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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Tempest

15th Anniversary Collection

Review by Gary Hill

This box set shows just how much integrity and talent Tempest has. The Celtic based prog rock outfit could have simply put out a collection of their best known pieces and added in a few unreleased gems here and there. However, band founder Leif Sorbye has never been one to take the easy way out. When they released their tenth anniversary comp, rather than go that route, they instead re-recorded fresh new versions of al the songs. Well, with this one they have created a 3 CD compilation with nothing that is currently in print on the entire set. Disc one consists of studio tracks, some never released, others rare and not available until now. The second CD is all radio appearances, and the third live recordings.

Of the studio cuts, the first one is perhaps the most powerful number the band has ever done. In answer to people's requests for them to make a statement about the Iraq war, Tempest created an incredibly powerful cover of Bob Dylan's classic "Masters of War". This is such an incredibly powerful beginning to the set, that it makes for a hard act to follow. The group manages to pull it off, though - a true tribute to the strength of this outfit. The radio disc has some good performances, but personally I wish they had left some of the snippets of DJ commentary. With disc three it is easy to see why this band continues to draw solid crowds - their live performance is top notch. The fans' suggestion provides what is likely the greatest moment of that disc. I truly hope they release it on DVD. The band did an entire take of Spinal Tap's "Stonehenge", medieval dancers, mini monument, black hoods and capes - the full treatment. Unfortunately with only audio here it is hard to picture, but their take on the song is musically perfect. Let's get on them to release the video. It must be a scream.

All in all this collection is probably the best box set ever produced. It will thrill long time fans by giving them a treasure trove of material of which they likely have none. At the same time it can serve as an excellent one-shop introduction to the band for those who have been thinking about checking them out. The end result is a win-win all around. Bravo to Leif and the rest of the band for not taking the easy way out.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1 - Studio
Masters Of War (2004)
This cover of the Bob Dylan anti war track is incredibly strong. They begin it in a powerful acoustic mode. As it carries forward the band bump up the intensity and crank up the tune. This one is very strong both musically and of course lyrically. Tempest creates an arrangement that preserves Dylan's creation while bringing in a hard-edged Celtic motif. This is one of the most powerful things Tempest has ever done, and it alone is nearly worth the price of admission here.

Dance Of The Third Leg (1991)
A total change of pace, this instrumental comes in with a light easy going texture that almost feels Caribbean. It switches gear to a fast paced traditional Celtic sound. This one is a lot of fun. It drops back to the opening sequence later after a short percussion break. Then it jumps up to a traditional sounding reel, the band breaking into a high-energy arrangement of it.

One Last Cold Kiss (1989)
A killer acoustic tone starts this. They drop it back to a short percussive interlude until the band jump into a new jam, very Tull like, right town to the flute solo. They run through this, then a mellow balladic melody takes it, and the vocals enter and after the verse the band stump in, pushing the intensity up. This jam is another killer rocker. They drop it back to the percussion segment, and then follow the same pattern again. Another flute solo takes it later, this one more extensive. Flute with a short percussion flourish ends this. This is another of the group's strongest.

The Creel (1990)
A bouncy authentic Celtic acoustic piece, this one is fun, but pales after the last smoker. The vocal arrangement here is good, though, and the band launches into another Tull like format later that works very well. This one also includes Tull Like flute. They manage to take a track that has very humble begins and turn it into a very solid rocker. It is far from the strongest track on the studio disc, but that has far less to do with the quality of this one then it does with the strength of some of the other songs on show here. It drops to percussion and the flute takes on very traditional Celt textures. Then they shift into a fast paced Tull like jam. They run this through for a time before bring the Celtic sounds back over top.
Same Side Of The Fence (1991)
A hard-edged progish Celtic rocker, this is another that is quite strong. It has some killer musical textures and one of Sorbye's most powerful vocal performances ever. The guitar on the cut is also very noteworthy, and they launch into another full on Tull inspired excursion complete with the flute. This is an incredibly dynamic piece, and is very powerful.

Toss The Feathers (1994)
A more traditional Celtic jam at first, this one brings in jazzy prog textures at times. The guitar crunches out very nicely other times, and the group keeps working this in incredibly strong directions. This is a fairly concise, but very potent instrumental.

Queen Of Argyll (1989)
A very prog oriented introduction with Celtic overlayers starts this, then the band moves this into a bouncy fairly hard rocking track with strong examples of those Celtic textures sharing space with an almost Dire Straits like sound. This one includes some more scorching guitar work, and is another strong one.
Milligan's Fancy (1989)
This fast paced rocker features a killer Celtic jam and awesome rubbery bass line. It includes both a smoking arrangement and a powerhouse drum solo.

Handsome Molly (1991)
A bouncy cut, this one shows just how closely related country and Celtic musics are. While certainly a traditional Celtic piece, this one could be at home at any hoe-down.

Between Us (2001)
Another acoustic number, this is a traditional sounding ballad and a bit weak compared to much of the material here.

Coalminers (2003)
A faster paced acoustic mode starts this. Violin joins after a time. As the other instruments come in, this becomes another Celtic rocker that again could pass as country. The mode turns more electrified later, and this is a fun, if not Earth shattering instrumental. It has a couple of interesting twists and turns, though, and the more intriguing parts of the song happen in the later moments.

Cat In The Corner (1989)
Starting with a nearly acapella approach, this one at first has a very traditional Celtic style. Later a great, nearly funky sound takes it, then it ramps up to a very dramatic melody. This is a great modern take on a Celtic basis and a killer rocker featuring some very tasty guitar sounds.

The Barrow Man (1989)
This is a more standard Tempest cut - very progressive rock in texture, but still strongly based in traditional Celtic veins. This one includes a very cool spoken segment, though that sets it apart from much of the band's catalog. Overall this is quite a strong one.

Jenny Nettles (1989)
More standard Celtic tones present the basis for this one, and the band work this into a bouncy jam. This shifts directions several times, making it a very entertaining instrumental. This one even takes on some psychedelic tones later. It comes back to more standard Tempest fare later, but truly this is a very unique and dynamic one.

Three Ships (1994)
Tempest puts in a very traditional sounding Celtic rendition of this Christmas classic. It includes a fast paced jam based on the main themes as the outro.

Black Jack Davy (1989)
This is a short and to the point Celtic rocker.

Winding Road (1989)
Perhaps one of the most prog oriented Tempest tracks, this fast paced instrumental seems to take on territory of many of the prog greats including ELP, Yes and of course Jethro Tull. This smoking piece is an extremely strong musical journey. It features some of the most potent jamming the band has ever put forth, and is another clear winner.

Disc 2 - Radio
Dunmore Lassies (WCBE 1999)
This is a fast paced Celtic rock groove that is very effective. This energetic instrumental is just plain fun. It is followed by a bit of talking with the DJ

One For The Fiddler (WCBE 1999)
This fairly fast paced Celtic cut has an authentic good time texture. A very short continuation of the interview ends this.

You Jacobites By Name (WCBE 1999)
This one comes across quite strong and rocking on the intro, then drops back to acapella. Eventually percussion joins, then the other instruments, too and the hard rocker is up and running. This is one of my favorite Tempest songs, and they put in a great performance here.

For Three Of Us (KUOP 1997)
This is a mellow acoustic based ballad with a very traditional texture.

John Barleycorn (KUOP 1997)
This traditional piece, probably best known in the version on the Traffic album of the same name gets a folky authentic treatment here.

Baladi (WBAI 1992)
Talking from a different radio show starts this. The band launch into the acoustic based Celtic prog rocker. This is sedate and mid tempo with an almost stuttered texture. Middle Eastern tones make up a nice segment of the piece. This one is both dynamic and very potent.

Whiskey In The Jar (KLCC 1995)
An announcer whips up the crowd to start this fun rocker, a cut made famous by Thin Lizzy and Metallica. Tempest puts in a charged rocking version. It ends with more from the announcer.

Reels On Fire (WCBE 1995)
This one starts with an interview type segment. The mellow acoustic jam that follows is dramatic and powerful and has a lot of prog elements. It shifts to a fast paced more traditional Celtic jam.

Heather On The Moor (Danish Radio 1999)
A short spoken intro starts this acoustic driven cut. It jumps to a more rocking crunchy texture to make up this number. This turns almost metallic after a time.

Buffalo Jump (Danish Radio 1999)
Starting with percussion, this is a fast paced Celtic prog cut, and another of my favorite Tempest cuts. This feels Tullish at times. It shifts to a more traditional Celtic jam later, working through to a new frantic hard-edged excursion.

Two Sisters (WYSO 2001)
Another announcer introduces the band, and they launch into a rousing traditional Celtic cut.

Old Man Flint (WCBE 2002)
Yet a different announcer intro gives way to this acoustic based fast paced traditional Celtic jam. This instrumental is both proggy and jazzy as it takes up its themes. It jumps back to more traditional turf. This one is very dynamic and fun.

Dancing Girl (WCBE 2002)
Picking up from the previous one, this is a bouncy hard rocking Celtic jam. It ends with conversation between Sorbye and a DJ. This is way too long and ends with a plug for the festival at which it was recorded.

As I Roved Out (WCBE 2002)
This is another acoustic based fairly traditional Celtic cut. It's quite effective.

Byker Hill (KLCC 2002)
This hard rocker is a more traditional take on that Tull type sound. It rocks out pretty hard later and includes some very meaty guitar work. The drums that end this segue it straight into the next number.

Catalina Island (KLCC 2002)
This musical exploration shows how efficiently the band can create a prog excursion with traditional Celtic sounds and is awesome. This is another standout track. It turns very eastern later. This rousing cut ends with a long announcement. Once again, this piece would be stronger without the announcer segment.

Disc 3 - Stage
Raggle Taggle Gypsy (Davis, CA 2004)
This rocker is pretty standard Tempest fare - energized Celtic rock with great instrumentation.

The Ballydesmond Set (Davis, CA 2004)
This medley is one non-lyrical vocal song surrounded by instrumentals. It comes in with a Hendrix like guitar sound. The bass then enters and the band eventually rocks into another full on take on their brand of Celtic prog rock. This has some cool vocal harmonies and great jamming. It drops to a very traditional and bouncy Celtic jam, then the bass gets a short solo during this section.

Captain Morgan (Davis, CA 2004)
After a short mid tempo intro, this takes on a balladic mode. It is another fun and rather bouncy one. They turn it into a major moderately paced jam later.

Cruel Brother (Davis, CA 2004)
This is a traditionally styled Celtic rock balladic song. Much of it is in the mellower ballad style, but there are some harder edged sections and the group does ramp up the intensity. It also includes a couple of stellar prog jams that really rock out.

Stonehenge (Davis, CA 2004)
This is too funny. Tempest covers Spinal Tap's "Stonehenge". This classic alone is worth buying this set. They put in a rousing version of this quirky rocker. Of course, the Celtic section later in the piece is a natural for these guys, but they give the whole song a faithful retelling.

Bonden Og KrÄka (Fort Washington, PA 1999)
This cut starts with Sorbye explaining the lyrics of the piece, which is "a Norwegian folk song". This is a bouncy ethnic sounding track that is quite cool.

The House Carpenter (Fort Washington, PA 1999)
Starting with flute, Sorbye and company quickly create a nice ballad on this basis. It takes on very Tull like textures at time. A very strong pro rock jam emerges later. This is quite a dynamic number, while still staying close to its central musical themes. The band infuses some exceptionally strong prog rock excursions into the number.

On The Road (Columbus, OH 1993)
This bouncy ballad seems to combine a good fun rock and roll spirit with classic Celtic sounds. It is a short one.
The Soul Cages (Berkeley, CA 1999)
This starts in a fairly mellow ballad style. This mode caries much of the cut, although they pump in some energy later and move it into new musical territory for a time, but overall this one doesn't wander too far.

A Kiss In The Morning Early (Berkeley, CA 1999)
This ballad one is done acoustically. It is a traditional and pretty Celtic number. It does have a fairly intricate and inspired arrangement.

Tamosher (Philadelphia Folk Festival 2003)
Coming in fairly fast and heard edge, the band work in some cool vocal harmonies on this rather old school Celtic rocker. The musicians put in some killer twists and awesome jamming on this one, ramping it up toward the metallic at times.

Green Grow The Rashes (Philadelphia Folk Festival 2003)
Another traditional sounding romp starts this. It is another tune at feels at time lie a Celtic Dire Straits. This is a very effective one.

Top Of The Hill (Philadelphia Folk Festival 2003)
Once more this starts in fairly tried and true Celtic stylings, this time acoustic. This one bursts up fairly quickly into a full on prog jam based on these themes. They move through several modes based on this.

The Karfluki Set (Philadelphia Folk Festival 2003)
They include this frantic Celtic prog number to close out the set.

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