Blind Guardian's folky acoustic ballads have always proved to be among their most popular songs, and a staple of their full-length releases, and while 'A Past and Future Secret' will always hold second place to 'The Bard's Song' (unless future albums yield something better, which is seeming increasingly unlikely), this four-minute take on the Excalibur legend is always a great breather in their power metal live sets.
At just under four minutes, this is more polished and accomplished than 'The Bard's Song,' despite lacking its unique character, led by a light and relatively fast acoustic guitar accompanied by Hansi Kürsch's soft and very distinctive German singing voice, as well as liberal use of orchestration. While the symphonic elements add to the grandeur of the song, the entirely instrumental 'Orchestral Version' also present on this single unwisely promotes them to a major presence alongside the guitar in the song's latter half, which seems to consist of cranking up the volume to fill in for the absent vocals. It's just the kind of pointless extra that fans like to see on a single release, but this time perhaps a little too pointless.
The other additions are much more worthwhile, and both excellent songs. Although it's something of a shame that 'Imaginations from the Other Side' was included rather than one of the other songs from its namesake album, simply because a demo version had already been included on the Japanese 'Bright Eyes' single and would subsequently make its way onto 'Mr. Sandman,' this is inarguably the most relevant song to contrast against the acoustic ballad for being one of Blind Guardian's heaviest, loudest and most frantic, allowing for a more accurate overall impression of the band for newcomers. But since they're mainly buying for the title song, the choice of cover song for track three is kept in the same folk rock style, a wisely chosen take on Uriah Heep's 'The Wizard.'
If there was any song recorded in the seventies that deserves to be a Blind Guardian song, this is surely it; an acoustic song about a wizard, and that's it. It's fun and optimistic to avoid the epic sound of the first track, and Hansi puts in a great vocal performance, while the rest of the band seem to stick faithfully to the original right down to the use of a subtle choir and organ to fill out the backdrop, not typical Blind Guardian instruments. Only the slow rock section really marks this out as a modern version by being heavy in the way seventies albums found difficult (unless we're talking about Black Sabbath), and at only three minutes in length, the last of which is basically Hansi singing "ahh" numerous times over an extended outro, it's an easily enjoyed little song, and I'm glad the band went for something a little bit strange.
1. A Past and Future Secret
2. Imaginations from the Other Side
3. The Wizard (Uriah Heep cover)
4. A Past and Future Secret (orchestral version)
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Past & Future Secret
2 Imaginations from the Other Side
4 Past & Future Secret