Archive for the ‘Moody Blues’ Category

lp14SOUNDTRACK: YES-Relayer (1974).

Relayer_REMUS_spine_Layout 1After Tales, Rick Wakeman left and the band decided to get back to business.  So they made an album kind of like Close to EdgeRelayer is a dark album which didn’t quite bring the band back from the brink (even if there were only 3 songs and one was 20 minutes long).  It did sell well, though, even if there wasn’t any real radio airplay.

I happened to really like this album in college (my friend Sean introduced me to it).  And there are moments here that I think are great, but I can also see that it is not quite as user friendly as CttE.

I love the way “The Gates of Delirium” opens with guitar harmonics and some loud bashes of noise (good to see Squire and White asserting themselves again).  The lyrics come in around 2 minutes in and it’s a very sweet and interesting opening.  The guitar lines grow more complex as the song progresses.  Anderson says that it is a war song, with a prelude, a charge, a victory tune, and peace at the end, with hope for the future.  The “listen” section is quite catchy and moves along very well.

Around 5 minutes, the song changes into more of an instrumental sound (the charge, perhaps?)  A great riff begins at 8 minutes with a very heavy section (the battle?) beginning as well.  Squire takes over around 10 minutes and then the chaos befalls the song.  Anderson and White stopped by a scrap yard and bought metal car parts which were used as percussion during the song’s battle section. During the battle section, White formed a tower of the parts and pushed it over to make a crashing sound.

Patrick Moraz (who later played with the Moody Blues) took over for Rick Wakeman on this album and the difference is notable.  Moraz adds good keyboard sounds, but it is so clearly not Wakeman–there’s no flourishes or frills  (one imagines he would have added some pretty impressive things to this battle scene).

At around 13 the battle ends and a new riff comes out–uplifting but not overtly so.  Then things mellow out at around 15 minutes, with some washes of sound.  The biggest surprise comes around 16 minutes when the song turns very pretty with a slow echoey section known as the “Soon” section.  This section, which is about 5 minutes, was released as a single.

Track 2 “Sound Chaser” opens with a weird keyboard sound and then some chaotic drumming and bass (it’s loud and cool).  This is their jazz fusion song with drumming that’s all over the place and some cool riffs.  There are vocals (it’s hard to imagine them fitting vocals on to the riffage).  And then around 3 minutes the song turns into a big time guitar section with a lengthy dramatic solo and then Moraz’ keys underneath.   At 5 and a half minutes the songs mellow out an Anderson begins singing a gentle passage.  Then a little after 6 minutes the songs repeats with the chaos of the opening and that cool riff.  But this time, a noisy guitar picks up afterwards and a new riff begins and slows down until the unusual “cha cha cha/cha cha” section begins.  It’s followed by a wild keyboard solo from Moraz.

“To Be Over” opens with some more gentle notes as it slowly builds. Sitar plays over the notes.  This is a mellow track with lovely harmony vocals.  There’s an interesting slide guitar section in the middle of the song.  It shifts to a very typical Steve Howe guitar solo after that (very staccato and interesting).  By 5 and half minutes there’s big harmony vocals and then around 7 and a half minutes the song breaks into a new, catchier section, with a cool keyboard outro.

It’s not as immediate and grabbing as previous Yes albums, but I still think it’s pretty great.

Since almost every Yes album had different personnel, I’m going to keep a running tally here.   Here we have a new keyboardist, although Wakeman would soon be back.

Chris Squire-bass
John Anderson-vocals
Alan White (#2)-drums
Patrick Moraz (#3 replaced Rick Wakeman)-keyboards
Steve Howe (#2)-guitar

[READ: March 24, 2015] “The Route”

I’m generally puzzled about the fiction in Lucky Peach.  It’s usually food related, which makes sense. But this one wasn’t especially.  And then at the end of the story to see that it was originally published in Escapes in 1990 just makes the whole thing seem odd.  But hey, they can publish what they want, right?

The story is about a married couple–she is a youngster and he is middle-aged.  Their marriage is poor and so they go on a road trip from New York.

Each entry in the story is about a spot and what they did that day–traveling through Connecticut and Spotsylvania, Virginia.  Until they get to North Carolina where he is bitten by a bat.

And this is evidently, fatal.

They continue on South, with this soon to be fatality proving to be an aphrodisiac.  They go through Georgia and into Florida. And they finally get to Mile 0 in Key West.

The whole story was strange and unsettling and I really didn’t get a lot out of it. It seems odd that they would bother to reprint it here.


The rest of the issue was, as usual, excellent.

There were several articles about wheat and other grains and interviews with different chefs.

But my favorite article was the one about Colonial Chocolate (and how Mars got involved).  And my second was about the Monopoly game at McDonalds which I’ve never played and had no idea was over 25 years old.

The theme of the issue is obsession, and there are obsessions about endives (pronounced ondeev) and Pizza (including the guy with the record for most pizza boxes) and so much more.

The story about a Jewish man and his love of pork was interesting, especially the part about pork roll:

She takes a bite and her eyes roll back.  Then she hands it to me.
As I dig into my first Taylor Pork Roll I realize that everything I appreciated in the ham… is more concentrated in this superior sandwich.  It’s saltier porkier and smokier and the flavor lingers on the tongue….  It’s like a ham sandwich squared.

There’s also a fascinating look at Ranch dressing and its belovedness in West Virginia.

I may not always love the stories, but Lucky Peach continues to be a great magazine.

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CV1_TNY_06_23_14Booth.inddSOUNDTRACK: NADA SURF-If I Had a Hi-Fi (2010).

nadaI have enjoyed Nada Surf more with each album.  But for some reason, I never bothered checking out this covers album.  Which is my loss.  Covers albums fall into all different categories–bands that try to ape the original exactly, bands that mess around with the original, and band who take the songs and make them their own.  In this case Nada Surf takes all of these songs and makes them sound just like Nada Surf songs.  Sometimes, they make them sound unlike the original and give them specific Nada Surfisms.

I didn’t know all of the songs on this record.  In fact, I knew very few of them (which is a pretty unusual way to run a  covers record, no?  This falls into the “introduce your fans to songs you love category).

I knew “Enjoy the Silence” (Depeche Mode) which is incredibly different.  Obviously, the original is synthy, but while Nada Surf keep it dark, they add a bit of jangly chords and change the way some of the verses end (the way they do “and forgettable” is so intriguing).  Even the ba bas at the end transform the whole nature of the song.  “Love Goes On!” (The Go-Betweens) is a song I knew a little and Nada Surf sounds an awful lot like the original (but I like the way they make the chorus even bigger).   “Love and Anger” (Kate Bush) is similar to the original but with that Nada Surf twist.  It’s not big and epic and Matthew Caws doesn’t try to hit her notes (he does have a high voice though), but it’s a gorgeous rendition.  “Question” (Moody Blues) is probably the most famous song on the disc.  Nada Surf rocks the song pretty hard.  The pick up the tempo, but slow it down just right for the slow part.  It’s quite faithful, without being in any way proggy.

The rest of the songs I didn’t know.  And some of the bands I’ve never heard of (!).  “Electrocution” (Bill Fox) opens the records and while I don’t know if it’s any different, it could be a great original jangly pop song from Nada Surf.   “Janine” (Arthur Russell) is only a minute long. It’s a pretty, delicate acoustic guitar song.  “You Were So Warm” (Dwight Twilley).  I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a Dwight Twilley song, so I have no idea how this compares, but I like the way the last long of “Janine” is the chorus to this song.  I rather assume the original is not as poppy as this (but I don’t know Twilley, so why do I think that?–Turns out I was entirely wrong, the original sounds an awful lot like this version).

“The Agony of Laffitte” (Spoon).  I know Spoon, but not this song.  I can imagine how Spoon performed it, and I imagine that Nada Surf have smoothed the song out and made it prettier and slightly less dramatic.  “Bye Bye Beauté” (Coralie Clément) is sung in French. I’ve never heard of the original performer.  I don’t know how the original sounds, but this could easily be a Nada Surf song (they have done songs in French before) and the harmonies are beautiful.  Speaking of French, the also do “Evolución” (Mercromina) in French (“ev-oh-loo-see-own” is much more fun to sing than “ev-oh-loo-shun”).  This song starts out slow with a cello stating the melody.  It then turns into a dark acoustic guitar song, minor key and tension-filled.  Vocals don’t come in until a minute and a half in (the song is 5 minutes).  I’m not sure what the song is about, but even the catchy chorus is kinda dark.

“Bright Side” (Soft Pack).  Soft Pack is another band I’ve never heard of.  This song is a fun almost punk track–fast and catchy with simple lyrics a fun chorus (and ahhh backing vocals).  The disc ends with “I Remembered What I Was Going to Say” (The Silly Pillows) another band I’ve never heard of.  It is played on prepared piano in a waltz style.  Perhaps unexpectedly, it has no words.  It’s a nice capper to the album

Incidentally, the cover is a wonder line drawing that is fun to stare at and the liner notes (which would be much much easier to read on vinyl) are just jam packed with information about the original artists.

[READ: September 18, 2012] “Madame Lazarus”

Another story with a dog.  This one begins in a rather amusing manner.  An older gay man has just received a small terrier as a present from his younger lover, James.  The narrator is worried about his boyfriend staying around (he is so young and beautiful, while the narrator, who has just retired, is getting older and older).  The narrator doesn’t like the dog, but decides it will be one more thing to tie him to the James, so he decides to keep her.  He names her Cordelia.

The story is set in Paris, and the older man walks the dog around the city.  But mostly he thinks about his age and his past.  He says that anyone his age is amazed that he survived the Nazis much less lived to be an old man. He also thinks of his ex-wife, Simone, whom he meets for lunch from time to time.

The story seems like a sweet story of age and love, lost love, but love nonetheless.  But then the flashback introduces some darker moments. (more…)

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After the punk of The Minutemen, you wouldn’t expect the sound of fROMOHIO to come from Mike Watt and friends.  The opening song, “Riddle of the Eighties” is quite poppy, but with a countryish flair.  In fact, much of the beginning of the disc sounds not unlike the Meat Puppets–southwestern punk.  Track two, “In My Mind,” has a wonderful latin/Mexican feel to it (singer Ed Crawford has that whole southwestern vibe down quite well, even if they are from Pedro).

The disc also has what I’ve learned is that peculiar SST Records sound–almost nonexistent bass, despite what Watt is accomplishing.  Actually the bass is there, and it’s mixed fine but it’s much lower than you might expect for what they’re playing.

Even track three “Whisperin’ While Hollerin'” which is all about the bass (with cool blasts of guitar over the top) doesn’t have a lot of low end in it.  The bass sounds crisp and clear (which is good), just not very deep.  “Mas Cojones” is a weird one.  Funk bass with disco guitars over the top and some odd spoken word from Watt.

The highlight is “What Gets Heard,” a great funky fast bassline with angular guitars and vocals by Watt.  Near the end of the disc, “Some Things” is another solid song, really typical of this period: great bass, great guitar work and yet still a lot of punk.  And “Liberty for Our Friend” is a great folk singalong, and I dare you not to singalong by the end.

There’s also some fun, unexpected bits.  There’s a pretty acoustic guitar solo called, “Vastopol” and two (!) drum solos “Let the Drummer Have Some,” and the wonderfully titled, “‘Nuf That Shit, George.”

And its all packaged as really short songs (most around 2 minutes, with late songs running longer).  It’s a fun disc and a worthy addition to the SST catalog.

[READ: October 25, 2010] “Caught”

After the seriousness of “My Father’s Brain,” this true story about Franzen’s wicked days in high school was tremendously enjoyable, possibly one of my favorite pieces that I’ve read by him.

The piece opens with the incredibly tempting story about students successfully pranked their high school by managing to get a tire over the top of a 34-foot flagpole.  This sets in motion Franzen and friends’ attempts to do the same to their school’s 40 foot flagpole (there’s even a diagram or three!).  The story is exciting and filled with secretive plotting as they try so many different ways to get that tire over the top of the flagpole.

There’s a great bit of self-deprecation from Franzen.  He admits that although one of his friends was far more architecturally-minded, he himself was far more persuasive.  Ultimately, their gang put his “Devices” to work, which are universally decried as pieces of shit.

Although I assumed that the tale would focus only on their attempts at flag pole ringing, in fact the group undertook many pranks.  At first they called themselves U.N.C.L.E., but then they changed their name to the far more amusing (with an incredibly involved explanation) DIOTI.  DIOTI undertake several delicious pranks including removing the clappers from all of the bells in the school (and leaving a series of poems as  clues for where they are) and piling all of the classroom desks into one room.  (The “centrally located” comment and its resultant embrace by the school is simply wonderful). (more…)

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