Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Spleen Arcana CD

This arrived a few days back. I originally talked about the second release from Julien Gaullier's Spleen Arcana project back in early February. At that point it was only available as a download. Now, the physical CD is at last released. A much better way to enjoy this excellent album. I got what he calls the "Nature" edition. Wrapped in a lovely tied bag with a leaf slipped into the packaging. You also get a handy fridge magnet and sticker with some postcards. All in all he really has gone the extra mile to produce something very distinctive. As for the music, it sounds better than I remember from the dowload. The beautiful artwork does enhance the listening experience as it should! The standout track is the 24 minute epic "Memento Mori" which is one of my favourite tracks of the year. He really has constructed a wonderful prog epic. This album is highly recommended indeed! Must be on CD though!


Saturday, 24 May 2014

H R Giger RIP

Here are three of my favourite albums embellished with artwork by H R Giger who recently passed away. Of course his name was made famous by his work on Ridley Scott's "Alien", but for many it's his album artwork, especially for Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "Brain Salad Surgery" that brought his work to the general public. We were all used to the colourful fantasy worlds of Roger Dean, so to see something as dark and disturbing was a shock back then. He was an original and produced startling, unforgettable images. The other albums above are "Pictures" by Island and "Attahk" by Magma.


Thursday, 22 May 2014

Brain Salad Surgery Box Set


Well, here it is in all its glory, the BSS mega box set. I haven't managed to work my way through all of it, but concentrated on the main selling point of this box the new mixes. New stereo and 5.1 mixes have been produced by Jakko Jakszyk. Over and above that we get another remaster of the original album, this time by Andy Pearce who was involved in the catalogue when Sony first took over the release of all of ELP's albums. There is a disc of alternative cuts, b-sides and what-nots which are similar to the extras on Universals deluxe edition of a few years back. I think there are just a couple of extra tracks here in comparison. Of course the new stereo and surround mixes are presented in hi resolution on the DVD along with the original mix.

So what of the new mix. Well, the opening track Jerusalem took me by surprise a bit. The vocals are quite different to the original, which was steeped in lots of reverb. Here, Lake's vocals are much cleaner and the presence from verse to verse seems to change as if taken from different takes! Also on Benny the Bouncer there is a guitar refrain near the end of the song which I never heard before. So, to me there are some radical differences here, but the overall impression is a much clearer, detailed mix. I always considered BSS to be very pompous sounding, too flashy maybe! But Jakko's mix gives a more thoughtful and complex feel to the music. In particular Carl Palmer's percussion sounds less showy. Just listen to his brush work on Benny the Bouncer which is very considered and playful or the jazzy complexity of 2nd Impression. These facets seem to have got lost in the original mix, but here they are particularly highlighted.

The packaging is ok, but nothing really special. I had never owned BSS on vinyl before so was really looking forward to having this with the original cut-out, fold-out sleeve which made the original vinyl edition so distinctive. But that is not reproduced here. What you get is the vinyl, credit/lyric poster and DVD video slipped inside one side of a standard gatefold sleeve with the CD's and DVD audio fitted into inserts on the opposite side. Luckily I have a papersleeve CD version of the original sleeve design which Castle produced many years ago, but Sony really have missed an oportunity here.

There are some nice pictures in the booklet and I was pleased to see the front of the Music Scene special which I remember buying back in 1973. Wish I still had that! The notes by Chris Welch are fairly perfunctory, but serve their purpose.

So overall this to me includes the best sounding BSS, whether the original mix or new mix, with all the extras you could hope for. Though I do recall that there was a version of Benny the Bouncer with different lyrics so not sure why that was not included. The packaging is ok, but they should have included the vinyl LP in its original design. With the recent passing of H R Giger, that would have done his original design the justice it deserves. BSS has had many, many re-releases over the years and they never get it right. Here, they nearly have, just not quite!


Monday, 12 May 2014

ELP - Brain Salad Surgery Super Deluxe Box Set, just in!


The above just arrived this morning from those awfully nice people at Burning Shed. Of course it was:

Yep, the Brain Salad Surgery Super Deluxe Box set. This should be the ultimate version of this and boy have we had plenty of those in the past. It seems over the last few years, we have had this album reissued every, well year! So hopefully, this newly remixed version by Jakko Jakszyk will be the last word on this album. So, more on this soon.


Thursday, 8 May 2014

Starless Box Set


Prog Dog is cock-a-hoop with joy at the news that there is to be another multidisc box set of archival live and studio King Crimson material to be released this October. This time centred around the "Starless and Bible Black" album. Full content still to be decided. So, what are the odds now of similar boxes based around "In the Wake of Poseidon", " Lizard" and "Islands"?


Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Nick Magnus - n'monix

The last week or so may have been dominated by IQ's magnificent new album "The Road of Bones", but there has been another newly released album that is just as equally impressive, in it's own distinctive way. The latest solo album by Nick Magnus is a sheer delight from start to finish.

For many, Nick's name will be familiar from his days playing with Steve Hackett back in the late 70's and early 80's. He appeared on classic albums like "Spectral Mornings" and "Defector" and you can hear that same post-Genesis, eccentric English progressive vibe permeating "n'monix". The songwriting, arrangements and production have such a beautiful lightness of touch. Listen to "Eminent Victorians" and you will be transported back to Hackett's "Tigermoth", which is helped by the fact it is sung by Pete Hicks who was another stalwart from Hackett's late 70's band. The man himself lends his unmistakeable guitar tone to three of the tracks here. But without doubt the highlight is the inspired choice of having Tim Bowness sing the epic ballad "Broken". His breathy, heartfelt vocal is just right for this emotive song, which is further enhanced by the wonderful sax solo from Rob Townsend.

All the keyboards and synths are by Nick himself of course. But like everything else on the album, there is nothing showy. Every instrument is placed effortlessly into the mix. I did wonder about who played the drums and some of the guitar, as they are not credited in the sleeve notes, so I put this to Nick on Facebook. Lo and behold did he not email me personally. Seems the drums are programmed which surprised me as they do not sound synthetic at all. Also, what I thought was a wonderful guitar solo on the last track "Entropy" is in fact keyboard! Very ingenious, he really has spent time and effort to ensure the instrumentation sounds just right.

This is a real gem of an album. Classic, crafted progressive rock songwriting at its very best but maintaining a contemporary feel for instrumentation and production. It's no surprise that Mark and Vicky Powell have released this on the Esoteric Antenna imprint, as along with Matt Stevens recent album "Lucid" they have shown real savvy for finding that something special for their label. Even the packging is classy. Full marks to the inimitable Phil Smee for his usual flair in layout. It does my heart good to see that in this day and age an album as good as this gets the release it deserves.


Thursday, 1 May 2014

Yes - The Yes Album Steven Wilson Remix

Here we go again! Another Wilson remix and the second in his series covering the classic albums by Yes. Of course the main reason for Wilson doing these albums is to produce high resolution surround sound mixes. I don't have that capability yet, so I have concentrated solely on the stereo mixes.

Here, the remix is more radical than the one he did on Close to the Edge. The most startling thing is the amount of synthesiser on this. On the original mix, synth was there but it wasn't so in your face as it is on this mix. It is well known that Tony Kaye wasn't a big synth man, he was happy with his trusty old Hammond. But this new mix shows there was more there than originally presented. Actually, the clarity on this new mix is quite breathtaking. The separation of instruments is so clear and so well defined. For instance you can really pinpoint Squires punchy bass and there is so much more of Howe here, guitar parts that were never there before. It's all a bit of a revelation really!

Of course it's all here on the blu-ray. The original mix, new mixes, suround mixes, live versions, instrumental versions. You do get your moneys worth! The notes in the booklet by Sid Smith are up to the usual, informative and well written standard. I didn't know the synth used on the recording was Keith Emersons!

So is this, as the sticker states the "definitive edition". Well, in terms of stuffing every conceivable version of the album tracks on to the blu-ray disc and for sheer clarity and quality of sound, it certainly is. However, there will be some who prefer the original mix, warts and all. I can kind of sympathise with that viewpoint. Although I love the new mix, in terms of something sounding different and fresh, I do also like the comforting familiarity of the old version. Well, it's what I grew up with!