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Twelfth Night - Art And Illusion  CD (album) cover

ART AND ILLUSION

Twelfth Night

 

Neo-Prog

2.70 | 34 ratings

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stefro
Prog Reviewer
2 stars A real lesson in showing that the grass is not always greener on the other side, Twelfth Night's attempt to streamline and commercialize their sound started with this 1984 effort, a move which would prove to be the beginning of the end for their once-promising career. Original lead-singer Geoff Mann, whose powerful vocals had adorned the groups previous album from 1982, the excellent 'Fact & Fiction', had left to be replaced by former Canis Major frontman Andy Sears, and the band were now temporarily signed to the independent label Music For Nations, desperate for that elusive major label deal that would break them into pop's big league. To facilitate this move, the band made the rather cynical 'business- orientated' decision to hold back some of their more overtly-poppy tracks for the next album, making 'Art & Illusion' a five-track mini-album. Twelfth Night were, in effect, slowly abandoning their neo-prog past in favour of creating slickly-produced, radio-friendly synth- pop, a move that would eventually net them a deal with Virgin Records, but would also bring about the band's demise quicker than anyone would have dared to imagine. As we all know, hindsight is a special thing, but whether they knew it at the time or not, Twelfth Night were taking a huge risk in changing their sound so early on in their career. 'Art & Illusion' and it's pop-orientated Virgin-produced follow up 'XII' were meant to bring about a new phase in the band's development, turning them into a big-selling pop-rock act, but in changing their direction so carelessly the band shed many of their original fans - fans brought to the group by the excellent 1981 live album 'Live At The Target' and the band's calling-card 'Fact & Fiction' - who were, simply put, just not replaced, therefore shrinking the band's appeal just when their financial overheads were increasing. Whether they would have navigated a more successful career path had they simply stuck to their guns and continued to furrow an overtly-progressive path is an interesting point. Genre-rivals Marillion created four excellent neo-prog albums in the 1980's whilst simulteneously selling lots of records, and many thought Twelfth Night would do the same. Sadly, however, 'Fact & Fiction' would prove to be the band's peak. 'Art & Illusion', although nowhere near as vacuous as 'XII', was a very different creation, lacking Mann's ingenious vocals and the darkly-introspective lyrics but at least maintaining a link with their progressive past. Opening track 'Counterpoint' and the strangely-titled 'C.R.A.B.' wouldn't have sounded out of place on either 'Live At The Target' or 'Fact & Fiction', and the noticeably slicker production helps flesh out the band's multi-layered sound. However, with just five tracks 'Art & Illusion', when compared to it's predecessors, can't help but sound disappppointing. The real tragedy is the fact that a band with such obvious talent would only priduce one studio album of note, and, despite a couple of excellent live offerings, Twelfth Night's original promise was simply frittered away in a welter of bad decisions and commercial pandering. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2010
stefro | 2/5 |

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