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Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Top 20 Reissues of 2011

Well, here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. It took a good while to see what were the best reissues to come out this year as we close out 2011 out with a bottle of champagne and bring out the BBQ with the top 20 reissues of 2011 and, ladies and gentlemen, let the list begin with a mighty sound of the Hammond organ with a roar and let the wild rompous start!

1. Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon (Immersion Edition) [Capitol]
2. Jethro Tull – Aqualung (40th Anniversary Edition) [EMI]
3. Barclay James Harvest – Once Again (40th Anniversary Edition) [EMI]
4. Aardvark – Aardvark [Esoteric]
5. Acqua Fragile – Mass Media Stars [Esoteric]
6. King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (40th Anniversary Edition) [Panygeric]
7. Rush – Moving Pictures (Deluxe Edition) [Mercury]
8. Nektar - A Tab in the Ocean/Remember the Future [It’s About Music]
9. CAN – Tago Mago (40th Anniversary Edition) [Mute]
10. Caravan – In The Land of Grey and Pink (Deluxe Edition) [Universal]
11. Le Orme – Felona E Sorona (Deluxe Edition) [Universal]
12. Queen – The First Five Albums [Hollywood]
13. Rush – Sector I & II [Mercury]
14. Various Artists – A Visit to the Spaceship Factory [Start]
15. Robert John Godfrey – Fall of Hyperion [Operation]
16. The Who – Quadrophenia (Super Deluxe Edition) [Polydor]
17. Steel Mill – Jewels of the Forest: Green Eyed God…Plus [Rise Above]
18. Barclay James Harvest – Taking Some Time On: The Parlophone Years [EMI]
19. UFO – The Chrysalis Years: 1973-1979 [EMI]
20. Bill Nelson – Northern Dream [Esoteric]

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Robert John Godfrey - Fall of Hyperion

After (well I don’t want to get into the crossfire with this) creative and tensional differences with Barclay James Harvest with Once Again in 1971, Robert John Godfrey decided to take his symphonic and orchestral approach towards story-complex music and decided to release his own solo album. Originally released in 1974, Fall of Hyperion was a powerful and obscure gem that Godfrey wanted to take his classical sounds into a world of beloved dreams and showcased his keyboard and compositions with a Tchaikovsky-like rock opera.

Pomp and Circumstance, exploding rhythms, and wonderful singing (from the mind and lyrics of Christopher Lewis whose voice will remind listeners of the lost legend from the psychedelic pop world, John Howard), is the full evidence. This is obscure symphonic prog that would have given Yes a field day and yet there’s a bit of could have been the sequel to Atom Heart Mother and A Question of Balance. Now is Robert John Godfrey one of the explosive keyboard players ever? No, but what he does is to take the listener on a journey into a world of beauty and dramatic structures for the ballet that would have their knees tired after dancing to different time changes.

There’s the full on operatic roar introduction of the mellotron and piano concertos on The Raven in which Lewis pay an homage to Edgar Allen Poe and a small node to Hawkwind (The hawkwinds are silenced) while the romp turned militant clash of the drums on the edge of danger of Mountains, shows that Godfrey is no fluke when it comes to orchestral rock. The lushful turned pastoral emotional touch of Water Song, could have been used in Disney’s Fantasia (From the Night, Morning bright/Sunrise to a Clear Blue Sky/So warm the land around/Go endlessly, go rolling on to sundown), is spot on touching and dangerous.

Isault is another rumbling turned volcanic eruption as Lewis’ voice will take your breath away as Godfrey’s keyboard follow his voice as he takes his story-structured songs into another level into the soaring sky into the heavens, and you can tell that they lyrics have a bit of his touch and tribute to Pete Sinfield’s earlier days with King Crimson. There’s a bit of a reminiscent of Michael Powell’s The Red Shoes in the lyrics as Godfrey hits it hard while giving a small sense of boundaries throughout the number like a knife cutting through the tightrope and holding for dear life.

Now if Isault was soft and calm, the 14-minute finale, The Daemon of the World, that is his homage to Pink Floyd’s A Saucerful of Secrets, is one of the eruptive pieces that would have replaced The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and have Mickey Mouse use his magical powers for the brooms to dance to. There’s some tension structures, post-apocalyptic dooming percussion music, avant-garde balladry, angry voices, keyboard magical adventures of swirling, you get the general idea. When you listen to this piece, you get the feeling that Godfrey is writing his own version of Fantasia and giving Mickey Mouse a sheet to say, “This is how we’re going to do it. And we’re going to do it my way.”

Fall of Hyperion is not an easy album to listen to from start to finish, but Godfrey always wanted to push the envelope with wild experimentation that he wanted to go far from the solo album to the formation of The Enid. With Fall of Hyperion, he decided to give the temperature level a huge voltage of peaking at 100 and seeing where the symphonic structures will take him and he is the man who knows how the job is done and how it needs to be done.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Future Kings of England - Who is This Who is Coming?

Paying tribute to the short dark gothic story from M.R. James who wrote Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You Lad, it’s hard to write a concept album inspired by James short stories in the early late pre 1890s into the early 1900s, their fourth album has more of an obscure and eerie strange film score as for The Future Kings of England shows their influences from Van Der Graaf Generator, King Crimson, Blonde on Blonde, early Floyd, and The Lamb-era of Genesis darker sounds of prog like you’ve never heard before in your life. Taking the haunting approach and staying true to the unknown ‘70s bands of Prog, The Future Kings of England show their love that genre and is quite an interesting surprise.

Though it has nine tracks from beginning, middle, and end, Who Is This and Who is Coming is not your daddy’s prog album. Now this is my first time getting into The Future Kings of England’s music and if you are interested in the haunting progressive rock bands, well you have come to the right place to discover this band and this is a must have in your collection. The opening Journey to the Coast has this gypsy dance between guitar and tambourine as it segues into the mellowing ¾ time signature of early space rock on The Globe Inn. It has these touches of Gilmour’s guitar work and mellotron, organ, and synth setting the mourning scenery to let you know what’s about to come.

Then you have the acid folk turned a funeral for the insane asylum done by the synth as it transforms itself into a pipe organ on Watcher parts I & II while Convinced Disbeliever goes into the doom metal approach. With the doom sound, they take the ideas from Black Sabbath, Blood Ceremony, and the Pawn Hearts epic, A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers, it is very psychedelic and has some Iommi guitar riffs to add a notch of heavily portrait that is owes a lot to sound of the year 1971. Now we get into the 9-minute title track.

It has a great furious sound almost as if they pay tribute to the Canterbury band, The Soft Machine’s 1970s album, Third and the track Facelift as the organ and guitar broad into atmospheric structures into a nightmarish world of hell and taking some disturbing concepts. Like Soft Machine, they also take the Krautrock sound, the bands from Germany who were different the British Prog bands like Ash Ra Tempel and early Tangerine Dream music from Phaedra and Zeit, with synths, stoner guitar licks, and take you on a drug-related adventure that you’ve never dreamed of, really is a dream world experience.

As with the Krautrock scenery, the 10-minute title, A Face of Crumpled Linen, is a train ride of; shrieking and screaming as it goes into the world of the asylum with a ‘70s funk guitar rhythm and screeching keyboard work turned into the again, Lamb Lies Down on Broadway-era that Genesis made it sound like it was 1982, though you might feel that The Future Kings of England have got something here, they make it something strangely strange but oddly normal.

The album closes with Spectacle of a Scarecrow, which shows the band going into the Meddle-era of Floyd in the realms of the last 9-minutes of Pink Floyd’s Echoes allowing them to go into the sunset through guitar and drums as dawn approaches with some spacey Gilmour guitar references and Nick Mason like drum patterns including soaring keyboard riffs into the blue sky. Almost they have something in them, Who is This Who is Coming is something that you really need to take notice of.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Various Artists - Prog Rocks!

The wonderful sound of Progressive Rock has been around since the psychedelic period in 1966, and its music still influence today’s younger generation. Critics and the so-called mainstream music scenery tried to kill it with darts and a shot gun, but they have failed miserably as it traces their patterns in them and makes it a difficult genre to draw a line in the sand whether you love or loathe it. Done by the good people at EMI, Inside Out, Superball Music, and Classic Rock Presents Prog and compiled by prog maestro’s editor-in-chief, Jerry Ewing, Prog Rocks is one of the best compilations that the three labels have done and the magazine itself.

Here, this is one of the most journeys from 1968 to 2011 as we go on a journey from a magic carpet ride throughout the 2-CD set track by track will have people enjoy, scratch their heads, and decide what bands should be considered prog and who shouldn’t be in the genre. Now if you would have a nice seat have a nice cup of tea, strawberry toast, scrambled eggs, and some pancakes, there’s an adventure waiting for you to take you to the ultimate dimension and beyond the stars. Since prog lovers are familiar with the sounds of Yes, Genesis, ELP, and Camel to name a few, what Ewing does is to let you know is that there is a huge step beyond the four bands and seeing where prog got its sound from.

On Prog Rocks, it goes through Point A to Point B and through the golden era of the artists in today who have been influenced by these bands, taking them from massive success to the obscure and bizarre territory that admired them. Starting the first CD off is Jethro Tull’s disturbing character Aqualung searching to become a pedophile in the booming disturbing classic, Cross-Eyed Mary, which is probably a twisted song, but really kicks the album off like dynamites going off out of nowhere. Meanwhile, Van Der Graaf Generator’s Darkness (11/11) and Rare Bird’s anti-war single, Sympathy, show the obscure and darker territories for more nightmares and views of hell that you’ve never expected.

As for Deep Purple’s psychedelic hard funk of Bird Has Flown show a different take of Purple’s music with Blackmore’s signature guitar riff intro as The Nice’s Country Pie and Barclay James Harvest’s Mockingbird are symphonic trademarks that would have made them the early kings of Symphonic Rock and make it worth emotional and teary-eyed that is lush and beautiful at the same time while the rockabilly turned prog touch of Crimson of Glam on Roxy Music and dooming views of isolation with the early days of ELO, make it a touch of power. However, it’s the obscurity that counts with a little help from Eloy, Gong, Hawkwind, and the Canterbury jazz scene from Hatfield and the North, lets the listener know that the genre isn’t a four letter word as the first side closes with Gentle Giant’s time changing experience with On Reflection.

The second CD is where we are introduced to the new wave of British Prog and the new bands who are now carrying the torch as they take the carpet out into space with Tangerine Dream and Kevin Ayers as it goes down for a nice Garden Party from Marillion, but then it goes into a massive haywire of letting the dogs out screaming for vengeance with Pallas’ Dance through the Fire, The Flower Kings Monkey Business, and the 10-minute journey into another world with Frost’s Black Light Machine.

And while The Tangent, Ayreon, IQ, and Sweet Billy Pilgrim, shows the progressive movement has still going into fresh green tomatoes for musicians and bands to take over, it’s the Texas Punk-Prog band And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, closing the album off with mellow turned hard rock attitude and showing how the future is growing and giving Prog a wonderful revival and a fresh start.

Guitarist review

A couple of weeks ago, I just received an email from a guitarist. Not from James Beaudreau, Matt Stevens, and Josh Leibowitz, and now I completely forgot the name. I was busy and stressful last week doing my finals going through my emails and I accidentally deleted the one email that he asked me to review. And I feel so bad about it. So, whoever you are, please give me an email or a comment and I will get a chance to review the album. My deepest apologies of deleting it. I feel so bad about it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Wonders of Shin Chan

I’m a huge fan of the anime series, Shin Chan since 2006 when Adult Swim originally aired it on Tuesdays. It took me a while to enjoy the series, but after watching the first episode, I fell in love with it with not just the round headed character, but the way the show pushed the envelope like what South Park did back in 1997. The English dub is so spot on with Shin’s voice and bringing the late Yoshito Usui’s 5-year old character into an adult role.

I’m not a wild anime fan, but I have a love of shows like; Sailor Moon, Madlax, Excel Saga, Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid, Martian Successor Nadesico, Ouran High School Host Club, and Death Note, and they really take the shows into a different level and give the so-called pissy shows like Yo Gabba Gabba and Phineas and Ferb the middle finger. What Shin Chan does is take the work into a different level and see where the road would take the funny episode into a huge level.

Based on the manga which the launched the character back in 1990, Shinnosuke Nohara is sort of the Japanese version of Eric Cartman who has a rude personality who makes fun of his parents including his mom Mitzi (Misae) with her weight and breast and his Father, Hiro (even though he supports his views in an academic way), school teachers, friends, and the ways he would take it to a different direction. And his little sister Hima (Himawari), who is following in his brother’s footsteps who shows her how he takes his views, Usui was always one step ahead of the ball park.

It has been 21 years since Shin came to life, and he is still growing like a bullet going through wine glass with his crude funny comments and Mr. Elephant. Don’t ask me, just buy the series and know how Shin is one of the true genius of comedy and anime.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Magenta - Chameleon

For a band who’s been around since 1999 and have a huge following in Europe and in the States in Prog Festivals, it seems that Magenta show no sign of stopping and they prove that they are no flukes and bring the magic and feel to the scenery like closing your eyes and imagine you are there and seeing the band exploding like flaming gasoline. There’s a lot of energy in the music in what they have done to take a long break and let Christina Booth release her first solo debut album that shows her love of the punk and pop sounds of the ‘70s that she grew up and listened to as a kid. But with Chameleon, their new album, it proves that the band have finally let the lava flow quicker and faster to bring the volcano to a huge eruption.

The band have finally got the electricity going and this isn’t just an excuse, but a twisted and exploring listening experience, yet they know they want to keep the Prog genre going and not try to fluke it out and now as a trio; Rob Reed, Christina Booth, and Chris Fry, are now getting in the machine to see what they can do and with the realms of keyboards, bass, guitar, and drums, they have a combination of a hard rock version of the Drama and the Going for the One-era of Yes. The album sounds like it was recorded in 1980 and the three musketeers add a huge blimp to take it to a journey that would take them beyond the stars and beyond the beyond.

For example, the swirling dramatic symphonic rock introduction of Glitterball which starts off a-la Geoff Downes style before going into a dreamy a ballad-like waltz rock dance and into Egyptian rock guitar licks that Reed does to pay tribute to Steve Howe and Hackett to keep the Magenta train chugging while the mellowing emotional beauty of Guernica starts off like an epic film score before going into the heavy metal powder cake punch. Meanwhile on Turn the Tide, has this Andrew Lloyd Webber feel that could have been used on Tell Me on a Sunday and Starlight Express as it gives the listener a view on moving on in life after the death of a loss one as Reed and Fry play into a heavy experimentation between guitar and spooky synth’s that would remind listeners a little bit of Italian Prog maestro’s Goblin.

Reflections is Reed’s take of Ottmar Liebert’s classical guitar playing as if he’s paying tribute to him along with Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Randy Rhoads with this folk-like haunting instrumental composition as it segues into the terrifying torture of Raw. By now, you’ve probably seen the controversial music video that they posted on their YouTube site, where Christina is tied pleading to the man who is going to torture her and pleading her to let her go.

The song has this mini opera feel as if it was written as the ending theme song for The Human Centipede Part II (Full Sequence) as Booth’s emotional voice is touching as she is singing to be free and starting a new chapter in her life. The last track Red, which is 9-minutes long, starts off as an alternative rock mellowing beat before going into a soaring climatic climax that will have mouths watered and jaws dropped from the moment they kick in. The song uses a lot of melodic structures and effect that would have been in full control and right on target.

Chameleon is not just a great album, but it’s one of those albums that you have enjoyed over and over again for Magenta’s skin crawling over their arms. The music is touching and sad, but you couldn’t let go because it’s astonishing and breathtaking at the same time and their new album is a magical adventure and you need to buy it.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Mark Powell - Prophets & Sages: An Illustrated Guide to Underground and Progressive Rock 1967-1975

With a wonderful design cover and an excellent title, it makes you think that this isn’t just a book on the genre from the psychedelic to the golden-era from 1967 to 1975, but more of a history of the albums that influenced the genre and how it has been there from the beginning of the psychedelic-era. For Mark Powell, chief label manager of Reactive, Atomhenge, and Esoteric Recordings, knows his Progressive Music very well and he has scored it to a T. Some you probably know or may not know from the historic classics, to the obscure gems that have been on eBay on vinyl for a shitload of cash to buy for.

The pictures and reviews would bring listeners back memories of bands raging from; The Moody Blues, Caravan, Yes, Genesis, Soft Machine, Cream, and Barclay James Harvest to name a few while the obscurity from T2, Locomotive, Love Sculpture, Aphrodite’s Child, CAN, and Pete Brown’s Piblokto would make you realize that the genre is not just a four letter word. But from help including the late Ernesto De Pacale, Jon Wright, and Keith and Monika Domone to name a few, brings every detail and research on how the album was made and recorded that would make you feel that it’s the 1970s all over again and take your albums out and listen to it while reading the book from beginning, middle, and end.

Now with Powell’s book, there will be a drawing lines in the sand to decide whether what’s prog or not and be a little pissed off to find out why isn’t The Lamb or Dark Side in the book, what Mark did was, he’s not trying to say that he hates the albums, but he wants to go beyond the massive success they had and the goals they achieved. Again, with the pictures in B&W and in Color and the reviews from NME, Record Mirror, and the Melody Maker to name a few from the magazine era in that time period, is really astonishing and almost like wearing your old gym shoes you haven’t wore for a long, long time. Not to mention the top 10 singles and album-charting greats, and the top 30 that would make you save your money for Christmas or wait to find to bid on eBay.

Now this book, will probably be on someone’s Christmas or Hanukkah’s wish list for that one fan to sink their teeth into (if you leave some Milk and Cookies for Santa and ask him if he’s a huge fan of Emerson, Lake and Palmer and ask if his Elves and his wife have a love of Camel and Pink Floyd) However, this book is a must have for prog lovers and you need to buy it. Mark Powell knows his Prog very well and he’s a true teacher on the music genre and knows it and keeps it with his hand to take the torch up to the podium to light the Olympic fire.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The top 20 Progressive Rock albums of 2011

So to the fellow space cadets, looks like it’s been a lot of difficult decisions to make to figure out the best prog albums of 2011. Going through the year has been a painstaking year throughout the Thanksgiving weekend and its that time and it’s been a tug of war. So here it is. Keep staying tune to this blog for the top 10 reissues of 2011 as well.

1. William D. Drake – The Rising of the Lights [Onomatopoeia]
2. Within Temptation – The Unforgiving [Roadrunner]
3. Blackfield – Welcome to My DNA [KScope]
4. Pallas – XXV [Mascot]
5. Steven Wilson – Grace for Drowning [KScope]
6. The Fierce and the Dead – If It Carries Like This, We Are Moving to Morecambe [Self-Released]
7. Mastodon – The Hunter [Reprise]
8. Matt Stevens – Relic [Self-Released]
9. Catscans – Catscans [Self-Released]
10. Van Der Graaf Generator – A Grounding in Numbers [Esoteric]
11. Nicklas Barker – El Ultimo Fin De Semana [Self-Released]
12. Opeth – Heritage [Roadrunner]
13. Orne – The Tree of Life [Black Widow]
14. Porcelain Moon – As It Were, Here and There [Self-Released]
15. The Tangent – COMM [Inside Out]
16. Cryptex – Good Morning, How Did You Live? [Self-Released]
17. Cavalli-Cocchi, Lanzetti, Roversi – Cavalli-Cocchi, Lanzetti, Roversi [Esoteric]
18. Blood Ceremony – Living with the Ancients [Rise Above]
19. Altered Symmetry – Altered Symmetry [Self-Released]
20. Von Hertzen Brothers – Stars Aligned [Universal]

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Nicklas Barker - El Ultimo Fin De Semana

More like a combination of the duo Zombi meets the Italian prog maestros of Horror film scores, Goblin, keyboardist and guitarist Nicklas Barker from Ankedoten has finally come a long way and it proves that his inspiration from Goblin, would later get him a chance to do a horror score. He isn’t doing this to embark on a solo career, he’s doing this because he enjoys it and the soundtrack to El Ultimo Fin De Semana (Our Last Weekend), a story about four friends to go to one of their grandmother’s house in the village, but it is filled with secrets that would divide them, annihilation, and the barriers that it would be their last weekend.

Now when you think of the plot line, you probably may think of Suspiria meets El Topo meets Romero’s Living Dead trilogy, and what Nick has done he has combined the three elements and settling into a haunting yet twisted psych-prog late ‘70s, early ‘80s score like no other with a little bit of a touch of early King Crimson, gothic structure background work, and the disturbing stories from the realms of Edgar Allen Poe and HP Lovecraft. There are some eerie structures on the album that would send a shiver down your spine like the screeching scream of nightmares on Sisters/Phantasm.

There’s a bit of Museo Rosenbach in there, but with a haunting mellotron string sound sets the trees in shaking roots as if they are about to explode as it goes into a chaotic avant-garde noise of almost doors slamming and a little bit of whispered voices that is very hallucinated. Sonically, he goes into a ballad that is almost sending a warm feeling of emotions that sort gives a call and crying out with Celestial Ghost and the mellowing Rendezvous that is very strange but twisted at the same time that is almost left off during the sessions for Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

And the eruption of Chase/Purgatory and Entering the Lost Village from the mellotron and thermin that sort of jumps you out of nowhere about 12 feet high with goosebumps that makes you think that it sounds almost like In the Wake of Poseidon-era while Confrontation/Doom is a string and dooming piano sizzle ala Hitchcock style that is a high wire tightrope that makes you feel the cable is going to snap and fall towards your doom 100 stories down. Though he goes into the 1980s mode with Going Home/Ouija and Night Ambience that is almost in the realms of Tangerine Dream’s Sorcerer sessions, it is something that is delivered at the right time at the right place.

Though Anekdoten are taking a long hiatus and hopefully to come back to work on another album, Nicklas Barker could be the mad scientist of horror film scores that almost shows a sign of experiments that is destined to work and come alive as his monster fills the void to attack. Even though its one of the eerie and weird scores, Nicklas Barker has finally come in full circle to reveal his true colors and proved his appetite just gotten bigger to eat a lot.