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


Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso

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Honorary Collaborator
2 stars After Woolly left BJH he embarked on a 'solo' career, initially releasing debut album Mæstoso and embarking on a couple of tours. The follow-up to Mæstoso was to be named 'Black Box' and recording sessions were undertaken by his band. Sadly, those recordings were never completed as his record company, who had failed to adequately support or promote the band, decided not to invest any further and pulled the plug. As guitarist Broomhead jumped ship at around the same time, the band was finished as a going concern and Black Box was shelved.

Some Black Box material was issued on a limited edition fan club tape, but it wasn't until 1994 that Voiceprint finally made it available on general release on Songs From The Black Box. Essentially this album is the whole of Woolly's debut album Mæstoso, together with nine Black Box tracks some of which remained incomplete. While Songs From The Black Box has long been deleted, all material is now available on current albums - the original Mæstoso album is still available [on Brimstone] and is about to be re-issued by Eclectic with bonus tracks, while the Black Box material is now contained on Black Box Revisited, also with bonus tracks.

Full reviews of this material can be found under those other albums. In summary these songs represent Woolly's vision of how he would wish his career to develop, using his former band as a stepping off point. There is clear reference to the trademark BJH sound, an eclectic mixture of melodic 'symphonic' structures and simpler soft-rock songs with strong guitar based themes not unlike the approach of John Lees. Some tracks could be considered essential, Patriots and Deceivers All in particular are BJH-style classics, but the whole album is a joy.

NB - the material here is worth 4 stars, but as the album is no longer available, I am rating it as 2 stars simply to reflect that, while fans/collectors might wish to spend a lot of cash obtaining it, others can readily obtain the material on Mæstoso and Black Box Revisited.

Report this review (#95656)
Posted Wednesday, October 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Half of this album should have been the second official studio release from Woolly's band, "Maestoso" (all the details are available in the good review from Joolz). BJH's pleasant sound was noticeable on several tracks of this "debut" album.

On this "lost" album (until these tracks were finally released, a long time after their conception) the mood is more popish for some of the tracks (as if Woolly wanted to mime BJH). Some nice melodies of course like "All Get Burned"; but I would have expect a more adventourous music. Wasn't he the one who held the progressive side of BJH togehter ?

We are far from this with "Too Much, Too Loud, Too Late". Smooth AOR, a bit spacy at the end. A pleasant but average song.

From their debut album (which is fully represented) "A Prospect Of Whitby", "Patriots", "American Excess" and "Maestoso, A Hymn In The Roof Of The World" were the best songs (you can read the full review for this album in the according entry). These were really excellent.

From the new ones available, one of my preferred song and the most BJH like is "Deceivers All". Beautiful melody and fine guitar solo. This is a brilliant flash back on the best BJH's work. So emotional, so pleasant so...good. A Genesis finale is a definite plus.

I also like very much "The Will to Fly". Same tranquil melody, so typical of this good band of the seventies. Oooops, sorry I'm describing Barclay here. But it is so similar. I guess that we could have gotten some more good albums from this band would Woolly have remained with them. Anyway, with "Maestoso" he prolonged, at times, the experience. "Sunday Bells" reminds me BJH 's early days, when they were playing with an orchestra. Fine vocals from the guy and nice orchestration in the final section. Nice as well. The closing song ..."Open" is somewhat too melowish to my ears but the nice melody is a good "au revoir".

Several new songs are of the caliber of "Maestoso" 's debut. But all the new tracks will be featured on a next compilation called "Black Box Recovered". They will be combined with some demo / live version of Woolly's debut album. It sounds a bit complicated, but so it is. It is a difficult excercise to rate this album on such an unprecise rating system. Five out of ten would be accurate. For Woolly's achievement I will upgrade it to three stars.

Report this review (#138557)
Posted Sunday, September 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars "Songs From The Black Box" is a compilation album by UK progressive rock artist Woolly Wolstenholme (real name: Stuart Wolstenholme). The album was originally released through Voiceprint in 1994. It compiles material recorded in 1981, which was meant to be released as part of Wolstenholme´s second full-length studio album titled "Black Box". Various circumstances meant that the 1981 recordings were shelved, but they are compiled here with all tracks from Wolstenholme´s debut full-length studio album "Mæstoso" (Polydor, 1980). So this compilation features all the early material recorded by Wolstenholme after he left Barclay James Harvest in 1979.

Stylistically it´s not surprising that this is progressive rock in the more lightweight and AOR melodic end of the scale. Other contemporary artists like Camel, Saga, and Yes also went down that route. It was just the sign of the times. Compared to Wolstenholme´s work with Barclay James Harvest, this is not the most interesting or intriguing material around, but it´s pleasant enough and had the material featured better sounding production values (this all sounds a bit thin and like it was recorded in an empty concert venue) it may have become more successful. It´s all very nice, melodic, and polished, and just a little more grit and danger wouldn´t have hurt. A 2.5 star (50%) rating is warranted.

Report this review (#153368)
Posted Saturday, December 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Betjeman meets Quasimodo

After recording his first solo album "Mæstoso" 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 "Mæstoso". I shall focus here on the "Black box" material, which makes up about half the album, as "Mæstoso" 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 "Mæstoso" 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.

Report this review (#186988)
Posted Sunday, October 26, 2008 | Review Permalink

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