Lost in the Looking-Glass
ReviewCharlie Allison [Scotland]
I've delayed sending in a critique until now, because I felt I needed time to get to know this masterwork, especially tracks I found 'difficult to love' on first hearing – in a Juicy John Pink sort of way, not a Worm and the Tree (unloved for all time) sort of way.
There are some quasi-Harum quirks here – lyrics which are just plain wrong, and a couple of introductions that sound like something else (like when you never know if it's Piggy Pig Pig or Shine on Brightly coming up in a Harum gig!). Here Strangers in Space starts as if it's going to be Song for a Dreamer; and Quite Rightly So becomes the third song to share that bass drum introduction with Procol's own Through the Garden Fence and Walpurgis.
I have a number of favourites, which would grace any album. The absolute tops are Fran Glendining whose smooth salon-singing shows what a great song The Milk of Human Kindness is, and the Ed Palermo Big Band's contributions The Wreck of the Hesperus and In the Autumn of my Madness, which are massively enjoyable (and must have the made the composer very happy and contented).
Special mention must also go to The Doubtful Guests' drummer on In the Wee Small Hours of Sixpence, who manages to introduce a trademark cowbell in their lively arrangement of this classic. I also liked Larry Pennisi's Nothing that I Didn't Know, which boasts an explosive organ entry which Matt would be proud of; De Boni's two great covers of Conquistador and A Salty Dog; and Antonio Costa Barbé's labour-of-love AWSoP, a song which has been covered many times and yet still he creates something fresh to say here.
The instrumentals are good too – Separation on church organ is grand (though I think Harum's 2002 version with Geoff coming in on guitar is stupendous) and there are two contrasting Walpurgises, one on bass guitar, one more conventional by de Boni.
All in all, there are some fantastic musical sounds with much invention and brilliance in evidence, but with a few slightly dodgy vocals on some tracks. I'm not sure what our American friends make of the Cockney-folky Something Following Me, nor the C&W flavour of Barnyard Story: but then to my ears some of our American friends sound like Disney characters or voices that read text on my Mac.
We will anticipate a "famous persons'" cover album one day (which wouldn't have half the love and 'character' of this one) and more imminently and importantly, The Well's on Fire on March 3rd