Album Reviews

Fish - Raingods With Zippos - Round Table Review

Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Roadrunner
Catalogue #:RR 8677-2
Year of Release:1999
Info:The Perception of Fish
Tracklist: Tumbledown (5.51), MIssion Statement (3.39), Incomplete (3.43), Faith Healer (5.00), Rites Of Passage (7.41), Plague Of Ghosts (25.03) [i. Old Haunts (3.12), ii. Digging Deep (6.48), iii. Chocolate Frogs (4.04), iv. Waving At Stars (3.12), v. Raingods Dancing (4.16), vi. Wake-Up Call (Make It Happen) (3.32)]

TUMBLEDOWN (Dick, Simmonds)
BJ: The first of the two Mickey Simmonds collaborations on the album. The song starts with a nice piano intro played by Master Mickey. After about a minute and a half the song kicks in with a lot of heavy guitars and an eighties-sounding synthesiser. The contrast reminds me of Genesis' Firth of Fifth and the piano outtro only strengthens that feeling. The song itself is a powerful song with a catchy chorus. Maybe a little bit too catchy for my liking as "Tumble down, tumble down, tumble, tumble, tumble down" is in my opinion not the strongest poetry Fish has ever written.
At the listening session he stated that the lyrics were very personal, but that he wouldn't explain why.
Ed: This is one of the better tracks on the first half of the album. It takes a while to get used to the strange structure and arrangements but the song definitely rocks and the contrast between the rough middle part and the emotional keyboard bits at the beginning and end are brilliant. It's The Emperor's Song after a power boost.
Remco: A calm piano intro of the type that an expirienced piano player plays if you ask him to improvise a bit. It suddenly stops and a powerful song kicks in. This song has a great climax built, especially since the same piano closes the song, more or less closing the circle. I didn't understand a word of the lyrics and talking to Fish at the interview didn't yield much information either. But on the musical level, this is a great song, with a very catchy chorus that stays in your mind for a long time. Love it!
Dirk: The part I like most in this song is the fantastic piano intro ! Very agressive guitars and as always very good drums by Dave Stewart (I think on Colin Bas' solo album his drumming is even better!). Very good song: in my opinion the best non-Plague of Ghosts song !
JJ: Starting with a beautful piano-part this song immediately caught my full attention. This intro is really one of the best I've ever heard. Regrettably this middle part of the track isn't that strong. I think the beat (which reminds me of Bandwagon in a way) and the melody are going 'the easy way', which is a pity. I like the "Raingods with Zippos" phrase, though. It's powerful and emotional. The end of the track is nevertheless beautiful.
I don't know what I think of this track. Maybe it has to grow on me. Let say it's a bit 'unbalanced'.

"The Tarot declares a motion made a finger traps an empty glass"

MISSION STATEMENT (Dick, Astley, Thorn)
BJ: This will probably referred to "The Rick Astley" song in the future, as this was one of the results of Fish's writing sessions at the Castle Marouatte last year. It's a sort of groovy cross between Radar Love and Somebody Special. It definitely swings but I think it has too much of a seventies sound.
Ed: Wonderful ! You cannot sit still when this is playing. This must be one of the most uplifting things Fish has ever done. Boston Tea Party speeding up and mixing with Radar Love.
Remco: A nice song to play live, probably, since it has a nice driving feeling to it, but nothing really special. The lyrics are weak, maybe the result of co-writing with Rick Astley, who never impressed me with lyrics like "never gonna give you up". It could be the lyrics to one of the Dutch public awareness adds ("Een betere wereld begint bij jezelf").
Dirk: Fish goes Rock&Roll ! This makes me think on most tracks from the Suits album: Fish doesn't know which direction to choose. Nice song but nothing special !
JJ: This is a strange rock 'n roll song. Although this song is very simple it is also very joyful. It's straight and it's tough. On some tour Fish has played Roadhouse Blues. This is his own.

"Have you ever sensed the storm before it arrived on your horizon? I don't think so"

INCOMPLETE (Dick, Antwi, Millet)
BJ: The first single of the album. Another offspring of the Marouatte sessions, this time a duet with singer Elizabeth Antwi. The song starts with a fragile acoustic guitar, played by Robin Boult. It ironically sounds a bit like Pete Trewavas' playing on Now She'll Never Know but that comparison only lasts until the drums and keyboards start playing. Although I quite like the song I don't think it is the best choice for a first single, despite the high Sky Radio content.
The lyrics are probably the most touching Fish has ever written, in the vein of Say it with flowers; thoughts and feelings from many years of marriage.
Ed: Certainly not one of my favourites. This doesn't even come near Just Good Friends as far as being a duet. Matter of taste probably, the female vocalist's voice is a bit too low and dark for my taste.
Remco: Intense, that is the best description of the song. Despite, or maybe due to its simplicity, it touches something inside. The voice of Fish and female vocalist Elizabeth Antwi mix beautifully. It is an emotional song, honest and sincere and as such maybe too mature to make it into the charts, as it is going to be the first single of the album.
Dirk: The lyrics piece of the album (written at Marouette Castle) and because it's a slow song of course the first single (I never understand why Fish always wants to release this sort of songs as a single). I have to admit that the Fish and female vocals fit very well ! Nice song but again nothing special !
JJ: Since this is a duet with a female singer, the comparision with Just Good Friends is obvious. Nevertheless, this is a completely different track. It's even more subtle, 'cause the aforementioned song almost was a rock-ballad.
The lyrics of Incomplete are very beautiful. I love Fish being this personal. I like this one better than, for example Fortunes Of War (to mention just another ballad), especially because of the 'honest' production.

"If we could bring those days back when there were never wounds to heal, when everything was perfect and the dream we had was real."

TILTED CROSS (Dick, Jackson, Johnson)
BJ: This song wouldn't be out of place on any Peter Gabriel album - and that's a compliment !
Nice acoustic guitar and Celtic influences create a perfect atmosphere for the lyrics. I can't help thinking about Dream Theater's Take Away My Pain when hearing the guitar.
Again, *very* touching lyrics. I left my love in a grave and I marked it with a cross that stands so straight and so true isn't exactly what you call bedtime reading stories.
Ed: Sorry, this is not my cup of tea. Too much like an oldfashioned folky ballad for me. It just drags along without anything really happening. My least favourite song on the album.
Remco: The second Bosnia song of Fish, this time about landmines and losing your loved ones. It is not my style, this ballad-like mourning song. I can't put the finger on the weak spot, I just find it a simple, almost obligatory song.
Dirk: This one is the "skippers" of the Raingods album. This song means totally nothing to me !
JJ: This song is one of the best on the album. The music is very atmospheric and the melody is beautiful. Pure and fragile. With your stereo loud and the lights down, it gives me shivers.

"Make a cross and be sure it's tilted so that others don't step upon this ground"

FAITH HEALER (Harvey, McKenna, Cleminson)
BJ: Unlike Fish I feel this song is completely out of place on the album. The song starts with an intro very reminiscent to Genesis' Turn it on Again but then turns into a very heavy rock song with roaring guitars. I like the 1989 live version, which is on the Big Wedge single much better.
This new version is much heavier, but Fish's vocals sound too thin for the song. I miss the venom of the early version and also the synthesizer solo has been replaced with a violin solo.
Ed: Well .... this certainly is a change from the 1989 version. Both versions have some good things about them. I like the heavier feel of this version but indeed Fish' vocals don't quite match. Also, I could do without the screachy violin solo.
Remco: Unlike some of my fellow reviewers, I completely understand why Fish included this song on the album. It is powerful, Fish can use his more theatrical voice on it (the way he uses his voice best) and after all the "broken" things in the previous songs, it is good to hear a possible solution to all the problems :-). Also, it brings you back to reality for a short moment, gives you time to catch your breath before diving into Rites of Passage and Plague of Ghosts.
Dirk: Very rocky, very powerful, nice song ! I wonder why it is on this album (lack of own material ?) but it seems to fit in very well. But what the hell are those violins doing in this song ?
JJ: This is very straightforward rock. To be honest, I think it's a 'Fish out of water'. I would have expected this track on Songs From The Mirror. Fish thought it was too good for that one (strange reason: a song being too good for a certain album).
It's not that I don't like the the song, it just doesn't fit on this album, musically, although I understand the lyrical connection. The heavy sound sort of ends the first part of the album.

RITES OF PASSAGE (Dick, Simmonds)
BJ: "A Gentleman's Excuse Me part 2" I've heard people say, but it is much more. The music of the song is classical Mickey and would have fitted excellently on his solo album. A slow, moody piece with piano, synthesized flutes and a frettless bass. Excellent! The song ends with a very weird and experimental instrumental 3 minutes that sound a bit like the music from Gandalf. Again very touching and hopefully not too personal lyrics.
Ed: This must be the most beautiful ballad Fish has produced in years. Brilliant ! The final two and a half minutes of ambiance sets the perfect mood for the transition into the second half of the album.
Remco: Again an intense song, but differently from Incomplete. This song is neccesary to get you into the mood for Plague of Ghosts. It slowly evolves from a regular song to the point where you are ready to dive into a musical journey. Especially the last couple of minutes, with an almost psychedelic use of instruments prepares you for ......
Dirk: I don't know why but I like this song ! Especially the ambient feeling at the end of the song. I think it should have been included in the Plague of Ghosts epic !
JJ: I love Mickey Simmonds and now I know again why. Rites of Passage is simply one of the best things Fish has ever done. The song is beautiful, as well as the 'outro', which is very mystical. I've got nothing to add to this.

"Living with you is like being parked on double yellow lines waiting to be towed away"

PLAGUE OF GHOSTS (Dick, Turrell, Daghorn)
BJ: This 25 minute epic is definitely the highlight of the album. Not because it's long and the prog purists prefer long songs, not because it's like a second Grendel, or a second Misplaced Childhood, no, it's simply because it's the most experimental and brave thing Fish has ever done since leaving Marillion.
I was afraid that the involvement of Tony Turrell and Mark Daghorn of Positive Light would turn it into something like the remixes on Tales From The Engine Room, however this song is all but that. It's ambient indeed, but it's miles away from the 'ambient' you'll hear in a nightclub. It's more like Misplaced Childhood meets Yes meets Peter Gabriel meets Porcupine Tree experimenting with a drum computer.
The lyrics of the song are something completely different.
Remco: Actually, this is not a song. It is the overlapping title of six "sub-songs", since none of the musical themes in one of the "sub-songs" returns in one of the other, in that sense they are independent. I feel it is a musical journey, evolving in almost a straight line.

Part 1: Old Haunts
BJ: This sounds very much like a mid-seventies Yes song, like Awaken or Soon. In fact, you can easily imagine Jon Anderson singing the lyrics.
Ed: Wonderful atmospheric singing against a soundscape of synth and slide guitar effects.
Remco: Like BJ, I immediately think of Yes' Soon. A calling voice in the dark.

Part 2: Digging Deep
BJ: A heavy rock song with a catchy chorus and spoken lyrics in the style of Black Canal and Jungle Ride. There's also a very distinct Steve Wilson guitar here.
Ed: Fool's Gold (Stone Roses) meets Porcupine Tree. It rocks but at the same time it's very danceable. Definitely my favourite track on the whole album. This might be one of the lef-overs from Fish' plan to record a full dance album.
Remco: A song with a strong rhythmic section and spoken lyrics. Somethings stirring and beating in the darkness....

Part 3: Chocolate Frogs
BJ: This starts with a spoken part, which is very reminiscent to the beginning of Bitter Suite, and as if self-plagiarism isn't bad enough the sung part of the song almost precisely follows the melody line of Floyd's Sorrow. The music of this part is very weird and ambient creating a very spooky atmosphere.
Ed: Fish once had the plan to record a whole album of 'beat poetry' called Chocolate Frogs. This must be what has become of that plan; a interesting atmospheric piece including an bit of singing in old English style (personally, I don't notice the Sorrow similarities).
Remco: In this part, the original ambient track that formed the basis for this song is best recognised, but overlayed with different musical ideas. This is pure prog!

Part 4: Waving at Stars
BJ: The intro reminds me of Heart of Lothian. A drum computer starts and heavy basses and acoustic guitar follow. Excellent! There's a bit of Porcupine Tree's Moonloop in it as well. Together with Chocolate Frogs this is my favourite part of the song. Later on a piano starts playing, leading into the next part of the song.
Ed: A slight Welcome to the Machine-feel is radiated by this song. It's a quiet lead part combined with a hectic Prodigy like drum computer rhythm in the background. Brilliant combination creating a very special sound.
Remco: More melodic, starting to go back to the Marillion era.....

Part 5: Raingods Dancing
BJ: A calm piece which includes a lyrical reprise of Tumbledown (or does Tumbledown feature lyrics of Raingods Dancing?) Later on there's another guitar solo. The song reminds me of something, but I can't place it. Anyway, it's a perfect mid-epic song.
Ed: Drum computer makes place for piano and cello. Beautiful emotional track.
Remco: The musical journey has taken us back to Misplaced Childhood.

Part 6: Wake-up Call (Make it Happen)
BJ: The obligatory happy ending. Steve Wilson has switched his guitar to Floyd-style and the song ends a little bit too fast after these 20+ minutes of pure enjoyment. Lyrically this could very well be the answer to the negative aspects of marriage which are so present in the earlier songs.
Ed: After a piano/vocal intro the song turns into a semi-acoustic track with lots of Porcupine Tree-ish slide guitar and building towards a feeling of hope.
Remco: The awakening. Has the feeling of the Clutching at Straws album. The weird thing is, after 25 minutes you would expect that you are relieved if the song ends, but this song ends too soon! The chorus that fades should have been repeated 2 or 3 times more, then the ending would have been complete. But hey, how am I to judge such a fabulous masterpiece!

Dirk: Fish at his best ! Great song, great lyrics, great musicianship ! The laid-back sounds in Old Haunts, the modern dance sounds in Digging Deep, the spoken words (very atmospheric!) in Chocolate Frogs again the ambient feeling in Waving At Stars (very Porcupine Tree by the way) and a great finish with Raingods Dancing (without doubt the best part of Plague of Ghosts) and Wake-Up Call. Great! Plague of Ghosts is a must have for Fish fans ! I am looking forward to see the song in concert !!
JJ: This composition (it's certainly not a song) is the best track of the album and is another highlight in Fish's long carier.
It starts very atmospheric, in a way that almost follows naturally from Rites of Passage. The high singing and the typical guitar reminds me of Yes (Soon, Awaken). The second part features heavy electronic drumbeats. Diggin Deep, it's called and I even thought of Peter Gabriel at a moment. This composition is a musical journey that cannot really be compared to any 'classical' epic. Drumbeats, combined with acoustic guitars, spoken poetry, heavy guitars, in the vein of Goldfish and Clown, Scottish melodies and not to forget the wonderful "Raingods with Zippos" chorus near the end, it's all in the right place.
This is indeed a symphonic, progressive, but very nineties album. To write such a track (with the risk of it being compared to anything from Grendel to Misplaced Childhood) is a very brave thing and it was the right thing.

"Forgive forget, forever never means as much as it does today. Make it happen, we can make it happen"

BJ: Altogether I have mixed feelings about the album. It's as if there are actually two albums on it. The first one with half an hour of commercial sounding songs and the second one with much more experimental and more atmospheric songs on it. Needless to say I like the second half better. To draw comparisons to earlier work: the first half is a cross between Suits and Sunsets on Empire while the second half is more like Vigil and Misplaced Childhood with a Porcupine Tree sauce.
Lyrically it's a very strong album, probably his most personal ever. Many lyrics seem to deal with marriage and mainly the rut of many years of marriage. Plague of Ghosts is the ultimate nightmare in the style of Waters' Pros & Cons of Hitchhiking.
Ed: A highly recommended album. Although I wouldn't call this the best album since Vigil - it's too unbalanced to be so - Plague of Ghosts is certainly the best thing our Scottish friend has ever done. Unfortunately the album feels like 'Plague of Ghosts plus 6 bonus tracks', of which some are good and some are just mediocre. I wouldn't mind having the epic twice as long and filling the whole album.
Dirk: Afterwards I think Fish could better release Plague of Ghosts as an EP.
Production very good, recording sublime ! I think he should be very happy to be at RoadRunner records ! I hope he will sell enough copies of Raingods but if he doesn't do it this time he never will !
JJ: To conclude: To me, Raingods .. is a very emotional and atmospheric album. From that point of view, Faith Healer and Mission Statement don't fit it, altough I'm convinced that both track would be great encores on a concert. But lucky me, there's a program-key on my player.
After two beautiful ballads, a gem of song and the best epic Fish has written, I don't want any other album in my player until the candles that I lit are burnt out.

BJ: 8.5 out of 10.
Ed: 8.5 out of 10.
Remco: 8.5 out of 10
Dirk: 8+ out of 10 (thanks to Plague of Ghosts).
JJ: 8.5 out of 10.

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