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Landmarq: Entertaining Angels

While I've always found the theatrical AOR and jazz tinged progressive rock of the UK's Landmarq to be a captivating emotional journey, for some it has proved to be a remote, often impenetrable experience. Taking the brave step, after their first three albums, to replace the departing Damian Wilson (Threshold) with a completely different voice in the shape of dreamy, ethereal throated Tracy Hitchings - the band's last studio effort, Science Of Coincidence, actually saw the light of day way back in 1998. A number of live releases in recent years have confirmed the band still existed, although for a period of time it looked like a set of new studio recordings was a longed for fantasy.

However 2006's live CD/DVD Turbulence-Live In Poland actually debuted a number of new songs, four of which have been reworked and included on the wonderfully titled Entertaining Angels, with a further three appearing on the limited bonus CD that accompanies the special edition. The title and lyrics on the album are inspired by Hitchings' spiritual beliefs and her fight to overcome cancer through unconventional methods. So you can be assured that this is personal stuff on show here. However don't be fearful, as for all their weight and significance, the words actually result in a wonderfully inspiring CD that raises the spirits (no pun intended) and mood as you interact with it. And interact you must, as this is no quick fix, with numerous listens needed to unravel the countless layers of sounds and emotions on show. First listens can, as ever with Landmarq, make the album feel distant and cold. However arguably this is still this band's most readily accessible set, with certain aspects bringing a warmth I wouldn't have readily associated with their music in the past.

The glorious guitar solo during the lengthy (although nothing is particularly short) "Mountains Of Anglia" is a prime example of an area to immediately grasp on to as an entrance point, but then so is the slow throbbing beat of "Glowing ii. Lovers", which lives out its song title perfectly, as does the sexy sax courtesy of Laurent Hunziker (Logicaltramp). However if you are looking for a song to introduce you to Entertaining Angels, then "Personal Universe" is where you should search for, with a syrupy vocal soothing your mind into complete relaxation, as acoustic guitars smooth their path. All of the songs however constantly grow and evolve as you hear them, both for the first time and on subsequent listens, with the very aspects that at first make them feel stand-offish, becoming their very strengths and why they stand up to repeat and frequent listens. The standard of musicianship is simply wonderful, but as with the best prog, never knowingly so, flash kept to a minimum and technical exuberance staying in check, allowing the likes of the at first harsh and abrasive, then atmospheric and uplifting "Turbulence", or lengthy excursion of the multi-faceted three part "Calm Before The Storm" feel organic and natural.

The album itself runs at just over seventy two minutes, although it never feels anything like that long. Leaving you plenty desire to slip in the nearly thirty minute bonus disc that accompanies the limited version of this album, the four tracks contained therein having a less grand feel. However they make for an interesting counterpoint to the main CD, with the more overt early Marillionisms of "Walking On Eggshells" offering a languid vision. "Timeline" then utilises another Neo-Prog slow build of piano to truly allow Hitchings to shine, while "Stormbrewing" is a beautiful piano-piece which paints exactly the picture its title suggests. Oddly along with the lengthier "Thunderstruck" these four tracks, while hugely enjoyable, are far more derivative of the prog Landmarq have long been associated with than anything that actually made the main album. Making for a lovely accompaniment that can be listened to when Entertaining Angels is not the prog you are in the mood for.

Across both discs Hitchings, guitarist Uwe D'rose, bassist Steve Gee, keyboard player Mike Varty (Credo) and drummer Dave Wagstaffe all put in wonderful performances, with Varty also providing a stellar production and while it does take an initial effort to engage with, a little effort reveals an album of truly beautiful potency. If you've never savoured Landmarq before, this is a wonderful place to begin. For long term fans, be prepared to savour 100 minutes of this band's finest work.

Track Listing
1. Entertaining Angels
2. Glowing i. Friends
3. Glowing ii. Lovers
4. Mountains Of Anglia
5. Personal Universe
6. Prayer (Coming Home)
7. Turbulence (Paradigm Shift)
8. Calm Before The Strom
i. Strange But Beautiful
ii. Spiderman
iii. From The Abyss

Bonus Disc
1. Walking ON Eggshells
2. Timeline
3. Stormbreawing
4. Thunderstruck

Added: April 22nd 2013
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Landmarq Online
Hits: 2723
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Landmarq: Entertaining Angels
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2013-04-22 10:03:18
My Score:

Landmarq, for me, have always been one of those bands that just seem to fly under the radar, mainly due to their brand of jazzy prog-rock & pop being nice but sometimes just a tad on the bland side. Part of me still finds their latest release Entertaining Angels somewhat underwhelming, yet it's one of those albums that you really can't say anything negative about, even though nothing here jumps out at you over the first couple of listens. Keep trying however, and the lovely vocals of Tracy Hitchings really do begin to enchant you, and the tasty guitar work from guitarist Uwe D'rose & the keyboard tapestries courtesy of Mike Varty are quite charming here. Entertaining Angels is a long one, at 72 minutes, plus you also get a bonus CD of extra tunes, so there's a lot to take in and digest, but most of it is very pleasing to the ears, if not especially challenging. Tracks like "Personal Universe", "Mountains of Anglia", and the epic "Calm Before the Storm" contain some catchy melodies and beautiful musical soundscapes, and having some nice guest passages from sax player Laurent Hunziker & former ELO cellist Hugh McDowell is certainly a nice surprise. "Turbulence (Paradigm Shift)" just might be the most aggressive piece here, a fun neo-prog offering with some sizzling synth solos and crisp guitar riffs.

Overall, Entertaining Angels is a solid package, and possibly the strongest release from this line-up of the band. Don't come here expecting bombast or layers of musical virtuosity, but if you have a love for soothing, lush progressive rock with elements of jazz and pop, then you've come to the right place.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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