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Direct Link To This Post Topic: I Talk To The Wind: Prog Blog and Reviews
    Posted: July 15 2015 at 15:45
great to see the blog getting cranked up again!! Clap

Sinclair 'kind of unused'?  Hah...that sort of understates it. That was a crime against music that should have been a slam dunk conviction in The Hague and should have sent Camel albums flying from car windows everywhere...

bah...

[QUOTE=Nogbad_The_Bad]Christ you talk a lot of crap.[/QUOTE]
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 15 2015 at 12:24
Where I stand now 3: continuing for my own amusement. ELP, Camel, Peter Gabriel, Caravan

Emerson, Lake And Palmer

ELP (s/t). 5 Stars. If you're only going to like one Emerson, Lake & Palmer album it'll be this one or nothing. Great record, standout stuff all around.
Tarkus. 3 Stars. Fantastic title track, second half isn't bad but doesn't entirely live up to it. Nod for most tactless line in rock music.
Trilogy. 3 Stars. The conventional wisdom of highs aren't as high lows aren't as low holds up on this. Good album.
Pictures At An Exhibition. 3 Stars. Soft spot for Lake's 'The Sage' and the album generally holds up well.
Brain Salad Surgery. 4 Stars. Blistering musicianship and a lot to commend it. Great album.
Works vol 1. 3 Stars. Palmer's side is brilliant, Emerson's side is very good, band and Lake sides both perfectly decent in general.
Works vol 2. 2 Stars. A little lighter on great material than vol. 1 but hardly bad.
Love Beach. 2 Stars. Some really good work from Palmer redeems this one a little and there are bits and pieces of good work. Even the terrible stuff is generally so accidentally funny it gets away with it.
ELPowell. 1 Star. I can't even remember anything on this.
Black Moon. 1 Star. Not terrible but not really necessary for anyone except an ELP collector.

Camel

Camel (s/t). 2 Stars. Pleasant enough. Mystic Queen is a highlight. Not loads going on.
Mirage. 3 Stars. A very fine album.
The Snow Goose. 3 or 4 stars. I don't know. Can't really listen to it these days for reasons unrelated to the album itself.
Moonmadness. 1 Star. A pretty do-nothing album with a great little opener. I don't rate it much.
Rain Songs. 2 Stars. Sinclair's presence makes for a pretty nice little album but he's kind of underused.

Peter Gabriel

1. 2 Stars. Good stuff is kind of undermined by the instrumentation. A very good version of Here Comes The Flood is on Fripp's Exposure album.
2. 2 Stars. Admirable intent but sounds like it was recorded in a sock. Suspect the Frippmeister may be partly to blame.
3. 4 Stars. Fantastic innovative album full of complete gems, unfortunately lumbered with Biko.
4. 4 Stars. Fantastic innovative album full of complete gems with bonus Peter Hammill vox, unfortunately lumbered with Big Woman and whatever that prison sympathy ballad is (seeing a pattern?)
So. 4 Stars. Very fine album all around. That opening to Sledgehammer is more prog than us ignorami on this forum deserve.
Us. 5 Stars. Jesus Christ this one is depressing. Bloody brilliant though.
Up. 3 Stars. Many very good things on this one. A few patchier bits. The first two songs are really amazing.

Caravan

IICDIAOAIDIAOY. 3 Stars. Acronym clusterfubble. The mix is a bit daft and unfocused but the music is glorious.
ITLOGAP. 3 Stars. Acronym improving. A really sweet psychedelic record. Not doing much that's hyper-super-new but the execution is immaculate.
FGWGPITN. 4 Stars. Acronym deproving. John G. Perry's bass-work is wonderful and the addition of the strings makes a huge difference to the band. Probably my favourite from the band.


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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 15 2015 at 06:30
Where I stand now pt. 2:

Tull, Floyd, Rush

Jethro Tull

Stand up - 3 stars. A really great little blues rock album.
Benefit - 3 stars. Probably better than Stand Up. The mix is wonderful and the songs are all kinda little highlights. I'd give it a higher rating if I listened to it more but I don't.
Aqualung - 4 stars. One of those rare rock albums that kinda makes it to the next echelon. The acoustic pieces are some of Anderson's best, the rock stuff is great.
Thick As A Brick - 5 stars. My favourite Tull album and the one you should definitely have. Wonderful band and that flatpicking intro feels like such a statement of Anderson's personality. 
A Passion Play - 5 stars. Everything happening all the time. Can be wearing at first but really rewarding stuff.
War Child - 2 stars. Bit of a climbdown in overall quality but there are some really nice songs on here.
Songs From The Wood - 2 stars. Bizarrely lauded for folk credentials when it's kinda just woodsy. Hunting Girl is the highlight.
Heavy Horses - 2 stars. A much better and more genuine album than Songs From The Wood but I have trouble thinking of it as essential.
The Broadsword And The Beast - 2 stars. Like Warchild, kinda patchy in overall quality but the highs are pretty high.

Pink Floyd

Piper At The Gates Of Dawn - I know I need to give this one more listens. Barrett was a really unique asset and I'm still not sure what I make of him.
A Saucerful of Secrets - 4 stars. Weird and wonderful. Jugband Blues, the title track and Let There Be More Light are highlights.
Meddle - 4 stars. The highs are probably Floyd's best work but it's not entirely consistent.
Obscured By Clouds - 2 stars. A very nice little album but not a lot mind-bending going on. Worth having if you're a fan.
Dark Side Of The Moon - 5 stars. This and Wish You Were Here are basically perfect albums. No collection is complete without them.
Wish You Were Here - 5 stars. Bonus points for Roy Harper's (probably the best English singer-songwriter of his generation) vocal on Have A Cigar.
Animals - 3 stars. Some great material, a tiny bit of waffle, great lyrics. Pigs is the standout for me.
The Wall - 2 stars. A few great songs does not a great album make. The teen angst is strong with this one, the central image is amazing and some people do really get into the whole thing but the ending is just dismal and I think it's a bit overblown for what it is.

Rush

Caress of Steel - 3 stars. I'd love to give it four but I kind of have to accept that it's basically just that I really like that Rush are still trying things they can't pull off here. I really love this album.
2112 - 2 stars. The first half is tinged with an emotional honesty that really gives it colour. Not so keen on the little songs on the second half. Good album.
A Farewell To Kings - 4 stars. Rush's best, I think, at least in terms of having the stuff I like on it.
Hemispheres - 1 star. Weedy and pretentious, especially the follow up Cygnus X-2. La Villa Strangiato is a redeeming piece.
Moving Pictures - 2 stars. I don't really rate this one tremendously highly. It's creative and a lot of it is decent but the songs don't stand out to me.
Permanent Waves - 3 stars. A decidedly good album. Probably where you want to go for prog rock that doesn't feel very rooted in English tradition.
Grace Under Pressure - 2 stars. Quite a nice little album in its own way but not the most memorable thing the trio's ever done.
Snakes And Arrows - 2 stars. Starts out great then kinda loses it. A good rock album and the first few tracks are especially good.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 15 2015 at 05:53
The where I stand now post

manually changing all the scores is just going to cause loads of confusion with the reviews and I probably don't have time to rewrite them all, so I'm doing a post to kind of state where I am with a lot of the stuff I reviewed five+ years ago for anyone interested. New standard

5 stars - something really special and usually something that's changed how I think about music. You should probably listen to it once even if you don't end up liking it. I really like some out-there stuff though.
4 stars - something exceptional. I think any attentive listener should get something out of it, even if it's not their cup of tea.
3 stars - this album will improve your collection. Usually for best-efforts by bands that weren't really doing something new or brave attempts by bands that were and it didn't really come off.
2 stars - this album might improve your collection
1 star - this album won't improve your collection. Varies between uninspired and terrible.

Let's start with the classics

Genesis

From Genesis To Revelation. 1 star. Pleasant enough; the best material is the bonus tracks. A curio for fans of the band.
Trespass. 3 stars. Curious English pastoral rock that laid the groundwork for where Genesis would go.
Nursery Cryme. 5 stars. A lot of the really innovative stuff is in the little tracks.
Foxtrot. 3 stars. Supper's Ready is glorious and there's a lot of good stuff but the studio version of Watcher Of The Skies and Time Table make for a really weak start to the album.
Selling England By The Pound. 5 stars. The definitive Genesis album where the whole band is working together on something of a classical caliber.
The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. 3 stars. A great double-album. The ambition occasionally led to fillery stuff for the stage show, which isn't inherently bad but lacks the tightness of its predecessor.
A Trick Of The Tail. 2 stars. I don't like the mix and don't return to this one much. Light on the song front.
Wind & Wuthering. 2 stars. Not bad per se and a lot of Hackett's finest moments. Your Own Special Way is a real comedown.
Genesis (s/t). 2 stars. Some really superb songs on this. Not worse or better than the post-Gabriel Hackett material.

Yes

The Yes Album. 2 stars. Wakeman really brought the band's whole atmosphere and without it you've got a lot of good material but no real stunning moments. Howe's instrumental is essential.
Fragile. 3 stars. Very patchy but the classics are real classics. South Side of the Sky probably the best thing Yes ever did.
Close To The Edge. 5 Stars. 
Tales From Topographic Oceans. 4 stars. Takes a bit of a different mindset to earlier Yes albums but very rewarding.
Relayer. 3 stars. My opinion of the album's gone up over time. Don't rate the lyrics or vocals that much but Moraz's contributions are stunning.
Going For The One. 2 stars. A good album but there's not much I really really love on it.
Tormato. 1 star. Execrable.
90125. 2 stars. Some gems on this one.

VDGG

The Aerosol Grey Machine. 1 star. Not actually a bad album but I can't see anyone other than a real fan of the band needing it.
The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other. 2 stars. Some spine-tingling moments, a bit of laboriousness. Refugees is one of VDGG's best soft songs.
H To He Who Am The Only One. 5 stars. The start of VDGG's roll. It's probably not as tight as the following few albums but emotional highs throughout.
Pawn Hearts. 5 stars. Together with the previous album it set the pace for a lot of RPI. Hammill's vocal on A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers is incredible.
Godbluff. 4 stars. One of the great rock albums of all time and Hammill's transition to the clavinet is really graceful. Arrow is one of my favourite VDGG tracks. I feel like Scorched Earth brings it down a tad.
Still Life. 5 stars. Far and away the most subtle VDGG album. Beautiful stuff and the quality of the musicianship, the recording and the writing is leagues ahead of what any of the big prog bands were even attempting at the time.
World Record. 3 Stars. Great little album, often underestimated. Hugh Banton's engineering skills pay off with a real church organ sound. It feels quite closely related to Hammill's solo work, though oddly he didn't seem to really pick up a lot of the songs for the live bootlegs I know from the next few years.
The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome. 4 stars. Hammill's radical change to his vocal approach and the different instrumentation make this album an oddity in the VDG(G) business. Nonetheless many of the songs are fantastic and it's a very bold piece of work.
Present. 3 stars. Really, really unfortunate circumstances have kind of hammered the recording but it's a very enjoyable and odd live album.
Godbluff Live. 5 stars. See one of the finest prog rock bands at their absolute best. The APOLK recording here is amazing.
Present. 2 stars. Hits the VDGG standard and Boleas Panic is a really wonderful Jackson showcase. I'm not sure it brings a load of 'classics' to the table other than Nutter Alert but it's a good album for a VDGG fan.
Trisector. 2 stars. Some great stuff but kind of reliant on a VDGG formula to hit its highlights.
A Grounding In Numbers. 3 stars. Great album. I've never really gotten into the maths concept but Medusa is gorgeous and the three-man lineup manages to hit emotional peaks without any reliance on the formulae left over from the Jackson era. The best work from Banton since Still Life imho.

Peter Hammill

Fool's Mate. 2 stars. Charming little album. Definitely a fan choice rather than a necessity but Fripp and Banton's contributions on guitar and piano and the basic quality of the songs elevates it.
Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night. 4 stars. Despite the slightly patchy recording quality this is one of the great singer-songwriter albums.
In Camera. 4 stars. A lot of astonishing work, I probably don't return to it as much as Chameleon or Silent Corner with their consistent bite but it's just as good objectively.
The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage. 5 stars. Listen to Modern until you understand why it's *not* a VDGG song and all the secrets of Hammill's solo career will be revealed to you. The Lie is one of his best songs and I think the amazing Skeletons of Songs version is a bonus track here.
Nadir's Big Chance. 3 stars. Basically a pop rock album but the songs are all great and the approach was famously influential on British punk.
The Future Now. 3 stars. The experimental stuff is really out there and really astounding. Other bits are a little more lightweight.
pH7. 3 stars. Same as the above, really. Hammill still going off on his own thing and the results are fantastic.
A Black Box. 3 stars. Flight is probably the closest to a VDGG epic he's done on the solo side since In Camera. Really admirable and inspiring how he's just taken over every aspect of doing his own work.
Sitting Targets. 2 stars. It's a good album but I feel the songs are a lot stronger than the performances on here. Ophelia's probably my favourite of his three chord tricks.
Enter K. 3 stars. A lot of great songs, especially The Unconscious Life. The sound isn't quite as unified as Patience.
Loops And Reels. 5 stars. Best analog electronic album ever made in my view.
Patience. 4 stars. Best of the K Group albums by a mile.
The Margin +. 4 Stars. A live summary of a lot of the best pieces from the K Group era, and + contains some really surprising renditions of early solo pieces. Wonderful work.
Skin. 4 stars. A lot of it's maybe not going to hit the taste tonsils of the prog rock fan but I think the songy parts are wonderful and Now Lover and Four Pails are fantastic experimental pieces.
And Close As This. 3 stars. A real oddity. The midi triggering stuff works to mixed effect but the pure piano stuff is incredible. Sleep Now is a standout example of the sincere tenderness people who only know VDGG might not have seen in Hammill.
... I've not heard the next few...
The Fall Of The House Of Usher (re-release). 5 stars. Atmospheric, tense, genuine rock opera business and the vocals and the sound are just beyond belief. A real standout.
Fireships. 3 stars. Very strange one. The aesthetic might put a lot of people off the content, a lot of which is exceptional. I Will Find You is a bit of a chink in the album's armour.
The Noise. 2 stars. The 'loud' rock counterpart to Fireships hasn't fared nearly as well in my estimation. Primo On The Parapet is an *amazing* song but you can hear a better version with Stuart Gordon on Veracious.
Roaring Forties. 2 stars. A slightly precious quality to the lyrics of the rock material here brings it down a little. Better than its predecessor but still just one for the fans imo.
X My Heart. 3 stars. A return to form with Amnesiac as one of my all-time favourites of his. The two parts of A Better Time see Hammill still trying something new and unusual even if it's not the spiky time signature stuff people associate with innovation.
Everyone You Hold + This. I need to listen to these two more. Fine albums.
I don't know None Of The Above, Clutch and What, Now?
Incoherence. 4 Stars. Jackson's presence adds a huge amount to this and the general density and power of the concept make for a definite peak. Probably the most coherent whole album he's done since Usher.
Singularity. 2 stars. I really love the experimental stuff on this and the album's last two tracks are his best. Some of the ballads and rock bits are less strong.
Thin Air. 3 stars. The highs are a bit lower than Singularity's but it's a much more consistent piece and I really like the song bits.

I haven't heard the latest two yet and need to rectify that.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 13 2015 at 06:41
New review (also how is this on page three approximately five years after my last post) - warning, may offend accountants or economists:

Kraftwerk - Autobahn

If what you want is a mishmash of the synth and sonic innovations accomplished a couple of years earlier by Pink Floyd, ELP, Amon Duul II, Roger Powell and Hawkwind delivered with the dead-behind-the-eyes glaze of an accountant or economist, this is the album for you. Most of the good parts feel like quotations of On The Run or Echoes or bits of Gong's Angel's Egg.

The titular pop-synth epic has the ambience of a terrible crash between two lorries full of skittles. The first part of Cometenmelodie just has nothing happening and the lack of a bottom end really leaves you feeling ungrounded for the glaring synths. I'm not going to spend fifty words review savaging the lackluster electronic drums or the floppy novelty vocals that no doubt gave it its hit status. I hate them. That is my whole opinion on the matter. In terms of the composition I can't hear much going on. Call it 'minimalist' if you like but I just can't hear anything I don't feel like I've heard before. The sonic effects on Mitternacht you can hear done with far more panache in Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast or Echoes and the brief padded chords are as bog standard as you get, leading to a conclusion where nothing happens, which seems to be the motif of this review.

The much lauded sonic innovations here were done earlier and better by artists working in a panoply of genres and there were tempered by ambition and ideas. The only redeeming piece is the closing Morganspazierung which reminds me of the psychedelic music that used to get attached to British children's TV in better days. Even that is kind of spared for its lack of ideas on account of a very short running length.

Rating: 2/15. Go to the source where the water's fresher.
Favourite Track: Morganspazierung
Stars: Unhappy
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 14 2010 at 10:22
Originally posted by Ronnie Pilgrim Ronnie Pilgrim wrote:

Originally posted by TGM: Orb TGM: Orb wrote:

 
Any way you cut it, it's a great album Thumbs Up - if I've time I'll try to edit it up a little tomorrow.

Yeah, not getting paid for these reviews is a bitch, and then to put up with the likes of me....
You actually got a lot more right than you did wrong, and my hat's off to you for all the work.

Because there's another error, and since you offered, here's a rundown of who does the vocalizations on the album:

John Evans
"And your little sister's immaculate virginity wings away on the boney shoulders of a young horse named George, who stole surreptitiously into her geography revision."
and
"This is the story of the hare who lost his spectacles." (Spoken line, not the narrative)

Jeffrey Hammond
"The examining body examined her body."
and
The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles the narrative
and
"Steve. Caroline." Shouted at the end of the album during the fadeout

Ian Anderson
All other mouth sounds; whistles, grunts and words sung or spoken

Thanks for your professional courtesy.


Cheers - clarified that mistake (I.e. I meant to say the vocals on the album, not on the story section) and hopefully fixed up the remaining obvious errors... didn't want to change the review too much.

Here's the link for the new version Linked


Edited by TGM: Orb - July 14 2010 at 10:22
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 14 2010 at 10:00
Over, Peter Hammill, 1977

StarStarStarStarStar

It's quite hard to write about Over in a positive way... which is odd because I love this album. Commenting on the musical variety, technical qualities and details of the album seems demeaning to its raw emotionality and vice versa. It's Hammill's most personal album, which some will probably find either difficult or distasteful, and for me, it's his most powerful. Over is about sustained moods more than bursts of fire, and while reviewers here have picked up a lot on the darker and more miserable side of the album, I personally think its appeal lies also in its hopeful, ironic, self-deprecating, speculative and resigned content and if you acknowledge the one element without the other, the overall effect will probably be quite depressing.

The vocals are, of course, extraordinary and innovative. Aside from some of Hammill's best lower-register work and higher-register work, this contains his most obviously powerful conventional performance. I have never heard anything like the singing on any of the songs here before and the detail, emotion and harmonies in each performance are without parallel. The production of the vocals matches up to this. The music is individual to the pieces and remains excellent but, in isolation from the vocals and lyrics would be somewhat pointless.

Crying Wolf ? from the first notes you can feel the fragility of the album. Some of the many particular musical features of this song are the dense layering, Guy Evans' delicious hi-hat (I think) work near the opening, the various awesome low-in-the-mix keyboards and the vocal development of the main riff. Hammill's guitar solo as usual is strictly devoted to the mood and not to impressing people.

Autumn: the versatility of this album is not solely in the personnel and style but also in the kind of perspective offered. The speculative mood of Autumn enhances a simply exceptional self-duet from Hammill (the vocals sound so old).

'I simply don't know what it all means... this pointless passage through the night, this Autumn time, this walk upon the water.'

Time Heals is the most immediately eye-catching thing on the album and there are a couple of extraordinary live versions out there as well so I'll try not to over-introduce it. Guy Evans and Nic Potter's rhythm section is unshowy and supportive and yet entirely unique to this album.

Alice (Letting Go)... the album's most stripped down singer-songwriter piece. Deliciously bitter and well-produced acoustic sound (which is something, I confess, that the very charming In Camera's pieces didn't have), extraordinarily heart-rending and detailed vocal contrasted with almost spoken bursts. The jolts of directness in the writing are something that makes this album and in particular this song so unique and honest, 'cause I don't wanna just be your friend.'

This Side Of The Looking Glass... if you have ever doubted Peter Hammill's ability to sing extraordinarily well in a conventional manner, you should listen to this song and repent your sins. The orchestration is rich and individual and a unique excursion by Hammill into territory unknown for a striking centrepiece to an individual album.

Betrayed has a much more ferocious and snarling Graham Smith as well as some utterly acidic acoustic guitar. An especially angry, desperate and despondent piece but so well executed as to be of interest to anyone who doesn't find that notion unbearable. The conclusion is wonderful.

(On Tuesdays She Used To Do) Yoga features the single most evil sound I can think of (and I have no idea what it is but you'll know it when you hear it). The echoed vocals are heart-breaking and the writing has both menacing edges and ironic ones to its basic honesty.

Lost And Found is the album's catharsis, and its fragile yet definite optimism is entirely crucial to understanding the album. It is amazing.

Well, I'm sure I've said this about three or four Peter Hammill albums by now (In Camera, ) and I'll probably say it about a couple more, but the thing about those many times I say that the vocals on a particular Peter Hammill album are in my honest view the best ever is that A) trust me: I mean it and B) I feel that the vocals on Over are so amazing for different reasons to those on Hammill album y or z. Hammill's ability as a singer to emote and to communicate emotions in different ways is now so self-evident to me that I can neither really recall the bemusement with which I first heard the quirky vocals of Sleepwalkers nor can I really fathom those who as a rule find his vocals unpleasant either in general or especially on this album.

So, five stars. Though Over is probably only going to be a life-changing album for those who are already self-avowed fans, it remains one of the site's most extraordinary albums and should come early in the Hammill collection expansion process.

Rating: 15/15, or thereabouts Favourite Track: Lost And Found, I think

---

Yeah, just going to go and edit up the Passion Play review
Next up, no idea I'll go for.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 11 2010 at 11:13
Originally posted by TGM: Orb TGM: Orb wrote:

 
Any way you cut it, it's a great album Thumbs Up - if I've time I'll try to edit it up a little tomorrow.

Yeah, not getting paid for these reviews is a bitch, and then to put up with the likes of me....
You actually got a lot more right than you did wrong, and my hat's off to you for all the work.

Because there's another error, and since you offered, here's a rundown of who does the vocalizations on the album:

John Evans
"And your little sister's immaculate virginity wings away on the boney shoulders of a young horse named George, who stole surreptitiously into her geography revision."
and
"This is the story of the hare who lost his spectacles." (Spoken line, not the narrative)

Jeffrey Hammond
"The examining body examined her body."
and
The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles the narrative
and
"Steve. Caroline." Shouted at the end of the album during the fadeout

Ian Anderson
All other mouth sounds; whistles, grunts and words sung or spoken

Thanks for your professional courtesy.




Edited by Ronnie Pilgrim - July 11 2010 at 14:09
"The pointy birds are pointy pointy
Anoint my head anointy nointy"
Steve Martin The Man With Two Brains
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 10 2010 at 23:03
^
Speaking of which, on a more positive note, your Tormato review is dead on. LOL
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 10 2010 at 22:11
Originally posted by DT-PT DT-PT wrote:

Never have I disagreed more in my life with anybody than in your SFaM review, but oh well thats just me. Embarrassed


In a world with (the immensely wonderful) Brass Eye, Conservapedia and The Daily Mail, I think that deserves a medal Wink

Anyway, it's obviously not just you (nearer the time, I got a PM from someone who by their own admission hadn't read my review and still managed to disagree utterly and completely and categorically with it)... I'm more interested, to be honest, in getting one or two people to hear some of the more interesting Hammill albums or Maneige than knocking albums like Scenes or Tormato, fun though that is.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 10 2010 at 21:51
Originally posted by Ronnie Pilgrim Ronnie Pilgrim wrote:

No disrespect, but I did not much care for the review referenced below. Wink 
Here's why.

Originally posted by TGM: Orb TGM: Orb wrote:

Review 45, A Passion Play, Jethro Tull, 1973

StarStarStarStarLamp





Originally posted by TGM: Orb TGM: Orb wrote:


After the phenomenal success of Thick As A Brick, Anderson and co. approached this next offering with their minds set to creating another one-song album. 


Well, this is not exactly true, but has no bearing on the review thankfully. The actual "Chateau D' Isaster" story is here. The "mind-set" was one of creating a concept album paralleling the similarities between humans and animals. The one-song album we got came from hastily re-written material salvaged from those failed recording sessions and given a new concept. I'm not sure you can really state that the intention was to create a one song album all along.

Originally posted by TGM: Orb TGM: Orb wrote:


John Anderson's vocals, lyrics, acoustics and flute are excellent as ever throughout the entire album, and the more prominent use of his sax (which isn't generally great, but does contribute to the more chaotic and dissonant sections of the album). 


Stop right there. Please don't tell me you don't know the man's name is Ian Anderson.

How can you claim to have any credibility going forward with a glaring mistake such as that?

Originally posted by TGM: Orb TGM: Orb wrote:

 More trivially, this is one of two albums to which I have been caught playing air acoustics very badly. I'm restraining myself from awarding five stars, but only because my personal preference finds itself elsewhere at the moment.

It's not clear whether or not you are withholding your five star rating because you were embarrassed by your behavior while listening to it; but in any event, the album deserves at least 5 full stars or the omission of this statement as a reason for not doing so.

For me, A Passion Play is your Larks' Tongue in Aspic - both albums I would rate 6 stars.
It has everything a proggie craves - rock, symph, jazz, folk, great lyrics, a concept, originality, uniqueness, and depth.
Brilliantly executed.


Suppose I should edit that one a bit:

Re: Chateau D'Isaster... had forgotten that. Good point.

Re: John/Jon/Ian/Neo. Silly typo is tilly sypo. Editor was fired in anticipation of recession. Re: Credibility. I'm only writing a few album reviews in my spare time... I'm not deciding on a national level which school building projects to scrap. Figure I can deal with an occasional typographical cock-up.

Re: air acoustics... no; was a light aside with no particular causal relationship to the sentence following it - I'd thought the last sentence there made it pretty clear why it wasn't getting a five then. While only semi-relevant here, I'm pretty sure I did up the rating to a 5 a while back (check the album's page - one of the problems with this thread is that I don't and don't really have the energy/time to update all the individual reviews as I occasionally update the actual 'site' reviews).

Any way you cut it, it's a great album Thumbs Up - if I've time I'll try to edit it up a little tomorrow.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 10 2010 at 19:35
Never have I disagreed more in my life with anybody than in your SFaM review, but oh well thats just me. Embarrassed
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 10 2010 at 17:33
No disrespect, but I did not much care for the review referenced below. Wink 
Here's why.

Originally posted by TGM: Orb TGM: Orb wrote:

Review 45, A Passion Play, Jethro Tull, 1973

StarStarStarStarLamp





Originally posted by TGM: Orb TGM: Orb wrote:


After the phenomenal success of Thick As A Brick, Anderson and co. approached this next offering with their minds set to creating another one-song album. 


Well, this is not exactly true, but has no bearing on the review thankfully. The actual "Chateau D' Isaster" story is here. The "mind-set" was one of creating a concept album paralleling the similarities between humans and animals. The one-song album we got came from hastily re-written material salvaged from those failed recording sessions and given a new concept. I'm not sure you can really state that the intention was to create a one song album all along.

Originally posted by TGM: Orb TGM: Orb wrote:


John Anderson's vocals, lyrics, acoustics and flute are excellent as ever throughout the entire album, and the more prominent use of his sax (which isn't generally great, but does contribute to the more chaotic and dissonant sections of the album). 


Stop right there. Please don't tell me you don't know the man's name is Ian Anderson.

How can you claim to have any credibility going forward with a glaring mistake such as that?

Originally posted by TGM: Orb TGM: Orb wrote:

 More trivially, this is one of two albums to which I have been caught playing air acoustics very badly. I'm restraining myself from awarding five stars, but only because my personal preference finds itself elsewhere at the moment.

It's not clear whether or not you are withholding your five star rating because you were embarrassed by your behavior while listening to it; but in any event, the album deserves at least 5 full stars or the omission of this statement as a reason for not doing so.


For me, A Passion Play is your Larks' Tongue in Aspic - both albums I would rate 6 stars.
It has everything a proggie craves - rock, symph, jazz, folk, great lyrics, a concept, originality, uniqueness, and depth.
Brilliantly executed.


Edited by Ronnie Pilgrim - July 10 2010 at 20:28
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 10 2010 at 12:28
< ="-" ="text/; =utf-8">< name="ProgId" ="Word.">< name="Generator" ="Microsoft Word 12">< name="Originator" ="Microsoft Word 12">

90125 - Yes, 1982

StarStar

Maybe

After the unfortunate bowel movement that was Tormato, I approached this with some reservations about Yes’ more openly pop career. 90125 has some equally distasteful eructations but . Squire is rather subordinated, Anderson sounds nothing like he has before (i.e. on occasion, he emotes ;)). Interesting how much of the aesthetic appears to be artlessly modelled on the hugely commercially successful Asia. I suppose that many of the things that ruin this album for me are the same things that wreck Asia for a lot of this site’s members but really, the difference is that Asia’s first album has memorable songs with noticeable personalities. This album has three, maybe four songs a dedicated Yes fan should hear plus a quick instrumental.

Owner Of A Lonely Heart... the harmonies are lush, I like the various soloish bits, which represent a genuine combination of imaginative writing and pop sensibilities. The whole song is good, has personality and is memorable.

Hold On isn’t quite hard rock. The vocal harmony that forms the lead vocal is just not really very compatible with the rest of the (very bland) song and Rabin’s guitar tone is unforgivably cheap. We can do without any of the five minutes of this.

It Can Happen... the chorus and indeed most of the song is dreadful, bawling stuff and Squire’s cool bass flourish is the only feature we might want salvaged into a rather better six minute song.

Changes... and wow. After two dreadful pieces that only by virtue of their intelligible but still bad lyrical content and production couldn’t be on Tormato, we have one of the greatest songs Yes have ever offered up and a pinnacle of early 80s attempts to make synthetic pop more complex and progressive rock more emotive. The lush, dense progressive, tuned-percussion-heavy intro and outro are neither of them hugely relevant to the glorious, direct song they surround but still fits with it superbly. The singing is fantastic, the harmonies again sound like something that only Yes could do and the song is simply so much more imaginative and punchy than anything off the album yet.

Cinema will maybe hold more attractions for those who feel instrumentals for their own sake are still events. I personally have as little affection for this moodless though technically impressive and dense piece as I have for YYZ. Short instrumentals do best with a mood, dammit.

Leave It... outrageous, outrageous vocal harmonies completely with a bass voice that sounds like a strange merger of 10cc, Gentle Giant and the Drama Line-Up. So utterly out of character for this album that the vaguely shiny disco chorus seems merely hilarious and the rest inane genius in a thankfully relatively compact format.

Our Song... the fairly quick if not hugely imaginative rhythm section is done a disservice by the horribly omnipresent tacky keyboard choices from Kaye.

City Of Love has comedy value in excess of the various bad songs here; Jon Anderson trying to sing in a streetwise manner contrasted with stereotypical AOR harmonies (‘no woman don’t cry! No woman don’t... cry!’). Has to be heard for that reason alone. Musically tolerable.

Hearts is a bit more carefully constructed than the remaining songs, with decent development on existing themes, cryptic lyrics put over some very nice harmonies. More of the Trevor Rabin show. A bit too much repetition. Not a bad song, just loses focus a little.

One song elevates this album to the lofty heights of two stars. If you can listen to Changes and still believe that an 80s aesthetic and pop format is incompatible with superb creative music, you are quite beyond help. Owner Of A Lonely Heart, Cinema, It Can Happen and the comedy value of City Of Love further rescue this from the bin and/or toilet I’ll keep Tormato. If you’re a Yes fan, you need look no further than 1978 to do worse than this.

Rating: Two Stars, 7/15, maybe.
Favourite Track: Changes

---

Generous rating but I like Changes too much.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 30 2010 at 21:29
A Hunting We Shall Go, Caravan, 1974

StarStar (Star)

Rather lightweight live album, only thirty four minutes long, three songs and some painful applause herding for an encore. The line-up is essentially the Girls line-up, though John G. Perry's been replaced by an also-excellent Mike Wedgwood. The production is clear but the mix misjudged: the admittedly nicely brought out bass sound dwarfs all other elements. In particular, Pye Hastings' guitar is very low, the drums never seem to match the bass volume.

Regarding the content, we have the minor classic suite A Hunting We Shall Go and Hoedown off For Girls plus the fairly seminal For Richard. A Hunting We Shall Go, despite some brief bits of curious improvisation, feels a bit pale and pasty without the superb For Girls production and frills. The riff is still magnificent.

For Richard is translated brilliantly to the new line-up. Richardson's viola really changes the flavour of the piece to something a little more pastoral while the bass-heavy mix keeps it powerful and punchy as ever. Pye Hastings' vocals are fleeting but delightful. In the nearly 20 minutes running time, we see the whole plethora of cool, loose improvisations and tight, light-hearted rock music that defines Caravan taken over wholesale by a fresh line-up with a star soloist. Hoedown is the encore... lively tune but not really a show-stopper. Caravan bring out the participational elements of that song in a trite, amusing, ironic way with a calculated lack of charisma. Changed more drastically than hunting from the studio version, with Hastings' echoey guitar and Richard Coughlan's drums holding things down and various cutesy improvisations from the band's major instrumentalists.

Hard to see what appeal this album will have for those who aren't devotees of Caravan and even those who are don't really need this. Still, the For Richard take on here is grade A live album stuff. Only two stars for the whole package, maybe a three for the performances; more than half of the stuff here could be part of an easily five star Caravan live album.

Rating: Two Stars but quite good/15 Favourite Track: For Richard

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 28 2010 at 17:14
Tormato

Dead

Rare album to actually lend credit to the ‘I just couldn’t make myself listen to it more than once to make this rushed knee-jerk reaction review’ standpoint. The name itself is, or should be, a combination of torment and the ancient Sanskrit word for festering yet shiny dung. Obviously the band would be much too technically gifted to produce an utterly meritless turd if it weren’t for the combination of terrible production and serious lapses in taste on the part of every band member.

Wakeman is here shinier and generally less pleasing than an arse-pimple. Squire has somehow acquired an utterly vapid, gutless tone, White’s bag of tricks are a cheap and transparent plastic covering thrown over the stained furniture of the album’s rhythms, Howe is more or less unremarkable and his trademark tones are draped over directionless parts. Anderson’s chant-y and rather unmemorable melodies are here slammed into a number of songs with no real focal points, which robs most of his power. While Yes have hardly been the example par excellence for hard-hitting lyrics which are simultaneously accessible and guttural, Anderson’s lyrics have never been so insufferably dumb or lazy as Tormato’s and nor are the vocal arrangements very special.

The ultimate failure of Tormato doesn’t come down to any failure by any particular member, but to the fact that everyone (except White, who’s trying as hard as possible not to impress us) is trying to show off simultaneously with no particular concern for the actual songs. And the production and tone choices mean that all these separate half-arsed attempts to impress us fall flat in an overly busy mess.
Future Times/Rejoice is an upbeat little number with a bit of vaguely countrified drumming and hideously messy and shiny production. The synth choices are hardly great, and Wakeman somehow manages to make even the organ sound wimpy. On the plus side, you can look forward to the Future Times when Tormato will have stopped.

Don’t Kill The Whale. ‘Our last heaven-beast’ is sadly betrayed by Jon’s moodless and thoughtless writing. Much as it’s become the figurehead for the album’s criticism because modest commercial success from short songs isn’t OK, I genuinely think it represents the album’s best musically. Fairly punchy, hilarious harmonies and a sort of balance within the piece that’s not really around anywhere else here. Also, whatever you think of the song, Anderson singing ‘dig it dig it’ could’ve made music hall.

Madrigal comes from another world where Yes aren’t the world’s most tasteless band in 1978. Harpsichord, lush classical guitar and Anderson’s vocals fit together very well. If ‘Celestial travelers have always been here with us’, they’re probably now leaving early with a mumbled excuse and downcast eyes pretending not to know mystic J.

Release, Release – the instrumental noodling will probably be considered a highlight, and for moments it’s not that bad – the transition at about 4 minutes in is pretty cool, the opening is solid, Squire has some funky bass near the end. Howe doesn’t really pull off rock and roll, and added cheering doesn’t lighten a bland drum solo or make it feel live.

Arriving UFO. Wakeman’s uncharacteristic bit of organ echo fiddling lightens this unmemorable bit of trite Anderson writing. On the plus side, hilarious and the aforementioned organ. On the minus, the chorus melodies and a lot of the writing is banal.

Circus Of Heaven – the inclusion of a child’s voice deflating Anderson’s maddening list of adjectives was slightly funny, but the song is otherwise pretty unredeemed. Anyway, using irony does not a good song make.

Onward: a bit of supple vibrato doesn’t disguise a very boring melody and a general lack of instrumental writing. The keyboards (presumably Wakeman) are admittedly a fairly uncanny imitation of a dire over-orchestration.

On The Silent Wings Of Freedom is not a lost classic, nor is it really progressive rock of the calibre we expect from Yes. The awfully thin (as much the fault of the production as anything) rhythm section focussed opening is redeemed only by a couple of Howe’s more liquid solos though neither of these seem to actually be aiming anywhere.

The problem with the whole is that there’s nothing remarkable, surprising or (thank god) particularly memorable about Tormato. The problem with the individual parts is that they are, basically, Yes parodying itself.

Save the somewhat redeemed Don’t Kill the Whale and Madrigal, an awful, awful album that the die-hard Yes fan will buy anyway. Recommended for anyone working on an incentive program to stop online piracy. Another positive thing about Guantanamo Bay’s closure is that this album no longer has a place in the civilised world.

Rating: One Star. But not a very shiny star. 4/15
Favourite Track: Madrigal or Don’t Kill The Whale

---

For the record, I've listened to this quite a few times now and I still find it blissfully hard to remember most of it. That perhaps explains why some of my song descriptions are very light. Love Beach represents a far superior pop record to that one. As does 90125, actually. Something like Genesis (s/t) blows it out of the water.

Anyway, ech. Next up, some rare live Caravan, I think.


Edited by TGM: Orb - June 28 2010 at 17:19
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 27 2010 at 09:52
For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night, Caravan, 1974

StarStarStarStar (and Smile)

Caravan’s 1974 album comes with more line-up shifting. The loss of Richard Sinclair, much as he’s one of the relatively few really distinctive and charming voices in the Canterbury scene, we can deal with. Firstly, Pye Hastings is on a creative peak, with tighter guitar work, superb melodic writing and winning lead vocals (I think a couple are also taken by John Perry, with a bit more balance inside songs than the Hastings/Sinclair pair had). Secondly, the fantastic John G. Perry (whose very respectable solo album is worth checking out) is on bass. While not a showy lead bassist, he is extremely melodic and supportive and his choices of tone are superb. Thirdly, they have a violist. So, one of the best bass albums of all time, David Sinclair at his most subtly wonderful, Pye Hastings writing, playing and singing better than ever, a violist, two pieces with orchestration, a load more guests to add a little more flavour to various pieces (Rupert Hine on synth and Frank Ricotti on congas in particular) and a brilliant title.

A truly superior and very professional Caravan album but not without the charm of earlier efforts.

The opening of Memory Lain, Hugh/Headloss is one of the essential Caravan jams with some solid brass orchestration, awesome feedback solos from David Sinclair and a Jimmy Hastings flute solo (which is always a good thing). However, the departure from this jamming is arguably even better... Headloss is a solid display of melody writing with superb rhythm section work.

Hoedown is a more decisively rock song and arguably feels more lively here than in the more participational A Hunting We Shall Go version. Of note, the melody is great and the various moody David Sinclair twinkling over that riff is wonderful.

Surprise, Surprise has the two new elements of Caravan’s  arsenal in the foreground. Geoffrey Richardson on viola adds a pastoral character and a heart-warming solo, while Perry’s basswork is stronger than ever. Pye Hastings’ vocals are gorgeous, and the lyrics are some of the best disjointed ones around: ‘when the years are gone, and we live on memories/Will you still remember me that way?’

C’thlu thlu is a bit of an odd one, turning through ironic creepiness to a hilarious chorus, ‘so we ran – YEAH! – as fast as we can’. Somewhat liquidy, and the mellotron-like organ work and killer blues solo is (like most of Sinclair’s washes on this album) a highlight that doesn’t jump out at you but waits and creeps up. Again, Perry’s basswork is more than excellent, and the addition of Frank Ricotti’s congas to the rhythm section shakes things up a little.

The Dog, The Dog, He’s At It Again... great pop song with Caravan’s typical flair for light humour and unusual parts. Pye Hastings gets credit for some of the best light melodies this side of Paul McCartney and some curious winning lyrics: ‘You’re naive if you really do believe/that the world is so full of sin’.  The jam replete with handclaps is every bit a match for the wonderful layered vocal sections.

Be Alright/Chance Of A Lifetime isn’t very well opened. I don’t like the vocals all that much, the riff is a bit laboured, solos (although we have a very good Pye Hastings guitar solo) are tacked on over the top. However, the continuation is just gorgeous – a liberated Geoffrey Richardson adds a melting texture over the top of some gorgeous vocals to a great, great melody. So, yes, the opening of this is my only real doubt about the album but the rest more than compensates.

A Hunting We Shall Go is English pastoral rock at its finest.

Anyway, get some good speakers, get this album, find a relaxed Summer afternoon when hayfever keeps you indoors, listen out for the details and enjoy For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night.

Rating: 13/15. Four Stars that would be a comfortable five if it weren’t for the minute and a half of Be Alright.
Favourite track: hm. A Hunting We Shall Go, if only for the viola riff.

P.S. Bonus tracks are mostly just WIP versions plus another mix of Memory Lain, Hugh/Headloss and I can’t think of anything hugely remarkable about them. The track left over from the Austin/Evans sessions is at least a bit different and, if memory serves, pretty good, with the heavy organ use, so that’s maybe worth having as a curiosity – the remaster sound is fantastic, so I wouldn’t shy away from getting it despite the generally weak bonuses.

PPS. Noticed I haven’t mentioned drummer/constant member Jimmy Coughlan once in the earlier review. This is largely because he’s generally very solid and while his style helps make the album,  he only really stands out all that much on Hoedown and A Hunting We Shall Go.


Edited by TGM: Orb - June 28 2010 at 17:16
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 31 2010 at 17:10
Perdition City, Ulver

StarStarStarStar

A revelation about the potential of trip-hop; the mood of each piece is pretty much always hit (though I have to admit the snarling gangster soundtrack thing may be welcome relief from the rather absorbing coldness of the rest of the album but it’s also so stereotypical and tacky that it sort of collapses under its own weight). If every piece were quite as good as the opening Lost In Moments, which perfectly contrasts a chilly background with the bursts of warm saxophone, loose paraphrasing of Kerouac, very defined vocals, and the human vibrancy of the wonderful escapist conclusion. If this is still available on PA as a sample, give it a listen. I suppose having too obvious a favourite is a bad idea for a mood album if that favourite is very self-sufficient.

Thereafter, most of the album remains very consistent and, more importantly, consistently very good. Take the following Porn Piece: half minimalist-driven dark mood music with a cello, leading up into a very warm and haunting song which a savage groove interrupts followed by a return of the main idea. Very well-structured and internally logical. Hallways of Always is, I suppose, where your appreciation of the music’s content over its aesthetic is most tested; I think it’s wonderful. Tomorrow Never Knows might well represent some of the album’s best musical fusion, with the contrast of a slightly industrial and very modern music with some shimmering film-score-type backgrounds – however, I’m not quite as convinced about this one as the album so far, it sounds a bit thin on ideas whenever the ‘leads’ drop out, though the concluding catharsis is absolutely wonderful.

The Future Sound of Music is initially more driven by the depth and range of sounds that augment it than the rather dry piano chords that hold the piece down. From the choral/piano contrast around three minutes in, the whole piece is absolutely essential modern progressive music. I suppose you could have made the first section a bit more self-sufficient without ruining the (utterly brilliant) contrast with the following half. We Are The Dead is the most uncomfortable thing on the album, I guess, unsettling the listener with its rich, crisp vocal delivery, dark and resonant lyrics and most of all the unsettled background contrasting with a repeated ghostly choral sound. Dead City Centres contains the lapse in taste referred to above, and while it largely represents an excellent development from the former track, I can never decide whether the jazz interlude/Chicago Gangster parody works out very well. It is well executed and is a musically solid choice, but conceptually it rather disturbs the immersion.

Catalept is another classical/trip-hop fusion though this one has a definite forwards trajectory. The washes of anarchic noise are a very neat effect indeed. The closing Nowhere/Catastrophe merges the album’s trip-hop/minimalism with a genuine song, and a very decent one at that. Anyway, the conclusion is wonderfully bleak. One non-musical quibble: 1) ‘Trickster G’... maybe it’s no sillier than, say, ‘Furry Lewis’ or ‘Slash’ or ‘Sting’ but I think those names are ridiculous too.

In short, Perdition City is a superb result for a ‘let’s get a random album from a random genre I know nothing about’ moment. It doesn’t get a perfect score because I feel there are some cracks in the overall construction and a couple of parts that feel a little lazier than the album’s best cuts. A very original and powerful album, which is exceptionally well-constructed and which perhaps might change your views on the validity of certain strains of music as it did mine. Needless to say, you should get it.

Rating: Four Stars, 12/15 (or maybe a 13)
Favourite Track: Lost In Moments, though any of the first three would do.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: May 29 2010 at 08:32
< ="-" ="text/; =utf-8">< name="ProgId" ="Word.">< name="Generator" ="Microsoft Word 12">< name="Originator" ="Microsoft Word 12">

Us, Peter Gabriel

StarStarStarStar

While it’s fairly galling to give what’s quite possibly my favourite Peter Gabriel album less than a confident five stars, I have to admit that the overwhelming emotional power and quality of the whole isn’t quite matched by a slightly trundling Sledgehammer-lite song in the shape of Steam. Otherwise, however, we have Gabriel at his most heartfelt, with his raw voice and honest lyrics never buried under effects and a sort of electronic world/pop orchestra approach to every song that doesn’t really crowd proceedings but rather produces a wonderful, flexible background against which the ideas, vocals and soloists stand out.

The first three songs are various shades of heartbreak, with a special emphasis on the power of the lyrics... this is not the sort of teenage angst that can be wonderful if written preciously enough but a much more mature look back at failed relationships with sentiments that really should make an impression. Come Talk To Me is the most colourful song Gabriel’s ever written, in my opinion, just listen to that violin-solo-followed-by-Eno’s(I think)-keyboards towards the end or the way the central theme is reprised very quietly in the softer, hopeful but unsuccessful, breakthrough section.

Love To Be Loved is equally powerful from a lyrical perspective, has a great rhythm section and the unsuccessful escape at the end (a recurring theme of this album) has a crushing emotional power, some of Gabriel’s best personal dramatic vocals and a touching musical contrast. Blood Of Eden is a slower, calmer piece but no less emotionally charged – the vocals shared with Sinead O Connor have a wonderful liquid power contrasted with Gabriel’s grittier, more defined leads.

I’ve already touched on Steam but I suppose it’s worth saying that it’s more how out of place this chugging guitar/horns song is and how lacking in dynamics (well, they’re there but more in the minutiae of the construction than the whole piece) it is compared to its obvious model. It’s a good song; I enjoy it, but I’m not sure it should be here. While we’re here, I suppose we may as well touch on the other two upbeat ‘pop’ songs of the album – Kiss That Frog is in the same vein, though I really like it for some incomprehensible reason. Maybe it’s the less unitary nature of the second half the album or the hilarious harmonica or the disarming tricksy intro but I think it fits in pretty well.

Digging In The Dirt should certainly not be placed with those two; it’s fast-paced but it’s also an aggressive, angry piece full of contrasts both emotional and musical and listen to that gorgeous break at around 2.20. In short, it’s serious and it really is very good. Probably the piece from the album that’s most grown on me.

Only Us is a very powerful piece of dark, murmuring atmospheric music directed mostly through the rhythm parts. The electronics are draped over the duduk and Gabriel’s vocals and Levin’s breakthroughs into the upper register. I suppose you could trim a couple of minutes and keep the general thrust of the ‘song’ more or less the same but then you’d lose the album’s best guitar part. Washing Of The Water is easily the best of the occasional simple pieces Gabriel’s given us in dribs and drabs since Peter Gabriel 1, aside from the powerful central image (‘let your waters reach me, like she reached me tonight’) and the heart-melting vocals, the choices of instrument (piano, organ, cello) are all pretty much perfect.

Fourteen Black Paintings is a very simple concept executed brilliantly and professionally. Showcases one of Gabriel’s best features: while in the details he incorporates a lot of world music and pop elements, he usually retains a sense of overall structure and energy that allows him to mould these into something really powerful, unitary and unique.

Secret World sees at last the escapism so often unsuccessful in the previous songs, breaking free from the constraints of failed relationships. The image is incredible, the lyrics and vocals heart-rending and the bass part is particularly good.

Us is probably my favourite Peter Gabriel album, a bit more consistent than 4, a bit more mature than 3 (which I’ve rated higher), rather deeper than So and much more vivacious than Up. I’d recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who thinks that experimental ‘pop’ music has some possibilities for expressing ideas in a serious way (and if you’re on this site, you probably should) or simply more or less anyone. A very good album, get it immediately.

Favourite Track: Secret World
Rating: Four Stars (13/15)



Edited by TGM: Orb - June 28 2010 at 17:18
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 03 2010 at 18:46
Bloody Tourists, 10cc, 1978

StarStarStar

Decent album by one of my favourite outlets of quality rock and oddball art-pop. Minus Godley and Creme, 10cc’s grasp of parody becomes rather less consistent... the remaining Stewart and Gouldman partnership, while remaining rather fine songwriters and occasionally amusing lyricists with a penchant for melody, great voices and solid performances, seems not to tantalisingly straddle the fine line between sincerity and parody but rather stumbles over it and back all too frequently. Musically, this album’s both catchy and well-written BUT there are a disconcerting number of songs on this record that are not bad but non-highlights and where 10cc had most thrived was on coming up with songs that are both inescapably catchy and somewhat off the wall. But at least they start with one of them;

Dreadlock Holiday is one of 10cc’s finest and best-received hits. Unless you do have some deep-seated moral objection to white men doing reggae, 10cc’s merge of the genre’s aesthetics with a sharp sense of parody (hence the thin organ tone) and a number of gorgeous pop hooks (listen to that marimba roll...) in a decidedly unusual format should be a somewhat uncontested highlight. While that basically puts the rest of the album to shame in terms of catchiness, quality and originality, the more-or-less narrative Anonymous Alcoholic with its neat funk middle comes close-ish.

Across the rest of the album, the more rock, fast-paced numbers seem to more or less fade once they’re over. Shock On The Tube is a bit of a lyrical rehash of I’m Mandy (Fly Me); neat guitar line, runaway piano and the great harmonies. Last Night is a rather tamer riff-driven piece which, while memorable in bursts, doesn’t really go very far.

The odd stuff comes in two parts: Old Mister Time has a sort of Gentle Giant vibe on the opening with dark choppy piano chords and the occasional odd effect. Lyrics decidedly thin and the character play isn’t quite there. Great moments everywhere, with some remarkable Beach Boys-y Harmonies, but not a fully functioning whole.

The more progressive-sounding Tokyo is piled up with synths and guitar effects. Lead vocals fine as ever, harmonies better than ever. Lyrics haven’t been great on the album, but with the slowed pace of this one, it’s rather galling. Instrumental section a highlight.

Of the calmer pieces, slightly-too-comfortable ballad You And I is very pretty. Reds In My Bed borders on sluggish; the band is far too capable to mess anything up obviously but given that the only bit from the song that really stands out for me is the vocal harmonies, I think there’s something decidedly beneath 10cc’s regular standard in the writing. Take These Chains is marginally more noticeable. Lifeline’s acoustic section is extremely pretty, making the ironic reggae alternation a little more entertaining. Some vocal melodies not miles beneath the Beatles’ best work.

Rounded off with From Rochdale to Ocho Rias. A fun song. Indefensibly so, but still fun. Perhaps one of the album’s better ones... vocal melodies fantastic, parodic bursts entertaining, energy kept throughout, guitar solo excellent. Strange that the album’s most openly ironic piece seems both more sincere and effortlessly deep (‘you spend half your life in transit, but that’s just the way God plans it/toothbrush and some fresh pyjamas, that’s all you need’) than the extended story pieces.

10cc’s earlier albums, aside from being some of the first music I really got into, continue to make me listen and make me smile... this doesn’t really do that, but it’s nice to listen to and has some of the best vocal harmonies and melodies they’ve written. Pick Bloody Tourists up if you’re already into the band or want to see their more regular and subdued side more closely, if you’re not, head over to such classics as Sheet Music, The Original Soundtrack and How Dare You for some of the finest and most disarmingly original art-pop known to man.

Rating: Three Stars, 10/15

Favourite Track: Dreadlock Holiday

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Should review the afore-mentioned pinnacles of Crossover sooner or later... wanted to write some more averagey-low ratings first though.


Edited by TGM: Orb - April 03 2010 at 18:47
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