In 2003 the well known keyboard player Clive Nolan (Arena, Pendragon, Shadowland) released his solo album Skeletons In The Cupboard. It was a collection of songs which he recorded before he became the famous musician and composer in the progressive rock scene. The tracks were not always related to the style of music which he later on got so much credit for. The solo album the to most people unknown keyboard player Robert Webb released recently can be regarded as a same kind of album. Only this time the songs were most of all recorded when he had already recorded the legendary Garden Shed (1977) album with England. An album which for me is regarded as the best progressive rock album ever made. To get a better insight on this album you can read an interview which I did with Robert in our Nostalgia section (see specials). Obviously I was very curious what happened with Webb after the days of England were long gone. Did I hear on Liquorish Allsorts the same kind of superb progressive rock tunes?
First let me tell you that liquorice allsorts is a sweet which consists of assorted liquorice sugar candies sold as a mixture. These confections are made of liquorice, sugar, coconut, aniseed jelly, fruit flavourings and gelatine. Very delicious indeed. The name of this album resembles a lot of this sweet. Therefore the title of the album, I guess says it all. There is stuff to enjoy of all kinds of musical styles. Robert Webb played all kinds of songs in the 40 years after England, which open up a wide range between catchy pop rock, rock music classical musical settings and progressive rock, convince often and leave strange question marks in some cases.
The album opens with the short keyboard instrumental Prelude To The Ladies' Valley. It sounds as a kind of classical tune for a movie score. A longer version ends later on the album. Right after that you can hear Why Oh Why. A rather catchy poppy tune recorded in 1974 sung by Jamie Moses which has some real progressive rock influences mainly thanks to the Mini Moog parts. Next is the Kerry Minnear (Gentle Giant) composition Moog Fugue. This instrumental piece more or less sounds like a classical piece written by Bach. The following track Grand Canyon Of My Dreams has the excellent vocals of Jenny Darren. The orchestral strings really work on this ballad. The short instrumental The Journey By Camel is next. Here Robert tries out his Yamaha CS 80 polyphonic synthesizer in a very nice musical way. One of the already known tracks is next. Limoncello already appeared on the latest Samurai Of Prog album The Imperial Hotel (2014, see review). A perfect song that brings back the old days of England. A short instrumental Bach composition is next. The flute played by Rachel Hamilton mainly takes the lead on Bach Flute Sonata Allegro. It is followed by The Cuckoo written by L.C. Daquin. Its classic composition has turned into a rather commercial sounding disco tune. One of the first signs of life of a new England album can be heared on the next piece. Destiny features England's drummer Jode Leigh and his former colleagues Martin Henderson and Frank Holland on backing vocals. However don't expect the same kind of music of forty years ago. I guess Box Of Circles might surprise a lot of people. An arrangement of Carl Orff's Camina Burana (O Fortuna) is next. Here the earlier mentioned England members contribute as well. This rock version of this classical tune rocks rather well. Another track of the old days is Takin'Part. This in 1974 recorded song is a nice guitar rock tune with a Pink Floyd part in the middle section. It was again sung by Jamie Moses. The harpsichord plays the main role on the next short instrumental Quaterfoil written by Robert Webb himself. If you listen carefully traces of the Garden Shed album can be heard as well. Liquorish Torpedo is another short instrumental which sounds fine but nothing more or less. The lovely voice of Jenny Darren returns on the nice ballad Oceans Away. It is followed by the rather commercial sounding Runnin' In, Runnin' Out. Not really a great piece of music unfortunately. The final track The Ladies' Valley, is the longer version of the opening piece, but this time with vocals done by Jenny Darren. A part of Camille Saint-SaŽns' Aquarium was used near the end of the track, making it an even more classical sounding composition. Traces of the music made by England also can be heard, which is something I enjoyed a lot.
Looking back at Robert's musical journey since he released England's masterpiece Garden Shed certainly gives you mixed feelings. Not everything released on this album is of the same high musical standard. Something which I also didn't expect to hear, because times were different when the songs were recorded, written and performed with different musicians. I guess you just can't repeat history. The glorious days of England are gone unfortunately. Some of the displayed tracks were only preserved on cassettes I couldn't hear. Therefore a big compliment for those who achieved to make a good sounding album of this collection. Liquorish Allsorts is by all means an album that gets a positive score. I just didn't hear any bad compositions and the playing and singing on them was very well done. It's up to you if you would like to take the same musical journey through Robert Webb's musical life! I certainly liked most parts of it!
*** Henri Strik (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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