Big Big Train – Live Album ‘A Stone’s Throw From The Line’

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Recorded at the band’s sold out shows at London’s Kings Place in August 2015, ‘A Stone’s Throw From The Line’ documents Big Big Train’s return to the live stage after a 17 year absence. Review and photos by Tim Darbyshire.

Recorded over three nights (August 14th – 16th), each song performed over the three night residency is represented here, in the order they were played on this double cd. Such was the success of Big Big Train’s return to the live arena that they were awarded Prog Magazine’s prestigious ‘Live Event of the Year’ award.

Since the addition of vocalist David Longdon and drummer Nick D’Virgillo in 2009, Big Big Train have seen a welcome upturn in their fortunes. ‘The Underfall Yard’ (2009) and ‘English Electric Part One/Part Two’ (2012/13) have helped to expose the band to a wider audience. In 2014 it was decided they would plan for some live gigs, so the band assembled at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studios – some of them meeting each other for the first time – to see how their complex studio arrangements translated to the live environment. (This was captured on the 2016 blu-ray ‘Stone And Steel’).

Live, the band comprises founding members Greg Spawton (bass, backing vocals) and Andy Poole (guitars, bass, keyboards) along with  Danny Manners (keyboards, double bass, backing vocals), David Longdon (lead vocals, flute, banjo, percussion), Rikard Sjöblom (guitars, keyboards, backing vocals), Nick D’Virgilio (drums, backing vocals),  Dave Gregory (guitars, piano, backing vocals) and Rachel Hall (violin, backing vocals).  An additional five piece brass ensemble brings the number of musicians on stage up to a healthy thirteen! (Dave Desmond – trombone, Ben Godfrey – trumpet and cornet, Nick Stones – french horn,  John Storey – euphonium and Mike Poyser – tuba).

The setlist is not surprisingly dominated by songs from ‘English Electric’ (2012/13) and ‘The Underfall Yard’ (2009).  ‘Wassail’ from the then unreleased ‘Folklore’ also gets an outing.  Big Big Train are quintessentially English and take us on a two hour plus story-telling journey pinned by the epic ‘The Underfall Yard’ and the spectacular ‘East Coast Racer’. The musicianship is exemplary, providing the perfect backdrop for David Longdon’s passionate vocal performance. The band thrill their audiences with an eclectic array of dazzling melodies (‘Hedgerow’), crazy rhythms and time signatures  (‘Judas Unrepentant’) and soaring emotional songs (‘Curator Of Butterflies’), fully utilising the wide sound palette available to them.

The sound quality of the live recording is very good of course – recorded and mixed by long time band collaborator Rob Aubrey – and it’s a given that any Big Big Train fan should buy this release. As an introduction to the band though, I’d recommend ‘English Electric’ (recently remastered and repackaged), for the full lush studio experience.

Since these concerts, the band have released ‘Folklore’ – which is many people’s album of 2016 – and have announced three shows for late September 2017 at London’s Cadogan Hall, and at the time of writing some tickets remain for the last show.

The album comes in a gloss, laminated soft pack with a 40-page booklet and maintains the standard of high quality presentation we’ve come to expect from Big Big Train.

‘A Stone’s Throw From The Line’ is available now from The Merch Desk  and Burning Shed

Full track listing:

CD1
Make Some Noise
The First Rebreather
The Underfall Yard
Uncle Jack
Victorian Brickwork
CD2
Kingmaker
Wassail
Summoned By Bells
Judas Unrepentant
Curator Of Butterflies
East Coast Racer
Hedgerow

 

 

 

Steve Hackett announces new studio album ‘The Night Siren’

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Steve Hackett’s new studio album is called ‘The Night Siren’ and will be released by Inside Out Music on March 24th 2017……..

Steve discusses the new album and forthcoming tour here.

The official press release below is taken from HackettSongs.com :

Guitar virtuoso and rock legend, Steve Hackett (formerly of Genesis), releases his latest album The Night Siren on 24th March 2017 through InsideOut Music (Sony). As implied in the title, The Night Siren is a wake-up call… the warning of a siren sounding in this era of strife and division.

The Night Siren showcases Steve’s incredible guitar playing as strongly as ever, along with regular Hackett collaborators and also musicians from several different countries who Steve invited to join him in celebrating multicultural diversity and unity. This includes singers from Israel and Palestine, who both actively campaign to bring Jewish and Arabic people together. There are also instrumentals from the USA and Iraq and a multiplicity of sounds, including the exotic strains of Indian sitar and Middle Eastern tar and oud, the ethnic beauty of the Peruvian charango and the haunting Celtic Uilleann pipes.

Steve is widely travelled, making friends everywhere he goes and has always embraced multicultural diversity. In these times of unrest, he has been inspired to express his belief that the world needs more empathy and unity. His wish to involve a range of musical sounds, instruments, musicians and singers from different parts of the world is both a development of his eclectic approach to music and shows how people can be brought together, even from war torn regions.

Talking about his latest work, Steve says, “This latest waxing represents a bird’s eye view of the world of a musical migrant ignoring borders and celebrating our common ancestry with a unity of spirit, featuring musicians, singers and instruments from all over the world. From territorial frontiers to walled-up gateways, boundaries often hold back the tide. But while the night siren wails, music breaches all defences. To quote Plato, ‘When the music changes, the walls of the city shake’.”

The musical journey takes us from ‘Behind the Smoke’, focusing on the plight of refugees throughout the ages, to the penultimate track ‘West to East’ which reflects on the damage of war and the hope for a better world. From personal to universal, the themes celebrate the life force, breaking free from chains of repression.

The album features: Steve Hackett (guitar & vocals), Roger King (keyboards & programming), Nad Sylvan (vocals on Inca Terra), Rob Townsend (all things wind), Amanda Lehmann (vocals), Gary O’Toole (drums), and Benedict Fenner (additional keyboards & programming). Also featured are singers Kobi and Mira (Israeli and Palestinian), Nick D’Virgilio (drums) from the USA, Malik Mansurov (Tar) from Azerbaijan & Gulli Breim (drums & percussion) from Iceland. Additional musicians who add to the rich flavour of the album are Christine Townsend (violin & viola), Dick Driver (double bass), Troy Donockley (Celtic Uilleann) and Leslie Bennett (keyboards on The Gift).

Full Track Listing:-

1. Behind the Smoke
2. Martian Sea
3. Fifty Miles from the North Pole
4. El Niño
5. Other Side of the Wall
6. Anything but Love
7. Inca Terra
8. In Another Life
9. In the Skeleton Gallery
10. West to East
11. The Gift

The Night Siren will be released through Inside Out Music on 24th March in the following formats:
Special Edition CD/Blu-Ray Mediabook featuring 5.1 surround sound mix & making of documentary: 88985410452
Standard Jewel case CD: 88985410462
Gatefold black 2LP vinyl + CD: 88985410471
Digital Download

Album artphotos by iconphoto.ch

Steve Hackett is returning with an exciting new show Genesis Revisited with Classic Hackett for a 15 date UK tour in April 2017. Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the classic Genesis album Wind and Wuthering, Steve and his band will be performing several tracks from the album as well as fan favourites such as ‘The Musical Box’ and other Genesis and solo numbers never performed before by Steve’s band including ‘Inside & Out,’ ‘One For The Vine’ and ‘Anyway’ as well as material from The Night Siren.

Photo by Tina Korhonen © 2016, all rights reserved.
Photo by Tina Korhonen © 2016, all rights reserved.

NEW Steve Hackett Interview – December 2016

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I caught up with Steve to discuss the forthcoming new album, the 2017 Tour and all other things Hackett-related. Many thanks to Steve for being so generous with his precious time, and also thanks to Jo Hackett facilitating the interview.

Tim Darbyshire – Hi Steve!

Steve Hackett – How are you doing Tim?

Tim – I’m good thanks how are you?

Steve – Fine thank you.

Tim – Thanks for your time tonight.

Steve – That’s alright.

Tim – Ok, so the new album, when is that due out?

Steve – Well, I think it’s going to be out in March.

Tim – Does it have a title yet?

Steve – We do have a title yes, but I haven’t officially given it out yet, so once the record company says ‘green light’ , then I will. All this stuff is being agreed at the moment – I’m just finally assembling the order of the songs. We had an order on Friday, but with some record company input there were a few changes, so we now have a new order as of today – and if it still passes muster tomorrow then that’s the one we’ll go with.

Tim – But the album is completely finished, it’s all in the can?

Steve – It’s basically in the can yes, bar the odd tweak it’s all in the can. It’s mastering at the moment, we’ve done the mixes so it’s basically down to the mastering. We’ve done a 5.1 mix as well as a stereo mix and we’ve done mastering for vinyl, except we’re doing it all over again due to the changed order. It’s a knock on effect, domino effect but in a good way I think.

Tim – So there will be a deluxe version with the 5.1 mix, maybe a double cd?

Steve – That’s right, yes I think in terms of formats there will be a blu-ray, and various things across the board basically. I’m finding it hard to keep up at the moment to be honest – I’ve been working flat out on this for over a year, but it’s coming to fruition and I’m very pleased with it. We’ve got people from all over the world on it.

Tim – So there are guest musicians besides your normal band?

Steve – Yes, there are guests on it, quite a lot of guests. There are about twenty people on it, from as far afield as Israel and Palestine working together on it.

Tim – That’s a good thing.

Steve – Azerbaijan, Hungary, The States. Some stuff was recorded in Italy, some in Budapest, some in London, it’s like an ‘on location’ kind of thing – and it’s got that kind of feel about it. I think it’s got a very….I’ve never used the word international before…… but it has a kind of international feel to it. There are aspects of World Music on it, it’s basically a rock album – but it does keep wandering off into other genres, crossing borders all the time.

Tim – Sounds like a very nice eclectic mix.

Steve – Yes, it is a nice eclectic mix and I’m just playing it to people for the first time. I’m just at my mother’s tonight in fact – she hasn’t been very well – and I’m playing it to her and she loves it already. It’s making her feel better, so it’s doing its job already! Music is supposed to heal, and that’s what it’s doing at the moment, and I’m pleased about that.

Tim – I hope she gets well soon, I know she’s a big supporter of your music.

Steve – Thank you, yes she’s been a huge support and huge enthusiast, all of those things. I think she will recover, but for several weeks she’s been ill with the lurgy basically – I think she’s on the road to recovery, but she’s having to fight this and it’s a little harder for her because of her age. There aren’t too many concessions to age with my Mum!

Tim – So early 2017 sees you back on the road, and I see you’ve got Nick Beggs back in the band.

Steve – Yes, Nick Beggs and we’ve got Nad as well with the regular band. We’ll also be celebrating the 40th year of ‘Wind and Wuthering’, so we’re doing quite a bit of that album – not all of it – but we’re doing what I think are the strongest tracks.

Tim – I was reading online that you’ll be playing ‘One For The Vine’ and ‘Inside And Out’, which is an interesting selection.

Steve – Yes, ‘Inside And Out’ wasn’t on the original album, but if it had been a cd it would have been on the original album as I think it’s very strong. To my mind, stronger than some of the tracks that ended up on the album, but I think it’s a favourite of fans and deserves to be more widely heard, so we’ll be doing that as well and I’m looking forward to it.

Tim – What was your involvement in that track originally, from a writing viewpoint?

Steve – Mainly the instrumental stuff at the end. That and guitar parts in the song itself.

Tim – It has a kind of latter day ‘Cinema Show’ feel to it.

Steve – I think it has some aspects of that, in that it has 12-string then it expands away from that. It’s very much in the Genesis tradition – well shall we say early Genesis – where songs started small and became very big, so you’ve got that dynamic range being covered within a song that is also a story. I think that’s something the band did very well.

Tim – You did actually play it live towards the end of the 1977 tour didn’t you?

Steve – We did, we played it in 1977, it was part of the live show so it couldn’t have been so bad!

Tim – And ‘One For The Vine’, that’s another epic song isn’t it?

Steve – Yes it is an epic, it’s a favourite of many people, many fans including my wife who said ‘Why don’t you do that?’. I cracked under torture! I’m just kidding, seriously…..when I left the band I saw them playing it live a few years later at Hammersmith (1980), and I thought it was very very strong live – perhaps stronger than on record, it just seemed to work so very well. I thought, ah I finally see what this is all about, which is often the case, some songs work extremely well live, it’s all about the band, it’s all about the performance, the response of the crowd, the lights – the whole thing, the show, the presentation.

Tim – Will you be playing ‘In That Quiet Earth’, ‘Afterglow’?

Steve – Yes we will be doing ‘In That Quiet Earth’, ‘Afterglow’, we’ll be doing ‘Blood On The Rooftops’……what else, we’ll be doing ‘Eleventh Earl Of Mar’ again as well. We were doing that at the beginning of touring the Genesis stuff about three years ago, or was it four years ago, but then we sidelined it. To do a set of things from ‘Wind and Wuthering’ I think we really have to do that, I think that’s all of the ones that we’re doing…..the ones that are more dramatic live. I know there’s other songs on there which are catchy and what have you, but for my money that’s the strongest live stuff.

Tim – I also read you’re bringing ‘Dancing With The Moonlit Knight’ back in?

Steve – That’s right, yes

Tim – And you’ll be playing ‘Anyway’ for the first time?

Steve – That’s right, yes, I’ll be playing ‘Anyway’ for the first time since 1975. Yes we haven’t done that one for a very long time, and I look forward to doing that one – at the suggestion of Nad funnily enough, he said why don’t you do that, so again I said ok if you like that. I think it’s a very good tune. I’m hoping I might be able to play the three-part guitar harmony because these days we have intelligent harmonisers, so I’m hoping I can get close to it, we’ll see how we go.

Tim – Will it be similar to the last tour where you do a set of solo material then a set of Genesis songs?

Steve – I’ve started a tradition of being two bands in one, I think. Whatever we play of the solo material – we’ll be doing some stuff off the new album – I’m fully aware what most fans tend to want is a reminder of what they were doing when their hormones were raging, and so the plan is to have one eye on the future and one on the past. I try to deliver all things to all people……

Tim – It seems you need to play two hours of solo stuff and two hours of Genesis then everyone will be happy!

Steve – Yep, I might get to that point, but I probably would have to have two bands, because I don’t think one band would be able to stand the pace of that….. then I’d be going one better than Bruce Springsteen wouldn’t I? Four hours on stage, we’re heading towards Wagner here if we do that.

Tim – Wishful thinking. There seems to be a trend these days of announcing part the setlist ahead of time. Is that promoter driven or fans wanting to know?

Steve – Yes, that’s true I seem to have given away most of the setlist off the top of my head. I think there’s a trend towards that, people like to know what they’re going get these days. It’s driven I think mainly by fans, so I’ve said I’ll do one of the tracks on ‘Darktown’ – ‘Rise Again’ – that was a favourite at the time and in a way it’s a vocal style I’ve adopted again on this new album – starting the melody down the octaves, a kind of intoning voice and then it becomes a cry. It’s a vocal style that I feel comfortable with, so very happy to be playing that. We’re also going to be doing ‘The Steppes’ – people have asked for that – and ‘Serpentine Song’ which I believe is off ‘To Watch The Storms’, another favourite. So, I do respond to people’s suggestions but I can’t keep everyone happy……

When we do the show with the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra that’ll be a different set, that will involve ‘Supper’s Ready’ and various other things so we’re kind of learning two sets, kind of heading a little to what you were talking about, the three, four hour show, but often these sets end up being two and a half hours or slightly more.

Tim – We’re coming to the Buffalo show, so really looking forward to that.

Steve – I’m looking forward to that, I’m looking forward to the Cruise, I’m looking forward to the tour, to everywhere we’re going to play. I’m also looking forward next year to covering places I’ve not been to before like Australia, New Zealand, Jakarta, Hong Kong, Singapore – the world seems to be opening up to this music which has had quite a gestation period to achieve its…..if I said ‘target audience’- I mean hardly because back in the day it was all a shot in the dark. It’s nice that it’s survived in the affections of so many people.

Tim – It has matured with age?

Steve – I think so, yes, like a wine in a cask, I think for some songs the prime time is now, having been in that period of fermentation shall we say, fermenting in the affections of people for a very long time.

Tim – Going back to the Buffalo show, is there a lot of preparation work you have to do with the orchestra? I guess they’ll be reading sheet music?

Steve – Yes, they’ve been doing arrangements and there’s some arrangements which I played live when I was in Iceland doing two shows with the band called Todmobile – who have also worked with Jon Anderson, doing great versions of not just Genesis stuff, but Yes stuff as well. They did a great job, so there are some charts from that and some charts that the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra have come up with.

It’s all not so much dipping your toe in the water as jumping straight in. I love what orchestras bring to rock music, I love the marriage of the two. Ever since we started experimenting with mellotrons, using that as a kind of surrealistic time machine – I always felt that if for instance I talk about my early heroes The Beatles, they were at their most interesting when they had as wide a sound canvas as possible.

That use of the orchestra, the way it worked with them and obviously mellotron as well, it was a great combination of things, so we kind of use everything, anything we can lay our hands on. I think that’ll be a very interesting show. Obviously you have to take risks – the biggest risk is who’s going to count 1, 2, 3, 4? Normally it’s the drummer, will it be the conductor?! It all has to be in sync, you have to have an agreement with an orchestra.

Tim – Might this become more than a one-off venture?

Steve – Well it’s a one-off, but if it works of course it means that we have the facility and the possibility of working with this thing more in the future. Not that I would want to have an orchestra that I was carrying round – I don’t want to flounder on that rock – I think you’d have to use different orchestras in different places. But it is starting to happen with me more, I worked with an orchestra in Germany a while back, I worked with an orchestra or two in Iceland, and it went very well in both cases, and now we’re doing it with the Buffalo people. It’s all a case of the more risks you take, the more inclusive and immersive the whole thing can be.

Tim – So the Genesis days, 40 to 45 years ago now, six great studio albums you were involved with, as we’ve just been saying it seems to be getting better with age. At the time though was it a bit of a struggle, financially and personally?

Steve – Well yes, I think all bands have their problems, as you say to finance it…..to finance it there was a lot of investment, not just financial but emotional as well. But it was worth it, it was a huge challenge from beginning to end for me, but my heart is still very much there in lots of that music.

Tim – Why do you think maybe it isn’t for the other four?

Steve – I think in a way there are two types of Genesis. There is the earlier band, the pre-video era – I like to think of it as the pre-pop era as well – and many of the fans loved that music. In the end, for the last two years with the band we were playing arenas and filling them, so there was a huge audience for that kind of music, so I think it proved itself to be hugely commercial and has sold ‘billions’ since. It all depends on your perception, I can understand it in terms of a band that becomes more streamlined, less personalities, less politics……and so I think it’s very easy to throw out the baby with the bath water and for them say everything prior to that time was a problem because of da da da da da……

But I don’t think fans see it like that, and many fans that love the early work of the band – who I suspect are the same fans who listened to Pink Floyd and Yes, and ELP and Procol Harum and many bands who were very melodic with an emphasis on musicianship. I think that they felt disenfranchised by the new direction of the band, but I’m certainly not going to complain, because once you leave a band it’s going to become whatever it becomes, and I totally respect what it became and think the band was interesting in all its incarnations but obviously I’m drawn to something that is closer in spirit to this pan-genre approach which includes what orchestras can do and what big bands can do, and a kind of music that is able to turn on a dime and bridge generation gaps and do all sorts of things that I think a three or four minute pop single doesn’t do.

So all I can say is that I’m interested in prolonging the life – certainly live – of the music that I considered to be weird and wonderful and a kind of musical odyssey and journey and all those things that Peter Gabriel still describes it as. There’s a lot of good stuff, and I’m only too happy to go and play that stuff again.

Tim – Would you say that ‘Voyage of the Acolyte’ sowed the seed that maybe you’d rather go out solo on your own?

Steve – Well I think certainly composition by committee has its limitations for groups. I think groups can write wonderful things together, but at the same time it’s impossible to keep a lid on it. If one guy wants to go and do solo things, and you know the others don’t really want him to go and do it…… Pete wanted to have a solo career in parallel with Genesis and certain factions in the band made that impossible, so in the end one’s allegiance has to be to the music, or the totality of what music can become – at the same time it doesn’t mean that I disown those songs, those songs don’t become orphans just because I say ‘no son of mine’ (to quote a particular song).

I still love those songs, they’re all shared-brain children with the other guys and I care hugely about them, otherwise I wouldn’t be playing them again.

Tim – Have you had any feedback from the others? Have they seen the show at all?

Steve – No no, the other guys don’t come to the shows. Genesis is a very competitive band, the individuals are all very competitive.

Tim – Even now?

Steve – Yes, they don’t do that sort of thing, it’s an unspoken rule. You have to be able to speak ‘Genesis’ to understand it, and I totally respect it you know, if you’re that competitive with your thinking you won’t do that. I think everyone wants the other guy to do well, but maybe just not quite as well as you’re doing yourself if you know what I mean? It’s a very British repressed fucked up kind of thing, but hey, what the hell.

Tim – So ‘Wind and Wuthering’ is forty years old, when you recorded it was the writing truly on the wall for you?

Steve – Oh yes, the writing was on the wall for me at that time I think, it wasn’t that I didn’t love the album – I certainly thought the album was very strong, but politics played its part with all of this, and you can’t keep a good Hackett down! I had to get out there and work with other people, I couldn’t have still-born brain children and that was what was on offer so I had to go out and work with other people. Wonderful people as it happens, wonderful then and wonderful now.

I still love all the guys of course, all hugely talented and they’ve all written wonderful songs and done wonderful stuff, you can’t knock that you know. Genesis was a force of nature, it’s sad there is no band at the moment but you’ve got to respect everyone’s right not to play that stuff or not to be that thing, but that doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate those early years because I gave it everything I could, gave it my full attention, writing and shaping the live show and trying to do some things by stealth – noticing things that other people didn’t notice, trying to put those things right. I’m writing a book at the moment, so I’ll put the record straight for all those that have collective amnesia with this.

Tim – Great, I was going to ask about an autobiography as it’s been a few years since Alan Hewitt’s book.

Steve – Yes, I’m working on it at the moment, once I’ve got the album out of the way I’ll be concentrating on that.

Tim – You’re always so busy.

Steve – I’m a busy boy, yes!

Tim – I’m sure it’ll be a very interesting read, I did enjoy Mike Rutherford’s, Phil Collins’ and Peter Gabriel’s recent books.

Steve – Yes, Phil has just done his and I enjoyed reading their books and I’ll get my own back with mine!

Tim – Is there any thought to doing any more studio recordings of Genesis material?

Steve – I’ve got it on a back-burner, but it’s not a priority at the moment. There are many things that we’ve done live that I haven’t recorded, or re-recorded, so there’s always the possibility of that at some point but I’m not looking at ‘Genesis Revisited 3’ at the moment. I think it’s also important for music to have a future, much as it’s nice to keep the museum doors open, I think to pension yourself off is not a good idea if you’re hot to trot in terms of new stuff – look what guitars can do now for instance, look what technology affords one and what experience brings to it, so I’m still as passionate about it all as I ever was.

Tim – It sounds like you have a nice balance between creating new music and celebrating the past?

Steve – Oh well that’s it, that’s the whole point isn’t it? I think if I saw for instance a Paul McCartney gig, I know I’d be very happy to hear him do ‘Band On The Run’, but I’d also be very happy if he breaks into ‘Eleanor Rigby’ you know, and ‘All My Loving’ and all that – I think they’re gorgeous songs from out of the jewel box.

I have much the same affection for the songs that I think were rather wonderful that we did at one time – I’m allowed to be a fan of the other people in the band, a team of great writers who came up with wonderful stunning material and it’s great to have been part of that, it’s great to have written with everybody.

Tim – It’s important that you’re keeping it alive.

Steve – That’s the idea, keeping it alive.

Tim – Great Steve, thanks for you time tonight, looking forward to seeing you in Oakville and Buffalo next year.

Steve – Brilliant, I look forward to it as well, absolutely. Thank you.

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For all the latest Steve Hackett news visit Steve’s website.

Steve Hackett 2017 Tour Dates:

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Read my April 2016 interview with Steve Hackett here.

Read my Steve Hackett 2016 Live review and see photos here.

 

Marillion – F.E.A.R (F*** Everyone And Run)

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Marillion’s 18th studio album – ‘F.E.A.R. (Fuck Everyone And Run) – was released on September 23rd, and once again the band deliver impressive music with a message. Review and photos by Tim Darbyshire.

With just 6 tracks spanning the 68-minute cd, the controversially titled ‘Fuck Everyone And Run’ is an honest, if at times depressing insight into Steve Hogarth’s  current world view. Change is coming, not for the better, and we have brought it on ourselves.

It’s best to let the Marillion front man describe the album’s main themes: ”This title is adopted not in anger or with any intention to shock. It is adopted and sung (in the song “New Kings”) tenderly, in sadness and resignation inspired by an England, and a world, which increasingly functions on an “Every man for himself” philosophy. I won’t bore you with examples, they’re all over the newspapers every day. There’s a sense of foreboding that permeates much of this record. I have a feeling that we’re approaching some kind of sea-change in the world – an irreversible political, financial, humanitarian and environmental storm. I hope that I’m wrong. I hope that my FEAR of what “seems” to be approaching is just that, and not FEAR of what “is” actually about to happen.”

Three mammoth tracks account for most of the album; the five part ‘El Dorado’ kicks off proceedings and clocks in at over 16 minutes long, ‘The Leavers’ also consists of five parts and is over 19 minutes in length and ‘The New Kings’ is over 16 minutes long spread over four sections. The multi-sectioned suites can be attributed to the band’s working methodology.  The band jam for weeks and studio engineer Mike Hunter extracts the highlights after endless hours of sifting through the music. Very much in the style of a committee, the band then rank these snippets and further develop the ideas they find promising.

Like all Marillion output, the listener really needs to dedicate the time to listen to the album a few times. Only after the fourth or fifth listen did it all start to click into place.  Full of melody throughout, ‘FEAR’ finds guitarist Steve Rothery’s evocative solos and keyboard player Mark Kelly’s lead lines share the limelight with Steve Hogarth’s vocals. Underpinning everything as usual is the reliable rhythm section of Pete Trewavas (bass) and Ian Mosley (drums).

‘El Dorado’ begins in an acoustic pastoral English style and is a lament at the disillusion felt by many people in Britain today, hence the lyric “We’re not green, we’re just pleasant.”  Occasionally reminiscent of Pink Floyd, the instrumental passages are rich and complex. ‘Living in FEAR’ is the most instantly accessible song on the album with its catchy chorus a kind of antidote to the seriousness of the rest of the material. ‘The Leavers’ would have to be my personal favourite on the album, a song which deals with the transient nature of many people in and around the touring world of rock musicians. The shorter ‘White Paper’ deals with the inescapable fact that we are all getting older, before ‘The New Kings’ sees Hogarth attacking the corrupt, self-serving elites (bankers, corporations etc) who ‘Fuck Everyone And Run’ – as in the banking collapse of 2008. The coda ‘Tomorrow’s New Country’ brings things to a gentle end.

Marillion of course have been doing things their own way for a long time now,  free of any record company interference. Once again crowd-funded (this time via Pledge Music), ‘FEAR’ draws from a wide colour of sounds, textures and emotions. It’s more consistent than its predecessor (2013’s ‘Sounds That Can’t Be Made’) and could even rival some of their strongest albums, 2004’s ‘Marbles’ or 1994’s ‘Brave’.

Click here to read my review of Marillion’s recent concert at Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall.

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Marillion:

Steve ‘H’ Hogarth
Steve Rothery
Pete Trewavas
Ian Mosley
Mark Kelly

F.E.A.R. Track Listing:

1.El Dorado (I) Long-Shadowed Sun
El Dorado (II) The Gold
El Dorado (III) Demolished Lives
El Dorado (IV) F E A R
El Dorado (V) The Grandchildren of Apes

2.Living in F E A R

3.The Leavers (I) Wake Up In Music
The Leavers (II) The Remainers
The Leavers (III) Vapour Trails in the Sky
The Leavers (IV) The Jumble of Days
The Leavers (V) One Tonight

4.White Paper

5.The New Kings (I) F*** Everyone and Run
The New Kings (II) Russia’s Locked Doors
The New Kings (III) A Scary Sky
The New Kings (IV) Why is Nothing Ever True?

6.Tomorrow’s New Country

Riverside – Eye Of The Soundscape

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Released via InsideOutMusic, Riverside’s ‘Eye Of The Soundscape’ is described by the band as a complementary instrumental album including 13 experimental and highly atmospheric compositions, which showcase their ambient electronic side.  Review and photos by Tim Darbyshire.

Warsaw based Riverside’s ‘Eye Of The Soundscape’ is a double cd consisting entirely of  instrumental pieces recorded over the last few years. Although this release was already in the planning stages before the untimely death of Piotr Grudzinski in February 2016,  it now represents a poignant send off to the band’s much missed guitarist.

‘Eye Of The Soundscape’ is the band’s seventh album and contains over 100 minutes of often ambient music spread over two discs. In truth, Riverside fans who already have the band’s cds are only getting four new tracks (around 35 minutes worth). The new tracks are ‘Where The River Flows’, ‘Shine’, ‘Sleepwalkers’ and ‘Eye Of The Soundscape’.

All the tracks from the limited edition bonus cds of ‘Love, Fear And The Time Machine’, and ‘Shrine Of New Generation Slaves’ are included here, and the collection is completed by two 2016 versions of songs from the ‘Rapid Eye Movement’ album. (‘Rapid Eye Movement’ and ‘Rainbow Trip’).

There’s plenty of variety contained in these instrumentals, ranging from the out and out ambient drift of ‘Eye Of The Soundscape’ to the upbeat ‘Machines’. ‘Night Session – Part Two’ has a lonesome sax accompanied by an offbeat drum pattern, and ‘Promise’ is a gentle acoustic guitar dominated piece. ‘Sleepwalkers’ is soft techno with an inquisitive synth melody and  ‘Rainbow Trip’ is delightfully mellow – the track ‘Where The River Flows’ is included below and gives a fairly good indication of what this release is all about.

‘Eye Of The Soundscape’ should be seen as a bridge between the first six Riverside albums and the next studio release. Taken at face value, this is a smooth compilation of (mostly) relaxed instrumentals with unobtrusive drum beats pinning the music. If this is your introduction to Riverside, I’d recommend you check out the last two cds, 2015’s ‘Love, Fear And The Time Machine’ and 2013’s ‘Shrine Of New Generation Slaves’

The loss of guitarist Piotr Grudzinski might have reduced Riverside to three members, but the good news is they are committed to carrying on as a three-piece, with a live guitarist to be added for gigs. Two shows have already been announced in their native Poland for 25th and 26th February 2017 – marking the anniversary of Grudzinski’s death.

More details can be found at Riverside’s website.

CD1 (50:03):
1. Where The River Flows (10:53)
2. Shine (04:09)
3. Rapid Eye Movement (2016 Mix) (12:40)
4. Night Session – Part One (10:40)
5. Night Session – Part Two (11:35)

CD2 (52:26):
1. Sleepwalkers (07:19)
2. Rainbow Trip (2016 Mix) (06:19)
3. Heavenland (04:59)
4. Return (6:50)
5. Aether (08:43)
6. Machines (03:53)
7. Promise (02:44)
8. Eye Of The Soundscape (11:30)

 

 

Big Big Train to release live album – ‘A Stone’s Throw From The Line’

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Following on from the success of their 2016 album ‘Folklore’, Big Big Train’s momentum is set to continue with the December 2nd release of a double live cd entitled ‘A Stone’s Throw From The Line’.

Recorded at the band’s first live gigs in 17 years at Kings Place in London, August 2015, the shows earned the band Prog Magazine’s prestigious ‘Live Event of the Year’ award at the 2016 Progressive Music Awards.

The double cd is presented in a gloss laminated softpack with a 40-page booklet, and can be pre-ordered now from Burning Shed

Big Big Train return to the live stage in late September/early October 2017 with three eagerly anticipated gigs at Cadogan Hall in London. The first two are sold out, but tickets are still available for the last show from the Cadogan Hall website

Track List:
Act One
Make Some Noise
The First Rebreather
The Underfall Yard
Uncle Jack
Victorian Brickwork
Act Two
Kingmaker
Wassail
Summoned By Bells
Judas Unrepentant
Curator Of Butterflies
East Coast Racer
Hedgerow

King Crimson – On (And Off) The Road (19 disc Deluxe Box Set)

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‘On (And Off) The Road’ is the latest in DGM/Panegyric’s super deluxe King Crimson box set series. As opposed to previous sets which concentrated on individual albums, this one breaks the mould by covering the band’s three 1980s albums – ‘Discipline’ (1981), ‘Beat’ (1982), and ‘Three Of A Perfect Pair’ (1984). Review and photos by Tim Darbyshire.

It’s November, so it must be time for another super deluxe King Crimson box set! This one weighs in at 19 discs –  11 x CD, 3 x blu-ray, 3 x DVD-A, 2 x DVD – and provides a thoroughly detailed overview of King Crimson in the 1980s.

Each of the three studio albums represented here have their own cd, blu-ray and DVD-A discs with the latest Steven Wilson 5.1 surround mixes and ‘new’ stereo mixes.  Of special interest is CD 5 entitled ‘Fragmented’, taken from the aborted 1983 studio sessions in Champaign, Illinois.  There’s plenty of live concerts and videos included too. This includes the final concert from each of King Crimson’s tours of this era: Japan 1981 (new to CD), Germany 1982 (new mixes for this edition), Canada 1984 (issued as ‘Absent Loversin ’98 but remastered for this edition). Everything is  presented in the high quality we’ve come to expect from these expansive DGM/Panegyric box sets.

The sturdy 12″ x 12″ box contains 5 six-panel triple digipaks, a 12″ x 12″ card with the other 4 discs, 2 concert posters,  a 1984 Japanese tour replica concert programme, setlist, concert tickets, press releases, promo photo and a 40-page album sized soft cover book.

The book contains previously unpublished photos by Tony Levin, and sleeve-notes incorporating Robert Fripp’s diaries and new interview material with all band members written by the excellent Sid Smith and David Singleton. The extracts from Fripp’s diaries are particularly interesting, documenting the thought processes behind reforming the band.

Seven years after the demise of King Crimson after the album ‘Red’ in 1974, Robert Fripp decided it was time to return to the ‘first division’ and put together a quartet of musicians under the guise of Discipline.  Fripp, who had spent many of the interim years in New York, was au fait with the New Wave bands on both sides of the Atlantic and accordingly recruited Americans Adrian Belew (Talking Heads, Frank Zappa, David Bowie) and Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel). Bill Bruford – a link to previous incarnations of King Crimson – completed the quartet, and although the music bore little resemblance to Fripp’s 1970s band, Discipline changed their name to King Crimson as the project gained momentum.

The three resulting albums – 1981’s ‘Discipline’, 1982’s ‘Beat’ and 1984’s ‘Three Of A Perfect Pair’ – have a more updated New Wave sound, partly due to Belew’s distinctive vocals and second guitar. Fripp was also looking to create ‘gamelan’ style of interlocking rhythms – an early influence for the math-rock bands of today? – and his complex arpeggios dovetailed with Belew’s range of angular guitar sounds.

Although ultimately short-lived – the band was dissolved after the 1984 tour by Fripp – this line up remains a popular one among aficionados. It was also the first time in Crimson history that the same band had recorded more than one album. Interestingly, until the very recent inclusion of ‘Indiscipline’ in the setlist, the 1980’s period has been ignored by Robert Fripp and the latest incarnation of King Crimson as they tour today.

Clearly, as with all box sets, this release isn’t aimed at attracting new fans. As the 1980s led us to commercialism and certain prog bands’ biggest selling (and worst) albums, King Crimson avoided falling into that trap. As a result, these three albums sound more current than most of Yes’ or Genesis’ 1980s output. The new mixes are (predictably) sonically stunning, and the plethora of material contained here makes this box a must-have for any fan of 1980s Crimson.

Luckily Robert Fripp owns all the rights to King Crimson’s recordings, a process that was not without a struggle. This of course means he has the freedom to release these large box sets. Somehow, sadly, I doubt we’ll ever see ‘Close To The Edge’ or ‘The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’ receive the same treatment……

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Full details of box contents (from Burning Shed website):

Disc 1 – Discipline:

1. Elephant Talk
2. Frame by Frame
3. Matte Kudasai
4. Indiscipline
5. Thela Hun Gingeet
6. The Sheltering Sky
7. Discipline

Bonus tracks:
Selection of Adrian’s vocal loops
Alt. mixes of The Sheltering Sky & Thela Hun Ginjeet mixed by Steven Wilson.


Mixed and produced from the original multi-track tapes by Steven Wilson and Robert Fripp (2011). Mastered by

Simon Heyworth and Robert Fripp (4)

Disc 2 – Live in Japan:

Taken from an audience cassette recording at Kokusai Hall, Tokyo on December 18th, the final concert in 1981. Audio restored & newly mastered at DGM by David Singleton and Alex R Mundy 2016. (1)

Disc 3 – Beat:

Neal and Jack and Me
Heartbeat
Sartori In Tangier
Waiting Man
Neurotica
Two Hands
The Howler
Requiem (extended version)

Absent Lovers (instrumental studio recording)

Mixed and produced from the original
multi-track tapes by Steven Wilson and
Robert Fripp (2016). Mastered by
Simon Heyworth and Robert Fripp (4)

Disc 4 – Live at Alabamahalle:

Recorded September 29 in Munich, the
final concert in 1982. Remastered and
recompiled 2016 by David Singleton
and Alex R Mundy with six tracks
from new audio sources. (2)

Disc 5 – Fragmented:

Mostly recorded January 17-30, 1983
at C.V. Lloyd Music, Champaign, IL
Recording Engineer: Gary Platt,
Produced by Robert Fripp and David
Singleton. Two new bonus tracks 2016. (3)

Disc 6 – Three of a Perfect Pair:

CD – 2016 Stereo Mix:

Left side:

1. Three of a Perfect Pair
2. Model Man; Sleepless
3. Man with an Open Heart
4. Nuages (That Which Passes
5. Passes Like Clouds

Right side:

1. Industry
2. Dig Me
3. No Warning
4. Larks’ Tongues in Aspic III

Additional tracks:

1. The King Crimson Barber Shop    
2. Robert’s Ballad    
3. Shidare Zakura    
4. Industrial Zone A    
5. Industrial Zone B    
6. Industrial Zone C   


Mixed and produced from the original multi-track tapes by Steven Wilson and Robert Fripp (2016). Mastered by

Simon Heyworth and Robert Fripp (4)

Discs 7 & 8 – Absent Lovers:

Live at The Spectrum, Montreal, July 11th, the final concert of 1984. Mixed by David Singleton & Robert Fripp from the original multi-track tapes for the DGM release Absent Lovers (1998). As newly recompiled in high-resolution for inclusion on Disc 15

Disc 9 – Are You Recording Gary?:

An insight into the inner working of the band, and the familiar heard in an unfamiliar way. Edited & assembled by David Singleton from original album session tapes, with additional downmixes by Alex R. Mundy

Disc 10: – Discipline (dvd-a):

Audio content: 5.1 surround mix; original mix; 2011 mix & additional tracks in 24/96 and Album rough mixes in 24/48
Video content: Old Grey Whistle Test (4)

Disc 11 – Beat (dvd-a):

Audio content: 5.1 surround mix; original mix; 2016 mix & Alternate Album in 24/48
Video content: Heartbeat promo; two tracks live in Munich (4)

Disc 12 – Three of a Perfect Pair (dvd-a):

Audio content: 5.1 surround mix;
original mix; 2016 mix in 24/48
Video content: Sleepless promo (4)

Disc 13 – Discipline (blu-ray):

Contents as Disc 10 (audio 24/96) plus:
Video content:
Moles Club French TV interview
Live in Frejus 2016 audio & video transfers

Disc 14 – Beat (blu-ray):

Contents as Disc 11 (audio 24/96) plus:
Video content:
Complete Alabamahalle TV broadcast (widescreen format).

Disc 15 – Three of a Perfect Pair (blu-ray):

Contents as Disc 12 (audio 24/96) plus:
Video content: Three of a Perfect Pair – Live in Japan (Widescreen format).
Japan April 29th 1984 Part Show;
Japan April 29th 1984 (single camera);
Japan April 30th 1984 (single camera).
Audio content: Absent Lovers
High resolution and surround sound
­
Disc 16 – Live at Moles Club:

Taken from an audience cassette recording of April 30, 1981, the very first performance by Belew, Fripp, Bruford & Levin, while still called Discipline. Remastered and recompiled 2016. (2)

Disc 17 – Europe 1982:

A newly discovered unreleased live album. Mixed by Brad Davis & Robert Fripp in 1983. Taken from the concert in The Arena, Frejus, August 27th 1982. Plus four bonus tracks from the remainder of the concert

Disc 18 – More Neal and Jack and Me (dvd):

Video content: The Noise – Live in Frejus as previously released on the DGM DVD Neal and Jack and Me (2002). Plus Three of a Perfect Pair – Live in Japan – re-assembled from newly discovered master reels with previously unseen footage. Both in their original 4:3 standard definition format.

Disc 19 – The Town and the City (dvd):

Audio content: Live in Philadelphia, Asbury Park, Cap D’Agde, Frejus 24/48 high-resolution stereo, Europe1982, previously unreleased live album 24/96 high-resolution stereo
Video content:
Alabamahalle TV broadcast in its original
4:3 standard definition format.

Also includes:

40-page album-sized booklet with
previously unpublished photos by Tony Levin, and sleevenotes incorporating Robert Fripp’s diaries, new interview material with all band members written by Sid Smith and David Singleton

2 concert posters, concert programme, setlist, concert tickets, press releases, promo photo and other memorabilia

1) Previously available as a download only from http://www.dgmlive.com
2) Released in an earlier format in King Crimson Collectors’ Club.
3) Partly released in earlier format in King Crimson Collectors’ Club.
4) Available in King Crimson 40th Anniversary Series

Steven Wilson – Roseland Theater, Portland – 3rd November 2016

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The final leg of Steven Wilson’s extended 2016 ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase’ Tour has reached the US. I caught the band at the first date at Roseland Theater in Portland, Oregon on Steven Wilson’s 49th birthday. Words and pictures by Tim Darbyshire.

In front of an expectant sell out crowd, birthday boy Steven Wilson and band delivered an expansive three hour set encompassing his whole solo career as well as delving into the Porcupine Tree back catalogue. The first set consisted of the entire ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase’ album. ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase’ was many people’s album of 2015, and it was a privilege to hear it performed again in full.

Instantly it’s evident just how good Steven Wilson’s band are. From the jazz tinged keyboard runs of Adam Holzman to the power and precision of 2016’s Drummer of the Year Craig Blundell, the smooth fluid guitar work of Dave Kilminster and the multi-talented stick man Nick Beggs, all are performing at the top of their game, complimenting without over shadowing main man Steven Wilson.

‘Hand.Cannot.Erase’ is a consistent album full of highlights. ‘3 Years Older’ begins proceedings like an unstoppable train, followed by the title track which is almost a catchy pop song in comparison, contrasting with the beatiful ‘Perfect Life’ and the powerful and emotionally moving ‘Routine’. ‘Home Invasion’ and ‘Regret #9’ offer Adam Holzman and Dave Kilminster the chance to shine, and before we know it, the heavy ‘Ancestral’ and uplifting ‘Happy Returns’ have brought the first set to a close.

The second set blended tracks from 2016’s ‘4 1/2’ – an interim mini album consisting of ‘orphaned’ songs from the ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase’ and ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’ sessions as well as a reworking of the Porcupine Tree song ‘Dark Matter’ – and SW’s earlier solo releases, with a smattering of Porcupine Tree offerings.  The familiar curtain is dropped in front of the stage as the set closes with a barnstorming duo of ‘Vermillioncore’ and ‘Sleep Together’. The triple encore is brought to a close with ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’, which is described by Wilson as the best song he has ever written.

Visually of course Steven Wilson delivers a stunning spectacle with large screens and effective lighting. The stage at The Roseland Theater however is quite small meaning the full effect of the spectacle is occassionally lost. The video to ‘Routine’ remains as moving as ever…..

What’s next for man of the moment Steven Wilson? He’s heading back to the studio after this tour to work on material for his eagerly awaited fifth studio album, the follow up to ‘Hand.Cannot.Erase’. Let’s hope the results are with us sooner rather than later and he returns with a new tour at some point in 2017.

Steven Wilson – vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards
Adam Holzman – keyboards
Craig Blundell – drums
Dave Kilminster – guitars
Nick Beggs – bass, stick, guitar, keyboards

 

First Set: Hand.Cannot.Erase.
First Regret
3 Years Older
Hand. Cannot. Erase.
Perfect Life
Routine
Home Invasion
Regret #9
Transience
Ancestral
Happy Returns
Ascendant Here On…

Second Set
Dark Matter
Index
My Book of Regrets
Lazarus
Harmony Korine
Don’t Hate Me
Vermillioncore
Sleep Together

Encore:
Sign “☮” the Times
The Sound of Muzak
The Raven That Refused to Sing

Marillion – Danforth Music Hall, Toronto – 31st October 2016

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To support the release of their eighteenth studio album  – F.E.A.R (Fuck Everyone And Run) – Marillion are back on the road. I caught the band at their recent Toronto show at The Danforth Music Hall. Words and pictures by Tim Darbyshire………….

In front of an enthusiastic near sell out crowd, Marillion delivered an eclectic two hours of music culled from all eras of their 35 year history. As well as focussing not surprisingly on material from the new album – F.E.A.R – Marillion wowed the crowd with favourites such as ‘The Invisible Man’, ‘King’ and ‘Neverland’ with the surprise final encore of ‘Kayleigh’, ‘Lavender’ and ‘Heart Of Lothian’ topping off a great evening.

‘The New Kings’ from ‘F.E.A.R’ certainly seemed to strike a chord with the majority of those in attendance. The message is clear,  corporate greed pervades society and human empathy seems to be dwindling.

Explaining the album’s title, Hogarth elaborates: “This title is adopted not in anger or with any intention to shock. It is adopted and sung (in the song “New Kings”) tenderly, in sadness and resignation inspired by an England, and a world, which increasingly functions on an “Every man for himself” philosophy. I won’t bore you with examples, they’re all over the newspapers every day. There’s a sense of foreboding that permeates much of this record. I have a feeling that we’re approaching some kind of sea-change in the world – an irreversible political, financial, humanitarian and environmental storm. I hope that I’m wrong. I hope that my FEAR of what “seems” to be approaching is just that, and not FEAR of what “is” actually about to happen”

Marillion have always done things differently of course. They are recognised as one of the first major bands to turn their backs on traditional record company involvement and have funded new releases by advance fan orders since 2001’s ‘Anoraknophopia’, including ‘F.E.A.R’. They have recognised the power of the internet, crowd funding and keeping everything in house to minimise costs. In exchange, fans are treated to signed limited editions, and ‘Marillion Weekends’ (fan conventions), and of course a band who can produce albums with no outside pressure from record company executives.

Hogarth naturally dominates proceeding throughout the evening – singing every word as if his life depends on it. Ably backed by almost ever-presents Steve Rothery, Mark Kelly, Pete Trewavas and Ian Mosley, he remains the centre of attention, and controls the stage by acting out the lyrics. The new material is greeted as enthusiastically as the earlier songs – I don’t know of many bands who would play a 16 minute new song – ‘El Dorado’ – as an encore. Clearly the band are relaxed on stage,  enjoying effortlessly playing complicated music live to devoted audiences.

It’s been four years since their last studio outing (‘Sounds That Can’t Be Made’), let’s hope we don’t have to wait that long for the next one.

Marillion are:
Steve ‘H’ Hogarth – vocals, keyboards, guitar
Steve Rothery – guitars
Mark Kelly  – keyboards
Pete Trewavas – bass
Ian Mosley – drums

Setist:
The Invisible Man
Power
Living in F E A R
Wave
Mad
Afraid of Sunlight
The New Kings: I. Fuck Everyone and Run
The New Kings: II. Russia’s Locked Doors
The New Kings: III. A Scary Sky
The New Kings: IV. Why Is Nothing Ever True?
King
Neverland

Encore:
El Dorado: I. Long-Shadowed Sun
El Dorado: II. The Gold
El Dorado: III. Demolished Lives
El Dorado: IV. F E A R
El Dorado: V. The Grandchildren of Apes

Encore 2:
Kayleigh
Lavender
Heart Of Lothian

YES – Tales From Topographic Oceans Definitive Deluxe Edition

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Forty three years after its original release, the controversially divisive ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’ has just been released by Panegyric in two different deluxe formats. A 3 x cd/ 1 x blu-ray disc version – reviewed here, and a 2 x cd/2 x DVD-A version. Review and pictures by Tim Darbyshire…….

‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’ is the fifth Panegyric release in the series of expanded YES editions including Steven Wilson 5.1 Surround mixes, new stereo mixes and high-resolution stereo mixes of the original music. There’s a wealth of extra material on blu-ray edition (see full track listing below). Steven Wilson has produced the new mixes with the approval of the band and previously unseen restored artwork (overseen and approved by Roger Dean ) adorn an expanded booklet which contains new sleeve-notes  (including a new essay from Sid Smith), and archive material.

The package is superb, and of course the sleeve must be one of the best album covers created by YES’ unofficial sixth member Roger Dean. But what about the music?

After the high of 1972’s near perfect ‘Close To The Edge’, ‘Tales from Topographic Oceans’ is the sixth studio album by YES, released in 1973 on Atlantic Records. Presented as an 80 minute double vinyl album with one track on each side, its concept is based on singer Jon Anderson’s interpretation of four Shastric scriptures from a footnote in ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ by Paramahansa Yogananda – a book he was introduced to by ex-King Crimson percussionist Jamie Muir at Bill Bruford’s wedding.  This footnote described four bodies of Hindu text, collectively named the shastras, that Yogananda described as “comprehensive treatises” that cover “every aspect of religious and social life, and the fields of law, medicine, architecture, art, etc” that “convey profound truths under a veil of detailed symbolism” This fitted Jon Anderson’s quest for a big theme for the next Yes album. He wanted a limitless large-scale composition.

Ambitious, stellar and triumphant? Or overblown, pretentious nonsense?  ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’ is loved (mostly by fans) and loathed (by music critics) and has sometimes polarized the YES fan base, as well as the band itself.

Jon Anderson and Steve Howe thrashed out the structure and themes of the double album while on tour in early 1973, and understandably remain supportive of the music. They had the task of ‘selling the concept’ to the rest of the band. Chris Squire and debutant drummer Alan White knuckled down, but Rick Wakeman left the band after never really embracing the wide-ranging themes of the album and the direction the music was taking the band.  Despite this, Wakeman’s contribution to the album are stellar, providing colour and atmosphere throughout and of course the minimoog solo towards the end of ‘The Revealing Science Of God’ remains one of the highlights of his contributions to any YES music.  Squire in particular comes to the fore during ‘Ritual’, which rounds off the album and includes some of the most beautiful parts of any YES song in the  ‘Nous Sommes Du Soleil’ sections.

Steven Wilson remains a strong advocate: “I worked on and off for about 3 years on this new mix in my quest to do it justice. I hope it will satisfy the people who agree with me that it may just be Yes’ pre-eminent masterpiece.”

Sonically I’d say it’s one of the best new mixes Steven Wilson has done for YES. There’s a new clarity and increased depth to all the instruments making this definitive edition a joy to revisit. As with all the Wilson 5.1 surround mixes, additional instrumentation can be heard, sounds that used to be lost in the muddy original mix. For those who continue to be put off by four twenty minute pieces of music, there are five ‘single edits’ – sections chosen by Steven Wilson to highlight the strength of the song writing on the album.

To my mind,  time has been kind to ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’. Although controversial in 1973, YES was always pushing boundaries and refusing to bow to corporate record company pressure to repeat the formula of past successes. Today it seems like no big deal for a band to produce long form pieces.

The point of this reissue probably isn’t to win new fans, but rather to reward existing fans. The blu-ray disc is stuffed full with different versions of the album and interesting extras (see below).  I’ve always ranked this album just outside the Top 5 best YES albums – after ‘Close To The Edge’, ‘Relayer’, ‘Going For The One’, ‘Fragile’, and ‘The Yes Album’. My mind still tends to drift a bit in the first half of ‘The Ancient’, but ‘Tales’ is clearly part of the hot streak YES was on between 1970 and 1977.

YES played Side 1 (The Revealing Science Of God) and Side 4 (Ritual) live to enthusiastic US audiences in 2016 – see my reviews here and here.

 

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TRACK LISTING:
New Steven Wilson Stereo Mixes:
CD 1:
1. The Revealing Science Of God (Dance Of The Dawn) 20:18
2. The Remembering (High In The Memory) 20:32
3. The Ancient (Giants Under The Sun) 18:41

CD 2:
1. Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil) 21:44
2. Dance Of The Dawn (extended version of The Revealing Science of God) 22:36
3. Dance Of The Dawn (Studio Run-Through) 22:23

CD 3 (Blu-Ray set only):
1. High the Memory (studio run-through) 20:36
2. Giants Under the Sun (studio run-through) 17:18
3. Ritual (live, Zurich, April 1974) 23:11
Bonus single edits:
4. The Revealing Science of God (single edit) 3:54
5. The Remembering (single edit) 2:50
6. The Ancient (single edit) 3:26
7. Ritual (single edit I) 4:20
8. Ritual (single edit II) 3:47

2016 full album mix, plus an extended Dance of the Dawn and 5 single edits, all mixed by Steven Wilson.

Blu-Ray and DVD-A #1 (Region 0, NTSC):

New Stereo Mix (24/96 LPCM):
1. The Revealing Science Of God (Dance Of The Dawn) 20:18
2. The Remembering (High In The Memory) 20:32
3. The Ancient (Giants Under The Sun) 18:41
4. Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil) 21:44
5. Dance Of The Dawn (extended version of The Revealing Science of God) 22:36

DVD-A #2:
5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Surround (24/96 LPCM):
1. The Revealing Science Of God (Dance Of The Dawn) 20:18
2. The Remembering (High In The Memory) 20:32
3. The Ancient (Giants Under The Sun) 18:41
4. Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil) 21:44
5. Dance Of The Dawn (extended version of The Revealing Science of God) 22:36
Flat Transfer from original master tape source (24/192 LPCM):
6. The Revealing Science Of God (Dance Of The Dawn) 20:18
7. The Remembering (High In The Memory) 20:32
8. The Ancient (Giants Under The Sun) 18:41
9. Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil) 21:44

Exclusive to the Blu-ray version only:

New Stereo Mixes (24/96 LPCM):
The “alternate” album:
1. Dance of the Dawn (studio run-through) 22:23
2. High the Memory (studio run-through) 20:36
3. Giants Under the Sun (studio run-through) 17:18
4. Ritual (live, Zurich, April 1974) 23:11
Single edits:
5. The Revealing Science of God (single edit) 3:54
6. The Remembering (single edit) 2:50
7. The Ancient (single edit) 3:26
8. Ritual (single edit I) 4:20
9. Ritual (single edit II) 3:47

New Stereo Instrumental Mixes in DTS-HD Master Audio (24bit/96khz):
1. The Revealing Science Of God (Dance Of The Dawn) 20:18
2. The Remembering (High In The Memory) 20:32
3. The Ancient (Giants Under The Sun) 18:41
4. Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil) 21:44
5. Dance Of The Dawn (extended version of The Revealing Science of God) 22:36

Vinyl transfers (24bit/96khz):
UK needle-drop:
1. The Revealing Science of God 20:27
2. The Remembering 20:38
3. The Ancient 18:34
4. Ritual 21:25
US banded promo needle-drop*:
1. The Revealing Science of God 20:27
1a. 3:30
1b. 6:17
1c. 3:21
1d. 4:30
1e. 2:55
2. The Remembering 20:38
2a. 4:40
2b. 3:06
2c. 8:10
2d. 1:45
2e. 3:06
3. The Ancient 18:34
3a. 3:15
3b. 4:19
3c. 2:17
2d. 3:56
4. Ritual 21:25
4a. 5:25
4b. 6:42
4c. 5:20
4d. 4:18

*the “banded” US promo album had the songs divided into shorter and more “radio friendly” segments in the hope of airplay from DJ’s and radio programmers adverse to 20-minute songs……

Band Members:
Jon Anderson – lead vocals, harp, cymbals & percussion
Steve Howe – electric 6- & 12-strings, steel and acoustic guitars, electric sitar & backing vocals
Chris Squire – acoustic & electric basses, timpani & backing vocals
Rick Wakeman – grand piano, RMI Electra-Piano, MiniMoog, Mellotrons, Hammond C3 & pipe organs
Alan White – drums, piano (Track 4), vibes, Mini-Moog, Moog drum, tubular bells & assorted percussion