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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Refugees An Anthology of the Famous Charisma Label 1969-1978

So the question remains that the reader would like to ask me, ‘why in the hell would I want to buy a compilation when I’ve got some of favorite artists that were a part of my favorite label from the ‘70s?’ Well for the late Tony Stratton-Smith, he assembled Charisma Records and varied some bands either had success or a huge cult following in the underground circuit from it’s beginning in 1969 to the end of an era in 1978 until they were sold by Richard Branson’s label Virgin in 1983. Smith or Strat which was his nickname back then, was one of the chiefs to look for new talent in the London scenery during that time period in the late ‘60s. There are some great bands from the indie label of Charisma who have accomplished than any other fans of the music genre should really take notice of.
Tony Stratton-Smith was born in 1933 in Birmingham, England. He began to do journalism in the 1950s when his love of Sports came to him. One of his favorite sports was Football and he was working for Sports Magazine for a couple of years until the beginning of ‘60s where Music was calling for him. He was a band manager with bands including; Creation, The Nice, Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, and the prog-punks Van Der Graaf Generator. He tried to look for a label to sign these bands, but there was no luck. Then in 1970, he formed his own label, Charisma or “The Famous Charisma Label” and soon the label was born. That and this 3-CD anthology set consists of the tribute to where Stratton-Smith raging music from Rare Bird, Brian Davison, Alan Hull, Lindsifarne, and the comedy group, Monty Python to huge success. The title, Refugees An Anthology of the Famous Charisma Label sounds interesting to you? No? Maybe? Okay, a little bit. The first controversial number which begins the set of The Nice’s take of Leonard Bernstein’s 6-minute introduction to symphonic rock of America (Second Amendment) which was released as a single in 1968 before being banned at the Royal Albert Hall while keyboard maestro Keith Emerson burning an American flag set the audiences approval while it was a protest instrumental track against the Vietnam War. That said, almost everything here on the anthology compilation set is highly recommend, if you really admire the projects for Mark Powell since working on Label samplers for; Vertigo, Polydor, Decca, Harvest, Liberty/United Artists, Island, and now Pye/Dawn label which is going to be released in January, 2010. You have got to admit Powell does a lot of research and does a good job on his homework to searching his love of Prog labels to make everyone happy. You have some of the underground sounds of Jazz, Folk, and Experimental music sounds on disc one; Rare Bird’s eerie single Sympathy and Lindsifarne’s disturbing folk ballad Lady Eleanor, the quirky folk rock sounds of Topo D Bill’s Witchi Tai To while Heavy Jazz Fusion blues raging an homage to Bob Dylan and Bach with The Nice’s live version of Country Pie/Bradenburg Concerto No. 6, the sing-along comedic humor taste of Monty Python’s Spam Song and of course the controversial character dialogue fun of Mrs. N*****baiter, Genesis Tolkien-esque beauty of Looking For Someone, and Van Der Graaf Generator’s autobiographical background balladry based on Peter Hammill’s background with Refugees and an homage to George Martin with Theme One. All of these artists and bands just goes to show why they important to the label.
The second disc contains work from Charisma from 1970 to 1974 heavy duty music such as Hot Thumbs O’Riley which was lead vocalist Jim Pembroke of the Finnish jazz-prog fusion group, Wigwam. His bluesy soul take of Grass for Blades is very down to earth and dealing with the marijuana issue which I might be wrong on what the song is about.
Alongside Genesis, VDGG to name a few, you have some mind-boggling cats raging from folk from Alan Hull of Lindsifarne fame, Jack the Lad’s acoustic guitar country folk rocker homage to Fairport Convention’s Come All Ye with Why Can’t I Be Satisfied?
Capability Brown’s cover of Affinity’s I Am and So Are You is a funky breathtaking blues rocking number, Refugee which was a Post-Nice band featuring Lee Jackson, Brian Davison, and mad scientist of keyboardist Sweden’s own Patrick Moraz , of this freaky avant-garde freak-out fusionesque twist of Ritt Mickley is fucking shattering, whilst Clifford T. Ward does some calmness with the string quartet of Gaye, Keith Emerson did a jam session before ELP from the Music From Free Creek supergroup project with Mitch Mitchell and Chuck Rainey paying tribute to Eddie Harris with Freedom Jazz Dance that has a combination of Blues Hard Rock that would have made Jimi Hendrix enjoy it very much. Then the folk music becomes a dark and chambered hollow music with String Driven Thing’s sinister upbeat fiddle rocker homage to Darryl Way, Heartfeeder while Bo Hansson’s follow up to Lord of the Rings, Excursion with Complications is very much of a sequel to the Rings album but this time with a groovy twist of Goblin atmosphere setting to an Italian Horror film meets Spaghetti Western tuned big band swing as Peter Hammill closes the second set featuring guitarist Randy California of Spirit fame on this dalek beauty of hell with Red Shift.
The third disc covers the punk-prog bombast beauty and features lost classics like Hawkwind’s Space Rock homage to Herman Hesse with Steppenwolf, Peter Hammill’s glam-punk alter ego Rikki Nadir with a taste of the Sex Pistols as if they teamed up with VDGG with Nadir’s Big Chance, Virtuoso guitarist Steve Hackett of Genesis fame doing a classical guitar fantasy tale featuring Phil Collins on vocals with the lukewarm Star of Sirius, and Alan Parsons best known for his magnificent engineering work on Pink Floyd’s 1973 classic, Dark Side of the Moon, brings the Alan Parsons Project to a neo-classical background with the Cask of Amontillado. Other hands-down work featuring the Jazz Fusion project for Phil Collins with Brand X, Hawklords, Peter Gabriel, and Nik Turner’s Sphynx also appear to close up the album. The 3-CD set features an introduction liner note about the label by Mark Powell himself, photos of each band/artists that were a part of the Charisma family containing 46-page booklet, also ads of the albums, bands, raves, spring collection, and more. There’s more of the Charisma’s Mad Hatter tea party, even it’s been 41 years since Tony brought the label to bring it worth up to the table.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Catapilla - Catapilla

This 1971 release was the album that would make Miles Davis so proud of with Jazz Prog rockers Catapilla and their underground roots, helped with the soul sound vocal arranging of Anna Meek and Robert Calvert’s (not the member of Hawkwind, but a different Calvert) heavy sax solos. Seemingly to come out of the end of the ‘60s and out of the blue like a bat out of hell, in seriousness the band weren’t like the Mahavishnu Orchestra or Renaissance – their self-titled debut album was high voltage to make Catapilla’s West London sound for the Jazz Fusion throne of Gods and Goddess.
The band was formed in 1970, Catapilla was a seven piece band which featured Anna’s sister Jo in the line up before she left to form Julian Jay Savarin for Julian’s Treatment, the band performed at various clubs in which they got some attention including Patrick Meehan, who was a manager for Black Sabbath, was completely blown away and got them signed for a record label, Vertigo as the band came into the studio to record their first album. By now, it proves that there’s no holding back by performing 15 or 24-minute compositions that will make your head fucking spin. Even now, can you imagine a strange band name like Catapilla instead of Catapillar? Get the idea?
Catapilla’s debut album is one of the most innovative albums to come out of the underground world that is mind-blowing and powerful at the same time. But the album itself is shattering and beautiful. With an amazing 15-minute opening introduction of Naked Death, it features some sinister vocal arrangements done by Anna while the rest of the band throughout the whole composition, do a funky jazz groove. The sax is wailing and the guitar is doing a wah-wah solo while the bass and drums flow with beats per measure which seems very eerie and almost recorded in a dark and cavernous studio that hadn’t been used for a long time, but it still sounds fucking amazing almost like a glass that’s about to break and there’s no one to stop it. Alongside Naked Death, there are two short numbers that are straightforward and very hard rock. Tumbleweed is basically a dance number. Adding the touches of the Big Band-era almost as if Duke Ellington were alive he would have been a member with a jazz version of Led Zeppelin. Very good with a hard edge, its like nothing you’ve ever heard before in the music scene of the early ‘70s. Promises intersperses funky hard fusion with a wah-wah guitar work again along with the scariest vocals that Anna does that kind of peaks in with a dramatic midsection that is very almost like a marching beat that would make you have goosebumps all around you and then goes into a hard funkadelic beat to close the number. And if that wasn’t enough, it leaves room to close the album with the 24-minute arrangement for Embryonic Fusion, which was sampled by Psych and Underground Prog DJ and founder of Finders Keepers Records, Andy Votel for the Vertigo Mixed compilation, is a tour de force epic that goes from an opening bass line, saxes flying off the wall to an jazzy atmosphere that is similar to Colosseum’s Valentyne Suite. Beginning with Anna’s calm then shrieking vocals that are powerful and disturbing, you began to wonder what the hell is going on here. The lyrics are very interesting; ‘Living with me/a rose/into me/a cavernous waste/into me/a deserted shore/Into me/a thunderous cave.’ Almost like a score for an erotic suspense thriller.
After the release of the self-titled debut album, Catapilla went through one more various line up. After releasing Changes, the band decided to call it a day. It’s still a band worth listening to.

Locomotive - We Are Everything You See

Locomotive were something of a weird psychedelia symphonic band, no guitar, just bass, organ, drums, and keyboards which seems to go very well, but adding the vocals of Norman Haines and you got yourself and early beginning of classical rock music. They had the ingredients of psychedelic meets symphony rock combo with special powers to add the sounds of The Nice, Beatles Sgt. Pepper-era, and The Move.
As you can imagine right from the start from a huge sandwich, the results of their debut album, We Are Everything You See, were very odd – and it remains odd to this day. But it remains a collector’s item for any psychedelic nut. When the band released this unbelievable album in 1970, it didn’t sell a lot of copies and never got the attention it needed and was lost in the treasure of unheard classics. You may began to wonder that this and Locomotive were completely way ahead of their time. Using a brass section which featured the late Dick Heckstall-Smith of Colosseum, Chris Mercer, and Lynn Dobson along with a horn section that definitely brings the album’s house down, they rejoiced in the sound of that sound including, eerie lyrics, walking bass lines that were very fusion-like sound as an homage to Bootsy Collins, and cool drum patterns. Weird, difficult, post-apocalyptic, jazz fusion meets the Moody Blues meets The Nice might add it up. But maybe or maybe not, you are the judges ladies and gentlemen.
Whenever the music became too poppy or seemingly a rip off of Tommy or S.F. Sorrow, Locomotive’s music always bring a light to the end of the tunnel for a symphonic fusionesque rock opera. There are five centerpieces from this album that definitely caught me by surprise when I’ve first heard this album thanks to Lee Dorrian’s how to buyers guide on the Prog Psych albums to listen to before you die. The string quartet of the Overture opens the album as it segues into the pounding explosion of Mr. Armageddon mixing with a twisted organ solo, roaring brass section, and Jazz bass lines that almost came straight out of a Caravan album. More of the Jazz fusion homage in the beginning is the balladry turned big band psych of Now is The End, The End is When, featuring Mick Hincks explosive bass introduction that was almost a tribute to the Soul scene and paying tribute to a younger version of Bootsy Collins. The sinister Lay Me Down Gently is very eerie and disturbing that almost could have been a song for a mystery Hitchcock film or a Mario Bava film that would set the atmosphere of Groovy horror technique. Yet, one of the best from the album is the finale, Time of Light and Darkness. This song has a very jazzy upbeat tempo, but the most surprising moment of the number, features the Mellotron which creates a spacey ambient movement to the number which makes it a cool acid trip for a great way to get moving to the beat, probably seeing the true identity of Locomotive’s music as if to imagine that The Moody Blues and of course, Barclay James Harvest could follow up the albums arrangement to follow their symphonic inspirations or dare I say the Canterbury scene for Egg to be influenced by them.
After the release of their debut album, they released another single, Roll Over Mary, before calling it a day in 1971. Ahead of their time and lost beyond the infinite, Locomotive’s only debut album is a lost gem and way up there along with other lost classics including; Aphrodite’s Child 666, Arcadium Breathe Awhile, The Trip’s debut album, and Marsupilami’s gorefest conceptual rock opera Arena, But We Are Everything You See is the tour de force lost classic that you must buy before you pass away to see god in the heavenly sky.

Bigelf - Cheat the Gallows

How many newcomers of unbelievable reformations of Progressive Rock bands can you name? I bet you can name a few. I’ve praised some of the new bands like; Heart of Cygnus, Blood Ceremony, and Astra to name a few. But this band, holy shit! You definitely need to buy this album and play this motherfucker up to high voltage. It’s been a great year for reissues, new bands that are coming out of the woodwork and Bigelf is definitely one of them.
Among supporters including James Blunt, Linda Perry, Courtney Love, Alicia Keys, and Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy, it is indeed a supporting approval of the future of Prog Rock’s circle has come with full electricity. Not only did Portnoy brought the band on the Progressive Nation tour in October of this year with Zappa Plays Zappa and Scale the Summit in the United States and Canada, but in Europe also which they are signed with Classic Rock Magazine’s independent label, Powerage and Linda Perry’s label, Custard.
It’s really a big push forward for them, but whether you call them; stoner metal, space rock, experimental rock, or progressive metal, you could definitely smell the spaghetti to accept the total mass retain of this four piece band from Los Angeles, California. It’s worth the carriage in your intention that Cheat the Gallows, their fourth album since forming in 1991 to pay homage to a prog-psych version of Deep Purple MK I & II-era, you can basically say that Damon Fox’s vocals are spot on and how it’s been a long road for them to being an underground band to supporters of the Prog Nation tour with Dream Theater. So let me get to the review. This is what is going on here with Cheat the Gallows that will take the listener to boldly go where no prog-head has gone before or beyond before for all prognuts to go crazy over them. And let me say this, their fourth album and me getting into Bigelf, this album here, doesn’t upset me one bit. Add the candy bars of ‘70s rock with; T. Rex, Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, and Yes, and you got yourself and full weekday and weekend to chew over which would make Damon Fox a powerful vocal mastermind almost looking like a psychedelic version of the Mad Hatter. But there’s more to put the quarters in the video game machine in the 11 track list of the album’s independent masterpiece.
Ambient and Atmospheric sounds of Led Zeppelin battling it out with King Crimson-esque enthusiastic beats, frequently to the scenery of a early ‘70s glam rock sound of Slade and David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust-influential power chord and riffs in the wall of progressive hard rock that, most of the up and coming bands, would make Bigelf sounding like endeavors and masters of the universe. But their influential backgrounds makes a lot of huge loops, almost becoming a part of the New Wave of Progressive Metal, to offer a sensational beauty with Cheat the Gallows which would make Bigelf very goddamn happy! The carnival-circus opening rocker is becoming rich and famous with The Gravest Show on Earth and battling it out with the epic of Rush colliding with ELP and Deep Purple on Hydra and the neo-classical turned twisted of Counting Sheep and then, going balladry in a psychedelic twist with the eerie single Money, It’s Pure Evil, sinister and heavy with the Hammond organ to explosive hardness tribute to Jon Lord with Blackball while Superstar and The Evils of Rock & Roll deals with humoric views on being a rich god in an homage to King as the 5-minute closer Demon Queen of Spider is almost an eerie psychedelic sci-fi soundtrack that sounds similar to Led Zeppelin’s No Quarter meets Psychedelic raga meets flaming hard rock that is almost an alternate soundtrack for of a Star Trek episode which completes Cheat the Gallows in a roller-coaster ride of hard psychedelic progressive metal, a futuristic rock opera in a beautiful style in a lukewarm existence. No bullshit, Bigelf are absolutely motherfucking amazing.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I'm Back!

Hey Everyone, Zack here. Just to let everyone know I hope everyone had a great Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah holiday this year and getting ready to get some champagne for the New Year as we enter a new year in 2010. I've got some album reviews to get ready for the blog site. Some you might be familiar or suprised of a band that you've not heard before. But stay tuned to this site this coming January of 2010. A couple of reviews will be up on January.
A little spoiler to keep you busy on what I have to review;

Locomotive - We Are Everything You See
Arcadium - Breathe Awhile
Clear Blue Sky - Clear Blue Sky
Refugees: A Charisma Anthology 1969-78
Czar - Czar
The Nice - Remasters

Keep on the look out and have a Happy New Year!


Monday, December 7, 2009

Blonde on Blonde - Rebirth

While the underground scene that was becoming a swinging set in London throughout the sixties, and could have been considered either psychedelic or progressive, few of them had a less of a surprising sound no other than Blonde on Blonde. Their music wasn’t stadium or arena rocking sound, but it was original rather than playing Dungeons and Dragons or a copy of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Taken their name from Bob Dylan’s landmark album in 1966, they were formed in 1967 in the music scene of Newport, South Wales when they originated as a Blues band, but from various members of the band and becoming a five-piece helped them move away from their own roots into more psychedelic and even folky experimentations to forge into the sound of music.
No other psychedelic band sounded different, but with the release of their second album, Rebirth, released in 1970 from the Ember label and now with the indie label, Fantastic Voyage to give it an astonishing reissue to end the year of 2009, is one of the best examples of both their magnified and stunning sound from their own musical background. The reissue album features new liner notes including two from the late Tommy Vance and notorious Rolling Stone critic John Mendelsohn talking about the praises about this lost masterpiece and featuring the single version of Circles as a bonus track to make your mouths watery.
Rebirth begins with Castles in the Sky, one of the most lukewarm atmospheric sounds of a 15th century English storytelling turning into a psychedelic dreamland machine with the music section that is coming straight from the minds of Procol Harum. Broken Hours and Heart without a Home are simply love songs setting the scenery of the Hippie Movement and the disastrous Vietnam War; Time is Passing and the 12-minute epic Colour Questions, one a tribute to Arthur Lee and Love while the other is a middle-eastern style twist of the Doors featuring a sinister guitar laying fretwork that sets the boundaries throughout the magnum opus; Circles is an eerie number with an acid rock style that will make you feel very stoned to access; November, a heavy Folk Psychedelic Rocker to Tim Buckley and Jim Morrison; and the finale You’ll Never Know Me/Release, a keyboard layered song that shows the band singing about renewing to their dearest Mother. In the last song, you can definitely tell that the band were wearing clothes that were very much Science-Fiction. All of the pieces coming together as one, in the piece of all this is renewing the world and building a better life for the human race, living a new life and seeing what lies ahead of them for the future while Release had a very Floyd-like ending with the Piano and the Acoustic Guitar setting the mood of a Brand New Day as it flourishes to give it that surprising ending up towards the heavenly sky. You get the general idea, Blonde on Blonde’s music was more of a psychedelic progressive pop rock sound of the early ‘70s and very quiet and calm, turning into Love for two-minutes and Cressida for seven-minutes.
But Rebirth wasn’t just about music. The vocal arrangements of Gareth Johnson along with the drumming techniques of Les Hicks are masterminded and evocative resemblance of an early Freddie Mercury and Ringo Starr. Guitarist Dave Thomas, who wrote the liner notes 10 years ago said of Rebirth: “I think you can hear that contrast in the music itself: a mixture of focused energy and laid-back calm. It was a reflection of the way we lived and worked. We all came from a heavily industrialized Welsh seaport that was closely surrounded by mountains and wild romantic countryside; it was the contrast that inspired us."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Taking a huge break

Now you may ask, where did Zack go? Well, I've been busy getting ready to take the Finals coming up next week. Now I might pop up again to come up with prog reviews for a little bit this December. But what's going to happen, I'm going to take a little hiatus break for the Christmas Vacation coming up and for New Year's Eve. So right now I'm listening to the reissue of Blonde On Blonde's Rebirth album, so keep your eyes open on the review. It'll pop up to the blog site. Sorry about the delay, but I will be back for 2010 to write more reviews.

See you on the Dark Side,


Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Nice - Autumn 1967 & Spring 1968

The legacies of the underground scene of the late ‘60s in swinging London have been a huge legacy for The Nice, who has started the Progressive Rock movement. They were a band that was way ahead of their time before it became known as Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Even though The Nice was the architects of the Prog scene and featured the master on the keyboards Mr. Keith Emerson and the early days of neo-classical and symphonic rock sounds of the late ‘60s, they laid the groundwork for their mezzo suites and for their pompous rock beats that you couldn’t dance to. For example, if you love their psychedelic tracks and controversial background to piss off 20th century composer Leonard Bernstein, you definitely need to go beyond the orchestral roots no other than Autumn 1967 & Spring 1968.
This compilation was released on the Charisma label in 1972 with boss Tony Stratton-Smith who was the boss of the label and helped bring; Genesis, Van Der Graaf Generator, String Driven Thing, Monty Python, Spirogyra, and Brand X. On this reissue compilation, it features 10 tracks of their classics and rare eerie numbers that will make your skin crawl with alternative mixes of rare recordings that have never been earthed before. Between those two years of 1967 and 1968, you will hear the raw energy of Keith’s keyboards, the mad scientist of guitar work from David O’List, the dynamic drumming of the late Brian Davison who sadly passed away last year of Brain Tumor, and the masterful vocal and bass work of Lee Jackson. They brought the ingredients of their musical influences of; Blues, Jazz, Ragtime, and Classical orientations in which Emerson was heavily influenced by, that brought the sound of the Nice to a standstill, if you can count the knives he put it in to give it that ‘SHHHRRAKKK!’ sound to make it sound as if it was being stabbed to death from Keith Emerson.
Whether the sound may be what you call Prog, Garage, or Nuggets-related to the European psychedelic scene, this here is an amazing compilation of hard rock, childhood stories, gumdrop tales from Lewis Carroll, and compositions that amazingly goes upward from their early days as a backing band origin’s for Soul singer, P.P. Arnold. There are seven centerpieces that you, as a listener, need to check out if you are getting into The Nice for the first time as a starter if you admire the bombastic rock sounds of ELP. On the whimsical pop harpsichord fairy tale retrospective taste on The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack, the twisted Flower King of Flies, and the mellotron train pumping rocker of Diamond Hard Blue Apples of the Moon, makes the band sound as if they were a part of the Syd Barrett-era of Pink Floyd’s Piper at the Gates of Dawn or very Traffic like from their Mr. Fantasy album than becoming the orchestral rock band they were that got the bandwagon rolling. Also, there’s the early heavy progressive metal track, Bonnie K which features David’s shattering guitar solo while the demonic Azirial is very eerie and strange. Even though, the killing number which had again the word controversy written all over it with their homage of the 6-minute beginnings of Symphonic Rock, America from the Broadway show West Side Story, is a mind-boggling number that will blow you away while the Cry of Eugene has a very emotional and touching tribute to the Love Song period of the ‘60s that makes it very much Jefferson Airplane tribute.
As a result, even though the band had split up which will be 40 years later, they had a huge influence in the Prog scene and for this compilation, this makes it much cool and a lot of fun to sink in for the Bombastic sounds to sink your mouth into.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Daevid Allen & Euterpe - Good Morning

The power of Gong’s music may have been considered Pink Floyd’s little brother of Space Rock along with Hawkwind, if they were formed in the Canterbury scene throughout the Virgin Label of the Radio Gnome trilogy – and throughout the Gnome trilogy, I definitely mean; Flying Teapot, Angel’s Egg, and the atmospheric psychedelic twist of You. For Daevid Allen, the frontman of Gong and former member of the Soft Machine, left Gong in 1975 to pursue a solo career in the Mallocra islands where he and formed a group of musicians from the Spanish island of Catalan, Valenica in which it became Euterpe. The album, Good Morning, has been considered a lost classic among Gong fans, but for Mark and Vicky Powell and the Esoteric family, they have done a great job re-mastering one of Daevid’s lost masterpiece.
Though it was a follow up to 1971’s Banana Moon while it was released in 1976 at the time that Punk was rising up the streams, it shows Allen’s songwriting methods of spoken words between the boundaries of what was left to be arranged between him and the members of Euterpe to created and be organized. Featuring Gong’s space whispers Gilli Smyth and the members of Euterpe; Pepe Milan on Mandolin, Guitar, and Glockenspiel, Ana Camps on vocals, Toni Pascal on Keyboards and Guitar, Toni Ares on contrabass, Toni Tree Fernandez on guitar, Peirre Moerlen on percussion, and Gong bassist Mike Howlett, the results on here are pliant and potent and at the same time ambient into a world beyond your craziest dreaming exhibiting the boundaries of Canterbury Jazz Space music.
There are nine centerpieces on Good Morning that it’s hard for me to pick throughout the songs that are just mind-boggling and crazy at the same time. The eerie acoustic folky crisp of the introduction dedicated to the Children of the New World is emotionally overwhelming while the bonus 9-minute track, Euterpe Gratitude Piece, which is actually the band doing an homage to Tangerine Dream and Pink Floyd, has some spooky vocal backgrounds, haunting guitar sounds, a bell, and a keyboard flourishing the dead sea of the soldiers fighting for their bravery catches the listener’s ear by the tongue including some strange voices that sound very revolutionary and almost a tribute to the Radio Gnome trilogy. The Caribbean Rhythm upbeat tempo of the 11-minute lukewarm jazz fusion taste of Wise Man in your Heart is spellbinding as for the title track, which doesn’t have pretentious big keyboard solos, but more of a celtic experimental crossover, showing Daevid to be a writer of science-fiction with eerie storytelling of the 21st century. There’s also a spooky 15th century tribute to the Renaissance scene with the heavy strumming and fingerpicking along with a ghost-like synthesized moog part on Have You Seen My Friend?, plus the haunting piano ballad which was never been used before in Daevid’s career, but it works quite well on Songs of Satisfaction.
Through various line-ups and this being a spin-off version of Gong, even though they were way ahead of their time, Daevid Allen is now considered a cult hero along with the prog heroes from Catalan, Euterpe and of course the space rock sounds of the Canterbury scene, they could be doing a Gong convention somewhere right now in the 21st century. But for Good Morning here, you began to wonder whether they were stoned making this album or they were having a grand old time in the Islands writing music for Philip K. Dick. Although strange, it’s a must have for any Gong nut or Space Rock craze fanatic to sink their hands on to for the Pot Head Pixies in the Isle of Everywhere.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Beatles - Remasters

No matter what your opinion may be, but for Guy Massey, Simon Gibson, Sean Magee, Sam Okell, Steve Rooke, Paul Hicks, and Allan Rouse, they both either did an amazing job or the most magnificent to be more precise. For Allan Rouse, who was an assistant engineer, joined in 1971 at EMI studios, did a painstaking process to complete the re-mastering and the EQ quality of one of the most influential rock bands to come out of Liverpool, released 14 albums in Stereo and only 11 in Mono, recorded at the Abbey Road Studios to be revamped for the September release for fans to sink their water into. But for these seven guys who worked tooth and nail to get it right, and there’s no argument to mess with the works to destroy the four men created a beauty. Well shall I give an Amen on that, this is pop music right here!
September 9, 2009 was the day that Apple and Capitol Records released the reissues of the Beatles recordings in a new digipak re-mastered CD edition with the record label of the Parlophone to the Apple label in these brilliant conditions while the Beatles Rock Band video game became a successful classic to be a part of the lads.
But here, there are two situations you must know. This is not a new 5.1 stereo mix and no bonus tracks, this is the real deal of the ‘60s revolution (even though Help! and Rubber Soul which are the 1986 remix sound that George Martin worked on) Here are the Beatles work that we love and know from an older and new generation of fans, but to get a new plastic surgery for a big operation. What I have are the Stereo mixes on CD. The first four albums are finally released on Stereo, (except Love Me Do and PS I Love You are on a Mono mix). But the Stereo mixes from what I’ve heard so far are so destined to have a huge jump for joy when the fans are listening to the music on their iPod or considering them the Desert Island Discs when they’re stuck on.
For me, being a huge Beatles fan (still am to this day and considers A Hard Day’s Night, Sgt. Pepper, Revolver, and The White Album as close to home when the team of Lennon/McCartney come to singer-songwriting), I had the pleasure of buying Sgt. Pepper very early before the 9.9.09 release date. While I was listening to this album in its glorified sound of Stereo, I can definitely hear a lot of the bass guitar, drums, guitar compositions, and the warmth from start to finish and I began to think – Jesus Christ! This is fucking amazing!
Although, it turns out to be, rather than just a waste of time, the finish line became a championship, it was almost as if we’ve never heard it before. Respecting the quality of the Beatles work in a new edition are following the true faith to what is now on the tapes since Vinyl. The Re-mastering from what I’ve heard in this new technique, is a little bit elusive, but with a vivid impression on my part – the songs and the music are right on and rich, not only as a tribute to George Martin and the Beatles, but to pay tribute to the late Hurricane Norman Smith and of course engineer of the Beatles, Geoff Emerick. When you listen to these new Re-masters in a new sound either Stereo or Mono, its like learning to cook a delicious Apple Pie with all the ingredients you need, and never in my wildest dreams, has the music still continue to influence us to this day.
The whole process of re-mastering these classic albums was a painful process, but it’s mind-boggling. There were a lot of things on what needed to be fixed or bring the sound in front, and lot of discussions on what to put in from the re-mastering engineering team, along with Allan who’s been there since day one and these guys are die hard fans of the fab four. In a lot of research, the positive treatment, getting rid of pop noises from the mic, and the attention bringing the project to the table is almost that could give the Beatles catalogue a music history lesson to receive.
Now I know some of you are going to ask me; ‘But Zack, I’ve already got the CD albums that were issued in the ‘80s, and they sound like dog shit, what should I do with them?!’ Well, I ain’t going political with that bullshit and the difference of the ‘80s masters of the analog version of the Beatles sound, it does sound like dog shit when they first came out except the ‘86 remix that George Martin did a good job on. This is a good question: a lot of the CD quality where the original tapes that the masters were used, example with the Beatles albums, so the with the old and the 21st century sound of the Compact Disc are both the same. Which means that in what you’ll hear, in a different quality, and the work they did to make the tapes move from one place to another tape sound, and as we are in the future, the engineering team used a digital higher sound from the analogue tapes to a much better futuristic quality that was much better than the quieter sounds of the ‘80s.
The huge effort that the team worked on, was to stay positive to the true sound of the original mixes that were released during that time period, so these new editions may be the perfect soundtrack than the ‘80s masters and the sound quality itself for the Beatle fans like its Beatlemaina 2.0 all over again. The ‘60s soul tribute to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles of You Really Got a Hold on Me has more intelligible technique when you hear the backing vocals of Paul and George coming in. The double-vocal arrangements done by John on the Stereo version of the balladry with If I Fell, but here you can tell the band were having a good time, the cowbells and the upbeat sounds of John and George’s guitar zoom on with You Can’t Do That, The homage to Mia’s sister of Dear Prudence is more of a sudden wonder with Paul’s bass work coming in front while Good Morning, Good Morning section with the horn brings a standstill, making the quirky number creating magic in a tour de force that you won’t believe your own ears to listen to. The clapping rhythms on I Saw Her Standing There, No Reply, I'll Follow The Sun, Back in the U.S.S.R. along with And Your Bird Can Sing rage with excitement, making those two songs in a different sound that you’ve never heard before, and the tambourine shining with the eerie avant-garde psychedelic rocker of John’s Tibetian book of the dead period, Tomorrow Never Knows.
Now, on the re-masters, it comes again with a digipak with an amazing fold-out featuring rare photos of the band, along with a booklet with an essay by Beatles Historian Kevin Howlett, Mike Heatley, and Mark Lewishon who did an introduction essay for the Sgt. Pepper re-issue. In the essays, it deals with the recording sessions, and how the re-mastering was done. Also, it includes a mini documentary which features excerpts from the award-winning emmy of the Beatles Anthology which was aired in 1995. It features never before seen photos, and rare audio recording sessions with studio chat while they were making the albums and narration from the fab four along with George Martin.
If there was one concept with the re-mastering that might be in the works hopefully in which I want to see happen next, even though they gave the Deluxe Edition works on The Who Sell Out, Brain Salad Surgery, Kind of Blue, Ah Um, Tommy, Who’s Next, or Bitches Brew. I always imagine they might re-work on these albums for the near future, but for right now, if you love the way the digipak smells beautifully and wonderous work of the mastering quality of the Beatles work, then don’t faint or collapse for god’s sake, this is a must have in your collection. The music of course, still kicks fucking ass!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Roxy Music - For Your Pleasure

Already a supporting act for David Bowie during the Ziggy Stardust tour and receiving critical acclaim after the release of the debut album in 1972, it would be surprising to notice that Roxy Music brought the scenes of Glam and Progressive Rock to a standstill. Their buzz soon became noticeable as if they were the answer to David Bowie and King Crimson of the golden-era of the ‘70s. The rising may feel they’re just a teen idol band, which they’re not as they began to have hit singles and essential albums that would lay ahead for them. That concept for the Roxy business began to work on huge levels in different backgrounds of music by their influential background.
If you think the first album was a grand slam, then listen to this motherfucker nonstop. For Your Pleasure, their second album, is a shattering piece of work. What is going on here, it’s a new direction and changing plans. It’s not they’re moving into the arena rock situation, nor the songs are tributes to Humphrey Bogart or the doo-wop scene of the ‘50s, and not planning to move forward. It’s For Your Pleasure and that’s why the record has the ingredients with all that it needs.
When Roxy Music first came on the scene, it was as if the 21st century came all of a sudden in London; mixtures of the Velvet Underground, Crimson, and Free Jazz as they crossed over together for the futuristic band to come upon them. It was then noticed that Bryan Ferry and his band of men weren’t going to do the same thing of what most of the glam rockers were doing during that time period about singing teenage rampage, get down and get with it, or sing about being the leader of the gang. Also, the band started to pay homage to the lounge scene of the ‘50s and ‘60s as if they were part of a Hitchcock film in 1950.
So, let’s get to the album. Beginning with the dance rocker, Do The Strand, even though it’s a crowd pleaser and a live anthem favorite, it sounds like Ferry is having a good time singing while Brian Eno is having fun on the synthesizer and Andy MacKay is doing some crazy sax solos as if he’s paying tribute to Coltrane’s Giant Steps. Then we get to the eerie ballad, Beauty Queen, a tribute to Newcastle actress and model of the ‘70s and considered a cult figure, Valerie Leon; Strictly Confidential follows the same function with Chance Meeting as on their debut album; Editions of You is early punk-prog with an upbeat tempo featuring the shrieking solo on the VCS3 done by Eno as he storms it up while Phil plays some licks as the band raises the tension to a notch; In Every Dream Home a Heartache, a sinister mournful ballad on the organ for the first three minutes and then becomes a climatic climax after Ferry sings the line about the erotic inflatable doll, ‘I blew up your body/but you blew my mind!’, this time Phil takes over with an explosive guitar solo that will give shivers down your spine; The Bogus Man is Eno’s dark ambient baby with a raunchy wah-wah guitar work similar to Hendrix, this homage to the killer on the run similar to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, is a Dalek exercise that will make you feel you are in deep shit; Grey Lagoons is very lounge rocker and adding a ‘50s rockabilly, and the funk sounds of the Motown tribute to the core; the finale of the title track, For Your Pleasure, a 6-minute atmospheric funeral beauty again, follows the same function of Grey Lagoons, but this time with a Eno sound to the mix which makes it very Floyd-like.
It’s like a flower growing that anyone be surprised with. Buy this, it’s a huge pleasure for you.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Premiata Forneria Marconi - Chocolate Kings

If Great Britain had been home to the kings of progressive rock with using the styles of classical, jazz, and story-complexes, then no one could top it off quite explosively with Italian’s own answer to Genesis as Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM). With their five albums ahead of them, Storia Di Un Minuto, Per Un Amico, Photos of Ghosts, L’isola di niente, and The World Became the World, the group began to push forward into the mainstream after achieving a cult following along with being signed by the Manticore label, which was founded by ELP, their fifth album went into a twisted odd-like story between the cross-over’s of Family, Gentle Giant, PG-era of Genesis, and heavy signatures to search for the lost chord. But here, with Chocolate Kings, the five-piece quickly began to stay in focus.
The toughest opener From Under could have been written in the baroque-era of the symphonic sounds for a concerto with a complex harmony. When I heard it, it almost reminded me of the opening track of Gentle Giant’s The Runaway, but it’s a hell of a track that will blow your socks off and it works 100%. Also, the arrival of Acqua Fragile’s lead singer Bernardo Lanzetti, was a huge help. His voice, who grew up listening to the British bands, the vocal almost similar to Roger Chapman and Peter Gabriel, shown on the balladry of the title-track, he brings it to the table while the rest of the band bring some layered compositions to the core.
The other four members of PFM started to go a little Fusion, replacement for bassist Giorgio Piazza, Jan Patrick Djivas’ heavy, walking bass lines, keyboardist Flavio Premoli, violinist Mauro Pagani, and Franz Di Cioccio’s own take of Carl Palmer on the drums bring the music to the table with the Jazz Fusion homage of The Mahavishnu Orchestra with Out on the Roundabout and From Under. The arranging and composition on here, really has a lot of virtuoso playing that the band do since their earlier days, with Flavio Premoli’s machine hammer sound on the keyboards on the opener, he keeps the jets flying like militant troops going to war.
Alongside other Italian Prog Rock bands, that admired the British Prog Rockers, Premiata Forneria Marconi took their music and theory seriously as if they were composers in their own rights. As Paper Charms sounded like a mystery film score with the organ, then turning into an ambient mood with Bernard’s choir-like voice and then adding the synthesizer and flute to the core before becoming a dynamic symphonic heavy upbeats. Again, the title track is a tight number but very groovy with its melodic rocking tour de force. With the tones that Bernard’s voice keeps it soaring – even though it sounds as if a goat has got a new singing voice, but that doesn’t matter – got the band to move forward that would divide their fans from their later albums until calling it a day in the late ‘80s. Even though they’re came back in 1997 and with new albums, it just goes to show you how important that PFM are and why they are not backing down after getting the recognition they deserve with the Prog festivals they’re doing including NEARfest of this year at Pennsylvania during the Summer of 2009 which I think got the crowd pleased with the sound they have to this today.
Sure, Chocolate Kings may have been either loved or loathed by their fans, by going forward into a new direction, but after listening to this album for about two times already, you can tell the Jazz influential sounds of what they were listening to, Eclectic, sometimes Bombastic, and very ELP like, its might as well be the next Passion Play.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Starcastle - Citadel

When I first heard about this band, I thought “let me give this band a few listens to”. It wasn’t until I bought two of their albums, the self-titled debut album and their third album released after Fountains of Light, Citadel which was released on the Epic label in 1977. When I’ve first heard Citadel, I began to think about if Yes was formed in St. Louis Missouri and created a magical cornerstone and very accessible that this band who were formed at the end of the late ‘60s, it would have been Starcastle. I was convinced that this band who then and now have a cult following in the Prog festivals internationally and here in the United States, they never plan to fall back.
I began to realize to stick with the flaming matches and kept them flaming, to realize that Citadel, is not only just an American Progressive Rock album, but a lost classic and one of those albums that you play after listening to Fragile that began to come up and give you a surprise moment, then all of a sudden get your attention in a dare I say the return of the Pomp Rock sound and refusing to let go of the rope of the genre.
Starcastle who then were doing small gigs and at universities, as for being the band for supporting for other orientated rockers that were dominating the charts like; Journey, Styx, REO Speedwagon, and Kansas to name a few, but Starcastle wasn’t a part of the single charts after their song, ‘Diamond Song (Deep is the Light) tried, but failed to make in the top chart. Even though their second album, Fountains of Light, which was produced by Queen’s Roy Thomas Baker, they want to push their third album, Citadel, a step further. And this here, you need to buy big time! Alongside the band, bassist Gary Strater’s playing on the bass reminded me of Chris Squire while Terry Luttrell could have been a stepbrother of Jon Anderson as Herb Schildt’s keyboard playing soars up the sky as he comes up with some odd atmospheric, ambient and flourishing sounds like Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson. Stephen Tassler plays the drums very good almost reminding me of Bill Bruford meets Carl Palmer meets Billy Cobham and the guitarist coming up with a virtuoso solos, features the band as a Tolkien-esque storytellers, as they work as a team.
There are five centerpieces that took me by surprise: The ELP meets Jon Anderson tribute with the prog-orientated rocker, Why Have They Gone? And then, the complex and the superfluous opener that could have been a song that almost could have been a part of the Robotech: The Macross Saga soundtrack, Shine On Brightly that sounds like a dreamlike opener from the moment you hear it from beginning to end with the keyboards and the guitar rhythm and solos soaring across the sky as Terry brings the house down with his voice. Also, you have the homage to Styx’s Wooden Nickel recording-era of the early ‘70s as they do a power-prog pop rock sound of Can’t Think Twice which sounds very love song-like, but it’s a killing track along with the upbeat rocker of Could This Be Love? In it, the guitar is taking over doing some Hackett related solos along with Steve Howe to the mix to live in the Paradise of beauty. And, Evening Wind is very much similar to German’s answer to ELP with Triumvirat, it again has a complex and a structure to it. But it really fits the key of Starcastle’s career.
For the new people, who are getting into the Progressive Rock genre, if you love Yes, Kansas, and ELP to name a few, you have to get into the music of Starcastle and appreciate them, not as a band, but as one of the cult favorites amongst the Prog Rock community and get into Citadel and highly recommend it. It’s a lost masterpiece in a good way!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Earth & Fire - Song of the Marching Children

For most bands, they want to be considered the next Renaissance featuring Annie Haslam due to the vocal styles of Jereny Kaagman, Earth & Fire were one of the bands that had a symphonic sound than being considered to be a Dutch version of Yes to be in the court of progressive rock. But for their second album, which was their follow up to their self-titled debut album, is pre-album orientated rock while blending an 18-minute epic with the sounds of futuristic music and a taste of eerie noises of shattering progressive madness.
Formed in the Netherlands of The Hague in the late ‘60s by brothers Chris and Gerard Koerts, they began to move their sound into something that was spectacular. Alongside the Koerts brothers, there was drummer Kees Kalis and bassist Hans Ziech. And then Manuela Berloth who was a part of the line-up called Opus Gainfull, left and soon Jerney came in the line-up and thus Earth & Fire was born. She may have sounded similar to Jo Meek and Sonja Kristina, but it worked perfectly and Song of the Marching Children, which was a concept album about being born, life, and death that brought the band to a small standstill.
But, what may have a surprise twist with the reissue from the Esoteric label, shows that Earth & Fire were starting in their early days and a small motorway for Kaagman. In fact, drummer Kees Kalis and keyboardist Gerard Koerts, bassist Ziech hold the album on their minds. The opener Carnival of the Animals, a tribute to French composer Camille Saint- Saens (yes, a tribute to the classical composer) starts off with the drums doing a militant and catchy upbeat while the organ doing a merry-go-round sound and Kaagman’s vocals bringing it up a notch while Ebbtide is another catchy melody with a jazzy flute solo that has the rhythm flowing while the guitar comes up with some spooky chords as the organ flourishes. The sinister 6-minute ballad Storm & Thunder, manages to be quite dramatic without making excuses into going a world of madness. In the beginning and in the mid section, Gerard plays this eerie organ introduction to set the tone for Jereny to come in. But in the mid part he and Kaagman brings lighting for the last 2-minutes with the mellotron and Gerard coming with some Robert Fripp style on the guitar as they create magic in this powerful number. In The Mountains is an instrumental composition without the vocal arrangements. The number always reminded me of Pink Floyd’s extended guitar solo of Fat Old Sun as Chris’s guitar licks sounds similar to David Gilmour’s technique. And then, we come to the finale of the 18-minute suite, Song of the Marching Children.
The suite is about a new beginning on our home planet as Theme of the Marching Children is very ambient for the first two-minutes with guitar, organ, and xylophone and then on Opening the Seal featuring the luxurious mellotron setting the number as the Harpsichord comes in with its classical touch while Childhood becomes a hard rocker then going back to the symphonic beauty. Affliction is a dark moody atmospheric early space rock sound with the synth and guitar filling the void as Damnation makes it sound very post-apocalyptic and the start of renewal with the mellotron. It then becomes a happy-go-lucky number and then turns to a magnificent beauty. Purification is a classical number featuring the acoustic guitar giving the calmness during the section while Jereny comes in on this symphonic piece with how the crack of doom can happen again while the Marching is packed with a sinister ending with the drums doing a militant outro that closes the album. All of the concept, it’s an unheard masterpiece to get into.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Renaissance - Turn of the Cards

With a surprising sound from lead vocalist Annie Haslam and featuring lyrics by Betty Thatcher who created a lushful scenery to fit Renaissance’s musical background, their next album which was a follow up to Ashes Are Burning and moving to a new record label from Sovereign to BTM, it goes to show how Renaissance’s music doesn’t stop. That and their follow up to Ashes, has written symphonic progressive and art rock written all over it.
There are classical references, which are cool, but Renaissance’s Turn of the Cards; it had more of a division and capacitally more balladry to their roots. Again, Annie’s vocal arrangements, who are more of a narrator, operatic sounds come across to the Scandinavian sounds of Earth & Fire. And bassist John Camp whose bass sounds leaning of the minds of Chris Squire has come across the prog background to the apple tree of good fortune.
The reaction of the album is a nonstop masterpiece as their arranging and composition as they began to show their music has complex in only six tracks while having a 15th century lukewarm beauty and the opus with the orchestral background as they began to move forward. Beginning with Running Hard, that has a Gershwin piano introduction similar to Rhapsody in Blue as it moves into an upbeat sound while the band and the symphony comes in into a heart-pounding magnetism performance quality. Then, they show the tribute to the British Folk in a romantic acoustic crisp in I Think of You while Things I Don’t Understand has a dance rhythm along with the band’s harmonic vocals. It has a jazz related sound, but it’s spot on while Cold is Being has a church like quality with the organ giving this Floyd-like sound on Celestial Voices based on classical proportions.
Then we get to Black Flame which goes back into the Folk sound while John Camp is doing a Chris Squire relative sound on his Bass guitar as it goes through various changes to give it a symphonic sound that is similar to the Moody Blues Days of Future Passed meets The Yes Album in a minimal number. And then, we get to the finale which has been considered one of Renaissance’s quantum leap with their nine-minute classic of Mother Russia. The piece is dedicated to the late Alexander Solzhesnitsyn, who passed away last year of a heart failure, was forced to leave the Soviet Union from the communist in 1974 and based on his book One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich which was set in the ‘50s at a labor camp about the horror of the Soviets.
With a mesmerizing tone, Mother Russia begins with a mournful piano ballad then becomes of a scene straight from the dramatic tales of what was going on during that political background of Russia and then it becomes a crescendo while Annie comes in with the opening lines “Pays the price, works the seasons through/Frozen days, he thinks of you/Cold as ice but he burns for you/Mother Russia, cant you hear him too?” As Haslam brings her voice of Alex’s life story, the guitar and the strings bring to a standstill. During the last 5-minutes of Mother Russia, it becomes a suite almost of the instrumental with a beautiful improvisation done by the band and Annie’s vocals that are very choir and gives you goosebumps as she sings the last few lines to close the album.
Turn of the Cards along with Prologue, Ashes Are Burning, and Scheherazade shows the band at their very best and bringing them to a globalization of their fans and their plans to bring the efforts at a high temperature.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

King Crimson - Lizard

After three of the original members left King Crimson (Greg Lake, Michael Giles, and Ian McDonald) to pursue new careers, it was up to Robert Fripp to make King Crimson sinister like no other as he pays homage to Miles Davis two fusion albums In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew. Bassist Gordon Haskell who was interviewed in 2005 for the MOJO prog rock edition, and was the vocalist on Cadence and Cascade for In the Wake of Poseidon, saw Crimson in a totally new direction “I saw Crimson as an evil force” he mentions, “They were very powerful, like Satan is powerful.” And in the words of the Melody Maker “If Wagner were alive, he would be in King Crimson”, well this time, he definitely was.
Lizard which was released in 1970, saw them going into a Jazz Rock/Fusion area, it was also controversial which created a diversion among their fans and music critics alike mentioning that it’s a difficult and weaker album. It isn’t, Lizard is the cult album for Crimson fans to sink their teeth into. Adding new members including saxophonist Mel Collins and drummer Andy McCulloch to the line-up and also special guest lead vocalist of Yes, Jon Anderson, It’s very Avant-Garde, Classical, Post-Apocalyptic, Climatic, and a lot of humor to the mix as if they had recorded this album in a church yard to wake up the guests to hear this magnificent opus from start to finish or recorded it at Bald Mountain to wake Chernabog up to call his ghosts and evil spirits coming to life and hearing this band go full throttle depending how to scare the shit out of listeners; the 6-minute opener, Cirkus (Introducing Lady of the Chameleons), begins with an electric piano as Haskell sings beautifully as such. Then all of a sudden, it becomes a shrieking tone from the mellotron and the bass/VCS3 composition before closing it up to a dynamic of free form jazz sax solo done by Mr. Collins that would have made John Coltrane very proud of as he was moving toward territorial musical riffs.
And then it becomes very quirky at the same time during the record. Indoor Games is very pop, beatle jazz-related rhythms as Mel brings the house down as he plays the sax non stop while Happy Family becomes very disturbing and creates massive chaos throughout the entire number, but the upbeat ditty is sweet and fantastic while it makes it very interesting to hear with its odd time signature as it goes flying in the nightless sky. The lukewarm ballad Lady of the Dancing Water, is a quiet and whimsical beauty as we head toward the closing chaotic and ominous 23-minute suite of the title track.
Jon Anderson of Yes makes a surprise appearance on the album as he sings about the fate of Prince Rupert’s life as he sings with a lot of melody pleasing and in an harmonic tone of setting the scenery that is similar to Lord of the Rings and the 15th century tales that King Crimson was reading during that time period. Then it becomes a militant jazz fusion with their take of Ravel’s Bolero then gets it stops with a haunting oboe solo as Haskell sings about the war on The Battle of Glass Tears as it becomes very classical in a darker sense of the word, hell at the same time. After he sings the last two lines: “March Forward”, KABOOM! The band comes in as they bring the thunder down of as Crimson plays Hard Rock meets demonic Jazz meets dalek sounds of the mellotron as if Edgar Allen Poe was playing with them. And then, the dooming bass note and Fripp’s cruel guitar solo sets the bloody aftermath while the finale is weird with a Carnival background of the Mellotron with Big Top. Sure, Lizard is a strange and twisted album to feature some Jazz-classic prog rock to the core, but its one hell of an album to listen to.

Muse - The Resistance

From their follow up of Black Holes & Revelations released in 2006, Muse pull no punches as for their next album which is released this year, you began to wonder when they were listening to this album, imagining them listening to neo-classical albums from the minds of Camel, Radiohead, Mike Oldfield, and Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother, then listening to Chopin while coming up with some incredible compositions, then you get the political backgrounds to began to realize that they aren’t joking for this English trio on what they’re doing and heading for a new direction.
This is an incredible experience that features incredible sonic disturbances, and mostly, heavy atmospheric dance beats (Resistance I Belong To You, MK Ultra, and Uprising) but it creates a dynamic emotional techno rock sound with a Krautrock background of the 17th century with ultimate power and '80s new wave (Undisclosed Desires, Unatural Selection, and Guiding Light). The quality of such a musical background that the homage to the ‘70s standards and the moments of more tributes of Chopin meets Brian May seems the perfect time at the right place to create such a beautiful romantical battle with a tragic Shakespearian ending. The momentum of the tribute of Queen’s second album with the ballad turned climatic ending of United States of Eurasia/Collateral Damage is perhaps one of the most powerful songs and an example of Muse’s career and probably a hit for 5-minutes that is reminded me of Bohemian Rhapsody and the Ogre Battle operatic suite. And then comes the new sound of Neo-Classical Rock with Exogenesis, a 12-minute symphonic classical prog to the core that is dark, sad, and also a masterpiece with its homage to the Floyd meets Wagner. The first part begins with the end of human race while part two deals with new life form searching for a new beginning and the finale of part three how the surviving humans can change a new beginning. This is prog as it could get right there.
Their new album, The Resistance should be played really fucking loud by the time you buy this either at a record store or on iTunes. Anything that would make you ultimately surprised by the time when you listen to this from beginning to end, it’s a very surprising record to listen to the way that Matt Bellamy just brings that Thom Yorke meets Freddie Mercury vocals to the core while shattering mind-boggling notes on his guitar to give it that Prog meets garage rock sound to pay tribute to his father George Bellamy of the Tornados which he does it very well. Chris Wolstenholme on the bass gets the music spot on while drummer Dominic Howard does a cross between Roger Taylor meets Neil Peart meets Bill Bruford on the drums to make you have goosebumps all over again like it’s the 20th century all over again.
Also, The Resistance has taken Muse into the mainstream when they played the MTV Video Music Awards this year which is a good thing for them because they will have to face up with new challenges, darker territory including recording a new song for the Twilight sequel, New Moon, but enough of my bullshit. Some fans may criticize them for selling out because of doing a soundtrack for a godforsaken chick flick gothic vampire film which goes back when Supermassive Black Hole was on there in the first one. But enough of my bullshit rant about Twilight, Muse have finally hit the big time. So what they did is almost make a sequel to their past three albums (Origin of Symmetry, Absolution, and Black Holes) and realize their situation and to have their fans go apeshit over them.
When the Neo-Prog scene is still going strong around the world and having new bands coming out of England and the United States also, Muse have started out as a club band into international prog superstars to set the controls for the heart of the sun of classical rock and setting new musical elements and upcoming stories that lay ahead for them. This is for me, the next Dark Side of the Moon meets A Night at the Opera meets OK Computer right here.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pink Floyd - The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

Named after the seventh chapter from The Wind in the Willows which was the late great Syd Barrett’s favorite book in his childhood years in Cambridge, their psychedelic debut album blew down the door down as it was following into the footsteps of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper album. The Piper at the Gates of Dawn was one of the most exciting albums to come out of that era as it became British boom in the underground circuit. Although it’s up there along with their sonic sound landmark with Dark Side of the Moon, 42 minutes and 11 seconds of unbelievable tour de force, the Syd Barrett-era of Pink Floyd became the anti-punks of the generation, but it’s a big step of shattering rock pieces and almost fairy tale-like stories of insanity from Syd’s vision.
Beginning with the early days of Space Rock with the freak-out psychedelic 4-minute introduction with Astronomy Domine, it has a huge calling to the solar systems between Jupiter and Saturn as if they were dancing along to the music as they duel it out with Neptune and Titan with the stars that have been frightening that starts off Syd’s echoing guitar solo in the midsection as he just goes off into the outer limits while he and Rick Wright take the vocal arrangements up a notch of the LSD trip in this. Strange lyrics are also a part of Syd’s background with the dance rocker featuring Rick’s eerie organ solo of a Siamese cat who some can’t explain who he is and who is on your side by the name of Lucifer Sam while Matilda Mother is almost similar to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and has a very English countryside background in this fantasy rocker that is similar Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow. As Flaming reminded me of the Milton Bradley game Chutes and Ladders with its game that would have children try to play in the English courtyard.
Even though The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is one of the quintessential masterpieces in Pink Floyd’s career, it’s very strange also. The beginning of ‘bah-boom, ch-ch’, the hawking sounds done by Roger Waters and the jungle-esque quality to the mix in this Jazz and Experimental Rock orientations in the Vietnam War, Pow R. Toch H. is bizarre in a good way along with the upbeat fast-sped garage rocker of Roger Waters debut as a songwriter in Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk. In this number, the Floyd are going guitar and keyboard crazy throughout the entire tune as if they are the Mad Scientists flying off the fucking wall as it features a sinister climax that will have you in goosebumps. And then we get into the Freak-Out which was almost a fan favorite at Joe Boyd, who produced the Floyd’s debut single Arnold Layne, UFO club, with the 9-minute psychedelic groove of Interstellar Overdrive. Featuring a distorted riff done by Syd and Roger, along with Nick Mason’s drumming making it sound very surprising and Rick Wright’s farisfa organ setting the scenery it becomes a free-for-all instrumental while they show their Tolkien homage in a Whimsical Folk beverage of childhood stories about the adventures of Grimble Gromble in the Gnome.
And then it becomes very interesting for Syd before his mental breakdown with his homage of the ancient Chinese tome of the I Ching (The Book of Changes) with Chapter 24 as it has a spooky tone done by Rick as Syd explains about the translation of the six stages of the 24th chapter in this funeralistic story. The Scarecrow tells the tale about the figure as he decides what to do with his life while Bike closes the album with the dark comedy that would come about. While there’s a taste of grandeur, the album feels magical, you feel that you are inside the mind of Syd Barrett.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Beatles - Revolver

Though Rubber Soul was a success, their next album would be a move away from the hit singles of From Me to You, She Loves You, and I Want to Hold Your Hand with the release of the psychedelic opus. Revolver shows the Beatles at their creative procedure, with a flaming fire that won’t burn with however they want to do their music of freedom. It’s impossible to talk about their seventh album, in which in their pre-Sgt. Pepper-era, they showed their fans and the listeners a new sound that was unbelievable and have a tightrope with magnificent songs that all go according to plan.
There are beautiful things that are going on Revolver: You have the eerie acoustical daydream and the tribute to the Tibetan book of the dead period with Lennon’s I’m Only Sleeping and Tomorrow Never Knows which features the first time to hear backward guitars, tape loops, John’s voice through a Leslie speaker, the drumming is in ¾ time signature to give it that Avant-Garde feel while the music goes fucking insane throughout this psychedelic timothy leary LSD trip, Paul on the other hand is doing two ballads, waking up to the sunrise, and a tribute to the Soul scene horn section also with melancholy beauty of Here, There, and Everywhere, the lukewarm piano sadness of the whimsical touches on For No One, the classical arrangements with dealing death of a family member with Eleanor Rigby, the lines; “Eleanor Rigby died in a church/who was buried along with her name/nobody came/Father McKenzie wiping her dirt with his hands as he walks from the grave/no one is saved” tragic, but very poetic also, the Soul sound of the ‘60s tributes to Motown and Stax with Got to Get You into my Life, and the quirky upbeat dance beat of Good Day Sunshine. Meanwhile, George Harrison is creating magic with his lyrics. The pounding piano rocker of I Want To Tell You, the heavy and dark side of paying taxes including a hard guitar solo and a shattering riff of politics to pay up with money to the Taxman, and the tribute to Indian music comes in after his famous sitar work on Norwegian Wood comes back into the segue with the Tablas and again the Sitar with the sinister monotonous Indian-raga music Love You To while Ringo’s child-like sing along song of a folk acoustic number sailing to sea and greeting people with Yellow Submarine is childish, but quirky at the same, still a great song also that became an Animated film after Revolver in 1968. Elsewhere, John’s back again with some more surprising lyrics that will give you a chill to the bone. She Said She Said, which is a tribute to John’s experience meeting with Easy Rider and The Trip star, Peter Fonda talking about LSD and taking Acid with the Beatles while And Your Bird Can Sing has a very edgy harmony to it, and then back to the drugs situation which deals with drug dealers with Doctor Robert another tribute to the bad trip with a hard rock sound to it and then featuring a church-like organ sound with the line “Well, Well, Well/You’re Feeling Fine/Well, Well, Well/He’ll make you/Doctor Robert” almost like giving the sunshine acid to a stoned person in a good way!
While the Vietnam War and protesters had nearly tried to take over the Hippie and Flower generation of the ‘60s of the Psychedelic scene, The Beatles Revolver stills packs a punch quality to it, its superb remastered quality featuring the clapping rhythms from the fab four, and the dynamic guitar solos from John and George, to move away from the suits into ultimate power clothing that would make every girl faint when they come in. All in all, Revolver is the ultimate trip and gives it a good meaning on what it was like to be young again in the ‘60s.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Blood Ceremony - Blood Ceremony

It has a heavily influenced ‘70s rock occult feel mixed with Metal and Dark Prog-Folk quality to the mix: Add the sounds of Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Comus, Trees, and Fairport Convention, and you got yourself a 21st century Prog-Folk-Metal element for anyone to get a huge surprise waiting for them to get their hands on. It isn’t just an album, but more of an approach for Blood Ceremony’s take of Progressive Occult Metal mixed with some dark values to the mix.
Their musical inspirations is beyond the beyond, guitarist Sean Kennedy, bassist Chris Landon, drummer Andrew Haust, and the master of vocals Alia O’Brien brings down the house in this. Taken their name from a Spanish-horror film in 1973, Ceremonia Sangrienta and formed in 2006 in their hometown in Toronto, Canada, they sure know to scare the shit out of audience from their cult following at their home base. But the album itself is by far one of the most heart-stopping albums I’ve listened to. With the doom hard rock sound, folk-metal exercise and minds that are fucked up in the torch of the early metal gods of Black Sabbath’s golden-era of the 1970s.
This isn’t just a friendly bullshit mainstream album, this is raw in your face and I don’t give a fuck album at its very best in a Dark-Prog sense. They bring the house down and dealing with elements in the Horror Film genre and what may come across the darker elements that would have gone before, but its almost an album that is perfect for a Halloween night every October to scare the little bastards with their eerie music to make them scare shitless and not give them any fucking candy. But enough of my talk about my Halloween trick or treater’s, let get straight on to the album. There are five centerpieces on the Blood Ceremony’s debut album that is spot on and right on time.
The heavy groove with Children of the Future mixed with baleful flute solos with a demonic guitar riff and solo, a groove that is very Dalek-like and becoming very upbeat in the mid section that is coming straight out of an alternate soundtrack to Dario Argento’s Profondo Rosso. More post-apocalyptic is the opening introduction HP Lovecraft-inspiration 6-minute, Master of Confusion which starts off with O’Brien’s dark organ intro as it goes into a complex chaos of the nightmare of hell. The vocals fit that scenery into the dimension with a guitar while the fuzztone sound of the bass becomes a crashing darker reflection. Hop Toad is very adante upbeat rocker which intersperses metal and quadruple waltz which has never been done before in a heavy prog metal sound throughout various prog groups who would do a quadruple doom occult waltz on a number like that, but it kicks fucking ass! Meanwhile it’s almost similar to the graveyard scenery in a pool of blood as the riffs are similar to Black Sabbath’s Evil Woman (Don’t You Play Your Games on Me) with Into the Coven as it starts off with O’Brien’s flute solo again and then becoming a witchcraft number. And the 1-minute homage to the british folk scene of the mind of Comus with A Wine of Wizardry, its very Tolkienish to say the least, but it’s a calm number as it segues to the territorial Zeppelin meets Ian Anderson style of Rare Lord.
In making to create a terrifying album, O’Brien could have become the master of medieval renaissance festivals the way it should be done in a darker way. But she and the band bring us to a standstill to those gripping moments that we’ll see in the near future with evil, darkness, and baroque, but awesome at the same time to get your blood boiling in your body.

Pavlov's Dog - Pampered Menial

For David Sukramp, who’s vocal arrangements similar to Rush’s Geddy Lee, Pavlov’s Dog’s debut album, Pampered Menial, which was released in 1974, is a lost classic to new heights, and featuring magnificent mellotron arrangements while adding the guitar to give it a lushful eerie solos that could have been apart of their next album, At the Sound of the Bell. Also, adding the fact that it’s very album-orientated or shall I say pomp rock to say the least which it isn’t, but their debut album is very crystal clear and very catchy at the same time.
Let’s not forget, this is a remarkable and powerful record, which would have made Pavlov’s lead singer Sukramp not a household name in the AOR industry, but a cult band at the same time for 35 years, which has a real kick to it if your are a Rush fan as you enjoy the album from start to finish. Listen to the heavy and ballad rockers including; Late November, the shattering power chord riffs of Song Dance, and the homage to the wild west of the eerie ballad, Fast Gun. While you listen to these songs, you can hear a band’s influential backgrounds with the hard rock sounds of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple as if they formed together in St. Louis.
While the acoustic fingerpicking ballad of the opening number of Julia, which could have been the hard rock love song of all love songs, Natchez Trace is a pounding and sinister number with a Yes influence as if they were metal to the core. Theme from Subway Sue is very hard-edged. It has a very balladry moment on there to give Sukramp’s vocal arrangements to reach the high notes in a climatic ending. One of the most unbelievable songs that is beyond the prog rock tendencies are the lukewarm pieces that would have been perfect for the dance floors. Episode which almost reminded me of Meat Loaf’s Bat out of Hell, has an emotional violin solo at the beginning and Sukramp’s vocals along with the emotion to go along with, here’s a surprise kick to the number, almost a funeral or a break-up song to say goodbye to a love one as the piano sets the scenery in a crying atmosphere that will have tear-jerker’s go fucking nuts over to.
And then, this is where the two-part finale kicks in. Preludin begins with the violin playing in a renaissance festival which is a tribute to Jethro Tull and Gentle Giant, with some medieval boundaries to the core as it fits the musical quality for the finale with Of Once and Future Kings, which is very sci-fi and futuristic at the same time also as if Rush were listening to this number during the making of 2112. It starts off with an amazing guitar solo and the vocals setting the scenery. Then becomes a fast rocker for a split second then heads back into the baroque 15th century mellotron atmosphere of a waltz while the drums come in out of nowhere to do a triple as it goes back into the hard rock boundaries again, with the guitar going Floydish and very experimental at the same time.
After the release of Pampered Menial, the album got excellent reviews from Max Bell who considered them the ‘future of rock. There was also tension in the band and their manager who at the time decided to let Sukramp leave, but he refused. After the release of At The Sound of the Bell which was released in 1976, the band decided to call it a day. Still to this day, Pampered Menial remains one of the most underrated albums or a cult classic album to be preferred along with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, it remains a magnitude: Ahead of their time and nothing like we’ll never see again in the near future in the 21st century for new bands to follow Pavlov’s Dog and the torch to carry the Pomp Rock industry of the ‘70s

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Here is an early sneak preview of the remastered edition of the Beatles 1967 landmark album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. After they stopped touring in 1966 with their final performance in San Francisco at Candlestick Park, they realized that they weren’t just entertainers, but more of artistic boundaries and like singer-songwriters. Some felt that Beatlemania was over and gone for good. “Well it took five months to record (Sgt. Pepper)” Paul McCartney mentioned in an early interview “I remember reading in one of the papers saying ‘oh the beatles have dried up,’ and I was rubbing my hands saying ‘you just wait’. Thus, Sgt. Pepper was born and this is where the Beatles really experimented at the Abbey Road studios, doing unbelievable compositions and going beyond the ride of marmalade skies. It’s impossible to talk about Sgt. Pepper: a psychedelic ‘60s retrospect and remained a mind-boggling adventure. But when you look back on it with its roots of Progressive Rock and moving away from the stadiums, it still sometimes obscure, fun, and amazing songs that you would sometimes sing to your children or have a puff while you get stoned listen to it from beginning to end for the first time.
Some felt that Sgt. Pepper is an overrated album, well it isn’t, but you get the opening rockin’ suite is one of the powerful tracks, featuring McCartney surprising vocal arrangements and Harrison’s orientated guitar riff. The title track and the psych-pop sing-along number featuring Ringo’s vocals on With a Little Help from my Friends that features a bass line which is has a jazzy riff that couldn’t be let go of while Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and Getting Better features dream-like space quality and having a bad luck in school and beating up woman and feeling not cool with it from the chorus that has like nothing you’ve ever heard of. Even though the album is a classic, it is also strange from time to time.
The twisted circusque rocker with a weird synth based on an 1840’s poster which Lennon found on Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! the eerie Indian sitar droning atmosphere which Harrison does beautifully well on Within You, Without You while the symphonic horn section goes extremely loud on Good Morning, Good Morning and the crispy psych-folk based on a groupie with Lovely Rita. However, there are some beautiful tracks that would make you feel emotional.
The classical rocker of a young daughter leaving their parents behind and moving on to a new life with She’s Leaving Home and the 1930’s homage which Paul would do on the White album on the jazz bass line on When I’m Sixty-Four, the harpsichord ballad of the rain leaving marks in the house and fixing it up where it won’t come in with Fixing A Hole which seems very Baroque and Pet Sound-like quality. And then the climatical climax of the true story from different newspapers of holes in the wall, car crashes, blowing a mind at the same time with A Day in the Life which is an odd and bombastic number, with Lennon’s ghost-like vocal arrangements and haunting guitar chords while Paul is singing about coming to work very early in the morning and then finishing up with a sinister orchestral finale like you’ve never heard of before.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Eloy - Eloy

Originally released in 1971, Eloy’s self-titled debut album was an interesting surprising, psychedelic crazed musical statement, but when you look back on it, it could have been recorded in outer space and on a spaceship heading for the solar system by jamming non stop, a cool idea to get your head bogged into the groove. Lead by guitarist Frank Bornemann, who is now the only member left in the Eloy line-up and now is a producer and engineer in his hometown in Germany, and engineer Conny Plank who’s famous for working with the Krautrock kings of; NEU!, Guru Guru, Kraftwerk, Can, and the heavy metal-gods of the Scorpions, and engineered their only debut album, it is the sound of Space Hard Rock with virtuosity Hawkwind meets Deep Purple stylistic complexity. With the start of a guitar going insane with a bumping and feedback going off the roof, Today comes at you with its homage to Mark I of the Rod Evans-era of the Deep Purple-era and then it goes into a punk experimental mode as drums and the scatting vocals which seems similar to Purple’s hit single Hush, Bornemann’s heavy guitar licks is kicked in with the shuffling and Blackmore style while lead vocalist and keyboardist Erich Schriever delivers a punching vocal lines including a scatting peak of magnificent proportions, but in retrospect, it sounds very odd to put it in there.
But with the heavy rhythm section on Something Yellow, it almost reminded me of a german version of Black Sabbath with its militant bridge section and then going back into the sinister wah-wah frenzy that makes it so goddamn brilliant and then going for the Adagio by going really fast in the beat measure as it heads back into the blues metallic section to close it up with a heavy drum solo and then adding some guitar lick to the core while the title track of Eloy has a mixture of mind-heavy rock and then adding the congas to give it a tension spree as it heads back into the sci-fi lyrical contents. Song of a Paranoid Soldier which is almost an anti-war song dedicated to the War in Vietnam tells the story through the mind of a soldier who is a democrat and coming home to his family instead of killing innocent civilians in this Floyd meets Stooges meets King Crimson relative number that would have given the hippies the middle finger and Voice of Revolution has the same subject value about peace and freedom in the punk-mode style representing The MC5 techniques and for social injustice.
And if that wasn’t enough of Eloy’s music, the last two numbers is where it gets cooking. The atmospheric eerie composition Isle of Sun, which features organ and piano doing some spooky solos while it deals with figuring out the way to stop the murderous killing is to find an island in the german isles and look for a new beginning and look for the foundations they have in the hearts and minds of their own thoughts and their hopes for a brand new day while Dillus Roady is a tribute to their roadie simply named Dillus, who is an obsessive heavy music fan and helps Eloy equipment, get them drinks and heads them home in this humorotic twisted blues number dedicated to him. Also, I forgot to mention the bonus tracks in the new reissue released on the Repertoire label which are only three tracks released as singles. Walk Alone is a dark melodic turned arpeggio Sabbath rocker as Daybreak which has a shuffling chug about who you are and looking for a job in the daytime while Vibrations of my Mind is hard metal like no other with a Jethro Tull sound quality to the mix ala Cream meets Zeppelin blues rocker.
Through various line-ups, Eloy are still going strong, and kick some sci-fi ass along with the floyd. A debut album paying homage to Black Sabbath and Deep Purple? Cool!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Rick Ray Band - The Setlist

After I was finished with High School and moving on to Community College, I would look at bands that never saw the light of day. From the Italian’s to German’s answer to the Progressive Rock genre, they knew their fire was red hot on the spot. Bands like; Banco, PFM, Le Orme, CAN, Amon Duul II, Faust, il Balletto Di Bronzo, and Ash Ra Tempel to name a few, these were the bands that know the score and always receive a cult following around the world and in the States for Prog Festivals. But there is one band that took me by surprise and that is the Rick Ray Band and their album, The Setlist, which is their 31st album! I bet Frank Zappa would be surprised if he was alive today when he would listen to it from beginning to end. This is no fucking excuse. Listening to it, you get the feeling that the resurrection of the genre is born!
While it pays tribute to the virtuoso guitarist from the influences of Frank Zappa, John McLaughlin, Alex Lifeson, Steve Hackett, or Jimmy Page to name a few, the opening number Taken Control is a high-speed chase number with some odd signatures that go beyond the infinity while The Joke’s On Me is a dazzling composition as Dennis Corrigan’s vocal’s arrangements is similar to a Southern Rock style of Molly Hatchett meets Thin Lizzy ala Jazz Fusion style cranked up to 200 maximum high voltage. Something A Little Original starts off with a rumbling introduction and then going into the train-sped chugging display with an instrumental experimental jam session making it feel of King Crimson meets Rush meets The Soft Machine’s third album playing all at once, like a mad scientist creating a dynamic musical opus, but crazy like a motherfucker also, in a big way.
The rest of the compositions are a flaming fire that won’t burn out with homage’s to its ‘70s hard rock and prog rock tributes. Red Tape is a tension of early Judas Priest-tribute political rocker; Standing in Harm’s Way places an interval of Blues Rock meets Amon Duul II’s Dance of the Lemmings with a heavy sax solo done by Rick Schults who is paying tribute to Elton Dean on here; Sgt. Pepperspray, which to me is their homage to the Beatles psychedelia classic of 1967, they go up the mountains to pay tribute to the Liverpool gods in this Beatlesque jam rockin’ groove beat; In The Real World comes in with a Canterbury Jazz Metal taste that would have made Robert Fripp giggle for joy; Reservations in Cell 3 is an homage to UFO’s guitar work of Michael Schenker while The Voices has the Jam Band feel as if The Grateful Dead were a Heavy Metal band instead of a psychedelic hippie band that features the entire band doing an explosive solo background throughout the song. The last two numbers just goes to show that the Rick Ray Band show no sign of stopping. Until The End comes in with the Crimso treatment again with a bit of Rush’s La Villa Strangiato shuffle rocker along with a Math Rock style as they bring down the house in this eerie number. But if you think the album’s over and done with, think again as it ends with Reality Replaces the Symbol, a political number that goes from the economic system going fucked up in the ass as it shifts of again the music of Rush’s first seven albums and Rick Wakeman’s 1984 in an sinister twist that you’ve never heard before. With a cross between Sax Rock meets Jazz Fusion that’s way beyond fucked up in a good way that is championed of Neil Peart’s lyrics.
Since 1999, of carrying the resurrection of Prog, they found a way to kick a shit load of ass and they deserve a lot of attention to new coming bands who have a love of music while getting the flowing juice going again.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Nice - Five Bridges

Coming from London, they started out as an R&B band which was lead by P.P. Arnold until it was time for them to move on as when they have become the earlier pioneers of the Symphonic Prog-era. And after having hit singles including; The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack, Hang On To A Dream, Happy Freuds, Diamond Hard Blue Apples of the Moon, and the controversial 8-minute protest instrumental number, America, in which during an infamous performance at the Royal Albert Hall in the late ‘60s where Emerson burned an American Flag live onstage before being banned from performing there until they came back together 42 years later. But all in all, there was something beyond the singles and the dynamic albums the Nice put out. The Five Bridges Suite, which was composed by Keith Emerson and bassist/lead vocalist David Jackson, recorded at Fairfield Hall in Croydon on October, 1969, showed the end of the Nice’s career but this wasn’t the first time that the band had done a live performance with a symphony orchestra. Let’s not forget The Moody Blues, Procol Harum, Deep Purple, and Pink Floyd in their pre-Atom Heart Mother era, but for The Nice and Keith Emerson himself, this was one of the most shattering live recordings I’ve enjoyed listening to. And if you think that ELP were just a band, wait till you hear this! The centerpieces included on the album, which are their own take of Jean Sibelius’ Intermezzo ‘Karelia Suite’ which features a militant themed style done by the band and some medieval arrangements for the horn section and then the last 2-minutes is Keith fucking up his organ with feedback and trying to smash it Pete Townshend style and making some hissing noises that is right down perfect and then closing it up with a orchestral rock style that sends the audiences blown away from what they heard. The 18-minute introduction of The Five Bridges Suite which features Keith’s classical piano style on the Fantasia 1st Bridge while on the 2nd Bridge the band comes in to do a psychedelic boogie as if it was done in an autobiographical way, the Chorale 3rd is Jackson singing with the orchestral in a melodic tone about the childhood years and then Keith Emerson is doing tradition of jazz and classical music throughout the number-homage to Dave Brubeck and then closing up on the Finale with a Jazz Rock taste to give it a victorious finale with the orchestra.
To become a center of attention is a little dangerous for guitar and lead vocalists, but for Keith Emerson, it was like a breath of fresh air to fuck up the organ and do some crazy stunts with his knifes which were given to him by roadie Lemmy Kilmeister. Influenced by Ragtime, Jazz, and Classical Music as a kid, he brought it to a standstill with their interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony No. 6 3rd Movement while bringing the album close of combining the sounds of Dylan meets Bach in a blues meets jazz fusion version of Country Pie/Brandenburg Concerto No. 6
It may have been an ambitious and a bombastic project for Keith Emerson to do, and more of a colossal feel to it than bringing a band on the road with a symphony orchestra to do a full wide tour, but why the hell not? The Nice released one more album, Elegy released in 1971 after he was getting ready to move on to start a super group with Emerson, Lake and Palmer and then they called it day. While you listen to Five Bridges, you could tell that it was time for Keith Emerson for him to put the Nice to sleep and felt the temperature had gone down a lot. But you can definitely find the tour de force of his beginnings of pre-ELP which was about to be a leap forward for him, a good idea? Absolutely and positive on the spot!