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The Tangent - A Place In The Queue CD (album) cover

A PLACE IN THE QUEUE

The Tangent

 

Eclectic Prog

3.81 | 251 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars This is a band and an album that I knew almost nothing about when I bought it, but fortunately it comes with extensive liner notes full of stories, lyrics, credits, and just plain interesting little tidbits of reflection. A pretty darn good piece of work overall, and especially the few songs that include extensive personal pictures of people’s lives and worlds.

The album starts off with the wonderfully descriptive character sketch “In Earnest” about an aging war veteran fiddling with a short-wave radio and reminiscing (somewhat bitterly) about his days as a WWII fighter pilot. The lead-in piano is accentuated with gentle percussion, acoustic guitar and flute, and sets both a nostalgic and somewhat wistful mood. At just over twenty minutes, the work is expansive in exploring a range of emotions as it paints a picture of a man who seems to feel his best days were those spent as a dashing war ‘hero’, and who now is trying to find some meaning in his memories. This is one of the most striking portraits of war and personal sacrifice I’ve ever heard. Unlike most war-themed songs, it doesn’t specifically condemn the practice, but does cause the listener to pause and think about those whose lives have been given (not only in death) to the pursuit of nations confronting other nations. Like the rest of the album, the music is heavy on keyboards and percussion, with occasional bursts of energetic electric guitar injected through the numerous tempo ebbs and flows. The extended instrumental passage in the middle isn’t quite improvisational, but does seem to follow a fairly loose pattern that I imagine will vary quite a bit in a live setting. The up-tempo climax has a very familiar and comfortable 70s feel to it that is quite appealing.

“Lost in London” is another character sketch, this one about the singer Andy Tillison and his journey from a small town to the big city in search of his destiny as a professional musician. Many of the landmarks and cultural references are probably familiar to Englishmen, but the general theme about the cold and impersonal tempo of a large metropolitan area resonate with anyone who has left familiar surroundings to mingle with strangers in a large and strange city. The music here is also very nostalgic, and I can’t shake the feeling that this reminds me very much of a lot of the music Al Stewart made in the 70s – perhaps it’s just the accent.

The jazzy instrumentation of “DIY Surgery” and synthesized vocals set a strange mood for a song about do-it-yourself surgery, a strange concept and an even stranger inclusion on the album. The blend of saxophone and clarinet enhance the jazzy feel to this one, but I really don’t get the point.

Several reviewers have mentioned the Wakeman-like feel of the organ in “GPS Culture”, and I can definitely hear the influence. The music has a bit of a late-70s Yes feel to it, with animated keyboards, minor chords and an odd time signature, and also the staccato vocal accompaniment. This isn’t really a strong track, but is kind of an interesting one, although a bit bombastic to my mind – could have been a bit shorter than its ten minutes without losing much.

“Follow Your Leaders” has a bit of a Canterbury feel to it with peppy synth keyboards, sporadic brass, and rather sarcastic but melodic lyrics. Theo Travis delivers some excellent flute work as well. Even after many listens I can’t help but compare Tillison’s vocals here to 70s lounge-pop act Rupert Holmes (“The Pina Colada Song”).

I have to believe “The Sun in My Eyes” is a joke – a disco-driven throwback to so many forgettable late 70s/early 80s MTV dance band one-hit wonders. This probably would have been a hit twenty-five years ago, but seems really out of place here.

Finally, “A Place in the Queue” is a rangy, epic-like wandering mix of spacey, jazz, improvisational, sometimes borderline metal, but always entertaining journey of sound. This one is a synopsis of the whole point to the album, which is all about those who follow the well-trodden path in the queue and the cost to our individual freedoms, life choices, and experiences. It’s kind of tough to follow, and requires many listens before it will really start to grow on you, although it almost certainly will.

The accompanying “bonus” CD includes some interesting tracks of mostly previously- unreleased studio and live tracks. Some are pretty good – “Promises Were Made” with its heavy keyboard emphasis and Sam Baine’s very appealing vocals (nice to hear a female voice after about an hour and a half of Tillison!); the gentle “A First Day at School” demo track; and the spacey mood music of “Grooving on Mars”. Others are forgettable, most notably an extended and even more danceable version of “The Sun in My Eyes”, and Kraftwerk-like “Kartoffelsalat im Unterseeboot” (maybe a good song, but not personally my type of music).

And that’s pretty much the story of this album. At first couple of listens, I wasn’t really sold on this as a solid piece of work. Much of it seemed derivative, and that’s not a word I use often. But after a while I’ve started to think of the ‘familiar’ sounding passages as being intentionally constructed the way they were in order to evoke very specific moods and emotions that those sounds will inevitably have for those of us who have specific memories attached to them. And in that respect, this album was well done. I don’t own any other Tangent albums, and this album was completely an impulse buy based on a few reviews I’ve read. I have to say that it was a good purchase, and I find myself tossing this one on pretty regularly when I need some deeper-thinking background music for quiet, reflective moods. Definitely four stars.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |

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