"Middle Earth" (Frontiers/Now & Then; 2001)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

"Middle Earth" is more than simply vocalist Bob Catley's tribute to J.R.R. Tolkein's classic "Lord of the Rings" book trilogy. With nine tracks and a running time of 56:04, it's practically a musical re-telling of the beloved books. As such, it has its advantages and, naturally, its disadvantages.

The advantages outweigh their counterpart here. "Middle Earth" is a rich, full tapestry of rock'n'roll. The songs, written by producer Gary Hughes, sound a little like Andrew Lloyd Webber doing hard rock. They're wordy, they're complex, they're sometimes a little overdone. Fans of melodic rock and progressive rock will no doubt truly enjoy "Middle Earth," especially those familiar with the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

The disadvantages are obvious: Not everyone likes this type of music and "Middle Earth" probably won't win over any new fans. The fantasy theme never wavers throughout (nor can it, being based on Tolkein's books as it is) and the songs lack the edge that many Rough Edge readers are looking for. Songwriter Hughes also plays keyboards on the CD and I would guess that he wrote most of the songs herein with keyboards heavily in mind. (That being said, Vinny Burns offers up some truly blistering guitar solos here and there). In addition, as is the nature of a concept album, many of the songs sound very much alike. It works for the overall CD here but, again, there are those who will no doubt never make it to the end because of the sameness.

The bottom line is this: If you're into progressive and/or melodic rock, "Middle Earth" isn't half bad - especially if you're familiar with the "Lord of the Rings." If this music isn't your style, you won't find anything new to like here, either.

Performing on "Middle Earth" are Bob Catley - lead and backing vocals; Vinny Burns - guitars; Gary Hughes - keyboards and backing vocals; Steve McKenna - bass guitar; Jon Cooksey - drums; Tracy Hitchings - additional vocals.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright 2001 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 09 Dec 2018 12:03:10 -0500.