that Eddie Hardin had a hand in writing The Butterfly Ball,
it's easy to approach the 1991 Wind In The Willows live
show as being merely a belated sequel. However, the concept
actually predates the 'Ball' by quite a few years.
had been kicking it around since 1967, and even recorded
demos in the early 70s (the one surviving example, featuring
Ian Paice, is on the Purple Records CD of the studio album).
The album only began to take shape after 1979, with Eddie
calling in friends such as John Entwhistle and Steve Hackett
to help out. It was eventually released in 1985 (Eddie prefers
the term 'escaped') to no great effect. When given the chance
to perform it live for German TV in June 1991 he took the
opportunity with both hands. Many guests from the album,
plus the likes of Jon Lord, Don Airey and Graham Bonnet
were assembled, and although 'arrangements and rehearsals
were a nightmare', the result was a stunningly good show
which has proved ideally suited to the DVD medium.
packaging is minimal, which doesn't augur well, and neither
do the ropey 1991 TV titles, but matters improve when the
concert kicks in, with crystal clear picture and sound quality.
The band contains no less than three keyboard players; Jon
Lord on the Hammond, Don Airey on synths and Eddie Hardin
on piano. There are two drummers; Pete York looks extremely
relaxed as per normal, while Zak Starkey looks and plays
like he really means it.
opening Main Theme is a dramatic instrumental elevated
by the huge, warm embrace of the sound, with Ian Gillan
Band veteran Ray Fenwick's needle sharp guitar work soaring
above it all. Seated amongst a shrubbery that would even
satisfy The Knights who say 'Ni', Jon Lord also emerges
with a gorgeous organ solo. A bit low in the mix, but still
one of many enjoyable moments.
Throughout the show Jon's presence is largely confined to
adding an atmospheric layer of Hammond to the music, though
he does get to stretch his fingers occasionaly for some
excellent solos. Beside him, Don Airey provides the dominant
sound on stage, with some great synth work. In the instrumental
Fairgound Fantasy, both take turns working rock,
classical and carnival music into a piece that rolls along
like the mid section of 'Space Truckin' (also bearing a
resemblance to ELP's take on 'America' ). I only wish that
last year's UK Purple tour had let them loose on something
of The Butterfly Ball can't help but be mentioned (and I'm
trying not to, honest), with between song narration provided
by comedian Tony Barton as Toad, sat to the left of the
stage. It falls a bit flat, unsurpisingly. (The dvd makers
have thankfully placed these interludes at the end of each
track, meaning that you can hit the forward button to go
straight to the next song!)
live shows had one man to thank for really jollying up proceedings:
Tony Ashton. Once he arrives on stage, with cigarette, beer,
and maniacal grin, every facet of Wind In The Willows suddenly
meshes together into great entertainment. His song, the
punchy The Wild Wood, brings out a classic Ashton
performance, even including a lurch over to Eddie's grand
piano for some splendid jazzy ivory tinkling. At this point
I'm suddenly aware that we're only one Paice away from PAL.
reunion of sorts is having Graham Bonnet and Don Airey present.
I've always loved 79-80 era Rainbow, and it's great to see
them together again. Bonnet features heavily in the show,
giving it everything and trying to inject fun into the proceedings
at every opportunity. His first appearance is on Good
Morning To You, alongside the great Maggie Bell, both
letting rip over a typically atmospheric backing. The
Badger is a another great performance, with Jon
Lord also getting to shine.
me the music dips on some of the slower tracks. Joe Fagin
(remember the theme music from Auf Wiedersehen Pet?) and
Val McKenna (who has sung on sessions for the likes of Genesis
and Phil Manzanera) do their level best on I've Forgotten
How To Smile, but it soon sounds uncomfortably middle
of the road. The mid section sags for me, with the story
muscling in a bit too much for my liking and the music entering
AOR power ballad and music hall territory. That said, it's
still all good fun...
back on the rack for Can Dreams Come True, a really
strong song, characteristically belted out by Graham Bonnet.
What with him turning up the decibels a bit too much for
the chorus, and Don Airey's strident backing, it's almost
Donnington 1980 all over again! Piper At The Gates Of
Dawn is the rockiest track, with Bonnet in his element
and Fenwick weighing in with more great guitar work.
All features all of the 'cast' delivering a finale that's
both catchy and irritating. (Damn, it's in my head again..)
After that the DVD tails off... we get the main theme Reprise,
accompanied by views of a forest (so no Denny Laine as promised
on the cover), and 'Love Is All' (with Bonnet taking lead)
over the original cartoon promo.
I would recommend this dvd to anyone with affection for
any of the artists involved, they all perform extremely
well (with the possible exception of Donovan!). The songs
are quality though sometimes missing the intangible spark
to make them special, but with the superb arrangements and
the enthusiasm of the musicains everything sounds
great and I was very happily swept along by the whole show.
makes for a very satisfying, and entertaining 75 minutes