Released in August 2017, "King's Ransom" is the third musical by composer, lyricist and symphonic rock legend, Clive Nolan. A sequel to his highly acclaimed 2013 “Alchemy”, the musical presents another Victorian tale of adventure, love and mystery. Returning are Professor King and his friends Eva and William to once more save the country, which sinks fast into the chasm of political intrigue and the evil plotting of the power-driven Colonel Luther Scovil. The life of the Prime Minister is in grave danger and only King and his knowledge of unearthly solutions can salvage the country and prevent disaster. The story follows the twists and turns through misfortunes and deaths, love and passion, as well as the ‘return to the living’ ghostly sequences, and leaves the listener/reader in awe of Nolan's vivid and imaginative plot and narrative skills.
A stellar cast mostly known from Nolan’s other projects delivers the captivating story. Progressive rock enthusiasts will be pleased with the return of Magenta's vocalist - the queen of prog - Christina Booth, who had also starred in Nolan's first musical “She” (2008). Returning is also Clive's long-time collaborator, Alan Reed (ex-Pallas), who had appeared in the Nolan productions as early as Casino (1992), Strangers On A Train (1993), and later on took the role of Holly in “She”. Other cast members can be remembered from 'Alchemy” and The Caamora Theatre Company performances of Clive's musicals: Chris Longman (Ben Greaves in the DVD version of “Alchemy”) returns as a wonderfully sinister baddie, Colonel Luther Scovil, Verity White (Clive's Pendragon colleague) delivers a delightful performance as doctor Josephine Kendrick, rock singer Chris Lewis is Edwin Deeks, historian and TV presenter Ross Andrews plays Jacob Alderdyce, Robbie Gardner is an unwilling psychic Tom Worthy, Joy-Amy Wigman is Martha Kitson and Emily Frechter is a paper boy. A principal tenor role went to a guest performer, an actor and singer Guy Barnes (William Gardelle), and the soprano Gemma Ashley was cast as Eva Bonaduce. Ashley, although appearing on a Nolan album for the first time, has been a member of the Caamora Company since 2015 and could be seen accompanying Nolan on numerous European stages (including the UK, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway) in his theatre shows and concerts. Last but not least, Nolan himself returns in the role of his alter ego, Professor Samuel King.
Being a musical, and the most complex Nolan venture to date, “King’s Ransom” features a plethora of excellent performances varied in style, pace and mood. The listener is offered a vast number of melodic ballads and arias (“Legend of the Unicorn Orchid”, “Solitary Man”) comedy numbers (“Death by Misadventure”, “Nostalgia”), love duets (“Silent Words”, “Dare to be Happy”), angry retorts (“Defiant”), trios and quartets (“Set for the Task”), solemn choral songs (“Eyes of the Basilisk”), as well as heavier rocky moments (“Salvation Has a Name”). All vocal parts amaze with the abundance of talent and ability to translate and project the characters into the language of music. Special mention must go to Robbie Gardner and his highly entertaining rendition of the Cockney Tom Worthy, Gemma Ashley and her heart melting soaring soprano arias, and Chris Lewis in the role of the charismatic leader of Under London society. Nolan's orchestrations and musical vision was brought to life by the top shelf Caamora instrumentalists – Clive Nolan on keyboards and his rock colleagues: Mark Westwood (Shadowland) on guitar, Kylan Amos (Arena) on bass, Scott Higham (ex-Pendragon) on drums, the founder of Caamora Norway Morten L. Clason (flute), Penny Gee (violin) and Alaster Bentley (oboe). The chorus, consisting of over 30 voices, also complemented “King’s Ransom”.
The whole venture took 3 years of creative work: writing, composing, orchestrating and recording. The result of Nolan's efforts was engineered, mixed and mastered at Thin Ice Studios with Karl Groom, and released in September in the form of an attractive box set comprising of 3 CDs: Act 1 and Act 2, bonus disc featuring early demos of the songs performed by various cast members and guests, “The Making of...” DVD and 3 booklets with the stunning artwork by the graphic novel artist, Mark Buckingham. If the special edition alone is not enough, there is one more item to complete the collection: “King's Karaoke” CD, which, although released outside the box, fits perfectly inside when purchased separately. Karaoke (what a great idea!) offers a selection of backing tracks allowing singing on your own or dueting with the cast members.
Musically, “King's Ransom” is most certainly the biggest achievement of Clive Nolan and a testimony to the grandiose creative power of the composer, who should be praised for literary, compositional, instrumental and vocal skills. The box set can make him proud and, I daresay, “King's Ransom” is a masterpiece, which will bring hours of musical joy and satisfaction to the enthusiasts of good music.