Posts Tagged ‘Progrock’

Procol Harum: Shine on Brightly

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Vinyl reissue of second LP, with original U.S. artwork and gatefold

As indelible as Procol Harum’s first single, “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” has become, the band managed to flourish artistically amid only middling commercial success. Other than a live release, their many albums never cracked the Top 20, and only a small sprinkle of singles did any better. But the band persevered and continued to release new material through the mid-70s, regrouped in the 90’s, ‘00s and most recently for the newly issued Novum. This 1968 release was their second, following the success of their debut single and its follow-up “Homburg.” The album failed to chart in the group’s native England, and topped out at #28 in the U.S.

The album’s first side follows the direction of their self-titled debut, mixing rock and soul with progressive changes into three- and four-minute songs. All of the sounds that defined the first album were retained for the second – Gary Brooker’s smoky vocals, Matthew Fisher’s soulful organ, Robin Trower’s buzzing guitar and Keith Reid’s poetic lyrics. The album’s second side cuts loose, for better or worse, with the seventeen-minute, five part prog-rock suite “In Held ‘Twas In I.” Better, because it was an interesting artistic leap; worse, because it opened the floodgates to a wave of self-indulgent wankery.

The suite opens with drone-backed spoken word, and gets heavier as it mixes progressive rock, psychedelia, classical, vocal choruses and studio craft. You can hear the storms of pomposity on the horizon, but at this point it still felt organic. Varese’s Record Store Day 2017 reissue reproduces the U.S. release’s cover art and gatefold. Completists will want to pick up a CD reissue for the bonus B-sides, but the 12” gatefold cover (which provides a handy surface on which to separate seeds and stems from leaves), and the physicality of flipping the disc will help you relive this album’s place in time. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Procol Harum Fan Site

In Memoriam: 2016

Monday, December 26th, 2016

Merle Haggard, 1937-2016

Listen to a selection of these artists on Spotify

January
Tony Lane, art director (Rolling Stone) and album cover designer
Brad Fuller, composer and music director (Atari)
Paul Bley, jazz pianist
Jason Mackenroth, rock drummer (Mother Superior, Rollins Band)
Long John Hunter, blues guitarist, vocalist and songwriter
Georgette Twain Seiff, hall-of-fame banjo player
Robert Stigwood, manager and film producer
Nicholas Caldwell, R&B vocalist (The Whispers) and songwriter (“Lady”)
Elizabeth Swados, writer, composer and theater director (“Runaways”)
Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros, jazz and salsa trumpeter
Pat Harrington Jr., actor and comedy recording artist (Some Like it Hip!)
Kitty Kallen, vocalist (“It’s Been a Long, Long Time”)
Troy Shondell, pop vocalist (“This Time (We’re Really Breaking Up)”)
Otis Clay, soul vocalist (“Trying to Live My Life Without You”)
Red Simpson, country vocalist and songwriter
Brett Smiley, glam rock vocalist (“Va Va Va Voom”)
Ed Stewart, radio broadcaster and television presenter (Top of the Pops)
David Bowie, vocalist and songwriter
Joe Moscheo, gospel vocalist (The Imperials) and industry executive
Giorgio Gomelsky, club owner, manager, producer and label owner
Hoyt Scoggins, country and rockabilly vocalist and songwriter
René Angélil, impresario and manager (Celine Dion)
Noreen Corcoran, actress (Bachelor Father) and vocalist (“Love Kitten”)
Pete Huttlinger, guitar virtuoso
Gary Loizzo, pop vocalist and guitarist (The American Breed)
Clarence “Blowfly” Reid, musician, songwriter and producer
Mic Gillette, brass player (Tower of Power)
Dale Griffin, rock drummer (Mott the Hoople)
Ramblin’ Lou Schriver, radio broadcaster, musician and concert promoter
Glenn Frey, vocalist, songwriter and guitarist (The Eagles)
Andrew Johnson, album cover artist (The The)
Jimmy Bain, rock bassist (Dio, Rainbow)
Joe Esposito, road manager (Elvis Presley) and Memphis Mafia member
Colin “Black” Vearncombe, vocalist and songwriter (“Wonderful Life”)
William E. Martin, songwriter (Monkees), screenwriter and voice actor
Signe Toly Anderson, vocalist (Jefferson Airplane)
Paul Kantner, vocalist, songwriter and guitarist (Jefferson Airplane)
Billy Faier, banjo player

February
Maurice White, vocalist, songwriter and producer (Earth, Wind & Fire)
Leslie Bassett, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer
Bobby Caldwell, keyboardist (Terry Knight and the Pack)
Joe Dowell, pop vocalist (“Wooden Heart”)
Jimmy Haskell, arranger, composer, producer and bandleader
Ray Colcord, film and television composer, producer and musician
Dan Hicks, vocalist and songwriter
Sam Spence, composer (NFL Films)
Obrey Wilson, soul vocalist (“Hey There Mountain”)
Rick Wright, country guitarist (Connie Smith)
Roy Harris, British folk vocalist
Kim Williams, country songwriter (“Three Wooden Crosses”)
L.C. Ulmer, blues musician
Denise “Vanity” Matthews, vocalist (Vanity 6), actress and evangelist
Joyce Paul, country vocalist (“Phone Call to Mama”)
Ray West, Emmy and Oscar-winning sound engineer (Star Wars)
Paul Gordon, keyboardist and composer
Brendan Healy, actor and musician (Goldie, Lindesfarne)
Vi Subversa, vocalist and guitarist (Poison Girls)
Charlie Tuna, radio broadcaster (KHJ, KROQ, KIIS, KBIG)
Buck Rambo, gospel vocalist
Sonny James, country vocalist and songwriter
Lennie Baker, vocalist and saxophonist (Danny & The Juniors, Sha Na Na)
John Chilton, jazz trumpeter and music historian
Craig Windham, radio broadcaster (NPR)

March
Gayle McCormick, vocalist (Smith ”Baby It’s You”)
Martha Wright, vocalist and actress (South Pacific, The Sound of Music)
Gavin Christopher, R&B vocalist and songwriter
Joey Feek, country vocalist (Joey + Rory)
Chip Hooper, agent (Phish, Dave Matthews Band)
Ireng Maulana, jazz guitarist
Joe Cabot, jazz trumpeter
Bruce Geduldig, synthesist and filmmaker (Tuxedomoon)
Timothy Makaya, jazz guitarist
Ross Hannaford, rock guitarist (Daddy Cool)
Ron Jacobs, radio broadcaster (Boss Radio KHJ, American Top 40)
Sir George Martin, producer
Jon English, musician and actor
Ray Griff, country vocalist
John Morthland, music journalist
Naná Vasconcelos, Latin jazz percussionist
Ernestine Anderson, jazz vocalist
Keith Emerson, progressive rock keyboardist
Gogi Grant, pop vocalist
Ben Bagdikian, educator, journalist and media critic
Ben Edmonds, music journalist
Louis Meyers, promoter (co-founder of SXSW) and manager
Tommy Brown, R&B vocalist (The Griffin Brothers)
Lee Andrews, doo-wop vocalist and father of Questlove
Frank Sinatra Jr., vocalist and actor, son of Frank Sinatra
Steve Young, country vocalist and songwriter (“Seven Bridges Road”)
David Egan, songwriter and pianist
Ned Miller, country vocalist and songwriter
Terry James Johnson, drummer (Bar-Kays) and clinical psychologist
Phife Dawg, rapper (A Tribe Called Quest)
James Jamerson Jr., R&B bassist (Chanson)
Jimmy Riley, reggae musician (The Sensations and the Uniques)
David Baker, symphonic jazz composer, musician and educator
Wally Crouter, Canadian radio legend (CFRB)
Patty Duke, actress and vocalist
Andy Newman, pianist (Thunderclap Newman)
Larry Payton, drummer (Brass Construction)

April
Gato Barbieri, jazz saxophonist
Don Francks, jazz musician and actor
Bill Henderson, jazz vocalist and actor
Carlo Mastrangelo, doo-wop and progressive rock vocalist
Dorothy Schwartz, pop vocalist (The Chordettes)
Leon Haywood, soul and funk vocalist
Dennis Davis, rock drummer (David Bowie)
Merle Haggard, country vocalist, guitarist and songwriter
Jimmie Van Zant, southern rock musician, cousin of Ronnie Van Zant
Earl Solomon Burroughs, musician and songwriter (“Great Balls of Fire”)
Jim Ridley, editor, critic and journalist (Nashville Scene)
Tony Conrad, experimental musician
Doug Banks, radio broadcaster (KDAY, KFI, KDIA)
Emile Ford, pop musician and sound engineer
David Gest, producer and former husband of Liza Minnelli
Gib Guilbeau, country-rock musician (Nashville West)
Filthy McNasty, nightclub owner
Mariano Mores, Argentine tango composer, pianist and conductor
Phil Sayer, British voice artist (“Mind the Gap”)
Vandy Anderson, radio broadcaster (KULF, KGBC)
Elliot Spitzer, radio executive (WLIR-FM)
Lord Tanamo, ska and mento musician
Richard Lyons, culture jammer (Negativland)
Pete Zorn, multi-instrumentalist (Richard Thompson Band)
Victoria Wood, actress, vocalist and songwriter
Lonnie Mack, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter (“Wham”)
Prince, vocalist, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist
Billy Paul, R&B vocalist (“Me & Mrs. Jones”)
Remo Belli, jazz drummer and inventor of the synthetic drumhead
Harrison Calloway, musician and bandleader (Muscle Shoals Horns)

May
Candye Kane, blues and swing vocalist and songwriter
John Stabb, punk rock vocalist (Government Issue)
Peter Behrens, drummer (Trio)
Tony Gable, percussionist and graphic designer
Julius La Rosa, pop vocalist
Buster Cooper, jazz trombonist
Bill Backer, jingle writer (“I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”)
Tony Barrow, press officer (The Beatles)
Johnny Sea, country vocalist (“Day For Decision”)
Emilio Navaira, tejano and country vocalist, guitarist and songwriter
Guy Clark, singer and songwriter
John Berry, punk rock guitarist (Beastie Boys)
James King, bluegrass musician
Nick Menza, rock drummer (Megadeth)
Marshall Jones, bassist (Ohio Players)
Floyd Robinson, country vocalist and songwriter (“Makin’ Love”)
Rick Vanaugh, country drummer (The Time Jumpers)

June
Alan Wise, promoter and manager (Factory Records)
Muhammed Ali, boxer and spoken word artist (“I Am the Greatest”)
Mac Cocker, radio broadcaster (Australia’s Double J)
Mark Parenteau, radio broadcaster (WBCN)
Dave Swarbrick, violinist, vocalist and songwriter (Fairport Convention)
Bobby Curtola, Canadian teen idol (“Hand in Hand With You”)
Dan Sorkin, radio broadcaster (WCFL, KFRC, KSFO)
Brian Rading, rock bassist (Five Man Electrical Band)
Christina Grimmie, vocalist and songwriter (The Voice)
Chips Moman, songwriter and producer
Henry McCullough, rock guitarist (Grease Band, Spooky Tooth, Wings)
Charles Thompson, jazz pianist and organist
Attrell Cordes, hip-hop, soul and R&B artist (P.M. Dawn)
Tenor Fly, rapper and ragga vocliast
Bill Ham, manager, producer and songwriter (ZZ Top)
”Dandy” Dan Daniel, radio broadcaster (WMCA, WYNY, WCBS)
Wayne Jackson, R&B trumpeter (Mar-Keys, Memphis Horns)
Freddy Powers, country songwriter and producer
Leo Brennan, Irish musical patriarch
Harry Rabinowitz, conductor (Chariots of Fire) and composer (I, Claudius)
Dr. Ralph Stanley, mountain music banjoist, vocalist and songwriter
Bernie Worrell, keyboardist and composer (Parliament-Funkadelic)
Mack Rice, songwriter (“Mustang Sally” “Respect Yourself”)
Scotty Moore, rock ‘n’ roll guitarist
Rob Wasserman, bassist
Don Friedman, jazz pianist

July
Teddy Rooney, actor, musician and son of Mickey Rooney
Bob Goldstone, music industry executive (Thirty Tigers)
William Hawkins, poet and songwriter
Danny Smythe, rock drummer (The Box Tops)
Vaughn Harper, radio broadcaster (WBLS “The Quiet Storm”)
Carole Switala, vocalist and puppeteer (Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood)
Steve Young, musician (Colourbox, MARRS) and songwriter
Johnny Craviotto, rock drummer and drum maker
Charles Davis, jazz saxophonist
Bonnie Brown, country vocalist (The Browns)
Alan Vega, vocalist, songwriter (Suicide) and visual artist
Claude Williamson, jazz pianist
Gary S. Paxton, vocalist, songwriter and producer
Fred Tomlinson, vocalist and songwriter (“The Lumberjack Song”)
John Pidgeon, rock music writer and BBC radio executive
Lewie Steinberg, R&B bassist (Booker T. & the M.G.’s)
George Reznik, jazz pianist
Marni Nixon, playback vocalist (West Side Story, My Fair Lady) and actress
Roye Albrighton, vocalist and guitarist (Nektar)
Allan Barnes, jazz saxophonist (The Blackbyrds)
Sandy Pearlman, writer, producer and manager (Blue Oyster Cult)
Lucille Dumont, vocalist, songwriter and television star
Nigel Gray, record producer (The Police, Siouxsie and the Banshees)
Penny Lang, folk musician

August
Ricci Martin, musician, entertainer and son of Dean Martin
Patrice Munsel, coloratura soprano
Richard Fagan, songwriter (“Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident)”)
Pete Fountain, jazz clarinetist
B.E. Taylor, pop vocalist and songwriter (“Vitamin L”)
Ruby Winters, soul vocalist (“Make Love to Me” “I Don’t Want to Cry”)
Padraig Duggan, folk musician (Clannad, The Duggans)
Glenn Yarbrough, vocalist and songwriter
David Enthoven, manager and record label executive
Ruby Wilson, blues vocalist
Connie Crothers, jazz pianist
Bobby Hutcherson, jazz vibraphonist
Preston Hubbard, bassist (Roomful of Blues, Fabulous Thunderbirds)
Lou Pearlman, producer and manager (Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC)
Irving Fields, pianist, composer and bandleader (Bagles and Bongos)
Matt Roberts, rock guitarist (3 Doors Down)
Tom Searle, guitarist (The Architects)
Louis Stewart, jazz guitarist
Headley Bennett, reggae saxophonist
Derek Smith, jazz pianist
Gilli Smythe, vocalist (Gong)
Toots Thielemans, harmonica player, guitarist and whistler
Rudy Van Gelder, recording engineer (Bluenote)
Monty Lee Wilkes, sound engineer (The Replacements, Nirvana)
Hubert Dwane “Hoot” Hester, country and bluegrass fiddler

September
Fred Hellerman, folk singer, songwriter and guitarist (The Weavers)
Kacey Jones, singer, songwriter and humorist
Jerry Heller, agent, promoter and manager (N.W.A.)
Bud Isaacs, steel guitarist
Lewis Merenstein, producer (Van Morrison, Gladys Knight, John Cale)
Clifford Curry, R&B vocalist (“She Shot a Hole in My Soul”)
Prince Buster, ska singer-songwriter and producer (“One Step Beyond”)
”Crazy” Eddie Antar, electronics retailer
Chris Stone, studio owner (The Record Plant)
Leonard Haze, rock drummer (Y&T)
Don Buchla, pioneering synthesizer designer
Jerry Corbetta, vocalist, keyboardist and songwriter (Sugarloaf)
Trisco Pearson, R&B vocalist (Force M.D.’s)
Charmian Carr, actress and vocalist (The Sound of Music)
Micki Marlo, vocalist (“What You’ve Done To Me” “Little By Little”)
John D. Loudermilk, songwriter and vocalist (“Tobacco Road”)
Richard D. Trentlage, jingle writer (Oscar Mayer, McDonald’s)
Rob Meurer, vocalist and songwriter (Christopher Cross)
Stanley “Buckwheat Zydeco” Dural Jr, zydeco accordionist
Kashif, R&B vocalist, instrumentalist, producer and songwriter
Jean Shepard, country vocalist and songwriter
Joe Clay, rockabilly vocalist and guitarist
Royal Torrence, soul vocalist (Little Royal and the Swingmasters)
Nora Dean, reggae and gospel vocalist (“Barbwire”)
Oscar Brand, folk vocalist and songwriter, radio host (WNYC)
Michael Casswell, session guitarist (Brian May)

October
Joan Marie Johnson, pop vocalist (The Dixie Cups)
Caroline Crawley, vocalist (Shelleyan Orphan, This Mortal Coil)
Rod Temperton, keyboardist and songwriter (“Thriller” “Off the Wall”)
Peter Allen, radio broadcaster (Metropolitan Opera)
Don Ciccone, pop vocalist (The Critters) and songwriter
Leo Beranek, acoustic engineer and co-founder of BB&N
Robert Bateman, songwriter (“Please Mr. Postman”), vocalist (Satintones)
Sonny Sanders, songwriter, arranger and vocalist (Satintones)
Robert Edwards, R&B vocalist (The Intruders)
Ted V. Mikels, filmmaker and record label owner
Phil Chess, producer and record company executive
Chris Porter, americana vocalist, songwriter and guitarist
Mitchell Vandenburg, americana bassist and songwriter
Dave Cash, radio broadcaster (Radio London, BBC Radio 1)
Herb “The Cool Gent” Kent, radio broadcaster (WVON, WJJD and V103)
Pete Burns, vocalist and songwriter (Dead or Alive)
Bobby Vee, pop vocalist
Hazel Shermet, actress and singer (New Zoo Revue’s Henrietta Hippo)
John Zacherle, TV host, recording artist and radio broadcaster
Ron Grant, film and television composer (Knot’s Landing)
Tammy Grimes, actress and vocalist (The Unsinkable Molly Brown)
Curly Putman, country songwriter (“Green, Green Grass of Home”)

November
Bap Kennedy, vocalist and songwriter
Bob Cranshaw, jazz bassist
Kay Starr, pop and jazz vocalist
Jean-Jacques Perrey, electronic music producer
Laurent Pardo, bassist (Elliott Murphy’s Normandy All-Stars)
Sir Jimmy Young, radio host (BBC Radio 1 and 2) and vocalist
Al Caiola, guitarist, composer and arranger
Leonard Cohen, vocalist, songwriter, poet and novelist
Raynoma Gordy Singleton, songwriter and second wife of Barry Gordy Jr.
Billy Miller, magazine publisher (Kicks) and record label owner (Norton)
Leon Russell, vocalist, pianist and songwriter
Holly Dunn, country vocalist and songwriter
David Mancuso, disc jockey and private party host (The Loft)
Mose Allison, jazz pianist, vocalist and songwriter
Cliff Barrows, musical director (Billy Graham Evangelistic Association)
Milt Okun, producer, arranger, conductor and publisher
Don Waller, music journalist and vocalist
Mentor Williams, songwriter (“Drift Away”), producer and engineer
Sharon Jones, soul vocalist (The Dap Kings)
Al Batten, bluegrass banjo player and band leader
Hod O’Brien, jazz pianist
Craig Gill, rock drummer (Inspiral Carpets)
Al Broadax, television and film producer (The Beatles, Yellow Submarine)
Florence Henderson, actress and vocalist
Pauline Oliveros, composer, educator and accordionist
Tony Martell, record industry executive (CBS Records) and philanthropist
Ray Columbus, vocalist, songwriter, manager and television host
Carlton Kitto, jazz guitarist

December
Mickey Fitz, punk rock vocalist (The Business)
Mark Gray, country vocalist and songwriter (“Take Me Down”)
Herbert Hardesty, saxophonist (Fats Domino, Dave Bartholomew)
Wayne Duncan, bassist and vocalist (Daddy Cool)
Mohamed Tahar Fergani, Algerian vocalist, violinist and composer
Greg Lake, vocalist, bassist and songwriter (King Crimson, EL&P)
Palani Vaughan, Hawaiian vocalist and songwriter
George Mantalis, pop vocalist (The Four Coins)
Valerie Gell, rock ‘n’ roll vocalist and guitarist (The Liverbirds)
Bob Krasnow, record executive and co-founder of the R’n’R Hall of Fame
Joe Ligon, gospel vocalist (Mighty Clouds of Joy)
Barrelhouse Chuck, blues vocalist, songwriter and pianist
Jim Lowe, songwriter (“The Green Door”) and radio broadcaster
Ahuva Ozeri, Israeli singer-songwriter
Betsy Pecanins, blues singer and songwriter
Päivi Paunu, vocalist and Eurovision contestant (“Muistathan”)
Bunny Walters, Maori pop vocalist (“Brandy” “Take the Money and Run”)
Fran Jeffries, vocalist, dancer and actress (The Pink Panther)
John Chelew, producer and concert promoter (McCabe’s Guitar Shop)
Bob Coburn, radio broadcaster (“Rockline,” KLOS)
Léo Marjane, French vocalist (“Seule ce soir”)
Gustavo Quintero, Columbian singer-songwriter
Gordie Tapp, radio broadcaster and television performer (Hee Haw)
Andrew Dorff, country songwriter (“My Eyes” “Somebody’s Heartbreak”)
Dick Latessa, actor and Tony winner (Hairspray)
Sam Leach, concert promoter (The Beatles)
Betty Loo Taylor, jazz pianist
Frank Murray, manager (The Pogues) and tour manager
Mick Zane, rock guitarist (Malice)
Rick Parfitt, vocalist, songwriter and guitarist (Status Quo)
George Michael, pop vocalist and songwriter
George S. Irving, musical theater and voice actor
Alphonse Mouzan, jazz drummer
Pierre Barouh, lyricist (A Man and a Woman), composer and actor
Debbie Reynolds, actress and vocalist
Billie Joe Burnette, country vocalist and songwriter (“Teddy Bear”)
Rich Conaty, radio broadcaster (WFUV’s The Big Broadcast)
Allan Williams, booking agent and manager (The Beatles)
Johnny Canton, radio broadcaster (WDGY, WCCO)
David Meltzer, poet and jazz guitarist

The Damned: Don’t You Wish That We Were Dead

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

DVD_DontYouWishWeThatWereDeadSeminal punk rock legends who didn’t become icons

The Damned never get their due. Though present at the start of the UK punk movement, they never became icons like the Sex Pistols and the Clash. Despite having released what’s considered to be the first UK punk rock single, “New Rose,” and the first full length punk LP, Damned Damned Damned, their legacy remains one known mostly by music aficionados, and their music by fans. But over the course of their forty years, through numerous musical and personnel changes, the band’s output has remained surprisingly transcendent. The fractured relationships, legal rifts and innate tensions of working together for four decades hasn’t dimmed the music’s resonance, nor the band’s live appeal. Even when that live act only includes two original members. This is the story of a marathon, rather than just an initial sprint of brilliance.

Weaving together archival footage with interviews with the band, their contemporaries and those they influenced, the documentary tells several stories at once. At its heart is the story of the Damned as a seminal influence, whose chaotic, satirical style overshadowed their messages, and whose career failed to garner the lasting headlines of bands who wore discontent on their sleeves. That failure haunts the band members to this day, with drummer Rat Scabies sarcastically wondering if the Damned “were just also there” while the Pistols and Clash were changing the world. Interviews with Chrissie Hynde, Steve Diggle, TV Smith, Clem Burke, Chris Stein, Glen Matlock, JJ Burnel, Billy Idol, Dave Robinson and others testify to the Damned’s place in punk rock history, while Ian MacKaye, Jello Biafra and Buzz Osborne testify to their influence.

Unsurprisingly, the intra-band arguments often centered on money (particularly Scabies’ purchase of the band’s early albums out of a bankruptcy sale) and bad behavior. Forty years of on-again, off-again groupings seems to exposed all possible conflicts. What’s amazing is that through all the turmoil, the band outlasted their peers and successfully navigated transitions from punk rock to goth to prog-rock to new romanticism. They may not get the commercial placements of the Clash, Buzzcocks or Ramones, but the live clips show them still to be a potent stage act that’s beloved by their fans. This three-years-in-the making documentary played the festival circuit and select theater engagements before debuting on DVD in May, 2016. It’s a great watch for both die-hard fans and anyone interested in punk rock history. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

The Damned’s Home Page

Trevor Rabin: Live in L.A.

Friday, January 9th, 2015

TrevorRabin_LiveInLALatter-day Yes guitarist and songwriter on a 1989 solo tour

This reissue returns to print Rabin’s performance from his 1989 solo tour. Rabin came to international attention through his membership in the second major incarnation of Yes, most notably the group’s 1983 smash 90125 and its group-penned hit, “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” Rabin managed to squeeze in the 1989 solo album Can’t Look Away while still a member of Yes, and toured with a powerful quartet in support. This reissue of a 2003 release documents the tour’s final night, at the Roxy in Los Angeles.

Rabin’s guitar leads a tight four-piece band that plays larger and is flush with the backing vocal talent of keyboard player Mark Mancina and bassist Jim Simmons. This is particularly evident on the South African flavored “Sorrow.” Rabin’s originals mix pop and prog-rock, much as did Yes at the time, and the set includes both solo and group material. The band’s rendition of “Owner of a Lonely Heart” is turned into an enthusiastic audience sing-a-long that will remind you of the song’s immense popularity and the importance of Jon Anderson’s original vocal.

Varese’s reissue includes new cover art, a four-panel booklet, liner notes by Jerry McCulley and a master by Chas Ferry at Rock Talk Studios. The new CD expands the original ten-track lineup with a performance of Rabin’s mesmerizing acoustic guitar solo “Solly’s Beard.” The latter seems to be the same version as was available on the Yes album 9012Live: The Solos. Rabin moved on from Yes to an extensive and successful career composing film soundtracks, but his solo and Yes music of the 1980s still shines brightly. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

Trevor Rabin’s Home Page

Various Artists: Heard it on the Radio, Volume 7

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Idiosyncratic collection of ‘70s and ‘80s obscurities

A better title might have been “I Swear I Heard it on the Radio,” given that the obscurities gathered here are the province of local scenes, in-the-know college radio DJ’s, late-night MTV viewers (or those clued in to HBO’s Video Jukebox) and crate diggers. They constitute the maddeningly ephemeral song fragments in a million memories of low-charting singles, turntable hits that failed to crack the charts, and locally distributed singles that hadn’t the promotional muscle to gain national consensus. Most of the charting hits here only made the middle of the Top 100, and others, like the brilliant “Prettiest Girl” from the Boston-based power-pop/punk Neighborhoods, are rarely anthologized collectors’ items whose musical brilliance far outstripped their labels’ reach.

The selections mix synth-pop, prog-pop and power-rock. The set includes two Hollies covers (“On a Carousel” from Raleigh, NC’s Glass Moon, and “Pay You Back with Interest” from Canada’s Gary O), a take on the Spinners “I’ll Be Around” from the Los Angeles-based What Is This, and a pop-rock cover of the Supremes’ “Stop! In the Name of Love” by former Stories front man, Ian Lloyd. Several of the collection’s hit makers, including Walter Egan, Jim Capaldi (of Traffic) and Greg Lake (of Emerson, Lake & Palmer) are represented by minor singles that only brushed the bottom half of the Top 20, and Lloyd delivers a pre-Bryan-Adams-hit version of Adams’ “Lonely Nights,” with Adams and his songwriting partner Jim Vallance providing the backing.

This is a wonderfully idiosyncratic collection that seems to tour the darkest reaches of its anthologizer’s musical memory. In addition to the early ‘80s synth- and prog-rock, the set list stretches back to Fanny’s 1974 glam rock “I’ve Had It” and Alvin Lee and Myron LeFevre’s 1973 country-folk version of George Harrison’s “So Sad (No Love of His Own).” Listeners are bound to find at least one long-lost favorite among the rarities collected here, with the indie-released Neighborhoods single (previously available digitally only on the out-of-print 12 Classic 45s) being the freshest fish-out-of-water amongst the ‘80s pop tunes. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Todd Rundgren: Todd

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Invigorating live run-through of Rundgren’s 1974 LP + interview

Following a trend chartered by Heart, Brian Wilson, Slayer, Lou Reed and dozens of others, Todd Rundgren has performed two of his albums live in concert. This DVD (and a separate CD) documents a September 2010 performance of Rundgren’s fifth solo release, the double-album Todd, in his hometown of Philadelphia. When originally released in 1974, Todd followed the direction chartered by A Wizard, A True Star, and pointed to Utopia’s heavier use of synthesizers. The track list mixed progressive-rock pieces and instrumentals with vocal pop songs, and following the delayed commercial success of “Hello It’s Me” (recorded in ’72, but a chart success in ’73), split fan ears between those who enjoyed shorter pop songs, and those who favored longer, more experimental productions.

Without any big chart hits as commercial tentpoles, the album works better in concert than it did on vinyl upon its release. The mix of progressive jams and succinct pop makes for a well-paced show, with the instrumental interludes punctuated by bursts of more easily digested melody and harmony. The material remains remarkably contemporary sounding, particularly the vocal arrangements. Rundgren is terrific, though his vocals are a bit low in parts of the stereo mix. The assembled band includes Jesse Gress, Greg Hawkes, Prairie Prince, Bobby Strickland and Kasim Sulton, and a children’s chorus is added for the closing “Sons of 1984.” There are a few minor hiccups in the staging (this was an early performance in a short tour), but the group is tight and hits some remarkable grooves, such as on “Everybody’s Going to Heaven.”

The 70-minute stage performance was augmented by laser lights and ornate costumes, and professionally taped with multiple cameras (though, disappointingly, in 4:3 rather than widescreen). The audio is available in both stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. The audience listens rapturously from start to finish, carrying the last song’s sing-along refrain for several minutes after the curtain’s closed. All that’s missing to make this a truly complete album performance is the experimental “In and Out the Chakras We Go (Formerly: Shaft Goes to Outer Space),” which was omitted from the tour’s set list.

The disc includes a 78-minute interview (part one of two; the second part to appear on an upcoming live DVD of Healing) conducted the night before the performance by super-fan (and sports commentator) Roy Firestone. Filmed in wide-screen before a live audience, Firestone takes Rundgren through his career via videos, photos, album covers, music snippets and Q&A. They alight on notable people, influences and accomplishments, and Rundgren is forthright (even dishy), full of interesting experiences and a natural storyteller. They’re an hour into the interview, having discussed Rundgren’s extensive work as a producer, before they even get to his own work. This is a terrific package for Rundgren fans, and whether or not Todd is one of your favorite albums, the interview alone is worth the price of admission. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Todd Rundgren’s Home Page

Tristeza: Paisajes

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Lush, thoughtful, enveloping post-punk instrumentals

Less than a year after their release of Fate Unfolds, Tristeza returns with a new full-length album of enveloping post-punk prog-rock instrumentals. Their press release name checks Spacemen 3, Felt and Talk Talk, but the strains of Televsion, Can, Stereolab and Tuxedomoon are also strong. The opening “Raise Your Gaze” threatens to transition from space into a blinding cacophony, but pulls back as the tune burns off the last of its fuel. James Lehner and Luis Hermosillo (drums and bass, respectively) provide the impulse drive, with the guitars adding a psychedelic overlay. The group adds syncopation and a Latin rhythm to “A Traves de los Ojos de Nuestras Hijas” (a title that alludes to the group’s collection of five daughters), but its funky bass line keeps things quite modern. The repetitive figures suggest post-punk instrumentalists like Pell Mell, but the intricacy of the playing reaches to jazz and prog-rock – but freed of the bombast that often sunk the latter. This is lush, melodic, rhythmic, thoughtful and enveloping. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Raise Your Gaze
Tristeza’s Home Page

Tristeza: Fate Unfolds

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Tristeza_FateUnfoldsStellar instrumentals reach to the golden age of post-punk and beyond

Those who once found themselves entranced by the post-punk instrumentals of Pell Mell, the hypnotic elements of Television, the Neats, Feelies and Raybeats, the melodicism of Love Tractor, the spacerock of Can, and the electronics of Stereolab and Tuxedomoon, will be happy to meet the instrumental quintet, Tristeza. Riffing guitars, solid bass lines and full-kit drumming open the album with the powerful “Castellon.” The band crosses Latin and lounge flavors with the rock jamming of The Doors in “Floripa,” and mixes traditional guitar/bass/drums with electronics throughout. You can hear the textures, tones and rhythms of progrock, surf, spacerock, jazz, ambient, dub, and highlife threaded together, with repetitions that draw big, hypnotic pictures from small circles of melody. If you’d forgotten how powerful instrumental post-punk can be, Tristeza’s latest release will quickly absorb you in its grasp. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Manitas
MP3 | Tension Futura
Tristeza’s Home Page
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Flotilla: One Hundred Words for Water

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Flotilla_OneHundredWordsForWaterUnusual Canadian quartet mixes progrock, classical and more

One spin of this Montreal band’s second full-length made me belatedly realize that my infatuation with Stereolab and Portishead traces a straight line back to an earlier infatuation with Soft Machine, Hatfield and the North, and many other ‘70s prog-rock giants. It’s not that these bands share the same exact melodic, rhythmic or instrumental sensibilities, but they each temper rock elements with something progressive, such as jazz, classical, and world music. Flotilla augments their keyboards, electronics, bass, and drums, with ethereal, delicate touches of fingertip plucked harp. Their blend of rock, jazz, folk, lounge, pop and classical surrounds the multihued vocals of Veronica Charnley. Her voice rises into an upper range that brings to mind Kate Bush, but also has the warm sophistication of a torch singer and moments of gothic mystery. The arrangements include punchy post-punk, classical horns, dreamy keyboard and harp, and heavy ensemble jams, often changing styles and tempos within a single composition. The poetic lyrics are image-inducing at the line level, but opaque and abstract in stanzas. No matter, the music provides plenty of hooks without the benefit of concrete characters or stories. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | A Thousand Jacobs
Flotilla’s Home Page
Flotilla’s MySpace Page