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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.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Rosalie Cunningham - Number 149 / Fossil Song

It’s been nearly two years since Rosalie Cunningham has released her follow-up sole self-titled debut album which was my album of the year in 2019. While it’s also been a year since going into lockdown mode due to the pandemic and COVID-19, music has always kept my spirits up and running. But Rosalie shows no sign of stopping as she’s released her single on the Esoteric Antenna label, Number 149 and the B-Side, Fossil Song.

The first track, Number 149, which was named after the house that she grew up in that still photograph, is a trip down memory lane for Rosalie to remember the childhood memories she had as a kid. There’s a bit of course, The Beatles, but with the Mellotron-sque dreamy landscapes that she and Rosco’s drumming brings, it opens the doors up into this twilight zone-sque parallel universe.

I think of the Syd Barrett approaches that are on here while Rosalie channels her brutal riffs in some of the midsections as if she is crying out to the gods up into the mountains of Asgard by raising Thor’s hammer with a battle cry. There’s also the finale where they stomp into the Slade groove thanks to Rosco’s drum patterns, clapping rhythms, and dancing to the beat that Rosalie does by taking the listener into the unknown.

Fossil Song is Rosalie’s tip of her Mad Hatter’s hat to both comic book writer Neil Gaiman and Van Der Graaf's Peter Hammill. I feel this tug towards Marc Bolan’s lyrical arrangements as she does this cat-and-mouse texture between her and Rosco. But while the Beatles inspirations are there, there is the Saucerful of Secrets-era of Pink Floyd in there as the midsection sees her delving into Richard Wright’s See-Saw with some wah-wah effects at the end that is like the finale of a psych-prog take version of Alice Cooper’s Hello Hooray.

While it’s a single, it’s sort of what’s to come on her second album that she’s been working on since last year. Esoteric has been one of my favorite labels since 2008 and for her to be a part of the Cherry Red family, it must be a dream come true for her to see what she has in store with her follow-up for 2021.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

The Top 25 Albums of 2020

This year has been pretty rough throughout the whole year with COVID-19, Quarantine, and Concerts not happening. And while it's been stressful as well, music can always lift our spirits up. So I hope you got your Christmas and Hanukkah wish lists ready, because here is the top 25 albums of 2020.

1. Ring Van Mobius – The 3rd Majesty (Apollon Records)
2. La Maschera di Cera – S.E.I. (AMS Records)
3. Gary Husband & Markus Reuter – Music of our Times (MoonJune Records)
4. Markus Reuter Oculus – Nothing is Sacred (MoonJune Records)
5. Gazpacho – Fireworker (Kscope)
6. Ayreon – Transitus (Music Theories Recordings)
7. Jon Durant & Robert Jurjendal – Across the Evening (Alchemy Records)
8. Louise Patricia Crane – Deep Blue (Bad Omen Records)
9. Pixie Ninja – Colours Out of Space (Apollon Records)
10. Kansas – The Absence of Presence (InsideOut)
11. Rick Wakeman & The English Rock Ensemble – The Red Planet (Madfish)
12. Kavus Torabi – Hip to the Jag (Believers Roast)
13. Hexvessel – Kindred (Svart Records)
14. Markus Reuter – Truce (MoonJune Records)
15. Ross Goldstein – Timoka (Birdwatcher Records)
16. Deep Energy Orchestra – The Return (7D Media)
17. Amy Birks – All That I Am & All That I Was (Self-Released)
18. Magenta – Masters of Illusion (Tigermoth Records)
19. The Tangent – Auto Reconnaissance (InsideOut)
20. Zoe Polanski – Violent Flowers (Youngbloods)
21. Tim Bowness – Late Night Laments (InsideOut)
22. Jon Gomm – The Faintest Idea (Kscope)
23. Fish – Weltschmerz (Chocolate Frog Records)
24. Jakko M. Jakszyk – Secrets & Lies (InsideOut)
25. Nektar – The Other Side (Esoteric Antenna)

Monday, September 21, 2020

Reuter Motzer Grohowski - Shapeshifters

Recorded last year at the Shapeshifter lab in New York on August 18th, Markus Reuter, Tim Motzer, and Kenny Grohowski participated in an experiment at the sonic laboratory. The premise for the three members who were at the venue last year was; what are the corporate results of three sonic shapeshifters, released from their own prisons? What they will do when they’re behaviors become observed? And how they will assume by creating their own transformation?

And the result is on this recording that becomes this suspenseful drama that the trio unfolds with Shapeshifters on the MoonJune label. Listening to this album, its almost as if you are a part of their experiment as the trio gets down to business by increasing the heat gage level as it gets more hotter for the members unleash the flaming fires they’re about to unleash.

The four tracks that are on the live recording showcases their sinister side. It goes beyond the electronic route and the jazzier sides as well. This is the future that they’re bringing to us at the labs in Brooklyn. There are certain moments where they created an alternate score for Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 classic Stalker and Rainer Weiner Fassbinder’s 1973 TV miniseries World on a Wire.

They’ve done their homework very well when it comes to writing a score for a film that is brought to life. It is a climbing effect in some sections where they would bring the audience to a standstill and not knowing where they will go next. And some of its catchy, but then it returns into the swamps of Louisiana where it becomes dark and very scary.

The reason for that is there are certain area in that location which are dangerous and the areas you do not want to go into. And they take you into those areas and warn you why it’s a place in Louisiana you want to avoid at times. This took me a while to delve into for a few weeks to go back and listen again and again with Shapeshifters. Understand that the trio’s unexpected challenges bring the listener into those hard, intense, and brutal areas right in front of your face. And if you think it’s a story filled with a Disney-story line with fairy dust sprinkle all over to fly with Peter Pan, think again.

Markus Reuter Oculus - Nothing is Sacred

Recorded last year at La Casa Murada in Spain on May 15th, Oculus is one of the most interesting projects that is like finding long lost hidden treasures that haven’t been opened for a long, long time. Released on the MoonJune label, Nothing is Sacred is a challenging release this year that will make your spine crawl. And to be allowed to feature Fabio Tentini, Asaf Sirkis, Robert Rich, David Cross, and Mark Wingfield, it shows that Oculus aren’t just a band, but a family.

Listening to Nothing is Sacred is like walking into an area of the Twin Peaks universe that has never been seen before. With its dissonance, increasing temperatures, and chambering echoes of gothic cathedrals, Reuter takes the listener into the unknown. Solve et Coagula (Ghost I) is a cross between Philip Glass and Andy Summers’ Behind my Camel from The Police’s Zenyatta Mondatta-era.

Fabio’s bass goes upwards as Wingfield and Reuter’s soundscapes take a deeper voyage into some of Schulze’s arrangements. The themes on here are darker, nightmarish, and very creepy. Sirkis’ drums sound like as if they’re locking the doors very tight inside the mental institutions so that the inmates won’t take over the asylum for a while until all hell will break loose.

Bubble Bubble Bubble Bath (Wink) gives Reuter go into this psychedelic trance as we hear film-noir mellotrons with vocalizing whispers while David’s violin adds the beat with Asaf’s heart-pounding bass drum. And once Wingfield follows Markus in hot pursuit, he follows him into those eerie rabbit holes with a morse code.

The Occult (Dice I) has Asaf’s click-clacking percussion effects to fill up the entire studio by channeling Nine Inch Nails meets Gong’s You-era. The bass section that Fabio does, channels two unsung bass masters; Mike Howlett and Paul Jackson from the Head Hunters-era of Herbie Hancock. With an echoing effect, it has this intensive drive between Markus, Fabio, and Mark driving 900 miles per hour.

Nothing is Sacred is one of a kind. It may not be everyone’s cup of Joe, but Reuter and Oculus take you into those areas that are surreal, mythical, and Lynch-like. But the twists and turns can keep you guessing to see what will happen next.

Markus Reuter - Sun Trance

 The genesis behind this incredible project came when Dennis Kuhn came across Markus Reuter’s work six years ago as he contacted him about collaborating with his ensemble team, the Mannheimer Schlagwerk. It was almost as if Don Corleone from The Godfather once said, “I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse.”

Dennis has been around since 1979. He founded the Basler Schlagzeugtrio in 1984 and joined the Deutsches Schlagzeugensemble (German Percussion Ensemble). He collaborated with two composers, Wolfgang Rihm and controversial figure, Karlheinz Stockhausen.

Sun Trance was written quickly for Reuter to compose after finishing up Daimon Fu a few months earlier. Recorded three years ago at Alte Feuerwache in Mannheim, Germany on May 23rd and released on the MoonJune label, distributed my Iapetus Media, Sun Trance gives you the front-row seat to unveil this incredible live recording that has been unfolded and finally brought to life.

You can feel this lullaby going into a deep, dark area from the dissonance that is like a pin dropping at any second. It’s like something straight out of two films; Spike Jonze’s 1999 classic, Being John Malkovich and Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides. It has these mysterious edges towards the composition as if the ensemble has given audience members pieces of the puzzle set on to their tables.

And for them, they have to put the pieces together to see what happens next. The vibraphones that Ti-Hsien Lai and Dennis Kuhn are doing while the Glockenspiels between Luis Andres, Lukas Heckmann, and Chavarria Baez go into this dangerous maze that is very challenging.

It turns into a Goblin-sque approach that is deepish red and following into the Suspiria sessions that the ensemble challenge. Reuter’s instruments walk upwards on this spiral staircase by raising the temperatures up a notch. It has a walking dance in 4/4 with some shakers going in hot pursuit, and moody atmospheres to channel Jean Sibelius’ The Swan of Tuonela.

Sun Trance is a mesmerizing composition by Reuter and the Mannheimer Schlagwerk. It will keep you guessing until the very end. And for MoonJune, they’ve got something special, and it is the ultimate trip.