Ozkam’s Five and Other Silly Ideas (including the Invisible Men classic album review

Weirdest thing. I woke up from dreaming most of an original rapidfire timed historical quest chain for ‪#‎WorldofWarcraft‬ in my head. Never really had one of those before. I think I could write it down if I do it now.

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I’m part way into plotting this WoW quest, even though it will probably never see the light of day. I’ve played a bit of WoW over the years since Dawn and I essentially quit, but really, I don’t have any illusions about working for Blizzard or anything like that. Honestly, if I was going to work for a big franchise, I’d probably prefer to write for Doctor Who. But this is a fun idea, and I don’t want it vanishing until I’ve caught some of it down. I’m considering plopping it into the unfinished fanfic collection I was going to publish for free and give away to people who ordered one of my books. I may take another swing at finishing that up this year, to go out with the two books I’m trying to work on now.

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Listening to some classic 80s progressive pop music from my hero, Anthony Phillips, while working on this plot for the quest. I even did a wee bit of research to ground it a bit. Less certain it needs to be written up and included in the fanfic book, but if I DO write it up as I dreamed it, it would be a shoe-in for the collection. I haven’t worked on that in a while because I got bogged down on two stories I really wanted to write: ‘Ferris Bueller’s Lost Weekend’, and ‘Shadow On The Door’. The former was inspired by that dreadful car commercial that invaded Super Bowl Sunday a few years ago and broke my heart. It’s the 31st anniversary of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off this year, and it’s really time I finished that up. The latter is an ode to one of my favourite rock albums of all time, Synchronicity, by the Police. I love that album so much , I tried to incorporate its bare bones into a novel I planned on writing a couple of years ago, to no avail. I may still write that novel someday, but meanwhile, there’s this perfectly good concept for a novella that needs to happen.

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Meanwhile, I have the third issue of The Anvil to work on (The Art and Music Issue ~or as I like to call it~ The Issue with Art and Music), The CONSTANT SEA OF NIGHT waiting for me to return to work on it, and CUSTOMS AND ROAD SONGS of LIMBO, my taboo-exploring wayward stepsister of The BACK ROADS of LIMBO, also on deck. I have LIMBO TAROT: The Fool sitting on my easel. I have a collaboration with my wife, called ‘Rage Sunflowers’, to prepare and complete, and I have designs for the rest of the Tarot series, and also the CHAOS & ORDER collaboration series to work out with Dawn. I keep promising myself I’ll get together with my songwriting partner, Gary, and work on a new album of material. I also still itch to complete Steep Inclinations, an album I’ve been planning since I was in college in ’92.

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The Constant Sea of Night gained two more stories, which I’m working to fit into my tale, up in my head, as they haven’t quite managed to come to live on the screen. I do remember writing a little about ‘Giant‘ somewhere (possibly in this blog), but the notes I put in the Scrivener page are pretty spare:

“A middle-aged nanopoet discovers the body of his best friend and mentor, the famous sympop composer Vera Linn, murdered by genefascists before completing her masterpiece, and vows to complete the work in her stead.”

I collected my notes from the blog, and even started working on the story again, which is nice. I hope it continues.

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INVISIBLE MEN (Anthony Phillips; Richard Scott) – eponymous (1984) – a classic album (mini) review

TL;DR Version: This is a special album, in both the truest sense and in the short bus sense. It’s a flawed masterpiece in disguise, but you have to dig in to really find what it might have been like if it hadn’t been marred by very parochial 80s production values.

‘Splain, Lucy Version: The only problem I have with Ant’s short career as a rock musician is that his ‘final’ pop album, The Invisible Men is somewhat hit and miss, in comparison to Wise After The Event and Sides. Three of the first four songs are truly great songs, but the rest of the album teeters between solid rock songs with fine performances from Ant on guitar, synth and vocals, with some great drumming in places, but a lot of thinly-recorded drum machine parts and esoteric 80s arrangements throughout.

Boring Version: If you’re not intrigued yet, you probably won’t be by anything else I write in this blog. Take a miss.

For the rest of you, I’ll just add to what I’ve said before about Ant by saying that I have heard tell that Cherry Records, the company that is remastering and redistributing his classic solo works, is teasing a new album out of him, which I have my hopes will be the long awaited return to rock music I have been dying to hear for decades. I may be setting myself up for slight disappointment, but it’s worth the pain to hope that he might have an album of proper songs to contribute to the 21st century.

THE REVIEW:

Golden Bodies is a teensy bit cheesy. It’s fun. The lyrics are cheeky. I don’t dislike it at all. It’s just slight, compared to some other pieces on the album.

The Women Were Watching is a strong and poignant number with a great new wave arrangement and a lyric that discusses the irony of watching the men march off to the Falkland War in the early 80s.

Traces is perhaps the prettiest, most touching love song in Anthony Phillips’ canon. The irony that it lives on this album he seemingly has no love for is striking. I love this song, and have promised myself to cover it someday.

Exocet returns to the theme of the Falkland War, and does it with some more grit and aggression. Strong piece.

Love In A Hot Air Balloon is as slight and goofy as the title suggests. Not a bad song. An earnest attempt at a fun late 70s/early 80s pop song.

Going For Broke is a tour de force.

Falling For Love has a nice bass line and arrangement, but the chorus is a bit conventional, though the guitar and synth horn solos redeem it.

Sally is a fun tune with a pretty respectable synth brass riff; the sax solos, though well done, are perhaps a bit too cliché. Fun song, though.

I Want Your Heart is an interesting and unorthodox synth pop number with a strange drum machine breakbeat and a pulsing synth string section in the bass, and the vocal performance is pretty solid. The synth solo is fun if short, and the only thing holding the song back is that it is a bit straightforward in song structure, and could perhaps do with some more live-sounding drums.

Guru is a good lyric with a smart story marred by a slightly lacklustre song (for me). Not bad. Not hatefully so, at any rate, but we get more R&B sax and drum machine, which I suspect makes the song sound a little too dated and bland. Interesting arrangement, but not compelling.

It’s Not Easy is not bad, but extremely conventional, and the female vocal is a sort of generic female R&B backing singer that seems to cement it as a sort of deliberate attempt to court the radio. I believe it failed resoundingly.

My Time Has Come is actually a lovely piece of twelve-string work floating through a proper rock arrangement, very much in the Genesis mold of recording. I’ve never really taken it too seriously before, but the more I listen to it critically, the more it occurs to me that it wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Trespass, or perhaps The Lamb, if he’d remained with the band up to that point.

Trail of Tears is an instrumental which opens with a drum machine producing a bit of a dirgelike march. The wall of synth parts does little to dispel this until the beat changes and the synth parts start lilting and galloping through the verse section. It goes on a nice little jaunt, but for me, it sounds perhaps too much like some of Ant’s work on Ahead of The Field. It wouldn’t have been out of place on an action TV show of the late 70s or early 80s.

The Ballad of Penlee is a demo with piano and vocal, and some synth string parts. It’s maudlin and doesn’t really take me far. It reminds me of some of Ant’s work on Sides, and in particular Bleak House, which took me some time to warm to. It’s not bad. It’s just not a very engaging number.

Alex is an instrumental piece that has a nice body to it, and reminds me favourably of Tony Banks’ work on The Wicked Lady. The problem is that, as usual by this point, it has some pretty mediocre drum machine all over it, which it probably could have lived without. Even a pop drum track could have saved this from sounding like what it invariably is: an outtake.

SUMMARY:

I actually love this album, and it grows on me more with every year. But I consider it a personal favourite, and never argue its merits with anyone in the wider Genesis community, because it was, perhaps unfairly, but not grossly so, a critical and commercial flop. Much like Tony Banks, Ant has long had a problem identifying what elements of his musical vision stand him in good stead with rock audiences, and meanders a bit on this album.

All that said, if I had one wish involving Anthony Phillips, I’d dearly love to be able to afford to produce a proper progressive rock album with him again. Prog is back. Why shouldn’t Ant finally have his day in the spotlight… even if it’s of necessity from back stage?

© 2016 Lee Edward McIlmoyle

Don't be shy. Tell me what you really think, now.

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