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The Tangent - Down and Out in Paris and London CD (album) cover


The Tangent


Eclectic Prog

3.72 | 312 ratings

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3 stars Transitional but still very good album.

Recorded over the year after "Not as Good as the Book", this album represents an interesting transition from the previous Tangent line-up to a new one. It was also recorded during the year in which the global financial crisis occurred. I am not sure if there is any relationship there, but some of the lyrics do refer to aspects of the crisis. With bass player Jonas Reingold leaving, as well as drummer Jamie Salazar (both of whom played in the flower kings), Tillison writes in the liner notes that the Swedish connection so important to the beginnings of the band was no longer and the Tangent were now a fully English band. However, this new state of affairs would not last too long either. The drummer they found to replace Salazar only played on this album (Paul Burgess from 10CC), while the new bass player Jonathan Barrett only plays on two albums (he would be replaced by a returning Jonas Reingold). So, the only original members on this one are Tillison, Travis (sax and flute), and Guy Manning (acoustic guitar, backing vocals).

This means there is no electric guitar player. So, Andy Tillison himself takes on the electric guitar duties, similar to how he would take on the drumming in the most recent album (Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery). I have to say I am impressed by how good Tillison is on guitar here. He is no Roine Stolt (original el guitarist), nor any Luke Machin (current guitarist), both of whom are amazing. However, Tillison can clearly hold his own. Saying this, his electric solos can't compare to Travis' playing, and on this album it is the sax solos that steal the show. But I can't help but be impressed by just how well-rounded a musician Tillison shows himself to be. Even if the band at this time was "down and out" (as implied by the title), Tillison was able (with the help of Travis and Manning) to pull together an original musical statement.

Musically, this selection of tunes is mixed in quality. Thankfully, with this album The Tangent breaks with the previous pattern of putting their weakest material first. Instead, the best track of the collection - "Where are they now" - opens the album. This 19-min long epic is structured around a very catchy guitar hook, with some great grooves and soloing, while bits of the piece have a playful quality that reminds one of Gong. The lyrics are a bit cryptic, but reference the global financial crisis and the lack of trust in society. Two of the middle sections of this track bring back the key figure "Earnest" - of the opening epic on the album 'A Place in the Queue' - who is now in a resthome recounting his war-time stories and experiencing forgiveness. So, this track represents a kind of 'conceptual continuity' with previous Tangent albums. Overall, a great Tangent piece. If the rest of the album had been this good it would have straddled the boundary between four and five stars.

However, of the five remaining tracks, only two really stand out. The second-best is the closing track, titled here "The Canterbury Sequence volume 2, Ethanol Hat Nail". In actuality, it sounds little like the original light-hearted and joyous Canterbury Sequence (from their debut album), but is instead much more experimental, dark, and quirky. But there is still a Canterbury-esque tinge, and it contains some really great music, particularly in its middle sections. After this, only the second track "Paroxetine - 20mg" quite stands up with the rest of The Tangent's discography. The other three tracks sound like filler. While the latter music is not bad in any way, it is just not super memorable, although some of the lyrics maintain Tillison's social critique (particularly "Perdue Dans Paris", about the two separate worlds of the city - the daytime of civilized Parisians coupled with a nighttime occupied by the homeless and castouts).

The result is a mixed album. Three of the tracks are great, while the other three are musically less interesting. The stronger tracks are important to the Tangent discography and thus worth getting, but together do not quite lift the average quality above four stars. On balance, I give this album 7.6 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 3 PA stars.

Walkscore | 3/5 |


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