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Archive for the ‘Simon and Garfunkel’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-Oddments (2014).

After the psychedelia of the previous album, KGATLW released this varied collection of songs.  Indeed, none of the 12 songs sound anything like the others.  It’s hard to say if this is a collection of leftover songs or an attempt to make a varied record.  After all, they had released four and a half albums in three years.

Nothing is really more than 3 minutes except “Work This Time.”  Everything goes by so quickly it’s hard to know what to think.

“Alluda Majaka” opens this record with an instrumental that has every style of music thrown into it–funky bass, organ, Indian music, there’s also sound effects and clips from a movie or two and really loud drums.  It’s a crazy opening for a crazy album.

“Stressin'” slows things down with a falsetto vocal and a gentle groove including a warbly wild guitar solo.  It’s followed by “Vegemite,” a nonsensical ode to vegemite with a great beat and an easy to sing along chorus (sung by Ambrose, I believe): Veg-e-mite…I like.

“It’s Got Old” is slower simple rocker (complete with flute and handclaps) and somehow is followed by the trippy, synthy swirls of “Work This Time.”  It opens with a rumbling wild drum intro and then becomes really gentle with more soft falsetto vocals.

“ABCABcd” is 17 seconds of garage rock nonsense before the sweet rocking acoustic guitars of “Sleepwalker.”

“Hot Wax” sounds like an old(er) KG garage rock song.  There’s creepy vocals from Stu and a simple riff and a chorus that literally repeats chorus from “Surfin Safari” but with their own muffled, fuzzy garage rock chords.  “Crying” has an old soul sound with its simple three note melody.  It even has spoken word parts (the way you act, girl) and everything.

The end of the disc throws in even more craziness in the last five or so minutes.  “Pipe Dream” is a one minute instrumental that doesn’t really do anything except evoke a psychedelic moment.  It fades out just as a riff begins.  But it’s not the riff to “Homeless Man in Addidas” which is a quiet acoustic folk song that sounds an awful lot like “April She Will Come” by Simon & Garfunkel.  The disc ends with “Oddments,” a 25 second piece of silliness that’s like a commercial for the disc which even chants out the disc name.

Unlike their more cohesive albums, this is not a necessity exactly, but it is a fun opportunity to see just how much KGATLW can do in 30 minutes.

[READ: November 2018] Cluetopia

This is a brief history of the crossword puzzle as broken down by year.

David Astle (whose name must be a crossword answer) is a crossword maniac.  What makes this book especially interesting to me is that he is from Australia, which means he has a very different perspective on the crossword puzzle than someone like Will Shortz.  For there is a great American/British (and Australian) divide when it comes to crosswords.

Astle is a huge fan of British-style cryptic puzzles and he really delves into some of the best ones over the last century.

A neat summary of the different types of puzzles comes from Always Puzzling: (more…)

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pinballSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICSFall Nationals The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto, ON. Night 5 of 13 (November 14, 2003).

This was the 5th night of the Rheostatics 13 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  Rheostatics Live has recordings of nights 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7.

It’s Big R night (see below).

There’s an introduction by J.C. who says he used to be the owner of the legendary Horseshoe Tavern “but as of tonight I am the owner of the R club.”  As he’s saying there’s a burst of “It’s Not the End of the World from Super Furry Animals–probably a mistake).

“Last night this band was here and they didn’t sing a single lead vocal the entire night.”  J.C. also mentions upcoming shows at the Horseshoe: Skydiggers will be doing an annual residency, Luther Wright, The Sadies, Royal City, Northern Pikes and the last two Watchmen shows ever.”

Then back to Rheos: “Next Wed will be the wheel of fortune–all requests by spinning the great wheel and next Thursday is all covers night.”  I’d love to see the set lists from these nights.

One of the greatest legendary Canadian bands:

“Power Ballad for Ozzy” is fairly mellow with lots of acoustic guitars.  It segues right into “PIN” where Martin recites “In the dirty boulevard” during the end chords.

“Aliens” brings a bit more loudness.  In the middle of the song, someone starts playing the melody for “When Winter Comes.”  The band starts grooving it but Martin will not be hijacked and he finishes “Aliens.”

A funky, percussion-heavy version of “Marginalized” is followed by a sweet “Loving Arms.”

As Dave starts playing the opening jazzy guitar to “I Dig Music,” Martin sings “The bed’s to big without you” (which fits pretty well).

Then you hear Dave say, “please sir don’t touch the setlist.”
Mike: “It’s still drying.  It’s like an infomercial for inverted reading.”
Dave: “Did it feel good to touch?”

“The Tarleks” has a really raucous guitar ending with lots of noisy loud chords.

Dave explains that “Tonight is giant R night.  The giant R was in Martin’s parents basement for the last 13 years–Otobicoke cultural prison–since the “Aliens” video.”  And since they’re returning to the olden says they’ll do an old song: Woodstuck.”  There’s a false start, wrong temp, but then they play a solid version.  Martin repeats “Hippie child” and Dave says “little protest song there.”

Then we learn that Dave is now playing drums.
Tim: “All because Michael showed up late for practice one day.” [rim shot].
Dave: “Anyone else want a rim shot–it’s not what you think–it’s the first thing they teach you in amateur drummer school.”

Tim sings “Here comes the Image” with MPW on keys with a great solo.

Someone shouts “Bad Time to Be Poor” which is followed by someone else shouting “Yeah! ‘Bad Time to be Poor!”

But they play a ripping version of “Fishtailin'” which Dave says they recorded in the Bahamas.  Someone growls and Dave says it’s about a giant cat–the mascot of the Bahamas.

The first surprise comes when Tim starts playing the then there the bassline that can only be a cover of “Teenage FBI” (!) by Guided By Voice.  They play a respectable version of the song with Tom on lead vocals.

Dave: “Yup, Guided By Voices.  Since we can’t be there we figured we’d simulate the experience.”  (GBV were at the Opera House in Toronto that night).  Were doing a covers night next Thursday so were working through a few tonight.  From then on someone keeps shouting “Horses” but they will not hear that song.  Next song is “From that up and coming Greenwich Village folk duo Simon & Garfunkel.  It ends with someone loudly going “doh duh duh doh duh duh doh duh duh doh…as  wrote.”

Someone yells do you plan to do any Rush covers?  Martin says, “If we had enough time I so wanted to do “Closer to the Heart” or “Red Barchetta.”  Mike says they might have time.  And Dave says, “No but we’ll do about four I Mother Earth tunes.  Mike says, “Why because that’s the equivalence weight?”

One more scream for “Bad Time to be Poor” Martin says, “Okay, we know.”
Mike asks if anyone knows what a ballyhoo is: When they sweep the lights over the audience like at the beginning of a game show.  He says the stars are doing that tonight–whatever he’s talking about.

Then Martin says to Dave: “I see you’re selling hockey cards of yourself”
Dave: Sold out!  Just get a picture of yourself, charge 50 cents, people will buy anything.
Martin: “Dirty player… you see how mean he looks on that card.”
Dave: But off the ice, the meanest are the most loving and good to their fellow citizens.”
Mike: “When you play you’re not a goon, right?”
Dave: “Just a dirty suck.”
Martin: “You told me you’re a fun loving player.  You jab people, but its friendly.”
Dave: “A gentle tickle.”
Martin: “Some of them don’t have a sense of humor.  Some of them should try harder to get a sense of humor.
Dave: Kenny Linesman was called “the rat.”  Me I’m more of a monkey. I’ll bite you, but I’m a monkey.  I’m not all bad.”

They finally play “Bad Time to Be Poor” and then a rocking “CCYPA.”  And then after a wild and rocking intro to “Song of the Garden.” the song rocks too.

Then Martin says, “Gonna slow burn on this one.”  It’s one of the best versions of “Stolen Car” I’ve heard–the climactic section is so intense.  I love the way Martin sings “drive a…  way!” at the end.

Before “RDA” Dave says, “Send this one out to Bono, coz he’s the man.”  Martin says “Rock Death America starts with R.”  Dave has a wild middle section in which he starts yelling thing like:
“Gonna be in a big fucking band with big fucking people playing for big fucking people, big beautiful guns, big beautiful hockey pucks made of fudge.  It’s a silly war, it’s an insidious war, it’s a stupid war.”  At the end, Mike says, “Good rocking, Dave.”

Staying political, Dave says, “Congratulation to the Liberal dynasty, the Liberal monopoly, the Liberal empire of Canada.  Don’t fucking get it wrong.  “We’re gonna gave to retire this song because it was written about a bunch of assholes in the past.  We’ll have to put it behind us.”  Sadly People in the States need to bring it back for Betsy DeVos and her own shitty people.  “Hands Off Our Schools” is an outtake from 2067 : “Hands off our schools politician scum.”  At the end of the song Tim says , “you lose.  ha ha.”

Tim says, “We’re going try to put music back in the schools.  Next Tuesday we’re raising money for an alternative public school for their music program.”

After the encore Dave says, “We’d like to thank The Imponderables for playing before us.  Up and coming young funnymen.”  Then

Dave: We have T-shirts Fall Nationals T-shirts. Martin’s two solo records and 2 of my books and most of our CDs.  Hockey cards sold out.  We have mugs too so if you don’t like us buy a mug and throw it as us.  Nothing says I hate you like a mug to the head.
Martin: nothing says you’ve made it more than having a cup of coffee with your band’s name on it in the morning.  You know, Chapters won’t stock my album [Operation Infinite Joy] because they think the image on the front might offend some people. [Boos].
Dave: “We were supposed to do an in store there but we got bumped for Lady Di’s butler.  Double lame.”

Anybody here from the prairers?  Really?  All of them!  A rocking excellent version of Saskatchewan that segues into “The Mayor of Simpleton” with MPW on drums and vocals. It’s pretty good although his vocals are too quiet and he forgets some words and he seems winded by the end.  A quiet “Little Bird” is followed by a moody and intense “Shaved Head.”

Dave thanks George Stroumboulopoulos for nominating Whale Music for Best Canadian album for the CBC.

During the second encore break, Serena Ryder comes out  and yells at the crowd to get the band back up there.  Then she sings a cool, spooky version of “Digital Beach.”  It’s followed by a fun bouncy version of “Mumbletypeg.”

There’s some discussion and you hear Mike say “So many songs.  There’s a bullion of them and you just cant think of one, sometimes.”  Not sure what they were talking about playing but they settle on “In This Town” and then a wild version of “Me and Stupid.”  They play a verse and MPW stops the song.  Dave says “Sounded pretty good to me MPW Dot Com.  Dave starts talking about the fish in the song: “when those pike start going when they start thrashing you can hear them a mile away.”

For the final song, they thank Canadians and Americans “we’re gonna do a Ron Koop song.”  Koop sang “Introducing Happiness” the night before.
As they head out they announce, “Tomorrow night, Tim Vebron and Rheostar.  You don’t wanna miss it.”

Tim Vebron and Rheostar were the Rheostatics dressing up in crazy outfits playing synth songs.  You can see some pictures here.  Wish there wad a recording of it.

 

[READ: December 30, 2016] Pinball 1973

In the introduction of this book. Murakami devotes a page to Pinball and says he wrote a sequel the following year.  He was still running the jazz bar.  Soon after finishing this he decide to stop writing at his kitchen table and then wrote his first full length A Wild Sheep Chase which “I consider to be the true beginning my career as a novelist.”

He describes the text as “a novel about pinball,” but also explores themes of loneliness and companionship, purposelessness, and destiny. As with the other books in the “Trilogy of the Rat” series, three of the characters include the protagonist, a nameless first-person narrator, his friend The Rat, and J, the owner of the bar where they often spend time.

The plot is sort of beside the point although it is more present than in Hear the Wind.

Before the story starts properly we get this little introduction in which the narrator says the story is about “me” but also about a guy called “Rat.” That autumn the two of them were living four hundred miles apart.  This novel begins in 1973.

The story begins with Pinball and Raymond Moloney.  In 1931 Moloney made the very first pinball machine (this is true). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICSFall Nationals The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto, ON. Night 3 of 13 (November 12, 2003).

This was the 3rd night of the Rheostatics 13 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  Rheostatics Live has recordings of nights 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7.

As the show starts, Tim says, “Thanks for coming out.”

So Dave replies, “Why, you’re welcome, Tim.  I was doing nothing else so I figured why not play a little drums, a little bass, a little guitar.”

“Here Comes The Image” opens the show (Dave is on drums for this).  It’s slow with lots of cool keys from M.P.W.  The sound quality fades dramatically about 3 minutes in.

Dave explains, “That was an epic song by Tim Vesely.  We’re gonna do another epic song now.  Epic means just long basically, and grand.”  It’s “Oneilly’s Strange Dream.”  Which Dave describes as a song that “was supposed to the be the equivalent of an Edgar Rice Burroughs book.  He’s the guy who wrote Tarzan.  Not to be confused with William S. Burroughs–an urban jungle thing still a lot of guys with no shirts on.”  Martin: “I hate those guys.”

Martin repeats the first verse.   There’s some great powerful drumming in the middle of the song.  The sound levels go back up during this song.

The final notes are a little cockeyed and you hear someone re-sing “pile of bones laying at my side” with that bad chord.

They play Woodstuck “with a drum fill.”  Dave says it’s an old song and someone asks him what it’s about.  Dave tells a story about touring in 1987 and he tells a strange story about a merch guy.  It’s pretty strange and ends with: that’s a song about Brett.  We left him in Calgary naked, quivering under the bed.  Tim says “we didn’t leave him, we gave him to another band: Pigfarm.

Mike notes that “that story was on the set list.  That was a tune.”

Next they play a new song (from 2067), “The Latest Attempt On Your Life.”  It seems they haven’t quite figured out the backing vocals live yet.  “CCYPA” rocks and then they settle things down with “Introducing Happiness” and “Power Ballad for Ozzy Osbourne” (with no ending howl from Martin).

Dave says this is our 3rd annual Fall Nationals.  Mike asks if there is a theme for this night.  No, but one might emerge.

Mike says, “A bolt of lightning struck exactly one block from my house this evening.”  (Dave makes an allusion to Frank Marino of Mahogany Rush (who “inherited the soul of Jimi Hendrix”).

They play a sweet version of “It’s Easy To Be With You,” about which Dave says, “Boy is this song ever about cocaine.”

Next Thursday is an all covers night, so they’re going to do some tonight to make sure they know what they’re doing.

They play Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Only Living Boy in New York,” which I don’t know at all. Martin sings and plays gentle guitar.

Then they start joking about “Old Garfunkel, eh?”

He walked across America with just a credit card…it’s true.  Talk about time on your hands.  I thought it was a knife and a rope.   I heard it was credit card shoes.  Shoes made out of old credit cards.  That was his last album Credit Card Shoes.

In Edinburgh we listened to Scissors Cut about 20 times.  Weirdest album ever made.  Scissors cut and yet the hair remains.

They finally get to a quiet “Palomar” with limited backing vocals.

Somebody in the audience says “I heard you guys have a synchronized soft shoe routine.”  Tim says,”we’re waiting for that to become an Olympic event before we unveil it.”  Dave says, “I couldn’t remember if it was black square white square or white square black square.”

Martin introduces “Self Serve Gas Station”: Take it away Dave.”  But Dave plays “Roll Another Number” bu Neil Young which segues in to “Self Serve.”  The quiet guitar section at the end segues beautifully into “California Dreamline.”

They play a cover of The Clash’s “London Calling,” which sounds great although Dave is a little not angry enough.

People shout out “Michael Jackson”  Martin: “pleased to announce that Michael Jackson is in the audience tonight.”

Then after lots of ums there’s discussion of what to play. Martin in HAL’s calm voice “Why not both, David.  Let’s do both.”  They play “One More Colour,” but then go to an encore break.

Thanks all.  “Frozen rock pose.”  Dave: “We are Frozen Rock Pose.”

We have a few more for you—Dave sings “My First Rock Show” and gets the wrong verse!  He also sings “I ‘sore’ [sic] everything.”  Tim calls him on that.  At “swan dived,” Mike plays a thunderous drum and Dave recites a spiel:

The drums of war were in the air yet they were peaceable times.
And you saw a band like Yello and found out that they sucked and it didn’t cost you $85 to find out.  No $21.50.  Trixter, Heart, The J Geils Band.    Meat Loaf, Blue Peter, The Spoons.  A Flock of Seagulls.  No A-ha did not play.  OMD  OMD, baby.  Oingo Boingo at the first Police picnic.  To Martin: Are those guitar sounds a flock of seagulls?  Dave: they were the best, not the best but they were good.

Where to?  A Flock of Seagulls.  No Tim will do a Warren Zevon song.  called “Reconsider Me.”  I don’t know it.  He sings very high and off a bit.  He groans but then by the middle he says its coming to me and he finished okay with a “Sorry, Warren, I tried.”

We’re here til next Saturday and tomorrow night is guest vocals night.  We have 26 guest vocalists.  We better get in the habit of thanking our guests.

Andrew Houghton played tonight.  And Serena Ryder the next two nights held over by popular acclaim.  They end the with a poppy “In This Town.”

[READ: January 25, 2017] The Ugly

I read a review of this book that made it sound really compelling and strange.  And the back of the book has some of that compelling strangeness in the blurb:

Muzhduk the Ugli the Fourth is a 300-pound boulder-throwing mountain man from Siberia whose tribal homeland is stolen by an American lawyer out to build a butterfly conservatory for wealthy tourists.  In order to restore his people’s land and honor, Muzhduk must travel to Harvard Law School to learn how to throw words instead of boulders.

And that is exactly what happens.  Along with a bunch of other strange things.

I enjoyed the way the story was told.  There are basically parallel narratives.  One is told in first person and is Muzhduk’s life after Harvard (perhaps the present), the other is told in third person and is all about his life at Harvard law school.

But the story begins with the Dull-Boulder Throw.  In his village a chief is determined by who can catch (and throw) a boulder hurled at your chest.  Muzhduk the Ugli the Fourth is the next in line for the throne–his ancestors have all been leaders–but he is the smallest of his lineage being only 300 pounds.

Nevertheless, he knows he must defeat Hulagu who was inbred huge and dumb.  If Hulagu won, the tribe would suffer.  And so for the good of the tribe, he win the Throw. But the second part of becoming chief was climbing the tallest mountain.  Each of his ancestors had climbed a taller mountain, and now his task was trying to find one taller than the tallest one around here. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_03_18_13Kalman.indd SOUNDTRACK: THE MILK CARTON KIDS-Tiny Desk Concert #232 (July 16, 2012).

milk-cartonI was unfamiliar with the Milk Carton Kids before seeing them on NPR.  I had always assumed they were a punk band with a name like that. Well, nothing could be further from the truth.  The Milk Carton kids are a delightful folk duo.  And they give the origin of their band name a little later in the Concert.

Joey Ryan sings lead and plays rhythm acoustic guitar.  Kenneth Pattengale plays lead guitar and sings beautiful harmonies.  It’s his guitar work that is so disarming because he plays leads throughout the songs, so rather than having the two guitars doing the same thing, his guitar is all over the place–playing beautiful trills and lines while Ryan is singing.

The first song they play is “Michigan.”  I love how in the middle of the song between the melodies and the harmonies it sounds like about three different bands—there’s a kind of Simon & Garfunkel vibe, a Jayhawks vibe, and maybe even a CS&N vibe–and yet it retains their original sound.  There’s some beautiful melodies in the vocals and the lyrics are really good (but sad).

After the song, Bob asks about the neckerchief on Kenneth’s guitar.  he says, “well it looks good.”

Then he explains that in a technical way, “This guitar is a bit crummy.”  When they play higher chords the strings buzz, so the neckerchief keeps that from happening: “It’s practical and it’s alluring—this is what got Stephen to stop at our concert to listen.”

Kenneth then says that Joey usually talks more than this “I don’t know why he’s so demure today.”  Joey deadpans, “I don’t know what demure means, but I’m, sorry if that’s how I’m behaving.”

Before the next song, Joey deadpans, “This is something we’ve been looking forward to for a long time.  Hence our palpable excitement.”

They’re very happy to be behind this desk so “We’ll play you a love song to the desk.  This song is called ‘To the Desk.'”  The song is actually called “Stealing Romance.”  They sing a duet with Ken taking the high notes.   It’s a slow ballad.  During the song you can hear all kinds of sirens going past the offices.  When it ends, Ken says, “I think Joe Biden drove down the street during that one.”  Joey reacts: “Who’s that?”

Then Joey explains the origins of their band name Milk Carton Kids.  The name comes from one of their songs “Milk Carton Kid.”  The song itself is named after a lyric in the song.  He says it’s an attempt to answer the question that’s one everyone’s mind with a completely unsatisfactory answer.  Then he says they’re not going to play that song.

Rather, they play “their happy song” “I Still Want A Little More”which proves to be really fast and uptempo—a real surprise after the other two songs.  Ken is wailing away on his guitar while they sing in great harmony.  There’s some rollicking guitars and singing.  This is my favorite song of the three.

I don’t love their slower songs. Although as far as slow songs go, their setup is great–the harmonies, the interesting guitar.  But I really like the two of them.  They are great performers and excellent storytellers.

[READ: July 20, 2016] “Checking Out”

This story is bookended with a man planning on marrying woman.

Obinze is African, and he is in London on a work visa.  He is arranging a sham marriage to be able to stay in the country.  The arrangement has been set up by some Angolans. They claim that he is a friend of a friend and they’re doing him a favor, but they are keeping lot of the money that is meant to go to his bride.

When he met Cleotilde, he was surprised to see that she was young and pretty.  And it seemed that she was pleased with him when she saw him as well-0ff.  I guess expectations are pretty low in this situation.  He was kind to her from the start, making sure that she was okay doing this. And she said she was–she really needs the money for her family.

Obinzne and Cleo meet up a few times to get their details straight, and he finds that he is really falling for her–although he knows he can’t really act on it until after the marriage. (more…)

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shadowSOUNDTRACK: ANDERSON BRUFORD WAKEMAN HOWE-Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (1989).

The band with an amazing pedigree created a band with a preposterous name and an equally preposterous album title.  But who cares, right?  After the pop frenzy of Big Generator, why shouldn’t the “real” members from Yes (excepting Squire) form a band?  They even brought Bruford back (he has said that he didn’t realize all three other guys were part of it, he thought it was a solo recording).  Perhaps the most insulted person should be Tony Levin.  Not only did I not know he played bass on the album (Bruford brought him over from King crimson), but I can’t even hear him on it!  I have listened to this record a couple times recently and I can’t hear any bass at all.  It’s like the anti-Chris Squire album!

I remember when this came out I was pretty excited.  I remember drawing the album cover (look, kids, Roger Dean is back!), and I remember joking about the preposterous “Teakbois.”  But when I listened to it again (first time in probably twenty years), I didn’t recognize a lot, and I liked even less.

abwhThe album opens with “Themes,” a six-minute, three-part mini epic which should hearken back to Yes of old.  There’s an interesting slow circular keyboard piece and a pretty piano melody and then it gets funky, sort of.  About 4 minutes in, it changes to a new thing altogether but again the sounds are so…bleah,  the guitars sound pretty good (some great guitar work from Howe) while those keys just sound….  You know I said that Wakeman would never play the sounds on 90125 & Big Generator, but he went even blander on this song.

Track two is only 3 minutes long.  It’s dramatic and angry with some good keyboard sounds.  It’s probably the best thing on the album.

“Brother of Mine” is another three-part mini epic that runs over 10 minutes.  The guitar chords and style remind me of mid 80s Rush. There’s lots of interesting elements and the main verse reminds me of maybe early Genesis or Marillion.  Although the solo and other sections seem…obvious instead of groundbreaking.  The middle part is pretty good, with a very classic Yes feel.  But the final section sounds exactly likes something from a Disney movie, perhaps The Little Mermaid (which came out the same year).

“Birthright” starts off ominous with some interesting percussion.  Although all the percussion on this album is rather disappointingly electronic.  Not that’s there’s anything inherently wrong with electronic drums, it just seems wasted on someone as amazing as Bruford.  It feels vaguely like a Peter Gabriel song.  It’s pretty good but it gets a little melodramatic by the end.

“The Meeting” is a treacly ballad.  It sounds nice but is nothing special.  “Quartet” is the third mini epic.  This one is nine minutes and four parts.  The first part is folky and reminds me of Simon and Garfunkel.  Part 2 references tons of old Yes songs in the lyrics (which seemed to make reviewers of the album giddy) but which really just shows how weak this song is compared to those other songs.

elp“Teakbois” has got to be the biggest WTF recorded.  I’m all for bands embracing other cultures and it’s awesome that after Paul Simon released Graceland other bands added multicultural elements to their sound, but this 7 minute monstrosity sounds like AWBH went to the Caribbean and joined a tourist band.  I don’t know if they released many band photos for this album, but this songs makes it seem like this could have been their cover.  There is a chorus near the end of the song in which they sing “cool running” and I was relieved to find out that the film with that name came out four years after this song.

“The Order of the Universe” is another 9 minute, four-part epic.  Just thinking of this song makes me think of the closing credits for The Lion King (which came out five years after this at least) or something.  There are some interesting parts to it.  But the “Rock Gives Courage” section is dreadful and Anderson sounds like he’s singing a pop metal band

“Let’s Pretend” closes this album.  It’s only 3 minutes long and is co-written by Vangelis.  It’s a fine song, completely inoffensive.

So what is up with this disc?  Am I imposing a 21st century attitude on it?  Am I missing that it was actually really influential (on Disney songwriters anyhow) and that it’s not their fault that other people have poisoned the sound for me?  I understand that musicians change and grow, but with these four names, you’d expect something a lot bigger and better than this.

Maybe when I listen to it in another 20 years I’ll actually like it again.

[READ: May 10, 2015] The Shadow Hero

I really enjoy the stories that Gene Luen Yang creates.   And this one (which I later found out is actually meant to be an origin story of an already extant character) was really interesting.

The story begins in China.  In 1911 the Ch’ing Dynasty collapsed and soon after the Spirits who were born with China and watched over her had to decide what to do.  The Dragon, the Phoenix, the Tiger and the Tortoise came to a council.  Later, the tortoise left the country with a man who was too drunk to know why he was even on the ship he was sailing on.

Then we see that the story is told by a first person narrator when he says that his mother came to America a few years later.  She had high hopes of the prosperity and beauty of the country, but her hopes were dashed by the realization of the ghettos and slums of Chinatown.

His father (the drunk from above) owned a grocery store and Hank (the narrator) helped out.  His mother, the stronger-willed of the two was a driver for a rich woman and took no crap from anyone. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKnov2014YES-Yesterdays (1975).

yesterdaysAfter Relayer, Yes decided to explore solo projects.  And their label released this compilation.  Oddly enough, it consists entirely of songs from Yes and Time and a Word (and is a great collection of those two middling albums).  It also includes a B-side called “Dear Father” and, most unexpectedly, a 10 minute version of the Simon and Garfunkel song “America.”  All the songs have the original lineup except “America” which features Howe and Wakeman and was recorded in 1972.

“Looking Around” and “Survival” from Yes and “Time and a Word,” “Sweet Dreams” “Astral Traveler” and “Then” from Time and a Word.

“Dear Father” is a  sounds very much like a B-side from Time and a Word (meaning it has elements of Yes, but not enough to make the song especially interesting).  The bass is thumping, but there’s also strings which add a less dramatic element than intended.  The ending sounds very 1970s (almost like a TV special) especially in the way the strings swell, but it’s a cool sounding end to the disc.

The sound of “America” (which opens the disc) is pure early 70s’s Yes, with loud guitars and some good bass lines.  They play around with the original quite a lot (and most of the time it is unrecognizable).  I really enjoy that the guitar and bass throw in lines from the West Side Storys “America.”  There’s moments where you know the S&G original (like the “I don’t know why” line and they play it totally wrong (but in very Yes fashion), but other parts like “counting the cars on the New Jersey turnpike” sounds different but also really good.  This is the kind of cover I like, when a band completely make a song their own.  I still prefer the original, but this is an interesting interpretation.

The cover of the album is the last one that Roger Dean would do for the band for a while.  It’s pretty bizarre (even for a Dean cover) with a little boy peeing on the back.

[READ: March 27, 2015] “The Great Exception”

This story comes from The Strange Case of Rachel K.  I assume it is a short story, as I can’t even imagine what it might have to do with Rachel K in general.

This piece opens with Part 1 in which there is a brief history of people’s beliefs in the flatness and/or roundness of the Earth.  The Admiral goes to the queen to inform her that the Earth is actually shaped like a pear or violin and he requests gold for his expedition.  But when he is in her presence, and a little drunk and a little bold, he informed her that the earth was really shaped like a woman’s breast.  The orient was the protrusion.  And the nipple–he locked eyes with the queen–was warm and tumultuous.

The Cardinal had given him excessive jewels to wear on his hand and they flash as he makes the shape of breasts in the air in front of the queen.  She gave in to his request and he set sail with no instruments, using only his instincts. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 10, 2015] Belle and Sebastian

2015-06-10 23.11.13After the major hassle of getting into the city we at least had plenty of time for Belle and Sebastian (which meant plenty of time to take pictures of the awesome art deco structures and sculptures and paintings in Radio City Music Hall).  It’s an amazing theater.

We bought the tickets in April.  Then about two weeks ago we weren’t sure if we could go.  Then we realized we could.  And then three days ago, we had a miscommunication with our babysitter and thought we again couldn’t go.  So we tried to sell them to friends.  But thankfully no one took us up on it because our plans went as planned and we made it.

I had seen Belle and Sebastian back in 2002 with my friend Ailish.  Although my memories of the show aren’t the greatest because the crowd was so overwhelming (B&S were an “it band” at the time).  This was much more civilized.  And high tech!

Back in 2002, B&S were kind of mellow folksingers.  Some of their breakthrough If You’re Feeling Sisnister was bouncy and jaunty (and some was actually quite rocking), but the vibe was shushed and personal.  Well, thirteen years later, they are a huge band with horns and strings and dancers and a cool video screen and a ton of charm.  Just the fact that lead singer Stuart Murdoch ran around high-fiving everyone in the front row, and then later ran through the aisles singing is testament to how much more extroverted the band has become.

And Stuart and lead guitarist Stevie Jackson had a lot of amusing banter going on up there.  There was a lengthy one about walking around Broadway

Stevie: “I was walking down Broadway earlier today, singing to myself…”
Stuart: “Oh, and what were you singing Stevie?”
Stevie: “It was Guys and Dolls.
Stuart: “Oh, which part?”
Stevie belted out (very nicely) a line from the musical Stevie said he was a rocker who liked musicals.  and then Stuart said he was singing “Feelin’ Groovy.”  That’s when we learned that the trumpeter has played with Paul. (more…)

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