Album Reviews

Issue 1999-004

Reviews in this issue:

Darius - Somewhere aLIVE in the Crowd
Country of Origin:Germany
Record Label:Zizania
Catalogue #:ZEG0299
Year of Release:1999

Tracklist: Voices (6.54), First Contact (8.17), Searching (6.24), Alone (7.13), The Last Way (8.02), Snowflakes (6.25), The Seven Signs (5.25), One of Them (6.41), Kayleigh (4.15), A Poet's Soliloquy (5.57).

Somewhere aLIVE in the Crowd closes an era for Darius. Singer Dirk Vocalist has decided to leave the band, as well as drummer Marcus Arnrich. The CD contains live recordings of concerts in Utrecht (June 97), Uden (Planet Pul, June 98) and an acoustic performance in Wulfrath (95).
The CD comes rather soon for being a live album since Darius has only released two studio albums so far. The choice of the tracklist even resulted in the whole second album (Voices from the Crowd) being included, except for one song. The first album is only represented by two tracks.

The whole album has been recorded and mixed without any overdubs in the studio. This both has its advantages and disadvantages. The album feels very much like a real live document, which enhances the atmosphere of the songs. On the other hand, the occassional bum note (especially by keyboard player and drummer) is quite clear. Fortunately, Darius is professional enough not to have a lot of those, so after giving the CDs several spins you get used to it and the whole thing feels more spontaneous. During A Poet's Soliloquy for instance, the band makes a slight mistake, joke about it for a while and quickly pick the rhythm up again.
Something which I find very annoying though is the fact that the beautiful Alone is faded out ! I hate it when people do that !

An interesting extra on this CD is the cover of Marillion's Kayleigh. One of the nice things about this version is that the normal guitar part is played by the piano. Very nice.

From the menacing keyboard intro and Marillioneque guitar opening of Voices to the closing chords of the acoustic version of A Poet's Soliloquy this album is a very enjoyable one indeed. It easily explains why I was so impressed after seeing them live for the first time, without ever having heard a single note previously.

The CD cover is a nice atmospheric picture of a shadow crowd, designed by DPRP art man Mattias Noren. Unfortunately the choice was made to package the CD in a digipack. Personally I'm not a big fan of these things because they get easily damaged.

Even though you might question the necessity for this album it's a recommended CD, especially for people who like Marillion (and Floyd).

Conclusion: 8- out of 10.

Ed Sander

Blue Shift - (Not the Future I Ordered)

Country of Origin: USA
Format: CD
Record Label: Musea
Catalogue #: FGBG 4263.AR
Year of (Re-)Release: 1998
Time: 43.10
Info: Blue Shift Homepage

This album of Blue Shift has restored my faith in Musea Records. It is a well produced, well written, intelligent album. This band is a Yes-clone, but sometimes almost beating the original, especially in the heavier parts. What is fun is that you are taken on a journey through Yes-history without one single original Yes song! The vocals of Stewart Meredith are so similar to Yes' Jon Anderson that the first time I heard the album, I checked to see if I didn't accidentaly insert a Yes CD in my player. The complexer instrumental parts are sometimes more ELP-like. The lyrics can be ignored all together, just a collection of meaningless lines most of the time. This explains the minus in my final ranking. But this is definitely an album I will insert in my CD player more often.

The opening track Wide Awake and Dreaming (8'.42) starts with a very Genesis-like acoustic guitar, to be followed by a complex keyboard melody, in which the instrument setting changes every two notes. Then a slightly more heavy part set in, the couplet, which returns throughout the song in different tempi. The chorus is very Yes-like. All in all, this is a complex song, with lots of breaks and moods. Really interesting.

Not the Future I Ordered (4'.54), the title track is based on a pounding beat, giving the sense of impending doom. Overlayed on this beat is a quick keyboard solo, later to be followed by a complex couplet, then returning to the doom-beat, this time with guitar over it.

A more ballad-like piece is Rome (7'.40). This piece is an interesting mixture in style and melody between Yes and Genesis of the 70's, of course in a more modern setting. At times it reminded me of Yes' Awaken and the final of the song of Wurm (the final of Starship Trooper). Well, of course one cannot reach the heights Yes reaches in those masterpieces, but it gives the mood of the song. Again, enough musical things happen to make it a very interesting track.

Walking on Air (4'.04), is a happy song, a bit like the happier Pendragon songs or the 90's Yes. Especially the chorus is really Union/ Talk. Rather simple but fun.

Safe Sex (4'.20) is about cybersex and starts with a computer modem dailing in to its provider. Then the guitar takes over the beeps you hear when dialing. Brilliant and fun! The rest of the song is a nothing special, simple and unoffencing.

A church organ starts Moving out (3'.40), the rest of the song is in the Big Generator style. It is bombastic.

The Immigrant Song (2'.49) is a Led Zeppelin cover. Nice rock.

Flintridge (6'.44) opens with a melody that you will recognise but you can't place. It took me a while to realise that it is the theme from E.T. and -heya!- the song is about UFO's, what a coincidence. Songs about UFO's give bands the possibility to experiment with their synths. Fortunately, Blue Shift (which by the way is an astronomical term that indicates that an object is approaching you rapidely), don't overdo this and keep it decent.

Distributed by Musea Records

8- out of 10

review by Remco Schoenmakers

Bjorn Lynne - Wolves of the Gods
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Cyclops
Catalogue #:CYCL 076
Year of Release:1999

Tracklisting: Prologue - To dream of Wolves (3.31), Demon Moon (6.37), Shapechanger (7.01), Leiria - Lips or Sword (5.36), The Ghost Warriors of Caluz (5.25), The Spirit Rider (8.19), Palimak's Revenge (8.12), Kyrania (5.10), Queen Hantilia (7.21), The Beckoning Sea (10.04), Epilogue - Safar's Song (3.16).

Last year multi-instrumentalist Bjorn Lynne released a wonderful CD called Wizard of the WInds/When the Gods Slept. The CD was a concept album based on a fantasy novel by Allan Cole. The diverse instrumental tracks of that album were introduced with spoken narration which summarized the story of the novel. The whole formed a very nice combination and I rated the CD very high (8.5) in my review.

When Bjorn informed me that he had finished his new CD Wolves of the Gods, an uneasy feeling came over me. Bjorn had decided to try the same trick again and had written another 'soundtrack' to an Allan Cole novel. Allan had provided the narrations once again, but they were not read out between the songs.
When I finally held the album in my hand the uneasy feeling became even stronger. The whole thing looked like a copy of the previous album, down to the artwork and lay-out of the booklet.

In a separate letter Bjorn wrote: "A lot of work on this album happened in long bursts of extremely intense work. I would lock myself in the studio for up to 3 days at a time, barely sleeping or eating just enough to stay awake, and then walk out the studio a few days later, with a completely finished song (from first idea, to finished master tape)."
This situation definitely shows in the end product, and I'm afraid in a negative way. As a whole the album misses the power and splendour of Wizard of the Winds. At times the music sounds very forced or even falls flat for a while.

The album does have it's moments, like the bombastic film music-like sequence in Prologue, the spooky sound effects of Shapechanger, the funky second half of Spirit Rider, the heavy ending of Palimak's Revenge, the guitar solo in Kyrania and the piano break in Queen Hantilia.
The style of guest guitarist Rory McLeish, who plays on 4 songs, sounds more like David Gilmour on his first solo album and is a nice diversion from Bjorn's more distorted Oldfield-ish style. Unfortunately, at best it sounds like an attempt to copy the previous album. Some melodies of the previous album are even cleverly woven into the music of Wolves of the Gods.

Although the music is still miles away from some of the mediocre stuff we have to deal with at DPRP, I think Bjorn could have done a lot better than just rehashing an old concept. And him being a very nice bloke, I also think he deserves better.
Unfortunately (for me ?) Bjorn has decided to make the project a trology, so number 3 is coming up next.

Having said that, Cyclops seems to be very pleased with the album, and according to Bjorn some of his old time fans have said that it's by far his best album.

But why not judge for yourself ? Bjorn has uploaded some of the songs in MP3 and RealAudio format. The CD can also be ordered through the secure SSL encrypted online order form on Bjorn's Web Site.

Conclusion: 7- out of 10.

Ed Sander

Marillion - Unplugged at the Walls
Country of Origin:UK
Format:2 CD
Record Label:Racket
Catalogue #:Racket 10
Year of Release:1999
Info:Marillion Online

Tracklist: CD 1 (50.58): Beautiful (4.51), Beyond You (5.59), Afraid of Sunrise (4.13), Runaway (6.37), Now She'll Never Know (5.19), Alone Again in the Lap of Luxury (3.52), The Space (4.09), Fake Plastic Trees (5.10), Holloway Girl (4.13), King (6.32).
CD 2 (36.31): The Answering Machine (4.29), Gazpacho (5.38), Cannibal Surf Babe (7.11), Black Bird (2.59), Abraham, Martin and John (8.09), Hooks in You (3.48), 80 Days (4.18)
(Track timings include applause and introductions by Steve Hogarth)

On the 25th of June a strange thing happened. A group of like-minded people arrived at England's sea and airports and made their way to a small town on the Welsh border. The came from Brazil, Mexico, North America, Australia, Japan, Israel, Germany, Holland and Spain.
They came to have dinner...

...they also came to see a band.

When Marillion realised they'd be holed in Oswestry for a couple of weeks Steve Hogarth had a bright idea of Marillion doing a deal with the best restaurant in town: free food for the duration in return for a low-profile acoustic performance on the premises.

Initially meant as a secret undercover gig for some locals, it got slightly out of hand. Via the Internet half the Marillion-loving world found about the gig and soon arrangements were made for people from all over the world to travel down to England. The 150 tickets were sold out in no-time and the band faced a very angry fanclub, who knew nothing about it. So, a second night was added for the fanclub only, and the band realised that "a couple of verses of Easter simply wouldn't do" and they rehearsed for over a week to re-arrange songs that they had never done acoustically before.

Both nights turned out to be an experience never to forget, both for the band as for the fans who were there, and now finally can the people who weren't there hear what they have missed. At first the band was reluctant to release the recordings, as they felt they were inferior and the new arrangements deserved a better recording. A year's bugging by the fans however persuaded them to release it anyway. Personally I can't really hear the "inferior" quality, as to me it sounds even better than their last two studio-albums!

In the past Marillion had played acoustic shows before, but these still featured synthesisers and the setlist contained mainly of songs that already featured an acoustic guitar or such. On the Oswestry CD you will find many songs that are originally very "electrical" and all of them are played with an acoustic guitar, bass, brushed drums, grand piano and Hammond organ.
Only one time an electric guitar is used, for the Marvin Gaye cover Abraham, Martin and John, which features a genuine Gibson Les Paul. The Les Paul was also used for the final encore Under the Sun but this song has been omitted from the album.

Many songs have been completely re-arranged, like Alone Again in the Lap of Luxury, which has become some sort of uptempo reggae gag. Hooks in You on the contrary has been slowed down to a blues arrangement and the epic The Space has been completely restructured into a verse-chorus-verse-chorus song, with a rumba rhythm.

Four songs on the album had never been played live before: Beyond You and Afraid of Sunrise both from 1995's Afraid of Sunlight as well as two songs from their latest (and at that time upcoming) album Radiation: Now She'll Never Know (featuring Pete Trewavas on guitar and Steve Rothery playing bass) and The Answering Machine which is played in a completely different arrangement than the eventual studio version.

Fans of Hogarth's voice will definitely love this album, as many of the songs are completely carried by his voice alone, especially Holloway Girl and King. The latter of which is still surprisingly powerful considering the lack of electric instruments; Mark Kelly plays the guitar solo on the Hammond organ, and in return the quiet piano part is played by Steve Rothery on guitar!

Despite the superb songs on the album, there are also some minor points. The cover features meaningless close-ups of dusty plugs and electricity cords, while booklet is a standard Racket-release three-fold paper. Unlike previous racket releases for once the album does contain liner notes, and the b&w photo collage is quite nice.
The album is also quite short for a double album. If they had skipped the applause which follows Cannibal Surf Babe and Abraham, Martin and John you'd be left with some 80 minutes of music. Had they then edited a bit more of the chatter, or skipped one song, and it would have fitted on one album. Now you have to pay EUR 18 (EUR 16 for Web members) plus p&p for a mere 80 minutes of music and 9 minutes of clapping and screaming of an audience.

Also, it is definitely not an album everyone will enjoy. Especially the die-hard prog fans may find it difficult to listen to the light arrangements of these songs. However, if you're into acoustic music, and don't mind the occasional "fun" arrangement to appear on the album, then this is a must have. Obviously, if you've been to either one of the shows, you will already own the album!

Personally I think it's the best album the band has released in 4 years - including studio-releases!

You can also read a review of the gig in the Concert Review Archive.

Conclusion: 9 out of 10.

Bart Jan van der Vorst

Snowy White and the White Flames - Keep Out - We Are Toxic
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:BMG/Hypertension
Catalogue #:74321 63624 2
Year of Release:1999
Info:E-mail Hypertension

Tracklisting: Keep Out - We Are Toxic (8.32), What Would I Do (4.54), Flaming Lake (4.29), Silence in the Valley (4.57), Naharia (3.40), A Piece of the Action (5.48), Time Waits for no Man (3.39), Precious (4.17), When the Rains Don't Come (7.30).

One year after the release of Little Wing the ex-Thin Lizzy and Pink Floyd session guitarist Snowy White and his two Dutch sidekicks Juan van Emmerloot (drums & percussion) and Walter Latupeirissa (bass) are back with a brand new album. The album features nine tracks, of which two are instrumentals.

Keep Out - We Are Toxic starts with a minute of percussion and guitar effects. After this the vocals come in. Two and a half minute into the song the guitar work becomes slightly heavier while the drums kick in. Halfway through the song keyboards are added (something which had become quite rare on Snowy's CD lately) and a more Dire Straits-like instrumental part ends this fine track.
What Would I Do incorporates a melody which has been played live in a different song in 1997. It's become a definite toe-tapper with an intentional chaotic middle piece and a rocking kick-ass guitar solo.
Flamingo Lake is a quiet ballad with lovely Spanish guitar and very few lyrics. Besides the acoustic guitar, you'll also find some of Snowy's typical electric guitar, which some of you will know from his hit Bird of Paradise, in this song.
Silence in the Valley is a mid-tempo song which starts with howling guitars and a sampled percussion loop. After a silence of several seconds the guitar and drum violence hits you right between the eyes.
Naharia is the obligatory bass solo by Walter, which seems to be present on any new album. It's nice and it's got some interesting sound effects as well, but it's a bit too long for a studio album and I would have preferred to hear it incorporated in a longer track.

After this nice first half of the album, with songs which quite fit the more free formed and experimental style of his No Faith Required and Little Wing albums, the music goes slightly down the hill.
The straightforward mainstream rock of A Piece of the Action and the ballad Time Waits for No Man would not have been out of place on Snowy's Highway to the Sun album. They're not bad songs, they're just not very special.
Precious is a rather easy listening/fushion-like instrumental, composed by the three band members together, which feels like a lame Earl Klugh track. Skip !
When the Rains Don't Come starts with sound effects of frogs and a thunderstorm (so the rain does come ?). With it's string keyboards, percussion, Snowy's pondering vocals and Floydian guitar solo in the climax this is a worthy closer of the album.

Snowy's lyrics once again have more meaning to them, not unlike on the cynical and slightly politically critical No Faith Required album.
Snowy's style did not change much over the last couple of years. There's still a lot of melodic blues influences in his music, although the influences of Juan and Walter can also be detected in the less conventional rhythm patterns.

Personally I think that this album does not reach the quality of Snowy's previous two CDs (No Faith Required and Little Wing). I really liked the more free formed and experimental feel of those two albums. Keep Out - We Are Toxic feels like a step back towards a more conventional direction. Also, with only 48 minutes it's not really a long album either.

The 8-page booklet which features some simple cover artwork and some nice pictures of the band and the individual members, is an improvement though.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10.

Ed Sander

Fish@Haddington Convention 1998
Country of Origin:Scotland
Format:2 CD
Record Label:-
Catalogue #:-
Year of Release:1999
Info:The Perception of Fish

Tracklist: CD 1 (59.24): Lucky (5.43), Mr 1470 (6.52), Family Business (6.11), Hotel Hobbies/Warm Wet Circles/That Time of the Night (14.09), What Volour is God? (7.16), Brother 52 (6.03), Assassing (2.27), Credo (3.39), Tongues (7.02).
CD 2 (51.25): Cliche (9.45), The Perception of Johnny Punter (10.22), Kayleigh (5.51), Lavender (6.35), Heart of Lothian (4.16), GI's a Bun (3.45), Worm in a Bottle (10.49)
(Track timings include applause and introductions by Fish)

The annual Company conventions always tend to become something really special, however the 1998 must have been the most special convention ever. After a few pints too many Fish had decided that this year he would perform three acoustic concerts around lunchtime, as well as a 2hrs + show at night. The afternoon concerts, complete with the chatter and drinking caused Fish's voice to be already destroyed before the evening show even started!

This performance on this recording definitely isn't his best performance, as due to lack of proper rehearsing and the stress of the day Fish couldn't remember half his lyrics. The band however plays surprisingly well (considering it was the first time in 8 months that they were playing together again) and the multi-track DAT recordings are of the best quality ever appeared on an official Fish bootleg. This must have been the reasoning for putting it out on a record, despite the fact that the sound engineer screwed up and failed to change the DAT tapes in time, thus missing about 25 minutes of the performance.
The unfortunate timing of the sound engineer caused that the second half of the Assassing / Credo / Tongues / Assassing / Fugazi / White Feather medley had to be omitted, as well as the final 3 minutes of Worm in a Bottle. Because he had forgotten to 'format' a third tape the last three songs of the concert, Sugar Mice, Internal Exile and The Company are omitted as well.

It's really a pity that all these songs didn't make it to the album. Although the big medley is also available at Tales From the Big Bus the quality on that album is a far cry from the superb quality of these recordings.

Nonetheless you still have plenty other good songs on the album. The version of Mr 1470 is definitely the best ever, and even Fish's lousy voice can't destroy his first performance since 1988 of the Hotel Hobbies / Warm Wet Circles / That Time of the Night trilogy (one track on the album).

Other highlights are the aggressive versions of Brother 52 and The Perception of Johnny Punter, the impromptu lyrics of GI's a Bun and the extended version of Lavender. Also the one-off return of Frank Usher results in one of the finest versions of Cliché ever.

It's not the best Fish live album that has been released, but it's a must have for the people who were there that weekend. The good sound quality and the superb performance of the band make up for the lack of in tune high notes from Fish. I think it all adds to the atmosphere.

And who cares about the indulgence drum solo of Dave Stewart during Worm in a Bottle going out of time? People who were there will remember that he was drumming with only one hand at the time, while with the other hand he was holding the bottle of wine he was drinking!

You can also read a review of the full convention weekend in the Concert Review Archive.

Conclusion: 7+ out of 10.

Bart Jan van der Vorst

Inquire - Inquire Within
Country of Origin:Germany
Record Label:N/A
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:

Tracklisting: The Inauguration of King Kong (3.36), Kongfrontation (7.08), Kindergeburtstag (6.47), Maze of Despair (8.26), Der Mann (6.14), When Darkness Turns To Light (26.35).

Inquire is a rather new band from Germany (founded in 1996) who mention Yes, Genesis, Camel and ELP as their influences. The band also plays songs by King Crimson, IQ and Jadis in their live sets.
Part of the band played in Trespass. Inquire's goal is to combine classical prog rock elements with new experimental sounds. Their music ranges from quiet and melodic to powerful and agressive (sometimes even on the edge of prog metal).
The band consists of a guitarist/vocalist, a bass player, a drummer and a keyboard player.

A CD which begins with two tracks about King Kong. What should I think about that ? Whatever I thought when I first saw the tracklist, I was in for a surprise when I put the CD on. The Inauguration of King Kong could almost have been taken straight from a soundtrack. Spooky washes of keyboards accompanied by even more spooky sound effects and bits of percussion and guitar. After three minutes the second track, Kongfrontation starts and the full band kicks in with a powerful and melodic theme. After a 3 minute bombastic instrumental intro with lots of keyboard and guitar a short part with lyrics (slightly longer than half a minute) follows after which the instrumental part picks up again. The song ends with a splendid guitar solo. These two King Kong pieces turns out to be the highlight of the album !

Besides Inauguration ... the CD features two more instrumental tracks with the German titles Kindergeburtstag and Der Mann. I can't really see why they didn't use English titles for these, as they did with the other songs.
Kindergeburtstag surely doesn't sound like a child's birthday; it's a very dark and sinister track (as most of the music by Inquire is). The guitar plays a leading role again.
Sometimes the tracks are a bit to experimental for my taste, like the chaotic and jumpy music and annoying ambulance-like sounds of the guitar, not to mention the wobbly keyboards in Der Mann.

Maze of Despair unfortunately doesn't do it for me, even though musically it has it's moments. I don't know why, maybe it's the low vocals, the fact that they tried to cramp to many things in one song, or that it sounds like a copy of another song to me (though I can't really put my finger on it).

The album closes with the epic When Darkness Turns to Light, which is over 26 minutes long and (as you can imagine) goes through a whole range of styles and complicated arrangements. Leaving Darkness (part 4) actually sounds an awful lot like IQ's The Wake. Elsewhere on the CD you'll also be able to find some influences of IQ's more darker songs.
The track goes trough some absolute highs (the instrumental Creatures of the Night) and lows (most of the vocals bits, of which the song has too many).
The CD finally ends with a short reprise on Inauguration ....

Since I cannot find any label or catalogue number information and since the band is looking for a label, I assume that this is a fully private release. You defintely cannot tell from the packaging, which is very professional, with a full colour 8-page booklet with all lyrics, pictures of the band members and credits.

Inquire have delivered a very nice debut album. Although they sound very professional already, they might work on some of the lyrics (Maze of Despair sounds really cheesy) and the diversity of their music. After a couple of songs the music starts to sound the same. Also, although his voice is quite bearable, Dieter Cromen sometimes plays the guitar much better than he sings, if you know what I mean. At certain points he can't quite reach the heights he's trying to sing at.
If the band would improve these weaknesses and build on their strengths they might become one of the best German prog bands around.

All together this certainly is an album to try out. Inquire's Homepage features some MP3's of their songs, so you know where to go.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10.

Ed Sander

Album Reviews