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Clive Nolan


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5 stars Review # 67 Clive Nolan is one of the greatest musicians in the modern Progressive Rock music scene. His name is involved in a rather big number of bands or projects, such as Pendragon, Arena, Casino, Shadowland and others.

However, as Clive told me once, he has always been a great fan of musicals. In 2008 he released his first musical named as She, under the name Caamora. (The story was based on the book with the same name, written by H. Rider Haggard).

His second musical was Alchemy and it was released in 2013, under his name this time. The plot took place in Victorian England in 'Alchemy Universe', and it was based on a fictional story, written by him. When I bought Alchemy, I couldn't believe how wonderful it was, and I have no idea how many times I listened to it! (Even today, it still is one of my most beloved albums of the last decade).

When I learned about King's Ransom, which is the sequel of Alchemy, I wasn't very surprised, mainly due to the fact that at the end of Alchemy there was a hint that the story could be continued in the future. On the other hand, I was a bit worried, because Alchemy was a really great album and I wasn't sure if he could repeat something like that again. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded...

I pre-ordered King's Ransom, and what I received was a box set, including 4 CD's, 1 DVD and 3 booklets. A very impressive and expensive production as it seems. (The 4CD's edition was available only for pre-order as far as I know. The normal edition includes 3CD's plus 1 DVD).

Now, let's take a look at the album itself. It is divided into 2 parts (Act I & Act II) and includes 33 tracks in total. Don't forget that this is not a Progressive Rock album, it's a musical. For the recordings of the album, Clive used 6 musicians and 11 singers who play the different characters of the story. In comparison with Alchemy, I think that King's Ransom is more sophisticated, and a bit 'darker'. The music is astonishing once more, and it changes according to the situations that the characters find themselves in. As for the performance of the singers, it is excellent on most occasions. (But that's totally a matter of personal taste).

I will not get into details for each song separately, because that is an unfair thing to do. The songs follow a storyline, and each of them has something to offer to the story. Therefore, there might be some songs not so 'strong' like others, but they add something and they move the story forward. Also, I enjoyed the dialogues that bind the songs together, because it gives a theatrical touch to the album.

Despite the fact that I put the CD's in my CD player and listen to them without skipping not even one song, there are some songs that I enjoy more than others. Some of them are the following: Act I: Poison Runs the Course, Silent Army, The Deal is Made, Legend of the Unicorn Orchid, and of course the wonderful Solitary Man, with the fantastic voice of Gemma Ashley. (Goosebumps. Every time!) Act II: In Harm's Way, Stand Fast, Turning the Tables, St Paul's and Epilogue.

I will conclude this by saying that, King's Ransom is a definite must-have for every fan of Clive Nolan, but not only for them. Every person can enjoy this album because it is definitely a serious piece of art! I don't know about you, but I know I am going to enjoy it for a long long time. And as Clive Nolan writes in the first page of the booklet; 'Turn the lights down, and the speakers up' and immerse yourself once more in the 'Alchemy Universe'' My rating: 5 solid stars without a second thought.

Report this review (#1784906)
Posted Tuesday, September 19, 2017 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
5 stars

Clive and I started talking to each other at the time of the first Shadowland album, and I have been fortunate to review most of his recordings since then, through multiple bands and projects. I missed the musical 'She' (one of the problems caused by moving to the other side of the world), which was released under the name 'Caamora', but did come across 'Alchemy' which used many of the Caamora Theatre Company, but was released under his own name. Here he introduced us to the world of Professor Samuel King, and his battle with Lord Henry Jagman to solve the mysteries of Anzeray. I, like many others, log everything I play on the LastFM website, and according to their records I have played this album more than any other since I started logging my plays at the beginning of 2007 (the next two are 'The Snow Goose' and 'Snow' as you didn't ask). One of my daughters loves this almost as much as me, and it is often chosen to be played in the car, with "The Unwelcome Guest" being especially favoured (and consequently the most played song according to the same site).

So, when I heard that Clive was releasing another album in the same series I was intrigued. It just so happened that I was back in the UK in August for the first time in more than five years, and somehow the planets aligned for myself and Clive to meet for the first time in aeons. Sat in his music room, talk soon turned to the new album, so he passed me his bound copy of the lyrics and he then started to play highlights to me, explaining the story and thinking behind it. The events in this musical follow on from 'Alchemy', albeit a few years later, and does include some of the same characters. Interestingly, although many of the musicians have played on both, very few of the same singers are involved again. Also, although there are a couple of small mentions of things that happened on 'Alchemy', there is no need to have heard that release as this stands up in its own right. But, if one has heard the first one then there are both lyrical and musical repetitions designed to make the listener smile, as if they have been let into a secret.

One criticism I have heard of 'Alchemy', which had also reached Clive's ears, is that in many ways it is too dark, with too much death. Consequently, this album has been made deliberately lighter, with some quite comedic numbers. My favourite character is Captain Fergus Maunder, and it is obvious that Alan Reed (Anel Ganz, Pallas) had an absolute blast playing the role. For anyone who knows him, his Scots accent isn't nearly as strong as he lays it on here. There are too many musical highlights to mention, but "Haunted" always makes me smile, while "Nostalgia" reminds me of "Half Of Sixpence". Yes, in many circles Clive will always be known for progressive rock, and as I write this he has just returned from playing with Pendragon in Japan, but with his theatre productions he looks far away from the prog field, and looks instead to classic British musicals of the past.

Clive has stated that he feels that this is the first steampunk musical, and has released three short videos to provide just a taste of the show. At the beginning of September some lucky souls could see a performance of 'Alchemy' one night, and then 'King's Ransom' the next. Of course, I was back in NZ by then!! Yet again he has created a masterpiece, and only time will tell if this one gets played as much as the last. Also, he has left the door wide open for a third, and I hope there is enough interest in these for that one also to be written and performed. This is for anyone who enjoys musical theatre, particularly British, or just wants to hear some great songs well performed. This is a masterpiece.

Report this review (#1802063)
Posted Tuesday, October 10, 2017 | Review Permalink

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