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Various Artists (Label Samplers) - Lions & Fables - Verglas Music Sampler vol. 1 CD (album) cover


Various Artists (Label Samplers)


Various Genres

3.51 | 3 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars The Clive Nolan show

Verglas music is the home of Arena, probably the finest neo prog band to come out of the UK. The label is their own, allowing them the freedom to release the side projects of the various band members, plus albums by other artists with whom they have developed links.

It is no surprise then that three of the eight tracks on this budget priced sampler (currently available from their website for 2-99) are by Arena. The package has however been put together in a logical manner, the tracks being presented in the order of catlaogue number of the source albums.

Thus, the opening track is "Valley of the kings", a 10 minute opus from Arena's first album "Songs from the lion's cage". Being from their first album the Marillion influences, which the band would later suppress, are very much to the fore. Clive Nolan slips in some fine synthesiser work on this early masterpiece. At the time of Arena's first release, John Mitchell had yet to join the band. The guitarist does however feature on track two here, The Urbane's "Fading out". This is one of the stand out tracks from their first album, a reasonably simple but highly infectious up-tempo number, with a killer chorus.

Clive Nolan returns with another of his projects, "Shadowland" for track three. "Mestapho bridge" is taken from that band's third album "Mad as a hatter". This Nolan composition features the said keyboard maestro on vocals; he actually has a decent voice not unlike that of Paul Wrightson of Arena.

The following two tracks are both by Arena. "Medusa" is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the "Pride" album, while "The healer" is the only essential track from the EP "The cry", the remaining tracks on that album being the "Crying for help" tracks extracted from the first two albums.

We return to Shadowland, this time to the title track of their first album, for another Clive Nolan composition which also features his dulcet tones. This Pallas like track has a more commercial feel, perhaps because of the "Kayleigh" like melody and lyrics. Damian Wilson may not be an instantly familiar name, but his CV includes work with Rick Wakeman, Threshold, Arjen Lucassen's Stream of Passion and Shadowland. He has also been voted Best vocalist six times by the Classic Rock Society. Included here is "When I leave this land" from his "Cosmas" solo album. This dreamy, symphonic ballad shows off his talents well.

The compilation closes with another Clive Nolan project, "Casino". "Beyond that door" is the 12 minute closing track to their self titled debut (and in light of the untimely death of Geoff Mann, only) concept album. In view of Nolan's involvement, it is logical that the track has an Arena feel, Karl Groom's lead guitar work being similar to that of John Mitchell or indeed Steve Hackett.

For those unfamiliar with the excellent music of Arena and their related bands, there is no better place to start than this. It is to the label's credit that they have not sought to simply include the most commercial offerings by their signings, but have selected a superb cross section of highly representative tracks. This compilations stands proud not only as an introduction to five highly talented acts, but as a highly enjoyable album in its own right.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |


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