Clive Mitten is, I guess you could say, what was called back in the day (pre internet age) eccentric raised in a musical family. Clive only discovered rock music at his boarding school. He was originally taught an appreciation and understanding of classical music forms and structures from his Grandmother. He then later graduated to being a bass player in Twelth Night and these days spends his time deconstructing and reconstructing progressive rock classics alongside transcribing old musical scores for the modern age. Clive definitely walks his own path these days, and that is good for all of us as he has turned his gaze to some of progressive rock’s finest moments and created stunning takes and remakes on the likes of King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, ELP and Rush, among others, with this remarkable 2 disc album.
Clive performs everything you will hear in what has been a very labour intensive task. Most of these tracks will be very familiar to most listeners but what you will notice afresh is the sheer brilliance and beauty of these pieces that Clive conveys and I’m sure you will gain a freshly found appreciation for these old songs. There are no vocals and everything is handled in an orchestral manner, so no wild guitars or the like. In addition, familiar passages are recorded with different instruments taking centre stage so, for example, ELP’s Fanfare For The Common Man has a very layered sound and the throbbing bass of Greg Lake is replaced by a strident piano, with the synths also being replaced by the piano. Yet, even so, the piece does not entirely lose its power, it is just a little more restrained in tone. Yes, you may miss some of the synths but it is still fully recognisable, albeit in an altered form. I actually really like what Clive has done here, it is a bold reinterpretation of a very well known track, it is also abridged from its more familiar nine-plus minutes running time. The drums may be a tad pedestrian in places but it still passes muster, as does the Genesis segment that pulls together the main themes from Watcher of The Skies, Fountain Of Salmalcis, The Musical Box and Firth of Fifth together into a rather fine medley, especially the final Firth of Fifth section which is utterly sublime and highlights just how utterly graceful and gorgeous the original piece truly was. I’m sure a certain Mr Anthony Banks would approve of this very graceful and sensitive working. Purists might, I guess, take issue with the version of Firth of Fifth as it relies on orchestrations rather than the one we all know and love, the guitar solo being taken by other instruments yet, once again, within that remains the highly recognisable melody line. Again, I feel his version definitely has merit and allows for a fresh appreciation of the original track.
I think any Progressive Rock fan will find these takes interesting as they show these pieces in a different light and that is a very good thing. Okay, you miss certain little thing like the parts and power chords that Alex Lifeson plays on Cygnus X1 but does it really matter? I think not as when Rush played it live, it was always different from the recorded version. This version highlights just what incredible interaction and harmony Rush had at the time and just how much they were pushing their own boundaries, okay the drums aren’t in the Neil Peart realm, but they work well with the track as it is. The link between Cygnus X1 Books I and II is interesting and totally new but is in the same spirit as the original versions. Overall this sequence works well as, again, the brilliance of the original is clear to see.
The 21st Century Schizoid Man/Starless combo really makes an impression with the piano playing the main riff and marimba also plays a striking part in the complex rhythms. The original’s almost atonal discordant sound is realised here by the use of these other instruments and their tones, especially in the part that was covered by the guitar. Although the majority of that section is overshadowed by the switch to the Starless melody, with the fabulous guitar line being covered by brass instruments. This really makes a different sound to the original version, a double bass also covering the bass lines with style and grace. I really love this version of what for me is King Crimson’s finest moment.
The albums other songs covered include Close To The Edge by Yes which is also extremely well done, as is Tarkus (again by ELP), Marillion’s Garden Party/Grendel IQ’s Widows Peak and Refugees from Van der Graaf Generator.
Taken together this album does a wonderful task of fresh revisitations of some truly classic pieces. It is a complete labour of love and a show of total commitment to making an interesting and intelligent re-reading of the seminal tracks.
Released 10th November, 2023.