REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:
Anthony Phillips - The Geese And The Ghost
Disc 1: Wind – Tales (1:03), Which Way The Wind Blows (5:52), Henry: Portraits From Tudor Times [i. Fanfare, ii. Lutes’ Chorus, iii. Misty Battlements, iv. Lutes’ Chorus Reprise, v. Henry Goes To War, vi. Death Of A Knight, vii. Triumphant Return] (14:03), God If I Saw Her Now (4:14), Chinese Mushroom Cloud (0:46), The Geese And The Ghost [Part i & ii] (15:51), Collections (3:07), Sleepfall: The Geese Fly West (4:35)
Disc 2: Master Of Time [demo] (7:38), Title Inspiration (0:33), The Geese And The Ghost - Part One [basic track] (7:48), Collections Link (0:42), Which Way The Wind Blows [basic track] (6:27), Silver Song [basic track] (4:24), Henry: Portraits From Tudor Times [basic track] [i. Fanfare, ii. Lute’s Chorus, iii. Lute’s Chorus Reprise, iv. Misty Battlements] (5:40), Collections [demo] (4:17), The Geese & The Ghost - Part Two [basic track] (7:32), God If I Saw Her Now [basic track] (4:19), Sleepfall [basic track] (4:25), Silver Song [unreleased single version, 1973] (4:13)
After leaving Genesis following the release of their sophomore album Trespass in 1970, guitarist Anthony Phillips seemed to disappear for neigh on seven years. It was thus a great surprise when in 1977 his first solo album The Geese And The Ghost (since described, by none other than the artist himself, as really a collaborative album with erstwhile Genesis companion Mike Rutherford) was released. Since that time there have been a further 29 solo and collaborative albums as well as innumerable non-commercially available library music collections and commissions for television programmes, notably the Survival wildlife series. Having regained the rights to all his solo material a few years ago, a massive remastering and reissue campaign has been undertaken, starting with three of his most popular albums, each released with a bonus disc of demos, alternate takes and previously unreleased material.
The first of these reissues is the debut The Geese And The Ghost. As mentioned, this hit the streets in 1977, just as punk rock was getting a stranglehold on the youth of the UK. Ironically, at only 25, Phillips was younger than many of the punk artists who were decrying groups such as his former band mates as 'old dinosaurs'! Despite what subsequent writings of the period claim to profess, punk was not a universal youth revolution and the majority of young music fans of the time were more than happy to accept the newer punk bands without abandoning the favourites of just a few months earlier. As with most things, the press, both music and tabloid, had a lot to do with the promotion of punk rock, even if in the case of the latter, it did so rather unwittingly. Typically, the record labels jumped on the latest trend and sadly put more effort and finance into promoting the new wave musicians than an ex-Genesis guitarist's collection of acoustic, mainly instrumental, pastoral and orchestrated mellow compositions.
The, no pun intended, genesis of the album dates back to 1969 when Phillips and Rutherford started composing 12-string guitar pieces that didn't fit in with the direction their band was taking. Writing continued all throughout Phillips' tenure at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London where he went to study music after departing Genesis and recording started in earnest in 1974 following some financing from Charisma records which enabled a home studio to be built at the family home in Surrey. Various other stops and starts, largely associated with Rutherford's Genesis commitments, continued until 1976 when the album was finally completed. Despite Charisma providing initial funding they were not interested in releasing the album and Virgin dismissed it as a "mixture of Vaughan Williams and Mike Oldfield" and also passed, instead diving deeper into the prevalent punk scene. Eventually a US label, Passport, expressed interest and even funded the final recording sessions while in the UK the Genesis management set up their own Hit and Run label in order that a domestic release could be achieved. Sadly, after all the effort, the album was largely overlooked, but has since risen in the affections of music fans that have discovered the album in the intervening years.
And rightly so, for The Geese And The Ghost is nothing short of a minor classic. The original album comprises three songs, a couple of short linking pieces, an instrumental closing piece and two major Phillips-Rutherford compositions. Two of the songs feature Phil Collins, giving some of his best vocal performances coming just after he had recorded his contributions to the first Steve Hackett solo album. On Which Way The Wind Blows his voice is multi-tracked over a piano and acoustic backing while on the simply gorgeous God If I Saw Her Now he duets with Viv McCauliffe (from the Principle Edwards Magic Theatre) whose vocals contrast beautifully with those of Collins. Phillips' guitar playing on the piece is exemplary and the whole piece aches with a wilting poignancy. The third song, Collections, is sung by Phillips himself. Although he largely shuns his vocals, they do fit perfectly with this orchestrated piano piece which segues into the closing number, Sleepfall: The Geese Fly West so delightfully the two pieces could simply be considered as two halves of the same coin. The latter pieces also features fine contributions from Rob Phillips and John Hackett on oboe and flute, respectively.
The first of the two major compositions, Henry: Portraits From Tudor Times is a more baroque number telling the tale of King Henry VII and his victory over the French armies. An amazingly evocative piece that manages to encapsulate a mood of the period through careful use of instrumentation and fine arranging. On this new edition the previously excised Lutes’ Chorus Reprise has been reinstated in its rightful place. The Geese And The Ghost, a 12-string guitar duet that was originally started in 1969 under the working title of D Instrumental, has been augmented with cellos, violins, cor anglais, oboes and a smidgeon of piano to provide a piece of the highest order, particularly as the two guitarists were teenagers when the initial piece was composed.
The bonus disc is just as delightful and revelatory as the original album. With material from the final album presented in is most basic form, often just Phillips and Rutherford on their 12-strings, one is taken back to the earliest days of the two musicians just writing and playing together for the sheer enjoyment of the music. The disc starts with a demo of Master Of Time, a song originally intended for the final album but, ironically, not recorded due to lack of time at the original sessions. The demo version has Phillips singing and guitar playing accompanied by David Thomas on classical guitar and Ronnie Gunn on harmonium and piano. Title Inspiration is simply the sounds of the geese and the ghost as portrayed on the ARP Pro-soloist synthesiser. The two parts of The Geese And The Ghost, the four sections of Henry: Portraits From Tudor Times, Which Way The Wind Blows and the basic track of Silver Song all feature just the two unadorned 12-string guitars. Free from the overdubs added later the pieces are revealed in the stark beauty of their original form and again show the skill of the musicians. The demo of Collections is not radically different from the final version although the extra minute playing time is actually the intro to what became Sleepfall, which is also present in its basic form with just Ant on the piano and his brother Robin on double-tracked oboe. Finally we have the unreleased single version of Silver Song written as a farewell to original Genesis drummer John Silver back in 1969 and recorded in 1973 with Mike Rutherford and Phil Collins. The single was intended for release in 1974 although, for reasons long forgotten, it never materialised despite Collins being interviewed on Radio One about the single giving the song its first public airing. Finally, 34 years later, it is officially released.
It is about time the marvellous album was rescued from being a mere curio for Genesis completists as it is a remarkable album full of beauty and remarkable musicianship fully deserving a prominent place in any discerning music lovers collection.
Conclusion: 9+ out of 10
Anthony Phillips - Wise After The Event
Disc 1: We're All As We Lie (4:36), Birdsong And Reprise (6:47), Moonshooter (5:58), Wise After The Event (10:32), Pulling Faces (4:37), Regrets (6:04), Greenhouse (3:03), Paperchase (5:34), Now What [Are They Doing to My Little Friends]? (8:27), Squirrel (4:30)
Disc 2: We're All As We Lie Link (1:25), Sleeping On On Interstellar Plane [Greenhouse demo] (3:07), Paperchase [instrumental demo] (5:33), Birdsong [instrumental demo] (5:36), Moonshooter [Cottage Tapes instrumental demo] (5:39), We're All As We Lie [Cottage Tapes instrumental demo] (3:55), Pulling Faces [Cottage Tapes instrumental demo] (4:33), Squirrel [Instrumental mix] (4:31), Wise After The Event [Instrumental mix] (8:58), Magic Garden [solo piano mix] (1:56), We're All As We Lie [7" single version] (3:52), Regrets [Piano mix] (6:03), Chinaman [basic guitar mix] (0:48), Now What (Are They Doing To My Little Friends)? [Instrumental Mix] (8:14)
Given the extended gestation of the first Anthony Phillips solo album, The Geese And The Ghost, it is somewhat surprising that barely six months later he was back in the studio recording tracks for his next release, Wise After The Event. Newly signed to Arista Records, the label and management convinced Phillips that in the best interests of his career the album should feature more songs and less of the instrumental music of his debut. With very little new music written between 1973 and 1975 when Phillips was studying music, and time after that spent on completing the first album, tracks for the second album had to be written during the rehearsal and recording sessions, although a few were pulled from the music box of times gone by. Hooking up with producer Rupert Hine was important on several levels as it was he who largely encouraged Phillips that his voice was good enough and had sufficient character to provide all the lead vocals for the album and also suggested the involvement of bassist John G Perry and drummer Michael Giles.
It is relatively easy to differentiate between the older and newer tracks as they retain more of the acoustic vibe of the first album. Birdsong was based on a 12-string guitar piece and Squirrel on the piano. Both pieces date from just after Phillips' departure from Genesis whilst another piano piece, Regrets, dates from the late 1960s. Regrets is the only track that is fully orchestrated as although arrangements had been drawn up for two other songs, Moonshooter and Greenhouse, the time allocated for recording of these arrangements (one evening!) was insufficient and only the one score was completed. We're All As We Lie, one of the newer songs has a characteristic Phillips sound primarily due to the presence of an electric 12-string guitar, the electrification giving a fuller sound than the acoustic instrument. Mel Collins adds some brief saxophone parts which are more reminiscent of his time with Camel than with King Crimson! The original riff on the title track derived from feeding a Rickenbacker guitar through a Boss chorus pedal while Pulling Faces has a much more lively and up-tempo sound with some great bass playing from Perry. Greenhouse is much more of a pop song than anything previously released by Phillips with a jaunty atmosphere and fine melody. Paperchase starts off gently giving the impression that it will be another slow acoustic ballad, but then Giles' perfect drum pattern starts up adding a bit more momentum to the track. Although primarily acoustic, it fluctuates between quiet and louder passages providing a variation to another great song. Now What (Are They Doing To My Little Friends)? is a beautiful song written after the screening of a documentary about seal culling in Canada, despite the rather graphic lyrics. The song is lifted by some excellent piano sections and synthesised orchestrations.
As with The Geese And The Ghost, the second disc is a real insight into the composer with a comprehensive collection of out-takes, remixes and demo versions. The original album was intended to have a series of links between tracks but as the album was already over-length (for the era) these were omitted, ultimately being released on the second Private Parts And Pieces album. One of these links was a reversed portion of the end of We're All As We Lie, which has been presented playing the correct way as the opening track of the second CD. Three demos follow, the first being a four-track version of Greenhouse under its original title of Sleeping On An Interstellar Plane. This was the only song on the album not solely composed by Phillips as it was a collaboration with Jeremy Gilbert. Paperchase and Birdsong are present in their instrumental home demo form with Phillips playing all the instrumentation. Without vocals the interplay between the electric and acoustic guitars are more sharply defined giving more of a flavour of the debut album. Three 'live in the studio' tracks recorded during rehearsals with Giles and Perry prior to recording show how well the three musicians had gelled after only a few sessions. With the exception of the 7" version of We're All As We Lie, the remainder of the album consists of instrumental mixes of tracks (or original links) from the album. The opportunity has been taken to go back to the original masters to remix the pieces to highlight individual instruments. Thus Squirrel, Regrets and Magic Cottage (another excised link) are heard as solo piano pieces, and Chinaman (a cricketing term!) as a solo acoustic guitar. Presented in this format these tracks are very much in line with the concept of the Private Parts And Pieces albums and so any fan of those series of albums will be delighted with these new arrangements. The basic instrumental track of Wise After The Event, cleaned of the overdubs and the vocals extracted add a whole new dimension to the song, with Perry's fretless bass becoming more prominent, whilst the instrumental remix of Now What (Are They Doing To My Little Friends)? highlights the keyboard elements of the song (including some parts that were not used in the final mix) and adds a whole new character to the piece, making it all the more worthy of inclusion.
Anthony Phillips second solo album lives up to the promise of the first with an excellent collection of songs. Although he doesn't have the strongest of voices, his singing, much like that of Bob Dylan and Neil Young, does add a certain character to the pieces. It would have been nice to have had the album presented in the originally intended playing order with all the links restored to their rightful place, even if it did mean replication of some of the pieces of PPP II. An opportunity missed I think, and the only slight niggle with this otherwise essential release.
Conclusion: 8+ out of 10
Anthony Phillips - 1984
Disc 1: Prelude '84 (4:23), 1984 Part One (19:02), 1984 Part Two (15:26), Anthem 1984 (2:27)
Disc 2: Prelude '84 [early stage mix] (4:26), Ascension (5:16), 1984 - Part One [early stage mix] (12:49), Rule Britannia Suite: Sally Theme (1:13), Science & Technology (1:17), Respect (0:57), Church (0:49), Military (1:37), Power In The Land (1:43), 1984 - Part Two [early stage mix] (4:25), Anthem 1984 [early stage mix] (2:08), Poly Piece [demo] (16:39)
Mark Hughes' Review
By 1980 Anthony Phillips had released four solo albums and had a fifth one being readied for release. He was still signed to Passport Records in the US but was without a UK label after his deal with Arista had ended at the end of the previous year. As none of his previous albums had set the world alight, a change was on the cards and so Phillips started playing around with synthesisers, an instrument he had not fully explored on his previous albums. The resulting album, named after Orwell's apocalyptic view of the future, 1984 was released by RCA who were enthused by the demos they had heard. Although at the time of release, 1984 may have been an original and interesting album that explored modern electronic equipment, unfortunately it has not stood the test of time. Having long been my least favourite of Phillips solo albums, the remastered version doesn't change my opinion greatly. The most annoying aspect is the primitive beatbox providing the rhythm throughout, insistent, unrelenting and so maddening! There are glimpses of the Phillips from previous releases which are, admittedly, more evident than on previous releases, but on the whole the amount of overdubs tends to give the impression of an ocean with the occasional wave breaking through. I am sure there are lots of fundamental differences between Part One and Part Two of the title track but for me it just seems to drag on with minimal variety to hold ones interest. Anthem 1984 is a nice enough piece with a more organ sound, although the ever present beatbox ruins it completely.
The bonus disc basically reprises the album but in 'early stage mixes'. These are essentially the core elements of each piece without the overdubs and, in the case of the first part of 1984 - Part One and Anthem 1984 without the beat box, hurrah! This is certainly an improvement, particularly in Anthem which closely resembles The Enid. A similar thing could be said about Ascension, a solo Polymoog piece which was one of the first pieces recorded for the album but not used and only rediscovered when the original tapes were reviewed for this reissue. Without the overdubs and infernal drumbox, these two pieces are, for me, the best items arising from the whole 1984 album. Along similar lines to 1984 are the components of the Rule Britannia Suite which were originally recorded for a television series in the early 1980. Brief, and entirely synth based, it is good that these pieces have been resurrected and released, pick of the bunch being Respect and Military which abandon the 80s synth sound for a more traditional organ. However, best of the unreleased material is the demo of Poly Piece, a lengthy piano-based composition that was originally recorded during sessions for the Sides album. As that album was more focused on songs than instrumentals, the track was essentially abandoned, although it is surprising it has not appeared on any of the subsequent Private Parts And Pieces albums.
Of the three initial reissues, 1984 is undoubtedly the weakest of the lot. Even the extra CD doesn't offer much to get excited about with the exception of the wonderful Poly Piece. One wonders why it was chosen to benefit from the addition of a bonus CD when the far superior Sides album was passed over? The songs oh that earlier album are uniformly strong and even if there were a minimum of out-takes, Poly Piece and the instrumental version of Magdalen would have been a good start to the bonus disc while remixes of such tracks of Sister Of Remindum and an instrumental version of Bleak House would, personally, have been far more interesting than these synthesised dirges.
Geoff Feakes' Review
Although there are many that can lay claim to the same title, Anthony Phillips is for me one of the true unsung heroes of progressive rock. A major influence on Genesis’ classic early sound, his departure in 1970 was regarded by the band as a major blow in much the same way as Gabriel and Hackett’s exit years later. Ant cited various reasons for his decision including stage fright, ill health and disillusionment with the bands collective work ethic. It would take nearly seven years for his first solo album The Geese And The Ghost to materialise. In addition to writing the album and recording demos he spent the intervening years studying composition, orchestration and piano. With its pastoral and often acoustic moods his debut harked back to his work with his former band. Unfortunately for Ant attitudes and tastes had moved on and he found his music out of step with the times. Undaunted, Wise After The Event (1978) and Sides (1979) followed as Ant attempted to update and refine his sound. He also released Private Parts & Pieces I And II, the first offerings in what was to become a long line of acoustic ventures. In 1981 he released his musical adaptation of George Orwell’s classic novel which proved to be a radical musical departure for the ex-Genesis guitarist.
Dominated by synths and a drumbox with scarcely a guitar in sight, 1984 was Ant’s response to the burgeoning synth-pop culture of the 80’s. You couldn’t exactly dance to this album but its often bright upbeat sound was almost at odds with the books
sombre subject of totalatarism. Co-producer Richard Scott added percussion as did seasoned session man Morris Pert, otherwise it’s all Ant. With a blaze of swirling synths Prelude '84 is a near perfect opener that still sounds as uplifting as it did twenty seven years ago. An infectious instrumental, it’s guaranteed to give all but the most cynical a warm inner glow. Following a stately intro, 1984 Part One encompasses a variety of moods and tempos with ear friendly melodies. It’s not unlike the music Mike Oldfield was producing at the time with elements of Seventh Wave, Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre thrown in for good measure. The only downside is the obtrusive drumbox which remains distractingly prominent in the mix almost throughout. Far better is the natural sound of Morris Pert’s dramatic tympani embellishments.
1984 Part Two begins in similar fashion with a longer treatment of the opening theme from part one. Overall though in comparison with the previous piece it doesn’t quite have the same richness and melodic diversity in my view. I suppose my feelings have hardly changed over the years because side one of the original vinyl LP was as I recall always the more popular on my turntable. It’s edgy and downbeat mood however is arguably more in keeping with the novels bleak narrative. The final five minutes returns to the uplifting character of part one with a strident synth theme. This is quality music that could have been produced in any decade. Only the drumbox and the addition of vocoder treated backing voices in the finale roots it firmly in the early 80’s. Closing the original album and disc one of this re-issue is the haunting Anthem 1984. Ant’s massed keys create a stirring symphonic march every bit as good as any of Ennio Morricone’s more romantic themes.
If disc one provides a welcome opportunity to reappraise one of Ant’s most underrated works, disc two is the icing on the cake. Demo versions of almost the entire album are featured along with several previously unreleased gems. With its sparkling ARP 2600 sound, Prelude '84 [early stage mix] sounds very close to the final mix on disc one, a testimony to the excellent re-mastering by Simon Heyworth. The previously unheard Ascension, which is similar in tone to Anthem 1984, was recently unearthed during the research for this reissue. Featuring Ant on Polymoog it’s a stunning example of how one man armed with one keyboard and a flair for composition can capture the orchestral grandeur of a full string section. Listening to 1984 - Part One [early stage mix] I was struck by the absence of the drumbox although it does surface around the halfway mark. Several of the refinements in the finished version are noticeably absent but the compelling melodies still shine through. Recorded around the same time as 1984 with the same instrumentation, the Rule Britannia Suite is a collection of musical vignettes Ant produced for a UK TV series. Released here for the first time, the six short but melodic themes capture the mood of each title perfectly.
At under five minutes, 1984 - Part Two [early stage mix] features the concluding part of Ant’s epic and sounds all the better for the absence of the vocoder which would be added later by co-producer Richard Scott. The stately Anthem 1984 [early stage mix] sounds even more poignant without the drum machine which again would be overdubbed later. Although Poly Piece [demo] is a departure from the rest of the album it will strike a chord with anyone who is familiar with Ant’s debut album or his Private Parts & Pieces releases. This is the earliest of all the recordings here and was originally intended for 1979’s Sides album. A lengthy instrumental was however deemed unsuitable and has to date remained unavailable although it was considered for the original 1984 release. Performed almost entirely on piano it holds the listener’s interest throughout the full seventeen minutes demonstrating that Ant’s study years post Genesis were not wasted. It’s a remarkably evocative piece, and as I’m still discovering, rewards repeat playing.
With a succession of re-issues flooding the market in recent times this is without doubt one that ranks at the top end of the scale. Lovingly researched, complied and re-mastered it’s a crowning example of how it should be done. And call me biased if you will, but it also helps if the source material is worth all the effort to begin with. True, like a good deal of music from the 80’s some aspects of Ant’s work have not dated especially well but the quality of the music, his performance and the re-mastering more than compensate. This is one of those rare occasions when disc one can easily be left in the CD case and the bonus material enjoyed almost as a stand alone work. Rounding things off nicely is the excellent booklet with extensive liner notes from Ant and Jonathan Dann who was instrumental in compiling this reissue.
MARK HUGHES : 5 out of 10
GEOFF FEAKES : 9 out of 10
Darryl Way’s Wolf – Canis Lupus
Tracklist: The Void (4:36), Isolation Waltz (4:39), Go Down (4:44), Wolf (4:07), Cadenza (4:50), Chanson Sans Paroles (6:29), McDonald's Lament (7:09) Bonus Tracks: Spring Fever (3:29), Wolf [Single Version] (4:05)
A classically trained violinist, Darryl Way made his first serious sortie into progressive rock with the formation of Curved Air in 1970 along with keyboardist Francis Monkman. After three successful albums and a hit single Way departed in 1972. He resurfaced the following summer fronting his new band Darryl Way’s Wolf with the debut release Canis Lupus. He was joined on the album and its two successors Saturation Point and Night Music by a trio of then relatively unknown musicians. They comprised bassist and vocalist Dek Messecar, guitarist John Etheridge and drummer Ian Mosley fresh from the stage musical ‘Hair’. The bands name reflected an edgier musical direction for Way. All three releases have been expertly re-mastered from the original master tapes by Esoteric whose catalogue of reissues from the 60’s and 70’s currently totals around the eighty mark.
On production duties for Wolf’s first outing was Ian McDonald, the guiding light behind Crimson’s legendary 1969 debut In The Court Of The Crimson King. Here, as with the two later releases, the bands audacious style often suggested that the impressive performances were as important, if not sometimes more important than the songs themselves. Tightly structured in places, almost improvisational in others, the slight melodies provided a backdrop upon which the band could hang their collective playing skills. Their musical ethos is made clear from the outset. Following a low-key organ intro, the otherwise lively The Void is noteworthy for nimble guitar work from Etheridge enriched by creative use of echo. He receives strong support from Mosley’s energetic but articulate drumming. Way’s busy piano adds to the songs rhythmic backbone and in addition to his bass skills Messecar demonstrates that he’s a more than capable singer.
The moody bass line throughout Isolation Waltz is not unlike the riff from Floyd’s Money with Way’s violin adding a surprising country flavour. The mellow Go Down belongs to Etheridge with not one, but two stunning jazz tinged acoustic guitar solos. Messecar’s smooth vocal is vaguely reminiscent of Paul Simon. The band’s namesake Wolf opens with a shrill Moog fanfare from Way before he indulges in some gutsy violin and guitar interplay with Etheridge. Throughout, Messecar and Mosley’s rhythmic partnership is an impressive exercise in restrained power. Way’s violin really cuts loose during the instrumental Cadenza as he and Etheridge cook-up an energetic brew of jazz, rock and country somewhere along the same lines as ELP’s Hoedown. Not to be outdone Messecar and Mosley both shine with respective bass and drum solos leaving Way to wrap things up with a maniac synth coda.
The original album closes with my two favourite tracks, Chanson Sans Paroles and McDonald's Lament. Both instrumental, the former is a seemingly incongruous combination of a bass riff that echoes Cream’s Sunshine Of Your Love and melodious classical style violin that evokes the lyricism of a Vaughn Williams symphony. It develops into a catchy main melody that curiously is not unlike veteran composer Dimitri Tiomkin’s main theme from The Guns Of Navorone. Ian McDonald gets in on the act adding piano and percussion. The beautifully evocative McDonald's Lament is Way’s tribute to the producer with a sumptuous viola solo that appropriately recalls Crimson’s gentler pieces with David Cross on violin.
The bonus tracks included on this reissue are both sides of the single that preceded the album by three months in March 1973. Spring Fever is an OK song but its slightly poppy chorus explains its inclusion here and not on the album. An early mix of Wolf provided the ‘A’ side. Unsurprisingly the songs ambiguous lyrics and instrumental complexity went over the heads of radio producers and singles buyers at the time.
Conclusion: 7+ out of 10
Darryl Way’s Wolf – Saturation Point
Tracklist: The Ache (4:51), Two Sisters (4:21), Slow Rag (5:18), Market Overture (3:38), Game Of X (5:49), Saturation Point (6:46), Toy Symphony (7:17) Bonus Tracks: A Bunch Of Fives (3:31), Five In The Morning (2:41), Two Sisters [Single Version] (3:22)
With the first album receiving favourable reviews in the UK’s music press, Wolf decided to strike while the iron was hot releasing their follow-up later the same year. With two albums in the space of five months, Saturation Point was surely an apt title for the second release. Taking over production duties on this and the next album was Shaun (incorrectly spelt as Sean on the album cover) Davies. With Way concentrating on what he does best there is less keyboards and more emphasis on the violin this time round. The music is also more instrumentally focused with Messecar’s vocals featuring on two tracks only. The line-up however remains unchanged. And if anything, the playing is tighter, maturer and more accomplished the second time out.
An explosive crescendo and a flurry of drums from Mosley heralds The Ache, a gutsy rocker that steams along like a runaway train. Way’s violin and Etheridge’s guitar match each other note for note in an impressive display of lighting fast dexterity. Two Sisters is another lively piece and the only track that features conventional singing. Messecar’s multi-tracked voice creates some very agreeable early Yes style harmonies flanking a searing violin reel halfway in. Despite the title, Slow Rag is closer to a waltz with exquisite bouzouki style acoustic guitar and achingly bittersweet violin. The track has a distinct feel of early
KC and Epitaph about it with the relaxed drum work not for the first time bringing the superb Michael Giles to mind. It’s without doubt one of the band's most mature and confident pieces thus far. Market Overture brings to a close what would have been side one of the original vinyl release. An instrumental of two halves for sure, it begins in a relaxed fashion with busy drum fills and a guitar solo that could have come from Steve Howe’s beloved Gibson ES175D. It morphs incongruously into a light-hearted and breathless Russian flavoured gypsy reel rather like the Sabre Dance.
Game Of X is another fun piece this time tipping its hat to Focus’ Hocus Pocus hit from two years earlier. It comes complete with Jan Akkerman style heavy guitar riffs, scat vocals and Way’s moody violin replacing Thijs van Leer’s Hammond. The title track Saturation Point begins in a light and airy jazz mood with reflective guitar picking capturing Etheridge at his best. The melody line sounds very close to the vocal refrain from the earlier Two Sisters. It builds to almost manic proportions before subsiding into a memorable bass pattern from Messecar. With the monumental Toy Symphony for me they’ve saved the best until last. Driven by a speaker shredding fuzzed bass riff it’s another strident piece that recalls Yes’ battle music from The Gates Of Delirium which followed six months later. Violin and guitar circle ominously, underpinned by a barrage of drums from Mosley who also adds a suitably militaristic rhythm at the close.
The three bonus tracks are all shorter in length, a clue that they are taken from the two singles that preceded the albums November 1973 release. A Bunch Of Fives is not unlike Market Overture from the album only with a gutsier jam feel. It’s an excellent showcase for all four musicians with guitar again displaying shades of Howe. A more structured Five In The Morning must have surely provided the ‘A’ side with an infectious violin melody making it one of my favourite tracks on this release. The single version of Two Sisters, released just prior to the album, was remixed and edited to provide a brighter radio friendly sound. There is more emphasis on the vocals whilst much of the violin section ended up on the cutting room floor.
Rehearsing and recording two albums worth of music in such a short space of time obviously paid off for the band. As Saturation Point draws to a close it’s clear that Way and co. had developed into one of the tightest, most proficient and musically adventurous acts of the early 70’s progressive rock scene. In addition to the bands I’ve name checked already their collective sound also compares favourably with PFM who at the time were enjoying a degree of commercial success in the UK. Life was not so rosy for Wolf however. Although they were touring the UK regularly, indifference from the record buying public indicated that changes had to be made.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Darryl Way’s Wolf – Night Music
Tracklist: The Envoy (6:33), Black September (4:51), Flat 2/55 (6:56), Anteros (4:31), We're Watching You (5:15), Steal The World (4:22), Comrade Of The Nine (2:44)
Compared with the five months that separated the first two albums, Wolf’s third and final release Night Music took an almost indulgent twelve months to surface. Instrumentally the line-up remained unchanged, but they were augmented by full time vocalist John Hodkinson from the jazz-rock unit If. With the two previously releases failing to chart there was pressure on the band to provide something that was as commercially viable as it was artistic. This was after all the early 70’s, the golden age of prog with the likes of Yes, ELP, Jethro Tull and Floyd shifting albums by the truck load. The album sported a new and inspired band logo by Colin Elgie although Hipgnosis’ cover photograph was less impressive. The absence of bonus tracks on this reissue is a telling indication that this time there were no pre-emptive singles to promote the album.
Lead track The Envoy displays the bands new found intentions to good effect. Fuelled by a prominent rumbling bass riff picked up by violin and then guitar, it’s a tricky and gutsy opener. Hodkinson’s commanding vocal is high in the mix with a hint of echo which does make it sound a tad dated. Way’s violin bridge is sweet and slow to begin with, building to a soaring climax. The highlight for me however is Messecar’s nimble upfront bass solo which is as good as they get. Almost chameleon like, Hodkinson’s voice sounds different again during the lyrical Black September. His smooth delivery suits the song perfectly which features one of the band's prettiest melodies to date. The gritty guitar break sounds like nothing Etheridge had recorded before and for comparisons checkout the infamous solo from Bread’s Guitar Man. There is little evidence of Way on the instrumental Flat 2/55 which is dominated by fuzzed guitar that has an improvised feel about it. Restrained to begin with, it gradually accelerates until reaching breakneck speed, a device the band often employed, usually with violin.
Side two of the original vinyl release kicked off with Anteros, a less than memorable song despite the strident vocal delivery. The highlight is the lengthy electric violin break at the hallway mark featuring atmospheric echo effects. Pizzicato synth punctuations and sharp guitar plucking provide an eerie intro to We're Watching You. A lyrical Spanish guitar solo is easily the best part demonstrating that Etheridge was the equal of his better known contemporaries. A fiery Moog solo to close from Way sees him reverting to the keys style of the first album. Steal The World is blessed with a very complex time signature encouraging Hodkinson to indulge in some Gentle Giant style vocal acrobatics. Mosley’s hectic drumming is a real joy here as Way lays down an elaborate violin reel. Comrade Of The Nine is a surprising closer both in terms of length and style. It’s a brief rocker dominated by bluesy vocals underpinned by Mosley and Messecar’s almost telepathic unified rhythm. A snatch of violin draws the song, the album and the recording career of Wolf to an abrupt end.
Sadly sales wise, Night Music suffered the same fate as its two predecessors. This must have been especially disappointing for Way who had tasted commercial success previously with Curved Air. When the opportunity arose to rejoin his former band following the departure of Eddie Jobson he took it, signalling the demise of Wolf just a few months after the albums release. The talents of the other band members also hadn’t gone unnoticed because guitarist John Etheridge was invited to join Soft Machine and later worked with several jazz and classical luminaries including Stéphane Grappelli and Nigel Kennedy. Bassist Dek Messecar joined Caravan in 1977 and Ian Mosley would of course eventually fill the Marillion drum stool via the Gordon Giltrap Band, Steve Hackett and Trace. Behind them they left three albums worth of classic progressive rock that in time proved to be a pre-cursor to the musical and instrumental style of UK who would follow in Wolf’s footsteps four years later.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Stud – Stud
Tracklist: Sail On (4:18) Turn Over The Pages (4:24) 1112235 (12:20) Harpo’s Head (7:19) Horizon [(i) Here (ii) There (11:08)] Song (2:32)
Esoteric Recordings (formerly Eclectic Discs) have a deservedly high reputation in the Prog reissues field. Their care and attention to detail in rescuing lost classics is such that it can often be worth taking a punt on one of their CD’s even if you are not familiar with the group or album at hand.
Their blurb for the debut album by Stud states that it “..remains highly sought after by aficionados of Progressive Rock”, but I have to admit that I for one had never heard of the group, even though they apparently clocked up three albums in total, and featured musicians who had connections with Taste, Family and Blossom Toes. In fact, I took a chance on this CD in spite of, not because of, the Taste connection. I have never heard much Taste material but I have heard plenty of Rory Gallagher’s solo stuff, which is too bluesy for my liking, so I was never tempted to try Taste.
After Gallagher dissolved Taste, the other two members formed Stud with Jim Creagan from Blossom Toes and struck out in a more progressive direction. And pretty good it is too.
With historical perspective, the group can now be accurately categorised as proto prog, but in truth, they try their hands at a variety of styles across the album, with the six tracks being split equally into shorter and long numbers. Although the longer numbers are the more progressive, I find the shorter numbers equally effective.
Starting out with a brisk rocker Sail On, they visit acoustic territory on Turn Over The Pages, before launching into an extended jazzy jam on 1112235. This is the longest track on the album, but is marred somewhat by that staple of the times, the dreaded drum solo. Thankfully, the following Harpo’s Head is great from start to finish, a lively fusion number with excellent electric guitar from Creagan over a very tight rhythm section.
Next up is another long number, but with the instrumental palette extended by guests on violin and vibraphone, and several mood changes (from mellow to jazzy to rock) the two-part Horizon maintains my interest throughout. It’s a good example of the spirit of the times, which saw many bands stretching out beyond the confines of traditional song structures in search of excellence. Stud achieve that here with ease.
The album closes with Song, a dreamy acoustic number with a nice vocal from Creagan. His vocals across the album are definitely a plus point for me; his voice is light but assured and easy to like.
While no lost masterpiece, overall the album is pleasing. Perhaps, the group’s willingness to experiment with different styles prevented them from establishing a strong enough identity to win them a big following at the time, but it has meant that the album has aged well as a collection of diverse music which the discerning prog fan should be able to appreciate with ease.
In the CD age, the album may seem a bit on the short side, but sometimes a little of what you fancy does you good.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10