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Various Artists (Tributes) - Leader of the Starry Skies: A Tribute to Tim Smith, Songbook 1 CD (album) cover


Various Artists (Tributes)


Various Genres

4.54 | 14 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

5 stars WARNING: SUPER LONG REVIEW I'm trying really hard to write something about this album but I don't know where to start. Let me start with this: Buy this album, as it is for a good cause. The best cause. This tribute is for a very very special man named Tim Smith. Who is Tim Smith? Well Son (surprise by the way you're all my sons- famous play reference intended), Tim Smith is more or less the greatest musical genius of the 20th century. To have a mind which is able to write things so very complex, yet so harmonically perfect and beautiful isn't seen often. In fact I would go to say that only Tim has such a mind unbelievable genius that just leaks and spreads to everyone he knows and to anyone who ever listened to his music. His biggest project Cardiacs, is a rather unknown yet passionately followed by every fan. Never have I seen a more devout cult fanbase. And it's not surprising, considering how easy it is for Tim Smith to make you fall in love with your music. It catches you and smashes on the nearest wall, and you thank Tim for that. It touches the weakest part in your body and makes you surrender immediately to its serene and divine beauty, all the while you headbang to the punky riffs of Cardiacs and shed a tear for the beautiful folky pleasure of his side project Sea Nymphs and get your mind blown from the psychedelic wonder which is Spratley's Japs. In the end you succumb to Tim's eternal genius and you kneel down and beg for another tune, another riff. Unfortunately Tim can't supply these tunes. Tim suffered a severe stroke in '08 and is bedridden and ill. This tribute album, which is very aptly titled "Leader Of The Starry Skies" comes to help raise money for Tim, whose genius is so criminally unknown that he can't get enough money to recover. Surprisingly many musicians came and volunteered to participate in this project, this single most very important charity, and the results are rather magical.

The 17 artists that are on the main disc come from a very wide range. Indie, electronica, folk, pop, punk, prog, everything. I think this the greatest thing about Tim's music. You can have hardcore progger and a sneering punk sit together and pledge their allegiance to anything that Tim Smith has created. It just goes to show that Cardiacs are not a prog band in any way shape or form, neither are they a punk band, or a folk band. They are a pop band (as Tim always said). The shiny punk shell coloured in a proggish colour holds within itself a beautiful and heart warming pop song. And that's what makes them stick. They expand their sound so much that people with a taste for them love them, but it's the beautiful pop tune inside that makes them stick so strongly to your concious and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

The songs here are rather freaking wonderful. I'm not going to going into every one of them in detail but will do a track by track:

"Savour" (William D. Drake and His So Called Friends)- William D. Drake, former Cardiacs keyboard player and general genius virtuoso, supplies the first cover taken from Tim's solo album "Oceanlandworld". The track is done beautifully with a wonderful brass section opener and great vocals by Bill. Bone chillingly beautiful and emotionally powerful, Bill opens the tribute in a big way.

"Big Ship" (Ultrasound)- Indie band Ultrasound reunited to make this song, and they do a pretty spectacular job with the anthemic epicness which is "Big Ship" from Cardiacs' "Songs For Ships And Irons". Rather close to the original in delivery but still powerful and emotional.

"Fear" (Oceansize)- Recently split-up band Oceansize are the first Prog band to be featured here. They provide a cover to one of the more hauntingly beautiful songs of all time, taken from "Spratley's Japs" only album. They do a more hard rocking spacey version, which is still enormously beautiful and powerful. Definitely worth checking out by Oceansize fans.

"Let Alone My Plastic Doll" (Mark Cawthra)- This early Cardiacs track is provided by one of the first Cardiacs drummers, Mark Cawthra. The track itself was a fun and rocking affair, and Mark provides a great vocal delivery.

"Day Is Gone" (The Trudy)- I'm not a fan of pop rock band the Trudy, but their version of "Day Is Gone" off of Cardiacs' "Heaven Born And Ever Bright" was definitely enjoyable. Rather similar to the original with a great vocal delivery and nice guitar solo.

"Foundling" (Stars In Battledress)- This track is the last track from Cardiacs' "Sing To God" and is one of the most divine and magical songs in the Cardiacs catalogue, and proggy- folky-pastoral duo "Stars In Battledress" make a beautifully minimalistic and powerful performance. The vocals can give you goosebumps (good thing of course), and the instrumentation is varied and it all sounds like beauty in a box.

"Will Bleed Amen" (Max Tundra)- probably my favourite or almost favourite tribute. Max Tundra's electronic cover of one of my favourite Cardiacs tracks "Will Bleed Amen" is an absolute delight with many lines and synths running all along the tracks poking your brain every once in a while. The vocals by Sarah Measures are great and the general production and arranging of the song is just spectacular. A bucking +.

"Shaping The River" (Jullianne Regan)- singer of goth rock "All About Eve" provides a very eerie and unsettling cover of "Shaping The River" off of the Sea Nymphs eponymous and only album. Her voice is incredible and the ambient spacey feel of the song does wonders to the brainbox.

"The Stench Of Honey" (Knifeworld)- This track provided by the solo project by current Cardiacs guitarist Kavus Torabi is a completely mind blowing and exciting affair. "The Stench Of Honey" from Cardiacs' album "On Land And In the Sea" is a freaky folky experience. Kavus transfers the feeling of the song very well as well as providing his own little brass bits and metal riffs and twisted arrangements. The second prog band here provides a great ride.

"A Little Man And A House" (The Magic Numbers)- Really, unfortunately, not very good. This track (The first track from Cardiacs' "A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window") is provided by one of the more popular (commercially) bands on this tribute, indie band The Magic Numbers. Goes on for too long, bad vocals, rather awkward sounding deliveries and arrangements. Unfortunate and usually skipped by your's truly.

"Is This The Life?" (mikrokosmos)- The original song is probably Cardiacs' biggest... hit sort of. mikrokosmos is a solo project manned by former Cardiacs guitarist Christian Hayes. Bic's (nickname) electronic ambient version is chilling and rather empowering and manages to grab you for the whole 6 minutes.

"March" (North Sea Radio Orchestra)- This is also one of my favourites off the album. Chamber-pop-rock-bitavant-folk ensemble North Sea Radio Orchestra bring us an absolutely delightful version of "March" off "Heaven Born And Ever Bright". Great and quirky instrumentation with a beautiful string section and drop dead gorgeous vocals provide a cover, which I probably shouldn't be saying, is probably better than the original.

"Lily White's Party" (Robert White (you're thinking of Wyatt) feat. Andy Partridge)- My favourite track off of the Sea Nymphs album is given a great cover by Robert White. Also rather similar to the original, great but goes on for a bit too long.

"Wind And Rain Is Cold" (Rose Kemp Vs. Rarg)- I don't know who Rarg is, but freaky indie act Rose Kemp probably gets the prize for best cover on the album. Her cover of lovely pop song "Wind And Rain Is Cold" off of "Guns", is an ever-shifting, creepy, delightful, and utterly progressive affair. Her vocals are really deep and glorious, and the electronic bits are wonderfully added and make the song feel a hell of lot weirder.

"Up In Annie's Room" (Katharine Blake)- The song with probably Tim Smith's greatest lyrics, "Up In Annie's Room" is given a short and powerful A Capella cover by singer Katharine Blake who is known as being one of the singers from vocal group "Medieval Babes" (stupid name...). The vocal layers are great and the song is beautiful.

"Stoneage Dinosaur" (Steven Wilson)- Probably the most well known musician here, leader of Porcupine Tree Steven Wilson provides a cover for one of the few Cardiacs sorta ballads "Stoneage Dinosaur" off of "Songs For Ships And Irons". I'm not a fan of most of PT's work and most of Steven Wilson's work, but damn he does a great job here. The many keyboards and synths provide a powerful and emotional cover. His vocals are great, and the minimalistic drums compliment the song perfectly.

"Home Of Fadeless Splendour" (The Scramanga Six)- There are currently five people in the Scramange Six, and for that they should be hanged! A Pop-Cardiacs influenced group, the Scramanga Six provide the last song on the album, which is the first song from "Heaven Born And Ever Bright". Let me say this in caps lock: THIS IS THE SINGLE MOST BEAUTIFUL AND MAGICAL SONG YOU WILL EVER LISTEN TO. Well at least if you're a Cardiacs fan. The beginning always gives me severe goosebumps, and the songs builds up to a wonderful crescendo which is inspirational and the vocals are so passionate and real and the playing just screams at you "I love this band and this song" and you can feel the general celebration Cardiacs are. THANK YOU SCRAMANGA SIX FOR THIS DIVINE EXPERIENCE.

This album is a very important and fun treasure for Cardiacs fans and is not a bad entrance for people yet unaware of the Genius with a capital G that Tim Smith is. Buy this album just for Tim, you don't have to listen to it if you really don't want to. 4.5 stars for the music and 5 stars for the cause. This is essential for everyone, and especially for Tim!

Tim, get well for all the fishes in the pond, and I sure as hell hope this album helps you get better!!!!!!!

frippism | 5/5 |


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