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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Queen - 40th Anniversary Reissues

For 40 years, Queen has become one of the most important bands to come out of the hard rock and heavy metal genre. When it was time for the band to move from EMI to Island Records due to legal issues, it was time for the band’s catalogue to give the albums a huge reissue treatment. Starting off are the first five albums with; Queen, Queen II, Sheer Heart Attack, A Night at the Opera, and A Day at the Races. Now for me, I would love for the band to release the Rainbow, Hammersmith Odeon, and Hyde Park performances that had previously bootlegged; it’s about time that it needs to be on Blu-Ray/DVD for the first time including the never-before-seen footage of Seven Seas of Rhye that they performed on Top of the Pops in 1974. But since they were an early beginning of Stadium Rock and gave a huge embark and sound that would surprise fans and up-and-coming new generation of listeners to sink their teeth into; it would be quite be a musical and magical adventure. For us, it’s not just Freddie’s stage antics or his flamboyant looks; it’s the music that remains the soundtrack of our lives.

Now since they received the guilty pleasures-era of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s to go mainstream, it’s always the golden-era of Queen who was a band that gave glam and metal, a fierce sounds that was different than the commercial songs in what people think of the band. The first sole self-titled debut album released in 1973, was a starter for them. The rumbling guitar driven sound that Brian May does on Keep Yourself Alive still sounds like a roller-coaster ride that is out of this world and more likely to give the energy drink a huge boost while fierce and sneering beauties of Great King Rat, Liar featuring John Deacon’s first lead vocal on the line, “All Day Long”, and Roger Taylor’s homage to Led Zeppelin with Modern Times Rock & Roll with a punk attitude, proves that they can take the listener one step beyond. But the balladry has always kept them on their back with The Night Comes Down and sunset lukewarm touches on the crisp folksy touch on Doing All Right. The first album was a beginner’s album for them, and they were just getting started.

Queen II, released in 1974, has become a cornerstone for fans alike including myself one of Queen’s finest work. The early beginning of Progressive Metal is proved here from beginning, middle, and end. Roger Taylor’s screaming vocals, Brian May’s mystical guitar lines, John Deacon’s bass lines, and the soprano vocal sounds of Freddie’s voice. An under-rated masterpiece, the album is an explosive adventure. From the mourning heartbeat guitar virtuosity on Procession, the glorious punch in the stomach compositions of Father To Son and White Queen (As it Began), to the ballad folk romanticism of Brian May’s view of loss on Some Day One Day. Then Roger comes and gives the domestic mother’s point of view, the middle finger with the attitude rocker, The Loser in the End while it all comes to the Ogre Battle 17-minute suite.The high soaring screaming vocals come in, then Brian May’s battling guitar lines, and Freddie’s venomous vocals come in as he tells the tale of the Battle between good and evil as the background in the midsection becomes a bloody gore-fest and then the aftermath as it goes into the tempo dance beat tribute to the Richard Dadd Painting of the short medieval rocker, The Fairy-Feller’s Master Stroke while the sorrowing ballad of Freddie on piano sends chills on your spine with Nevermore as it goes into the early beginnings of Bohemian Rhapsody with the 6-minute mini rock operatic story of The March of the Black Queen through different time changes and preying to the Queen’s majestic feet as it climbs up into the heavens with the angelic yet flying through the skies with Funny How Love Is, could have been a sing-along song for fans to give praise to and the closing, Seven Seas of Rhye is a thundering pound cake that is a touch of Queen’s vocalization and power metal like you’ve never heard before.

Cut to Sheer Heart Attack, the follow-up to the second album released in the same year, sees Queen going into more of a glam pop flavor, but still keeping the metal riffs in there. Still it’s a wonderful album and never lets you go. But this was the album that brought Queen into commerciality and in the mainstream. Brighton Rock is still a killer introduction featuring Brian May’s thundering guitar solo in the midsection that gives him, his moment to shine and let the band cool down and give the man a lot of props as he nails the frets and rhythm like a chainsaw. The single and pop touches on Killer Queen, is very 16th century in France to pay tribute to the late Marie Antoinette, was the band’s first hit single to reach in the states and receiving a lot of attention.

With the hard rock values in there, they still got it. Alongside Tenement Furster, the early beginnings of Stadium Rock on Now I’m Here, and the retro Thrash Metal beginnings, booming 600 miles per hour on Stone Cold Crazy, would have had Metallica bowing before their gods while we see the band going into the humor table with the Ragtime-era of the ‘20s on Bring Back That Leroy Brown and the love-songs touching in there with She Makes Me (Stromtrooper In Stilettos) and In The Lap of the Gods…Revisited are lost classics. 1975, the year that Queen finally broke the door down with their highly praised masterpiece, A Night At The Opera. This was the cornerstone that put them on the map to become superstars.

So while Bohemian Rhapsody and You’re My Best Friend have been some considered overrated and played a dozen times, its time to focus on the other songs on the album that deserve some credit for a good time and a lot of recognition. The quirky homage of the Salad Days-era on Seaside Rendezvous and Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon has their funny bones tickled as the raunchy erotic bluesy rock touches of sexual fantasies on Sweet Lady makes it almost an anthem to Queen’s sound while Freddie becomes pissed with a fuck-you attitude towards Queen's former manager who ripped him off on the vicious and tension rocker, Death on Two Legs. The acoustic sing-along sci-fi folk upbeat tempo of ’39 has its shining glory as the piano ballad romantic love song to Freddie’s wife Mary Austin on Love of My Life, is one of the most emotional killing tracks in Queen’s history and Roger Taylor’s obsession of driving down the highway with I’m In Love With My Car makes it almost an anthem to all of the Car Sponsors. The 8-minute Prog-dooming yet haunting touches of The Prophet’s Song is sinister and yet beautiful to keep you going for the test of time.

Like a sequel to A Night at the Opera, A Day at the Races in 1976, still carries the fourth album like a flaming fire that keeps on going with the theatrical boundary, church songs, and symphonic quantities. Not to mention Freddie dressing up for the ballet. The fierce opening on Tie Your Mother Down is still one of the most dynamite shuffling rocking compositions to get you going while the harmonic melancholic emotional touches goes up with; You Take My Breath Away, Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together), You and I, and Long Away. The humor is still in there with the dances of ¾ on The Millionaire Waltz and the dressing up tribute to the Glam Rock scene and Mercury’s own image as well on Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy, but it’s the gospel rocker Somebody To Love that is considered a live favorite and still is one of Queen’s favorite songs that is still a piece that refuses to die. A Day at the Races was one of the biggest achievements for the band to keep the music growing for the past, present, and future.

To a part of the reissues, the bonus tracks that are on the second disc on each of the five albums like in an EP format, could have been a little bigger for 10 tracks instead of 5 or 6 tracks. You have the unreleased 1971 demoes of the band’s earlier beginnings recorded at De Lane Lea studios, Live recordings from Hammersmith Odeon in ‘75, the free concert at Hyde Park in ‘76, Earls Court in ’77 during the time they were promoting Day at the Races, BBC Sessions remixed, and Top of the Pops as well. While the singles of the pop-orientated flavor of Mad The Swine and the raunchy blues sounds of See What A Fool I’ve Been are interesting and mind-blowing, the a-cappella tracks on the operatic midsection track on Bohemian Rhapsody and the bouncy upbeat on Bring Back That Leroy Brown is quite fascinating including instrumental versions of the backing tracks on Seven Seas of Rhye with a never-before heard finale, and Tie Your Mother Down is worth exploring.

Queen’s music has made them from being an up-and-coming band into Stadium Rock heroes, the first five albums probably needs more of a huge deluxe edition format than just a 2-CD set, but we’ll see what the future might hold for Brian May and Roger Taylor. Now does it mean the reissues are terrible? No, but there should have been more than just an extended play second disc format. However, enjoy the music and let the night come down for you to experience the golden-era of Queen the way it was meant to be.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Heather Findlay - The Phoenix Suite

After Heather Findlay decided to leave Mostly Autumn to pursue a solo project, it would have been a hard choice for her to leave one her fellow comrades behind to do something that was different outside of the box and into the mysterious land of the unknown. So the question that remains, can Heather pull it off? The answer is yes with her first extended play solo debut album, The Phoenix Suite and this is her moving away from the folksy and neo sound of her original band that is heavy, experimental, bluesy, and Floyd-esque into different boundaries.

This was her saying, “Let me try something different than what I’ve been doing with Mostly Autumn and give a real kick in the gut with a solo project that would change the fan base of Mostly Autumn while taking a darker yet moody approach.” And let’s just say she wasn’t going to pull a rabbit out of someone’s ass, but to go into an Odin Dragonfly approach with the Phoenix Suite on these unbelievable five tracks that let the listener know that Heather has only just begun her solo career with a bang. Beginning the suite is the alternative Stone Temple Pilots homage with Red Dust. This track was interesting at first, because Heather originally was almost a mysterious vocalist from MA, but on this track she went from being that into more of a combination of Scott Weiland meets Roger Waters lyricism.

After that, she goes back into the eerie and haunting atmosphere with the spooky neo-prog sound with help from Roger Waters guitarist Dave Kilminster who creates a thumping and yet Gilmour-like guitar virtuosity to set the tone for Heather’s vocalization to create a bone-chilling edge to the composition while Cellophane has more of a real driving sound as Dave makes the guitar into a catchy rhythm sound as Heather takes the vocals into the highway alongside with Alex Cromarty’s alternative thumping drumming sounds in the steering wheel. Meanwhile, Seven is back into the sinister ballad but this time in the realm of Renaissance’s Ashes are Burning-era meets Odin Dragonfly’s Offering of the 21st century as Heather takes the fantasy into a disturbing and mystique level as she takes the song to deal with life living in this destructive yet new America that we are living in right now.

You can tell that Roger Waters is watching her like a mentor and giving the torch to her and moving forward with the Floyd sound and his lyrics with her. Heather Findlay is the new Roger Waters of the 21st century as she closes the suite with the middle-finger message to the men who abused women on Mona Lisa. You have to admit Heather isn’t going Justin Bieber on our asses with this song, but giving it a real kick in the gut while Dave’s sneering guitar solo fills the scenery while bassist Steve Vantsis and Alex Cromarty on drums follow alongside Heather as she takes the musician’s a rough and hard subject issue on abuse and domestication that the women must face, and this song has a powerful and strong message to go with it.

Now is it her greatest work yet? No, but it’s a good start for her to get her solo work going like putting the wheel on the barrow. But from what I’ve heard on The Phoenix Suite, this will be a huge bench-mark for Findlay and the fans of Mostly Autumn and Odin Dragonfly to see where she is going into this new direction. Let’s see what she has up with the follow-up to the suite during this year or next year and where the direction she is going to go with for years to come.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Nektar - A Tab in the Ocean [Deluxe Edition]

There’s always a surprise twist for readers of Classic Rock Presents Prog and blog readers who soak into the realm of space rock and the fellow cadets, Nektar. Since Eclectic Discs which started the reissue machine for Nektar, went out of business back in 2005. And the new label, It’s About Music decided to give the Nektar catalogue the green light and so far, it’s been a good year for Nektar to make a huge breakthrough the light at the end of the tunnel. So far, it’s about to be a magical journey for a revival and resurrection that we fans of Nektar, can take the band and pat them on the back and the reissue label as well for a job well done.

Next year will be the 40th anniversary of Nektar’s second album to the follow-up of their dark and mysterious concept album, Journey to the Centre of the Eye. A Tab in the Ocean, in a deluxe edition 2-CD set which features the Boston Tapes back in 1969, is considered one of Nektar’s finest achievements, the original German mix is still there have been carefully restored and louder than ever. But on the Boston tapes which feature eight tracks has been unearthed and still carry the underbelly of the Tab-era.

This was the first Nektar unreleased studio tapes that the band recorded in the city of Boston in the studio during the summer of that year. Some fans believed it was long gone and were destroyed, but luck, it wasn’t. For the first time, the sessions was in perfect and safe conditions and now being released on the deluxe edition, just proves that Nektar still have a bit of the heavy space rock sounds since forming in Germany.

Almost like a fresh clean jewelry that has been well crafted and well made, A Tab in the Ocean makes it worth the wait to have a nice cup of spicy tea with wasabi biscuits that would make you fly off the roof to sink your fangs over. The thundering guitar sounds that Roye Albrighton brings to the table that rings crescendos, and the early beginnings of power chords, makes it into a stretched out adventure. And Alan “Fluff” Freeman’s homage to Richard Wright and Dave Stewart would send a shiver down your spine when sends the organ into the milky way while drummer Ron Howden cools the beat down and then thunders the drums like a mad scientist as an early version of Neil Peart and bassist Derek Moore (or “Mo” for short) sends his jazzy and diatonic sounds on the bass to the solar system.

It has sort of the blues, jazz, and early sounds of heavy metal in there and it would have made Frank Zappa, Captain Sensible and Sherman Hemsley (who wore Nektar shirts all the time he was on The Jeffersons rehearsing and had the chance to introduce them in 1975 at the Santa Monica Auditorium) made their feet tickle with joy. The rumble self-titled 16-minute epic still carries the album out with a punch and still carries the song like an orchestral soundtrack with flourishing organs, monstrous time changes, fierce guitar sounds and atmospheric volcanic eruption that will send the roof flying off the ceiling. The jazzy 4/4 time signature of Desolation Valley still was one of Nektar’s first touches of going into a groove of Crimson Soul featuring up tempo guitars, organ, and drums sending the temperature up to 100 while Waves has a moody yet spooky spoken-word touch to close the piece up.

The psychedelic Floyd meets Hawkwind roar has made the beast awaken to send an attack on the village with Crying in the Dark with wah-wah guitar leashing out with a hard rock power keg as the lava flows into the ocean with militant drumming and a touch of soaring background vocals that made Iron Maiden do a cover of this power adventures of Space Metal on the finale, King of Twilight. Not a dull or a piece of shit composition on this album, A Tab in the Ocean is one of a kind.

Now onto the Boston Tapes, it has some improved psychedelic beauty like the middle-eastern rocker, New Day Dawning, the dream-like soar on Do You Believe in Magic, and the homage to Kingdom Come’s Galatic Zoo Dossier on the haunting touches of Candle Light. Then you have the militant rock sound come into place for the sci-fi inspired sounds of Good Day, and the bluesy Zeppelin touches of The Life I’ve Been Leading and folksy sounds of an earlier sound of the Rain Song with Where Did You Go. The balladry love-song Sealed With a Kiss could have been written for Love Story, but it’s their first touch on writing a romantic heavy rock ballad while the closing track, for all romantic crooners, Our Love Will Last Forever would have in tears for joy.

If you really dig the Space Rock and Psychedelic-Prog touches for a majestic sound, Nektar’s A Tab in the Ocean is your introduction to get into the sounds of German and England’s own answer to Pink Floyd. One of the most under-rated bands to come out of those two European cities and one of the finest bands that still plays prog festivals in America and Europe.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Queen 2011 reissues....drawing a line in the sand?

With the new issue of Classic Rock Magazine in the wings being sort of appreciated of Heavy Metal and Rock & Roll, there’s always a chance to hear the 40th anniversary reissues for 2011. The result of the first five Queen albums has received sort of an okay review thanks to guest review none other than Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree. Now alongside Led Zeppelin and T. Rex, Queen are considered one of the most influential hard rock bands to come out of the ‘70s when it comes to the early beginnings of Heavy Metal. With Freddie Mercury’s soaring vocals, Brian May’s earth-shattering guitar solos, John Deacon’s touching bass lines that are sometimes jazzy and soulful while Roger Taylor’s screaming vocals delivers the goods.

Now they have been well received thanks to Muse, Metallica, Foo Fighters, and Def Leppard to name a few, but over the few years with the boring and guilty pleasures of songs like; We Will Rock You, We Are the Champions, Another One Bites The Dust, and the cringing rockabilly rocker, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, some would have seen Queen sold their souls to the mainstream devil or give them a slap in the face. Well let’s draw a line the sand for now, in which every person might point the finger at Brian May for not delivering the goods on releasing the early recordings of the band’s live performances on DVD. So I’m leaving that to the other professionals.

I have to give kudos for Steven Wilson for writing a wonderful review on the Queen reissues and while the extras are not well-cooked, but medium rare. But it’s about time that Queen deserves a second chance to give a new light at the end of the tunnel and slap the so-called rock critics to say, “Hey! Wake Up! This is what we want to hear, not that Justin Bieber crap that we are seeing on Rolling Stone Magainze!” And the first five albums are one of my favorites from 1973 to 1976 (Queen to A Day at
the Races)

Here’s what I have to say about Queen: First of all, I love the golden-era of Queen’s heavy metal sounds of the first five albums. They were the first band to get me into heavy metal thanks to the movie Wayne’s World with the song that refuses to die, the 5-minute epic single classic rocker, Bohemian Rhapsody. But let’s cut through the bullshit: A Night at the Opera is one of my favorite albums and from start to finish is a damn killer. Queen II is almost a progressive metal masterpiece with the Ogre Battle suite and the medieval Father To Son. Now I crave Sheer Heart Attack with it’s early beginnings of Thrash Metal and vicious guitar solo that May does on Brighton Rock and Stone Cold Crazy. The self-titled debut album was a rocky start, but it’s a fine album.

A Day at the Races was a little bit cringy at first when I first heard it in 2001, and now I adore the album as the band go into the devil-ism of sports anthem, funky bass lines, writing a theme song to a comic book hero almost would have made them again Guilty Pleasures. I still think the golden-era of Queen still bites the neck of the girl’s neck to give blood and keeps on trucking. So I now ask you a question. Which era you prefer, the golden-era of Queen (1973-1976) or the guilty pleasures-era of Queen (1977-1982)? (I love the album Jazz)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Blackfield - Welcome To My DNA

“Fuck you all/Fuck you/Fuck you all/Fuck you/I don’t care anymore” Now that’s a lyric right there from the song Go To Hell which Aviv dedicated this to his parents. If John Lennon was alive, he would have written something like this and give the middle finger to the corporate music scenery that’s out there on the top 40 hits that Ryan Seacrest is doing. There must be some idealization that Steven Wilson and his partner-in-crime Aviv Geffen, decided that it was time to reveal the darker side of the majestic crime they must have to come face-to-face with. What is really mind-blowing is that the two musicians have created something that is out of the blue and something that might give you goose bumps.

While this could have been some sessions that was left off from Porcupine Tree’s In Absentia and emerging into the post-progressive rock sounds of the 21st century, Steven Wilson is one of the finest musicians ever. Even though he's dipping his toe in the water with Porcupine Tree, composing another solo album, or working on a new 5.1 stereo mix on the 40th anniversary King Crimson reissues and the deluxe edition of Caravan’s In The Land of Grey and Pink coming out this summer, Blackfield is one of the best projects that he and Geffen have been around since forming in the year 2000. Wilson’s lyrics are very much in the realm of Lennon and Thom Yorke in his song-writing material. Like a sequel that has a candle lit for a very long time from the indie prog/psych label of the Delerium-era in the early ‘90s, Blackfield have shown a lot of energy and their new album Welcome To My DNA is warm handshake for the two members to receive a warm welcoming.

The compositions are very haunting, touching, soaring, uplifting, and views in the research to show the eerie qualities in the songs that Steven Wilson and Aviv Geffen have endured on. Like a rumbling volcano that is about to erupt like batshit crazy, both of the two musicians are like mad scientists working on some weird experiments and the songs on DNA deals with; a touch of isolation, against your parents, emotional bearings, and war. If you listen to the songs from start to finish, they can be very hard and disturbing, yet the beauty on here is showing where we can push the button and see where the fire can lead to. The middle-eastern symphonic dramatic touches on Blood, is a perfect ingredient on Baroque Pop meets Raga-Rock meets Hard Rock of this unbelievable touch that has not been heard before. You can hear the influences on the Revolver-era in a sinister mix of the percussion ala Raga style! This could be Aviv’s answer to PT’s The Incident as if it was made to be a 2-part epic and this song is one of the highlights on here.

While the string-quartet Floyd-sque introduction on saying farewell from the introduction of the opener Glass House has an angelic call to move into a new beginning and start a new chapter, the psychedelic orchestral rocker, Rising of the Tide is one of the most romantic pieces of Blackfield’s music. Like something out of the Wish You Were Here sessions with a melodic soaring sound, dealing with being isolated and not trying to deal with the situation of going crazy and your life is like a story as it goes forward for a long, long time. By now, you’ve probably seen the music video on YouTube on the alternative acoustic upbeat tempo on Waving, which pokes fun at MTV as the two members are in a computer-animated puppetry shows them having a dark sense of humor.

The lush and symphonic momentums, makes it a really retrospectale adventure that Steven Wilson brings to the table. But here on Dissolving With the Night, almost you can feel Wilson in the booth fighting back tears as he gives his heart and strength dealing with the issue on pain and sorrow, this almost epic film score that is very Danny Elfman-like in the realms of the Batman soundtrack but with a mournful ballad while the sea breeze melancholic sounds of the Beatles Abbey Road meets Radiohead’s OK Computer comes into the picture during On The Plane. Aviv Geffen’s haunting mournful composition Zigota, which is almost a tribute to the late former Israeli president Yitzhak Rabin in which Geffen got to meet, before he was assassinated in 1995, is a tribute to the man who could have brought peace to Israel and end hate, death, and war. It brings the atmospheric new-age sounds of calmness with ‘70s guitar sounds, mellotron in tears, and in the realm of early Tangerine Dream meets Sgt. Pepper meets The Bends.

The closing alternative indie touching folksy rocker, DNA is where the song deals with what we have done from here in the modern world and looking at the mistakes that we made and learning how we can forget the past and move into a bright and new day that awaits us. Welcome To My DNA is not just an album, but more of a sequel to Dark Side of the Moon that Geffen and Wilson would have made the members of Pink Floyd very proud of, but dealing with the issues in where we are right now, its one of those albums that needs to be played over and over again to get Blackfield a lot of recognition in the prog community and let me be the first to say that this is the perfect icing on the cake for a comeback that is right on for desert for Blackfield to serve after dinner for.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Phideaux - Snowtorch

Almost as if it was recorded for an alternate soundtrack to Logan’s Run, this is one of those albums that would make you go and read you sci-fi books along with this album compose and conducted by Phideaux Xavier certainly takes a darker approach to unbelievable uncharted territories to set the course of a new planet. As the band members are space cadets, Xavier is the commander in chief, creating epic compositions with a few twists in the sections to go with. The band’s new album, Snowtorch, is one of those finest albums to be released at the right time at the right place for the year of our lord, 2011.

With this year being a return to the darker territories of the art rock sound for TV composer Phideaux Xavier and his fellow comrades, Snowtorch is one of those fine albums who have been waiting to hear the late ‘60s and early ‘70s sound of the glory days of Psych and obscure progressive rock. As the two epic that clock in for 18 and 15-minutes long, Snowtorch is a mysterious adventure into the darker side of life. With the sounds of acoustic guitars, Phideaux and Valerie’s vocals, moog synthesizers swirling in the twister, soaring mellotrons creating a haunting disturbing territorial boundaries that would have listener’s go batshit crazy, it looks like I’m beginning to become a fan of Phideaux’s music as of right now. To me, Xavier is the new Peter Hammill of the 21st century.

As Snowtorch is the darker science-fiction rock opera, some people may scratch their heads thinking “what the hell is this?” There’s the beautiful female vocalization in moments on the album to hear including the homage of Eno’s Here Come The Warm Jets on Helix which is a wonderful track that Valerie Gracious does, but I wish there was a duet on the track where she and Phideaux can sing on the track. Now does that say I hate the song? Absolutely not! It has a calm after the storm and lukewarm feel on the ballad and melodic organ which would have been recorded at a dark and gothic cathedral, but needs a little bit of work as if Phideaux was trying to finish the album in a huge rush, but it’s one hell of a track right there.

And also don’t forget the last track, “…” Now some of you are thinking, “why would Xavier do something like this?” Well he wants to surprise the listener and give sort of medieval rocking finale that has almost a dance beat and very much in the realm of Gentle Giant’s Octopus-era. As violinist Ariel Farber does an Irish jig on the violin as if she’s dancing to Phideaux’s composition, she lets him know that she doesn’t miss a beat while Phideaux does a folksy acoustic fingerpicking finale to set the tone of the closing finale that really has audiences dancing, laughing, and having a good time.

Now is Snowtorch a great album? No, but what he does is that he would take a piece and brainstorms to decide where the direction would lead to. Xavier knows the score and Snowtorch is one of the albums that would have your mind blown into a wonderous adventure that you’ll never take your headphones off when you listen to this. The melodies and the structures are so damn perfect, you would want this in your prog and psych collection. And again, Phideaux is the new Peter Hammill and the band is the next Van Der Graaf Generator.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rick Ray Band - Can't Lie Hard Enough

More AOR (Album Orientated Rock) and brighter than their previous album, Rick Ray proves to show that there’s no stop sign for him and he’s become more adult like and has created a symbolism for him and his band that is a retrospective sound of the ‘70s and early ‘80s of Arena Rock that has become a strong resurrection for 2011. Now opening for artists/bands like; Robin Trower, MSG, and Lynch Tower at the House of Blues, they began to really show their true colors not to surprise the audience, but give a full-length high voltage that may have gotten a huge kick and Can’t Lie Hard Enough is one of them.

With only 13 tracks on the album composed by Rick himself with his southern rock vocalization which is almost in the realm of Molly Hatchett meets Triumph’s Allied Forces-era into the world of another dimension. The most unbelievable thing on Can’t Lie Hard Enough is almost a spiritual journey on politics, dream land sequences, revenge for cheaters, and a criminal on the run. It makes it very mind-blowing and yet has a very diversion on drawing the line on the sand by making across to see which is cool and uncool.

Yet while there’s a lot of virtuosity and showing no stopping at the red light, mostly the band really is tightened like a rope with magnificent results. This gives them a huge pat on the back defining the sounds of prog, blues, fusion, and hard rock mixed up together into interesting compositions. The roaring sneer of I’m a Vagrant, the straightforward Bad Company rocker Gotta Be and the opening sax catchy title track that gives Rick Schultz a chance to shine, catches a fierce and tasty touches of Frank Zappa’s Apostrophe and Over-nite Sensation-era.

But there’s a heartfelt melodic ballad to Can’t Lie Hard Enough on I’m Nobody and View From a Train that gives Rick and his boys a chance to calm down as bassist Wally Spisak does his Squire bass lines to create a jazzy atmosphere as All I Want is Peace gives way to various time changes to huge guitar lines with rhythm and lead guitar licks along with a swirling keyboard work that is almost out of a heavy version of Close to the Edge as Rick does his homage to Keith Emerson on the track before guest keyboardist Sam Guinta of Syzygy comes in to create a haunting and moody scenery of the 6-minute, Propaganda.

Spinning Round and Round is an acoustic emotional tone as if Rick is paying tribute to Kurt Cobain on Nirvana’s Polly Says but Wonderful makes it a fast speeding train car that goes over 600 miles per hour with a stop-and-go sign to make it a gut punching whirl as Judge and Jury is certainly one to give a view on the issues that the law would give you in the touches of 38 Special meets Rush’s Power Windows-era and is certainly to keep an eye out for a bluesy yet raunchy look of the courtroom and the issues they deal with. Making this a comeback for Rick Ray to be a huge enjoyment for him and making this a stunning yet embracing tradition of the resurrection of AOR.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Premiata Forneria Marconi - Cook [Expanded Edition]

We have here the holy grail of the band’s live set in a 3-CD set done by the wonderful people from Esoteric Recordings and let’s just say this gets a lot better than expected. Featuring the original album known as Live in the USA in 1974, Cook sees PFM achieving cult status in the States as they were getting a lot of recognition thanks to Greg Lake, the band recorded two shows in Toronto and New York City at Central Park. So does the icing fits well on the cake? The answer is yes!

The band at the time was on tour promoting their second English album from the Manticore label, The World Became The World back during the Summer of 1974 as their previous album Photos of Ghosts was in the Billboard Album Charts peaking at no. 200 as they featured songs from their two English albums and one from their Italian debut, Storia di un Minuto. While the original album was a treat for listeners, the other 2-CDs is the full performance of the band’s recording at Central Park and hearing it from start to finish, is like fitting the shoe properly well.

This was the performance that broke the camel’s back and for PFM a huge turning point for them at a music festival at the big apple, along with opening for bands such as ZZ Top and Santana to name a few, The five lads from Italy were putting a huge stamp in the rock market and with help from FM Radio playing Celebration alongside support from the late John Peel and Bob Harris of the Old Grey Whistle Test, the first two English albums brought a lot of magic that created a mysterious yet breathtaking experience when you hear this unbelievable live performance. From Franco Mussida’s haunting guitar solo that features Spanish and classical elements to the 17-minute dazzling live improvisation version of Is My Face on Straight, you have embarked on an amazing journey of the band having a grand old time.

You can tell that the audience is completely blown away and you are in the crowd shouting and applauding and chanting PFM to lend support and knowing that the band has done one hell of a job in America. Even Dove…Quando still carries the mystique fusion-sque with Flavio Premoli’s homage to Herbie Hancock for an introduction and the folky-sque Just Look Away could ever have been written for a historical painting. The most important thing about these full live recordings at the Schaefer Central Park Music Festival, is that you are in the front row of PFM’s thunderstorm performance.

From the last two tracks on the third disc of the medley on Alta Loma Five ‘Til Nine (William Tell Overture), it is no wonder that the band could have been bigger than ELP and Genesis in their Symphonic and Fusion triumph. From Patrick Djivas wonderful Pastorious bass lines, Franco’s virtuosity keeps the groove going on with his guitar while Flavio brings a jazz atmosphere on the Rhodes and the mellotron to set the mood before Mauro Pagani comes in and gives the audience an explosive violin solo as they speed up the time signature before going into the race track with the William Tell Overture as a finale.

But on Celebration / The World Became The World, this is where the puzzle begins to be completed with the final pieces added. This time its drummer Franz Di Cioccio’s moment to shine as he does a combining thundering drum solo. He really carries the similarities of Billy Cobham, Elvin Jones, and John Bonham combined into one. And alongside the prog drummers of Bill Bruford, his drumming is so powerful, you almost couldn’t stop playing this expanded edition, because it’s so beautifully done and no one could pull the plug from this band as they keep the train chugging for an encore.

As I heard the original album again for three times already, I realize that it’s almost going back into a time machine and heading towards the early ‘70s and looking at the beautiful tower of pisa set to an alternate soundtrack and seeing how the tower would move to Italian Prog. It’s not to say that this is not bad quality, but almost an excellent sound quality and hoping that Esoteric can release the full-length Toronto performance as well. So let’s hope to see what the label has up their sleeve and seeing where PFM were at this moment in history and the 3-CD set is a must have for any Prog or PFM fan to sink their shark teeth into.