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Racing the Clouds Home: Trollheart's Prog Rock Blo

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    Posted: November 17 2016 at 20:20
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2016 at 08:31

Note:

Unware as to how this worked, I had posted reviews here in my blog, but have been since advised that the proper place for my (ahem) literary masterpieces is on the main page, so that is where they're going.

To keep things updated, I'll maintain a linked list here of the albums I review, so that those who wish to read them can find them easily. My main blog will therefore start below this, and will not feature any full reviews.

ANDERSON, BRUFORD, WAKEMAN, HOWE: Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe: http://www.progarchives.com/Review.asp?id=1644864

ANUBIS: A Tower of Silence   http://www.progarchives.com/Review.asp?id=1644858

SEAN FILKINS: War and Peace and Other Short Stories:   http://www.progarchives.com/Review.asp?id=1644861

ANTHONY PHILLIPS AND ANDREW SKEET: Seventh Heaven   http://www.progarchives.com/Review.asp?id=1644859

PINK FLOYD: The Endless River   http://www.progarchives.com/Review.asp?id=1644855

TWELFTH NIGHT: Fact and Fiction   http://www.progarchives.com/Review.asp?id=1644865

VERBAL DELIRIUM: From the Small Hours of Weakness  http://www.progarchives.com/Review.asp?id=1644856




Edited by Trollheart - November 19 2016 at 09:20
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2016 at 09:59


I suppose every band starts out doing cover versions; after all, there have to be few bands so talented that they have all their own songs ready to go, and more to the point, people tend to listen to you more, when you're starting out, if you're playing the odd tune they know and can sing along to. So bands do covers, but even after they've become quite established, famous even, they often continue to have a go at songs they haven't themselves written. Sometimes it's out of a sense of honour for the song or artiste they're covering, or they might just like it. Sometimes it's just for fun, or occasionally to fill up a B-side of a single or a greatest hits package, or just to keep their label happy. Whatever the reason, our friends in prog rock have chosen some odd songs to cover over the decades, of which I will feature as many as I can track down here.

But I'd like to start off with something really different. 

The song “Berlin” appears on Marillion's first album after Fish left for a solo career, and it's a great song, heavy with Cold War rhetoric, obviously written well before the Wall came down. (The real one, not Roger Waters's one!) The strange thing about it is that it actually surfaces, in another form, on a previous album. In fact, it's the last they made with Fish, the downbeat Clutching at Straws, and it's not part of the actual album released, but an extra track added to the CD remaster that was released ten years after Seasons End. But the music and lyric had been written during the sessions for Clutching at Straws, lyric by Fish, so you could say that the song had been around really since 1987.

When Fish departed, the band were left with a lot of material he had written or collaborated on, and the original version of “Berlin”, which had a totally different lyric but virtually the same melody, and was then called “Story from a thin wall”. This was then the song included on the remaster of Clutching at Straws in 1999.

Meanwhile, the lyric that powers “Story from a thin wall” seems to have been taken by Fish for one of his own first solo songs, on his debut solo album Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors. The song “Family business” has the same lyric as “Story from a thin wall”, but new music.

This is, therefore, the only time that I can see when a band not only covered their own song, but a former member of that band also covered it, and each of the three versions, though similar, are radically different. Admittedly, it's only the lyric that links the two Marillion songs with the Fish one, but even so, it's interesting. And to hear the same song sung with completely different lyrics is also very intriguing.

Anyway, below I've included all three versions: first, the original, “Story from a thin wall”, with Fish on vocals, unused until 1999, then “Berlin”, with new singer (at the time) Steve Hogarth, from the Seasons End album, released 1989, and finally Fish's solo “Family business”, used on his Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors album, which hit the shelves in 1990.






Edited by Trollheart - November 20 2016 at 05:19
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2016 at 10:23

I'm of course, like us all here, a  real fan of prog rock, so intricate compositions, out-there solos, deep lyrics, changes in tempo, signature and style all fit into what I like in a song. But I'm also aware that sometimes the opposite can be just as effective. Sometimes you don't need all the hi-tech wizardry and mile-a-minute lyrics, the sagas and epics, the fiddly guitars and extended keyboard solos, ten changes of pace within one song. Sometimes, like the title says, it's better, even advisable to


Even though they're a band who have had some of the longest, most convoluted and intricate songs, Pink Floyd are, or were, a band who could still bring everything right back down to basics, and still pen a classic tune. From the complex interweaving of themes on songs like “Astronomy domine”, “Set the controls for the heart of the sun”, and of course “Echoes”, not to mention “Shine on you crazy diamond”, to the simplicity of a song like “Mother” and “Pigs on the wing”, Floyd knew that although sometimes big, deep, bombastic or meandering songs were what was needed, occasionally the very simplest, most basic ideas were best.

"Wish you were here" - Pink Floyd - 1975

Music by Roger Waters and David Gilmour, Lyrics by Roger Waters



This philosophy came to a wonderful head on the iconic title track from the album Wish You Were Here. The simplest of the simple, a lone twelve-string guitar opens the song, sounding as if it's recorded in mono, then it's joined by a fully “stereo” acoustic guitar, with David Gilmour singing the first verse, drums crashing in on the second verse, with Steinway piano and pedal steel filling out the sound before the sound drops back to acoustic for the leadup to the chorus, which is only sung once before the song fades out more or less as it began.

The song consists of only a few basic chords, and is a sad and reflective look back at one of the band's founder members, Syd Barrett. Though the lyric is somewhat obscure, it does refer to the regret that Barrett could not remain with the band, had personal problems and that they drifted apart. Apparently, when he once wandered in on a recording session, nobody recognised Barrett, he had changed so much. Very sad.

As if you needed to hear it, the song is below, but sure even if you know it backwards (and what prog fan doesn't?) it's a good excuse to give it another listen.








Edited by Trollheart - November 20 2016 at 05:43
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guldbamsen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2016 at 11:20
Hello there Deryck and welcome to the site. Cool to see such enthusiasm and effort from a new member
One thing though; why not post your reviews on the frontpage?

All the best from Denmark
David
“The Guide says there is an art to flying or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.”

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2016 at 12:16



I'm one of those people who buys certain magazines (no, not those type!) which come with a free disc, and I almost never bother listening to it. This could very well be a mistake, as these discs can have some really good music on it that I will miss by not at least spinning the damn thing. So this section is going to look at such discs, the ones I've collected and any new ones I get, and see what's on them. I'll be picking one track off a disc, probably at random, and talking about it and the artiste associated with it, finding out all I can about him her or them, and letting you know why I rate or don't rate it. They're probably going to be ninety-nine percent from Prog magazine, but you never know. Sure we'll see how it goes. If nothing else, at least I'll manage to listen to the damn things!

So this is the first track I'm going to pick, from a CD that came free with Classic Rock Presents Prog (don't anyone say the acronym should be CRAP!) which I think later dropped the first three words? Anyway, it's from a band who call themselves The Windmill.

This, then, is the CD. They call their prog selections "Prognosis" (clever, eh?) and this is Prognosis 10


which came free with the April 2010 issue of CRPP (yeah, that far back!)


"Don't be afraid" - The Windmill - from the album To Be Continued (2010) on Helping Hand Records

Well, so much for the source, but what of the music? Well seems the Windmill are from Holland - nah, just kidding! They're from that other country well-known for such structures, er, Norway. They've been together since 2001, but have taken nine years to release their first album. Well, strictly speaking only five: they began recording it in 2005, having spent the intervening four years gigging and writing material, as well as going through lineup changes. As of 2010, their personnel consisted of:

Jean Robert Vilta (Founder) - Vocals and keyboards

Morten Clason (Founding Member) - Vocals, keyboards, sax, flute, guitars

Arnfinn Isakssen (Founding Member) - Bass

Stig Andre Clason - Guitar

Erik Borgen - Guitars

Sam Arne Noland - Drums

Under the lineup the band released To Be Continued, from which this track is taken. The album only has six tracks, but in true prog rock style one (this one) is ten minutes long while another clocks in at a hefty twenty-four minutes, or a few seconds shy of that. Because of the ups and downs with personnel while the album was being recorded there are two drummers credited here, one of whom has left, plus a guitarist who has also departed.


The Windmill's music is best described as neo-progressive rock pulling from the influences of the greats like Genesis, Yes and Floyd, yet with a curiously up to date sound. Their second album was only recently released, so this is not a band who are given to churning out substandard albums it would seem, although to be fair I've only heard this one track. Try as I might I can't track down a decently-priced copy of either album, but Spotify has them both so I'm shortly to indulge. As it happens, the second album, which is called, rather appropriately given the title of the debut, The Continuation, has even less tracks on it than To Be Continued... with only five, although this time there's a twelve minuter and a twenty-five minute track!


But to the track in hand. As I say, it's from their debut album To Be Continued and runs for just a few seconds over ten minutes, so it's a good introduction to the band. It opens with soft rolling synth quickly punctuated by sharp percussion and then gentle flutework from Morten Clason, before the song settles down into a nice little piano-driven tune with measured drumming and the vocals of Jean Vilta are clear and warm with I believe a touch of the singer from Also Eden. Guitars are quite restrained but definitely audible. I would say personally the contribution from Clason's flutes is something I could do without: it's almost like they're just there for the sake of being there, and certainly don't add anything to the song, in fact to my mind they take from the general feel of it except as the piece moves into its second movement with hard guitars breaking through and stirring organ work.

A nice instrumental break which showcases the varied talents of this band, the flutes this time firing off in concert with the guitar riffs while the organ booms behind them. There's almost a flute solo around the fifth minute before guitar takes over, then hands back over to flute again. This time the guitar follows the flute, and it's a nice progression. Clason's flutework is definitely more palatable when it's soft and pastoral than when he tries to make it a little more aggressive a la Jethro Tull perhaps. Nice guitar solo at the seventh minute, then Clason does just what I have been talking about and don't like, making the flute too punchy and upfront. As we hit the eighth minute Vilta comes back in accompanied by gentle piano, soon joined by rising guitar as the song heads towards its final part, with a nice guitar and vocal ending, though Clason's flute trails away as the final instrument you hear.

It's perhaps a little overlong. Ten minutes for a song that could easily have been compressed into five without losing too much of its shape or meaning, and I do have to wonder what I'm in for when I sample the longer tracks on both albums. It's a nice song though and I certainly remember it as being the highlight of this disc, along with Also Eden, Touchstone and Syzygy. I never quite realised before though how annoying the flute is. It's not that the song doesn't need flute - well, it doesn't really - but it's just used in the wrong way, as far as I can see. Soft, luxuriant flute yes, hard, abrasive, look-at-me flute no. That aside though it's a great track that has led me to check out the album and once I have had a chance to do that it will probably end up being reviewed.

Does it show the craft of five years' writing? I'd say it shows that it definitely wasn't thrown together over a wet weekend in Margate. The problem, if there is one, may lie in the fact that maybe it was worked on for too long, and has been a little overproduced. But a very good effort for a first example from a relatively new band.





Edited by Trollheart - November 20 2016 at 09:16
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2016 at 14:02


See, I think about weird stuff, and this idea has been swimmin' around in my brain for a few months now. I know it may sound like a bit of a downer, but in these times where we're all just wondering where it's all going to end, and how long we have left on this blue-green ball in space, it occurred to me to wonder what would be the last thing I would want to hear before the end? If our planet bit the big one (or we do; why should the Earth pay the price for our greed and neglect?) then what would, theoretically, be the last song, piece of music, sound that I would like to hear?

If this sounds too depressing a topic (I guess it is) then remember it's all hypothetical; I don't expect to die any time soon (what bus?) and if it makes you feel easier or more comfortable about it, perhaps think about what music you'd like played at your funeral? How does that make it any less uncomfortable? I don't know: maybe envisaging your own death years/decades down the line instead of right now might lessen the sense of impending doom? Who knows? Anyway, it's mostly just for fun, if death can ever be said to be a subject of fun (you mean you haven't read Terry Pratchett?), and to perhaps tie down and recognise that song or piece of music that means more to you than maybe you realised.

If anyone wishes to post their own ideas, feel free, but please observe one rule, to be rigidly enforced: only ONE song, piece of music, concerto, theme, sound allowed. But within that, it doesn't HAVE to be music. Could be the sound of your baby/loved one/pet, could be birdsong, could be, I don't know, the roar of a Lambourgini. Hey, what do I know about what matters to you? Which is why I would like to know.

In any event, here's mine. If anyone decides to take part, do be aware I hope/expect you to explain your choice; what the music/sound means to you, why you would like it to be the last sound you hear (unless it's at your funeral, in which case the last sound that, I guess, defines you or reminds people of you) and so on.

Who wants to live forever? - Queen - 1986


Do I need to explain this? Well, I will anyway. No, I'm not the biggest Queen fan, though I do like their music. My sister is a far bigger fan. But something about this song just speaks to me. It has everything: the pathos, the urgent, striving, desperation of trying to stay with your loved one but knowing you must leave them, the quiet acceptance at the end as everything drifts away into eternity. Written of course by Brian May for the movie Highlander, it concerns Conor MacLeod's inability to die, but having to see those he loves dies. But that's a movie, and placed in a wider context it's a story we all face, of knowing that the Grim Reaper is only ever a step behind us, that we can go anytime, and that, in the end, none of us lives forever.

The opening organ arpeggio sets the scene, then the late Freddie Mercury's clear and powerful but understated voice comes through. One verse in, Roger Taylor's muted, echoey drums punch out a very effective counterpoint, then the orchestra swells behind Freddie as his voice rises in power and passion until it crashes down almost to nothing. Brian May's guitar comes in as Roger's drums get more powerful and insistent, and Freddie comes back in with a strong and emotional vocal, then Brian cuts loose on the guitar and the orchestra powers back in, the level of emotion and tragedy in the song reaching a crescendo in one of those trademark Queen multi-vocals, the signature May guitar sound, then everything fades away again to just organ and echoey drums, a little guitar, then the guitar and organ swell again as the song rises once more, instrumentally, then slowly fades away again, leaving only Roger's muted drums to take the song almost to its conclusion, before a final glissando on the organ sets the seal on a true classic.

Not only is the music perfect, but the sentiment expressed within the lyric is also the best I could ever come across were I to search for a soundtrack, as it were, to my death. Sure, I wouldn't be alive to hear it, but how powerful and majestic it would sound, blaring out of the church's speakers, to the three or four people who might turn up to see me off into the Great Unknown. 







Edited by Trollheart - November 21 2016 at 05:36
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2016 at 14:05
Originally posted by Guldbamsen Guldbamsen wrote:

Hello there Deryck and welcome to the site. Cool to see such enthusiasm and effort from a new member
One thing though; why not post your reviews on the frontpage?

All the best from Denmark
David
Thanks David!
Not quite sure what you mean though, maybe you can clear that up for me? Is there somewhere else I should be posting, do you think, and is that as well as here or instead of? My aim is to try to get some conversations and feedback going, so anywhere I can achieve that better I'd be all for it.
Thanks again.
TH
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2016 at 15:26
Prog rock is certainly known for its long (often too long!) instrumental passages, but our favourite musicians also pen some damn fine fully instrumental tracks. Here are a few of mine.

I think to date the only instrumental I have heard from Marillion, this is from their album (Happiness is the Road and a really short but lovely little piano tune called “Liquidity.”

And one of the first instrumentals I remember hearing and being totally impressed with, though the album was something of a disappointment to me at the time. This is Steve Hackett, with the title track from his album Spectral Mornings.


And let's close with Twelfth Night, from the album Fact and Fiction (just recently reviewed by me). This is the only version I could find, and it's live, but doesn't take away from the simple beauty of the song. This is “The poet sniffs a flower.” Watch for it speeding up later on in the song!







Edited by Trollheart - November 21 2016 at 11:35
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lazland Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2016 at 16:07
Originally posted by Trollheart Trollheart wrote:

Originally posted by Guldbamsen Guldbamsen wrote:

Hello there Deryck and welcome to the site. Cool to see such enthusiasm and effort from a new member
One thing though; why not post your reviews on the frontpage?

All the best from Denmark
David

Thanks David!
Not quite sure what you mean though, maybe you can clear that up for me? Is there somewhere else I should be posting, do you think, and is that as well as here or instead of? My aim is to try to get some conversations and feedback going, so anywhere I can achieve that better I'd be all for it.
Thanks again.
TH


Hi Deryck. There is some nice stuff here, but what David is saying is that these are album reviews, and the place to put them is in the relevant album on the artist's page.

For example, The Endless River. Go to Pink Floyd's page from the homepage, scroll down to the album, and click on that. You will then need to go to the bottom, log in, and post your album review there.

This is not a criticism. As I say, nice stuff here, and your reviews should be where they belong, in the reviews community.


In Lazland, life is transient. Prog is permanent.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2016 at 17:30

Sometimes two artistes get together that you could never have imagined collaborating, and it just seems like such a bad idea! Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. In this section, I'm going to tackle a team-up and talk about whether or not I feel it worked, why the collaboration happened and how it affected one or both of the two artiste's future careers and record sales.


Whereas not every team up yields a hit single, this one song was a huge international hit. Not that surprising when you consider the quality of talent involved. Queen of course were already well known and respected as a driving force in the rock world, with albums like News of the World, A Night at the Opera, and huge hit singles like “Killer queen”, “Crazy little thing called love” and of course their number one classic, “Bohemian rhapsody” to their credit. David Bowie was also internationally renowned as an innovative and enduring artist, having created albums like Ziggy Stardust, Diamond Dogs and Heroes, and with a string of hit singles to his name, including the seminal “Life on Mars”.

So the teaming up of these two forces, while not exactly envisaged, was no huge wrench to anyone. Both were in the rock arena, both quite firmly in the dramatic/theatrical side of rock, with makeup, costumes and lavish stage shows part of each's identity and persona, and each were accomplished musicians and songwriters. Both also had a strong sense of moral justice and a desire to do what they could to change the world, evidenced by their ongoing charity work.

Queen and David Bowie - Under pressure


When Bowie arrived at Queen's studio to record a track for their forthcoming album, Hot Space, both found the session was not working as they had hoped. So they took a break, had a jam session and within that session the embryonic “Under pressure” was born. After much tweaking and re-recording, the song was finally released as a single (Queen's name first, as Bowie was essentially guesting on the record) and became a huge hit. It has an instantly recognisable and catchy bassline, as well as handclap beats that help to form the rhythm. Bowie is on his best form, while Freddie Mercury sings scat in the background, joining in on the verses later and both of them on the chorus, though Bowie sings “Under pressure” on his own.

Although the single, being a number one hit, has been somewhat dulled by repeated plays, and one tends to more reach for the off button when it comes on the radio or TV, it's stood the test of time, sounding as fresh now as it was when it was recorded thirty years ago. It's also been covered and sampled, sometimes well, sometimes not.

“Under pressure” is without doubt a true example of consummate professionals getting together to produce a quality product, and the fact that this was (up to then) the only time Bowie collaborated with another star act, says a lot about the admiration he had for Queen, and they for him.

Without question, a Marriage Made in... Heaven!




Edited by Trollheart - November 21 2016 at 11:51
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 18 2016 at 17:41
Originally posted by lazland lazland wrote:

Originally posted by Trollheart Trollheart wrote:

Originally posted by Guldbamsen Guldbamsen wrote:

Hello there Deryck and welcome to the site. Cool to see such enthusiasm and effort from a new member
One thing though; why not post your reviews on the frontpage?

All the best from Denmark
David

Thanks David!
Not quite sure what you mean though, maybe you can clear that up for me? Is there somewhere else I should be posting, do you think, and is that as well as here or instead of? My aim is to try to get some conversations and feedback going, so anywhere I can achieve that better I'd be all for it.
Thanks again.
TH


Hi Deryck. There is some nice stuff here, but what David is saying is that these are album reviews, and the place to put them is in the relevant album on the artist's page.

For example, The Endless River. Go to Pink Floyd's page from the homepage, scroll down to the album, and click on that. You will then need to go to the bottom, log in, and post your album review there.

This is not a criticism. As I say, nice stuff here, and your reviews should be where they belong, in the reviews community.

I see. That's a different setup to where I was previously.
My only worries are that a) my reviews could get lost and subsumed within the general slew of no doubt excellent similar reviews for each album and b) I'm trying to be as ecelectic (within reason) as I can here, so that someone who hates, let's say, Marillion but loves Arena might still find something they liked. Of course, the main aim is to get as many people reading and hopefully discussing my reviews as possible, so if doing what you say will help to achieve that, then I'll sort it. Naturally, if it's a rule that this be done I will obey; I have no intention of rocking any boat. However I did hope to keep all my stuff together, but I'll be guided by you. Is it a thing to place links to the reviews in the appropriate sections to link back here, or is that not allowed?

To be honest, if I do as you say, there's probably not going to be a blog really. I also wanted to do full discographies (I have Genesis and Marillion done already) so how would that work?

Thanks for the advice and information; just let me know what my options, if any, are. 

TH
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lazland Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 19 2016 at 03:13
Originally posted by Trollheart Trollheart wrote:

Originally posted by lazland lazland wrote:

Originally posted by Trollheart Trollheart wrote:

Originally posted by Guldbamsen Guldbamsen wrote:

Hello there Deryck and welcome to the site. Cool to see such enthusiasm and effort from a new member
One thing though; why not post your reviews on the frontpage?

All the best from Denmark
David

Thanks David!
Not quite sure what you mean though, maybe you can clear that up for me? Is there somewhere else I should be posting, do you think, and is that as well as here or instead of? My aim is to try to get some conversations and feedback going, so anywhere I can achieve that better I'd be all for it.
Thanks again.
TH


Hi Deryck. There is some nice stuff here, but what David is saying is that these are album reviews, and the place to put them is in the relevant album on the artist's page.

For example, The Endless River. Go to Pink Floyd's page from the homepage, scroll down to the album, and click on that. You will then need to go to the bottom, log in, and post your album review there.

This is not a criticism. As I say, nice stuff here, and your reviews should be where they belong, in the reviews community.


I see. That's a different setup to where I was previously.
My only worries are that a) my reviews could get lost and subsumed within the general slew of no doubt excellent similar reviews for each album and b) I'm trying to be as ecelectic (within reason) as I can here, so that someone who hates, let's say, Marillion but loves Arena might still find something they liked. Of course, the main aim is to get as many people reading and hopefully discussing my reviews as possible, so if doing what you say will help to achieve that, then I'll sort it. Naturally, if it's a rule that this be done I will obey; I have no intention of rocking any boat. However I did hope to keep all my stuff together, but I'll be guided by you. Is it a thing to place links to the reviews in the appropriate sections to link back here, or is that not allowed?

To be honest, if I do as you say, there's probably not going to be a blog really. I also wanted to do full discographies (I have Genesis and Marillion done already) so how would that work?

Thanks for the advice and information; just let me know what my options, if any, are. 

TH


Yes, nothing wrong with linking your review back here to your blog page. I would suggest posting your review in the appropriate place, linking it back here and using your blog as a more general discussion about the artist you have reviewed.


In Lazland, life is transient. Prog is permanent.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 19 2016 at 09:21
Originally posted by lazland lazland wrote:

Originally posted by Trollheart Trollheart wrote:

Originally posted by lazland lazland wrote:

Originally posted by Trollheart Trollheart wrote:

Originally posted by Guldbamsen Guldbamsen wrote:

Hello there Deryck and welcome to the site. Cool to see such enthusiasm and effort from a new member
One thing though; why not post your reviews on the frontpage?

All the best from Denmark
David

Thanks David!
Not quite sure what you mean though, maybe you can clear that up for me? Is there somewhere else I should be posting, do you think, and is that as well as here or instead of? My aim is to try to get some conversations and feedback going, so anywhere I can achieve that better I'd be all for it.
Thanks again.
TH


Hi Deryck. There is some nice stuff here, but what David is saying is that these are album reviews, and the place to put them is in the relevant album on the artist's page.

For example, The Endless River. Go to Pink Floyd's page from the homepage, scroll down to the album, and click on that. You will then need to go to the bottom, log in, and post your album review there.

This is not a criticism. As I say, nice stuff here, and your reviews should be where they belong, in the reviews community.


I see. That's a different setup to where I was previously.
My only worries are that a) my reviews could get lost and subsumed within the general slew of no doubt excellent similar reviews for each album and b) I'm trying to be as ecelectic (within reason) as I can here, so that someone who hates, let's say, Marillion but loves Arena might still find something they liked. Of course, the main aim is to get as many people reading and hopefully discussing my reviews as possible, so if doing what you say will help to achieve that, then I'll sort it. Naturally, if it's a rule that this be done I will obey; I have no intention of rocking any boat. However I did hope to keep all my stuff together, but I'll be guided by you. Is it a thing to place links to the reviews in the appropriate sections to link back here, or is that not allowed?

To be honest, if I do as you say, there's probably not going to be a blog really. I also wanted to do full discographies (I have Genesis and Marillion done already) so how would that work?

Thanks for the advice and information; just let me know what my options, if any, are. 

TH


Yes, nothing wrong with linking your review back here to your blog page. I would suggest posting your review in the appropriate place, linking it back here and using your blog as a more general discussion about the artist you have reviewed.

OK, all done now. Sorry about that. And now I go back to whatever it is I do...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guldbamsen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 20 2016 at 02:43
Thanks for stepping in Steve. I was too hungover yesterday to explain anything. Started out peeing in a pot and then it only went south from there.
But yes; reviews of albums that are found in PAs database are preferably placed on the frontpage. This is also where you will have the biggest chance of anyone reading them
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 21 2016 at 13:12
If there's one subgenre of rock that's known for, indeed often vilified for and laughed at for its deep, thoughtful, unconventional lyrics, it's prog. Those outside the fanbase may think prog songs are unnecessarily convoluted and complicated, but for me personally it's always gratifying to see a lyricist stretch themselves a little, whether it's to tackle a subject normally not expected, prove or put forward a point, tell a story or just to try to write something different. I'm always happy to see great lyrics in a song --- the lyric is the lifeblood of the song, and no matter how good the melody is (unless it's an instrumental) the words have to make sense, and mean something, for the song to remain in your head long after it's finished.

So this section is dedicated to those songs on which the writer(s) took just that little bit extra care and put that extra bit of thought and effort into their lyric, to create a song that's just a little bit special, perhaps unusual, perhaps even weird, but certainly not ordinary.
A band I'm struggling to like, but slowly getting to grips with, album by album, track by track, is Spock's Beard. I should like them. All the elements are there: prog rock, great lyrics, and of course the Star Trek connection. But somehow it's become hard work, though I think I'm finally beginning to warm to them.

And so they feature in our “More than words” section. Prog rock bands of course often write very deep and meaningful lyrics about diverse and often weird subjects, but I feel this deserves inclusion because it is about something at once normal and mundane, and also totally surreal. It's in fact the opening movement, if you will, to a suite which goes under the banner heading of “A flash before my eyes”, and it concerns the last moments before death, as the subject of the song sees a truck come screaming towards him at an intersection and knows he is about to die. The song traces his life in that “flashing before your eyes” phenomenon that's supposed to occur just before you die.



"The ballet of the impact" - A flash before my eyes, part 1 (Spock's Beard) from Octane, 2005.
Music and Lyrics by Dave Meros and John Boegehold

The song is itself split into three parts; the first, I guess the overture, is called “Prelude to the past”. It's followed by “The ultimate quiet”, a slower, more moody and atmospheric instrumental, until “A blizzard of my memories” kicks in the lyric as the guy realises he's about to die. But it's not just that, oh no.

There are unspoken but written narrative passages that accompany each section of the suite, and in order for the song to be properly appreciated, it's necessary to reproduce them below, along with, and before, the lyric, as it is more the former than the latter that tell the real story, and make this song such a triumph, and so different to many other prog compositions. 

The juxtapositioning of the ordinary, everyday things like the coffee cup on the seat, Jagger singing and the fact that one of the thoughts in the guy's head is that he has just paid off this car, with the wholly supernatural, like angels dancing down from Heaven, and his sudden fear that Heaven may not exist after all, that all that may await him after this life could be darkness, really makes the song.The whole of “A flash before my eyes” takes up more than half the album, over thirty-one minutes of the overall fifty-five. 

So this is the song itself with the narrative underneath, and then the lyric.


9:27 a.m., today...

Suddenly, I'm aware of everything that surrounds me. About fifteen feet to my right, there's an old man picking out roses at a flower cart. He's leaning on a carved wooden cane, but barely maintaining his balance as a flurry of pigeons rises from the sidewalk around him. A few steps away on the corner, there's a little blonde girl with a pink plastic purse, holding her mother's hand as they wait to cross the street. I see all of this through the delicate, miniature rainbow made by the sun reflecting off the coffee spray from my "world's greatest dad" cup, which a moment ago was balanced on the passenger seat.

The intersection of West Lexington and Grant Avenue has become the cosmic nexus of all I am, ever was and will be. As profound as all of that seems, some small part of my brain is distracted by the irony of Mick Jagger singing "You Can't Always Get What You Want", coming from the radio of the speeding truck that has just begun ripping through my newly-paid-off, freshly washed Honda Accord.

So, is this it? Is this where an army of angels appears in blinding white light to sing me to my eternal rest? Is this where I sink forever into that darkest bog of dreamless sleep? I never really bought either poetic scenario, but it looks like I may finally get the answers to all of those herb-fueled philosophical questions that sprung up from endless, all-night discussions in college. Of course, this is a lot sooner than I ever imagined having to confront the ultimate reality. 

There is one thing I know for sure. If I ever wake up, this is going to hurt like hell...

”The windshield explodes/ Like a bomb packed with diamonds.
There's a deafening silence; /Time flows to a crawl.
As the ballet of the impact/ Spreads out across the blacktop,
Angels dancing like raindrops /In the air as they fall.
So this is how it goes.
So this is how it ends.
A flatbed runs a red light:
No time to comprehend,
As a blizzard of my memories
Lights up like fireflies
In the sliver of an instant
In a flash before my eyes...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 21 2016 at 14:23
The Secret Life of the Album Cover
No. 1: Fugazi by Marillion

In another new section to my journal, I'll be taking a look at some of the more interesting album covers in my collection. Time was when an album sleeve meant something, said something to you, and quite often there were many little interesting details about it that perhaps on first look didn't immediately jump out at you, but that afterwards you noticed, and appreciated. Of course, for those of us in the know (and old enough!) the master of this was Hipgnosis, who of course designed some of the best sleeves for bands like Genesis, ELO, Pink Floyd and The Alan Parsons Project, to name but a few in their illustrious catalogue. The artwork on their covers became iconic and timeless:  who can forget the simple yet stunningly effective cover for Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon?

But Hipgnosis had not cornered the market, and there were a lot of really fascinating and deep album covers out there, back when people bought vinyl records and there was something to look at, as opposed to just a 60 x 60 Jpeg of so-called “album art”! Back then, album covers were almost as important as the album itself: you would put on the record (taking it VERY carefully out of the inner sleeve and placing it on the turntable -what? Oh, look it up on Wiki!) and then like as not sit back with the sleeve and read not only the lyrics, but the liner notes too as the album played, and admire the intricate artwork on the cover. Ah, those were the days!

(Cough!) Excuse me, the old rheumatism plays up now and then. What was that sonny? Speak up! Oh yes indeed: the point of this piece. Well, I was gettin' to that, young feller! Shee! You young 'uns have no patience these days. Why, in my time.... zzzzzzzz. What?! Oh, sorry! I tend to nod off sometimes. Age, you know. Anyway, back to the intro. Where was I? Oh yes, I remember!

Mark Wilkinson was the incredibly talented artist who designed the first four of Marillion's album sleeves, and their single sleeves too. After Fish left the band Wilkinson went with him, to design the covers of the ex-frontman's solo albums. Marillion album covers suffered from that, their next few being quite ordinary. I always felt Mark Wilkinson's work added an air of wonder and mystery to Marillion albums, and that was definitely lost when he went to work with Fish. Perhaps fittingly, though, as after Fish left the band began moving in a much different and less progressive rock direction. The below cover is for their second album, the slightly more commercial Fugazi, released in 1984, and the cover says a lot more than perhaps you would at first realise. In order to address this, I've cut out certain sections of the album cover - front and reverse - and will discuss each in as much depth as I feel I can. But first, a general overview.



Up until their fourth album, Clutching at Straws, the last with Fish as vocalist and frontman, Marillion had always issued their albums in what were known as “gatefold” sleeves, for you young 'uns. Simply put, this means that the artwork for the album was spread over both the front and the back of the cover, and so you had to open it out to see it in all its glory. “Fugazi” is a typical example of this. Looking at the front only you can see some of the story, but open it to its full width and you see so much more.

The basic idea is of a figure lying prone on a bed, in what we assume to be a small bedsit. The figure does not look comfortable, in fact looks washed out and wasted, and is listening to music while drinking wine. Around him, other things are happening (or he is hallucinating them) that he either does not see or does not care about. Whether meant as such or not, I always find the figure on the bed strikingly reminiscent of the crucified Christ, after he has been taken down off the cross. The headphones on the Walkman also for me symbolise the crown of thorns Jesus was forced to wear while being crucified. So you could say this is the artist, perhaps, stretched on the rack of his own genius, crucified on the cross of his own endeavour? Perhaps nothing like this: that's just what it says to me.

It could also refer to the fact that, having expended their heart and soul creating one of the most impressive debut albums in 1983's Script For a Jester's Tear, Marillion (represented by the figure on the bed, who became known generically as “the Jester”, but to me will always be identified with Fish, again the fact that Wilkinson's last sleeve for Marillion was the last with Fish bears this out somewhat) had felt like they had nothing left to give. Or maybe crafting this album had drained them. Perhaps the “Jester” is thinking of what will have to be done to follow this up, and is daunted and depressed at the magnitude of the task before him.

That's the basic idea I get from the sleeve anyway, but now let's take some elements from the cover and analyse them in more detail. In figure 1 above, we see that though the figure on the bed is barely clothed, his reflection in the mirror wears the full costume of the jester. Is this two sides of the one person? Is it an alternate identity of the man on the bed? Which is the real one? Is the mirror reflecting the dreams and aspirations of the man on the bed, or is it in fact the Jester in the mirror who is real, and his reflection (through the mirror on the other side) is nothing more than a man, struggling to come to terms with his world and put this into song? The figure on the bed can be seen to be wearing a partial jester's outfit, but whether he has taken it off or was in the process of putting it on is uncertain. Without question though, there is a link between the two images.

Figure 2 shows the head of the man on the bed, as he listens to a Walkman (hey, again: look it up!), but seems oblivious to the music, if indeed music is playing. The scene recalls one of the lines in the title track: ”Sheathed within the Walkman/ Wear the halo of distortion/ Aural contraceptive/ Aborting pregnant conversation”, obviously Fish's lament that with the proliferation of hand-held cassette players like the Sony Walkman, people stopped talking to each other so easily, wrapped up in their music. As true then as it is today. I also mentioned the symbolism for the crown of thorns earlier. You can see too in his eyes that they are painted like that of a clown: which face is real, or are they all just masks?

Fig 3. A magpie sits on a chair, holding a ring in its beak. This would later come back in the double live 1988 compilation called The Thieving Magpie (la gazza ladra), but the ring at least in the magpie's beak could also refer to a line in “Emerald lies”: ”And the coffee stains gather/ Till the pale kimono/ Sets the wedding rings dancing/ On the cold linoleum.” Or even a line from "Warm wet circles" on a later album, It was a wedding ring/ Destined to be found in a cheap hotel/ Lost in a kitchen sink/ Or thrown in a wishing well".

Fig 4. The magpie is stalked by a lizard, presumably the “she-chamelon” from the track of the same name on the album. Perhaps the fact that it (presumably she) is trying to catch the bird and rob the wedding ring, can be seen as  a metaphor for a groupy (which the she-chameleons in the song are identified as) threatening a marriage? Of course, the magpie has stolen the ring in the first place, so maybe not...

Fig 5. A copy of Billboard magazine lies on the bed, at the figure's feet. As influential a magazine as this is, perhaps he has read a bad review of the album? It's not clear, as you can't actually read the headline. Perhaps it was included for exactly the reverse reason, that Billboard loved the previous album? I don't think Marillion “broke” the US that early, though.

Fig 6. Is that picture on the wall La Pagliacci, the clown from the Italian opera? I think it may be.

Fig 7. Spilled red wine could have different meanings. Perhaps it's just that the figure is drunk, and falling asleep or through carelessness has let the wine spill. Then again, the meaning could be deeper, as red wine is often used as a metaphor for blood, and perhaps this represents the labour the artist has put into his creation?

Fig 8. Whereas a red rose held in the hand surely symbolises love, possibly lost love?



That's all from the front cover. Now let's explore the back, and the first thing we see (Fig. 9 below) is that, amid a small collection of records strewn on the floor of the figure's room is the 12-inch single for “Punch and Judy”, released from this very album.




Fig 10. A woman's high-heel shoe. Don't need a degree in psychology to work out what THAT represents!

Fig 11. And a jack-in-the-box, a pop-up jester on top of the TV. As mentioned, up until their fourth album the jester was the unofficial symbol or sigil of Marillion. On the back of the next album, Misplaced Childhood, the jester is seen escaping out a window, and on Clutching at Straws he is not seen, except for the jester's cap dangling out of the main figure's pocket on the cover.

Fig 12. This is a good one. Not only is it a stylised representation of the front of their debut album, Script For a Jester's Tear, but it's also a jigsaw, with a piece missing, and one of the songs on Fugazi is indeed called “Jigsaw”.

Fig 13. The stuff of drug or alcohol-induced nightmares, a demonic hand clawing its way out of the TV screen. Perhaps also a comment on how television was, and is, taking over people's lives to the extent that they are virtually slaves to it. Or, is that a chameleon's claw, linking back to the previous image of the lizard?

Fig 14. Not of any symbolic significance, but for those who are too young to remember, THAT my children was what we used to call a “video recorder”, or VCR, short for Video Cassette Recorder, and back before there were DVDs and SKY boxes, that was how you recorded a programme from the TV onto magnetic tape. See? This column is educational, too!

Fig. 15 A toy train, perhaps a memento from the figure's childhood, perhaps hinting at the title of the follow-up album, Misplaced Childhood.

So there you are. And you thought an album cover was just a pretty drawing! Well, some are, or were, and it would be mad to claim that every album cover told a story, or was discussable to this extent. Many were not. Many were just photos, pictures, symbols or even just letters. But there were many which, on closer examination, turned out to be far more than the sum of their parts.

I hope you've enjoyed this journey through one of the great album covers of the early eighties, and I'll be looking at another one in the not too distant future.




Edited by Trollheart - November 21 2016 at 14:38
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trollheart Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 22 2016 at 11:26
I'm sure it's happened to you: you're listening to a song and really getting into it. You think you have a good idea  how it's going to finish, then BAM! It completely changes. I've listened to many songs that have just totally disappointed with the ending. It hasn't always ruined the song for me, but it has been a big let-down. Of course, I'm no songwriter and have the utmost respect for those who can master this difficult art, but it is annoying when a song changes tack completely or goes off in some direction you don't expect, ends abruptly when you thought it should fade, or just fails to live up to the expectations you've built up for it over the course of the song's length.

Just as one bad ending track can potentially spoil an album you'd been enjoying up till then, the disappointment felt when a song suddenly veers off from the melody/direction it had been following up to then, or ends suddenly or badly, can be really annoying. I know more than a few songs that I've really been getting into and then suddenly someone decided to change the whole direction and the song ends really badly. I think a case in point here is a song I feel just loses it right at the end, and becomes the subject of today's feature.

"Tearing at the faerytale"
Mostly Autumn
Glass shadows (2008)
Written by Bryan Josh


The first song I heard from what was, at the time, the new album, I really loved this at first, and it gave me high expectations for the coming album. Those expectations were not entirely met, but that's a story for another day. I loved the way the song moved along from a gentle, plucked almost acoustic guitar intro into a full-blooded keys and strings melody, and after running for something like seven minutes it looks like it's just going to fade out, which would have suited me fine. A good ending.

But then from out of nowhere, a hard guitar sets up a repeating riff, and for me the ending is ruined. I don't know why they didn't let it just fade, but they seemed to want to change it at the last moment. The intrusion by the rocky guitar is unexpected, and quite incongruous: it just doesn't seem to fit at all, and it's not borrowed from any other part of the melody, so I really just don't get it. It just changes the whole feel of the song, and for me at any rate leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. It's almost like being told as a kid you were going to Disneyland, only to end up at the dentist! Well, maybe not that bad, but it is a major disappointment.

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