Credo - Rhetoric,
Just to let you all know the score between me and this band, at one time in their career I was getting gigs for them and assisting them with promotion etc. I was there the night when the contract with Cyclops Records was signed for 'Field Of Vision', and this album followed only eleven years later in 2005. Originally released by F2 Music, it was then reissued by then band themselves in 2013 as a digipak with an additional track, namely a demo mix of “Skintrade”.
Singer Mark Colton and I first got in touch with each other when he was with Casual Affair: when that band broke up I then wrote the newsletter for his next band Freewill, and when he joined Chequered Past (later renamed Credo) I started following them around as well. When I got married only two people knew in advance as they were the witnesses, and one of these was Mark. Many years later I was asked by Mark and his wife Elaine to be godfather to their younger son, and I even traipsed out to see him one night front a folk-rock band called Phyre!
So, there you have it.
Eleven years is a long time for any band to produce their second album, during which time more than a few things have happened. Musically they brought in Shadowland (and now Landmarq) keyboard wizard Mike Varty which changed their sound, as it meant that Tim Birrell finally had someone to play against (poor old Mik Stovold was never in the same league), while drummer Paul Clarke announced one night after a blinding gig that he was also off and he was replaced by Martin Meads from the aforementioned folk group! The line-up is completed of course by the one and only Jim Murdoch who as well as playing bass also assists Mike with the backing vocals. And then there is Mark, who got married, had two children, and was at one point only thirty minutes from dying. Luckily there were some very clever consultants around that managed to keep him in this world, but there were many who thought that this album would never be completed. Even now, in 2017, he still has health issues and is a long way from being fully fit, but he is singing and very much full of enthusiasm for the band.
It seems many years since I was in the studio listening to Martin lay down the drum tracks with Karl Groom et al, but there again it actually was. Looking at the track listing I recognised many from those heady days playing in Staines and other toilets, but putting it on the player I know that it never sounded like this! This is polished neo-prog that we never hear these days, songs with a meaning, with a singer who can turn on the vitriol when he needs and somehow is also singing better than ever - given what Mark was going through during this process the result is nothing short of incredible, as they produced an album that rated as one of the best of the year, when it came out. But you're biased I hear you cry, and maybe I am, but hopefully those who know me would realise that if I felt that this was under par then I would say so. It just isn't possible to fault this in any way - Mike is an incredible keyboard player as anyone who has seen him will agree. There aren't many who have been chosen by Clive Nolan to fill his own shoes, while Tim Birrell managed to shrug off an approach from Fish who wanted him for his own band, and who is I firmly believe one of the best guitarists around, and is Credo's secret weapon as no-one outside of those who follow the band know who he is! Martin and Jim have a real understanding, nailing the rhythm to the floor either slowly or flying with a passion, and then there is Mark. Mark is probably more of a frontman than just a singer, as he throws himself into every performance with passion, but here he has proved what a bloody good singer he is as well.
Nine songs plus the bonus, with two of them over eleven minutes in length, but the one that I feel must be singled out appears half way through the album and is just under eight minutes long. I was there at The Compasses the night that "The Letter" had its first public airing, the night when the person that it was directed at fled to the toilets in tears. Back then it was full of passion and incredible guitar, but somehow it has now become so much more. If ever a song builds to a climax then this is it, with Mike much more to the fore - giving the song balance, while Jim also changes his bass approach during the song which gives it further depth. There is a polish and togetherness which wasn't there before, with the vocals flowing and providing the background for Mark to vent his passion, his anger. I could rave about these songs - the wonderful intro to "The Game" or the closing masterpiece that is "Seems Like Yesterday", but all the numbers have benefited from a new approach and cleaner, sharper, but also very layered, arrangements.
“Skintrade” was originally a very different song, written and recorded by Freewill, but when Mark was presented with some music one day, he knew he had already written lyrics that would fit perfectly, so plagiarised himself!
If somehow this album passed you by when it was originally released, then now is the time to correct that one. They are now working on their fourth album, and I was listening to some demo tracks when I was over with Mark recently, and am sure that yet again they will surprise a lot of people with their depth and passion. But for now, get this, get the last album ‘Against Reason’, and prepare yourself for the next one.