Album Reviews

Issue 2024-014

Emerson, Lake & Powell — The Complete Collection

Emerson, Lake & Powell - The Complete Collection
Studio Album: The Score (9:07), Learning To Fly (3:50), The Miracle (7:01), Touch And Go (3:39), Love Blind (3:11), Step Aside (3:47), Lay Down Your Guns (4:23), Mars, Bringer Of War (7:55), The Loco-Motion (4:36), Vacant Posession (4:42), The Score (single edit) (6:11)
Live in Concert: The Score (9:03), Touch And Go (3:43), Knife Edge (5:50), Pirates (13:13, From The Beginning (3:39), Lucky Man (4:25), Fanfare For The Common Man (7:31), Mars Bringer Of War / Drum solo (12:47), Medley (Karn Evil 9 - 2nd Impression, America, Rondo) (8:37)
The Sprocket Sessions: The Score (9:21), Learning To Fly (3:58), The Miracle (6:44), Knife Edge (5:38), Tarkus (10:18), Pictures At An Exhibition (5:34), Lucky Man (excerpt) (0:47), Still... You Turn Me on (3:09), Love Blind (3:15), Mars Bringer Of War (12:03), Touch And Go (3:35), Pirates (13:25)
Patrick McAfee

After the release of their much maligned, Love Beach album in 1978, Emerson, Lake and Palmer disbanded. It was, at the time, a sad end to one of the all-time great progressive rock bands. The next few years found its members venturing into solo careers, film soundtracks and in Palmer's case, chart topping success with the band Asia. When Emerson and Lake began talks to reform ELP in 1984, it was clear that Palmer would not be available.

They instead turned to Cozy Powell, who was an ideal choice for many reasons. The fact that his last name began with the letter "P" was certainly a bonus. This new version of "ELP" released their debut album in May 1986, and it was a respectable commercial success. The well received USA tour that followed included songs from the new album as well as ELP classics. Regrettably, disputes and management issues forced a quick end to the band. Emerson, Lake And Powell - The Complete Collection, offers a history of this short-lived, but exciting musical collaboration. It includes newly remastered versions of their debut, its bonus tracks, live album and a rehearsal recording called The Sprocket Sessions.

Considering the landscape of popular music in 1986, the band's sole studio release catered to few modern trends of the time. An unabashed homage to ELP's past, it contained all the elements that made the original trio famous. Progressive epics, ballads and a classical music remake in, Mars, The Bringer of War. Regressive as it was, the album provided what many fans were hoping for at the time. Thirty-eight years later, it represents the last true hurrah of ELP. A 1990's reunion with Palmer resulted in two more studio albums, but they lacked the old school aggression of Emerson, Lake and Powell's debut.

The band was a powerful live act, which is validated by both Live In Concert and The Sprocket Sessions. Previously released in limited form, their inclusion here provides a largely comprehensive view. It is especially interesting to hear the heavier slant that Powell brought to ELP classics such as Pirates and Fanfare For The Common Man. This release would feel more complete had they included the entire Lakeland, Florida concert that was used for the live album. There is also a fabled concert filmed by MTV, that never aired. It would be wonderful to have that as a part of this set, but regrettably, there is no confirmation that the video footage still exists.

Regardless, this is an excellent box set. The remastering, particularly on the studio album, is a fantastic upgrade. Emerson, Lake And Powell - The Complete Collection is highly recommended and stands as a tribute to these three musical legends.

Duncan Harris — Hawkwind - On Track...

Duncan Harris - Hawkwind - On Track...
Jan Buddenberg

Duncan Harris' book Hawkwind — On Track... which I originally reviewed in 2020 is the second volume in Sonicbond's popular On Track series to be issued as a revised edition. Taking into account Hawkwind's steady navigation towards a vast future of new live and studio offerings this update makes perfect sense.

Expanding the book with twelve devoted analytical pages to these albums (Carnivorous, Somnia, and The Future Never Waits) Harris also found time and space to give the book's appearance and contents a cosmetic overhaul so it better fits the On Track standard. Besides an updated photo section it now for instance shows a much clearer table of contents that allocates albums underneath its corresponding chapter, and sees a cautious start in allowing a handful of album descriptions to individually start afresh on a new page.

Next to this Harris also seized opportunity to correct and clarify a few hazy facts and apply several minute re-arrangements to his paragraphs whilst keeping his engaging narrative perfectly intact. All of these modifications, together with Sonicbond's welcomed desire to use a different shade of grey for album tagging, makes this revised version without doubt the superior copy it sets out to be.

It's however not without fault. It for instance still omits We Two Are One from Spacehawks. And Harris' statement that 'the bibliography of the first edition has had to left out' is fairly besides the truth seeing it is actually featured and even indexed directly opposite to these words in the book's contents.

More importantly though Hawkwind recently announced the launch of their 36th studio album Stories From Time And Space on the 5th of April. As a forgivable flaw to the series this joyous occasion, a mere two months after its re-publishing, obvious makes the book ever so shortly 'outdated' and already in need of a future update. A rewrite it now actually needs in light of Harris' statement that, based on official question replies on Facebook, 'Hawkwind would no longer be touring and that their Royal Albert Hall gig in September 2023 would be their 'Last London Show' ever' which contradicts with Hawkwind's 2024 tour plans which will take them to various locations spread all over the UK.

Admittedly London is not part of this tour yet, but with Hawkwind being in high worldwide demand my guess is it will only be a matter of time before the masters of the universe actually touch down in the UK capitol for a gig or two. Fingers crossed they will prove me right and at the same go on to deliver new studio albums so Harris can expand and further revise his marvellous voluminous read once again.

If you're a Hawkwind devotee who missed out the first time, then this is once again a highly recommendable read worthy of your buying attention!

Mandalaband — Legacy — The story of the Mandalaband 1975 - 1978

41:05, 40:29, 57:05, 61:21
Mandalaband - Legacy — The story of the Mandalaband 1975 - 1978
Mandalaband: Om Mani Padme Hum (20:51), Determination (5:49), Song For A King (5:20), Roof Of The World (4:31), Looking In (4:44)
The Eye Of Wendor: The Eye Of Wendor (4:46), Florian's Song (2:48), Ride To The City (3:12), Almar's Tower (1:56), Like The Wind (2:47), The Tempest (1:04), Dawn Of A New Day (4:07), Departure From Carthilias (2:56), Elsethea (2:45), Witch Of Waldow Wood (4:33), Silesandre (3:30), Aenord's Lament (1:52), Funeral of The King (1:31), Coronation Of Damien (2:22)
Mandalaband (David Rohl 2024 Remix): Om Mani Padme Hum (20:44), Determination (5:48), Song For A King (5:20), Roof Of The World (4:28), Looking In (4:38), Om Mani Padme Hum (1st Movement) (Camel Studios demo) (6:54), Looking In (CBS Studios Chrysalis live audition) (4:51), Roof Of The World (Indigo Sound demo) (4:32)
The Eye Of Wendor (David Rohl 2024 Remix): The Eye Of Wendor (4:50), Florian's Song (2:52), Ride To The City (3:09), Almar's Tower (1:57), Like The Wind (2:59), The Tempest (1:12), Dawn Of A New Day (4:03), Departure From Carthilias (3:07), Elsethea (2:46), Witch Of Waldow Wood (4:37), Silesandre (3:16), Aenord's Lament (1:52), Funeral of The King (1:28), Coronation Of Damien (2:24), Dawn Of A New Day (single mix) (4:16), The Eye Of Wendor (Indigo Sound demo) (4:32), Witch Of Waldow Wood (Indigo Sound demo) (4:38), Silesandre (Indigo Sound demo)(3:26), The Tempest / Dawn Of A New Day (single edit) (3:58), Florian's Song / Ride To The City (single edit) (3:39), Aenord's Song (Utopia Studio monitor mix) (4:12)
Theo Verstrael

In the early 70s, composer and producer David Rohl was consuming whatever new music came within his reach. Being inspired by all he experienced he initiated Mandalaband as a real band consisting of Dave Durant (lead vocals), Vic Emerson (keyboards), Ashley Mulford (guitars), John Simpson (bass, backing vocals) and Tony Cresswell (drums) and Rohl on additional keyboards and backing vocals. With this line-up, the Mandalaband managed to gain interest of both Chrysalis Records and Music Lore which led to a rather complex situation when the band started to record their debut album. Music Lore didn't allow Rohl to produce the album because they preferred one of their own top producers. Deeply frustrated, Rohl subsequently abandoned the band, set off to work with Indigo Sound as Chief Engineer and tried to forget all about it. But the original recordings were not to the satisfaction of the record company so in the end Rohl was asked to use his producers talents to enhance the recorded tapes. The result was the Mandalaband album, unfortunately only famous amongst far too few people as it failed to sell well in spite of many positive reviews.

Maybe the brave opening song, the more than 20-minute, four-part Tibetan chant Om Mani Padme Hum, has repelled many potential listeners. It's a very dynamic, varied, and energetic song, combining hard rock (parts 1 and 4), jazzy and fully orchestral parts (part 2) and prog (parts 1, 3 and 4) in one melting pot with lyrics that almost nobody understood. That is really a shame as this song still is, even today, a strange yet beautiful piece of music that deserves far more attention than it has received.

The other songs on this debut leaned more towards AOR / hard-rock and pop with quite heavy guitar outbursts in Determination, Roof Of The World. Looking In proving again that Mulford is a more than competent guitar player. Fans who like the proggy side of bands like Deep Purple, Uriah Heep and Procol Harum will find plenty to enjoy on this debut.

The strange situation that the Mandalaband had recorded a full album that was primarily composed by Rohl who was no longer directly involved in the band, developed unexpectedly. The songs the remaining band members proposed for the second album were rejected by the record company because they didn't sound like Mandalaband. Thereupon, three members of the band decided to go forward with these songs under the moniker of Sad Café which brought them moderate success. That offered Rohl the opportunity to develop Mandalaband further in the direction he wanted. Being firmly involved in the music industry by then as producer of, amongst others, Moody Blues and Barclay James Harvest he asked for the cooperation of a long list of renowned artists such as Justin Hayward, Maddy Prior, Eric Stewart, and all members of BJH.

It was because of the involvement of the latter that I got to know the Mandalaband. Being a longtime fan of BJH as well as the Moodies I was also interested in their side projects. Thus I bought the Eye Of Wendor album, also known as Mandalaband II. I immediately liked it because of the lush melodies, the enormous variation, the fine orchestrations and the overall romantic mood for the detailed review by DPRP's Geoff Feakes). This second album is more quiet in overall mood featuring shorter songs connected mingled with several short instrumentals, several vocalists, less jazz and more real orchestra, a choir and more mellotron because of Woolly Wolstenholme's influence on the songwriting and arrangements. With its grandiose orchestral opening, the soulful instrumental Ride To The City, the ethereal Like The Wind, the melancholic Dawn Of A New Day and the romantic Aenord's Lament the album will surely appeal to fans of the aforementioned bands as well as of bands like Alan Parsons Project and Kayak.

Both albums were re-released in 2010 as a 2CD set entitled Resurrection by Legend Records, containing new remixes by Rohl himself as well as several bonus tracks. The sound quality had improved significantly and the bonus tracks were a welcome addition although nothing too spectacular.

Although Resurrection is still available, Rohl apparently decided that both albums deserved another reissue, this time as a 4CD box or 2LP set. That 2LP contains the 2023 remasters only, by the way. Packed in stunning artwork presenting the original intricate mandala painting of the debut on the cover, which was painted by David and Gily Rohl, this box offers the original albums on disc 1 and 2 while completely new remixes appear on disc 3 and 4. CD 3 contains all bonus material that was also released on the Resurrection set, but on CD4, new bonus tracks can be found: the single edit of the gorgeous Dawn Of A New Day with Hayward on lead vocals and three single edits in which two songs of the album are combined. The latter sounds quite special but most of the songs on the album already flow smoothly into each other.

The main question is of course whether this extensive package was worth the trouble to make. Although I'm not completely convinced as the Resurrection set was nothing short of fantastic, I'm inclined to conclude that Rohl's new efforts proved worthwhile. First of all he has succeeded in making the sound quality of the mixes even better, crystal clear and with a very good separation of all the instruments, of which especially the percussion instruments gain. The 2010 reissue was a huge step forward, he makes these new versions sound even better, which is highly admirable. Furthermore, the new bonus tracks are a nice addition although the musical differences with the album tracks prove to be very subtle. But the most important reason is that Rohl's efforts lead towards well deserved new attention for both albums.

Yet, if that was one of Rohl's objectives with this reissue then something quite peculiar is at hand. For on the bands website nor on the Legend Records website this reissue is mentioned at all. Both websites are fully operational yet hopelessly out of date, presenting the 2011 release of the Mandalaband IV album as the latest news. There is no Bandcamp page, no other social media outing save some links to reviews of this new set on the Mandalaband Facebook page, just about nothing to promote or market this new set. Searching the internet for this set leads to numerous webshops offering it as a 4CD set or 2LP set. Why Rohl reissued these albums is simply nowhere to be found. And that certainly doesn't help to gain more attention.

Yet I can only hope that this legendary albums will at last find the wide appreciation they deserve.

The Pineapple Thief — It Leads To This

The Pineapple Thief - It Leads To This
Put It Right (5:30), Rubicon (4:37), It Leads to This (4:43), The Frost (5:40), All That's Left (4:26), Now It's Yours (5:59), Every Trace of Us (4:30), To Forget (5:20)
Martin Burns

Twenty-five years or so after forming the Pineapple Thief continue to make music that innovates with their sound world. One that mixes progressive and alternative rock forging an identity that lies somewhere between Radiohead and Porcupine Tree but remains definitively their own.

On their latest release, It Leads To This, songwriter Bruce Soord with early input in the writing process from Gavin Harrison again explores in concise, edgy and fat-free songs the state of the world without the hectoring preachiness that can often infest these kind of works in lesser hands.

The sound-world that The Pineapple Thief have used for this new album is one that contains a bit more crunch, I assume from the addition of their touring guitarist Beren Matthews. He joins the regular team, well since 2016's You Wilderness at least, of Bruce Soord (guitars, vocals), Jon Sykes (bass, backing vocals), Steve Kitch (keyboards), Gavin Harrison (drums, percussion).

As you would expect in progressive rock this is fabulously played material that is brilliantly mixed and produced making a detailed listen easy on the ear. And to be honest this is a multi-faceted diamond sharp collection of songs.

From the opener, Put It Right, you get sparkling guitars, the dark and moody synths below and subtle drumming that powers the song along. But holding it all together is Jon Sykes' lithe and unsung bass playing that has always been the anchor of The Pineapple Thief's sound. There is also a strange, short but wonderful, non-solo guitar solo. Sounds like a contradiction but have a listen.

Slashing guitars introduce the best track Rubicon that plays with the template established by the opener, though the keys get downplayed, and the guitars turned up. A fizzing anger just seems to be held in check as Soord criticices those whose 'cold dark heart marches on'.

The title track has less is more drumming and the keyboards play a major role echoing those on the Someone Here Is Missing album still my favourite album of theirs I think. This also goes darker and heavier in various sections to great effect. Following on The Frost again goes to the heavier end of classic rock, but it is held in check by subtle drum fills and electric piano in the quieter sections.

There is an aching sadness to the gentle opening section of All That's Left, but it is not a ballad and as its tempo rises Sykes' bass leads the way into an energetic heaviness that also finds time for scorching synth before winding down. A quiet loud bounce pinballs its way through Now It's Yours. There is a promise of going prog-metal on Every Trace of Us is constantly and cleverly delayed. The album ends with the Floydian flourish of To Forget.

So The Pineapple Thief have again delivered a collection of detailed mini-epics on It Leads To This. I have prevaricated quite a bit between as to what rating to give to this, but I think this will hold up into my end of year best of even though we aren't quite in spring yet. If you have any liking for The Pineapple Thief then have no qualms about adding this one to your collection. If you are new to the band then this is a good place to start. And if you are smitten with them then have a look at the other 28 reviews (use the search function on that have been written on PTP's output.

Album Reviews