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Old 12-20-2014, 01:59 PM   #2621 (permalink)
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I'm glad you liked it, TH! Sounds like you enjoyed it as much as I did. It's a fantastic record.
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Old 12-20-2014, 02:44 PM   #2622 (permalink)
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Does anybody else notice that one of the tags in Trollheart's journal is spam? It's a dead link, but still. Spam.
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Old 12-21-2014, 04:05 AM   #2623 (permalink)
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Does anybody else notice that one of the tags in Trollheart's journal is spam? It's a dead link, but still. Spam.
Is that the musicblarney one? I just assumed that was you or someone else making a joke about my Irish heritage...
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Old 12-21-2014, 04:30 AM   #2624 (permalink)
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Blues Noel (John Zorn) from I don't know, the guy has like 400 fucking albums!!!

Frownland is always going on about Zorn, and I know he mostly seems to concentrate in the jazz arena, so didn't expect to like this. But to be honest I don't know what to think: it starts with a sort of jam with a crowd in attendance, then becomes a jazz piano rag, then descends into some sort of experimental-y stuff, then back to piano, with some freaky bass, sleigh bells, then ... ah, hell! Listen to the YouTube! I can't describe this. Good though. Mostly.

Batty, not surprisingly, suggested a slew of Heavy Metal Christmas songs, but I did “Have yourself a Metal little Christmas” last year, and let's be honest: metal Christmas songs are just that, metal Christmas songs. They're not necessarily weird or strange. Halford, Snider, Lemmy and Dickinson can sing about Christmas all they want, but it does not make their songs weird. This, however, is another matter entirely.


Little drummer boy (Christopher Lee) from the album “Revelation”, 2006

Christopher Lee is of course best known for his phenomenal acting career, particularly playing the bad guy, so it's no surprise (well, it is, but not as much as it could have been) that when he decided to try his hand at music he would step into the Heavy Metal arena. This is from an album released in 2006 that includes metal versions of such standards as “My way”, “Wanderin' star” (remember Lee Marvin, um, singing this?) and “Oh what a beautiful morning”, but it also has this gem on it. This guy could teach some metal bands a thing or two! Class! Yeah. Unfortunately the only versions I can find are edited ones that seem to mix the two “sides” of the single, so you get bits of it and also “Silent Night”. Great to hear, but I'd rather hear the full “Little drummer boy”. Boo!

This certainly qualifies as strange. Can't track down an album but it seems to be mostly screeching guitar and feedback noises with angry shouted voices: punk, one would assume. Not my thing but definitely Weird with a capital W!

“All I got was clothes for Christmas” (The Happy Flowers)
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Old 12-21-2014, 04:33 AM   #2625 (permalink)
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Dear James
Thanks for the present of Sun Kil Moon's “Benji”, but I'm sorry to say I'm with Goofle on this one. I was bored to tears, both by the songs and by the drony, whiny voice of the guy. I felt I was listening to one of those old Country albums where the singer bitches about everything, and the monotone singing did not help. I couldn't wait for it to end, and I'm sorry but I don't identify with any of it. If this is what SKM is like I won't be listening to any more of his material. Desperately dull and depressing. Even he didn't sound interested in what he was singing. I certainly wasn't.
Oh well, thanks anyway and have a Happy Christmas!
Trollheart
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Old 12-22-2014, 01:57 PM   #2626 (permalink)
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Dear WWWP,
Thank you for your present, “BRMC” by the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. I think I keep mixing these guys up with the Black Label Society, so was expecting a more hard-rockin' record, but I certainly enjoyed it. It was just different enough to engage my attention and there were a clutch of really good closing tracks too. Very impressed. Nice one.
Have a wonderful Christmas,
Trollheart

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Old 12-23-2014, 08:59 AM   #2627 (permalink)
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Our last foray into Christmas music cheer didn't exactly go as expected, but I know this album reasonably well and really like it, so it should be a better fit. It also ties loosely into the Scrooge Showdown being played out in The Couch Potato, so there's an added bonus. Mind you, the fact that the Scrooge mentioned in the title of the album is not Dickens' Ebenezer but rather Disney's Scrooge McDuck does change my attitude towards the album, but only slightly. Nevertheless, as someone probably said, what the duck? Let's go for it.

Music inspired by “The Life and Times of Scrooge” --- Tuomas Holopainen --- 2014 (Nuclear Blast)

For those of you who don't recognise the name, Holopainen plays his music with Nightwish, for which he plays the keys, and this is his first solo album, despite the fact that he has played on other projects and with other bands. The album is, not surprisingly, a concept, and is as I say based on “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck”, a graphic novel centred on the mean old mallard of Disney fame. I assume he dropped the last word in fear that maybe people would think it was an album for kids, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if you erase from your mind that it is about a duck, and convince yourself (as I believed originally) that it is in fact the story of the old miser in “A Christmas carol”, then you really can get into it.

Unlike his “day job”, Holopainen features a lot of classical, cinematic style music here, and there's very little you could call heavy or even at times rock, but the album does not suffer from that lack. We start with a narrated piece in “Glasgow 1877”, as Alan Reid, taking the role of Scrooge describes visiting his ancestral home in Scotland, while behind him soft synth, booming percussion --- which I think may be bodhran, the ancient traditional Irish hand-played drum, as no drummer is noted, and this is played by Holopainen's Nightwish bandmate Troy Donockley --- and pipes fade in, a soprano vocal from Johanna Kurkela, who takes the role of “Glittering” Goldie O'Gilt --- who apparently is Scrooge's secret lover in the comic --- singing in Gaelic (don't ask me what is being sung: Irish is hard enough without my trying to translate Scottish!) as the music swells into something of a crescendo.

It's to Holopainen's credit that he recognises where his own talents lie, and does not try to take the vocals himself. He writes and composes all the music and plays the piano and keyboards, but has drafted in some friends to help out, such as Donockley and Tony Kakko from Sonata Arctica. In addition to his work on the bodhran, the former does a wonderful job on uileann pipes and whistles here, while Holopainen himself lays down the most beautiful piano lines as the song nears its end. “Into the west” begins with a vocalise from Kurkela, deep synth and then a really nice picked acoustic guitar, a sense of longing and even trepidation in the music. Great backing vocals and Donockley is back in with the whistles. Now we get harder orchestral hits on the keys from Holopainen, punchy percussion and what sounds like banjo. And is. It gives the song a very Country feel, almost like something out of a western. Other than the opening vocal piece this is an instrumental, and quite long at over five minutes. Touches of the Alan Parsons Project in there too near the end.

A sweet and lonely harmonica from Jon Burr finishes off the song and cements the western feel before we move into “Duels and cloudscapes”, where things ramp up considerably, with swirling keys, skirling pipes and thumping drumwork on, I guess, the bodhran. A marching beat suffuses the tune as Holopainen takes over on the keys, a sort of victory march with some truly effective violin from Dermot Crehan. It all slows down then to a single whistle backed by sombre keys, then what sounds like harp and pizzicato strings, in a passage that does indeed evoke the old Disney soundtracks. A rolling, ponderous drumbeat then ushers in a heavy vocal chorus as Crehan slips and slides all over the track, violin cradled under his chin, fire in his eyes. A big powerful finish then takes us into “Dreamtime”.

As you might expect, this slows everything down and features that most Australian of instruments, the didgeridoo, expertly wielded in the hands of Teho Majamäki with little sprinkles of keyboard thrown over the tune by Holopainen like fairy dust, and we are certainly off on a trip. Powerful synth underpins the track as almost slave-ship-style drums pound out the rhythm. Again it's an instrumental, and certainly conjures up the vision of aborigines dancing under the hard southern sun in the outback. There's something very hypnotic about it, and that's due in no small part to the didgeridoo, which you could never mistake for any other instrument nor associate with any other country. The cinematic feel prevails through this piece too, and though there are some chanted vocals they are pretty low in the mix so I still really consider this an instrumental.

“Cold heart of the Klondike” describes, I assume, Scrooge's hitting the big time when he goes gold mining and how he made his fortune. It rides on sweet rippling piano and a thick little bassline before choral vocals join in, then violin before the first proper vocal in English comes courtesy of Tony Kakko as The Storyteller, and we all know what a powerful voice he has. The celtic element returns as the song swirls in a kind of reel, mostly thanks to Crehan's inspired violin work and some beautiful, sad and lonely uileann pipes. This is the longest song on the album, almost seven minutes, and something of a centrepiece in music as well as story, as Scrooge makes his fortune and changes forever as a person.

The next track features vocals from Kurkela again, with an introduction from Alan Reid as the eponymous character; it's not a ballad but it is slower and somewhat more gentle than the tracks that have gone before, with a really nice dual vocal halfway through “The last sled” and superb violin playing from Crehan, as well as some gentle and effective piano from Holopainen. Again the APP influence leaks in, so much so that I wondered Eric Woolfson wasn't involved, till I remembered he's no longer with us. Engineered by Parsons? No, there's no credit there, so maybe it's coincidence or maybe Tuomas Holopainen is a fan of the band. Either way, the fingerprints of Alan Parsons are all over this in places, and hard to ignore. Lovely vocal ending takes us into “Goodbye papa”, with a sprightly piano belying the song's theme and indeed title, the whole melody riding on Holopainen's piano before uileann pipes join in and then that Parsons theme is back, driving the tune onwards, pipes and violin meshing beautifully.

The choir comes in here strongly too, before the whole thing falls right back to the single piano line, accompanied only by the violin. Heavy bodhran cuts in, racking up the rhythm in a very rolling manner, as the song moves into its final minute. Low whistles attend its end, the choir coming in again, then that sound that could be harp (though none is credited; maybe it's Holopainen on the synth) and we fade out on the choral vocals and a few piano notes with attendant violin. What many would take to be Scrooge's mantra and raison d'etre, “To be rich” opens with lush organ and violin, a slow, stately piece that is almost funereal in pace. Kurkela is back with a vocal performance to rival any on the album, giving it everything as she laments the loss of her lover's innocence. The pain in her voice is almost palpable. Crehan backs her sadly, as notes drip like tears from Holopainen's piano keyboard, the choir adding their own melancholy tone to the song.

“A lifetime of adventure” opens on a balladic piano line, with choral backing swelling behind it, Kurkela remaining at the mike for her final solo performance on the album. Donockley's bodhran cuts in, taking the rhythm but not destroying it as Kurkela sings like a wounded angel on what I guess is the only real ballad on the album. Holopainen again sprinkles his piano notes through the song like magic powder, then Crehan joins in with some heartbreaking violin as the intensity of the song powers up. This gives way to the first guitar solo, all the more breathtaking for its absence up to now, as Mikko Iivanaine, whom we heard earlier on the banjo, really makes his presence felt, finishing the song off with a heartfelt performance, and taking us to the closer.

Acoustic guitar begins “Go slowly now, sands of time”, with the voice of Reid again as Scrooge reflecting on his life and wondering about the decisions he has made. Uileann pipe comes softly in, as does gentle violin, and I think the theme of the opener is revisited in the melody here. A beautiful solo on the pipes from Donockley adds to the haunting, haunted air of this finale, as Kurkela joins Reid in the last chorus. It winds down then on fading acoustic and vocal, leaving us with a definite feeling of loss and sorrow.

TRACKLISTING

1. Glasgow 1877
2. Into the west
3. Duel and cloudscapes
4. Dreamtime
5. Cold heart of the Klondike
6. The last sled
7. Goodbye papa
8. To be rich
9. A lifetime of adventure
10. Go slowly now, sands of time

I've read through the lyrics but I think to get any real sense of what this is truly about, you need to be familiar with the comic book, and I'm not. Nevertheless, the breadth of the musical landscape is enough to take you on a wild and often bitter trip into what turned a young man (or duck) into a miserly old skinflint who had, at the end, nobody left to love him. I always thought of Scrooge McDuck as a cartoon character who was just a parody of Dickens' famous miser, but it would appear this comic expands on that and takes him more seriously. If you've read it you probably understand.

But for a solo project, this is pretty breathtaking. Even those who pooh-pooh the notion of Nightwish may find something in the sweep of its beauteous grandeur, from the stunning cinematic instrumentals to the angelic vocals from Johanna Kurkela and the vocal contributions from others. To say nothing of the superb violin, uileann pipes and bodhran, and of course the piano and keyboard splendour of Tuomas Holopainen himself, which unlike many solo keyboardist's work, do not swamp or drown the other music but complement it perfectly.

A symphony, occasionally set to words, and a fitting soundtrack for the life of one of the characters who has gone down in the collective consciousness of humanity as a byword for stinginess and meanness, the archetypal miser.

Even if, as in this case, he happens to have webbed feet.
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Old 12-23-2014, 09:03 AM   #2628 (permalink)
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Dear WhateverDude,
Thanks for the gift of Jacuzzi Boys' debut album. Not really my sort of thing but it was very enjoyable and very catchy: I heard smatterings of Lightning Seeds in there, as well as some older psychedelic bands that Pet_Sounds would probably recognise. Not sure I'd necessarily recommend it to anyone, but I wouldn't not recommend it, if you know what I mean. They sound like they could have a bright future.
Thanks and have a Happy (and maybe sobre) Christmas!
Trollheart

Dear Josef
Nice one with the Spiritualized album “Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space”. I was initially wary when the monotone spoken introduction started the album, as it sounded very disinterested, but those fears were quickly dispelled and I have to say I loved every track. One of them --- “The Individual”, I think --- tested my patience a little and the end track really rambled on, but overall a really excellent album which I think I will have to review properly in the new year.
Thanks again and Happy Christmas!
Trollheart

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Old 12-24-2014, 10:25 AM   #2629 (permalink)
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Ok, your confusion between BRMC and Black Label Society makes a lot of sense - I was so surprised how on board you were upon my initial recommendation - now I know.

Either way I'm glad you didn't hate it! Happy holidays to you and yours, thanks for letting me participate in this.
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Old 12-24-2014, 12:05 PM   #2630 (permalink)
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Dear Downwthvwls
Thank you for the album “Once I was an eagle” by Laura Marling. I'm sorry to say it did nothing for me. Her vocal delivery grated on me, was very boring and straightforward and I found she did not engage with me as a listener at all. The album did get better more towards the end, but by then I had lost any interest I might have had. I would not envision myself listening to any more of her work.
But thanks for the thought, and Happy Christmas to you!
Trollheart


And finally, thanks to all who selected albums for this section. Whether I liked, hated or was meh about your album, I appreciate the effort you all put in to your selection.

Happy Christmas to you all!
Trollheart
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