After The Fire - Sign Of Change

Year of Release: 2004
Label: Roughmix Limited
Catalog Number: 985900-3
Format: CD
Total Time: 74:50:00

It must have been Radio Caroline playing something from a band with a rather weird name. I took a piece of paper and jotted down the name After The Fire. However when I finally found some of their albums in a recordshop, the music tended to sound more like new wave as opposed to the more symphonic nature of what I recalled having heard. With albums such as Laser Love, Batteries Not Included and 80-f firmly in my collection, the quest for the album I needed to find commenced. It has taken me decades before I finally was able to hear Signs Of Change. And not only do we talk about the actual album, but about a recently released remastered CD-version containing the full 1977 album augmented with no less than four lengthy bonus tracks (more than 32 minutes worth!) sporting a different bass player and drummer.

On Signs Of Change their keyboard player is still known as Peter Banks but he would soon after change his name to the more tongue-in-cheek Memory Banks. In fact, the nucleus of After the Fire was Peter Banks and Andy Piercy. So almost thirty years onwards this rare vinyl offering finally sees the light of day. Listening to the album to me it remains unbelievable how brave certain bands were right in the middle of the punk explosion. Whilst everyone was self financing their punk single (the ones which now require a small mortgage for an original copy!), After The Fire went one step further and financed a complete album. Even more unfashionable at that time was the heavy use of keyboards. However not so much later Gary Numan would make those synths fashionable again and it is no surprise to hear a band like New Musik getting close to what After the Fire was already producing a couple of years before them.

It has to be said: Signs Of Change is by no means your average prog album. There might be a lot of keyboard and synth passages on the album, but it pretty much remains a straightforward rock album. OK, so maybe "Jigs" is not rock but authentic folk (and the very first After the Fire song to get airplay by the late John Peel), but the rest of the material is very much in your face rock. "Jigs" mainly serves as a taster for the folky intro of the epic "Pilgrim." In fact, whilst the "real" prog outfits were having more people in the band and on stage than they had people in the audience, After the Fire pretty much were a pub band gigging as much as they could. It?s in that respect that I dare to put them on the same level as Canned Rock (just listen to the final part of "Now That I've Found"). The first bars of the album?s opener "Dance Of The Marionette" already gives a clear idea of what this band tries to evoke with their "new wave prog" attitude. Rhythms which until then always had been pretty complex now became more mainstream and secundary to the melody. Peter Banks' Hammond organ will be a very important instrument throughout this album whilst strangely enough also church organ sounds pop up towards the end of the opening song.

With "Back To The Light" the band already brings the kind of music it would later on deliver for CBS, introducing kind of a technical ska before settling for a more Pink Floyd like approach (if this makes at all sense?). The energy of the punk era is copied onto the fierce title track. However in this instrumental the guitars have been replaced by mini-Moog. Although the drumming for "Pilgrim" is rather plain it's mainly the keyboardplaying which turns this track into the epic it has become. Towards the end the sound is a little over modulated which is a shame.

Then it?s time for the bonus tracks and first on the cards is "Samaritan Woman." It strikes me how Andy Piercy's voice contains the kind of vibrato which made Marc Bolan's voice so unique. Again Hammond organ gets a well deserved role here. Although embedded in a very straightforward rock rhythm "Dreamaway" is a well crafted song which should please both the average rock fan as well as the curious prog lover. Especially the Moog solo towards the end should please many fans. The instrumental "Hallelujah" puts Banks' Hammond firmly in the spotlight. The album closes with the demo version for "Back To The Light," which contains a more sedate tempo, says Peter Banks. So all in all value for money but for my taste surely not proggy enough. Mainly the rhythms are too commercial whilst the band is clearly searching in favour of strong melodies. Maybe it?s in that respect that they were referred to as being the next Genesis. No doubt this should read the Genesis-era with Phil Collins taking the lead vocal. Signs Of Change has it?s moments, but most certainly sounds dated putting forward the kind of music which fuses new wave with prog touches. Instead of forking out huge amounts of money though, this CD will make sure you can put a slice of British rock history in your collection for a decent price.

Dance Of The Marionette (7:) / Back To The Light (4:30) / Now That I've Found (8:10) / Signs Of Change (8:04) / Jigs (2:58) / Pilgrim (11:22) / Bonus tracks: Samaritan Woman (11:01) / Dreamaway (9:50) / Hallelujah (6:31) / Back To The Light (Demo) (5:09)

Ivor Twidell - drums
Andy Piercy - vocals, acoustic and eectric guitars, tambourines
Nick Battle - bass, violin, vocals
Peter Banks - Hammond C3, mini-Moog, Crumar Multiman, piano, vocals

Signs Of Change (1978/2004)
Laser Love (1979)
80-f (1980)
Batteries Not Included (1982)
Der Kommissar (1982?)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: February 27th 2005
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 1379
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]