Within the world of symphonic rock I consider England with their album Garden Shed from 1977 as one of the most acclaimed efforts by a lesser known symphonic rock band. They have gained a kind of 'cult status' with their wonderful and melodic tribute to the Classic Seventies Symphonic Rock sound of bands like Yes and Genesis, layered with the unsurpassed Mellotron! In 2005 England surprised us with a special limited edition CD re-release of Garden Shed featuring a vinyl single format, a nice booklet and a previously unreleased version of the epic track Three Piece Suite. In 2006 the huge demand for a reunion finally led to a concert in Mexico (Bajaprog), and two gigs in Japan. From the two concerts in Japan 8 tracks were released in 2006 on a live album entitled Kikimini - Live In Japan (recorded on July 8th and 9th in 2006, in the Club Sitta' in Kawasaki). And now anno 2022 the band has released a new version of the live album entitled The Concerts In Japan, it contains the 8 tracks from Kikimini - Live In Japan plus 4 bonustracks. The reunion line-up hosts two members of the original band, Robert Webb (keyboards, guitar and vocals) and Martin Henderson (vocals, bass) and additional musicians Alec Johnson (guitar and vocals), Steve Laffy (drums and pecussion) and Maggie Alexander (vocals and keyboards). They played 12 songs, taken from the albums Garden Shed (1977), The Last Jubblies (1977) and Box Of Circles (2017), and the EP Imperial Hotel (2006).
England starts the concert as if they have never stopped, what an amazing and inspired sound, from Midnight Madness (pleasant intro with the Hohner clavinet sound, the crowd love it), Three Pieces Suite (wonderful vintage keyboards like the Fender Rhodes piano, Hammond organ and lots of Mellotron eruptions) and Paraffinelea (dynamic featuring an extensive, quite fiery guitar solo) to Yellow (acoustic rhythm guitar, violin-Mellotron and subtle guitar work) and the splendid epic Poisoned Youth (intense violin-Mellotron, a compelling guitar solo with howling runs and a guitar improvisation). Then three to me unknown tracks: the up-tempo song Nanogram with sparkling Fender Rhodes piano and sensitive electric guitar, the swinging Open Up with a strongly built-up Hammond organ solo and fiery electric guitar work, and the final composition The Imperial Hotel delivering lots of shifting moods and the wonderful Fender Rhodes piano and choir-Mellotron sound, goose bumps!
About the four additional tracks which did not appear on Kikimini - Live In Japan.
Masters Of War: A jazzy electric piano and guitar, blended with the typical England vocal harmonies like Yes, then a Mellotron violins eruption, Minimoog synthesizer flights, and moving guitar solo, topped with electric piano runs and Mellotron sounds, and fuelled by a dynamic rhythm-section
Lament For Alex: This short piece contains melancholy piano work, from sparkling to intense. I asked the band for an explanation because this track is not on their albums, Robert Webb wrote to me: “I wrote Lament For Alex in 2001 when my son was killed in a car crash. I played it at his funeral (getting a real piano into the reception, especially). He was 20, and I was just beginning to get to know him again, after 7 years estrangement.” What a tragedy!
All Alone: Song taken from Garden Shed as well. First an intro featuring a Grand piano sound, then pleasant, higher pitched vocals and piano.
It Couldn't Be You: Dreamy piano and vocals, emotional, reminds me of Elton John. Halfway a slow beat with a long, sensitive electric guitar solo, compelling, building to a lush, wonderful climax. Finally tender piano and vocals.
I am impressed by this extended 'reunion England' performance, what a beautiful and varied symphonic rock!
**** Erik Neuteboom (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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