Reviews in this issue:
The Alan Parsons Project
Played by Andrew Powell
Back in the mid-eighties an album called Andrew Powell and the
Philharmonia Orchestra Play The Best of The Alan Parsons Project was
released. Back then I failed to buy it while it was available and I've been on the
look out for a re-release ever since.
Recently I came across it in the Parsons section of a record store. The original 'Scrabble cover' had been replaced by a photo collage and the title had also been changed. The infamous Dutch label Dutchy is responsible for the re-release. This both has its pros and cons; as with the dubious Marillion compilation disc Kayleigh the booklet is very minimal. The song credits contain several mistakes (all are copyrighted 1983) and the original credits are missing. If I remember correctly, some of the Project's members participated in making this album and I think it was produced by Alan himself.
On the positive side, the CD is very cheap. I myself bought it for less than 15 guilders.
Andrew Powell is the person who has been responsible for the orchestral arrangements on the albums of The Alan Parsons Project. Later he also played keyboards, both live and in the studio and co-wrote several tracks. On this album Andrew arranged some of the earlier Project songs for performance by orchestra and band. Yes, this is indeed one of those 'orchestral albums'.
The album opens with Lucifer (Mamma Gamma), which in fact starts with
the orchestral intro of May Be A Price to Pay and goes into a version
of Lucifer. After a while the May Be A Price to Pay theme is
repeated and the orchestra continues with Mamma Gamma, which was
originally played by computers. Alan Parsons seemingly enjoyed this
combination of tracks because he played it live during his recent tours,
and it appeared on his live album under the title Luciferama.
After a version of Time, with a lot of string and brass instruments playing the melody, we get to a nice version of Games People Play which features some great saxaphone.
The next track is one of the highlights of the album. In 8 and a half minutes
the I Robot Suite offers us a medley of most of the tracks on that album,
like I Robot, Breakdown, Wouldn't Want To Be Like You, The Voice and
Genesis CH.1 V.32.
Next up is a very powerful version of Damned if I Do which immediately had me looking for the lyrics to sing along. Pavane, the next track, is of course part of the Fall of the House of Usher epic. The original already had a lot of orchestra in it. This version however has been fully re-arranged and features different instruments and percussion.
What Goes Up also features the Voyager part, but unfortunately
isn't the strongest track on the CD. I'm slightly annoyed by the constant
pounding of the kettledrums.
The obligatory Eye in the Sky and Old and Wise close the album. Nice versions nevertheless.
Most of the songs feature bass and drums, which makes this orchestral album less hard to digest than certain others are. The orchestral arrangements themselves are very Parsons-ish, as we know them from his albums. If you like the older Parsons stuff and you're not put off by orchestral tribute albums, you should really get this one. Anyway, the costs don't have to be an obstacle; may be a very low price to pay.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10.
Peter Gee - A Vision of Angels
A Vision of Angels, the second solo-project by Pendragon bassplayer Peter Gee, is again a record full of religious themes. But don't expect a gospel-album, A Vision of Angels is just a collection of fine love songs. From acoustic to jazzy, this album captures different but all romantic moods. A perfect album for a nice sunday-afternoon!
Of course a solo-project is never what it's name suggests: a solo-effort. Peter Gee gets help from a few good friends like Pendragon-mates Clive Nolan and Nick Barrett who both play beautiful solos on the opening track Always. This song has a funky beginning, with a Simply Red-like dancing beat, but changes in the next 10 minutes gradually into a melodic epic featuring the musical qualities of three-quarter of Pendragon.
Other musicians present on this album are Shadowland guitarist Ian Salmon and Jadis drummer Steve Christey. Simon Clew is the only singer, which makes this album more as a whole than the previous one, where more singers were featured. Gee himself played keyboards, bass and guitars, painted the cover and took care of the production, together with Karl Groom. The album is not always as original as I'd hope for, but if you skip some of the songs you've really got more than half-an-hour of lovely music!
To mention some of the highlights on this album: the beautiful ballad Lost and Found, which is such a sweet lovesong, that is should have been the final one. Faith is an acoustic gem... very pure and honest. Never Could Say Goodbye is a jazz-song with melodic bass-lines and rythmic piano and hammond-parts combined with beautiful harmony vocals and a bluesy guitar.
Orphans (Still alone in the World) is a wonderful instrumental, featuring Nick Barrett once again, with his clear sound and melodic guitar-style. The choir-part in the middle of the song is really something special!
It's a pity Peter's writing skills cannot develop in Pendragon. This album is a bit stronger than Heart of David, his previous album, which regrettably can't be ordered anywhere anymore. Time for a re-release!
Rating: 7 out of 10
Genesis - Calling All Stations
When Phil Collins announced that he was leaving Genesis a lot of people thought that it would be the end of the band. Great was their suprise when Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford announced that they had found a new vocalist in the person of Ray Wilson, the singer of the band Stiltskin, which had one hit with their single Inside after a well-known jeans manufacturer used it in one of their commercials. Isn't it ironic .... exactly the subject I Can't Dance was all about.
People who bought Fish's Funny Farm Project Outpatients '93 a couple of years ago can also hear this young Ray Wilson (+/- 30 years) as the leadsinger of the band Guaranteed Pure, which contibuted a fun track called Swing Your Bag to the compilation album.
And now a new CD has been released, and if it wasn't for the vocals you
wouldn't even know that Phil 'We could use some horns on that
one' Collins has left. Session drummer Nir Zidkyahu sounds almost
exactly like the Tambourine Maniac himself.
Ray Wilson's voice is a nice, refreshing change in the sound of Genesis. It's also the only change I can detect because the overall sound of the album doesn't differ much from the We Can't Dance and Invisible Touch albums. And that's one of the weaknesses of the CD; there's nothing new. Maybe Mike and Tony liked to play it safe because people already had to get used to the new singer. Maybe they've lost the will to change directions after all these years. I don't know.
Anyway, there's only one track on the album which doesn't have the familiar 90s Genesis sounds and which I probably wouldn't have recognised if they played it on the radio; Not About Us, which Ray co-wrote.
So, what's the album like then ? Overall, it's not bad. What else would you expect ? It's got some splendid tracks like the powerful and emotional title track, the beautiful ballad Not About Us, There Must Be Some Other Way, another song Ray co-wrote and on which his raw vocals tell us about his origins, and the highlight of the album The Dividing Line (which has an incorrect track timing in the booklet).
Other parts of the album are nice as well, for instance the second half of One Man's Fool and the second half of Alien Afternoon, which unfortunately also features a cheesy vocoder effect. There's even a track which could have come right from a Peter Gabriel album; Uncertain Weather (spot the Mercy Street sound-alike !).
And of course 90s Genesis wouldn't be 90s Genesis if the album didn't have some commercial, potential singles on it; Congo, Shipwrecked, If That's What You Need (a ballad which sounds an awful lot like Hold on my Heart) and Small Talk. All nice as background music but generally not very interesting.
One thing that really annoyed me about the album though is the constant fading at the end of songs while the vocalist isn't finished yet. Also, the band could use a talented guitarist to do some real solos.
Finally, the packaging. Although the cover is rather dull, the inside of the booklet is nice and atmospheric, with all of the lyrics. And by the way, haven't I seen those raindrops on the inside of the back insert before on a Pink Floyd album ?
All in all, a nice CD which won't disappoint many fans of the 80s and 90s Genesis. Collins departure did not cause a return to the old days some people might have hoped for, and it did not change the overall sound of the band either. Let's hope the next one will be a bit more daring.
Conclusion: 7- out of 10.
Zello - Zello
'This album never would have seen the light of day without the inspiration from: Jethro Tull, Kaipa, Kansas, UK and Yes.' This is what Zello's singer and composer P-0 Saether writes in the booklet of the bands debut album. And, it's true, especially fans of early Kansas-albums will be pleasantly surprised by the powerful violin-dominated sound of these Swedish boys.
Starting with Overture, this album immediately takes you on a journey along rocking songs and quiet interludes. This 'Overture' indeed captures several melodies of the album and is, by that, a little epic in itself. Fairy Queen is also a very powerful song, with a beautiful hammond organ and a very 'Starship Trooper'-like synth solo at the end. The quiet Little Eve leads into the very Kansas-like The Children are Crying which is, although the subject of this song is rather serious, a pretty joyful song.
Another interlude brings you to Traffic Jam, which is a rock 'n roll-type of jam with several tempo-changes. The violin is, once again, very present. The combinations between Hammond and violin are much better elaborated, than the 'so-maniest-version-of' Kansas did on their last album 'Freaks of Nature'.
Shades of the crying Children is again one of those little intro's. This one, played on a sort of a Clavichord, is rather special. It is followed by The Angels Have Fallen. Again this is a very lovely 'catchy' song. With it's up-tempo-beat this is real party-time! Quiet water-sounds follow, at the beginning of Kelpie which features a theme that was also present in 'Overture'.
Voyager and Hold On end the album as it started, and that's the only problem I have with this album. Except for the interludes, many of the songs have the same beat and the same sound. Where the album starts very strong and convincing, I'm losing a bit of interest towards the end, which is 'more of the same'. A bit more diversity could save this album. Maybe a guitar player would add something to the compositions. Melody sometimes depends too much on Hammond and violin.
Nevertheless, I'd recommend Zello's promising debut especially to Kansas-fans. But others will also certainly enjoy this album....... at least for the first 25 minutes.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Spock's Beard - The Kindness of Strangers
Experience has taught me that one shouldn't always talk about 'influences' if something reminds you of some other bands music. It would be better to talk about 'similarities'. This implies that something sounds a lot like something else without hinting at plagiarism. For instance, bands like IQ have been accused of copying Genesis while some key composers of the bands hadn't even heard that band's music before they wrote the so-called 'influenced songs'. So let's do this one in a very diplomatic way. All references to other bands and other albums are meant as ways to express similarity, not influence.
If you would take two ounces of Yes, one ounce of old Genesis, would add a pince of jazz fushion, a spoon of blues, cook it and serve it with a lot of Hammond, Mellotron and prepare a cello for desert, what would you get (besides a very messy kitchen ?) ..... the new Spock's Beard album The Kindness of Stangers .
The album's first track, The Good Don't Last (10.04), consists of 3 parts. The first part - you guessed it: Introduction - opens with a cello solo which merges into the main melody of the track. After a couple of solos the second part starts; a joyfull The Good Don't Last, with acoustic guitar and vocals. After the first verse the rest of the instruments come in, including a powerful bass guitar and some great piano and hammond. The final part is a quite piece called The Radiant Is which has more cello and a string quartet. This first track is immediately one of the highlights of the album.
The second song is In the Mouth of Madness (4.45), which might be inspired by John Carpenter's horror movie (which in it's turn was inspired by H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos stories). It's a great rock song where heavy passages switch into gentle ones, not unlike IQ's Breathtaker.
The third song Cakewalk on Easy Street (5.02) is a short, straightforward rock song which doesn't do much for me. It has a recurring switch to some twiddling piano play which I think is a bit annoying. It's my least favorite song on the album, along with another song, Strange World (4.20), which is enjoyable but not very special.
The balled June (5.28), the next track on the album might also be very poppy but in a very nice way. It sounds like a cross between 'The Eagles gone prog' and Extreme tunes like Holehearted. It opens with vocals and acoustic guitar before merging into close harmony. One by one the other instruments come in; bass, drums, etc. The lyrics seem to be about the band:'And the crowd kept on singing Waste Away, but it just didn't feel right, And the prince and the drummer and the fire girls, couldn't get our guitars in tune, and I knew it was over when the sound man said, I wish we were still in June'. Fantastic tune ! This could be a killer if it would be released on single and played on the radio.
Harm's Way (11.05) is another long one, and a very nice one indeed. After a threatening opening lots of tempo changes follow, with quiet vocal parts and heavy and uptempo instrumental sections in between, reminding me a bit of Yours is no Disgrace. The keyboard part seems to be lifted straight from Supper's Ready's Ikhnaton and Itsacon and Their Band of Merry Man. There's also a laid back bluesy middle piece. Great stuff !
Another hightlight is the closing track, Flow (15.48), which also
consists of three parts. True Believer start with a Yes-like opening
with strong bass before heading into a beautiful ballad.
A Constant Flow of Sound, the second part is a splendid piece with lots of joyfull keyboards before returning to the True Believer theme.
Into the Source is the obligatory beautiful album closer with long guitar solo.
Overall, I think this album is better than their previous one Beware of Darkness, which is currently doing very well in the 1997 DPRPoll. The similarities with Yes and Genesis are less obvious on this new album, so it seems like the band is developing an own sound. Kindness of Strangers isn't as heavy on the traditional prog side as their 1997 album, and I personally welcome this more accessible sound. The mass of weird and seemingly pointless jumpy intro's of songs on Beware of Darkness (like the intro to Thoughts) have been tuned down, which isn't a bad thing, as far as I'm concerned.
Finally, the album cover is very disappointing. It isn't what you would expect (which in itself is not a bad thing) but it's also very ugly. The logo has been scribbled in a Geoff Mann-ish kind of way and an orange bar in the middle is surrounded by a collage of cheesy pictures. Yuch ! Looks like something from the sixties. It's a good thing the band already build a steady following because I certainly wouldn't feel the urge to pick up something like this if I came across it in a record store. Fortunately, the CD packaging can be slipped under a paper or magazine when you enjoy the great music it comes with.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10.
Cross - Dream Reality
To be honest I have a problem with compilations. Most of the time, they're a rip off. The Yin&Yang-albums by Fish come especially to mind. Dream Reality is another compilation, where the singer/songwriter took the opportunity to do some re-recording and re-mastering. The main reason for this compilation is the fact that Cross' first three albums are sold out now. I guess re-releasing those was impossible?
This compilation takes you on a trip along several albums and line-up changes. Although I'm not familiar with the originals, I think not all songs have gained quality with the re-recording and I question why some others haven't been re-recorded. Armoury Show, Courage and the title track for example really beg for a better treatment, since the sampled drums really kill any emotion in these songs!
Speeking about begging, this is what Cross sounds like when he's singing. Taking into account that some of the vocals were re-recorded, I wonder what the originals were like. I do like several of the instrumental parts though, for example the middle part of Fire, which features some nice guitar-parts. Uncovered Heart really has an nice on-going beat, and a fair production. The second part of the song is a bit more threatening but this little story eventuelly gets a happy end. Since this one is re-recorded by the new line-up I have hope for the new album.
Funny thing present on this one is a 59 second jam. Glad humor is present. The Fake shows us that music isn't to be taken too serious. That's also what many of the lyrics are: not too serious.... I'm sorry too say that I expect more of a good prog-album than things like 'Oh, baby, baby, let me inside!'.
Run for Rescue is a ballad with not many original things in it ('Nothing hurts for ever') and so is the rest of the album. Since it's a very long one (75 mins!) I was really bored towards the end. Fanfare Song is a bit different with it's dark atmosphere, and a trumpet as a pleasant surprise. Being an instrumental, as the closing song Yearning, these are two of the songs I like most. Poison into Medicine, the title track of the last of the three albums present, starts very promising, but is rapidly killed. Vocals lack any melody or emotions, though the musical concept of this (4th !) epic on this album, isn't bad at all.
"My personal suggestion is to use the programming option of the CD-player....", Cross writes in the booklet. It is indeed my suggestion too: to skip most of it. I wouldn't really recommend this compilation. Cross should better do a live-album, containing the same songs. The current line-up is pretty tight and in that case compositions wouldn't suffer from bad production, or sampled drums!
Rating: 4.5 out of 10
Pink Floyd and others - Zabriskie Point (OST)
Back in 1969 movie producer Michelangelo Antonioni asked Pink Floyd to write some music for his new project, a movie called Zabriskie Point. This wasn't a very strange request because Pink Floyd wrote quite a lot of material for movies in that period (for instance for More and La Vallee). Although these projects never resulted in their best material, it always had some very interesting tracks.
Pink Floyd wrote more than an hour worth of music for Antonioni's movie, but in
the end only three tracks were used because the director didn't consider all of it fit
for his film. In his own words: 'Eet's very beautiful, but eet's too sad', or 'It's
The three tracks that were used and were also issued on earlier editions of the soundtrack album were Heart Beat, Pig Meat (3.11), which was sort of a sound-collage, Crumbling Land (4.13), a country song done in Floydian style, and Come in Number 51, Your Time is Up (5.01). The latter was a remake of Floyd's classic Careful with that Axe, Eugene and is heavier and even more spooky than the original.
Most of the rest of the music which appeared on the soundtrack could be described as country music in one way or another. Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead plays the long acoustic piece which can be heard during the film's love scene.
Fans of Pink Floyd have always hoped that the outtakes of their work for the movie
would be released one day. Releases like the Shine One box-set have proven to
be very disappointing in that way. Some of it however found its way to the fans via
bootlegs; tracks like Rain in the Country, Oneone/Fingal's Cave
and a longer version of Crumbling Land.
Antonioni also rejected a piece called The Violent Sequence which the Floyd would play live and would eventually turn into the melody of Us and Them.
And now a new version of the soundtrack CD has been released. It contains the original disc (now remastered) and an extra disc with outtakes, four performed by Jerry Garcia (basically 30 minutes of twiddling on an acoustic guitar) and four by Pink Floyd (25 of the remaining 50 minutes of material). Most of it isn't quite finished and still in demo phase, but interesting nevertheless. The CD also features of booklet of 40 (!!) pages with lots of pictures from the movie and an very interesting long article.
The first 'new' Floyd track is Country Song (4.37) and is a typical Floydian
movie song which can be compared to Green is the Colour and some of the
music on Obscured by Clouds. It's also the only new Floyd track with vocals
The second one, Unknown Song (6.01) is the same track as Rain in the Country; a lot of twanging on electric and acoustic guitars before bass and drums kick in. In the bootleg versions you could already recognise the embryonic beginnings of The Narrow Way part 1 which would appear on Ummagumma, but in this official, much clearer release one can also detect the bass-line that would return in the section of Atom Heart Mother called Funky Dung.
The next track was one of Floyd's proposals for the movie's love scene, and therefore called Love Scene - Version 6 (7.26). It's a straightforward instrumental blues tune like the band played a lot in the late 60s and early 70s. If you like blues you will probably appreciate this one. It's got lots of delicious guitar by Gilmour.
The last one is another proposal for the same scene, Love Scene - Version 4 (6.45). This is a solo piece by keyboardist Richard Wright and a very boring one indeed. It's the sort of lounge jazz that reminds me of the scene in the Blues Brother's movie where Jake and Elwood visit their old band member Herb (?) in a restaurant. I'm suprised they didn't find anything better in the outtakes. What happened to the stuff that already appeared on bootlegs, and what about the track that is described in the booklet as a early version of the middle section of Echoes ?
Conclusion: Floyd's music for Zabriskie Point isn't the most brilliant stuff they've done, but worth listening to nevertheless. If you like albums like More, Ummagumma and Obscurred by Clouds you should check this one out. For Floyd collectors: from a historical point of view this is a must!
Rating: 6 out of 10.