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STRANGERS ON A TRAIN

Neo-Prog • United Kingdom


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Strangers On A Train biography
STRANGERS ON A TRAIN was formed in 1990 as another of Clive NOLAN's projects. Nolan here is accompanied by Karl Groom and Tracy Hitchings, the singer for LANDMARQ. Nolan wrote all the music and lyrics for what is at some point supposed to be a trilogy of albums called "The Key". "The Key Part I: The Prophecy" was released in 1990 and its follow-up "The Key Part II: The Labyrinth" was released three years later in 1993. The band mixed in new age music and cinematic soundscapes into its neo-prog on these two releases.

Following the release of Part II, the band made a handful of live appearances. The plan was always to release three albums, but the members' success in other bands (ARENA/LANDMARQ/THRESHOLD etc.) put these plans on hold indefinitely. However, the first two CDs by the band have subsequently been rereleased by Verglas Music. Although it has been many years since the release of the first two parts, the members still plan to release Part III at some point.

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The Key Part II: The LabyrinthThe Key Part II: The Labyrinth
Remastered · Import
METAL MIND 2012
Audio CD$10.60
$12.64 (used)
The Key Part I: The ProphecyThe Key Part I: The Prophecy
Remastered · Import
METAL MIND 2012
Audio CD$10.09
$10.09 (used)
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2.93 | 35 ratings
The Key Part I - The Prophecy
1990
3.07 | 33 ratings
The Key Part 2 - The Labyrinth
1993

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STRANGERS ON A TRAIN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Key Part 2 - The Labyrinth by STRANGERS ON A TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 1993
3.07 | 33 ratings

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The Key Part 2 - The Labyrinth
Strangers On A Train Neo-Prog

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, with Alan Reed joining the ranks for this second album in the series. These productions were planned as a three album long cycle, and while only the initial two ultimately were recorded and released, these have been rather popular. Out of print for some years now, both albums were reissued by Metal Mind Productions in the fall of 2012.

Neo progressive rock with a foundation in the symphonic parts of the progressive rock universe is how Strangers On A Train comes across in style on their second outing. The compositions are still more often than not based around piano motifs, and the role of the lead vocals is just about as prominent as on their initial production. The compositions themselves appear more advanced though, leaving the more distinct pop art style of the preceding disc behind for a more sophisticated overall sound. That those who have a soft spot for the gentler parts of the neo progressive productions of the 90's should be a core audience for this disc is a statement that should be fairly uncontroversial.

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 The Key Part I  - The Prophecy by STRANGERS ON A TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 1990
2.93 | 35 ratings

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The Key Part I - The Prophecy
Strangers On A Train Neo-Prog

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.

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 The Key Part 2 - The Labyrinth by STRANGERS ON A TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 1993
3.07 | 33 ratings

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The Key Part 2 - The Labyrinth
Strangers On A Train Neo-Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars In the shadow of Shadowland

Clive Nolan is a genius and one of my favourite people in music. He is the brain behind Arena, Shadowland, Casino, and numerous other musical projects (I don't include Pendragon here as there he is "merely" the keyboard player). The two albums by Strangers On A Train, both released in the early 90's, have long been the missing pieces in my Nolan collection. It is very good news that these albums now have been re-issued and thereby been made more widely available and thus less difficult to find. I've been listening a lot to both albums recently and both are worthy additions.

Like on part one, this sequel features Nolan on keyboards, Tracy Hitchings on vocals, and Karl Groom on guitars. But this time they have added a second lead vocalist as well in Alan Reed (who is better known from Pallas). Both Reed and Hitchings are excellent vocalists with equally distinctive voices and both do a very good job here. With Reed on board, there are naturally more duets here than on the first album (where Nolan himself sang the occasional line). The voices of Reed and Hitchings blend perfectly.

The music is once again driven primarily by keyboards and vocals. It is somewhat similar in style to some of Rick Wakeman's solo albums. The guitars are perhaps somewhat more prominent here, but they still play a relatively lesser role. Some guitar parts remind of Mike Oldfield. Overall, the sound of this album is a bit more diverse and more symphonic than the first. There are still no proper drums, but Groom adds some occasional, tasteful drum programming. The feel of the album is rather light. As such this album is far away from the dark and hard-edged Neo-Prog of Arena or the progressive Metal of Threshold.

In between 1990's The Key part 1 and this follow-up from 1993, Nolan and Groom had already formed Shadowland and released an album under that name, and it wouldn't be long until all the members of Strangers On A Train found bigger success elsewhere. The planned third part of The Key was therefore put on ice and has yet to appear. 20 years has passed now, but Nolan still insists that part 3 will be released some day in the future. We'll see...

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 The Key Part I  - The Prophecy by STRANGERS ON A TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 1990
2.93 | 35 ratings

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The Key Part I - The Prophecy
Strangers On A Train Neo-Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

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

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 The Key Part I  - The Prophecy by STRANGERS ON A TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 1990
2.93 | 35 ratings

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The Key Part I - The Prophecy
Strangers On A Train Neo-Prog

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.

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 The Key Part I  - The Prophecy by STRANGERS ON A TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 1990
2.93 | 35 ratings

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The Key Part I - The Prophecy
Strangers On A Train Neo-Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

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.

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 The Key Part 2 - The Labyrinth by STRANGERS ON A TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 1993
3.07 | 33 ratings

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The Key Part 2 - The Labyrinth
Strangers On A Train Neo-Prog

Review by ZowieZiggy
Prog Reviewer

3 stars I was not really charmed with their first release, the first of a trilogy (?). The approach for the second leg is a bit different: while there were lots of short pieces in "The Prophecy", there are only five songs (for over seventy-two minutes of music) for this one.

It is obviously more a Clive effort, with some bombastic keys (just listen to the instrumental intro of the opener) which might sound rather pretentious, very much Wakeman-esque IMHHO. This long song (over twenty-minutes) has a lot to share with some tracks from "A Trick Of The Tail" (the quiet ones like "Ripples" or "Mad Man Moon"). Oldfield is not alien either. As you can see, the references are quite good, but this piece sounds a bit borrowed even if it is a fine one after all.

Unlike some other reviewers, I'm not reluctant to the nice voice from Tracy Hitching (from "Landmarq") who is backed up with Alan Reed (the only new member for this album) from "Pallas", with only one exception.

This work sounds a lot more symphonic as neo-prog IMO. When you listen to "Hijrah", "Renaissance" comes immediately to mind. Same great keyboards and orchestrated-type sounds. Soberly is still not its most famous quality.

The title track is my least favourite one. Highly acoustic in its first half, I wonder what happened to Tracy's voice here: like Matti highlights in his review, it sounds indeed as Bonnie Tyler at times! Not quite expected. The second part is unfortunately no better: it is a long and dull instrumental section with no passion. Truly boring and repetitive. Press next.

The mellow "Vision Clears" is only shining thanks to the excellent guitar solo from Karl Groom who is rather discreet so far.

The album started very promisingly, but fell a bit flat after the first two very good songs. The longest piece "Endzone "(over twenty-three minutes) starts on the same mellow mood as "The Labyrinth". The relief is that Tracy sounds a lot better during her vocal parts, but it takes too much time to really start. (actually, it only does so during the last minute and a half)! Some fine acoustic guitar play with some Spanish accents, aerial vocals that's for sure. But I would have preferred some more bombastic sections like during the opener.

Even if it is quite uncertain that the thrid and final leg of thistrilogy would ever see the light (there are still no real project to do so some fifteen years after this Labyrinth), the Verglas web-site always takes it for granted that this will happen. Stay tune.

This album should please symphonic prog lovers. Three stars.

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 The Key Part I  - The Prophecy by STRANGERS ON A TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 1990
2.93 | 35 ratings

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The Key Part I - The Prophecy
Strangers On A Train Neo-Prog

Review by ZowieZiggy
Prog Reviewer

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.

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 The Key Part I  - The Prophecy by STRANGERS ON A TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 1990
2.93 | 35 ratings

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The Key Part I - The Prophecy
Strangers On A Train Neo-Prog

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

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.

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 The Key Part 2 - The Labyrinth by STRANGERS ON A TRAIN album cover Studio Album, 1993
3.07 | 33 ratings

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The Key Part 2 - The Labyrinth
Strangers On A Train Neo-Prog

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

2 stars If this album is considered one of the best symphonic albums ever - like is said in the description of the band, that means i have to enlarge my musical horizon much more, because i don't understand this album. Seriously this second part of the key is one of the most borind unpleasent neo symphonic albums i ever heared. In this case doesn't matter if here plays Clve Nolan and Karl Groom, two of the most important musician in the field, because the album is aimless. Even they can't save the album to be a total desaster. I begin with the first track called Darkwood - aimless, borind, to mellow, no vein, no nothing - 1 star. Second long track from here Endzone - again impossible to listen at once - 1 stars, the shorter tracks are maybe better but don't expect something great, just ok to listen one time, nothing more. I forget to mention that the bass and drums are programming, the keyboard-dominated sound of this band clearly suffers from the lack of a solid rhythm section. I will give to this album 2 stars, avoid this album, not recommended, even if you are a die hard neo prog fan. Move to something for real interest like other projects of Karl Groom and Clive Nolan - like Casino, Shadowland or Landmarq.

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