|Ten The Essential Colletion||Frontiers Recods|
Any new Ten release is anticipated by many, yet scornfully ignored by some others. Ten have a very dedicated fan base, built through years of hard work, but for whatever reason they have also attracted more than their share of derision.|
I don't think that's entirely fair, as the band has a back catalogue many artists would be proud of.
In recent times the Ten star has begun to wane, with few live shows and original members leaving the band, leaving frontman/founder Gary Hughes struggling to get things back on course.
2006 looms as an important year for the band, who have two new releases planned plus a hopeful return to the live scene.
I loved Ten's debut album back in 1995. I wasn't convinced by a couple of albums that followed, but I was reconverted when the band turned to heavier climes with Spellbound and continued with the excellent double of Babylon and Far Beyond The World.
2004's Return To Evermore was a return to more melodic fare, but perhaps suffered from not being as sonically intense as past efforts. What the new studio album is set to offer will be revealed in a few months time.
As stated, I'm quite the fan of Gary Hughes. Not only his work with Ten, but his last classic solo album and the Once And Future King opus. Read back through the reviews to see my thoughts.
With those opinions in mind, this review will stand as the odd one out. The Essential Collection is for me, sadly not that essential at all.
This 2-Disc set sees a selection of established Ten songs given a fresh studio treatment, completely re-recorded during 2005, featuring the current line-up of the band (and session drummers used in place of spot that was yet to be filled at time of recording).
Ten's The Essential Collection is broken into Essential Rockers and Essential Ballads.
Each disc features 9 tracks. Yes, the best of Ten is actually only 9.
That seemingly contradictory setting could quite easily have been fixed. The best of Ten - 10 rockers and 10 ballads sounds like a far better scenario and one that should have been considered.
On the rocker disc there is actually 11 tracks. The first two tracks are actually two sets of two tracks joined together. Separate all those and you get 11 tracks for Disc 1. Move the track After The Love Has Gone to the ballads disc, where it wouldn't sound out of place at all, and you get 10 tracks per disc. Too easy! It is what it is, but I do think the compilation would have looked better with 10 tracks per disc.
I'm yet to be blown away or even convinced by any attempt from a band to re-record their own tracks, but I do understand the circumstances that lead them to do so.
However, with all Ten's albums still in release and easily obtainable within the market place, any re-recording of songs with such established credentials as these should at least offer something new for fans or attempt to sound better than the originals did, given updates in studio technology.
In my opinion, the songs re-recorded here not only don't offer anything new, but sound vastly inferior to their original forms.
I have no complaints whatsoever about the songs – I'm as much a fan of these tracks as any ardent Ten fan and think the compilation as a whole gathers some of the band's great songs. There are a few others I of course would have like included and perhaps a couple I am less fond of that could have been replaced. But that is a reflection of personal taste.
Gary Hughes has in the past turned in some amazing songs with production qualities any artist would be proud of.
What I am most unhappy about with the Essentials is the sound quality on offer. This is definitely not what you would expect from Ten, Gary Hughes or any artist in 2006.
There are several problems. Most noticeable is the tinny drum sound. Not far behind that is the guitar tone. Then there is the mix, which just isn't good enough to bring it all together.
Go straight to the opening track to hear what I mean. Name Of The Rose builds to it's traditional opening point with a tinny drum intro and then attempts to burst into life with a truly horrible guitar sound that is extremely hollow and sounds buried in the mix.
The drum volume rules over both the bass and guitar sound, but still with that thin and tinny sound. It doesn't improve when the song morphs into Wildest Dreams. The guitar riffing and solo have little effect compared to the bombastic original and the drum pace is pedestrian.
Fear The Force is even worse. The once grand intro now sounds flat and when the lead guitar kick in there is almost no impact whatsoever. The drums sound terrible and don't really match the song.
The drums are even worse on Apparition, which probably has the worst overall sound of all the tracks. A tinny and noisy symbol rides over everything and the mix is nothing short of a complete mess.
It continues into After The Love Has Gone, which originally featured a lush moody wall of sound, but now features a cold guitar sound and a muddy mix. The new choir parts within The Robe also do that song no favors whatsoever.
The Ballads disc is only a little better. I have a soft spot for Gary's ballads and I have previously created my own compilation of them.
Till The End Of Time sounds ok until the drums kick in, and You're In My Heart features a new guitar solo I can live without.
We Rule The Night thankfully has an emotional impact many of the other songs are now missing.
Silent Rain is also enjoyable, but more so because of Gary's vocals than anything else.
In fact, I think the key to the ballad disc being a more enjoyable experience is the fact that it relies more on Gary's moody vocals and some fine keyboard work from the ever reliable Paul Hodson, and requires less of a drum and guitar presence.
As a foot note - funnily enough, I can hear no real difference in the lead vocals throughout this record. Where they even re-recorded for this project?
But as hard as it is, sometimes I am met with an album that does not make the grade. This should have been handed in to the label as is – especially for an artist that is capable of so much better and has previously delivered the goods.
I remain a huge fan of Gary Hughes the artist, but I have to be honest and state that I am very disappointed with this release. Rather than celebrate the music of the band, I feel that this release ultimately does damage to the Ten brand name. As for the score - I love the original songs, but not all the changes made here and the sound mark speaks for itself.
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