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Archive for the ‘Bannister’ Category

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.

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tibSOUNDTRACK: INDIGO GIRLS-Holly Happy Days (2010).

hollyhappyI know I bought this for Sarah for Christmas a few years ago (I like that it looks like a present).  Sarah and I have both been fans of the Indigo Girls (and we’ve both seen them, but at different events).  This seemed like an obvious fun record for the holidays.  But we both felt a little let down by it.

I’m not exactly sure what’s not quite right, but after listening  again, I think the record is just too much of a downer for Christmas.  I mean even the Indigo Girls’ more serious songs counterbalance with lively singing, but much of this album feels very dirge-like to me.

The main unexpected thing for me is that the record is largely bluegrass-inflected–not something I expect from the Indigo Girls–or Christmas music.

But that’s just how it opens–banjos and fiddle and whooping on “I Feel the Christmas Spirit” a song I didn’t know before.  It’s fun, just unexpected.  “It Really is (a Wonderful Life)” reminds of Barenaked Ladies for some reason (not their voices obviously). It’s folky and is another a song I didn’t know.  I like it–it’s fun having new Christmas songs.
“O Holy Night” has a very weird quality to it.  I usually love this song, but I don’t really care for the way they did this one–it feels flat or something.  Or maybe it’s the violins and folk trappings?  Actually, the middle part (with their great harmonies) sounds really good–I guess it’s just the opening I don’t like.

“Your Holiday Song” sounds more like  a”real” Indigo Girls song–great harmonies, cool chord progressions.  (This one was written by Emily Saliers, so that makes sense).  It’s the first song I really like on the disc.

It’s the middle of the disc that really loses any steam it had.  “I’ll be Home for Christmas” is certainly a sad kind of song, but their version is practically suicidal.  Oh it’s such a downer with that slow violin solo.  Who would want to listen to this version of this song?
“Mistletoe” is an Amy Ray original.  Coming right after the downer of “I’ll be Home” this one is also slow and a downer.  I find that Ray’s voice also sounds really different on this song–I would never have guessed this was her.
“Peace Child” is the third downer in a row, and you just want to give up on your festive mood after this one.

But it picks up with a rollicking bluegrass “The Wonder Song” (written by Amy Ray).  It’s the most fun song on the disc and while it doesn’t scream Christmas, it is a holiday song.

Obviously no one is making “In the Bleak Midwinter” into an upbeat poppy song.  Their version is quite pretty, and their harmonies are wonderful.

Perhaps the strangest song is their cover of Woody Guthrie’s “Happy Joyous Hanukkah.”  It feels very Guthrie, which means it should be done in a folk style (which it is).  The surprise is the full bluegrass rendition of a Hanukkah song (how many Hanukkah songs have whooping in them?  It’s fun, though.

“Angels We Have Heard on High” sounds great with their harmonies.  Although the mandolin solo kind of brings the song down to earth in a weird way.

The disc ends as it middled, with a slow, mournful song,”There’s Still My Joy.”  While I know that not everyone is happy at Christmastime, this record goes a bit too far into the darkness for my liking.

[READ: December 2, 2014] Tib and Tum Tum

Here is another translated comic.  It is done with great flair by Carol Klio Burrel who also did Nola’s World.  This story is aimed more at kids though (but is not existential at all–see yesterday’;s post about translated stories).  The biggest surprise for me with this is that it is actually a series of one page strips rather than a long graphic novel (I think).  Well, there is a long story arc, but every page seems to have a “punchline” as if the story was sequential rather than continuous.

It’s a very simple premise. The book is set in caveman days.  Tib is a small boy with a giant birthmark on his face.  The other kids make fun of him for this.  His mother is overprotective (the joke about him always being safe is very funny) and his father is an oblivious storyteller (whoppers of tales, I must say).  In that first strip, Tib runs into Tum Tum, a baby dinosaur.  He is adorable (and a little scary too, of course).  And Tib decides that this red guy is pretty cool.  Tum Tum spends most of his time chasing (an eating) butterflies.

When Tib tells the elders about the dinosaur they tell him of course that dinosaurs are extinct.  (I love that the story is set in caveman times but that they talk in a more or less contemporary way (no grunting) and are knowledgeable (there’s a sewing joke which is very funny).  When he tries to show Tum Tum to them, the dinosaur hides so no one can see him.  Eventually his mom thinks he has an imaginary friend. (more…)

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elsewhere4SOUNDTRACK: GARBAGE-Not Your Kind of People (2012).

notyourkinddAfter Bleed, I had basically given up on Garbage.  And they had given up as well, so it made the breakup easier.  For seven years they stayed away, but in 2012 the band reunited and released Not Your Kind of People.  I wasn’t planning to get it–two great albums and two very mediocre albums l leave a listener with a tough decision   But I heard good things–a return to form, less dance more rock and I gave in.

And it was a good choice.  The slickness is still there, which makes sense given who we are dealing with, but it feels more powerful than recent albums and, even better, Manson seems angrier which always makes her vocals better.

“Big Bright World” could have been a hit (for a new band) although it’s a little generic.  “Blood for Poppies” returns to that good grungy guitar sound and yet with its “Wo Ho Ohs” it also has pop song trappings.  “Control” is big and loud with some interesting sounds thrown on top.  It’s probably the closest to 2.0  Even the chorus is very old school Garbage, something they seemed to shy away from on the last two albums.

“Not Your Kind of People is a slow ballady type song but it stands above their recent ballads–the song is cleaner and darker, much more interesting.  And given how sweet the backing vocals of the chorus sound, I’m surprised I like it as much I do.  “Felt” has a real “Stupid Girl” feel to it, except for the poppy bridge.  I don’t like the end where she repeats the Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh bit, but that’s just something I dislike about pop music in general.  “I Hate Love” brings in all of the glitches and electronics that the band uses so effectively, and despite the retro-90s feel of that, it really adds to the music.  “Sugar” is a beautiful slow song. The kind that, when they do it well, sounds great.

“Battle in Me”  is almost a great song.  The guitar builds and then stops short–it worked so well on “Supervixen” but sounds just too sterile here–the technology too crisp or something   But “Man on a Wire” does everything right–the guitars, Shirley’s screaming/singing, the rough guitars–it’s a shame this is buried so far down on the album.  “Beloved Freak” is a nice closer although as I complained from “Special” quoting someone else’s song in your song is cool once, but dong it again sounds lazy. So here we get her ending the song with a line from “This Little light of Mine” which doesn’t work and rather than making you smile like it did on Special it makes you go, “Huh?”  Plus as anyone who ever wrote a paper knows, never end with someone else’s words!

Still, this is a nice return to creative excitement from the band.  And while it never reaches the majesty of their first two albums it comes close to some of their past glories.

[READ: February 1, 2013] The ElseWhere Chronicles Book Four and Five

After a hiatus, Bannister & Nykko return with what feels like a new version of The Elsewhere Chronicles.  The look of the art is slightly different.  It’s clearly the same artist but the lines and angles look a little different on the characters–just a wee bit harsher.  It’s odd.  But it shows that things are a little different now.

The setting is nine moths after the end of book three.  Max has not spoken to any of the others since the lat book when his mother slapped him. Indeed, he’s been hanging around with his brother and his brother’s friends who are no good (especially to Max).  But Theo and Noah had rescued a bunch of things from Grandpa Gabe’s house.  They stored them safely somewhere before the house was demolished.  Meanwhile, Rebecca has been ill and hasn’t seen any of them.  She believes that the illness was caused in the other world and knows she needs to return there to get better.

Max is having a hard time with his new gang  They don’t respect him at all and he actually hates hanging around with them all.  In fact they just kicked him out of their gang and he is sulking when he believes he sees Rebecca.  Could she really have returned?  He follows her as she goes to her grandpa’s house.  She starts to break down when she sees that it was demolished.  She’s about to despair when and old friend sees her and gives her comfort.

Noah and Theo show her that they have Gabe’s possessions.  And they show her that the have figured out how to use the machine.  So they reactivate the passageway and the three of them return to the other world.  Before we can really see what happens over there, Max heads off to the hiding place.  He also passes through the passageway where he runs into Gabe who (after threatening to kill Max) offers to drive him to where Rebecca and the boys must be.

They arrive just as Rebecca and friends sneak into a cave.  Gabe says that the cave leads to nothing but danger.  And as the book ends, we see that that is true…. (more…)

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ElsewhereBk3_C1SOUNDTRACK:  THE AMOEBA PEOPLE-“The Geologists Are Coming” (2012).

geologistThis is, “a special audio poem from The Amoeba People in honor of those hard-working scientists who carry tiny hammers and chip at the crust.”  It’s a very simple rap and drum song about Geologists (of course).  The middle section gives a nice alphabetic breakdown of the letters of the word.

But the best part of the song is clearly the chorus which is very very catchy.

The problems (such as they are) with the song are these: it’s very very short (under two minutes) and it could use some extra kind of musical sound to it–maybe a five minute version with guitars is  in order.  But, even without the guitars, the song is fun to sing along to:

[READ: January 21, 2013] The ElseWhere Chronicles Book Three

Had I known that the series would come to a major halt with book three (and then resume a year later) I would have included Book Three with 1 & 2.  As it stands, Book Three gives what would be a decent but unsatisfying conclusion to the story, although since it ends with The End…? readers may have been not too upset by the conclusion.

The book opens with Rebecca, Max, Noah, and Theo are reunited and taking pictures of themselves in their elsewhere location (although the one just shows them on a beach–not really proof of anything otherworldly (other photos do show otherworldly scenes).  They find a boat and sail across the sea.  But in the process their mynah bird (the one who alerts them to t he presence of danger) is killed by a seagull.

They land in a village where thy are given gifts (we later see a statue that looks a lot like Rebecca o their grounds).  They find their way to a cave where Grandpa Gabe had a lot of his supplies (and which was currently inhabited by a very large and scary creature.  They find a map and instructions about how to jump between worlds.  But that night they are attacked by the Shadow Creatures and even see the Master of Shadows himself.  During the confrontation Doleann returns to assist but Ilvanna, recognizing someone in the shadow spirit, embraces it, which kills her instantly.  Doleann says that Minervale the dragon is about to give birth to two dragons, which will help in their fight against the Master of Shadows.   (more…)

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elsewhere1SOUNDTRACK: THE BOARD OF EDUCATION-“Know Your Inventors, Part I” (2008).

boardI enjoyed yesterday’s Board of Education song so much I wanted to listen to more.  So I went back to their first album for this song whose title intrigued me.  To my surprise, the song is very slow, a languid kid’s song?  Of course, this being a kid’s song, it does run through a series of styles.  The song picks up the pace some, then throws in a waltz, a little disco and a mildly catchy chorus (all in three minutes).

The song is about the inventor of pavement (“nobody knows his name”): William W. Averell, and it’s informative and kind of funny.

It’s not nearly as catchy as yesterday’s song, but it has moments of joy.  I now wonder if this is a different sound for the band on their first album or if all of their songs sound different.

You can hear it here.

[READ: January 21, 2013] The ElseWhere Chronicles Books One & Two

I found this series at the library–Book One was prominently displayed and it looked really interesting.  The artwork on the cover (and inside, it turns out) was really compelling–simple lines (little white circles for eyes for some of the characters) and a bunch of kids looking scared–what more could you want?

So it turns out that Book One is cool, but Book Two is amazing.

In Book One, Max Theo and Noah are watching a funeral (well, they are sitting in a graveyard) for Old Man Gabe, a local eccentric who lives in a haunted house.  Meanwhile, a young girl, Rebecca, is with her family watching them bury her Grandpa Gabe.  (I don’t know if this is significant, but Rebecca is black and her parents/guardians are white with two white children, but nothing is made of this in book one except that someone points out that she is black.  She says she was adopted, and that’s that).  She never met Gabe (and neither did her father–who has a hip soul patch).

Rebecca wants to explore Gabe’s house–she is not afraid of it being haunted (there’s wonderful surprises as they tread through the building).  But all of the rooms are strangely empty.  Except the library which is full of books, including some written by Gabe.  There is talk of demolishing the house, and Rebecca is now determined to save the books.  But the kids also discover a kind of movie projector.  And when they turn it on it opens a kind of portal.  And Rebecca gets sucked into it.

The boys eventually get her out–she says it was locked from her side and she looks awful.  But before they can lock it again, she is grabbed by something from the other world and dragged back in.  Max jumps through the portal to save her and they are both trapped in this new world.  The reason I said book 1 wasn’t as good as 2 is because the world they go into is dark with lots of shadows and hard to see things.  It’s scary (but not really) but not very easy to figure out what’s happening.

Then they run into an old man (who speaks English and a young girl (who doesn’t) .  They assume he is Grandpa Gabe, but he later claims he is not, he is Norgavol and he explains this world to them.  A little. (more…)

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