We all have musical regrets, of not seeing bands we should have in concert, and for the life of me I still cannot understand how I never got around to see Motörhead (even though I did interview Lemmy and Phil), while not seeing the classic Thin Lizzy line-up is understandable in some ways given my age at the time. But the one which bugs me more than any other is Twelfth Night, for the simple reason that I was working in London when they were at their peak, and just never heard of them (thanks mass music media). By the time I had fallen in love with their music they were no more, and with Clive Mitten living in Australia a reformation was not on the cards. Pretty much the same time I moved to New Zealand, Clive came back to the UK and there were a series of concerts with different line-ups, and I was mortified that I missed them a second time around as well!
Fast forward to 2018 and Clive decided to pull together a band to re-record some TN numbers as well as new instrumentals, all demonstrating the issue with the media of today. Mark Spencer, who became a member of the later versions of Twelfth Night (and is now in Galahad) provides lead vocals on the opening track, as well as guitar, drummer Fudge Smith (Pendragon) is here, as is Geoff Mann’s son, James, who provides lead vocals on the last track, while Stephen Bennett provides keyboards and piano. Clive of course does everything else.
Twelfth Night were ahead of their time with ‘Fact and Fiction’, the most important progressive album of the 80’s, with “We Are Sane” a sad indictment of society with lyrics that when written were worrying about a dystopian future fictional society yet these days is sadly much more a comment on the current political scene in all parts of the world, but especially in the UK and USA. The following words hit me hard the first time I heard them some 30 years ago, and are so very true indeed, “If the thought processes of an individual can be permanently limited to the point of strict conformity to an outside source of thought, the said individual need no longer be considered as such. The enforcement of order becomes possible for anybody with enough power to control what is projected.” Here the song has been retitled “The Fifth Estate – Part One” and is played in a manner that is obviously like the original as Clive not only wrote the music but also played bass and keyboards first time round, but it has been given a slightly different feel. It is not a group attempting to recreate what Geoff, Andy, Brian, and Clive did all those years ago but instead they make it their own. I love it, but am also aware that the original is one I have played a great deal, so is it just that I am such a fan of Twelfth Night that I cannot unlink that? Possibly, but I don’t think so.
Twelfth Night were always adept at producing long instrumental passages, or instrumental songs, but given they started off without a singer and for various periods did not have one that is hardly surprising. The three instrumentals all work well when considered in relationship to the bookend songs, and in some ways, this is when we are closest to the original band, as Clive has written the arrangements in such a manner as if it was still Twelfth Night involved, which means that in some ways it feels as if it is the first brand new material from them in many years.
We end with “This City Is London”, which is more keyboard-oriented than the original, and it is quite strange to hear it being sung by James. When he is softer, he is quite different to his father, but when he lets rips in the chorus, he is very reminiscent indeed and any fan of the Mann would easily pick that out. This is a great album that any fan of Twelfth Night will thoroughly enjoy, and the only question really is what would be next?