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Various Artists

Words and Music: Excursions in the Art of Rock Fandom written by Michael Anthony

Review by Alison Reijman

Books written by music fans are very far and few between. Seb Hunter cornered the metal market and even best selling Nick Hornby produced 31 Songs. Citizens of Hope and Glory by Summer’s End festival organiser Stephen Lambe published last year was a history of progressive rock but also very much from a fan’s perspective.

So reading Michael Anthony’s own journey through the rock of his ages strikes so many chords for anyone who has spent the better part of a lifespan buying CDs, going to live gigs and finding his or her own meaning to the music which shapes our outlook and occasionally causes major dents in our bank balances.

While most of the book concentrates on his mainstream rock and heavy metal favourites such as Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, there is a rich seam of prog rock into which he taps to present his own individual experiences of the genre.

Much of this centres on Marillion with whom he has had a long admiration: also Twelfth Night and in particular, the band’s late and much missed singer Geoff Mann.

Writing about the latter, he devotes a chapter called “God And The Devil” comparing the seemingly Satanist Black Sabbath back catalogue with the works of Mann,  a devout Christian who was inducted as a Church of England vicar just before his untimely death in 1993.

Examining his lyrical and vocal contribution to Twelfth Night, the author cites his character, his passion, his way with words, strong sense of social justice and sense of the absurd as an integral part of the band’s acclaimed Fact and Fiction album and its classic “Love Song,” still regarded as one of their finest songs due in no small part to the words of its inspiring chorus.

This leads to Anthony’s appraisal of Mann’s “I May Sing Grace” which he says, after a year of trying to be comfortable with its contents, the music hit him and “came on like a revelation.” He adds: “Suddenly the album made sense.” This is just a small part of a very thorough and insightful examination of Mann and his music and not surprisingly, Brian Devoil, Twelfth Night’s drummer provides a glowing testimony on the book’s back cover.

The author’s Marillion adventures are equally engrossing and, again, he undertakes a very detailed examination of their music and how it affected him especially when the vocal berth was handed over from Fish to Steve Hogarth.  Now the veteran of an international Marillion weekend in Holland, he describes his chequered relationship with the band and shares the emotions so many fans feel when perhaps some of their favourite bands take certain courses of action, such as personnel changes, which take time to comprehend.

This is but the tip of the iceberg in the content of a highly readable account, which ends fittingly with the 2010 inaugural High Voltage weekend festival in London, where the biggest choice to be made – on the Sunday at least, was whether to head off early from Marillion’s set on the prog stage to catch all of ELP’s performance. Using this event – which brings together classic rock, prog rock and heavy metal- made for an excellent note on which to end.

It was a big literary task Anthony elected to undertake with the writing of this book but many of his stories will strike a chord with music fans of all particular genres. This is an entertaining and always interesting read.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

 
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