“The Master and the Monkey” was Gandalf’s Fist’s debut demo-come-album and turns 10 years old in January 2021. In celebration, they’ve decided to create a special edition by completely re-imagining the entire record to elevate it to sit alongside all their other releases. Take a look at what’s on offer……
Largely re-recorded from the ground up and featuring a brand new narrative, they present: “The (Re)Master and the Monkey”.
But let’s just recap a little for the uninitiated. Formed in 2005 when a mutual friend invented a silly band name (we’ve all been there) Gandalf’s Fist were the creative collaboration of multi-instrumentalist Dean Marsh and lyricist/vocalist Luke Severn. The duo spent two years releasing experimental instrumental tracks, with a mutual love for classic Prog bands mixed with NWOBHM influences but captivated by the resurgent neo-prog scene. LPs “Road to Darkness” and “From a Point of Existence” were released, a mix of Neo-Prog, Folk and Hard Rock; Dean moved the Fist’s recording studio permanently from West Cumbria to South Norfolk where their space-rock opus:‘ A Day in the Life of a Universal Wanderer’ was released. Gandalf’s Fist even appeared on the bill at Planet Rockstock ’13 alongside the likes of Fish, Hawkwind and Uriah Heep at which point touring musicians Stefan Hepe and Chris Ewen became full-time band members. The medieval-spacey-prog rock-pioneers recorded and released their fifth, full-length studio release “A Forest of Fey” – an album which also featured guest contributions from high profile musicians such as Troy Donockley, Clive Nolan , John Mitchell , Dave Oberle (Gryphon) and Matt Stevens (The Fierce and the Dead).
But it may have been the epic ‘The Clockwork Fable”, a 3-CD conceptual tour-de-force which raised the proverbial bar. Set in the fictional world of “Cogtopolis”, each CD serves as a different “act” of the story, with Dean and Luke, along with guest vocalists as the singing voices of the inhabitants and the whole thing embedded in an extrordinary story voiced by the likes of Mark Benton (Waterloo Road/Shakespeare & Hathaway), Zach Galligan (Gremlins) and others. A fully developed world of Cogtopolis, from geography, religious doctrines, the language of Cypheridia, Classic Rock Magazine UK rightly stated: …”it reduces Rick Wakeman’s King Arthur to the level of a Chas & Dave Cockney knees-up…9/10″. 2017 saw two more touring musicians promoted, Ben Bell (Keys) and Keri Farish (Vocals), to full time members. So there you have it – then to now.
So…….If you want a sense of Gandalf’s Fist, just listen to the first main track after the narrative intro (Master and the Monkey Pt 1). Anyone pick up on the slight Geoff Mann vocals in that first track? Deeply evocative of a past progressive epoch we all so happily dwelt in, there’s a nostalgia, occasional slight but endearing naivete, and a kaleidoscopic take on the broad nature of symphonic, psychedelic and folkish prog.
This band and album never takes itself too seriously whilst at the same time taking itself seriously. There’s something to be said about escapism and nostalgia. Vintage folky soundscapes with acoustic overtones, Celtic influences. Spacey, atmospheric and proggier pieces of work, well recorded and contemporary yet retro. There’s a pleasing depth to the music, an atmospheric vibe, and all the classic time, tempo, texture and stylistic changes we prog fans love. Matured over time, improved with experience and bringing out all the goodness that was originally there – go on, immerse yourself in their story, their music, their world. You know you want to. Go on. Go on.
A Fool’s Folly
The Master and the Monkey (Part I)
Stakes at Low Tide
The Siren’s Kiss
Creatures Great, Creatures Small
Maurice the Bat
The Wandering Rocks
The Life and Crimes of Pierre du Gâteau
Croak of Truth
Dance of Umbra
A Trick of the Tongue
Xavier the Troll
All that Glisters….
The Master and the Monkey (Part II)
By the way, did I mention that the package I listed to offered the full story, with narrative (see tracklisting above) and the original tracklisting without narrative? Any preference? Not really. After all I’m the bloke that once programmed the CD player to play the narrative only tracks of the Clockwork Fable and thoroughly enjoyed the story – then did the opposite to enjoy the music. Couldn’t do that easily on vinyl could you btw?!