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Old 12-05-2016, 10:53 AM   #111 (permalink)
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OK, that's enough fun for you for now. Back over the wall and into the garden; there's work to be done!

Album title: Abbey Road
Artiste: The Beatles
Nationality: British
Label: EMI
Year: 1969
Grade: C
Landmark value: As far as the crawling ones were concerned, their penultimate record together. As far as prog is concerned, don't know but not expecting too much.
Tracklisting: Come together/ Something/ Maxwell's silver hammer/ Oh! Darling/ Octopus's garden/ I want you (She's so heavy)/ Here comes the sun/ Because/ Medley (You never give me your money/ Sun king/ Mean Mr Mustard/ Polythene Pam/ She came in through the bathroom window/ Golden slumbers/ Carry that weight/ The end)
Comments: You know, I get it: the Beatles are an institution and some people revere them as gods, but it constantly annoys me the minutiae some of the articles are concerned with. Instead of just a track listing, every song (and I mean every song) has to be dissected to the nth degree! Anyway, even if you somehow were not aware of this album you would certainly recognise the cover, which has become so iconic it has been parodied, copied and reproduced to death, and yet, like so many good album covers, it's the very simplest of ideas: four guys walking on a Zebra crossing. But despite, or perhaps even because of that, it has become instantly recognisable.

All right, even I know “Come together”, with its hollow percussion and its tinny vocal from McCartney, one of their many hits, with some smooth electric guitar and funky organ and “Something” has also gone down in history as another hit, a love ballad this time with an instantly recognisable guitar melody at the end of the chorus. It's really nice, but again it's not prog, and neither is “Maxwell's silver hammer”, with its sort of twenties style, maybe a bit of Barrett there too. Interestingly, it appears to be a song about murder, which is certainly not alluded to in the music, which is breezy, upbeat and cheerful. A joke perhaps? It's doo-wop then for “Oh! Darling” which is really nice, but here we are almost at the end of the first side and I couldn't point to a single song or even idea that had any influence on prog, so far as I can see. I must admit I'm enjoying the album on its own merits, however.

I've always loved “Octopus's garden”, ever since I heard Kermit sing it on Sesame Street! It has the very off-kilter weird vibe of Yellow Submarine and is great fun, with a sort of Hawaiian/islands flavour and of course you can't take it seriously. Side one then comes to an end with the longest track, “I want you (She's so heavy)”, and this could be where the prog rock influences start to leak in. Meh, sounds more like jazz or jazz fusion to me, and very repetitive. I guess for the time it would have been seen as new and exciting, bold and daring and possibly linked to the new prog bands coming up. Not so sure myself. It's actually the first song on the album I haven't enjoyed; sounds very indulgent. Hey, maybe it is prog after all! And they used a Moog, so there is that I guess. Actually you know, I've changed my mind. That ending instrumental was pretty prog and I grew to like it.

“Here comes the sun” kicks off side two, and is one of only two songs before the long medley that completes the album. Another well known hit, it's a happy little tune which is of course very catchy, while “Because” is a really nice little ballad with sort of Byrds overtones, sweet vocal harmonies and into the medley, which is by turns nice and relaxing, a bit boppy but again nothing I could honestly call close to prog. “Sun king” in particular is really laidback and pleasant, “Mean Mr Mustard” is meh, “Polythene Pam” much the same; a basic rock bopper, very short as all of these tracks are. “She came in through the bathroom window” is better, with some nice harmonies, and “Golden slumbers” is a lovely piano-led ballad with orchestal backing. That leaves us with “Carry that weight”, which I know and is very powerful and anthemic, linking in with “You never give me your money”, which opened this selection and leading to the appropriately-titled “The end”, the longest in the medley. It's a fast, rocky guitar piece with a very powerful message at the end (sorry) ”The love you take is equal to the love you make.”

Favourite track(s): Everything
Least favourite track(s): Nothing
Overall impression: Odd indeed. A Beatles album without a single bad track. No, I don't mean that's odd; I mean it's odd that I should like every single track, and I'm not a Beatles fan. But from a personal standpoint, I loved the bones off this album. From a prog standpoint, not so much. I don't see anything bar the possible use of the segueing medley at the end and the track “I want you (She's so heavy)” to justify this being an influence on prog in any way. So given my personal enjoyment of the album, the final rating below might be taken as slightly skewed.
Personal Rating:
Legacy Rating:
Final Rating:
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Old 12-05-2016, 11:02 AM   #112 (permalink)
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I think that Abbey Road had a lot on influence on prog as far as recording techniques and mixing goes, but the rock element is really the only vague musical thing you'd find in common with most prog bands.
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Old 12-05-2016, 11:05 AM   #113 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Frownland View Post
I think that Abbey Road had a lot on influence on prog as far as recording techniques and mixing goes, but the rock element is really the only vague musical thing you'd find in common with most prog bands.
Okay, yeah, that's a good point. Perhaps it would be more accurate though to say that such techniques had an effect on music overall, as I'm sure prog was not the only genre that made use of them as time went on.
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Old 12-05-2016, 11:06 AM   #114 (permalink)
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Okay, yeah, that's a good point. Perhaps it would be more accurate though to say that such techniques had an effect on music overall, as I'm sure prog was not the only genre that made use of them as time went on.
True, but over the top studio work has kind of become a staple of prog, no?
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Old 12-05-2016, 12:36 PM   #115 (permalink)
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True, but over the top studio work has kind of become a staple of prog, no?
Well yes, but then what's over the top? Hip-hop albums now have a million producers and use all sorts of recording tech. The likes of The Art of Noise and Kraftwerk used computers. Current pop music is digitally processed to death. Then there's electronic and new-wave, which used techniques prog never touched, like sampling and such, and often dispensing with guitar altogether, which I don't believe prog ever did. I imagine that yes, prog probably used what was seen at the time as new, initially more than other genres, but then other types of music caught up. Whereas just about nobody used mellotrons or Moogs in their music, or sliced up time signatures or used weird lyrics, at the time; these elements are more the kind of things I can point to as nudging prog rock along. I'm also not very versed in recording tech and its history, so it's hard to place it in the overall scheme of things. Any help you can offer in that area would be welcomed.
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Old 12-05-2016, 12:42 PM   #116 (permalink)
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I'm aware that non prog bands use a lot of production. In this instance, I was talking about how prog quite typically has very layered, clean, and occasionally lifeless production (since that's not really the focus of some bands). It is noted for its influence on all of music but it also makes sense to bring up something that left a massive print on prog within the wider sphere of music.

Sort of like the synthesizer. Loads of non prog bands use them, but isn't it important to note their relevant impact on the genre?
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Old 12-05-2016, 01:11 PM   #117 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Frownland View Post
I'm aware that non prog bands use a lot of production. In this instance, I was talking about how prog quite typically has very layered, clean, and occasionally lifeless production (since that's not really the focus of some bands). It is noted for its influence on all of music but it also makes sense to bring up something that left a massive print on prog within the wider sphere of music.

Sort of like the synthesizer. Loads of non prog bands use them, but isn't it important to note their relevant impact on the genre?
As our friend Ki would say, fair point. This is why I need some assistance in what is really one of the largest projects I have ever undertaken. I certainly don't know everything about prog - in fact, in many ways I know very little- and will take any help or advice or support I can get.
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Old 12-06-2016, 11:02 AM   #118 (permalink)
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Frownland has made some very valid and important points vis a vis recording techniques in the last few posts, something I have not really covered up to now, not being versed in such, and not being a musician. I did watch George Martin's fascinating documentary Soundbreaking – highly recommended – and was amazed to find that originally, back in the forties and fifties, and especially with jazz bands apparently, the process of recording was: band come into studio, play, are recorded directly to the album which is then cut, all done in one take! Primitive, and with no room for overdubs, changes, cutting or anything else, and extremely immediate. Also meant everyone had to get it right first time, as there was no second chance. With that in mind, then yes, the evolution of the recording of sound through the works of The Beatles, Zappa and Beefheart, among others, underwent something of a seismic change during the latter half of the sixties and on into the seventies, and for those reasons alone these bands and their engineers and producers should be credited with having added to the overall sound that emerged eventually as progressive rock. Thanks, dude!

Album title: Nice
Artiste: The Nice
Nationality: British
Label: Immediate
Year: 1969
Grade: A
Landmark value: For this album, I don't know. Some of it was rehashed stuff from the first album, so other than carrying on the legacy from that, I don't guess all that much.
Tracklisting: Azael revisited/ Hang on to a dream/ Diary of an empty day/ For example/ Rondo '69/ She belongs to me


All right buddy! Stop right there!
This album is neither available on Spotify or god-damn YouTube, and I will be fucked if I am paying for it just to review it! So unless someone can shoot me a link, this will have to be one we pass over. We've had two albums from the Nice already so I doubt we're really going to be missing anything out...

So it's on to


Album title: Volume Two
Artiste: Soft Machine
Nationality: British
Label: Probe
Year: 1969
Grade: A
Landmark value: Given that Soft Machine were major players in the Canterbury Scene, and that they were essentially if not copying then at least being influenced by Zappa for the British market, I guess it would have to be seen as a pretty important album in the overall scheme of things.
Tracklisting: Rivmic melodies (Pataphysical introduction Pt 1/ A concise British alphabet Pt 1/ Hibou, anemone and bear/ A concise British alphabet Pt 2/ Hulloder/ Dada was here/ Thank you Pierrot Lunaire/ Have you ever bean green/ Pataphysical introduction Pt 2/ Out of tunes) / As long as he lies perfectly still/ Dedicated to you but you weren't listening/ Esther's nose job (Fire engine passing with bells clanging/ Pig/ Orange skin food/ A door opens and closes/ 10.30 Returns to the bedroom)
Comments: Well just looking at the song titles I'm definitely feeling a Beefheart come on, or at least an English Zappa! In other words, a little trepidation is creeping in! Bit of an abrupt start really, nice piano line with just a spoken vocal (well I guess it is an introduction) which then runs into a literal singing of the ABC and then with a buzzy guitar we hit the first song proper (this is all part of an overarching suite called “Rivmic melodies” - get it? English people often speak in this way: rhythm becomes rivvim, so it's actually a play on the way they would say “rhythmic melodies”) “Hibou, anemone and bear” and it's quite jazzy in its way, a six-minute instrumental with a lot of horn I guess, kinda psych too – oh, there are vocals coming in now. So much for being an instrumental. Sort of calming down now into a nice pastoral sort of sound, gentle vocal, quite nice. Will it stay that way? Well, kind of, and then we're into another recitation of the alphabet (this time backwards) before it's on to “Dada was here” via a short little ditty called “Hulloder”.

“Dada” sounds like it might be sung in Spanish or Portugeuse or something, pleasant enough, and the next three tracks all average just under or over one minute, so hard to judge them really. The piece then ends on “Out of tunes” which is essentially a Beefheartesque manic run with everything going at once. I can see why they so titled it! Chaotic is not the word, though I'm sure it's anything but chaotic. It sounds a mess, but then rather than actually everyone being out of tune, I have no doubt this is a band so well versed in their music that they can pretend to play out of tune while still being totally in control of what they play. That's true class. Nevertheless, it sounds like a mess to me.

Side two opens with “As long as he lies perfectly still”, which kind of sounds like a cross between The Beatles and later soul music. Can't say I'm wild about it. One more short song then with “Dedicated to you but you weren't listening”, a simple little acoustic ballad before we move into the second suite, which this time is called “Esther's nose job” (don't ask me! Oh, apparently it's from a novel) which is broken into five parts, the first of which is simply called “Fire engine passing with bells clanging” and features an extended organ run and percussion, which sounds nothing to me like fire engines, but there you go, and on into “Pig”, which runs on bass piano and percussion, and reminds me of the Peanuts music, then “Orange skin food” is a kind of jazzy continuation of the theme begun in the previous track, with what sounds like warbly effects on the organ while sax keeps up an annoying sound like a car alarm going off.

Now we have “A door opens and closes”, as electric guitar takes over and rocks things up a little, horns and organ also getting in on the act, with some scat singing for good measure, and the piece comes to a close on “10:30 returns to the bedroom”, a decent instrumental workout, and the second longest track at over four minutes.

Favourite track(s): I didn't really like any of this. Most of the songs were too short, and even those longer suites were made up of songs that were too short. Much of it was what I would term musical nonsense and I got very little personally out of the album.
Least favourite track(s): As above
Overall impression: Really odd and weird, kind of like a more musical Zappa or Beefheart. Some very weird ideas, some clever ones but overall I personally for myself found it to be something of a mess and I couldn't get my head around much, indeed, most of it. I fear Soft Machine may remain a mystery to me. Nevertheless, because of their massive influence on the Canterbury Scene they had to score big on the Legacy Rating, whatever I may think.
Personal Rating:
Legacy Rating:
Final Rating:
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Old 12-06-2016, 05:03 PM   #119 (permalink)
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Something a lot of people don't know about Abbey Road is that Alan Parsons was an assistant engineer on the album, and a lot of the stuff he learned through working with George Martin carried over when he worked with Pink Floyd on Dark Side Of The Moon and the first two Ambrosia albums....and of course, The Alan Parsons Project.
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Old 12-06-2016, 05:11 PM   #120 (permalink)
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Something a lot of people don't know about Abbey Road is that Alan Parsons was an assistant engineer on the album, and a lot of the stuff he learned through working with George Martin carried over when he worked with Pink Floyd on Dark Side Of The Moon and the first two Ambrosia albums....and of course, The Alan Parsons Project.
I knew that ... I guess I am not a lot of people.
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