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Galahad: Sleepers (20th Anniversary Expanded Remaster)

It's fitting as Galahad celebrate their 30th year, that they should also look to reinvigorate an album reaching its own milestone; Sleepers hitting the ripe old age of 20. In many ways this was the album that really kicked Galahad's career into gear, the earlier Nothing Is Written and In A Moment Of Complete Madness the sound of a band (very ably I may add) finding their feet. Here however, while still steeped deeply in the sound that formed much of the 80s Neo-Prog movement, Galahad really began to stretch their wings and hit their stride - if it's possible to do both those things at the same time…? However the creation of Sleepers was a war of attrition for the band, producer Tony Arnold so deeply involved in the King Crimson Frame By Frame boxed set (amongst other projects) that Sleepers gestation actually lasted four full years and ended with a 'Wild West stand off' of money exchanged for the album master tapes. Ironically the band were never actually all that happy with the results Arnold gave them, a thinly produced sound stifling much of the drama the songs contain (something live recordings have subsequently proven). Hence this reissue comes fully remastered by Karl Groom of Threshold (now a long term collaborator with the band), something which improves things greatly without truly negating all of the drawbacks the original suffered from.

In terms of songs however Sleepers wasn't only a strong step up for the band, it also stands tall and proud today, the opening title track still an illustration of how to show great patience in building a track to its true potential, while "Julie Ann" turns into a surprisingly accessible song that could have been a bona fide chart hit. This opening pair also show the diversity of singer Stuart Nicholson's vocal delivery, the first cut a hard hitting slice of progressive drama, the second a beautifully arranged piece of percussion and guitar that let a simple, if technically flawless, vocal take centre stage. Unlike much of the band's latter day output, comparisons are much more easy to make, with the Neo-Prog leaders Marillion and Pallas obvious touching points, while there's also a similarity between Galahad and the other band who made prog waves in the mid 90s, Arena.

However that shouldn't take away from the sparkling keyboards of Karl Garrett as he jostles with guitarist Roy Keyworth for supremacy on the likes of "Live And Learn", or darting slap of "Before, After And Beyond", where Nicholson runs through a whole number of vocal approaches to get his message across. "Exorcising Demons" and "Dentist Song" have long been personal favourites of mine, the latter a theatric piece that smoothly surges through atmospheres and approaches before hitting hard. While the former combines those Marillion influences to something altogether more electronic and mainstream, creating a track that veers from accessible to remote and back again. Although with "Sleepers" and "Amaranth" bookending the album, it could be suggested that the strongest selections are at this record's beginning and end. If Galahad had a flaw back in their early(ish) days, then it's that they often took ten minutes to say what five might have conveyed more effectively and with six of the tracks over six minutes in length and four of those over ten, it's still something that strikes home today. Although, to be fair, there isn't a track here that actually loses grip of your attention.

This new version also comes with a couple of bonus cuts. The first, "Suffering In Silence", released separately in 1992 as a promo only cassette and on the original version of the Japanese release of Sleepers, showing that this catchy little piece should have made the main album. While the second is a new alternate orchestral/vocal version of album cut "Pictures Of Bliss", which sounds richer, fuller and gives an even stronger account of itself.

In the booklet that accompanies this reissue, the suggestion that Sleepers is 'best served on headphones at high volume' rings true. The nuances and intricacies less hampered by their original production in this setting. However no matter how you choose to experience it, Sleepers stands up strongly to fresh scrutiny, even if what has followed from Galahad sounds more individual and assured.

Track Listing
2.Julie Anne
3.Live and Learn
4.Dentist Song
5.Pictures Of Bliss
6.Before, After and Beyond
7.Exorcising Demons

Bonus tracks:
10.Suffering in Silence (from the 1st japanese release)
11.Pictures of Bliss (Alternative version)

Added: November 1st 2015
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Galahad Online
Hits: 2292
Language: english

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