Album review: TWELFTH NIGHT – Smiling At Grief…Revisited

TWELFTH NIGHT - Smiling At Grief...Revisited

Twelfth Night [Release date 01.04.22]

The cottage industry that is Twelfth Night continues.  The band haven’t been active live since 2014 and some would say that their best work was done with vocalist/lyricist Geoff Mann in the early 1980s.

The passage of time gives a great opportunity to revisit former glories, and the band have a thriving web store offering definitive versions of their albums plus the usual rare and previously unreleased.

Their recorded history takes in early cassette tapes, four studio and four live albums and a myriad of archive releases and solo offshoots.

This latest re-evaluation was originally just a clutch of demos prior to their first “proper” album ‘Fact And Fiction’ (1982) when two tracks ‘This City’ and ‘Creepshow’ were duplicated.

Those demos – previously available on the 2009 ‘Definitive Edition’ – are now put in the hands of a variety of current progsters.

So Steven Wilson, who apparently has been influenced by the band, has remixed four tracks whilst others (such as Karl Groom of Threshold and Rob Reed of Magenta) have not only remixed but added new parts to the originals.  There are a couple of completely new takes too, with Tim Bowness and Brian Hulse’s version of ‘Makes No Sense’ and a similar cover by Mark Spencer.

And what of the music?  Twelfth Night are described as a neo-prog band, putting them in the company of early Marillion (to whom they have sometimes been compared) and bands like Pallas and IQ. The band were evidently influenced by early prog pioneers like Genesis and Pink Floyd (the 11-minute instrumental ‘Fur Helene Part II’ here reinterpreted by Dean Baker is like Mike Oldfield’s take on ‘Interstellar Overdrive’).

The band also owe something to new wave/punk bands of the late 1970s, early 1980s such as Joy Division with Mann’s vocal inflections and Rick Battersby/Clive Mitten’s synth patterns.  Mann also reminds of classic Peter Hammill in Van Der Graaf Generator.  An acquired taste, definitely.

The nearly men of neo-prog, this well annotated compendium will be of most interest to hardcore fans.  ***

Review by David Randall

Album review (Clive Mitten, 2021)

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