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(160:00 DVD, Metal Mind Productions)
TRACK LIST: 1. Overture 2. The Storm 3. The Veil 4. Covenant of Faith 5. Rescue 6. The Lost City 7. The Bonding 8. Ambush 9. Judgment 10. History 11. Confrontation 12. Vigil 13. Shadows 14. Fire Dance 15. Cursed 16. Closer 17. Disbelief 18. Murder 19. The Eleventh Hour 20. Resting Place 21. The Hermit 22. The Sands of Time 23. Embrace the Fire 24. The Night Before 25. The Fire of Life EXTRAS: a) The Making of УSheФ b) Biography c) Discography d) Photo Gallery e) Desktop Images LINEUP: Agnieszka Swita - vocals Clive Nolan - vocals Alan Reed - vocals Christina Booth - vocals Mark Westwood - guitars Martin Bowen - guitars Richard West - keyboards Steve Williams - keyboards John Jowitt - bass Scott Higham - drums Ewaryst Nowinowski - oboe Tomasz Wojtowicz - horn Tomasz Starzec Ц cello
Prolusion. British keyboardist Clive Nolan is a man balancing many balls in the air. Ever since he started establishing himself as a musician in the early '90s, he has been a part of several bands, in addition to making appearances on other bands' recordings. His latest project is CAAMORA, a group consisting of Nolan himself and Polish singer Agnieszka Swita. The two of them have been at the heart of a project Nolan apparently has wanted to work with for years, a musical adaptation of H. Rider Haggard's classic novel УSheФ, the first of four books in total Haggard wrote about the fictional character Ayesha (She Who Must Be Obeyed). In addition to the musical adaptation, Nolan and Swita at some point started making plans for performing it as a good old fashioned bona fide rock opera as well, and a show was set up to be filmed in Poland in October 2007; the end result was released on DVD now in 2008. Related reviews: here and here.
Analysis. Rock operas have become something of a fad the last few years, as Dutch multi-instrumentalist Arjen Lucassen has enjoyed success with his various projects in this realm; others have slowly but surely started to embark on these kinds of projects again, more often than not people that have been involved in Lucassen's projects in one way or another (then again Ц who hasn't been involved in one of those?), and quite often these other projects appear to stick to a musical style close to Arjen's own. Playing it safe, so to speak. Enter Clive Nolan. Indeed, he has been involved in Ayreon to some extent, and like Arjen he has chosen to make a rock opera on a grand scale, perhaps even more ambitious than any of Lucassen's projects so far. There are many elements to this project that separate it from the crowd, though, making it more than "just another rock opera from a guy who has worked with Arjen Lucassen". First and foremost, there is the story being told. Instead of making up something themselves, Nolan and his partner Swita have worked with a literary work well known and, at least to some extent, critically acclaimed. Although not a cornerstone in the literary history of the world, H. Rider Haggard's swashbuckling tale about the, at the time, still mostly unexplored and mythical continent of Africa has been a popular novel from it's release as a serial in The Graphic in the 1880's until this day, and the novel has been the subject of numerous adaptations - most often to movie or radio. (There have been seven screen adaptations of the novel, including a high-budget US silent version in 1925, a sound remake in 1935 and a British Hammer production in 1965.) Indeed, it was one of the movie versions that made a lasting impression on Nolan when he was a child, ultimately resulting in this project being made by him when the time was right to take it on. Musically this is a project that stands on its own two feet as well. While most of recent years rock operas have a solid foundation in hard rock or heavy metal, Nolan has chosen to mix his rock with more classical symphony leanings, less fuzz guitar and more horns, vocals, choir and symphonic keyboard textures. Not always of course, but there's a general feel of this throughout the 2 hours or so of playing time. There's no list of guest stars longer than the memory of a bad year here either. There are exactly four roles here, and no big name star has been recruited to take on any of those. For Nolan and Swita it seems obvious that they trust their story adaptation to such an extent that recruiting a star has been deemed unnecessary. It has also made it easier to take this project on the stage, which is what this DVD really is all about. The rock opera "She" was performed in its entirety in October 2007, with Metal Mind Productions capturing the show for a DVD release. And seeing this show live, the term "rock opera" is more justified in this case than in many other cases over the last decade or so. This is indeed a performance, where costuming and a video display in the back of the stage are all the effects used, and the story is conveyed by acting and singing from the four main characters on a rather barren stage in terms of items and decor, with the musicians' playing taking up much of the space. Vocals, body language and acting are the elements used, much like in a low-scale opera production of a bygone time. And this works like a charm too. Although the storyline here may not interest everyone, there's no denying that the four singers do an excellent job of telling and acting out the story. The musical score here fits the story very well too. This is a story about big dramatic emotions with lots of melodrama, intrigue and tragedy; and the music parallels many of the same elements. From tender melancholic ballads to bombastic, flamboyant epic rock tunes; most of them dramatic and bombastic on a level Richard Wagner would have approved of. It may not be everybody's cup of tea, but as a rock opera in general it is a good choice, and in particular as concerns the musical score for this specific story.
Conclusion. "She" is a rock opera in the truest meaning of the word; with the only element some might find lacking being true operatic vocals rather than ordinary vocals. The music is well written, and the story is conveyed in a good manner. With high quality video footage and a decent recording of the sound, this adds up to a release of interest to fans of rock operas as well as fans of musicals. Fans of melodramatic music in general might also want to see what this is all about, and the same goes for fans of H. Rider Haggard's adventure stories.
OMB: May 18, 2008
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