‘My Book Of Answers’, the last album recorded by the late Ken Hensley and completed just before his sudden death last month, is to be released in March.
The album is the intriguing result of a collaboration with Russian poet and fan Vladimir Emelin, which saw Hensley turn Emelin’s poems into an album’s worth of songs, a series of videos, a concert and an illustrated lyric book charting the progress of each piece from Russian poem to English rock song. And all of this has been produced in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.
Hensley was clearly excited about the project when speaking about it shortly before his death:
“It’s been fascinating since day one! It’s somewhat miraculous how it all came together and how it’s continued to grow and develop, even through the crisis, to where it’s at today and where it’s going tomorrow.”
The project came about following Hensley’s chance meeting with Emelin at Alicante airport in early 2018, as he explained:
“Vladimir has a home up on the Costa Blanca and he’s here as often as visas will permit. I was flying to Moscow, he was on his way home and he saw me at the airport. I guess I’m his idol and he’s been a fan since he was a kid. Well, he asked me for an autograph and a picture, which I was happy to give him, and for an email address.”
At a subsequent meeting in Alicante (where Hensley lived with his wife Monica since 2004) later in the year, Emelin asked if Hensley could turn a couple of his poems into songs.
“I tried a couple of songs, although I didn’t know if I could do it because I’ve never done it before. He loved it and he wanted me to do more and more until we finally ended up with an album’s worth of songs.
“I made most of the album under lockdown, Coronavirus restrictions, which was easy because it was just file-sharing over the internet with the musicians, the singers and my engineer and it was relatively easy. What we had to do was make sure we didn’t compromise any quality. I popped it over to my manager Steve Weltman and typically, before I know it, he’s got the guys at Cherry Red interested in it! The whole thing takes on another dimension.”
Emelin also suggested a video and they would, eventually, make a video for each track together with a concert of all of the songs which was filmed, with social distancing, close to Hensley’s home in Spain.
“I’ve never done anything like this before and, to the best of my knowledge, I don’t recall anybody else who has,” Hensley added. “I’m also developing a lyric book which will be a beautiful piece. Each song feature’s the original Russian lyric, the translation by Vladimir’s friend in Siberia and my notated stuff where I changed the words of the poem into a song and created verses, bridges and choruses. The fans can see all the changes I made, and understand why I made them, and then there’s the final lyric that appears on the album. Alisia Vaselieva, a wonderful illustrator and friend of Vladimir’s, has done an illustration for each song, so five pages for each song and it will be a deluxe hard-back package – a collectors’ item.
“To begin with it was hard to find the time to really concentrate on the project, because 2019 was one of the busiest years of my career but, as it happens, the Coronavirus actually solved the problem for me, at the same time as it created terrible problems for so many others. I was forced to stay home and spend all my time on this project with Vladimir, the restrictions of the virus meant I was able to do that.
“I’m really happy with it and I have a huge yardstick to measure it by! It seems as though it was meant to happen.”
- ‘My Book Of Answers’ is released on 5 March. You can pre-order your copy HERE.