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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Downes Braide Association - Suburban Ghosts

The moment I put on Suburban Ghosts on my platform CD player, I can imagine a trip back in time where music was really, really good. And the collaboration between Chris Braide (This Oceanic Feeling) who wrote lyrics for Beyonce, Pharrell Williams, and Marc Almond to name a few, and with Keyboardist Geoffrey Downes (The Buggles, Asia, and Yes), it’s an excellent collaboration and combination of the two. This is their second album and follow up to 2012’s first collaboration with Pictures of You.

The album deals with isolation, loneliness, and at times depression in a small suburbian landscape and it goes back to both Chris and Geoff’s childhood growing up in the area filled with wastelands, getting out of extreme fear and the irrational places that they need to survive and escape from. They start to try to find a new beginning, a new chapter, and a new adventure with the flashbacks of the ghostly past to finally let them go.

And the album itself, is a wonderful structure of finally letting go of the past and moving into the other world to see what new beginnings and ideas await for the people to escape the danger they are in. With a trip to the essence of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s as if it was recorded in that time period, you can imagine yourself being in your room playing from start to finish and just identifying yourself in the structure and the album will be a soundtrack for your life.

The riveting opener, Machinery of Fate starts with a very fast running rhythm beat that has a haunting/rising beat on the loss of hope by a sound of a Pat Benatar-sque groove that Downes gives shining melodic beats on the keyboards while Number One sounds between a combination of City Boy and Chris De Burgh. It almost as if it could have been used in an episode of Miami Vice with the chase sequence and the song kicks into high gear the moment Don Johnson’s character hits the pedal to catch crooks with his Ferrari Testarossa.

Vanity shows Braide’s vocals into a beaming effect on the imaginable and ripple composition as Downes Piano shows the dystopian nightmare that’s about to begin whilst escaping from the corruption. The catchy synth melodies on Time Goes Fast, has drum rhythms that is thumping and pounding with a chance to reach the stars and I hope one of these days it will become a live favorite if they get a chance to perform the composition to stand on their feet and clap to the sound.

The three-part title track, lifts your spirits high. There’s an interesting twist between Roxy Music’s Avalon-era and Yes’s 90125-era to jump ship as Guitar’s go into ascending beats with keyboard based electro-rock. Alongside both the two bands, there’s also the essence of Franco Battiato’s Patriots thrown into the blender. And Geoff himself, knows exactly where Chris goes into his vocal arrangements to move forward and see where the road will take into next.

It’s my third time listening to Suburban Ghosts. This is the right album at the right time for me in my opinion to delve into more of what I’ve experienced of my listening ears. It’s Synthpop, Electro-Rock, AOR (Album-Orientated Rock), and new wave at its best. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Motus Tenebrae - Deathrising

It’s been a good while since I’ve heard some amazing heavy music from the label My Kingdom Music. This year, they have unleashed something powerful, doomy, and eruptive that is destined to be played at maximum volume. The band is called Motus Tenebrae. They have formed in Italy for about 15 years and with different line-up changed and four albums and one EP in their sleeves, they have released a new album entitled, Deathrising.

Now I’m very new to Motus Tenebrae’s music. And I have to admit, even though I’m not crazy about their sound, they have completely taken me by surprise the moment I’ve listened to their sixth album from start to finish. The band considers: Luis McFadden on Lead Vocas, Andreas Das Cox on Bass, Daniele Ciranna on Guitar, Harvey Cova on Keyboards and Synth, and Andrea Falaschi on Drums.

The band recorded the album in Tuscany during the Autumn and Winter of 2015 as they were rehearsing and arranging the album from start to finish. You could tell they worked really, really hard to make this album eruptive, sinister, and intense as if they were recording a soundtrack set in a dystopian/post-apocalyptic atmosphere that makes it perfect for a darker overtone with mind-blowing results.

And the six highlights on the album, gives it a goosebumping chill at the right moments. There is the Tool influences which is evidential on the two tracks. On Our Weakness, Daniele’s sinister overtones on the Guitar introduction shows on where the lyrics deal about the issue of death and insanity is our weakest point and the reasons we have to go at some point and the misery that we have to pay for.

It has a dooming tempo followed by a crunching rhythm section thanks to the intense drumming that Andrea brings to the table. There’s also elements and reminiscent of Tool’s Undertow-era that gives Schism a follow up sequel while Faded gives Luis McFadden’s voice the essence of Maynard James Keenan and the essence of the Lateralus-era in which the vocals in the midsection gives a creepy vibration.

The title track as I’ve mentioned about the atmosphere, gives it a chilling scenario. Galloping guitar riffs both in the rhythm and lead section followed by Harvey’s keyboards to add the string section with an evocative feel. With an interesting combination between as if Ghost has teamed up with Mastodon to create a chilling vocalization and guitar lead section, it really adds up well.

The Thrash Metal elements come at you with blasting the door down so hardcore, that it brings the power of Electric Wizard at times with Cherish My Pain as the Sabbath-sque roaring intro for the Light Than We Are, ascends into the outer limits without turning back. Andrea’s pummeling yet the galloping drums sound like rapid gun fires coming at you unexpected on your headphones for going into a slowed-down tempo into a moderate tempo on the beats that shows unexpected holy crap momentum.

This is my third time listening to the album and Motus Tenebrae’s music. It’s really building up for me. And one thing I have notice that Deathrising is perhaps a chilling heavy doom/gothic metal that just took me up in my wings that can give you a surprising moment on where they will go to next. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Remembering David Bowie 1947-2016

It was April 29, 2004 at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in Houston, TX. I was only 19 years old and it was my first time seeing the master, the Thin White Duke, David Bowie. He was at the time promoting his 24th studio album, Reality. I remember getting excited for the concert and it was sort of my pre-Graduation present as I was about to leave my Senior year at Westbury High School.

David Bowie for me has been a part of my life since watching him when I was a kid of the 1986 cult classic Labyrinth. I was just blown away of his style, his music, and his sense of humor. Not to mention he pushed the envelope on whoever he portrayed as. Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke, Major Tom, the Goblin King, Thomas Jerome Newton, or Detective Nathan Adler. He always transformed and changed which characterization he would be on stage, screen, and on TV. He as he mentioned to Russell Harty in 1973, he was a collector.

Back to the show. I remember getting the tickets and being in the Pit. That was almost for me a fan’s dream to be in the pit and being in awe of Bowie. But I kept my fanboy’s distance from the back of my head and locked it away. The opening band was the Polyphonic Spree. They were okay and they did a few songs including one of David’s Memory of a Free Festival. They finished the set. I headed back into the merchandise and bought a shirt, a program, and The Man Who Fell to Earth poster.

I headed back into the pit. The lights went down and the first lines by Earl Slick of the riff introduction of Rebel Rebel hit it off with a big bang! He came onto the stage and I was jaw-dropped. He sang the line “You got your mother in a world/she’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl/hey babe, you’re hairs alright/hey babe, let’s go out tonight.” And they were ready for liftoff for a 2-hour performance that the audience and myself, will never, ever forget.

He performed a few songs from Reality and his previous album, Heathen including New Killer Star, The Loneliest Guy, Cactus, Sunday, Heathen (The Rays), and Slip Away in which he did as an encore with the Polyphonic Spree which was a highlight moment. He performed some of the classics including The Man Who Sold the World, Fashion, Ashes to Ashes, I’m Afraid of Americans, All the Young Dudes in which they were waving their arms back and forth and singing along.

For me, the highlight was the duet between him and bassist Gail Ann Dorsey who joined up with David for the Outside tour 21 years ago and thru the Reality tour. They did a duet for Queen’s Under Pressure. It was one of those moments that audiences were completely spellbound and rooting for not just David, but Gail. They nailed it right there. He closed up the show with Suffragette City and Ziggy Stardust. He came on just in before performing the final song to close up the night wearing a cowboy hat to show Texas a huge amount of Love.

He said, “Who knew Ziggy Stardust was a cowboy?” And they got a kick out of it and those notes and the song was a perfect way to close the show off. I was astonished, emotional, and amazed of how Bowie nailed the show in Texas. It is now January 12, 2016. Yesterday, we lost an artist, an icon, a fashion, and a master. His last and final album, Blackstar, which I haven’t bought yet, is a final farewell message to his fans. I have great memories back 12 years ago of seeing Bowie live and I will live those memories until the day I die. And above, is the poster I bought at the concert. He will always be The Man Who Fell to Earth.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Eyes of Blue - Crossroads of Time

Eyes of Blue was a short-lived Progressive Rock six-piece band from Neath, Wales that formed in fifty years ago that had a touch of the Psychedelic and Soul/R&B sound in their music. The band received a breakthrough when they won the 1966 Melody Maker National Beat Contest and were signed to the Mercury Label after meeting American record producer Lou Reizner who would later work on the Symphonic Orchestral version of The Who’s Rock Opera Tommy in 1972.

The band considered; Gary Pickford-Hopkins on Vocals, Wyndham Rees on Vocals, Phil Ryan on Keyboards, Ray “Taff” Williams on Guitar, Ritchie Francis on Bass, and John Weathers on Drums. The two albums (Crossroads of Time and In Fields of Ardath), are reissued by the good people by Esoteric Recordings. These two albums were released in 1968 and 1969. When you listen to the albums, you can imagine why they were ahead of their time and why the label gave them a chance at that time period before doing one more album entitled, Bluebell Wood under using the name, Big Sleep.

Which I will delve into another time. But let’s get to the debut album. Recorded at Olympic Studios in Barnes at South West London and completed under four to five days, you can imagine yourself just being in awe of what is spellbound track after track of the band’s music. There is the West Coast Rock sound, Classical Music, Jazz, and Soul. It’s right in Crossroads of Time. Not to mention the support of the late great and often overlooked master of the keyboards himself, Graham Bond, who wrote the original sleeve notes about the band.

There are the covers they did from Love, The Beatles and Bond (7 + 7 Is, Yesterday, & Love is the Law). And Eyes of Blue decided to give it a good version of the compositions of the covers. They bring the thunder with a soaring version from Arthur Lee’s version thanks to Weathers galloping drumbeat, rumbling rhythm guitars thanks to Ray Williams while the 
ballad and mourning beauty of Bond’s version stays true to the master.

And their take of the Beatles classic, begins with a carol-like introduction from the vocals, before heading into the Vanilla Fudge treatment with a church choir sound from Ryan’s organ that gives it a powerful interpretation of the Lennon-McCartney composition with a Mellotron swirl. The thumping and stomping rhythm before delving into an Indian psychedelic improvisation by Williams himself and then ending with a joyous groove in the styles of Steve Winwood-era of Traffic to give the listeners, the ultimate trip for the Prodigal Son.

The Mellotron-Sitar combination gives it an interesting take as it heads into a romantic and classical beauty of Largo. It reminded me of a combination between both the Beatles and Barclay James Harvest’s Pools of Blue to give it that swimming aquatic sound on the two instruments to delve into the ocean and find the one and true love that makes it at time atmospheric with a soulful twist.

I Wonder Why goes into a waltz with a jazzier and the soul punch. Both Weathers, Francis, and Ryan bring the time signature of ¾ in a haunting and dramatic essence. It feels as if it could have been recorded during the sessions of Blonde on Blonde’s second album, Rebirth while they go into the road with a Blues Rocking approach for driving down the highway for a finale for Inspiration for a New Day.

Pre-Zeppelin and Proto-hard soul rock, the vocals have the reminiscent of Steve Winwood with powerful riffs, organ, bass, and drums. And you can dance to the groove and see how they nail in the style of a harder approach of the Spencer Davis Group as if they did a hit single and Eyes of Blue nailed it to close it off. The bonus track sees Phil Ryan going into his homage to Graham himself of Q III which was released as a B-side. Phil is powerful on his Hammond to go.

He is bringing the fire, energy, and electricity through his instrument to show a lot of intense and jaw-dropping eruptions that would get him some recognition. The Esoteric release has a 15-page booklet which features rare photographs of the band, interviews with Ritchie Francis and John Weathers, who would later join up with Gentle Giant and then, Man. The liner notes are done by Malcolm Dome and it’s a perfect history of the obscure and the hidden treasures on what is to come.

I can’t wait for this year to see what both Mark and Vicky Powell has in store for the Esoteric label. If you love Gentle Giant, Man, Traffic, and Graham Bond, then delve into Eyes of Blue’s Crossroads of Time.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Jane Getter Premonition - On

During my Hanukkah and Christmas holiday, I was completely jaw-dropped from a guitarist that has completely taken me by surprise. That guitarist is none other than Jane Getter. She is considered by Guitar Player magazine as “The fieriest frettboarding female to strap on a Stratocaster.” And let me just say, that she can nail the Fender Strat very well with her improvisations that will take Jazz and Rock listeners to a whole new level.

She had released so far three albums. Two of which were a part of Allan Holdsworth label, Alternity Records whilst getting recognition playing with the Saturday Night Live house band by receiving word of mouth and widespread exposure that shows support she is getting. Jane released her fourth album entitled On which is released on the Madfish label.

And from the moment I put the album on from beginning to end, I knew that I was about to be introduced from a guitarist who will someone to watch out for. Mind you, I’m new to the music and world of Jane Getter, and On is a real killer. She brought along some help including, Adam Holzman (Steven Wilson, The Avengers) on Keyboards, Bryan Beller (Mike Keneally, Deathklok, and The Artistocrats) on Bass, and Chad Wackerman (Frank Zappa, Allan Holdsworth) on Drums.

Not to mention special guests featuring; Theo Travis (David Gilmour, Gong, No-Man, and Porcupine Tree) on Sax, Alex Skolnick (Testament) on Guitar, and Corey Glover (Living Color) on Vocals. It’s this combination between Metal, Jazz Rock, and Progressive Rock rolled into a gigantic hot and spicy burrito, that makes it perfect and in your face to show they are no fluking around, but getting the action and power they need to show where Getter wants them to delve into.

For example on Train Man, she is blaring the solos into a fiery pattern both in the rhythm and lead section as Alex helps her out with the guitar work to show a lot of teamwork. Not just for showing off, but both of them are carrying a lot of support as they take turns into their improvisation’s. You have to love the Mellotron coming at you with a chilling scenery before the haunting acoustic backgrounds and Corey’s voice closing off the crescendo for the last few seconds of the composition.

The acoustical ballad of dealing with collapsing, but standing up and learning to keep on going with Falling, sees Jane nailing those vocal arrangements. And with help from Theo Travis’ flute section setting the jazzier tones, gives it a chilling and emotional tones while delving into a seguing technique for a jazz fusion-sque introduction thanks to Bryan’s bass line for a funk-like opener for Logan (Would’ve Sounded Great on This).

It is a dedication to the late bassist Steve Logan who passed away back in 2007. It’s a wonderful tribute to him. Onto the track. As I’ve mentioned before, it starts off at first by going into a Funk-Jazz Rock introduction before diving into the ocean for a Moog river-like sound that Holzman does through his keyboard section in the melodic sound that Getter blends in before heading into the surface. Adam is going into Hammond Organ, Moog and the Mellotron town through the magic and wonders of the mysterious sounds as Jane and her comrades give Adam a chance to come full circle.

The opener, Surprised sounds like a combination between ASTRA, Amon Duul II’s Tanz Der Lemminge (Dance of the Lemmings) and Steven Wilson’s The Raven that Refused to Sing. Jane takes the listener into outer space with an ascending melody in the lead section as the thumping drums from Chad goes into lift-off as the ominous and haunting themes blend in well into the cosmos.

It’s also a dystopian theme on what was once beautiful, turned into something wrong with lyrics including; “They tell untruths distort their news and use surprised at how low surprised that they don’t know/surprised at how much fear still exists year after year.” They nail it with the lyrics between Jane and Corey vocals sharing the lyrics and duet together.

It’s a perfect introduction to start it off with a bang and the virtuosity in which Getter brings into, is like hitting a nail on a piece of wood at the right exact moment to hit the hammers in to blend together. This is my tenth time listening to On. And Jane Getter herself and her team, done a job well done of bringing the essences of Jazz, Prog, and Hard Rock to a standstill.

This is a one of a kind album that would be recommended to any guitarist who wants to delve into and understand what real guitarist who bring the beauty and the quality into other worlds and adventures that Getter would go into next. I will again, keep an eye out on what she will do next. So if you love Zappa, Steven Wilson, Allan Holdsworth, and futuristic wonders, then Jane Getter Premonition’s On is the ultimate trip.