Jay Danley and Derek Wylie, two musicians from Canada, have reunited to bring their love for progressive music forward and into the world.
Having played together many years ago, the two have collaborated on a new project that celebrates their love for classic progressive rock in the styles of early Genesis, Pink Floyd and King Crimson while bringing fresh new ideas into the mix.
Their first release, ‘Connections’, is thematically joined by the idea that human beings have a strong need to connect and communicate. This was powerfully demonstrated during the pandemic as people dealing with isolation took to the internet and other forms of communication to reach out to others.
The striking album cover of a radio transmitter covered in ice gives that classic 70’s prog vibe and this is continued by the elegant music that is contained within this sophisticated release. Consisting of six tracks of what could be called space/prog/psychedelia with some fluent jazz touches, ‘Connections’ is a varied and mature album of thoughtful and contemplative music that connects with you on a cerebral level. The voice overs, full of conjecture about whether we are alone in the universe and other quandaries, add a definite Pink Floyd edge to the album but it is the dextrous musicianship of Messrs Danley and Wylie that shines on all the tracks.
Whether it is the smooth and languid keyboards/synthesisers of the refined opener Alone, interspersed with some fine guitar playing or intricate, intelligent composition of Change, this deliberately introspective album will get you thinking. Connected dances lightly on your synapses with some fluid piano and guitar exchanges, The In Between has a more spaced out, sci-fi feel as it talks about the building blocks of the universe and Listen is a full on jazz/prog piece with some rather impressive guitar playing as a foundation. Everything comes to a close with the polished, stylish Surfacing, a reflective, soul searching way to end the album.
Inspired by the likes of Floyd and Crimson it may be but ‘Connections’ easily finds its own way in the current musical status quo, Danley / Wylie have created something of substance here and I’m really looking forward to where they go next.
‘Seasons End’, first released in 1989, is the last release in Marillion’s series of EMI era deluxe re-issues. It is also the most pivotal album in the band’s history as it marked the beginning of the ‘h’ era of Marillion with Steve Hogarth as the vocalist. Steve Hogarth has been around ever since and has imprinted his mark and class on the Marillion brand so indelibly that it is hard to remember what it felt like at the time when he emerged from virtually nowhere to replace Fish. This deluxe re-release gives us the opportunity to re-evaluate ‘h’s debut with the band.
Whilst we can look back on this album as an assured and high-quality album it belies a period of great uncertainty leading up to its recording and release. Following great success with albums and singles the future of Marillion was far from clear after they parted company with Fish in 1988. There was an assumption by many that the band could not survive without their charismatic front man, but the remaining band were confident in their music and knew that Marillion were far more than just a backing band for Fish. A largely fruitless search for his replacement commenced with tapes received and various auditions, (including Stuart Nicholson of Galahad). Meanwhile around the same time Steve Hogarth’s band How We Live was coming to a disappointing end due to a lack of success and he was thinking of leaving the music business entirely, such was his disillusionment. Ian Mosley spotted his potential from a tape sent in of Hogarth singing the How We Live song ‘Games in Germany’ and the band agreed to give ‘h’ an audition. Even at that point it took a mutual friend of Hogarth and Mosley, Daryl Way of Curved Air, to persuade ‘h’ to consider doing the audition as he was seriously considering joining the touring band of The The for a major tour instead. To cut a long story short Hogarth eventually agreed to join the band and they set about writing their first album together. So what did they manage to put together?
Most readers will know ‘Seasons End‘ well, and will be most interested in the remix and additional material, but there may be some new to this album. Therefore, we will go through the album, and there may be some things even the most devoted fan may not know or gain new insights into this album. After initial and deceptively easy writing sessions at the Mushroom Farm studios near Brighton the band convened at Hook End Manor Recording studios in Oxfordshire, formerly owned by DavidGilmour. The ‘Seasons End‘ writing and recording sessions were deceptively easy for the band, as they came to discover at the far more problematic sessions for the follow-up album ‘Holidays in Eden.’ In truth the ease of the process was because much of the music had already been written in previous unused sessions with Fish for the album after ‘Clutching at Straws’ which, of course, did not happen. Additionally, before Hogarth joined, they had also looked for lyricists to help, including asking Van Der Graaf Generator’sPeter Hammill (who declined) and a peculiar meeting with the eccentric Viv Stanshall, which persuaded them that he was probably not a great fit! They eventually commissioned lyricist John Helmer (of the punk band The Piranhas) to produce some lyrics to go with their music, which definitely gave the album writing sessions quite a head start. Helmer composed the lyrics independently of the band, but in the fascinating accompanying video documentary ‘Seasons Change’, Steve Rothery did share he suggested the idea of doing a song about ‘Berlin’ due to the band’s connection with the city, and the concept for the lyric which eventually emerged as later song, ‘The Collection’. Significant elements for King of Sunset Town, The Uninvited Guest, Seasons End, Berlin and The Space… (plus the eventual ‘B-Sides The Release and The Bell in the Sea) were all in place for the album which the band worked on together to hone with Hogarth.
What all the band agree upon is that there was immediately a chemistry with Hogarth which reinvigorated the band, who felt rather liberated from the shadow of their former front man. It was also clear that this album was not going to sound like some of the more baroque old style progressive rock with which they had emerged in the early 80’s. It is apt that the first song on ‘Seasons End‘ is also the first song Steve Hogarth sang in his audition outside Pete Trewavas’ house (as it turned out he was allergic to Trewavas’ cats!) One of the things which impressed the band and helped persuade them to offer Hogarth the vocal role was his ability to immediately improvise the vocal melody in the audition. In his excellent autobiography ‘Marillion, Misadventures and Marathons’Mark Kelly recalled: ‘By the time he got to the refrain “watch a big wheel turning round…” we knew we had our singer’. Hearing Hogarth belt that out so dramatically and clearly on this remix one can understand the excitement of the band back then – there was definitely something special about this guy! Apparently, some of the music for King of Sunset Town is based on the aborted ‘Sunset Hill’ song with Fish (on the bonus disc of the 1999 remaster of ‘Clutching at Straws’), but a comparison will show King of Sunset Town is a polished and stirring piece a very long way from the embryonic ‘Sunset Hill’. There is an atmospheric synth, bass and drums opening before Rothery comes in with an anthemic guitar line, and the song recedes to the vocal section and Hogarth’s memorable opening line:
A Ragged Man come shuffling through, A Puppet King on the 4th of June
The original lyric was largely written by John Helmer, but whilst the album was being recorded the Tianenmen Square massacre was occurring in China on June 4th, 1989, watched with horror by the band on the TV news at Hook End Manor studios. Hogarth incorporated elements of that event in the lyrics, including the rhyming ‘puppet king’ of Chinese premier Deng Xiaoping and a later reference to ‘Before the 27th came…’ about one of the units of the Chinese army sent to attack the protestors. It is a testament to Hogarth’s lyrical skill that the introduction of this theme helped elevate an already good song with a fantasy feel into one of the finest opening songs on any Marillion album with a contemporary political perspective. It certainly announced Hogarth as a significant talent in his own right with his own distinctive lyrical and vocal skills. It also marked that the band were moving away from the intensely personal ‘confessional’ type introspection of much of Fish’s lyrics, and focusing on a wider range of issues and subjects.
Famously Hogarth had a bucket of tapes for ideas and from it he produced the almost complete and wonderful Easter, originally intended for his band How WeLive. Rothery added a beautiful, lilting guitar solo, apparently improvised from the start in the form which is still played today – intuitive, fluid and evocative. JeanPierre Rasle’s pipe playing added a subtle Irish flavour to the song. Hogarth has described it as his ‘Skye Boat Song’ for the Irish, and shared in his ‘Corona Diaries’ podcast that it is partly inspired by the poem ‘Easter 1916’ by W.B. Yeats. The gentle folky, melodic style is certainly a world away from the caustic, rocking anger of much of ‘Clutching at Straws’, signalling that this band was going in quite a different direction, and it remains one of the finest songs in the Marillion musical canon. The Uninvited Guest is a very different beast, with its origins in some ideas played around with at the aborted Dalnagar castle sessions with Fish in 1988. Ian Mosley starts the piece with a quirky drum part before the band drive it along at quite a furious pace, but with a hint of whimsy although the lyrics are rather sinister. The Uninvited Guest ends with a ‘cuckoo’ noise, indicating an invasion into our nest. Lyricist John Helmer has revealed it was about the shadow of AIDS in the 1980’s, the ultimate unwanted ‘guest’ in sexual relationships. Hogarth tweaked some of the lyrics and there may be a tongue in cheek reference to the previous singer, or maybe not?!
One of the most prescient songs on Seasons End is the outstanding title song with Helmer lyrics about climate change. A simple chiming guitar riff slowly emerges from the synth mists along with Hogarth’s mournful voice and there’s a real feeling of something portentous as the song builds. This is another piece with its roots in the Dalnagar sessions and an embryonic version of the music with different lyrics can be heard in ‘Beaujolais Day’ (another song available on ‘Clutching at Straws’ 1999 remaster. Fish later recycled some of the lyrics for ‘Fortunes of War’ and ‘Just Good Friends’.) This thought-provoking piece is a real showcase for Hogarth’s vocal range, rising gradually in passion. There is a sense of magisterial progression as the song gathers power but with restraint up to a tasteful guitar solo and an orchestral keyboard peak (which always made it a prime candidate for adapting for the 2019 ‘With Friends with the Orchestra’ project.) Hogarth’s evocative, echoing final words: ‘You never miss it till it’s gone, so say goodbye, say goodbye’ bring the main theme to a close but Marillion flow on with a wistful coda of tinkling synths, a subtly floating guitar motif, gentle throbbing bass and shimmering cymbals, whilst in the distance ‘h’ dreamily reprises some of the lyrics. It is a haunting, gorgeous finale to an ageless song still sadly relevant today.
Steve Hogarth shared in the ‘Corona Diaries’ that a waving hand from a window in Holloway Women’s prison was the inspiration for his emotive lyric of Holloway Girl, and is one of only two songs from ‘Seasons End‘ which was fully formed in the studio writing sessions with nothing drawn from previous sessions. Strangely, in the ‘Seasons Change’ documentary Hogarth stated that he has ‘never been quite been sure about it’. I view this as one of the most under-rated Marillion songs. Right from the start with Pete Trewavas’ unique opening playing the pick over his bass strings to give that distinctive metallic intro into Rothery’s subtle spectral guitar line as the tempo and volume increases to Hogarth’s impassioned cry ‘One day Freedom will unlock your door, so hold on, believe on…’ this is a song which grabs you and speaks for many of the poor inmates of the prison. Hogarth learned from a TV documentary that many Holloway inmates would have benefited far more from help with their mental health issues than from incarceration. This is also a real collaboration musically between ‘old Marillion’ and ‘new boy’ Hogarth with ‘h’ writing the music for the verses and Mark Kelly composing the more anthemic chorus passages.
Berlin is a city with a special meaning for Marillion as they recorded their most successful album ‘Misplaced Childhood’ there at the famous Hansa studios, and it turns out Hogarth also had some interesting experiences in this city with such a turbulent history. It probably helps to recall that Berlin was still a divided city back in 1988/9 when Rothery suggested it would make a good theme for a song to lyricist John Helmer. Berlin is probably the song most similar to their earlier much more old school ‘Prog’ style. This is hardly surprising as musically it can trace its roots back to the Dalnagar sessions with Fish in ‘Story from a Thin Wall’ (available on ‘Clutching at Straws’ 1999 remaster). Indeed, musically ‘Story from a Thin Wall’ is almost identical to Berlin so it seems they felt they were on to something. Fish later used the powerful lyrics from that song on ‘Family Business’ on his solo debut, but Marillion replaced them with some excellent new lyrics. Berlin may be one of Helmer’s best lyrics as his words seemed to capture the tense, desperate atmosphere of a city split by a wall built by a dictatorship imprisoning its population on one side and a rather hedonistic lifestyle on the other side, seemingly feverishly generated by the shadow of oppression over the wall. Hogarth sings it with such intensity and the band put on a stellar performance. An atmospheric opening led by Rothery’s delicately played guitar, supported with some suitably restrained bass and percussion, supports the scene setting vocals of decadence and desperation from Hogarth… and for the first time ever in a Marillion song a suitably seedy saxophone from Phil Todd emphasises the decadent ‘Cabaret’ feel of this city. It simply reeks of Berlin of that era. The whole piece recedes in the middle section with crows ominously crowing over a synth and guitar soundscape. The atmosphere changes and the tempo quickens as Hogarth screams passionately ‘With a Hole in our Hearts’. The whole band drives forward with a tidal wave of rock as Hogarth recites a litany of ‘the quick and the dead’, presumably all the sorts of varied people who yearned to cross the wall to freedom, many of whom were shot over the years. Balancing along the top Rothery teeters with a tortured and twisted guitar solo reflecting such desperation. This all fades to a mournful synth wash with ‘h’ reprising the opening lines about ‘the Mascara’d Blonde from the Berliner bar’, seemingly fated to endlessly repeat her prostitute life without hope. Berlin was a powerful statement, clearly designed to be a centrepiece of the album, with outstanding lyrics and great rock music fused together with such skill and impact… but the good thing is that in some ways that the Fall of the Berlin Wall less than a year after the album was released soon made this feel very much like a period timepiece – and that’s not a bad thing!
On the original vinyl release of ‘Seasons End‘ the little gem After Me was not included, and was released as the B-side for the single release of Hooks in You. It was available on the CD and cassette version and it is rightly on this deluxe edition in all it’s delicate beauty. Rothery picks out a gorgeous acoustic guitar intro with Hogarth’s richly resonant voice dripping with regret, singing words written for his then wife about how little time they were spending together. Halfway through a tinkling, shimmering keyboard cues in a much more assertive passage with the whole band backing his increasingly impassioned vocals. The finale with Rothery’s climbing arpeggio guitars is derived from the final section of another 1988 Dalnagar session song, ‘Voice in the Crowd’, (which as the name suggests Fish took the lyrics for the title song of his ‘Vigil’ debut solo album, and is another song available on the 1999 ‘Clutching at Straws’ remaster edition) – but this is a song which Hogarth very much owns with his own rather personal and touching lyrics.
Hooks in You was formed in the studio with Hogarth out of a cracking riff Rothery was jamming which Hogarth loved and they pulled together a cracking 3-minute rock/pop song. The high energy rock launches in spectacularly with drums and bass in 7/8 under the chopping guitar riff before a keyboard fanfare underpins that infectious Rothery riff, which Rothery has likened to It Bites whom he was into at the time. The lyrics are lightweight fluff about a girl having ‘Hooks in You’ – it’s simple, straightforward and just great fun. There’s no deep meaning or complexity – it’s just rock and roll, and also indicated that Marillion were not afraid to dive into some of the Van Halen type ‘hair rock’ type anthems popular at the time. The direct commercial appeal of this song marked it out as a single but in hindsight it may not have been the wisest choice as the first single of the album as it was so unlike anything Marillion had ever released, and it only reached Number 30 in the U.K. charts.
The finale of the album is the expansive and elaborate drama of The Space… In the ‘Seasons Change’ documentary Rothery shares that the music for this piece had its origins again in the 1988 Dalnagar sessions which he says was inspired by seeing Pink Floyd at Wembley. One can certainly hear the more expansive ambition of this piece with a relentless orchestral keyboard string intro with Hogarth’s echoey voice describing the fickleness of fate, as Mosley and Trewavas join in rhythmically. Rothery’s guitar swoops wraith-like above this increasingly weighty musical vehicle as it drives forward. The song then opens out with the refrain ‘The Space around the stars is something that you know’ with some lovely flowing piano from Mark Kelly underpinning the main driven theme. The initial opening section is recapitulated with added power, before the whole piece drops into a more introspective and restrained passage. However, this is a brief respite before the main musical storm returns with particularly Rothery’s overarching manically spasming guitars and Kelly’s choir keyboards. The final section commences with the echoing Hogarth proclaiming anthemically:
‘Everybody in the Whole of the World, Feels the same inside, Everybody in the Whole of the World…’
The band take it home majestically with sweeping synths and stately drumming and The Space… seemingly just fades away into the distance. It’s quite a dramatic and ambitious finale for the album. Hogarth explained in the 1997 remaster edition sleeve notes that the lyrics were partly inspired by seeing a tram in Amsterdam ripping the side off a car without even slowing down, and wondered whether the driver even noticed the great damage his vehicle had casually inflicted (indeed, the demo version of this song on the Blu-ray is called ‘Amsterdam’). Hogarth went on to state rather poetically ‘I have occasionally been the tram. And I have often been the car.’ There is also a rather curious song writing credit for this song, which apart from the usual band members, includes Colin Woore, Geoff Dugmore and FergusHarper. These were all previous band mates of Steve Hogarth in The Europeans (and Woore was also in How We Live). It eventually emerged that Hogarth had used the exclamatory ‘Everybody in the Whole of the World’ vocal section in an unreleased song by The Europeans called ‘Wrap me in the Flag’, and the opening vocal melody of ‘Amsterdam / The Space…’ had its origins in a How We Live song which never came to anything. Hogarth had used those sections thinking that as he had more or less written them that it was OK to recycle them in this song, but at the time of the album release this did cause a bit of a controversy. These former Hogarth band mates were subsequently all co-credited on the 1997 remaster, and it appears that Hogarth and Woore are now reconciled on this issue as the last line of this edition’s sleeve notes is a ‘thank you’ to Colin Woore for inspiring The Space… – who knows how we influence each other sometimes?
That’s the album – so what do you get with the deluxe edition, particularly if you are already familiar with the original album?
Michael Hunter has done the remix with his usual care and attention as is his way – he’s like an extra member of Marillion such is his intuitive relationship with the band and their music. To be fair, the original mix of this album by Nick Davis, who on the back of his good job on his first album as a producer went on to produce Genesis, was already of a very good standard. What we do not have here is the totally transformative experience heard with the massive improvement in the remix of ‘Fugazi’ which was frankly rather shoddy originally. This remix is definitely more dynamic and ‘brighter’ (if that makes sense) with more of the subtle nuances standing out, such as the ‘Cuckoo’ at the end of The Uninvited Guest. Seasons End does seem to particularly benefit from the remix with Hogarth’s gorgeous tone of voice full of restrained power and feeling and Kelly’s keyboards so lush. The improvements are not startling or revelatory which is a compliment to the original production, but they are noticeable. Of course, one’s perceptions about the differences in this remix will be largely affected by the quality of one’s sound system. The more you invest in such systems the more you are likely to hear some subtle improvements and differences… and if you’ve spent a LOT of money on your system you will REALLY want to hear those differences, even if in truth you may need the auditory senses of a bat to actually hear them! (😊)
As is customary with these deluxe editions CD’s 2 & 3 are of a live gig associated with this album. On previous deluxe editions these shows have been of shows contemporary with the release of the album, but on this occasion they have chosen to use their brilliant performance of the album at the U.K Marillion weekend in Leicester in May 2022. This has been the source of some disappointment from some fans because… well, I’m not entirely sure why? Some fans just don’t like change, which is ironic when you consider this album marked the biggest change in the history of the band. My guess the main reason the band did not include a recording from their first tour with Hogarth in 1990 is that there is already a cracking version of the 1990 Leicester show from that tour released on the ‘The Official Bootleg Box Set Volume 2’ in 2010. Normally that would have been the ideal live show to include with such a deluxe edition, but if the band had included it one can already hear some fans complaining that this material had already been released… and to be fair they would have had a point. However, another reason for using the 2022 live recording could be to show just how well this gem of an album has aged in the last 30+ years. The Leicester De Montfort 2022 show is an excellent performance with fantastic clarity of production and thrilling performance. Another difference between the 1990 show and the 2022 show (apart from the total lack of any Fish era material) is that the audience were now so much more familiar with the album and sang along and rapturously received such masterpieces as Easter, Seasons End, Berlin and the stellar, celebratory B-Side The Release with such joy. Holloway Girl really shines in this show, right from Trewavas’ cool metallic bass pick intro to Rothery’s steepling guitar runs and Hogarth’s impassioned vocals. This recording also completely dismisses any notion that Hogarth is starting to lose his voice – yes, he’s over 30 years older so his voice has aged and is not identical to 1989, but in some ways he has grown into these songs so much and wears them with such assurance, confidence and passion. Oh… and the other reason you won’t find me moaning about having the 2022 show on this deluxe edition is because I was there – it was a stunning gig and joyous experience. The main show featured only the ‘Seasons End‘ album and the associated B-Side The Release as the band now realise that one instrument they really do need to protect for a full three intense nights in a row is Hogarth’s voice, particularly as he does not hold himself back with the intensity and passion of his vocals. CD 3 comprises the encore of only two songs, but when those two pieces are the excellent and stirring epics of Gaza and The Leavers that was quite enough to satisfy the crowd.
The main attraction for many of these deluxe editions are the extras, including the ‘Seasons Change’ documentary in which each band member and the producer NickDavis are interviewed at the legendary ‘Crooked Billet’ pub in Oxfordshire where Steve Hogarth made his debut live with the band in a packed room of a country pub with hundreds in the roads outside! Previous editions have often interviewed the band collectively, but an advantage of individual interviews is that you hear more from band members whom are usually more reticent in a band / group setting. It is particularly interesting to hear more from drummer Ian Mosley, whom you can tell STILL loves being in this rock band after an early career of theatre and session work. This documentary is well produced by Tim Sidwell whom is becoming a past master at these presentations by Marillion.
The Blu-ray includes the album in 5.1 Audio which reveals the album in gorgeous surround sound clarity if you have the equipment. It sounds massive, expansive and more resonant in this splendid 5.1 version. The B-Sides and Bonus tracks from the ‘Seasons End‘ 1997 remaster are also included on the Blu-ray, including the excellent The Bell in the Sea and The Release. These are two more songs with roots in the 1988 Dalnagar sessions also available on the ‘Clutching…’ 1999 Remaster. ‘Tic-Tac-Toe’ provided a lot of the music for The Release, and ‘Shadows on the Barley’ was the basis for The Bell in the Sea. There will be some fans without that previous 1997 remaster disappointed that these tracks are confined to the Blu-ray on this edition. Interestingly there are also some previously unreleased demos of songs and song ideas, including a couple of cool string grooves from Dalnagar sessions which may explain just why this was a band who were confident that they still had something to offer without Fish. The Audio content is completed by a ‘Montreal Bootleg’ from a gig in 1990, presumably to satisfy the desire of some fans for an audio show from that era. As the name suggests the sound quality is not superior but for a bootleg it is very good quality, but to be honest if I want a show from this era I would put on the later ‘Rock Steady’ show.
The Blu-Ray is jam packed full of video content, including 3 promotional song videos which now look like curious time pieces. The Uninvited Guest does provide some fascinating imagery with Hogarth suspended in mid-air maniacally in an armchair! The previously released early documentary ‘Stoke Row to Ipanema’ is an interesting look back to a band striking out in a new direction with a new front man. Last and certainly not least, one of the crowning elements of this deluxe edition is the ‘Rock Steady’ Concert Film, which is the TV show recording of the audio show from Leicester De Montfort Hall in 1990, previously released on ‘The Official Box Set volume 2’ in 2010. The quality of the performance and the filming is excellent, with plenty of great close ups of all the band members (although Kelly seemed a little under -represented in that department!) Looking back now it is hard to believe that this was Steve Hogarth’s first tour with the band, such is the incandescent and staggeringly confident nature of his performance. What is also remarkable is the assured way he handles the Fish era material, especially Warm Wet Circles and Script for a Jester’s Tear – he was not trying to be Fish, but inhabited these iconic songs with his own personality.
Once again, the deluxe edition book and lyrics are decorated inside with some great artwork from Simon Ward and Rich Wilson provides some interesting sleeve notes. The box set artwork has caused some debate with some fans disappointed that much of the original cover design has been ditched or only subtly referenced. To be honest, I can understand why the band wanted to re-package the artwork. The original cover was a conscious effort at that crucial juncture in their career to remind fans that Marillion were still around with the original classic logo still in place (for the last time) and photographic imagery subtly referencing Fish era elements, such as the Jester’s face and hat. Fast forward 34 years later and there is absolutely no need for the band to re-use such self-conscious imagery and it felt entirely appropriate to leave the old logo and those other references well behind and use more subtly presented images of the Four Elements.
Personally, I can distinctly recall getting ‘Seasons End‘ when it first came out with some trepidation as I was a great Fish era fan. What was this ‘new bloke’ going to sound like and what he done to ‘my band’?! At the time I do remember thinking this is ‘pretty good’ – I may even have thought that rather grudgingly, such was my feeling for Fish at the time! However, as the years have gone by, I have increasingly come to realise that this album was far better than ‘pretty good’ to say the least. It is an excellent transition album, utilising some of the elements of their previous manifestation fused with a new style and sensibility introduced by an equally charismatic but very different front man.
What this deluxe edition of ‘Seasons End‘ most certainly does do is underline and remind us what an outstanding ‘debut’ album this was for the Hogarth era of Marillion. ‘Seasons End‘ was a magnificent re-birth of the band and ignited a different trajectory in their career, and this excellent deluxe edition cements its place as one of the finest albums in the history of Marillion.
CD One – Holidays in Eden 2023 Remix
King of Sunset Town
The Uninvited Guest
Hooks in You
CD Two – Live at De Montfort Hall, Leicester, 29th May, 2022) (pt 1)
King of Sunset Town
The Uninvited Guest
Hooks in You
CD Three – Live at De Montfort Hall, Leicester, 29th May, 2022) (pt 2)
‘Seasons End’ 2023 Michael Hunter Remix – 5.1 Audio Version:
Same Track listing as CD 1
B-Sides, Demos & Early Versions
Strings Groove (Dalnagar Castle – August 1988)
String Groove (with Synths) (Dalnagar Castle – August 1988)
Amsterdam (The Space… Demo – March 1989)
Easter (Demo – March 1989)
Hooks in You (Early Version – March 1989)
At the End of the day (The Release – Early Version – March 1989)
Sunset Town (M8 idea – H Dictaphone – March 1989)
(All tracks below previously released on 1997 remaster edition)
The Uninvited Guest (12” Mix)
The Bell in the Sea
The King of Sunset Town (Demo)
Holloway Girl (Demo)
Seasons End (Demo)
The Uninvited Guest (Demo)
Bell in the Sea (Demo)
Montreal Bootleg – Le Spectrum, 2nd & 3rd February, 1990
The King of Sunset Town
Script for a Jester’s Tear
Warm Wet Circles
That Time of the Night (The Short Straw)
Heart of Lothian
Hooks in You
‘Seasons Change’ – Documentary Film (83 Mins)
‘From Stoke Row to Ipanema’ – Documentary Film (63 Mins)
Rock Steady Concert Film
Live at Leicester de Montfort Hall, 1990 (90 mins)
Hooks in You
The Uninvited Guest
Steve Hogarth – Voice
Steve Rothery – Guitars
Mark Kelly – Keyboardsm
Pete Trewavas – Bass
Ian Mosley – Drums & Percussion
Phil Todd – Saxophone (Berlin)
Jean Pierre Rasle – Pipes (Easter)
Progradar would like to thank Fraser Marshall of the website:
‘Marillion – Explanations of Song Elements’ for his permission to refer to his blog about some of the background to the songs.
It’s May 2023 and the world of Yes has been busy with stuff, namely cancelling the previously, hotly anticipated ‘Relayer’ tour because of insurance issues and also the soon to be released second blast of creativity that began with 2021’s ‘The Quest’ album and short UK tour in the wake of the passing of Alan White! That album, ‘TheQuest’, was an interesting one as it firmly established Steve Howe’s ongoing leadership and steerage of the band, of which he is now the sole link to the ground-breaking group he joined in 1970. Steve was also very instrumental in their achieving significant success with their golden age of Atlantic albums in the early to mid 1970’s with the classic releases ‘The Yes Album’, ‘Close To The Edge’ and ‘Fragile’.
‘Mirror To The Sky’ definitely has more than a touch of those halcyon days with it consisting of six longer tracks and three extra tracks on a second disc. All very promising you may say but is it any good or does it paddle previously visited waters and add very little of merit? Both good questions, I personally think that any new Yes music warrants a listen as, despite many folks dismissal of Yes now as a poorer version of the real thing, I actually see much merit in having the band still active. After all, with both King Crimson and Genesis calling it a day now and Deep Purple and Aerosmith possibly approaching their last days of existence, to still have these stalwarts prepared to go out and tread the boards is both heart warming and very worthy of seeing. The last time I saw Yes in Manchester, they played a strong set with Steve being on especially fine form, yes, notes may have been missed but the intent was still there and the fire still burned for sure.
This album opens strongly with the vibrant Cut From The Stars, which is about dark skies, light pollution and the beauty of being able to see the stars clearly without the disturbance of excessive urban lights. Many folks won’t have experienced the clarity that is offered when urban lighting hasn’t reduced the amount of stars visible to the naked eye. This song is a good one with strong vocals and Billy Sherwood’s bass lines being very reminiscent of Chris Squire and really grace the track. All Connected continues the trend with some graceful pedal steel guitar lines opening the track. This has definite nods to earlier Yes days, Jon Davidson having definitely grown into his role as lead singer and here he really convinces as his vocals certainly evidence the spirit of Jon Anderson while also retaining his own stamp on proceedings, a difficult task but one he manages with style. Steve Howe’s strong guitar work is very prevalent on this track, playing some great lines and licks throughout. Steve has always been a tasteful player who plays to support the song rather than to overpower it. His restraint is important and that knowledge allows the music to swell and pulsate in a pleasing and satisfying manner.
Luminosity is another longer song and these longer format tracks really suit the group as they allow the band room to improvise and explore musically, which suits and reaffirms their validity and raison d’etre. It also harkens back to their 1970’s heyday where longer tracks were their normal way of working. I feel this method and manner of working suits them best. It also makes for good listening, well it does for me at least and I think they have really made an important musical statement with this album saying in effect, yes we are still here, making the music we want in a way that you can hopefully want to connect with, appreciate and enjoy. Come and join us, judge for yourself we are not a tribute act and we do still have validity and worth. This album shows that commitment to me, Yes may have had their problems and issues over recent times but here we see a band still hungry for approval and not content to fall back on former glories. They are still keen to make good progressive music for the 21st Century and get out to folk and deliver that same quality of experience as they have previously done.
This album may not have the same strength and impact as ‘Close To The Edge’ but it certainly tries and plays to their strengths remarkably well, well that’s what this says to me anyway! I also must mention the albums longest track, the epic Mirror To TheSky which, at nearly fourteen minutes in length, is the albums centrepiece. The song opens with some solid guitar lines from Steve and a gentle acoustic guitar before being joined by Billy’s fine bass and strong drumming from Jay Schellen and more solid fluid guitar parts from Steve, all before a word is sung. This three minute instrumental opening section leads into emotive vocals from Jon Davidson, ‘dreamof a sky without fire’ being the refrain. This is a moody soundscape that builds slowly and solidly and the song progresses well with its various sections combining to create an epic whole. It is a well crafted track that shows the sum is greater than the whole and that, only together, does the group really make sense. There is a great guitar riff that runs throughout that really elevates the track as it is very impressive and effective sounding. More clipped arpeggios lead to a mellow keyboard section in which atmospherics and harmonic touches add to the overall sound palette. This is all most impressive sounding with great bass playing holding it all together and a superb descending guitar riff with orchestrations from Geoff Downes before SteveHowe takes flight delivering a fiery solo which, along with Geoff’s elegant orchestrations, brings this satisfying track to a mighty fine conclusion.
The final track of the main album, Circles Of Time, is a gentle, mostly acoustic driven, track with more fine Jon Davison vocals and a gentle tambourine helping to deliver some rhythmic impetus. A suitably subdued Steve Howe solo also graces the track and this one really works for me as it is a gentle close to a really good solid set of tracks.
The bonus disc has three tracks, a longer piece called Unknown Place that is bass heavy and is a rather good, medium-paced, number yet is one that allows good guitar and bass interaction. It is quite punchy number and repeated plays reveal it to be a very strong track. Billy Sherwood really shines and you can see why Chris Squire wanted him to take his place in Yes. Also impressive on this track are GeoffDownes‘ commanding organ parts that sound great, very Wakeman-esque really and, overall, this track is really rather a good one. The other two songs, One SecondIs Enough and Magic Potion are good but don’t really generate the same excitement for me, both are pleasant and well delivered but not essential for me, although I really do like that bass!
So there you have it, nine tracks over two discs and the vast majority is really great music. In today’s era, compared to some of the bland music being made, this will do very nicely thank you! It will be interesting to see how this translates to a live environment next year on the UK tour.
Big Big Train will be on tour this summer and to celebrate and promote the forthcoming ‘The Journey Continues’ Tour this August & September, the group have been sharing videos of songs filmed on tour last year. The band recently shared the videos for “The Florentine” and “The First Rebreather” recorded in September 2022 at The Boerderij in The Netherlands.
The band is pleased to share the performance clip of “Atlantic Cable” recorded live at Friars, Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury, UK in September 2022. The live audio recording of the song is included on the band’s forthcoming Ingenious Devices album to be released on 30th June 2023 (full details below).
You can see the video of that performance here:
Bassist Gregory Spawton says: “One of the recurrent themes we’ve explored in Big Big Train over the years is how humans have been able to harness technology to make the world a better place. Atlantic Cable is a song about the laying of the first telegraph cables across the Atlantic Ocean in the 19th century. It was a mighty endeavour which helped to bring people together. We really enjoyed playing Atlantic Cable at the legendary Friars, Aylesbury last year and are pleased to share this film of the performance.”
Keyboardist Oskar Holldorff adds: “Following a warm-up show the night before, the gig in Aylesbury was my first official performance with Big Big Train, and what a night it was! Atlantic Cable was positioned early on in the set, and it felt great to work our way through a proper BBT epic in the beautiful Waterside Theatre. I particularly enjoyed the instrumental section starting at the 11-minute mark, in which Rikard Sjöblom’s brilliant clavinet solo was followed by Dave Foster shredding the house down!”
Saturday 26th August – Cultuurpodium Boerderij, Zoetermeer, The Netherlands Sunday 27th August – Markthalle, Hamburg, Germany Monday 28th August – Stora Teatern, Gothenburg, Sweden Tuesday 29th August – Cosmopolite, Oslo, Norway Wednesday 30th August – Fryshuset Klubben, Stockholm, Sweden Thursday 31st August – Viften, Copenhagen, Denmark
Saturday 2nd September – 2 Days + 1 Festival, Revislate, Italy Sunday 3rd September – Z7, Pratteln (Basel), Switzerland Tuesday 5th September – Neuberinhaus, Reichenbach, Germany Wednesday 6th September – Carlswerk Victoria, Cologne, Germany Thursday 7th September – Colos-Saal, Aschaffenburg, Germany Friday 8th September – Mozart-Saal, Stuttgart, Germany
Sunday 10th September – The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, UK Monday 11th September – Town Hall, Birmingham, UK Tuesday 12th September – Cadogan Hall, London, UK Wednesday 13th September – Cadogan Hall, London, UK
Support at all shows except Wednesday 13th September comes from rising Norwegian stars Dim Gray, who feature BBT’s Oskar Holldorff. There will be no support at the Wednesday 13th September show.
Big Big Train will release the album titled ‘Ingenious Devices’ on 30th June 2023 on CD, double vinyl (black and sky blue vinyl) and hi-resolution (24/96) Bandcamp download. ‘Ingenious Devices’ will be available on all major streaming platforms from 28th July 2023.
‘Ingenious Devices’ features 59 minutes of music, including new versions of “East Coast Racer”, “Brooklands” and “Voyager,” which prominently feature an elite 17 piece string section recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London and have been re-mixed for this release.
Additionally, ‘Ingenious Devices’ includes a previously unreleased orchestral piece called “The Book of Ingenious Devices”, which links “East Coast Racer” and “Brooklands”, as well as a live version of “Atlantic Cable”, which was recorded on the band’s tour in September 2022.
Norwegian progressive rock group AVKRVST will release their debut album ‘The Approbation’ on 16th June, 2023. The Approbationis a concept album about a bleak soul who is left solely with his thoughts, isolated on a cabin deep into the dark forests, far away from civilization. The 49 minutes long concept album contains 7 songs, which take the listener though the thoughts of a man struggling towards the acceptance of death, being hauled into the abyss.
Previously released as a single on streaming services, the haunting new video for the album’s second single “Arcane Clouds” is out today and can be seen here:
The band had this to say about the track:
“Arcane Clouds is the second single off the concept debut albumThe Approbation, and the anthem of forsaken hope. An inner voice trying to convince you to fight back and keep your head above water, while the ghosts are hunting you down.”
At the young age of 7 years old, Martin Utby and Simon Bergseth made a pact that they would form a band when they got older. Now, 22 years later they’ve created an album inspired by everything they grew up listening to from Mew, Anekdoten and Porcupine Tree to Opeth, Neal Morse and King Crimson, yet unique in its own right.
The Approbationwas written and recorded at a cabin in Alvdal (Norway) during a rainy, cold fall and winter. Simon (composer, guitars, bass and vocals) and Martin (composer, drummer and synths) were later joined by Øystein Aadland on bass/keys, Edvard Seim on guitars and Auver Gaaren on keys.
Sonically, The Approbationis a massive sounding piece of music. It’s everything from lush, melancholy moods to heavy, more aggressive atmospheres capturing the feeling of a cold, gloomy fall – a dark sky, filled with gazing stars above the mist.
Watch the video for the first single “The Pale Moon” here:
The band have shared a video on how to pronounce “AVKRVST” which you can see here:
Progressive legends YES have announced UK dates for the Classic Tales of YES Tour 2024. The 9 UK dates includes a visit to London’s Royal Albert Hall and the Bristol Beacon together with 7 dates rescheduled from the 2023 UK tour, for which all tickets remain valid.
YES are delighted to include the Royal Albert Hall among their 2024 UK tour dates having first played this prestige venue in 1968 and many times since through their illustrious career. Tickets for the Royal Albert Hall show (Tuesday 4 June 2024) and Bristol Beacon (Friday 31 May 2024) go on sale on at 12noon on Friday 12th May 2023.
The tour will feature Steve Howe (guitars, vocals), Geoff Downes (keyboards), Billy Sherwood (bass guitar, vocals), Jon Davison (vocals and acoustic guitar) and new drummer Jay Schellen. Jay began playing with YES, in 2016, when long-serving drummer Alan White was beset by health issues. Following Alan’s untimely passing in 2022, it is with Alan’s blessing that Jay has permanently joined the band.
The Classic Tales of YES Tour 2024 promises to include many iconic tracks from the YES back-catalogue covering fifty-plus years and, possibly, music from the new album Mirror To The Sky (to be released on InsideOutMusic/Sony Music on the 19th May 2023).
Looking forward to the Classic Tales of YES Tour, Steve Howe said: “We’re putting together a great setlist covering the length and breadth of YES’ career.”
“As always, we are committed to pushing new boundaries and are very excited to be performing another chapter in the rich legacy of the band,” added Geoff Downes.
The Classic Tales of YES Tour 2024 dates are as follows:
Thursday 23 May Manchester Bridgewater Hall*
Friday 24 May Glasgow Royal Concert Hall*
Sunday 26 May Liverpool Philharmonic Hall*
Tuesday 28 May York Barbican*
Wednesday 29 May Southend Cliffs Pavilion*
Friday 31May Bristol Beacon
Saturday 1 June Birmingham Symphony Hall*
Sunday 2 June Gateshead The Sage*
Tuesday 4 June London Royal Albert Hall
*Show rescheduled from 2023, all tickets remain valid.
Formed in 1968 by Jon Anderson and the late, and much-missed, Chris Squire, YES have been one of the most innovative, influential and best-loved bands in rock music history. Their 1970s albums The Yes Album, Fragile, Close To The Edge, Yessongs (a triple live album set), Tales From Topographic Oceans,Relayer and Going For The One were ground-breaking in musical style and content. Their music also became synonymous with artist Roger Dean whose distinctive YES logo design and artwork adorned the lavish gatefold presentation sleeves of many YES albums.
With sales of over 50 million records, the Grammy-award winning YES were inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2017 where they performed Roundabout from the album Fragile and the FM radio-friendly Owner Of A Lonely Heart from the 1985 album 90125.
YES released their 22nd studio album in 2021, The Quest, produced by Steve Howe and which went to No. 1 in the UK Rock Albums Chart and entered the Official UK Album Chart at No. 20.
In 2022 came the sad news that drummer Alan White, ever-present in the YES line-up for 50 years, had passed away. The news came shortly before the band embarked on their classic, genre-defining album Close To The Edge50th Anniversary Tour which they dedicated to Alan.
In February 2023, ahead of the news of the new studio album Mirror To The Sky, YES confirmed Jay Schellen as the new permanent drummer with YES, hand-picked to step into his mentor and friend Alan White’s role. “I had done the 2016 tour on my own for Alan,” says Jay. “From late 2017 onwards, we had a beautiful partnership. I learned and discovered so much about Alan’s style. His passion and creativity was phenomenal. The new album has Alan’s presence all over it. It is inside of us. So, this is still, in my heart, Alan just being present and with us, and with me, in a big way.”
I guess most musicians have the need for another outlet for their talents, whether that comes via guest appearances, collaborations or side projects. Think of projects like GTR or Squackett ,which both feature Steve Hackett in a role very different to his own solo career. Steve has always looked for such opportunities and, when he guested on an early album by the Hungarian jazz/rock band Djabe, ‘Sheafs Are Dancing’, in 2003, Steve enjoyed the experience so much that he was happy to appear with Djabe in 2004 in London. Their friendship continues to this day with both acts working together to create a whole raft of excellent releases, a lot of which are live sets captured in Djabe’s native Hungary and Sardinia, among others. This meeting of kindred spirits extends to Djabe band members appearing on Steve’s own albums regularly, with their own world jazz stylings helping Steve explore different sounds and textures.
Djabe are all very accomplished musicians in their own right and their work with Steve Hackett is certainly a symbiotic relationship with both parties benefiting. This new 2CD & Blu-Ray set ‘Live In Gyor’ certainly proves the point, containing, as it does, several tracks from the ‘Back To Sardinia’ and ‘The Magic Stag’ albums, alongside selected Genesis songs and Steve Hackett solo tracks. What is very apparent from the start is just how this outside role elevates Steve’s own playing, with some very tasty, expressive and fiery guitar on show, the band are on excellent form and all seem to be relishing the experience.
The album that accompanies the Blu-Ray is a very fine one too with three extra live tracks that round the set out. For me, the one noticeable difference is that, on this show, Steve is playing a Fernandes guitar with a floating bridge/tremolo so he can really hit the whammy bar vigorously, which he does to great effect throughout. Normally Steve uses his Gold Top, so this change is an interesting one, the sound is immaculate and enjoyable to hear and watch, the visuals being equally as strong. If you have ever wondered if Steve can repeat the epic solo on Firth of Fifth on a strategy style guitar the answer is here, you can watch him do it with style, alongside seeing his famous tapping style, a skill that Eddie Van Halen utilised and elevated to an art form.
Also worth of note is the extremely dextrous bass playing of Djabe’sTamás Barabás, whose playing is the anchor on which everyone can pivot, along with Gabor Olah on drums. Together they hold everyone together and give them a perfect solid platform from which to soar and fly. Seldom have I witnessed such sheer joy like this excellent and skilled performance. It’s such a strong set with chance for everyone to shine, the music is world jazz music with Hungarian touches and instrumentation. This excellent set offers lots of extra features and extra music and I can’t recommend it enough as it really is an excellent set of performances with songs played by musicians who are at the top of their game and not afraid to let the music do the talking. This music certainly talks loudly and demands your attention.
As with a lot of these Djabe/Hackett sets there is a degree of overlap but, even so, there is enough new stuff to make this an essential and worthy purchase. As always the packaging and attention to detail is very impressive as, of course, is the sound which is exemplary with great separation and clarity. The whole show is beautifully captured and must have been truly magnificent and unique.
No doubt there will be more to come from this union and I personally am very hopeful for further magic from these hugely talented parties. So, my advice is to get a hold of this great set as soon as possible and appreciate seeing some masters at work. Play and enjoy it in the confines our your own home and let the music tell its own joyful story for you. This really is a most worthwhile album especially if you like world music, jazz/fusion, Steve Hackett or even all three!
John Wetton An Extraordinary Life will be published on June 19 2023, in two editions. Created with John’s family and management, both the Classic and black-jacketed Signature edition (signed by John’s widow Lisa and son Dylan) contain the first-person testimony of some seventy-plus people who knew and worked with John from his school days and throughout his long, illustrious career, including Family, King Crimson, Uriah Heep, Wishbone Ash, Roxy Music, U.K., Asia, the John Wetton solo band and beyond.
The 256-page hardback book Classic edition retails at £39, while the Signature edition costs £42.50 and is only available from Rocket 88 Books
Among the stories of friendship, music and sometimes craziness in this much-anticipated book from Bill Bruford, Geoff Downes, Robert Fripp, Carl Palmer, Rick Wakeman, Phil Manzanera, Steve Hackett, Steve Howe and others, are reflections on what made John such an unforgettable musician, all-round good guy, and prog rock legend. But along with tales of musical success from those who knew him best are testimony from friends and family, who do not steer clear of John’s problems, but rather explain the why, the how, and eventual triumph over them, in honest and touching recollections.
YES, who are Steve Howe, Geoff Downes, Jon Davison, Billy Sherwood & Jay Schellen, are pleased to announce their new studio album Mirror To The Sky on InsideOutMusic/Sony Music on the 19th May 2023. “This is a very important album for the band,”says Steve Howe, Yes’ longest serving member, master guitarist, and producer of Mirror To The Sky. “We kept the continuity in the approach we established on The Quest, but we haven’t repeated ourselves. That was the main thing. As Yes did in the seventies from one album to another, we’re growing and moving forward. In later years, Yes often got going but then didn’t do the next thing. This album is demonstrative of us growing, and building again.” For Yes, that “next thing” is a collection of high energy, intricate, lush and layered new studio songs for an album which adds to the band’s much heralded legacy, while charting a path to exciting future times ahead.
Today, the band are pleased to launch the video for the album’s second single. Listen to and watch ‘All Connected’ here:
Jon Davison comments: “I, along with my Yes band mates are excited to announce that the second single from our new album, Mirror to the Sky is out now. It’s entitled, All Connected, and it’s a longer piece, clocking in at a challenging 9 minutes. Steve added a beautifully poignant instrumental steel part which starts the journey. This section emotionally builds and crescendos into a glorious lead way for the vocals to begin telling their story. Billy composed complex and compelling musical themes which I helped to arrange, and we both composed vocals and lyrics, each of us singing our respective parts, making for a rich vocal tapestry.”
Billy Sherwood adds: “The initial idea came from a musical sketch I’d created using the idea of our “connectivity” in regards to communications in the modern age. It’s very exciting to know YES are maintaining that edge and energy we all know and love, this track is firing on all cylinders. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did creating it.”
As they were wrapping up The Quest, Yes found themselves with song sketches, structures, and ideas that were demanding attention. Yes received unconditional support from InsideOut boss Thomas Waber, who encouraged them to keep going in the studio, months before The Quest would even go on sale. It was like throwing gasoline on their creative fire.
“When we delivered everything, and they were just getting the vinyl and everything into production for manufacturing, we were still very much in that creative zone,” explains Steve Howe. “That belief that Thomas had in us really meant a lot,” he says.
“We truly get along as people,” says Jon Davison. “I feel like everyone’s focused inward to the greater circle, concentric to the core of highest standards that define Yes. It’s a wonderful thing to witness and of which to play a part. I believe this reflects vibrantly in the music and the creative input that each one is willing to apply, not for the benefit of the individual, but for the greater whole that is Yes.”
“There was a lot of material floating around because the band hadn’t done anything in the studio for so long. Ideas were just copious,”says bassist Billy Sherwood. “The pace of it was fast. As soon as we were finished with The Quest, and the mix had come out, we took a couple of little breaks there to catch our breath. But there was still music flowing around in the loop. It was just constantly being looked at and worked on. As we were all home and in that mode, things started progressing quite swiftly. We just went one album into another without really announcing, ‘Hey, we’re working on a second record right now.’ We just continued to work on material. It came about pretty naturally, and then we refined it as the process went on. But the initial bursts — there was a lot of material around!”
Much to everyone’s delight, including that of longtime-fan Thomas Waber, Yes have pushed into territory they practically invented — the prog rock epic — albeit in a thoroughly new and modern way. “I always felt that it would be great to have stuff that’s a little bit more epic,”he says, although he resisted the temptation to push for something that would be too formatted and could come off as contrived. He just gave the band space to do what they do and let things develop. “They were so excited by The Quest and the momentum they had that they went straight back in to the studio. What they were writing, even early on, was obviously headed in that epic direction — what Yes music really is to me. It is almost a genre onto itself. It is ‘Yes Music.’ Mirror To The Sky certainly is Yes Music.”
Mirror To The Sky features not one, but four tracks clocking in at over eight minutes, with the sweeping and cinematic title track coming in just shy of fourteen minutes. What’s more, the tracks, like Yes’ best, take the listener on a wide dynamically ranging journey of soundscapes which also showcase Steve Howe’s dazzling guitars, Jon Davison’s angelic, crystalline vocals, Billy Sherwood’s deftly dancing bass, keyboard wizard Geoff Downes’ impeccable sounds, exquisite melodies and fills, and Jay Schellen’s masterfully controlled explosions, on drums.
Jay Schellen, who has been touring with the band since 2016, was hand-picked to step into his mentor and friend Alan White’s role when White sadly passed away in 2022. “I had done the 2016 Topographic Drama tour on my own for Alan,” says Jay. “From late 2017 onwards, we had a partnership, and a beautiful partnership, I might add. I learned so much, and discovered so much about Alan’s style, and why it was the way it was. It fit his personality so perfectly. This album has Alan’s presence all over it. It is inside of us. So this is still, in my heart, Alan just being present and with us, and with me, in a big way.”
Prog isn’t supposed to be fun is it? Well, if you think that way, you will miss out on this third album from Pittsburgh’s We Came From Space. This quartet are, in effect, also an offshoot or side project of the Neal Morse Band’s keyboard player BillHubauer, along with guitarist Dave Buzard, bassist Dave Hawk and drummer TimMalone who, together, have delivered a really fun and fine release that offers prog stylings, along with a healthy shot of almost fusionesque tones and licks.
There is so much to enjoy here, strong material and good music, alongside intelligent lyrics with a touch of goofiness that completes the sound. There is symphonic prog in there as well and I also detect touches of bands like Kansas and ELO, among others. Overall the band offer a great sounding set of songs and, like most releases these days, this is primarily available as a download, although physical CD’s can be found online if you look. I also recommend several listens for the music to really sink in.
The music is generally stirring stuff, especially in the longer tracks like title track Overlords, She’s The Bomb/ Atomic Blues and Seize The Day, all of which benefit from longer running times that give the tracks time to evolve.
Lets delve a little deeper into what makes this such a great album, beginning with Overlords. This slice of whimsy proposes aliens have previously visited and dominated humanity and that we play music for their amusement and satisfaction. It’s all complete hokum of course, but allows the band to channel their inner ELO, alongside some choppy guitar riffing in which Dave Buzard proves to be a pretty adept player. His descending riffs in the mid section are impressive, atmospherically mixing with the keyboards to deliver something very satisfying, a really strong opening track. On the Radio uses what sounds like early radio broadcasts to set the scene. This track appears to be about how we are manipulated and lied to by the media who want to push their own agendas and products onto us. It is quite a harsh lyrically, although probably well founded and has fantastic Hammond organ throughout.
Empty Space has a great swing to it and is almost funky at times. The song has a good swagger to its almost LA jazz swing and is a really impressive sounding track, there is also a great guitar solo in the middle section. Again this track certainly impresses highly. This run of quality is continued with the superb She’s The Bomb /Atomic Blues which seems to be about a famous starlet who’s glory days are gone and now she leaves chaos in her wake. There’s an interesting middle section with a plethora of synths playing. Overall it is far more laid back with a funky guitar and synth instrumental part that has lots of atmosphere and some serious chops being played, extremely competent and effectively. It’s all really rather blistering in places and an excellent and engaging track.
Reputation follows, opening with a very muscular riff. This track has a very radio friendly chorus to it and great vocals. The song details a celebrities fall from grace and his attempts to carry on afterwards. Silent Letters is next and this is a gentler number, possibly about a love never declared. This elegant track is graced with a wistful guitar solo and more strong supporting keyboards with a solid rhythm section, another standout track.
Facade is another impressive track with a chugging guitar line that reminds me of something that I can’t quite put my finger on. It is a song about projecting an image that may not be true or real, a shorter and yet no less interesting track. Seize The Day sounds like prime Kansas with its strong piano motif really striking home and the vocals capture the sound too. The song is about making the most of what you have around you, time, talents and people. It is a call to make the most of these resources as life can be short. This track is my favourite on the album as it really works for me. I love the lyrics and the performances are certainly impassioned and really work very well. It closes the album on a positive note
Overall this is a highly accomplished album and is one to return to frequently, I know I shall!