Bumnote Records/Twelfth Night Records [Release date 02.04.21]
I have to say the band Twelfth Night have completely passed me by. I’ve known vaguely their name but never really investigated their music, that is until the arrival of a new double-CD from founder member Clive Mitten.
The band have their origins in that dawn of so-called neo-progressive rock in the 1980s along with bands such as Pendragon, Pallas and Jadis.
They can perhaps best be termed a collective with band members changing regularly over the years although retaining the core of guitarist Andy Revell and Brian Devoil on drums. Some gaps in the history when the band went on hiatus have not helped continuity or consistency either. Mitten left the band in early 1987.
The band’s first major landmark was an appearance at the Reading Festival in August 1983 but a major label signing eluded them until 1986 and that didn’t last long.
More recently the band have reformed with Mitten and Andy Sears (vocals, guitar) but to complicate things the core members called themselves The Cryptic Clues.
‘Suite Cryptique’ follows this later incarnation if only in titling. Clive Mitten has used Lockdown to revisit some of the earlier pieces in a classical style. There are reworkings of ‘Live At The Target’ (originally released in 1981), Fact And Fiction (1982) and Live (And Let Live) (1984) and the two key pieces ‘The Collector’ (1983) and Creepshow (1983).
As Mitten says, this is not a covers album but more a re-imagining. As a Twelfth Night novice I can’t comment on how these arrangements differ from the originals but I can approach it as many will: an orchestral album that stands on its own merits.
And for both the uninitiated and the converted he provides illuminating liner notes on his approach, even if out of sequence. For the former, it might have been better to have separated out the various song constituents on the actual CD (and reflected in the track listing) whilst still maintaining the pieces’ continuity.
No real orchestra players were harmed in the making of this epic production, and it is a real credit to Mitten and his strings and “gin consultant” Jane Mann (widow of early Twelfth Night vocalist Geoff Mann whose painting adorns the cover) that he achieves a very natural soundscape.
The overall effect is very tuneful and stirring in equal measures and widescreen in execution. In fact at times the depth and feel harks back to that very English of composers Vaughan Williams, although Mitten is actually influenced by modern classicists as much as the Bachs and the Beethovens. But be prepared for surprises; there’s a touch of Lalo Schifrin in the piece ‘Live (and Let Live)’ which ultimately emerges as the lost soundtrack to some Hollywood spy movie.
I am sure, as with many of these projects, it will have punters looking up the website and finding out more about this band through the ages. And the website also gives access to a rich heritage of live and studio material, from the earliest days. Another excuse to unload that pent up Lockdown cash, but only after a quite wonderful two-hour listen. *****
Review by David Randall
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