Category Archives: Music

Shouldn’t throw stones!

In my series of early 70’s masterpieces, I have come to Gentle Giant.

As with most of the 70’s masters, I could easily have picked another album, especially Octopus would fulfil the masterpiece requirement perfectly, in fact most Gentle Giant albums would.

The reason I pick In a Glass House is that this was where I first heard them.

The first few times I thought it was Genesis, can still remember saying “play some Genesis” – “which one” – “the one with the glasses”. I was of course corrected, but everyone knew what I was talking about.

Gentle Giant originated from a series of different named pop band formed in 1966-1969 by the Shulman brothers, Phil, Derek and Ray.

In 1970 they teamed with Gary Green and classically trained Kerry Minnear to form Gentle Giant, one of the less famous but highly talented, complex and sophisticated progressive rock band, a band that I have personally listened to uncountable times, every time surprised just how great they really are.

Looking through the window can you tell me what you see

You’re sure you’re really seeing what is meant to be a Glass

A mirror to reflect what I conspire a vision, image I desire  

 

Older brother Phil quite the band before they started creating In a Glass House, the remaining four members was multi instrumentalists, but even so it meant a slight change towards a more rock orientated sound compared to their older material.

But even if In a Glass House is a bit friendlier to the Rock orientated ear, there is no lack of unfamiliar time signature, tempo changes or mysterious ancient moods. Gentle Giant did not change much they just evolved a little.

You’ll try to question her, 

Does she believe in the choice of Your life.

So you have to try to ask her, when you are away, left 

Behind, out of mind; away.

 

 

Crawling with Closed Eyes or The Wheel of Time

Kalachakra

Kalachakra Laghutantra Kālachakra (Sanskrit: कालचक्र), is a Sanskrit term used in Tantric Buddhism that literally means “time-wheel” or “time-cycles”. The spelling Kālacakra is also used. Kālachakra refer to a very complex teaching and practice in Tibetan Buddhism.

Kalacakra was also the name of a short lived German duo of Claus Rauschenbach and Heinz Martin doing just one album, Crawling To Lhasa from 1972.

I think it is fair to assume that the young Greman’s have been sky high at the time, and this is not party music, the mysterious spiritualism clearly inspired by Tibetan Buddhism provides for a very calm and peaceful experience best served with closed eyes laying down.

It is very hard to find anything quite like this album, could mention some sort of Raga Rock connection or Paul Horn’s Inside the Taj Mahal, or even Popol Vuh but this album is different, more stoned and at the same time very playful, almost humoristic.

You get the feeling the duo is recording on some very simple equipment while sometimes talking laughing or chanting? – just having a blast.

Zen and The End

Born in 1960 and growing up in New York (state), Robert Arthur Mould moved to Saint Paul and studies at Macalester College. This was where he met Grant Hart and Greg Norton.

They started rehearsing in Norton’s basement and soon formed “Hüsker Dü”, from here he is known as Bob Mould.

The first Hüsker Dü album, “Everything Falls Apart” was released in early 1983, the style was Hardcore Punk, and the original album was just over 19 minutes, with 12 tracks often under the 1 minute mark.

What came next was at the time a revolution, with Zen Arcade from july 1984 Hüsker Dü, on a double concept album, an unthinkable concept in punk, they created a pot of every imaginable ingredient from acoustic instruments, pop, jazz, psychedelia, noise and even Hare Krishna’s chanting (see this post), but not forgetting to add a lot of solid hardcore to the mix, the result was no less than explosive.

Hüsker Dü blew through the boundaries of hardcore punk, with a groundbreaking underground album that would become legendary in the formation of what would become the scene now known as Alternative.

Over the final four albums Hüsker Dü did before they disbanded in late 1987, they further evolved away from the fast noisy hardcore punk and towards a slower and more melodic rock. The last two albums was released after they signed with major label Warner Bros.

There are several explanations and no clear answer to why the bands broke up, but there was tension and rivalry between Bob Mould and Grant Hart and had been for years, Hüsker Dü’s young manager David Savoy committed suicide, and Grant Hart had a heroine problem.

After Hüsker Dü, Bob Mould moved to a farm in Pine City Minnesota, a small isolated location with a population of about 3000 people, where he would start writing his first solo album.

Workbook was released in 1989, the album was featuring bassist Tony Maimone original member of Pere Ubu, cellist Jane Scarpantoni, and drummer Anton Fier, all other instruments played by Mould.

Now everything hardcore was moved to the background if not completely gone and the sound is similar to what you would expect from bands like R.E.M.

The album was not selling well and neither was the next solo album from Mould,  he was soon released from his contract with Virgin Records

Mould was still recording demo tracks and he formed a new band Suger, with songwriter, singer, guitarist, and bass guitarist David Barbe and drummer Malcolm Travis in 1992, and soon releases the debut Copper Blue

Somewhat ironic this late effort would be the most successful album from one of the forefathers of Alternative American rock, now in the midst of “Grunge” becoming commercially successful; he would now reap the seed he had sown almost 10 years earlier.

The album was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, should I smile or cry knowing that Zen Arcade was not ?. Anyway Copper Blue is a fine album, no doubt about that.

Sugar made an EP and another album before Mould broke the band up in spring 1996.

After this last band effort Mould has worked as a solo artist, releasing 10 albums between 1996 and 2016. His latest album Patch the Sky the last of a trilogy with 2012’s Silver Age 2012 and Beauty & Ruin 2014.

The final remark goes to Mould about “”The End of Things”:

“What happens if it does fall apart, so to speak? What if everything collapses?” And I also like the idea that people walk around and say, “Oh, it’s the Internet of things.” This whole new protocol — smartphones and stuff like that. And I thought, “How about the end of things?”

The Three String Double Bass

Usually when I think of bass as a solo instrument what pop up will be the modern Jazz bassist, especially Jaco Pastorius or Stanley Clarke, there are also a few very good solo bassist rooted in rock, my favorite clearly Tony Levin.

And there are even entire albums dedicated only to the Bass, as an example Marcin Oles – Ornette On Bass from 2003. Marcin Oles is a Polish bass player, composer and record producer born in 1973. He has released several albums since 1999 sometimes solo, sometimes with others, often involving his brother Bartłomiej “Brat” Oleś.

Well that was a long introduction to something quite different.

As the main object of all this talk lead back almost 200 hundred years, back to 1835 and the day when Pietro Bottesini got a scholarship for his son Giovanni. Pietro was himself a skilled Clarinet player and Romantic Era Composer, some of his works is if not famous, then at least recognized and recorded.

I was wondering of again ! back to Giovanni.

Giovanni had received some education in violin but the scholarship in Milan there was only bassoon or double bass vacant, Giovanni decided to go for the Bass.

Form here the stone was rolling he soon got an offer to join the opera house in Havana, touring the united states sometimes with appearances as a soloist. 1849 was his debut in London to great success and form here his fame lead him to every corner of Europe, Turkey, Egypt, Buenos Aires, Mexico etc, he met Giuseppe Verdi in Venice, and they became lifelong friends

At this point (1849) Bottesini had completed quite a large number of compositions, many of his famous compositions for the double bass were if not finished then written in “first” version.

Bottesini was in favour of Three Strings of pure gut, at the time some places used mostly four and even five strings, such as Germany. France had just accepted the four strings as standard. Italy, England and Spain, etc. were still using three strings, England was one of the last places to change, as three strings were rather common until the first world war.

Bottesini bought his bass in 1839, an instrument made in 1716 by Carlo Antonio Testore in Milan, the eldest son of Carlo Giuseppe. According to Thomas Martin (see note) it was originally a four string instrument transformed to three strings.

It is so sad to know that we will never the able to enjoy Bottesini’s performances, he must have been no less than fabulous, nicknames “the Paganini of the double bass” without doubt evolving the bass technique and reform the use of double bass as a solo instrument.

Never the less Bottesini saw himself mainly as a composer, who also played bass or conducted. His style of composing was not ground breaking although he was successful with his operas, but it is his solo works for the double bass that stands out, still standard repertoire for the double bassists.

This is played on an original three stringed period instrument

Note: I usually won’t mention my sources, as that would often be a boring journey, but in this case I would like to mention that I have read and truly enjoyed reading this article by Thomas Martin of Thomas and George Martin Violin Makers.

Connections

On 13 January 2017, Swedish band Pain of Salvation released In the Passing Light of Day, a concept album based around the true story of bandleader Daniel Gildenlöw hospitalization due to a deadly streptococcal infection, and the reflections it created in him.

I’m always careful about overpraising a relative new release, but in this case I can say without any doubt that it is one of their finest.

Besides his work with Pain of Salvation, Daniel Gildenlöw was also recording and touring with Swedish Symphonic (Prog) rock band “The Flower Kings” between 2002 and 2004.
The Flower Kings was formed by guitarist Roine Stolt in 1994, together with Änglagård, Anekdoten & Pär Lindh Project, re-creating the Swedish prog scene in the 90’s.

From 1995 to 2013 The Flower Kings have released 12 studio albums.

Daniel Gildenlöw left “The Flower Kings” because he would not travel to the USA for a tour, as he refused to submit to the USA government’s requirement for finger printing and the “wars on terror” paranoia at the time.

In 1974 the then 17 years old Roine Stolt became a member of progressive rock band Kaipa working with them on their three 70’s albums, today recognized as some of the finest early Swedish Prog.

Stolt also co-founded Transatlantic, with Neal Morse (Spock’s Beard), Pete Trewavas (Marillion) and Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater).

In 2014 Roine Stolt met with original Yes lead vocalist Jon Anderson during Progressive Nation at Sea, which inspired the formation of Anderson/Stolt, they released Invention of Knowledge in 2016. So far the only outcome of their collaboration, as far as I know there haven’t been any tour.


Besides his massive fame from his work with Yes, Jon Anderson has made a series of good album with electronic music pioneer Vangelis, as Jon and Vangelis.

Jon Anderson has also done 14 solo albums in latest Survival & Other Stories from 2011.
Without doubt his most famous solo album was his first, Olias of Sunhillow from 1976, a must have album for any prog devotee.

In 1980 his 2nd solo album, Song of Seven was released, containing 9 new songs some leftovers from the Yes “Tormato” sessions. The album is blessed with contribution from a lot of famous musicians, Ian Bairnson (The Alan Parsons Project), Clem Clempson (Colosseum), Morris Pert (Brand X), Dick Morrissey (If) and others.

Most prominent of all Jack Bruce of British supergroup Cream fame, playing Bass on “Heart of the Matter”.

Jack Bruce was a founding member of Cream, a trio formed back in 1966 with guitarist Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker. The band had huge commercial success, and is considered very influential upon the British hard rock scene that would evolve in the early 70’s with Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath.

Due to tension between Bruce and Baker the group would disband in 1969 after just four albums. After the breakup Bruce and Clapton would form Blind Faith with Steve Winwood, and Ric Grech, to create just one album – a rare gem of excellence – but that is another story.

After Cream, Bruce released his first solo album “Songs for a Tailor” and soon after joined “The Tony Williams Lifetime” a Jazz Rock outfit including the later so famous John McLaughlin (Miles Davis – Mahavishnu Orchestra)

Jack Bruce playes bass on John McLaughlin’s “Are You the One? Are You the One?” from McLaughlin’s fifth solo album Electric Guitarist released in 1978.

McLaughlin is the founder of Mahavishnu Orchestra one of, if not the most well-known and influential jazz-rock/fusion band ever. Mahavishnu was formed in New York City in 1971. Besides McLaughlin the original lineup was drummer Billy Cobham, bassist Rick Laird, keyboardist Jan Hammer, violinist Jerry Goodman.

Jerry Goodman also was playing on Electric Guitarist.

Before joining Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jerry Goodman was a member of The Flock, a Chicago-based band. The band made two albums in 1969 and 1970 before Jerry Goodman was hire to join Mahavishnu. The music is hard to pinpoint with a nice but rather weird mix of Jazz Classic and Rock.

The Flock reunited in 1975 to create their third album “Inside Out”, now without Goodman.

Over the years Jerry Goodman have toured with and played as session musician a lot of different artist, from Dixie Dregs to Toots Thielemans, Hall & Oates to Styx.

One of his recent contributions was on Dream Theater’s 2009 studio album Black Clouds & Silver Linings, where he plays a very beautiful solo on top of Jordan Rudess keyboard at the opening section of “The Best of Times”.

The Special Edition of Black Clouds & Silver Linings included a bonus disc of cover songs. Jerry Goodman plays the violin in Robert Fripp’s “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Part Two” origination from King Crimson’s 1973 classic masterpiece.

As they say, every road leads to something Fripp.

Yume no Fusion

Japanese Kenso was originally formed in 1974, but founding and the only consistent member to this date, Yoshihisa Shimizu departed for Kanagawa Dental College and the band went on hiatus, but reformed in 1979 to released their first self-titled vinyl in 1981.

Yoshihisa Shimizu often comes to stage in a lab coat, to reflect his daytime trade.

The style on the debut was instrumental and very inspired by early 70’s British Progressive Rock.

 

Over the next few albums Kenso’s music changed towards a more Jazz Rock inspired style, British acts like Brand X or Bruford comes to mind, but also Return to Forever and many others.

That said Kenso is far from copying anyone, they have their own sound and style and I believe you can also sense something very Japanese in their music.

 

Besides the wonderful Hiromi Uehara  (a very different story altogether). Kenso is as far as I know the most well-known Jazz Rock artist coming from Japan and for very good reason, their music is very varied and complex, touching many subgenres of (prog) Rock and Jazz fussion, mostly instrumental but never boring or one-sided.

Current lineup:

清水義央  (Yoshihisa Shimizu) Guitars

小口健一 (Kenichi Oguchi) Keyboards

光田健一 (Kenichi Mitsuda) Keyboads

三枝俊治 (Shunji Saegusa) Bass

小森啓資 (Keisuke Komori)Drums

 

 

Kenso have made 10 studio albums, the latest in 2014, and a serie of live albums. They are also featured with 5 tracks on “Live at Progfest-2000” DVD released by Musea.

Kenso played NEARfest 2005

 

 

Art Bears – Upon a wheel a cockerel crows

Art Bears became a member of the Rock in Opposition movement in December 1978 where the RIO members met in Sunrise Studio Kirchberg.

The band was formed by members of now disbanded Henry Cow

The debut was released May 1978, containing 9 tracks recorded by Henry Cow in January and 5 tracks by Art Bears in March 1978.

The album can be seen as a “last”  Henry Cow, but with more “song” orientated material than previous albums, as the instrumental recordings would mainly appear on Henry Cow’s Western Culture (1979).

Art bears: Hopes and Fears – “In Two Minds” (recorded by Henry Cow)

 

Art Bears first “true” album with songs intended for and preformed only by Art Bears came soon after, “Winter Songs” recorded in late 1978 and released in 1979.

This is my favorite Art Bears album, within its own genre a relative accessible piece of art, the band is now a trio with Fred Frith playing all instruments, Chris Cutler Drums & Percussion, topped with a stunning vocal by Dagmar Krause.

Upon a – wheel a – cockerel crows the – crimson dawn

There is a medival theme to the record, sending thoughts in direction of early 70’s masters like Jethro Tull or Gentle Gaint, underlined by some supreme violin from Frith.

 

Art Bears made a last album “The World as It Is Today” in late summer 1980 released in 1981, the radical political ambitions of the band is now even more evident with track like “”The Song of Investment Capital Overseas”.

I empty villages – I burn their houses down – I set up factories

The music also seems more inspired by “industrialism” with more repetitive themes that may reflect the machinery and work processes of modern day.

In my opinion a less inspired effort compared to Winter Songs but not bad at all, absolutely worth a listen or rather many listens, this is not music you can expect to digest or comprehend investing 30 minutes.

 

 

 

 

Flat, Naked and Selfish

lthough D-A-D had their commercial peak in 1989 with “No Fuel Left for the Pilgrims”, my personal favorite period is 95-97 with “Helpyourselfish and “Simpatico”, there is a unique punch and aggressiveness in that period, that I just prefer to other albums they have done, even though they have made many other great tracks over the years.

Helpyourselfish – Helpyourselfish

The band was born in Copenhagen, Denmark a in the early 80’s as Disneyland After Dark. Their original sound was something later referred to as Cowpunk, an odd mixture of simple “punkish” hard rock and country music. The name was changed to D-A-D due to a possible conflict with Disney after they got international attention with “No Fuel Left for the Pilgrims” and the single “Sleeping My Day Away”.

Helpyourselfish – Flat

Even though their music can hardly be called mainstream, D-A-D have become a household name in Denmark, after 11 albums and more than 30 years on the road, where they have played Roskilde Festival more than 10 times. They have now reached a status where they are on national television almost every time they make a new album.

Helpyourselfish – Naked

After Helpyourselfish, the next album Simpatico was overall as an album a little less rough in the sound, and to some extent more melodic, but the style was still harder than the earlier material.

Simpatico – Simpatico

Their latest album “DIC·NII·LAN·DAFT·ERD·ARK” was released November 2011

 

Steve Lacy – Bop, Free Jazz and Avant Garde Prog

Steven Norman Lackritz was born in New York City back in 1934. He is best known to be the first to specialize on soprano saxophone in modern Jazz, but he was also a very diverse saxophonist, from interpreting the classics masters especially Thelonious Monk, to free Jazz, avant-garde and even progressive jazz rock.

Steve Lacy playing Monk’s “Played Twice”

Starting his career playing Dixieland with various musicians from 1952-55, by the 2nd half of the 50’s he moved into more modern styles and playing with giants like free Jazz pioneer Cecil Taylor , Gil Evans, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk.

From Steve Lacy Sortie 1966, this was Steve Lacy’s sixth album, the first based only on his own compositions and his first take on free jazz as a band leader.

 

Steve Lacy appears on Italian band Area’s fourth studio album maledetti, the album is a mystic journey of styles and moods in the more avant-garde division of progressive rock, but also inspired by free/experimental Jazz.

Lacy on Area’s “maledetti” (1976)

 

 

I can’t get out !

In my series off ”Classic” 70’s masterpieces I could not, and wouldn’t dream of forgetting the mighty Tull, the main creator and dominating factor in the world of (Progressive) Folk Rock. It would be obvious to pick “Thick as a Brick” or “Aqualung” which is undeniably brilliant albums, but personally my favorite has always been “Minstrel in the Gallery” may not be that “early” 70’s but….

The opener functions as a great sum-up of what is to come later, with the mix of an acoustic opening and the harder rock finish, great melodic song parts and long instrumentals sections.

The next two tracks on side one includes a very evident and gracefully use of strings conducted by David Palmer, “Cold Wind to Valhalla” has already been covered here, on “Black Satin Dancer” the combo of Rock and Classic instrument is even more evident and brilliantly used to its full potential.

The first side of the album is perfectly rounded off with a completely low down acoustic. In my opinion one of the best quiet Jethro songs “Requiem”

All that was just amazing, but what lifts “Minstrel in the Gallery” sky high is the 16+ minutes “Baker St. Muse” epic, taking up most of side 2, a long track like that will make or break an album, and this one just makes my day every time I listen to it, and after more than 40 year that still happens very frequently.

The combination of Hard Rock, melodic song writing, acoustic passages and the strings is beautifully woven together into perfection.