Reviews in this issue:
Fish - Derek Dick & His Amazing Electric Bear
Tracklist CD2: 30+Intro/Dear Friend (7:04), Lucky (5:27), "Faith Healer Intro"/Big Wedge (7:33), Fugazi (8:49), Heart Of Lothian (5:37), The Company (), Forgotten Sons (), Internal Exile/Market Square Heroes ()
Tracklist CD1: Dear Friend (12:44), Lucky (9:59), Big Wedge (6:01), Heart Of Lothian (6:33), Forgotten Sons (5:25), Fugazi (9:47), Internal Exile/Market Square Heroes (11:43)
So here we have it, another two live albums from the Fish fan club back catalogue. Both albums which have been previously released and are being re-released under Fish's own new label, Chocolate Frog Records and distribution by Voiceprint. The two albums were recorded in 1991, after the release of Internal Exile, and at only a distance of six weeks from each other. The first recording is 'Derek Dick And His Amazing Electric Bear' which took place at the Haddington Corn Exchange on the 3rd November during the 1st Company Convention. The second, 'For Whom The Bell Tolls', is a recording from the 1991 New Years Eve concert held at the Edinburgh playhouse.
The lineup is the same on both albums with Frank Usher (guitar), Robin Boult (guitar, backing vocals), Kevin Wilkinson (drums) and Mickey Simmonds (keyboards) accompanying Fish. For some reason David Paton (bass) does not make it to the list of band members, yet is mentioned in the liner notes. The playlist is also very similar with a few variation on both albums, with '... Electric Bear' having State Of Mind also included and of course a change in banter in between tracks.
As could very well be expected the bulk of the material present is culled from Fish's first two albums, 'Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors' and 'Internal Exile'. 'Vigil' has four tracks played from it on both albums and these are the title track, Family Business, Big Wedge and The Company. As mentioned, the '... Electric Bear' album also includes State Of Mind from the 'Vigil' album. State Of Mind was dropped from the set list soon after this concert and was not played again on the subsequent tour. The versions of 'Vigil' rank amongst the best I have heard from Fish. 'Internal Exile' has a total of six tracks played on these live albums including the title track, Credo, Tongues, Shadowplay, Dear Friend and Lucky. The Internal Exile version on 'For Whom The Bell Tolls' was taken from the Paris concert (9/12/91) due to that night's version being missing from the DAT.
Of course one has to expect some of the Marillion classics at a Fish concert. Incubus and Fugazi, from Fugazi make an appearance on both albums while 'Script From A Jester's Tear' is represented by Forgotten Sons. The Market Square Heroes version on 'For Whom The Bell Tolls' is taken from the same Paris concert as Internal Exile. 'Misplaced Childhood' only appears with the lone Heart Of Lothian, while 'Clutching At Straws' seems to never have happened!
Both concerts have their individual highs and lows and admittedly these are referred to in the liner notes by Fish himself. State Of Mind is really quite poor and no wonder it was dropped from the setlist soon after the '... Electric Bear' recording, whilst on the other hand Tongues comes out as being a powerful song especially when the big man himself is in a fighting mood! On the other hand 'For Whom The Bell Tolls' also includes a New Year's Eve countdown as well as a piper belting out Auld Lang Syne and a poke at the traditional with Gizabun.
All in all they are two enjoyable concerts to listen to, though there are numerous live Fish recordings which offer both better quality as well as a tighter set. Basically I feel that these albums would be recommended to those who are fans of the Scotsman and who have never managed to obtain these albums via the Fan-club releases.
Conclusion: Derek Dick And His Amazing Electric Bear 6.5 out of 10
Conclusion: For Whom The Bell Tolls 6 out of 10
Mario Millo - Epic III
Mario Millo might be known by some of you as the guitarist of Sebastian Hardie and Windchase (two Australian progbands from the 70s whose albums have recently been re-released on Musea). He has also made a name for himself within the Australian soundtrack market - e.g. he made the music for the series Against All Winds (soundtrack released in 1978) which was also a hit series in Europe. This solo album, consisting of eight tracks (five of which are instrumental), was originally released in 1979, but was re-released by Musea last year.
Having heard some of Sebastian Hardie's music, I already knew that Millo was into the rather typical 70s progressive rock like Genesis and Yes. That these references are still valid for Millo's solo album (at least to some extent) becomes very clear in the first song, the title track Epic III. This track, which is indeed of epic length with its almost fifteen minutes, is divided into eight parts - even though neither the sleeve nor the lyrics give any idea of where one ends and another begins. The music is rather calm with nice guitars and keyboards (the main focus being on the guitar, I would say). There are some harmonies which remind me a lot of Yes. Even though it is nice, I think it could have used a bit more edge. Also, the length of the track becomes its weakness. It is not easy to write epic songs (at least that is my assumption, based on all the failed attempts in the history of progressive rock). Millo's epic has become slightly fragmented and the transitions between the fragments do not work as smoothly as one would wish. Still, there are many nice bits in there, and I definitely enjoy Millo's vocals - even though Candy Raymond's lyrics must go down as some of the corniest I have seen. Pure hippy mumbo jumbo on art and music... but then again, it was written in the 70s.
Life In Our Hands starts with an interesting keyboard line that is repeated throughout the song. Once more, Yes comes to mind, mixed with some 70s pop music. The vocals are nice and soft, and I think that these lyrics are somewhat better (though by no means anything special). The track is gentle and soft until it picks up some pace in order to provide Millo with the opportunity to play a faster guitar solo which I cannot make up my mind about whether I like or dislike. My opinion seems to differ every time I listen to the song.
The third track, Mary's Theme, is the first intrumental one. The opening is very much like Genesis, but it moves into a more dance-like (in the 70s sense) kind of music, mixed with what I could only describe as TV-series soundtracks from the period and some fusion. Soft and gentle, but also a tad bit boring when put in the focus. It works well as background music while doing something else though.
Quest Theme offers more instrumental music... or at least music without lyrics since there are some pretty nice harmony vocals on the track. A soft flute also adds a bit to the melody, but over six minutes of this gets tiresome. Once more, OK as background music.
Harlequin And Columbine (Waltz Theme) sports a duet between Millo and Safanya. There is a bit of Musical feeling to the whole thing. The waltz rhythm is nice, but once more the song becomes too slow and repetitive for far too long. When drums and a bit of orchestral force finally join in, I have all but lost interest. The sad clown theme as interpreted by Raymond also leaves me untouched. Unlike the two previous vocal tracks, this one takes on the background music quality of the instrumental songs.
The two following tracks, Castaway and Sogno D'Amore (Love In Dreams), are both instrumentals. The former slightly brings Vangelis to mind, whereas the latter with strings and guitar mainly strikes me as muzak. The addition of electric guitars and drums does help it up a bit, but it is still a bit too slow. Perfect restaurant music though.
The CD ends with the bonus track Rebecca, which is also from 1979. Once again it is an instrumental track but this time with some tempo and pulse. With a slightly oriental flavour and acoustic guitar, the opening theme (which is repeated through the song) reminds me of what Queen did much later in the song Innuendo. There are also some more 70s pop and TV references... and, believe it or not, even some castanets. A bit more edge, and a certain amount of playfulness which I appreciate.
All in all, a CD best consumed as background music, but with some definite highs. Personally, I would have liked to hear more of Millo's vocals, but that is just me. If you like slow, well played (mostly instrumental) music, this album could be for you.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10.
Within Temptation - Mother Earth
Tracklist CD2 (CD-audio part): World Of Make Believe (4:47)
Tracklist CD2 (CD-ROM part): The Dance (video) (4:57), The Making Of Mother Earth (video) (3:57), footage Dynamo festival (video) (2:58), footage Dynamo festival (video) (4:55), footage Dynamo festival (video) (6:36), footage Lowlands festival (video) (4:12), World Of Make Believe (MP3) (4:48); plus: WT Bash (game), lyrics, member info
One of the first things I noticed after I heard Mother Earth, was that the guitarist doesn't sing. Well, he doesn't grunt. And that, I believe, is a good thing. Not that he's a bad grunter, 'cause I couldn't tell a bad grunter from a good one, but because I think it's childish. Making music with a band of serious musicians, and then there's someone being a bad actor putting up his worst sounding voice, erm... throat sounds. I am glad it's not happening on this album.
Another thing that was striking is the slight change in music. It's almost as if the metal has gone out of it. Of course, the grand arrangements are present. But it's like the band decided that the previous albums were just musical try-outs, something to grow out of a world by, and this one is the grown-up. The band have grown in writing music, and writing vocal lines. The compositions are more mature and of constant quality.
Less metal, and also more ballad. The overall impression is that the music is softer than before. But it's the composition that got more attention than the need to combine metal and orchestral arrangements. To put it simply: the band has grown better.
Opening the album is an intro reminiscent of Clannad. So now there's a little folk in it as well. This soon changes to what you'll be hearing a lot of the rest of the album: powerful, heavy orchestral rock. But also more slower pieces. I think Den Adel is using less falsetto than before. This way the songs sound more complete, like a unit. She has a high voice of course, but this way it fits the music better. Her voice and the keyboards sound more like a team now.
I can't tell exactly what I like in this kind of music. Maybe the contrast between the bass, drums, and distorted guitars on one side, and orchestral keyboards and Sharon den Adel's angelic voice on the other. I liked their previous releases and will keep on listening to those, but this one is from a different league.
So in short... Keywords: gothic, orchestral, heavy, angelic voice. That and interesting and unpretentious compositions, but not too simple either. It's the effect that counts, and impact it has. And get the double CD issue with all the nice goodies before the limited edition is sold out.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10.
Egdon Heath - Live At Last
Tracklist CD 2 (49:19): Head In The Sand (7:11), Hail To Your Heart (8:09), On A Bench (7:43), Run For Life (7:13), The Killing Silence (17:54)
A live album at last! That's what they must have thought when thinking of a title for this CD. After 18 years in existence, the band decided to release a live album, recorded at their very last gig... (Well, to be honest, there was a live cassette in 1986, but who knows about that one, eh?) So it's not only a live album, it's also supposed to be a collection of songs from all line-ups, all eras the band are covered. And they did very well in doing so!
As with all Egdon Heath releases, recording quality is high on the priority list. The sound is very clear, and all instruments have a good place in the mix.
Like the band has shown in the past, some older songs have been re-arranged. Secret Fence is quite close to its original version on the very first album, but sounds fuller, and so does Slightly In Despair. The latter has a great solo by guitarist Aldo Adema. It's interesting to see how his role has became more important through the years. This is especially evident on On A Bench. On the 1993 studio album Him, The Snake And I, this is a short and quiet song, but from 1995 on, the band have played this in a six minutes version, with truely marvellous guitar playing. Very emotional and warm. I am very glad this new version is on this CD as well.
1000 Stories is one of the songs that really defines the sound of Egdon Heath for me. Powerful, very melodic parts, creating a dense atmosphere. No technical showing off, just playing all the fields the compositions provide. It all sounds so natural. So many bands try too hard to stay in a certain field, but Egdon Heath have always played what they wanted to play. Influences alright, but there's no song where you can say it's typical this or that band. They've always managed to sound very modern. And enthusiastic, with lots of energy. You just have to hear them to know what I mean. And this CD is just the thing to start with if you don't know them.
Also evident here is the will to re-arrange. Even changing minor details like background sounds is paid attention to. And things like this are what kept attending an Egdon Heath live performances very worthwile to me. Listen carefully to the parts between the chorus and verses: both guitar and keyboard parts are different from the album versions. Head In The Sand has a new intro, but also has a saxophone solo, something rarely heard in prog. And although I don't prefer the sound of brass, on this occasion the interplay of sax and guitar works.
A very nice surprise is that singer Syb van der Ploeg of Dutch band De Kast joins the band during Hail To Your Heart. His work with his band is no prog at all, but I saw him sing with re-united Kayak, so he's not unfamiliar with the genre. I like his powerful voice. Syb sings the first verse, Maurits the second. Syb has a rawer voice than Maurits, and it sounds very good. During the third verse and the chorus, Syb sings second voice, and this works very well.
Then there's another song from the first album, Run For Life. Completely re-arranged. Maybe it's better to say re-written. It took a while before I recognized the song. The intro is new, and even the vocal lines are so different that it took the second verse to convince me of my knowing what song they play. The chorus with a little distortion on the vocals is so haunting, you can feel the tension. And there's Aldo again with his beautiful guitar playing. And after a quiet middle section, things begin to rock! The playing gets more and more powerful to introduce the ending section of the song: the chorus repeated a couple of times on a driving force of musical power that give me goosebumps like I've never felt before. And with every chorus it seems the power is increasing. Man, what a marvellous way to end a gig... end a career... end a lifetime...
If I would be there, I wouldn't be able to do anything for a while, not even applaud or shout for an encore. I couldn't even move after hearing it from CD! But I don't need to do anything, 'cause the encore will follow anyway. Of course, The Killing Silence. This career overview, but actually any Egdon Heath gig, and certainly their last one, would not be complete without it. Seventeen minutes of powerful, melodic, symphonic, progressive rock. And probably one of their best versions ever.
In the beginning of the album, Maurits sounds a bit like he needs a warming-up. This is solved during the second song, where his voice is sounding warmer. What an exceptionally good voice this mas has! Although I must add that I have attended gigs where he was more impressive.
Jaap Mulder contributes more background vocals than on the albums. In Head In The Sand, for example, his gentle but also strange voice gives an eerie feeling to the verses. He has a truly amazing feel for music and arrangements.
Egdon Heath no longer exist - long live Egdon Heath! With an album like this, they sure provided the means for a lively remembering of their career. I hope the follow-up band called Tyro will keep amazing me as Egdon Heath have always been able to, until and including their very last live performance.
Conclusion: 9 out of 10.