I’d heard recently that a certain Mr. Scabies was providing the drums for ex-Ant/Wolfmen bassist and singer Chris Constantinou’s new project. Having played The Wolfmen’s albums to death previously, this was bound to be interesting.
It is a side-step in retro sounds, to these ears. Most musicians ape the 60s, but this is firmly in the “90s take on psychedelia” territory. Hang on! That’s not as bad as it sounds. While Chris didn’t play on Adam Ant’s ‘Wonderful’ album from 1995, tracks like ‘Beautiful Losers’ and ‘Definition’ wouldn’t sound out of place there. He’s learnt something from the backing vocals, for sure. ‘Rain’ is woozy, psyche-pop, with the effortless basslines we’d expect.
‘Kings X Guru’ has Rat providing the groovy, Beatles rhythms. ‘Andy’s Wonder World’, musically at least, reminds me of The Dowling Poole’s more laid back moments. ‘Kill Me If You Love Me’ is more chorus friendly, while ‘2% Out’ could see you frugging round the sofa with your maracas, man.
It certainly has a character, as an album, and Chris obviously knows what he wants. I’d have liked a few more uptempo songs, but that isn’t really what this is about. ‘I Like Sex In The Suburbs’ is what Liam G should be singing, and ‘Gerry’s Ashes’ is reminiscent of ‘Floodland’ era Sisters. So, an interesting set of songs, if you’re in a mellower mood.
I hate concept albums as the 16 year Punk Rock Kid inside of me still thinks of some Prog Bloke in a Wizard’s Hat and Cloak stabbing his keyboards, which takes up the space of a fitted wardrobe, with a large Kitchen knife whilst the drummer enters the 20thminute of his half hour drum solo. Right, now that’s out of the way; my favourite Bass Player ever is Paul Gray who found fame with Eddie and the Hot Rods, The Damned, UFO and erm Andrew Ridgley. One of my three all time favourite Drummers is Rat Scabies who fortunately played on the ground breaking Damned albums “The Black Album” and “Strawberries” with the aforementioned Paul Gray. So when the news broke earlier this year that once more Scabies and Gray would be joining up with Alfie Agnew (Adolescents, D.I.) and Sean Elliott (D.I., Mind Over Four) for the follow up to the Professor and the Madman’s “Disintegrate Me” album I reached for the Box of Kleenex. However, my hand hovered as the words “Concept album” was banded about. Of course the middle-aged me knows that any Genre can tackle the idea of a Concept record, Jazz, Blues, Classical and even Punk, but having quality musicians play on analbum doesn’t automatically mean you’ll pull it off, see “Son of Albert” by Andrew Ridgley. “Séance”,is the story relating to a group of mates who hold a séance to say one final farewell to friends who have obviously died,” does manage to pull it off and rather well at that, in the manner of “Sgt Pepper” and “Yellow Submarine.” It does feel as it should be a West End or Broadway Musical, the soundtrack produced by George Martin cue a séance.
“All the lonely Soul” is the brooding intro before the title track introduces us the main characters longing to reconnect with their past and lost loved ones through a séance. “So Long” starts off with a Monkees style intro before we’re taken though a journey of what seems like regret or reflection. Something that does come across throughout the album is the great vocal Harmonies. Alfie and Sean take it in turns in the lead vocal department but it’s the chorus’ that would make Brian Wilson proud. After “So Long” the character in “Real Me” contemplates the Devil on his shoulder. It’s probably the best song the Kinks never wrote. “Child’s Eyes” looks back at how things throughadolescent eyes are so much simpler whilst in adulthood it “Seems like the jokes on each of us”. There are two types of people who play bass; Bass Players and Bass Guitarists. John Entwistle, Lemmy and Paul Gray are Bass Guitarists; they play their instrument as if it was a lead guitar and Paul’s style so fit’s in on “Séance” you couldn’t imagine anyone else doing a better job. “Time Machine”/Man With Nothing To Lose” introduces us to another couple of characters; the Scientist who has had enough of reality and wants to build a time machine to go back to his perceived better era. Now “Time Machine” really screams ‘Musical!!’ I can see in my mind a row of men in blazers and straw boaters jazz handing across the stage, all that is missing is trumpets! A homeless man overhears the Scientist in the more downbeat fairground sounding “Man With Nothing To Lose” and imagines what could be achieved if time travel was possible “We could go back and fix all our mistakes. Build ourselves mansions with the money we’d make.” And “Hit 1980 and go see The Damned” If only, if only! “Two Tickets To The Afterlife” returns to the original character who now finds himself in a Game Show set in Hell with some choice prizes “We’ve Got Thrills, we’ve got pills, we’ve got million dollar bills. We’ve got weed, we’ve got speed, we’ve got everything you need” but they all come with a price. “…Afterlife” is probably the heaviest track on the album. Once off the Game Show our main man now finds himself in front of “The Council of Purgatory” who confuses him with their gentle overtones, almost a Barber Shop quartet? Again I can really see this on the West End Stage.“All The Lonely Souls” is reprised as an instrumental that finishes of the main, first act.
“Greetings From The Other Side” starts the final act with the reawakening of mankind after 2000 years frozen in stasis, with questions and concerns of the album’s protagonist answered by the ‘Forces’ “We did not die, we were never here.” The album ends with “New World” with the ‘Forces’ leading mankind to Utopia, the Garden of Eden, you decide but warning, pleading with us to “take care of your new World, not like the old world and teach the children not to hate, because if you don’t…Maybe we’ll see you again.”
Did I ever tell you I love a good old concept album?
“Séance” by the Professor and the Madman is out on the 13th November on either yellow vinyl, CD or digital Download via Fullertone Records that you can pre-order at www.professorandthemadman.com
This fully restored and expanded set from Woolwich Coronet This 2020 version has been newly remastered and includes several tracks that were left off the original release! Includes all-new artwork with full liner notes and a personal message from drummer Rat Scabies !
Available on both digipak CD and a 2LP vinyl set in your choice of either RED or BLUE vinyl! I had this when it first came out many moons ago and loved it. It captured the band at the time perfectly. whilst they might have been at a commercial career-high the studio albums were a bit beige around the time of MCA but live they still had it and that tour was a blaze of fun.
Expanded to nineteen tracks this is well worth tracking down and getting hold of from the opening keyboards of ‘Curtain Call’ they were on fire. The quality of the recording is good as well not overdubbed nor flat this is a picture of a band living it large and doing it well. As you would expect there is a decent smattering of tracks from ‘Phantasmagoria’ and ‘Shadow Of Love’ particularly sound great. As does the much-maligned ‘Grimly Fiendish’ that I quite enjoy hearing live these days and back in the day or the mid-’80s to be precise it was quite a departure. It seems odd to hear tracks like ‘There’ll Come A Day’ played so fast and full of energy. that tour with The Fuzztones was exceptional and I have such fond memories of Cardiff New Ocean Club.
‘Gun Fury’ makes me smile as does the version of ‘Lust For Life’ 1985 seems like yesterday but its also so long ago. when the Damned could have been and should have been we are left nuggets of pure Gold like this recording to remind us that it doesn’t matter what happened commercially because they were always the best and still are capable of amazing shows and the odd record that ignites a fire inside my heart and it seems odd to hear them end the set with a one two of ‘Disco Man’ Val Doonigan style followed by a rip-roaring slash of ‘Born To Kill’ If only all bands were this good. Don’t think twice just buy it and revel in it. Fiendishly good!