‘Raingods with Zippos’ was the first album released under licence on Roadrunner Records in April 1999. It was the first of 3 albums to be produced by Elliot Ness at the now renamed ‘Millennium Studios’ and contained a number of songs cowritten with various well-known musicians during a retreat at The Chateau Marouatte in France. These included ‘Incomplete’ with Doug Millet and Elisabeth Troy, who would also sing on the ‘Raingods’ album and perform a duet on the song with Fish. ‘Raingods’ featured the Fish classic ‘Plague of Ghosts’ written with keyboard player Tony Turrell and Mark Daghorn. At nearly 25 minutes long it takes up nearly half of the original album which has now been remastered by Calum Malcolm. The 8000 words of sleeve notes written by Fish contained within the 90 pages of the hardback book, which holds 3 CD’s of music, photos, and Mark Wilkinson artwork, cover the writing and recording sessions in detail. 2 songs co-written and performed with old friend and collaborator Mickey Simmonds and guitar contributions from Steven Wilson make this a unique album.
CD1 is the remastered original album with CD2 containing live, instrumental and demo versions of ‘Plague of Ghosts’. CD3 features live and acoustic versions of songs from the album again all remastered by Calum Malcolm.
Deluxe Remaster Edition
Disc 1 (Studio Album)
01 Tumbledown Dick/Simmonds 5.52
02 Mission Statement Dick/Astley/Thorn 4.00
03 Incomplete Dick/Antwi/Millet 3:44
04 Tilted Cross Dick/Jackson/Johnson 4:19
05 Faithhealer A. Harvey/H. McKenna 5:01
06 Rites of Passage Dick/Simmonds 7:42
Plague of Ghosts Dick/Turrell/Daghorn
07 i) Old Haunts 3:13
08 ii) Digging Deep 6:49
09 iii) Chocolate Frogs 4:04
10 iv) Waving at Stars 3:12
11 v) Raingods Dancing 4:16
12 vi) Wake-Up Call (Make it happen) 3:32
Fish – Vocals
Elizabeth Troy Antwi – Vocals/Backing Vocals 1,3
Steven Wilson – Guitars 1,5, 7-12
Bruce Watson – Guitars/Mandolin 1,2,3
Robin Boult – Guitars 2,3,4,5
Til Paulman – Guitars 2
Phil Grieve – Guitars 5
Tony Turrell – keyboards/Piano/Harmonium/Synths 1,2,3,4,5,7-12
Mickey Simmonds – Piano/Keyboards 1,5,6
Steve Vantsis – Bass/Double Bass 1,2,3,4,5,6, 7-12
Dave Stewart – Drums 1,2,4,5,6, 7-12
Dave Haswell – Percussion 1,2,3,4,5,6, 7-12
Davy Crichton – Strings/Fiddle 3,4,5,6, 7-12
Nicola king – Backing Vocals 2,4,7-12
Tony king – Backing Vocals 2, 7-12
Merlin – Backing Vocals 7-12
Pierre Michel Meier - Spoken French Vocal 7-12
Spoken Outro Vocal – Mo Warden 7-12
String Arrangements - Davy Crichton & Elliot Ness 3,5,6
Mark Daghorn & Tony Turrell – Programming 7-12
Elliot Ness & Tony Turrell –Samples 7-12
Disc 2 (Plague of Ghosts variations)
01 Plague of Ghosts (Live studio instrumental) 23:04 Pre - production edit
02 All These Christs (Tony Turrell instrumental demo) 14:21 Containing most of the sections that became Plague of Ghosts
03 Plague of Ghosts (Live) 28:43 From ‘Sashimi’ - Live in Poznan, Poland 1999
Disc 3 (Live + Bonus Tracks & Demos)
01 Incomplete (Acoustic demo with Elizabeth Troy Antwi) 3:41 Chateau Marouatte session - the first writing for ‘Raingods’ in 1998
02 Chasing Miss Pretty Dick/Braide/Bassett 4:52 Studio version from ‘Kettle Of Fish’ written at Chateau Marouatte
03 Mr. Buttons Dick/Boult 4:36 Studio version from ‘Kettle Of Fish’ written at Chateau Marouatte
04 Tilted Cross Dick/Jackson/Johnson 4:23 Acoustic version from ‘Communion’ St. Mary’s Church Haddington 2006
05 Incomplete Dick/Antwi/Millet 4:06 Acoustic version from ‘Communion’ St. Mary’s Church Haddington 2006
06 Rites of Passage Dick/Simmonds 5:58 Acoustic version from ‘Communion’ St. Mary’s Church Haddington 2006
07 Tumbledown Dick/Simmonds 5:35 From ‘Candlelight in Fog’ USA 2000
08 Plague of Ghosts Dick/Turrell/Daghorn 34:22 From ‘Candlelight in Fog’ USA 2000
Pre production and studio principal sessions: Steven Wilson - Guitars, Tony Turrell - Keyboards, Steve Vantsis - Bass, Dave Stewart- Drums
Poznan, Poland 1999: John Wesley - Guitars, Tony Turrell - Keyboards, Steve Vantsis - Bass, Dave Stewart - Drums,
Elisabeth Troy Antwi - Backing Vocals
St Mary’s band 2006: Frank Usher & Andy Trill - Guitars, Tony Turrell - Keyboards, Steve Vantsis - Bass, Gavin Griffiths - Drums,
Dave Haswell - Percussion, Tara Dick, Anne Marie Helder, Angela Gordon & Heather Findlay - Backing Vocals
Angela Gordon plays flute on ‘Rites of Passage’ CD3
USA 2000: John Wesley - Guitars, Tony Turrell - Keyboards, Steve Vantsis- Bass, Mark Prator - Drums, Elisabeth Troy Antwi - Backing vocals
From The Sleeve notes:
“The Château Marouatte is a 14th Century fortified castle in the Dordogne region of France and I’d been invited there to join a writer’s retreat organised by Miles Copeland, former manager of The Police and then manager of Sting. He’d bought the place years before and spent a fortune renovating it and filling it with antiques from all over the world. When I was first asked to take part in the writing sessions I felt a bit daunted as it was explained to me that there would be a number of international musicians and songwriters attending and the price for my involvement would be to co-write 6 songs in 7 days with other writers. I’d never done this before and never under such a strict schedule.
The deal was that every night 23 names would go into a hat and in the morning at breakfast 7 writing groups of 3 musicians each would be nominated. The odd man out was the only drummer at the chateau and the most sought-after figure during the week as all the groups had to share his talent. And boy did he have talent. Gary Wallis had just finished a tour with Pink Floyd and we already knew each other as he was at one time asked to replace Kevin Wilkinson as drummer in my line up when Kevin left to join the Proclaimers. He was a party animal incarnate and we both wore huge mischievous grins when we met on the first night.
Apart from Gary the only other person I knew, who had also just finished the Floyd tour as a backing vocalist, was Sam Brown. Sam had sung a duet with me in ‘94 on the re-recording of ‘Just Good Friends’ for the ‘Yin/ Yang’ project. We had got on really well especially during the video shoot for the song where she’d kept band and film crew entertained with her wicked sense of humour. We were both really pleased to see each other as like me she hardly knew anyone else in the group. With Gary and Sam around I felt more relaxed and when we were all told the wine was free for the week the fuses were lit.
It was a very clever arrangement. Miles Copeland provided the accommodation and the venue with other costs including all our travel and the catering shared with the Polygram publishing arm. Each of the groups had a writer signed to Miles’ company, one from Polygram and one independent writer. This meant that one third of every song written during the week had an interest belonging to each of the organisers. It was a very shrewd set up.”
“In the early Summer I was contacted by a couple of guys who called themselves ‘Positive Light’. They had done some dance remix work for Marillion and wanted me to put some spoken words on a track they had called ‘All These Christs’. It was around twenty minutes long and made up of drum loops and sequences with a lot of atmospheric sections. Mark Daghorn and his writing production partner Tony Turrell came up to the studio to discuss the project at the end of June. I already had the songs from the Chateau Marouatte but needed something else. On hearing their composition I had an idea to hijack it for my album and as it was still in early stages of writing it was possible to reshape it to my own ends. Mark and Tony liked the idea and with Elliot Ness my engineer I agreed that Mark Daghorn could produce ‘All These Christs’ which would now be renamed ‘A Plague of Ghosts’.
Robin Boult was now tied up with his main session working for Howard Jones in the summer and Mickey Simmonds although available short term had decided to give up live work. I was going to need a new keyboard player and Tony who was an accomplished muso with all the right influences fitted the bill. Steve Vantsis and Dave Stewart were already on board. The guitar was the problem.
I’d wanted to work with Steven Wilson again but he was now dealing with the success and demands of his band ‘Porcupine Tree’ and writing sessions were too big a commitment. However he agreed to come up to Scotland and play guitars on the album once we had things in place.”
“Back in the studio in Scotland I had decisions to make as Roadrunner wanted bonus tracks on the compilation which I’d decided was going to be called ‘A Kettle of Fish’ and scheduled for October. In late July I was still deep in the ‘Raingods’ recording sessions.
I felt that both ‘Mr Buttons’ and ‘Chasing Miss Pretty’ were more suited to the compilation and that ‘Tilted Cross’ ,’Incomplete’ and ‘Mission Statement’ fitted ‘Raingods’. Roadrunner were asking for bonus tracks on the re-releases as well and there was an idea to record ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough’ from Sparks and the Sensational Alex Harvey Band’s ‘Faithhealer’ that I’d sung on my first solo tour and more recently with the SAS band.
The Sparks song never hit tape but ‘Faithhealer’ took on a life of its own and I decided it fitted the track list on the new album as we had recorded a powerful version with dynamics that matched what we were putting down on the ever developing ‘Plague of Ghosts’.
I still needed a couple more songs and asked Mickey Simmonds to come up and help as I had a couple of lyrical ideas that suited his style. With ‘Tumbledown’ I even had a rhythmic idea and the melodies for the verse and choruses. It came together fast as I approached it with my experience from the château. Mickey hated Steven’s guitar solo. I loved it. The intermittent ‘jarring’ discordant melodies on the album fitted the mood. I didn’t want ‘pretty melodies’ everywhere. I wanted a disturbing underlying current to illustrate my emotion at the time.
‘Rites of Passage’ was led by Mickey and I still hold it as one of the saddest relationship songs I’ve ever been involved in writing. The song writing was reflecting the state of affairs in my personal life and the lyrics distinctly, painfully autobiographical. My marriage was slowly crumbling, the house and studio sale that would fund a move to a new family home wasn’t happening and the advances from Roadrunner were only a temporary respite as I prayed for a hit album to pay them back and start earning royalties from a resurgent back catalogue.”
“John Wesley came on my radar through Marillion. He’d been working as a roadie for Steve Rothery and playing support slots for the band. In the last year with the EMI remasters coming out and our mutual involvement with the compilation of the bonus tracks I’d started talking to my old band again. There had been tentative non-disclosed discussions about doing something together as a double bill. That hadn’t got anywhere but at least the cold war between us had thawed considerably. I ended up phoning Steve and asking him about John and he heartily endorsed him.
I talked to Wes on the phone at his home in Florida and we agreed to put something together. He came over in a Scottish winter and almost died of hypothermia the first week. We got on like a house on fire which was probably exactly what was needed although he did find the local humour pretty tough to deal with and asked me at one point to tell Steve and Dave to cut him some slack. I just told him to deal with it and within a few weeks he was as witheringly sarcastic as the rest of us. A fantastic player and lovely guy he learned the music quickly too.
It was John, Tony, Liz Antwi and I that set out on the promo trip together, travelling around Europe on trains carrying our instruments and luggage. It was a fantastic fun-filled adventure and we came back to the studio for full band rehearsals as a fully functioning, collaborative, gelled unit.”
Raingods With Zippos Discography
CD Roadrunner Records RR 8677-2
CD Snapper Music SDPCD219
CD Chocolate Frog Records CFVP013CD
CD Deluxe Remaster 3 disc Chocolate Frog Records FHC007CD
Incomplete (CD) Roadrunner Records RR 2185-3
Two years after the stunning Sunsets On Empire and Fish was back with the enigmatically titled Raingods With Zippos. Gone from the writing team was Steven Wilson, although the Porcupine Tree man still played a large part on this album. In his place Fish teamed up with a variety of song writers to provide an engaging, if slightly less cohesive collection. Also included was a cover version of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band's "Faith Healer", a song I remember being enthralled by when Fish performed it on his first full solo tour it's omission from the covers album Songs From The Mirror (also soon to be reissued), a disappointment, so its inclusion here proved a boon. This version featuring Robin Boult and Steven Wilson trading licks wildly, as the discordant violin from Davey Crichton builds the tension. Wilson also provides guitars on the opening "Tumbledown", a song where beautiful piano sets the scene before jagged (possibly too jagged) keyboards begin the song proper. As an album opening it was a bold, colourful statement and also a stark contrast to the threatening world previous album Sunsets had revealed. However with the atmospheric sweep of "Rites Of Passage" adding poignancy and the bouncing "Mission Statement" (Bruce Watson of Big Country giving extra oomph to Boult's excellent guitar skills) adding darting dollops of energy, Raingods certainly knows how to offer up a variety of musical ideas to get its message across.
"Incomplete" is another in the list of wonderful male-female voiced duets Fish has thrived through over the years, the big Scot never afraid to match himself against technically superior vocalists in order to ensure he delivers a performance right at the peak of his powers. This time Elizabeth Antwi is his foyle (she co-wrote the song) and both he and she are absolutely wonderful on a stunningly arranged, string laden joy. "Tilted Cross" on the other hand utilises acoustic guitar and violin to counterpoint in glorious style, Nicola King adding sublime backing vocals. However strong though the whole album is, arguably it revolves round the six part "Plague Of Ghosts", a meandering, but never wandering journey through a host of styles and attacks beautifully brought together by keyboard player Tony Turrell and "programmer" Mark Daghorn, as Fish weaves his lyrical magic. It's, even all these years down the line, a hell of ride and a prime example of patience and poise triumphing over bombast and impetuousness to deliver the album's most involved and diverse piece.
The first bonus disc also revolves entirely round "Plague...", three versions assembled for comparison. A live in the studio instrumental pre-production comes first, the basis of the song's heart well under construction and hitting hard in unexpected ways without the vocals snagging the attention. Next up is 'Tony Turrell's instrumental demo containing sections that became "Plague Of Ghosts"' and I have to say that the early concoctions are quite spellbinding. Closing the disc is a live 1999 version (from Sashimi, one of the many official bootlegs Fish has put out over the years), where the beauty and majesty of the songs is displayed for all to hear, John Wesley (solo and Porcupine Tree sideman) handling the guitars superbly.
From the outside, a second live version of the same piece, running to nearly 35 minutes closing out disc three, may seem like overkill, but with Fish introducing the song (originally from the Candlelight In Fog official bootleg) as a dedication to his one time drummer Kevin Wilkinson, who had recently taken his own life, the raw emotion which sees Fish struggle in the quieter sections is a genuinely moving experience. Impressively, all five (one final studio, two live and two demo) versions are distinctly different from each other and rather than causing disc two to be somewhat throwaway, it actually verges on being the best in this set. The rest of the third disc is made up of live acoustic takes of "Tilted Cross", "Incomplete" and "Rites Of Passage", which come from the excellent 2006 Communion album, a full live band take on "Tumbledown" (again featuring Wesley), alongside a wonderful demo take of "Incomplete" and the bonus cuts from the Kettle Of Fish compilation, "Mr. Buttons" and "Chasing Miss Pretty", which both deserve another airing.
As with all of the albums in this reissue campaign, the three discs come housed in a beautiful hardback 48 page book, featuring stunning artwork and images. Add in detailed, scene setting, sleeve notes from Fish himself and it's impossible to find any reason not to fully recommend this version of an excellent album, and so much more.
The former singer of Marillion produces with "Raingod With Zippos" an album that stands out from his previous productions. Usually located in a groovy and rather dry progressive register, the style of "Raingod" contrasts with a very pronounced neo-progressive aspect, taking off particularly in the middle of the album.
Indeed, the album can be divided into two distinct parts. The first, from the first to the sixth track, is a series of compositions that have no connection with each other.
Musically in a rock style rather close to what Fish was able to do before, they nevertheless present a better fluidity. There is no complexity here. The melodies have the free field to make the lyrics live in the listener's imagination. The ballad "Incomplete", highly emotional, sung in duet with a female voice, is a perfect example.
The second part, without swearing from the rest of the album, presents a divergent content. It groups all the tracks from the sixth under the name of "Plague of Ghosts". The style is definitely less conventional and will happily flirt with the neo-progressive genre.
The atmospheres are much more worked with exclusively synthetic tracks. The usual choruses/couplets are set aside to propose a kind of mini concept-album, with all the peculiarities inherent to this kind of exercise: here a mixture of tracks with a bare and synthetic content and rock tracks indulging in the immense pleasure of slowly increasing in power. Moreover, all transitions are smooth and reinforce the impression of listening to only one track.
"Raingod With Zippos" is for me one of the best albums of the last 20 years. Fish has succeeded with talent in renewing himself and offering us an album that is exceptional from the first to the last track. Don't miss this rare pearl....
Fish's legacy as an independent songwriter and increasingly talented lyricist will most probably last forever, or at least until the day he dies. I say this because, with each and every one of his solo albums, Fish has been making sure that the music becomes more and more diverse, the poetry of his lyrics is more and more meaningful, and that every one of the guest musicians appearing on his songs are doing their job in the best way they can. Excuse me for stating the obvious, but with “Raingods with Zippos”, Fish sounds as ambitious as ever, using no less than SEVENTEEN guest musicians, and even at times throwing in a few surprises to please both the willing and unexpectant listener.
“Raingods with Zippos” was released thirteen years ago via Roadrunner Records. Yes, you read that right, Roadrunner Records. A record label that is widely recognized by metalheads and mainstream rockers alike as the home of many of the world's biggest metal and rock bands. So it begs the question: Just what is Fish doing with a record label like this? Well for those of you fearing that “Raingods with Zippos” may just sound like a very mediocre album created purely for cashing in, you can think again. “Raingods with Zippos” is arguably Fish's true crowning achievement, and is criminally underrated in a world that unfortunately wouldn't dare listen to an album like this, for all its diversity and incredibly good sound.
As with every other Fish release, the lyrical content and themes here are very heartfelt and create various moods that may conflict with each other, but thankfully contribute to making this particular album the masterpiece it is. On the ever-changing opener 'Tumbledown', Fish's voice sounds as powerful as ever when singing “Raingods with Zippos, a tin man with a heart/an end with no beginning, a race without a start that you'll never win, that you cannot lose and you fall apart”, and his vocal style as usual, seems to fit whatever mood each particular song may represent. It is quite clear that there is an underlying concept in “Raingods with Zippos”, but whether it is a fantastical one or one that relates to modern life in Scotland it is uncertain. Nevertheless, Fish's lyrics do seem to touch on various themes throughout. On the quite upbeat 'Mission Statement' Fish sounds like he's having a lot of fun as he admits that “I've been in a downward spiral for a very long, long time/I've been stepping over dollars just to pick up a shiny dime”, whereas on the very relaxing yet somewhat mysterious 'Tilted Cross' a sense of fantasy arrives when Fish harmonically sings “They lie beneath the needles of the forest, in the fields where only shadows dare to play”. Just by reading the lyrics you can automatically get a sense of reading true poetry, and the music itself only helps to fully support these themes.
As said before, there is a gargantuan number of seventeen guest musicians, one of which being no other than Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson, who contributes largely to the guitar work but also adds a few keyboard interludes here and there. Now, the reason that various songs on the album sound heavy and aggressive could be that Steven Wilson's signature guitar playing comes through so powerfully and ends up being very memorable indeed. For anyone who's ever listened to “Stupid Dream” or even “Lightbulb Sun”, you can almost feel the haunting presence of Steven Wilson on this album, but fortunately for the listener, this never really takes away from Fish's musical genius. Aside from that, there is quite a lot that happens on “Raingods with Zippos”, instrumentally. There aren't any Celtic influences around, but this is only replaced by melodious string arrangements ('Incomplete', 'Rites of Passage'), beautiful keyboard work ('Tumbledown', 'Faithhealer') and even a brief Drum and Bass beat that ends 'Rites of Passage' and begins the grandiosity of 'Plague of Ghosts'. This is all very well executed, and in particular each and every instrument contributes to how well the songs themselves sound in general. It isn't just the instrumentation here that excels either. The female backing vocals courtesy of Elizabeth Antwi, Nicola King and Tony King amongst others give the listener a sense that this album has had a lot of work done to it.
However, whilst the first six songs do each work considerably well on their own, the true highlight of “Raingods with Zippos” is really in its last song, split into six parts, 'Plague of Ghosts'. It should be believed that 'Plague of Ghosts' is absolutely outstanding, and could even be the soundtrack to a wonderful dream. The opening ambiance of 'Old Haunts' and 'Digging Deep' give way to grandiose, epic atmospheres, whereas the sensual, soulful soundscapes of 'Waving at Stars' and 'Raingods Dancing' create every mood possible, combining them all into one marvelous twenty-five minute musical journey that almost moves you itself. This isn't all. At various points Fish narrates his poetry as opposed to merely singing it, yet his voice still has a sense of sorrow and is full of life. “We watched an insect stray to the edge of the world/ A lily pad stretched out over a green mirror/in which the ghost carp swirl like clouds before a storm” is spoken with such flow and emotion that its hard not to create a dream-like image in the listener's head, and even when Fish sings, it is largely complemented by his narrative voice, the two styles once again joining together to make each respective song a marvel of its own.
“Raingods with Zippos” cannot simply be listened to in parts. It must be listened to as a whole, and fully embraced as an album that flows with such cohesion and spirit that it haunts you for days after so much as listening to it once. The accessibility and memorable melodies are there, but there is so much more too. It is an album that just begs everyone to ask the following question: “Can Fish get any better than this?”. Fish has since released three more albums, all in the very modern 21st Century, but it can be said now that he hasn't reached the quality or standard reached on “Raingods with Zippos” ever since its release.