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Nolan & Wakeman - Tales by Gaslight CD (album) cover


Nolan & Wakeman



3.39 | 5 ratings

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2 stars This is basically a re-release of the two Nolan and Wakeman albums that bookended the turn of the millennium (Well not really since 2001 was really the changeover but who can resist the three zeroes in a row). In addition the boxed set includes a third CD entitled Dark Fables.

A number of reviewers have compared the first two albums to Rick's (I will use the Wakeman's first names to avoid confusion) "Journey to the Centre of the Earth"; I couldn't disagree more. Journey was a mainly instrumental composition punctuated by a few songs. Journey also featured the London Symphony Orchestra and the English Chamber Choir, neither of which appear here in person or sound. There is a choir in Jabberwocky, but it sounds nothing like the ECC.

On the other hand, the Nolan and Oliver works are very close to stage musicals/rock operas, whatever you wish to call them. Like the theatre pieces, each "role" is sung by a different singer, and much of it sounds like a Lloyd Webber piece. So much so that when my wife passed my room she said, "That's not the type of music you usually listen to!". And she was right.

Like "Journey" they have a narrator. The narrator takes the place of the stage action and spoken lines, linking the songs together into a coherent story. I wonder whether Nolan and Oliver had hopes of actually staging them as musicals?

Many well-known musicians (some of whom are associated with Rick) appear including, Tony Fernandez, Jon Jeary and the late Peter Banks,

The first album, "Jabberwocky", is based on a Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking-Glass". It's full of nonsense words and phrases: "Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe..." It is about a young boy (knight?) who slays the fearsome Jabberwock.

Rick acts as the narrator and does a passable job. I don't particularly enjoy Bob Catley singing on this CD and indeed all the vocals have a stage musical sound. For me the most successful bits are the Instrumentals.

The second album, "The Hound of the Baskervilles", is the more successful of the two. It has a bit less of a stage musical feel and there is a bit more "prog" in it. It follows a similar path to "Jabberwocky" but there is quite a lot more narration as "The Hound" is quite a complex novel, so lots of links are required.

Robert Powell as the Narrator (Dr John Watson of course) has far more gravitas than Rick. Many of the same musicians and singers turn up for a second outing. Again the instrumentals featuring the two keyboardists are the highlights. I especially enjoy the closing "Chasing the Hound".

Both discs have been re-mastered and guitar solos have been added to "The Burgundy Rose" (Jabberwocky) and "Three Threads" (Hound) by David Mark Pearce.

The new CD, "Dark Fables" is a mish-mash of pieces that Nolan and Oliver had written for a third album, "Frankenstein", which didn't get off the ground and pieces not good enough to be included on "The Hound". Oliver rather disingenuously suggests they didn't fit the story, but it begins at 221B, so that would fit, and "The Baker Street Irregulars" is an instrumental. The song excluded from "The Hound", "The Man called Sherlock" is quite plodding and it is obvious why it was cut. The stand-outs on this are "The Overture" and "The Descent into Madness".

I doubt these albums will get played in full again. I'll probably put together a compilation of the better instrumentals (when these guys are good, they are very good). Overall a bit of a disappointment.

BrianS | 2/5 |


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