Reviews in this Issue:
- Pain Of Salvation - BE Live (Duo Review)
- Isildur’s Bane – Mind Vol 5 ~ The Observatory
- Marillion - Wish You Were Here
- Marillion - Popular Music
- Yes - 35th Anniversary Edition ~
Yesspeak (Cinema Version) and Yes Acoustic
- Procol Harum - Live
- Rick Wakeman - Journey To The Centre Of The Earth ~
30th Anniversary Collectors Edition
- Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Pictures At An Exhibition ~
35th Anniversary Collectors Edition
- Magnum - Live At Birmingham
Pain Of Salvation - BE Live
Tracklist: Animae Partus (2:19), Deus Nova (2:43), Imago (4:07), Pluvius Aestuvius (5:11), Lilium Cruentus (5:21), Nauticus (3:45), Dea Pecuniae (9:12), Vocari Dei (4:28), Diffidentia (7:32), Nihil Morari (6:33), Latericius Valete (2:34), Omni (2:24), Iter Impius (6:33), Martius (3:29), Nauticus II (2:54), Animae Partus II (0:56), Credits (2:49)
Bonus Material: Commentary Track, Soundtrack for Religious Fanatics, Nine Days - More Messages To God (13:25), Before - dressing room impression (1:18), BE Fragments - live photos (4:23), 80681 (2:35), Of God And Greger (2:35), Nihilium Fuckupus (0:51), Easter Eggs: more messages to God, hidden commentary track
Tracklist CD [69.39]: Animae Partus (1:53), Deus Nova (2:54), Imago (3:57), Pluvius Aestuvius (5:11), Lilium Cruentus (5:21), Nauticus (3:45), Dea Pecuniae (9:15), Vocari Dei (4:26), Diffidentia (7:32), Nihil Morari (6:33), Latericius Valete (2:28), Omni (2.43), Iter Impius (6:22), Martius/Nauticus II (6:30), Animae Partus II (0:49)
The last album from the Swedish kings of very progressive metal certainly won top marks for controversy – splitting fans old and new right down the middle. Some say Be is a masterpiece, while others dismiss it as a load of pretentious self-indulgence. I'll be polite and say it was certainly interesting!
Now, many fans will be aware, that before the album's release, the band took the unusual step of road testing the full album through a three-week residency at a theatre in their hometown of Eskilstuna. Performed twice a day, five days a week, as a rock show with orchestral support, spoken word passages, costumes, and acting performances, you can now take a fresh look at the album, as one of the final shows was captured for the band's first ever DVD.
If you found the album a rewarding experience then this will be a compulsory purchase. If like me, you found it hard to get into, then all I can say is that this will certainly let you see things through a fresh pair of eyes.
In an intimate but rather grand theatre, the stage is quite complex, with a large pool at the front - into which Daniel Gildenlöw pays a few visits. The nine-piece Orchestra of Eternity and the other band members, are placed around it on mini platforms from which most rarely stray.
There is an excellent use of ever-changing lighting and swooping camera angles, many of which I've never seen used in such a free-flowing way before. The sound really manages to capture that live feel, while giving all the instruments a chance to sing through. I also like the use of video clips, often overlayered with the live footage, which gives a very arty feel to proceedings.
The band's performance is really invigorating and you sense their deep attachment to the concept and the music. Furthermore the stage setting manages to blend them in perfectly with the orchestra, giving a real sense of cohesiveness.
I do think they've missed a trick in not bringing in real musicians to sing certain parts – instead relying on video clips and playbacks which rather spoils the flow. For example, just having a flickering candle as the visual accompaniment to the three-and-a-half minute 'deep south' vocal piece Nauticus is plain boring. However, while the bits that dragged on in the album, drag in the stage version show, the visual treatment of the songs really takes them to a level that few live shows have ever done. As a result I find this DVD absolutely absorbing. Three viewings in, and I'm still seeing new things.
For clarity: I can only watch DVDs on my PC (small house!!) and so can not really offer any detailed comments on technical quality. However the graphic quality looks well above average to me and as I said previously, the sound really has a great live tone to it. It also comes with an accompanying live CD packaged in a slip-case with a richly illustrated 48-page booklet. The band has stated that due to the size of the show, it will never be produced as a whole again – so I guess this is the only way you'll ever see it.
Since BE is an album that clearly divided the fans of Pain Of Salvation into those who liked it and those who didn't, it is only obvious to treat the band's first DVD with a duo review.
Andy wasn't overly keen on their latest album, I rated it the best album of 2004. Such is the beauty of different tastes. However, on the review of the live version of BE we seem to be pretty much in agreement.
The concert footage is a terrific account of a unique show. While most imagery goes largely past me, the costumes and designs add to the eeriness of the concept. All musicians, including the nine-piece Orchestra of Eternity are wearing make-up in white or blue tones.
Of the members of the band Daniel Gildenlöw and Frederik Hermansson also have white-painted faces. Kristoffer Gildenlöw is dressed in shades of red, while Johan Hallgren and Johan Langell are both bare-chested and completely covered in brown and blue hues respectively.
As the stage lighting is blue or white for 95% of the show, the orchestra all musicians have a very ghostly appearance onstage. The only gripe I might have with the footage itself is that there is not enough colour. Undoubtedly it has a meaning, but blue lighting tones don't translate that well to a TV screen, resulting in a rather cold look throughout the whole show.
The stage deserves extra mention here, as it is a very oddly shaped and designed stage. It is much deeper than it is wide, with a four by four meter pool in the middle and the musicians scattered all around the stage. Daniel Gildenlöw switches between three different positions at the front, middle and back of the stage.
Highlights of the show are the performances of my favourite songs on the album. The musical-like Dea Pecuniae features stellar performance by Gildenlöw as the cocky Mr Money. There is one hilarious point where a female roadie arrives on stage right on cue to hand him his guitar to play the solo.
In Iter Impius Gildenlöw returns to the character of Mr Money, but now when he wakes from his cryogenic sleep to find he is the only one left on earth (or so Gildenlöw kindly explains to us on the commentary track). The finale of the album, Nauticus II is a terrific percussion piece to which all five bandmembers contribute. Apart from the drummer all the other bandmembers bang on large floor-toms, bongos or steel barrels and Gildenlöw is in the middle of the pool behind a percussion rig, banging away with water splashing all around him - a great effect!
The soundtrack is mixed in 5.1, with a silent centre channel, so technically it is 4.1 - quadrophonic if you will. The mix is really good, as I already stated in my review of the album, this music has so many textures and layers that a multi-channel mix is necessary to fully appreciate it.
Extra-wise this DVD is geek heaven. There's a plethora of extras to be found on the disc. First there is the audio commentary track with Gildenlöw and keyboardist Frederik Hermansson talking about the concept and the performances. Then there is a short film Nine Days which contains thirteen more minutes of messages to God. Even more messages to God in 80681(7) and Of God And Greger and some terrific photos scored to sections of the album in Before and BE fragments and one of the band's rare bloopers in Nihilium Fuckupus. The best feature however is the audiotrack for religious fanatics, which has the whole soundtrack played backwards, for people to search for hidden satanic messages in the music. This soundtrack has some hilarious introductions by Gildenlöw mocking the fanatics who played all their records backwards back in the sixties and seventies. (I personally think that around seven fifty-eight you can clearly hear me say 'There was a loorrr widdafff...' even though I must admit that I have no recollection as to what I might have meant by that, but I guess that is just the way Satan's is done - brilliant!).
Apart from the listed extras, there is also a wealth of hidden easter eggs, most of which are pretty damn hard to find! The easter eggs consist of more messages to God. Two are in Swedish, so I'm guessing these are members of Pain Of Salvation and a third is of none less than Mike Portnoy, thanking God for his career and asking Him to persuade Neal Morse to rejoin Transatlantic.
However, a long search for secret codes on the DVD and the band's website will reward you with yet another commentary track by Gildenlöw and Hermansson, this time going into the subject matter of the album much deeper and revealing a lot more of the concept.
The DVD comes in a slipcase with a 48-page booklet and a CD with the soundtrack of the stage production. Often integral live performances of an album aren't something you listen to very often, since it usually doesn't add much to the original studio version. However, as these performances took place before the album was even recorded, there are various differences from the final version. Musical passages, lyrics, solos... all was still being worked on as the performances progressed. Furthermore the orchestra is a lot higher in the mix than on the studio version.
All in all a terrific DVD release. Even if you don't like the album, you should be able to appreciate the quality of the product. If you do like the album, then it is a compulsory purchase.
Isildur’s Bane – Mind Vol 5 ~ The Observatory
Tracklist: Under the Wind, Heal, Good, Open, Dark II, Ends, Cage, Eyes, Idea, Heal, People Are Afraid, The Voyage: The Adventure Of The Whirling Delerium, The Voyage: A Telescope And A Hot Air Balloon, Loss, Rage, The Voyage: Wild As A Toad, The Voyage: Magnificent Giant Battles, Without Grace. Bonus Material: The Asylum, Idea, Celestial Vessel. Audio Tracks: Without Grace, People Are Afraid, Under The Wind, Thoughts Stand Still
Isildur’s Bane is long overdue for a review on this site. Over the course of 12 albums in 20+ years they have matured and evolved from a capable and interesting Symphonic/Fusion outfit into one of the very best exponents of genuinely progressive rock music in operation today. Never afraid to experiment, Isildur’s Bane has, in recent years, challenged our perceptions of the boundaries of the genre with the M.I.N.D. (Music In New Directions) series of recordings, which can be seen as exploratory sketchbooks in which they seek to research and develop new avenues for their creativity, seeking out collaborative ventures and new instrumental configurations.
The latest of these (MIND Vol 4 – Pass) came as something of a shock, following the complex, long form instrumental epic The Voyage, and MIND VOl 1’s Zappa meets Crimson Chamber/Jazz Fusion workouts, as it was a vocal-heavy, song oriented concept work, with a commercial surface gloss that hid extremely complex, multi-level structures and richly crafted instrumental accompaniment. It easily found a place in my personal top ten of 2004.
The DVD features a concert (recorded in Halmstad, Sweden) where the band, supplemented by new recruits Mariette Hansson (guitar, vocals) and Linnea Olsson (cello, vocals), deliver 10 out of 16 tracks from Pass with a passion, commitment and instrumental dexterity that most bands can only dream of.
The central performance of vocalist Christof Jeppsson is utterly fantastic, sounding much in the mould of Peter Gabriel; he delivers a similarly deep and passionate performance of jaw-dropping, chill inducing intensity. The new girls are no mere window dressing either, Mariette in particular, really shining on her vocal spotlights.
The DVD is worth the price for this concert footage alone, being a terrific rendition of a superb album, a must have for all I B fans. Highlights include Heal, Dark II, Rage and Cage.
The DVD also features several sizeable chunks of The Voyage, from a different performance at another venue, highlighting the band’s dexterity and instrumental complexity, with mallet percussion, keyboards and guitars meshing to produce highly demanding and challenging, but ultimately rewarding, music of the highest calibre. This part of the DVD may try the patience of newcomers to the band, but is well worth persevering with.
Intercut with the two concerts is a shed load of documentary footage, at times sound tracked by the concert performances, at other times running to the accompaniment of one of four new tracks that are included as Audio bonus tracks. These new tracks, mostly written by Mariette, bode well for the next full recording, with her heartfelt vocals bringing a new texture to the sound. The home movie footage serves to add an additional visual element to the DVD (prog bands are not often the most visually arresting of groups, and Isildur’s Bane eschew flashy stage effects) and sometimes this works very well, but at other times it can be a bit off-putting
An added bonus is the inclusion of three more live performances, including an excerpt from the Gouvia 2004 Artrock DVD. On the strength of the chosen clip, this too will be an essential purchase, as not only does it feature almost an entire performance by Isildur’s Bane, but also sets from two of the best recent Italian groups in Periferia Del Mondo and Il Torre Del Alchemista.
It’s hard to find fault with the music contained on The Observatory, it really is something special, with a magical quality which is exceedingly rare to find. My only quibbles are with the programming of the DVD – the biggest fault being the absence of a track by track menu for the main part of the DVD. I’m sure I B intend you to watch the whole performance as you would a movie, but in the real world, most people are going to want to pick out favourite tracks for repeated viewing. You can do this by letting the movie run for a while and then advancing a track at a time to where you want to be, but even this is hampered further by the index points not matching the track list as shown in the packaging.
Bursting with inventive and compelling music, the DVD still only manages to capture a few of the many facets of the Isildur’s Bane sound, leaving much scope for further DVD releases.
These points aside, the DVD is superb, and should belong in the collection of all astute prog fans. Don’t hesitate, get it today!
Conclusion: 9 out of 10
Marillion - Wish You Were Here
Disc 1 Weekend 2003 "Popular Music" [124.05]: A Few Words For The Dead (9.33), Dry Land (5.04), When I Meet God (10.15), White Russian (6.17), Estonia (7.51), This Town (3.50), The Rakes Progress (2.43), 100 Nights (5.13), Sugar Mice (6.37), Berlin (8.34), Warm Wet Circles (4.20), That Time of the Night (5.59), Script for a Jester's Tear (9.16), Break (0.36), This Strange Engine (22.28), Break (1.32), The Space... (7.00), Credits (0.38) Easter Egg: Cover My Eyes (5.02)
Disc 2 Weekend 2002 "Bootleg Bingo" [148.03]: Saturday Night Bingo set [102.36]: Intro (0.41), King of Sunset Town (6.58), Quartz (9.26), Separated Out (6.28), When I Meet God (10.46), Uninvited Guest (4.40), Warm Wet Circles (5.34), That Time of the Night (6.03), This is the 21st Century (10.57), This Town (4.13), The Rakes Progress (2.57), 100 Nights (5.39), Intro (2.48), Splintering Heart (5.55), Garden Party (9.11), Break (1.23), Three Minute Boy (5.22), Hey Jude (2.55), Credits (0.31)
Sunday Afternoon Acoustic Set [40.29] Tuning/Costa Del Slough (2.53), Go! (5.30), Sympathy (3.03), Afraid of Sunrise (4.22), Cannibal Surf Babe (4.23), A Collection (3.36), The Space... (4.12), Map of the World (6.07), Gazpacho (5.52), Credits (0.26) Easter Egg: Hollow Man (3.35)
Disc 3 "Plus Special Guests" [101.25]: Aziz: Really Like (7.38), She Dances With Angels (10.11), Cry No More: Manager's Song (2.22), Cry No More (3.37), Gazpacho: Sea Of Tranquility (4.45), Ghost (4.50), Martin Grech: Notorious (4.58), Mighty Hands (4.18), The Itch: Endow (5.56), Commuter (6.10), Kid Galahad: Nefarious (4.05), Where Is My Gold (4.04), John Otway: The House Of The Rising Sun (3.59), Really Free (4.15), White Buffalo: Wasted (4.38), Time-Bomb George (4.43), The Wishing Tree: Night Water (4.28), Thunder In Tinseltown (5.52), Easter Egg: Marillion Mix - Wish You Were Here (4.52)
Disc 4 "Weekend Wonderland" [approx 180 mins]: Band Interviews: Steve Hogarth: [Expectations (3.23), The Marillion Family (2.39), The Atmosphere (2.15), Highlights (2.33)], Mark Kelly [Bingo (1.48), Swap The Band! (1.34), Running To Stand Still (1.20), Constant Change (1.39), Almost Famous (1.52), Next... (2.11), The Plan (5.15)], Ian Mosley [The Convention (1.28), The Future (1.19), Highlights (2.32), President Mosley's Manifesto (0.41)], Steve Rothery: A Family Weekend (0.52), The Fans... (1.51), Real Commitment (1.01), The Future... (2.06)], Pete Trewavas: Relying On The Fans... (1.10), Saying Thank You (1.14), Commercial Success (1.12), Creative Energy (0.51), The Slow Burn... (1.18), What Music Does (0.39), The Future... (2.46)], Weekend 2002 Q&A Session (8.15), Weekend 2003 Q&A Session (30.10)
Swap the Band: Featurette (9.13), Afraid of Sunlight (8.23), King (7.49)
Weekend 2002 Signing Session (7.36), Weekend 2002 Pre-show Excitement (3.22), Weekend 2003 Memories, Raw Meat (The Q Journalist is Interviewed) (8.28), Easter Eggs: more weekend 2003 memories by Marillion staff.
Three times now have Marillion organised their successful convention weekends. Of the first convention weekend in Brean Sands in 2002 the band already released a DVD registration of Brave. The second weekend in Minehead gave us a DVD release of Afraid Of Sunlight. However, quite obviously there was a demand for more, so hence the band's good decision to release this jam-packed box set just in time for the band's third convention weekend in March 2005.
Knowing how demanding Marillion fans can be the band took no concessions and quite literally included every bit of convention weekend footage they had. This four-disc DVD box contains almost nine hours of footage, grouped into different categories, ranging from the Marillion gigs to support acts, interviews and even some rehearsal footage.
The first disc is dubbed Popular Music and contains the full top 10 set of the 2003 convention. This is the only one that had been recorded with a DVD release in mind, so quality-wise it is the best disc of the set. It is also the only gig that boasts a 5.1 surround soundtrack - Finally the band have acknowledged the bonus of surround mixes on DVD. The picture quality is also very good, though suffers from the same problem as all Marillion DVDs: the somewhat static filming and choppy editing of the band's house crew THE boom boom BOYS.
The second disc contains two gigs from the 2002 weekend. First there is the Setlist Bingo, a gig where the setlist was determined by numbers that were drawn from a hat and the song corresponding with the number was played. This footage still includes the not-always-funny announcer, but most of his dirty jokes have been cut. Since not all of the songs played this night had been fully rehearsed, there are quite a few bum notes here and there. Interior Lulu, which fell apart completely during the performance, has been left off entirely. The quality is somewhat lesser than that of disc 1, as it was originally recorded for a webcast, yet for a 'bootleg' it is still very decent.
The second gig is the Sunday Afternoon acoustic set, which is presented in true warts and all style, as it contains the prolonged start where Pete Trewavas had problems tuning his bassguitar and the rest of the band started playing different tunes to distract him. This gig is also present as low-key bootleg style, but again adequate enough to withstand viewings on a large-screen digital TV.
Disc three pays tribute to most of the support acts that appeared on the two weekends, with two songs from each band. It is great having footage of my favourite Marillion support act Gazpacho and madman John Otway, as well as the rare performance of Steve Rothery's side project The Wishing Tree and Steve Hogarth singing one of his solo songs with Aziz Ibrahim.
Disc four is the disc which contains everything that didn't fit on the other discs. Most interesting is the Swap The Band featurette, which celebrates the weekend's most successful recurring event, where fans replace one or more bandmembers, to perform a song with the remaining band. It is a pity that only two performances are included on the disc, but fortunately they are the ones that I have the fondest memories of. Matt Coffey's heavy metal drumming which completely transforms the song King, and Gazpacho's Jan Henrik Ohme, singing Afraid Of Sunlight, despite having nearly lost his voice from singing along too loud the night before.
Furthermore this disc boasts various interviews with the band, which are left-overs from the interview sessions that were done for the Brave DVD. Then there are some features of the various other aspects of the weekends, like the signing sessions, an interview with a Q journalist Weekend Memories, a confession booth style feature in which fans tell their story of Marillion.
Most of this is half-interesting to see once, but that is about it.
All discs feature silly Coney Island style animated menus and there are some cool Easter eggs to be found.
Also special mention must be made of the set's artwork. The cover is an obvious spoof of a Pink Floyd album of the same name, but the rest of the artwork is based on The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour, and features some very funny Easter eggs too.
This DVD box set is an excellent document of the first two convention weekends and a must-have for everyone who was there.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Marillion - Popular Music
Disc 1 [57.28]: A Few Words For The Dead (9.40), Dry Land (4.58), When I Meet God (10.14), White Russian (6.17), Estonia (7.51), This Town (3.48), The Rakes Progress (2.43), 100 Nights (5.14), Sugar Mice (6.40)
Disc 2 [58.21]: Berlin (8.40), Warm Wet Circles (4.18), That Time Of The Night (5.58), Script For A Jester's Tear (9.59), This Strange Engine (22.13), The Space... (7.13)
Popular Music is the companion CD to the same-titled first disc of the Wish You Were Here DVD box (reviewed above). A good way of enjoying the excellent gig in places where a DVD player isn't at hand (like, in the car).
The setlist - a top ten voted by fans, with encores - is an excellent display of some of the best Marillion tracks. However, it is not the ultimate Marillion setlist, as there are no songs from either Brave nor Afraid Of Sunlight included, as these albums had been played in entirety during the conventions and therefore didn't receive many votes. Furthermore there is a slight bias towards Clutching At Straws, it seems, with no less than four of the 15 songs played coming from this album! On the other hand Fugazi, Misplaced Childhood and Marillion.com are completely ignored.
The soundquality is pretty good, as it is a multi-track soundboard recording. However, no overdubs have been made, so the gig is still pretty much the real thing. Warts and all. Not that there are too many warts on this performance, as it was a well-rehearsed set.
One thing that really had me cracking up was the cover! It looks just like your average "popular music" cover, you know, the average sales bin low price compilation album. Just a scenic shot overlooking a valley from the woods. Only this particular shot features the Butlin's Holiday camp barely visible in the distance. A very nice touch.
To conclude, the album is a nice souvenir of the event and works well as a companion cd to Wish You Were Here, however, if you have only room for one more Marillion item, the DVD box is the one to go for!
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Yes - 35th Anniversary Edition ~
Yesspeak (Cinema Version) and Yes Acoustic
Tracklist: Yesspeak Cinema Version (75.35), YesAcoustic (37.51) [Opening Titles (1.34) Tiger Rag (4.31), Long Distance Runaround (3.13), South Side Of The Sky (6.23), Show Me (4.12), Roundabout (6.15), Time Is Time (3.44), I've Seen All Good People (7.56)]
Bonus Material:The Unseen Footage (23.22), Trailers
Commemorating the 35th anniversary of Yes Classic Pictures released two DVDs: Yesacoustic and Yesspeak. The former was with a running time of under 60 minutes a rather short and somewhat disappointing affair. Yesspeak, which was reviewed on DPRP, is with a running time of nearly three hours a rather overlong and very disappointing affair.
In my review of Yesspeak I stated that the documentary could have been interesting, had they edited it down to 1,5 hours. And whaddaya know? Someone listened!
The DVD presentation of Yesspeak was screened simultaneously in several different cinemas across the US. Not wanting to keep expensive cinema seats occupied for too long, the documentary was edited down to 75 minutes, followed by an acoustic live performance of Yes, broadcast by satellite.
It is only an obvious move of Classic Pictures to re-release Yesspeak in its abbreviated form, together with the live gig that followed the screening. The Yesspeak documentary is a lot more interesting when you don't have to listen to twenty minutes of tales about Jon Anderson's condo or Alan White's cars. Instead it focuses on the history of the band and contains almost as much of the live footage as the three hour version did. The shortcomings are still the same though: of thirty-five years of Yes history, only nine years are included in the narration and anecdotes.
As for Yesacoustic, it is amazing how well some Yessongs work in an acoustic form. Somewhat reworked and shortened the band does excellent performances of Long Distance Runaround, Roundabout and the terrific South Side Of The Sky. The gig scores extra bonus points for the inclusion of a full band performance of the Jon Anderson song Show Me, which was regularly performed by Anderson during the Full Circle Tour... acoustically!
The bonus material for the DVD consists of a collection of very lame TV trailers and a fantastic behind the scenes documentary The Unseen Footage. The documentary shows the rehearsals of the acoustic gig, and more importantly, everything that went wrong. The narration by Rick Wakeman is hilarious and worth the price of this DVD alone.
As all Classic Pictures DVDs the soundtrack boasts an excellent DTS track, which is always a treat when it comes to concerts. Too bad the concert footage is only 40 minutes of the two hour DVD. The quality of the footage is excellent, with clear images and imaginative angles.
Both band and record company made a good move in re-releasing the two DVDs as one, and I feel sorry for the ones who bought either one of the previous versions. If you already have the Yesacoustic DVD, no need to buy this one. If you only have the Yesspeak DVD you should seriously consider replacing it for this version though.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Procol Harum - Live
Tracklist: Bringing Home The Bacon, Pandora's Box, Holding On, Piggy Pig Pig, Magdalene (My Regal Zonophone), Homburg, Fires (Which Burn Brightly), Seems To Have The Blues (Mostly All Of The Time), Memorial Drive, Grand Hotel, Wizard Man, Beyond The Pale, A Salty Dog, A Dream In Every Home, A Christmas Camel, New Lamps For Old, As Strong As Samson, Repent Walpurgis, Conquistador, A Whiter Shade Of Pale
Bonus Material: Uninhibited - A studio rehearsal prior to the Copenhagan gig featuring A Whiter Shade Of Pale, Memorial Drive, Seems To Have The Blues (Mostly All Of The Time), Wizard Man, Morning Dew, Hey Joe, She Wandered Through The Garden Fence, Let's Get Stoned
The first of the March crop of releases from Classic Pictures (reviewed by myself) sees the legendary Procol Harum in concert from 2001 - filmed in Portalen (Copenhagen) on the 15th December. The concert sees the familiar two keyboard set-up of Gary Brooker (piano and vocal) and Matthew Fisher opposite with his Hammond organ. Centre stage, figuratively speaking, is taken by guitarist Geoff Whitehorn, and bassist Matt Pegg, with Mark Brzezicki on drums. This being the stable line-up of Procol Harum since 1993.
Before moving on to the concert I feel it necessary to say that my knowledge of Procol Harum is sketchy, with my recollections of their early history being confined to their singles, A Whiter Shade Of Pale, Homburg and Conquistador. Only later on, after the release of the first two Robin Trower albums, was my curiosity sparked to track down RT's earlier musical career. Even then the music failed to capture me as at that young age I was more attracted to the "widdly widdly" intricate side of music (not much has changed then) rather than the carefully crafted lyrical music of PH. Although I did at the time buy Grand Hotel and Exotic Birds And Fruit, both of which serve as my favourite era of the band. So in all truthfulness the thought of reviewing this DVD did not fill me with any great enthusiasm. However I can report that these early misgivings were pretty much dispelled right from the opening track.
The concert features material from across the board, with at least one track from all the bands albums 1967 to 1977, and with A Dream In Ev'ry Home and Holding On representing PH's "come back" album, Prodigal Stranger, from 1991. Not surprisingly PH's self titled debut along with Grand Hotel and the excellent Exotic Birds And Fruit provide a greater bulk of material to be found on the DVD. The oddly titled Bringing Home The Bacon gets the show off to great start and sets the tone for the concert. Gary Brooker is fine vocal form, leading from the front (or the side as he is on stage), with his rasping voice lending credence to Keith Reid's observant, often obscure and often cynical lyrics. For those unfamiliar with Procol Harum's material then what you will find on this Live DVD are carefully crafted songs, with Brooker taking on the primary role, whilst ably supported by Messrs Fisher and Co. This is not to belittle the contributions of the other musicians, but you do get the impression this is Brooker's show. Difficult to deny his presence and commanding vocal performances. This said Fisher's contributions on the Hammond are integral to the sound and his brief solo passages are always melodic. As are Geoff Whitehorn's guitar parts! Last but not least with Brzezicki and Pegg forming a tight and solid foundation to the music.
The empathy between the musicians is strong and they appear relaxed and at ease within the performance, complemented by the stage lighting and intelligent camera work. Bear in mind that this is not a "jumping up and down, with lights" concert, but more an informal stage performance. The DVD is littered with little gems, my personal favourites being the last three tracks - the instrumental Repent Walpurgis with a solid and melodic guitar solo from Geoff Whitethorn, Conquistador and of course the perennial A Whiter Shade Of Pale. Now I have to admit that the more R'n'B tracks did leave me cold (I particularly dislike this genre), although the band are much keener, with prompts from Brooker encouraging more of the same at one point. But this is in minority within the concert and is certainly out-weighed by the other tracks performed.
The bonus footage captures Procol Harum in rehearsal at Gary Broker's Surrey home and prior to the Copenhagen gig. Not at the nitty gritty stage of working out material, but rather the band running through some "newer" material to add to their shows. Brooker and Fisher discuss the need for these songs to spice up their own personal performances amongst the Procol Harum evergreens. The atmosphere is relaxed, with this part of the DVD offering long standing fans a different slant on these musicians in action. Nice to see the band vamping through tracks like Hey Joe and Morning Dew
Uninhibited also gives us a rare glimpse of long standing Procol collaborator Keith Reid, who as followers of the band will already know, has been responsible for vast majority of the lyrical content of PH's material over the years. It would have been nice to hear more from Reid, but in keeping with the rest of this bonus footage, the conversation has been kept to a minimum, with the focus being on the music.
As I had not seen this particular DVD before it proved to be extremely enjoyable. The concert footage is relaxed and extremely well filmed, with thoughtful camera work, effective stage lighting and crystal clear sound. Yes there are a few notional glitches where some of the instruments are a little low in the mix (Matt Pegg's bass being the prime example, almost throughout), but not enough to spoil the overall performance. An enjoyable change and worth investigating.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Rick Wakeman - Journey To The Centre Of The Earth ~
30th Anniversary Collectors Edition
Tracklist: Catherine Parr, Guinevere, Journey To The Centre Of The Earth [i] The Journey [ii] The Recollection [iii] The Battle [iv] The Forest, Catherine Howard, Merlin, Ann Boleyn, Reprise From The Forest
Bonus Material: The Lost Journey documentary with previously unseen 8mm footage.
The sheer enormity of the whole Journey To The Centre Of The Earth project is still one that is regaled and revered within the annals of prog history. A journey of determination and foolhardiness. An epic journey of excesses and one I doubt that could have been any less risky or fraught with danger than that made by Jules Verne's Icelandic explorers. The concept of an eight piece band performing live with a full orchestra and a chamber choir, on tour, in the early technology days of the seventies! Madness, and bearing in mind that the recording of the live album had not been without its own disasters - its enough to drive you to drink with worry. Rick must have been a worried man :0). This DVD, the 30th Anniversary Collectors Edition captures one night on the final leg of that tour.
As with other Classic Picture releases featured in this DVD Special, the 30th Anniversary Collectors Edition is not a new DVD, however its re-release celebrates the 30th anniversary of the concert recorded at the Sydney Myer Concert Bowl (Melbourne Australia) which was performed on 4th February 1975 and in front of enthusiastic audience of some 30,000 fans. This new DVD package does however offer improved audio sound/options and hitherto unseen documentary.
Now after thirty or more years and with estimated sales of the album being in excess of 12 million there is little I can write that hasn't been written about this album and its music. The DVD however offers some additional tracks, opener Catherine Parr, Catherine Howard, with an extended middle section featuring Jeffrey Crampton on classical guitar (the camera eventually finds him on the stage - ahha this is live) and Anne Boleyn. Along with this is Guinevere and part of Merlin from the then unreleased King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table.
Now this may seem a strange thing to say but of the things that are a pleasure to see are the mistakes. It is these moments when legends seem all the more human. To watch Rick Wakeman in full flow whilst all around the array of early technology keyboards are working against him. A tribute to the man as the Mellotron and analogue synths drift out of tune, but he appears to be undeterred. It is not just Rick that suffers from intonation problems and I feel sure Gary Pickford Hopkins does not treasure some of his vocal parts in this filmed concert. But that is what makes it magic - today these would be overdubbed or edited or just removed from the film. Now don't get me wrong I am not advocating poor performances just truthful representations.
Filmed at Shepperton Studios (UK), the bonus footage sees the re-uniting of Rick Wakeman, Roger Newell, Ashley Holt, Barney James and Gary Pickford Hopkins in January 2005 - the first time all of these guys have been together in 30 years. The documentary catches them in jocular fashion, reminiscing on aspects of the Journey tour. The technical and logistical pitfalls, the alcohol they consumed, the pranks they played and all interweaved with amateur 8mm footage recorded during that period, bringing back even more memories. Perhaps not something you will want to watch over and over, but still interesting in many respects. For those who have previously purchased the Journey... DVD, I doubt that the improved audio and additional documentary footage will be enough to prize more money from the wallet, but for those who have not yet purchased this DVD (and of course Wakeman completists), now might be the time.
Personally I think a journey to the centre of the earth would have been simpler than Rick Wakeman's unique, possibly misguided, but laudable all the same, tour. Perhaps when viewing this DVD we should be mindful of the enormity of this project. It's not perfect - it would be very simple to pick fault - but this is truly a historic journey and has earned its place in music history. Once again hats off to Classic Pictures.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Pictures At An Exhibition ~
35th Anniversary Collectors Edition
Tracklist: Intro, Promenade, The Gnome, Promenade, The Sage, The Old Castle, Blues Variation, Promenade, The Hut of Baba Yaga, The Curse of Baba Yaga, The Hut of Baba Yaga, The Great Gates of Kiev
Bonus Material: Audio only - Orchestral version of Mussorgsky's Pictures At An Exhibition.
To mark the 35th Anniversary of the filming of Pictures At An Exhibition, UK based Classic Pictures have re-released this early footage of one progressive rock's legends in their earliest days. Once possible to go to the cinema to see such events - now we are reliant on enthusiastic companies like CP to save such gems and release them on DVD for home entertainment.
As mentioned this is re-release from CP and as the title says to celebrate the anniversary of the concert (well it will in December). Not the same concert as the album of the same name, this is a somewhat rawer and more experimental ELP than the one which can be heard on the 1971 release. A rare glimpse of the band in those hectic days. The following two paragraphs are taken from the previous review of the Lyceum concert I did back in 2001. As nothing has altered from the original film these words still stand as an overview of the main feature.
I saw this film many years ago at the cinema, in those days it was still possible to see something other than the latest "Blockbuster" films on a large screen. So this DVD package came as a pleasant surprise and allowed me to re-kindle some past memories. The original concert was recorded in December 1970 at The Lyceum, London and only a few months after the band's debut, at the last of the Isle of Wight festivals. It should be noted here that this is not the same concert as is featured on the Pictures at an Exhibition album. The band chose to re-recorded Pictures in March the following year at Newcastle City Hall (UK).
Originally the Lyceum concert was also to be the album version, however sound man Eddie Offord was not available for the London concert, and the resulting recording was not to ELP's satisfaction, as were some aspects of the band's personal performances. Having said this the sound quality is remarkably good considering its age and the few notational glitches make the band seem more human. The DVD captures Emerson, Lake & Palmer prior to their international status, so no lavish stage sets yet. The concert is in fact quite intimate and catches the three musicians hungry for success and firing on all cylinders - good performances from all concerned. Even at this early stage in their careers the trademarks are there, Emerson's dexterity as a keyboard player amply displayed and coupled with his now legendary on-stage antics. Greg Lake's clear and precise vocals, gentle acoustic guitar and the solid bass sections which adhered Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer together. Carl still in his teens at this time, showing why he was one of the most talked about drummers of his era.
Technological advances still would not appear to have progressed far enough for the removing of the overlaid psychedelic images and comic strip cartoon pictures (a legacy of the era and the original film) that somewhat marr The Old Castle, Blues Variation, The Hut Of Baba Yaga and The Curse Of Baba Yaga. Perhaps this footage should be used for training purposes for those entering a career in recording such events - what may seem cutting edge technology for one generation is just irritating for future audiences. Personally I would rather be impressed by the band and the music rather than the film makers attempts at making the concert more "interesting".
The bonus material comprises of an audio only, orchestral arrangement from Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition which was originally undertaken by Maurice Ravel from Mussorgsky's original piano score. Performed here by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine and conducted by Theodore Kuchar. To accompany the audio are various time-lapse films, computer generated graphics, with topics ranging from spatial shots to sprouting plants. OK I suppose, but not essential viewing for such a DVD - the music remains great of course. This additional bonus material replaces the Band History, Photo Gallery, Discography, Art Gallery and Profiles of both the band & Mussorgsky from the previous release, which was also interesting, if not particularly compulsive viewing either.
Sadly there is no "new" material for this the 35th anniversary edition - so unlike the Rick Wakeman DVD which has the "The Lost Journey" footage, there is little to warrant purchasing this DVD if you previously purchased the 2001 release. A shame that some rare interview or perhaps the additional footage from the Lyceum concert could not have been found to make this a more essential buy. However for those who missed the opportunity in 2001, then the improved audio options and the chance to listen to Mussorgsky's orchestrated version of pictures may clinch the deal. I gave the original Pictures DVD a DPRP recommended tag for the opportunity afforded us by Classic Pictures to see this unique film. The film is still unique and if you've not yet purchased this DVD then at under ten UK pounds it has to be worth it - surely.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10 (8 out of 10 for ELP fans)
Magnum - Live At Birmingham
Tracklist: All England's Eyes, Vigilante, Pray For The Day, Les Morts Dansant, You're The One, On A Storytellers Night, Stormy Weather, How Far Jerusalem, Only In America, Days Of No Trust, Kingdom Of Madness
Bonus Material: "Another Chapter, Another Verse" - The Documentary.
Chapter One presumably, as it precedes the band's break-up in the mid 90s, which Bob Cately and Tony Clarkin go on to discuss in the documentary, but what an opening chapter. The concert captures a "classic live show" from one of the UK's most endearing melodic rock bands. This performance was recorded on 22nd December 1992 in the band's home city, with the audience packed to the rafters in Birmingham's Town Hall to see the band skilfully reproduce songs from across their many studio albums.
The pre-Christmas concert has all the Magnum trademarks - Cately's commanding voice, backed by rich vocal harmonies and Clarkin's driving guitar riffs and melodic solos. The rhythm section is solid with Mickey Barker on the kit and Wally Lowe on bass. There are no great surprises on this DVD, just solid performances of memorable melodic rock songs, that are firmly entrenched within that genre. Magnum make no pretensions towards the more complex material normally to be found in these pages, happy with their brand of "stadium rock" anthems. Perhaps not reaching the notoriety of others such as Def Leppard, but a band that have remained loyal and true to their fans and in return their fans have remained loyal and true to them. If nothing else this DVD shows this mutual respect in all its glory.
The DVD is chock full of memorable tracks with sing-along-choruses and music to get you punching the air with hands - and most of the audience do. Cately works the crowd well getting them to follow his lead in Pray For The Day and later on moving freely within the crowd to sing one of the opening verses within the set. Mo Stanway makes an appearance on backing vocals during Les Morts Dansant, but for me the highlights are All England's Eyes where Bob sounds just a little like Talking Head's David Byrne and the wonderful Kingdom Of Madness.
So to the bonus material, Another Chapter, Another Verse, which is documentary footage featuring original band member interviews with vocalist Bob Catley, guitarist Tony Clarkin and keyboard man Mark Stanway. Now I can remember chatting to two of these guys way back at the beginning of Magnum's career, when they played at a venue called the Rock Garden. Both Clarkin and Cately coming across as genuine and amiable guys. We talked for about an hour before they were due on stage, sadly however I remember little of their actual performance as their drinking abilities certainly outweighed mine. Their friendly disposition comes across in the Another Chapter, Another Verse documentary, which although watchable, is a once only viewing experience. The bulk of the interview (mainly answers to questions you don't hear) sees Messrs Clarkin, Cately and Stanway seated on leather chairs or in front of flightcases, with the majority of the dialogue taken up with why they are happy to be in Magnum. And while I hope that they do remain together for many years to come, it scarcely makes the bonus footage a bonus! Oh yes, I forgot the making of the Brand New Morning album footage - not a collectors dream for me.
However the main feature is Magnum in concert, on their home ground and in front of the converted - so what better way to see the band. As with many of the Classic Pictures' releases little is offered by way of additional viewing features, therefore the "concert" remains the focus and is best viewed from start to finish, much as you might if it were ever to be shown on TV. Once again this is not the first outing for this DVD and I fear the bonus material is not sufficient to warrant buying this again, so one for die-hard Magnumites or those who missed the previous chance to buy this DVD of Magnum in concert.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10