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TWELFTH NIGHT

Neo-Prog • United Kingdom


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Twelfth Night picture
Twelfth Night biography
Founded in Reading, England in 1978 - Disbanded in 1987 - Reformed between 2007-2012, and again in 2014

TWELFTH NIGHT emerged from the Andy Revell Band formed at Reading University, where in 1978 they won a talent competition. Geoff MANN was an artist friend of the band from the moment in 1977 that he knocked on Andy's door to find out what record Andy was listening to and discovered that it was just Andy playing guitar! The embryonic band consisted of Andy and Brian Devoil (drums), with Mr Rick Battersby managing the dry ice.

After Clive Mitten joined in 1979, TWELFTH NIGHT as a band were born and got straight down to the work of recording. A live LP followed several tapes and experiments with other musicians, including one Electra Mcleod who performed vocals for one tape only. A vocalist was needed - but where to get one? Many were auditioned - including Geoff, who also performed a gig or two with the band and wrote some words for "Sequences".

A successful series of gigs was followed by the band being booked for the Reading Festival - the first local Reading band to have achieved this in the history of the festival. After much deliberating, Geoff MANN, the backdrop painter became Geoff MANN the poet, lyricist and vocalist.

It's important to consider the musical, social and political climate of the late 1970s - early 1980s to get a handle on what TWELFTH NIGHT were about; The roots of the music lie mainly in Andy Revell's HACKETT/HILLAGE guitar sound, but GENESIS, early PINK FLOYD and WISHBONE ASH are the most obvious influences. It has been said that there is a punk element to TN, and while there is a certain amount of aggression, that energy comes more directly from NWOBHM than punk. MANN's vocal style and lyrics may be laced with anarchism, but they run a whole lot deeper than that - Geoff was a deep thinker and poet, and later became ordained. His words attack the idle non-thinking majority in a cajoling way, they attack the governments at a grass-roots level and they attack the nonsense of war - but also support the positive aspects of life, like love.

After MANN left (amicably) to join the church in 1983, a new era of TN started with Andy Sears as vocalist. TWELFTH NIGHT are still making music in one form or another - but it tends to be fitted around the day jobs. Sadly, Geoff died of cancer in 1993.
The "MANN-era" music will live on in prog as being something particularly special, as it goes several steps furt...
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TWELFTH NIGHT discography


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TWELFTH NIGHT top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.90 | 50 ratings
Smiling At Grief
1982
3.98 | 159 ratings
Fact And Fiction
1982
3.01 | 49 ratings
Art & Illusion
1984
2.43 | 54 ratings
Twelfth Night XII [Aka: The Virgin Album]
1986

TWELFTH NIGHT Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 50 ratings
Live at the Target
1981
4.43 | 67 ratings
Live And Let Live
1984
3.18 | 17 ratings
Smiling At Grief...Live
2005
4.11 | 9 ratings
A Midsummer's Night Dream
2005
2.62 | 7 ratings
Corner of the World
2005
4.17 | 11 ratings
Live from London
2005
4.78 | 8 ratings
Entropy
2005
4.00 | 12 ratings
Flashbacks
2005
4.03 | 11 ratings
Night Vision: Art & Illusion Tour 1984
2005
4.13 | 16 ratings
MMX
2010
4.82 | 30 ratings
Live and Let Live - The Definitive Edition
2012
5.00 | 1 ratings
A Night To Remember
2019

TWELFTH NIGHT Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.09 | 13 ratings
Live From London
2005
4.37 | 16 ratings
MMX (DVD)
2010
4.00 | 1 ratings
A Night To Remember Live At The Barbican 2012
2019

TWELFTH NIGHT Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.04 | 43 ratings
Collector's Item
1991
3.17 | 16 ratings
Voices In The Night
2007
4.00 | 7 ratings
Skan Demo/First Tape Album
2013

TWELFTH NIGHT Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.49 | 5 ratings
The First Tape Album
1980
3.13 | 5 ratings
Early Material (Second tape album)
1980
1.42 | 7 ratings
Shame
1986
4.87 | 11 ratings
Sequences
2018

TWELFTH NIGHT Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 A Night To Remember by TWELFTH NIGHT album cover Live, 2019
5.00 | 1 ratings

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A Night To Remember
Twelfth Night Neo-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

— First review of this album —
5 stars It has been a very long tine indeed since I have been able to write anything remotely critical about one of the best progressive rock bands to come out of the UK and I am certainly not going to start now. They may have released just four studio albums during their career, but there has never been any doubt about their importance to the progressive scene and one can only wonder what would have happened if Geoff hadn't decided to move away from the group and follow his heart into a life in the ministry. I remember talking to Brian in the early Nineties about the band ever having a reunion, and he discounted it as no-one was really involved in music anymore, plus Andy Sears was in Spain and Clive Mitten was in Australia. Still, he kept working on remasters and extended editions of the albums and also released a whole series of live albums from different points in the band's career.

No one ever expected Clive to come back to the UK, and even when he did there was no certainty the band would reform, but reform they did (without original keyboard player Rick Battersby), and since then there have been quite a few trips down memory lane with members of Galahad subbing in at different times. But all good things come to an end and Andy Revell wanted to go out at a big event, and so Barbican's Sill Street Theatre was booked and on Saturday 15th December 2012 the band played the final (?) gig. The line-up featured three guys who had been there at the very beginning, namely Brian Devoil (drums), Andy Revell (guitar, backing vocals) and Clive Mitten (bass, guitar, keyboards, backing vocals). They were joined by Dean Baker on keyboards and piano, who had been a constant presence since the band reformed, along with 'new' singer Mark Spencer who also provided some guitar. Both Dean and Mark are also full-time members of Galahad (plus other bands), while Roy Keyworth, who used to also be in both Twelfth Night and Galahad, joins the band for 'East of Eden'.

As always, the band kicked off proceedings with 'The Ceiling Speaks' where Revell and Mitten duel on guitars, with bass coming from synths, and immediately they are up and running and the audience are in fine voice. All anyone really knows of the setlist at a TN concert is the opening song and the last, which will always be 'Love Song', so I was intrigued to see what was going to be included here and I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that there was a significant move away from material recorded by Andy Sears. Mark's voice is quite similar to Geoff's in many ways, so he would be more comfortable with the early songs, and perhaps that is why a decision was made to include just a couple of songs from 'Art and Illusion' and nothing at all from 'The Virgin Album'. It is a shame not to hear the drama of 'Blondon Fair' or 'Take A Look' but putting those to one side I think the only song of note not in this set would be 'The Collector'. We have time for 'We Are Sane', 'Sequences' and 'Creepshow' alongside the likes of 'Human Being' and 'Fact and Fiction'.

By my reckoning this is the twelfth official live album from Twelfth Night (counting 'Live and Let Live' plus the 'Live and Let Live Definitive' albums as two), which somehow seems fitting, and yes I do have them all. Each one is a gem in its own right, a snapshot of time, and while I must confess this doesn't quite live up to Geoff's last album with them, that is less to do with the performance and more the raw emotion and passion from everyone knowing it was Geoff Mann's last ever gig with the band. This set has also been released on Blu-ray and DVD, but due to poor planning on my part I have ended up in one part of the country with my Blu-ray player in another, so that review will have to wait a few weeks. But, if you search for 'Twelfth Night A Night To Remember' on YouTube you will be able to see some clips from that, which proves just what a band this is/was.

This can't be the end; we've already had a teaser with the 'Sequences' EP so let us see what happens next. Until then, listen to a modern version of one of the best prog bands ever to come out of Reading.

 Collector's Item by TWELFTH NIGHT album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1991
4.04 | 43 ratings

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Collector's Item
Twelfth Night Neo-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars This little curiosity is really halfway between being a Twelfth Night compilation and a Twelfth Night reunion album. You see, whilst most of the tracks on here (the exact proportions changing from edition to edition as the track listing gets fiddled with by successive record companies) constitute a sort of best-of for the band's Geoff Mann and Andy Sears-fronted periods - including the odd rarity, like the B-side Blondon Fair (perhaps the best song the Andy Sears-fronted version of the band ever recorded, though Counterpoint from Art & Illusion gives it a run for its money) - that isn't the really exciting thing about this release.

You see, back in 1988 Geoff Mann and the other former members of Twelfth Night - which had by this point disbanded in the wake of the disappointing XII album - were enjoying one of their regular group phone calls and reminiscing about old times, and the subject of The Collector came up. This was an epic song from the Mann era of Twelfth Night, and combined perhaps their most advanced collection of musical ideas with what may well have been Geoff Mann's best lyrical concept ever - a miser on his deathbed, reminiscing about his life and pondering whether his relentless accumulation of material wealth and power was actually worth it in the end, a compelling story of profound philosophical interest even if you didn't necessarily share Geoff's Christian interpretation of the subject. (I think the lyrics work so well in part because even if Geoff's conclusions on the matter were rooted in his faith, his portrayal of the central character in the song rings true and doesn't depend on that - and the concept that "Heaven is not for sale" is perhaps something all can agree on, even if they have different interpretations of what that means.)

The Collector had enjoyed a few live airings in the late Mann era - indeed, Twelfth Night's archival live releases have captured a few of these, with two versions appearing on the Flashbacks release and another appearing on the 2CD "Definitive Edition" of Live and Let Live. Geoff and the gang felt that it was a bit of a shame that they'd never nailed it in the studio, however - and rather than idly regret "the one that got away", they decided to get together for a bit of studio time (which also yielded a new version of Love Song, compiled here) in order to finally nail that sucker.

And nail it they did: not only is The Collector a major pillar of this compilation, but this studio version of it is also by far the best rendition available - and set next to the other material here, it's readily apparent that it was well worth the effort to produce this studio version of it, since it may well be Twelfth Night's greatest artistic accomplishment.

It's a bit of a shame, then, that this compilation should currently be out of print. Doubtless rights issues are involved, since the band have otherwise done a sterling job of recent years of ensuring that their material is available. Sure, most of the material on here is available elsewhere in some form or another - but it still seems like a shame that this one studio version of The Collector, easily the definitive rendition of the song, should be commercially unavailable at present.

 Twelfth Night XII [Aka: The Virgin Album] by TWELFTH NIGHT album cover Studio Album, 1986
2.43 | 54 ratings

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Twelfth Night XII [Aka: The Virgin Album]
Twelfth Night Neo-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Those who were there back in the day have assured me that in the original cluster of neo-prog bands regularly headlining the Marquee Club in London, the top tier consisted of Marillion, Pallas, Solstice, and Twelfth Night. (It's amazing to think that leaders of the genre like Pendragon or IQ were on a second tier back then - sometimes headlining in their own right, but rarely if ever put on the same level as the big four).

Solstice, with their roots in the festival circuit and New Age/hippyish attitude, never got signed by a major label - and had no intention to - but the other three all got a big contract sooner or later. And it's really rather striking how different the destinies of those three were.

Marillion, of course, put out Script For a Jester's Tear and the rest was history - there's no question that they had the biggest success out of any of the Marquee neo-prog bands.

Pallas produced The Sentinel, but were the victim of the running order of the album being hacked up and crucial segments of the Atlantis Suite being carved out for single B-sides. (It would have been far better had the label simply left the album alone and kept the more commercial-sounding tracks recorded for it on the singles, so at least the different sides of the band - one highly theatrical and prog-oriented, one much more pop-rock-ish - would be reflected on formats better suited for those styles.) Pallas would, however, keep chugging on after that, and eventually plot a more independent course for themselves and earn a reappraisal in the eyes of the prog fanbase in more recent years.

For Twelfth Night, though, the tragedy is that the much-coveted major label contract seems to have been a death sentence for them. Twelfth Night had put out more material on an independent basis than any of their neo-prog peers, with multiple studio efforts and live albums under their belt (including Fact and Fiction and Live and Let Live, respectively their best studio and live releases), so when they signed to Virgin at the end of 1985 - after Marillion had stormed the charts with Misplaced Childhood and after Pallas's moment in the spotlight had come and gone - it must have felt to fans and band alike as though the hard work of the past half a decade had finally paid off.

What a shame, then, that the product of that contract should be Twelfth Night, AKA XII, AKA The Virgin Album. With a sound drastically simplified and with only the faintest ghosts of their former dark neo-prog stylings present, it's no wonder that the album was the subject of a critical backlash on the part of fans. The band gave up the ghost shortly afterwards, and whilst they have occasionally got back together - there was a 1988 studio reunion with Geoff Mann that yielded Collectors' Item, for instance, and much more recently they've had concerts with Andy Sears and have put out a studio rendition of Sequences - it's fair to say that post-XII, Twelfth Night was done as far as being an active, energetic songwriting unit went (with the various reunion efforts all being dedicated to old material).

Sad to say, it seems like the creative well just ran dry - the band had lost their inspiration for producing further material in the "classic" Twelfth Night style and seem to have spent XII and the period preceding it casting about to see if they can find new inspiration. It's particularly interesting to listen to XII in the context of the Corner of the World live album, for it puts the lie to the idea that Virgin somehow pressured the band into changing their style in order to get a hit. (Given that Misplaced Childhood was a huge hit by leaning into Marillion's neo-prog approach, wouldn't Virgin have *wanted* Twelfth Night to go proggy with it in light of that?)

You see, the Corner of the World live album was recorded well over half a year before the Virgin contract was signed, and it shows that the band were already at the time pivoting towards the style they air here. People like to make Duran Duran comparisons, and I guess Andy Revell does become rather fond here of a guitar tone reminiscent of, say, the lead guitar from Rio, but at the same time Duran Duran were far better at coming up with sleek pop hooks than the band are here.

Perhaps the best track on the album is the concluding Take a Look, which also happens to be one of the oldest tracks on the album; an early version, substantially closer to the classic Twelfth Night style, can be heard on the Night Vision archival live album which captures the Art & Illusion tour. Comparing the two versions, it seems like here the band have gone for a bright, airy production which is more or less the absolute opposite of the dark, claustrophobic approach they had taken for most of their career, taking the edge off the harder and more pensive section of the songs whilst trying to make the chorus the sort of feelgood singalong section people waved their cigarette lighters to back when everyone took cigarette lighters to concerts to wave along to the music to.

The tragedy of XII is that the band clearly are not technically incompetent - they seem to be trying their best to find a new sound to revive their creative juices. If any blame can be attached to the record company, it's the production job on the album which is so alien to the Twelfth Night aesthetic that I can only assume that producer John L. Walters (of the synth-pop group Landscape) either simply hadn't heard any of the band's prior music or just imposed his own aesthetic on proceedings, but a somewhat "off" production can't quite account for all the cracks that are showing in the foundations here. Worth it for fans who want an OK studio runthrough of Take a Look, Blue Powder Monkey, and some of the other material here, but otherwise you can see why this album would be a career-killer.

 Corner of the World by TWELFTH NIGHT album cover Live, 2005
2.62 | 7 ratings

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Corner of the World
Twelfth Night Neo-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Twelfth Night's archival series has been a really valuable resource for documenting the band's history, filling out the gaps between their official releases. In particular, Andy Sears' tenure in the band, which previously had only been represented by the Art & Illusion mini-LP, the XII album, and a few tracks on Collectors' Item, has been given a fairer airing by the archival series, with releases like Live From London or Night Vision showcasing has command of the Geoff Mann-era material, as well as revealing a Twelfth Night sound in which the new Sears-era material sits coherently next to the Mann-era material.

One of the biggest puzzles among Twelfth Night fans is how the band ended up going from the sound of Art & Illusion, which whilst hardly devoid of pop hooks at the same time sits comfortably next to the Geoff Mann material, to the sound of the XII album, often compared to Duran Duran's output and critically panned next to more or less all their album releases between Live At the Target and Art & Illusion.

A common fan theory is that, having inked a deal with Virgin, the band had been put under the dreaded Record Company Pressure to produce something commercial-sounding. However, Corner of the World puts the lie to that. Hailing from the mini-tour the band undertook in May 1985 to road test some of the new material they'd been prepared, we find the group's musical direction already in the process of shifting.

The new songs include a good chunk of the material which ended up on XII, and Andy Revell's guitar work is already showing strong influences from the sound Andy Taylor made famous on Rio and Hungry Like the Wolf. Coming from a series of concerts hailing from months before Virgin had anything to do with Twelfth Night: Virgin only inked the deal in December 1985, when the band were already in the process of recording XII!

It is understandable why Twelfth Night felt the moment was right to really make a push to get commercial success on a level comparable to their critical acclaim. Art & Illusion had actually reached no, 83 on the UK charts, after all, so it seemed like the moment to strike had come - and with peers like Marillion and Pallas already having had their big breaks with the major labels, I imagine that the band felt the moment for them had truly come. However, it's a shame that this moment seems to have coincided with the band's creative energies failing them, or at least dragging them down a cul de sac.

Sure, there's merits to Take A Look, which would go on to be the only real prog epic on XII with even a passing resemblance to something the Twelfth Night of old might have done - but that song had already been part of the band's repertoire since at least 1984, since there was a version on Night Vision. When it comes to the new material freshly prepared in 1985, sadly the stuff's rather underwhelming. (It doesn't help that the sound quality here seems to be a bit shaky even by the standards of the other soundboard recordings in Twelfth Night's archival series.)

It really feels like the band could have done with consolidating their musical ideas more, working further on polishing and workshopping the most promising songs and song sections in the new material rather than churning out a large number of sub-par songs in a hurry. (Even the band don't seem to have been sold on all the material here - Requiem, White Glass, and South of the Wind evidently didn't pass muster in the band's eyes, because they didn't make the cut for XII - not even for the B-sides on the accompanying singles.) You can understand the desire to get the band out of Geoff Mann's shadow - prior tours still had the set lists filled out with Mann-era material, but this is very much dominated by Sears-era stuff - but this seems to have been done at the cost of quality control. Or perhaps the whole Twelfth Night idea had largely run its course, at least as far as songwriting went...

 Night Vision: Art & Illusion Tour 1984 by TWELFTH NIGHT album cover Live, 2005
4.03 | 11 ratings

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Night Vision: Art & Illusion Tour 1984
Twelfth Night Neo-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars This archival release captures Twelfth Night on the tour they undertook supporting the Art & Illusion mini-album (more of an EP, really), all of whose tracks are represented here alongside older Geoff Mann era material and some other new works, like the sinister Blondon Fair and an early version of Take a Look, which would be the big epic number on their Virgin Records album in a couple of years time.

Sourced from soundboard recordings, this album does not present one single show, but instead selects the best takes of each individual songs from a cluster of shows on the tour and uses them to reconstruct the full set list. Andy Sears seems a little more confident now as the band's frontman; he seems to have trouble judging the tone of the early section of We Are Sane (it's notable that, as the Corner of the World live recording attests, the band would eventually trim the early sections from the song), but really it would be difficult for anyone who wasn't Geoff Mann to pull off the dramatic performances demanded in the early stretches of the piece.

For the rest of the setlist, the new material sits nicely next to the old and comes across as a logical next step in the band's evolution. On top of that, with Art & Illusion troubling the lower reaches of the album charts, the band seemed to be right on the verge of a breakthrough. Little would they realise that trouble was ahead...

 Live from London by TWELFTH NIGHT album cover Live, 2005
4.17 | 11 ratings

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Live from London
Twelfth Night Neo-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars This is the soundtrack to the DVD of the same name, which was recorded for the same Live From London television show which yielded IQ's Living Proof. Neo-prog fans again have reason to be thankful to that particular show; this time around, for capturing Twelfth Night in the process of breaking in brand new lead vocalist Andy Sears.

This is a particularly interesting recording for the purposes of assessing Andy's tenure as Twelfth Night frontman, because the group hadn't developed any new material with him yet but instead delivers a setlist which could have come out of Geoff Mann's era. (Yes, it has Art and Illusion on it, but though the studio version of that is an Andy- fronted track, it actually was originally developed under Geoff's tenure; the Flashbacks archival release and the double disc "Definitive Edition" of Live and Let Live includes Geoff singing it.

As such, this gives us the fairest opportunity we have to directly compare Andy with Geoff, on material which Geoff had also sung and before the band's sound had developed much further from the end of Geoff's era. Here, Andy reveals himself to be a characterful vocalist in his own right - a bit more manic and a bit less depressive than Geoff, he can get a bit carried away in the more theatrical parts of the songs and he's a bit more of a traditional frontman in terms of his stage persona.

By and large he does a reasonable job of stepping into Geoff's shoes, with some slips here and there. (He seems a little all over the place during the intro to We Are Sane - the section before the "This woman's place is in a home..." lyric - and it's notable that late in his tenure the band would snip that section from the track altogether, as documented on the Corner of the World release.) Combine this with a high-quality recording sourced directly from the multi-track tapes, and you have one of the better-sounding Twelfth Night live albums from the 1980s, on a par with Live and Let Live.

 Live and Let Live - The Definitive Edition by TWELFTH NIGHT album cover Live, 2012
4.82 | 30 ratings

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Live and Let Live - The Definitive Edition
Twelfth Night Neo-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars The best release of Twelfth Night's Geoff Mann era is without a doubt Live and Let Live, documenting the two farewell shows for Geoff at the Marquee. With a track list drawing on their best material, it's an entertaining enough listen, though Mann's vocal approach can take a bit of getting used to.

Geoff feels the need to tell us that war is bad and love is good, as though these were sentiments which would be novel and new to us, and some may find the techniques he uses to offer us these facts is overly didactic and heavy-handed. Furthermore, there's a fine line between Gabriel-like theatricality and embarrassingly corny whimsy, and which side of the line Mann occupies will vary for listeners. crosses it too often for my liking.

Still, this is a matter of personal tastes and fans of early neo-prog would probably find a lot to like here. The album has been released in various configurations; by far the best is the 2012 Definitive Edition, which fills out the entire setlist of the farewell shows, almost entirely with recordings from the two nights in question. (The only exception is a rendition of The Collector from a week prior - evidently the tapes on the night simply failed to adequately capture the relevant performances.) The sound quality on some of the added tracks is a bit shaky - but eh, if you just want the original album tracks that's what playlists are for, and none of the sound issues are so severe as to be fatal. Moreover, in one delicious little set you get pretty much the cream of what Geoff Mann-era Twelfth Night had to offer.

 Flashbacks by TWELFTH NIGHT album cover Live, 2005
4.00 | 12 ratings

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Flashbacks
Twelfth Night Neo-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Let down at points by somewhat variable sound quality, this soundboard-derived live album offers a live set from the summer of 1983, arguably the peak of Geoff Mann's tenure in the band (with their appearance at the Reading Festival being an especially triumphant moment). Including two runthroughs of rare epic The Collector.

Though in terms of sound quality and song selection the latest expanded version of Live and Let Live has the edge on this (the lack of a Creepshow on here is a bit of an oversight), it's still a valuable live document of the band, especially compared to Smiling At Grief Live - here it's clear that Geoff has grown into the frontman role and seems more comfortable in it, and has a great connection with the audience.

It's as evident from his between-songs patter as it is from his lyrics that Mann's concerns in both the spiritual and social sphere are clearly important to him, even when he's addressing them with humour, so his later decision to follow his calling as a vicar isn't entirely surprising in retrospect, but he's also clearly having enough fun that it can't have been an easy call at the time.

Perhaps the most significant thing about this release is the contrast offered with Live and Let Live, an excellent live set where Mann's impending departure rather overshadows affairs. Here, there's no sign he's made that momentous decision yet and Twelfth Night sound like a band poised for the big time, with a sound that clearly situates them as siblings to Script-era Marillion and early Pallas. Fate would play its cards later on, but in this instance you could have believed that Twelfth Night, with Mann at the head, were about to conquer the universe.

 Fact And Fiction by TWELFTH NIGHT album cover Studio Album, 1982
3.98 | 159 ratings

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Fact And Fiction
Twelfth Night Neo-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars An album that, to my ears, bears a striking resemblance to the sounds and stylings of American band BABYLON-- especially in the DOROCCUS-like theatric vocal sound and performances of poet and reluctant lead singer, Geoff Mann.

1. "We Are Sane" (10:27) opens with synth strings, background noises of television, children, and adult arguing before singer Geoff Mann enters in an opera-like falsetto. At the one minute mark Geoff switches into a deep bass range. Around 2:00 electric guitar and synth strings arpeggi back a mid-range vocal as well as the continued background speeches. There's a real BABYLON theatricity to this. Around 3:20 the song suddenly switches to an almost punk/early XTC sound and style: complete with 80s techno-punk synths, guitar, rhythm, pace, and singing. In the sixth minute it returns to a more DOROCCUS/BABYLON theatricity and musical palette. By the end of the seventh minute there is another musical switch just before a foray into a BOWIE-like robotic section of the museum and its followup. The final two minutes sees a return to the CARDIACS/XTC-like sound and style. Quite a song! What a story and presentation! Not the greatest musically but Mr. Mann definitely has something special. (18.5/20)

2. "Human Being" (7:50) opens like BILLY BRAGG singing over someone playing in the bath water until 0:45 when lush synths take over and a STEVE HACKETT-like electric guitar solos. At 2:00 a Spectral Mornings-like section speeds it up a little while Geoff sings. Great guitar solo in the uptempo sixth minute instrumental section. (13.125/15)

3. "This City" (4:01) a JIM MORRISON/MATTHEW PARMENTER-like performance by Geoff Mann. (8.25/10)

4. "World Without End" (1:55) synths, low bass, fast electric guitar arpeggi, and cymbal play instrumental. (4.25/5)

5. "Fact And Fiction" (3:59) pure New Wave music. (8.5/10)

6. "The Poet Sniffs A Flower" (3:51) presents odd styled classic rock instrumental sounding like BOSTON with 1980s synths that switches at 2:00 to a thicker soundscape with bass and guitar power chords. (8.667/10)

7. Creepshow (11:57) an epic combining PINK FLOYD with VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR. (17.33/20)

8. Love Song (5:39) a Prog Folk opening that turns into a synth-driven New Wave JOY DIVISION-like song. (8.5/10)

Total Time: 49:37

B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of lyric and singer-driven neo-progressive rock music and a highly recommended listening experience to any lover of progressive rock music.

 Smiling At Grief...Live by TWELFTH NIGHT album cover Live, 2005
3.18 | 17 ratings

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Smiling At Grief...Live
Twelfth Night Neo-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This is a soundboard recording from the Smiling At Grief tour, and very much captures Twelfth Night as a band still trying to adjust from the shift from being an all-instrumental group to incorporating a vocalist. Geoff Mann does a decent job as the new boy, but the set list is clearly still being refined and developed, and the concert unfortunately suffers from a few technical hitches (such as Brian Devoil's snare drum giving out) which means they aren't at their best.

The mix is off at points as well - the major offender here being the version of Sequences, where Geoff's vocals too often overpower the instrumental backing. Still, it's interesting to see how deftly Geoff was able to create a really memorable lyric to go with what had previously been an instrumental number. (Oh, and the best guitar solo on Creepshow - that jagged, nightmarish one after Geoff yells "Amandaaaaaaaaa-ahahahaha!" - is almost inaudible in the mix here, which is nigh-unforgivable.)

This set is now available as the bonus disc on the Definitive Edition of Smiling At Grief, and that's perhaps the best way to appreciate it; it certainly doesn't outshine the demo tape, but it does offer a fun look at the material and is an interesting look at the band's evolutionary process.

Thanks to Ivan_Melgar_M for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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