Reviews in this issue:
- Pallas - Live Our Lives
- Genesis - Archives #2 1976 - 1992
- Roger Waters - In The Flesh
- Qango - Live in the Hood
- Jump - ... And All The King's Men
- Jump - Matthew
- Geddy Lee - My Favourite Headache
- Serum - See Through My Eyes
- Plastic Overlords - Plastic Overlords
- Alloy Now - Twin Sister Of The Milky Way
- King Crimson - Cirkus: The Young Person's Guide To King Crimson Live
- Warning: Minds of Raging Empires ... - Tribute to Queensryche
Pallas - Live Our Lives
Tracklist CD2: The Atlantis Suite: Rise and Fall (6.10), East West (5.26), March on Atlantis (3.15), Atlantis (11.40).
I was really looking forward to hearing this CD. Not only did I really enjoy the Beat The Drum
and The Sentinel albums, which I has the chance to review in the past years, but I had also
missed most of the band's performance in De Nieuwe Pul in Uden during their 1999 tour. Reason for
the latter was that the sound was so incredibly loud that it was really unbearable, so I left the
main hall of the venue before long.
I'm not sure if the sound engineer that was responsible for that gig also is responsible for the mix on this CD. If so, it explains a lot. Read on.
The CD features a selection of the best tracks from the band's career with 5 songs from The Sentinel, 2 songs from The Wedge and 6 tracks from Beat The Drum. The songs were recorded at different locations during the band's 1999 European tour.
The first CD contains a mixture of songs with the emphasize on the bombastic Beat The Drums
tracks, which sound great when played live, whereas Blood and Roses is extremely emotional
The short second CD brings us the never before released live version of The Atlantis Suite, a combination of songs from The Sentinel. The suite conists of Rise and Fall (part 1), East West, March on Atlantis and finally Atlantis. The latter has never been a real favourite of mine because of what I would call a high 'We Are The World' factor. Still, that's probably a personal thing.
The performances by the band are very good indeed and combined with the great setlist this would probably have you assuming that we've got a great live album on our hands here. Unfortunately it's not as great as it might seem; the main letdown of the album is the quality of the sound and even more so, the mixing. As mentioned the songs were recorded at different locations, something you can easily tell by the difference in quality between some of the songs. In some songs you can hardly hear Mathewson's guitar solos (quite remarkable since he produced this CD) and almost all of the songs have Alan Reed's vocals so low in the mix that you wouldn't be able to tell what he was singing if you didn't know the words. At other times keyboards or bass are drowned out by other instruments. Overall the whole mix sounds quite flat and non-dynamic. A missed opportunity.
The CD is only available through the band's merchandise page for £ 15, which might be a bit expensive considering the total playing time of the album. The CD comes with a nice 12-page booklet filled with pictures and a collage of other snapshots and tour related items.
All in all this makes for a nice compilation of Pallas classics, but unfortunately brought in a far from perfect sound/mixing quality. A real shame, since this could have been a killer live album.
Conclusion: 7+ out of 10.
Genesis - Archives #2 1976 - 1992
Tracklist CD2: Illegal Alien (live) (5.31), Dreaming While You Sleep (live) (7.48), It's Gonna Get Better (live) (7.32), Deep In The Motherlode (live) (5.54), Ripples (live) (9.53), The Brazilian (live) (5.17), Your Own Special Way (live) (6.51), Burning Rope (live) (7.28), Entangled (live) (6.57), Duke's Travels (live) (9.31)
Tracklist CD3: Invisible Touch (12") (5.58), Land Of Confusion (12") (6.59), Tonight Tonight Tonight (12") (11.46), No Reply At All (live) (4.56), Man On The Corner (live) (4.04), The Lady Lies (live) (6.08), Open Door (4.08), The Day The Light Went Out (3.14), Vancouver (3.03), Pigeons (3.13), It's Yourself (5.25), Mama (work in progress) (10.43)
Two years ago Genesis surprised their fans with a boxset of nostalgia, which soon got the nick name "The Gabriel Years". Finally a complete concert of the Lamb... tour, and loads of unreleased tracks were covered on this boxset. Now a new box has seen the light of day. This second box covers the period from 1976 till 1992, and probably soon will carry the nickname "The Collins Years".
A boxset of an era which shows a band that changed their styles with almost every album. From their best progressive albums A Trick of the Tail and Winds and Wuthering through And Then There Were Three and Duke to the megaselling but mixed feeling pop albums Genesis, Abacab, Invisible Touch and We Can't Dance. Although the latter albums contain various epic tracks the overall contribution is very pop orientated.
Probably this is the strongest thing about the Collins period, the period in which Genesis grew from a band on the verge of bankruptcy to megaselling superartists. The band changed their style which resulted in high ranking hits like Mama, Abacab, Land Of Confusion, I Can't Dance and Jesus He Knows Me. They were able to stay in the charts during an era in which the music industry was changing from long term well known names to nine days' wonders, from golden oldies to boy- and girl wonders, from radio- to TV age in which a good videoclip meant a great hit. So Genesis got along and the Spitting Image clip of Land Of Cunfusion resulted in a top ten hit. Later on they did the same with the ironic clips of I Can't Dance and Jesus He Knows Me.
This angle is reflected through tracks which are covered on this second boxset. A boxset filled with b-sides, live tracks and 12" versions which surprisingly contains tracks that have stand the test of time and still sound really fresh although others sound very outdated. Unfortunately this boxset doesn't contain any unreleased tracks, but it is really nice that for the first time all single b-sides from the pre-CD-era are covered. Songs like It's Yourself, Vancouver and The Day The Light Went Out were up till now only available as b-sides from the Many Too Many and Your Own Special Way vynil 7" singles. The same goes to the tracks Naminanu and Submarine the instrumental b-sides from the Abacab recording sessions, which show that even a band like Genesis is able to write material which at first listen deserve a place in a trashcan, and even after listening to it more often should have been left off this boxset. All the other studio tracks were covered on the earlier releases Spot The Pigeon (Pigeons and Inside And Out) the fourth side of the Three Sides Live Vertigo version (Paperlate, Evidence Of Autumn, Open Door and You Might Recall). The missing tracks from those releases are Match Of The Day and Me & Virgil, which deserve it more to be placed on this boxset instead of the instrumentals from the Abacab period.
The single b-sides from the Invisible Touch - and We Can't Dance period, On The Shoreline, Hearts On Fire, Do The Neurotic, I'd Rather Be You, and the very poppy Feeding The Fire sound like distant echoes of the solowork of Phil Collins and like the Abacab period b-sides aren't their strongest work, although On The Shoreline and the instrumental Do The Neurotics probably can be called the best written b-sides of the eighties and nineties period of Genesis.
The 12" versions of I Can't Dance, Invisble Touch, Land Of Confusion and Tonight, Tonight, Tonight add nothing to the original songs, and to my opinion are only covered to fill up the CD's.
The most interested tracks from this boxset, and covered on the second disc, are the first time official released live version of Illegal Alien, It's Gonna Get Better, Deep In The Motherlode, Ripples, Burning Rope, Entangled, Duke's Travels, No Reply At All, Man on The Corner and The Lady Lies. Three other live tracks (The Brazilian, Dreaming While You Sleep and Your Own Special Way) were already covered on the We Can't Dance singles. It's nice to finally have those live versions from the late seventies, although no tracks of Winds and Wuthering are covered. Which to my opinion is a great mistake. In my opinion Winds And Wuthering is the best album with Collins fronting the band as their singer. The songs are epical, and lyricly very interesting. Just two tracks made it to official live albums. Afterglow is covered both on Seconds Out and Three Sides Live while One For The Vine made it to the fourth side of the Three Sides Live Virgin version. Which was later rereleased in the remastered series.
Genesis always had a really strong worldwide fan base, which bought almost everything the band was releasing. You only have to remember the hugh sales succes of the last year released greatest hits album Turn It On Again to know that their fans are really loyal to the threesome, even if an album covers tracks which already have been released in different formats.
So the final result of this boxset will keep a lot of fans with mixed feelings. Now you end up with a boxset which is filled for two-third with already available material. Although most from the Collins period is covered, in the end you wonder why a fourth CD wasn't spend on tracks like the earlier mentioned studio tracks Match Of The Day and Me & Virgil, live versions of All In A Mouse's Night, Eleventh Earl Of Mar, Inside And Out, Down And Out, Say It's Alright Joe and the live played Gabriel tracks White Mountain and The Knife. The latter, in the single version, was a great and strong encore during the Duke tour. If you don't have all the singles this boxset is a great oppertunity to fill in the gaps of your Genesis collection. If you own most of all the stuff, well you probably still get it because you like to keep your collection complete, although you don't get all for your money. Even the nice 64 paged booklet which is included won't compensate this.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10.
Roger Waters - In The Flesh
Tracklist CD2: Breathe (In The Air) (3.23), Time (6.24), Money (6.11), Every Stranger's Eyes (5.20), Perfect Sense (Parts I and II) (7.26), The Bravery Of Being Out Of Range (5.04), It's A Miracle (8.12), Amused To Death (9.25), Brain Damage (4.06), Eclipse (2.19), Comfortably Numb (8.08), Each Small Candle (9.05)
In 1999, almost 10 years after his last live performance with The Wall in Berlin, Roger Waters suddenly decided to do a tour in the US. This succesfull tour was continued with another series of concerts in 2000. This new double live CD captures most of the songs that were played during that second leg of the so-called In The Flesh Tour. The songs were drawn from performances in Phoenix, Arizona, Las Vegas, Nevada, Irvine, California, and Portland, Oregon.
On stage Roger was joined by Doyle Barmhall II (guitar & vocals), Graham Broad (drums), Jon Carin (keyboards, lap steel, programming, guitar & vocals), Andy Fairweather Low (guitar, bass & vocals), Katie Kissoon (vocals), Susannah Melvoin (vocals), P.P. Arnold (vocals), Andy Wallace (Hammond, keyboards) and Snowy White (guitar). The only thing I'm missing in the credits is the person who played the saxophone solos on some of the tracks. Most of these musicians have already been involved in Roger's musical career in the past. For instance, Snowy White had already played with Pink Floyd on the 'Animals' and 'Wall' tours, as well as Roger's performances in Sevilla and Berlin. The album was recorded and mixed by James Guthrie, who has worked with Waters ever since The Wall.
Waters mentions in the liner notes of the booklet that some tracks from The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon that were played live were left off the CD because a live version of the first had just been released as a double album (Is There Anybody Out There ?), while the other had been played 'almost ad infinitum by another band' (guess who). Nevertheless, ten out of the 24 songs are taken from these two albums (as a matter of fact, only The Thin Ice, Another Brick in the Wall (part 1) and the paino intro to Great Gig in the Sky were left of this CD). I could personally have done without most of these songs because not only have I heard them many times before, but it is in this material that I miss the vocals and guitar of David Gilmour most. I would have preferred more solo material instead of these all too obvious Floyd songs.
The first CD starts with In The Flesh (with great drumming by Graham Broad), Happiest Days of Out Lives, Another
Brick in the Wall (part 2) (with two guitar solos by Bramhall and White, plus a repeated
verse at the end of the song) and Mother (a nice, sensitive version with one of the
female backing vocalists taking up Gilmour's vocals), all taken from The Wall.
The Final Cut album is represented by the lovely acoustic medley of Get Your Filthy Hands of My Desert and Southampton Dock (ending with the opening melody of The Final Cut song on guitar), as it was played live in 1987 during the 'Kaos on the Road Tour'. I would have loved to see The Gunners Dream from the same album in its 1984 live version on the album as well, but alas.
The Animals album is the next to be visited. It's a shame that Pigs on the Wing (part 1) is not played with the guitar bridge and flowing into Pigs on the Wing (part 2). It was recorded as such in a rare version that ended up on the 8-track of Animals with a guitar solo by Snowy White, as a sort of audition for the Animals tour. It seemed appropriate to play it that way with Snowy on stage, but unfortunately only the regular first half is played. What comes next easily makes up for this minor letdown; a full version of Dogs, amazingly well played and with great guest vocals by Jon Carin (doing much better than Bramhall). A highlight of the album!
Next up is a selection from Wish You Were Here. After a fine version of Welcome To The
Machine, featuring massive backing vocals, we get the re-arranged version of the title track
Wish You Were Here as Waters also used to play it live during the eighties, again with
lots of backing vocals. A nice, fresh version of a rather overplayed song.
The version of Shine On You Crazy Diamond which follows is rather strange. Its starts with part 1 and 2, followed by 4 and continuing with part 6 and 7 to finally return part 5 and to the opening section of part 1. A good version nevertheless, with a rather mediocre guitar solo in part 2 as my only complaint.
The first CD closes with the modernized version of the 1967 Floyd classic Set The Control for the Heart of the Sun as it was also played live in 1984 during the "Pros and Cons Tour'. A great rendition complete with saxophone solo and a freaky middle section.
The second CD features Breathe (In The Air), including the Speak to Me opening of Dark Side of the Moon. Both this song and the next one, Time feature Doyle Bramhall II on guest vocals, although surprisingly enough Waters has chosen to do Gilmour's vocals on Time himself, instead of the less powerful vocals that were originally done by Richard Wright. Although not mentioned on the CD, Time does end with Breathe Reprise. Bramhall continues guest vocals on Money and even though he doesn't do bad on these songs, I do miss that 'edge' of Gilmour's voice. The same goes for the music of these Dark Side tracks; they are more mellow and less 'punchy' than the versions of the 'Waterless' Pink Floyd. The nice thing about Waters' versions of the songs is the even more extensive use of (female) backing vocals on various tracks. Not only do they compensate for a certain lack of volume in Roger's voice, they also add to the power of the performances.
And then finally we get to - for me - the most interesting part of the double album; Roger's
solo material. First we are treated to Every Strangers Eyes (from the Pros & Cons of
Hitch-Hiking album). Silly enough we can hear the very obvious use of a tape for the vocals
of the 'heavy' vocals of the middle part ('And now, from where I stand upon this
hill ...'). Without a doubt, Roger's vocals are no longer strong enough to reach these
notes and volumes, but maybe it would have been better to choose another song for that reason.
It seems rather embarrassing to me, especially since it makes it painfully clear how much
his vocals have changed in the past 20 years.
Unlike during the 1999 leg of the tour, sadly enough no song from Radio Kaos is included in the setlist. Then again, the version of The Powers That Be that was played live in 1999 was pretty 'crappy', so I don't really miss it. Nevertheless, some other songs from that album would have been nice.
We continue with a large chuck of Roger's masterpiece Amused to Death: Perfect Sense (part 1 and 2) (with P.P. Arnold doing her amazing vocal section as she did on the studio version), the George Bush/Golf War indictment The Bravery of Being Out Of Range, It's a Miracle and the title track Amused to Death. All songs are played very tight and I still think it's a shame that Waters didn't decide to play the whole album live, or would at least have included What God Wants (part 1) that was played during the 1999 tour. Nevetheless, this section is my favourite part of the CD.
The encores of the setlist were Brain Damage/Eclipse (from Dark Side of the Moon) and
Comfortably Numb (from The Wall). The latter sounds too much like the horrible Van
Morrison rape of the Berlin Wall version because of the guest vocalist doing Gilmour's part.
The CD closes with a nice new track, Each Small Candle. The song starts with the backing vocalists and a guitar solo by Snowy White. The song has the same feel as The Tide is Turning and the lyrics, of which the first verse was written by a South American who'd been a victim of torture, are very emotional. Later on the song gets heavier, owning to a more bombastic melody. This new tune sets high expectations for the album that Waters plans to record in 2001.
Behind the rather ugly cover of the CD, which contains symbols and illustrations linked to most albums featured on the album, hides a wonderful 24- page booklet with liner notes by Waters (including another rant against stadium rock) and lots of pictures, plus the lyrics of Each Small Candle.
All in all, this is a very nice package with an interesting mixture of classic Floyd tracks and great solo compositions. The sound is great and very dynamic and performances are of high quality as well. Personally I would have preferred more solo material in the setlist instead of the songs from The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon, but hey, you can't please everybody. Then again, it's a great replacement for that audience recording bootleg I've been playing for the last year. And let's not forget that you get almost 2.5 hours of live music worth your money !
Waters and record company Columbia are seemingly still argueing about the release of a deluxe DVD version of "In The Flesh" that is mentioned in the booklet.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10.
Qango - Live in the Hood
Qango was 'founded' in 1999 when a proposed Asia reunion fell apart and John Wetton
and Carl Palmer got together to
play a set with some Asia and Emerson Lake and Palmer classics. The two were joined
by John Young (who had previously played in the John Wetton Band and is currently working
with Greenslade and Fish) and Dave Kilminster, another Wetton Band veteran.
The band played a total of 11 gigs in February and April 200, all in the UK. Live in the Hood was recorded at the second gig in The Robin Hood, Brierley Hill on the 3rd of February.
After a short introduction with the intro from Fanfare for the Common Man by John Young
on keyboards the album takes of with the two Asia classics Time Again and Sole Survivors.
Two good and energetic openers of the set, although the version of Sole Survivor,
when comparing it to the version on Wetton's Nomansland, makes it
more than clear what a marvellous drummer Steve Christy is (if you know what I mean). Carl Parlmer
can maintain a steady rhythm, but at times his drumming is a bit too straightforward and monotonous.
John Young's keyboard playing is also different from Martin Orford's, but not necessarily in a bad way.
Next up is ELP's Bitches Cristal, not one of my favourites from this CD. Especially the piano play is a bit messy here and there.
After this powerful first section of the CD it's time for a resting point. After a short acoustic solo by Dave Kilminster, which also features a snippet from Promenade of Pictures at Exhibition, Wetton and Kilminster continue with two acoustic guitars in a wonderful version of Bob Dylan's All Along The Watchtower. At the end of the song Palmer joins in with some percussion and Young on synth-piano.
The peaceful mood remains for a while longer with The Last One Home. This song was originally written
by John Young and part of it formed the basis for Wetton's Arkangel track.
A version of this song can also be found on John's demo CD Life Underground. I personally think that the verses and the choruses don't really match; I constantly get the feeling that I'm listening to two different songs (both of them pretty nice though!). This version of the song features a new section with the full band, which was probably written by Wetton because his name now suddenly pops up in the credits for this song.
John Young sometimes has the urge to be a bit too much 'present' on piano during Kilminster's solo, where it might have been beter to play a 'supportive' part. Then again, this track still seems to be a bit of a 'work in process'.
We continue John's composing contribution with a keyboard solo called Paddydog, after his dog that passed away last year (by the way, this official title was not mentioned on the CD). The track is a bit of a mish-mash of various melodies and concludes with a free interpretation of Beethoven's Ode to Joy.
And then it's Aaron Copland time! Qango plays two ELP versions of this composers work,
first the 'wild west tune' Hoedown, followed by one of ELP's most famous tracks,
Fanfare for the Common Man. Young and Kilminister deserve a special thumbs up for their
amazingly tight play in Hoedown, in which they alternate and join each other on the
melodies of the song. Fanfare for the Common Man sounds powerful as well and includes
a choatic improvisation by John and Dave, followed by a drum solo by Carl Palmer.
The album closes with a great encore in the form of Asia's Heat of the Moment.
Throughout the performance the band is playing pretty tight, especially considering the fact that this was only the second gig. I can't help but wonder if the CD would have been even better if they would have recorded one of the later gigs. Dave Kilminster's solos sound a bit muffled at times; I wouldn't have minded a bit more 'treble' and a bit less distortion at times. It also seems to be located in the left speaker a bit too much. Wetton is in good form on bass and vocals.
The choice of tracks and their order was done in a very wise way; first a powerful group of songs, than a more peaceful (semi)acoustic intermezzo, followed by another powerful section. This keeps the CD interesting and fascinating from beginning to end. Besides a couple of minor flaws this is a very enjoyable album, especially if you like Asia and ELP.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10.
Jump - ... And All The King's Men
Whereas in the Vulgar Unicorn review in the previous issue I was complaining that there wasn't enough rock in it, here I complain about the opposite: an overdose of average rock. Ok, the dual guitars make up some for the complete lack of keyboards, and the good vocals of John Dexter Jones, who won the Classic Rock Society poll for best male vocalist, too, but on average the compositions on this CD convince me even less than their live performances (which can be heard on their live album The Freedom Train). Since I recieved two albums simultaneously, I will review them in one section. The first album I will discuss is the rerelease of the 1994 album ... And All The King's Men. The second review is the new album, the seventh studio album of Jump, simply called Matthew.
After the 1994 album ... And All The King's Men was recorded, Jump came to the attention of Marillion's Mark Kelly and not much
later they joined Fish to do the opening act in his Sunsets On Empire tour. It may therefore not come as a surprise that
Jump do contain Marillion and Fish influences in their music. However, they are not clones of these bands in any way.
The opening track And all the King's Horses in fact comes closest and in my opinion is the strongest track on the album. Jump severely suffers from lack of (audible) keyboards (despite the fact that a certain Mo is credited for the keyboards), and despite the twin guitars that occasionally fight out a nice duel, most of the album sounds very much blues-rock oriented, sometimes reminding more of the likes of Rory Galagher than of your average prog band. Still, there are definitely progressive elements in their music, as for instance Seize The Day proves. This track would not have been out of place on a Hogarth era Marillion album. Shed No Tears, for example, might do better on a Fish album, with its references to traditional music.
The main strenght of this album, as with most Jump albums, lies in the combination of lyrics and vocals. The sharp lyrics about social injustice, observations on modern Britain, on adolescence etc, are what makes Jump music stand out above the crowd. For me personally, this is too meagre. The music itself just isn't able to touch me. The last track, This Is The Wall, is quite a heavy one, and together with the opening track, is the strongest one on this album.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10.
Jump - Matthew
By the time I write this review, I have now listened to this album over 25 times. Why, is it so good? Well, no, it's just that I couldn't make up my mind. From a songwriters point of view, the album is quite OK, and the vocals really carry the music. I'm just still not quite impressed by the compositions. They lean heavily on standard rock music, and only at times some Marillion references pop up, like in the final track Nearly Ended World or the title track Matthew (dealing with a boy trying to be REM's Michael Stipe).
The first two tracks are really rocky, nothing special, just nice guitar tracks. Everybody Stop reminded me of David Gilmour's solo work, you know the guitar oriented stuff. Also quite nice, but nothing worth going into. As said, the title track is somewhat more interesting, with vague references to Marillion in the combination of guitar and keyboards (which are used a bit more effectively on this album than on the previous one). The next track, The Highwayman, is an example of the worst type: completely ineffective rock track. Funny that it is followed by two more interesting tracks, Alone Ahead, calmer song with a nice chorus and slide guitar and the best track on the album, Nine Sisters. This track comes closest to prog with some nice breaks and a sort of folky approach to the music. If all tracks would have been in this style, with a more prominent role for the piano and keyboards as well as featuring more melodic variation, the grading would have been definitely higher, since in terms of vocal or musical quality, there is no question about it: Jump consists of splendid musicians. Tongue Tied is blues rock, absolutely not my cup of tea. The same goes for Paradise Mislaid, but it is a bit more powerful.
In conclusion: I am impressed by the "band feeling" of Jump, but not by their music. With only hints of Marillion, the basis, in my opinion, is too meagre to call yourself a progressive rock band. If you're looking for some fine rock, and a band that knows how to perform their music live, this is something for you. If you however prefer sympho, or neo-prog, you will be disappointed when you purchase this album.
Conclusion: 6- out of 10.
Geddy Lee - My Favourite Headache
The final months of the year 2000 seem to have been joyous ones for Rush fans. News that Neil Peart has remarried is of tremendous happiness to see that he has overcome the terrible chapter in his life that afflicted him. Furthermore Rush should be heading back to the studios in early 2001 to record a new album, and if that was not enough, Geddy Lee has released his first solo album My Favourite Headache. Complementing Lee is long time pal, collaborator and multi-instrumentalist Ben Mink who apart from his work with K.D. Lang was also a member of fellow Canadian prog-rockers FM. Also playing on the album is Matt Cameron, former Soundgarden sticksman, apart from one track (Home On The Strange) where his seat is taken up by Jeremy Taggart (Our Lady Peace)
The sound on the album is not the typical Rush sound (two thirds of the band missing!) that we are accustomed to hearing and lacks those complicated time signatures, with a greater dedication to having the vocals and rhythm section moving hand in hand. In other words this album has more characteristics of a hard rock album than one that could be termed as progressive.
A rumbling bass line starts off the album which has the title track My Favourite Headache as the opener. The first single to be released from the album it features contrasting King Crimson-like guitar riffs coupled with melodic hooks. A fine opener which augers well for the rest of the album.
The Present Tense is probably one of the most Rush-like tracks on the whole album especially when compared to Test For Echo and is much more contemplative than My Favourite Headache. The same could be said about Window To The World which is also relatively mainstream, possibly due to engineer David Leonard'as - known for his work with Santana, Barenaked Ladies and Prince - involvement with the outcome and sound of each track.
Working At Perfekt, on the other hand, seems to have Ben Mink's influence written all over it with a string influx contributing to the overall texture of the track. The contrast between the rocking edge of the track and the string sections are the highlight with a continuous banter going on between the string and electric instrument, reminding me at times of the excellent Silverchair track with David Helfgot, Emotion Sickness.
Originally meant to be titled 'Requiem', Runaway Train deals with the theme of self abuse and victimizing oneself. Geddy Lee's own words in describing this track are "The song is about victimizing yourself, and the concept that you can live in an intolerable environment only with your own permission, and that you have to activate yourself to remove yourself from harm's way. And when you don't, the thing becomes this runaway experience, where no good can come of it, and you can only stop it with your own insistence. That is what the song is about, that insistence." Musically Ruanway Train keeps up with with the same tempo as previous tracks, managing to retain that Rush flavor yet at the same time be sufficiently modified be able to stand its own.
The Angel's Share once again features a string section, though the track is acoustic in nature and a stark contrast to the previous tracks we have listened to so far. Moving To Bohemia takes on a distinctive Live feel to it especially in the initial stages though as the track progresses this no longer remains as evident. What adds flavor here is the string section which gives that "Bohemian" touch to the whole track.
Home On The Strange features Jeremy Taggart of Our Lady Peace and immediately one senses a change in the rhythm to the track as well as approach. The track is probably the most direct tune present so far on the album and is a real rocker featuring plenty of off beats yet still maintaining that ear-friendly hook. After hearing this track, I feel that the whole album could have taken on a completely different musical direction if this drummer had been onboard for the whole of the album such is the change in style between him and Matt Cameron.
Following the piano intro, Slipping is a more mellow affair and could easily have been lifted from the Counterparts or Test For Echo sessions. A most worthy break from the frenetic pace Home On The Strange had introduced. Still remains in the mellow vein Slipping had introduced with a track that initially sounds very much the Marillion of late with that soft spoken mellow voice backed by music that manages to climax without being obtrusive.
Inspired by Geddy Lee's mother, Grace To Grace closes the album and it is one of the highlights of the CD. This track highlights all the good that there is present on this album. Good rocking music, a great chorus, rhythm and above all Geddy Lee's rumbling bass lines.
The only drawback that this album could have is the fact that it will be inexorably be compared to Geddy Lee's Rush contributions when I feel that it should be listened to individually. Unfortunately that is a hard thing to do as that voice and bass are forever destined to part of this great group. I cannot wait for the new Rush album but in the meantime this solo outing from Geddy Lee will keep me satisfied. All you Rush lovers, get this one!
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10.
Serum - See Through My Eyes
First of all, lets get the record straight - this group has nothing to do with the prog-rock Bostonian band, Serum who released Dirty Girl Scout in 1998, but are a German quintet playing a melodic form of heavy metal. The group were formed in 1996 and since then have released a demo CD, Musiktherapeutikum (1997) as well as this, their debut album. Looking at the C.V. of the various band members, Avalon, Zerox, Ace, X-ing, Mango Fury and Sieges Even, one can immediately formulate an idea as to what the general style of music present on this album is like.
Following the introductory Jack, the group immediately romp into what can be termed as their trademark musical style. Plenty of guitar riffs coupled with a repetitive keyboard lick and typical teutonic vocals give this track a sound which seems to be an attempt to bridge King Diamond and Dream Theater. On the other hand there seems to be a lack of virtuosism as apart from the lengthy guitar solo there is very little musical variety.
How I Wished is a slow track which manages to convey a sense of melancholy, and again attempts to mirror the Dream Theater ballads, though without any lengthy solos. This track then leads into Turn Back The Tide which is an interesting track with a catchy chorus and some nice changes in tempo. At times it is unclear whether Serum are attempting to drive a fine line between exploring boundaries of progressive rock or just simply toe the line as a run-of-the-mill melodic heavy metal band. The chances are there for taking as there are many instances within the album, and this track being a case in point, that the group could definitely expand musically speaking. Unfortunately they seem to be happy with just about hinting about things that could have been but did not happen!
Electrified starts off with a funkier approach, yet this soon descends along similar lines as to what we have already heard. More of the same chugging guitar with simple sing-a-long chorus and the occasional keyboard lick.
Reign Of Time has an Iron Maiden-like intro with delicate guitar picking, a break from the heaviness of the previous couple of tracks. A good track, yet at the same time there is very little in terms of progressive rock!
Daddy's Love has a more staccato approach to what we have been regaled with especially as regards the bass playing, almost funky. Interesting, but the question once again comes to mind, since when is melodic heavy metal classified as progressive?
Clocking in at just under eight minutes, Sunshade is probably the showcase for Serum to show off their musical prowess. As is well known within musical circles, a lengthy track in prog-circles is synonymous with some musical interplay. Once again though, Serum disappoint. There are some occasional breaks in the rhythm, but the lack of variety stands out.
Crazy Way Of Life keeps up with the heavy riffs, probably the heaviest track on the album. With some nice changes in rhythm and the occasional break, this track is the most "German" sounding on the album due to the chorus which reminded me of the MSG of late.
Devil's Train keeps up with the melodic heavy metal trait as does Father To Child with hints of fellow metallists Helloween surfacing occasionally, though at times Wolfgang Gabner's vocals remind me somewhat of Don Dokken. Suspicious closes of the album in an acoustic mood, a contrast to the rest of the album.
Historically the beginning's of heavy metal and progressive rock saw these two genres move hand in hand with each other. However there are substantial differences and I cannot think why certain groups, including Serum, seem to be labeled as progressive! The mere fact that a track or two has a change in rhythm does not justify this. As a consequence this album tends to suffer in my rating merely from the point of view that this review should be one of appeal to progressive rock and not heavy metal. Also a note of contention is why are certain tracks not included within the liner notes of the album? Overall I do not find this album too exciting, but a recycling of various metal riffs and motifs.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10.
Plastic Overlords - Plastic Overlords
Plastic Overlords is a new name to my general knowledge of music and rightly so because this is their debut album. The only link that there is with past bands is that David Noel (bass, keyboards, guitar, vocals) and Brad Johnson (drums) once formed part of the now defunct Orphans Of Rock N Roll. Completing the lineup is guitarist Eric Hand.
Surprisingly this group, though hailing from the United States of America, are extremely British sounding with their roots firmly entrenched in the glorious seventies when Progressive Rock ruled the musical scene. The influences are there, yet Plastic Overlords manage to create a fusion of all these and come up with a sound of their own.
A Moment Of Silence For Unsynchronized Watches sets the scene for us taking us back to the seventies. In fact if available on vinyl I could have easily been duped into thinking that this was an album from that musical era. With hints of early Genesis, the rhythm section on this track is exquisite, especially the use of Tubular Bells which puts Mike Oldfield to shame! Also listen out for the great bass playing from David Noel who veers of at every possible occasion to create runs and solos of his own. A great way to open this album.
The Sunburst Gone Sour? has a heavier drive to it, though there are atmospheric interludes which create an interesting contrast and lead us into House Of Atreides. This latter section features just a keyboards background accompanying David Noel's voice. The track keeps in with the same vein as the first track in that the influences are from the late sixties psychedelic scene with Pink Floyd at the forefront.
The title track as well as name of the group, Plastic Overlords continues with the seventies influence this time in a space-rock vein bringing into perspective groups like Hawkwind and at times even David Bowie. After a few minutes the track becomes slightly tedious with the chorus becoming practically a chant until the last minute or so when there is an instrumental break in the tantric chant. The Shade Of The Sun has its influences more deeply rooted than any of the other tracks so far. It could be describes as The Beatles meet King Crimson. As the chimes did the trick for the opening track, here the vibraphone takes over to give that new sound to what could have been a rather straight-forward rocker.
White Plastic Pavilions is an instrumental track which is very different to what we have been listening to so far. Keyboards dominate this track giving that atmosphere of expectancy to it while the rhythm is not the driving force to it as has happened so far. Only towards the end does the rhythm pick up slightly with the drums coming to the front whilst the tune could be best described as variations on a theme which is continuously being droned in various formats.
The Number has its leanings within the seventies rock scene at times evoking the spirit of Mott The Hoople to suddenly veer off in a totally progressive rock direction. This is the first track with vocals where the keyboards seem to play an important role in the structure of the whole track rather than be present as a filler. Blue Cherry, White Hot has a certain amount of jazz-rock influence to it with a rigid time signature adhered to and each instrument filling in the gaps with a mini-solo, that is until the guitar solo where there is a certain space rock feel.
The closing number is called Middle Earth and is very much a psychedelic track evoking memories of early Pink Floyd. In fact I think that this track is meant to be a form of Pink Floyd tribute as Middle Earth, apart from being the land of Tolkien's Hobbit, was the name of the London club where Pink Floyd had a residency in their early years. Searing, floating guitars with warbly sighing vocals, this is a great psychedelic track.
On the whole I must admit to have been surprised by this album. This is definitely one for those who are nostalgic of the musical scene when psychedelia and progressive rock where entwined together with various groups treading the paths of both musical genres. I can't wait for the second album!
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10.
Alloy Now - Twin Sister Of The Milky Way
Alloy Now is the solo vehicle used by David Noel of Plastic Overlords and Twin Sister Of The Milky Way is his debut album. Those who have heard or read about Plastic Overlords already should know what to expect from this album. The emphasis is firmly on retro-rock with extra special attention made to the music that was around in the late sixties and early seventies. Apart from composing practically all the songs, David Noel plays all instruments except on three tracks where he is aided on drums and bass.
The Butterscotch Star kick off this album and one can immediately sense the progressive influence, not just from the length of the track (just under nine and a half minutes) but also from the musical structure. The introduction is art-rock in nature slowly turning into a nice prog number with a prominent bass line. Both the arrangements and vocals are uncannily British sounding which is strange when one considers the fact that David Noel is American. Influences vary from one track to another but the main British bands from the early progressive scene are all present in one way or another; King Crimson, Genesis, Pink Floyd, they're all there.
A Sunny Day In England further confirms the English obsession that David Noel has after mentioning Butterscotch in the first track. I do not think I have ever heard such a more English sounding track from a non-British band! The whole spirit of a British sunny day is evoked especially with the violin interludes coupled with the chimes that accompany the rhythm section and the narration that is featured throughout. A song Syd Barret would have been proud of.
Mysteries Of Ancient Earth starts off with a gentle acoustic feel interrupted at intervals by the rhythm section yet overall the track still maintains that mellow feel to it. Towards the final section the track progresses into more of a jazz-rock number with the basis of the musical structure taken up by the roaming bass line which at times is accompanied by chimes yet is contrasted by a wailing guitar. A most interesting track.
Shoulder Of Orion has an eerie, almost nostalgic keyboard introduction which gradually develops into a great progressive instrumental, one that Robert John Godfrey (The Enid) would have been proud of. Once again David Noel makes full use of the tubular bells/chimes which create a unique atmosphere. Fat Lands on the other hand re-evokes the head-on rock style and rhythms of Floyd and King Crimson. After reaching so far I realize that at various sections of the album David Noel's voice resembles that of Ray Davies (The Kinks).
Ghostly Superhero is one of the three tracks where David Noel uses outside help and is probably the one that least has that prog feel to it but veers more on to the British Rock of the era led by emissaries such as David Bowie and Mott The Hoople. The title track, Twin Sister Of The Milky Way is an instrumental and is a fitting closer to the album featuring practically all that has appeared on this album. Multiple rhythm changes, catchy hooks, melodic sections verging on the orchestral at times, yet all the while retaining that retro feel.
As I had said for the Plastic Overlords album, this is one for the lovers of retro-rock. On this album, possibly due to not being restrained by the other members of his group, David Noel has managed to indulge himself in a variety of influences all of which are given importance throughout the album. Hopefully he will manage to keep up with both Alloy Now and Plastic Overlords.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10.
King Crimson - Cirkus: The Young Person's Guide To King Crimson Live
Tracklist CD 2: 21st Century Schizoid Man (9.22), Ladies On The Road (5.54), A Man A City (9.56), In The Court Of The Crimson King (6.43), Fracture (10.57), Easy Money (6.06), Improv: Besancon (1.31.), The Talking Drum (6.22), Larks' Tongues In Aspic (Part II) (6.25), Starless (12.04)
Most people familiar with the term progressive rock will, at the very least, have encountered the name King Crimson. This band has existed in several incarnations (all of which centred around guitarist Robert Fripp) since the late 60s and still remains active in our day and age. Personally, it took me a couple of years to actually appreciate the music, but I must state that it is well worth the time getting into. This double CD compilation of live recordings covers the band's activities over the years (1969, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1984, 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998) and various of its constellations.
The first CD is, in my opinion, the better of the two - much due to sound quality. The older recordings, which are situated on the second CD, do have a much lower sound quality which is not strange when one considers the difference in technology then. However, this does make them slightly less enjoyable to listen to (even though they ARE enjoyable and it is also nice to hear these earlier incarnations of King Crimson performing live) than those on the first CD.
The two CDs include a lot of great and classic King Crimson tracks like Dinosaur (a Lennon-esque piece from Thrak), Red, Three Of A Perfect Pair, Elephant Talk, 21st Century Schizoid Man (the first track ever to use distorted vocals), In The Court Of The Crimson King and Starless (wonderful track featuring the classic Crimson setting with Bill Bruford, John Wetton and David Cross).
The album has the subtitle The Young Person's Guide To King Crimson Live, and I think it does that name justice. It is a perfect introduction to King Crimson (in all their moods - chaotic and melodic alike) for those not yet initiated. That said, I do believe that old fans can appreciate the live alterations and improvisations on this broad collection of songs from one of the giants in progressive rock. As a great bonus for both beginners and old fans there is the extra multimedia archives with King Crimson history. Highly recommended!
Conclusion: 9 out of 10.
WARNING: Minds Of Raging Empires
A Tribute to QUEENSRYCHE
Tracklist: Karma - I am I (5.12), Mystic-Force - Cild of Fire (5.18), Mayadome - Neue Regel (5.31), Force - Prophecy (3.41), Moon of Steel - Anybody Listening (6.33), Etheria - Eyes of a Stranger (6.10), Mind's Eye - I Will Remember (4.19), Talamasca - The Whisper (3.31), Cyrcle IX - I Don't Believe In Love (4.09), Power of Omens - Screaming in Digital (4.02), Nightmares End - The Lady Wore Black (6.31), Black Symphony - The Lady Wore Black (4.52), Factor Five - Nightrider (3.45), Swan Christy - Someone Else (4.40).
The Italian label Adrenaline Records has released a string of tribute albums, including tributes to Metallica, Dream Theater and the at DPRP well received The Attack of the Dragons - A Tribute to Queen. This seems a particular year for tribute CDs with the Pink Floyd tribute Signs of Live, tributes to Queen and Metallica from other labels and a tribute album to Savatage, Return of the Mountain King, by the American label Dwell Records.
One of the latest releases from Adrenaline Records is a tribute to Queensrÿche, WARNING: Minds of Raging Empires (notice the four Queensrÿche albums worked into this title). I've admired Queensrÿche for years and although I despair at the direction the band has taken on recent albums, their Operation Mindcrime and especially Promised Land are two of my favourite albums of all time. The concert I attended in Rotterdam on the Promised Land tour remains one of the best live performances I've ever experienced. Can the 14 bands on this tribute album bear the scrutiny of a critical listener?
The opening track by Karma is I am I from the tremendous Promised Land album of which, unfortunately, this one song is only one of two covers! Karma is a relatively new band from Brazil. Their version of I am I is slightly longer than the original. The vocals fail to impress, often relying more on screams than melodies, regressing as the song progresses. Karma tries to maintain the crowded atmosphere of the original track, but it all sounds quite messy instead of eerie. Bass is even heavier than in the original version. The guitar player seems to be struggling and the patent solo is weak. The pounding drums are a nice trait, though. The track ends rather silly with over half a minute of silly percussion while bandmembers chant the songs main melody.
Mystic Force is an American band,
whose sound is labelled "undiluted progressive power metal fury". Their version of Child
of Fire (from The Warning) opens with power riffs and maintains its aggressive
attitude throughout. Vocals are weak and very poorly incorporated in the mix,
disconnected from the music. Overall this is too much a direct copy of the original to
leave an impression.
On to the first Rage For Order song with Mayadome's rendition of Neue Regel. Some of the powerful guitar riffs are more out of Metallica than Queensrÿche. Unfortunately the vocals fail to impress, especially the muddled backing vocals. The steel guitar in the original intro is also sorely missed, replaced by screaming keyboards.
Prophecy is one of three tracks covered from the Queensryche EP, this one by Forte, another U.S.A. outfit. Their version is pure speed metal with patented drums, but, as in too many of the songs on this CD, the vocals aren't to my liking. Still the fast pace and the fierce guitar solo works bloody well in this rendition.
Empire gets a rough deal with only one track covered: Anybody Listening by
Moon of Steel. But wait, it's a whopper! Great guitar performance and drums to equal
Scott Rockenfields, but more important: the vocals by Sarah Bonetti make this one of the most
worthwhile tracks on the album. Admittedly, Moon of Steel follow the original very closely
(and doing a good job), but it's the splendid female vocals that set this above the main. It's
like this song was written just for her!
By now a lot of people might be getting anxious for covers from Operation:Mindcrime. New Jersey based Etheria have chosen Eyes of a Stranger. Their version has a very thick sound. The vocalist fails miserably in his attempts to emulate, even copy, Geoff Tate. Scott Rockenfield is also sorely missed here as the drummer's performance can only be labelled unimaginative. Etheria is currently working on its debut album Genesis.
The Swedish group Mind's Eye asserted itself on the progressive scene this year with their impressive second album ...waiting for the Tide. Their choice of the ballad I Will Remember seems a bit unlogical. I've always considered the original a nonquisical song, quite forgettable. But Mind's Eye turns it into a much better track, with added attention to keyboards and a more symphonic sound. And we're teased by a small bit of Spanish guitar halfway through, which returns at the very end. This improves over the original in many ways. Andreas Novak's vocals seem particularly suited to the song.
Another cover of Rage For Order is U.S.A.'s
Talamasca's version of The Whisper. An
exact replica of the original, with Talamasca's vocalist quite suited for this song.
Cyrcle IX's music is influenced by Dream Theater, Fates Warning and, of course, Queensrÿche. They've chosen to cover I Don't Believe in Love from Mindcrime. Their version has a bit faster pace than the original, which doesn't really improve it. The intro and ending add the sound of a needle scratching the vinyl. Otherwise this track is pretty close to the original.
Texans Power of Omens perform Screaming in Digital from the Rage for Order album. This version has interesting drums, which are all the more noticable, because they are far too loud in the mix! The only other aspect that deserves mention is the incredibly heavy bass, also due to bad production. Besides these rather serious flaws, this is again an exact copy of the original, with some added moments on keyboards.
Nightmares End plays
power metal with a dark melodic sound. Their rendition of the Queensrÿche classic The Lady
Wore Black (Queensrÿche EP) is yet another near precise copy. Not bad, but why
If American band Black Symphony's music is anything like the way they play this cover, it's easy to see why they sold over 50.000 copies of their first album. Their rendition of The Warning's Deliverance starts and closes with freaky percussion and drums and the chants "Deliver us!" over keyboard support. Otherwise a straight-forward cover, this adds a nice touch. Vocalist Rick Plamondon has the vocals of a rough-edged John Bon Jovi. A band that deserves further examination.
Nightrider (Queensrÿche EP) is hardly an original song in itself and Factor
Five doesn't add anything to make it more interesting. Nevertheless, this is an adequate
rendition. The band is currentely working on their debut EP.
The album closes with the second Promised Land cover: Someone Else? by Greek band Swan Christy, whose sound has been said to incorporate gothic, symphonic and theatrical elements. The reverberating piano has a more classical sound than in the original. Singer Kostas is unfortunately accompanied by backing vocals in the verses, which may be his own, but extremely low key, which are less than equal to his performance, which itself become weaker in the second half. Keyboards add a little symphony at parts. Still, an enjoyable rendition.
On WARNING: Minds of Raging Empires focus is too much on earlier Queensrÿche material to my liking. More covers from Operation: Mindcrime, Promised Land and also Empire would have been welcome. Fact is that this selection of songs, with focus on Queensrÿche's earlier albums, will appeal more to the 'straight' metal fan than to the progressive adept.
Mind's Eye, Black Symphony, Forte and, less succesfully, Karma and Cyrcle IX are the only bands to handle the material from a slightly original perspective. In that sense this CD is a bit of a let down after Adrenaline Records' other release The Attack of the Dragons - A Tribute to Queen which showed far more original handling of the material by some of the bands it featured. For that reason WARNING: Minds of Raging Empires... is best recommended to those who prefer covers to adhere to the original versions as closely as possible.
Although the website of Adrenaline Records is currently being reconstructed, you should be able to listen to some MP3 files of songs from this album there soon.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10.