Nolan, Clive - King's Ransom,
Clive and I started talking to each other at the time of the first Shadowland album, and I have been fortunate to review most of his recordings since then, through multiple bands and projects. I missed the musical 'She' (one of the problems caused by moving to the other side of the world), which was released under the name 'Caamora', but did come across 'Alchemy' which used many of the Caamora Theatre Company, but was released under his own name. Here he introduced us to the world of Professor Samuel King, and his battle with Lord Henry Jagman to solve the mysteries of Anzeray. I, like many others, log everything I play on the LastFM website, and according to their records I have played this album more than any other since I started logging my plays at the beginning of 2007 (the next two are 'The Snow Goose' and 'Snow' as you didn't ask). One of my daughters loves this almost as much as me, and it is often chosen to be played in the car, with "The Unwelcome Guest" being especially favoured (and consequently the most played song according to the same site).
So, when I heard that Clive was releasing another album in the same series I was intrigued. It just so happened that I was back in the UK in August for the first time in more than five years, and somehow the planets aligned for myself and Clive to meet for the first time in aeons. Sat in his music room, talk soon turned to the new album, so he passed me his bound copy of the lyrics and he then started to play highlights to me, explaining the story and thinking behind it. The events in this musical follow on from 'Alchemy', albeit a few years later, and does include some of the same characters. Interestingly, although many of the musicians have played on both, very few of the same singers are involved again. Also, although there are a couple of small mentions of things that happened on 'Alchemy', there is no need to have heard that release as this stands up in its own right. But, if one has heard the first one then there are both lyrical and musical repetitions designed to make the listener smile, as if they have been let into a secret.
One criticism I have heard of 'Alchemy', which had also reached Clive's ears, is that in many ways it is too dark, with too much death. Consequently, this album has been made deliberately lighter, with some quite comedic numbers. My favourite character is Captain Fergus Maunder, and it is obvious that Alan Reed (Anel Ganz, Pallas) had an absolute blast playing the role. For anyone who knows him, his Scots accent isn't nearly as strong as he lays it on here. There are too many musical highlights to mention, but "Haunted" always makes me smile, while "Nostalgia" reminds me of "Half Of Sixpence". Yes, in many circles Clive will always be known for progressive rock, and as I write this he has just returned from playing with Pendragon in Japan, but with his theatre productions he looks far away from the prog field, and looks instead to classic British musicals of the past.
Clive has stated that he feels that this is the first steampunk musical, and has released three short videos to provide just a taste of the show. At the beginning of September some lucky souls could see a performance of 'Alchemy' one night, and then 'King's Ransom' the next. Of course, I was back in NZ by then!! Yet again he has created a masterpiece, and only time will tell if this one gets played as much as the last. Also, he has left the door wide open for a third, and I hope there is enough interest in these for that one also to be written and performed. This is for anyone who enjoys musical theatre, particularly British, or just wants to hear some great songs well performed. This is a masterpiece.