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4 stars "Raingods With Zippos" is yet another great installment in the musical life of the man we affectionately call FISH. Once again FISH is joined by Steve Wilson (PORCUPINE TREE) who adds some of absolutely amazing guitar solos and expressions. "Raingods With Zippos" is very much in the same vein as "Sunsets.." but perhaps just a bit more relaxed sounding. FISH seems to be able to time after time come up with new fresh ideas. "...Zippos" is superb music and has not been off my CD Player in some time. Standout track for me is FISH's epic (24 mins) "Plague Of Ghosts" which moves through many different mood swings making some real haunting impressions. Throughout FISH commands the attention of the listener and as always has lots to day about human nature. In a lot of ways "...Zippos" is a self-reflective album which creates massive nostalgia attacks.

Report this review (#24984)
Posted Monday, March 15, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars The prog rock legend FISH is back with a new album. It's his sixth studio album, and it's a good one. This album is a more progressive and symphonic than the most of his other album. Some of the tracks could have been taken from the FISH-era MARILLION. If you're not familiar with FISH, I can tell you that there are also some reminiscences to GENESIS and Peter GABRIEL. This album is released on the Roadrunner label, and it's quite a surprise, as Roadrunner is most known for Heavy Metal releases.

The highlights are the opener "Tumbledown", the two beautiful ballads "Tilted Cross" and "Rites Of Passage" and the 25 minutes epic track "Plague Of Ghosts" that is divided into 6 shorter parts. "Rites of Passage" and "Plague of Ghosts" are two of the better tracks I've ever heard with Fish. "Faith Healer" is a cover of a song by The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. "Mission Statement" is my least favourite song.

This is a almost perfect FISH album with just one or two weak tracks. I think that this album or "Vigil in the Wilderness of Mirrors" should be great starters for those unfamiliar with FISH's works. Recommended!

Report this review (#24985)
Posted Saturday, March 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Just to add my very positive impression to the list, but all has been written in the comments above.

In particular, it is true that it gives a kind of good nostalgia of the marilllion times.

Raingod's dancing track is so emotional, just listen to it loud, you'll live a great musical moment... The same for the almost "dance" track Digging deep.

REM : last album Field of crows is very good one too !

Don't stop the music Fish...

Report this review (#24986)
Posted Thursday, April 1, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The first six tracks, comprising some rather simplified ballads and a couple of rockers à la "Credo", aren't so memorable, except perhaps for the biting little stomper "Faith Healer". However, the magnificent suite "Plague of Ghosts" that makes up the second half is pure gold - hence the 4-star rating.

It starts with"Old Haunts", an eerie instrumental intro that mutates into "Digging Deep", a sizzling vocal tune with an infectious groove. "Chocolate Frogs" is an ominous hyatus full of foreboding sounds that slowly develop into the amazing "Waving at Stars" (my favourite) where FISH's cool, slurry Scottish brogue towers menacingly over an unlikely blend of techno beat and swirling staccatto organ notes - this creates a very intense atmosphere - a real pulse accelerator. The whole thing explodes into the theme song, "Raingods Dancing", a magnificent melodic piece with a floydian ring and prominant acoustic guitar. The album ends almost in an anti-climax with the less intense "Wake-Up Call", as if the whole experience were slowly receding in the background, allowing you to breathe easier now that the menace has moved on - somewhat like the sound of faraway thunder and the last drops of rain after the worst of the storm has gone.

FISH is what I like to call 'un fou génial', a genial madman. And this album proves it beautifully, showing beyond doubt how talented and unique he is.

Report this review (#24987)
Posted Saturday, May 1, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Years after I lost interest on Fish and his musical development I got this album for less money on a second hand market (nice, how much pearls are there to find). At home I put it on my cdplayer and what should I say? Wow! Fish seemed to be back on his prog roots, nearly a decade after Vigel he recorded another great album! (Sadly on the next he failed again). The only 3 stars track is the cover of Faith Healer, a great live song but on this cd it's too poppy, just listen the Akex Harvey version, what a difference! My fav naturally is Plague Of Ghosts, a song that makes longing for more. Just turn your lights off, lay back and listen to this music!
Report this review (#35158)
Posted Friday, June 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars While I consider ' 13th Star' to be his best solo album as of 2012,the suite 'Plague of Ghosts' is widely considered to be the best solo piece of work Fish has done. With the lights down and volume up, maybe a candle lit, this is a wonderful trip. The production is good and the guitar work on 'Raingods Dancing' is excellent.

The first six songs are okay, and some help set the dark scene , with the piano intro to 'Tumbledown' too good for the song that follows, while 'Tilted Cross' is a mature, simple folk song. 'Faith Healer' is a good inclusion, rocking out well, but it's a pity Fish didn't have an original song to do the job here.

Report this review (#38954)
Posted Saturday, July 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars After 'sunsets on empire' I was expecting much when I bought 'raingods with zippos'. However, I got disappointed hearing this album.

the first six tracks are average pop songs, nothing special here, then the suite 'plague of ghosts' follows. while many of the reviewers praise this suite, I just can't get into it. My complaints:

1. the suite's too long considering the music contained in it, too many filler material (parts 1, 3, 4)

2. the different parts don't really fit together well

the best songs IMHO are 'digging deep' and 'raingod's dancing' (in fact one of my favourite Fish songs); but they can't really save this album as a whole...

Report this review (#66636)
Posted Wednesday, January 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars There was something very wrong with the previous one, Sunsets on Empire ('97); I disliked it so much I sold it away quite soon after buying. This one I only borrowed, but probably wouldn't have been sorry at all for buying it instead. It has a mature, relaxed, clean production and song-writing. The tougher ones ('Tumbledown' and 'Faith Healer') are accessible, catchy and not very complex songs, and the mellower ones are shamelessly serene and emotional. 'Incomplete' is a melancholic statement of feeling so incomplete (every human ought to relate to that feeling), and 'Tilted Cross' is a soft countryish ballad with a nice female backing/duet vocal, though it may be the weakest link on the album. 'Rites of Passage' reminds me a lot of Peter HAMMILL's ballad 'Your Tall Ship' (on Roaring Forties, '94) - which has a line "all rites of passage have an end", but also the peaceful music in these tracks is very similar.

The epic 'Plague of Ghosts' - a(nother) nod to Hammill/VDGG perhaps? - is the cream of the album. It is very clear-shaped and clear-sounding and the way the tension rises as it progresses from the meditative parts to climax-building sections is lovely, all this in the most tasteful manner of Neo-Prog (compare IQ).

I haven't heard the later studio albums but at least judging by this one Fish is still going strong, his solo career already 2-3 times longer than his time with MARILLION. As a singer he has matured a lot, I think, though not necessarily as a lyricist.

Report this review (#81053)
Posted Tuesday, June 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars 1999 saw the coming of a new Fish album, this album would feature his only true epic piece and it would ultimately be his last epic piece. Anyway, this album features some great poppier numbers as well as the progressive beast of Plague of Ghosts. Fish is at his usual best lyrically, and his voice never sounded better on this one. The rest of his band, essentially the same lineup as Sunsets on Empire, except Frank Usher is suspiciously absent from this project, plays wonderfully on this album offering up a very modern sound and a very fun sound to listen to. I must say now that this one of Fish's best albums, and I think you may enjoy it, too.

The album opens with Tumbledown, with gentle and very melodic piano as a main piano motif is introduced, one can't be helped but feel moved by the fantastic piano performance. Around the 1:30 mark a new motif is introduced, this one being a heavier and very guitar driven riff. A great opener to the album with a strong chorus. The main lyrical theme of 'Raingods With Zippos' is also heard first on this song. This theme will also show up in Plague of Ghosts. Mission Statement is one of the weaker songs on the album, it has this very swingy feel and it doesn't really go anywhere. It's a good song, mind you, just not great. Incomplete is a gentle ballad that features some touching duet vocals between Fish and guest female vocalist Elisabeth Antwi. It's a very pretty song about how no one is ever complete and how we always want more, but the depressing and very sad feel of the song will captivate you more than the lyrics itself.

Tilted Cross is another ballad of sorts, with a touching duet similar to that on Incomplete. Other than that, it's probably the weakest song on the album. Faith Healer is a cover of a Sensational Alex Harvey Band song that Fish used to feature in his sets back in the Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors days. It has this rocky feel and a very consistent a fun riff, with some fun guitars in the vein of some glam rock band from the 70's. Rites of Passage acts as the perfect prelude to the epic. It's a gentle piece that goes through many different emotions within the 7 minutes that it is. It has this ethereal feel to it, with sparse guitars and mainly lush synth textures taking the forefront. It's one of the best pieces on the album, with emotional vocals from Fish as well as some melodic violins to give the song a more moody edge. The piano outro is also beautifully crafted and very well played.

Plague of Ghosts is a behemoth 25 minute epic (although indexed into individual parts on the album itself) that makes up for the last part of the album. As expected with any epic in progressive rock, this song goes through many different moods and feels. Old Haunts is a (pardon the pun) a haunting instrumental section with some very atmospheric vocals from Fish that gives way into Digging Deep. Digging Deep is a strong piece that has a great groove to it and an infectious chorus that will have even the most skeptical person singing to it. Chocolate Frogs (the name that would become Fish's record company after Dick Bros.), is an atmospheric piece with a spoken narrative from Fish in the intro. This keyboard only piece with some mixed samples and noises in the back in augmented well with some effective vocals from Fish. Waving at Stars continues this atmospheric feel with some very electronic sounding drums and some hammered out acoustic guitar chords. The bass on this part is very prevalent, offering a solid groove to keep the rest of the band in time. Raingods Dancing brings back the Raingods with Zippos lyrical motif. It also has this interesting ascending piano theme that is very memorable. The chorus is catchy and the band keeps a tight groove. Wake-Up Call (Make it Happen) is the conclusion to this stunning epic. It has this epic and infectious outro that really ends the song well and creates a perfect atmosphere for a closing piece.

In the end, this album is very strong. It has very strong pop pieces, but the epic is where the album gets really cooking. I think any fan of Marillion will like this album, as it shows that Fish doesn't need Marillion to create engaging and exciting music. If you are a Fish fan, you own this album. But for the rest of you who don't have this album, this is some wonderful Neo Prog that I think everyone can enjoy. 4.5/5.

Report this review (#82116)
Posted Tuesday, June 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars Not a bad record, lots of variety too. It helps having Steven Wilson guest on guitar.

"Tumblweed" is a little too poppy for my tastes, but the piano intro is a treat. "Mission Statement" is another one I don't like, sounding like a black gospel song from way back. "Incomplete" is a fabulous duet, it's about a man and a woman's relationship. Acoustic guitar is strummed with background synths as the vocalists sing in a reserved way.

I also like "Tilted Cross" a Folk song with acoustic guitar and violin. Funny but I prefer these more laid back tunes to the uptempo ones with Fish singing with more aggression. "Faith Healer" is a cover song and Wilson provides some very good guitar, and there is some amazing violin as well. "Rites Of Passage" is a reflective ballad with piano, aboe and violin. "Plague Of Ghosts" consists of 6 songs really. Lots of atmosphere and reserved vocals. Not really a fan of ths one.

Barely 3 stars for me.

Report this review (#95267)
Posted Friday, October 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Fish continues proves once again that his career was not over by a long shot when he laft Marillion. He still knows how to let loose the most basic and the most intricate human experiences and emotions into song form, more often than not with a flurry metaphors and symbolism which could basically set the curriculum for a high school English class alone. It is my opinion that he did his best work with Marillion, and though much of his solo work is worth a generous nod, it hardly ever surpasses his work with the band. At the writing of this review, I own Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors, Sunsets of Empire, and Raingods With Zippos, which is definitely the best of the bunch.

Representing the prog aspect of Fish's solo career is the mood-shifting, atmospheric and above all interesting epic, "A Plague of Ghosts." This is by far my favorite song, not only because it holds my interest with excellent use of textures and electronic/synthesized atmospheres, but because the songwriting is tight and all sections of the epic have their own characteristic while maintaining a slight cohesiveness to make the song plausible as a whole. It really is one of Fish's crowning achievements.

The other tracks are not up to this level of greatness, but don't fall flat either. At their worst, they're enjoyable filler, causing no harm but not enticing me to return for multiple listens very often. I enjoy "Tumbledown," with it's catchy tune propelled by a jaunty piano sequence, and "Rites of Passage/Plague of Ghosts" which reminds me heavily of the subdued, introspective tone of Roger Waters' best solo album, Amused to Death. The other shorter songs are by no means bad, and can be quite good, but do not inspire me as much as those already mentioned.

As far as I can tell, Raingods with Zippos is the best solo album Fish has to offer. It's not as good as the albums he recorded with Marillion, but he does display strong songwriting and one superb track which is entirely up to par with the bygone era. This is one album for the avid Marillion fan or for those curious to see what Fish has been up to after setting out on his own.

Report this review (#99961)
Posted Wednesday, November 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This album was a follow-up of the previously successful album "Sunsets on Empire". This time, Fish collaborated with Mickey Simmonds while on guitars he still employed Steve Wilson and Robin Boult. Frank Usher is no longer here with this album. Compared to previous "Sunsets on Empire" this album fails "a bit" in some dimensions. First, on composition, there is something lacks in terms of musical integrity especially the transition pieces or bridges that connect one segment to the next; most of them in this album are not done smoothly. Exception is on the epic "Plague of Ghosts". Second, the melody line is not that catchy as previous album, in fact in some segments I can feel like being bored with the song due to its repetitive notes. Having explained this, it does not mean that this is a bad album at all, I am just saying it that it's weaker than its predecessor. However, the epic "Plague of Ghosts" is really a masterpiece and it has the same quality as Marillion's Misplaced Childhood Side A. It's really great!!!! In fact, this epic makes the purchase of this CD is a worthwhile investment. Buy it!

"Tumbledown" (5:52) starts nicely with Mickey Simmonds exploration of piano solo that sounds really good and it moves naturally from one segment to the next. The only problem is when the music (all instruments) starts to roll together there sounds like a "disconnect" between nice piano introduction with some classical touch with the music that follows. It's not just a matter of connecting notes that are not smooth but the song nuance is completely different. The piano introduction sounds like setting an overall tone about dark music but when the music enters in upbeat style with happy mood - so there is a flop in nuance that has previously been created by piano but it's not caught nicely with similar nuance of the following music. It's not a bad song at all, but for sure there is a serious disconnect of the nuance.

"Mission Statement" (4:00) is supposed to be a great musical composition as the name of the song implies something serious about life destiny. Unfortunately the music is quite boring for my ears. "Incomplete" (3:44) is a good mellow track with good melody featuring Elisabeth Antwi as female lead vocal. It continues with another light song with ballad style "Tilted Cross" (4:19) with Nicola King as backing female vocal. The arrangement is unplugged version, using mainly acoustic guitar. Next is an excellent rocker written by Alex Harvey and H McKenna. Steve Wilson contributes guitar work as well. It's an excellent track especially the guitar riffs, violin solo as well as Fish singing style. This track I usually selected for a program in local FM radio. I do enjoy the guitar riffs. Even though the structure builds on repetitive notes, but it still an enjoyable track.

"Rites of Passage" (7:42) is a nice mellow track with great opening part using soft keyboard work followed with powerful singing by Fish. The composition is strong and it backs the lyrics - which basically talks about a love story - really well. The basic rhythm section reminds me to Peter Gabriel's "Blood of Eden" even though it is different in melody. It shares the similar style with Blood of Eden but less melodic. Fish uses his usual words like "self-penned" he ever used with Marillion. The passage goes like this at the end: "In your self-penned dramas, where each stolen kiss just goes to prove that happy ending don't exist..". The ending part with piano an string orchestration is really great! This is another great track after "Cliché" even though it's less melodic.

"Plague of Ghosts" is an epic that comprises 6 sequels : i) Old Haunts (3:13), ii) Digging Deep (6:49), iii) Chocolate Frogs (4:04), iv) Waving at Stars (3:12), v) Raingod's Dancing (4:16), vi) Wake-up Call (Make It Happen) (3:32). The first sequel starts with an ambient mellow style while Fish is singing and the background music is spacey in nature dominated by keyboard sounds and effects. It then flows into music with loop / sampling methodology which moves the music in crescendo and upbeat mode in second sequel "Digging Deep". I do enjoy this track. As usual, Fish gives his narration powerfully. The guitar solo is really fascinating especially with captivating arrangements: loop music and firm drumming as beat keeper. I like the howling guitar solo that starts at approx 3:28. At appox 4:40 the music moves in a new platform with better nuance - a bit of symphonic even though the beat is like a disco music. It's really nice sequel! The song ends beautifully with an ambient break followed with Fish narrative that opens the third sequel "Chocolate Frogs". Well, it reminds me to the side A of Marillion's "Misplaced Childhood" album. It's really nice having this ambient break. Fish then sings powerfully while the music is still in ambient mood depicting like he is in the cave or something like strange place. It's really great nuance. At the end of this third sequel, another musical loop enters which bring to seamless opening of fourth sequel "Waving at Stars". It's another great musical piece centers around thematic singing of Fish. The work of keyboard, piano and music loops have made the ambient richer and it's pleasurable to enjoy. It continues seamlessly with great piano work to fifth sequel "Raingod's Dancing". All transitions happen smoothly between sequels. The electric guitar solo part is really stunning here. The epic ends with last sequel "Wake Up Call (Make It Happen)" beautifully.

Overall, you might say this is weaker than its predecessor. But, the epic "Plague of Ghosts" is really a killer and it reminds me to the glory days of Marillion. In fact, I'd rather listening to this epic than any song of Marillion under Hogarth era! I mean it man.! Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#157112)
Posted Sunday, December 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars "We are now back on course"

The problem with a lot of lead singers when they go solo, or make solo albums, is that their output is dominated even more by vocals. Because they will often not have the ability to play a musical instrument, they feel their voice has to be constantly heard, for it to be their album. In a band situation, the rest of the group will have their influence, and hopefully this leads to a balanced album with sometimes lengthy instrumental sections.

Other band members such as guitarists, bassists, drummers etc. do not seem to have this attitude to their solo work to nearly the same degree, probably because most of them see it as a rare opportunity to sing!

For me, Fish's early solo output suffered in this way. With "Raingods with zippos" though, Fish seems to be prepared to make much more of a band album, and the result was probably his most progressive album yet. Porcupine Tree's Steve Wilson is brought in as occasional guitarist, joined by an impressive array of competent musicians who ensure that performance wise the album cannot be faulted.

The first couple of tracks are clearly written as potential hit singles. A deceptively reflective piano melody precedes the live favourite "Tumbledown" but the song soon bursts into life, the infectious hook being simultaneously compulsive and irritating. The following "Mission statement" could easily be a Deep Purple song, the Jon Lord like organ playing driving this toe-tapping song forward.

In an unusual (for Fish) twist, he shares the lead vocals with Elisabeth Antwi on the pained balled "Incomplete". The song contains the open heart style of lyrics we have become accustomed to from Mr. Dick, the song being a sort of "Don't give up" (Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush) part 2. Unusually again, we have back to back ballads, "Tilted cross" also featuring female vocals, this time by Nicola King.

Things pick up for a lavishly orchestrated cover of fellow Scotsman Alex Harvey's "Faith healer". As Fish menacingly sings "Let me put my hands on you", wonderful memories of the great Harvey come flooding back. The track introduces the progressive half of the album, the melancholy "Rites of passage" having a deceptively simple melody, supported by some delightful orchestration.

It is though the six part 25 minute "Plague of ghosts" which prog fans will gravitate towards. Steve Wilson plays all the guitars here, the suite having a bit of a Porcupine Tree feel anyway, especially "Digging deep". The piece as a whole remains vocally intensive, although Fish does use the extra space available to develop the various themes further. It becomes apparent at times that he is attempting here to recreate the magic which made "Misplaced childhood" such a revered album, his spoken word on "Chocolate frogs" for example being delivered in the same way as the narratives on that album. The "Rain gods dancing" section revisits the title lyrics first heard on "Tumbledown" before giving way to a superb guitar solo by Wilson.

In his thank you credits, Fish speaks in adoring terms of his then wife, saying that "we are now back on course".

In all, a highly accomplished album from Fish which has been crafted with great care and precision. I remain convinced that his albums would benefit enormously if he would shut up occasionally, and allow his band space to enhance the themes. That said, at least he has presented us with a prog epic here, and a fine one at that.

(by the way, a Zippo is a cigarette lighter.)

Report this review (#163675)
Posted Tuesday, March 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Fish's fist and last epic suite

Curiously the Raingods with Zippos cover art seems to be Mark Wilkinson's worst contribution. On the other hand, the essence of the album (or simply - the music) is probably the best Fish has delivered since Vigil. The album might not have a single standalone masterpiece track (like The Perception... or Vigil), but, and what is more important, you can easily listen to the whole album without skipping a single song. Also fish has created something of a semi-concept album with Tumbledown, Mission Statement, Rites of Passage and the whole Plague of Ghosts suite being the cream of the crop.

The intro Tumbledown - rain-resembling piano section is somewhat similar to the opening of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway... OK, each and every malcontent may now cut the Fish-steals-everything-from-Genesis nagging. It's similar that's all! And then, suddenly, astonishingly the rocking part starts, with the chorus being a more hard rock version of the Raingod's Dancing. The beat is nice and Wilson's guitar riffs add a nice semi-metal feeling.

The second track (Mission Statement) is all rock & roll. It makes you dance instantly (or least stamp to the rhythm), due to it's simple and quite loud drums. It ends with a funny, antiquated piano/organ tune (as if straight from a saloon). Next comes 'Incomplete' a mellow, acoustic guitar-oriented track including the delicious, sad voice of Elisabeth Antwi. Nothing really chilling (compared to e.g. the Rites of Passage) but still a well-played tune, resembling Tara from Sunset's on Empire. Tilted Cross is another acoustic song - catchy and calm. Fish drawls out the syllables, making them flow just like the song flows. You'll hear it - you'll catch that flow. The best unplugged Fish has to offer. 'Faith Healer' is an Alex Harvey Band. I prefer this to the original version, mainly because Fish's rough and dynamic voice and Wilson's & Boult's guitars. The orchestrated part's have surely something to do with Pete Gabriel's (yes! yet again the mimicry of the Great One! ;) ) Down the Dolce Vita. Quite good for a gig.

The first (and also the less proggy, more rocky) part ends here and now with Rites of Passage. A sad tune it is. The keyboards and strings (a round of applause for Davey Crichton & Mickey Simmonds) play a significant part here. Again I hear Gabriel - a combination of Here Comes the Flood and Zaar (if you take the drum's and reduce the volume).

And the music fades. Time to switch sides. Or listen again to tracks: 1, 2, 4 and 6.

The Plague of Ghosts suite isn't what you'd expect from Fish. Even if you take his whole solo career into account. It's... really it's... AMBIENT! Well not all of it but a very huge portion (track's 1-4). Old Haunts is a long introduction to the suite, where Fish almost cries out the lyrics. The vigorous Digging Deep, apart from the obvious Gabriel connections (Digging in the Dirt, anyone?), is really similar to Jungle Ride (from Sunsets on Empire), but more... ambient; it even has the spoken part. Chocolate Frogs is a gloomy, semi-spoken, semi-cried, ambient effect-filled bridge, which smoothly changes to Waving at Stars. This one is nice and original; whereas in Tumbledown the piano was supposed to resemble rain, here the rain effects are produced by the loops and ambient percussion. Waving... fades opening the grande finale of Raingods Dancing & Wake Up Call. Raingods... have a really chilling chorus and a fantastic piano, and most important Fish's thrilling voice (the last verses are shouted out). A real masterpiece. Did I say that there are no standalone masterpieces on this album? Well, actually - Raingods Dancing together with Wake Up Call certainly serve as one. Wake Up Call (Make It Happen) is a bit more calm and upbeat than the rest of the creepy Plague..., more Fish-like. taking various elements from Sunsets... (it seems that SoE is a real turning point in Fish's music-making). It brings to mind the (Happy) ending of Clutching at Straws, and it's nearly at the same level musically.

A must-have for Fish fans. Side A for the ones who rock. Side B for the ones who prog.

Best song: Side A: the whole Plague of Ghosts with emphasis on the last two (or three) tracks.

And the final word: the lack of Frank Usher REALLY suits Fish. Less Usher, more Wilson... unfortunately Fish prefers the former. Too bad.

Report this review (#165847)
Posted Sunday, April 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Good but not great. Various sounds and rythms. A nice addition to your collection, but not the same level than Sunsets... Steven Wilson's presence is not as prominent as in Sunsets. No Johnny Punter or Vigil to be seen. Fish's voice sounds great.

Exceptional songs (5/5): None.

Great songs (4/5): Plague of Ghosts, even though comparing it to Misplaced Childhood is pushing the envelope! Tumbledown (especially the intro on piano), Faith Healer.

Good songs (3/5): Rites of Passage, Incomplete, Tilted Cross.

Average songs (2/5): Mission Statement.

Weak songs (1/5): None.

Desastrous songs (0/5): None.

Overall, I give this album 4 stars... 3.5 really!

Report this review (#165926)
Posted Sunday, April 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars The big man signs another good (solo?) album.

The opener "Thumbledown" is a combination of a sweet intro/closing section but the core of this song is well in-line with his previous effort "Sunset Of Empire". On the hard edge, heavy riff and strong vocals as Fish has used us already.

An eclectic song and already a highlight. The pace is set. "Mission Statement" is a truly rocking track and it is probably not the best of the whole. A strong contrast with "Incomplete" a ballad which allows Fish to use his subtle vocal range. Emotional and tender. Not a masterpiece but a peaceful break. But maybe that one like this was enough. I am not thrilled with '"Tilted Cross", the second ballad in a row which is pretty much forgettable.

Fish already covered a song of "The Sensational Alex Harvey Band" namely "Boston Tea Party". But with "Faith Healer" he is bringing the most famous song from this band (I discovered it on the great album "Next" released in 1973). The mighty voice of Fish perfectly fits this classic (hard) rock number. A good interpretation from this excellent song.

The third ballad available is "Rites of Passage" which is relatively sad and melancholic. The violin only adds to this atmosphere. The lyrics are not very optimistic either :" Living with you is like being parked on double yellow lines waiting to be towed away, I'll pay the fines and I'll be back, but I'm running out of reasons to stay". The closing section is made of beautiful ambient instrumental. A good, emotional song.

Now, the epic "Plague Of Ghosts". Actually it starts almost like "Rites" ends. A totally atmospheric intro for about three minutes abruptly contrasts with "Digging Deep". No smooth transition here. As if it is more another song than the second part of a "suite". Lots of keyboards conveys an undeniable prog flavour.

Apocalyptical mood for "Chocolate Frogs". The first half is a frightening recitation featuring dark and scary lyrics. A song beyond the grave. Brrrrr. Fish is indeed a great story-teller.

After another ambient transition part ("Waving At Stars") towards "Raingod's Dancing" which features a nice melody and a superb guitar solo (there are very little instrumental solo available on Fish's album to highlight this). This song is truly convincing. The big man and his exclusive emotional style is back again with brio. My fave part of this album.

And after another abrupt ending, the closing and delicate "Wake-Up Call" seems to wake us up as if the last twenty minutes or so were only a nightmare (not in terms of music, only in terms of content). A nice journey in Fish's world.

I would love to rate this album with seven out of ten but three stars is my rate.

Report this review (#166468)
Posted Saturday, April 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars After having done three not overall positive reviews of Fish albums I think it's time now for my personal fav: Raingods with Zippos. The reason why I like this one so much is easily explained: it's the most progressive and impressive one he ever did. And that's not just because of the long multi-layered epic but also because of the special atmosphere it creates.

It's a pity Fish has done something like this only once, this is the road he should have taken all along his solo career, then he would have won another fan with me. But apparently he likes the almost pop/short song based neo style better himself because that's what most of his other albums sound like. Too bad for me, I will play this one most of the time when I will listen to Fish.

The atmosphere I was talking about is best coming out in the 6-piece epic, the other songs are more like his usual stuff with this addition that there are no mediocre fillers on Raingods. All songs are between the very good and excellent level with the epic as "outstanding" treat.

The album is sparkling and inspired and probably shows a Fish at his prime moment in time, at least where his solo career is concerned. Well, that's my personal interpretation of course. Like I said, my personal favourite by him and rewarded with a deserved four stars.

Report this review (#253254)
Posted Saturday, November 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I was reluctant to buy any new Fish albums after hearing some hideous samples from his post-debut releases. Eventually after seeing him do an excellent live performance back in 2002(?) I finally decided to give his studio material one more chance. After limiting my choice between Sunsets On Empire or Raingods With Zippos I went for the latter seeing that it included a lengthy suite that alluded my prog senses.

After listening to Raingods With Zippos a couple of time I can conclude that this album works rather well although it does have quite a great deal of forgettable material as well. Tumbledown is a great album opener and it was fun to hear a cover of Faith Healer since Fish did it so well. The rest of the material leading up to the suite isn't all that memorable but the music definitely doesn't make me cringe like some of Fish's previous offerings. The suite Plague of Ghosts starts off and ends on high notes although the middle section is somewhat shaky.

Overall this release was better that I expected it to be but I can't recommended to everyone. The album shows that Fish has definitely matured as an artist but that doesn't always make it a good thing considering that most progressive rock icons do their greatest work in the early years of their life. Raingods With Zippos is a food, but far from essential release that will probably make the already established fan-base happy but I doubt that it will introduce any new fans to Fish and his body of work.

***** star songs: Raingod's Dancing (4:16) Wake-up Call (Make It Happen) (3:32)

**** star songs: Tumbledown (5:52) Faith Healer (5:01) Old Haunts (3:13)

*** star songs: Mission Statement (4:00) Incomplete (3:44) Tilted Cross (4:19) Rites Of Passage (7:42) Digging Deep (6:49) Chocolate Frogs (4:04) Waving At Stars (3:12)

Report this review (#258635)
Posted Thursday, December 31, 2009 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars A return to form

Out of all of Fish's solo albums, Raingods With Zippos is the most even and consistent one. It might not contain any truly great songs like the respective title tracks from Vigil In The Wilderness Of Mirrors and Internal Exile, but it also does not hold any embarrassing numbers like the weakest ones from those same albums. Also Suits and the previous Sunsets On Empire had some very weak tracks. Many fans hold up Sunsets On Empire as something of a comeback for Fish, but personally I don't think so. I didn't much like the sound of that album. It was too close to Alternative Rock and too far away from Prog.

The present album is clearly progressive, though not very similar to his previous solo albums (nor to Marillion, for that matter). It has a somewhat broader set of musical elements.

Recommended, but hardly essential

Report this review (#258659)
Posted Thursday, December 31, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars 1999 sees a resurrection of the great big man's career, with this excellent release. By his own admission, Fish's career was in danger of complete meltdown after a series of relatively poor albums and worse record deals.

However, it is a testament to his staying power as an artist and his own dogged determination that he was able to come back so strongly, and set in train a nice run of very good LPs and increased success, both in the studio and live, health problems permitting.

Tumbledown is a fantastic way to set the album off, with a delicate and marvellously played piano solo settling the listener into a false sense of serenity before the track explodes into the type of pop prog epic for which Fish is famous. Very enjoyable, without necessarily being a classic.

Mission Statement is another catchy track, with some enjoyable female backing vocals. It's very upbeat, with a touch of boogy woogy included.

Things take a darker turn lyrically with a very brooding ballad, Incomplete. Fish undertakes a vocal duet, with acoustic backing, and very satisfying it is too. The female vocal lead is excellent, and Fish very wisely steps back and gives an understated performance to support this. A nice track which ponders on love and society lost.

Tilted Cross is a brighter affair. A nice vocal, with, again, some exquisite female vocals, accompanied by some very nice drum and acoustic guitar work gives us a very pleasant and thoughtful ballad. It is clear listening to this that Fish had made a determined effort to vastly improve the quality of both composition and delivery, and for that the fan and casual listener alike are grateful. Tinged with Celtic influences, this love song is a highlight of the album without doubt.

Faith Healer toughens matters up for us. This is a good, old fashioned, rocker delivering five minutes of toe tapping enjoyment. It is actually written by the late, great, Alex Harvey and is a cover.

Rites Of Passage commences in quite the most beautiful manner, with Fish delivering a thoughtful and delicate ballad against some underplayed keyboards and bass. It is the sort of songwriting and delivery for which he rightly gained praise when with Marillion, the ability to make intelligent and accessible ballads. The track runs to a little short of eight minutes and never loses interest at all, and the instrumental solos are brilliant.

The whole album, though, leads up to, and is defined by, the epic six parter, Plague Of Ghosts. It is brilliant, and probably the finest piece of pure neo prog that Fish has committed to disc in his entire solo career. There are so many mood changes here, it is difficult to keep up sometimes.

Old Haunts provides a quiet, melancholic, opening, before the epic explodes into life with Digging Deep, with a thudding rhythm section accompanying a Fish vocal, monotone at times, and fantastic lead guitar. Good enough as a beat to be played in a high class disco or club, and a damn sight better than most so called dance music you will hear commercially. The lead guitar and keyboard towards the close of this part is the main instrumental theme of the whole epic, and is played with great skill by Steve Wilson and Tony Turrell. Utterly incredible to listen to, a pure prog delight.

Chocolate Frogs commences with Fish Poetry Corner for well over a minute and does, in truth, deflect us from the huge momentum created by what preceded it. However, when this passes, and a thoughtful vocal, and haunting backdrop take over, things are restored to their normal order.

Waving At Stars features a crunching rhythm which sets the tone for what is to follow, and has at its heart some intricate keyboard work by Turrell. His magnificent piano work leads into the delightful main course that is Raingod's Dancing. As much as I love Marillion, I think that this section is the finest piece of work that Fish has ever recorded. A beautifully performed vocal, and a symphonic background, lead us into a massive lead guitar solo and the main lyrical centre of the epic.

This takes us into the denouement, Wake Up Call (Make It Happen), which commences with more excellent piano work backing a thoughtful lyric. The track then runs out in a dream sequence with the entire ensemble excelling themselves.

Raingod's With Zippos is a tremendous album which restored Fish's artistic and commercial credentials. It is very highly recommended for all those who, especially, lost track of him after Marillion or rather ordinary solo fare.

Four stars, but, in truth, four and a half. An excellent addition to any prog rock collection.

Report this review (#328723)
Posted Sunday, November 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Fish's first release on Roadrunner finds him consolidating the artistic gains made on Sunsets on Empire. The album is a little less cohesive than its predecessor, but it's also a little more broad musically speaking, with tracks ranging from the comparatively commercial to the decidedly experimental.

In the former category, Fish takes us on the first side through a diverse set of art rock songs which include a brilliant cover of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band's track Faith Healer, in a version which I'm inclined to say is better than the original. (In fact, the first time I ever heard Fish sing was when this song was played on the radio in the small hours on the rock show on a radio station I could only barely receive.)

But the crown jewel of the album is A Plague of Ghosts, the sidelong track. No rip-off of Plague of Lighthouse Keepers this; instead, Fish takes us on a musical journey which encompasses both the neo-prog styles of his early career and some cutting-edge stuff, including some influence from modern electronica and dance music here and there. At this point Fish, like his former bandmates in Marillion, was settled into producing music which he wanted to produce without any reference to what people thought a Fish album should sound like, and though I don't think this album is quite the classic Sunsets was, it stands as proof that its predecessor was no flash in the pan and that Fish's creative juices were flowing to an extent they hadn't since Clutching At Straws.

Report this review (#635733)
Posted Saturday, February 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
2 stars I am a really big fan of Marillion, and many Neo-Prog stuff as a whole. I don't know, something just clicks with me whenever I listen to an album that has a certain style and aura around it, especially when it is in the realm of neo Prog. I love how dramatic, emotional, poetic, and how theatrically grand it can really get. So with my love for the genre, I decided to check out one of the main contributors to the whole movement that came about in the early 80s, and that'd be Marillion's old singer and songwriter, Derek Dick, better known as, Fish. I have been itching to see what this man can achieve with his solo work since his time with Marillion was nothing short of amazing, even when it only lasted a mere 4 albums. So I decided to check this album out to see what Fish can pull off after his chapter with Marillion closed.

The first song on here is Tumbledown. It starts off with this very elegant piano instrumental. It has a nice progression through this little segment, and is super beautiful. However this all is taken aback with the song fully starting up with some pop like chords and riffs. This was honestly quite unexpected when it first happened, and kinda disappointing. The reason for it is that the change doesn't fit. I know Prog is very eclectic and loves to change up styles and sounds on a dime, but generally it is best to make it sound consistent and smooth. Imagine it as a dinner plate. You got your meats, your cheeses, your veggies, maybe even a dessert. Lots of different stuff, but all work well with one another to where it never really bothers you. Here, it's weird, it doesn't fit. We went from a nice and somber sounding piano instrumental, but then we immediately switched to something that is the exact opposite, something cheery sounding and poppy. It doesn't feel consistent or anywhere to feel good. But I do commend the song for being very catchy and enjoyable besides the whole switch up, but even then it does just feel like your average pop song, not even like a Prog pop song, just normal pop. Kind of a downer to be honest.

Next we got Mission Statement. I really enjoy this song. It's catchy, and has a sorta swing to it. It gets you hooked pretty easily and has a lot of rhymically fun grooves and beats. However I started to really notice a little something off with Fish's vocals. I decided to compare what they were in the 80s to here and I saw that he doesn't have that same Scottish spunk he had in his voice here than he did back when he was in Marillion. He barely has that very meaty accent and voice he had, which is really disappointing cause that aspect of his voice is what made me fall in love with his old band in the first place. I cannot help but feel a sense of loss with this song and the remainder of the album going forward. It's just some little things I wished stuck you know?

The next track is Incomplete. This is a very cool and sorta noir sounding acoustic song with an addition of Elisabeth Antwi also being a lead vocalist here in conjunction with Fish. Honestly, this song is great. Because it is acoustic, instrumentation is going to be a lot less intrusive and makes the song a lot more realized than what it would be if it were filled with nothing but instruments. Funny how this song feels the most complete song here while it's called Incomplete. I also really love that whole duet of Fish and Elisabeth singing together, and to be honest I wished it happened more on this album. This album definitely has a problem of introducing an idea but never actually runs with it. Every song is so different from the last that the only consistency is the sorta pop-like stature these songs have. I like my Prog consistent in that everything, no matter the differences, fits together in some way or shape. Here, nothing fits and it feels weird.

Now we got Tilted Cross, and I think we are getting somewhere now. After Incomplete I expected something very different but now we have this, another great acoustic track, with great chord progressions. It was very breathtaking to actually hear the album starting to feel like it has a clear identity, but then I start to question, why now? This is the fourth song on the album, and we got through three songs that are all very different from one another, and now we are getting some kind of form and shape within the album after all this time? It seems kind of fishy (puns intended) that now we are getting songs that are consistent from one another despite the differences.

Next we got Faithhealer. Now we are back to the pop stuff, but a lot more new wave and similar to that of Tumbledown. I don't really have much gripes with this song, it's fun and catchy, and I think I have already made my mark clear on my problems with this song, or songs now on this album. I won't deny I am sorta bashing this album a lot so why not introduce some kind of positivity, like the guitars. I really like the guitars so far on this album, the quintet of guitarists of Bruce Watson of Foreigner, Robin Boult, Til Paulman, Phil Grieve, and the legendary Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree do such an amazing job with their guitar playing. They give out a strong power within the album that hooks you right in, and this song is definitely one of their best due to the heavy chords and playing. Definitely really good.

Next we got Rites Of Passage, one last acoustic ballad, except it's a lot more orchestral and somber. I honestly really really like this tune, and looking past every issue I have for this album again, I cannot deny that this song is great and really well made. How the instrumentation just melts around Fish's vocals, and how it definitely feels very emotional. It's really nice and gives out a lot of those good feelings out of you, with a sorta bittersweet feeling attached all around. This is definitely one of those highlight songs on the album.

Now we get to the last song. From what I have researched this is Fish's first solo epic, and this is called Plague of Ghosts. I was curious about what it would sound like. After finishing it, I guess it was alright. The segments were good and the suite was definitely polished and well worth going through, but to be honest I just think nothing ever really sounds right throughout it all. Again, this album has a very huge inconsistency problem, and this song is just a shortened version of that. Some parts feel like they are from different albums all together, and when there is an idea going, they never fully roll with it, they just immediately switch over to the next part on a dime without any second thought. I cannot say I am mad at this, just very disappointed. I expected a bit more, and I know Fish can do more, he has done far more, but here, he wasn't at his clear peak of creative and writing highs at the moment, and that really sucks.

So this album is ok all around but throughout it all it felt very inconsistent, a little too bland in some cases, and just doesn't have any identity besides the three-ish acoustic songs and the long suite at the end. I cannot deny it has good moments, but the experience is definitely not one I'd recommend. Only check it out if you know what to expect with the album.

Report this review (#2755185)
Posted Wednesday, May 18, 2022 | Review Permalink

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