Various - The Reading Room

Year of Release: 2000
Label: LaBraD'or Records
Catalog Number: LBD 040007
Format: CD
Total Time: 73:05:00

Over the years many compilation albums have been released. Most of the time what you get is a cheaply priced sampler in order to promote the label's output. Occasionally one or two exclusive tracks are added to encourage people to buy the album. It is very rare that a compilation album is made of exclusive tracks. I do remember the album 7 Days Of A Life issued by Musea several years ago and now deleted. This album was based around the seven days of the week and each day was a composition written especially for this project. The artists involved were Kerrs Pink, Halloween, Rousseau, North star, Vermillion Sands, Ezra Winston, Sagrado.

The Dutch LaBraD'Or label has re-adapted this idea and has asked several contemporary artists to write one track especially for this new project. Entitled The Reading Room, the tracks are in fact views of paintings which are hanging in the library. All the people present (the readers) are so hung up in reading their books that they no longer see the beauty of the paintings. Only the guy delivering the books (The Keeper) can really enjoy the paintings and he even has the power to enter into the fantasy world of those paintings.

Apart from the music, Marc Brassé, whose idea this concept is, also narrates the storyline throughout this album. Of course, we all know LaBraD'Or doesn't have the budget to ask Michael Caine or Patrick Stewart to participate. But, I would at least have expected Brassé to put more soul and feeling into his narration, and also to concentrate on his English more, which at times is sort of a combination "Dutch/English." Also I think the entire album should have had alternated tracks like Rick Wakeman's Return To The Centre Of The Earth album, where the odd numbered tracks could have been the storyline and the even tracks the songs themselves. Thanks to the programming capabilities of your CD player, the listener could have decided whether he/she wanted to hear the entire concept or the songs on their own. However, here everything is mixed so you do need to go through the storyline time after time. I mean, what can radio stations do with an album like this, or are there some promo copies made with the songs only?

Marc's singing is much better during the opening track "The Reading Room" where he's helped out by Maarten Huiskamp on guitar. The song has a very strong chorus and loads and loads of dark sounding keyboards. Swedish band Galleon is next. From the moment Göran Fors starts singing I can't help but think about a progressive Simple Minds. This is a wonderful song with outstanding guitar solos, brilliant Mini-Moog interventions, and various atmospheres, including some jazzy piano.

One of the most underrated bands certainly has to be the Italian Night Watch, which I had the pleasure to see live. The charisma, presence, and vocal abilities of singer Simone Rossetti, together with the arrangement, make "The Silent Land" like an outtake from Gabriel-era Genesis. It's damned spooky how close this band gets to the original Genesis sound, making this song the absolute highlight of the entire album and making it worthwhile to purchase the album for this song alone! Strange how though, at the end of the song, it sounds as if part of "Close To The Edge" ("I get up I get down" section) is integrated.

I have never been a big fan of the Australian band Aragon, mainly because of the voice of Les Dougan; however, I have to admit that "The Last Supper," although not an easy subject, is a nice composition, with a good balance between the vocal and instrumental segments.

Because his second album Rainchild scored much better than the debut The Storm Inside, I was, of course, rather curious to hear the contribution of Bert Heinen, better known under the alias of Like Wendy. "The Empress" starts off like a symphonic outtake by ? Soft Cell (the voice sometimes reminds me of Marc Almond) before synths introduce a Kayak-like part. A very lush symphonic piece ending in true Genesis style with Hackett-like guitars.

Ever since I heard the demos for "Stand Up" I knew the British band Final Conflict had more up its sleeve than most of the critics wanted us to believe. Obviously it's a band that is firmly rooted in the neo-progressive genre that has "The Janus" flirting with Marillion-era Fish. Sadly they disappoint me with this one.

Dutch band Maryson has taken the place that in the seventies would have been reserved for the likes of Kayak and Focus. They bring well-balanced rock songs with sufficient symphonic elements to please everyone in prog-land. "Aiden" kicks off rather tame, very classical where build up is concerned. The fragile vocal line would be ideal for the voice of Jon Anderson [a pun? -ed.], as the arrangement really gives enough space for that voice to shine. In fact "Aiden" is made up of two segments. The first is slow and much too long, whilst the second includes some uptempo parts before getting back to the initial start of the song. Maryson should have done all of this in 5 minutes instead of the 10 they use here!

One of my all-time favourites of the new wave of progressive artists certainly has to be Galahad and again here they are the absolute "top-of-the-bill." "The Pleasure House" starts with the typical voice of Stuart Nicholson interspersed with some of the best mellotron I have heard in years (why does Brassé have to start talking here?) and organ. Sadly halfway through the song and also towards the end Brassé continues the storyline, once again really destroying the feel of the song. If I were Galahad, I wouldn't be too pleased to hear how my composition was treated! Let's hope they'll be able to fit that song on a forthcoming Galahad release ? without the twaddle!

"Searching" by Jacob's Ladder is a short song between Brassé guitarist Maarten Huiskamp and singer/flutist Roger Wilms, resulting in one of the less interesting songs on this album.

A final highlight has to be found in the form of the instrumental "Getting The Picture" by Cliffhanger. Fans will be delighted to hear that after the demise of the band, the original members have decided to get back together again and this is their first recording after a long absence on the scene. The song really promises for the future as this is prog at its best but alas too short!

So all in all The Reading Room is not a bad album, but the way it is presented is, in a way, a bit egotistical. OK, it's Brassé's work but he has to put his stamp on everything by means of the ongoing narration. The idea is fine, the choice of the artists is fine (bar one or two mishaps), but as mentioned before, the CD should have been banded so YOU the listener could finally decide what you want for your money: the story, the songs or the complete package.

Brass? - 'The Reading Room' (10:11) / Galleon -'The Private Space' (8:09) / Night Watch - 'Silent Land' (6:48) / Aragon - 'The Last Super' (8:10) / Like Wendy - 'The Empress' (6:32) / Final Conflict - 'The Janus' (7:48) / Maryson - 'Aiden' (10:19) / Galahad - 'The Pleasure House' (9:46) / Jacob's Ladder - 'Searching' (4:12) / Cliffhanger - 'Getting The Picture' (2:30)

The Night Watch
Like Wendy
Final Conflict
Jacob's Ladder


Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin VA

Added: March 1st 2000
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 1000
Language: english


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