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Non-Prog Album Reviews

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Post Options Post Options   Quote infocat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Non-Prog Album Reviews
    Posted: July 07 2012 at 13:03
Originally posted by Finnforest

Originally posted by rogerthat

Artist:  Fiona Apple (USA, 1996-active)

Genre:  Jazz-pop/alternative rock

Album:  The Idler Wheel... (Epic Records, 2012)




Holy God her new album is cool.  I bought the special edition and will be watching the bonus DVD tonight. 

Great review, thanks for posting it. 
I also just bought this.  The regular edition, though.  I never watch the DVDs even when I own them.  Haven't listened to it yet.
Frank Swarbrick
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Belief is not Truth.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Finnforest Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 07 2012 at 22:01
Fiona Apple - Live Idler 2012 DVD (bonus in special edition of album)

I really loved it and would have purchased it stand alone.  All five songs are from the Soutwest festival in Austin from March 2012 and feature good sound and picture quality.  Bottom line is that Fiona was rusty and nervous as all hell.  I believe this was her first show since the last tour was it not?  Anyways she came out tight as a drum and looking physically anxious and like she hadn't slept in a couple days.  Her voice was ragged and constricted from  the stress.  She blew some high notes and stopped singing at one point while she appeared to be trying to chill, resting her head on the piano.  And I still loved every second. 

Once she settled down a bit things improved.  She was best on the two new songs, especially the romantic's anthem "Anything We Want."  That song hits me like a ton of bricks.  The band is a big change from the tightly controlled and charged yet sometimes sterile bands she's employed before.  This band rocks but can be loose too.  I saw a set list from a recent show and she played only 4 new songs, with the balance of the show being older stuff.  This bothers me, I'd much rather hear the whole new album front to back and then a few oldies. 

Being this version is only a couple bucks more than the regular, it's a no brainer as far as I'm concerned.   Despite her jitters I was completely captivated with her, probably more than ever. 


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Post Options Post Options   Quote rogerthat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 07 2012 at 22:06
I see that the bonus DVD has just two songs from the new album?  Would have loved it if there had been a performance of Regret, certainly my favourite off the album.

Thanks for the review.  I might just have to think about the deluxe edition if I ever find it at a good price in a store.  I put a pre order for the standard edition which worked out to less than $9 and $6 more would have been a lot for me.


Edited by rogerthat - July 07 2012 at 22:08
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Finnforest Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 07 2012 at 22:23
Let's hope she releases a full length concert DVD from this tour!  Big smile


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Post Options Post Options   Quote Prog Sothoth Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 06 2012 at 08:55
Fleetwood Mac - Bare Trees (1972)
 
 
Fleetwood Mac fans tend to be composed of two groups: the superselling pop/rock Buckingham/Nicks era from 1975 onward in which by far most people associate the band, and the smaller but intense pure blues fans who dig the Peter Green era up to around 1970. But what about the in-between years in the early 70s? It's a strange era for the band, but definitely worth a look as they ditched the overt blues and delved into various genres like some "rock/pop/folk with some proginess tossed in" with not such great success but certainly some quality music. Bare Trees remains my favorite effort of these in-between years, and really encompasses a wide variety of styles while retaining a distinct identity, enhanced by it's languid and almost spacey production and strong guitarwork throughout.

 

The most notable track would be "Sentimental Woman", which is one of those songs I've heard a million times but never knew who did it. Sung by Bob Welch, this version is far preferable over the cheesier late 70s rendition by Bob as a solo artist which became one of the sappiest hits of all time. On Bare Trees, the song remains a folksy pop ditty with an unusually catchy and memorable chorus without the added shmaltz.

 

The numerous rock songs sung by Danny Kirwan range from straight up rock & roll workouts like the opening track to proggish atmospheric numbers like "Dust", and they're all quite decent, except for "Sunny Side of Heaven", which is one hell of a gorgeous, understated and brilliantly played instrumental. My favorite song on the album no less. Christine McVie contributes two tracks, one being an upbeat rock track about life on the road and the other being a folky love ballad...a primer for numerous love ballads she would release in the future. There's also a poetry reading number that's thankfully tacked on at the end...it does give the album a bit more of a folksy yet trippy vibe, but doesn't add to the album on repeat listens and goes on for a bit too long.

 

Overall, this album is a nice aural depiction of a band hitting some serious identity crisisís while vigorously trying to stay together as a unit. Kirwin would be gone after this album, but at least he left with a bang. It's an interesting era as the band began its trek from blues to pop, without the edge of heavier rock bands like Zeppelin yet without falling into the mushiness of bands like Bread
 
"Sunny Side Of Heaven"
 
 
 


Edited by Prog Sothoth - August 06 2012 at 08:58
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Post Options Post Options   Quote zumacraig Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 10 2012 at 20:08
love pre-buckingham/nicks MAC!  Kiln House with Station Man is amazing.  Also love Mystery to Me.  they're all good. 
Stardust we are.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Prog Sothoth Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 13 2012 at 07:30
Kil House is the one I haven't heard yet...I'll have to remedy that soon, plus since Kirwin is apparently involved with Station House I'm definately there.
 
Mystery To Me is a bit more straightforward in sound, but still quality stuff for sure...and it has that album cover. Has to be one of the 'proggiest' looking things ever.Thumbs Up
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Prog Sothoth Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 25 2012 at 07:02
Jefferson Starship - "Spitfire" (1976)



The first incarnation of this band, Jefferson Airplane, is remembered as an iconic psychedelic group boasting a few classic late 60s albums and a couple of FM acid rock staples. "Somebody To Love" and especially "White Rabbit" are unabashed legendary tunes that still get plenty of airtime on classic rock stations. Then there was Starship, the mid to late 80s version remembered for releasing some of the cheesiest hit singles that draw upon every 80s excess sterile cliche to the point of high camp. It's no surprise that "We Built This City" often pops up quite high on typical "Worst Songs Ever Made" lists. The intermediate manifestation of the band, Jefferson Starship, thanks to a sort of revisionist rock & roll history, seems regulated as a footnote compared to the two extremes regarding quality of the bands' 60s and later 80s work. Lost in a shuffle of 70s nostalgic AOR today, but back then, believe it or not, Jefferson Starship was HUGE, revamping itself to more than just survivors of the early 70s burnout of so many classic psychedelic bands. Surprisingly enough, this 'bargain bin' album actually spent six weeks at number three on the Billboard chart.

The question becomes, is it a good thing that Jefferson Starships mid 70s output gets little acknowledgement these days? I'm not so sure, mostly due to this 1976 release. Their prior album, Red Octopus, was a #1 smash album boasting soft rock staple "Miracles" and even an unquestionably proggy instrumental entitled "Sandalphon", but it also was marred by a twangy approach to rock with tons of obnoxious fiddle soloing dampening the overall sound IMO. Spitfire ditches the fiddle (THANK GOD) and focuses on Craig Chaquico's guitar playing, in which it feels like he's almost always soloing to some extent throughout the entire album, and why not? The guy is fantastic and the leads are tasteful and yet don't overwhelm the rest of the song construction even when he's wailing away during the actual verses during some of these numbers. The band doesn't get much recognition for their talent, but this group could friggin' PLAY like serious professionals, and do so here.

The music itself encompasses a nice mix of genres from rock and roll ("Cruisin") to a sort of smooth funkiness ("Love Lovely Love") to Grace Slick weirdness ("Hot Water"...nice bass line!) that's not going to blow your mind, but makes for pleasant driving music thanks to the sort of muted 70s production that sort of softens the edges of this output. Jefferson Starship at this time were starting to bicker, but they still came across as a band in unison here, to the point where hippie-ideal track "Dance With The Dragon" comes across like some rock musical number with the whole band singing and holding hands. It's silly yet endearing. Don't look for prog on this release, but tunes like "St. Charles" and  "Song to the Sun: Part I: Ozymandias / Part II: Don't Let It Rain" have a level of adventurous to them that belies what a good AOR band should be pumping out.

If AOR is your thing though, you have "With Your Love" to cherish. It's one of those songs you hear late at night in some donut shop drinking coffee and wondering where you're going in life...or maybe it's just me, but when I put this album on for the first time a couple of years ago, once this number kicked in I found myself humming along to it since I've heard it enough times without realizing it was Jefferson Starship. It's blatant soft rock, but peel back all the earnestness and you'll be treated to Craig's fantastic guitar noodling that just doesn't seem to stop until the song finishes.

I'm not going to say Spitfire is some stellar achievement (although I will say the album cover is), but it's certainly nowhere near as bad as their 'Starship without the Jefferson' output and is actually reasonably listenable despite a dud here and there ("Big City" is like an inferior "Cruisin'") and probably doesn't deserve being completely forgotten in the annals of rock & roll history, although I suppose the status of being 'not great yet not bad' can eventually constitute being 'forgettable'. It also predates the band's morphing into some Foreigner clone a few years later when their hit "Jane" was released. An interesting AOR album with quality musicianship.

The hit song "With Your Love"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gyp0f8L5nd4

The enjoyable "St. Charles"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCgigT2-jeM


Edited by Prog Sothoth - August 25 2012 at 11:49
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Post Options Post Options   Quote The Jester Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 25 2012 at 08:17


BAND: MADRUGADA
ALBUM: INDUSTRIAL SILENCE
YEAR: 1999
MY RATING: StarStarStarStarStar
Interestıng for Prog- audience? No idea! (It woked for me though Wink) To Rock audience, for sure!
Tracklist:
1. "Vocal"   6:28
2. "Beautyproof"   3:57
3. "Shine"   4:14
4. "Higher"   4:47
5. "Sirens"   6:16
6. "Strange Colour Blue"   5:06
7. "This Old House"   5:07
8. "Electric"   4:55
9. "Salt"   4:53
10. "Belladonna"   4:21
11. "Norwegian Hammerworks Corp."   5:28
12. "Quite Emotional"   4:18
13. "Terraplane '99"  

Madrugada was a band from Norway. They were formed in 1992 and they were disbanded in 2008 after the death of their guitar player.
They are extremely famous in my country, but as far as I know not very known to the rest of the world.
This is their first and best record, which İMHO you should pay some attention. (All their records are very good, but this one is really great!)
I have all 6 of their records, I have watched them over 7 times performing live, and I can surely say that is an excellent band!
Their music is Rock, with heavy guitar sound, (don't be confused with Heavy Metal), lots of melancholic tunes, and a singer with deep and impressive voice, that is matching perfectly their style and sound.
As far as I know they categorized them under the term 'Stoner', but for me 'labels' are of very little importance when it comes to music.
I have no intention to write many things here, because I'm not trying to convince you about something.
Instead I will leave their music to speak to your ears. It is better I think.
Here I'm posting a few songs from this album, for you to have a small idea...
I hope you will like them. ENJOY!
















If anybody wants please visit: http://www.gfreedomathina.blogspot.com/
This is my Blog mostly about Rock music, but also a few other things as well.
You are most welcome!
Thank you. :)
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Prog Sothoth Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 10 2012 at 20:36
Norah Jones - "Little Broken Hearts" (2012)



If people a few years ago were to tell me that a Norah Jones album would someday rank in the the upper echelons of my fav albums of whatever year, I'd probably laugh and then spill their lattes onto their laps, but damn it they'd be right. I love this album.

Yes, it's produced by Danger Mouse, but it's still a Norah Jones album through and through, though edgier than her other works, moreso by her own writing than her producer's input. Musically it's of a professional quality, with Norah herself playing numerous instruments herself along with some stellar session musicians. Being a Norah Jones album, it's a bit of a departure in some ways from her more Starbucks friendly far, but don't expect a grindcore release or whatnot. It's generally mellow, but with some bite thanks to studio trickery and the willingness to branch out into trippier waters. I'm almost reminded of Phil Spector's work on George Harrison's All Things Must Pass album in terms of that echo-drenched effect on her folksier acoustic tunes, whereas her broader based pop tunes sound almost alternative in style, but fuller than the sparse qualities attributed to that genre. There's a genuine variety to her output here in that unlike her first few albums there's no sense that this is an album to cure insomnia.

Lyrically the theme doesn't veer from the formula established by the album's title, but there's a lot to mine from that concept here which Norah pulls off better than I expected. Whether she's ready to travel and find herself in "Travelin' On" or kill someone concerning the haunting "Miriam", the album conveys an emotionally charged situation with a wide array of ideas from different angles utilizing clever lyrics to capture the feeling of loss without resorting to mere 'mopiness'.

Again, this album turned out to be a shocker in that I was never much of a fan of her music despite respecting her talent during the days when every yuppie had to own Come Away With Me and such. Normally I don't wish ill on someone undergoing a nasty breakup, but beginning with The Fall, Norah's output suddenly became something of interest to my ears, and with this album it 's become apparent that I'm now a what can be considered a true fan, much to my own surprise. I wish her the best and hope she finds her happiness someday, as long as it doesn't compromise the level of her current material. I own the white vinyl LP, had the poster it came with mounted (the cover is a recreation of a Russel Meyer film), and damn it I find myself spinning this thing a lot these days. Groovy.

Miriam
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZgkClKE6hQ


Edited by Prog Sothoth - September 10 2012 at 20:41
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Vibrationbaby Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 11 2012 at 10:55
Lady Gaga
 This record is very rythmical. It has a lot of beat but absoluteyl no feeling or intelligence. I guess If Frank Marino or Segovia were playing guitar it would have been a little bit better. She auditioned for Yes once but Chris said no way. But she is very sexy I think. Could you imagine what she would do to a male in the sack. I wouldn't even need her music. But I would buy this record just to gawk at the cover so this is why I give it a 5 star rating. Lady Gaga rules regardless of her sub-moronic intelligence. Better than any of the worst prog albums from the late seventies including that really bad Genesis record when they had only 3 guys because the guitar player was so fed up and went on an insane drinking binge and the got his life back together and returned to making good music.


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Post Options Post Options   Quote HolyMoly Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 26 2012 at 09:46
Jandek - "Brooklyn Wednesday" (2007)



"Jandek" is the musical project of an anonymous man in Texas (
though in common parlance the man is usually referred to as Jandek himself) who has been putting out dozens of cryptic, atonal records since 1978.  His records typically consist of a single detuned acoustic guitar, played in a way that doesn't resemble traditional guitar technique in the least, with moaned, sometimes anguished lyrics intoned over the top.  However, he also has put out a number of records (mostly in the mid 80s) consisting of him on electric guitar, ramshackle drums by a guy who clearly isn't a drummer (Shaggs fans take note), and sometimes a girl named Nancy on vocals.  All of these albums (50 or so of them) are pieces to a strange puzzle - who is this guy, and why is he doing this?  Is this music? 

But you know what?  Like any strange language, you come to understand it after a while, and it rewards patience.  Sure, some albums/tracks are better than others, but when it clicks with this guy, look out.  When he's on, he can find the most direct line to your emotional core.  It can be a scary trip.

In 2005, he gave his first public performance, and has been touring sporadically ever since. Surprisingly, he usually opts to perform in a group setting, with local musicians sitting in and basically improvising a set of music with him.  Better still, he tends to play electric "power trio" music in these cases.  Such is the case with Brooklyn Wednesday (recorded in 2005), an album I got a couple of months ago and which now stands head and shoulders above the other dozen or so Jandek albums I have.  Brooklyn Wednesday is one of those free improv albums where everything seems to work, and the focus and interplay of the trio is most impressive.

And it lasts over two and a half hours, too.  Four CDs, each about 40 minutes long, documenting two full sets of damaged avant-rock.  Matt Heyner (bass) and Chris Corsano (drums) provide a powerful yet sensitive foundation for "The Representative from Corwood Industries" (as he prefers to be called) to explore atonal blocks and shards of sound on the electric guitar (switching to fretless for set 2), usually keeping a propulsive rhythm going even as he steers clear of any kind of tonality or repetition.  Kind of like early Sonic Youth, really. There are 17 tracks ranging from about 5-15 minutes long apiece, and each one offers a different angle on the trio's chemistry - loud, fast, quiet, slow, angry, sad, what have you.  The Rep from Corwood also sings/recites/spits out bitter, depressed lyrics in which self-loathing and helplessness are recurring themes ("I wish I was in jail / Please put me there"). 

This album hits me deeply.  I'd recommend it to the adventurous - but it may take some time to assimilate.  It's a whole different type of music.


Edited by HolyMoly - September 26 2012 at 10:04
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rogerthat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 29 2012 at 06:47
Band:  Alice in Chains (USA)

Album:  Dirt (1992)

Genre:  Metal/grunge

On this forum, reference to drugs is forbidden.  But it is very difficult to review this album without alluding to drugs.   In terms of his meteoric rise and subsequent slide to tragedy, Layne Staley could be compared to maverick rock icons like Syd Barrett and Jim Morrison.   But where those 60s legends let their imagination fly, Staley and the band capture the descent into a drug induced spiral in chilling detail.  

Where Beatles referred to a girl called Lucy in the sky with diamonds and Black Sabbath sang about a sweetleaf, Alice in Chains have no time for metaphors.  Words like trip/drug/dealer are sprinkled in healthy quantities in the lyrics generally.  In fact, one of the songs is titled Junkhead, to me one of the most interesting, lyrically, from this album.   Staley confronts bookworms like me with hard hitting lines:

"You can't understand a user's mind/But try, with your books and degrees,
  If you let yourself go and opened your mind/I'll bet you'll be doing like me"

In challenging the staid and the balanced with such forthright words, Staley asks larger questions of the social norm.   Are we too uptight?  On the other hand, does freeing the mind lead to such dangerous consequences?  It's worth bearing in mind that Staley was remorseful of his addiction towards the end of his life - and it was a sad, sorry end - so this album retrospectively serves as a first person documentary of the ill fated defiance of the junkhead against his imminent doom.   At other times, though, the lyrics strike a bleak note, portraying his arrival to a point of no return. And did I mention that the impact of these lyrics is magnified by his passionate delivery. 

But it's not just the lyrics that make Dirt a compelling work.   Musically, too, Alice in Chains are far from being normal and typical.  It is not so evident on the surface as they sound like a 90s update of Black Sabbath.   But more patient listening made me aware that  Alice in Chains are like the creepiest songs of Sabbath put together one after the other with the creepiness raised a few notches higher.  At the same time, Rooster and Down in a Hole are more poignant than mostly anything you'd find on a Sabbath album.   The same lack of make believe that makes their heavy rockers menacing also lends a vulnerability to their ballads that you rarely find in metal albums.

Also, a trademark of their style is their distinct vocal harmonies...an aspect that particularly stands out on Would.   Their vocal melodies are also often a lot more twisted than Black Sabbath,  Hate to Feel and Angry Chair being  good examples of this.  While Alice in Chains  are undeniably influenced by Black Sabbath, they were so good that they might just have influenced Black Sabbath's style on the ultra heavy Dehumanizer (considering that Alice in Chains's earlier album Facelift predated Dehumanizer).  And oh, they don't have very much in common with other bands usually 'tagged' as grunge.  Whether they are grunge at all could be questioned, but that's what the media slotted them as and it has stuck.  

I have gone on and on about Staley, but Jerry Cantrell is also one of the pillars and chief songwriters of the band.  I also love Sean Kinney's work at the drums.  It's not jazzy, ultra technical or dazzling but it fits their sound to a tee and it helps that he comes up with interesting patterns like on Would.   Mike Starr often plays independent basslines rather than doubling up with the rhythm guitar track, again unusual for this style of music. The album is well produced, with a rich and clear, but dirty, sound. 

Dirt was no doubt the darling of critics when it came out, but it was also a massive commercial success, selling 5 million copies.  Blimey, 5 million copies of an album about drugs....just the description sounds incredible circa 2012 with its rather lacklustre mainstream rock scene.  And yet, Staley's uncompromising account of a life less ordinary makes you wonder whether such creativity came at too high a price in the past and if such is actually desirable.    Perhaps, in the era of musicians who work day jobs, there is no room anymore for the Layne Staleys of the world.  

Rating:  5/5

Prog appeal:   Limited, if any, prog appeal but fans of prog metal might like....if they haven't already heard this one.  LOL


Edited by rogerthat - September 29 2012 at 12:08
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Post Options Post Options   Quote R-A-N-M-A Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 05 2012 at 20:44

Album: Never Hear the End of It

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjhlViRrSFU

Rating: 5/5

Band: Sloan

Year: 2006

Genre: Power-Pop

Run Time: 76:23
Personnel: Chris Murphy, Jay Ferguson, Patrick Pentland and Andrew Scott

 

Track Listing:

Flying High Again

Who Taught You to Live Like That?

Iíve Gotta Try

Everybody Wants You

Listen to the Radio

Fading Into Obscurity

I Canít Sleep

Someone I Can be True With

Right or Wrong

Thereís Something Wrong

Ana Lucia

Before the End of the Race

Blackout

I Understand

You Know What Itís About

Golden Eyes

Canít You Figure It Out

Set In Motion

Love is All Around

Will I Belong

Ill-Placed Trust

Live the Life Youíre Dreaming Of

Living with the masses

HFXNSHC

People Think they Know Me

I Know You

Last Time in Love

Itís Not The End of the World

Light Years

Another Way I Could Do It

Background:

If you've never heard of Sloan, it probably means two things. Firstly, you didn't really listen to the radio in the 90s and secondly, you probably aren't from Canada. No matter, I can fill you in with on important deets.

Sloan are a tightly tuned power-pop quartet originally from from Halifax, Nova Scotia, but since relocated to Toronto, Ontario. Ever since they formed up, Sloan have been a 4 headed monster. Each member contributes their own songs to each album making for generally very full and creative releases with no wasted space despite their chosen genre. Their live shows, often quite intimate now are equal parts welcoming and hard rocking. Theyíre known for switching instruments part way through each concert so that drummer Andrew Scott and take the lead on his compositions.

They first really hit the scene with the release of their critically acclaimed second album in 1994, Twice Removed. If you look into it, it is usually regarded as one of the best Canadian albums ever released. Their third album, One Chord to Another, was a watershed moment for the band.  For a while it seemed like they might really hit it big. Replete with their toe tapping hooks, their witty but often awkward lyrics and generally sunny demeanour they were the ideal band for the mid 90s. Young listeners like myself were treated to a string of hits throughout the 90s and 2000s. Wider fame ultimately proved elusive however and their fame eventually waned.

After the release of their seventh album in 2003, which featured the will received single Rest of My Life, the band sort of seemed to fade from view. 2005 saw the release of their first best of A Sides Win and it seemed like the band had be relegated to nostalgia.

The Review:

This is where I come in. I picked up A Sides Win in 2005 as I was finishing high school and along with the Steve Miller Bandís Best of 1968-1973 was one of their less conventional albums I picked up. It was probably an indication that by that time next year I would be discovering the truth about Rush and the getting my first Yes album. That next year, 2006 also happened to see the release of Sloanís 8th album Never Hear the End of It. I wish I could say that was a watershed moment for me, but it wasnít. I was getting into a whole new kind of music and didnít really have time to pay attention to a new contribution from 90s rock-radio stalwarts. It wouldnít be long before I stopped listening to the radio all together anyway.

Fast forward a couple of years to 2008 and Iím most of the way through university and way into a diverse offering of prog bands now, but I decide to go back to one of the anomalous CDs in my collection A Sides Win. In a conversation with one of my friends, he mentions that Sloan didnít really give in after A Sides Win and that I should check out their more recent release Never Hear the End of It. After about 25 listens in the first few months of having it, all I could say was better late than never.

As it turns out instead of retreading old ground and just trying to keep up with the times, Sloan had decided to chart their own course. Never Hear the End of It played like one suite clocking in at mammoth 76:25. The mood deliberately shifts in waves across the 30 main short semi self-enclosed pop songs which paints one of the most complex and meticulously crafted listening experiences I have yet heard. From a prog fan, I have to think that is saying something. Right from swaying organ raw rocking of Fliying High Again to the dark crunchiness of Another Way I Could Do It, Iím hooked every time.

Along the way the band makes a dizzying number of stops, but there are a few true standouts which few people outside of their most devoted fan base have really heard. The double punch of Flyiní High Again and Who Taught You to Live Like That? which kick off the album is right away among the best of the albumís impressive content. Their combination of is the bouncing rythm and distant slightly distorted vocals set the tone and the immersion for the rest of the album. It is no surprise that Who Taught you to Live Like That is the first single from the album.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avhFyFm3Nj8

The absolute best track of the album, Fading Into Obscurity hits pretty early as well at track 6. It is by any definition, a miniature progressive suite complete with timing and key changes. Not only musically intimidating, it possesses some of the most piercingly self aware lyrics Iíve ever heard. It is a triumphant personal call to arms about damning fame and doing it for the love of the music. I know every word.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2U3IMk12Bo

From there the A side is packed with a number of other soulful tunes and hard rockers, probably the best of which being Right or Wrong, Somethingís Wrong and Black out. The next behemoth closes out the A side at track 14, I Understand. Here Sloan again progresses into hitherto unknown territory. It is a simple, but impassioned anthem which sees loan going for an wall of sound arena ballad and pulling it of very sincerely.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTlJChWXKe4

Jumping forward to track 21, through the witty and self deprecating suite beginning on Canít You Figure It Out and ending on Will I Belong , you land on the hardest rocking track of the album, the third single Ill Placed Trust. Sharply written and even more sharply played it stays loosely on the theme of past success but does it with such brazen aplomb itís hard not to rock out no matter what youíre doing when you hear this track.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GthokC2S3aE

The last super-highlight of the album comes way at track 29, Light Years. This lighter than air bitter sweet recount of to a girl is completely unlike anything else on the gone are the pounding beats and guitar hooks. In their place are light piano and shy vocals. It sends a shiver right up my spine every time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2U-KzqT0Xv8

Any way. After hearing Never Hear the End of It, I see them every time they come to town, Iím hooked. Iíve gotten quite deep into their anything but superficial collection of 10 albums and 2 EPs speard over 20 very fruitful years. The work Sloan went on to do after Never Hear the End of It is immaculate polished and theyíve gone on to some renewed chart success especially with 2011ís The Double Cross. The crown jewel however will always be Never Hear the End of It. There are few albums like it personal, presentable, pop and soulful. One of the easiest 5 out of 5 Iíve ever had the pleasure to give.

Prog Appeal: Medium To High, this masterpiece is pop album with prog presentation and production. You have to be a pop listener first for this one, but if you are expecting more youíll be pleasantly surprised.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote rogerthat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 01 2013 at 09:46
Artist:  Annie Haslam (UK, 1977 to....)

Album:   Still Life (1985)

Rating:    4 stars

Prog Appeal:   
2) Light appeal

Review:



Annie Haslam is, of course, a recognized name in prog circles as the singer of British symphonic prog rock band Renaissance.   However, she has also had a solo career of modest success, which is very much in the domain of non prog.   While most of her solo work was released during the period from Renaissance's breakup in 1987 up to their revival in 2009, the first two albums, Annie in Wonderland (1977) and this one were made during the band's existence.   In 1985, as Renaissance, by then down to Haslam and Michael Dunford, struggled to get a recording contract, Haslam teamed up with Renaissance's longtime lyricist Betty Thatcher and arranger Louis Clark to make an album that could be described as pop-classical/classical-lite in that it adapts classical compositions to pop lengths, performed by Haslam and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.    

As much as I enjoy Renaissance, I have felt a singer of Haslam's caliber would be better utilized in more vocal oriented tracks of shorter length.   The lady herself said in a lengthy interview to DRDP that if all Renaissance tracks were long pieces, she would wonder what did they need her for in the band.    Certainly, Renaissance's music explores her range quite well and rarely consigns her to second fiddle.   But that by itself doesn't necessarily do justice to the depth of her singing craft.     Here, paying loving tribute to the classical masters, she is in her element.  It is a far cry from the unhappy travails of 80s Renaissance and, in her own words, one of the highlights of her career. 

For reasons I'd rather not discuss in detail here, quintessential classical vocal delivery doesn't really appeal to me emotionally, though I certainly respect the skills of the great opera singers like Pavarotti or Joan Sutherland.  At the same time, I don't exactly relish more popular classical-lite artists like Sarah Brightman because I need the 'pure' treatment of classical music.   Take this statement with a pinch of salt because I am not much familiar with her work!  

But this, anyhow, is where Still Life works very well for my tastes.  For the most part, Haslam doesn't overtly project the emotions and instead delivers the melodies elegantly, allowing the emotion present within to shine through.   Where she does emote a little more (like Day You Strayed, which is based on Pavane), it is only in such a manner that makes the music more emotionally resonant.     Throughout, her attack is very earnest and heartfelt and yet smooth and relaxed as she effortlessly responds to the demands of the music.   And her crystal clear diction ensures that Thatcher's largely well chosen words register and make an impression.  

While there's the odd track or two from Renaissance albums or Annie in Wonderland where I enjoy her singing more, on an overall basis, this is her most consistent and satisfying work.   The years of touring have hardly taken anything away from her magnificent voice while they have given her a lot in terms of experience and polish as she deftly adapts to the varying moods of the compositions, from the delightful One Day to the quiet introspection of Still Life to the intense melancholy of Day You Strayed.

I am afraid my assessment of Clark's arrangements is more reserved.   Firstly, I don't really relate to the use of gated drums throughout the album.   To my knowledge, Clark also arranged Going Home for Haslam's previous solo album, where he did not use drums at all and let Dvorak's wonderful music take care of itself.  Maybe it's the era, the dreaded 80s?   Mercifully, he still uses it sparingly and, as I have already mentioned, the mood remains sincere and earnest rather than resembling dance versions of classical compositions.  

But that's not all that I have to say in the negative about his work.   Some of his arrangements sound cliched and borderline cheesy.   The track Shine (based on a Satie composition) has a whispering chorus interjecting the word shine between Haslam's vocal lines.   It sounds fit for a soap ad, you know...the kind where you have the latest glamour girl taking a bath!   But Haslam in full flow is well nigh unassailable and she delivers a haunting performance that forgives these flaws.   Bittersweet (The Swan)  is pretty cheesy too but Haslam makes it sound as distant from a romantic pop ballad as she can with these arrangements.  

Where the music complements her singing well, as in Still Life (based on J S Bach's Air from Suite no.3 in D Major) or aforementioned Day You Strayed, the results are magnificent.   The one track that didn't go down so well with me is Save Us All, based on Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor, because I couldn't help comparing it with the more memorable Cold is Being, which achieves more telling effect with a plaintive organ than the grand orchestra and a more subdued Haslam do on this track. 

The album has become notoriously difficult to find over the years, though I believe it was reissued a few months back.   My copy is a Japanese print (or so I gathered from the Japanese script in the sleeve notes).   It has a bonus CD with instrumental versions of this track and should the voice fail to appeal to the listener, there is still hopefully something to salvage.  

If I cannot give it 5/5, it is partly because of some minor drawbacks which I have covered above and also because of the limitations of this format.  Call it my bias against covers or adaptations, if you will, but this kind of album, for all its consistency, does not to me possess a substantial brilliance necessary for me to hail it as a masterpiece.  However, if you like classical music and are not too much of a purist, this should do very well.   If you really like Annie Haslam's singing and don't have this one, you need it.

 


Edited by rogerthat - January 01 2013 at 18:29
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Post Options Post Options   Quote The Jester Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 01 2013 at 10:36
Bravo!
Very good approach on a really good album in my opinion.
Ok if you have read some of my posts around here, you might know that I'm a fan of Renaissance (among others), but that doesn't mean that I enjoy every record of them the same. But I really believe that Annie Haslam has one of the best voices in this kind of music, and anyway her works with Renaissance or solo, are in many cases based on Classical music. Eitherway I believe that this is a really good record, especially for those that their music tastes are a bit Classical-orientated.
Thank you for the review! Clap
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rogerthat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 01 2013 at 11:15
Thanks.  Glad you liked the review.  Yeah, Ren anyway do have a classical bent in some of their tracks and this album is just perfect for her voice.   It's a pity a few more such were not made. I for one would have gladly collected them as well because it's very hard to go wrong with Annie Haslam rendering classical-lite.  
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Ady Cardiac Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 08 2013 at 06:07
probably one of my fave albums of last year......nice indie alternative folky stuff.....if you like stuff on bella union records and the like you'll probably like this.....
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Wolfhound Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 18 2013 at 15:07
 
Crobot - Legend of the Spaceborne Killer
 
I love this album; amidst the endless onslaught of crappy new radio friendly rock and metal comes this easily radio play worthy rock/metal quartet hailing from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. This is a tight and solid group that lays down some seriously heavy groove-rock with undertones of metal via a big phat, powerful sound. I would say this band has a sound that evokes Wolfmother, Black Sabbath, Led Zep and Soundgarden (and for me, Lynch Mob of old) but never copies them or mimics them; the influences are there but they are just influences for Crobot's awesome and solid rock sound. The production is top notch and the mix is great; all the instruments and the vocals have great presence and nothing overwhelms anything else. This is the best modern rock album I have heard in awhile; if Crobot does not catch on with the mainstream rock audience I will be really disappointed.
 
There was a definite flow to the album for me with a decent beginning, a great middle and decent end. The first 5 songs are good tunes, but it was the middle three songs that were my favorites; the ending was the weakest part for me as the last couple songs are some of the shortest on the album and don't stand out as much as the beginning and the middle.
 
The only drawback for me is that all the songs are too short LOL! I would love to hear some long jams from this group...badly.
 
I give this album 4 out of 5 stars as I felt the songs were a bit too short and I could have done without track #5 altogether.


Edited by Wolfhound - January 18 2013 at 15:14
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Horizons Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 18 2013 at 16:22
Originally posted by Vibrationbaby

Lady Gaga
 This record is very rythmical. It has a lot of beat but absoluteyl no feeling or intelligence. I guess If Frank Marino or Segovia were playing guitar it would have been a little bit better. She auditioned for Yes once but Chris said no way. But she is very sexy I think. Could you imagine what she would do to a male in the sack. I wouldn't even need her music. But I would buy this record just to gawk at the cover so this is why I give it a 5 star rating. Lady Gaga rules regardless of her sub-moronic intelligence. Better than any of the worst prog albums from the late seventies including that really bad Genesis record when they had only 3 guys because the guitar player was so fed up and went on an insane drinking binge and the got his life back together and returned to making good music.



uhhhhh
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