TODD RUNDGREN – A WIZARD, A TRUE STAR…LIVE – CLEOPATRA RECORDS

Recorded in 2009, this album is available in multiple different formats, including swirled vinyl and a CD/DVD set etc. As one may be able to work out from the album title, this is a live run through of one of his most controversial albums, at least when it was first released back in 1973. His previous album, ‘Something/Anything/’ had charted well in multiple countries, and spawned some hit singles, but this saw him undertaking far more inventive paths, something which was exacerbated by his experimentation at the time with psychedelic drugs. Many Todd fans now look back on this very favourably indeed, while I have always felt there is some very strong material contained within but others which are not as good, so a rather inconsistent release.

Needless to say, this means that this album contains the same flaws and strengths as the original, but he has surrounded himself with a strong band and there is no doubt that the crowd in Akron, Ohio, had a great time. Mind you, whether they would say the same about this release would be another matter altogether. Todd has released a great many live albums over the years, both under his own name and Utopia, and I have a few different boxed sets so it can be said I am quite a fan, but what has been done with these recordings is quite unforgiveable. The production is great, as is the performance, but whoever messed with this needs to be sacked. I know that in these days of people using Spotify (I don’t) and shuffling albums (I don’t do that either), there are few of us who like to play an album from beginning to end, but surely when it comes to live albums everyone does? Whoever mutilated this album obviously does not, as what has happened is that each track fades out and then back in again, even though this is taken from a single night performance of a complete album. But worse than that, sometimes as it fades back in, we get a few seconds of the previous song again. Did no-one listen to this? Did Todd sign it off?

The end result is an album which in many ways should be a masterpiece, but instead it is an annoyance, and incredibly frustrating. To me this is a great opportunity ruined – I guess it would be okay if I played it on shuffle, but I can’t bring myself to do so. A real shame.
6/10 Kev Rowland

BIG BIG TRAIN Continues The Journey With New Vocalists 

Big Big Train has recruited Alberto Bravin as lead vocalist following the tragic death of David Longdon in November 2021. 

Based in Trieste in Italy, Bravin’s career includes performing around 200 shows with progressive rock legends PFM between 2015 and January 2022, both in Italy and internationally, singing lead and backing vocals and playing keyboards. 

Alberto Bravin says: “I am extremely honored to have the opportunity to join Big Big Train. I was already a huge BBT fan and am looking forward to play my part in taking this great band forward while also honoring the memory of David Longdon.”

Big Big Train bassist and founder Gregory Spawton comments: “Before Covid-19 hit, Nick D’Virgilio and I had both seen Alberto perform with PFM. We were very impressed with his abilities as a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist and therefore approached him earlier this year.

“We know that David is irreplaceable and we miss him deeply both musically and personally,” Spawton continues. “We were very clear that we didn’t want to bring someone into the band who would seek to mimic David; that just felt fundamentally wrong. Instead, we wanted someone who could do justice with their own musical skills and personality to the songs that David sang for Big Big Train as well as being able to help to drive the band forwards. From his first audition singing some BBT classic songs and subsequently his work on some new material that we’re working on, we’re confident that we’ve found the right person in Alberto.”

 “Aside from Alberto’s great voice and all-around musical skills, it was also vital for us to find the right personal fit, particularly after being struck with David’s sudden death,” drummer Nick D’Virgilio comments. “We flew Alberto to London several weeks ago so we could hang together for a few days and the chemistry immediately felt right.”

About Alberto Bravin

Alberto was born in Trieste, on Italy’s north-eastern border with Slovenia.

His involvement in music began at the age of three when he started taking piano lessons. Later on, he developed an interest in electronic keyboards and synthesizers and this paved the way for his love of progressive rock music.

At the age of 17, Alberto began studying opera singing at the Trieste Conservatory and after a couple of years, he moved to London where he graduated in modern singing. Alongside his singing and piano playing, Alberto is also a self-taught guitarist, bassist, and drummer.

After his studies in London, Alberto returned to Trieste where he opened his own recording studios (Echoes Recording Studios) and released two albums (Sinestesia and The Day After Flower) with his band Sinestesia (featuring Alberto, Roby De Micheli, Alessandro Sala, and Paolo Marchesich of Rhapsody Of Fire). Both albums were produced by Franz Di Cioccio of Italian progressive rock legends PFM – Premiata Forneria Marconi. Alberto also recorded and mixed Rhapsody Of Fire’s eleventh album, 2016’s Into The Legend.

In 2015 Alberto joined PFM (alongside Marco Sfogli) as a singer and additional guitarist and keyboard player. With PFM he played around 200 shows, both in Italy and worldwide, and released two albums (2017’s Emotional Tattoos and 2021’s I Dreamed Of Electric Sheep). Alberto is a Beatles fanatic and at the same time a progressive rock and metal aficionado.

Big Big Train is pleased to confirm that their two previously announced UK shows in September 2022 will take place. In addition, the band has scheduled six further shows for September in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and France.

Keyboardist/vocalist Carly Bryant is unable to tour with the band in September 2022 for family reasons. “After over two years of being part of Big Big Train and involved in two studio albums, I was extremely keen to go on the road with the band. However a recent change in my family situation means that sadly I cannot be away from home in the autumn,” Bryant explains. “I love being part of BBT and will be on stage with the band at the earliest opportunity when my family commitments permit.”

Alongside Bravin, D’Virgilio, Spawton, and longstanding guitarist Rikard Sjöblom, the Big Big Train line-up for the September 2022 shows will consist of guitarist Dave Foster, violinist/vocalist Clare Lindley, keyboardist Oskar Holldorff and the Big Big Train brass section led by Dave Desmond. Holldorff leads Norwegian band Dim Gray, whose debut album Flown was much acclaimed last year and who are preparing to release their second album later this year. 

“Oskar came to our attention from his work with Dim Gray and is another tremendous talent to involve in Big Big Train,” Sjöblom says. “We’re very grateful to him for stepping in while Carly is unavailable. It’s also exciting that Big Big Train is becoming an increasingly international band – in September we will have an American, a Swede, an Italian, and a Norwegian on stage with the Brits.”

During the September tour, Big Big Train will be playing material from various stages of their career and also one new song. 

“We were originally scheduled to play live shows in spring 2020 but then Covid-19 derailed our live plans repeatedly and since then we’ve prepared numerous different setlists,” Sjöblom continues. “We’ve released two full albums since we last played live and are spoilt for choice with the setlist for September.” 

“In addition to our UK shows, I’m really looking forward to getting back into continental Europe,” D’Virgilio adds. “As well as visiting the prog strongholds of the Boerderij and Z7, we thought it would be cool to play some smaller venues in France and Germany as we re-establish BBT as a live band. We can’t wait to get out and play again and show what this band can do!”

Envy Of None Release New Video ‘Never Said I Loved You’

Envy Of None, the new band and debut self-titled album from Alex Lifeson (Rush), Andy Curran (Coney Hatch), Alfio Annibalini, and singer Maiah Wynne.

A Blacktide Phonic/Visual Production 
Directed and Produced by Jeremy George 
Featuring Sapphire Sumpter 
Assistant: Synaet Nin

About Envy Of None
Alex Lifeson is no stranger to the concept of evolution. As a founding member of Rush, he’s been able to explore more musical ground than just about any other guitar player out there – taking rock to new progressive heights throughout the decades and always in the most wildly inventive of ways. His influence can be heard on countless bands around the world, from indie shoegaze and math rock to heavy metal and beyond. Over the last few years, Lifeson has been focusing on a new project that, no matter how well-acquainted you are with his discography, will undoubtedly shatter all seeds of expectation and blow the mind. That project is Envy Of None.

The new band, also featuring Coney Hatch founder/bassist Andy Curran, an accomplished producer and engineer Alfio Annibalini and singer-songwriter Maiah Wynne, will be releasing their self-titled debut album on April 8 via Kscope. Its 11 tracks – which ricochet between various shades of alternative, experimental, and synth-rock – throw surprises at every turn, twisting dark melodies against contemporary pop hooks. Lifeson himself is proudly aware of how little of it crosses over with the band that made him famous. 

However, it was only when singer Maiah Wynne became involved that this truly started to feel like a band destined to go somewhere. Her haunting melodies and soul-baring intensity is – by the admission of her own bandmates – what truly brought this music to life. All things considered; she is a star in the making… “I sent over an early version of the song Shadow,” explains Andy Curran. “When I played what she’d done back to the others they were like, ‘Who is this crazy talented person?!’”

The industrial beats, driving fuzz bass and atmospheric guitars concoct a seductive swirl indeed – thrilling in ways closer to the darker art rock of Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, and A Perfect Circle than anything these musicians have been known for prior.

“Maiah became my muse,” continues Alex Lifeson. “She was able to bring this whole new ethereal thing through her sense of melody on tracks like Liar and Look Inside. After hearing her vocals on Never Said I Love You, I felt so excited. I’ve never had that kind of inspiration working with another musician. When we say she’s special, it’s because she’s really fucking special!”

“One of my favorite things about these songs is the intimacy of them,” reveals Maiah Wynne. “It makes them feel different and more honest. There are some heavier songs too, like Enemy, and then tracks like Kabul Blues, that sound completely different to anything else.”

The album closer, Western Sunset, was penned by Alex Lifeson in tribute to his dear friend Neil Peart. It’s a highly emotive piece of music to honor a man deeply missed by the rock community at large, and even more so by those who were lucky enough to know him. “I visited Neil when he was ill,” says Alex Lifeson. “I was on his balcony watching the sunset and found inspiration. There’s a finality about a sunset that kinda stayed with me throughout the whole process. It had meaning. It was the perfect mood to decompress after all these different textures… a nice way to close the book.”

Ltd Edition deluxe version – Gatefold sleeve with a blue LP, 2 CDs including a 5 track bonus disc, 28-page Booklet with exclusive content
CD – includes a 16-page poster booklet
LP – on black vinyl / baby blue colored vinyl (North America exclusive) / white colored vinyl

Follow Envy Of None:
https://www.instagram.com/envyofnone_ 
https://twitter.com/envyofnone_ 
https://www.facebook.com/envyofnone

ProgStock Announce 2022 Festival Dates

We’ve been hearing a lot of questions lately!

Is ProgStock happening this year?
What did you think was going to happen?
Tom and Ann were going to give up?
If the pandemic didn’t stop us…
And our venue getting flooded didn’t stop us…
I mean, really people!

And what are the dates? Seriously?
When is ProgStock? Say it with me now…
COLUMBUS DAY Weekend! or Indigenous Peoples’ Day Weekend or the weekend before the second Monday in October. Confused yet?
How about this? It’s October 7 – 9, 2022!

We’ll be announcing all kinds of exciting stuff over the next week, so pay attention folks!

https://www.progstock.com/2022/

Penguin Cafe Announce UK September Tour Dates

We’re delighted to announce some new UK SEPTEMBER TOUR DATES to celebrate the special edition re-release of A Matter of Life.. out next week April 29.


TICKETS GO ON SALE TOMORROW at 10 am
penguincafe.com/tour-dates

Penguin Cafe are back with a lovingly produced 10th anniversary reissue of their debut album, titled A Matter of Life… 2021. Besides being completely remastered and pressed on vinyl for the very first time, the record also features a brand new 2021 recording of lead single Harry Piers, a song commemorating Arthur Jeffes’ late father and Penguin Cafe Orchestra founder Simon Jeffes.

A Matter of Life… 2021 is a chance for a classic example of the beauty that’s found in collaboration to reach fresh ears, and an opportunity to breathe new life into fan favourites. The album, performed by a mix of personalities — including Neil Codling of Suede and, on percussion, Cass Browne of Gorillaz — incorporates the aesthetics of the original PCO, seasoned into a confident and redefined style, maintaining that quintessentially English sound, but adding a fresh direction and a sense that they are evolving into something new and very much their own. 

“I originally wrote Harry Piers to play at my dad‘s memorial service 24 years ago, and I played it at the end of pretty much every gig (and soundcheck) we’ve done since, so I’ve probably played it hundreds if not thousands of times since we originally released A Matter of Life… So when we decided to reissue the album, Robert and I both felt it would be fun to record an up-to-date version of this song, because it has changed over time and it continues to evolve. So while this is still very much the same tune, I think it has a lot more nuance and detail that reflect the years that have passed since 2011”
— Arthur Jeffes 

The cover artwork also received an update in the shape of a beautiful photograph taken by the UK photographer and long-time collaborator Alex Kozobolis, who was sent to visit Arthur in his second home in Tuscany. Raths’ concept for this was to not only reenact the original painting by Emily Young, but to express the generational change by putting Arthur and his daughter in place of the little boy and the emperor penguin figure that suggest father and son.

The remastered 10th anniversary edition of A Matter of Life… 2021 will be available digitally, on 12” vinyl and on CD from April 29, 2022.

“it’s been really lovely to come back to these old friends — and with this re-issue we’ll be bringing them all out to play live again. Now four albums on, and with our new home at Erased Tapes, it makes a lot of sense for us to go back and pull this record out and brush it off for today”
— Arthur Jeffes