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Mike Batt

The Hunting of the Snark

Review by Gary Hill

This is sort of a marriage of progressive rock with musical theater and is based on the writings of Lewis Carroll. The list of performers is incredibly impressive with John Gielgud and John Hurt providing the narrations. Musicians include George Harrison and Stephane Grappelli. Singers providing characterizations include: Roger Daltry, Julian Lennon, Art Garfunkel, Cliff Richard, Captain Sensible and Deniece Williams. Justin Hayward also appears. The end result is something that lives somewhere between operatic, symphonic musical theater and progressive rock. It’s kind of like Rogers and Hammerstein meet the Moody Blues.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Introduction

This instrumental starts with acoustic guitar, but it grows out to something akin to a cross between Jethro Tull, Emerson Lake and Palmer and soundtrack music. It’s cool, mysterious and a little ominous. There are even hints of something like Pat Metheny to be heard. There’s a bit of a spoken section at the end of this. 

Children Of The Sky
Coming straight out of the previous tune, this powers up into melodic, energized progressive rock that’s catchy and original. It’s very much in an AOR motif, but there’s enough prog on hand to keep people happy. The chorus is very accessible and calls to mind 1970s pop music. There’s a cool, bluesy instrumental section later. That gives way to a very symphonically oriented treatment. It drops to a playful movie soundtrack type section and we get another narration.
The Bellman's Speech
This comes in purely symphonic, like the music from some old musical. Vocals come in over the top of this, bringing an old world sound to the table. This really feels like it could have come out of some old musical. It seems like something from Rogers and Hammerstein.
The Escapade
This comes in with similar styles as the last song, but at almost ten minutes in length there is plenty of variety to be found here. This works out to an extremely symphonic treatment but with a real progressive rock core as it continues. It’s dramatic and exceptionally powerful music. This is among the coolest stuff on the set. It drops down mid-track to more musical theater type sounds. It alternates between the musical theater and proggy, theatrical progressive rock. Those progressive rock sections are quite strong, but seriously interrupted by the theatrics.
Midnight Smoke
This is more like it. While there are symphonic and theatric elements to be heard here, this is a cool progressive rock ballad that works very well. We get some narrations at the end.
The Snooker Song
There’s a bouncy old time jazzy music that makes up the motif for this piece. It’s got a lot of Ringo Starr built into it, too. Klaatu is another point of reference.
The Pig Must Die
This is more decidedly rock oriented. Yes, there’s still theatrics on hand, and symphonic instrumentation. Some of this reminds me of Queen. It works out to more theatrical sounds for more narration near the end.
The Beaver's Lesson
John Hurt’s narration brings this in and symphonic elements are added on top. The vocals that come in are theatric and there are more narrations as this continues. This one is really purely musical theater rather than progressive rock in nature. There is some killer symphonic orchestration later in the piece.
A Delicate Combination
This feels like a continuation of the previous piece, combining theatrics with more song oriented elements.
As Long As The Moon Can Shine
Here’s a mellow, melodic and pop oriented piece. It’s pretty and quite effective.
Dancing Towards Disaster
Starting with symphonic sounds, this turns out to a jazz meets disco treatment. It’s very much musical theater.
The Vanishing
This starts with a purely symphonic treatment. While not losing that basis it works to more rock oriented elements, somehow. It’s like progressive rock performed on symphonic instruments for a time. Then more rock oriented instruments join. We get a saxophone solo after a while and this is the most potent cut of the whole set as it works through a number of intriguing changes and alterations. After this extended instrumental section, it works to more theatrical sounds as sung vocals and narrations are both heard as the cut continues.
 
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