Tales by Gaslight by Nolan and Wakeman

Release date: April 23, 2021
Label: Elfrock Records

What happens when you combine both music and the stories from the realms of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Lewis Carroll, and Mary Shelley? Well, it becomes a mind-boggling ride from the voyages of Clive Nolan and Oliver Wakeman. This 3-CD clamshell box set consists the first two conceptual albums, Jabberwocky and The Hound of the Baskervilles. And the unearthed material Dark Fables covering on what was supposed to be their follow-up third release.

Tales By Gaslight is a brilliant set with collaborations from Landmarq’s Tracy Hitchings, Peter Banks, Arjen “Ayreon” Lucassen, Magnum’s Bob Catley, Glass Hammer’s Michelle Young, and Ken Russell alumni Robert Powell (Mahler and Tommy) along with Oliver’s dad Rick Wakeman doing the narration for Jabberwocky. When you listen to the two albums, it shows that not only they were ahead of their times, but an imaginative movie inside your head.

Jabberwocky is based on the poetry by Carroll. Originally released on the Verglas label on January 25, 1999, their debut release is an adventure that is awaiting for us. Rodney Matthews who’d done artwork and the visuals for video games such as Haven: Call of the King and Shadow Master for both Playstation’s 1 & 2, he’d done artwork for Robert Calvert, Tygers of Pan Tang, Eloy, and Brinsley Schwartz.

The artwork is like something straight out of a children’s book. And you can imagine as we were young, we would get scared of the design, but intrigued on where it came from. When it was released, the cover was reversed. So for the 2021 reissue, the image was corrected for the box set.

The fanfare overture has swirling Moogs and church-like organ sounds. We delve deeper into the dangers of evil and terror of this ferocious monster that is the boy’s nightmarish visions he sees in his dreams. Knowing that he has an uphill battle, Catley details the scenario to let his character know, that it’s a big challenge, but fight the good fight.

‘Coming to Town’ is a return to Rick’s dystopian extension of 1984. Catley lays down some of his Graham Bonnet textures by delivering one of the most soulful arrangements on his vocals. Tracy enters the picture to reveal this mellowing warmth texture as she gives the hero details about the Jabberwocky before the keyboards lay down some funky 12-bar grooves.

Spooky medieval waltz’s from the ‘Dangerous World’ is a terrifying scenery. Plumridge does the voice of the monster. He sings it in the styles of Klaatu’s ‘Long Live Politzania’ as Tracy lets the monster know that she and the boy aren’t afraid of him while ‘The Forest’ has this cross between the chants of Magma’s Kobaian-like vocals and The Electric Prunes’ Mass in F Minor, it’s Tony Fernandez’s drumming sets up the beats.

‘Shadows’ is an attack of all the senses. With this blasting piano concerto, the music has this video game-like sound from the Super Nintendo release of Super Castlevania IV. As Nolan and Wakeman takes listeners to a spiraling staircase of unknown worlds, it is doors opening to the world of illusion.

The Hound of the Baskervilles was their follow-up to Jabberwocky. Originally released in 2002 on the same label, it was based on the 1902 novel from Doyle taking place before the 1892 short story, The Final Problem which ended Sherlock Homes’ demise, but then brought back in The Adventure of the Empty House.

Robert Powell’s narration as Dr. John Watson gives listeners insight of this diabolical hound and its origin set in Dartmoor. He brings us into an operatic rock adventure sound like no other. Not only that, but Powell also tips his hat to the late, great David Hemmings who did narration from the 1974 live album, Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

‘The Curse of the Baskervilles’ is waltz-harpischord turned power metallic roar. Ashley Holt’s performance as Mortimer, describes the gruesome detail of the Hound’s bloody detail of the victims that he killed. While he describes it to Holmes and Watson, he is scared and terrified that he might be the next victim.

‘Three Broken Treads’ is not only a Celtic keyboard string arrangement, but a nod to some intensive Italian Prog-Rock royalty channeling Premiata Forneria Marconi’s ‘E ‘Festa’ from their 1971 debut release, Storia di un Minuto. Like Höstsonaten’s Fabio Zuffanti conducting the piece, you can hear dueling guitars and violin work from Jo Greenland.

It is a long road ahead for the two characters. And the clues have only gotten bigger for them to detail on what will happen next. Climbing up the walls rapidly with its Toccata and Fugue scenario, ‘Run For Your Life’ is Tracy Hitchings singing in the style of ‘Spirit of the Water’ from Camel’s 1976 classic, Moonmadness. Spiritual, moody, and intense, you have some of the wildest ‘80s hard rocking midsections that adds fuel to the fire.

‘At Home in the Mire’ features growling organ and swirling synths before it becomes an action-packed composition for Paul Allison inviting Holmes and Watson to his house as ‘The Argument’ becomes a strained relationship between Catley and Hitchings. The keyboard strings sets up the intensive quarrel between Sir Henry and Beryl Stapelton.

It becomes more challenging for the two characters. Almost volcanic, you can hear aspects between Zuffanti’s La Curva di Lesmo and Ayreon’s The Theory of Everything in the song while ‘Death on the Moor’ has some foot-stomping bass lines as the clues are starting to solve with dancing sections throughout the keyboards with eerie atmospheres.

Now we come to the third and final disc, Dark Fables. I mentioned earlier, they were starting to work on their third follow-up based on Shelley’s Frankenstein. Now here’s what really happened. As Nolan and Wakeman were working on another follow-up to the Hound of the Baskervilles, they wrote a few pieces for their third studio album, but then the record company decided to focus on another band.

They were very upset hearing about the news. So they decided after writing pieces for the Frankenstein story, they didn’t continue to work on it. Until now.
The lost third album is reconstructed after both Oliver and Clive went through their respective music folders to see where they left off. And it’s like a trip down memory lane for the duo to know that they had something special before it was shelved. And allowing to have Twelfth Night’s Andy Sears, and guitarist David Mark Pearce to bring it full circle, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

‘Elizabeth’ has tragic themes detailing Victor’s fiancée. There is sadness behind the character as she tries to live a normal life instead of it being two-part edge sword that Victor has to go through. ‘Why Do You Hate Me’ is like something straight out of Alice Cooper’s Welcome to my Nightmare featuring these trip-hop electro drum-beats, it makes it a perfect jazzy Broadway composition before the clock ticks for Victor’s paranoia on these spooky arrangements for ‘Time Passes’.

Listening to ‘A Descent Into Madness’ is like something straight out of Pete Townshend’s The Iron Man. With its drum work, spiraling down a bad dream, the heavy organ exercise makes it all worthwhile before ‘The Wedding Approaches’ has Gordon Giltrap’s classical guitar and Nunes string section fill the gothic chapels with Charlotte Dickerson. She sings beautifully. And at times, she sings like Mellow Candle’s Clodagh Simonds, she give us detail of her vision of the future after they get married.

Tales by Gaslight is quite the trip. From Oliver and Clive’s liner notes about what happened to the Dark Fables project and memories from Jabberwocky to Baskervilles, original album artwork from Rodney Matthews and Peter Pracownik, it shows that it’s time to go through your book collection of Carroll, Doyle, and Shelley and see where you left off. Because the music and stories behind those albums, you’re going to be blown away.

Pin It on Pinterest