The original Art & Illusion- album (1984) is still part of my collection, but itís now collecting dust in the attic. In the eighties Twelfth Night were one of the British pioneers of the new wave of progressive rock together with Marillion, IQ, Pendragon and Pallas. Art & Illusion can be characterized by different musical styles. This time the songs had a more radio-friendly approach meaning that all the strong instrumental epic pieces had disappeared. However, every now and then you could still hear the bandís typical prog style. The guitar sound of Andy Revell and the powerful bass sound of Clive Mitten still put a mark on the music. Meanwhile Geoff Mann, with his Peter Hammill-like voice, had been replaced by the excellent, but more aggressive voice of Andy Sears. In a way Twelfth Night wanted to be part of the New Wave-scene with bands as Simple Minds, U2 and Depeche Mode. At the time I didnít really like the album, but I disliked it either.
While listening to the album 26 years later, released in the Twelfth Night Definitive Edition-series, I still have the same feelings as in the old days. However, I think this polished recording with bonus tracks and a bonus-CD with an excellent quality live sound has to be part of every fanís collection. Not only because Art & Illusion is a part of the bandís history, but just for the sake of all the extraís which are worth listening to. Surely itís true that many fans already have a substantial part of this new release in their collection, since the original album also containing six bonus tracks was released in 2003.
The first disc starts with the original album that contained only five tracks lasting 26 minutes. Art & Illusion was in fact a mini-album or an extended play (EP) as they called it in those days. The band wanted to release it this way in order to preserve the longer songs for a next album. Only First New Day, the last track on the original album had some similarity with the bandís older material. All songs were already part of the bandís live set for eighteen months or longer. However, they also performed the preserved songs for the next album on a live stage. Blue Powder Monkey, Blondon Fair and Take A Look were already recorded for a demo in May 1984. Those pieces follow the tracks of the original album. They show a band that still can write great progressive rock tunes. Especially Take A Look is a real classic piece. The three tracks they recorded for producer Gil Norton are also present on the first disc. The demos of Counterpoint, C.R.A.B. and Kings & Queens were made in July/August 1984 to give their producer an idea how they were sounding. At first you think that these songs almost sound similar compared to the ones recorded for the original album, but when you listen carefully youíll hear a band trying to perform real progressive rock tunes. The first disc ends with a shortened, up-tempo version of Take A Look recorded during the same period as the demo they made for Gil Norton for a possible single release. ††
The second disc in particular is the reason why this release is really interesting. It features twelve live tracks recorded during the Art & Illusion live tour. The band with new lead singer Andy Sears performed several classic Twelfth Night-songs as The Ceiling Speaks, We Are Sane, Creepshow and Love Song. These tracks sound very lively and have a great atmosphere. You can also enjoy the songs that were initially meant for a new album and several songs recorded at the University of Marburg (Germany) in November 1984 for a local radio show. A kind of weird mix prevented the band from releasing the entire concert; the keyboards and guitars were mixed otherwise than they really sounded on stage. Other recordings were made at the Dominion Theatre in London, the Sheffield University, the Royal Court theatre in Liverpool, the Pavilion Hemel in Hampstead and the City Hall in Newcastle. Some of the material had already been released on the CD Night Vision: Art & Illusion Tour in 2006. All the recordings show that the band was mainly a very strong live unit that loved to play on a stage.
As I already stated: this release is a Ďmust haveí for all Twelfth Night fans just like the other Definitive Edition release. Unfortunately it doesnít feature the bandís best material, but it gives you a very positive feeling. After all Iím glad that it has been released.
*** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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