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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Peter Hammill - The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage

It’s 1971 and Peter Hammill and his band, Van Der Graaf Generator released their dark masterpiece, Pawn Hearts. The album didn’t sell it their hometown in Great Britain, but it was number one in the Italian LP charts which made them almost a household name among the Italian supporters whilst going on tour there from February, May, July, and August of 1972. Just as soon as they were receiving word-of-mouth from the Italian supporters and having a huge cult following, it all came to an end after finishing their big success tour in Italy. The band decided to call it a day during that month and year to pursue musical projects.
Bassist Nic Potter, Saxophonist David Jackson, Drummer Hugh Banton, and Keyboardist Guy Evans went on to make an instrumental album called, The Long Hello whilst Peter Hammill pursued a solo career. This is where he is definitely the anti-rock star and the prog-punk king that would have make Johnny Rotten, Julian Cope, The Mars Volta, and Mark E. Smith very supportive of what Hammill was up to. He released Fool’s Mate in 1973, Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night in 1973, and then just as the first two albums were becoming an essential tour de force, his next album would have been a project for him and Edgar Allen Poe if he was still alive. The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage is a mad scientist album. It’s like as if he was in the cave to make something that was monstrous to a shattering dynasty.
Like most sinister albums, it must have lyrics paying tribute to HP Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, Dante Aligheri, John Stuart Mill, and the Marquis De Sade. The ways to write an album like this that paint a darker element in which is the decree destruction of a disastrous utopian city that has gone horribly wrong, but this album is a special treat to listen to from start to finish. Modern starts off with a fierce acoustic guitar introduction done by Hammill as it becomes a powerful number. During the song, there is an eerie guitar solo that becomes soft and then deafening by going maximum with rapid time changes whilst the song deals with the corporations to work in different ways to stop the end of the world.
Wilhelmina, is a piano ballad that is almost a calm after the storm which is a father-daughter relationship about the father telling her that she is the future and how life will go through their ups and downs and learning to be true and honoring your parents. Listening to this song, it definitely has singer-songwriting beauty and Peter is doing a tribute to the Hunky Dory-era of David Bowie type of lyrical emotional background. But all of a sudden it moves away from the ballad love song feel to The Lie (Bernini’s Saint Theresa) which starts off with dramatic chord changes towards the Religion of Chruch-like bullshit towards a haunting piano beauty with lyrics like ‘The silent corner haunts my shadow prayers/ice-cold statue/rapture divine/unconscious eyes/the open mouth/the wound of love/the Lie!’ it’s fierce, but it’s damn perfect.
Forsaken Gardens deals with the Garden of Childhood and finding out what happen to the joys of yesterday to war, violence, and hatred through pain. It’s a very political song that Hammill does whilst the 8-minute Red Shift which featured the late guitarist of Spirit, Randy California makes a guest appearance, does an homage to VDGG as the closing 12-minute eerie cavernous number, A Louse is Not A Home, is where Peter adapts the song in full beauty with screeches and screaming which almost could have been a part of Friedkin’s 1973 classic, The Exorcist. Love it or hate it, give this a few tries to get into.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Nektar - Recycled

Listening to this album from Nektar, you can get a general idea of why guitarist Roye Albrighton decided to leave the band and how damn good it is as a function for this band to make another concept album to follow into the footsteps of Journey to the Center of the Eye, A Tab in the Ocean, and the two-part epic classic, Remember the Future. Nektar recorded Recycled in 1975 on the Bellaphon label, during the Down to Earth tour. Recycled tells the story of the political boundaries of the mass consumption and the views that the human race’s view of the relationship on the definition and the existence they cause to go through an interval. The album glows brightly between the two Nektar albums and it defines the band’s solar system rock style and harmonic beauty to the musical background of the Space Rock homage.
I always felt that when Nektar was making this album, they took science-fiction influential backgrounds from Isaac Asimov’s The Naked Sun to be the influential story for Recycled – Focusing on the views of the social society of the Sol and to communicate throughout the holographic telepresence. As part of research for the fifth album, Recycled carries through the atmospheric torch of outer space music with Guitar Synthesized swath power. Recycle starts off with a zooming keyboard introduction as it sets up with the guitars chugging like a train along with the synths and the vocals setting the scenery of the background of existence and then it becomes a shattering weirdness with the computers going haywire.
The band then becomes robotic with mesmerizing time changes on the exploded compositions. Arrangements like the neo-classical turned jazz rocker of the dynamic 4-minute instrumental suite Costa Del Sol and the almost sequel to Remember the Future with the hypnotic vertigo upbeat tempo of a 6-minute boogie rocker Marvellous Moses. The song has Roye jamming away on his guitar and singing while it goes into a warning fierce of sonic shattering crescendo going fast with the band speeding towards the light then doing a Floyd-like style that sends a shiver down my spine is so fucking good, you began to wonder how the fuck did they do that?
But it’s almost like another science-fiction rock opera in which RTF left off, this time in two acts. They really got the ball rolling to do this in two acts, but for me it’s the first act is the real centerpiece of the concept album. Mixing up with a Patrick Moraz style on the keyboards similar to the Story of I, but with a jazzy reception. There are some amazing songs including the closing spacey folk ballad, It’s All Over; The galloping experimental proto hard rock style of an adventure into the Monolith with the synthesized guitar layered beauty of Cybernetic Consumption which begins in Avant-Garde synthesized computers going off the wall and then becoming a psychedelic stoner masterpiece with synths, guitars, and drums going off the wall; Recycle Countdown is more of a church-like reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s Meddle-era and Yes’ Close to the Edge; Automatic Horroscope starts off with a HAL 9000 spoken introduction and then becoming a flourishing tribute to Hawkwind’s Robert Calvert ala faster beat tempos that soars through the dazzling heavenly sky that becomes a powerhouse for the Nektar nutheads.
A strange concept album, overlooked, and for Roye Albrighton, left the band after they were getting ready to work on 1977’s Magic is a Child, but if you love the first six albums and the return of Roye Albrighton with The Prodigal Son, Evolution, Book of Days, and the live album of their 40th anniversary of Fortyifed, you must listen to this.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Porcupine Tree - Fear of a Blank Planet

As a follow up to 2005’ Deadwing, with only 6-tracks, clocking in at 50 minutes should definitely bring the Alternative world into the minds of Progressive Metal heads out there beyond the infinity of experimentations. Those ideas might come in handy to follow through, the solar systems are out there to indicate to create a beautiful masterpiece delivered from the Wizardry of Porcupine Tree's frontman, Steven Wilson.
He and the band wrote Fear of a Blank Planet around in Tel Aviv and in London during the time they were promoting Deadwing and the Arriving Somewhere DVD in 2006 and it soon got attention while it was being performed live while fans attended the shows to hear the new material. The concept is very interesting to listen from start to finish. It dealt with the rebellious teen angst and their displeasure of the new beginning of a new-era of the 21st century and of course novelist, Bret Easton Ellis. The book, Lunar Park was a huge influence in Steven Wilson’s mind as to give the storyline a disturbing twist from a lyrical background and covering the author’s view of his father’s life being torn into irregular intervals as he looks through the details and viewing what he had done when he was a child.
The opening title-track is a dashing introduction with an acoustic guitar then becoming very heavy into a dashing whirlpool of terror guitar layered background to give that defying tensional beauty as Wilson sings the opening lines ‘Sunlight comin’ through the haze/I’ve tucked in the blinds to let it inside/The bed is all made so music still plays/TV, yeah it’s always on/A flicker of the screen, I’m moving out, your screams/Are basking in the shit flowing out of it.’ He deals with the ways of the youth of the teenage rebellious nation, and how the mainstream bullshit mass media are depend on the medications they take. My Ashes which is very funeral-like mournful song almost similar to an eerie version of Led Zeppelin’s 8-minute epic, No Quarter, the song deals with alienation and being isolated with his own parents by being rejected and disowned by them.
Then we get into the 16-minute epic, Anesthetize, this features guest guitarist Alex Lifeson of Rush fame who mentioned to Classic Rock Magazine during an interview that he’s a huge fan of Porcupine Tree. Steve knew that he wanted him to make a guest appearance of Fear of a Blank Planet, to create a heavy mood with mind-boggling guitar compositions that would fly off the motherfucking wall. It’s disturbing as in the mid-section goes into a space rock mode, heavy riffs, atmosphere view of the inferno, and some dalek moments that would make you feel terrified.
Again to continue on the eerie mood background, Sentimental is a perfect ballad. All of the moments turns dramatic and heavy moods to fill the void of someone either to blow their brains out or getting rid of their life for eternity; coming in with pills, not wanting to be old, and finding it hard to hang from a star. More of the themes of isolation pounders on with another atmospheric adventure, Way Out of Here, featuring a soundscape and mind-boggling guitar work done by King Crimson’s Robert Fripp while dedicating a tribute to Porcupine Tree fan, Arielle Daniel, who was killed by a train as if to pay tribute to a lost loved ones. Sleep Together, a wonderful darkness composition and going neo-classical rock ala Radiohead style, shows the views of erotic sex and the final days to be alive and then finding out it’s better to be up in the clouds than staying in the ground, is shattering metalistic tour de force.This is why Porcupine Tree are so fucking good and they have done this better than ever. Fear of a Blank Planet is an album that shows how fucked up the teenage years can really in reality and the years to come. This here is to tell the Emo fuckheads to wake the fuck up.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hatfield and the North - Hatfield and the North

The concept of quirkiness and showing the humor side of the Canterbury scene is very interesting in the circuit of Jazz Fusion, for Hatfield and the North’s first album released on Richard Branson’s Virgin label in 1974, it may have a lot of twisting motions with great merriments to get you going. The band got their name from the street signs in London which ran through Hatfield to Edinburgh through A1 (M). Formed in 1972 out of the ashes line-up of Delivery, Hatfield and the North was almost the first supergroup to come out of Canterbury, featuring keyboardist Egg’s Dave Stewart, late drummer for Gong Pip Pyle, Matching Mole guitarist Phil Miller, and Caravan’s lead vocalist/bassist Richard Sinclair. As a team, their friendly approach, opening the flood gates of Canterbury Jazz, making their self-titled debut album one of the crowning achievements of Progressive beauty, a lukewarm tribute to Miles Davis, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and of course, Egg. There are six centerpieces on this album that would make you have a grin on your face to really get a real kick out of.
Featuring guest vocalist of the Soft Machine and Matching Mole, Robert Wyatt, who during that time fell through a third story window and was paralyzed from the waist down and now using a wheelchair, does an amazing scat vocal arrangement by going up and down the scales with Calyx while the twisted eerie ambient Fol De Rol has the repeated lyric of the line ‘Ta-Rum ti, la-di-dah, yahoo’ which is a very perfect chant as it goes into a Gong-like space fusion as Richard Sinclair does a fantasy bass solo along with Phil’s layered guitar solo setting the background of the musical background. The 8-minute instrumental composition, Shaving is Boring, is Pip Pyle’s drumming going nuts over different time signatures as the band follow him with a fuzz tone avant-garde style that has a Canterbury flavor to the mix along with the Dave’s keyboard’s soloing like crazy along with Sinclair’s bass work. While this is going on, it as if they’re paying a small tribute to Gong in a weird, but in a good way. Throughout the midsection it becomes a cross between that and Tangerine Dream throughout the Atmospheric sound as it goes through the doors of each of the songs they played and then bam! They go into a jamming tempo beat for the last 2 minutes that will make you think ‘how the hell did they do that?’ Doing the Frank Zappa meets Gentle Giant challenge might be a small challenge with twisted lyrics is pitch perfect, Example is the lukewarm Licks For The Ladies deals with even though they have a good time, playing different signatures is kind of daft. The bonus track of Hatfield’s single, Let’s Eat (Real Soon), has more of a melodic pop tribute to the psychedelic jazz-era of the Soft Machine while the closing numbers of Lobster in Cleavage Probe featuring the Northettes doing an Egg homage as Dave Stewart’s keyboards come in for lift-off with another odd title, Gigantic Land Crabs in Earth Takeover Bid (I know, it sounds like a 1950s B-Movie) goes back into the solar system with a thunderous Hammond Organ going through the black and white notes by filling the void, sonic-sped drums from Pip and of course, Richard’s bass speeding through like a rabbit winning the race as Phil Miller’s distorted guitar goes into the line-up to finish up the album.
It’s very odd and weird, but it’s a Canterbury masterpiece to absorb with participation, as music lovers will dig their sound along with their second and final album, The Rotters’ Club which author Jonathan Coe, who’s a die-hard fan of the Canterbury Prog Rock scene not to mention who will authenticate his love of Canterbury Jazz Fusion. This album is laid-back and a tribute to all of the Jazz nuts to sink their fangs into.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Morgan - Nova Solis

While Progressive Rock’s was starting on its amazing journey in the retrospective-era of the 1970s, there was an independent album that came out of the Italian version label of RCA released in 1972 simply called Nova Solis. Keyboardist Morgan Fisher formed the group in 1971 out of the ashes of the psychedelic pop band, Love Affair and his brief time with Mott the Hoople, Morgan wanted to move away from the singles chart and the Glam Rock scene to uncharted prog territory. The band located to a cottage somewhere in Kent to get the band going. According to Morgan Fisher on his website, it was a good idea at first, but it was a painful nightmare. “I entered hell and stayed there for the entire three weeks. It was hay-fever season, and I was more prone that year than I have ever been in my life. What made it worse was that for some reason I couldn’t quite fathom. So while I was in my lonely room trying to write scores with eyes that looked like over-ripe tomatoes, the lads would be laughing all through the night without even telling any jokes.” After the three week vacation in the cottage, manager Sid Bacon got the band signed to a record deal in Italy for the RCA label who worked with; Il Balletto Di Bronzo, il Rovescio della Medaglia, New Trolls, and The Trip to name a few.
Also during that time period, the Italian circuit in the early ‘70s, was going pizza and ravioli craze over bands like; Emerson Lake and Palmer, Genesis, and Van Der Graaf Generator to name a few because of the hit albums that had there instead of England. It worked and Nova Solis is one of the most quintessential lost classics of arranging and composition.The album consists of four tracks. Starting off with the cryptic and eerie 8-minute, Samarkhand The Golden, based on the 1913 poetry by James Elroy Flecker, it has a very good rhythm section and a notable vocal arrangements of an homage to Freddie Mercury done by Tim Staffel, who was once part of the trio featuring Brian May and Roger Taylor in the late ‘60s, Smile. His vocals are very angelic and sometimes Hammill-like while bassist Bob Sapsed does fusion bass lines and drummer Maurice Bacon who was with Morgan’s band, Love Affair. With amazing talent on the ship, they knew they couldn’t beat the competition with other Prog kings. But Nova Solis captures the band at the underground scene at the Italian peak. The reissue done by Esoteric Recordings, shows their weird adventures and oddities as the ambient post-apocalyptic folkesque ballad, Alone; War Games is a very powerful rollercoaster composition. Bob’s bass line is very similar to the Canterbury scene ala Supersister meets Egg as he rips through the walking bass frets into a roaring fuzz tone nightmare. The song almost reminded me as if King Crimson teamed up with The Mahavishnu Orchestra to created this dynamic jazzy sonic hell; the closing of the album, the 20-minute title track, is for most progressive rock fans, a centerpiece. Gaining the Avant-Garde suite as if VDGG’s A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers created a spacey and darker version of ELP’s Tarkus, this is it. Paying tribute to Gustav Holst’s Jupiter and paying tribute to Gentle Giant this is a real kicker. Mind you, their homage to the Science-Fiction authors and Fantasy included with; Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, JRR Tolkien, Ayn Rand, and C.S Lewis, the lyrics are very good, but the album is a collector’s item and you need to buy this if you love the VCS3 space morse code sound that Fisher does.
Incidentally, this album could have definitely been used for the soundtrack to Rene Laoux’s 1973 avant-garde French independent sci-fi animated cult classic, La Planete Savouage (Fantastic Planet), Fisher takes the music along with his keyboards to upper heights - if he had done the music to this along with Alain Goraguer, it would have been a perfect match made in heaven.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Czar - Czar

This is a strange album to listen to from start to finish, but I really got a kick out of it. During the beginning of 1970 as Progressive Rock was on its heavy magic carpet ride in that time period, this little unknown album was released under the Fontana label simply called, Czar. Formed out of the ashes of Tuesday’s Children, Guitarist Mick Ware, Bassist Paul Kendrick, Keyboardist Bob Hodges, and drummer John Parker changed their name because they felt they were becoming more of a pop band more than a heavy rock band they wanted to be as they moved into a different territory. It was; dark, hard and very proto-prog metal at the same time rather than becoming the Bee Gees. The result of their only debut album shows some striking force. And it goes to show you, how fucking beautiful it really is. The mellotron is fusing beautifully while the guitars are doing a fuzztone sneer along with the Hammond Organ to create a darker masterpiece as tight as the magic gives, not to mention the weird cover which I’ll not go over, but again it’s very interesting to look at from either the band member’s point of view or what the hell they were thinking.
The album is an outstanding craftsman’s musical achievement, the dooming mellotron brass and string of the 6-minute post-apocalyptic, Tread Softly on my Dreams introduces some mind-boggling psychedelic grooves from Bob Hodges. Then, the music becomes more middle earth homage with an aggressive background with guitar, organ, drums, and vocals such as the love song turned classical symphonic hard nugget, Cecilia and the energetic explosion of the catchy number, Follow Me which could have been a part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and a reminiscent of King Crimson and Procol Harum. Then we get into Dawning of a new Day. To me, it sounds like a something out of the Italian Spaghetti Western classic, The Great Silence starring Klaus Kinski in 1968. The song has a balladry melody while the electric guitar and organ fit the atmosphere and it’s very simple as the mellotron combines the combination of the two by giving a whirlpool of magnetism. Beyond the Moon, where the mellotron underpins the solar system ala dance groove but has a Cressida-like influence that could have been used on their first two albums, but it is very Beatlesque meets Procol Harum’s In Held ‘Twas In I while Today is almost a sequel to A Whiter Shade of Pale in a psychedelic love ballad again that fits the mood and the times that were changing the music scene of the 1970’s. The 8-minute closing, A Day in September, is actually the band’s adventure into prog territory. Beginning with a middle-eastern raga from the organ and the bass doing a heavenly chugging with guitar fretwork, the music then all of a sudden, the music goes to a running tempo with the organ growing an increasing maximum volume along with the other instruments. The guitar then does an Indian guitar solo while the organ follows along with the beats to give it that freshness which no other musicians can do one way or the other. This is a great solo I really fucking enjoy. I can defintely hear the sounds of Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, and The Piper at the Gates of Dawn-era of Pink Floyd ala Interstellar Overdrive.
After the band went on tour only once, the band was in limbo with problems with the management, no one wanting to promote Czar’s debut album. The band worked their asses off and found out that it was a big disappointment to them. Still it’s something to worth listening to. It’s a shame it was never promoted, but you get to hear why it remains a lost classic.

King Crimson - In The Court of the Crimson King / Lizard

It’s been nearly 40 years since a band from England took the music world by storm with a shadow of evil, hidden forces, darkness, and sinister pieces of music that will give you goose bumps. There’s been a lot of digital re-masters, deluxe edition’s, and box sets to name a few, supplies the good ingredients of bonus tracks including; demos, b-sides studio run through, and alternate takes to fill in your savings account. And the beauty of the King Crimson re-master series of the 2004 edition must have been a painstaking process for Robert Fripp, and of course the listener. But it’s not for long until you hear these magnificent new 5.1 stereo mixes done by avid Crimson fan, Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree fame and help from Mr. Fripp with permission to give it the green light. This is a must have for fans and the new generation who are discovering the music of King Crimson and this has helped them with love and beauty they fully deserve like a bat out of hell.
These two albums and Red which I will get to in February to look at, are amazing packages. For example, their magnificent 1969 debut album, In The Court of the Crimson King re-mastered and re-mixed from the original multi-track master tapes, are absolutely astonishing. Deciding whether or not the album needed some polishing and cleaning up is up to the Crimso fans to give their opinion about it: Let’s face it Movies have been done in ala Blu-Ray High Definition style to be re-mastered and the Beatles catalogue reissues have been delayed and now got the reissue treatment last year, so what’s there to bitch, whine, and fucking complain about, people buy the DVDs and albums nonstop to enjoy and gear up for more ideas.
I just hope the 40th anniversary series and the music critics are giving it a huge A+, will have their headphones go on because this was the album that burst through the flood gates. Since this was the beginning of the first progressive rock album since the Beatles first concept album with Sgt. Pepper in 1967, it was a huge direction towards King Crimson and the move they could have taken the huge road towards. And when you look back on it in retrospect, it was completely ahead of its time, but the music with different time signatures, annihilation, lukewarm fantasy ballads, and fucking bizarre at the same time – it still sounds like as if it was recorded and produced by Dante Alighieri as if he was making the Divine Comedy performed by the band themselves. It still sounds shattering to this day as it was recorded at the end of the flower generation.
Their third album, Lizard, released in 1970, is one of the most controversial albums among King Crimson’s career between the post-apocalyptic eerie progressive sound of the first album and In the Wake of Poseidon, shows King Crimson in their Jazz Fusion sound ala Miles Davis Bitches Brew meets In a Silent Way-era. Lizard is a blemished and sometimes weird, but all in all a tour de force work along with some amazing highlights including the cavernous 6-minute beauty, Cirkus; a tribute to the Beatles legal issues with quirky, Happy Family; and the 23-minute title track which featured Jon Anderson of Yes doing some angelic vocal arrangements that almost came straight out of either CS Lewis or JRR Tolkien.
The reissues features some bonus tracks including a DVD of different versions of the albums, the video footage of Crimson MK I performing for the first time at Hyde Park in 1969 opening for the Rolling Stones, backing tracks, liner notes from Robert Fripp and Sid Smith, and a studio run through featuring Gordon Haskell’s magnificent vocals on the alternate sessions of Cirkus. So keep your eyes open for more coming this way for 2010. Let’s hope Steven Wilson is giving the fans what they want to hear.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Warhorse - Warhorse

Hailing from England, Warhorse were a combination of the two albums from Deep Purple; Machine Head and In Rock. The band came together after bassist Nick Simper left the band to join soul singer Marsha Hunt’s backing band in 1969. After Nick replaced Marsha’s members, he wanted to play something that was outside the sound of soul and blues that was heavy and more eerie. After Marsha left the band, due to her pregnancy, the band changed their name to the Marsha Hunt Band to Warhorse. Soon they got lead vocalist, Ashley Holt who would later join keyboardist, Rick Wakeman who was in the band for a brief while to do his infamous tours including Journey to the Centre of the Earth and the bombastic dancing on ice tour at Wembley Stadium, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Trying to get signed by a record label with one of their early recording demos, they were signed by Vertigo Records at the beginning of 1970. It worked big time and their self-titled debut album, became one of the most intellectual albums to come out of 1970.
Vulture Blood begins with the funeral arranging sounds done by keyboardist, J. Frank Wilson as he gives a pastoral opening to start off the powerful dynamic hard rock sounds featuring the pounding drums, guitar, and Nick’s heavy bass lines while Ashley Holt belts it out with his vocal arrangements. Holt’s vocals are almost relative to Rod Evans and Ian Gillian would be hard to talk about, guitarist Ged Peck, Warhorse’s answer to Ritchie Blackmore. With amazing layout track by track throughout the entire album, Warhorse showed no sign of stopping. But, their first album captures their underground beauty. St. Louis is a tribute to the Steve Miller Band’s pumping rocking to the car song, Living in the USA which could have been a live favorite of Warhorse’s career. The other songs show to communicate a huge impression their varieties of music with such strange habitats with the funky eerie arranging rocker that would make Gentle Giant very happy with Ritual. The 8-minute sinister lukewarm ballad of Solitude, is really the centerpiece of Warhorse’s career to make it very scary and dark on this track. Holt here is bringing the track to the heavenly sky and flying with along with the heavy guitar solo while the acoustic guitar and the organ is setting the Dalek background almost as a tribute to the fallen soldiers who are fighting for justice in Vietnam. While Solitude is the heart-stopping track, the 7-minute finale, Woman of the Devil, begins with Frank’s tribute to Jon Lord while they do a pounding homage to the Purple sound to give it that heavy push to the early Hard Rock core like no other. The drumming, guitar, and the organ are mad and fierce like if they ready to fire the missiles to begin a battle of the instruments to see who will win the competition between those and if Purple teamed up with Black Sabbath, it would sound something like this.
After the release of their debut album, Warhorse decided to tour for a little bit, but it was a good start, but the album itself, didn’t do well. The album failed to peak at the charts along with the single, St. Louis so they were in a bit of a struggle. They decided to come back to do another album after Ged left the band to pursue another career after the release of Red Horse. It failed to reach the charts and Vertigo dropped the band from their label. They were completely way ahead of their time, but the bonus tracks which features rare live and demo material are worth to hear what they sound like with Ritual, the pop sound of Miss Jane, and the live versions of Woman of the Devil, Burning, and Solitude are magnificent. The band would neither be quite as good as Deep Purple with great sound.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Nice - Remasters

The Nice were completely way ahead of their time since after their break-up and the formation of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, the first progressive rock supergroup. But for the Nice who were a backing band for P.P. Arnold’s soulful vocal arrangements, and featuring some magnificent keyboard compositions done by a young Keith Emerson, again they were the first symphonic rock band in the late ‘60s. They gave the basis of ELP’s bombastic arranging and composition and, the perfect examples, are the four albums which have been carefully re-mastered with extra bonus tracks that have never been heard before. If you really admire the pompous sounds of the Nice, I suggest you take a closer listen to Five Bridges.
This live album was recorded on October 17, 1969 at the Fairfield Hall at Croydon at the time when the Nice were a trio now after guitarist David O’List left the band in 1968 probably because Keith was the center of attention and giving full control of the band during that time period. A breathtaking classical rock live album, it was granted by Newcastle Arts Festival as it was given its huge premiere at the Hall for the Concerto. The concept behind Five Bridges, it actually refers the River Tyne in Central Great Britain. It was originally formed from the two rivers between the North and the South Tyne. As the two come together, it is known as “The Meeting of the Waters”. Sounds like a geographical concept album to me. The autobiographical Five Bridges Suite, fitted so well with bassist and lead vocalist Lee Jackson, sings passionately about his childhood years in his hometown in Newcastle upon the Tyne itself. Keith would do a classical piano arrangement while the orchestra does a mesmerizing beauty in Fantasia as the band comes in during the Second Bridge by singing about the River Tyne ala pre-ELP style while in Chorale, Keith does an homage to Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans on the piano to make it more of a Bebop Jazz sound and closing it up with a climatic beauty with the orchestra and the band by giving it an atomic explosion that makes the audiences crazy.
Even though the Five Bridges Suite is the centerpiece, there are a couple of surprises throughout the album. During the Classical militant march rocker of Jean Sibelius’ Intermezzo: Karelia Suite, Keith creating a shrieking sound on the Organ that makes it sound that it was about to be destructed. When you hear this, you can definitely tell that the band, orchestra, and the audience were enjoying and were mind-boggled to see Keith destroying the Organ using Knives and thrashing to pay homage to Pete Townshend and Jimi Hendrix. The blues fusion rocker of Bob Dylan’s Country Pie combining with Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 is shattering while Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Sixth Symphony in the 3rd Movement brings it to a pomp and circumstance standstill. If you believe that you want more, the bonus tracks are the ones you need to hear. It includes a studio version of Country Pie, the BBC version of the Five Bridges Suite recorded for Sounds of the Seventies, and the never-before-heard encore finale at the Fairfield Hall performance of Lieutenant Kijo/Rondo/She Belongs To Me, which is right-on and could have been a part of the Five Bridges live album. Here you have the orchestra doing a tribute to Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kijo in a Russian march style to the band doing a heart-stopping tribute to Dave Brubeck’s Rondo and Dylan’s She Belongs To Me that brought the Hall bowing to their knees while you can hear the crowd clapping along to the orchestra and the band which is very emotional. Also, when you hear this suite, listen very carefully to the Bonanza theme as the band goes straight-on like a Train chugging very fast that it won’t stop as the band including a sax solo that brings the Fairfield Hall down and goes completely apeshit. It’s very lukewarm and very symphonic crazy up a notch.
Elegy was after the Nice’s breakup which was released in 1971. The band had moved on with Keith Emerson doing his supergroup while Lee Jackson formed Jackson Heights and the late Brian Davison forming Brian Davison’s Every Which Way. Even though the band went their separate ways, it’s a worth listening to this. The centerpiece is the live version of their performance at the Fillmore of the 10-minute climax of Bernstein’s America (Second Amendment), which starts off as a funeral mourning, then turning into a bright upbeat tempo exercise done by the band to give it a Olympic march as it ends with Keith again destructing the organ which would later be the end of The Nice’s career. The second track of Dylan’s acoustic folk cover of My Back Pages, begins with a Scott Joplin meets McCoy Tyner style on the piano composition done by Mr. Emerson before going into a blues rock sound from the Hammond Organ. I bet Bob Dylan was so proud of the Nice’s cover of his lukewarm beauty. During the number, the tension between Emerson’s solo on the keyboards and Jackson’s vocal arrangements which would be heard here on this heavy take. Notice some segments of the Old Castle which was later used on a live version on ELP’s Pictures at an Exhibition. The 12-minute ballad gives it a 15th century tribute to Folk legend Tim Hardin’s Hang on to a Dream, it is in a calm atmosphere live and eerie at the same time then becoming dramatic with the band coming in to give it a heart-stopping finale. The bonus tracks include two BBC Performances for Sound of the Seventies, which are Pathetique Symphony 6: 3rd Movement and Country Pie.
Then comes the early days in the late ‘60s with a compilation called, Autumn 1967 & Spring 1968. This compilation was done by Charisma boss and the Nice’s manager, Tony Stratton-Smith. It features their B-Sides in alternate versions never heard before when it was released in 1972. These recordings of material done by the Nice, which was done in those two dates, you have the pleasure and opportunity to hear guitarist David O’List before leaving to do other music projects. Alongside America and The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack, The Nice did some quirky funny songs that were a tribute to the Syd Barrett-era of the Pink Floyd scene with the Comedic Hard Rocker of Daddy, Where Did I Come From?, the eerie ambient Avant-Garde darkness with Dawn, the psychedelic pop beauty featuring the mellotron with Diamond Hard Blue Apples of the Moon while they gave birth to Prog Metal with Bonnie K and Azirial.
Then we get to the unheard full performance at the Fillmore East in December, 1969. This double CD set, captures the Nice in their Symphonic Pomp and Circumstance nonstop beauty that will make your heart beat faster.
The faster opening introduction of Rondo gets the crowd excited for their performance and the excitement that will lead them for more; there are three 13-minute numbers of different versions of the compositions that are emotionally overwhelming. The tribute to the poetry of greek physician, Hippocrates, Ars Longa Vita Brevis, is a eerie disturbing number. In the middle part, you hear the band almost giving a tribute to Frank Zappa after doing their classical rendezvous and then going into the full throttle of heavy rocking throw down between Keith Emerson doing his keyboard swirl, Lee Jackson’s walking bass lines, and Brian Davison’s heavy drum pounding to make your jaw dropped. She Belongs To Me and the Five Bridges Suite are brilliant grandeur’s of glorious classical rock showdown to come on the symphonic train station; Little Arabella is very quirky and hand-to-down boogie jazz while the Fillmore version of Hang on to a Dream is a very sensational number, very trembling at the same time along with the closer jazz blues rocker anti-war protest instrumental, War and Peace. Brilliant, and finding out where the puzzle piece might land to throughout their magnificent career.