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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Gong - I See You

With the sounds of the Space Rock genre, Canterbury, and Jazz Fusion, a band like Gong can really take you up into the Flying Teapot’s and go into a world of the Pot Head Pixies and getting ready into the room in an Oily Way beat. Alongside Daevid Allen, he has been there since day one when Gong formed 46 years ago in France. That and their new album, I See You, released this year which is a follow up to their 2009 album, 2032, Gong is still getting back into the roots of their classic-era of the 1970s.

And listening to the album, I almost cried because it is almost as if they have now come in full circle and it is now complete. His space cadets that are on the Flying Teapot that is ready for take-off are; Kavus Torabi (Knifeworld/Guapo/Cardiacs) on Guitar, Orlando Allen on Drums, Dave Strut on Bass, Fabio Golfetti on Guitar, and Ian East on wind instruments. And not to mention Gilli Smyth who does the whispering on the vocals as a guest as well to lend Allen a helping hand and who has been there since day one.

Gilli’s voice of “Everywhere…..” will get listeners blown away of that voice as the swirling voyages jam between the essence of Prog and Funk combined into one, make it an excellent adventure into our solar systems with You See Me. Daevid Allen’s dystopian poem, This Revolution, is his homage to Gil Scott-Heron, Hunter S. Thompson, and The Last Poets as the music descends into the darker side of the modern world with spooky vocalizations and Floyd-sque guitar sounds resembling the Meddle-era.

Allen describes almost like speaking through the screens like an announcement about what has been going down in the corrupt modern world with; Capitalism, Politics, and MTV and you could tell that he is spot on throughout the poetry. Then, Gong goes into a doomy jazzy bass line done by Strut along with the metallic flute going through a fuzz tone along with the guitars going into a Crimson-like Fripp-sque vibe and Orland doing a styling of Elvin Jones and Billy Cobham on the drums and not to mention, the Trip-Hop psychedelic vibes on the ominous rhythm beat with When God Shakes Hands with the Devil.

Elsewhere on The Eternal Wheel Spins, it is Gong’s tribute and reminiscent to Space Rock heroes Hawkwind while the 10-minute epic, Thank You is a touching yet almost farewell piece. It starts off for the first three minutes as a bluesy psychedelic guitar jam session before it goes into a spaced out ultimate trip in a different universe and then it ascends to head back to Planet Gong as Daevid is giving his message to thank not just the music, but for the fans who have been there with him for the travel, adventure, the memories, and of course the music.

The last track, Shakti Yoni & Dingo Virgin is back to the sounds of the early Pink Floyd again and it’s the sliding guitar and Gilli Smyth’s soothing vocalizations that set the tone of the ambient/atmospheric adventure back home. Listening to this track, it is so beautiful and very touching at times and it feels like it was left off the sessions during the Ummagumma-era and it’s a perfect melodic and emotional way to close the album off.

I See You is one of Gong's touching and wonderful return and album I've listened to. And after listening about four times of Gong's return, it shows that they have show no sign of stopping and the Pot Head Pixies themselves have done an amazing job bringing the music waiting to see where the Flying Teapot would take them next into another adventure for them.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Fish on Friday - Godspeed

Music is always been there for me when I was a kid that has been my friend from day one from the sounds of The Beatles and Alice Cooper. But the sounds of Progressive Music, is for me, one of my favorite genres that has always kept in my pocket since the late '90s when I was in Junior High, into my High School years and into Junior College from 2005 to 2014. The genre for me, is always been there for me whether I was stressed, happy, and sad, the music has always been my best friend to make me feel better. 

And there’s ideas and brainstorming concepts that bands and artists would come up with to tell stories. Whether it's fantasy, melodic beauty, science-fiction, or dystopian tales, it fits right in to the core of Progressive Rock. Now one of the bands this year that completely took me by surprise is a group from Belgium that started out as a project by William Beckers and Frank Van Bogaert that released two albums from 2010 to 2012 and this year they released their follow up album called, Godspeed. 

They were signed by Esoteric Antenna that is home to bands and artists like; Matt Stevens, The Reasoning, Panic Room, Sanguine Hum, and Tin Spirits to name a few this year. And while this is my introduction to the band’s music, this is one of the most touching and melodic progressive rock albums I have listened to from beginning, middle, and right into the very end. And not to mention six centerpieces throughout the album that you might want to take note of. 

The opening 10-minute title track, does remind me of the Duke-era of Genesis and Roger Hodgson’s In The Eye of the Storm-era with the ‘80s sound that makes you feel you are inside a train going from Victoria Station to Paddington thanks to the keyboard sounds of Beckers, drumming from Weymare, and the vocals from Bogaert along with the background vocals, gives it a wonderful journey of a lifetime. Just a Nightmare begins with an atmospheric synth, gentle piano, roaring guitar chords, organ, fingerpicking acoustic guitar, and Bogaert singing about the devastation and living now in the post-apocalyptic world and figuring out how to survive this nightmarish land. 

The rhythm is very up tempo and Nick Beggs’ (Steven Wilson, Kajagoogoo) Bass, sets the vibe on what the character is going through. Plus, the beats really capture the scenery that is about 140 beats per minute as the Sax goes into a jazzy feel that resembles the ‘70s-era of Pink Floyd. Fish on Friday also have a softer side also. 

She Colours the Rainbow which is inspired by the painting by Anne-Catherine de Froidmont which is in the booklet, has this mourning piano ballad of saying goodbye to a loved one who is in a coma and giving the loved one a final farewell before going into a powerful beat while Ghost Song carries the affinity and knowing that the listener is knowing that even though its difficult hard to say goodbye, the memories and love carry inside us in our hearts and pockets forever into eternity.

Callin’ Planet Home is a driven yet ascending progressive-rock track into the skies featuring some flute, guitar, thumping drums and bass with some wonderful grooves that has this symphonic section on setting the coordinates to earth. Nick is just amazing on his Bass and the Flute by Theo Travis, captures the essence of Mel Collins and Marty’s sliding guitar just grabs you and seeing where he would go to next as it ends into a wonderful groove as Beckers and Bogaert give Marty and Theo a chance to shine.

Radio has this remembering of going back in time and listening to Radio Caroline at the time on what the time period to be with your friends, smoke weed, and enjoying the songs that were on during the flashback and then growing up, you almost forgot about them as you live regular normal lives. The lukewarm Tick Tock, has some excellent harmonies along with the clock making the noises filled with guitar structures, symphonic strings, and vocalizations both in front and background as well, makes it a perfect ballad that Fish on Friday could maybe perform it as a fan favorite sometime later on in their career.

The album itself has a AOR sound (Album-Orientated Rock) vibe that completely took me by surprise and after listening about five times of Godspeed, I found myself being inside the world of both Beckers and Bogaert that have the touch the ‘80s pop and ‘70s Progressive influence throw in, they have done a great job on their research on their roots and inspirations. It is a symphonic-prog-pop arrangement that has taken me to higher ranks over on Godspeed

I really had a blast enjoying it and Mark & Vicky Powell again, have scored a home run for Fish on Friday. So if you the pop, symphonic, and prog touches, go ahead and check out the beautiful and harmonious wonder of Fish on Friday.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The top 10 Reissues of 2014

I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and here is my top 15 reissues that came out this year for 2014.

1. Emerson, Lake and Palmer - Brain Salad Surgery (Super Deluxe Edition) [Sony Music]
2. Supertramp - Crime of the Century (Deluxe Edition) [Universal]
3. Gentle Giant - The Power and the Glory [Alucard]
4. Jethro Tull - A Passion Play: An Extended Performance [Chrysalis]
5. White Willow - Ex-Tenebris/Sacrament [Termo Records]
6. Martin Kratochvil & Jazz Q - Temne Slunce [GAD Records]
7. Jethro Tull - War Child: The 40th Anniversary Theatre Edition [Chrysalis]
8. PFM - Paper Charms: The Complete BBC Recordings 1974-1976 [Esoteric Recordings]
9. Fireballet - Night on Bald Mountain [Inner Knot]
10. Present - Triskaidekaphobie/Le Poison Qui Rend Fou [Cuneiform Records]

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Premiata Forneria Marconi - Paper Charms: The Complete BBC Recordings 1974-1976

This 2-CD/DVD set from the good people at Esoteric Recordings released this year, contains the BBC Sessions that Premiata Forneria Marconi did from 1974 to 1976 at the time they were promoting The World Became the World, Cook, and Chocolate Kings. On the DVD, it includes three performances that the band did on the Old Grey Whistle Test hosted by "Whispering" Bob Harris that includes a promo film by their label Manticore and three live performances that is a real gem for fans to really sink into the realms of the Italian Prog band showing their heart and the instruments to give it 100 percent.

On the 2-CD set, the band recorded two performances at the BBC Paris Theatre which was known as Paris studios located at the Lower Regent Street in London, was hosted by Pete Drummond. Who also was a presenter for John Peel’s Top Gear, Sight and Sound in Concert, Rock Goes to College, and Sounds of the Seventies. Listening to the CDs, you could almost close your eyes and imagine yourself being at those shows and just being prepared to be at a concert you will never forget.

The first disc was recorded on May 21, 1975 on Radio One as Drummond’s introduction and the audience applauding as PFM goes straight into a thunderous version of Celebration to kick things off as the chugging guitar by Franco Mussida, intense drumming, bass, and synths done by Franz Di Cioccio, Patrick Dijvas, and Flavio Premoli to get ready for an exciting adventure. And then going into the beautiful touches of Jazz Fusion as Premoli’s electric keyboards sets the lushful surroundings of the genre mixed in with classical boundaries a-la Mahavishnu Orchestra’s A Lotus of Irish Streams that carries a resemblance on Dove…Quando.

Not to mention the sounds of Medieval-Renaissance up-tempo waltz and the driven beats on Four Holes in the Ground featuring amazing flute and violin playing by Mauro Pagani and its almost like they are having a blast as Premoli sings to lend support. The sessions are like opening a treasure chest and just being touched on how much wonder to discover how the band were getting recognition thanks to support from Greg Lake and the Manticore label.

And who would never forget Mussida’s guitar playing on Alta Loma 5 ‘till 9. He is going through a lot of improvisations and just nailing the solos in the styles of John McLaughlin, Robert Fripp, and Frank Zappa at times. The band is going into taking turns on which solo is the best, but they are all winners as Premoli goes into the reminiscent of Darryl Way as the band go into an homage of Vivaldi before having a sense of humor of Rossini’s William Tell Overture.

On the second disc, they came back for another session on April 15, 1976. They were promoting at the time, their international success with Chocolate Kings featuring Acqua Fragile’s Bernardo Lanzetti who would join the group, and his voice resembled at times Genesis’ Peter Gabriel and Roger Chapman of Family and it was for me, the last real PFM album. The band moved into the Classical into the Jazz Fusion sounds that at times resemble French-Prog group, Atoll at times, but you could tell they are having a blast on the soothing turned adventurous beauty with Paper Charms.

However on Out on the Roundabout, PFM goes into the laid-back grooves and having the different signatures of the time changes that would be a resemblance and homage to Gentle Giant as getting into the swirling beats thanks to Di Cioccio, Mussida and Premoli creating a driven beat on their instruments that carries the Fusion sounds like a race car going 125 miles per hour as Lanzetti’s voice joins in to make it to the finish line.

Then on the title track its begins with a fanfare introduction thanks to Flavio’s organ and synth and it’s a foot-stomping yet almost sing-along song with the line “When I was born they came to free us/to heal our battle wounds/with photographs of big fat mama/the chocolate kings arrived!” It’s very catchy on this live edition and I could imagine the audience just being in awe and blown away of the band’s giving the electrical juice and energy of their powers to give them a chance of a lifetime not to mention the seguing into the eruptive version of the reprise on Alta Loma 5 ‘Till 9.

On the 14-page booklet, there are pictures of the band including one of the Queen of England visiting them and the liner notes done by Mark Powell who helped adapted notes that were written by the late Ernesto De Pascale, is a wonderful history of the band and their BBC performances of PFM at their peak and how much they are one of the legacy of the Rock Progresivo Italiano scene of the ‘70s.

And it’s a real treat discovering both the two CDs and the DVD, showing how much PFM were ahead of their time and often overlooked in the Progressive genre. This is a recommendation for anyone who wants to sink into more into their music, the Photos of Ghosts, the Celebration and the Worlds becoming the Worlds of Premiata Forneria Marconi.

Supertramp - Crime of the Century [Deluxe Edition]

This 2-CD set marks the 40th anniversary of Supertramp’s third and breakthrough album released in 1974, Crime of the Century. The band at the time was in limbo after the first two albums lacked in record sales and disbanded for two days. But they decided to reform again and give it one last chance and this time it was the right moment that Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies wrote a couple of material that would later be a success. And adding Bassist Dougie Thomson, Drummer Bob Siebenberg, and from the Alan Bown set, saxophonist John Helliwell, knowing that it was going to be something large and amazing was about to happen.

And once Ken Scott, who worked with Pink Floyd, Lou Reed, The Beatles, and David Bowie as a Producer and an engineer, was brought on board to work on the album, it was a perfect combination. With Davies and Hodgson as songwriters, it was a combination of Lennon and McCartney but they worked separately to write lyrics until their partnership was intense in 1983 when Roger left to pursue a solo career after the release of Famous Last Words. Originally released in September of 1974, Crime of the Century is a masterful gem  that reached the top 40 in the States and number 4 in the UK and was a successfully well in Canada, it showed the band what they were going to do and the direction they were about to embark on in the classic-era.

Opener, School begins with a haunting yet alarming harmonica introduction by Rick to give it a dystopian vibe on the questions on why we have to obey the golden rules and the ideas on the education system as Roger sings about how the students don’t know why we go and obeying the teacher’s strict golden rules and not knowing the term of right and wrong; “Maybe I’m mistaken expecting you to fight/or maybe I’m just crazy/I don’t know wrong from right/But while I’m still living/I’ve just got this to say/it’s always up to you.”

Then it segues into the Harder-Funk Rock with a touch of soul of Davies Bloody Well Right. Along with Roger’s crunchy wah-wah guitar solo and hard rock chords it gives it the idea on how we complain on how the system and corruption is always messing everyone up, just write everything down on a piece of paper and you are absolutely right about everything and just keep your mouth shut. Hodgson’s Hide In Your Shell is an emotional cry for help dealing with depression and trying to reach for someone who are in dire needs who are in isolation and locked up and are trying to break through to escape that prison by looking for someone to care and love.

Asylum which carries the same theme begins with the line “Jimmy Creem was keen/his brain was always winnin’/I can’t keep tabs on mine/it’s really quite a joke.”  It has the ominous and haunting vibes with the symphonic touches from the string quartet and tubular bells of someone going insane and Rick just nails it on his vocals and Roger as the voice inside the character’s head and it just fits well because it shows that someone going into a mental breakdown, they are dying inside.

Then we get into the Wurlitzer electric piano introduction of the riff that has an uplifting rise on Dreamer. And not to mention the bass lines by Dougie, laid-back drumming from Siebenberg, and tuned water glasses by Helliwell, it captures the essence of escaping the world of the reality, and into their dream world fantasy to escape the modern days they are living in and the toy piano used for the closing. The 7-minute epic, Rudy is a real treat.

It begins with a jazzy introduction for the first minute and thirty-three seconds between Rick’s Piano and Bob’s drumming and then it goes into a fast-driven beat as we are on the train from Paddington station into different areas in England thanks to the chugging guitar sounds that makes it perfect as the harmonies between Roger and Rick’s vocals as the speed increases for a mid-paced touch thanks to the strings and then calms down as it reaches the station as Rick sings the last lines “Now he’s just come out the movie/numb of all the pain/Sad but in a while he’ll soon be back on his train.”

The title If Everyone Was Listening is inspired by Shakespeare (All the world’s a stage and we are merely players) with a ballad and the deal of self-destruction on what has happened if we keep doing what we are doing, it is about to crumble very soon and there’s no coming back to escape it. The Piano shows the atmosphere as the vocalization and Roger deals with how we have succeeded and now everything has to be right before it falls to pieces; “For we dreamed a lot/And we schemed a lot/And we tried to sing of love before the stage fall apart.”  

The closing title track is where everything comes as one. From the gentle turned nightmarish views on the world gone wrong by raping the universe and gone from bad to worse and seeing who the real person is behind the mask and revealing true evil.  The band go into the instrumental passage that is dark, sinister, and destructive that mankind is taking over and ripping everything into pieces and the orchestral touches and the wailing sax along with the outro harmonica gives it a final fade out.

The second disc is a live recording at the Hammersmith Odeon on March 9, 1975 at the time band they were on tour promoting the album along with upcoming material for Crisis? What Crisis?  There is some amazing dazzling versions of Hide In Your Shell, Bloody Well Right, Just a Normal Day, Lady, and John Helliwell taking over vocals for a sense of humor of his take of Perry Como’s 1949 classic, A – You’re Adorable. The 22-page booklet features photos, liner notes with interviews of the band by MOJO’s editor-in-chief Phil Alexander, and the lyrics as well.

Mental Illness, Society, and Corruption, it’s all right here on their third album and it shows the band at their finest achievement. And the breakthrough for Supertramp, was only the beginning for them.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cailyn - Voyager

Cailyn Lloyd is one of the most gifted virtuoso guitarist I've ever listened to. Since hearing her work on Friday Night Progressive when I was in Houston Community College working on my Jazz Studies back in 2012 and being completely blown away of her debut album, Four Pieces which was her take of classical composers like Ralph Vaughan Williams, Dvorak, Barber, and touches of Chopin and Schubert thrown in like a bird reading to flap their wings and fly across the grand canyon. She is back with a follow up album called, Voyager.

It’s a concept album that Cailyn was inspired by Gustav Holst’s Planets suite and the portraits of the voyager would fit right in to the sounds of symphonic and orchestral touches of the vision that Cailyn herself would bring to the table of the extended missions the program would embark on into outer space with. She brought along Deryn Cullen on Cello, Neil Holloman on Drums, Nancy Rumbel on English Horn, and the Studiopros of Shelby to add the textures of the atmosphere.

And not to mention Cailyn’s five centerpieces to make you put on your helmet for the adventure of a lifetime you will never forget. The opening title track sounds like an overture as the classical rock uplifting sounds and the bluesy guitar touches in the realms of Gilmour that she brings into, gives it a warmth introduction.

Drums, voices, bass, and synths give it that intense rhythm for liftoff. And it has this ambient beauty of the stars and soaring surroundings to give the rocket a chance to fly into the space touches. Titan has some excellent classical guitar touches along with synths and voices filling in the void and Cailyn going into the styles of Steve Vai as Holloman goes into some intense drumming. 

There is a mellow and fast tempo beat that is unexpected for her to create the tension on to slow down and get up into the rhythm on where the changes would go to next. Io has this late ‘70s/early ‘80s electronic heavy rock sound that almost feels as if it she was doing the score for William Friedkin’s Sorcerer with an homage to Agitation Free’s 2nd-era for the haunting score before getting into the blistering thunderous beat to give the closing finale of the surrealism. 

The booming guitar chords and lines along with the keyboards playing the melody has a harder symphonic metallic touch with Ariel, gives it a real unexpected wake-up call as if you can imagine what the future will be for us and what is to come. But Cailyn gives the fanfare like introduction that is a powerful way to start things off with Miranda, the smallest planet of Uranus five round satellites. 

With a metal feel before going into the Piano concerto that has a Rachmaninoff-sque vibe, It goes back into the styles of Steve Hackett meets Alex Lifeson touches as a homage thrown in that gives it a real kick throughout the entire composition that is unexpected and make you want to take note on what Cailyn would do next. This is a wonderful follow up and a great concept album that I really enjoyed listening to. Cailyn Lloyd has done an amazing job on the idea on the space program and Holst's music going into different planets with a classical, hard rock, and orchestral-electronic surroundings that is on here. 

Just imagine yourself going into a ship and journey into the realms of the planets and beyond the infinite because it is an adventure of Cailyn's music that will you take into our solar system of the planets you will explore from beginning, middle, and end.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Schnauser - Protein for Everyone

Esoteric Antenna have always released some amazing new bands and artists that are part of the label including; Matt Stevens, The Reasoning, Panic Room, Sanguine Hum, Hi Fiction Science, and now part of the Esoteric Antenna family is a group that have been around since forming nine years ago in Bristol called Schnauser. The band have this wonderful combination of Canterbury Prog, Psychedelic Pop, and ‘60s touches of the Baroque sounds of the Beach Boys thrown in.

The band released four albums and two EPs that were self-released and on labels including; Pink Hedgehog, Bitter Buttons, and Fruits De Mer. This year, they’ve released their fifth album called, Protein for Everyone. It shows the bands sense of humor and whimsical touches thrown in and they have done a spectacular job with this. The band considers; Alan Strawbridge on Guitar/Vocals, Duncan Gammon on Keyboards/Vocals, Holly McIntosh on Bass/Vocals, and Jasper Williams on Drums.

Opener, Grey or Blue begins with a fuzz tone bass riff, drums, guitar, and keyboards go into a joyful mood and having the sound of a VOX organ go into the uplifting melody, is very powerful as Schnauser is having a blast and good time getting in a good mood before going into a laid-back Beatlesque touch as it goes into the soaring signature. But Duncan goes into his improvisation on the organ with the fuzz sound resembling the tribute to Mike Ratledge and into the sound of the Soft Machine. And it is a great way to start the album off.

The waltz ¾ time signature of the dystopian title track, has a carousel/merry-go-round touch, has the Baroque Pop and Syd Barrett elements thrown in with the exchange between the members. It almost reminded me as if Schnauser had written this in the ‘70s for the science-fiction film, Soylent Green as the lyrics deal with selling protein for the plot twist in the lyrics that will take you by surprise that they are dealing with issues on what’s going on in the world today.

National Grid is very much of a spacey psych adventure in the world on social media and not to mention the touches of Caravan’s David Sinclair in the psychedelic touches while The Reason They’re Here, gives Alan a chance for Holly to take over on lead vocals as it goes through the sounds of mellow sound of The Doors as they sing on the creatures of the wasp. Split is a gentle and touching ballad that Alan sings with the lyrics on dealing with what to do after a relationship goes wrong as Buon Natale in which it means “Merry Christmas” in Italian, is romantic with a touch of Country Folk turned mellow grooves and adding a touch of background vocal harmonies of 10cc with elements of the sound from the Richard Thompson-sque guitar techniques to go with the flavor.

Then we go to the 17-minute epic finale of Disposable Outcomes. It begins with Alan doing a tribute to the late great Vivian Stanshall of Bonzo Dog Band with a radio-like introduction on what we as the listener are about to hear. Schnauser then goes into the Canterbury improvisation of the early ‘70s that is a real treat with psych and jazz fusion influences that is out of this unexpected ideas and let me say they really know their inspirations and roots very well. 

You could hear Hatfield and the North, Egg, and The Soft Machine thrown into the mix and it is a wonderful adventure of the bass lines, mellotron, electric piano, horn sections, and acoustic guitars that goes from frenzies into a soothing prog-pop soaring beat and an adventure before Alan’s Stanshall comes in for some humorous dialogue before the last 2-minutes is an ascending ride back home for them to give it a powerful Canterbury closing.

Mark and Vicky Powell have scored a home run for signing an amazing band that show they Schnauser carry the touches of the genres. And for me, I have listened to Protein for Everyone about seven times now and I’m hooked into the music of Schnauser and I can’t wait to see what they would come up with next. So if you love Progressive-Psychedelic Pop along with the Canterbury influences as well, then Schnauser’s Protein for Everyone is right up in your alley.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Discipline - To Shatter All Accord

There have been some great bands that I’ve enjoyed as we are heading towards the end of 2014 and heading into the New Year in 2015. One of the bands that have been going on since their formation in Detroit 27 years ago is a group called Discipline. The band considers; Matthew Parmenter on Lead Vocals, Keyboards and Descants, Jon Preston Bouda on Guitar, Matthew Kennedy on Bass, and Paul Dzendzel on Skins and Percussion. I first heard Discipline’s music on Prog Rock Deep Cuts with Ian Beabout and I was so blown away of the music and the structures that reminded me of the theatrics and the sounds Van Der Graaf Generator, Peter Gabriel-era of Genesis, and King Crimson.

Their third album released after their long hiatus in 2011 on their label, Strung Out Records called, To Shatter All Accord, is a beautiful, disturbing, and mesmerizing album. And while this is my introduction to Discipline’s music, they have showed that they can take it up a notch as Parmenter is following in the steps of Peter Hammill and at times Alice Cooper as well to stay true and honest of the sounds. The opening track, Circuitry has the raw guitar riffs and solo, sinister organ sounds, moving piano piece, and the interlude saxophone in the realms of David Jackson that you could tell is a tribute to the sounds of Van Der Graaf’s music.

Then, it segues into When the Walls are Down begins with piano and a jazzy sax coming in for a couple of seconds as it kicks into overdrive thanks to Bouda’s guitar and Dzendzel’s drumming  as Matthew sings “You are alone here/seeing not knowing/beware the shadows/in times of weakness.” What he’s saying to the listener is, don’t be frightened of the voices inside your head. You have to beware of what’s going around in times of desperate measures, you will become the fool and there’s no one to help if the walls come down, just don’t get caught or you will be in danger to yourself.

There is some intense rhythm from the band as Matthew’s echoing vocals fill the hall with the swirling guitar and it fits the void and the atmosphere like a whirling pool of terror to close it while Dead City has a simple and straightforward vibe of the ‘80s. Then the two closing epics are the real deal for Discipline to sink into for 13 and 24-minutes of music to really make you buckle your seat belts to enjoy. The 13-minute When She Dreams She Dreams in Color, is a mesmerizing composition. It begins with a jazzy and moody melody in the realms of Gnidrolog for the first four minutes and twenty seconds as it kicks into a jam of a groove and Matthew challenging Peter Hammill and the instrumentals open up.

The dooming guitar lines, slowed-down drums, piano, crescendo ride cymbals, violin, and the mellotron sounds will take you into another world in another dimension of the passages of time that is an excellent improvisation that makes you feel you are alone and cold with nowhere to go and it’s a sad and moody finale for the last 5-minutes that is a tribute at times to King Crimson’s Starless and The Beatles I Want You (She’s So Heavy). The closing 24-minute, Rogue is where Discipline comes as one.

I really enjoy this track because it shows Discipline taking the darker side of progressive music into an evil territory as if they were reading stories from H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, and Clive Barker while listening to Peter Hammill’s solo album, The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage for inspiration. There are some different passages whether it will be soaring, sinister, and beautiful thanks to Bouda going into a clean yet ominous approach as Matthew’s voice and the time signatures as well to see which area the band are going into that gives that jolt of electricity.

Amazing guitar work, organ, drums, bass, and vocalizations makes it almost as if Discipline had done a score for one of the Italian Giallo cinemas of the 1970s. I have listened To Shatter All Accord about three times now and while this is my introduction to Discipline’s music, I’m blown away of the band’s music and I can’t wait to hear more of their music for years to come and what will they come up with next.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Yugen - Mirrors

When it comes to Avant-Garde, Contemporary Chamber Music, and a dosage of Rock in Opposition, you can quite expect something jumping right at you when you leap out of your seat of the music and sound of Yugen. Yugen formed 10 years ago in the autumn by guitarist Francesco Zago and AltrOck label founder Marcello Marinone who wanted to create the two genres and it was an orientated sound of them with a dosage of Rock.

The band released three albums from 2006 to 2010 and in 2012 with their live album called, Mirrors. It was recorded at the RIO Fest on September 17, 2011 in the commune of Carmaux, France. Alongside Francesco Zago and despite line-up changes, the band considers Paolo “Ske” Botta on Keyboards, Valerio Cipollone on Sax and Clarinet, Maurizo Fasoli on Piano, Jacopo Costa on Marimba and Vibes, Matteo Lorito on Bass Guitar, and Michele Salgarello on Drums.

Listening to this amazing performance, you can close your eyes and imagine yourself being at the RIO Fest watching the seven-piece really going into town and applauding and cheering for them on a job well done. There’s some intensity and shrieking moments on their instruments and the time changes going into different areas that just sends chills down my spine with some touches in tribute to; Univers Zero, Present, King Crimson, Magma, Frank Zappa, and Gentle Giant and they are true to their roots of Progressive Rock and Rock in Opposition and I would imagine the master Zappa himself would be so proud of Yugen so much.

I first became aware of Yugen’s music with the 2012 documentary of Romantic Warriors II: A Progressive Music Saga About Rock in Opposition and I became hooked into the scene and the band’s music just completely took me by surprise. It’s hard to pick some favorites because I was spellbound when I was listening to the album from start to finish. Not to mention four centerpieces. I love their take of Henry Cow’s Industry because it captures the essence of their music and Zago’s heavy homage to Fred Firth is like a swirling nightmare thanks to Botta’s keyboards.

At times, it feels as if they are doing the score to Alejandro Jordorowsky’s surreal western, El Topo, but it gave me goosebumps from the sound of the different beats following in the time changes along with Cipollone’s homage to Tim Hodgkinson.  Brachilogia brings a sinister, ominous, and frightening touch but with a calming moment at times thanks to Costa’s vibes and Cipollone’s sax setting the tension like a roaring beast following by Fasoli’s Piano and the crescendos to give it a shrieking finale.

Cloudscape shows the band their ambient/atmospheric side in the realms of German Electronic Music with touches to Tangerine Dream’s Zeit-era before it spreads through the synth, sax, guitar, and piano rooms and comes together and the magic is working before the minor chords close it off. The 12-minute Free Jazz-Psych-Chamber Rock-Canterbury-Zappa haywire swirling crescendos on Becchime, gives the band a chance to lend out their instruments and have their creative freedom and you can never expect to see where Yugen would go next.

I have listened to Mirrors about three times now and I am completely blown away of the live album. It has a 9-page booklet including liner notes by Sid Smith that features pictures of the group and the history of the band along with Zago’s interview as well. It may not be easy to listen to, but once you put the headphones on, you can really expect something out of the blue for the door to be kicked down to experienced something fresh and exciting.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Franco Baggiani - Memories of Always

It’s hard to imagine of following to pass the torch for a musician to follow in the footsteps of great artists. And it’s almost as if you are making sure you don’t make any mistakes and staying true to the original sound of the band or the artist. And taking the sounds of ‘70s Jazz Fusion and Funk is Italian trumpeter Franco Baggiani. The new album, Memories of Always is almost like a trip back in time of the sounds of that era and in the realms of Miles Davis which you could tell from the moment Franco plays those notes, it’s like an alarming echoing sound that is unexpected and never knows what he is going to do next.

Franco Baggiani has been performing in the Jazz circuit since the late 1980s. He took musical studies with help from Tolmino Marianini at the school of music in Fiesole and he took private lessons with Bill Campbell who was the leading trumpeter in the municipal theatre in Florence. There is no stop sign for him. He’s also a teacher, publisher, conductor, composer, and has done scores for television and theatre to name a few. And while this is my introduction to Baggiani’s work, it’s really quite interesting of him to carry the spirit of Miles as if he is watching him and being proud of what he has achieved.

The album begins with the opening track, Ob-session. It has the sounds and elements of ‘70s Funk Rock with a rapid beat between Adriano Arena’s guitar and Lorenzo Forti’s Bass as they bring the grooves in them of the Soulful sounds thrown in before Franco blares out on his trumpet as if it is echoing the studio to give it an alarming noise. The 13-minute Ghebus Suite is a tribute to traditional African music. On the first six minutes, it has a rapid intense percussion workout done by Alessandro Criscino and Giacomo Downie’s Bartione Sax.

There is some wonderful improvisation that Downie does as he and Baggiani take turns on their solos as Arena goes into the style of McLaughlin and never expect what is going to happen next between the four of them along with Forti as well. It’s almost like a jam session and creating a wonderful mood on there and the band give Criscino a chance to shine along with drummer Alberto Rosadani for a couple of seconds. And then the atmosphere changes as if you can imagine yourself walking around the streets of Paris around Midnight alone and the cars going by with a soothing vibe and remembering the past and the present like a trip into the late ‘50s and then the last two-minutes they are back into the soulful groove to close it off.

The Sieve Smells Bad Today has an ominous and sinister feel along with a small tribute to the composer of Maurice Ravel at times and you can imagine the stench of the river and its smell is not a pleasant thing you don’t want to go near. Then, Baggiani goes into the last four tracks that clock in for 9, 11, 13, and 14-minutes to make you get ready and take note on what he will do next. His take of Miles Davis’ Black Satin from his controversial 1972 album, On the Corner, it goes into a moody yet nightmarish and sinister take from the wailing guitar, bass, and percussions that sets the harsh tones that at times reminded me of Robert Fripp thanks to Arena’s playing by using the diatonic mode.

And then, the first four minutes along with the funky grooves come kicking in and you could tell are having a great time laying down the beats as Franco’s trumpet shrieks at parts on the guitar solo before the chaotic frenzy appears as the instruments collide into a crescendo and then the last four minutes they close it into the ominous void. A Series of Coincidences shows each of the band go into almost very much like an Avant-Garde and Free Jazz touch as Downie goes into the mind of Coltrane on his sax.

It’s the band having free rein with each other while Entop-the Chinese… is back into the rhythmic beats as Forti gives his moment to shine on the bass and he’s improvisation along with Baggiani is brilliant when the Bass goes in the styles of Jaco and Stanley Clarke and Criscino’s percussion does the rest for a quick second and then back into the beat, is intense and raw for the pulse to flow. The closing track, Simple and Invisible, is back into the darker area and letting the listener know that this only just the beginning.

And not to mention the crescendos throughout the piece as the band just go into those areas and nailing it out to see what is going to happen next and then the rhythm gets faster thanks to Adriano Arena’s solo as the band follow him to go into the light at the end of the tunnel, but leaving us with a dooming finale that is chilling and gives me goosebumps to close it off. So far, I have listened to Memories and Always about five times now. And as I've mentioned before in the beginning, this is an introduction for me on Franco Baggiani’s work, I have to say I am impressed from start to finish.

And bringing the Classic sounds of Fusion is still going strong and Baggiani and his band mates, have done an incredible job bringing the genre to life. And if you admire the classic fusion-era of Miles Davis, then Franco Baggiani’s Memories of Always is worth checking out.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Gentle Giant - Live at the Bicentennial 1776-1976

It is hard to imagine that Gentle Giant is often overlooked in the Progressive Rock genre. They were one of the bands that took the sounds of; Medieval, Chamber, Classical, Baroque, and Jazz rolled into one and they never disappoint me. I first heard their music back in 2002 when I was entering my Junior year and being blown away of the unexpected time signatures and how they took it into a whole new level of how they would take Progressive Rock into unbelievable results that had my jaw dropped at times hearing their music.

That and their 2-CD set of a live performance at the Calderone Theatre in Hempstead, New York for the Bicentennial celebration in which the band performed on July 3rd, 1976 on the eve of America’s 200th Birthday. The band at the time was on tour promoting their eighth album, Interview and it was recorded that night for a local radio station, WLIR in Long Island. From the moment you put it on, you can close your eyes and imagine that you are at the concert and witnessing an impressive yet mind-blowing performance of Gentle Giant giving a 100% to get the audience blown away out of their seats, enjoying a wonderful night and a moment they’ll never forget.

There are no overdubs, no enhanced sound, this is the real deal. Raw, energetic, thunderous, and powerful, Gentle Giant have scored a knockout at the Calderone and not to mention the four highlights on here. With the audience cheering and Kerry’s swirling and renaissance moog-like fanfare introduction before getting into an eruptive version of Just The Same and into the seguing of Proclamation/Valedictory. 

By the intense drumming of John Weathers, Gary Green’s guitar taking into unbelievable results of riffs and Zappa-like touches, and Ray Shulman’s homage to Yes' Chris Squire on the Bass lends a helping hand along with the hard rock sounds and climatic heights as if something is about to happen as the band go into the track and reprising the piece of the dystopian society of how everything in power has to stay and rearrange.

They also have a lot of improvisations in their solos. And the evidence is shown on the 12-minute take of the soothing yet eruptive take of So Sincere. On the track, after Gary Green's sublime solo and Minnear's clavinet leading the way, they head onto their percussion instruments. And between Weathers, Green, and Minnear, they began to create some dynamics, intensity, and the xylophones to come in that is almost like a lullaby and at times a tribute to Italian Prog maestros Goblin, they get back into the beat and its very much like Taiko and Pow-Pow drumming at times to create the powerful vibes and increasing the level for the climax.

But it’s Timing that is the real kicker. You can imagine Derek soaring through his vocals and also giving his brother Ray a chance to shine through his violin as if he is paying tribute to Jerry Goodman, Jean-Luc Ponty and Darryl Way of Curved Air throughout using the wah-wah pedal to create the fusion vibes as the band go into the sounds of Jazz Rock and they give Ray the spotlight to do some amazing solo's and creative ideas on his instrument as the audience cheers him along to keep going and see where he would go next.

And then he uses the delay/reverb effect as if it’s echoing inside the Theatre and he goes into the sound of the Irish jig by enlarging the beats when he stops and go’s on the solo. Audiences cheer and shout to get the vibes as they clap into the rhythm and Ray goes into the Roud Folk sounds of Three Blind Mice as the effects is filling the halls of the echoing beats and he does a finale in a classical touch before a drum roll on the snare and seguing into a magnetic stunning version of Free Hand.

Unfortunately, after Free Hand, that’s all that’s left because the tape stops right there. According to the notes, they did three encores that included; Peel The Paint, I Lost My Head, and their take of Wilson Pickett’s In The Midnight Hour and singing Happy Birthday to the United States. It would have been great to hear those including their tribute to Pickett, but this is a rare and special treat of finding unearthed treasure of Gentle Giant's music. 

Alongside the performances including Excerpts from Octopus, the Medieval turned difficult signatures of taking turns on vocals from On Reflection, and as Derek says "Bob Marley meets Gentle Giant somewhere across the Atlantic Ocean" on the Reggae-vibes on Give It Back to name a few, are radiant, humor, and moving at the same time. I have listened to Live at the Bicentennial 1776-1976 about nine times now and its like going back in a time machine to witness the band's exhilarating performance and turning the volume knobs up a notch to a sound of wonder you will experience. This is a must have for any fan of Progressive Rock and Gentle Giant.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Top 30 Albums of 2014

There will be some criticism, but I know its a little early, but here it is; The Top 30 Albums of 2014.

1. Knifeworld – The Unravelling [InsideOut Music]
2. MoeTar – Entropy of the Century [Magna Carta Records]
3. Iamthemorning – Belighted [Kscope]
4. Susan Clynes – Life Is… [Moonjune Records]
5. Bigelf – Into the Maelstrom [InsideOut Music]
6. Happy Family – Minimal Gods [Cuneiform Records]
7. Opeth – Pale Communion [Roadrunner Records]
8. Corvus Stone – Corvus Stone II [Melodic Revolution Records]
9. Tim Bowness – Abandoned Dancehall Dreams [Kscope]
10. Matt Stevens – Lucid [Esoteric Antenna]
11. Moraine – Groundswell [Moonjune Records]
12. Syndone – Odysseas [Synpress44/Fading Records]
13. Proud Peasant – Flight [Basement Avatar Records]
14. Burnt Belief – Etymology [Alchemy Records]
15. Motorpsycho – Behind the Sun [Rune Grammofon]
16. Led Bib – The People In Your Neighborhood [Cuneiform Records]
17. Agusa – Hogtid [Transubstans Records]
18. Machine Mass – Inti [Moonjune Records]
19. Electric Citizen – Sateen [Riding Easy Records]
20. Anglagard - Prog Pa Svenska: Live in Japan [Anglagard Records]
21. Univers Zero – Phosphorescent Dreams [Arcangelo Records]
22. Syd Arthur – Sound Mirror [Harvest Records]
23. The Microscopic Septet - Manhattan Moonrise [Cuneiform Records]
24. Stop Motion Orchestra – Instant Everything [Egg Helmet Records]
25. Three Winters – Chroma [Termo Records]
26. Fire! Orchestra – Enter [Rune Grammofon]
27. Lazuli – Tant Que L’Herbe Est Grasse [L'Abeille Rôde]
28. Tohpati – Tribal Dance [Moonjune Records]
29. The Cellar and Point – Ambit [Cuneiform Records]
30. Hi Fiction Science – Curious Yellow [Esoteric Antenna]

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Arcade Messiah - Arcade Messiah

John Bassett is a very busy man when it comes to his work with Kingbathmat and his debut solo album released this year. And now he’s back with a new project called, Arcade Messiah. The album has a darker, ominous, and sinister sounding from his melodic atmosphere on Unearth. There are elements of Post-Rock, Metal, and Doom-Prog at times to go into the nightmarish world on what was once the happiest place turns into a terrifying city of hell with no plans of escaping and Bassett himself has taken it to a mind-blowing level.

On the opening track, Sun Exile, it has this wonderful touch of Bassett’s tribute to Mogwai with a steadfast beat with the eruptive riff and rhythm of the guitar and drums going at 600 miles per hour. Like a speeding train going into that distance, it is like an intense marathon and you don’t know when you are going to stop until the train comes to a relaxing mode for the Bass to come in as it lets the person calm down a bit and then back into the position for that sonic energy blast like a firing weapon rapidly to close it off with a perfect way to start things off.

Your Best Line of Defence is Obscurity in which it almost sounds like a title that George Orwell could have used when he was writing 1984, it has a relaxing vibe that the instruments bring into before the rhythm guitar and drums come in like an explosion waiting to happen at the right moment between the riffs, atmosphere, and the unexpected snare drums going “Bam! Bam!” like a stop-and-go moment between the two instruments. Now on Traumascope, its back into the darker and deeper elements of rock between some minor-like melodies with a chugging section of guitar and bass and its just amazing on the ominous intensity while Aftermath sees Arcade Messiah go into the experimental electronic vibes with an homage to the French duo Air as if they had work together and recorded the score for The Virgin Suicides.

Everybody Eating Everybody Else begins with a spacey ambient/atmospheric vibe with Bassett’s homage to the Frippertronics before the delirium madness comes banging in with the instruments knocking the doors down for the zombies to rein terror into the town. The driven beats between the instruments along with a leading riff really captures the dystopian vibes coming at you as if there is a slight chance of hope to survive, but getting out is the next hardest and difficult decision you have to decide if you are risking to make that choice.

The Most Popular Form of Escape has a touch of the doom metal and space rock sounds of reminiscent of Purson, Black Sabbath, and Hawkwind as if the rocketship is set the jump of light speed to go into another voyage for John Bassett to take controls and set the controls for another planet into another infinite world as the closing track, Roman Resolution gives it a chance for a calmer yet rising semitone beat to enjoy the ride.

It is a lukewarm yet gentle introduction for the first two minutes and fifty-seven seconds of the piece before the machine is revved up for another adventure. And at times, I can imagine Bassett himself writing a score for like this for the Halo franchise and then it goes back into the moody pieces before it heads into the Crimson elements in there and a dosage of the Metal sounds thrown in there for the last 3-minutes of the piece meaning that he is leaving us on a cliffhanger to find out what happens next.

Arcade Messiah is a mind-blowing experience from the beginning right into the middle and in the very end, you have to give John Bassett a huge pat on the back for a job well done on what he has done with the Metal project. I can’t wait to see and hear what he does next with his solo work, Kingbathmat, and Arcade Messiah. It is a terrifying, beautiful, and an amazing adventure into that utopian world gone wrong and its almost the score and movie inside your head.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

White Willow - Ex Tenebris

Termo Records really know their stuff very well and continuing the reissuing catalog of White Willow’s music. I’ve always admired of what the band have done and with the reissue of the band’s debut, Ignis Fatuus, originally released in 1995 from the Laser’s Edge, in which I’ve played about 12 times, they never disappoint me. The continuation of the band’s work moves on with their follow up, Ex Tenebris released in 1998.

After the disbandment of the Ignis Fatuus line-up, the album was originally going to be a solo album, but Jacob Holm-Lupo decided to go more into the Progressive direction than he was expecting at the time they were making the album. And bringing Jan Tariq Rahman on keyboards and Anglagard drummer Mattias Olsson, who recorded a 2-day session for the follow up, it shows that you can have some friends to lend a helping hand.

Ex Tenebris showed a murky and darker sound from their previous debut. They departed their melodic sounds into that area and at times it feels as if they had done a score for a Gothic film in the ‘80s and brings it up a notch to frighten the audience with the arranging and composition. From the booming and thunderous percussion, vocals, dooming synths, and church organ sounds with an homage to the 1984 cult classic sci-fi film, The Terminator and touches of Jacula’s Tardo Pede in Magiam Versus-era on A Strange Procession to the 8-minute epic psychedelic folk turned early reminiscent of Camel meets King Crimson with Leaving the House of Thanatos featuring swirling mellotron chords, drums, bass lines, and Jacob Holm-Lupo and Sylvia Erichsen’s vocals, it almost made me cry at times because it is a perfect way to start the album off and he can sing very well.

There is a moody midsection between Mattias Olsson, Frode Lia, and Rahman’s spooky organ sounds and the mellotron chorals in, sets the tempo in the atmosphere. They also have a touch of the Acid Folk inspirations in which they haven’t lost in their roots on The Book of Love and struggling with how long their loved one has been gone for Thirteen Days while the emotional piano featuring the classical guitar along with the gothic organ sound, it’s almost as if there is someone mourning for a loss loved one with Soteriology as Sylvia leads in the service of her angelic vocals and it just hits you of her singing because you can imagine inside the church not a dry eye in the house and being touched with her vocals.

The ascending lyrical beauty on Helen and Simon Magus, shows their Symphonic and harder edgier rock sound thanks to Lupo’s homage to David Gilmour and Tony Iommi along with Rahman giving the elements of early Floyd that is almost like something straight out of the sessions of Atom Heart Mother. And then back into the gentle turned melancholy piano and spoken-word speech on dealing with the frightening side of their personal lives with sympathy and departing from their loved ones.

The synths come in for a closing and lingering finale that has this ‘80s score for the ending credits for a Horror film with Jacob shows his touch of a Fripp-sque beat for the two minutes and twenty-one seconds as it turns into a pleasant climbing beat on A Dance of Shadows that shows them back into the symphonic rock sound that gives the curtains a chance to close and not to mention the Mellotron going into a dystopian carousel and back into the darker sounds that makes it a spooky outro.

The four bonus tracks are worth exploring as the demos were recorded in Jacob’s living room after the second album was released. You could see the seeds of their next album, Sacrament that would be the next incarnation of the band’s work. Their take of Nick Drake’s Clothes of Sand feels like it was left off the sessions of Genesis’ Trespass while the ambient percussion and synths with Sylvia’s vocals on the folk melody, Coniunctio is gentle and the earlier take of The Last Rose of Summer feels it was recorded in the early ‘70s and while it was a work-in-progress it shows how much preparation before they bring it into the studio. 

But the live version recorded in 2001 of Leaving the House of Thanatos will send shivers down your spine for Sylvia to shine through her vocals from the middle-eastern sounds and into the song that will remind you of Christina Booth of Magenta. White Willow reissues are soon going to become on everyone’s Christmas and Hanukkah’s wish list. And even though there are some mixed opinions on their second album, I happen to enjoy it after listening about three times and it’s an album that may not be everyone’s cup of coffee, but it shows that it can be tough going through a departure of their previous work and see what they can do into that area.