Folllow Me on Twitter

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Dewa Budjana - Zentuary

It’s always neat when a package from MoonJune Records is in the mail for me. I know my ear is always ringing for something exciting. One of those artists I’ve always championed is Dewa Budjana. With five albums now in the can, he never disappoints me with his virtuosic guitar playing. This year, he’s released his sixth album entitled, Zentuary. Released on Steve Vai’s label, Founded Nations Entertainment and produced by Dewa himself along with his company Museum Gitarku and MoonJune Asia, it’s a perfect combination to be on Vai’s label.

Dewa brought some helping hands including Bassist/Chapman Stick Tony Levin; Keyboardist, Pianist, and drummer Gary Husband, and Drummer/Pianist Jack DeJohnette. But there’s more. It’s not just a 2-CD set release, he has Danny Markovich (Marbin), Guthrie Govan (The Aristocrats, Steven Wilson), Risa Saraswati, and the Czech Symphony Orchestra to name a few. Dewa is lending a helping hand to show support and believe me, they got his back, big time.

The term, Zentuary came from combining the words “Zen” and “Sanctuary”. It’s a lifelong journey that Dewa has embarked on through his musical path. He’s come a long, long, long way from where he is. It’s an emotional adventure between the happiness, sadness, and rising up to the difficult challenges he’s come through. Listening to this album, you can just see that he’s been there from day one and as I’ve always say, there is no stop sign for Dewa Budjana.

I picked a few highlights on the album that I picked that showed Dewa is not doing this for himself, but he wants to give the artists creative freedom and do whatever they want throughout their improvisations. Rerengat Langit (Crack in the Sky) which is Dewa’s take of Stick Men’s composition based on poems by Tony Levin, sees Risa Saraswati going through spoken dialog in the styles of Jane Birkin.

The music itself it has a late ‘60s/early ‘70s touch with a Serge Gainsbourg feel in the vibes of Histoire De Melody Nelson. Uncle Jack gives DeJohnette, an intense acoustic piano work that you could have jaws-dropped at the right moment while Dear Yulman shows Dewa paying tribute to not just John McLaughlin, but paying tribute to the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

The melodies and sitar arrangements are realistic followed by the synth-spacey atmospheres contacting home from the outer limits in the styles of the Dance of the Maya. Danny Markovitch does a guest appearance on one of the tracks which is Ujung Galuh. His curved soprano sax is in full front as he takes the listener followed by Dewa, into a trip into the islands and filled with love as the immense and deep evocative composition of Suniakala featuring the Czech Symphony Orchestra and Guthrie Govan to the front, an awe-inspiring moment.

Guthrie is not showing off, he is taking you by the hand through his fret improvisational solos and going through each of the several doors he opens to the listener and finally seeing a giant light that is glowing brightly before an acoustic finale done by Dewa himself. Manhattan Temple is a trip down back to the Big Apple featuring Tim Garland’s sax journey through the streets of New York followed by the fast-revolving moog synth by Gary Husband. And near the end of the last few minutes of the composition, Budjana and Levin fade off into the nighttime sky between guitar and upright bass near the end of the composition.

Zentuary is a memorial, spiritual, and honorable release from Dewa Budjana. He’s never let me down through his guitar playing. He is still going on and I hope he continues to do more for the years and years to come. My top 30 albums of 2016 is really going to have some competition this mid-December and he’s definitely going to be on the list. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Anchoress - Confessions of a Romance Novelist

This is for me one of the most promising multi-instrumentalist and vocalist where the combinations between Art Rock, Indie Pop, and Alternative Rock are in one. Here name is Catherine Anne Davies, simply known as The Anchoress. Her debut album entitled, Confessions of a Romance Novelist released back in January of this year on the Kscope label, is one of my favorite albums this year. With help from co-producer Paul Draper of Mansun, it delivers, it catches, and it reaches, and touches you.

With receiving word of mouth from MOJO, Prog Magazine, The Quietus, and NPR, followed by winning this year’s Limelight award for the Progressive Music awards, she is definitely getting a lot of recognition and in my opinion, she is talented, emotional, and touching. I knew right from the beginning hearing some of the sample tracks including watching a music video with her duet with Paul Draper on the ‘80s ominous synth-art rocking delivery of You and Only You on (no pun-intended) YouTube, I knew I had to buy this album.

And I did. It’s these stories that are song written and it’s all in Catherine’s brain and she’s good at brainstorming through her lyrical boundaries. The homage to the Funk-Rock groove styles of early Stevie Wonder from the golden-era of the 1970s a-la Motown style with a team up between him and Jeff Lynne to create a soulful pop ascending deal with the occupation on not making it towards the big time with the Chip On Your Shoulder.

The up-tempo beats on dealing with while being stabbed in the back, revenge can come at you with a heavy price as a dish served cold thanks to some amazing catchy melodies that Catherine does on What Goes Around and the psychedelic wonders of reminiscing of the Beatles thrown in of the damage they caused towards of an abusive relationship with Doesn’t Kill You. The Anchoress digs deeper into risky and heavy subjects in her lyrics and she nails it.

On the Tim Burton-sque lullaby turned ‘60s punching percussion rhythm, punching guitar rhythms, organ, clapping sections, and vocalizations deals that once you get married, you find out that you are living in one big gigantic lie that you’ve been fooled the entire time with One For Sorrow and leaving the loved one who finds out is nothing but letting their loved ones down with intensity on P.S. Fuck You.

Again, Catherine digs, digs, and digs deeper into the roots of these situations. She can hit those notes in her voice that is right in front of your face including the last moment of life as to say farewell to your only child who sang to you and knowing there’s no turning back of the struggle of moving on and ominous chord progressions on the piano for Bury Me.

All in all, Confessions of a Romance Novelist is one of the most powerful, emotional and heartbreaking albums I’ve listened to. I can quite imagine this as a film score that Catherine wrote along with Paul Draper to witness what is happening behind the novelist eyes on what she sees. I can’t wait to hear and see what Catherine Anne Davies will think of next.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Yes - Tales From Topographic Oceans (Definitive Edition)

It’s one of those challenging albums that grows on you. It’s up there with Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica, Electric Light Orchestra’s Out of the Blue, Magma’s Mekanik Destruktiw Kommadoh, and Jethro Tull’s controversial magnum opus, A Passion Play. Yes’ sixth controversial album released both in the UK and in the States between 1973 and 1974, has divided lines in the sand between fans whether they will appreciate it or not. It also marked the beginning of the end of the Progressive Rock genre.

When this album was released during that time period, it was savaged by some of the critics, but it went gold in the UK selling 5 million copies that skyrocketed in the charts at number 1 and at number 6 in the Billboard charts. But this was also the album that Rick Wakeman would later leave in disgust during one show he would eat some curry in Manchester during the promotion of the album and would later would release his classic live album recorded at the Royal Festival Hall, Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

But let’s get to Tales From Topographic Oceans. For me, it took me a few listens to adore this album. When I first heard this when I was in College, I didn’t like it. I thought Yes had crashed their boat with these insane ideas of making these songs 20 and 18-minutes long in four tracks. I thought they had run out of steam. But then, I listened to it again and again. It’s one of those albums as I’ve mentioned, that grows on you.

Sure it’s pretentious, it’s self-indulgence, it dinosaur music, but I love each and every bit of this. This year, the 3-CD/Blu-Ray set of the Definitive Edition shows that it is finally getting the recognition it deserves thanks to Steven Wilson’s new stereo and 5.1 mixes of this album. This was three years in the making for Wilson to do thanks to his amazing mixes he’s done with Jethro Tull, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, XTC, and Steve Hackett to name a few.

It’s a big challenge for him to do this ambitious project to clean it and make it clearer to make the instruments come in front. You have the original flat transfers, the UK and US needle drop vinyl transfers, instrumental mixes, single edits, studio run-through’s, and a rare live recording of a performance in Zurich, Switzerland in 1974. Wilson himself has done another spectacular job of giving Tales another chance.

Taking the inspirations of Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, thanks to a conversation Jon Anderson and King Crimson’s Jamie Muir were having during Bill Bruford’s wedding. The book tells the story of a spiritual journey with different levels and divisions between the Hindu scriptures. The music tells the story of going a magic carpet ride between these worlds that you’ve never seen before thanks to the amazing artwork done by Roger Dean.

I love how the intensity throughout the section where it becomes this weird-out improvisation between Chris Squire’s wah-wah Bass, Howe’s guitar, and Wakeman going into a frenzy on the Moog before relaxing into the atmospheric voyage on his Mellotron on The Ancient Giants Under the Sun. With mixtures of classical between Sir Edward Elgar as to prepare for the next adventure and stop-and-go moments, you can close your eyes and the thunderous moments that hits like at you with voltage coming at you out of the blue.

Alan White who took over Bill Bruford after his departure to join up with King Crimson during the Close to the Edge tour in 1972 on drums, is still killing it on the kit and he’s not trying to be Bruford, but he knows where the band wants to go into next during those moments in the compositions. It’s evidential on Ritual Nous Sommes Du Soleil.

Anderson’s scatting, followed by the speed-driving rhythm between Squire, Howe, White and Wakeman, it’s spectacular of heading back to our home planet. The voice and Howe’s melodic guitar, sends chills down my spine before the avant-garde twist in the last 7-minutes of the piece which shows White in full force on the percussion and drums.

He is not just all over the place, he can bang those percussions like a cannon going off before the nightmarish Mellotrons and chaotic Synths come into place. It is the “Holy Shit” moment right there! It’s insane, unexpected, but mind-boggling at the same time. The vocals and instruments are very clear. Gone now is the first two minute ambient introduction of The Revealing Science of God (Dance of Dawn) as Anderson sings “Dawn of light lying between a silence of solo sources/chased amid fusions of wonder/In moments hardly seen forgotten.

The harmonizing vocalizations, and setting off for an adventure setting for lift-off, it is a wonderful way to start it off with a bang. The watery yet beautiful effects take you into the deeper dark caves for a chance of searching for one self is where my arm-hair went up a notch on dealing with the impressed mind for The Remembering High the Memory. This was an amazing reissue that the Pangyeric label has done along with the other Yes albums (Close to the Edge, Fragile, The Yes Album, and Relayer) have done.

For me, it’s a perfect gift for Hanukkah, Christmas, or for your birthday. The set contains the mini-LP formats including the original LP gatefold sleeve which includes the lyrics and story of the album along with the band performing the promotion of this album. A 20-page booklet features liner notes done by Sid Smith, notes about the audio sources of the album and the set up information of the Blu-Ray disc.

It contains pictures of the band, tickets, rough draft sketches by Dean of the stage sets for Topographic Oceans, posters, a Hot Air balloon to each venue of the ’74 American tour, and New York area shows between Nassau Coliseum and Madison Square garden of a full-page advertisement, and international LPs. I have enjoyed what Wilson has done with this album.

And I’m very pleased with what the New Stereo Mixes has accomplished to as I’ve mentioned get the recognition it deserves with some clarity and cleaning up from the tapes. And as Jon Anderson says, “And I do think very well, that the song might take you silently that move fast/they tell me/there’s some rainbow alternate tune.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Security Project - Live 2

When it comes to tribute bands, sometimes they do right and sometimes they do wrong in honor of the legacy of artists/bands to cover their glory days. And some of them do right and avoiding the quote-on-quote term, “tribute bands.” The ones I enjoyed includes; The Musical Box, The Australian Pink Floyd Show, Zappa Plays Zappa, and now adding to the list is Security Project.

I’ve been an admirer of the Peter Gabriel-era of Genesis and his departure on a successful solo career with the first four albums and the live album, Plays Live. Peter, now inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame both with Genesis and as a solo artist, there is no stop sign for him. When listening to Security Project’s music which covers that time period including other gems, it’s honoring and staying true to the vision of Gabriel’s music from his earlier solo work including other related gems alongside the first five solo albums.

It wasn’t until I received a package in the mail by Glass Onyon of Live 2. And when I opened up the package, I knew something magical was in this live recording when I put the CD on my old portable CD player. And believe me, I was spellbound and hypnotize of Live 2.

It features some of the members of King Crimson, Shriekback, and original band members who worked with Gabriel to bring the early solo career into the spotlight. In this live recording, it considers Jerry Marotta (First four Peter Gabriel albums) on Drums, Percussion, and Vocals, Trey Gunn (King Crimson) on Touch Guitar and Vocals, Brian Cummins (Carpet Crawlers) on Lead Vocals and Acoustic Guitar, David Jameson on Keyboards and Eigenharp, and Michael Cozzi (Shriekback) on Guitar and Vocals.

Cummins’ vocals shines in his following in the footsteps of Gabriel’s arrangements. It shows power and emotions which is evidential on the acoustical letter to the styles of poet Anne Sexton that gives shivers on his take with his acoustic guitar on Mercy Street. Jameson’s keyboards help through the emotions and terror with a sliding effect and moogy terrors between Wallflower and Moribund the Burgermeister. Which are amazing compositions that I wish Peter would bring Moribund back to his performances.

But here, Security Project deliver it and you can imagine the audiences being in awe and in tears of these amazing arrangements to honor Gabriel’s solo work. The lifting music brings up to the cloudless skies of their take of White Shadow. The heavy guitars and I can imagine listening on here the crowd is mesmerized not just the guitar improvisations, but nailing each bit of the composition bit by bit.

They also bring back two of the Genesis songs from his last album with the group of the 1974 concept album, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Including the title-track and the floating adventures into bizarre world of the spiritual adventures of the inner-self with Fly on a Windshield. It’s not just his solo work, but his work with Genesis still carries a mighty punch and Cummins delivers it right followed by the background vocals and showing the audience support to sing along.

This was for me one of the best live albums I’ve listened to from Security Project. I’ve listened to this ten times now. They are still on tour with Happy Rhodes taking over vocal duties and they are touring from October 21st to November 4th. So please go and see this band. I just hope one day they come to Texas. And I would love to have the chance to see them one day. If you love The Musical Box, then I highly recommend exploring the wonders of Security Project and their second live album, Live 2. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

InterStatic - Arise

It’s another continuation of digging through the label of what is now one of my favorite labels; RareNoise Records. This time, it’s a trio from Norway entitled, InterStatic. Launched by Naked Truth’s Organist Roy Powell, it considers Jacob Young on Electric Guitar, and Jarle Vespestad on Drums. They have this love for music between Jazz, Blues, Avant-Rock, and Psychedelic Music and following in the steps of Zappa, Miles Davis, and Tony Williams’ Lifetime.

Originally known as Young, Powell, Vespestad, they have two albums in the can. And they released their third album in 2014 entitled Arise. When I put the CD on last on my old portable CD player, I was completely in awe from what I listening to. Not just they are so damn good, but the way they communicate between each other. I’m very new to the band’s music, here they delivered sonic surroundings, energetic mastery, and unexpected moments.

Those five enduring moments are some of the highlights throughout Arise. You have this amazing adventure of Caerbannog which is a reference to the 1975 comedy classic of Monty Python and the Holy Grail where it’s named after a cave protected by the killer rabbit. Mind you, not just the Python’s have a great sense of humor, so does InterStatic. With a swirling synthesized moog improvisation and a kicking drum section, Jacob’s train chugging guitars is a workout done in the mind of Hedvig Mollestad.

Frank’ll Fix It is Powel’s dedication to the late great tribute of the Grand Wazoo himself, Frank Zappa. I love how Jacob is going through the styles and virtuosity sections of Zappa’s mastermind playing. It’s a staggering tribute to not just his music, but knowing his legacy is growing strong and seeing where his influences will keep going for many years to come. But the track itself is in an homage to the styles of the Apostrophe (‘) album.

The opening track, Douzy Mugwump Blues makes you feel you are in the ghost-town of the Louisiana swamps and you could almost feel a pin drop by heading towards of watching the full moon while Alexa sees Powell delving deeper into the woods as he and Jacob deliver spooky rhythmic sections and melodies between each other with some wah-wah effects a-la Hansson and Karlsson style!

Jacob is another guitarist I’ve been getting a kick out of. It’s not because of his playing but the way he comes center stage between Roy and Jarle. He takes the influences of Classical and Jazz melodies are in full swing by taking turns between the three of them on Alpha Dog. InterStatic do in the styles of musical chairs as Jarle takes over the stage with his drumming. He plays an insane style of a swinging rhythm. He’s like a conductor on the kit as he lets them know when it’s time to take turns. But they can play well and give you a big round of applause.

Arise is a fierce, strengthening, and an immense album that InterStatic release. I knew right there that this is a band I need to check out later on. And RareNoise have never, ever disappointed me with their releases. They are up there along with MoonJune, Esoteric, and Cuneiform Records. So if you love Jazz Rock, Psych, Blues, and a dosage of Progressive music, then check out InterStatic’s Arise.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Half Past Four - Land of the Blind

Whenever you read my blog, you can sometimes know of me mentioning one of my favorite shows on the House of Prog website, Prog Rock Deep Cuts with Ian Beabout. One of those bands that I was introduced thanks to Beabout’s show is Half Past Four. This is a band that have never let me down. With two albums in the can, this year, they have released their third album in a mini or E.P. format entitled, Land of the Blind.

The Toronto quintet have scored another home run for me in my opinion. Not just that they are good, but they brought even more things onto the table with four highlights I've picked out through listening to the entire album. You have the opener, Mathematics. With a swimming/floating rhythm section into watery atmosphere with Annie Haslam meets Caravan’s In The Land of Grey and Pink-era in a flying teapot of a submarine and journey into the oceans of math for the first minute and forty-three seconds.

It suddenly changes into heavy riffs by Constantin’s guitar by blaring out the magical patterns a-la 90125 style as Igor’s Organ and Kyree’s vocals give the driving power and getting the juice up and going before delving down into the ocean for a lukewarm finale. Then, there’s Mood Elevator. Featuring dooming piano intro, alarming guitars and drums coming alive.

It tells the story of someone inside of a maniac person living in his own elevator as if it’s his own mental institute of an abandoned building and you being inside his mind of what he’s going through and done in the styles of Frank Zappa’s Over-Nite Sensation-era. I love their take of Max Webster’s Toronto Tontos.

Wacky and staying true to the original, it’s Half Past Four going in the styles of Zappa, Mr. Bungle, Cardiacs, and Spike Jones with some insane pastoral piano and thumping punches of the rhythm while Kyree brings her characterizations as a Pirate as she tells the story of the One Eyed Man as she transforms herself into Mike Patton. You never know what to those unexpected moments as the sounds with insane locations as if they did a guest appearance on either Pee-Wee’s Playhouse or The Weird Al Show.

I have listened to this twice now. And Half Past Four’s music is like something out of this world that you can as I’ve mentioned expecting the unexpected. It’s music that could have been used during the B&W-era of the Looney Tunes-era and give it a real kick in the gut with some insane surroundings. So my response to Land of the Blind? Worth.Checking.Out.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Three Man Army - A Third of a Lifetime

Whenever something Esoteric Recordings reissues, I would always check it out. Whether it’s Julian’s Treatment, Procol Harum, The Move, Barclay James Harvest, or Cressida, they always release some very interesting reissues that would peak my interest. I’ve always championed them since 2008. Next year will be 10 years since the launch of the label and I always would like to see where the road will lead them into next. One of the reissues that has suddenly landed on my lap is Three Man Army’s debut album, A Third of a Lifetime.

Originally released on the Pegasus label in 1971, it started out as a project between the Gurvitz brothers (Adrian and Paul) who started the band out of the ashes of the late ‘60s band, Gun. While there were various people involved with the debut including the late great Buddy Miles who was a part of the Band of Gypsys with Jimi Hendrix and the Buddy Miles Express which Adrian was a part of.

Not only he played drums, but he played organ also. The production was done by Lou Reizner who worked with Eyes of Blue and the Orchestral version of the Who’s Rock Opera Tommy, brought a heavier, progressive, and symphonic side to Three Man Army. When I was listening to this album, I was completely blown away right from the start. I can hear comparisons of Cream, Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top’s pre-Deguello, Free, and The Moody Blues thrown into the mix.

Not only Buddy was on the album, but Spooky Tooth’s drummer Mike Kellie helped on the album. There’s the classical-guitar and pastoral side to Three Man Army which is exampled on the title track as Adrian brings an epic atmosphere of walking towards the sunset as the end credits of a spaghetti western comes to a closing curtain. Three Man Army is a cross between the Rubber Soul-era of The Beatles and Alice Cooper’s Billion Dollar Babies sessions while the proto hard-rock opener in the styles of Cream with maximum volume of Butter Queen, could have been a hit single and get some radio airplay.

The Funky Blues Rock featuring Adrian’s wah-wah pedal and Buddy’s smoothing organ sound and Paul’s Bass are showing a team working well together with the waves crashing at the right moment on the instrumental Midnight. The mellotron comes in for a gentle yet heart warmth end in the styles between Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Seals and Crofts of Together. The two bonus tracks are A & B-sides of single releases.

There’s another throttling rapid machine gun fire between Gurvitz and Kellie’s playing as Adrian is not just going hard rock, but doing a little switch of the George Harrison sound at times on What’s Your Name? Travellin’ is done in the styles of Jack Bruce’s songwriting as if he could have written this song for Thin Lizzy. It has the essence of something straight out of an Ennio Morricone arrangement as the Man with No Name returns for one last game.

The 15-page booklet contains liner notes by Malcolm Dome about the history of the band, an interview with Paul and Adrian Gurvitz. When the album was released, it didn’t get the recognition it deserved. And after releasing two more albums (Three Man Army Two and Mahesha), the band called it a day. Then the Gurvitz brothers teamed up with their hero, Ginger Baker and would form the Baker Gurvitz Army and released three albums from 1974 to 1976. 

But put that aside, and dig deep into Three Man Army’s A Third of a Lifetime reissued by Esoteric and put this album and crank it up. You can understand it was so ahead of it’s time along with Adrian and Paul because they deserve the recognition.