The Tangent are back with their fourth studio release, the 2 CD set titled Not As Good As The Book, an album that also gave birth to a novella written by leader & keyboard player Andy Tillison. The story centers around a middle aged man and his struggles through life, and mixes humor with science fiction for a tale that should appeal to most progressive rock fans. The release comes in two versions, a regular 2CD set and a deluxe edition with a 100-page booklet that includes a short story and illustrations. In the band for this release are Andy Tillison (keyboards, vocals), Guy Manning ( acoustic instruments, vocals), Jonas Reingold (bass), Jaime Salazar (drums), Jakko M Jakszyk (electric guitar, vocals), Theo Travis (saxophone, flute), and vocalist Julie King.
The band's mix of modern prog rock with classic 70's Canterbury elements is once again on display throughout Not As Good As The Book. "A Crisis In Mid Life" sees the group digging into some intense fusion rhythms and soaring prog riffs, with guitarist Jakszyk throwing in a scorching Allan Holdsworth inspired solo. Tillison, always great at giving you every sound in his arsenal, does so with plenty of bombast on the whimsical title track, a real fun piece with rollicking synth lines and strong vocals. "A Sale Of Two Souls" is an interesting piece, mostly a lighthearted number with some laid back vocals and Travis' gorgeous flute work, but there are some rocking moments on this song where the band almost sounds like Van Der Graaf Generator. Their hard rocking side really comes out on the crunchy "Bat Out Of Basildon", a real riff monger with Jakszyk's crankin' guitar licks and Tillison's Hammond leading the charge, and a classy Travis sax solo to add a slight jazz feel to the song. In fact, Travis lends some nasty sax explosions to "Lost in London (25 Years Later)" as well, a real Canterbury influenced tune that also includes some fusiony guitar lines and Tillison's majestic acoustic and electric piano passages. The 10-minute epic on CD 1 is "The Ethernet", a textured track that lets all the members really strut their stuff. At times pastoral, with Manning's lush acoustic guitar setting the tone, to some jazzy moments highlighted by Theo's soaring sax line, all the way to more symphonic sections with stunning keyboard and guitar arrangements.
CD 2 consists of two 20+ minute monsters, "Four Egos One War" and "The Full Gamut". The first is a symphonic journey with plenty of keyboard bombast and killer guitar work, but there are also sections where the band quiets down and allows for some gentle acoustic work from Manning and Travis' exploratory sax lines. "The Full Gamut" however mixes classy jazz, funk (check out Tillison's rave ups here!), and vintage 70's styled prog, a great way to end this rather adventurous album.
Honestly, there's a lot to like here on Not As Good As The Book. Sure, it's a little overblown in spots, and there's no doubt that nearly 100 minutes is a lot of prog to take in on one listen, but once you give this CD a few spins you'll find plenty of compelling arrangements and catchy melodies that will keep you coming back for more.
1. A Crisis In Mid Life
2. Lost In London (25 Years Later)
3. The Ethernet
4. Celebrity Puree
5. Not As Good As The Book
6. A Sale Of Two Souls
7. Bat Out Of Basildon
1) Four Egos One War
2) The Full Gamut