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2009 : VOLUME 23
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REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:


Pendragon - Concerto Maximo
Pendragon - Concerto Maximo
Country of Origin:UK
Format:DVD+2CD
Record Label:Metal Mind
Productions
/
Toff Records
Catalogue #:MMP DVD 0172
Year of Release:2009
Time:DVD 195:00
CD 150:00
Info:Pendragon
Encoding:Region 0, NTSC
Dolby Digital
5.1 Surround, Stereo

Tracklist: The Walls Of Babylon (5:04), A Man Of Nomadic Traits (11:30), The Wishing Well (17:38), Eraserhead (8:39), Total Recall (5:55), Nostradamus (5:30), Learning Curve (7:18), Breaking The Spell (8:29), Sister Bluebird (7:52), The Shadow (9:06), The Freak Show (4:10), The Voyager (11:03), It’s Only Me (8:00), Masters Of Illusion (12:43), The King Of The Castle (4:52), And We’ll Go Hunting Deer (5:10), Queen Of Hearts (19:52)

Bonus DVD Features: Interviews (29:00), Biography, Discography, Photo Gallery, Desktop Images, Weblinks

Hector Gomez's Review

The classic bands of the 70’s and the so-called “neo-progressive” of the 80’s have walked quite opposite paths. While most of the big names in progressive and symphonic rock started out with a bang, releasing their (by far) best albums in their first 4-5 years of existence, to subsequently become complacent (or irrelevant, completely out of place), the bands belonging to the “second wave” have been perfecting their craft for the last 25 odd years, and are now producing their best material.

Maybe it was the pressures of the music business during the 80’s, more interested in hit singles and pretty faces. Marillion (ok, maybe this theory doesn’t apply to them… or does it?), IQ, Pallas, Twelfth Night, Galahad, Pendragon… all these bands had to learn (often losing bloody wars with label executives) to balance their artistic aspirations with the commercial demands of big record corporations.

Now that those bands have gone underground (they had to in order to survive), they can do things their way, benefitting from the internet, the progresses in recording technologies, and the help of smaller, independent record labels run by people who really love and care about the music. And it shows. All of them are now releasing their best albums: Pallas with the excellent The Dreams Of Men (2005), IQ and the no less wonderful Dark Matter (2004), and certainly Pendragon with their highly acclaimed (recently voted “Album of the Year”) Pure, released last year.

This Concerto Maximo was recorded on the Pure tour, and is proof of the great shape Nick Barrett’s band are in. Let me set the record straight and say that, despite having enjoyed some of their albums (the World/Window Of Life/Masquerade Overture trilogy, some songs on Not Of This World) I’m not a huge fan of Pendragon, as I’ve always found their music a bit too bland for my taste. Now they’ve added a harder edge to their songs, it’s hard not to enjoy their brand of majestic symphonic rock. This is in no small measure thanks to the addition of new drummer Scott Higham. No disrespect to former sticksmen Fudge Smith or Joe Crabtree, but certainly Scotty makes a difference. Sure, Smith might have been behind the kit adding his classy touch during the “classic” line-up years, and Crabtree served the band in difficult times, but Higham’s style, perfected mostly in metal bands, is definitely more dynamic, powerful and, dare I say, progressive.

Pure tracks certainly benefit from his performance but, most notably, also classic Pendragon gems are given a new extra kick. Before I go on for too long celebrating Higham’s abilities, let me also praise the rest of the band, because they’re all in top form. From Barrett’s surprisingly good vocals and Gilmouresque soaring guitar solos, to Peter Gee’s excellent melodic bass playing and use of pedals (very much in the Peter Trewavas style), to Clive Nolan’s usually lush, majestic (save for some awful harmonica sound patches…) keyboard texturing and soloing.

The setlist is an almost perfect representation of the band’s career, and nearly every song is a highlight: there’s a rousing A Man Of Nomadic Traits, a very powerful Wishing Well (better than on Believe), spectacular renditions of Nostradamus, Breaking The Spell and The Voyager, a particularly emotional Sister Bluebird and, to fittingly cap it all in style, some generous doses of fan favourites in the shape of classics like Masters Of Illusion, The Shadow or a huge Queen Of Hearts and the addition of new tracks such as the rocking Freak Show, It’s Only Me or the impressive Eraserhead. Certainly, Indigo (and Comatose) should have been included, and I’d add some favourites of mine such as Guardian Of My Soul or World’s End, but then it would have been a 4 hour set, and that might be pushing it a bit…

The picture and, especially, sound (I recommend to get the Special Edition with the two audio CDs) quality of this DVD are top notch, with bright sharp colours and very good Stereo and 5.1 mixes. Also, there’s some nice bonus material, with band interviews (short but informative), and very complete biography and discography information.

The only “problem” here is the venue. Don’t get me wrong, the Slaski Theater in Katowice is wonderful, almost the perfect venue for prog acts (Poland seems to be a paradise for neo-progressive bands), but Pendragon have already filmed 5! DVDs here and most Metal Mind releases have been recorded in the very same place (such as the excellent Pallas DVD Moment To Moment). This means same camera and lighting crew, and subsequently similar choices for shots and editing… all done very tastefully (though I miss a few more audience shots) and with a careful knowledge of the music, it has to be said.

Minor complaints aside, if I had to choose ONE Pendragon DVD, or a place to start enjoying their music, this had to be probably the best of choices: great sound, great songs and great performances, all nicely wrapped in the stunning artwork by Killustrations. Call it classic rock, neoprog or whatever; this is just great music.

Menno von Brucken Fock's Review

Pendragon is one of the first neo-prog bands if neo-prog actually is a term fit to describe this genre of progressive rock. The concert filmed on this DVD is a seated concert in the lovely Slaski Theatre in Katowice (Poland), on October 13th 2008. The band celebrated their 30th anniversary there with a very long show. Since the last album of Pendragon was chosen as the best album of 2008 in the DPRP-poll, this DVD, featuring three songs of this album, would be something to look out for.

The ambiance of this theatre is tasteful and breathes grandeur but because the audience is sitting down and at quite a long distance from the band, the interaction between band and audience is somewhat limited. Also, it’s not a huge crowd, so don’t expect to see all kinds of people jumping around. The camera’s are positioned well and especially the shots from some place very near the ceiling are spectacular. There are some images on a screen behind the band but most of the images come from the camera’s following the activities of the members of the band. Not a spectacular lightshow but tasteful and very functional, providing good lighting for the whole concert. Fortunately no big smokescreens so the viewer is getting excellent shots from the musicians. Sound quality and synchronization are remarkably good.

Newcomer Scott Higham on the drums (and the higher pitch backing vocals) is not particularly shy and gives a good show plus his performance gives the band-sound a slightly more heavy edge. He joined Pendragon only 6 months before this show, but plays as confident as if he’s been with the guys for years. Modest as always, with Pendragon for 29 years, is bassist Peter Gee and while Nick Barrett (vocals, guitar) is the main man for Pendragon, we all know Clive Nolan calls the shots in Arena (together with Mick Pointer). Clive, playing all keyboards and providing background vocals, is with Pendragon for 25 years. Except for my favourite album The Jewel, every other album is represented with at least one song. Barrett, alternating Fender and Gibson guitars, is in superb form and because his voice has got a little more mellow it actually fits the music better in my opinion. The hairs are getting thinner and the beards are getting more grey hairs but the guys still know how to rock!

During the years it became clearer, Barrett is the driving force and therefore the guitar is the dominant instrument, which is cool but I admit I would have loved a bit more duelling between guitar and synths or a bit more solo’s we all know Clive Nolan is able to deliver. In The Voyager, Nick plays an acoustic guitar at first, while Pete Gee masters the Fender. After the last song from Pure, It’s Only Me, the band says goodbye. Everyone senses this can’t be the end of the show and yes, the band returns with Master Of Illusion: with this catchy up tempo song and Barrett moving to the front of the stage, the audience has to leave their seats and finally we have a rock-show! We even see shadows of heads blocking some of the camera’s for the rest of the show. For the second encore the band play The King Of The Castle and And We’ll Go Hunting Deer, both pretty melancholic and mellow songs. Then an extra special surprise, the epic Queen Of Hearts, with Pete Gee playing some acoustic guitar and the first real synth solo by Nolan.

This is the end of an almost 2 ľ hours of music. A good show, worthy of a celebration, however not a show I would like to watch over and over again: I’d rather just listen! Which of course you can with either the Special Edition with the two audio CDs or just the two audio CD versions.

The extra’s are an interview with Barrett (mainly), a photo gallery, discography, biography, website and logo.

Geoff Feakes' Reviews

There is no doubt that 2008 proved to be a significant year for Pendragon in their long and illustrious career. Celebrating their 30th Anniversary, on the 13th October they played the Slaski Theatre in Katowice, Poland (the subject of this DVD) and released the eagerly awaited Pure album. And I’m sure it hasn’t escaped your notice that the bands eighth studio album had a more than respectable placing in the recent 2008 DPRP poll results. Coming fresh from the studio as they did it’s not surprising that the line-up for the show remains the same as the album. Just for the record that’s the inimitable Nick Barrett (guitars) joined as usual by Clive Nolan (keyboards), Peter Gee (bass) and the then new occupant of the drum stool Scott Higham. Scott had been a key member of Clive’s Caamora project earlier that same year.

Surprisingly there are only three songs included from Pure which as Nick explains is due to the little time available to rehearse the new material. Some therefore may be disappointed to find there is no Indigo or Comatose, but the band more than make up for this by including some older, rarely played favourites. And speaking of favourites, on a personnel note it was great to see A Man Of Nomadic Traits in the set list. The majestic ringing guitar hook is a highlight of any Pendragon show in my humble opinion. Although only a four piece, the band seem to fill the Wyspiańki stage making it appear positively diminutive. Like all DVD’s filmed at the theatre, sound, lighting and pictures are top notch. Giving a powerhouse performance throughout, new man Higham proves to be a charismatic focal point, almost as much as Barrett himself. Nolan and Gee are as static as ever, delivering their usual contributions with consummate skill and seemingly little effort (no criticism intended).

As the tracklist reveals, fans will be pleased to find that it’s a very generous set and as a result the individual menu options proved to be more welcome than usual. In fact I have a confession to make, due to time constraints I’ve been unable to view the complete performance in one sitting with the individual track selection allowing me to drop in and out of the show at my convenience. And after such a long performance the bonus material could appear almost superfluous but either way you get the usual extras including the now obligatory interview.

Although I’m well aware that as far as the fans are concerned I’m preaching to the converted as this release will almost certainly already be in their collection. For newcomers however this DVD would make a fine introduction to the world of Pendragon, who regardless of what some may say are first and foremost a neo-prog band and possibly the best.

Conclusions:

HECTOR GOMEZ : 8.5 out of 10
MENNO VON BRUCKEN FOCK : 8 out of 10
GEOFF FEAKES : 8.5 out of 10



Pain Of Salvation - Ending Themes : On The Two Deaths Of Pain Of Salvation
Pain Of Salvation ~ Ending Themes
Country of Origin:Sweden
Format:2DVD
Record Label:InsideOut Music
SPV
Catalogue #:IOMLTDDVD 019
SPV 79980 2DVD+DCD
Year of Release:2009
Time:240:23
Info:Pain of Salvation
Encoding:Region 0, NTSC 16:9
Dolby Stereo 2.0
Dolby Digital 4.1
DTS 4.1

DVD1: The First Death Of SixWorlds/EightDays: (80-minute documentary of 2005 world tour by Per Hillblom) Bonus Material: Somewhere In Europe, Easter Egg, Non Making Of, Dea Pecuniae 3D, Commentaries, Sneak Preview, Sticky Fingers

DVD2: Touching You Harder (Live From Amsterdam): Intro (1:11), Scarsick (6:51), America (6:19), Nightmist (8:11), ! [Foreword] (7:15), Handful Of Nothing (7:32), New Year's Eve (5:45), Ashes (5:32), Undertow (5:21), Brickworks 1 [Parts II-IV] (6:14), Chain Sling (4:07), Diffidentia (7:55), Flame To The Moth (6:05), Disco Queen (8:34), Hallelujah (9:08), Cribcaged (7:00), Used (7:49), Credits (7:24) Bonus Material: Quiz, On The Set, Bootlegs, Deleted Scenes, Sneak Previews, Casting Tryouts

Bart Jan Van Der Vorst's Review

Over the years there have been quite a few DVD releases which were filmed at gigs I visited. In this DVD special there are three DVDs reviewed where, if you look closely, you can see me walking through the screen while taking pictures. However, this is the first time where I actually get an on-screen credit!

Ending Themes - On The Two Deaths Of Pain Of Salvation has been a long time in the making. The DVD set consists of two discs, with the first disc containing a documentary shot during the 2005 European tour (Pain of Salvation's first headlining tour) while the second disc contains the full gig filmed in Paradiso, Amsterdam on March 2nd, 2007.

The documentary is quite interesting, following the band on their six-date tour around Europe. We meet the band, the crew, the fans, and learn a thing or two about life on the road. However, unlike so many other of these camcorder shot 'documentaries' Pain Of Salvation never comes across as pretentious or self-absorbing. All is done with a healthy dose of humour. This is even more evident when you watch the documentary with audio-commentary (which for inexplicable reasons is recorded in a different order than the documentary).

The second disc sees the band take the stage at the Amsterdam rock temple Paradiso. The band play a well-balanced set featuring songs from all their albums in chronological order (the way they always build their setlists) with only the album BE being seriously underrepresented. Most fans probably couldn't care less, but I am disappointed only Diffidentia makes it into their setlists these days. The acoustic 12:5 album makes an unexpected appearance with the electrical reworking of part of the Brickwork medley. In fact you could say a large chunk of 12:5 is presented as Ashes, a stunningly re-worked Undertow, Brickwork (This Heart Of Mine / Song for the Innocent) and Chainsling are all part of 12:5.

Obviously most emphasis is on the 2007 album Scarsick, which had just been released a couple of weeks before the gig. It is funny to see that the much-hated Disco Queen gets such a tremendous reaction from the crowd - and justly so, it may be a bit of an oddity on a progressive metal album, but it surely is a great live track! The crowd continues with the "ooh-ooh-AAAHH!!" singing as the bands leave the stage, only to come back with the biggest surprise of the evening: a cover version of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. While this song has been covered to death, I have to say the Swedes do the original great justice with their version.

The concert is excellently shot by the same company that did the recent Stream of Passion, Spock's Beard and Neal Morse DVDs. It just goes to show what a difference a venue makes. The images are crystal clear, though a tad dark at times (though nowhere nearly as dark as the Stream Of Passion DVD) and camerawork is excellent. Like the previous DVD the sound has been mixed in 4.1 rather than 5.1. Daniel Gildenlöw apparently doesn't like using the centre channel and opts for a quadraphonic approach instead. The documentary is only presented in stereo (though there are hilarious surround sound and language options available).

Like the previous PoS DVD release, BE Live, a lot of care has gone into the packaging and bonus material. I love it that this is not just another hastily put together release featuring footage of a gig and some handycam footage cut like a documentary. No wait, it is exactly that, but unlike, say, your average Marillion DVD, this one is filled to the brim with bonus material, which contains more jibes and self-mockery than is possible to describe here (and it would spoil the jokes as well). Most of the bonus material is purely for fun purpose. At times though it reaches the point of being irritating. Before you can start watching the first disc you have to sit through a very long set of disclaimers (which, I hasten to add, are really funny). The extras on the second disc are locked behind a rather difficult quiz, which you have to pass before you receive the unlocking code to watch the extras. There are way too many extras to discuss here, basically everything you can click in the menu contains a joke or extra feature of some form. You can spend hours and hours reading all the messages, notes and cue cards that can be found throughout the disc. And the closing credits are worth reading as well (not to mention the great acoustic version of Leaving Entropia which is played over the end credits).

The jokes extend to the packaging as well. The DVD is packaged as if it is some DVD release of a cheesy TV-soap, even including fake reviews on the back cover. There is a note on the promo of this DVD, saying "this is just the promo version. Finished product will contain extensive booklet with more details as well as lavish packaging. For promotion only! Sale will cause ugliness!". Unfortunately my retail copy got lost somewhere in the post, and at the time of writing this review I am still awaiting replacement. I'm sure it'll give me another hour's worth of reading material.

Ending Themes... is available as a double DVD, a double CD ("The Second Death Of Pain Of Salvation - for the seeing impaired"), or a limited edition featuring both.

Andy Read's Review

Pain of Salvation: Always a band with plenty to say, and always a band that people seem to have plenty to say about. Despite their last two records being less than stellar, you can’t help but love them for their originality and ability to thrill and frustrate in equal measure.

As a result I could write a short thesis on this, the band’s first DVD of a live gig (I tend to classify the BE Live DVD as a stage production rather than a proper concert show). However all you really want to know is whether this is worth shelling out your hard-earned notes for. So here’s a quick breakdown of the pros and cons of The Two Deaths Of Pain Of Salvation. I’ll break it into two easy parts:

Critical Themes

I’ve seen a fair few DVDs over the past three or four years, and compared to bands of a similar stature this is pretty poor in terms of the visuals. The stage direction, lighting and editing job look like they’ve been done by rookies. Most of the shots are from a distance. There’s nowhere near enough close-up work to really capture the emotions and expressions of the band members.

I’m all for subtle lighting as part of a lighting package but a lot of it here is little more than the house lights. It varies little throughout the show either. The thing is filled with clumsy pans and zooms, refocused shots, and a mixture of angles that disorientate rather than flow with the music.

It’s not as bad as some of the very low budget DVDs I’ve seen but for a band with as much creativity and sense of purpose as PoS, I am simply surprised that so little artistic thought or quality control was put into this part of the package. Even more disappointing as BE was so well filmed. Also, the Paradiso in Amsterdam is one of the most visually attractive concert venues in Europe. The sound quality is adequate. The new bassist is a bit of a visual non-entity.

Praising Themes

The performance and the music is pretty darn perfect. I’ve seen the band live several times, and whilst the shows have had their breathtaking moments, my attention has often wavered. The overall effect has been to leave a little disappointed. Put simply, here the band are on fire. There is a heavy leaning towards Scarsick material – I guess not surprisingly as this was the Scarsick tour. However elsewhere this is a real ‘best-of’ run through their career to date.

Highlights are the vocal performance from Daniel, which at times really does take your breath away. The guitar inter-play between he and Johan Hallgren is also fantastic as is the energy they create working the stage and crowd in unison. The intricate vocal harmonies, drum work and the various atmospheres created by the use of keys and piano are also given a full platform.

There are enough extras to keep you going for a good rainy winter’s night. The trump card is the on-the-road documentary. This is very well done by a journalist/director who accompanied the band on a good stretch of the BE Tour – the band’s first as headliner.

It manages to be informative, amusing and entertaining. It’ll offer some great insights into events that happened after the tour and also about how the band operates. Great if you're a big fan of the band, but also interesting if you just want to see some rock stars doing what they do. From the rehearsal room in their hometown, to packed concert halls via sound checks, meal times, signing all parts of a body and the intimacies of living together in a coach. The Kinder Surprises are great fun and even our own Bart Jan Van Der Vorst gets a few moments of air time conducting an on-the-bus interview for DPRP. Having taking the trouble to be at all the shows, it’s a shame the documentary didn’t slot in a few more live songs. I’d have loved to have seen the different crowds and different songs played in different venues.

One big annoyance is the fact that to access a lot of the other extras you have to complete a long quiz where the answers are based on miniscule detail in the documentary. For those like me who’ve got better things to waste their time on, play these on your PC where you can just skip to the relevant files.

Combine all that with some very amusing packaging, parodying modern TV box sets and dramas, and you've got yourself a lot to get through and great value for money. So would I recommend that you buy this? For existing fans: on the basis of the performance and the superb documentary - definitely. For newcomers: on the basis of the breadth of material they play - probably. For anyone fussy about the quality of a video production: then maybe think twice.

Conclusions:

BART JAN VAN DER VORST : 8.5 out of 10
ANDY READ : 8 out of 10



Redemption - Frozen In The Moment ~ Live In Atlanta
Redemption - Frozen In The Moment ~ Live In Atlanta
Country of Origin:UK
Format:DVD
Record Label:InsideOut Music
SPV
Catalogue #:IOMDVD 021
SPV 28127 DVD+CD
Year of Release:2009
Time:65:23
Info:Redemption
Encoding & Sound:Region 0
Dolby 2.0 Stereo

Tracklist: Threads (6:08), Bleed Me Dry (6:02), Nocturnal (3:30), Memory (9:00), The Suffocating Silence (6:00), Release (5:01), Fall On You (9:27), Sapphire (14:52), The Death Of Faith And Reason (5:27)

Bonus Material: Video For Bleed Me Dry, Video & Photo Tour Diary (set to a previously unreleased 11 minute instrumental track, behind the scenes video, and a full CD of the entire concert)

I won’t try to hide the fact that I rate Redemption as one of the best progressive metal acts to emerge in the past decade. Their last two albums (The Fullness Of Time and The Origins Of Ruin) have been bona fide classics. My respect for the band was cemented when I had the chance to meet up with its founder Nick van Dyk for a DPRP interview and found him to be a very nice chap too!

However that’s not to say everything the band has and will do will get my unbridled praise. The Live Show at Amsterdam’s Headway Festival which followed the interview was shoddy and unprofessional. Therefore, whilst news of a live DVD immediately raised my interest, when I placed it in the player and pressed play, I did so with some trepidation. The Headway gig was only the band’s third ever show, since when they’ve trekked around the US along with Dream Theater and Into Eternity and appeared at the prestigious ProgPower USA festival in 2007 – where this show was filmed. So, does this DVD put that Headway show to rest. It certainly does – but still with a few reservations.

At just over an hour this show was only a generous support slot. However this plays to their advantage by only including the cream of the crop. Also the songs flow with little time for a breath in between so you get good value per minute. The set list is pretty spot-on in terms of song selection. Few bands can offer a stronger riff-fuelled opening than the duo of Threads and Bleed Me Dry. Sapphire will always give me goose-bumps and The Death Of Faith And Reason sums everything up perfectly. The set offers a good taste of the band’s career to date; with one track from their debut, three from the second album and five from their last.

As for the show itself, the venue looks great with a large stage and a full crowd. The lighting is clear. This isn’t a big budget production but the use of a crane and multi angles allows plenty of viewpoints. I like the way there’s repeat shots of the crowd and individual fans. This really enhances the live feel. The sound is heavy, slightly raw and very live.

The visuals really highlight the fantastic twin guitar work between Nick and Bernie Versailles and the way in which it provides the foundation for the band’s power. What is displayed even more is the equal importance of the keyboards in every song – Greg Hosharian plays an absolute blinder, especially on Memory. I hope he is utilized equally in the song writing for the forthcoming studio album.

Where could band could improve? It’s all too static. Apart from Ray Alder, no-one really strays too far from their chosen spots. I’m all for letting the music do the talking, but hey it’s a live show and a bit of interaction between members and the crowd would bring it to life. I know it’s not his style, but just a little bit more banter with the crowd would allow Ray Alder to bring a bit of personality to proceedings. A few words about a few of the songs wouldn't go amiss – hell the band doesn’t even get a name check here. Voice-wise Ray Alder can’t get the high notes like he used to. He was apparently suffering from flu just before the show, so I'll forgive the places where he sounds a bit rough. However he seems to get into his a stride a few songs in - and there’s not a lyric sheet in sight!

The extras are the usual suspects – plus something extra. There the promo video for Bleed Me Dry, and a short behind the scenes video which includes a great clip of the band dressing up as ants and invading the stage with Dream Theater in full flow. There’s also a good video and photo Tour Diary set to a previously unreleased and untitled 11-minute instrumental track which the band wrote for the Dream Theater song writing contest around 2003. As the band has such a good story to tell I’d have thought an interview would have been worth including.

However, and I’ve saved the cream to the end, this DVD comes with the best type of bonus material there can be - a full CD of the entire concert! The ability to blast this out from my hi-fi will probably mean that the CD gets far more spins than the DVD. This alone makes it a fantastic value package. For fans of the band this is a total no brainer. For those yet to try the Redemption magic, this is as good a place to start as any. For me, my faith (and reason) has been fully restored.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

ANDY READ



Magenta - Live At The Point 2007
Magenta - Live At The Point 2007
Country of Origin:UK
Format:DVD
Record Label:Tigermoth Records
Catalogue #:DVDTMR004
Year of Release:2009
Time:143:56
Info:Magenta
Encoding & SoundRegion 0 NTSC
16:9, PCM Stereo
Dolby Surround 5.1
Tracklist: Opus Three (2:18), Speechless (4:35), Envy (9:46), Hurt (5:30), Moving On (6:45), The Journey (6:20), Towers Of Hope (3:51), Demons (5:13), Morning Sunlight (2:37), The Dream (1:43), The Visionary (6:56), Anger (5:41), Man The Machine (14:49), Genetesis (8:58), The Warning (5:28), Sloth (8:58), The White Witch (7.09) Bonus Material: Behind The Scenes Documentary (15:14), Tech-talk interviews (11:00), Speechless Video (4:21), Slideshow (6:40)

By now it should no longer be necessary to introduce Wales' finest. The band of Rob Reed and Christina Booth have made quite a name for themselves in prog land. Their version of prog-lite may not be every prog-purist's cuppa, but I have always had a weakness for them. The nice mix of Hackett'y guitar swashes, parpy Wakemanesque synths and Mike Oldfield style guitar solos, added with more than a hint of Kate Bush thanks to Christina's fine vocals, it is a unique blend which makes it very accessable, yet still very, very prog.

As the title suggests this DVD was filmed at The Point in Cardiff, Wales, on November 23rd, 2007. It was the end of 2006's Home tour, and not unsurprisingly most songs of the set are taken from that album. It may seem a bit strange to release a DVD focusing on an album three years old (the band released a new album, Metamorphosis, in 2008), but it seems there were some delays with the production.

That is not saying it is not a bad release though, far from it. As I already stated in my review of the band's previous DVD release, The Gathering, the band is not only very listenable, they are also very watchable. Once again, we have mostly Christina Booth to thank for that, but this is not your typical 'pretty face and the static support band'. On bass and lead guitar are the Fry brothers who seem to be in a contest to see who can jump around the most (older brother Chris seems to be winning though), while stage left has mastermind Rob Reed is constantly bouncing around behind his impressive stack of keyboards.

While the Home tracks are all performed quite closely to the studio originals, all of the older songs have actually been re-arranged. Most notably two of the tracks off Seven, Envy and Anger, which have some new added solos. The songs off the band's debut Revolutions all appear in an abridged form.

Like their previous DVD, the sound and camerawork are excellent. The editing is a good combination of frantic camerawork during the heavy bits, and long widescreen shots during the quieter bits. It just goes to show how important it is to have a camera crew familiar with the music, as the cameramen are able to catch every solo played. The DVD release also marks the last recorded document of drummer Allan-Mason Jones and guitarist Martin Rosser, who left the band shortly after the recording of this DVD. Considering that previous bassplayer Matt Cohen left the band after the previous DVD release, on might start wondering whether or not it is such a good idea for this band to record DVDs... :-)

There are some extras on the DVD. A "behind the scenes" documentary, which basically shows all that happened on the day of the show, from setting up the stage, to soundcheck, backstage chatter, little interviews with the audience and finally on to the gig itself. It is nicely done, but really this is of the 'watch it once and forget about it' variety. The second extra is a set of geeky tech-talk interviews, where Chris Fry and Martin Rosser talk about their instruments and performance, while sound mixer Tim Lewis explains how a live mix is done. Furthermore there is the promo video of the single Speechless, and a huge collection of photos, which are presented in slideshows set to music.

In conclusion this is another strong release of Magenta, highly recommended to fans, or a great introduction for newbies.

The concert is also available as a double CD set.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

BART JAN VAN DER VORST



Saga - Contact ~ Live In Munich
Saga - Contact ~ Live In Munich
Country of Origin:Canada
Format:2DVD+2CD
Record Label:InsideOut Music
SPV
Catalogue #:IOMDVD 020
SPV 28187 2DVD
Year of Release:2009
Time:180:00
Info:Saga
Encoding:NTSC Region 0
Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Dolby Digital 5.1

DVD1: The Interview, That’s As Far As I’ll Go, You’re Not Alone, I’m OK, Can’t You See Me Now, Book Of Lies, The Perfectionist, Drum Solo, The Flyer, Mind Over Matter, The Security Of Illusion, Time’s Up, Piano Solo, Scratching The Surface, We’ve Been Here Before, On The Air, On The Loose, Careful Where You Step, 10.000 Days, Wind Him Up, Humble Stance, Don’t Be Late, What’s It Gonna Be?

DVD2: SAGA B-Roll; (From Underground TV in Mannheim): You’re Not Alone, Can’t You See Me Now, The Perfectionist, Mind Over Matter, We’ve Been Here Before, On The Loose; Photo Gallery

The Canadian (prog)rock band Saga have always had a very good reputation as a live band. This DVD captures the last of the ‘farewell tour’ concert series in Europe by the band in München, on December 5th 2007 (Germany). It has struck me that lead vocalist Michael Sadler always delivered a good performance, even when he had problems with his health. I’ve never witnessed a show where his vocals were below expectations and that’s quite a compliment, because I’ve seen a lot of concerts with a singer who couldn’t deliver…

The extra DVD features Jim ‘Daryl’ Gilmour showing some of the landmarks in Toronto where Saga began their career. The Hard Rock Café, the first in the world, where you can find a guitar of Ian Crichton; the Maple Leaf Gardens, where all the big names in Canada performed, but an empty building now; record shop SAM where Sadler saw the first Saga LP being sold, now closed down because of the disastrous effects of downloading, so times are a changing! Ian recollects the shows in Germany and Munich especially. There’s a photo gallery and some more live tracks from a show in Mannheim. Although the images are perfect and Mike is for my perception singing even better than in Munich, the quality of the sound is not too good; I think the ingredients to make it a perfect 6 tracks are there, but it would have taken far more time to mix them properly.

Then the main event. The hall is filled with Saga-enthusiasts and the atmosphere is great right from the start of the show. Just like on so many other occasions the Crichton brothers, Gilmour and ‘substitute’ Chris Sutherland play a very good show that night, mixing old favourites with newer tracks from Trust and 10,000 Days, at the time the new album. So as far as the setlist is concerned, this night’s show was like most others. I guess it’s a matter of personal preference, but would have liked something like a ‘best of’ show with tracks from all albums, a sort of chronological overview. Also I could have imagined a guest performance by Steve Negus, once more a battle between Mike’s briefcase and Negus or with the new ‘animal’ on drums, Chris Sutherland. Also I’d expected to hear We’ll Meet Again! No cakes, no contests, no fireworks, hardly any jokes: in a way this is ‘just’ an ordinary live show, with no extravaganza’s. The only exceptions maybe were all the banners and the fact half of the audience were given signs with “bye”, the other half with “Michael” on them. With everyone in the hall holding up these signs it must have been a pretty impressive sight for Mr Sadler.

Although the last show, especially because it’s Sadler’s last performance as a full member of Saga, is a logical choice for making a live recording, the emotions combined with this show being at the end of the tour, have some effect on the performance of Saga’s extraordinary vocalist. Mike lets the audience participate frequently and my perception that the vocals have been mixed rather low, adds to the impression I’ve seen better performances in the past. Still, considering his 30 years of singing, Sadler does an outstanding job. The quality of the sound is good but not exceptionally good. The camera’s provide a good view with multiple angels but it struck me that founder as well as certainly one of Saga’s main composers Jim Crichton, is hardly visible, while Sadler can only be seen from his front or right side for almost the entire show. The synchronization between sound & vision during the show is perfect with the exception of the last track. Though Sadler interacts with Ian Crichton and even more with Gilmour, his overall presentation is not as confident, almost joyfully arrogant, as it used to be in the earlier days. His keyboard duties seem to have become less throughout the years and he only picks up the bass once in the finale with Humble Stance. The emotional burden for the man who fronted Saga for so long becomes almost too heavy in his ‘a capella’ performance of The Security Of Illusion. Most certainly it shows on the title track of their new album at the time: 10,000 Days. It looks like he’s having a hard time at the end of the show too. Presumably the last track appeared to have been Don’t Be Late, and Mike shouts “finished!” at the end of the song. Although some fans are making their way to the doors, the band decides to return once more with an extra treat, a song well appropriate for the occasion: What’s It Gonna Be?

Things will never be the same but we know Saga will continue and we will see and hear Mike Sadler again. Although he retired from Saga, it doesn’t mean he retired from performing and writing. Recently he performed with Rudi Buttas (PUR) in Rudy’s Journey so we will see him again. In conclusion I’d say this DVD, especially the lavish package with the extra material, can be considered a worthy tribute to the man who brought so much to the table for Saga.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

MENNO VON BRUCKEN FOCK



Chris Thompson – One Hot Night In The Cold
Chris Thompson – One Hot Night In The Cold
Country of Origin:UK
Format:DVD
Record Label:Voiceprint
Catalogue #:VPDVD49
Year of Release:2009
Time:150:44
Info:Chris Thompson
Encoding & Sound:Region 0, Stereo
Ratio 16:9

Tracklist: Wasting Time, One Man Mission, Hot Summer Nights, Get Up & Dance, Redemption Song, Angel, Heart Of The Fire, Mighty Quinn, Burning Light, Blinded By The Light, Davy's On The Road Again, For You, Back In Your Arms Again, Suburban Cowboy, You're The Voice, Questions (86:24) Extras: Exclusive 2008 Interview (32:03) Ain't No Rain In The Farmyard [Promo] (4:19), The Making Of The Ain't No Rain In The Farmyard [Video] (27:58)

This release arrived courtesy of Voiceprint together with Chris Thompson’s latest CD Timeline (not to be confused with the Ayreon compilation of the same name) which we’ll review on another occasion. Aside from his solo work Chris will of course be best known as lead singer with Manfred Mann’s Earth Band as well as his contribution to Jeff Wayne's War Of The Worlds and albums by Night, Alan Parsons and Sarah Brightman amongst others. Although his powerful, soulful voice has graced several DVD’s this is surprisingly his first audio/visual outing as a solo artist. Filmed in the arctic region of Tromso (which explains the title) by a Norwegian TV crew, he was backed for the occasion by local guitarist Mads Eriksen and his band. As I’m a stickler for facts and figures it was a minor frustration to find that nowhere on the DVD, packaging or websites does it provide any indication of a recording date. It was obviously some years ago as the bonus interview recorded in 2008 features a noticeably older Thompson than the man seen in performance.

The club venue has an intimate feel (i.e. small and cramped) where the band appears to be positioned in front of a bar at the end of a long, narrow room. The cameras get close and intimate with every band member, especially Thompson himself. Although his voice is undoubtedly the focal point, the performance has more of a band feel than his solo albums with plenty of instrumental excursions from Eriksen and keyboardist Terje Trannas. He was standing in for the normal keys player on this tour with his use of sheet music making evident his unfamiliarity with the set. Whilst the images are as clear and sharp as you would expect from a TV recording the sound is a tad below par with too much bottom end zapping some of the life out of the songs. There’s no doubting the solid performances however especially from the energetic Thompson who is a natural and charismatic frontman. He sounds gutsier live than on record with a particularly raunchy and soulful rendition of One Man Mission bringing Paul Rodgers to mind.

The songs that make up the set are quite a mixed bag representing a cross-section of Thompson’s extensive career. The earlier part of the show consists mainly of upbeat mainstream rock numbers with the semi-funk of Get Up & Dance being as far removed from prog as you can possibly get. The packed audience certainly lap it up especially the five young ladies standing conspicuously at the front. Keeping it tight throughout is the solid if not over fussy rhythm partnership of bassist and backing vocalist Frank Hovland and drummer Steinar Krokstad. Although his keyboards are sometimes lost in the mix, Trannas comes into his own during Mighty Quinn with an almost gospel organ intro and later, during the extended instrumental section, a lengthy synth solo. Guitarist Eriksen is given free reign here with a heavy rock workout and a riff that almost develops into Fleetwood Mac’s Oh Well. His best performance of the night however is a stately solo during Blinded By The Light where Thompson’s audience involving chorus has those young ladies on the front row singing along.

Another Manfred Mann hit and crowd pleaser is Davy's On The Road Again which takes a rare excursion into prog territory thanks to a noodly synth solo. Trannas also does a pretty good job of recreating Roy Bittan’s stirring piano playing for Springsteen’s For You. Eriksen’s guitar instrumental Suburban Cowboy is an odd choice although it’s certainly aptly titled being a rapidly executed rockabilly affair with rhythm guitar contributions from Thompson. A more obvious inclusion is You're The Voice, made famous by John Farnham and once again those devoted ladies at the front are in fine vocal form. Following this anthemic showstopper, Manfred Mann’s plaintive Questions is a less than obvious choice for the encore but it works nonetheless thanks to a moving delivery from Thompson.

The bonus material includes the promo for Thompson’s Ain't No Rain In The Farmyard plus a ‘making of’ documentary for the same video. I’ve no idea when this was recorded (and the DVD is certainly giving nothing away) but it’s a rousing environmental song with a backing band that features a sax and a fiddle player (both female) and the video’s not half bad either. Best of the extras however is Thompson in conversation with Jon Kirkman recorded last year specifically to accompany this DVD release. Kirkman proves to be a very knowledgeable interviewer adding as much insight of his own into Thompson’s career as he does pose the questions. There’s plenty of emphasis on the setlist, especially the Manfred Mann songs, but the highlight is both men struggling to recall the events of MM’s 1982 Somewhere In Africa album and tour with amusing results.

With the main set running for nearly 90 minutes (not bad for a small club gig) and a total playing time of 2˝ hours this release is reasonably generous as DVD’s go. The packaging is also better than most with a booklet that includes an informative account of the gig from the man himself plus detailed track information. Along with Thompson the song writing credits include the likes of Bob Marley, Walter Egan, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Manfred Mann. An impressive list of composers whose songs are performed with energy and passion by one of the finest vocalists of our time.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

GEOFF FEAKES



Renaissance – Song Of Scheherezade
Renaissance – Song Of Scheherezade
Country of Origin:UK
Format:DVD
Record Label:Cherry Red Records
Catalogue #:CRDVD174
Year of Release:2008
Time:120:00
Info:Renaissance
Encoding:PAL, DVD-Video, Mono
Black & White/Colour

Tracklist: The Capitol Theatre In 1976: Running Hard (10:08), Ocean Gypsy (7:27), Carpet Of The Sun (4:33), Mother Russia (10:49), Prologue (10:43), Song Of Scheherazade: Sultan (7:41), The Young Prince And Princess (5:16), The Festival (11:53) The Convention Hall In 1979: Can You Understand – Intro (2:51), Vultures Fly High (3:53), Jekyll And Hyde (5:28), Northern Lights (4:55), Forever Changing (6:37), Secret Mission (5:08), Mother Russia (11:09), A Song For All Seasons (12:23), Flood At Lyons (5:06)

Renaissance ‘live’ recordings on video are very rare, so that makes this DVD a gem indeed! Although the first shipment of this DVD apparently was faulty and was released without the band’s final approval, this version apparently is ok. In black & white (or perhaps should I say: shades of grey), there are images and sounds from two concerts. The first one captures the band at The Capitol Theatre (Passaic, New Jersey) on the 21st May 1976. The second performance dates from 1979, on the 28th of July at The Convention Hall, Asbury Park (New Jersey). The overall quality of the images is poor, the sound quality is fair considering the circumstances, but the synchronization between images & sounds is next to perfect.

The line-up: Michael Dunford (acoustic guitar/vocals), Jon Camp (bass, guitar, vocals), Annie Haslam (lead vocals), John Tout (keyboards) and Terry Sullivan (drums, percussion, acoustic guitar, vocals). Since August 2008 the band has its own MySpace and there you can find some sound samples of studio recordings and a concise biography.

The first show features the Scheherazade album, next to a number of classics. Dunford, the brilliant (co) composer of so many Renaissance-tracks, is hardly visible and plays a very modest role on stage. He just sits in the left hand corner of the stage, playing his acoustic guitar and only singing an occasional harmony-vocal. Drummer Terry Sullivan also is hardly visible, although there’s a nice shot from him singing harmonies in Sultan. On the same track Jon Camp sings the lead vocal alternating with Annie. The few cameras focus on the two main singers: Annie Haslam, as usual in a long dress and Jon Camp, playing his Rickenbacker bass in the absolute superb style of his hero: Chris Squire. A very concentrated John Tout plays piano and other keyboards and proof of his classical training can be heard at the beginning of both Running Hard and Prologue, but throughout all the tracks he does an outstanding job, in my opinion an underestimated keyboardist. Too bad we aren’t able to see more of what he is doing, because you can hear he is very busy! Compared to today’s female vocalists Annie Haslam’s performance visually is rather modest. She swings and sways with the music and when she sings, she stands still, her hands held together in front of her chest and she hardly ever touches the microphone. Her vocal performance however is exquisite. For the audience, Camp was probably the only one giving a bit of a show. Back then the show-element wasn’t that important, if you weren’t Pink Floyd, Genesis or Yes: what mattered was to go out and see a band being able to perform ‘live’ what they recorded in the studio and that’s exactly what Renaissance did that night, and they did it very well indeed.

In the second show from 1979 we can appreciate the band’s growth through the years. Dunford, standing on stage plays an electric guitar and also an acoustic one on a stand. Camp (just as John Tout without a moustache) now plays a double neck most of the time and we can see how he plays some bass pedals too. Next to his extraordinary ‘see through’ drum-kit, Terry Sullivan plays an acoustic guitar in Forever Changing, while Camp plays a twelve string on that same song. Tout’s keyboard-arsenal is even more impressive than in 1976. The very nice thing about this second show is, that the band performs four songs from Azure D’Or and two more from A Song For All Seasons. Especially the songs of Azure D’Or are rarities, not available on any (legitimate) ‘live’ recording. Flood At Lyons is an example of an elaborate and ingenious composition from that underestimated album. Camp does most of the talking. The audience can only be seen in one shot at the end of the show, the number of shots of the individual band-members however, is more balanced than in the first show. The quality of the sound is also slightly better.

The artwork from Song Of Scheherazade is plain and simple; the DVD doesn’t contain an inlay. Only other information on the DVD itself, are links to the record company and samples of a couple of other DVD’s available. Musically, Song Of Scheherazade would score 8.5 out of 10 at least, but due to the poor quality of the visual aspect, the final rating has to be less.

Conclusion: For the Renaissance fan an absolute must have and for all other lovers of ‘alternative prog-rock’ well worth checking out. This DVD, despite the fact the material is dated and not meeting current standards of audio & video, it is a valuable and not to be missed addition to the Renaissance heritage.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

MENNO VON BRUCKEN FOCK



Laboratorium - Old School Fusion Live
Laboratorium - Old School Fusion Live
Country of Origin:Poland
Format:DVD
Record Label:Metal Mind
Productions
Catalogue #:MMP DVD 0153
Year of Release:2008
Time:130:30
Info:Laboratorium
Info
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Prevet Blues (6:17), Sniegowa Panienka (16:29), Zdrowie Na Budowie (8:04), Taki Ladny I Przyjemny (7:10), Straight No Chaser (10:59), Virgin From Nowa Huta (7:34), Blue Light Pilot (11:00), What’s New In The Forest (7:26), Polish Calypso (2:25), Interviews I (3:58), Anatomy Lesson (9:35), Interviews II (5:17), Lady On The Goat (12:54), Interviews III (3:11), Polish Calypso [Reprise] (9:04) Bonus Features Late-Coming (8:02); Biography, Discography, Photo Gallery

Old School Fusion Live. Unoriginal and dull as it may seem, it’s nonetheless one of the most perfectly appropriate titles that’s ever graced a CD or DVD cover. For anyone who fancies genuine jazz fusion from the 70’s (like me), this is pure bliss.

I’ll admit, though, that being an avid (kind of) follower of the genre, one of the most popular (and now unfairly maligned and forgotten) to rise in the “golden age” of Progressive Rock, I’d never heard anything about Laboratorium before. After inspection of this release, one realizes the importance and popularity (in the context of jazz music, anyway) this outfit achieved in their homeland, Poland, and probably in other countries in Eastern Europe.

This is one of “those” cult bands, which may seem excitingly obscure for the uninitiated or the occasional listener, but that’s become a legend for a specific local audience. The thing is, being a Polish band in the 70’s definitely wasn’t going to guarantee Laboratorium worldwide fame and glory. Also, the distribution of their albums, like with dozens of other artists, has always been limited and uneven, at least outside their area of influence.

Laboratorium played adventurous jazz fusion, and started quite early (debuting in 1971), so their music caused quite a stir when Janus Grzywacz and Marek Stryszowski, the band’s masterminds, brought their art outside their hometown of Krakow. After perfecting their trade in bands such as Smiacze, Lamparty and Tytani, both keyboardist and saxophonist formally gave birth to the Laboratorium project at the Gitariada Festival of ’71.

Divided in three sections, this DVD offers three snapshots in the story of this remarkable band. First, there’s great footage (surprisingly good visuals and, particularly, sound, for an old TV show) of the Jazz Jamboree Festival of 1978. Apparently, Laboratorium were one of the festival’s main attractions year after year, and the audience definitely shows their appreciation and excitement for an ensemble that probably was already a legend by then.

Appropriately accompanying Grzywacz and Stryszowski are brothers Pawel (guitar) and Krzysztof (very tasty bass) Scieranski, and more especially, the superb Mieczyslaw Górka on drums. The music here is vibrant, lively jazz rock with plenty of the trademarks of the genre (pulsating bass lines, complex but breezy drumming, LOADS of Fender Rhodes…), but also leaving some room for experimentation, where Stryszowski’s ethereal vocal effects take the lead and constitute one of Laboratorium’s trademarks.

Special mention goes to opener Prevet Blues, a lovely, lively bluesy piece, and main attraction Sniegowa Panienka, a 16 minute trip where every performer has the chance to shine, including some seriously drum soloing from Górka and a very interesting piano/saxophone conversation.

The second “movement” in the program includes the whole recording of the Blue Light Pilot live album at the Stu Theatre in 1982, and offers quite a different side of the band. Gone are Górka and the Scieranskis, and in come from the band Maanam Ryszard Stila on (very Holdsworth-esque) guitar, and Andrzej Mrowiec on drums, as well as Krzysztof Olesinski on bass.

The style is now suited for the 80’s. The band keeps the spirit, but adds new flavours and spices: sequencers, synthesizers, funky grooves and a rockier edge overall. Mrowiec’s style is radically different to Górka’s, much less refined and technical, more focused on the groove and a steady beat. Let’s just say Górka was Bruford, and Mrowiec is White. Anyway, the music has more drive and punch, and you can almost dance to it. This is made evident on the quasi-disco title track, a start-stop affair driven by a lively hi-hat pattern and groovy bass, spiced up with some nice sax/drums and vocals/keys interaction. There’s also a particular rendition of Thelonious Monk’s Straight No Chaser, adapted to the band’s new aesthetics.

Sound and picture quality are so-so, but then again this is old TV footage salvaged from the mists of time and dust, so here you have to appreciate the historical value rather than being too picky about technical aspects. Also, you may find the occasional narration (in Polish, but, fortunately, with English subtitles) describing the recording process a bit annoying (or amusing, you never know…).

The third section of the DVD consists of the special show commemorating the 25th anniversary of the band in 1996, and features yet another different line-up, with members old and new. Though the band had already disbanded in 1990, this was a perfect occasion to celebrate Laboratorium’s artistic legacy, so former guitarist Pawel Scieranski is invited to the party, as well as new members Piotr Zaczek on bass and Jaroslaw Smietana on guitars and mandolin.

The style is intact, but now with added nuances and vitality. There’s some nice playfulness on Polish Calypso, and the mandolin definitely adds a new dimension, but there’s also room for classic fusion on both Anatomy Lesson and Lady On The Goat, including mandatory bass and drum solos.

Interspersed with the live show there’s some interesting interviews with Grzywacz, Stryszowski and Górka, detailing the band’s inception and its rise to cult status; again, with very helpful English subtitles.

For fans of Weather Report (Grzywacz strikes me as a Polish Joe Zawinul), Herbie Hancock (his Mwandishi-Crossings period), Miles Davis (early to mid seventies albums), Billy Cobham (Spectrum, Crosswinds), Soft Machine (from 4 onwards) or Brand X (the first three albums), this band is a must, and I guess this DVD is an excellent place to start.

I’ll be checking their albums soon.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

HECTOR GOMEZ



Xystus – Equilibrio
Xystus – Equilibrio
Country of Origin:Netherlands
Format:DVD + 2CD
Record Label:SPV
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2009
Time:DVD 120:00
Info:Xystus
Samples:Click here

Tracklist:

ACT 1: Equilibrio Overture (3:13), My Song Of Creation (3:43), The Balance Crumbles (6:18), The Traveller (4:50), Shelter (4:07), Last Breath (4:53), Divided We Stand (4:33), The Pact (4:51), The Conflict (6:33)

ACT 2: Destiny Unveiled (5:30), Powerdrunk (7:39), My Time Of Need (4:15), Forever Bound (3:51), The Message (6:17), Balance Restored (3:08), God Of Symmetry (6:08), Reprise (4:16)

Xystus is a five piece band from Den Bosch (Netherlands) and after their first album Receiving Tomorrow and the successor Surreal they needed an international breakthrough. The “Utrechtsch Studenten Concert”, the oldest existing symphony orchestra in the Netherlands needed something special for their 185th anniversary last year. Also the Dutch Academy Of Performing Arts needed an ‘end of year’ project for their students and fortunately with Confusio Musica was able to provide a great helping hand by for the overall production. And this is how the rock-opera Equilibrio Live came to be… The shows were performed at Vredenburg Leidsche Rijn in Utrecht (Netherlands) in July 2008.

The DVD covers the whole concert as performed in Utrecht. As far as the theatrical aspects are concerned, all involved did a truly great job. Many Dutch people will remember Nostradamus, The Fate Of Man by Kayak but Xystus, tops this production by adding a huge orchestra and dancers. Because of this orchestra, metal and more classical orientated music are equally divided, so think more Epica or a bombastic film-score rather than for example Nightwish.

Simone Simons (Epica) is always a feast for the eye and dressed up like she was, as Lady Sophia, she really looks like a goddess. Then we have John Vooijs as ‘Primos’, in his role of ‘Tarzan’ a renowned musical-artist in Holland. He finds his way perfectly in his role as a harsh ruler, while his opponent, Michelle Splietelhof, performing as Primos’ sister ‘Aveline’ tries to rebel against her brother. ‘Grunter’ George Oosthoek (Orphanage) is outstanding in his role as “Death”. He tries hard to persuade Primos to join forces with him in his striving for total domination and thus eliminating Aveline. Xystus vocalist Bas Dolmans is ‘Diegu, the traveller’ and is committed to save the world by reuniting Primos and Aveline. While Lady Sophia would like to have Diegu with her so she promises him that he will be immortal if he decides to become her companion. At the end of the show, Diegu chooses to keep on roaming the Earth as a mortal man and he manages to persuade Primos to come to his senses and forget about his evil plans. Thus the balance is restored and Sophia remains by herself but watches from above how her two children are reunited by Diegu.

Together with dancers and choir, the whole show is nothing less than spectacular, both audio as well as video. The band earn themselves a place in the history books, because to my knowledge, never before a production of this magnitude has been presented in Holland while it’s also a one of a kind happening. My utmost admiration for both Ivo van Dijk and Joris van de Kerkhof, because these two are responsible for the whole production process. The lustrous package contains not only the complete rock-opera but also a photo-gallery, the first rehearsal by band and orchestra for the song Last Breath, images from the time before the concert, the last rehearsals and how the production team is building the impressive stage set.

All songs, albeit in a slightly different version’ from Xystus’ latest album Equilibrio, are performed here so for these tracks I’d like to refer to the review on this album. New on this DVD are The Balance Crumbles, gently opening and gradually building up to a heavier atmosphere, featuring vocals by Simone, John, Michelle and George. Several changes in pace help to keep the tension for the audience. Another varied track is Shelter, with a good guitar solo by Bob Wijtsma, sung by Bas, Michelle and John: Diegu is in need of help, but is turned down by Primos. However Aveline comes to aid and gives him shelter. In The Pact, the alliance between Primos (John) and Death (George) is being forged, while Powerdrunk is a genuine up tempo prog-metal song, definitely more in the vein of what we could have expected by Xystus. The package also holds the whole concert on two audio-cd’s. The booklet contains credits, lyrics and photo’s.

Altogether this is a very impressive, luxury and complete product, worth checking out thoroughly and available through the band’s website. I do hope the band will gain following and will see a good return on their investment they had to make to release this DVD. A big ‘thumbs up’ for Xystus, who have dared to dream and managed to make it come true all the same!

Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10

MENNO VON BRUCKEN FOCK



Credo – This Is What We Do
Credo – This Is What We Do
Country of Origin:UK
Format:DVD
Record Label:Metal Mind
Productions
Catalogue #:MMP DVD 0175
Year of Release:2009
Time:188:00
Info:Credo
Encoding:Region 0, NTSC
Dolby Digital
5.1 Surround, Stereo

Tracklist:

DVD: The Game, Turn The Gun Around, Skin Trade, Seems Like Yesterday, Field Of Vision – Medley: [a. Power To The Nth Degree, b. Phantom, c. Rules Of Engagement, d. Good Boy, Round And Round], Too Late..., ...To Say Goodbye, A Kindness, The Letter, From The Cradle..., ...To The Grave

Bonus Features: Credo Behind the Scenes: Credo Rehearsal (2008), Credo Rhetoric Photo Shoot (2006), CredoCam – in Poland (2008), ‘From the Cradle…’ – Credo Live at the Rotherham ProgFest UK (1999), 'The Letter’ (Excerpt) – Credo Live at the Rotherham ProgFest UK (1999), ‘Too Late to Say Goodbye’ – Credo Live at The Summer’s End Festival UK (2006)

Geoff Feakes' Review

Credo will forever hold a special significance for me as their album Rhetoric was the first CD I reviewed for the DPRP some 3˝ years ago. Since then many albums have passed under the DPRP bridge so to speak, but that gloriously melodic slice of neo-prog still finds favour with my CD player. Every song from the album is included on this, their first outing on DVD plus a medley of numbers from their only other release, 1994’s Field Of Vision.

It was recorded at the Teatr Slaski in Katowice, Poland (where else) on 13th October 2008 in support of Pendragon. The line-up from the last album remains intact namely vocalist Mark Colton, keyboardist extraordinaire Mike Varty, guitarist Tim Birrell, bassist Jim Murdoch and drummer Martin Meads. In terms of sound and picture quality there’s little new you can say about Metal Minds’ Wyspiański recordings suffice to say that the images are crisp and the sound is sharp. Overall, production is as good as we’ve come to expect from the team including the now customary inventive camerawork. The editing is first rate making full use of the multiple cameras on hand. There is one particular zoom that I really like that starts at the back of the upper tier, going right down to the front of the stage. The lighting is very effective making the most of the mostly blue hues, changing to green for the encore.

As for the band themselves, they’re in fine form. At first glance, with the exception of a youthful looking Varty, they do not epitomise the look of a group of neo-proggers with only two albums to their credit. But appearances can be deceiving with Mark Colton in particular proving to be a very charismatic front man. He makes full use of the theatres admittedly not excessive stage, blessed with an excellent voice to boot. In fact live he sounds even more like Fish than he did on the Rhetoric album if that were possible. Every song is superbly performed so the highlights for me tend to be the same as the last album. These include the strident opener The Game, a poignant Too Late… To Say Goodbye and a stirring finale courtesy of From The Cradle… To The Grave.

The bonus material includes an insightful interview with Mark Colton and Mike Varty, clips from three earlier UK performances and rehearsal footage. It all appears quite generous on paper but the behind the scenes filming in Poland looks like what it is, a random selection of home movie footage (filmed by Varty). The live footage in particular is unlikely to receive more than a courtesy glance as the same songs appear in the main show only with far superior camera work. The version reviewed here is the DVD only release although it is also available as a limited edition with two bonus audio CD’s from the same set. The booklet is very neat with tons of info and high resolution live images.

All in all, this may not be the most spectacular of shows caught on camera, especially when compared with the likes of Genesis and Pink Floyd (who both have a conspicuous influence on Credo). However taking into consideration the superb footage, first rate songs and excellent performances I would be doing the band and everyone else involved an injustice if I failed to award a DPRP recommendation.

Menno von Brucken Fock's Review

The history of the British proggers Credo goes back to the early nineties when the first line up including drummer Paul Clarke and keyboardist Mick Stovold started recording the debut Field Of Vision (1994). Shortly after the release of the debut Stovold left the band in 1996, two years later Paul Clarke too. The follow up to this album took the band 11 years. The current line up, a classic 5 piece band, consists of guitarist Tim Birrell, bassist Jim Murdock, vocalist Mark Colton, Mike Varty on the keyboards and Martin Meads on drums. The recording of this DVD came to be with the help of Pendragon’s Nick Barrett, who got Credo this gig in the same theatre in Katowice (Poland) as Pendragon recorded their Concerto Maximo, and, on the same day as well!

In this lovely Slaski Theatre, Credo played a good show, but without special guests, light effects or images on big screens behind the band, it was a rather modest performance. Quality of sound & vision is just fine but because there not too much happening on stage, for me this DVD is a bit boring. The fact that I’m not too impressed by this band, plays a major role. Vocalist Mark Colton’s voice is not exactly a powerful voice with a wide range. It suits the music just right, but in combination with the melodies the band comes up with, giving me that ‘déjŕ vu’ feeling, there’s a remarkable resemblance with the early Marillion music.

However, undoubtedly less original and less dramatic or impressive as far the performance is concerned. Certainly the boys in the band are accomplished musicians but in my opinion not as good as their colleagues in bands like Marillion, Jadis or IQ. I would have loved a bit variation in guitar sounds and keyboard sounds. Martin Meads is a very busy drummer, gently delivering all his fills and doing a great job. Again as pointed out in my review on Pendragon’s Concerto Maximo, I don’t favour rock shows, filmed with an audience sitting comfortably in chairs. There is just too little interaction between band and audience and because of that, the whole video is composed of merely images from these five guys. Anyway, the (DPRP recommended!) album Rhetoric was played in its entirety, along with a few songs from the debut and a brand new song (for me the best of the set), with Round And Round as the working title.

The actual show of October 13th 2008, was approximately 1 hour 45 minutes. The extra’s are an interview with Mark and Mike, some videos, some other live tracks from other gigs, member profiles and some more data. Furthermore some interesting old recordings from Credo dating from the (early) nineties, proving the band definitely had the early line up of Marillion as their source of inspiration.

A very nice way to learn more about this band and its members but in the light of all current competitors, I don’t think this DVD will stand the test of time. Having said that, the band did play very authentic and solid renditions of all the songs, so it was a pretty clean and neat performance. Well worth considering for all who love the Rhetoric album, and/or old fashioned melodic prog as done by Marillion (with FISH) and IQ. Next to the version reviewed here, there’s also one with a double live CD + DVD in one package.

Conclusions:

GEOFF FEAKES : 8 out of 10
MENNO VON BRUCKEN FOCK : 7 out of 10



Klaus Schulze Featuring Lisa Gerrard – Rheingold Live At The Loreley
Klaus Schulze featuring Lisa Gerrard – Rheingold
Country of Origin:Germany/Australia
Format:2DVD
Record Label:SPV
Catalogue #:306077 2 DVD
Year of Release:2008
Time:DVD1 109:00
DVD2 130:00
Info:Klaus Schulz
Encoding:NTSC, Region 0
5.1 Dolby Digital
2.0 Stereo

Tracklist:

DVD1: Alberich (26:10), Loreley (43:51), Wotan (12:26), Wellgunde (15:28), Nothung (12:56)

DVD2: Documentary: The Real World Of Klaus Schulze, Interview: Steven Wilson meets Klaus Schulze

Klaus Schulze needs no introduction. This pioneer of electronic music is well known throughout the world. After recovering from is serious illness a few years ago, he is performing live after an hiatus of over 5 years and he is still making albums as well as supervising all the re-releases of his older albums. Lisa Gerrard is known from her work in Dead Can Dance and performed with Schulze before on his last album Farscape.

Upon the warm welcome Schulze receives from the audience at the Loreley Festival (July 18th, 2008), Schulze expresses his gratitude that he’s able to perform live again. Schulze starts off solo with Alberich a long track, opening very gentle and subsequently adding his characteristic sequences and rhythm patterns. On top of that some slow melodies. Not always the movements of his hands seem to be matching all the different sounds coming from the impressive amount of machinery, built up around and behind the artist. That machinery, samples, loops, computers and delays are responsible for that of course but as ‘not insider’ it’s still kind of strange there is so much music coming from so little physical effort. The Loreley features the vocals by Lisa, expressing a wide range and dynamics with her voice. The performance consists of mere improvisation and while the sequencers are pounding, Schulze creates the perfect ambiance for Lisa. In the second part the sequences fade away and it’s mainly vocals and only some distant sounds created by Klaus but he didn’t even have to put his finger on his mouth, as he did occasionally, to prevent the audience to make too much noise, because the crowd was already listening intensely in spite of the minimalistic sounds. A bit too ‘minimalistic’ for my taste, however. Roaring sounds, a lot of sequencer and leads (the Moogsystem not always in harmony with the background) plus a nicely hammering rhythm in the third track Wotan. Klaus playing his Moog brings the audience into ecstasy. Lisa returns with a solo performance in Wellgunde, Klaus joining her a bit later with smooth orchestrations. The vocals and the keyboards are not in harmony every step of the way as could be expected from improvisation and although the atmosphere is superb, it’s not my cup of tea.

The whole performance of course is fairly static so from a spectator’s point of view, the show is very sober. The ambiance is great, the atmosphere is superb and the lightshow is tasteful but sober. As an encore, Klaus plays Nothung, a genuine masterpiece in the very best Schulze tradition: nice sequences, crystal clear sounds, fine melodies and a solid rhythm.

The extra studio track Nibelungen (another referral to Schulze’s hero Richard Wagner) is not available on the promotional copy, so it could not be reviewed. This piece of music is probably well worth listening to, as it is over 31 minutes.

Disc 2 contains ‘the real world of Klaus Schulze’; this is a documentary about Schulze and his crew working on the remix of the Rheingold concert in the “Real World Studio” in England. In between Schulze tells tales about his past, he checks out the studio and it’s huge mixing facilities and awesome surround system. He also explains why and how he and Lisa Gerrard got in touch. In the long interview (over an hour) with Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson, Schulze talks about his views on music, how his records came to be and about the technological developments and the way these have influenced his music and career. Both artists agree the seventies were by far the most interesting years with regard to creativity and originality and that the record labels in those days were mostly led by dedicated people with a genuine interest in music, unlike most companies nowadays. Schulze states SPV being one of the few exceptions.

This DVD (or double live CD) is obviously a must for Schulze and/or Gerrard fans. Not everyone would forgive the Moog to be slightly out of tune and not everyone will be blown away by Gerrard’s voice and though there are some superb sequences, I’d suggest all those not too familiar with Schulze’s music to listen before buying.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

MENNO VON BRUCKEN FOCK



Trigon – Live 2007
Trigon - Live 2007
Country of Origin:Germany
Format:DVD
Record Label:Just For Kicks
Catalogue #:JFK-7213
Year of Release:2008
Time:66:37
Info:Trigon
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Decadence And Corruption (5:10), Fat Bait (4:46), Raff An Dörti (5:00), Zeitgeist Related Accidents (3:30) [MP3 only], In Trance (3:47), Hazard The Consequences Of Wonders (5:42), Spacechick Strikes Back (4:02), Kamasutra Debakel (3:56), Dance Of The Tortured Turtle (5:21), Whip The Camel (6:18), Spoil The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun (6:01), Zensation (4:10), Blue Time (4:56), Treacherous Tonal Terror (4:00)

Trigon are, apparently, Germany's top jam band. Somewhat unusually for a band of this genre the group is a trio with Rainer Lange on guitar, his brother Stefan Lange on bass and Tihomir Lozanovski on drums. Even more unusual, there are no rambling 30-minute improvisations! Not being at all familiar with the band, I had to turn to their website for information on their past, which seems quite extensive! Originally formed in 1989 they released a debut album in 1991 with a follow-up not appearing until 10 years later. Since 2000 they have released a further three studio albums and two live albums, both recorded at Germany's Burg Herzburg festival. Although, having said that, it is not entirely clear that the group's output is limited to those releases. Several other sites mention additional albums; indeed one review I read whilst researching the band suggests that there may be as many as 30 releases in total, although Live 2007, recorded at the Zappanale festival in August 2007, seems to be the group's first DVD. The DVD also contains the entire Trigon set (plus one extra number not included on the DVD video) as MP3 files which can be burnt to CD. The group's website even includes artwork that can be downloaded for anyone who wants to create an 'official' CD of the soundtrack.

First up, the music. Entirely instrumental, the group have a style that is all their own. Effective use of pedals gives plenty of different guitar sounds which, being the prominent instrument, induces a degree of variety into proceedings. Plenty of acid-soaked psychedelic fret wrangling is included but it is not all guitar. Lange, S provides a steady bass line that frequently carries the melody and drummer Lozanovski is never less than impressive. There is no questioning the musicianship of the group and they work phenomenally well as a trio. At times the group play with a guest keyboard player and, on the tracks presented here, it is somewhat difficult to hear where the keyboards would fit in. My only criticisms of the music is that there is rather a lack of dynamic intensity, indeed, it was only when I got to the eighth track, the wonderfully titled Dance Of The Tortured Turtle, that I came across anything that sounded dramatically different. The other aspect of contention is that the pieces seem really well structured. Now I might be doing the band a complete disservice here and there could be huge swathes of improvisational material, in which case they deserve plaudits for a level of cohesion and interaction that is rare indeed. But, to me, Trigon don't really fit into what I associate with great jam bands, the expressiveness of letting the music take the lead to guide the band in new and unchartered territories. Maybe that is a limitation of having just the three musicians, maybe it is a case of inaccurate nomenclature... The group's website does feature some lengthier monthly jams which give a better indication of their capabilities in a less structured approach.

The DVD itself is well recorded with lots of interesting angles and a mixture of long shots featuring the whole band, to close ups of each of the individual musicians, frequently focusing on the fretboard antics of the brothers Lange (and revealing that Lozanovski is a hot drummer, in both senses of the word!). With plenty of merging of shots and frequent changes in angles, there is plenty of optical stimulation, particularly given there is not much of a light show. However, it may just be that there is are too many cuts between cameras as it can distract from the music.

For avid Trigon fans, a DVD of the band is bound to be something they have been looking forward to. However, for anyone, like myself, not familiar with the group then this is probably not the best introduction to the group (even if you do get to see Rainer Lange doing a Hendrix and playing his guitar behind his head during Zensation). Great musicians, interesting, if at times a little static, music and a good quality recording, both visually and aurally, of Trigon in concert means that the package is good purchase for followers of the group. The inclusion of the soundtrack as MP3 files (the only 'extras' on the DVD) is a nice inclusion and may even draw a few additional people in.

Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10

MARK HUGHES




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