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Friday, February 25, 2011

The Dog That Bit People - The Dog That Bit People

Like Locomotive’s sole-debut album We Are Everything You See released in 1970 which has a prog-orchestral psychedelic jazz feel to it thanks to the mind of Norman Haines, The Dog That Bit People was a band that moved away from Norman’s vision into something that was in the deep realm of the American West Coast Sound of the late ‘60s. And their only debut album originally released in 1971 on the Parlaphone label, is a wonderful treatment with Country Rock, Folk, Hard Rock, and the early beginnings of Southern Rock.

Like a burning candle that burns bright, The Dog That Bit People had all of the ingredients to write their own compositions and created some beautiful songs to fill their wings. The band really carries the sound of CSNY and Stephen Stills like as if they went to the studio carrying their albums and before getting ready to record, they would listen to them and see where the writing and music come in. There’s a perfect example of this on Sound of Hunter and the result here is fantastic. You have an acoustic rhythm guitar section while the background vocals have an earlier resemblance of The Marshall Tucker Band as guitarist Paul Caswell gives his heavy southern riff that is more expected from Gary Rossington and Toy Caldwell. But the four-piece could take a huge beauty and make it more like a flower growing to see the sunlight.

But what Esoteric Recordings did was absolutely fascinating. The booklet features pictures of the band, sleeve notes by Crimson and Canterbury expert Sid Smith, and an interview with drummer Bob Lamb about the making of the debut album. The band considers Locomotive bassist Mick Hincks, guitarist John Caswell, and keyboardist Keith Millar. Their own love of Country Music, Scott Joplin, and George Jones comes with a sense of humor on the short track of the Memphis sound with Someone Somewhere, yes it’s a funny track as they have a ball to get you in a dancing mood while they go into the realm of Black Sabbath’s first album treatment on The Monkey and the Sailor and the closer, Reptile Man. It comes with a psychedelic mellower romantic sound on the opening number that could have been an A.M. hit in the ‘70s with Goodbye Country and the issues of meeting a beautiful woman with a Buffalo Springfield feel to it on Lovely Lady.

But you might see that the Dog that Bit People had some progressive moments in them to let Norman Haines know they have it in them with the fantasy-mellotron soaring angelic rocker on Cover Me in Roses. It has Keith Millar’s power house organ sound as he goes at it like if he is in full control while Bob Lamb’s lays in the groove on the drums. He isn’t like Charlie Watts, but he calms the band down with his patterns and his ear trains to give the band time to lay back. On piano grooves with a bluesy feel and a Shofar introduction to a psychedelic pounding rocker that pays homage to Traffic featuring Steve Winwood, A Snapshot of Rex is almost a sequel to Forty Thousand Headmen and Red Queen’s Dance is the ultimate medieval keg rocker of Medicated Goo and the bass line similar to Pink Floyd’s Careful With that Eugene in the beginning, it’s a killing track that really gets your blood boiling.

Mr. Sunshine stands on the toes with David Bowie’s psych-pop flavor of Janine while Tin Soldier is a wonderful composition with Hinck’s vocals, John Caswell folk and heavy guitar sounds fill the album while Millar does a Thunderclap Newman sound on the piano as drummer Bob Lamb goes at the drums like a shining diamond as he takes the band to the soaring skies. Walking is another ballad that makes it perfect to walk in Central Park to exercise with by adding the calm and feel that makes the album closes with a perfect note. The bonus track which was a B-side single that according to the liner notes has a Badfinger flavor which is spot on with Merry-Go-Round just makes you want to put this on the graduation dance to get you going for more of the band’s lost classic. Not only that Esoteric pulled a great job to bring the album out of the tunnels, but the reissue and re-mastering that they did is like as if they brought it back from the dead and getting the recognition it deserves.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Banco - Banco

Already having success in their hometown in Italy as the Manticore label was searching for up-and-coming artists in their wing, Keith Emerson had praised the Italian scene in the ‘70s during an interview with Melody Maker and praised Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso’s musical style and he knew that it would be a perfect deal for Keith to sign them to their new prog label. Leaving the Ricordi label was a difficult decision after having the first three Italian albums up their sleeves, but it was time to move on. Like their predecessors Le Orme and PFM who were climbing the Italian Prog tree, the band had a massive cult following in England after performing at the Roundhouse and the Marquee while receiving a lukewarm telegram from Greg Lake saying, “Congratulations on first successful English tour. Hope all goes well. Sorry won’t be able to be with you best of luck.”

Originally released in 1975 on the Manticore label and in 2010 from the reissued Esoteric label who worked on the Manticore catalogue, simply called Banco and feature the first new three tracks in Italian while the last four tracks are a translation of their songs in English from their Ricordi years. The band recorded the album in their home town in Rome and their love of the British Prog sound in England. Like looking through a crystal ball, the music is very classical, baroque and very much in the realm of Gentle Giant thanks to the keyboard sounds of the Nocenzi brothers who give the soaring vocalist Francesco Di Giacomo a huge boost and let him give a chance to shine. Not to mention the sound of an operatic rock vocalization of Pavarotti that Fransesco has.

The album starts off with the new age ambient almost ‘80s sound of Chorale (from Traccia’s Theme) as Vittorio and Gianni create a medieval Kraftwerk sound in the realm of Autobahn as it segues into a Renaissance jumping tempo sound on L’Albero Del Pans (The Bread Tree). It has a lot of dynamic, dance beats with the synth and piano and thunderous bass work that Renato D’Angelo brings to the table while guitarist Rodolfo Maltese strums like Pete Townshend on the acoustic side. The 14-minute Metamorphosis is one of the band finest moments.

Starting off with a thunderous guitar work that Rodolfo Maltese does with a heavy riff section that creates the tension as the Nocenzi brothers help him out to ease out and have some fun before becomes a thunderous roar and sinister background as they give Gianni a chance to shine. Gianni is absolutely magnificent as he does his Piano Concerto which goes through various time changes and variations almost as if he’s performing in front of ELP to give the band the big thumbs up. And then Calderoni’s thunderous drum patterns come in to give a hell of a solo.

He is a combination of Billy Cobham, Jamie Muir, and Bill Bruford as he starts off quiet for a good while while Gianni creates a suspension atmosphere for Pier to come in to be as loud as possible as Vittorio comes in to do a disturbing moog piece to set up the emotional boundaries as it screams like an insane person going to break free out of the asylum before calming down into screaming and shouting as the bass and piano create an eerie scene for a good while. Rodolfo creates some metallic sounds on the guitar before the instruments go into a clashing mode as it explodes like dynamite.

Later on, Renato and Vittorio pay homage to Franco Battiato and Amon Duul II’s golden-era before it becomes a twisted circus gone into a world of magnetic insanity. The band take a moody yet symphonic finale as Francesco comes in to close the track with his mighty voice to give it a wonderful rock opera sound for the Italians to go batshit crazy over Banco shouting “Encore! Encore! Bravo! Bravo!” But it’s not over yet, folks.

The English versions of the tracks have only just begun. Outside (R.I.P.) sees Renato’s creating his bass lines like a speeding train as Vittorio and Gianni Nocenzi going at it to see who has the best solos on the keyboard and piano before it becomes a futuristic sound of Tangerine Dream’s early days while Maltese on the other hand does his homage to Robert Fripp for a good while before it becomes a heavenly climatic ending. The ballad, Leave Me Alone (Non Mi Rompete) which features Maltese’s classical guitar sound in a renaissance folky way, carries the Baroque sound for the band to lay back and go acoustic as Francesco goes mellow on his vocals while the lyrics have fairy-tale complex. Maltese is powerful on his guitar playing with conducting time movements to let the band come in and see where the direction comes in.

On that tune, it’s just Francesco, Maltese, and Nocenzi’s springful keyboards unplugged as they improvise in the bridge with Giacomo’s vocalization and Maltese’s bullet train’s homage again to Townshend’s strumming. A perfect combination match made in heaven. Nothing’s The Same (Dopo Niente E’Piu Lo Stesso) tells the tale of Soldier’s coming home from a brutal war on a speeding train probably from the second World War. It has a dramatic background and sinister musical scenario’s from the Nocenzi brothers sound of the flourishing keyboards, Maltese dooming guitar work, and Renato’s thunderous force of electricity on the bass creates a moody anti-war scenery.

Then it becomes a free-for-all changing of the pace as the band just transform into their heroes Gentle Giant and ELP as they give drummer Pier Luigi Calderoni a moment to shine with his drum patterns and helping the band out with his time signatures. This guy knows his Improvisational Theory very damn well. As he and Francesco go into the hall and work together as brothers and see where the piece would take them before Vittorio ends the piece with his spooky electronic string section and Gianni’s synth helps calm the storm down.

Traccia II which was originally released on Io Sono Nato Libero, features Gianni’s grand piano work as Vittorio helps his brother out with his Kerry Minnear-sque sound on the keyboards to make it sound very medieval. Again it’s medieval instrumental rock that gives it a heartfelt ending as if the good guys have won the battle and come home from a hard and long work. Stand the test of time? Take a trip with their days on the Ricordi label and then go deep into the waters of the Manticore years and take a wonderful magic carpet ride with Banco’s music and see where the carpet takes you.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Fierce & The Dead - Part I

An unbelievable experimental adventure that Matt Stevens has cooked up with this twisted ride of the revival of the post-rock sound, Matt’s virtuoso has gone up a level with The Fierce and The Dead, a project that features Kev Feazy on Bass and Keyboards, and Stuart Marshall on drums & percussion. A perfect trio that follows in the footsteps of Radiohead, Mogwai, The Wall-era of Pink Floyd, and Krautrocker’s of the Avant-Garde, Faust. Even though this only a one-track EP, this is one hell of a ride that you are about to embark on for a very long time that the composition suggests, not to mention the beautiful cover.

Although Stevens layered and eerie guitar sound creates a disturbing tone that is in the realm of Jonny Greenwood, this a wonderful and attractive atmospheric music and weird travel of ambient noises that goes into various places of insanity, life, death, and rebirth in different changes of the instrumental piece that is only 18-minutes and 40-seconds. The piece starts off like a moody flowing gentle embrace that is like a glowing flower ready to burst hitting every note and voltage before going into an adventure of droning forces of evil.

It sends the listener’s ear to get them full and complete attention on what they are hearing on this composition and taking them into haunting places that they have never seen before with elements of the retro ‘70s German rock sound and synths going haywire almost sounding like a combination of a razor blade and a chainsaw making this loud and mind-craving noise that sounds like something out of a horror film as Feazy creates some Mogwai-like bass lines in the fuzz-tone value while Marshall’s drum patterns sound very much like Phil Selway. And then Matt calms the scenery with his jazzy improvisation for a good while to let the two members give some time to relax as they do an Indian tribe relative sound to set the scenery for Matt’s guitar playing.

And then all of a sudden, BAM! The band comes into a full circle like as if they are a gang band to release a sudden attack then followed by a psychedelic droning feedback amplification as the synth goes into an attack mode in the background. Treated as if Guitar, Synth, Bass, and Drums are giving Justin Bieber a heart attack in a BIG way, they do an homage of Tangerine Dream’s ‘70s atmospheric sound of Phaedra before going into the OK Computer-era with Marshall’s electronic sound of the drums as if it was made to be in the futuristic scene of the 22nd century. He is playing the drums like a thundering storm as Stevens and Fezey watch him to say, “Give all the energy you got and let’s take this home with a bang!”

After coming back with the drone sound, the bass joins in with the drums while Stevens creates an echoing improvisation on the guitar into a swirling whirlpool of terror like a Hitchock film score, the first part has been reached to inherit the earth…Volcanic, Erupted, and lava coming out to terrorize the pop sound of today’s bullshit of mainstream radio top 10 singles. Matt just comes swinging as he gives some Frippertronic guitar layered sound that is the signal of the waves to crash.

The last three minutes is Stevens doing his guitar work as he pays tribute to Greenwood, Fripp, and Lifeson as if it’s the calm of the storm in an eerie way with a clapping rhythm beat before the synth goes into a futuristic ending ala Argento style! As the level goes up into a serious haywire mode before going into a static and then ending into a sudden stop ala Beatles Abbey Road momentum. The soundscapes that the trio created on the first part of the Fierce and the Dead is almost as if it was recorded for the Pawn Hearts sessions for Van Der Graaf Generator. The recording in time changes, spaced-out adventures, mysterious finale, and all of this makes this composition The Fierce and The Dead’s evocative and haunting ingredients of a post-apocalyptic landscape.

Odin of London - The London Tapes

Having admired BunChakeze’s Whose Dream and one of the best lost albums of 2010 (this was in the early 1980s) and released on internet stores like: iTunes, CD Baby, and Amazon MP3 last year, this is more of the unsung tracks by Odin of London in which is called, The London Tapes. You could buy the MP3 album on CD Baby and now self-released, these sessions offer more of the lost tracks that the band had done before dissolving.

Listening to these tracks is almost like being in the studio and experiencing the band working to create some magic here. It’s hard to deny and never anything bad when Odin created something magic. They could have been the next Marillion and take the New Wave of British Prog a step further and would have given Derek “Fish” Dick a run for his money. And we got to give credit for the band and Colin Tench to re-release the tapes. You could imagine a modern version of Pink Floyd teaming up with Marillion and adding some layered ‘80s sound simulating melodic harmonies, atmospheric surround sound, and story-telling lyrics, makes the compositions a ticket to ride.

There are traces of The Who’s rock opera Tommy in the soaring beauty of Eagles and the elements of riff-ballad on Change sounds a lot like the duo guitar sounds of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith of Iron Maiden, but with Colin Tench he made it sound like as if the guitar had a double-tracking sound as if Fruupp had teamed up the two guitarist to create a medieval retro rock sound. The dooming futuristic straightforward rocker, Dead of Night acknowledges a film soundtrack reference that could have been used in Disney’s 1982 cult classic, Tron for the light cycle race sequence while it owes a large debt to the AOR (Album-Orientated Rock) sound resembling Styx’s golden days and Starcastle’s sound of Citadel.

Now on the opening track, Alcatraz, at first it sounds like the riff-rocker of Boston’s More Than A Feeling, but it provides a mellower but beautiful guitar passages that Tench does to give the band to cool down as if he is Andy Latimer and gives a warm welcome to the London Tapes. Musically, there is again the tributes with Raven, an homage to gothic poet writer Edgar Allen Poe, it becomes a going on the road power house piece with the guitar roaring in the sound of early Thin Lizzy’s Vagabond-era and Camel’s Snow Goose-era. Mythically, Catherine sounds almost like an acoustic British Folk song at first with Colin doing a finger picking sound on the acoustic guitar as the song deals with life after leaving home and not coming back, but it a smooth and eerie disturbing piece in the realm of Odin’s sound before becoming a thunderous finale that sends a chill in your spine.

The last two bonus tracks are worth a gem. You have the alternate version of Tony Butler’s vocals sounding almost as if Dennis DeYoung and Geddy Lee had a kid brother in a big way on a different take of Alcatraz while the new song Gentle Friend featuring John Culley's homage to David Gilmour as he carries a huge torch in the Pink Floyd Momentary Lapse of Reason-era and it maintains a sentimental upbeat tempo that carries the Odin sound. All in all, The London Tapes is almost another unsung gem that carries the resume of Whose Dream in any of the unsung obscure prog bands that never saw the light at the end of the tunnel. This is a must have for all prog lovers to sink their shark-like jaws into.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Thin Lizzy - Vagabonds of the Western World / Jailbreak [Deluxe Edition]

Thin Lizzy may have been the bee’s knees of Heavy Metal music for over 41 years. They had the songs, the tough guy looks as if they were a gang, and the music had a great Irish flavor to the sound. Even though Jailbreak remains a classic Lizzy album in 1976, these two deluxe edition’s (Vagabonds of the Western World and Jailbreak) prove to show how important Thin Lizzy were and launching chart success, receiving worldwide attention in the states, which singer-songwriter and bassist, the late great Phil Lynott still carries a punch with his vocals and bass playing.

Schoolboys Phil Lynott, guitarist Eric Bell, and drummer Brian Downey formed the Dublin band back in 1969 after Bell saw the band, Orphanage and knew that Lynott had talent and could sing very well. The band was named after a comic book of a robot named Tin Lizzie, but Thin Lizzy stuck. The band was signed to Decca Records in 1970 and soon released two albums: The self-titled album and Shades of a Blue Orphanage. Both of these albums never sold well, but soon got notice from DJs John Peel and David “Kid” Jensen who appeared on the third album as a narrator on the Vagabonds album.

Lynott knew that their third album would be the last time that the band would appear on Decca as it was time for a change in the music scene and the timing was right. On Vagabonds of the Western World, Lynott’s strong vocals are coming in like a race car that went 600 miles per hour. The influences of comic books, irish folk lore, and bluesy raunchy funk thanks to Eric Bell’s hammering guitar solo as if he’s in the realm of Jimmy Page and Ritchie Blackmore, Vagabonds remains an underrated Lizzy classic that deserves a lot of attention.

There’s the love-song ballad with a string quartet on A Song While I’m Away as if Lynott has become Englebert Humperdinck, which Phil dedicates this song to a girl who was the love of his life. The on-the-road power house of the single, The Rocker which deals with having sex with girls after a performance in its early resemblance of AC/DC’s High Voltage-era while the prog touch of The Hero and The Madmen which features Jensen in his realm of the style of Laugh-In’s Gary Owens, pays tribute to Phil’s childhood heroes of the Superhero comic books of the 20th century.

Opening political blues shuffle of Mama Nature Said which deals with World Pollution, packs a huge entrĂ©e thanks to the Eric’s slide guitar sound as if he’s Duane Allman and the rumbling thunderstorm of Slow Blues are quite evidential of Thin Lizzy’s love of the blues . The Irish Folk Stories that Phil loved in his school-era really comes in the elements of early beginnings of celtic metal of the title track while the emotional roughness at home comes at a full time swing of Little Girl in Bloom which deals with teenage pregnancy.

And then everything becomes an erotic sexual fantasy as Phil’s bass chugs and Eric’s Hendrix-sque guitar psych sound and Eric’s pounding drums come in like a flaming fire of making love with Gonna Creep Up on You and it’s surprising that this would be the last album that Eric would be in the band during the making of the album because of the music business was changing and deciding to move on. The bonus tracks is now in full control features the A & B-side of the singles, Randolph’s Tango, a laid-back groovy ballad that pays tribute to the Argentina dance and Broken Dreams, which sort of realms of Zappa’s Stink Foot, is a killer track.

Here I Go Again has a Hawaiian beat as for the homage of Rod Stewart and the Faces comes in with Cruising with the Lizzymobile while Sitamoia carries an early punk rock sound resemblance of the Ramones. Now enter, the late great guitarist Gary Moore who appears on the 1977 remix of Slow Blues and crunchy roar of Little Darling. Gary is shining with his bluesy and metallic riffs and he knows he is not pulling any punches. Thin Lizzy, all of a sudden, had a hit single with the Irish traditional song, Whiskey in the Jar. They had finally broke through the champagne bottle and showing more fuel has been put into the car to get going.

The second half of the Deluxe Edition, it keeps getting better of the album features the band doing sessions at the BBC from 1973 to 1974 where the band were finally getting the recognition as they were promoting the third album and brought the electricity to the audience and the presenters as they got what the doctor ordered. The funk comes into the picture Showdown and Phil’s rough childhood to be the only black Irish member in the power metal anthem of Black Boys in the Corner.

After Eric Bell left the band, the band moved from a trio to a four piece. Enter Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson in which was now known the famous four-era as the fans love the era because of the dueling guitarist which would later influence Judas Priest and Iron Maiden also known as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Scott and Brian appeared in two albums: Nightlife and Fighting. By now the two guitarist were like boxers in the boxing match. Scott was more of Page sound while Brian had the elements that Eric Bell used from the Vagabonds-era as if Eric is watching over Robertson's guitar playing. They were thinking to see who can come up with the best rhythm and the best solos. The evidence is here with the breakthrough, Jailbreak.

Originally released in 1976 on Lizzy’s new label Vertigo, Thin Lizzy broke through the mainstream and soon America came calling thanks to the two hit singles, The Boys Are Back in Town and the title track, it gave Thin Lizzy and Phil a huge boost and the songs keep on coming. While the punk scene was about to emerge, the band showed that they can be admired by the punks not to mention Steve Jones, Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols who would form the Greedies. But let’s get back to Jailbreak.

Jim Fitzpatrick, who did the artwork of the Vagabonds album, made Jailbreak almost look like something out of Stan Lee’s Marvel-era on the front cover as Phil was writing lyrics that had a comic-book feel to the album. You have the science-fiction forces of evil on Warriors, the Springsteen feel on Angel From The Coast and Romeo and the Lonely Girl, the country rock sounds of being a cowboy from Texas in the homage of John Ford’s Stagecoach on Cowboy Song which would later become a live fan favorite among Lizzy fans and the moody-sque soul sound that has it deal with either you live or die on Fight or Fall.

The early beginnings of NWOBHM is evidential here on the last finale of the thundering, Emerald. It has a Sword and Sorcery element feel as Scott and Brian go at it as Phil just lends his heart out with the sci-fi power of shock treatment as Downey just sounds like an early Lars Ulrich before the duo guitarists go into a middle-eastern midsection for a while and then go at it to see who can win the match. The bonus tracks are quite surprising to get your blood boiling for more to break out of prison to live to see the sunrise.

We have the remixes done by Scott Gorham and Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott as they dug up some of the multi-tracks that were heavily buried in the original release. On The Boys are Back in Town and Jailbreak which features a new intro done by Phil Lynott, there is new guitar playing done by Scott that completely blew me away including an alternate lyric version of the hit single of Boys. You could tell that Phil had to change the lyrics and the rest is history. We have again more of the BBC sessions in 1976 on John Peel’s show. Peel was a true champion of Thin Lizzy’s music and the band could prove no wrong to the late hero that Lizzy were on fire.

A studio version of Blues Boy and Derby Blues which was recorded at the Derby College of Technology in 1975, is an earlier version of Cowboy Song are quite surprising to see how Lizzy were going all Blues Rock and how the live version is much better than the studio version. Still after 41 years later, Thin Lizzy’s music keeps on growing and Phil Lynott’s legacy will live forever and years to come, the music again is an accomplished beginnings of hard rock.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Jeff Green - Jessica

When most musicians and bands release material online like Matt Stevens does with Echo and Ghost, it feels as if the future awaits us for years to come and give the major record labels a chance to bow their knees over to. When you have guitarist and virtuoso Jeff Green releases Jessica online, is a tribute to her, the daughter he wished he got to know her, passed away in 1996 of oxygen deprivation. The album took about 11 years for him to finish and find his destiny to make an emotional yet beautiful in sweat and tears.

Like Neil Peart who went on a Motorcycle trip across the globe to find his true feelings after the loss of his wife and daughter, it is almost as if Jeff had to find himself and to see where the road would lay ahead for him. Jessica is where Jeff Green comes out like a flower getting ready to grow quickly. The first thing that moves you is his guitar playing of ambient new age sound which is shown on Willing The Clouds Away bearing a resemblance of an heartfelt white bird flying to the heavens as the moog solo gives an angelic touch while the guitar playing fills the void.

This isn’t just your typical progressive rock album, it’s more of an album to sink in and fill your heart and mind to see where you might be and the elements of Yes’s golden-era is quite evidential. You also have the spooky introduction called For The Future. The Future has a Tangerine Dream retro sound at first, before going into a Gilmour-sque layered guitar sound as if it’s crying for Jessica while it goes into a 70s-era of Genesis’ own Steve Hackett’s homage. It is quite an amazing composition though, because For The Future is Jeff’s road to healing and its finest peak.

The real short classical guitar instrumental piece that is rich with Horizons is on Visions while On This Night has a dramatic structure and the singing comes in. It is very powerful for him to come out of limelight and give all the energy he’s got to come and the race track is on for him. Pride sounds like something that was left off the Fragile sessions with some touching finger picking guitar work as Jeff sings about Jessica as if he is letting her know that he will always be with her no matter where the direction will go for him.

Essence is piano and keyboards that sound like an symphonic lullaby river into the passages of time with it’s classical boundaries that makes it very touching sound as Woman With Child carries the ‘80s New Wave of British Prog sound ala Marillion’s Clutching At Straws-era with it’s melodic passages and soaring background vocalization proves to be a one ticket to freedom. The short composition Being is a pastoral symphonic surround beauty as it segues into the dramatic mood for Jessie’s Theme.

Coming with a classical guitar, moog solo’s, Robert Fripp and Steve Hackett-sque guitar sound, atmospheric bass lines, and the drum tempo becoming an up beat tempo, it’s very much laid-back as you lie on the beach to watch the sun rise on the blue sky as the angelic vocals come in to let Jeff know that Jessica is watching Daddy every day. The groove funk is energetic and in full scale of tension on Jeff’s view on what he did wrong and how he would have changed differently to save Jessica’s life on Tomorrow Never Came and his anger is shown surprisingly to fill the situation on the loss of a child. Prittlewell Chase is a moody haunting celtic rock sound. With the eerie flute solo and acoustic guitar coming in hand, not only that it again is crying out for Jessica, but almost could have been a score for a horror film before going into the deeper realms of Radiohead and Porcupine Tree with it’s electronic rock sound of the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Closing track, Live Forever, provides a trusting finale, as Jeff lets Jessica reminding her that the magic he has is still inside him as it becomes an alternative rock format sparking balladry and opening their hearts to see where the destiny would lead them to. If it’s an album that you want to get, than there’s a lot of great music that is coming online to listen to get you in the mood for, if you are parent who lost their child and deciding what’s the next chapter will be for you, then Jeff Green’s Jessica’ remains an unbelievable debut album to give a huge listen to.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Fantasy - Paint A Picture

Paint a Picture has been considered a collector’s item thanks to MOJO’s 2005 issue on the Story of Prog Rock as Derek Oliver, founder of Rock Candy Records considered it the top ten collectable prog album every superfan should hear. Fantasy was formed in Kent at a farmhouse in Chapel as the band did their early rehearsals there. They are sort of the answer to Peter Gabriel’s Genesis with melodic and symphonic pieces and could have given Gabriel a run for their money, but with a beautiful album cover and inner gatefold sleeve, it just goes to show why this band deserves a lot of attention since releasing this lost classic on the Polydor label in 1973.

Like an unexpected magic carpet that appeared out of nowhere, the musicianship is well-structured and the songs themselves are well-crafted as if they could have been written for the animated classic, The Last Unicorn. It’s a perfect hidden treasure that is only 44 minutes of beautiful vocals done by Paul Lawrence, powerful story-telling keyboards from David Metcalfe, and harmonic guitar sounds from Peter James. With the Supernatural Fairy Tale of song structures is very much in the realm of Genesis-inspired lyrics together forming in the realm of the symphonic atmosphere of: Cressida, Fruupp, and the Harvest-era of Barclay James Harvest.

Opening with the title track on a melodic folk rock structure done by James guitar playing as creates a psych wah-wah guitar mood done by the moody organ and vocalizations done by Metcalfe and Lawrence, it then goes into a soaring prog-psych feel with a little help from an orchestral background to set the tone of the song. Circus is almost a sequel to the Genesis single Twilight Alehouse, as bassist David Read comes into the album to help drummer Jon Webster keep the beat going. The guitar section is almost very much in the realm of Steve Hackett’s virtuosity as James and Metcalfe play with a layered sound while the last 2-minutes becomes an early representation of Arena Rock for a second and then goes back into the power house of drums, organ, guitar, vocals, and bass just as if they are letting the dogs out of house to run loose freely.

The Award is back into the steps of British Mellower Folk Rock sound with an up tempo beat with some fine acoustic guitar work and electric steps to get you in the mood for a laid-back atmospheric warm sunny day while Politely Insane is in the realm of medieval epic funk prog sound as it deals with the views of insanity and being in love with it. It could have been a hit single with some of the prog-pop sound, but it’s raw and powerful as you some amazing lyrical lines like: “I decided to hide away/And tried to forget what they had done/But time couldn’t change the memoires of the past/If I was a man I wouldn’t be crying.” Now that’s poetry right there.

Then it’s back into the folk realm with a finger picking sound in a haunting gothic ballad of Widow and the moody symphonic structures of Icy River really gets the listener knowing that, “this is much better than the three prog giants.” The homage to Van Der Graaf Generator’s opening of Darkness (11/11) really is worth checking with the bass and drums going bum-bum-bum-bum-bum as Thank Christ provides much of the ballad sound as David Metcalfe creates a spooky sound on the keyboard as they move into a tribute to the savior. Young Man’s Fortune is back into the up tempo mode as Read comes in with some amazing bass lines while the guitar and organ are the top priority, but the organ creates a disturbing thunder to get Read knows he’s with him all the way.

Gnome Song is almost a tribute to Trees disturbing folk classic, The Garden of Jane Delawney. It almost could have been recorded in a gothic cathedral with a grand piano and acoustic guitar setting the tone of the composition. It has a John Lennon-sque sound as the closing track, Silent Mime is a mourning organ rumbling epic finale that features a booming percussion sound that has a timpani and snare drum and almost very much into the tribute of Crimson’s Bolero on the 23-minute epic, Lizard, but the piece is eerie and beautiful. An early testament to vintage and hidden prog gems that let the bands not take themselves seriously, but take the project very carefully step-by-step. Fantasy’s Paint a Picture is a must have for your prog collection.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mainhorse - Mainhorse

Nearly 40 years later since forming in 1970 at the height of the golden gate of Progressive Rock, Mainhorse has been a collector’s item for record lovers to search for a copy of the self-titled debut album on vinyl. They are undoubtedly one of the most unearthed symphonic jazz prog bands to come out of the sand thanks to the Swiss mad scientist of keyboards, Patrick Moraz. Even though he’s best known for his solo albums including the mind-boggling twist on The Story of I while being in bands like Refugee, Yes in his only album, Relayer and The Moody Blues from 1978 to 1991, he brought the textures of orchestral rock, jazz fusion, and time changes that would give you goosebumps forever.

Now we come to Mainhorse. This was the only debut album originally released on the Polydor label in 1971, the album has a hard edge rock sound featuring blazing fires of symphonic prog on the Hammond organ almost as if Hard Rock and Prog combined together makes it a tightrope ride that is worth checking out. There are only seven tracks on the album, but featuring Moraz’s keyboards including Peter Lockett’s spine-tingling guitar work, Bryson Graham’s heart pounding drum beats while Jean Ristori’s bass work is hard to describe but brilliant.

At times it’s sounds very jazzy and very fast, at others it’s disturbing and beautiful, turning it into a roller-coaster ride which could understand why this band received limited commerciality before calling it a day. This is an underrated album which means this stood the stands of time when you have a lot of leaping out of your seat to expected the unexpected, it keeps you guessing until the very end for the listener to have the volumes up to a maximum level. Peter Lockett's vocals are in the rein of the late Spring vocalist Pat Moran and Second Hand’s Ken Elliott which shows on the opening Introduction, as he gives a dosage of scat vocalizations and soaring high singing, while his guitar takes him to a new direction as Patrick Moraz understands how Peter can give the solo a real raunchy metallic bluesy roar as the two compete in the ring to see who can come up with the best work often like a competition.

Then it comes to Moraz as he does a Fugue and a Keith Emerson punch while Ristori comes up with a fast bass line, Lockett’s guitar work, and Graham’s drums is met with a developed power pound cake. There is no dueling, nor do sword fights, but together, play like a magnetic link with honor and delivering the goods. Each of the instruments is spot on and take turns to share on who’s turn is next and give each band member the time to relax a bit and knows when it’s time to come in and play inside your heart, they are self-disciplined when you listen to this and takes the structure well creative.

The homage to Tony Iommi and Brian May’s guitar work is evidential with Lockett’s lyrical and layered sound, but it can be calmed down as the concept of time passes by done by an orchestra and Moraz’s moody organ work on the emotional touch of Passing Years, but if you want to go into the early beginnings of Symphonic Metal, take a listen to Such a Beautiful Day. It seems to be almost a rocking power house and the vocal lines go into unbelievable time signatures as the organ goes into the Deep Purple mode in the rein of Jon Lord with the era of the Mark II sound as if it’s In Rock all over again. The 10-minute epic, Pale Sky, has all the ingredients it needs: dramatic film scores, intense beauty, futuristic sounds of the 21st century as Moraz plays through a Klavio Synthesizer to give it a disturbing atmosphere while the classical guitar is very Reinhardt-like beauty with a twist, and calming down for a sinister finale.

Then, everything becomes an up-tempo beat on the next track, Basia. It has a dance beat thanks to the shuffling acoustic guitar and the “dabba-dabba-da” vocalization that Ristori, Moraz, and Lockett do to create a fun-like sing-along song to get you in the catchy momentum. After this, Moraz comes in the midsection to create a jazz-classical electric piano soul as if Bach had teamed up with Traffic’s John Barleycorn Must Die-era to get you in the swinging momentum and then it’s the cavernous cave mystic sound that Moraz does on the Organ to give it that sense of quiet and haunting melodic structures.

More Tea Vicar sees Moraz playing a different instrument on Glockenspiel as it goes back into the haunting atmosphere in an instrumental way. At first it sounds like a Bossa-Nova beat in the Brazilian city as the band go into the time signature of 4/4 as they play almost as if they are in New York’s Bitter End with John Coltrane and Miles Davis before going into heavy rock territory. Which is very cool, going into the Bossa-Nova Jazz sounds of Brazil with Glockenspiel and jazzy percussion in the realms of Elvin Jones and turning it into a Symphonic force of energetic power. The sprawling 10-minute finale, God is avant-garde, classical, experimental, and fiery raw power to get you in the mood for the band’s climatic composition.

It is one of the most challenging and dynamic pieces that you might find yourself into the pond of prog epics like no other. You have Moraz playing the Klavio by doing a middle-eastern background as the band go into the rumbling film score sound. It’s bone chilling yet terrifying as if Fruupp and Mandalaband had teamed up with Atomic Rooster to create an explosive piece that will knock Yes fans out of the ball park. And at the very end, when you hear the fade out, you think “it’s over”. It isn’t. It has Moraz creating a sound that goes, “SCREECH!” as the keyboards go into haywire mode that would make the listener think “Holy Shit! That’s an ending right there!”

Even though the band split up, Mainhorse are one of the most unsung bands in the progressive rock hidden treasure files. Twisted, Mind-Boggling, and Disturbing are perfect examples of the unsung band.