Tarot Suite – Mike Batt and Friends (1979)

Tarot Suite - Mike BattNo other album was played as often in our house during my youth than Tarot Suite by Mike Batt (with the London Symphony Orchestra). My father adored this album like no other. When my parents entertained new friends my father was insistent this record be played.  I also had this urgency to get this album out there. I played songs from Tarot Suite for school friends in the hope that they would reaffirm it’s ‘greatness’ and low and behold on a makeshift camping getaway they confided to me it was the bees-knees. At this time in my youth, a version of Introduction (The Journey of a Fool) from Tarot Suite was used as the theme for Sydney’s radio station, Triple M, but  everyone was seemingly unaware of its origin.

All Music Review by Dave Sleger:

Mike Batt’s second solo release on Epic, Tarot Suite, was inspired by the 22 major arcana trump cards of the tarot deck. If the listener wants to make sense of the concept of this album, the insert provides a handy description and explanation of the various cards and how they relate to the music. If not, Tarot Suite certainly holds its own as an artfully and literate collection of orchestrated rock & roll.

To this day it boggles the mind how underappreciated and unrecognized this album is. It doesn’t even have it’s own Wiki-page. It is scantily mentioned in Mike Batt’s wiki-bio.  Also, I have read my fair share of music blog posts in my life and talked to lots of music aficionados, but all were oblivious of Tarot Suite. Only when I searched it on Google did I find some positive music reviews such as the one above. Despite that, it’s as though it never existed.

I still consider Tarot Suite one the greatest albums I have heard and I don’t put that solely down to unbridled nostalgia. The album’s opener ‘Introduction (The Journey of a Fool’) and Imbecile (presented below) are probably in my top 20 favorite songs. Two other standouts on this album are Lady of the Dawn and Run Like the Wind. Overall the album is a real trip when listened to in its entirety.  To me the album has a medieval-mythological movie soundtrack feel.

To give you just a small taste of the magnificence and originality of this album; below is the riveting Imbecile sung with full gusto by the much-maligned singer Roger Chapman:

I would normally put ‘Related Articles’ in this section of my post, but there just isn’t anything noteworthy available on this album. It remains perplexing to me and will continue to be so I gather until I rest my weary head.

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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Posted in Music, Reflections
26 comments on “Tarot Suite – Mike Batt and Friends (1979)
  1. macalder02 says:

    The video is enjoyed. Good music.

  2. badfinger20 says:

    I’ve listened to it 4 times. It’s really good. Nice balance of styles in it. Thanks for sharing this… I love his voice.

    It reminds me of something else…the style and I can’t put my finger on it.

  3. Tarot with Kerstin says:

    This album … got me started on the road to becoming a tarot reader, lol. I was 12, and loved the music (most of it) but also the cards depicted. But yes, how popular was the Triple M theme out of this? I agree … not many knew 🙂

    • Wow, that album definitely had a big impact on you if that’s the case. You took it very literally as it were! lol Interestingly an ex gf of mine in Melbourne was a Tarot card reader as well.
      You are the first person outside of my family who I have come in contact with that listened to that album. It’s relieving to know we weren’t the only ones! Thanks for commenting.

  4. David says:

    I think the Triple M play was a bit of Rory Gallagher magic, but my understanding is they copied the Tarot Suite – used a local guitarist Kevin Borich instead.

  5. Niki says:

    Hello, Matthew, thank you so much for this post. Like you, I adore this album and play it constantly, even now. And I am just as mystified as you as to why Mike Batt is such an under-rated composer. Not to mention arranger and producer! However, I look at it this way: I know something that the rest of the world does not…. 🙂

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one who loves this album and I don’t think it’s just purely for nostalgic reasons. What amazes me is just how few music enthusiasts are even aware of its existence, not to mention there is hardly information about it on the Internet. I like your approach about how you know something! How did you come across this album?

  6. Niki says:

    That’s an interesting question, and made me think. And it brought back some lovely memories. I grew up in a small town, a mining town, with very few opportunities for entertainment. So I listened to the radio a lot. My dad was a radio ham, and therefore I knew how to tune into international shortwave, and get overseas radio stations. Whenever I heard a song, I would hunt it down. For instance, I had heard Queen’s Killer Queen in 1975, and I made it my mission to find it. I remember how the people at the record shops sniggered when I asked for Killer Queen, by Queen… no-one had ever heard of it.
    I had the last laugh, though, as I managed to get a copy of Night and the Opera, and I gained a reputation as someone who knows about ‘alternative’ music.
    So when I heard Ride to Agadir, it was love at first listen. I tracked down Schizophonia through contacts, then got Waves (really, really loved the album cover). When Caravans came out, it got some widespread attention, and I was ahead of the pack.
    By this time I had a good friend who was a DJ, who also introduced me to lots of good music that was not freely available. He was known as the Rock Doctor, and he had a late night show where he played music that was not played anywhere else.
    Being late night, the conservative radio bosses never listened, so he gained quite a following amongst people who really liked good, non-commercial music. And he appreciated the skill and talent of Mike Batt!
    It is hard to say which songs I like the most… What is different about Mike Batt’s albums is that usually, on an album, you get to like some of the songs better than others, and so over time you skip the ones in between. With Mike Batt’s albums, I just listen from one end to the other….

    • What a fascinating backstory. I haven’t heard anything from Mike Batt apart from Tarot Suite. I think Tarot Suite is about my favourite music album cover. I am now going to look into those other albums/songs you mentioned. I notice Ride to Agadir and Schizophonia has a similar rock anthem and instrumental sound to Tarot Suite. Thanks so much for your invaluable contribution to this discussion. What a pleasure!

  7. Diederik says:

    Mike Batt is a pure genius and he will be played long after he is gone !
    Roger Chapman is top notch performing ,Imbecile is in all the ways a great song . If anyone ever had heard it life ???
    This album is still fresh after more then 40 years !

  8. Mike W says:

    A friend at college introduced me to this album ~1982 and I bought all of his solo work after that. I think his Caravans theme music and Hunting of the Snark concept album were my other favourites … aside from his single ‘Bright Eyes’. I’m not the greatest fan of his singing voice, so I usually prefer when he gathers other vocalists around to do his work, whether that be Roger Chapman or Barbara Dickson.

    I would love to get a MIDI of ‘Introduction (The Journey of a Fool’) – hasa anyone put one together?

    • Thanks a lot for commenting and providing your background about coming to the album. I’m afraid I don’t know hardly any other Mike Batt material, but I’ll take the time to familiarize myself with that other music you mentioned if it’s on YT.
      What would you do with a MIDI? What is it?

      • Mike W says:

        A MIDI file is like a digital player piano roll, containing detailed instructions for electronic instruments to play back. It can be opened in music notation programs so you can then arrange the music for whatever instruments you like. There’s a short explanation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_nCf_yAKCg&ab_channel=ChristianFuchs

        After posting this I found a MIDI file for the TripleM excerpt/arrangement which will give me something I can bang out at the piano if I can make the effort.

        Some other music that has some relation to Tarot Suite, is Anthony Phillips (ex-Genesis), such as his album Slow Dance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muCpuT87xiw&ab_channel=Mei

      • Thanks for the clarification about the MIDI file. I never knew they existed.
        That’s great you found one for the TripleM arrangement. I’ll check out Slow Dance. I appreciate the links and suggestions of music you have provided since it will really flesh out this post for those who happen to stumble upon it and seek to understand and listen to more music related to this record and Mike Batt’s style of music.

    • Michel says:

      I actually recorded the entire song and could probably cobble together a MIDI file from that. The number of tracks is humongous though, and there wouldn’t be any guitars in it since they were played live. Still interested?

  9. Andrew says:

    I picked this up as a CD in Canberra in 1999. It was only because I was looking up other things that I found out that it’s the same Mike Batt as the Wombles.

    I was born in Wimbledon

    Haven’t played it in ages – time to crack out the headphoes.

  10. Cloth Ears says:

    A mate’s girlfriend introduced me to Tarot Suite in 1981. I immediately loved it. I’ll admit to a general liking for mixed genres. Mike Batt really combined orchestral and rock well on this album. I would tell all my MMM radio Sydney listening friends that it was the source of the “Doctor Dan” signature tune.

    I stumbled upon an even more obscure Mike Batt album, on vinyl, called “Zero Zero”. It is a full-on concept album where each track tells part of an overall sci-fi story. Much more electronic and not orchestral and quite weird, so it is an acquired taste. It also has a lot of Mike singing. Some tracks can be found on the internet.

    Years later I found that my wife also liked Tarot Suite when I played it and we would often listen to it in the car when going for long drives. She even bought The Hunting of the Snark album.

    • I am fascinated reading how people stumbled across this record since it is so scantily known. Thanks very much sharing your history here about it.
      That obscure Zero, Zero album, I’ll be keep an ear out for. Like you, I also would consider I have an eclectic taste in music, but I am not well versed on Batt’s catalogue of music apart from this album. I’m glad to read how your wife also likes the album. The album has to be listened to in its entirety in order for the listener to engage and immerse themselves. The experience always felt to me analogous to watching a movie. I even made a DVD of the songs put to tarot card images amongst other ambiguous mythological and cosmic imagery. It’s a bit of trip. Haha.
      Cheers

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