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THE TANGENT

Eclectic Prog • Multi-National


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The Tangent biography
Formed in 2002 in Northern England, UK

THE TANGENT is a project originally formed by Andy Tillison, Guy Manning and Sam Baine of PARALLEL OR 90 DEGREES [Po90] as well as half of THE FLOWER KINGS including Jonas Reingold, Zoltan Csorsz and guitar virtuoso and former KAIPA member Roine Stolt. Of course to put further icing on the cake David Jackson of VAN DER GRAFF GENERATOR would lend his legendary sax to the band for their debut album. This started out as a mere project and was actually intended to be a Tillison solo effort before it became a full fledged band as Tillison felt the need to produce something more typically 'prog' than he'd been doing in Po90. Of course it has to be noted that this really is Andy Tillison's affair since over the years the entire roster (spare Tillison and Manning) has been changed due to many different circumstances, which has really not affected the supergroup as many would expect. Often asked about his changing line up, Tillison responds by saying that it's all part of a prog band's life and fans of the genre know all about line-up changes by now. THE TANGENT is quite a dynamic band in terms of line up even now as they recruit several members of BEARDFISH onto their team, having been impressed by them on the "Not As Good As The Book" tour. This does make for a very dynamic sound which leaves the band with a fresh angle for each album. Often touted as a 'retro' band thanks to their old school sound, the band does have a very 'classic' prog feel to them with Tillison's prominent synths. THE TANGENT has often been compared to YES and KING CRIMSON in style because of the mixture of Light and Dark with Stolt and Tillison (respectively) at the helm of the project. Highly melodic and very inclined to write sprawling epics THE TANGENT should satisfy the tastes of any prog listener who wants to go back to the roots of the genre while maintaining a contemporary message and feel.

Their music is often cynical as Tillison has often been seen as 'the dark horse' of the modern progressive scene, his lyrics often poking fun at modern music and tendencies as shown in every one of their albums, but especially "The Music That Died Alone" and their newest effort to date, "Not As Good As The Book", which is a largely sarcastic and cynical look at the world that turned out to be not as good as we thought it would be. heir second effort, "The World That We Drive Through" continued t...
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Approaching ComplexityApproaching Complexity
N5Md 2018
$9.86
$7.99 (used)
Music That Died AloneMusic That Died Alone
Insideout Music 2010
$17.86
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Slow Rust Of Forgotten MachinerySlow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery
Insideoutmusic 2017
$24.48
$29.03 (used)
The Studio Sessions + Bonus Tracks/Shadow Magic /  TangentThe Studio Sessions + Bonus Tracks/Shadow Magic / Tangent
Extra tracks
Bgo 2017
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THE TANGENT discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

THE TANGENT top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.96 | 336 ratings
The Music That Died Alone
2003
3.74 | 250 ratings
The World That We Drive Through
2004
3.83 | 339 ratings
A Place In The Queue
2006
3.87 | 372 ratings
Not As Good As The Book
2008
3.73 | 266 ratings
Down And Out In Paris And London
2009
3.85 | 305 ratings
COMM
2011
3.99 | 346 ratings
Le Sacre Du Travail
2013
3.84 | 272 ratings
A Spark In The Aether - The Music That Died Alone, Volume Two
2015
4.00 | 246 ratings
The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery
2017
4.12 | 67 ratings
Proxy
2018

THE TANGENT Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.07 | 39 ratings
Pyramids And Stars
2005
4.39 | 76 ratings
Going Off On One
2007
4.40 | 10 ratings
Hotel Cantaffordit (as TangeKanic (Tangent & Karmakanic)
2018

THE TANGENT Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.16 | 52 ratings
Going Off On One
2007
4.74 | 38 ratings
Going Off On Two
2011

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

4.21 | 33 ratings
L'Étagère Du Travail
2013

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

4.18 | 42 ratings
A Place On The Shelf
2009

THE TANGENT Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Proxy by TANGENT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.12 | 67 ratings

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Proxy
The Tangent Eclectic Prog

Review by javajeff

5 stars The Tangent has evolved into a platform of experimentation. And why not? Andy Tillison has been making high quality progressive rock for a long time, so it is good to explore new possibilities. Under the label of Eclectic Prog, Proxy does experiment with different genres of music. For example, the 16 minute "The Adulthood Lie" fuses Fatboy Slim type of electronic funk with classic The Tangent in a way that is brilliant. It will mesmerize, intrigue, excite, and venture through many twists and turns. The majority of Proxy is classic symphonic progressive rock with Andy's spin on the world as he tells stories of politics, music, and life. "Supper's Off" is a classic b-side from Le Sacre Du Travail that features Andy's electrifying keyboards and can fit nicely on any Tangent album and deserves it's place in the sun. From start to finish, Proxy does a lot of things right, and fits nicely in a high quality catalog of music.
 Proxy by TANGENT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2018
4.12 | 67 ratings

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Proxy
The Tangent Eclectic Prog

Review by CeeJayGee

5 stars Just over a year after the release of the wonderful album The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery comes the band's 10th. I was delighted when Andy Tillison announced its planned release date offering early access to demos of the songs, so I have followed the album's development closely and many of the songs already feel like old friends. The strapline to the album is "A protest, a reflection, a couple of regrets and a rant". I can confidently say that the rant is Supper's Off, a demo song included on the little known companion disc to Le Sacre Du Travail (L'Étagere Du Travail). The quality of this song has always meant it deserved wider recognition and it is great that it has finally been released. Also included as a bonus track is an excerpt from one of Andy's side projects, Kalman Filter and taken from another of his 2018 releases Exo-Oceans, another fine album (instrumental) that deserves much wider recognition. That leaves the four tracks that are new to me. My favourite is The Adulthood Lie, at over 16 minutes, it is a fast- paced monster (you will also see it released as a single) that delighted me from first listen. This must be one of Andy's regrets. The album opens with the title track Proxy, also at over 16 minutes it is the longest track (just). This has to be the protest song. As is so often the case with The Tangent, the vocal is used sparingly to deliver the message (which it does) within a complex and enjoyable prog track. The Melting Andalusian Skies is an enjoyable and interesting instrumental track at just under nine minutes has a more laid back tempo but still a strong edge to it. I assume that this is the reflection. The shortest song is A Case Of Mistaken Optimism, and must be the other regret. This is an enjoyable toe-tapping piece with the clarity of Andy's vocal getting the message over very clearly. The musicianship on the album is of the highest standard and the overall packaged album is, for me, by some way the best of the year. Brilliant 5 stars.
 The Music That Died Alone by TANGENT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2003
3.96 | 336 ratings

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The Music That Died Alone
The Tangent Eclectic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

2 stars With a lineup mashing together members from The Flower Kings, Parallel or 90 Degrees, and Van der Graaf Generator, the Tangent's debut album to me is a whole that's less than the sum of its parts: it's a nostalgia-prog trip through various musical styles that appealed to me (including an attempt at a Canterbury pastiche), but it feels overproduced and overpolished. On the opening sequence, In Darkest Dreams, the Flower Kings presence threatens to overwhelm proceedings entirely, which may be part of the issue since on balance I tend to find the Flower King sound to be a bit too saccharine for my tastes.
 The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery by TANGENT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.00 | 246 ratings

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The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery
The Tangent Eclectic Prog

Review by Walkscore

5 stars Poignant and Pointed.

Tillison wrote that after his heart attack he temporarily lost interest in music, and he even thought about wrapping up the band. But clearly inspiration struck, disturbed by the xenophobic politicking around the Brexit vote, and he again found his voice. This is one of the strongest and most poignant of the Tangent albums. Roger Waters has said that really all that matters about an album is whether it moves you, and in this album, the Tangent does this very well. It also happens to be an immensely musical album. It seems to me (and I said this in my review of the previous album too) that when Tillison is driven to write out of a concern for social justice, not only are the lyrics more original and inspired, but the music as well.

The band here is virtually the same as on the previous album (Tillison, Reingold, Travis and Machin - this continues the Luke Machin era), but with one exception. Morgen Agren (drummer for Kaipa, among others) does not appear. Yet, instead of finding another drummer for the album, Andy Tillison fills in on drums himself, and does an amazing job (!!). He had previously filled in on guitar on the album 'Down and Out in Paris and London' when they found themselves without a guitar player (before Luke Machin arrived). The drumming here - as you might guess given this is the Tangent - is difficult. Yet, Tillison pulls it off as if he were Agren - once again showing himself to be a really impressive multi-instrumentalist.

The music is really excellent through and through. It begins with song that is both emotional and intellectual at the same time, "Two Rope Swings", which compares the lives of, on the one hand, kids growing up in Britain, like Tillison, and on the other, those whose otherwise very similar dreams and needs take a very different direction in Africa. The song is wonderfully evocative, very human, yet at the same time a devastating critique of the trade and foreign policies that have meant deforestation, poverty and poaching in developing nations. The music is equally great. The second track ("Doctor Livingstone I Presume") is an extended instrumental, and one of the best-ever Tangent compositions. Luke Machin really shines on this track - really musical soloing. This makes you wish the Tangent wrote more instruments. The title track is "Slow Rust", is a 22-minute epic in the usual Tangent vein, but lyrically focussed on how a lack of standards, professionalism and morals among the tabloid media in the UK have used xenophobia, hate, and racism to sell newspapers in the face of the internet onslaught. Musically this is again very strong, although it perhaps could have been a bit shorter. Following this is another excellent track "The Sad Story of Lead and Astatine", musically similar to the opening song, which wraps a discussion of the effects of aging on friendships together with a social commentary on the difficulties of having a real public discussion in which opposite voices are not talking past each other. The album ends with the tune that Tillison posted on the Tangent website early, well in advance of the publication of the album, "A Few Steps Down the Wrong Road", a 17-minute epic of sorts but which is narrated, more like a radio play (in similar vein to Wakeman's 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth'). Here, Tillison compares the politics of right-wing populism, like that in the Brexit vote, Marine Le Pen's politics in France, or the Trump administration, to previous historical epochs. The inside of the album jacket contains a wonderful political cartoon on the same theme from a UK perspective by Mark Buckingham. Despite the clear political agenda here, the music is still very good, with a number of musical themes returning and intertwining to match the political story, making this worth listening to not only for the voice-over/lyrics, but also for the music (although one cannot help but hear the story, making this one track perhaps less flexible than the others). Thus officially ends a fantastic album. A bonus track ("Basildonexit") follows, however, continuing the general theme, although very different musically - a somewhat dancy-electronic number. It is weaker than the rest, but if one ends the album right after "A Few Steps..." and skips the bonus track, one still gets a full 74 minutes of excellent music. Really high value for money.

This album is clearly political. Some may not like this, wishing for a return to the more prosaic lyrical themes often found in regular rock. But when the lyrics are as good as this, I think they really add to the music. Furthermore, on this album I happen to think that the politics have been an important inspiration for the creation of some really great original relevant music. On the Tangent website news and blog section, there is a picture of refugees caged behind a fence, with the question "If these guys were in a band, do you think they would say "politics does not belong in music"?". As a life-long fan of Floyd, Waters, Wyatt, and a host of others, I can't help but identify with this general sentiment. Tillison acknowledges in the liner notes the situatedness of the album, that it came out of a very specific time and place, and suggests that years in the future, listeners may look back and consider it dated. This may be true, but I think the underlying message is one that transcends the here and now. It is a very human message, and like Waters in his recent song "Deja Vu", something tells me this is a message that not only will remain relevant for future societies, but one that we probably will need to keep hearing. But regardless of all that, the album is truly a musical accomplishment - one could ignore the lyrics entirely and just focus on the music, and would be thoroughly impressed. It takes a few spins though, with the lyrics so foregrounded, but once you have listened to it a number of times, the sheer musicality becomes evident.

Overall, a really fantastic album. One of the Tangent's best, and a stunning comeback from the less inspired previous album. I rate this album 9.1 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which places it in the 5 PA stars Masterpiece category. Highly recommended.

 A Spark In The Aether - The Music That Died Alone, Volume Two by TANGENT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.84 | 272 ratings

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A Spark In The Aether - The Music That Died Alone, Volume Two
The Tangent Eclectic Prog

Review by Walkscore

3 stars I have noticed a pattern with Tillison/ Tangent albums. The most inspired song writing (music and lyrics) arises when Tillison is presenting a social critique. Those are the moments where he seems to have the most fire in his belly. This album, however, is not one of these. Instead, these songs are largely nostalgic reflections memorizing good times with either music or film. The playing is, as always, excellent. The band here consists of many talented musicians. After a hiatus during 'Le Sacre du Travail', Luke Machin is back on guitar here, and he often steals the show (I split the Tangent into two phases - this album is in the Luke Machin phase - a massive talent). Theo Travis is here again, and excellent as usual. Jonas Reingold, I think, is one of the very best bass players around - so musical. And on this album Morgan Agren (from Kaipa) is on drums. So, there is a huge amount of talent here.

However, despite the album title, the fiery spark is a bit dampened in the writing department. The band does their best livening up the music, and Tillison puts in some excellent solos. But the songs are simply less inspired. Nothing is bad or off-putting, and indeed some of the music here is great. The longest epic "The Celluloid Road" is probably the main contribution that listeners will focus on. Loosely evoking a drive across the USA as reflected in both the history and geography of film in the country, the epic is actually constructed from a number of shorter but musically-related tunes. The culmination, and best of these shorter sub-sections, is where they reach San Francisco. This section is so good, they made it into a single (which makes it onto the album as a bonus 'radio edit'). Both danceable, fun, and yet still 'prog'. But that is only about 4 mins long, and the rest of this epic is up and down, not quite on the same level as other Tangent epics. Instead, my favourite songs on the album are the 9-minute "Clearing the Attic", which is the closest one gets on this album to Tillison's more personal statements from previous albums (ala "A Gap in the Night" etc), and the return (part two) of the title track "A Spark in the Aether" which is twice as long (8 mins) as part one of the same track which opens the album (4 mins). Part two of "Spark" contains a number of really great musical jazzy passages, including some awesomely beautiful bass playing by Reingold. Those are the highlights for me. The rest does not stand up so well. "Codpieces and Capes" is meant to be a nostalgic reminiscence of ostensibly-overblown 70s progressive rock shows and posturing, but with a similar message to (but very different music from) "The Sun in my Eyes" (from 'Place in the Queue'). The theme is "We've Got the Music!". But it doesn't work too well, and I just don't get the same sunny feeling from this one. It is not just that the lyrics seem uninspired; it isn't very musical either. Finally, there is a cover of sorts of Floyd's "Careful with that Axe, Eugene" on this album, but with the lyrics whispered as "Careful with that Sax, Eugene", followed by a screaming sax solo. This would otherwise be a great bonus track, but it doesn't really flow situated in the middle of the album where it is, and indeed seems to break whatever 'concept' there is tieing the tunes together. All in all, for me roughly half the music on this album is great. The rest, after many listens, I now skip over.

This album is worth having. It is not just for fans. It contains some very good musical tunes. But half of this album is less inspired, both musically and lyrically. Indeed, for me this is, on balance, the weakest overall album by The Tangent. So, I would recommend those who haven't heard them yet to start with other albums first. Overall, I give this 7.0 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, translates to 3 PA stars.

 Le Sacre Du Travail by TANGENT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.99 | 346 ratings

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Le Sacre Du Travail
The Tangent Eclectic Prog

Review by Walkscore

5 stars An orchestral treatise on the work day.

Up there among the Tangent's best albums, Le Sacre du Travail (The Rite of Work) is effectively a single 63-minute-long symphony dedicated to understanding and critiquing the regular work day with which we all have (too much) experience. Starting (and ending) with the ticking of the alarm clock, the five tracks - perhaps better described as 'movements' - that make up this piece take us in roughly chronological order through our predictable daily routine, from being woken by the news on the clock radio, to the daily highway commute, the hours we work for others, the afternoon rush home, our final ability to relax (often by watching TV shows and news), to the preparations for the next day. In doing so, Tillison (who wrote all the words and music), brings together much of his ongoing social critique of the way most of us live, from our concentrations in little boxes far away from work necessitating the burning of tons of fossil fuels so others can profit from our best hours, to the control of communications technologies over our lives. Listening to this, I am always reminded of French scholar Henri Lefebvre's classic book "Critique of Everyday Life". Tillison shares with Lefebvre an attempt to look behind the things we all take for granted, and to see the regular every-day as a form of social control in which we all willingly (albeit often under compulsion) participate. The lyrics, and indeed the music, is intellectual, yet also very authentic. Most of us can easily and instantly identify with it. This is one of the things I have liked about The Tangent and Tillison's writing from the beginning - it makes you think, and identify with it.

In terms of sonic textures, this is the most orchestral of The Tangent albums. There are lots of slower sections dominated by the sounds of oboes, clarinets, flutes, and the like, and many of the pieces/movements are structured around orchestral themes and phrasing. This is not to say that the band doesn't rock at times - with such a great band, there are some really excellent solos here, and the band does get heavy once in a while. But for the most part the music is subdued, orderly, precise. It sounds like it was written as a symphony.

The band here is fairly unique for a Tangent album, and it sounds more like a Tillison solo album with hired hands rather than a band album per se. Jonas Reingold, one of the best contemporary bass players in my opinion, is back here (and would stay for further albums), which is wonderful - he adds so much to the Tangent's music, and Theo Travis is thankfully still here (some great solos, etc). However, despite Luke Machin joining on the previous album ('COMM'), he is not on this album, which is a shame, although Jakko Jakszyk (who now plays with King Crimson) fills in on electric guitar, and of course does an excellent and precise job. The drumming here is handled by Gavin Harrison (from Porcupine Tree, and now King Crimson too), and he does a great job, laying down some great grooves under the solos. Finally, on backing vocals is Big Big Train's David Longdon. A common critique of other Tangent albums is that Tillison's singing is not super accurate. Well, it seems he took those critiques to heart here, as his singing is among the most in tune of any Tangent album, and Longdon's harmonies add a lot to the vocals, and raise them up over the typical Tangent sound. There is really nothing to fault on this album vocally.

Finally, the music here is great. Tillison has come up with some great evocative musical themes, including a repeated triplet-based syncopated pattern that permeates and delimits certain movements, somewhat like (but different from) Holst's work or Pat Metheny's 'This Way Up'. These rhythmic patterned themes are very musical, and do a great job in evoking the rushed feel of getting ready for work, commuting on the highway, etc. And while generally slower and quieter than the typical Tangent album, I think it is also one of the most musical, with virtually no sections that are off-putting. Everything here is very rewarding if you give it the time for multiple listens. Some who prefer really fast, loud and heavy playing may not dig this album as much. But I like to see a long piece developed over a series of movements. And there is a lot of space for great instrumental sections here (unlike, say, Tangent's earlier epic 'In Earnest', which put singing over top of much of that piece). Harrison and Reingold lay down some really excellent rhythms, and there are some fantastic solos by Travis, Tillison and Jakszyk. So, even though I really dig the lyrics, it is the music that for me really shines. The two long epics - the 23-min "Morning Journey and Arrival" and the 19-min "Afternoon Malaise" - are the centrepieces of the album. These are really well-developed, with excellent lyrics and extensive instrumental sections that allow the band to shine. In addition to the main pieces/movements that make up the album proper, there are three bonus tracks. Of these, I really like the live proto-punk "Hat" recorded during Tillison's high-school years. A very nice added bonus.

This is for me one of the strongest Tangent albums. I of course still have some minor critiques. In particular, the final movement (the 12-minute "Evening TV") could have gone further and really blown the roof off with some extended solos and the like (like, say, the finale of Yes' "Tales", etc), but instead plays it safer and feels a bit complacent (perhaps matching the musical vibe to the lyrical message?). It is not bad in any way, but it could have been even better. Because of this, the album does not rate quite as high for me as CD2 of Tangent's double-CD album 'Not as Good as the Book' (of which CD2 I rated 9.3). But 'Sacre' still scores very strongly. On balance, I give this album 9.1 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which puts it in the 5 PA star "Masterpiece" category. Highly recommended.

 COMM by TANGENT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.85 | 305 ratings

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COMM
The Tangent Eclectic Prog

Review by Walkscore

4 stars First of a new Tangent era, with some archetypical Tangent epics.

This Tangent album marks a new era for the band, one we might call the Luke Machin era (who joins on electric guitar). The first album not to feature Guy Manning, by this time the only original member left is Andy Tillison himself. Bassist Jonathan Barrett would leave after this album too, and neither drummers Nick Redwood (who played on the album), nor Tony Latham (who was supposed to become a permanent member), would play on any other Tangent albums. These line-up changes alone might quality the Tangent as a prog band! Actually, Theo Travis is on this album too, and I consider him to be a core member, so it is not just Tillison. With the addition of Machin on guitar, the Tangent once again has a virtuoso guitarist, and Luke is truly excellent. His solos on the album are all top notch - very fluid, fast, and musical. Travis of course is also excellent, as is Tillison himself, so the solo sections on this album are all highly satisfying (the rhythm section is good too, no issues, although nothing as stellar as when Jonas Reingold is on bass grooving along with one of the Swedish drummers who have played in the band). Yet, despite all the changes, this album feels once again like a band album. It has a cohesive sound too.

Most of the music here is excellent, and expertly recorded and performed. The opening and closing tracks, both epics, are the clear highlights. The opener, 20-min 'The Wiki Man', talks about the evolution of the internet and how dependent on it our identities are, and does so in a nice direct way. Nice lyrics that hit home, and the music is excellent, with lots of great changes and solos. The 16-min closing track, "Titanic calls Carpathia", is about the first radio call and the importance of the development of communications technology since that time (both its benefits and its darker sides) - another excellent piece, even better than the opening track. Together these two songs add up to 37 minutes. The three remaining pieces, in comparison, are filler. Of these it is the short (6-min) "Tech Support Guy" that is musically most interesting. "Shoot them down" is a ballad written and sung by Jonathan Barrett - fairly decent, and a little different from the usual Tillison song, but nothing to write home about. I am not so keen on the main themes in the 8-min "The Mind's Eye", meanwhile, but the middle instrumental section is fantastic. There are also two bonus tracks on the album, including a cover of "Watcher of the Skies" and an early demo that sounds more like Rush, but neither is very particularly interesting, and I generally ignore them (and because they are 'bonus' tracks, I have not included them in my rating of the album).

COMM contains many of those characteristics that I think suit the Tangent well. Not only well-written complex music, but I think Tillison's insights about, and critiques of, the impact of the internet and communication tech is his primary lyrical strength and his main original contribution to the world of rock. When he is writing lyrics about this, they never seem pretentious, silly or sneering, but instead quite human and insightful. We identify with them, and they seem to suit his voice best (even when he is singing slightly out of tune, which is a common critique from other reviewers). The opening and closing epics on this album fit this pattern, and I would consider them sort-of archetypical of the 'Tangent sound'. They are definitely among the top 10 of Tangent epics, even if the filler between them is less interesting. Overall, I give this album 8.0 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to (low) 4 PA stars.

 Down And Out In Paris And London by TANGENT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.73 | 266 ratings

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Down And Out In Paris And London
The Tangent Eclectic Prog

Review by Walkscore

3 stars Transitional but still very good album.

Recorded over the year after "Not as Good as the Book", this album represents an interesting transition from the previous Tangent line-up to a new one. It was also recorded during the year in which the global financial crisis occurred. I am not sure if there is any relationship there, but some of the lyrics do refer to aspects of the crisis. With bass player Jonas Reingold leaving, as well as drummer Jamie Salazar (both of whom played in the flower kings), Tillison writes in the liner notes that the Swedish connection so important to the beginnings of the band was no longer and the Tangent were now a fully English band. However, this new state of affairs would not last too long either. The drummer they found to replace Salazar only played on this album (Paul Burgess from 10CC), while the new bass player Jonathan Barrett only plays on two albums (he would be replaced by a returning Jonas Reingold). So, the only original members on this one are Tillison, Travis (sax and flute), and Guy Manning (acoustic guitar, backing vocals).

This means there is no electric guitar player. So, Andy Tillison himself takes on the electric guitar duties, similar to how he would take on the drumming in the most recent album (Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery). I have to say I am impressed by how good Tillison is on guitar here. He is no Roine Stolt (original el guitarist), nor any Luke Machin (current guitarist), both of whom are amazing. However, Tillison can clearly hold his own. Saying this, his electric solos can't compare to Travis' playing, and on this album it is the sax solos that steal the show. But I can't help but be impressed by just how well-rounded a musician Tillison shows himself to be. Even if the band at this time was "down and out" (as implied by the title), Tillison was able (with the help of Travis and Manning) to pull together an original musical statement.

Musically, this selection of tunes is mixed in quality. Thankfully, with this album The Tangent breaks with the previous pattern of putting their weakest material first. Instead, the best track of the collection - "Where are they now" - opens the album. This 19-min long epic is structured around a very catchy guitar hook, with some great grooves and soloing, while bits of the piece have a playful quality that reminds one of Gong. The lyrics are a bit cryptic, but reference the global financial crisis and the lack of trust in society. Two of the middle sections of this track bring back the key figure "Earnest" - of the opening epic on the album 'A Place in the Queue' - who is now in a resthome recounting his war-time stories and experiencing forgiveness. So, this track represents a kind of 'conceptual continuity' with previous Tangent albums. Overall, a great Tangent piece. If the rest of the album had been this good it would have straddled the boundary between four and five stars.

However, of the five remaining tracks, only two really stand out. The second-best is the closing track, titled here "The Canterbury Sequence volume 2, Ethanol Hat Nail". In actuality, it sounds little like the original light-hearted and joyous Canterbury Sequence (from their debut album), but is instead much more experimental, dark, and quirky. But there is still a Canterbury-esque tinge, and it contains some really great music, particularly in its middle sections. After this, only the second track "Paroxetine - 20mg" quite stands up with the rest of The Tangent's discography. The other three tracks sound like filler. While the latter music is not bad in any way, it is just not super memorable, although some of the lyrics maintain Tillison's social critique (particularly "Perdue Dans Paris", about the two separate worlds of the city - the daytime of civilized Parisians coupled with a nighttime occupied by the homeless and castouts).

The result is a mixed album. Three of the tracks are great, while the other three are musically less interesting. The stronger tracks are important to the Tangent discography and thus worth getting, but together do not quite lift the average quality above four stars. On balance, I give this album 7.6 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 3 PA stars.

 Not As Good As The Book by TANGENT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.87 | 372 ratings

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Not As Good As The Book
The Tangent Eclectic Prog

Review by Walkscore

4 stars CD2 is five stars!

This double-CD concept album is where Andy Tillison really explores his creative side in writing for The Tangent. The band is similar as on A Place in the Queue and Going Off On One, although Sam Baine has left, Julie King cameos on vocals on one tune, and Jakko Jakszyk (who now plays with King Crimson) has replaced Krister Jonsson on guitar. On this album, it is Theo Travis whose solos really shine, as the guitar rarely takes centre stage.

Tillison once again has produced a very thoughtful set of lyrics. The message is similar to, but goes beyond, the one Tillison makes on previous albums. He continues to be contemplative and critical of modern life, but as part of the story/concept he extrapolates key trends into the future, which raises even further the interest factor. The general theme is about a middle-aged man like Tillison who looks back on life with a critical eye of how expectations of the future were built, both for himself but also for the society he lives in (hence the title "Not as Good as the Book"). But Tillison is not only thinking through a case of smashed expectations, he is also examining the role that war, nationalism, and technology (television, etc) have played in buttressing these expectations, and he then extrapolates the implications of this for what we might experience in the future. While not every song has great singing or words, overall I really like the story and the lyrics - they really make you think.

Musically, the album is mixed, but thankfully the good stuff is bunched together. This is now the third Tangent album in a row to put the weakest material at the beginning. The first CD contains a string of shorter tunes that link together as a story. Musically it is definitely one of the weaker, if not the weakest, of the Tangent discography. Indeed, the quality doesn't hit until the instrumental "Celebrity Puree", which is the fourth track. The rest of this CD from this point on is decent. But while there are some decent sections in the first three songs, they are all much less musical than the rest of the album. Furthermore, the first two tracks "A Crisis in Mid-Life" and "Lost in London 25 Year Later" have the weakest lyrics on the album. Basically, these initial tunes are there to set the storyline more than anything, but musically they contain less interest. After listening to this album a gazillion times, I now just skip right to track four, and then listen through to the end of the album. The title track is one of the best on this side/CD, and the closing track, "Bat Out of Basildon", is fun, ending the first CD on an up feeling. Overall, I give this first CD 7.2 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 3 PA stars.

The second CD, on the other hand, is amazing! It consists of only two long epics: "Four Egos, One War" and "The Full Gamut". Each is fantastic, both musically and lyrically. Julie King guests on vocals on "Four Egos" with Andy, and it works so well, it makes one wish that she had become a permanent member. Great music, awesome singing, wonderful critical lyrics. The tune is looking back on how the post-war boom and all the expectations and mythology that was built into it was partly based on the threat of war and the power it gave those with weapons. Really nicely done. "The Full Gamut" which closes the album is one of those rare pieces that is a total experience (in some ways, it reminds me of The Gates of Delirium in that sense, although musically it is totally different), such a great epic. This is where Tillison goes futuristic and lays out a potentially dystopian scenario. These two pieces are up there among my top five favourite Tangent compositions. Indeed, I would say this CD2 is my very favourite Tangent 'disc'. On its own, I would give CD2 a 9.3 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which places it firmly in 5-star territory. Really musical, with excellent hard-hitting lyrics and wonderful singing. Tillison of course still sings occasionally out of tune, but on The Full Gamut, when it happens it sounds like it fits better.

All together, the amazing CD2 is counterbalanced by the weaker CD1. I find it interesting that Tillison puts the best tracks near the end, and the weaker tunes at the beginning, not just here, but on the previous two Tangent albums too. Thankfully this pattern would not continue on subsequent albums. Overall, I give this album 8.3 out of 10 on my 10-point scale. But the second CD is, to my mind, essential.

 A Place In The Queue by TANGENT, THE album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.83 | 339 ratings

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A Place In The Queue
The Tangent Eclectic Prog

Review by Walkscore

4 stars Overly earnest at first, but just wait! (er, I mean, queue)...

An uneven and eclectic double album, 'A Place in the Queue' was recorded with an eye on maintaining the momentum and attention given the first two albums. Roine Stolt and Zoltan Csorsz (guitarist and then-drummer for The Flower Kings) left the band, but were replaced with other Swedish musicians in Krister Jonsson (who played with Karmakanic, Jonas Reingold's band) and Jamie Salazar (who was the original drummer for The Flower Kings), so the Swedish connection continued. Theo Travis had already replaced David Jackson in the last album. With this new line-up, the band began touring extensively in support of 'A Place in the Queue'.

There is a ton of material on this album. Even on just the original CD the capacity is maxed out, with two 20+ min epics, three roughly 10-minute tracks and two shorter pieces. But the version I have is the deluxe/extended double-CD release, which contains another 17 minutes of music recorded at the same time, a long 9-min mix of one of the short tunes (the single 'Sun In My Eyes'), and 20 mins of improvisation (including a live track written by Travis). This album has more compositional collaboration too, with almost half the tracks here written collaboratively (with Travis, Manning, Baine, and Middleton, and Jonsson). The result is an album that feels like a real band album. The music varies in style more than the usual Tangent album, with some pieces actually danceable (again, the single "Sun in my Eyes"), others decidedly avant-jazz (DIY Surgery), and of course the usual Tillison/Tangent social critique. It takes a lot of time and effort to listen to the whole thing, and it is important to give this a full listen to understand its merits. Unfortunately, with so much music, many will be tempted to focus on the first track, which unfortunately is the weakest one here.

The album begins with the first of two long epics, "In Earnest", which suffers from being too true to its name. This long song is about a World War II veteran named Earnest who is now aged and forgotten, and impacted by his memories. Tillison uses his story to make a comment about the immorality of war and the plight of veterans. While I like the general theme, musically this is one of the weakest Tangent pieces. The lyrics are among Tillison's more trite, his singing is a bit more off-key than usual (or at least I notice it more), and the music is generally weaker - it seems mostly written not for music's sake, but instead as backing to the extensive lyrics. But the worst part is that virtually the whole 20 min song is taken up with lyrics, there is no space for the music to speak. The instrumental sections and solos are very brief - it always comes right back to more lyrics. And it goes on and on. Interestingly, Tillison states in the liner notes that Yes's 'Tales of Topographic Oceans' was his inspiration for this album. However, Tales had lots of musical instrumental sections and long solos, it wasn't all full of lyrics like on this song. And all the music on Tales is better than on Earnest. This is hands down the weakest Tangent epic they have ever recorded in my opinion. This is the only song I can't listen to any more on this album. And at 20 minutes, this is a lot of song.

Thankfully, the album picks up from here, and there is still tons of music on it. "Lost in London" is also a Tillison social commentary, this time more personal (about his own experiences feeling lonely when first arriving in London), and it works much better both lyrically and musically. However, it is "DIY Surgery" that finally shakes the listener free from the tired feeling remaining from "In Earnest". Zany jazz avant-funk piece written by Travis, this song wakes the listener up some new sounds, and in the process makes instantly clear what was missing from opening epic. From this point on, the music is all excellent. GPS Culture is another Tillison social commentary, but one of the first of what I think is his main lyrical strength - a social critique of the effects of information technologies in modern life. Continuing with some of the thoughtful critiques begun in 'The World we Drive Through', it is on this album that Tillison really begins commenting on how the internet, digital technology and the like have their dark side. These particular insights are one of the things I really appreciate about The Tangent albums, and about Tillison's writing. This critical ethos continues with "Follow Your Leaders", and perhaps most delicious of all, the groovy dance-hall hit single "The Sun In My Eyes", which is actually a pean to progressive rock and the ability of good music to get one through tough times and social ostracism! (yes, a dance song that promotes progressive rock!). I love it. I also happen to really identify with it - so often in the face of life's challenges (and when younger of the cruelty and unfairness of other human beings, from schoolyard bullies to rotten employers) I have found my inner strength in music. And I think Tillison has found a good metaphor - it is very much like having the sun in one's eyes.

But it is the title track, the 25-minute epic "A Place in the Queue" which is the shining star on the album. Combining Tillison's previous insights about loneliness in modern times (from 'In Darkest Dreams" and "A Gap in the Night", from the first and second Tangent albums, respectively), with the critiques of the way we live (e.g. "The World that we Drive Through"), and his new-found insights about information technology (from spreadsheet accounting, to big-data surveillance), noted above, Tillison builds a dystopian critique of the way contemporary modernity means a life that is increasingly regimented, watched, planned largely to benefit the interests of others, exhausted of possibility and spontaneity, and defined by how willing one is to sell out one's principles for temporary scraps of time. It is devastating. Yet it is not overblown - nothing Tillison says in the piece is an exaggerated claim, or over the top. He simply generalizes from real life. We might not necessarily agree with the implications, but the lyrics here come across as authentic and believable, not pretentious. The music is co-written with Travis, and the music is really excellent, jazzier and different from any other piece, and thus quite original. And there are real musical breaks that given the listener some space. This is one of The Tangent's best epics, a good counter to the one that opens the album.

The pieces on the bonus disc included in the deluxe/extended double-CD version are also worth having. In fact, the 17 minutes of music recorded at the same time as the rest of the album is all better than "In Earnest", both musically and lyrically. "Forsaken Cathedrals" is particularly good. I also really like (of course) the 9-minute version of "Sun in my Eyes". The live track "Grooving on Mars" written by Travis is excellent, and the 13-minute instrumental improvisation "Kartoffeisalat Im Unterseeboot" is also good.

Overall, this is an important album, and one that despite the weak opening epic, I really like. Of course, when reviewing an album, I need to take into account its entirely. On balance, including everything, I give this album 8.2 out of 10 on my 10-point scale. If "In Earnest" had been left off this album, it would definitely score higher, in the high 80s.

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

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