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

NOT AS GOOD AS THE BOOK

The Tangent

 

Eclectic Prog

3.87 | 290 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Six musicians, one exquisite album

Formed and conceived as a ''progressive'' side-project by Parallel or 90 Degrees front man Andy Tillison, The Tangent eventually took on a life of it's own and became a full blown band. Good thing too, because if they'd stuck to a one album project we would never have received this effort from the band. Not As Good As The Book represents a very personal record for the lead singer/keyboardist, with the entire album focusing on events in his life or his reactions to the modern world. As such the album has a very sarcastic feel to it at points, but a very emotional and attached feel at others. However, even with this mix of messages the album never gets lost. Whether he be commenting on warfare and media reactions or telling the story of himself and a friend trying to get into a club in Soho the album always manages to keep a familiar feel, and the songs segue perfectly from one to the next, never jaunting the audience, but bringing them along for the ride.

Though not a concept record in of itself, the album is tied together in the form of a book. That's right, for Not As Good As The Book Andy actually published a near 100-page novel to go along with it, harking back to the days when albums weren't simply groups of songs to be downloaded from iTunes, but an experience which one could actually sit down and enjoy the entire way through. It would be redundant to actually make comments on the book itself since it has nothing to do with the actual performances on the record, but it certainly does tie all the songs together. Not to mention that old and young proggers alike should be able to get plenty of kicks from all the prog references in the book itself. Tillison may not be the greatest novelist to have ever lived, but he certainly knows how to entertain.

The music itself on the album is very reminiscent of progressive records of old, while maintaining a modern sound. The opening synth riff right off the top of A Crisis In Midlife gives that away immediately. The album is rather keyboard heavy, but what prog head is going to turn that down, really? The keys always press the album along in a satisfactory manner, and this is likely because (as he's said before) Tillison really builds the songs from the ground up. Start with the keyboards and start to layer everything on top of it. Thus, everything feels like it's in the right place at the right time, long songs like The Ethernet manage to express an idea without becoming redundant and short rockers like the heavy and cynical instrumental Celebrity Puree and Bat Out Of Basildon come off as excellent music instead of a hard rock song out of place on an otherwise very progressive record. Of course all the other instruments are there when you need them. The heavy guitars, the powerful sax and the graceful flute all appear exactly when you'd want them to.

The two disc set is split heavily between discs, and one could even go so far as to call them separate albums. They maintain feel and consistency enough to be able to let them run together without having the album feel long to listen to, but they really are separate entities, as suggested by Tillison's naming of them. The first disc [A Crisis In Midlife] is full of the shorter songs. There's a kind of light feel to these songs thanks to pieces like the somewhat humorous Lost In London 25 Years Later (in which Andy and friend Ian find themselves face to face with a Soho pimp), with its calm progression leading up to outright heavy parts, and the formally mentioned Bat Out Of Basildon which is fairly uplifting thanks to lines like ''He's only as old as his helmet, and he only got it last week''.

The second disc is where prog heads will likely turn, these are the 'epics'. This disc holds a mere two songs, and two wonderful songs they are. They heavy, brooding, and socially aware Four Egos, One War makes wonderful use of everything The Tangent is good at, its good when it's quiet and when it's loud it's spine chilling. It's hard to not get worked up listening to the lyrics of the song too (I'd quote them, but there's far to many good lines to make reference to), it really makes you want to take to the streets with 'Stop the war!' signs. At the shrill scream of ''Throwing metal at the sky!'' it's hard not to feel a chill down your spine (no wonder they chose that line as the title of the second disc). The second track The Full Gamut is a hugely personal song for Tillison, reflecting on the end of his long marriage between the time of this album and the band's previous. The emotion comes across very well in the song and Andy gets a similar effect in this song when he starts into the ''This is not a rehearsal'' lines of the song. Surprisingly heavy for a song of its nature, this one does not let go oft he energy started on the first track.

Honestly, either one of these discs packaged on their own would have been great, putting them together only brings the album to another level.

As for the topic of the album, it's not aimed at the norm. Yes, it covers a large area (the size of New York...?), but it's mostly for the people Tillison's age. A Crisis In Midlife indeed, and a lot of the older audience of prog heads should appreciate that quite a bit with a lot of songs being aimed at the majority market (16-30 year olds). However, if you're young are you going to miss the point of the album? Not likely. Sure, we may not be able to relate to the album in completely, but it does give a strange insight into a different generation, and that's something not a lot of artists are able to capture. Besides, now I find myself looking forward to that 'crisis' in midlife so I can put on this album and say to myself ''ah, that's what he meant!''. Besides, since the music on this album is just so enjoyable it's easy to overlook not being the target audience for once. Kind of refreshing actually.

It may only be halfway through the year, but I don't think it's premature to say that this is a must have album. It takes a bit for this album to grow on you, but after three or four spaced out listens you might find yourself coming back to it every single day needing more. 5 Soho Jazz clubs out of 5! It doesn't get much better than this. It's going to be very, very hard to top this album for my album of the year.

Queen By-Tor | 5/5 |

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