Thursday, 27 February 2014

Jon Anderson - Olias of Sunhillow SACD



With last years Japanese SACD box set of Yes studio albums and Steven Wilson's on-going remixes of the Yes catalogue, it looks like Audio Fidelity are now concentrating on the Yes solo albums after their dalliance with CTTE and GFTO. Olias was the last of the solo albums to be released by all members of the band during the hiatus between Relayer and Going For The One. It was also the one everyone was waiting for. For many Jon Anderson wasn't just the voice of Yes but the vision and soul of the band.

I actually bought the album back when it was released in 1976. I remember seeing it displayed in the front window of a Glasgow record shop as I made my way to the Glasgow Apollo to see Genesis play on their Trick of the Tail tour. Those were definately the days!! Atlantic Records must have thought this was going to be a biggie as the cost of producing the sleeve must have been huge. It is one of progs best sleeves. Beautifully illustrated by the late David Fairbrother Roe. That's right not Roger Dean, which surprised many, though many thought it was a Dean cover. I am not sure why Anderson didn't use Dean. Maybe he thought Roe's style was more suited to the book-like layout of the sleeve.

Musically Anderson, set free from the constraints of being part of a band went to town. Playing everything himself, he used guitars, synths, harps, percussion to produce a really dense otherwordly sound. Of course this was all surrounded by his ethereal multi-layered, multi-harmony vocals. Not bad for someone who wasn't really a prodigous musician. What he lacked in instrumental prowess, he more than made up for in a singular musical vision.

The problem with producing a CD version of this highly visual album is reproducing the sleeve effectively. This is one sleeve that loses all the detail, storytelling and beauty in a CD sized booklet. Even the Japanese SHM papersleeve edition of a few years ago, gorgeous as it is, doesn't quite do justice to the original 12inch format of the original vinyl. Hats off to Audio Fidelity for trying their best to layout the text and lyrics over the 12 page booklet in such a fashion as to make them readable as well as keeping the overall look faithful to the original design. Soundwise, Kevin Gray's remastering has resulted in the best sounding digital version of this recording. Though it was originally recorded in Anderson's own home studio, sonically it is a rich, complex, layered recording. A bit murky perhaps, but Gray has managed to produce a warm, detailed remaster. A really pleasant listen. This will do till Wilson gets his grubby little mits on the multitracks. Which he may do, as he rated Olias as one of his favourite concept albums in the November 2009 issues of Classic Rock magazine. One day maybe!


Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Jack Lancaster and Rick van der Linden - Wild Connections

Here is a little gem of an album, especially for those who like synthesised sounds. A collaborative venture between Jack Lancaster on lyricon and Rick van der Linden on the mighty Yamaha GX-1 synthesiser. I know Lancaster through his collaborative work with Robin Lumley on the pre-Brand X project Marscape. The late van der Linden was the excellent keyboard player with Ekseption and Trace. On this album he plays the over-the-top GX-1 synth, made famous by Keith Emerson on the Works album. Here, Lancaster and van der Linden go mad on some classical, fusion pieces showcasing their respective synthesised instruments. Another nice reissue from Gonzo who seem to be re-releasing a lot of Brand X related material at the moment.


Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Spleen Arcana

I have never and never will be an advocate of downloded music. I know, it's my age. Physical product is my bag. But occasionally I will faff around with the pain in the neck of downloading something and shove it on a memory stick and have a listen. I was impressed with Spleen Arcana's first album " The Field Where She Died", released back in 2009. This is a one man operation, the vision of French musician Julien Gaullier.

Now we have his second album, but only as download to start with. A physical CD should see the light of day sometime in April, if enough people preorder. The music is excellent 70's inspired prog with a hard edge to the arrangements. He has upped his game a bit with this new release, more complex arrangements and a deeper mix of different keyboard and guitar sounds.

It's a testament to the sophistication of instrument, recording and internet software that one man can produce music of such a high caliber and to such a professional level. Please have a look at his excellent web site, order his music and give his blog a read to find a like minded soul.


"The Light Beyond The Shades" by Spleen Arcana: download and preorder


Monday, 3 February 2014

Just In - Eloy and Present


Just received a package with these new releases. First are expanded remasters of Presents first two albums. Remastered by Udi Koomran who has a feel for this type of music and notes by the estimable Aymeric Leroy, these should be up to the high standards of Cuneiforms reissues of the early Univers Zero albums.

Lastly we have the 2CD live album by the classic German prog band Eloy. I do love this bands mix of Floydian, symphonic prog mixed with a smattering of space rock. Though the band now is really a vehicle for founder Frank Bornemann, his guitar playing is exemplary, this looks like a nice package. Two discs packaged in a fold out digipak with two booklets of photos of the band live and credits.