Our best stuff? As I've said before, I think I'm too close to be the best judge of our best work -- in most cases I just see what doesn't quite work as well as we wanted it to, for whatever reason, or I just remember the circumstances a piece was recorded under. But here's what I remember best after almost 30 years....
OUT OF THE MIST -- It would be tough to forget your first album, but what I notice most here now is Melissa's haunted voice and gorgeous piano -- and half the songs here were hers. She was especially good on "Everywhere You Go," "Songbird," the brokenhearted melancholy of "In the Winter," "Blue Eyes," "Always Make Me Cry," "Everyday," "Midnight" and "Wish You Were Here." Also great guitar by Jim (with the classic opening meltdown of "Errr....") and Jeff (positively explosive on "Chained"), solid keyboards from Don (with a great hook on "It Wasn't Me," which Richard sang the hell out of), and luminous backing vocals from EVERYBODY.
THE BLACK ALBUM -- This is the loudest and most extreme we ever got, sort of the flipside of OUT OF THE MIST, all the way to the other end of the spectrum. Great crashing, explosive guitars from Jim and Jeff, superb drumming and weird percussion from Miles, demented violin and viola from Thom and Al, and Don's usual solid keyboards. If Melissa dominated our first album, Don and I took over on this one -- in fact, M doesn't have a single lead vocal here. But Richard's vocals are pretty amazing in places -- must have been tough for him to growl through all that noise. Best tracks: "Wreckage," "Drum Talk," "Nightmares," "Fractured," "Deceiver."
CHECKMATE -- Backing away from the extremes of THE BLACK ALBUM, I think this is our most charming work -- we sound so cute, like a wind-up-toy band ... that just happens to have some great tunes. Don wrote most of the songs here, and anchors them with great keyboard work, but all the heaviness from THE BLACK ALBUM is gone. Al lightens up the mood with spritely flute, recorder and krumhorn, and her old boyfriend Paul keeps things earthy with sax and bassoon. And Lee's occasional lead vocals keep this sounding like a fantasy-land album. LORD OF THE RINGS music. Best: The title track -- my choice for our best song ever -- Don's epic suite "Mushrooms," "Ploughboy's Dream," "Unrealion," "Raindance," "Curse the Cat," "A Little Hellraising," "Summer Song," "Leaf Fall," "Minor Disaster."
TAKING IT IN -- Trying to find a compromise between BLACK ALBUM and CHECKMATE, this mixes it up pretty well with solid vocals from Lee and Richard, solid keyboards from Don and Melissa, and occasional soaring guitar from Jim. Picks: "Memory Lane," "Surprise," "Be Alright," "Verging on the Ridiculous," "Place of Your Own," "Out on the Ranch," "Here We Are," "Heart of the Storm," "Heart's Desire," and Don's haunting "Spirit on the Water."
(COMING SOON: "In Concert," brand new.)
((ALSO COMING SOON: New music & books, Great Scary Stuff, & more as I try 2 get Back To Reality....))