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Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso - Black Box Recovered CD (album) cover

BLACK BOX RECOVERED

Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso

 

Eclectic Prog

3.00 | 3 ratings

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Joolz
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Black Box Recovered is a compilation of material from various sources, mostly from the early 1980s, half of which is previously unreleased. Tracks 1 - 6 are songs recorded for 'Black Box', an aborted follow-up to Woolly's debut album Mæstoso, described as "almost finished masters"; tracks 7 - 10 represent work-in-progress, songs being recorded which were never completed, the most obvious omission being any percussion; tracks 11 - 14 are Woolly's original demos of four songs for the Mæstoso album; tracks 15 - 17 are from a bootleg recording of the band live in Vienna 1981; finally, track 18 is a new composition recorded by Woolly alone in 2003.

To the committed fan this disc has obvious interest: the demos show how close the final product often came to Woolly's original vision; while the live tracks show how they could develop in the live arena. Quality is necessarily variable, but they provide a valuable insight into the songs' development. Of the unfinished Black Box work-in-progress songs, two in particular stand-out as tantalizing glimpses of what might have been: The Sunday Bells is a classic in the making while Open invades Procol Harum territory.

The main Black Box recordings (tracks 1 - 6) are, however, the main focus of this album and of these Deceivers All must be considered an absolute masterpiece of its kind, one of the best songs Woolly has ever recorded. Conceived as a bitter reflection on his treatment by faceless record company execs and their broken promises, it is clothed in some magnificent music, at times beguiling, at others stately and anthemic. Curiously it is also the song most likely to connect him to his BJH heritage, its opening bars very reminiscent of songs on Everyone Is Everybody Else, and drenched in beautiful guitar themes and Mellotron.

The remainder continue the kind of quality mid-paced soft-rock delivered on Mæstoso: Has To Be A Reason has some lovely organ work and reminds me of The Strawbs; Down The Line is a gentle reflection on life on the San Andreas fault; All Get Burned is pretty enough but a little unmemorable; a gorgeous guitar solo and some dominant organ work lifts the lively rocking Too Much, Too Loud, Too Late into the realms of another Prog classic; Even The Night is a bitter-sweet song pondering the break-up of a romance.

Overall, clearly a mixed bag never intended as a mainstream release, it's main purpose to re-introduce the long unavailable Black Box material in a sympathetic setting [an older CD Songs From The Black Box on Voiceprint comprised this material and the whole of Mæstoso but has long since been deleted]. Those six tracks alone make the purchase essential for BJH and Woolly fans, but Deceivers All is a classic melodic Prog song worthy of any collection.

Joolz | 3/5 |

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