Saturday, 11 July 2015

Steve Hackett - Premonitions Box Set


It was well known for a long time of Steven Wilson's desire to remix Steve Hackett's early Charisma solo albums into 5.1 surround, especially his second Please Don't Touch. Well, that wish has come to pass. In October (hereby known as the month of boxes) there is to be a 14 disc set released of Hackett's solo albums he recorded for the Charisma label. Included are DVD's showcasing surround mixes of Please Don't Touch and Spectral Mornings. Wilson has also produced pseudo surround mixes of Voyage of the Acolyte and Defector from the stereo masters as the multitracks of those albums are missing. The other discs in the set are the remaining studio albums from those years and a number of live recordings.

Going by the early mock ups of the box it does look handsome indeed. Surprisingly, it has Roger Dean artwork adorning the front. More usually connected with Yes and Asia, it is slightly discomfiting to see his artwork related to Steve Hackett. It looks like there will be a nice book to go along with the set and the whole design looks similar to what Universal did for the John Martyn set, with the discs housed in slotted album sized sleeves. Good on Mark Powell for pushing Universal to produce this lavish set. The recent success of Hackett's Genesis Revisited tours will not have harmed their decision either.

So that is one box for October then. What else might be coming up I wonder?


Thursday, 9 July 2015

Half Time Report


The sun is out, in between the rain showers, so it must be summer. So, we are more than half way into the year and musically speaking what kind of year is it shaping up to be? Pretty good actually. A lot of very strong new music and coming from every direction. Maybe it is me but I get the impression that genre divisions are breaking down even more, making distinctions to what is prog, rock, jazz, folk, classical, pop very difficult. Bands and artists are embracing more openly, influences from other types of music. Recently, folk band The Unthanks performed King Crimson's Starless for the BBC as part of their Glastonbury festival coverage. Can you imagine that happening 5 years ago! Here is a list of my favs to date.

  • The Unthanks - Mount the Air
  • Snarky Puppy - Sylva
  • Steven Wilson - Hand.Cannot.Erase
  • Steve Hackett - Wolflight
  • Jaga Jazzist - Starfire
  • Guapo - Obscure Knowledge
  • Sweet Billy Pigrim - Motorcade Amnesiacs
  • Karda Estra - Strange Relations
  • Lonely Robot - Please Come Home
  • Mew - +/-
  • IO Earth - New World
  • Anekdoten - Until All the Ghosts are Gone
  • Mandala - Midnight Twilight
  • Wire - Wire
  • The Tangent - A Spark in the Aether
  • Bill Laurence - Swift
  • Von Hertzen Brothers - New Day Rising
  • Izz - Everlasting Instant
  • Glass Hammer - The Breaking of the World
  • Sanguine Hum - Now We Have Light
  • Grand Tour - Heavy on the Beach
  • The Neal Morse Band - The Grand Experiment
  • Gentle Knife - Gentle Knife
  • Magic Pie - King for a Day
  • District 97 - In Vaults


Thursday, 2 July 2015

Henry Cow SHM Japanese Papersleeve Editions



After the release of the three Art Bears titles, Belle Antique now release a set of Henry Cow albums in SHM CD. These are all the albums they recorded, apart from Desperate Straights which was more a Slapp Happy album. Anyway the set I have has been packaged in one of those nifty promo boxes that Disk Union supply in their shops if you buy the whole series. Like the other series of titles they have done, the packaging is first rate. The quality of the card, paper and printing makes these vinyl reproductions as good as anything I have seen from the Japanese. They do reproduce the vinyl album package to an amazing degree of detail.

Their are a number of bonus tracks on each disc, which are culled from the 40th anniversary box sets of a few years back. The credits state digital mastering by Kazuo Ogino, who did the same for the Art Bears and Bruford titles, which Belle Antique also released. So I suspect as they are licensed from ReR Megacorp they have utilised the digital files used for the latest available remasterings and tweaked those. However, to my ears they do sound more detailed and natural. As the volume on these like the others is relatively low, the dynamics are pretty good. So soundwise and packaging wise, Belle Antique are doing an excellent job with these recent series of reissues. They may be a bit pricey as most Japanese CD's are. But in this case you do get what you pay for!


Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Best Sounding Squire


Of course with the passing of Chris Squire I, like so many others have headed straight to his recordings to celebrate his life in his music. These are just some of what I have been listening to and some of the best sounding too.

Fragile of course has the Squire solo instrumental piece The Fish and Heart of the Sunrise, which opens with a key piece of Squire bass bravado. For me at present this Japaese SACD is the best way to hear it. It is a different mix, but it is clear and there is no distortion, which is present on other versions I have, especially on the piano section of South Side of the Sky. Steven Wilson has produced a new mix which should be released soon. I think it would have been out earlier this year, but the Progeny box probably delayed that.

Squire's only solo album Fish out of Water was released at the tail end of 1975, the period when all band members ensconced themselves in solo projects. Fish out of Water is a wonderful collection and allows Squire to expertly mix classical orchestral arrangements together with the rock band format. I still think the lengthy end piece, Still goes on a bit, but Lucky Seven is terrific with Bill Bruford exceptional on this. His drumming is sharp and economical. This version is the Japanese SHM edition. It was remastered a few years back which improved on the original Atlantic issue, but this SHM is even better than that. It is solid and presents everything with greater clarity and separation.

Drama was the first album without Jon Anderson and added The Buggles to add insult to injury! Actually, it's a pretty good album, allowing the band to make a more aggressive modern sounding record. Squire excels on Does it Really Happen? where he propels everything along at a cracking pace and offers a wonderful bass solo during the coda of the song. This version is the SACD taken from the High Vibration box. This is one of the best sounding discs from that set. With a full, clear sound with Alan Whites drums powerfully present throughout.

These albums are only the tip of a thoroughly exceptional iceberg. The Yes catalogue is one of the most impressive in rock. Squire has been part of all that through the good times and bad times. It's not over yet, but what has gone before has been something else!