Well this time, this feature should be titled Reader’s Corner as the emphasis is on a brace of Genesis related books which have recently been published.
First of these is Genesis Counting Out Time …A Photographic Journey. As its title suggests, this one is a pictorial record of the band’s history with passing nods to the solo members as well. As such, it features some remarkable images including many from the 1971-72 period in particular which I had never seen before as well as a stunning selection from 1976 -78 as well.
It is always going to be difficult to try and condense fifty years of a band’s history into a few images and when that band has as many solo members to account for as well, then the task is even harder but here we have an excellent attempt at telling their stories in broad brush strokes. The accompanying text although minimal, does add to the story and in one case in particular, actually told me something I did not know!
Housed in a hard slipcase and accompanied by a marvellous set of six A4 sized photographs by ace photographer Alan Perry this is a book which will bring back happy memories for any fan lucky enough to have seen any of the shows documented within its pages and for those who didn’t it will serve as an indication of what you were unlucky to miss. Either way, this is one which should grace any fans’ collection/
Oh, and don’t be put off by the pics of me on P126...
Wymer Publishing: Genesis - Counting Out Time A Photographic Journey. ISBN 978-1-912782-00-0 (Hardback slipcased edition limited to 500 worldwide).
Next up is a book which has had a very long gestation period… almost five years in fact! That saga is not for the pages of TWR however.
Jon Kirkman’s reputation as a rock journalist and radio presenter is second to none and he has worked with many of the world’s great rock artists and bands including Yes and The Moody Blues. Ironically enough, as he told me though, he could not get tickets for the local gigs that form part of the tour for the album which this book documents.
Yes folks, it is Jon’s The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway book. A vivid document of the album and the subsequent tour as told by many of the people who were involved with it including Aubrey Powell (artwork designer for the album), David Lawrence (chief projectionist on the tour) and many others including contemporaneous quotes from the band members themselves and reminiscences from fans who saw the tour as it unfolded over the period of seven months.
I hate to use the word definitive when reviewing things but it is certainly accurate in the case of this project. Jon has spared no effort in weaving the various strands of the story into a wonderfully unified whole. The resulting text is informative to the point that any anorak (me included) will love. And in addition to this, it is illustrated with more memorabilia and photographs than you can shake a stick at! And with much of them previously unpublished, the book is every bit as much a visual treat as it is a textual one.
Whether you are a fan of the album or (as in my case) not so enamoured of it, its place in Genesis’ canon of work cannot be understated and here, at last is a book which does justice to its subject and one which is likely to remain the last word on the album until and unless Mr Gabriel decides to write one, that is! A true labour of love and one which any fan will cherish.
Jon Kirkman: The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. Borgia Books ISBN 978-1-78926-069-4.
And now, on with the music…
First up is the latest in the reissue programme of albums by my favourite band: Jethro Tull. And here we go back to the dim and distant, slightly damp and VERY hairy year of 1968 and the band’s debut album - This Was.
It is strange to think that barely a year separates this album and the debut by Genesis and yet their direction and subsequent musical history are totally different. By 1970 Tull were being feted as the best band in the world over The Beatles no less! Hard to believe that from their rough and ready beginnings on display here. Even stranger to think that the Rock/Prog/Folk beast that Jethro Tull became, started their days as a Blues band! Aaah yes, dear reader, it may seem strange now but the Blues were pretty much the basis of everything back then.
Tull however, even at this early stage of their career took things in a different direction. That can be attributed to their soon to be front man, Ian Anderson whose canny adaptation of the flute into a rock band and his increasingly eccentric onstage persona gave us one of the most iconic images in rock.
Sonically, as usual, the remastered album, here in gloriously restored mono and stereo mixes offers some unexpected surprises to ears as familiar with this music as I am. Once again, Steven Wilson has done an impeccable and respectful job of treating these recordings and Tull fans will find much to enjoy here as the “new” detail emerges with repeated listening.
Unlike Genesis, who are still incredibly shy of airing their bad hair day moments, this set has one bona fide such moment in the shape of the raucous Ultimate Confusion, a jam best forgotten really but here at last for our delectation (!) Assembled here too, are all the associated recordings, BBC sessions (a touchy subject if you are a Genesis fan!) mono single mixes et al.
All of this is housed in the usual hardback cover and comes with the now standard booklet illustrating the band’s story at this formative moment in their history. Replete with photos, memorabilia and an informed and amusing text by Martin Webb, once again Tull are showing others how to do it and this set is another welcome addition to any Tull fan’s collection.
Jethro Tull: This Was - The Fiftieth Anniversary Edition Chrysalis Records 0190295611484.
Next we have that rarity these days, some home grown talent. Jimmy Coburn’s name might not be familiar to many but, if you mention The Cavern Beatles he may well be familiar to some of you under his alter ego as John Lennon in that fine ensemble.
Jimmy has finally stepped out of his hero’s shadow however with this, his debut album: Waterloo Key - a punning reference to where he lives these days: Waterloo Quay! The album gets under way with the stunningly rocky Outside My Window, a classic slice of rock ‘n’ roll which owes as much to The Who as it does to young Mr Coburn.
One Of The Things too is a classy, jaunty upbeat number with its feet firmly rooted in the classic pop of the Sixties but delivered in a superb modern setting. If you don’t find yourself tapping your toes to this one, you are either deaf or dead…it’ll get you in the end!
Luck On My Side and I’ll Find My Way have the touch of an autobiographical element to them, but the lyrics are ones which we can all relate to. Shades of The Hollies on both of ‘em.
Over The Water (a local expression Liverpool people use to describe the Wirral peninsular), the water in question being the divide separating two young things in love. Big jangly Byrds style guitar chords here - love it!
The rest of the album is an equally enjoyable romp through some superbly crafted pop songs. Jimmy’s influences are writ large throughout the album and that is not really surprising. What is equally unsurprising however, is the sheer quality of the music and the lyrics. Young Mr Coburn has done himself proud with this one, an excellent debut - more please!
Jimmy Coburn: Waterloo Key (No Catalogue number)
Next up is an album by a band whose name I was vaguely familiar with: Gryphon. Once again, it is Esoteric Records who have taken up the cudgels of restoring various elements of the band’s catalogue in a neatly packaged double CD. Rain dances - The Transatlantic Recordings 1973-1975 brings together most of the band’s output from that period. How best to describe these recordings… Hmmm, Monty Python meets Gentle Giant with a touch of Blackmore’s Night thrown in. An eclectic mix then and one which rums the whole gamut of traditional English Folk as well as Gryphon’s own unique blend of music too. There are some truly remarkable pieces in this collection, Touch & Go and the legendary Midnight Mushrumps to name but two of them A band whose style here is uniquely and unmistakably English there is a n innocent joy to the music here which is sadly missing from most of today’s crop and I love this collection.
Gryphon: Raindances - The Transatlantic Recordings 1973 -1975. Esoteric Records ECLEC 22639.
Next up is a project from roughly the same time period as the Gryphon recordings, Roger Glover’s The Butterfly Ball And The Grasshopper’s Feast. Another one of those epic concept projects which the mid Seventies was populated with,. This one was definitely a cut above some of its peers as this excellently produced package by Purple Records goes to show. Not only do you have the album itself but also two bonus C Ds of associated recordings all housed in a natty slip case with a highly informative booklet and fold out lyric sleeve.
Very much a product of its time, the variety of styles and musical ideas here certainly shows that there is much more to young Mr Glover than his position in Deep Purple would say. It is a shame that the musical of this never came to fruition as I am sure that it would still be running, the idea is a vibrant one and the poetry and illustrations from which it draws its inspiration are vividly etched out in a series of superb musical vignettes. An underrated classic one which deserves re-evaluation.
Roger Glover - The Butterfly Ball And The Grasshopper’s Feast. Purple Records PURPLEBOX016.
Next up is the latest release by John Hackett and Nick Fletcher. The previous albums by John and Nick as well as those by the John Hackett Band have all been reviewed within the pages of TWR and so it is a delight to be doing so for this one.
The album’s title track gets things off to a rocky start. An adventurous exploration of time and space with some phenomenal electric guitar playing from Nick Fletcher and some equally ferocious keyboards from young Mr Hackett himself, all augmented by the rock solid rhythm section of Simon Hall and Wayne Proctor - a good start and one which is destined to become a live favourite I am sure.
A Horse Named Cadillac - strange title but a wild west myth with a twist, this one sets its heart firmly at today’s self-centred and materialistic society. A superb riff driven steel guitar intro, redolent of Mr Gilmour at his Floydian best gets things off to an impressive start before Wayne’s solid back beat takes up the pace. A man’s gotta do what a man’s do.. Take a stand, make your mark and make a change for the better - the powerful message is driven home by some impressive ensemble playing.
A Time In Place is a frantic, time signature driven beast … time flies indeed but the real message here is to rise above self doubt and the outrageous arrows of album reviews (!0 and keep the faith in what you are doing. The jarring spikiness of keyboards and guitar are interspersed with quieter interludes reflecting perhaps, the bouts of doubt and confidence reflected in the lyrics, thought provoking stuff.
Leaving It All Behind is a wistful nostalgic look at lifes’ young dream and all etched out in some superb lyrics and music.
The Spyglass is a brilliantly acerbic look at today’s digital society and the fact that Big Brother (the government) is definitely watching you and manipulating your every online move… yet more strong stuff.
Mist On The Lake takes us from the trials and tribulations of the city to the tranquillity of the countryside. Nick \Fletcher lays down an immaculately serene acoustic classical guitar here over which John’s keyboards shimmer like sunlight. The acoustic calm is shattered as soaring keyboards and electric guitar take us to an other level and a marching rhythms set down by Wayne Proctor drives this escapist romp along at a suitably brisk pace. A romantic and somewhat wistful escapist romp,
The Waves Of Fair Isle, the album’s only instrumental track shows us what both Nick and John have already become well known for : superbly evocative instrumental playing, gloriously lush and evocative. I could (and have) lost myself entirely on this one on more than one occasion.
Sign Of The Times is a tale of love gone wrong, driven along by some fine percussion and a suitably spiky guitar refrain from Nick, and a suitably acerbic vocal from John. Love makes you blind and sometimes you get your fingers burned but there is always hope if you remain true to yourself.
The album is brought to a close by That Ship Has Sailed, a wry look back at life, the good and the bad, the mistakes and the regrets that we all have. That ship (life) sails all too soon for us so when you can, live top fight another day and take no prisoners!
What we have here is an album of superbly crafted music. One which does not flinch from exploring different areas and ideas. Nick and John have definitely broadened their own musical palettes here, and this is to be commended. They have not kept to the tried and trusted formulae but have challenged themselves, and us and that makes the end result much more satisfying as a result.
John Hackett/Nick Fletcher - Beyond The Stars EANTCD 1072.
Next up is Searching For Answers, a mini album from Joshua Batten. Jiosh hails from Australia (but we won’t hold that against him will we?) and, having had the chance to see him at an open mic evening in Liverpool recently, I can say that he is a very talented young man indeed, with a bright musical future in front of him.
The album gets under way with a ballsy blues rock number: Not Your Kind Of Man, the kind of number which ZZ Top and Joe Bonamassa do so well. Josh puts his own stamp on the track though and his is a powerful voice in more ways than one.
Nobody Understands me (the perennial cry of the musician) is an out and out rocker, fast paced and polished. I love the line in the lyrics… They think I am crazy but I’m just unique….. Superb playing on guitar by Josh with some equally impressive blues harmonica from Aaron Gillet makes this a sure fire winner in my book
Homemade Wine, is another pure bred blues track, slow stomping but with the same kind of punch as the wine of the song’s title. Having heard this one stripped down to its bare essentials so to speak at the open night I mentioned earlier, the sheer power pf this one took me by surprise and it works incredibly well in either format.
Poetry is an altogether different beast, the opening cello sets the scene for a melancholy acoustic driven musing on life’s condition and how things inevitably change from childhood fascinations to adult realities all sketched out in marvellous words and music.
Look Up gets off to a slightly funky start a meaty bass line and stabbing organ. Don’t let the toe-tapping rhythms fool you though, this is a song with a deeper message than that. A brilliantly acidic look at the corruption of society and the destruction of dreams by a selfish instead of selfless society. Superbly constructed, this is the heart of the album for me.
The album’s title track brings it to a close with a familiar tale of small town frustrations and the desire to break away, all etched out in rock solid blues melodies.
It has been a while since I heard an album such as this which instantly found a place in my musical psyche but then again, it isn’t often you encounter a young musician as talented as Joshua Batten who manages to put a unique voice to such an established format as the blues. The future is bright for Joshua and I can thoroughly recommend this album to any music fan.
Joshua Batten - Searching For Answers. www.joshuabatten.com.au
Another of those pesky reissue things next. Marillion are a band which many Genesis fans have derided as being a poor man’s Genesis. I never subscribed to that point of view personally and have followed their career with varying degrees of interest since the heady days of 1982.
The Clutching At Straws album hails from slightly later than that, 1987 in fact and I guess it holds a similar place in the affections of Marillion and Fish fans as The Lamb… does for many Genesis fans, and for the same reasons. This was to be their hero’s (Fish’s) last appearance with the band. Similarly to The Lamb… Clutching is also an expansive album, replete with references to Fish’s internal state of mind (pun intended) at the time - a lyrical diary if you like, and one which makes for painful reading.
The album has lost none of its power to amaze even some thirty years later and it still has a resonance which many of its peers do not.
As usual, the remaster of the album brings a wealth of unexpected detail to the table and once again it emphasises exactly how potent a unit this incarnation of the band were. The same goes for the live recording culled from the tour. Unlike The thieving Magpie, which was culled from performances over several different tours, this one is a warts and all document of the band’s triumphant gig at Edinburgh Playhouse in December 1987. These gigs were, as anyone who witnessed them will tell you, a masterpiece in drama and music. Fish commands the audience from the outset whilst the rest of the band are equally emphatic in their desire to play their hearts out, and this they do and the result is by turns, stunning and amusing, especially the “Gizza Bun” chorus leading into a frantic and impassioned Incommunicado.
Perhaps it is the bonus disc which has the biggest surprises in terms of how much music and lyrics survived Fish’s transition to solo artist and the band’s reconfiguration with Steve Hogarth as singer. It is a strange experience hearing Fish singing his lyrics to a musical soundtrack that you know subsequently became Easter for example., as we do in the opening cut; Beaujolais Days. Same goes for the next track Story From A Thin Wall, which ended its days as both Family Business (lyrics) and Berlin (music).. These are exactly the kind of gems which any fan will treasure, although there is of course, a modicum of sadness in the listening too, realising the what might have beens had things not ended so badly.
However, these tracks also prove that in the long run it was for the best that Fish and Marillion parted company. Heresy I may hear some of you say. Think about it though. Lyrics of such personal meaning could never have continued to find a home within the Marillion brand. To do so would eventually have led to exactly the same frustrations which dogged Genesis and Peter Gabriel. The musicians were simply too good to be relegated to the ongoing personal soap opera of Fish’s life. And, his lyrics were never going to be subsumed to the demands of music other than his own. We benefited enormously from the liberation of both. Something this box set proves beyond doubt \I think.
If nothing else, this one will reaffirm Marillion’s position as the pre-eminent Prog band to emerge from the genre’s resurgence in the 1980’s and this is a set which fans will treasure.
Marillion: Clutching At Straws. Parlophone 0190295605049
And finally in this round up is the second instalment in Neil Campbell’s trilogy of concept albums, the first of these The Outsider - News From Nowhere was reviewed in our last edition. The second instalment, After The Flood continues the themes outlined in the first album.
The opening track To The New World is a sprightly acoustic guitar piece, full of vim, vigour and youthful enthusiasm, a suitable description of the New World before it became an old one jaded and cynical. I can’t help but think there are lyrics yet to be written for this one (hint, hint, Neil). While To Asia has all the vibrancy, hustle and bustle of an Asian marketplace and from Africa, shimmers and shifts like a swallow on the wing, with the sounds and scents of Africa emanating from the shore.
Europe After the Rain (how appropriate given the current heat wave sweeping the continent) shimmers like raindrops on the parched ground but the impression is more Latin American than European thanks in no small part to the incessant Flamenco styled playing from Neil and Victor Nordberg’s tasteful rhythms.. While Déjà Vu is so infectiously catchy that I defy anyone not to tap their toes to it. Once again, a song without lyrics and I love the jazzy keyboard inflections from Marty Snape whilst Higher lives up to its name with a soaring refrain which is a joy to hear from start to finish. 5-HTP has an Indian refrain evocative of a shimmering Indian landscape lush and green during the monsoon rains and the Indian theme is continued in Lantra with another masterful performance from Neil and Roger Gardiner on bass.
Five One Seven, has all the fire and drama of a Flamenco dance routine and is executed in every bit as much of an exciting fashion although when the harmonium ventures into the picture I am reminded of some of the more recent efforts from one Ian Anderson …no bad thing in my book too but don’t let that reference fool you, the music is all uniquely the musician’s own.
The album is brought to a close by the percussion driven Ten Men Dead, I am not sure where the title comes from, but the result is another hauntingly evocative piece which brings this wonderful album to a fine end.
The word that most comes to mind when trying to describe this album is travelogue, as throughout it most of the world is conjured up in thoroughly evocative music, a vital and thoroughly executed description of a world in which we are but a small part. A master class in musical performance and one which I thoroughly recommend.
Neil Campbell: After The Flood. ATFCD001.