Given the way Martin has been recording in the last few years it is hard to imagine that he had basically given up in the musical area and was instead concentrating totally on his artwork. Since the reissue and success of the original ‘The Gardening Club’ a few years ago, he has been working at pace and to date there have been two albums under that band name, and he has now signed with Melodic Revolution Records for the next one, ‘Strange Kingdom’. As a taster here we have the title cut, plus “The Owl”, as a two-track single. The first song features Martin Springett on vocals, Norm MacPherson on slide guitar and James MacPherson on drums with Morry Stearns (keyboards), Peter Dowse (bass) and Wayne Kozak (saxophone) while “The Owl” is Martin, Norm and Peter.I have been a fan of Martin’s work since I first came across it at the time of the reissue, and over the last few years we have been in constant contact, and of course he kindly provided the artwork for my series of books (and has already designed the cover for Volume 4 even though I haven’t even finished collating the material yet!). That to one side, our friendship is also in a place where I can say exactly what I want about his music and know he will not be upset by it if it is negative, although given the strength of everything I have heard to date I feel that will be incredibly unlikely. Martin has a knack for bringing together Camel and Roy Harper in a way that makes total logical sense, and although he moves through different styles (these two songs are very different with sax playing a very important part in the first and being totally absent in the second), his material has a lived in style which is relaxing like a favourite armchair. In Norm MacPherson he has the perfect musical foil, someone who understands what they are looking to achieve, and together they create music which is rooted in the Seventies when it had a power and presence, far removed from the plastic celebrity of today. I am so looking forward to the full album.
Here we have three songs from Potter’s Daughter, showing some different sides of one of the most exciting bands coming out of America at present. Based around the amazing vocals and piano of Dyanne Potter Voegtlin, the first song is a new arrangement of “To My Love” which featured on their debut album ‘The Blind Side’. Here we are treated to a laid back, almost funky number by the whole band, and there are sections when it is just the rhythm section and Dyanne’s vocals, as she provides layered harmonies. Then we have “Accidentally Like A Martyr”, which was originally written and record by Warren Zevon on his ‘Excitable Boy’ album. Here she provides vocals and keyboards and is joined just by her son Jan-Christian Vögtlin, who provides bass, guitar, and drum programming. This is almost a torch song, with Dyanne front and centre.The last number again features just Dyanne and Christian and is “We Could Be”. Warm organ in no way prepares the listener for an incredibly powerful and moving song dealing with racial injustice. It includes NPR radio broadcasts about George Floyd and Ahmaud Abery, and while people need to grab this to play in the car, what I urge everyone reading this review is to stop doing so and go over to YouTube and watch one of the most powerful music videos I have ever seen. Filmmaker Serena Künzler has created a perfect piece of visual to go with the lyrics, and it starts by saying “Dedicated to everyone fighting for their sisters and brothers”. The EP, this song, and this video, are incredibly charged and powerful.
As a taster for the new album ‘If’, which will be out in November, Marco has released the single “Carnival of Ghosts” which comes in at a tad under eight minutes in length. As can be seen from the title, on this album he is working with Airbag guitarist Bjorn Riis, and the collaboration has created something which is more dynamic and, in your face, than I would really expect from either of them. Marco’s singing is powerful and aggressive, acoustic guitar holds it all together, the electric guitar and keyboards provide substance while the rhythm section power through at times and go for an espresso at others. Then on top of that there is the sumptuous lead solos from Riis, and I only wish he was this powerful and dynamic with his own band whose last, ‘A Day At The Beach’, suffered from lack of guitars. That is not the case here, and the song is full of contrasts and style, so much so that it feels so much shorter than it is, as the listener gets brought inside from the very first picked guitar.If this is a sampler for the album, then I am sure it is going to be an absolute killer and I can’t wait to hear the full thing.
‘Electric Region’s is the latest solo album by Focus bassist, Udo Pannekeet, and since he started work on it, it has taken some five years to complete amidst his other recording and touring duties. It also features guest appearances by current Focus guitarist Menno Gootjes as well as by ex-Focus guitarist Eef Albers so any fan of that band is definitely going to be interested. It commences with the title track (which is marked as “Part One”, but nothing else by that name appears on this album so possibly that is for the next one) which is nearly 24 minutes in length, plus two numbers written some years ago plus a couple of newer ones, giving a combined length of approximately 44 minutes.
This is a jazz fusion record, with some very Latin style percussion at times, and takes us back firmly to the late Seventies. He has involved brass and woodwind musicians alongside the five guitarists, so there are 15 musicians involved throughout and the overall feel is of something incredibly self-indulgent. Pannekeet is a fine bass player, and he is a firm believer in the power of the ensemble as although he plays complex lines throughout, he rarely allows the mix to bring him forward, tending to concentrate mostly on the drums and horns. But, this is music which meanders, there is little in the way of direction yet it also does not have the power of improvisation. I listen to a lot of fusion these days, but when I started checking to see how much longer this had to go the first time I played it I knew there was a problem. To my ears it has not got any better with repeated listens and even though I have seen this get some rave reviews on the web, this is not one of them. I would much rather hear more delicacy such as on “Little Nura” when we have some sombre bass chords which lead into a track unlike the rest of the album. As for the rest, it is really not for me at all.
It has been a very long tine indeed since I have been able to write anything remotely critical about one of the best progressive rock bands to come out of the UK and I am certainly not going to start now. They may have released just four studio albums during their career, but there has never been any doubt about their importance to the progressive scene and one can only wonder what would have happened if Geoff hadn’t decided to move away from the group and follow his heart into a life in the ministry. I remember talking to Brian in the early Nineties about the band ever having a reunion, and he discounted it as no-one was really involved in music anymore, plus Andy Sears was in Spain and Clive Mitten was in Australia. Still, he kept working on remasters and extended editions of the albums and also released a whole series of live albums from different points in the band’s career.
No one ever expected Clive to come back to the UK, and even when he did there was no certainty the band would reform, but reform they did (without original keyboard player Rick Battersby), and since then there have been quite a few trips down memory lane with members of Galahad subbing in at different times. But all good things come to an end and Andy Revell wanted to go out at a big event, and so Barbican’s Sill Street Theatre was booked and on Saturday 15th December 2012 the band played the final (?) gig. The line-up featured three guys who had been there at the very beginning, namely Brian Devoil (drums), Andy Revell (guitar, backing vocals) and Clive Mitten (bass, guitar, keyboards, backing vocals). They were joined by Dean Baker on keyboards and piano, who had been a constant presence since the band reformed, along with “new” singer Mark Spencer who also provided some guitar. Both Dean and Mark are also full-time members of Galahad (plus other bands), while Roy Keyworth, who used to also be in both Twelfth Night and Galahad, joins the band for “East of Eden”.
As always, the band kicked off proceedings with “The Ceiling Speaks” where Revell and Mitten duel on guitars, with bass coming from synths, and immediately they are up and running and the audience are in fine voice. All anyone really knows of the setlist at a TN concert is the opening song and the last, which will always be “Love Song”, so I was intrigued to see what was going to be included here and I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that there was a significant move away from material recorded by Andy Sears. Mark’s voice is quite similar to Geoff’s in many ways, so he would be more comfortable with the early songs, and perhaps that is why a decision was made to include just a couple of songs from ‘Art and Illusion’ and nothing at all from ‘The Virgin Album’. It is a shame not to hear the drama of “Blondon Fair” or “Take A Look” but putting those to one side I think the only song of note not in this set would be “The Collector”. We have time for “We Are Sane”, “Sequences” and “Creepshow” alongside the likes of “Human Being” and “Fact and Fiction”.
By my reckoning this is the twelfth official live album from Twelfth Night (counting ‘Live and Let Live’ plus the ‘Live and Let Live Definitive’ albums as two), which somehow seems fitting, and yes I do have them all. Each one is a gem in its own right, a snapshot of time, and while I must confess this doesn’t quite live up to Geoff’s last album with them, that is less to do with the performance and more the raw emotion and passion from everyone knowing it was Geoff Mann’s last ever gig with the band. This set has also been released on Blu-ray and DVD, but due to poor planning on my part I have ended up in one part of the country with my Blu-ray player in another, so that review will have to wait a few weeks. But, if you search for ‘Twelfth Night A Night To Remember’ on YouTube you will be able to see some clips from that, which proves just what a band this is/was.
This can’t be the end; we’ve already had a teaser with the ‘Sequences’ EP so let us see what happens next. Until then, listen to a modern version of one of the best prog bands ever to come out of Reading.
After hearing and really enjoying the recent second album from This Winter Machine, ‘A Tower of Clocks’, I have worked backwards and am now playing their debut from 2017, ‘The Man Who Never Was’. This does have a slightly different line-up from the next album, as here they were a five-piece which later expanded to have a second guitarist, but Al Winter (vocals), Mark Numan (keyboards, backing vocals) and Peter Priestly (bass) are still in the band , while this album also featured Gary Jevon (guitars) and Marcus Murray (drums). Much has been made of fact that the band only got together the year before, and then managed to produce an album like this, and rightly so as it is a delight.
What we have here is a very songs-based neo prog album which could have come out some 25 years earlier. The guitar is used rather sparingly, with somewhat Hackett-like tendencies and nuances, only providing riffs and power chords when the time is right, while the piano/keyboards often provides the melodic lead and the bass provides a different melody altogether. Then on top of it all here are the delicate and delicious vocals of Al Winter, bringing the listener in. While Final Conflict, Pallas and earlier Galahad are obvious reference points, there are also some Genesis and Camel influences as well and the result is an extremely well-crafted and enjoyable album which only gets better with repeated playing. Both this and the follow-up are incredibly immediate, and anyone with a fondness for the Nineties progressive rock scene being brought up to date needs to seek out both albums immediately, if not sooner.
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