Tantalus - Jubal

Year of Release: 2000
Label: Headline
Catalog Number: HDL504
Format: CD
Total Time: 73:21:00

John Wetton and Paul Carrack. These are two of the most prominent elements in Tantalus' sound. Tantalus are Bob Leek on vocals and acoustic guitars, Tim Day on lead guitars, Max Hunt and Gerlinde Hunt on keyboards, percussion, and vocals, Damien Slowey on drums and percussion, and Jason Tilbrook on fretted/fretless bass, mandolin, balalaika, and 12-string guitar. The band's name is derived from the Greek word "to tantalize." Also, of course, a figure in Greek mythology. The album's title Jubal is named after "an early descendant of Adam & Eve, whom the Bible states was the father of all musicians," according to the press release that accompanied this disk. The liner notes quote a passage from Genesis 4:20-21 that names "Jubal [as...] the father of all whom play harp and flute." No harps or flutes are to be heard here, though. Where "jubal" actually comes in is in the word "jubilant" (which is from a Latin term, but I don't half wonder if they didn't have that in mind as well as they were coming up with titles). At times it is like you are listening to Mike and the Mechanics, especially during "Gasp (Gasp, Silk On A Cloud, Reaching For Life)." I thought of "Another Cup Of Coffee" (Beggar On A Beach Of Gold) and of a Squeeze track as well (the title of which eludes me). The "jubilant" part here comes at the end, in the "Reaching For Life" segment which seems just so darn upbeat you can't help but be caught up.

Overall, in this album's mix you will also hear swirly, lyrical keyboards; atmospheric transitions between/within songs; soaring Rothery-like guitar lines ... you get the idea. Now, if you know me, you know that I like this album, but having been listening to a lot of things with a little more edge to their sound, this seems a little too pleasant and sweet to me -- overall. There are some dark undertones during "Time Will Tell" where we hear some throaty guitar and bass. Basically, if you think of any "neo-prog" band that has come of the UK in the last 20 years or so, you've got a handle on Tantalus. They aren't doing anything that you haven't heard before - stylistically and structurally. So, the progressive term has to be applied here in terms of genre rather than mechanics (those of the non-Mike variety, of course). You will also hear some elements of latter period of Yes in the music as well. "When You Turn" is a track that has a Yes like rhythm and vibe, but Wetton like vocals. "Route Forty Nine (Part One)" is a lively, yet poppy, instrumental. Grinding guitars give it a slight edge, but the frantically swirling keys, give it a light quality. Day's guitar solo two-thirds through the piece is so like Rothery, it took me back to Rothery's own work on Marillion's Misplaced Childhood and Clutching At Straws. If there's a fault in this piece, it that it seems hurriedly concluded, where the elated guitar solo section is stopped suddenly, giving way to a mellower, pastoral passage which ends the track.

The production on this disk is quite good - giving lots of room to each instrument. One must also credit the musicians for giving each other space as well. Tantalus have a smooth, full sound that is on par with some of the better known names in this genre. And the performances are quite good, as well. The band mesh well and everything flows well together excepting a couple of quick stops (as mentioned above) that make some pieces hurried toward their end. Sitting back and letting those develop a little more would be a suggestion for their next album. Half of the albums 12 tracks are under six minutes; the rest are, of course, over 6 minutes, including the 10 minute closing track "Now's The Time." This phrase is echoed in the liner notes, as they contain a message about how we need to think of ourselves in regards to our environment - not just the air we breathe, but the whole package. We are a part of the universe in which we live, not outside of it. It's the kind of philosophy behind bio-preserves that don't just try to save the wildlife in an area, but everything in that biosphere -- trees, plants, insects, etc. (the best alternative to zoos in my opinion). One wants to mention Asia here, mainly because of the repeated phrase at the beginning of "only time will tell" (referring back to the earlier track here as well) and the Wetton like vocals. The Asia feeling is apt for other reasons, as this has the same kind of feeling that "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes" has. What I also thought of was a track off of Genesis very last studio album Calling All Stations, that track being "Alien Afternoon." "Now's The Time" has the same kind of hazy atmosphere that creates tension, as you aren't sure where things will go next. This is really good track, subtle in some ways, very understated, and yet beautiful.

Another track to mention is the epic "Footprints (Walk Alone, Moment In Time)." Lyrical keyboard work, big sound, guitar solos ... all the hallmarks of a track expected in this genre. Tantalus can stand right next to some of those bigger names in this genre, and not just because they sound like some of the bigger names of the genre. I find it refreshing to hear this kind of music since the bands that were making it have moved on elsewhere -- one might say progressed elsewhere, or just moved to a more "mainstream" style. Other tracks that caught my ear: "Neon City," which begins with a strident keyboard passage and a keening guitar (I thought of Egdon Heath) and becomes a harder edged rocker with a slight street-wise kind of strut -- the kind of song with "single" potential. It is, in a fashion, a typical track for this band -- a cheerful and upbeat arrangement, rich with instrumentation. "Night Flight" is a darker track, where drums come to forefront. Asia will come to mind here most definitely, though interestingly, Leek sounds more like Steve Hogarth than John Wetton (or, since Wetton has long been out of Asia, unlike John Payne).

As I'm finding more to like with each listen, I can recommend this without hesitation.

[This title is no longer available through Headline; according to the label the band is now signed to, The Ninth Cloud. {Juy 2010: it seems even that label has folded; CDs appear available through Tantalus' website} -ed.]

Better Promise (3:53) / When You Turn (6:53) / Route Forty Nine (Part One) (4:48) / Dance Me A Song (5:47) / Neon City (5:42) / Peas And Queues (3:56) / Night Flight (6:58) / Gasp (Gasp, Silk On A Cloud, Reaching For Life) (9:32) / Sun Quay (2:42) / Time Will Tell (6:25) / Footprints (Walk Alone, Moment In Time) (6:04) / Now's The Time (10:00)

Bob Leek - vocals and acoustic guitars
Tim Day - lead guitars
Max Hunt - keyboards, percussion, programming, and vocals
Gerlinde Hunt - keyboards, percussion, and vocals
Damien Slowey -drums and percussion
Jason Tilbrook - fretted/fretless bass, mandolin, balalaika, and 12-string guitar

Smoking Angels (1994)
Short Stories (1996/2002)
Jubal (2000)
Lumen Et Caligo I (2002/2004)
Lumen Et Caligo II (2004)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: March 9th 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.tantalus.co.uk
Hits: 1126
Language: english


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