Reviews in this issue:
- Orchestre Celesti - Compi La Tua Magia
- Orchestre Celesti - Black and Red
- Orchestre Celesti - Transition of Power
- Orchestre Celesti - Quattro
- Orchestre Celesti - Suites (The Long Ones)
- Man - All's Well That Ends Well
- Mick Pointer Band - Marillion's "Script" Revisited
- Tommy Bolin - Whirlwind
- Various Artists - Fly Like An Eagle: An All-Star Tribute to The Steve Miller Band
- Vangelis - Vangelis and the Journey to Ithica [DVD]
Orchestre Celesti - Compi La Tua Magia
Track list: Compi La Tua Magia [Maestoso] (3:51), Compi La Tua Magia [Vivace con forza pt 1] (3:07), Compi La Tua Magia [Vivace con forza pt 2] (2:40), Compi La Tua Magia [Lago] (4:27), Compi La Tua Magia [Presto Con Moto] (5:28), Compi La Tua Magia [Andante MArziale] (2:29), Hiroshima Mon Amour (4:43), WOTS n'2 (4:19), Secure Rose (5:04), Ethos (2:47), Quadra (4:45), The Fountain (3:07), Vynil Dawn (3:05), In A Glass House (3:19), Ill Colosso di Rhodes (4:07), Orch-Idea (3:13), Voci (3:04), Lost Waltz (3:33), Waltz n'2 (3:11), Crowd in the Dark (4:25)
Orchestre Celesti - Black and Red
Tracklist: Black and Red (5:22), Abstraction from Reality (3:42), Two of A Kind (4:40) Love Will Never Die (5:58), Ancora Dispari (4:47), Dual Ladder (2:11), Singolar Tenzone (5:04), Strano Interludio (2:13), Intruders (2:20), Mar Nero (2:48), Piano Suite no.1 (9:41), Piano Suite no.2 (5:55), Water of the Moon (3:38), Semi-acoustic variations (4:34), Unknown Love Song (2:11), In Punta di Piedi (1:24), Black And Red (2:07)
Orchestre Celesti - Transition of Power
Track list: Transition of Power 1: Crisis (3:02), Transition of Power 2: Emerging Alternatives (6:25), Transition of Power 3: The Battle (3:59), Transition of Power 4: Transition of Power (4:22), The Rainmaker (5:31), The Fly (8:50), L’ultimo Bolero (4:19), Transylvanian Express (4:17), Clubringer-Sound of my Dreams (3:32), Arabesque (4:18), Syrinx 1: God Pan (3:46), Syrinx 2: The Chaste Nymph (3:30), Syrinx 3: On the River Edge (4:50), Syrinx 4: The Naiadi (4:46), Solo 4: The Tangent (1:42)
Orchestre Celesti - Quattro
Tracklist: Un Prologo (2:44), La Talpa (7:12), Canta Alle Nuvolo (6:43), Morte e Resurrezione di un Mago (4:43), Questo Mondo (5:32), L'Ombra (9:26), I Tuoi Pensieri (7:28), The Suite (4:22), L'Ultimo Bolero (7:55), Musica (6:27)
Orchestre Celesti - Suites (The Long Ones)
Track list: Compi La Tua Magia (21:46), Syrinx (16:30), Transition Of Power (17:52)
Reviewing the work of Orchestre Celesti is something that is long overdue. Not everyone will agree to this of course but no worries, we are all entitled to our own opinions. Orchestre Celesti is not an orchestra in the true sense, the 'orchestra' is derived from Frederico Fantacone's keyboards, with the addition of voice-samples, hence it is all instrumental music. Fantacone is the creative mind behind all of the music that began in 2006 when Frederico first started to create his own music under the moniker Orchestre Celesti. He opened this outlet in an attempt to blend RPI with '70s British style progressive music.
One year later Orchestre Celesti's debut album, Compi La Tua Magia, saw the light of day. All of the arrangements as well as the compositions on the album come from the hand of Frederico Fantacone. No less than 20 tracks are to be found on the debut, the first 6 combined to form the title track, a classically orientated song or suite with, as you might expect from an album by a virtuoso keyboardist, a massive blend of keyboard wizardry. Compelling, intense and at the same time very delicate music with highlights in the wonderful piano play. From a technical point of view the songs are all very well thought out, arranged and played yet somehow there is a lack of emotion. I cannot quite grasp how or where but it is as if there is something missing. Not all the time mind you as the songs are wonderfully created and masterfully played.
Creating an album of instrumental pieces is one thing but listening to all of the tracks, each one tells a story of its own with great melody lines. Keeping the ear of the listener and their listening focus is a different thing and far more difficult. Frederico and Orchestre Celesti withstands this challenge but only just.
The debut is absolutely worth listening to and I like it but now and again the whole just falls away to become background music. The melodies though are strong enough to make it more worthwhile. Still, Compi La Tua Magia is a solid instrumental debut.
Two years pass before Orchestre Celesti released its second album, Black and Red. Again instrumental, the show continues where it left off back in 2007 with a blend of songs of grandeur with lovely melody lines, all of the tracks once again the product of a one-man band. Again Frederico leaves no doubt in my mind that he is a talented and gifted keyboardist who absolutely knows how to arrange music to create wonderful atmospheres. The blend of RPI and British '70s prog is well established by now, giving the RPI a slightly higher influence that undoubtedly has its roots with Frederico's heritage. As an Italian with a love for keyboards it is obvious.
The title track to Black and Red has a smoother sound than the debut, more flat also. Orchestral though it is, the music is actually almost never acoustic although it does become so more than once. This album has for me some outstanding tracks whereas the debut album did not really have one. My favourite keyboard instrument being the piano, the two piano suites have my preference and I really like these tracks. They show the real virtuosity of Frederico and he does a marvellous job playing with real emotion.
As I stated for the debut album, the problem also arises on this second outing; apart from where the piano is the main or sole instrument there is something missing. For the better part this is actually a real bass guitar and drums, especially the latter as the electronic version is not very good. On this re-mastered version there is one track that is distinctly different from the others as Love Will Never Die features vocals. It sounds cool, but very different from all the other tracks.
Another two years in the making was album number three, Transition of Power. This album contains two large suites of music, Transition of Power (in four parts) and Syrinx (again in four parts). For the two suites the tracks have been split so it is also fairly simple to just listen to one track and skip the others. There is also a third epic on the album in the form of the 8:50 minute long The Fly.
This third album reminds a lot of albums by Vangelis or British electronic bands of the late '70s/early '80s. The album also marks the introduction of vocals on more than one track, as one might expect in native Italian tongue which then also very clearly states the characteristics of RPI. The production of this album seems more open, more wide and orchestral if you will, and this wider production suits the music, giving it more cache.
Going on to the fourth album, appropriately entitled Quattro. In the release notes it is said that the album is very different from its predecessors. The opener, Un Prologo, leaves no doubt as to where this may lead, the track is much like the title music from a movie soundtrack. La Talpa, the second track, continues with the nice addition of sax making the song even more attractive but still with the feel as if it was part of a score to a film. The statement in the release notes is absolutely correct, as with the third track the crossover to a jazzier style in a groovy tune with a nice melody line, a Canto alle Nuvolo, lyrics have been added to make it a real Canto with sax again to finish it off.
Morte e Resurrezione di un Mago as fourth track of the album is a real up-tempo rock song and a nasty one as well, pretty straight forward and therefore easily adapted. I will not go into the details of every track but I would like to mention the ninth track, L'ultimo Bolero which is fun to listen to and beautifully arranged with intense playing. Absolutely recommended.
One track I do not get, sound wise, is L'Ombra which starts with the sound moving from left to right and back again. I could not really listen to this waving of the sound - I got very nervous. Luckily it stops by the time the vocal lines step in. Whether it was intentional or a flaw in my download I don't know but I did not like it very much.
Quattro really is something else and different than its predecessors. Lovers of RPI, for instance the recordings of Fabio Zuffanti, may like this.
Finally I received another album, a compilation actually of the three long tracks that Frederico has recorded as Orchestre Celesti, appropriately called Suites (the Long Ones). This album contains the long suite from the debut Compi La Tua Magia and two songs from Transition of Power, the title track and Syrinx. Not much to say about this album really, the tracks have been re-mastered and with that have a more open sound.
Coming to conclude, I can say from my own point of view I like instrumental music and especially the Italian style of Prog. I enjoyed very much and will continue to enjoy listening to these albums in the future. Usually all albums would be rated separately, I have chosen to rate all albums in one as I cannot clearly see a big difference. Remarks and all taken into consideration I would say an overall rating just short of 'Recommended'.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Man - All's Well That Ends Well
CD1 - Original Album - Let The Good Times Roll (3:03), The Welsh Connection (8:01), The Ride And The View (6:04), Hard Way To Live (3:08), Born With A Future (7:44), Spunk Rock (8:36), Romain (5:03)
CD2 - Complete Concert 1 - Let The Good Times Roll (2:47), 7171 551 (5:18), The Welsh Connection (8:14), Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You (5:02), The Ride And The View (6:15), C'Mon (16:24)
CD3 - Complete Concert 2 - Born With A Future (7:25), Many Are Called, But Few Get Up (10:31), A Hard Way To Live (3:29), Bananas (11:54), Spunk Rock (7:40), Romain (5:16)
Thirteen line-ups, twelve albums, a few bits and pieces and no fatalities. So went the opening text of the Man Family Tree poster included with the first 500 copies of the Welsh supremos last album before their six-year hiatus. In 1976 the musical scene was in flux with the first flowerings of the short-lived punk scene forcing their shoots through the established foliage. However, it wasn't fear of being pushed aside or sounding dated that prompted the split, the band were still selling out live concerts with ease, but after nine years on the road the band had all had enough. Their label at the time, MCA, were owed a final album and although the band did make a half-hearted attempt to record some new material the sessions crumbled amongst in-fighting and the reluctance of anyone to submit any songs, preferring to keep what they were working on in the bag to be used in future projects of their own. Tensions between band members were not helped by guitarist and vocalist Deke Leonard offering to write the whole album himself, an offer that was seen by the rest of the band as Leonard trying to claim the writing royalties for himself. The day was saved, and litigation prevented, when booking agent Brian Marshall managed to persuade MCA that a farewell live album would sell, as the group always managed to achieve the greatest heights when playing on stage.
The recording was, perhaps inevitably, taken from a series of three concerts at the Round House in London's Chalk Farm, a venue where the band had recorded two previous live albums (the live half of 1973's Back Into The Future and the Maximum Darkness album recorded with John Cipollina of Quicksilver Messenger Service) as well as appearing on the bill and subsequent album of the infamous Greasy Truckers Party. Only the first two nights of the run were recorded, possibly because the final night was on a Sunday, with roughly half of the original album taken from each of the Friday and Saturday night's concerts. The newly remastered version of the original album is included as the first disc of this set but it is the second and third discs where the value of this release lies, a newly mixed rendition of the entire set list of the concerts taken from the original 24-track tapes which, fortunately, had been kept safe and secure in storage. Because of technical issues arising from an electrical buzz emanating from a faulty on-stage monitor, only one of the extra numbers is included from the Saturday night so the bulk of the 90-minute concert derives from the first of the three nights. However, as the band were on scorching form that is not an issue. And what a band Man were at the heights of their powers. The twin guitars of Leonard and main man Micky Jones may not have provided the same intertwined complexities of the likes of Wishbone Ash, but support each other superbly, each of the guitarists providing a foil for each other to play off, the origins of the often lengthy jams the band would indulge in. Future Dire Straits sticksman Terry Williams occupied the kit, Phil Ryan had returned on keyboards and newest recruit John McKenzie, who reasonably enough was the most upset about the decision to call it a day, filled in the bass end.
So what of the music? The selection for the original album was chosen so as not to over replicate material that had appeared on previous live efforts so three tracks from the latest studio album, The Welsh Connection, the title track, The Ride And The View and Born With A Future, were a given as that album had only been released a few months prior to the concerts. All three concerts were kicked off with the Louis Jordan/Ray Charles standard Let The Good Times Roll, a song never previously performed live or recorded by the band which as well as providing an affirming statement to kick things off also ticked a couple of boxes on the commercial front, although I doubt very much if that was ever a consideration. A Hard Way To Live, first released on Leonard's debut solo album Iceberg in 1973, is perfectly suited to the Manband approach making maximum use of the twin guitars and being an energetic, good time piece of music. It is also possible that it was chosen as a partial explanation for the bands reason for calling it a day as the lyrics bemoan the trials of surviving in a rock band. The album was completed by two live favourites, the seminal (excuse the pun!) Spunk Rock, the band's signature tune that was only reintroduced into the live set shortly before these final concerts, and Romain which had been the favoured closing number since it first appeared on the eponymous 1970 album. A decent enough collection that would satisfy the fans even if there was no band to push its release and MCA not putting any great effort into its promotion, something that is obvious from the totally half-arsed cover.
It is the remainder of the set that was left off the original album that entices with this re-release. Three of the culled tracks, 7171 551, originally titled after Monkee Mike Nesmith's telephone number and another number from Leonard's Iceberg album, the folk ballad Babe, I'm Gonna Leave you, also recorded in rocked-up versions by Led Zeppelin and Quicksilver Messenger Service and Many Are Called, But Few Get Up had all appeared on the 1975 live album Maximum Darkness, and the remaining two tracks, C'mon and Bananas, both from the classic Be Good To Yourself At Least Once A Day were regular favourites and were probably omitted because of internal weariness of the numbers and fear of over-reliance and exposure on specific numbers. Although the concerts were perhaps more concise and featured less jamming - limited largely to tracks that did not appear on the original album (the limitations of vinyl!) - than other Man concerts the performances are excellent with the version of Bananas being particularly poignant and memorable. A fitting end to the classic era of this fine band and with the full set restored across two CDs an essential addition to any decent music collection. Just a shame that permissions for the full unedited film of the concerts could not have been obtained prior to this release as that would have made a perfect complete package, still one can hope that its release will eventually be sanctioned. In the meantime we have the audio recordings to relish in.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
|From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Man CD Reviews:-
|"a bold first attempt with indications of what was to come."|
(Mark Hughes, 5/10)
|2 Ozs Of Plastic With A Hole In The Middle|
|"(although not matching) up to their prime United Artist releases...2 Ozs Of Plastic comes close and is a worthy addition to any Man collection."|
(Mark Hughes, 7.5/10)
|"Rather a mixed bag, the album contained a variety of styles of music."|
(Mark Hughes, 6+/10)
|Do You Like It Here, Are You Settling In?|
|"...written, recorded and mixed in six days, one track each day. Considering this was the band's second album of 1971, they had no problem in delivering the goods."|
(Mark Hughes, 8/10)
|Live At The Padget Rooms, Penarth|
|"...the reissued album, featuring the whole set, makes up for the limitations of the original album with an extra 52 minutes of first rate live Man."|
(Mark Hughes, 7+/10)
|Be Good To Yourself At Least Once A Day|
|"A classic album, and deservedly considered by the cognisee as one of the best of the bunch. If you have not heard anything by Man before then this is a good place to start."|
(Mark Hughes, 8/10)
|Back Into The Future|
|"...a loving testament to the Welsh wizards...makes a great place to start a Man collection as the uninitiated will get a flavour of what the band are all about both in the studio and on stage. A fine album, a great band and a brilliant reissue."|
(Mark Hughes, 9/10)
|Christmas At The Patti|
(Man and Friends)
|"Although not the best Man live performance on record...the album holds a certain charm, particularly as a reminder of the comparatively free and easy musical times gone by when music was all that mattered."|
(Mark Hughes, 6/10)
|Rhinos, Winos + Lunatics|
|"Once again Esoteric have excelled in this reissue, they understand exactly what the fan wants from a quality reissue. The fact that there is some excellent music as well is rather a bonus! "|
(Mark Hughes, 8/10)
|"Although not often cited as a pinnacle album in the band's career...Slow Motion is a worthy addition to any Man collection."|
(Mark Hughes, 8/10)
|"Overall, this is probably not an essential...Despite that, Man were, and still are, a formidable live act and, unlike some bands, a live album bearing the Man name is almost certainly guaranteed to be a worthwhile release."|
(Mark Hughes, 6/10)
|Kingdom Of Noise|
|"...nothing to write home about, a major disappointment given the fine legacy of previous Man albums."|
(Mark Hughes, 4/10)
|The Welsh Connection|
|"It could be said that this album sounded somewhat different to previous albums, while still being recognisably the work of 'Manband'."|
(Roger Trenwith, 8/10)
Mick Pointer Band - Marillion's "Script" Revisited
CD 1 - Script For A Jester's Tear (9:44), He Knows, You Know (5:24), The Web (10:17), Garden Party (7:04), Chelsea Monday (8:11), Forgotten Sons (10:43)
CD 2 - Three Boats Down From The Candy (5:11), Charting The Single (5:01), Grendel (19:32), Market Square Heroes (6:34), Margaret (9:35)
It's thirty years since Marillion released their first album, Script For A Jester's Tear, a big favourite to this day of Marillion fans and one of mine too. It was also the only Marillion album that drummer Mick Pointer played on. The live Marillion's Script Revisited album was recorded in the Netherlands on the 16th March 2013 as a celebration of Script For A Jester's Tear's 30th anniversary, an album that has now sold in excess of 3 million copies. The live album was recorded and mixed by Simon Hanhart who was the recording engineer for the original for EMI in 1983.
Mick Pointer, as well as being an original member of Marillion and naming the band, went on to form Arena with Clive Nolan, a band that is still going strong. Mick's band here consists of Nick Barrett on guitar (part of Pendragon since 1978, a band that seems to be getting better and better), keyboards from Mike Varty (known for his work with Credo, Landmarq, Shadowland, DeeExpus and Janison Edge), bass player Ian Salmon (Arena, The John Young Band, Shadowland and Janison Edge) and, last but not least, from his own Genesis tribute band The Carpet Crawlers, Brian Cummins who has the huge task of taking over the vocals of the big man, Fish.
Just looking at the band members alone has the makings of a excellent album, add to that the music they are playing takes it a notch higher which was enough to make me pre-order the album without even hearing it. The album has two discs, nicely presented with good shots of the band in the booklet, the first disc being the complete Script... played in sequence starting with clapping, cheering and whistling. There's great applause at the start of Nick’s first guitar solo (you can tell that he's a big favourite with the crowd) and you immediately sense the power, at the same time you are taken back in time with the crowd singing along in parts. I am impressed by Brian's voice - a young Fish has returned. Next a crowd pleasing He Knows, You Know and they join in the vocals with Nick and Mike both doing stunning jobs. It's nice to hear The Web live, a song not heard very often and again I am impressed with Ian's bass playing, Nick’s guitar solo a joy along with Mike’s Keys, again the crowd is clapping along and you can hear everyone is having a great time, both audience and band. Garden Party, loved at Marillion and Fish gigs, is also loved here and really shows off Brian's vocal talents and the place is rocking. Chelsea Monday features wonderful bass and a sublime guitar solo showcasing just how good Nick Barrett is. The first disc finishes with a powerful rendition of Forgotten Sons.
The second disc continues with more Marillion from Mick Pointer's era, Three Boats Down From The Candy and Charting The Single both done well, which leads us into a big crowd favourite, Grendel, a song that is always called for at Marillion/Fish gigs to this day and one that Fish has recently performed twice at his last convention. This is often regarded as Marillion’s Supper's Ready, which could be why in parts Brian sounds more like Peter Gabriel than Fish. This is not a complaint by the way. Coming in at just under 20 minutes all of the musicians have the space to play all the important parts well with plenty of energy making it the highlight of disc two. Market Square Heroes is always guaranteed to get the crowd going as they do here, joining in with full voice, the set ending with Margaret complete with traditional Scottish lyrics and bagpipe sounds. Brian introduces the band, each playing a short solo with Mike's being particularly impressive, and the concert ends as it started with cheers and clapping, the audience seem very satisfied.
I am a big Fish and Marillion fan so I have over the years spent a lot of money on various studio and live albums and sometimes ask myself why I would want any more versions of this material, but I am glad I got this one as it's a very good performance by top musicians with a fine singer whose Scottish accent makes him sound like Fish. It's fresh, well recorded and mixed and I recommended it to all Fish-era Marillion fans. I know it's not Fish or Steve Rothery etc., but you cannot really call it a cover band, unless you want call Fish a cover act when he does Marillion material with his band. It feels a bit more than that and I believe that the Mick Pointer Band really celebrate the album and era showing respect for a great album. But one thing that will lower my rating of the live album is that between songs it doesn't flow and you have gaps that spoil the live atmosphere.
I regret not going to see one of these live shows as I know I would have enjoyed it.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
|From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Mick Pointer & Friends Live Reviews:-
|2008:-||Zoetermeer, The Netherlands|
|2010:-||Progeny 3, Leamington Spa, U.K.|
Tommy Bolin - Whirlwind
CD 1 - Cucumber Jam (5:29), Heartlight (4:26), Hoka-Hay! (7:01), Don't Worry 'bout Cash (acoustic version) (3:23), San Francisco River (2:48), Rock-A-Bye Dreamer (3:34), Dungeon (7:34), Alexis (5:04), Gotta Dance (Take 2) (4:52), Spanish Lover (instrumental version) (3:45), Sooner Or Later (4:20)
CD 2 - Red Skies (instrumental version) (3:29), Way It's Always Been (3:14), Sleepwalker (instrumental version) (4:32), Leave Other People Alone (2:00), Marching Bag (original version) (26:24), Wild Dogs (acoustic version) (4:48), From Another Time (3:26)
After his tragic death from a heroin overdose in December 1976, guitarist Tommy Bolin has become a rock legend like other influential artists who left us too soon. One of the many casualties of the Seventies, he left behind a sizable body of unreleased work that the Tommy Bolin Archives - with the assistance of Los Angeles label Cleopatra Records - have been releasing for the joy of Bolin's many fans. Whirlwind, released in August 2013, and produced by Greg Hampton and Bolin's brother Johnnie, features almost 100 minutes of rare and unreleased recordings, spanning a 4-year period (1972-76) that was probably the high point of Bolin's career as a musician and composer - though it also saw his substance abuse problems worsen and eventually lead to his untimely demise.
In his very short trajectory on Planet Earth, Bolin went through an astounding number of musical experiences, which makes the album's title of Whirlwind particularly fitting. In 1971 Bolin, who at the time was living in Colorado, formed Energy with his former Zephyr bandmate, drummer Bobby Berge. Though a record deal eluded them, a situation that eventually led to Bolin leaving to join James Gang after only two years, Energy managed to record a few demos and play some concert shows. Vocalist Jeff Cook, who joined Energy in 1972, revisits those exciting times in his liner notes, which provide some interesting insights on Bolin's artistic personality.
The music presented on Whirlwind reflects Bolin's versatility as an artist, encompassing the classic hard rock stylings of James Gang and Deep Purple and the sizzling jazz-rock of Billy Cobham's Spectrum (probably his highest-profile appearance, besides Deep Purple's 1975 album, Come Taste the Band). Most of the material on the first of the two CDs dates back from the Energy sessions, and features the outfit's line-up of Bolin, Berge, Cook, Stan Sheldon (bass) and Tom Stephenson (keyboards). The second CD, on the other hand, is dominated by a 26-minute version of Marching Bag, a monstrous jazz-rock tour de force that, in a much shorter version, appeared on Bolin's first solo album, Teaser (1975), with the title of Marching Powder (a rather ominous reference to cocaine).
Exhilarating hard blues songs such as Heartlight (enhanced by Cook's gutsy vocals in the Gregg Allman mould) and the organ-driven From Another Time brush elbows with scintillating instrumental jazz-rock workouts such as the lazy-paced but intense Cucumber Jam, the almost Hendrixian San Francisco River, the scorching Dungeon and the emotional Spanish Lover (an instrumental version of the song featured on James Gang's 1974 Miami). The mellow ballad Alexis gets some bite from the distorted guitar towards the end, while Don't Worry About Cash and Way It's Always Been explore Bolin's acoustic, folk- and blues-inspired side. On the other hand, the piano-driven, upbeat rock'n'roll of Rock-A-Bye (Bolin's homage to his idol, Elvis Presley) and roaring boogie-rock of Sooner or Later show some serious airplay potential, with Bolin's consistently stellar six-string work enhancing those apparently more simplistic items. Energy's favourite concert opener, Hoka-Hay!, condenses the elements of intensity and almost spacey atmosphere that are explored at length in Marching Bag, in which a central theme is reprised over and over, and Sheldon's bass proves a perfect foil for Bolin's fiery guitar exertions.
Though Bolin's brief tenure in Deep Purple was much reviled by the band's hardcore fandom - and, indeed, Blackmore's shoes would have been hard to fill for anyone, let alone for a 23-year-old with plenty of personal issues - listening to Whirlwind makes one wonder at the wealth of fresh inspiration that Bolin (together with his friend and bandmate Glenn Hughes, who miraculously survived years of drug and alcohol addiction) might have brought to the band if Mark IV had lasted for longer than just one album. Though the quality of the recordings featured on this double CD set is not always the best, and the liner notes appear to be somewhat erratic (for instance, keyboards are occasionally not listed even when they can clearly be heard), the material stands on its own, and Marching Bag alone would be worth the price of admission for fans of this talented musician whose candle burned out too fast.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
|From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Tommy Bolin CD Reviews:-
|Whips And Roses 2|
|"All in all I can say that I truly love this album..."|
(Martien Koolen, 9/10)
Various Artists - Fly Like An Eagle: An All-Star Tribute to The Steve Miller Band
Tracklist: Take the Money and Run (3:25) [Colin Goulding (XTC) - vocals, Tony Kaye (Yes/Circa) - keys], Take the Money and Run (3:57) [John Wetton (Asia) - vocals, Steve Stevens - guitars], Living In the USA (4:27) [Fee Waybill (Tubes) - vocals, Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater/BCC) - keys], Abracadabra (5:12) [John Parr - vocals, Rick Wakeman (Yes) - keys], Swingtown (3:50) [Martin Turner (Wishbone Ash) - vocals, Geoff Downes (Asia/Yes) - keys], Winter Time (3:20) [Sonja Kristina (Curved Air) - vocals, Peter Banks (Yes) - guitars], The Joker (4:16) [John Wesley (Porcupine Tree) - vocals/guitars], Jungle Love (3:28) [Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow) - vocals, Steve Morse (Deep Purple) - guitars], Space Cowboy (4:25) [Jami Jamison (Survivor) - vocals, Jordan Rudess - keys], Rock N Me (3:58) [Rod Argent - vocals, Steve Hilage - g], Fly Like an Eagle (4:04) [Nektar with Geoff Downes]
[All other instruments played by Billy Sherwood]
Right, lets clear up any confusion right at the start; this is another of Billy Sherwood's occasional series where he takes a particular artist's back catalogue, selects some key songs, opens his phone book or rolodex (remember those) and calls up a few high profile musical chums to make a tribute album with them. It's not a recreation of the entire Fly Like an Eagle album. He's done this with Supertramp, The Who and others and here's the issue:
What's the point of these albums???
Is it to introduce new potential listeners to explore said artist's often extensive back catalogues or to have a jolly time in the studio or what? You see, these versions are all perfectly fine - a few are exceptionally good - but none of them deviate very much from the Steve Miller Band versions which in themselves are probably the definitive versions of these songs. There are some inspired "pairings" here but in this modern age few, if any, of these fine musicians actually gathered together to record their parts, thanks to the wonders of technology and Pro Tools an album can be recorded remotely and assembled, sequenced and produced elsewhere. Anyway what does it sound like? Well unlike the earlier Fusion Syndicate album that I reviewed for DPRP this one isn't a soggy mess of half-formed ideas because these songs are so well structured already that you'd have to be pretty daft to screw them up. Billy and co have recreated these pieces to fine effect and added little touches to differentiate them from the original versions.
I must say that this album is best enjoyed in one sitting and what it does display very admirably is just how bloody great these songs actually are. As a revisitation and alternative to Steve Miller's greatest hits albums it works very well indeed. For me the stand out tracks are Abracadabra with its keyboard solo from Rick Wakeman, John Wesley's The Joker which is a funky take on the classic song, Joe Lynn Turner's Jungle Love with a great Steve Morse guitar break, Rock N Me with a fine Rod Argent vocal (nice to hear him singing really) and Nektar with Geoff Downes on Fly Like an Eagle (the only track to depart from the original really - not wildly but to good effect).
It's not wildly progressive but it is a grower of an album with the final recordings of the late Peter Banks on the song Winter Time and some inspired pairings throughout making it a good listen. It's not essential but would be a bargain if acquired at a reasonable price but I would urge you to check out samples before investing.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Vangelis - Vangelis and the Journey to Ithica [DVD]
A revealing two-hour documentary about the career of the Greek composer with contributions from many of the artists he has collaborated with.
This DVD is seen as a rare insight into the life of Vangelis. A prolific and popular musician he is known for giving very few interviews throughout his career. Indeed as the DVD progresses and we learn about the man we see a private, protective person who at times is fragile and seemingly overwhelmed by pressure or accolades and plaudits.
The documentary doesn't appear to take any specific form such as chronology, and is merely split into chapters of significant work. The lack of flow doesn't easily help the viewer to build a cohesive picture of the man and instead we get more of a magazine style profile of him made up largely of snapshots of big events and film works he has been involved in.
One impression which is inescapable throughout the documentary is the enormity of his output; dozens of albums and films, two thousand advertisements using his music, many large scale concerts with some of the biggest stars in opera, rock and classical music, and so many hobbies and interests that most people would be lucky to experience just one of in their lifetime. Yet the sheer scale of his career is a tad detrimental to providing a view of any real substance in a short piece. Two hours is too little to gain a true insight and in keeping with the grandeur and style of the body of work, it should at least be a box set or a double disc.
With so many collaborations and friends to interview regarding Vangelis, the moments are in many cases reduced to small sound bites or a tiny anecdote. Hopes for a lengthier segment with Jon Anderson were dashed as it features a short clip of I'll Find My Way Home from Top of The Pops alongside a short recollection from Anderson. The reasons for the track are addressed - it was aimed to be a hit and written purely with that intention and from start to finish the song was written and in the charts in under two weeks.
Perhaps tellingly there is surprisingly little Vangelis reveals about his time with the Yes singer and it may be pure speculation as to the reason why, but relations between the musicians cooled when Anderson released a rework of Page of Life in 1991 which Vangelis was in objection to. Since that release Anderson and Vangelis have never worked together again. It's hard to say if this event is the reason but as the body of work between them (four platinum albums and numerous worldwide hits) is as substantial as that of Vangelis' work with Ridley Scott, the time afforded in this documentary to his time with Anderson is curiously short. Prog fans may feel short changed if this is a primary motivation for purchasing this DVD.
As the DVD progresses we learn that Vangelis is a loyal friend to many people and as Anderson is such a gentle spirit it may just prove that the little of their work on show on this disk is just down to documentary limitations.
Apparent throughout the documentary is the restless nature of Vangelis and he sums this up by saying he doesn't want to be a 'prisoner to success' Proving this point the topics shift to the commercials made famous by Vangelis such as the classic British Rail advert which features Hymn. Never was a dirty old diesel train as majestic as the one from the advert that chugged through the green fields of England. In contrast to this, his stripped back electronica for the equally famous Anti-fur advert shows his diversity in sound.
Vangelis bears his techniques for the world to see over the course of the DVD, in particular is his natural ability to compose on the spot, a skill that astounds all those who collaborate with him. Unbelievably the composer does not write anything down and relies on a skilled musician to transcribe his work into music.
There is a sense of some snobbery from the classical world both for his style and perceived low musical skills. It's not directly obvious on the commentary but it isn't hard to read what is being said regarding his approach to music - the techniques are fiercely defended by the talented people who have worked with him over the years.
A tiny segment on the disc shows the unusual process for mapping out the sounds he uses with a series of customised squiggles and lines. It's a fascinating and puzzling method, one that Vangelis has mastered as a language of his own.
The key films using his memorable scores are explored on the DVD and Conquest of Paradise and Blade Runner feature heavily with clips from the early eighties of a very confident, cigar smoking Ridley Scott. Vangelis reveals his dislike for movies as the high pressure associated with the industry is a stark, corporate opposite to the sensitive and gentle spirit of the man.
Somewhat disjointed, we only see the work on his most famous of soundtracks, Chariots of Fire, towards the end of the documentary. His passion for this work, largely due to his father who himself was an Olympic athlete, shows more so than perhaps any other composition featured. The tone and sentiment of the regret and loss he feels towards his late father does somewhat leave the viewer feeling sad as the DVD closes which is a shame.
The title piece The Journey to Ithika is a spoken piece read by Vangelis' close friend Sean Connery which does come across as an odd choice as he reads poetry about the island and its mythology over the sweeping aerial images of the landscape, set to what is perhaps the typical Vangelis atmospheric sound. Connery's famous Scottish 'Esh' pronunciation does somehow feel a little out of place but overall the gravitas his voice has does rescue the piece.
The feeling from watching the documentary is that it fails to somehow go far enough. For such an accomplished man it doesn't achieve what it sets out to do which is give the viewer a real sense of insight into his life. The direction it adopts is closer to the documentary styles found on some cable channels. Structurally it flits about randomly and moves backwards and forwards with no sense of journey. We learn enough for the casual viewer to take something away but many fans of the musician may feel that the film offers little real revelation.
It is a one time viewing and some may feel they have got what they want from it in one sitting. Sadly, there are no additional features to give the DVD legs, such as production notes or complete music pieces to enjoy. The lack of subtitles was also a notable absence and gives a low budget feel to the package.
|From the DPRP Archives...
Previous Vangelis CD Reviews:-
|Heaven And Hell|
|"...in my humble opinion, Heaven And Hell is 43 minutes of musical perfection."|
(Geoff Feakes, 10/10)
|"Whilst Albedo 0.39 certainly has its moments, for me it rarely reaches Vangelis' normal high standards."|
(Geoff Feakes, 6/10)
|"As a development from Vangelis' previous work it is an important marker on his evolving style."|
(Jez Rowden, 8.5/10)
|"...to get the most out of Beaubourg it's best heard alone in a darkened room or better still through a good set of headphones."|
(Geoff Feakes, Unrated)
|"A particularly varied album, Direct requires less concentration from its listener than the earlier recordings, but those who do wish to look deeper will be rewarded as there is much to enjoy here and the craftsmanship of the man at the heart of it is hard to ignore."|
(Jez Rowden, 8.5/10)