Clive Nolan is one of the greatest musicians in the modern Progressive Rock music scene. His name is involved in a rather big number of bands or projects, such as Pendragon, Arena, Casino, Shadowland and others. However, as Clive told me once, he has always been a great fan of musicals. In 2008 he released his first musical named as “She”, under the name Caamora. (The story was based on the book with the same name, written by H. Rider Haggard). His second musical was “Alchemy” and it was released in 2013 under his name this time. The plot took place in Victorian England in the “Alchemy Universe”, and it was based on a fictional story, written by Clive himself.
When I bought “Alchemy”, I couldn’t believe how wonderful it was, and I have no idea how many times I listened to it! (Even today, it still is one of my most beloved albums of the last decade). When I learned about “King’s Ransom”, which is the sequel of “Alchemy”, I wasn’t very surprised, mainly due to the fact that at the end of “Alchemy” there was a hint that the story could be continued in the future. I was also a little bit worried, because “Alchemy” was a really great album and I wasn’t sure if he could repeat something like that again. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded…
I pre-ordered "King’s Ransom", and what I received was a box set, including 4 CD’s, 1 DVD and 3 booklets. A very impressive and expensive production as it seems. Now, let’s take a look at the album itself. It is divided in 2 parts (Act I & Act II), and includes 33 tracks in total. Don’t forget that it's not a Progressive Rock album, it’s a musical. For the recordings of the album, Clive used 6 musicians and 11 singers who play the characters of the story. In comparison with “Alchemy”, I think that “King’s Ransom” is more sophisticated and a bit “darker”. The music is astonishing once more, and it changes according to the situations that the characters find themselves in. As for the performance of the singers, it is excellent on most occasions. (But that’s totally a matter of personal taste).
I will not get into details for each song separately, because that is an unfair thing to do. The songs follow a story line, and each of them has something to offer to the story. Therefore, there might be some songs not as “strong” as the others, but they add something and they move the story forward. Also, I enjoyed the dialogues that bind the songs together, because it gives a theatrical touch to the album.
Despite the fact that I put the CD’s in my CD player and listen to them without skipping - not even one song, there are some songs that I enjoy more than others. Some of them are the following: Act I: “Poison Runs the Course”, “Silent Army”, “The Deal is Made”, “Legend of the Unicorn Orchid”, and of course the wonderful “Solitary Man”, with the fantastic voice of Gemma Ashley. (Goosebumps. Every time!) Act II: “In Harm’s Way”, “Stand Fast”, “Turning the Tables”, “St Paul’s” and “Epilogue”.
I will conclude this review by saying that, “King’s Ransom” is a definite must-have for every fan of Clive Nolan, but not only for them. Every person can enjoy this, because it is definitely a serious piece of art! I don’t know about you, but I know I am going to enjoy it for a long long time. And as Clive Nolan writes in the first page of the booklet: “Turn the lights down, and the speakers up… and immerse yourself once more in the ‘Alchemy Universe’… My rating: 5 solid stars without a second thought.
A review by George Eleftheriou (Prog'n'Roll Radio, Greece)
Artwork by Mark Buckingham