Issue 2009-059: DVD Special
Reviews in this issue:
- Van Der Graaf Generator - Live At The Paradiso 14.04.07
- Kansas – There’s Know Place Like Home
- Yes – The Lost Broadcasts
- Shadowland – Edge Of Night
- DeeExpus - Far From Home
- Tinyfish - One Night On Fire ~ Live In Poland
- Oceansize – Feed To Feed
- Lazuli - Six Frenchmen In Amsterdam ~ Live At Paradiso
- Violeta De Outono - Seventh Brings Return
- Rolling Drunks - Live & 131
Van Der Graaf Generator - Live At The Paradiso 14.04.07
Tracklist: Lemmings (13:53), A Place To Survive (6:53), Lifetime (5:12), [In The] Black Room (11:43), Every Bloody Emperor (7:28), All That Before (7:42), Gog (7:25), Meurglys III, The Songwriter's Guild (15:55), The Sleepwalkers (11:04), Man-Erg (11:55), Scorched Earth (9:23) Bonus Material: Interview with Peter Hammill 2009
Van Der Graaf Generator - Live At The Paradiso 14.04.07
CD1 (52:53): Lemmings (13:53), A Place To Survive (6:53), Lifetime (5:12), (In The) Black Room (11:43), Every Bloody Emperor (7:28), All That Before (7:42)
CD2 (55:44): Gog (7:25), Meurglys III, The Songwriter's Guild (15:55), The Sleepwalkers (11:04), Man-Erg (11:55), Scorched Earth (9:23)
Van Der Graaf Generator are often considered as Peter Hammill's band, after all he writes the majority of the music and as the only full-time musician is the arbiter of their activity, or even existence. However, anyone who has ever witnessed VdGG live, or indeed watches this DVD recorded, as the title proclaims, at the Paradiso in Amsterdam in 2007 during their first tour as a trio, will see that Hammill is just one small part of the whole. Guy Evans gets an enormous sound from his economically small kit. Using the traditional grip favoured by jazz musicians for the left hand drumstick and the more common amongst rock drummers matched grip on the other drumstick there is a perfect combination for quick and dynamic strokes around the kit and powerful battering of toms and snare for emphasis. As for Hugh Banton, it is unforgiveable how he has been overlooked as a maestro on the keyboard. He is simply breathtaking to watch. Hands flying over the keyboards whilst simultaneously making minute adjustments to the plethora of sounds coaxed out of his instruments. If that wasn't enough, his two feet are a constant blur playing complex lines on the collection of bass pedals under the keyboards, never missing a beat and still being in the right place to add swell to his lead parts. His understanding of the instrument is remarkable, I mean, for goodness sake, he builds church organs for a living! The three combining in delightful unison is evident throughout this recording but if in any doubt as to the effectiveness and power that these three mature gentlemen can generate one only has to take in the perfect rendition of the menacing Gog.
As the sleeve notes on the DVD cover by Hammill state: "There's a mixture of old, new and rediscovered material here. The emphasis, though, is on looking forward rather than backward". Old material being the fan favourites of Lemmings, [In The] Black Room, The Sleepwalkers, Scorched Earth and Man-Erg, none of which need any introduction to anyone who has even the remotest affinity with the band; new material being, at the time, the previously unreleased Lifetime and All That Before an ode to getting older, although on this evidence not getting any mellower, plus one of the highlights of the first reunion album Present in the form of an energetic Every Bloody Emperor; and rediscovered music in the form of Gog, A Place To Survive and Meurglys III, The Songwriter's Guild, unusual choices maybe but ones that are justified by the performance.
The accompanying review of the CD version of this performance focuses on the music and should be read in conjunction with this review of the visual elements provided by the DVD. Multiple cameras allow close-up from different angles as well as wider shots that emphasise the interactions of the musicians. There are also plenty of "hands on" shots focusing on the techniques of, in particular, the keyboard antics of Banton and Hammill. The editing is very good focusing on the appropriate musician in the appropriate places and intercutting between cameras at a rate that is complementary to the dynamism of the music. The light show is fairly basic but, again, complementary to the music, besides anything too fancy would distract from the music and the musicianship which would be a complete travesty. There is a bonus interview with Peter Hammill, recorded in 2009, that discusses the reunion, the Paradiso gig set, the continuance of the band and their philosophy and even briefly touches on the departure of David Jackson without giving any details. The interview is an interesting, if perhaps non-essential, addition.
On the whole this is an excellent DVD especially considering the paucity of live Van Der Graaf footage. If anyone thinks that the reunion was just a money-making enterprise then they should watch this concert and they will soon realise that this latest incarnation of the band is as essential, aggressive and, if you'll excuse the pun, vital as any of the previous incarnations to bear the name.
One of the most successful reunions of recent years has been that of Van Der Graaf Generator. The triumphant first reunion gig at The Queen Elizabeth Hall proved that the quartet of Hammill, Banton, Evans and Jackson had lost none of their youthful verve and energy. However, despite the successful tour, the continuance of the band was somewhat jeopardised by the dismissal from the ranks of Jackson. Although the line-up of the band has throughout its history been somewhat fluid with members coming and going, it was a surprise when the announcement came that for the first time in its convoluted history, the good ship Van Der Graaf would continue with a crew of three. The musicians involved proved that three was a perfect number with their wonderful Trisector album and subsequent live excursions that took them back to the USA for only the second time, their only previous gig having been at the Beacon Theatre in New York City way back in October 1976. However, we are getting ahead of ourselves. Prior to the recording and release of Trisector, during 2007 the trio played a total of 17 dates throughout European and it is from the tenth of 14 concerts that the group played in April of that year that this latest live album is taken.
In an interview in the Independent newspaper published the day before this concert, Hammill is quoted as saying
"We had to have a go at doing this as a trio... It was our responsibility to ourselves and to the history and ethos of the group"
"If there was a comfort zone, we wouldn't be doing it. There's got to be an edge, an uncertainty. Once it becomes routine, we're not Van Der Graaf Generator".
That whole ethos is evident in the track listing for the concert, which is present here in its entirety. Yes, crowd pleasers such as The Sleepwalkers and Scorched Earth from Godbluff, arguably the most intense and yet most popular VdGG album, are present as are the well-loved epics such as Lemmings and Man-Erg. However, no resting on laurels as the somewhat surprising opening two numbers on the second CD exemplify, the pairing of Gog (from Hammill's 1974 album In Camera) and Meurglys III, The Songwriter's Guild (from VdGG's 1976 album World Record). Gog maintains the aggressive stance of the original recording, although perhaps wisely is not accompanied by the almost musique concrete partner of Magog [In Bromine Chambers] while Meurglys III is present in a more succinct form having about five minutes of the more meandering instrumental section excised for the live performance. Both of these songs are amongst the most 'difficult' in the VdGG oeuvre, although not in terms of musical complexity, more in the assimilation of the whole. Indeed, Meurglys III is, in parts, one of the least complex numbers that Hammill has penned. But in the live context, and juxtaposed against each other, they make a fine pairing and interesting middle section to the concert.
As ever with Hammill, resting on laurels is not part of the plan. As well as rearranging pieces for the trio format (and VdGG have never been a band to regurgitate the same set every night) there had to be a element of moving forwards, something new, something different. Several new pieces were debuted on the 2007 tour with two examples present on this recording. Lifetime is the "one moment of quiet" in the set based largely around Banton's organ and Evans' snare work whereas All That Before has the more typically angular structure associated with Hammill's more aggressive work with the keyboards, guitar and voice all combining magnificently. As a trio adjustments have had to be made to the arrangements of older songs with Banton taking on the responsibility for filling the majority of the gaps left by the absence of sax and flute. He does this brilliantly and, aside from a few moments that are indelibly linked with a sax break, Jackson is not greatly missed. Indeed, the slimming down of the group has resulted in a greater degree of interplay between the musicians, and a complexity of interaction that is beyond intuitive.
A class recording of a great concert and a fine addition to the cannon of work thus far assembled under the banner of Van Der Graaf Generator. My only disappointment is that at the time of the recording the excellent Interference Patterns had yet to be written!
DVD: 9 out of 10
CD: 9 out of 10
Kansas – There’s Know Place Like Home
Tracklist: Howling At The Moon, Belexes, Point Of Know Return, Song For America, On The Other Side, Musicatto, Ghosts/Rainmaker, Nobody's Home, Hold On, Cheyenne Anthem, Icarus II, Icarus: Borne On The Wings Of Steel, Miracles Out Of Nowhere, The Wall, Fight Fire With Fire, Dust In The Wind, Carry On Wayward Son Bonus Track: Down The Road — Afternoon Jam
After receiving this latest DVD from Kansas I made a point of checking out the DPRP reviews index to see how many listings the band had and was surprised to find just the single entry, 2002’s The Ultimate Kansas compilation. That’s unless of course you include the Kansas spin off Proto-Kaw (which I don’t). Not much considering that they recently celebrated their 35th anniversary and are acknowledged as one of the foremost prog bands of the 70’s. This poor showing however can be attributed to a sporadic output in recent years rather than indifference on the DPRP’s part and hopefully this review will go a little way to amending the situation. Recorded on the 7th February of this year to document the anniversary concert in Topeka, Kansas (very appropriate) it includes the Steve Walsh, Phil Ehart, Billy Greer, David Ragsdale and Richard Williams line-up. They are backed by the Washburn University Orchestra conducted by Larry Baird and making guest appearances are former guitarists Kerry Livgren and Steve Morse.
Like my colleague Bob who reviewed the aforementioned compilation album, my interest in Kansas has not always remained resolute, dipping significantly during the 80’s as it did for many so called classic bands at the time. This DVD covers a pretty broad spectrum from across the bands career and it has to be said that even though I have my particular favourites there isn’t one duff moment throughout the entire 100 minute set. Making a significant contribution (both to the sound and my appreciation of this DVD) is the orchestra, adding a special majesty that might otherwise be absent from a live recording. I was very much reminded of the Yes Symphonic Live DVD from 2002 although if anything this proves to be an even more successful marriage of band and orchestra. That’s not altogether obvious however in the opening trio of songs where the orchestra’s presence is more visual than audible.
From the familiar and haunting intro to Howling At The Moon, the band is totally on song with singer Steve Walsh in commanding high tenor form and a ballsy Belexes featuring fast and tricky interplay between the guitar and electric violin of Richard Williams and David Ragsdale respectively. The orchestra really comes into its own from the opening bars of a magnificent Song For America with sweeping strings adding just the right tone of poignancy and grandeur. Here the performance is inter-cut with stock black and white footage (similar to Yes’ 9012Live and The Tangent’s Going Off On One DVD’s) which to my mind is a tad unnecessary. Following a suitably reverential introduction from bassist Billy Greer, Steve Morse makes his entrance to contribute a suitably overblown metallic solo to Musicatto before trading instrumental blows with Ragsdale.
Following a graceful Nobody's Home, another symphonic highpoint for the orchestra, its Kerry Livgren’s turn on stage and following an understandably ecstatic reception he enlivens the ballad Hold On with a power metal solo. With Walsh and Greer exchanging lead vocals, the beautiful Cheyenne Anthem sees the band and orchestra complimenting each other perfectly during the soaring instrumental break. The anthemic Miracles Out Of Nowhere gets the faithful audience on their feet where they remain for a reflective The Wall with the lush arrangement transporting this reviewer at least to musical heaven! The mood contrasts with the aptly titled Fight Fire With Fire, a gutsy rocker with a compelling bass riff and solid three part harmonies for the memorable vocal hook.
The show closes with (unsurprisingly) the bands two biggest US hit singles Dust In The Wind and Carry On Wayward Son. In the former Walsh steps from behind the keyboards to deliver a moving vocal performance backed by dual acoustic guitars (Williams and Livgren) and electric violins. The concluding AOR anthem sees Livgren (naturally) providing the punchy guitar riff and given the number of musicians on stage, the tight and polished performance is a tribute to their talents. Ever the consummate professional, Phil Ehart (who along with Neil Peart and Mike Portnoy has to be one of the best American rock drummers of all time) fittingly provides the explosive finale.
DVD extras are quite often dispensable affairs that rarely warrant more than one or two viewings but here the jam version of Down The Road recorded during the afternoon sound-check proves to be the exception. With Greer handling lead vocals, Walsh demonstrates just what an excellent organist he is whilst Ragsdale, Williams, Livgren and Morse all casually upstage each other, driven by Ehart’s frantic drumming. Not overlong, and a fine way to round off the DVD.
All in all this really is an excellent package which effortlessly nudges its way to the top of my favourite DVD’s of 2009 pile. The venue itself provides the ideal setting, the lighting is beautifully effective without being over elaborate and the whole thing is expertly shoot and edited. Further touches include the superb graphics that enhance the menu options. Add to that a perfect collection of songs, dazzling ensemble playing from a bunch of seasoned musicians and a rich 5.1 sound and you have a remarkable
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Yes – The Lost Broadcasts
Tracklist: No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed, Looking Around, Survival, Time And A Word, Yours Is No Disgrace, All Good People [Take 1], All Good People [Take 2], All Good People [Take 3] (42:51)
Although the current Yes tour has been making the headlines (mainly due to the absence of Jon Anderson) the bands output has been pretty thin on the ground of late with 2008’s The New Director's Cut DVD being the most recent. It’s been 8 years since the last studio album Magnification but regular touring and DVD’s have kept the bands profile relatively high. I first picked up on Yes way back in 1970 when I heard No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed late one night on Kid Jenson’s Radio Luxembourg show. I’ve been a devoted fan ever since although my loyalty has been tested on occasions with 1997’s dire Open Your Eyes being a prime example. The first two albums Yes and Time And A Word from 1969 and 1970 respectively still hold a special place in my heart however which makes this nostalgic collection from Voiceprint especially welcome.
All the tracks included here are taken from three separate TV broadcasts recorded between November 1969 and April 1971. This was a very busy period for the band literally performing hundreds of concerts in the UK and Europe. Promo videos were very much in their infancy back then so naturally TV appearances were highly desirable for an up and coming band like Yes. Fortunately they seemed to have the necessary appeal to attract programme producers helped no doubt by their relatively youthful good looks, tuneful songs, the angelic tones of their lead singer and a more open minded acceptance of prog that prevailed at the time.
The first three songs were all filmed (in black and white) for German TV’s 'Beat Club' but due to programming constraints only No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed made the actual airing on the 29th November 1969. Featuring the bands original balloon logo emblazoned large across the screen, for anyone that seen the YesYears documentary or the Yes – Special Edition EP this particular video will already be familiar. It’s a wonderfully raw version of this Ritchie Havens cover delivered with an energy and conviction that would eventually be swamped by strings and brass when it appeared on the Time And A Word album some seven months later. It’s the other two songs Looking Around and Survival however from the self tiled debut album that are the main selling point here. Previously unseen, this rare footage clearly demonstrates that even at this early stage the band had already established a finely tuned sense of dynamics. Chris Squire’s bass thunders, Tony Kaye’s gritty organ sound reverberates, Peter Banks attacks his guitar Pete Townsend style, Jon Anderson croons and Bill Bruford drums frantically and smiles blissfully.
Fast forward three months to 23rd February 1970 which saw a return to the studio to mime to a recording of Time And A Word from the up and coming album. Filmed in colour it was no doubt prompted by the fact that this particular song would also be released as a single the following month. The band looks totally un-phased by this exercise in lip synching, clearly relishing the moment although the acoustic guitar which can be clearly heard on the soundtrack is conspicuously absent from the stage. This was also one of the last appearances by Peter Banks who would be ousted from the band just two months later to make way for an incoming Steve Howe.
Three months after the release of The Yes Album the band was back in front of the 'Beat Club' cameras. Filmed on 19th April 1971 and transmitted 5 days later, Yours Is No Disgrace will again be recognisable from clips on the YesYears and Special Edition EP DVD’s and is notable for Howe’s performance as he rampages through the song with some blistering guitar work. Anderson plays an antique looking keyboard during the instrumental hook whilst Kaye concentrates on organ which in hindsight provides an ominous indicator that he would be replaced by the more versatile Wakeman before the year was out. The DVD concludes with three different takes of All Good People from the same session. The final one is the most agreeable in that it mostly dispenses with the glaring and dated optical effects that distracts from the bands performance. The highlight is a rousing a cappella section where once again the band and Bruford in particular really let their hair down even though Anderson’s voice begins to crack during the final take.
At just 43 minutes and no bonus material The Lost Broadcasts is a curio item that is probably more aimed at die hard Yes fans than it is the casual listener which is reflected in my final rating. That being said, given its vintage, both picture and sound quality throughout are surprisingly good and stand up to repeat viewings. I personally welcomed the inclusion of Survival a rare opportunity to witness a live (and faster) version of Yes’ first genuine epic song. True, the images look a tad dated now but to put into context Yes are quite simply the most important prog band to have walked the planet and this is an insightful glimpse of where it all began.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Shadowland – Edge Of Night
Tracklist: A Matter Of Perspective, The Hunger, The Whistleblower, Mephisto Bridge, The Kruhulick Syndrome, The Waking Hour, Painting By Numbers, Hall Of Mirrors, The Edge Of Night, U.S.I, The Seventh Year, Jigsaw, Dreams Of The Ferryman, Ring Of Roses (109:30) Bonus Features: Shadowland Live In Holland (69:19), Interview With Clive Nolan And Karl Groom (17:44), Biography, Discography, Photo Gallery, Desktop Images, Websites
Although Clive Nolan has been an integral part of Pendragon since 1986 Nick Barrett has remained the driving force behind the band and as a result Nolan has continually sought additional outlets for his creativity. This has included his own band Arena, two albums with Oliver Wakeman and more recently as one half of Caamora, creator of the prog opera She. Before all of this he was keyboardist and vocalist with Shadowland, a neo-prog act with a C.S. Lewis fixation that was very active during the early 90’s. Following three well received albums Ring Of Roses (1992), Through The Looking Glass (1994) and Mad As A Hatter (1996) the band was effectively put on ice, until 2008 that is when Nolan announced a reunion. This resulted in a tour in early 2009 peaking with an appearance on 16th February at the Wyspianski Theatre, Katowice which was hosting its first prog rock festival.
Thanks to Metal Mind’s regular recordings there the Polish theatre has become synonymous with prog in recent times and for me it’s now almost as familiar as the venue I frequent 20 miles down the road. The filming on this occasion reveals some of the techniques employed including the remote controlled camera at the front of the stage and the rail mounted camera at the back. The editing seems more rapid then usual ensuring all five band members receive almost equal screen time. Nolan clearly takes his lead vocalist role seriously remaining stage front and centre for most of the set allowing the dapper Mike Varty from Credo to take care of keyboard duties. To Nolan’s right (from the audience’s viewpoint) is Karl Groom of Threshold fame standing legs spread looking every bit the guitar hero. On the left is new man and bassist Mark Westwood who is well known to Nolan through his work in Caamora. To the rear looking the epitome of cool is Nick Harradence the consummate professional drummer.
There is a theatrical element to Nolan’s songs that always transfers well to the stage whether it’s with Arena, Caamora or Shadowland. A strong sense of melody is also an important ingredient with a catchy chorus evident in songs like The Hunger, Waking Hour and especially Ring Of Roses which provides the anthemic encore. There is also plenty of opportunity for the band to flex their collective instrumental muscle particularly in the longer, more ambitious pieces like Hall Of Mirrors, U.S.I, Jigsaw and Dreams Of The Ferryman. The latter is probably the standout song where following some stunning synth and guitar soloing it fittingly ends the main part of the show with a climatic Genesis style finale. The Kruhulick Syndrome is also noteworthy where the absence of vocals allows Nolan the opportunity to add superb classical tinged piano against Varty’s celestial organ backdrop. The Westwood/Harradence rhythm section for its part is probably at its most powerful during the edgy The Seventh Year.
The bonus content includes eight songs recorded at De Boerderij, Zoetermeer on 21st February 2009 during the same tour. The Dutch venue rivals Katowice when it comes to staging and recording prog concerts and although the production is not as slick it’s still very watchable providing a different perspective on songs like Mephisto Bridge. As the band never promoted the third album this particular song made its live debut during the tour and also featured is a brand new song The Edge Of Night. Despite the cramped Zoetermeer stage the band is typically animated (especially Westwood) and Nolan’s mid song banter is refreshingly different from Poland. He however, along with Varty and Groom, is wearing the same stage clothes from five days earlier suggesting that they prefer to travel light!
The only obvious weak link on the disc for me is the interview with Nolan and Groom conducted by Metal Mind’s now familiar Remo Mendroch. Unfortunately due to his faltering English the process sounds stilted, lacking spontaneity which is an essential ingredient of any successful interview. Overall however the DVD contains all the successful ingredients you would expect from the Metal Mind stable who with their ever expanding catalogue have set a benchmark in DVD production. What sets this particular release even further apart is the excellent sound mix by the band themselves and the strong material which has stood the test of time very well making it easily one the most entertaining that I have sat through this year.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
DeeExpus - Far From Home
Tracklist: Intro, Greed, Pttee, One 8, Pointless Child, Red, Half Way Home, One Day, 7 Nights Bonus Material: The Journey Home, Interview with Andy Ditchfield and Tony Wright
DeeExpus began life as the solo project of songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Andy Ditchfield. In 2007 he was reunited with vocalist Tony Wright and the pair began working in earnest on their debut album. Half Way Home received an impressively warm response from the progressive community and so the pair decided they had to go out on tour to promote it to a receptive public.
Having recorded the album on their lonesome, Andy and Tony had to form a proper band. Kevin Jager was recruited on drums, along with Ian Raine on bass and Tony Wright's brother Stevie taking over on guitar. Keyboard player Marc Jolliffe was also enlisted resulting in a line-up which could present the band's debut album in its entirety.
The band's first official gig took place towards the end of 2008, and just a few months later they travelled overseas for a progressive rock festival in Poland. This will probably be the first opportunity for most of us to witness a performance by the band. All the tracks from Half Way Home are included here and to my ears there is little variation from the originals, the focus being on tight renditions which capture the essence of their studio counterparts.
The only non album track is Red which I guess must be planned for the new album and which gets one of the biggest responses from the crowd. Indeed considering the band was the opening festival act and few in the audience would have been familiar with their material, they get a good reaction throughout their set.
With only a smattering of live experience behind them, the DeeExpus live beast is still growing its teeth. But musically they are tight, and as the set progressed and the members relaxed, a little more of their personalities began to shine through.
Musically the band’s eclectic influences ensure there is never a dull moment. Take a little bit of anything from Joe Jackson, It Bites, Tears for Fears, Threshold, Pallas, Rush, Nik Kershaw, Marillion, Porcupine Tree and Spock's Beard and you’ll be heading in roughly the correct direction. This is the final review of six DVDs filmed at the festival, so many of you will be familiar with the Metal Minds package by now (see RPWL, Overhead, SBB, TinyFish and Shadowland). In addition to the usual exemplary sound and visuals, the DVD extras consist of a lengthy documentary, an interview with Andy Ditchfield and Tony Wright, plus the standard usual text biography, discography and photos.
As I said, the live versions of the songs are pretty similar to the album, so if you already have the disc you may consider whether there’s a need in having both. But for those yet to have a taste of this promising, young UK Prog band, then this is a great introduction. There are three versions of this release; the plain DVD, the plain live CD or you can have both. The CD contains exactly the same music as the DVD, but for the extra listening opportunities it offers, for limited extra investment, that's the one I'd go for.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Tinyfish - One Night On Fire ~ Live In Poland
Tracklist: Honey Nut Loops, Motorville, The Big Red Spark, Build Your Own Enemy, Pagodas, Wide Awake At Midnight, Eat The Ashes, The Sarcasm Never Stops, Ride, Driving All Night, Too High For Low Company, Cinnamon, Fly Like A Bird, Nine Months On Fire, All Hands Lost [Part 1], Tinyfish, All Hands Lost [Part 2] (83:52) Bonus Features: Five Lives On Fire Documentary (24:40), Interview with Simon Godfrey and Robert Ramsay (20:03), Biography, Discography, Photo Gallery, Desktop Images, Weblinks
I have a theory that at some point in the future just about every prog band you can think of will have recorded a DVD in Katowice, Poland. OK so that’s a bit of an exaggeration but certainly all the acts that appeared there during February’s two day Prog Rock Festival has a DVD available including RPWL, Shadowland, SBB, DeeExpus, Overhead and Tinyfish. Since their inception in 2004 the UK band has just the two CD albums to their credit but these days that seems to be ample grounding for a live DVD. Not surprisingly the majority of their 2006 self titled debut Tinyfish is performed here along with the occasional offering from the recent Curious Things, a collection of tracks recorded prior to the debut. The rest of the material from the set will undoubtedly feature on their forthcoming second studio album proper The Big Red Spark due at the end of the year.
Despite the absence of keyboards the four musicians (five if you include narrator Robert Ramsay) produce a full and rich sound centred around the two guitarists. This is embellished by front man Simon Godfrey’s occasional use of guitar synth which is particularly effective during the atmospheric opening to the show. Drummer Leon Camfield for his part makes good use of an electronic sampling pad which comes into its own during the mellower moments. Elsewhere when he’s playing the conventional kit his energetic performance proves to be very eye-catching in a similar vein to Pendragon’s Scott Higham. Lead guitarist Jim Sanders melodic style brings Steve Rothery to mind particularly during the infectious hook that makes Motorville (opening track from the debut album) one of the shows highlights. Other standout songs include the memorable title song from the aforementioned The Big Red Spark and the centrepiece of the set Ride, a tuneful sing-along affair that’s a throwback to the bands acoustic days.
Whist none of the songs are particularly weak, they do occasionally sound a tad samey to my ears particular when they adopt a rhythmic groove during numbers like Too High For Low Company and Cinnamon. The latter song is however enlivened by an animated performance from bassist Paul Worwood which goes a storm with the attentive audience. Godfrey’s strong voice holds the attention throughout the set and with the majority of the songs coming in under five minutes none outstay their welcome. The imaginative lighting plays its part casting vivid patterns across the stage and the auditorium. The main part of the show concludes with the gutsy Nine Months On Fire before the lengthy encore All Hands Lost/Tinyfish which provides a convincingly proggy finale.
Of the ‘bonus’ material Five Lives On Fire is a better than average documentary where each band member (and Godfrey in particular) is given the opportunity to provide their personal take on the band. It also shows the band in rehearsal and on stage at various venues where humour is clearly an integral part of their make up. During the interview that follows the lucid Godfrey expands on his philosophy behind the group and rather bravely (especially for a contemporary band) makes it abundantly clear that Tinyfish are first and foremost a prog rock band.
All in all this is a superb package that is well up to Metal Mind’s normally high production standards with first rate camerawork and sound recording. As far as existing fans are concerned it naturally comes highly recommended but would also be an excellent starting point for those who have yet to plunge into the melodious world occupied by Tinyfish.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Oceansize – Feed To Feed
DVD 1: Thursday 16th October 2008: I Am The Morning, Catalyst, One Day All This Could Be Yours, Massive Bereavement, Rinsed, You Wish, Remember Where You Are, Amputee, Unravel, Women Who Love Men Who Love Drugs, Saturday Morning Breakfast Show, Long Forgotten, Paper Champion, One Out Of None
DVD 2: Friday 17th October 2008: The Charm Offensive, Heaven Alive, A Homage To A Shame, Meredith, Music For A Nurse, New Pin, No Tomorrow, Mine Host, You Can't Keep A Bad Man Down, Ornament/The Last Wrongs, Drag The 'Nal, Dead Dogs An' All Sorts, As The Smoke Clears
DVD 3: Saturday 18th October 2008: Commemorative T-shirt, Unfamiliar, Trail Of Fire, Savant, Only Twin, An Old Friend Of The Christies, Sleeping Dogs And Dead Lions, The Frame, Voorhees, I Haven’t Been The Claw For Ages
(Four audio CD’s containing the same material are also included)
Whilst the idea of performing an album in its entirety live is becoming increasingly popular, I always have the idea that it’s the last gasp attempt from a band whose new material is of little interest to anyone to get a final pay day on the back of a nostalgic run through a 25 or so year old album. Oceansize clearly don’t fit this scenario; their first album didn’t even appear until 2003, and their popularity is clearly on the rise rather than waning. The decision for them to play and record their three albums to date (plus the 2005 Music For Nurses EP) over consecutive nights makes more sense when you consider the fact that they celebrated their tenth anniversary in 2008, they have a rabid and intensely loyal fan-base who were probably dying for them to do something like this, and that whilst the tracks on individual albums sound fine played on their own out of context, the albums (particularly the two most recent ones, Everyone Into Position and Frames) really work best when heard in their entirety.
Refreshingly, rather than hire a rather faceless, corporate venue (of which there are too many to mention in the UK) the band took up their residency in their home town of Manchester’s Roadhouse venue, which frontman Mike Vennart describes in the promo material as ‘pokey but precious’. I’ve never been to the place but it certainly appears pretty ‘compact’. The stage is level with some of the punters’ chests, and the back of the hall doesn’t appear to be that far from the front! What’s more, the room seems rammed for all three nights, which might not have made for the most comfortable viewing conditions, but really does create a great atmosphere, as all of the crowd appear intensely familiar with Oceansize’s material and seem out to enjoy themselves to the max (Vennart notes that ‘one chap even chose to piss himself rather than walk 10 paces to the toilet and lose his place at the front of the crowd’. Nice for those standing next to him!) One slight annoyance is the sheer number of people holding up their camera phones to get their own ‘memento’ of the gig; I know its pretty unavoidable in this day and age but does detract a bit from the shots of the band taken from the back of the hall.
In terms of the filming, there’s one camera at the back of the stage (which as I’ve mentioned is not so far away from the front) and several (some at fixed positions, some roaming) at the front. This means we get a good mix of shots from various different angles, the camera not lingering too long at any one time but equally not cutting away all the time to another shot, which can be irritating. There’s lots of close up shots, particularly of drummer Mark Herron, which suits the band as (Vennart apart) they’re not particularly showy but get engrossed in the music, which comes across well. Vennart is the obvious focal point, striking plenty of poses, but whilst he might seem a little aloof on stage his down to earth between-song banter puts the lie to this, and he’s clearly in awe of the reaction the band get. Lighting is predominantly blue, with some orange and yellow mixed in at certain points; purists may say that this makes it difficult to pin point exactly what’s going on on stage, and its doubtful this DVD will win awards for art direction, but again it does suit the occasion. The sound is generally excellent; live, the band sometimes have four guitarists playing at once, making the songs more intense at times than on record, and this is captured well, whilst at the same time the more intricate and subtle moments retain their clarity. The crowd can be clearly heard throughout often singing along to defiantly un-commercial songs; whilst this is clearly a very different DVD than Rush In Rio, the audible participation and enthusiasm of the crowd has the same winning effect.
In terms of the songs, the band presented their albums in chronological order, first to last. So on the 16th October the disc we get is their debut Effloresce, first released in 2003. The band had already been around for a few years by this time, so its no surprise that this was a pretty assured debut, if (in my opinion) a little uneven. An atmospheric, post-rock style instrumental, I Am The Morning wins the crowd over straight away, whilst the Teutonic riffing of Catalyst blow some of the cobwebs away. The addition of two guest guitarists (including Sel Balamir of fellow Mancunian band Amplifier) means we have six guitarists thrashing away on One Day All This Could Be Yours – whether they’re all needed is a moot point, but this powerful song is one of the album’s highlights. Following the chaotic, feedback-drenched Massive Bereavement, there is a bit of a mid-set lull, with a number of pleasant but unspectacular melodic indie rock songs flowing by, before things pick up with the chiming, melancholic Women Who Love Men Who Love Drugs, the main set concluding with the rather mournful strains of the delicate Long Forgotten, before the band encore with two rockier tracks off the Music For Nurses EP, Paper Champion and the upbeat One Out Of None which gets the crowd jumping around. In terms of overall performance, there’s little to fault, bar the fact that Vennart’s voice seems to waver out of tune on the odd occasion – something not apparent on the other two discs.
The second night is given over to Everyone Into Position, my favourite Oceansize album, and clearly that of many of the crowd too. The atmosphere seems to have gone up a notch from the already apparent fervour of the first night, and the band play a blinder as they tear through the album’s ten tracks. These tracks score highly not only because of the variety on offer – everything from slow-building post rock anthems (The Charm Offensive), shiny pop rock (Heaven’s Alive, New Pin), raging rockers (A Homage To A Shame, You Can’t Keep A Bad Man Down) and beautiful ballads (Meredith) – but because its structured so well (something that’s becoming a lost art) with peaks and troughs spread throughout, and this obviously scores well in a live setting. The epic closer Ornament/ The Last Wrongs, one of Oceansize’s finest compositions, is an obvious highlight, but really the whole set sees the band at their best. Encores are again from Music For Nurses; the short Drag The ‘Nal leads into the dreamy post rock of Dead Dogs An’ All Sorts, before segueing into the closing As The Smoke Clears, which with its powerful riff and irresistible momentum provides a fine end to what must have been a great gig for those in attendance.
Rounding things off is a run through Frames, Oceansize’s most recent studio album. Having reviewed the album on its release (read it here) I’m not going to go into any detail on the songs here, suffice to say it sees a change in emphasis from Everyone Into Position, with more concentration on slow-burning, post-rock influenced tracks than on the more commercial side of the band. Its music to immerse yourself in rather than shout out the chorus, but its just as effective live. The mesmerising, hypnotic An Old Friend Of The Christies is a standout - instrumental post rock at its finest - and the way this gives way to the chaotic metal mash-up of Sleeping Dogs And Dead Lions certainly provides a wake up call to the audience! Of the encores, Voorhees was a bonus track on the ‘special edition’ of Frames (i.e. one all the fans will have) so is familiar to most of the audience, and fits like a glove with the rest of the material – it was probably wasted as a ‘bonus’, in fact. Final track, the oddly-named I Haven’t Been The Claw For Ages, is more obscure, but is a suitably atmospheric instrumental on which to close things out.
Overall, whilst it won’t win any technical awards, this DVD does a good job at what it surely set out to do – to capture the band at their live peak, performing to an extremely appreciative audience. Fans of the band will want this, and won’t be disappointed. For the more casual fan, the £40-odd price tag might put some off (the only format Feed To Feed currently comes in also includes the three concerts on 4 CD’s), but for those who have only one or two of the band’s albums and are keen to get more, it’s a good alternative to buying the studio releases. All in all, a good release that does this fine band justice.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Lazuli - Six Frenchmen In Amsterdam ~ Live At Paradiso
Tracklist: Intro (0:35), Laisse Courir (4:56), Film D'aurore (4:37), L'impasse (4:06), Capitaine Coeur De Miel Parte II (5:23), L'arbre (5:30), On Nous Ment Comme On Respire (7:50), Cassiopée (6:31), Abîme (7:20), Aimants (6:35); Credits (2:25)
The Fabchannel was an internet video station, showing webcasts of shows performed at Amsterdam's Paradiso venue. The website, Fabchannel.com, hosted over 1000 on demand streams, including prog gems such as The Gathering and the H Band. Enter a credit crunch, and all of a sudden a website offering free video content doesn't seem all that appealing to advertisers anymore and the site had to close down due to lack of funds. One of the last gigs filmed by the Fabchannel crew was Riverside on 10 December 2008. That footage ended up on the bonus DVD of the limited edition of their latest album. The gig was supported by French art rock band Lazuli, who have now too made the footage available on DVD.
It is perhaps ironic that the last release of Fabchannel material would be that of a band which split up days before the DVD release. Three of the six musicians left the band right before the start of their European tour at the end of October 2009. The remaining three members are trying to restart the band with new musicians, hoping to tour again in 2010. Let's hope they do, because Lazuli was one heck of a live band, as this DVD confirms.
What makes Lazuli so unique in prog land is the instrumentation used. Marimba, Warr guitar, a drummer who stands behind his kit playing the bass drum with his left hand, and of course La Léode, the self-made instrument of Dominique Leonetti. The result is very intense yet organic sounding music, which can not really be compared to any other band.
The set is a mix of songs from their, at that time, unreleased fourth album, Réponse Incongrue à L'inéluctable, and its predecessor En Avant Doute . The band's breakthrough album, Amnésie, is only represented with one track; L'Impasse.
Considering the material was intended for webcast, the picture quality translates quite well to a big screen. At times the image is a bit pixellated, but this is not too distracting. The footage is well-edited, although it is obvious the camera crew was not familiar with the band's music. More often than not when there is a Léode solo, the camera zooms in on guitarist Gédéric Byar rather than on Claude Leonetti. And when there is a shot of him playing the Léode, it is almost always from behind for some reason.
This being a support show means that the running time is rather short - just under an hour. It is a pity there is no additional material included on the DVD, like footage from the band's performance at Loreley this summer, but even so I would still recommend it.
The DVD costs 15 euros (including postage) and can be bought via the band's MySpace, using Paypal.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Violeta De Outono - Seventh Brings Return
A Tribute To Syd Barrett
Tracklist: Astronomy Dominé, Arnold Layne, See Emily Play, Lucifer Sam, Matilda Mother, Flaming, Interstellar Overdrive, The Gnome, Chapter 24, Scarecrow, Bike, Jugband Blues, No Good Trying Bonus Track: Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun
An interesting curio from the Voiceprint vaults, which sees Brazilian quartet, Violeta De Outono, performing a tribute to Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd, filmed in July 2006 - just ten days after his death.
Perhaps first some background on Violeta De Outono. Originally formed in 1984, they released an EP in 1986 and following the signing to RCA their self titled debut album appeared the following year. Subsequent releases included - The Early Years and Em Toda Parte (89). Guitarist/vocalist Fabio Golfetti left the band in 1991 to persue a solo career, reforming it some three years later. Three more albums appeared [Eclipse, Woman In The Mountain and Ilhas]. Currently the band line-up is: Fabio Golfetti (guitar & vocals), Fernando Cardoso (keyboards and vocals) Gabriel Costa (bass) and Claudio Souza (drums).
The original music of Violeta De Outono is well suited to the Syd Barrett project reviewed here as it contains strong early Pink Floyd influences. In fact as part of the band's live set they would often perform Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd tracks. Which nicely moves us onto this particular concert which was recorded on the last night of their 2006 tour at the SESI Theatre in São Paulo.
The concert begins with the opening track from Floyd's debut album and Astronomy Dominé, like much of the material from the concert, offers fairly close renditions to the original pieces. In fact nine pieces from The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn are performed here - along with two of the three tracks that Barrett performed from the band's follow up, A Saucerful Of Secrets. The remaining two pieces are Floyd's singles - Arnold Layne and See Emily Play. You can see footage of Violeta De Outono performing See Emily Play on their MySpace website...
The concert is simply shot with a static camera picking up the full stage and a similarly positioned camera used to highlight the four band members - who remain fairly static throughout. There is little by the way of banter between the tracks and the only time we see the audience is on the closing number. The lighting is a little dark for the filming but in keeping with the era - strobe lighting and psychedelic swirling behind the band. The audio is in general good... The bonus footage is taken from the first night of the "tribute" concerts tour and at the more intimate surroundings of Cafe Piu Piu (São Paulo). I'm assuming this is the final song (or encore) for the evening as Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun is greeted with enthusiasm from the audience.
Now I'm not a huge fan of the psychedelic music from this era full stop, however the songs performed on Seventh Brings Return are concise and in general very listenable - with perhaps only Interstellar Overdrive challenging my attention span. Violeta De Outono perform the material well and much thought has gone into the re-creation of the sound - Fernando Cardoso's keyboard patches are in keeping with the era and Fabio Golfetti is convincing in both the guitar and vocal departments.
But I'm still in a bit of a quandary to know exactly who this DVD will appeal to? So over to you...
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Rolling Drunks - Live & 131
DVD: Lass Mich Los, The Long Road, Wenn Ich Fliegen Lern, Die Einsamkeit Der Wölfe, Schweinsbrod'n, Motorcycle Man, God Is With Those Who Pray, Goodnight Berlin, Crazy Kong, All You Can Eat, Christine McQueen, Let Me Play The Lion Too, Over Your Skin Bonus Section: Live performance of House Of The Rising Sun featuring "Mozart", various interviews (in German with English sub-titles)
CD: Wenn Ich Fliegen Lern (5:46), Over Your Skin (4:50), Die Einsamkeit Der Wölfe (8:31), Wenn Der Blues Sich Meiner Annimmt (5:38), Alley Cat (5:20), Alter Was Geht Noch (5:03), Christine McQueen (6:04), In All DEn Jahr'n (5:14)
Back in 2007 I reviewed the 2006 release, Pukka Blokes, from German trio Rolling Drunks. I made comment at that time that the music of RDs owed little if any allegiances to the progressive field, however as the album proved to be very enjoyable and as I felt that perhaps some of our readers might enjoy the band's music and so I undertook to do a review. Perhaps encouraged by my words the band have chosen to send this DVD/CD combination for submission.
So have the Rolling Drunks made changes to their musical direction?
No! Not in the slightest.
So why another review?
In short - this is another cracking release and one which finds favour with this reviewer and woll I think perhaps to some of our readers.
Firstly the DVD, which sees our trio of Horst Jabs (guitar & vocals), Thomas Weick (guitar) and Georg Grimm (bass) seated comfortably on stage, on three bar-type stools and in the pleasant surroundings of the Locco Barocco (Karlsruhe). This is an intimate concert, performed in front of a small but enthusiastic audience. The band play selections from four of their previous albums: Two Of A Kind, Modern Rome, Dark Actors Playing Games and the aforementioned Pukka Blokes. Along with this are three songs from the new studio album which forms the audio section of this package.
The atmosphere is laid back and one that suits the the R&B, "folk" rock style of music that the band play. Horst Jabs seems to be a bit of a character and speaks with ease with the audience in between the numbers, (and if I understood the German language I might well have shared in this humour). Thomas Weick adds the in context solo sections as well as the ornamentations to the music. Georg Grimm adds the solid backbone. There is little else to add really.
... oh the bonus material. Perhaps avoid House Of The Rising Sun. As for the interviews and band features - certainly worth watching once.
The accompanying CD is NOT merely an audio version of the DVD concert, but is in fact a new studio album. The eight songs follow closely in the footsteps of their previous album, albeit this time around without the inclusion of Albert Lee. Keyboardist and backing vocalist Lisa Nicola returns however, and her contributions are excellent. Along with Nicole Strober these two vocalist add the finishing touches to Over Your Skin, one of the highlights of 131. With accordion accompaniment from Christoph Fürniß, this track might well have sat comfortably on a Guy Manning album. So with that tenuous prog link established, the following piece, Die Einsamkeit Der Wölfe (The Loneliness Of The Wolves), shows a more complex side to RDs. Kicking off in acoustic Dire Straits fashion, (a band who frequently come to mind whilst listening to the RDs), Lisa Nicola's keyboards cut nicely across the grain. This track also features two lengthy tenor saxophone solos courtesy of Jurek Gill. Gill also appears later on, this time adding the tuneful violin that features in the Dylan-esque Christine McQueen. The remaining five tracks also sit nicely together although more entrenched in a R&B format.
Once again the album production is excellent and this is reflected in the audio on the DVD. The Rolling Drunks' website features a good multimedia section - so a chance to sample both Over Your Skin and Christine McQueen.
As with the band's previous release I've not offered a numerical rating - and again not to be taken as a reflection on the music, but more the nature of the DPRP site and the musical style offered by the RDs.