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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 | 402 ratings

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Walkscore
4 stars CD2 is five stars!

This double-CD concept album is where Andy Tillison really explores his creative side in writing for The Tangent. The band is similar as on A Place in the Queue and Going Off On One, although Sam Baine has left, Julie King cameos on vocals on one tune, and Jakko Jakszyk (who now plays with King Crimson) has replaced Krister Jonsson on guitar. On this album, it is Theo Travis whose solos really shine, as the guitar rarely takes centre stage.

Tillison once again has produced a very thoughtful set of lyrics. The message is similar to, but goes beyond, the one Tillison makes on previous albums. He continues to be contemplative and critical of modern life, but as part of the story/concept he extrapolates key trends into the future, which raises even further the interest factor. The general theme is about a middle-aged man like Tillison who looks back on life with a critical eye of how expectations of the future were built, both for himself but also for the society he lives in (hence the title "Not as Good as the Book"). But Tillison is not only thinking through a case of smashed expectations, he is also examining the role that war, nationalism, and technology (television, etc) have played in buttressing these expectations, and he then extrapolates the implications of this for what we might experience in the future. While not every song has great singing or words, overall I really like the story and the lyrics - they really make you think.

Musically, the album is mixed, but thankfully the good stuff is bunched together. This is now the third Tangent album in a row to put the weakest material at the beginning. The first CD contains a string of shorter tunes that link together as a story. Musically it is definitely one of the weaker, if not the weakest, of the Tangent discography. Indeed, the quality doesn't hit until the instrumental "Celebrity Puree", which is the fourth track. The rest of this CD from this point on is decent. But while there are some decent sections in the first three songs, they are all much less musical than the rest of the album. Furthermore, the first two tracks "A Crisis in Mid-Life" and "Lost in London 25 Year Later" have the weakest lyrics on the album. Basically, these initial tunes are there to set the storyline more than anything, but musically they contain less interest. After listening to this album a gazillion times, I now just skip right to track four, and then listen through to the end of the album. The title track is one of the best on this side/CD, and the closing track, "Bat Out of Basildon", is fun, ending the first CD on an up feeling. Overall, I give this first CD 7.2 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 3 PA stars.

The second CD, on the other hand, is amazing! It consists of only two long epics: "Four Egos, One War" and "The Full Gamut". Each is fantastic, both musically and lyrically. Julie King guests on vocals on "Four Egos" with Andy, and it works so well, it makes one wish that she had become a permanent member. Great music, awesome singing, wonderful critical lyrics. The tune is looking back on how the post-war boom and all the expectations and mythology that was built into it was partly based on the threat of war and the power it gave those with weapons. Really nicely done. "The Full Gamut" which closes the album is one of those rare pieces that is a total experience (in some ways, it reminds me of The Gates of Delirium in that sense, although musically it is totally different), such a great epic. This is where Tillison goes futuristic and lays out a potentially dystopian scenario. These two pieces are up there among my top five favourite Tangent compositions. Indeed, I would say this CD2 is my very favourite Tangent 'disc'. On its own, I would give CD2 a 9.3 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which places it firmly in 5-star territory. Really musical, with excellent hard-hitting lyrics and wonderful singing. Tillison of course still sings occasionally out of tune, but on The Full Gamut, when it happens it sounds like it fits better.

All together, the amazing CD2 is counterbalanced by the weaker CD1. I find it interesting that Tillison puts the best tracks near the end, and the weaker tunes at the beginning, not just here, but on the previous two Tangent albums too. Thankfully this pattern would not continue on subsequent albums. Overall, I give this album 8.3 out of 10 on my 10-point scale. But the second CD is, to my mind, essential.

Walkscore | 4/5 |

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