In my opinion The Tangent belong to the leading progressive rock bands in the UK. They prove this again on their seventh studio album Le Sacre Du Travail (The Rite Of Work). Before this album had been recorded the band went through some difficult circumstances. After their latest studio album COMM (2011, see review) expectations ran high. However, the line-up that realized this fantastic album broke up and so Andy Tillison (vocals, guitars, keyboards) had to start from scratch. Finding suitable musicians to record the music he had in mind for the next album could have been a problem.
Maybe the best way to replace an old line-up is asking some old friends with whom Tillison had worked in the past. And that's what he did! One of them is Theo Travis (saxophones, flutes, clarinets); others are Jakko Jakkszyk (vocals, guitars), Jonas Reingold (bass, The Flower Kings, Karmakanic, Kaipa, Agents Of Mercy) and Guy Manning (acoustic guitar). But also singer David Longdon (Big Big Train) contributed to the new album. For the drum parts he asked Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree) and Rikard Sjoblom was approached to do some narrations.
After listening to Le Sacre Du Travail several times, the music started to grow on me. This just isn't an ordinary album containing average prog rock. The album is called 'an electric symphony' and was written by Andy Tillison. For the greater part Le Sacre Du Travail contains the one-hour track Sinfonia, a huge orchestral and rock hybrid piece divided in five movements, but also two bonus tracks.
Throughout this amazing album you'll hear a combination of different styles that work out very well. Elements were taken from the progressive rock of the seventies and the Canterbury scene, but also from blues, old-fashioned jazz and classical music. It seems as if no musical style has been left out. To me the most impressive parts are the ones that contain classical music as you can hear during the second and third movement for example. Sometimes you really got the idea that you're listening to a classical orchestra. It's obvious that Tillison's keyboards shine throughout since he's the leader of The Tangent who probably wrote all the music on his keyboards. Especially the third movement is a real showcase of his sublime keyboard playing. This piece mostly approaches a style you may describe as neo-progressive rock.
The two bonus tracks are nice extras that could sound a bit strange after listening to the entire concept. The first one called Hat is very short; it was recorded live at Mexborough School in 1979. It's just a funny up-tempo song. The second bonus is a radio edit of my favourite album track, but this time the Fifth Movement Evening TV lasts for only four minutes and a half instead of the original twelve minutes.
It's quite obvious that such a pretentious album needs a concept story that goes along well with the music. You could say that the album tells a story about seven billion people who are all called 'you'. It deals with a series of observations of human relationships at work. Each of the five movements on the album reflects a part of a working day that many people experience on a daily basis. On Le Sacre Du Travail the band wanted to put the listener in the middle of this picture. They decided that on presenting this story, it had to be something that would absorb everyone on a familiar level. Tillison explained: “We avoided the concept album idea for a really long time, and finally we've done one. Most of the lyrics came pretty easily; I never wrote them down, I just sang what I felt, lots and lots of different things. I had many takes and many ideas, so I had to go back and pick out the best ones, and eventually I got the idea of what I wanted to sing about. It came out very naturally.” Tillison considers this album to be a soundtrack without a film.
The Tangent's leading man was very open about the influences that inspired him to write this excellent piece of music! One of the very first prog rock albums ever is a clear inspiration, namely The Days Of Future Passed (1967) by The Moody Blues, even though he probably hadn't listened to that album for thirty years! The Moodies also got the idea of dividing a day into pieces. Two other albums that had a big influence on Tillison have to be mentioned as well: Deep Purple's Concerto For Group And Orchestra (1970) and Roger Waters' Amused To Death (1992). Knowing this you might think that he has kind of copied the music of those albums, but that's certainly not the case. People who know these albums and listen to Le Sacre Du Travail will agree with me!
The Tangent's latest album is a great piece of art on which you'll hear a perfect combination of musical styles. These styles have been so brilliantly blend together that it's hard to deny that this is a true masterpiece composed by a musician that can easily be compared to any classical composer of the past. Thanks to the great contributions of the above-mentioned musicians they succeeded in creating a five-star album! Well done!
***** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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