Album Reviews

Issue 2007-019

Reviews in this issue:

Jeff Wayne's Musical Version Of War Of The Worlds - Live on Stage !

War of the Worlds
Country of Origin:UK
Format:DVD / 2DVD
Record Label:Universal Pictures
Catalogue #:824 770 2 / 824 567 3
Year of Release:2006
Time:DVD 1: 132:00
2DVD bonus disc 120:00
Info:DVD microsite
Encoding & SoundPAL 16:9 widescreen
Dolby Stereo 2.0 & 5.1
DTS 5.1


Main Film (1:50:10): Intro, Prequel, The Eve of the War, Horsell Common And The Heat Ray, The Artilleryman And The Fighting Machine, Forever Autumn, Thunder Child, Red Weed Part 1, The Spirit Of Man, Red Weed Part 2, The Artilleryman Returns, Brave New World, Dead London, Epilogue [Part 1], Epilogue [Part 2] (NASA)
Bonus Material: Interview with Jeff Wayne (5:19), Carrie and the Cannons; Behind the scenes on the CGI sequences (2:27), Bringing back Burton (9:34), Making a Martian Fighting Machine (3:59)

Ltd Edition DVD2: The Tour 2006 0- A Journal (59:12), Sculpting the Richard Burton head (2:13), Rehearsing 'Thunder Child' (9:01), Rehearsing 'Forever Autumn' (8:07), Mars comes to Wembley (5:41), Jeff Wayne in conversation with Russell Watson (11:13), Animating the Martian Machines (3:20), The Tour 2006 (9:54), Interviews with the Cast (11:42)

When I first saw still photographs of the 2006 live show of the War of the Worlds I was rather sceptical. Sure, the stage setup and the number of musicians involved looked nice, but I was really wondering if staring at a floating head was really the way to bring the epic concept album to live, 28 years after it had originally been released. So I didn't go out to buy it straight away and only got convinced when I later saw some actual footage from the DVD. All my doubts blew away and I was on the internet buying the 2DVD version as quickly as I could.

In the 28 years of its existence War Of The Worlds never got performed live on stage. By the time Jeff Wayne actually started to consider it in the early Eighties Richard Burton, the narrator on the album, died and Jeff lost all interest of continuing without Burton. The renewed interest in the concept album as a spin-off to Spielberg's rather disappointing film version has resulted in new releases and collectors editions and seemingly gave Jeff the itch again to bring his masterpiece to life in front of an audience. The result is a most stunning show that includes a 10-piece electric band, a 48-piece string band, an enormous projection screen spanning the full width of the stage showing more than 90 minutes of continuous CGI animation (incorporating actual actors filmed against blue screen), a 10 foot high head on which Richard Burtons 'talking'face is projected, a huge menacing Martian fighting machine (including lighting effects and other tricks) towering above the musicians and a cast of actors/musicians performing the songs. The combination of all these elements makes an unbelievable spectacle with an impressive eye for detail. For instance, all the musicians are dressed in costumes of the Victorian age in which the story takes place and subtle lighting effects are used to emphasize the familiar spooky noises of the album and the use of the Martian heat-ray.

Of the original album's cast Justin Hayward (The Moody Blues) and Chris Thompson (Manfred Mann's Earth Band) perform their respective songs (Eve Of The War, Forever Autumn and Thunderchild), while Irish Tara Blaise and Russell Watson join forces for the powerful duet The Spirit Of Man. The absolute star of the show however is Alexis James, who first appears as the artillery man in The Artillery Man & The Fighting Machine but returns for a marvellous performance in Brave New World. His enthusiasm and energy alone would be worth seeing the show for !

Most of the performance stays very close to the original album. As you can imagine the scale of the show and the timing with the animated projections do not leave a lot of room for improvisations. At times the rendition is even so uncannily close to the original that it raises doubts about how much is actually live. Take for instance some of Justin Hayward's performances; they are so heavy in backing vocals that it's hard to tell if he's really singing or not. Watching all of the bonus material on the 2DVD set I can only conclude that the show was definitely meant to be as live as possible. I would however not be surprised if a bit of 'touching up' has been done with the filmed show. A new intro has been added to the show, accompanied by on screen animation, that shows the Martians preparing for their invasion of Earth (previously used as in the remix track ULLAdubULLA). A nice little appetizer that sets a creepy mood for what's to come. The Red Weed Part 2 includes drums, which is an improvement because I've always found that track a but dragging and overlong without any rhythm. Finally, Epilogue 1 is extended for cast introductions.

Talking about the filming, even though it will be hard to capture a show of this scale of the small TV screen (which really has me being majorly disappointed that the show didn't tour Europe and I haven't been able to see it live), the DVD production crew and 24 cameras have actually done a very nice job. You really get a feel for the magnitude of the whole thing, although it will probably never come too close to experiencing the real thing.
A thing that doesn't work quit as well as I hoped is the Burton head. The projection of Burton's face on the big floating 'mask' works quite well, but actual filmed mouth of the actor that was filmed and combined with Burton's still picture is like, what shall I say ... close but no cigar. As you can imagine it's hard to lip synch the exact words of Burton and the projection is therefore just a tiny bit off most of the time. The fact that the facial expressions and the eyes don't really move don't help to make it any more real. Then again, I have to admit that it does work much better than I had expected from seeing those still photographs of the show.

The show can be played in Dolby Digital stereo, Dolby 5.1 surround and DTS 5.1 surround sound. Jeff Wayne is not new to the surround sound concept. He already re-released The War Of The Worlds on Super Audio CD last in 2005, so it should come to no surprise that the music sounds terrific in the surround mix.
Rather than using the rear speakers just for reverb like most live DVDs do, the music is very well balanced across all speakers. This gives you the opportunity to hear much more detail in the music. The sound effects make good use of the surround sound, but also the voice of Richard Burton is moved to the rear speakers whenever his narrator is interacting with the people onstage.

The single DVD version includes four short documentaries about the main props of the stage show; the Burton head, the fighting machine and the CGI animation. One of the other nice the features of the movie is that it comes with subtitles in several languages, so the people with less developed English skills can follow the story Burton is narrating. Unfortunately the lyrics of the sung parts have strangely enough not been subtitled. A minor flaw.

The 2 DVD version comes with an extra DVD filled with more 'behind the scenes' material. The main feature is a documentary of an hour that shows the development of the stage show and especially focuses on the rehearsals and final preparations during the last weeks. This proved to be one of the nicest 'rockumentaries' I've seen as a bonus on a DVD since not only does it cover all aspects of the show (blue screen acting, band rehearsals, CGI, interviews with Jeff Wayne, etc) but it also shows a lot of the things you normally don't get to see in 'behind the scenes' documentaries. Where they are normally packed with superlatives of praise this one actually gives us a peek at some of the nastier sides; a serious argument between two of the production managers, the problems with the hot shot star attitude of Russell Watson ("I love it when everybody panics because I keep turning up late"), Jeff Wayne being seriously disappointed with the CGI studio's initial work for Act II, the malfunction of the Fighting Machine during tests and more. It's also good fun to see understudy having the time of his live when he has to replace Russell during the final dress rehearsal. And then there's the bit where Massive Attack drop by to see the work on what turns out to be one of their favourite albums.

But there's more: the 2nd DVD has seven additional featurettes on the rehearsals, development of the Burton head, Wembley performance and 2006 tour, CGI animation and interviews. Bits of this footage was used in the long documentary but you get more uncut stuff here adding up to another hour of interesting background material. All in all this is more than enough reason to cough up the additional cash for the extra DVD. As icing on the cake you get a nice 12 page booklet with the 2DVD edition, including more liner notes, artwork and pictures.

A must have for all War Of The Worlds fans and lovers of big production multi-media stage shows.

Conclusion: 9 out of 10


Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe – An Evening Of Yes Music Plus

Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe – An Evening Of Yes Music Plus [DVD]
Country of Origin:UK
Format:2 DVD
Record Label:Voiceprint Group
Catalogue #:VPDVD27
Year of Release:2007
Time:Disc One 93:58
Disc Two 50:12
Info:ABWH Info
Encoding & SoundNTSC, Region 0
Ratio: 4:3, Stereo


Disc One: Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide To The Orchestra, Jon Anderson Solo: Time And A Word/Teakbois/Owner Of A Lonely Heart, Steve Howe Solo: Clap/Mood For A Day, Rick Wakeman Solo: Gone But Not Forgotten/Catherine Parr/Merlin The Magician, Long Distance Runaround, Birthright, And You And I, I've Seen All Good People, Close To The Edge, Themes, Brother Of Mine

Disc Two: The Meeting, Heart Of The Sunrise, Order Of The Universe, Roundabout, Starship Trooper, Bonus Feature: In The Big Dream

Depending upon your bias, when Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe released their self titled CD in June 1989 it was either the best ‘Yes’ album since the 70’s or four ex members cashing in on their former success. As the then ‘Yes West’ had reached something of a creative impasse it was embraced by most fans and generally considered by their older followers to be a return to form. The inevitable tour quickly followed a mammoth undertaking that ran from July ’89 to March ’90. Following a legal battle in the USA that began in May 1988 ABWH were eventually allowed to use the former name to promote the tour under the heading ‘An Evening Of Yes Music Plus’. I caught the show in October ’89 during the European leg and it ranked alongside the best of the Yes concerts I witnessed during the ‘70’s. Joining ABWH that evening, as he did on the album was the bands fifth member bassist Tony Levin. A keen photographer, I can still recall Tony standing at the side of the stage taking snaps of the band.

This version of the show was recorded at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in California on September 9th 1989. It was originally released in 1993 as a now deleted limited edition double CD and video boxset (my copy is numbered 471). Seventeen years on sees this double DVD release which after the initial 2,000 copies will revert to a single disc minus the bonus feature. It is also available separately in double CD format. In a stylish glossy digipak it certainly looks the part featuring the original Roger Dean artwork together with images from the show in the accompanying booklet. Put disc one in the DVD player and the menu options are functional if not visually spectacular. Once the show starts however the improvements are immediately apparent. Gone is the sound drop out that blighted my video copy. In fact given the age of the recording the sound quality is exceptional. Picture quality is also very good although the image is not quite as sharp as more recent recordings.

The show opens in quite a unique fashion devised to emphasis the status of the four principle players. Starting with Jon Anderson, who makes his entrance amongst the audience much to their obvious delight, they each take to the stage and perform solo. That’s not strictly true as Anderson’s performance is enhanced by guests Julian Colbeck on keyboards and Milton McDonald playing acoustic guitar. It also serves a useful function of allowing each member a solo spot without disrupting the continuity of the show. The fanfare from Young Person's Guide To The Orchestra in place of the usual Firebird Suite underlines the point. Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman fans will warm to this DVD with plenty of close ups of fingers flying across frets and keys. Bill Bruford is given final solo honours with a flashy drum workout during Long Distance Runaround. His electronic drum kit was much talked about at the time and it certainly looks impressive when shot from above by the crane mounted camera. In fact the varied and shifting camera work is impressive throughout although they rarely stray from the four stars of the show. Colbeck and McDonald are given very little exposure and bassist Jeff Berlin, standing in for the hospitalised Levin, gets even less camera time which is a shame.

In recognition of the bands confidence in the new material five lengthy songs from the latest album are included in the show. They are all professionally and accurately executed although for me the three part Themes is not the strongest of tracks and could have easily been exchange for an older tune. The delicate Anderson/Wakeman piano and vocal duet The Meeting stands out as does the rocking Order Of The Universe. The rest of the main set is designed to accommodate older fans concentrating exclusively on the early 70’s classics The Yes Album, Fragile and Close To The Edge. It also ensures that every song played originally featured the four members of ABWH. Not entirely true of course as Wakeman didn’t play on the Yes Album but he did make the material his own when he joined the band later that same year. It’s a pity they didn’t decide to mix things up a little. I would have liked to have heard Bruford’s take on some of the Going For The One songs for example.

The performance of Close To The Edge is one of my favourites with Wakeman adding one or two flourishes missing from other versions. Wakeman is on form throughout the set with the bird’s eye camera shots brilliantly capturing the fluid movements between each keyboard. An extended I've Seen All Good People is also outstanding allowing everyone including Colbeck and McDonald a short solo. The presence of the guest musicians allows Wakeman and Howe to focus their attention on previously neglected areas like the acoustic guitar in And You And I for example. Howe in particular is very animated throughout this show with a rare smile on his face for the most part. The show ends on a spectacular note with the circular lighting rig above Bruford rotating 90º to face the audience for Howe’s energetic solo and the climax of Starship Trooper. OK so it’s reminiscent of the collapsing lighting rig at the end of the 90125 gigs but its effective all the same.

I was looking forward to the bonus feature In The Big Dream as my original video copy from 1989 is badly worn to the point of being unwatchable. It’s an insightful and often humorous glimpse into the recording of the studio album. Wakeman is upstaged by Bruford who provides the funniest moments especially during the recording of the backing vocals for Order Of The Universe. The thirty minute feature includes three promo videos which were all visually impressive for their time. The first Brother Of Mine depicts Bruford, Wakeman and Howe each represented by a very acrobatic warrior in a wilderness landscape. Good for its time but it looks a tad contrived now. I’m Alive from Quartet suffers the most with its then state of the art video effects now looking dated. It’s still a good song though. Order Of The Universe is the most successful with the band filmed on stage with some very striking camera angles and sharp editing. The live version of Heart Of The Sunrise which is included in the main set has been omitted but its absence means that the feature finishes rather abruptly.

With so many Yes DVD’s around at the moment it would on the face of it appear hard to justify yet another. However given its archival significance and a valuable document of an important stage in the bands career it’s a worthy release. The performances are singularly excellent throughout with Howe even managing to breathe new life into the old chestnuts Clap and Mood For A Day. It’s a pity that Tony Levin was not around for the filming as like Chris Squire he has a flamboyant stage presence. Jeff Berlin does a creditable job however especially with the solo line that follows the intro in Heart Of The Sunrise. I’m not sure what tinkering if any has been done to the picture and audio but either way this DVD both looks and sounds superb. There are no sound options however which some may find limiting. It’s clearly evident that this is the late ‘80’s from the big trousers and even bigger hair. Rick’s style makes him look remarkably like a young Kiefer Sutherland (of ‘24’ fame)! A final word for to the stylish split level stage set designed by Martyn and Roger Dean which looks very cool and a far cry from the clunky inflatables devised for the last Yes tour.

Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10


IQ - Stage

IQ - Stage [DVD]
Country of Origin:UK
Format:Double DVD
Record Label:Giant Electric Pea
Catalogue #:GEPDVD9003
Year of Release:2006
Encoding & SoundRegion 0, 16:9
Stereo/Dolby 5.1


Disc One: Nearfest, PA, USA - July 9th 2005 Sacred Sound, It All Stops Here, Leap Of Faith, Born Brilliant, The Seventh House, Drum Solo, No Love Lost, Widow’s Peak, The Narrow Margin [middle section], Guiding Light, Harvest Of Souls, Awake And Nervous, The Last Human Gateway [middle section], The Wake, Extra: Sound Check

Disc Two:  Burg Herzberg Festival, Germany- July 16th 2005 Sacred Sound, It All Stops Here, Born Brilliant, The Seventh House, Drum Solo, No Love Lost, Leap Of Faith, The Wake, Harvest Of Souls, Awake And Nervous, Extras: Stage & Screen Featurette, Andy's First Gig Featurette, Photo Gallery

Now here's a treat, two DVD's, each a different concert packaged together for the price of one - marvellous. But, hang on a moment, both were the year after the release of Dark Matter in 2005 and only one week apart at that. Furthermore the track listings are almost identical, what's the point you may ask? Well fear not, gentle reader, as each performance is sufficiently different from the other to justify the inclusion of both - even, one could say, releasing such a package clearly demonstrates the effect that events, surrounding environment and, well, life in general can effact the way bands perform.

First-up we have IQ's headline set at Nearfest 2005 and, I'll wager you'll rarely see a more perfect performance of these songs. Every note is right where you'd expect and the recording and mix are so good that you can easily and clearly pick out every instrument at will - surely one of the best recorded live DVD's I've ever heard. The other thing that may strike you is how incredibly talented each member of IQ really is - this film showcases their considerable skill with every single delicious note being played. And yet, despite all this one comes away feeling somewhat disatissfied, how can this be? Is it the songs being played?

Firstly the band appear to be somewhat subdued, anyone that has any reasonable knowledge of IQ will know they're a bunch of guys with a deep sense of (English) humour and they enjoy themselves on stage, larking about, joking and generally making their presence felt ("Oh no, titter Ye not" etc). Not so here - they are, on the whole, quite lifeless, moribund even. Perhaps this is due the circumstances immediately before the concert - as Pete Nicholls writes in the (excellent but brief) DVD notes they had a lot of trouble at the US border when crossing from Canada, and perhaps they were exhausted from this, who knows but for sure it's not their normal demeanour. Then there's the stage they're on - it's huge, the sort of stage you would see Rush playing in a big arena and to be honest they don't look right on it at all, I think they feel more at home given less room. The third element that isn't right is the lighting - don't get me wrong, the light-show is excellent, especially during Harvest Of Souls but it's just too dark for filming and a lot of the time the band members are cloaked in twilight.

All this is a real shame because in every other way the DVD is fantastic - very professionally filmed with multiple cameras, high quality images, nicely produced with split-screen in some sections etc. The band do slowly come to life as the show progresses and perhaps resemble their normal selves by the time we get to the encores (which are curiously seperated from the main show in the menus). Pete even manages a slight costume change during Harvest Of Souls, donning a white coat and gloves, and dark glasses - hardly face-painting but there you go, they were in America and you can get arrested for that sort of thing over there. It's worth noting also that this was new drummer Andy Edward's second live show with the band but his performance is so good you'd swear he'd been occupying that drum stool for years, super stuff. Guiding Light comes across particularly nicely despite what has already been said and oh yes, there's an extra too in the form of a sound-check, to be honest though unless you're an IQ nutter you won't get a lot from it - kudos to the band for adding it on though for those that are interested.

Now on to Disc Two and the performance at the open-air Burg Herzberg festival in Germany seven short days later. How can this be the same band? These guys are happy, passionate, jumping about and having fun - well perhaps not Andy on the drums, he's looking quite serious, perhaps he's having to keep his concentration as he's still a bit new to it all or maybe that's just his manner, who knows... Most obviously Pete is smiling, playing the tambourine, arsing about (can I say that?) with John and Mike, and, most importantly, singing with passion. Mike's headbanging though the songs, gibbing (that means involuntarily pulling a weird face when you're playing for those that don't know) on the more difficult parts. John's hopping about with his bass all over the place - now this is more the IQ we know and love! Perhaps the band are happy to be back in Europe, it's all gelling and the crowd are loving it as is the band.

The trade-off this time is that the image quality isn't anywhere near the standard as that at Nearfest - this has much more of a home-made feel to is, that's not to say that it's bad but compared to Disc One it's not in the same league. The lighting is also a little too dark for filming also and there's not the fancy light-show either but it doesn't matter as you get far more a live feeling from this than the Nearfest show, and that's half the battle with a live DVD isn't it? The sound is less polished also - again it has more of a live feel, still it's pretty decent but not close to perfection like the Nearfest disc.

Some extras too on this disc - there are two featurettes, the first one Stage & Screen was filmed at Nearfest and it's a montage of hand-held video showing the band and crew pre-show, setting up, sound-checking, crowd arriving etc. To be honest, other than showing the general chaos around setting up a gig and the pre-show chatter in the dressing room it's a rather dull film unless you happen to be a close friend or relative of the band and goes on rather too long although if you stick with it there are some rewarding moments - the meet and greet/signing session has some funny moments. Andy's First Gig briefly documents the drummers first gig with the band at La Medley, Montreal on the 7th July 2005, yes indeed, just two days before the Nearfest gig - further underlining what a great performance Andy put in. This seems to be shot by someone with a camcorder in the crowd (although the audio is obviously from the desk not the camera...) and not easy to watch, OK, I admit it, I couldn't face hearing Leap Of Faith again having heard it 57 times already in the past week, but there is a version of The Outer Limits here which isn't played in the other two concerts, which is nice. There's a photo gallery too which, like most photo galleries on DVD's, isn't terribly interesting except for the backing track they've used - this appears to be some kind of I.Q. trance-mix that I haven't heard before - if anyone reading this knows what that it then answers on a postcard to the usual address please.

So, you can take you pick - a beautufully filmed and mixed but rather souless performance on Disc One or a rough-and-ready in your face show on Disc Two. For IQ lovers this is an absolute must-have, even for casual fans I think it's worth the purchase as you're getting so much for your money but for someone looking to discover the IQ live experience I can't help thinking they'd be better off getting the 20th Anniversary Concert instead and that in many ways IQ are misrepresenting themselves a little here.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10


Pendragon - And Now Everybody To The Stage

Pendragon - And Now Everybody To The Stage [DVD]
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Metal Mind Productions
Catalogue #:MMP DVD 0086
Year of Release:2006
Time:135:00 (Concert)
240:00 (Total)
Encoding & SoundRegion 0
Dolby Surround 5.1
Stereo 2.0

Tracklist: No Place For The Innocent, As Good As Gold, Guardian Of My Soul, Kowtow, The Wishing Well, The Edge Of The World, Nostradamus, Dance Of The Seven Veils, Paintbox, The Last Waltz, Breaking The Spell, Masters Of Illusion, The Black Knight, Medley inc - The Lost Children [World's End], Green Eyed Angel, Sister Bluebird, Last Man On Earth, Am I Really Losing You?

Pendragon played a double concert with Galahad in Poland, at the Wyspianski Theatre in Katowice. Both gigs have been filmed and put on DVD. So in general the quality of both DVD's in terms of sound recording and imaging directorship is identical and quite satisfactory. Indeed, the first thing that immediately strikes ones ear when you start this DVD is the fact that it sounds so much better than their previous DVD, Last! Though that DVD definitely had its virtue due to the joy of playing there, this one combines good sound, good images (plenty of camera point changes, at the right moment) with a band that sounds as tight as ever.

The DVD opens with No Place For The Innocent, from their latest studio release Believe; a fiery opener! Due to the fact that most people sat down, I can imagine that the music did not come across completely. I remember both an Alan Parsons and a Fish concert that I had to sit through... while some others had the biggest joy of their lives down in the standing area. You do loose a lot of the fun sitting down that way! Anyway, I must admit I also wasn't dancing behind my TV screen while playing this DVD, but surely I couldn't resist moving my feet once in a while! The highlights of the disc that runs for about 2 hours and 15 minutes, are Guardian Of My Soul, which was played very tightly, and The Black Knight, which is THE ultimate symbol of symphonic rock for me. It was the first track I ever heard that really blew me off my socks (I had never heard of the term Symphonic Rock at that time, end of the Eighties, and it opened up the way to into prog/sympho for me). Even today, it gave me shivers up and down my spine when I heard it on the DVD, excellently performed! Funny how the track Kowtow by now sounds so flimsy, where The Black Knight has lost nothing of its power. With The Wishing Well, also from Believe, the DVD even has a respectable epic contributing.

And what about the extra's? The DVD contains quite a large menu with an interview with Barrett, a progumentary, biography, discography, photo gallery, desktop images, weblinks and the logo. Of these, the interview and progumentary are worth commenting on. The interview is good, even though the interviewer does not guide the interview very much, he has his set list of questions and there were a couple of occasions where a well-posed question might have given some insight that one would not have gotten from any other source. Especially when talking about his personal life and divorce, Nick appeared very sincere. I will not repeat any highlights of the interview, as that might spoil it for you.

Another real treat (although very, very long with a running time of about an hour or so) is the progumentary. For the first time ever, I have seen a home-video documentary of a prog band that did not consist of 40+ year old teens sticking their tongues out to the camera or showing off their pathetic humour. Admittedly there are some moments here too, but in general it is a serious documentary on how Believe came into being, with Nick and Clive composing, and Nick explaining how certain things were done, what the idea behind certain music phrases is, etc. Quite an interesting experience therefore! Hopefully this sets a trend for other bands so we finally can get rid of the up-yours videos one normally encounters.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10


Galahad - Resonance ~ Live In Poland

Pendragon - And Now Everybody To The Stage [DVD]
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Metal Mind Productions
Catalogue #:MMP DVD 0084
Year of Release:2006
Time: 200 minutes total
Encoding & SoundDVD-9, NTSC
Region 0
Dolby Surround 5.1
Stereo 2.0

Tracklist: Intro: Montagues And Capulets (Prokofiev), I Could Be God , Year Zero [Parts 1 to 4] - I) Yearzeroverture, II) Belt Up, III) Ever the Optimist, IV) The Charlotte Suite, Bug Eye, Sidewinder, Sleepers, Empires Never Last, Termination, This Life Could Be My Last...

Recorded on the same night as the Pendragon DVD, this Galahad release has the same quality camera work and sound recording. However, I think Galahad as a band has brought something extra with respect to Pendragon. Galahad, even more than Pendragon, has reinvented itself constantly. For those not familiar with Galahad, they have evolved from a true neo-prog band to something that combines the best of for instance Porcupine Tree (not in the least due to the button-press way the keyboard players in both bands work) with the old school neo-prog (or is that a contradiction in termini?). Powerful, melodic, but no longer 'symphonic'.

This power is apparent on this DVD, and shines throughout the set, which includes a couple of tracks from their upcoming album. Especially the opening track, I Could Be God (hence the symbolic priest outfit on the cover) is very very strong. It has stuck in my mind for days in a row. Not only is the musical content captivating, but also the lyrics, addressing the self-determination of humans, is food for thought. It's a long track, with many musical twists, and is reminding me of both old-school Marillion and Genesis. Talking about Marillion, the vocalist Stu Nicholson once did an audition for Marillion after Fish left as he tells in the interview on the disk. This time, in contrast to the Pendragon DVD, the interview is better than the 'obligatory tour movie'. So in terms of extra's, this DVD does not offer too much.

It is a pity that they did not dare to dive into their past musically as much as Pendragon did.... I would have loved to hear a good powerful live version of Room 801 (which always comes to mind if I visit Ed's house ,-) or Aqaba (I vividly remember standing on the Red Sea shore in Eilat, watching the mysterious lights of the Jordan city of Aqaba in the distance across the water, and having this sentence in mind...'Aqaba is over's only a matter of going').

Anyway, no trips into the mists of time on this release. But even so there are some nice treasures to be found. Of course, a significant portion of the outstanding Year Zero could not be left out and is very atmospherical. Bugeye is one of the other highlights, but to be honest, it is the new material that captured my attention most. Indeed, this DVD is making me look forward to that new album, I think it could well be the best that Galahad has released so far. As I stated before, I Could Be God is by far the best track on the DVD, but also Empires Never Last is very impressive, towards the end there is even a phrase from IQ's Subterrania album to be heard! Neo-prog (o dear, I hope I'll not be eaten alive by trolls for using this term again) at its best. Finally, an spine-shivering realisation is that the drummer of Galahad, Spencer Luckman, was diagnosed with a brain tumour, and this was the only show he did before going into surgery. Fortunately, he seems to have recovered well and has taken up drumming again, even though he had to learn the Galahad tracks over again.... impressive and I do wish him well!

Conclusion: 8 out of 10


Mind Key – Habemus Poland ~ Live in Katowice

Mind Key – Habemus Poland ~ Live in Katowice [DVD]
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Metal Mind Productions
Catalogue #:MMP DVD 0083
Year of Release:2007
Time: 127:00
Encoding & SoundDVD-5, NTSC
Region 0

Tracklist: Intro: Sarabande [by G.F.Handel], Love Remains The Same, Lord Of The Flies, Deep inside, Guitar Solo, Eye Of A Stranger, Memory Calling [2006 version], World Of Illusion, Without Ann, Waiting For The Answer, Still Of The Night, Secret Dream – Bonus video: Stormbringer, Intro/Love Remains The Same, Deep Inside, Lord Of The Flies, Still Of The Night

This DVD was recorded during a performance in Katowice, Poland on 22 May 2006. The DVD also includes a bootleg footage from concerts in Caserta, Warsaw and Marseilles. The sound quality of the DVD is excellent and most of the songs are really worth listening and watching. Highlights are the best songs from their debut album Journey Of A Rough Diamond, being Lord Of The Flies (fantastic prog metal at its best), Waiting For The Answer and World Of Illusion. All three songs feature musical explosions, fantastic solo spots and very melodic and catchy prog metal passages. The song Memory Calling, also from the debut, is slightly changed and has another more interesting arrangement. The guitar solo, only 2.5 minutes, by Emanuele is not that spectacular and I cannot really understand why they covered Whitesnake’s Still Of The Night?? The audience goes wild and it is really fun to watch these guys on stage, so if you liked their debut album, like I did, then you should buy this DVD without a second of a doubt.

The bonus video features five more songs, but the sound quality is not that good, this of course due to the fact that it is a bootleg. Here the most interesting song is Deep Inside, but rather redundant are the two covers Stormbringer and Still Of The Night, again…

Besides the gigs there are a lot of interesting extras like: an interview with Dario and Emanuele, a biography, a discography, a photo gallery and an art gallery.

The DVD is also available as a limited edition and then you get a CD as well. The track listing for the CD is the same as the DVD. A must fans of true prog metal.

Conclusion: 9 out of 10


Steve Hogarth - H Natural ~ Voice Piano

Steve Hogarth - H Natural ~ Voice Piano
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Poison Apple
Catalogue #:PAUK 1
Year of Release:2007
Encoding & SoundNTSC 16:9 widescreen
PCM stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1


Disc One [148:44]: Masses Of Chat (5.22), Lifestory (21.20), A Few Words For The Dead - recital (3.00), You're Gone (4.44), In The Ghetto (3.41), Wichita Lineman (3.19), Diary: Tuesday 11th September 2001 Coniston (13.27), John Helmer Intro (1.58), Runaway (5.10), Working Town (3.42), Help (1.47), Famous Blue Raincoat (5.15), Germ Free Adolescents (5.53), The Ghost In You (3.53), Victoria Station (5.35), Life On Mars? (3.53) Imagine (3.35), Acid Rain (5.30), Burning Inside You (4.56), All The Young Dudes (3.50), Fantastic Place (6.07), It's Too Late (3.46), Easter (4.07), The Whole Of The Moon (3.22), Spirit (3.12), Cloudbusting (3.46), Living For The City (6.04), Afraid Of Sunlight (7.01), End Credits (1.17)

Disc Two [100:38] Talking Naturally - Interview (48.07), H Natural Paris: [Games In Germany (6.17), Better Dreams (7.05), Three Minute Boy (5.25)], Evolving Naturally - Rehearsals (34.35)

After the successful Marillion years in 2004 and 2005 Steve Hogarth was suddenly faced with an income tax assessment a tad higher than he had expected. With no (commercial) band activities planned for 2006 H felt himself in need of a job so he asked Marillion's manager Lucy Jordache to book him a tour, one that would actually make money. Lucy convinced him that he would make more money if he toured alone, without a band or crew. And so it happened that Hogarth did a series of intimate gigs around Europe, with just a keyboard and a laptop computer. At these gigs he would simply 'go with the flow', play whatever he felt like (Marillion songs, solo songs, covers), and read some passages from his diary and discuss the matters of life with the audience.

The gig in Sheffield on March 2nd 2006 was filmed by Marillion's house crew the BOOM BOOM boys and the result is this DVD: H Natural, voice piano.
The first half hour of the gig is basically just Hogarth talking about his life, mostly focusing on the parts which formed the basis of the lyrics for This Strange Engine. He also recites the lyrics to A Few Words for the Dead which sound surprisingly different when read out.
Furthermore he reads out a particularly moving part from his diary, about his reaction to the attacks of September 11th, 2001.

The rest of the 2.5 hour performance consists of songs, all performed on just his piano. The set featured a nice selection of cover tunes. H has always done a very good rendition of Bowie's Life On Mars? during his solo gigs, and this piano/vocal only version is as good as the full-band version played with his H-band. A somewhat more surprising cover is Kate Bush' Cloudbusting, while also an unexpected In the Ghetto and All The Young Dudes get an outing.

Naturally a selection of Marillion tunes is included as well. Nice acoustic renditions of You're Gone, Easter, Afraid Of Sunlight and a completely impromptu Runaway.

Surprisingly there are no songs played from his solo album Ice Cream Genius, but instead we do get Working Town from his How We Live days, Acid Rain and Burning Inside You from The Europeans and a song called Victoria Station which he wrote while in The Europeans and has never recorded.

It is a great and intimate recording, although it has a bit of a 'you had to be there' vibe. The whole talking session is nice to see once, but not something you'd want to watch very often.

The second DVD features a long interview with Hogarth as well as some songs from the H Natural show in Paris and half an hour of rehearsals in Sheffield, where he played a few songs not included in the main set. Altogether there is over four hours of material on these two DVDs.
Sound is mixed both in stereo and Dolby 5.1 surround .

For those who can't get enough of just this DVD, Hogarth has also launched a website called H-tunes where pretty much every gig can be downloaded

Conclusion: 7 out of 10


Various Artists - Prog-Résiste Convention 2005

Various Artists - Prog-Résiste Convention 2005 [DVD]
Country of Origin:Belgium
Record Label:Prog-Resiste
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2006
Info:Prog-Résiste Info
Encoding & SoundPAL, Region 0
16:9, Stereo 2.0

Tracklist: Madelgaire, Ex-Vagus, Quidam, Focus, Knight Area, La Maschera di Cera, Riverside

Following the last Prog-Résiste DVD that documented the 2004 Convention comes the latest offering from this enterprising Belgium label. It was recorded at the same venue ‘The Spirit Of 66’ in Verviers on Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th September 2005. The running order for the disc is the same as the shows which means that the top billing Focus who headlined on the first night appear half way through. As usual Prog-Résiste have done an excellent job in assembling a diverse collection of bands this time from six countries which certainly makes for a viewing experience that’s anything but dull.

The venue has a smallish stage barely above floor height creating an intimate atmosphere between the bands and the receptive audience. And if you’ve ever wondered what musicians get up to following a show the cameras venture into the communal dressing area after each performance. As they all talk in their native language however the off-stage banter was completely lost on me. Someone may have taken note of my comment regarding the subtitles on the previous DVD because this time there isn’t any.

This DVD follows the previous Prog-Résiste format featuring one track each from the seven bands that performed over the two days. As before the song titles are not provided which may have something to do with copyright issues. I have listed each performance as they appear on the DVD together with the bands country of origin.

Madelgaire (Belgium). The bands name which I first came across on the A Taste Of Belgium CD is I believe taken from an abbey located in their native country. Likewise their music has a vintage aspect combining mandolin, synth and Mellotron samples in the earlier part followed by melodic Genesis and Flower Kings flavoured guitar and keys interplay in the latter. They certainly know a thing or two about dynamics with the song undergoing several changes and I was especially impressed by the excellent drumming of Pascal Rocteur. Vocalist Dominique Lossignol has a warm and emotive French delivery and takes up guitar in the second part to provide a dual lead effect to enrich the sound. He also looks very fetching in his thigh length boots! A more accessible song than the one I recall from A Taste Of Belgium and a promising prospect for their debut CD due out later this year.

Ex-Vagus (France). This is a completely new band to me although they’ve been around since 1996. The animated front man Eric Vedovati has an eccentric presentation that brings Christian Decamps of Ange to mind, giving easily my favourite performance on the disc. His operatic French delivery is driven by a brash and energetic riff providing a very infectious sound that can best be described as a collision of punk and prog. A stately mid section varies the pace before the band race to a dramatic finale. Sensational stuff! They have a very original sound, which I would be keen to hear more of. The obvious affection the band show towards each other after the show is quite touching.

Quidam (Poland). Along with Focus and their fellow countrymen Riverside this is one of the better known bands appearing at the Convention. The bands professionalism is immediately apparent with a strong version of the melodic Not So Close from their current album SurREvival. Singing in English, vocalist Bartek Kossowicz gives an excellent performance without a hint of an accent encouraging the audience to join him for the chorus. The tune skilfully incorporates parts of Joe South's Hush, a song made famous by Deep Purple. The band gives a solid performance with the flute and whistle playing of Jacek Zasada’s standing out. I think it would be a fair assessment to say that the bands sound is more mainstream in comparison with the two proceeding acts.

Focus (Netherlands). This performance features the now departed guitarist Jan Dumée who has since been replaced by Niels van der Steenhoven. I witnessed this version of the band myself in the UK and was mightily impressed especially by the phenomenal Pierre van der Linden on drums. Before announcing the perennial Hocus Pocus with his infamous yodeling, Thijs Van Leer teases the audience with an extended classical flute solo that turns out to be the best part. No longer able to reach the high notes Van Leer is assisted by Dumée on vocals whilst contributing some lightning fast guitar work. Van Leer has not lost his touch on flute or Hammond and although it’s certainly energetic this version is more erratic than most. Holding it all together is van der Linden’s busy but precise drumming although sadly the onstage camera seems unable to keep him in focus (no pun intended).

Knight Area (Netherlands). After Ex-Vagus this is probably my favourite performance on the disc. Following the melodramatic intro of taped vocal chants, the band settles into a majestic neo-prog groove with bags of bombastic Melloton, synths and guitar against a galloping riff. The influences of both Marillion and Pendragon are clearly evident. The youthful singer Mark Smit certainly has the looks and appeal of a rock frontman although his voice is effective rather than outstanding. Its guitarist Rinie Huigen however who steps forward and dominates the later section giving an overblown and mesmerising performance that builds to a grandiose climax.

La Maschera di Cera (Italy). Being a huge fan of Italian prog I had high expectations of this band that may account for my disappointment. The sound is certainly strident and gothic with excellent piano and organ playing from Agostino Macor. Unfortunately charismatic frontman Alessandro Corvaglia’s voice is not especially strong and his performance borders on the pretentious at times. Andrea Monetti’s Ian Anderson flavoured flute work ends the song on a high note however. I possibly need to hear more from this band as on the evidence of this piece alone they appear to promise more than they deliver.

Riverside (Poland). Bassist and vocalist Maruisz Duda delivers a moody and resonant performance of English lyrics in an all too short but atmospheric song from the closing performance. The song in question I Believe is taken from the bands debut album Out Of Myself. The lyrical and unhurried guitar style of Piotr Grudzinski has all the hallmarks of Andy Latimer and keys man Michal Lapaj adds some uncomplicated but memorable piano to close. As the DVD credits roll opening act Madelgaire are reprised, joined on stage by Prog-Resiste organiser Gilles "Dr. Prog" Arend for some impromptu keyboards and sword waving!

Given the modest production values this release is not likely to win the DVD of the year award but it does represent another fine addition to the Prog-Résiste catalogue. The stereo only sound is first rate and the images are clear and sharp. The small hand held cameras remain mobile throughout taking the viewer into some unexpected places including some very good close-ups. The only downside of this is the sometimes obtrusive presence of the on-stage cameraman appearing almost like an additional member of the band. As a sampler it’s an excellent introduction to the newer bands and a good way of experiencing the more familiar acts in a live environment. Available from the Prog-Résiste web site, its also very keenly priced, which means it won’t break the bank ensuring a DPRP recommendation.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10


Uz Jsme Doma –
V Tokiu ~ Live In Tokyo 2003 [DVD]

Uz Jsme Doma – V Tokiu – Live In Tokyo 2003 [DVD]
Country of Origin:Czech Republic
Record Label:Poseidon Records
Catalogue #:PPS 002
Year of Release:2006
Info:Uz Jsme Doma
Encoding & Sound:Region 0 NTSC
2.0 Stereo

Tracklist: Tani (Melting), Pocity Plotu (Fence’s Feelings), Kovbojska (Cowboy Song), Lavina (Avalanche), Hlina (Soil), Julecek (Julius), Ranoc (Mornight), Jassica (Jassica The Grey Whale), Zvonek (A Bell), Posiepu (Blinded), Strach (Fear), Telefon (Phone), Napul (Halfway), Sopot (Sopot In Poland), Kuzelina (Lazybona), Holywood (Holywood) Bonus Tracks: Oko (Eye), Tvar (Face), Tiha (Weight)

This one is likely only to appeal to a minority audience, even in terms of visitors to this site.

Uz Jsme Doma is an underground Agit-rock band from the Czech Republic, specialising in spiky, angular, punky art-rock. Their twin guitar, bass, drums, vocals (and occasional piano) line-up means there is little variation in the sound of these songs, which are mainly abrasive, jerky and dissonant. Add in Czech vocals, (often wailing and /or shouty) which most of us won’t understand, thereby diluting the obvious humorous intent and you have a fairly unwelcoming mixture. Some research on the web reveals that Pere Ubu are often quoted as being stylistically similar, but I don’t know their work so I can’t confirm or dispute this.

As if this wasn’t unusual enough, Uz Jsme Doma further mark themselves out as different, by having a 5th member on brushes. This is Martin Velisek, an Artist who, as well as providing cover art, is also up on stage with the band, painting a large picture as the band plays. Apparently, the resulting work “Rabbit in Spaceship” was bought by a Japanese collector.

The often close-up camera work offers an intimate view of the band, as they give a vigorous performance in a small Japanese club, wearing funny little caps and white smocks.

I must admit that this is not really my cup of tea, but I could appreciate their committed performance, and I did like some of the tunes featuring piano a little more. The atmosphere is often intense and sometimes downright bizzare, and I can’t help feeling that you really need to understand the words (though they may well be nonsense) to fully “get” the band.

I’m going to go out on a limb somewhat and suggest that fans of The Cardiacs, Samlas Mammas Manna, Thinking Plague and the Rio scene may well enjoy this band. Of course, if you know and like the band, you should love the DVD. My low rating is meant to indicate the likely level of appeal to the general Prog audience rather than the actual quality of the performance etc.

I hope my review has given you the information you need to decide whether this may be your kind of thing. Oh, by the way, there are no frills on this DVD and the Bonus tracks are just more tracks, seemingly recorded at the same performance, so why they are bonuses rather than just part of the DVD I don’t know.

Conclusion: 5 out of 10


Gong - @ Montserrat 1973 And Other Stories

Gong - @ Montserrat 1973 And Other Stories [DVD]
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Voiceprint Group
Catalogue #:VPDVD25
Year of Release:2007
Info:Planet Gong
Encoding & SoundRegion 0, PAL

Tracklist:Gong@ Montserrat 1973 (20:40), Big Tea (2:30), Conscience Strike (15:52), Arrest Me (4:43), Gaia(5:03), TickOcock (2:17), Garden Song (6:11), Acidmothersgong @ RFH (6:08), Soft Machine @ UFO (3:52)

It’s great that, after all these years, fans of non-mainstream bands finally get to see footage of their heroes which was never available to them at the time. Voiceprint and other similar labels provide a great service in rescuing lost artefacts from oblivion, and I am all for it. This current DVD however, I could well have managed without. It is, I feel, misleadingly packaged as a Gong release as the bulk of the material is in fact very recent Daevid Allen Solo Material. If you are a huge fan of his solo work and fancy watching him roll around the floor in a jumpsuit and gas mask to a quasi-industrial backing, or are tempted by the sight of a naked pensioner sat on the toilet reciting a “poem” about pubic lice then you’ll be delighted by this oddball collection.

The Gong portion of the disc, amounting to 20 minutes, in fact only contains about 7 or 8 minutes of actual live Gong, captured in performance in a Spanish church. The remainder of the piece shows the band slowly marching up the hillside or sat on rocks, in silly hats, with long close-up shots of the rocks. It’s a shame the whole of the 30 minute live set has not been captured on film, as on the basis of this snippet, that would be great.

If you’re tempted by the promise of Soft Machine footage, again be warned it’s terribly brief, but what you get is a fascinating flashback to the psychedelic sixties with Allen declaiming a poem in support of John Hopkins, the editor of IT magazine, to a suitably freakish and frenetic backing.

Similarly, the Acid Mothers Gong clip conveys the atmosphere of the gig without actually showing any real performances, instead focusing on a bizarre marriage ceremony, with most of the musicians too preoccupied to actually play their instruments.

I found most of the recent material hard to take, much too artsy-fartsy for me, though a couple of comparatively straight acoustic numbers are rather nice, hearkening back a little to Allen’s Good Morning album of the 70’s.

Unfortunately, this mishmash collection is a watch-once curio strictly for Allen fanatics or Gong completists only.

Conclusion: 4 out of 10


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