A little over three years has elapsed since Tiger Moth Tales released the album Story Tellers, Part One. During this time Peter Jones has been a very busy man as a jobbing musician in his own right and as his role as vocalist, keyboard player and saxophonist touring with Camel. He also produced and released The Depths of Winter in November of 2017.
The first Story Tellers album is based around the concept of musical adaptations of stories by a variety of authors beloved by Peter Jones, particularly from his childhood. This concept has been reprised, this time including stories from Aesop (The Boy Who Cried Wolf) and Kenneth Grahame (The Wind In The Willows).
Pete has added more instruments to his quiver and developed his songwriting techniques still further and applied them to the Storytellers concept. Part 1 was a response to the RPM Challenge of creating an album in 28 days. This time Pete’s initial driver for the first volume is absent and so this second volume has all the hallmarks of a far more well-developed implementation.
A recurring observation in my review of Story Tellers, Part One was the strong Genesis influence. So persistent did they seem to me that I concluded that I would relish the prospect of Tiger Moth Tales breaking free of the retro Genesis references. I wanted Peter to shine through, find his own voice, lose the Genesis shackles.
Now I’m not sure I’m right to feel that way. With Part Two there are still references and initially I was a little disappointed, but this soon passed, in fact, I began to wonder whether I may be having an epiphany! Pete isn’t shackled. This IS Peter’s own voice! Just as there’s no denying he must have snuck a peek at someone else’s musical blueprints, there is also no denying his talent and songwriting ability.
When all is said and done Pete may be filling the vacuum created by musicians who will never again make music of the same calibre. Pete’s music is a tribute to the music he loves. That doesn’t undermine the credibility of his music. In fact, what does that even mean, let alone matter? I’d listen to Tiger Moth Tales any day rather than post-Hackett Genesis!
Nevertheless, I heard some distinct references to sounds that put me in mind of Spectral Mornings/Please Don’t Touch! era Steve Hackett and began to suspect my epiphany, then just went with the flow. Far from wishing this had no throwback sounds, I was 16 again. These Hackett references are the best complements that Peter Jones can pay to his inspiration. In fact, I need to have a conversation about how he gets that excellent solo guitar sound in the studio – so I can steal it for my Chapman Stick.
Story Tellers, Part Two plays on emotion, sad stories, whimsy, power and comedy. There is stark contrast between songs and some great imagery. I laughed aloud at the absurdist faux confusion and mildly surrealist humour of Three Little Pigs. I played this to The Boy and The Other One. The Boy said: “I don’t think I like that”, probably because he takes many things a bit too seriously – and I forgot to warn him. The Other One was amused and interested in hearing what I know about Peter and was impressed with his multi-instrumentalism. Of courses the horses for courses became the subject of our discourses. I played that track many times and wondered how long it would be before the novelty wore off and I was hitting the ‘Next’ button. I reckon it’ll take a few more, that’s for sure, but that’s the risk when a musician mixes comedy with music. There’s plenty of more serious pieces with a novelty all their own that, for me, have some mileage left in them.
Whilst there’s undoubted pantomime, there’s also more than a little sentimentality in there. Ever tried to write a love song? It is amongst the hardest things in the World. Eternity, a duet with long-time collaborator Emma Friend, is evidently designed as a romantic song. As such it doesn’t sit well with the fables of childhood, although it does have a somewhat Disney-esque vibe (cue sweeping panoramic orbiting shot of dancing lovers in a ballroom embrace). The melody, lyrics, the key, and especially the overlapping descending backing harmonies also stirred memories of the 1970s and ’80s romantic ballads – that we all secretly enjoyed (oh yes you did!). Is the romance tap at such high pressure that the bowl might overflow and flow around the U-Bend of Mawkishness? I’ll let you decide. For me, the romance works less well. In contrast, Match Girl is a vehicle for a different kind of sentiment altogether; sorrow, and for such an ebullient fellow Peter does this trick well. With its lavish piano-forte, mournful harmonica and bleeding-heart strings, the grey winter Victorian imagery evoked by the lyric, Match Girl carries such pathos that it pulls a genuinely sad and tragic rabbit out of the sentimentality hat.
The stand-out tracks for me are Kai’s Journey and The Palace, both borrowing from each other, replete with the ghost of Phil Collins and his Windiest drumming, accompanying echoes of Steve Hackett’s most Wuthering guitar, making for what I suspect will be live favourites. Tiger Moth Tales might require an extra drummer for these.
Right then, don’t be putting on your serious face when putting on Story Tellers, Part Two because that’s never going to work. Approach the songs not knowing what to expect and there are pleasant surprises throughout. Tiger Moth Tales both employ and require a childlike approach. They are executed by a prodigious multi-instrumentalist with a knack for creating tunes, a flair for rich harmonies and a clear, rhythmic capability. Take off your cynic’s scowl and release your inner child – only then, Proghopper, will you avoid disappointment.
01. Best Friends (3:15)
02. Kai’s Journey (4:36)
03. Toad Of Toad Hall (3:39)
04. Hundred Acre Wood (3:14)
05. Eternity (4:34)
06. The Boy Who Cried Wolf (6:43)
07. Three Little Pigs (6:32)
08. The Palace (8:42)
09. Match Girl (3:46)
10. Best Friends Reprise (2:28)
Total Time – 47:29
Peter Jones – Almost All of the Things
Emma Friend – Vocals
Mark Wardle – Cornet
Kim Jones – Voice
Record Label: White Knight Records
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 18th October 2018