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"Musical Discoveries" Review
From the 'Musical Discoveries' web page. To view the original, click here.
Based on the Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) poem of the same name, Clive Nolan has teamed up with Oliver Wakeman to create the all-new progressive rock masterwork Jabberwocky (VGCD014). In development for three years prior to the Verglas Music (UK) release in January 1999, this stunning concept album features Clive Nolan and Oliver Wakeman's tremendous keyboard work with contributions by a vast array of artists including Peter Banks (Genesis) on drums, Ian Salmon (Shadowland, Janison Edge) on guitar and Tracy Hitchings' (Quasar, Gandalf, Strangers On A Train, Landmarq) vocals. Rick Wakeman narrates the piece and further vocals are provided by Bob Catley (The Boy), James Plumridge (The Jabberwock) and Paul Allison (The Tree). Images of the performers are provided at the conclusion of this review.
Oliver Wakeman, successful outside the business, returns to his music roots in this first major project with Clive Nolan (Arena, Pendragon, Strangers On A Train, Shadowland). Indeed, Jabberwocky combines Wakeman's foundation, steeped in father Rick's epics (Journey To The Centre of the Earth, Six Wives Of Henry VIII, and The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable) with Nolan's dynamic soundtrack-oriented progressive rock style. With Rick narrating the poem's verses across the album's tracks, the individual songs interpret the story in a highly theatrical style perfectly performed by the four vocalists. It is interesting to note that the band Ambrosia used a narration of portions of Carroll's "Jabberwocky" withinin the song "Mama Frog" found on their self-titled album almost twenty-five years ago.
Nolan & Wakeman's Jabberwocky album is instrumentally very strong and quite symphonic throughout with amazing keyboard riffs in several of the tracks with "Shadows" being the most stunning instrumental example of their collaboration. However, as a 'concept' album written to tell the story in a musical style, it has very strong vocal performances by the three male vocalists and Tracy Hitchings. An extensive choir, including Dave Wagstaffe (Landmarq, Janison Edge) and Michelle Young, provides backing vocals and incidentals throughout the album. The instrumental parts, lead vocals and choir are perfectly arranged and orchestrated to develop the mood, setting the scene through musical animation, for each chapter of the story.
James Plumridge's excellent interpretation of The Jabberwock is similar to The Landlord in the musical Les Miserables at times, especially in the introduction to "Dangerous World," more closely aligning to The Phantom ("Dancing Water") at others. Bob Catley's emotive performance of The Boy is somewhat reminiscent of Meatloaf (The Intergalactic Touring Band) at times, moreso in the beginning of the album and the track "The Mission," while Paul Allison's sensitive interpretation of The Tree evokes memories of Moody Blues vocalist Justin Hayward. The choir also achieves a Moody Blues-like sound in "The Forest." Tracy Hitchings plays The Girl delivering unique emotionally-charged theatrical vocal performances throughout her parts of the album.
The lyrics of the album interpret Carroll's poem (from the 1872 Through The Looking Glass and What Alice Found There). The story involves a fantasy or even a dream where the Boy confronts the Jabberwock, an imaginary culmination of the Girl's fears and nightmares ("Dangerous World"). The Girl's faith ("Glimmer Of Light") and sage advice from the Tree ("Enlightenment") give the Boy the strength and courage ("Dancing Water," "The Burgundy Rose") to conquer the beast ("The Mission"). In the triumph of their victory ("Call To Arms"), the Boy and Girl join together as the album concludes ("Finale"). The music and the storyline are discussed further below.
The instrumentals in the "Overture" begin after Rick Wakeman narrates the first verse of the "Jabberwocky" poem. With bold percussion, symphonic keyboard work and guitar, the album opens in full splendour to support the initial vocal performance by Bob Catley expressing his need to overcome his fears and be with his true love. The stunning female choir comes in singing in Latin ("When will my love come home to me") to compliment the symphonic instrumentals during the bridge. The final vocal verse is performed with synthesized woodwind voices concluding the instrumental work. Rick narrates the second verse of the poem as the track concludes.
With the scene now set, fierce keyboards introduce the rocking "Coming To Town," also sung by Bob Catley supported by the choir, before a short and sweet verse is sung by Tracy Hitchings. A keyboard solo precedes the final verses of the song. The Jabberwock makes his first appearance in "Dangerous World," seducing the Boy in both opening and closing verses, sounding much like the cunning Landlord from Les Miserables. In contrast to the sinister intentions of the Jabberwock, Tracy Hitchings as the Girl, continues in the second passage, singing a lovely ballad about her nightmares and her feelings for her protector, the Boy. The narration of the poem's third verse leads into "The Forest." The song is a majestic march-like instrumental with Latin vocal harmonies to express the danger that lies ahead ("Make haste slowly, give up hope those who enter") provided by of the male choir.
"A Glimmer Of Light" is a short, yet stunning, emotionally-drenched solo ballad sung by Tracy Hitchings. Musically mating perfectly with "Dangerous World," the sensitive "Glimmer Of Light" is one of the highlights of the album. The Boy is given inspiration through the Girl's belief that they could conquer all. The narration of the poem's fourth verse concludes the track. The keyboard riff-filled instrumental track "Shadows" follows; it summarises the instrumental and vocal themes thus far and is a perfect overature to what could be called a second act with introductions to the music that follows. It could equally be a scene where the boy and girl are haunted by things that leap out from the dark or are chased through the forest by the Jabberwock.
The Boy and Girl encounter The Tree; Paul Allison leads the song with a tremendous, at times multi-tracked, solo in "Enlightenment" supported by keyboard and guitar themes introduced earlier in "Shadows." The Tree encourages the Boy to confront his fears without hesitation and to have faith in himself to conquer the Jabberwock. The Boy sings a short verse accepting the Tree's advice. A powerful guitar-led instrumental bridges to the concluding verse of the song as Rick summarises the danger ahead.
In the buildup to the confrontation, Bob Catley sings a heartfelt solo, as the Boy gathers his strength in "Dancing Water." The Jabberwock's lure builds in an almost "Phantom"-like vocal passage in contrast to Tracy Hitchings' short verses where the Girl warns of impending danger. The song concludes with all three singing their differing views in opposition. The final bits of strength and courage are gathered in the vocals of "The Burgundy Rose," where keyboard passages underscore the confident mood expressed in this sensitive Bob Catley / Tracy Hitchings duet.
In "The Mission" the Boy sets out to destroy the Jabberwock. With vocals led by Catley and supported by Hitchings, dynamic keyboard work and soaring electric guitars build the excitement delivered by the song. The highly instrumental "Call To Arms" reaches a climax when the fight against the Jabberwock takes place. The fifth verse of the poem is begun and as the tension builds with the choir's vocal repetition of an Italian phrase (written on the top of the gateway to hell within Danté's Inferno -- "Through me you enter the suffering city, through me you enter the never ending pain") the Jabberwock is slain. As the poem's fifth verse is completed, the Boy and Girl join together having overcome their ordeal. They revel in their triumph over the beast in a last, albeit brief, duet. Rick's narration of the poem's final verse leads to the orchestrally lush instrumental "Finale."
While there have been many interpretations of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky, this is the first musical work to do the story justice. Here the artists have created an instrumentally rich, theatrically symphonic work, with sensitive lyrics and outstanding vocal performances to guide us through their interpretation, musically animating the magical world within Carroll's poem. A stage performance with this album as its soundtrack would make an outstanding modern production. A true masterwork, Nolan & Wakeman's Jabberwocky is an outstanding album in all respects. Bravo!
© Russell W Elliot 1998
"New Horizons" Review
Used with the kind permission of New Horizons, from their extensive on-line music resource. To view the original, click here.
"Released in January 1999 'Jabberwocky' is the first collaboration
between Clive Nolan and Oliver Wakeman. The album contains twelve
tracks which are woven together with narration by Oliver's dad,
Rick, who reads the Lewis Carroll poem. As a whole they tell a
story which, although loosely based on the poem, goes far beyond
the original work - the imagery, however, probably owes more to
the film of the same name than it does to Lewis Carroll!
"The Cry" Review
Taken from the the web site of "The Cry", home of the "Arena" mailing list. To view the original, click here.
Clive Nolan & Oliver Wakeman
Both names should ring a bell for anyone who's into symphonic rock. Clive Nolan has proven himself to be one of the most important characters in the progressive scene during the 1990's, with successful bands like Arena, Shadowland, Strangers On A Train, Pendragon etcetera. Oliver Wakeman of course faces the challenge of proving he's more than'just' the son of Rick Wakeman.
This project is based on the Lewis Carroll poem Jabberwocky, (from the 1871 novel Through The Looking-Glass And What Alice Found There) acknowledged as the world's finest so called nonsense poems. To spice up the story Nolan/Wakeman added a kind of love story between'The Boy' and'The Girl'.
The Boy, played by Bob Catley (highly praised as the singer of Magnum, now going solo with the album The Tower) understands that he's the chosen one to save a town from the cruel beast known as Jabberwocky. Catley has still got that powerful voice that made Magnum special, and the role of the bravehearted boy suits him perfectly.
The Girl, portrayed by Tracy Hitchings (Landmarq among others), Nolan's long time companion in Strangers On A Train, has a really pure and innocent voice, which fits perfectly here. She shows us that she's got the ability to enchant us both with heartwarming ballads and more powerful parts.
The Jabberwock' himself gets his voice from a certain James Plumridge, perhaps best known to fans of Arena as the band's former tour manager! But he belongs on the stage, not behind it. He has the challenging role as the vicious beast, perhaps the most intriguing character of the set, and he interprets his part in the most personal way.
The last of the lead singers, and the one with the smallest part he appears only in one song is Paul Allison (formerly in Sleepwalker) who portrays'The Tree'. His strong, but yet clean voice is perfect for this part, Nolan/Wakeman really succeeded in choosing the cast.
The Narrator, guiding us through the whole story, is Rick Wakeman, nonetheless. He reads the poem as the music goes, and gives the piece a special edge.
The list of musicians appearing on the album is by no means less impressive. Behind the drum kit we find the skilled Tony Fernandez, who has been playing in Rick Wakeman's band for many years. Needless to say, he delivers the goods! A brilliant drummer, does lots of cool stuff without necessary stealing attention from the songs or the singers. The drum sound is also absolutely excellent.
Providing some of the guitar- and bass parts is Ian Salmon, known from Shadowland and Janison Edge, and the fretless bass is handled by Pete Gee from Pendragon. Peter Banks, the original guitarist in Yes, also contributes to this wonderful piece of music and Jon Jeary from Threshold gives us the acoustic guitar parts.
But the center of attention goes to Nolan and Wakeman . Both of them being outstanding keyboard players you can expect a lot of wonderful melodies, tasteful sounds and small details stuffed into the twelve songs. What first and foremost strikes me about Jabberwocky is the quality of the songs. Here you'll find pure symphonic rock parts mixed with classical music, basic rock and what almost feels like a soundtrack. I'm sure that it's safe to say this is a very original album. I have at least never heard anything like it.
The album starts with the Overture, which pretty much follows the classical path the first minutes, it builds towards something we get the feeling something's about to happen. Then Bob Catley appears and spreads the goosebumps that man has a got one magnificent voice! It's a beautiful song where he's torn between his decisions when he realises his fate. Coming To Town follows, and that's a more rock based song, the one closest to'ordinary' music. There we get to meet The Girl, Tracy Hitchings, otherwise it's pretty much dominated by Catley. In Dangerous World both The Girl and The Jabberwock talks to The Boy. The Jabberwock with a sarcastic and malicious tone and The Girl with love. The Jabberwock is brilliantly accompanied by a heavy waltz which gives the whole picture a theatrical touch.
The Forest is a grand choral piece with the choir chanting, and the following number is a pure love song from The Girl to The Boy. Glimmer Of Light starts out lightly, and towards the end a soft keyboard melody nestles against us, very beautiful indeed! And when we thought we were safe, the classical piece Shadows appears! It's instrumental, and I know for a fact that this piece comes mostly from Nolan. This weird and wonderful song is one of the highlights on Jabberwocky, and it's very varied, both in time and atmosphere. Nolan mixes waltz and fantastic piano playing with furious orchestra parts in the most brilliant way this man knows classical music. A very tasteful orchestration with some wonderful sounds. This is a soundtrack of a fairytale!
In Enlightenment The Tree speaks to The Boy. The Boy still has doubts, afraid of what is coming. Paul Allison, in the shape of The Tree encourages him to be brave, accompanied first only by a piano melody and soft strings, and when the drums are added, it turns out to be a really excellent song. The guitar solo is marvelous, melodic and beautiful. The Boy leaves The Tree with a lighter heart.
Dancing Water is one of the other highlights, where The Boy, The Jabberwock and The Girl all share the song. It starts out with only a soft keyboard layer, with Catley's absolutely incredible vocals leading us towards the ever so malicious Jabberwocky. This song is the closest we get to a musical, mostly thanks to James Plumridge who is very convincing as The Jabberwock. In the end, all of the vocalists sing their parts together a total climax!
In the soft and beautiful The Burgundy Rose The Boy starts to realise what he's got to do, and that he's brave enough. With strength in his voice he sings No, I don't feel small and insignificant and continues with The Mission. The Mission is a mid tempo song with a great keyboard solo. This is it, The Boy must fight The Jabberwock, because he's Too close! Too close to run away now.
The Choir chants yet again, and in the background of Call To Arms we hear the fight. The Narrator tells us about what's happening, and as we all know: He left it dead, and with his head he went galumphing back. Triumph! The Boy and The Girl sings together for the first time, You're mine!. The Finale is an even more grandiose version of the Overture there's victory in the air!
I'm not exaggerating when I say that this will be one of the most important releases in the symphonic area in the nineties. A War Of The Worlds, a Journey To The Centre Of The Earth. Interestingly enough, all three are inspired by books.
The cover alone is reason enough to buy the album. The famous and very talented Rodney Matthews (did a lot of wonderful covers for Magnum) has painted the picture of The Boy, The Tree and The Jabberwock, and the whole picture can be seen inside of the booklet. It needs to be released as a double LP, it's only fair to get a fold out cover of this one!
In my opinion, this is a necessary CD to own if you're into any kind of good quality music. Don't label this as progressive rock, or symphonic rock, because there's much more to it. It's not meant to be labelled. It's meant to be enjoyed!
"The Cage" Review
Used with the kind permission of "The Cage", the "Arena" fan club. To view the original, click here.
BEWARE THE JABBERWOCKY!
The Jabberwocky is a project by Clive Nolan and Oliver Wakeman, son of ex-Yes keyboardplayer Rick Wakeman, who's also featured on the album. Rick Wakeman provides the narration before and between the songs.
The Jabberwocky has been inspired by Lewis Carroll's novel Through The Looking Glass. In this novel, Alice is looking for the meaning of a certain poem, called Jabberwock. It's about a fierce creature in the woods, that threatens every being that trespasses its territory. Besides Nolan and the Wakemans many other well-known names feature on the album. Peter Banks (also ex-Yes) is present on guitar, as well as Ian Salmon (Shadowland), Tony Fernandes (Rick Wakeman-band) plays drums and Peter Gee (Pendragon) and John Jeary (Threshold) handle the basses. The Boy is played by Bob Catley (Magnum) and The Girl is played by Tracy Hitchings (Landmarq). Former Arena tourmanager and Shakespeare-actor James Plumridge plays The Jabberwock. The beautiful cover has been designed by Rodney Matthews, who also took care of many of the Magnum artwork. What can you expect from this CD? Well, I won't spoil everything, but to me it's a wonderful combination of the 'moody' atmosphere of the Strangers On A Train-albums and the 'psychedelica' of the Wakeman-tradition. Both Clive Nolan and Oliver Wakeman are great keyboard-players. Add to that the brilliant vocals of both Bob Catley and Tracy Hitchings and you have the recipe for one hour of adventurous music. Jabberwocky combines the typical Wakeman-sound with the fine melodies from the famous Nolan-brand! Wakeman meets Strangers on a Train....
The wind blows through the trees when Rick Wakeman reads the first
syllable of the Jabberwocky poem. The bombastic overture with
layers of keyboards presents the main themes of the album in Overture.
Bob Catley's raw voice contrasts in a great way with the mystical
music. There's a clear resemblance in music to some of 'dad' Wakemans
stuff, like Journey or King Arthur. You immediately recognise
the typical way of playing keyboards. Towards the end of the Overture,
classical instruments (oboe) accompany the second syllable of
the poem. A very 'Wakemanian' solo follows, and the story starts...
Progress Magazine Review
Review by : Charles Imperatori
Classic Rock Magazine Review
From the Feb/March issue...
A prog rock interpretation of Lewis Carroll's nonsensical poem? What a gloriously pretentious idea! However, credit must go to Arena man Nolan and Rick Wakeman's son Oliver for penning a set of fascinating, only occasionally indulgent set of songs. Hard Rain's Bob Catley and Tracy Hitchings of Landmarq are in stunning voice, and the instrumental sections are lavish in the extreme - original Yes guitarist Peter Banks must work hard to balance out Nolan and Wakeman's keyboard barrage.
From the February 1999 issue of 'Wondrous Stories':
'Jabberwocky' was previewed by MH in WS 82 and I have to echo much of what he said at the time. This is a progressive rock concept of epic proportions that has been conceived by keyboard maestro's CN and OW. It is based on the nonsense poem by LC and they have turned this strange poem into an exciting and immensely rewarding work of art.
They have gathered together a wealth of talent to aid them and a listing of Bob Cately, Tracey Hitchings, James Plumridge, Paul Allison, Pete Gee, Ian Salmon, ex-Yes man Peter Banks, Jon Jeary, Tony Fernandez and a certain Rick wakeman (as the Narrator) sound's like a who's who of prog.
Cately, Hitchings, Plumridge and Allison give sterling performances on vocals with the contrasts between their vocal styles working remarkably well and I would suggest that Tracy Hitchings has never sounded better. Musically, the work is of the highest order with some truly outstanding keyboard and guitar moments combining to give a dramatic feel to this ambitious recording. This is an early contender for album of the year and proves again, should proof be needed, that Clive Nolan (not discounting OW's input) is surely the king of prog. This will become a classic and you are highly recommended to order your copy now.
Praise is also due for the artwork of Rodney Matthews, which is very special indeed and should certainly draw the eye in the record stores.
Hard Rain Website Review
(Thanks to this Hard Rain website for this one...)
A Review of The Jabberwocky by Bob Dixon.
Jabberwocky by Clive Nolan & Oliver Wakeman
featuring Bob Catley as 'The Boy'.
Without Bob's involvement in this album I would probably need have heard of this offering from Clive Nolan and Oliver Wakeman.
My collection of vinyl and CDs contains many by Oliver's Dad, Rick whom I have seen many times since the release of 6 wives in 1971. CDs by Pendragon also feature in the collection so this alliance of Clive Nolan with Oliver Wakeman plus Bob's superb vocals excited me even before hearing it.
I am NOT disappointed.
As both Oliver and Clive are credited with keyboards i do not know who is responsible for what. However, the Wakeman 'twiddly bits' are wonderful. The Overture, The Forest, Shadows and Call To Arms all have clear influences of Journey to the Centre of the Earth and King Arthur by Rick. Creditable performances are put in by Tracy Hitchings as The Girl, James Plumridge as The Jabberwock and Paul Allison as The Tree.
Clive and Oliver have also put together a very competant band. It is good to hear The Wop is still in the Wakeman family. He and Rick are like an old married couple. (Don't let Nina know!)
Bob's performance? What would you expect from an old pro? I wonder what if Bob had sung instead of Ashley on Rick's 'Journey & Arthur'? - Dream on...
'Return to the Centre of the Earth' is due out soon and it would have been great to have heard Bob on that.
If 'The Tower was set for around 1986 (Storytellers) then this album is straight from 1975. Some might say music should progress but this visit to the past is valued here. I don't expect it to break any sales records for Verglas but there is a market out there. The artwork is by Rodney Matthews - no comment needed!!
Well done Clive and Oliver on an excellent release. On the strength of this I shall be checking out the back catalogue on Verglas.
Amazon.com Customer Review, March 2, 2002
***** (5 Stars)
Imagine the grand ideas of '70's prog rock being brought to this day in a concept album. Rick Wakeman on narration, Peter Banks on guitar, excellent keyboards dominate the album - very entertaining.
Reviewer: A. Lesley
CLIVE NOLAN & OLIVER WAKEMAN - "JABBERWOCKY"
Clive Nolan & Oliver Wakeman - Jabberwocky.
Interestingly, this concept album based around the Lewis Carroll
novel was released around the same time as Rick Wakeman (Oliver
Wakeman's father) released Return to the Centre of the Earth.
One cannot help comparisons - both are full concept albums with
a narrated story. Although Rick's production has several big name
singers, on balance I think this is the better of the two by being
much more prog-rock and less classical in sound. Oliver has found
some excellent singers to support the project, all from the 1990s
prog-rock era - Bob Catley (Hard Rain/Magnum), Tracy Hitchings
(Strangers on a Train), Peter Gee (Pendragon), Ian Salmon (Janison
Edge, and now Arena), John Jeary (Threshold) and Peter Banks (Yes).
To prove it is all friendly, Dad is on the narration. An excellent
album, but unfortunately because Oliver's name isn't Rick, the
album wasn't even widely stocked by record shops.
CLIVE NOLAN & OLIVER WAKEMAN - "JABBERWOCKY"
Very impressing album
This new concept album based on the original poem by Lewis Carroll lives up to all the hype that its pre-release carried. Bob Catley as the "boy" has never sounded better - not even in his Magnum days - and he features on three or four tracks. Peter Banks' guitar features prominently, Tracy Hitchings duets with Catley and the rest as well as singing solo and backing. Her very distinctive vocals are easily recognised from her work with prog band "Landmarq". Rick Wakeman narrates throughout and last but not least (and for all us synth fans) the two keyboard / synth players, Oliver Wakeman and Clive Nolan(Pendragon and Arena) play excellently - providing a strong framework which underpins the whole project admirably. The comparisons with other concept albums of this nature are obvious, "War of the Worlds" springs to mind, the subject matter is different but the overall project draws inspiration from Pendragon, Genesis and Marillion. The verdict? A classy product, both in sound and presentation with beautiful artwork and glossy illustrated booklet complete with lyrics. Well recommended! - Midas, March '99
"Concept, based upon the poem by Lewis Carrol; instrumental blue-print of father Wakeman's early works "King Arthur, Journey to..., Six Wives" with an ear-catching themesong; orchestration dominated by keyboards with a grand voicing of The Boy by Catley. Overall rating - 4.5 out of 5" - CDelight, March '99
"I got to hear your music for the first time on Jabberwocky, which is a true masterpiece. You and Clive really did an amazing job. Great to hear Bob's voice on that one..." - J.A. Sweden. September 20th , 1999.
A music fan from Chile , March 1, 1999