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B. Robertson (Bromley, London)

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The Astonishing
The Astonishing
Price: £12.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Major Work of Art, 15 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Astonishing (Audio CD)
Dream Theater have created not just a stand-alone new CD but a major 'work of art' that works in many different levels. 'The Astonishing' is the first new music from DT for three long years and the silence has been palpable. How did they manage to keep this a secret for so long?

First the negatives. 'The Astonishing' is perhaps too long. CD is act one and is 79 minutes long whilst CD2 is act two and is 59 minutes. Now that is a 2 and a half-hour chunk of a human beings attention which is so hard bearing in mind our busy lives. I guess in all our situations there must be opportunities to seek the solitary. But the music does not become tiresome in all the 130 minutes. There is never a sequence which doesn't work or fit. The average listener perhaps could have done with two acts of 2 hours maybe. Secondly 'The Astonishing' has very few intensely metallic moments; it compares very much with 'Seven degrees of Separation' and has a similar vibe or feeling.

DT have created an opera based around an uprising led by Gabriel against a medieval feudal society. We meet the characters and places in Act One which leads us to uprising, conflict and a happy ending. 'The Astonishing' could be a show in a west end theatre; some of the central themes reoccur and we have opening overtures and finales. Characters appear and reappear before peace is restored.

'The Astonishing' works as a new straight forward DT album. Play these songs in order and try to forget you ever heard of the story:
Track 7; Saviour in the square. A beautiful guitar solo from John Petrucci with orchestral backing that breathes rainbow colours into the fog. That's the main theme repeating itself again.
Track 9; Act of Faythe. Deep orchestral cascades and 12 string acoustic with James LaBrie playing all the voices.
Track 13; A Life Left Behind. This song really gets going with LaBrie's voice after 1:26. A passionate memorable melody that grabs your attention and it's that light/ shade ambiance that dove-tails through to the end. This will sound immense on the stage with a massed choir. Sounds pretty magnificent here with Petrucci grinding the chords.
Track 14; Ravenskill. A lovely moody pastoral track that has a Jordan Rudess vibe all the way through. There is a sequence with Rudess playing a vibraphone and piano at the same time. This song builds into the next,as they all do, but 'Chosen' has the most eloquent Petrucci solo at around the 2 minute mark.
CD2. Track 3; Heavens Cove. Love the title and this tune is totally ghostly and ethereal. Excellent swirling guitars and backing angelic choir.
Track 11; Hymn of a Thousand Voices. Beautiful love song that precedes the ending. We have acoustic guitar and back beat very reminiscent of 'Made Again' by Marillion from Brave.
Track 12; Our New World. Big finale with excellent riff from Petrucci and everybody bopping and striding around. This is the best catchy melody on the record and one that could nail a few hearts.

'The Astonishing' works as a straight ahead rock album and it could have been organised to be one. But Petrucci and Rudess had the ideas and vision to make this powerful statement. I do find it interesting that the band retain their central situation at the core of the work. James LaBrie plays several important characters but he does it himself and so the bands identity is retained. LaBrie even plays Faythe when it must have been tempting to bring in a strong female voice. I guess doing this would have turned this into an Ayreon type concept album and the whole essence of DT might have been lost. 'The Astonishing' could work as a movie or it could work as a musical or it could work as a rock production. I guess what happens next hinges on reaction to the live shows taking place in the near future.

I applaud DT and extend my thanks for making my year.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 16, 2016 10:55 PM GMT

Glory in Gothenburg: The night Aberdeen Football Club turned the footballing world on its head
Glory in Gothenburg: The night Aberdeen Football Club turned the footballing world on its head
Price: £2.84

5.0 out of 5 stars Well organised and thoughtful, 26 Feb. 2015
This book has been carefully and skillfuly organised into mini chapters about individual players. It is well written and brings you slamming back into your personal history. Andy Ritchie keeps croppinh up as does the legendary first punk goalkeeper Hugh Sproat!! Highly recommended.

Price: £14.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Collide-of-hopes!, 28 Feb. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Kaleidoscope (Audio CD)
Transatlantic! What a band! This is album number four and I remember clearly getting really excited back in the year 2000 when SMPTe was in the pipeline. The article was in 'Classic Rock' magazine and I suddenly realised these four differing and similar personalities could create something unbelievable. SMPTe is still my favourite album because it is so musical and melodic. This is always the album that I recommend as the 'future of prog'.The four individual band CDs at this time were 'Snow', 'Space Revolver', 'Scenes from a Memory and ''. Then SMPTe dropped on to the progressive landscape like confetti at a wedding. Album number two, Bridge across Forever, did not live up to the majesty of the first album although it is still a pretty decent record. 'The Whirlwind' was brilliant but overlong! Watching them at 'High Voltage' perform the whole thing was magnificent but you just wanted them to play something from the first two albums. A mere four year wait and we get Kaleidoscope and it is another collision of four musical hopes!

Kaleidoscope has two typical Transatlantic epics that bookend the CD and three that mix things up in the middle. The middle three do add a lot of colour and diversity to the whole kaleidoscopic pattern. It's seeing the five tracks arranged so carefully that you realise why Kaleidoscope is called Kaleidoscope. I love 'Shine', track two which is a typical Morsey type guitar motif with lovely instrumentation. 'Black as the Sky' reminds me of the Spocks Beard song 'Crack the Big Sky'; it is keyboard based and is by far the weakest track on view. Beyond the sun is dreamy, atmospheric and beautiful.

'Into the Blue' and 'Kaleidoscope' are the two 30 minute epics that do sit along place the other epics in the Transatlantic canon. Both tracks have typical Morse passages with wonderful off-beat Portnoy drumming. Stolt is a dream on 'Kaleidoscope' on the 7 minute mark.

CD2 has 8 cover versions. All of them mirror the originals, there is no Transatlantic excess here so if you know 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' by Elton then you will know the Trans version. I do love the bonus disc though because it shows us exactly who the influences are. Best track here is 'Sylvia' which is fab.

Negatives, there has to be negatives! Some of the singing is really not up to scratch. Five voices are singing throughout the 2 CDs. Neal Morse has a wonderfully warm and instantly recognisable voice that has evolved over decades of serious vocal scenarios. He has played every musical genre and I have watched his career slowly transend to its current position. Daniel Gildenlow can sing too but he is out of place amongst the four Transatlantic albums. Roine Stolt and his singing has been part of my life for such a long time that I have got used to his shortcomings. Portnoy and Trewavas cannot sing but they get far too much microphone time, Trewavas sings a long passage in the middle of the title track! Why?? Why not stick with Morse? Do we really need 5 vocalists when surely one would do? Spocks Beard had wonderful harmonies and I think Morse is trying to recreate this here but it just doesnt work. When Yes went on tour they did not have five singers!

Kaleidoscope is a 5 star album with a star knocked off for the singing arrangements.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 9, 2014 11:06 PM GMT

The Way Up - Live at Montreal Jazz Festival 2005 [DVD]
The Way Up - Live at Montreal Jazz Festival 2005 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Metheny/Mays/Sanchez/Rodby/Lauria/Vu/Maret
Offered by Quality Media Supplies Ltd.
Price: £10.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely Acoustic Start!, 10 Jan. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
PMG in Montreal and the quality is reasonable. Pat is wearing a lovely stripey top and is not switching instruments on a regular basis.
Quality is sveral notches down on the Japan DVD from this tour but the Montreal performance is more real and vital. There is a lovely acoustic beginning and the concert is recorded on the streets of the city so it is more honest.
I love it!!

Lemington Convention 2012
Lemington Convention 2012
Offered by Fish Music
Price: £16.00

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bargain! Fish! 2CDS! 1DVD! BUY!, 10 Jan. 2014
This package is 2CDS and DVD all for a bargain price. Bought from 'The Company' yonks ago, this double package formed the backbone of my summer last year.

First of all, and most important, is that the quality is excellent. Top notch mix of stage and audience. The CDs only do the music plus applause whilst the DVD does the whole show including Fish's lengthy lovely intros. The DVD shows how concerned the whole band were when they introduced the 2 new songs but the 2 songs come across well and advertise the new album with aplomb. Steve Vantsis looks visably moved when the new song actually works on the DVD which is entertaining!

CD1 has the best part of the show. The passage of performance from 'Square Go' right through to 'Pilgrim's Address' is ecstatic and exemplary. Each song is delivered with fantastic musicianship and passion, belief and power. 'Square Go' positively sizzles with emotion, 'Feast' is on trial run and works out beautifully in a nervy early version, 'Other Side of Me' is totally lovely with Frank Usher providing a great solo, this is a beautiful bluesy Faces type song. 'Dark Star' begins slowly and rises in vileness and attitude to an amazing conclusion.

CD2 has some great performances. 'Jigsaw' has a lovely 'Phil Collins' feel to it that introduced a lovely keyboards effect that could fit on any `Collins' album. Everybody loves the 'Internal Exile and Markey Square' mix, 'Grendel' is unneccessary and dull, but 'The Company' brings us back to at least some kind of normality.

This is a bargain especially if you buy the new CD too (Feast of Consequences). Grendel is embarrassing but that 60 minute run on CD1 is absorbing.
Fish? He must be loving it. A bargain.

A Feast of Consequences
A Feast of Consequences
Offered by rocknsoul2013
Price: £12.98

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As warm as a hug with your granny under a tartan travel rug whilst eating toffee., 10 Jan. 2014
This review is from: A Feast of Consequences (Audio CD)
Fish has delivered an excellent 60 minute plus CD with a wide variety of styles, subjects and musical bravery. I bought 'Feast' from his website yonks ago and I'm really pleased this has finally become available on Amazon because the whole thing is crying out to be heard. It is a step forward from '13th Star' which closed out the last decade because every song on here is atmospheric and enjoyable.

Many of the key players from that CD return in particular Steve Vantsis who co-wrote much of the material. `Feast' will appeal to any lover of good music. I can see echoes of Crosby/Stills/Nash, Joni Mitchell, John Martyn as well as 'prog' or whatever it calls itself these days.

Tracks are:
Perfume River: 10 minute song with long build up with Scottish type motif. Lovely acoustic section and strong chorus. Warm atmospheric start.
All Loved Up: Possibly the most commercial track here. Riffing type Fugazi chords crashing through a 3 minute single. Reminiscent of 'Punch and Judy' but dated 30 years.
Blind to the Beautiful: Yes, it's my favourite song. This is the Crosby/Stills/Nash one that is so warm it wants to hug you. It also reminds me on early Faces songs (Debris?). Lyric about protecting the environment and I played it at my school the other week to moderate applause!
Feast Of Consequences: Another of my favourites, about everything running out including ourselves. Great riff, its up-tempo and the lyrics are chilling. Great guitar solo.
Other side of me: Another CSN song crossed with Joni Mitchell. Fish's words are becoming very evocative and stark just like Joni was around Hejira. This is a beautiful ballad that has a lovely melody and chorus.
Feast also contains the 'High Wood' suite set during the First World War and this takes up 5 songs and around another 30 minutes.
There is another one tucked at the end called 'The Great Unraveling' which reminds me of 'Stupid Dream' era Steven Wilson (Stop Swimming). I great way to end this CD in hopelessness.

This CD deserves 6 stars to be honest. Yes I do love Fish so I am biased. But this CD contains elements of the best of 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s and is also BANG up to date. This is as warm as a hug with your granny under a tartan travel rug whilst eating toffee. Faces, Fleetwood Mac, Porcupine Tree, early Marillion (of course), Rod Stewart, CSN, John Martyn, Fairport Convention, Joni. Mix it all up= Hello Fish!
Miss this at your peril.

English  Electric  Full Power
English Electric Full Power

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lamb lies down in Winchester., 9 Oct. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Received this via Amazon from Big Big Train headquarters and it arrived within 48 hours. It was a big package and it bounced off the 'Welcome' mat with a low thud. Most Cds I receive, I skim the contents within a few minutes, but 'Full Power' is a labour of love and they really have gone to town. There are notes in here about everybody and everything. The producer has 2 pages. Each song merits at least 2 pages with explanations and photographs. I sat in my little room for most of the morning listening to each tune and digesting the inspiration, it reminded me very much of a long soak in the bath.

Each song is understood and becomes an experience. There is a common linked piece of piano music that gives the 2 hours a kind of flow. 'They are trying to sound like early Genesis,' I mentioned to several friends but none of us could actually pinpoint an actual steal. I can definitely hear the end theme from 'Stagnation' at one point in CD1 but it's the arrangements that points towards the early 1970s.

If you love 'Selling England' or 'The lamb...' then this is that idea transformed into the year 2013. I can't stop playing the CDs. Must have listened to them five times now. The last song, 'Curator of Butterflies' is the most moving experience of my 2013 life.

Favourite songs are 'A boy in darkness', 'Worked Out' and 'East Coast Racer' but 'Curator of Butterflies' is as elegant as a swan.

I may have to get the train down to Winchester and hang around the High Street for a few days. There definitely is no inspiration where I am at the moment in Grimsby!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 4, 2014 10:19 PM GMT

Banks of Eden
Banks of Eden
Price: £19.51

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Banks of Sweden, 16 Mar. 2013
This review is from: Banks of Eden (Audio CD)
A warm raspberry bubble bath with a fiery Rioja is the nearest comparable thing to Banks of Eden. Effortless and magical, with rises and falls of pace and passion. 'Numbers' is the flag-mast suite that ranges in depths for nigh on 30 minutes, or one side of an old lp, and is the tone for the rest of the CD. It's very Beatley in places, with 'I am the Walrus' comparable verses but a soaring chorus that zings into the stratosphere. Roine Stolt sounds beautiful throughout 'Numbers', the whole song is happiness personified. Special mention to Tomas Bodin who never over-plays his stay, his eccentric style really brings 'Numbers' to life like adding dabs of pastels to a masterpiece.

For me, the rest of 'Banks of Eden' pales slightly. There is nothing particularly wrong with 'Rising the Imperial', I really enjoyed seeing them play that at the Electric Circus last week, but 'Numbers' is the key and the standout. 'Illuminati' is another super song from the bonus CD.

Flower Kings are a happy feeling band. You can't help smiling when Stolt is in mid-flow; let me make it clear that I mean his guitar work. I went to London Camden Electric Circus primarily to see Neal Morse but came away feeling a lot more satisfaction towards The Flower Kings. Stolt and co played for 75 minutes and everyone played to and with each other, Tomas Bodin on keyboards looked like someone from 'Big Brother and the Holding Company' circa 1969 and Jonas Reingold was so dexterous on bass. Everybody was grinning and smiling and it sounded dynamic. Slowly my body moved closer and closer to the front as if driven by internal magnetism. Suddenly I was on the front row and next to me was Nad Sylvan from 'Agents of Mercy' and I felt like part of this curious family for 75 minutes. Neal Morse's prog blend felt strangely empty and false after this, especially with his 'hot-shot' tuneless guitarists and over-rated over-egoed drummer.

The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)
The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)
Offered by books-store
Price: £10.65

22 of 82 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Raven that contains every musical genre since 1966., 1 Mar. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Wilson has created a musical odyssey that contains most fashion genres seen and heard by mankind since Beatlemania. I'm rightly glad we haven't been visited by distant aliens or undersea creatures otherwise their galaxy-hip-hop or sea-weedy-drip-drop would have been included too.

Track one, Luminol, points the way forward with 12 minutes of everythingandthekitchensink-ness. It begins with the Steve Hackett band circa 1999, I have the bootleg, before heading into King Crimson at around the 2 minute mark.
Bass heavy Chris Squire of Yes thumps his way centre-stage as the main theme reappears at 03:44. Suddenly we head vaguely into acoustic mode, maybe Twilight Alehouse era Genesis, there's a Peter Gabriel flute solo which, strangely, are the same notes but done in a different order. King Crimson's mellotron gets wheeled out before we get a Lyle Mays type piano solo which is definitely a positive step. Adam Holzman must have been listening to those old Pat Metheny Cds.
Those booming Crimson chords reappear and Luminol languishes past the 10 minute mark. What would Luminol sound like if Wilson had been influenced by Baccara, Racey or Darts? Worse... Dana and Wet Wet Wet!

Is musical genius all about distilling and bottling up your influences and then writing and producing a carbon copy or is it the presence of mind to create something original and unique? Steven Wilson is not unique in producing 'The Raven that refused to sing'. Wilson is certainly clever and manipulative. To hear a soaring jazz tinged piano solo dominate progressive rock is a forward step but this is not enough. Everything is here but nothing new is played.

Your choices are:
1. Dig out the original 1970s albums and play them for a weekend.
2. Play Steven Wilson and pretend the 1970s didn't happen.

Comment Comments (34) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 11, 2014 10:56 AM GMT

Wondrous Stories: A Complete Introduction To Progressive Rock
Wondrous Stories: A Complete Introduction To Progressive Rock
Price: £25.04

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 5 hours Prog Heaven!, 6 July 2010
I began my prog-life with the 'neo-prog' movment of the early 1980s. To see a compilation with Marillion, Pallas and IQ on it is like someone telling me I was right all along. I know most of the stuff on CD3 and CD4 but the first 2 CDS are fairly unfamiliar. I bought this because it will be great on holiday. Every year people moan at me because I play IQ cds from start to finish. No longer, now it will be 5 hours of stuff that sounds like IQ but isn't.

I love Opeth and this is one of their best tracks. It is produced by Steven Wilson. One earlier reviewer critcised the non-inclusion of Porcupine Tree but at least the mainman is there producing this. I'm enjoying discovering early prog music for the first time. It's so approachable after spending too long with Marillion and Pendragon. Spocks Beard are there with a great song from 'Snow'. Dream Theater sneak in with 'Pull me Under'.

Like a lot of the other reviewers I could drone on about some of the bands 'missing in action'. I love The Flower Kings too but this is a fantastic start and will lead most listeners onto a journey into a million others time-lines and prog-fractures. Don't forget to buy a Genesis cd to sit along with this!

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