Similar to the band’s previous release The Tall Ships, Map of the Past is being reissued after also being remastered by John Mitchell, and is also being released on vinyl, with both the CD’s containing two bonus tracks.
Originally released in 2012, and with Lee Pomeroy having replaced Dick Nolan on Bass, Map of the Past was the band’s first attempt at a concept album, inspired by the discovery of an old family photograph, and is a ‘highly personal journey exploring love, anger, jealousy and passion through the eyes of a previous generation as Britain enters a new century and a defining period in its history.’ Amazingly, with members who’d been around the block a few times, none had previously been involved with making an album with a continuous narrative, but they’ve all embraced the challenge.
One issue with concept albums is they usually have song sequences whereby, if a song is listened to out of context, it may lose something, but this doesn’t apply here. Any song on this album can be heard on its own and it stands up ..think ‘Carpet Crawlers’ on Genesis’ Lamb Lies Down album.
One of the skill sets of the musicians here is the ability to disguise extremely clever prog rock as ‘pop,’ and it’s only after a few listens you realise what the band are doing. From the opening track, the haunting ‘Man in the photograph,’ with its evocation of a long forgotten past, the songs are relatively short and catchy, with only two exceeding six minutes and featuring some gorgeous guitar and keyboard work from Mitchell and Beck, particularly on tracks like ‘Wallflower,’ with Beck’s keyboard acrobatics, underpinned with solid bass and guitar, and the superb ‘The Big Machine,’ where Beck sparkles and Mitchell tears off some great guitar. ‘Clocks’ is the big ballad with its swaying rhythm, while ‘Meadow and the Stream’ is chillingly beautiful. There’re touches of Genesis and Marillion in the mix, particularly on ‘Cartoon Graveyard’ and ‘Send no flowers,’ and Mitchell’s solo in ‘The Last Exit’ is divine.
There’s a constant sense of nostalgia running through the music, and on ‘Exit Song,’ the listener even gets to learn the news about what happened to The Titanic!
Overall, this is an album of considerable quality and, while maybe not quite in the class of The Tall Ships, and is slightly more melancholic and features more ballads, nonetheless, Map of the Past stands up in its own right and can easily hold its own against its predecessor.