Mike Batt

The Hunting of the Snark

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Mike Batt stepped into Jeff Wayne's realm of expertise with this progressive/pop work (sometimes referred to as The Hunting of the Snark), based on Lewis Carroll's nonsense poetry. The Hunting of the Snark recalls Wayne's The War of the Worlds with its all-star cast and enveloping concept. It isn't done on quite so grand a scale, and it lacks the propulsive narrative thrust of Wayne's work, but it has an opening rock/orchestral section and an introductory piece -- "Children of the Sky," sung by Batt -- that's about as catchy and lyrical a piece of pop/prog rock as had been heard this side of Kate Bush's Hounds of Love. Indeed, the mix of synthesizers, orchestra, and amplified rock band will recall that album, as well as works such as the all-star version of Tommy (featuring the London Symphony Orchestra) from the early '70s, and both albums share the vocal services of Roger Daltrey. Joining the Who's vocalist are Art Garfunkel and Deniece Williams (who harmonize beautifully on the appropriately titled "A Delicate Combination"), Cliff Richard (who delivers a very Victorian-style theater vocal performance on "The Bellman's Speech"), and Julian Lennon, with John Hurt and Sir John Gielgud providing narrative links. It's a little pretentious but also very engaging for those who like this sort of literary-based rock adaptation, and it ends up being quite charming -- and it certainly deserved a better fate than the relative obscurity to which it was prematurely consigned.

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