Tony Patterson Equations of Meaning Esoteric Antenna EANTCD1061
Following on from his triumphant 2014 release with Brendan Eyre (Northlands), Tony Patterson is back with his fifth solo album, Equations of Meaning.
The stunning artwork on this album by Howard White (also responsible for the work on Northlands) captures the mood of the album beautifully, and is reminiscent of those evocative album covers that Hipgnosis did for Pink Floyd.
Musically this album is very much a slow burner, contemplative rather than in your face, meditative instead of energetic, a style and pace that allow the songs to breathe and grow. The talented musicians on here include Nick and Siobhan Magnus, whose vocal duet with Tony on The Angel and the Dreamer is one of the high points of an album full of heart-stopping musical prowess. The Magdalene Fields superbly evokes long nights, showcasing the precision of Nick Magnus’ programming, Tony’s warm and yearning vocals, and the sax of Fred Arlington, which meanders through the track. Meanwhile Northlands collaborator Brendan Eyre provides the wonderful piano on the stunning As the Lights Go Out, whilst the moody rocking Sycophant with its biting lyrics and stunning guitar work from Andy Gray is a real delight. The beautiful track The Kindest Eyes is written about Tony’s wife Angela.
This is a perfectly crafted and superbly executed album which grows on you with each listen. Tony Patterson is a major musical talent, and following on from Northlands, this release confirms that he is making some of the best music of his career so far, and some of the best music on the prog scene currently.
Dodson and Fogg Walk On www.wisdomtwinsbooks.weebly.com
Ten albums in a four-year period, and Chris Wade shows no sign of running out of steam or ideas. This album continues his reinvention of acid folk, moulding it into something distinctly Dodson and Fogg. The only guest on this album is the trumpet player Colin Jones, so this is essentially a Chris Wade solo album. He plays all the instruments here with great skill as he constructs different musical worlds for us to visit. There is the soloing and driving psych of Grab Your Soul, the building and intense Ruptured which comes across as a cut from the soundtrack of a late sixties acid trip road movie, and the chilled-out bliss of the title track, a particular highlight. The music has the unique Dodson and Fogg intimate charm and a wonderfully woozy English psych vibe throughout. When Chris lets go on his guitar, the soloing is sublime. Walk On sees Chris cementing his position as one of the finest songwriters in the country. The fact that this isn’t all over BBC Radio 6 Music is shameful.
Hawkwind The Machine Stops Cherry Red CDBRED688
One of England’s longest running psych prog space rock bands, Hawkwind have undergone many a lineup change over the past nearly fifty years of their existence, yet the constant leadership of Dave Brock on vocals and guitar ensures a consistency of vision. This, the band’s latest opus, features ideas that have become familiar to Hawkwind fans over the group’s long career. Based on the E. M. Forster classic short story from 1909, which predicted an age of living in subterranean cells and communicating only through personal screens, with everything controlled by machines, this album picks up Forster’s prophetic themes of dystopia, isolation and over-reliance on technology and explores what happens when The Machine Stops. With a lineup of Brock, Richard Chadwick, Mr Dibs, Dead Fred, Niall Hone and Haz Wheaton, the sound here is vintage Hawkwind, filtering the classic sounds of In Search of Space and Warrior on the Edge of Time and updating them with the electronic drone of later albums like It is the Business of the Future to be Dangerous. There’s a lot here for traditional Hawkwind fans to love, such as the synth-driven majesty of In My Room, whilst the lyrics are reminiscent of the glory days of Bob Calvert or Michael Moorcock. There are no bad tracks on this fantastic record, and it is one of those classic albums in which you can just immerse yourself. Hawkwind have produced one of their finest records for years, and one that will rightly be considered another classic in their mighty oeuvre.
Geoffrey Richardson The Garden of Love Esoteric Antenna EANTCD1057
For those of you familiar with the quintessentially English progressive band Caravan, the name Geoffrey Richardson needs no introduction. To those of you who don’t know Geoffrey, he is the band's long serving multi-instrumentalist famous for his work on violin, viola and flute, as well as for having worked with musicians like Murray Head.
This is his solo album, released towards the end of last year on Esoteric. Apart from Frances Knight’s guesting on piano on four tracks and Tim Edey providing melodeon on Alleluia 7, Geoffrey plays all the instruments on the album and sings as well. This allows him to relax and showcase his virtuoso skills, with harmonica solos on the aforementioned Alleluia 7.
Taking its inspiration from folk, rock and classical music, this album captures a talented songwriter at the top of his game, with some wonderfully haunting moments, particularly the pipe section on The Downs, with its Oldfield-esque refrains. The great vocals and superb musicianship make this an understated gem of a record which, with its sentiments on the brilliant England Dear England and the fantastic title track, ensures that you get something new from it on every listen.
Admirals Hard Upon A Painted Ocean Believers Roast
What happens when you get a seven-piece ‘underground’ folk supergroup comprised of alumni from legendary alternative bands like Cardiacs, Knifeworld, North Sea Radio Orchestra, Guapo and the Mediaeval Baebes? Admirals Hard is what happens, and what a treat it is. Cornishman (and vocalist) Andy Carne roped in West Country friends James Larcombe (melodeon, hurdy-gurdy, harmonium, vocals), Daniel Chudley-Le Corre (electric bass guitar, vocal), Richard Larcombe (guitar, vocal, harmonium), Sarah Measures (vocal, flute), Paul Westwood (hammered dulcimer, harmonium, vocals), and Kavus Torabi (acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, percussion, vocal). After ten years of playing the pubs and clubs in London, they have chosen some of their favourite sea shanties to perform. Embracing the sound with gusto, and with the mighty choir of voices needed for shanties, this is a raucous, exuberant and energetic collection of trad arr. tracks.
The group have fun with the traditional South Australia, throwing in elements of fifties rock-and-roll played on a harmonium. When they let loose with jigs and reels on Whip Jamboree/Let the Bulgine Run, you can feel their enthusiasm and sheer joy at playing this music come shining through. Nautical favourites such as Blow the Man Down, Boney Was a Warrior and All For Me Grog are sung with the gusto that they deserve. There is no reverence or stilted respectful interpretation here. Some artists from different genres dip their toe half-heartedly into folk and just do straightforward recordings of the songs, but here these pieces are brought to life: you can imagine the band stopping halfway through for a glass of grog before taking requests from the audience. The only epic on this album is the seven-minutes-plus Rounding the Horn, which builds and builds with intensity and a sound that harks back to early Steeleye Span or Fairport’s dramatic reinvention of A Sailor’s Life. These fantastic musicians, who between them have been responsible for some of the most inventive English music over the past decade and beyond, excel themselves here. This is more than a part-time hobby or a side project —this is a fantastic English folk album. I for one can’t wait to catch them when they tour later this year.
Karda Estra Time and Stars Believers Roast BR019
A new release from Swindon-based ambient music collective Karda Estra collects the band’s two recent EPs The Seas and the Stars and Future Sounds onto one album.
Richard Wileman, the multi-instrumentalist behind Karda Estra, is one of those musicians who never stand still, and The Seas and the Stars is twenty minutes of sublime musical invention chronicling the collision between the Andromeda Galaxy and our own Milky Way, and the eventual end of everything. This is pretty heady stuff, with some sublime musical performances throughout: the haunting The Sleepers of Gilese really stood out for me.
I’ve said before, and will no doubt say again, that the music Richard makes as Karda Estra —aided and abetted by regular collaborators Ileesha Wileman, who provides ethereal vocals, and Amy Fry on clarinet, sax and alto flute— is cinematic in its approach. You could imagine the music from this album being used to accompany suitably epic footage of space, whilst the music from the Future Sounds EP includes the brilliant Yondo inspired by the story The Abominations of Yondo by Clark Ashton Smith, again showing that Richard’s influences are more than simply musical.
Karda Estra are a unique musical project, picking up where the electronic pioneers of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop or White Noise left off. They aim to be more than merely a band making records: their music is expansive in its vision, inventive in its conception, and whilst the themes that Richard writes about are big ideas and epic concepts, he has the musical skill and power to pull it off every time and create some truly sublime musical journeys. It is always a pleasure to join him on them.
Tony Banks A Curious Feeling The Fugitive Esoteric Recordings ECLEC22532 ECLEC22534
Following on from last year’s box set A Chord Too Far, Esoteric have been working closely with Genesis keyboard player and mainstay Tony Banks. Here presented in remastered stereo and remixed 5.1 are his first two albums.
A Curious Feeling, originally released in 1979, was Banks’ first solo album, recorded whilst Genesis were on a rare hiatus. The influence of Genesis is evident on the album, particularly in the introduction From the Undertow (intended to be the introduction to the Genesis album …And Then There Were Three). Nevertheless, Banks manages to step away from the ‘day job’ and bring together an expertly crafted and lyrically beautiful concept album. Recorded with David Hentschel, featuring Chester Thompson on drums, and Kim Beacon’s wonderful vocals. The rest of the instruments were played by Banks.
Based initially around the short story Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, the concept was then tweaked and refined, and the resulting material simply flows.
If the record had had the Genesis logo on the sleeve it would probably have been bigger than it was. Instead it is highly regarded by those in the know, and the gorgeous sound of the new mix brings to life the haunting beauty of songs like Lucky Me, A Curious Feeling, the brilliant For a While, and the instrumental The Waters of Lethe. This is an album that has a story to tell, and rewards the time that it takes to immerse yourself in it. Banks’ musicianship and compositions here are superb: there are no wrong steps or overtly intricate arrangements. Beacon’s vocals add depth and warmth to the album. The phrase ‘concept album’ is sometimes overused, but in this instance it fits perfectly. This is an album that really needs rediscovering.
1983’s The Fugitive is a totally different beast, again recorded when Genesis were having a break, and in his honest sleeve-notes Tony Banks states that he decided to sing on every track because he felt on A Curious Feeling that there was some confusion between his name being on the album and someone else singing. He also characterises his voice as a cross between Neil Tennant and Louis Armstrong, which is a pretty good description. The Fugitive is not a concept album, and has a very eighties electronic pop synth sound. Some of the tracks are far more direct and less complex than those on A Curious Feeling. One of the reasons for this, Banks says in his sleeve-notes, was that he did not feel able to do the more complex vocal parts.
However, Banks’ very English vocals do draw the inevitable comparison to the Pet Shop Boys, and the shorter, more direct song style works well here, with some excellent radio-friendly tracks including This is Love, and Say You’ll Never Leave Me, whilst his instrumental skills are brought to the fore on Charm and Thirty Threes.
Tony Banks is a skilled and versatile musician and composer, and these two contrasting albums display his different styles to perfection: the conceptual musicianship of A Curious Feeling alongside the intelligent well-crafted conciseness of The Fugitive.
The Move Move Shazam! Esoteric Recordings ECLEC32536 ECLEC22538
“Without doubt, it was The Beatles, the Stones and the Move in that order in England”— so said former manager Tony Secunda, years after this revolutionary and contrary Birmingham band had morphed into the Electric Light Orchestra.
After being badly served by reissues and endless compilations in the eighties and nineties, the Move are long overdue a critical and cultural reappraisal, and these two albums (Move from 1968 and Shazam 1970) are a good place to start. Lovingly remastered, expanded, and completed by BBC sessions, B-sides, demos and unreleased rarities, this is the definitive retrospective of the Move’s turbulent first three years. Not one of their studio albums features the same lineup, and the only unifying factor is the songwriting expertise of Roy Wood, who is rightly regarded as one of the UK’s finest pop music composers.
Formed from the coalescence of several bands on the Brum Beat scene back in 1965, the lineup that recorded and released the uncompromising debut Move in 1968 was Roy Wood (vocals/guitar), Trevor Burton (guitar/vocals), Bev Bevan (drums/vocals), Chris ‘Ace’ Kefford (bass/vocals), and Carl Wayne (vocals). They had plied their trade round the working men’s clubs with an incendiary set including covers of soul and rock standards, in which they also blew things up and chopped televisions into bits on stage. It was therefore not too difficult for manager Tony Secunda to mould the five-piece into rock’s ‘bad boys,’ with sharp suits and sharper hair cuts. There were also publicity stunts such as signing their record deal on the back of a topless model, and the libellous postcard that led to the band losing all the royalties from Flowers in the Rain to charities of Harold Wilson’s choice. Nevertheless, with Wood firing on all four cylinders, they were soon climbing the charts.
Move (here represented in a lavish three disc set) contains the debut album, an alternative stereo mix, and a third disc from the BBC archive of live recordings.
Those hit singles (Flowers in the Rain, Fire Brigade) are included on the debut album, which showcased their origins with a rousing version of Eddie Cochran’s Weekend, and included a cabaret version of Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart, with Bev Bevan giving it the full bullfrog vocal, whilst Moby Grapes’ Hey Grandma fits in nicely with the rest of the album. Fire Brigade and Flowers in the Rain are bona fide English psych classics, while Useless Information, (Here We Go) Round the Lemon Tree and Walk Upon the Water showcase Wood’s burgeoning talent as a songwriter. The potent five-part vocal harmonies act as a contrast to the heavier sound on the album. With the ethereal and haunting Mist On a Monday Morning signposting the direction in which Wood wanted to take the band, this is a bona fide psych classic.
The stereo mixes presented here bring out the depth and power of the songs (this is also true of the BBC live tracks), and show how tight a unit the five-piece Move were, and their adeptness at changing styles and moods. There are some amazing covers of It’ll Be Me, Stephanie Knows Who and So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star. This brilliantly curated triple disc set reminds us of just what a belter this album is, and it still packs a considerable punch nearly fifty years on.
Shazam from 1970 is a totally different beast, and reflects the turbulent period between 1968 and 1970, a microcosm of the struggles that the band were facing: did they want to be a singles band or an albums band, and did they want to follow Carl Wayne or Roy Wood? Ace Kefford had left the band after having a breakdown, and so Trevor Burton had switched to bass. However, by the time Shazam was released he had also gone, wanting to work in a heavier musical vein. The non-album single Blackberry Way —another Wood classic and one of the definitive 1960s singles, hitting number 1 in 1968, but the flop of the raucous Wild Tiger Woman and the Somethin’ Else by The Move EP in 1968 led to Burton leaving the band. In his place Birmingham bassist Rick Price joined (he would later end up in Wizzard with Roy Wood, but that’s another story!) Both these singles are included in this double-disc expanded set. Clocking in at a short six tracks-long album, with three Roy Wood songs on Side One and three covers on Side Two, Shazam really emphasised the musical schism in the band, particularly as the third track was a heavier rework of Cherry Blossom Clinic. In fact, the musical treatment on this album is in a far more progressive tone than the previous record. The Move had indeed moved with the times. Opening with a band firing on all cylinders on a heavy version of Hello Susie (a Wood original which had been a hit for Amen Corner earlier in the year), there is a total switch on the wistful love song Beautiful Daughter, with its strings and yearning lyrics, and lovely melody. It showcased Wood’s growing maturity and confidence. Cherry Blossom Clinic meanwhile is expanded from a three minute song into an seven minute-plus deconstruction, taking the original and pushing it further than ever before, with newer harmonies, powerful riffs, and an extended musical coda incorporating Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and a long percussive interlude. Largely, it works. The three covers are all radical re-workings of well-known and lesser-known songs (road tested in a bizarre mix of live shows involving cabaret and full-on rock) and designed to show off Carl Wayne’s impressive vocals.
Throughout the album there are random interjections from members of the public, as Wayne recorded some of his vocals outside in the street and interviewed passers-by (an act that seems more Bonzos than Brumbeat). The next cover is an extraordinarily powerful version of Don’t Make My Baby Blue, whilst Rick Price plays the bass as if it is a second guitar. This really pushes the song on and moves it a million miles away from the original. The finale on Shazam’s Side Two is an epic interpretation of the Tom Paxton song The Last Thing On My Mind Again with some astonishing vocals from Carl and beautiful layered harmonies. I have to confess that I have always thought of Shazam as being more of a Move-lite album, preferring instead their later work on Looking On or Message From the Country. However the seeds for those later albums, and indeed the metamorphosis into the Electric Light Orchestra are all sown here, on this quirky, vital and vocally superb album. The bonus tracks include the superb single Blackberry Way, A Certain Something (probably the greatest Move single that never was), as well as a bonus disc of BBC sessions. These are really interesting and demonstrate the power of the four-man Move lineup (both the Trevor Burton and Rick Price incarnations of the group are represented), with a selection of covers running the gamut from a brilliant California Girls to Abraham, Martin and John. There is also a blinding live version of Fields of People. The quality displayed throughout shows that even in their final phases, the Move were able to make some fantastic music.
After Shazam was released, Carl Wayne left. His replacement was another Birmingham singer/songwriter whose own band The Idle Race had been critically acclaimed but failed to achieve commercial success. Roy Wood finally convinced him to join the Move with the promise of a new project. This young man’s name was Jeff Lynne, and where he led the Move with Roy Wood is another story…
Principal Edwards Round One Esoteric Recordings ECLEC2535
Originally formed in 1968 as the Principal Edwards Magic Theatre and releasing two albums on John Peel’s Dandelion label, this, the sole album from the band that they evolved into was released in 1974 on the Deram label, and produced by longtime fan of the band, Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason. They take their musical theatricality and tone it down to fit the record, giving the impression that the inventiveness and verve that shine through songs like Average Chap, Milk and Honeyland, Juggernaut and five-part closing track Rise of the Glass-White Gangster would have worked so much better on stage, allowing the songs room to breath. There are some amazing musical moments on here: the two guitars of Root Cartwright and Nick Pallet duelling on Milk and Honeyland, the mad percussion breakdown on The Whizzmore Kid and the vocal harmonies between Belinda Bourquin and Nick Pallet as well. However, the feeling that you’re left with after listening to this album is a great big ‘What if?’ Sadly this tale is all too common amongst bands in the seventies, when the record labels often quickly moved on to the next thing and left the band high and dry to implode, which is what happened here. This is a great album, with some really fantastic examples of clever seventies progressive rock, mixing in folk in an inventive way. It’s just a shame that they never got to build on this fascinating start.
Dada Dada Esoteric Recordings WECLEC2543
The sole album from the nine-piece experimental rock band Dada, named after the art movement, aimed to do the same thing musically that its inspiration had achieved aesthetically. This led to an interestingly eclectic album. Founder —and also the later instigator of Vinegar Joe— Pete Gage (guitar and bass) had roots in the R & B boom in England. He had worked with artists like Geno Washington and Jimmy James, and after having been introduced to Blood Sweat & Tears was inspired to form his own England-based band that fused genres and crossed musical streams. With vocals from Gage’s then partner Elkie Brooks, Paul Korda, and percussionist Jimmy Chambers, the band was fleshed out by the talents of Don Shinn on keyboards, Organ and Bass, Barry Duggan on saxes and flute, Malcolm Campbell on tenor sax and flute, Ernie Lachlan on trumpet and flugelhorn and Martyn Harryman on drums and percussion.
With such an array of talent, Brooks’ distinctive voice, and the three part harmonies, they made their mark immediately with a powerful reimagining of the Rolling Stones’ The Last Time, which takes the original, deconstructs it and turns it into a driven blues rocker (reminiscent of what Joe Cocker did on With A Little Help From My Friends, or the Deep Purple overhaul of River Deep, Mountain High). The band’s musical dexterity, the diverse talents pulling together (and, later, apart), made this album a musical melting pot.
The songwriting was split between the members: Korda and Gage wrote the wonderfully soulful This Is My Song, whilst Don Shinn contributed the brilliant Eyes of the Warren. Here Brooks’ vocals really shine and Shinn gets to showcase his virtuosity on the organ interlude. Unfortunately Korda ultimately left the band, at which point Gage replaced him with a young vocalist called Robert Palmer, and the seeds for what became Vinegar Joe were sown. However, Dada deserves to be seen as more than just a footnote in the Elkie Brooks/Robert Palmer story. This is one of those experimental albums that just work, and it could only have come out in 1970.
Barclay James Harvest Welcome to the Show ECLEC22541
Caught in the Light ECLEC22542
Esoteric’s reissuing of the Barclay James Harvest back catalogue continues with these two overlooked albums from 1990 and 1993, including augmented bonus tracks and a complete concert recorded at the Town and Country Club (spread over the bonus discs on each album). This is the first time that this particular concert has been available commercially in its full unedited form.
The 1990s were a strange time for those prog bands who had made it big in the 1970s, and Barclay James Harvest were in the same predicament as contemporaries such as Yes or Jethro Tull —the audience might have been there, but it was harder for bands to reach them. This is why they were billed as BJH on Welcome to the Show: the record label thought it might make it easier to get airplay. The full name was reinstated by 1993’s Caught in the Light.
The three key members, John Lees, Les Holroyd and Mel Pritchard, had a renewed sense of purpose when they started work on 1990’s Welcome to the Show. Its crisp production and modern recording techniques (complemented by a striking Storm Thorgerson cover) allowed the band to evolve the unique BJH sound for the new decade in a pleasing and successful way, creating a contemporary album that is proud of its history, but firmly of the now. With a brace of well written and excellently produced tracks like John Lees’ John Lennon’s Guitar (which commemorates his playing of Lennon’s guitar on an early recording session), Cheap the Bullet, Psychedelic Child —nicely contrasting with Les Holroyd’s title track— African Nights (a joyous celebration of the band’s African tour with Gary Farr) and the brilliant Halfway to Freedom, the trio confirmed that there was still life in BJH. The success of this album, which sold 250,000 copies in Germany, provided the band with a new impetus to tour and take this mighty collection on the road.
The concert recorded in 1992 as part of the bands twenty-fifth anniversary tour (and split across the two bonus discs in these two remasters) shows the band at the peak of their powers. The new material from Welcome to the Show fits seamlessly into a concert filled with classic BJH tracks — a rousing version of Mockingbird, the insightful (and sadly still relevant, over forty years after it was first written) Child of the Universe, the tongue-in-cheek Poor Man’s Moody Blues and the stunning finale Hymn showcase the sheer quality that the band had produced up to this point. The vocals are on fire, and the supporting musicians (Kevin McAlea, keyboards and saxophones, and Colin Browne, keyboards and guitar) fill out the live sound and present an amazing concert experience. It’s not often that I’ll tell you to play the bonus discs first, but once you’ve listened to Disc 2 of Welcome to the Show, get out Disc 2 from Caught In the Light and enjoy the full BJH 1992 live experience. It’s doubtful that the original BJH line up were ever this great live again.
Less upbeat than its predecessor, 1993’s Caught in the Light found the band having had some personal setbacks, and about to be hit by a court case (brought by former collaborator and Enid founder Robert John Godfrey) to settle the writing credits of the song Mockingbird. A gloomy mood permeates the album, with some introspective and melancholy tracks like John Lees’ haunting Forever Yesterday, with its story of the Highland Clearances (restored here to its full version with the extended magisterial guitar solo), and Les Holroyd’s highly personal Cold War, dedicated to his cousin who was living in Yugoslavia as the devastating Balkan wars started.
Meanwhile John’s Spud U Like contrasts playing video games with the joys of rock and roll, and lifts the record with its up-tempo sound and humorous lyrics —one of the stand-out tracks for me, although the fan base either love it or hate it. He brought up the topic of the court case in Once More (echoing the title of the album Once Again), whilst the closing beauty of Ballad of Denshaw Mill is a bona fide John Lees classic. This intensely personal and reflective album was not as heavily promoted as its triumphant predecessor, yet there is much here to endear it to BJH fans. Its beautiful harmonies, well-produced sound, and the emotion that runs through the record make it ripe for reappraisal. With the benefit of time and distance it is clear to see that, whilst not as immediate as Welcome to the Show, it provides an excellent counterpart to that record. Both these discs can be seen as different sides of the BJH coin in the early 1990s, when, faced with upheaval in the music industry and questions as to whether there was still space for them, BJH answered emphatically in the affirmative.
Anthony Phillips Wise After the Event Esoteric Recordings ECLEC42527
Following on from 1977’s The Geese and the Ghost (recently remastered and reissued in 5.1 on Esoteric) came Wise After the Event in May 1978.
Produced by Rupert Hine and with support from former Caravan man John G Perry and former King Crimson drummer Michael Giles, with Anthony on guitar and vocals, this is the output of a short-lived post-prog supergroup. Esoteric’s remastering of Ant’s solo work continues with their lavish new edition of this album, containing four discs (three CDs and one DVD).
The three CDs are a new stereo mix of the original album, the remaster, and a disc of demos and rarities all provided from Ant’s exclusive and extensive private archive (the origin of a lot of the extra source material on the recently reissued boxed set of Private Parts & Pieces reviewed in the last Albion). The real gem in this package, however, is Disc 4, the DVD, which is the complete album remixed into 5.1 surround sound, which usually brings music to life in a way that you have never heard it before. This is the case here —the 5.1 mix, even compared to the excellent stereo remix, is the jewel in the crown of this superb boxed set.
Despite some record label argy-bargy which meant that some of the acoustic linking passages on the album were cut (they can be found on the aforementioned Private Parts & Pieces), the album itself is a joy to listen to, taking me back to walking home from school through the woods in late springtime. The pastoral sound of the music fitted the scenery perfectly, and it’s great to be able to hear this album again and be reminded of being sixteen.
Ant is known as a guitarist and as a founding member of Genesis, yet on this album he handles all the vocals. Whilst in the sleeve notes he mentions his uncertainty about this, he certainly underestimates his abilities. Hine’s production and Perry and Giles’ accompaniment allow the songs to shine and grow organically. Perry and Giles’ backgrounds in two complex prog bands certainly help here as their work in interpreting Ant’s vision is exemplary.
From the opening We’re All As We Lie through the superb eight-minute title track that grows and builds, and features some of Ant’s finest guitar work, to Greenhouse and the eco warning Now What (Are They Doing To My Little Friends), this is a fantastic album to lose yourself in. It is a real overlooked classic in this genre.
With a superb disc of bonus material that shows the evolution of the album through demos, missing links, and instrumental versions which highlight the depth of musicality on the album. There is a detailed booklet that features all the lyrics, and a poster. This really is an exemplary package, and does the album justice, enabling this reviewer to revisit an early favourite in jaw-dropping music clarity. --James R Turner