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Twelfth Night - Corner of the World CD (album) cover

CORNER OF THE WORLD

Twelfth Night

 

Neo-Prog

2.62 | 7 ratings

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Warthur
Prog Reviewer
2 stars Twelfth Night's archival series has been a really valuable resource for documenting the band's history, filling out the gaps between their official releases. In particular, Andy Sears' tenure in the band, which previously had only been represented by the Art & Illusion mini-LP, the XII album, and a few tracks on Collectors' Item, has been given a fairer airing by the archival series, with releases like Live From London or Night Vision showcasing has command of the Geoff Mann-era material, as well as revealing a Twelfth Night sound in which the new Sears-era material sits coherently next to the Mann-era material.

One of the biggest puzzles among Twelfth Night fans is how the band ended up going from the sound of Art & Illusion, which whilst hardly devoid of pop hooks at the same time sits comfortably next to the Geoff Mann material, to the sound of the XII album, often compared to Duran Duran's output and critically panned next to more or less all their album releases between Live At the Target and Art & Illusion.

A common fan theory is that, having inked a deal with Virgin, the band had been put under the dreaded Record Company Pressure to produce something commercial-sounding. However, Corner of the World puts the lie to that. Hailing from the mini-tour the band undertook in May 1985 to road test some of the new material they'd been prepared, we find the group's musical direction already in the process of shifting.

The new songs include a good chunk of the material which ended up on XII, and Andy Revell's guitar work is already showing strong influences from the sound Andy Taylor made famous on Rio and Hungry Like the Wolf. Coming from a series of concerts hailing from months before Virgin had anything to do with Twelfth Night: Virgin only inked the deal in December 1985, when the band were already in the process of recording XII!

It is understandable why Twelfth Night felt the moment was right to really make a push to get commercial success on a level comparable to their critical acclaim. Art & Illusion had actually reached no, 83 on the UK charts, after all, so it seemed like the moment to strike had come - and with peers like Marillion and Pallas already having had their big breaks with the major labels, I imagine that the band felt the moment for them had truly come. However, it's a shame that this moment seems to have coincided with the band's creative energies failing them, or at least dragging them down a cul de sac.

Sure, there's merits to Take A Look, which would go on to be the only real prog epic on XII with even a passing resemblance to something the Twelfth Night of old might have done - but that song had already been part of the band's repertoire since at least 1984, since there was a version on Night Vision. When it comes to the new material freshly prepared in 1985, sadly the stuff's rather underwhelming. (It doesn't help that the sound quality here seems to be a bit shaky even by the standards of the other soundboard recordings in Twelfth Night's archival series.)

It really feels like the band could have done with consolidating their musical ideas more, working further on polishing and workshopping the most promising songs and song sections in the new material rather than churning out a large number of sub-par songs in a hurry. (Even the band don't seem to have been sold on all the material here - Requiem, White Glass, and South of the Wind evidently didn't pass muster in the band's eyes, because they didn't make the cut for XII - not even for the B-sides on the accompanying singles.) You can understand the desire to get the band out of Geoff Mann's shadow - prior tours still had the set lists filled out with Mann-era material, but this is very much dominated by Sears-era stuff - but this seems to have been done at the cost of quality control. Or perhaps the whole Twelfth Night idea had largely run its course, at least as far as songwriting went...

Warthur | 2/5 |

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