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Monday, May 30, 2016

Mamma Non Piangere - N.3

Since their formation in 1978 in Milan, RIO/Avant-Rock group, Mamma Non Piangere led by guitarist/violinist Lorenzo Leddi were an unknown band from the genre and released two albums from 1979 to 1980 in which one of them was a live album and then, suddenly disbanded after they did 15 shows in Italy and Germany in 1981. It’s feels like something straight out of an episode of The X-Files on who was this band and why they broke-up is a mystery.

This year, they’ve released their new album and it’s their third and on a new label with the AltrOck label. This was four years in the making in which they recorded the sessions from July 17, 2011 to November 2, 2015 at the three recording studios; Frasca Studio, Studio Barzan, and Leddi Zeppelin Studios. And marking the return of the band’s music with a new line-up including original members; Roberto Meroni on Woodwind and Luca Perreca on Cello, Bass, and Vocals. Alongside Roberto, Lorenzo, and Luca, the line-up includes; Laura Agostinelli on Vocals, Maurizio Del Moanco on Alto/Tenor Sax and Vocals, Ferdinando Farao on Drums, and Walter Prati on Bass.

Ai Confini Della Realta sees MNP doing a twisted take between the essence of Zappa and Avant-Surf Rock with some odd time changes and swirling watery effects from the synths. You can imagine the band having a blast going into bonkers mode as they have the humoristic elements that would have given Weird Al Yankovic a chance to be taken by surprise of their sound and could be a perfect track for the Dr. Demento show.

The eerie and jazz-ballad with Ferdinando using the brushes on the drums setting up the tempo followed by the saxes dancing into the midnight skies followed by the string and ‘60s organ twist is an interesting idea, but it works in various levels with Sotto Di Noi. Laura herself has this operatic mind-boggling twist that she can go into those levels which gives MNP a chance to go into see where she will go next.

Opener, Spostamenti nods its hat to Gentle Giant, Van Der Graaf Generator, and Present’s Le Poison Qui Rend Fou-era. You have the guitars following in the spells of Roger Trigaux’s Guitar, Jazzy bass lines, Xylophones, and odd signatures that will get the jaw dropping with right momentum. Laura herself can shine brightly as if she is almost doing the patter musical boundaries featuring cars racing down the alleyway and Lorenzo almost writing this for her as a one woman musical short on Finestrino.

The chamber musical operatic touches of styles of Alban Berg bring an eerie touching tribute to Mario Marenco’s poetry of Sognavo as Laura’s voice reminiscent of Pierrot Lunaire’s Jacqueline Darby while the two tracks see MNP going into a Marching Band mode. The evidence is in there with Hanno Suonato and the closer, Siamo La Banda. Here, the band really takes the homage to Frank Zappa as if he had rewritten Meredith Wilson’s musical, The Music Man and made it a wacky and insane musical avant-rock dixieland opera.

It’s almost as if Mamma Non Piangere are doing it right and really nailing the sing-along beauties of the two tracks and giving the animated series, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic the big gigantic middle finger and showing a musical number is done right and making it fun and in your face. And once you read the lyrics for those two tracks, you can imagine the bouncing ball is following along the lines and singing them to know that the humor and whimsical wackiness is right there.

I always imagine these tracks could be used in one of the old Looney Tunes Merrie Melodies cartoons of the 1940s of the Robert Clampett-era or an episode of John Kricfalusi's Ren and Stimpy to give it a real jolt of electricity! This is one of the most vital, eruptive, mind-blowing and mind-boggling yet off the wall and zany albums I’ve listened to. 

Here, Mamma Non Piangere show the humor and bits of the Zappa-sque vibrations thrown into the circle and they have done it right. Amazingly recommend for Zappa, Present, Gentle Giant, and Stormy Six.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Marco Ragni - Land of Blue Echoes

I’ve always keep an eye out for labels including Melodic Revolution Records to see what will give my ears a big surprise and hear what magical boundaries has come to mind. Whether it will be from Unified Past, Corvus Stone, Kinetic Element, The Minstrel’s Ghost, or Murky Red to name a few, I know something special is awaiting and lurking to know it’s going to be great. One of the artists that have blown me away is Marco Ragni.

Marco Ragni’s adventure into music begin when he was 6 years old when his mother got him a Farfisa Organ. He became fascinated by the work of the Beatles, Pink Floyd, and the Psychedelic scene in California of the late ‘60s followed by the Progressive Rock sound of the 1970s. He released two albums in the late ‘80s that captured the Psych sounds (Kaleido and Illumination in 1987 and 1988). He was in two bands including Deshuesada, Heza, and Mokers from 1990, 2000 and 2006.

In the summer of 2009, he decided to go solo and founded his own indie label Crow Records and released his first real solo album entitled, In My Eyes followed by the autumn of 2010 with 1969. He then released in 2012, Lilac Days that brings the modern sounds of the psychedelic music. It wasn’t until June of 2014 he was signed to Nick Katona’s label Melodic Revolution Records and collaborated with lyricist and his wife, Alessandra Pirani and did a rock opera about a story between Man and Nature’s relationship with Mother of the Sun.

This year, he’s released a new album from the label entitled, Land of Blue Echoes. Now mind you, I’m very new to Marco’s music and from the moment I put the CD on, I was embarking on an adventure to another world, another time, and another universe that I’ve never seen before.

Along Marco, he brought some help from people such as drummer Jacopo Ghirandi (Stalag 17), Vance Gloster (Gekko Projekt) on Keyboards and Organ, Fernando Perdomo (Dave Kerzner Band) on Lead Guitar, Hamlet on Keyboards and Bass (Transport Aerian), Jeff Mack (Scarlet Hollow) on Bass, Peter Matuchniak (Gekko Projekt) on Electric/Acoustic Guitar and of course Colin Tench (BunChakeze and Corvus Stone) on Guitar, and 1987 Pink Floyd and Dave Kerzner backing vocalist Durga McBroom.

When I’ve heard about this, I knew this is something worth checking out. And right away it’s a breathtaking, magical, and adventurous beauty that will make you think of the Progressive Rock sounds and Space Rock that comes to mind. Between Moon and Earth, is the voyage into the Milky Way introduction with atmospheric ‘60s psychedelia doubling guitars and a mission towards the Moon to give it a different time signature as you as a listener, go through the stars and the planets for the first time as you prepare to throttle through the cosmic landscape.

Think of the sounds of Agitation Free’s 2nd. From the pastoral and haunting Mellotron view of the soothing 15-minute and Hawkwind essence before delving into Clavinet homage to Kerry Minnear as Durga’s vocals come in with singing and spoken with a mysterious twist for Horizons.

Since I’ve mentioned about Minnear, Marco himself takes the Fusion approach and stays on top form. Here on Money Doesn’t Think, he takes it into a funky groove as the Clavinet, Slapping Basses, Sliding Bluesy Guitars, and mysterious rhythms come to mind. From Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Gentle Giant, and Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters-era.

On Canto D’amore, Marco takes a break from the electric instruments and move into the dreamy and gentle chamber flamenco classical guitar textures with a double-tracking remedy in the midsections as they soar into various locations. Marco takes the listener to those deep, darker tunnels and show that have a deeper, heavier boundaries. Durga herself is mesmerizing on her vocalizations and still has the chops.

It’s evidential on the sensitive and cavernous beauty, Deep Night. It has the eruptive guitars with a shattering punch and a few twists that capture the early Floyd and Yes boundaries. All then getting ready to fasten your seat belts for the 8-part suite of Nucleus that clocks in at 22-minutes and 47 seconds. Here, the circle comes fully complete.

It goes through the motions of melodic, heavy, space, jazz and psychedelic. Both Durga and Marco themselves do the vocals and it’s a chilling experience. The two of them work together very well sharing on the arrangements on where they would go to next. There are moments in where it can be atmospheric through the vocalizations in the ambient section in the last four minutes of the piece that resembles Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel.

Not to mention, the ticking clock sounds on the instrument followed by the eerie organ sounds before the Mellotron ends in the styles of the Foxtrot-era of Genesis that gives it a warmth and touching reminiscent for Watcher of the SkiesThis is my fifth time listening to Marco Ragni’s Land of Blue Echoes. Melodic Revolution Records have taken me by surprise of delving into the music of Marco’s sound and vision of storytelling. 

And it’s makes you take on a trip to remember when. This is one of the albums that will make you think of the bands such as: Agitation Free, Gentle Giant, early Genesis, Pink Floyd, and the Rock Progressivo Italiano-era of the golden-era of the 1970s. And for me, it feels like that Marco himself has finally come full circle. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Rube Goldberg Machine - Fragile Times

Since my appreciation of the Bad Elephant Music label goes back in 2015 when I bought Trojan Horse’s World Turned Upside Down on Wayside Music, I’ve always wanted to discover what the label has sparkled more of the music in my eardrums. And the sparkle has come to light with an amazing up-and-coming band from England called The Rube Goldberg Machine. This is the band’s debut on the label this year entitled, Fragile Times. This is perhaps for me, another mind-blowing futuristic debut I’ve discovered. And with lyrical boundaries showing the essence of the darker subjects with taking from the involvement of Daniel Bowels, here they prove that it’s more than just Prog.

I remember hearing their music on one of my favorite podcasts I would listen to that I’ve mentioned called, Sid Smith’s Podcasts from the Yellow Room. Sid would always make my ears enjoy the music he would play on the episodes he would pick. Whether it’s the sounds of Canterbury, Jazz Rock, Avant-Garde, and Progressive Music. But from the moment I’ve heard The Rube Goldberg Machine on his podcast and he even wrote the liner notes for this album, I knew I had to buy this album. So I went ahead and bought the album on the Kinesis website along with Maglev’s Overwrite the Sin.

And from the moment I put on the Rube Goldberg Machine’s debut album on my portable CD player, I could feel that the trio are following in the footsteps of Steven Wilson and knowing that they are going to do just fine. There aren’t any auto-tuning, no pro-tools, and no digital enhancements, this is band playing real and sounding fresh right from the get-go and showing how real good music is supposed to sound. And it sounds perfect from start to finish. And with five enduring centerpieces, you might want to take notes on.

Opener, Background Noise deals with how the deals of fame from the digital ages from sites like a YouTube sensation, can come with a heavy price and knowing that you’re 15-minutes of fame with the obsession of the computer screen, social media, and texting is like being the butt of jokes. The lyrics themselves are spot on as the music carries an orchestral and ominous overtone thanks to the Alex Lifeson-sque guitars bringing forth the dark lullabies and the essence of Tool comes to mind.

The waltzy 3/4 time signature of Little Funerals has a clapping yet catchy acoustic alternative folk-rock flavor while the title track deals with the dystopian fear of a division with a political weapon and rising tides of a distant race and not letting the front line draw thin. Times Square starts off with a touch between the styles of Slash from the Appetite for Destruction-era and Rush’s Moving Pictures-era.

The guitars are going into the areas between lead and riff eruptions before the drums and bass in the midsection go into a Geddy Lee and Neil Peart approach with the different time changes coming at you in a quick second with the Swing-Jazz Metal touch with an unexpected twist. There’s more of the alternative rock sound of a journey that’s about to begin with a climbing melody.

According to the song behind The Captain’s Blackjack, the tradition of NASA before sending a ship up to outer space, the Captain plays this game with the tech crew until he or she loses a hand, then the mission can begin. It’s a great catchy song that we are inside the Captain’s mind of he will win the game of cards before heading towards his ship.

The closing track, Afraid of my own Shadow sees the band head towards a reminiscent of Agitation Free’s Haunted Island from the band’s 2nd album, and Ash Ra Tempel. It has a heavier and melodic side as the lyrics deal of being your own worst enemy and depression with a suicidal approach of the shadow taunting your every move. Spacey guitars from the reminiscent of Manuel Gottsching and Fripp-sque lines come into place, they bring in the switch of no sign of peace.

Fragile Times is a promising debut and it can take a few listens to sink into. Here, The Rube Goldberg Machine proves that they delivered the heavier themes, and it’s a well job done of an accomplishment and for the label, Bad Elephant Music.

Darryl Way - Myths, Legends, and Tales

Darryl Way, the co-founder of Curved Air and Wolf, is for me, one of the most dazzling and blazing important figures of Progressive Rock. As a composer and violinist, his new album entitled, Myths, Legends, and Tales released on the Right Honourable Records label which is a part of the Cherry Red family, sees Way travelling at the speed of light and taking inspirations of the Greek mythologies in both of the ancient and the present day with a symphonic approach.

I’ve always admired Darryl Way’s work with both Curved Air and Wolf when I was in Junior College and their music hasn’t left my headphones. Now for me, I really wanted to check his time as a solo artist. And now in 2016, I’m getting new to his solo work and let me say, it’s very, very good. More than just his time with those two bands, Darry Way takes the Classical and Progressive styles into a scale of beauty.

With his new album, he’s bringing the listener along to an adventure of Ancient Times and History that will make you know that he hasn’t forgotten the chops of the Progressive genre. From the galloping and pastoral running opener of Apollo (Racing Against the Sun), it feels like a new day has arrived as electronic drums, keyboard guitars, and violin work sets the tempo for the story to begin.

Way’s vocals are not bad at all. Even though he may not be the best singer, but he can hit those notes for the race to start and end. He resembles at times of John Wetton (Mogul Thrash, King Crimson, and Asia) through his arrangement. Orpheus and the Underworld takes you deep, deep into the darker hidden territories of hell. It’s dramatic and shows an emotional beauty as Darryl takes the listener into those heavier places in which it reminiscent of il Tempo Della Gioia-era of Rock Progressivo Italiano group, Quella Vecchia Locanda.

Then, he does something very interesting. You can hear the inspirations on the three tracks on here. Way moves into almost a style between Classical and the Bossa-Nova groove featuring classical guitars with a watery effect from the keyboards on Aphrodite while The Ice Man brings forth a delivery of soaring melodies that nods towards between King Crimson’s Starless and Landmarq’s Entertaining Angels-era as the shuffling blues-jazz melodies with a swinging twist of heavy rock on Dove of Piece brings forth the early sounds of Uriah Heep.

Darryl Way emerges a powerful force of playing the violin and the electronic instruments and almost imaging as if he is making the listener imaging and closing their eyes by picturing a movie inside their heads and Darryl himself composing the short stories about the Greek tales of Ancient times. Myths, Legends, and Tales whether you love it or loathe it, it’s Darryl that shines on the rest of the album that knows that he still has the energy on his violin.

Lucifer's Friend - Live @ Sweden Rock 2015

Last year, this blogger just received a mind-blowing eruptive wake-up call by delving into the sounds of a overlooked band who have been around in the ‘70s called Lucifer’s Friend. Now, I’m very new to the band’s music. And when I heard their 2-CD set of Awakening that I received in the mail by Glass Onyon, I was completely jaw-dropped to the floor. It was heavier, proggier, and eruptive. I can hear the sounds of Uriah Heep, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest followed by both the AOR (Album-Orientated Rock) and the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) combined into a full circle. And I was hooked right from the very beginning.

Since their reformation back in 2015, I’ve always wanted to discover what they will think of next. This live "official bootleg" was recorded at the Sweden Rock Festival on June 5th, 2015 and their first performance in over 28 years at the 4Sound Stage. Listening to this live album, you can close your eyes and just being in awe, fighting back tears, and head-banging to the sounds of pure heavy metal at its best that shows Lucifer’s Friend are bringing in the big guns for an eruptive performance that needs to be played at maximum volume.

Peter Hasslein carries the heavy riffs and lead work on his guitar that just will have your eardrums pumping until the early sighting of dawn and John Lawton himself, while at the age of 69, he can still belt out those vocals. I can imagine a young Rob Halford listening to Lucifer’s Friend and Lawton’s time with Uriah Heep, just being in awe and wanting to capture the styles of his arrangements.

This whole set includes at the time they are promoting the 2-CD set of Awakening. And it’s a real adventure to enjoy the set by knowing they are back and there is not a single stop sign for Lucifer’s Friend. The quintet deliver a massive roar for audiences to enjoy the music. Jogi Wichmann still carries the flaming torch when it comes to the keyboard and in the styles of both the late great Jon Lord and Keith Emerson. He can go heavier and classical and knowing that they have got their backs when they need him.

The booklet contains photographs from the show including meet and greets with the fans. My second and third time listening into their live performance at Sweden, shows that the energy and power is still there and it will keep the flames burning until the end of time. So I highly recommend both the 2-CD set of Awakening and this live recording at Sweden Rock 2015 so that you can head-bang forever and ever to enjoy the sound and eruptive energy of Lucifer's Friend.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Syndone - Eros & Thanatos

Syndone’s music have grown on me. Since being blown away of their previous album which was based on both Beauty and the Beast and Homer’s Odyssey with their fifth release back in 2014 entitled, Odysseas, I’ve always wait to see what the band will come up with next. This year, they’ve released their sixth album on the Fading/AltrOck label entitled, Eros & Thanatos. Taken from the fifth book of the old testament of King Solomon, Syndone always bring interesting ideas for another concept album.

From Beauty and the Beast, The Odyssey, and now the Song of Songs, The six-piece bring back more of the adventures to give the listener more adventures that is waiting for them. And with help from two guest artists, Guitarist Steve Hackett (Genesis) and Flautist Ray Thomas (The Moody Blues), Syndone keeps the flaming torch burning for more of the forefront of Symphonic Rock and the Rock Progressivo Italiano scene that will make you close your imagine it’s 1974 all over again.

Opener, Frammento, you can hear the robotic vocalizations that vocalist Riccardo Ruggeri meld in the vocoder sound of an experimental approach. He melds in well and at times there are essence of Freddie Mercury in his sound before kicking into gear with Area 51 where keyboardist Nik Comoglio, drummer Martino Malacrida and bassist Maurino Delacqua create various and insane time signature level that goes into different locations that suddenly brings to mind Rush, Banco Del Mutuo Sorccorso, and Gentle Giant.

Track by track as the album grows bit by bit, you can see how much they have come and bring the string sections they will make you go through the depths and immersive boundaries they can both the sounds of Classical Music and Progressive Rock. From the homage to George Gershwin piano concerto and dramatic violin sections  from the Puntorec String Orchestra on Gli Spiriti Dei Campi to the Brazilian bossa-nova intense rocking boundaries of Qinah, they have done their homework very well.

Then, they move toward the music of Greece that’s reminiscent of Aphrodite’s Child and Le Orme on the catchy acoustic synth groove, Fahra while Ray Thomas lends a helping hand on the Flute on the moody and evocative composition, L’urlo Nelle Ossa. Ray himself shows that he still has the magic and soul in which he brought from his time with The Moody Blues and here with his appearance on a Syndone album, it’s almost a return to show that he still has the driving energetic force.

But with a little help alongside Ray, Steve Hackett brings the Genesis touch into the variations on the closing track, Sotto Un Cielo Di Fuoco. Syndone and Hackett themselves bring the energy and ascending climbing melodies as Steve just gives me chills every time his guitar goes through various emotions that is virtuoso and orchestral that will make you close your eyes and imagine the sounds of New Trolls Concerto Grosso Per I.

More of the ideas that would come into Nik’s head is where he wants Syndone to go into next and where he wants the band to move in various areas. And here, it’s an excellent return and follow-up of another chapter of the band development. This isn’t just about Nik, he’s also a helper and a collaborator by helping out the members on the compositions that are on the album itself.

All in all, Syndone’s Eros & Thanatos, is one of those albums that I will keep on playing forever and ever until the end of time and it almost sounds like to me that they could use this as a live performance done in the style of the 1974-75 tour of Genesis The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by using a slide show and telling the story of Solomon. Let’s cross our fingers and see where they might go with this.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Bob Downes Open Music - Electric City

Originally released in 1970 on the swirling Vertigo Records label, Bob Downes Electric City is like a blaring red flaming fire that just won’t burn out as it keeps the burning energy growing until the end of time. Bob Downes is one of the most often overlooked figures in the history of Jazz Rock. He plays Alto and Tenor Sax, Flute, and Woodwind instruments followed by an eruptive Brass-Rock section including people from Herbie Flowers, Ian Carr, Chris Spedding, and Dave Brooks to name a few.

It’s the who’s who on the album that you might want to take notice. Bob is a poet, free jazz musician, powerful, poet, and mind-blowing vocalist. He takes his instruments wherever he goes and by the time you put on Electric City which Esoteric Recordings reissued back in 2010, you are on a journey that is out of this world and almost feeling the earthquake happening when you turn this up to maximum volume. At times, there are moments that represent bands like; Blood, Sweat, and Tears, Chicago, Mogul Thrash, and Manfred Mann’s Chapter Three.

Now I remember hearing some of Bob Downes’ music on both the 3-CD compilation released 11 years ago entitled Time Machine: A Vertigo Retrospective and Andy Votel’s sample tribute to the swirling label when I was in Houston Community College back in 2008 when I was studying on my degree in Jazz Studies and hearing the sample with Vertigo Mixed. At that time, I almost forgot about him. But cut to this year, I’ve finally picked it up. And the album is worth checking out.

Not just Jazz and Brass-Rock, but World Music, Samba, Funk, and Blues Rock that comes into the fold. West II will make you close your eyes and imagine yourself dancing to the sounds of Bossa-Nova and Brazilian Jazz as Bob Downes leads down into the path with the palm trees following his lead. The 12-bar Blues-Soul R&B shuffling groove thanks to the bass melodies following Downes vocals for a heavy rockin’ sound as we Don’t Let Tomorrow Get You Down.  

Go Find Time sees Bob Downes heading into a film score for one of the Blaxploitation films of the golden-era of the 1970s. The brass section followed by shuffling guitars and bass create a mysterious film-noir roar in the styles between Henry Mancini and Quincy Jones while the catchy melodies erupt with an explosion to driven proportions with his sax flying with insane improvisations by Walking On.

The motorcycling free-jazz improvisation driven punch thanks to the funky ‘60s heavy guitar licks with the brasses and shrieking saxes go into overdrive that will have momentum jaw-dropping to go through the Crush Hour before mellowing down with the flute of who we are as strangers and consciousness to a new horizon with In Your Eyes as the essence of the homage of the late great Terry Kath comes to mind brings the tour de force with a sonic ascending touch.

Then in the end we head towards the light for an amazing party into the sunset. Both Piccadilly Circles and Gonna Take a Journey, sees Bob and the team head into a mind-boggling and eruptive yet explosive finale. The 8-page booklet contains liner notes by both Sid Smith and Bob Downes himself as they talk about the making of the album and Bob describing how long it took time to make and record the album.

This is one of the most heart-stopping albums I’ve encountered from beginning to end. I nearly dropped to the floor from the moment I put the CD on and embark on Bob Downes’ journey right to the very end. Esoteric knows their Jazz Rock when it comes to this. I will delve into more of Downes’ music. 

Schooltree - Rise

Now for me, I have a soft spot of Female Progressive Rock Bands and Artists. From the realms of Renaissance, Bent Knee, Julian’s Treatment, Earth and Fire, Blood Ceremony, Purson, Curved Air, Kate Bush, Ancient Bards, and Within Temptation to name a few. It isn’t just a boy’s club, but to give honors due, it’s time to give the women a huge amount of credit they deserve in the family trees of Progressive Rock. And one of the artist that has taken me to another level, is Lainey Schooltree.

Lainey Schooltree is a very busy woman when it comes to her work with The Steamy Bohemians, Jerkus Circus, and Bent Wit Cabaret. I first became aware of Lainey’s music when I’ve heard some of the samples of her 2013 debut album, Rise on her bandcamp website. I was completely blown away by the way she sings and the way she writes and produce. She carries the torch of Kate Bush and knowing that she has amount of shoes to fill in.

I went ahead and bought the album straight away. And from start to finish, I was jaw-dropped right from the moment I put the CD on. There are influences from Queen, early Genesis, Supertramp, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, MoeTar, Randy Newman, and Rush combined into a complete full circle. Alongside Lainey herself who plays piano and sings, she brought help including Jordan Ross on Drums, Brendan Burns on Guitar, and Derek Van Wormer on Electric/Upright Bass.

Heavenside starts off with a gloomy haunting guitar improvisation that Brendan gives into a mourning situation as if he is channeling David Gilmour before Ross’ militant drum funeral march. Here, Lainey channels the essence of Peter Hammill and Moorea Dickason (MoeTar) in her vocals as if she is giving a haunting tale with a soaring twist as the rhythm heads into the heavenly-sky before Brendan’s melody channels her vocalization and erupts into a gigantic roar on his improvisation.

Opener, Six Feet Up is a blaring and melodic waltz done in the time signature of 3/4 which pulls the psych and heavy wah-wah guitars, concerto piano of a Broadway melody, and channeling Kate Bush’s The Kick Inside-era while Today channels the late 1890s and 1910s with piano and banjo in the styles of Scott Joplin and Newman’s writing arrangements as if Lainey herself shows a bit of humor in her melody in a Ragtime rhythm with an homage to Soft Machine’s Slightly All the Time at the very end thanks to Lainey’s vocalizations.

But it’s Lainey’s usage of the vocal harmonizer as she brings the experimental and futuristic arrangements with different tracking of where her vocals go into those areas that are soothing and uplifting to stand up on the title-track. But on Everyman, it transform into a Blues Rock shuffle from Piano and Guitar that suggests of Pink Floyd’s obscure composition, Biding My Time as Brendan himself exercises the resonance of his guitar work.

Brendan channels Brian May’s work as he sends it to the early Queen albums from Queen II and A Night at the Opera which is evidential on the closing track, Reprise. Vocal harmonies and heavier/symphonic structured with a higher ranger, they close it off with a haunting feedback before fading off.

Lainey delivers a promising debut. And this year she is working on a follow-up in which it’s a rock-opera entitled Hererotopia which she helped crowd-fund on Kickstarter and with achieve support from people like; Amanda Palmer, Barry Crimmins, Aimee Mann, and Margaret Cho, I can’t wait to hear she is going to do with this and where she is going to take to follow in the footsteps of the Progressive Rock genre. But all in all, with Rise, it feels like a breath of fresh air.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Panzerpappa - Pestrottedans

Since 2012 of my re-introduction of the Rock In Opposition movement thanks to the Romantic Warriors series from the realms of Jose Zegarra Holder and Adele Schmidt, I have a very strange admiration of a group from Norway called Panzerpappa. Now, I first heard their music on Sid Smith’s Podcasts from the Yellow Room when he played one of their tracks from their fifth album, Astromalist released on the Rune Grammofon label. They have formed back in 1998 and have released five albums since then.

And then I remember buying the fifth album on Wayside Music and I played the whole thing through and love it. Then, I almost forgot about them. It wasn’t until I think it was Prog Rock Deep Cuts with Ian Beabout that made me fell in love with Panzerpappa again. This year, they’ve released their sixth album entitled Pestrottedans in which I went ahead and bought from The Laser's Edge website. And it’s their label debut with AltrOck Records. The name of the album translates to, “Dance of the Plague Rat.”

The name of it came through when drummer Trond Gjellum wrote this as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to his wife, Tone. After her trip to Morocca, she realized that she didn’t feel well. So Trond went on Google and concluded that she had the plague and that she could be his plague rat. So, in order to make her feel better, he insisted to have a dance with her to an early draft that Trond was working on. And soon, the name of the album was born.

You could tell that Panzerpappa had a real sense of humor when it comes to music. Following in the footsteps of the RIO bands including Decibel, Henry Cow, Present, and the late great Grand Wazoo himself, Frank Zappa, this is a real knock-out adventure to sink your teeth into. Here the quintet bring a wacky and powerful ride to get you off the couch and enjoy of what is about to come.

Now mind you, earlier in another review, I’ve mentioned I have a love of the Norway Prog scene, and now adding Panzerpappa to the list, let’s just say, it’s about to get bigger every time something special that awaits for me. Recorded at Avant Audio between from June to November of 2014 and mixed and mastered by the great Udi Koomran at Ginger’s Studio in Tel Aviv from April to October of last year, Panzerpappa pull together as a team.

Barkus I Vinterland brings a catchy avant-garde bossa-nova rhythm thanks to Hans-Petter Alfredsen’s homage to the late great Graham Bond as he takes his Organ into that mellowing groove that resembles the Love Is The Law-era followed by Steinar Borve’s chilling saxophone walk on the streets in a dusty hot evening starry knight. Between the opener, Spadom and the seguing title track, it has this quality of different styles and mid-fast tempos for an insane dance.

The woodwinds and guitar between Jarle Storlokken and Borve along with bassist Anders K. Krabberod and the insane percussion work of Trond who brings the styles of Bill Bruford that comes to mind and Christian Vander of Magma. There’s also a fantasy side on the title track of the last 2-minutes of the composition as it heads into a dreamy landscape thanks to Alfredsen’s atmospheric beauty and jazzier chills of Borve’s sax before kicking into overdrive as Jarle channels Frank Zappa and Roger Trigaux (Univers Zero/Present).

Landsbysladder 3 deals with the discussion on the pros and cons of small-town gossip. Jarle shines like a magician as he is very much like a painter. He improvises through various melodies on the frets in different time signatures through the different formats of melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic improvisations. But in the midsection, there’s a Canterbury vibe I could feel in the style of Egg and early Soft Machine into the mix with a Crimson-sque twist.

Goda’ Gomorrah channels the haunting ominous post-apocalyptic nightmare of hell. The ‘80s score resembling between Goblin, Dario Argento, distorted guitars, and synths. Close your eyes and imagine Claudio Simonetti could have used this during the score for Argento’s Tenebrae. It is a chilling finale to close the album and paying homage to the Italian Prog masters, is a beautiful, frightening, and menacing tribute.

This is my third time listening to Pestrottedans. And now after listening to those three moments of their music, I adore Panzerpappa. AltrOck have never disappointed me when it comes to Rock In Opposition and the Rock Progressivo Italiano bands. If you love Frank Zappa, the Canterbury scene, King Crimson, Univers Zero, Present, Decibel, and Goblin, then delve into the mysteries and wonders of Panzerpappa.

The Move - Shazam (Deluxe Edition)

This 2-CD set reissued by Esoteric Recordings, consists of The Move’s second album released Shazam. Originally released in 1970 on the Regal Zonophone label, the band’s follow up to their sole self-titled debut album in 1968, shows a departure from their Psych-Pop single charted success and more into a symphonic, glam, and hard rock approach. When the album was released in February of that year, it was a commercial disappointment. Many years later, it’s considered The Move’s classic and accomplished release.

Things weren’t doing so well in the history of the band’s career. The promo campaign which was done by their manager, Tony Secunda for their single Flowers In the Rain, showed a cartoon postcard without the band’s consent, of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Harold Wilson in bed with Marcia Williams in which was his secretary. Harold Wilson himself sued the group for libel and they had to pay the costs including the song royalties. This also marked the beginning of the end of the Band’s career.

Ace Kefford, founder, bassist and vocalist suffered a nervous breakdown and he was let go of the band because of the danger he would put the band in as he would embark a solo career as Trevor Burton took over by switching from Guitar to Bass. After the successful single of the surreal psychedelic-mellotron beauty of Blackberry Way and the failed charted bluesy-classical hard rock styles of Wild Tiger Woman, Burton left the band after a fight between him and Bev Bevan as he embarked on a blues career and formed a new supergroup named, Balls.

Enter bassist Rick Price. Despite the situations of what was going on, Shazam is still ahead of its time and the recognitions, finally deserved in a big, big way. Now onto the album. It begins with the ascending turned heavier glam-rock roar Hello Susie. With double-tracking vocals, rhythm and punching riffs, Roy Wood sings amazingly and with a bellowing growl that shows he’s delivering a lot of energy thanks to the pummeling drumming that Bev gives.

Tony Visconti’s string and bass arrangements, gives it a pastoral advantage on the acoustic baroque styles of Beautiful Daughter. Carl Wayne just gives me chills on his vocals on this song both mellowing and higher styles on this song thanks to Roy’s acoustic rhythm as the three of them (Wood, Wayne, and Visconti) to take a break from the heavy rock sounds and move into the classical orchestral styles in which Roy admires.

Then, they head back into the insanity ward with a return of Cherry Blossom Clinic (Revisited). Carl does the spoken narration of the mental patient as he goes calm thanks to the acoustic guitar intro before going into madness with the hard rock thump. Here, this is where the early beginnings of Progressive Rock comes to mind before heading into the homage of composers of classical melodies from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, Paul Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and Tchaikovsky’s Chinese Dance (Nutcracker Suite).

Their take of Ars Nova’s Fields of People, sees The Move heading into the psychedelic raga-rock styles at 10-minutes and 9 seconds. It starts off with a folky jig-a-jag acoustic rhythm before the rocking harmonies and vocalizations before ending with the last 2-minutes in the raga-rock of the Indian tribe that starts calm and into a mid-fast tempo and resembling between East of Eden and The Who’s Baba O’Riley.

The spoken dialog of Carl Wayne which is evident on the second track, is him asking people on the streets of their take and opinion about Pop Music with an old lady, a young person, and a Taxi Driver. The fifth track, their take of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s Don’t Make My Baby Blue delivers another crunching powder keg ready to erupt. The heavy riffs with a wah-wah pedal and mid-tempo sounds and Carl’s vocals is a heavy nugget that will soon be the early sounds of ‘70s Glam Rock of both Bowie and T. Rex.

The closing track, a haunting and gentle take of Tom Paxton’s The Last Thing On My Mind, gives essence of their homage to their heroes, The Byrds and the eastern rock sounds thanks to Roy Wood’s guitar styles and Rick Price’s Bass has the fuzz sound gives it an emotional yet delicate change of the band’s history. The bonus tracks on here feature the singles including the psych-pop adventure of riding on the Omnibus, the continuation of a pastoral baroque folk-rock acoustic mellotron mid-second of Curly.

Elsewhere there is a dazzling orchestral sound of Carl’s shining moment of A Certain Something, the stereo mix of Wild Tiger Woman, demos, and the second disc features more of the BBC sessions in which they did from 1968 to 1969 including covers of Neil Diamond (Kentucky Woman), Simon and Garfunkel (Sound of Silence), Spooky Tooth (Evil Woman), Erma Franklin’s mellowing ballad (Piece of my Heart), The Nazz featuring Todd Rundgren (Open My Eyes), Beach Boys (California Girls), and Dion (Abraham, Martin, and John).

The 20-page booklet contains liner notes by Mark Paytress about the making of the album and the end of the chapter of The Move’s history. It contains photos of the band, review promo, and a poster of the promos as well. Carl would soon leave the Move after the release of Shazam. Enter Jeff Lynne of The Idle Race in 1970.

To Be Continued….

Bent Knee - Say So

Bent Knee have really come a long way since arriving in the scene in 2009 when they were students at Boston's Berklee College of Music. And of course my introduction to hearing their music on Prog Rock Deep Cuts with Ian Beabout. It was announced last year in 2015 that they were signed to a new label with Cuneiform Records. And now finally in 2016, they have released their third album and follow up to Shiny Eyed Babies with the release of Say So. Here, Bent Knee take the boundaries of going forward to see what lies ahead and knowing what is the next logical step for them.

The lyrics deal with darker themes including personal demons, unwanted situations, and the difficulty of conquering them. It has a chilling atmosphere. Not to mention to carry both the Avant-Rock, Alternative Rock, and Avant-Pop approach. Courtney Swain’s vocals are still intense and powerful to follow in the footsteps of Laura Veirs, Tori Amos, and Regine Chassagne of the Arcade Fire.

The album itself, it’s spellbinding, eruptive, and hypnotic. Not to mention the seven highlights on here that will make you say “Wow!” and to take note. Leak Water starts with the guitars sounding like a ticking clock as if it's waiting for the alarms to go off at any second. With mid-tempo rhythms and textures by adding the colors with haunting sections before erupting the sounds of someone kicking the door down with a hardcore punch.

Counselor feels like something straight out of a collaboration between Tim Burton, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and David Lynch as if all three of them had worked together by directing an episode of Twin Peaks. Lyrics dealing about meeting with a mental patient with a schizophrenic disorder as Courtney herself nails it down of portraying the character in the composition. It feels almost as if Bent Knee wrote a mini rock opera behind this song.

It portrays the patient as she is going through a good and insane vocal arrangement. With quirky vibes to transform into an insane Punk-Rock momentum. Gavin’s drums are thumping with a catchy twist as Ben Levine’s Guitar and Jessica Kion’s edgy Bass, sets it at the right level. There is some resemblance at the very end also of Linda Perry’s Knock Me Out with a nightmarish end.

The ticking clock continues with Eve for the first minute and 43 seconds before turning into a screeching and roaring powder keg as the instruments head towards total annihilation! And then it slowly heads back into the gentle momentum as the prisoners try to escape the hell they are in by dreaming as if they are taking control the sanatorium with a throttle into the styles of Sonic Youth and then moving back and realizing it’s a dream and knowing there’s no escape.

It is a compelling yet sad and emotional composition. Bent Knee give Ben Levine a chance to take center stage. With the short instrumental piece of Transition, he creates an approach to a misty cavernous ambient surrounding between Thurston Moore and David Gilmour before seguing into Nakami. Here, Courtney channels her tributes between Laura Veirs, Carole King, and Randy Newman.

With watery effects and symphonic chamber music heading upwards of alluring beauty. And now, this is where they return to the wackiness and back into a humor approach. On Commercial, Bent Knee take their homage to the essence of Frank Zappa, Mr. Bungle, and Italian RIO/Avant-Prog group, Loomings. They poke fun at the ads and infomericals with a bit of the styles of a fast-talk rap in the styles of Micro-Machines master, John Moschitta.

Good Girl is a ghostly and supernatural composition. It’s soon for me I hope, planning hopefully to be a live favorite one day and having an eerie sinister yet lullaby-sque ending. Both Courtney and Jessica sends chills down through the spine as if they’re right behind you of what she’s going through and there at times these Dalek vocals coming in while Chris Baum’s violin sends the emotional tone of what is to be and what is to come.

Bent Knee’s Say So is for me, not just a groundbreaking album, but a mysterious, deep, dark, and overwhelming achievement they have unleashed this year in 2016 on their label debut with Cuneiform Records. They have the gothic, the alternative, and tragic sides of their lyrical boundaries from what they have brought to the table with its power and electrical voltage that comes with it. With the sinister twists and turns, they will give you a big jump from the beginning to the very end.

Greg Lake - Greg Lake / Manoeuvres

After the break-up of Emerson, Lake and Palmer in 1979 with the disastrous final release of Love Beach, Greg Lake was at an uncertain crossroads on what he wanted to do next. He had to decide on where he was going to go as the beginning of the 1980s was about to open the doors for him. He went to Los Angeles and recorded some work with Toto and help from the great guitarist Gary Moore of Thin Lizzy.

Alongside Moore, he brought Tristram Margetts who he worked with on the production level with the short-lived trio, Spontaneous Combustion on Bass, the late Tommy Eyre (Gerry Rafferty, Michael Schenker, and John Marshall) on Keyboards, and Ed McKenna (Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Tear Gas, and Rory Gallagher) on Drums. His first sole self-titled debut album was originally released on the Chrysalis label in 1981.

This is a part of a 2-CD set which contains his first two solo albums including this and Manoeuvers which was released in 1983. Both of them are Re-mastered and approved by Greg Lake himself. There’s a heavier, AOR, and mellowing side to Greg Lake who still carries a bit of the Progressive side on here, but moving away from the ELP sound and getting back to his roots with help from his friends.

From the fast-driven galloping riffs and virtuosity done by Moore in which he thunders through his guitar and McKenna’s drums and Eyre’s organ/synths setting the post-apocalyptic warnings of never coming back of world gone horribly wrong for the Nuclear Attack to a bad girl’s dark side of ruining someone’s life with a killer bluesy groove and AOR synths on the collaboration between Greg and Bob Dylan in which it makes it a very interesting ideas with Love You Too Much, Greg is not fluffing around and he can nails those vocals and shows that he’s got the goods.

He and Moore really have a creative motive on here. You can hear the melodic beauty thrown in on the ballads from the softer sides of Greg with soaring compositions of The Lie, Let Me Love You Once, and It Hurts. Gary Moore’s passages just gives me chills and not just because he’s an excellent guitar player, but the way he just takes it into the hard rock and blues approach and hit those notes as Lake himself shows Moore to head into the higher levels in the compositions.

After the release of his solo debut album, it did well, but the sales didn’t approach on what he wanted to go. Most artist wanted as I’ve mentioned they don’t want to be pigeonholed for being just in a big successful band. For example with Peter Gabriel and Sting, they’ve achieved critical success after leaving both Genesis and The Police. And for Greg Lake, an amazing and talented songwriter, it’s hard to reach through that level to be successful. And as Randy Newman said, “It’s Lonely at the Top.”

Two years later, he released his follow up, his second album entitled, Manoeuvers. There is the both the heavy rocking sounds and the power ballads that are on here. Again, the evidence is there on the first and last five tracks between both Hard and Melodic Rock. Eyre brings forth more of the powerful keyboard elements between the synths and organ followed by the eruptive roars of Moore himself and McKenna’s drumming to follow in their steps.

Not to mention a contribution from Sweet guitarist, Andy Scott with the bitter-touching beauty of Greg’s take of Famous Last Words that resembles a soulful ballad. Here on his second album, it’s an exit from the ELP-era and heading towards into where bands like Asia, Kayak, Genesis, and Styx were heading towards into the early part of the 1980s. There are some amazing moments on here.

Tommy Eyre’s Organ blares into the night as if driving down the highway for I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love Tonight. I can hear the styles of Golden Earring’s Moontan-era in the style of Are You Receiving Me? Elsewhere, the acoustic-haunting composition on the struggle of being famous can come with a heavy price with the karma coming towards you with a Slave to Love.

The electronic talking sounds bring the mystery and the essence of Hall & Oates comes to mind of Paralysed while Haunted sees Greg bringing forth of a touch between the late great John Lennon’s lyrical compositions. The bonus tracks on both of the 2-CDs sees Greg at his best.

There’s his take of the R&B classic, You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me as he channels the early sounds of The Beatles as he honors and stays true to the hit, the sessions with Toto and in the style of Private Eyes and Kiss On My List as I’ve mentioned before, Greg channeling Hall & Oates with You’re Good with Love. The walk in the beach and romantic gentle acoustic groove sees Greg capturing the sun going down for Hold Me.

The 20-page booklet features an interview with Greg Lake done by Malcolm Dome and a history about the making of the album. If you are both an ELP and King Crimson fan, you can really delve into the world of Greg’s first two solo albums and understand why he was ahead of his time before joining up with Asia to replace John Wetton and before involving a project with Emerson, Lake, and Powell and then the return of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer in the 1990's.

But again, listening to these albums, yet while it may not be his best, it shows how he could have continued on. And yet many years later, Greg Lake himself is still going strong. Alongside with the first two bands, he still keeps the fire’s burning forever and ever and never letting go.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Golden Caves - Bring Me to the Water

Golden Caves are a contemporary Progressive Rock quintet that formed in 2013 when they were students at the Dutch Arts University, Codarts in Rotterdam. This is their EP released on the FREIA Music label and this is a band worth a lot of recognition they deserve. This EP is a re-master of the earlier songs they did when they were students at the time they were doing smaller venues in Rotterdam.

Two years ago, they reached the finals as runners-up at the Sena Grand Prix of Rotterdam in 2014. And during that second-half of that year, they won the Band Boost in which they got a spot at the Wantijop 2015 Festival playing in front of 20,000 People.

You can imagine the word-of-mouth was spreading about this band. And with help from Christiaan Bruin (The Black Codex) on the production level as with mixing and recording from Wouter Landzaat and Jochem de Jong, Golden Caves are in the recording studio by working on their debut album in early 2017. 

The band considers Alex Ouweheand on Guitar, Romy Ouwerkerk on Lead Vocals, Erik Stein on Drums, Elise Polman on Keyboards, and Tim Wensink on Bass Guitar. Listening to this EP entitled, Bring Me to the Water will make you take notice from the sounds of Symphonic, Progressive, and Alternative Rock. There are times it reminded me of the sounds of Magenta, Pink Floyd, Tool, and early Within Temptation that comes to mind.

Romy just shines brilliantly on her vocals. Her voice reminded me of Christina Booth (Magenta), Sharon Den Adel (Within Temptation), and Marjana Semkina (iamthemonring). Elise herself on the keyboards takes full advantage to capture the orchestral string arrangements on her instrument while Alex himself brings forth the full-scale and heavy riffs that are in your face with a Symphonic Metal approach that will have jaws dropped.

My Demons Hunt starts with a 3/4 waltz-time signature done by Elise’s piano before it kicks into the soaring melodies that bring forth the Post-Barrett era of Pink Floyd in the essence of the Atom Heart Mother-era and bits of Kate Bush thrown in there. The sliding guitars that Alex and Erik’s mid-tempo drumming captures not just the Floyd sound, but honoring the legacy of the band’s music and the vocalizations give a chilling vibe.

The opening title-track will give you this twist between Tool’s Undertow and Porcupine Tree’s Fear of a Blank Planet-era. Tim’s bass lines comes into the walking tightrope as they channel the vibe of Steven Wilson’s lyrical approach as Romy imagines the master himself being in awe of what Golden Caves is doing. There’s a futuristic and experimental orchestral boundary before the energy kicks into overdrive and making the jump to lightspeed.

Alternative comes to mind. On Strangers and Exhilaration, they pay tribute to both Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief-era and Bjork for both a punching groove and electronic styles. Elise brings this ambient groove on the final track between classical piano and ambient noise to set up a windy location with chilling bells throwing into this ghost town that imaging a pin drop with nobody there as Hey You, sees the band delving into the styles of Tears for Fears as if they were writing their own take of a haunting version of Everybody Wants to Rule the World.

I was blown away from the moment I’ve listened to their EP that FREIA Music have unleashed this year. I can’t wait and looking forward to their debut album coming out next year. They have a bright future ahead of them and as I’ve mentioned about the Yellow Brick Road. For Golden Caves, let’s see where the Yellow Brick Road will take them into which area they will drive forth into.