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This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/06/22/dungen-haxan/

Stately and processional, this captivating soundtrack, written for the oldest surviving animated film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, is a difficult one to review, as the live experience with the film as a backdrop is the proper way to fully absorb this piece of music. Luckily the far-reaching tentacles of TPA dropped our man Dan Burke in at the sharp end to witness that mesmerising trip over in Philadelphia, PA.

However, it falls upon yours truly to attempt to disseminate about the matter in hand. The main difference between this album and Dungen’s previous deeply psychedelic offerings is the absence of vocals, which are compensated for by the interweaving themes and general otherworldliness of the music, which veers from traditional Scandinavian folk influences to full-blown acid rock, through early Floydian kaleidoscopic headrush, and it even ventures into motorik rhythms, absorbing all these sounds with ease into the vast scope of its sonic vista. While continuing their love affair with the psych-rock era, unlike some bands in thrall to the same era who rarely ventured beyond pastiche – I’m looking at you, Kula Shaker – Dungen take the obvious influences and always come up with something fresh.

Indeed the best way to experience this record is to turn the lights down low, light one up, set the controls to stun, and let it transport you to a familiar yet still altered state. After an ambient start, followed by some very raw fuzzed out guitar we enter the saucerful world of Trollkarlen och fågeldräkten. Some very grand piano leads the kaleidoscopic title track across the treetops hanging on for dear life to the broom as the witch (Häxan) comes in to land to bubble, toil and trouble the stormy night.

Produced in the old-fashioned manner by hand to tape, the album was put together without regard to the sequence of the film, which gives it a life all its own. Kalifen finds the band taking a detour to a glorious shade of pale in a never ending ascendant organ-led and almost elegiac homage, that dissipates into an echoplex psychedelic brew of some note. Marvellous stuff!

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The final track, Andarnas Krig, jolts us out of the pleasant reverie that has taken us through Aladdin and Prince Achmed’s meanderings with slabs of primitive and wildly ecstatic guitar, embarking on a freeform ur-rock voyage to nowhere on a stormy sea, lightning flashes overhead, all grim portent and unfettered primal urges given free range in the manner of Guru Guru at their most wanton. This is a suitably shamanistic end to an album of deep contrasts and thoroughly absorbing derring-do that will find itself being given many spins chez moi.

TRACK LISTING
01. Peri Banu vid sjön (3:01)
02. Jakten genom skogen (4:10)
03. Wak-Wak’s portar (1:35)
04. Den Fattige Aladdin (0:30)
05. Trollkarlen och fågeldräkten (4:30)
06. Grottan (0:58)
07. Häxan (2:48)
08. Aladdins flykt över havet (0:59)
09. Kalifen (4:37)
10. Achmed flyger (4:33)
11. Aladdin och lampan, del 1 (0:49)
12. Aladdin och lampan, del 2 (1:12)
13. Achmed och Peri Banu (3:10)
14. Andarnas Krig (6:21)

Total Time 39:20

MUSICIANS
Gustav Ejstes – Keyboards, Guitar
Reine Fiske – Guitar
Johan Holmegård – Drums
Mattias Gustavsson – Bass

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Mexican Summer (USA) / Smalltown Supersound (World)
Country of Origin: Sweden
Date of Release: 18th November 2016

LINKS
Dungen – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp

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This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/06/21/the-watch-seven/

I have been a fan of The Watch, from Milan, Italy, for several years and have reviewed a few of their albums during that time. Seven returns the band to the kind of significant and interesting songs that they wrote for their best album to date, in my opinion, Planet Earth?. There have been some personnel changes since that album with first Stefano Catrucci and now Mattia Rossetti joining as bassist alongside drummer Marco Fabbri, guitarist Giorgio Gabriel, keyboardist Valerio De Vittorio and the sole remaining founder member, singer Simone Rossetti.

Seven also features the imposing presence of Steve Hackett, who contributes 12-string acoustic guitar to the track The Hermit, a wonderful surprise. The cover art by Lana Tustich continues the band’s unique signature style.

Every track on this album is a keeper. The bold synthesizer, organ and Mellotron magic which sets this band apart from many others in the genre is present throughout, and the lyrics have improved considerably from the last album, although I did not get a copy of the words with my digital download they sound much deeper and tell some incredibly complex stories.

Blackest Deeds opens the album with a deep, dark, almost IQ sound from guitars and keys, powerful and magical at the same time. Simone’s vocal delivery, always comparable to Peter Gabriel, for me the greatest singer in prog history, is back to full form, but it is the guitar and keyboards which absolutely set this album apart from the last. Simone’s flute also plays a more important role here than on the last album. The keyboard and guitar solo instrumentals are excellent and comparable to some of the best from Planet Earth?. I don’t want to prejudice any of the tracks, so I will let you search and find the similarities.

Disappearing Act is one of my favorite tracks on the album. It is dark at times, the music I mean but the lyrics are too. The melodies and vocal harmonies are perfect, helping to set this album apart. Once they get to the instrumental section, you are guaranteed a wonderful return to the best music of prog’s golden era.

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Masks has such a brilliant and cool keyboard opening. Then, Simone sings, “Here I am, behind the facade. I am the one under the mask”. The golden organs and synthesizers with strings backing them are eye opening. It takes me right back to Foxtrot. The slicing lead guitar riffs are also reminiscent of early Hackett. Copycat opens with the perfect solo vocal from Simone, with soft synthesizers accompanying. Power drums, percussion and electric guitars join in the chase and the tempo speeds, then a flute solo, again with synthesizer accompaniment. The keyboards and electric guitar work are some of the best on the album.

It’s Only a Dream is another of the best songs on Seven. Nostalgic lyrics and feelings mingle with acoustic guitar, pausing to take it all in. Simone sings, with effortless musical accompaniment,

“And the time went by, on that green field.
And I didn’t realize, I was wrapped in silk.
Bouncing with the ball…I swear I’d never die.”

“And those days are gone.
They will not return.
Only in dreams.”

“And at that time searching for my hands.
Wanting to say goodbye.
Lost in the feeling.”

Yes, a melancholy wish to bring those days back. The music matches the feeling in the powerful lyrics.

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Tightrope is another reminder of the classic prog from the Foxtrot and Nursery Cryme eras. Sit back and enjoy hearing the instrumentation take you back, as if time has stood still. No other band today can match this talent, and The Watch deserve thanks for keeping this type of music alive with new sounds and stories. Simone’s flute and the accompanying keyboards will make your memories drift back to when bands spent time honing their craft and making music that would last for generations.

The Hermit is the prize worth waiting for with Steve Hackett on acoustic 12-string, but before we get there Simone sings, playing piano and flute to create a wonderful opening. Steve’s solo is amazing, as always, like it used to be, his guitar with Gabriel–like vocals and those proud keyboards, drums and bass.

After the Blast sounds like it was written for Wind and Wuthering or Trick of the Tail. Classic progressive guitar chords mixed well with flute and keyboards. For me there is no more Genesis. If Phil, Tony and Mike get back together, it is more of a Phil Collins backing band. I would rather hear The Watch now…or Peter Gabriel, if he ever releases his much-promised album. I am primarily a Peter Gabriel-era Genesis fan, Seven and The Watch’s music taking me back whilst bringing me forward.

This album and the Fleet Foxes’ new one are currently my favorites of 2017. Inspiring music, which keeps me faithful that true classic prog will endure…forever.

TRACK LISTING
01. Blackest Deeds (5:48)
02. Disappearing Act (6:33)
03. Masks (6:23)
04. Copycat (6:16)
05. It’s Only a Dream (3:24)
06. Tightrope (7:14)
07. The Hermit (3:54)
08. After the Blast (7:51)

Total time – 47:23

MUSICIANS
Giorgio Gabriel – Electric Guitars, 6 & 12-string Acoustic Guitars, Classical Guitars
Simone Rossetti – Vocals, Flute, Mellotron, Synthesizers
Valerio De Vittorio – Keyboards, Hammond Organ, Synthesizer
Mattia Rossetti – Bass, Bass Pedals, Electric Guitar, Vocals
Marco Fabbri – Drums & Percussion
~ With:
Steve Hackett – Acoustic 12-string Guitar (track 7)

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Pick Up Records
Country of Origin: Italy
Date of Release: 29th May 2017

LINKS
The Watch – Website | Facebook

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This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/06/21/big-big-train-surprise-album-release-later-this-week/

In a surprise announcement Big Big Train reveal that they will release The Second Brightest Star, a companion album to Folklore and Grimspound this Friday – 23rd June 2017. Ahead of the release the band have streamed The Second Brightest Star, the lead trackk from the album…

The Second Brightest Star features seven new songs which “explore landscapes, rivers and meeting places and take the listener on voyages of discovery across the world and to the stars.”

In addition, the release includes Grimlore, thirty minutes of music taken from Folklore and Grimspound (named ‘Grimlore’) and presented in an extended format.

TRACK LISTING
Big Big Train - The Second Brightest Star01.The Second Brightest Star
02. Haymaking
03. Skylon
04. London Stone
05. The Passing Widow
06. The Leaden Stour
07. Terra Australis Incognita
Grimlore
01. Brooklands Sequence
(i) On The Racing Line
(ii) Brooklands
02.London Plane Sequence
(i) Turner On The Thames
(ii) London Plane
03. The Gentlemen’s Reprise

Big Big Train: The Second Brightest Star is the last album in a cycle of releases which started back in 2009 with The Underfall Yard album. Our writing over this period has focused on the English landscape, the people that work on the land and their folklore stories. The band will be moving on to different landscapes and subjects in future years as we play more shows outside of England. But we had a few more stories left to tell and wanted to bring them together on The Second Brightest Star.

The album is available to order from Burning Shed and The Merch Desk. It’s available in limited edition double gatefold 180g seafoam green vinyl, CD and on hi-resolution 24/96 download. All vinyl copies will include a code for a complimentary hi-res download.

The Second Brightest Star will be released on Spotify and other download and streaming services at a later date in July.

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This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/06/19/machine-mass-plays-hendrix/

The best way to cover an iconic artist’s repertoire, a canon that is so well known that a considerable number of folk can play the songs in their head end to end, note perfect, is to approach it in such a way as to indelibly stamp your own identity on it. Alternatively, cover the less well known parts of the repertoire, or indeed, combine both methods, as Machine Mass do here with a tranche from the back pages of one James Marshall Hendrix.

However you do it, diving into the near-sacred Hendrix back catalogue is a brave move indeed, especially so if you’re a guitarist, as is Machine Mass band leader Michel Delville. He is joined by his powerhouse one-man rhythm section, drummer Tony Bianco, and lurid splashes of extra colour are added by the guesting Antoine Guenet, a young and versatile keyboard player, currently occupying that role for Univers Zero, and leading his own band Sh*tg*n.

It staggers me to think that this rousing album of sci-fi psychedelic jazz fusion was recorded live in the studio “with no overdubs and minimal editing”, with “the songs…presented here in the order they were recorded”. It just doesn’t seem possible.

The album kicks off with a rollercoaster ride through the cosmos and back to The Third Stone From The Sun on a turbulent sea of notes from Michel’s guitar. Little Wing forgoes the famous guitar break entirely and the whole thing is a highly impressionistic flurry over a partially buried spoken word monologue that remains just out of reach, the whole creating a new vision of the oft-played classic. Antione Guenet’s soulful organ playing adds R&B heft to a gut-punching psychedelic soul version of Fire, with Tony Bianco’s drums propelling it along as Michel throws incendiary shapes like a possessed six-stringed circus knife thrower. Marvellous stuff!

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The neat contrast between the abruptly ending swirling cacophony of Voodoo Chile and Antoine’s classical piano intro to Burning Of The Midnight Lamp is just another attention grabbing moment of many on this exhilarating journey. The surprise of the dub-heavy bass underpinning the hard rock of You Got Me Floatin’ isn’t really a surprise at all, as by now the curveballs have become anticipated, and I greet them with a smile. Machine Mass turn the original three minute pop song into an eleven minute psychedelic jazz rock-dub-electronica freakout, probably the only way to go!

Along with the likes of Davids Torn and Kollar, Roger Trigaux, Richard Pinhas, and others defined as nominally “rock” plank spankers, Michel Deliville shares an exploratory and individualistic approach to his instrument that ensures that this album, and indeed everything he’s ever been a part of, never falls into cliché, and tackling something as iconic as the Hendrix songbook takes these timeless songs into a new place, a place that Jimi would no doubt approve of. Bravo!

TRACK LISTING
01. Third Stone From The Sun (7:54)
02. Purple Haze (5:47)
03. Little Wing (8:32)
04. Spanish Castle Magic (6:45)
05. Fire (6:20)
06. Voodoo Chile (6:57)
07. Burning Of The Midnight Lamp (3:24)
08. You Got Me Floatin’ (10:57)
09. The Wind Cries Mary (2:51)

Total Time – 59:27

MUSICIANS
Michel Delville – Guitar, Roland GR09, Loops, Stylophone, Electronics, Samples
Tony Bianco – Drums, Percussion
Antoine Guenet – Keyboards, Synth, Acoustic Piano

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: MoonJune Records
Catalogue#: MJR 084
Date of Release: 1st June 2017

LINKS
Machine Mass – Facebook | Bandcamp

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This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/06/17/damanek-on-track/

The call to arms comes in many guises. None, I suspect, have come with such sublime clarity of vision or such chilling emotional discernment than the passionately crafted debut album On Track from Damanek. The warm embrace of the sumptuous soundscapes are constructed with a thrilling elegance which frames an unnerving message delivered with a dark, poignant and disturbing finesse. We are out of control, heading in the wrong directions. Time to heed the signs and hear the call before it is too late: time to get back on track.

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Guy Manning’s subtly challenging outcry of bewilderment and despair at the state in which we find ourselves and the things we are doing to our world is both beautifully observed and achingly honest. Long Time, Shadow Falls is wistfully haunting in the way it tackles the sheer wretchedness of poaching in bringing animals to the verge of extinction. Sung from the point of view of the animals themselves, the lament rises:

“Shall we mourn them? and play our part
They wait for a sign, that Man no longer needs us
Just pictures in a glossy magazine
Long time, a shadow falls and the Earth is lessened.”

Oil Over Arabia similarly gives voice to the utter decimation and annihilation of the animals caught up and given no thought in the ugly fiscal greed and political selfishness of war, the singing of the song itself a painful voice of remembrance. The exasperating folly and stupidity of war continues with Big Parade, a deliciously brilliant parody written in a Vaudeville style to humorously lampoon the carnage we unleash when we take up arms against each other.

“One little soldier takes out his gun
Another little soldier joins in all the fun.
A leader hits a button and a War is begun
Missiles away!”

The simple honesty and the profound sincerity which exudes from this album underlines the inspired brilliance of how the band have chosen to deliver this fiercely intelligent and gently rebuking message of protest. The music is a joyful smorgasbord of moods, rhythms and resonances from around the world. Each song is a musical voyage of exploration, capturing the spirit and vibrancy of local cultures and sounds in order to bring home the social and environmental crisis on our doorsteps.

The tub thumping, foot stomping momentum of Big Parade is matched by the mischievous and light hearted rhythms of Nanabohzo and the Rainbow, enthralling, inviting, playing with Native American echoes and beats. The brooding, sultry, menacing atmosphere of Dark Sun speaks to the rapidly increasing threat of air pollution whilst using suffocating moods and wavering tempos to create a sense of breathless despair.

Yet not everything on the album is given over to the direct threat and menace of our actions or the consequences which follow from them. In amidst it all, Madison Blue is a stunningly beautiful and incredibly simple composition which longingly and lovingly reflects on what happens when someone we love leaves home, the distances which separate us and the lovely surprise of hearing their voices again. The Cosmic Score is a charming vignette of the thoughts which cross our minds when starring up at the night sky and the unexpected cosmic conclusions we sometimes reach as a result.

The musicianship throughout is exceptional. Although this is unfair to the rest of the band, special mention must surely go to Marek Arnold’s delightful interjections on sax and clarinet which inject a vibrant sense of impish spirit and weaves an utterly transformative spell on some of the songs. The hugely impressive cast of guest musicians ensure the album burns so very brightly with a consistently fresh, dynamic character and uniquely natural energy which carries from song to song.

On Track is, to my mind at least, possibly one of the most gracefully compelling protest albums of the 21st Century so far. Music matches mood, which in turn matches location, which in turn resonates with the sounds and rhythms best suited to the lyrical content of each song. It is a complex and spellbinding set of combinations which unassumingly delivers a provocative, sensitive and timely message for our time. We need to turn things around. We have to get back on track.

TRACK LISTING
01. Nanabohzo and the Rainbow
02. Long Time, Shadow Falls
03. The Cosmic Score (Heaven Song Pt. I)
04. Believer-Redeemer
05. Oil Over Arabia
06..Big Parade
07. Madison Blue
08. Dark Sun

Total Time –

MUSICIANS
Marek Arnold – Saxes, Clarinet, Keyboards, SeaBoard
Guy Manning – Lead & Backing Vocals, Keyboards, Acoustic Instruments, Acoustic Guitars, E-Bow, Percussion
Dan Mash – Bass
Sean Timms – Keyboards, Backing Vocals
~ Other featured musicians/special guests:
DavidB – Backing Vocals
Chris Catling – Guitar
Kevin Currie – Backing Vocals
Stephen Dundon – Flute
Brody Thomas Green – Drums
Tim Irrgang – Percussion
Julie King – Backing Vocals
Luke Machin – Electric Guitars
Nick Magnus – Keyboards
Phideaux Xavier – Vocals
Ulf Reinhardt – Drums
The Santucci Horns:
– Eric ‘Tooch’ Santucci – Trumpet
– Alex Taylor – Trombone
Antonio Vittozzi – Electric Guitars

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: Giant Electric Pea
Country of Origin: U.K./Germany/Australia
Date of Release: 15th May 2017

LINKS
Damanek – Website | Facebook

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This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/06/16/emerson-lake-palmer-works-vol-1-works-vol-2-love-beach-2017-remasters/

Works, Volume 1 [2017 Remaster]

By Leo Trimming

“Welcome Back my Friends to the Show that Never Ends” is a phrase forever associated with Emerson, Lake and Palmer, the legendary progressive rock supergroup. Apart from being the title of their live triple album released in 1974, it is also a phrase that could be applied to the repeated rounds of re-releases for their classic era albums, which seem to come out very regularly indeed. There is clearly a continuing market for these albums 40+ years after their first releases. Amongst the latest albums being re-released in a remastered and repackaged format is their 1977 double album Works, Volume 1, which for many fans marks the end of their classic era.

Works, Volume 1 encompasses all that made them loved by so many and reviled by some since that time. Received wisdom is that punk killed progressive rock in 1977, so it’s curious to recall that this ambitious double album came out and was very successful just as the musical tides were supposedly changing. Mirroring the format of The White Album by The Beatles, Emerson, Lake and Palmer released the black covered Works on which each individual band member had his own ‘side’ of vinyl, and they combined for the fourth side. There may have been some hubris in going down the same format path as the ‘Fab Four’ but it should be recalled just how MASSIVE this band were in the early ’70s with multi-million selling albums and as one of the highest grossing live acts in the world.

After taking a break since 1974, the band members recorded throughout 1976. Each band member had been ‘doing their own thing’, including a U.K. Number 2 hit in 1975 for Greg Lake with I Believe in Father Christmas. Eventually it was decided that rather than a series of solo albums they would assemble their material together and add some collaborative compositions. Therefore, Works, Volume 1 is only partially an Emerson, Lake and Palmer album in the truest sense. Such an approach in recording was a double edged sword for the band – their very different skills and styles made for an interesting and diverse album, but it also laid them open to accusations of pretentious self indulgence. They also probably lost something recording so much as individuals rather than as a band.

There is no real new material in this package so the focus is upon whether it is worth buying this re-release if one already has previous releases of the album, which is probably dependent upon the sonic quality and the whole package, including sleeve notes and presentation. Of course, some ‘completists’ will just have an essential yearning need for a new edition!

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The album begins with Keith Emerson’s Piano Concerto No 1. I recall as a teenager when first hearing this piece finding it accessible and in the latter stages it sounded heroic with echoes of The Magnificent Seven film music. The first two movements are in a largely gentle, pastoral style, but it seems that during the recording process Keith’s house burnt down, which he later revealed influenced the final section to be far more aggressive and dramatic. It works for me (no pun intended) and did encourage me as a younger man to consider other classical music which cannot be a bad thing. It is clear that Emerson wanted to be taken seriously as a composer and not just someone who re-interpreted classical music in the rock idiom. This sort of ambition led some to think of E.L.P. as ‘pretentious’, and it is certainly a long way from mainstream rock or pop, but for others such excursions into classical music showed adventure and virtuoso talent. The interesting sleeve notes reveal that the renowned composer Leonard Bernstein visited the studio and asked Greg Lake to play him what they were doing – after hearing the concerto Bernstein indicated that he liked it but compared it to the primitive painter Grandma Moses, which Lake later realised was probably Bernstein’s way of saying it was rather naïve. Such anecdotes in the sleeve notes are interesting and enlightening, and a real plus point for this release.

The sleeve notes also reveal Lake’s reservations about the more individualised approach they were taking. “I believe we were stronger together and there was a kind of magic created by the chemistry of these three individuals. When it was seen through the prism of an orchestra it was no longer E.L.P.” There is some irony in his statement because as it turned out, of the three solo parts of Works it seems clear that Lake’s was the strongest ‘side’ of the trio by some distance. This was the chance for Greg Lake to shine as a solo artist, and some of his finest moments are found among his suite of songs. Lend your Love to Me Tonight immediately highlights the superb clarity and quality of his warm voice, one of the finest in rock history, set against lush orchestration.

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Things get even better with the delightful and resonant C’est La Vie, influenced by Lake’s time living in France, and even including that most ‘un-Prog’ instrument, the accordion. In contrast, Hallowed be thy Name, featuring Keith Tippett on a rather abstract piano and Lake on harmonica, is much darker and weightier in tone and theme as Lake wanted to show he was not just a ballad singer with some raunchy vocals. Pete Sinfield co-wrote these songs and this includes some peculiarly phrased lyrics such as “Very few folk in focus…” and the frankly painful “mostly a thinker thunker”, played against a rather discordant and jagged orchestral backing. The Orchestre de L’Opera de Paris provide rather more gentle and beautiful accompaniment on the achingly beautiful Closer to Believing. Credit must go to Godfrey Salmon and Tony Harris for a magically delicate and sympathetic orchestration and choir. As a teenager I loved this seemingly translucent song (and this side of Works in particular) and all these years later this remastered version makes this song even more resplendent in its crystalline clarity – it’s near perfection.

Carl Palmer is a master drummer with an outstanding reputation, and he decided that his ‘side’ would demonstrate his versatility, taking him into new areas with instruments such as the xylophone. The Enemy God Dances with the Black Spirits, adapted from The Scythian Suite by Sergei Prokofiev, really benefits from the remastering process with added sharpness and power emphasising Palmer’s percussive masterclass. My younger self distinctly recalls being less enamoured with the rest of his side which veered across genres such as jazz (L.A. Nights, featuring Joe Walsh on guitar), funk (New Orleans), classical (a Bach adaptation on xylophone with strings… yes, really!) and a big band number (Food for your Soul). The passage of about 40 years has not resulted in me liking these tracks any more – with more maturity as a listener I appreciate his desire to break out of his mould and show his versatility, but they’re just not my proverbial ‘cuppa’. However, my disappointment back then with those songs was as nothing to my astonishment, mixed with a touch of horror, about what he did to Tank. Tank was a song which I adored from E.L.P.’s truly great debut album, and a number I have very fond memories hearing as a youngster accompanied by a spectacular laser show at the London Planetarium. I just could not understand why Palmer would adapt (and in my view spoil) this exciting instrumental by having it played with an orchestra and a strident soprano saxophone… and I still don’t understand it now!!

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They managed much more successfully to convey a more orchestral and powerful sound on the later classic Fanfare for the Common Man from Works, Volume One, of which apparently the original composer Aaron Copland approved.

I suppose one main question needs asking about this re-release: ‘If I already have this album is it worth shelling out for this new version?’

I struggled a little to answer that until I tried an experiment – I played the DVDA version on a 5.1 setting, and then alternated that with a normal stereo setting. I have to say that the difference really was quite remarkable. The stereo version sounded fine – no problem if that’s the equipment available. However, hearing it in 5.1 and then in stereo revealed quite a remarkable difference. On 5.1 it felt as if you were in the room with the music, literally surrounded by it and with the elements much more crystal clear in clarity and quality – switching to stereo made it sound as if the music was being broadcast into the room and felt noticeably flatter and less dynamic. In all honesty I never was and will never be a great fan of this album, but I found much more to enjoy and focus upon in the new 5.1 mix and will listen again to an album that I had previously rather spurned, which is a testament to the mixing work of Jakko M. Jakszyk.

Greg Lake later described this album as his favourite E.L.P. album as he felt it contained all the best aspects of their work. Therefore, in a period which has recently seen his passing, it is perhaps appropriate that this new release concludes a little ironically with an alternative version of his beautiful From the Beginning. To the ears of this reviewer this alternate version does not have remarkable differences to the original release of this song, but it is impossible to tire of listening to Greg Lake’s wonderful voice – probably one of the finest voices to grace the stages of Progressive Rock.

TRACK LISTING
Disc One
KEITH EMERSON

01. Piano Concerto No 1
– i) First Movement: Allegro Giojoso
– ii) Second Movement: Andante Molto Cantabile
– iii) Third Movement: Toccata Con Fuoco
GREG LAKE
02. Lend Your Love to Me Tonight
03. C’est La Vie
04. Hallowed Be Thy Name
05. Nobody Loves You Like I Do
06. Closer to Believing

Disc Two
CARL PALMER

01. The Enemy God Dances with the Black Spirits
02. L.A.Nights
03. New Orleans
04. Bach Two Part Invention in D Minor
05. Food for Your Soul
06. Tank
EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER
07. Fanfare for the Common Man
08. Pirates

MUSICIANS
Keith Emerson – Keyboards, Steinway Piano, Yamaha GX-1
Greg Lake – Vocals, Bass, Harmonica, Electric & Acoustic Guitars
Carl Palmer – Drums, Percussion, Xylophone, Vibraphone
~ Additional Musicians:
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Orchestre de l’Opera de Paris (on Closer to Believing)
Joe Walsh – Guitar and Scat Vocal (on L.A. Nights)
Colin Hodgkinson – Bass (on L.A. Nights)
Ron Aspery – Saxophone (on L.A. Nights)
Keith Tippett – Piano (on Hallowed be Thy Name)
James Blades – Marimba (on Bach Two Part Invention in D Minor)

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: BMG
Catalogue#: BMGCAT2CD8
Original Year of Release: 1977
Date of Release: 26th May 2017


Works, Volume 2 [2017 Remaster]

By Mel Allen

Works, Volume 2, alongside the previous double album of Volume 1, was released after a three year gap following the Welcome Back My Friends… live album in 1974. Volume 2 appeared as a single LP but still provided another selection of rare ELP material, both solo and ensemble. This special edition release contains all the tracks from Volume 2 but also includes Works Live which was recorded on their mammoth – and on the whole successful – 1977 tour of North America, at the historic performance at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. All the tracks have been remastered from the original tapes by Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham. The package is nicely presented with replica art work from the original Works, Volume 2 release, an informative booklet with photos, with the music spread across two discs. It is here that I feel the set could have been improved by keeping Works 2 to its own disc and Works Live across a further two. Only a small point, but I can understand the economics of keeping it to two discs, that’s just my personal feeling.

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I purchased the original LP way back in 1977, and have not played it for many years. This review has given me opportunity to revisit it and compare it to the new remaster, which does sounds good, cleaner, sharper and more dynamic, but interestingly it has managed to keep some of the vinyl’s warmth. The individual instruments are clear and precise, from Emerson’s keyboards to Palmer’s drums; Lake’s vocals are nicely balanced with his bass work well defined. This was ELP’s sixth studio album, released amid break-up rumours. There appears to be more consistency on this release than its predecessor, mixing the individual songs amongst the band ones. There is more variety here, from Keith Emerson’s raucous showcase Barrelhouse Shake Down to Honky Tonk Blues, to Greg Lake’s famous hit I Believe in Father Christmas and Carl Palmer’s dramatic and exciting, jazz influenced Bullfrog. This is a different sort of album compared to, say, Brain Salad Surgery in that they appear to be demonstrating their considerable skills rather than stretching further their ‘prog rock’ sphere. That said it is not a bad album, just different and there is much to enjoy here, which I discovered upon returning to it after a long absence.

The inclusion of Works Live is what makes this re-release a more attractive purchase. Recorded in 1977 in front of 78,000 fans at the Montreal Olympic Stadium, it was one of the last shows to include the touring orchestra, before financial and other constraints caused them to have to continue as a trio for the rest of the tour. This is probably the tour that gave rise to their reputation for excess, as the touring party consisted of 160 musicians and crew, 11 trucks and 40 tons of equipment. The orchestra, made up of carefully handpicked young musicians conducted by Godfrey Salmon, was used for three week before circumstances caused their services to be dispensed with.

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Understandably, the bulk of the included set list is taken from both of the Works volumes, along with some earlier material. We get the full version of Fanfare For The Common Man, and clocking in at eleven minutes it is a different beast to the more well known single version. Knife Edge and Tank, from ELP’s debut album, are rousing and exciting, demonstrating the band’s considerable skills. The inclusion of the orchestra is probably most noticeable on Pictures At An Exhibition, adding texture to the piece in what I feel may be the best version I have heard.

Overall this is a good remaster, probably a worthy addition to your ELP collection, if not for Works Live alone. The booklet has a dedication at the end, which I will quote to complete this review:

“Works Volume 2 is dedicated to the memories of Keith Emerson (born 2nd November 1944, died 10th March 2016)
and Greg Lake (born 10th November 1947, died 7th December 2016).”

TRACK LISTING
Disc One – Original 1977 album [2017 remaster]

01. Tiger in a Spotlight (4:36)
02. When the Apple Blossoms Bloom In The Windmills of Your Mind I’ll Be Your Valentine (3:58)
03. Bullfrog (3:52)
04. Brain Salad Surgery (3:08)
05. Barrelhouse Shakedown (3:50)
06. Watching Over You (4:05)
07. So Far To Fall (4:57)
08. Maple Leaf Rag (2:02)
09. I Believe in Father Christmas (3:19)
10. Close But Not Touching (3:22)
11. Honky Tonk Train Blues (3:12)
12. Show Me The Way To Go Home (3:36)
Works Live (2017 remaster)
13. Introductory Fanfare (0:52)
14. Peter Gunn (3:35)
15. Tiger in a Spotlight (4:09)
16. C’est La Vie (4:14)
17. Watching Over You (3:56)
18. Maple Leaf Rag (1:11)
19. The Enemy God Dances with The Black Spirits (3:49)

Total Time – 61:57

Disc Two – Works Live [2017 remaster] (continued)
01. Fanfare For The Common Man (11:04)
02. Knife Edge (5:02)
03. Show Me The Way To Go Home (4:22)
04. Abaddon’s Bolero (6:03)
05. Pictures At An Exhibition (15:47)
– i. Promenade
– ii. The Gnome
– iii. Promenade
– iv. The Hut of BabaYaga
– v. The Curse of Baba Yaga
– vi. The Hut of BabaYaga
– vii. The Great Gates of Kiev
06. Closer To Believing (5:31)
07. Piano Concerto No.1, Third Movement: Toccata con Fuoco (6:42)
08. Tank (12:52)

Total time – 67:23

MUSICIANS
Keith Emerson – Keyboards
Greg Lake – Guitar, Bass, Vocals
Carl Palmer – Drums & Percussion
~ Additional Musicians:
Ron Aspery – Saxophone (on Bullfrog (uncredited))
Colin Hodgkinson – Bass Guitar (on Bullfrog (uncredited))

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: BMG
Catalogue#: BMGCAT2CD9
Original Year of Release: 1977 (Works, Vol.2) / 1979 (Works Live)
Date of Release: 26th May 2017


Love Beach [2017 Remaster]

By Jez Rowden

If there was ever an album within the Prog sphere that has had a bad rap over the years, it’s ELP’s final album from their first run, 1978’s Love Beach. Long derided and seldom defended over the years, it has now been reissued in remastered and expanded form. But does it deserve its execrable reputation?

Well, honestly, yes and no.

It’s an album of contrasts, some not very subtle. It includes both one of their better long-form pieces and one track in particular which is so laugh-out-loud bad that it is astonishing how it ever saw the light of day in the first place.

A classic ‘contractual obligation’ album, the band were keen to go their separate ways, at least for a while, but Atlantic Records demanded one final album of more commercial material, otherwise they threatened to scupper any potential solo endeavours. With residences, for tax reasons, in The Bahamas, the band decided to record locally at Chris Blackwell’s Compass Point, a location near the studio giving Love Beach its title.

The band compromised. The frivolous ‘Bee Gees’ nature of the sleeve image – which really is bad – confirmed the attempt at concise commercialism, exemplified by Greg Lake’s ‘side one’, which sits starkly against Keith Emerson’s ‘side two’ centrepiece Memoirs of an Officer and a Gentleman. Surely over the years the sleeve has put off more sales than it ever encouraged. What were they thinking? Keith appears to have a Tarkus down his trousers, and what has Greg done with his shirt? The look, the content, the lack of consistency? It all smacks of the ‘Good Old Days’ record industry of “Bugger the fans, we need to get out of this crappy deal asap.” It’s a recording that should not have been, in part an embarrassment but one which isn’t a complete waste of time. The result? An unbalanced album that’s a bit of a mess.

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The late ’70s style shift which saw most of the major progressive acts of the decade flounder cannot be used as a convincing excuse for all the failings here, but the inclusion of an extended piece which chronicles the experiences of an upper crust Sandhurst graduate during and immediately before the Second World War is not typical fare for the period. If it were up to me the whole album should have followed a similar tone to Memoirs…; it may have sunk like a stone at the time but I think it would have a much kinder hearing these days.

The first three tracks here are love songs; All I Want Is You is fairly enjoyable, a straightforward Lake song with Keith attempting to add embellishments where he can. The title track has some energy but is in no way essential and…

“On love beach, gonna make love to you, on love beach…”

…is beyond poor, the thought of Greg bearing down on you guaranteed to provoke nightmares. However, the banality of these words fade in comparison to the truly-bloody-awful Taste of My Love, the flip side to the album’s more romantic start. An attempt at erotic steaminess, it is instead a lyrical car crash that even makes the de rigueur casual sexism of the ’70s sound sophisticated and erudite in comparison. It’s steamy, but only in the same way that a fresh turd is, the intended charged sexual atmosphere full of arse-clenchingly awful schoolboy innuendo. M’lud, a sample of the evidence:-

1. “…Down on your knees, with your face to the wall, saying ‘please, please, please’…”
2. “…Get on my stallion and we’ll ride…”
3. “…I want to dynamite your mind with love tonight…”
4. “…Go down gently with your face to the east, the sun may be rising but we haven’t finished the beast…”
5. “…Climb on my rocket and we’ll fly…”
6. “…Here it comes, the taste of my love…”

Jesus! It makes me feel unclean and needing a shower every time I hear it. Pete Sinfield has been known to write a damn good lyric, but what the hell happened here?! There’s no influence of punk, or disco, it’s just bollocks.

However, throughout this opening trio of songs, Greg Lake is in quite magnificent voice and the playing is clearly ELP, if lacking in energy and a little inspiration, Carl in particular just going through the motions, although the material does not allow him much space. The Gambler is a lighthearted romp, in the same vein as The Sheriff or Benny the Bouncer from previous albums, and comes across quite well, despite being painfully cheesy in parts. The lovely Spanish flavoured introduction to For You is impressive, but while the rest of the song isn’t bad it just lacks any real spark.

So far, so inconsequential…

Ending side one is a classic ELP instrumental, a rumbustious reading of Joaquín Rodrigo’s Canario from Fantasía para un gentilhombre (Fantasia for a Gentleman, which ties in thematically with the album’s main event that follows). However, Keith insists on majoring with the high-pitched keyboard sounds that he discovered around Works, Volume 1, the result being far more frantic than might have been the result if other textures had been utilised. Still, it’s much better than having your mind dynamited with love by Greg Lake…

And so to the main reason for being remotely bothered about this album. Starting with piano and voice, there’s a stately grandeur to the first of the four parts of Memoirs of an Officer and a Gentleman, nicely structured and delivered with well observed lyrics from Sinfield, although his matching of “beating” with “central heating” grates every time. It is interesting that a quote from Emerson in the liner notes suggests that he thought it was about the First World War, not the Second, and you wonder how much conceptual thought went into the composition of the music. Love At First Sight features gorgeous solo grand piano from Keith, Greg coming in with a heartfelt and sensitive delivery of the words, acoustic guitar and glockenspiel added near the end before a triumphant and uplifting conclusion. Quite lovely; Keith’s piano work here is some of the finest he ever recorded. Greg’s range and ability to convey emotion come into full focus during Letters From the Front, militaristic drive and youthful energy turning to despair and desolation in a single line:

“The telegram… dropped from my hand.
She was all I had… I just don’t understand.”

The finale, Honourable Company, is noted to be ‘A March’, but is in fact a classic ELP fugue, built from a solid military rhythm into an instrumental fantasia and exuberant celebration. Yes, there’s clearly some padding in order to fit the ’20 minutes a side’ ethos of the time – ironic in that the story itself has plenty of scope to be expanded further – but Memoirs… bears repeated listens with ease and I’m glad to have become reacquainted with it after all these years, even if it is lacking the manic energy of ELP’s earlier classics.

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Overall, the sound of the new remaster of the original album, by Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham, is crisp and clear, but the music still seems quite thin, noticeably so when compared with Carl Palmer’s massive drum sound on the trio of included rehearsal recordings from 1978. Original pressings of Love Beach carried no producer credit, but production and mixing duties were largely performed by Keith Emerson; “everybody but me wanted to get the hell out of Nassau… in the end I stuck the whole album together… and sent it off to Atlantic”. The other bonus tracks feature five alternative mixes, including another version of Taste of My Love (give me strength!), but these are certainly not essential and any actual differences between the versions aren’t blindingly obvious.

The digipak reissue is very well put together, the booklet nicely laid out with a Chris Welch essay which is a good read, including excerpts from what would turn out to be Greg Lake’s last interview. There are a few interesting tidbits to be had, but there still seems to be a lot left unsaid.

ELP split up shortly afterwards without touring Love Beach so it appears that none of these songs were ever performed live, which in some cases is a great shame, although they did turn up on The Old Grey Whistle Test miming All I Want is You, as can be seen below. Greg is clearly on fire vocally throughout Love Beach and, when the material allows, Keith and Carl are more than able to add trademark instrumental flights, however the opportunities for this are few and far between, particularly in Carl’s case. It all sounds like ELP, but without the fire lit under them that you find on earlier albums.

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Is it the worst ELP album? Probably, although it is very different to the other contender for this dubious honour, In the Hot Seat. That said, the inclusion of Memoirs of an Officer and a Gentleman gives it a major boost, but it is still so far removed from their best work that it hurts, Rolling Stone’s review at the time of release having more that a ring of truth: “em>Love Beach isn’t simply bad; it’s downright pathetic. Stale and full of ennui, this album makes washing the dishes seem a more creative act by comparison”.

As a nice touch, this reissue of Love Beach is dedicated to the memory of Keith and Greg after their tragically early deaths in 2016, but in all honesty they deserve better. Brain Salad Surgery this ain’t.

TRACK LISTING
Original 1978 Album [2017 Remaster]

01. All I Want Is You (2:36) Lake, Sinfield
02. Love Beach (2:46) Lake, Sinfield
03. Taste of My Love (3:33) Lake, Sinfield
04. The Gambler (3:23) Emerson, Lake, Sinfield
05. For You (4:28) Lake, Sinfield
06. Canario (from Fantasía para un gentilhombre) (4:00) Joaquín Rodrigo
07. Memoirs of an Officer and a Gentleman (20:12) Emerson, Sinfield
– a) Prologue / The Education of a Gentleman
– b) Love at First Sight
– c) Letters from the Front
– d) Honourable Company (A March)
~ Bonus Tracks:
1978 Alternate Mixes
08. All I Want Is You
09. Taste of My Love
10. The Gambler
11. For You
12. Honourable Company (A March)
1978 Rehearsal Out-Takes
13. Canario (4:38)
14. Letters from the Front
15. Prologue / The Educaton of a Gentleman

MUSICIANS
Keith Emerson – Keyboards
Greg Lake – Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Harmonica
Carl Palmer – Drums & Percussion
Peter Sinfield – Lyrics

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: BMG
Catalogue#: BMGCATCD10
Original Year of Release: 1978
Date of Release: 26th May 2017


LINKS
Emerson Lake & Palmer – Website | Facebook

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This news story was originally published here: http://theprogressiveaspect.net/blog/2017/06/15/25-yard-screamer-keep-sending-signals/

Formed in 2002, the brilliantly named 25 Yard Screamer have released a steady stream of albums since, 2007’s Cassandra raising their profile with the track Blacklight making it into Classic Rock magazine’s list of the top 100 songs of the year.

A compelling mix of Marillion, Rush, Porcupine Tree and Metallica got them noticed but the band have continued to develop their sound and 2016’s Keep Sending Signals, their sixth album and second release on Rob Reed’s White Knight label, features four brand new pieces of music and four reworkings of very early material which will not previously have been widely heard.

For some reason it has taken me ages to complete this review – probably longer than it took to make the album – which is a shame as from first listen it was obvious that quality abounds in Keep Sending Signals and 25 Yard Screamer certainly know what they’re about when putting together a compelling piece of music.

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The four re-imagined tracks comprise the best three from 2003’s debut album, The Pictures Within, and Pulse, a favourite from second release, 2005’s Approaching From An Oblique Angle. It’s the longest track here, allowing the band to stretch out more than elsewhere, and an excellent piece with a real grittiness in the guitar mixed with a pleasing ‘live’ sound, particularly for the drums. All of the performances are excellent and this is most certainly a rock album, largely directed to the core drums/bass/guitar trio of the band, but the sporadic contributions from Tom Bennett, often of piano, work well. Tom first collaborated with 25YS on 2013’s Something That Serves To Warn Or Remind and his addition certainly helps to expand the sound and add different textures, as with his solo piano section at the end of Pulse.

Of the other re-imagined tracks, The Pictures Within moves from monastic soundscape into guitar led throb and an expansive rock piece. The largely instrumental I’m An Explosive clearly features Bennett’s influence in the orchestrated intro before a gentle guitar picking that belies the title. The burst of staccato guitar builds tension and momentum is maintained with piano additions until Nick James’ excellent vocal finally arrives 4 minutes in. For me the real highlights of the album come from Nick’s vocals which are superb throughout, rich and warm with a range and clarity that can easily deliver the nuances of the material. Closer No Beautiful View is a lovely thing, restrained and slow burning, building to a lovely crescendo, again with the addition of piano textures.

The new material features the first pieces written with Tom, the broadening of the available sounds becoming immediately clear during the atmospheric introductory soundscape that is Part One of the title track. A beautiful harp appears towards the end, adding a hint of fragile melody that is picked up in Part Two, a tense start opening out for the rocky chorus, a dense and sinister instrumental section in the middle working a treat. Pages is direct but with plenty of room for ebb and flow between chorus and verse, while A Memory is scratchy and edgy with, as usual, an excellent vocal. It sounds like they were all playing together and Donal Owen puts in a good shift, dexterously giving his kit a sound thrashing.

Keep Sending Signals works as a complete album and is a fine representation of where 25 Yard Screamer currently stand. This is a quality band and no doubt a great live act as I’m sure that the core trio put on a muscular live show. Well worth checking out, this is a band that are maturing and expanding their palette, it will be interesting to see what they come up with next.

TRACK LISTING
01. Keep Sending Signals, Pt.1 (3:14)
02. Keep Sending Signals, Pt.2 (7:04)
03. Pulse (8:37)
04. Pages (5:29)
05. The Pictures Within (6:31)
06. I’m An Explosive (6:59)
07. A Memory (6:30)
08. No Beautiful View (6:14)

Total Time – 50:38

MUSICIANS
Matt Clarke – Bass Guitar, Keyboards, Spoken Word
Nick James – Guitar, Keyboards, Fretless Bass, Vocals
Donal Owen – Drums & Percussion
Tom Bennett – Guitars, Keyboards
~ With:
Abbi James – Spoken Word

ADDITIONAL INFO
Record Label: White Knight Records
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 5th September 2016

LINKS
25 Yard Screamer – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp

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