Thursday, January 17, 2008

Gentle Giant ~ Three Friends

Repertoire continue in re-releasing Gentle Giant’s Vertigo label catalogue with “Three Friends”. This like the others in the series has been expertly remastered by Eroc and will be available end of January in their distinctive mini-LP reproduction digi-sleeve. I believe they are re-releasing “Octopus” at the same time, this time as a digi-pack, but I don’t think this will be the corrected master. There were some “clicks” on the original release of the remaster (which to me were hardly noticeable), which were reported to Repertoire leading to a new glass master being required. According to reports on the Steve Hoffman site this is still sitting on Eroc’s desk!

Crooked Mouth ~ Hold In The Sun

I recently read a review about this group in the latest Classic Rock magazine. Sounded good so thought I would give it a go. Glad I did. This band is the brainchild of Edinburgh based musician Ken Campbell. This, their second album is a sharp, sophisticated, modern sounding prog rock. Plenty of clean synth lines, drum programming and especially nice to hear e-bow guitar. This is wonderfully featured on the excellent track “David & Goliath”.

Listening to this made me realise that there seems to be a highly active prog rock scene in Britain at the moment, where a lot of the bands are producing and releasing recordings themselves via the web or through small independent labels. Some of the bands I have heard or come across indicate that there is a strong burgeoning scene of young bands taking their inspiration from prog, not in a retro fashion, but trying to be fresh and contemporary. That is no mellotrons! Here are some other recommendations.

Tinyfish ~ Tinyfish

Touchstone ~ Discordant Dreams

Big Big Train ~ The Difference Machine

Breathing Space ~ Coming Up For air

The Reasoning ~ Awakening

Darwin’s Radio ~ Eyes Of The World

The Gift ~Awake and Dreaming

Pineapple Thief ~ What We Have Sown

Anyone have any other recommendations?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Radiohead ~ In Rainbows

I got around to listening to this recently, preferring to wait for the physical CD issue rather than go for the download. I prefer to handle my music and to link a visual aspect to the aural experience. Anyway, it is a very good album and as good as anything they have produced in the past. The multiple rave reviews that have appeared in its wake would support this. However, when I listen to it and I had the same feeling with Arcade Fires “Neon Bible”, which also got huge positive reviews and I liked, I am left thinking that, yes it is good but I have heard so much more that is so much better. Over the last year, albums by the likes of Carptree, Porcupine Tree, Riverside and Phideaux have mined similar seams of modern rock, but with more flair, imagination and to be honest songwriting ability. But the likes of Radiohead and Arcade Fire are set as being at the forefront of modern rock music, while the others I have listed are at best ignored. Why is that?

Radiohead have long been termed prog revivalists, which I have never understood. I don’t hear much that is prog in their music. I think they owe more to the Bowie/Eno/Sylvian school of art rock and maybe even U2 in their more experimental mode.

I know music is such a subjective, personal thing, but I seem to be getting more exasperated that there is so much good music out there, as good if not better than Radiohead, yet they don’t get anywhere near the recognition they deserve. Yes, I admit I am a probably a grumpy old prog head who should stick to their dreary old muso stuff! Whatever!

Maybe I should be thankful that a group like Radiohead, in these days of contrived, manufactured talent can have a number 1 album. It’s a funny old world!

Monday, January 07, 2008

A New Year

So the new year starts and what will it bring? Well, already on the radar for later this month are new titles by Tiles and Ayreon. The latest Ayreon concept piece, obscurely called 01011001 is another rmassive 2 disc affair and the first since 2004’s “The Human Equation”. Tiles are considered Rush copyists, not only sounding like the trio, but using their old producer, Terry Brown and cover artist, Hugh Syme and actually have Alex Lifeson appearing on one track of the new album, “Fly Paper”. But there is more to this band than the Rush tag may imply and previous albums such as “Window Dressing” and “Presents of Mind” deserve much attaention.

Also for this month sees the long expected “The Bedlam of Goliath” by The Mars Volta. More frazzled, skewed, obscure sonic shenanigans can be expected.

But for me the one to look out for is the latest by Andy Tillison’s The Tangent. “Not As Good As The Book” is a 2 CD album, which comes with a 100 page storybook/comic strip. This huge, lavish project should see the band at the peak of their game. I have heard a demo of one track “A Crisis In Midlife” which is excellent. The album also sees the debut of Jakko M. Jakszyk on guitar and vocals who from the evidence of his work with the 21st Century Schizoid Band and on the wonderful solo album “The Bruised Romantic Glee Club” will clearly be a huge bonus to the bands sound. Due sometime March this album is not to be missed!!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Rocket Scientists ~ Looking Backward

This nifty box set landed on my doorstep a few days after Christmas. Containing remastered CD’s of RS’s earlier albums together with a disc of newly recorded versions of choice tracks and a DVD of those recording sessions, this is a wonderfully put together set.

RS’s “Earthbound” and “Brutal Architecture” albums have long been unavailable, so when keyboardist Erik Norlander planned to remaster them, the project eventually took on a life of its own. We now have those albums together with a remastered “Oblivion Days” and a full CD’s worth of beautifully recorded new versions of some favourite RS tracks. Over these 4 CD’s this is prime American prog rock, showcasing what wonderful musicians, Erik Norlander, guitarist/vocalist Mark McCrite and Stick player Don Schiff really are, ably supported by amongst others Greg Ellis on drums.

The whole package is rounded out by a fantastic 64 page booklet which includes complete lyrics, credits, notes and photographs. Erik and his label Think Tank Media are known for the quality of their releases, from the recording, producing, musicianship, down to the artwork and packaging. On this box set they have outdone themselves. And with the exchange rate the way it is, the whole thing can be bought for around £25 so it is an absolute bargain!
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