David Bedford -
The Odyssey Live

(CD 2011, 50:04, Gonzo Multimedia HST086CD)

The tracks:
  1- Penelope's Shroud (i)(1:27)
  2- King Aeolus(4:44)
  3- Penelope's Shroud (ii)(1:19)
  4- The Phaeacian Games(3:43)
  5- Penelope's Shroud (iii)(0:49)
  6- The Sirens(13:57)
  7- Scylla And Charybdis(8:47)
  8- Penelope's Shroud (iv)(1:16)
  9- Circe's Island(4:42)
10- Penelope's Shroud Completed(1:43)
11- The Battle In The Hall(7:32)

David Bedford Website       

Composer and musician David Bedford (74) passed away of lung cancer on the first of October 2011. Although he composed a lot of music, most prog rock fans probably associate his name with Mike Oldfield's famous Tubular Bells (1973). In 1975, he was responsible for the orchestrations on The Orchestral Tubular Bells and he was involved with other projects of Mike Oldfield as well. Bedford's cooperation with Oldfield led to a deal with Virgin in order to record a number of albums. On some of these albums he used classical musicians; on others he played keyboards and on some Mike Oldfield appears as a guest musician. The albums from this period include Star's End (1974), The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner (1975), a musical rendition of the poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Odyssey (1976), a musical version of Homer's play, and Instructions For Angels (1977).

In 1977 the studio album The Odyssey got a one-off live performance that took place at the Royal Albert Hall in London on the 25th of January 1977. Andy Summers (The Police) played guitar on The Odyssey. At this point there's a connection with Deep Purple, because Summers asked Jon Lord to be one of the keyboard players for this concert; Lord didn't appear on the studio album though. The concert started with a cut down live version of Jon Lord's Sarabande (1976) on which Summers played guitar as well. The show was recorded by Capital Radio that also broadcasted some of it.

The live recording of this concert has been released only a few months ago. This means that people who fancy the music of David Bedford can now enjoy the live performance of The Odyssey. You might say that this concert was performed by many well-known musicians who were really famous at the time. Beside David Bedford we hear Mike Ratledge (Soft Machine), Jon Lord, Peter Lemer (a.o. Mike Oldfield) and Dave Simmonds on synthesizers, and on the grand piano Dave Stewart (Egg, National Health), while the late Neal Ardley played the Hammond organ. Even Mike Oldfield was present playing the guitars, and Dave Lawson (Greenslade) handled the Clavenet. The performance also featured the Queen's College Choir and the Whine Glass Orchestra.

Most people never heard this transmission for radio since the original performance was done in 1977. Therefore this subsequent broadcast that now makes its debut on CD might be welcomed by fans of David Bedford, Mike Oldfield and Jon Lord.

While listening to this live performance I noticed that the musical live version of Homer's play doesn't differ that much from the original studio version. Even the playing time is practically the same; the live version lasts only two minutes longer. You might say that the music sounds rather antiquate today, but in those days this release was regarded to be a great concept album. The music of David Bedford strongly resembles Mike Oldfield's music, but also the electronic and ambient sounds of Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze and Brian Eno can be recognized. They all scored great success with their instrumental music. If this music would have been released a decade later it would have been called new age. Anyway, the album contains enough enjoyable moments such as the beautiful choir arrangements from The Queens College Choir or Oldfield's typical guitar playing which brings your head in the clouds. Highlights are the almost fourteen minutes long Sirens with some strong ARP-synthesizer solos and sequencer effects and the orchestral piece The Phaecian Games again with some strong solo work on the ARP-synthesizer. Third highlight is Scylla And Charibdes starting very dark, but changes into a happier sounding tune and ending again rather scary. Finally I have to mention Oldfield's fine guitar outburst on Circe's Island.

Overall you might say that The Odyssey was a strong conceptual release of David Bedford and this can also be said about this live version. Maybe nowadays the music is too outmoded for many people, but I believe it's still worthwhile listening to for people who enjoys the music of all the aforementioned artists in this review!

*** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)

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