Tuesday, November 20, 2007

In Canterbury Heaven!!!

News just in that there are to be two archival releases for afficionado’s of the Canterbury scene. Dave Stewart has been rummaging around and come up with a compilation of Egg material, “The Metronomical Society” and a re-release of pre-Egg band Uriel’s only album complete with bonus tracks. Both albums come as digi-packs with 20 page booklets, in a similar fashion to the two Hatfield and the North CD’s of a few years back. Dave has also compiled a companion booklet detailing the life and times around the bands. Go to the Egg Archive for details on the releases.
Also just released is Egg’s last album, “The Civil Surface”. Released by Esoteric, the new label set up by Mark Powell and co, this album has been lovingly remastered and packaged in the usual manner we have come to expect from Eclectic in the past.

Miles Davis ~ The Complete On The Corner Sessions

Everyone should have a favourite Miles Davis period. Mine is the electric music of around the late 60’s to the mid 70’s. Miles Davis seems to have produced a huge amount of material during that period. For him it was a period of frenetic experimentation, which peaked with “On the Corner”. With this box set of 6 CD’s we get a superb overview of the music from that period, not just around the “On The Corner” sessions. At this juncture, Davis was more a composer and bandleader than trumpeter. With so many top notch players, he was right to let them do their stuff. Even listening to this material now, it sounds like nothing else in existence. A lot has been made about the mix of Hendrix, Stockhausen and Sly Stone, but that is only a part of the magical brew being conjured up here. This is Miles Davis through and through. Always reaching out and trying anything that sounds and felt right.

This is the last box set in Sony Legacy’s series of compiling Miles Davis sessions. Like the others, this is beautifully presented in a metal embossed slip case with 120 page booklet, featuring lots of pictures and notes about the sessions. This may be completist stuff, but for anyone remotely interested in Miles Davis’s electric period it’s a must have. Along with the issue of the Trio Of Doom CD earlier in the year, this box set is an important archival release for what electric jazz could achieve in the 70’s.

For more information about Miles’s electric period,
Paul Tingen’s web site is a must see. Author of the excellent book, Miles Beyond, the site is full of in depth articles and info about that prolific period.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Glass Hammer ~ Culture Of Ascent

I have been listening to the new one by Glass Hammer recently. This US band have been making excellent symphonic prog for many years now. Their last “The Incosolable Secret” was a bit of a high watermark. It was an ambitious 2 CD affair, with a very nice sleeve designed by Roger Dean. The band continue their Yes connection this time on “Culture Of Ascent” with Jon Anderson guesting on a couple of tracks and they also cover “South Side Of The Sky” which does fit in with the general concept of the album. I think this album is their most complex musically and I like the way they mix contemporary production ideas into the symphonic arrangements. Though Yes is an obvious influence, they are never derivative. They have taken Yes’s “Close to the Edge” and “Awaken” as prototypes and developed their own particular sound.

Another album that I have really enjoyed recently is “Doomsday Afternoon” by Phideaux. This is an unusual album. It is prog, with bits of folk and other ideas thrown in, but it’s not much like anything else in the genre. Very individual, theatrical maybe I need to check out their other albums.

I was recently on Big Big Train’s Gregory Spawtons blog, where he mentions Thieves Kitchen. I remember thier “Shibboleth” album of many years back, so it’s good to see they are planning a new album for sometime next year. Their keyboard player is Thomas Johnson who used to be with the mighty Anglagard! Now there was a band!!!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Manning ~ Songs From The Bilston House

Slightly delayed by the postal strike, the new album by Manning has been spinning for the last week or so. Guy Manning is one of my favourite artists, through the simple fact he writes wonderfully evocative, literate and highly musical songs. This new album is up to his usual high standards. If anything I think he has set the bar much higher than ever before. The intricacies and layers of instrumentation on this album are quite overwhelming. One minute a flute solo, then sax, then synth all effortlessly weaving in and out of the mix. This is intoxicating stuff and wonderfully played by all involved. Guy has let each song breath to allow room for some beautifully inspired soloing. I don’t think I have heard a Guy Manning album sound so full on and this might be his proggiest album too!

I always expect to enjoy a Manning album, but I was really taken aback by how especially good this album really is. Even with the limited number of plays I have been able to give this, it will definitely be in my top 5 best albums of the year. Maybe even the top spot!

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