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I remember rushing out to get this follow-up to the excellent "The World", but it doesn't live up to its predecessor. There's not many new ideas here, just middle of the road, soft melodic prog rock. The guitar and keyboard playing are competent and attractive, and the tunes on the whole good. But there are too many irritations, such as bad lyrics, mannered singing and songs that just go on too long.
The intro to "Walls of Babylon" is shamelessly derived from Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond". Which many will lap up, but it's not all that interesting. The song, when it kicks in, is based on a plodding beat, with plenty of air-punching and earnest frowning. Nick Barrett's singing is as cheesy as ever, especially the "...stab you in the back" ending. It gets even more camp at the the start of "Ghosts": "I could have been an actor - I could have been anythiuiiuuyiuing...". The ballad "Breaking the Spell" is shamelessly overblown, but has some pretty keyboard playing and long melodic guitar solos. The extended number "Last Man on Earth" drags a bit but the faster, heavy section "Paradise Road" manages to disperse some of the stodge. "Nostradamus" is more poppy with a catchy singalong chorus. "Am I Really Losing You" starts with some more over-earnest Queen-style pomp singing over swathes of keyboards, while finishing with a nice but rather repetitive guitar riff.
October 30, 2003