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Articles Home » 2008 Articles » It Bites - 2008 The Tall Ships
It Bites - 2008 The Tall Ships

ARTIST: It Bites
ALBUM: The Tall Ships
LABEL: Inside Out
YEAR: 2008


LINEUP: John Mitchell - lead vocals, guitars, bass * John Beck - keyboards, bass, backing vocals * Bob Dalton - drums, backing vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 Oh My God * 02 Ghosts * 03 Playground * 04 Memory Of Water * 05 The Tall Ships * 06 The Wind That Shakes The Barley * 07 Great Disasters * 08 Fahrenheit * 09 For Safekeeping * 10 Lights * 11 This Is England



I will admit to not being a fan of It Bites, based on their past efforts. I recall buying one of their earlier albums and not being impressed by it. That was until now.. Their 2008 return 'The Tall Ships' is one of the years most impressive releases. To the point of me being utterly horrified that perhaps I might have missed out on something special beforehand. Hmm, I must rediscover their past discography just to reaffirm my previous thoughts about the band. Of course, the biggest change with the band is that IB no longer have Francis Dunnery in the line-up. His place going to John Mitchell, a chap well known in British prog circles through his involvement with the likes of John Wetton, Arena, The Urbane and more recently, the excellent Kino. It was probably through Kino that Mitchell became involved with IB, as keyboardist John Beck was a member of that band too, as was drummer Bob Dalton who appeared with them on live dates. Is the situation of It Bites without Francis Dunnery the same as Journey without Steve Perry? Dunnery already has an established solo career and any other commitment would've been a compromise, and according to Beck, Mitchell was an ideal choice. 'The Tall Ships' being the resulting output, and the response so far from critics has been widespread praise.

The Songs
'The Tall Ships' was completed in May 2008 and initially pre-released to It Bites fans via their website/forum. The full blown label release from InsideOut Music took place during early October 2008. A vocal mosaic opens the way on 'Oh My God', in the same way that the band approached their 1986 single 'All In Red'. However this one is so much better, more melodic with a modern Genesis circa 'Calling All Stations' like flavour seeping through the mix. 'Ghosts' is unbelievable AOR in the vein of Toto circa 'Isolation'. John's vocal delivery has a similarity to former Genesis singer Ray Wilson.. but the whole arrangement is fanciful stuff with next to no progressive elements involved. For me the highlight on the album. The soft and lilting entrance to 'Playground' is hypnotic, but builds carefully over the duration, fusing traditional progressive rock with symphonic elements. Mitchell warbles in the same vein as his previous boss John Wetton.. a great track nonetheless. There is a degree of urgency being played through on 'Memory Of Water', the persistent riff through the song has Rush like qualities. It's a mix of sharp fast playing on top of some extended atmospheric layers. The title track 'The Tall Ships' is a dreamy near wistful piece of prog, which tries to invoke visualizations of a time gone by. Brass parps and flute work accentuate the imagery. Returning to a retro version of prog is 'The Wind That Shakes The Barley', the song undulates through periods that are slow/fast, quiet/loud, but the band does build to a climax by songs end. Vocal mosaics are again a feature on 'Great Disasters', which features an interesting (dare I say non-progressive) arrangement. The song is likeable enough, in places sounding like 80's British pop/AOR combo The Cutting Crew. 'Fahrenheit' initially floats on a bed of rhodes like piano while the guitar melody is full to the brim of digital delay. The chorus however takes on a contemporary modern rock identity, which you can just imagine being blasted on todays radio stations. 'For Safekeeping' is another track that alternates between contrasting moods. For me, not as immediate as some of the tracks that have gone before. Next to 'Ghosts', this track 'Lights' is the closest to melodic rock/AOR. It's a track that is bright and bouncy, with synths to the fore, a style that this band does with ease. The coup de grace is the thirteen minute extravaganza 'This Is England'. What more needs to be said? It Bites reflect on all the attributes that describes the current situation in the Mother Country, warts and all. There's a bit of everything in here.. Pink Floyd like passages, Yes in other places. It shifts all over the soundscape, and an album like this wouldn't be complete without a song like this onboard.

In Summary
The band have recruited Lee Pomeroy as their permanent bass player, and ventured out on a UK tour during October 2008. Based on the quality of this album, I can see the band travelling further afield to promote it. The only issue which could haunt the band is how long time fans will react to a new album after being away for so long, and whether the absence of Dunnery will have an impact. Despite his eccentricity, Dunnery bought different attributes to the band. I can imagine that IB fans might see 'The Tall Ships' as akin to a new prog rock project altogether, but I'm hopeful that this isn't the case, and that they will see through the misty clouds of confusion, while new fans like myself will join the IB bandwagon, regardless of who is in the band.

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#1 | george_the_jack on October 27 2008 23:07:02
The samples here sound really interesting.
#2 | Jez on October 28 2008 04:49:21
First studio disc in nearly 20 years and what a comeback. I was a little worried what this would sound like, as it doesn't feature mainman Francis Dunnery, but John Mitchell has stepped in here and does a mighty fine job playing and producing. Initial thoughts are that this is prime time It Bites with no real change to their style or sound at all, which is great news. In fact, this could have been recorded a couple of years after 'Eat Me In St. Louis' and you wouldn't know, except a few production tweaks and Mitchells's input. All the bands trademarks are there from the typical keys, to Mitchells guitars, which sound scarily like Dunnery's at times. Songs are of a real high standard as usual and I can't find any fillers in here at all. Nearly 70 minutes of excellent, intelligently played rock music, with shorter 4-5 minute tracks and the 13 minute epic 'This Is England' to close out the disc. The boys are back in town and boy am I glad they are - FANTASTIC
#3 | Eric on October 28 2008 11:45:14
Agree, this is a fine return to form.
#4 | jasonthebuc on October 28 2008 21:57:30
Bought this a few weeks ago.One of the best of 2008,hands down.That is saying a lot considering the number of quality releases that we have been graced with this year.An excellent blend of prog,AOR and pop.TWO THUMBS UP!
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