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The Tangent - Not As Good As The Book CD (album) cover


The Tangent


Eclectic Prog

3.87 | 368 ratings

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Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars This is the first album I can ever remember preordering, and even though I was more than thrilled with the entire record, I don’t think I’ll ever preorder again. Biggest reason is that the week after I received this in the mail I saw that the band had a special edition available with a booklet included, written by Andy Tillison himself. Hopefully he reads this review and decides to reward a loyal fan by mailing me a copy of that book.

(Note added later: In the interest of fairness, I have to report that Andy's publicist apparently saw this review, contacted me a few days after I posted it, and sent me a copy of the special edition. More on that below).

I have to say that I’m still playing ‘A Place in the Queue’ pretty regularly though, and especially on long drives, so sometimes it seems like my CD player is filled with nothing but the Tangent music. Not that this is a bad thing necessarily, but it makes it difficult to separate the two albums in my mind at times. And that can be challenging since the two of them seem to go so well together anyway.

One thing the Tangent are often accused of is being derivative, which of course they are in many respects, but for older progressive music fans like myself this really isn’t a problem. And Andy Tillison readily admits to being guilty of having had prog-god heroes in his youth, so really – where’s the problem? There are lots of bands that get that same label these days (Salem Hill, Flower Kings, Transatlantic, Proto Kaw), but I prefer to think they are simply building on the masters of the genre that they grew up listening to. It’s more a matter of recognition and respect, not repetition. I think there’s a big difference. By the way, if you do manage to get your hands on the special edition, you really need to block off a couple hours in your busy schedule and read Andy’s story that goes along with this album. It brought back my own memories of being young and of having more energy than sense, and of my own childhood music heroes who I also discovered were human, but were also still admirable for music they shared with me.

Tillison’s stories are entertaining as well, to say the least. The guy has a wry and sometimes sarcastic wit, and it shows in most of these tracks. He seems to be struggling with being a bit of a middle-aged anachronism, but doing so with a self-deprecating sense of humor that certainly endears him to those of us who are working our own way through some of the same emotions and adjustments in the middle of our life journeys. Kudos to him for putting into music what a lot of the rest of us are feeling.

Musically this music is top-notch stuff, with every member of the group performing flawlessly. Tillison’s keyboards on tracks like “Lost in London (Twenty Five Years Later)” and the energetic instrumental “Celebrity Purée” are invigorating and something special to behold. The guy never seems to repeat himself despite having a fairly recognizable style. And newcomer Jakko Jakszyk gives the band an edge on guitar that was missing a bit on ‘A Place in the Queue’. I think he is the biggest difference between that album and this one.

Why Tillison decided to follow a double album with another one is beyond me – perhaps he’s trying to get everything inside of him out before his declining years set in, but once again there is no decline in quality on the second disk. “Four Egos, One War” may be a bit more restrained musically than the songs on the first disk, but Tillison’s biting commentary is no less strong here. The throwback harmonizing vocals are a great touch that make the song seem a bit earthier and dated than the first disk, but this one is turning out to be the track I keep skipping to whenever I listen to the whole album.

“The Full Gamut” on the other hand is a bit too slow and jazzy for my tastes, but by the time I get to this one I’ve had my fill anyway so the slow descent back to reality is probably warranted.

The excellent novella that goes along with this album helps to give a little context to some of the music (and especially some of the lyrics like those in “Four Egos, One War” and “A Crisis in Mid-Life”), but the biggest revelation comes from him describing his experiences with bands like Van der Graff Generator back when they were still alive and culturally relevant. I understand better now why he is willing to make the kind of emotional investment he does in the Tangent’s music today.

I was first introduced to these guys a few years ago with ‘The World that we Drive Through’, and I have to say that each subsequent album has been more developed, more mature and more enjoyable than the last. I hope that whatever follows ‘Not as Good as the Book’ is even better, but in any case this is a solid four star effort that is strongly recommended to all prog music fans, especially those who are over the hump of life but still have a little mileage left in the tank and whose tastes haven’t aged as much as their bodies. Really good stuff.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


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