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Music Review: Consortium – 13th Hour

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Take a 36 year old, one inch, sixteen track tape, bake it for a while at a low heat and hey presto it can be heard again for up to four weeks. This is exactly what UK band Consortium did for their new album 13th Hour when they found an old studio tape which, they remembered, included three previously unreleased tracks.

The problem with aging tape is that the glue apparently breaks down. If you were to put it straight through a machine not only would you be destroying the tape but would probably be looking to buy new heads for the player as well. So you need to get cooking first.

By going through this process and transferring the tracks digitally onto CD in multi-track form,  Consortium were, once again, able to play alongside their drummer John Parker, who sadly died in 2001 at only age 51. Therefore his presence on the album, thanks to the wonders of technology, makes this release even more magical.

The result of all this is 13th Hour a new/old album from the band who are perhaps best remembered for their single “All The Love In The World”, a top thirty hit in the UK charts back in 1969.

Their style has always been a heady mix of prog, pop, driving rock, and folk all delivered with a raw and sometimes heavy twist. This, their first recording of any sort in many years, sees that pedigree very much intact. Their previous album, Rebirth, was recorded just prior to the band calling it a day in 1975. It was finally released by Angel Air Records in 2006.

13th Hour is a special release. Not only are those three long lost tracks included, with John on drums and the band re-working the vocal and instrumental parts, but the album also includes four new songs.

It opens with one of the rediscovered tracks, “Where”. If you listen carefully you can even hear John counting the band in. Heavy riffs rise above delicate acoustic in a fine example of what Consortium were/are about. John also appears on the driving “Evolution” a track recently found on an old ¼ inch tape. The story of how this was rescued to the extent that it can appear on the album is told in the album notes.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of “All The Love In The World” the band have re-recorded it. They even asked its composer Geoff Simpson along to play organ. The result, included here, breathes new life into this recognizable hit.

“Inside, Outside” is the first of the new tracks on offer. It is a joy to hear the band in action again and playing with as much energy and enthusiasm as they did all those years ago.

Great guitar work from Brian Parker and Mick Ware, excellent vocals from Robbie Leggat, and Ken Brown’s impressive bass are all present. The drums for the new tracks are covered by Darren Crome.

“Lady Doctor” highlights the bands characteristic mix of driving riffs, and gentle acoustics. “Sad Girl” continues with a vibrancy that defies the passage of time, coming at you with a live, immediate, almost raw feel. “Nightmare” radiates quality and leaves you hungry for more.

The best is kept to last and the full ten minute version of the demonic “13th Hour” is bordering on the magnificent. It features the late John Parker on drums and is a mighty fine way to finish the album.

For more information on how all of this came about please visit the Consortium MySpace page. Angel Air Records catalogue on their website has this and a wealth of goodies available.

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About Jeff Perkins