The Tangent – A Place on the Shelf

Oh boy, a new Tangent album! The Tangent is one of my favorite bands, so I was super excited to hear about this. Unlike most of the bands we’ve been reviewing lately, The Tangent’s style is probably known to the majority of this site’s readers, so I won’t bother getting into the actual music until I do a track rundown. But first, some info about what this is:

For those of you who don’t know, The Tangent ran into money problems last year before the release of Down and Out in Paris and London (this may or may not have had to do with InsideOut’s insolvency, I don’t know the details). To facilitate its release, the band thought it would be a cool idea to release this outtakes collection to fans in order to help pay for the actual album’s production. Anyway, back-story out of the way, I’ll get to the actual review.

As I said before, this is a collection of outtakes that couldn’t make it to actual albums. Fear not, however, because these tracks are far from disappointing! There are different reasons for why the majority of these tracks were pulled, but it’s generally because they were either deemed too politically charged, or the band was unable to due to copyright protection. The material here is very strong, and every bit of it could be placed on an actual album, as most of the tracks were intended to. I feel like there are a few faults here and there, but I’ll get to that later.

Since a long summary is not necessary, I’ll devote most of the rest of this to the track rundown. Shall we begin?

*Le Massacre du Printemps Part 1 – 11:44: This (along with part two) was originally going to be the title track for a sort of Stravinsky project album that was scrapped for copyright reasons. Apparently this is a rockified version of certain parts of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Unfortunately I don’t listen to classical music, so I might be missing something in the translation. Anyway, this track is still quite excellent. It’s a twelve minute instrumental that contains nearly all of the amazing keyboard genius that is Andy’s other trademark (besides his vocals, of course). Don’t expect it to sound exactly like The Tangent, however, as it is after all originally a piece of classical music. Then again, Andy did a number on it in turning it to rock, so he really leaves his mark.

*Everyman’s Forgotten Monday – 5:09: This is apparently an old version of the track on Down and Out in Paris and London. I can clearly hear the similarities between it the music style of Parallel or 90 Degrees (Andy’s other, older band, for those who don’t know), though it was apparently recorded even before that. Musically it’s almost the same as the version on Down and Out, but with some effects added in the intro and the welcome addition of Guy Manning’s voice for a few lines of lyrics.

*I Wanna Be a Chick – 4:34: I’m kind of confused as to why this is considered an out-take, as I really like it, and there doesn’t seem to be a reason why it was cut. It’s basically a nice, little (by prog standards), inoffensi

ve instrumental that showcases excellent keyboard work as usual. It really isn’t quite as special as Le Massacre du Printemps, but it isn’t really supposed to be. Rumor has it that the title is a reference to Chick Corea, but I’m waiting to hear back from Andy about that, so who knows. The music is very jazz-fusiony, so perhaps it’s possible. If this is an homage to Corea, I would say its closest analogue would be the Elektric Band, as it doesn’t sound like his normal latin-jazz stuff, nor Return to Forever. At the halfway point the track actually starts sounding less and less like Corea and more and more like The Tangent/Parallel or 90 Degrees and keeps going that way until the last ten seconds.

*Live on Air – 21:47: I am very sad that this didn’t make it past the demo stage, because I feel like some of the flaws in it would probably have been ironed out if it had. That said, I think this track is absolutely incredible. It’s one of the most eclectic things in The Tangent’s catalogue, and I find the message to be very important. I’m not going to go into the concept because it’s very deep and complex and I’m sure this section is going to be a lot longer than I want it to be anyway. Moving on: This is certainly the best track on the album, which is fitting because it’s the epic. What would a prog album be if the epic was underwhelming? Stylistically it seems most similar to Four Egos, One War from Not as Good as the Book. They’re both about 20 minutes long, mostly lyric-driven, sung from multiple points of view, changes style frequently, and they don’t have as many long instrumental sections as some other epics (In Earnest comes to mind). I suppose most of those qualities can be applied to a lot of Tangent songs… but I feel that sort of connection for some reason. That said, besides that tenuous feeling I have, the track is very different from The Tangent has posted before, mostly because of a lot of silly things done with the vocals. It sounds like Andy had a lot of fun with a vocoder or something, as there are fun effects like a really deep sounding scary voice (to represent the stereotypical TV villain) and a sort of fuzzy voice when someone (probably Andy) raps a few lines slightly later. Yes, there’s a rap section here, and it’s probably my favorite part of the album because the lyrics are really funny and because it references an earlier part of the song. These are some of the reasons the track is eclectic, but there’s more stuff too, like news reports and recordings of interviews Andy did with people, as well as the final message of  Mohammad Sidique Khan, which, by the way, is one of the reasons this track was pulled. Personally I don’t see why it should be considered controversial to discuss horrific events and why they occurred, and I assume Andy felt the same way or he wouldn’t have recorded this in the first place. Still, it was, so the demo was never polished enough to fix the tiny flaw that I will mention in a moment. There are only two or three parts of the song where this is noticeable, but there are certain parts where the backing vocals are done incredibly badly. I don’t mean the backing vocalist is bad, I mean they don’t even match up with Andy’s. At one point when an especially poignant line is sung: “without the badguys with the rucksack, Jack would have no job” – the backing vocals keep going for another half a second and stab at the eardrums instead of what they’re supposed to do, accentuate the main singing. However, this only occurs in a few short parts, and it doesn’t make the song any less amazing, even if it is rather annoying.

*Le Massacre Du Printemps Part 2 – 14:43: Ok! Part two! This is similar to the second, but with the addition of lyrics. I like how Andy can make something like this sound so much like he wrote it all along. Then again, according to the sleeve notes, he did… *cough* Hehe, anyway Part Two is similar to part one, but I like it more because of the extropectic (I just invented a word!) lyrics. It also seems to be more intense musically, with the first part being more of a prelude.

*Overall the album is excellent, and I highly suggest it to all fans of The Tangent and progressive rock. However, this is not something to start with if you’ve never heard The Tangent before. This music is much stranger than the band’s usual fare. If a newbie were to listen to Live on Air before anything else by The Tangent they would probably come away thinking Andy Tillison is an insane, terrorist-sympathizing freak with bad taste in backing vocals. Or maybe if they’re open-minded like they should be (hey look, irony), they would just find the rest of the band’s material to be very tame in comparison.

Tracklist:

*Le Massacre du Printemps Part 1 – 11:44

*Everyman’s Forgotten Monday – 5:09

*I Wanna Be a Chick – 4:34

*Live on Air – 21:47

*Le Massacre Du Printemps Part 2 – 14:43

At the moment, the Tangent is:

*Andy Tillison – Keyboards and Vocals

*Theo Travis – Wind Instruments

*Jonathan Barett – Basses

*Luke Machin – Guitars

*Michael Gilbourne – Drums

Though this wasn’t The Tangent when A Place in the Queue was recorded. I don’t actually know who to put down here, since these tracks were recorded over a long period of time.

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