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Sunday, February 12, 2012

ELP...Can we cut them a break for their Pomp and Circumstance?

After reading the reviews of the reissues of the ELP albums that Classic Rock Presents Prog and feelings about them in the mind of Sid Smith’s blog about them, they were the band that rock critics LOVE to hate back in the 1970s and there was the famous old joke; “How do you spell pretentious? ELP” Emerson, Lake and Palmer had been ridiculed by DJ John Peel who considered them “A waste of electricity” after an explosive performance debut at the Isle of Wight and they were completely ahead of their time. Now for me, I have a love of ELP’s music in 1998 after hearing Lucky Man, From the Beginning, and Karn Evil 9: First Impression (Part 2) on the radio and buying Brain Salad Surgery, which was the first ELP album I bought with my Hanukkah money while I was in the 7th grade, but let me get through the shit here with this.

Being considered as one of Prog’s first supergroup’s in the beginning of the golden era of the 1970s, ELP were filled with Pomp and Circumstances and dare I say bombastic pretentious music they were getting away with it. And while Bob Geldof, The Clash, and the Sex Pistols ridiculed them as “Dinosaurs” along with Pink Floyd, Uriah Heep, and Led Zeppelin, it seemed that ELP were the easy target when it comes to getting the Prog machine a chugging or needing a shitload full of gasoline.

As reading articles about the band in MOJO’s 2005 issue when they did a tribute to the Prog Rock era and the reissues of the albums from Classic Rock Presents Prog shows that they have influenced a younger generation of up and coming bands like Transatlantic, The Decemberists, and of course blues guitarist, Joe Bonamassa who mentioned his favorite ELP album, Trilogy before heading to perform High Voltage 2010 in which the band reunited for a one-off show for their 40th anniversary. Now let’s cut through the limburger cheese, now for me, I prefer the early ELP albums.

From the sole self-titled debut album to the double live album, Welcome Back my Friends to the Show that Never Ends…Ladies and Gentlemen, ELP, that is the only era I am really fond of. I listen to Works as part of the guilty pleasures as in “What in God’s name were they thinking?!” First of all, taking an orchestra on the road with them at stadiums and selling out arenas and almost losing tons of money, equals bad idea. But ELP have always been on my iPod and while the rock critics are now getting a slap in the face, are now thinking “What the hell were we thinking? They were good!”

Now alongside Brain Salad Surgery, the album that I admired when I was a freshman in High School in the 9th grade back in 2000, had to be the explosive live performance they did at Newcastle City Hall in 1971 in where they unleashed their take of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and listening to it over and over again, makes you wonder they really pulled it off with a mighty roar and letting the Tarkus beast out to lay waste over the punks and give them the middle finger.

Listening to it again, you can tell that the audience and that night was a wild performance and gave them a huge reception as Keith would go on the synth would go “SHRIEK! BANG! POOF! SMASH!” on The Old Castle, The Gnome, The Hut of Baba Yaga, and The Great Gates of Kiev and though I enjoyed that and Tarkus, I began to wonder what kind of door would hopefully be open for ELP to take the next step and make sure not to make that same mistake they made back in 1977-78 for the Works tour.

The Enid - In The Region of the Summer Stars / Aerie Faerie Nonsense

After Godfrey released his first solo album, Fall of Hyperion on the Charisma label in 1974, it was time for Plan B for him when formed The Enid. Launched in 1975, The Enid were in the realms of Symphonic and Orchestral Rock as Robert wanted to take his magical compositions into unbelievable world of soaring epic film scores that could have been the alternate soundtrack for The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur combined together to make it a yet classical orientated album that is purely emotional and somewhat dazzling for a ballet score for Godfrey to write for.

More like as if they were a part of Rick Wakeman’s band, The Enid’s music wasn’t like comparable to Yes, but more of the structures of Pink Floyd, Triumvirat, early Rush, and the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway-era of Genesis. These two albums (In the Region of the Summer Stars and Aerie Faerie Nonsense) with the original recordings in 1976 and 1977 originally released on EMI and reissued on Operation Seraphim, shows The Enid’s eerie and melancholic mind-boggling structures show that Godfrey is no fluke, and more than just a genius, but how he conducted and structured the compositions like a burning candle that won’t fade into the night-like sky.

Listening to these two albums back to back makes you wonder how they went on through as the Punk scene was rising and ignored the John Lydon and Bob Geldof bullshit on how Prog was already dead as they trucked along in the underground scene to receive word of mouth and attention from Sounds magazine that achieved the cult-like band that has been going through various line ups and different performers as Godfrey keeps The Enid’s train trucking. Yet on Aerie Faerie Nonsense, it was almost as if it was they could have written it as a Rock Operatic version of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid, not to mention the cover of the album of the woman looking up in the underwater and seeing the sunlight to become human.

There isn’t anyone singing the songs, they are instrumental, but the views of; darkness, militant, lushful, and beautiful touches of the arrangements on the pieces as Godfrey was like a mad scientist when he was writing the pieces to conduct and create different time signatures and letting the players know what they were going to do and how they were going to move in the direction that Robert would want them to go into. You have to understand that Godfrey knows his classical crunches back from when he was a young kid and his days as a conductor in Barclay James Harvest and shows the Supernatural Fairy Tales isn’t dead, but the rainbow flies through various formations.

These two albums are pomp and circumstance and they aren’t like Yes’ sleepy 20-minute epics of Tales From Topographic Oceans, nor ELP’s dreadful classical Works album which is where they were taking Prog into the wrong direction with a symphony orchestra to take them on the road with them in Giant stadiums that were a countdown to bankruptcy, The Enid showed that they didn’t want to go into that direction, but not to mess it up and they didn’t. A must have for anyone who wants to get into The Enid’s music, it would be the first two albums and Fall of Hyperion.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Hatfield and the North - Hatfield and the North / The Rotters' Club

It’s hard to describe about the Canterbury scene in the late ‘60s and in the golden era of the 1970s. Bands like Caravan, Soft Machine, Khan, Matching Mole, Egg, and Gong to name a few, had brought the aspect of whimsical humor, jazz fusion, fuzztone keyboards, and a jolly nice hot cup of tea and biscuits. That and the Esoteric reissues released back in 2009 of Hatfield and the North’s two albums (The Sole self-titled debut and The Rotters’ Club) in which English writer Jonathan Coe, named The Rotters’ Club as a novel, because he was a huge fan of the Hatfields.

The band took their name from one of the signs in London which directed drivers to move forward from Hatfield to Edinburgh and was launched back in 1972 and considered Richard Sinclair on Bass, Lead Vocals; the late Pip Pyle on drums; Phil Miller on guitar; and Dave Stewart on Keyboards. While Caravan was singing about grumbly grimlies, Hatfield and the North were going into odd places in weird time signatures, avant-garde motives, and seeing where the time signature goes and not knowing where the note was going to land.

It's a very odd world that the Hatfields were in, they were always looking for the next chord and having a bit of fun in there, not to mention Robert Wyatt appearance singing different scales on Calyx, but after listening to the reissues about five times already, the Canterbury genre has finally got inside my head to go deeper and search in the whimsical adventures of jazz and beauty like no other.

And while tracks like Son of ‘There’s No Place Like Homerton’, the Herbie Hancock funk of Shaving is Boring, and the hope to be B-Movie titles like Lobster in Cleveage Probe and Gigantic Land Crabs in Earth Takeover Bid, which featured The Northettes, who previously worked with Egg on their last album The Civil Surface, created this angelic vocalization of flying tea trays in the sky, really sets the tone on what’s to come as Phil Miller rips it out with his John McLaughlin take in the realms of the Mahavishnu Orchestra as Miller shreds the guitar like no other as if Holdsworth is watching in awe.

But the bonus tracks of the upbeat tempo singles of Let’s Eat (Real Soon), Fitter Stroke Has a Bath, and here comes the title in which they pay tribute to Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Your Majesty is like a Cream Donut incorporating Oh What a Lonely Time, has a very eerie flavor to it when It comes to the Jazz sound as the Northettes vocalize and scat as the Hatfields go into town making it a fun-loving trip in the realms of the Tribute to Jack Johnson-era of Miles Davis.

Then comes their second and last album, The Rotters’ Club released on Richard Branson’s label, Virgin back in 1975 along with their first album in 1974, the follow up to their first album, their second album is considered one of the finest progressive Canterbury albums to come out in their majestic hour. Here, the Hatfield’s show that even though they were getting ready to call it a day due to financial pressure from Virgin Records, it shows that putting aside the money differences, they decided to give it all they got and go out with a lot of electricity.

You have the joyous ride into the country of the almost sing-along fusion opener Share It as it segues into the melodic structures between Dave Stewart and Phil Miller on Rhodes and Guitar with Lounging There Trying while the swarming fierce of The Yes No Interlude limelight’s on Dave Stewart as he takes the fuzz into overdrive on the Organ as the band members watch him go into town to pay homage to Mike Ratledge. Then comes the 20-minute epic, Mumps which is the band’s highlight filled with dramatic and tense thunderstorm sounds from the four members as they give the voltage a mighty jolt and almost makes it a live favorite for their concerts.

And then, the live bonus tracks in which the band recorded gigs in London and in France with the touch of Mahavishnu Orchestra touches in there on Halfway Between Heaven and Earth, the roaring sound that reminiscent King Crimson’s Red period on Oh Len’s Nature and then back into the calm of the storm on Lything and Gracing. So if you are ready to go on a fabulous ride with the Canterbury music scene, then let Hatfield and the North take you on an amazing adventure that you’ve never dreamed of and just make you sure eat real soon and have Fitter make you take a nice hot bath to go along with it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Peter Bardens - The Answer

While he’s probably known for his work with Camel, the late great Peter Bardens is not just your ordinary keyboard player, he is one of the most under-rated keyboard players in the realms of Soul/R&B and the Progressive Rock sound of the 1970s. His first solo album, The Answer, originally released on the Transatlantic label in 1970, shows Bardens taste of Psych, Blues, and the Prog genre blended together in a mixer and seeing what the drink taste like. For the Camel fans, this is a special treat as Bardens brings friends of his including Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac who was un-credited from the album, Bruce Thomas, and Linda Lewis, it proves that listening to this album makes you feel that you’re in the studio and have your mouth dropped as Bardens goes to work with his playing.

The opening title track, which opens the album up as the curtain rises for the first act, has more of an orchestral bluesy rock flavor between Bardens and Green as they come up with some different arrangements on the organ and guitar swirl into as Bardens goes into the spacey fairy-tale mode on the Hammond. The blues sound is still kicking into full gear because Pete himself was a part of the scene in the ‘60s as a session musician with help from Them, Shotgun Express, and The Village and he wants to make sure the genre is tight in full gear on The Answer and he got the puzzle added together spot on.

On Don’t Goof with a Spook and I Can’t Remember, he goes into the full driving mode as he takes the tunes into Stax town while I Don’t Want to Go Home is more of a psychedelic laid-back crisp warm sunrise and Let’s Get it On is a further up the road shuffle blues rock feel between Peter Green, Peter Bardens, and female vocalist Linda Lewis as they take the song for a drive up the Chicago label of the Blues, Chess, and make it sound of the ‘60s sound and give it a huge twist.

Then, it leads up to the 13-minute epic in which it would later become a live favorite with his start with Camel. The epic, Homage to the God of Light, is his baby as he takes the listener into a wonderful experience that you’ve never heard before from beginning, middle, and end as he goes through a dramatic and yet, star-gazing adventure with his organ. Peter really lays down the organ well as he shows his skills as the guitar, drums, and bass give him a chance to take over as he lays it down to really set the beat going.

Now we come to the two bonus tracks that Esoteric has lay upon us from his work with the short-lived band, Village. The swirling Man in the Moon is a dazzling outer space single as Long Time Rocker, which features a militant upbeat rockin’ tempo with a rumbling finale. Camel fans really should take notice of. And even though Bardens has passed on, his legacy still lives on and The Answer is one of those fine rare gems to make you really take a huge notice of.