It's 2013, and the last thing I expected to be writing is that this a vintage year for that much loved genre, the Concept Album. Already we've had superb discs from Cosmograf and Sound of Contact, amongst others, and we are only half way through the year. Well, my proggy friends, here's another for you.
'Le Sacre du Travail', or 'The Rite of Work', inspired by Stravinsky's 'Le Sacre du Printemps', is the seventh studio work from Tangent mainman Andy Tillison and his chums, and although previous albums have featured songs that are thematically linked, this is the first Tangent LP to be a full blown concept album.
The piece explores modern life, by taking the listener on a journey through a typical day in the life of an average person, from an average town, working in an average job. It's a celebration of the everyman/woman
Article continues below...
From waking up to the sounds of the Breakfast Show (starring real life Prog DJs Geoff Banks and Twang, in full Smashie and Nicey mode), through to vegetating in front of the television before bed, the album takes us through the working day and all that entails, from petty office politics, to the joy and sadness that inhabits the spirit of many a commuter.
Along the way a number of memorable characters weave their way into the story; a girl tapping away at her keyboard, while dreaming of a romantic holiday, the Rush fan still holding the rock and roll flame despite being in an ordinary office job, and even Radio 2 DJ Steve Wright, he of the shallow, self proclaimed, 'Big Show', plays a major part in the narrative.
The tale is excellently told through intelligent, insightful, and witty lyrics that stand up to repeated listening, and do genuinely articulate the thoughts of many a working man and woman. A detailed feature on The Tangent website explains in Tillison's own words his inspiration and ideas behind the piece, and it's well worth a read, as he knows what it's all about much more than this hack ever will!
The music that soundtracks this tale is simply magnificent. Each movement comprises a number of themes, which Tillison employs in a manner that to these ears has echoes of the great English orchestral music of the modern classical era, as well as the obvious Stravinsky influences. Think how Vaughan Williams evoked the sounds of London in his great Second Symphony, or of Britten capturing the ever changing moods of the sea in his haunting Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes, and you will understand the descriptive abilities of great music. For this album Andy Tillison has created tone poems that portray everyday thoughts and events in a similarly vivid way to those examples.
This is music that is full of colour and variety, and although nominally rock music, that is too simplistic a description. Sure there is rock here, but there's also big jazz and classical influences running through this music. This mashup of genres at first is rather wearing, and after my initial listen I was exhausted, both by the music and the lyrical content. I could have given up there and then, but I didn't.
After a couple of listening sessions everything clicked and the musical twists and turns, in conjunction with the intelligent lyrics, made perfect sense to both the mind and heart. It's ambitious, for sure, and thankfully the ambition is fulfilled. Work with this music and you will be mightily rewarded.
The production is breathtakingly good, giving a crisp and clear sound, tempered by a lovely warmth, letting one fully hear the intricacies of the lyrics, and the beauty of the playing. Speaking of which, the musicianship on display here definitely does justice to the music and lyrics that Tillison has conjoured up for this piece.
The most prominent instrument is the voice of David Longdon, who sings brilliantly throughout the album. His vocal skills are fully able to convey the emotions this music requires, be they rage, apathy, joy or tenderness. It's hard to pick out an individual instrumentalist for particular praise, as this version of The Tangent features some of the most notable names in modern prog, and each of them is a master of their art, and they give of their very best here.
It's probably pretty obvious, but I'm totally won over by 'Le Sacre du Travail', and although, as mentioned, it's all a bit overwhelming initially, it's a piece of music that deserves time and effort.
This album is a masterpiece, not just of prog-rock, but of modern British music, so go and buy yourself this album right now. Your ears, heart and mind will all thank you for it, both now and in years to come.
Definitely a future classic, which as a bonus namechecks the lovely village of Blubberhouses, so five pints please landlord!
1st movement: Coming Up On The Hour (Overture)
2nd movement: Morning Journey & The Arrival
3rd movement: Afternoon Malaise
4th movement: A Voyage Through Rush Hour
5th movement: Evening TV
Hat (live At Mexborough School 1979)
Evening TV(radio Edit)
Andy Tillison - Keyboards, Guitars, Vocals, Composer, Lyricist
Theo Travis - Flutes, Saxophones, Clarinet
Jonas Reingold - Bass Guitar
Gavin Harrison - Drums
Jakko M Jakszyk - Guitar & Vocals
David Longdon - Vocal Arrangements & vocals
Rikard Sjoblom - Narration
Geoff Banks & Jon 'Twang' Patrick - Disc Jockeys
Guy Manning - Acoustic Guitar