Galahad - Following Ghosts-Expanded Edition,
A while back Stu told me that the band were going to be releasing a special edition of ‘Following Ghosts’ and perhaps I might be interested in saying a few words about it. Of course, I agreed and delved back into the original which for some reason I had not played for some time. Strangely enough, I discovered that even after all these years I still find the introduction to the album charming, and it makes me smile each and every time I play it. I scribbled some thoughts and sent them off, and then some time later a package arrived containing the triple disc set. In some ways this was like reliving the old vinyl days, as there are stacks of information here to read which explain what was going on with the band at the time, a booklet containing snippets of reviews from back then (including yours truly), detailed commentary from both Stu and Dean, as well as my thoughts plus more from Polish reviewer and legend Artur Chachlowski. Then on top of that there is information culled from Andrew Wild’s book and newsletters from back in the day, all to conjure up a picture of what was going on. As for the music? The set includes a remixed and mastered version of the original care of Karl Groom, one CD which contains either remixed alternate versions or brand-new recordings by the current line-up of the band (so this is the first appearance of Mark Spencer on bass), plus a re-mastered version of ‘De-constructing Ghosts’.
To place the album into the context of the time, Galahad were going through a rough period. This was to be their third consecutive CD with a new keyboard player, founder member and guitarist Roy Keyworth had already told everyone this was going to be his last recording, and the band had nearly been destroyed by the painful experience that was ‘Sleepers’. I am sure many bands would have thrown in the towel by then, but Galahad, and Stu and Spencer in particular, have staying power and sheer stubbornness, which has seen them get through many travails – these were not the first, and certainly not the last – but they are still going today, and still releasing wonderful albums.
It is interesting to look at reviews of this album written some time after the fact, as they are incredibly inconsistent with some fairly scathing and others quite positive. But those of us actually writing at the time were all of the same opinion, that Galahad had got past everything and were deliberately moving at speed into new directions. Looking at my review from August 1998 I said, “This is not the same band that produced ‘Nothing Is Written’ and won the Radio 1 Rock Wars. This is a band that has come of age and matured like a fine wine”. Later I said, “Galahad have progressed in the truest sense of the word, with an album that hits many musical bases, and is all the better for it.” More than twenty years later I still stand by those words and listening to this in 2021 it is interesting to realise that unlike their earlier albums this does not sound at all dated. Part of the reason for this is that the guys were really looking to change, which including bringing on board a keyboard player who had no idea at all of what progressive rock was all about, plus using guests, with Sarah Quilter in particular having huge impact. Fast forward to 2018’s ‘Seas of Change’ and there is Sarah still helping out on songs when required, as she has been doing ever since this album, and that new keyboard player is still onboard as well. In fact, Dean set up a studio in his garage and Stu used to go over and work with him on material for this release, something which continues to this day.
Musically this album had a band searching around for the right direction, trying desperately hard to break away from the neo-prog tag which Stu in particular never liked. In bassist Neil Pepper they already had someone interested more in the dance scene, and he wrote and performed “Ocean Blue”, with Stu adding his vocals over the top, and this showed a very different direction as in songs like this they were moving much more into the area of Pet Shop Boys than Genesis. However, the album also contains two songs in excess of fourteen minutes, where Galahad allow themselves to play with dynamics, moving and switching styles, and in “Myopia” they have one of the catchiest chorus hooks ever. Karl Groom has long been recognised as a wizard in production (as well as on guitar), and he has really brought the old songs back to life, providing clear separation for all the instruments which allows us to really enjoy Neil’s bass which switches from complex to simple depending on need, Spencer’s drumming which is always controlled and on point, never overplaying but providing the flourishes when the time is right. Roy’s guitar and Dean’s keyboards are given the right amount of focus, but Galahad are one band where everything is geared towards the vocals, and Stu never disappoints. I have always enjoyed his style, and his control and range are always what the band needs.
Just having the original remastered would be enough for me, but then we have another version of the album as well. This is a mix of new recordings featuring Lee and Mark, plus a few remixed featuring Roy. Here the guys are staying true to the original, but adding a little more sparkle, a little more depth, while staying true to the original. They do not deviate too far away from what was first released but have put their own stamp on it. I guess this would have become a major part of the touring set for 2020 if something had not got in the way, but maybe next year.
Then we have the re-mastered ‘De-constructing Ghosts’, which is probably one of the most controversial releases from a prog band in the last 20+ years. A throwaway comment in a studio led to Stu handing over a bag of DAT tapes, allowing different people (including Dean and Neil) to use the album as a basis and then create something totally different in the dance space. Some of the tracks keep much of Stu’s vocals and little else, while others are almost impossible to tie back to any of the songs on the album. At the time Galahad released it as a separate album, under the name Galahad Electric Company (keeping it separate both from the band and also their previous side project, Galahad Acoustic Quintet), and it was not exactly a resounding success. Many applauded Galahad for trying to do something different, while not enjoying the final version. I must confess I am the same and can honestly say that playing it for this review was the first time since I played it to review when it was originally released. It is not a style of music I understand or enjoy, yet at least Galahad were trying to push the envelope.
This is an album that is often overlooked in the Galahad canon, as it is the one between ‘Sleepers’ and ‘Year Zero’, but hopefully this extensive reissue will do something to correct those wrongs. I have certainly been playing it a great deal, and it is something that fans of their more recent albums really should go back and discover.