All Time Favourite Albums

My All Time Favourite Albums are

  1. Black Sabbath – Technical Ecstasy – I don’t expect there are many
    other people that would agree with me on this but I think it is an album you
    either love or hate. I love Tony Iommi’s guitar solos on this and for once
    I even notice the drumming.
  2. Praying Mantis – Time Tell No Lies – I have had this album from day
    one and something about it clicked with me. Actually at the time I was a Dr
    Who Novel "Dr Who and the Darlek 2010AD" and it had freedom fighters
    trying to recapture the Earth. Mantis have a line about "Freedom fighters"
    in one of the songs. That and the fact the music was usual to my ears and
    the vocals delivered in a strange accent just made it a special reading experience
    as the album became familiar to me. Then over the year I just found myself
    returning to it over and over again. As far as I knew in 1994 Praying Mantis
    had died a death and never imagined being album to own the album on CD. Now
    I do their web page 🙂
  3. Rick Wakeman – The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of
    the round table
    – I was into NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal)
    bands when I got this album 2nd hand. I pretty much dismissed it as being
    far to light but over the next few months I returned to it and discovered
    it’s quality. Every time I listening it I find something new to hear in the
    mix. I just love it.
  4. Ayreon – The Final Experiment – A friend sent me this on tape and
    said to give it ago. I played it and thought I had heard it all before. On
    further plays though I got over that bias and just enjoyed the fantastic used
    of singers, guitars, and most importantly keyboards. I was still playing it
    over 70 plays later. Normally I get bored of a new album between 10-20 listens.
  5. Lou Reed – Berlin – I love the lyrics and atmosphere on this album.
    People find it depressing. I just love it.
  6. David Bowie – Hunky Dory – I got this album for Life On Mars and
    it sparked of several interests above. e.g. I wanted to know more about Richard
    Wakeman so got Myths and Legends. And I loved Queen Bitch at tribute to Lou
    Reed and the Velvet Underground so I started looking at his work. I think
    this was Bowie at his best and having Rick Wakeman on Piano made it even better.
  7. Gillan – Mr Universe – I love Ian Gillans vocals and I think this
    album represents him at his best.
  8. ELO – ELO – The first ELO album. It contained Roy Wood who I loved
    from Wizzard and it is great to hear a rock band playing with Orchestral instruments.
    Every ELO album after this just diluted the mix. Such a shame.
  9. ZZ Top – Tres Hombres – I read about this album in an interview with
    Kerrang! in 1980 for some reason I thought I would have to try it and I was
    glad I did. I love the hypnotic rhythm of the beat. A great album.
  10. John Cale – Paris 1919 – This one I find hard to explain. I think
    I rate it so highly because it is so different to everything else in my collection.
    And of course I love it.

It is sad to see I owned all these album by 1982 with exception of Ayreon.
Luckily there an now news bands that are starting
to interest me again.

Honourable mentions go to

  • Ayreon – Actual Fantasy
  • Ayreon – Into The Electric Castle
  • Ayreon – The Universal Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer
  • Ayreon – The Universal Migrator Part 2: The Flight Of The Migrator
  • Blackfoot – Maruder
  • Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
  • Black Sabbath – Sabotage
  • Black Sabbath -Vol. 4
  • Black Sabbath -Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
  • Pink Floyd – The Wall
  • Praying Mantis – A Cry For The New World
  • Praying Mantis – Nowhere To Hide
  • Praying Mantis – Forever In Time
  • Queen – Queen II
  • Rick Wakeman – Can Hear You Me?
  • Rick Wakeman – Phantom Power
  • Rick Wakeman – Softsword

As can be seen I am pretty keen of the following artists

Plus

If you are interested in what tracks I like most check out my
essential music for a desert island page

Mostly Autumn

Occasionally I write reviews of albums for mailing lists. I have therefore
started to keep them here to.

Mostly Autumn – For All We Shared…
Mostly Autumn – The Spirit Of Autumn Past
Mostly Autumn – The Last Bright Light
Mostly Autumn – The Story So Far
Mostly Autumn – Music Inspired By Lord Of
The Rings

Mostly Autumn – For All We Shared…

This was the first Mostly Autumn album I got. I decided to get it after hearing
"The Night Sky" on a Classic Rock magazine sampler disc. I wasn’t
100% sure about the track but I loved the use of the Violin and the guitars
so I made my purchase.

For some reason I had it in my head this was the 2nd album perhaps because
there were two out when I was looking for the track I found on the sampler.
Looking at the dates it seems to be the first though. I know I liked the album
overall and have subsequently got the others (currently three). But I think
my views on individual tracks vary so while I lay here recovering from seeing
the band on Saturday night I have decided to review all three albums.

Nowhere To Hide – This kicks of with the wind and the sounds of drunken singing.
The track then breaks into a rather Poppy track. It kind of reminds me of ELO
with the violin on it. I would never have guessed the track was Nowhere To Hide
from the chorus. I would have guessed, "I don’t want to close my eyes".
That could in fact be why I am thinking ELO. ELO Part 2 had a track called "Don’t
wanna". Bryan Josh’s vocals seem to have the feel of the guy from the Pogues
to them. I remember when I first got this album I found this track annoyingly
addictive. I don’t listen to CD’s in complete units and often had to skip this
one for fear of over dosing on it. In Moderation it is good. The Violin and
Keyboard backing definitely reminds me of ELO

Porcupine Rain – The previous track goes into atmosphere and then this one
continues the atmosphere adding a guitar doing a single note guitar pattern
that sound a bit programmed. This is one of my favourite tracks especially as
the chorus has "No More Pain, Now" but the "Now" is delayed
a bar and I was consistently getting this wrong when enjoying it live. There
is a good solid keyboard backing and I was going to say "but no fancy stuff."
however it is more complicated than I originally noticed. I think this is a
standard Rock band formation. IE just keyboards and guitars no Violin or Whistles

The Lost Climb – The previous track ends with bird noises and this one starts
with them continuing and some guitar. It reminds me of King Crimson’s "In
the court of the Crimson King" but that is all I have by them so it might
be a bad example. Bryan sounds more Pink Floyd like with his vocals on this.
And the Violin sounds heavily treated and Floyd like at the start of it’s solo
too. I guess it then goes on to remind me of the end of Curved Air’s "It
happened today". Very nice. This then gives way to a lovely Floyd like
guitar solo. Great Stuff. I am not to struck on the vocal part but you have
to have something before such a great ending. The lyrics themselves seem very
deep.

Heroes Never Die – There is a clean break and then some acoustic guitar over
keyboard chords. A Flute then breaks in. The vocals so far have mainly been
Bryan on lead. But Heather is normally backing him up but at a much lower level.
Perhaps as much as 70 to 30. It is interesting how different it seemed at the
gig and how this seems to have changed over the albums but I will stick to this
album for now. This is a very strong song apparently for Bryan’s dad. It’s pace
builds up as it progresses and then we get a great guitar work out at the end.
I can’t get enough of this clean guitar solo style. Excellent

Folklore – Again a clean break and then heavily treated violin over Keyboard
chords. This then speeds up and we get an excellent Jig. Even my daughters who
tend to ignore the music I like wanted to get up and enjoy this one. Once it
really kicks in it has Whistles and flutes? And even a drum break. I am somewhat
baffled as to how this fits with everything else but I love it so what the heck.

Boundless Ocean – This one starts, I think, with flute but I guess it might
be a recorder. It has symphonic keyboard backing and is a fairly gentle song.
It is OK but I prefer the more upbeat stuff. It seems to me Heather vocals are
mostly a fraction behind Bryan’s. This one also ends on a nice violin break.

Shenanigans – Another Jig type work out and I notice the writer is the Violin
player Bob Faulds. It actually starts with the whistles before the whole band
kick in. It is a nice track again. It didn’t please my daughters as much though.

Steal Away – The previous track ends on a crack of thunder and this one continues
the storm. This as a showpiece for Heather’s vocals. They seem very low in range.
Bryan does add backing in places but it is now 70-30 to Heather. Again this
is a mellow track while there is nothing wrong with it, it is not a favourite.
It does pick significantly for the last 90 seconds but they resist giving it
a really big ending.

Out Of The Inn – This starts with an excerpt from Radio 4’s Lord Of The Rings
adaptation. I wonder why? It is another folky jig though. The flute taking the
main lines before handing over to the violin and then the full band let rip
with great guitar. Bryan wrote this so he clearly likes this stuff. The keyboards
have a good backing sound on this. This is the first song where the bell on
the drumming annoys me. I noticed it on an earlier track but it was a lot quieter.
I don’t know why the bell annoys me but I have noticed this style of drumming
a lot of Mostly Autumn tracks.

The Night Sky – It’s back to the wind, which makes me think of the Moors perhaps
a Wuthuring Heights type landscape. This one has a very Floyd like treatment.
The keyboards at the start are fast changing bell types sounds. There are flutes
and then the violin taking part in the build up to the big guitar ending. I
really like this one now. I don’t think Bryan’s vocals are his strongest asset
and that is perhaps why I was cautious about getting more Mostly Autumn based
on this track on the sampler. I am a sucker for Flutes and Violins in a rock
setting and clean guitar solos played with such great feeling get me every time.

Overall I am tempted to say this is my favourite Mostly Autumn album but I
am still fresh to The Last Bright Light and I can’t really remember the Spirit
Of Autumn Past as I listened to it soon after this album and they have kind
of blended in my head.

Mostly Autumn – The Spirit Of Autumn Past

This appears to be the 2nd Mostly Autumn album and it was certainly my 2nd
album by them.

Winter Mountain – The album starts by ending as For All We Shared ended with
the trailing few notes of the guitar solo and then the wind. We then get a very
multi-part song. Flute, lively keyboards and the full band. Bryan Josh does
the main vocal but Heather Findlay is behind him again and also get some parts
where she is more up in the mix. I really like the backing arrangement on this
one. There is a violin break or is it keyboards? I wonder how they did this
without the violin player on Saturday. Heather finishes the vocals on her own.

The Great Blue Pearl – Bryan starts off this one with an unaccompanied vocal.
I would still say Bryan is Lead and Heather backing but the levels must be more
60 to 40 on this track as opposed to 70-30 the previous album. This seems to
be more of a regular rock band format song. Bryan does a nice guitar solo at
the end but the song tends to be just there for me prior to that. It is neither
good nor bad. I just don’t get a big buzz from it.

Pieces Of Love – We get an acoustic guitar start to this one and then a Heather
solo vocal. There is flute backing her up this time. It is a very mellow piece
with a gentle violin solo near the end. There is just one verse but it is sung
three times.

Please – Bryan starts this to a sensitive keyboard backing. Heather joins him
here and there and then the full band join in. This is just the rock subset
again and is far more upbeat. It does go mellow at the start of the last third
and there is a bit of violin but it is mainly a guitar song.

Evergreen – Another acoustic start and more lead vocals from Heather. There
is a 2nd female voice too. I am not if it was Heather still. Then there is a
nice keyboard break. There are more verses and then Bryan switches to Electric
Guitar and we get some great clean soloing again. Liam Davidson can also be
heard too. The sound builds up in volume and Bryan then adds some counterpoint
vocals. It is then time for a big guitar solo and this allows the band to really
take off. An excellent track. The best track so far. It has beauty feeling and
excitement.

Styhead Tarn – A drum start for a change this time and then some keyboards
join in and minor guitar. Then some vocals from Heather and Bryan I would say
60-40 to Heather. It is just the same line over and over and is not actually
written in the booklet. The track builds up as it goes and to my ears is really
just the intro to…

Shindig – which is a flute and violin jig. There is nice percussion and then
the whole band join in.

Blakey Ridge/When Waters Meet – The previous track continues on into this one,
which starts on acoustic guitar flute and the Bodhran. Some bands might have
claimed this was a single track in three parts. Clearly Mostly Autumn chose
to name them the other way.

Underneath The Ice – This one also feels rather like another part of the previous
song but I can’t really justify why. It starts with acoustic guitar. Are I am
finally waking up to the fact Liam is on the album. He is play too but I hadn’t
really noticed. I like the little touch of the Moog/Radio tuning sounding keyboard
and then the violin and fuller keyboard parts. Heather sings some "ah"’s
but it was a 60-40 Bryan vocal prior to that. I quite like this one considering
it is a quieter one

Through The Window – Violin, acoustic guitar and Bryan alone singing starts
this track. This is another gentle song and it has a good use of flute and violin.
For the last third the rest of the band join in and Heather adds to the vocals.
Again I like this one a lot.

The Spirit Of Autumn Past (Part 1) – A keyboard start. Almost a piano sound
but clearly electric and something else mixed into the patch. This was is just
a bit of light atmospheric noodleling really. A build up to the start of Part
2.

The Spirit Of Autumn Past (Part 2) – The gentle atmosphere continues into this
part and then a drum comes in with increasing volume followed by guitar. Bryan
alone is on the vocals. The pace continues to build there is some Hammond added
and then backing vocals from several people. Suddenly all the backing stops
and it is Bryan’s voice alone and then back to the level we were at before.
Then time for a bit of violin some more verse then a keyboard break with lots
of hints of Hammond in the background and then to finish the piece some guitar
from Bryan but not a massive solo just excellent playing. Without a doubt my
favourite piece of the album. I love it.

The Gap Is To Wide – Someone walking in puddles or something starts the next
piece. Keyboards and Acoustic guitar prelude a piece of emotional violin and
flute and then Heather’s vocals. There is some sound effect talking and then
more vocals. This a 12 minute piece and about a third of the way in thing start
picking up and there is a choir type backing then half why in Bryan kicks in
with some excellent guitar and now I am thinking perhaps this is my favourite
😉 This one is really moving. It is shame it was not done live Saturday. At
the start of the last quarter Uilleann Pipes take over and I can see why it
wasn’t performed it would require to many guest musicians. A great ending to
the album.

So it seems Heather is being brought out front more on this album and Angela
Goldthorpe is now a full member of the band.

Winter Mountain is a good start to the album but the tracks until Evergreen
don’t do as much for me as the remainder of the album. It therefore makes it
hard for me to decide which I prefer so far. I think the songs that make me
tick make me tick more on this album and if I dropped the album to LP length
by removing the tracks just mentioned this would definitely be the best. I still
think the other tracks are OK though.

This album seems to have had a more clear style and it is interesting to see
how the band progressed. Having originally been confused about the order of
these first two albums I thought it strange that Heather should have taken a
back seat of the second album and then come back in force of the third but of
course I had it all wrong and it all makes sense now I have sat down and through
about it.

One more to go…

Mostly Autumn – The Last Bright Light

I got this soon after release but choose not to play it as I had only just
finished digesting "The Spirit Of Autumn Past". About 10 days before
the gig I suddenly panicked I hadn’t played the album so I stuck it on the bathroom.
I have therefore probably only played it 7-8 times in all. You would think I
would know how this album sounds but I absolutely have forgotten again so it
will be interesting to see my thought as I play it on my Hifi for the first
time.

… Just Moving On – Again we start with the last few notes of the previous
album and this track is only 45 seconds worth of Piano and guitar. Perhaps the
title implies two years have past since the last album and the band have now
lost Bob Faulds on Violin. This means Mostly Autumn have a new sound or focus.

We Come And We Go – This is the first real track and the guitar opening reminds
me of Lou Reed on his recent albums. Bryan is singing and he is unaccompanied
by Heather on this one. I quite like his vocal on this. Heather does start joining
in quietly after the first chorus. The keyboard backing is starting to get more
complex too. Then there are some ah’s add to the sound and then its a minor
guitar break. I friend commented that Bryan sings out of tune and I have to
confess in places on here I wonder if he is right. It doesn’t really bother
me though. I like vocalists with character.

Half The Mountain – Birds and acoustic guitar open this one. Again it is Bryan
singing mainly solos. The band joins in a gentle way and then we get a nice
bit of Flute followed by strong guitar chords. Again the songs build up as it
progresses and I like the keyboard backing. At the start of the last third we
get an interlude which reminds me of Mid 70’s ELO for some reason and then we
get a soaring guitar solo with more choir ah’s. I like the guitar pattern near
the end and before the final solo.

The Eyes Of The Forest – This one is a Heather vocal and it is also her first
song credit. The birds continue on this one and it is a really mellow piece
reminding me of something Curved Air’s Sonja Kristina sings solo I think. There
is another flute break. And there is some Cello. Again as on previous albums
this is fine as a track but doesn’t do an enormous amount for me.

The Dark Before The Dawn – Keyboard landscaping and a Keyboard sound the sounds
like the opening of a Wakeman With Wakeman album (probably just a standard effect)
and things suddenly speed up. Bryan is back on vocals with Heather backing and
there is a really good Flute line going on in the Chorus. The Keyboard effects
sound like they are a bit influenced by a The Who track. At the start of the
end third we get a great guitar solo and I am in heaven again. An excellent
track.

Hollow – Another Mellow keyboard start and another Heather song this time written
by Iain Jennings on keyboards. The track as usual builds up and Heather gets
a second backing line I don’t know who from. The mellow keyboards remind me
of something but I can’t think what. We then get some big guitar from Bryan.
The ending section was still built up but it never really moves out of the mellow
phase.

Prints In The Stone – Flute starts this one and it is a Bryan and Heather backing
song. Again this is a fairly mellow song. Mainly acoustic guitar and flute.

The Last Bright Light – A gentle acoustic guitar start and I am really starting
to worry I don’t like the way things are going. Bryan is on vocals and there
are some Gregorian backing vocals. The chorus type section really picks up and
then it is back to a mellow verse. The chorus then occurs and there is a minor
guitar solo over the mellow bit again. We then get extended Gregorian vocals
and guitar solos. It is not a big ending but it is a very good work out and
quite lengthy

Never The Rainbow – Hammond and pacey start to this one. Yippee. It is also
Heather on vocals and it has to be said I quite like hearing her work out on
something with a bit of meat on it. This is my favourite so far. Oh there is
even a nice Hammond solo. Excellent. Then some guitar. A very nice work out
all round. A long fade out ending shame. I could handle this being longer

Shrinking Violet – I think this starts with recorder or whistles and Heather
is on vocals again. She is definitely getting more solos on this album. And
she is being used less in unison with Bryan. This one is by Heather again herself.
I rather like this one. It is another building up track and there is a multi-person
backing vocal line. About half way through they seem to quote a Whiter Shade
of Pale on the Organ sound. Then there is a guitar solo with lots of "Ah
ah ahh’s" which rather baffled me when I first heard it but I really like
it now. Mmm that is interesting hearing this one now I really remember seeing
and enjoying this one live on Saturday. It is a lengthy but not over powering
solo from Bryan. Another excellent song and contender for my favourite on the
album

Helms Deep – Windy moors and acoustic guitar. The Bodhran is back and this
one is a work out for Angela on the Flute. Again I really like this one. There
are also whistles in the mix too. In the middle we get an organ solo and the
sound of horses and fighting with Spanish bagpipes by Albert DannenMann who
supported Blackmore’s Night in addition to Mostly Autumn. Bryan writes this
one but he is not really visible until the end stage. To end we get a few notes
on the Piano

Which Wood? – Another Flute piece. I believe from the Blackmore’s night tour
and written by Flautist Angela Goldthorpe. Another one I really took a liking
to. Even when I saw them the first time on the Blackmore’s Night tour. I guess
this is a Jig or Medieval folk type tune.

Mother Nature – This is the 12-minute closer. It of course starts gently with
acoustic guitar and some flute. Bryan and Heather sing and I initially thought
it was a 50-50 split but as it progresses I am convinced it is more the usual
60-40. The Chorus really has me hooked on this one. By the 2nd chorus things
are building in intensity and then the band just break in in full. Bryan gets
a line or to alone while the backing line "ah". The Hammond rumbles
and there is then a guitar solo. Mmm can guitar rubble like a Hammond? It sounds
that way again but goes to a guitar solo. A storm then develops and we get lots
of wind and thunder and the band give it a bit more welly even though it is
still only acoustic guitar. The storm dies down and there are some "Oh’s"
and "Ah’s" then a nice keyboard solo. There is definitely Hammond
going on too. Then there is some "Wish you were here" type guitar,
which then gets added to by some distorted guitar holding long notes and then
things fade into the wind. Another excellent track.

So lets see. I like the first proper track and then tend to get a bit restless
and then the album picks up for me again on the 2nd half. Just like "The
Sprit Of Autumn Past" how weird. It would seem they are following a certain
pattern in the layout of the songs and one that leaves a hard rocker like myself
slightly frustrated. Some tracks just exist but others really draw me in and
ensure I will by future releases on release. As I proof read these reviews I
listened to the album and I wondered if I was to hard on the first half of the
album. I certainly enjoy it just not so much on a track by track level.

I expected to miss the violin and I guess to a certain extent I do but I am
still able to fully enjoy what I hear. I certainly love the Flute pieces too.

It is very interesting how Heather is become more prominent in the band. I
wonder how things will progress on the next album. I certainly looking forward
to hearing it is being worked on.

In the mean time I look forward to the DVD from Saturday and quite fancy seeing
them live again.

Mostly Autumn – The Story So Far

This was recorded live at the Mean Fiddler, London (Formerly the LA 2). The
sound is identical to the DVD of the same name but there are fewer tracks, as
this is just a single CD. The track selection and the overall performance make
this an excellent starter for beginners to Mostly Autumn. It is perhaps heavier
representation of their material since the albums tend to have a few jigs and
quieter tracks on them.

Porcupine Rain from For All We Shared opens the set. It gently comes in with
some repeating downward arpeggios on the guitar. Bryan and Heather then opens
the vocals. I would say there is pretty much of equal split between Bryan and
Heather�s level in the mix on this album were as on the original version it
was a definite bias to Bryan. The �No more pain … Now, No more tears …now.�
Chorus always catches me out, as there is a beat between the line and the now.
That quite appeals to me, as it is less obvious. It is a good opener although
not and out and out thriller.

The band go straight into Nowhere to Hide again from the first album. Without
looking at the titles people are more likely to think it is "I don’t want
to close my eyes". On the original album I felt this had a strong ELO feel
to it. But with no Violin in the band it is down to Iain on keyboards to carry
the riff that made me feel that way. He is actually quite well down in the mix
so I suspect the song feels quite different now. I think I prefer this version
if I am honest and the original felt a bit too addictive perhaps sugary.

Evergreen is from the Spirit Of Autumn Past and is one of my favourites. This
is a Heather song. There are some nice keyboards in this. The pace of this starts
slow and gradually builds up. I have just seen this one done acoustically and
it works really well in even in that format which is always a sign of a good
song. Having the Electric guitar in it that makes this even stronger. Towards
the end Bryan comes in with "the river keeps on flowing but the banks are
ever changing" and then it is time for an excellent solo from Bryan. The
pace is also turned up a notch halfway through. Excellent stuff.

A couple of songs from the original set are dropped and we move onto the title
track of The Spirit Of Autumn. Past 2 to give it it�s full title. Bryan is the
main vocalist on this one. He sings "In the breeze I take a deep breath"
which he then does and I really like that. In Nowhere To Hide he sings "Seconds
are stretching into years" and he stretches the stretching. So Bryan obviously
likes to get his emotions across directly. I suppose it might annoy some people
but it works for me. This is another of my favourite songs. It is a pretty laid
back start with a drum rhythm intro. Bryan�s vocal then starts and then after
the breath the acoustic guitar is added. Both Liam and Heather are playing the
accoustics in this song. At the chorus it builds up again with keyboards add
and then Bryan electric�s guitar comes in. After the chourus it is back just
the acoustics. Towards the end Angela adds some flute. There is another chorus
and then some nice keyboards from Iain. Mmm that’s strange I thought there was
a guitar end on this but in this version it is just everybody exchanging lines.

Heroes Never Die again from the first album but more like the remade version
on the Prints In The Stone single. This is dedicated to Bryan�s dad as usual.
Bryan starts with a few doodles on his guitar and then Angie tries to make us
weep (as she says on the DVD) with the flute. Bryan starts the vocal alone but
Heather soon joins him but she is definitely kept at backing levels on this
one. As usual the song builds up as it goes along. About halfway through there
is some the song kicks in and there is a really dirty/bassy keyboard sound.
This doesn’t really work as it just sounds like distortion or something. It
didn’t register it when watching the DVD (although it is there) but it is really
noticeable on when you haven’t got visual distractions. It is the end part of
the song, which makes it a classic. All of the band members that I have spoken
to seem to find this the highlight of the set most nights.

At the gig there were two set and The Night Sky from the first album opened
the 2nd set. Keyboards kick this off with sounds of the sea that I suspect has
been added in after. Heather and Bryan sing joint vocals and then there is some
nice flute from Angie. It is only really halfway through that the keyboard drop
out and the drums come in. There are some nice little Moog type whistles from
Iain in this one and then Bryan kicks in with the solo that made me want to
check out Mostly Autumn when I heard the song on a sampler disc. It is excellent
stuff. I probably prefer the 2nd of this to Heroes. The first half I am still
more cautious about.

Dark Before The Dawn from the Last Bright Light is an interesting choice of
song. I don’t really remember anything about it from the title. This one has
hints of the Who with it’s keyboard rhythms. I really like Angie and Heathers
flutes and Whistles on this. Bryan is the main singer although there are a few
Ah’s from the girls. I then feel there should be a scream as Bryan’s guitar
kicks in for a solo. I don’t know if I imagine it on the original but I always
add it in my head now. It’s a good track especially since it is not an obvious
favourite of mine.

Shrinking Violet from the Last Bright Light is one that has really grown on
my lately and is one of my favourites now. Heather sings but is also on Whistle
along with Angie who add’s backing vocals too. This again builds up as it goes
along. The guitar from Bryan on this is really tasteful. This is such an excellent
tune and performance. I see in my albums review for this song this performance
is where my interest for the song really started to grow.

We lose another jig and move straight onto the out and out thumper Never The
Rainbow from the Last Bright Light. My daughters heard this one day and amazed
me by asking for a copy of it. They really made my day. I don’t often get chance
to influence there taste in music. Heather feels this one is hard to sing live
as the rest of the band risk drowning her out but you can’t tell. Iain gets
a rare keyboard solo on this. A nice bit of Hammond. And of course there is
some great guitar from Bryan. Another excellent track.

To end the official set on the night and end this album we get Mother Nature
from the Last Bright Light. This is another gentle starting song with a biggish
middle and reasonable sized ending. It is interesting how I overlook the roles
of Iain on Keyboards and Liam on 2nd guitar. They can clearly be heard on this.
It is another joint vocal from Bryan and Heather and this time they have three
backing singers too. At the gig there was no Thunder on the middle section and
I am glad to see it has been added in on post production. It is an important
part of the song to me. It is a shame Iain isn’t able to trigger that somehow.
Iain gets a solo in this one too. I must admit I hadn’t spotted it before. I
guess because it is part of the piece rather than an adlib. This is a very nice
combination of arpeggios from Bryan and I assume Iain unless it is an effect
near the end. Another classic song.

There isn’t a weak track on this album and sometimes I feel the sound and performances
are so good it could have been done in the studio. I suspect someone with a
more musical ear might disagree but I certainly can’t hear any faults. I recommend
this to anyone that loves classic guitar playing and great performances. I hope
this really catapults the band to another level like Kiss Alive did for Kiss
etc.

Mostly Autumn – Music Inspired By Lord Of The Rings

When I interviewed the band in August the plans for the next album were to
re-record some tracks for an anthology in October or so and then record a forth
album early 2002. Instead what happened was it was put to them that they should
produce some music based on Lord Of The Rings in a spare fortnight they had.
On previous albums had already written �Helm’s Deep� and �Out Of The Inn� based
on �Lord Of The Rings� so this wasn’t an unreasonable suggestion and the record
company’s sister company were producing a documentary on the Tolkien so it all
made sense. So here we have not exactly the fourth album but an intermediate
release. Material that has already been written the forth album was not used
and everything here except the remakes just mentioned were written freshly for
the project.

My instinct after playing the album for a couple of weeks are that it isn’t
the strongest album they have made but it is a good addition until the new album
is made. Weather that will change after I go through it track by track remains
to be seen.

Overture – Forge Of Sauron – The album starts with hand drums and then a scream
from Bryan. This builds and builds until there is a crash of lightning and the
drums then go to standard rock format and the flute and possibly recorders take
the main riff. There is a very distorted voice saying "One ring to find
them all" etc. There are some strange chords used at the end of the track.
I must ask about them some time. I quite like this track.

Greenwood The Great – This is a Heather vocal track with acoustic guitar backing
and some Violin. For the first half it is very gentle and in the vain of �Eyes
Of The Forest� from the last album. Halfway though we then get the end theme
of the previous track. Then suddenly we some classic Gilmore style soloing from
Bryan. This represents the creatures of Sauron arriving and disturbing the peace
of the forest. Without that knowledge you wonder why the song is this way but
with the knowledge it all makes sense. I feel the track needs some kind of video.
I know some of the music is used in the Tolkien video and I wonder if this is
one of the tracks. I can’t see that they would have the space to do it justice
but it is definitely soundtrack designed to me. A good track all the same.

Goodbye Alone – This starts with a Piano intro from Iain for about 40 seconds
then there is a pause and the track proper begins. The first time I heard it
within 2 minutes I instantly took a liking it this one. Without a doubt this
is my favourite track on the album and I see it has been released (without the
Piano intro) as the single for the album. Throughout the main part of the track
there is a pattern that reminds me of the rain in the Disney song "April
showers". This really hooks my brain. There is excellent violin and flute
with acoustic backing at the start. Then Bryan sings about Frodo’s feelings
to his comfy home in the Shire. Heather joins in on the last verse and the violin
and the flute both continue in the later vocal sections. This track works for
me on so many levels it is head and shoulder above the rest of the album for
me. I having a feeling I am downgrading the rest of the album based on it but
I will see shortly. After the verse finishes we get some more clean guitar from
Bryan. This builds in power and then the drums join in. My only complaint about
this track is it fades at the end. I want more solo and a proper ending. This
is very minor though and I guess I am just greedy.

Out Of The Inn – Is a remake of the track from the first album. I am so familiar
with the track live now there is nothing fresh in it for me and it slightly
annoys me that it comes on next. I suppose once the whole album is no longer
"new" to me it will fit OK but I don’t tend to like new and old material
mixed on albums. This track is in the main film part of �The Story So Far� but
didn’t make the CD of it so it is not unreasonable to add it to the album especially
as it is �Lord Of The Rings� inspired and there is no Violin in this version.
Also of course it is a cracking track.

On The Wings Of Gwaihir – Drums start this track, which has a very strong Pink
Floyd feel to it. There are whooshing keyboards and acoustic guitars. It then
moves to a bit of organ. The main guitar uses a lot of echo. For the last 90
seconds Bryan then takes it up a gear again. I quite like this instrumental.

At Last To Rivendell – The party of travellers are now at the last friendly
house in their journey and this instrumental is the bands idea of what might
be played during the meal. It is very clearly influenced by the kind of music
�Blackmore’s Night� play. It is a nice tune that gradually builds in speed as
the song progresses. It actually starts with a kind of music box feel to it.

Journey’s Thought – We have a nice atmospheric start, which again reminds me
of Floyd. Bryan then starts singing and again I was going to say in a Gilmore
style but it actually reminds me more of a John Cale song on his �Paris 1919�.
It is a rather breathy vocal. There are some nice keyboards from Iain to end
the piece. Another quite laidback track hence my impression this album doesn’t
quiet hit the peaks I like but I like this track.

Caradhras The Cruel – Whoops someone cocked up the mastering on this CD. This
track was supposed to whoosh from the previous track into this one bit there
is a Pre-track 2seconds gap spoiling it. This is a rather heavy track with distorted
vocals from Bryan. Heather also adds her voice as a beautiful counterpart. There
is then a small guitar break and some more Heather, then it is over, a mere
2 and a half minutes. Again very enjoyable but I want more.

The Riders Of Rohan – A Piano intro starts this one. It reminds me of Magnum
or Marillion. This is a Heather songs. Bryan does add some minor backing. Actually
this is more of an Iain song as he wrote it and he has a very busy main line
through out the song. It is lowered in the mix for the 2nd half but it is nice
to hear him playing something a bit more complex.

Lothlorien is a rare female character in �Lord Of The Rings� and Heather and
this track express her beauty rather well. The track is completely acoustic
with just some acoustic guitar and flute.

The Return Of The King – I first heard this track as the opener of the live
set. It stuck me as most unlike Mostly Autumn at the time. I guess it still
is a little heavy by their standards but it is one of my favourites on the album.
Or it would be if it didn’t end on a fade. Having heard it live I know there
can be a proper ending. Now listening to this I keep thinking it will fade even
when we have only just started the song. I guess it doesn’t help that the song
is relatively short at 3.18. I am curious to hear it live again now to find
out how long it is there and weather it had become more crafted.

To The Grey Havens – This is a gentle atmospheric track that just kind of exists
to me. It doesn’t seem like an album ending but then it is about Gandalf and
Bilbo Baggins dying and going to Heaven.

Helm’s Deep is also on the disc as a bonus Video track. The footage is basically
the bonus track from the Story So Far DVD with some illustrations also inter-cut.
The artwork on the album is rather nice and by the Brothers Hildebrandt so I
assume the video pictures are also by them.

So overall I like the album a lot but I feel a couple of song could well have
been extended and added to if the band had had more time. A couple of tracks
also feel like soundtrack tracks which, as a rule of thumb won�t work for me.
�Goodbye Alone� is a fantastic track and it would have been nice to get another
2 or three tracks of that quality but overall I like the album and am very pleased
it was released. I am slightly disappointed at Classic Rock Legend�s quality
control letting the mastering mistake get through but they are not the first
or I am sure the last to have this problem. Hopefully this disc will sell out
and there this will corrected for future pressings.

Magnum Related

Occasionally I write reviews of albums for mailing lists. I have therefore
started to keep them here to.

Bob Catley – The Tower
Bob Catley – Legends
Hard Rain – When The Good Times Come

Bob Catley – The Tower

I was very kindly sent a Promotional copy of Bob Cately’s solo album "The
Tower" today. I got it direct from Frontiers Records in Italy (frontier@Itb.it).
It came in a nice Picture card sleeve of what I assume will be the albums front
and back covers.

The disc is just over 58mins long. And contains ten tracks. Although the last
one is curiously instrumental I therefore assume Bob-less. This is 2nd
solo album I have had this year with a track without the solo artist on it.
(Mark Thompson Smith’s being the other and actually a very good track)

I am notoriously bad at liking an album on it’s first listen so I will not
really comment on weather I like it. Just what I observed.

The first thing that struck me was that I can’t hear Bob in the mix very well.
As the album progressed I decided it might be because his vocals are done in
several layers and perhaps that is why the whole vocals sound muddy to me. I
certainly need to listen to the album at higher than normal levels and I still
was not convinced it was better.

The next thing was there are lots of Keyboards on this. Electric Piano and
lots of atmospheric keyboards that often seem to follow the vocal lines a bit
closely. Thought that might be just one song. In other places the Keyboards
lines are up to the standards I would expect considering I am a big Rick Wakeman
fan.

There was talk by Bob in Hard Roxx Magazine number 35 (available from 106312.2344@compuserve.com)
about the album sounding like On A Story tellers Night Magnum. Perhaps the Lyrics
are but I can’t really see it with the sound. I just recently got my first Ten
Album "The Name of the Rose" and this musically reminds me of Ten
more than Magnum not surprisingly since it is written and produced by Ten’s
Gary Hughes. The are huge amounts of acoustic guitar on the album.

There was a track on the first play that stuck me as being quite enjoyable
and that was "Fear of the Dark" it will be interesting to see how
the album grows on me.

Judging by my 2nd play of Dreams and Madrigal it already is. I do wish the
Mix was clearer though

________________ 8 days Later

Well I have been playing Bob’s The Tower for some time now and I have to say
I quite like it. It is actually much better than I expected it to be when I
heard Gary Hughes had written. I still have not heard much Ten but what I have
heard gives me the impression he has got the right idea but the is something
lacking in the overall result. ie It ok but not quite great. I of course know
that the press and others are praising him to death so perhaps I have not heard
the best side of him.

I am still not quite convinced that Bob has been Mixed very well but now that
I know the songs etc I am not having to concentrate so heard to hear the vocals.

Looking at the titles on the album. I would say my favourite is still Fear
of the Dark. But it is closely followed by Madrigal, Deep Winter and Dreams
and Scream. I enjoy the whole album. I do sometimes wonder about the arrangements
but I suspect I am just being picky. I think I like this album as much as the
Hard Rain album (not that they are similar. Hard Rain sounded a little computer
generated. This sounds real) And that was the album that got me back into investigating
the later day Magnum back catalogue which I had lost interest in.

I think now is definitely a good time to be a Magnum artist related fan. It
would be good too see some of this stuff live.

Hard Rain – When The Good Times Come

This arrived today. It wasn’t what I was expecting. It is pretty much Hard
Rain II. Yes I know that is what I should have been expecting but with all the
talk being about it being done by the band and not just Tony and a computer
I guess I was expecting something different.

It is still too early too tell if I like it or not. But I wasn’t too keen on
Eat It Up and Talks Like A Lady at last years gigs. Eat it up on here is a bit
brassy for me too which I never like for some reasons. It will be interesting
to see how I take too it. Especially as I think I am unlikely to make a gig
this tour.

I guess it does not help that I am listening to the Road to Paradise on my
other CD player. That makes an excellent replacement for the Vintage Magnum
album as for a couple of quid more you get so many more tracks and better sound
quality. I do wish Castle Communications would do more checking on their sleeve
notes though. They always have mistakes like "All tracks are album versions
except at indicated" on disc 1. Which of course contains loads of B sides
and Live versions!

I would also personally prefer the set to not include Eleventh Hour which I
find to be rather inferior to the rest. At least it is at the end. I was therefore
interested to read that it is close to someone best Magnum album 🙂 I Meet
a guy at a Vigilante tour gig in Ipswich who thought similar.

WTGTC is growing already. Actually I liked HR a lot so I should like this in
theory.

__________ A week later.

So how are we taking to this album now? I think I am about to retire it. It
does very little for me. I am a little baffled as to why. In fact I am just
playing the first HR album and it moves me so much more. I thought perhaps I
just have a downer on at present (I don’t like Fish’s new one either) but HR
still picks me up and impresses me like it did when I first got it. Is it because
the songs on WTGTC are more upbeat? Perhaps Tony’s guitar isn’t as nice. It
bugs me that I can’t see why I am not taking to it. Perhaps it needs a rest
and then a play in a few weeks or years. Perhaps it is just a duffer.

Legends – Bob Catley

I had been looking forward to the release of this album but I have had it over
a week now, played it quite a few times and yet I still can’t get into it. I
have therefore been delaying giving my worthless opinion on it.

Lets start with the easy bit. I love the Artwork. It always interesting to
see links to the past in an album cover and the Magnum "M" built into
the window/skylight is just that. I love the look of the cover in general. Much
better than The Tower which was just OK.

When I got the album I had a lot of prejudice to get over. I don’t really like
Gary Hughes writing for Ten. When I first heard their albums I thought they
had a lot of potential but weren’t fulfilling it. Only one or two songs strike
be as being good. The more I hear of his writing the more I can see this is
his style and it just doesn’t really work for me.

I could therefore be despondent about the news that Bob has left Hard Rain
(whose 2nd album When The Good Times Come I also struggled with. Especially
after loving the first album, which then re-sparked my interest in the later
Magnum albums). I can take hope though in the fact that with luck Bob will have
more time to get others to write for him and not just Hughes. I would love to
see more stuff along the lines of Jabberwocky with Clive Nolan and Oliver Wakeman.
I love listening to Bob sing but it needs to be in the right environment. Being
a non writer he is probably in a difficult and highly risky position and you
have to respect his choice to leave Tony Clarkin and try something new. I wonder
how much arranging and musical input Bob has on the work he produces.

Lets go through the album song by song

The Pain – I am pretty in different to this

Shelter From The Night. Having a keyboard riff throughout this song I quire
like it. I have always been partial to keyboard and that is why I like early
Magnum in preference to the later albums.

Carpe Diem – Mmm this one is quite reasonable too. I like the multi-layered
chorus.

Tender Is The Night – This pretty much just passes time for me on the album.
I can’t say anything is wrong with it but equally I don’t really enjoy it.

Medusa – This song isn’t too bad. I like the chorus again. It does have my
main fault with Hughes writing though and that is the music following Bob’s
vocals.

Hydra – This is another that pretty much annoys me while being sort of OK.
The music is following Bob on the chorus’s again and I just find it to much
and too simple in structure at the same time.

A Beautiful Night For Love – I normally as quite a sucker for Ballads but again
not this one. I sometimes feel the chorus’s go on too much but can’t really
decide.

Too Late – Mmm are all the songs merging into one for me. Ah no. I at least
love the keyboard solo which reminds me of Marillion but that is only a small
part of a long song.

The Light – Pure indifference again 🙁

Where The Heart Is – This one sounds like a Christmas song to me. Again the
music is following Bob almost making him redundant. Or maybe it is better put
that guide vocal track was done in music and they forgot to remove it.

So there we have it. This album still doesn’t manage to move me as much as
The Tower. Since I knew I was struggling with this I dug out The Tower and gave
it a spin again. I had played it about a fortnight ago and thought it not quite
as good as I remembered it. But in comparison to this I positively enjoyed it
yesterday.

Perhaps this review will spark someone into defending the album I look forward
to hearing what people like about it. I am sure anyone that loves Ten will love
this and I hope Bob has another success on his hands. I do hope for future releases
he can vary the song writer so that fans like me can still enjoy his work. Of
course Gary could always revert and improve the style of The Tower. I think
I will include my Tower Review so you can get a feel for my thoughts when reviewing.
I can remember thinking Bob was drowned in the mix on that album and I noticed
he seemed clearer on The Tower yesterday so I guess I have got used to the style
now. I think this album needs a rest now. Perhaps if I put it in my Jukebox
I will come across it on Random play and get curious enough to try it again.
It has worked with some other impenetrable albums.

Secrets Of Astrology – Lana Lane

 This is an odd album to me as it combines artists of my favourite two
bands of the 90’s. Lana after several successful albums decided to try some
new musicians on this album. The Main interest to me is the addition of Ayreon’s
master Arjen Lucassen on guitar.

Astrology Prelude – This is a good opener. Lane is on "Ah" type vocals
and it is a good tune.

Secrets Of Astrology – This is a typical Lana song keyboardwise but it strikes
me a being heavier overall since Arjen is on Heavy Rhythm guitars in most of
it. The song is OK but I am not sure I am as keen on the heaviness. I like the
use of keyboards, as is usually the case with me.

Alexandria – This is by far my favourite track on the album. While I normally
like this softer sort of song on Previous albums it is normally heavier tracks
such as Destination Roswell and Frankenstein Unbound that are my favourites.
Again Arjen is providing Heavy Rhythm guitars and there is a definite Beatle
feel to the backing. Now that I am looking at the track credits it is easy to
recognise Arjen as being the 2nd Guitar solo. I.e. it is typical of the sort
of think he would do on Ayreon. The first guitar solo is by the other guitarist
of the album David Victor from Velocity.

Raining – This is another of my favourite. Again there is lots of heavy backing
from Arjen. Ayreon’s Robert Soeterboek is apparently on Backing Vocals but I
can’t say I noticed. The Guitar solo is David’s.

The Bell – This has a very Orchestrated Classical started. Oh sorry it is a
real String Section. Eric Norlander only providing Percussion on this and there
is no Arjen. I am rather fond of this one. I think this is probably more normal
Lana in style. It also has touches of Louis Clark ELO string arrangements to
it.

Speed Of Sound – This is apparently the controversial track among the fans.
It has that horrid double speed drumming on it. But despite this I actually
think it is OK. Oh Robert is on Harmony Vocals again. He is on quite a few tracks
actually but I wouldn’t buy the album for his contribution. Again it’s a David
Solo. I like the interplay between Erik’s Keyboards and the Guitar solo and
then the main theme. Arjen of course is on Rhythm but I can’t actually spot
what he is doing if I am honest. I guess I would need to watch it performed
or listen in headphones.

Under The Sun – After that heavy onslaught we are on an Arjen less Mellow tune.
Again this is more what I seem to enjoy on this album. I am going to have to
listen the other albums to see if most tracks are like this or the heavy tracks
on this album are just a tad too heavy for me. The song has nice input from
the string section again.

Tarrot – This song is an Arjen Lana co-write. Back with the heavy Rhythm! I
am really not sure I like this aspect on the album. This track is excellent
though. Arjen apparently helps out on Moog too. I think this track would be
more likely to fit on Flight Of The Migrator than Dream Sequencer but possibly
it fits somewhere between the two. I like the patterns of Arjen’s Single note
guitar playing most I think. I suspect that is one of the main things I like
about Arjen’s writing.

Asherah – Arjen gets another guitar solo on this. It has Heavy Rhythm guitars
but slower ones. I am a little indifferent to this track. Mmm it’s interesting
once I know it is Arjen’s solo I can tell it. Never before. Mind you I have
the same trouble playing scales on my Sax. When they are wrong I am not sure
if they are right. When they are right I do know it! I clearly have a strange
brain.

Guardian Angel – Oh this one grates on me. I don’t like the "the white
cliffs of Dover" line. It is very annoying as I like the instrumental breaks
(which include Arjen and of course Erik). Ah this was the one Guitar solo I
spotted as Arjen without the booklet. This track is actually very Ayreon. I
guess that is why I find is so frustrating I hate the Chorus.

Long Winter Dreams – Oh here comes the Rhythm again. I think this track is
pretty much just there for me.

Astrology Postlude – A kind of summary of the album. I prefer the Prelude this
is pretty much just there for me again. There are some nice sections though

Romeo And Juliet – Is the Japanese only bonus track. Again it is OK.

I set very high standard for Lana’s music and this album pretty much meets
them. I certainly think it is better than the first two. I can’t help thinking
it isn’t as good as Garden of the Moon and Queen Of The Ocean though. I really
can’t put my finger on what it is that is missing or not quite there for me
on this album. I suspect I am indifferent to about the same number of tracks
on the other albums so I guess I just don’t get the peaks of excitement. I am
also a little uncomfortable with the amount of heavy Rhythm so perhaps I find
that slightly distracting. I certainly wouldn’t claim it was wrong and I sure
others will enjoy it. I would be interested to hear what others think about
the album though.

Lane Lane – The Ballad Collection

Hopefully my copy of the New album is on it’s way from Japan but in the mean
time I have been on the Ballad Collection for the last week or two. It’s very
good. When I first played it to a friend in the car going to a gig I feared
it might be too slow but I don’t know how I got that impression. I did notice
I now know more of the tracks though.

Where does Avalon come from? This is excellent. I guessed it would be on Love
Is An Illusion from the date but I see it isn’t. Is it a Rocket Scientist track?
I really like the use of Viola on it. I have to say I can’t really see the point
of Avalon Reprise though. There is no Lana or Viola so why bother? To be far
I do like the Reprise it is just if you have the album on repeat it is annoying
hearing it and then the first version again.

Athena’s Shadow is very nice.

Again where does Stardust come from I can’t spot it on an album but it is written
by one of the circle. Again this is OK I am not terribly struck on it.

Through The Fire is Good to hear in the new format. Even though I drink only
once in a Blue moon I must be an alcoholic. Instead of singing to myself “Take
the ashes and turn them to Diamonds” by brain always wants to sing “Take
the ashes and turn them to Cider” I can’t explain how my brain got into
this habit and it really bugs me. Oh it is very interesting to play the 1998
“original” version again. I don’t really get on with that album but
this song is OK.

I think When time Stood Still is far Better than the ELO original. It is one
of my favourite on the album. Especially Erik’s keyboard touches.

Clouds was one of my favourites on Curious Goods. I have to say playing the
original I can’t understand why. This Ballad version is so much better. In fact
it makes me think of Karen Carpenter (ie The Carpenters) but thankfully not
as Cheesy. So who did the original of this?

Heart of Dawn I didn’t realise was a track on it’s own. Both this and Take
a breath I like a lot but I prefer the original mix to the Ballad one. It is
a bit bassier and Lana is more up front.

I have never heard Across the Universe before so was surprised to see it is
presumably a Beatles song. It stuck me more as being a cover of an Abba song
or something. A friend nastily contaminated my collection with some Beatles
albums but it doesn’t seem to be on any so I am curious to hear the original.
That’s the funny thing with the Beatles they have influenced so many of the
bands I like but I tend not to like them themselves. I accepted their albums
since my friend had them in his 2nd Hand shop and he knows I like ELO and Roy
Wood etc and have an Album by Rick Wakeman of Beatles tunes. Across the universe
is good anyway. I think I am not 100% certain. It does seem a little Sickly.

Overall I really like the album.

How sad. Only Live In Japan to go and I am up to date

Lana Lane/Erik Norlander

Occasionally I write reviews of albums for mailing lists. I have therefore
started to keep them here to.

Erik Norlander – Threshold
Erik Norlander – Into The Sunset
Lana Lane – Live Bonus Discs
Lana Lane – Ballad Collection 2

Erik Norlander – Threshold

I have had this album some weeks put it away and then got it out again because
I wanted to compare it to Into The Sunset. At the time I was a little disappointed
with it as I guess I was hoping for Lana Lane Frankenstein Unbound solos in
early 70’s Rick Wakeman type tunes. This album isn’t really like that at all.
It probably compares well to early 90’s Rick albums (when he is in rock mode).

Arrival is really just a two-minute intro soundscape to Neurosaur. This is
a good tune. It uses keyboard that that has a mike attached to it. Or it did
when I have seen Rick Wakeman producing the sounds. I like the main riff. It
is quite a bubbly jolly little thing. The tune has good variety though.

No Cross To Carry is similar in its riffy way to the previous track. I had
to double check we had moved on as I know the album so well and I don’t remember
tunes well as pieces. I guess this tune is following song format in that it
has repeating sections and breaks etc. I don’t think of this when I am
reviewing Wakeman albums so perhaps it is more structured than him. Sorry I
have no other keyboard albums to compare against so they are they only references
I will think off.

Threshold – I guess of the tracks so far they are all using similar sets of
sounds. A Dirty Riffy sort. The breath one. A Soloing Moog type voice and maybe
a couple of others. Erik uses a real drummer on the album and I think this helps
a lot compares to some of Wakeman’s more recent works in this field. It also
has a bass but must confess I am not listening to him much. Around the 5-minute
mark there is a lengthy nothing much happening phase. Lots of scratching sorts
of going on in the background with some programmed rhythms and a solo line.
Then it reverts back to the main tune. I like the piece but don’t really understand
the middle bit. There is nothing wrong with it. It is just there for me though.

Neuro Boogie starts of a bit like Deep Purple’s Lazy although it still
reminds me more of a more recent Wakeman piece. This is a good patterny tune
(Bach like?) with the occasional Lazy type blues break. Around the 3-minute
mark we have a break for a minute before returning to the main themes at the
end. Again I quiet like this.

Trantor Station -Whoops I thought this was Walts Of The Biots and I thought
it a good name. It does sound like Mechanical Robots mumblings at the start.
Again very Wakeman like to me. Perhaps this album is like his 2000AD – Into
the Future most (It’s probably nothing like it if I play it again :-)) 
Again this is a good track. I am particularly drawn to the Trumpet sounding
sections expecting them to appear in places they don’t.

Waltz Of The Biots – Particle Storm to about 2mins is just keyboard soundscaping.
I am never sure if I view this as music, annoying or OK. We then get some Chinese/Japanese
sounding sort of Rhythms before a melody kicks in around 3 and 1/2 mins. Oh
this is definitely reminding me of 2000AD. (Or this album 😉 )

It’s no good, I had to suspended this review to spin through 2000AD. The
keyboard sounds on 2000AD are more varied and slightly different it is also
a faster album but I think there is a similarity in the feel between the two.
I think I prefer 2000AD overall but I have had this album many years and it
was the B side of a Cassette I made with Softsword on it and that is one of
my Favourite Rick albums so it had had a lot more play).

Back to Threshold I definitely prefer the real drumming on this. Around the
6-minute mark in Biots we change again. Ah Keith Emerson on the sleeve notes
mentions Phil Glass. I have only heard his Bowie stuff but I think I can here
what Emerson means here. I quite like this phase of the track. It must be the
Grand Ballroom section. When playing the CD I would probably have guessed the
Cocktails In the Vestibule section was a different tune.

Critical Mass starts with church Organ type sounds, which continue in sections
during the piece. I don’t think I could guess the sections on this one. Around
3.30 we get some bottom end Moog then some horns? And the organ again. Around
5 mins there are some more very Wakeman runs. Then there is some piano. Again
quite a good piece.

Overall I think it is a good album for anyone that likes solo keyboard players.
I am not sure the album is for everyone and I have to be in keyboard only mood
to want to play it. It is quite different from Into The Sunset, which is more
of a song/band-based album.

Into The Sunset – Erik Norlander

This is Erik’s 2nd solo album and it is quite different from his first one.

Sunset Prelude – This album starts with Ah’s and this time they are real ones.
It then proceeds to a full band hard rock track. It has Ayreon’s Arjen Luccassen
and guitars and it gives the album a much more rounded feel. Erik is more into
Lana Lane sounding solos and with a full band obviously has less room for keyboard
sounds. This track in fact seems a little guitar biased until around 1.30 and
then we get some good exciting keyboards from Erik. This is more the sort of
stuff I hoped for on Threshold. It is like the difference between a middling
Wakeman album and one of my favourite ones. It is the excitement factor for
me.

Into The Sunset follows on seamlessly. I wonder what makes a song sub part
and what makes one a new track? These two are clearly linked. Edward Reekers
(Who has sung on Arjen’s Ayreon albums) is vocalist on this track and he is
in good form. Being an Erik solo album we get longer keyboard breaks than we
would on a Lana Lane album. Here there is actually interplay between Erik and
Arjen.

Rome is Burning has Glenn Hughes on vocals. Not my favourite vocalist in the
world but he is OK. Interestingly he was lined up to work with Rick Wakeman
and Keith Emerson during the summer. It didn’t happen but I believe an album
might. Lana Lane (who has also worked with Arjen on Ayreon. (I hate it when
solo artist are referred to by bands they used to be in. EG Wakeman in Yes when
he has probably outsold them solo)) also adds vocals to this. This probably
isn’t my favourite track but it is good.

Fanfare For The Dragon Isle is a short instrumental which is far better than
soundscaping. It leads to

Fly which starts with lots of Arjen. It has vocals by Lana and a little section
at the start by Edward. The tracks on this album are a lot paceier than the
previous album. Lana is pretty much used as Erik uses her on her solo albums.
Including the trick of using her to answer herself, which I really like. In
the middle it calms down and we get some piano work before it moves into some
Hammond and then picks up for more keyboard soloing. This is a pretty good track.

Dreamcurrents reminds me of another band. Perhaps Renaissance. It is Piano
and keys. It then has some Cellos by Cameron Stone (possibly not used on Ayreon.
Yet!). This is a nice gentle piece. Very good.

Lines In The Sand – I must train my brain not to think it is sung "Lions
in the Sand"! It clearly isn’t that but the change of note confuses me.
When I first played the album I thought Robert Soeterboek’s vocals rather rough
sounding. It has to be said I think this is my favourite track though. I don’t
think there is anything wrong with the grit in his vocal at all now. I love
all the solos I don’t think it can go wrong really with Arjen and Erik doing
them. I think Erik is using a smaller subset of sounds on this one. At least
for soloing. Oh I just noticed the Breath keyboard in use too.

On The Wings Of Ghosts has an atmospheric start with some cello before a piano
stats tapping and the band finally join in. It must be a Moog that is doing
most of the keyboard solos. The structure of this song prior to the vocals is
a bit like on Threshold but more enjoyable with the extra guitar. This song
is has the early Ayreon combination of Edward and Robert exchanging vocal lines.
It is very effective as Edward is a lovely voice and Robert the gritty contrast.
Arjen’s heavy rhythm backing didn’t really work for me on Lana’s Secrets of
Astrology but on this album it is perfect. The track ends with a quieter section
with piano and good melodic guitar and then keyboard. It is very good. I wish
Arjen would use Edward and Robert like this again.

Hymn is a very short Lana vocal track, which I assumed was part of ..

Into The Sunset Repise and ..

Sunset Postlude. Nothing greatly different here although I know the album so
well I could be wrong.

And there the album ends and I am surprised it feels so short. I guess there
are only 6 or 7 tunes really. Luckily I bought the Japanese version, which has
a bonus track

Alchemy and Astronomy – Oh the notes about this aren’t in the album (or they
are but not English). Mmm I read them at Erik’s site www.thetank.com. It is
supposed to be reminiscent of Rocket Scientist’s (Erik’s other band) Mariner
song. I am only just listening to that but didn’t make the Connection and RS’s
Escape. I can’t recall that one without playing it. I know where Pink Floyd’s
Shine On You Crazy Diamond references comes from though as the song contains
a good sax solo. It is not often I have my favourite three instruments on one
album. The vocal is by Edward again although it is a very small part of this
17 minute song. I like the Bass work in his vocal section. And I like this song
in general although it doesn’t really fit the album. I certainly think it makes
the Japanese album worth the expense. Actually from Erik’s site it was/is only
16 dollars.

I think this album is an excellent release. It doesn’t quite reach Ayreon heights
for me but I would certainly love a lot more of it. I highly recommend it if
you are into hard rock with good guitars and Moog solos (and in Japan a Sax
solo).

If I am honest this is the sort of music I would like to see Rick Wakeman have
a crack at. It would be interesting to see if Arjen could ever get Rick to work
with him. Rick has a strange taste in Guitar players and is a lot softer these
days so I am not sure it would work out how I would like. I think Erik is as
close to Rick Wakeman as I am likely to find in this area of music. He clearly
has the same obsession with work and writing too. Even better he can right lyrics
and has a more traditional sense of a good vocalist.

Lana Lane – Live Bonus Discs

I got a very pleasant surprised this week. In the post came
two 3 track Lana Lane live discs that I didn’t know about. Apparently they are
give aways in Japan if you know how to fill in the forms. Luckily a very kind
friend was able to get them for me as she had spare forms/tokens

The first disc is a live Covers disc

Long Live Rock’n’roll (Club Quattro – Tokyo – 20 Apr 99)
– It has to be said I approached this with fear. The original Rainbow version
is a classic and I have a definite bias against female vocals. (I wouldn’t have
got into Lana if it wasn’t for the fact I was drawn by Erik’s keyboards.) I
therefore wondered how would this sound and I have to say I am impressed it
comes off pretty well. Lana’s vocals are strong and clear and the band does
a good job. Erik throwing in lots of Hand down the keyboard (which is in Hammond
mode if it isn’t one) and a nice little break with the guitar in the middle.

Seasons End (Club Quattro – Tokyo – 20 Apr 99) – This seems
to be a duet by Lana and Erik. I really like the studio version which is a Japanese
Bonus track on Queen Of Ocean. This pretty much only has a piano keyboard sound.
It seems to have key pressure additional voices to give it that little bit extra
but I miss the extra keyboard voices of the Studio version. Especially Erik’s
little phrase at the end of each line. This is still extremely good though.
Lana can certainly sing. I still don’t like the original Marillion version which
is so drab by comparison. Lana’s vocals are really move me, Steve Hogarth’s
just leave me cold. The keyboards on the original just don’t have the same quality
either. I wonder what made Lana choose the song. Playing the Demo version on
the Marillion Season End remaster I get the impression Lana’s version is perhaps
closer to the demo than the final version.

Dream On (Zippal Hall, Tokyo 29 Oct 98) – This is apparently
an Aerosmith cover. I had never heard it before so to me this is a new track.
Again this is Erik and Lana and despite being an earlier tour Erik seems to
be on the same Keyboard sounds. Lana really well does this well to me. I would
love to have seen Lana live or on Video. I think this track is on a par with
Seasons End so I am glad to have heard it.

The Second is High Energy Live

Evolution Revolution (Banana Hall Osaka – 19 Apr 99 – Hey I
have been there!) – Being full band stuff and live versions of tunes I already
know in this format I think the songs on this disc suffer from the mix. I wonder
how they were recorded. At a guess I would say soundboard DATs. This comes across
well but I have a feeling this is one of the songs that has two Lana voices
answering each other and live of course she can’t do that. Ah again I want to
see it in video I bet Erik it fascinating to watch on the keyboard break and
it would be interesting to see the guitar solo etc.

Night Falls (Club Quattro – Tokyo – 20 Apr 99) – I can’t really
find anything to say about this. It is very faithful to the studio version.
The sound is perhaps better than the first track.

Through the Rain (Club Quattro – Tokyo – 20 Apr 99) – Ah the
drum sound on this one seems a bit odd (hollow? muddy?). Everyone else is OK.
Again this is pretty faithful to the original (as far as I can remember). The
middle guitar break might well be different.

I really would like to know what the set lists were on these
tours. The band if they can’t justify a full video shoot ought to release a
homemade video bootleg (with warnings) for dedicated fans by the internet. I
am sure fans dedicated fans would prefer something to nothing but equally I
am sure the band would be too perfectionist to do something like that. I can
live in hope though. Lana Lana are definitely a band I would love to see live.
I am frustrated to have discovered Lana played here in Britain only a few weeks
before I found her Frankenstein Unbound on a Hard Roxx sampler disc. This being
my intro to the band and the source of my compulsion to get everything I can
by them. I think I am down to the first Rocket Scientist album and the live
video now. Boo hoo.

If you can work out how to get these disc I highly recommend
them. It’s a shame there are no notes for them. I particularly like Erik’s notes
from the Producers desk.

Ballad Collection 2 – Lana Lane

Lana Lane’s first Ballad Collection was so popular that after the last Studio
album they were asked to do another one. It is mainly covers but not necessarily
tracks you would expect to hear.

Nether Lands – This is a track by Dan Fogelberg from his self-titled solo
album. I haven’t got a clue who he is or what the original is like but I love
this version. I don’t like the fact it is the first track on the album though
as sometimes I feel I can overdose on it. I am not sure why but I often feel
the need to jump in the middle of the disc if I know I won’t play the disc all
the way through. Erik is on Piano and Harpsichord and I can well imagining Rick
Wakeman playing the same way. Lana sings the track with her usual clarity and
I therefore find myself really listening to the Lyrics. At about the four-minute
mark there is a little interlude which reminds me of fair ground music for some
reason. Erik is getting a lot of other instrument sounds on this one too

Hands To Heal – This is an original composition by Lana’s long time Stick
player Don Schiff and his writting partner Tully Winfield.  Lana’s voice
is sometimes used to repeat lines with a different effect on it and I like that.
The track fits well on the album but it isn’t a favourite. I wonder if it is
because there is not much Erik on it? There are certainly a fair few guitar
runs on it from Neil Citron.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – This is of course is an Elton John song and I
was extremely disappointed when I heard it was to be on the album. It is one
of my favourites though. Again Lana brings out the lyrics and I love Erik’s
Hammond including the short hand along the keyboard moments. I also like Erik’s
Moog solo sandwiched between Neil’s guitar solos.

A Place In Time – This was written by Lana herself. I am currently typing
an interview with her up and she was saying how she has been writing on acoustic
guitar recently so it is interesting to hear this is acoustic guitar based now
that I am playing it with knowledge of who wrote it. Again there is less Erik
on it so there is less to excite me. The track is good but not a favourite.

Nevermore – This starts without a break. In fact it starts on a guitar run
which is most unusual. I would never have spotted it was a new song to be honest.
It’s a complete mystery of what makes a new song, what makes a sub part of a
song and what makes an instrumental track. This track has more hints of Erik
in it but it is still a bit Erik light. His backing seems a bit ELO/Louis Clarke
in flavour.

A Place In Time Reprise – This changes at a guitar run again. I am a bit baffled
by why it is here but when I listen to the album as a whole all three tracks
are one to me.

Ghost By My Bedside – The pace picks up a bit for this one and there is some
really nice fretless Bass work on it. I like the rhythm of the lyrics on this.
Strangely Erik’s fairly comprehensive CD notes don’t say whom this was originally
by. It was written by a Gregory Markel though. Erik uses a Mellotron on it so
I guess that is why it feels slightly Beatles like in the background. I like
this one.

To The Last Whale Critical Mass and Wind On The Water. This is by Crosby and
Nash. Bum is a word I used to get told off for saying a kid so I guess the first
part of Critical Mass is a bit rude to me with all that Bum, bum, bum be dumbing
on it 😉 My daughters were at least amused when I suggested they shouldn’t
listen to the lyrics. It is a very good Multi-harmony vocal part. I can’t altogether
see the point but why not start a track like it. The tracks ends with some atmospherics
from Erik, which I assumed was the intro to Wind On The Water but again, I am
wrong. The lyrics for this track are very strong. Incidentally a British person
would never have written them. The lines end in Raise, Vase and face. Brits
pronounce Vase as Var-se. It catches me of guard every time. I was convinced
this sounded like a Steely Dan track when I heard it. Something about the rhythm
has that feel to it to me. I don’t know if the original Crosby Nash song has
this feel or if it is just this arrangement. I very much like the track anyway.

The River Maid – This is another Lana Lane original. Is this a record for
one album? I seem to recall checking past albums and normally only finding one
or two songs by Lana herself. Like her other tracks on the album it is a slower
paced track and which makes it harder to excite me. On Erik is on Lead guitar
on this one. A man of many talents.

Autumn Leaves – Is a Jazz standard and again Erik doesn’t mention by whom.
I would never have guessed it. It is very pleasant although not outstanding.

Innocent When You Dream – I rather like this one. Originally by Tom Waits
it has an interesting vocal melody and some nice Keys from Erik. I think the
key to my liking it is it’s slightly more up-tempo again.

If Everyone Was Listening – Here is the only other Cover I knew prior to the
album. By Supertramp I wasn’t sure if Lana could make it her own. I think she
has though. I have been meaning to compare it to the original for weeks perhaps
I will now. Again Erik is the star for me. I love his backing on this. I am
a bit surprised he replaced the Sax solo (whoops Clarinet I think) with a similar
sound on the keyboard though. The guitar solo from Neil Citron works very well
too. Oh this section isn’t on the original at all. I thought it strange that
Supertramp would have two tracks together with big endings. Mmm I can’t decide
which version I prefer. Both are very good. I think I might just edge towards
the Lana version because of Erik sound at the start of the song.

My guess is that I have played Ballad 2 a least twice as many times as the
original Ballad collection. I therefore suspected I preferred it overall. Since
I have got the Ballad Collection Special Edition I decided to play the first
collection again just as a one off. The first thing I noticed was the use of
the Viola. I am a real sucker for well-used String section instruments so this
kind of made the album a bit more varied and special. I also liked the variety
of having the hand percussion on Through the Fire. I therefore wonder if I do
prefer the original Ballad set especially now the disc has Marillion’s Season’s
End on it. I think the key is both discs are great quality and I love them both.
Ballad 2 of course has the advantage of being all new material to Lana fans
whereas Ballad 1 threw in some Re-mixes of old Lana songs.

Ayreon Album Reviews

Occasionally I write reviews of albums for mailing lists. I have therefore
started to keep them here to.

Ayreon – Flight Of The Migrator
Ayreon – The Dream Sequencer
Ayreon – Ayreonauts Only
Anthony – Pools of Sorrow – Waves Of Joy
Kayak – Merlin
Vengeance – Arabia
Bodine – Three Times Running/Bold As Brass
Ambeon – Fate Of A Dreamer

Ayreon – Flight Of The Migrator

1. Chaos – What blistering track. Ayreon at it’s best. A good use of keyboards
and speed. I like the guitar and keyboard exchange, which goes into Harmonies.

2. Dawn of a Million Souls – A keyboard intro very much in the vein of Final
Experiment goes into a slower paced tune with an interesting Monastery sort
of feel to it. Good changes of pace and a couple of nice guitar solos. The second
one vaguely reminds me of Tony Iommi on Sabbath Technical ecstasy although I
am sure there are better more modern comparisons. An excellent song.

3. Journey on the Waves of Time – A string intro and again we are back into
Final Experiment territory. The Chorus uses Keyboard ahh’s, which rightly or
wrongly remind me of Rick Wakeman’s Journey To The Centre Of The Earth. The
is a drum and bass section which goes into a Hammond solo. Excellent stuff.
Are there also hints of Vengeance Flight 19 in this? Perhaps the vocal style.

4. To the Quasar – A nice gentle intro with lots of effects on the Vocal (at
a guess Arjen. I am writing this on a train so no CD booklet). The early section
"The Taurus Pulsar" is probably like something off Strange Hobbies.
At 3.30 or so I assume it becomes Quasar 3c273 and it changes pace pretty much
like Computer Eyes did and becomes more of a Vengeance song. Again great stuff.
It ends with a nice keyboard solo around 7.30 followed by some guitar treatments.

5. Into the Black Hole – Arjen in a Dutch interview was pleased to get Bruce
Dickenson on the album. I sadly have never liked him and this is by far my least
favourite track. It is interesting to hear how Arjen gets him to sound a little
Ayreon like in style but he is still Bruce and I don’t like his voice. I played
it to an Iron Maiden fan friend of mine and he thought it Euro Rock and said
it was OK. He never asked me to give him a copy of the Fish tunes on Electric
Castle either so I have clearly failed in my quest to convert a friend. In fact
in my time I have played The Final Experiment to my little Brother and another
friend who are normally pretty tolerant and they really hated it to the point
of asking to remove it. Perhaps it just isn’t good music to drive to gigs to.

Around 6.30 there is a section that reminds me of Deep Purples Perfect Strangers
riff. I would like to hear the track with someone else doing the vocals. I wonder
what sort of feel it would have. I don’t know all the vocalists on this album
but they all sound in the Ayreon vain to me which is where I got a little lost
with Electric Castle.

6. Through the Wormhole – Ah another song reminding me of the Vengeance album.
Nice programmed rhythms bits of Hammond and good Ayreon vocals again. Good solos
again.

7. Out of the White Hole – Another good song. Typical Final Experiment stuff
but again touches of things that make me think Vengeance.

8. To the Solar System – A slower machine pumping type intro finally breaks
into harder rocking track. Again just what I want to listen to. This is a two
part song but System Alert is real just story content.

9. Sleeper Awake – This starts with a slower section, which really kicks in
about 2 mins in for the main part of the song. Again typical Final Experiment
stuff. Lovely.

So why have I reviewed this album first? Well despite thinking this is a fantastic
album (with the exception of Bruce) I am confused by the fact I think Dream
Sequencer is my preference by a long way. Because Arjen has decided to have
an experiment on us to see which we prefer I find it is kind of like asking
a parent which twin they prefer. Some parents if the are honest might have an
answer but most would say they both have the merits and it is unfair to choose.
Both these albums to me are Ayreon. I would normally have said I prefer Arjen
in heavy mode but now that he has split the songs into types I find I prefer
softer Arjen. I think I would rather not have know this as now I am likely to
start building prejudices against this album. I am glad I sat down and reviewed
it because I have proved to myself I really do love this album. It is certainly
interesting the I am so much more into this album the Lana Lane’s Secrets of
Astrology which I seem put off by because of Arjen’s Heavy Rhythm guitars. This
album is surely a lot heavier and yet I prefer it. Strange. Isn’t music wonderful
you just can’t predict reactions to it? Or at least I can’t 🙂

Ayreon – The Dream Sequencer

Some initial thoughts I played this to my friend on the way to the other day’s
gig and he didn’t complain at all. When pressed he said it was OK rather like
Pink Floyd. To me this albums lyrics are a lot more obviously story driven.

1. The Dream Sequencer – It starts with some story set up as per the Flight
of the Navigator and then goes into cleanly played guitar and keyboard solos

2. My House on Mars – This is one of my favourite although when I was playing
it to my friend in the car I did wonder if he would think it dragged. In the
middle we get some keyboards, which in tone reminded me of Europe’s Final Countdown
if not in what they actually play. Then back to the clean guitar playing. Great
stuff. I very much like the each of vocal lines in this between Johan Edlund
and Floor Jansen. Floor reminds me a bit of Egyptian on Into The Electric Castle.

3. 2084 – This one is of Particular interest to me as it has Lana Lane on vocals
and Erik Norlander on Keyboards as he is on all tracks on both albums. This
would effectively make it a Lana Lane solo track but it has a totally different
feel. Arjen has used her in a very Ayreon female vocalist way. Her voice isn’t
so up front to me as on her solo albums either. Again there are the beautiful
clean guitar sounds and gentle keyboard patterns. There is nothing to flashy
about them they are just great to listen to. I think perhaps the reason I pick
up on the story more on this disc is because the vocals are so clear and a more
vital part of the song. On the Flight Of the Migrator it is easy to lose focused
on them as you listen to all that is going on. On here there is plenty of space
to hear everything. Perhaps my illness is a major factor on my listening process.
I tried driving a car on a straight road again yesterday and I am just not able
to process all the visual information I receive. Perhaps I have the same problem
with my hearing inputs to. Well I feel reasonably sure I do and that is why
I hate double speed drumming as a rule of thumb.

4. One Small Step – Ah this is the one starts in a really Pink Floyd way. The
Pumping Synth sound is very similar to the Machine. I like the way it roams
round to. Edward Reekers is on vocals for this and he is one of my favourite
Ayreon vocalists. I just love his pronunciation and feeling. Obviously this
is another of my favourites. They all are so far! Really nice guitar work again
in the solo. Likewise the keyboard solo.

5. The Shooting Company of Captain Frans B. Cocq – Another Machine like intro
but it goes in a difference way. At first I wasn’t sure if I liked this one
it didn’t seem to do much. It is again one of my favourites though as I like
the synth patterns going on all through the track. The guitars sometimes take
over this Theme and it sounds really good. I found it interesting that this
was the only real Dutch reference in the song. There seems to be a couple of
English references. As a Brit and one that isn’t good at History anyway I obviously
don’t know what Holland’s teaching of History is like and how much impact Holland
had on the centuries.

6. Dragon on the Sea – A computerised burbling gives way to acoustic guitar
and then another Lana Lane track. She has also been on backing vocals in the
previous two tracks. This track doesn’t grab me as much as the other tracks.
There is a nice synth solo again.

7. Temple of the Cat – This is the single of for the albums. I guess due to
its relative shortness. It has Jacqueline Govert on vocals. This has string
type backings. Jacqueline’ vocals sound like she has a slightly rough voice.
I wonder what her normal style is. I look forward to hearing Lana Lanes version
on the single.

8. Carried by the Wind – Oh this is the Arjen vocal track. I must admit I thought
he did the Shooting Company. That was someone called Mouse though. I love the
patterns of the guitar and synth in this one again. The between song breaks
are very Ayreon.

9. And the Druids turn to Stone – This one annoyed a another friend of mine.
He was cross that Arjen seems to imply the Druids were about at the start of
Stonehenge. I have no idea myself. I really like Damian Wilson’s vocal on this
one. We seem to be getting more Ayreon like backings to songs as opposed to
clean guitar solos by this point in the album.

10. The First Man on Earth – This one has a slight Beatle feel to it. Another
excellent song. I think when I am saying a more Ayreon feel I am referring to
the types of backing and song on Actual Fantasy. This is the album I think this
one is closest to of the previous albums. It struck me the theme is very similar
to The dawn Man as single track for Actual fantasy. This is very superior to
me. For some reason that other track didn’t really grow on me. Perhaps that
is why it was left of the album. I suspect if I read the lyrics I will retract
the above comments.

11. The Dream Sequencer Reprise – Is back to the clean guitar and runs over
a familiar sounding backing.

The Dream Sequencer is definitely my favourite of the two albums. I wonder
of it will manager to knock The Final Experiment of the top of my favourite
Ayreon album list. I have a feeling it might be a tie and will therefore lose
out by being a later release.

It may well also loose out because I do like the fact The Final Experiment
is a mixture of the two styles of these albums. It could well be that if Chaos,
To The Quasar and a couple of other tunes were mixed into this album that I
would have no doubt at all. Certainly from memory that is what made the final
Experiment for me i.e. that fact it took nearly all the things and styles I
liked and mixed them into one great album.

I think I will play Experiment now while I upload this to my PC and then post
it.

Oh this is a ridiculous task. When you listen to any album and think it is
excellent then put on another one and think no this is excellent too. How can
you compare? It seems very unfair. I am only up to track four but somehow I
can tell it has got the edge because it had the grittiness and the beauty at
the same time. It is actually a lot less heavy they I mentally remember it.
Oh Arjen you are you so nasty to your fans by playing with them in this way.
Almost like a cat teasing a mouse. Well done anyway.

Ayreon – Ayreonauts Only

This CD is basically a Christmas present from Arjen to his fans. It is
also a good cheap introduction to Ayreon’s Music.

Over the years Arjen as tried out different vocalists on different songs looking
for that special combination. Obviously this is all down to personal taste Arjen’s
doesn’t necessarily agree with us the fans. It is therefore interesting to compare
the songs on this album with the original album versions.

The first track on the album is one of the few where I don’t really like the
original. Lots of people like Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson’s vocal style but
I am not one of them. "Into The Black Hole" on "Flight Of The
Migrator" was just too depressing for me. This new version is mainly sung
by Damian Wilson. Now I have to confess I am not really sure about his voice
either. Sometimes I like it sometimes I am not comfortable with it. The other
change on this version is Lana Lane, who was used on backing vocals for the
original, gets to sing the chorus. One of my favourite features of Ayreon albums
is that Arjen often uses multi-vocalists in a song. The fact he has done so
here again proves a winner in my book. There is no way I would want to go back
to the original now. It has to be said I am extremely curious to hear the complete
takes of Damian and Lane separately too.

"Out of the White Hole" goes the other way. The original by Timo
Kotipelto is my preferred one as it is less Dickinson/Coverdale like than Robert
Soeterboek. I have to say I am still quite into Robert’s vocal though. I think
I like his voice most though when it is exchanging lines with the softer Edward
Reekers as on "Actual Fantasy". If this had been the original version
I am sure I would love the song just as much but since I am comparing I made
a choice.

The third song is also off "Flight Of The Migrator". The tracks are
all together on the original album but Arjen changed the order here. I wonder
why? Fabio Leone did the originals vocals and on here they are by Ian Parry.
Parry’s voice is one I know and love from the Ayreon albums and I can’t say
which I prefer. Both versions are similar to me. Perhaps because Fabio is still
on backing vocals for this.

Carpe Diem (Chaos) – Mmm,  I am dreadful at remembering instrumentals.
I  would have guessed both versions were very similar but there is more
synth on the original. (Of course when I say original in this review the version
on Ayreonauts is probably more original than the version that made it to the
album. But I mean the original album version). This demo version has a lose
of quality on some of the effects Arjen is trying to achieve but I like the
ideas all the same.

"Temple Of The Cat" must be a favourite of Arjen’s (or one he was
never happy with) we have already had versions by Jacqueline Govaert on the
album. And Lana Lane as an alternative on the single. Now we have an acoustic
version by Astrid v/d Veen. When I first started playing this version I very
much preferred Jacqueline’s rougher vocal style. It has to be said I am now
surprised to find I prefer Astrid’s vocal. I get the impression from bits and
pieces I have read that Astrid is arranging her voice and backing vocals herself.
She does an excellent job and Arjen his hit gold in finding her and taking her
under his wing.

Now I really love Original Hippie’s Amazing Trip. This is a short Medley of
the Hippie Parts from Into The Electric Castle. It’s not really worth comparing
the bits to the original as the sections are too short. The Amazing Flight section
is really good instrumentally. Very spacey and druggy. Mouse’s vocals really
go well with it. Shame it is so short. Anneke Van Giersbergen’s vocal parts
have been left in "Garden of Emotion". Mirror Maze again leaves Edward
Reekers voice in for the alternate verses. (I must find out what else he has
done as I really like his work on Ayreon). Overall this is nicely familiar but
different. Interestingly Arjen hide his voice in effects where as he has left
Mouse’s pretty clean.

Beyond the Lost Horizon is another tricky one for me. When I first heard Ten
I thought they had potential to be a good band. Then I got a few more albums
and heard Gary Hughes’ work with Bob Catley and I realised I hate his production
style and his habit of burying vocals in heaps of instruments doing the same
melody as the vocal line. I was therefore very worried about him being let loose
on an Ayreon track. Luckily from my point of view he does a reasonable job and
his vocal though low level in the mix is still reasonably clear in the mix.
I still prefer the original but this one is OK. Arjen’s guitar work seems slightly
different on this, which of course it should as it is a brand new recording.
Is Arjen not doing Backing vocals on this? He just credits Robert Soeterboek
and Okkie Huysdens.

Charm of the Seer is another good alternative. In fact I think I prefer this
to the original. And I was surprised to read in the Notes that it was Arjen’s
own vocal. I am so used to him treating his voice I hadn’t appreciated this
was him when clear. I perhaps agree that Arjen’s vocal about 2 mins aren’t isn’t
as good. I am surprised I am not that keen on Ruud Houweling’s voice as I really
like this track. I guess in an album context I just don’t think about it.

Eyes of Time is an interesting one. I like Leon Goewie’s voice as a rule but
this performance seems a little of the top. Perhaps I just enjoy Lenny Wolf’s
original phrasing and performance too much and can’t adjust to Leon’s phrasing.
I have certainly not spent the time on this track I have on the acoustic Temple
of The Cat. I have no real problems with the vocals I am just very aware they
are different as I listen to it for about the 7th time. It must be really hard
for Arjen to decide this sort of thing when producing new albums.

The Dance of Nature to my ears is almost the same. Arjen seems to have added
more effects to his voice on the final version. I prefer this clear vocal version
I think I am pushed.

Finally we get to the Non-Ayreon track. Cold Metal from the Ambeon project.
No this one is very interesting and good. When I first heard it I couldn’t get
a grasp on the lyrics at all. I almost thought they were in Dutch until I really
concentrated. Then I noticed it is extremely odd pronunciation probably due
to the unusual rhythm of the vocal lines. The track struck me as Kate Bush meets
Ayreon with a bit of Mike Oldfield’s Moonlight Shadow on the echoing harmonies
in the chorus.

This is supposed to be one of the heaviest tracks from Ambeon so I don’t really
understand why Arjen is teasing us with it. You would think he would release
something representative of the album as a whole if it is not to be Ayreon.

Astrid is apparently only fourteen and it has to be said the lyrics are very
Macabre. It seems to be about someone deciding to Commit Suicide on a Railway
line. Thinking about it, 14 is the year I have stored in my head for when I
work out my own philosophies on life and what it would take for me to commit
suicide etc.

I am really looking forward to the new album to see of the rest of her lyrics
are as off beat and interesting. I also look forward to reading the lyrics for
this track as I find it hard to make my brain focus on the lyrics long enough
to make sure my understanding is correct.

Anthony – Pools of Sorrow – Waves Of Joy

This disc appears to be deleted now but thanks to one kind soul I have managed
to get my hands on it. The only other person I have know to have it was the
former Ayreon webmaster Erik and I got the distinct impression he thought it
highly embarrassing. It is therefore with great interest that I played this
for the first time. While it is not the quality and consistency of Ayreon I
still think it is quite good and imagine I would listen to it as much if not
more than Strange Hobby.

I suppose my first question would by why Arjen preferred to call himself Anthony.
He didn’t mind the track writing credits using Lucassen. I suppose it might
be been to stop English speakers like myself thinking Arjen is pronounced "Ah-Jen"
rather than "Ar-eon"

Wrong Side Of The Street – This song is the "Waves of Joy" in the album title.
"Pools of sorrow" being the end instrumental. This is a bit like a timid Ayreon
song. It could easily be converted to Ayreon but it is not quiet so bombastic
(for lack of a better word). It starts with an acoustic guitar verse and then
moves into the heavy chorus with drums and female backing vocals. Arjen also
chooses to echo the end of his vocal lines. This bit is so Ayreon like, as is
the very clean guitar solo. Good stuff and a great start.

Best Of Friends – This one to me could easily be about the end of Vengeance.
It uses a drum machine backing so is a bit rigid. It kind of reminds me of a
Sweet or 80’s Queen song. I have to say I quite like this too.

Crescendo – This one sounds a bit Scottish? in melody. It reminds me of Slade’s
"Run Runaway" from 83’s "The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome" mainly because of
the guitar melody. Again it suffers slightly from programmed drums. Arjen also
adds some early "Hippy" type effects to his voice at the end. Actually it
might just be phasing. Ah, the potential Slade link has completely made me miss
this is the song that contains most of the ideas for the story of Ayreon on
"The Final Experiment". Crescendo is the "Ayreon" character.

Cry Yourself To Sleep – The opening bars of this are so Ayreon. I am not sure
what the keyboard is but it is then accompanied by Arjen, then Harpsichord (I
guess not real) and trumpet (almost certainly a keyboard sound). This is a very
short track and quite quiet overall. I can’t really figure the meaning of the
lyrics out. Normally that wouldn’t bother me but I get the impression they have
a meaning.

Little Miss Understood – Another song I really enjoy. Not that I have thought
any bad so far. I guess this one has a bit of a Bowie feel too it but perhaps
I am just picking up on the acoustic guitar and the "No, no, no" ala Hunky
Dory’s "Queen Bitch". It definitely has a glam rock era feel to it to me.

Escape – A slow drumbeat with a piano chord doesn’t in fact lead into Bowie’s
"Five years". We have female backing vocals and I suspect bits of John Lennon
lines although they could just be generic phrases i.e. "Give Peace a chance"
and "All you need is Love". Towards the end we get Floyd’s "Great gig in
the sky" type backing vocals. Oh now I have read the lyrics it is in fact a
song about John Lennon. It also mentions John moves his hand on his guitar and
makes it gently weep. So there must be a John Lennon song with a slow drumbeat
that is escaping my brain? Does one also in is ghostly Echoes? I can’t make
out Arjen’s words in these.

Country Girl, City Boy – This one tickles me but I must admit as I played the
album five times in one afternoon it got too much for me. It is a rigid drum
machine again, slide guitar and very country. The lyrics might be a bit sexist
at the start but it does amuse me that he falls in love with a Perfect country
girl she doesn’t return his affection so he tells her she smells like S**t and
moves on.

Summer’s In The Air – Another very Ayreon sounding start. Like the previous
song, and very much in the vein of Cry Yourself To Sleep, this track is less
than 3 minutes. I have to confess I feel it should just be an intro to another
song.

Days Of The Knights – This one has the Slade Runaway style guitar again. This
is the song I expected the Ayreon character to appear in but it is just set
in days of old. Again it uses Harpsichord and trumpets. At 1.59 Arjen has a
phrase he must have used again it is so clearly Ayreon to my ears. My head says
"Charm of the Seer" but I would expect I am wrong. I have just tried to compare
them but I can’t store the phrase in my head long enough to do it.

Not Over You – Again the sort of intro you might find at the start of "Dream
Sequencer". The guitar phrase then made me think Pink Floyd. The vocals however
make me think Robert Plant. Especially "I am not over you baby no, no" but
even before that too. Interesting I have never consider Arjen as trying to sound
like some else vocally before. It’s another very short song again. Arjen also
add’s some effects to his voice here and there. In fact the atmosphere on this
one is very Ayreon.

Night On The Town – Up Tempo again. I think the acoustic and drum machine songs
are rather busker like. I like this one but can’t justify it. Arjen does use
his voice slightly differently on this and again he has female backing.

A-Losing You – This has a more complex backing rhythm and backing singers again.
Mmm, I think I might be hearing hints of Robert Plant in it again. I hadn’t
thought of that before. This is OK but not really me.

Midnight Train – This one reminds me of Country Girl so I was dreading it when
I it came to it on my 5 play yesterday. I am not sure why it is on the album
if I am honest. It reminds me a bit of Matchbox but probably because they is
about the only Rockabilly album I have and this is country. It is up-tempo though.
(As I was uploading this to my PC my juke box happened to play my only other
song of the type. Roy Wood’s "When Grandma plays the Banjo". That is in fact
a favourite of mine as the guitar is very good and the lyrics are quite funny.
I wonder if Arjen was attempting something similar. This song is very American
though)

Pools Of Sorrow – This is a short instrumental and is nice enough but to me
it should have a song on the end of it. 🙂

I wonder how I would have viewed this album before Ayreon. It is certainly
fascinating to listen to after Ayreon. The first half of the album is quite
good. The 2nd side is less so. Perhaps I wouldn’t listen as much as Strange
Hobby given the 2nd half. Time well tell I guess. If you find it
give it a go it is certainly a very interesting listen. I wonder what Irene
who encouraged Arjen "to do this solo thing" but also had to be "painfully
honest" to him had to say assuming it was musically related. Arjen’s brother
Gjalt didn’t even get a non-mention on this one. The family thanks were for
his mum and dad.

Kayak – Merlin

Because Edward Reekers is my favourite Ayreon vocalist I decided to check out
some of his past work. Merlin was recommended to my as the album to try. So
I did. Strangely I then found an article on Kayak in one of my back issues of 
"Progression" magazine and that seemed to think the album was relatively
poor. Or at least side 2 was. This is definitely an album of two halves. Side
1 was a set of songs about Merlin and side two is a more poppy collection of
songs.

The first thing I noticed about the album is I can’t relate the sound of Edward
on these recording to the vocals he has done with Ayreon 15 or more years later.
I can’t really tell why he sounds different. Perhaps he lacks clarity here compared
to Ayreon. Perhaps it’s just the songs are different and therefore so are his
vocals.

Merlin – I think the first thing I notice is this reminds me slightly of Focus
in the way the vocals start gently and lightly with Piano. There is some Brass
and then the song then kicks off proper and we get some nice clean guitar and
some keyboard lines. There are lots of really nice touches in this track. There
is a harpsichord like sound and a pure vocal section. The guitar is the main
star to me. Having said that this is some Moog, which sort of passes me by (not
in a bad way) because it is an unusual sound or arrangement. This is a good
track.

Tintagel – This is a short track and back to Piano and voice. I didn’t realise
it was a track. I just viewed it as an intro to…

The Sword In The Stone – Again a relatively short track. There is in fact a
pause between the tracks but since this also starts with piano and vocal I didn’t
notice. The track then kicks off and is probably one of my favourites of the
album. Again it is the guitars providing the main lines that I like. This is
most unusual I don’t normally pick up on guitars in guitar and keyboard music.
Perhaps it is because this is from 1981 and I don’t like what happened to guitar
solos after this sort of era.

The King’s Enchanter – Again a subtle move into this song so I wasn’t aware
of this track in it’s own right. It has flutes or more likely a recorder providing
the main line on this one. There is keyboard there too but low in the mix. I
very much like this one too.

Niniane (Lady Of The Lake) – A clean break and another Piano intro. Followed
by piano and gentle Edward again. Actually this is probably the closest I get
to recognising Edward. There is also some synth going on in the background but
very low in the mix. About half way through the track starts building up. We
even get some Rick Wakeman type faster piano. Towards the end the guitar kicks
in along with a string arrangement. The track then goes to nothing again. Very
Focus like to my ears.

Seagull – Despite other peoples views I think the tracks on side 2 are OK.
This is probably my favourite on the album. Edward is very strong for me on
this one. It is more poppy but I don’t care. It is far more interesting to hear
than Niniane. Some of the backing vocals remind me of Renaissance.

Boogie Heart – This is up-tempo and very poppy. It uses a telephony sort of
voice in the background that reminds me of similar period ELO. I don’t dislike
the track but equally I am not bothered by it. There is some nice Hammond on
it.

Now That We’ve Come This Far – I find it really strange that Kayak add lots
of keyboards to their tracks but at almost inaudible levels. For the first minute
or so of this track I thought I wasn’t keen on it but I do really enjoy the
chorus. Again Edward sounds really good on this. There are also some nice short
keyboard bursts I like.

Can’t Afford To Lose – This one again remains me of 80’s ELO vocally. I can’t
really make my mind up about this one. I like the keyboard parts but probably
not the song overall. It’s a little too close to the boundaries of my tastes.
The guitar is a very thin one perhaps similar in style to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours
album.

Love’s Aglow – This is another favourite of mine. Edward’s vocals having been
treated somehow. It’s almost like they have been Reversed at the ends. I.e.
Similar to hearing a drum played backwards. It’s the backing I like. I can’t
really say why. There is nothing clever about it. I think perhaps it is just
the overall strangeness of the song I like.

I have been playing this album for some weeks. I don’t find it compulsory listening
but I rather enjoy it when it comes on. I can imagine coming back to it quite
a lot.

I will suspect I will be checking out more Kayak with and without Edward Reekers
on vocals. The best albums were supposed to have occurred before he arrived
so I will see if I agree.

Vengeance – Arabia

I haven’t tried reviewing an album I am not keen on before but since this is
early Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) CD I feel inclined to try.

I have to confess I was surprised this album disagrees with me. I have previously
heard Vengeance’s ‘Back From Flight 19’ and I love it. It therefore seemed likely
I would like earlier stuff. But no this is a completely different kettle of
fish. Even Leon Goewie is different on this.

I am listening to the Pseudonym Records version of the disc, which also includes
a lot of the original Demo’s on the 2nd CD. Despite being a booklet there are
no lyrics for the album just a 2 page set on notes from a Dutch journalist and
lots of dodgy looking photos. Boy can you tell this was the 80’s! I feel that
the notes and information could have been done so much better. Still it is very
cheap for a double CD.

Arabia – This one isn’t too bad. It starts of with an Arabian feel and a shout
of Arabia.’ It is then probably what I was expecting from the album. It is very
hard to know who is doing the Lead Guitars. Arjen seems to do most of the non-Lead
guitar work and Jan Somers is listed as Lead Guitar only so presumably although
Arjen does get a mention on Lead it is not very often.

Broadway – Hollywood – Beverly Hills – This track seems to be very close to
lifting ‘Smoke on the Water’ in the middle section. Again I guess it is tolerable
but definitely less so than Arabia. I think someone on the Ayreon list referred
to Vengeance as being Party Metal. That is probably a good description. I just
can’t relate to this style at all. Something has happened to guitar solos by
this era and they have definitely gone of my taste band.

Castles In The air – This one starts nicely with so Harpsichord and some gentle
vocals from Leon. Probably similar to the sort of thing he does on Ayreon. Then
after 1.45 the track starts proper and I suppose it is Ok. I like the line "She
is everywhere and nowhere at all" I don’t know why. I do like the guitar
solo on this one. I can imagine this comes over live well.

The Best Gunfighter In Town – I don’t like this on at all. It is very American
Metal in nature. Lots of slide etc. There is some harmonica on it. I am at a
loose as to why I dislike this really. I like Electric blues and southern Boogie.
I just don’t list this style. Mmm perhaps this is more George Throughgood blues
and than Gary Moore and perhaps that is my problem.

Children Of The Streets – Again this is tolerable but pretty much just exists
for me. I wonder if the problem is this is all faster paced than Ayreon and
the other stuff I listen too? Presumably faster than ‘Back From Flight 19’ to.

Cry Of The Sirens – We start with the sea on this one. This is a more laid
back track and is perhaps my favourite. At the end it sounds like we were on
a wooden boat.

That’s The Way The Story Goes – Again a tolerable song. It just doesn’t do
much for me. I like the guitar section in it.

Wallbanger – Ah my least favourite on the album!’ Leon’s vocals at the start
sound very mumbly as if he is not sure of them. I guess it could just be because
of the melody he is singing. I do like the fact he screams, "What ever
you do, don’t shout!’ Overall it just doesn’t have any substance. Perhaps this
style of music isn’t supposed to have. What do I know? 🙂

If Lovin’ You Is wrong – This is a ballad but Leon is still screaming a bit
too much for my liking. I don’t think I ever reviewed ‘Back From Flight 19’.
I think I will have to, to see what is so different. Leon still sound like the
singer on there in part on this album but he is in general just too much for
me. Again surprisingly enough I like this guitar break in this song.

How About Tonight – This one reminds me of Dave Lee Roth or his era Van Halen.
There are certainly hints of ‘Ice Cream man’. There was a tinge of country at
the start of it again. I would if Arjen really wants to do country. It seems
to be a regular theme. Again I can’t really take this.

Bad Boy For Love – More slide guitar on this one. Apparently a Rose Tattoo
cover. I wonder why? I suppose this is the style they could be like in general.

Just What My Doctor Ordered – I guess this one is OK. It is pleasant enough
but not what I would normally choose to listen too.

When I got this album I saw the photos and was deeply worried. I played it
and my fears were confirmed. Over plays 4-8 I was unsure what I thought. Sometimes
I liked it and sometimes I didn’t. Now that I have played it on and off for
a month it has got like my attempts to train myself to like Beer. The first
sip is OK. The 2nd is less so. By 1/4 of a pint I am really pulling faces and
struggling! I will leave it to the true Vengeance fans I think. I better see
if the demos are more to my taste I guess 🙂 Then I will brave my other Vengeance
with Ian Parry singing.

To my surprise I do slightly prefer the demo disc. It is poorer quality but
somehow more to my taste. I have no idea why!

Bodine – Three Times Running/Bold As Brass

I bought this the same time as a couple of Vengeance albums. Since I wasn’t
keen on the one I heard I was a worried man. This was even early in Arjen Lucassen’s
(Ayreon) career and therefore even less likely to sound like Ayreon.

The photo on the back of the CD was a bit odd looking. All out of focus but
overall I think the band didn’t look quite as 80’s as Vengeance on Arabia.

The booklet has the same characteristics as the Vengeance one. No lyrics. A
few notes from "Iron Anthony" but no explanation as to why Arjen was
nicknamed that. Again it could have been so much better. Also it was a little
annoying that "Breakin’ Out" was dropped from this set because it
wouldn’t fit one disc. Presumably there is no way of getting this track now.

I have played this disc about 20 times. The first few times I took an instant
liking to the guitar playing but wasn’t sure about the songs. Slowly, very slowly
the tunes have grown on me. I think I still have a lot of play left in this
disc yet.

Let’s get down to track level and see if my views change.

Shout – This one is a bit of a clich’ heavy metal song. The sort of thing you
would expect to hear if the title was "We know how to rock" or "We’ve
got the Rock". I like the guitar breaks they are what make the song for
me. I originally thought singer Alex Joseph Langemeijer was a sort Paul Di’Anno
from Iron Maiden. More recently though I am thinking he is more of a Rory Gallagher.

Battlefield – This is twin guitar music and I guess late 70’s/Early 80’s in
style. It is very much the sort of thing I love to hear and very much the style
I was into when I first got into music. One of the Guitarists tends to use a
lot of Feedback and one tends to be cleaner. I wonder which is which. This track
is good musically but overall it doesn’t really grab me. IE There is no great
hook to my ears.

Black Star Risin’ – According to Arjen this song deals with the film "The
Omen". I haven’t got the concentration to hear the lyrics all through but
this seems reasonable from my memory of the film. Again it is the guitar playing
I love more than the overall song.

Below The Belt – Apparently this was just a jam and that perhaps explains why
it sort of peters out a bit around the three-minute mark. It is my favourite
track on the CD. I absolutely love the guitar work at the start. It’s the feedback
bloke. More your Uli Roth than your Joe Satriani. I wish I knew what the differences
in their style’s were. It is so long since I have reviewed an album where the
guitars turn my on like this. It is very sad IMO that guitarist just don’t play
like this now. Around 2.30 it switches to the none feedback player. I guess
he is more bluesy Rory Gallagher style. Then at 3mins they seem to be lacking
ideas a bit and have a re-think while deciding what to do next. It is then a
fair amount of swapping of licks. It ends on some nice low feedback. Great stuff.
As I say my favourite on this album.

The Force – Now it is back to a regular form song. The compositions are all
credited to most of the band so it is not clear what Arjen’s input as on these.
This song is probably the best overall so far but still doesn’t really hook
me for more than the instrumentals side. There is nothing wrong with the vocals
or anything individually. It just doesn’t have the hook of say Saxon on the
Wheels Of Steel album tracks.

Hard Times – Oh this one is a better overall song. Perhaps because it has a
good riff?’ Probably my favourite "Song" so far. The guitars on this
are particularly good too. Lots of individual stuff but also some harmony lines
too. Oh I have just got to the lines "Hard times is it a girl? Hard times
is it a man?’ I think it is just about picking up girls at rock gigs etc. That
line is sensitive to me though as I have a transsexual sister. Although I always
used to feel the need to challenge male/female stereotypes, since she came out
to the world and me about 2 years ago this has obviously made me challenge normal
views about sex and gender even more.

Rampage – Mmm I wonder if I am warming up to the style of this album the further
I get into it. Again this seems a better overall song than the early tracks.

Free Kick – This is another instrumental. I must admit I guessed this would
be the start of Bold As Brass not the end of Three Times Running. This one is
not as good as Below The Belt but I like the overall feel of the drums on this
one. Sadly for me it ends up as a drum work out. It is unusual for me to even
comment on Drums and Bass so Gerard Haitsma the drummer does well to get my
interest in the first place. It seems a strange choice to end an album on a
drum solo.

Rock Machine – Ah this is the track where the singer sounds very Di’Anno like.
I like the track. My impression is I prefer this album to Three Times Running
but we will see. I think the feedback guitarist isn’t so fedback on this one.

Heavy Rain – This predictably starts with some thunder. Again Axel sounds more
like Di’Anno. This is one of my favourite songs on the set. The feedback is
definitely missing on this album. In fact both guitars seem a bit less up front.
I wonder if the style of guitar on ‘Three Times Running’ caused the songs to
be weaker? Uli Roth was certainly very variable once he left The Scorpions.

Aragorn – This song is OK but not as strong. I love the last 40 seconds of
feedback though. Not many bands record that sort of thing outside of a live
show.

Heavy Metal Heart – On this one Axel sounds more like one of the vocalists
from Molly Hatchet. Again I like this one. The guitar work is good. I wonder
of it just produced more quietly.

Wild Fire Queen – This one start with a bit of a story. I wonder if the film
"The Burning" had been released by the time the band recorded this.
This is by far my favourite song on the set. I guess I really like the vocal
on this. Axel does a good job on it. Again I am edging more for a Molly Hatchet
type vocal style.

Pumpin’ Iron – Another good track.

Regular Rockers – Mmm it kind of sums this song up to. It is just a good song.
I like the guitar break. The Feedback player seems to be more Wah-Wah pedal
on this album.

Well it does seem there were big differences between Three times Running (3rd
album) and Bold As Brass (2nd album). I assume Arjen or Pseudonym have an opposite
view to me as to which album was best. I prefer the overall songs on the 2nd
album but the guitar work on the 3rd. I am surprised the vocal style changed
too.

I highly recommend this album to anyone that loves NWOBHM style hard rock.
There is no relation to Vengeance or Ayreon as far as I can hear. I guess I
will have to see what Vengeance sounded like when Arjen first joined them.

Ambeon – Fate Of A Dreamer

Here is something unusual for me I am going to review an album for a second
time. I was lucky enough to hear and be asked to give my comments on the early
mix of this album. My opinion is hardly relevant to anyone else given my peculiar
reasons for liking what I do, but I was hardly going to turn down the chance
was I?!

Now with the album a few days on the market and at least 60 listens later I
will look at the album in it’s final form and see if my views have changed at
all. The fact I have played it 60 or more times shows I like it and like it
a lot. A normal good album will probably get 10-20 plays before it get filed
away and then it will be pulled out as and when the mood grabs me. It will almost
never get more than 3 plays unless I now like it more than I originally did.

It was very easy to get to 4 or 5 plays with the actual release of this album
and a bit tougher to get to, I guess, 10-15 plays but it seems to be days since
my Carousel has manage to get to the fifth slots so I am quiet fresh with it
today. So lets see what comes out.

Ambeon is a project by Ayreon’s Arjen Lucassen. He had got a new hard disk
system in studio and as an exercise in familiarising himself with it he decided
to muck about with bits of stuff from his old Ayreon tracks and make them into
Ambient tracks. He had wanted to make a gentle album for some time but his Heavy
side nearly always escaped. So even the quiet Universal Migrator album "The
Dream Sequencer" was still a bit heavier than he intended. It might have
been kept quieter if he could find enough female singers he liked and were willing/able
to participate but he couldn’t. It was therefore a coincidence that while working
on this Ambient exercise he heard a recording of Astrid Van Deer Veen. He immediately
loved her voice and asked her if she would like to contribute. Astrid likes
to write and for once Arjen decided to hand over the controls of part of one
of his projects an let Astrid write lyrics for 8 of the 10 songs. The remaining
two being instrumental although Astrid still does backing vocals on one track.

The first thing that strikes me is that cover of the album is very different
from an Ayreon one. It is a straight portrait Photo of Astrid. Quiet amusing
actually and I guess quiet her since she is in a frilly dress and superficially
nice but she then kept her bovver boots on and the angle of the shot sort of
emphases these. I can fully relate to the reluctance to be dressed up.

Inside all left hand pages of the booklet contain more pictures of Astrid.
Finally on the back cover of it Arjen does let us have one shot of him. A very
dark one that half hides his face in the shadows.

Not being the observant sort I almost missed the fact Arjen is shown on the
back of the CD too. He clearly isn’t keen on being too visible.

When I originally reviewed this I was working out which Ayreon track each song
was based on. I was pretty disgusted with myself for only getting about 6 out
of 10 correct. I do know them all now but I think it is a good quiz to try and
work them out so I won’t say. I will just review the album as new completely
new tracks. In reality they are 80% new.

Ok at last to the music: –

Estranged – The album start with a familiar Low Flute riff. There might be
Uillean Pipes too, but I doubt it on this track. The backing is a very moody
low-level synth. I consider this a scene setting track really. Kind of an intro
to the rest of the album. I believe the album is a kind of story or concept
but I must admit even the extra notes before each song in thee booklet I am
none the wiser. This song seems to be about someone changing as time goes on
and leaving the singer behind feeling sad that they can’t change to. I think
this is the softest song on the album it is certainly the simplest. Astrid’s
vocals are very nice but it is still just an intro to me and not really a "proper"
song.

Ashes – This is one of my favourite songs on the album. I guess simple things
please simple minds but I just love the combination of Arjen going chug-chug
on his guitar followed by a Cymbal crash. It’s the simple sort of hypnotic hook
that makes Computers Eyes my favourite Ayreon track. I don’t think I have much
idea what the song is about but the vocals are very good. There are fast running
synth rhythms going on in the background and Arjen takes a couple of solos.
The song picks up speed the further it gets in and drums coming towards the
end. It’s and excellent track and I am sure anyone liking Pink Floyd or Ayreon’s
Dream Sequencer album will love this track and the album as a whole.

High – Again this starts with flute and then the Uillean Pipes appear. (They
are a kind of bagpipe but much better sounding). This is another of my favourite
tracks. To me it seems to be someone wanting to loose their virginity and perhaps
their partner not being ready/willing to loose theirs. I have just restarted
the track as I am too slow at writing and I notice it was 30 seconds before
the flutes "Start the track". There were deep synth tones and the
noise of a children’s playground followed by a bass riff before the "start".
Again I find this a rather hypnotic track. I really like Astrid’s voice on this
one. There are strange little pronunciations that kind of make it hers. I don’t
really know how to describe her voice. It is very good though. I know Arjen
let her do all her own arrangements etc because he didn’t want to stifle her
creativity. "Just imagine if Dave Gilmour and tried to influence the young
Kate Bush" was his thinking. And in many ways I can see the similarity.

Cold Metal – Well this one is the most well known track to Ayreon fans having
been on Ayreonauts Only album. This track has made my top 50 tracks of all time.
The lyrics are so good. It seems to be that last words/thoughts of someone committing
suicide on a railway line. It is one of the heaviest tracks on the album and
in m view will fit any Ayreon album except Universal Migrator. Ah at last I
have heard how this is based on the song it was based on. When I first heard
the album I was disappointed it was only 80% new. To me Cold Metal was a completely
original track and until today I couldn’t hear anything that reminded me of
the original. I wasn’t listening to the background enough!

Fate – This is the first instrumental. The synths are very Arjen. He loves
these sorts of backing patterns and noises. So do I. About 2min 20 in Arjen
comes in with some clean guitar. It is very laid back, I guess ambient sort
of track a bit like the Title track of the Dream Sequencer. Towards the end
Arjen teases us with some low, I think backward, spoken vocals. Then the track
gets heavier with more clean guitar and good synth sounds. Finally the song
tampers off again. A very nice track. I guess a bit like early Pink Floyd in
a way

Sick Ceremony – Is this one about the lose of a loved one? I don’t know but
this is what I get from it. "She degusted on her way down" doesn’t
make a lot of sense to me but it is the line that comes to my head as soon as
the track starts. I really like the way it is sung for some reason. Arjen is
in heavy chug -chug mode on this one at the start. Until I saw him live the
other day I hadn’t really figured out it was guitar.’ I guess I just thought
it a keyboard or didn’t think at all. But it is interesting my perception of
what I am hearing now has been changed because I am clearer on certain instrument
voices. I guess it is like me not knowing who sang what in Supertramp until
Roger Hodgeson went solo and I knew his voice.

Lost Message – The final appearance of the Uillean Pipes and again moody deep
synths in the background. This is another of my favourites again. One line stands
out for the way it was sung "was she murdered by a man thinking that she
was just some bird". I can’t really guess what this is about.

Surreal – Some nice Bass sounds open this one. Then some lovely clean guitar
again. The lyrics on this are very brief but I can’t help wondering is this
is about some kind of incest. The notes before the song notes seem to disprove
me either.

Sweet Little Brother – This is Arjen’s other lapse of concentration into Cold
Metal type heaviness. And again I love the Lyric content. They are so thought
provoking and make you wonder what is going on in Astrid’s life to make her
come up with such interesting topics to write about. Again this a track I think
would fit musically anywhere in Ayreon. Great stuff.

Dreamer – This is the 2nd instrumental of the album although Astrid provides
‘Great Gig In The Sky’ type none word backing vocals. It’s not the only Floyd
reference as there is a Chromatic Scale run which sounds similar to an early
Floyd track and a Berlin period Bowie track. Of course a scale is a scale so
hardly specific to a song or an artist. It is very clear which track this is
based on but it has a new spin. It is mainly a work out for Arjen on guitar.
Great stuff.

The album is 51 minutes long and because I already knew cold Metal from for
Ayreonaut only it seems a bit too short to me. I would have liked another track
probably 2 more on it really. I guess I am greedy but I am clearly getting used
to listening to albums in CD length quantities as opposed to LP ones. I have
noticed a lot of older era musicians think 70 minutes is way too long for an
album, as people haven’t got the concentration. I guess it is also harder work
to get that amount of material written and of the same standard.

It will be very interesting to see how this album sells compared to Ayreon.
I hope it does well it is every bit a good. Perhaps fans of The Universal Migrator
album might find it too soft but I would have thought all other Ayreon fans
would love it and hopefully their will be a lot of non-Ayreon fans that like
if they can only get to hear it somewhere.

Essential music for a desert island

Bored one day I decided to sit down and have a guess at my favourite
tracks. This is not something I find easy to do as a lot of groups I love the
album as a whole without really having a strong preference for an individual
track. This was going to be a top 10 but I decided I had better try and get
a big list to select from. I then started putting them to Mini Disc to compare Continue reading Essential music for a desert island

ick Wakeman and Mario Fasciano – Black Knights At The Court Of Ferdinand IV

E Vuje’ (And You) – This is almost Ocean City’s Rhythm. Rick is using his 80’s
moog substitute and a fair bit in this track. The backing in quiet parts is
like "The meeting" from AWBH I think. Again the sound I can’t name
but used only on these albums and therefore I feel Italian sounding

Favola (Fable) – Guitar and keys on this. Usually for Rick it is regular Hard
Rock Guitar. It is quiet a mellow track at times with Rick using Breath sounds.
Percussion and bass sound programmed to me. So nice little breaks in this. Might
be my favourite. I don’t think there was any Base on Stella.

Umberto II – That sound is bugging be what is it? It’s very staccato on long
notes. An instrumental I like it a lot today. I think I was less keen on it
reviewed in Isolation

Umbe’ (Humbert?) – Ah no this was Track of the Week and I wished it was the
other track as this is just plain’ and less interesting

Tommaso Aniello (A revolution leader in Naples) – Again a very nice track.
Drums sound programmed but I don’t care. Lots of atmosphere in the backing instruments
and original hence my mental link to Robinson Crusoue being stuck on a foreign
island (The book I was reading when this disk was new)

Fradiavolo (Fra’diavolo was a bandit) – This has a very lively start and again
is a great track.

Farfarie – A speedy Instrumental. Lots of Bass. Excellent

‘O Bilanco (The Balance) – This is a quiet track with lots of atmospherics
from Rick.

When Rick first talked about more work with Mario it was for bonus tracks on
a reissue on Black Knight. Both disks are short by today’s standards and would
fit a disk. They are very similar in many ways but the instrumentation shows
their era well.

After I had digested Stella I went back to Knight and was disappointed. Today
I am edging the other way because Knight was a band product. I am only edging
though because Stella is an excellent Rick Showcase.’ I think that is why I
was disappointed by Black Knight it doesn’t give me such a buzz. Stella is probably
my favourite release by him since No Expense spared I loved it from the first
play of the first song. I like his recent stuff but not as much as the late
80’s/early 90’s releases. I think this is perhaps more Melodic whereas some
of the rock instrumentals lately seem disjointed or colder emotionally. They
are interesting and fast and whatever but I can’t quite get into them.

Rick Wakeman and Mario Fasciano – Stella Bianco

Stella Bianco(White Star) – This has a medieval beat to it. Rick solos on Moog
type sounds a couple of times. These is as a sound I don’t know how to described
perhaps bells or guitar done on keyboard

A quatte mane (At Four Hands) – My favourite track for some reason. It uses
the Wakeman with Wakeman sound. Has a speaking part from Rick. Ah yes it’s because
the solo breaks are very long and the verses jolly.

‘O Core (The Heart) – The is guitar in this one. I can’t see who by. Again
extensive Rick solos. Again 90’s in style. Adam did the arrangements (Rick was
ill) for the album. I wonder what his contribution is on the end result.

Ariel – Sometimes Mario sounds like a drum machine but surely he isn’t. There
is a slowing down at the end so I don’t know.

Aria di te (Air of you) – This is a piano acoustic guitar piece and very soft.
Doesn’t do a great amount but is pleasant enough

Romance Napoli – This is very much in the mode of Children of Chernobyl from
No Expense spared. A very nice instrumental it still has the Black Knight feel
to it with the keyboard sound I can’t put a finger on.

Sologoccia (Only Drop) – Start reminds me of something from Softsword. Back
into extended Rick solo. it has to be said I can’t relate to the English version
of the lyrics

Carcere ‘e San Francisco (San Francisco’s Prison) – This is really Ocean City
from Time Machine. It has new Neapolitan verses and a lady (Aza) singing the
Ocean city chorus in English. I thought the backing track was probably the same
but perhaps "Black knight"ed a little. I just compared them though
and I think the backing is the same or slightly remixed or the keyboard voices
slightly changed. I can’t figure out Marios role on this. I always thought Ocean
city was my favourite on time machine and very in keeping with Black Knight.
I think I might prefer having two vocalists though. Actually Custards last stand
is my favourite on Time Machine. After all it has two of my heroes on it and
Roy Wood’s voice fits.