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It Bites

Crossover Prog

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It Bites The Tall Ships album cover
3.87 | 200 ratings | 16 reviews | 22% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2008

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Oh My God (5:47)
2. Ghosts (4:45)
3. Playground (5:32)
4. Memory of Water (4:49)
5. The Tall Ships (6:17)
6. The Wind That Shakes the Barley (8:12)
7. Great Disasters (4:59)
8. Fahrenheit (5:16)
9. For Safekeeping (5:27)
10. Lights (4:54)
11. This Is England (13:34)

Total Time 69:32

Bonus track on 2008 German release:
12. When I Fall (4:41)

Line-up / Musicians

- John Mitchell / guitars, bass, lead vocals
- John Beck / keyboards, bass, backing & harmony vocals
- Bob Dalton / drums, backing vocals

- Lee Pomeroy / bass - is sometimes credited but didn't actually perform on these recordings

Releases information

Artwork: Paul Tippett for Vitamin P

CD It Bites Music Partnership - IBRCD002 (2008, UK)
CD Inside Out Music - IOMCD 302 (2008, Germany) With a bonus track

Thanks to Bungalow Bill for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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IT BITES The Tall Ships ratings distribution

(200 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(22%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(46%)
Good, but non-essential (20%)
Collectors/fans only (11%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

IT BITES The Tall Ships reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
4 stars Once bitten...

The original vocalist and guitarist Francis Dunnery is replaced here with John Mitchell of Arena fame. In Arena, Mitchell just plays guitar, and he is indeed an excellent guitarist. Here, however, he reveals himself as a fine vocalist as well. His voice would certainly not have fitted the much darker and more theatrical music of Arena, but it fits very well here. There are perhaps some slight similarities with the music of Arena here, but The Tall Ships is brighter, lighter, and more accessible. On some parts IQ comes to mind, but most of all it is just It Bites. A very worthy continuation of earlier It Bites.

The music is overall of high quality. The absolute highlight of the album for me is the eight minute The Wind That Shakes The Barley. This is probably the most progressive track on The Tall Ships and it is an excellent one! It starts with a good riff played on organ, on top of that a slightly hard edged guitar riff and a strong, up tempo first chorus. This then gives way to the more laid back main verse of the song, followed again by the first chorus. About three and a half minutes into the track there is a nice first instrumental break with fast piano that introduces a different chorus. The song then positively explodes into a second instrumental break constituted by a great guitar and keyboard duel between John Mitchell and John Beck to finally repeat the first part of the song before the end. Really terrific stuff!

Other highlights are the slightly symphonic title track and the 13 + minute closer, This Is England. For Safekeeping is a nice piano-based semi-ballad. Overall, it is a very strong album easily rivalling the best of the band's previous albums. This is accessible yes, but without sacrificing depth and substance.

Highly recommended!

Review by Roland113
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars In My Not So Humble Opinion:

"The Tall Ships" by It Bites is a fun CD.

So, I absolutely adore Milliontown by Frost*, particularly the guitar work of one John Mitchell. Last summer, I heard that there was going to be an interview with him on my favorite podcast, "The Rogues Gallery" by Franz Keylard (The Dividing Line Broadcasting Network). Of course I was going to listen to that to see if he'd drop any new knowledge about the upcoming Frost* CD (which turned out to be Experiments in Mass Appeal). In the process of listening to the podcast and interview, I realized that I was really enjoying the It Bites songs that Franz was playing.

"The Tall Ships" is full of great songs, great vocals and . . . well . . . a big eighties sound, though the strong attention to detail and subtle time signature shifts does throw this one firmly into Crossover land. Make no mistake; it is poppy, outrageously catchy and melodic.

Take the opener, "Oh My God"; it starts off with the arpeggiated vocal chant decrying "I got your words I got your words I got your words" and immediately the harmonies of John Mitchell, John Beck and Bob Dalton make me smile. The song leaps along with the boundless energy of a two year old featuring just enough schmoltz and cheese to make even a cynical codger like myself smile. "Ghosts" features more of John Beck's strong work on the keys, the patches that he uses sound like updated versions of eighties patches. A classic sound, yet modern and updated. "Playground" and "Memory of Water" continue along in the same venue of the first two. A strong lush eighties sound with strong vocal harmonies and more of John Mitchell smoking on the guitar.

Ironically, the title track, "The Tall Ships" is one of the weaker tracks on the CD. It's a somewhat wistful ballad, it's decent, I don't skip it, but by the same token, I don't feel an overwhelming sense of sadness when I'm deprived from it . . .

. . . as opposed to "The Wind That Shakes the Barley". I do feel sadness when deprived from this one. Now, oddly enough, this piece didn't sink in quite as quickly as some of the other songs, but after a few listens I realized that this may be the proggiest song on the CD. This is a nice eight minute piece that goes through at least three different time signatures and is a great example of what the John Mitchell led "It Bites" is capable of. Great arrangements, fantastic vocals and great interplay between all three of them.

"Great Disasters" is another terribly fun song, this one sounds vaguely like "Tarzan Boy" by Baltimora with it's random oh and aahs. No no no, don't laugh, this is a good thing, it sounds infinitely better. "Farenheit" is the other weaker track on the CD, and by weaker, I mean not as good as the rest, it's still not a bad track. "Safekeeping" is a nice ballad, featuring John Mitchell's soulful lyrics and a guitar solo worthy of Joe Perry's best arena work. Personally, I love "Lights" it would be the perfect closing track for a John Hughes film. Finally, "This is England" morphs through a variety of styles from a soft ballad to an almost funky rocker to a punkish bit then finally a classical long drawn out 'Supper's Ending'.

All in all, if you love eighties music and prog, this is a fantastically fun fusion of the two (try saying that five times fast). I give it four stars, probably a four point three with only the lack of any spine-tingling moments preventing it from gaining a perfect five stars. Enjoy this one.

Review by lor68
2 stars Ok, John Mitchell (from Arena) in the place of Francis Dunnery is not a great idea in my opinion, as perhaps the present work earns a certain impact (talking about the guitar lines), even though by losing the typical vocalism which made a kind of fortune for this band in the eighties...certainly you know that I don' t like the crossover prog or modern n.p.w. so much, except on a few tunes regarding a quite remarkable band like IQ and the early Pendragon as well, for example; but as a musician honestly I don' t like any band which let the prog genre be too much close and closer to a kind of mainstream music (especially when I hear about a new production): a music, I mean, lacking on the intelligent symphonic breaks-through and what ever you regard as the best astoninshing moments!! In fact, their music genre is much into the eighties and also distant from the mainstream production of nowadays, playing this game alone with a few chances!!

However, proceeding from the beginning, the tune "Oh my God" is a bit bombastic, although the vocal harmony is not bad ; instead you have to wait till track#6 to find a very interesting song: "The Wind That Shakes The Barley"- with an intelligent guitar riff and a quite good organ too- which is almost emulating the best proto-prog songs of the early seventies, despite of standing alone to an acceptable quality level...then the same evaluation for another good track like "For safekeeping", with its nice/quite usual piano and a mood in the vein of a certain easy "AOR" music and....for me nothing else is well worth checking out or anyway a must-have , cause their final mini-suite to conclude the album is often uneven and- in general- unfortunately you don't find any peek inside this "The Tall Ships".

For the fans of the band only!!

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I purchased this album on a whim to take advantage of a special online deal; I selected it more or less because of the gorgeous album artwork and the intriguing title. To my surprise, it blew away all the symphonic progressive rock titles I had been meaning to acquire. With few exceptions, each track is an unforgettable and radiant display of talent, thoughtfulness, and proficiency- a rare combination. The compositions are their executions are not the only things that command praise- the gravelly voice of John Mitchell is simply amazing; he manages an unrefined rasp without sacrificing range or pleasantness, an earthy voice that occasionally soars into a longing falsetto. The lead guitarist has an excellent, scorching tone, and his choice of notes are always what the piece requires. The other members are clearly more supportive in their roles, but this is not to say that their contributions cannot be enjoyed independently. In addition, the CD is housed in very nice packaging, which includes a booklet of vibrant photography. This album is a highly recommended string of gems- one glistening jewel after another.

"Oh My God" Kicking off with colorful vocals, this immediately catchy song brings together energetic rock music and captivating melodies. If that isn't enough of a treat, the electric guitar lead work adds another layer of accomplishment, complimented by a tight rhythm section and dazzling keyboards.

"Ghosts" Bordering on progressive grunge, the second song pairs a driving, heavy rhythm with 1990s synthetic dance tones. And the guitar solo just screams. Again, the upbeat vocal melody hooks onto the listener's memory right away.

"Playground" One of the most powerful and memorable songs on the album, "Playground" inflicts nostalgia its hearers. The various melodies are woven together in a graceful yet hard-rocking manner. A bittersweet acoustic interlude leads back into the main theme and that mighty, wistful refrain.

"Memory of Water" The fourth track is one of the hardest ones, relying heavily on a wall of guitars. It Bites crams several riffs into the verse, building tension by choking the sound. However, the band has sense enough to let that sweet chorus breathe while not losing steam.

"The Tall Ships" Other than "Never the Same" by Echolyn, I don't think I've ever heard a more optimistic and hopeful song about eventual endings. As it should be, the melody is the centerpiece of the song. Easing up on the tempo, the piece adopts acoustic guitars and the synthesizer lead takes on the form of an Irish whistle. All in all, this is a stunningly beautiful composition.

"The Wind That Shakes the Barley" Track number six is the progressive masterpiece of the album. It consists of several different musical sections, all of them rich and memorable, offering generous shifts in rhythm, tempo, melody, resonance, and general direction.

"Great Disasters" I could appreciate why it is easy to dislike this song, particularly coming after what it does. It has a carefree, late 1980s vibe (think multicolored pants and Members Only jackets). I enjoy it regardless, especially the backup vocals. For me, it only contributes- in its own quirky way- to the nostalgia factor so prevalent throughout this CD.

"Fahrenheit" Retaining the late 1980s feel, this tune features a more simplistic structure and yet another catchy chorus. It benefits from its modern sound- in particular the hearty bass and drums, as well as the striking lead guitar tone, which cuts through the music.

"For Safekeeping" Here lies the only truly gentle song on the entire disc, and even then, the soothing piano is met with accentuations from the rest of the crew.

"Lights" Buoyant and fun, I am reminded of early 1990s party music- not the best the album has to offer, but certainly not a bad little tune.

"This Is England" The final track is the other full-bodied progressive rock song on the album. It begins pensively and quietly, gradually picking up momentum but maintaining its moodiness. Using an assortment of textures and musical passages, the piece crescendos in a compelling refrain. Wild and slippery keyboard lines eventually descend into an organ-led dirge, which in turn gives way to a triumphant conclusion.

Review by kev rowland
4 stars When it was first announced that there was going to be a new It Bites album in 2008, but that the band wasn't going to involve Francis Dunnery, there was more than one person wondering what on earth was going to happen. True, keyboard player John Beck and drummer Bob Dalton were still going to be there, but who was going to be the new frontman? Step up John Mitchell, who is probably best-known for his incredibly long-running stint in Arena (in the early days the standing joke was that if you wanted to stay in the band then you shouldn't be at one side of the official press photo, as there was a rather fluid line-up back then). Now, John has a wide and varied repertoire and can put his hand to anything (I once saw him, Paul Cook and JJ act as the backing band for a Canadian singer- songwriter), but It Bites? Here is a band that is probably more loved now than in their heyday, so what was going to happen?

The three of them were going to produce an almighty success, that's what. I saw the original line-up support Marillion on the Misplaced Childhood tour sometimes a million years ago, and I remember being distinctly unimpressed (although in fairness, all I knew of theirs at the time was "Calling All The Heroes"), but here I was grabbed right from the off and stayed with it all the way through to the end. This reminds me so much of the days in the early Nineties when I seemed to be in a permanent state of wonderment about how many great bands there were in the scene, and how many stunning albums there were to listen to. This has been a constant returnee to my player since it was released in 2008, and I have only just realised that I never wrote anything about it at the time!! This has everything anyone could want from It Bites, with poptastic melodies and harmonies and the synthed layers of the opening "Oh My God" dares the listener to turn it off ? impossible.

John's singing fits the music perfectly, and in many ways it really does sound as if It Bites have never been away. So many styles, so many flavours to savour, and there is even a thirteen-minute epic to close with. If somehow this album has passed you by, then you should seek it out immediately.

Latest members reviews

5 stars The remastered reissues of the two John Mitchell-led It Bites albums is a timely reminder of just how good these releases were when they came out in 2008 and 2012 respectively. Not that I needed reminding ? they are amongst my most played albums over the last decade or so. The Tall Ships, in par ... (read more)

Report this review (#2581395) | Posted by Squonk19 | Monday, July 26, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars WOW, now to be honest, thats really all i can say about this album, this may just be the greatest 'comeback' album ever made.gone almost 20 years the band returned to deliver THE TALL SHIPS, now the order of the day on this release is songwriting and not so much prog, which is all fine and well if ... (read more)

Report this review (#427617) | Posted by FarBeyondProg | Monday, April 4, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This album by It Bites, for me was a turning point. I've been a fan of the band since the late 80's and had assumed that they had disappeared into oblivion after Frank Dunnery left. They may as well have done. It was upon finding The Tall Ships for sale whilst casually browsing the racks of a ... (read more)

Report this review (#280683) | Posted by Plastic Dreamer | Thursday, May 6, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Progressive-pop is one of those genres that ever so hard to get just right; progressive fans demand a sense of the unconventional and knotty while pop fans desire hooks and immediacy to keep them interested. Furthermore, even when a fairly good prog-pop album comes along, the emotional power it ... (read more)

Report this review (#252201) | Posted by Anteater | Sunday, November 22, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I came to this through discovering Francis Dunnery's solo work. I wasn't sure if It Bites with no Francis would be any good: It is. This is absolutely superb. It plays non-stop on my players. The opening My God is a breathtaking use of close vocal harmony and each song from Ghost onwar ... (read more)

Report this review (#245052) | Posted by John.Miller | Saturday, October 17, 2009 | Review Permanlink

1 stars This is really not an album I like, such a shame, it will rest in my catalogue with a few others (the bad apples), unheard. THE TALL SHIPS fails to grasp me because of 80-style arrangements (that personally I dislike), the overall sound seems to run on all the songs with minor changes. It seems d ... (read more)

Report this review (#232778) | Posted by ingmin68 | Thursday, August 20, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars It Bites is what could be called a progressive pop band, and boy are they good at what they do. This is my first and only It Bites record, and I think it is brilliant from beginning to finish. I love this record from the opening harmonies of "Oh My God" to the big grandiose finale of "This is ... (read more)

Report this review (#226498) | Posted by natewait | Monday, July 13, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars As I've become huge fan of guitarist, vocalist and in my opinion one of the most talented todays musicians John Mitchell (of Arena, Kino, John Wetton band and many others), and his collaboration with founding It Bites keyboardist, great John Beck in successful prog-pop project Kino - from return ... (read more)

Report this review (#190195) | Posted by stewe | Saturday, November 22, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Kino or It Bites? You don't have to choose, as you have here the best of both worlds. In fact, both have in common a strong sense of melody, some pop tricks and very good musicianship. Oh, and those harmony vocals! They are really great, and that's something which is not easy to find nowadays (i ... (read more)

Report this review (#185588) | Posted by Jordi Planas | Tuesday, October 14, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Having been an It Bites fan since Big Lad... (I remember actually waiting for Once Around the World to be released), it's been an immense pleasure to have the band back. When the Lights Go Down was a good opening move for the new lineup because the live versions of old IB flagships were impressive ... (read more)

Report this review (#182358) | Posted by Platypus66 | Saturday, September 13, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars It's Kino I have never heard any It Bites recording featuring Francis Dunnery, therfore I cannot compare. But I have the album Picture from Kino. After the cooperation of John Beck with John Mitchell at Kino there was already talk of a reformation of It Bites with Mitchell replacing Frank Dunner ... (read more)

Report this review (#181670) | Posted by Bungalow Bill | Wednesday, September 3, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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