Archive for the Album Reviews Category

Wish you were here

Posted in Album Reviews, Pink Floyd, Progressive Rock on 6 ianuarie 2008 by dorunastase

Pink Floyd sometimes confused musical virtuosity and melodrama with emotion. The restrained title track of Wish You Were Here, however, remains one of their most affecting songs – and the closest the band ever came to country music. The instrumentation suggests Nashville: slide guitar, gentle honky-tonk piano, even some fiddle. And Roger Waters’ lonely lyrics – „We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl” – would sound natural coming out of the mouth of, say, Willie Nelson. As is, sung by guitarist David Gilmour, they’re heartbreaking.

Most of the rest of the album stays on that sorrowful human scale; all four of its songs are at least tangentially about Pink Floyd’s founder, Syd Barrett, who left the band in 1968 due to mental illness, possibly exacerbated by too much LSD. More overtly, two of them („Have a Cigar” and „Welcome to the Machine”) are complaints about the commercialization of the music industry, always a bit hard to swallow from millionaire rock stars. But since Barrett actually didn’t survive his encounter with show business, both songs have a haunted quality that suits their industrial throb.

On one of the last days of mixing the record, the band had a surprise visitor in the studio: a wild-eyed overweight gentleman in a trench coat, shorn of hair and eyebrows. It was Barrett himself. As he listened to „Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and the band members blinked back tears at what their „miner for truth and delusion” had become, he showed no signs of recognition that the song was about him and his departure from our world.

So here we are, after the magnificent Dark Side of the Moon. In 1975 Pink Floyd recorded Wish You Were Here, an album for the band founder, Syd Barret. It starts with the most beautiful and creative epic of the Floyd catalog: „Shine on You Crazy Diamond”. This song is an example of the band’s creative and musical power, with a very careful assembly of the notes. The lyrics are, of course, for Syd. Then we have „Welcome to the Machine” a very exhaustive progressive song with some industrial sounds in it. This song talks about the capitalism and the entrance of every person to the capitalist system, it talks to about the triviality of the occidental world. „Have a Cigar”. This rock song is sung by Roy Harper greatly, he was recording a solo album, but the band asked him to record the vocals of this song. Then there is „Wish You Were Here”, a ballad, a tribute to Syd, this song sung by guilmour, is one of the best ballads of the band. And then the great epic end of „Shine on You Crazy Diamond”, masterfully done and very smartly played.

Well this is one of the best Floyd albums, and for me is one of those must-have prog albums

This album was the one that made me like prog rock, mainly because I must have listened to it on family car travels and at home about 10,000 times during my childhood and adolescence. (Blame it on my father and elder brother…) And yet I’m not tired of it and every time I listen to it, it is a great experience.
The album has the second best track Pink Floyd ever made (the first is “Echoes”), and IMO, one of the best tracks a prog band ever made, „Shine on you crazy diamond”, which was made as an hommage for Syd Barret. The album starts with „Shine on you crazy diamond pt.I” an astounding track, with a great atmospheric sound caused by the keyboards and guitar work (which is, by the way, a masterpiece by Gilmour). Then it goes on with „Welcome to the machine” which has great industrial atmosphere and with „Have a cigar”, a great rock piece with another great solo by Gilmour.The song that comes after might be one of Floyd’s better known tracks, „Wish you were here”, mainly because it is a good acoustic song that almost anyone that plays guitar can play and sing with his friends. And then the grand finale, the end of the epic „Shine on you crazy diamond” aka „Shine on you crazy dianmond pt.II”, which recaptures all the greatness of the track with amazing keyboard work by Wright.

So, if you ask me, this one is a must for everyone that likes prog rock, or simply rock. It is a great album and one of the best of Pink Floyd.


The Masquerade Overture

Posted in Album Reviews, Progressive Rock on 5 ianuarie 2008 by dorunastase

In the world of prog, Pendragon have always been one of those love ‘em or hate ‘em bands. Some dislike that it seems they sometimes show influence from other bands (Pink Floyd, late 70’s Genesis, and neo prog contemporaries Marillion for example) a bit too closely. Some have a dislike for Nick Barrett’s heavily accented voice. Others love the layers of symphonic keyboards by Clive Nolan and emotional guitar playing of Barrett. Some like the catchy well-crafted songwriting. One observation I have made in listening to the music of Pendragon, is that while a lot is borrowed, there isn’t a phony note anywhere. They are very sincere in everything they do…

The Masquerade Overture is considered by many Pendragon fans, to be their best work to date, and I am inclined to agree (although their most recent album Not Of This World is just as strong in my opinion.) The album begins with “The Masquerade Overture” opening the album on a symphonic note, with keyboard orchestration, piano, and a choral part sung in Italian. Following is the album’s single “As Good As Gold”. A commercial tune, turned symphonic rock epic. While certainly pop flavored, it has a very catchy chorus line, and very tasteful arrangement. “Paintbox” is highlighted by some clever lyrics. A gentle narrative style beginning, builds into a lush and melodic middle section which carries on into the final revisiting of the songs original verse.

“The Pursuit Of Excellence” is one of the weaker points of the album. It almost sounds like a traditional song, turned symphonic prog. Unfortunately Barrett’s voice struggles in this tune. “Guardians Of My Soul” is one of the strongest tracks on the album, and one in which we get to see the rhythm section of Fudge Smith and Peter Gee get to cut loose in the middle section while Barrett takes a fluid skittering solo over it all. Starting as a somber song, it builds into an enthusiastic climax. “The Shadow” is kind of a haunting and somber sounding epic, which leads into the outro, which becomes “King Of The Castle” (more on this later…)

The album’s finale is “Masters Of Illusion”, and is the epic highlight of the album. Beginning in a very Marillionish way (mostly due the “Garden Party”/”Incommunicado” type keyboard line that carries the verses), through a slightly more up tempo middle section, which builds to a powerful climax at the end…

Despite conflicting opinions about this band, I have come to realize what I like best about them is the fact they are always giving their best. Very honest, sincere, and from the heart. This in my opinion, makes them “As Good As Gold”…

Script For A Jester’s Tear

Posted in Album Reviews, Marillion Romania, Progressive Rock on 5 ianuarie 2008 by dorunastase

More than any other progressive rock band, Marillion has been often ridiculed as a derivative of the many bands that came before them, most ballyhooed for being an eighties version of the great early seventies version of Genesis. That said, Marillion, had some similarities towards Genesis, like the lead singer/lyricist Fish, whom could pass for a young Peter Gabriel. But after that very few similarities were between both bands, as Marillion had a more harder edge. Guitarist Steve Rothery had more of a lead presence than Steve Hackett ever was afforded in his tenure with Genesis. Mark Kelly’s ambient keyboarding was more of a cross between Peter Bardens and Rick Wright. Peter Trewavas musically is very similar to Mike Rutherford, as for Pete deploys all the tricks of the trade that Mike used, sans the 12 String guitar. Mick Pointer’s (who has gotten supremely better since then) awful drumming, well umm, was one of the reasons he only lasted one album with the band.

With all of that out of the way, „Script For A Jester’s Tear”, while far from their best, was the first in a trilogy of albums that had lyricist/singer Fish focusing on his main character obsession with self destruction. The subject matters are more descriptive and darker than anything Peter Gabriel has ever written, sadly while being highly original, drawing comparisons to prog’s master of doom, Peter Hammill.

The original version of „Script For A Jester’s Tear” only feature six songs. U.K. singles chart „Garden Party”, but the band’s live show was another thing of legend as the band was carving their niche with then non-album tracks. U.K. single „Market Square Heroes” which has a brief showing as a radio bit before the phenomenal „Forgotten Sons” track, and the great live anthem „Grendel” which has a curious sounding „Apocalypse 9/8” like ending, that ticks off many of Genesis fans.

Although this is not Marillion’s greatest album, due some growing pains, the band triumphs throughout, and along with other acts of the time: Pendragon, Pallas, Twelfth Night and IQ, the new British neo-progressive rock boon has begun, and „Script For A Jester’s Tear” is where Mariillion begins to spawn a legion of imitators and find their own style along the way

Rock Bottom

Posted in Album Reviews, Muzica, Pink Floyd, Progressive Rock on 3 ianuarie 2008 by dorunastase

Unul dintre albumele de referinta ale lui Robert Wyatt este „Rock Bottom”. Iata o cronica a acestui album, asa cum a fost scrisa ea de catre Mihai Plamadeala, unul dintre cei mai deosebiti muzicieni de la noi, care pe linga muzica medievala pe care o cinta impreuna cu trupa „Nomen est Omen”, scrie foarte interesant pe situl „Muzici si faze”

Robert Wyatt s-a facut (foarte) cunoscut publicului in calitate de baterist al formatiei de canterbury music, Soft Machine. Aparitia acestui prim album solo este legata de un eveniment pe cat de tragic, pe atat de ciudat. La o petrecere tinuta, se pare, la el acasa, Robert a fost convins ca poate zbura. Daca a fost ceva iarba la mijloc sau doar un spiridus rau, nu mai are nici o importanta. Cert este ca in urma caderii de la etajul patru, protagonistul a paralizat partial (de la brau in jos). In acelasi an, ’74, prietenul sau, Nick Mason, bateristul de la Pink Floyd, a produs albumul de fata, despre care imi rezerv parerea ca este cel mai valoros din intreaga cariera ulterioara a lui Wyatt.

Muzicienii participanti sunt de prima clasa. Ii (re)gasim intr-o auditie Rock Bottom pe Richard Sinclair sau Hugh Hopper la bas, pe Fred Fritz la viola, pe Laurie Allen, James sau Delfina la baterie. Este prezent si un pachet de suflatori, iar ultimul citat (nu si cel din urma) este chitaristul Mike Oldfield.

Piesele adunate pe album sunt compozitii anterioare care nu avusesera parte pana atunci de finisaje si nici de imprimari in studio. Am ascultat patru dintre ele pe un CD editat in anii ’90, cu variante demo ale unor lucrari semnate de Robert Wyatt. Piesele erau prezentate sub forma unor linii vocale acompaniate de pian.

Tesatura muzicala de pe “Sea Song”(1) frizeaza depresivul. Dealtfel atmosfera creata va fi pastrata pe intregul album. Totusi nu este vorba despre disperare si nici de povestea unei drame, puse pe portativ. Ceea ce ascultam este o experienta pur estetica, fara un corespondent aplicat.

Trecerea in “A Last Straw”(2) este facuta a la Canterbury: pe nesimtite. Noua tema isi impune insa individualitatea, impingand limitele meditative trasate de piesa anterioara spre alte zone ale sensibilitatii.

Intr-o gradatie fireasca, “Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road”(3) pune in discutie idei sonore de maxima greutate. Estetica “intrebarii” este magnifica, iar limbajul propus se constituie in sistem.

“Alifib”(4) continua povestea pe aceleasi coordonate ale depresivului. Fundalul ritmic este asigurat de sunetul produs de respiratie. Accentele schizo se imbina cu o tristete sfasietoare. Totul sustinut instrumental intr-un mod de maxima discretie.

“Alife”(5) este un camp ideal de desfasurare a experimentului. Avangarda se intalneste aici cu necomercialul, anticipand numeroase momente optzeciste si nouazeciste. Casa de discuri ECM va continua drumul descris.

“Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road”(6) este o incercare de concluzie, intr-o linie mai apropiata de progressive decat de experimental. Piesa si-ar putea gasi locul pe o compilatie intre un Van Der Graaf si un The Ex And Tom Cora. Finalul recitat sacadat pe un fundal de traditional distorsionat are o surprinzatoare rezolvare in stilul The Piper at The Gates Of DawnPink Floyd.

Tinand cont de conditiile speciale ale aparitiei, albumul de fata nu cade in capcana manierei. Nu exista practic reteta, nici experienta anterioara directa. Dealtfel calea deschisa de Rock Bottom a fost urmata practic prin pasi distincti. Este de remarcat si distantarea relativa fata de Soft Machine.

Un album unic, din toate punctele de vedere.


Posted in Album Reviews, Progressive Rock on 2 ianuarie 2008 by dorunastase

For Pink Floyd, space has always been the ultimate escape. It still is, but now definitions have shifted. The romance of outer space has been replaced by the horror of spacing out. This shift has been coming for a while. There was Dark Side of the Moon and „Brain Damage,” Wish You Were Here and the story of founding member Syd Barrett, the „Crazy Diamond.” And now there’s Animals, a visit to a cacophonous farm where what you have to watch for is pigs on the wing. Animals is a song suite that deals with subjects like loneliness, death and lies. „Have a good drown,” they shout dolefully as you drop into the pit that is this album: „Have a good drown as you go down all alone/Dragged down by the stone … stone … stone … stone … stone …” Thanks, pals, I’ll try. It’s no use. Like all Floyd records, this one absorbs like a sponge, but you can still hear the gooey screams of listeners who put up a fight. What’s the problem? For starters, the sax that warmed Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here has been replaced by a succession of David Gilmour guitar solos—thin, brittle and a sorry substitute indeed. The singing is more wooden than ever. The sound is more complex, but it lacks real depth; there’s nothing to match the incredible intro to Dark Side of the Moon, for example, with its hypnotic chorus of cash registers recalling the mechanical doom that was Fritz Lang’s vision in Metropolis. Somehow you get the impression that this band is being metamorphosed into a noodle factory. Maybe that shouldn’t be surprising. Floyd was never really welcomed into the Sixties avant garde: space rock was a little too close to science fiction for that. But the extraordinary success of Dark Side of the Moon (released nearly four years ago, it’s still on the charts) culminated almost a decade of ever-expanding cult appeal and gave the band an audience that must have seemed as boundless as space itself. The temptation to follow through with prefab notions of what that audience would like—warmed over, spaced out heavy-metal, in this case—was apparently too strong to resist. Even worse, however, is the bleak defeatism that’s set in. In 1968 Floyd was chanting lines like: „Why can’t we reach the sun? / Why can’t we throw the years away?” This kind of stuff may seem silly, but at least it wasn’t self-pitying. The 1977 Floyd has turned bitter and morose. They complain about the duplicity of human behavior (and then title their songs after animals—get it?). They sound like they’ve just discovered this—their message has become pointless and tedious. Floyd has always been best at communicating the cramped psychology that comes from living in a place like England, where the 20th century has been visibly superimposed on the others that preceded it. The tension that powers their music is not simply fright at man’s helplessness before technology; it’s the conflict between the modern and the ancient, between technology and tradition. Space is Floyd’s way of resolving the conflict. Of course, space doesn’t offer any kind of real escape; Pink Floyd knows that. But spacing out is supposed to. (Spacing out has always been the idea behind space rock anyway.) Animals is Floyd’s attempt to deal with the realization that spacing out isn’t the answer either. There’s no exit; you get high, you come down again. That’s what Pink Floyd has done, with a thud.