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Old 12-06-2016, 04:30 PM   #121 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Neapolitan View Post
I knew that ... I guess I am not a lot of people.
Kinda hard for one person to be a lot of them.
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Originally Posted by J.R.R. Tolkien
There is only one bright spot and that is the growing habit of disgruntled men of dynamiting factories and power-stations; I hope that, encouraged now as ‘patriotism’, may remain a habit! But it won’t do any good, if it is not universal.
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Old 12-06-2016, 04:58 PM   #122 (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.
Damn. I knew that and forgot about it. Thanks for the reminder, Ant!
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Kinda hard for one person to be a lot of them.
Unless you're schizophrenic of course...
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Old 12-11-2016, 02:59 PM   #123 (permalink)
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Album title: The Aerosol Grey Machine
Artiste: Van der Graaf Generator
Nationality: British
Label: Mercury
Year: 1969
Grade: A
Previous Experience of this Artiste: I've heard some of their albums; some I like, some not quite so hot. Also heard some solo Peter Hammill material.
The Trollheart Factor: 4
Landmark value: Although they would never have a hit or even a successful single, Van der Graaf became inextricably tied into the prog movement, with icons like Peter Gabriel and, later, Fish from Marillion using Hammill's distinctive vocal style as their template.
Tracklisting: Afterwards/ Orthenthian St., Part 1 and 2/ Running back/ Into a game/ Aerosol grey machine/ Black smoke yen/ Aquarian/ Necromancer/ Octopus
Comments: Once again Spotify lets me down: one of the only VdGG albums they don't have is this one! So off to YouTube I again must go. This album was supposed originally to have been a solo Peter Hammill record, and you can see that from the fact that he writes almost every track on it. It did, however, become the springboard for what would become one of the perhaps quietest in terms of commercial fame and overlooked prog bands of the era. Nice easy opening, sort of reminds me a little of “Lucy in the sky with diamonds” as “Afterwards” gets us on our way with a gentle push. Immediately you can hear that Peter Hammill is a special voice; there's something very distinctive about the way he sings, and as the album goes on you'll hear him change from altar-boy to devil, though he's the former here. Really nice piano solo here too. This is the kind of VdGG I prefer, rather than the more manic, disjointed, freeform songs they often play, though they can be good too.

Slightly more uptempo for “Orthenthian St Pt 1 and 2”, and anyone listening to this for the first time would certainly hear the inflections that would make their way into the style of Fish from Marillion. Very gentle midsection then Hammill gets a little manic again, and there's a really good buildup at the end, including a rather excellent sort of drum solo. “Running” seems to be another low-key acoustic style ballad with a sort of echoey vocal, as if Hammill is a long way away. Some lovely flute here, proving that it doesn't always have to be in your face (Ian!) to be effective. Another fine buildup intro to “Into a game”, really great actually, and then it runs on a soft little piano line, almost classical. This is an early example of VdGG's propensity for sudden stops in the middle of songs, then picking them up again a half-second later, something the likes of Yes would also engage in. On either side of the “gap” here the song changes – and there are two gaps, one from ballad to rocker and then one from rocker back to ballad. It's a system that works well for them.

Great instrumental break there in about the fifth minute, mostly driving on thick funky bass and some almost honky-tonk piano from Hugh Banton. The title track is a bit Soft Machine-ish, a twenties style little thing which lasts less than a minute and takes us into “Black smoke yen”, another short little instrumental driven mostly on organ and percussion and on into “Aquarian”, where the organ continues to hold court and the vocal gives Hammill a chance to be a little more forceful than he has up to now. Good backing vocals too. And a nice catchy melody. For an eight-minute song it doesn't drag. The next track could be “Giant squid”, as that was on the original pressing, but thanks to Spotify not having this album I have to go with what YouTube gives me, and what it gives me is a later pressing on which the penultimate track is one I remember hearing already.

“Necromancer” comes in on a marching beat and some sort of whistling keyboard, perhaps pre-dating Rush's mythic tales of sorcerers and wizards, and the vocal is expectedly strident. It's uptempo but quite short with a kind of cringeworthy chorus that then hits into a thumping drumbeat. Could have been better. The album closes then on “Octopus”, which is an example of the more psych sort of track they often did, though to be fair, again, for an eight-minuter it doesn't drag and there are some pretty cool instrumental parts in it.

Favourite track(s): Afterwards, Running, Into a game, Aquarian
Least favourite track(s): Necromancer, The aerosol grey machine,
Overall impression: Very much together for a debut album, though I can see why it failed to score commercially. Kind of an acquired taste, especially Hammill's vocal, which was something really quite different to anything around at the time. A very influential album though, as it brought Hammill to the public consciousness for the first time.
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Old 12-18-2016, 09:44 AM   #124 (permalink)
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Album title: In the Court of the Crimson King
Artiste: King Crimson
Nationality: British
Label: Island
Year: 1969
Grade: A
Previous Experience of this Artiste: Zero (go on, laugh: you know you want to!)
The Trollheart Factor: 0
Landmark value: Seen as one of the defining albums of prog rock, one of the first to embrace elements of jazz and classical as well as symphonic material. One of the first early prog albums to not only make a decent showing the charts, but get into the top five.
Tracklisting: 21st Century schizoid man/ I talk to the wind/ Epitaph ((i) March for no reason (ii) Tomorrow and tomorrow)/ Moonchild (i) The Dream (ii) The Illusion)/ The Court of the Crimson King (i) The return of the fire witch (ii) The dance of the puppets)
Comments: It might seem odd to those of you who don't know me for me to admit that I have never listened to King Crimson at all, but those more familiar with me will know that although I am a prog head, there are quite a few major prog bands I either have not heard or do not enjoy, and this is certainly one of the former cases. A chance to address this now, though I have to admit there's a word in the Wiki description of this album that worries me: atonal. I like my music to have melody, harmony, call it what you will: I need to be able to enjoy the music, and atonal music is not a thing I enjoy. However, we will see.

Once again, Spotify lets me down and off to the Y I go. That's YouTube, not the YMCA. It's a powerful, punchy start for “21st century schizoid man”, with a long intro on guitr and keys, which so far is relatively pleasant to me. Well, not that long after all: I was originally listening to some cunt doing a cover on his synth! Jesus! Got the original now, so start again, and vocal then is heavily distorted, can't say I really like that. Sort of like listening to Waits playing prog, if that analogy doesn't offend every KC fan, which it probably will. Well, if so, in the spirit of Christmas let me say, fuck you. I can definitely hear the jazz in this and, well, you know me and jazz, so no, I don't personally like it. I'm sure it's very technically pleasing but it's a little too much for me. Does get heavy as fuck though near the end as the vocals leak back in. I see why there is no part two, or rather, don't understand why they break it up as it's basically an instrumental with a few vocal bits thrown on. Not the worst I've ever heard but I don't get the love, not at least on the basis of this track.

Great: the next track is fucking live from the BBC! Well fuck you Robert poxy Fripp and your obsessive control over your music, neither allowing Spotify to have it or it to be uploaded to YouTube! Now I have to buy this album, an album I probably won't like, just to review it. That's forty cents out of my hard-earned paycheque! That's nearly half! Well, not quite, but still, forty fucking cents! But it's the only way I'm going to be able to review this properly instead of hopping from YouTube to poxy YouTube and trying to piece it together. I guess it deserves better. Right, I have it downloaded now, will take this up again tomorrow, tired now.

Okay, so here we go. Track two is “I talk to the wind” and has a very classical opening and then an almost Everly Brothers vocal harmony; very pastoral and with a lot of Simon and Garfunkel in it too. I'll say a ballad, though I suppose it could change. I hope not though. Nah, it isn't going to change now. Very nice. Enjoyed that. “Epitaph” starts off beautifully, slow and majestic, even if the vocal is almost inaudible. Builds to something of a crescendo in the fourth minute and then into a really nice instrumental section which I assume is the second part. Very impressed with this. Very. Oh, right: it's not instrumental. Still lovely. Great so far. What's next? “Moonchild”, a twelve-minute track. Okay.

Seems again very laidback, with a lot of soft flute, at least at first, which surprises me, as I had somehow been led to believe this would be a very harsh, in-your-face album. Not so far. Opener aside, I've really enjoyed it. This gets a little abstract and expressionist further in but it's nothing to set the teeth on edge (gets so quiet that at times I had to check my amp was turned up: it was, as I found out suddenly when the title track kicked in!) and even when the title comes through with a slight punch it's still relatively gentle enough, with some great harmonies and sort of psych overtones. Stops at the seventh minute of the nine it runs for to usher in a sort of little instrumental I guess, a reprise of sorts, very effective.

Favourite track(s): Everything bar the opener, and even that was all right.
Least favourite track(s): Nothing really
Overall impression: Considering what I had expected, this album pretty much blew me away. I can see now why King Crimson are so highly rated, and I'm glad I didn't try to experience this via piecemeal videos stitched together on YouTube. A superb first effort, and if this is typical of them, they may have found, at this late stage, a new fan. Glad I spent the forty cents now!
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Old 12-18-2016, 10:07 AM   #125 (permalink)
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Isn't In the Court of the Crimson King supposed to be the first stop after those Rush songs they play on the radio for everyone on Earth just starting with prog? WTF? Even I heard this album at least five years ago. Poseur.
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Originally Posted by J.R.R. Tolkien
There is only one bright spot and that is the growing habit of disgruntled men of dynamiting factories and power-stations; I hope that, encouraged now as ‘patriotism’, may remain a habit! But it won’t do any good, if it is not universal.
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Old 12-18-2016, 01:38 PM   #126 (permalink)
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Isn't In the Court of the Crimson King supposed to be the first stop after those Rush songs they play on the radio for everyone on Earth just starting with prog? WTF? Even I heard this album at least five years ago. Poseur.
Yes, so is Close to the Edge and Tarkus. I already explained this several times.

Oh, I nearly forgot: fuck off.
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Old 12-18-2016, 02:03 PM   #127 (permalink)
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Yes, so is Close to the Edge and Tarkus. I already explained this several times.

Oh, I nearly forgot: fuck off.
So you haven't heard those albums either? Feel free to avoid Tarkus.
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Originally Posted by J.R.R. Tolkien
There is only one bright spot and that is the growing habit of disgruntled men of dynamiting factories and power-stations; I hope that, encouraged now as ‘patriotism’, may remain a habit! But it won’t do any good, if it is not universal.
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Old 12-18-2016, 02:54 PM   #128 (permalink)
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So you haven't heard those albums either? Feel free to avoid Tarkus.
I've heard CttE and thought it's a good album, though I didn't see why it consistently wins Best Prog Album of ALL TIME every fucking year - maybe I need to listen to it a few more times. Tarkus I had, and hated. Still do. Also, any ELP record. Boo. Fuck ELP. No offence, Greg, RIP, but still, fuck ELP.
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Old 12-21-2016, 05:14 PM   #129 (permalink)
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All right then, before we tackle the Big Z again, let's just escape once more


Album title: Liege and Lief
Artiste: Fairport Convention
Nationality: British
Label: Island
Year: 1969
Grade: n/a
Previous Experience of this Artiste: Zero
The Trollheart Factor: 0
Landmark value: I'm told it was the first true British folk rock album, but I don't see any real links to prog rock here. Still, I did say this section was basically for fun, and that the albums explored here may have very tenuous links to progressive rock, if at all. It would seem this fits the bill.
Tracklisting: Come all ye/ Reynardine/ Matty Groves/ Farewell farewell/ The deserter/ Medley (The lark in the morning/Rakish Paddy/Foxhunters' jig/Toss the feathers)/ Tam Lin/ Crazy man Michael
Comments: While the opener sounds like it should be a Christmas carol, it's a bouncy uptempo folk rocker driven on hard guitar and fiddle, with Sandy Denny in fine form on the vocals, very catchy tune. Like it. “Reynardine”, on the other hand, is one of several arrangements of traditional songs, and is sung in very much a trad way. Sounds quite a lot like “She moved through the fair” to me, but what do I know? Meh, it's a bit boring I find. Picking up then with some nice fiddle on “Matty Groves”, another trad arrangement, but with more punch and energy than the previous. Makes you tap your feet. Quite why you'd want to put a faucet on your feet I can't explain really. The song is a bit long at over eight minutes, but the second half is taken up by a pretty sweet jam, so there is that. Next up is an original, and quite a short one at just over two and a half minutes. “Farewell, farewell” has more than a touch of Simon and Garfunkel's “I am a rock” in it (or is that the other way around?) and is a nice gentle little ballad which gives Sandy Denny the chance to explore the softer side of her voice. Very nice.

Side two is heavily on the trad arrangements, kicking off with “The deserter”, which I find a little dour, though then again, given the subject matter, this is no surprise. It's typical of the usual “soldier's song” that has been around since, I don't know, eighteenth century? Before? Doesn't do a lot for me I have to say. The ending is terrible: the soldier doomed to be shot for desertion seems to be reprieved at the end for no reason I can discern. Bah! A set of reels gets us into the medley next, so there's plenty of toe-tappin' action, and sure, if you should feel the need to take your partner by anything, I'm not going to stop you. Great work on the fiddle here by Dave Swarbrick, but “Tam Lin” sounds a little boring and it's seven minutes long! Driven on guitar this time and with what I would consider a more harsh vocal from Denny, it just does not do it for me.

That leaves us with “Crazy man Michael”, an original composition, bringing back in the violin (what's the difference? Violin is slow and sad, fiddle fast and cheerful?) and it's a really nice ballad to close.

Favourite track(s): Come all ye, Farewell farewell, Medley, Crazy man Michael
Least favourite track(s): The deserter, Tam Lin
Overall impression: Yeah it's a decent album, and if you're into folk I'm sure it's great, but this can have zero relevance to prog, unless you include the likes of Tull. Not even sure why it was included. Let's blame it on Christmas, huh?
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Old 01-05-2017, 02:20 PM   #130 (permalink)
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Well, I can't avoid it forever, so ....


Album title: Hot Rats
Artiste: Frank Zappa
Nationality: American
Label: Bizarre/Reprise
Year: 1969
Grade: B
Landmark value: One of the first albums – not just prog albums – to use the new sixteen-track recording technique, thereby allowing far more overdubs and intricate mixing, something that would definitely become a feature of prog rock, especially with the likes of Pink Floyd and Yes.
Tracklisting: Peaches en regalia/Willie the pimp/ Son of Mr. Green Genes/Little umbrellas/The gumbo variations/It must be a camel
Comments: An almost completely instrumental album, without the vocal high-jinks and other assorted nonsense prevalent in previous albums? Could be a godsend to me. This was Zappa's first proper solo album, ie without The Mothers of Invention, and though it sounds like there's a whole band playing it's basically just him and Ian Underwood from The Mothers, with a few others helping out. Pretty impressive. Only six tracks too, which makes a change from the double albums I've had to endure prior to this. The second track has vocals and they're supplied by Captain Beefheart. It's really not bad at all, more blues/psych rock than avant-garde, quite listenable, even when the Captain starts raving and hollering as he tends to do. Some really fine guitar on this. And fiddle too.

The third track takes it back to instrumentals, and it's nice to hear what a great musician Zappa is without having to endure all that avant-garde stuff he practiced on his previous albums. Great piano work here and horns a plenty too, but the guitar holds centre stage. There's an Arabic/French feel to the next track, “Little umbrellas”, with what sounds like a clavier or maybe tubular bells; a hollow, ringing sound anyway and plenty of organ. Hey, even “The Gumbo Variatons”, which is basically horn-driven and a sort of jazzy jam, can't dampen my enthusiasm for this album. Much better than expected. Pretty slick little bass solo there, and good work on the piano and organ. Long, at over twelve minutes, but doesn't drag or seem a chore to get through.

That leaves “It must be a camel” to close the album, another fine instrumental, quite relaxing and with a slower jazz feel.

Favourite track(s): Nothing I didn't like on this.
Least favourite track(s):
Overall impression: In my opinion, a huge step forward for Zappa as he leaves (hopefully) behind all the musique concrete and avant-garde stuff and concentrates on what he does best, making music, and very good music, judging from this album. You can hear the advantage gained in having so many more tracks to work with, and it really gives the album extra depth and volume. Wasn't looking forward to this, but it was a much pleasanter experience than I had anticipated.
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