Spirit Of Unicorn Music 2021

Dark Fables

A prominent pair of prog rock’s players cast a last glance at their literary games and retrieve lost chapters from archives.

Their was a strange creative partnership, as Clive Nolan and Oliver Wakeman, two ivories virtuosi, occupy the same niche – not only style-wise, but also instrumentally – yet, against all odds, it happened. Gravitated towards each other thanks to love for music and books, they produced a pair of top-notch albums which, mysteriously, fell though the cracks in time to be fondly remembered by much narrower audience than these works deserve. A chance to remedy the injustice, 2021 saw the release of "Tales By Gaslight": a box set bringing together everything the Englishmen accomplished and fleshing out their achievements in terms of context and surprises from the shelves – in the form of this disc.

Completing the literary circle and issued separately now, the recently uncovered “Dark Fables” should have been the duo’s third platter, one to follow their 1999’s debut “Jabberwocky” and “The Hound Of The Baskervilles” from 2002 and to be just as magnetic. Based on Mary Shelley’s novel but not brought to fruition as a whole, the “Frankenstein” themes are a tad underdeveloped, and even the record’s jointly penned overture isn’t too substantial, focusing on the concept’s atmosphere rather than imagery and concentrating on romantic strands. Wakeman’s “I’d Give You Everything” and Nolan’s “Time Passes” – both sung by Andy Sears – illustrate the point in delicious detail, yet pale in comparison to the tender “The Mirror” where Clive steps up to the microphone, the organ-oiled “Why Do You Hate Me?” that’s voiced with a lot of swagger by Paul Manzi, and “The Wedding Approaches” which is caressed with Gordon Giltrap’s ethereal touch.

Also lighting up the art-rock gloom are pieces unused on “Baskervilles” for obvious reasons. The barrelhouse jive of “221B” and the urban grace of “The Baker Street Irregulars” wouldn’t suit the “Hound” mood even if their merry mischief fit the narrative, and “The Man Called Sherlock” – also from Oliver – was too expository for its sonic splendor to keep the listeners on their toes and too close to what “The Curse” covered, which is why Clive’s contributions appeared to be a better match for the album. Such was the quality of Nolan and Wakeman’s work that they discarded rich melodies like these – a pity the friends’ collaboration didn’t last longer.


December 1, 2021

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