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Twelfth Night: Art & Illusion (remaster)

A reunion is highly unlikely—and we must emphasize highly—but the lights still come on in the Twelfth Night manor from time to time (or perhaps it's an old friend, visiting). As with IQ, Marillion, Pallas, and Pendragon, Twelfth Night formed in the U.K. in the very late 1970s, and together these five entities spawned the neo-progressive movement. Not long after a short term of status with Virgin Records, Twelfth Night called it a day in 1987. The band had seen the vocalist's seat change no less than six times, had enjoyed periods as an instrumental quartet (which yielded the excellent debut, Live At The Target), and had left us with a pair of over-the-top classics, Fact and Fiction and Live and Let Live, both recorded with vocalist/lyricist Geoff Mann. Now, Art & Illusion has been issued by Cyclops Records with improved sonic quality and some extras—as was done with Collector's Item and Fact and Fiction.

Art & Illusion was the first post-Mann album, and the title track became the only "Mannerism," to use a term fans have grown fond of, that Andy Sears sang (and Andy was sure to let us know). The "new guy" had quite an act to follow, but Mssrs. Revell, Mitten, Battersby and Devoil—guitar, bass, keyboards & drums, respectively—weren't about to hire somebody whom they didn't feel comfortable with (in his new liner notes, Brian Devoil even recalls how keen he was towards Sears' lyrics). While this reviewer prefers Geoff's voice, Andy was absolutely the best replacement they could have found—some might argue he was better, but it simply boils down to preference, in my book. Naturally, Andy touched on none of the spiritual areas that Geoff so brilliantly espoused. Also, while Geoff dazzled with his ability to melodize the elegant lines of his sonorous psalms, Andy was a little more concise, writing distinctly singable lyrics regarding many sociopolitical agendas of the day. Terms like "bourgeois," "vultures," and "leeches" are referenced in the first verse of "Counterpoint," a song that concerns Britain's slant towards privatization in the mid-1980s. On a technical level, TN's vigor remained uncompromised: Clive Mitten's crisp basslines & Brian Devoil's economical, to-the-point drumming always made the perfect foils for Andy Revell's ghostly, fog-across-the-moor guitar leads, and Rick Battersby's hybrid of Banks/Bardens/Numan. Flash was never a term to be found on TN's resumé. This is pleasantly demonstrated on the lone instrumental, "C.R.A.B." and the rousing opening section of "Kings & Queen," the latter of which approaches a degree of rawness the band wasn't exactly known for.

"Blondon Fair" is credited as a marginal remake of "Not On The Map" (a.k.a. "Deep In The Heartland" with Mann, which can be heard on Collector's Item V2.0). The end result is anything short of a retread—rather, this is a sinister-sounding number whose lyrics concern the Holocaust. The waltz of the glassy sampled bass & sine wave-derived synth sounds further augment the ambiguities the lyrics contain. "Take A Look" is quite the mini-epic, closing in on twelve minutes' length. Musically, it isn't all over the map, but moodwise, it surely is, and conceptually speaking, it's best to simply quote Andy, himself: "Above all, it encapsulates my concern as to whether the computer aids or incapacitates the ancient art of thinking for oneself!" Now consider that this song was conceived nearly twenty years ago!

Art & Illusion is expanded with four rehearsals, including a shorter edit of "Take A Look," intended as a single. After this mesmeric nostalgia trip, the one downside is the wait for the next batch of reissues: Live At The Target (YES, it's on the block!), Smiling At Grief, and Devoil has also hinted at a release that would collect songs recorded with every vocalist! Those guilty by association would be the phantasmal Electra McLeod, Ian Lloyd-Jones, a fellow by the handle of "Axe," plus Mann, Sears, and [Martyn] Watson, who served as vocalist and bassist in TN's final incarnation, which supported Geoff Mann at one of his gigs in 1987. That does it for this round—we'll see all of you when we've gotten our filthy, eager paws on Live At The Target

Tracklist:
1. Counterpoint
2. Art & Illusion
3. C.R.A.B.
4. Kings & Queen
5. First New Day
-Bonus Tracks-
6. Blue Powder Monkey
7. Blondon Fair
8. Take A Look
9. Counterpoint (alternate)
10. C.R.A.B. (alternate)
11. Kings & Queens (alternate)
12. Take A Look (alternate)
Total Time: 71:16

Added: January 18th 2004
Reviewer: Elias Granillo
Score:
Related Link: Twelfth Night - The Collector
Hits: 3389
Language: english

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