It must be the most unusual record Ken Hensley ever came up with. A poet himself, the veteran artist didn’t work with other people’s lyrics, but he was inspired by the verses Russian businessman Vladimir Emelin showed him on a plane from Spain to Moscow and wrote an entire album based on translations. Titled “My Book Of Answers” and recorded during quarantine, this was the project Ken took immense pride in and talked about it shortly before his untimely passing. And now it’s ready for release: Hensley’s last opus will see the light of day on March 5th, 2021.
It was with elation – and anticipation, too – that the rock community accepted the recent news on the forthcoming release of The Keith Emerson Tribute Concert as a Blu-ray / 2CD set on March 11th, 2021, the fifth anniversary of the legendary artist. The event which took place on May 28, 2016 gathered a stellar line-up of his friends and admirers, many of whom had played with Emerson, among them such luminaries as Brian Auger, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and Eddie Jobson as well as Steve Lukather and Jordan Rudess, plus his solo group featuring Marc Bonilla, the gig’s driving force. They delivered a heady brew of classics associated with Keith, combined into a 2.5-hour extravaganza.
It was exactly 21 years ago that I published my first interview with Ken Hensley, having contacted him much earlier, so it looks like our friendship lasted for about a quarter of a century – more than a half of my life and a third of his. A third – because Ken has passed away yesterday, on November 4th, at the age of 75. It’s hard to believe Hensley’s not out there anymore, because he’s always been quick to answer – no matter what my emails to him were about. I remember sending him a Christmas card from, of all places, Internet cafe in Bethlehem (that Bethlehem!) and receiving his reply before I left the place. This is the Ken I knew and loved: a humble person who admitted, “I have never learned to read or write music so I am not a virtuoso musician. I just developed my own crazy style!” And that was a highly influential style – as were Hensley’s melodies and lyrics, covered among us by contemporaries like Ritchie Blackmore.
Punk rock may have faded in and out of public favor but one of the genre’s originators, England’s own THE VIBRATORS, never disappeared from the face of the earth. Last heard on 2019’s Yuletide romp among other artists – delivering the hilarious “Santa Had To Go Into Rehab” – the veterans not only regrouped recently to get back to the band’s initial line-up but also reunited with a legend who helped them kickstart it all in 1976. Then, almost four and a half decades ago, the quartet – singing guitarist Knox, six-stringer John Ellis, bassist Pat Collier and drummer Eddie, who remained the keeper of the flame through the years, – backed Chris Spedding both on-stage and in the studio, playing on his “Pogo Dancing” single. Spedding facilitated the collective’s signing with Mickie Most’s RAK Records – and now Spedding co-stars on their new album, scheduled to hit the shelves on November 20th.
There’s a lot to be said about COLOSSEUM but what’s rarely mentioned is this ensemble’s intellectual foundation that, together with mind-boggling musicianship, was one of the reason they were able to improvise to an extent where none of the band’s concert sounded the same as the performances which preceded and followed it. That’s why, with a single live album releases during the collective’s original run of the late ’60s – early ’70s and a smattering of on-stage recordings added to the reissues such as "Valentyne Suite" – as well as the recent flurry of archival tapes made available on Repertoire – the demand for more documents from the past doesn’t seem to diminish. As an answer, the aforementioned German label will issue a 6CD box set at the end of October, titled “Transmissions: Live At The BBC” and comprising the group’s gigs for the Beeb.