Album Reviews

Issue 2015-026

Ctuhlu Rise - 42

Ctuhlu Rise - 42
Country of Origin: Ukraine
Format: CD
Record Label: Musea Records
Catalogue #: MP3248
Year of Release: 2012
Time: 49:34
Info: Ctuhlu Rise
Samples: Ctuhlu Rise website
Track List:
Opus 24 (3:24), Opus 22 (4:17), Opus 23 (5:19), Opus 26 (3:26), Opus 27 (3:51), Opus 19 (4:20), Opus 12 (3:00), Opus 28 (4:18), Opus 29 (4:42), Opus 31 (5:54), Opus 32 (7:03) (bonustrack)
One should never judge a book by its cover, or perhaps in the world of progressive rock music, should that be never judge an album by its sleeve? An initial look at the sleeve of this album, had me wondering. What to make of it, I thought. The name of the band having an obvious Lovecraft reference might predict music featuring or focussing on a monstrous demon. I wondered what would be in store.

The band has chosen each song to be titled as an individual "Opus" followed by a varying number at the end, quite similar to the way some classic pieces are classified. It may well be that the numbers relate to the order the songs were written in. All the tracks presented are instrumental and there is no apparent theme or conceptuality running through album. The album as a whole offers quite a chaotic and aggressive soundscape. This Ukrainian band are described as making music within the areas of progressive rock and mathcore with elements of jazzcore and jazz fusion. On listening, this is an album that not everyone will play often, or even remotely understand. I would say that the music presented here is best described as avant garde metal.

All tracks are rhythmically complex and dissonant, and seem to have been constructed, rather than played by feel, lacking emotion and therefore being absolutely devoid of any heart and soul. That, I guess is what the band set out to do. As for the similarities with their dark namesake, their music does not lead to any melodic or beautiful scenes. In saying that, this is what I reckon this and comparable musical approaches are about: put out to test the listener, offering non-conformity, and making the listener participate as much as the creators, to gain the reward and pleasure. When I first heard this album I was not impressed, as it was all very much in the same dark vein, or so it seemed. However, on repeated play and breaking it down as an album, it has really grown on me. Even though on a first listen it might be music that is hard to understand or follow, the album in itself is full of nice little nuances that will make you smile and be fascinated.

There is no doubt that these gentlemen are very talented and adept with their chosen instrumentation. It is not all doom and gloom as there are some very clever interactions that work really well, however, as I have said, tread carefully. If you are looking for an easy listen, warmth, colour and beauty, look elsewhere. If not, you may well be surprised with what these guys have created.
John O'Boyle: 5 out of 10

Frederico Fantacone & Lisa LaRue - Paesaggi di Suono / Sonic Landscapes

Frederico Fantacone & Lisa LaRue - Paesaggi di Suono / Sonic Landscapes
Country of Origin: various
Format: CD
Record Label: independent
Catalogue #: n/a
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 54:29
Info: Lisa LaRue website
Samples: Paesaggi di Suono (Italian version) on Bandcamp
Track List:
Intro (1:39), Taste of Expectation (7:35), Emotion and the Rule (7:04), Airdancer (6:24), Unfinished Business (5:51), Moon in a Chinese Sky (3:24), Maypole (6:42), Pretty Harp Parker (4:20), Aspiration (6:10), Hurtful Words (5:19)
When you bring together two keyboard virtuosi, what would you imagine to be the result of their collaboration? Let's look into this more closely, now Lisa Larue and Frederico Fantacone have joined forces to make an album. The USA meets Italy in what can be considered Sonic Landscapes as the album title suggests. The album is almost entirely instrumental and it is full of intriguing music. Two tracks feature assistance by guitar player and singer John Baker. These tracks feature John's vocals as well, though it must be said that John uses his voice as an extra instrument in a sense.

All over the album the piano is the dominating instrument, giving the whole album a classic feel. Larue and Fantacone wrote and produced the album together. Lisa might have been more in charge of the mixing and Frederico took care of the mastering. That most certainly makes this album a joined effort by these two marvelously talented keyboardists and piano players.

The album, I must say, I find very emotional and beautiful, compelling music, yet I wonder about the proggyness of the album. It is something that must be noted as I find it very hard to call it rock music in whatever sense, leave alone the progessive tag. The album is fascinating in what it is, which is an album that excels in great piano playing, great instrumental music, for that matter. The music is soothing, bringing peace, comfort and, as far as I am concerned, it makes me feel very much at ease and relaxed. If you like your music to be more soft and less outspoken, if inner peace, getting in touch with yourself and your emotions is something that you seek, then this might just be an album for you as it offers that all and does so very completely.

It is a wee bit strange. We have assigned ourselves to be a site that is there for progressive rock as such. This album makes me wonder as to the progressive nature of it at the core. As for me liking the album, it is very clear that I have , out of returned it several times and the way I feel about the album, would most certainly have me warrant it with a sure 7,5 points out of 10. Still, as I am in doubt as to whether we all would rate this as progressive, I suggest leaving out any rating at all.
Gert Hulshof: unrated

Jack Dupon - Tête de Chien/Les Ronfleurs Dorment

Jack Dupon - Tête de Chien/Les Ronfleurs Dorment
Country of Origin: France
Format: CD/DVD
Record Label: Musea Records
Catalogue #: DVD: fgbg9036
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 54:38 (CD)
Info: Jack Dupon
Samples: Jack Dupon on Bandcamp
Track List:
Margaretha (3:23), Ulysee (4:37), Raymond (15:05), Miaou (0:42), Butch (10:26), Modestine (18:43)
Jack Dupon is a band, not a person. The character "Jack Dupon" is, so the website description has it, an altruistic time-traveller. That's clear then!

The group formed in 2004 in the French region of the Auvergne and has managed to retain the same line-up comprising Thomas Larsen on drums and vocals, Gregory Pozzoli on guitar and vocals, Arnaud M'Doihoma on bass and vocals, and more guitars and vocals from Philippe Prebet.

With three studio albums to their name so far, Tête de Chien (Dog's Head) is a live album taking its tracklist entirely from their 2013 album Jesus l'aventurier. The band produces a Gallic take on Zappaesque twists and turns, mixing in the French RIO heritage to good effect. Etron Fou Leloublan and Magma come to mind, although this is not Zeuhl at all. On their Bandcamp page the band describes themselves as "a mob without brakes on the slopes of a fiery volcano", and that is a pretty darned close approximation of their sound.

While there is a Gong-like anarchy at work, particularly in the lyrics and singing, the music is for the most part tightly-controlled, based around two guitars and bass all playing melody and counter-melody in a feisty, fiery and sometimes furious series of syncopated tunes, that rise and fall like a broiling sea. It is fairly obvious that the lyrics form an important part, but unless you have a good grasp of French, then, like me, you will have to be satisfied with the impression the vocals make, rather than grasping any hidden meaning. Of course, they could be spouting surreal nonsense, which wouldn't actually surprise me!

The set is centered on the three long tracks, which use building themes to great effect. The almost militaristic Butch being as close as they come to Zeuhl. The album ends with Modestine, a near 20-minute epic of punky metronomic intensity, as ever accompanied by declamatory singing. Eventually it slows to a very wiggy Gong-psychedelic section near the end. Although Jack Dupon certainly has its own sound, Guapo fans should also find something here to like here.

The whole album is brought to life on the separately available DVD concert film, Les ronfleurs dorment ("Snorers sleep"), a truly surrealistic work, with the band in character and in costume, led by guitarist and vocalist Gregory Pozzoli and interspersed with sequences of clay animation and other weird, short video sequences. It obviously helps if you can understand French, but the whole effect is intentionally dislocating and bizarre, much in the style of 200 Motels or Joe's Garage.

Taking one song at random, the alien funk of Raymond comes alive on the video, and the whole thing shows that this band is a highly theatrical, as well as a consummately musical unit. For some reason the DVD made me think of Knifeworld, although musically there are few, if any similarities. You'll just have to watch it for yourself to see if you agree. There are occasional glimpses of the small crowd, some in party hats, dancing and transported away to the strange and mesmerising world of Jack Dupon.

Jack Dupon are fairly obviously a band that has no desire to break out of its niche, as they play an iconoclastic and uncompromising music that makes absolutely no concessions to commerciality. This is avant-progressive music in its more willful guise, and it is not "prog" in the slightest. Only the adventurous need apply, and you probably guessed, I quite like it.

(Note that the CD and DVD are not a package, and are available separately.)
Roger Trenwith: DVD: 7 out of 10

Orchestre Celesti - The Court of Miracles Vol. 1

Orchestre Celesti - The Court of Miracles Vol. 1
Country of Origin: Italy
Format: Digital
Record Label: independent
Catalogue #: N/A
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 56:22
Info: Orchestre Celesti
Samples: Orchestre Celesti on Bandcamp
Track List:
Hiroshima Mon Amour (piano solo) (2:26), Air Dancer II (10:06), Gentlemen (6:54), The Court of Miracles (5:55), Eye of the Neeedle (8:07), Repetita Juvant (6:09), Academic Exercise (6:25), Tomorrow Never Knows (4:32), Dirty & Electric n 12 (5:52)
This is Orchestre Celesti (OC)'s fifth album. The album is dedicated to the loving memory of the parents of Frederico Fantacone. They have both passed away within the last two years. As with the previous albums all songs were written, arranged, performed and produced by Frederico Fantacone who is also known as the Orcheste Celesti. There are two exceptions to the songs being written by Frederico and these are Hiroshima Mon Amour and Tomorrow Never Knows; the latter of these two songs being an instrumental cover version of an old Beatles song.

The liner notes state that OC uses the cheapest possible equipment and instruments. If you take that into account, the production of The Court of Miracles is an astounding masterpiece. Then again, in our modern world a lot can be accomplished with equipment of any choice of price range. As long as you have the ability to make the best of it. And that is what shows on this album, OC surely is an incredible musician. He has the ability to create 9 wonderful melodic songs. Not only that, he did it all on his own, which says a lot about his persistence and his talent as well.

Not a dull moment, not one bad track can be found on the court of miracles and even the two cover songs stand up remarkably good. Both the soloing on the piano for Hiroshima Mon Amour and the wonderful arrangement of the old Beatles song Tomorrow Never Knows are absolutely brilliant. It must be said that OC has made a great step forward in the time zone his music fits in: previous releases have been leaning very much towards classical music and The Court of Miracles is absolutely different in that respect.

This is fresh and modern and uplifting and weird and, above all, great music. OC has the ability to change tempo's and throw in great effects, making it seem very effortlessly in doing so and thus building an album that is a treat for one's ears. Point of attention here might be that of course you must by all means like keyboard wizardry and instrumental music. If that is the case, I guarantee you an hour's worth of splendid music.
Gert Hulshof: 7.5 out of 10

RPWL - A Show Beyond Man and Time

RPWL - A Show Beyond Man and Time
Country of Origin: Germany
Format: 2CD/DVD
Record Label: Metal Mind records
Catalogue #: Mass cd 1475/ MMP DVD0208
Year of Release: 2013
Time: 52:18 / 43:00 / approx. 115 min.
Info: RPWL
Track List:
CD 1: Transformed (3:00), We Are What We Are (The Keeper) (10:45), Beyond Man and Time (The Blind) (6:38), Unchain the Earth (The Scientist) (7:13), The Ugliest Man (The Ugly) (9:02), The Road of Creation (The Creator) (6:11), Somewhere in Between (The Dream of Saying Yes) (9:32)
CD 2: The Shadow (6:59), The Wise in the Desert (6:10), The Fisherman (17:35), The Noon (4:37), Roses (7:43)
DVD: same tracks as on the 2CD, with additional interview, photos, etc.
RPWL once was an abbreviation of the names of all band members, but this was way back when. Currently only two members of the original line-up remain in the band and they are the main contributors to whatever the band does. Kalle Wallner (guitar) and Yogi Lang (vocals, keyboards) are that core and they are joined by Marc Turriaux (drums), Marcus Jehle (keyboards) and Werner Taus (bass). The band will probably never completely lose their stigma of starting out as a Pink Floyd cover band even after almost 15 years of creativity in making their own music with a recognizable own sound. Not only Yogi Lang's vocals inspire that thought, it is the sound of RPWL that can immediately be recognized. In March 2012 the album Beyond Man and Time was released a concept album; a fine piece of musicianship and creativity. Following the release the inevitable tour was programmed. For the tour aptly called A Show Beyond Man and Time it was decided that Yogi Lang was to perform each individual song in an outfit for the character. It is good to be reviewing both the album and the dvd of the show. Listening alone already gives a great idea of what RPWL in the current line-up are capable of musically.

The massive and open sound of the studio versions of the songs, could hardly be bettered. Still, the sound is even better in this live performance. Of course, live-recording has improved a lot over the years. A comparison with live albums from the '70's is not done. Yet, when comparing the recording to more recent works of other progressive acts, it becomes clear that this particular recording is of high quality.

It is well known that Yogi Lang is not only a vocalist/keyboard player but an entertainer as well, bringing alive the personages of Beyond Man and Time. The performance of a complete album is seen more and more these days, especially speaking of concept albums. That was just what the album was about and the concept for the live performances worked rather well. Bringing with them Ray Wilson of Genesis and the less proggy Stiltskin fame and featuring him in the performance of Roses was an absolute treat for the Polish concert visitors.

The recording is, as stated, impeccable. Moreover the extras on the DVD make the purchase more worthwhile. Seeing this in the flesh probably is the best thing, but the DVD is comes in a very close second if you didn't get the chance to attend a show.
Gert Hulshof: 7 out of 10

Todd Rundgren - At the BBC 1972-1982

Todd Rundgren - At the BBC 1972-1982
Country of Origin: USA
Format: 3CD/DVD
Record Label: Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue #: ECLEC 42469
Year of Release: 2014
Time: CD 1: 46:55
CD 2: 57:41
CD 3: 59:49
DVD: 69:00
Info: Todd Rundgren
Track List:
CD 1: I Saw The Light (3:54), It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference (4:39), Piss Aaron (10:03), Hello It's Me (4:37), Be Nice To Me (4:28), Black Maria (5:29), Real Man (4:57), The Seven Rays (8:44)
CD 2: Freedom Fighters (5:52), Mister Triscuits (10:12), Something's Coming (3:05), The Last Ride (4:43), Sunset Boulevard/Le Feel Internacionale (5:35), Heavy Metal Kids (4:38), The Wheel (7:13), Open My Eyes (4:06), Sons Of 1984 (4:07), Do Ya (4:27), Couldn't I Just Tell You (3:43)
CD 3: Mountain Top and Sunrise/Communion With The Sun (7:58), Love Of The Common Man (4:09), Sunburst Finish (8:48), Jealousy (5:03), Windows (4:29), Singring And The Glass Guitar (26:40), Utopia Theme (2:39)
DVD: Real Man, The Seven Rays, Bearsville Picnic, Love Of The Common Man, It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference, Too Far Gone, Can We Still Be Friends, The Song of the Viking, Compassion, Lysistrata, Tiny Demons, Time Heals (Promotional Video), One World, A Dream Goes On Forever
The problem with being a Todd Rundgren fan is that with new recordings, you never know which Todd is going to turn up. Will it be Todd the lounge singer, Todd the soul singer, Todd the power-pop or Todd the progger? Here you are on safer ground with these live BBC recordings from Todd's golden period. You get Todd the progger and Todd the master pop tunesmith.

Disc 1 is an entirely mono disc. The BBC recorded in mono for budgetary reasons! This live recording has Todd playing the pop masterpieces from the Something/Anything era. They are self-accompanied, though on some Todd uses backing tapes he'd brought with him. Todd is in fine voice and the recording is of great quality.

There is a tension evident between the backing tapes and Todd's vocal lines. He seems to strain occasionally against the fixed tempo of the tape. Wishing, I suspect, to be more dynamic in his approach. However, the only downside in this concert of pop gems, is the appearance of Todd the raconteur, on Piss Aaron. The track in its studio recording is a slight and throwaway comedy song. Here, it is extended by explanations to ten minutes in length and it really outstays its welcome. I can't imagine playing this more than once.

The last two tracks on this disc are from Todd's prog-rock band Utopia. This is the four piece incarnation of Utopia, featuring Todd as vocalist and guitarist alongside Roger Powell on keyboards, John 'Willie' Wilcox on drums and John Siegler on bass, with Luther Vandross and Anthony Hinton on backing vocals.

The excellent Real Man and the funky The Seven Rays, are a blast; Roger Powell's synth work on the later is an absolute joy.

It is the same Utopia line up on Disc 2, recorded for a BBC Radio One In Concert radio broadcast. This has material from some of Todd's solo work, as well as from two Utopia albums; Todd Rundgren's Utopia and the then recently released, Another Live.

This is a straight, no overdubs, two channel stereo recording of Utopia's live London debut. The beauty of these BBC In Concert recordings is their ability to capture the raw power and immediacy of the gigs. Here ,they have caught Utopia in all their pomp and prime.

The tracks range from the garage-rock, almost proto-punk, of Open My Eyes and Heavy Metal Kids; to the synthesiser and guitar prog wig-out, that is the superb Mister Triscuits. Even Todd the soul singer makes an appearance on The Last Ride, where he gives Luther Vandross a run for his money. Another highlight, on a disc of many, is the acoustic mysticism of The Wheel. All in all, then, an absolute cracker of a live recording.

Disc 3 sees a change in the Utopia personnel. Kasim Sulton comes in on bass and vocals. Another immediate and powerful BBC Radio One In Concert recording; the set list focuses on the Ra album. This disc spotlights how much Utopia had become a band over intervening two years; with members sharing lead vocal duties and harmonising superbly.

The diamond in this collection is Love of the Common Man, a song that is head and shoulders above the material from Ra which I always thought was a little lack lustre. Alhough the superb playing by the band lifts the Ra material.

However, there is one song that cannot be saved by sheer musicianship. It is Singring And The Glass Guitar, which is essentially (a tongue firmly in cheek) excuse for the musicians to show off their, not inconsiderable, chops. This electrified fairy tale, I'm sure was a good watch, but in recordings it just comes over as indulgent. I wonder if it eventually prompted the band's move to the shorter power-pop tunes, found on the albums that followed Ra.

So to Disc 4 the DVD: all the footage here comes from the BBC's (then flagship) serious rock music show, The Old Grey Whistle Test. The two track set from Utopia is that featured on Disc 1 and works even better with the visuals. Look out, especially, for Roger Powell's somewhat distracting, skin-tight jump suit.

The frankly bonkers Bearsville Picnic footage consists of excerpts from Singring And The Glass Guitar and a short interview with Todd Rundgren. It is a laugh out loud hoot, if unintentionally so, as Utopia look like they are taking this nonsense seriously. It is however, worth a watch for its sheer audacity and blind disregard for the onslaught of punk which was happening at the same time.

To make up for that, there is the solo Todd performance from 1982. This is an absolute knockout and on its own would be a 10/10 disc. I had seen Todd on this tour in Birmingham, U.K. and this just brought it all back. A stunning collection of tunes played solo (no backing tapes here) with Todd in very fine voice, accompanying himself on piano, acoustic guitar and electric guitar. The only shame is that the show broadcast was so short compared to the show I witnessed. But still, fantastic.

Conclusion: If, like me, you like Todd the progger, Todd the master pop tunesmith and Todd the souls singer, then get this collection, you won't be disappointed. Newcomers to Todd world may be wary, but you could do a lot worse than to start with this collection.
Martin Burns: DVD: 9 out of 10

Von Hertzen Brothers - New Day Rising

Von Hertzen Brothers - New Day Rising
Country of Origin: Finland
Format: CD
Record Label: Spinefarm Records
Catalogue #: 716670
Year of Release: 2015
Time: 47:44
Info: Von Hertzen Brothers
Track List:
New Day Rising (5:30), You Don't Know My Name (3:56), Trouble (5:02), Black Rain (4:08), Hold Me Up (3:32), Love Burns (4:48), Dreams (3:23), Sunday Child (6:45), The Destitute (5:44), Hibernating Heart (4:46)
The Finnish Von Hertzen Brothers are back again with their latest release, New Day Rising, to continue in their pursuit of worldwide conquest after good chart success and accolades for their 2013 output, Nine Lives. But does their latest album stand a good chance of accomplishing that objective?

Kicking off with a Muse-like vitality is the title-track and latest single. With bucket loads of grandiosity and punch, this opener merits being played loudly. It clearly has the kind of Olympic-sized swagger needed to fill a stadium. Hitting you with a wall of sound that builds on a relentless, pounding beat, singer Mikko von Hertzen yells and screams like a young Chris Cornell, matched with some Queen-flavoured vocal harmonies that can be heard in fellow Nordic contemporaries, Moon Safari. However, unlike the Swedes this isn't prog, instead we have a gutsy hard rock style that comes at you mercilessly, like a dark ominous juggernaut that wants to drive you off the road.

If there's any doubt of the band's bruising intentions, the sheer unyielding pace of You Don't Know My Name will convince you that you are listening to something straight-up and forthright, something that wants to hunt you down until you can't run anymore. Despite no let up, there is a glimmer of more than just face-smacking, cranked-up guitar in the vocal layering, which adds some tasty depth and catchiness to the chorus segments. Turning this up high on your car stereo should however come with a health warning, as you are likely to lose track of your speed and lose your licence.

Trouble follows and slows the pace down, dropping the proceedings into a low, grinding key that mirrors the likes of Soundgarden, especially in the eye-watering, echoing vocals. Certainly it's every bit as impressive as something from that band's 90s, million-seller, Superunknown.

Just when you think you have the measure of this release, the new material has the ability to throw-up surprises, and the following two songs, Black Rain and Hold Me Up substitute the brutal riffing for a softer, distinctly pop-like sentiment, especially the latter which has hit single running through it. Remarkably, Hold Me Up has such mainstream appeal that it would not sound out of place on a Take That album (seriously!) and displays an impressive scope and diversity that keeps you on your toes. There is clear evidence of a fearless sophistication in the song writing here.

Yet more wide-ranging composition can be heard in the excellent Dreams, a bouncy, folk, toe-tapper with a notable old upright piano-sound finding similarities to the Waterboys classic, A Girl Called Johnny. Next there are hints of Anathema in emotive Sunday's Child as it builds into an exciting, racy tempo midway through, after an initial slowly-building beginning.

Mixing a dirty bass with swirly keys and yet more superb vocal crafting, The Destitute mixes a few of the elements from the tracks before it and stands as an excellent example of how well the band can layer melodies, write a catchy chorus, deliver a mid-section that soars with passion and in general shows the top-drawer abilities these certain future stars can achieve.

The album closes with Hibernating Heart and there is the first real taste of something altogether more prog. We've a delicate guitar and flute, combined with Mikko von Hertzen delivering a real spine-tingling power through his fragile, falsetto voice. It signals the end of an album which has a huge mixture of sounds and tastes, tenderness and intensity. Like a box of chocolates, this package has hard and soft centres and choices galore to tempt you. If there was any form of criticism, it might be that there is too much variety on offer and perhaps the selection box album doesn't know what it is. But in truth its broadness in material is its greatest strength.

Is it prog? Barely, but don't let that matter, the richness of song crafting with a superb, all-star production makes this album a very listenable experience and one that has the potential to give Steven Wilson and Muse a run for their money in the popularity stakes and cement this band's place as a major success.
Eric Perry: 9 out of 10

Rick Wakeman - In the Nick of Time: Live in 2003

Rick Wakeman - In the Nick of Time: Live in 2003
Country of Origin: UK
Format: CD
Record Label: Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue #: ECLEC2462
Year of Release: 2014
Time: 61:38
Info: Rick Wakeman
Track List:
Catherine Parr / Beware Your Enemies (11:07), Out There (13:17), No Earthly Connection (8:06), Dance of a Thousand Lights (5:48), The Cathedral in the Sky (10:36), White Rock (3:15), Wurm (9:29)
Rick Wakeman has a characteristic sound and style that appeals to a diverse audience of prog fans. It is in full evidence in Esoteric's re-mastered edition of In the Nick of Time - Live In 2003. The albums compositions include swift changes of tempo, complex time signatures and skilfully competent arrangements which draw the listener in to experience and taste a range of styles.

As one might expect, Wakeman's lush array of keyboard effects often take centre stage, but all of the players share important roles. The recording is heavily weighted by strong tonsil shaking vocals. Airy tongue in cheek keyboard posturing helps the music to majestically soar. Twisting guitar licks provide a raw edge. The release is driven by a highly competent rhythm section. Each instrumentalist complements the other, and the music is successfully blended to reproduce what must have been, a highly professional and striking live experience. The quality of the re mastered recording is excellent. It is, relatively easy to imagine the excitement that must have been generated by the performance.

The players chosen for the 2003 Tour to support Wakeman's then latest release Out There, comprised of Ashley Holt vocals , Ant Glynn Guitar , Lee Pomeroy bass and Tony Fernandez Drums. The resulting live album was aptly entitled In the Nick of Time because regular singer Damian Wilson could not make the tour and he was replaced by Holt at the last minute.

Despite some dynamic and enticingly complex symphonic moments, the main weakness of the album lies in the rock based ambience that bubbles to the surface in many tracks. Singer Holt, who had appeared on three of Wakeman's earlier releases including Myths and Legends, provides a powerful and genuinely expressive voice. In this respect, Holt's voice is perfectly suited to the musical canvas and palette of instruments chosen by Wakeman for this live performance.

Unfortunately, Holt's interpretation of the vocal parts creates an often hackneyed and clichéd soundscape. This gives an impression of a collective ensemble performance, where inventive and progressive musical ideas struggle to find a lasting foothold in an inhospitable rock strewn landscape. In this respect, the medallion gleaming,and chest hair encrusted, warbling of, No Earthly Connections was particularly unappealing.

Out There sounded formulaic, and dated, despite its numerous shifts of tempo and the abundance of magical keyboard moments littering its thirteen minutes. Apart from being dominated by ear - jarring vocals and trite banal lyrics, The Cathedral in the Sky is also awash with appealingly ethereal organ sounds and a pre-recorded choir. The instrumental section which evolves at the concluding part of the track is uplifting and pulls the piece grudgingly from its shadowy pit of mediocrity.

I much preferred the four instrumental tracks that featured on the disc. These had a greater vibrancy and a subtlety of approach that was not evident in significant parts of the compositions that contained vocals. I particularly liked Dance of a Thousand Lights which featured some inspired and dazzling piano work to illuminate the piece.

The most interesting and by far the hardest edged instrumental track was Wurm. This is an all-out assault on the senses. It involves an interpretation of the concluding section of Yes' Starship Trooper. In this piece, bassist Pomeroy flourishes with some flamboyant bass soloing. Guitarist Glynn blazes and flickers in a lengthy spotlight on his talent .As the piece hurries towards its conclusion Wakeman produces some incredibly fluid moog moments.

Overall, I found In the Nick Of Time a frustrating and somewhat disappointing release. I am confident though, that many will appreciate Wakeman's sophisticated and skilful performance. Those who like their prog with an emphasis on rock will also find much to appreciate. They may also discover many other aspects to enjoy within its hour long running time.
Owen Davies: 5.5 out of 10
Album Reviews