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Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Fierce and the Dead - Field Recordings

Recorded on July 24th last year at the Ramblin’ Man Festival in Maidstone, England, sees The Fierce and the Dead giving their amazement, creativity, and eruptive/volcanic performance in their new live mini-album that the quartet did entitled, Field Recordings on the Bad Elephant Music label. They were on the same bill with Hawkwind, IOEarth, Von Hertzen Brothers, Procol Harum and Whitesnake to name a few as the quartet give audiences with the sounds between the genres of; Post-Rock, Post-Punk, and Electronic Rock at their finest.

The artwork which is done by comic book artist Mark Buckingham (Fables, The Sandman, Miracleman) based on the photo by Kevin Nixon, captures a very sci-fi artistry that Buckingham brought with a sci-fi futuristic feel of The Fierce and the Dead’s performance. For the four-piece, they have come a long way. From performing in clubs to be in a gigantic stage outdoors, it’s a long and winding road for them and they have made it.

The live recordings is very dynamic yet an eruptive release they have done this year. Not to mention they will be performing the first here in the States in May at RosFest at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. For me, with the Fierce and the Dead, that’s like (using sports analogy) winning the Super Bowl for them. And as I’ve mentioned earlier, they have come a long, long, long way.

Listening to the mini live-album, you can close your eyes and imagine yourself being at the Ramblin Man’s Festival and being there by showing your full support and knowing that Matt, Kev, Steve, and Stuart, deliver a volcanic performance. It’s almost as if my arm-hairs went up at 100.  The audience shows approval and applaud after they finish their compositions. Not to mention I think that it might be Matt Stevens’ sense of humor when he speaks, to show the band’s relaxation and having a blast.

There are moments on here which at times have a melody duel between the bass and guitars as the quartet take you on a journey with a mysterious, deep, futuristic ride that will put you on the edge of your seat. Again after listening to this twice now, this is for me…a Holy Shit performance I’ve listened to! While this was a short performance, I wish they could have done more to give the audience another ride to hurtle through the cosmos.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Allan Holdsworth 1946-2017

Allan Holdsworth was considered perhaps one of the most innovative, influential, overlooked, and virtuosic guitar players that was brought to life. He passed away on Easter Sunday at the age of 70. His death was announced on Facebook by his daughter, Louise. It’s a sad loss for a man who took the guitar and the SynthAxe to a whole new level. And with supporters including; Eddie Van Halen, Frank Zappa, Joe Satriani, Richie Kotzen, Alex Lifeson, and Robben Ford who considers him to be “The John Coltrane of the Guitar.”

Holdsworth started out back in the late ‘60s with the band, ‘Igginbottom when they released their debut album, ‘Igginbottom’s Wrench on the DERAM label in 1969 which included one of the co-producers Mott the Hoople’s Morgan Fisher. Then he would embark on other bands and artists including Soft Machine, Pierre Morelen’s Gong, Nucleus’ Ian Carr, The New Tony Williams Lifetime, Jean-Luc Ponty, Tempest, and Bill Bruford. It wasn’t until the late ‘70s when he joined up with the late great John Wetton, Bruford, and Eddie Jobson with the super group, U.K. in 1978 in which they released their sole self-titled debut album on the E.G. label as the band would release one more album, four live albums, two video releases, and the 14-CD/4 Blu-ray release of the Ultimate Collector's Edition.

Allan left the band due to creative difference after it was released while he embarked on a solo career. He released 11 studio albums from 1976 to 2001. I can remember when I was in College discovering Holdsworth’s music with his time with Tempest on their sole self-titled release back in 1973 on the Bronze label which featured Colosseum’s Jon Hiseman, Paul Williams on Vocals, and Bassist Mark Clarke.

It is perhaps one of my favorites. Not just because of the essence of Progressive and Hard Rock, but the musicianship on there is eruptive, powerful, and mesmerizing. It’s like this mid-cannon blast from the moment the song Gorgon kicks into high gear as Paul Williams delves into his soulful voice resembling Paul Rodgers of Free/Bad Company.

Holdsworth can bring the heavy roars through the complex guitars and it’s staggering along with the rising track, Up and On, the Cream-sque touch on Foyers of Fun, and riding down the highways shuffle blues rock on Strangeher.  Allan left the band due to differences which I believe he didn't want to have a second guitar player which was Patto's Ollie Halsall on the second album, Living in Fear in 1974. The band broke up after their second album was released as Jon Hiseman went to reform Colosseum (Part II). But I'm off-topic.

The loss of Holdsworth shows how much he was ahead of his time, pushing the boundaries, and always looking to see where the road will take him next. He was working on a next album which was announced two years ago entitled Tales from the Vault by launching a pledge campaign to crowdfund his album. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family in this difficult time. He was and will always be the Man Who Changed Guitar Forever.

If you want to delve or if you are new to the world of Allan’s music, here’s some recommendations I picked:

Tempest – Tempest (Bronze/Esoteric Recordings)
‘Igginbottom – ‘Igginbottom’s Wrench (Deram/Esoteric Recordings)
Allan Holdsworth – Eidolon: The Allan Holdsworth Collection (Manifesto)
Pierre Moerlen’s Gong – Gazuese! (Virgin Records)
Soft Machine – Bundles (Harvest/Esoteric Recordings)
U.K. – U.K. (E.G. Records)
The New Tony Williams Lifetime – Believe It (Columbia)

Or the 12-CD Box Set, The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever 

And if you want to show support for Allan's family for a family memorial service, please go to their GoFundMe and give your love and help which is up to $65,768.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Tohpati Bertiga - Faces

Tohpati is and will always be; a very, very busy man. With his time as a solo artist, Ethnomission, Bertiga, and SimakDialog. There is not a single stop sign for him. For me, I’ve always wanted to see what he will do next. Now, it’s been five years since we’ve heard from Bertiga since the release of the 2012 release, Riot. This year they have unleashed their new album entitled, Faces. This is an Indonesian-release only on the label, deMajors. And it’s a welcoming return for the three piece to come back with more music.

The album is dedicated to the late great keyboardist Riza Arshad from SimakDialog. For me, this is Tohpati honoring his best friend and keeping both his legacy and spirit alive by making sure the fires will never burn out. Tohpati, Bassist Indro Jarjodikoro, and Drummer Aditiyo Wibowo (Bowie), have a diverse sound on here. And the five enduring centerpieces show that they still got it and keep the sounds between Funk, Jazz, Blues, and the Progressive elements thrown into the blender and mixing it into an interesting groove.

The opening track, Conviction sees Tohpati channel his riffs and leads into the waters of a Zappa-sque sound before he transforms his guitar as a synthesizer as he makes it sound to pay tribute to the ‘70s Italian Progressive Rock sound of Banco’s first two albums and Morgan’s Nova Solis-era. The style of the piece has this Gershwin suite almost in the midsection as if the trio are channeling Rhapsody in Blue with a twist before ending with the Zappa groove.

With Bluesphoria, you can imagine Tohpati going down the Texas highway for a boogie complex blues rock with him on top of ZZ Top’s Eliminator car through the night sky honoring the Tres Hombres-era by going into the riff of La Grange in a shuffling tone with a bit of Zeppelin to the cooking pot. The first 45 seconds of Extraordinary begins with an ambient introduction before he goes into a virtuosic complex melody.

Classical and Jazz alike with a slight touch of Fusion, he and Indro’s bass do a friendly duel as if they are playing both the riff and channeling each other on who has some killer grooves while Absolute sees Tohpati going into some twists and turns between a cross-over with Primus and The Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Inner Mounting Flame. Indro does some incredible yet brief slap-and-pop bass sounds as if he’s mastering the legendary Bootsy Collins for brief moment in the Funk section as if he brought Indro into the Mothership for an out of sight galaxy adventure.

The closer, Intense features this latin-groove introduction with the early ‘90s sound of Rush between Presto and Counterparts-era. Tohpati himself near the end of the piece honors both Alex Lifeson and Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham’s guitar playing before ending on a high note.

I’ve listened to this about five times now and it shows the amazement of listening to Faces. This shows that not only they’re back, but they haven’t forgotten the flaming fires to keep it going. And with the honor of Riza’s legacy, they got it right and another worth checking out if you love the Riot album or either Ethnomission or SimakDialog. 

Omega - Anthology: 1968-1979

This 2-CD set consists one of the most amazing successful bands to come out of Hungary, Omega. Since their formation in 1962 they were sort of Hungarian’s answer to the Beatles. They achieved success in many parts of the country in Eastern Europe. It contains 31 tracks that is a mind-blowing adventure with essence of symphonic, psychedelic, eruptive, space, and prog-rock at its finest. The entire album is sung in English except for two tracks sung in German on disc one. It also includes their hit single, Pearls in Her Hair (Gyongyhaju lany).

The hit single would later be covered by The Scorpions and sampled by Kanye West for his outro song from his sixth album in 2013, Yeezus (New Slaves). It also appeared in the 2014 trailer for the video game, This War of Mine which was inspired by the 1992-1996 Siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War. Disc one and two have names which are The Beaty Sixties and The Spacey Seventies.

Released by Purple Pyramid Records in which they have a very good job on the Nektar catalog, and is also a division of Cleopatra Records, makes this a very good introduction to discover the band’s music and why they were so ahead of their time. Disc one covers parts of the late ‘60s and bits of the early ‘70s which showed their influences of the psychedelic period.

The Jester’s Daily Bread begins with some lifting organ work and a narrative tale about the character with good rewards for living and getting their spirits back after laughing at him with it’s acoustic-psychedelic ballad while the opener, Petroleum Lantern reminisces of ELP’s Tiger in a Spotlight. With its boogie-woogie piano, clapping rhythm section, it is a soaring composition.

Suddenly, Omega delve into the waters of MKII’s Deep Purple section of Machine Head-era with some snarling organ work by honoring Jon Lord’s textures with You Don’’t Know as the 20th Century Town Dweller with its galloping bass and drums, dystopian lyrics, and the haunting melodies followed by some incredible moving sections, it makes you feel that you are walking into an eerie ghost town by imaging something has gone wrong as the pin drops at the exact moment.

200 Years After the Last War is Omega honoring the styles of the Strawbs. Sliding bluesy guitars along with the organ and mellotron not to mention the acoustic guitar and mournful drum sections, it brings to mind the Bursting at the Seams-era. Disc two which covers the golden-era of the 1970s in The Spacey Seventies sees the band moving away from the psychedelic and pop sound, into a progressive and spacey voyage.

Late Night Show starts off with this watery drippy effect from the keyboards as the alarming synths come at you out of nowhere followed by some fuzz tone sounds of the Bass. It deals with the success and pleasing your fans by getting gigantic reactions from them and knowing you’ve come a long way with its moments of The Beatles’ swan song album, Abbey Road.

The Nektar-sque vibes delves Omega into the Space Rock stratosphere with Don’t Keep Me Waiting. The last 3 minutes and 56 seconds in the song and instrumental part is this chilling scenario of knowing that their time is coming to an end. The guitars are crying out for help along with the synths capturing the melody to the sound. It is a chilling composition that made my arm hairs go up at the right moment.

The suites, House of Cards Parts 1 and 2 along with Timerobber, is Omega writing almost a mini-rock opera with its Yes-like atmospheres and Aphrodite’s Child textures dealing with a person who goes through parallel universes by destroying people’s lives and it is up to one person to set things right and getting down to the bottom of this to find out why the time robber is hurling through infinite worlds. The music itself is brilliant! Blaring synths, heavier organ riffs, and epic guitar lines, it’s the movie inside your head.

The synthesized electronic intro Invitation, makes you as a listener, get ready for lift-off! Omega have an amazing blast taking you towards our solar system by galloping drums, rockin’ guitar chords, and the loops of the synths along with some stop-and-go moments near the end. Elsewhere, Skyrover shows some inspiration of Walter Tevis’ novel, The Man Who Fell to Earth.

Beginning with a Tchaikovsky-sque intro on the piano, it has this ominous piece followed by a spoken-word section as the composition becomes emotional of this creature from another part of the universe, living on Earth, without a chance to go home to see his loved one, knowing that he’s doomed and he’ll die. And Purple Lady has these major/minor chords on the guitar delving into a Floydian style piece and female vocalizations as if it was part of the sessions for Wish You Were Here.

This is a wonderful 2-CD release of a band I’ve never even heard of. But after listening to this five or six times, I’m hooked into the music of Omega’s music. The only disappointment I have is I wish there was some liner notes about this band. I hope Purple Pyramid delves even more into the catalog and reissue them because it is about time to show how much they were as I’ve mentioned ahead of their time and hopefully opening the doors to see why they were so successful.

Monday, April 10, 2017

EchoTest - From Two Balconies

Back in the fall of 2005 during the fall semester at Houston Community College, I can remember going to the defunct Blockbuster Video and renting one of the films was the documentary Rock School which covers the Paul Green School of Rock Music. One of the students was Julie Slick. Now at the time, I didn’t know much about Slick since watching the Don Argott film. She been busy working on her solo work, and with bands with Crimson alumni’s including; Adrian Belew Power Trio and The Crimson ProjeKCt.

And from the moment I’ve listened to The Crimson ProjeKCt’s Live in Tokyo which at the time Anglagard opened for them at the Club Citta in March of 2013, I realized needed to discover Julie’s music. Until this year, I received a package in the mail which is EchoTest’s new album entitled, From Two Balconies. The formation of EchoTest began in 2011 when Marco Machera and Julie Slick met at the Three of a Music Pair Music Camp.

They have released two instrumental releases from 2014 to 2015. With their new album, it’s a step-forward and featuring lead vocals on seven tracks. Not to mention some amazing guests including; Drummer Pat Mastoletto, Tim Motzer on Guitar, Vocalists Mike Visser and Ali Wadsworth, and violinist Sarah Anderson to name a few. Described by Julie herself, it is a conceptual texture on a contemporary tragedy as their lives are in limbo and in a tempestuous tormented limbo.

Derek Riggs’ artwork of the front cover, details the essence of an abandoned house guarded by two people as if it’s in the middle of a stormy weather that almost brings to mind of Stephen King’s The Shining. While it’s this mixture of modern-progressive, electronic, and post-rock music, EchoTest’s new album is an interesting experience from beginning to end.

Supercell begins with this alarming introduction done by Julie's Bass VI making it sound like an alarm clock going off as Visser’s voice delve into both Gazpacho’s Jan-Henrik Ohme and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke-sque textures. With a mysterious realm between Psychedelic-post-rock and electronic music, it is a bright dystopian chasing composition to find the inner self with a laid-back sound.

The spacey voyages on The Mystical Connected Us, at first begins with a spacey voyage as the lyrics deal with someone calling back to come home before delving into an echoing reverb/delay effect of the pop-and-slap sounds of the Bass. Suddenly, it transforms into this chaotic scenario that Tim does as he crosses between the Crimson sound and Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come before the electronic drums end on a fading loop.

Confirmation Bias is a very interesting track. EchoTest delve into the waters as they take an approach of the doom metal genre. With it’s Red-era fuzz-tone shriek and Peter Hammill approach, the song deals with a split-personality whilst dealing with the nightmares and confronting your own worst enemy. The opening will make you leap out of your chair and giving you as a listener, a terrifying jolt.

 The Plight deals with the struggle to survive, but knowing that the end is near. Sarah’s violin sets the scenery of what is happening right now in the character’s mind as you could his/her struggle and the pain of what they’re going through as the music resembles Gazpacho’s Demon-era while Radio Sayonara channels the Space Rock masters, Hawkwind.

This is my third time listening to From Two Balconies. And whilst I’m very new to both Julie Slick and EchoTest’s music, this is a real blessing that they bring to us. Now I need to delve more into her sound and vision she brings to her music and in the footsteps of Crimson’s music and also, the Progressive and Experimental approach she will bring next to the table with more brainstorming ideas she will come up with.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Levin Brothers - Levin Brothers

Tony and Pete Levin are like the flames that bring the music to life in the sound of Jazz. They have both work with some of the most amazing artists and bands. Tony has played with; John Lennon, Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, Todd Rundgren, and of course, King Crimson. His older brother, Pete, worked with; The Brubeck Brothers, Miles Davis, Bryan Ferry, Annie Lennox, Paul Simon, and Jaco Pastorius. That is a big combination for the two brothers to be working with some of the greats.

And with the release of Levin Brothers unleashed three years ago on the Lazy Bones Recordings label, it’s a trip down memory lane for them as they grew up listening to Bebop Jazz (Cool Jazz) in the 1950s. It’s a great release for them to bring helping hands including; Drummer Jeff Siegel, Guitarist David Spinozza, Saxophonist Erik Lawrence, and guest drummer who plays two of the tracks, Steve Gadd.

The booklet contains the liner notes and interviews with the Levin Brothers done by Anil Parsad (Music Without Borders: Innerviews). Anil knows his history very well and he has done his homework very well. It contains photos during the making of the album, portrait shots of Tony and Peter including the back cover of them as kids. They know they have a brotherhood together by family and honor between the two of them by giving each other a pat on the back.

I picked a few highlights on here that I was on a journey with both of the masters themselves. I Got Your Bach is their take of the first movement of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1. You can imagine Tony is walking his lines on the upright bass like a dancer walking carefully on a tightrope whilst Pete channels his organ in the styles of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue-era.

The lukewarm take of the mellowing beauty of King Crimson’s Matte Kudasai which is from their eighth studio album, Discipline, the poignant beauty feels the vibrations as it blends well by taking a nice stroll through a snowy garden as Pete honors Vince Guaraldi. The opening track Bassics and Ostropolya, has a Monk-sque groove done in a Well You Needn’t-sque punch. It sounds as if Tony makes his bass sound like both Jimmy Garrison and Paul Chambers.

You can close your eyes and imagine yourself being in the original Birdland Jazz Club in 1950s New York at West 52nd Street in Manhattan, and seeing the greats performing this and giving a big roaring applause with a gigantic stamp of approval. Brothers shows Pete diving into his Organ of the ‘50s a-la Fats Waller style as he and Tony share the melody together with Spinozza’s Jazz chords and improve.

Havana features the Tango/Mambo sections done by drummer Jeff Siegel whilst Tony scats his vocals in a bit of his take of Tom Waits. Spinozza plays some of the melodies carrying the Latin-Jazz sound, but making it very relaxed and bluesy in his sound. I can imagine that they are having a great time creating magic. I had this vision of the group performing in the hottest part of the night at the Isla de la Juventud as the crowd dances to the sound.

This is a great release they have unleashed back in 2014. They will be performing on May 20th at The Falcon in Marlboro, New York this year. If you love the sound of the ‘50s Jazz and Bebop, this is worth picking up.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Allan Holdsworth - Eidolon: The Allan Holdsworth Collection

Allan Holdsworth, is a name you probably may or may not recognize. He is one of the most innovative, overlooked, adventurous, and virtuoso guitar players. He has performed in bands/artists such as ‘Igginbottom, Tempest, Soft Machine, U.K., Nucleus' Ian Carr, and Pierre Moerlen’s Gong. Using complex chord progressions and the usage of the guitar synthesizer known as the SynthAxe, he surprises both audience, musicians, and listeners through his techniques.

Among supporters including Eddie Van Halen, Yngwie Malmsteen, Frank Zappa, Joe Satriani, and course, Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave's own Tom Morello. That and the 2-CD set released by Manifesto Records are selected by Holdsworth entitled, Eidolon: The Allan Holdsworth Collection.

Now I’ve been aware of Holdsworth with his time between ‘Igginbottom and Tempest from the late ‘60s and the golden-era of the 1970s when I was at Houston Community College during my time as a student working on my Associate’s Degree for Jazz Studies from 2005 to 2014. His solo work, I didn’t know about until hearing his two albums; Flat Tire: Music for a Non-Existent Movie and None Too Soon.

And knowing there was something I was missing, the 2-CD release of Eidolon, made me realized that I was on an adventure with a master who has been around from day one. There’s no stop sign for Holdsworth. Not to mention his collaborations between Chad Wackerman, Tempest’s Paul Williams, Gordon Beck, and Jimmy Haslip to name a few. But I’m off-topic. I’ve picked a few highlights on the 2-CD set that shows how much he opened the doors and why he’s keep the wheels on the train running.

The Sixteen Men of Tain showed that softer side to him. He takes his SynthAxe on an atmospheric approach as he channels Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue while during the climatic segment as he, Novak, and Carpenter take you towards the heavenly skies. Road Games delves into honoring the Grand Wazoo himself as it delves towards a Zappasque (Over-nite Sensation-era). Allan sees himself almost a conductor as he brings some intense time signatures.

The late great Jack Bruce shines on through the vocals as if he’s letting Allan know that he’s got his back in the cross between the Blues and Prog-Rock while the take of Django Reinheardt’s Nuages honors the master by taking it into a traditional jazz sound. He also channels the listener to unbelievable results.

With Against the Odds, which features some beautiful vocal arrangements done by Naomi Star, the SynthAxe takes the listener to unbelievable landscapes while Vinnie Colaiuta’s incredible drum work brings some killer improve with Hunt’s mysterious keyboard work to create some dynamics and solo. He also brings a sense of humor in the song featuring Tempest’s Paul Williams on Metal Fatigue.

In the song it deals with success, explosives, fame, and how long will this thing will last because there come's a point where you'll fade into nothingness. There are times where Holdsworth himself goes from a clean sound to a crunchy, note-taking extravaganza in the piece as The 4.15 Bradford Executive goes into a fast-tempo midsection of electronic music’s time signatures as you can imagine being at work 24 hours at hyper-speed. The title feels something straight out of a film collaboration between Jacques Tati, Martin Scorsese, and Terry Gilliam.

The compilation of the title, Eidolon, comes from Greek Mythology. It means a spirit-image of a living or a dead person or an image of the ideal. Holdsworth’s compilation set is a perfect introduction who wants to discover more of his music and understand why he will keep the train going on more, more, and more. This is a great to get on his Train by listening to virtuosic guitar playing and electronic sounds from the SynthAxe.

The 20-page booklet contains liner notes by Chris Hoard and an interview with Allan himself about his career along with photos, discography, and the AH logo also on the back. Again if you want to delve into the waters of Holdsworth, this one is worth exploring. Or if you to delve more, the 12-CD box set The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever: The Allan Holdsworth Collection might be up your alley.

The 2-CD release will be again, an introduction for you to tag along on the journey and adventure for his creativity. And he is still going strong and as I’ve mentioned earlier, there’s no stop sign for him.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Nick Prol & The Proletarians - Loon Attic

Formed last year, Nick Prol and the Proletarians’ debut album released this year entitled, Loon Attic is this cross between Psychedelic, Avant-Pop, Musique-Concrete, and the Rock In Opposition movement. Following in the footsteps of Knifeworld, Henry Cow, XTC, The Residents, and William D. Drake and with the productions of Prog Rock Deep Cuts’ Ian Beabout and Ben Spees from the Mercury Tree, it shows Nick following in the footsteps of the bands.

Alongside Nick who plays Guitar, Sax, and does Lead Vocals, it contains Dave Newhouse (The Muffins) on Woodwind, along with Ben Spees and Connor Reilly on Bass and Drums. There’s also guest appearances to name a few by lending Nick a helping hand by knowing they’ve got his back including Bent Knee’s Gavin Wallace-Ailsworth, Knifeworld’s Charlie Cawood, Cheer Accident’s Thymme Jones, Bob Drake, Stop Motion Orchestra’s Mo Ha Dev, and Muffins own Paul Sears to name a few.

There are nine highlights on the album that not just took me by surprise, but kept me guessing near the very end. You have pieces like Shiny & Round and Another Groan. Both of the pieces have this Crimson-sque vibe as the previous track has reminiscent as if Alvin from Alvin and the Chipmunks was taken to an insane asylum as if he’s gone berserk with some wacky vibrations with an intense finale. Elsewhere, 8th Wonder, is this dystopian 3/4 waltz that is something straight out of bad dream from Pee-Wee's Playhouse as the characters become terrifying to make Pee-Wee himself scared out of his wits.

The Madame Spider which features Carla Diratz with her shivering vocal arrangements, you could feel her presence as if she is hypnotizing the listener through her voice. At first the piece sounds almost as if the piano was being dismantled through an echo chamber of auto-destructive art in the styles of the late great Gustav Metzger, but it has this haunting drone done through the minds of Univers Zero.

One of the most insane tracks from Loon Attic is Marry Annette. It has this Post-Punk/Post-Rock late ‘70s drive between Devo, Cardiacs, and Max Webster with some wacky signatures while Reprise pays tribute to the late ‘60s spy thrillers which in my opinion of the Italian cinema of Mario Bava’s Danger: Diabolik. With snapping fingers, Dave chilling sax, and Ben’s psychedelic guitar, sets into of what the main character is going to do next.

Under the Bed is a quirky little short melodic twisted number done in the styles of Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica while Beekeeper’s Suit delves into some chaotic, moody, scatting, vocalization of a haywire composition as Nick and R. Stevie Moore honor The Faust Tapes. But it’s Carvings on the Wall that is a special treat. It has this Knifeworld feel as Charlie appears on the track by doing his fuzztone bass.

It has a nightmarish world of something gone horribly wrong as the piece is Psych Avant-Pop at it’s best. You can almost imagine Nick following in Kavus’ footsteps to pay tribute to the band’s music and honoring it.  I hope Nick will continue to do more with The Proletarians for years and years to come. I can imagine as I’ve mentioned in my reviews, there’s no stop sign for him. This is another highlight for 2017. Not to mention his amazing artwork he did for the debut.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Kuhn Fu - Kuhnspiracy

Picture the scenario a cross between the Rock In Opposition movement, Jazz-Rock, and throw in a huge dosage of the Avant-Rock genre, you’ve got yourself a strange dosage to make sure you add a bit of humor into the music. That and one of the most strangest and insane bands I’ve listened to called Kuhn Fu. They formed five years ago in the Netherlands and carrying the torches between Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Magma, Univers Zero, and King Crimson.

They have toured seven countries and performed 100 countries over. They don’t want to take themselves too seriously. The music and the band describe that their music deals with failure, death and humanity. Their second album, Kuhnspiracy is not just one of the maddest and scariest albums I’ve listened to, but for me, a Holy Shit album! The band recorded the album in about two days last year at the Clouds Hill Studios in Hamburg.

And from the moment I put the CD on, I was hooked right from the get-go. I can imagine they are continuing where Don Van Vliet had left off during the continuation of the Trout Mask Replica sessions. The band considers Christian Achim Kuhn who is not just a guitarist, but also a composer who wrote the material on the album. Alongside Christian himself, Ziv Taubenfeld on Bass Clarinet, Esat Ekincioglu on Double Bass, and Lav Kovac on Drums.

Featuring the odd signatures, blaring noises, operatic vocals, and snarling noises from the double bass and bass clarinet, it feels that it reminded me of something straight out of a short silent film directed by the late great Luis Bunuel as if they recorded a score for either Un Chien Andalou or L’Age d’Or. The screeching sounds from Taubenfeld’s Clarinet, growling yet roaring guitars and late ‘60s vibration at times done by Kuhn himself, along with Esat and Lav’s droning and jazzier double Bass and Drumming, they create this mind-blowing work at times it’s weird, raw, and insane.

I will admit, Kuhnspiracy is not an easy album to listen to, but since I'm very new to the music of Kuhn Fu, they have blown me away. They took everything in the kitchen sink and made it powerful, mind-boggling, and in your face. However, be prepare to turn this up very loud and you will be ready to be surprised when it make you leap at certain moments and terrifying sounds like a volcanic eruption ready to explode at any minute.

Friday, March 31, 2017

White Willow - Future Hopes

It’s been six years since we’ve heard from White Willow after the release of their sixth album, Terminal Twilight. So far, the band have released six albums going from 1995 to 2011. Their music is dark, haunting, folky, and psych-progressive. And with supporters from Mikael Akerfeldt and Lee Dorrian, they have been very busy with other projects. With projects including Three Winters and The Opium Cartel, the question I always wonder is, what will Jacob Holm-Lupo will think of next?

Not to mention his work on Alco Frisbass’ sole self-titled debut release two years ago on the AltrOck/Fading label. But I’m off-topic. This year, they have released their seventh album on the Laser’s Edge label entitled, Future Hopes. And it is a welcoming return for the band. Taking over Sylvia Skjellestad is Venke Knutson for the lead vocals. She has top 10 hit singles from 2003 to 2010 along with three albums and a compilations album.

Venke's vocals is not bad. Yes there will be lines divided in the sand whether they will accept her or not but it doesn't matter. She's got it done and delivered the goods to White Willow's music. And throw in some guest musicians including; Guitarist Hedvig Mollestad, The Low Frequency in Stereo's own Ole Ovestedal and Clarinet player David Krakauer to name a few, it is a perfect match, perfect combination, and a perfect team.

And of course, the amazing artwork done by Roger Dean himself. The 11-minute piece In Dim Days is one of their darker compositions beginning with a ‘80s futuristic synth/electronic intro. Venke’s soothing voice sends a tone of destruction and no chance to come home of what was, has turned into a wasteland. Hedvig brings the experimental sonic Floydian-landscapes along with Jacob while Mattias Olsson does incredible work on the drums.

Very laid-back and not all over the place. But you have to give Mollestad a huge amount of credit as she is on fire whilst hitting the high notes as if her guitar is crying out in pain. The music is set in the styles between Vangelis and Tangerine Dream from the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, followed by Pink Floyd’s Keep Talking and Annot Rhül’s Leviathan Suite in the last 2-minutes.

Pixel’s own Ellen Andrea Wang’s Bass exercise and Ketil shrieking flute work, close the composition. Where There Was Sea There Is Abyss is Ole delving into the deep, deep waters of the Frippertronics and the Mellotron for this short little instrumental Crimson-sque composition as it segues into A Sacred View that clocks in at 18-minutes. 18-minutes of music?! Holy shit!

Hedvig herself never disappoints me. The first 2 minutes and 54 seconds is the keyboards delving in mysterious ambient voyages as the movements of the tide go back and forth while the title-track which opens the album, begins with the keyboards opening up the pearly gates for the sun rise on a new beginning and a new day as Silver and Gold brings to mind an alternative acoustical balladry waltz done in 3/4 time.

There are two bonus tracks on here including their magnificent take of The Scorpions Animal Magnetism which dives into between Mike Oldfield meets Tangerine Dream featuring an intense clarinet work by David Krakauer while Jacob brings a sombering essence of Damnation Valley. I love how he takes the synths and piano to the dark depths inside a village turned horribly wrong. Not only that, but he knows his influences and inspirations very well as he pays homage to Rush’s The Camera Eye from his keyboards. And he nailed it bit by bit.

I have listened to this 16 times now. And I was very impressed on how White Willow have accomplished for 24 years and they keep surprising and always move forward to see where the yellow brick road will lay ahead for them. With Future Hopes, I’ve mentioned this earlier, it is a welcoming letter to let the fans know that they’re back and they hope they will keep the flames burning and never let it burn out.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Schooltree - Heterotopia

The late great Bruce Lee once said, “Zen is not attained by mirror-wiping meditation, but by self-forgetfulness in the existential present of life her and now. We do not “come”, we “are”. Don’t strive to become, but be. I think what he was saying is we remind of ourselves from our rebellion is part of the mash between what is happening right now and the knowledge and ignorance is how it unites the arrangement on what we’ve become of a choice of perspectives.

That and Schooltree’s second relese which follows up to their debut album, Rise. Four years in the making, Heterotopia is a symphonic dystopian rock opera that follows in the footsteps between The Who’s Quadrophenia, The Pretty Things’ S.F. Sorrow, Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, and David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Now since I can’t go into spoilers, the music is mysterious, brilliant, and touching.

It tells the story of Suzi, a modern underachiever who tried to keep in the dreams which is broken and living the life of a rock-n-roller, but her life is completely dark and she wants to become herself and try to support herself to get away from the rich and famous, but then she loses her body and travels through a parallel universe of the collective unconscious to get it back.

It’s a task that she must take by not travelling around the dreamlike world, it’s the test that she has to cover on the origins of its darkness, and finding the courage to search for herself. There’s essence of the Lamb story and also Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal, and it works completely well. I nearly wept through the entire album and I was spellbound right from the get-go.

Dead Girl is a taunting rocker. It’s a sneering composition with a heavy guitar blast with a mid-tempo drum pattern as Lainey sings different vocals on the three characters as you can imagine her delving into David Bowie’s Reality-era while Enantiodromia Awakens sees her portraying Suzi and one of the others in her Dalek-like computerized vocals with a dooming electronic yet ambient mournful composition.

Radio is Suzi trying to call out for someone, but no one can hear her. In the music, you can feel her pain as she tries again except one of her Zombified bodies. It’s almost that she has become deaf, dumb, and blind. Not to mention the Queen-sque and Floydian parts done by Brendan Burns and the sound of static radio as the alarming tease of Walk You Through that is a part of a segue.

You can imagine her that she is in full control of her body and teases her. There’s some hard rock and teensy-bits of clavinet wah-wah funk. As Danilchuk does his little homage to Tony Banks, he adds a bit of the scenery on the organ as Zombuzi is planning to take over of what Suzi tried to do, but failed because of her irresponsibility. It’s haunting, sinister, and heavier at the same time of what is happening in the story.

The Big Slide is very much the cross as Kate Bush had teamed up with Peter Hammill and the band Discipline to write on how Suzi has become an outsider and knowing that the dream is over, but the responsibilities that she has do to, is hard and not easy on her part. When I listened to the entire album, I nearly wept again because it shows that Lainey is not only an amazing writer, composer, and performer, but she has come a long, long way to work hard of bringing the story to life.

And with a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $20,000, and supporters including Margaret Cho, Aimee Mann, Amanda Palmer, and Barry Crimmins to name a few, it’s showing support and knowing not to let the genre of Art, Theatre and the Progressive Rock scene, to keep the flames burning. Schooltree will premiere the rock opera this coming Friday at the OBERON, the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, MA.

Heterotopia is a spectacular release this year and while its way, way, way, way too early for my top 30 albums for 2017, this is definitely going to be in my top 10. And I would like to close a quote from Stan “The Man” Lee, “With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility!

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.