Gary Kemp + Steven Wilson + Mike Garson = …Whaaa…??!

Gary Kemp - waiting for the band remix cover art
Columbia | DL | 2021

Gary Kemp + Steven Wilson + Mike Garson: Waiting For The Band remix – DL – [2021]

  1. Waiting For The Band [remix] 10:37

This came out of nowhere and I had to investigate, given the participants. I have been aware that Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet had released his second solo album following a 26 year span from his first one: “Little Bruises” from 1995. Given my disinterest in the MOR stylings of the last Spandau Ballet album, “Heart Like A Sky,” I didn’t see much reason to follow Kemp’s nascent solo career at the time. For that matter, I can say the same of Tony Hadley!

While I have been astounded at the reformation of Spandau in the 21st century, I was not so curious as to buy any of the music the band had issued. Not even Trevor Horn’s involvement was catnip for me as that ship had sailed ages ago for me. When Tony Hadley left the band and a new singer joined, I blinked a few times, rubbed my eyes and said “wake me when there’s a reason to get out of bed.”

So I was not the audience for Kemp’s “Insolo”‘ which was released earlier this year. But I was thinking about the new Ultravox CD with the Wilson mixes on Tuesday night and went to Wilson’s website to see if he was saying anything about them. That’s when I saw the news that Wilson had just remixed a single from Kemp’s album and it was out there in the wilds as of the previous week. More intriguingly, Mike Garson was playing piano on the song! So that’s both a Duran Duran single and a Gary [Spandau Ballet] Kemp single that Garson added his singular piano to this year. He’s hitting two of the biggest New Romantic camps at one! At first I was curious, but when hearing about Garson’s involvement, I crossed the line into “buy curious.” How could I not drop $1.29 to find out more?

It was immediately apparent that the vibe on this song would be very close to what the great Johnson Somerset brings to a widescreen, cinematic mix. The cinematic allusions are stronger for Kemp having used found footage sound bites of 1978 Bowie fans describing their devotion to the artist. The song was Kemp revisiting those halcyon days of 1973 when he had seen both the iconic Ziggy Stardust Hammersmith farewell show as well as “The 1980 Floor Show” which was filmed for an airing on The Midnight Special in The States. Kudos to Mr. Wilson for thinking that maybe a call to Bowie pianist Mike Garson would be appropriate here.

sThe slow, languid buildup was heavy on delicate ambience and the featherlight touch of Garson on piano. This was not one of his “Aladdin Sane” solos. The slow pace and the rhythm programming was not a radical shift from what was on the album track, but the basic rhythm had been goosed for EQ, vibe, and increased complexity. The slow buildup went for a couple of minutes before Kemp made his arrival. Having heard him only singing BVs in Spandau Ballet, I didn’t know what to expect but this was…distinctly underwhelming. The sort of dusky soulful delivery that would have been all over VH-1 in 1988. Like a subtle Michael Bolton, if that makes any sense at all.

Gary Kemp…sansabelt

The said, the remix has lots of spaciousness that goes for the kind of evanescent beauty that is not without its rewards. Kemp’s guitar attains a glorious tone throughout the song with his solo being nearly Psychedelic Soul ala Robin Guthrie. The extended instrumental movement in the middle sported some languid Theo Travis saxophone that was as rich as clotted cream. At the end of the day the tepid 5 minute album track was capably doubled here with no ill effects. And I’ve heard four minute tracks that make me “check my watch.”

Truth be told, the album version which I sampled on iTunes was all rather tepid as per my level of expectation. Let it not be said that adding Mike Garson piano to a song can do anything but improve it. So this little excursion will be the alpha and omega of my Gary Kemp solo collection. Pleasing enough to have bought and occasionally listen to, but nothing that needs obsessive follow up on. I do find it interesting that Kemp who is now also singing and playing guitar with Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets is making further connections to the Prog world as evidenced by Steven Wilson and Theo Travis’ presence here. I wholly approve of the hybridization of adding Prog thinking to Pop, but wish that Kemp would be a bit more spiky. His obeisance to MOR values undermines my interest in him past 1984 or so.

-30-

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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8 Responses to Gary Kemp + Steven Wilson + Mike Garson = …Whaaa…??!

  1. Echorich says:

    I’m afraid I find no merit in Waiting For The Band. I come to it with my typical skepticism of anything Steve Wilson is involved in. Sure, sure, 5.1 stereo remix/remaster wunderkind, blah. blah, blah, but he’s still Steve Wilson from Porcupine Tree and he will never really be anyone else to me. Progressive Rock (it only got a capital “p” because it started the sentence) is the silver bullet to my vampire heart, but Post-progressive is just a regressive defining of Post Rock that makes me search for the mute button every time. — Rant complete. Thank you for allowing that tantrum.
    Back to the song. Hmmm, it’s Gary Kemp, stepping out from behind the backing vocal mic. Hopefully no one filled his spot as that’s really where his vocals belong. The remix fits in with what Wilson has been interested in this past year, evidenced by his own album which features many New Wave and Ambient textures – a la Johnson Somerset as you mentioned Monk. But at the end of the day, I listened to it twice and see no reason to ever listen to it again. It is not James Murphy’s remix of Love Is Lost, since we are bringing Bowie into the conversation…

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – I found more merit in this than anything on “Heart Like A Sky.” Which was my last point of reference to Kemp. I’m still curious to hear Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets since I’m amenable to The Pink Floyd from their early days, Guy Pratt, and Spandau Ballet. I did not find the remix remotely Prog, and I am an ex-Prog guy, so I wouldn’t steer you wrong. I have never heard Steven Wilson or Porcupine Tree and I’m probably going to keep it that way. I have studiously avoided all Neo-Prog since I see no need for it. Ever. But I can’t feel too strongly about Wilson’s forays into non-Prog work, though I only find it healthy on his part. The more those Prog guys collaborate with those outside of their Prog Ghetto® can only lead to the healthy path. I am getting tired of him remixing everything I like, but the results are neither horrifying nor revelatory. Perfunctory, I guess. It’s all money spinning and I’m willing to go there for a few certain titles, I guess.

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  2. Yes, a pretty “meh” affair, only notable IMO thanks to Mike Garson’s contribution.

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  3. I haven’t heard heard, but concerned I will hate it. I’ve heard some of his other stuff and found it to be quite abominable. The guy’s obviously talented (he wrote a few good hits for the Spandeau’s) but this new one is heading up cornball street perhaps.

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  4. Didn’t know Garson was on it though. He’ll do anything for a quid. :-)

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  5. zoo says:

    All I gotta say is you guys are missing out on some really good music if you’re avoiding Porcupine Tree simply because somebody tagged them with a “neo prog” label somewhere along the line. That implies his music hasn’t evolved since the ’90s, and that’s not even close to the case.

    As for Kemp, I didn’t know he had a solo album, but I’m keen to hear it, so it’s now in my Spotify queue. I quickly sampled “Waiting for the Band” and it did seem a bit slow and unexciting, but I heard some nice guitar in there as well. I’ll listen again later.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      zoo – It’s almost down to my ingrained reticence to listen to anything “new.” I’m an old guy who’s seen the fashion cycles of Pop turn over three or maybe even four times by now. Each time the xerox get’s a little more noise and distortion. The essential mojo, thinned out one more time. I’m barely interested Classic Prog® much less Generation X’s attempt to revivify the corpse.

      As for Kemp, his guitar playing is interesting. He adopted a radical stylistic shift in has playing for the first three Spandau records, to accompany their wildly varying style. He’s not a flashy guitarist and he’s interested in serving the material, not showing off. As I mentioned, his tine was really nice here, and I thought the remix was more interesting than the LP mix. Kemp has not really excited me past “Parade” except for his star turn in “The Krays.” Oops! Forgot about Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets! That was just so left field! I still need to hear that live album!

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      • zoo says:

        If not Porcupine Tree because of the dreaded association with prog, then perhaps I can interest you in No-Man, Wilson’s collaboration with Tim Bowness (which he started pre-PT). Not prog, and more in line with David Sylvian’s solo stuff if I had to make a comparison. Theo Travis is a participant, to circle back to the Kemp discussion.

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