Steven Wilson: Get All You Deserve (Limited Deluxe Edition)

John Kelman By

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For those who own Wilson's limited-run (3,000 copy) live CD, Catalog | Preserve| Amass (Self Produced, 2011)—sold at shows during the 2011/12 tour and, briefly, at his website; a single, 70-minute disc that features half of Get All You Deserve's fourteen tracks, recorded at earlier shows—it's an opportunity to compare and contrast, and to really appreciate exactly what woodwind multi-instrumentalist Theo Travis, keyboardist Adam Holzman, bassist/stick player Nick Beggs and drummer Marco Minnemann bring to this music. Here, Niko Tsonev replaces Catalog's Aziz Ibrahim—both fine enough guitarists capable of delivering the parts and textures required, but simply not as exceptional as the rest of the band. This was, however, only Tsonev's fourth date with the band, making such criticism a tad premature, perhaps. Still, Tsonev's recent replacement by Guthrie Govan will hopefully bolster the band's one as-yet-impermanent position.

Simply comparing the two versions of the irregularly metered opener, "No Twilight Within the Court of the Sun"—with Minnemann the first one to enter and bolstering Wilson's assertion that "Marco is incapable of playing the same thing the same way twice"—makes clear just how essential this band is in making each night a thoroughly different experience. Beyond their entrances onstage (clearly not at the same point each night) there are moments, like when Holzman shifts from Rhodes to acoustic piano (sample) and Minnemann and Beggs kick into double time—something they don't do on Catalog—that make it particularly revealing to hear multiple versions of the music. Perhaps even more significant, however, is that the song is taken at an overall faster clip on Get All You Deserve, meaning that Wilson and his band are not playing to a predefined click track, which has become commonplace with so many of today's live rock performers.

Instead, what Wilson delivers with Get All You Deserve is modern progressive rock played with an old school aesthetic, one that takes advantage of something else the genre exhibited in its nascency—players often trained in classical and jazz, but who decided to do apply themselves to an electrified context. Holzman's piano solo intro to Grace for Drowning's "Deform to Form a Star" (surely the most heartbreakingly beautiful song Wilson has ever written) is a mesh of classical constructs and freewheeling, Chick Corea-isms, while Travis' flute playing on the kick-ass "Luminol" may, if not exactly dethrone Ian Anderson as the king of rock flute, at least makes clear that there's someone else who, speaking with a greater jazz vernacular, deserves to be held in the same high regard. Despite his early, synth-laden days with trumpet icon Miles Davis, here Holzman is all Fender Rhodes—gritty, tremeloed and, at times, ring modulated—and acoustic piano, though there's plenty of symphonic mellotron, and he throws in some Jan Hammer-like guitaristic synth on "No Part of Me," which starts in softer progressive pop territory, but builds to a fever pitch, with Travis delivering his most searing saxophone solo of the set.

But for all the improvisational spirit—the jazz spirit—that the group brings to Wilson's music, it's absolutely not jazz. Fans would be hard-pressed to find a jazz record with the mellotron-driven grandeur of the last section of "Luminol," while the epic, 25-minute "Raider II" that closes the set is, if not exactly a mirror to the second side of King Crimson's Lizard, certainly inspired by its longer form and overall shape (including its foreboding finale), albeit filtered through Wilson's expansive prism. Beggs, who is the only player lacking (not that it matters) overt jazz credentials—a founding member of 1980s Brit-pop group Kajagoogoo and bassist/stick player for ex-Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett—is no less an equal to Travis and Holzman His pliant, open-eared and open-minded interaction makes him the fulcrum over which Wilson's band rests, driving the last half of the brooding "Index" and, together with Minnemann, completely transforming it with a groove the studio original simply did not possess.

Minnemann is truly a force of nature, a drummer whose mind-boggling dexterity is matched only by his dynamic breadth. He may drive the more metallic parts of "No Twilight" with a thundering double bass drum figure, but when Wilson's vocals enter, he pulls the volume down—way down—without losing the essential pulse. In his solo intro to the same song, he plays with the kind of impeccable time that simply doesn't need a click; even when he leaves big gaping holes, if there are any minor fluctuations, they only serve to make things more organic, more human.



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