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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Light Freedom Revival - Eterniverse Déjà Vu

Progressive Rock ensemble band Light Freedom Revival have released their debut album entitled, Eterniverse Déjà Vu. It’s more than just a project, but the who’s who on here including  Canadian singer-songwriter John Vehadija, who has assembled this amazing line-up including; Eric Gillette (The Neal Morse Band) on Lead Guitar, Oliver Wakeman (Yes) on Keyboards, Marisa Frantz on Harmony Vocals, and Billy Sherwood (Yes, Asia) on Bass, Drums, Guitar, and Keyboards. Not to mention the mind-blowing album artwork by Ed Unitsky. When you have this ensemble put together, you know something will take you beyond the travelling extensive universe.

What Vehadija wanted to do is create a bigger sound by going through the consciousness and positive energy shape of all of our future destinies as we look through the future and how we would like to experience. The Earth is evolving by this gigantic space crystal of the city of light called, Avatar. It represents the point of focus for the entire Light Creation with a sealed cornucopian light society template.

It’s a great brainstorm for John to do. And believe me, it really does work. Now I’m not a gigantic Melodic Rock person, but listening to this debut, I have to say, I was very impressed of the centerpieces throughout the entire album. Where Worlds Fail is a melodic prog-rock composition featuring the blending vocals between John and Marisa while Billy’s bass adds in the textures along with his drum patterns.

He’s not all over the place, but he is very relaxed and following towards the skies between both the vocalists. And Dream and Dream Again is a 4/4 time signature haunting ballad composition with Oliver Wakeman’s mysterious keyboards to bring this dreamy atmosphere before Gillette brings the peaceful touches on his guitar both in the style of clean and bluesey in a 3/4 waltz rock on Form Hope.

The title-track has this vibe of the early ‘80s AOR tempo as the lyrics bring to the mind of the sessions of Asia’s sole self-titled debut album sessions done in the style of the late great John Wetton. It’s not just following in his footsteps, but to honor his legacy while They Fit You In features some dazzling hard rock symphonic synths and riffs on the views of hell.

The lyrics deal with while you are welcome in the pits of the flaming scenario, but it’s also the damaged you have caused and being your own worst enemy. Sherwood is spot on along with Eric to help Vehadija out. This here is a great debut from John Vehadija’s Progressive Ensemble band. I hope he will continue to do more for the Light Freedom Revival. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

In the Company of Serpents - Ain-Soph Aur

Formed six years ago in their hometown in Denver, Colorado, this Sludge/Doom duo have just taken me by surprise. The name of the band is called In the Company of Serpents and they have released their follow-up to their Merging in Light EP entitled, Ain-Soph Aur. The name of the title comes from the three veils of negative existence which precedes manifestation of the material philosophy of Hermetic Qabalah western esoteric tradition involving both the occult and mysticism.

It translates to Never Ending Light. The duo considers Grant Netzorg on Guitar and Vocals and Joseph Weller Meyer on Drums. The music has this strange and bizarre combination between doom, spaghetti western music, eerie, death, and spine-tingling spacey instrumentals. Grant’s vocals have this snarling and growling style of Tom Waits on the opener, Middle Pillar.

Beginning with the guitar notes with a reverb effect and eruptive banging by Joseph himself, it has this vigorous sound while Nothingness and Limitless Nothingness brings the serialism of western art. It’s almost as if you are in the eye of Clint Eastwood or Alejandro Jodorowsky’s characters The Man with No Name or El Topo.

You can imagine either one of them have walked through a bloody aftermath as the town and the people are dead and knowing by what they have saw that they are not surprised of what has happened in the aftermath. Limitless Light sees both Grant and Joseph transforming themselves into their own take of Popol Vuh’s score of Aguirre, The Wrath of God.

The last three minutes of the piece goes into some storming yet menacing beats as you can imagine Klaus Kinski’s character near the final reel of the film on the raft as he is alone as tells in narrative format that he’s sane, but he’s now a crazed survivor. Since I mentioned about their take of the Spaghetti Western score which I could see In the Company of Serpents know their homework well, they’ve shown more on Crucible.

Imagine both Klaus Schulze and Ennio Morricone working together on one of Jodorowsky’s films as if he’s continuing the legacy for the son of El Topo to see what he will do next to follow in his father’s footsteps of his spiritual journey. The music is a minimal heavy spaghetti-western rock score with a black metal twist. This was unexpected and listening to this whole thing, made my arm hair’s go up.

I hope they will continue to do more and see where the Denver duo will think of next for their brainstorming ideas. As Jodorowsky once said, “I provide the shock treatment, the rest is up to you. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Big Hogg - Gargoyles

As I’ve always said, Bad Elephant Music has never, ever disappointed me with some amazing music they would release. One of the bands they signed this year, is a sextet from Glasgow called Big Hogg. They describe themselves as Electric Music for the Mind and Body. They have this influential and inspirational sound between the sounds of; psychedelic, jazz, blues, and rock of the golden era of the late ‘60s/early ‘70s. This is their second album entitled, Gargoyles.

And believe me, they are very, very good. You have a piece with a psych-pop ballad twist with the guitars sounding the brass/horn sections with some delay/reverb effects on Drunk on a Boat. I can imagine this visual scenario of a young woman singing on this boat for the captain and his crew for a chance to sleep and have a nice long rest after a hard day’s work and it captures the vibe.

Vegan Mother’s Day has this late psychedelic vibe of Styx’s The Grand Illusion-era while Waiting for Luigi combines a mournful horn section with a Canterbury touch to it. Then you have Solitary Way which starts off as a Psychedelic Folk intro before delving into the essence of Love’s Forever Changes and mid-to-late ‘60s David Bowie as they take a far-out trippy adventure into the infinite worlds.

Devil’s Egg features heavy wah-wah guitars, psyched organ as the instruments including the drums go through a loop in a weird, but not a bad way. By the way, is it just me or did I just imagine I can almost hear a mellotron in the background? Gold and Silver sees Big Hogg going into the styles of ‘70s Glam Rock with brass and flute as they prepare themselves a fine banquet to dine on through reminiscing T. Rex and the Ziggy Stardust period.

The closing track Little Bear, is a haunting short little number that goes for a minute and nineteen seconds. It sees Big Hogg delving into the Acid Folk acoustic side to close the curtains and prepare for a bow. It gives them a chance to take a break from the electric sound while knowing it is time for bed.

Bad Elephant again, scored more home runs for me so far this year. With Orange Clocks, The Gift, and The Far Meadow to name a few, they’ve done it again with Big Hogg. Please check out their music and their new album, Gargoyles. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Blonde on Blonde - Rebirth

This fellow blogger first heard this album after reading about the reissue eight years ago in Prog Magazine by Rise Above Records/Cathedral’s Lee Dorrian back when I was at Houston Community College. That band is Blonde on Blonde. Taken their name from Bob Dylan’s seventh studio album released 51 years ago, this was the band’s second album released in 1970 on the Ember label, which was their follow up to their debut album, Contrasts on the Pye label in 1969.

Ralph Denyer, who was the original lead singer, left the band to form Aquila which released their only sole self-titled debut album on the RCA label in 1970. But I’m getting off-topic. David Thomas replaces Ralph on vocals as soothing and heartfelt at times, shows in the steps between Roy Orbison and Love’s Arthur Lee. It was a step forward from their debut album as they were moving into the Progressive Rock direction at the beginning of the golden-era of the ‘70s.

You have these psychedelic pop and the uplifting gems including the dreamy organ/piano landscape introduction of Castles in the Sky, which was released as a single including the B-side with essence bringing to mind the introduction of the Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black as David sings “Leaves of green/are turning brown/this silent world/keeps turning round.” The haunting rhythm sections between Les Hicks’ drumming and Gareth Johnson’s rhythm/lead guitar, and the heavy fuzz bass by Richard John, shows the power and the thunderous energy they bring.

The raga-rock of growing up to start a new life and a new chapter, has these catchy riffs and the scratching noises of the pick going up on the heavy E string as Gareth leads through the shining candle burning brightly for a Heart Without a Home. Time is Passing feels like something straight out of the sessions for Love’s Forever Changes while the 12-minute and 07 second epic on Colour Questions is the kicker on the album.

It begins with a traditional Asian form of music then delving into the night with a galloping rocker between Richard, Leslie, and Gareth. I love the dynamics and brilliant shrieking noises that Johnson does on his guitar while David sings in various sections of the song. Then near the last five minutes of the piece, it almost reminded me of the Underture from The Who’s 1969 rock opera, Tommy.

Richard and Gareth really go into town as they hammer it down between Bass and Guitar and then it suddenly turns into a whirlwind followed by the drumming going up, up, and way up in the air. The three bonus tracks contain the single version of Circles and alternate versions of the two songs including a mid-feel Elton John-type of Castles in the Sky and homages of String Driven Thing’s The Machine That Cried-era on Time is Passing.

When I heard that Esoteric was going to reissue this, I thought this peaked my interest. And it did. It contains liner notes by Malcolm Dome with interviews of Gareth Johnson and David Thomas about reflections about the history of the band. It includes the original sleeve notes including champions of the group including the late great DJ Tommy Vance and Rolling Stone writer John Mendlesohn, and little biographies about the band.

Rebirth still sounds fresh to this day since I’ve heard back in 2009. And with the Esoteric reissue they have done another great job. I have to admit the alternate versions didn’t click with me. It was a little too grandiose as I prefer the original. But I digest, Blonde on Blonde’s second album, is worth exploring. If you are in the search for more lost treasures in the sierra madre, this is one of the albums to dig deeper into.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Neal Morse Band - The Similitude of a Dream

I have to give Glass Onyon a huge amount of credit for re-introducing me back to Neal Morse’s music thanks to the 2-CD/DVD set Alive Again which showed his band at the time promoting The Grand Experiment recorded two years ago in the Netherlands. Again, while I’m not a gigantic fan of Spock’s Beard and his solo work, it’s opening my eyes a bit more of where he’s coming from. I went ahead and bought the band's follow-up released last year on the Radiant/Metal Blade label entitled, The Similitude of a Dream.

It’s an ambitious concept album based on John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. And it’s the story of a protagonist named Christian, who leaves the city of destruction by leaving his wife and children behind whilst travelling through the Celestial City as his soul can be saved by the company of god and to live for eternity of the heavenly host. It’s a religious spiritual journey, but the music and lyrics work very well.

The group who worked on The Grand Experiment are back which includes Keyboardist Bill Hubauer, Guitarist Eric Gillette, Drummer Mike Portnoy, and Bassist Randy George. I can tell by listening to the entire story, which is a big and ambitious concept, Morse is all revved up and ready to go for the listener to embark on the adventure of spirituality to find on being alive and never giving up your journey.

Mike parallels the Similitude album between Pink Floyd’s The Wall and The Who’s rock opera Tommy. For me, which I might a little bit agree with Portnoy’s idea, it’s more than those two classics. I can hear bits of the stories between Magma’s Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh, Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and tiny bits and pieces of The Pretty Things’ S.F. Sorrow thrown in there.

It begins with a sincere string section as Neal’s passionate vocals being the story as we are imaging of seeing Christian knowing it’s time to go and live forever as it kicks in with the Overture. It is symphonic prog-metal with out of this work time signatures between the synths/organ and Eric’s powering leads and riffs on his guitar. Then, we get into the heavy stomps and rhythms between Portnoy and George of escaping the City of Destruction.

It gives Christian fleeing from his home along with his wife and children to save himself by having Pliable to tag along with him for a brief while. With We Have Got to Go starts off with an acoustic introduction and then Neal gives Hubauer a chance to bring the keyboards delving into the works of the PG-era of Genesis’ Selling England by the Pound while Portnoy sings as Obstinate on Draw the Line.

He’s letting Christian know that he has lost his mind and his journey in Obstinate’s mind is mumbo-jumbo nonsense as Pliable abandons Christian as the music is confrontational and intense between those two characters and Christian has made his mind up to continue on his journey. The Ways of a Fool has this late ‘60s/early ‘70s style of the Progressive Pop scene with it’s Jeff Lynne-sque lyrics as it pays nod between the styles of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper and ELO’s Out of the Blue-era.

With The Man in the Iron Cage, the vocals have this sound of Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott as guitars and organ goes into a riff mode a-la MKII of Deep Purple and the reprise of the music from the City of Destruction is shown from Confrontation as Portnoy himself is like a rapid machine gun shooting out bullets as he plays the drums to give it a powder-keg eruption.

Throughout the entire listen of this 2-CD set, I was on the edge of my seat listening to Morse’s concept and it’s quite an epic tale. For Neal to create story and music on John Bunyan’s story, is a challenge, but he and his crew worked really, really hard on their butts for another job well done. And I hope The Neal Morse Band continues to surprise me for more adventures that lay ahead for where the road will take them.

Not to mention the amazing gatefold sleeve artwork of the Pilgrim's Progress story done by the great Paul Whitehead (Genesis, Peter Hammill, and Van Der Graaf Generator).

Monday, March 6, 2017

IZZ - Ampersand, Volume 2

Whenever I would look through bands or artists that would peak my interest, I knew my ears would perk up. When it comes to a band like IZZ, it’s something that would give me some attention. Now I’ve heard some of the samples of their music on Internet radio many years ago when I was at Houston Community College and then, I completely forgotten about them. It wasn’t until last year I went ahead and bought their new album on The Laser’s Edge which was Ampersand, Volume 2. And from the moment I put it on, I was instantly hooked right from the first note.

IZZ launched back in their hometown of New York City 21 years ago the Galgano brothers (Tom and John). And despite the line-up changes, they have released eight albums and performed at NEARfest ten years ago. This is their ninth album released on the Donne Records label. And it’s their follow up to their 2015 album, Everlasting Instant. They have a passion for songwriting, melody, and diverse texture between the sound and style.

In the digital booklet it begins with a quote, “Sometimes music is just music. Songwriters and artists create works about which they are passionate. Sometimes creations falls into a certain category; sometimes they don’t.Ampersand, Volume 2 it’s a diverse album and I got a kick out of it a few times. And while I’m very new to the music of IZZ, their new album will get me open my eyes more of their sound and vision of what they want to accomplish.

John Galgano’s virtuosity from playing both the acoustic guitar and piano have shown a lot of importance. When you listen to Hail Double Knob, Children of Mars there are different sections from his acoustic instrument going back and forth as if Mason Williams delved into the styles of medieval music and wished he had been a member of Gentle Giant during the time period of the Octopus-era.

Then, he steps towards into the piano with the mixtures of both Jazz and Classical music a-la George Gershwin style with 84th and Amsterdam while his brother Tom goes through his vocal arrangements between Godley and Crème of Ascension in Time. With elements of something straight out of an unearthed 10cc track from sessions of The Original Soundtrack, guitarist Paul Bremner and Tom give their nods to ELP. Did I forget to mention one thing? You ready? MELLOTRONS GALORE!

With Ready To Go, Paul’s snarling solo work comes out with a volcano ready to explode and have the lava emerged out of the mountains as time-changes and symphonic rock erupts at you like the fire that will never burn out. The spacey ambient introduction of Penelope starts with a sombering piano ballad as Laura Meade’s soothing vocals as if the lyrics tells the story of a last farewell before their dying days.

And it goes into a Prog-Pop orientated arrangement as Laura and John share vocals for a few pieces in the background sections before Paul comes shining through the leading melodies. Fine is alternative rock with lyrical texture that starts off with an acoustical riff for the first 57 seconds before kicking into high gear in the styles of lyrical essence of Kurt Cobain.

After delving into IZZ’s swimming pool of different textures of music, I knew this is a band right away I will check out and it strikes me well to know they have done their homework right. Ampersand, Volume 2 is a triumph.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

John Wetton 1949-2017

John Wetton who sadly passed away on January 31st of this year after a long subsequent battle with colon cancer, is been a hard way to start 2017. I can remember 17 years ago when I was in Corpus Christi, Texas with my Mom and I went to Wherehouse Music which is defunct and buying the King Crimson 4-CD box set entitled, The Essential King Crimson: Frame by Frame which covered from 1969 to 1984. And it was there I heard his voice on the second CD set which covered 1972 to 1974.

I was completely hooked hearing his voice. It had a soulful and raw sound in his vocals along with his bass playing. His breakthrough came with King Crimson after being in bands/artists such as Family and Mogul Thrash. But it was time with Crimson that struck me like a lightning bolt. From pieces such as The Great Deceiver, Lament, Easy Money, One More Red Nightmare, Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (Pts. 1 & 2), Red, and Book of Saturday, he wasn’t just a singer, but he could Bass with some virtuosity and bringing the sounds to a whole new level.

While Crimson disbanded in 1974 after the release of their seventh studio album, Red which among supporters including The Mars Volta, Tool, and Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, he would work with bands and artists as a session musician such as Brian Eno, Phil Manzanera, Bryan Ferry, Uriah Heep, Atoll, and Wishbone Ash. But he would achieve success in the progressive super group, U.K. featuring Crimson alumni Bill Bruford, Eddie Jobson (Roxy Music, Frank Zappa), and virtuoso guitarist Allan Holdsworth.

Then in the 1980s at the height of Album-Orientated Rock and Arena Rock with another super group that would get commerciality with Asia. Now while I’m not a gigantic Asia fan, I do respect the accomplishments and creativity they brought to the table with the release of their mind-blowing debut 35 years ago and then Wetton’s solo career. But for Wetton, his time with King Crimson will be one of my favorite time periods when he was in the band.

The music and legacy will live on for years and years to come. He will be in the heat of the moment, a sole survivor, the great deceiver bringing One More Red Nightmare, and the king of the Larks’ Tongues in Aspic. John Wetton, Rest in Peace. Thank you for an amazing journey you brought to us to the old and younger generation you have stowed upon us. Keep the angels rocking in heaven.