REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:
Steve Hackett - The Bremen Broadcast [DVD]
Tracklist: Please Don't Touch, Racing In A, Ace Of Wands, Narnia, A Tower Struck Down / Spectral Mornings, Kim (Acoustic Section), Shadow Of The Hierophant, Clocks - The Angel Of Mons (57:04)
|Country of Origin:||U.K.|
|Record Label:||Esoteric Recordings|
|Catalogue #:||EANTDVD 1001|
|Year of Release:||2013|
|Encoding & Sound:||Region 0, NTSC|
Bonus Tracks - Carry On Up The Vicarage, Star Of Sirius (14:32)
Steve Hackett enjoyed a good deal of DVD exposure in 2013 including the reissue of The Tokyo Tapes as a 2CD/DVD set, the mammoth Genesis Revisited: Live At Hammersmith 3CD/2DVD collection and the more modest The Bremen Broadcast single DVD. Although promoted as a new (and official) release by Esoteric this is in fact a repackaged Spectral Mornings DVD, originally available in 2005. The 'new' cover photo of Steve was taken at the actual recording and therefore an improvement on the original and if it looks familiar then that's because it also appeared prominently on the back cover of the 1979 Spectral Mornings studio album. It's nicely packaged in a slim digipak-style case rather than the customary DVD plastic affair.
Recorded at Radio Bremen's studios on the 8th November 1978, the original title was always misleading given that Hackett's third studio album was still 6 months away. That said, the newly formed line-up of Hackett (guitar, vocals), John Hackett (flute, guitar, bass pedals), Nick Magnus (keyboards), Dik Cadbury (bass, vocals), John Shearer (drums) and Pete Hicks (vocals) would go onto record both Spectral Mornings and its successor Defector. The broadcast on German television in May 1979 also coincided with the album release and shows the band in fine form even though the otherwise receptive studio audience seem unfamiliar with the songs (perhaps there for the opportunity to appear on TV rather than any specific allegiance to the ex-Genesis guitarist). The set list is weighted slightly in favour of the most recent Please Don't Touch album and is a scaled down version of Hackett's then current tour which peaked at the Reading Festival in August 1979 (yes, I was there).
Please Don't Touch provides an atmospheric start to proceedings with Hackett showing off his guitar-synth to good effect during the extended intro. The images are as good as you could reasonably expect from a 1970s TV broadcast although a tad grainy with faint horizontal lines on some shots as a result of the yellow stage lighting shining directly into the camera lens. Played on my computer it's obvious that it was filmed in the old fashioned square 4:33 aspect ratio but transferred to a TV the image is conveniently 'stretched' to fill the widescreen.
There are no sound options but what you do hear is crystal clear comfortably filling an average size room without the need for excessive volume or distortion. Cadbury's articulate bass lines for example can be easily picked out. The camerawork is unadventurously static for the most part with Mr. Hackett and his Gibson Les Paul Goldtop understandably being the main focus of attention. Magnus is also favoured and how good it is to see him playing a genuine Mellotron, which remains fully in tune throughout!
A good version of Racing In A is next up and clearly there has been some sound improvements with lead singer Hicks now better placed in the mix and the microphone feedback that blighted the original virtually eliminated. Hicks I believe was originally recruited due to his vocal similarities with Steve Walsh of Kansas fame who appeared on the Please Don't Touch album and was one of Hackett's favourite singers. On the studio version Racing In A concludes with an acoustic interlude but here it goes out with a bang shifting seamlessly into the stunning coda from Ace Of Wands with Steve in electrifying form. Confusingly the front section of Ace Of Wands follows and with the original ending already played, Hackett opts for a spacey outro reminiscent of Genesis' Entangled.
In an instrumentally biased show, the vocally dense Narnia (not one of Hackett's strongest tunes) sounds a little out of place with Hicks conspicuously trying his hardest to emulate Walsh. As Hicks exits the stage, Hackett introduces his vintage Optigan keyboard (similar to a Mellotron only even more temperamental) from which he produces a series of sound effects that recall a speeding steam train and fairground rides. This provides a novel introduction to the riff heavy A Tower Struck Down which in turn segues effortlessly into a sublime and note perfect Spectral Morning which to this day remains one of Hackett's finest tunes.
Turning to classical guitar, the acoustic section is a welcome respite containing Hackett's customary medley of Etude In A Minor, Blood On The Rooftops, Horizons (the two Genesis tunes attracting spontaneous applause) and Kim with superb accompaniment from brother John on flute for the final piece. Cadbury's falsetto vocal for the first half of Shadow Of The Hierophant doesn't do it justice (Sally Oldfield sang the original) but Magnus' mellotronic splendour is suitably symphonic. The second half builds in typically spectacular fashion, so much so it's almost a disappointment when it's cut short for an apocalyptic Clocks - The Angel Of Mons where Shearer (stripped to the waist) demonstrates his considerable drum muscle.
The two 'bonus tracks' were recorded during the same November 1978 session but were omitted from the TV broadcast. This could have been due to time constraints but in truth the performances of both Carry On Up The Vicarage and Star Of Sirius are below par compared with the rest of the set. For the light-hearted Carry On..., Hackett is artificially pitched to produce a succession of silly voices whilst during the latter he and Hicks do not always harmonise to convincing effect with Phil Collins' singing from the original sorely missed. The revamped and extended guitar solo that concludes does at least justify the song's inclusion here.
Whilst Hackett fans have perhaps been spoilt for choice in recent years as far as DVDs are concerned, The Bremen Broadcast provides a unique opportunity to witness the man in his prime. Even if you're familiar with the recent and excellent Live At Hammersmith package, you cannot fail to be mesmerised by the performances here. And, with the exception of the acoustic section, the set list is refreshingly Genesis free. For my final rating I was hovering around a 7 but for the stunning versions of Spectral Mornings, Racing In A/Ace Of Wands and Shadow Of The Hierophant alone this has to be an 8.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
|From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Steve Hackett Studio Album Reviews:-
|"To be honest, this Hackett-album is not the one I expected. It is, apart from two or three songs, very atmospheric and although it's a nice atmosphere that Hackett creates, this album lacks the necessary variation."|
(Jan-Jaap de Haan, 7/10)
|To Watch The Storms|
|"It's been a long time coming, but I believe that this album is the true and logical successor to earlier albums like Spectral Mornings and Defector."|
(Chris Meeker, 9/10)
|"For me however, it's back to Spectral Mornings, Genesis Revisited and Darktown."|
(Geoff Feakes, 7.5/10)
|Out Of The Tunnel's Mouth|
|"...the ultimate time travel through Steve Hackett's musical history."|
(Menno von Brucken Fock, 9/10)
|Beyond The Shrouded Horizon|
|"...there are a couple of numbers that fall s bit short of the mark but the rest is of a high enough quality to achieve a recommended tag."|
(Mark Hughes, 8/10)
|Other CD & DVD Reviews:-|
|Genesis Revisited||Live Archive 70, 80, 90s||Somewhere In South America|
|Live Archive NEARfest||Hungarian Horizons - Budapest||Live Archive 04|
|Once Above A Time [DVD]||Genesis Revisited II||The Tokyo Tapes|
|Genesis Revisited: Live At|
Previous Steve Hackett Live Reviews:-
|Tilburg, Netherlands (2003)||Dublin, Ireland (2003)||Newcastle, U.K. (2003)|
|London, U.K. (2004)||Middlesborough, U.K. (2004)||Summer's End Festival, U.K. (2009)|
|Zoetermeer, Netherlands (2009)||Pontardawe & Gateshead, U.K. (2010)||Zoetermeer, Netherlands (2011)|
|Night of the Prog (2012)||Cardiff, U.K. (2013)||Amsterdam, Netherlands (2013)|
|Manchester, U.K. (2013)|
Previous Steve Hackett Interviews:-
|with Jan-Jaap de Haan (2002)||with Menno von|
Brucken Fock (2010)
|With Menno von|
Brucken Fock (2011)
|with Menno von|
Brucken Fock (2012)
|with John Wenlock-Smith (2012)|
King Crimson - USA [40th Anniversary Edition]
Tracklist: Walk On...No Pussyfooting (0:35), Larks' Tongues in Aspic (Part II) (7:03), Lament (4:21), Exiles (7:09), Asbury Park (7:06), Easy Money (6:41), 21st Century Schizoid Man (8:40), Fracture (11:19), Starless (14:55)
|Country of Origin:||U.K.|
|Record Label:||Panegyric Records|
|Catalogue #:||EANTDVD 1001|
|Year of Release:||1974/2013|
DVD approx 150:00
DVD - Hi-Res stereo versions of the three different album mixes: expanded 30th anniversary edition, Ronan Chris Murphy mix & previously unreleased Robert Fripp/David Singleton mix
No Panegyric! I won't do it! I may have convinced myself to spend upwards of £100 on comprehensive career-spanning boxsets, such as Miles Davis' Complete Columbia Albums set, before but £150 for one album? It's preposterous!
I am of course referring to The Road to Red, Panegyric's Brobdingnagian 24-disc shrine of excess, the focus of which is of course King Crimson's stellar 1974 album, Red. The first twenty CDs chronicle the band's live efforts in the USA and Canada on the tour leading up to the release of Red. For some die-hard Crimson nuts, this prospect sounds like manna from Heaven, but for me, the idea of listening to 20 similar live recordings back-to-back, some poorly recorded, is ghastly. It's one of those situations where, in the best case, each CD will get one, maybe two spins, before being left on the shelf forever. I was unimpressed when Transatlantic released two live albums of what was pretty much the same show (Whirld Tour 2010 and More Never Is Enough), so I'd go ballistic if I had to sit through twenty. Worse still, this expensive treatment will only appeal to older fans with tons of disposable income, and once again makes prog alienating and uninviting to younger people.
Luck would have it that there is a more sensible and much more affordable alternative. When we completed the King Crimson Special one year ago, I had no idea if there would be any more 40th Anniversary Editions, but it seems the reissues are still coming, this time with King Crimson's 1975 live opus, USA. This particular album was released right after the celebrated Fripp/Bruford/Wetton/Cross line-up had disintegrated, and as such the original liner notes end ominously with the letters 'R.I.P.'. As you might expect, this particular concert is also included on the Road to Red set, although infuriatingly in two different mixes, neither of which is the album version, unless you turn to the DVDs and Blu-Rays. Two CDs of the same concert? Pure excess!
However, this 40th Anniversary Edition differs from all the others in one important aspect: Steven Wilson has taken no part in remixing this album, probably too busy doing more important albums like Yes' Close To The Edge. Instead, this version has been remixed by Fripp himself, alongside stalwart mixers Tony Arnold and David Singleton. There's also no surround sound mix; surround sound is overrated anyway.
While the original vinyl sleeve - satisfyingly included in the packaging, thank you! - showed there to be only six tracks on this album, the 2013 reissue has naturally been expanded to include the full concert, which means that you get two more of King Crimson's best songs (Fracture and Starless, the latter of which is easily one of my top five songs) thrown in for good measure. On top of that, the impressive improvisation Asbury Park, a piece that is almost worth the price of admission alone, is extended here - along with Easy Money - so that listeners can at long last hear the tracks as they were meant to be heard. Another enjoyable aspect of the concert are the racy alternative lyrics to Easy Money:
"Well I argued with the judge,
But the bastard wouldn't budge
'Cause they caught me licking fudge
And they never told me once you were a minor
The show isn't without its cons though. While Easy Money is extended, it turns out that the band never finished the song proper with the final verse. This makes the eight minute instrumental all seem in vain, as the song thrives on the expectation of the final verse. Also, the track time for Starless is nearly 16 minutes on this CD, a full three and a half minutes longer than the studio version, thus suggesting a longer more meaty version of the track. In actuality, the live version of Starless stops at almost precisely the same time as the studio version does, and the listener is stuck listening to three and a half minutes of cheering before the band come on and play 21st Century Schizoid Man as an encore. While the wait would be exhilarating live, the three minutes here are simply dead time. There's a reason why live albums are doctored after the main performance, and it's to stop dull moments like these.
Nevertheless, this is a very good purchase for all those that are interested in King Crimson, containing many of their best songs in a very aesthetically pleasing package, reminiscent of the hand of the Statue of Liberty. To the geekier of you, you'll be pleased to know that on the DVD there is a vinyl rip of the album, as well as the 30th Anniversary remaster, not to mention the brutal 2005 mix by Ronan Chris Murphy. I'd be satisfied with just the CD, but it looks like I'll have to be happy with what I have to be happy with.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Robert Calvert - Lucky Leif and the Longships
Tracklist: Ship Of Fools (4:30), The Lay Of The Surfers (3:04), Voyaging To Vinland (4:05), The Making Of Midgard (2:21), Brave New World (3:58), Magical Potion (3:03), Moonshine In The Mountains (2:34), Storm Chant Of The Skraelings (4:40), Volstead O Vodeo Do (4:14), Phase Locked Loop (1:57), Ragna Rock (5:48)
|Country of Origin:||U.K.|
|Catalogue #:||ATOMCD 1038|
|Year of Release:||1975/2013|
|Info:||Lucky Lief and the Longships|
Bonus tracks - Howzat! (4:01), Cricket Lovely Reggae (Cricket Star) (3:56)
It seems hard to believe that Robert Calvert left this planet over 25 years ago now, but he was never really meant for Earth, was he? This fanciful and fun album is proof positive of that, no doubt.
Back in 1974, having been forced to put his fruitful liaison with Hawkwind on hold, due to increasingly severe bouts of manic depression, United Artists allowed the poetic guerrilla to record two solo albums. The first and more well-known was Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters, which came out in 1974. This was a typically bizarre concept album coming out of Robert's unstoppable imagination, centred around the ill-fated jet plane bought by the German Airforce from Lockheed in the '60s. The plane was known as "The Widowmaker", more for its unreliability than for the deadliness of its payload.
Captain Lockheed... featured a large and stellar supporting cast, which for the following year's Lucky Leif and the Longships was pared back somewhat, but adding Hawkwind collaborator and sci-fi author Michael Moorcock, who is credited with playing a banjo! The concept this time is a possible America had it been colonized by the Vikings after their first discovery of the continent. Apparently they called it Vinland or "Land of Wine" which Calvert tied in with the Prohibition era, making an ironic link between America's drinking problem and the Vikings' rather more relaxed attitude to booze; a link probably only Calvert could have come up with.
He also saw it as "a spin-off from a Jacobean gangster musical I've written", naturally! Gamely attempting to make sense of the flurries of ideas coming his way was producer Brian Eno, who had contributed vocals to some of Captain Lockheed.... The Eno touch here is evident, although the songs are firmly of the individualistic and magpie style Calvert was already well known for.
Fusing various American musical styles with Scandinavian folklore, we have Beach Boys surf music, Bo Diddley riffs, Appalachian hoedowns, and English folk music, and Eno's left-field pop menace all somehow making a cohesive whole out of a veritable musical Smörgåsbord.
As an Eno fan, songs like Storm Chant Of The Skraelings and Ragna Rock are an instantly recognizable joy. Immediately prior to Storm Chant... we have Robert doing the mountain man knees-up on Moonshine In The Mountains. Off-kilter reggae beats surface on the next song, Volstead O Vodeo Do, and in these three tracks we are treated to a heady stylistic mix'n'match that encapsulates the album. It shouldn't work, and had it been under anyone else's supervision but Eno's, it probably wouldn't have.
Robert's flirtation with reggae is expanded on the latter of the two bonus tracks, the A-side of a cricket-themed single released to tie in with the visit of the terrifying West Indian cricket team to these shoes in 1974. Nice 'n' cheesy does it!
The presentation of this reissue is mostly very good, with the usual informative booklet essay from Sid Smith. My only criticism is that whoever typed out the track times must have done so after a long lunch. Suffice to say, they are all well wide of the crease! Whatever happened to proof reading, eh?...he says, hoping there are none of his usual grammatical foul-ups in this missive. The timings at the top of this piece reflect the actual track running times.
Unfortunately, after its release, Lucky Leif... went down with his longships and no trace was ever found. This was a real shame as this album serves as near a perfect distillation of Robert Calvert's scattergun imagination firing at its peak as you're likely to find anywhere, and is about as far removed from Hawkwind's cosmic rock as can be, while still being way out there.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
|From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Robert Calvert CD Reviews:-
|"...though clearly not his best album, should still, on the strength of the songs, be a must-buy for all Calvert fans..."|
(Dave Sissons, 6.5/10)
|Captain Lockheed and the|
|"Often dismissed as the ramblings of an increasingly unhinged mind or as an album for stoned freakos, Captain Lockheed And The Starfighters has a lot more to offer than as simply an indulgent solo cash-in to the success of a major band."|
(Mark Hughes, 6.5/10)
Oliver Wakeman with Steve Howe - The 3 Ages of Magick
Tracklist: Ages Of Magick (5:48), Mind Over Matter (4:01), The Forgotten King (3:02), The Storyteller (3:42), The Whales Last Dance (4:30), Time Between Times (5:04), Flight Of The Condor (4:48), Lutey And The Mermaid (3:02), Standing Stones (4:31), The Enchanter (6:04), The Healer (4:17), Through The Eyes Of A Child (2:13), Hy Breasail (8:36)
Bonus tracks - Hit 'N Myth (Previously unreleased) (5:14), The Faerie Ring (Previously unreleased) (5:36), Dream Weaver (The Storyteller Demo) (3:33)
Until around the middle of the last decade Oliver Wakeman enjoyed a prolific recording schedule that began in 1997 and included solo works, collaborations with the likes of Clive Nolan and Steve Howe as well as several guest appearances. He subsequently toured as The Oliver Wakeman Band resulting in the 2008 DVD Coming To Town in addition to taking on the role of Yes keyboardist that same year. His untimely exit from Yes in 2011 was well publicised and given that he is a technically superior musician to the man who replaced him says a lot about the current state of the band. Never one to dwell on what may have been however, the following year Wakeman embarked on his latest collaboration with guitar maestro Gordon Giltrap including a recently completed Autumn/Winter 2013 tour.
Esoteric, better known for their classic rock and prog related reissues from the '70s and '80s, have turned their attention to Wakeman's 2001 album The 3 Ages Of Magick [which DPRP reviewed upon original release Here - Ed] recorded with the support of several guest musicians including one Steve Howe. The Yes guitarist's fame ensured his name also appeared on the CD cover even though Wakeman is responsible for all compositions, arrangements and production. That said, one cannot deny Howe's input with his genius being the ability to add colour and texture to a particular theme or melody making it that much more memorable. A good example here is The Storyteller where Howe's acoustic and weeping steel guitar elevates an O.K. melody into something that's totally infectious. His lengthy acoustic and Spanish guitar interlude is also the highlight of the otherwise disappointing and concluding Hy Breasail.
In his extensive liner notes Oliver likens this all instrumental work to "the great '70s solo albums" and in certain respects he's correct with Rick Wakeman's The Six Wives of Henry VIII being an obvious point of reference. He certainly shares his dad's sense of grandeur as the opening Ages Of Magick testifies with its majestic keys, sampled choral voices and stirring violin from guest Jo Greenland. For me however, the more ambitiously arranged pieces are the least effective. Admittedly tracks like Mind Over Matter, Flight Of The Condor, The Enchanter and the aforementioned Hy Breasail feature impressive playing with Hammond, church-like organ and flashy synth flurries (in the style of Wakeman senior) all present and correct, but all too often they feel like a succession of random keyboard parts and solos in search of a good melody. Oliver also occasionally reminds the listener that he's not being too serious by throwing in a light hearted moment in a similar manner to RW's Merlin The Magician.
For me, the better tracks are the less densely structured including The Forgotten King, a tasteful piano and classical guitar duet, The Whales Last Dance with its rippling piano and symphonic keys bringing Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe's The Meeting to mind, Time Between Times with a haunting violin theme and female choir, the delightful piano solo Lutey And The Mermaid and The Healer where poignant piano is embellished by string and horn effects. If there's one common factor to all of these particular pieces it's Oliver's piano playing which, at the risk of overstating the comparison, is especially evocative of Rick's opulent style. Another track with promise is Standing Stones with Oliver's harp like keys and the unmistakable sound of the Uilleann pipes and low whistle from guest Tony Dixon adding a Celtic flavour.
With thirteen tracks to begin with, the bonus material may seem a tad indulgent but does at least reinstate two pieces recorded for, but left off the original album; Hit 'N Myth and The Faerie. Both have a jaunty light-hearted feel, the latter with a Mike Oldfield-ish air about it. The final track, Dream Weaver, is a demo version of The Storyteller featuring bassist Tim Buchanan on rhythm guitar and if nothing else demonstrates how much Howe made the final arrangement his own.
With Oliver's production and Karl Groom's mixing, The 3 Ages Of Magick sounded pretty good to begin with but the re-mastering (by Groom) gives an added transparency with the solid rhythm work of bassist Tim Buchanan and drummer Dave Wagstaffe especially benefiting (Wagstaffe's crisp snare sound here brings Bill Bruford to mind). Whilst this release should find an audience with Yes compilers who didn't pick up on it first time around, given that Wakeman Senior's output in the current century has been mainly prog-lite it should also appeal to fans for whom the keyboard extravaganzas of the '70s might be gone but they are certainly not forgotten.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
|From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Oliver Wakeman CD & DVD Reviews:-
|The 3 Ages of Magick|
|"...a diverse album with lots of contrasts, sounds and styles. Still, it all comes together in a natural way."|
(Jan-Jaap de Haan, 8/10)
|"I found this album quite pleasurable. It's perfect melodic background music, even if you play it loud."|
(Rob Michel, 7/10)
|"This album has a hard edge for the most part, but prog and melodic rock combine with hard rock to provide contrasting moods."|
(Geoff Feakes, 7.5/10)
|Coming To Town [DVD]|
|"Although extremely well performed, not for me a set with the strongest of material but certainly one of the best looking and sounding DVDís in the recent spate of releases."|
(Geoff Feakes, 8/10)
Previous Oliver Wakeman Live Reviews:-
|Summer's End Festival, Lydney, U.K. (2013)|
Previous Oliver Wakeman Interviews:-
|with Jan-Jaap de Haan (2000)|
Keith Emerson - Honky
Tracklist: Hello Sailor: Introduction (1:59), Bach Before The Mast (2:19), Hello Sailor Finale (4:31), Salt Cay (4:59), Green Ice (6:18), Intro-Juicing (0:25), Big Horn Breakdown (2:12), Yancey Special (4:32), Rum-A-Ting (5:10), Chickcharnie (6:22), Jesus Loves Me (5:05)
In 1978 Emerson, Lake and Palmer decamped to Nassau in the Bahamas to record their final album of the 1970s (and their last for 14 years), the much derided (and IMHO underrated) Love Beach. Following the recording, everyone was eager to leave with the exception of Keith Emerson who had fallen in love with the Bahamas the previous year and set-up home there. Recorded at Compass Point, the same studios used by ELP, Honky includes a number of local musicians who can be seen on the front cover with Emerson (paradoxically several of the pictures of Emerson in the CD booklet resemble the Love Beach album cover and are clearly from the same photo session).
With the exception of his film soundtrack commissions, Honky was Emerson's first proper solo album. Greg Lake was perhaps fortunate in that he was able to utilise ELP as a vehicle for his own solo songs (nearly half of Love Beach for example) whereas Honky provided an ideal outlet for Emerson to display another dimension to his musical personality. The music has an easygoing style, less structured than ELP with Emerson incorporating elements of rock, classical, boogie-woogie, calypso, gospel and jazz laced with Emerson's irrepressible sense of humour. If it resembles any one ELP album in particular then that would be Works Volume 2, which in reality was a mixed assortment of outtakes, and there perhaps lies the problem here.
Although in three parts, the opening suite Hello Sailor clocks in at just 9 minutes. Following the tranquil Introduction featuring the soothing sounds of the ocean and the cool bass lines of Kendal Stubbs, Emerson impresses on solo grand piano with his version of George Malcolm's Bach Before The Mast. Malcolm's piece is a novel arrangement of The Sailor's Hornpipe played in the style of Bach, a perfect vehicle for Emerson's flamboyant style. Hello Sailor Finale is a rockier version of the same tune this time with guitar, jazzy saxophone and Hammond underscored by Emerson's strident 'brass' arrangement.
Salt Cay (named after the scenic location used for the Love Beach photo shoot) is perhaps the closest in spirit to ELP sounding not unlike Karn Evil 9 to begin with (especially the triumphant synth timbre) only with a sunny Caribbean twist. Unfortunately the repetitive, rhythmic motif soon begins to drag giving the impression that Emerson got halfway through and couldn't decide where to go with it after that. Green Ice features piano and chant-like vocal improvisations around a dramatic, repetitive theme clearly intended (but never used) for a film soundtrack. Like the proceeding track it lost my interest somewhere around the halfway mark.
Following the throwaway Intro-Juicing, the keyboardist entertains with the light-hearted and Scott Joplin styled Big Horn Breakdown, a jaunty tune with honky-tonk piano reminiscent of The Sheriff from my favourite ELP album, Trilogy. Continuing in the same vein is Yancey Special composed by Meade Lux Lewis with piano and sax accompanied by Emerson's authentic sounding big-band 'horn' arrangement. A prominent writer and pianist from the 1920s to the 1950s, Lewis was also responsible for Honky Tonk Train Blues, a live Emerson favourite.
The percussive Rum-A-Ting returns to the rhythmic Caribbean flavour of Salt Cay with tom-tom drums and moody bass to the fore and a bubbly synth line from Keith. Chickcharnie is yet another lively jazz style offering driven by Emerson's usual excellent and rhythmic piano. The sprightly synth melody played over the top is one of the albums best but it too begins to drag long before the end is in sight.
In an album brimming over with off the wall arrangements, the concluding Jesus Loves Me is without doubt the most bizarre of all. Recorded in part in what sounds like a local church, the enthusiastic congregation are set to Emerson's rousing Hammond organ and a gospel choir theme.
Often described as Emerson's most eclectic album, Honky was an interesting exercise by Emerson to combine the ethnic sounds of his new found Caribbean home with his more familiar styles, albeit in a distinctly prog-lite vein ('prog' was a dirty word at the beginning of the 1980s). As you would expect from Emerson there is some superb piano and organ playing in particular although Esoteric's usually fine re-mastering lays transparent the thinness of the original production. Strictly for ELP completists and Emerson devotees only I'm afraid.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
|From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Keith Emerson CD Reviews:-
|Emerson Plays Emerson|
|"It's good to hear that Emerson is back, and still can play the piano in his own unique style."|
(Rob Michel, 9/10)
|"One thing for sure, the assembled musicians here are a formidable outfit."|
(Geoff Feakes, 8/10)
|Keith Emerson Band featuring|
Marc Bonilla (2008)
|"Itís contemporary without sounding mainstream, yet classic without coming across as retro."|
(Jim Corcoran, 9/10)
|"...Three Fates is an outstanding return to form and one that bears repeated listening."|
(John Wenlock-Smith, 9/10)
Previous Keith Emerson Live Reviews:-
|Newcastle, U.K. (2002)||Everett, U.S.A. (2004)|
Previous Keith Emerson Interviews:-
|with John Wenlock-Smith (2012)|
Wild Turkey - Battle Hymn
Tracklist: Butterfly (5:00), Twelve Streets of Cobbled Black (3:11), Dulwich Fox (3:50), Easter Psalm (3:44), To the Stars (4:29), Sanctuary (4:31), One Sole Survivor (4:09), Battle Hymn (4:40), Gentle Rain (3:13), Sentinel (4:22)
Wild Turkey - Turkey
Tracklist: Good Old Days (4:14), Tomorrow's Friend (4:08), A Universal Man (3:50), Eternal Mother/The Return (8:00), Chuck Stallion and the Mustangs (3:42), The Street (4:46), See You Next Tuesday (6:42), Telephone (3:40)
Bonus single: Good Old Days (3:03), Life is a Symphony (3:44)
The story of Wild Turkey begins with the 24 year old bassist Glenn Cornick leaving Jethro Tull after the release of 1970's Benefit. Finding himself at a loss, the young Cornick eventually formed Wild Turkey from scratch, with a line-up originally containing drummer John 'Pugwash' Weathers and guitarist Jon Blackmore alongside Welsh singer Gary Pickford-Hopkins who sadly passed away last June. Weathers disapproved of Blackmore's folky style and proceeded to quit the band, eventually settling with a more memorable stint as drummer for Gentle Giant. However, he admits that he is 'ashamed' of the manner in which he left in the liner notes to this Esoteric version of Wild Turkey's debut, Battle Hymn. More grief was to follow; after essentially kidnapping a new lead guitarist, 'Tweke' Lewis - later to join Man - the band were assigned the producer Rodger Bain, who had previously worked with Black Sabbath and Budgie.
Now this is where the notes begin to get really interesting. In the notes to both Battle Hymn and Turkey, Cornick explicitly lambastes Rodger Bain for apparently not "caring about [them] or [their] music." Later, he goes as far as to say "Bain is the reason the album doesn't sound that great." We're all grown up enough to know that there are two sides to every story, but I'm afraid to report that the notes to this album do not represent Bain's side at all. It shows Cornick as a man who hasn't been able to let go of something for forty years. I've sympathised before with bands such as Pavlov's Dog who regret that their record label pushed them about so much, but when a reissue like this has been used to make a personal attack, I'm afraid I cannot approve of it.
The music itself lies on very uneasy territory between folk and rock. Quite surprisingly, it sounds nothing like Jethro Tull whatsoever; there is no flute to be found here. I wouldn't really call it prog either, although the band do dip into a couple of odd time signatures now and then on tracks such as Easter Psalm. The voice of Pickford-Hopkins is an acquired taste, and many prog fans will know him from more famous albums such as Rick Wakeman's Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
While I disagree with his manner of accusing Rodger Bain, Cornick's criticism does appear to make sense. I can't fault the playing, but the sound does appear somehow very narrow and claustrophobic. Oddly though, I've found that YouTube editions of some of these songs actually sound much better than the CD itself, suggesting that Esoteric's remasters may not be up to scratch. Although I personally wasn't enamoured with the album, the tracks that stick out in my mind are the energetic opener Butterfly, the sweet acoustic Dulwich Fox with its infectious main riff, and the hard rocker One Sole Survivor which is very well choreographed. It's an album that could have admittedly benefited from better production, but also from more interesting and open-minded ideas and a more honed sense of direction.
After Battle Hymn was released in 1971, Blackmore had started getting on Cornick's nerves too and was subsequently fired from the band. Recruited in his place was Mick Dyche of whom Cornick praises as "still the best guitarist [he's] ever been in a band with." The music changed too; Cornick admits that the band had been listening to more Allman Brothers which can be heard on 1972's Turkey. Blues songs and melodic guitar solos abound on this album, bringing the band more into line with the Climax Blues Band.
Track names like Chuck Stallion and the Mustangs as well as the decidedly western looking cover art - a quite beautiful work by Alan Cracknell of a titular turkey - mirrored this dramatic change in the band's sound and style. To me this all demonstrates a total lack of direction or decisiveness. Worse still, the music hadn't really improved in quality. Flaws can be found everywhere; listening to Pickford-Hopkins stretch himself on Chuck Stallion and the Mustangs is painful, and Eternal Mother is simply dull and repetitive - although the awesome concluding guitar solo, entitled The Return, does redeem it somewhat. Cornick himself took the role of producer, although to my ears he doesn't fare much better than Bain, although this may once more be to do with Esoteric's poor treatment of the remasters. The tracks all seem to stay inside little boxes rather than filling the room. The extended instrumental See You Next Tuesday, with its triumphant main riff, should sound fantastic, but always seems stunted somewhat here. The album ends with the very awkward Telephone, which ends oddly with the ringing phone. I wonder if anyone listening to the original LP had to get up and check theirs.
Both of these albums were released on the Chrysalis label in gatefold sleeves, and Esoteric has done an adequate job recreating these in their entirety, including the original Side One and Side Two tracklistings. All of the artwork is there but in the case of Turkey, the band photos on the inner gatefold have been distributed around the booklet, something I'm OK with. As usual, minor cropping does occur in most places, but the biggest impact is on the Battle Hymn sleeve, which features soldiers on the front and gravestones on the back. When opened in a gatefold style the original cover had the five rows of soldiers and gravestones matching so that the metaphor of the image was more evident, but on the Esoteric booklet, the gravestones and soldiers aren't quite matched up. While Malcolm Dome's notes are informed, as well as informative, his trend of using hyperbole has not gone unnoticed. "Today, Battle Hymn is rightly regarded as a timeless classic", is perhaps going a little far.
Wild Turkey sit at the very edge of the prog realm, the part that doesn't want anything to do with it and is only linked by association. Unless you are well into your folk music or blues or are absolutely loony about Jethro Tull to the point of exploring all their offshoots, then I can't think of any reason you should pick these albums up. Given that Esoteric may have fudged the remasters anyway, this is a total no-go.
Battle Hymns: 4.5 out of 10
Turkey: 4.5 out of 10
|From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Wild Turkey CD Reviews:-
|You & Me In The Jungle|
|"There is little here to attract a progressive audience and Messrs Cornick, Pickford-Hopkins and company have chosen a route that owes little or no allegiances to their prog pasts."|
(Bob Mulvey, 4/10)