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Ghost Canyon

Title - Tales by Gaslight [3CD]
Artist - Nolan & Wakeman

For those unaware, the Tales by Gaslight deluxe box set by Clive Nolan (Pendragon, Arena) and Oliver Wakeman (Yes, Strawbs) comprises 3 remastered CDs (each with a 16-page booklet) plus 3 art prints in a clamshell box.

Including guest performances by Peter Banks (Yes), Bob Catley (Magnum), Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon), Gordon Giltrap, Peter Gee (Pendragon), John Jowitt (IQ), Robert Powell and Rick Wakeman (amongst many others), the set features the duos acclaimed Rock Operas Jabberwocky (1999) and The Hound Of The Baskervilles (2002) plus Dark Fables (a collection of over 40 minutes of music conceived for an abandoned album based on Frankenstein) and several unreleased pieces.

Disc One: Jabberworky
1. Overture (5:57)
2. Coming To Town (2:55)
3. Dangerous World (6:54) br> 4. The Forest (4:22)
5. A Glimmer Of Light (2:42)
6. Shadows (4:19)
7. Enlightenment (5:23)
8. Dancing Water (4:12)
9. The Burgundy Rose (3:55)
10. The Mission (4:32)
11. Call To Arms (6:37)
12. Finale (1:50)

This truly beautiful set commemorating what was always intended by the duo as a trilogy of releases revolving around literary classics opens on the duos first collaboration, their 1999 Jabberwocky; a concept album based on the Lewis Caroll poem of the same name.

As you may have guessed, the album, for the most part, falls mainly in the progressive rock vein, with Nolan and Wakemans keyboards being the main featured instruments. These two sound as if they were having a great deal of fun trading solos back and forth, and backing each other up when necessary.

There are also a few moments of good straight-forward rock, and they help to add a sense of variety to the album. The other musicians participating on Jabberwocky are a virtual whos-who of the current (and past) progressive rock scene.

Playing the voice roles of The Girl and The Boy respectively; lead vocals are provided mainly by the dynamic Tracy Hitchings (Landmarq, Strangers On A Train) and gravel-throated Bob Catley (Magnum), who sounds strikingly similar to Rick Wakemans vocalist of choice, Ashley Holt!

Paul Allison plays The Tree (with a soft-edged midrange voice reminiscent of Camels Colin Bass), and James Plumridge lends a touch of theater and English humor in the part of The Jabberwock.

The band includes guitarist Peter Banks (ex-Yes), drummer Tony Fernandez (Rick Wakeman) and bassist Peter Gee (Pendragon). Olivers dad, Rick, even puts in an appearance as the spoken-word narrator!

Some standout tracks include Overture (with some awesome keyboard work from both Clive and Oliver), Coming to Town (an intense rock-piece with gritty vocals from Catley, and some dizzying lead synth work), Dangerous World (a stirring, emotional ballad sung to perfection by Tracy Hitchings), and Dancing Water (a track that starts out lush and atmospheric, then builds into an intense progressive rock anthem with counterpoint vocal parts from Hitchings and Catley).

Disc Two: The Hound of the Baskervilles
1. Overture (5:57)
2. The Curse Of The Baskervilles (6:14)
3. Three Broken Threads (4:37)
4. Shadows of Fate (7:01)
5. A Home in The Mire (4:52)
6. Run for your Life (4:52)
7. Picture of a Lady (3:41)
8. The Argument (4:48)
9. Second Light (2:00)
10. Seldon (4:57)
11. Death on the Moor (6:13)
12. By Your Side (3:32)
13. Waiting (5:29)
14. Chasing the Hound (4:34)

Next up is 2002s The Hound of the Baskervilles which, of course, continues in that very same tradition. Nolan & Wakemans works are always built around a storyline and mix progressive/classical keyboard themes with powerful vocals & spoken narration.

This time the concept is based around Sir Arthur Conan Doyles most famous Sherlock Holmes novel, and features returning guitarists Peter Banks (ex-Yes, Flash), and Karl Groom (Shadowland), bassists John Jowitt (Jadis, IQ), and Peter Gee (Pendragon), and drummer Tony Fernandez (Rick Wakemans English Rock Ensemble).

A first-timer to the Nolan/Wakeman camp is acclaimed British actor Robert Powell, best known for the title role in Jesus of Nazareth.

Powell performs the spoken narration, which is written from the point of view of Holmes sidekick, Dr. Watson. Also, in keeping with the story format, six different vocalists portray the characters within the story; with Bob Catley (Magnum) as Sir Henry Baskerville, Paul Allison as Stapleton, Tracy Hitchings (Landmarq) as Beryl, Ashley Holt (Rick Wakemans English Rock Ensemble) as Dr. Mortimer, Michelle Young as Laura Lyons, and Ian Moon Gould as Seldon.

Standout tracks include Shadows of Fate (a dark, slow-boiling rocker with soulful, raspy vocals from Catley), At Home in the Mire (an energetic, briskly tempo piece sung by Paul Allison, and highlighted by some nimble Hammond organ playing, as well as some tasty arpeggiated guitar rhythms courtesy of Karl Groom), and, perhaps best of all, The Argument, an almost-classical/operactic piece that sets three interweaving vocal lines (from Catley, Hitchings, and Allison) against a backdrop of piano and orchestral synth sounds.

Disc Three: Dark Fables
1. 221B
2. The Man Called Sherlock
3. The Baker Street Irregulars
4. The Overture
5. Id Give You Everything
6. The Mirror
7. Elizabeth
8. Why Do You Hate Me?
9. The Wedding Approaches
10. Time Passes
11. A Descent into Madness
12. The Jabberwocky (read by Rick Wakeman)

Finally we get the disc simply known as Dark Fables, with these newer recordings featuring the talents of, amongst others Gordon Giltrap, Paul Manzi (Arena, Oliver Wakeman Band, Sweet), Andy Sears (Twelfth Night) and David Mark Pearce (Oliver Wakeman Band). Also included is an original reading of the Jabberwocky poem by Rick Wakeman.

The unique artwork was created by Rodney Matthews for the original Jabberwocky release. Peter Pracownik was the creativity behind The Hound of The Baskervilles artwork 20 years ago and has returned to this trilogy by lending his talents to the new Dark Fables artwork.

Official 3CD Purchase Link