Archive for the ‘Blue Öyster Cult’ Category

[ATTENDED: October 25, 2019] Ghost

A few years ago Ghost had just popped on my radar when I saw that they were playing the Fillmore in Philly.  I didn’t go, but a friend of mine took his son and said the show was outstanding.

Before getting tickets for Starset, I had bought tickets for C. and I to see Ghost.  I had heard that their live shows were tremendous and I was pretty excited to bring him to a show like this.  When I looked for tickets, I knew we wouldn’t want GA Floor, but I didn’t know if we should go straight back or close to the stage on the side.  I chose close to the stage and I was pretty happy with the location although C. thought it would be better straight on.

I had no idea we’d be going to see two concerts in two nights.  But it was fun for him to compare the two styles of venue–club vs. arena.

Starset has a backstory and Ghost has a backstory too.  Ghost’s story is pretty fascinating.

But before getting to that I have to say that this show was spectacular.  Holy cow was it fun–the band was fantastic.  The stage set was incredible and Cardinal Copia was an amazing front man.

Now, onto the story of Ghost. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[ATTENDED: December 8, 2016] Blue Öyster Cult

2016-12-08-21-26-13I saw a whole bunch of concerts this year. I didn’t expect to end my concert year with Blue Öyster Cult.  But, I enjoyed them when I saw them last, and when I saw they were playing at the State Theater in New Brunswick (and I was able to score a 4th row seat) I decided to see them again.

I didn’t realize that Blue Öyster Cult was also the first band I saw this year (back in January).  So, it was a year bookended with BÖC.

While I enjoyed the previous show, I thought it seemed like the guys were getting a little creaky (understandable since they are in their late 60s).  But they seemed much more “on” during this show.  Eric Bloom was chatty and fun, his voice sounded great and he seemed a lot more energetic than last time.  And that made the show much more fun.  As did sitting really close–I was able to actually see the BÖC on his guitar. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[ATTENDED: December 8, 2016] Jefferson Starship

2016-12-08-20-07-51I had no interest in seeing Jefferson Starship, but they were opening for Blue Oyster Cult and, heck I love White Rabbit, so why not check them out.

This incarnation of Jefferson Starship is pretty hilarious because the only person in the band who was in the band when they were Jefferson Starship is guitarist David Freiberg (vocals, guitar) (almost–the drummer has a tenure there too, see below).  It’s particularly amusing because Freiberg was in Jefferson Airplane for their final tour, and then they broke up.  When Jefferson Starship began a couple years later, he was a part of the band until they went on hiatus in 1985.  But when Paul Kantner reunited the band in 1993, Freiberg wasn’t included (apparently because Freiberg didn’t leave immediately when Starship formed, like Kantner did).  They made up in 2006 and Freiberg and Kantner had been touring as Jefferson Starship.  Kantner died earlier this year, so Freiberg is the only person connected with the original band left.

Interestingly, he left when Jefferson Starship became Starship, (but not as quickly as Kantner) because he didn’t like the direction the band was going (and Grace Slick considered him “dead weight”).  So he didn’t do “We Built This City.”  However, Donny Baldwin, the drummer at our show played with Jefferson Starship for two years (when Freiberg was there, too) in the 1980s and moved on to Starship and DID play on “We Built This City.”  When they reunited, they had a different drummer, but Baldwin came back in 2008.  So, when they play “We Built This City,” and they do, the drummer is the only one who was responsible for it in the first place.  Crazy.

Incidentally, Freiberg more or less left because of “We Built This City.”  According to Wikipedia: He became frustrated with the sessions because all the keyboard work in the studio was being done by Peter Wolf (lead singer of the J. Giels Band who had played on the sessions for Nuclear Furniture and briefly joined the band on the road for the follow-up tour) and keyboards were the instrument Freiberg was supposed to be playing.  He left the band and the album (with “We Built This City” which was written by written by Bernie Taupin, Martin Page, Dennis Lambert, and Peter Wolf) was finished with the five remaining members.

2016-12-08-20-23-29How’s that for a convoluted history. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[ATTENDED: January 30, 2016] Indigo Girls

2016-01-30 22.57.42When I was a radio DJ in college, I received a promo disc by a band called the Indigo Girls, which I listened to because Michael Stipe sang on one of the songs.  I really enjoyed the sampler.  The Girls’ harmonies were outstanding and the lyrics were clever and funny and very very smart.

And I’ve enjoyed them intermittently for twenty some years.  I even saw them at Newport Folk Festival back in 1998 when they put on a fantastic show.

Sarah has been a fan of the band for a long time as well.  She saw them at an even more unusual venue–at the American Library Association Convention in 2002.

Neither one of us had seen them in a “proper” venue and thought it would be cool to see them in this small theater in Montclair.

And man, did they sound fantastic.  Their first album came on in 1989 and their voices sound exactly the same.  Emily can hit the high notes and Amy still has that great gravelly sound (despite claiming to be ill and on steroids to get her voice to actually work–I never would have guessed).  And their harmonies are still perfect together. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[ATTENDED: January 15, 2016] Blue Öyster Cult

2016-01-16 23.20.39I first got into Blue Öyster Cult in 1981 with “Burnin’ for You” (yep, I knew that before “Don’t Fear the Reaper”).  Fire of Unknown Origin was my favorite album for years.  When I got to college, I met my friend Nick when I drew the Blue Öyster Cult logo on my notebook and he saw it.  And then I found out that my neighbor Glen was the biggest Blue Öyster Cult fan, possibly ever.

He has seen them play a bunch of times, but for some reason I never went.  And that is my one major regret after seeing them–I wish I had seen them before when the whole band was together and when they were 20 years younger.  For while they did not disappoint, they weren’t quite up to the standards I had imagined.

The week before the show I listened to their whole catalog and imagined an ideal setlist–deep cuts and weird songs.  But honestly, they could have played any of their songs and it would have been great.

And I loved that they played a sampling of songs from throughout their career. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[ATTENDED: January 15, 2016] Vanilla Fudge

2016-01-16 20.13.10I had never seen Blue Öyster Cult even though I’ve been a pretty big fan since college.  So when I saw they were playing at the Wellmont, I had to go see them.  As it turns out Vanilla Fudge was going to be the opener.

I have known of Vanilla Fudge, but I realized that I had no idea what they sang.  And when I looked them up, their biggest hits were all covers.  It turns out, that’s what they are–the world’s most successful and unusual cover band (Led Zeppelin opened for them in 1969, and Deep Purple got their organ sound from Vanilla Fudge).

Although they do covers, their sound is very much their own.  They don’t so much cover songs as transform them into their own style.  And that style is psychedelic and very heavy.

The band released five albums from 1967-1969 and then broke up.  They reunited and recorded an album in 1984.  Then split up.  And reunited in 2002 (with a different singer) and released an album of rerecorded old Vanilla Fudge as well as a cover of a Backstreet Boys and an N’Sync song (!).

Then the original lineup reunited in 2007 for an album of all Led Zeppelin covers called Out Through the In Door.  And then last year they released a new album called Spirit of ’67 (a collection of songs from 1967).  This featured all of the original members except the bassist who has retired.

So, here it is almost 50 years later and the original lineup (sans bassist) is still touring.  And they sounded amazing.  (more…)

Read Full Post »

dotaSOUNDTRACK: ASIA-Asia (1982).

asiaI’ll finish off this run through Yes with one final offshoot project–Asia.  Geoff Downes (who had only been on Drama) and Steve Howe joined forces for this pop outfit with a hint of prog.  Indeed, this is an album that is just chock full of poppiness–despite all of the trappings of prog rock–synths, connections to Yes, a cover by Roger Dean and Carl Palmer from Emerson Lake & Palmer on the drums.

This album was huge in 1982 & 1983.  They had so many hits from it (okay well, only 3 singles, but surely everyone knows this entire album, right?).

“Heat of the Moment” opens with nice big ringing guitars.  And while the drums aren’t fancy, they are quite distinctive.  The synth isn’t too dated sounding, and the middle part with the guitar slide still sounds cool.  And of course, the chorus is practically irresistible.  “Only Time Will Tell” has a totally recognizable keyboard riff.  While the riff itself hasn’t been copied, the sound has and yet at the time, Asia made it seem fresh.  This song is so simple as it starts with just keys and drums and John Wetton’s voice.  There’s great harmonies in the chorus and dramatic keyboard splashes.  And once again, Carl Palmer’s drums are big and loud yet understated.

“Sole Survivor” opens with some darker chords nut some interesting noodling going on, too. (I always thought t was interesting that Blue Oyster Cult released a song called “Sole Survivor” the year before).  Despite the darkness of the lyrics and the music the chorus is also very catchy (I also like how nearly every verse ends with a different keyboard sound or riff).  This song also has an interesting break where things get quiet and feel very wasteland like.

“One Step Closer” has a some interesting riffs and another catchy chorus.  This is probably my least favorite track on the disc even if it’s got a good chorus.  “Time Again” has a cool dramatic opening and then a nice speedy bassline to start off with.  I like the way the chorus leads to some quieter moments of unusual guitar and keyboard sounds.

Side two has some slightly longer, sightly less poppy songs. And yet to me all the songs on this side are really good as well.  “Wildest Dreams” is a song that is a bit over the top (as all prog should be).  I remember loving the dramatic “We fight” section.  It seems a but silly but it was still fun to sing along to.

“Without You” is a slower darker song but with another big chorus.  It also has the most prog rock sounding keyboard solos of the 1980s.  There’s some time changes and even a big bell!  “Cutting It Fine” opens with some mellow guitar and then a really interesting guitar sequence.   It moves along quickly and dramatically and then stops for a quiet piano solo section (with a build up of strings, martial drums and horns–the drama seems like it is leading to something big but it just kind of fades out, which is a bummer.

“Here Comes the Feeling” ends the disc in more dramatic fashion.   I love the way the bridge builds and builds (with the “now i can…” section that leads to the long held sung notes.).   The solo section has some very yes-like moments from Howe and over all ends the disc with some wonderful prog moments.

As with apparently every progressive rock band of the era, this one was full of lineup changes too (don’t even get me started on King Crimson).  The four stayed together for the next album, Alpha, but Steve Howe left after that and then various other incarnations have toured in one form or another to this day (in fact they’ve released about 20 albums over the years.  Who knew?).

[READ: May 29, 2015] Death of the Artist

I grabbed this book from work because it looked interesting.  And it was.  I was more than a little confused as to how much is true.  And that was clearly the point.  Fransman totally pulled the wool over my eyes and I love her for that.

The premise of this book is that five artists are getting together for a weekend of debauchery.  They were friends in art school in Leeds when they were in their 20s.  Now, ten years later, they are reuniting in hopes of sparking creativity again.  Of the five only one is still doing anything “creative,” and they are all looking to reignite that spark.

And this book is the result of their week.

All five artists draw (or something) a story inspired by that weekend.  And in what turns out to be a pretty cool twist, Fransman has shaped the stories into a narrative. (more…)

Read Full Post »

sailorSOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD-Angel Rat (1991).

angelSo if you’re Voivod and you have just released a prog rock metal masterpiece, what’s your next step?  Hire Terry Brown, famed producer of the early Rush catalog!  And then try to go somewhat more commercial.  And name your new, commercial album… Angel Rat?

Oh but then—never a good sign—after recording the album, original bassist Blacky left the band.  It’s hard to find out exactly why (personal reasons) but he then went on to form The Holy Body Tattoo Dance Society and to create electroacoustic music.

When this album came out I was very disappointed in it—it is so far from the angular prog rock of Nothingface that I assumed the band had utterly sold out.  I mean, there’s ballad moments on it, there’s hardly any dissonant chords, and most of the songs are simply verse bridge chorus.  The band sounds a lot more commercial (sadly for them, the album tanked).  Listening to it now with fresh ears it actually reminds me a lot of Blue Öyster Cult, especially with Snake’s vocals and the chord structures that Piggy presents.  And since they used Terry Brown  there’s a Rush element as well.  Once I divorce the album from what came before I actually like the album quite a bit.  The songs are remarkably simple (I feel like Piggy could have been playing all the parts himself at the same time), but there’s still enough interesting weirdness that the songs don’t sound boring.  And once you get used to the overproduction and the fact that Snake can sing, there’s some really good stuff here.  Conventional but good.

It starts out pretty heavy with a chugging guitar but soon you notice that Snake is actually singing…nicely.  His voice sounds polished and good.  And then you notice that the guitars are fairly conventional—there’s almost no dissonance. True it is still heavy metal and there’s some slightly obscure chords, but for the most part it’s not all that weird.  Even the guitar solo is a fairly conventional speedy solo. And when the chorus comes in it’s actually quite pretty.  Speaking of pretty, the band photo is one of the more glammed up moments in Voivod’s career and, without being unfair, they are not a terribly pretty band, so this is kind of a funny picture.

“Clouds in My House” is also quite a pretty song, although admittedly the verses are a little dark (with that squeaking guitar solo sound that was popular around that time in heavy metal).  But the chorus is downright upbeat.  There’s a cool section in the middle with a noisy (but very simple) bass popping and a guitar solo over the top of it—it reminds me a lot of Rush in sound).  “The Prow” is the catchiest thing that Voivod has ever done—great sing-along verses and a big chorus.  “Best Regards” has more BÖC simiarlies—the chorus in particular has a very BÖC structure.  There’s also a some great bass on it.  Again, not the complicated bass of previous album, but a great rumbling sound that works very well as a riff while Piggy solos.  “Twin Dummy” is another fast song. This one features some of the stranger lyrics on the album.  Away says that he backed off on some of the concepts for this album and let Snake so his own thing.  So this song seems to be about ventriloquist dummies with the strange opening lyric “Dummy says…”  But the music is fast and furious here—some weird chords and really fast bass.  There’s also some keyboards on this track (pipe organ type sounds) that reminds me of Rush from around this period.

Title track “Angel Rat” sees Snake crooning over a very simple guitar ballad intro.  It’s almost unthinkable.  And yet the band keeps it interesting—especially Blacky’s bass.  Again, I don’t know why he left, but his bass is featured nicely on this album anyhow.  Blacky opens “Golem” with a powerful (but again simple) bass.  There’s an occasional funky note, but it’s a very staccato song. The drums have a strangely pop quality (the way he fills in the gaps).  It’s a little unsettling how obvious and catchy it is.  And even more unsettling is the solo—which has a very jazz feel.  I can’t even really tell what’s going on—is that Piggy or a keyboard?  “The Outcast” has probably the most conventional early 90s metal sound (except…is that a harmonica?)  Snake even does a falsetto at the end of a verse!  Probably the biggest surprise is that the final lines are “everything’s gonna work out.”

“Nuage Fractal” at least has a very Voivod title.  And the chorus sounds a lot like recent Voivod (except for the solo section).  The biggest surprise has to be “Freedoom” which opens with a very pretty guitar ballad sequence.  Something that early Voivod would have stomped all over.  Snake is whisper-singing and Piggy is playing gently for two whole minutes.  Interestingly, once the full band kicks in for the last two minutes, it is one of the heaviest sections on the album.  So even when they’re being conventional, they can’t do it for too long.  The bass in particular sounds very Geddy Lee to me on this track.  The final song “None of the Above” Is another political song—this one about global destruction.  The music is surprisingly upbeat for such a topic, but Blacky’s bass is wonderfully deep and rumbling here.

So yes, ever the chameleons, Voivod have made an album that could have sold a lot of copies–except that they’re a little too weird to do so.  But it was a good experiment and resulted in some great songs.

[READ: August 15, 2013] Sailor Twain

Sarah got me this book for Christmas.  I didn’t read it until right now because it’s fun to stretch out Christmas gifts as long as possible.

This book is a lengthy graphic novel from our friends at First Second.  It is complicated and a little confusing (the whole story is a flashback that is sort of explained in the very beginning).  It’s also very beautiful.

Except, I might say, for the main character. The background images and the interstitial pages are really beautiful and detailed.  But the main character is very cartoony–very two-dimensional with a triangle nose and big circular cartoon eyes.  I found this very disconcerting for about a third of the book.  Siegel does manage to make him very expressive and uses the big circle eyes to a good drawing benefit through, but the character just looks so–surprised?–all the time that it was hard to not notice him.  Of course later on his big eyes come in handy during the darker sequences, but I still found it an odd choice.  So too were the really cartoony choices of some of the other main characters–very big, comical noses or fat round faces.  It certainly made the characters distinctive, but as I said, I was unsettled by it.

As the story opens, Captain Twain sits in a bar and is approached by Miss Camomille.  She asks to speak to him but he says he wants nothing to do with her or his past.  She holds out a necklace and says he can have it if he tells her the story.  He is shocked to see it and reluctantly agrees. (more…)

Read Full Post »

seminarbookSOUNDTRACK: BOBTOWN-“Don’t Fear the Reaper” (2012).

bobtownI heard this song on the radio today.  When it started I didn’t think much of it–a nice acoustic guitar which… suddenly sounded familiar.  And then, no doubt, it was “Don’t Fear the Reaper.”  With banjo!  A good song can be played in any genre, and while I never would have guessed that this song would work in this genre, man, Bobtown knock it out of the park.

Bobtown has five members–two men, on bass and banjo, and three women who sing in gorgeous harmony.  And if you know “Don’t Fear the Reaper” you know that there are various vocal parts, which these woman tackle beautifully.  Their version gave me chills.

Now, befitting a bluegrass band, they did not play the super fast part (in fact they ignored that entire section of the song–the didn’t use cowbell either).  I was initially a little disappointed because I wanted to hear what they would do with it.  But it was truer to their version to leave it out and by removing it, they made the song a little different–more sombre, less wild.  And it was really good.

This version below is not the studio version, it was recorded in a stairwell.  But the band sounds great in this unlikely location.

[READ:April 7, 2013] Seminar

I grabbed this book at work (just like Cousin K).  This book was also short, which was a plus since I knew nothing about it.  It was also a play and it listed the cast from the opening on Broadway.  And I was rather surprised.  Hamish Linklater (the brother on New Adventures of Old Christine), Jerry O’Connell and..Alan Rickman!  I hadn’t heard of either of the women (Lily Rave–she’s been in nothing I’ve seen and Hetienne Park–her first role).

The story is a one act play about four college-aged writing students taking a seminar with a former great writer and current old man.

The four students are Douglas, a cocky writer who has connections and talent and who has been published in Tin House and is soon to be published in The New Yorker.  Martin, a shy writer who is rather insecure, although he proves to be very talented.  Kate is a girl who Martin knew from high school.  She has been writing the same story for six years and is outraged at the way her fellow students and their teacher behave.  And Izzy (who I thought was a man for a few pages) is a sexually adventurous woman who seems to be willing to do anything to succeed. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: fIREHOSE-Live Totem Pole EP (1992).

Listening to Superchunk’s “Slack Motherfucker” reminded me that I knew a live version from somewhere else.  And, with a little help from the web, I remembered it was here.

fIREHOSE is Mike Watt’s post-Minutemen band, and they are a lot of fun (and even managed to get a major label deal before breaking up.  This (apparently really hard to find) EP is a great, weird collection of covers: Blue Oyster Cult’s “The Red and the Black”; Public Enemy’s “Sophisticated Bitch” (yes you read that right); The Butthole Surfer’s “Revolution (Part 2)” (with the repeated coda of “Garry Shandling, Garry Shandling”; Superchunk’s “Slack Motherfucker” and Wire’s “Mannequin”.  There’s two Watt-written songs, “What Gets Heard” (from fROMOHIO) and “Makin’ the Freeway” (from if’n).

The covers are universally solid.  The band sounds punky and kind of sloppy and fun (not so terribly virtuosic on the solos), and they bring an amazing vitality to these songs.  The Public Enemy song is probably the biggest surprise as it sounds fantastic in this rocking band set up (although the original rocks pretty hard too, frankly).  And “Slack” is possibly even faster and punkier than the original (it sounds awesome here).  Interestingly to me, “Mannequin” sounds completely like an SST track (which if you know the label will make sense and if you don’t, it won’t) even though it’s a Wire song (and not released on SST).

I’d always known that Watt was a mean bassist, but man, he is wild on this disc.  The runs and fills he puts in all over the disc are great.  “What Gets Heard” has some great slap bass and “Freeway” is one of Watt’s weird and delightful spoken rants with fantastic bass fills.

fIREHOSE may not have always been brilliant, but they had moments of awesomeness.

[READ: October 16, 2010] “The Failure”

This story is part of the 1999 New Yorkers‘ 20 Under 40 collection (it’s the first story that was not included in that issue).  Its also the first story by Franzen that I have read.

It’s tempting, since I’m in a David Foster Wallace mood, to think that DFW was some kind of inspiration for Franzen (they were friends, after all).  The opening of the story talks a bit about cruise ships.  And Wallace’s “Shipping Out” was published in Harper’s just a couple of years before this.  Having said that, aside from the fact that the protagonist’s parents are taking a cruise (and there’s some cruise-mocking), the story doesn’t have much else in common with the piece, so we’ll get past that.

The story was excerpted in the main 20 Under 40 issue (the first few paragraphs), and I was intrigued, although the excerpt didn’t really indicate where the story would go at all.

Chip is a midwestern guy who has moved to New York City. He has lost a teaching job (for a very bad reason) and is now trying to survive as a writer.  His parents are in town briefly because they are taking a cruise out of New York.  And as he updates his mother and father on what he’s been up to, the list of minor failures (the ones he admits to and doesn’t) grows and grows.  And it’s clear from his mother’s talk that she’s more than a little disappointed in his reality. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »