Sometimes you think that you know almost everything about a band, but then you discover that only half the information has been stored inside your brain. This happened to me when I read the biography of the British neo-progressive rock band Twelfth Night, written by Andrew Wild and already published by the band in 2009. Two years after the release of the book I got the chance to read it thanks to drummer Brian Devoil, who sent me a copy!
Play On, The Authorised Biography Of Twelfth Night has been written very well. It contains many pictures of the several line-ups they went through. It includes a very good discography of the band, a list of all their songs and even a list of all the gigs! However, the most important part is the story of the band, of course. After reading 232 pages of interesting information you might say that I know all facts and figures concerning this band. It may be clear that I can't give you all the details of the band's history within the scope of this review, but I'll pick out a few interesting facts.
Twelfth Night started in 1978 as the Andy Revell Band including guitarist Andy Revel and drummer Brain Devoil. When bassist Clive Mitten joined the band they changed their name to Twelfth Night after a play by William Shakespeare. They initially started as an instrumental band, but later on several singers joined - most of them I've never heard of - in order to be more successful. At a very early stage the band recruited the American singer Electra MacLeod. She replaced the charismatic and well-known singer Geoff Mann in August 1980, but she left in November. After that the band released Live At The Target in 1981 as an instrumental four-piece. In August 1981 Geoff Mann rejoined and this time Twelfth Night started a very artistic and reasonably successful period that includes the album Fact And Fiction (1982). However, in November 1983 Mann left again after two sold-out gigs at The Marquee that were recorded for the live album Live And Let Live. Mann commenced a solo career and was replaced by vocalist and songwriter Andy Sears, but before Mr. Sears got the job other singers did an audition. Singers as Ed Percival, Axe, Chris Conway and Phil Baker got a chance as well to show their talents. After Sears joined the band they changed their style of music in a more radio-friendly direction. They were looking for more commercial success, but if you listen to albums as Art And Illusion (1984) and XII (1986) their music is still worthwhile. Sears left the band late 1986 and was replaced by Martyn Watson. According to the author, the departure of Clive Mitten can be seen as the break up of the band.
In 1988, during one of the frequent calls between the band members, they discussed the unrecorded song The Collector. Mitten offered some studio time and in May the 'original' line-up consisting of Revell, Devoil, Mitten, Mann and Rick Battersby reunited to record this epic piece together with a new version of Love Song. Both songs finally made it to the album entitled Collectors Item released in early 1991. Most people who are into prog rock know that Geoff Mann died of cancer on February 5, 1993 at the age of 36. However, I wasn't aware of the fact that Andy Sears went to live in Spain in 1996. Quite unexpectedly in June 2007, Clive Mitten and Andy Sears announced a one-off gig to perform Twelfth Night-material. By July, it was confirmed that they would perform under the name of Twelfth Night, and in September a second gig was added. Both Andy Revell and Brian Devoil were revealed as being part of the line-up with Mark Spencer replacing Rick Battersby. The gigs took place in November 2007 and since then the band have been active again.
This is where the story ends in the book, so you can't read that Revell couldn't join the band during several tours and was eventually replaced by Roy Keyworth (Galahad). The resurrection of Twelfth Night resulted in a wonderful double live-CD (see review) and a DVD both entitled MMX (see review). Beside the book you also get a bonus-DVD that you can play on your computer's DVD-drive. It contains many previously unreleased audio tracks, including a complete recording of the first gig ever in 1978, demos such as a full-length version of The Collector (1983), and a selection of performances from the reunion shows in 2007 and 2008. Moreover some great video clips have been added, starting from the instrumental days through performances with Geoff Mann and Andy Revell to the reunion shows. In addition you'll get hundreds of archive documents such as newsletters, reviews, fanzines and many photos! Also available are exclusive interviews, slideshows, illustrated lyrics, unique downloads and song tabs. Unfortunately, I couldn't watch all these features myself, but I'm sure that all the material is worthwhile watching, especially if you're a Twelfth Night-fan. This DVD will give you a good overview of the band's history.
I really enjoyed reading the biography Play On, The Authorised Biography Of Twelfth Night and watching the bonus-DVD. I learned a lot of new facts from a band that fortunately made their way back in the music business. Author Andrew Wild will soon release a biography of another British neo-progressive band. So again, I'll have something to look out for.
*** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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