Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography


Strangers On A Train


From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Strangers On A Train The Key, Part I  - The Prophecy album cover
2.96 | 46 ratings | 10 reviews | 15% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

Write a review

from partners
Studio Album, released in 1990

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Arrival (3:40)
2. Sacrifice (7:10)
3. New World (3:06)
4. Silent Companion (2:25)
5. Crossing The Wasteland (3:53)
6. Perchance To Dream (4:29)
7. Lightshow (3:36)
8. Occam's Tears (8:07)
9. Losing A Hold On Life (3:58)
10. From The Outside In (5:27)
11. Duel (4:30)
12. From The Inside Out (6:40)
13. Healing The Rift (4:00)
14. The Key (2:43)

Total Time: 63:44

Line-up / Musicians

- Tracy Hitchings / vocals
- Karl Groom / electric & acoustic guitars, dobro, bass, co-producer
- Clive Nolan / Korg piano, Akai sampler, Alesis drum machine, synths (Ensoniq SQ80, ESQ1, Roland D110, Roland Juno 106, Korg DW 800), lead (10) & backing (2) vocals, co-producer

Releases information

Artwork: Willebrord Elsing with Connie Moest (photo)

CD SI Music ‎- SIMPly ONE (1990, Netherlands)
CD SI Music ‎- SIMPly 01 / 42 (1994, Europe) Remixed, new cover art and retitled "The Key, Part I - The Prophecy"
CD Metal Mind Productions ‎- MASS CD 1466DG (2012, Poland) Remastered (?)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
Edit this entry

Buy STRANGERS ON A TRAIN The Key, Part I - The Prophecy Music

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN The Key, Part I - The Prophecy ratings distribution

(46 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(15%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(22%)
Good, but non-essential (37%)
Collectors/fans only (24%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN The Key, Part I - The Prophecy reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Matti
2 stars By the time of buying both "The Key" albums I had recently found some interest towards Neo Prog, including e.g. Arena and Pendragon, two others of keyboardist Clive Nolan's acts. I had some expectations and a special interest for a FEMALE singer. I hadn't heard Tracy Hitchings before and studying some web material made me feel very curious about this 'vamp'.

I was disappointed. "The Key I" sounds so much like a keyboard player's side project instead of a band work. There are some beautiful instrumental pieces that don't sound as fake as many of the songs where the thin instrumentation gets irritating at times. Nolan is trying to handle his keys as percussion as well, and it doesn't work well. As compositions the songs vary from disastrous to quite nice. Tracy is an interesting, dramatic singer but her style is quite narrow and reminds a bit too much of 80's hard rock. But somehow this album has its own little charm. Refreshing to listen to perhaps once a year, but no more than that.

Review by Fishy
4 stars At the time, the title for this project couldn't be better chosen. Although this is the name of a movie by Alfred Hitchcock, these three musicians were little more than strangers at the time this was recorded. Tracy Hitchings was presented to a prog audience for the really first time with her band Quasar just the previous year. Karl Groom was the guitarist of an early incarnation of Threshold who hadn't released anything till the recordings began for "The Key". Maybe Clive Nolan was the only name who rang a bell at the time ; being the keyboard player of Pendragon. After the release of "the Key", everything changed and the musicians finally got the recognition they deserved in Threshold, Arena (Nolan) and Landmarq (Hitchings).

I bought the first version of this record after its release in 1990. This fact is worth mentioning because there really are two version around of this record. The album got rerecorded after the release of the second STOT album. When compared to the second album, this album, sounds pretty small. The only instruments that are used are piano & keyboards, little slices of guitar and bass here and there. The latest version did have a real piano instead of an electric one which was used for the original. This is not a detail. Everyone who listens to this record can tell that most of the piano parts carry the melodies throughout the whole album. The energy of the vivid piano parts sets the atmosphere on fire on many excerpts like the middle part of "Sacrifice". Not for the only time I seem to notice some similarities between the way Nolan handles the keyboards and the way Rick Wakeman does. This isn't a problem, in fact not many keyboard players are able to do that and It's still far from plagiarism. "Crossing the wasteland" is another example of some virtuoso keyboard playing. The appealing basic piano parts are on the fore. The solo of synthesizers really is the pearl on the crown of this magnificent piece of instrumental music. "Duel" is another mini track of the same kind. There is a tension that's building near the end. After hearing this track you would expect the next track to be a rockier song but it is not. You won't find any rock song on this album anyway. Only a few rock elements are present in the marvellous guitar lines from Groom. You will catch some elements from minimal music, classical music and mediaeval folk music.

Quite essential to this album are the vocals of Tracy Hitchings. Her voice is excellent for the melodic songs and she puts some mystery in the more experimental parts of the album.

Even though this really is a concept album with a head and a tail ; You can enjoy each track separately which I often do because there's so many different moods to choose from. One can divide the tracks in two categories : one category which consists of instrumental jewels that come across very mathematical. Other tracks show the skills of Nolan for simple and plain song writing of melodic music. "Perchance to dream" is a similar to Floyd's "great gig in the sky" and also is somewhat reminiscent to Renaissance's "prologue". "Losing a hold on life" is another sad, calm piano song. "Lightshow" is a beautiful song in the traditional sense of the word. "From the outside in" must be the emotional highlight, some could find this too pathetic. "Occams tears" is a strange kind of epic that combines the melody with emotionless repetitive atmospheres in the different passages of this track. Maybe this could be considered at the highlight of this album. The repetitive nature of this song reminds me a bit on Mike Oldfields "Incantations".

Usually progressive rock is all about broad sounding musical landscapes full of adventurous musical twist and turns. "The key" is the perfect example of the opposite. Progressive rock can be sober, accessible and yet still enjoyable at the same time. The melodies on this album are awesome and should be the reason for purchasing. On the other hand I can imagine that some will find this music too melodic. Others will be annoyed by the lack of variation in instruments. If you like keyboard based progressive rock, you should definitely check out this astonishing album. This album is special because it combines parts from an emotional nature with cold, technical sounding passages. "The Key" definitely deserves more attention from the prog audience.

Review by Prog-jester
3 stars I like Clive Nolan. And what about you? I remember I bought SHADOWLAND;s debut, dislike it on the first listenings, but lately it has immensely grown on me. I began to search everything related to Nolan’s activity; surely SOAT where Nolan wrote all songs and sang some parts would be more than a welcomed addition to my collection. And good Lord, Karl Groom on guitar, another SHADOWLANDer! When I finally finished my listening, I was kinda disappointed. First of all, Nolan sings backs, while fronts are sung by Tracy Hitchings (nothing terribly wrong here, but I’d prefer Clive to sing…she even tried to copy his obertones!). Second, there are NO drums at all, but they are surely meant to be on the record! Hence it all sounds the same and pretty dull. After all, if you manage to get used to this music, it sounds very enjoyable. Minimalism is not only Avant prerogative; Neo can be both minimalistic and enjoyable too. Recommended for Nolan devotees and those who are not afraid of certain amount of “New Age feeling” in Prog.
Review by b_olariu
2 stars 2.5 really

Better than the next one, but don't expect something special either, just the same mellow arrangements like on the key part II, in fact the key part II sounds like this one. Nothing more to add just an mediocre album where playes some of the finest musician of this genre. That doesn't mean they save the album from going down and for good reason. All the pieces are almost boring with nothing to offer, only the bes track from here and maybe from both parts is with no doubt Duel (very strong piece, is really a duel between keys and guitar, super), the rest i don't mention because is awfull. So another big 2 stars, not among the main albums of neo prog movement, at least for me.

Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars Like prog-jester, I do like Clive Nolan very much. I enjoy his work within "Arena" and "Pendragon" and awful lot (looking forward to see the latter pretty soon in Belgium - October third for the 30th anniversary tour of "Pendragon").

This album is more to put into perspective with his work with Wakeman ("Jabberwocky" and "The Hound of the Baskervilles") since this is also a concept album. Of course, this one is much more minimalist or less pompous if you prefer ("Losing A Hold On Life").

Truly a work of a keyboard player with lots of piano sounds, a great vocal partner (who has also been singing on the Nolan-Wakeman projects): Tracy Hitchings. She is very well known in the prog world mainly for her work with "Landmarq".

It is difficult to point out a song in particular, meaning that highlights are not plenty. A sequence of good songs of which the opener features great vocals. Some weaker tracks as well are floating on this album. The instrumental "Crossing The Wasteland" for instance. A showcase for Clive who is too obviously playing his Keith Emerson.

Same sort of comment, but for different reasons, during "Perchance To Dream". The fantastic vocals from "The Great Gig in the Sky" are instantly coming to mind while listening to this good song. But the idea is not new.Still, Tracy is great.

It is not easy to stay tuned for over an hour, which is the duration of this album. A track as "Occam's Tears" (the longest of the whole) is rather boring to my ears. It is completely inconsistent and too much repetitive. And I can't get thrilled by the mellowish "From The Outside In". Press next at this time.

The only moving song (both vocally and musically) is "Healing The Rift". A wonderful melody and a sublime guitar work form the discreet Karl Groom ("Shadowland" and "Threshold").

It is a real pain for me to rate this work with only two stars, but I can honestly call this effort a good one. Clive has used us to much better things.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Another project created by prog rock mastermind Clive Nolan,along with fellow SHADOWLAND guitarist Karl Groom and Neo-Prog diva Tracy Hitchings.Initially STRANGERS ON A TRAIN would work on a three-album trilogy,the first one being ''The key part I:the prophecy'' ,released back in 1990.

No less or more this a personal effort of Clive Nolan ,who composed and arranged the whole work,with his piano and keyboards over-dominating the compositions.Groom and Hitchings seem more like the appropriate additional parts in Nolan's arrangements rather than equal collaborators.The sound recalls more to a soundtrack of a film with a light new-age feeling,but it features also lots of symphonic and grandiose piano parts with obvious Classical references.It's Hitchings' voice,which sometimes brings memories from the Neo Prog scene to the surface ,especially in some ballad-like tracks,while Groom's presence is even more distinctive in a few slow solos and limited bass lines.Additionally,the total absence of drums makes this effort too minimalistic for the average prog-head so beware...only recommended to lovers of Cinematic Music ,who will propably like this one...all others please try some samples first.

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars A new platform for the music of Clive Nolan

One of Clive Nolan's lesser known projects is this (to date) two album trio formed in the early 1990's. Consisting of Nolan on keyboards, Karl Groom (who also worked with Nolan in Shadowland) on guitars, and Tracy Hitchings (Landmarq) on vocals, Strangers on a Train was formed to record a concept piece entitled "The key" in three parts over three albums. Parts one and two were released in 1990 and 1993, but despite repeated good natured prodding, Clive has not completed the set with the release of part 3 to date.

While Nolan's involvement in the bands he is most associated with (Pendragon, Arena) is that of contributing band member, Strangers on a Train sees him taking on the role of "driver" (pun intended!), writing all the songs and co-producing the album (with Groom). The concept is simplistically described as being about a "parallel dimension", the fourteen separate tracks running to just over an hour. The album's underlying musical theme is introduced on the opening "Arrival", recurring thereafter from time to time throughout the rest of the album.

Hitchings stage musical vocals are as strong as they are captivating, complementing Groom's emotion charged lead guitar interludes and Nolan's swathes of keyboards. The keyboard's featured alternate between massed synths and piano which then ranges from the percussive to the beautiful.

Notionally described by the band themselves at the time of the album's release as "Chamber rock", the absence of drums or percussion will mean that this album is not to everyone's taste. The quality of the song-writing and the exemplary performances however give the album the underlying power that renders their absence academic.

Among the highlights are the three consecutive instrumentals "Silent companion", "Crossing the wasteland" and "Perchance to dream" which form a 10+ minute mini-epic cumulating in the "Great gig in the sky" style vocalising on "Perchance to dream". "Occam's tears" is an 8 minute prog suite with some wonderful colours and moods.

While the music here has only a casual relationship with that of Arena or Pendragon, those who have been impressed with his ambitious Caamora releases will be interested to learn that Strangers on a Train was clearly a source of the inspiration for that project.

The Strangers on a Train albums have become increasingly hard to find in recent years, with Part 1 being especially rare. It is pleasing then to report that both the albums have been remastered and re-released by Metal Mind Productions and are currently readily available.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
3 stars From Ignorance To Ecstasy - minus the rhythm section

Strangers On A Train is a trio consisting of three major figures in the Neo-Prog world: Clive Nolan, Tracy Hitchings, and Karl Groom. Before forming Strangers On A Train in 1990, Nolan had played keyboards for Pendragon, and Hitchings had sung for a band called Quasar. All three of them would work together also on Hitchings solo album From Ignorance To Ecstasy (for which Nolan wrote all the material) and Nolan and Groom would go on to form Shadowland, but the three are better known from their separate works with other bands including Arena, Landmarq, and Threshold.

The Key Part 1 - The Prophecy is, as the title implies, the first in a series of albums. Part 2 appeared a few years later, but the planned third part has still not become reality. The sound of this album is rather stripped down, driven by Nolan's grand piano, and Hitchings' lead vocals. Groom's guitars don't play a very prominent role; his presence could hardly be more different from the heavy riffing and fast soling in Threshold. Groom also adds some occasional bass guitar, and Nolan some tasteful synthesiser colourings (and he even adds a few lines of lead vocals himself). Since there are also no drums here whatsoever, this gives further grounds for denying Strangers On A Train the status of Rock band. It is perhaps better seen a musical "project" than as a proper band. It is more progressive than From Ignorance To Ecstasy, but less rocking.

Having this said, this should not be mistaken for a New-Age record. Nolan's keyboards are often lively and authoritative, and Hitchings haunting vocals are full of passion and power (though she doesn't reach the same level of drama as on Quasar's Loreli). Nolan's unquestionable talents as a composer, lyricist, and keyboard player were already on display here, and overall The Key part 1 is a thoroughly enjoyable work of its kind.

Recommended, but not essential

Review by Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars UK project STRANGERS ON A TRAIN was one of a number of different entities featuring the talents of Clive Nolan back in the 90's, and like the majority of them they produced material for the Dutch label SI Music, a label that mainly supplied those with an interest in neo-progressive rock. On this venture Nolan is joined by vocalist Tracy Hitchings and guitarist Karl Groom. Out of print for some years now, the album was reissued by Metal Mind Productions in the fall of 2012.

If you have a strong affection for piano driven pop art sporting powerful female lead vocals, occasional symphonic oriented inserts and melodic neo progressive guitar soloing as its main distinct elements, this album is one that warrants an inspection. Same goes of you're a dedicated fan of Nolan, Groom or Hitchings I guess. Others might want to approach this one with a bit of caution.

Latest members reviews

5 stars I love musicality! Yes, this recosrd is all about musicality. Beautiful melodies and great instrumental skills. The album start out with solo grand piano and immediately you know that this is not another meaningless Rush influenced rock record but something special. I love Pendragon and Arena ... (read more)

Report this review (#98413) | Posted by pirkka | Sunday, November 12, 2006 | Review Permanlink

Post a review of STRANGERS ON A TRAIN "The Key, Part I - The Prophecy"

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.