(updated 09 June 2012) Landmarq celebrates their twentieth anniversary with the release of their fifth studio album Entertaining Angels (Synergy Records (UK) SYN005, 2012). Two live albums and a DVD also punctuate the band's history and fill the gap since their last studio project Solitary Witness (1998). Entertaining Angels is the second Landmarq studio album with Tracy Hitchings as the lead vocalist.
Read more about her career and the Landmarq history in our feature. [The original manuscript of this review was lost in a computer crash from an infection and a subsequent complete rebuild. Apologies to visitors and the band for the publishing delay.]
The release of Entertaining Angels is a significant milestone in Landmarq's career. The Special Edition package (SYN007, 2012) includes a half hour four track bonus disc (SYN006, 2012). In addition to lead vocalist Tracy Hitchings, the album's lineup, as in Thunderstruck, includes: Uwe D'rose (electric guitar, acoustic guitar); Steve Gee (bass guitars, b/vocals); Dave Wagstaffe (drums, percussion, b/vocals); and Mike Varty (piano, keyboards, violin, viola b/vocals). Mike Varty's Gargoyle Studio and Karl Groom/Clive Nolan's Thin Ice Studio are both credited in the liner notes. Note that Entertaining Angels includes the first studio recordings of several tracks that were initially heard on Landmarq's Turbulence - Live In Poland DVD and CD.
The two-CD version of Entertaining Angels runs over an hour and a half. The first CD runs just over 72 minutes. The stunning opening and title track includes an extended instrumental introduction preceding Tracy Hitchings' emotionally delivered first recording since the songs on Solitary Witness. Rich keyboards, crunching guitars and crisp percussion deliver an outstanding rock arrangement. Listen for layers of Tracy's harmony vocals that contribute to the texture of Landmarq's sound. Listeners that like Tracy Hitchings will love the album.
The new track "Glowing" is split into two parts "Friends" and "Lovers." "Friends" is lightly arranged and evocatively delivered. Acoustic guitar and piano dominate the arrangement beneath the theatrical style of the singer's lead although choruses have electric guitar and keyboards contributing to the sound. As one might expect, "Lovers" is the contrasting track with thick instrumental arrangements featuring soaring keyboard and guitar excursions. Tracy's vocals continue to glisten and soar above them. Listen for the saxophone in the extended instrumental passages.
The upbeat "Mountains of Anglia" continues to build Landmarq's timeless sound with rich keyboard and electric guitar. Tracy Hitchings is an extremely accomplished rock vocalist and she shows her chops in this powerful number. We especially appreciated the producers' treatment of her backing self-harmonies in the song. "Personal Universe" is one of the album's standouts. The contrast between the ballad portions of the song and the rockier arrangements that develop is a testament to Landmarq's maturity as a modern progressive band.
"Prayer (Coming Home)" is the second standout on Entertaining Angels. Extremely well played piano and rich symphonic keyboards provide the perfect accompaniment to this anthem. The layers of Tracy's vocals have been perfectly sung and recorded. This track creates extremely strong allusions--both in vocal delivery and overall sound--to Tracy's recordings with Strangers on a Train, which comprise two of our editorial staff's favorite all time CDs. Electric guitar solos are the finest on this album.
"Turbulence (Paradigm Shift)" is the first of the album's very long tracks. It is one of the brand new songs on the album. Listen for vast rock instrumentals, soothing string arrangements, Tracy Hitchings' soaring vocalise, and her dramatic lead vocal part. The band's superb rhythm section deserves special note as well.
The sixteen minute epic "Calm Before The Storm" concludes the album's first CD. It is actually the main title for a suite of three songs: Part 1 - "Strange But Beautiful"; Part 2 - "Spiderman; Part 3 - "Into The Abyss." Listeners will immediately recognize Landmarq's characteristic keyboard wash/electric guitar sounds that harken their earliest work in this extended track. Layers of stunning vocals arranged atop multiple guitar and keyboard parts contribute to the rich sound produced in this over 16-minute epic. Listen to the singer's various vocal parts within this powerful song. Instrumentals fully illustrate the depth and breadth of the artist's individual talents as well.
The four track bonus CD in the Special Edition includes two shorter tracks and the "Stormbrewing" introduction to and the "Thunderstruck" epic itself. The lovely arrangement of "Walking On Eggshells" differentiates it from being called a bonus track. The song perfectly complements the material on the album's first CD. Tracy's vocals evocatively soar above a guitar-laced arrangement. Listen to the way the swirling keyboards perfectly balance the guitar- and piano-based arrangement.
"Timeline" is clearly one of Entertaining Angels' standout tracks. Perfectly timed at just under six minutes, the song features ballad style verses and richly arranged, rocking choruses in a track that pays homage to Landmarq's stunning lead vocalist. Tracy's vocal harmonies are sung and timed perfectly. "Stormbrewing" is the dramatic classically derived keyboard introduction to the bonus CD's final track "Thunderstruck." Mike Varty clearly illustrates his chops in this number.
Landmarq's latest album concludes with the powerful extended track "Thunderstruck." As with most of Landmarq's epics, the track combines a wide range of styles with stunning vocal work, thick arrangements and individual player instrumental excursions. Very much in the Solitary Witness style, Uwe D'rose's guitar passages drive significant portions of the track and are balanced by Mike Varty's keyboard arpeggios. Listen for the band's backing harmonies. Tracy's extremely powerful vocal lines and excellent supporting harmonies are fantastic and perfectly fit the track's arrangement.
Entertaining Angels is a superb album and has clearly been worth the wait since Landmarq's last release.
Visit the Entertaining Angels website to purchase the album directly from the band.
Featured artist Tracy Hitchings continues to demonstrate
outstanding vocal talent delivering theatrical and dramatic performances with Landmarq and it's great to hear her latest work with them here. Bravo!