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Various Artists (Tributes) Leader of the Starry Skies: A Tribute to Tim Smith, Songbook 1 album cover
4.35 | 16 ratings | 5 reviews | 44% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 2010

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Savour - William D. Drake (5:30)
2. Big Ship - Ultrasound (5:37)
3. Fear - Oceansize (2:21)
4. Let Alone My Plastic Doll - Mark Cawthra (4:04)
5. Day Is Gone - The Trudy (3:37)
6. Founding - Stars in Battledress (4:25)
7. Will Bleed Amen - Max Tundra feat. Sarah Measures (4:47)
8. Shaping the River - Julianne Regan (2:18)
9. The Stench of Honey - Knifeworld (5:25)
10. A Little Man and a House - The Magic Numbers (4:35)
11. Is This the Life - Mikrokosmos (6:23)
12. March - North Sea Radio Orchestra (3:32)
13. Lilly White's Party - Robert White feat. Andy Partridge (5:11)
14. Wind and Rains Is Cold - Rose Kemp vs. Rarg (4:53)
15. Up in Annie's Room - Katharine Blake (2:16)
16. Stoneage Dinosaurs - Steven Wilson (4:16)
17. Home of Fadeless Splendour - The Scaramanga Six (4:57)

Total Time 74:07

A free bonus disc entitled "A Loyal Companion" accompanied pre-ordered copies, with the following track listing:

1. Spell with a Shell - Silvery
2. Arnald - Eureka Machines
3. Gloomy News - The Gasman
4. My Trademark - Bug Prentice
5. Victory Egg - Sidi Bou Said
6. To Go Off and Things - Panixphere
7. I Hold My Love in My Arms - Local Girls
8. Dirty Boy - Sterbus
9. Tree Tops High - Jason Pegg
10. Everything Is Easy - The Scaramanga Six
11. Joining the Plankton - A/C Woods
12. Dead Mouse - Spiritwo
13. All Spectacular - Agency
14. Nurses Whispering Verses - Idiot Box

Total Time 52:15

Releases information

Believer's Roast 003. Distributed by Genepool.

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Buy VARIOUS ARTISTS (TRIBUTES) Leader of the Starry Skies: A Tribute to Tim Smith, Songbook 1 Music

VARIOUS ARTISTS (TRIBUTES) Leader of the Starry Skies: A Tribute to Tim Smith, Songbook 1 ratings distribution

(16 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(44%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(31%)
Good, but non-essential (25%)
Collectors/fans only (0%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

VARIOUS ARTISTS (TRIBUTES) Leader of the Starry Skies: A Tribute to Tim Smith, Songbook 1 reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by The Hemulen
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars "This is not just a tribute album. It is an endeavour borne of love."

So says the back cover of this sumptuously produced expression of decades-worth of admiration for one of the most underrated and unfairly overlooked composers in the history of British rock. Were this a tribute album to any musician other than Tim Smith I would consider that "endeavour borne of love" stuff to be a tad trite, but knowing as I do how the music of Mr Smith, (be it through his work under the guise of Spratley's Japs, Oceanlandworld, The Sea Nymphs or his most well-known and enduring project Cardiacs) has the uncanny ability to transform minds, delve deep into whatever it is that makes us think and feel and push and pull at it in a way that is utterly unique and endlessly rewarding, knowing as I do how such music can stir up and instill a lifetime of loyalty and devotion, how it can inspire and strengthen us when the world and its problems appear to be insurmountable, knowing as I do the myriad artists who have been encouraged, nurtured or inspired from afar by Tim's music (only a smattering of which are represented across the two discs of this project), knowing as I hope all who read this do the awful and tragic circumstances which brought about this monumental celebration of one man's genius (not a word I deploy frivolously), knowing all that those words do not seem trite. I would expect nothing less.

The very first breaths of former Cardiacs keyboardist William D. Drake's desperately poignant cover of Savour (from Tim's solo album "Oceanlandworld") set the tone for the remainder of the album. All that love, respect and admiration, all that sorrow and a keen desire to do the music justice has pushed every contributor to not merely cover Smith's work but to inhabit it. Each offering is an account of the artists' own relationship with Tim's music and (where relevant) the man himself.

The diversity of styles and genres represented on this album is a testament to the immense scope and polymorphic nature of the source material. The contributing artists span from alt rock to electronic to contemporary folk and back again. The majority of these covers are bold and idiosyncratic interpretations, but few (if any) sacrifice the essence of what made the originals so great. The unusual vocals and unflinchingly avant-garde elecrionics of Rose Kemp vs Rarg's take on "Wind and Rains is Cold" (originally a rather sweet off-kilter pop song with a touch reggae when it first appeared on Cardiacs' "Guns" album) may be a step too far for many ears, but even the wildest of re-imaginings on this album seem to hold true to that initial promise of "an endeavour borne of love".

I don't wish to dwell too much on personal favourites as I believe each and every contribution to this album to be truly worthy of laudation. However, special mentions must go to William D. Drake's "Savour" (I sincerely doubt I'm the only one to have shed a tear whilst listening to it), Max Tundra's characteristically bright and energetic take on "Will Bleed Amen", Knifeworld's sumptuous and complex arrangement of "The Stench of Honey" (an oft-overlooked Cardiacs song which I've always considered to be up there with the very very best of 'em), former Cardiacs guitarist Bic Hayes' (under the project name mikrokosmos) immensely powerful version of "Is This the Life?" and Robert White's arresting, minimalist interpretation of Sea Nymphs favourite "Lilly White's Party".

This album is an extraordinary achievement and I can only hope that it succeeds in all its aims (in addition to raising money to pay for Tim's care and recovery, this is an attempt to help raise awareness of his unique and deeply rewarding work). It has already succeeded in bringing together a great many musicians and listeners in an act of collective celebration, and has even prompted the official reformation of the short-lived but fondly remembered Ultrasound. Here's hoping that the tantilising subheading "Songbook 1" eventually fulfills its promise...

Note on "A Loyal Companion": I have focused on the main album for most of this review, but a generous bonus CD featuring additional contributions was included with pre-ordered copies. At time of writing, a few remaining copies of this CD are available for purchase separately on the genepool website. I would urge anyone looking to invest in the main album to pick this one up as well. It is every bit as bold, original and powerful as its big sister, with some particularly brilliant offerings from The Gasman, Sidi Bou Said, Bug Prentice, Sterbus, Agency, Spiritwo, Eureka Machines... Frankly, it's all just wonderful, but with such fantastic source material that's hardly a surprise, is it?

Review by frippism
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars WARNING: SUPER LONG REVIEW I'm trying really hard to write something about this album but I don't know where to start. Let me start with this: Buy this album, as it is for a good cause. The best cause. This tribute is for a very very special man named Tim Smith. Who is Tim Smith? Well Son (surprise by the way you're all my sons- famous play reference intended), Tim Smith is more or less the greatest musical genius of the 20th century. To have a mind which is able to write things so very complex, yet so harmonically perfect and beautiful isn't seen often. In fact I would go to say that only Tim has such a mind unbelievable genius that just leaks and spreads to everyone he knows and to anyone who ever listened to his music. His biggest project Cardiacs, is a rather unknown yet passionately followed by every fan. Never have I seen a more devout cult fanbase. And it's not surprising, considering how easy it is for Tim Smith to make you fall in love with your music. It catches you and smashes on the nearest wall, and you thank Tim for that. It touches the weakest part in your body and makes you surrender immediately to its serene and divine beauty, all the while you headbang to the punky riffs of Cardiacs and shed a tear for the beautiful folky pleasure of his side project Sea Nymphs and get your mind blown from the psychedelic wonder which is Spratley's Japs. In the end you succumb to Tim's eternal genius and you kneel down and beg for another tune, another riff. Unfortunately Tim can't supply these tunes. Tim suffered a severe stroke in '08 and is bedridden and ill. This tribute album, which is very aptly titled "Leader Of The Starry Skies" comes to help raise money for Tim, whose genius is so criminally unknown that he can't get enough money to recover. Surprisingly many musicians came and volunteered to participate in this project, this single most very important charity, and the results are rather magical.

The 17 artists that are on the main disc come from a very wide range. Indie, electronica, folk, pop, punk, prog, everything. I think this the greatest thing about Tim's music. You can have hardcore progger and a sneering punk sit together and pledge their allegiance to anything that Tim Smith has created. It just goes to show that Cardiacs are not a prog band in any way shape or form, neither are they a punk band, or a folk band. They are a pop band (as Tim always said). The shiny punk shell coloured in a proggish colour holds within itself a beautiful and heart warming pop song. And that's what makes them stick. They expand their sound so much that people with a taste for them love them, but it's the beautiful pop tune inside that makes them stick so strongly to your concious and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

The songs here are rather freaking wonderful. I'm not going to going into every one of them in detail but will do a track by track:

"Savour" (William D. Drake and His So Called Friends)- William D. Drake, former Cardiacs keyboard player and general genius virtuoso, supplies the first cover taken from Tim's solo album "Oceanlandworld". The track is done beautifully with a wonderful brass section opener and great vocals by Bill. Bone chillingly beautiful and emotionally powerful, Bill opens the tribute in a big way.

"Big Ship" (Ultrasound)- Indie band Ultrasound reunited to make this song, and they do a pretty spectacular job with the anthemic epicness which is "Big Ship" from Cardiacs' "Songs For Ships And Irons". Rather close to the original in delivery but still powerful and emotional.

"Fear" (Oceansize)- Recently split-up band Oceansize are the first Prog band to be featured here. They provide a cover to one of the more hauntingly beautiful songs of all time, taken from "Spratley's Japs" only album. They do a more hard rocking spacey version, which is still enormously beautiful and powerful. Definitely worth checking out by Oceansize fans.

"Let Alone My Plastic Doll" (Mark Cawthra)- This early Cardiacs track is provided by one of the first Cardiacs drummers, Mark Cawthra. The track itself was a fun and rocking affair, and Mark provides a great vocal delivery.

"Day Is Gone" (The Trudy)- I'm not a fan of pop rock band the Trudy, but their version of "Day Is Gone" off of Cardiacs' "Heaven Born And Ever Bright" was definitely enjoyable. Rather similar to the original with a great vocal delivery and nice guitar solo.

"Foundling" (Stars In Battledress)- This track is the last track from Cardiacs' "Sing To God" and is one of the most divine and magical songs in the Cardiacs catalogue, and proggy- folky-pastoral duo "Stars In Battledress" make a beautifully minimalistic and powerful performance. The vocals can give you goosebumps (good thing of course), and the instrumentation is varied and it all sounds like beauty in a box.

"Will Bleed Amen" (Max Tundra)- probably my favourite or almost favourite tribute. Max Tundra's electronic cover of one of my favourite Cardiacs tracks "Will Bleed Amen" is an absolute delight with many lines and synths running all along the tracks poking your brain every once in a while. The vocals by Sarah Measures are great and the general production and arranging of the song is just spectacular. A bucking +.

"Shaping The River" (Jullianne Regan)- singer of goth rock "All About Eve" provides a very eerie and unsettling cover of "Shaping The River" off of the Sea Nymphs eponymous and only album. Her voice is incredible and the ambient spacey feel of the song does wonders to the brainbox.

"The Stench Of Honey" (Knifeworld)- This track provided by the solo project by current Cardiacs guitarist Kavus Torabi is a completely mind blowing and exciting affair. "The Stench Of Honey" from Cardiacs' album "On Land And In the Sea" is a freaky folky experience. Kavus transfers the feeling of the song very well as well as providing his own little brass bits and metal riffs and twisted arrangements. The second prog band here provides a great ride.

"A Little Man And A House" (The Magic Numbers)- Really, unfortunately, not very good. This track (The first track from Cardiacs' "A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window") is provided by one of the more popular (commercially) bands on this tribute, indie band The Magic Numbers. Goes on for too long, bad vocals, rather awkward sounding deliveries and arrangements. Unfortunate and usually skipped by your's truly.

"Is This The Life?" (mikrokosmos)- The original song is probably Cardiacs' biggest... hit sort of. mikrokosmos is a solo project manned by former Cardiacs guitarist Christian Hayes. Bic's (nickname) electronic ambient version is chilling and rather empowering and manages to grab you for the whole 6 minutes.

"March" (North Sea Radio Orchestra)- This is also one of my favourites off the album. Chamber-pop-rock-bitavant-folk ensemble North Sea Radio Orchestra bring us an absolutely delightful version of "March" off "Heaven Born And Ever Bright". Great and quirky instrumentation with a beautiful string section and drop dead gorgeous vocals provide a cover, which I probably shouldn't be saying, is probably better than the original.

"Lily White's Party" (Robert White (you're thinking of Wyatt) feat. Andy Partridge)- My favourite track off of the Sea Nymphs album is given a great cover by Robert White. Also rather similar to the original, great but goes on for a bit too long.

"Wind And Rain Is Cold" (Rose Kemp Vs. Rarg)- I don't know who Rarg is, but freaky indie act Rose Kemp probably gets the prize for best cover on the album. Her cover of lovely pop song "Wind And Rain Is Cold" off of "Guns", is an ever-shifting, creepy, delightful, and utterly progressive affair. Her vocals are really deep and glorious, and the electronic bits are wonderfully added and make the song feel a hell of lot weirder.

"Up In Annie's Room" (Katharine Blake)- The song with probably Tim Smith's greatest lyrics, "Up In Annie's Room" is given a short and powerful A Capella cover by singer Katharine Blake who is known as being one of the singers from vocal group "Medieval Babes" (stupid name...). The vocal layers are great and the song is beautiful.

"Stoneage Dinosaur" (Steven Wilson)- Probably the most well known musician here, leader of Porcupine Tree Steven Wilson provides a cover for one of the few Cardiacs sorta ballads "Stoneage Dinosaur" off of "Songs For Ships And Irons". I'm not a fan of most of PT's work and most of Steven Wilson's work, but damn he does a great job here. The many keyboards and synths provide a powerful and emotional cover. His vocals are great, and the minimalistic drums compliment the song perfectly.

"Home Of Fadeless Splendour" (The Scramanga Six)- There are currently five people in the Scramange Six, and for that they should be hanged! A Pop-Cardiacs influenced group, the Scramanga Six provide the last song on the album, which is the first song from "Heaven Born And Ever Bright". Let me say this in caps lock: THIS IS THE SINGLE MOST BEAUTIFUL AND MAGICAL SONG YOU WILL EVER LISTEN TO. Well at least if you're a Cardiacs fan. The beginning always gives me severe goosebumps, and the songs builds up to a wonderful crescendo which is inspirational and the vocals are so passionate and real and the playing just screams at you "I love this band and this song" and you can feel the general celebration Cardiacs are. THANK YOU SCRAMANGA SIX FOR THIS DIVINE EXPERIENCE.

This album is a very important and fun treasure for Cardiacs fans and is not a bad entrance for people yet unaware of the Genius with a capital G that Tim Smith is. Buy this album just for Tim, you don't have to listen to it if you really don't want to. 4.5 stars for the music and 5 stars for the cause. This is essential for everyone, and especially for Tim!

Tim, get well for all the fishes in the pond, and I sure as hell hope this album helps you get better!!!!!!!

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars TIM SMITH ( 3 July 1961 - 21 July 2020 ) was without doubt one of the most respected musicians of the art rock world to emerge in the last 50 years with his unique mix of psychedelic pop, progressive rock and post-punk with the Cardiacs as well as the lesser known acts The Sea Nymphs, Spratley Japs and Panixphere. Add to that a short stint in Mr & Mrs Smith & Mr Drake as well as a solo album titled "Tim Smith's Extra Special OceanLandWorld." The man is considered a true genius in the world of pronk (prog x punk) for the innovative songwriting techniques employed on the Cardiacs albums that began under the moniker Cardiac Arrest. Albums like "A Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window" and "On Land and in the Sea" are considered by many including myself to be absolute masterpieces of indie DIY art rock that please punk rockers and hardened proggers alike. No easy feat there.

In response to TIM SMITH's combo heart attack and stroke that took place in 2008 and landed him in a London hospital, the compilation LEADER OF THE STARRY SKIES: A TRIBUTE TO TIM SMITH, SONGBOOK 1 was created by a long list of artists who either stated a strong Cardiacs influence or an above average admiration in SMITH's musical heritage including a few musicians who worked with the Cardiacs directly. This album of 17 tracks was released to raise funds for his ongoing care and recovery which also signified how a given artist can be extremely loved in the underground world of music but still reaped very few financial rewards from his / her contributions to the said underground. While the album was released in 2010 and is still available, the original preorder edition offered a 14-track bonus disc titled "A Loyal Companion." Unfortunately there are few samples of this bonus disc so i can only review the one album that clocks in at 73:47 and features popular artists such as Steven Wilson, Oceansize, North Sea Orchestra and Knifeworld covering their favorite TIM SMITH tunes.

This album is the ultimate tribute to a most respected musician in need and not only consists of Cardiacs covers but songs sampled from all of SMITH's projects. "Savour" by former Cardiacs member William D. Drake starts the compilation off and was lifted from SMITH's solo album. Other artists involved in this project include The Magic Numbers covering "A Little Man And A House," Robert White of The Milk And Honey Band with Andy Partridge of XTC covering "Lillywhite's Party" and the Britpop band Ultrasound covering "Big Ship" which reunited specifically to record this one track. Despite the unique idiosyncrasies that TIM SMITH employed to make his music sound like no other, the artists involved in this project, while staying true to the original intent of the music, manage to add their own stamp on these tracks which makes this an unexpected pleasure as i rarely find tribute albums to be worthy of exploration however TIM SMITH evoked something beyond the average musician and clearly garnered nothing but pure respect from the various alternative oriented musicians who followed in his footsteps.

While none of the tracks on LEADER OF THE STARRY SKIES: A TRIBUTE TO TIM SMITH, SONGBOOK 1 eclipse the original recordings, this compilation of TIM SMITH songs is the ultimate tribute to one of the world's greatest songwriters and will be most revered by punk rockers and proggers alike. Despite the album emerging ten years ago in response to SMITH's medical needs, it is more than fitting to finally check out this fine compilation of underground indie artists to celebrate the life of one of the most unique singer / songwriter / guitarists of all time. TIM SMITH was lucky enough to survive another decade but finally left this crazy world at the age of 59 on the 21st of July, 2020 following another heart attack. All i can say is?. THANK YOU, TIM SMITH FOR YOUR CONTRIBUTION TO THE WORLD OF UNDERGROUND MUSIC! You are truly a hero in my book and deserve a respite from this tumultuous and messed up planet we call home. Your music will live on forever and your legend will only grow. R.I.P, dude!

Review by DangHeck
3 stars I'll come right out and say it, and prepare for the flak. The Cardiacs are a band I'm excited to continue to delve into, but I still have an elementary, basic understanding of who they are and what exactly they do. But here I am, delving into their music, specifically in tribute to their frontman, Tim Smith. As slowly as I've delved into this iconic group, it's not like I'm delving any slower than with most any other band or artist haha. Even more timely, 10 years after this album's release, Smith has unfortunately passed away, in 2020, at 59.

The album opens with "Savour" as performed by Smith's Cardiacs bandmate William D. Drake, a sort of psychedelic, even Baroque number. This is certainly grand. Next is Ultrasound's performance of Big Ship" , a big sound, fit for a Britpop band, actually. Super quirk, with horns and interesting synths. And this track in and of itself makes sense of specifically Andy Partridge's later feature [You'll see, too, though, that Partridge's feature makes less sense than what I'm making it out to be here...]. Then we have Psychedelic band Oceansize's take on "Fear", which is such a great song. Grandiose and memorable.

"Let Alone My Plastic Doll", here performed by another fellow Cardiac, Mark Cawthra, is another big song. Next is the rhythmically alluring "Day Is Gone" as performed by The Trudy, a female-fronted Post-Punk group founded(?) by The Cardiacs' drummer Peter Tagg. This is starkly juxtaposed by the soft, balladic "Founding" performed by Stars in Battledress. My mind honestly immediately goes to early GG, like something penned by the great Kerry Minnear. Another stark juxtaposing is the wild, if not unhinged (if not Zappa-esque, though innately Bri'ish) "WIll Bleed Amen" as performed by Max Tundra and Sarah Measures (the latter apparently of The Monsoon Bassoon). So fun. Definitely going to be checking Tundra out.

Then we have the much more minimal (not a difficult task) and ethereal "Shaping the River", performed by Julianne Regan. Then we have the seemingly great-purposefully RIO Knifeworld (though identified generally as Crossover Prog here) performing the ever-quirky "The Stench of Honey"! Next is the at first very very minimal "A Little Man and a House", performed by The Magic Numbers, it then shifts to a very... highlands-like lilting waltz. One of my least favorites. Then Mikrokosmos covered "Is This the Life", a large, noisy number with scurrying and buzzing synths. Sort of Industrial?

Next is "March" as performed by North Sea Radio Orchestra, a modern Chamber band. Quirky, but classically poised, of course. Then is the Andy Partridge feature on Robert White's rendition of "Lilly White's Party". Am I an idiot? I can't find out who White is or what he's known for... This'n's super minimal, creeping yet optimistic. Not at all the type of song that I expected from Partridge. Very seldom do we hear this sort of quietness from him... Interesting. The creep really is the draw to the song. Relatively static and yet offering much in texture.

Then it's "Wind and Rains is Cold", performed by Rose Kemp Vs Rarg... Interesting... No clue... This song is industrial as well. Very electronic-forward. Almost reminds me of PC Music or the harshest of Hyperpop (like Sophie).... What the hell... Is someone in my house?! haha. Anyways, Sophie is better. Listen to her haha. More minimal Gothic Rock representation [I just realized I didn't mention the other artist that fits this bill, though I don't feel like going back and figuring that out... Sorry?] is in the form of Katherine Blake's "Up in Annie's Room"... Not sure what to say on it.

Next we have "Stoneage Dinosaurs" [Why is that a single word?...] as performed by probably the most recognizable name of the whole lot, Steven Wilson. Super minimal as well. It was pretty anyways... And finally "Home of Fadeless Splendour" was performed by The Scaramanga Six, an Art-Alternative... Rockabilly band?! haha. Huge song! Pretty great track to end it all off, really. To sum it up, the strengths of this tribute can be found largely in the front half.

Latest members reviews

4 stars WARNING: LENGTHY REVIEW AHEAD! if you buy (make that BUY, not copy, download, rip, stream) this one, you will contribute to a very good cause indeed. tim smith, the enigmatic singer, guitarist and songwriter/composer of that seminal english underground band Cardiacs suffered a severe stroke i ... (read more)

Report this review (#439577) | Posted by iguana | Wednesday, April 27, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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