Rick Wakeman – Two Sides Of Yes

This disc has slipped out without a mention from Rick or his website. The first
I heard of it was on a Classic Rock Legends Catalogue. It is now also making
advertising in main Magazines. Wondrous Stories normally seem to be ahead of
the rest with their adverts and it is currently on their back page. I guess
advertising will follow elsewhere which will make a nice change for a Rick album.

So what is the disc? Well it is a bit of an oddball really. In 1993 Rick released
‘Greatest Hits’ on which he reworked himself and 7 Yes tracks. Rick hit financial
trouble in the late 1990’s and I believe he had to sell the rights to all his
work prior to about 1997. So Greatest Hits went to a new label. Now it seems
Classic Rock Legends own the rights to the disc or at least 3 of the tracks.
This disc contains 7 tracks and four recently recorded Piano versions ‘Your
Move’, ‘Long Distance’, ‘Close To The Edge’, and ‘The Meeting’, which alternate
with ‘Wondrous Stories’, ‘Don’t Kill The Whale’ and ‘Roundabout’ from ‘Greatest
Hits’. Rick in 1993 was working with Tony Fernandez on Drums and Alan Thompson
on Bass.

I have to confess over the years I haven’t played ‘Greatest Hits’ too much
as in 1993 Rick discovered a setting whereby if he holds a note for a while
it changes tone or pitch at the end. I thought it OK on the ‘Wakeman with Wakeman’
album but I got really fed up with it when he used it again on ‘Greatest Hits’.
I do play the Wakeman plays Wakeman half of the disc from time to time but I
almost never play the Wakeman plays Yes disc as to be honest I found the versions
over long and repetitive.

I am not good at listening to albums where I hear a mix of old and new so I
will review the ‘Greatest Hits’ tracks first.

‘Wondrous Stories’ – When I first heard this version I was disappointed that
the part Rick played on the Yes version is missing to my ears. Rick was the
star of the Yes track to me so I particularly wanted to hear his part. Never
mind though, I am now used to this version and think it is one of the better
arrangements. There is some nice probably fretless bass work from Alan on this.
I am not 100% certain Tony Fernandez actually plays on all Yes tracks. It sounds
like computer drums to me but then Tony can sound like clockwork live to. I
think it is just his style. Rick starts with a flute like voice for the vocal
line. There is also a sound I recognise from ‘Children of Chernobyl’ used in
the Chorus. As I say there is no attempt at Rick’s Chorus lines on this version.
For the 2nd version Rick switches to the voice, which changes at the end. It
is then back to the flute like lead. The backing arrangements are quite complex
but I find myself listening to the lead alone and with the drums it feels a
cheap arrangement. I like the next voice Rick uses then it is back to a milder
version of the sound I am not keen on to finish.

‘Don’t Kill The Whale’ is straight in with "the" voice. Then onto
a pipes type one for the chorus. I like the style of Rick’s playing just not
the settings. Alan is slightly less noticeable on this track. Rick basically
swaps voices back and forth in a kind of dual. At four minutes this track is
quite variable and about the right length for me.

‘Roundabout’ is sadly the track I liked least. The original Yes version is
fine but at 13 minutes with Rick almost alone I find this goes on too long.
The intro is fine and then we get a moog type sound on the main line and some
nice extra voices in the chorus. At the 3 minute mark we have already started
the third set of Moog. We do then get a break and I am certain Tony is really
playing on this track. This section is rather good actually. Alan is just basic
bass playing on this I think. By 7mins we have got to organ type break and I
am now thinking my memory has been way to hard on this song. This is probably
the best of the three tracks on this album. It is a lot less repetitive than
the other tracks and Rick is ad-libbing and having fun. Towards 10mins he starts
with "the voice" again. Then 10.45 it is back to the moog from the
start.

Ok so that’s the bits I am less keen on over and done with. I have been a bit
harsh on them with my memory but I still don’t particularly want to listen to
them again and I find it extremely annoying that we go for acoustic Piano tracks
to old familiar tracks with drums that either are computerised or very close
to it. I have a feeling Rick had Tony using an Electric kit back in those days
too.

Now to the new Piano tracks and the reason I ordered the disc: –

Your Move is 7 and half minutes long. It’s clever of them not to call it "I’ve
Seen All Good People" as I really hate that one live. In the opening few
bars I couldn’t recognise the song but once I do I still enjoy it. Not everyone
likes Rick on Piano alone but this is where his excellence really shows. There
seems to be so many extra notes or Rickism thrown in. The arrangements seem
so much better developed than the’ 93 ones. I can’t decide if the ‘Seen Good
People’ section is in this version or not. The last three minutes seems almost
new to me. They have certainly been changed well even if I recognise a few of
the lines vaguely. I really like this track. Mmm that’s annoying I can no longer
claim to hate "I’ve Seen All Good people" just Yes’ version of it
😉

‘Long Distance Runaround’ is again about 7 minutes and is very busy for a one
person piano performance. Rick’s left hand starts with a good bass line. I see
the sleeve notes say some of these songs are Piano Duets. This must be one of
them. I have never heard Rick attempt a Piano Duet before. This works really
well. I would like to hear a lot more.

Close To The Edge is also done in 7 and 1/2 minutes. I think this is the most
fascinating piece to hear. Close To The Edge with Yes was 18 mins plus and seems
a daunting task to convert down to just one or two pianos. Rick has done it
beautifully though. It starts off very classically sounding. It’s not until
100secs in I know for sure the part Rick is in. I recognise phrases before but
not the whole section.

The Meeting has appeared in a Piano arrangement on a Rick CD before. Rick performed
it live at Costa Mesa, California and it was subsequently released as ‘The Piano
album’. That version was only short though as Rick chose to combine it with
‘And You And I’. On this CD we get a four minute version. Again it is a great
piece beautifully performed but it is less essential for fans with most of Rick’s
catalogue.

This disc is supposed to be the first of a new series releases. I hope that
means by Rick. As can be seen from my comments above I have very mixed feelings
about this disc. Given the marketing I know Classic Rock Legends will give it,
I wish it had been all new material. The piano only stuff is stunning and deserves
a couple of extra tracks and a full release on it’s on. To me the 93 arrangements
and the drums especially are just not up to the same standard. They are too
simple and Rick’s fingers aren’t flying as much. I am worried that fans won’t
buy this because they have the 93 album. If they don’t it might then put Classic
Rock Legends off Rick. I hope not, he needs a break and this is Rick’s best
opportunity since ‘Return To The Centre Of The Earth’. Classic Rock Legends
are a great label who are out to promote good music and have the money to do
so. If Rick can produce the goods I am sure he will do really well with them.
Hopefully the average buyer will like the 93 stuff more than me and the album
will work for them, fingers crossed. I am baffled that Rick made no comment
on this new album in his Christmas newsletter. He mentions a ‘Classical Variations’
album, which is in the same style and annoyingly is out at the same time.

Clive Nolan and Oliver Wakeman – The Jabberwocky

I have written this review with two lists in mind so bare with me 🙂

1. Overture – This gets the disc off to a cracking start. Good keyboards and
Bob Catley singing a very interesting vocal line.

2 – Coming to town – This is another Catley song. And it reminds me of an early
Magnum song I think "Captain America". My second favourite of the
album

3 – Dangerous world – Tracy Hitchins sings the main part of this one. It is
quite a pleasant song but I really hate the pantomime style harpsichord music
for the Jabberwock. This starts and ends the track

4 – The Forest – This is a choir track with good keyboards much as I would
expect from Rick Wakeman (although not played by him. They are played by Clive
Nolan and Oliver Wakeman)

5- A Glimmer Of’ light – Another Tracy track. Quite soft but I do quite like
it.

6 – Shadows -‘ It starts with a good keyboard section. Goes into pantomime
for the Jabberwock again. Then back to good keyboards again. It all sounds very
Rick in style to me.

7 – Enlightenment – Paul Allison is the main voice on this and Bob also has
a part. I am fairly indifferent to it until the Bob section which I love. It
really brightens the piece and the instrumental break is good

8 – Dancing Water – Bob, Tracy and the Jabberwock (James Plumridge) are in
this one. I can’t say I am that struck by it

9 – The Burgundy Rose – This is my favourite of the disc. Bob Catley is not
a big chap so singing "I don’t feel so small and insignificant any more"
somewhat amuses me. That’s not the reason I like it though it is just a good
soft piano/vocal track. The sort of track I like Bob doing best. The moog break
is good to.

10 – The Mission – An up tempo Bob song. A suitable follow up.

11 – Call to Arms – The choir Bob and Tracy are on this mainly instrumental
track. It has some nice keyboards but does do much for me overall.

12 – Finale – This is just a typical summary of earlier themes.

Rick Wakeman’s Narration is good and the lyrics make sense. I don’t think the
album is brilliant but it is reasonably good. I wish the Jabberwock theme was
different. I think any Rick Wakeman fan will like this album as will any Magnum
fan. I think the main problem for me on the album is the filler type stuff to
make it a concept album.

Rick Wakeman – Themes

I am bored so I thought I would do the review even though I am not completely
sure what I think yet.

Fanfare – This is a track very much in the Wakeman with Wakeman mould. It is
OK but nothing special to me so far.

Bassolla – This is rather an inverted song to me. It has a bouncy Bassey keyboard
riff up front. This is rather repetitive. In the background are the higher and
more changeable parts. I quite like this one but I am not sure if I will get
bored of it.

Nothing Left to Say – This is a nice Piano Piece

Latin Cycle – This as the title suggests has a latin feel to it and could easily
be from Gole to my ears.

Ambient Loop – I guess the title sort of describe this one. It is not like
the Ambient stuff as it has more pace. It is a very nice track.

Without Love – This is undoubtedly my favourite track on the album. Rick said
in 1983 on his GasTank TV Series that he writes from Emotion. I think this helps
show it. Despite not being a great Lyricist Rick has written quite a few love
songs and in general I think they are pretty good. Frazer Thorneycroft-Smith
is the singer on this track which caught me out for the first few plays as I
was expecting Chrissie Hammond and it is sung the way she would do it. In fact
Chrissie is in the background. I don’t know why Rick Wanted to use Frazer as
like Adam I don’t think he is a very good singer. But the vocals and Ricks Melody
line really work well for me on this.

Section Seven – I guess this track is like something of Cirque Surreal. The
guitar is much more conventional though. The sound Rick is using is Similar
to that on Light up the Sky I think. The track is OK.

Hall of Fame – This one has an orchestrated feel to it that reminds me of Curved
Air’s Exsultate Jubilate. The is a lot of atmosphere stuff at the start of the
song which is not music to me as such. I would like to see a whole album tackled
in this style.

On Our Way – Mmm I suspect this is the Song Rick may have planned to use for
the Intro of Linkers Golden boots. It is very Pop like, I guess in a similar
way to Light up the Sky was but Rick does very little of interest on this and
I am not that keen on the lyrics which are sung by Chrissie.

Forever And Ever – An atmospheric start with Frazer on guitar progresses into
a JiggaJig sounding Keyboard from Rick and then to piano.

Freefall – I need to listen to this one more. I think it might will grow on
me but at present I am convinced there is a problem with the mix or the recording.
There is about three minutes of instrumental before the vocals by Chrissie start.
But the vocals are the problem. The are either too far back in the Mix or they
are recorded badly. They certainly lack clarity and it is as though they are
a demo or something. This is most’ disappointing.

As I say I think the track overall is quite good but I have not really started
enjoying it yet because of this perceived problem.

Overall I don’t think it is an outstanding album but I suspect I will be placing
it in the Top 30 Wakeman albums along with the likes of Tribute.

I look forward to hearing others views on Freefall.

Gole and Hero – Soundtracks By Rick Wakeman

I have just spent the Last two days watching German Language Versions of Gole
and The Hero.

It was interesting to see that Gole has a few bits of Extra Music. I think
mainly because they were not long enough. Or my Memory is it’s usual bad self
and I am wrong.

The Gole World Cup ie 82 appears to have been about Fouls. The 86 one Hero
about Maradona. The Music for Gole seemed Latin flavoured but was on decent
keyboards (wasn’t Matt or Eduardo?) whereas the Hero seemed to be more Ryhmn/Pucussion
orientated and I guess more fitting as soundtrack music since I kept forgetting
to listen to it. It seemed less remarkable certainly. I can see why it was not
an album (to my knowledge).

Curiously the film ended on what must be a definite attempt by Rick at a Pop
single. A song called "Special Kind of Hero" sung by Stephanie Lawrence
(who is she?) There was lots of echo on her voice and I guess on first listen
it was OK. Somewhat in the Ill of Moonlight Shadow given my limited knowledge
of Female singers/music. Was it ever released?

I did not think much of Gole when i got it on tape some year back. Perhaps
because the B’side was Rhapsodies. Anyway I have played it more this year and
I find it to be quite good now

The Making Of Surreal State Circus – Rick Wakman – Video

My copy of this video came today and I guess it was much as I had expected
it to be hence the reason for having delayed buying it for so long.

It is a kind of homemade production. Certainly not normal Tv Standards. And
the sounds include from Rick are of very poor quality. I mean in the recording
not performance. I think most of them must have been live performances recorded
atmospherically from the Circus PA.

It was quite boring for the first 20 minutes or so but then there was more
talk from Rick and the Circus was taking shape and you could see what was going
on.

I am not sure of the Purpose of Making the video. I guess it was as a Souvenir
of the Event. I wish it had been a recording of the whole circus performance.

There was some excepts of Music that I did not seem to recognise so my memory
is faulty or it was not all included on the CD. If that was the case it would
definitely have been good to see the whole performance on Video.

I had been tempted to go and see the circus but I don’t think my family circumstances
at the time permitted it. I would definitely go now.

Do I recommend the video? It was certainly interesting to watch. I think I
would recommend you get it only when you have money to burn and have all other
Rick Videos. I guess I would put it on a par to videos of Listomania and She.

It was also interesting that there was no sign of Chrissy Hammond at the circus
which makes me wonder why Rick used her on the CD.’

Scorpions – Taken By Force

For some reason this disc has been out of print for years. I have never understood
why and now that I have finally got my hands on it I am even more perplexed.
This was the last Studio album to feature Uli Roth on Lead Guitar and it is
an excellent all round effort. I guess I have been slightly spoilt in that I
have known live versions of a lot of these songs since 1980 and they inevitably
are still my favourites. But lets go to track level.

Steamrock Fever – Opens with a Pneumatic Drill, which actually continues through
out the song. This is a cracking one paced opener to the album.

We’ll Burn The Sky – Is my favourite track on the album and because of events
in my personal life I have suddenly realised the lyrics are really quite sensitive
and meaningful. I have loved this track live for 20 years and never thought
of them so it is a nice bonus. It has a gentle start there are even hints of
strings or keyboards. It then kicks in big time for a bit. It then slows down
for andr Klaus puts in a sensitive vocal performance. The speed picks up again
but not so aggressively. There is some real nice guitar in this section and
then we get a really strong ending. Excellent guitar again. Wonderful stuff
all round.

I’ve Got To Be Free – This is the first non-Tokyo tapes track. Klaus’s vocals
remind me very much of the early era albums on this. He exchanges vocals with
I assume Uli who again isn’t credited 🙁 This is an OK track not an out and
out stunner but very enjoyable. It has to be said I enjoy the line "I’m
not your Bugs bunny and your not my wife" I guess simple things please
simple minds.

The Riot Of Your Time – Another new track to me. I probably enjoy this more.
It’s always fun when a track written look to a future time that is now well
in the past (1994/1995). The guitar on this is more interesting again. It was
a bit straight forward on the previous track.

The Sails Of Charon – This starts of with some rhythm guitar and then adds
some lead. Klaus’s voice was so different in this era. I really like it. His
voice also works well with Uli’s backing. This track passes the time and is
Ok but if my least favourite so far.

Your Light – This opens with some good backing rhythms from the guitars. I
quite like this one, it is fairly mellow and laid back. I really enjoy the guitar
solo too.

He’s A Woman – She’s A Man – Back to a track I know. The concept always used
to amuse me and now it is even more interesting as one of my brothers became
my sister. I don’t think there is anything objectionable in the lyrics and it
is a cracking track. I love the vocals and feedback and the guitar solo. Wonderful
stuff.

Born To Touch Your Feelings – This one too has a lyric really suitable for
my personal life this week. This seem so strange for a band later best know
for "The Bitch is hungry, She needs to Tell so give her inches and feed
her well" This is the ballad of the album and I was immediately drawn to
it. The ending is very strange. Lots of woman speaking the first verse in different
languages. I like this one a lot. Most unusual though

Suspender Love – Is a bonus track and was originally the B-side to "He’s
a woman She’s a man." There is no explanation as to why it didn’t make
the album. Perhaps it wasn’t written. It made the ‘Tokyo Tapes’ set though and
is an excellent song. It is quite slow paced here. I think I might enjoy this
more because I know the live version so well. I am sure when I am listening
I am adding extras from the live version so it is hard for me to be objective
on this version

Polar Nights – Originally from "Tokyo Tapes". This one has a wonderful
opening. At first I wasn’t to disappointed when it was dropped from the main
album but hearing it here solo I have really grown to love it. The main vocal
is by Uli Roth and I am not struck on it but that opening 3 minutes are fantastic.
Actually the instrumental backing through out the track is wonderful. It is
just the vocal I am not sure about. Uli is definitely best on his guitar especially
on this track.

So as is typical of the Scorpions for me there are a few out and out classics
on the album and some less outstanding album fillers. I can certainly see why
the songs in the Tokyo Tapes set where chosen. They are the best.

I notice on the web site they have have different image for the front cover.
I wonder why? The packaging could be so much better on these remasters 🙁

Scorpions – Tokyo Tapes

My first Scorpions album was ‘Animal Magnetism’ back in 1980 or so. I really
liked that so I got something else. I suspect it was ‘Tokyo Tapes’. I must have
been one of my first Cd’s. I think I had recorded it off a friend prior to that
but from that date on this has been my favourite Scorpions album. I was really
disappointed when I eventually heard ‘World Wide Live’ and even more so when
I saw the video, which is not a style I like. ‘World Wide Live’ was good but
there was a magic ingredient missing from the album. I never really knew what
it was until I saw Uli Roth doing a Hendrix Tribute concert around 1997. Suddenly
I realised it was Uli that made this album so special for me. Mathias Jabs who
has been lead guitarist ever since has been good but he is so different.

I have all the Scorpions album now that I have finally got my hands on ‘Taken
By Force’ , which has eluded me for years. I have to say I have never been a
massive fan of the band. I have always found the albums a bit hit and miss.
Yet over the years every now and then I have got into an album in big way and
it has rejuvenated my interest. My favourite Scorpions albums are ‘Tokyo tapes’,
‘Love At Last String’, ‘Animal Magnetism’ and ‘Eye II Eye’ which will no doubt
shock some fans and make this review invalid! ‘Lonesome Crow’ has also a special
place in my heart because of its weird nature. It is only in recent times I
caught up on the Roth era albums none of them have stuck in my brain being any
better than any other era. I have even tried Roth solo and again they aren’t
a patch on this album.

So that’s where I come from approaching this album. The first thing to say
is if you have the original double CD get the remaster it is a lot brighter
overall. I thought it might have lost some of the bottom ended but I honestly
don’t think it has. I think this remaster is an all round improvement on sound.

In my database I only give this album 4 out 5. I feel that is a bit harsh based
on my recent plays so it well be interesting to go through the album track by
track.

‘All Night Long’ opens the disc and is a belter. One of the things that always
amused me about this album was that a German band are playing in Japan and yet
they are talking and singing to the audience in English. It has to be said that
Klaus Meine English was still very poor at this time. In recent years he has
become more nasal but at least he pronounces his words better now. This has
never bothered me but I know it does a lot of other potential fans.

‘Pictured Life’ is another good track. It seems it is Uli that does nearly
all the leads and Rudolf that sticks pretty much to the backing rhythms.

Backstage Queen – I haven’t a clue what the lyrics are for this. It is a shame
they are not supplied in the packaging, which has improved on remaster. It is
not all it could be but better than the original. This is another excellent
track.

Polar Nights – has been dropped from this album and moved to ‘Taken By Force’.
I wonder if it was because it was a track without Klaus vocals at all. It is
an excellent track guitarwise at least.

In Trance – Despite the lost of ‘Polar Nights’ we move seamlessly into ‘In
Trance’ in fact I even forget ‘Polar’ was missing which is unusual for me. This
has always been a favourite of mine. Curiously the crowd have a habit of clapping
a song once the get to the first line of the lyric. It seems the intro and opening
chords don’t mean much to the audience.

‘We’ll Burn The Sky’ is another favourite of mine. It has a nice gentle start
and then kicks in a bit before another quiet section. Roth’s guitar is played
with such feeling. It is interesting to read the track credits and see Roth
did little writing. I guess that is why he doesn’t work as well for me outside
of Scorpions. It’s the end of the song, which I find most powerful. This is
a wonderful piece all round.

‘Suspender Love’ starts from the last notes and again is a good piece.

‘In Search Of The Piece Of Mind’ is next and is sadly the only track from ‘Lonesome
Crow’. This again is rather beautiful piece.

The highlight of the album to me is ‘Fly To The Rainbow’. This song has everything.
The opening is sung by Klaus and is very good then two minutes in everything
changes and we get some low guitar chords followed by a gentle section by Roth
on guitar. The guitar work is played with such feeling it moves me every time.
I can really lose myself to this. At about 4.45 Roth then takes the lead. Again
his accent is hard to penetrate so I am not really sure what the lyrics are
about overall. At 6.45 the chords get heavier again and then we move into a
feedback solo and I am off into heaven. The live gigs I used to see around 1980
always had feedback solos but this is the only time I have every heard one incorporated
in to a song so effectively. I couldn’t believe my ears the first to I heard
it. This song has been a top 50 track of mine every since I heard it. I can
play it over and over and just love it at loud volumes. It is really good in
headphones too.

Because the set is now on a single disc ‘He’s a Woman, She’s a man’ is now
straight on from ‘Fly to the rainbow’. It feels a bit quick to me but I am used
to having to change discs. I must admit disc 2 has never got as much play as
disc one. This one actually starts with a rare solo from Rudolf Schenker. Curiously
Uli can be heard very quietly backing Klaus’s vocals on this. He is well down
the mix though. Again this is a cracking song.

A lovely bit of low feedback introduces ‘Speedies Coming’. I just so love this
range. Another great song with wonderful guitar work.

‘Top of the Bill’ is OK but it has a drum solo in it so this is why my original
Disc 2 is losses out on the playing stakes.

‘Hound dog’ and ‘Long Tall Sally’ are next and I just don’t see the point of
them. Scorpions had enough albums out by then and I would like to have heard
more original tracks. These last three tracks are definitely the weakest area
of the set for me. I would rather have seen these moved off and ‘Polar nights’
kept on.

It seems these main set had now finish and the encore opens with ‘Steamrock
Fever’. Things are firmly back on track now. Great stuff.

We then get ‘Dark Lady’ another song sung by Roth but with Klaus also joining
in and actually putting in a very good performance.

Another encore starts with ‘Kojo No Tsuki’. I have no idea what the original
folk song is like but I have always liked this. I wonder how good Klaus’s elocution
is on this. Roth follows the melody for a nice low bit of guitar it then shifts
up. Very good stuff.

‘Robot man’ closes the album and is a great rocker of an ending.

This is a fantastic album and I highly recommend it. Just for comparison I
have just put ‘World Wide Live’ on. Scorpions by this time were definitely more
metal with less melodic and emotional touches. Of course even later they come
back to my style with albums like ‘Moment of Glory’ and ‘Acosutica’ but nothing
gets even close to this album.

PS. The I discovered the lyrics on the offcicial Scorpions
website. They should still be in the album.

ELO – Zoom

Well this is an unfortunate day for me to be writing my opinion of the new
"ELO" album. But I am at the end of my endurance of the disc and I
promised to comment to a couple of friends. If I remove the disc from my carousel
I will never get to the review so here goes. Feel free to skip this.

I would like to say I am really sorry for the ELO fans that the ELO North American
Tour has been cancelled. I know people have booked flights and hotels and they
will lose a lot of money because of this. What a shame. A lot of ELO fans are
clearly very dedicated I was stunned to hear that tickets prices were $75 dollars
and that Ticket agency were taking 20-30% of that. I hope Ticket refunds include
the Ticket Agency Fee!

My history of liking ELO goes back to the late 70’s. The first non-compilation
album I bought was by Queen. I liked it a lot and my Addiction to blowing money
on albums clearly started back then. I went through the whole Queen catalogue
and then took the brave step of trying a new band. ELO’s A New World Record
being my choice. I still get a strong memory of being off school Sick and playing
Monopoly by myself every time I hear this record. As this was how I got to hear
it the first time and it clearly made a strong impression on my mind.’ I then
bought the rest of the ELO collection and ventured back into the Wizzard and
Move despite having tried early Pink Floyd and Status Quo albums and finding
them too 60’s for my taste. But by about 1980 ELO released Discovery and I was
disgusted. My tastes and moved more to harder Rocker and I was probably at my
Heaviest phase by then. So for some reason or other I sold all my ELO collection.
Within a few years I had got back to the level of heaviness I like now and re
bought all ELO I had sold. I got the Four Light Years box set so I even ended
up with the awful Discovery again. I have never sold an album 2nd hand again
since. I also find it important to keep the albums I dislike most a) to see
if I change but b) to see what it is I dislike. The other thing of note is that
although I started with a New World Record I actually preferred the older albums.
Almost exactly in order of their release. For some Reason I don’t get of with
Eldorado though So that comes down there with parts of Out Of The Blue I suspect.
I am currently waiting for the Remastered ELO collection to come out before
I upgrade my ELO collection again.

Also worth mentioning from a "where is this guy coming from" point
of is I borrowed ELO Part II’s first album from the library and didn’t think
it sounded ELO enough. But around 1997 I heard they were playing Ipswich and
I went to see them and really enjoyed the show. I have subsequently seen them
several times since and even like the 2nd album Moment of Truth more than anything
post Discovery.

The ELO Part II live set broke me into a lot of the later singles and they
are OK. I have subsequently heard most of the later ELO albums but they don’t
really interest me. They are better and more interesting than Discovery though.
I have also never really forgiven Jeff Lynn for dumping the Strings section
on Discovery. I was also appalled when they were then bought back in on the
Discovery videos.

ELO to me are definitely about strings (and other classical instruments) and
Rock combining. In fact at this very moment I am currently enjoying the Wombles
Mike Batt’s Tarot Suite album because it is a good combination of Orchestra
and Rock.

So finally I come to Zoom. I was initially excited to hear ELO were to reform
and make and album and then I heard it would only really be Jeff Lynne with
studio guests. This didn’t inspire my to go out and get the album so I waited
and heard clips on a radio broadcast. The more on Vh-1’s Storytellers and all
this didn’t help at all.

Then two friends both said they had it and liked it a lot one offered to lend
me a copy. I was certainly curious but not going to pay full price to hear something
I expected to be a let down so I accepted.

The artwork certainly looked promising. The clips I heard on the radio hadn’t
sounded ELO to me so on the first listen I was rather impressed that a couple
of songs did sound recognisably ELO like. After that I thought the album OK
but I have soon grown tired of playing it. It just doesn’t have anything that
interests me in it I don’t think. Doing a track by Track review normally
focuses my mind a bit more so now I will see what I really think of the individual
tracks

Alright – This one is one that I had heard on the Radio and wasn’t impressed
by. It sounded too Travelling Wilbury’s, Tom Pretty type 1990’s AOR radio friendly
rock to me. It is obviously a style that is popular but it is not original and
ELO used to be original. Having said this this is probably one of my preferred
tracks on the album. The Drums are very monotonous and it seems there is a lot
of Guitar for an ELO track. There are no strings (that I noticed anyway)

Moment In Paradise – This is probably my favourite on the album. I like the
backing line in the chorus. There are a New World Record type effects here
too. Sometimes Jeff’s high voice on the line "Moment In Paradise"
grates on me. The guitar solo also feels very much like another band to me too.

State Of Mind – Another one sounding very like my limited knowledge of the
Wilbury’s. The guitar riff feels so wrong to me. This seems to follow Jeff’s
interest in Rock’N’Roll is king type music. I like people like Dave Edmunds
so in theory this should work for me but it just leaves me cold.

Just Of Love – This one has a kind of Eldorado feel to it. It also has some
strings at last. This would be a weak take on a 70’s album to me. More of an
album filler mood changer type piece. It is OK but nothing really grabs me about
it.

Stranger On A Quiet Street – The boring drums on these tracks really annoy
me. It is rare I notice drums in either a good or bad way so this is disappointing.
Another guitar driven song but with a little strings on it. Like on State of
Mind I am not too keen on the use of the guitars. It is too sterile or plodding
or something. Basically it just isn’t the sort of thing I would listen
too and it sounds like the sort of stuff I have heard other Radio friendly rock
establishment figure do on the radio.

In My Own Time – This one has strings on it and I can imagine it being a quiet
track on an Out Of The Blue or New World Record type album. The old sounding
tracks are in the style I like least and not a Mr Blues sky or Evil Woman type
way. Shame.

Easy Money – Another Dave Edmunds style tunes that doesn’t work for me in this
Environment. And certainly not for something claiming to be ELO.

It Really Doesn’t Matter – This track is like the rest of the album Ok but
not really to my taste. I just don’t see the point of calling this ELO. If you
are going to bring back a name after 15 years surely there should be more continuity
between style and players than this. Especially when there has been a band with
3 or 4 recognised ELO player going round keeping the bands name alive all these
years.

Ordinary Dream – This one has strings but this just sounds like a John Lennon
tribute to me. This one is my least favourite on the album.

A Long Time Gone – Again I get the impression of a quiet song from say a New
world Record. It’s OK but it is too dreary especially with so many others like
this on the album

Melting In The Sun – Back to a Wibury type song. Jeff has clearly spent too
long working for others and he has lost all interest in being original or playing
to his own classic era. He does use some ELO backing vocal arrangements on this.
Perhaps this is why the later era ELO fans seem to really go for the album.

All She Wanted – This one is OK. Much like the rest of the album but probably
one of the better tracks.

Lonesome Lullaby – This one makes me take notice. The guitar at the front is
interesting. I can’t really decide if I like or dislike this one. At least
it made notice it.

To me Jeff is playing for himself. That is fine. He and I clearly have different
tastes and I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is him
effectively killing ELO Part II and then pretending this is ELO. As a Jeff Lynne
album I could quite happily ignore this album. As an ELO album he tests me as
a fan. Will I buy the album? Yes if I see if for ‘5-7 pounds sometime but mainly
for completeness.

There is of course still hope that I will like it if I play it at a future
time but overall this is such a disappointment to me.

Looking at the official statement as to why the American tour was cancelled
it says, "ELO wanted to put on a grand Spectacle with massive stage and
light show". If this was the case why have the "band" record
two TV specials all dressed in black with limited lights and effects? It is
not a very good advert is it? Taking this album and the specials into consideration
that is the last thing I would have expected from an ELO gig in 2001. This seems
to be a back to basics low budget ELO. To re-establish an old act like ELO I
suspect you need a strong image that plays on past glories to make people want
to attend for the nostalgia angle. I am very disappointed for people like Rob
and Lynn who has been putting their hearts into ELO and will feel really frustrated
for all the fans that were looking forward to ELO playing again.

I hope some good comes of all this. I even wish Zoom had been a success despite
my personal opinion of it. I do feel this album would be more readily accepted
after a strong ELO sounding comeback album and tour with lots of classic
ELO era members to get people fired up and excited again. You have to wonder
what has been going on between Jeff/The Management/ The record Label. It seems
surprising that some calculations could be so far off.

Motoi Sakuraba – Force Of Light

I saw this advertised as using lots of keyboards old and new and I must have
been in an adventurous mood as something made me decide to order it. I did first
I look for reviews and the only one I found put me off a bit as it mentioned
the sleeve notes talking about time changes and stuff. It seemed to think it
was unnecessarily complex. I decided to order it anyway and I am glad I did.
It is a very good album. I am not into prog music as such so it is very hard
for me to find good music with keyboards and a solo keyboard player can be even
trickier. I have only got into Rick Wakeman and more recently Erik Norlander.
Apart from that I can think of no one, unless you count someone like Graham
Bond from the sixties Blues/Jazz scene.

Before I move to track level and see what enters my head I should also mention
I was put off because this was supposed to be music for games and films. I was
worried the music wouldn’t stand up on it’s own and would be to atmospheric/non
music for me. No such problem, each track is proper music. Overall I think it
makes me think of the Holst’s The Planets pieces Rick guested on. I think the
title was Beyond The Planets but I don’t recall the main artist.

It is very interesting to see the album has Artist and producer notes. Something
Erik Norlander does on his album’s and something which Arjen Lucassen from Ayreon
(and the fans) like too. I hope this is a growing trend. Even if the ones here
are way to technical for me in places.

The album is keyboard drums and guitar. Sometimes I get the impression the
drums are programmed but a drummer is credited, interestingly before the guitarist.
The album as a whole is very multi-layered.

Persistence of Hope – This first tracks rhythm and piano playing reminds me
of all sorts. Yes and ELP certainly. It has very unusual rhythms and seems a
bit Jazzy. There is Hammond, Moog, Piano and lots of other interesting sounds.
The notes for this track are the bit the other reviewer commented on. They are
classic! "The middle almost classical section, which starts with a diminished
scale is put together with a 5/8 + 5/8, (1/8 + 10/16 + 3/8) + (1/8 + 10/16 +
3/8) + 1/8 + 7/16 + 5/8)’ ‘ 2, (1/8 + 10/16 + 6/8) structure but when you listen
to it,’ it really doesn’t sound that complex". And it is true. I will ask
Erik later what it means!

There is a good hook at the start that goes from general keyboard sound to
Hammond and back. Then a moog section happens. There is probably harpsichord
to. The Piano is a bit Jazzy but it also sounds a bit Rick like is some of it’s
runs. There is a nice dirty sounding voice used just before the middle bit that
we all understand. Then the middle reminds me a bit of a middle period ELO tune.
I can’t think what. About 5.20 you think it is all over but no it has just gone
quiet and then the piano does the original hook and it gets back to the first
section again. I am currently on about listen 8 to this album and I took an
instant liking to the album from track one. It is bouncy complex, lots of instrument
voices and lots to listen too.

Force To Arms! – Another 5/8 piece apparently. I will have to set the going
on my sequencer to get a better understanding of it not that it matters here.
To my ears it is just and interesting beat again. I think it is a certain keyboard
sound that is reminding me of Beyond the Planets. There is a low range keyboard
that reminds me of Rick. Another strong hook line on top with quieter interludes
on lighter keyboards. This bit reminds me a bit of Rick’s Crimes of passion
actually. Then there is some guitar that reminds me of Steve Howe. The Hammond
is used on this too. There are Journey type crescendos and decrescendos on one
of the voices. Sorry I can’t think how to express this perhaps like turning
a siren on and off.

A Light To Lead The Way – This is the first track that really makes me think
Beyond The Planets. It uses "Ah" voices and harp type plucking. Chordy
percussion and uplifting main themes apparently are Sparkling Bright Brass then
later strings. There is some really good Moog on this. This is an early favourite
track. The backing rhythms are perhaps more Softsword like.

Strive Against The Dark – This is a bit of a chaotic none musical start. Apparently
this is completely free rhythm. Oh is that it. It is just a scene setter for
the next track

Bulzome Rising – This starts with Hammond, which is used, in a very ELP like
way to me. There are the uplifting themes again perhaps on guitar this time.
There are some nice guitar treatments in the middle. Then a lower range keyboard
part that sounds a bit bubbly. Mmm then a bit of an ELO feel again. Interesting
I hadn’t thought of that link before today. I think it reminds me of ‘The Whale’
from ‘Out of the Blue’. It seems the song is cycling through each of the little
sections. Good Stuff

Traveller’s Respite – The notes say this is similar to Bolero with an Oboe
sound starting things off. It soon gets extra keyboards with it but at lesser
volumes. He also manages get moog to work in this slow paced piece. There is
good low-end range on this album. It has to be said the notes are far easier
reading after the first song. Towards the end we get "Ah" sounds then
it wraps up as it started.

Tides of History – We start off with a flute sound on this gentle piece. It
too uses some Ah’s. They are more choir like though. There is some good Rick
like piano with again a good bass keyboard pattern going on beneath it. The
end Ah’s, which are more single person, have a little keyboard part under it,
which reminds me of Tubular Bells.

Force On The Move – We get a Marching type feel to this one. Again reminds
me of Beyond The Planets. I am very impressed at how many layers there are to
these simple main hooks. I wish Rick would tackle something with this depth
of instrumentation again. Perhaps he will, if he is moving to film work too.

Sanctity – This was is an really nice tune. Apparently sad and haunting but
I never pick up on that sort of thing in music. Again there is a great variety
of keyboard sounds from Moog to strings and lots of others I can’t label. Actually
the initial and ending themes remind me of Children Of Chernobyl from Rick’s
No Expense Spared

The Lever To Move The World – A faster track to end the disc. The return of
the strange beats. The guitar sound is apparently King Crimson like. Lots of
Hammond again.

In one of the tunes I have thought a couple of times that something reminded
me of something of Rick’s Criminal Record but I didn’t notice it today.

Overall I really love this album. I wonder if I will get tired of the top hooks
being quite so repetitive but I think the depth of the arrangements will keep
me going. I highly recommend you give this a go if the sort of thing I am commenting
on sounds the sort of stuff you like.

I fully expect I will be trying out something more from Motoi once I have had
suitable time to digest this.

If anyone has this or gets it please let me know what you think.