In April 2021 former Twelfth Night bass player Clive Mitten released his first solo album entitled Suite Cryptique: Recomposing Twelfth Night 1978-1983 (see review) on which he produced reworked material from Twelfth Night's back catalogue. And now on his second solo effort entitled Tales From A Misspent Youth Volume 1 Clive pays tribute to the prog heroes in his teens who inspired him to become a musician. "I could already play the piano and classical guitar, but aged 12 I encountered 'prog' for the first time. I saw Pink Floyd play Dark Side Of The Moon live, and witnessed Supertramp perform Crime Of The Century before many knew who they were. These experiences and others led me to electrify my playing to work out what my heroes were doing. Now, 50 years later, I am paying my dues to them in my current style, which you can loosely define as cinematically orchestral but with an in-depth understanding of prog. Why take this on? The originals are complex works which are fiendishly difficult in places and already well-loved. Lockdowns are part of it, but the main reason is that I feel I can shine a new light on the material - and in places it is an unexpected light. This album has been a labour of love, both for the people who drove me to write music in the first place and led me ultimately to being able to call myself a composer, and, as always, for the music."
I am not familiar with the first solo album from Clive Mitten so this very special and ambitious project is new for me. And pretty challenging to review, also as a fan of Twelfth Night (I even met Geoff Mann - R.I.P. - after a concert), and especially as a fan of Pink Floyd, Genesis and Rush, my favourite progrock bands since the mid-Seventies.
Let me start this review to say that I deeply respect Clive Mitten his inspired and honest effort to pay tribute to his Classic Prog heroes, I am sure he has put a lot of time, energy, skills and ideas into this 2-CD. The music sounds well performed, especially the classical orchestrations and the inventive use of keyboards and samples for the lead voices and replacement of instruments.
But I desperately miss the moving guitar runs in Shine On You Crazy Diamond, and the atmosphere is more melancholical than spacey. In Supper's Ready I even more desperately miss the distinctive early Genesis pastoral sound with the 6 - and 12 string acoustic guitars, and Peter Gabriel his outstanding vocal performance. Although the legendary organ solo is played very well, I conclude that Clive didn't succeed in keeping the soul of this mindblowing epic, despite a lot of fine musical ideas and excellent musicianship.
And the two Rush compositions La Villa Strangiato and Xanadu fail to keep my attention: these two tracks are built upon great skills, dynamics and interplay, that is the beating heart of Rush, the replacement of the guitar by Grand piano even starts to irritate me after a few minutes! I consider Clive's attempt to pay tribute to Rush with these 2 tracks as a wrong musical choice on this double CD. It reminds me of the Grand piano Genesis tribute albums, same problem, no dynamics and interplay, too far away from the original excitement.
But Clive's musical approach works well in the short songs Jeux Sans Frontieres, Rudy, School, Bloody Well Right and Living In The Past, it doesn't harm the 'musical feel' of the music, all these renditions sound fresh and tastefully arranged.
The best renditions of Classic Prog compositions on this double CD are Tubular Bells - Side One (this composition sounds like a Night Of The Proms version, including vibraphone, brass and lots of percussive sounds), Echoes (pleasant organ and classical sounds, and intense violin work) and the swirling and compelling In The Cage Medley (more classical approach with sparkling keyboard play, especially the Mellotron violin - and choir sounds).
An interesting album, and an honest and inspired attempt, with lots of strong musical ideas and excellent musicianship, but I cannot hide my mixed feelings.
*** Erik Neuteboom (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
Where to buy?
All Rights Reserved Background Magazine 2022