REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:
Thieves' Kitchen - The Water Road
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Year of Release:||2008|
Tracklist: The Long Fianchetto (21:05), Returglas (4:11), Chameleon (9:45), Om Tare (7:44), Tacenda For You (9:29), When The Moon Is In The River Of Heaven (9:37), Plaint (2:58), The Water Road (11:11)
Right from the start Thieves' Kitchen has been a special band. They aimed at doing things differently and during the three albums they released so far, that approach resulted in a sound that is difficult to categorise being a mixture between the good old 70 prog and jazz/fusion with a Canterbury feel. It makes them sound quite unique. In my opinion this has resulted in some brave but not always very consistent albums. The albums feature plenty of good ideas but they did not always succeed in transforming these ideas into good songs. Don’t get me wrong - those three albums were all of a more than average quality but with the release of The Water Road everything really falls into place.
On this album there has been another line up change. On the last album it was vocalist Amy Darby, who proved to be an enormous good addition to the band
and now it’s the not completely unknown Thomas Johnson who has joined Thieves' Kitchen on keyboards. Johnson, who used to be a member of Sweden’s Änglagård, replaces Wolfgang Kindl who returned to Germany. Do not expect that with the addition of Johnson, Thieves' Kitchen has turned into a British Änglagård. Apart from the fantastic Johnson written Returglas which has that trademark Änglagård stop/start style we know and love, the all too obvious trademarks of the Swedish band are absent. Thieves' Kitchen really holds onto its own style as described earlier. I do feel however that with Johnson there is more structure. Besides being a good keyboard player with a soft spot for those delicious analogue keyboards (recorded in Mattias Olsson’s, again formerly of Änglagård, Roth Handle studio in Stockholm) he also has great arranging skills. As the band say on their website, a lot time was spent on the details and that’s very obvious when you listen to the album. In my opinion that was the final piece of the puzzle that was missing. The Water Road is an analogue keyboard lovers dream as there is plenty of Mellotron (and not only the obvious flute, strings and choir sounds), Orchestron and Optigan playing to enjoy.
The album is an absolute gem. Mercy and Johnson together with Rob Aubrey and Mattias Olsson have done a great job on production and engineering, as the album sounds excellent, and the band have tried to maintain ‘the dynamics in the performances and the compositions’. They also decided to record the album ‘live’ without click tracks and sequencers which was a brave decision, but they are well rewarded for it. Most of the vocal parts of the album are relaxed and beautifully sung by Amy Darby. Exception is the heavier Om Tare which features some excellent playing by the entire band, especially the heavy guitar work by Phil Mercy, with some unbelievable Hammond and mellotron playing by Thomas Johnson. But also Andy Bonham’s bass work is something to admire as he plays some brilliant bass lines in that song and he is admirably supported by drummer Andy Robotham. Amy Darby adds more than her voice to the album as she plays some nice descant recorder on the epic album opener The Long Fianchetto (it’s a chess term) and tenor recorder on the closing title track, some delicious Theremin on Returglas, Chameleon and clarsach (which sounds like a harp) on the short but beautiful Plaint. But not only the level of playing by the band members is of a very high standard also the album guests really shine. Paul Beecham and Anna Holmgren (also formerly of Änglagård) especially steal the show with some very emotional flute, saxophone and oboe parts. Listen to those beautiful melodies they play in the closing title track. Also the added cello work of Stina Petterson does add something extra to the already very strong compositions - she shines on the very short Plaint.
I could go on and on raving about this album as it really is faultless. The last section of Tacenda For You has a great solo guitar played by Phil Mercy and those mellotron brass sounds. Or the beautiful piano opening of the epic The Long Fianchetto. The arrangement of When The Moon Is In The River Of Heaven starts very quiet but the tension builds up and up and up, again with some beautiful flute work by Anna Holmgren. The album reaches its absolute height on the closing title track
- what an excellent song - again the opening melody with cello, flute and oboe is absolutely gorgeous. The vocal sections are slower and jazzy with acoustic guitar, mellotron and Fender Rhodes. There is a funny but very short Fender Rhodes/acoustic guitar duel which reminded me of Gentle Giant, but then near the end the song opens up when the opening theme is repeated with a leading role for Phil Mercy’s guitar. Each time I hear it I get a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Yes, it’s that beautiful. Oh come on why not add some mellotron choir as well! What a grand way to finish the album.
I’ve been playing this album for a couple of months now and each time I listen to it I hear something new. And each time it seems to get better and better. With The Water Road Thieves' Kitchen released a very rich album. Rich in beautiful melodies, rich in quality of the sound and rich in the arrangements. It’s a classic and that’s that.
Conclusion: 10 out of 10
The Amber Light - Play
Tracklist: Moody (5:55), All Over Soon (3:29), Waste (3:12), Drake (5:25), Never Fade Out (3:23), The Deep Twist (4:52), Fire Walk With Me (2:41), Still Going Nowhere (3:43), Does It Ever Get Better (3:08), Play (3:48), No Love Lost (6:06), ...And Then It Stopped Raining (4:15)
Germany's The Amber Light release their second full length album, almost four years since their epic Goodbye To Dusk, Farewell To Dawn and over three since the remarkable EP
Stranger And Strangers. In the intervening years they have hardly been idle, touring round mainland Europe both as headliners and in support of just about anyone and everyone. They have also signed a deal with Superball Music where they sit comfortably with label mates Oceansize and Pure Reason Revolution. The Wiesbaden band feature Louis Gabbiani on vocals, keyboards and guitars, Jan Sydow on guitars and Rabin Dasgupta on bass with the drum stool occupied by Peter Ederer on three tracks and Robert Fischer on the rest and also in live performances. One of the groups the Lights have been busy supporting over the years is fellow German band Wir sind Helden whose guitarist Jean-Michel Tourette was so impressed by the new material they were performing he immediately offered his services as producer (along with Jens Nickel, presumably not the German ten pin bowling champion!). The Wir sind Helden connection also enabled the band to get Patrik Majer, also known for his work with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, to mix the album.
So, what does Play have to offer? Immediately it is evident from the song durations that the band have eschewed the long, more ambient pieces that drew comparisons of their earlier work with Sigur Ros. Instead, the band have decided to add a lot more rock into the mix. This is no more so evident on the opening cut Moody with its angry, expletive-laden lyric and barrage of guitars. However, the sonically quieter aspects are maintained in an extended middle eight that contrasts nicely the beginning and end. In some ways it is like a condensed version of something they would have recorded several years ago. All Over Soon is wonderfully sung by Gabbiani providing a memorable vocal line melody. The understated keyboards are a highlight, if that is not an oxymoron! Keyboards also open Waste giving it a quite spacey atmosphere, but this approach is soon abandoned in favour of chiming guitars and an alternative sound, rather similar to an Irish band from the 1980s called Something Happens. Although only three minutes long, the song does seem to go on a bit. Drake is a totally different proposition, a blend of the gentle piano led ballad interspersed with a bigger freak out sound that go so well together. Never Fade Out is about as straight forward a pop-rock hybrid that the band has yet released which is no condemnation as it has a joyously uplifting feel that soars, lightning the spirit before the listener is brought right down by The Deep Twist. Despite the somewhat sombre lyric - "And it feels like no happy ever after, and it feels like the knife keeps on twisting, deep inside.." - it is a startlingly beautiful song. Expertly balanced and played, if someone such as Coldplay had come up with this song then it's a guarantee that it would be hailed as an instant classic. (Please note, this does not mean that it sounds like Coldplay!)
Second half of the album starts as the first did, with an energetic rocker, Fire Walk With Me. Would make a great theme tune for a James Bond film as it has wide screen cinematic feel to it with a great guitar riff! A version of Still Going Nowhere was previously released on the 2005 EP
Stranger And Strangers and the new version doesn't differ remarkably, but does sit well within the style of the album. Acoustics are back for Does It Ever Get Better which proves that even progsters have a pop sensibility! A big chorus with lots of backing vocals lend the none too happy lyrics a lighter tone; if singles were still released then this would make a good choice to promote the album as would stand a good chance of being a hit. Initially, the title track, Play, is a rather nondescript, plain song, it certainly doesn't stand out but rolls along in an albeit pleasant manner. Things get more interesting when the tempo increases building into a big ending, but on the whole is a bit of a disappointment. A deep synth beat introduces the somewhat darker No Love Lost with its insistent hypnotic rhythm and abstract sounds forming multifaceted sonic layers that dig deep into the brain. A powerful and somewhat disturbing song, particularly played through headphones when the full effect of the various instruments can be felt. Finally, ...And Then It Stopped Raining. A great title for a song even if it does sound like the punch line to a joke! Ending in melancholy, the downbeat and somewhat minimalistic instrumentation, provide a sparseness and space that hammers home just how confident this young band are in their musical approach.
Given that Play is only the group's second full-length album, there is an admirable maturity found amongst the 12 songs on the album. The Amber Light might have moved away from their original roots but that is understandable given they are obviously a group of musicians that are eager to spread their wings and write and perform whatever takes their fancy. Despite a couple of tracks that I don't think reach the level of their, admittedly, ridiculously high previous output, there is certainly enough on Play for the hardened prog fan. Along with The Pineapple Thief, The Amber Light are proving to be proponents of high quality, original music that leads the progressive genre forward.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Farpoint – Cold Star Quiet Star
|Country of Origin:||USA|
|Year of Release:||2008|
Tracklist: Prologue: Call To Arms (6:43), Solar Wind (2:47), Red Shift [Alone] (10:15), Cold Star (3:10), Darkness (7:51), Quiet Star (3:23), Blue Shift [Home] (9:39), Epilogue: Machine Symphony (5:29)
The fact that Farpoint’s first performance was at a Yes convention in 1998 and included Yes covers will give an indication of the bands early influences. I say early because in the ensuing years they’ve forged their own unique style whilst continuing to acknowledge their prog heritage. Something else they share with their heroes is a revolving door approach to the line-up. Although they’ve been around for a little over ten years no less than twelve members have passed through their ranks. In the latter part of 2005 they actually disbanded but this was short lived as they regrouped in early 2006. Along with founding members Kevin Jarvis (keyboards, guitars and mandolin) and Rick Walker (drums) the current line-up includes Dean Hallal (vocals), Jennifer Meeks (vocals and flute), Sam Sanders (lead guitars) and Frank Tyson (bass guitar). The fruits of their labour can be heard on Cold Star Quiet Star, the bands fourth album in a recording career that began in 2002. Sanders contributes to just two tracks with the lion’s share of lead guitar provided by his predecessor Joe Driggers. In addition, sideman Trey Franklin adds upright bass to several tunes.
The songs are united by a concept of sorts which if the track titles are anything to go by has science fiction overtones. The music is melodic and instantly accessible with impressive instrumental work enhanced by Dean and Jennifer’s occasional vocals. Dean has a warm and confident mid-range delivery whilst Jennifer’s voice has a frail charm which along with her flute playing adds a folk vibe to the proceedings. The vocals are sparingly used for the most part however in a similar vein to bands like Camel and Wishbone Ash. Prologue: Call To Arms opens the album in fine style with Jarvis’ stirring organ and piano underpinned by Walker’s roto tom pattern that takes its inspiration from Nick Mason’s intro to Floyd’s perennial Time. As the song moves up a gear or two Sanders’ ringing guitar provides a triumphant calling card very like U2’s Where The Streets Have No Name. The short but strident instrumental Solar Wind follows and finds the band in ELP bombast territory with siren like synths and nimble acoustic guitar from Jarvis.
The longest track Red Shift [Alone] appropriately incorporates a number of mood and tempo changes. Lead guitar veers from the lyrical style of Andy Latimer to echo laden histrionics that brings to mind 80’s new wavers A Flock Of Seagulls reflecting Sanders and Driggers contrasting styles. Hallal and Meeks complement each other on the vocal front and a delicate acoustic guitar and flute interlude harks back to Steve Hackett’s first solo album. The reflective Cold Star has a sweet melody reminiscent of the theme music for the US TV show Twin Peaks conveyed by Jennifer’s vocal which is even sweeter. The appropriately titled Darkness is the albums heaviest track with a piercing tour de force guitar workout that Robert Fripp would be proud of from (I think) Driggers. The rhythm section of Walker and Tyson are on top form here with the latter providing some dazzling bass runs.
The instrumental Quiet Star returns to the mood of Cold Star with another gorgeous melody against a wash of acoustic guitars and flute. The penultimate Blue Shift [Home] is suitably upbeat and includes some stunningly beautiful guitar work (both acoustic and electric) set against a harmonious choral backdrop. This would have provided an ideal album closer but the quirky Epilogue: Machine Symphony has the final word. It’s characterised by an array of natural and electronic percussive effects topped by a haunting synth theme and sounds like a combination of the rhythmic music from the original ‘Crocodile Dundee’ and ‘Terminator’ movies (if you can remember them). It also sounds like nothing else on the album proving that Farpoint are not adverse to a surprise or two.
The songs on Cold Star Quiet Star are all mostly penned by Jarvis and he has injected a level of sophistication that allows his contributors ample scope to demonstrate their instrumental prowess to the full. That combined with a welcome dose of tuneful melodies and hooks keeps the listener engage right through to the symphonic surge of synths that closes the album. A final word should go to the first rate production by Jarvis and Walker, with assistance from Jeff Hodges. Lead instruments cut through like the proverbial knife through butter whilst bass and drums especially sound full and expansive. Prog is alive and well in South Carolina, USA and the fact that I haven’t made a single musical reference to the UK band that provided the inspiration for Farpoint’s debut gig is a measure of their development.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Ghost Circus - Across The Line
Tracklist: Reflection (3:32), Pathway (4:02), Holding On (6:44), To Be (6:04), Losing Time (5:36), Through The Darkness (6:29), Through The Light [I. The Calling (4:38), II. The Choice (2:49), III. The Essence Of Life (3:30), IV. The Sea Of Shadows (5:13), V. Soaring Above (3:00), VI. Breaking Through (1:28), VII. Distant Memory (4:03), VII. The Final Steps (2:11)], Across The Line (10:14)
Ghost Circus is the collaboration between Chris Brown and Ronald Whale, who met on an internet message board and write their music by sending bits and pieces over the digital canals and across the big pond. Both play lead guitar, rhythm guitar and keyboards - Chris adds the vocals and bass while Ronald is providing drums and percussion. Although the music is created by two people who were miles apart the end result sounds like a complete band, with the sound alternating from acoustic to heavy parts just like that. Their sound can be described as AOR combined with neo-progressive rock, at times connected by ambient keyboard sounds and whilst the guitar style of Steve Hackett is heard, the major comparison can be made with Jadis, especially their work from Photoplay. Across The Line is their second release, their first album Cycles was released in 2006.
Reflection is an intro build, mainly around an acoustic theme which is revisited at the end of the album, unlike Pathway which starts off in a heavy metal framework, but continues more in a Jadis like style and which is even more so the case on Holding On. To Be is a more gentle song but still in a very neo-progressive style, whilst Losing Time has a typical Hackett guitar lick over a swinging beat. Through The Darkness is a more heavy song with again a lot of Jadis influences, heavy guitar solo and a nice transfer to the epic song on the album.
Through The Light is almost twenty seven minutes long and divided into seven parts, with those different parts clearly forming a part of the bigger song, but they do not have the same structure of complete track, therefore it is an epic song that is possible to step into at any point and enjoy the smaller pieces. During this track all styles of Ghost Circus come to surface and are presented in a interesting way. The album closes with another long track, this time the title piece for the album Across The Line, which evolves from ambient to heavy guitar solos and ends in the acoustic theme which also opened the album. The ten minutes or so of this instrumental allow Chris and Ronald to show their capabilities to the full.
Ghost Circus have taken a step in the right direction with Across The Line, as in quality it is superior to it's predecessor, however the innovation on this album is not that much different, it's in the same style as Cycles, so in this area the lads need to concentrate more effort. This said the album is cleverly built, with all things fitting together and the album flows nicely from beginning to end. As mentioned, it's a big piece of music all together, but you can step in at any point and continue where you left off. Recommended to fans of neo-progressive rock and especially Jadis fans.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
King Bathmat - Blue Sea, Black Heart
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Catalogue #:||EMKOG 02|
|Year of Release:||2008|
Tracklist: Blue Alice (3:26), Paper Bag (6:02), Play By The Rules (4:09), Murder In A Small Town (2:55), Brainwash (4:03), Somebody Else's Child (3:31), The World Outside (3:25), Hello Algebra (3:58)
This year sees the 10th anniversary of the first recordings by John Bassett, aka King Bathmat, although it was to be another three years before the (currently?) unavailable Non Slip CD was made available so people could discover the delights that were on offer. The story really began in 2003 with the release of Son Of A Nun, rapidly followed by Crowning Glory and Fantastic Freak Show Carnival in 2004 and 2005, respectively, all three albums gaining a recommended rating from DPRP reviewers. The current website doesn't give any information on the present line-up of the band, so presumably it is still the same as a few years ago with John Bassett on vocals and bass, Lee Sulsh on guitar and Bernie Smirnoff on drums, although as is evident from the earlier albums, Bassett is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and can handle everything himself if need be.
Three years on from Fantastic Freak Show Carnival, King Bathmat are back with a mini concept album, Blue Sea, Black Heart. Based on a screenplay written by Jenna Barker that revolves around a lifeguard turned serial killer who loses his mind in a rundown seaside town. The characteristic psychedelic prog sound familiar from previous albums is still present although this time round the arrangement are a bit more expansive and take in a few extra influences. Saying that, opener Blue Alice is immediately identifiable as a King Bathmat song. A powerful start to the album with good use made of various keyboards that blend into a driving rock song. Paper Bag has the lot, big riffs, striking chords, harmonies and guitar solos all served up with a smattering of tinkling electric piano, which continues into Play By The Rules. Tightly controlled feedback heralds a staccato guitar riff which gradually becomes more expansive with a prominent bass line strolling underneath.
There is a rather punkish attitude to Murder In A Small Town which becomes more psychedelic in Brainwash and provides the highlight of the album with some great playing. Somebody Else's Child is more restrained, despite the 'spooky' sound effects at the beginning. A sedate ballad with lots of harmonies that fit well within the structure of the song. The World Outside is an energetic song best played loud! A great hook line with plenty of guitars which aptly depicts the withdrawal of the main character from society. Surprisingly, final track Hello Algebra mixes in a lot of obtuse beats, rhythms and other effects not normally found in rock music. The result is somewhat akin to Jesus Jones and although rather strange at first, it does possess a certain charm, albeit in a somewhat fractured and unusual way!
Although the story behind Blue Sea, Black Heart is not immediately obvious from the lyrics, the album does stand up in isolation. With a whole host of interesting sounds spread across the eight songs, the album has a lot going for it, not least of which is the strong musical ideas of John Bassett. However, I don't think it quite stands up in comparison with previous albums released under the King Bathmat name, although at only £2.99 to download the whole album it is well worth a punt!
Blue Sea, Black Heart, as well as the three other King Bathmat albums can be downloaded at bargain prices from the King Bathmat Store.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Snowy White & The White Flames - The Way It Is... Live [DVD]
Tracklist: No Stranger To The Blues (3:57), What I'm Searching For (6:24), Little Wing (5:24), Blues Is The Road (4:44), I Loved Another Woman (4:47), The Answer (2:56), Land Of Plenty (6:42), Lucky Star (5:19), Terpisah (7:35), Working Blues (6:14), Angel Inside You, Part I & II (12:28), This Time Of My Life (3:41), A Piece Of Your Love (4:12) Bonus Material: Black Magic Woman [promo clip] (3:15)
For years I've been waiting for a live album by Snowy White and his band. I had to try and be satisfied with several bootleg recordings that captured the guitarist at his best. Because live is indeed the best way to enjoy Snowy's guitar play. The CDs are nice but the live performances are much more free formed and blues is just something that needs to be listened to in a smokey bar, or so it seems. All those years of waiting have finally paid off now that a DVD + CD set was released in 2005, followed by another live album in 2007. This might seem like a bit of overkill but the good news is that there's little overlap between the two sets. Only two songs appear on both CDs.
Let's start with the 2005 set of The Way It Is ... Live. The material in the setlist is leaning heavily on the 2005 album
The Way It Is, which is quite remarkable since this gig was recorded in March 2004. But it's no rarity for Snowy to try out new material on stage before laying down the tracks in the studio. Six songs are taken from that album (No Stranger To The Blues, What I'm Searching For, Angel Inside You [Part I & II], This Time Of My Life and A Piece Of Your Love). It's great to hear all of these songs in their live rendition, not only because The Way It Is turned out to be one of Snowy's best albums ever, these songs were also the best material on that CD.
Unlike other gigs the drum stool was filled by Richard Bailey for this tour. Nothing wrong with that because Bailey is a fine drummer in his own right. This did however probably spark the idea to play a few tunes from Snowy's debut album, on which Bailey played drums as well. Personally I don't really care for most of the material on that album and the noisy The Answer and the cheesy pop-goes-fusion Lucky Star are among my least favourite tracks. In this set they also feel very much out of place. I would rather have seen World Keep On Turning or Midnight Blues, which were also played during this tour, included instead. Another slight disappointment is that out of all the material of Snowy White's Blues Agency the man picked Land Of Plenty. It's certainly not one of my favourites of that period, although the mysterious treatment that it's given with Middleton's piano, Bailey's toms and Snowy's echoing guitar (that reminds me of Jeff Beck's work on Waters' Amused To Death album) do make it the best version I've heard.
Fortunately there's enough surprises to make up for this. I already mentioned all of the new material, including a wonderful version of the two part Angel Inside You, with it's long Latin instrumental section with Snowy going all Santana, which alone would already be worth the price of a ticket. An instrumental rendition of Hendrix' Little Wing, and the resurrection of some material from the marvellous Highway To The Sun album (Working Blues and Peter Green's Loved Another Woman) are other great surprises. I'm glad to see Snowy playing material from his mid-nineties albums again since some of his later albums never reached the same heights.
As far as the DVD is concerned, don't expect any visual spectacle and surround sound. It's a relatively simple affair and the big projection screen and
varilights are more distracting than supporting. As mentioned, this kind of music works best in a smokey bar. This kind of music is about the music itself and the musicians. Still, it's good to see the band on a slightly larger stage than you'd normally catch them at, allowing Walter Latupeirissa (on bass) and Snowy to groove and move around a bit, living their music. You'll marvel at some of the close ups that show you the ease with which Snowy slaps his strings and Max Middleton caresses his keys. And let's not forget Walter's light-fingered bass and scat solo Terpisah. Imagine a Spanish guitar solo being played on bass ... and a lot of plucking and slapping to follow. What an amazing bass player !
Unfortunately Snowy White concerts tend to be a bit on the short side. The positive thing about this is that you can fit the full set on a single CD with a bit of editing here and there. The downside is that it's still a short set and especially a DVD will turn out a bit meagre with 75 minutes of footages. The 'bonus track' Black Magic Woman really doesn't make up for this. As a matter of fact, it's one of the dumbest things I've seen in a long time. We see the band performing the Fleetwood Mac classic on the same stage as the feature film, but the sound of the studio version is laid over the footage, which also has been given an extensive visual editing treatment. Not only is this a real shame because we don't get to hear a live version, but the studio version also comes with a full brass band arrangement, making the resulting promo clip a silly kind of 'spot the horns' contest. Not to mention that the the way the instruments are played is completely out of sync between vision and sound. A missed opportunity.
I've had to think a long time about rating this DVD/CD set. There are a few disappointments and this certainly isn't my 'dream DVD', but considering all the positive things mentioned and the fact that this is the only Snowy White DVD around and a long awaited live release, I decided it still earns a DPRP recommendation.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Snowy White & The White Flames - Live Flames
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Year of Release:||2007|
Tracklist: I'll Be Moving On (6:16), That Ain't Right (7:17), What I'm Searching For (7:01), Land of Plenty (6:33), Time Waits For No Man (3:25), A Miracle I Need (8:18), Wintersong (4:19), The Emmerpeirissa Express (3:06), Whiteflames Blues (5:10), American Dream (9:09), Long Grey Mare (4:03), That's When I'll Stop Loving You (5:53)
As I mentioned in the previous review, sometimes you have to wait for a live album for ages. And then there's one every other year. In this case you won't hear me complaining, especially since there is little overlap between the two albums and I can't get enough different live material by Snowy White. This specific set was recorded in December 2006 and features Snowy's regular backing band with Walter Latupeirissa on bass, Juan van Emmerloot on drums and Max Middleton on keyboards. A fine little quartet with a remarkable sonic range.
Although this tour took place shortly after the release of Snowy's latest album, The Way It Is, that new album is only represented by one song, a fine rendition of What I'm Searching For. The emphasis for this tour was clearly on some of the nineties albums of Mr White (who's continuous touring with Roger Waters would almost entitle him for the more apt Mr Pink, in true Reservoir Dogs style). Two of my favourite albums have been heavily featured in this live set. My all time favourite Snowy album No Faith Required is represented by two delicious versions of the free formed A Miracle I Need and American Dream, while the Little Wing album offers the two laid-back set-starters I'll Be Moving On and That Ain't Right, as well as the set-dessert of That's When I'll Stop Loving You. There's no doubts about it; these are some of Snowy's best songs, taken from two of his best albums.
The rest of the album pales next to these highlights. As I mentioned in my previous review, Land Of Plenty will never be among my favourites and Time Waits For No Man (from the Keep Out - We Are Toxic album) is a mediocre tune from a mediocre album. As often when tracks from No Faith Required were played live, the duo of A Miracle I Need and American Dream sandwich a series of solo spotlights for the band. This starts with a four minute piano solo by Max Middleton (titled Wintersong), which is followed by a bass and drum extravaganza, smartly titled The Emmerpeirissa Express. Interesting but not the best solo spot I've heard this rhythm section play. Snowy joins back in for a five minute blues improvisation called Whiteflames Blues before the band head straight into American Dream. I like these improvisations and solo spots, especially at a gig, but I have to admit that it's a bit too much on this CD. There's two reasons for that. First of all, 12 minutes in one stretch is a long time to wait for the next familiar song. Second, considering the running time of 70 minutes and the fact that some great tunes were played during this tour that are not on the CD (for instance Highway To The Sun, Blues Is The Road, Out Of Order, No Faith Required and Working Blues) I would personally have made some different choices. I would especially have loved to see Highway To The Sun and No Faith Required replace the improvisations. Now, that would have been a dream setlist ! The fun and bouncy Peter Green tune Long Grey Mare can only make up partially for this huge missed opportunity.
As with the DVD however, this criticism can't keep me from recommending this CD to all lovers of good (blues) guitar players. Skilled musicians playing great blues rock that more people should learn to listen to and appreciate. Bring on the next live album Mr White !
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Audiocracy – Revolution’s Son
Tracklist: Part I – The Dream: Revolution’s Son (6:43), Part II – The Hope: Puzzle City (3:17), Part III – The Underground: Escape Into The Fray Zone [The Making Of Proteus] (10:47), Part IV – The Confrontation: Speak Truth To Power (4:29), Part V – The Extinction: Gethsemane Again (5:28), Part VI – The Survivors: When The Future Comes (8:01), Part VII – The Re-Emergence: Dare To Sing (6:58)
Save the drama for your mama, because I’m your mommy now! If I was a drill instructor, I would bark out these words to the awful virtual prog band Audiocracy, who have put out with their debut release Revolution’s Son one of the most pompous and unappealing (to any music fan with critical taste) recordings I have ever heard. I would whip these guys into shape; teach them what discipline means and how to create a worthy concept album without all the rambling, pretentious opera style lyrics and overblown sections that Revolution’s Son displays.
Audiocracy is a virtual band in that it is comprised of members who live in different geographic locations. Hailing from Connecticut is Tobin Mueller (Dave Brubeck, Maynard Ferguson, and others) on B3 organ, synths, piano, percussion, and vocals. The lead vocalist is the simply named Twon (M-Lab, The New York City Crack Team, Invanity), and he also plays acoustic guitar and five-string bass. Helping out with additional guitar duties are Darren Chapman (Out of the Blue) from Ontario, Canada; Tadashi Togawa from Japan, and motion picture scorer Bob Piper. Behind the drum kit is Rob Thurman (Real Eyes, Thurman Brothers Band, Genesis tribute band Seconds Out).
The CD tells, as the promo material puts it, the story of “a young man’s journey through idealism, anarchistic zeal, betrayal, and redemption.” The promo material goes on to hail the CD as “a post-political apocalyptic tale told through impressionistic, poetic lyrics”. The problem with these “poetic” lyrics and vocal passages is that they ramble on and on, careening from one point to the next, resulting in something overblown and tortuous.
To concede, there are some acceptable moments, like the quirky, Crimson-style perk of Part III and the Peter Gabriel-like ethnic shuffle of Part VII. Sadly, though, shining glimmers of hope like these are few and far between on this otherwise pathetic CD. I could glean nothing of any value from Part II and Part VI in preparing for this review, and the latter rambles on for eight minutes! The cheesy metal shlock of Part IV is perhaps the worst song I have ever heard. No, wait, that would be Most Toys by Marillion. But, like Audiocracy, I ramble.
The CD booklet is colourful and the disc has good sound quality. If this fledgling band continues, with their next release I suggest that they tone down the babbling lyrical sections and focus more on instrumental passages.
Conclusion: 4 out of 10