Tuesday, 29 October 2013

King Crimson - USA 40th Anniversary Series

This is the album that isn't! It says USA by King Crimson but it's not the same beast that I heard back in 1975 on vinyl. That album had remix assistance by Eddie Jobson on violin and piano. The improv Asbury Park lasted around 6 minutes and segued straight into Easy Money, the guitar solo of which was faded out. Lastly, 21st Century Schizoid Man actually came from another concert venue, namely Providence. None of that exists on the CD portion of this new issue. What we have is a mix of the full concert which took place at the Casino Arena, Asbury Park. So no Jobson, a longer Asbury Park improv with Cross more prominent in the mix, a longer instrumental section at the end of Easy Money and 21st CSM from that venue.
While it's great to hear the whole concert as it was, especially the full improvs, I personally prefer the original USA as it appeared on vinyl. That may be in part due to long time familiarity of the album, but I can see why Fripp and Wetton made some of the mixing decisions they did. For instance the greater presence of Cross's mellotron on Asbury Park, though giving a more symphonic sound to it, does reduce the power and impact of Fripp's guitar and actually the whole band. The keyboards are too dominant. Also, Fripp's solo after Easy Money is one of his very best and nothing after the brilliant peak of it could add anything more, hence why the fade out works so well in maintaining the power of what has come before.
You do get a hi res version of the expanded USA album on the DVD, but this new mix is Casino Arena, Asbury Park, not USA. It says USA on the packaging, but it's not the same USA on the CD.

Yes - The Studio Albums 1969 - 1987

Though known about for a few weeks, this box set has just been officially anounced on the Yesworld web site. Anyone hoping for any more info will be sorely disappointed. All we know is that all 12 studio albums will be packaged in a clamshell box. The mention of remastered albums simply means they are using the Rhino masters from back in 2003. So nothing new there. For any yes fan, they will already have these issues. So who is this box set aimed at? The timing is odd too. Hot on the heels of the SACD box from Japan and with the imminent release of Steven Wilsons CTTE remixes, this doesnt make much sense. Is this Atlantic trying to get something out of the publicity surrounding the upcoming CTTE release (which they licensed to Panegyric anyway and they are creating a lot of buzz) or is it to do with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nomination?

The competitive pricing of the box at under £40 for 13 discs (Topographic Oceans is a double disc of course) means that the packaging will be minimal. Ok, you get new Roger Dean artwork and some Big Generator remixes, which were only released on the Japanese mini LP version, but fans would really want more than this to warrant purchase. I think the discs will be in card sleeves. Hugely unimpressive if these are simple card wallets like the 5 disc Original Album series box from February this year ( yes, that was another box set). Maybe they will be like the Joni Mitchell studio box set, where they did try and replicate gatefolds and inserts. Whatever, there wont be any booklet I am sure. Which will be lacking as for the amount of bonus tracks included (66), you really do need some relevant background info on these. However, for the pricing, this is good value, especially including all those bonus tracks. So for anyone who has been off the planet for around 40 years and wanting to hear what all this Yes stuff is about its a good package. For the rest of us, the Panegyric remixes is the way to go.


Monday, 21 October 2013

Two Steve's

Just in from Burning Shed are the new Drive Home ep(!) by Steven Wilson and live 5 disc set by Steve Hackett. The Wilson package is definately value for money as it contains a blu-ray disc wth the excellent Jess Cope videos for the Raven and Drive Home as well as live material and unreleased studio track and a gorgeous orchestral version of Raven. There is also a CD of the same tracks which runs to 50 minutes. A really great package only let down by its packaging in a standard blu-ray amaray case. The DVD/CD version is packaged in a nice card wallet. Why couldn't they have done the same for the blu-ray version?
The other package is taken from Steve Hacketts current Genesis Revisited live excursion. Another bargain package of 3 CD's and 2 DVD's. The first DVD is the full show with the second some behind the scenes material. All discs are packaged in a foldout digipak with that housed in a nice slipcase. If I was to be critical, the third CD only contains 2 tracks which only come to around 18 minutes in length. They could have been included within the first two discs as they each come to a total playing time of 65 and 66 minutes respectively. So not sure why they needed a disc on their own. Apart from that a superb live document from this most succesful tour.

Friday, 18 October 2013

A right old cock up

Yes, the new 2CD edition of Red is a right royal mess. According to the booklet and CD labels, CD1 should be the 30th anniversary edition and CD2 is the new 2013 mix. It's not! They are reversed. The 2013 mix with respective bonus tracks as listed, is on CD1. The 30th edition is on CD2.

If you compare the track Fallen Angel for instance. On the 30th edition and that on the 2009, 40th anniversary edition (which is the same mix as the 30th) the track timing is 5.58. On the 2013 mix on the 2CD edition and that in the big Red box set it is slightly longer at 6.10. I hope all that is clear.

The original thinking was that they just mixed up the bonus tracks on the discs. But the main album tracks plus bonuses are on the wrong discs. In saying that, the 2013 mix really should be on disc 1 as that is the reason for this new release. Maybe it's the printing that is wrong! I can see how the mistake can be made. Having two sets of the same album on different discs could easily be mixed up. There are just too many editions of Red!!

Anyway, see below for my detailed analysis on this issue.



Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Latest Arrivals

Some new stuff to keep me occupied between wading through the King Crimson box set. The Flying Color Blu-ray is a live performance of the new project by Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy etal. Not too demanding, but it's a nice, pleasant diversion never the less. I do like Neal Morse. The other is the extraordinary new studio album by Fish. He really is on top form here. His voice is sounding better than ever and the material is very good indeed. Top that off with an excellent package designed by Mark Wilkinson. Both CD and documentary DVD are housed in a lavish hardback book with artwork, lyrics and notes. This is one of the best studio packages I have seen this year. A fantastic set. Now, back to that box set!


Sunday, 13 October 2013

Big Red Box Fatigue

It's hard work listening to all those King Crimson live CD's. Prog Dog is finding it all a bit too much!


Friday, 11 October 2013

Big Red Box

It's here!!!!!!!

Nothing more needs saying for now. I am just going to linger in its beauty.


Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Tangent - L'Etagere Du Travail


The second album this year from Mr Tillison. This one is a bit of an odds and sods compilation. However, Andy's leftovers make most other peoples proper albums sound underwhelming. Here we have 10 tracks of, actually prime Tangent studio material with one live track in The Canterbury Sequence. There is nothing here that seems like filler or substandard. A nice digipak package too, which nicely compliments Le Sacre Du Travail. At 77 minutes, you can't argue with the quantity or the quality.


Monday, 7 October 2013

Martin Aston - Facing The Other Way, The Story Of 4AD

This blog is about progressive rock music. But here is a book about post punk. Of all the independent labels that grew up out of the post punk era, none were as singular, forward looking or stylish as 4AD. The label was basically the vision of one man, Ivo Watts-Russell. He was like a friend you had at school who had the same taste in music as you. If he recommended something, you know you are going to like it. You knew if something was released on 4AD, you would like it. Plus, a release was always worth having for the artwork. Like Factory with Peter Saville, 4AD had their own image, thanks to the work of Vaughan Oliver. Ivo understood the love of vinyl was both in the music and the physical look of the thing.
This is a huge book, 650 pages. But it has the detail about the label and their artists I have been looking for. I have only started it, but it's fascinating and I am glad Ivo has given so much information for the book, seeing now he has become a bit of a recluse, living in isolation in New Mexico. He seems to spend his time collecting Japanese mini LP albums!
Great book for a great label, who were my soundtrack to the 80's.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Big Big Train - English Electric: Full Power

The two volumes of the original English Electric sets were quite magnificent. BBT have slowly, but surely progressed from release to release. But I think it was the addition of David Longdon who really took the band to another level of songwriting sophistication. A superb vocalist, musician and songwriter he has given the BBT sound a distinctive emotional and confident edge. Musically, BBT are producing such beautiful, heartfelt, honest songs. The progressive sounds are so mixed into the musical brew now, that the band has developed their own sound now. Lyrically, its story telling in the traditions of Genesis and XTC and even linked to Martin Offords great last album The Old Road. Full of nostalgia for times and traditions long gone, but which we should never lose sight of.

This complete edition includes both albums plus four great new songs and a superb booklet full of excellent artwork, lyrics and notes. I do have to point out the wonderful mixing and mastering of Rob Aubrey. He is one of the best in the business and makes all the recordings he is involved in sound so natural and alive!


Thursday, 3 October 2013

darkroom - gravity's dirty work


Here's something a bit different. Second album by duo darkroom. Released on Burning Shed's own label, this is a collaboration between textural guitarist Michael Bearpark and synthesist Andrew Ostler. For info, Bearpark also plays for no-man and Henry Fool. This, their second outing for the label is particularly fine. Lots of atmospheric guitar playing, layered on top of beats and ambient swells of synth. They cover a lot of ground over the lengthy 8 tracks. They know how to set a mood and play on it to get maximum effect. I am reminded of Michael Brooks work, especially the albums he recorded for 4AD. But just listen to the final track, A Pair A Part. The addition of trumpet and double bass gives an instant jazzy overtone here, making for a particularly arresting piece. This is an excellent album. A bit different, but well worth investigating. Great artwork by Carl Glover too!


Tuesday, 1 October 2013


Bloody hell!!


John Martyn - The Island Years Box Set

From one genius to another. Oh yes indeed! Like Roy Harper, Martyn was supremely individual in the music he made and how he made it. Not just satisfied with banging out songs on an acoustic guitar, he fed the thing through fuzzboxes, flangers and echoplex. A brilliant songwriter, but itching to take his music into unknown arenas. He embraced folk, rock, jazz and dub to produce music that is extraordinarily daring, innovative, heartfelt and honest. This box set collects not just all his albums he recorded for Island, but everything in between. There is so much bonus material on offer across the 17 CD's, this is the ultimate testament to a true original artist. It's only when box sets like this are put together you get a sense of what a lifetime achievement that is being represented. For John Martyn, this is a fitting legacy to an extraordinary musical legacy. From the early folk albums, to the otherwordly albums with wife Beverley, the exploratory works like Solid Air, to the lush, desperate Grace and Danger, it's all here. The 120 page hardback book compiled by John Hillarby is wonderful on its own, beautifully designed by Phil Smee, who is the man to go to for these sets. There is even a DVD of his Old Grey Whistle Test and Sight and Sound In Consert Sets. Its all here! Well done to Universal in recognising that a talent like John Martyn deserves such a box set as this truly wonderful package is. My, what a week its been already. So much great stuff!!

Roy Harper - Man & Myth

Roy Harper's return to recorded music just seems to have happened. His early, epic works like Stormcock, Lifemask and HQ are legendary, sounding like nothing else. A singular vision indeed. This new album, continues that trend. No one writes lyrics like Harper and sets them around such beguiling, beautiful music. He has lost none of his powers. Just listen to something as involving as Time is Temporary or January Man and see if it doesn't move you like nothing else. Its the testament of a truly great artist that his voice and songs can affect you so deeply. Genius is an often misused word. But he is!