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The Tangent

A Place In The Queue

Review by Steve Alspach

Andy Tillison's side project is getting so successful that his "original" band, Parallel or 90 Degrees, may be his side project these days. The Tangent's third album, A Place in the Queue pays homage to Yes' Tales... album (at least Tillison does in the liner notes in a delightful way), but the Tangent mix shorter songs with two bookend epics. Along with original members Tillison, Sam Baine, Guy Manning and Jonas Reingold, Theo Travis returns on woodwinds, and the Karmanic guitarist fills Roine Stolt’s slot. Speaking of Flower Kings, Jaime Salazar replaced Zoltan Csorcz on drums and has never sounded better. In spite of it all, A Place in the Queue may not grab the user as immediately as the previous two Tangent albums. Tillison acknowledges this in the notes, but this only forces the listener to pay good attention to the album. I get a sense of what he is saying - the album will grow on you, but you may have to give it a bit more time than The Music that Died Alone for the music to register. When it does, you'll find that A Place in the Queue will rank up there with the other two Tangent discs yet still manages to find its own niche.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 1 at

Track by Track Review
In Earnest
A twenty-minute opener, "In Earnest" tells a heartfelt story of a fighter pilot in World War II. The piece starts with our hero, Earnest, in a pub with his radio. The track is divided into ten sections, but there's no surefire way to tell where one section stops and the other starts. The piece's prologue starts with a quiet acoustic setting with piano, flute cymbals and vocals as we're introduced to our main character. The second part is in a more rock vein sounding a bit like the Flower Kings. Then, after a little Echolyn-type keyboard line, the third part, "Demobilized" has a 70s funk-rock beat to it as Tellison's vocals return to the opening part. Part 4, "Dehumanized" simply returns to the structure of part 2. Then, in "Flights of Fancy," the piece goes in a definite jazz direction, a bit swing, a bit be-bop. Then, Tillison and Jonsson get in solos over a double-time boogie pattern before the band comes back to the jazzy pattern. After a nostalgic interlude with Theo Travis on clarinet, there is a theme that sounds considerably like something Neal Morse might have come up with, complete with strings and marching snare drum. The piece then gradually changes into a more hard-rocking mode, building in intensity. At about 12:21 it sounds like the song is heading for its ending with a solo from Jonsson, but we're not done just yet! The Morse-like riff comes back in driving time. This piece winds down and we're back to the beginning again, with piano and flute playing variations on the opening themes. The ninth section, "Some Crazy Old Guy" sees Earnest back in the pub, generally ignored by the patrons, but a man full of stories that nobody will ever hear. Finally, we are given the grand end, and here the lyrics are at their most poignant as Tillison would rather look for "a clear morning with the wind in my hair" than the memories that were brought on by war.
Lost In London
This starts with a cool, jazz-inflected period with electric piano and flute as Tillison recounts his days as a burgeoning musician. After the second chorus the band kicks it up a notch with a keyboard solo, then Salazar opens the hi-hat and Jonsson plays some sinewy lines behind a Hammond organ solo. After a bit of a free-for-all ending to that section, Sam Baine plays a line on the bass notes of the piano, and the band then goes back to the jazzy verse section. For the last verse Tillison ties in to the Iraq war before the band ends it with an emphatic "poignant instrumental" section that echoes the earlier instrumental section.
D.I.Y. Surgery
At 2.16 a mere blip on the prog radar, this song sounds like Islands-era King Crimson with a Frippian opening by Travis, and his sax blowing echoes that of Mel Collins. There are some breakneck jazzy interludes here as well, and Tillison's treated vocals sound slyly cool.
GPS Culture
A very Yes-Genesis-like organ riff kicks off "GPS Culture." (Somewhere between Yes and a lick from "The Battle of Epping Forest.") The organ and the drums play well against each other in the verses, and the vocals are very much in the Yes harmonic sense, right down to the "dat-dat-dat" fills. Dan Watts' gets a guitar solo here and pretty much plays off the melodic line while still managing to sound a bit like Steve Howe. Of all the songs on this album, this may be the one that sounds most like something off of Yes' Tales... album, perhaps "Ritual."
Feature Your Leaders
This time the opening organ riff is more in the Emersonian vein, and then the electric piano kicks a double-time section. Tillison's verses are a general call-to-arms against the common culture. After two verses there is a lengthy instrumental section. Theo Travis gets a short flute solo against a syncopated 4/4 backdrop, then the organ chord riff is revisited for a short bit. A keyboard solo follows, and it really doesn't go anywhere - it's more of a meandering bit - but Salazar and Reingold work well in tandem to keep the drive in that section. Then, a snippet of a synth riff, reminiscent of something Dave Stewart (he of Hatfield and the North / Bruford / National Health fame) would come up with. Even Reingold gets in a bass solo before the band picks up the jazzy section again. After the third verse things slow down a bit so Jonsson can take a solo. His playing is very Stolt-like (must be something in the water there in Sweden), extremely melodic and not too atonal or off-the-wall. The end section is a rather dreamy segment, a la the end of Transatlantic's "All of the Above" or Genesis' "Dancing with the Moonlit Night." Salazar gets the last word, picking up on a rocking 4/4 groove against the ambient ending.
The Sun In My Eyes
Tillison waves his prog banner high, and this cut shows it. This song has a 70s disco treatment to it with the wah-wah guitar, Salazar's hi-hat on the off-beat, and synthesized string and horn fills. "The Sun in My Eyes" is in a very conventional verse-chorus format, and Tillison's lyrics recall the risks of preferring Yes to Suzi Quatro. Towards the end you can hear the refrain of "Nous Sommes Du Soleil - We Love When We Play," a not-so-subtle nod to the album that was such an inspiration to TIllison.
A Place In the Queue
The song starts with a big bang as a slow theme is played to much aplomb. By the time the vocals come in, the piece peels back to a softer, almost bluesy mode. There is a slightly sinister edge to this to match the lyrics' Orwellian feel. Then we are treated to two solos, one piano, and one excellent solo from Theo Travis, who sounds like he learned a thing or two about saxophone treatments from his Tangent predecessor, David Jackson. After the vocals come in, there is a very short free-form piece before the "big thud" theme starts again. At this point Salazar lays a funk pattern and an organ solo. The next piece, "The Escher Staircase" is not as confusing as it might sound and is in fact a bit restrained. Here the keyboards lay back and Jonsson lays some basic chordal backing. "An 'elping hand" is next, a multi-layered instrumental section that incorporates bits of drama, hard rock and neo-classical snippets as well. After a short verse comes a fusion-y instrumental section where all members get a good workout. The "Big thud" theme makes a reappearance as well. The song then goes back to the original verse structure before a Van der Graaf-like finale with Travis' saxophone marking the clarion call.
The First Day of School
The first part of this song is rather sad in a cocktail jazz sort of way, with a comparatively sparse arrangement of piano, bass and drums with an occasional legato note from the electric guitar. The song is a demo, though, but Tillison may find, like Springsteen's "Nebraska," that the demo version may be better than a highly polished product.
Forsaken Cathedrals
Tillison always gave props to Van Der Graaf Generator as a major inspiration to his work, and "Forsaken Cathedrals" is a prime example of this. The saxophone in the intro is a clean reminder of David Jackson, and the melody and music in general is very much in the Hammill vein. At 4:53, though, Tillison keeps to a more conventional song structure and is a prime candidate for internet radio
The Sun In My Eyes
An extended version of the song on CD 1, this rendition starts with an orchestral section, very grandiose and dramatic a la Renaissance. The piece then gets a full-blown disco "dance mix" treatment, with string blasts and Salazar's drumming keeping a steady anchor throughout. If Isaac Hayes or Barry White went progressive in the 70s, this may have been the result.
Grooving On Mars
Performed live in 2005, this piece sounds like a bit like the Flower Kings' more adventurous excursions. Travis plays a simple yet melodic riff. The use of a Fender Rhodes gives a 70s groove to this piece. And the snippet - no, direct quote - of Ray Manzarek's descending line from "Riders of the Storm" is stellar, sounding as if the Doors would have re-convened as a fusion instrumental group.
Kartoffelsalat In Unterseeboot
It looks like another of Tillison's influences was Eno. This is a slow, dreamy ambient piece of space rock composed by Tillison, Travis, and Jonsson. Travis' flute evokes images of R. Carlos Nakai and the southwest, and Jonsson's notes and chords are much in the Frippertronic mode. At 3.20 an electronic percussion line enters the picture but fades after about two minutes. There are other moments where the piece tends to take on different feels, but these come and go and the song comes to a slow fade.
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