Welcome to this look at what has been entertaining TWR's editor when he's not immersing himself in all things Genesis. As you will see, even in these Locked Down days, there has still been a bumper crop of new releases for me to get my teeth into…
First up, a brace of releases by the Tigermothster himself; Peter Jones…
Still Alive is Peter's aptly titled Lockdown EP - and a damn fine one it is, too! Beginning with the title track a superb acoustic based examination of our current situation and the fact that we are.. Still Alive.
The Mighty Fallen is a superb Jazz Fusion instrumental romp which sets us up nicely for Golden, a wistful elegiac look at the past which in turn, brings us to the frighteningly paranoiac Lean Into The Madness. A truly scary look into the mind of someone who is losing their grip on reality.
I am not sure what to make of the next track, Whistle Along. Try whistling this and you will give your tongue a hernia! Akin to the manic mayhem of the likes of The Merry Vicar (Cocoon) this one has all of Peter's trademarks on it especially the humour, before we are brought back to sanity with the reprise of Still Alive which once again reinforces the point that we are indeed, Still Alive.
Tigermoth Tales: Still Alive. White Knight Records WKEP0720
I think the words of St Paul should be quoted before I review the next album…
"When I was a child, I spoke as a child.
When I became a man I put away such childish things".
In fact, that is a pretty good summary on its own, but allow me to expand upon it if I may?
Peter's previous efforts under the Tigermoth Tales aegis have explored childhood, growing pains and the moral fairytales which provide both entertainment and moral guidance. Here, on The Whispering Of The World we see him move from that to the altogether darker and more fraught world of adulthood.
He has also taken the brave step of stripping back the sound to just piano and string section and the results are truly incredible. Taking The Dawn is a breathtaking evocation of the Dawn Chorus; birdsong, the oldest and most beautiful choir in the world, one we take so much for granted. Here he manages in words and sublime music, to bring this remarkable spectacle of nature vividly to life.
Things take an altogether darker turn next with The Whispering Of The World in which we have the thoughts of a soul in torment driven to the end of their tether and contemplating suicide. A truly remarkable, and deeply uncomfortable exploration of the subject which many of us will experience in one form or another, especially these days. The human spirit is a remarkably strong thing though, and even in the darkest moments there is hope.
Thankfully we turn back to the light next with Sweeter Than Wine. A beautiful homage to the people who make life worth living; friends and family all of whom are missed even more right now as we cannot share time with them. If this makes you think even more fondly of the people that are part of your life, then perhaps this is the best present you can give them right now.
The light of having someone whom you know loves you when all else seems dark and despondent is the subject of Quiet Night. We've found the way back home indeed, if anything good comes out of the current Pandemic then it is simply a greater appreciation of life and every good thing in it - this song says it so much better than I can!
No Peter Jones album would be complete without an instrumental of some sort, and in A Town By The Sea we have it. A truly glorious old school tone poem evocation of any English seaside town. You can almost smell the ozone and the tang of vinegar on your fish and chips on this one.
We are back to birdsong next with Blackbird, another heartwarming description of one of the simple beauties of life.
Waving Not Drowning I think sums up pretty much how we all must be feeling right now. One minute buoyant and full of life, the next drowning as life threatens to overwhelm you. It's a scenario we must all be familiar with some are more equipped to survive it than others.
The album comes to a suitable conclusion with Lost To The Years, a truly impressive tribute to those whom we have lost and are alive to us now only in memories. You will cry when you listen to it (I did) but if the tears are tears of happy remembrance rather than sorrow, then the song has done its job.
Without doubt Peter has come of age with this album. It is a work of incredible scope and maturity, one to which the word "Classic" can truly be appended. Well done that man!
Tigermoth Tales: The Whispering Of The World. White Knight Records WKCD1220
Aah young Mr Kuragari! I first met Jordi when he was an earnest fan at several of Steve Hackett's acoustic trio gigs back in 2005. He was a budding guitarist then, he has certainly come a long way since then as his album - Why Wait clearly demonstrates. The album gets under way with its title track, a superbly evocative description of the pain of indecision - why wait indeed? 5AM is a beautiful instrumental which admirably describes that time of day when the world is on the cusp of sleep and wake.
Of the rest of the album's thirteen tracks Jordi covers an incredible amount of musical ground. His mastery of his chosen instrument is impressive at all levels. OK, he hasn't got the strongest voice but the music is pitched to its strengths and works well. Jordi deals with issues that we are all familiar with: doubts, fears, especially in today's crazy world - he expresses thoughts that I am sure all of us have had at one time or another and he does it with impeccably crafted music. He says in the sleeve notes to the album that it's creation has been an adventure and a pain to finish. Like all good music, the pain has definitely been worth it. If you like your rock with an understated Prog edge then this album is one you will definitely enjoy - well done my young Padawan!
Jordi Kuragari: Why Wait. Jet Records
My old chum, Peter Matuchniak has been busy of late and appears twice in this feature. First of these is a live recording by Kinetic Element, a band he was recruited into only a couple of years ago. Recorded in New York back in 2019, Kinetic Element are one of the many "Neo Prog" bands out there in increasing numbers these days and peopled with very talented musicians, of whom Peter is one. The music on this one is very much your standard Prog fare; lengthy and at times, convoluted displaying worthy musicianship but, for my ears, doing so through what is really quite average Prog fare with too many echoes of bands who have done it before - Yes in particular. A bit like Marmite this one, you will either like it or loathe it…
Kinetic Element: Live From New York. Melodic Revolution Records. MRRCD 22185
Peter's second offering is much more to my taste. Sessions displays some of the work he has contributed to other artists' projects. In some cases Peter has returned to the earlier recordings of the parts he made for them, giving us, if you like, a behind the scenes look at how the work developed.
What you have here is a fascinating series of snapshots in a wide variety of styles, ranging from the almost pure Prog to Jazz and many points in between which more than anything demonstrates just how talented a musician he is and why he is in demand as a session player.
The album gets under way with Big Heart - a lush and melodic opening on which Peter adopts the Pink Floyd style of echoey slide guitar to great effect. She Knows is pure Jazz Fusion at its best whilst Fear is pure Rock from start to finish. I sadly don't have time or space to do each track the justice it deserves, but suffice to say, as a showcase for Peter's undoubted talents as a musician and interpreter of others' ideas it is a very impressive collection and, if, as with any good sampler, it makes you explore the catalogue of the musicians whose sessions these recordings come from, then it will have more than done its job.
Peter Matuchniak: Sessions. Melodic Revolution Records MRRCD22188
A welcome reissue next. Inhaling Green is the underrated work of Nick Magnus. A concept album of sorts - well, the title track at least! Featuring keyboard instrumentals in an amazing number of styles - well, Nick IS a keyboard player after all so that shouldn't be surprising.
Quality music throughout with several tracks which are already favourites of mine from Nick's canon of work all given a 21st Century makeover with delightul results. I defy you not to be tapping your feet to his upbeat version of Sir George Martin's Theme One. Nick has also chosen to revisit one track from his first solo album: Straight On Till Morning, and Flight Of The Condor proves what a gem that album is despite Nick's apparent reservations about it.
The final track is a new one, a total delight; Lord Percy's Folly is a worthy companion piece to Convivium on his latest album; Catharsis and is the kind of medieval romp that would not sound out of place in Blackadder - I love it!
Nick Magnus: Inhaling Green. Magick Nuns Records MNCD1004
Whilst on the subject of reissues, it would be rude indeed of me not to pen a few words about the latest in the series of remastered albums from Jethro Tull. This time we reach the 1980's when Tull, and more specifically Ian Anderson decided to grasp the nettle of the "new" synthesiser technology. A was ostensibly an Ian Anderson solo album and how it morphed into a Tull album is too long a story for these pages. Besides, it is admirably told in the superb booklet that accompanies the set.
Difficult to describe the impression this album has on me when first hearing it. Shock? Disbelief? Had Ian lost his marbles? Nope, Mr Anderson was far too canny for that! His talent for storytelling and observant social commentary is as evident on this one as any previous Tull record and here we have his thoughts on labour relations (Working John, Working Joe), the possibility of a nuclear apocalypse and its aftermath (Fylingdale Flyer/Protect & Survive/And Further On). Utilising the new technology the album has a crisper sound and thankfully Steven Wilson has finally been able to improve the sound as A has always been the one Tull album that desperately needed remastering! The result merely secures its position as one of my favourite Tull albums.
As usual there are bonus tracks although these are relatively few in number this time round but that is more than compensated for by the presence of the complete unedited live recording from the LA Sports Arena as well as the DVD of the Slipstream video. All housed in a slipcase edition with another extensive essay on the album and it's position in the Tull catalogue. Another essential addition to any Tull collection.
Jethro Tull: A A LA MODE - The 40th Anniversary Edition. Chrysalis Records 0 190295 127497
And last, but by no means least in this extended feature is the latest album by John Hackett Band guitarist, Nick Fletcher whose name and work I am sure many of you are familiar with.
Prepare yourselves for a shock...this album is not another of the serene almost austere collections of classical guitar work which we have come to expect from young Mr Fletcher! Oh no. It is as if Nick has finally exhaled a deep sense of longing to get his Jazz Fusion roots out of his system and, as such, this album is a breath of fresh air!
This album is a gem, jam-packed with vigorous and invigorating music showcasing Nick's formidable abilities as a rock player of incredible talent and dexterity. He unleashes a barrage of fearsome licks throughout and is ably assisted in the process by some equally talented musicians, including fellow band mate,Mr John Hackett who graces the album with some wonderful flute playing and vocals. Caroline Bonnett also puts in some sterling work on keyboard and augments John on vocals on occasions to excellent effect. Dave Bainbridge lays down some exquisite sounds on the Hammond Organ and Mellotron which will send shivers up the spines of those who are aficionados of those particular beasts, whilst Tim Harris and Russ Wilson form a marvellous rhythm section, driving the whole thing along.
There simply isn't a duff track on this one and every one of the eight tracks on display here is worthy of its place and the results are quite simply, breathtaking. It ain't rock and roll...but I definitely like it!
Nick Fletcher: Cycles Of Behaviour RDACD 006
And that, dear readers, is that for this feature, till next time.