• The Endless River, and the endless pull of Pink Floyd

    11 Nov 2014, 3:20

    Twitter is a strange method of finding out news. If you're like me you follow hundreds or even thousands of profiles and sometimes things stick out. They range from the hilarious to the tragic, all in 140 characters or less. I can honestly say the best news I ever received from it was Polly Samson's announcement there would be a new Pink Floyd record. I knew her account was certified and legit and couldn't think of a reason why such an announcement would be erroneous at all.

    But despite that most modern way of finding out, I was steadfast in how I planned on experiencing this new music. The same way I did the old music. For pretty much the whole of 1997 I ingratiated myself with their music, mostly by putting on the CD and let it play. I was the ripe age of 13, and as it turned out, the best age to be formally introduced to the music of Pink Floyd. At their best, Roger Waters' lyrics channeled a growing sense of the world around me, something I wouldn't be able to fully appreciate until much later. But the musicality of the band, through pretty much all of their 14 studio albums, was something that equally channeled a child-like wonder.

    So I waited, until this morning. I could have listened to it by other means, but I decided to honor the child within and do it the old-fashioned way. I wasn't disappointed by any means and I surely doubt he wouldn't be either. The melodies, playing, production all brought me back to that time when music was at it's most magical with me. It hasn't stopped since, but like so much it never feels as strong as it does the first time.
  • The Who - Quadrophenia: Live In London

    27 Jul 2014, 1:39

    If Quadrophenia is a statement about youth, and continuing what Pete Townshend loosely described as dealing in nostalgia, this live release seems to have brought the whole project full circle. Townshend and Roger Daltrey, well past retirement age, singing these songs which are told from the perspective of a teenager, may seem silly to some. There would be more truth to this were it not for how this material still pops in a live setting with the right group of musicians.

    Pete said in an interview that in the beginning there were two words forbidden in the band's particular field, the first being art. The Who (along with many others) broke that taboo but kept a rock & roll energy intact. The second one was nostalgia, of which this particular artful endeavor had partly at it's core. To reconnect the band of millionaires to their individual youths (and in fact making each separate identity characteristics of the story's hero, Jimmy). and to reconnect to the Mod audiences that superstar-dom put a barrier in between.

    If there is a third word I can think of along those lines, it would be mortality. First in the sense that this is a band that suffered two tremendous losses to their energy, sound, character and even charisma. There are several small tributes to Keith Moon and John Entwistle throughout the show. Primary of which being footage of an Entwistle bass solo during "5:15" (wonderfully backed up by this tour's drummer Scott Devours) and Keith Moon's vocals during "Bell Boy" with footage of him singing it.

    The most powerful of these tributes play during "The Rock", which acts counterpoint to the visuals of the overture, showing what lead to the Mod culture Jimmy is entrenched in. In "The Rock" there is what I can only describe as an emotional musical and visual tour de force of history leading up to today.

    Under it all there are Roger and Pete singing and playing to their heart's extent, with as much passion as old men can conjure up from their youth. If it's Pete windmilling during "The Punk And The Godfather" or Roger screaming "Love, Reign O'er Me", it does not take much to see that original fire burn within them.
  • Steven Wilson - Get All You Deserve

    24 Sep 2012, 1:59

    As of this writing, it's almost a year to the day Steven's 2nd solo album Grace for Drowning was released. In the year since, and as ever he's been a busy man. It's an overused word, but the passion he puts into everything he puts his stamp on, is equal to the actual number of projects he's involved in. Quality is rare enough in music these days, he also matches it in quantity. So the fact that his first tour as a solo artist is an event onto itself is no surprise.

    I didn't have the great fortune to attend any of his shows, so a document of the tour is obviously welcome. As with previous albums, Get All You Deserve boasts a pretty neat package. Blu-ray/DVD and 2 CD's. The only way it could have been done better is if there was more material from other shows, rather than being from all the same one. But it is a minor complaint, especially considering the love the Mexico City crowd gives.

    Wilson states himself in the brief liner notes that many of the visuals director Lasse Hoile shot were actually taken in Mexico City during the making of Insurgentes. It's a very visual show, with projections in the back and even to the front via a mesh screen for the first few numbers. The building itself (the Teatro Metropolitan) is a piece of art, which adds to the overall flair to the film.

    That all said, the music is very much the focus. And the band is VERY focused. I don't blame Steven one bit for taking the majority of this group into the studio right away for his next solo album (again, busy man). They do justice to the original recordings for the most part, but sometimes straying away to make it sound more feasible live (as is the case with their version of "Abandoner"). Once again, a minor complaint because the band's energy and intuition make up for that.

    For his part, Steven is definitely the conduit of that energy and the band takes their lead from him. It's clear to me he's also more comfortable in the role of front man. Fortunately, his musicianship is still in tact and it doesn't appear he'll give that part of it up anytime soon. He switches instruments quite often, and most of the time during the same song. His singing is good, especially in tandem with bassist Nick Beggs harmonizing behind him.

    It's a little pointless now to say what was the highlight of the show, all in all it's got the makings of a great live record. He's absolutely on the right track with his solo career, and thankfully with little signs of slowing down.
  • The Best Of 2011

    19 Ene 2012, 2:03

    1. Steven Wilson - Grace for Drowning

    A love letter to progressive rock, utilizing his unique voice and talents as a singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist producer to full capacity, is proof the genre has more of a legacy than the Jann Wenner's of the world would have you believe. Certain songs contain benchmark progressive moments (especially the 23-minute opus "Raider II"), but some songs defy description or genres such as the ominous "Index" or dreamy ethereal instrumentals such as the title track, "Belle de Jour", and the closing minutes of the final song "Like Dust I Have Cleared From My Eye". It stands as a testament to his utter commitment as an artist, collaborator (in this case, with the many musicians who lend their unique talents to this, such as Steve Hackett, Tony Levin, Jordan Rudess and Theo Travis) and someone who clearly defies the throwaway elements so much popular music is cluttered with these days.

    Standout track: A very hard choice but if one was forced to choose, I would elect "Deform to Form a Star" as GFD's best song. The piano, harmonies and tight instrumentation provide a perfect backdrop to one of Steven's most uplifting melodies.

    2. Cliff Martinez & various artists - Drive

    What I consider to be the best film of 2011, has one of the more hypnotic and beautiful scores I've ever heard. Recalling such classic electronica as Tangerine Dream's score for Michael Mann's Thief and some of Brian Eno's seminal ambient work, it is a perfect sonic template befitting Ryan Gosling's stoic and sometimes icy turn as Driver. The songs themselves were not appealing to me at first, but as time has gone on they've grown on me. It's easy to understand how they fit in, if you consider one of director Nicholas Winding Refn's influences is John Hughes, who had a similar affinity for the kind of 80's synth-pop the songs here are likely inspired by.

    Standout tracks: "Wrong Floor" and "Skull Crushing" are used during what is both the most romantic and most disturbing sequences of the film. It show's both Driver's longing for love in a passionate embrace with Carey Mulligan's Irene, and his violent temper at it's most extreme back to back. And the music is a perfect dichotomy of elegant dissonance between those two tracks.

    Also, I was really impressed with the use of "Tick of the Clock", used during the tense opening minutes of the film. I honestly thought it was score until I discovered it was not by Cliff at all, but by Chromatics. A really perfect track for the scene.

    3. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

    To be perfectly honest, this took me a bit by surprise. I was expecting it to be good, but not something that has intrigued me this much. As a score for the film, it works quite good as a sonic translation to the desolate Swedish winter, and the even more desolate journey the lead characters take. As a 3-hour collection of music, it's an astounding work. It far surpasses their prior award-winning collaboration with director David Fincher, expanding upon the elements and pushing the medium of film score into something more abstract.

    Standout tracks: The rhythms and use of mellotron on "Great Bird of Prey" make for a dark foreboding track that accompany one of the more tense scenes. "Under the Midnight Sun" is used a few times throughout as a theme of the unraveling mystery, as a stand alone track it is a haunting sparse piano ballad, slathered in dissonant electronic humming. "What If We Could?" share some of the same qualities, but resonates with the emotional core of the two main characters and the dysfunctional connection that is created.

    4. Paatos - Breathing

    Another surprise, I was taken with the single "Gone", which had more of an edge than I was expecting, being familiar with some of their more dreamy, post-rock material. The rest of the songs aren't as long as on previous albums and more focused, which gives them a unique sound away from their progressive rock roots. It does retains some of the mysterious and melancholic arrangements, lifted by the angelic voice of Petronella Nettermalm.

    Standout track: "Precious". A catchy (and timely) chorus, and retro feel is what really appealed to me. It feels like it could be the love theme of some forgotten but brilliant 70's film.

    5. Black Country Communion - 2

    An explosive follow-up to their infectiously heavy first outing, this band is cementing a growing reputation as a hard rock force like very few you'll find in the 2010's. Glenn Hughes' powerful voice and bass-playing, Joe Bonamassa's dirty riffs and searing leads, and Jason Bonham's powerhouse drumming (doing his father proud, no doubt) are at the forefront of this sound, pounding the listener's senses into submission.

    Standout track: "Save Me" is particularly powerful (a word never used to excess when describing this band) track, with a chorus that can give me chills sometimes. And it is one of the few moments on the album for keyboardist Derek Sherinian to shine (however briefly lol), on the atmospheric beginning.

    6. Opeth - Heritage

    Pushing the envelope of progressive metal even further, the band explores a wider range of genre's with this impressive and unique effort. Folk, jazz, hard rock and prog comes together for a wicked brew of songs. Mikael's voice and guitar playing reach interesting heights, especially since there is none of the growling approach of earlier material. My hope is that this heralds a new beginning and a new direction, as this has potential to lead to even greater material.

    Standout track: "I Feel the Dark". Combining folk and psychedelic influences, the quieter bits hooked me in, especially the brief opening acoustic guitar run. The heavier counterpart provides an interesting dynamic, especially with the vocals.

    7. Jakszyk, Fripp and Collins - A Scarcity of Miracles

    An impressive effort from what sadly seems what will be a one-off (at least for now, Robert Fripp says he's taking time away from the music industry for legal reasons) that is something of a throwback to early King Crimson albums such as Lizard and Islands, with a little of Fripp's ambient work on his own and with Brian Eno. Singer/guitarist/keyboardist Jakko M. Jakszyk and former KC reedman Mel Collins make up the core trio that came together to improvise on new material, finally joined by the formidable rhythm section of Tony Levin and Gavin Harrison. What results is a hypnotic blend of prog, jazz and ambient sounds coming together to create what could be the next chapter of KC history, a detour (or ProjeKct, if you will), or sadly the end of one of the great dynasties in all of progressive rock.

    Standout track: the title track. For me, once I saw the video I was hooked and was digging it immediately. The rest of the album stands up to it, but this is the song that always hooks me in the fastest.

    8. Gregg Allman - Low Country Blues. This great effort from a classic voice was reviewed already in this journal entry.

    9. Memories of Machines - Warm Winter

    No-Man vocalist Tim Bowness and Nosound leader Giancarlo Erra worked four years on this album, and it shows as a labor of love. In both of their respective bands, they've helped put a new face on the "post-progressive" genre, combining the soundscapes of prog with newer sounds. Here, they push it further, including more straight-up rock (such as the Floyd-esque "Before We Fall") and ambient influences, as on the respective opening and closing tracks "New Memories Of Machines" and "At The Centre Of It All".

    Standout tracks: For me, their version of the song "Beautiful Songs You Should Know", which first appeared on the 2008 No-Man album Schoolyard Ghosts, is better than the original. The slower pace is a better accompaniment to the lyrics, and allows Tim to explore a quieter range as a vocalist. In contrast to that track's sometimes bleak arrangement, the title track is more uplifting. Even just it's title alone, "Warm Winter", is optimistic. The regularly sullen Bowness seems capable of matching that energy (like on No-Man song's such as "Days In The Trees" and "Wherever There Is Light"), and to top it off there is a sublime guitar solo seeming to burst with sunshine from the equally often sullen Erra.

    10. Steve Hackett - Beyond the Shrouded Horizon

    An epic offering from the former Genesis guitarist, continuing a trend of recent efforts that touch on his halcyon days with his old band, and his first 3 solo albums. Acoustic guitars, string arrangements, multi-layered vocal harmonies, atmospheric sound effects (such as a train rolling along) and various other instruments give this batch of songs a worldly flavor.

    Standout tracks: The first two songs, "Loch Lomond" and the anthemic instrumental "The Phoenix Flown" provide a perfect opening for such a monumentous undertaking, as this album is. Also of note is the track which ends the bonus disc, "Reconditioned Nightmare" which is an updated re-take of his previous composition, "The Air Conditioned Nightmare".
  • Gregg Allman - Low Country Blues

    15 Ene 2011, 5:38

    Gregg's voice is one of the most unique in all of rock. The Allman Brothers Band were the first Rock band to truly represent the Southern spirit and character, and his voice was front in center along with the twin guitar duties of his late brother Duane and Dickey Betts. The band has changed, disbanded, and reformed in many different configurations, but his voice has been the constant in it's 40-year history.

    But less constant has been his solo career. Since 1973, he has released 6 studio and 1 live record. Not to mention the record he put out with his then-wife Cher, one that lasted as long on the charts as their marriage. The records were mostly (with the exception of his first, the varied Laid Back) slickly produced affairs ready-made for Rock radio. Good songs, but little of the adventurous drive of his work with the ABB.

    But now, 14 years after his last album, he comes back with the slow-burning Low Country Blues. It's a love letter to the genre that affected him and his music most. Produced by T-Bone Burnett, it has an atmosphere unique not to just his solo work, but his work as a whole. And again, the common thread that brings it together are those golden pipes that have been belting out his brand of blues and rock for 5 decades.

    The first song I came back to after listening to it as a whole was his take on Skip James' "Devil Got My Woman". His voice eerily is reminiscent of James' own recording of it in 1966, when he was only a few years older than Gregg is now. It starts with his voice and a dobro, and gives way to a steady beat by his band (among them, Dr. John and Doyle Bramhall II) which then ends as it began, a subtle reminder of where it really all began.

    Also of particular note, is the one original song "Just Another Rider" (co-written with recent ABB mainstay Warren Haynes). An obvious nod to "Midnight Rider", it tackles the theme of the rider on the endless road with the world-weary view of the man who first performed the song some 40 years ago.

    Ending with a rendition of Muddy Waters' "Rolling Stone", the primal beat and scratchy dobro give appropriate support to Gregg's vocal. It's one that has aged well, and still echoes of the young man who first came to our collective attention in the 70's.

    The effort as a whole is hopefully a sign of things to come, as the news of a new ABB record, produced by Burnett will come at the heels of this. But on it's own, it's a triumph for an artist who's previous track record as a solo career has been met with mixed blessings. And, at least to my ears, the first great album of 2011.
  • David Gilmour - Live In Gdańsk

    3 Oct 2008, 1:54

    I'll begin this review with my thoughts on Rick Wright's death, somewhat appropriate as this is likely his one and only posthumous release. (Note: Word went around that he was working on a solo album after his commitments to David's tour was over, but being the cynic I am I would not doubt it that there isn't enough material to suit any kind of proper release) I'll quote something I stated on a forum, not long after word of his passing. I spent awhile trying to post something different from that here, but I've found that what I said originally still rings true.

    I've been thinking about what to say ever since the initial shock of the news came passed. I speak for a lot of us when I say that Pink Floyd was something you could always depend on, first as a teenager when most of us discovered them either in their prime or more recently. Music is something sacred among us, it's something we can't explain. Some of us take it for granted, but very few of the people reading this will identify with this. Someone once said your band is like your gang, something at one point in your life (or even your entire life) you would fight for in hopes of making other people see what you see. More importantly, hear what you hear. Even those that weren't touched by the music of Pink Floyd like I have been, they know what I mean. For so many years, they have remained my gang.

    The songs and albums I was affected by most were the ones Rick had an integral part in, musically. His technique and style as a keyboardist set a standard for how to really use pianos, organs, and synthesizers in a Rock context. While Wakeman and Emerson made those instruments of equal or greater value to the electric guitar in their groups, Rick did so much more by filling layers and layers of sound around David's playing. His own technique as a soloist was not shabby as well ("Echoes", "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", "Sheep", and "Keep Talking" being prime examples), but he never took it to extreme lengths.

    This has been a tough year as far as losing people in the entertainment business. But for me, this takes the cake. This year came with one personal loss (my grandmother) and this feels just about the same, with the exception of personal knowledge. If I'm ever lucky to meet the surviving members of the band, though there would be a million questions and statements floating around my head my natural reaction would just be to give them a whole-hearted "thank you".

    This release is the 2nd package covering David Gilmour's spring-summer 2006 tour of Europe and North America, promoting his On An Island disc. His exceptional 2007 DVD, Remember That Night, covered his run at the Royal Albert Hall, including memorable guest spots by the likes of David Crosby, Graham Nash, and David Bowie. The norm in the music business for any major band nowadays is to put out an album, tour, and make a DVD and/or CD of the tour. It's a rare exception for two separate official releases that cover the same tour. I cannot think of many artists, other than U2 possibly, who have done this. As strange as it may seem, I am nonetheless happy about both releases becoming available.

    The meat of Live In Gdansk (in numerous configurations, for those keeping count I bought the 2 CD/2 DVD package) is the tour's final stop in Gdańsk, Poland. The documentary on one of the DVD's explains the cultural significance of why David decided to play his last show in an a large shipyard. I'll spare the history lesson, and instead encourage anyone reading this to buy one of the sets with the DVD's to see for yourselves.

    As good as the RAH shows were, the Gdańsk show blows the latter out of the water in some respects. The guest list for the this concert may have lacked household names, but it makes up for it in musical firepower. The most obvious one being the Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Zbigniew Preisner. Preisner leads the orchestra in recreating his string arrangements of the entire On An Island album, as well as 3 Pink Floyd songs for the 2nd half of the show. They add a nice touch to the material, but without taking your attention away from the band. The other guest for this show was pianist Leszek Możdżer, who recreates his contribution to the track "A Pocketful Of Stones". He also shines in a brief solo on "Then I Close My Eyes", which also showcases the instrumental talents of the other members of David's ensemble.

    Elsewhere in this collection, the 2nd disc is a solid set of classic Floyd. Unlike Roger Waters' tour across America around the time of this show, this isn't a jukebox of Floyd hits. Old relics like "Fat Old Sun" and "Wots... Uh The Deal" (the latter of which unfortunately is not on this album) were brought back to life on this tour, sounding as if they were just recorded yesterday. The orchestra comes in again during the two songs from the last Pink Floyd album, The Division Bell. They add the proper bit of pomp to "High Hopes" and a more emotional edge to "A Great Day For Freedom", which was inspired in part by events that happened at the very venue in which they played. The thundering finale, "Comfortably Numb" is a suitable end for a great show, with both the orchestra and band in full force.

    And what a band it is. As with the stage show this time around, the band itself is scaled down somewhat compared to the last two tours of his old group. No backing singers or over-the-top drum kits in site. But a good deal of the players from those tours are here this time around (Rick, Guy Pratt, Jon Carin, and the always-pleasant sounding Dick Parry). The mix of experience and new blood (Phil Manzanera and Steve DiStanislao) make for a tight sound, with talent to spare. As far as the man himself, even though he looks very much a man of 60 years old now, Dave's voice is still strong and his playing still incredible.

    For me, the performance of "Echoes" is the highlight of an album full of them. There is a more improvisational feel on this version than the one on Remember That Night. It almost harkens back to Pink Floyd's performance of it for the BBC, several weeks before the release of the seminal Meddle album. At 25 minutes in length, the piece goes through incredible peaks and valleys, and at the heart of it is the musical synergy David and Rick have shared with all of us for over 30 years.

    In short, this is a celebration of old and new. An absolute must for Floyd nuts, and those intrigued by David's recent musical directions.
  • The iPod Shuffle

    19 Jul 2008, 5:20

    In an effort to make this blog more interesting, I'm going to carry on something of a new tradition I started in my LiveJournal account. It makes more sense to post it here now, since this site is music-oriented Taking certain songs as they come on my iPod and describing their sonic and personal resonances. Here is an abridged and edited version of my original posts.

    Jeff Buckley - Mojo Pin (Grace): A really good start to this, not to mention an amazing album opener. To the virgin listener, the marriage of the ethereal and heavy aspects of this song get you in the gut and it doesn't let you go until the song finishes. You never leave that experience the same, and better for it to the initiated of those who revere this album in the highest regard.

    Pink Floyd - Biding My Time (Relics): I can count all the great Floyd songs that are sadly under-rated on my hand. Wait, actually both. Actually, I should probably include my toes as well. This is one I would point out on the ring finger of my left hand (lefty). One great thing about PF that makes them unique among progressive rock bands of that period, is that they openly incorporated the blues in their music. This is almost too perfect an example, considering it was originally conceived as part of a stage piece called The Man & The Journey they were doing two years before this album came out.

    Michael Kamen - Rooftop Shootout (Die Hard): The first 20 seconds of this cue is one of the things I remember most from the film, and how it perfectly matched the on-screen action and tension.

    Queensrÿche - Sign of the Times (Hear in the Now Frontier): I remember well this song being part of the soundtrack of the latter part of 7th grade. Back in 1997, before the Nu-Metal bands ruined Modern Rock radio for me, there was a bit of joy in hearing songs like this. Sammy Hagar and Collective Soul also had some cool stuff coming out at the time as well. The album wasn't too successful but I think it's one of their best songs, despite being a tad simple compared to their more complicated work.

    Slowdive - Souvlaki Space Station (Souvlaki): After graduating high school, I discovered Post-Rock and the Shoegazer bands out of the UK in the early 90's at the same time and it opened my eyes to the possibility that "less is more" can be as inventive and exciting as Progressive Rock and Jazz Fusion, genres I discovered before this. This band in particular is great at just taking a riff or a rhythm, make it last for 6 minutes, and create something unique out of it. If a 5.1 mix for this album comes out, I will buy the proper systems necessary for this track alone.

    The Eagles - Business As Usual (Long Road Out of Eden): In an era where acts from the 60's & 70's put out CD's with forgettable songs, it's a pleasant surprise to come across something that has material as fresh and as up to date without compromising artistic integrity. Especially considering that I wasn't even a notion in anyone's mind in 1979, when the band released The Long Run. Yes, the band sells this album exclusively at Wal-Mart. And as I mentioned to prjt2501, Don Henley was probably hitting his head on a desk somewhere when Radiohead announced the radical method they employed to releasing their new record. But none of that obscures the fact that Messrs. Frey, Henley, Walsh, and Schmidt still have it. This song has a feeling more common with Henley's solo work, but the guitar work on the track is classic Eagles.

    Nathan Johnson & The Cinematic Underground - The Tunnel (Brick): The soundtrack, much like the film, is either love it or hate it. I can't imagine how a middle ground is possible, frankly. But if you love it, you can see how the sparse, yet eclectic nature of the music matches visual elements throughout the film. As close to anything I can compare it to, would have to be the score Thomas Newman did for The Salton Sea, but without the funkier elements.

    Motörhead - I Don't Believe A Word (Overnight Sensation): For all the band's depictions of cheeky debauchery and two-fisted aggression, it's easy to forget that they explore deeper, personal worlds as well in some of their work. It's a Catch-22 a lot of bands face in the hard rock genre in general, and it's easy to see why. This song is the best of both worlds, because despite the bitter sentiment of the song it still rocks.

    The Mahavishnu Orchestra - I Wonder (The Lost Trident Sessions): It's a crime that this music wasn't released until a quarter-century after the recordings, because it's by far the best work that the original group did. This track starts out with a dramatic, gradual build-up that explodes once Billy Cobham's drums come in. For being only three minutes in length, it surprisingly manages to encompass the abilities of the soloists with the solid groove of the rhythm section.

    Rick Wright - Breakthrough (Broken China): I bought this disc when I was at the tail-end of my PF purchases in terms of their complete discography. It didn't impress me a whole lot upon listening to it save two tracks. This song wasn't one of them. That is until I recently saw Rick sing it with David Gilmour's band on the In Concert DVD of David's released in 2002. Then I came around to discovering the original recording, sung by Sinead O'Connor. Being mostly unaware of her work outside her one big hit, this song made me understand her talent more fully if that makes sense. The arrangement and instrumentation is also quite tasteful. Overall, it touched a nerve that it didn't find when I was 14. This is a good example of how maturity in musical taste evolves, and how it coincides with maturity as a whole. This song happened to find me when I was in the right frame of mind and position in life to take it in, and discover it's meaning almost instantly.

    Mazzy Star - Fade Into You (So Tonight That I Might See): The story of how I discovered this band's music has a bit of a shame involved on my part. The only time I've ever been into a reality show by myself (I don't count being endlessly amused by both the Machiavellian and whorish nature of American Idol with friends) was when VH1 (pre-Celebreality) had a show called Bands On The Run. Four bands competed in a series of contests tied to the music industry, while touring several spots in the middle of nowhere, the prize a record contract. To add more shame, I remember the name of the band that won mostly due to it's unique name and catchy (at first) single, Flickerstick. To bring this back to the topic at hand, one of the contests I believe was for each band to cover a song at that night's concert (you know, to further their career) and they chose this song to cover. I heard a couple of bars of that song and was hooked. As strange as it is, not many female singers bring me in completely without some uniquely sexy and mysterious quality to it. Hope Sandoval has that, and combined with the mellow to moderate groove the band had, I was hooked.

    Yes - The Gates of Delirium (Yesshows): This was the first CD I bought by them, nearly ten years ago. Two things struck out at me at the time I purchased it. One being Roger Dean's typically beautiful artwork. The other that two tracks were over 20 minutes in length, this track included. This was when I was anything but internet-savvy, and really didn't know the full capacity for available information that was around then. That's one thing I miss now, looking at a CD and having no idea what the music is but being compelled to buy it for really just the packaging and what little info I had of the bands at the time. At the time, I really only had Pink Floyd as any kind of reference point for progressive rock. Looking back, I could have gone in a completely different direction and become a full-fledged Deadhead by the time of my high school graduation. Instead I took a route which I'm sure no peers of mine took, and became a Prog Rock fan which I still am. This is the superior recording of the song, even more so than the original on the Relayer album. This rendition was recorded in '76, and the band was never probably stronger as a unit when Patrick Moraz was briefly in the group. The instrumental sections are particularly tight, as is Jon Anderson's voice. Seeing them perform this in 2000 (first concert ever) was absolutely astonishing, Jon singing "Soon" that warm August night is an experience I'll never forget.

    The Who - Tea & Theatre (Endless Wire): This is such a beautiful song, simply because in it I can hear both the pain and the joy both Pete and Roger have shared through dealing with John Entwistle's death, going through the emotional hell of Pete's brief and undeserved fall from public grace, and building up the band they've shared for over four decades now all over again. The album itself is not exactly a knock-out record, but it's just the beginning of something new. And that's all a dedicated Who fan like myself can ask for.

    Nick Drake - Three Hours (Five Leaves Left): I'll end tonight with a track that leaves me spellbound every time I take it in when listening to it. His voice had a warming, yet mysterious quality to it. The delivery in this song combined with the lengthy instrumental passages lends itself to images of a gypsy traveling through the desert, though I won't even begin to try and intellectualize the lyrics. A very hypnotic track.
  • Top Ten Albums

    14 Jul 2008, 21:42

    1. Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here

    This one's fairly obvious, given my avatar. I still remember the night I bought it, and how amazing it was that something could be this epic, yet this emotional. "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" still stands my favorite Pink Floyd song, and as probably the best well-constructed progressive rock epic. For years, I wasn't able to come up with exactly why it made me feel the way it did. You just know it in your gut, and in your heart. Now it holds sentimental value, a reminder of the time when I stood on the crossroads between being a child, and being a man. Nothing would be ever the same after this, and I've never looked back.

    2. The Beatles - Abbey Road

    Late spring, 13 years old, feeling the soft breeze from the window, hearing "Sun King" from my art teacher's stereo. It was at that moment, I truly registered why they are considered by so many as the greatest rock & roll band ever.

    3. The Who - Who's Next

    Such a perfect groundwork for what a good album should be. This band at it's finest on every level, during the peak of their powers. When I first heard it, I took them more seriously as a band I can follow. When you're a teenager living in Midwestern America, "Teenage Wastelands" has a resonance and you know exactly what it means without any further explanation. Every self-respecting music fan should own a copy of this.

    4. Miles Davis - Kind of Blue

    Again, another perfect example of how an album should be put together. The flow of it is perfect, and the playing is superb. While I'm more into his later experiments with electric instruments, and the music he produced after that, no one album had the flow this one does. In truth, while Miles did bring a lot of his soul and creativity into it, Bill Evans should be (and often is) credited for giving the music his unique spin. "Blue In Green" is far and away my favorite track on the album, the slow back and forth between Bill, Miles, and (the always jaw-dropping) John Coltrane is astonishing. Just a real gem of an album, long before the album was even considered a work of art.

    5. U2 - All That You Can't Leave Behind

    I bought it during a very haunting time in my life, personally and as an American post 9/11. These songs were exactly what I needed to make sense of the things I was seeing on the news and what I was feeling inside.

    6. Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

    I'd been familiar with the first half of the album, for as long as I'd had it. The 2nd disc was something I wasn't really able to sink my teeth into until last year when I sat down and for the first time listened to it all at once. Once I was able to take it all in, I recognized it as something more than the shaky story that's behind it. It was a unique and quirky musical statement, and where this version of the band really hit the glass ceiling in terms of creativity.

    7. Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV

    Released the same year as Who's Next, despite lack of personal resonance the latter had, this was very much it's equal in sheer power and force. But it had a balance, as exampled in "Going To California" and "The Battle Of Evermore", another hallmark of how an album should be constructed. "Stairway To Heaven", despite becoming a bit of a pop culture cliche, is very much the centerpiece, and is one of many creative peaks this band achieved.

    8. The Moody Blues - Days of Future Passed

    It's highly disputable where Progressive Rock started. If my opinion counts, this album should be considered the true starting point. The mix of rock with classical elements, the way the full orchestra is utilized, was unique even in the wake of the experiments George Martin had done with The Beatles around that time. "Nights In White Satin" is such a perfect climax, sung with absolute passion and conviction from a young Justin Hayward. My art teacher, who helped introduce me to the Beatles' music, despite his love for the Fab Four said that that was his favorite song of all time. That should tell you a lot about how good this album is, and how it's stood the test of time.

    9. Porcupine Tree - Deadwing

    A modern prog epic, this is the perfect example of why people should pay attention to this band. Steven Wilson has, over the years, time and time again put out near if not completely perfect albums in the various projects he's been associated with. He's also done his homework, and understands the art of how an album should be presented. Quite a feat, given the limited amount of patience this generation has when it comes to almost every facet of popular culture. Every track is immediately memorable, but none more than "Lazarus", a catchy, haunting piece with sublime instrumentation. Soon enough, I'm sure the band will produce something more momentous and ambitious as this album, but this album is noteworthy because it opened my ears to how truly great they are.

    10. Yes - Close to the Edge

    After the success of their previous two albums and "Roundabout", and before the beautiful disaster that was Tales from Topographic Oceans, this is the ultimate testament to how special their combined musical power was to the world. It's where Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman came into their own, and developed the trademark sounds that would help define the band's classic sound.