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Twelfth Night - Art And Illusion  CD (album) cover

ART AND ILLUSION

Twelfth Night

 

Neo-Prog

2.68 | 31 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Fishy
Prog Reviewer
3 stars I remember the disappointment when I first heard the album back in 1985. Back then Twelfth Night was widely considered as an important band from the English neo-prog movement. What I heard was typical eighties music which included influences from wave, pop and even some slices of metal. The progressive element in the music is mainly provided by the keyboard lines and guitar solo's. Little did I know of the bands former vocalist who left the previous year. The charismatic Geoff Mann penned the vocal line for the title track when he still was in the band. This is easily the highlight of this mini album. The melody of this great track refused to leave my head for several days after I heard it for the very first time. The voice of the new vocalist Andy Sears reminded me on Duran Duran and also the music holds some elements from that band. Unlike on the XII album which they recorded 2 years afterwards, the production of this album sounds rough and alternative. Sears may not be a bad singer, I have the impression the commercial tendencies slipped in the sound of TN from the moment he joined them. I do prefer Mann's way of singing, more straight from the heart but maybe I shouldn't compare. but after all this was the first studio album to be released after a great album like "Fact and fiction" and really, this is completely different stuff. The tracks are more conventional and shorter in length without instrumental excerpts or interesting social commentary in the lyrics.

The opening track "Counterpoint" definitely has balls and is highly melodious but this sounds totally outdated nowadays. Somehow, it reminds me on "The Chameleons, a monument of the English wave scene of the eighties. Also the first part of the instrumental track C.R.A.B. could easily included on an album from The Cure but when the tempo is speeding up and a Hackett like guitar solo starts to enlighten the atmosphere, you realize this is a neo-prog band you're listening to. This is very much similar to a classic like "a poet sniffs a flower" ; nice one ! On "Kings & queens" you could have the impression the band is heading in the heavy rock direction. Fortunately there's some highly enjoyable progressive excerpts as well. Tracks like this one and "Counterpoint" are sounding chaotic and energetic. The final track on the original lp was "A first new day". A highly melodic track in the vein of "love song". Sears sings beautifully on a science fiction landscape of lush keyboards. It used to sound great but nowadays it all seems so plastic to me !

There's some demo versions added to this cd release. The lack of studio tricks on these songs reveal more of what's left of the familiar TN-sound. You can also find 3 alternate versions of tracks that appeared on the slick sounding XII album from 1986. These tracks are more accessible than those from A & I. "Take a look" was the only progressive outing on that album and this version is even more progressive including exciting extended instrumental excerpts. For me this is the only track of their 1986 recordings that's worth of checking out.

To my opinion this album introduces the downfall of the band. Twelfth Night fans should check this one out for the 4 best tracks of the post Mann period. This album is much more interesting for digging in the English part of history of neo-prog in the eighties than for satisfying listening experiences in 2005.

Fishy | 3/5 |

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