Nadir (9:31), Dandelion (4:47), Seth Zeugma (5:47), Dua (5:44), Tiglath (8:28), Più Limpida e Chiara di Ogni Impressione Vissuta, Part II (3:25),
AdC is the third album from Bolognese band Accordo dei Contrari, and sees a return to the AltrOck stable, having released their first album for the iconic Italian label back in 2006. Those familiar with the two albums thus far - Kinesis and Kublai - will delight in the evident maturing of the band's sound to a point where they now transcend their influences (Area and the "guitar" line-ups of later period Soft Machine, to name but two) and are now recognisable simply as themselves.
Opener Nadir sets the scene; a slowly swelling glow on the horizon reveals itself in layers of eerie synthesiser to be an impending comet-collision of intricate and heavy prog. Heavy that is, but not in the bombastic or metal sense. Guitarist Marco Marzo Maracas is the first to throw his hat into the ring with a short but fiery McLaughlin-esque burst of soloing before the tune drifts off into the ether on a quiet flurry of guitar notes and heavily reverbed Fender Rhodes. Fast syncopation between the guitar and bass and later the Fender Rhodes shines a light on the undoubted technique of this ensemble.
The album is a seamless collection of older and new compositions, all recorded live in the studio in a mere three days in two separate sessions of two days and one day, a month apart. The sessions were bedevilled by technical problems such as the Leslie cabinet dying, and a burning mixer. Not that anyone would know, for the end result is a highly enjoyable charge through modern prog that does far more than pay homage to its many influences. These are all organic and complete instrumental compositions that exude a human warmth so often absent these days, even in the more well-known examples of the genre.
Dandelion is a rumbustious romp that charges along with an unfettered glee, and again Marco gets to stretch out on his unencumbered guitar. The underlying keyboard figure is reminiscent of Hugh Banton at his most animated.
Seth Zeugma is the song where the Leslie cabinet died, and is further enlivened by the addition of a violin and a cello that give it a Stravinsky-like air. This is a song led by the Hammond of Giovanni Parmeggiani, often in syncopation with the strings, and it is a classic piece of complex retro-prog.
Accordo dei Contrari means "agreement of opposites", and this is apparent throughout, where melody bounces off counter melody, and contrapuntal rhythms dance around the beat. Nowhere is this more so than on Dua, the sort of tune any prog fan will delight in picking apart, as there is an awful lot going on here, both on and under the surface.
The tempo is brought down by more reverbed Fender Rhodes and cymbal brushes at the start of Tiglath, making for a spooky atmosphere, added to by sustained guitar notes fading in and out of the mix. A tight and fast rhythm tapped out on the snare is answered by similarly paced notes on the guitar before the synth joins in, in tandem, and we are off on another journey of fusion groove. This is the one song not written solely by keyboard player Giovanni, and here he was joined at the writing stage by guitarist Marco.
Più Limpida e Chiara di Ogni Impressione Vissuta, Part II does its best to live up to its title, which translates approximately as "Clearer and brighter than any experienced impression" (thanks Raff!). It is a short piece of musical melancholy, where the viola adds to the sharply defined regretful atmosphere created by minor key acoustic guitar and piano. That was a quite delightful and somewhat unexpectedly languid end to an absorbing album that at just less than 38 minutes is exactly the right length.
AdC is a must for any fan of modern interpretations of classic eclectic prog sounds, and another prize asset in the AltrOck stable.
All Aboard (1:01), Fast Train (6:42), Solitude (6:47), Empty Minds (6:41), Simple Man (7:42), For Elise (2:03), Test of Time (4:03), Watching the Glow (4:04), The Virus (0:52), Caught In the Web, Part 1 (7:00), Caught In the Web, Part 2 (5:43), Hope (5:25), Into the Dream (7:52)
Adventure are a Norwegian project from Trondheim started by Terje Flessen and Odd Roar Bakken in the
mid nineties. They both liked the same 70s' style progressive/classic rock and wanted to take their
music to a higher level. In the beginning a studio project only which resulted in their self titled
debut album in 2004. This was followed in 2009 by Beacon of Light. This year they're back after a
break and some changes in the line-up with a brand new album entitled Caught In the Web.
Stylistically, the music on the album contains influences of Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Jethro Tull, Camel,
Pink Floyd and a whiff of Kansas. The result is an album containing music from classic rock to symphonic
prog with a folk flair.
There are lots of changes of pace and flow in the material which contributes in
making this album worth listening from beginning to end. The two core members Terje Flessen (guitars)
and Odd Roar Bakken (keyboards) enlisted the help of several recruits Terje Craig (bass, vocals), Elen
Hopen Furunes (vocals) and Kristian Resell (drums). They are supported by the superb singer Roar Nygard
who's reminiscent of John Lawton (Uriah Heep) - with the same tone, timbre and similar dramatic power. The other guest musicians on the album are Lars Hyldmo (flute), Tone Dahl (flute) and Knut Erik Jensen
Adventure deliver an album full of diversity and skill. Musically a creation in retro fashion,
Caught In the Web is dominated by vintage keyboards (Hammond, Moog). The guitar expert Terje Flessen
has a wonderful ability to combine hard rock hooks and subtle melodies. This CD is beautifully packaged
with a booklet featuring nice artwork, band photos and lyrics.
There isn't really a bad track on the album but for me all the tracks sung by Roar Nygard, the title
track (devided into two parts) and Empty Minds stand out. I think this release is
a must have for all fans of the 70s style progressive/classic rock and above mentioned bands. Check out
the media section on the band's official website to relive your musical past!
Beyond the Amstel (8:38), Haunted Nights (3:00), The Last Journey (6:33), Oude Kerk 1 (8:58), Lights and Bridges (6:48), Little Anne (9:35), If By Morning (8:29), Oude Kerk 2 (5:09), Write Your Name (6:18), Salvation (6:25), Garden of Dust (5:28)
Huis are a Dutch sounding group which actually hail from Montreal, Canada. With the release of their debut, Despite Guardian Angels earlier this year, the band have produced an impressive looking progressive rock album which is the result of a five year journey and one significant one.
Having a name which is the Dutch word for "house" may seem an unusual choice for a band with no apparent ties to the country and yet it transpires that the love of Holland came about from a landmark visit several years ago, obviously an inspirational trip which left its mark. Furthermore, of the tracks on Despite, three of the titles are also Dutch.
The opener from the album Beyond the Amstel (the river that runs through Amsterdam) the style and production return the listener to the era of neo prog, from the early 1980s. In particular the sound of early Marillion runs throughout in the form of Michel St-Père's (Mystery guitarist) delayed guitar passages that evoke the sound of Rothery and Gilmour. Matching this, the melodic keyboards from Pascal Lapierre mirror somewhat the arrangements of Mark Kelly from the same period.
Whether the result is intentional or not, this sound pays homage (or imitates) a passage from the 1982 epic, Grendel which of course was critisised in itself for its lifting of Apocalypse in 9/8 from the last third of Supper's Ready. This distinctive time signature forms the basis for the verse structure and taken on its own merits, works very well.
Away from this, the rest of the song is a real treat in its powerhouse, straight ahead prog rock format and is matched with a slick, if not slightly over produced sound, particularly in the drums which could have benefitted from having a little more bite about them.
The Dutch theme continues on many of the songs beyond the opener. Lights and Bridges which starts with the statement -- "Land of Contrasts," and later sings of being mesmerised, by "windmills and endless fields", showing again the true colours of the inspiration for this album. The song itself features a catchy chorus, sang with a glossy AOR feeling vocal harmony underpinned by another one of those memorable hooks from the keyboards.
Little Anne is another self-explanatory song in the context of the album, "Slipping behind those walls," there is no doubt the Anne Frank story touches the band, especially the idea of the "...seeing ghosts in the attic." This song is a highlight from the album and is both tender and thought provoking. Emotionally charged, the powerful lyrics shine in this piece and are matched with yet more polished vocals from the excellent Sylvain Descôteaux alongside a washy sounding keyboard. Overall this is without doubt the band at their strongest. Eventually this slow moving nine minute plus track cranks up a notch as the injustice of the events from that dark period are railed against with real potency. There are other superb moments throughout this piece in the ghostly "Little Anne" section and the superb acoustic guitar and piano passage that follows.
Oude Kerk I and II are both instrumental parts of the album and the name refers to the oldest, monumental church in Amsterdam which is also full of contrast, Catholic and Protestant and old world and new. The album has a number of strong instrumental tracks, Haunted nights (again a reference to Amsterdam's famous for its ghosts and its walks.)
As much as there is plenty to marvel at here, there is a lot in the same vein running throughout the seventy odd minute running time, and it is a reason to feel there is a little too much of the same on offer. The rock is melodic, moving and features brilliant musicianship, but lacks enough surprises over such a volume of material. There are moments that hint at the broadening of the scope of sound at times but these quickly give way to the safer, more established format. Creating a longer more epic track which perhaps incorporates something that builds over and over, or something a little more experimental or even looser in its delivery would have given this release the touch that elevates it from very good to essential.
That said, this is horses for courses and if you like an IQ, Marillion-like feel to your prog with lush instrumentals and vocal harmonies then there is plenty for you to enjoy here, indeed there is more to this group than just another average prog band. As a debut this ticks a lot of boxes and if the band can harness this level of quality and combine it with something a little more daring and perhaps less derivative the result would elevate the band to the forefront of the music scene they occupy. On the strength of the theme and delivery with 'Despite', they show they have the smarts to make that happen.
CD 1, The Twang Dynasty: A Feather on the Scales of Justice (7:30), Mad On Her (7:00), Jumpin' Like a Kangaroo (4:47), The Chimes at Midnight (5:26), The Price (5:59), Circumstances (4:47), Woman (4:31), The Chinese Cut (3:55), Out of the Darkness (5:39), Fast and Dangerous (5:35). The Wings of Mercury (5:24)
CD 2, Live At Glastonbury 1994 (part 1): C'Mon (19:22), Mad On Her (6:40), Even Visionaries Go Blind (4:25), The Chinese Cut (4:16), The Wings of Mercury (6:07)
CD 3, Live At Glastonbury 1994 (part 2): The Ride and the View (19:33), A Feather on the Scales of Justice (8:13), Many Are Called (But Few Get Up) / The Storm (15:28), Bananas (11:49), Romain (6:38)
The later years of the Man band and the albums they released following their 1980s reunion (i.e. after the last MCA album All's Well That Ends Well) have remained somewhat of a dark area to me. Sure I had a few of the albums but they never seemed to be records of choice when it came to selecting something to satisfy a craving for Welsh musical wizardry. I suppose a part of me might have considered that the reformed band was bound to be a weaker version of the group that had provided so many highs during the seventies so the reissue of a couple of these albums by the always trusty Esoteric label gives a chance for re-evaluation. And with the first of these, 1992's The Twang Dynasty the sumptuous box set allows one to assess not only how they performed in the studio but also get to hear if they could still cut it live. The album came some sixteen years after their last studio release, The Welsh Connection and a full nine since their last album, Friday 13th, recorded live at the Marquee in 1983. Amazingly given the comings and goings of Man-band personnel, the band who entered the studio in November 1992 was the same as who had trod the hallowed Wardour Street boards almost a decade earlier - Martin Ace (bass and vocals), Micky Jones (guitar and vocals), Deke Leonard (guitar and vocals) and ex-Gentle Giant John Weathers (drums and vocals). After two previous failed attempts to record new material it seemed that the group would remain a gigging outfit although for how long was debatable as the band became less of a draw along with a decline in concert venues and gig attendance. However, a 1991 invitation to tour Europe as support to Wishbone Ash and Ten Years After rejuvenated the group and prompted them to knuckle down and record new material as well as songs that had been performed live for several years but never been recorded.
The resulting album, originally released on The Road Goes On Forever label turned out to be, if not to be a classic of the Man oeuvre, far better than expected for a band who had last issued new music over a decade and a half ago. The entire band was credited with writing nine of the eleven tracks with one of these also featuring lyric writing support from actor Martyn Ellis, a friend of Leonard's. Opener A Feather on the Scales of Justice laid to rest any fears that the group would only be a pale imitation of their former selves. The characteristic Man sound was still intact with the dual lead guitars playing prominent roles and Leonard singing with a certain bite and venom. There was a definite, and probably deliberate, similarity with some of their best material that they had recorded in their early years with even a sly nod to Hendrix with a melodic refrain that echoes Gypsy Eyes. Weathers provides a solid backbeat and the strength of his playing provides a solid basis for the band to build on. This is no more evident than on Mad On Her, which rather surprisingly is, at least lyrically, in praise of Madonna, as the play-on-words title suggests. A fairly basic song is enlivened by the guitar work of Jones and Leonard who add multiple layers of rhythm parts as well as some nice soloing. Jumpin' Like a Kangaroo has a quite similar style and sound and is one of the non-band compositions and credited to Ace alone. As On Mad On Her the writer takes the lead vocals on a song that originated from one of the previous failed recording attempts. It was perhaps an error in sequencing to position this directly after Mad On Her as the two songs are too similar and Kangaroo is definitely the weaker of the two lacking a lot of the depth and character of a more polished Man song. It is surprising that this number was chosen for inclusion over another Ace composition, Even Visionaries Go Blind, which was written at the same time and is, in my opinion, a far superior song.
The more familiar Jones vocals are heard on The Chimes Of Midnight which, along with the next track, The Price, failed to make it onto live set lists at the time. Perhaps that is understandable for the former number as it is rather a slower song that doesn't really develop or allow much opportunity for the band to play around with on stage, but The Price has a rousing chorus that is seemingly well suited as a live number, particularly as the guitar work is both expansive and expressive, although perhaps the band considered that they would not be able to do justice to the song in performance as a lot of the character of the song can be attributed to the band's first ever use of a 12-string guitar. Circumstances was the other song not attributed to the whole band but instead is credited to Leonard and drummer Paul Simmons, the pair having played together in a group that also featured Sean Tyla from Ducks Deluxe whose potential contributions to the history of rock and roll were curtailed by the reformation of Man. A strong number, with a fine lyric, it offers up a new side of the band having quite a strong commercial flavour, as did Women which was even considered as a single release to such an extent that the group recorded a video to accompany the song. Man never had a history of being a singles band and the commercial potential of either of these numbers should perhaps be viewed as relative to their other material and neither are likely to have troubled the chart compilers had they ever been released as singles. I suppose the nature of Women and its difference from other man compositions is evident from the fact that it is probably my least favourite song the band had committed to tape thus far!
No such criticism can be laid at the feet of Chinese Cut which benefits from Weathers' excellent counterpoint harmonies, a trick no doubt learned from his years participating in the multi-layered harmonies of the Giant. And the abrupt ending to the song is a nice variation on usual song endings. Out of the Darkness takes us back to the dual guitar sound and is another strong Manband performance. Man songs are generally not thought to be the advertisers dream as suitable backing to push new product, although Fast And Dangerous did have several national TV appearances in the UK when it was used, reputedly without payment, on trailers for a new comedy show. The song was no doubt chosen for the repeated title line 'fast and dangerous' as the comedy show in question was called The Fast Show! Decidedly the best of the Ace sung numbers with again the Man signature guitar sound shining through. Final track Wings Of Mercury is a fitting tribute to guitarist John Cipollina, the American guitarist from Quicksilver Messenger Service who had guested with the band on a mid seventies tour commemorated on the Maximum Darkness album. No doubt Cipollina would have been chuffed, and impressed, with the dedication from the band he was such an inspiration to.
The re-release has been expanded to include the band's complete performance at the Glastonbury Festival in June 1994, surprisingly their first appearance at the event, even if they were slotted into the schedule to perform in the acoustic tent! Big error as the electric glories of the band are in full force. Without doubt the band could more than cut it live and even the hyper-critical band members themselves consider the performance as one that was something special amongst the multitude of superlative live performances they had delivered over the years. The first disc opens with a truly excellent C'mon that is extended to almost 20 minutes and really is a prime slice of Man with an introductory jam that was an inspiration for the title track of the next album. Somewhat surprisingly, the rest of the fist disc is 'new' material, although of course at the time of the recording the Twang Dynasty album had been out for 18 months and some of the tracks had been performed live for considerably longer than that. Mad On Her is transformed as a live number with the strong backing vocals being key. The performance of Even Visionaries Go Blind just underlines the mistake it was to leave it off the album, Leonard's slide guitar is excellent and again the title refrain is a vocal highlight. Two other Twang Dynasty numbers, The Chinese Cut and Wings of Mercury, demonstrate how well the new material integrated with the classic material, and let's face it, it must have been tempting for the band to just load their debut Glasto performance with their most popular songs from the seventies.
The second disc from the festival performance includes the two missing tracks not included on the original release put out by the band's fanzine. This disc also starts with an extended jam, a fine rendition of The Ride and the View from the classic The Welsh Connection album. Leonard leads off with some more excellent slide guitar work even including a riff or two from Day And Night originally released on 1974's Slow Motion album. At a handful of seconds short of 20 miutes the band really stretches out and treats the audience to a psychedelic rock tour de force. A Feather on the Scales of Justice sounds like it had been played for years and is one of multiple peaks in the performance. From here on in the end of the set it is pure Man delight. One of the previously unreleased tracks Many Are Called But Few Get Up, the other was traditional encore number Romain, is appended with a rare, but relatively brief, delve into the earliest of the band's catalogue with a section from 1969's The Storm. This song, as well as the frequently performed, but seldom bettered, Bananas and Romain display why Man were always considered a force to be reckoned with in the live arena, and even if the powers that be failed to be suitably impressed by their studio releases they should be recognised for their stellar live performances.
A re-evaluation of the Twang Dynasty is certainly worth the effort, particularly in light of the inclusion of the complete Glastonbury set, even the more casual fan cannot fail to be impressed with both the studio and live material on offer.
Call Down the Moon (9:26), If I Were You (7:33), Dream Away (6:05), Blackout (5:27), The Man With the X-Ray Eyes (7:08), Heaven and Hell (8:08), The Girl Is Trouble (4:05), Drivin' Around (12:21), Burn My Workin' Clothes (3:05), Bonus Tracks: Dream Away (first version) (6:11), Micky Buys a Round (4:09)
The 16-year hiatus that preceded the release of The Twang Dynasty wasn't replicated in the run-up to their next album, Call Down the Moon which was delivered after a mere three-year gap. Recording started in early November 1994, only a few months after the band's storming debut at the Glastonbury Festival, a recording of which is included in the Esoteric re-issue of The Twang Dynasty. Surprisingly, the band travelled to Seattle, the home of the then recent grunge phenomena, for the recording, which was down to the band having fans in influential places rather than any form of bandwagon jumping. Despite the bands' affinity with American West Coast music, particularly bands such as The Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service, it was the first time that the group had undertaken any recording in the US, although as they left all their instruments back in Wales they very nearly didn't get to record anything this time either. Fortunately, a kindly soul stepped in with loans of suitable equipment and the location had no great effect on the group's sound. This is to the credit of studio owner, co-producer and Man fan Ron Sanchez, who being somewhat disappointed by the Twang album wanted to create "a good-sounding underground album, not a contemporary commercial attempt...an album that had enough of the Man fingerprint to satisfy the fans and me". Ironically, it was the band themselves that did more to alter their sound with the twin lead guitars of Micky Jones and Deke Leonard being largely abandoned by Leonard's decision to principally focus on playing keyboards. The band line-up was completed by bassist Martin Ace and drummer John Weathers.
The resulting album did achieve the aim of not sounding like a contemporary release as the variety of the music makes it an almost impossible to task to second guess the year of recording. Leonard was persuaded to step out from behind his keyboards and strap on a six string to trade licks with Jones on a couple of numbers, Blackout which really comes alight in the instrumental second half and would have been an ideal point for live renditions to spread out into jam territory, and the album's longest number, Driving' Around. Always more psychedelic than prog, Man did however cross many genres and Driving' Around does tick many prog boxes. From the piano-based intro, the harmony infused chorus and the solo sections it all fits together very nicely. Things really get going in the second half of the song when the dual guitars start playing together, or more correctly simultaneously as they could almost be playing different songs. The theme from If I Were You, more of which in a moment, is nicely reintroduced to provide, as the booklet states, "a nod to conceptual continuity", with the guitar outro also providing references to previous delights, so much so that Leonard jokingly referred to it as "The C'mon piss take"!
Speaking of C'mon, that number, or at least the jam that prefaced live renditions, had generated a riff that was worked up into a full number, the ten-minute title track which continued the fine Man tradition of stretching out a track to its full potential. The aforementioned If I Were You, is a song that definitely sounds like it was from over 20 years earlier containing elements of light psychedelia, abstract pop, a marching beat and an almost regimented arrangement. In written form that sounds like a bit of a mish mash but musically it works surprisingly well. Also bearing reference to the years of their youth, but in complete musical contrast, is Dream Away, which harks back to the blues boom of the mid 1960s. The original version, included as a bonus track on this release, was a rather straight-forward blues number which didn't really have a lot going for it in terms of distinguishing it from any other electric blues numbers. Fortunately the band realised this and recorded another version with a National, or resonator, guitar, which Jones is seen proudly posing with in a picture in the CD booklet, where the band do look like a bunch of prohibition-era gangsters! Jones also sings in place of Leonard and does a much better job, although to it is undoubtedly the case that the first version with Leonard's vocal was never intended to be a final take. The two versions does provide a nice contrast emphasising how even small changes can dramatically improve a song. To complete the exploration of different musical styles we have The Girl Is Trouble which has a loose relationship to reggae, and on which Leonard's amusing lyrics make great use of a rhyming dictionary, nice pairing of 'sweaty' and 'Serengeti' there Deke! Heaven And Hell is, initially at least, not the most profound of numbers but, again, it is the instrumental section that draws things out, although probably not sufficiently to save the song from being potential winner of least worthy for inclusion on the album.
That accolade may very well be closely contested by Man With the X-Ray Eyes which cements Martin Ace in place as the band's most commercial writer. The song actually did get pressed as a single for distribution to some German radio stations which is somewhat surprising as it is not at all representative of Man or the album. The rather weak lead vocals are the main drawback, that is if you can get past the fact that the music actually sounds like something that Tears For Fears might have come up with at that time. And to have a drummer of Weather's ability tap out such a plodding beat is a travesty. Weather's also gets the last word on the original album with a virtual solo performance on Burn My Workin' Clothes simultaneously singing, playing the kick drum and strumming the rhythm guitar. Another bluesy number it is more of a light hearted end to the album rather than anything serious, as can be heard from the rest of the band, who had contributed backing vocals, a harmonica and more of the resonance guitar, laughing through the playout. The second bonus track is an instrumental outtake which the band never managed to fit vocals to. No great problem as it works well without particularly another era-defining guitar sound, although which era is debatable.
Another good effort from the Welsh wizards but not really on a par with the highs of their early years. It would have been a good effort to end their career with as subsequent releases became increasingly more patchy delivering fewer moments of note. With more highs than lows Call Down The Moon is a worthy addition to the Man collection.
Grand Prix (4:13), Transamazonica (3:47), Transatlantik Non-Stop (3:24), Video (5:11), Jet Set (5:20), Bermuda Dreieck (3:58), Robot Secret Agents (2:56), Mayday (3:50), Bonus Tracks: Rockwarts (6:20), Mellotron Mystique (4:53)
Formed in Berlin in 1969, Mythos entirely passed me by during the 70s even though I lived on a staple diet of progressive rock during the band's lifespan (which pretty much came to an end in 1980). Frontman Stephan Kaske carried on however releasing this single-handed effort in 1981. Embracing synth-pop, Grand Prix is a far cry from the bands psychedelic origins where Pink Floyd and Hawkwind style cosmic-rock matured in the experimental Krautrock scene of the 70's. After five albums and several line-up changes however Kaske decided to go it alone in 1980.
The sleeve notes list an impressive array of keyboards and sundry devices utilised for this (mostly) instrumental recording but sadly the resulting sound is thin and colourless, totally lacking in depth or drama. It would be all too easy to excuse Grand Prix as a product of its time but acts like Ultravox, OMD and Depeche Mode were achieving far more impressive results using similar resources. Kaske may as well been using a cheap Casio and a stylophone. He does have a flair for writing catchy tunes but unfortunately this seems to desert him around the albums halfway mark.
The title track Grand Prix is basically a rehash of Kraftwerk's Autobahn complete with the sampled sound of cars racing between speakers. Both Transamazonica and Transatlantik Non-Stop combine high pitched synth and the reassuringly warm sound of the flute creating a vaguely Mike Oldfield-ish ambiance. For me, the albums best moments.
Track titles like Video, Jet Set and Bermuda Dreieck betray the albums early 80's preoccupations as does the excruciatingly naff drum machine which bleats throughout. Collectively they come across as little more than lightweight album fillers. Robot Secret Agents and Mayday both feature vocals although they are so heavily processed and distorted the words are virtually indistinguishable (which is probably just as well with lines like "Artificial pope is blessing politicians") and Kaske doesn't so much sing as chant his words in a rather monotonous fashion.
This CD features two previously unreleased tracks in the shape of Rockwarts (spacey electronic effects with echoes of Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre) and Mellotron Mystique which fails to live up to its name where the instrument seems to be stuck in 'flute' mode lacking the majesty of OMD's mellotron rich Maid of Orleans also released in 1981.
Stephan Kaske went on to produce music for television shows and commercials which somehow seems appropriate given that the superficial and poppy sound of Grand Prix would not be out of place in an advert for soap powder or even a kid's (pre-school) TV programme. On the plus side the re-mastering (by Hans Dethlof) for this reissue has been particularly well done but one has to wonder, was it worth the effort?
CD 1: Morpheus (10:06), Kendris (7:36), The Old Man of the Sea (12:08), White Pass (11:17), Yesterday's Hero (10:08), Summer's End (11.10),
Being one of the founding fathers of Marillion, the band that probably saved progrock from the vaults of history when punk dominated the global music scene, Steve Rothery needs no further introduction. As Marillion writes their music collectively he is responsible for numerous highlights in prog history with majestic solos on for instance 'Easter', 'Beautiful' or 'Fantastic place' as his principal trademark.
Apart from his normal job in Marillion he has played on many records of friends and acquaintances who all merit his skills for playing melodious chord sequences or solos. And of course he brought The Wishing Tree to the fore, his hobbytime band fronted by the lovely Hannah Stobart who released two enjoyable albums. Many considered these albums the outcome of Rotherys solo work. But now he effectively falsifies that opinion by forming the Steve Rothery Band, consisting of Yatim Halimi (Panic Room) on bass guitar, Leon Parr on drums (Mr. So & So), Dave Foster (Mr. So & So) on guitar, Riccardo Romano (RanestRane) on keyboards and the big man himself on guitar too. This spring and summer they recorded their first album entitled The Ghosts of Pripyat to be released in October 2014.
Remarkably enough the live album of the accompanying tour was released first, recorded at the sold out Cross Road Live Club in Rome during the second ever (!) gig they played together. That's what you can call courageous! Or is it simply a matter of showing his faith in this new music?
If so, mr. Rothery was totally right because this live album is a beautiful experience for those who like atmospheric instrumental music that is all about the melody and guitar solos. It also shows that the man who is always doing his guitar job fluidly but somewhat 'invisible' on stage as if he doesn't like to be in the spotlights, can carry a full live show on his own. In between the songs he provides short informative introductions to the audience because he wants the songs to tell stories. It also shows he's really a very nice, almost shy guy indeed.
The first disc contains live renditions of 6 of the 7 songs that form the studio album; the title song is missing. As I haven't heard that studio album either I assume that the band is improvising quite considerably on stage. Apart from Kendris and The Old Man of the Sea all songs are minutes longer than on the studio record. It is a very pleasant listen all the way through, with extensive soloing in rather slow songs, giving the album a nice laid back feeling. Rothery knows that his strength lies in creating spacy, atmospheric tunes and that he doesn't need to show off his skills, although at times he bursts out in some fast soloing like in the end of Morpheus and The Old Man of the Sea.
All songs have a similar built-up, starting as a slow, ballad-like melody but towards the middle the songs gain speed to become pumping guitar-driven rock upon the very tight interplay between Halimi and Parr. When you tend to think that the band will slow down again the music ends rather abruptly and mr Rothery starts to tell another inspirational story about next song. And then a nice and quiet melody begins again that promises some great guitar outburst later on. The listener will not be disappointed.
The second disc is a somewhat different story. The band is now supplemented by Italian vocalists Manuela Milanese and Alessandro Carmassi to perform a couple of Marillion classics from the first 12 years of that bands existence. The versions are rather okay with Carmassi delivering a convincing vocal on Afraid of Sunlight but he fails to reach the high notes in the closing section of Easter. Milanese is okay on Waiting to Happen and quite strong on Sugar Mice. In Cinderella Search Carmassi reaches the high notes but with a very thin voice that makes this version one we can forget soon, although the guitar solo at the end is stunning. The music playing is very good, especially considering that it's the second time they play together. Mr. Rothery himself misses a few notes in the 'Sugar mice' solo but that doesn't bother at all.
None of these versions come even close to the live performances of the songs sung by Fish of Steve Hogarth but they are nice.
Materna Luna is a RanestRane song that opens with a majestic guitar solo backed with keys slowly building up to a grande finale with full keys and guitar. A great short instrumental. Monolith pt. 2 is a song with lyrics sung in Italian based upon a beautiful piano theme. About halfway some guitar can be shortly heard but then the keys and drums take over again. At 3:35, Rothery comes in for a fierce solo, taking the song to a higher level. It is too bad that the last two songs have not been recorded together with the rest; they stand apart with the audience fading away at the end which hampers the live feeling of the album.
The DVD contains all songs of both discs except Sugar Mice. I didn't have the dvd to review so I can't comment on that.
All in all this solo music is hugely enjoyable, exciting and very Steve Rothery because of the melodies and the fluidness of the guitar soloing. The first disc is without doubt the strongest; the second disc is a nice bonus. The new music is not as adventurous as his fellow guitarists mr. Hackett or mr. Howe have displayed on their solo consecutive albums for Steve Rothery more or less stays on the safe side of prog music with his characteristic trademark, the melodious guitar. He does that so tasteful that this live album is very much worth the purchase. Too bad I haven't been able to be there!
Ginkie (1:50), Come Into My Garden (4:51), Night Train (4:00), Stand Fast (5:29), Sweetest Angel (4:52), Letting Go (4:03), Is This the Time? (6:19), Missy (6:29), Red River Valley (2:22)
Gary Windo (1941-1992) was a British jazz saxophonist, clarinettist and flautist. He played with many well known names in jazz and rock in the 1970s and 1980s, and for these pages, interestingly with members of the 70s' Canterbury Scene.
Unreleased until now, Steam Radio Tapes was recorded under the auspices of Nick Mason of Pink Floyd. Mason gave time to Windo in order for him to try out Pink Floyd's new studio, Britannia Row. Windo could make an album and test out the studio in the process, with Nick Mason producing. The album was recorded in sporadic sessions through 1976, 1977 and 1978. But with the changing musical tastes of the time, Windo and Mason were unable to get the album released.
The album has some interest for the prog listener especially if they are fans of the Canterbury Scene of the mid 1970s. The album features Hugh Hopper, Steve Hillage and Robert Wyatt, there are also appearances from jazz luminaries, such as, Carla Bley. When Mason was on production duties, future Mike and the Machanics drummer, Peter van Hooke, would sit in.
The album mixes jazz inflected pop-rock songs interspersed with instrumentals in a jazz-funk-fusion mould. An instrumental, Ginkie, opens the album with Steve Reich-like minimalist repetitions, using the warm and inviting tones of the bass clarinet; a lovely, brief, tone poem.
Night Train, and the cowboy folk song standard, Red River Valley, have a rock'n'roll parody vibe to them, but are not as irritating as they might have been (see Windo's Dogface, for that particular horror).
Stand Fast is a funky jazz-fusion piece that manages to make a relatively small ensemble sound like a big band. Then it rong foots the listener by stopping and becoming a Weather Report style track, slowly developing a theme before returning to the big band sound at the climax; interesting and funky.
On Missy, Steve Hillage is at his best. Again a funky, fusion beat bolstered by the dancing bass line of Hugh Hopper, this establishes a melodic theme before Windo's brilliantly soulful, sax solo takes it up and develops it. Windo's blowing, here, seems to inspire Hillage to unleash a solo that is blisteringly passionate. It is very different from his more blissful, laid back, layered work with Gong, and on his early solo albums. This is the outstanding instrumental on this album.
Of the songs on the album, they vary from the jazz-style of Come Into My Garden that has a traditional jazz round of solos amongst the players, and a funky, fast R&B ending, to Letting Go, which is, very much, a mid-70s pop song.
Sweetest Angel features a soulful horn section and propulsive bass and manages to seem as if the song is enjoying its own melody, in an unhurried way, and it is a lovely soul-pop song.
The best song on the album is the Robert Wyatt fronted Is This the Time?. Opening with a fierce but soulful solo from Windo over Hugh Hopper's pulsing bass line, and a hypnotic rhythm; it then contrasts this with Wyatt's light, very English voice and vocal melody. This is bolstered by an inventive vocal arrangement which takes the song into a territory reminiscent of Laurie Anderson. Strangely, this weird hybrid of styles works really well.
This is the most prog friendly of the three Windo CDs reviewed here. Having said that, it only works in a prog sense for half of the album, and then, for those who are keen on the Canterbury style of prog, such as the likes of Soft Machine. Though I would enourage fans of Hugh Hopper to check out some of these pieces for the fantastic bass lines. Similarly, I would encourage fans of Robert Wyatt and Steve Hillage to check out Is This the Time? and Missy. The good pieces make this a 6/10.
Puppy Kisses (4:32), Feela Dog (2:53), Guard Duty (3:39), Rex and Spot Meet the International Bitches (5:59), Hound (4:07), Dogface (2:25), The Husky (3:09), Don't Be Cruel (3:39), Baxter (2:35), That's All (4:12), Lassie Breaks Out (3:07)
This 1982 album could not be more of a contrast to Steam Radio Tapes. It consists of parodies of fifties and early sixties rock'n'roll tunes, and includes a cover of Elvis Presley's Don't be Cruel.
As a whole this album is a pub-rock, pub-jazz hybrid, and it is the worst of both of these worlds. It features generally terrible attempts at dog related humour (check out the track list, really, it does not get better!). It has a couple of bright moments in Guard Dog and the off-kilter Beefheart-lite Puppy Kisses. The rest is just rubbish.
On this prog site it will have to be left as unrated, as it contains no prog whatsoever. On any other music rating scale, for me, this is 0/10.
Deep Water (6:38), Blonde Country (5:32), Clean Machine (4:32), Don't Bite Too Hard (Your Teeth Are Too Sharp) (6:09), Ginkie (2:00), Subway Love (6:48), Ghosts (3:25), Breakfast In Bed (5:44),Sister Europe (6:09)
Unlike Gary Windo's other recordings, this uses a single group of musicians which helps to give it a consistency of sound and purpose. It also has that 1980s studio sheen to it but, thankfully, avoids the synthesised percussion that often badly dates such recordings.
Most of the pieces here, mixing instrumentals and songs, are rock-pop melodies, and are probably not for the committed jazz fan. On this you get Windo's jazz and soul-infused sax, vying with the rock guitar textures of Knox Chandler, over the springy rhythm section of bassist Jack Robinson, and drummer Steve Moses. Adding extra texture is the cello of Ann Sheldon, a member, at the time, of The Psychedelic Furs.
The mix of work on Deep Water is eclectic; with, on the one hand, the jazz cover Ghosts that comes over likes some bonkers national anthem, then on the other, a Kraftwerk style motorik song in Subway Love. This has a cracking, scuzzy guitar solo followed by a better sax solo.
In between there is the cello leading the way through the lovely mid-paced melody of Blonde Country. The drone rock of the dirge-like Breakfast in Bed, whose lyric lists, apparently, various street names for heroin. Clean Machine, a robot-like paean to machines that has the drummer imitating a drum-machine, which is very of nice example musical irony given the song's subject matter.
There is one song, Don't Bite Too Hard (Your Teeth Are Too Sharp) which far outstays its 80s pop welcome. However, the best of the bunch is the cover of The Psychedelic Furs song Sister Europe. It is atmospheric and tuneful with delicious interplay between sax, guitar and cello.
Overall, then, a decent, but nothing more, 1980s rock-pop collection with jazzy inflections and overtones. Again, in terms of prog, there are only a few tunes that would be of interest to the general prog fan, it would possibly make a decent prog-influenced EP. So, again I feel in terms of prog, this should be left unrated, but for fans of, slightly oddball, 80s rock-pop I would rate it a 5 out of 10.