Published on 20th June 2021
Gandalf’s Fist – The (Re)Master & The Monkey
I do love this band. They are fun, musically talented, current occupants of planet Earth, but more likely from Zog. They still, in my opinion, wear their hearts on their sleeves, stealing styles and intonations from wherever they like, and I love them for it. Pricking the pomposity that some Prog insists on self-promoting.
Okay, I love what they do, I also like how the mistype changed it to Gandalf’s Fiat, leaving me with a mental image of this member-strong band squeezed into a Cinquecento with equipment strapped to the roof rack.
10 years ago, this started the musical ball rolling; it has been buffed up, tarted about, re-recorded, repackaged and released for your entertainment. Gandalf’s Fist is a well-oiled machine, and they have released this album, in what is quite normal for them, multiple formats. Red Vinyl anyone? Their slightly insane marketing strategy works! Had money been freely available I would have purchased a wax cylinder.
Now compared to The Clockwork Fable, the narrative is naïve, but not without charm. The instrumental passages are longer, either that or they have just forgotten where to sing! Alicia Marsh sets the scene as the Narrator, the music beginning with a rather elegant piece, lots of Spanish guitar, odd words, but overall, some genuinely nice music. When the vocals come, Brett Anderson (of Suede) would appear to be the template. With the odd folk tune threaded through, it is fun.
There is quite a heavy Celtic feel, but as said, GF work their magic well, for magic it is. Stakes at Low Tide, as the inner Iron Maiden sings, then more story as we move on to The Siren’s Kiss, a rich and rewarding tune, sung by beautifully by Keri Farish, still young when this was originally recorded.
Some of this is poppy, but none the worse for that. It lacks the pomposity and grandiose bombast of Ayreon, and it is so much better for it. I continue to be amazed at the diversity of the music this band produce. Conceptually, it’s about the acquisition of power drawn from a conversation in a pub. Yes, I’ve had a few of those. The story is, to be honest, best followed by reading the accompanying booklet, which explains it better than I could. The artwork is reimagined, some of the music re-recorded, the result being something Dean Marsh says he is proud of. By all means give me Fable, but there is much entertainment to be gathered from this bizarre little tale.
I think they have a wider range now than then, words like ‘quaint’ spring to mind, take a quick look around, and then wander off. Best thing too. Suspend any pretensions you have to high art and musical endeavour and give me a throw of the Fist. The fun is just waiting to be had. Hidden at the back of the sleeve notes, Dean writes of the concept (the pub), the demo, and the shenanigans that bought this music into being, and reflects on the bard that is Gandalf’s Fist now. I am amused.
Keri sings The Siren’s Kiss, Stefan Hepe provides the drums throughout, Dean Marsh some vocals, and the usual suspects abound. It’s not Shakespeare, or even Marlowe or Faust, but what they do just brings a smile, and smiles over the last year have been at a premium. It’s all hands on deck as the good ship Fist steers its course through Pierre’s sorry tale, with no borders, making then borderless princes (and princess) I suppose. It is good to keep your Gandalf’s Fist library complete, and this album deserves its place on the shelf. Ten years is the phrase that is key here, as the band have been working on the next album in their back catalogue, utilising the current band members for any re-recordings. This means that we can expect more releases in the future. This remaster is a good re-imagining, a good purchase, but what I really look forward to is an entirely new release.
This is a very good package, be it the vinyl or CD release. The music is entertaining, but so is the artwork and the sleevenotes. Gandalf Fist are working on new material, and they will be performing at HRH Prog in the spring of 2022. Until then, enjoy this tale of a crazy frog.
01. The Fool’s Folly (0:57)
02. The Master and the Monkey (Part 1) (10:06)
03. Seaworm! (1:00)
04. Stakes at Low Tide (4:05)
05. Momentous Days (0:47)
06. The Siren’s Kiss (5:07)
07. Creatures Great, Creatures Small (1:04)
08. Maurice the Bat (3:11)
09. The Wandering Rock (1:12)
10. The Life & Crimes of Pierre du Gateau (4:08)
11. Croak of Truth (0:58)
12. Dance of Umbra (3:27)
13. A Trick of Tongue (0:34)
14. Xavier the Troll (1:33)
15. All that Glisters (0:19)
16. The Master and the Monkey (Part 2) (9:25)
Total Time – 47:53
Dean Marsh – Vocals, Guitar, Synths, Mandolin, Bass
Luke Severn – Additional Vocals
Chris Ewen – Bargain Snack Procurement
Stefan Hepe – Drums & Percussion
Keri Farish – Vocals (on The Siren’s Kiss)
Ben Bell – Outro Synth Solo (on The Master and the Monkey (Part 1)), Synths (on Maurice the Bat, Backing Vocals (on The Master and the Monkey (Part 2))
Faliq Auri – Uilleann Pipes & Whistles (on Stakes at Low Tide)
Alicia Marsh – Narration
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 21st January 2021