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Monday, April 27, 2009

Caravan - In The Land of Grey and Pink

Taking the album cover in the mind of a pink background of their homage of fantasy tales from C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, the Canterbury group released their third album and it has remained one of the classic watermark of all the music scene of the ‘70s in the Canterbury circuit. It was also moving away from their psychedelic pop single take from their debut album and moving into something that was funny, pastique, and a bit of arising from their days of Folk and Story-telling compositions to make In The Land of Grey and Pink a fun album to listen to over and over again.
However, there was a bit of the English countryside from Caravan’s roots in their days with the Wilde Flowers in 1965 to more usage of the sounds of Bebop Jazz, Piano, and a bit of the sounds to go beyond the Canterbury circuit as it was finding its origins of their third album, inside a beautiful terrace house in Whitstable, Kent. The album begins with the whimsical horn tradition as it goes into an upbeat tempo with bass, drums, and an acoustic guitar strumming of the beat on the sense of humor in the courses of the Golf Girl while David Sinclair takes over the keyboards with the mellotron as his brother Richard comes up with some walking bass lines as Richard Coughlan does a ragtime moment on the drums. Winter Wine starts off as a Fairport Convention guitar style on the acoustic guitar done by Pye Hastings as it becomes a fantastic eerie medieval 7-minute Progressive Folk Meets the Soft Machine Canterbury style.
Love to Love You (And Tonight Pigs Will Fly) is almost a John Lennon tune in a prog-psychedelic pop tune that seemed almost cut off from the White album period which has a quirky sense of humor sung by Pye Hastings as he does the up/down beat on the guitar while the band do a Beatlesque style on this number which is almost a sing-along to get you in the groove for. We come back again with the upbeat per measure with the 5-minute title track which is almost a mini opera of the Fantasy novels the band probably grew up reading while going to school or coming up with new ideas to take baroque and classical marvels of the stories that were ahead of its time or something that came out of the blue to make you maybe dance to the groove of the bass lines or the fuzz tone Hammond Organ sounds that will blow your mind away.
And then it all comes down to the final track that goes for 22-minutes which is an eight-part piece of the storyline that is a die hard fan of all prog fans who dig epics that go either 17 or 23-minutes of pure prog magic. The longest track, Nine Feet Underground, sees the band doing a lot arrangements and compositions in this mixture of a Canterbury versions of John Coltrane meets Miles Davis ala Egg style and eerie time signatures remains a dynamic beauty. And it was Richard’s Brother David to give him high voltage as he takes the bandstand to do some magnificent keyboard solo, piano and Hammond organ style with a touch of Dave Stewart and Mike Rateledge meets Thelonious Monk fuzz style.
As if coming home with a fresh new bag of Apples and Oranges with Kitchen Utensils to come home from Kipling Road, Their third album is one of the most appreciated work from the Canterbury scene, and doing something that no other band would have done to come up with something that was fresh and out of this world to make you join a band and do some heavy duty fuzztone sounds that will make your mother happy for you.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Genesis - Nursery Cryme

For fans of the Prog-Rock genre, its hard to say that the only Genesis that they prefer is the Peter Gabriel-era which featured virtuoso guitarist Steve Hackett and vocalist and the master of costumes, Peter Gabriel. From the beginning of the original line-up as a five piece, the group released some magical masterpieces that would have become a favorite among fans in the ballpark. From loyal fans to epic glories, it seems like a perfect match made in heaven, but one of those albums, Nursery Cryme, sees Genesis going a little further beyond the Victorian English Country Gardens for tea and toast beyond the Italian music scene that was becoming an underground buzz.
The plotline of the album is basically a story-complex background in the bizarre stories of England and describes the tales of loss at sea, a toeless criminal on the run, giant flowers taking over the human race, and Greek tales that were X-rated between man and woman. For Peter Gabriel, he decided to take it a step further with the lyrics that seemed to have a sense of humor to strange at the same time. And since Nursery Cryme remains a classic, the songs have a darker balance that were buried at sea and have a taste of magnificent, powering teamwork.
The 10-minute mini opera The Musical Box starts off as an acoustic guitar lukewarm beauty which seems almost coming out of the track Stagnation from their previous album, Trespass. And then it becomes a hard rock piece featuring Tony Banks, Steve Hackett, and Mike Rutherford doing some compositions to fill the scenery of the song while new drummer Phil Collins goes nuts on the drums. And if you think the song is already over, think again. The last 2-minutes become a climatic climax into one of the most powerful finales to appear in any Genesis album. For Absent Friends is Phil’s turn as a vocalist as he sings this acoustic folk ballad, told from a young boy who is looking for love after a sunday morning in church.
That’s when the real fun begins. The 8-minute bizarre story of giant Hogweeds taking over the society of the humans in The Return of the Giant Hogweed, starts off with Banks fuzz tone keyboard sound and Hackett’s finger tapping on the guitar that takes from a shattering piece into a mind-boggling tale. There are some eerie organ parts very militant like as Gabriel sings quietly and then loudly at the same moment while Hackett takes over and then the Piano composition comes in for the Hogweeds to take over England while the climax featuring the Mellotron goes full speed ahead into a dynamic finale. The ballad and 17th century tale of Seven Stones is wondrous which features Gabriel doing a Moody Blues type of solo on the Flute while Banks sets the scenery of the emotions of the old man’s guide for chance on the keyboards as it ends with a sinister bow.
There was also a sense of humor in Genesis with the comedic rocker, Harold The Barrell, a low-time crook who cut off his toes to serve for tea and to commit his own life by jumping off the building, rather going prog, the band had a bit of a ragtime John Lennon style of the piece. Harlequin is again an acoustic finger picking guitar folk ballad which features Gabriel and Collins singing together about mythology while the 8-minute magnum opus, The Fountain of Salmacis puts the crossover of controversy of Greek Sex, Violence and Rape with two people – Salmacis and Hermaphroditus – making sweet love and joining as one in this Mellotronic essential glory. This also puts Peter singing beautifully and his beginning as a narrator of those Victorian tales. A classic album for a band who knows to take the tales to another dimension to the son of gods.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Savage Rose - Savage Rose

Coming from Denmark, The Savage Rose started out in the late ‘60s as they were formed by the Koppel brothers, Thomas and Anders as they were more of a political group of teammates as what they saw of what was going on in America. For Anders, who was Thomas’ younger brother, he was doing composing music for films and writing twisted stories. So for Thomas and Anders, they wanted to take over the world. They wanted to form a band that would give the republicans the middle finger and would have the Black Panther party appreciate the sound of this band in 1967. So for the brothers, they heard Anisette’s voice and knew that she was right for the band. Ladies and Gentlemen, The Savage Rose was born.
Now adding Alex Riel on drums, Femming Ostermann on guitar, Jens Rugsted on Bass, and Ilse Maria on Harpsichord, they wanted to bring the Psychedelic scene to a standstill that filled everything with darkness, love, and eerie music to the core and that fitted perfectly with the release of their debut album which was simply called, The Yellow album and it remains a classical masterpiece for the history of the Danish psych-prog kings and queens.
The music of bebop jazz and croony piano ballads seems like a perfect match made in heaven. The album begins with the ballad turned dynamic free jazz style of Your Sign/My Sign seemed very unusual for listeners to hear, but it worked like a charm. Open Air Shop which starts off as if Ostermann’s guitar was out of tune, but then it goes into an Indian tribe rocker that had gone into the darker side of hell, Riel’s drums are on the double while Anisette’s vocal lines of Minnie Mouse meets Janis Joplin just keeps going
and Ander Koppel is flourishing on the Hammond organ along with his brother Thomas doing his Monk style on the piano to follow the band as if he was a composer and letting them know to get ready to hit the right notes at the exact moment. The two tracks has the Savage Rose doing an homage to the Beatles and a little bit of the girl bands in the psych folk ballad homage with a garage rock Os Mutantes attitude on You Be Free and Oh Baby, Where Have You Gone? The Savage Rose don’t pull any excuses of their compositions that would later be delivered on In the Plain and their classical concept album for Ballet dancers to sink their teeth into, Dodens Triumf, Thomas Koppel’s piano is much more of a cross between John Coltrane and keeping the experimentations flourished.
Unlike the Danish Rock scene that was happening during that time period, the Savage Rose took the eerie music 100% on with the single that radios wouldn’t touch on A Girl I Knew as Anisette sings beauty then lets out the line “And I/I did nothing but cry!” I mean you couldn’t get enough lyrics like that! The mourning homage to Jim Morrison’s poetry on Everybody Must Know, Psych going proto-punk with the countryside with Savage Rose and Her Story, classical music going haywire in a wedding scenery of the 21st century (White Swan’s Marriage Clothes), Country guitars to go night-night on Sleep, and the take of an ala Jefferson Airplane style with a string quartet of the finale of You’ll Be Alright.
The album remains a favorite when it first came out. It wasn’t until Rolling Stone critics Lester Bangs and lifelong fans David Fricke and Richie Unterberger could understand what the band was doing to have your bloods pumping. It still has the volumes going up to 100 and it also remains a classic. No wonder Julian Cope dug the Danish Rock scene.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Triumvirat - Spartacus

Triumvirat’s third album could have been almost a sequel to their 2-sided concept album, Illusions of a Double Dimple, but having that homage to their heroes ELP and The Nice seems like an excellent idea. Two concept albums and one rock opera into all of its glory for musicians to sink their mouths into which tells the tale of the rise and fall of Spartacus who fought for glory, but sacrifices himself from 73 to 71 BC.
Keyboardist Jurgen Fritz’s idea of doing a rock opera based on the roman gladiator hero was an amazing idea and way ahead of its time, but for him, it seemed the perfect moment for him and the band to get the machine going and making Keith Emerson proud of his accomplishments: The moog and organ solos that fly over the rooftops with The Capital of Power to the lukewarm ballad turned into a dynamic power form on The School of Instant Pain along with The Walls of Doom. Heavily influenced by the prog trios of again ELP and of course Le Orme, they began to develop more and would come up with some heavy compositions that would get the audience and the listener to be wowed over what they were doing.
The concept album’s music is not your typical Prog album that could have been featured on Brain Salad Surgery, with Spartacus beginnings of training to be a better warrior after being a slave, and fighting against the Third Servile War with the Roman Republics going from bombastic to mind-boggling moogs going off the roof and heavy bass lines done by the late Helmut Kollen which his playing is so unique, that you couldn’t let go of the album, because it was beautiful, simply beautiful when you hear it. If the first act dealt with Spartacus rise to power along with the militant rocker instrumental The Deadly Dream of Freedom that ends the first act, then act two gets more sinister and mourning to the death of the roman gladiator.
Naturally, it was shown the aftermath of the battlefield in the amphitheatre that it had a rock musical taste into an almost broadway feel concerning about Spartacus’ safety and how he was going to sacrifice himself to free the slaves in Rome. Pieces like the sinister Burning Sword of Capua which features an eerie mourning keyboard sound from Fritz while Hans Bathelt does some explosive drumming that is a resemblance of Carl Palmer as The Sweetest Sound of Liberty is more of an lukewarm acoustic ballad done by the late Helmut Kollen.
The 8-minute epic, The March to the Eternal City, one of the best centerpieces including the title track, it makes it like a part of a glorified magnum opus that could fill your heart with magnitude. It has the ballad and then the African drum beats while Fritz does some Moogs to fill the storyline for the brave warrior as they go to work like a team as Bathelt drums like a madman while Kollen does a stop and go on the bass lines. Awesome power to get your blood going for more while the final track that goes for Seven minutes and thirty-nine seconds is the love-song turned a little bit of ELP’s Trilogy with Spartacus, a magnificent piece of prog-rock music.
Sadly, this was the last album to feature Helmut Kollen. He wanted to do more of a solo-like material, but that wouldn’t happen. He died in his car of carbon monoxide while listening to some of his solo material in the car in October, 1977. This album is more of a dedication to his voice and the power that the band had with him and the voice he gave to Triumvirat’s magical touch.
A crazy concept album? No definitely not in the Battlefields of Rome.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here

After the success of Dark Side of the Moon in 1973, their next album took the music up the ambient and landscape segments that no other band could have done. But it was also going to be a difficult time-era for Pink Floyd. All from the success, sold-out tours, the huge singles, and the record companies pleading with them to go mainstream and of course, their lifestyle also as a band. During that time period in 1975, they headed back to Abbey Road Studios to record new material to come up with a following with Dark Side, they already wrote music which was pre-Animals at the time for two songs. Raving and Drooling and You Gotta Be Crazy. But the smash of their previous album had put the band into some turmoil and tired some after their big gigantic tour as the Floyd sat in the studio doing nothing. But when it was time to get going, their minds and their instruments took the epics and the music went somewhere beyond their imagination. And also a surprise visit from them which would shock and feel the emotion from Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Richard Wright, and Nick Mason, Syd Barrett.
The opening emotional atmospheric Shine On You Crazy Diamond in nine parts, is a dedication to Syd, who after taking a load of LSD and Mandrax, left the band in April, 1968 to pursue a solo career that plummet to the ground and remained in isolation. And he came to the Shine On sessions on the day the Floyd will never forget in June, 1975, not knowing who he was after his shaved his head and eyebrows, plus a huge gain of weight, as the band fought back tears when they found out who it was as this piece is tribute to the madcap baby lemonade.
The other tracks, Welcome to the Machine, a sinister sci-fi rocker which could have been the soundtrack to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner while the heavy piece, Have a Cigar sung by Roy Harper including the famous line ‘Oh by the way, Which One’s Pink?’ remains a classic, and of course the lighter 5-minute fan favorite, the acoustical ballad Wish You Were Here, which deals with their rise to fame and glory and then realizing is it all just fun and games and the situation that the band’s moment had come from being an underground band from the late ‘60s to selling out Madison Square Garden.
And then, the finale of Shine On comes back in for 12-minutes that pays tribute to the Floyd’s musical suites in their heyday of the early ‘70s with Echoes and of course the infamous Atom Heart Mother orchestral suite. David Gilmour’s guitar is soaring while Rick is playing some synthesized music that almost coming straight out of an early Tangerine Dream album and playing the final notes of See Emily Play as if Syd would have been really happy over what Pink Floyd were doing to give it a final farewell to their collaborator.
For all of their atmospheric, heavy, and emotional ballad including guitar work from David Gilmour, Wish You Were Here remains a classic among Pink Floyd fans which shows their most lukewarm and hitting each note one by one. After listening to this album over a dozen times on your record player, CD player, and now on your iPod, you can tell that the influences that some bands pay tribute the Floyd’s Space Rock scenery from the Smashing Pumpkins collaborator Billy Corgan and the progressive metal gods, Dream Theater.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Genesis - Foxtrot

After the release of Nursery Cryme in 1971, Genesis decided to up the concept into an almost mini-space rock opera with the release of their fourth album, Foxtrot. And it was also Peter Gabriel’s moment for him to change. From being a musical story-teller on the previous album, to shaving his head in a funny way and looking like an alien from Mars while giving his message to the world. The band knew they were up to something that was really surprisingly good and also the moment for the group to be more a little dynamic with their Art Rock theatre technique than just a regular Prog-Folk band singing about exotic greek tales and an old man telling tale about his younger days sailing to a new land. But with Foxtrot, they were pushing the boundaries of the Progressive Rock genre of the 1970’s. With the eerie mellotronic opening done by Tony Banks, this sci-fi upbeat Space Mini-Opera style on Watcher of the Skies is a milestone heading into Alien life forms landing on Earth to send a peaceful message by having crisp and heart pounding time signatures.
Alongside Watcher, there are some beautiful pieces that fill in the album’s technique – The medieval political storytelling views on Time Table, which starts off as piano ballad and then becomes a futuristic statement. It may seem like a lost song that was never used on their previous album, but it’s still a magnificent piece of music from Genesis as they were set to do more of their epic suites to set the scenery. One of them, Get ‘Em Out By Friday which is almost a prequel to the opening number, sees Peter bringing the political downfall of the economic system in the 22nd century in this 8-minute story about the humanity issues of foreclosure, alongside the theater and rock musicals are matched perfectly from the strange turns and out of the blue instruments to give the story an emotional view of what was going on then and now. The next track which seems something that comes out of King Arthur and Lord of the Rings, Can-Utility and the Coastliners, is another beauty that shows their British folk music roots that is almost set in the 15th century of a cross between Procol Harum meets Family while Steve Hackett comes in doing his virtuoso classical guitar ballad Horizons as it sets the scenery as the sun rises from the sky to give it a beautiful passage way to a new life.
And then comes one of the most fan favorite tracks that put Genesis take to do a prog rock opera for 23-minutes long. Supper’s Ready still sounds beautiful: an emotional love between male and female by struggling to find out about the tensions they have for one another (Lover’s Leap), battling for freedom (Ikhnaton and Itsacon and their Band of Merry Men), a flower with a sense of humor with comedic gutterflies (Willow Farm), finding a potion and being betrayed by the mad scientist (The Guaranteed Sanctuary Man), and the gods of magog waiting for St. John to reign down hell in Israel (Apocalypse in 9/8). During the finale, for the piece, As Sure As Eggs is Eggs, Peter Gabriel took his cloak off, wearing a glam silver suit almost like a prog version of David Bowie, singing the last line and holding the blue light to give resurrection. Audiences were wowed at the time, music lovers stood up to their feet and bowed down to Genesis.
Even though Phil Collins sold Genesis to the mainstream devil in the mid ‘80s by going pop, this was the classic-era of Genesis that fans love from 1970 to 1975. From the fans of; Marillion, Spock’s Beard, Dream Theater, and The Flower Kings, Genesis still keeps the prog rock genre train rolling.

Friday, April 3, 2009

National Head Band - Albert 1

Featuring different members which would later join the prog kings of; Caravan, Uriah Heep, and the blues rocker group the Gary Moore Band, the likes from Jan Scelhaas, Dave Paul, Lee Kerslake, and Rusty Ford, National Head Band were one of the strangest bands to come out of the UK. Formed in 1969 out of the ashes of The Business, they started to come up with their own material and with a new name, they also signed a deal with Warner Bros. Records and released their only album which is now considered a lost classic which has a cross between the West Coast sound meets the Beatles White Album period meets Prog Rock-Grateful Dead homage in 1971. With Albert 1, the album disappeared and never heard from again until it saw the light of the tunnel with the help of the Cherry Red label, Esoteric to give it a shot. And they did!
Almost like a hard rock/melodic play of twisted turns, Albert 1 has a lot of surprised moments and beautiful productions. And with a little help from Eddie Offord who at the time produced ELP’s Tarkus and Yes’ The Yes Album, decided to give these guys a shot and give them anyway they would play the music and how it would be a fitting tribute to the Liverpool scene and of course to the Beatles, and somehow it worked like a charm, but the album suddenly faded away along with the group. However, it became a heartfelt message to Keith Emerson, John Lennon, and Paul McCartney.
Albert 1 begins with Got No Time, one of those bar songs that would take a piano blues rock number to make it so warm and very Zeppelinish from their hard rock technique than no other band were doing and turning it into a sort of a cross between Traffic and a Rolling Stones jam session that seemed straight out of Sticky Fingers. You is a melodic take on a folk rock setting of the mind that comes straight out of a Neil Young and Crazy Horse album, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere; Too Much Country Water an homage to Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection. The rest of the tracks are almost like a Prog-Pop album that the label was afraid to put out. Lead Me Back is a suicide ballad Lennon-McCartney-Harry Nilsson style; Listen to the Music which almost sounds like a cross between ELP’s Lucky Man and The Beatles’ Something, deals with a love one leaving to go on the road with the band to do a nationwide tour and feels that if its really worth it. In the last few minutes, there’s a Moog solo which goes to show they have a bit of Prog in them to another world and beyond the infinite; Ilsington Farm, a psychedelic wah-wah number that almost seems that the band were telling a weird story of hippies making sweet love in the farm; Try to Reach You seems more like a country rock ballad, with the signature in 4/4 with its musical taste, Hammond organ setting the scenery and almost making them sound like a british version of The Eagles playing Peaceful Easy Feeling as a sequel, carrying the down home country roots, but a fun song too while Brand New World intersperses almost like an acoustic folky space rock Dylan song with a church like organ music to set it almost like a new adventure that awaits for a young person to encounter on his new beginning which seems very Arthur C. Clarke like feel.
And if that wasn’t over, it simply closes beautifully with the 7-minute composition Mister Jesus, a prog rock arrangement which features the band shifting the sounds of early Yes to Pink Floyd to The Moody Blues which seems worthy for the son of god to enjoy. All of the music and a cover featuring weightlifting man lifting weights that looked like something out of the 1920’s? Not bad at all.