Image © F2 Music Ltd 2005
ProgAID Recording Session
29 January 2005
(16 April 2005) fter the logistical heroics performed in getting the Progaid single "All Around The World" (F2 Music (UK), 200503S, 2005) recorded in such a short space of time, and the huge importance of the cause for which it has been produced, it almost seems churlish to submit the end product for review. With this in mind, it is therefore a great relief to report that the end product is something of a triumph.
As expected, the single contains five mixes of the song, plus an entertaining video that is part the "making of" and the remaining part a traditional music video, with footage shot principally on the two days recording at Briar Bank studios in Penarth, South Wales, at the end of January 2005. Of course, this means that not all the contributing artists are featured, but the edit cleverly combines lip-synched vocals and instrumental moments with lively and candid moments from the two days. It all looks great fun as indeed it was for those of us privileged enough to have been there.
The song itself is well chosen for the job. Originally a song by producer Rob Reed's old band Cyan, it is almost impossibly catchy, and perfectly structured to allow plenty of contributors to come and go without damaging the impact of the song. The slightly-revised lyrics work perfectly, positive and uplifting, yet vague enough to allow the song to stand on its own outside the context of the Tsunami disaster.
As for the individual mixes themselves, the "Single Mix" is an amazing achievement, cramming in contributions from almost everyone involved over its 5 minutes, while still maintaining the integrity of the song itself. For even the most attentive listener, piecing apart each contribution--especially the various tastefully edited-guitar solos--is an impossible task. Inevitably, this version is a little cluttered, and some artists are further down the mix than others. However, several contributions stand out: Neal Morse's trademark vocal on the opening two lines: Alan Reed's (of Pallas) passionate vocals: Troy Donockley's haunting low whistle: Christina Booth's (of Magenta) supporting vocal in verse two and Nick Barratt's (of Pendragon) delightful slide guitar cameo. Yet it is the overall effect that matters most, and the overriding impression is both awe-inspiring and emotional. Every musician involved deserves equal praise, and the listener will no doubt have plenty of fun deconstructing his or her contribution line by line.
The 12-minute "Definitive Mix" is well named. The first three minutes echo the single version, but then some spine-tingling 12-string guitar--surely courtesy of Anthony Phillips--introduces an extended section of solos, before a return to the chorus. Just as the song seems about to peter out, a keyboard throb and some angelic female vocals introduce a few more minutes of wonderful guitar and keyboard soloing before some gorgeous piano closes the track. The next two mixes are fairly subtle variations on the main version--there are no particular variations in tone--but the "Air" mix is relatively sparse with piano dominant--and an emphasis on lead vocals from the British Neo-prog contingent like Alan Reed, Peter Nicholls of IQ and Tracey Hitchings.
Transatlantic fans will certainly enjoy the "cue mix," as it pairs the vocals of Neal Morse with Roine Stolt of the Flower Kings. Musically, this has a greater acoustic feel, with drums entering much later, but building gently to an uplifting climax. The final mix is possibly the least interesting; it is a straight instrumental version. Liz Prendergast's (of Blue Horses) violin is certainly more prominent as a result, but has the benefit of doubling as a karaoke mix--for singing along to at home or the car. You will probably want to; the song is THAT catchy.
So, buy this single as soon as possible, please. The cause is the most important, and the survivors of the Tsunami need your help now. However, you are also buying a little slice of progressive rock history, not to mention a great song. An essential purchase.--Stephen Lambe in Cheltenham, England and Russ Elliot in New York