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Strangers On A Train - The Key, Part II - The Labyrinth CD (album) cover


Strangers On A Train



3.12 | 46 ratings

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Symphonic Team
3 stars In the shadow of Shadowland

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

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

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

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

SouthSideoftheSky | 3/5 |


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