The Playlist of Life --- Trollheart's resurrected Journal - Music Banter Music Banter

Go Back   Music Banter > The MB Reader > Members Journal
Register Blogging Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read
Welcome to Music Banter Forum! Make sure to register - it's free and very quick! You have to register before you can post and participate in our discussions with over 70,000 other registered members. After you create your free account, you will be able to customize many options, you will have the full access to over 1,100,000 posts.

Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 06-25-2011, 01:19 PM   #41 (permalink)
Born to be mild
Trollheart's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 26,952

The Secret Life of the Album Cover
No. 1: "Fugazi" by Marillion
Note: The original image files have gone the way of all flesh, so if you're reading this for the first time, please ignore all references to figure this or that (Fig 2, Fig 5 etc) as there is now only one large picture. I couldn't be bothered chopping it all up again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A magpie sits on a chair, holding a ring in its beak. This would later come back in the double live 1988 compilation called “The Thieving Magpie” (“la gazza ladra”), but the ring at least in the magpie's beak could also refer to a line in “Emerald lies”: ”And the coffee stains gather/ Till the pale kimono/ Sets the wedding rings dancing/ On the cold linoleum.”

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

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

Is that picture La Pagliacci, the clown from the Italian opera? I thnk it may be.

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

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

(Part 2, concentrating on the reverse of the album sleeve, coming right up!)
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018

Last edited by Trollheart; 10-24-2019 at 08:40 PM.
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-25-2011, 01:34 PM   #42 (permalink)
Born to be mild
Trollheart's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 26,952
Default Secret Life of the Album Cover (continued)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apologies for the somewhat skewed nature of the full album sleeve. In order to get the sort of detail I needed, particularly for the cutaway sections, I had to photograph my own CD sleeve and no matter how steady you try to hold it, it's always going to end up just a little off-centre.
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-26-2011, 11:04 AM   #43 (permalink)
Born to be mild
Trollheart's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 26,952

Thunder and lightning --- Thin Lizzy --- 1983 (Vertigo)

The last Lizzy studio album ever, due to the untimely and tragic death of frontman and bass player Phil Lynott, “Thunder and lightning” stands as one of their finest recordings. It's so good that, if you didn't know better, you would think Lynott knew he was going to die, and was determined to make the best album possible before he went. Chock-full of power chords, swirling keyboards, thumping drums and songs with the sort of hooks that fish get entangled on, it's a tremendous swan song for the band, and a fitting monument to the powerhouse of rock music that was Thin Lizzy.

Kicking off as they mean to go on, the title track finds the band in exuberant form, rockin' hard under the twin guitar attack of Scott Gorham and John Sykes. It's a song that absolutely flies along, a true metal classic, grabs you by the throat and shakes you around like a dog with a rabbit, and does not let go. At the end of it you feel absolutely drained, but in a good way. Turn this up to 10 and watch your speakers hop off the shelf! The lyrical theme is nothing special, no great message, just a get-down-and-rock anthem, and it works beautifully as an opener, and as a statement of intent.

Things keep rockin' for “This is the one”, then slow down for one of the finest tracks on the album. There are, to be fair, few ballads in Thin Lizzy's repertoire. Unlike other rock bands like Bon Jovi, Queen, Rainbow or even Whitesnake, you would be hard-pressed to point to a classic Lizzy ballad. Even their most famous “slow song”, the superb “Still in love with you”, speeds up halfway through. So it's with no small sense of achievement that they've crafted the wonderful “The sun goes down”, which in a really ironic and tragic way could be seen as a musical epitaph for Phil Lynott, who would breathe his last three years later. Driven on an inspired keyboard base, Darren Wharton at his very best, with minimal percussion and a great guitar solo halfway through, it's a fantastic song, but don't ask me what it's about!

”There is a demon among us/ Whose soul belongs in Hell/ Sent here to redeem us/ She knows it all too well/ She comes and goes/ She comes and goes/ He knows it all too well/ But when all is said and done/ The sun goes down.” Despite the cryptic lyric though, it's a great song and definitely one of the standout tracks on the album.

Things kick back into high gear then for “The holy war”, with an interesting lyric concerning the fanaticism of those who fight wars for religion. ”And if God is in the heavens/ Why did God let children die?/ If you don't ask these questions/ There is no reason why.” It's a vicious and powerful attack on organised religion, and Lynott is in fine voice throughout, with the guitars of Gorham and Sykes again taking centre stage. Then we're into one of the very best tracks on the album.

Released as a moderately successful single, “Cold sweat” smashes its way onto the stage, beginning with a muted guitar intro before the double axe-attack kicks in, and Phil steps things up a gear as he flies off at ninety-words-a-minute vocal, relating the tale of a gambler who believes he can make the big score. ”I've got a whole month's wages/ I haven't seen that much in ages/ I might spend it in stages/ Move out to Las Vegas.” In the same vein as the title track, it's a stormer that granbs hold and doesn't release you till the final guitar chords churn out the end of the song, and again you feel like you've been chewed up and spat out. In a good way. Brian Downey's thundering drums add great backbone to this track, and it's an instant Lizzy classic by the time you've heard it once.

Think you'll be able to catch your breath after that? Fat chance! “Someday she is going to hit back” is another fast rocker which never lets up, the story of an abused woman who has had enough. It opens with a powerful instrumental, almost cinematic intro, then gets going and never stops. ”Woman don't like it!” growls Lynott menacingly ”Hurting her this way/ Someday she is going to hit back!” There's a great guitar duel throughout the song, but even at that there's an air of commerciality about the song, though it was never released as a single.

So, after that then “Baby please don't go” has to be a ballad, right? BUZZZZ! WRONG! A little slower yes, but still another rocker, in the mould of “Dancing in the moonlight”, but considerably faster. The guys basically keep their foot pressed to the pedal right to the end, with “Bad habits” echoing elements of “Do anything you want to” and “Jailbreak”, with the brilliant line ”Boys will be boys/ And girls will be trouble!”, then the album comes to a speeding and crashing close with “Heart attack”, again almost prophetic in its lyric: ”Mama I'm dyin' of a heart attack/ Heart attack/ I love that girl but she don't love me back” and later ”Papa I'm drinking for an overload,/ Overload, overload!/ The gun in my pocket is all ready to explode/ Papa I'm dying of an overdose,/ Overdose, overdose/ I tried to warn you don't come too close.” Terribly sad, in the light of future events, but there's no denying it's a powerful killer punch to bring to a triumphant end the last studio album ever recorded by a band who secured their place in rock history, and who will always be remembered fondly.


1. Thunder and lightning
2. This is the one
3. The sun goes down
4. The holy war
5. Cold sweat
6. Someday she is going to hit back
7. Baby please don't go
8. Bad habits
9. Heart attack

Suggested further listening: "Jailbreak" and "Renegade" plus "Life", double-live album from this tour, last ever recorded Lizzy output.
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018

Last edited by Trollheart; 11-04-2011 at 11:20 AM.
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-26-2011, 05:46 PM   #44 (permalink)
Born to be mild
Trollheart's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 26,952

Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of “The War of the Worlds” --- Jeff Wayne --- 1978 (Columbia)

So far as I know (though I could of course be wrong; has to happen sometime!) this was the first “rock-opera” written originally for vinyl, as in, there were many rock operas of course, but all the recordings accompanying them were more soundtracks to the show, be it stage or film. This particular project was the first I ever remember that began its life on record, and then later spawned other media like a stage show, DVDs, computer game etc.

Conceived by composer Jeff Wayne, and bringing together some of the cream both of the UK's acting and musical talent, this album formed a huge part of the soundtrack to my teenage life. I recall one summer morning in 1979 lying in bed listening to my little radio, and delighted to hear the opening track, “The eve of the war”. When it had finished I was more than surprised to hear narration and then the second track, then the third and so on. Sitting up in bed, I realised with delight that the DJ had either snuck off for a cigarette break, got waylaid somewhere in the radio station or had decided to let the album play, at least part of the way through. Now, this was before YouTube, before itunes, and the only way you could hear an album in its entireity was to buy it. In 1979 I was 16, so I wasn't exactly flush with cash, and a double album like this was going for somewhere in the region of 12 Irish pounds! That doesn't seem much by today's prices, but consider that a newly-released single album could be purchased for about £5.99, and you can see how expensive it would seem. Before I would take the plunge and buy this album I would have to know it was worth it.

As I listened in rapt amazement that July morning, and the DJ failed to fade in and change the record, and the entire thing played out before my disbelieving ears, I made my mind up to buy it that very day, and so I did. I never regretted it. Now a piece of musical history, the album screamed class, from its amazing sci-fi cover to the names of the individual tracks, and the gatefold sleeve that opened to reveal a painting from the story and more credits that you could read in one go, to the airplay it was getting at the time. Without doubt, this was the “must-have” album of 1978!

Built of course on the solid grounding of the story of H.G. Wells' 1898 classic, the album alternates between songs, instrumental passages and spoken narration/action. It's all seen from the perspective of The Journalist, played by the inimitable late Richard Burton, and his mellifluous, grandiose voice adds real gravitas to the persona of the character. The album kicks off with a voiceover from Burton, as he ominously intones, without any music whatsoever behind him, ”No-one could have believed/ In the last years of the nineteenth century/ That human affairs were being watched/ From the timeless worlds of space./ No-one could have dreamed that we were being scrutinised/ As someone with a microscope/ Studies creatures that swarm and multiply/ in a drop of water./ Few men even considered the possibility/ Of life on other planets./ Yet, across the gulf of space/ Minds immeasurably superior to ours/ Regarded this Earth with envious eyes./ And slowly, and surely/ They drew their plans against us.”

The music then kicks in, with what you will probably have heard at some point, even if it's a crappy cover version on one of those “space themes” albums, or off the radio. “The eve of the war” sets the tone, with an urgent synthesised soundtrack, piano and keyboards by Ken Freeman, as well as string sections building up the drama as the tune rocks along on a boppy drumbeat. The track ends dramatically, but the theme is continued, and becomes the unofficial motif of the album. There is both spoken narration by Burton and some singing on the track. In his character as the Journalist, Burton describes how, one night in August, strange cylinders are seen coming from Mars towards Earth. Concerned, Burton consults his friend Ogilvy, who is an astronomer, but he assures everyone there is no danger. This then becomes the only lyric to the tail-end of “The eve of the war” as Burton recalls his words ”The chances of anything coming from Mars/ Are a million to one, he said/ The chances of anything coming from Mars/ Are a million to one/ But still they come!” This lyric is actually sung by the Moody Blues' Justin Hayward, whose role is that of the Journalist's thoughts. A strange one, but it works.

“The eve of the war” continues its musical theme until the first of the cylinders are discovered on Horsell Common, and Ogilvy arrives to examine it, but is pushed back by the intense heat as the lid of the thing begins to move. Is someone, or something, trying to get out? Burton recalls how weird it is, how everything seemed to be so ordinary, so normal, up until this moment, and he finds it hard to believe what is happening all around him. The second track, “Horsell Common and the Heat Ray” is introduced on an ominous, waiting bassline, then joined by synth as the humans have their first view of a Martian, as it comes struggling out of the cylinder. It's a musical passage which to me recalls Genesis' “The colony of Slippermen” from “The Lamb lies down on Broadway”. As the tune progresses, Burton's horrified Journalist relates how, after the Martian has exited the cylinder, an unearthly heat ray turns on the crowd, frying people where they stand.

The second track is over eleven minutes long, and with “The eve of the war” forms what was originally the first side of the double-album, clocking it at just over twenty minutes. Running from the destruction, Burton escapes and writes an account for his newspaper before falling asleep. Waking, he hears weird sounds of hammering from the crater created by the impact of the Martian cylinder. It seems the invaders are building something, but no-one knows what, and anyone who dares to venture too close is easy prey for the deadly heat ray!

It's kind of hard to describe the way the music paints the landscape for the story: you really have to hear it to understand. But “The war of the worlds” is as much an album on which you listen to the narration and the action as much as you listen to the actual music. It really IS a story, and whether or not you've read the book, or seen any of the films, you find yourself drawn into the story. As “Horsell” comes to a fading close, the army arrive and set up, and another cyclinder is seen in the sky, heading Earthwards, and Burton realises that his own house is now in range of the heat ray, as the Martians clear their path.

Side two opens with “The Artilleryman”, and we are introduced to the second character in the drama, a soldier played by David Essex, whose platoon has been wiped out by the Martians. He ends up in Burton's house, running from the invaders. He tells Burton that the Martians have constructed massive fighting machines, and are now on the move. The ominous bassline carries the track, then kicks into what becomes the theme of “Forever Autumn”, the hit single from the album, as Burton and Essex both decide to flee to London, the latter to report to HQ, and Burton to seek his girlfriend. The sense of urgency grows as the two make their way across the countryside, hiding from Martian fighting machines. The Martians, when attacking, let out a hideous cry which sounds like “Uuu-llaaa!”, and becomes their musical battlecry, recurring throughout the album.

It's without doubt a keyboard and synth-driven album, and the soundscapes lain down by Ken Freeman characterise the story and paint the picture of humanity on the run. But it's also the vocal and acting performances of people who up until now have never acted that make the album so special. It's like watching one of those old episodes of “The Twilight Zone” set to music. Truly phenomenal.

During one of the Martian attacks Burton and Essex are separated, the Artilleryman running away while the Journalist jumps into the water. When Burton emerges, everyone is gone, and he must continue on his own towards London. However, when he reaches his girlfriend's house, it appears that both she and her father have already left. Then we get the hit single, “Forever autumn”, sung by the talented Justin Hayward, as he voices Burton's depair that he has missed his girl, and hope that he may be reunited with her. You surely know the song, driven on flute and acoustic guitar, with a beautiful lyric that tugs at the heartstrings: ”Through autumn's golden gown/ We used to kick our way/ You always loved this time of year/ Those fallen leaves lie undisturbed now/ Cos you're not here.” The song is however interrupted by narration from Burton, unlike on the single, as he makes his way towards the coast and a boat out of England.

This leads to the standoff at the dock, where the valiant warship “Thunder child” holds off the Martians long enough for the passenger steamer to get out of range and escape. Burton, however, has been forced back, having seen in despair the face of his love already on board the ship but unable to join her, and he is left on the shore as her ship sails away. But at least, he consoles himself, she is safe. The song “Thunder child” closes the second side, and first disc of the album, and is sung by Chris Thompson, taking the role of “the Voice of Humanity” as they urge the valiant warship on to their defence, wish it success and finally salute it as it bravely slides beneath the waves.

When the album was originally released, on vinyl, the first record (sides 1 and 2) was subtitled “The coming of the Martians”, and this ends with “Thunder child” and the escape of the steamer. Side 3, record 2, opens “Earth under the Martians.” There is no resistance left. The army have been swatted aside like flies, the government (never mentioned, but one assumes) fled, and the Earth (ie England) is now ruled by the invaders. The final words of part 1 are Burton despairingly declaring “The Earth belonged to the Martians.” This is symbolised and driven home by the opening track, “The red weed”, which depicts a new weapon the Martians inflict on the Earth, a thick, choking weed that strangles all flora and vegetation, replacing it and turning the Earth from green to red. The synth lines evoke a slimy, writhing red snake, making its way across the planet and choking every growing thing it sees, replacing it with its own hellish vegetation. Freeman has great fun with the keyboards, throwing in all the weird sounds he can, to build an alien landscape on Earth. It's almost all keyboards and synth, with a little bass and the odd flurry of percussion, and some nice guitar work near the end, but essentially it's Freeman's baby.

Burton staggers through the “lurid landscape”, completely alone, until he comes across the body of a parson lying in a ruined churchyard. Unable to leave him he decides to bury the priest, but just then a female voice calls “Nathaniel!” and the parson's eyes flicker open! Phil Lynott makes his entrance with his total star turn as the insane Parson Nathaniel, while Julie Covington is his wife, Beth. The church has been destroyed by the Martians, and the parson, believing them to be devils, has lost his mind and now launches into “The spirit of Man”, a duet between Lynott and Covington, another standout from the album. ”If just one man could stand tall/ There must be some hope for us all/ Somewhere in the spirit of Man.” she sings, but Lynott's parson has lost his faith: ”Tell me, what kind of weapon is love/ When it comes to the fight? / And just how much protection/ Is truth, against all Satan's might?” he asks, declaring fatalistically ”Forget about goodness and mercy/ They're gone!” He is convinced that the Martians are God's judgement upon the evil of men, and have been sent to destroy humanity.

“The spirit of Man” is an oddity: half fast-rocker, half-ballad as Lynott and Covington exchange views on the possibility of survival, Covington insisting ”There must be something worth living for/ There must be something worth trying for” while Lynott snaps ”When the demons arrive/ The survivors will envy the dead!” Just then another cylinder arrives, crashing into the church-house, killing Beth and trapping the trio in the pit it has made. As Parson Nathaniel and Burton watch from hiding, they see the Martians take human captives. The musical theme from “The red weed” returns, and the two men watch in horror as the Martians drain the blood from humans and consume it. This finally pushes the parson over the edge, and believeing he can save them --- ”Those machines are just demons in another form!/ I shall destroy them with my prayers! / I shall burn them with my holy cross!” --- he decides to confront the Martians, and Burton has to knock him out. Moments later he is taken by the questing Martian machine, and there is nothing the Journalist can do to prevent it.

“The red weed, part 2” takes the third side of the record to its conclusion, as the Journalist comes out of hiding and makes his way along the road. All of a sudden he comes across his old friend, the Artilleryman. Not recognising him at first, Essex's character challenges him, but quickly each realises who the other is, and the Artilleryman invites Burton to the place he has found, as side 4 kicks off with the last actual song on the album, the overly optimistic and totally unrealistic plan the Artilleryman has to rebuild society, as “Brave new world” relates his idea about living underground, in the sewers, starting everything from scratch.

It's a guitar driven song, bouncing along with hope and promise, but with an edge of madness too, featuring some great lyrics ”Take a look around you/ At the world you've loved so well/ And bid the ageing empire of Man/ A last farewell/ It may not sound like Heaven/ But at least it isn't Hell!” It's Essex's only real chance to shine on the album, and he doesn't waste it, putting in a convincing performance, both spoken and sung, as a man who really believes he can rebuild the world in a very short time. Sadly, Burton sees that the Artilleryman has made only the smallest of progress, and realises the impossibility of his companion's dreams coming true. As he sings ”Listen! Maybe one day we'll capture a fighting machine, eh?/ Find out how to make them ourselves/ Then WALLOP! Our turn to do some wiping out!/ WHOOSH! With our own heat ray!/ WHOOSH! And them running and dying/ Beaten at their own game! / Man on top again!” Burton shakes his head and slips away, leaving the Artilleryman to his grandiose dreams.

Having finally reached London, Burton wanders the deserted streets, with “Dead London” as his background, a bluesy reworking of the “Horsell Common” track and with bits of “The red weed” thrown in, guitars and sax playing equal parts with piano keeping the beat like a metronome. Suddenly, struck by the seeming hopelessness of his situation, all fight goes out of the Journalist and he decides to commit suicide by offering himself up to the Martians. Heartsick, weary, with his girlfriend who knows where and his species on the edge of extinction, he no longer wants to live. However, the fighting machine he approaches has a dead Martian in it, and it seems that (no spoiler here, we all know how this ends, don't we?) the invaders have been destroyed by germs in the Earth's atmosphere.

The theme from “Eve of the war” reprises as the album ends, as Burton contemplates the nature of life, how something so microscopic as bacteria could lay low such seemingly unstoppable creatures. He envisions the return of all those who have fled, and that life will come back to the city. They will rebuild, and his lover will also come back to him. The final melody on the album is a triumphant march of victory (why, since Man did not defeat the Martians? Oh well...), and fades out.

Unfortunately, Wayne saw fit to thrown in an epilogue, concerning NASA as they watch over the first manned landing on Mars, and we hear the sound we heard on Horsell Common as the Martians moved about in their cylinders. Oh dear... I could have done without this, particularly the annoyingly nasal voice of the NASA controller, but I usually stop the album before this anyway.

Whatever way you look at it, “Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of the War of the Worlds” is a classic album, and if you haven't heard it this far into your life, do yourself a favour and pick it up. It's a slice of music history you'll want to be part of.

Part I: The coming of the Martians
1. The eve of the war
2. Horsell Common and the Heat Ray
3. The Artilleryman
4. Forever autumn
5. Thunder child
Part II: Earth under the Martians
6. The red weed, part 1
7. Parson Nathaniel
8. The spirit of Man
9. The red weed, part 2
10. Brave new world
11. Dead London
12. Epilogue
13. Epilogue, part 2 (NASA)
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018

Last edited by Trollheart; 03-01-2013 at 06:22 PM.
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-27-2011, 12:08 PM   #45 (permalink)
Born to be mild
Trollheart's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 26,952

Arrival --- Journey --- 2000 (Columbia)

So, what's my favourite Journey album? “Escape”? Nah. “Raised on radio”? Do me a favour! “Frontiers”, maybe? Not even close. Although these albums are seen as being the best in Journey's large catalogue, particularly because of the hit singles that came from them, that's not how I see it. I often think a “classic” album like “Escape” for instance can rely far too heavily on its hit singles, and this then allows the acceptance of lower-grade, often filler tracks. It's like Manchester United without Wayne Rooney, or Liverpool without Steven Gerrard: without these lynchpins what is left is often shown up to be far below the grade, and this I find definitely to be the case with the three albums listed above. To my mind, a band's best album should be one which you can listen to all the way through, without having to skip one track. Now, few bands release albums of such calibre: there's usually one or more tracks that need to be fast-forwarded through, but on this album I really believe Journey got it almost perfect, despite the prevailing wisdom among the band's fans.

Even though it was less a commercial success than the aforementioned albums, my personal favourite album is 2000's “Arrival”, and here's why. From the opener “Higher places” to the closer “We will meet again”, the boys hardly put a foot wrong, and it's as close to a perfect Journey album as I've seen them come. Admittedly, I have yet to sample the delights of the new “Eclipse”, so I'll stick a caveat on that statement --- of what I've heard of their output to date, I consider “Arrival” to be far and away the best.

The first test for new singer Steve Augeri, who had the almost impossible task of replacing talismanic singer and longtime member Steve Perry, it's actually scary how similar the guy sounds to his predecessor! In fact, if you were handed this album, and a Perry-era disc like “Escape” or “Frontiers”, I really believe you'd be hard-pressed to notice the difference. The guy's voice is clear and distinct, powerful and able to reach the high notes with Perryesque ease. “Higher place”, as mentioned, kicks the album off in superb style, rocking along at a great pace, Schon and Cain as ever on top form, and new drummer Deen Castronovo making his presence felt in no uncertain fashion. It's the ballads that really make this album though, and people can say what they want, sneer as they like at the “soft-rock”, “slush-rock” or whatever that Journey produce, but man, they know how to pen a great ballad! There are no less than seven distinct ballads on this album, almost half the song count, and each one is a classic. Nearly.

First on the scene is “All the way”, a lovely piano-led tune on which new guy Augeri helps out with the writing, and he seems to know what he's doing: ”Speak your heart and I will listen/ Don't hold back, we'll find what's missin'/ I'll take you all the way/ Close your eyes and think forever/ If you believe we go together/ I'll take you all the way.” Okay, it's not “Who's crying now?” but it's a damn fine ballad. Moving things up a gear then for the next track, “Signs of life” is a refusal to lie down after bad things have happened. It's a mid-paced rocker, with great drums and piano, and a lyric that just makes you want to say YEAH! ”Try to not think about you/ I'm not a dead man walkin' without you/ You know I'll be alright/ I'm showin' signs of life/ You left me barely breathing/ But I've had time for the healing/ Now I've opened my eyes/ I'm showin' signs of life.” Castronovo's drums punch a triumphant military beat throughout the track, and as usual Neal Schon lets his guitar do the talking, even throwing in a cheeky riff from “Who's crying now” near the end!

Things stay fast for “All the things”, then slow down again for the second ballad, “Loved by you”. It's a gorgeous little song, with Jonathan Cain again taking control of proceedings as his fingers fly like whispering breaths across the keyboard. Sung with power and passion by Augeri, particularly the chorus, this sends a shiver down my spine whenever I hear it: ”If I should die before I wake/ I'd go into the night whispering your name/ If lying in your arms is the last thing that I do/ At least I'll know that I've been loved by you.” The following track is also a ballad, but a little heavier and more urgent, evoking a sense of urgency and things which have to be done before it's too late. Introduced in a lovely little piece of pick guitar, “Livin' to do” is a real bluesy ballad, and again Augeri's voice shines through on this, as on most if not all tracks.

“World gone wild” and “I got a reason” recall memories of tracks like “Be good to yourself” from “Raised on radio” and “Faith in the heartland” from later “Generations”, but for me they're a little unremarkable, and it's not till we get to “With your love” (yes, another ballad) that things again click into place for me. It's not that the previous two tracks are poor: they're not, but the overall quality of the ballads on this album forces most of the faster tracks into second place for me, and while I realise it's few albums that would consist only of ballads (step forward, Air Supply!), and you need a few uptempo tracks on any recording, these two just don't cut it as well for me as those which have gone before, or indeed some of the ones to follow. I have to admit though, “World gone wild” features a, well, wild guitar solo from Schon to take it to its conclusion. Great to see the man can still rock out with the best of them!

Once you hear those crystal clear piano notes you know another ballad is on the way, and “With your love” does not disappoint. With its lyric it surely was and will be played at many a wedding of Journey fans: what girl wouldn't be impressed to hear lines like”On this day, to be standing here with you/ There's no doubt: I know this love is true/ See my tears; only you can understand/ A state of grace; I feel blessed to hold your hand.” Another great solo from Neal completes a great, great ballad, and before there's time to draw breath and let that sink in, we're into another. With a powerful punchy drum intro and then the ubiquitous piano, “Lifetime of dreams” is another of those songs you just know people will be holding lighters up at concerts for, and swaying side to side. It's not quite as deep as the previous song, but a nice ballad nevertheless. In ways it's sort of reminscent of Bryan Adams' megahit “Everything I do”...

“Live and breathe” is a heavier ballad, somewhat in the mould of “Livin' to do”, and the penultimate slow song on the album. There's real passion in the singing here, and for once it's less piano-driven, riding along on a nice guitar and bass line, with keyboards taking more of a background role. Castronovo's drums punctuate the track perfectly, giving it that slightly heavier feel, as Schon's guitar breaks out the power chords as if he's just realised what you can do with an electric guitar!

“Nothin' comes close” is a good standard rock song, but nothing about it stays with me the way some of the other tracks on this album do. I wouldn't go so far as to call it filler, but I could certainly listen to “Arrival” without it. “To be alive again”, on the other hand, is an instant classic. There's a great exuberance about the song, with the band clearly enjoying themselves. Great hooks, great chorus, nimble fingerwork on the piano keyboard, Augeri's powerful voice and solos from Schon --- what more could you ask for?

There's one more ballad to finish up with, and it's a good one, though not in fairness a great one. Given the admitted oversaturation of ballads on this album, it's possible we could have gotten away without “Kiss me softly”, but it's not a bad track, certainly a better closer than “We will meet again”, which actually closes the album. To be honest, my choice for closer would have been “To be alive again”, but that's how the disc spins, I guess. Sort of takes away from the general brilliance of the album that it ends relatively weakly, although it must be said that it's only due to the superior quality of the tracks which have preceded these last two that they are seen as substandard: on another Journey album they would probably be hailed as triumphs. Shows you how high the bar was raised on this album.

I would suppose that anyone who was worried that Journey would fold, or be less than they were, after the departure of Steve Perry, had their answer with this album. Although it suffered low sales and chart position, I believe that was more down to fans not giving Steve Augeri a chance, and assuming that he would ruin the album. Perry purists, I'm looking at you! Hey, it's your loss!


1. Higher place
2. All the way
3. Signs of life
4. All the things
5. Loved by you
6. Livin' to do
7. World gone wild
8. I got a reason
9. With your love
10. Lifetime of dreams
11. Live and breathe
12. Nothin' comes close
13. To be alive again
14. Kiss me softly
15. We will meet again

Suggested further listening: "Escape", "Frontiers", "Raised on radio", "Generations", "Trial by fire"
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018

Last edited by Trollheart; 10-24-2019 at 08:43 PM.
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-28-2011, 10:22 AM   #46 (permalink)
Born to be mild
Trollheart's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 26,952
Default A somewhat inadequate note of thanks...

To those of you who have been publishing your journals for years, and have four or in some cases five-figure viewing stats, a mere thousand views will not seem a milestone, but it is to me. When I originally started my journal some years ago, I was unable for various reasons to maintain it and so it ended up being deleted. Almost exactly two months ago to the day I tried again, and have done my best to keep my journal current and interesting. However, while I was busily adding entries after one month I began to feel a little discouraged at the lack of comments being made. Was anyone reading? Was I wasting my time?

Then I looked at the views count and it was clear that people were, and are, reading. Even allowing for my own edits, the number of views suggests that a reasonably large amount of people are interested in my ravings --- either that, or one person is VERY interested, and if so, thank you my one loyal reader!

Seriously, it's great to know people are reading what I'm writing, and I'm delighted to mark this milestone, the first 1000 views of version 2.0 of my journal. More comments would be nice --- can't improve it if I don't know what you want! --- but statistics show something like only 1% or less of people who read forums like this actually reply to the posts. Doesn't mean that they aren't reading though, and hopefully enjoying what's being written.

So thanks again for sticking with me. More sections coming up soon, and if you don't like what I'm putting in the journal, or have any suggestions, comment and let me know. Otherwise, I'm afraid, there is no way to ever stop me!

So a toast then, to the first thousand views, and here's to the next thousand!

Thanks again.

Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-28-2011, 04:29 PM   #47 (permalink)
Born to be mild
Trollheart's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 26,952
Default Suggested further listening....

In recognition of the sadly-departed, and all the great bands that I found out about and got into thanks to their recommendations, I'll be updating my current albums reviews and including in future ones a footnote at the end, with "suggested further listening", so that if you find you enjoyed the album reviewed, you know where to look next. Just another little service for those who may be taking their first steps into the wonderful world of rock music, or indeed, anyone who needs it.
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-28-2011, 04:36 PM   #48 (permalink)
Born to be mild
Trollheart's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 26,952

Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe --- Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe --- 1989 (Arista)

Conceived as Jon Anderson's attempt to break out of the strictures he felt the recent Yes albums (“90125”, “Big generator”) had placed on him, this was a project which involved former members of Yes coming together to record what was essentially a new Yes album done the “old Yes” way. You can tell by the names who were in the project --- Rick Wakeman of course, legendary keysman on some of Yes's best albums, Steve Howe, who left to join Asia, and drumming icon Bill Bruford from King Crimson. Contractual and copyright problems prevented the new supergroup from using the name Yes, so after some brainstorming they decided the safest option was to just use their names. Makes for a long album title, but hey, like everyone else, we'll refer to them from now on as ABWH, okay?

I seem to recall I bought this album on the strength of the cover alone (though of course I knew the names of the performers, so knew what the music was likely to sound like) --- who wouldn't, with that fantastic Roger Dean artwork, which certainly appealed to someone who was getting into the likes of Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo? I bought this on vinyl originally, and it was presented in a beautifully lavish gatefold sleeve. To be honest, I had never been a huge fan of Yes, but I had enjoyed the last two albums, and I liked Rick Wakeman's work. I was also familiar with Anderson's collaborations with another of my favourite artistes of the time, the singularly talented Vangelis. So it wasn't a difficult sell as far as I was concerned.

But the needle tells all (sigh! Ask your parents, willya? MAN I feel old!), so what sort of music have we here? There's a deceptively gentle opening, tinkling piano as Wakeman introduces the first piece of music, and you feel yourself settling back. BAD idea! Within a few moments Bruford's drums come crashing through, the pace jumps to about third or fourth gear, and the first song is well into its stride. The clear, piercing voice of Jon Anderson dispels any initial belief that this may have been an instrumental. As it goes, ABWH is broken into four multi-part compositions, with some self-contained complete tracks complemeting these larger works, but all seems to feed into the one overall concept, and the album plays very much like one huge slice of music, almost an hour in length. The aforementioned piano intro is called “Sound”, and forms the first of a triplet of songs that make up the first composition, called “Themes”. As the drums kick in and the singing begins, we're into “Second attention”, which goes on for about half the track. Really, it's a bit fatuous to call “Sound” a third of the track, as it's really nothing more than a piano intro, a few seconds long, not even a minute really, and the rest of “Themes” is divided between “Second attention” (the larger part) and “Soul warrior”, which is totally instrumental, and runs for just over a minute and a half.

The next track is a self-contained one, just over three minutes long. “Fist of fire” is much slower, heavier and darker than the previous. There's a real sense of ominousness about this: stabbing keyboards, thumping drums and Anderson's urgent vocal carrying the track. ”Through the darkest age/ We could surely fly/ Through the darkest age/ With the fist of fire.” There are some great keyboard solos by the Wizard King here, good backing vocals too (multi-tracked?). This leads into the second multi-part composition, called “Brother of mine”, on which Asia and ex-Yes keysman Geoff Downes lends a hand with the writing. The whole thing starts off with a gong sound and then a slow, soulful intro: ”So, giving all the love you have/ Never be afraid/ To show your heart.” It opens with “The big dream”, a jaunty romp which takes us up to “Nothing can come between us”, where the song speeds up a bit and the theme from “Brother of mine” is repeated, as happens throughout the multi-parters. Nice guitar work here, before things really take off for the final part, “Long lost brother of mine”, which brings the piece full circle.

The way the parts of the multi-compositional pieces meld and flow together effortlessly makes it somewhat difficult to note where one part ends and another begins, and there's definitely no gaps as the parts slide from one to another like tributaries of a river coming together. It's not a criticism, nor is it a problem when listening to the album, as the music is so uniformly brilliant that you really cease to care what one section is called, and just really listen to it as one continuous piece of wonderful music, four legends at the very pinnacle of their game, consummate professionals working not to outdo each other, but to come together in such a way as to almost become one single entity, dedicated to producing the very best music they can.

After the multi-layered “Brother of mine” there's a single track next, but no less brilliant in its way. “Birthright” has a dark, brooding tone, with a steady drumbeat, and chronicles the lasting effect on the Australian Aborigines of the nuclear tests carried out by Britain at Maralinga in the late fifties and early sixties: ”This place ain't big enough/ For stars and stripes/ This place ain't big enough/ For red and white.” About halfway through it morphs into something of an Irish jig, and gets a little faster as it approaches its conclusion. The song is really a vehicle for Steve Howe's guitar, and does he dazzle! It's followed by one of only two ballads on the album, the gently understated, almost hymnal “The meeting”, where Anderson and Wakeman bring things down to a whisper with one of the nicest songs I've heard in a very long time. The gentle piano perfectly complements Jon Anderson's choir-boy voice, and yes, there is something spiritual about the song, even in the lyric: ”Surely I could tell/ If you asked me, Lord/ To board the train/ My life, my love/ Would be the same.” It closes the first side of the album in gentle triumph, almost a lullaby, fading slowly away but remaining in the ears long after the last chords have been played, and the last notes have receded into the night.

Side 2 kicks off with another multi-composition, under the banner heading of “Quartet”. Featuring, yes you guessed it, four parts, it starts off with “I wanna learn”, a boppy, joyful, almost childlike song about discovery and wonder, as Anderson cries ”I wanna know more about life/ And things that can fly in between my mind/ I wanna change all that I dream about/ My waking and my so many lives.”

It's relatively short, about two minutes, but then the whole track is just over nine, so with four sections about two per section is right. Second part is “She gives me love”, keeping the happy theme going and essentially continuing on the same song. Anderson cheekily namechecks one of the old Yes songs as he sings ”Through the gates of delerium so fast...” Apparently there are other examples of this throughout the album, though not being a 70s-era fan of Yes I couldn't point them out for you. “She gives me love” seamlessly becomes “Who was the first”, which is almost exactly the same melody but with different lyrics, until the climax of the track is reached with “I'm alive”, where the theme from “The Meeting” returns, to slow the track down and bring it to a gentle and very satisfying close.

“Teakbois”, the next self-contained track, I could in all honesty have done without. It's totally anachronistic, basically the song of a band forming behind a really annoying Calypso beat. It has its moments, but if there's a bad track on the album (and there really isn't), then this is it. Unfortunately it also runs for over seven minutes, close to but not equalling the three multi-parters so far, which is a pity, as the space could have been used for a much more appropriate song I think this was just basically a jam for the guys, a bit of fun. Not for me, though...

Luckily things are soon back on track for the final multi-composition, as “The order of the universe” takes the album towards its ending. Another nine-minute piece, it kicks off with a powerful dramatic instrumental which goes under the title of “Order theme”, before the main part of the song, “Rock gives courage” blasts in, a real hard-rocker in the mould of (sorry guys, I know you don't want to relate to 90125 but...) “Owner of a lonely heart” or “Our song”. Things speed up then for the third part, “It's so hard to grow”, reintroducing the central theme: ”You can't imagine it/ How hard it is to grow/ You can't imagine it/ Can you imagine/ The order of the universe?” The remaining part, called “The universe” is basically an instrumental ending to the song, a retracing of the introduction.

As side 1 ended with a lovely little ballad, so does side 2, and indeed the album, come to a relaxing close, particularly after the histrionics of “The order of the universe”, with a beautiful little acoustic number, on which Anderson's old mate Vangelis lends a land with the composing. It's VERY Jon Anderson: ”Let us be together/ Let's pretend that we are free/ Let's all be where the angels find us/ We all have the key.” There's minimal or no percussion in the song, and it's just Steve Howe and Jon Anderson finishing the album off in fine style. ”Something that I feel/ To pour upon my soul/ Countenance of love/ For one and all”.

Amen, brother.

There never was another ABWH album. Two years later the two “sides” of Yes resolved their differences, and the result was “Union”, released under the Yes banner. Although some of its music is similar to ABWH, there are no multi-part pieces on it, and it's not a concept album, so although it is regarded in some circles as the 2nd ABWH album, to me it's a Yes album, pure and simple. An excellent one, it has to be said, but for all that, a Yes product and not a continuation of ABWH, although some songs on it were supposed to have found life on the projected follow up to ABWH. In this manner, I consider ABWH the album to be something of a rarity: unique in that it is at once an album by established members of a band, a new supergroup and a debut all in one, and is the only recorded example of this partnership (setting aside live recordings). For this reason alone it deserves to be listened to, and appreciated.

1. Themes
i) Sound
ii) Second attention
iii) Soul warrior
2. Fist of fire
3. Brother of mine
i) The big dream
ii) Nothing can come between us
iii) Long lost brother of mine
4. Birthright
5. The Meeting
6. Quartet
i) I wanna learn
ii) She gives me love
iii) Who was the first
iv) I'm alive
7. Teakbois
8. The order of the universe
i) Order theme
ii)Rock gives courage
iii) It's so hard to grow
iv) The universe
9. Let's pretend

Suggested further listening: “Union”, “90125” and “Big generator” by Yes, “Aqua”, “Aria”, “Arena” and “Aura” by Asia
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018

Last edited by Trollheart; 10-24-2019 at 08:44 PM.
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-29-2011, 10:53 AM   #49 (permalink)
Born to be mild
Trollheart's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 26,952

Here's to the heroes --- The Ten Tenors --- 2006 (Rhino)

Those of you who have read my review of Josh Groban's “Closer” will know I'm partial to the odd male vocal album, as long as it's sung well. The Ten Tenors (or, as I prefer to call them, the Twenty Fivers!) hail from Australia, and as you might expect, there are ten of them. They specialise in a mixture of classic rock and operatic singing, and this album, released in 2006, has a good mixture of both. It's the sort of album you put on to relax, or when you need a good emotional fix. The voices are without exception strong and powerful, clear and distinct, as you would expect, and like the aforementioned Mr. Groban, you can listen happily to a song written in Spanish or Italian without having more than a few words of the language, and still enjoy it. Hey, people do it all the time in opera!

This album, their fifth studio release, is based almost entirely on the works of one of my favourite film composers, the late John Barry. Kicking off with “Just to see each other again”, a lovely little ballad, you immediately get a sense of the power of these guys' voices. Just to get it out of the way, let's name them off: they are Benjamin Clark, Graham Foote, Keane Fletcher, Stuart “Sancho” Morris, Boyd Owen, Dion Molinas, Dominic “Panda” Smith, Jordan Pollard, Thomas Birch and Ben Stephens. Don't ask me who sings what! They're also backed by a great symphony orchestra, but again, there seems to be little hard information on who they are.

It's not really though until you get to the title track that you get a real sense of the kind of emotions these guys can evoke. “Here's to the heroes” is a slow, powerful ballad, arranged to the theme from John Barry's score to the film “Dances with wolves”, and it works extremely effectively. The lyric has a power of its own too: ”Here's to the heroes/ Who change our lives/ Thanks to the heroes/ Freedom survives/ Here's to the heroes/ Who never rest/ They are the chosen/ We are the blessed.” Stirring stuff!

Other standout tracks include two reworking of Bond themes, the instantly recognisable “You only live twice”, also penned by Barry, and “We have all the time in the world”, which, though it featured in the 1969 “On her Majesty's secret service”, will possibly be better known, at least to those of my generation, as the music to one of those great Guinness ads, sung by the legendary Louis Armstrong. But yes, it was also composed by John Barry. Didn't know that. The non-English songs are really nice too, like “Buongiorno princepessa “ and “Les choristes”, but it's their sublime cover of Queen's “Who wants to live forever” that really lifts this album into the realms of the truly special. A great reworking, sung with passion and emotion, and different enough to make it stand out from the original.

“Somewhere in time (words without meaning)” is another reworking of one of the themes from “Dances with wolves”, and the album closes with a glorious piece called “Gladiatore suite”, featuring music from, you guessed it, the film “Gladiator”, this time composed by another great artiste, Hans Zimmer.

“Here's to the heroes” may not be the sort of record a self-respecting rock fan would expect to have in their collection, but we all need a bit of easy listening from time to time, and you really can't go wrong with this sitting on your CD shelf. Listen to it with the lights out and the music loud, and preferably with your arm around your Significant Other. Bliss.


1. Just to see each other again
2. Here's to the heroes
3. Buongiorno principessa
4. There'll come a day
5. We have all the time in the world
6. Places
7. Les choristes
8. You only live twice
9. Tick all the days off one by one
10. Somewhere in time
11. Who wants to live forever?
12. Gladiatore suite: Now we are free/Il gladiatore

Suggested further listening “Closer” and “Awake” by Josh Groban, “Siempre” and “The promise” by Il Divo, “Sentimente”, “Amore” and “Incanto” by Andrea Bocelli.[/i]
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018

Last edited by Trollheart; 10-24-2019 at 08:46 PM.
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-29-2011, 12:01 PM   #50 (permalink)
Born to be mild
Trollheart's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Posts: 26,952

Dawn patrol --- Night Ranger --- 1982 (Boardwalk)

Ever heard one track by a new band and rushed out to buy the album on the strength of that one track? It doesn't happen that often to me, but back in 1982 I heard “Don't tell me you love me”, the opener from Night Ranger's debut album, on the radio, and immediately hied me to my local rock record shop, demanding the innkeeper there relieve me of my cash and place in my sweaty hands the album which contained such a gem. And so he did, and happy he was to do so.

And happy was I when I got the album home and spun it, and found to my everlasting relief that it wasn't a one-track-wonder! No, although “Don't tell me...” is far and away the best track on the album, there are other prizes therein too. But I get ahead of myself.

Night Ranger were formed back in 1982 under the name Ranger. It wasn't until they had their debut recorded, finished and pressed that they found out, rather belatedly, that a band already existed with that name, and were forced to change it at the eleventh hour. As vocalist Jack Blades (cool name, huh?) had written a song for the album called “Night Ranger”, they settled on this as their new name. The handful of copies which had already been pressed which bore the name “Ranger” were destroyed, so find one and it could be worth something!

It's a hard rock/heavy metal album through and through, and doesn't let up for one second. There are NO ballads on it, not even a slow song. The band throw down the gauntlet from the beginning, with the screeching “Don't tell me you love me” pounding its way out of the speakers. Starting off with a double-guitar attack, courtesy of Brad Gillis and Jeff Watson, it's only seconds before the rhythm section, in the shape of Blades on bass and Kelly Keagy on drums, smash in and the song just takes off. You can probably guess from the title that it isn't exactly a love song, more an anti-love song, as Blades croons ”Don't tell me you love me/ Don't tell me/ I don't wanna know!” Eh, yeah: call me in the morning, like, I'll be on the road outta town! It's a powerful, frentic opener with simply savage guitar solos and the kind of hooks that surely should have made it at least a top ten single, though staggeringly it only just barely crept into the top 40! The keys of Alan Fitzgerald make their presence known too, though the song is driven along on axepower mainly. It's a song that just drags you along as you hold on for the ride, and by the time it ends, like the musical equivalent of smashing your car into a wall at 60 mph, you just feel like you've gone twelve rounds and barely survived to tell the tale! Yeah, it's THAT good!

So, to be fair, it's going to take one hell of a track to top that, and there isn't one on “Dawn patrol”: this is the pinnacle of the album, but that isn't to disparage the rest of the songs at all. It's sort of like, well, having a race with a load of good drivers and Michael Schumacher. The other guys are probably all great, but they're up against the master, and there's no contest. Or substitute your own favourite sporting analogy here. Anyway, “Sing me away” is less breakneck than “Don't tell me you love me”, but a great song nevertheless, in the same vein, but with a more relaxed lyric, as Blades recalls a girl he once knew. Again it's quite commercial, almost AOR as compared to the previous heavy metal stormer, and would have made a good followup single, but it seems only the one was released from this album. Night Ranger wouldn't achieve their worldwide fame until the next album on which resided a little song called “Sister Christian...”

Blades truly is the architect of this band. He sings, plays bass and either writes or has a hand in writing every track on the album. “At night she sleeps” is another power rocker, somewhat in the mould of the Scorpions, with a great thumping drumbeat and a weird, quirky little keyboard riff, recalling the Cars at their best. God-damn it, THIS would have made a good single, too! Who was in charge of marketing this album??

When the first piano notes of “Call my name” are heard, you would definitely be forgiven for thinking ah, here's the obligatory ballad! But weren't you listening earlier? I said there are NO ballads on this album. None. Nada. Zip. Zero. No, this song begins slowly, but quite unexpectedly it kicks off and becomes yet another rocker. Bad move? No, not really, as it's a great track, and rather cleverly it ends as it began, with the quiet piano and a restrained vocal from Blades, but in between there's some metal mayhem, believe me! Police sirens, even! I kid you not! Certainly some balladic lyrics though: ”Summer kisses never last till September/ I thought you'd understand/ Holdin' hands ain't exclusive to lovers /Guess it was part of your plan/ The tender moments were part of your plan.”

Next we come to one of the standout tracks on the album, the glorious “Eddie's comin' out tonight”. Starting off with a deeply bassy keyboard intro, it's not long before the guitars take over as Blades introduces us to Eddie: ”He wears his trousers real tight/ And his skin's so white/ He lives beyond his means/ He wears Italian shoes/ That are used to good news/ They walk behind the scenes/ He lives a tenderloin life/ The street's his type/ In the alley's where he's king/ He got a grin on his face/ Says he loves the rat race/ He always plays to win!” Alan Fitzgerald really comes into his own on this track, where his keyboards have been somewhat subdued beneath the twin guitar tongues of Gillis and Watson. It's a powerhouse of a track, and in many ways, bringing side one of the album to a close (hey, bear with me! I'm fast approaching 50, ok? When I bought albums they were on vinyl and had two sides...).

Have to say that after that things go not downhill, but certainly level out a bit. “Can't find me a thrill” is a good rock song, as is “Young girl in love”, whereas the less said about “Play rough” the better (”So ya wanna play rough tonight?/ It's all in the way that you roll the dice/ Wanna play rough tonight? Better think once, better think twice.” Hmmm. Yeah. OK...); it's not until the penultimate “Penny” that things get back on track. To be fair, “Play rough” is purely Jack Blades' composition, and he also wrote two of the better tracks on his own, “Eddie's comin' out tonight” and “Call my name”, so I guess anyone can have an off-day.

The aforementioned “Penny” reminds me of Journey at their heaviest: good hooks, great chorus and backing vocals, but it's still a long way from “Sing me away” or “Eddie”. The album finishes on the title track --- well, the name of the band: there IS no title track. “Night Ranger” is a growling, snarling mid-paced rocker, which suddenly and unexpectedly kicks into thrash metal territory, with Keagy going absoutely Animal (remember the Muppet Show?) behind the drumkit, and the two axemen responding gleefully before the track slips down a gear and fades out on its original beat. Also contains a rather obvious section where the fans are expected to cheer, or clap, or cheer and clap. I guess I would. Not a bad closer but I think “Penny” would have been a better choice to end the album. I

All in all, after the heady adrenalin rush of “Don't tell me you love me”, “Dawn patrol” does its best to live up to the promise of that track, and on some songs the boys almost get it right, on some they fail utterly. But for a debut this is no mean shakes. There's many a band gone on to bigger things that did not produce such an impressive first album. But hey, take my advice: listen to it just for “Don't tell me you love me” --- worth the price of admission on its own!


1. Don't tell me you love me
2. Sing me away
3. At night she sleeps
4. Call my name
5. Eddie's comin' out tonight
6. Can't find me a thrill
7. Young girl in love
8. Play rough
9. Penny
10. Night Ranger

Suggested further listening: “Midnight madness” and “Seven wishes”, though avoid “Big life”...
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018

Last edited by Trollheart; 11-04-2011 at 11:50 AM.
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Similar Threads

© 2003-2023 Advameg, Inc.