed, but since when was Pink Floyd a spontaneous band? Dave Gilmour's stoical posture while playing is hardly something you can watch for two and a half hours, and most of the other band members move even less. The only people onstage who are even remotely animated are bassist Guy Pratt and second drummer/percussionist Gary Wallis, but it is clear that the band plays a supporting role to the visuals of the show. Fortunately director David Mallet divides the attention equally between the musicians and the surrounding show.
Focal point of the DVD is the integral performance of Floyd's most famous album Dark Side Of The Moon, available for the first time on DVD. Like the rest of the songs, the whole album is played to perfection. A particular highlight is On The Run, which is a bit of a dull track on the album, but with the added visuals it becomes a whole lot more interesting, as it features a creepy video of a guy losing his mind, and ends with an airplane flying over the audience and crashing into the side of the stage in a big ball of fire. It is amazing the Earl's Court Centre never burned down during Pink Floyd's 14 night residency.
As for highlights of the show? There are too many of them. The lasers in Sorrow, the pigs in One Of These Days, the crashing plane in On The Run, the six minute guitar solo with the huge light & mirror ball show in Comfortably Numb, the fireworks in Run Like Hell, as said before, each and every song has something special.
The DVD is a must-have, simple as that. The show should be compulsory viewing for any self-respecting prog fan as part of their education. However, in the end the DVD may disappoint slightly for the die-hard Floyd fan, but that is only because Pink Floyd themselves have set the bar so high with previous releases.
Conclusion: 8+ out of 10
Iona - Live In London
Main Programme: Woven Cord, Wave After Wave, Inside My Heart, Wind Off The Lake, A Dhia Ghleigil (Angel Of God), Factory Of Magnificent Souls, Encircling, Strength, Treasure, Castlerigg, Reels, Irish Day, Bi-Se I Part 2, Flight Of The Wild Goose, Murlough Bay
Acoustic Set: Chi-Rho, Greenfields Of Canada, Edge Of The World, Jigs (Handsome Young Maidens/Trip To Athlone), Today
This for me has to be one of the most eagerly awaited releases so far this year. The fact that it’s been five years since the release of The River Flows Anthology and seven years since the last studio album Open Sky heightens the anticipation. With a new studio album The Circling Hour due out soon and European live dates taking them through to the end of the year this DVD heralds a busy schedule for the band. Surprisingly, given that the band has been around for eighteen years, this is their first full-length concert video. Filmed at the ULU in London on the 18th November 2004, the show was specifically put together to allow the performance to be caught on camera, or in this case five cameras. In truth, the limitations of the intimate venue (the audience numbered just 350 and it looks full) means that the camera work often feels compromised. The work of stage lighting designer Paul Kell is beautifully captured however. Given that the bands set includes the customary virtuoso performances it’s in the many revealing close-ups where this film comes into its own. The video image has a soft focus with the emphasis on pastel colours, creating a warm atmosphere. For some inexplicable reason however, the picture occasionally changes to black and white. This works OK for the close ups, but renders the long shots hazy and out of focus.
The bands set is divided into two parts, which is reflected in this double disc package. The first part of the show, an acoustic set, is captured on the “Special Features” disc, which also includes interviews with each band member. The second set takes up the whole of the self-explanatory titled “Main Programme” disc. The interviews include some very insightful observations on the bands history and sheds light on recent individual actives. Unfortunately the interviews are not divided into separate chapters and therefore cannot be individually selected. The band takes the opportunity to play down the misleading image of a Celtic/folk act with strong Christian beliefs. They have a valid point in my view. Take founder member Dave Bainbridge for instance. He may be a skilled acoustic guitar player, but he is first and foremost a progressive rock guitarist in the style of Steve Hackett, Andy Latimer and Roine Stolt amongst others. In addition the bands lyrics are thoughtful without ever sounding preachy.
The bands remarkable versatility is immediately apparent from the start of the acoustic set. The image of Dave Bainbridge, Troy Donockley and bassist Phil Barker all playing acoustic guitars in the instrumental Chi-Rho is a striking one. A fitting opener particularly as this is the only inclusion from 1992’s highly regarded The Book Of Kells album. Joanne Hogg is in excellent form, proving once again that she has probably the purest and most perfect voices in rock today. The light-hearted banter between Joanne and Troy is clearly appreciated by the crowd. As admirers of the band will be aware, Troy’s mesmerizing Ullieann pipes sound is often at the forefront of the music. Troy’s mastery of this most cumbersome but beautiful of instruments during Greenfields Of Canada is alone worth the price of the DVD. The visual element also provides an opportunity for band members to display their multi-instrumental abilities. In addition to Ullieann pipes and 6-string acoustic, Donockley excels on whistles and provides the hypnotic ringing tones of the bouzouki in Jigs. In truth the set is not entirely acoustic, with Bainbridge occasionally switching from acoustic to electric guitar and digital keys as he does to perfection in Edge Of The World. Drummer Frank van Essen plays traditional Irish percussion including the Bodhran and his violin playing really shines on Today. Joanne’s contributions include keys, acoustic guitar and percussion.
Switch to the second disc, and the main set begins like a re-run of the last studio album. Woven Cord is a powerful but melodic instrumental dominated by Uilleann pipes. Wave After Wave has a strong melody with a bright chorus from Joanne backed by a driving rhythm and gutsy guitar sound. From here on, the band deliver an impeccable selection of tracks from their back catalogue together with four new pieces from the forth-coming album. Virtually every song and instrumental demonstrates the bands ability to combine progressive rock with traditional folk elements wrapped up in strong melodies. Highlights include the haunting instrumental A Dhia Ghleigil, the majestic Encircling, the infectious Strength, and the crowd pleasing Castlerigg/Reels. Each track provides a springboard for the stunning interplay between Troy’s pipes and whistles and Dave’s fluid lead guitar, usually against a lush wash of symphonic keys. Phil and Frank provide a solid rhythm with meticulous precision, combining power and grace in equal measures. Above it all Joanne’s emotionally charged vocals soar with extraordinary ease. After a well earned breather, the band return for several encores including the evocative Irish Day and a stunning Murlough Bay to close.
In many ways Iona remains a fairly unique band. There aren’t many acts that can combine the traditional folk feel of Wind Off The Lake and Castlerigg/Reels with the scorching guitar driven rock sensibilities of Inside My Heart and Flight Of The Wild Goose. Only Mostly Autumn possibly comes close. I do however have one minor gripe with this release. During the interviews Dave’s voice almost disappears in places, and in Woven Cord the sound level drops when the drums and bass enter. Hopefully this audio drop out it’s only a technical glitch with my copy. That said it’s not enough to dissuade me from giving this release a highly deserved DPRP recommendation. One for the enthusiasts certainly, but a great starting point if you’ve yet to fall under Iona’s spell. This is truly music for the heart, the mind and the soul. And what’s more if your living room is big enough you can even dance to it!
Conclusion: 8+ out of 10
Mike Oldfield - Live At Montreux 1981
Tracklist: Taurus 1/Sheba (18:59), Mirage (5:14), Platinum ~ Parts 1-4 (16:06), Tubular Bells, Part 2 (10:39), Conflict/Ommadawn (28:15), Tubular Bells, Part 1 (18:03), Punkadiddle (8:01)
Bonus Material: none
As part of the Live At Montreux series comes a DVD of Mike Oldfield's performance at the 1981 edition of the Montreux Festival. This gig was played as part of the QE2 tour. This tour was a bit of a step down after the immense Exposed tour Oldfield did three years earlier. Instead of a 40-piece orchestra Oldfield's entourage consisted of only five men, and one woman. Nonetheless the smaller band resulted in a much more tightly playing outfit and though some of the complex sections like Tubular Bells have had to be scaled down a little (and more samples had to be used) the six-piece band delivers a rousing set.
For this gig Oldfield was aided by Tim Cross on keyboards, Mike Frye and Morris Pert on drums and percussion, Rick Fenn on bass, guitar and percussion and Maggie Reilly on vocals. Oldfield himself plays electric and acoustic guitar, bass, mandolin and keyboards.
This tour marked the beginning of the long collaboration between Maggie Reilly and Mike Oldfield. As all of you will know during the Eighties Oldfield gave Reilly words to sing as well, launching an entirely new career as chart-breaking act. For this show, however, Reilly's performance was confined to singing wordless melodies and some chants in odd languages.
Contrary to popular belief the one female band member is not the most visually attractive person onstage. In fact, the dull static performance in her baggy clothes are anything but a pleasure to look at.
For some strange reason the creators of the DVD felt that short songs didn't suit a Mike Oldfield DVD, so the shorter songs in the set have been grouped together as 'medleys' even though sometimes these songs aren't played as a continuous piece. So the opening medley of Taurus 1, Sheba and Mirage (on the track listing grouped as one, but indexed as two) are in fact three separate songs. It is also one of the highlights on the disc, not in the least place because these are seldom heard Oldfield tracks nowadays. With all respect to Tubular Bells, Oldfield has composed many classics in the first eight years of his career and it is great to finally be able to hear a live rendition of Taurus 1.
The same thing goes for the live version of Platinum. I have always found the studio version a bit tame, but for the live version the synthesised trumpets are replaced by a piano, and all of a sudden this thing rocks!
Tubular Bells part 2 is presented in an abbreviated form, but it does include an extended version of the traditional Sailor's Hornpipe at the end. Oldfield is playing Mandolin on this one, speeding up going faster and faster and just when you think the band has reached maximum pace they speed up some more. It is great fun seeing the interaction between Oldfield, keyboardist Tim Cross and drummer Morris Pert - all trying to keep the pace.
The highlight of the show is the integral performance of Ommadawn part 1. Like the other songs this one has also been altered for live performance, although it is closer to the original studio version than the others. And I have to say that the added drums certainly fit the song.
What follows is a rousing rendition of Tubular Bells part 1, which makes the audience go crazy. Again the arrangement has been adapted to a 'small' band, which largely results in less different instruments used and an added rhythm section turning the track into a more concise 'song'. The climax is a bit of a let-down, as instead of all the different instruments only one is used: Maggie Reilly humming the famous melody. The famous bells themselves don't even make an appearance!
For the encore the band returns with all members stripped from the waist up (well, all but Maggie Reilly that is). Not quite the hunks that typified eighties pop, the band members look a bit silly, but you do get to understand where the Red Hot Chili Peppers got their inspiration from.
Considering the age of the recordings the quality is fairly good. The lack of a lightshow and the static performance of Oldfield make the footage itself a bit of an uninteresting affair, but the excellent musical performances, the songs on offer and the good sound quality certainly make up for any lack of exciting visuals. And hey, don't we all dream of the sight of a bare-chested sweaty Mike Oldfield playing Punkadiddle as a final encore?
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Stream Of Passion featuring Ayreon -
Live In The Real World
Tracklist: [101:47] Intro (1:28), Spellbound (4:17), Passion (5:40), Waracle (6:16), Wherever You Are (5:33), Computer Eyes (6:18), Calliopeia (5:21), Valley Of The Queens (4:18), Haunted (4:58), The Charm Of The Seer (3:11), Deceiver / Songs Of The Ocean (6:11), Day One: Vigil (2:02), Day Three: Pain (5:57), Nostalgia (3:44), Out In The Real World (6:31), The Castle Hall (6:28), Into The Black Hole (8:32), When The Levee Breaks (6:07), Day Eleven: Love (6:18)
Bonus Material: Behind the Scenes (15:00), Photo Gallery (7:00), Video Clip: Out in the Real World (3:48), Making of the Video Clip (3:48), Tour Diary
For those who don't know it yet: Arjen Lucassen is a Dutch musical mastermind, a multi-instrumentalist and one of those over-active people that can't satisfy himself with just one project. So after being a band member of the Dutch metal groups Bodine and Vengeance, Arjen founded Ayreon, Strange Hobby (a sort of intermission project) and later Ambeon, Star One and finally Stream Of Passion; apart from Strange Hobby all projects for which he assembled an impressive number of fellow musicians from all over the globe. The styles of the various projects might vary a bit, but all, again except Strange Hobby, categorize in the progressive and symphonic metal corner.
So that's what you can expect from Stream Of Passion too, but there's a big difference between this project and the others; Stream Of Passion is a real group instead of a project for which Arjen invited several guest musicians. This band came about after Arjen finished his Ayreon album The Human Equation which featured among others Mexican singer Marcela Bovio. Arjen was quite overwhelmed by her vocal capacities and decided a band was in order to showcase her talents; a very pleasant additional detail is that she looks very good too!
Together they wrote several songs for their first album and assembled a group around them which resulted in a very international bunch. This clearly marks another difference between the other projects of Arjen, since here he's not the sole engine and composer of the project and also are the other band members more than 'just' guest musicians.
2005 saw the release of their first album Embrace The Storm and perfectly in line with the current trend after one album already a live CD and DVD was recorded and released. The show from their live tour that was filmed took place on 17 February 2006 at 'Lucky & Co' in Rijssen, Netherlands, one of the last shows from that tour.
The line-up for this tour was as follows:
Marcela Bovio - Vocals, lyrics, violin
Alejandro Millán - Piano
Lori Linstruth - Lead guitars
Arjen Lucassen - Guitars, music
Johan van Stratum - Bass guitar
Davy Mickers - Drums
Diana Bovio - Backing vocals
Damian Wilson - Vocals
The concert is released simultaneously on DVD and on 2CD, both containing exactly the same concert, probably almost the complete concert in its whole. So if you're only interested in the music you can safely stick to the 2CD, but I tend to think that a live concert comes better to life when the images are added to it. The DVD also contains some additional bonus features, but these are not very exceptional; the almost obligatory 'behind the scenes' showing the band on tour regularly being crazy and a photo gallery with more of the same.
The video clip of Out in the real World is a nice addition, the making of that clip lasts just as long as the clip itself and can therefore hardly be called a real making of.
Actually the most interesting bonus feature is the Tour diary where the band members comment on each of the venues they played.
It's a bit strange the DVD/2CD is credited to 'Stream Of Passion featuring Ayreon' as if Arjen a.k.a. Ayreon is not an integral part of Stream Of Passion; maybe Arjen is suffering from a split personality, or is there just some legal rights matter behind this choice?
Both DVD as CD feature a glossy full colour booklet with several live pictures, some additional (recording) information and the obligatory long list of thank you's.
The picture on the front cover is a bit vague, hard to recognize almost anybody, but it's probably chosen more for its artistic value and the expression of the kind of music they're performing. The picture on the back sleeve with the whole band taking their bows is not much sharper though; I truly wonder if this was the best quality picture available.
But let's no longer focus on these lesser important aspects and see what the DVD itself brings us. I personally think there are two important elements of a live DVD that make up a huge part of the quality of the complete final product: the quality of the concert itself and the quality of the recording; if one of the both lets down the other part can't make up for it. And that's directly one of the major points of criticism that I have to express here; the concert itself is quite alright, but the quality of the recording, both sound and image, is somewhat disappointing. That becomes very obvious soon enough; when the DVD is inserted in the player the music accompanying the main menu bursts out of your speakers; at least when you've cranked up the volume to a reasonable level as you should do with this kind of music! So you think 'alright, the neighbours better move out for the next 2 hours' and you choose the Surround 5.1 option. But then when the concert starts the real bombast suddenly disappears again and the sound level drops noticeable! Alright, you can then of course increase the level of your amplifier a bit more, but it's truly strange that the stereo 2.0 option blasts out of your speakers more energetic than the surround 5.1 option; I hold this for a mastering error.
As could be expected Arjen did the 5.1 mix himself and I must say that he basically did a good job here, there are some nice surround effects noticeable here and there. But these are too much just incidents leaving mainly the audience being mixed to the back speakers and not so much the music itself thus creating a fuller sound that would fit this kind of music so well. I judge this myself as a lost opportunity, since now I truly miss actually feeling the music in my guts; with at least 7 people on stage producing an impressive wall of sound it shouldn't be so difficult to fully experience that as well when playing the DVD; with today's technology that shouldn't be a real problem as many artists have already proven.
But unaware of this future fact the band plays very enthusiastically and it's clear to see they enjoy playing together. The whole show very well sticks together and the members are well anticipated on each other. Maybe even a bit too well, since most songs follow the original studio version very closely not leaving much room for improvisations, alterations and solo's. The band really plays as a unit and nobody really sticks out, especially not Arjen who keeps a very low profile; probably in order to let the rest of the band get the attention they deserve. Marcela Bovio obviously has spent many days with Arjen in the Netherlands as she addresses the audience with some lines in Dutch, in a pretty accurate and accent-less way as well! The few Dutch spoken parts are all subtitled for the rest of the world! Marcela's sister Diana should have been credited as more than a special guest because unlike Damian Wilson she provides the whole concert with her also fine voice and when she teams up with her sister the best vocal harmonies are delivered! On a few occasional spots Marcela has some difficulty to get out the notes completely pure, but that does not diminish much the enjoyment for the high quality she provides all the other moments.
Too my opinion the keys were pushed a bit too far to the background and also the lead guitarist Lori didn't get enough moments in the spotlight, but every one of them was an enjoyment, seeing the third beautiful girl on stage laying down a terrific guitar lick. With the limited amount of available songs from the just one album it are not only Stream Of Passion songs that are performed, several Ayreon songs and also one from Star One also come along. Every song is credited at its start with a beautiful Ayreon style kind of artwork depicting the album the song originates from, my compliments for who made this! Less complimentary I have to be about the quality of the film images; I'm not an expert on this topic, so I can't lay my finger on the sour spot, but the images tend to be a bit blurred and close to un-sharp. Not in a disturbing way though and if you look at the concert trying to pretend you're present at it you probably won't be bothered by it all, but if you look very intensively at the images and soak it all in, you can't avoid noticing a slight lack of quality here. It just seems the camera's were not perfectly adapted to the used lighting.
Only at the last track before the encores, Into The Black Hole, Damian Wilson appears on stage laying down a terrific piece of vocals; I wouldn't have minded if he would have come on earlier and done some more duets with Marcela and Diana! The first song of the encore starts, just like the concert itself, with some mystical sounds as an intro for the Ayreon song Into The Black Hole, certainly one of the highlights of the evening, with its beautiful sung mellow moments. As the second song of the first encore Led Zeppelin's song When The Levee Breaks is played, not such a surprising choice as it seems, since Stream Of Passion had already recorded this song before as one of the B-sides (along with two Ayreon covers!) for the single of Out In The Real World.
It very well comes over that both band and audience have thoroughly enjoyed this concert and that surely enhances the enjoyment of this DVD. The DVD offers a good impression of a Stream Of Passion concert and the band performs quite excellent, but the somewhat disappointing sound and image quality and lack of really exciting bonus features have cost it the DPRP recommendation, but that should not withhold you from watching this DVD.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Jon Anderson - Work In Progress: Tour Of The Universe
Tracklist: Harmony, Father Sky, Standing Still, Bring On The Day, You Lift Me Up, Long Distance Runaround, State of Independence, Set Sail, Who Could Imagine?, The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn), First Song, Nous Sommes Du Soleil, O’er, Show Me, White Buffalo, And You And I, Change We Must, Harping, Your Move, Yours Is No Disgrace, This Is
Bonus Material: The Golden Mean (documentary), Golden Music (interview)
Released simultaneously with the CD single State Of Independence on July 11th 2005, the debut solo DVD from legendary Yes lead singer and songwriter, Jon Anderson, Tour Of The Universe is a musical passage through life, time and the world beyond, featuring many new songs as well as classic hits from his work with Yes and collaborations with Vangelis. Year after year, Anderson's legacy as one of the most prolific songwriters and performers of our time continues and his creative output and extensive touring across the globe shows no sign of slowing down.
Tour Of The Universe was recorded live at XM Radio Studios in Washington D.C. before an intimate audience of about sixty friends. Anderson performed his 'One Man Show', which has been crafted with dramatic animation and innovative visuals to create this pioneering concept DVD.
The graphics and animation were created by Robert Grafalo in London.
"I sent him ideas on each song as to what I would like to see visually"
"and explained the songs lyrically. Then he came up with these beautiful experiences - very, very right on the money for me. After seeing them I was just sort of sitting there with a big grin on my face because he REALLY captured every song perfectly."
Anderson performed to the small audience on midi guitar, acoustic nylon string guitar, electronic piano and harp, to the accompaniment of various midi rhythm tracks and orchestrations. With the assistance of a technician just off stage who triggered various previously recorded vocals and additional features, Anderson controlled most of the midi tracks with the use of pedals off camera. In between most songs, Anderson shared his thoughts about the Golden Mean and chatted about the songs to the audience. Also in between the songs, somewhat otherworldly footage from in and around XM studios gives flavour to the DVD.
The inclusion of ten previously un-released songs Harmony, Father Sky, Bring On The Day, Standing Still, This Is, White Buffalo, Harping, You Lift Me Up, Set Sail and Who Could Imagine? - illustrate that Anderson has created some very powerful new material crossing many musical genres and his approach to song writing has no boundaries.
Classic Yes songs such as Yours Is No Disgrace, Long Distance Run-around, Your Move, Nous Sommes Du Soleil, The Revealing Science Of God (Dance Of The Dawn), And You And I are performed by Anderson with his own unique style and arrangements. A more recently recognised stage favourite from the fruitful Yes catalogue Show Me is also featured, with the addition of pre-recorded piano parts and video of long-time friend and band-mate Rick Wakeman and a fifty piece Children's choir.
Amongst several solo tunes and Vangelis collaborations, Anderson also performs the very emotive and aptly named First Song. First Song, is a song Anderson wrote as a small child, confirming that a talent for writing original material and harmony would be a path naturally set out for Anderson from a very young age.
The Tour Of The Universe DVD is presented with Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS and Stereo sound options and bonus material including a section on The Golden Mean, which has become a source of fascination for Anderson. Dr. Ron Knott explains the mysteries of The Golden Mean and how it is important to all of us. There is also a section on Golden Music. This section focuses on an interview with concert pianist Roy Howat of Cambridge University who explains how The Golden Mean has influenced the works of the great classical composers Béla Bartók and Claude Debussy.
The footage of the concert gives fans a chance to be up close and personal with Anderson, doing what he likes to do best - perform. The background videos and midi enhancements do just that - enhance the solo acoustic performance, and add a kind of visual rush to the stronger rock tunes. This is not just sitting and watching Anderson go through a set of acoustic tunes before a live audience, but a kind of magic carpet ride through the mind of Anderson.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Quidam - The Fifth Season (Live In Concert)
Tracklist: Hands Off (9:51), Queen Of Moulin Rouge (8:33), SurREvival (5:57), Sanktuarium (7:43), Oldies But Goldies [including excerpts from: List z pustyni I, Pod powieka, Plone, Wesota, Jest taki samotny dom, Niespelnienie, Gleboka rzeka] (9:43), No Quarter [including guitar solo from "Quimpromptu"] (8:29), The Fifth Season [including excerpts from "Los Endos"] (10:38), Credo I & II (14:14), Everything's Ended (12:10), Jestés [including excerpts from Krzystof Komeda's "Lullaby" of "Rosemary's Baby" soundtrack] (8:01), Not So Close [including excerpts from "Hush"] (10:50)
Extra's: Interview (27:29), Studio Report, SurREvival recording sessions (18:00), The Summer Tour 2005 Report (16:57), ProgResiste Convention 2005 Report (17:39), SurREvival Tour Report (43:55), Videoclip "Warkocze" (4:11), Videoclip "Beznogi maly ptak" (3:40), Band biography, members profiles, discography, photo gallery (29:54), desktop images
The Fifth Season is Quidam's first DVD release, featuring a live performance at the Theatr Śląski in Katowice where recently more prog concerts were filmed for release on DVD. We find the band playing a very tight live set with their new line-up. With their latest album SurREvival the band had removed most doubts now their female vocalist Emilia had been replaced by new (male) singer Bartek. Their new musical direction where the Quidam characteristics of old were combined with more Porcupine Tree-like styles and where the band finally converted to English lyrics had also gained many thumbs up. The question now was if they could live up to their 'surrevival' when performing live on stage.
The material in the set-list mainly focuses on the band's last two albums, and thereby the somewhat darker and heavier material, without losing the more pastoral feel of earlier Quidam. All of the songs of SurREvival are played (with the exception of the short introduction Airing), while both parts of Credo, Jestes (You Are) plus a fragment of List Z Pustyni I (Letter From The Desert I) and the guitar solo of Quimpromptu represent the Time Beneath The Sky album. The band's first two albums are represented by several instrumental passages in the Oldies But Goldies medley, as well as the classic Sanktuarium.
Let's start by removing all doubts. Yes, the band does live up to all expectations when playing live with their new line-up. They are tighter than ever and the new rhythm section combined with the new guitar riffs add a 'bite' that was rarely present with the old Quidam. Singer Bartek proves himself to be a worthy live vocalist, although you can notice how he struggles with the higher vocals in Sanktuarium and No Quarter. As such he's no match for the vocal splendour and range of Emilia, but honestly he doesn't need to be as far as I'm concerned (although there's a few souls out there that might disagree with me). This is a new Quidam and Bartek fits in quite well with the new style.
An area where Bartek does need improvement is the role of frontman. You can notice that this is his first major tour and how he still feels a bit uncomfortable at times. His static performance behind with hands folded over the microphone isn't what you would call an interesting watch and it actually has me wondering if all of the vocals are actually live. There are times where he's clearly singing but there's no sound, so they might have used some recordings of other gigs as overdubs here and there. I haven't got a big problem with that considering that he's still 'fresh in the band' and the fact that he also proves his capabilities in the 'bootleg footage' in the bonus material of the DVD. I do find it a bit tedious to watch him without actually being able to see him sing.
Also, don't expect to see a lot of interaction between band and audience or band members between themselves. All of them are clearly focussing on concentrated playing and doing their best. The fact that they were being filmed might have something to do with that, but it also portraits the band a lot more serious than they probably are.
The camera work is quite nice, with some interesting movements and angles, like a circling movement around the drummer and flute player or a high bird perspective swooping down through the deep theatre from above, also showing the two projection screens behind the band and some of the beautiful patterns projected on the stage itself. The cameras also make smart use of the instances where Bartek is projected on the projection screens to capture him while shooting the band from different angles. The footage is crystal clear and the light show is quite bright but atmospheric with different main colours for the individual songs. All in all a quite tasteful visual treatment.
Something which is definitely worth mentioning about Quidam's live performances is their tendency to play around with the songs, incorporating segments of other band's songs in their own work. This tour was no exception and we are treated to Genesis' Los Endos in The Fifth Season and Joe South's Hush in Not So Close, to name two. I like these 'improvisations' because it gives the live renditions an added value; there's too many bands playing note-for-note copies of their studio work. For the same reason I like the instrumental Oldies But Goldies Medley; it's a good example of the ability to play around with existing material, rearranging it while at the same time paying well deserved attention to some older songs. I do have to admit that I wouldn't be able to tell most segments from another since the 10 minute medley incorporates no less than 7 songs and I've never been able to tell one Quidam song from another with their Polish titles and lyrics.
On to the extra's of the DVD, and there are loads of these: there's more than two hours worth of bonus material here ! The interview is a very interesting and open-hearted conversation with Zbyszek and Maciek about the origins of the band, line-up changes, their cooperation with Camel and Colin Bass, the contracts with Musea, their influences, albums and more. It is a shame that seemingly random snippets of the concert movie act as separators for the different chapters. Since the soundtrack of these are not used as background music during the interview, these start and end very abruptly, making it feel slightly amateurish. Fortunately, the informative nature of the interview makes up for this more than a bit.
The Studio Report consists of 6 sections, one for each band member. Amateur footage shows them laying down their individual tracks in the studio and playing live on stage. Although this material lacks in quality and sometimes suffers from silliness and randomness, it is quite interesting to see the band at work. A nice feature is that you'll first see the band member play one of their parts, after which the actual music is faded in. This gives you an even better understanding of their individual contributions. Oh, and we even catch the bass player practicing Porcupine Tree's Trains on guitar, resulting in the comment 'well, this is how Quidam songs are written'.
The Summer Tour 2005 Report brings us more handy-cam material, showing the band performing in Bad Oyenhausen and at a Spanish festival in a bull fighting arena. Combine this with some footage of the band in a swimming pool and a trip to the sea with some slapstick music as a soundtrack and you'll understand that these guys don't take themselves too serious.
The ProgResiste Report gives a good impression of the band's performance at the tiny stage of the Spirit of 66 venue. It mostly consists of 'bootleg' footage taken from the back of the venue, but it does cover longer sections of some songs.
The long SurREvival Tour Report starts with footage of the band performing on three different smaller stages and closes with some 30 minutes of static full stage footage of a performance at a larger stage, including the usage of some slide projections. This feature also includes an interview with the band touching on topics like line-up changes, lyrics and the new musical direction. All in all an interesting watch, although it's a bit of a shame that no material is featured that wasn't played in the main feature. Seemingly the setlist of the tour remained unchanged during 2005.
Now, the 'bootleggy' quality of the footage may lack on most of these extra's but it does give a nice look behind the scenes and catches the band in some more representative venues than the concert recording of the main feature. These extra's might not be stuff that you'll play again and again, but it certainly will provide those who are more interested in the band on the road with a couple of hours of interesting material. It also shows how tight the band are in their live performances. The new band members all prove themselves more than capable to replace their predecessors, although Bartek's stage performance still needs some work.
The two video clips for songs from the band's first two albums clearly show how much their new musical direction differs from the 'Emila years'. Other extra's are the biography (actually a band history plus Q&A per band member), a discography, eight photo gallery slide shows (unfortunately all using the same annoying 30 second soundscape loop as background music), desktop images and weblinks. All in all a multitude of extra's adding up to more than 3.5 hours of bonus material. Okay, some of it might be lower quality footage and the quantity of bootleg live recordings might be a bit overdone but at least they used the capacity of the DVD to it's fullest. It's up to you what to watch and what to skip.
To sum it up, the main feature makes this first Quidam DVD a must-have for their fans as well as a recommended release to proggers in general, even if it was only for the music. The sheer quantity of extra's are to be considered tasty side orders to the main dish.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Arena - Smoke & Mirrors
Tracklist: Intro/Bedlam Fayre (8:09), A Crack In The Ice (4:57), Midas Vision (5:10), Elea (2:37), The Hanging Tree (7:22), A State Of Grace (3:28), (Don't Forget to) Breathe (7:08), Smoke & Mirrors (4:52), Purgatory Road (7:01), Waiting For The Flood (6:28), Medusa (4:36), The Shattered Room (10:04), Chosen (7:18), Skin Game (4:46), Witch Hunt (3:41), Enemy Without (6:58), Solomon (14:02), Friday's Dream (3:05), Cry VII (6:20)
Extra's: Bonus video Reunion Concert: A Crack In The Ice (4:24), Elea (2:23), The Hanging Tree (7:06), A State Of Grace (3:40), Medusa (4:56), Crying For Help VII (4:10), Interview (23:52), Biography, Discography, Photo Gallery (13:22), Desktop Images, Logo
Metal Mind Productions continue their series of quality DVD releases with a performance of Arena in Katowice, Poland. The set-up of the contents of this DVD echoed the Quidam DVD reviewed above. More than enough reason to approach this one with great anticipation.
As one would expect from a 10th Anniversary Tour, the setlist of the concert is a fine representation of 10 years of Arena, with all albums present with at least two songs. Still, I would have preferred a bit more emphasis on the Contagion (2 songs) album instead of The Visitor (6 songs) because the latter has been performed often enough. Also, the choice of songs from The Visitor has become a bit too predictable. Come to think of it, this applies to most of the material if we compare it to previous DVDs and live albums like Breakfast In Biarritz, Caught In The Act, Rising Up and Live & Life. It's really a shame that the band doesn't pick a more daring set-list for a change. How about Sirens instead of the obligatory Solomon? Or golden oldies like Fool's Gold, Out of the Wilderness, Tears in the Rain, Moviedrome, Crying for Help IV or Cutting the Cards?
With the exception of Bedlam Fayre and the instrumental section of the otherwise disappointing Purgatory Road the new material from the Pepper's Ghost doesn't do that much for me. As mentioned before, the band keeps improving their instrumental work but the vocal stuff starts to sound a bit 'samey' by now, also taking into account the continuous 'overperforming' the band seems to hold a trademark for.
Having said all of that ...
As with the Quidam DVD, which was seemingly filmed at the same venue by the same crew, the footage is brilliant, not only in clarity but in angles and perspectives as well. This concert movie also features the camera swooping down on the stage from above and the one circling the drummer. As a matter of fact this movie feels a lot more dynamic than the Quidam one, which probably suits Arena's more up-tempo music much better. There's also quite a few close ups of the finger work of the various musicians, though you might have a hard time picking up a glimpse of Ian Salmon on bass, who is clearly under represented.
The performances are very decent as well. Mick Pointer has definitely grown as a live drummer over the past ten years and unlike during the early Arena years the moments where I cringe hearing his performance are very few. Clive Nolan and Ian Salmon's performances are very enjoyable as well and John Mitchell's guitar play is the winning factor that pulls the whole band to a higher level. And Rob Sowden ... well ... he'll never be my favourite frontman and he still does those yelps and high-pitch screams that I dislike so much but helped by some quite ridiculous costumes he clearly makes an effort to develop some kind of stage personality. All in all, the band is a lot tighter than I remember having ever seen them (although the tightness seems to falter a bit during Contagion section and Solomon). A nice lightshow and projections on three screens add to the overall atmosphere of the gig.
In the interview Clive Nolan and Mick Pointer talk about the origins of the band, the albums, the artwork, venues, the writing process, etc. As with the Quidam interview this one also features seemingly unrelated snippets of the main movie thrown in to separate the segments of the interview. Other extra's on the DVD are (as on the Quidam DVD) a discography (official and fan club releases), biography (for both the band and its individual members), desktop images, links to websites, a photo gallery ... the works. Still, the real gem among the extra's is a selection from Arena's performance in Zoetermeer, October 2005. Although the material is 'fan footage' it's very watchable and all the more interesting since it captures the reunion with ex-vocalist Paul Wrightson and ex-bass player John Jowitt. Together they perform 4 songs from The Visitor, plus Medusa. A final encore finds the current line-up plus Paul and John performing Crying For Help VII. For those who never saw Arena live with these two guests it will become more than clear what the band lacks with their current line-up: energy and charisma. Show-wise Sowden and Salmon simply are no match for the Jowitt and Wrightson combo.
I can't really compare this DVD to the Caught In The Act DVD, not having seen that release. Smoke & Mirrors is however a major improvement compared to the fan club DVD Rising Up though and judging from the review of Caught In The Act this new DVD is a whole lot more enjoyable to watch. Never shunning criticizing Arena, I have to admit that this new DVD is a real pleasure to watch and listen to. The set-list might not hold a lot of surprises but it will delight the die-hard Arena fans and makes a fine selection of 'best of' material for those who want to sample Arena or want to have such a selection in their collection. In both cases this DVD certainly comes recommended.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Glass Hammer – Live At Belmont
Disc 1: Long And Long Ago, One King, Run Lissette, Farewell To Shadowlands, Through The Glass Darkly, Knight Of The North, When We Were Young, Having Caught A Glimpse, Heroes And Dragons
Disc 2: Bonus Features Tales of The Great Wars – 5.1 Surround Remix, Lirazel – 5.1 Surround Mix, Slideshow With Commentary, Behind The Scenes Video, Rehersal Video, 2003 Concert Appearances Video, Live At Belmont Trailer
Unfortunately, a recent injury to my hand has meant I have not been able to keep up with my reviewing schedule lately, but I really wanted this review to be part of the DVD Special, as I feel it warrants your attention, so I have pecked out the review with one finger. For this reason the review is shorter than it might have been, but hopefully will suffice to arouse your interest.
I had the pleasure of reviewing Glass Hammer’s previous DVD here, and am pleased to report that a similar high standard is maintained on this latest release. Though the sound and style of Glass Hammer’s classic symphonic rock remains the same, there are some changes to report. Guitarist / vocalist Walter Moore is out, being replaced by young hotshot David Wallimann on guitar (adding some extra instrumental wallop to the mix), and Salem Hill mainstay Carl Groves steps in on guest vocals. He does a great job, presumably learning the set at short notice too! Also unique to this release is the presence of a 150 strong choir, giving incredible power to the closing numbers. It’s quite a sight to behold as well. The venue (with its large stage) is impressive, and the sound and camera work are first rate throughout.
From my point of view, this DVD features some stronger GH material than the last, with a terrific Run Lissette, and some of the highlights of the fabulous Inconsolable Secret disc, in the shape of Knight Of The North and Having Caught A Glimpse. On the downside, the extras this time are largely a waste of time (shoddy bootleg style snippets and babbling commentaries), and no-one with a life should bother with them (I am excluding the 5.1 surround mixes from this, as I have no means of playing these, and presumably they are worth hearing if you have the equipment).
So, considering the package as a whole, I’m going to give this DVD a slightly lower rating than its predecessor, but the concert itself is every bit as good, if not better than the Lex Live show, and for Hammer fans this DVD is a no brainer and would be a worthwhile purchase for all lovers of grandiose symphonic rock.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Ange - Live Tour 2003-2004 Par Les Fils De Mandrin
Tracklist: Par Les Fils De Mandrin (5:12), Au Café Du Colibri (7:32), Ainsi S'En Ira La Pluie (8:49), Autour Du Feu (5:07), Saltimbanques (3:41), Des Yeux Couleur D'Enfant (4:55), Atlantis - Les Géants De La Troisième Lune (7:11), Hymne A La Vie (I. Cantique/II. Procession/III. Hymne) (13:28), Touchez Pas A Mon Ciné (6:49), Gargantua (6:00), Le Bal Des Laze (7:56), Jusqu'Où Iront-Ils ? (7:46), Culinaire Lingus (5:27), Benoît Solo (2:58), Quasimodo (12:55), Les Grands Espaces Bleus (9:32), Docteur Man (5:26)
One Sunday in the summer of 1973, still in my teens, I made the annual trek to the Reading Rock Festival primarily to see the headlining band Genesis. They shared the bill that day with a list of acts that ranged from the well known to the obscure. Falling into the latter category was a band called Ange; one of several international acts appearing that day. Way down on the bill, they took to the stage in the early afternoon and simply blew the 30,000 strong crowd away. The bands set, which included grandiose organ and mellotron sounds, centered around the theatrics of the eccentric lead singer Christian Decamps. To the many Genesis fans present that day including myself it was manna from heaven. Impressed by the performance, a week later I purchased the only record available from the band at the time, the debut Caricatures. It was an intriguing album, full of potential and promise, but for me failed to capture the magic of the live show. The bands output passed me by after that, as they went on to make a name for themselves as France’s premier prog band. When this DVD arrived I seized upon the opportunity to catch up on what I’ve been missing in the intervening years.
The title of this release speaks for itself. This is the full two-hour show filmed at the Mix Festival in Vielsalm, Belgium on 8 November 2003. This first half of the set is taken up by the bands fifth album Par Les Fils De Mandrin, originally released in 1976 and played here in its entirety. On this evidence it’s certainly a huge leap forward from their debut. It also remains their biggest selling album to date. The second half consists of more recent songs providing a nice balance to the set. Visually, it’s a so-so experience. The stage lighting is effective enough, without being over elaborate. The lens work is a little static with the choice of camera angles virtually exhausted by the end of the first song. The image is a tad on the grainy side, lacking the sharpness of other releases. The usual menu options are available allowing each of the seventeen songs to be selected individually, but no bonus material. That’s not a problem in my book; extras very rarely stand up to repeat viewing. What appears to be a glossy booklet inside the case opens into a single sheet with a few photos, which is a bit of a disappointment. It’s the sound that really counts of course, and that’s where this DVD comes up trumps. There is a choice of stereo and 5.1 options, both sounding sharp and clear.
Christian Decamps is the sole remaining member from the 1970’s line-up. He has surrounded himself with a group of young and talented musicians whose fire and energy really brings the music to life. His brother and original keyboardist Francis is replaced here by Christian’s son Tristan, maintaining the family link. Expectations run high as they take to the stage heralded by Tristan’s symphonic keys. Christian is in fine form from the start, full of exaggerated gestures as he dances around the stage. Sharing lead vocals with the other band members, he keeps himself busy with occasional keyboard and acoustic guitar duties. Par Les Fils De Mandrin is a musical tour de force ranging from the dynamic title song to the majestic Hymne A La Vie. In between, the acoustic charged Autour Du Feu allows vocalist Caroline Crozat to demonstrate her Spanish dancing skills, and Hassan Hajdi deserves ‘guitar hero’ status for his soaring solo in Atlantis. The two vocalists perform the dramatic Au Café Du Colibri with relish, and the catchy Saltimbanques is an obvious crowd pleaser. Impressive from the outset, the rhythm section of bassist Thierry Sidhoum and drummer Benoit Cazzulini really come into their own during Hymne.
Throughout the set the two vocalists indulge in comical acts of mime and theatrics. For instance during Ainsi S'En Ira La Pluie a ‘hypnotized’ Christian performs seated wearing a red nose with dark glasses, and in Atlantis Caroline sings with a blanket over her head. Maybe I’m starting to lose my sense of humour because these antics were completely lost on me. Also, for some strange reason Christian wears a baby’s dummy around his neck throughout. The years however have been kind to his voice, which remains warm and expressive as ever. Caroline’s style is more flamboyant, reaching almost operatic proportions at times. Tristan Decamps really excels during the second half of the show. His solo spot comes in the shape of Le Bal Des Laze, an excellent song with classical piano flourishes, loud burst of orchestral synths and a completely over the top vocal from the keyboardist. During Quasimodo, he engages in an entertaining vocal/guitar duel with Hassan, which develops into a rousing instrumental climax with both men leaping up and down for all they’re worth. The encore is lead by the stately Les Grands Espaces Bleus, which combines moving and heartfelt harmony vocals with grandiose instrumentation. The show concludes with the rocking Docteur Man to the satisfaction of the crowd and the band with smiles all round.
On this occasion I’ve deliberating avoided making comparisons with other acts. Ange are one of the more influential prog bands and as such are partly responsible for some of the clichés associated with the genre. The band is often cited as a France’s answer to Genesis, which is understandable. If Genesis are the archetypal English prog band, then Ange typify everything that is French. This is evident here in the songs, performances, even stage wear. Although some of the more visual aspects seem pretentious I cannot deny the bands stagecraft and the passion and enthusiasm they inject. I don’t think I’ve seen a band clearly enjoying themselves so much on stage for quite sometime. Reservations aside, as a document of one of the most innovative symphonic bands around, this is a vital release. The note on the back of the DVD case states “File under Progressive Rock”. I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Erik Norlander And Friends - Live In St Petersburg
DVD: Live From St Petersburg [91:30]: Fanfare For Absent Friends Part One, Neurosaur, Dreamcurrents, Mariner, A Salty Dog, Sky Full Of Stars, Alexandria, Guardian Angel, Oblivion Days, Peer's Guitar Solo, Beware the Vampires, Secrets of Astrology, Fallen, One of the Machines, Fanfare for Absent Friends Part Two Bonus Material [51.30]: The Road To Russia (documentary)
CD: Fanfare for Absent Friends Part One (2:19), Neurosaur (5:51), Dreamcurrents (5:59), Mariner (7:12), A Salty Dog (4:42), Sky Full of Stars (11:32), Alexandria (7:01), Guardian Angel (6:56), Peer's Guitar Solo (2:04), Beware the Vampires (5:37), Fallen (5:35), One of the Machines (5:42) Fanfare for Absent Friends Part Two (3:59) From Russia With Love (4:51)
As to be expected from Erik Norlander and his friends, the newly released DVD documenting his landmark concert in St. Petersburg, Russia and chronicling the three-month 2004 tour as they traveled east from California to the Russian city, is another must-have from this group.
The DVD contains 90 minutes and 15 songs from the St. Petersburg concert, which features the vocals of Lana Lane and Kelly Keeling.
Keeling also plays bass in the concert switching between fretless and fretted bases throughout the show. Also joining Norlander on stage are the Dutch musicians Peer Verschuren on guitar and Ernst Van Ee on drums. Both toured with Norlander and Lane previously on their earlier European and Japanese tours and recorded on other albums, including Stars Rain Down and Lady Macbeth. Also included on the DVD is footage of Verschuren's guitar solo.
Norlander and his friends performed several tracks from Norlander's 2003 rock opera Music Machine including Beware The Vampires, Fallen, Sky Full of Stars and One Of The Machines. Norlander also included cover songs by some of his favorite artists. One such songs his version of the Procol Harum classic A Salty Dog with Keeling out front on the vocals. A Salty Dog was brought into the set to follow Norlander's Rocket Scientists standard, Mariner, which Keeling also takes to new heights with his soaring vocals and fluid fretless bass.
A mix of favorite songs from other earlier recordings rounded out the concert. Songs that were included were Fanfare for Absent Friends Part One, Neurosaur, Dreamcurrents, Alexandria, Guardian Angel, Oblivion Days, and Secrets of Astrology.
The DVD also includes a 50 minute documentary of the three-month tour entitled The Road to Russia. The documentary contains interviews with Norlander, Lana Lane, Kelly Keeling, Peer Verschuren and Ernst Van Ee, along with additional concert performances from American and European shows, beginning with scenes at the inaugural CalProg festival in Southern California on July 3 of that year.
About the CalProg footage, according to Norlander:
"I was asked to play a solo set there as I had done at ProgWest, Alfa Centauri and other events in previous years, with Mark McCrite, Kelly Keeling and Lana Lane. I am happy to include here our version of "In the Court of the Crimson King" starring Lana and featuring these other two excellent singers."
Norlander's tribute to King Crimson also includes an inserted nod to Vivaldi and Grieg.
The documentary also includes performance footage of Sky Full Of Stars and Mariner from the European Tour and a new studio recording of From Russia With Love (the James Bond theme) with a video montage of the group's visit to Russia.
This DVD also contains a bonus audio CD with 79 minutes and 14 of the best tracks from the concert along with two new studio tracks including a cover of From Russia With Love and Fanfare for Absent Friends, also featuring Don Schiff on the bass and NS Stick. Some highlights from the tour -- particularly songs that don't appear on other live releases such as Dreamcurrents, Fallen, A Salty Dog and Lane's Guardian Angel along with a full-band version of Alexandria are also included on this CD.
As with Norlander's previous DVD effort, the Lana Lane 10th Anniversary Concert, the Live in St. Petersburg DVD is mixed in Dolby Stereo and also in DTS 5.1 Surround to capture all the subtle nuances of the concert experience. The DVD is well-produced and the concert footage is excellently filmed, shooting the band at its best with multi camera angles.
Live In St. Petersburg is released this week in Japan and USA on July 26. The European release date is yet to be announced.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Landmarq - Turbulence
Tracklist: Live At Wyspianski Theatre: Entertaining Angels, Calm Before The Storm - [Part 1] Strange But Beautiful, [Part 2] Spiderman, [Part 3] From The Abyss, Prayer, Thunderstruck, Walking On Eggshells, Landslide, Timeline, Mountains Of Anglia, Lighthouse
Bonus Video Tracks: Between Sleeping And Dreaming (Whitchurch Festival 2000), Killing Fields (Uden, Holland 1993), Dancing On Stones – Why Am I Standing, Janison Edge – Services Of Mary Goode (Progfarm Festival Holland), Janison Edge – Beneath The Boy (Progfarm Festival Holland)
Bonus Audio: Solitary Witness (Live), Freefall (Live), Instrumental Medley [a] Killing Fields [b] Cutting Room [c] Ta’Jiang [d] Narovlya (Live), Science Of Coincidence (Unreleased Single Version), Summer Madness (Unreleased Single Version), Do Or Die (Unreleased Studio Version)
Dave Sissons' Review
This impressive DVD is the first such release from UK veterans Landmarq. The promo sheet describes them as “The Leading Band of the British Neo-Progressive Scene” which I find a little bit surprising. Surely IQ, Marillion and Pendragon (to name but three) are more well-known/well liked. Nevertheless, this fine release does prove that Landmarq are, if not quite leaders, right up there with the front-runners.
Recorded live in Poland in November 2005, in a handsome theatre, this expertly filmed and great sounding concert finds the group on top form. I have to confess to preferring the earlier version of the band, fronted by Damien Wilson, as Tracey Hitchings’ style of singing isn’t always to my tastes, but here she tempers her tendencies towards melodramatic Broadway show tune overkill, and gives a powerful performance, perfectly suited to the patent melodic/symphonic song style of Landmarq.
The rest of the band are great too, particularly guitarist Uwe D’rose and new boy on the keyboards, Mike Varty. If you’re familiar with Landmarq, you will know that it’s all about ensemble playing, with soloing taking a back seat and melodic song craft to the fore. This does mean that the band is not particularly exciting from a visual perspective, there’s no leaping about or macho posturing, so it’s lucky they have the appealing Miss Hitchings centre stage.
Unusually for a first DVD, this is no greatest hits package, with Landslide from Infinity Parade, and the show-closing Lighthouse from Science Of Coincidence being the only old numbers on offer. The rest of the show is brand–new stuff, presumably destined for their next studio album, and on the strength of this DVD, it will surely be a winner. Particular highlights are the three-part Calm Before The Storm and the ironically titled Mountains Of Anglia. The show is perfectly paced, with the mid set Prayer slowing things down a bit, before the storming Thunderstruck begins the inexorable build to the climactic Mountains Of Anglia.
As a relatively low-budget production, there are no high-tech extras like multi-angle footage, but the DVD comes well stocked with plenty to keep the avid fan busy. There’s a brace of bootleg videos featuring further live performances (interesting but definitely amateurish and for fans only) and three brief snippets of performances by related projects Dancing On Stones and Janison Edge. I would have liked to see more of Janison Edge, as their The Services Of Mary Goode is one of my favourite Neo-Prog CD’s of recent years.
There’s also a full set of audio recordings including some excellent Wilson era live stuff, and some unreleased single versions. Rounded out by a band interview and extensive photo galleries, this value for money package is a must for existing Landmarq fans and is a good introduction for newbies.
Martien Koolen's Review
Albums like Solitary Witness (1992) and Infinity Parade (1993) still belong to my favourite symphonic rock albums of all time, considering the fact that the band was at its best then. This was of course due to the fact that the band had excellent musicians like Clive Nolan, Damian Wilson, Karl Groom and Steve Leigh.
Founded in 1990 this band went through a lot of line-up changes and they were not all for the best….. Especially when singer Wilson left and later on keyboard player Steve Leigh (2002). I really stopped following the career of Landmarq. The band with their typical English symfo sound already released two live albums, namely Thunderstruck and later in 2002 Aftershock. This new live album/DVD features nine songs, which are all from the last albums, so unfortunately no songs from Solitary Witness or Infinity Parade. But the new Landmarq songs also sound great, especially the guitar solos of Uwe D'rose and the keyboard passages played by Mike Varty still give me shivers down my spine.
Highlights to me are Prayer, Landslide and Lighthouse. Actually the only thing that bothers me is the rather dull voice of Tracy Hitchings, I never understood why she "got" the job as the lead vocalist of the new Landmarq in the first place….. But again that is a matter of taste, as I know for sure that are also a lot of Landmarq fans who love Hitchings' voice!
However if you listen to Freefall (recorded live in London 1993), Killing Fields (bootlegged in The Netherlands 1993) and the awesome Solitary Witness (recorded in Holland 1995), with Damian Wilson on vocals you have to agree with me that those songs sound like the real Landmarq ought to sound: sheer brilliance!
The instrumental medley is also one of the best parts on this DVD. It was recorded in Belgium in 1998 and especially part c called Ta'Jiang is a symfo rock classic. During Why Am I Standing you can enjoy the fabulous guitar picking of Karl Groom, making this also one of my favourites on this DVD.
All in all I must say that it is a rather excellent album packed with amazing English symfo, lots of surprises and lots of great musicians.
This DVD also includes interview, band history, and discography, photo gallery, art gallery, desktop images and web-links.
Satellite - Evening Dreams
Tracklist: Intro Never/Never, Evening Games, Fight, Evening Wind, Beautiful World, Evening Overture, Children, A Street Between Sunrise and Sunset [encore I], Evening Games [encore II]
Bonus Video: Love Is Around You [video clip], Satellite Offstage [documentary] Bonus Audio: On The Run, Now, Rush, Why
It looks like Metal Mind Productions are releasing DVD after DVD. Because their name keeps popping up when it comes to progressive rock DVD's. Of course Metal Mind is a big independent label in Poland but they seem to reach far across Polish borders. The same can be said of Satellite, after the demise of Collage they have easily taken over the spotlight. Not a hard task if you realize that half of Collage are in Satellite
Their albums A Street Between Sunrise And Sunset and Evening Games were reviewed very favourable on DPRP and now it is time for their DVD. On first impression there are no real surprises on this DVD. This DVD has a good total running time, clocking in at just 5 minutes under 2.5 hours. From this about 1 hour 35 is taken by the concert so that leaves almost an hour of extra's. There is an interview with everyone in the band, a video clip, a backstage documentary and four audio tracks. Especially the audio tracks are worthwhile because they are in surround sound. It is a pity the video clip is not.
The interview questions are in depth and they yield honest answers. The interviews are not pompous with artists being very obnoxious about their music. Normal people answering questions. Although the interviews do appear to be arranged they did not shy away from difficult questions. Unfortunately the interviews are a bit too serious, no goofing around, no funny remarks, which in fact might not fit the members of Satellite anyway, but it makes the interviews a long sit. Very informational (it does explain for instance why Sarhan Kubeisi spends time behind a drum kit), but also very dry.
But of course most important on this DVD is the main feature: the concert. The set list has material from both Satellite's studio albums. No Collage surprises or other musical sidesteps. The audio is good, the video could have been a bit better (it is more than OK the way it is now and it might be just me being too close to the screen). Satellite play their music while the crowd is sitting down and enjoying it, not a bad pose to take this music in. The band is not really dynamic but just standing and playing and, well, doing there thing. Subtitles are in English, talks in between songs in Polish. These talks again are very normal, not bombastic but down to earth (although there is not too much of that). The music is great although the vocals are a bit strained here and there. The 5.1 mix is well balanced, there is music on the back channels but of course here and there the occasional crowd sounds can be heard on them.
So basically what this DVD does is give a good impression of a Satellite concert (and then some), not a band jumping up and down, or using loads of special effects on stage. Just a band playing their music being good at it and doing it with passion. That's what a concert DVD is supposed to be about isn't it? Well done.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Barock Project - Live In Auditorium
Tracklist: La Danza Senza Fine, Senza Regole, Eclissi, Anima, Odio, Quello Che Resta, Premonizioni, Volo, Gentile Direttore, Solitaire (GB bass solo), Piano Improvisation (Luca piano solo), Tempo/Zona, The Barbarian (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), Luce, Un Altro Mondo, Giacomo Drum Solo, Los Endos (Genesis), Tarkus (Emerson Lake & Palmer)
Barock Project! Never heard of them - me neither until I decided that I should perhaps review this current release for one of our now regular DVD special features. More than this I can tell you very little about the band, as not only did the DVD come without any information, but the band's website is entirely in Italian.
What I am able to tell you is the line-up. Luca Pancaldi (vocals), Luca Zabbini (keyboards & backing vocals), Giambattista Giorgi (bass), Giacomo Calabria (drums) and Vincenzo Pastano (guitars). Although Vincezo appears to be a guest musician. I can also tell you that right from the very outset of this DVD that Barock Project are an extremely competent and tight unit. For such a young band (all but one are in their early twenties), they display a standard of musicianship that can only be admired. Musically the band owe much to their Italian forefathers PFM, Banco and Le Orme, along with the undeniable influence of Keith Emerson and ELP. Genesis influences also feature within the music.
The band strongly revolves around keyboard wizard Luca Zabbini, and his use and command of the multi-arrays of keyboards is impressive - and one that recalls the leading protagonists of early 70s prog. His touch on the piano is very reminiscent of Keith Emerson, as well as the choice of sounds he employs. He is also instrumental for the writing of all the material on this DVD (barring the bass/drum solos and those written by ELP and Genesis). Calabria and Giorgi make up an extremely tight and complementary rhythm section and again early ELP sprang to mind. Vincenzo Pastano fluid guitar complements many of the intricate keyboard runs of Zabbini as well as fleshing out the sound with some heavier chords. This only leaves vocalist Luca Pancaldi, who to mind favours least well on this DVD. I suppose because melodically the music seemed to lack any great hook lines - along with the vocal sound being somewhat raw and to reverberant. This might be just the mix on the DVD sound. However his vocal performance, sung in his native tongue, is commanding, if not a little visually dull, therefore I will reserve any further judgement until I hear a studio recording. I may well be proved wrong - I hope so.
Having not heard the band's material prior to this it is difficult to offer any great evaluation and as it is a DVD I found it difficult to make the time to watch it more than twice. But what it does reveal is a very talented and interesting band. There were a few standout tracks: La Danza Senza Fine sets the mood for the concert, along with other gems being Premonizioni and Tempo/Zona. 70s style prog in all its glory - the keyboards flitting from raging Hammond organs, to delicate piano and an array of early analogue synth lead sounds. Put on the long capes and out with the daggers!
The DVD is a self produced effort (certainly the copy I received was a DVDR), however the filming is reasonably well done, with full stage shots and individual close-ups. A little jerky at times and perhaps the lighting could have been increased for the recording of the DVD, but this aside the footage captures the band nicely. The mix is also good and all the instruments are well separated and clear. The overall sound isn't as crystal clear as we have all come to expect, but it scarcely troubled my appreciation of the music.
This is a band full of potential and with a little honing, who knows. Instrumentally there is nothing to quibble about, musically the material didn't quite capture me as it should. Certainly the band's (well three of them) rendition of the early sections of Tarkus were very impressive as was their interpretation of The Barbarian. Although I did feel that the power of Los Endos would have been more convincing with guitarist Vincenzo Pastano. Zabinni's piano solo section in the middle of the set, seemed almost like a tribute to a hero. If only all the rest of the material had the same magic. BUT a few more listenings - (anyone got a huge bag of time they could spare :0) - might well give a greater appreciation.
The band appear to have a six track demo released prior to this DVD, but as far as I can tell no other material is available. All those six tracks appear on this DVD and from what I have heard and witnessed this band, could well be a force to be reckoned with - well assuming some forward thinking label signs them up! I deliberated long and hard on whether or not to award this DVD a DPRP recommended tag. In the end it receives one, not necessarily for the DVD, but for what I feel this band can offer prog in the future. Check these guys out.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Gary Wehrkamp - The Shoot Interviews
Just mentioning that this is an DVD containing an interview only, raises a few eye browse here and there. In fact my own reaction was no different. Two hours of interview with Gary Wherkamp? Who would want to watch that? But more important who would want to watch that again? Because that would be the reason to buy it on DVD would it not, to watch it more than once?
So with this prejudice I fired up my DVD player and......... found out that I was right! The interviews are well done (although the interviewer is a bit goofy, "oh, ok, nextt question") Gary speaks easily and has a way of talking that keeps your attention, but not for a full two hours. The fact that he is in chair that moves all the time is also fun for about five minutes but then becomes annoying. And after seeing the DVD once, there is no need to see it a second time.
The story of Gary Wehrkamp and Shadow Gallery is a nice one but not really strange or a great revalation compared to other people in the bussiness. This interview does give an insight on how the band works together and how some decisions were made, but also there there is not really anything out of the ordinary. There are some nice observations on this DVD and Gary Wehrkamp seems like a real nice fellow. His comments on Mike Portnoy, Neal Peart are really thought through. I like how he does not criticize Magna Carta after leaving them. Or how he states his opinion on their latest album. So some of the stories are entertaining and that keeps my attention. But still one and a half hour is a long sit.
The bonus material is more of the same: bloopers from the interview, alternate questions and "Up Close & Personal", which is an interview again but this time Gary is also working on music in his studio.
Years ago, someone brought me a Shadow Gallery CD for my birthday (Tiranny). He took a little risk by buying a CD from a band I did not known but it worked out just fine. I do like Shadow Gallery. Gary Wehrkamp was also involved in Dreamtone's last album Sojourn which I also do like. So although I am not a Shadow Gallery fan perse. I do appreciate them. So I might be part of this DVDs intended audience unfortunately I am not that interested and I think many people will feel the same. I think you must be a real big Gary Wehrkamp fan to want to rush out and buy this DVD.
Lone Wolf Music took a bit of risk by releasing this DVD, because I don't think a lot of people know Shadow Gallery. And the question is: are, the ones that do know Gary Wehrkamp interested in this interview? Years ago a series on famous albums covered the making of amongst others Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon, Paul Simon's Graceland. I think for albums of that status you are interested in how they came to be. And a documentary of about 50 minutes about that album sure makes interesting television. But, without meaning any disrespect, the story of Gary Wehrkamp would make a good read on DPRP or in a magazine, but on DVD? Just a bit too much. Lone Wolf took too much of a risk, me thinks.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10