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 πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚

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? πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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.

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