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Archive for the ‘Black Sabbath’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: GOBLIN COCK-Necronomidonkeykongimicon (2016).

Goblin Cock is the hilariously inappropriate name of a heavy metal side project from Rob Crow of the band Pinback.  The album sounds very literally like a heavy cousin to Pinback with a similar (just much heavier) songwriting style.

The band members are: Lord Phallus (Rob Crow)-guitar and vocals; Lick Myheart-guitar; Tinnitus Island-bass; Mylar Grinninstein-drums.  (Probably pseudonyms).

Necronomidonkeykongimicon was the band’s first album in almost ten years after two albums in the early 2000s.  And Joyful Noise records had this to say about it:

Goblin Cock is a band from beyond time, beyond space, beyond your naive concept of dimension in METAL. Since before your pathetic “god” had supposedly “created” you and your kind, Lord Phallus was hunkered in a cybertimeship/fun-dungeon skating the layers of what was considered “true metal” in all societies and in all generations. Eventually His Majesty realized that he really didn’t care and launched a full-scale war against bland metal with an emphasis on ACTUALLY HAVING A GOOD TIME!

The album has 13 songs in 36 minutes–this is not an epic recording or anything.  But despite their brevity, these aren’t blistering punk songs either.  Rather, the songs work primarily in some of the heaviest metal styles (Slayer comes to mind) but also add some really alt-metal sounds (like Tool) in the bridges and choruses.

The first song, “Something Haunted” starts with a classic doom sound.  A distorted, vibrating series of notes–old school metal, including a heavy chugging riff. When he starts singing he sound a bit like Ozzy, but more like an alt-rock Ozzy (with a better voice).  When the bridge comes in, it feels more like Tool than dark metal.  The chorus soars to unexpected alt rock highs and somehow segues tightly back to that opening heavy riffage.  The song is three and a half minutes and is one of the longest songs on the album.

The second song, “Montrossor” starts so quickly, I initially thought it was still part of the first song.  It opens with fast double bass drums and equally fast riffage.  The bridge is a super fast followed by a slower melody (complete with crashing cymbals) that ends abruptly after two and a half minutes.  It ends abruptly and shifts gears into “Stewpot’s Package” which has that same old school style heavy deep opening riffs.  But again, it’s followed by a shift to more Tool-like sound for the bridge.  The chorus shifts gears and sounds almost like an XTC chorus.

“Youth Pastoral” is an instrumental with a practically heavy jazz riff.  The middle grooves all over the place as it shifts gears and style but fits perfectly together.

“Flume” opens with a slow menacing riff and Crow’s clipped singing until the much heavier chorus.  But, really, the most amazing thing about this song is that at the 1 minute mark, he sings the word “hey” for a full twenty-six seconds. It’s astonishing how long he holds that note.  The rest of the song is sung much more quietly, which seems fitting.

“Bothered” is heavy grooving with some excellent back and forth on the guitar parts. A shouting chorus is followed by a kind of guitar solo (more like an instrumental break than a solo proper).  A slow, heavy Soundgarden-esque riff opens “Your Watch.”  The chorus stays in that style, which never sounds like a Soundgarden song (the vocals are very different), but would fit comfortably on their playlist.  It’s followed by “The Undeer” a fast heavy chugging song that’s over in 90 seconds but only after a kind of mocking “la la la” vocal in the middle.

“Struth” opens with a slow drum fill followed by a n old school Black Sabbath-y riff.  The quietest part of the record occurs near the end of this song with a cool-sounding guitar melody (and effects) as the song slows to a pretty end.  But “The Dorse” resumes the heaviness with some intense double bass drum and pummelling guitars. This is another instrumental, but much heavier with some relentless pounding guitar and bass and an almost victorious guitar melody on top.

“World is Moving” is a quiet song that almost doesn’t fit on this record.  It opens with a complex guitar melody and some off-kilter time signatures.  The vocals are quiet and hushed for most of the song until it starts building up by the end.

“Island, Island” returns to the heaviness with a an intense riff and loud crashing drums.  It’s li e classic metal song with lots of drums taking the fore. There’s a catchy melodic middle that is bookended by ferociously heavy chugging guitars.  The middle of the song is about as heavy as this album gets with the thumping guitars and drums all in double time.

“Buck” ends the disc with the longest song–almost four minutes.  It’s slow and grooving and has a feeling of an 80’s sci fi film as the end adds a swirling synth sound.

Despite the band’s name, which will certainly turn off some, this album isn’t silly or overly vulgar.  It’s just some great songwriting in a bunch of heavier styles.

[READ: October 20, 2020] “Life Without Children”

Here’s the third story about COVID that I’ve read.  I’m not going to continue keeping track, but I am marvelling at how many have been published already.

This one is from a different perspective than I’m used to.

In it, Alan, an Irish man in his sixties, is in England on business.  His wife back home in Dublin tells him about all of the quarantining going on in Ireland.

Social distancing is a phrase that everyone understands. It’s like gender fluidity and sustainable development.  They’re using the words as if they’d been translated from Irish, in the air since before the English invaded.

Where he is in Newcastle, it’s like nothing has happened.  He is very careful about what he touches.  He cleans everything.  He envisions the particles floating in the air between the drunk men in the Hawaii-Five-0 shirts.   (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BROWNOUT-Tiny Desk Concert #931 (January 10, 2020).

I’d heard of Brownout when they released Brown Sabbath, a funk covers album of Black Sabbath songs.  They have also released an album of Public Enemy covers.

I didn’t realize that they were a long-established band (fifteen years).  They originally started as a Latin funk band (and backed up Prince).  Their singer, Alex Marrero, has only been with them for four years or so–it was originally a side project that turned into much more.

One of the things you need to know about this band is that they can change traditions or genres almost on a dime. The core members dip into soul, Latin funk, a form of Peruvian cumbia called chicha, and funk covers of both Black Sabbath and Public Enemy.

The first song they play “Somewhere To Go,”

is punctuated by an old-school R&B horn section (Mark “Speedy” Gonzales on trombone and Gilbert Elorreaga on trumpet) that’s deceptively simple and emblematic of the power of their concept and spirit.

The song has a slow groove and starts with a cool bassline from Greg Gonzalez.  There’s rocking, distorted guitars and lots of horns.  He sings a few lines and then starts singing into a megaphone “paddle your way out of this.”

The next song “Nain” is also new, “with lyrics in Spanish about being different and not fitting in and seeing that as a positive.”

The intricate interplay of the baritone sax (Joshua Levy), guitar (Beto Martinez), bongos (Matthew “Sweet Lou” Holmes) and electronic and acoustic drums (John Speice) launch the second cut, “Nain,” into another down-tempo burner,

I love the way the horns play a simple melody after the first section that sounds a bit like a commercial break in a TV show–waiting for whats to come next.  Again the guitar is interesting, playing a few complex patterns while the echoing keyboard solo from Peter Stopschinski adds a trippy aspect to it.

The final song is “You Don’t Have To Fall,” which includes

old-school Tower of Power horns that made quite a few heads dip and hips shake in our corner of the NPR building,

The song has a ripping guitar solo from Beto Martinez’s during  which Alex plays a shaker gourd.  It’s really catchy.

They seem to be able to do it all.

[READ: January 10, 2020] “The Whale Mother”

Leila’s marriage has fallen apart.  She still lives with her husband and kids, but they have both hired lawyers.  Her lawyer had told her things were over and she should “Go forth and date.”

So she decided to book a retreat

While on the SeaTac-Whidbey Island Shuttle, the older man in front of her started talking to her. He says he’s lived on the island for more than ten years.  When the ferry arrived, he led her upstairs–not waiting for her but assuming she’d be following him.  He was married–he wasn’t trying to pick her up–he just seem to enjoy talking to her.  Their time on the ferry was a little disappointing to her because she wanted to stay inside in he “sophisticated interior” but he went right through to the deck.  Nevertheless, she enjoyed the company and developed a bit of a crush on him.

He asked what her heritage was.  This “was the question she would have asked him if such a question weren’t now a minefield.  Leila welcomed the question when it came from another brown person but would not have assumed other brown people felt the same way.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DANKO JONES-Garage Rock! A Collection of Lost Songs From 1996-1998 (2014).

Danko Jones has released nine albums an a bunch of EPs.  Back in 2014 he released this collection of songs that he wrote and recorded before his first proper single (1998).

This is a collection of raw songs, but the essential elements of Danko are in place. Mostly fast guitars, simple, catchy riffs and Danko’s gruff voice, filled with braggadocio.  With a cover by Peter Bagge!

He describes it:

Back in the 90’s,the Garage Rock scene, as I knew it, was a warts-and-all approach that favoured low-fi recordings and rudimentary playing over any modicum of musical prowess in order to glean some Rock N’ Roll essence. However, once a band got better at their instruments, songwriting and stage performance, the inevitable crossroads would eventually appear. Deliberately continuing to play against their growing skill would only evolve into a pose. There were a lot of bands who did exactly this in order to sustain scenester favour. We did the opposite.

What you hold in your hands is a document of what we were and where we came from. We didn’t know how to write songs and could barely play but we wanted to be near to the music we loved so badly. We ate, slept and drank this music. We still do. That’s why we have never had to reunite because we’ve never broken up. After 18 years, we’ve stayed the course, got tough when the going did and, above all else, we have never stopped. This album is the proof.

The first two songs are the best quality, with the rest slowly deteriorating with more tape hiss.

1. “Who Got It?” a big fat bass sound with lots of mentioning of Danko Jones in the lyrics. [2 minutes]
2. “Make You Mine” is 90 seconds long.  With big loud chords and rumbling bass Danko says “one day I’m going to write a book and let everybody know how to do it.  Seems to me there a lot of people around who want to see if I can prove it.  I been a rock prodigy since the age of 20 and my proof… my proof is right now.”
3. “I’m Your Man” is a bit longer.  The quality isn’t as good but the raw bass sound is great.
4. “She’s Got A Bomb” is good early Danko strutting music.
5. “Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue.”  He would name an album this many years later.  This song is fast and raw and only 90 seconds long.
6. “Dirty Mind Too” This is a fast stomping one-two-three song that rocks for less than a minute.
7. I’m Drinking Alcohol? This is funny because later he says he doesn’t drink.  I don’t know what the words are but the music is great–rumbling bass and feedbacky guitars with lots of screaming.
8. “Love Travel Demo” and 9. “Bounce Demo” are decent demo recordings.  “Bounce” has what might be his first guitar solo.
10. Sexual Interlude” “ladies it’s time to take a chance on a real man.  I’m sick and tired of seeing you women selling yourselves short, going out with a lesser man.
11. “I Stand Accused” Unexpectedly he stands accused of “loving you to much.  If that’s a crime, then I’m guilty.”
12. “Best Good Looking Girl In Town” a fast chugging riff, “oh mama you sure look fine.”
13. “Payback” This one sounds really rough but it totally rocks.
14. “Lowdown” Danko gives the lowdown: “You want a bit of romance?  I got you an bouquet of Flowers and a box of chocolates.  Why you crying for?  That ain’t enough?  Me and the fellas wrote this song just for you.”
15. “One Night Stand” garage swinging sound: Danko is a one woman man and you’re just his type.
16. “Instrumental” is great.
17. “Move On” is a long, slow long bluesy track about love.

It’s not a great introduction to Danko, but if you like him, you won;t be disappointed by this early baby-Danko period.

[READ: August 10, 2019] I’ve Got Something to Say

In the introduction (after the foreword by Duff McKagan), Jones introduces himself not as a writer but as a hack.  He also acknowledges that having something to say doesn’t mean much.  He has too many opinions on music and needed to get them out or his insides would explode.  He acknowledges that obsessing over the minutiae of bands is a waste of time, “but goddammit, it’s a ton of fun.”

So this collection collects some of Danko’s writing over the last dozen or so years. He’s written for many publications, some regularly.  Most of these pieces are a couple of pages.  And pretty much all of them will have you laughing (if you enjoy opinionated music writers).

“Vibing for Thin Lizzy” [Rock Hard magazine, March 2015]
Danko says he was lured into rock music by the theatrics of KISS, Crue and WASP.  But then he really got into the music while his friends seemed to move on.  Thin Lizzy bridged the gap by providing substance without losing its sheen or bite.  And Phil Lynott was a mixed race bassist and singer who didn’t look like the quintessential rock star.  What more could Danko ask for? (more…)

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[ATTENDED: August 27, 2019] Mac Sabbath

When I saw that Okilly Dokilly was opening for Mac Sabbath I had to check out who this band was.  They’ve been around for a few years and this was their “American Cheese Tour” (that’s a good one).

And so basically, they are a Black Sabbath cover band, but all of their lyrics are about McDonald’s and the fast food industry in general.  So that’s pretty funny.  But that’s not all.  They have taken this concept to an absurd length.   Each band member is costumed or wears makeup.  And the costumes are phenomenal–not cheap little handmade things, but remarkably detailed and well constructed heads and bodies.  The attention to detail is really impressive.

The band members are also completely anonymous, which is also pretty funny.   And that is why they have such great band names:

The lead singer is Ronald Osbourne.
The guitarist is Slayer MacCheeze
The bassist is Grimalice (the least impressive name, it’s Grimace with an Alice in Wonderland hat on, but his other name is brilliant: “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butler.”)
On drums is Catburglar or Criss Cut Fries (he is dressed like the Hamburglar with Peter Criss Makeup).

I didn’t really think too much about the music before the show, I just wanted to see the stage show. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BLACK SABBATH-“Neon Knights” (1980).

There was no way I could read this book about Plasma Knights, Oxygen Knights and, yes, Neon Knights, and not think of this song.

This was the lead off track to the first Black Sabbath album in which Ronnie James Dio replaced Ozzy Osbourne.   It is a great song and a huge testament to Dio’s ability to revive a flagging band.

It’s really catchy, too.  Geezer Butler’s thumping bass riff opens before Tony Iommi’s chords add a nice rhythmic juxtaposition.  And with Dio’s voice you can hear that Black Sabbath sounds rejuvenated.

Dio’s crooning goes really well with the fast chords and propulsive beat.

This is a great song from a great album.  Although it’s hard to say that the Dio era of Black Sabbath was better than the Ozzy years, the two Dio albums are really fantastic.

[READ: February 27, 2019] Chasma Knights

Although this book was satisfying in the end, I thought it was kind of weirdly unsatisfying overall.

Perhaps it’s because there no real context to the story aside from a rhymed poem that introduces it.  It tells us that if you catalyze toys your powers grow.  And everyone loves to do it except Neon Knights, because they can’t catalyze anything–they don’t have the power.  Aside from that there is no explanation of the setting or the people or anything.

Weird huh? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-Flying Microtonal Banana (2017).

2017 was a massive year for KGATLW as they pledged (and kept that pledge) to release five albums in the year.  This was the first.

Flying Microtonal Banana starts with the same sort of relentless frenzy that Nonagon Infinity had.  Just witness the stomping, grooving repetition of “Rattlesnake,” a catchy, 7 minute song whose lyrics are primarily “rattlesnake.”

The difference comes in the title of the record.  It’s not banana, it’s microtonal.  The banana in question is the yellow microtonal guitar that Stu Mackenzie uses on the album (and live).  It’s a custom-made guitar modified for microtonal tuning, which allows for intervals smaller than the semitones of Western music.  Since the new guitar could only be played with similarly tuned instruments, the rest of the band got their gear tricked out with microtonal capabilities.

This gives many of the songs a distinctly Middle-Eastern sound.  As does the inclusion of the zurna, a wind instrument which is almost constantly loud, high-pitched, sharp, and piercing.  Not an inviting description, but the instrument adds some interesting sounds and textures to the disc.  “Rattlesnake” is so catchy, though, that the zurna just feels like one more component.

“Melting” lets up the intensity with a wonderful guitar/vocal melody and some great synth accents.  As the song grooves along there’s some cool sounds and textures throughout the vocals and background sounds.  The solo comes from a slightly distorted synth–the ever-rising melody is catchy but leaves you wanting more.  The microtones really come out in the middle of the song, where the guitar/vocal melody experiments with all the various microtones that their instruments could achieve.

“Open Water” has a ringing guitar melody and a sinister chorus about open water.

Open water
Where’s the shore gone?
How’d I falter?
Open water
Height of the sea
Will bury me
And all I see is
Open water

There’s a very cool microtonal guitar solo throughout the middle of the song.   When the zurna comes in it brings a whole new kind of tension.

The rest of the album is made up of shorter songs.  They don’t exactly segue into each other, but they do feel like a suite of sorts.  Except that each one focuses on a different style (not at all unusual for KGATLW).

“Sleep Drifter” is sung in a near whisper, almost comforting, as it follows the nifty rising chorus melody.  The interstitial guitar riff is really cool, too.  “Billabong Valley” returns to their Western style from earlier albums.  It is sung by Ambrose in his very different vocal style.  There’s a staccato piano and an interesting western-inspired microtonal riff.  “Anoxia” slows things down with a twisty guitar.  The zurna contributes to a trippy ending.

“Doom City” sounds like early Black Sabbath with deep notes and a strangely hippie tone with lots of echo.  Then it picks up speed and adds some wild zurna tones.  There’s even some high-pitched laughs giving an even weirder feel.  I love that the speed jumps between slow and ponderous and speedy and hurried. “Nuclear Fusion” has a staccato rhythm.  For this one, not only does the lead vocal follow the interesting guitar melody, but there’s a deep harmony voice following along as well.   I always love when they add organ sounds to the song, like this one.  And the deep voices as the beginning and end are pretty awesome.

The final track is the instrumental title song.  It explores all manner of microtonal solos both on guitar and zurna.  It opens with bongos and congos and just takes off from there with the screeching zurna melody.  It’s catchy and weird like t he rest of the album and it ends with the winds blowing things away.

That’s the banana itself on the right.

[READ: January 2019] Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore

I was attracted to this book because of the title.  I knew literally nothing about it, but the blurb called it a smart, twisty crime novel.  I typically don’t read crime novels, but I’ve had pretty good luck with books set in bookstores, so it seemed worth taking a chance.

And, wow, what a delightfully convoluted story.  It was absolutely full of surprises and puzzles.  In the past I would have tried to figure out he puzzles myself, but since the answers to the puzzles were given right after the puzzles were shown, I got lazy and let the book do the work for me.   And what a fascinating bunch of characters Sullivan has created.

Lydia Smith works at the Bright Ideas Bookshop in Denver.  She has been there for a while, but she’s keeping a low profile.  She grew up in Denver and had a reasonably good childhood.  Then, suddenly something horrific happened and she and her father moved into a remote cabin outside of Denver where neighbors were nowhere near.  Her father, who was once a loving librarian too a job at a county prison and became a hardened policeman.

The event is hinted at in the beginning.  In the middle we get a vivid description of her perception of the event.  The rest of the story unpacks it.

After living in the woods, Lydia left her father, without saying a word.  She returned to Denver and hadn’t spoken to him for years.

She loves the security of the Bright Ideas Bookstore.  The store is populated by the Book Frogs, old men mostly, who spend hours and hours here browsing books.  They are all eccentric in some respect, but they are harmless–and most are thoughtful.

But as the book opens, one of the younger Book Frogs, Joey Molina, her favorite one, hangs himself–right upstairs in Western History.  She tried to take him down, to save him, to do something.  But she was too late.  As she was trying be helpful, she saw that he had a picture in his hand.  It was a picture of her when she was a little girl.  A picture she had never seen before.

What a great opening chapter! (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 20, 2018] Weezer

I saw Weezer a couple of years ago in Bethlehem.  It was my first time seeing them, but I left feeling somewhat underwhelmed. They debuted 2 new songs, which was cool, but the show felt pretty short and I was really irritated by the crowd.

Tall, drunk college kids.  A lot of pushing and shoving (but not dancing) and I could not get close enough to the action.

I enjoyed the set designs and Rivers’ get ups.  But they finished in less than 90 minutes.

True they sounded great, but overall I was just a little blah.

I felt for sure if I could see better I would enjoy them a lot more.  And this proved to be true.

This show was not in support of a new album (I didn’t realize that), it was more of a career retrospective (sort of).  And what this meant was that they played a lot of songs I really like and, amazingly, they played not only more songs than the last time (very odd for a co-headlining show), they wound up playing nine songs that they hadn’t last time. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 8 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (November 18, 2004).

The Rheostatics, live at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, November 18, 2004. This was the 8th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  Featuring a crazy 17 minute medley followed by Neil Young’s Powderfinger.

Kevin Hearn played keyboards for much of the show and they played a number of songs from the Group of 7 disc and Harmelodia.  The show ran for 2 and a half hours.  There’s only one recording of this show, and it sounds great.

The show opens some what mellow-ish with “Digital Beach.”  It’s a pretty version of this unexpected song and it’s followed by an awesome “Boxcar Song” with Kevin Hearn on keys.

“P.I.N.” sounds lovely.  Midway through, you can hear bongos playing and Martin sings “I’m in the snow / playing bongos.”  He’s quite growly through the song.  After the song, you hear people shouting: “Come on let Martin sing!” Dave: “I think he is for hire, sir.”  Mike: “But only as a mohel.”

Kevin Hearn is on the organ for “It’s Easy To Be With You” and he sings on “Yellow Days Under A Lemon Sun.”  Actually everyone seems to take a verse on this song (but I think they’re making them up as they go along).  At the end, Tim says, “We started off with no keyboard players and now we have two.”

Mike asks if he can get more of Kevin’s sampler?  Dave: “Careful what you wish for–he’s got some Buddy Hackett in there.”

It’s followed by three more from Harmelodia: a sweet “Loving Arms,” a fun “Home Again” and a romping “I Am Drumstein.”  Tim says he is disappointed because he missed a perfect bongo opportunity in that last song.

After an introduction of Chris Stringer on “the organ and effects and other stuff,” they move toward 2067 with “Marginalized.”  There’s a sweeping, trippy keyboard solo in the middle.  And then some guys start shouting “Whale Music” and other things.  Dave says “Loud guy crowd.  Every Fall Nationals there’s a loud guy crowd.”

Introducing “The Tarleks” Dave says, “Dr. Johnny fever was here last night in the flesh, it was rather exciting.”  (Did they really not mention Howard Hessman the night before?).

Over the entire run there’s been constant requests for monitor sound level changes, especially by Mike.  Mike says he could use less of Martin’s vocal (groans from the audience) and says he can’t hear Martin’s guitar.  Martin asks if his guitar sounds okay out front.  There is much applause.  Mike: “you’re just fishing for a compliment.”

Before “Pornography,” someone asks where the bongos are.  They are put to good use in the song.  After saying how proud they are of the new album the  opening of  “Shack In The Cornfields” sounds a little off.  But it is quickly righted and off they go.  The song ends with what sounds like a skipping record and very quiet percussion playing as the s song slowly segues into “Try To Praise This Mutilated World.”  Martin says, “I like that song.  Dave wrote it.  We’re the Rheosatics.  Are you having a good night?”  Someone shouts something and Martin snarks: “You wanna hear our older, funnier stuff?”

They go old, but stay mellow.  Tim is “gonna serenade you with a song.”  “All the Same Eyes” is one “we don’t do anymore.  And now one we just started doing, ‘Here Comes the Image.'”  Tim introduces it by saying “This is a lesson for all you drummers out there.  Never be late for a rehearsal or you will be banish-ed to the keyboard.  Because everyone else wants to play those drums, including me and Dave.  This next song takes place in 2067, so best of luck to you all.”  It’s followed by another mellow song “Who Is Than Man, And Why Is He Laughing?” with Jen Foster on accordion.  After the song, Dave says, “I don’t know if I was dying back there or if someone is cooking but I smelled pancakes.  Kevin, you got a griddle back there?”  Mike also says, “Shameless plug.  Jennifer has her CD for sale at the merch booth.”  Tim: “It’s called Shameless Plug.”

Dave notes that they are “just entering the ‘shang’ part of the evening, folks.”  Whatever that means, the first song is a rollicking “Stolen Car.”  It feels a bit shambolic, but never out of control.  There’s some cool keyboard sound effects during the middle jam.  There’s a pretty “Little Bird, Little Bird”and then a powerful “California Dreamline.”  It segues somewhat oddly into a grooving “Horses” (the only time they’ll play the song during the nine nights).   Kevin gets a wild keyboard solo in the middle of the song.

Dave says there are here the next two nights and the Loud Guy says “we’re coming tomorrow.”  Dave: “Thanks for the warning.”  Dave seems a bit tired of the bozos.  But he does seem to like the fans up front: “You guys have great looking twin shirts there.  I can’t read what’s on the second bus though.  Nowhere and Boredom.”   Mike says he’d choose Nowhere over Boredom, but Dave’s not so sure.  “Boredom gives you something to work with.”

Tim says, “Bear with us while we do this song for our friend Ron Koop.  He is having a hard time right now and hopefully he draws something from this.”  It’s a lovely version of “Making Progress” which is followed by an upbeat and rather silly “Monkeybird.”

And then comes the above mentioned 17 minute medley.  I’m glad Darrin wrote all the songs down, because it’s hard to keep track:

The Horseshoe Medley (The Pooby Song / The Hockey Song / Devil Town / The Ballad Of Wendel Clark Part II / Bees / Folsom Prison Blues / Ring Of Fire / Old Vancouver Town / War Pigs / Human Highway / Rockaway Beach / Walk On The Wild Side / So Long Farewell / Who Stole The Kishka / Let’s Go Skiing In The Morning).

It begins with Dave playing the acoustic guitar and singing “The Pooby Song.”  “Take one, Kevin” and Kevin gets a simplistic guitar solo.  Dave shouts “take it to C” and they start Stompin’ Tom’s “Hockey Song.”  After the “second period” Dave notes: “last game of the lock out season that didn’t exist.  Doesn’t matter, we got enough hockey stored up in our heads that we’re skating all the time anyway.”  The songs ends, but that isn’t the key from the first tune, we gotta go back to the first tune.  Tim: “Take it to B flat.  I love B flat.  Now, back to D.  You got any chords you like?”  Kevin starts singing Daniel Johnston’s “Devil Town.”  Up to E sharp (or F, whatever you want to call it).  Back down to D take it to C.  They start “Wendel.”  Kevin’s got one.  “‘There are bees, there are bees, everywhere’  you know this one, right?”  Tim: “Does this take place in the devilish town?”  Take it to C, for Dave to sing Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” then Kevin switches it to “Ring of Fire.”  Tim picks up with Stompin’ Tom’s “Bridge Came Tumbling Down.”  Kevin resumes with a hilariously upbeat and folksy “War Pigs” with Martin doing some suitably metal guitars sounds.  They even try to do the heavy staccato part before resuming the bluesy part.  “Go to G.”  Dave sings Neil Young’s “Human Highway” but messes it all up, “Okay, never mind go back to E again.”  Tim: “Take it up to A” for “Rockaway Beach.”  Then it’s Kevin with an amusingly upbeat take on “Walk on the Wild Side.”  Mike jumps in with a goofy stab at “So Long, Farewell” and then Dave takes over with “Who Stole the Kishka.”  Tim is yelling “someone call the motherfucking cops.”  The medley should end there but someone keeps it going “a two-step nightmare.”  Dave sings Frankie Yankovic’s “Let’s Go Skiing” while about three other songs go simultaneous.  Someone chants “four more years” and then Dave starts “Powderfinger” in the medley.  He kind of screws it up and as it fades, Martin asks, “What’s the next verse?”  “Something about hunting” and then Martin takes it over for real. He knows some of the words, and they kind of salvage it.”

At the end Dave even says “Thanks, I think.”

But after 8 days in a row, you’re allowed a bit of a fun meltdown.

As they walk off, Martin asks, “Hey Dave what’s a kishka? A sausage type thing?”  A fans shouts, “a small donut.”  Dave: “It’s not a small donut.  But that’s funnier.”  It’s a great and funny end to a wild show.

[READ: July 11, 2017] Real Friends

I’ve enjoyed Shannon Hale a lot recently, so I was pretty happy to read a new book by her.  Sarah had told me that it was a really excellent portrayal of girl friendship in grammar school.  It is also biographical and makes me think that it’s pretty amazing that Hale made it through to high school at all.

The book is divided into sections with friends’ names, and each of these sections is basically how she met these friends.

Shannon was the middle child between a pair of older girls and a pair of younger siblings.  She was kind of alone and was very clingy to her mom.  But on her first day of kindergarten, despite being nervous and sad, she made friends with Adrienne.

They were soon inseparable.  Shannon made up games for them in which they fought off bad guys (boys who just seemed to want them in whatever capacity a five year-old girls thinks boys might want them).  I love that their game was utterly feminist and yet they were portraying Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders because that’s who was popular and everyone wanted to be one.  And yet these cheerleaders had pet saber toothed tigers and sharks and they beat up ghastly boys. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKPHISH-“The Birds” (MGM Grand Garden Arena, Friday 10, 31, 2014).

In honor of Halloween, these Ghost Box stories will be attached to a recent Phish Halloween show [with quoted material from various reviews]. 

Known for dawning musical costumes to celebrate [Halloween], Phish broke with tradition last year to offer a set of original music.  The Phish Bill read that Phish’s musical costume would be a 1964 Disney album of sound effects – Chilling, Thrilling Sounds Of The Haunted House.  But it wasn’t a cover set. Phish played original music set amongst an incredibly psychedelic, theatrical graveyard stage accentuated by zombie dancers and a ghoulish MC.  At the start of the set, the stage was cleared before a graveyard came to the foreground.  Smoke filled the air, zombie dancers appeared, and music filled the venue. A haunted house was brought to the front of the stage, which eventually exploded, and all four-band members appeared, dressed in white like zombies. 

“Some people keep birds as pets in their home.  Not you.”

This is a groovy song with some cool pauses with staccato drums and a heavy riff.  The song is littered with lots of samples of “They attack!” a sample that has been used regularly since in various shows.

Mike’s got a nasty fuzzy sounding bass while Page plays the organ rhythm.  At the end Trey and Mike play each other a solo off (complete with bombastic drums from Fish).

The set’s penultimate song, “The Birds,” showed off what Phish meant in the Playbill when they called Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House one of the heaviest albums of all-time. They feasted on a groove that recalled the best of Traffic, Black Sabbath and Abbey Road era Beatles. All the while, a spoken word sample of “They Attack!!” was worked into the sound. It was on “The Birds” that Mike Gordon shined most as he connected with McConnell and Fish on a dark and dirty progression that Trey shredded over. The song continued with Gordon and Anastasio facing off against each other and dueling it out for a few glorious moments as Page hit his keys for more “They Attack!!” samples. Eventually, [they] hooked up on an intense progression they worked over with Anastasio unleashing a wave of riffs that would’ve made Jimi Hendrix proud.

The ending is some pounding staccato chords with samples of “They Attack!”  It’s a very strong ending.

[READ: October 16, 2017] “The Treader of the Dust

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar comes The Ghost Box.

This is a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening) that contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

A collection of chilly, spooky, hair-raising-y stories to get you in that Hallowe’en spirit, edited and introduced by comedian and horror aficionado Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, on the inside cover, one “window” of the 11 boxes is “folded.”  I am taking that as a suggested order.

This story opens with a quote from The Testaments of Carnamagos.

John Sebastian had had a debate and argument with himself.  He was typically a recluse but he was so upset, he had left his house for three days–an unheard of absence. (more…)

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atwq3SOUNDTRACK: YES-Tales from Topographic Oceans (1974).

Tales_from_Topographic_Oceans_(Yes_album)After the huge success of Fragile and Close to the Edge (with its 18 minute suite), what could Yes do next?  Well first they would release a triple live album, which I’ll get to later.  And then?  Why they would release a double album with only 4 songs on it!  That’s right 4 songs each around 20 minutes long!  And it would be ponderous and pretentious and it would be reviled by everyone!

The album shipped gold (because their previous records were so popular) and then sales plummeted.  The album is much maligned and, frankly, deservedly so.  Now, I love me a good prog rock epic.  So, four 20 minutes songs is pretty heavenly for me.  But man, these songs just don’t really have any oomph.

My CD’s recording quality is a little poor, but I don’t know if the original is too.  The whole album feels warm and soft and a little muffled.  You can barely hear Anderson’s vocals (which I believe is a good thing as the lyrics are a bunch of mystical jiggery pokery).  But despite the hatred for the album, it’s not really bad.  It’s just kind of dull.

Overall, there is a Yes vibe…and Yes were good songwriters–it’s not like they suddenly weren’t anymore.  There are plenty of really interesting sections in the various songs.  It just sounds like they have soft gauze between them.  Or more accurately, it sounds like you get to hear some interesting song sections and then the song is overtaken by another song that is mostly just mellow ambient music.

Without suggesting in any way that this album influenced anyone, contemporary artists are no longer afraid to make songs that are super long (see jam bands) or songs that are just swells of keyboards (see ambient musicians).  Yes just happened to put them all in the same song–way before anyone else did.

The album is very warm and soft—rather unlike the last couple of Yes albums which were sharp and harsh.  There are washes of keyboards and guitars and Anderson’s echoing voice. But what you’ll notice is that I haven’t really mentioned Chris Squire.  He’s barely on the album at all, and when he is, it’s usually to provide very simple bass notes–bass notes that anyone could play–it’s such a waste!  And while Alan White is no Bill Bruford (who was off rocking with King Crimson then), he’s also barely there.  In fact, Rick Wakeman himself is barely there–the king of elaborate classical riffs is mostly playing single notes at a time.  According to Wikipedia,

Wakeman took a dislike to the album’s concept and structure from the beginning. He made only minimal musical contributions to the recording, and often spent time drinking at the studio bar and playing darts. [During the recording session] he played the piano and synthesiser on the Black Sabbath track “Sabbra Cadabra”.

Evidently Anderson wanted a pastoral feeling in the studio

According to Squire, Brian Lane, the band’s manager, proceeded to decorate the studio like a farmyard to make Anderson “happy”.  Wakeman described the studio, “There were white picket fences … All the keyboards and amplifiers were placed on stacks of hay.” At the time of recording, heavy metal group Black Sabbath were producing Sabbath Bloody Sabbath in the studio next door.  Ozzy Osbourne recalled that placed in the Yes studio was a model cow with electronic udders and a small barn to give the room an “earthy” feel. Anderson recalled that he expressed a wish to record the album in a forest at night, “When I suggested that, they all said, ‘Jon, get a life!'”

So we have an earthy pastoral album.  But what about the four sides?  Steve Howe describes it:

“Side one was the commercial or easy-listening side of Topographic Oceans, side two was a much lighter, folky side of Yes, side three was electronic mayhem turning into acoustic simplicity, and side four was us trying to drive the whole thing home on a biggie.”

Despite Wakeman’s complaints, he did have some nice thing to say about it.  he said that there are

“very nice musical moments in Topographic Oceans, but because of the […] format of how records used to be we had too much for a single album but not enough for a double […] so we padded it out and the padding is awful […] but there are some beautiful solos like “Nous sommes du soleil” […] one of the most beautiful melodies […] and deserved to be developed even more perhaps.”

And if Rick Wakeman says an album is padded, you can just imagine what the rest of the world thought!

The lyrics (and mood) are based on Jon Anderson’s vision of four classes of Hindu scripture, collectively named the shastras, based on a footnote in Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda.  So if I read this correctly–he wrote 80 minutes of music based ona  footnote!

The four songs are

“The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn)” [which Howe says is the commercial or easy-listening side] builds slowly and eventually adds vocals.  And then come the drums and a decent keyboard riff.  There’s some noodling on the keyboards.  The riff is catchy but not immediate (which might be the subtitle for the album).  At nearly 4 minutes a faster section kicks in and there’s a catchy vocal part, which seems like where Anderson might normally soar but he holds back.  The “must have waited all our lives for this moment moment moment” is catchy, but again I can’t help but feel it would have been much more dramatic sounding on an earlier record.  At 7 minutes there’s a nice jump to something more dramatic—good drums, but the bass is mixed very low (poor Squire).  There’s some good soloing and such but it is short lived and things mellow out again.  It resolves into a new riff at 9 minutes, but resumes that feeling of washes and noodling guitars.  At 11 minutes there’s an elaborate piano section and the song picks up some tempo and drama. Especially when the bass kicks in around 12 minutes.  The most exciting part happens around 17 minutes when the whole band comes to life and adds a full sound, including a good solo from Wakeman.  And while this doesn’t last, it recycles some previous sections which are nice to hear.

Track 2 “The Remembering (High the Memory)” [which Howe described as the much lighter, folky side of Yes] has a slow, pretty guitar opening with more harmony vocals.  The whole first opening section is like this—layers of voices and keys. Then come some keyboard swells and more vocals.  Some bass is added around 6 minutes. And then around 8 minutes the tone shifts and there is a lengthy slow keyboard solo that reminds me of the solo in Rush’ “Jacob’s Ladder” (released 6 years later).  At around 9 minutes there’s a more breezy upbeat section with a cool riff.  At 10:40 a new section comes in with some great bass lines and guitars and an interesting vocal part. It could easily have been the structure for a great Yes song (vocals are singing “relayer” which of course is their next album’s title). But this is all too brief (it thankfully returns again) and then it’s back to the gentle keyboards.  At 12 minutes there’s a new medieval type section with some great guitar work.  When the “relayer” part returns around 13 minutes there’s a whole section that is great fun.  And even though it doesn’t keep up, the song feels rejuvenated. By around 17 minutes there some interesting soloing going on and then the band resumes to bring it to the end (with a reprise of an early section). And the final section is quite lovely.

Track 3 “The Ancient (Giants Under the Sun)” [Howe: electronic mayhem turning into acoustic simplicity] is probably the most interesting.  It opens with some clashing cymbals and then a fairly complex percussion section and mildly dissonant guitar riff.  There’s even some staccato bass line. The vocals come in around 4:30 and the song shifts to a less aggressive sound, but the big bass continues throughout the beginning of the song until a fast riff emerges around 6 minutes. But more unusual Yes-type riffage resume briefly before segueing into the next part with lots of percussion.  While the staccato bass and drums continues, Howe solos away.  Then around 12 :30 the whole things shifts to a pretty, slow acoustic section with a classical guitar and vocals.  This entire end section sounds like it could easily have been its own song and it is quite lovely.  Howe’s acoustic work is great and there’s even a lengthy solo.

Track 4 “Ritual (Nous Sommes du Soleil)” [Howe: us trying to drive the whole thing home on a biggie] is also quite good.  It’s probably the most fully Yes track of the four, with many sections of “full band” material.  There’s a noodly guitar intro switching to an interesting dramatic minor key movement.  There’s a pretty, if simple, riff (done by guitar and voice) that is quite lovely.  Around 4:30 the guitar solo brings in a riff from a previous Yes song. By 7 minutes, the song settles into a fairly conventional sounding Yes song (with actual bass and drums and…sitar!).   Around 11 there’s a bit of Wakeman soloing (he did show up for some of the album after all) and then some wild guitar and bass work.   The crazy percussion resumes and there’s a wild keyboard solo on top of it. The end of the guitar solo even has a bit of “Born Free” in it.

I hadn’t listened to this record in probably 25 years.  And so I listened to it 4 times in the last few days.  And I have to say that I thought it was bloated and awful at first, but it slowly grew on me.  I found some really interesting sections and some very cool riffs.  If these pieces could have been truncated into individual songs they would be quite good.  The biggest problem for me is that so much of it is so slow and mellow–like it’s building up to a big climax which never arrives.  On previous albums, Yes had made quite a show of being insane musicians, and that just isn’t here.

So even though I have come around on these songs, they certainly aren’t my favorites.  But if you’re at all interested in Yes, there’s some gems hidden away in these monstrosities (just don’t think too much about what Anderson is talking about).

Since almost every Yes album had different personnel, I’m going to keep a running tally here.  The band stayed together after Close to the Edge, but this was too much for Wakeman who left after the recording:

Chris Squire-bass
John Anderson-vocals
Alan White (#2)-drums
Rick Wakeman (#2)-keyboards
Steve Howe (#2)-guitar

[READ: June 20, 2015] Shouldn’t You Be in School?

I am finding this series to be ever more and more confounding.  And I know that is its intent, but it is still a challenge.  Whenever anyone asks a question someone else replies that it is the wrong question.  But they never say what the right question should be (deliberately confusing!).  There are also so many threads and confusing characters, that if Snicket didn’t make the story funny and strangely compelling, it would be incredibly frustrating.

In this story, Hangfire, having been thwarted in his previous endeavor to capture children (for what end we do not know) is back with a new plan to capture children.  Also, the mysterious (and presumably wicked, but who can be sure) Ellington Feint has returned as well to help or hinder as she sees fit.

The other characters are back too, of course: Moxie is back taking notes, Jake Hix is cooking delicious foods at Hungry’s (in fact there are even some recipes that sound pretty yummy–Snicket himself makes a passable tandoori chicken).  S. Theodora is still his mentor (and the pictures by Seth of her are hilarious).  Late in the book Pip and Squeak show up.  And naturally the policemen and their bratty son Stewie are there too.  And we are still wondering what in the heck is going on with the bombinating beast.

There’s also some new characters, like Kellar Haines, a young boy who when we first meet him is typing up something in the offices of the Department of Education (with posters all over the walls that say Learn! Learning is Fun, etc).  And his mother is also becoming quite chummy with S. Theodora.

The danger in this book is fire.  Building after building is being burnt down.  The Stain’d Secondary School is engulfed.  Even the library is at risk!  And that’s when S. Theodora solves the crime!  She gets the library Dashiell Qwerty arrested for setting the fires.  And even though it is quickly determined that he did not do it (a building was burnt down while he was in custody), that doesn’t stop S. Theodora and her new friend Sharon Haines (in matching yellow nails) from partying.  It also doesn’t stop Qwerty from being taken to prison.

This story is a bit darker than the other ones (which were admittedly pretty dark).  Every kid is being drugged with laudanum which makes you sleepy.  We’re unclear exactly what they are being drugged for, but Snicket has a plan to stop it.  Snicket himself winds up getting beaten up–pretty badly–from Stew and others.

And for the first time, S. Theodora is kind to Snicket (more or less) and apologizes for her behavior (sort of).

By the end of the book a plan is hatched, a bunch of people join the V.F.D. (as seen in A Series of Unfortunate Events) and someone is taken to jail. There’s even a mysterious beast who is living in the fire pond.

As in previous books there is ample definition building–either from people saying they don’t know what a word means so that it can be defined or from Snicket himself simply defining a word.  As in “my brother and I played an inane game” “inane is a word which here means that my brother and I would pretend we couldn’t hear each other very well while we were talking.”  This game actually sounds fun:

What do you think of the weather this morning?
Feather? I’m not wearing a feather this morning.  This is just a hat.
Just a cat? Why would you wear a cat on your head?
A Bat in your bed etc etc.

The artwork by Seth is once again fantastic and noirish.

And the end of the book has a fragmentary plot “a great number of people working together, but they plotted together in such a way that nobody knew exactly what the other people were doing”  And finally we learn what the right question is, but it’s the unsatisfying: “Can we save this town?”  We’ll have to find out in the concluding book 4.

You can also check out the website for some fun.

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