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6SOUNDTRACK: YES-Yes (1969).

yesThis past weekend bassist and founding member of Yes died.  Up until about six weeks ago he was supposed to tour with Yes this summer.

It was surprising and sad news.  I was a huge Yes fan in college, and of course I love all things prog. But I started to lose patience with Yes since they had such a revolving door policy it wasn’t even clear is the people in the band even were part of the band (although Squire has played on every Yes album).  I hadn’t listened to anything new from them since the 1990s, and I was genuinely shocked to see how much new material they had released since then (about ten).

So here’s a bunch of their albums that I own.  I’m not going to pretend I don’t know their peak period stuff, so I’m looking at their first two albums with the hindsight of the 70s masterpieces.

Their debut album (look how 1969 that cover is) opens with a Chris Squire penned song called “Beyond and Before.”  Loud (and high) bass notes announce that this might just be a Yes album, even the vocal harmonies suggest Yes, and yet once the verse begins, it is a much more psychedelic version of Yes. The music feels very Summer of Love. And while Squire’s bass does come out from time to time, after that initial flurry it kind of settles down a bit. The song itself is quite good, as long as you’re not expecting classic Yes.

I feel the biggest sound difference is Anderson’s vocals which, while still powerful have a more gentle/sensitive feel (not too far off from his more famous style later on, but slightly mellower perhaps).

Next come s very jazzy cover of The Byrds’ “I See You” (a song I don’t really know, but the lyric “the cave of your hair” is pretty awesome.   This version is 7 minutes long with an extended jazzy solo from Peter Banks and suitable jazzy percussion from Bill Bruford. Tony Kaye on keyboards also features prominently.  The end is quite loud for such a hippie offering.

“Yesterday and Today” is a piano & vocal performance. It’s very delicate.  “Looking Around” has very heavy keyboard opening. The bass sounds like Squire but this is a very keyboard heavy song.  “Harold Land” opens with a kind of church organ and singing, but then the Yes sound comes in (you can almost hear the band forming). It feels, again very synthy, but certainly heading in the direction of Yes.

“Every Little Thing is a Beatles cover (! two covers on the debut album).  It begins with much chaos—noisy drumming, bass rumblings and keyboard noodling. The song is 5 minutes and the intro is almost 2 minutes. The big bass and drum really makes the song rock and the keyboards build some real drama into the track.

“Sweetness” is indeed a sweet slow track with a lot of acoustic guitars and soft keyboards.  It has a great descending chorus vocal line. If this were rerecorded and made a bit more modern sounding I think it could be a hit (well, maybe update the lyrics a bit too).

“Survival” is probably the most enduring track on the record. It opens with some great fuzzy bass and some actual catchy riffs. The opening vocals sound more like what latter-day Yes would sound like (subtle distinction, yes but it’s there). The chorus is very catchy and it’s a fun romp right until the end.  It’s a good send off, with a promise of better things.

Since almost every Yes album had different personnel, I’m going to keep a running tally here:

Chris Squire-bass
John Anderson-vocals
Bill Bruford-drums
Tony Kaye-keyboards
Peter Banks-guitar

[READ: February 16, 2014] The ElseWhere Chronicles Book Six

I ended my review of the last book by saying “now I’m hooked.”  But in the year since I read the last book I lost all the momentum of the series (since I’d read the first five in quick succession).  Which is a shame since the book was every bit as exciting as the rest, but I wasn’t quite as into it as I wanted to be.

Since Ilvanna died in the last book I should have been more upset about it and been more excited at the prospect of her return in this one, but I’d forgotten about it all.

As for the rest of the story, Theo, Max and Rebecca meet up with an old man who seems to know the secrets of the Other World.  He convinces Theo and Max to capture a creature who can take them to the Other World.

Meanwhile, in the Other World we see that the spirit of Rebecca is held be a mean looking guy known as the Master of Shadows.

At last the Master of Shadows meets the old man and Rebecca meets her double–a creature which he has created from a photo of Rebecca–he just needs her soul to complete the creation.  The final battle is pretty epic with swirling shadows all over the place and Rebecca’s grandfather pleading with her to destroy her doppelganger.

Meanwhile Theo and Max find Ilvanna who may or may not be dangerous, but she seems to want to help them.

This was the final book of series two of the series.  And the cliffhanger shows that the boys have found Dolean and the two Rebeccas have emerged–to what end?

The story was certainly exciting, but I recommend reading the whole second series together to really maximize the impact.

[ATTENDED: June 28, 2015] King’s X

2015-06-28 20.57.00This was a special concert for many reasons.  The first was that it was a chance to see my college friend Sean for the first time in probably 20 years.  We’d chatted online, but this is the first time we actually got together–thanks King’s X!

The second reason is because it was my first concert at the Sellersville Theater, a venue I’ve heard a lot about on XPN, but never been to.  When I walked into the venue I genuinely thought it was an optical illusion.  It’s an old movie theater, with about 300 seats.  Talk about intimate!  King’s X and dUg Pinnick (with Corey Glover of Living Colour) frequent the place, and I can see why.  The fans are right there and they (we) are all into it.

So hanging out with Sean and with great seats, I was totally in the mood for a great show. And King’s X delivered. Continue Reading »

nurserySOUNDTRACK: FRANK FAIRFIELD-Tiny Desk Concert #445 (May 29, 2015).

frankFrank Fairfield and friends Tom Marion (who plays mandolin on the third song) and Zac Sokolow (on guitar) play old-timey music (marches, polkas and mountain tunes).  Fairfield plays banjo and plucked cello (and apparently fiddle, although not here).

The first song “Tres Piedras” is an upbeat instrumental.  The second song “I Ain’t A Goin’ To Weep No More” was written by Harry von Tilser whose brother wrote “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

The final song “Campanile De Venecia/Sharpshooters March” has an overwhelming Italian feel (that mandolin, I gather).  I like that Fairfield yells “take it, Tom” so that Marion will play a lengthy mandolin solo on the for the final song.  There’s also a “traditional” Italian melody in the song that I know more from cartoons than elsewhere.

The songs feel like they leaped out of a 78 record (even Fairfield’s voice seems suitably “old” on “Weep” (although it appears that they were up playing late last night so he may not quite be up to par).

This was a fun Tiny Desk by an artist I’d never encounter anywhere else.

[READ: January 21, 2015] Nursery Rhyme Comics

This is a collection of Nursery Rhymes as drawn primarily by First Second artists.

The 50 nursery rhymes includes here are the traditional rhymes which remain unchanged.  So this was an opportunity for these artists to draw interesting visuals to accompany the traditional stories.  Some artists stayed traditional, while others went in a totally new direction.

It was fun to see that while I knew most of the nursery rhymes, there were quite a few that I didn’t know.

I always wanted to get a  collection of nursery rhymes for my kids when they were younger, and I feel like I never got one that would have been as satisfying as this one. Continue Reading »

babboobSOUNDTRACK: MADISEN WARD AND THE MAMA BEAR-Tiny Desk Concert #444 (May 26, 2015).

wardI love that Mama Bear is actually Madisen Ward’s mother, Ruth.  They play some really wonderful roots music.

Madisen has a powerful soulful voice and Mama Bear’s harmonies are excellent–ranging from deep to high pitched.

And their joint harmonies on second song, “Sorrows and Woes” (especially the final note) are really amazing.

Mama Bear also adds some great licks to some of the songs (Madisen plays leads on “Silent Movies” while mama Bear plays the main riff on “Daisy Jane.”

Between songs, Madisen has some funny banter.  I laughed when he said that he was now going to retire since he has played the Tiny Desk.  And Mama Bear talks about how excited she is that their new record is on yellow vinyl.

The songs are delightful folk songs (with “Daisy Jane” being the boppiest of the lot with some delightful “ooh hoos” at the end).  I’d never heard of them before, but I wish them a lot of success.

[READ: February 11, 2014] The Flying Beaver Brothers and The Hot-Air Baboons

I saw this book in the library and was delighted to have another Flying Beaver Brothers book to read (I also just saw online that there is a sixth book too!).

Poor Beaver Island is under attack yet again (my kids were surprised to see that there were so many beavers on the island with them, and I admit I didn’t realize there were quite so many either).

The threat this time is a group of baboons who are melting the snow off of the skiing mountain (beaver island really has it all!).  When Ace and Bub finally get caught up to speed with what’s happening, the baboons (Pete, Kyle and Ringo) hilariously get mad about having to repeat the whole story that they told everyone earlier.  There is a helpful chart with Proboscis and Baboon listed as types of monkeys and buffoon as not a type of monkey. Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: June 16, 2015] RUSH

2015-06-25 21.28.51I was a huge Rush fan back in the day.  In fact, to last night’s show Sarah wore my Rush shirt that I bought in, oh, 1983 or so.  Despite my huge love of Rush I actually hadn’t seen them many times live. I missed several opportunities in college (stupid work ethic) but finally got to see them on the Presto tour.  Whether it was April 20 or April 25, it was definitely 1990 and most likely at the Brendan Byrne Arena (R.I.P.).

I feel like I may have seen them on one more tour before seeing them again (possibly three times, I have 3 stubs) in 2002.  The problem with seeing them a lot in one tour is that they tend to keep the set list the same in every show (there’s some variation below).  And I remember thinking i didn’t need to see them again after that.

Of course, after seeing them last night and today listening to the Clockwork Angels tour CD I am really kicking myself for not going to that tour because there is some really interesting stuff (and a string section) which would have been pretty cool to see.  But that’s okay because the show last night was so good that it satisfied all my Rush needs–a great send off (presumably) to a great band.

Sarah had never seen Rush before (and in fact once actively disliked them, and may still).  But she was won over by the show.

I haven’t been to a big arena show (except for Kiss) in a long time, so I kind of forgot what we’d be getting.  And wow did we get a lot–flash pots, fire, lasers, explosions, video screen (even a possible marriage proposal in front of us).  And, at any Rush show… lots of air drumming (including from myself).

I had been deliberately avoiding any spoilers from the set list.  I didn’t want to have any expectations.  And I have to say, if I had made an ideal set lit, (which I thought about doing), they would have hit quite a number of them.  (Thanks Rush fans for not spoiling things for me).  And thus, below is a whole bunch of spoilers [consider yourself warned].  But one spoiler you must read–do not leave during the encore, there’s more to the show when the music is done. Continue Reading »

rexSOUNDTRACK: JASON VIEAUX AND YOLANDA KONDONASSIS-Tiny Desk Concert #443 (May 22, 2015).

yolandaTypically, the Tiny Desk doesn’t have performers back after they have played once.  But occasional exceptions are made, like when performers who played solo come back as a duo.  Like this.

Jason Vieuax was one of the first 20 people to play the Tiny Desk and Yolanda Kondonassis played back in 2010.  And here they are touring as a duo, which really helps to accentuate both of their skills.  And their music is beautiful together.

Vieuax is an amazing classical guitarist.  And Kondonassis plays an amazing harp that is more about singular notes than trills and “heavenly” sounds.  And in these songs, they work together doing harmony runs and fills–both instruments are lead instruments.

Apparently there aren’t very many pieces written for the combination of harp and guitar.  Kondonassis explains the origins of the Hovhaness piece (which gives some lovely context).

Vieaux explains the origins of the two movements of the Piejo suite.

The first piece is sweet, while the second one is a little more aggressive (but still lovely).  And the third one features some cool riffs and chords (especially on guitar) and percussion done on the instruments.

The three songs they play are

  • Gary Schocker: “Elysian” (from Hypnotized)
  • Alan Hovhaness: Fuga: Allegro – Andante grazioso, Canon: Allegro (from Sonata for Harp and Guitar, “Spirit of Trees”)
  • Máximo Diego Pujol: Vals, Candombe (from Suite mágica)

The pieces are familiar and yet quite different.  And 456+it is much fun to watch their fingers fly around their instruments.

[READ: January 24, 2015] Tommysaurus Rex

I brought this book home for Clark to read.  I wasnt going to read it myself but then I saw that I had read a book by TenNapel before and liked it.

But I did not care for this one.  Perhaps it was because it was marketed in my library as a kids book but I thought it was just too violent or something–the story turned me off.

Perhaps it was just that the story opens with the main character’s dog getting hit by a car and dying.  I mean, who needs that?  And the cover looks so fun, too. Continue Reading »

primeSOUNDTRACK: YOUNG FATHERS-Tiny Desk Concert #442 (May 19, 2015).

youngfatherYoung Fathers may have the shortest Tiny Desk Concert ever.  It’s only 4 minutes long.  I know that these are edited down from the full show, but wow.

Young Fathers evidently sing a kind of hip-hop, but in these two songs they don’t really rap very much and are more soulful.  The members met in Edinburgh but are from distant exotic locales like Ghana and, um, Maryland.

Something must have happened with their technology.  As the blurb says, “Full-on drums and electronics weren’t going to happen on this day.”  So they chose a simpler path.

They sing two songs virtually a capella.  I don’t know any of the members’ names, but there’s one singer for “Am I Not Your Boy” (the guy in the photo above).  He has a soulful voice (more or less R&B) and there’s a simple keyboard backdrop.

On “Only Child” there are three vocalists, each taking a turn with a verse.  It is surprising that the man who sounds Jamaican (the first singer) is white.  The final vocalist raps, and then all three harmonize very nicely over the final chorus.

Bob Boilen raved about them when he saw them live.  I’m not all that impressed, as they sound like any other R&B band to me, but a four-minute sampler isn’t all that much to go on.

[READ: February 12, 2015] Prime Baby

I’ve enjoyed just about everything that Gene Luen Yang has done.  But I had no idea that a) he wrote a serialized comic strip and b) that it appeared from 2008-2009 in the New York Times Magazine!

It’s interesting to see these strips presented in one strip per page format.  But far more interesting is the very strange direction that this story goes in.

It begins with the main character, a boy named Thaddeus K. Fong.  He is a reasonably selfish young man with a penchant for saying things to get him in trouble.  (He calls himself a martyr for truth).  And then his parents have a baby.  And his whole life is upended.

The baby girl only says the word, “ga.”  His parents say that everyone develops in their own time, but he is not convinced.  And one day, when he learns about prime numbers in math class, he realizes that his sister only says “ga” in increments of prime numbers.    That is kind of interesting, but even more interesting is when his math teacher says that NASA has theorized that if aliens were to make contact with us it would be through prime numbers. Continue Reading »

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