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Old 01-14-2012, 07:15 PM   #731 (permalink)
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Another new section to be implemented now, as first announced by Stacey-Lynn's NewsFoxes last month, this will feature collections of my favourite solos, mostly guitar but they could also be keyboard, piano, even drum if the fancy takes me (not bloody likely!), from across possibly a wide variety of genres, though chances are that rock and metal will feature quite heavily.

Thinking about how I was going to approach this, I didn't want to go through the hassle of creating a separate YouTube video for each solo, so instead I've cobbled together a file with all the solos for the first edition and added an admittedly boring title for them to run under. But you're not bothered about the picture, are you? It's the music we're interested in, yes? So let's get to it.

As YouTube restricts you to fifteen minutes per video, I decided to limit the selection to a total of ten minutes each time. Means I can't put in as many solos as I'd like --- some run longer than you might expect --- but I think we've picked out some pretty decent ones here, not to mention some you may not have heard, heard of, or considered would be included. The video is below, with the running order underneath.




First up we have Journey, who are not always thought of for their brilliant guitar solos, and this is a pity, as Neal Schon is one hell of a guitarist. A fact he proves ably here, with a track from the “Arrival” album, a great solo to close “World gone wild”.


His solo album “Sailing to Philadelphia” may have got its arse kicked only a few days ago in the Last Chance Saloon, but there's no doubting Mark Knopfler's expertise and artistry on the guitar, and here he is in his element with Dire Straits, on the closing track to “Love over gold”, a track called “It never rains.” Bit of organ and piano thrown in there for good measure too!


A real virtuoso on the guitar, this is John Sykes in action on Thin Lizzy's last studio album, the brilliant “Thunder and lightning”, with a scorching solo from “Cold sweat”.


One of my very favourite tracks from Frank Marino's 1982 album “Juggernaut”, this is the powerful and emotive solo that ends “Stories of a hero”.


There was absolutely no way we were ever going to leave Rory G out of this inaugural edition of “Fingers of fire”, but what track of his to pick? It could literally have been any one, and no doubt we'll be featuring him in future editions, but for now, I like this one from “Top priority”, it's “Wayward child”.


Not a band you would have expected to have been included in a selection of guitar solos? Well, just listen to the powerful one that ends their classic “Goodbye to love”, and ask yourself if the Carpenters deserve their place here?

Next time we may mix it up a little, or it may be all guitar solos again, I haven't really decided. Wow, I really plan ahead, don't I?
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Old 01-15-2012, 05:31 PM   #732 (permalink)
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Old 01-15-2012, 05:37 PM   #733 (permalink)
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The worm is a little bored. It's Monday, the start of a new week, and the worm has an idea. For the next few weeks, the song each day is going to be picked alphabetically. Why? See the opening sentence. Today we begin with --- anyone? --- that's right, A. Now what can we find that begins with A....?

Today's edition of Daily Earworm has been brought to you by the letter A, with A-ha, and “Manhattan skyline”, from the album “Scoundrel days”.
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Old 01-16-2012, 05:26 AM   #734 (permalink)
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A song I featured a long time ago, this one was rather interesting in that it's a pop song, was a number one hit and yet it's quite a hard-hitting indictment of drug addiction, seen from perhaps two perspectives. It's also been said to merely reflect a particularly difficult break up, but I think the drug motif is there for everyone to see. It's also got a great melody, more a rock tune than a pop one really, with snarling guitars pulling in the chorus which is sung more or less like children reciting a nursery rhyme to music, almost like a game.

The song is by Martika, flash-in-the-pan artiste who had one or two big hits, including this, and then more or less vanished from public view, though she then teamed up with her musician husband for some latin pop albums before taking on a career in acting, and promises a new album under her own name this year. Can't wait. Seriously. No, not really. Martika's debut, which in fairness is all I know of her music, did not live up to the promise of “Toy soldiers”, making in fact the single seem very out of place on it, an anachronism, if you will.

Nevertheless, it remains a great song, a tough look at the world of drugs and addiction, though to be honest no specific narcotic is mentioned, though the word “addiction” is, but then again that could be taken several ways. It's interesting though that the first verse seems to be either the drug/addiction personified, speaking to the singer, or possibly someone who has introduced her to the drug, if you go with the drug motif, which I am. If you don't, of course, it could just be an apology for leading someone on and hurting their feelings. The lines run thus: ”It wasn't my intention to mislead you/ It never should have been this way/ What can I say? / It's true, I did extend the invitation/ I never knew how long you'd stay.” See what I mean?

Toy Soldiers (Martika) from “Martika”, 1988
Music and lyrics by Martika and Michael Jay

I know when I heard the song at first I was very impressed, and thought this lady had a big future ahead of her if she could write songs like that. Sadly, having listened to her debut album through I no longer had that opinion, and believed instead that she had just struck lucky, rather like Nena with “99 red balloons”, and would have no more hits. As it happened she had two, but they don't concern us for this piece. Here's the song, with the lyric below.

Note: The lyric is longer than this, as you'll see from the YT, but as it's basically a repeat of the bridge and chorus I didn't bother reproducing the whole lot, lazy git that I am...


”Step by step,/ Heart to heart,
Left, right, left,/ We all fall down
Like toy soldiers.

It wasn't my intention to mislead you ---
It never should have been this way.
What can I say?
It's true, I did extend the invitation;
I never knew how long you'd stay.

When you hear temptation call
It's your heart that takes, takes the fall.
Won't you come out and play with me?

Step by step,/ Heart to heart,
Left, right, left,/ We all fall down
Like toy soldiers.

Bit by bit,/ Torn apart:
We never win/ But the battle wages on
For toy soldiers.

It's getting hard to wake up in the morning.
My head is spinning constantly:
How can it be?
How could I be so blind to this addiction?
If I don't stop, the next one's gonna be me.

Only emptiness remains:
It replaces all of the pain.
Won't you come out and play with me?”
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Old 01-16-2012, 05:33 AM   #735 (permalink)
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Planetary confinement --- Antimatter --- 2005 (Prophecy)


A solo project orginally put together by Mick Moss, Antimatter became a duo, with the addition of Anathema's Duncan Patterson for three albums, after which he left, leaving Moss to continue on his own. Their musical style changed over the course of three albums, with the sound more or less coalescing in this, their third album. The picture on the sleeve tells the story of the music, almost a physical motif for or representation of what you will find inside. Two strands of barbed wire cut a grey, dark, sullen skyline: loneliness, despair, isolation and pain are what you'll encounter on this album, but it's played and composed so perfectly and in such a fragile way that you can't help but be drawn to it.

It opens on solo piano, for a very short instrumental which forms the title track, then “The weight of the world” is another acoustic number, but this time with vocals from Moss. Very laidback, very melancholic, good clear vocals from Moss, very atmospheric as he asks ”Am I the only one/ Crushed by the weight of the world?” Halfway through the song becomes a bit more fleshed out, with drums and lovely mournful violin from Rachel Brewster. An odd situation: of the nine tracks on this album, they seem to be split down the middle both in terms of songwriting and of performance. Moss claims four, Patterson the other four, and the remaining song is a cover of Trouble's "Mr. White". They don't appear, from what I can see, to play on or get involved with each other's music, so that the album seems to come across as essentially two solo projects on one album.

Nice change in vocals then with a female voice from Amelie Festa for “Line of fire”, one of Patterson's compositions, another eerie acoustic song, with nice piano and echoey guitar. A recurring line of low, sparkling keyboard underpins the song, adding another dimension to its already somewhat downbeat tone, and djembe drums from Alex Mazarguil just set the whole thing off perfectly. Next up is another of Moss's efforts, with Brewster's soft violins bringing “Epitaph” in on a sad wail, counterpointed by Moss's acoustic guitar and little if any percussion.

It doesn't seem to be an album you listen to to cheer you up; it's quite morose, slow and dark, and each of the singers have their own take on the somewhat nihilistic timbre of the songs, each bringing his own particular vision to the project. It's hard to say who's better, and perhaps more fair to say that each have their own approach to the songs, and that neither supercedes the other. It's certainly stark, stripped-down and basic, but just about every song seems to work.

The violin is again heavily featured in the cover of Trouble's “Mr. White”, with doomy bass and piano, and vocals this time again taken by Festa, and a very good job she does with it too. Then it's back to Moss for another of his contributions, “Portrait of the young man as an artist”, with more solid acoustic guitar and slightly more forceful vocals, which he takes himself, a lot of simmering anger and outrage it would seem in the lyric as he berates a rising star and asks him ”What's real about this story?/ What's real about this picture?” --- quite possibly meant to be himself asking himself, I guess, challenging his own talent or his own perception of it. Hard to say. But a very decent song.

“Relapse”, then, is another from Patterson's songbook, opening on eerie keyboard, slowly joined by acoustic guitar which fades in, then organ takes the melody as Amelie Festa again sings the vocal, the guitar taking on a certain “Stairway to Heaven” tune with flute-like keyboards from Mehdi Messouci, and the organ sound permeating the whole thing like a funeral dirge. If there's such a thing as acoustic doom metal (and there probably is) then this would be what I would expect it would sound like. Stripped of electric guitars, roared or screamed vocals and with hardly any percussion at all, this could be the very essence of dark music distilled right down to its basic components. Musical melancholy in a jar?

“Legions” is the last song on the album by Michael Moss, and one of the longer ones, though not the longest, not yet. Joined here on vocals by Sue Marshall, Moss does a fine job painting his own dark vision of the world, as he sings ”Stony and grey is the whore/ And long are the days in the morgue/ Where God is a wall/ Where God is a wall to look upon.” The acoustic guitar gets quite intense on this song, as I say, Moss's last on the album, and Rachel Brewster's violin thrusts and parries with his melody as the song winds on, possibly the most solid drumming on this track that appears all through the album, almost, but not quite, lifting “Legions” out of the confines of acousticity.

The longest track has been saved for last. I'm no fan of Anathema, but I believe “Eternity part 24” is a direct continuation of parts 1-3, which appear on their album “Eternity”. It opens with a long acoustic guitar intro quite reminiscent to me of Mostly Autumn, of all bands, then the keyboards take the melody in a long, held chord while another keyboard line keeps countermelody beneath it, keeping pace as the music moves along in almost celestial majesty. An eight, almost nine-minute instrumental to close an album is a bold move, but then, from what has gone before it seems obvious that Antimatter did not concern themselves too much with what would sell, or please others. This is purely introspective, personal music, written by and for Moss and Patterson, and if others enjoy it that's a plus. If not, I doubt they're worried.

This is my first encounter with this type of music, and I don't know what I'd term it: ambient doom metal? Gothic ballads? Acoustic black depressive? Whatever the label --- if it falls under one --- the lyrics really are secondary to the simplicity and yet beauty of the music. With a stark, raw production and very little instrumentation, Antimatter have perhaps managed to define and capture what is intrinsic to the very best music, that it doesn't all have to be pristine production, multi-tracked vocals and orchestral backing to make some of, truly, the most amazing and impressive, deep and moving music I have heard in a very long time.

TRACKLISTING

1. Planetary confinement
2. The weight of the world
3. Line of fire
4. Epitaph
5. Mr. White
6. A portrait of the young man as an artist
7. Relapse
8. Legions
9. Eternity, part 24
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Old 01-16-2012, 07:01 PM   #736 (permalink)
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Old 01-16-2012, 07:05 PM   #737 (permalink)
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Continuing the worm's perhaps ill-advised attempt to alphabeticise the tracks for the next few weeks, here's his selection for today, the letter B. The worm didn't want to go too obvious, so try this one on for size.

Today's Daily Earworm was brought to you by the letter B, with Big Audio Dynamite, and “E=MC2”
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Old 01-17-2012, 06:08 PM   #738 (permalink)
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Old 01-17-2012, 06:12 PM   #739 (permalink)
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So we're up to C already? Haven't the days just flown. No? You just ask the worm's friend, Mister Snail, see what he says! Anyway, here's a good one from China Crisis.

Today's Daily Earworm was brought to you by the letter C, with China Crisis, “King in a catholic style”.
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Old 01-17-2012, 07:21 PM   #740 (permalink)
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Surface tension --- Clockwork --- 1999 (Sensory)


Progressive jazz metal, did you say? Interesting indeed. This is the only album I can find by this band, and as it was released over ten years ago, it's probably safe to assume they are no longer together, but I can find little or no information on them on the web, not least because of the title of their album, which keeps leading me to scientific websites! So let's have a listen then and make up our own minds.

“Secrets of centuries” opens on a solo piano, joined by keyboards and then breaks out with metal-style guitars and choral voices, then vocalist Douglas Joseph Matthew Gillin (yeah, he uses all four names apparently) begins singing, and I must say I find his voice either a little weak, or low down in the mix. It certainly doesn't grab your attention, and this is with the music basically dropping back to basic piano and guitar when he sings most of the time. Nice guitar solo from M. Thomas Gammarino, the keyboard line held by Chris Pignatelli, or possibly Gillin, as he also plays the keys, in addition to flute, percussion and of course vocals.

There's a nice keyboard break near the end, reminscent of Yes or Asia, but other than that I have to say I'm singularly unimpressed so far. The sound is like that of a demo tape, or some band practicing in their garage. Haven't these guys heard of production? Incidentally, who produced this? Doesn't say. How interesting. No-one wanted to take the blame, (cough) I mean credit! “One wing” doesn't change my opinion. Confused melody, lots of guitars battling each other but seem to be crossing over instead of working together, giving the whole thing a very disjointed sound. I still hear nothing that stands out.

It's quite surprising, to look at the other reviews of this album, to see that they uniformly not only like it, but love it! But hey, this is my opinion and it ain't gonna be swayed by what anyone else says, or thinks. I'm not impressed, though there are some nice keyboard and some nice guitar moments on the second track --- at one point, the guitars actually manage to harmonise, and then they do in fairness sound pretty good. Acoustic guitar introduces “East of knowing”, then squeaky keyboard blasts in, the melody stopping and starting like a cheap car. Actually, it may be Spanish guitar, not acoustic, and it does keep pace nicely with the keys as the song goes on, but I feel the keyboards are a little out of place, making the song something it isn't, or should not be. It's short, just a second shy of three minutes, and an instrumental, and for what it is it isn't the worst, though I've yet to hear anything to get excited about on this album.

“If these walls could talk” is a much heavier prospect than any of the tracks so far, and again it's not bad but nothing about it stands out to me. The vocals are not great, not very strong, and the addition of flute to the song does nothing for it at all, though the little guitar break at about 3:30 in the song is quite nice. It sort of morphs after that into a Genesis/Yes hybrid, with squalling guitars and keyboards that are just let run riot to be honest. I really think Clockwork should have thought more about the arrangement of their songs before putting this album together: it's just so all over the place!

There's an interesting jazz/fusion track then in “The guardin' of Eden”, (ho ho guys, you have a sense of humour. But that alone won't get you through an album...) but again Gillin's vocals are so weak that the backing vocals, when they come, outshine him totally. That's not a good position for a lead singer to find himself in. I also repeat my assertation that the terrible production of the album has a lot to do with its muggy sound, and takes away any chance to hear these guys at perhaps their best. Then again, maybe this is as good as they get: perhaps there's a reason why they only seem to have released the one album before splitting.

I'm at that point again where I hate to be, when I'm not so much listening to the album as waiting (praying) for it to end. There are three tracks left, and I just hope that there's something to grab my attention and give me something kind to say about Clockwork, because I hate to be so negative, but this album sucks! Well, on to the next track, which is called “The convolution box”, don't ask me why, but it opens on a heavy guitar and keyboard intro, getting into something of a metal groove as it takes off, and maybe this could be the one? Nice bit of piano there too, not bad so far. Lovely little guitar passage, okay... over four minutes without Gillin singing, half the song, can't be bad. That Spanish guitar is back for a little cameo before the electric and the keys take the melody away again, and even the drummer sounds like he's having fun. More than I am, but anyway...

Six minutes of eight, and still no singing. It's an instrumental then. Fairly ambitious, to have such a long one, but they do fairly okay with it. It's nothing mad special, but it's not terrible either, and that's about the most positive comment I can make about this album at this point. If I turn my head to the left, there's a paused picture on my TV showing a man with his hands clapped over his ears as he listens to some kids' choir or something. He looks in pain, and I know how he feels! This album isn't, in fairness, awful, but it's really not far from it.

Nice progressive-rock style intro to “Smile under sad eyes”, then we're subjected sadly to the below-par singing of Douglas Joseph Matthew Gillin, and worse, his goddamned flute, which is really getting on my nerves! To be fair to the guy, his vocals are a little stronger here, for the first time, and there's a nice melody hiding in there somewhere, but it's lost among the different ways the guys approach the song, mad guitar solos, flying keyboards and THAT DAMN FLUTE! The closer is their epic, almost thirteen minutes long! Can I survive it? “Design of enlightenment” opens on bass and dramatic, strings-like keyboards, with pizzicato strings added and some rolling drumbeats, then takes off into a high-powered rocker, but it doesn't stay like that for long, and I think the problem here is that the guys try to cram too many different ideas into the song, maybe to fill it up, I don't know. But if you're going to write a song of this length you should have a good idea where it's going, what's going to be in it, and this all sounds like it's almost being done on the fly. I'm sure it's not, it just doesn't sound cohesive enough to me. There are some good ideas in the song, but they're not fleshed out properly or enough, and it becomes another confusing mess, with, it must be said, some very good individual performances, like Gammarino's acoustic and Spanish guitar, and Gillin's sparkling keyboards that run through the composition, but it never settles into any real sort of permanent groove, almost as if they're trying to imitate the prog-rock classic epics like “2112”, “Supper's ready” and “Tarkus”, but without any of the innovation, discipline or vision of Rush, Genesis or ELP.

In the end, I'm glad to just ride out the last five minutes of the song as the album staggers to a conclusion, and I can only wonder what the other reviewers saw in this? Maybe I'm totally wrong, and maybe I'm missing something, but I'm actually sorry I listened to this. That's close to an hour of my life I'll never get back. Well, that's the chance you take, but before I say anything more about them and offend their fans, I'll just stop here and leave it at that.

TRACKLISTING

1. Secrets of centuries
2. One wing
3. East of knowing
4. If these walls could talk
5. The guardin' of Eden
6. The convolution box
7. Smile under sad eyes
8. Design of enlightenment
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