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.
So, when I heard that this album was finally getting the ‘Definitive Edition’ treatment I knew immediately that it was going to be an essential purchase. It didn’t matter that I had the original MSI CD, which had somehow reversed the cover so that it was black on white instead of white on black, nor that I had the Cyclops reissue from 2002 which had also included various demos: here was a triple CD release which was finally going to provide everything any Twelfth Night fan could wish for. Originally recorded in 1982, to this day it remains one of my very favourite albums, which will always appear in any Top Ten list. Listening to it again, more than 35 years after it was originally recorded, it still sets a benchmark to which many bands aspire, but few will ever achieve.
For those progheads who have somehow missed this band (I know I did at the time, much to my later disgust), Twelfth Night were the band that should have had the success of Marillion at least, and if Geoff hadn’t decided to become a church minister who knows what they might have achieved. But back in the early Eighties, the band had just been reduced to a four-piece with the departure of keyboard player Rick Battersby (who returned after the album had been recorded). This left Geoff Mann (vocals), Clive Mitten (bass/classical guitar/keyboards), Andy Revell (electric and acoustic guitars) and Brian Devoil (drums). The recording process took a year, as the band decided to shift the attention away from some more commercial elements and dropped some numbers and rewrote others. The result was a progressive rock masterpiece.
The album starts with the second longest song, in “We Are Sane”. Gentle held-down keyboards with Geoff singing falsetto and in the background there are the sounds of children playing and a radio being tuned. Gradually Geoff sings lower, the keyboards come down and the sense of menace starts to appear. Percussion starts not with Brian on drums but on typewriter as “Reports flop into the in trays”. Even from very early on in the album it becomes apparent that Twelfth Night just weren’t like any other prog band that was around at the time, or since. Prog bands often today are likened to Genesis/Marillion/IQ but rarely to TN. “We Are Sane” is about a Big Brother society where individuals are controlled by a small box they plug into their brains each day. The music swirls and changes, being beautiful and refreshing, or rocking and dramatic, as the need arises. There is a spoken word passage; all tricks utilised to make the song unusual and classic.
Following that is the more laid back “Human Being” which not only contains one of my favourite lyrics in any song (“If every time we tell a lie a little fairy dies, they must be building death camps in the garden”) but also a powerful bass solo which has to be one of the best bass riffs ever. “This City” again starts slowly, with children in the background and in some ways is almost Floydian except with far more menace and emotion from the Mann. It is stark and barren, with Geoff in total control. Next up is a small instrumental “World Without End” which acts as a gentle keyboard bridge into the title cut. It may only be four minutes long, but this keyboard dominated piece is one of their more powerful and thought provoking, all with no guitar! Given the current climate this song seems even more poignant “If the unthinkable should happen, and you hear the sirens call, Well you can always find some shelter behind a door against the wall, Don’t make me laugh!!”
This also gives way to an instrumental, “The Poet Sniffs A Flower” which features acoustic guitar and keys in gentle harmony until the drums kick in and they are off and racing, as they lead into the longest track on the album, the one with which Geoff will always be associated, “Creep Show”. It starts gently enough, and we are invited into the creep show to see the exhibits (as in “Karn Evil 9”, but here with an even more damning indictment on society). It is gentle, lulling and simple, or dramatic, rocking and complex. It can be a breaking voice, pure melody or a spoken statement of fact: whichever way you look at it this is one of the most important prog songs ever.
Given all of the horrors and complexity that has gone on before, the only way to end the album was with a gentle number that gave the listener the chance to reflect. “Love Song” is pure and delicate, as Geoff sings about the power of love and what it can achieve. It is a song of restrained emotion here in the studio, which became an outpouring when performed in concert. It builds and builds in tempo, on from the acoustic guitar to a more powerful prog rock number and to put it simply, out of all of the many thousands of songs I have heard over the years, this is my number one.
Of course, that was where the original album ended, 49 minutes of brilliance. But here we have now been treated to a great deal more. Disc one is subtitled “Studio: 1982”, and contains all of the songs from Revolution Studios, where the album had been recorded. This includes the original version of “Human Being” (called “Being Human”) plus a small interlude which linked to “East Of Eden”. This is one of the band’s most powerful stomping rock numbers (and was the song they performed on the David Essex Showcase!) and had originally been destined for the album but was instead released as a single along with “Eleanor Rigby”, which is also included.
That leads us into Disc Two, “Live: 1983-2012”, which includes live versions of all the tracks from the album, with three different singers (Geoff, Andy Sears and Mark Spencer). Some of these versions have previously been released on other albums, while there are also songs that are appearing for the first time. Of course the version of “Love Song” was taken From ‘Live and Let Live’, recorded at Geoff’s final gigs with the bands – the emotion is palpable, and I can remember playing this when it was first put out on CD and sitting there crying in front of the speakers, it had that much of an impact on me. Of all the other versions the one that I must mention is “Fact and Fiction”, recorded in 2012. By this time the line-up was Brian Devoil, Clive Mitten, Andy Revell, Dean Baker (keyboards, Galahad) and Mark Spencer (vocals, guitar, ex-Lahost and ex-Galahad, although now he is back with them again!). This absolutely belts along and I must confess that I never thought that it could sound anything like this, and it takes the number to a brand new level.
The CD closes with the 1982 demos that were first released as part of the 2002 Cyclops reissue. These start with “Constant (Fact and Fiction)”, which has nothing in common with “Fact and Fiction” and sounds like Geoff and Clive and a drum machine and is interesting but has to be taken as a work in progress, and was never developed any further. “Fistful Of Bubbles” shows the band experimenting with an almost reggae style in the chorus, and much more in the way of emotional guitar and is interesting but again was a work in progress. To the fan it has to be “Leader” that is by far the more interesting demo, as this is a song that had musically built out of a number called “Afghan Red” and would in turn become “Fact And Fiction”. The verse is musically almost the same, with some of the final lyrics, and it is fascinating. “Dancing In The Dream” is a poptastic keyboard led song that is fun and is a song I have found myself singing. It reminds me of Men Without Hats and I wonder if a finished version of this had been released as a single what would have happened? The very last song is a previously unreleased demo of the closing section of “Creepshow”, here titled “Creepshow (After The Bomb Drops)” which contains quite different lyrics, and ties is much more closely with “Fact and Fiction”.
The last CD is called “Covers and Interpretations: 1983 – 2018”. A special mention should be made here of Galahad, as at different times Dean Baker, Mark Spencer and Roy Keyworth were all members of Twelfth Night, and all appear on the second disc. On this last disc Galahad are credited once (but that is actually only Dean and Stu Nicholson with Brian Devoil on bongos), but Dean, Mark and Lee Abraham between them perform on another 7 songs on the CD, which shows just how important they have been to the later story of Twelfth Night. The majority of songs here are previously unreleased, and those involved have generally allowed their imagination to run riot.
A special mention here must be made of Mark Spencer’s totally solo recording of “We Are Sane”. I wasn’t too sure of the opening section as It felt that it was actually too quiet, but he captures the angst and emotion vocally on “The poster on the billboard”, and when he cranks into the guitars for the second section it is then that the initial quietness makes so much sense. I must confess to have never being a huge fan of Pendragon’s take on “Human Being”, which originally appeared on ‘Mannerisms’, as Peter Gee never really captured the presence of Clive Mitten, but it is great seeing it made more widely available again. Another person who appeared on ‘Mannerisms’ was Alan Reed, who performed “Love Song”, which also didn’t really work for me. But this time Mark Spencer provides the keyboards and arrangement, and it is performed as duet by Alan and Kim Seviour. This is easily the best version I have heard outside Twelfth Night or Geoff Mann, and is definitely well worth hearing. The final word, as if there could ever have been any doubt, belongs to the Mann. Recorded in 1992, and originally released on ‘Recorded Delivery’, the album closes with “Fact and Fiction” and “Love Song” recorded by Eh! Geoff Mann Band.
Released as a digipak, with a great booklet containing details of who played on what, now is the time to catch up on what is to my mind one of the very finest albums ever released. The total package is now some 3 ½ hours long, and every minute is a gem. If you are a Twelfth Night fan then this is simply indispensable, and if you have never come across them prior to this then you need to stop reading and jump over to the Twelfth Night site before this set is sold out. This is a limited edition single pressing, so when it’s gone it’s gone. I’m still taking it personally that they waited until I was on the other side of the world before they reformed and played some gigs, but until they decide to play again at a time when I am in the correct hemisphere this will keep returning to my player. Awesome.
We thought it was about time that we took an opportunity to update everyone about what is happening in the rather busy but very positive Galahad universe at the moment. Here goes…. 2018 UK PROG AWARDS I guess the most exciting thing at the moment is the fact that we’ve been nominated in the ’Best UK Band’ category for the 2018 PROG awards and the following press release has been released on social media:
“Well, what a lovely and most unexpected surprise, we are so pleased and proud to announce that GALAHAD has been nominated for the 2018 UK PROG awards in the ‘UK Band/Artist of the year’ category.
Whilst we are realistic and know that the chance of walking away with the main ‘prize’ is very slim due to some very stiff competition from some great bands, some with much larger fanbases, many of whom we know well and good luck to them all too, we are very pleased and honoured just to be considered and acknowledged for this prestigious and well-regarded award.
Needless to say, if anyone would like to cast their vote in our favor, which would be very much appreciated, here is the link to the relevant web page in order to do so. http://loudersound.com/prog2018
We would also like to this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported us for so long and more recently purchased our new ‘Seas of Change’ record which, in all honesty, has exceeded all our expectations, especially in terms of critical acceptance from both fans and reviewers alike. Thus, it seems that after what has been, at times, a very difficult last few years for the band 2018 is turning out to be a great year for GALAHAD and we’re still only in June! “
This was quite unexpected but very welcome and of course if any of you could see your way to vote for us we’d be most appreciative.
Nore News and Updates
SEAS OF CHANGE
‘Seas of Change’ as you will already know was released earlier this year, and to be honest we were slightly worried about what the reaction would be to a single forty-two minute long form track which makes up the main album especially in today’s ‘quick fix’ world but we needn’t have worried as we have been completely overwhelmed by so much positive reaction to the album from fans both new and long-term as well critics which have almost universally given it the thumbs up.
In fact, it’s probably the best reaction of any album we have ever released certainly since ‘Empires’ was released back in 2007. We’d obviously like to thank everyone who has supported us by buying the album and thanks to those who’ve written about it in such glowing terms, it really is very, very much appreciated.
TWELFTH NIGHT – FACT AND FICTION
Our good friends at Twelfth Night have also recently released a new 3CD ‘Definitive edition’ version of their classic ‘Fact and Fiction’ album. What makes this release so interesting is the fact that the third CD contains cover versions of all of the original songs from ‘Fact and Fiction’ and Galahad members feature heavily on this with Galahad providing a brand new version of ‘Fact and Fiction’. Mark Spencer contributing a new version of ‘We Are Sane’ and ‘The Poet Sniff a Flower’ which also feature Lee Abraham on guitar. Dean also provides a new version of ‘This City’ with his other band ‘Coburg’ as well the Electro Sane intro. More details available here: http://twelfthnight.info/?cds=fact-and-fiction-the-definitive-edition
We are hoping to celebrate 21 years of ‘Following Ghosts’ with a special 3CD re-release in 2019 which will involve the re-recording of several new versions of the songs from the album. This expanded version will also include the original De-Constructing Ghosts album which was originally only limited to 1000 CDs and will certainly help to showcase an extremely musically diverse release indeed. This album will also include new liner notes and brand new artwork. We also have around two dozen new song ideas complete with rough music and vocal guides which will start knocking in to shape in the coming months, so plenty to look forward to in terms of new material.
UP AND COMING SHOWS
We have several more shows lined up for 2018 and a few others in the pipeline. The first few shows of the year seemed to be received very well indeed and the band is sounding tighter and more solid than ever with the addition of Lee Abraham on guitar and Mark Spencer back on bass guitar.
22 June 2018 – Serious Prog Show at the Park Villa Theater, Alphen aan den Reijn, The Netherlands 15 Sept 2018 – Classic Rock Society, Wesley Hall, Maltby, S. Yorks, UK 3 November 2018 – Progressive Rock Festival, Haugesund, Norway| 1 December 2018 – Danfest, The Musician, Leicester, UK
Well, I think we’ve covered just about everything for now. Thanks for your support as ever and please keep an eye on our official website for any new developments.
Wishing you all a great Summer.
All the best from GALAHAD
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