Tangent, The - Songs From The Hard Shoulder

Kev Rowland

Celebrating 20 years in the business, The Tangent returned in 2022 with their twelfth studio album, and although they historically suffered with line-up changes this one has been together for some time now so band leader/singer/keyboard player Andy Tillison is again joined by Jonas Reingold (bass), who also plays with the Steve Hackett Band, Luke Machin (guitar - Francis Dunnery's It Bites), Theo Travis (sax & flute - Soft Machine, Dave Gilmour, Robert Fripp) and Steve Roberts (drums - David Cross). Although the UK edition has an additional track, more of that later, the main album comprises four songs, of which three are 17-minute plus epics, all quite different from each other, while the last is 4-minute bouncy Motown-style track, "Wasted Soul".

For the most part there is no doubt this is an excellent album, but in some ways it seems strange that The Tangent started life with musicians from The Flower Kings as there are times I am reminded of them, and not necessarily in a good way. Although the songs have great structures and wonderful playing there are times when it feels as if they are searching for ideas. In opener “The Changes”, which is about COVID times there is one instance where we get a line from “Eleanor Rigby”, another when they start playing what sounded like the old advertising music one used to hear in cinemas, and another when the harmony vocals are all going “la la la”. That probably makes it seem as if I did not enjoy the album, but that is not the case at all as there is a great deal going for it here with wonderful intricacy and melodic themes which come and go from a band who adamantly refuse to set themselves any boundaries. When it comes off, which it does for the most part, with “GPS Vultures” being a case in point (a 17 minute long Canterbury style instrumental) it is a masterpiece, but one wishes there had been a few instances when someone from outside had asked why they were going down a certain path.

Early editions and the vinyl version include a bonus track, a cover of UK’s "In The Dead Of Night". I believe that UK have in many ways become one of the forgotten bands of the prog scene, which is nothing short of criminal as they were stunning, and I hope this extended and changed version gets newer proggers into their music. For all its faults this is still an incredibly solid album showing that even after two decades The Tangent continue to show many others what needs to be done. One for all progheads to enjoy.

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