IT BITES – Map Of The Past +2 [Remastered 2021]
Featuring a new 2021 remaster from John Mitchell providing a crisp sound, IT BITES album “Map Of The Past” has been reissued in a digipak format including 2 bonus tracks: a rare B-Side and the original Japanese bonus.
‘Map Of The Past’ was the first concept album of It Bites twenty-five year career. It explores the theme of the past, as seen through old family photographs. There is a constant sense of nostalgia running through all of the songs and the listener gets to visit The Titanic along the elaborated musical journey combining joyful power pop with melodic progressive.
Following the ‘The Tall Ships’ release in 2008 of the reformed It Bites first album for almost 19 years, it took the band another 4 years to come up with their most ambitious project to date. The line up of original members John Beck (Keyboards) and Bob Dalton (Drums) along with John Mitchell (Arena / Lonely Robot / Kino) who had recorded The Tall Shipswith them and new recruit Lee Pomeroy (ELO / Steve Hackett) returned to the studio to record ”Map Of The Past” a concept album inspired by old family photographs, some of which can be seen inside the cover of the album.
Whereas on the previous album where the band had nurtured the It Bites sound in the writing process, here they gave Mitchell free rein to develop their style. Beck and Dalton were left to inject the band’s signature keyboard and drum sound within this framework and the results are stunning, especially on this John Mitchell remastered version where, instead of repressing the It Bites elements supplied by the pair, they seem to have been given more space to breathe.
This is a concept, but not in the cinematic sense like Marillion’s Brave where a complete journey is told from start to finish, but more akin to Dark Side Of The Moon with a thread and themes which run throughout. This pulls together all of the best parts of the latest line up and presents It Bites to a new audience.
Scanning through the wartime radiogram, the listener eventually finds Beck’s lone accordion accompanying John Mitchell’s voice on ‘Man In The Photograph’ until Dalton’s marching drums join the fray to deepen the sound.
Sooner than expected ‘Wallflower’ slams in with it’s orchestral keys and the chorus repeating the title. The lyrics tell the tale of a girl who is not all she seems to be and contains one of Beck’s top solos with a pounding drum accompaniment.
The title track ‘Map Of The Past’ is as classic era It Bites as you will find here and is all keyboard and harmonies but with a kick of guitar solo at it’s midpoint and conclusion. After that duo the pace drops for ‘Clocks’ part lullaby part nursery rhyme with its funfair carousel and circular strings and its feeling of waiting and hoping in vain. Defending the flag but not quite knowing what you are fighting for is the question posed in ‘Flag’ and although the intro once again harks back to the earlier era it quickly ups the games with the dense multi layered sound.
‘Big Machine’ shows the direction Mitchell would go onto with his Lonely Robot project with massive choruses and heavy guitar riffs. Very mechanical and forward looking in comparison to the rest of the album along with its big chorus you get an even bigger solo from Beck followed by a rapturous solo from Mitchell.
Next we start a three song run which marks the heart of the concept. ‘Cartoon Graveyard’ was the lead single from the album and after the musical box intro it bounces along on the theme of being yourself and not following the crowd.
You think that it ends on a church organ but it is in fact the introduction to ‘Send No Flowers’ which opens with full orchestral pomp leading to piano, voice and distant harmonies quite West End musical with the almost spoken lyrics and leading almost seamlessly into ‘Meadow And The Stream’ with a drop of Queen guitar and Tommy style mid section showing additional musical elements. The dreamscape lyrics tell tales of those we miss but heeds the age old warning of “be careful what you wish for…” before returning to the musical box from beginning of ‘Cartoon Graveyard’.
‘The Last Escape’ returns to piano and voice saying a farewell to those you need to leave behind and speaks of coming to terms with living with their memory.
Outro ‘Exit Song’ reprises the scanning radio this time finding a news broadcast overlaid by acoustic guitar to share just four lines before saying “Goodbye”.
As with the previous ‘The Tall Ships’ reissue we get two bonus tracks; ‘Lighthouse’ was the B-side to the digital single ‘Cartoon Graveyard’, and ‘Come On’ was added to the original Japanese version of the album.
Both are great quality songs.
Once the band had toured the album the plan was to return to the studio to record another but with Mitchell’s heavy work schedule producing and writing for other bands so far that has not happened. John Mitchell did go even further down the concept route following Map Of The Past producing a trilogy of albums for his Lonely Robot project.
Both Beck and Mitchell also went on to work with ex-Marillion vocalist Fish either in his live or studio bands over the last few years as well as in 2018 resurrecting Kino with Craig Blundell on drums to release the Radio Voltaire album.
Whether It Bites ever return to the studio remains to be seen but with ‘Map Of The Past’ they certainly reached a new but very different high point. This remastered album sounds much more clearer and crisp.
01 – Man in the Photograph (2021 Remaster)
02 – Wallflower (2021 Remaster)
03 – Map of the Past (2021 Remaster)
04 – Clocks (2021 Remaster)
05 – Flag (2021 Remaster)
06 – The Big Machine (2021 Remaster)
07 – Cartoon Graveyard (2021 Remaster)
08 – Send No Flowers (2021 Remaster)
09 – Meadow and the Stream (2021 Remaster)
10 – The Last Escape (2021 Remaster)
11 – Exit Song (2021 Remaster)
12 – Lighthouse
13 – Come On
John Mitchell – lead vocals, guitars
John Beck – keyboards, backing & harmony vocals
Lee Pomeroy – bass guitar
Bob Dalton – drums, backing vocals