Clive Nolan – Song Of The Wildlands

Posted: 050921

Review Erik Neuteboom

For me 60 years old, very prolific Clive Nolan is the ‘Rick Wakeman Of The Neo Progressive Rock Movement’, since his work with Pendragon and then a wide range of bands and projects from Arena, Caamora, Strangers On A Train and Shadowland to Nolan & Wakeman and Nick Barrett & Clive Nolan. He is also the founding member of The Caamora Theatre Company, formed to produce and perform the Clive Nolan musicals. And now, Autumn 2021, Clive Nolan has delivered his latest effort entitled Song Of The Wildlands, I found this on the Internet about his inspiration.

Autumn 1982. The young Clive Nolan (he was then 21) attended a Marillion concert in London. Impressed by the epic song 'Grendel, he declares: "One day, these guys are going to work with me", and he was partly right - Arena was created 13 years later with the drummer of the time, Mick Pointer. Grendel inspired him to write the track Loki, as soon as he returned from the gig. In spring 2021, the same Clive Nolan, after many projects, published Song Of The Wildlands, an adaptation of a major epic poem of the Anglo-Saxon literature (VIIth century), which puts in scene a warrior become king after having overcome a formidable monster: Grendel. The circle is closed.

Clive Nolan during an interview : “When I decided I wanted to write what I was calling a ‘Viking Album’, I was aware that I didn’t want to just storm in and grab some piece of Norse mythology or Viking history. It would be too easy for me to be accused of ‘cultural appropriation’! However, it occurred to me that England has one of its own great Viking tales… ‘The Beowulf Saga’. This is the oldest known written poem from English history, and provides and epic tale of heroes and villains, angels and monsters, battles and journeys. It seemed to me to be the perfect piece of literature: I have always had a love of classic literature, and this is a true classic.”

Most of the 15 tracks contain bombastic atmospheres featuring majestic orchestral keyboards, a 200-voice choir singing in Anglo-Saxon (old English) and propulsive drums, blended with narration (Ross Andrews), several pleasant female vocals (including Christina Booth from Magenta) and the voice of Beowolf (Ryan Morgan). To me it sounds like a bridge between a solo album by Rick Wakeman and the soundtrack of fantasy movies like Lord Of The Rings. Some compositions sound more mellow, often with strong folky hints, due to the distinctive instrumentation, like harp and flute. Clive Nolan has succeeded to create Medieval-like moods that matches with the story, but during this album the atmospheres tend to sound too similar, my attentions slips away at some moments. It’s a pity that Clive Nolan has not created more variety, for instance by writing parts with classical guitar/lute, or more focus on the electric guitar and synthesizers, or a typical sounding vintage keyboard like the harpsichord.

I wish Clive Nolan had been a bit more the ‘Rick Wakeman Of The Neo Progressive Rock Movement’ on this album, a bit more extravaganza or self-indulgence would have contributed to more variety and excitement, now it all sounds a bit too similar.