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Friday, October 15, 2021

Tom Slatter - Escape

 

It’s been a long time since I reviewed something out of the label, Bad Elephant Music. Back in 2013, I listened to one of the most mind-blowing artists to come out of the label named Tom Slatter. His third studio album, Three Rows of Teeth, was a combination between early Genesis, Caravan, and William D. Drake. And I gave it a glowing review along with his other two; Through These Veins and Black Water. And then I had completely forgotten about him. Until now.

His latest release this year Escape, deals with escapism. Slatter took inspirations from comic books, sci-fi novels, computer games, and being an indoor kid. Slatter is bringing more stories to life again as an imaginative movie brought to life. So has it been a while? Oh yes. So let’s get straight to his new album.

From the moment Time Stands Still opens the album off, you hear these static sounds coming from the TV while blistering guitar riffs channels a thrashing attack in mid-tempo arrangement. It channels Diagonal’s sole self-titled debut album that Tom had picked up for inspiration as his eerie stories structure in more Mellotron’s to float in at the right moment.

It goes through this Ayn Rand-sque waltz channeling both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged with a folk-dystopian midsection as the machines take over the entire planet. And then it back to the metallic forefront with an orchestral vibe as Tom tips his mad hattering hat to early Black Sabbath and the first two Iron Maiden albums with arpeggiated textures brought to life.

Too Many Secrets has these electronic hay-wiring effects going chaotic as it tells the story of a group of soldiers who are in a rocket ship flying to another planet, fighting one of the bloodiest wars that’s going on. And the question that remains, is it worth fighting this stupid war that’s happening? Not to mention the dooming and sludging atmospheres that he brings to the kitchen table.

Let’s All Pretend reminisces between William D. Drake, Present, and Osanna’s Palepoli thrown into the blender. It’s Rock Progressivo Italiano meets the Rock In Opposition movement with a nod to the late, great Roger Trigaux’s guitar section while Rats becomes a Punk-Folk attitude.

Fast-sped drums followed by guitar melody, the unexpected time changes go from one corner of the living room to another. You can hear Tom channeling Bowie’s Outside-era as he picks up the pieces where Detective Nathan Adler had left off. Collateral is a psychedelic swinging garage rock dance. It becomes a dance to the death between Be-Bop Deluxe’s Futurama sessions as it climbs aboard Gentle Giant’s train chugging 500 miles per hour.

Going Nowhere is a 19-minute sci-fi opera brought to life. You can hear a Beefheart-sque introduction that makes Tom’s train turn into a fast-speeding overture. There is some Edgar Allen Poe structures for the main character’s death to happen with these guitar-organ sound that is completely unexpected, but works very well.

Not only there’s a ‘60s guitar on a tightrope, but he’s continuing where Rush had left off during an extension of Cygnus X-1 Book One: The Voyage. And then, he makes it a joyful walk before it gets even heavier as Tom fires more missiles by raising more hell than ever before.

Tom then also returns back for another Italian Prog dinner from Banco del Mutuo Soccorso’s Darwin period to I Giganti’s Terra in Bocca. You can the sound of a carousel organ come to life as Tom brings the steampunk audiences to a standstill as the story gets even more dangerous.

Escape is Tom Slatter’s nightmare brought to life. He is still our storyteller brought to life again, following in the footsteps of Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Rod Serling, and Vincent Price. And I hope that I will hear more from him in the years to come during these tricky times we’re living in.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Asaf Sirkis - Solar Flash

The cover of Asaf’s latest release is a very striking artwork from singer Sylwia Bialas. I can imagine she was inspired by Tarkovsky’s work from the realms of Solaris and Stalker. Or it could have been inspired by something bold and mysterious throughout the pandemic. Solar Flash is an unknown journey that awaits us.

Sirkis himself has been a very busy man working with artists such as Gary Husband, Markus Reuter, Kenny Wheeler, Tassos Spilotopoulous, and Yaron Stavi. The collaborations on this album featuring alongside Husband, contains bassist Kevin Glasgow, and special guest Mark Wingfield. Now that is a collaboration right then and there.

In an interview from 2010 on the Music Without Borders:Innerviews website, Anil Prasad asked Asaf on what were the biggest challenges he faces in his creative process and how he overcame them. His response was this; “As a professional musician and a band leader, I often face situations of stress in which it’s hard to let go. There’s also recognizing your weak points and being able to face up to them and work on them. The trick is to organically combine these elements together in a way so they complement each other and become beneficial to the music.”

Solar Flash is quite a challenging release. And for both Asaf Sirkis and the MoonJune label, it is a fast-driven spiritual beauty brought to life that is like a flower ready to bloom at any second.

The three-part story arc Polish Suite is like a silent movie brought to life. You have these gentle mournful piano work from Gary, setting up this city that is now a ghost town in the middle of nowhere. You can almost feel a pin drop while Sylwia arranges the emptiness of the city that it once was, is no longer there anymore.

Sirkis’ brush on the snare, walks across the town with Glasgow’s bass in tow helping out the melodic vocals to give the last rite in this fair city. Then, he packs his bags and goes into Nick Mason’s city to celebrate The Grand Vizer’s Garden Party from the Ummagumma album.

He becomes this mad scientist on the drums going crazy before this foghorn-like sound from Husband takes full control for Mark’s guitar to send a message to the gods in the sky in the Himalayan mountains in the middle of a heavy snow storm. What Husband, Sirkis, and Wingfield would do is to take listeners into the unknown that is a door-opening experience.

I can see Gary channeling bits of the Canterbury vibes from Hatfield and the North in the style of scale-soaring beauty Calyx. I always envision Robert Wyatt singing the third and final section of the suite. That would have been something to close the curtain down throughout the structure of the composition.

Kinship opens the album with a surf-like wave arrangement that the trio create. You have Gary doing this mysterious balance to channel Matching Mole’s Dave MacRae while Glasgow has some mellowing tones on his Bass. Under the Ice has these cavernous arrangements to set up a film-noir vibe from the 1940s.

Glasgow can go high and low on the fretboards. He captures that smoky atmosphere before Gary lends those smooth R&B touches to know that the case has been solved. Now comes the dark side in Asaf’s arrangements. Aquila is an ominous Mahavishnu approach as Gary sets up this dooming rise on his organ to let Mark come out of Dracula’s coffin and set up this mid-snarling effect he creates to let the Beast calm and subdued.

Not only he channels both Frank Zappa and Allan Holdsworth, it’s almost as if the two maestros are watching him up in heaven, knowing that he’s tipping his hat to them up in the sky and they got his back. For Eric is dedicated to the drummer of Weather Report, Eric Kamau Gravatt. It’s a cross between Steely Dan, Tangerine Dream, and Soft Machine’s Third album.

With the spiritual voice of Sun Ra talking various subjects throughout the piece, it becomes an intensive drive for the instruments to go into this NASCAR race segment to reach the finish line at the end. Solar Flash is not only engaging, but an amplified release this year from MoonJune Records.

When the trio gets together to create something unexpectedly, it is like a cannon blast, knowing that it is going to be a wild ride waiting to be unleashed.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Memories of meeting Stan "The Man" Lee at Comicpalooza 2014


I am not a morning person, mind you. Whenever I would wake-up between 9 or 10am to get ready for Comicpalooza, I would take a shower, get cleaned up, and have a small amount of breakfast so that I could get ready to go the George R. Brown convention. Whether my Mom or Dad would take me from 2013 to 2018, it was a magical time to go for those Memorial Day weekends.

The construction can be tricky for them to take a different passageway, and sometimes we would go a different route so that I can enjoy my time from 10am to 6pm. I would look and see the cosplayers looking down at their phones, going as a family, talking to their loved ones, friends, or whatever they might do when they enter the building to enjoy the fun and forget about all the craziness that is going on in the outside world.

When I’m at Comicpalooza, I am free from everything. I have a great time, it can make my feet tired during the afternoons from all that walking, but it becomes a safe haven. When I show them my badge whether it’s a 3-Day pass or a Speed pass, I’m in to have a ball.

I never cover Comicpalooza. I don’t want to ruin the moment for everyone during my time at the Convention. This is their moment to shine. It’s sort of like other cons or expos from San Diego Comic-Con, New York Comic-Con, E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo), Wizard World, or Anime Expo where they launched the new dubbed version of the original Sailor Moon back in 2014 in all of its uncut glory.

But it would be a whole expose to cover those and all those travel expenses to go from area to another. It was the summer of 2014, I had just graduated from Houston Community College and getting my Associate’s Degree for Music in Performance for a nine year run. It was announced prior to the convention that Stan “The Man” Lee was going to be there.

Meeting an icon like Stan Lee, was like meeting The Beatles when they first arrived in the States on February 7, 1964. He along with Bernie Wrightson, Peter Mayhew, Armin Shimerman, Jim Cummings, Sigourney Weaver, Neal Adams, or Jim Steranko was the person I wanted to meet. I grew up watching the animated series of both X-Men and Spider-Man on FOX Kids back in the ‘90s when animation was cool then.

Then reading comics during that time frame. I stopped reading comics until I got back to reading them again in the summer of 2012. But I digress. The line for Stan was long, I my Superheroes PBS Blu-Ray docuseries for him to sign. I couldn’t tell if I was in the middle or at the back. But I could imagine it was long.

When he came in, the crowd went crazy as he sat down and signed autographs. I came in and as he signed my Blu-Ray. We shook hands, and I said to him, “Thank you for coming to Houston.” He replied back, “You are very welcome!” Then came for the Photo Op. I always get starstruck whenever I meet the people I wanted to meet. But I always keep my cool and not go ga-ga over them. Just like those crazy people who are autograph seekers who sometimes hide under the bushes and invade their privacies to get they’re signatures and use it to sell on auction websites.

I was wearing my CAN Future Days shirt as I showed my Blu-Ray he signed, the photo was taken and I thanked him again. I felt like it was winning the lottery at times, but that was the moment I will never forget.

It was a moment in time that Comicpalooza during the mid-2010’s like looking through your old scrapbook for a long, long time. Now in the pandemic, it’s almost as if the dream is over and going through conventions on your computer. But I look back on it now, and it was the memories that I will never forget.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

PAKT - PAKT


It’s quite a strange concept that Dr. Leonardo Pavkovic would create some strange experiment inside his laboratory at the basement of MoonJune Records. But something has lurked underneath the curtains that is waiting to be unleashed. It is a form of live music from one of the most important quartets that has unleashed all of its ammunition, and bring it to life at the Shapeshifter lab where originally Markus Reuter, Tim Motzer, and Kenny Grohowski had recorded their experiment live for a MoonJune release back on August 18th, 2019.

Brand X’s Percy Jones, Testament’s Alex Skolnick, Kenny Grohowski, and Tim Motzer, have brought enough fuel to light the fires up for this amazing 2-CD live recording at the same venue. Recorded last year during the lockdown, you can imagine yourself being in the venue, being free from the craziness that’s going on in the outside world.

Listening to the first act entitled The Unsilence, you can feel the tension cut with a knife. You have Alex and Tim going at it by creating this beautiful sculpture as if they were channeling either Jackson Pollock’s art design or creating more magical spells to show off to their friends instead of pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

For Alex Skolnick, he’s more than just a Metal head, and a member of Testament, but he can create these visual scenarios on his instrument while Percy’s fretless bass goes into a counter clockwise as he climbs each ladder with challenging results. I love how Kenny’s drumming goes on this rampant whilst Alex channels the Krautrock masters, Manuel Gottsching and the late great Michael Karoli from Ash Ra Tempel and CAN.

I imagine he would feed Motzer some strange idea as they open up the soundscaping location before they take us into Andrei Tarkovsky’s wasteland from the sci-fi epic, Stalker. It is very chaotic and very hay-wiring at the same time. PAKT would do some strange experiments as Motzer uses bits and bobs throughout his electronics to go all over the Shapeshifter lab like there’s no tomorrow.

He and Skolnick are hammering down those Egyptian-like textures in the hottest part of the Sahara desert. They work well together as a team while Percy and Kenny go into a little Space Jam (no pun intended) as they take a trip into the Isle of Everywhere from Gong’s You-era meets Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters period.

The second act is called The Sacred Letter. Now this is where we really get those boiling waters bubbling. It adds a virtual landscape into an unknown wasteland that is waiting for us. Motzer’s eerie textures sets up the illustration while Jones walks back and forth by giving Grohowski more intense ideas on his drum kit.

There is a moment where I believe it’s Alex tipping his face mask to Mike Ratledge’s composition on Facelift from The Soft Machine’s Third album originally released in 1970. It’s quite a treat from Alex making his instrument sound like a wah-wah organ that would have gotten Mike’s stamp of approval to create something like that.

Meanwhile, they walk into Sonar’s territory as Alex and Tim go for the jugular. They walk into David Torn’s sonic voyages, but carrying more of the Irrlicht-era from Klaus Schulze. Percy is a madman to go crazy throughout his bass exercise as Alex, Kenny, and Tim follow him in hot pursuit.

The climatic ending is where all hell has broken loose for PAKT. They raise the roof up by going into a nuclear explosion by giving it a mind-boggling finale with a sigh of relief. But I can imagine there’s more to where it came from. I just wish it had continued more instead of a cliffhanger ending by leaving us dangling on top of the Grand Canyon.

Contributor to All About Jazz’s own Mark Sullivan who wrote the liner notes for the 2-CD set, watched the livestream performance during the pandemic. And I could imagine that it was quite a revelation for him to watch these four amazing geniuses bringing listeners on an adventure that we will ever think of dreaming about. I hope to hear more from PAKT in the years to come from the MoonJune label. I can always wait and hear to see what not just the quartet, but what Leo will have in store for us in the roaring ‘20s.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Dewa Budjana - Naurora


It’s been three years since Dewa Budjana has made another album after the release of Mahadini. He’s been quite the busy man. Collaborating with Tohpati, Tony Levin, Jack DeJohnette, and Peter Erskine, he has shown no sign of stopping to bring his spiritual textures to life. With the release of Naurora, he’s bringing the circle in full.

Released on the Mehsada label from Indonesia on the MoonJune label internationally, the album was recorded remotely during the Pandemic. Naurora takes you away from the craziness of the outside world into the unknown. With help from Simon Phillips, Joey Alexander, Jimmy Johnson, Gary Husband, and Carlitos Del Puerto, they’re just band members, but a band of brothers lending Dewa a helping hand to bring his latest creation to life.

The opening title-track features Imee Ooi’s vocalizations to bring the curtains to rise with snarling guitar sections. Featuring Goblin-sque atmospheres with its Epic sounding vibrations, it becomes a duel between Dewa and Mateus Asato before they go into an exhilarating bossa-nova metallic groove! As Puerto’s bass sets in the grooves, Joey takes center stage by laying down some piano vibrations of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

Swarna Jigga has these spiral staircasing improvisation as Dewa and Mateus share a duel by duking it out a Zappa-sque midsection. Soaring arrangements thanks to Philips’ helicopter like drum work, the landscaping textures go for some time changing melodies while walking towards these mystical forests to see what the future will have in store for us on Kmalasana.

Sliding acoustic double-tracking guitars from Dewa, we as listeners are waiting for the sun to shine as he turns this composition into crossover combination of ambient electrical rain power to cry out in the middle of a heavy thunderstorm. When you listen to Sabana Shanti, at first, Dewa tips his hat for a brief second to Procol Harum’s Grand Hotel.

But then, McCandless’ sax gives an insight of a spectacular beauty while Dewa and Dave Weckl go for a samba segment. It gives Paul a chance to relieve the stress that people are going throughout the pandemic before Joey returns for another Gershwin showdown by sending us into the clear blue sky.

Blue Mansion closes the album with an ominous Indian tribe. With its Magma-like riffs, it becomes a celebration before Husband lays down some Mars Volta-like grooves as Carlito’s upright bass becomes a cat-and-mouse chase.

Naurora is Dewa’s message for a chance of relaxation. While everything came to a screeching halt last year in March, this album is definitely a sign of hope. It makes us go through the tricky times during the pandemic that would make you want to dance, punch, and sooth yourself throughout the situations that we're going through.



Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Molesome - Are You There?

 

Whenever Roth-Handle Studios cooks up something strange inside their laboratories, you know that Dr. Mattias Olsson’s experiments are out there when it comes to Molesome. He’s very much like a mad scientist by creating more strange inventions that is waiting to be unleashed. And he’s pretty much done that with the latest release, Are You There?

Listening to this album is like going through the structures of Hardcore Devo, Post-Punk, Chamber Music, Tori Amos, Bill Fay, The Faust Tapes, The Residents, and the independent music production library, De Wolfe Music. Mattias has followed Zappa’s advice by throwing the rule book into the fire. While we might abide by them, it doesn’t mean we have to follow them. For Mattias, he broke the rules, one by one.

Sometimes the grooves are trapped in this dystopian house that is trapped between the 1950s and the futuristic ‘70s. For Olsson, it’s almost that he had written the alternate score for the German Sci-Fi miniseries from Fassbinder’s 1973 classic, World on a Wire. You have the surreal Cinevox Italian Psych lounge take of Long Island, Booji Boy returning to the post-apocalyptic sequel from Tunnel of Love with Naturales while Mattias channels the Faerie Symphony-era from Tom Newman on Vernon.

Meanwhile Tanaka is speaking through the intercom in the styles of Laurie Anderson between Spacestation Funeral and Spirits before Molesome raises the roof on Tim (Original Soundtrack). And then, the nod to Delia Derbyshire flows in the string quartet in the melodic textures of Ziwzih Ziwih (OO-OO-OO) on Blues Soaked Hope before the string section takes us to our home planet with our Boxes.

Molesome’s latest release this year may not be everyone’s cup of Joe, but Olsson is always opening doors to see what the 22nd century might be waiting for us. Challenging and insanely beautiful, Olsson is quite the mad scientist that we really need for many years to come in the near future.



Saturday, June 26, 2021

Quel Che Disse il Tuono - il Velo Dei Riflessi

Quel Che Disse il Tuono are an Italian progressive rock quartet that considers members of Unreal City and Cellar Noise. Last year, they released their debut album on the AMS label entitled, il Velo Dei Riflessi. Inspired by T.S. Eliot’s poetry The Wasteland which was originally published in 1922, the poem tackles themes on religion. Not only that, but how the modern world itself is not impacted from the landscape as it was before.

Francesca Zanetta, Roberto “Berna” Bernasconi, Niccolo Gallani, and Alessio Del Ben are keeping the spirit of the Rock Progressivo Italano genre alive. You can hear aspects of Camel, il Paese dei Balocchi, Celeste, La Coscienza Di Zeno, Phideaux, and il Balletto di Bronzo’s YS.

The opening track il Paradigma Dello Specchio, fires up their engines with mellotron, guitar, and flute. By the moments the clouds are parting, we are driving in a deserted highway with the four members channeling the Mirage-era from Camel with its organ fanfare by travelling into the unknown as Zanetta channels the Marquee Moon-sque vibes from Television’s Richard Lloyd and Tom Verlaine.

As the call-and-response comes crawling out the soil, Figlio Dell‘Uomo is a terrifying nightmare for Zanetta and Gallani adding more fuel to the fire. Featuring some lyrical textures of Jacques Brel’s Port of Amsterdam and My Death, it has some Murple-sque textures for Quel to rescue the penguin to being free from being a sideshow performer and going back to his home land in the North Pole.

Moog snarling monsters coming in to terrorize the city, we are in the battlefields to go into aspects between Van der Graaf Generator and Le Orme as it segues into this post-apocalyptic Twilight Zone atmosphere that Rod Serling had envisioned right before our very eyes.  

Il Bastone e il Serpente goes into The Mars Volta’s territory while Francesca channels her vision of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. Bernasconi slaps some funky bass introduction to honor Bootsy Collins as we head into the city with no chance of escaping with some swirling synths and car revving percussion works by Alessio Del Ben.

Zennetta hammers those frets down with unexpected changes before travelling into space and time of Phideaux’s Snowtorch-era while the final duel between good and evil on Loro Sono Me has some of the most intensive battle sequences for the quartet to head out into the battlefield for honor and bravery.

Il Velo Dei Riflessi may not be everyone’s cup of coffee per se, but while this Quel Che Disse il Tuono’s debut, they really done their homework very well during the pandemic while everything came to a screeching halt last year. So I will be on the look-out for this incredible band to see what they will come up with next.

Friday, June 25, 2021

SKE - Insolubilia

It’s been ten years since Paolo “SKE” Botta, best known for his partnership between Yugen and Not a Good Sign has released a follow-up to his 2011 debut 1000 Autunni released on the AltrOck/Fading Records label. It received critical acclaim and then went out-of-print until 2018 when it was reprinted as 1001 Autunni as a double CD set featuring an additional live recording.

Now in 2021, SKE has released a follow-up entitled Insolubilia. Produced by Marcello Marinone, the second album is a return to the melodic waters once more by following in the footsteps of Gryphon, Latte E Miele, Gentle Giant, Present, Wojciech Kilar, Univers Zero, and Le Orme’s Felona E Sorona, Paolo’s follow-up is like a flaming fire that simply won’t burn out.

And to be allowed to have 25 musicians from Stormy Six, Wobbler, Ciccada, Isildurs Bane, Loomings, and Shamblemaths to name a few, they aren’t just band members lending Paolo a helping hand, but a band of brothers working together both as a team, and as a family. Not only have we had the five-part opus of the title-track, but some of the most incredible highlights that SKE has taken their listeners close to the edge.

Opening track Sudo features an intensive organ and synth exercise with melodic horn arrangements. Martino Malacrida’s climatic drum patterns takes us into a tidal-waving climax featuring a spine-tingling folk background done by Tommaso’s mandolin. Insolubilia II has Evangelia Kozoni’s angelic voice soars through the skies as we hear Airport announcements throughout the building ready for another plane flying to another city.

Jacopo’s mallet percussions has some complex time changes while Francesco’s heavy guitar lines go through a RPI (Rock Progressivo Italiano) momentum with an arrangement done in the styles of Van der Graaf Generator. Lo Stagno del Proverbio takes place in the aftermath of a mob riot gone horribly wrong. Luca’s trumpet takes us into the bloody streets by crying out to the gods above the heavenly skies with some fanfare arrangements.

La Nona Onda is a heavy, nightmarish, and brutal composition. Paolo channels the Pawn Hearts period by continuing where A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers had left off. As the snarling textures of the guitar and mellotron lifts-off into outer space, it continues of the reprise for the final battle on Sudo.  

Insolubilia IV at first begins with some 8-bit video game synthesizers, but goes in depth of the RIO movement. Camembert’s Melanie Gerber is giving the sermon inside a gothic cathedral as she channels the vocal styles of North Sea Radio Orchestra’s Sharron Fortnam with some Wyatt-sque vibes as a mournful arrangement.

Scogli 4 feels at times like a Univers Zero composition. Honoring the late great Roger Trigaux with some late ‘60s Giallo themes from Mario Bava’s Blood & Black Lace, the dooming harpsichord, clarinet, and rain pouring effects leaves us on a cliffhanger not knowing when the killer will strike again.

The operatic choirs and horror themes on Insolubilia V comes at you with an eruptive explosion for the shocking finale. Almost making an alternate score to the 1975 unsung gem of Day of the Locust, the bell tolls with some ghostly synths before Fabio’s bass brings the fuse to explode at any second by going into a crossover between the first two albums of Banco del Mutuo Soccorso and Black Sabbath’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath rolled into one.

Insolubilia is quite an adventure from the complexing stories by Paolo “SKE” Botta. He has a headstrong view on where he wants to take the next logical step by following into a dangerous tightrope. But for Paolo, he’s brought a lot of ammunition and brutal textures to life on his second release during the pandemic.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Gentle Giant - Free Hand


In 2012, during the time at the beginning of promotions for Prog Magazine’s compilation of Prog Rocks! Ray Shulman describes the origins on their seventh studio album Free Hand. “The idea was to kind of get back to our roots. We lost my brother Phil. He left for the fourth album. And so it was an idea to get back to our roots and go back to the kind of writing style in our earlier albums.”

There’s no denying that Free Hand is quite a leap forward for Gentle Giant to take it a step further by having all the creativity they had done. From the swirling label of the Vertigo label to signing with Chrysalis Records, Free Hand was also one of their most successful releases. Reaching the top 50 in the Billboard album charts, this shows how much they have come a long way.

Now in a new reissue from the Alucard label and remixed by Steven Wilson who had done their previous work including Octopus, The Power and the Glory, and the Three Piece Suite, it is time to take a trip down memory lane by focusing on why this band are deserving more recognition and were often under the radar in the Progressive Rock genre.

From the moment you listen to groovy introduction of Just The Same you feel the synthesizer solo work done by Kerry Minnear taking it a step further by channeling his Herbie Hancock approach before the vibrations of the clapping rhythm going back and forth, it is quite a swinging tune that Derek sings in that style as if it was returning to the 1930s of vaudeville and a bit of Leonard Bernstein to kick things off.

On Reflection starts with the introduction of the vocals going back and forth between Ray, Derek, Gary, and Kerry going into this complicated approach on the acapella sequence as if they were returning to their Octopus-era before the melodic piano, glockenspiel, and vibraphones done by Kerry, gives some insight to honor the grand wazoo himself, Frank Zappa.

The first two minutes gives you an insight on a trip to the medieval period for Kerry reflecting the good memories of school friends, and the best parts of your child hood as if Minnear himself has become a multiplicity version of himself that Wilson goes for the jugular to bring the two versions of Kerry singing a duet before the heavier rocking approach done by Gary and Ray go into a duel with his keyboards.

The title-track becomes a cat-and-mouse introduction between Kerry laddering effect and Ray’s climbing upwards and downwards on his bass before it transforms a dueling clavinet battle to be free from the torture and learning how to fight back once and for all. I can tell throughout on the new mixes on the third composition shows the guitars, drums, and bass are really cooking as it goes into a hot boiling temperature by giving Gentle Giant’s way of cooking, a hot and spicy flavor with some renaissance-like twists for the lemon that is pouring into the soup!

Time To Kill features I believe the first video game with the sound effects of Atari’s PONG before the sinister nightmares of the pounding piano, thunderous drums and guitars setting up the crime scene on what just happened. Derek is our detective lending our help with his Mundy partner on foot, seeing where the criminal has left some clues and mysteries to solve the case by bringing the killer with some complexing justice in an operatic approach. As Gary brings some of the most brutal arrangements into the forefront, Weathers and Minnear make their instruments sound like a gun battle between the police and the criminal in a final showdown.

His Last Voyage gives Steven a chance to have Kerry come into the forefront in his mixing. With a bit of the reverbing effects, it is a journey into the man’s life as he goes on his last journey into finding his inner self. He and Ray blend well in this mournful waltz-like sequence, knowing that there’s no turning back once he leaves his country to one day find peace with some unexpected changes throughout Gary and John’s motif throughout the song.

And then it becomes a Miles David-sque ending for the band to come out swinging with a Kind of Blue finale channeling the introduction of All Blues. Gary knows how to nail those wah-wah bluesy effects by nailing the hammers down as he makes his guitar cry out to the gods at the end as it becomes a climatic finale with a fanfare vibration.

Talybont. Now this is where the medieval vibrations come into the center. Channeling the styles of Gryphon’s Red Queen to Gryphon Three, Gentle Giant haven’t forgotten their renaissance roots from their first two albums as it comes out swinging. Between Clavinet, recorder, and violin goes from medieval, classical, and heavy rocking vibrations that gives the band a lot of team work.

Mobile is a nod to the Celtic Rock influences that has a Folk-Rock arrangement. You can imagine Derek is dancing the jig town to town. With a nod to Steeleye Span and Horslips, they have a way to show respect to the genre by taking it a whole new level of moving forwards into the future.

Steven’s mixes on this album are quite intriguing. I loved how he would bring the instruments and vocals through various locations on the EQ by honoring the band’s legacy. There will be a dividing line in the sand on whether they will accept Steven’s new mix on the album or not, but here, Free Hand is the real deal.



Sunday, June 6, 2021

A Sweet Niche - WIRES


A Sweet Niche is the work of Keir Cooper and Olly Sellwood. Like a cross between Jazz, Alternative, and Intensive Rock, Keir and Olly have known each other since childhood. Olly has played with several artists from the Bad Elephant label including active members of Knifeworld’s own Charlie Cawood and Chrome Hoof’s Emmett Elvin. Not only that but he’s also played with Necro Deathmort and Vodun while Keir performs with the London-based band Yossarian and Chris Brett Bailey’s guitar sextet TMWKFBIMGYL.

They have started out as Eye Music. The first output for Baritone Sax, Guitar, and Drums. And then Eye Music 2. Joining A Sweet Niche is drummer Tim Doyle. WIRES is a knock-out release from 2019. It is like a powder keg ready to erupt at any second. From the influences between Faust, WorldService Project, Diablo Swing Orchestra, Henry Cow, Captain Beefheart, and the first three Soft Machine albums with a fuzztone aspect by honoring Mike Ratledge.

There are moments where we are living in the nightmarish dystopian landscape after everything came to a screeching halt in March of last year when the pandemic and COVID-19 hit. And A Sweet Niche carries some of those expertise. As a listener, you can imagine yourself walking on a dangerous tightrope. And from beginning to end, you may never know if Keir and Olly might cut the rope at any second.

Crossed over between the Rock In Opposition movement, Punk, Poetry, and Avant-Rock, they have cooked something hot and spicy inside their kitchen by giving Gordon Ramsay the big giant middle finger. Olly’s sax at times channels Lol Coxhill, David Jackson from Van der Graaf Generator, Lindsay Cooper, John Coltrane, and Univers Zero’s bassoonist Michel Berkmans.

I always imagine that not only A Sweet Niche transfuse Punk and Jazz, but listening to some of the legends of RIO bands while preparing WIRES. There’s Art Zoyd, Guapo, Magma, and honoring the late great Roger Trigaux of Present. I loved the two-part epic on Don Quijote. It becomes sort of like the last stand for the noble to envision his knightly story.

Chaotic, complex, alarming, and tensed, they bring the tragic hero of La Mancha with these haunting background themes on how much Quijote has become his own worst enemy. Vocals add more boiling temperatures that makes Sweet Niche’s arrangements even hotter!

Chantal Brown’s soulful take on The Art of Cultivation, tips her hat with a swinging attack honoring the late great Nina Simone while Eleanor Sikorski’s poetic mind of Allen Ginsberg adds the danger that is coming from the outside world for the Hungerstrike. But once Luke Toms challenging combination between vocals and the instruments on What Pulls You Back, gives Sweet Niche more ammunition than ever!

WIRES is a roller-coaster ride from beginning to end. As I’ve mentioned earlier, it is a challenging debut that A Sweet Niche have unleashed, but holy shit in a fucking handbag! They are out of this world!



Saturday, June 5, 2021

Potter's Daughter - Casually Containing Rage


Formed in New York City as Dyanne Potter Voegtlin was a student at the Manhattan School of Music studying classical piano performance, Potter’s Daughter not only do performances in the Big Apple but in the northeastern side of Pennsylvania. They have released their 2018 studio debut on the Melodic Revolution label entitled, The Blind Side. And now they have a new album in the works coming out this fall called, Close to Nearby with guest drummer, Simon Philips.

Last year during the pandemic, they released an EP called, Casually Containing Rage. Three songs that includes a Warren Zevon cover, this was my introduction to the music of Dyanne and Jan-Christian’s music. For me, it was quite an experience since it’s been many years I listened to something from Nick Katona’s label. For me, to open the door to the Melodic label once more, it’s putting one foot into another.

The opening track of To My Love which is a re-arrangement of the sixth track from The Blind Side, it starts off with a middle-eastern mellowing take from The Savage Rose’s two studio albums between the sole self-titled debut and In The Plain in the late ‘60s, Dyanne pours her heart and soul singing to the gods once more.

And all of a sudden, it transforms into a laid-back groove with Patrick’s drum work and Jan’s calming Bass lines while Dyanne tips her hat to the late great Freddie Mercury by channeling the reverbing vocal works on Queen’s The Prophet’s Song from A Night at the Opera. Once Amit’s oceanic guitars fill the salty waters, it cuts to an abandoned area of an art deco movie theater that has now becomes a ghost town.

The cover of Warren Zevon’s Accidentally Like a Martyr from his third 1978 studio album, Excitable Boy, is a heartfelt tribute to the singer-songwriter. While I’m not the biggest fan of Warren’s music, it fits well with Dyanne’s vocals as she looks up to the angelic skies knowing that Warren is watching her, carrying that beautiful arrangement of the song throughout the EP thanks to Jan’s bluesy textures.

The closing track might be one of Potter’s Daughter’s controversial piece called, We Could Be. It tackles the news reports from NPR’s David Greene on the death of George Floyd who was murdered by Police Officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020, is a haunting composition. Whether you agree with this piece or not, you have to give Dyanne a huge amount of credit for tackling this subject.

With its electro-jazz arrangement, the struggle to bringing peace and understanding without violence, is a big, big challenge as Jan has a little split second on the Guitar Synthesizers honoring the late great Allan Holdsworth. Casually Containing Rage is sort of the peak on what is to come for Potter’s Daughter’s next studio album this coming fall.

It will be quite a revelation to see and understand Dyanne’s wings have finally spread by flying over the clouds and seeing the good and bad situations from the outside world on Earth. She might one day bring peace and happiness to our home planet. And with their EP released last year, it will get you going to see what Potter's Daughter will have in store for us on Close to Nearby.




Wax Mekanix - Mobocracy


Wax Mekanix is a name you probably may or may not recognize. One of the founding members of cult rockers Nitro, Mekanix has been writing and recording music for forty years, his music can be both raw and bold. And his latest release on the Electric Talon label entitled Mobocracy, is a pure brutal machine gun metallic release last year.

From the opening track of Blood In Your Eyes, there are some fanfare midsections with blistering guitars and drums that take us into some spacey outer limit reverb effects, followed by rising sequences to raise a lot of hell. Victorious has a dooming post-apocalyptic vibe tackling the theme for survival of the fittest.

Part Budgie and part Dee Snider, it is an epic battle with a metal operatic roar to be a part of a fight club with knocked down brawl with some heavier solo sections while All Freaks has a ‘70s rising Glam Rock stomper. The introduction has this Hendrix-sque intro as Wax channels a sing-along type style of Budgie’s Homicidal Suicidal at times.

With the ignition for lift-off, Mad World has this nod to Peter Hammill’s lyrical textures as if he’s channeling Van der Graaf Generator’s Killer with a booming fast-sped action sequence of thrashing guitars that becomes a climatic duel between good and evil. Ghostland tackles the subject by facing your own demons. Tidal drumming that makes you go surfing at the right momentum, it’s a neo-psychedelia atmosphere as it goes into a deep, dark area as the victims confront the abusers and knowing that there’s no turning back now.

Closer, Black sees Wax honoring the late great Ennio Morricone on The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. With a dark spaghetti western theme and flamenco vibes of Ottmar Liebert with some hand-clapping rhythm section, it becomes an intense tango with some difficult sceneries that can keep you guessing until the end.

Mobocracy will take some time to get into. But for Wax, he got me intrigued to see what he cooked inside the kitchen. And it is a combination between Doom, Power, Thrash, and Avant-Metal. It is all here!



Friday, May 21, 2021

Srdjan Ivanovic's Blazin' Quartet - Sleeping Beauty


Led by Bosnian born and French based drummer, composer, educator, and arranger Srdjan Ivanovic and his Blazin’ Quartet, they have taken my ears to a whole new level of respect on how much the sounds of beauty, romantic, and poetic sights that is on the band’s fourth studio album from the MoonJune label, Sleeping Beauty. Recorded nearly two years ago for two days in November at Studio Aeronef in Paris, Sleeping Beauty is Ivanovic’s story brought to life.

Alongside Srdjvan’s drumming and piano work, the band considers; Andreas Polyzogopoulos on Trumpet, Federico Casagrande on Guitar, Mihail Ivanov on Upright Bass, and special guest flautist Magic Malik. Listening to this album, is like looking through your old scrapbook and remembering the good and rough times that your families from the past and present had to struggle to make it to survive and not giving up.

And the five centerpieces on here, gives you some insight on how damn good they really are. The tribute to the late great film composer Ennio Morricone fills the spaces between honor and legacy. Listening to The Man with the Harmonica which is something straight out the Italian Spaghetti Western 1968 classic, Once Upon a Time in the West, it's transformed into a dooming finale.

You hear Federico channeling these Tony Iommi-sque guitar structures that he had done on Black Sabbath’s Planet Caravan at the end by capturing some of those blistering hot moments for the final showdown on who is going to be the last man standing with some mariachi fanfare trumpets done by Andreas himself.

From the 1970 movie by filmmaker Giluliano Montaldo starring Richard Johnson and Franco Nero which deals a German deserter execution in a Canadian-run P.O.W. camp in Amsterdam on May 13th, 1945, A L’aube du Cinquieme Jour (Gott Mit Uns) is a mournful composition for both Federico and Andreas setting the sun-rising sequence over the horizon as Casagrande makes his guitar sound like the string section while Mihail and Sedjan follow his passageways to bring some sort of peace with these Wes Montgomery textures.

The title-track and its solo guitar features the quartet going into these dark alleyways between the heart of Italy and Paris. With a romantic dance thrown in, Andreas’ trumpet cries out into the nightly sky as Srd’s drumming goes into this chaotic mode as he gives Federico and Andreas into the reverbing crescendo.

But then Federico comes back for the reprising guitar solo and waking the princess up from a deep, deep sleep. As you can imagine she had slept for a long time for nearly 200 years, you can imagine some of those jazz chord improvisations that he throws in, hopefully to have new up-and-coming students trying to tackle one of his compositions in the near future.

Rue Des Balkans is their nod to Watermelon Man from Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters. Continuing where he left off with Malik’s flute taking the high ground, Srdjan gives him a whole amount of ammunition to give the quartet an insane tango-like finale to knock the doors down with a giant battering ram. But it’s Andreas which takes Srdjan moving from the drums to the piano as he plays some of those minor chord that I can believe they are both polyphonic and diminished sequences to give Andreas a chance to be free once again with a lukewarm smoky atmosphere.

Sleeping Beauty is the blooming flower that is ready to burst open. And from the moment you put this album on, it is something deliciously good that the Srdjan Ivanovic Blazin’ Quartet have unleashed out of MoonJune’s kitchen with a delicious Roma!



Thursday, May 20, 2021

Mythopoeic Mind - Mythology

 

I don’t know how long since I had listened to Panzerpappa for, but saxophonist Steinar Børve who is also a founding member of the group, wanted to go beyond the Progressive Rock genre with his Symphonic project, Mythopoeic Mind. The genesis behind this new album Mythopoetry, goes back 22 years ago.

Steinar used music and stories from J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic, Lord of the Rings in Songs from the Red Book of Westmarch which he performed at the second Nordic Tolkien Festival. It also featured Trond Gjellum on drums the pair forming Panzerpappa with Knut Tore Abrahamsen and Jorgen Sklulstad the following year.

For his solo release, Steinar wanted to put aside the RIO influences of Panzerpappa and try more story-based ideas. This year with Mythopoetry, he brought that project to life. Featuring in Mythopoeic Mind are; Gentle Knife’s Pal Selsjord Bjørseth on keyboards and trumpet, Pymlico’s Arild Brøter on Drums, Kjetil Laumann of ‘90s Avant-Metal Band Dodsvek, and Glutton & Artiofredag’s Bassist Ola Mile Bruland, and all of the members from Panzerpappa.

The recordings took place last year from various locations from January to May and mixed by Trond at Rislum Studios from May to July as White Willow’s own Jacob Holm-Lupo did the mastering in July that same year. Released on the Apollon label, Mythopoetry is like a journey between the land and the myths and legends from the Tolkien stories with some mind-blowing highlights that would keep you guessing until the end.

The trippy sounds of sax, guitar, and keyboard work on Prey shows the listener some of these mysterious sequences Bjorseth sets sail on his framework. Kjetil handles a cool reverb effects on his vocal arrangements. Steinar had listened to some of the compositions that Van Der Graaf Generator wrote as he embarks with David Jackson’s sax as Brøter’s drums and Anders Krabberød’s chapman stick going into a walking up and down sequences from the spiral staircases on Mount Doom.

With cowbell in one hand, Mythopoeic Mind understand the history of the RPI (Rock Progresivo Italiano) genre very well. And it gets very dark from the electric piano as they head backwards as they head back into the caves and discover this flaming fire that is ascending down the mountain tops.

Sailor’s Disguise clocks in at 13 minutes and 40 seconds. You can hear the sound of these wind-generated waves from the ocean and the echoing call from Bjørseth. It then begins to show that there is some sign of dry land in the horizon’s before Ktjetil’s vocals, and Jarle’s acoustic waltz sets up the notion that the anchor is about to drop at any moment for some time signatures that can be quite the challenge. Ola’s bass sets sail to search for dry land throughout the storms that makes it intense and rough.

This here was a very interesting album that almost didn’t grab me at first. But after a few listens, it was worth the wait to hear what Steinar had come up with. And I hope that he continues to do more adventures with Mythopoeic Mind in the roaring '20s.




Monday, May 17, 2021

Be-Bop Deluxe - Axe Victim (Super Deluxe Edition)

You came to watch the band/to see us play our parts/We hoped you’d lend an ear/You hope we dress like tarts.” The opening lines of the title-track gives us an insight of the introduction of Bill Nelson’s lyrical structurers on having the girls screaming their hearts out with their make-up and performing the hell out of either at the Lyceum or at Newcastle City Hall to a grand slam. That and this incredible 3-CD/1-DVD box set done by the good people at Esoteric Recordings of Be-Bop Deluxe’s Axe Victim which was reissued last year, showcases that it’s time to give the band the proper recognition it deserves.

Championed by Julian Cope in his August 2004 album of the month from his Head Heritage website as he describes it as a “conundrum at the time, and still today mystifies almost everyone. Here was a guitar hero guy from up north on his first LP presumptuous/naïve enough to be quoting Cocteau in untranslated French.” Originally released on the Harvest label which was home to Pink Floyd, The Greatest Show on Earth, Third Ear Band, and Deep Purple, Be-Bop Deluxe were sort of the odd-ball that belonged to the label.

You have these lyrical textures delving not just into the Bowie-sque vibes, but more of a crossover between Ray Davies and Paul Jones’ Crucifix in a Horseshoe-era. And with an amazing stereo and 5.1 mix done by Stephen W. Tayler who had done the remixes for the previous Be-Bop albums including Futurama, Drastic Plastic, Modern Music, and one of my favorites, Sunburst Finish. Axe Victim as I’ve mentioned earlier, is the recognition it is time to bow down over.

With the crossover vibes between Grand Funk Railroad and Boston’s Tom Schulz on the heavy riffs that Nelson does on Third Floor Heaven, he describes the story of a shy person falling in love a middle-age woman on the third floor of Heaven’s hotel, who doesn’t take shit from anybody and will stand up to this person who had been pushed around and bullied.

Jet Silver and the Dolls of Venus is Bill’s answer to the fantasy take of Mott the Hoople’s All the Young Dudes, but taking an intensive midsection approach with some heavy acoustic guitars, backing vocals with a Beatle-sque vibe, soaring arrangements, and walking bass touches followed by a virtuosic guitar finale that ends in feedback. When you listen to Rocket Cathedrals which sounds amazing in Tayler’s remix, you can almost imagine Bill’s nod to Delia Derbyshire for a couple of seconds.

But then it’s a ‘50s adventure into the unknown of space and time with some proto-punk vibes as Robert Bryan takes centerstage on the sixth track. He just takes it up a notch as Bill gives him a chance to take the limelight on here. Between Bill and Ian Parkin, it’s a duel between the two guitarists as they make it to the finish line as the reminiscing of childhood in post-world war II baby boom of a mournful yet touching sweetness to look back with love and passion for the Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape and leaving very early morning for the acoustic singer-songwriter composition for the Jets at Dawn.

No Trains to Heaven become this big giant party for Be-Bop Deluxe to have a big celebration in the afterlife with some heavy guitar lines and a fast-driven sequence that would make you pop the champagnes and knowing that the pain and suffering they went through down below, is free from all of the badness that’s going on of the planet Earth.

Now onto the second and third discs. The second disc is Tayler’s new stereo mixes of the debut album which I really got a kick out of. Taken from the original multi-track tapes, Stephen takes a whole new approach to make sure that Be-Bop’s debut is giving the full shaft of light brought to the surface with some incredible instruments that come into the forefront where he brings up parts of the vocals and instruments to make sure they come in at the right moment.

But there is a moment where you hear a spoken word version of the song Night Creatures. Listening to this mellowing Floyd-like spacey approach, Bill is speaking through the minds of Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. The third and final disc are two performances that the band did for the late great John Peel who was a champion of the band and an audition recording for the Decca label in the winter of 1973. Two from recordings include a New York Dolls-like rocker Bluesy Ruby and the throbbing Halloween touch of Dracula’s neck for blood on I’ll Be Your Vampire

The super deluxe edition contains a 68-page booklet with liner notes by Bill Nelson about the making of the debut album, unseen photographs, postcards, and a Record Store poster. This was quite the trip to revisit the album again I haven’t heard in a long, long time. So it’s time to put on your platform boots and play your guitar to be a part of Be-Bop Deluxe’s Axe Victim.



Sunday, May 9, 2021

Kevin Kastning & Soheil Peyghambari - The First Realm

I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve listened to Kevin’s music recently. Maybe a few years or more. I’m not sure. So it’s time for to delve my toes into the water to see what I had been missing. While we’re living in tricky times since everything came to a screeching halt in March of last year when both COVID-19 and the Pandemic hit, Kastning has always given us a chance to lift our spirits.

His collaboration with Iranian clarinet player Soheil Peyghambari are brought together with the release on the Greydisc label, The First Realm. This album takes you into the smoky, heavy evenings around midnight that can make your skin crawl. Kevin and Soheil can take the listener into these deep, dark atmospheres that can send chills down your spine.

This here is a perfect combination. Between Kevin’s 36-string double contraguitar, 17-string hybrid classical guitar, and Peyghambari’s Bass and B-flat clarinet is like thunder and lightning that would hit at the right moment. When you listen to The First Realm you can almost feel a pin drop as Soheil plays his clarinet by channeling the late Lol Coxhill and some of the arrangements that David Bedford would have written for him.

It’s almost going into the dark secrets that Alice had left behind during her time in Wonderland and thru the Looking glass, but it is the nightmarish quality of going into the heavy forests. And it is a place that you do not want to go near. If you do, it can bring out these horrifying visions. But Kevin and Soheil are here to take the listener into that area to help them confront their demons once and for all.

This was another challenge for Kevin to tackle. And with The First Realm, it is part middle-eastern, free-jazz, neo-classical, and a movie inside our heads. I hope that he continues to give us more brainstorming ideas in the roaring ‘20s and hopefully once everything is back to normal, we will one day see him perform again in front of a live audience.




Monday, April 19, 2021

A Tribute to MoonJune Records - 20 Years Later

How would I describe MoonJune Music? Brilliant? Superb? Amazing? Mind-blowing? Or Surreal? If the answer is all of the above, you probably might be on the right track. It’s been 20 years since Leonardo Pavkovic had launched the label which covers Progressive Rock, Jazz Fusion, Avant-Garde, and World Music. Alongside Esoteric Recordings, ECM, Harvest Records, Island Records (the Pink Years), and the swirling Vertigo label from 1969 to 1973 in its golden era, MoonJune Records is still going strong.

I first became aware of the MoonJune label back in the 2010s when I was a student in Houston Community College when I bought Adele Schmidt and Jose Zegarra Holder’s first of the documentary series, Romantic Warriors: A Progressive Music Saga. It was where I first heard D.F.A. and I was hooked. It was this mixture of Italian Prog, Canterbury, and Jazz Fusion rolled into one. And during the summer of 2010, I joined the social media world with Facebook.

That was where I believe I became friends with Leo. If it wasn’t for social media, the blog would’ve been done and dusted. I decided to messaged him during that time by letting him know how much I enjoyed some of the music what he was unleashing and he sent me an envelope of MoonJune releases from Machine Mass Trio, Tohpati, SimakDialog, SH.TG.N, and Mahogany Frog to name a few.

And it’s been an amazing ride to see what Leo will send over. Whether it’s Dwiki Dharmawan, Soft Machine Legacy, Mark Wingfield, Slivovitz, Dewa Budjana, Stick Men, or Markus Reuter, Leo always has a good ear to bringing the world of music to life. For me who has been a supporter of MoonJune since 2010 after watching the Romantic Warriors documentary, I can imagine my ears would be perking to see what Pavkovic will think of next.

In an interview last year with Cedric Hendrix on the amazing CirdecSongs website on June 27th, Cedric asked Leo on how he defined his place in the Music Industry; “I believe I’ve been fairly successful in exposing a lot of great, deserving talents to a much wider segment of audiences. I believe fans of progressive music weren’t afforded the opportunity to become acquainted with so many great, deserving artists and their unique art – from these and other countries prior to the impact of MoonJune.”

“I do not feel the need to address questions as to why I did this or that, or why I am still running the label in such a non-conformist fashion since 2001. My approach to MoonJune has never been framed in any conventional manner. Initially, it just happened. And it’s still happening, and will continue to happen.”

And who knows where the future will be for MoonJune Records. Despite the world coming to a screeching halt last year in March due to the pandemic and COVID-19, the music of MoonJune has always lift our spirits up to make sure not just to mope and groan and be couch potatoes, but music will keep us alive during these tricky times.

To Leonardo Pavkovic, thank you for 20 years of unleashing incredible music from the label. Let’s see where the next 10 years will be in the 2030s to see what you will have in store for us in the near future.

And to top all off, here’s my top 20 MoonJune favorites:

1. I Know You Well Miss Clara – Chapter One
2. Stick Men – Prog Noir
3. SH.TG.N – SH.TG.N
4. Stephan Thelen – Fractal Guitar
5. simakDialog – Demi Masa
6. D.F.A. – 4th
7. Tohpati Ethnomission – Save the Planet
8. Machine Mass Trio – As Real As Thinking
9. Slivovitz – All You Can Eat
10. Yagull – Kai
11. Susan Clynes – Life Is…
12. Ligro – Dictionary 2
13. Zhongyu – Zhongyu
14. Stratus Luna – Stratus Luna
15. Mark Wingfield – Proof of Light
16. Mahogany Frog – DO5
17. Moraine – Groundswell
18. The Wrong Object – After the Exhibition
19. Markus Reuter – Truce
20. Dewa Budjana – Dawai in Paradise

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Jethro Tull - A (A La Mode): The 40th Anniversary Edition


This 3-CD/3-DVD set consists of Jethro Tull’s departure from their Progressive roots into an electronic rocking voyage with their 13th studio album, A. Originally released on the Chrysalis label on August 29th in the UK and on September 1st in the States in 1980, the album was originally going to be an Ian Anderson solo album, but the label decided to be credited to the band instead. While there were two original members – Ian Anderson and Martin Barre – from previous line-up changes, the album did well.

Recorded during the summer of 1980 at Maison Rouge Mobile and Maison Rouge Studios featuring bassist Dave Pegg and drummer Mark Craney along with guest musician from Roxy Music, violinist and keyboardist Eddie Jobson, A is getting the recognition it deserving entitled A (A La Mode): The 40th Anniversary Edition. And with Steven Wilson returning to the mixing table once more for the Tull reissues, it’s time to see what has the maestro has done to Tull’s underrated gem.

Gone are the storytelling structures from Thick as a Brick, Aqualung, A Passion Play, and the Folk-Rock trilogy, into soaring adventures from the Fylingdale Flyer. You can hear Barre’s guitar and Eddie’s synths into the forefront as the doubling-vocal tracks from Ian as he sings “Through clear skies tracking lightly from far down the line/No fanfare, just a blip on the screen/No quick conclusions now everything will be fine.

It does have a little bit of Rush in there as if they were honoring a bit of the 2112-era, but checking the channels on the plane’s coordination to make sure it makes a soft landing with some galloping grooves. Batteries Not Included becomes this intensive synth-rocking explosion into the danger zone thanks to Eddie, Martin, Mark, and Ian’s improvisation on the intro.

With its nod to this incredible strange toy from the Land of the Rising Sun, the question where are the batteries for it to work? Not only Tull can rock, but show some humor in search of the one thing to make it turn the lights on and make the wheels run. Eddie takes us in a darker turn with his electric violin into the working-class Uniforms as he helps Ian on his melodic vocal styles by going upwards and downwards.

But once he returns to the folk-rock roots with some synths leading the way on Working John, Working Joe, Ian doesn’t shy away from Tull’s golden-era for a brief 3 minutes as he goes back the Premiata Forneria Marconi-sque vibrations of a medieval folk turned heavy rock dance for The Pine Martens Jig.

Closing number, And Further On starts off with a nod to the unsung British jazz group Gilgamesh from their Another Fine Tune You’ve Got Us Into period for a minute before Jobson takes us into the deep, dark forest as Ian sings about the pollution level has gotten worse; “We saw the heavens break/And all the world go down to sleep/And rocks on mossy banks/Drip acid rain from craggy steeps.

And the state on Earth has now entered the O-Zone level, but then the dynamics from Barre’s guitar comes crashing in for Craney bringing hopefully a small glimpse of the sunlight to perch through the dark clouds. The situation ends on a cliffhanger on what is going to happen next. And who knows where the next hope for peace will be and will they be there for us?

The bonus tracks on the first disc on contains Barre’s guitar introduction for the extended version of Crossfire. It feels almost like this overture-sque scenario before it goes straight into the original take. For me, I always felt Martin’s guitar on the opener, should have been on the album because it gives us a take on what the danger is to come and how we must prevent it.

Coruisk starts with Ian’s flute by taking us into a darker atmosphere with Jobson’s echoing piano filling up the halls before the bass, dooming guitar, and drums sends the listener into at first these abandoned halls before the unexpected eruptive time changes come charging in with some heavy conga grooves. Since I’ve mentioned about Rush earlier, this is probably their take of an earlier vibe of YYZ from the Moving Pictures period by taking it up a notch a-la Tull style!

The second and third disc is their live performance which had been previously “bootlegged” at the Los Angeles Sports Arena during the A tour on November 12, 1980. I can remember watching the footage of their stunning performance of Aqualung which was on VH1 classic when I got back into the re-introduction world of Jethro Tull in the fall of 2005.

Now with the Slipstream available on the A box set on DVD in Steven’s mix and the Sports Arena’s recording, it makes you feel like you have a front row ticket to watch the band’s performance at their best. From the moment they take the stage with the blistering take of Black Sunday as Ian becomes the storyteller, you can feel they are a part of the journey before Jobson goes into some heavy classical concerto to be flying into a far-away land.

I can hear Dave Pegg laying down the funk on his Bass on Crossfire as he and Martin follow Ian’s pleading on the scene of the crime and portraying his innocence while laying down heavier militant rock vibes to Protect and Survive. This gives Eddie a lot of ammunition he needs during the performance between his violin and Ian’s flute solo. You can feel his appreciation during the times he plays the synths by following Martin’s arrangements.

He is really going light-speed on his violin as he plays nonstop to take center stage for the audience to keep going. I could feel the intensity of Curved Air’s Darryl Way and Mahavishnu’s Jerry Goodman. The band members are following him in hot pursuit to see where Eddie is going into next before Barre lays down some hammering improvisations to give Jobson more ammunition he needs for his keyboard solo.

Now if you think he’s doing a symphonic composition, think again. Eddie’s keyboard solo becomes dark and gothic. He adds enough charges to bring the reverbing effects inside the arena as they cheer him on to add some classical vibrations of Liszt’s last symphony. They also perform two tracks from the War Child album; the dancing sing-along for joy on Skating Away on the Thin Ice of a New Day and the powering punch of Bungle in the Jungle.

But when it comes to the late Mark Craney during the drum solo break on Uniform, he’s almost like a conductor taking the drum exercises to a larger scale. He plays at times between Buddy Rich, Bill Bruford, and Neil Peart. He’s really going into a killer solo on the kit. Jazzy, Rocking, and in your face, Mark deserves a lot of recognition on this number.

The verdict? While it’s not one of my favorite Tull albums, The A La Mode box set is worth the wait. And made me appreciate the album a bit more thanks to Steven’s incredible mixing to show that he may have one more Tull reissue up his sleeve. So who knows what will happen next. But it’s time to fly again once more to delve back into the A album, and finally getting the recognition it deserves.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Remembering Michael Nathanson (1947 - 2021)

I lost my Mom Saturday morning, April 3, 2021. She had been ill for a few years. She was not only Mom, but a teacher, book-reader, writer, editor, watching TV game shows, and loved to shop!

The past five days since her passing have been rough for me, my Dad, and my sister. We not only lost our Mom, but also a friend, someone who listened, understood, helpful, special, witty, and fun. We loved her very, very much.

When I was starting the second semester in the fall of 2005 as a student in Houston Community College after going through a rough beginning in the first semester, I learned how to keep going. I took a course in Commercial Music Forum from Joe LoCascio who became one of my mentors and teacher to go from filmmaking to Jazz Studies. The course of Commercial Music Forum was that you had to write five concert reviews.

And that was where the light bulb lit up inside my head. I have been writing reviews since 2008. If it wasn’t for both Joe and my Mom, I don’t know what I would be doing right now. Since starting my blogsite, Music from the Other Side of the Room, and then writing for Echoes and Dust, and a 2-year ride with The Progressive Aspect, my Mom was always supportive for me to follow my dream in writing.

I know that she would want me to continue writing. And I’m following that dream to keep going.

I remember when the late great film critic Roger Ebert dedicated a special to his partner Gene Siskel from the Chicago Tribune who passed away in 1999 entitled Remembering Gene Siskel for the TV show Siskel & Ebert. In the final segment of the tribute, Roger talked about Gene asking the final question to either an actor or a director, “What do you know for sure?”

Okay Mom, what do I know for sure about you, well you were one of the smartest, polite, amazing, and funny person I got to know and an amazing editor. To quote Ebert, It was almost impossible to tell you anything you already didn’t know. Whether you were watching a movie marathon of the Harry Potter series, Bette Davis, Casablanca, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, or watching either Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune when it come on in the afternoon and evening.

And I know for sure that going to movies as a family seeing The Birdcage or Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men in Tights, it was an amazing time to go. Seeing some R-rated movies like South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut was an extra bonus!

And I know for sure that a book you finished reading whether it was good or bad, your spirit was still high. I know it’s going to be a long and winding road without you, being here, but your spirit and your legacy will never die. Thank you Mom for being a part of our lives. And God bless.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Jethro Tull - Stormwatch: The 40th Anniversary Force 10 Edition


This 4-CD and 2-DVD set consists of the continuing reissues of Jethro Tull’s catalog. This one is twelfth studio album, Stormwatch. Originally released on the Chrysalis Records label, this was the final chapter of their Folk-Rock trilogy which started out with Songs from the Wood, Heavy Horses, and Stormwatch. Here in this amazing set entitled; The 40th Anniversary Force 10 Edition, sees the band at their best, but also the last real Jethro Tull album which marked the end for the classic line-up of the 1970s.

The theme of the subject matter behind Stormwatch deals with the problems with the environment, oil, and money. By this time, bassist John Glascock who joined the band in 1976 replacing Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond, with Too Old To Rock & Roll; Too Young to Die!, was in bad health due to his lifestyle with drugs and alcohol, missed out on the sessions for the album as he appeared three on the tracks, as Ian helped out on the bass during the recording sessions.

While there was tension behind the scenes and soon Dee Palmer, Barriemore Barlow, and John Evan would leave during the end of the Stormwatch tour, this was also the last real Jethro Tull album as well. So how did Steven Wilson do with the new mixing of the album? Well, let’s delve into it.

When you listen to the fanfare of Warm Sporran, you get a feeling that the marching drum beats, bass riffs, flutes and vocalizations are coming right in front of you. Ian’s flute goes into this jazz-like groove before the sound delves into this Italian-like renaissance as if they’re marching into their final battle, knowing that this is the end of their run, but knowing they died as heroes.

I love how Barre’s guitar goes right into the punch for Something’s On the Move. It gives this characterization of the story on the danger of the polluted wasteland has now transformed into a nightmarish ice storm. The brutal yet heavier arrangements, sees that there’s no sign of the sunlight happening and the death warrant has just been signed of the mysterious ladies curse upon the frozen landscapes.

Orion becomes this epic movie inside your head. At times it rises up with the string section, romantic piano and acoustic guitars, and the question on how that the city of once was, has now become this sad place with no sign of happiness while the medieval rocking opener, North Sea Oil tackles with the oiling business and the prices going up, it is going to be a very heavy time for that sign of jackpot in the oil drilling business to get that big money, but coming with a heavy price.

Dun Ringill is Ian’s return to both Wond’ring Aloud and Jack-in-the-Green. It’s about the Isle of Skye as he sings through this echoing effect and playing intensively on his guitar. It feels like a waltz at times as he’s feels the thunderstorm and the waves crashing right in front of him by crying out to the gods at times as Evan’s thunderous piano work on Flying Dutchman which was inspired by a legendary ghost ship that was doomed to set sail the oceans, goes into a sign of warning to be on the look-out for this mysterious ship.

John’s bass line on the bonus track for Crossword on the second disc, sets up a cat-and-mouse chase through various obstacles with Barre’s riffs before rising up to the mountains in the midsection on trying to understand that living the grind of working, can be put a strain between you, your family, and how do you want your future to be in the years to come?

A Stitch in Time is Ian’s response to Frank Zappa’s Over-Nite Sensation with female singers to a mid-tempo heavy rock song while returning to the medieval roots honoring Gentle Giant with these odd time changes for Palmer’s arrangements based on an English Folk song that was written by King Henry VIII, King Henry’s Madrigal. I love how Tull can create this traditional composition and take it up a notch by making not just heavier, but proggier at its peak with some twists to honor the Rock Progressivo Italiano genre at times.

Evan strikes again on Urban Apocalypse as he goes from piano to an attack mode on the organ at times. This deals with the big corporations have taken over the enterprise and it is not a pretty scenario as Palmer’s lyrics showcases the dark side of greed and corruptive leaders have a huge amount of skeletons in the closet they don’t want the public to know.

The eerie synths set up the nightmare that is about to come for the Sweet Dream Fanfare as Tull goes into this ambient moody feel to a fanfare approach, xylophones, heavier guitars, and channeling The Moody Blues’ Procession before getting the crowd to stand up with a brutal take of Sweet Dream. Now on Discs Three and Four contains the full concert at Den Haag on March 16th during the Stormwatch tour at the Nederlands Congresgebouw, which would be later known as the World Forum.

It starts off with a dooming laden for the Prelude to a Storm for the synths setting up the thunder and dark clouds appearing out of nowhere like an overture-sque intro before setting up the dangerous sail into the unknown before the mournful ride towards Home becomes this question on where do we go from here after an exhausting day at work as Elegy fills the halls with an emotional renaissance ride into the Grey Heavens.

As the classics with Aqualung, Heavy Horses, Minstrel in the Gallery, Too Young To Rock & Roll; Too Young to Die!, and the excerpts from Thick as a Brick, it shows that Tull haven’t forgotten the fan favorites along with an intensive guitar solo that Barre does to bring out this brutal reverbing effect that is like a race-car drive into the finish line with some killer improvisations.

But I wished there was some clapping to the rhythm on Old Ghosts that would’ve followed Tull’s groove as Ian becomes this storyteller by describing the structures of the garden at Kilmarie House. Ian isn’t just a flute player, but letting the audience be a part of the journey from the Stormwatch tour before the alarm of danger goes off for the dangerous live take with Evan’s organ taking the ‘60s vibe on Something’s On the Move.

The deluxe edition contains a 97-page booklet containing liner notes by Martin Webb about the making of the album, interviews from Ian, Dee, and Dave while Barre was interviewed by David Rees along with a quote from Barlow courtesy of A New Day magazine. It also includes photos of the tour, multi-track tapes, 45 RPM’s, tour dates, promo posters for the album, and the time they did music for the Scottish Ballet in February, 1981 and one for the Theatre Royal Glasgow on March 7th, 1979.

When the album was released on September 14, 1979, it got mixed reviews in the UK. The NME considered North Sea Oil, the worst record of the week including the Record Mirror who gave it a disheartened review, followed by Sounds. But it got some good reviews from the late Karl Dallas of the Melody Maker. While this album was ahead of its time, and Steven’s mix giving Stormwatch the recognition it deserves, and giving John Glascock the recognition he deserves. Not just his time with The Gods, Carmen, and Head Machine, but the swan song farewell it deserves.

But Stormwatch while it may take time to get into. And whether you get it or not, you have to understand that this closes the book on Jethro Tull’s amazing run they had from 1968 to 1979. And that’s where the ‘80s begins for the group in a different period.