Lands End’s sixth album release is a double CD affair,
also being the one hundred and forty second release on the Cyclops label.
Cyclops is a very apt name for this record label as it is completely one eyed
about the sort of music it releases. If it is not progressive rock it will not
be on the Cyclops label.
‘Lands End’ fit the category of progressive rock
perfectly; the music can be best described as mind expanding. The band came
together under the ‘Lands End’ banner in 1992 when Fred Hunter joined Mark
Lavalle in his band and forged an immediate song writing partnership. By 1993
mercurial guitarist Francisco ‘Kiko’ Neto and vocalist Jeff McFarland had
been brought in to the band, and the way was clear for what should have been a
startling successful career in rock music.
By 1998, however, although the albums were selling well,
with all the band members having young families it was still necessary for all
the band members to ply their trade in other fields apart from music to keep
roof over head and bread on the table. This meant in some cases relocation, so
geographically ‘Lands End’ ceased to exist, although all of the parts
remained friends, all four putting parts onto Fred Hunter’s next musical
project ‘Transience’ releasing ‘Sliding’ (1999) and ‘Primordial’
(2003). Both were good albums, but again without much live representation, they
were not exactly setting the charts alight.
Now, miraculously seven years after all the four members of
‘Lands End’ were in one room together, we get a new ‘Lands End’ album,
with Fred Hunter coordinating everything from his home base whilst the others
literally phone their parts in. Do not be put off by this as they still sound
like a very tight unit, and you would never know when listening to this album
that it had taken five years to come to fruition, and had been recorded in such
diverse places as Yeovil UK, Las Vegas Nevada USA, and Rio de Janeiro Brazil.
Originally supposed to be a single CD, Malcolm Parker
managed to persuade Fred Hunter to add a bonus CD onto the original ‘The
Lower Depths’. The second CD is called ‘Plundering The Depths’.
It is without doubt the best ‘Lands End’ album so far.
There are a few changes that have occurred over the years, but this has been
made an advantage. When certain musicians were not available to do their parts
friends were brought in to fill the gaps, and this has only added to the depth
and texture of the music.
After a little dabbling with ‘An Accident’ which opens
the album up, we get the first epic ‘Digital Signatures’, a Hunter/Lavallee
song, which has all the trademarks of ‘Lands End’. The other two musicians
on the song are Bruce Soord from ‘Vulgar Unicorn’ and ‘Pineapple Thief’
on lead guitar, and the amazing voice of Cathy Alexander from folk/rock band
‘The Morrigan’ on lead vocals. Cathy Alexander sings on ‘Digital
Signatures’ which clocks in at over fourteen minutes long and on ‘The Lower
Depths’ major epic ‘A New World Order’ which comes in at over twenty four
minutes, so you get nearly forty minutes of Cathy Alexander’s dulcet velvet
tones for your buck. That alone is worth the money for this CD.
As Cathy Alexander’s voices drifts off after the opener,
next up is more familiar territory with Jeff McFarland taking over vocal
duties, whilst Mark Lavalee puts the sticks to the drums. A drummer always has
a better time the more pomp and circumstance there is to the music, and let me
tell you that Mark Lavalee is really enjoying making these recordings. You can
hear his smile coming out of the grooves.
Meanwhile, Fred Hunter plays all the other instruments on
this song. ‘Why Should I?’ is the first contribution from Francisco Neto on
the album, although he still does not make a musical entrance as he does not
play a note. Instead he co-wrote the song with Jeff McFarland, who does not
appear on the song either, as it is sung in plaintive terms by Bruce Soord.
Certainly no clash of egos between these progressive rockers, what ever sounds
‘Hope Springs’ eternal is a great ‘Lands End’ song
sung by Jeff McFarland. Still, no guitar work from Francisco Neto though. To
make up for this the epic ‘A New World Order’ features the guitar work of
Steve Anderson. Steve Anderson is the axe slinger in ‘Sphere3’ and was also
in ‘Grey Lady Down’. To hear more of Steve Anderson’s wall flattening
guitar work have a listen to the ‘Grey Lady Down’ live album ‘The Time Of
Our Lives’ (1998).
To close the first CD is a nice little Jeff McFarland song,
a fitting close.
The second CD, ‘Plundering the Depths’, starts off with
one of two songs brought out and dusted off from the Lands End scrap book:
‘Eyes Of Venus’ (1995) and ‘This Addiction’ (1996). In between is a
good ‘Lands End’ rocker ‘Indoctrinated’, again featuring Steve Anderson
There is also a little bit of nonsense called ‘The
Philosophy Of Containers 2’ which takes longer to read than it does to listen
too, clocking in at just 23 seconds. Quite the reverse of the last number,
‘Acquiesce To The Martinets Precept’, which thunders in at fifty three
minutes. Every facet of ‘Lands End’ and progressive rock are shown off
during this time. If people say music cannot be fascinating, have a listen to
this, there are so many colours, shades, emotions and depths to this music that
it bears repetitive listening.
It also ably demonstrates why the rest of the band were
quite happy to wait for Francisco Neto to send his guitar parts. At times here
his guitar playing is simply jaw dropping. A fitting climax to a marvellous
If you would like to know more about Cyclops and its mail
order service GFT, please look up their very extensive website at
www.gft-cyclops.co.uk. Their delivery service is the fastest in the west.