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Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso - Songs From The Black Box CD (album) cover

SONGS FROM THE BLACK BOX

Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso

 

Eclectic Prog

2.59 | 10 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Betjeman meets Quasimodo

After recording his first solo album "Męstoso" in 1980, Stuart "Woolly" Wolstenholme quickly returned to the studio to record a follow up album. Many of the tracks were seen through to an almost complete state, but the album with the working title "Black box" was not released at the time.

"Songs from the black box" is a compilation of the material recorded for "Black box" along with all the tracks from "Męstoso". I shall focus here on the "Black box" material, which makes up about half the album, as "Męstoso" is listed and reviewed separately on this site.

We open with "Has to be a reason" (but see the "Black box recovered" album for a much better sequencing which puts "Deceivers all" up front), an up-tempo song with an elaborate arrangement. Woolly is in fine vocal form, his singing being sympathetically multi-tracked. The song is reminiscent of BJH songs such as "Crazy city", with some excellent guitar by Steve Broomhead.

Thereafter, the album consists of a good mix of lighter, sometimes almost pop material, and powerful, symphonic bursts. The first six tracks are described by Woolly as being "almost finished". The aforementioned "Deceivers all" is undoubtedly the highlight of the set. The song was clearly written with a view to it being included on a BJH album, and the arrangement here makes no effort to disguise that intention.

The remaining three tracks are effectively advanced demos by Woolly. "The will to fly" is an anti-blood sports ballad which once again would have fitted in well on a BJH album had it been seen through to completion by the band. Even as it is here, the song is an evocative piece, brimming with emotion. "The Sunday bells" is a soft acoustic number describing Wolstenholme's native area. The track concludes with one of Woolly's great symphonic escapes which he himself describes as " Betjeman meets Quasimodo"!

The closing "Open" features Procol Harum like organ backing a melodic "Homburg" like song. It is far from original, but a fine song anyway. Thereafter, we are into the "Męstoso" album.

For an album which was never quite finished, the music here is of a uniformly high quality in terms of writing, performance and arrangement. The results are at least on a par with, and arguably superior to, anything which has been released in the BJH name since Woolly left that band.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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