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Old 08-27-2011, 12:47 PM   #181 (permalink)
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Radio KAOS --- Roger Waters --- 1987 (EMI)


One of the finest solo albums released by Roger Waters, Radio KAOS is at once a concept album, a comment on the arms race and a tribute to his father. His second solo effort, it concentrates on two main characters, one of which is really peripheral: two brothers, Benny, an unemployed coalminer and Billy, who is mentally disabled. The brothers go on a booze-up one night, after which Benny drops a breeze-block onto the motorway and, it would seem, kills or injures a motorist in the process, for which he is sent to jail. Unable to cope with her disabled son alone, Billy's mother sends him to live with his uncle in LA.

The narrative of the album begins in LA, as Billy describes to a radio DJ his experiences, and being somehow able to channel and receive radio waves through his stolen cellphone (come on, this is Roger Waters, after all!), he becomes something of a celebrity. His voice on the album is routed through a vocoder, so that it sounds robotic and metallic (think Prof Stephen Hawking), and the album tracks are connected by snippets of his ongoing interview with the DJ at Radio KAOS.

The opening track, “Radio waves”, starts with Billy telling the DJ he hears radio waves in his head, and the DJ responding incredulously. The track is a bouncy, boppy number, plenty of guitar and warbling keyboard, as Water talks about the state of the world: ”The atmosphere is thin and cold/ The yellow sun is gettin' old/ The ozone overflows/ With radio waves/ AM, FM, weather and news/ Our leaders had a “frank exchange of views”/ I get confused.” The song introduces ”Magic Billy/ In his wheelchair” and explains that he picks up radio waves in his head. Great guitars from Andy Fairweather-Low, and that great scream from “The Wall” is worked into the song too. Great opener.

In true concept album style, the narrative continues as one song flows to another, so that there is no dead air as the story unfolds. In “Who needs information” Billy is introduced formally as a caller on the line, and synthesisers and male backing vocals recreate the sound of a Welsh male voice choir, mentoned later. In fact, when I first heard this album I thought Waters had employed the services of an actual choir on it, but it seems not. “Who needs information” is a slower song, with great backing vocals and saxophone from Mel Collins. It relates the pub crawl Billy and his brother went on, and the incident that landed Benny in jail and left Billy on his own. Great trumpet and trombone section on this too.

“Me or him” seems to be Benny's confession to a priest in jail about dropping the concrete slab on the motorway, and for some reason he seems to think it was a case of him or the other guy. This is a much slower song, almost a ballad, and its theme would be revisited in part on “Amused to death”, where Waters talks about the emergence of Man and civilisation. Here, he sings ”You wake up in the morning/ Get something for the pot/ Wonder why the sun makes the rocks so hot …/ Then some damn fool/ Invents the wheel/ Listen to the whitewalls squeal/ You spend all day looking for a parking spot/ Nothing for the heart/ Nothing for the pot.”

It's unclear in the lyric whether Billy has now his own radio show, or whether he just wishes he has one. I think the latter. Again, Waters uses the double-vocal that he utilised on “The Wall” here, where he sings normally, and in the background he screams the same lyric. Always very effective, and very Roger Waters. As ever, he uses backing tracks and snippets of newscasts and other media here to build up the picture. The tempo then jumps for “The Powers That Be”, where Waters vents his anger at the Suits, the shadowy figures who run the world and whose faces we never see. ”They're the Powers That Be/ If you see them comin'/ You better run/ You better run on home!” Lots of keyboard in this, but the guitars make it an angry indictment, growling away behind Waters' impassioned and acid-tongued vocals. Great backing vocals too. The brass section really makes this track though, trumpets, sax and trombone giving it a false upbeat feel.

“Sunset Strip” is another boppy track, relating the circumtances which led to Billy's being sent to LA to his uncle. It's something of a funky number, with a totally weird section in it, where someone runs off a list of fish, while someone else says “I don't like fish!”. There are a lot of references to Wales and to mining in this song. The brass section really get going on this song, then we're into “Home”, featuring the vocal talents of Clare Torry, who you may remember as the incredible voice behind “The Great Gig in the Sky” from “Dark side of the Moon”. A mid-paced rocker, it asks the question what will you do when the end comes, and what will you do NOW to prevent that happening? ”Will you discreetly withdraw/ With your ear pressed to the boardroom door/ Will you hear when the lion within you roars?” Of course, the album is replete with anti-war rhetoric, like ”Could be the pilot/ With God on his side” or ”Could be a Vietnam vet/ With no arms and no legs.”

In the end, Billy manages to hack into the Department of Defence computer system and tricks everyone into thinking the missiles are about to be launched, leading into one of the most emotional songs on the album, with vocals again by Clare Torry. “Four minutes” is a lament for that which is passing, as the Earth awaits the end. The simple things, like the feeling you get from running a red light, or the simple love of another person. As Waters sings ”After a near miss on a plane/ You swear you'll never fly again/ After the first kiss after you make up/ You swear you'll never break up again.” you really feel the pent-up emotion leaking out. Powerful vocal chorus helps to underline the drama of this track, while in the background Billy does a countdown, as Margaret Thatcher declares ”Our own independent nuclear deterrent/ Has helped to keep the peace/ For nearly forty years!”

Everything comes to a head, with a final “Goodbye”, and then, when the world is not destroyed, people come out of their houses and realise that they have had the nearest of near misses, and begin to talk to each other, and love spreads across the world, to the backing of the final track, the exquisite “The tide is turning”, carried on keyboard and gentle percussion. Waters snaps ”Who is the strongest?/ Who is the best?/ Who holds the aces/ The East or the West?/ This is the crap/ Our children are learning.” And in the face of almost Armageddon, the world begins to think about more important things than profit, war and politics. It's a rose-tinted and over-optimistic view of what could happen, of course, but it's nice to consider. A great track, a semi-ballad, closing the album and bringing the story to its end. The track, and the album, end on a rousing chorus by the “Welsh male vocal choir”.

I always love listening to this album. Being a concept, it's one that you really can't listen to piecemeal, or one track here or there. It really needs to be experienced in one sitting to get the full power and majesty of the album, and the intelligent and creative writing of Roger Waters. It's a view of the world full of hope, and even if it were never to happen, we can dream that it would, can't we?

TRACKLISTING

1. Radio waves
2. Who needs information?
3. Me or him
4. The Powers That Be
5. Sunset Strip
6. Home
7. Four minutes
8. The tide is turning

Suggested further listening: “The pros and cons of hitch-hiking, “Amused to death”, and the double-live “In the flesh”
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Old 08-27-2011, 12:55 PM   #182 (permalink)
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In this section I'm going to look at songs which share the same subject matter. They can end up being all from one genre or right across the spectrum, which may make it a little more interesting. I'll be choosing my favourite songs with that theme, though of course there will almost certainly be many more with the same subject matter. Certain “universal” themes will not be explored, such as love, girls, cars, drinking etc, as I feel these are too broad to be included.

The first subject, or theme, to be featured is that of RAIN.

We kick off with one of my favourite bands, and a cover version of a very old song. This has of course been covered by many bands, including Crystal Gayle, Art Garfunkel and Mickey Dolenz. Originally recorded and made famous by the Everley Brothers, it was co-written by songstress Carole King. This is A-Ha's version of “Crying in the rain”, from their “East of the sun, west of the moon” album.


Next up, a true classic from a band whose classic songs outnumber virtually anyone else you can mention. Mention a song by Creedence Clearwater Revival and the chances are it's a classic. This most certainly is, from 1970, this is “Who'll stop the rain?”



One of my favourite bands, ELO, the Electric Light Orchestra. I could have gone for something off the “Concerto for a rainy day” on “Out of the blue”, which is written all about weather, but I wanted to be a little less predictable, so instead I've decided to take this track, from their “Time” album, and a track called “Rain is falling”.


Journey always pen a lovely ballad, and this has added rain and thunderstorm noises on it, so it just had to be included. From the album “Trial by fire”, it's called “It's just the rain”.


Another of my favourite bands, but one few know of, this is Ten from their album “Babylon”, and a gorgeous little ballad called “Silent rain”.


A more upbeat song now, from the great Elkie Brooks, with her version of “Sunshine after the rain”.


And no rain selection would be complete without ol' Phil's song, from “But seriously”, his last album before he went all crap, this is “I wish it would rain down”, with a very funny video.


Not forgetting his good mate and former Genesis bandmate, Peter Gabriel, with his own take on rain, from “So”, this is “Red rain”.


I was never a big Leo Sayer fan, but you can't fault the quality of a classic like his cover of Buddy Holly's “Raining in my heart”!


And of course, we couldn't close without the king of all rain songs, the one everyone thinks of when you say “give me a title of a song about rain”. The one and only Gene Kelly with “Singin' in the rain”. I wanted to get the proper video, but they only have that colourised rubbish on YT, so instead I went for another screen icon doing his version. This is Paddington Bear, with vocals by Gene Kelly. Enjoy!
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Old 08-27-2011, 12:57 PM   #183 (permalink)
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Random Track of the Day
Saturday, August 27 2011

What's weird about today's selection is that only one or two tracks short of where I normally stop, up again came David Bowie's “Suffragette City”, featured on Thursday, so had it been two tracks less then we would have been looking at a repeat. How random, really, is that? Well, if I do ever come across a repeat track it will be ignored: no point in posting the same thing twice, is there?

Anyway, leaving that aside, what we end up with for today is a nice one for the weekend, considering he wrote “Something for the weekend”. This is not from that album, ie “A short album about love”, but is in fact from his third album. This is Neil Hannon, better known as The Divine Comedy, from the album “Promenade”, with “Tonight we fly”.

Tonight we fly --- The Divine Comedy --- from “Promenade” on Setanta


Certainly to feature at some point in my section “The Very Best of Irish”, Neil Hannon is a native of Derry, and has carved himself a very unique niche in the music world. Playing a mixture of pop, dance, blues, trad and classical music, there really is no-one to compare him to, and I'm sure he likes it that way. This is the closing track from the album “Promenade”, a fast, violin-led piece full of joy and delight as two lovers fly over the city (presumably this is meant as a metaphor for their love), looking down at all the people and places they know. It's a very happy, boppy and uptempto track, from an album that swings between a lot of different influences and styles.
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Old 08-28-2011, 09:06 AM   #184 (permalink)
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The bridge of light --- Apocalypse --- 2008 (Free Mind)


A real oddity, this one. Apocalypse are a progressive rock band from Brazil, whose albums prior to this one were all sung in their native Portuguese. This is the first album to contain all English singing, in addition to being a live album, recorded in their home country. It starts off with “Next revelation”, evincing a very 70s-era prog vibe, similar to the likes of ELP and Yes, or even the likes of Camel and Canned Heat. Nice twiddly keyboard with what sounds like a Hammond organ in there too, very reminscent of Fish-era Marillion. Vocalist Gustavo Demarchi is a little rougher than I would like for a prog band, touch of the David Byrons about him, but he sings the songs well.

“Dreamer” is a lot more like it, with its long, very Marillionesque keyboard intro, a bouncy rocker, while Demarchi's flute-playing adds a definite touch of Jethro Tull to “Ocean soul”. But this is primarily a keyboard-driven band, and founder member Eloy Fritsch certainly knows his way around the keys! The sound of Apocalypse, at least on this album, is built around his dextrous and memerising playing, though the guitar work of (surely brother?) Ruy Fritsch cannot be ignored either. I'm personally not for the flute, which was okay at the beginning of the track but now sounds not only intrusive but unnecessary.

Perhaps unusually for a prog band, Apocalypse have not included any epic or overlong songs on this set, the longest being just under seven and a half minutes, the powerful “Last Paradise”, which is in fact broken into two sections, the first, called “The world behind”, a power-rocker with some great guitar solos, almost verging on AOR territory. Then the tempo slows for “The Mourning”, with Twelfth Night-style keyboard and acoustic guitar, choral voices and the prog rock vibe well and truly re-established. I could swear there's a fiddle in there somewhere!

“The dance of down” is pure Yes or ELP, and another seven-minuter, while “Meet me” is big, dark and moody. “Wake up call” starts off as as close to an Irish jig as you can get, then becomes sombre and deep with heavy synth and crying guitar, a truly virtuoso performance from Ruy Fritsch, then a ticking clock and an alarm (wake-up call, geddit?) kick “To Madeline” into life, a powerful rocker that lopes along at a nice pace, more great guitar work from Fritsch. “Escape” is striding, strutting stadium rock (obviously very at home here, in a live setting), while the enigmatically-titled “Meeting Mr. EarthCrubbs” has an interesting bass intro, and that damn flute again, before Eloy Fritsch goes a little looney on the keyboards, a great piano line then driving the song, taking us to the penultimate track, the Genesis/Queen hybrid “Follow the bridge”, and the whole thing wraps up with “Not like you”, a semi-ballad with again what sounds like violin, or maybe cello?

I do like this album, however I feel that Apocalypse are a little stuck in the past. The sound is very seventies prog, the vocals are at times hard to discern, though that could be down to production or the fact that this is a live album. I'd probably need to hear one of their studio ones to make proper comparisons and not sell them short. I believe they have a new album due out this year (may already be out), so I will try to get a hold of that.

For a relatively unknown prog rock band from Brazil though, you can't fault them for their effort, their dedication and the quality of their music. Worth picking up if you can find it, which may prove to be something of a problem.

TRACKLISTING

1. Next revelation
2. Dreamer
3. Ocean soul
4. Last Paradise
(i) The world behind
(ii) The Mourning
5. The dance of down
6. Meet me
7. Wake-up call
8. To Madeline
9. Escape
10. Welcome outside
11. Meeting Mr. EarthCrubbs
12. Follow the bridge
13. Not like you
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Old 08-28-2011, 09:52 AM   #185 (permalink)
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Okay, time for some more instrumentals. Here's another three I really like.

I think to date the only instrumental I have heard from Marillion, this is from their album “Happiness is the road” (one of the first to be reviewed on my journal, as it happens) and a really short but lovely little piano tune called “Liquidity.”


And one of the first instrumentals I remember hearing and being totally impressed with, though the album was largely rubbish! This is ex-Genesis member Steve Hackett, with the title track from his album “Spectral mornings.”


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


There is such a wealth of instrumentals that I know and love, that I will try to feature this section more regularly, but then I'm working on so much that sometimes it's hard to remember to revisit sections I've already done. See below for an example of a new section started only today. But I'll do my best to keep updating this section.
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Old 08-28-2011, 09:55 AM   #186 (permalink)
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I find the most important thing when you buy a new album has always been the first track. If the first song doesn't grab you, it colours your enjoyment of the rest of the album, even if it turns out to be a great one. First impressions last, as they say, and you only get the one chance, so your first track, like the opening paragraph of a book, should hook in the listener and make them want to hear more. If it's not a good song their expectations are immediately lowered and their disappointment will hang around like a dark cloud as they go on to track two.

If the track is good, or great, then the euphoric feeling of vindication and relief may even carry the listener past one or two bad tracks. It really is that simple: if the first track doesn't hook you, there's a small chance that you may not listen to the rest of the album, or may listen to it in a biased way. If it is good, you're going to enjoy the album much better. (Of course, if ONLY that track is good then you end up in my “Nice song --- shame about the album!” section!)

So here I'm presenting tracks which open albums which I feel have right away helped me enjoy those albums, and have set the standard for what follows. It's like they say in advertising: get them in the first few seconds or you may lose them. These tracks certainly do the job.

First up is the opening track from Thin Lizzy's 1981 album “Renegade”. Written by Phil Lynott and Darren Wharton (hence the excellent keyboard solo that helps to make the track so impressive), “Angel of Death” sets the bar for what is to follow, with its powerful guitars and swirling synths, and its narrator being the Devil himself for most of the track. Classic.


This is completely different song, from a totally different artist, but it still grabs you from the off. As the opening track to Suzanne Vega's “Solitude standing”, it's completely acapella and for that reason it makes you sit up and take notice. The rest of the album is great too, by the way.


Kicking off a true classic album, you know exactly what to expect when that piano and harmonica introduce “Thunder Road”, and there's no argument that Bruce Springsteen's “Born to run” lives up to the promise of its opening track.


Yes, it was the single that preceded the album, but even so this is a great way to open Don Henley's second solo album, “Building the perfect Beast”, with the excellent “The boys of summer”.


And to close this first edition of “Head start”, what better way to get a rock album going than this powerful slice of hard rock, with great keyboard intro and slamming guitars, this is “Let it rock” from Bon Jovi's phenomenally successful “Slippery when wet”.


Of course, it's almost as important how an album ends, and soon I'll be introducing a section covering the best album closers I've heard. Watch out for it!
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Old 08-28-2011, 10:48 AM   #187 (permalink)
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Random Track of the Day
Sunday, August 28 2011

Something different to close the RTOTD for this week, it's an Italian progressive metal band called Time Machine, and this is from their EP called “Shades of time”, released in 1997.

New religion --- Time Machine --- from “Shades of time” on Lucretia



I couldn't find a video for this song (or this band!) on YT, so I had to throw together my own. It's nothing special, just a shot of the album sleeve, but it allows you at least to hear the track. Which, it has to be said, is really nothing all that special, though not a bad rock song.

So that's it for another week. Those of you who are living in the UK or NI have a bank holiday to look forward to, so no work/school Monday! The rest of you, have a good Monday and don't work too hard, and I'll see you tomorrow for the opening of another week of “Random Track of the Day”. See yaz then!
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Old 08-29-2011, 07:54 AM   #188 (permalink)
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We've all heard certain bands or artistes do certain cover versions and thought “WTF??” There are covers that have been attempted by artistes who, on the face of it, should not have any interest in, or connection with, the original. Sometimes they work, a lot of the time they don't.

This section will feature a cover version and its original, both to highlight the differences (if any) in the two versions and also to either show how well the artiste did in covering the song, or how utterly they failed, and should have stayed away.


First up, a band who were known for their hard rock and uncompromising sound. Faith No More had big hits with singles like “Epic” and “Midlife crisis”, and their type of cover song was more in the line of Black Sabbath's “War pigs”, which they immortalised on their album “The real thing”. But rather amazingly, the song which has become one of their biggest and most recognisable hits was a cover of a hit single by a smooth soul group from America, who served as the launching platform for the solo career of one Lionel Ritchie. An odd choice, indeed, but it certainly paid off for them commercially.

Below, then, are the two versions, first the cover by FNM and then the original by the Commodores. Make up your own mind as to whether it was genius, luck or chart savvy that led Faith No More to cover the Commodores' “Easy”, and how well they did with it.

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Old 08-29-2011, 08:57 AM   #189 (permalink)
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Random Track of the Day
Monday, August 29 2011

Another week begins, and for many of you it's a stay-home-from-work day otherwise known as a bank holiday. Also getting to the end of August, and the end of the first month of RTOTD. To start us off this week here's some more culture for you. Sarah Brightman is one of the most accomplished operatic singers in the field, as well as being married to muso supreme Andrew Lloyd-Webber. This is from an album I have called “Chill: Classical” --- you know the type, full of themes and the like. It's quite good, for the most part.

Figlio Perduto --- Sarah Brightman --- from “Chill: Classical, Disc 2” on Warner


I'm no fan of operatic singing, but you have to give Sarah Brightman kudos for her talent. This is a vocalised interpretation of Beethoven's Symphony No. 7. You may recognise it, as I'm fairly sure it's either been used in films or advertisements.
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Old 08-29-2011, 10:50 AM   #190 (permalink)
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Hah-har! Time to splice the mainbrace, weigh anchor and set sail once again for those uncharted lands of independent music which are beckonin' to me! In other words, time for another dip into Trollheart's Treasure Chest (and no, that has nothing to do with being stuck beside Katie Price in a lift!) to see what gems we can unearth. As before, all this music comes from self-uploaded tracks and biogs on SoundClick - Free MP3 music download and much, much more., and we're continuing alphabetically (we're still on A)...


A Beautiful Tragedy
There is no information at all on this artiste on their page other than the above picture. I therefore can't say whether this is one guy or a full band. He has a good singing voice though. Some unexpected death vocals in there...

SoundClick artist: a beautiful tragedy - page with MP3 music downloads
Genre Rock/AOR
Nationality American (San Marcos)
Gold: Bending the light in new directions, Shore, We always rewind the best part
Silver: Emily, Call it karma, Take care, Until the day I die, One-armed boxer, Driftwood, Penelope


A Big Guitar
A band from California who aim to have “a big guitar” sound in all their music, hence the name! Their music in fact seems to feature more synth and drum machines, so I'm not really sure where the guitar comes into it... They seem to be mainly a dance/electronica band, which is usually not my cup of rosie, but these guys aren't too bad, and that's high praise from me, considering how little I rate this sort of music personally!

SoundClick artist: A Big Guitar - Ecclectic and instrumental guitar rock combined with genre breaking backing tracks and various other
Nationality American (Californ-eye-ay!)
Genre Dance/ electronic/ ambient/ instrumental
Gold: Actro, Slipstream, Antartica, Serengeti, Time rolls on
Silver: Dynami, Europe, Supersonic, Cascade, Complications

(No image available)
A Blue Duk
I don't know whether that's meant to be a blue duck or a blue duke, and there is so little information on this artiste that I can only tell you that he/she/they is or are from the US, but there's no state filled in.

SoundClick artist: A Blue Duk - page with MP3 music downloads
Nationality American
Genre Rock
Gold: Gone, Under the bridge (RHCP cover), Slow blues, Song A
Silver: Our song 6

So that's another three artistes you probably had never heard of, perhaps never will. I certainly hadn't. But it's often worth taking the time to click on these links, as you can really discover some great music you would otherwise never hear, or even know existed. Plus, maybe in some small way this tiny bit of exposure may help these struggling artistes. Hey, you never know who's reading my journal (of if anyone is)!

Right, we hit a big rock on the way back so I'm off to dry dock to get this ship repaired. See ya all some other time!
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