Album Reviews

Issue 2018-048

Twelfth Night - Fact And Fiction - The Definitive Edition

Twelfth Night - Fact And Fiction - The Definitive Edition
Country of Origin: UK
Year of Release: 1982/2018
Time: CD 1: 60:19, CD 2: 75:06, CD 3: 73:22
Track List:
CD 1, Studio 1982: We Are Sane (10:27), Human Being (7:50), This City (4:04), World Without End (1:54), Fact And Fiction (3:59), The Poet Sniffs A Flower (3:51), Creepshow (11:57), Love Song (5:40), Being Human (3:56), Paradise Locked (1:23), East Of Eden (3:27), Eleanor Rigby (3:22)
CD 2, Live 1983 - 2012: We Are Sane (12.49), Human Being (7.56), This City (3.59), World Without End (1.26), Fact And Fiction (5:53), The Poet Sniffs A Flower (3.42), Creepshow (13:33), Love Song (6:26), Fact And Fiction (4:44); Demos: 1982 - Constant (Fact And Fiction) (2:27), Fistful Of Bubbles (3:18), Leader (2:41), Dancing In The Dream (2:59), Creepshow (After The Bomb Drops) (3.50)
CD 3, Covers and Interpretations 1983 - 2018 - Dean Baker - Electro Sane (1:25), Mark Spencer - We Are Sane (11:01), Pendragon - Human Being (6:05), Tim Bowness - This City (4:35), Coburg - This City (5:26), Clive Nolan - World Without End (2.23), Galahad - Fact And Fiction (5:17), Mark Spencer featuring Lee Abraham - The Poet Sniffs A Flower (3:48), Twelfth Night - Creepyshow (11:49), Alan Reed & Kim Seviour - Love Song (6:04), Axe - Don’t Make Me Laugh (3:46), Eh! Geoff Mann Band - Fact And Fiction (4:21), Eh! Geoff Mann Band - Love Song (7:02)

Over the past 10 years, F2 Music have been trawling the Twelfth Night back catalogue for their excellent ‘Definitive Edition’ reissues. The latest to be dusted down and given a new lick of paint is Fact And Fiction, a game changing album for the band and one of the seminal neo-prog releases of the early eighties.

Originally released in December 1982, it was ahead of the game, with Marillion, Pendragon, Pallas, IQ and Solstice all yet to release their debut albums and Galahad and Jadis not forming until the mid-eighties. Whilst the previous Twelfth Night definitive editions have all been double CDs, Fact And Fiction is given the full triple CD treatment.

Twelfth Night spent most of 1982 shaping and recording Fact And Fiction, foregoing live dates in the process. It was their second full-length studio album following Smiling At Grief recorded the previous year, and their first studio release on vinyl (CD technology was still in its infancy). It was also the last studio recording to feature singer Geoff Mann (although he did appear on 1984’s Live And Let Live). The other band members were Clive Mitten (bass and keyboards), Andy Revell (guitars) and Brian Devoil (drums). Keyboardist Rick Battersby had left the band the previous year, so was absent from the recording but he did rejoin by the time Fact And Fiction was released.

CD 1

CD 1 contains the original album remastered plus four tracks recorded for inclusion but omitted when the band decided to take the album in a more proggy direction. East Of Eden and Eleanor Rigby were released as a single instead, and the owner of Revolution Studios in Cheshire liked Twelfth Night’s version of the Beatles classic so much that he allowed the band access to the studio during the night time to record the album. During the day, they rehearsed in a small cellar at Geoff Mann’s house in Salford, Manchester where they were all staying at the time. Geoff’s wife Jane also provided backing vocals on the album.

Viewed today, Fact And Fiction is a harmonious fusion of mid-70s style melodic prog and early 80s synth-pop. Averaging around 10 minutes each, We Are Sane, Human Being_ and Creepshow are awash with Steve Hackett-flavoured guitar, and symphonic keys in the style of The Enid. Shorter songs like This City, the title track and Being Human (an early version of Human Being) bring to the table the contemporary tunefulness of Ultravox, fat bass lines and the gated drum sound that saturated the pop market that year (Phil CollinsIn The Air To Tonight, released the previous year, had a lot to answer for). The synth-pop restyling of Eleanor Rigby also owes a debt to Vienna, Ultravox’s big hit of 1981.

As frontmen go, Geoff Mann was one of a kind. He doesn’t just sing, he acts out the songs in the role-playing, theatrical style of Peter Gabriel. True, he was not the most disciplined of vocalists, often performing with a raw intensity that brings to mind Peter Hamill and Ian Curtis, but he was honest, intelligent and articulate and sang with a rare passion. His socially and politically conscious lyrics on Fact And Fiction target propaganda, conformity and hypocrisy amongst other subjects and were informed by George Orwell’s 1984, a book he had read numerous times.

CD 2

In a departure from the usual live tracks from a specific concert, CD2 contains a live version of every song on Fact And Fiction, selected from various shows between 1983 and 2012. Maintaining the same running order, the majority are previously unreleased and feature various line-ups of the band. The sound quality is mostly excellent, with several mixed by Karl Groom who was also responsible for remastering this collection.

Highlights include We Are Sane and the title song, with Mann in irrepressible form throughout. He was clearly at his best in front of a live audience and although these were his last performances with the band, he was bowing out with a bang, not a whimper. Although both songs were recorded at The Marquee, London in November 1983 they are not the same versions that appear on Live And Let Live.

Mann’s replacement, the versatile Andy Sears sings Human Being and This City, whilst multi-instrumentalist Mark Spencer provides lead vocals on Creepshow and a surprisingly effective heavy rock version of the title song, both recorded in 2012. Throughout, Mitten, Battersby, Revell, Devoil (and later Dean Baker and Roy Keyworth taking timeout from Galahad) handle the instrumental complexities with aplomb.

The five demo tracks that makeup the rest of CD2 were recorded at Matinee Studios, Reading in March 1982, four of which previously saw the light of day on the 2002 reissue of Fact And Fiction. They are an interesting (if not essential) insight into the origins of several songs (albeit with different working titles). The previously unreleased track, After The Bomb Drops, is an early version of the closing section from Creepshow. It is not a million miles from the album version, with Revell’s Gilmour-esque solo fully established.

CD 3

CD 3 is perhaps the icing on the cake, a compilation of cover versions performed by Twelfth Night’s peers, some specifically commissioned for this release. Again the songs are thoughtfully sequenced in the same order as the original album, and whilst I’m not normally a fan of tributes, this disc stands up to repeat plays and as such is a worthy alternative to the original versions.

Mark Spencer’s single-handed take of We Are Sane is impressive, whilst Pendragon’s Human Being, first released in 1994, is a welcome reminder of how Nick Barrett and co. sounded back in the days of The Window Of Life. Tim Bowness and Anastasia Coburg each take a leisurely, rain-soaked stroll through This City, both adding a modernist sheen along the way. Clive Nolan gives World Without End the widescreen, cinematic treatment and Galahad are completely at home with Fact And Fiction, a song they performed live in their early days. Current Galahad guitarist Lee Abraham for his part, adds acoustic light, and metallic shade to the instrumental The Poet Sniffs A Flower.

One of three live tracks on CD 3, a 2010 incarnation of Twelfth Night, blitz their way through a gothic variant of Creepshow (or Creepyshow as they call it) with stunning bass playing from Mitten. Alan Reed (along with Kim Seviour) returns for another sensitive stab at Love Song, which he previously performed on the 1994 Geoff Mann tribute album Mannerisms. If I had to be honest, I prefer that version to the one here, mainly due to Clive Nolan’s stately keyboard arrangement. Also to my ears, Love Song doesn’t entirely work as a duet.

The trio of ‘bonus’ (for want of a better term) tracks on CD3 begins with Nigel ‘Axe’ Atkins singing Don't Make Me Laugh (a.k.a. Fact And Fiction) in October 1983, which presumably was his audition as a potential replacement for Geoff Mann. Compare this with Mann’s own version that follows, performed live with the Eh! Geoff Mann Band (an extremely tight unit) at The Noorderlight, Tilburg, Holland, in May 1992. Fittingly, Mann and his band have the final word on this collection with Love Song, Twelfth Night’s undisputed anthem. Sadly, just nine months later, on 5th February 1993, Geoff Mann died from cancer aged just 36.

This ‘Definitive Edition’ certainly lives up to its name. With over 200 minutes of music, housed in a superb triple fold-out digipak with insightful sleeve notes, this package is more than any fan of Twelfth Night and Fact And Fiction could reasonably ask for. True, you don’t get umpteen (and unnecessary) remixes, but you do get suburb remastering by Karl Groom, bonus tracks, a live version of the entire album and mostly excellent interpretations of each song courtesy of artists who perhaps in someway were themselves influenced by Twelfth Night. Oh and by the way, did I mention that the DPRP’s own Mark Hughes receives a special thanks in the accompanying booklet?

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