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CLIVE NOLAN

Neo-Prog • United Kingdom


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Clive Nolan biography
Born 30 June 1961 (Gloucestershire, UK)

Clive Nolan is a British musician, composer and producer who has played a prominent role in the recent development of progressive and symphonic rock.

He was a pupil at Wycliffe College and King's School, Gloucester. He completed his B. Mus and M. Mus degrees at London University where he studied composition, orchestration and conducting. He has been the regular keyboard player in Pendragon (1986-present), Shadowland (1992-present), Strangers on a Train (1993-1994), Arena (1995-present) and Caamora (2006-present) as well as writing music and lyrics for Arena, Shadowland, Caamora and numerous other projects.

Nolan is the founder member of The Caamora Theatre Company formed to produce and perform the Clive Nolan musicals. The premiere of 'She' took place in Katowice Wyspianski Theatre in Poland in October 2007. Subsequently, full theatrical performances of 'She' were performed in January 2010 in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, followed by the eight-man 'She in Concert' variation in Holland in September 2011. In February 2012 theatrical version of 'She' debuted in the UK in Cheltenham Playhouse Theatre.

Photo by Neil Palfreyman

He was voted Best Keyboard Player by Classic Rock Society in the years: 1995, 1996, 1998, 2005, 2009, 2010, and 2011. In 2010 the Bolivian government awarded him with the title of Honorary Visitor to Santa Cruz, Bolivia for his theatre work in the city of Santa Cruz.

(Biography with thanks to the official Clive Nolan website)

See also:
- Arena
- Caamora
- Pendragon
- Strangers On A Train
- Shadowland
- Nolan & Wakeman
- Nick Barrett & Clive Nolan

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CLIVE NOLAN discography


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CLIVE NOLAN top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.09 | 4 ratings
Conflicts (OST)
1991
3.95 | 152 ratings
Alchemy
2013
4.00 | 3 ratings
Otra Vida
2013
4.48 | 16 ratings
King's Ransom
2017
4.24 | 14 ratings
From The Outside In
2019
4.12 | 31 ratings
Song of the Wildlands
2021

CLIVE NOLAN Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

CLIVE NOLAN Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.50 | 16 ratings
Alchemy Live
2013

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

2.00 | 8 ratings
Skeletons In the Cupboard
2003
4.00 | 3 ratings
Hidden Treasure
2015

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

CLIVE NOLAN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Song of the Wildlands by NOLAN, CLIVE album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.12 | 31 ratings

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Song of the Wildlands
Clive Nolan Neo-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

5 stars There are very few musicians in the progressive scene who have such a diverse output as Clive Nolan. While many think of him only as the keyboard player in Pendragon or Arena, he has also been involved in multiple others bands and projects, and back in the Nineties he appeared to have his hand in most of what was going on in the UK in one way or another. When he came out with 'Alchemy' in 2013 it was quite a shock to many that he was now so heavily involved in a theatrical production, but in truth this was a direct follow-on to his works with Caamora and his earlier collaborations with Oliver Wakeman.

Here he now pursues a style which was made famous by Oliver's father with 'Journey To The Centre of the Earth' as we have a story with narration (take a bow Ross Andrews as your contribution is immense), with different singers taking on different parts but none of them have a speaking part. This removes it from his own earlier works, and there is also more overt orchestration, with some wonderful choral sections, yet there is still rock at its heart with Scott Higham keeping it going at all times. Interestingly, some of the music is very traditional and folky, and the result is something which is probably one of the most diverse of his releases to date. Certainly it is one of the most compelling, in that he has somehow brought together a huge variety of styles which all blend and work effectively, while compressing the elegy into a summarised version of the story that is fascinating for the listener.

It would not be possible to tell the full story in a single album, but here we have the highlights of Beowulf, how he saves the king from Grendel and then Grendel's mother, before dying himself many years later as he saved his own kingdom from the dragon. I played this after listening to his album with Oliver, 'The Hound of the Baskervilles', for the first time in some years while also re-acquainting myself with 'Alchemy', and although there are hints of both of those in this one, in reality this is more complex, broad and deep. The performances from everyone is one wonderful, while Clive himself takes care of the orchestration and keyboards, and when playing this on headphones I fell into the world of Beowulf and did not want to leave.

Recorded during lockdown, Clive describes this as a secular oratorio, which is a great way to think of it, as when the choirs lift then it certainly is an apt description. This has been made available as a 2-LP vinyl as a Limited Blood Red and regular black edition (both with a booklet) and a CD Earbook, a vinyl-size hardback book containing four discs: the album, a special instrumental version of the album, and a documentary on DVD and Blu-ray formats. The vinyl comes as a Limited Blood Red and regular black edition, both with a booklet.

It certainly deserves all the care and attention given to it in terms of release, as the music contained within the package is very special indeed.

 Song of the Wildlands by NOLAN, CLIVE album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.12 | 31 ratings

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Song of the Wildlands
Clive Nolan Neo-Prog

Review by TenYearsAfter

3 stars Autumn 1982. The young Clive Nolan (he was then 21) attended a Marillion concert in London. Impressed by the epic song 'Grendel, he declares: "One day, these guys are going to work with me", and he was partly right - Arena was created 13 years later with the drummer of the time, Mick Pointer. Grendel inspired him to write the track Loki, as soon as he returned from the gig. In spring 2021, the same Clive Nolan, after many projects, published Song Of The Wildlands, an adaptation of a major epic poem of the Anglo-Saxon literature (VIIth century), which puts in scene a warrior become king after having overcome a formidable monster: Grendel. The circle is closed.

Most of the 15 tracks contain bombastic atmospheres featuring majestic orchestral keyboards, a 200-voice choir singing in Anglo-Saxon (old English) and propulsive drums, blended with narration (Ross Andrews), several pleasant female vocals (including Christina Booth from Magenta) and the voice of Beowolf (Ryan Morgan). To me it sounds like a bridge between a solo album by Rick Wakeman and the soundtrack of fantasy movies like Lord Of The Rings. Some compositions sound more mellow, often with strong folky hints, due to the distinctive instrumentation, like harp and flute. Clive Nolan has succeeded to create Medieval-like moods that matches with the story, but during this album the atmospheres tend to sound too similar, my attentions slips away at some moments. It's a pity that Clive Nolan has not created more variety, for instance by writing parts with classical guitar, lute, or a typical sounding vintage keyboard like the harpsichord. Or simply by adding more soli on the electric guitar and synthesizer.

I wish Clive Nolan had been a bit more the 'Rick Wakeman Of The Neo Progressive Rock Movement' on this album, a bit more extravaganza or self-indulgence would have contributed to more variety and excitement, now it all sounds a bit too similar.

My rating: 2,5 star.

 Song of the Wildlands by NOLAN, CLIVE album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.12 | 31 ratings

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Song of the Wildlands
Clive Nolan Neo-Prog

Review by The Jester

5 stars Review #111

Here's the thing; I love Rock Operas when they are well made and tasteful. And so far, most of Clive Nolan's Rock operas are simply wonderful! Yes, maybe sometimes they have their ups and downs, but the overall outcome is usually superb! (To me at least).

I was introduced into his Rock Operas with the release of Alchemy, which is still one of my most beloved albums of the last decades. Then, when I heard about King's Ransom, I was counting the days for my pre-order to arrive. King's Ransom toped my expectations, and made me want to listen to Alchemy again. So, I begun listening them both, one after the other.

The years passed and I was wondering which was going to be his next step. A third chapter in the Alchemy Universe, or he would try something totally different? The answer to this came a few months ago, when I learned about Song of the Wildlands. To be honest I had no idea what to expect this time, because the main theme was something totally different and it had to be kind of epic. But the information that they were "leaking" were very promising.

So, now that have the album, and I have listened to it over 10 times, I can say that it is once more excellent! It is kind of epic - Clive Nolan epic, not Manowar epic - and once more it includes a huge number of musicians and singers; not to mention the 200-people choir which is stunning!

Once more, I am not going to get into details for each song, because as I wrote in some of my previous reviews,, these kind of albums are like a musical journey. Each song offers something new and takes the story further.

The best way to find out more about Song of the Wildlands is to listen to it a few times and then form your own opinion. It is a great - highly enjoyable - Rock Opera, which I definitely recommend, assuming that you like these kind of albums of course. As for my rating, I think I will give 4.5 stars, but since I cannot give that number, I will give 5.0 (Because although it's not exactly Progressive Rock, it's a really, really wonderful album). Give it a try folks! You won't regret it...

 From The Outside In by NOLAN, CLIVE album cover Studio Album, 2019
4.24 | 14 ratings

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From The Outside In
Clive Nolan Neo-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

5 stars Piazzai is a new name to me, a singer I haven't previously come across, but apparently, she is an Italian born singer raised in Sweden who originally concentrated on the dance scene before becoming involved with UKD Project and recording two albums with them. In 2016 she met up with one Clive Nolan, taking part in 2017's Beyond The Veil festival where she performed with Paul Manzi (Arena). That led to discussions which in turn has led to 'From The Outside In', which is subtitled 'Laura Piazzai sings the songs of Clive Nolan'. In so many ways this reminds me of the Nineties when Clive seemed to have a million different projects on the go at the same time and kept bringing in musicians to add their bits and pieces. Very few of them actually featured his own vocals (which I always felt was a shame), but he had a knack of bringing in the right musicians at the right time. Here he is revisiting many of those songs which the current music buying public will have never heard, with new arrangements, and allowing Laura to put her own vocal styles on the top.

A quick glance down the musicians revealed no real surprises, and it is wonderful again to see Karl Groom's name linked with Clive's, but for the most part Clive used different guitarists in Mark Westwood, Roberto Barcellini and Oscar Mapelli so there is a different approach to the originals. No album like this would be complete without Mr Bass himself, John Jowitt, although Gokhan Ince also provides bass and both Scott Higham and Sergio Quagliarella are on drums. Most people will have never heard these songs before, but that is down to the mass media refusing to recognise music like this even existed. That Tracy Hitchings' 1991 album 'From Ignorance to Ecstasy' is not more widely acclaimed is nothing short of shocking and is still very much one of my favourites. Three songs from that album are featured here, as well as songs from projects such as Strangers On A Train (note to Clive: I have vivid memories of us discussing this as a trilogy, so isn't it time for the third?).

Laura has a great voice, and she is coming from a totally different background to people who have normally been involved with Clive's material, with more of a Mariah Carey approach. Clive has also taken the opportunity to record some vocals on material where he previously brought in other singers. I have always enjoyed Clive's vocals, and felt that Shadowland were one of the best bands around (further note to Clive: 2021 will be 25 years since the last new Shadowland studio album, must be time for another?), yet it is only with his more recent works that he has had the confidence to really shine. There is one other name I must mention in regard to this recording, and that is the appearance of Andy Sears on 'Sensing a Presence'. Here is another singer who has never gained the acclaim he deserves, and his presence on 'Alchemy' was nothing short of majestic. Maybe the next project should be 'Andy Sings Clive'? Just a thought.

Clive and I have been friends for more than quarter of a century, yet he is fully aware that if I felt he had produced something which was not worthy I would say so publicly. But that is certainly not the case here, as songs long forgotten by some, and not even heard by many, have been given a new lease of life with a singer who is dominant and determined with great presence. Clive knows when to pull back and provide simple backing, and this album is all about the singer, but there are times when the guys let loose, and that just makes me smile.

I have gone back and pulled out the SOAT albums and listened again to music I hadn't played for years, still enjoying the original, yet feeling the new versions had taken that base and turned it into something else. This is for all fans of Clive's original music, plus those who have come to him from his musicals, or those who juts like hearing powerful female vocals in a progressive melodic rock setting. Awesome.

 Conflicts (OST) by NOLAN, CLIVE album cover Studio Album, 1991
2.09 | 4 ratings

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Conflicts (OST)
Clive Nolan Neo-Prog

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

2 stars First solo "album" by the neo-prog hero Clive Nolan!

And I'm writing "album" with quotation marks because this record is not the standard solo release that you are imagine. This is a compilation of two soundtracks that Nolan wrote almost 30 years ago for two independent British films, named Cahersiveen and Old Priest.

So this album has two clear parts, one for each film. Nevertheless, the style of the compositions of very similar, being Cahersiveen romantic and dramatic and Old Priest a bit darker. Neo-Prog fans will be delighted with the typical Nolan melodies in keyboards, but the hearing of this album is however not interesting apart from the curiosity of hearing Nolan trying to ambient these two pictures.

Pictures that after listening their soundtracks, I will surely never try to see.

Best tracks: it's difficult to pick separate songs of these soundtracks, but I must say that I prefer the Old Priest one, where End Credits is maybe my favorite one.

Conclusion: the two soundtracks included in Conflicts sound dated and not really interesting today, being the whole experience rather boring and only recommended for Neo-Prog hounds and Nolan's completists.

My rating: **

 King's Ransom by NOLAN, CLIVE album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.48 | 16 ratings

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King's Ransom
Clive Nolan Neo-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

5 stars

Clive and I started talking to each other at the time of the first Shadowland album, and I have been fortunate to review most of his recordings since then, through multiple bands and projects. I missed the musical 'She' (one of the problems caused by moving to the other side of the world), which was released under the name 'Caamora', but did come across 'Alchemy' which used many of the Caamora Theatre Company, but was released under his own name. Here he introduced us to the world of Professor Samuel King, and his battle with Lord Henry Jagman to solve the mysteries of Anzeray. I, like many others, log everything I play on the LastFM website, and according to their records I have played this album more than any other since I started logging my plays at the beginning of 2007 (the next two are 'The Snow Goose' and 'Snow' as you didn't ask). One of my daughters loves this almost as much as me, and it is often chosen to be played in the car, with "The Unwelcome Guest" being especially favoured (and consequently the most played song according to the same site).

So, when I heard that Clive was releasing another album in the same series I was intrigued. It just so happened that I was back in the UK in August for the first time in more than five years, and somehow the planets aligned for myself and Clive to meet for the first time in aeons. Sat in his music room, talk soon turned to the new album, so he passed me his bound copy of the lyrics and he then started to play highlights to me, explaining the story and thinking behind it. The events in this musical follow on from 'Alchemy', albeit a few years later, and does include some of the same characters. Interestingly, although many of the musicians have played on both, very few of the same singers are involved again. Also, although there are a couple of small mentions of things that happened on 'Alchemy', there is no need to have heard that release as this stands up in its own right. But, if one has heard the first one then there are both lyrical and musical repetitions designed to make the listener smile, as if they have been let into a secret.

One criticism I have heard of 'Alchemy', which had also reached Clive's ears, is that in many ways it is too dark, with too much death. Consequently, this album has been made deliberately lighter, with some quite comedic numbers. My favourite character is Captain Fergus Maunder, and it is obvious that Alan Reed (Anel Ganz, Pallas) had an absolute blast playing the role. For anyone who knows him, his Scots accent isn't nearly as strong as he lays it on here. There are too many musical highlights to mention, but "Haunted" always makes me smile, while "Nostalgia" reminds me of "Half Of Sixpence". Yes, in many circles Clive will always be known for progressive rock, and as I write this he has just returned from playing with Pendragon in Japan, but with his theatre productions he looks far away from the prog field, and looks instead to classic British musicals of the past.

Clive has stated that he feels that this is the first steampunk musical, and has released three short videos to provide just a taste of the show. At the beginning of September some lucky souls could see a performance of 'Alchemy' one night, and then 'King's Ransom' the next. Of course, I was back in NZ by then!! Yet again he has created a masterpiece, and only time will tell if this one gets played as much as the last. Also, he has left the door wide open for a third, and I hope there is enough interest in these for that one also to be written and performed. This is for anyone who enjoys musical theatre, particularly British, or just wants to hear some great songs well performed. This is a masterpiece.

 King's Ransom by NOLAN, CLIVE album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.48 | 16 ratings

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King's Ransom
Clive Nolan Neo-Prog

Review by The Jester

5 stars Review # 67 Clive Nolan is one of the greatest musicians in the modern Progressive Rock music scene. His name is involved in a rather big number of bands or projects, such as Pendragon, Arena, Casino, Shadowland and others.

However, as Clive told me once, he has always been a great fan of musicals. In 2008 he released his first musical named as She, under the name Caamora. (The story was based on the book with the same name, written by H. Rider Haggard).

His second musical was Alchemy and it was released in 2013, under his name this time. The plot took place in Victorian England in 'Alchemy Universe', and it was based on a fictional story, written by him. When I bought Alchemy, I couldn't believe how wonderful it was, and I have no idea how many times I listened to it! (Even today, it still is one of my most beloved albums of the last decade).

When I learned about King's Ransom, which is the sequel of Alchemy, I wasn't very surprised, mainly due to the fact that at the end of Alchemy there was a hint that the story could be continued in the future. On the other hand, I was a bit worried, because Alchemy was a really great album and I wasn't sure if he could repeat something like that again. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded...

I pre-ordered King's Ransom, and what I received was a box set, including 4 CD's, 1 DVD and 3 booklets. A very impressive and expensive production as it seems. (The 4CD's edition was available only for pre-order as far as I know. The normal edition includes 3CD's plus 1 DVD).

Now, let's take a look at the album itself. It is divided into 2 parts (Act I & Act II) and includes 33 tracks in total. Don't forget that this is not a Progressive Rock album, it's a musical. For the recordings of the album, Clive used 6 musicians and 11 singers who play the different characters of the story. In comparison with Alchemy, I think that King's Ransom is more sophisticated, and a bit 'darker'. The music is astonishing once more, and it changes according to the situations that the characters find themselves in. As for the performance of the singers, it is excellent on most occasions. (But that's totally a matter of personal taste).

I will not get into details for each song separately, because that is an unfair thing to do. The songs follow a storyline, and each of them has something to offer to the story. Therefore, there might be some songs not so 'strong' like others, but they add something and they move the story forward. Also, I enjoyed the dialogues that bind the songs together, because it gives a theatrical touch to the album.

Despite the fact that I put the CD's in my CD player and listen to them without skipping not even one song, there are some songs that I enjoy more than others. Some of them are the following: Act I: Poison Runs the Course, Silent Army, The Deal is Made, Legend of the Unicorn Orchid, and of course the wonderful Solitary Man, with the fantastic voice of Gemma Ashley. (Goosebumps. Every time!) Act II: In Harm's Way, Stand Fast, Turning the Tables, St Paul's and Epilogue.

I will conclude this by saying that, King's Ransom is a definite must-have for every fan of Clive Nolan, but not only for them. Every person can enjoy this album because it is definitely a serious piece of art! I don't know about you, but I know I am going to enjoy it for a long long time. And as Clive Nolan writes in the first page of the booklet; 'Turn the lights down, and the speakers up' and immerse yourself once more in the 'Alchemy Universe'' My rating: 5 solid stars without a second thought.

 Alchemy by NOLAN, CLIVE album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.95 | 152 ratings

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Alchemy
Clive Nolan Neo-Prog

Review by TheGazzardian
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I spent my New Years Eve last year going through Best of 2013 lists and tossing what I found into a Grooveshark playlist. One such album that I almost skipped was Clive Nolan's Alchemy, partially because I'm not really into New Prog anymore, partially because I could not find the complete album on Grooveshark. But I did decide to give it a shot, despite having incredibly low expectations, and I am incredibly glad that I did!

Clive Nolan's Alchemy is two things that I like: 1. Progressive Rock, 2. A musical. What does this mean, as a person who loves stories, music, dramatics, and the like? It means that this album is one of the most bombastic (in a good way) albums I have heard in a very long time.

I have mixed feelings about this album, however. Every song on it is incredibly good. The melodies are all wonderful and get stuck in my head constantly. There's not a bad song on this album. The way that Clive has built up the tension in various songs, the way he leads one melody into another, the way he piles things happening on top of each other - they are all so damn good to listen to that I just can't help but love the music in this album. The vocalists all do a wonderful job, minus some poor acting in a couple of places. Musical ideas are reprised and used to build upon ideas, improve the drama, etc...

My favorite melody is the song that Amelia (the main character I guess?) learned from her father. This shows up first in 'Waiting for News' as a peaceful little aside, is reprised in a great climax in Labyrinth, and then at the end of the show is played instrumentally in a very victorious / triumphant manner. It's a delicate little melody that has a lot of power and versatility behind it. Clive is a master of re-using themes for dramatic purposes and expanding / building upon them to tie things together. Musically, the album is very cohesive.

Ok, it should be clear by now that I am absolutely in love with this album, I listen to it constantly and have for a couple of months now. I also shuffle a playlist that has this album in it, and whenever a track comes up I get happy to hear it and be reminded of its existence. I am always tempted to play the full album again when this happens. So why do I say I have mixed feelings about it? The story.

The story, ladies and gentlemen, is flawed, and repeated listens continues to diminish the quality of it. Let me be clear - the first time through, the pacing, drama, and exposition suck you into the story and carries you along on a great adventure. So in the sense of considering the story as a journey, one can't complain. But re- listening to songs and knowing where they are leading the story to, one starts to find imperfections. Below is my analysis of such; it will contain spoilers, so please do not read ahead if you want to experience the story for the first time through the music. Also please note that the only reason these things bother me so much is because this musical is so AMAZING that it frustrates me that the story is not quite as tightly woven.

First and foremost, the most frustrating part of the plot is watching the heroes fail again and again, only to eventually lose to the villain, and then have it not matter. To summarise the plot, Henry Jagmond is trying to collect three artifacts with which he can revive Thomas Anzeray, an alchemist that died with the knowledge of how to achieve power over life and death. Jagmond succeeds, despite the best effort of our heroes (lead by Professor Samuel King). However, upon being revived, Thomaz Anzeray, sees how wicked Jagmond is and kills him instead of granting him the power he seeks. It is a great moment of tension in the music, and when Jagmond understands what is happening and begs King to save him, it is a truly great moment; as a listener, you are happy to hear Jagmond be defeated, be so terrified that his arrogant attitude is turned to begging for help from the man he has been competing with the whole show. Nonetheless, this does reveal a glaring problem in the plot: the lead characters need have done nothing. Jagmond could have been left to his own devices and he still would have lost. As there were very few interesting character developments during the musical, it does mar the adventure the characters embarked upon a bit.

In my opinion, the second most frustrating part of the plot is the poor use of the character Jessamine. She is a thief who is introduced in the middle of another song when she tries to pickpocket one of the other characters. She is then given her own song (Desperate Days), which is a wonderful song and really paints the picture of Jessamine as a person who has no place in the world and has been left with no choice but thievery. Something interesting could have developed there, but Jessamine is sent away a few songs later, and is not seen again until just before the end of the musical, where she betrays King + co to Jagmond. This is an interesting twist, and of course Eva (more on her later) is furious and outraged, until King outright says "oh by the way I paid Jessamine to betray us at a key time if we failed so that Jagmond would be stupid enough to gloat to us and give us one more chance to best him". Why did this not come up until now? Why was this necessary? Meanwhile, Jessamine sings about how they were all fools to trust her because obviously she was going to betray them. I just feel like Jessamine was given a very interesting start point and a story that I wanted to hear more about, and instead used only as a cop out way to bring all the characters together at the end (and then she vanishes instead of sticking around to see how things end).

To relate this to my favorite musical, Les Miserables, there are many characters, and they each have their own dreams and desires, which are impacted by the main plot. Jessamine's life through all the events that occur could have been explored more deeply, providing a grander backdrop to the events occurring.

Next, Eva. Eva is one of King's companions, and her role in the story seems to be getting offended about things that shouldn't offend her, and being overly indignant. She is my least favorite character, and if she had been written out, it would have changed almost nothing. It's revealed that she saved King's life, but not on- stage. The only song where she does anything by herself is where she sings about her love for King, and this happens at the end of the musical, after she has done pretty much everything she is going to do, so we don't get to really understand how this love impacts the decisions she makes along the way. Too little, too late, so to say, although I can't think of a place in the musical where we could have inserted this song without interrupting the flow of the story. Personally, I would have liked to see Eva written out and more time given to Jessamine, or at least the amount of stage time they were given reversed. I wouldn't mind not watching Eva butt heads pointlessly multiple times throughout the musical.

One last major flaw is The Labyrinth. Amelia is brought into the story when Jagmond finds her in debtors prison and offers to buy her freedom in exchange for information about the Labyrinth. She gives him the information, but in typical badguy style, he then doesn't free her anyways, instead leaving her to hang (but King, whom Jagmond had also failed to kill earlier, rescues her). Note to badguys: make sure they are dead before you leave them to hunt you down. Anyways, Jagmond recovers the first two artifacts, and the third is in this labyrinth, so King and crew travel to it to recover the artifact before Jagmond can. It is revealed that unless one has the knowledge to navigate the labyrinth, it is certain death, but thanks to a secret from her father, Amelia happens to know the secrets of the labyrinth. In a convenient twist, she did not realise the meaning of her knowledge until after she met King, and as such did not impart it to Jagmond earlier. This means that Jagmond could not have risked the labyrinth without risking certain death. Instead of leaving the last artifact safely out of his reach, Amelia leads the group through the Labyrinth, recovers the artifact, only to then be killed and the artifact taken from her. The Labyrinth is (in my mind) the most musically perfect song on the album, containing some amazing melodies and dramatics, all built together in an amazing way, so I always get super pumped when the song comes on. But I still don't understand why the company would even risk their lives to rescue the artifact if Jagmond lacked the information to safely recover it himself in the first place.

And Amelia's death bothers me; I feel like Clive Nolan thought, "Well, somebody should die, that's always a shocking plot twist, and what's more shocking than our leading lady?" And it was shocking when it happened, but it also killed off the only interesting side-story to the main events: Amelia's blooming love with William, King's last companion. Going back to my point about Les Miserables, each character had their own life, history, character, and made their own choices. Alchemy lacks this dynamic, being purely King vs. Jagmond with allies on each side. Amelia and William's story was the only additional thing going on other than this, and so the story feels fairly static after this story is abruptly put to an end.

William does lament Amelia's death quite emotionally in Burial at Sea (I also super love that ship captains voice!), so musically it's totally worth it to have Amelia die to get that song. William almost decides to abandon the quest, but ultimately decides to stick with it to the end. This was almost some great character buliding, except that, after that point, he does absolutely nothing for the rest of the play! As I said, Thomas Anzeray kills Jagmond at the end, not any of the company, so William's choice not to quit of heartbreak just means he gets to watch along for the remainder of the show. You are probably sick of hearing about Les Miserables by now, but I am going to make one last comparison. In Les Miserables, Marius goes through a similar thing when Cossette is going to leave the country, which leads to him joining the barricades with the intention of dying. He becomes a hero on the barricade, almost dies, and is rescued by another character who goes there because of him, only to be reunited with Cossette and get to marry her. His decision has an important impact on the story, and if he didn't make it, the entire story would play out differently. With William, there is no such payoff for his choice.

As I said, I really love this musical, and I really wish the story stood up as well as the music does. If the story had been at the same level as the music, this album would have contended with the best musicals out there. But nonetheless, a progressive rock musical is basically a dream come true for me, and the music is good and the story does stand up on a song by song basis (or if you don't think about it too much :) ), so I still have a huge love for this album and still listen to it frequently.

 Alchemy Live by NOLAN, CLIVE album cover DVD/Video, 2013
4.50 | 16 ratings

BUY
Alchemy Live
Clive Nolan Neo-Prog

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars UK composer and musician Clive NOLAN is a household name within the progressive rock universe, and after the last few years probably establishing himself as a known entity also in other circles. He is arguably best known as a member of long lasting neo progressive band Pendragon, but have also been a member of a handful of other notable acts, in addition to contributing to the works of many other artists over the years. The last few years have seen Nolan concentrating on rock operas, or musicals if you like, and "Alchemy" is the latest of those. "Alchemy Live" documents the first live performance of this creation, and has been issued as a standalone DVD and as a deluxe box set edition. This review covers the latter, which consists of 2 DVDs and 3 CDs.

This monumental box set, containing more than 7 hours of material, is one that goes straight into the books as excellent value for money. The main DVD is the best part of the package, with 2 hours of a high quality performance supplemented with an hours worth of extra material, and while I found the live CDs to be somewhat less interesting than the DVD these are excellent productions in their own right as well, especially for fans of musical I might add. The bonus DVD is a bit more of a so-so affair in its own right, but interesting enough for fans of Clive Nolan and his Alchemy project, while the bonus CD is arguably the most interesting production as far as all the additional material goes. "Alchemy Live" comes highly recommended to fans of both Clive Nolan and musicals, especially those with a soft spot for slightly tall tales, and unless you're only interested in the stage performance or you have to deal with a limited budget, this extensive box set is the one you should treat yourself to.

 Alchemy Live by NOLAN, CLIVE album cover DVD/Video, 2013
4.50 | 16 ratings

BUY
Alchemy Live
Clive Nolan Neo-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

5 stars Earlier this year I was provided with some downloads to review, and although I noted that one was a new album by Clive Nolan I didn't pay it any more attention than any of the others, as although we have known each other for many years, I wasn't aware what it was. When I eventually listened to it for the first time I was blown away, so much so that I immediately purchased the album and a t-shirt! Since then I have played at least part of the album once a week, every week. It has become the 'go to' album in the car when my youngest daughter is with me (her favourites are "Ambush" and "Burial At Sea" while I always go to "The Unwelcome Guest", "The Warning" and "The End Justifies The Means"). It is rare for me to play music for pleasure (get out the violins and handkerchiefs) as I am normally listening to the next set of albums I need to review, but there is something incredibly compelling about this piece of work that brings me back time and again. The last time I can remember an album having this much impact on me was 'Snow', and I know I didn't play that as much as I have this. But, this isn't a review of the double CD of 'Alchemy', but rather of the five disc set which is 'Alchemy Live'. Two CDs of the performance, an additional CD of bonus numbers, a DVD of the live show, and then a further DVD containing loads of bonus material which gives a real insight into how this all came together.

For those who haven't heard 'Alchemy', it is a musical that brings together prog rock with many other styles, and while the musicians are all top class, it is the singers and arrangements that steal the show. It is a story of good over evil, with Clive being the good Professor Samuel King while Andy Sears is the evil Lord Henry Jagman. For the original album Clive brought in a good number of people he had worked with previously, and then it was decided that a full-blown live performance would take place at Wyspianski Theatre, Katowice, Poland. Although this has been written as a full musical, time and money dictated that this performance would see the singers standing in front of microphones, with the band onstage throughout. Mark Westwood (guitars - Caamora), Scott Higham (drums - Pendragon), Claudio Momberg (keyboards - Subterra) and Kylan Amos (bass) do a wonderful job, with backing tracks provided by Penny Gee (violin) and Ian Stott (horn).

Virtually all of the singers who were on the album are here with three exceptions. So as well as Clive and Andy we have Agniescszka Swita (Amelia Darvas), David Clifford (William Gardelle), Victoria Bolley (Eva Bonaduce), Tracy Hitchings (Jane Muncey), Damian Wilson (Captain Joseph Farrell) and Paul Manzi (Milosh). So in Andy, Clive, DC, Tracy, Damian and Paul we have singers all used to fronting bands. The 'new' singers are Sohelia Clifford (Jessamine), Christopher Longman (Ben Greaves) and Chris Lewis (Thomas Anzeray). So, just four musicians but 11 singers, and what an incredible night this was.

One thing that I noticed when playing this is that there are a few times when a voice goes slightly sharp, which is great as it proves that if you were there that night then this is what you would have heard. Now, I can't believe that anyone is going to buy a five disc set unless they already know the material, so instead of a full track by track review, here are just a few highlights.

First off, Andy is the consummate villain. He was born to play this role, and of all those involved is the most theatrical of the main roles, and at the same time he is singing better than ever. When he hit the high notes in "Deception", which is only the second song, I knew we were on for a good night. Agniescszka is a star throughout, with incredible range and pitch, and her duet on "The Warning" with Victoria is a joy to hear. But, I have to confess that the song I was waiting for was "The Unwelcome Guest" which starts as a duet between Tracy and Christopher before Victoria and DC join in on one of the most complex vocal arrangements of the whole performance, as they all sing different lyrics and melodies. But, although it is still a standout song with a stunning performance from Tracy, I felt that Christopher's voice is just too smooth for this, and lacked the edge provided by Paul Menel in the studio. Also, it must be a nightmare to count in and Claudio was trying to help by providing some additional notes but it doesn't really come off.

Sohelia is DC's young teenage daughter, and her voice belies her age as she owned the role of Jessamine and her major solo, "Desperate Days" is a triumph. But her dad is no slouch either, and "Amelia" among others shows what a wonderfully clear voice he has. Paul plays the part of a pirate to perfection in "Ambush" and relishes the role he was given, while Damian could never be anything but the consummate professional. With his hair tied back, and beard in place, can this sailor captain really be the same singer that has fronted so many bands?

Then of course there is Clive. This was his night, the culmination of years of work, and the result is just staggering. He more than stands his ground with the rest of the singers, and given that he is normally a keyboard player in the background that is no mean feat. But, if I was to point to just one song, one line, in fact one word, that makes this indispensible to those who already have the studio album then that would be Victoria in "Treachery", where when confronted with Jessamina who she believes has betrayed them, she calls her "bitch". That one word, is sung with such power and passion that the hatred is palpable and makes this all feel so very real indeed.

Metal Mind have brought together an incredible package, with a five disc fold-out digipak, each side showing a photo of one of the singers, and a 40+ page booklet with all of the lyrics plus more photos, details of where all of the songs from the bonus CD come from. Some of these are original demos, while others are songs that never made it to the final album or morphed into something else.

Of course, as well as the music there are two DVDs containing the complete show plus loads of additional material including interviews, fundraiser footage, 'Making Of' etc. The result is something that is worth far more than the lousy 5/5 I can give it. Looking at the Top 2013 in PA, I can see that 'Alchemy' is currently at position 22 (a travesty) so there are obviously many people who have purchased the studio album, and if they love that half as much as I do then this is an absolutely essential purchase. I wasn't able to get to the Cheltenham shows in September (something to do with living on the other side of the world), but until I do manage to catch up with this wonderful cast then this is something to which I will often be returning.

Thanks to easy livin for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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