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MR. SO & SO

Neo-Prog • United Kingdom


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Mr. So & So biography
MR SO & SO were a band from the North West of England in the late 1990's (1992 - 2000) who released three albums and gigged extensively in the UK including a support slot on MARILLION's 'This Stange Engine' UK tour. The music is similar to MARILLION and PALLAS with a strong IT BITES influence. The band were Kieran Twist - keyboards, Leon Parr - drums, David Foster - guitar and Shaun McGowan - vocals and bass guitar. Charlotte Evans joined on backing vocals for the bands third album "The Overlap". The band split in 2000, but reconvened as a working unit during 2006, recording some new material and performing live. A new studio release is expected during 2007.

Of the three discs "Paraphernalia" (Pagan Media 1992) the first was OK but the second "Compendium" (Cyclops 1994) and final "The Overlap" (Dorian 1998) are excellent and some of the best UK prog music of the late 1990's.

Highly recommended..!

: : : David Preston, ENGLAND : : :

Mr. So & So official website

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MR. SO & SO discography


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MR. SO & SO top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.41 | 11 ratings
Paraphernalia
1992
3.65 | 19 ratings
Compendium
1994
3.31 | 21 ratings
The Overlap
1998
4.00 | 14 ratings
Sugarstealer
2009
3.81 | 32 ratings
Truths, Lies & Half Lies
2013

MR. SO & SO Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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MR. SO & SO Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 2 ratings
So & So Sketchbook
2012

MR. SO & SO Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

MR. SO & SO Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Overlap by MR. SO & SO album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.31 | 21 ratings

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The Overlap
Mr. So & So Neo-Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars While Mr. So & So seemingly had built a good public profile with good sales, plenty of interviews and strong radio airplay, first few problems appeared in the horizon.The band failed to establish a management first approaching Colin Harvey, then Steve Grady and returned back to self-promotion values.Only when they caught the attention of Marillion's Steve Rothery, they got signed by his short-lived Dorian label, still the members recorded their parts in different studios, while tension during the process was always present.As a result they supported Marillion on their 97' ''This strange engine'' tour without having a new album out, a fact which prooved to be quite harmful for the band.After these delays, ''The overlap'' eventually came out in 1998.

While ''The overlap'' continues from where ''Compendium'' stopped, there is still something missing in a nonetheless very decent album.The problems reflected to a thin production, but the music remains inspired, emotional and often grandiose, well within the standards of the Neo Prog genre.They still sound basically like THIRD QUADRANT, building their ideas on atmospheric soundscapes, deep vocals, spacey synthesizers and laid-back guitar lines.While their material lacks dynamics during most of the album's length, the arrangements are well-performed, memorable and sensitive with good keyboard solos, touching guitar moves and a great lyricism.Charlotte Evans had become a regular member on backing voices, resulting to the more mature Mr. So & So album regarding the vocal depth.The most energetic parts appear in the second half of the album, seeing the band flirting with a style established by ARENA and MARILLION during ''Seasons end' :More expressive vocals, more powerful guitars and plenty of grandieur during the keyboard lines, fully respecting the need of some calmer interludes with piano and synthersizers in evidence.The overall result is an album flirting with a Neo Prog style fully displayed by more recent groups a few years later, atmospheric, smooth but also pompous musicianship with evident balance between melody and atmosphere.

Another goodie by these overlooked British veterans.Impressive music with great, memorable moments, lowered by a mediocre production.Still warmly recommended.

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 Truths, Lies & Half Lies by MR. SO & SO album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.81 | 32 ratings

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Truths, Lies & Half Lies
Mr. So & So Neo-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

5 stars I was recently asked for a photo of myself in the early 'Feedback' days by Mick Magic of Music & Elsewhere, and the one that seemed most relevant was one where Artur Chaclowski of MLWZ was visiting me at my home in England approximately 20 years ago. The reason for putting that at the beginning of a review? I was wearing a bright red So & So shirt. I first became aware of the band when Steve Paine of Legend sent me their demo tape, as he was going to be recording their debut album at Pagan and releasing it on the label and he wanted to know my opinion. I was blown away, not only by the musicianship of the band (they met at music college) but the incredible driven arrangements, and it was only then that I found out that they were still very young.

Over the years I reviewed everything they released, and Dave Foster (guitar) and I kept in close contact. I managed to see them in concert a couple of times, and they changed from a four piece to a five as Charlotte joined as a second singer. For one reason or another they broke up, but Dave and Charlotte formed Sleeping Giant, before the decision was made that the time was right for Mr. So & So to start up again. Only Magoo (bass, vocals), The Dave and Charlotte were back for the ride but the resulting 'Sugarstealer' four years ago was a real ear opener. And so, here we are in 2013 with an album that certainly looks promising from the outside with stunning artwork that is so good that the band didn't put their name or a title on the front. But what about the music?

The introduction to "Paperchase" is metal, which turns into prog metal, before settling down into a duet that is quite different to what has gone before. The band keeps crunching back, then letting the singers in, with a beck and call that is both effective and compelling. It is obvious from the off that this is going to be a very different So & So album as they have brought in some more overtly commercial elements, yet are tempering that with chunks of Tool and even some Zappa. Musically there has been a shift in the bass playing as well, with Shaun no longer driving as much as he used to, which used to be a key part of their overall sound, but Charlotte is now firmly embedded in the overall sound and it is hard to imagine her not being there.

Musically there is so much going on that it is difficult to know where to start, with Dave being strident and powerful when required, or delicate and almost invisible at others, while Stu has brought an almost jazz-like feel to the drumming with some wonderful counterpoints and great use of cymbals. Vocals are incredibly important with some lush harmonies and even a little a capella and Shaun is definitely singing the best I have ever heard, while there are more ballads in the mix. I have to be honest and say that there are large parts of "You're Coming Home" that make me think of The Beautiful South, but way more lush, and should be released as a single.

But for all the complex arrangements and dynamic overtones that are being portrayed throughout the album as a whole, it is the fifth "Looking Glass" that brings it all home for me, with Andy providing some delicate piano that allows Charlotte to really shine, with just slight harmonies from Shaun here and there. It is very reminiscent of Anna Ryder, emotional, fraught, genuine and honest. The album is a real mix of styles, and it does take a while for the listener to 'get' the album as a whole instead of just a collection of numbers, but to me that is a strength as it really does reward repeated plays and the more I have listened to it the more I have got from it.

I am always nervous about receiving an album from certain bands, as I have known them personally for so long that I know that my attempted objective view will be tempered by history, so what happens if they release a duff one? Happily I have not been put into that situation here, and these guys just keep maturing and changing without totally losing their roots. Just listen to the guitar break in "Jingo" and you'll see what I mean as Dave cranks it up and totally changes the direction and impact of the song. You won't be disappointed www.mrsoandso.com

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 Truths, Lies & Half Lies by MR. SO & SO album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.81 | 32 ratings

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Truths, Lies & Half Lies
Mr. So & So Neo-Prog

Review by robbob

4 stars It is strange...

I hated Mr So So last album..and now i love this one...

For me an important improve...

Mr So and So is definitely prog rock....similar to It Bites works ,specially their last album.

But this is not neo prog...is eclectic .Many styles of prog rock mixed:

Heavy prog,neo prog,crossover prog,folk prog....

This album is very good..very good songs ..sound engineering excellent.

Very good vocals,instrumentation and arrangements.

So i am happy .Avery good surprise..because i thought i didn t like this band ..but i only disliked one album of them...but this work is very good.

4 stars ...because this is really an excellent addition to prog rock music.

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 Truths, Lies & Half Lies by MR. SO & SO album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.81 | 32 ratings

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Truths, Lies & Half Lies
Mr. So & So Neo-Prog

Review by ProgShine
Collaborator Errors & Omissions and Crossover Team

3 stars Nowadays more and more bands are using the crowdfunding system to get their albums done. It's a clean and smooth way of being able to record and release your albums being an independent and out of the big media kind of band. Crowdfunding is another word, at least in the musical world, for pre-order. The difference is that you KNOW that you're actually helping the band to release a record.

Only in the last 2 years we had Renaissance, 17 Pygmies, Half Past Four, Spock's Beard, Tom Brislin, Jordan Rudess and Mr. So & So with successful (or almost) crowdfunding campaigns. It makes you think that you're responsible for your favorite band releasing a new album, and in some sense, it's true!

The new Mr. So & So album, Truths, Lies And Half Lies (2013) was crowdfunding through the Pledge Music website and with a great success. The band achieved 16% more pledgers that they needed to.

Mr. So & So is an English band that was actually formed in 1989 by Dave Foster (guitars) and Shaun McGowan (vocals and bass). Throughout the 90's the band released 3 albums. In 2000 they broke up and the band had no foreseen future. But during the year 2005 the spark for a Mr. So & So reunion was lit and the band got together again resulting in an album Sugarstealer (2009).

The most recent album, Truths, Lies And Half Lies (2013) was released in May 15 and it's quite a good puzzle. Mr. So & So does not play straight Prog Rock. The band is a mix of modern Prog in an interesting way.

The album starts with 'Paperchase' a heavy and harsh guitar riff, but not without offering some keyboards by Andy Rigler. A perfect union between heavy Rock and Prog. The second track, 'Apophis', brings the mix I was talking about, modern influences but not without letting go the human element of the music.

The third track 'Truths, Lies & Half-Lies' is one of my favorites. Mr. So & So has one thing that I always loved in bands, two vocalists. And they use it very efficiently on Truths, Lies And Half Lies (2013). Charlotte Evans (vocals) and Shaun McGowan (codenamed as Magoo in the album) vocals are really perfectly united.

Then the album follows a slower pace, beginning with 'House Of Dreams' that is a slow track and didn't bring anything new. 'Looking Glass' has Charlotte in the main vocals for the first time in a piano kind of ballad. A pretty and strong one. 'Jingo' is another slower one, but a bit more hypnotic. They were able to take a song that seemed to be too 'normal' and gave it a special flavor.

By the time of 'You're Coming Home' I started wondering why so many ballads. The band has a pretty unique sound using heavy elements and some upbeat songs, but somehow ended up buried in ballads during half of Truths, Lies And Half Lies (2013). 'Breathe' is no different and then the album starts to go down. Don't get me wrong, all ballads are good tracks, but is a weird way of doing a tracklist for an album. To have some heavier and faster songs in the beginning and then slower ballads almost till the end.

Only on the 9th song 'Time For Change' the band comes back to their initial and, at least for me, more interesting sound. A great track. 'Compliance' is a strange mix of modern beats and keyboard collages but also full of vocals.

Truths, Lies And Half Lies (2013) comes in a pretty and simple digipack with an astonishing drawing by Iyan De Jesus and a simple (but with everything that you need) booklet. 'Please' closes the album as the longest track with over 10 minutes. A bit too much for a ballad. Also, it's the song that tries to mix the two band's elements, the ballads and the heavier/modern sound, but not completely successful. The acoustic ending is the most interesting part.

In general, Mr. So & So's Truths, Lies And Half Lies (2013) is a great album, but it makes me puzzled as I listen to it. It seems I'm listening to two different bands, the one in the 3 initial and 3 final tracks and the one in the other 5 songs. All in all, it is a very good album that has many details to be busy with while you put your headphones on and forget about the world for a while. And isn't that what music is for many of us?

(Originally posted on progshine.net)

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 Compendium by MR. SO & SO album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.65 | 19 ratings

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Compendium
Mr. So & So Neo-Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars ''Paraphernalia'' was a good enough album to establish Mr. So & So as one of the most promising British Prog bands.An intense period of gigging followed, during which the band was approached by the Cyclops label, which was interested to release a second album by the group.Mr. So & So visited the Pagan Studios in Runcorn and with the help of Legend's Steve Paine the recordings led to the ''Compendium'' work in 1994.In the album Charlotte Evans makes her first appearance with the group as a guest singer.

The style remains a very atmospheric Neo Prog with a romantic 80's vibe, obviously influenced by the music of PINK FLOYD and at the end sounding like a mix of MARILLION and THIRD QUADRANT.With some very long tracks the band passes through different tempos and moods, highlighted by excellent vocals, interesting hypnotic guitar solos and some accomplished keyboard textures by Kieren Twist.However there are moments, when the approach of the group gets a complex nature, filled with dual synthesizer fanfares, vintage organs in a 70's mood and complicated breaks.The guitars become heavier as the album unfolds, with the shorter pieces sounding a lot like a pre-PORCUPINE TREE version, even including some more experimental keyboard touches and more passionate vocals blended with grandiose synthesizers.The closing long cuts show a return to the band's roots, definitely following a more melodic/sensitive Neo Prog vein.Warm singing lines, PINK FLOYD-ian soundscapes and emotional guitar parts in a MARILLION vein complete a great album.

''Compendium'' belongs among the very versatile albums of the Neo Prog path, alternating between smoother and heavier material as well as melodic and more rhythmic moments.A great work indeed, no less than strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

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 Sugarstealer by MR. SO & SO album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.00 | 14 ratings

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Sugarstealer
Mr. So & So Neo-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

5 stars So there I am working my way through a load of files and I came across a press release for this album. "That can't be right" I thought, "I reviewed this years ago". A quick check later and it appears that this one fell through the cracks, for which I am both very annoyed and embarrassed. The only thing to do is to right the wrong and get on with it now.

Well, who exactly are Mr So & So? To answer that you have to go back to 1991 when they released the cassette 'Thoughts of Fear & Principle' (yep, still got my copy), which was recorded at Pagan Media. Steve Paine saw promise in this group of young lads and offered them a deal, and a year later they released their first CD 'Paraphernalia'. What made these guys so very different to the rest of the prog bands around was that not only were they all extremely talented at a young age, but also that their sound was based around bass/guitar interplay as opposed to keyboards. Drummer Leon Parr and keyboard player Kieran Twist were great musicians, but it was guitarist Dave Foster and bassist/singer Shaun 'Magoo' McGowan that gave them the edge.

The next album was 'Compendium' where the band became a five-piece with the addition of another singer in Charlotte Evans. It was about this time that I saw the band play live for the first time, supporting John Wetton, and they had their slot cut short as they were going down so well! Steve Rothery entered the story at this point, and he signed the band to his own label for their next album 'The Overlap' and they found themselves as the support act for Marillion on their 'This Strange Engine' tour (I caught them at Shepherd's Bush Empire and they were just stunning). But, the album wasn't ready in time for the tour and in 2000 the decision was taken to fold the band. Dave, Charlotte and Leon formed Sleeping Giant (whose album 'Primates' is well worth grabbing if you can find it) and played some gigs (I managed to catch them support Karnataka, and there is no doubt in my mind who should have been supporting who). But, in 2005 Dave and Shaun met, and after some discussions started playing music together again. Charlotte became involved and the decision was taken to resurrect Mr So & So. Kieran and Leon weren't available, but they managed to find replacements in Anthony Hindley (keys/vocals) and Stuart Browne (drums).

And so, in 2009 they released 'Sugarstealer'. To say I was nervous when playing this for the first time was something of an understatement. Back in the Nineties Dave and I often spoke to each other, I had travelled many miles to see them in gigs, I had even given a flexi of theirs away in 'Feedback', and these days we were friends on Facebook! What would I do if I didn't like it?

Luckily that was never an issue. From the first note it was just like old times, yet way more polished and mature. I did sometimes use to have a concern with how Charlotte would be able to make room for herself in a band so tightly musically dominated by Magoo and Dave, but here the balance is just right. There are passages where Charlotte is absent, or just providing backing vocals, and others where she is centre stage ? it is all about balance. I remember Bill Bruford saying that he once received a songwriting credit in King Crimson for a song where he didn't play ? his decision to be absent made the song what it was, and that is the same here. The guys have grown up and there is no need for anyone to be wrestling to be above anyone else, it is all about the end result.

There really is no prog band that sounds like these guys, they have taken the normal prog influences, added Tool, FNM, The Police, Zappa and a while load of others to create a sound that is truly and uniquely their own. They are touring again now, and will be supporting Marillion again in Europe (you lucky, lucky people) with plans to have a new album available at the beginning of 2013.

I should have reviewed this three years ago (and thought I had, honest) ? but here it is now. This is a five star album from a five star band. Welcome back guys. www.mrsoandso.com

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 The Overlap by MR. SO & SO album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.31 | 21 ratings

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The Overlap
Mr. So & So Neo-Prog

Review by lazland
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This is a band who I saw supporting Marillion some years ago, during the This Strange Engine tour. At the time I thought they were, well, "so so", if you will pardon the pun, and I lost track of them really, although that was not difficult as it was to be over a decade between this release and the follow up. With new work in preparation, the band have re- released this album as a free download (see the relevant forum post for the link) to try to generate some enthusiasm.

There are some good moments on this album, and when they are good, they are very good. There are also, unfortunately, some throwaway moments, and the decision really is whether these are enough to put off the potential buyer's interest in exploring them further.

I think the first thing I should clearly point out is that you should not be fooled by the Prog Archives sub genre label of neo-prog. This is, at best, crossover prog, and really prog related in parts if I am to be honest. Mr So & So, on this evidence, are a good mellow rock band with prog tendancies. Sure, there are sections where prog influences are heard, Marillion being the obvious one, certainly as far as David Foster's guitar work and Kieran Twist's keyboards are concerned, which have Rothery and Kelly admiration stamped all over them. Regrettably, they are not as good as the masters, but that would, in this listener's eyes, be next to impossible anyway.

The album opener is truly shocking. Metaphor is a mess of a post indie track, meandering into a welcome conclusion, and this is dangerous as it might put off many from exploring further.

Thankfully, the band redeem themselves in the wonderful, gentle, prog layered Spacewalk, where Foster especially is on very good form.

The throwaway label reasserts itself with Drowners, another meandering track featuring at its heart Kieran Twist's early Mark Kelly impersonation on keyboards, whilst Shaun McGowan reminds me very much of a New Romantic singer whose name is infuriatingly beyond me. Far too light to be anything other than an interesting diversion, it is pleasant, certainly, but instantly forgettable.

Isn't It Amazing is basically a pop rock single that is fun, but, again, throwaway.

The opening riff to Subterfuge offers a very welcome change of pace and direction. McGowan, at last, provides us with evidence that he is a rock singer, and the band sound far more convincing as a unit on a track which reminds me of a couple of the more thoughtful tracks from Holidays In Eden with the contrasts between rock, pop, and prog inside the eight minutes available, with all the time signature changes that description suggests. There are also some nice cello effects (unless there was an uncredited real thing at work!). All in all, a good rock track with rich prog undertones.

This welcome tone continues in the shorter Salamander, featuring some excellent vocal interplay between McGowan and the backing vocalist, Charlotte Evans, on the chorus. The latter also, for the first time on the album, comes into her own with a lush vocal solo, but the track is especially memorable because of Twist's rich keyboard layers both overlaying and leading the riffs. On the first few listens, this is very misleading in its apparent simplicity, because it is actually a very clever and well performed rock song.

The title track has God himself guest performing. Naturally, Rothery is instantly recognisable, and this is a piece of music as good as the opener is bad. Whilst it is clearly written at the same juncture in the band's development, The Overlap has an urgency and emotion palpably missing from Metaphor, and for the first time you hear Leon Parr's drums and McGowan's bass leading rather than following the action.

The best is saved until last. Coup De Grace is precisely that, an epic eight minute plus track which commences with some extremely dark, and extremely good, vocal effects and harmonies, backed by a heavy, lingering synth. The changes of mood in this piece of music are exceptional, it is extremely well performed, and is a joy to listen to. Twist excels on piano and keys, and we hear far more of Evans, and she adds so much to McGowan's feeling, melancholic vocals. The symphonic passages on the chorus are brilliantly performed. in conclusion, this is a glorious prog rock track which manages that difficult trick of pulling you in and back out emotionally.

This is a good album overall. Criticisms are that Evans is criminally underused, because when she is allowed to express herself, she shines. More of her, please. When the album plods, it plods badly. However, what we used to call side two reasserts this album in a very strong fashion, almost an act of redemption, and to return to my earlier query about wishing to explore further, then the answer is a clear yes. The concluding track and Spacewalk, especially, are amongst the best I have from this period.

Three stars. A good album that I would heartily recommend.

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 Paraphernalia by MR. SO & SO album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.41 | 11 ratings

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Paraphernalia
Mr. So & So Neo-Prog

Review by KABSA

4 stars i generally ratify `progrules` review i personally only really liked the first 2 releases by pendragon ., and odd tracks thereafter , so by 1995 there was room for the likes of `so & so` to have a go the first trk is `dragon-like` but with crunchier guitar and an excellent bass player to. 2nd trk has power and dynamics , plus the vocalist seems to me to be rather good and strong. trk`s 3 & 5 are `it bites` like trk 4 is akin `the alarm` [prog styled] and a bit like `haze` to. trk 6 is similar to `max webster` with a `pallas` touch in there aswell. trk 7 is an excellent instrumental [in 3 pts] trk 8 is in 4 pts and is a `fiery` pendragon-like finisher ps ., the `third song` to me is one [of two] `weakest tracks` on the cd each trk out of ten : 8 / 8 / 6 / 7 / 6 / 6-7 / 8-9 / 8-9 so pretty good then plus if you see the original cheap [buy it] as in nr mint nick you can expect to get around 20.00 for it.

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 Sugarstealer by MR. SO & SO album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.00 | 14 ratings

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Sugarstealer
Mr. So & So Neo-Prog

Review by robbob

2 stars My first album of Mr.So and So in a promo copy.

Well i find this work so ...so...regular.

This work has nothing to do with Pallas or It Bites...completely different.

This is not neo-prog is nearly crossover prog ..in the line of other bands that try to create a modern prog rock.

This is modern ..but in my opinion not good crossover prog.

A collection of modern pop rock prog songs ..but with average short songs in the line of the crossover prog..but in comparison to Pineapple Thief or Big Big Train works ... remembering best crossover modern prog in their latest albums ...this album is mediocre .

I haven t listened yet their other albums but if the were similar to Pallas or It Bites I think they should return to those inspirations .

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 Compendium by MR. SO & SO album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.65 | 19 ratings

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Compendium
Mr. So & So Neo-Prog

Review by progrules
Prog Reviewer

3 stars A lot of praise and positive reviews so far for this second album by Mr. So&So but interesting enough they all come from guest reviewers. I'm not saying they are not reliable because of that or per se too enthusiastic but after having listened to and reviewed the debut I could hardly believe this band had grown into an excellent band all over sudden. The debut was a nice album but hardly more than that. Time to take a close look at this successor.

The album starts with two small epics. The first is ok with overall the same level of quality as the debut maybe slightly better. let's say a 3,25* case. Next composition is a lot more interesting especially in the second half where they do an excellent Marillion imitation for about one minute (around 8:00 mark), rest of the song is not Marillion at all I believe, more like early Pendragon like I said in my first review. This is mainly caused by the vocalist who sounds a lot like Nick Barrett, typical British, I really like these kind of vocals and accents. This second mini-epic scores around 3,75* to me. Third song could as well have been on the debut and is a typical 3* effort. Next is already the third very long song and at the end two more are following so at least where these mini-epics are concerned this album is pretty impressive. And I have to admit none of these 5 songs is sloppy, poor or even average. Fifth and sixth song are two short ones again and these are both again around 3 stars composition and quality wise. Good songs but no more. Sixth is an instrumental by the way again sounding like Marillion in the beginning doing the Mosley impersonation. Last two mini-epics are sounding ok once again for the first one and a half bit but then we come to the second half of last song The Visitor. Goodness me, that's where they got the positive reviews from no doubt. What a terrific guitar display we are treated with here. Best few minutes of the entire album without a doubt.

So there we have the explanation for all the enthusiasm. With such a grand finale you leave this album with an almost ecstatic feeling and you're indeed tempted to give a four star rating. But looking at the whole album a bit more critically I can only conclude the other 64 minutes are somewhere between good and very good where quality level is concerned. So I wouldn't want to call this an overall excellent album. But it's no doubt better than the debut and comes a lot closer to a four star rating. I'll leave it at three though (3,4).

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Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition.

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