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Galahad - Sleepers CD (album) cover





3.49 | 114 ratings

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kev rowland
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
5 stars So, an envelope arrived one day from the UK, and my wife asked me who it was from. When I replied that it was from Stu Nicholson she asked me what he had sent me, so I showed her the CDs it contained, and she immediately said "Oh, isn't that the dead lady?". Of all the thousands of CDs I've been sent over the years, this is the one where the cover made an impact on her, from twenty years previously. True, the story about the cover did make quite a fuss, and this was in the days before internet or Prog Magazine, but for me the story was always that of the album itself and how it was recorded. After the success of 'Nothing Is Written', winning the Radio 1 Rock Wars, appearing on the Friday Night Rock Show it appeared as if the stage was set for Galahad to burst through into the mainstream in a big way. All they needed now was the follow-up album. "NIW' was self-financed and had come out in 1991, but the band were starting to make a real name for themselves and new keyboard player Karl Groom had settled in. They started experimenting with new songs, showing a move into a slightly rockier area, and although the loss of bassist Tim Ashton was a blow, it allowed them to bring in Neil Pepper, who was a force to be reckoned with.

I still remember Stu ringing me in a state of real excitement, as they had managed to secure the services of Tony Arnold to engineer and produce the album: he couldn't believe that a producer of such history and renown would be interested in a small prog band from Dorset. It is fair to say that the experience on all sides was not perfect, and the album took far longer to come to fruition than was expected. The band were playing the songs live, and I can even remember Stu needing the lyrics to the title cut at one gig as it was the first time they had played it! Some of the guys even went out and recorded an album as the Galahad Acoustic Quintet just to be able to work on something. But, the album finally was released in 1995, and even then, I found it strange to review it given that I knew all the material so very well indeed. So, what would I think of it now?

The 2015 reissue has been remastered by guitarmeister Karl Groom, has two additional songs not on the original, and has been released as a digipak by Polish label Oskar. What I noticed immediately from the sound is that this is contains far greater balance than the original, and the drums have been given a much greater focus. Karl is known for creating great sound both in a studio and in the live environment, and even though he is a guitarist he has always been adept in getting the best out of a drumkit, and as with the '30' EP he has brought to life all the work that Spencer carries out at the rear of the band.

As for songs, well, we're spoilt for choice as we go from the dramatic and sublime to, frankly, the ridiculous. "Dentist Song" really is a song about a trip to the dentist, and although this seems like a strange subject choice for any lyricist, let alone a proghead, I have always enjoyed this, as the layers of keyboards tie in so well with the guitar that this poppy little number that I have always found it to be a load of fun, although I am fully aware that most proggers don't share my point of view. "Julie Anne" is still one of the finest ballads they have ever produced, and with its appearance on a 'Frontiers' CD it also gained them a lot of interest from outside the prog scene. Stu has always been a great singer, and with the right production and minimal backing he has always been able to deliver the goods, and is a format that the band still use today.

I could go through every song in turn, explaining why I feel that this album is still essential after all these years, but instead I'll focus on a song that is still possibly the best they have ever recorded, even after all these years. I first saw them perform "Exorcising Demons" at The Astoria, when Tim was still in the band, and even then, I could hear that the band was moving into a more mature style of music. At nine plus minutes long, it is the fourth longest on the album, but it is both timeless and way too short! With keyboards and percussion setting the scene, it always makes me imagine Stu alone in a cavernous warehouse, switching his singing between gentle and menacing. After more than three minutes the bass comes in playing a riff that is picked up by the guitar, and gradually the band starts to pick up speed and the vocals contain more venom. Until everything stops so that Stu can sing out "Exorcising Demons" unaccompanied. This is a song that really does build, with lots of layers and complexity, and although it is more keyboard-driven than the live version it is still a powering number.

I have no idea how often I have played this album over the years, but "lots" seems like a good number, and back in the day Stu and I have had discussions at gigs when I discovered that they had dropped "Exorcising Demons" for one reason or another. Looking back this is a bridging album in some ways, from the naivety of "Nothing Is Written' to the more powerful works that they were to bring later. It took too long to be released, of that there is no doubt, and the band lost some of the momentum they had been building just a few years earlier. But, they got through it, and all these years on is still an album I enjoy playing, and isn't that what listening to music is all about? If you have only come to Galahad through 'Battle Scars' or 'Euphoria' then you will find this quite different, but for someone who first heard them when I played the 'Madness' cassette (which I still have!), then this is something that I dearly love, and would take with me if I was ever stranded on that desert island.

kev rowland | 5/5 |


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