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  • End of the World & more important things

    21 Dec 2012, 02:51 by Mudduck

    Another year has past and what a year it has been. Some say today being the 21st December 2012 is the long awaited end of the world, really truly this time, believe us, here buy our books and videos about it and be very afraid, but first give us your money. Some things never change.

    Granted it is not yet the 21st in the USA which, when it finally gets around to it will make it the 22nd here (does that mean we are exempt if the date changes here before it happens?) so I will be watching to see what happens. So far the end seems to be business as usual as seen from the Australian perspective. We are not big on predictions here, to busy dodging the wildlife I guess.

    Anyway just in case those on the fringe have it right I decided to post this message.

    We again find ourselves in the season of giving. At this time of year something in me gets so lonely for - I don't know quite what exactly, perhaps memories from childhood? I am not sure but it's something that I don't mind not having at other times. Maybe you have felt this also?

    We find ourselves another year older, perhaps another year wiser.

    Each has their own traditions, customs and beliefs for this season but all have a common theme.

    It is a time for sharing, for giving time and consideration to others, playing with children, for listening, for being content in the gathering of friends and family.

    For happiness and remembering that it is the people in our lives and not the material offerings that are the true gifts.

    If your year has not gone so well, if you are ill or you are away from home remember that life is not always easy but you will have friends and they will think of you just like I am thinking of you now.

    We live after all in each others memories.

    Some of you will not be celebrating at all or will be doing so much later.

    It matters not as my wishes for you remain the same. May you all find happiness, good health and prosperity in the coming year.

    I also wish to thank you for being part of my small group and helping me learn so much about the music that blesses your world.

    Time might lead me to nowhere and my life might end tomorrow but I will always be thankful that in my life's journey we met.

    Wherever you go, whatever you do, may your days be long and your fondest wishes granted.

    Mud

    Footnote:

    The message all is not working for groups that have members over 100 or there about and it does not look like it will be fixed any time soon so I am posting this here for the moment. I have also submitted this to a couple of groups with members I respect.
  • Moby, speaks in support of Captain Paul Watson

    21 Jul 2012, 13:43 by Mudduck

    Currently Germany is holding Captain Paul Watson under house arrest awaiting extradition. The charges are manufactured basically as an excuse to try and damage the Sea Shepherd Organisation which has been successful in many champaign's against illegal and or senseless slaughter for greed upon the oceans of the world. I would very much like to see Germany release him as this is clearly a politically sponsored move by criminal elements.

  • Album Scores of 2012

    1 Jul 2012, 15:12 by Wildebrand

    NOTE: Work in progress


    Neck And Neck
    Chet Atkins & Mark Knopfler
    1990
    CD

    Working with Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler had a rejuvinating influence on Chet Atkins. Knopfler has Atkins moving toward his country roots, but both guitarists still play with a tasteful, jazzy sensibility—however, Atkins has abandoned the overt jazz fusion pretensions that sank most of his '80s records. With its direct, understated approach, Neck and Neck is the most focused and arguably the most rewarding record Atkins has released.


    In A Silent Way
    Miles Davis
    1969
    LP

    Listening to Miles Davis' originally released version of In a Silent Way in light of the complete sessions released by Sony in 2001 (Columbia Legacy 65362) reveals just how strategic and dramatic a studio construction it was. If one listens to Joe Zawinul's original version of "In a Silent Way," it comes across as almost a folk song with a very pronounced melody. The version Miles Davis and Teo Macero assembled from the recording session in July of 1968 is anything but. There is no melody, not even a melodic frame. There are only vamps and solos, grooves layered on top of other grooves spiraling toward space but ending in silence. But even these don't begin until almost ten minutes into the piece. It's Miles and McLaughlin, sparely breathing and wending their way through a series of seemingly disconnected phrases until the groove monster kicks in. The solos are extended, digging deep into the heart of the ethereal groove, which was dark, smoky, and ashen. McLaughlin and Hancock are particularly brilliant, but Corea's solo on the Fender Rhodes is one of his most articulate and spiraling on the instrument ever. The A-side of the album, "Shhh / Peaceful," is even more so. With Tony Williams shimmering away on the cymbals in double time, Miles comes out slippery and slowly, playing over the top of the vamp, playing ostinato and moving off into more mysterious territory a moment at a time. With Zawinul's organ in the background offering the occasional swell of darkness and dimension, Miles could continue indefinitely. But McLaughlin is hovering, easing in, moving up against the organ and the trills by Hancock and Corea; Wayne Shorter hesitantly winds in and out of the mix on his soprano, filling space until it's his turn to solo. But John McLaughlin, playing solos and fills throughout (the piece is like one long dreamy solo for the guitarist), is what gives it its open quality, like a piece of music with no borders as he turns in and through the commingling keyboards as Holland paces everything along. When the first round of solos ends, Zawinul and McLaughlin and Williams usher it back in with painterly decoration and illumination from Corea and Hancock. Miles picks up on another riff created by Corea and slips in to bring back the ostinato "theme" of the work. He plays glissando right near the very end, which is the only place where the band swells and the tune moves above a whisper before Zawinul's organ fades it into silence. This disc holds up, and perhaps is even stronger because of the issue of the complete sessions. It is, along with Jack Johnson and Bitches Brew, a signature Miles Davis session from the electric era.


    Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs
    Derek and the Dominos
    1970
    CD

    Wishing to escape the superstar expectations that sank Blind Faith before it was launched, Eric Clapton retreated with several sidemen from Delaney & Bonnie to record the material that would form Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. From these meager beginnings grew his greatest album. Duane Allman joined the band shortly after recording began, and his spectacular slide guitar pushed Clapton to new heights. Then again, Clapton may have gotten there without him, considering the emotional turmoil he was in during the recording. He was in hopeless, unrequited love with Patti Boyd, the wife of his best friend, George Harrison, and that pain surges throughout Layla, especially on its epic title track. But what really makes Layla such a powerful record is that Clapton, ignoring the traditions that occasionally painted him into a corner, simply tears through these songs with burning, intense emotion. He makes standards like "Have You Ever Loved a Woman" and "Nobody Knows You (When You're Down and Out)" into his own, while his collaborations with Bobby Whitlock—including "Any Day" and "Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?"—teem with passion. And, considering what a personal album Layla is, it's somewhat ironic that the lovely coda "Thorn Tree in the Garden" is a solo performance by Whitlock, and that the song sums up the entire album as well as "Layla" itself.


    Alchemy: Dire Straits Live
    Dire Straits
    1984
    CD

    There is an interesting contrast on this 94-minute double-disc live album (recorded at London's Hammersmith Odeon in July 1983) between the music, much of which is slow and moody, with Mark Knopfler's muttered vocals and large helpings of his fingerpicking on what sounds like an amplified Spanish guitar, and the audience response. The arena-size crowd cheers wildly, and claps and sings along when given half a chance, as though each song were an up-tempo rocker. When they do have a song of even medium speed, such as "Sultans of Swing" or "Solid Rock," they are in ecstasy. That Dire Straits' introspective music loses much of its detail in a live setting matters less than that it gains presence and a sense of anticipation. Alan Clark's keyboards help to fill out the sound and give Knopfler's spare melodies a certain majesty, but Dire Straits remains an overgrown bar band with a Bob Dylan fixation, and that's exactly how the crowd likes it (the CD version of the album contains one extra track, "Love Over Gold," which adds a needed change of pace to the otherwise slow-moving first disc).


    Works, Volume 2
    Emerson, Lake & Palmer
    1977
    LP

    After the rather dull Works, Volume 1, the highly underrated Works, Volume 2 is a godsend. Works, Volume 1 took their pompous, bombastic, keyboard-driven prog rock epics to the limit; had it been stripped of its excesses and coupled with the strongest cuts from Works, Volume 2, the band may have had an enormous success with critics and fans alike. Volume 2's brief, eclectic compositions cover an array of musical styles, combining stimulating originals and handsomely orchestrated renditions of "Maple Leaf Rag," "Honky Tonk Train Blues," and "Show Me the Way to Go Home." Lake peppers the tunes with guitar and bass flourishes, resulting in some of his most challenging instrumental work, and both he and Palmer deliver incredibly strong performances. Meanwhile,Peter Sinfield contributes some of his most mature and accomplished lyrics. Emerson's work is solid and creative, but sounds a bit dated, which is part of why the band couldn't endure. Unlike some ELP albums, Volume 2's brief pieces sustain interest; there really isn't a weak tune in the set. The five instrumentals are highlighted by two short prog rock tunes, including the jazzy "Bullfrog," which features Lake's brief jazz bass solo and Palmer's fluid, versatile drumming. "Barrelhouse Shake-Down" and "Maple Leaf Rag" showcase Emerson's superb ragtime and barrelhouse piano playing, and Palmer's jazz fusion/marching band piece, "Close but Not Touching," features horns and Lake's psychedelic electric guitar lines. The vocal pieces are equally interesting. "Brain Salad Surgery" is progressive jazz-rock that bears some resemblance to King Crimson's "Cat Food," unsurprising since each features Lake singing Sinfield's lyrics. And, of course, there is the hit "I Believe in Father Christmas," a beautiful Lake/Sinfield composition that highlights Lake's strong voice and vibrant acoustic guitar.


    David Gilmour
    David Gilmour
    1978
    LP

    By the time of David Gilmour's solo debut, he had not only established himself several times over as an underrated, powerful guitarist in Pink Floyd, but as a remarkably emotional singer, his soothing approach perfectly suited to such songs as "Wish You Were Here." [This] self-titled album, recorded with journeyman bassist Rick Wills and Sutherland Brothers drummer Willie Wilson, later to be part of the touring Floyd lineup for its Wall dates, isn't a deathless collection of music in comparison to Gilmour's group heights, but is a reasonably pleasant listen nonetheless. Certainly it's much more approachable than Animals, released earlier that year, eschewing epics for relatively shorter, reflective numbers. While Gilmour wrote the vast majority of the songs himself, the most successful number was co-written with Unicorn member Ken Baker: "There's No Way Out of Here," an agreeably dreamy, wistful song featuring an attractive acoustic slide guitar/harmonica hook. That it sounds a bit like a Pink Floyd outtake certainly doesn't hurt, but one figures Roger Waters would have tried for some heavily barbed lyrics to offset the melancholy. Throughout the album Gilmour sounds like he's having some jamming fun with his compatriots in his own particular blues-meets-the Home Counties style, adding keyboard overdubs here and there (his efforts are passable, but it's understandable why he's known for his guitar work first and foremost). Numbers of note include "Cry From the Street," with its fully rocked-out conclusion, the sweetly sad "So Far Away," one of his best vocal showcases, and the concluding "I Can't Breathe Anymore," capturing the recurrent Pink Floyd theme of isolation quite well. While one would be hard-pressed to hum a memorable melody outside of "There's No Way Out of Here," it's still a good enough experience for those who enjoy his work.


    F♯ A♯ ∞
    Godspeed You! Black Emperor
    1998
    CD

    The end of the world will be an interesting sight, [you] would imagine. Perhaps the skies will change from blood red to bright orange to golden yellow and back again seemingly at will, matching the chaos of a civilization crumbling. Perhaps there will be no sky at all. Or perhaps there will be nothing at all. To some who are secure with death, the end of the world will be a beautiful spectacle to behold. To others, it will be the personification of every ill emotion possible. Fear, denial, anger, rage, despair, and lastly, defeat. And what does one hear while watching a society burn? If there was music to be heard, what would it be? Would there be melancholy violins or uplifting trumpets? A death metal-esque instrumental or a quiet acoustic guitar? There is no need to wonder anymore, because Godspeed You! Black Emperor has created the soundtrack to the apocalypse, and its name is F♯ A♯ ∞. Godspeed You! Black Emperor is a post-rock band from Canada. Post-rock is an interesting genre. Usually, there is a minimal amount of vocals; a lot of post rock bands forego vocals completely. The songs are long, if you can call them songs. They’re more like movements or acts, similar to classical music. The albums frequently have a theme. For this particular album, the theme is the end of the world. Dark, gloomy landscapes are created by violins, cellos, and xylophones, as well as the standard guitars, bass, and drums. Each song is longer than fifteen minutes, with the longest song clocking in at twenty-nine minutes long. Although this may seem daunting at first, the album is an incredibly easy listen. One can listen to individual songs, but it is best to take the album in as a whole. The only vocals are a gloomy narrative in the first track, a preacher in the second track, and in the third track there is a short interview as well as some unintelligible singing. Clearly this is not something that everyone can get into, but if one takes the time to listen, they will find an epic, sprawling soundscape of beauty.


    Slow Riot for New Zerø Kanada
    Godspeed You! Black Emperor
    1999
    EP

    A low hum is the first thing heard. It's nearly an inaudible sound, like the opening of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Soon other instruments join and overlap: strings, guitar, and glockenspiel. For a while, the listener hovers in a mist feeling the musical waves ebb and flow, warning of impending danger. In these moments, uncertainty breeds and devours the weak, swallowing them whole. This is probably Mile End, the location alluded to in the liner notes of the Canadian ensemble Godspeed You Black Emperor!'s Slow Riot for New Zerø Kanada. Mile End is described in detail, and the influence of this locale on the recording of the Slow Riot must have been immense. In fact, the best way to describe this EP is as a direct result of Mile End's setting: the abandoned buildings, haunting forest, burned out railroad cars, and empty train tracks. All of these physical images pervade the tone of this EP: they are its sadness, beauty, and anger. The darkness is there too. Once immersed in Mile End, it's near impossible to find your way out. The darkness limits your freedom, and at the same time hides you from the rest of the world. You are alone and it is both frightening and liberating. As for the music, there's really not much to say. If this description of Mile End appeals to you or intrigues you then it will be a worthwhile listen. "Moya," the EP's first piece, is a lot like weathering a torrential downpour: torn between moments of uncertainty a final deluge occurs absorbing everything in its path. The second piece, "BBF3," is a history lesson set to music, a story of dysfunctional government, militias, and human rights. This one EP spans the emotions of terror and delight in 30 minutes. The same feelings of fear and triumph found in Beethoven can be found here, and there is perhaps no better endorsement for such music.


    Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
    Godspeed You! Black Emperor
    2000
    LP

    Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, the much-anticipated follow-up to Godspeed You! Black Emperor's Slow Riot, is a double-disc achievement of four works (each with multiple parts): "Storm," "Static," "Sleep," and "Antennas to Heaven." It is a windfall for any fan of ambient pop, orchestral rock, space rock, or simply lush string arrangements who understands how powerful love, melancholy, and frustration can be. The main complaint voiced by critics of Godspeed's music is that their works just repeat the same pattern: start out sparse and slow, build-build-build, crescendo. While there are certainly crescendos, there is no such predictable pattern repeated among the works on Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven—it's loaded with dynamics, unexpected sections, strong emotions and beauty. The album opener, "Storm," is a leap for GY!BE that, alone, makes this release worth getting. It's a rapturous work that rises with a potent melancholy, driven by heartrending emotions. "Storm" vents a powerful frustration (each listener can insert their own reasons why) with majestic screams of strings, guitars, and layers, resulting in a climactic and passionate soaring. It eventually winds down into an exhausted aftermath of piano, underlying drones, and frustrated rants. The second piece, "Static," is a wandering, isolationist piece of bleak expanses shaded with darker emotions, but the remaining two works raise the album back up to the impressive standard set by the opening cut, though with less furor and even more loveliness. "Sleep" opens with an elderly gentleman reminiscing about Coney Island, and his frank and amusing narration briefly recalls the recordings of David Greenberger and scenes from the documentary Vernon, FL. This narration is followed by a slow and melodic piece featuring a pseudo-theremin effect amidst all of the other instrumentation. "Antennas to Heaven" opens with someone playing acoustic guitar, singing "What'll We Do with the Baby-O," soon washed over with sound, which then gives way to a brief chorus of glockenspiels, and on. During most of Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, musical and emotional opposites alternate as regularly, and naturally, as breathing: delicate string work and rock-out guitar and drums, spoken word and walls of sound, gracious and possessed, tip-toes and cliff-diving, dark hallways and blinding sunshine.


    'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
    Godspeed You! Black Emperor
    2012
    LP

    REVIEW COMING SOON


    Please Don't Touch!
    Steve Hackett
    1978
    LP

    Steve Hackett left Genesis in June 1977 (following the tour that would be documented on Seconds Out), and started his solo career in earnest with Please Don't Touch!. Unlike Voyage of the Acolyte, which was a largely instrumental concept album steeped in the progressive rock idiom, this record is primarily a collection of songs featuring guest vocalists Richie Havens, Randy Crawford, and Kansas' Steve Walsh (their Phil Ehart also chips in here on drums). Although the sum effect is something of a patchwork, the individual pieces are often lovely. Over his career, Hackett has shown a propensity for extremes, in this case letting the jazzy and sentimental "Hoping Love Will Last" segue into the musical maelstrom of "Land of a Thousand Autumns" and "Please Don't Touch" (which will delight fans of Hackett's first record, although the Caroline CD inexplicably pauses too long between the two). In a nod to King Crimson (specifically Lizard), the title track is quickly cut off with the quirky carousel sounds of "The Voice of Necam," which itself dissolves into a mix of airy voices and acoustic guitar. The best tracks belong to Richie Havens: "How Can I?" (Hackett's take on Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill") and the conclusive "Icarus Ascending." Hackett is no singer, so he wisely masks his voice in a "laughing gnome" effect on the delightful "Carry on Up the Vicarage" and hides behind Walsh's lead on "Narnia" and "Racing in A." Perhaps taking his cue from Gabriel (whose debut had appeared in 1977), Hackett seems eager to show his range as a songwriter. While he clearly has a closet full of good ideas and a genuine knack for interesting arrangements, Hackett is too much the eccentric Englishman to appeal to broad commercial tastes. Please Don't Touch! remains a uniquely effective amalgam of progressive rock and pop; like his first album, he never made another one quite like it, perhaps because he again taps the concept's full potential here.


    The Return Of The Space Cowboy
    Jamiroquai
    1994
    CD

    Jamiroquai's sophomore record had all the slinky grooves and great musicianship of the debut, but it also offered a better set of songs and more ambitious musical themes. As with Emergency on Planet Earth, Jay Kay's dead-on impression of Stevie Wonder and Sly Stone drives the group's blend of acid jazz and funky R&B. "Space Cowboy" and "Light Years" were hits all over the world, and made the band stars in Europe and Japan, while substantial clubplay earned them a degree of recognition for American audiences. But Jamiroquai refused to be known as simply a party band; the group takes on social issues such as homelessness and Native Americans' rights.


    Local Hero
    Mark Knopfler
    1983
    CD

    Dire Straits leader Mark Knopfler's intricate, introspective finger-picked guitar stylings make a perfect musical complement to the wistful tone of Bill Forsyth's comedy film, Local Hero. This album was billed as a Knopfler solo album rather than an original soundtrack album, with the notation "music ... for the film." Knopfler brings along Dire Straits associates Alan Clark (keyboards) and John Illsley (bass), plus session aces like saxophonist Mike Brecker, vibes player Mike Mainieri, and drummers Steve Jordan and Terry Williams. The low-key music picks up traces of Scottish music, but most of it just sounds like Dire Straits doing instrumentals, especially the recurring theme, one of Knopfler's more memorable melodies. Gerry Rafferty (remember him from "Baker Street"?) sings the one vocal selection, "That's the Way It Always Starts."


    Privateering
    Mark Knopfler
    2012
    CD

    A lot of people went to last year’s Mark Knopfler/Bob Dylan tour expecting a warm-up act reheated from the Eighties, and left thinking Dylan should have reduced his contribution to the show. They were caught off guard by the former Dire Straits frontman’s thoughtful musicianship and genuine soul. Relieved to shrug off the Dire Straits brand in 1995, Knopfler has relaxed into an admirable solo career of low-key country blues. His seventh solo outing is a backwoods ramble through two discs of the rootsy Anglo-American sounds in which Knopfler is now (mostly) so comfortable. There’s old-timers’ country, roadhouse blues, a Tom Waitsian piano ballad and yearning Celtic pipe. One of Knopfler’s skills is to write melodramatic folk lyrics then deliver them like he’s leaning against a petrol pump. "Yon Two Crows" is a grim shepherd’s tale, while "Redbud Tree" finds him “pledged” to a tree “as to my only one”. Some of the noisier blues are cheesy, but, in the main, this is a warm, authentic and durable record: the musical equivalent of a well-worn plaid shirt.


    Led Zeppelin
    Led Zeppelin
    1969
    CD

    Led Zeppelin had a fully formed, distinctive sound from the outset, as their eponymous debut illustrates. Taking the heavy, distorted electric blues of Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Cream to an extreme, Zeppelin created a majestic, powerful brand of guitar rock constructed around simple, memorable riffs and lumbering rhythms. But the key to the group's attack was subtlety: it wasn't just an onslaught of guitar noise, it was shaded and textured, filled with alternating dynamics and tempos. As Led Zeppelin proves, the group was capable of such multi-layered music from the start. Although the extended psychedelic blues of "Dazed and Confused," "You Shook Me," and "I Can't Quit You Baby" often gather the most attention, the remainder of the album is a better indication of what would come later. "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" shifts from folky verses to pummeling choruses; "Good Times Bad Times" and "How Many More Times" have groovy, bluesy shuffles; "Your Time Is Gonna Come" is an anthemic hard rocker; "Black Mountain Side" is pure English folk; and "Communication Breakdown" is a frenzied rocker with a nearly punkish attack. Although the album isn't as varied as some of their later efforts, it nevertheless marked a significant turning point in the evolution of hard rock and heavy metal.


    Led Zeppelin II
    Led Zeppelin
    1969
    CD

    Recorded quickly during Led Zeppelin's first American tours, Led Zeppelin II provided the blueprint for all the heavy metal bands that followed it. Since the group could only enter the studio for brief amounts of time, most of the songs that compose II are reworked blues and rock & roll standards that the band was performing on-stage at the time. Not only did the short amount of time result in a lack of original material, it made the sound more direct. Jimmy Page still provided layers of guitar overdubs, but the overall sound of the album is heavy and hard, brutal and direct. "Whole Lotta Love," "The Lemon Song," and "Bring It on Home" are all based on classic blues songs—only, the riffs are simpler and louder and each song has an extended section for instrumental solos. Of the remaining six songs, two sport light acoustic touches ("Thank You," "Ramble On"), but the other four are straight-ahead heavy rock that follows the formula of the revamped blues songs. While Led Zeppelin II doesn't have the eclecticism of the group's debut, it's arguably more influential. After all, nearly every one of the hundreds of Zeppelin imitators used this record, with its lack of dynamics and its pummeling riffs, as a blueprint.


    Led Zeppelin IV
    Led Zeppelin
    1971
    CD

    Encompassing heavy metal, folk, pure rock & roll, and blues, Led Zeppelin's untitled fourth album is a monolithic record, defining not only Led Zeppelin but the sound and style of '70s hard rock. Expanding on the breakthroughs of III, Zeppelin fuse their majestic hard rock with a mystical, rural English folk that gives the record an epic scope. Even at its most basic—the muscular, traditionalist "Rock and Roll"—the album has a grand sense of drama, which is only deepened by Robert Plant's burgeoning obsession with mythology, religion, and the occult. Plant's mysticism comes to a head on the eerie folk ballad "The Battle of Evermore," a mandolin-driven song with haunting vocals from Sandy Denny, and on the epic "Stairway to Heaven." Of all of Zeppelin's songs, "Stairway to Heaven" is the most famous, and not unjustly. Building from a simple fingerpicked acoustic guitar to a storming torrent of guitar riffs and solos, it encapsulates the entire album in one song. Which, of course, isn't discounting the rest of the album. "Going to California" is the group's best folk song, and the rockers are endlessly inventive, whether it's the complex, multi-layered "Black Dog," the pounding hippie satire "Misty Mountain Hop," or the funky riffs of "Four Sticks." But the closer, "When the Levee Breaks," is the one song truly equal to "Stairway," helping give IV the feeling of an epic. An apocalyptic slice of urban blues, "When the Levee Breaks" is as forceful and frightening as Zeppelin ever got, and its seismic rhythms and layered dynamics illustrate why none of their imitators could ever equal them.


    Neu!
    Neu!
    1972
    LP

    Fresh after leaving Kraftwerk in the fall of 1971 for what they perceived to be a lack of vision, guitarist Michael Rother and drummer Klaus Dinger formed their own unit and changed the face of German rock forever—eventually influencing their former employer, Florian Schneider of Kraftwerk. The 1974 album Autobahn was a genteel reconsideration of the music played here. Neu! created a sound that was literally made for cruising in an automobile. While here in the States people were flipping out over "Radar Love" by Golden Earring, if they'd known about this first Neu! disc, they would never have bothered. Dinger's mechanical, cut time drumming and Rother's two-note bass runs adorned with cleverly manipulated and dreamy guitar riffs and fills were the hallmarks of the "motorik" sound that would become the band's trademark. On "Hallogallo", which opens the disc, the listener encounters a timeless rock & roll sound world. The driving guitar playing one chord in different cadences and rhythmic patters, the four-snare to the floor pulse with a high hat and bass drum for ballast, and a bassline that is used more for keeping the drummer on time than as a rhythm instrument in its own right. These are draped in Rother's liquidy, cascading single note drones and runs, so even as the tune's momentum propels the listener into a movement oriented robotic dance, the guitar's lyrical economy brings an aesthetic beauty into the mix that opens the space up from inside. The tense ambient soundscape of "Sonderangebot" balances things a bit before the slower-than-Neil Young "Weissensee" opens with a subtle industrial clamor and opens up into a lyrical exploration of distorted slide guitar aesthetics with an uncharacteristic drum elegance that keeps the guitar in check. "Im Glück" tracks a restrained, droning path through the textural palette of the guitar, treated with whispering distortion and echo. All hell breaks loose again on Dinger's "Negativland" as an industrial soundscape eventually gives way to a bass and guitar squall as darkly enticing as anything on Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures. It's really obvious now how the JD's sound was influenced by this simply and darkly delicious brew of noise, bass throb, percussive hypnosis, and an oddly placed, strangely under-mixed, guitar. Rother's style had as much to do with not playing as it did with virtuosity, and his fills of open chords, stuttered cadences, and broken syntax provided a much needed diversion for the metronymic regularity of the rhythm section. Rother didn't riff; he painted a mix with whatever was necessary to get the point across. His mannerisms here are not to draw attention to himself, but rather to that numbing, incessant rhythm provided wondrously by Dinger. Neu!'s debut album was driving music for the apocalypse in 1972, are the first official ones. Their sound is phenomenal and the strange dropouts and fades are intentional. They are worthy packages. Oddly enough, after a millennial change and a constant stream of samples being taken from it, and its influence saturating both the rock and electronica scenes, it still sounds ahead of its time.


    Amarok
    Mike Oldfield
    1990
    CD

    In the 1980s Mike Oldfield produced a series of successively less tasteful albums, and after the pits of the bunch (Earth Moving) he surprised many people with Amarok. 60 minutes of sparkling instrumental music, completely free of the drippy inspirational pop we had come to expect. It's a single continuous piece, full of webs of guitars and acoustic instruments of all sorts, feel-good female chorus chanting and sound effects. Rooted in mostly English but occasionally more exotic folk music, and held together with an immaculately crisp, modern production. It doesn't disappoint fans of his 70s epics while it doesn't tread too much old ground. The obvious criticism is that there is no clear structure to it, unlike, say Tubular Bells and Ommadawn, which were more cleanly divided into musical episodes. There's a lot of repeating themes in Amarok, notably the Ommadawn-like "so-far-so" chanting (and a suspiciously familiar-sounding finger-rocking piano motive) but you get the sense that a lot of this was glued together randomly as he went along. The album cover has an interesting pencil diagram of Oldfield's plan, which doesn't reveal much more coherence! I don't mind the rambling that much, as you can zoom in on each section to find an intricate web of sound wherever you go, and just start and stop listening at leisure. The pace increases in the last ten minutes. The daft Maggie Thatcher impersonation at the end by Janet Brown is fun at first but gets stale after a while. The tribal buildup doesn't have the power of Ommadawn, but it's not supposed to, this seems to be Oldfield in relaxed, loosened-up mode, having lots of fun and making some colourful music in the process.


    Pablo Honey
    Radiohead
    1993
    CD

    Radiohead's debut album […] is a promising collection that blends U2's anthemic rock with long, atmospheric instrumental passages and an enthralling triple-guitar attack that is alternately gentle and bracingly noisy. The group has difficulty writing a set of songs that are as compelling as their sound, but when they do hit the mark—such as on "Anyone Can Play Guitar," "Blow Out," and the self-loathing breakthrough single "Creep"—the band achieves a rare power that is both visceral and intelligent.


    My Iron Lung
    Radiohead
    1994
    CD

    This import EP My Iron Lung is as close to a forgotten, long-lost Radiohead album as you can get. Although marketed and priced as an EP, it contains eight tracks, seven of which are unavailable anywhere else, and is half an hour long (which more than meets the criteria for a full-length). But besides its length, what makes My Iron Lung such a find is the quality of the tracks, all of them being great outtakes from the sessions for their classic 1995 full-length release The Bends. And because of the tracks' consistency and sequencing, it plays like a real album rather than a collection of B-sides and outtakes thrown together haphazardly. Starting off with the title track, which is the only song available elsewhere (on The Bends), the band hits you with one strong track after another, such as "The Trickster", "Lewis (Mistreated)", "Punchdrunk Lovesick Singalong" and others. The only weak spot on My Iron Lung is a closing acoustic version of their breakthrough hit "Creep". Performed solo by singer Thom Yorke, it contains a surprisingly harsh and off-key middle section, but his sincerity helps overcome the version's shortcomings. No Radiohead fan's collection is complete without the My Iron Lung EP.


    OK Computer
    Radiohead
    1997
    CD

    Using the textured soundscapes of The Bends as a launching pad, Radiohead delivered another startlingly accomplished set of modern guitar rock with OK Computer. The anthemic guitar heroics present on Pablo Honey and even The Bends are nowhere to be heard here. Radiohead have stripped away many of the obvious elements of guitar rock, creating music that is subtle and textured yet still has the feeling of rock & roll. Even at its most adventurous—such as the complex, multi-segmented "Paranoid Android"—the band is tight, melodic, and muscular, and Thom Yorke's voice effortlessly shifts from a sweet falsetto to vicious snarls. It's a thoroughly astonishing demonstration of musical virtuosity and becomes even more impressive with repeated listens, which reveal subtleties like electronica rhythms, eerie keyboards, odd time signatures, and complex syncopations. Yet all of this would simply be showmanship if the songs weren't strong in themselves, and OK Computer is filled with moody masterpieces, from the shimmering "Subterranean Homesick Alien" and the sighing "Karma Police" to the gothic crawl of "Exit Music (for a Film)." OK Computer is the album that establishes Radiohead as one of the most inventive and rewarding guitar rock bands of the '90s.


    Airbag/How Am I Driving?
    Radiohead
    1998
    CD

    Once the incredible OK Computer went platinum, proving (at last) to be as impressive to the populace as to the press, Capitol salivated for quick new product, with a new LP two years away. Fortunately for the company that made Sinatra and the Beatles famous, their powerhouse Oxford five had been releasing B-sides in the U.K., on the back of the singles "Paranoid Android," "Karma Police," and "No Surprises." Presto!! Out pops this seven-song mini-LP, basically the LP's "Airbag" and six B-sides. Mind you, Radiohead are effective judges of their own material. Unlike many U.K. bands, they never serve up a non-LP track so fantastic it should have made the first team. But Airbag is a fine purchase, as their lesser material is still provocative, ambitiously stretching (Thom Yorke and pals take a few chances, such as the spacy instrumental here, "Meeting in the Aisle"), and, as usual, clash several moods together at once. So, if you didn't buy the expensive English singles, get this. You can't go wrong with the pile-driving "Palo Alto." Like the other true standout, "Polyethylene, Parts 1 & 2," it deliciously comes off its hinges on a dirty-sounding guitar slash in the chorus (a nerve-racking churn comparable to the Kinks' smashed-up riff in "You Really Got Me"), triggering a descending, scary guitar trill that oddly echoes the keyboard solo in Frankie "Boom Boom" Cannon's 1963 number 3 hit "Palisades Park." Typically traumatic! One loud boo, though, to all concerned, for omitting the fine, gently moving "Lull" (from the "Karma Police" U.K. single). Likewise, where's the curious, glassy voice-and-piano fragmentary vignette "How I Made My Millions" off the "No Surprises" single? Or the live versions of "Airbag" and "Lucky"? What, there wasn't room on the CD (snicker)?


    Kid A
    Radiohead
    2000
    CD

    In the wake of OK Computer, it became taken for granted among serious rock fans of all ages that Radiohead not only saved rock from itself, but paved the way toward the future. High praise, but given the static nature of rock in the last half of the '90s, it was easy to see why fans and critics eagerly harnessed their hopes to the one great rock band that wanted to push the limits of its creativity, without grandstanding or pandering. Daunting expectations for anyone, even for a band eager to meet them, so it's little wonder that Kid A was so difficult to complete. Radiohead’s creative breakthrough arrived when the band embraced electronica—which was nearly a cliché by the end of the '90s, when everyone from U2 to Rickie Lee Jones dabbled in trip-hop or techno. The difference is that the wholehearted conversion on Kid A fits, since OK Computer had already flirted with electronica and its chilly feel. Plus, instead of simply adding club beats or sonic collage techniques, Radiohead strove for the unsettling "intelligent techno" sound of Autechre and Aphex Twin, with skittering beats and stylishly dark sonic surfaces. To their immense credit, Radiohead don't sound like carpetbaggers, because they share the same post-post-modern vantage point as their inspirations. As perhaps befitting an album that’s coolly, self-consciously alienating, Kid A takes time to unfold; multiple plays are necessary just to discern the music's form, to get a handle on quiet, drifting, minimally arranged songs with no hooks. This emphasis on texture, this reliance on elliptical songs, means that Kid A is easily the most successful electronica album from a rock band: it doesn't even sound like the work of a rock band, even if it does sound like Radiohead.


    Amnesiac
    Radiohead
    2001
    LP

    Faced with a deliberately difficult deviation into "experimentation," Radiohead and their record label promoted Kid A as just that—a brave experiment, and that the next album, which was just around the corner, really, would be the "real" record, the one to satiate fans looking for the next OK Computer, or at least guitars. At the time, people bought the myth, especially since live favorites like "Knives Out" and "You and Whose Army?" were nowhere to be seen on Kid A. That, however, ignores a salient point—Amnesiac, as the album came to be known, consists of recordings made during the Kid A sessions, so it essentially sounds the same. Since Radiohead designed Kid A as a self-consciously epochal, genre-shattering record, the songs that didn't make the cut were a little simpler, so it shouldn't be a surprise that Amnesiac plays like a streamlined version of Kid A, complete with blatant electronica moves and production that sacrifices songs for atmosphere. This, inevitably, will disappoint the legions awaiting another guitar-based record (that is, after all, what they were explicitly promised), but what were they expecting? This is an album recorded at the same time and Radiohead have a certain reputation to uphold. It would be easier to accept this if the record was better than it is. Where Kid A had shock on its side, along with an admirably dogged desire to not be conventional, Amnesiac often plays as a hodgepodge. True, it's a hodgepodge with amazing moments: the hypnotic sway of "Pyramid Song" and "You and Whose Army?," the swirling "I Might Be Wrong," "Knives Out," and the spectacular closer "Life in a Glasshouse," complete with a drunkenly swooning brass band. But, these are not moments that are markedly different than Kid A, which itself lost momentum as it sputtered to a close. And this is the main problem—though it's nice for an artist to be generous and release two albums, these two records clearly derive from the same source and have the same flaws, which clearly would have been corrected if they had been consolidated into one record. Instead of revealing why the two records were separated, the appearance of Amnesiac makes the separation seem arbitrary—there's no shift in tone, no shift in approach, and the division only makes the two records seem unfocused, even if the best of both records is quite stunning, proof positive that Radiohead are one of the best bands of their time.


    Roxy Music
    Roxy Music
    1972
    CD

    Falling halfway between musical primitivism and art rock ambition, Roxy Music's eponymous debut remains a startling redefinition of rock's boundaries. Simultaneously embracing kitschy glamour and avant-pop, Roxy Music shimmers with seductive style and pulsates with disturbing synthetic textures. Although no musician demonstrates much technical skill at this point, they are driven by boundless imagination—Brian Eno's synthesized "treatments" exploit electronic instruments as electronics, instead of trying to shoehorn them into conventional acoustic patterns. Similarly, Bryan Ferry finds that his vampiric croon is at its most effective when it twists conventional melodies, Phil Manzanera's guitar is terse and unpredictable, while Andy Mackay's saxophone subverts rock & roll clichés by alternating R&B honking with atonal flourishes. But what makes Roxy Music such a confident, astonishing debut is how these primitive avant-garde tendencies are married to full-fledged songs, whether it's the free-form, structure-bending "Re-Make/Re-Model" or the sleek glam of "Virginia Plain," the debut single added to later editions of the album. That was the trick that elevated Roxy Music from an art school project to the most adventurous rock band of the early '70s.


    For Your Pleasure
    Roxy Music
    1973
    CD

    On Roxy Music's debut, the tensions between Brian Eno and Bryan Ferry propelled their music to great, unexpected heights, and for most of the group's second album […] the band equals, if not surpasses, those expectations. However, there are a handful of moments where those tensions become unbearable, as when Eno wants to move toward texture and Ferry wants to stay in more conventional rock territory; the nine-minute "The Bogus Man" captures such creative tensions perfectly, and it's easy to see why Eno left the group after the album was completed. Still, those differences result in yet another extraordinary record from Roxy Music, one that demonstrates even more clearly than the debut how avant-garde ideas can flourish in a pop setting. This is especially evident in the driving singles "Do the Strand" and "Editions of You," which pulsate with raw energy and jarring melodic structures. Roxy also illuminate the slower numbers, such as the eerie "In Every Dream Home a Heartache," with atonal, shimmering synthesizers, textures that were unexpected and innovative at the time of its release. Similarly, all of For Your Pleasure walks the tightrope between the experimental and the accessible, creating a new vocabulary for rock bands, and one that was exploited heavily in the ensuing decade.


    Ágætis byrjun
    Sigur Rós
    1999
    CD

    Two years passed since Sigur Rós's debut. By this time, the band recruited in a new keyboardist by the name of Kjartan Sveinsson and it seems to have done nothing but take the band to an even higher state of self-awareness. Even on aesthetic matters, Sigur Rós entitle their sophomore effort not in a manner to play up the irony of high expectations (à la the Stone Roses' Second Coming), but in a modest realization. This second album translates roughly to “good start”. So as talented as Von might have been, this time out is probably even more worthy of dramatic debut expectations. Indeed, Ágætis byrjun pulls no punches from the start. After an introduction just this side of one of the aforementioned Stone Roses' backward beauties, the album pumps in the morning mist with "Svefn-g-englar"—a song of such accomplished gorgeousness that one wonders why such a tiny country as Iceland can musically outperform entire continents in just a few short minutes. The rest of this full-length follows such similar quality. Extremely deep strings underpin falsetto wails from the mournfully epic ("Viðrar vel til loftárása") to the unreservedly cinematic ("Avalon"). One will constantly be waiting to hear what fascinating turns such complex musicianship will take at a moment's notice. At its best, the album seems to accomplish everything lagging post-shoegazers like Spiritualized or Chapterhouse once promised. However, at its worst, the album sometimes slides into an almost overkill of sonic structures. Take "Hjartað hamast (bamm bamm bamm)," for instance: there are so many layers of heavy strings, dense atmospherics, and fading vocals that it becomes an ineffectual mess of styles over style. As expected, though, the band's keen sense of sturm und drang is mostly contained within an elegant scope of melodies for the remainder of this follow-up. Rarely has a sophomore effort sounded this thick and surprising. Which means that "Good Start" might as well become of the most charming understatements to come out of a band in years.


    ( )
    Sigur Rós
    2002
    CD

    Set the controls for the heart of the sun: Sigur Rós had another baby and they named it ( ). It's just as excessive in length as its elder siblings, it's just as precious and almost as over-the-top sounding, and it's artfully packaged with next to no information provided—no photo collage from the triumphant world tour, no acknowledgments of the supportive Reykjavík massive. No track titles are present, either—the band has made them known, but obviously not through the traditional route. Whatever the issues with this record, musical or not, ( ) will only further repel the detractors. Despite the fact that it arrives three years after Ágaetis byrjun's original release, there are only adjustments—no significant developments—in the group's sound. The relentlessly funereal tempos, the elegant arrangements, and the high-pitched warbling/cooing remain in abundance. The overall mood of the album is subdued in relation to its predecessor. This is particularly true for the second half of the album, which is cleaved by a half-minute gap of silence. The sudden stratospheric crescendos resorted to previously are smoothed out, riding subtle gradients that allow for somber, elongated passages of drones and minimal instrumental interplay. The orchestral nuances, contributed by the string quartet Amina, take on a more background role. The fact that the emotional extremes are few and far between makes the album difficult to wade through—its impact would've been tripled with about half an hour lopped off, but where to begin? None of these eight songs deserve to be left on the cutting-room floor. So perhaps it's most effective when digested in halves. Are Sigur Rós pretentious somnambulists bearing gimmicks, or are they Nordic gods bearing musical bliss? Regardless of the side you're on, ( ) is further proof that this group does what it does very well.


    The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle
    Bruce Springsteen
    1973
    CD

    Bruce Springsteen expanded the folk-rock approach of his debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., to strains of jazz, among other styles, on its ambitious follow-up, released only eight months later. His chief musical lieutenant was keyboard player David Sancious, who lived on the E Street that gave the album and Springsteen's backup group its name. With his help, Springsteen created a street-life mosaic of suburban society that owed much in its outlook to Van Morrison's romanticization of Belfast in Astral Weeks. Though Springsteen expressed endless affection and much nostalgia, his message was clear: this was a goodbye-to-all-that from a man who was moving on. The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle represented an astonishing advance even from the remarkable promise of Greetings; the unbanded three-song second side in particular was a flawless piece of music. Musically and lyrically, Springsteen had brought an unruly muse under control and used it to make a mature statement that synthesized popular musical styles into complicated, well-executed arrangements and absorbing suites; it evoked a world precisely even as that world seemed to disappear. Following the personnel changes in the E Street Band in 1974, there is a conventional wisdom that this album is marred by production lapses and performance problems, specifically the drumming of Vini Lopez. None of that is true. Lopez's busy Keith Moon style is appropriate to the arrangements in a way his replacement, Max Weinberg, never could have been. The production is fine. And the album's songs contain the best realization of Springsteen's poetic vision, which soon enough would be tarnished by disillusionment. He would later make different albums, but he never made a better one. The truth is, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle is one of the greatest albums in the history of rock & roll.


    Darkness on the Edge of Town
    Bruce Springsteen
    1978
    CD

    Coming three years and one extended court battle after Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town was highly anticipated. Some attributed the album's embattled tone to Bruce Springsteen's legal troubles, but it carried on from Born to Run, in which Springsteen had first begun to view his colorful cast of characters as "losers." On Darkness, he began to see them as the working class: his characters, some of whom he inhabited and sang for in the first person, had little and were in danger of losing even that. Their only hope for redemption lay in working harder, and their only escape lay in driving. Springsteen presented these hard truths in hard rock settings, the tracks paced by powerful drumming and searing guitar solos. Though not as heavily produced as Born to Run, Darkness was given a full-bodied sound; Springsteen's stories were becoming less heroic, but his musical style remained grand; the sound, and the conviction in his singing, added weight to songs like "Racing in the Street" and the title track, transforming the pathetic into the tragic. But despite the rock & roll fervor, Darkness was no easy listen, and it served notice that Springsteen was already willing to risk his popularity for his principles.


    Remain in Light
    Talking Heads
    1980
    CD

    The musical transition that seemed to have just begun with Fear of Music came to fruition on [this] fourth album […]. "I Zimbra" and "Life During Wartime" from the earlier album served as the blueprints for a disc on which the group explored African polyrhythms on a series of driving groove tracks, over which David Byrne chanted and sang his typically disconnected lyrics. Remain in Light had more words than any previous Heads record, but they counted for less than ever in the sweep of the music. The album's single, "Once in a Lifetime," flopped upon release, but over the years it became an audience favorite due to a striking video, its inclusion in the band's 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense, and its second single release (in the live version) because of its use in the 1986 movie Down and Out in Beverly Hills, when it became a minor chart entry. Byrne sounded typically uncomfortable in the verses ("And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife / Andd you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?"), which were undercut by the reassuring chorus ("Letting the days go by"). Even without a single, Remain in Light was a hit, indicating that Talking Heads were connecting with an audience ready to follow their musical evolution, and the album was so inventive and influential, it was no wonder. As it turned out, however, it marked the end of one aspect of the group's development and was their last new music for three years.


    801 Live
    801
    1976
    CD

    801 provided Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera with one of his most intriguing side projects. Although the band only played three gigs in August and September 1976, this album captures a night when everything fell right into place musically. That should only be expected with names like Eno and Simon Phillips in the lineup (still, the lesser-known players—bassist Bill McCormick, keyboardist Francis Monkman, and slide guitarist Lloyd Watson—are in exemplary form, too). The repertoire is boldly diverse, opening with "Lagrima," a crunchy solo guitar piece from Manzanera. Then the band undertakes a spacey but smoldering version of "Tomorrow Never Knows"; it's definitely among the cleverest of Beatles covers. Then it's on to crisp jazz-rock ("East of Asteroid"), atmospheric psych-pop ("Rongwrong"), and Eno's tape manipulation showcase, "Sombre Reptiles." And that's only the first five songs. The rest of the gig is no less audacious, with no less than three Eno songs—including a frenetic "Baby's on Fire," "Third Uncle," and "Miss Shapiro"'s dense, syllable-packed verbal gymnastics. There's another unlikely cover of the Kinks' "You Really Got Me," while Manzanera turns in another typically gutsy instrumental performance on "Diamond Head." This album marks probably one of the last times that Eno rocked out in such an unself-consciously fun fashion, but that's not the only reason to buy it: 801 Live is a cohesive document of an unlikely crew who had fun and took chances. Listeners will never know what else they might have done if their schedules had been less crowded, but this album's a good reminder.
  • Random Reccomendations

    1 Apr 2012, 01:28 by OCD4CDz

    The Civil Wars (, , , , , )

    John Paul White and Joy Williams have an other worldly chemistry on stage. Their name comes from the notion that they are complete opposite personalities, yet together, they intersect at such a lovely musical place. Congratulations on winning 2 Grammys guys, how fitting! I also think Joy has one of the prettiest mouths I've ever seen, and well the sound that comes out of it is alright too. Favorites of mine: I've Got This Friend, Poison & Wine, My Father's Father, 20 Years, and Falling.

    Billie Jean (Michael Jackson Cover)



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    Broken Bells (, , , , )

    Another side project from Danger Mouse featuring James Mercer of The Shins. Their music is a sublime blend of Mercer's Indie rock vocals and some of Brian Burton's finest mellow electronic production to date. Shiny tracks: The High Road, The Mall & Misery, and The Ghost Inside




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    Sleigh Bells (, , , , )

    I like to describe Sleigh Bells in two words: EXPLOSIVE FUN! Guitarist/producer Derek E. Miller, formerly of Poison the Well, and once teen pop singer Alexis Krauss make a smashing duo, blending electroclash, noise-pop, with other interesting elements, making a sort of drumline cheer crunk with huge guitar riffs. Highlights include: Rill Rill, Crush, and Never Say Die.




    Cute interview
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    Lissie (, , )

    Lissie hailing from the banks of the Mississippi itself, sounds much as one would expect from such origins. I think she has the touches of a young Janis Joplin with a little Stevie Nicks, and Chrissie Hynde in there as well. Soulful, with a touch of blues rock would be appropriate in describing the predominant body of her work, however, she has enjoyed some crossover success most notably on a deadmau5 remix of a Morgan Page track as well as some incredible YouTube cover song performances and guest appearances. Loves include: When I'm Alone, Record Collector, Everywhere I Go, and Little Lovin'.



    Eventually I will get an Ellie Goulding feature up but I must shoehorn this great duet in here.
  • 2011

    10 Dec 2011, 13:35 by Mudduck

    Greetings, I trust you have survived 2011 with minimal hardship.

    I for one have found this year a long one, the weeks still fled by at alarming speed but each has been so full of action it is almost impossible to believe that it was last December / January I started the year marooned by floods after 10 years of drought.

    Europe suffered a particularly cold winter at this time that led to much snow and eventual flooding. That all feels so long ago.

    Cyclones kept us alert in February while New Zealand was shaken by earthquakes harming many meanwhile in the northern hemisphere people there would have seen the exceptional Aurora Borealis as it put on a display caused by powerful solar flares. That would have been something special to witness!

    In March on my birthday Japan suffered so terribly with a 9+ earthquake and following 23 foot Tsunami's. The resulting damage to homes and loss of live were heart breaking to watch as it unfolded "live" on TV. As bad as that was a greater danger was soon revealed in the destruction of the reactors at Fukushima. I fear this event will prove to have done the greatest harm and it pains me to see radiation still pouring unabated into the environment 9 months later. Chernobyl was minor in comparison to this tragedy. I trust you are all keeping your iodine levels high, particularly the younger ones as nowhere is safe in the northern hemisphere. We expect to see radiation drift into the southern hemisphere late in 2012.

    Not to be left out the USA already suffering from the ongoing oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico saw April in with record numbers of tornadoes. More people lost their homes and their lives. These tornadoes continued into May and June which also saw record flooding in the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys. East Africa suffers the worst droughts in memory in August while the East coast of the USA is visited by Hurricanes. To show the extremes June, to September saw wild fires in the USA and Australia.

    October and earthquakes are still a feature with people of Turkey feeling the hardship and loss these bring while all throughout the year volcanoes made their presence felt both above and below the oceans.

    Yet in the midst of all this there has been positive changes, people have shown their belief in a better world by their actions, the occupy movements are an example of this. Peaceful change is true change, any change delivered by violence is no change at all. Music has seen a rebirth of sorts also as what appears to me to be a new energy is affecting the young producers and this last year has seen a global blooming of talented young artists with an original positive sound.

    They say as you get older the years pass faster and I would normally have to agree. But for me this year has seemed like ten, so much as changed, so much has happened. Next year promises even greater change.

    May your gods bless you with good health and protect you and yours.

    Mud
  • Album Scores of 2011

    5 Mar 2011, 14:27 by Wildebrand


    Somethin' Else
    Cannonball Adderley
    1958
    CD

    It isn't too difficult to understand why MFSL considered this album to be a worthy candidate for an Ultradisc reissue—aside from Cannonball Adderley, you have a lineup that includes Miles Davis, Hank Jones, Sam Jones, and Art Blakey. This is a group that could take on a Barry Manilow number and turn it into a jazz masterpiece. MFSL have done the purchaser a favor, too, by including an additional track that was left off the original album. This sixth track, “Alison's Uncle”, closes out Somethin' Else on a high note, changing the flow of energy in an interesting way (purists can still finish up on a quieter note, as with the original, by programming "Dancing in the Dark" as the final track). In many ways it's a surprise that this track was left off originally—it's an excellent piece, with Adderley and Davis trading licks and solos while Jones and Blakey keep pace. Blakey also takes some terrific solos. The remastering job is the usual superb MFSL effort, producing clear sound with almost no background noise. Due to the original recording (made in 1958), Davis' trumpet sometimes seems a little shrill and metallic, but it's not an overwhelming problem -- certainly not when you consider Davis' style. Altogether, an excellent addition to any jazz collection.


    Unorthodox Behaviour
    Brand X
    1976
    LP

    Phil Collins' seemingly endless well of energy afforded him two careers: one as the drummer/vocalist in Genesis, and a second as a prolific session musician. It was in this second scenario that Collins hooked up with Percy Jones, John Goodsall, and Robin Lumley during sessions for Brian Eno, Eddie Howell, and Jack Lancaster. The quartet soon formed Brand X, a jazz fusion band that matched the prodigious rhythms of Collins and fretless bassist Jones with the atmospheric melodies of Goodsall and Lumley. Unorthodox Behaviour sets the stage for what would follow: music that plies the same sonic territory as Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and the like, punctuated by the distinctive styles of individual members. The songs, though credited to the band, reveal two factions at work, with Jones and Collins teaming for percussive sections and Goodsall and Lumley handling the lyrical passages. When Jones and Collins take the lead, as on the opening "Nuclear Burn" and sections of "Unorthodox Behaviour" and "Running on Three," the music takes a frenetic, mathematical tack. Goodsall and Lumley generally provide the mood, the dominant trait on "Euthanasia Waltz" and "Touch Wood." Middle ground is found on the funky "Born Ugly" and "Smacks of Euphoric Hysteria," true fusions of rock and jazz. Unorthodox Behaviour samples a variety of styles: from melodic to energetic, ethereal to mathematical. Without a standout soloist like John McLaughlin or Wayne Shorter, Brand X does run the risk of sounding like a generic jazz fusion outfit, but their compositional skills pick up the slack nicely. Those interested in the band may do well to start with this album, although their next three records are just as good in terms of quality.


    Ege Bamyası
    Can
    1972
    LP

    The follow-up to Tago Mago is only lesser in terms of being shorter; otherwise the Can collective delivers its expected musical recombination act with the usual power and ability. Liebezeit, at once minimalist and utterly funky, provides another base of key beat action for everyone to go off on—from the buried, lengthy solos by Karoli on "Pinch" to the rhythm box/keyboard action on "Spoon." The latter song, which closes the album, is particularly fine, its sound hinting at an influence on everything from early Ultravox songs like "Hiroshima Mon Amour" to the hollower rhythms on many of Gary Numan's first efforts. Liebezeit and Czukay's groove on "One More Night," calling to mind a particularly cool nightclub at the end of the evening, shows that Stereolab didn't just take the brain-melting crunch side of Can as inspiration. The longest track, "Soup," lets the band take off on another one of its trademark lengthy rhythm explorations, though not without some tweaks to the expected sound. About four minutes in, nearly everything drops away, with Schmidt and Liebezeit doing the most prominent work; after that, it shifts into some wonderfully grating and crumbling keyboards combined with Suzuki's strange pronouncements, before ending with a series of random interjections from all the members. Playfulness abounds as much as skill: Slide whistles trade off with Suzuki on "Pinch"; squiggly keyboards end "Vitamin C"; and rollicking guitar highlights "I'm So Green." The underrated and equally intriguing sense of drift that the band brings to its recordings continues as always. "Sing Swan Song" is particularly fine, a gentle float with Schmidt's keyboards and Czukay's bass taking the fore to support Suzuki's sing-song vocal.


    Mylo Xyloto
    Coldplay
    2011
    CD

    “It’s us against the world,” sings Chris Martin with an emotional croak, as acoustic guitars strum, church organs swell and silvery electric guitar motifs shimmer in a dreamy haze. You can already picture mobiles held aloft in stadiums as Coldplay turn their audience into a global gospel choir, sharing universal hymns of suffering and hope. It is stirring stuff, although its broad-brush sentimentality does little to dispel the lingering suspicion that it all just comes a little too easy, and doesn’t dig very deep. Despite Martin’s air of embattled defensiveness, the truth is Coldplay already have the world on their side. Mylo Xyloto, their fifth album, should affirm their status as the biggest-selling band on Earth. It’s a surging, chiming, upbeat epic, almost thunderously enthusiastic. This is large-scaled, big-gesture music that aims directly at the heart, which might account for the scepticism of the remaining non-believers. Questioned about the title, Martin has insisted “it doesn’t have any meaning”. His defiant inarticulacy feeds the notion that Coldplay are a pop group in rock clothing. Like those of Noel Gallagher, Britrock’s other nursery-rhyme superstar, Martin’s lyrics often rhyme for rhyme’s sake, and he fills musical spaces with endless “who-oh-oh-oh”s. He has proclaimed Mylo Xyloto to be a concept album, but if there is a narrative among these songs of love and loss, it seems to amount to little more than boy meets girl, boy loses girl, they learn to live without each other, the end. It’s hardly Tommy. It is irresistible, none the less. With co-producer Brian Eno on synthesizers and co-writing duties, the mood is adventurous and the sound is luxuriously colourful, Martin’s hook-laden piano lines are overlaid with sparkling guitar motifs and driven along by simple, direct beats. Melodies course through everything, constantly shifting and reshaping. R&B pop queen Rihanna makes an effective guest on the electro-poppy Princess of China, the richly textured backing bringing out interesting nuances in her sweet but tough vocal, but it is the very English soulfulness of Martin himself that really adds depth to Coldplay. The overall impression may be of air-punching, anthemic positivity, yet an ever-present ache in his voice undercuts the obviousness of the sentiments, and dampens the relentless enthusiasm.


    Déjà Vu
    Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
    1970
    CD

    One of the most hotly awaited second albums in history—right up there with those by [The] Beatles and [The] Band—Déjà Vu lived up to its expectations and rose to number one on the charts. Those achievements are all the more astonishing given the fact that the group barely held together through the estimated 800 hours it took to record Déjà Vu and scarcely functioned as a group for most of that time. Déjà Vu worked as an album, a product of four potent musical talents who were all ascending to the top of their game coupled with some very skilled production, engineering, and editing. There were also some obvious virtues in evidence—the addition of Neil Young to the Crosby, Stills & Nash lineup added to the level of virtuosity, with Young and Stephen Stills rising to new levels of complexity and volume on their guitars. Young's presence also ratcheted up the range of available voices one notch and added a uniquely idiosyncratic songwriter to the fold, though most of Young's contributions in this area were confined to the second side of the LP. Most of the music, apart from the quartet's version of Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock," was done as individual sessions by each of the members when they turned up (which was seldom together), contributing whatever was needed that could be agreed upon. "Carry On" worked as the album's opener when [Stephen] Stills "sacrificed" another copyright, "Questions," which comprised the second half of the track and made it more substantial. "Woodstock" and "Carry On" represented the group as a whole, while the rest of the record was a showcase for the individual members. David Crosby's "Almost Cut My Hair" was a piece of high-energy hippie-era paranoia not too far removed in subject from the Byrds' "Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man," only angrier in mood and texture (especially amid the pumping organ and slashing guitars); the title track, also by Crosby, took 100 hours to work out and was a better-received successor to such experimental works as "Mind Gardens," out of his earlier career with the Byrds, showing his occasional abandonment of a rock beat, or any fixed rhythm at all, in favor of washing over the listener with tones and moods. "Teach Your Children," the major hit off the album, was a reflection of the hippie-era idealism that still filled Graham Nash's life, while "Our House" was his stylistic paean to the late-era Beatles and "4+20" was a gorgeous Stephen Stills blues excursion that was a precursor to the material he would explore on the solo album that followed. And then there were Neil Young's pieces, the exquisitely harmonized "Helpless" (which took many hours to get to the slow version finally used) and the roaring country-ish rockers that ended side two, which underwent a lot of tinkering by Young—even his seeming throwaway finale, "Everybody I Love You," was a bone thrown to longtime fans as perhaps the greatest Buffalo Springfield song that they didn't record. All of this variety made Déjà Vu a rich musical banquet for the most serious and personal listeners, while mass audiences reveled in the glorious harmonies and the thundering electric guitars, which were presented in even more dramatic and expansive fashion on the tour that followed.


    Birth of the Cool
    Miles Davis
    1957
    CD

    So dubbed because these three sessions—two from early 1949, one from March 1950—are where the sound known as cool jazz essentially formed, Birth of the Cool remains one of the defining, pivotal moments in jazz. This is where the elasticity of bop was married with skillful, big-band arrangements and a relaxed, subdued mood that made it all seem easy, even at its most intricate. After all, there's a reason why this music was called cool; it has a hip, detached elegance, never getting too hot, even as the rhythms skip and jump. Indeed, the most remarkable thing about these sessions—arranged by Gil Evans and featuring such heavy-hitters as Kai Winding, Gerry Mulligan, Lee Konitz, and Max Roach—is that they sound intimate, as the nonet never pushes too hard, never sounds like the work of nine musicians. Furthermore, the group keeps things short and concise (probably the result of the running time of singles, but the results are the same), which keeps the focus on the tones and tunes. The virtuosity led to relaxing, stylish mood music as the end result—the very thing that came to define West Coast or "cool" jazz—but this music is so inventive, it remains alluring even after its influence has been thoroughly absorbed into the mainstream.


    Miles Davis And The Modern Jazz Giants
    Miles Davis
    1958
    CD

    Including sessions recorded the same day as those on Bags Groove, this album includes more classic performances from the date that matched together trumpeter Miles Davis, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, pianist Thelonious Monk, bassist Percy Heath, and drummer Kenny Clarke. Davis and Monk actually did not get along all that well, and the trumpeter did not want Monk playing behind his solos. Still, a great deal of brilliant music occurred on the day of their encounter, including "The Man I Love," "Bemsha Swing," and "Swing Spring."


    Ascenseur Pour L'échafaud
    Miles Davis
    1958
    CD

    Jazz and film noir are perfect bedfellows, as evidenced by the soundtrack of Louis Malle's Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (Lift to the Scaffold). This dark and seductive tale is wonderfully accentuated by the late-'50s cool or bop music of Miles Davis, played with French jazzmen—bassist Pierre Michelot, pianist René Urtreger, and tenor saxophonist Barney Wilen—and American expatriate drummer Kenny Clarke. This recording evokes the sensual nature of a mysterious chanteuse and the contrasting scurrying rat race lifestyle of the times, when the popularity of the automobile, cigarettes, and the late-night bar scene were central figures. Davis had seen a screening of the movie prior to his making of this music, and knew exactly how to portray the smoky hazed or frantic scenes though sonic imagery, dictated by the trumpeter mainly in D-minor and C-seventh chords. Michelot is as important a figure as the trumpeter because he sets the tone, as on the stalking "Visite du Vigile." While the mood of the soundtrack is generally dour and somber, the group collectively picks up the pace exponentially on "Diner au motel." At times the distinctive Davis trumpet style is echoed into dire straits or death wish motifs, as on "Générique" or "L'Assassinat de Carala," respectively. Clarke is his usual marvelous self, and listeners should pay close attention to the able Urtreger, by no means a virtuoso but a capable and flexible accompanist. This recording can stand proudly alongside Duke Ellington's music from Anatomy of a Murder and the soundtrack of Play Misty for Me as great achievements of artistic excellence in fusing dramatic scenes with equally compelling modern jazz music.


    Kind of Blue
    Miles Davis
    1959
    CD

    Kind of Blue isn't merely an artistic highlight for Miles Davis, it's an album that towers above its peers, a record generally considered as the definitive jazz album, a universally acknowledged standard of excellence. Why does Kind of Blue possess such a mystique? Perhaps because this music never flaunts its genius. It lures listeners in with the slow, luxurious bassline and gentle piano chords of "So What." From that moment on, the record never really changes pace—each tune has a similar relaxed feel, as the music flows easily. Yet Kind of Blue is more than easy listening. It's the pinnacle of modal jazz—tonality and solos build from the overall key, not chord changes, giving the music a subtly shifting quality. All of this doesn't quite explain why seasoned jazz fans return to this record even after they've memorized every nuance. They return because this is an exceptional band—Miles, Coltrane, Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderley, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb—one of the greatest in history, playing at the peak of its power. As Evans said in the original liner notes for the record, the band did not play through any of these pieces prior to recording. Davis laid out the themes before the tape rolled, and then the band improvised. The end results were wondrous and still crackle with vitality. Kind of Blue works on many different levels. It can be played as background music, yet it amply rewards close listening. It is advanced music that is extraordinarily enjoyable. It may be a stretch to say that if you don't like Kind of Blue, you don't like jazz—but it's hard to imagine it as anything other than a cornerstone of any jazz collection.


    Sketches Of Spain
    Miles Davis
    1960
    CD

    Along with Kind of Blue, In a Silent Way, and 'Round About Midnight, Sketches of Spain is one of Miles Davis' most enduring and innovative achievements. Recorded between November 1959 and March 1960—after Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley had left the band—Davis teamed with Canadian arranger Gil Evans for the third time. Davis brought Evans the album's signature piece, "Concierto de Aranjuez," after hearing a classical version of it at bassist Joe Mondragon's house. Evans was as taken with it as Davis was, and set about to create an entire album of material around it. The result is a masterpiece of modern art. On the "Concierto," Evans' arrangement provided an orchestra and jazz band—Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb, and Elvin Jones—the opportunity to record a classical work as it was. The piece, with its stunning colors and intricate yet transcendent adagio, played by Davis on a flügelhorn with a Harmon mute, is one of the most memorable works to come from popular culture in the 20th century. Davis' control over his instrument is singular, and Evans' conducting is flawless. Also notable are "Saeta," with one of the most amazing technical solos of Davis' career, and the album's closer, "Solea," which is conceptually a narrative piece, based on an Andalusian folk song, about a woman who encounters the procession taking Christ to Calvary. She sings the narrative of his passion and the procession—or parade—with full brass accompaniment moving along. Cobb and Jones, with flamenco-flavored percussion, are particularly wonderful here, as they allow the orchestra to indulge in the lushly passionate arrangement Evans provided to accompany Davis, who was clearly at his most challenged here, though he delivers with grace and verve. Sketches of Spain is the most luxuriant and stridently romantic recording Davis ever made. To listen to it in the 21st century is still a spine-tingling experience, as one encounters a multitude of timbres, tonalities, and harmonic structures seldom found in the music called jazz.


    Tarkus
    Emerson, Lake & Palmer
    1971
    LP

    Emerson, Lake & Palmer's 1970 eponymous LP was only a rehearsal. It hit hard because of the novelty of the act (allegedly the first supergroup in rock history), but felt more like a collection of individual efforts and ideas than a collective work. All doubts were dissipated by the release of Tarkus in 1971. Side one of the original LP is occupied by the 21-minute title epic track, beating both Genesis' "Supper's Ready" and Yes' "Close to the Edge" by a year. Unlike the latter group's cut-and-paste technique to obtain long suites, "Tarkus" is a thoroughly written, focused piece of music. It remains among the Top Ten classic tracks in progressive rock history. Because of the strength of side one, the material on the album's second half has been quickly forgotten—with one good reason: it doesn't match the strength of its counterpart—but "Bitches Crystal" and "A Time and a Place" make two good prog rock tracks, the latter being particularly rocking. "Jeremy Bender" is the first in a series of honky tonk-spiced, Far-West-related songs. This one and the rock & roll closer "Are You Ready Eddy?" are the only two tracks worth throwing away. Otherwise Tarkus makes a very solid album, especially to the ears of prog rock fans —no Greg Lake acoustic ballads, no lengthy jazz interludes. More accomplished than the trio's first album, but not quite as polished as Brain Salad Surgery, Tarkus is nevertheless a must-have.


    Here Come The Warm Jets
    Brian Eno
    1974
    CD

    [Brian] Eno's solo debut is a spirited, experimental collection of unabashed pop songs on which Eno mostly reprises his Roxy Music role as "sound manipulator," taking the lead vocals but leaving much of the instrumental work to various studio cohorts (including ex-Roxy mates Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay, plus Robert Fripp and others). Eno's compositions are quirky, whimsical, and catchy, his lyrics bizarre and often free-associative, with a decidedly dark bent in their humor ("Baby's on Fire," "Dead Finks Don't Talk"). Yet the album wouldn't sound nearly as manic as it does without Eno's wildly unpredictable sound processing; he coaxes otherworldly noises and textures from the treated guitars and keyboards, layering them in complex arrangements or bouncing them off one another in a weird cacophony. Avant-garde yet very accessible, Here Come the Warm Jets still sounds exciting, forward-looking, and densely detailed, revealing more intricacies with every play.


    Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)
    Brian Eno
    1974
    CD

    Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), inspired by the Chinese Cultural Revolution and released the next year, is more immediately likeable. Playful and catchy, it foregrounds Eno’s dirty-minded wit and tone-mangling electronic treatments, along with Phil Manzanera’s sideways-logic guitar. The firestorm on this one is the frenetic, headlong chant “Third Uncle,” but Eno was already figuring out how to get his avant-garde ideas across by making them sound perversely pretty—the chorus of crickets that ushers out “The Great Pretender” and the amateur string section that saws beneath the chimes of “Put a Straw Under Baby” are still hair-raising.


    Another Green World
    Brian Eno
    1975
    CD

    By 1975, Eno had become fascinated by deliberate randomness, and developed the “oblique strategies” that he later used on Bowie’s “Berlin trilogy” and U2’s best records. The first recorded result was Another Green World, a set of songs, patterns and textures (about two-thirds of them instrumental) that built up the kind of alien pastoralism the title suggested: very calm, very beautiful, very weird. (Aphex Twin apparently learned a lot from it.) It includes a couple of Eno’s most ravishing melodies in “Golden Hours” and “I’ll Come Running,” but most of it colors the atmosphere delicately—and the clarity of the new edition makes it easier to pay attention to every one of its subtle complexities.


    Before and After Science
    Brian Eno
    1977
    CD

    Before and After Science is really a study of "studio composition" whereby recordings are created by deconstruction and elimination: tracks are recorded and assembled in layers, then selectively subtracted one after another, resulting in a composition and sound quite unlike that at the beginning of the process. Despite the album's pop format, the sound is unique and strays far from the mainstream. Eno also experiments with his lyrics, choosing a sound-over-sense approach. When mixed with the music, these lyrics create a new sense or meaning, or the feeling of meaning, a concept inspired by abstract sound poet Kurt Schwitters (epitomized on the track "Kurt's Rejoinder," on which you actually hear samples from Schwitters' "Ursonate"). Before and After Science opens with two bouncy, upbeat cuts: "No One Receiving," featuring the offbeat rhythm machine of Percy Jones and Phil Collins (Eno regulars during this period), and "Backwater." Jones' analog delay bass dominates on the following "Kurt's Rejoinder," and he and Collins return on the mysterious instrumental "Energy Fools the Magician." The last five tracks (the entire second side of the album format) display a serenity unlike anything in the pop music field. These compositions take on an occasional pastoral quality, pensive and atmospheric. Cluster joins Eno on the mood-evoking "By This River," but the album's apex is the final cut, "Spider and I." With its misty emotional intensity, the song seems at once sad yet hopeful. The music on Before and After Science at times resembles Another Green World ("No One Receiving") and Here Come the Warm Jets ("King's Lead Hat") and ranks alongside both as the most essential Eno material.


    Ambient 1: Music for Airports
    Brian Eno
    1978
    CD

    Four subtle, slowly evolving pieces grace [Brian] Eno's first conscious effort at creating ambient music. The composer was in part striving to create music that approximated the effect of visual art. Like a fine painting, these evolving soundscapes don't require constant involvement on the part of the listener. They can hang in the background and add to the atmosphere of the room, yet the music also rewards close attention with a sonic richness absent in standard types of background or easy listening music [like Muzak, as Brian Eno said].


    Music for Films
    Brian Eno
    1978
    CD

    Comprised of work recorded over a 2-year period of time, some of the 18 tracks were actually used in films, while others were not. The short tracks (ranging from one and a half minutes to just over four) are all fairly stripped-down ambient, but unlike [the preceding] Music for Airports, never linger on enough to get to the point of being too repetitive. If anything, some of them feel like they end just as they're beginning. Perhaps it's just a generational difference that Eno prefers to keep things short, while many current ambient artist choose to stretch things out into longer, sprawling works. [...] Eno collaborates with lots of different people on the album and most of the contributions are that of one instrument in a track. Phil Collins (perhaps a reason to not completely write him off), Robert Fripp, and John Cale (as well as several others) all add their respective touches to different tracks, and even though there are so many people working on the album (and so many different tracks), the album is surprisingly cohesive. The release starts out with a track that sounds very similar to something from Music for Airports, with it's chiming minimal sound, yet it has some added basswork by Percy Jones that helps to give it just a bit more depth than the dreamy sounds of the aforementioned disc. The disc follows that up with one of the prettiest tracks on the disc in "From the Same Hill." Over some warm, quiet washes of sound, a plucked acoustic guitar gives the track a simple, fragile sound. On the three part "Sparrowfall," Eno uses the first part to combine a piano with some nice synth, while the second part of the track finds some synth strings coming into the mix and the synth part of the track growing more eerie. The final part puts the first two together into a more rich sounding track that is slightly unsettling. The latter half of the disc ranges from tracks like the stripped-down "Events in Dense Fog" to the more groove oriented (the only one that feels out-of-place on the disc) "M386." If you enjoy ambient music and want an idea of some of the roots of the genre, this is really one of those essential releases.


    Ambient 4: On Land
    Brian Eno
    1982
    LP

    On Land represented a significant move away from the strategies Brian Eno had employed in earlier ambient releases such as Discreet Music and Music for Airports. Instead of using a specific process to generate music with minimal interference from the composer, he here opts for a more gestural and intuitive approach, creating dreamy pictures of some specific geographical points or evocative memories of them. It's quite easy to imagine these works as soundtracks to mysterious footage of imprecisely glimpsed landscapes. On Land is an album that would become highly influential with the rising tide of new age composers, though few if any would capture the chilly beauty or latent romanticism that is part and parcel of Eno. The first piece, "Lizard Point," includes an early recorded performance of Bill Laswell on bass, and one imagines that his association with Eno was a crucial factor in the ambient directions his later work would sometimes take. On Land remains a landmark event in the genre, as well as one of its high-water marks, and sounds entirely up to date 20 years after its initial release. A superb effort.


    Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks
    Brian Eno with Roger Eno and Daniel Lanois
    1983
    CD

    An exquisite experiment, Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks takes Brian Eno's spacescapes from albums like Another Green World and arranges them with some heavenly pedal steel guitar by Daniel Lanois. The recording engulfs the listener and captures the feel of space travel, weightlessness, and other sensations vividly. It's also perhaps Eno's warmest record ever. In the end, it comes off sounding not unlike a Grateful Dead experiment, with Lanois' lazy pedal steel sounding quite similar to Jerry Garcia's playing on David Crosby's "Laughing." An excellent nighttime vehicle.


    Frampton Comes Alive!
    Peter Frampton
    1976
    LP

    At the time of its release, Frampton Comes Alive! was an anomaly, a multi-million-selling (mid-priced) double LP by an artist who had previously never burned up the charts with his long-players in any spectacular way. The biggest-selling live album of all time, it made Peter Frampton a household word and generated a monster hit single in "Show Me the Way." And the reason why is easy to hear: the Herd/Humble Pie graduate packed one hell of a punch on-stage—where he was obviously the most comfortable—and, in fact, the live versions of "Show Me the Way," "Do You Feel Like I Do," "Something's Happening," "Shine On," and other album rock staples are much more inspired, confident, and hard-hitting than the studio versions.


    Peter Gabriel
    Peter Gabriel
    1978
    LP

    The pairing sounds ideal—the former front man of Genesis, as produced by the leading light of King Crimson. Unfortunately, Peter Gabriel's second album (like his first, eponymous) fails to meet those grandiose expectations, even though it seems to at first. "On the Air" and "D.I.Y." are stunning slices of modern rock circa 1978, bubbling with synths, insistent rhythms, and polished processed guitars, all enclosed in a streamlined production that nevertheless sounds as large as a stadium. Then, things begin to drift, at first in a pleasant way ("A Wonderful Day in a One-Way World" is surprisingly nimble), but by the end, it all seems a little formless. It's not that the music is overly challenging -- it's that the record is unfocused. There are great moments scattered throughout the record, yet it never captivates, either through intoxicating, messy creativity (as he did on his debut) or through cohesion (the way the third Peter Gabriel album, two years later, would). Certain songs work well on their own—not just the opening numbers, but the mini-epic "White Shadow," the tight "Animal Magic," the tense yet catchy "Perspective," the reflective closer "Home Sweet Home"—yet for all the tracks that work, they never work well together. Ironically, it holds together a bit better than its predecessor, yet it never reaches the brilliant heights of that record. In short, it's a transitional effort that's well worth the time of serious listeners, even it's still somewhat unsatisfying.


    Nursery Cryme
    Genesis
    1971
    CD

    If Genesis truly established themselves as progressive rockers on Trespass, Nursery Cryme is where their signature persona was unveiled: true English eccentrics, one part Lewis Carroll and one part Syd Barrett, creating a fanciful world that emphasized the band's instrumental prowess as much as Peter Gabriel's theatricality. Which isn't to say that all of Nursery Cryme works. There are times when the whimsy is overwhelming, just as there are periods when there's too much instrumental indulgence, yet there's a charm to this indulgence, since the group is letting itself run wild. Even if they've yet to find the furthest reaches of their imagination, part of the charm is hearing them test out its limits, something that does result in genuine masterpieces, as on "The Musical Box" and "The Return of the Giant Hogweed," two epics that dominate the first side of the album and give it its foundation. If the second side isn't quite as compelling or quite as structured, it doesn't quite matter because these are the songs that showed what Genesis could do, and they still stand as pinnacles of what the band could achieve.


    Genesis Live
    Genesis
    1973
    CD

    In early 1973, Genesis allowed the taping of a couple of live shows for broadcast in America as part of the King Biscuit Flower Hour syndicated radio show—most of their current set, drawn from their albums up through 1972's Foxtrot, was represented. A few months later, Tony Stratton-Smith, the head of Charisma Records, to which the group was signed, approached them about allowing him to fill the extended gap between Foxtrot and their next album, Selling England by the Pound, by releasing a live album from this same taped performance. The band members, who now say they were somewhat distracted at the time by their work on the new album, agreed to it. And the result was Genesis Live, which was originally the only official document of the group in performance with Peter Gabriel in the lineup. And it's not just the singer, but everyone who shines here—it's doubtful that anyone ever got a richer sound out of a Mellotron on-stage than Tony Banks does on this album, and Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford, and Phil Collins' playing is all quite amazing as a whole unit, holding together some very complex music in a live setting. And on that basis alone, this album was an essential acquisition for fans of the group, as well as a key link in solidifying their growing popularity—the intensity of the performances on "Watcher of the Skies," "Get 'Em Out by Friday," "Return of the Giant Hogweed," "The Knife, and, especially, "The Musical Box," easily transcend the work (superb though it was) on the studio originals, and is an in-your-face presentation of the theatrical intensity that Gabriel and company brought to their work on-stage. What's more, the very fact that the band could pull some of what they do on-stage—and this was in an era where other prog rock bands, such as Emerson, Lake & Palmer, were running up against a brick wall in terms of re-creating their complex studio sounds in concert—is mighty impressive. Additionally, in the case of "The Musical Box" and "The Return of the Giant Hogweed," both songs originally recorded on Nursery Cryme, the versions here documented this lineup's true approach to these pieces—at the time when Nursery Cryme was recorded, guitarist Steve Hackett had barely joined the group (and fragments of music composed by his predecessor, Anthony Phillips, still exist on the album), and most of the guitar parts there were actually the work of bassist Mike Rutherford (who did, in fact, take over most of the group's guitar chores after Hackett's departure in the late '70s). So what we hear on this album, which has now been upgraded on CD at least twice, once in the '90s and again in 2009 as part of the Genesis Live 1973–2007 box set, are the definitive interpretations of these pieces by this version of the band, more so than the studio originals. And one also gets to hear the classic version of the band tackle the oldest part of their repertory, "The Knife," which went back to their first Charisma album [Trespass]—and it's a killer compared to the original. And one could say that about the whole album, as well as being the best representation of this version of the band at this point in their history, but for one glaring flaw—the original King Biscuit broadcast included the epic "Supper's Ready" from Foxtrot, which Stratton-Smith was compelled to leave off of the album, rather than face the economic challenge of issuing a three-sided double-LP. That flaw aside, this is about the best single-LP representation of what this band could do on-stage, and to the surprise of a lot of people, it actually won them lots of new fans ahead of the release of Selling England by the Pound.


    The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
    Genesis
    1974
    LP

    Given all the overt literary references of Selling England by the Pound, along with their taste for epic suites such as "Supper's Ready," it was only a matter of time before Genesis attempted a full-fledged concept album, and 1974's The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway was a massive rock opera: the winding, wielding story of a Puerto Rican hustler name Rael making his way in New York City. Peter Gabriel made some tentative moves toward developing this story into a movie with William Friedkin but it never took off, perhaps it's just as well; even with the lengthy libretto included with the album, the story never makes sense. But just because the story is rather impenetrable doesn't mean that the album is as well, because it is a forceful, imaginative piece of work that showcases the original Genesis lineup at a peak. Even if the story is rather hard to piece together, the album is set up in a remarkable fashion, with the first LP being devoted to pop-oriented rock songs and the second being largely devoted to instrumentals. This means that The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway contains both Genesis' most immediate music to date and its most elliptical. Depending on a listener's taste, they may gravitate toward the first LP with its tight collection of ten rock songs, or the nightmarish landscapes of the second, where Rael descends into darkness and ultimately redemption (or so it would seem), but there's little question that the first album is far more direct than the second and it contains a number of masterpieces, from the opening fanfare of the title song to the surging "In the Cage," from the frightening "Back in NYC" to the soothing conclusion "The Carpet Crawlers." In retrospect, this first LP plays a bit more like the first Gabriel solo album than the final Genesis album [with Peter Gabriel in the lineup], but there's also little question that the band helps form and shape this music (with Brian Eno adding extra coloring on occasion, credited as "Enossification"), while Genesis shines as a group shines on the impressionistic second half. In every way, it's a considerable, lasting achievement and it's little wonder that Peter Gabriel had to leave the band after this record: they had gone as far as they could go together, and could never top this extraordinary album.


    A Trick Of The Tail
    Genesis
    1976
    CD

    After Peter Gabriel departed for a solo career, Genesis embarked on a long journey to find a replacement, only to wind back around to their drummer, Phil Collins, as a replacement. With Collins as their new frontman, the band decided not to pursue the stylish, jagged postmodernism of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway—a move that Gabriel would do in his solo career—and instead returned to the English eccentricity of Selling England by the Pound for its next effort, A Trick of the Tail. In almost every respect, this feels like a truer sequel to Selling England by the Pound than Lamb; after all, that double album was obsessed with modernity and nightmare, whereas this album returns the group to the fanciful fairy tale nature of its earlier records. Also, Genesis were moving away from the barbed pop of the first LP and returning to elastic numbers that showcased their instrumental prowess, and they sounded more forceful and unified as a band than they had since Foxtrot. Not that this album is quite as memorable as Foxtrot or Selling England, largely because its songs aren't as immediate or memorable: apart from "Dance on a Volcano", this is about the sound of the band playing, not individual songs, and it succeeds on that level quite wildly—to the extent that it proved to longtime fans that Genesis could possibly thrive without its former leader in tow.


    Freeze Frame
    Godley & Creme
    1979
    LP

    It's impossible to mistake this for a 1981 J. Geils Band release of the same name. This album gets the nod over some other Godley and Creme ones because sometimes they actually stay with a tune to the end instead of sailing off on a Frank Zappa-like tangent. That might be because the part-time presence of Paul McCartney and Phil Manzanera keeps their hosts grounded. "An Englishman in New York" sounds remarkably like Queen in spots and is the strongest track on the album, although its smugness wears thin after awhile.


    Voyage Of The Acolyte
    Steve Hackett
    1975
    CD

    The essence of progressive music is characterized perfectly on Voyage of the Acolyte, Steve Hackett's first solo album. The former Genesis guitarist uses his instrumental mastery to conjure up musical images of sorcerers, magic, and old English castles with the primary use of keyboards and electric guitar. Phil Collins on drums and vibraphone and Mike Rutherford on bass and fuzz 12-string contribute their talents to the churning synthesizers that accompany each passage. The basic instrumental elements of progressive rock are heard loud and clear throughout the album, including Mellotron, harmonium, flute, and bells, and none with a minor role to play. Collins, Hackett, and Sally Oldfield all donate their voices to a few of the songs here, adding a nice touch to the heavy insertion of electronics. Glimpses of oboe and cello can be detected underneath some pleasurable guitar work in "The Lovers and "Hands of the Priestess Part 1." Traces of Yes can be found all the way through the album, but especially on the 11:45 grand finale "Shadow of the Hierophant" that combines all the instruments in a colorful bombardment of musical fury. A true progressive masterpiece, Voyage of the Acolyte is an album firmly stationed in the upper echelon of prog rock.


    Spectral Mornings
    Steve Hackett
    1979
    LP

    To his credit, Steve Hackett learned from the mistakes made on Please Don't Touch, and delivered a much-improved mix of songs and instrumentals on Spectral Mornings. With a workable backing band that includes John Shearer, Nick Magnus, and former Decameron bassist Dik Cadbury, the ex-Genesis guitarist exploits his strengths: progressive instrumentals that skip between heaven and hell, pastoral pop songs, and a healthy dose of English humor. Vocalist Peter Hicks takes the lead on a few tracks, and as the honey-fied "The Virgin and the Gypsy" makes clear, his voice is much better suited to the material than Richie Havens. Hackett's lone vocal cameo, "The Ballad of the Decomposing Man," is a Pythonesque treat. The guitar work is typically top-notch, equally effective in acoustic sections that feature John Hackett's flute and in tempestuous arrangements where Steve's trademark electric guitar pierces through the chaos. The guitarist also extends his range to the Cantonese koto (presumably a variation on the Japanese koto) for the delicate instrumental "The Red Flower of Tachai Blooms Everywhere"; in typically mischievous fashion, it lulls the listener into a false sense of relaxation for the sonic onslaught of "Clocks -- The Angel of Mons." For many, Voyage of the Acolyte is the definitive Hackett record, but Spectral Mornings is more indicative of his range as a solo artist. The music is true to progressive rock in sound if not in scope, a trait which endears Hackett to Genesis fans who found that band's subsequent commercialization distasteful.


    Emergency On Planet Earth
    Jamiroquai
    1993
    CD

    Jamiroquai made a large initial splash in 1993 with this album, a psychedelic melange of tight funky rhythms, acid rock intimations, and '70s soul melodies. Frontman Jay Kay introduces himself with an environmentally oriented manifesto inside the sleeve, and his lyrics smack of idealist save the planet revolution. But this revolution would be held on the dancefloor if the band's impressive rhythm section had anything to say about it. Horns, string arrangements, and a didgeridoo provide full texture on most of the album's tunes, and the socially aware party vibe raged into the U.K.'s number one album slot. For a debut, Emergency on Planet Earth shows quite a range of diversity, from the up-tempo jazzy instrumental "Music of the Mind" to the stop-start funk of "Whatever It Is, I Just Can't Stop."


    Travelling Without Moving
    Jamiroquai
    1996
    CD

    Travelling Without Moving deepens the acid jazz and '70s soul fusions of Return of the Space Cowboy, yet it doesn't have the uniform consistency of its predecessor. Nevertheless, Jamiroquai's fusions sound more fully realized with each outing, which makes its patchy songwriting forgivable.


    High Times: Singles 1992–2006
    Jamiroquai
    2006
    CD

    Collecting most of Jamiroquai's singles since lead singer Jay Kay first donned a large furry buffalo hat for the band's 199[3] debut, Emergency on Planet Earth, High Times: Singles 1992–2006 is a superb listen and a great summation of what has made the retro-futurist funk band so successful. Sure, High Times doesn't include every single they released—the fantastic "Light Years" and "You Give Me Something" [respectively from The Return of the Space Cowboy and A Funk Odyssey] aren't included—and admittedly it was largely put together to fulfill and finish off Jamiroquai's contract with Sony. Nonetheless, as an encapsulation of what makes Jamiroquai such a phenomenal pop-funk-dance entity, it's an infectiously listenable affair. Running chronologically through the most recognizable singles Kay and company have released, High Times is easily the best collection of Jamiroquai tunes on one disc and hits all of the most memorable tracks off each of the group's albums. Included are such well-known tracks as "Virtual Insanity" (the band's breakthrough single) and "Cosmic Girl," as well as such similarly catchy and funky cuts as the didgeridoo-driven "When You Gonna Learn," the blissed-out "Space Cowboy," and the latter-day would-be disco classic "Little L." Also included are two new recordings, "Runaway" and "Radio," that solidly stand on their own pop merits.


    Autobahn
    Kraftwerk
    1974
    LP

    Although Kraftwerk's first three albums were groundbreaking in their own right, Autobahn is where the group's hypnotic electronic pulse genuinely came into its own. The main difference between Autobahn and its predecessors is how it develops an insistent, propulsive pulse that makes the repeated rhythms and riffs of the shimmering electronic keyboards and trance-like guitars all the more hypnotizing. The 22-minute title track, in a severely edited form, became an international hit single and remains the peak of the band's achievements—it encapsulates the band and why they are important within one track—but the rest of the album provides soundscapes equally as intriguing. Within Autobahn, the roots of electro-funk, ambient, and synth pop are all evident—it's a pioneering album, even if its electronic trances might not capture the attention of all listeners.


    Lennon Legend: The Very Best of John Lennon
    John Lennon
    1997
    CD

    Lennon Legend was released in the fall of 1997 in England to replace the deleted John Lennon Collection [first released in 1982], and the 20-track collection is remarkably similar to its predecessor, replicating a full 16 tracks and deleting the relatively nonessential "I'm Losing You," "Dear Yoko," and "Move Over Ms. L" in favor of "Borrowed Time," "Mother," "Nobody Told Me," and "Working Class Hero." Even if the disc isn't sequenced in strict chronological order, the end result is the strongest single-disc Lennon collection yet. It might not offer everything of worth that Lennon recorded—the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine albums remain essentials, and there are great-to-good songs scattered among his later solo records—but it does function as an excellent sampler and introduction to his solo career.


    Ride the Lightning
    Metallica
    1984
    LP

    Kill 'Em All may have revitalized heavy metal's underground, but Ride the Lightning was even more stunning, exhibiting staggering musical growth and boldly charting new directions that would affect heavy metal for years to come. Incredibly ambitious for a one-year-later sophomore effort, Ride the Lightning finds Metallica aggressively expanding their compositional technique and range of expression. Every track tries something new, and every musical experiment succeeds mightily. The lyrics push into new territory as well—more personal, more socially conscious, less metal posturing. But the true heart of Ride the Lightning lies in its rich musical imagination. There are extended, progressive epics; tight, concise groove-rockers; thrashers that blow anything on Kill 'Em All out of the water, both in their urgency and the barest hints of melody that have been added to the choruses. Some innovations are flourishes that add important bits of color, like the lilting, pseudo-classical intro to the furious "Fight Fire with Fire," or the harmonized leads that pop up on several tracks. Others are major reinventions of Metallica's sound, like the nine-minute, album-closing instrumental "The Call of Ktulu," or the haunting suicide lament "Fade to Black." The latter is an all-time metal classic; it begins as an acoustic-driven, minor-key ballad, then gets slashed open by electric guitars playing a wordless chorus, and ends in a wrenching guitar solo over a thrashy yet lyrical rhythm figure. Basically, in a nutshell, Metallica sounded like they could do anything. Heavy metal hadn't seen this kind of ambition since Judas Priest's late-'70s classics, and Ride the Lightning effectively rewrote the rule book for a generation of thrashers. If Kill 'Em All was the manifesto, Ride the Lightning was the revolution itself.


    Faith
    George Michael
    1987
    LP

    A superbly crafted mainstream pop/rock masterpiece, Faith made George Michael an international solo star, selling over ten million copies in the U.S. alone as of 2000. Perhaps even more impressively, it also made him the first white solo artist to hit number one on the R&B album charts. Michael had already proven the soulful power of his pipes by singing a duet with Aretha Franklin on the 1987 smash "I Knew You Were Waiting (for Me)," but he went even farther when it came to crafting his own material, using sophisticated '70s soul as an indispensable part of his foundation. Of course, it's only a part. Faith's ingenuity lies in the way it straddles pop, adult contemporary, R&B, and dance music as though there were no distinctions between them. In addition to his basic repertoire of funky dance-pop and airy, shimmering ballads, Michael appropriates the Bo Diddley beat for the rockabilly-tinged title track, and proves himself a better-than-decent torch singer on the cocktail jazz of "Kissing a Fool." Michael arranged and produced the album himself, and the familiarity of many of these songs can obscure his skills in those departments—close listening reveals his knack for shifting elements in and out of the mix and adding subtle embellishments when a little emphasis or variety is needed. Though Faith couldn't completely shake Michael's bubblegum image in some quarters, the album's themes were decidedly adult. "I Want Your Sex" was the most notorious example, of course, but even the love songs were strikingly personal and mature, grappling with complex adult desires and scarred by past heartbreak. All of it adds up to one of the finest pop albums of the '80s, setting a high-water mark that Michael was only able to reach in isolated moments afterward.


    Soundtrack From The Film More
    Pink Floyd
    1969
    LP

    Commissioned as a soundtrack to the seldom-seen French hippie movie of the same name, More was a Pink Floyd album in its own right, reaching the Top Ten in Britain. The group's atmospheric music was a natural for movies, but when assembled for record, these pieces were unavoidably a bit patchwork, ranging from folky ballads to fierce electronic instrumentals to incidental mood music. Several of the tracks are pleasantly inconsequential, but this record does include some strong compositions, especially "Cymbaline," "Green Is the Colour," and "The Nile Song." All of these developed into stronger pieces in live performances, and better, high-quality versions are available on numerous bootlegs.


    Ummagumma
    Pink Floyd
    1969
    CD

    For many years, this double [album] was one of the most popular albums in Pink Floyd's pre-Dark Side of the Moon output, containing a live disc and a studio disc all for the price of one [...]. The live set, recorded in Birmingham and Manchester in June 1969, is limited to four numbers, all drawn from the group's first two LPs [The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and A Saucerful of Secrets] or their then recent singles. Featuring the band's second lineup (i.e., no Syd Barrett), the set shows off a very potent group, their sound held together on-stage by Nick Mason's assertive drumming and Roger Waters' powerful bass work, which keep the proceedings moving no matter how spaced out the music gets; they also sound like they've got the amplifiers to make their music count, which is more than the early band had. "Astronomy Domine," "Careful with That Axe Eugene," "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun," and "A Saucerful of Secrets" are all superior here to their studio originals, done longer, louder, and harder, with a real edge to the playing. The studio disc was more experimental, each member getting a certain amount of space on the record to make his own music—Richard Wright's "Sysyphus" was a pure keyboard work, featuring various synthesizers, organs, and pianos; David Gilmour's "The Narrow Way" was a three-part instrumental for acoustic and electric guitars and electronic keyboards; and Nick Mason's "The Grand Vizier's Garden Party" made use of a vast range of acoustic and electric percussion devices. Roger Waters' "Grantchester Meadows" was a lyrical folk-like number unlike almost anything else the group ever did.


    Outlandos D'Amour
    The Police
    1978
    CD

    While their subsequent chart-topping albums would contain far more ambitious songwriting and musicianship, the Police's 1978 debut, Outlandos d'Amour (translation: Outlaws of Love) is by far their most direct and straightforward release. Although Sting, Andy Summers, and Stewart Copeland were all superb instrumentalists with jazz backgrounds, it was much easier to get a record contract in late-'70s England if you were a punk/new wave artist, so the band decided to mask their instrumental prowess with a set of strong, adrenaline-charged rock, albeit with a reggae tinge. Some of it may have been simplistic ("Be My Girl - Sally," "Born in the '50s"), but Sting was already an ace songwriter, as evidenced by all-time classics like the good-girl-gone-bad tale of "Roxanne," and a pair of brokenhearted reggae-rock ditties, "Can't Stand Losing You" and "So Lonely." But like all other Police albums, the lesser-known album cuts are often highlights themselves—the frenzied rockers "Next to You," "Peanuts," and "Truth Hits Everybody," as well as more exotic fare like the groovy album closer "Masoko Tanga" and the lonesome "Hole in My Life." Outlandos d'Amour is unquestionably one of the finest debuts to come out of the '70s punk/new wave movement.


    Reggatta De Blanc
    The Police
    1979
    CD

    By 1979's Reggatta de Blanc (translation: White Reggae), nonstop touring had sharpened the Police's original blend of reggae-rock to perfection, resulting in breakthrough success. Containing a pair of massive hit singles—the inspirational anthem "Message in a Bottle" and the spacious "Walking on the Moon"—the album also signaled a change in the band's sound. Whereas their debut got its point across with raw, energetic performances, Reggatta de Blanc was much more polished production-wise and fully developed from a songwriting standpoint. While vigorous rockers did crop up from time to time ("It's Alright for You," "Deathwish," "No Time This Time," and the Grammy-winning instrumental ["Reggatta de Blanc"]), the material was overall much more sedate than the debut—"Bring [O]n the Night," "The Bed's Too Big Without You," and "Does Everyone Stare." Also included was Stewart Copeland's one and only lead vocal appearance on a Police album, the witty "On Any Other Day," as well as one of the band's most eerie tracks, "Contact." With Reggatta de Blanc, many picked Sting and company to be the superstar band of the '80s, and the Police would prove them correct on the band's next release.


    Zenyattà Mondatta
    The Police
    1980
    LP

    The stage was set for The Police to become one of the biggest acts of the '80s, and the band delivered with the 1980 classic Zenyatta Mondatta. The album proved to be the trio's second straight number one album in the U.K., while peaking at number three in the U.S. Arguably the best Police album, Zenyatta contains perhaps the quintessential new wave anthem, the haunting "Don't Stand So Close to Me," the story of an older teacher lusting after one of his students. While other tracks follow in the same spooky path (their second Grammy-winning instrumental "Behind My Camel" and "Shadows in the Rain"), most of the material is upbeat, such as the carefree U.S./U.K. Top Ten "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da," "Canary in a Coalmine," and "Man in a Suitcase." Sting includes his first set of politically charged lyrics in "Driven to Tears," "When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around," and "Bombs Away" [one of Stewart Copeland's two contributions on the album] which all observe the declining state of the world. While Sting would later criticize the album as not all it could have been (the band was rushed to complete the album in order to begin another tour), Zenyatta Mondatta remains one of the finest rock albums of all time.


    Ghost In The Machine
    The Police
    1981
    LP

    For their fourth album [...] the Police had streamlined their sound to focus more on their pop side and less on their trademark reggae-rock. Their jazz influence had become more prominent, as evidenced by the appearance of saxophones on several tracks. The production has more of a contemporary '80s sound to it (courtesy of Hugh Padgham, who took over for Nigel Gray), and Sting proved once and for all to be a master of the pop songwriting format. The album spawned several hits, such as the energetic "Spirits in the Material World" (notice how the central rhythms are played by synthesizer instead of guitar to mask the reggae connection) and a tribute to those living amid the turmoil and violence in Northern Ireland circa the early '80s, "Invisible Sun." But the best and most renowned of the bunch is undoubtedly the blissful "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic," which topped the U.K. singles chart and nearly did the same in the U.S. (number three). Unlike the other Police releases, not all of the tracks are stellar ("Hungry for You," "Ωmegaman"), but the vicious jazz-rocker "Demolition Man," the barely containable "Rehumanize Yourself," and a pair of album-closing ballads ("Secret Journey," "Darkness") proved otherwise. While it was not a pop masterpiece, Ghost in the Machine did serve as an important stepping stone between their more direct early work and their more ambitious latter direction, resulting in the trio's exceptional blockbuster final album [...].


    Synchronicity
    The Police
    1983
    LP

    Synchronicity is a work of dazzling surfaces and glacial shadows. Sunny pop melodies echo with ominous sound effects. Pithy verses deal with doomsday. A battery of rhythms—pop, reggae and African—lead a safari into a physical and spiritual desert, to "Tea in the Sahara." Synchronicity, the Police's fifth [...] album, is about things ending—the world in peril, the failure of personal relationships and marriage, the death of God. Throughout the LP, these ideas reflect upon one another in echoing, overlapping voices and instrumentation as the safari shifts between England's industrial flatlands and Africa. "If we share this nightmare/ Then we can dream," Sting announces in the title cut, a jangling collage of metallic guitar, percussion and voices that artfully conjures the clamor of the world. Though the Police started out as straightforward pop-reggae enthusiasts, they have by now so thoroughly assimilated the latter that all that remains are different varieties of reggae-style syncopation. The Police and co-producer Hugh Padgham have transformed the ethereal sounds of Jamaican dub into shivering, self-contained atmospheres. Even more than on the hauntingly ambient Ghost in the Machine, each cut on Synchronicity is not simply a song but a miniature, discrete soundtrack. Synchronicity's big surprise, however, is the explosive and bitter passion of Sting's newest songs. Before this LP, his global pessimism was countered by a streak of pop romanticism. Such songs as "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" and "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" stood out like glowing gems, safely sealed off from Sting's darker reflections. On Synchronicity, vestiges of that romanticism remain, but only in the melodies. In the lyrics, paranoia, cynicism and excruciating loneliness run rampant. The cuts on Synchronicity are sequenced like Chinese boxes, the focus narrowing from the global to the local to the personal. But every box contains the ashes of betrayal. "Walking in Your Footsteps," a children's tune sung in a third-world accent and brightly illustrated with African percussion and flute, contemplates nothing less than humanity's nuclear suicide. "Hey Mr. Dinosaur, you really couldn't ask for more/You were god's favorite creature but you didn't have a future," Sting calls out before adding, "[We're] walking in your footsteps." In "O My God," Sting drops his third-world mannerisms to voice a desperate, anguished plea for help to a distant deity: "Take the space between us, and fill it up, fill it up, fill it up!" This "space" is evoked in an eerie, sprinting dub-rock style, with Sting addressing not only God but also a woman and the people of the world, begging for what he clearly feels is an impossible reconciliation. The mood of cosmic anxiety is interrupted by two songs written by other members of the band. Guitarist Andy Summers' corrosively funny "Mother" inverts John Lennon's romantic maternal attachment into a grim dadaist joke. Stewart Copeland's "Miss Gradenko," a novelty about secretarial paranoia in the Kremlin, is memorable mainly for Summers' modal twanging between the verses. The rest of the album belongs to Sting. "Synchronicity II" refracts the clanging chaos of "Synchronicity I" into a brutal slice of industrial-suburban life, intercut with images of the Loch Ness monster rising from the slime like an avenging demon. But as the focus narrows from the global to the personal on side two, the music becomes more delicate—even as the mood turns from suspicion to desperation to cynicism in "Every Breath You Take," "King of Pain" and "Wrapped around Your Finger," a triptych of songs about the end of a marriage, presumably Sting's own. As the narrator of "Every Breath You Take" tracks his lover's tiniest movements like a detective, then breaks down and pleads for love, the light pop rhythm becomes an obsessive marking of time. Few contemporary pop songs have described the nuances of sexual jealousy so chillingly. The rejected narrator in "King of Pain" sees his abandonment as a kind of eternal damnation in which the soul becomes "a fossil that's trapped in a high cliff wall/ ... A dead salmon frozen in a waterfall." "Wrapped around Your Finger" takes a longer, colder view of the institution of marriage. Its Turkish-inflected reggae sound underscores a lyric that portrays marriage as an ancient, ritualistic hex conniving to seduce the innocent and the curious into a kind of slavery. "Tea in the Sahara," Synchronicity's moodiest, most tantalizing song, is an aural mirage that brings back the birdcalls and jungle sounds of earlier songs as whispering, ghostly instrumental voices. In this haunting parable of endless, unappeasable desire, Sting tells the story, inspired by the Paul Bowles novel The Sheltering Sky, of a brother and two sisters who develop an insatiable craving for tea in the desert. After sealing a bargain with a mysterious young man, they wait on a dune for his return, but he never appears. The song suggests many interpretations: England dreaming of its lost empire, mankind longing for God, and Sting himself pining for an oasis of romantic peace. And that is where this bleak, brilliant safari into Sting's heart and soul finally deposits us—at the edge of a desert, searching skyward, our cups full of sand.


    Sheer Heart Attack
    Queen
    1974
    LP

    Queen II was a breakthrough in terms of power and ambition, but Queen's third album Sheer Heart Attack was where the band started to gel. It followed quickly on the heels of the second record—just by a matter of months; it was the second album they released in 1974—but it feels like it had a longer incubation period, so great is the progress here. Which isn't quite to say that Sheer Heart Attack is flawless—it still has a tendency to meander, sometimes within a song itself, as when the killer opening "Brighton Rock" suddenly veers into long stretches of Brian May solo guitar—but all these detours do not distract from the overall album, they're in many ways the key to the record itself: it's the sound of Queen stretching their wings as they learn how to soar to the clouds. There's a genuine excitement in hearing all the elements to Queen's sound fall into place here, as the music grows grander and catchier without sacrificing their brutal, hard attack. One of the great strengths of the album is how all four members find their voices as songwriters, penning hooks that are big, bold, and insistent and crafting them in songs that work as cohesive entities instead of flourishes of ideas. This is evident not just in "Killer Queen"—the first, best flourishing of Freddie Mercury's vaudevillian camp—but also on the pummeling "Stone Cold Crazy," a frenzied piece of jagged metal that's all the more exciting because it has a real melodic hook. Those hooks are threaded throughout the record, on both the ballads and the other rockers, but it isn't just that this is poppier, it's that they're able to execute their drama with flair and style. There are still references to mystical worlds ("Lily of the Valley," "In the Lap of Gods") but the fantasy does not overwhelm as it did on the first two records; the theatricality is now wielded on everyday affairs, which ironically makes them sound larger than life. And this sense of scale, combined with the heavy guitars, pop hooks, and theatrical style, marks the true unveiling of Queen, making Sheer Heart Attack as the moment where they truly came into their own.


    A Day at the Races
    Queen
    1976
    LP

    Okay, so they're effete, flaky, fey. And proud. So, what? This (sort-of) sequel (self-produced) to A Night at the Opera reeks of arch naivete. Freddie Mercury warbles with lunatic ebullience. There's cracked innocence and frisky excess here.
    And just enough rock & roll to keep the kids horny. A crunge of pseudo-Celtic metal called "White Man." A daffy, dumb-dumb, Hooploid "Tie Your Mother Down." Perfect for the stage show.Enough already. Mercury's got four new ones. As always, his constructions provide Queen's flashiest and most dubious moments. At last, the singer has achieved vocal chops of breathless effervescence. Which means he sounds like Marilyn Monroe in Bus Stop or Sarah Bernhardt with emphysema.
    Mercury's production effects have a crude, Busby Berkeley opulence. Freddie Mercury is to rock & roll what Carmen Miranda was to tropical fruit. His "You Take My Breath Away" is either exquisitely lovelorn or monumentally vapid, depending on the humidity. Who cares? It's all moisture and barometric pressure."The Millionaire Waltz," A Day at the Races's would-be "Bohemian Rhapsody," moves swiftly from the intricate to the awkward. Soon, it collapses under the weight of an unsound conceit, auto-annihilating like the best of Western culture.The single, "Somebody to Love," rollicks in 3/4 time, propelled by a drolly exuberant choral arrangement. "Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy" apes Paul McCartney's cutesy music-hall camp: references range from the sublime "Martha My Dear" to the ridiculous, vaudevillian "Honeypie." For hardcore cultists, there's a two-bar "Rock-a-bye Baby" steal. A spirited and impeccable Freddie Valentino send-up.Brian May adorns throughout with lovely crypto-classical, chicken-squawk guitar. His songwriting gifts are conventional, but not inconsiderable. "Teo Torriate (Let Us Cling Together)" is a precious, Nipponese-inflected "Auld Lang Syne." May's "Long Away" is Races's strongest and least tricked-up track. It's a haunting Beatles/Byrds amalgam, all shimmering electric 12-strings and aching harmony. Never smart-ass or strickly for laughs, "Long Away" - unlike most of Races - feels real.But, hey. Let's not fault Mercury's fabrications for shrewd indulgence. Ostentation is the man's strategy, and Queen albums beg to be judged by their pomp. Grandeur is the other side of pretension. And Freddie Mercury is abrasive—but oh so knowing. These Limey lads are effete, flaky, and fey, but they're not blase. With A Day at the Races, they've deserted art-rock entirely. They're silly now. And wondrously shameless. Rule Britannia!


    The Bends
    Radiohead
    1995
    CD

    Pablo Honey in no way was adequate preparation for its epic, sprawling follow-up, The Bends. Building from the sweeping, three-guitar attack that punctuated the best moments of Pablo Honey, Radiohead create a grand and forceful sound that nevertheless resonates with anguish and despair—it's cerebral anthemic rock. Occasionally, the album displays its influences, whether it's U2, Pink Floyd, R.E.M., or the Pixies, but Radiohead turn clichés inside out, making each song sound bracingly fresh. Thom Yorke's tortured lyrics give the album a melancholy undercurrent, as does the surging, textured music. But what makes The Bends so remarkable is that it marries such ambitious, and often challenging, instrumental soundscapes to songs that are at their cores hauntingly melodic and accessible. It makes the record compelling upon first listen, but it reveals new details with each listen, and soon it becomes apparent that with The Bends, Radiohead have reinvented anthemic rock.


    Hail to the Thief
    Radiohead
    2003
    CD

    Radiohead's admittedly assumed dilemma: how to push things forward using just the right amounts of the old and the older in order to please both sides of the divide? Taking advantage of their longest running time to date, enough space is provided to quench the thirsts of resolute Bends devotees without losing the adventurous drive or experimentation that eventually got the group into hot water with many of those same listeners. Guitars churn and chime and sound like guitars more often than not; drums are more likely to be played by a human; and discernible verses are more frequently trailed by discernible choruses. So, whether or not the group is to be considered "back," there is a certain return to relatively traditional songcraft. Had the opening "2 + 2 = 5" and "Sit Down, Stand Up." been made two years before, each song's slowly swelling intensity would have plateaued a couple minutes in, functioning as mood pieces without any release; instead, each boils over into its own cathartic tantrum. The spook-filled "Sail to the Moon," one of several songs featuring prominent piano, rivals "Street Spirit" and hovers compellingly without much sense of force carrying it along. Somewhat ironically, minus a handful of the more conventionally structured songs, the album would be almost as fractured, remote, and challenging as Amnesiac. "Backdrifts" and "The Gloaming" feature nervous electronic backdrops, while the emaciated "We Suck Young Blood" is a laggard processional that, save for one outburst, shuffles along uneasily. At nearly an hour in length, this album doesn't unleash the terse blow delivered by its two predecessors. However, despite the fact that it seems more like a bunch of songs on a disc rather than a singular body, its impact is substantial. Regardless of all the debates surrounding the group, Radiohead have entered a second decade of record-making with a surplus of momentum.


    The King of Limbs
    Radiohead
    2011
    CD

    After a brief return to earth to deliver the tart, focused In Rainbows, Radiohead drift back into the ether with The King of Limbs. Like In Rainbows before it, the actuality of The King of Limbs is purposefully somewhat obscured by the hullabaloo surrounding the album's surprise release—announced for a Saturday release on a Monday, shifted to a Friday—and in the case of KOL, such clamor is needed. Wispy and ephemeral, shimmering skin draped over the barest of bones, The King of Limbs doesn’t deliberately lack a solid foundation, songwriting traded for sound construction. Masters of mood that they are, Radiohead digitally weave stuttering, glitchy loops of drums and guitars with real instruments, Thom Yorke’s mournful moan and keening falsetto acting as a binding agent, creating an alluringly dour atmosphere. Despite a pair of intellectually funky moments—“Morning Mr. Magpie” and “Little by Little,” grouped together at the beginning, giving the album a slight hint of momentum that quickly fades—this is rather monochromatic and not too far removed from the territory Radiohead began etching out with Kid A. Where that icy 2000 effort had the bracing chill of the new, The King of Limbs is familiar—not commonplace, but carrying a certain inevitability as its eight songs slowly unspool. There are no surprises in the floating textures, no delight in the details, no astonishment in how the band navigates intricate turns: this is the sound of Radiohead doing what they do, doing it very well, doing it without flash or pretension, gently easing from the role of pioneers to craftsmen.


    Bridge Over Troubled Water
    Simon & Garfunkel
    1970
    LP

    Simon & Garfunkel's 1970 swan song, Bridge over Troubled Water, was both their most effortless record and their most ambitious. The duo spent most of the 1960s as a highly regarded folk act distinguished by their intuitive harmonies and Paul Simon's articulate songwriting, yet compared to the Greenwich Village revivalists, whom they tried to emulate on songs like "A Simple Desultory Philippic" and "Bleecker Street", they were pretty square. By Bookends in 1968, they were settling into themselves, losing their folk revival pretensions and emphasizing quirky production techniques to match their soaring vocals. Two years later, Bridge did that album one better by revealing a voracious musical vocabulary that spanned gospel, rock, R&B, and even classical. As this thoughtful reissue attests, the album sounds unique even 40 years later, driven and defined entirely by their own personal musical and political obsessions.This diverse album contains the roots of Paul Simon's subsequent incorporation of African and South American rhythms into astute pop songs, especially "El Condor Pasa (If I Could)". The tune is hundreds of years old, but Simon came to it via a contemporary Peruvian group called Los Incas. He wrote new English lyrics about the rural versus the urban, and he and Garfunkel sang them over the original instrumental track. Especially coming after the grandiose gospel of the title track, the song sounds both exotic and humble. Later, "Keep the Customer Satisfied" swells with gargantuan blasts of brass, "Baby Driver" revs up some R&B sax, and "Cecilia" sounds impossibly infectious with its pennywhistle solo and handclap/thighslap percussion. Despite the breadth of sound—and despite the splintering of their relationship—Bridge sounds like a unified statement enlivened by styles and rhythms not often heard on pop radio at the juncture of those two decades.The album cuts on Bridge hold up arguably better than the singles—or maybe it's just that we've all heard the title track and side-two opener "The Boxer" so many times, while songs like "Keep the Customer Satisfied" and "Baby Driver" still sound less familiar, and therefore full of surprises. Bridge reveals a surfeit of strange, exciting sonic details, as Simon, Garfunkel, and co-producer Roy Halee insert small flourishes of sound, such as the disruptive skiffle beat on "Why Don't You Write Me" or the audience rhythm section on the live version of "Bye Bye Love". The title track derives its outsize drama not only from Garfunkel's intense, measured vocals but also from the resonating percussion, which mimics the echoing crack of sound against a cathedral wall. Thanks to the echo-chambered vocals, disembodied organ, and Joe Osborn's melodically prominent bass, "The Only Living Boy in New York" sounds practically weightless, as if Manhattan were as lonely and desolate as the moon. Even after it's been Zach Braff'ed, the song still retains its considerable evocative power and remains one of the most natural and surprising juxtapositions of sonics and sentiment in Simon's catalog."The Only Living Boy in New York" conjures a very specific sense of melancholy abandonment, which makes it a companion to the title track's pledge of steady friendship and devotion. In some ways, Bridge sounds like a chronicle of Simon and Garfunkel's career and collaboration over the years, especially the album-ending send-off. The live "Bye Bye Love" reveals a greater kinship with the Everly Brothers than with Dylan, and an even stronger engagement with their audience; clapping a massive backbeat and yelling along with the song, that rambunctious crowd in Ames, Iowa, remains one of their most intuitive collaborators. As the noise dies down, the quiet "Song for the Asking" adds a brief epilogue that reveals their simple mission "to make you smile." It's a modest close to both the album and the musical collaboration between these two old friends.


    The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking
    Roger Waters
    1984
    CD

    When dissected carefully, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking becomes a fascinating conceptual voyage into the workings of the human psyche. As an abstract peering into the intricate functions of the subconscious, Waters' first solo album involves numerous dream sequences that both figuratively and symbolically unravel his struggle with marriage, fidelity, commitment, and age at the height of a midlife crisis. While the songs (titled by the times in which Waters experiences each dream) seem to lack in musical fluidity at certain points, they make up for it with ingenious symbolism and his brilliant use of stream of consciousness within a subconscious realm. Outside from the deep but sometimes patchy narrative framework, the music slightly lacks in rhythm or hooks, except for the title track that includes some attractive guitar playing via Eric Clapton. David Sanborn's saxophone is another attribute, adding some life to "Go Fishing" and "The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking." But it's truly the imagery and the visual design of the album that is front and center, since the importance lies in what Waters is trying to get across to the audience, decorated somewhat casually by his singing and the music. With Pink Floyd, the marriage of Waters' concepts and ideas with the talented musicianship of the rest of the band presented a complete masterpiece in both thought and music, while his solo efforts lean more toward the conceptual aspects of his work. With this in mind, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking continues to showcase Waters' unprecedented knack of addressing his darkest thoughts and conceptions in a most extraordinary fashion.
  • TOP 20 SONGS NEW WAVE 80's

    5 Jul 2011, 02:56 by mavelix

    01 U2 – The Unforgettable Fire
    02 INXS – Listen Like Thieves
    03 Berlín - Take My Breath Away
    04 a-ha – Take On Me
    05 Men At Work – Down Under
    06 Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Enola Gay
    07 The Cars - Drive
    08 The Smiths - How Soon Is Now?
    09 Pet Shop Boys - It's A Sin
    10 The Police - Wrapped Around Your Finger
    11 Devo - Whip It
    12 The Human League - Don't You Want Me
    13 New Order - Blue Monday
    14 Depeche Mode - Enjoy The Silence
    15 The cure - Lovesong
    16 Duran Duran - Save A Prayer
    17 Tears For Fears - Head Over Heels
    18 Eurythmics - Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)
    19 Simple Minds - Don't You (Forget About Me)
    20 Billie Idol - Eyes Without a Face
  • Heads Up Mary Ruth! - There Is So Much More To Come...

    6 Jun 2011, 17:42 by johnTMcNeill

    http://www.last.fm/music/Billy+McLaughlin/_/Hold+On+To+Forever



    My good friend John's mother died Wednesday and I just found out yesterday. It kinda threw me for a loop, because I hadn't been in contact with either of them for a while and I just didn't know - a lot of things.

    I knew her from when she was young and vibrant and full of life- feisty as anyone I ever knew. An elementary school teacher with four children of her own, Mary Ruth Loika was always cleaning and wiping and cooking and fixing things to eat because "we got company coming". Three daughters and a wild-child son never slowed her down a bit. Not to mention me and the brood of other kids that called the Loikas their home-away-from- home.

    She was the glue that held the family - and all of us - together. Always ready with a soft smile and a hug, she gave selflessly so that we could be kids despite a world of pain and confusion. We always knew we were loved-unconditionally.

    Don't get me wrong- my parents are wonderful people and excellent role models- still living and feisty at 83! And my mom sure does cook up a storm. In fact, John and I would just eat at the house where the best meal of the day seemed to be coming from - often both! heehee (burp...)

    We were lucky to have families who loved us- but there was definitely something special about the Loika household. Maybe it was his sisters who would (reluctantly) clean up after us. (I didn't have sisters). Heck- I dunno, but we sure did have fun over there!

    From the time in the fifth grade that John showed up in class until the day I went off to college, we were rarely far apart. We had our own Schwinn Stingray Deluxe bicycles- exactly alike- gold with a white banana seat and high-rise handle bars. We rode all over town- literally -and even out to the lake. Mrs. Loika bandaged a lot of cuts and bruises as we learned to pop wheelies and ride for blocks that way- or fell in the gravel, laughing.

    We sure laughed a lot- because we had the world at our feet- or as much of it as we could muster in San Angelo, Texas. Hot and dry and dusty- it was home for two knucklehead kids who had waaaay too much time on their hands- or so we thought..

    Our parents had grown up in the country- or at least small towns- and things were a bit different for them, too. In the country a man becomes a man when he becomes a man- and not a day sooner- or later. Responsibilities were embraced and women were, too-
    carefully and strategically. Never sure just what the outcome would be- you gotta at least try. Again and again, if necessary....

    So we discovered the things of life that two boys with a healthy curiosity about life get into. We were good at taking things apart- and fair at putting them back together. But no one seemed to mind- much.

    Well, there WAS my parent's Kirby vacuum cleaner that never got revived. And a whole bucket of bolts left over from the 56 Chevy that John knocked the front off of- the first day he got his license, as I recall. He was following ME a bit too close and ran into the back of my 1951 Studebaker. Didn't hurt the Stud a bit.... heehee

    We ate, we ran, we rode bicycles- then cars, we ate more, and we occasionally studied. Some things just are what they are. We fell in and out of love- sometimes with the same girls- several times. Broken hearts were the norm, but Mrs. Loika would just tell us that "those girls just don't know what they are missing!" (I'm not sure they ever figured that out...)

    Mrs. Loika certainly had her hands full. Four kids - each with a friend or two- hanging around and looking hungry and bored. So she would just put us all to work- mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, whatever needed to be done. But I must admit there was a bit of generous stereotypical handling of the chores. The girls got the brunt end of it as John and I rode off on another adventure. Ahhhh- the good 'ol days!

    We both started driving cars around 13 or so- not sure exactly why- other than it just seemed like it was high time we got ourselves where we needed to go. And besides- we were getting fairly busy mowing lawns and needed the trunk to haul things around.

    We stayed off the main street until we got our driver's license- at 16.

    And then there was the boat! By this time we both had 1965 Chevy Impalas and Frank (the third leg of this wobbly entourage) had his 57 Chevy- so we would get the lawns done early (believe it or not) and drag a boat out to Lake Nasworthy for a day of skiing and drinking beer.

    OK- so we weren't supposed to do that either, but we stayed out of trouble.. God bless those large Dairy Queen cups! It sure did look like we drank a lot of DQ- but they were usually full of Schlitz or Budweiser or whatever we could dig up...
    If my Baptist parents only knew....to this day, I don't think they ever did.

    And we skiied our tails off- built up some pretty good muscles- even went over the ski jump (more or less). We had to remove the slalom runner off of an old ski to do that. I think it was probably me who discovered that you can NOT use a slalom ski on a ski jump. Nope. No way. Painful when you do that. We usually learned things the hard way.... John probably knew, but let me do it anyway- he was like that. And I was dumb enough to try... Frank would just grin and watch the sparks fly.

    Ignorance is bliss when you think you are bulletproof- and we had a bunch of it... ignorance AND bliss...

    I imagine he and Frank laughed their butts off watching me go over the jump- every way but standing.

    Over the years there were a couple of visits to the Emergency room- nothing too serious- just some stitches and bruised egos.

    And Mrs. Loika just kept on cleaning, and wiping and frying up whatever we shot and brought home to cook. Frog legs, quail, doves mostly- and a mess of fish every now and then. John's dad E.J. would take us hunting on the farm and we would just shoot until it got dark. We killed 13 rattlesnakes one day- still gives me the creeps. We did NOT eat them... and I'm pretty sure we put a damper on the local jackrabbit population, but you sure couldn't tell.

    Come to think of it- you rarely see jackrabbits anymore. hmmm...

    At the Loikas there was always a double dose of love and a heaping helping of sarcasm- plus fried "something" and mashed potatoes. When it came time to eat, I rarely had the finesse to leave, so Mrs. Loika would pile me a plate high with whatever they were having and say "now eat this JT- or I'll just give it to Missy". ( the family dog) Missy rarely got anything when I was around...

    Frank went off to college at Texas Tech, and John and I stayed home and went to ASU. Then John got married. Then I went off to a different college (UT) and Frank got married. Then I (finally) got married. John was in the military- traveled all over the world in the Air Force. Still does as an airline pilot. Frank was the wildlife manager of a huge ranch in Laredo. I went first into politics- then the car business- don't ask me how that happened.

    We moved apart, but stayed in touch- mostly around the holidays. Frank and I did bring our wives and little towhead sons to meet the Loikas- at least a few times, around Christmas.

    And then we just kinda drifted apart. Families and careers and miles separated us.

    Time flies- and my boys are now young men. Frank's son just graduated from SMU a while back. And John has his very own 17 year old daughter! God help us! I bet you money she is a smart-ass- just like we were. You had to be to survive around the Loikas.

    I didn't get to say goodbye to Mrs. Loika. Tragically- she had Alzheimer's so the final days were not what anyone would have hoped for. She was laid to rest next to E.J. as the family surrounded her and shared tales of love and respect for a life well-lived. Nothing fancy- just those gathered around her- sharing, caring, remembering. The small cemetery was so quiet but for the passing cars on the highway.

    And then they reached into the trunk of one of the cars there, pulled out a beer and had a toast with E.J. and Mary Ruth- one more time.

    God, how I loved that family.

    I often wondered how the Loikas were doing. I stayed in touch a bit with John and his wife and daughter - but lost touch with the girls and their husbands and kids, and Mrs L. ---now cleaning by herself since E.J. passed on to greener pastures. Heck- he never did clean, anyway. He sure could cook barbecue though!

    And now- the passing of another angel- Mrs Loika moves on up the ladder.
    I hope she gets some rest- but I doubt it. I'll betcha E.J. is having meat loaf, fried chicken, or Chicken Cacciatore tonight! Probably all three!

    And I think back to when we thought we had all the time in the world, riding those bicycles with the buzzing of locusts in our ears. The world was ours to enjoy!

    Seems like we didn't have as much time as we thought...

    I sent Mrs. Loika a Mother's Day card for years- then just kinda forgot to do that. But I always thought of her as my "other mom". I think she knew that. I sure hope so...

    Do you have "another mom" or dad that is still living? Or your own?

    Rest in peace Mary Ruth Loika. You will be sorely missed. You painted a picture of hope and dusted it off when we needed to see more clearly- and for that I will always be grateful. And you STILL make me smile....

    JT


    http://www.last.fm/music/Billy+McLaughlin/_/Hold+On+To+Forever
  • THE DIFFERENCE...

    15 Jun 2011, 03:24 by johnTMcNeill

    http://www.last.fm/music/Valdi+Sabev/_/Painting+The+Sky
    (soundtrack...:)


    THE DIFFERENCE

    I sense a sadness... so oppressive.

    Despite the many joys that unfold before us
    some prevail with attitudes of despair and pain,
    recognizing only the negative things that surround us all.

    Granted- there is much pain and suffering out there.
    Too much, indeed.

    I see it, I hear it, I feel it.
    There is no denying its existence.
    Nor would I try to do so.

    Since the beginning of time man has suffered
    the indignities of occurrences
    far beyond his control.

    Catastrophic events rip the foundation of trust
    and destroy our peace of mind.

    As much as it hurts
    - that is how it should be.

    That angst comes from within us.
    The recognition that we are NOT in control.

    Of events.

    Oh, we try!
    How we do TRY!

    But we DO control our perception
    and our reaction to what occurs.

    Education and scientific exploration.
    Deliberate dissection of every piece of information ever gathered.
    Compilation of theories and expert opinions
    - often assumed to be fact,
    until proven otherwise...

    The Tower of Babel
    was thought
    to be man's greatest effort
    to achieve parity with the stars
    and uncover the truth that lay beyond.

    Years of painstaking work
    by so many brilliant theorists
    and thousands of dedicated workers
    suffering under the lash, no doubt.

    Unified and deliberate
    ---and such progress!

    -----Destroyed in an instant.
    Man could no longer communicate!

    A calamity of such enormous magnitude.
    Such a waste of human effort.
    An humbling experience.

    Reality.
    - sometimes it tastes so bitter.

    Our best efforts produce
    information
    information
    and more information.

    But how might it be interpreted?
    How might it be put to use?

    There is always the anomaly
    - the unexplained bit of information
    that just will not fit into our best theories.

    So we just toss it aside
    and move on
    as if we had enough detail
    to finish the puzzle
    that lies before us.

    Faith
    is one of those things
    that cannot be boxed
    into a clear definition of reality.

    Why do we anticipate
    - expect
    - cower in fear
    -- from the unknown?

    Must we assume the worst?
    Is it wise to always prepare for the worst
    as if it were guaranteed to occur?

    If so
    - what have we gained?

    The fear lingers,
    but it is masked
    by a false sense of protection.

    It is the faith
    the understanding
    that there is much beyond us
    that sustains me.

    Promises were spoken long ago
    that explain the futility
    of war
    and greed
    and avarice
    and deceit
    --even the storing of things
    in anticipation of what is surely to come.

    Because what IS surely to come
    in THIS life
    will be more of the same
    --the dog chasing its tail
    - what happens when he catches it?

    Only in the end will it be fully revealed.

    There is a peace beyond this world
    and it is to be shared...

    by all
    who recognize
    and submit to GOD
    in humility

    --and embrace the promise
    as the only true reality.

    I will not expedite the end.
    Nor cower in fear.
    Nor prepare the deep shelters.

    It will come like a thief in the night.

    The only preparation
    that WILL offer peace
    is that of the soul.

    I will embrace the destiny of life
    as it unfolds
    and enjoy what is to be enjoyed.

    Lingering but for the moment
    to give thanks
    and recognize the blessings.

    I WILL LABOR TO GIVE--
    not just to receive.

    There is enough.
    For the while...

    Seize THIS day
    and live it as if
    what YOU do makes a difference.

    It does.


    JTMc 06-10-2011


    http://www.last.fm/user/johnTMcNeill
    http://www.last.fm/music/Valdi+Sabev/_/Painting+The+Sky

    watch the video-- incredible!!!!!
  • High School DAZE

    27 May 2011, 23:36 by johnTMcNeill

    some of us have kids who are graduating from high school in a couple of days- and it has brought up a lot of old memories.

    Mine are in their late twenties now, but I still remember those days myself. Actually, I had the time of my life- but sure wasn't always aware of it at the time...:)

    But it got me to thinking... and, well--- you know.....

    I wrote this to a good friend who is watching her precious little daughter graduate Wednesday....

    *****************************
    I could write a book about my exploits in high school. Couldn't we all?

    That is a time when so MANY new things are coming at us like bullets, ---- some just whizzing by and others hitting us right between the eyes!

    So much pain and confusion. Such unbridled joy! Then more pain and confusion. Frustration. Angst out the ying-yang. New friends! What happened to the old ones? For that matter--- what happened to the new ones?

    We think we know it all one minute. Then we realize that we don't know NOTHIN'!

    Our parents are the dumbest people on the planet- what do THEY know?

    Then we realize the depth of their wisdom- for about a day or so. Then back to the drawing board on EVERYTHING we were ever taught- who was it we learned from? Can they be TRUSTED? Hmmmm... maybe not.

    But then, maybe they DO know something we overlooked!!!!!

    Nahhhh--- they are dumb and outdated- just a flash from the tired old past.

    But wait- they have been here before!!!!

    But it was different back then, that's for sure.
    No one can REALLY know what we are going through......

    Why do I feel so all alone in this world? Is anybody else as messed up as I am?

    Actually, I am pretty cool- if people get to know me. At least when those %$#@! zits go away. But they always come back- just at the wrong time, too!



    See what I mean?-------------We ALL went through that- even the "cool" and "popular" ones.

    In fact- many of us are still struggling with some of the same questions..........................


    http://www.last.fm/music/Bruce+Hornsby/_/That%27s+Just+The+Way+It+Is