Tarot Suite: Mike Batt & Friends
Like a moth to a flame: Diane to a sign in a store window reading: All CDs $2.00--Everything Must Go. Unfortunately, the wares had been picked over to a bony carcass, and I found little to excite me. I did find two good cds--but alas, already owned them. I picked them up as gifts and was about to depart when a title leapt out at me: Tarot Suite. I thought that deserved a second look, which yielded the name of the performer(s)--Mike Batt and Friends. Never having heard of Mike Batt, I had to judge a cd by its cover (despite rumors that one should never do that), and I sensed that the music was of the dreaded art-rock genre, a la ELP, Yes, and the Moody Blues.
The album cover looked interesting, though. It showed three different versions of a musician dressed as a Fool emerging from the borders of a Tarot card named, surprisingly enough, The Fool. Two dollars, I thought to myself. How terrible can it be? Despite my surety that it would be quite terrible, I bought it as a Tarot novelty item.
Turns out Mike Batt is a British songwriter/singer/arranger/producer who had, indeed, written music with Moody Bluesman Justin Hayward. The friends referred to in the title are Roger Chapman, a British rocker of some repute and Colin Blunstone who sang lead with the Zombies (Shes Not There, Season of the Witch). Additionally, the London Symphony Orchestra plays on the cd, along with artists like blues artiste Rory Gallagher and Chris Spedding (versatile session guitarist who played with Jack Bruce, Elton John, and Nilsson--hows that for diversity?).
The music is mostly instrumentals, and mostly as youd imagine from the musical biographies. I am a long-time Zombies fan, so "Losing Your Way in the Rain," a song evoking the Hermit, is pleasant enough. Roger Chapman, on the other hand, sounds like Meat Loaf with his balls being squeezed in a tight vise--and he sings on two tracks, unfortunately. The cd would be classified as belonging to the school of art-rock, a school I have never wished to attend. The cd is not something that will have a regular spot in my cd selections.
However, it is a cool Tarot novelty item. There are color copies of some of the majors from the Della Rocca Tarot (reprinted by permission of the British Museum) and inside the 22 Trumps illustrate the various songs. "Introduction (Journey of the Fool)" and "Imbecile" are attached to the Fool and Magician. You can find the words at: http://home.rmi.net/~grymntl/imb.html
Cards for "Plainsong" are the High Priestess, Empress, Emperor, and the Pope. "Lady of the Dawn" (which, prior to reading the liner notes, I thought was about the High Priestess) is illuminated by the Lovers, and includes a line I find laughably banal ("Well, I like you for your body, but I love you cause youre wise"). Turns out my instinct was right: in another part of the liner notes Batt writes: "In the song "Lady of the Dawn"...it is the High Priestess who "holds the key." She is the subject of the song."
The Valley of Swords cards are the Chariot and Justice (VIII in this deck). "Losing Your Way in the Rain" is "based on the card of the Hermit. An academic might tell me that the HERMIT on the card is not lost; it is just that he is still searching for the truth or the way; he is wisely aware that it is hard to find. But to me, the HERMIT is still a man. He is still out against the elements, and he is still capable of physical weakness." So saith Mike Batt in the liner notes, and while I am not sure "capable" is the mot juste, you get the idea of the artists intent.
"Tarota" is illustrated by the Wheel of Fortune and Strength. "The Night of the Dead" merges the Hanged Man, Death, Temperance and the Devil--quite a feat for a 3:31 instrumental. The next song shows a nice play on words, "The Dead of the Night," illustrated by the Star and the Moon. The last track, "Run Like the Wind," merges the last three Trumps: the Sun, Judgement, and the World.
Also included in the liner notes are two line summaries of each Trump written by Batt. They are not bad at all, and his grasp of the depth of the Tarot, along with his self-effacing comment is charming: "...any two line description is going to be inadequate (particularly if written by me!)."
Not a bad purchase for two dollars. Its no longer in print, but if you want to do a little web-searching, you might find it at GEMM or other used cd sites. Happy hunting! Diane Wilkes
Copyright 1999 Diane Wilkes