Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Christmas 1975


As Christmas 2015 approaches I remembered back 40 years to Christmas 1975. My parents had just purchased their first record player, so my wish list for that Christmas was a bunch of records. Previously I listened to music via a mono cassette player. So, still being new to the world of music, I was just 15, these classic albums were top of my wish list.

Those in the photo are the actual albums I received that Christmas. It is so hard believe that they are 40 years old. A bit rough round the edges and scuffed a bit, like me, but they still play ok. These records do have great nostalgic and sentimental value, as they remind me of childhood Christmases and time with my folks, both now passed away. Days long gone!

Steve Hackett's solo album had just been released in October so was fresh, but I was doing catch up with Yes and Genesis, who I was just beginning to get to know. The Lamb was my first foray into Genesis. The following year Trick of the Tail was released and my first concert experience in July at the legendary Glasgow Apollo. As regards Yes, apart from these albums I think I also received Roger Dean's Views book that year too, as that was first published in 1975. I still have that too, though the pages are a bit loose now. No wonder with the number of times I spent perusing his wonderful artwork. This was the one book I could easily get lost in and returned to time and time again. So all in all it was a great Christmas and I suppose really the start of a musical journey that has gone on for 40 years.

To everyone who reads or just glances at this blog have a peaceful, Merry Christmas!




Monday, 21 December 2015

Favourite Tracks of 2015 Part 2


Here is my second mixdisc of this years favourite tracks. Of particular note are the Mystery, The Amazing and Necromonkey tracks. I have loved Canada's Mystery for many years. They are basically the brainchild of Michel St-pere and known to most as having Benoit David as vocalist for many years, who did a stint as Yes vocalist before Jon Davison took over. Now with a new vocalist, this years album is really good, especially the 20 minute piece The Willow Tree which is one of their best tracks and is what a prog epic is all about. It moves along between sections naturally, reaching a hugely satisfying conclusion. Sweden's The Amazing feature one of my favourite guitarists, Reine Fiske. The band have a sort of laid back, 60's California psychedelic vibe and on this, the title track from their latest album sounds sunny, sharp and breezy with beautiful harmonies and a wonderful instrumental end section which gives Fiske room to shine. Finally, Necromonkey is a project featuring Mattias Olsson, original drummer with Anglagard. This project delves into prog, but adding plenty of Olsson's eccentric ideas and his vast array of analogue keyboards. But this latest album rearranged some elements of existing tracks and took them into new, more electronic, Tangerine Dream type areas. It worked a treat!

  • The Tangent - Spark In The Ether
  • Spock's Beard - Tides Of Time
  • Mystery - The Willow Tree
  • Anekdoten - If It All Comes Down To You
  • Steven Wilson - 3 Years Older
  • Riverside - Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened Of A Hat?)
  • The Amazing - Picture You
  • Necromonkey - The Rage Within The Clouds
  • Gazpacho - The Master's Voice


Thursday, 17 December 2015

Favourite Tracks of 2015

Messing around with minidiscs again prompted me to put a disc together of my favourite tracks of the year. In fact I did two discs, but here is a playlist of the first. I think it represents my favourite albums of the year. No surprise in finding the likes of Mr Wilson there, but Riverside for me upped their game considerably, adding a decidedly 80's vibe to produce a phenomenally atmospheric and assured set of songs. But the big find of the year was Snarky Puppy and it was this track and its accompanying video that really blew me away. That and the other "big band", Jaga Jazzist were a couple of my musical highlights of the year without a doubt!

  • Riverside - Discard Your Fear
  • Jaga Jazzist - Big City Music
  • Snarky Puppy - The Curtain
  • Steven Wilson - Routine
  • Perfect Beings - Cryogenia
  • Rhys Marsh - Find Another Way
  • Nad Sylvan - Long Slow Crash Landing
  • Bruce Soord - Buried Here
  • Tim Bowness - Sing To Me
  • Gazpacho - Park Bench



Monday, 14 December 2015

Christmas Crackers!

Every Christmas a thought keeps coming into my mind. Do a Christmas type playlist. Not being a download/mp3 type of guy I have connected my old Sony minidisc recorder/player upto my CD player. Why did Sony produce so many great bits of tech that never took on? Think Betamax, minidisc and SACD. All far better than what became popular, all died the death! Anyway, it quickly became clear that to fill the 80 minutes of a minidisc, Christmas cuts that I liked wasn't going to be enough so I extended the remit to include winter themed tracks, sort of! So here is my playlist.

  • Greg Lake - I Believe in Father Christmas
  • Jethro Tull - Ring Out Solstice Bells
  • Mike Oldfield - in Dulce Jubilo
  • Steeleye Span - Gaudette
  • Jethro Tull - Christmas Song
  • Lana Lane - December Moon
  • Big Big Train - Wassail
  • Genesis - Snowbound
  • Various - Spectral Mornings
  • Squire/White - Run From the Fox
  • Lana Lane - Winter Song
  • Cocteau Twins - Winter Wonderland
  • Cocteau Twins - Frosty The Snowman
  • Sky - Troika
  • Kate Bush - Misty
  • The Durutti Column - Sketch for Winter
  • Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused To Sing

Some old chestnuts there, but the Greg Lake is a classic Christmas song. I included the original single version, which has the full choir and orchestra. I could only find that on The Atlantic Years compilation. Works 2 and other compilations only seem to have the stripped down band version. I particularly liked the coupling of two ghost stories by Kate Bush and Steven Wilson, separated by Vini Reilly's beautiful guitar piece.

I enjoyed messing around with minidiscs again so much that I have produced a best of 2015 compilation. That is up next.



Saturday, 12 December 2015

Gazpacho - Molok

Gazpacho is a band that has never quite clicked with me. Previous albums have impressed in their diversity and oblique lyrical concepts, but they have never quite taken hold of me. This album is still conceptually out there, but musically it's more immediate, succinct and to be honest easier to digest! They have produced a really tight, organic sound mixing acoustic instruments with minimal electric guitar and bass. There is an emotional depth here which grabs you straight away and throughout, so I was hooked and could really get into this quite easily. The arrangements and production are detailed and atmospheric.

They really have outgrown their Marillion roots and now are producing music very much their own. On this, for me their best yet, they have produced a wonderfully emotional set of songs. I think I may have to go back through their back catalogue to reappraise them.


Sunday, 6 December 2015

Bruce Soord - Bruce Soord

I am partial to a bit of meloncholy and this album fits that to a tee! Bruce Soords first solo venture, away from his main band The Pineapple Thief sees him produce for me his best work in years. These songs are quite breathtaking in their delicacy, atmosphere and delivery. They show how much Bruce has advanced as a songwriter and master of production, which has seen him now inhabit the realm of Steven Wilson and Jakko Jakszyk, recently producing aurround mixes for the likes of Anathema and Opeth.

But this collection of ten songs are so achingly beautiful, with Soord adding the right balance of instrumentation, keeping it all minimal and spacious. He is on great vocal form too. I believe and feel every word being sung!

I don't think Soord will do a Wilson and put his main band on ice. This collection of songs don't fit the current band format and hence I can see why he needed to produce these under a solo moniker. However, I find the lack of band restrictions has enabled Soord to produce a much more involving, intimate and expressive experience, so I do hope he does more.


Saturday, 5 December 2015

Rhys Marsh - The Black Sun Shining

It's unbelievable that this album was written and recorded in one week, as a sort of unplanned fill-in. It's brimming with musical ideas and Marsh has let his imagination flow, unhindered by pre-conceived notions of what this album is. But it all flows beautifully and how he has managed to arrange all this in such a logical and sophisticated manner in such a short time frame is quite an achievement.

These songs are carefully constructed and melodically very strong. Here Marsh uses lots of synths to give a more edgy, experimental, even 80's feel to the music. What quickly comes to mind is early David Sylvian, Bill Nelson, John Foxx and possibly "In Camera/The Future Now" era Peter Hammill with a hint of Brendan Perry/early Dead Can Dance. Opening track "I Hear, I Know" has this bubbling synth pattern which goes off in skewy directions to produce a wonderfully odd effect. Or the primal beats and cathedral-like distorted synth of "One Step Inwards". Gauge that against the following "Find Another Way" with its beautiful pedal steel guitar. The whole album is like this, going off at strange tangents, seemingly letting chance take hold of the outcome.

This album came out of the blue. Quickly recorded, quickly released. But it's no mere stop gap. This is a wonderfully eclectic set of fully realised songs. Haunting, discomfiting, ethereal, spiky and overall completely engrossing. If this is what Rhys Marsh can come up with in a week, maybe he should do all his albums like this!


Thursday, 26 November 2015

Comedy of Errors - Spirit


I have lived with this album off and on for the past month or so. It's a bit special for a number of reasons. Firstly a prog band from the West Coast of Scotland, my home turf is a bit rare. The artwork is based on scenes of Arran and Ailsa Craig, both so familiar to me growing up in Irvine.

This is the third album from the band who have quickly gained quite a reputation for their melodic, symphonic prog with classical overtones. But it's the lyrics for this new album that take centre stage. Basically the album comprises a single 45 minute piece, "Spirit" which is in essence a spiritual journey through grief based on traumatic personal loss. It covers the full emotional gamut which grief produces, from sadness, anger, confusion through to some sort of acceptance and ability to continue and move forward. Though written from personal experience, we can all somehow readily relate to the emotional experiences revealed in the songs honest, heartfelt words and for that the album takes on added gravitas. Musically, it's as strong as previous albums, with the classical motifs nicely woven into the rock arrangements. The mixing and mastering by Rob Aubrey (IQ, Big Big Train etc) is so detailed, warm and crisp, making for a very pleasing listen indeed.

To be honest this album is the rarest of things in prog. An album that openly explores the emotions which surface as a result of a deep, tragic personal loss. It's brave of writer Jim Johnston to lay bare his feelings in such a public manner. Maybe the process of writing and recording the album brought him some sort of peace and understanding. I do hope so!


Wednesday, 25 November 2015

England - Garden Shed 2015 Golden Edition

The only album by England is for me one of the great prog albums of the 70's. So why is it so unknown? Simply because it was released in 1977. If it had been released say in '73 or '74, I think it would be hailed as a classic of the Golden Age of Prog. It has never been easy to get on CD. The band did release a limited edition version back in 2005, but since then only available on Japanese, Korean or bootleg editions.

This new version is from a German label so still won't be easy to find for the casual prog aficionado. But it's worth tracking down. This 2CD edition includes the original album on one disc with the other collecting together all the bonus tracks available plus some other related stuff. The original album has been remastered, though from Tony Arnold's 1997 remaster with added tweaks by Robert Webb. It sounds pretty good, a bit beefier than other versions but overall nicely done.

The booklet is quite outstanding as it is beautifully put together and includes all lyrics, credits, notes by Robert Webb for each of the bonus tracks and nice reproductions of the colour artwork which was planned to be included in the original vinyl edition but was left out.

So all in all for now, this is the ultimate version of this classic album. It should really have been re-released on a label like Esoteric to ensure it reached a wider audience. But definately worth the effort to find for all fans of this lost classic.

Ps. I got my copy from the following on-line store:

Monday, 23 November 2015

It's Compilation Time!


It's that time of the year again. Time for compilations for the Christmas market. Well not really. Prog doesn't pander to such things. Or does it? Here are a couple of newly released double CD's showcasing the recorded output of two bands who have been going for over twenty years, believe it or not.

Spocks Beard are an important band as regards the current wave of interest and popularity in progressive rock. Their first album The Light was released in 1995 and for me as someone who had left prog behind it was a bold listen, hearing lengthy prog epics again. Thanks to the legendary Malcolm Parker of GFT for bringing albums like this to my attention back in those bleak years!

This compilation covers all their albums, pre- and post- Neal Morse. To be fair their sound has stuck quite firmly to their mix of Gentle Giant trickiness and Yes/Genesis symphonia. But for me the songwriting and playing is always so strong that I do love them very much. The bonus on this package is the newly recorded 19 minute piece which features members past and present. It's great, Well it's Spocks Beard, nothing more to say!

The Supersonic Scientists compilation (Suppers Ready reference?) shows the versatile Motorpsycho in all their glory. This Norwegian band has covered everything from stoner rock, alt-rock, psychedelia and of course prog. They are going through a high point at the moment with Reine Fiske in their ranks. Their last few albums have been bold and brilliant! This compilation doesn't fill out each disc to the brim with tracks but offers a concise delve into their ouvre, offering a wonderful snapshot of what they are about. It's not definitive, but it's all superb!


Sunday, 8 November 2015

Yes - Fragile 2015 Mix

The madness of it all! I mean how many versions of the same album do you really need? Why do we buy the same album over and over? For me, it's the search for the perfect sounding, perfect packaged version of a favourite album. That illusive search for the holy grail of an album. The one version where you feel it can never sound better or look as good. Below is all the versions of Fragile I have collected over the years. Each has its own merits. The newly released Steven Wilson remix I will come to.

So what we have here is as follows:

  • Vinyl, a Christmas present from the parents 1975. This pressing must be around 1972 or so, not original as it has the orange and green Atlantic label.
  • CD, Joe Garstwirt remaster form 1999. First time this was remastered with artwork restored by Roger Dean and the Gottlieb Brothers.
  • The Rhino remaster from 2003. Remastered by Bill Inglot and included a host of extras. The nice glossy digipak with slipcase came with notes and new photos.
  • SHM-CD. Remastered by Isao Kikuchi in 2009. Fully restored papersleeve representation of the vinyl edition even with the Roger Dean booklet fixed to the inside of the gatefold. Sonically and content wise, based on the Rhino with a few tweeks.
  • SACD. Based on Tim Weidners DVD-A surround and stereo remix. Sonically was the cleanest to date.
  • SACD. From the High Vibration box and remastered again by Isao Kikuchi. A bit compressed showing up all the imperfections of the masters especially on what was the first vinyl side, but the second side tracks are really good!
  • Box set CD. The Rhino remaster in a papersleeve edition. A nice gatefold reproduction.
  • 2015 Remix.

The Steven Wilson stereo and surround remix. As per the other titles in the series, the blu-ray is packed full of extras. It not only includes the Wilson remixes, but flat transfers of the original masters, a vinyl needledrop, instrumental remixes and even the Tim Weidner remix. This is stuffed full of extras including unreleased demos, rough mixes and run-throughs. The track "All Fighters Past" is of particular interest. Saved from being erased during studio rehearsals, this includes elements which would later resurface on The Revealing Science of God and Siberian Khatru. It's a slight gem, but a gem nevertheless. At its conclusion, Steve Howe holds down a wonderful sustained guitar note allowing Rick Wakeman to solo on top of. What a find!

The new stereo mix is exceptionally clean. This recording is one of Eddie Offords best and the sharpness, clarity and distinctiveness of the instrumentation is really brought out in this mix. The interesting thing about the flat transfer of the original mix on the blu-ray is the distortion on Rick's piano solo on South Side of the Sky is clearly evident. What I thought was a result of over compression and was in fact on the original master tapes. This could be down to tape degradation as there is no distortion on the multitracks. It's as clear as a bell! I think Wilson's remix is probably more reflective of the original mix than Tim Weidners as that, in the SACD form anyway sounds much fuller and warmer. I do like that though, but again Wilson has produced a very nice remix and the whole blu-ray package is a dream in terms of content and how well the sleeve is reproduced as a replica vinyl, including Dean's booklet. Again, informative notes by Sid Smith with lots of archival photos round off this perfect exercise in how to do deluxe releases.

Sadly, if Steven Wilson's comments are to go by, this is the last in the series for now. What about Tales from Topographic Oceans? Well, Wilson has worked on it but to what extent is not clear. The impression is that the powers that be only wanted Wilson to concentrate on the "hit" albums. At the time TFTO was a big hit, following on from Close to the Edge. It did suffer badly at the hands of the press over the years, but I feel a Wilson remix would enable the beauty of the album to be reassessed and given the credit it deserves. The funny thing is, many fans have expressed their wish for TFTO to be given the full Wilson remix treatment, so there is a real demand for this to be released. It does seem strange to have such a gaping whole in this series and I know Wilson is a big fan of Drama, so would love to carry on and do a few more. Not 90125. He don't like that!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Gentle Giant - Octopus 2015 Mix


That man Wilson remixes another Gentle Giant title. This time what many consider their greatest achievement, Octopus originally released in 1972. The Blu-Ray Disc of this package includes the obligatory surround and stereo mixes of Wilson's new mix, instrumental mixes and a flat transfer of the original album. But here's the thing three tracks had their multitracks missing and so Wilson had to create pseudo-surround mixes from the original stereo masters as he did recently for the Steve Hackett box set. To make the whole album seamless he has included the original stereo remastered tracks alongside those tracks which are newly mixed. But you can tell the difference. It's not huge but the newly mixed tracks sound much "cleaner", whereas the tracks from the original masters sound a tad rough round the edges. Maybe not surprising as the multitracks haven't been touched for many a year, whereas the stereo masters have been handled more to produce different CD versions over the years.

I compared the "new" version of Octopus, via the 24/96 LPCM version from the blu-ray against the Japanese SHM-SACD from 2010. Now that disc is one of the best sounding digital discs I have ever heard. They did a mighty job on that transfer and that was taken from a Japanese tape copy! If the SHM-SACD is anything to go by, then the quality of that tape is far superior to the original master. Maybe it is in better condition. The Wilson mix is slightly quieter and doesn't have the same crisp detail of the SHM-SACD which offers a much warmer, natural listen. So for me the SHM-SACD is still the best sounding digital version yet. The Wilson version is good, but not that good! It was going to be a hard act to follow anyway!


Wednesday, 28 October 2015

King Crimson - THRAK 2015 Mix


The big box is just in, so I quickly reached for the blu-ray to give the new stereo mix of the album a spin. It is radical and expansive. You can clearly define each member of the double trio so distinctly, especially between Bruford and Mastelotto. The separation is fantastic and if ever an album was designed to be heard in surround then surely this is it. I may have to now look into the possibility of upgrading to surround, simply based on this album. Jakko has done a splendid job and really taken risks by how different the mix is. But for me it is a triumph.

First impressions are that this could be the best box yet, in terms of content, design and presentation.


Steve Hackett - Premonitions Box Set



It was well known that Steven Wilson's favourite Steve Hackett album is Please Don't Touch and he expressed a wish to remix it into 5.1 surround. His wish has been granted and though many thought that the album would be re-released with that mix, we didn't expect a huge 14 disc box set, celebrating Hackett's solo albums he recorded for Charisma. Well, thanks to Mark Powell fighting the cause, here it is. Overall it is a wonderful thing. As usual, I cannot comment about the surround mixes, as I don't have a surround system, but the stereo mixes of Please Don't Touch and Spectral Mornings are detailed with superb separation of instrumentation. Criminally, the multitracks of Voyage of the Acolyte and Defector were missing so Wilson had to do pseudo up-mixes of those from the original stereo masters. I mean, what is it about these record companies losing these precious multitracks? I would be so pissed off!

Though not clear, all albums have been remastered recently by Ben Fenner, who remastered these back in 2005. But these new masters sound much more natural and dynamic than the 2005 ones. I always felt they were ok, but sounded a bit too "processed". So, good job on those and the new mixes presented in stereo on CD and on DVD together with the surrounds. However, these are DVD video and not audio, so the options are DTS (24/96) or DD for the surround and LPCM (24/96) for the stereo. Also, there are no hi-res stereo options for Voyage or Defector which is a shame as those would be available, as I am sure that is what Wilson would have worked from.

The whole package is rounded off with some unreleased live recording found in the vaults and b-sides and an unreleased track from the Please Don't Touch sessions. The 66 page hardback book is very nice. Glossy, with lots of Armando Gallo's photos, most of which I haven't seen before, with notes by Mark Powell and Steve Hackett who gives brief annotations for each album. The discs have the Famous Charisma label reproduced in quality only equalled by those Japanese discs, though mounting them in slotted sleeves is questionable as a few discs were scuffed, though that didn't hinder the playback. The box is very sturdy and is a nice neat 10" x 10" size, with a lovely Roger Dean painting adorning the front, who also supplies all the lettering and the overall design is put together by the estimable Phil Smee.

Overall, this is a great package. Some may question spreading the albums across discs, rather than keeping them to individual albums, but that was to keep the disc count to a minimum. Others will question why no DVD audio or blu-ray so as to include lossless hi-res surround, but I assume Universal thought that more people have the ability to play DVD video, so keeping the release more mass market. I do think it was a mistake not to include hi-res stereo of Voyage and Defector to keep those discs in-line with the DVD's for Please Don't Touch and Spectral Mornings. For me that is the only gripe. Apart from that a splendid set indeed.


Monday, 14 September 2015

Tim Bowness - Stupid Things That Mean The World

It is heartening indeed to see Tim Bowness's latest effort hit the inaugural Prog Rock Album Chart at number 9. Though his No-man cohort Steven Wilson receives a lot of attention in various quarters, it is welcoming to see Bowness achieve success with his new album. Hot on the heals of last years studio album, it is obvious he wants to keep the momentum going and this new album is as good if not better. Bowness always excels at heartfelt melancholy with a sense of loss and here he excels in getting right to the core of those emotional pointers. Maybe I just like being a bit miserable, but honestly Tim Bowness like the best of Peter Hammill always takes you right to the heart of the rawness of how emotional experiences can leave their imprint on your soul. It's about connecting with the artist and Bowness sure does connect!

On this album he again surrounds himself with talent of the highest order. From Phil Manzanera, Andrew Keeling again producing beautiful string arrangements, Bruce Soord excellent on guitar and mixing and Rhys Marsh whose pedal steel playing is sublime. Mention must be made of Jarrod Gosling, whose wonderful artwork adorns this and last years Abandoned Dancehall Dreams. There is a video on Tim Bowness's web site where Jarrod talks about the artwork and it's relation to two classic albums by Genesis. See below for a hint of where he is coming from.

So, another excellent collection from Tim Bowness. I don't think he needs Mr Wilson now. That may mean little chance of another No-man album in the foreseeable future, but with the quality of what he is producing here, that's nothing to be too upset about.




Thursday, 10 September 2015

Riverside - Love, Fear and the Time Machine


Album of the year was going to be easy. Steven Wilson. Sorted. Now comes along the new Riverside and all change. I have been a fan of this band since their first album. Their mix of heavy, metallic prog and Floydian atmospherics was a potent brew. But with bassist Mariusz Dudas's solo project Lunatic Soul and the bands last album, Songs for a New Generation, their was change in the air. Things were becoming less metallic and more melodic. This new album takes that even further and adds in a particularly 80's vibe, recalling the prominent high end bass sound of early Cure and New Order. It all works a treat and presents their best album by far. Mariusz Duda is on an inspired songwriting roll at the moment and is producing some fantastic songs with the band all working in harmony to realise their most atmospheric, solid effort to date. But it is Duda who is the star. His voice and his bass playing has never sounded better. Yep, album of the year!



Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Fred Frith SHM-CD Papersleeve Editions


Completing the trio of Henry Cow related SHM-CD sets which Belle in Japan have released are these three early solo albums by guitarist Fred Frith. As per the Henry Cow and Art Bears titles, these papersleeve editions have lots of bonus tracks. These bonuses are similar to those which were included in the early 90's editions as released by RecRec Music in Europe and East Side Digital in the US, but these new issues carry a slightly different roster than those. Fred Frith himself remastered these albums for his own Fred Records a few years back, but they didn't include any bonus tracks and he also completely changed the artwork. That was a shame as Gravity comes with a wonderful sleeve painted by Robert Wyatt's wife Alfreda Benge. Also, the releases I have in the series, including the Massacre and Skeleton Crew albums sound a tad loud and harsh and therefore I prefer the RecRec editions, which also included usefully enlightening sleeve notes. So it was interesting to see how these SHM-CD versions would sound.

Firstly, the interesting aspect of those bonus tracks included in these new editions, is that according to the credit sheet they were remastered by Bob Drake in 2015. That was a surprise as I hadn't read of Bob remastering any Frith related material this year. I wonder if they were specifically for these releases or something else?

I have had Gravity in various incarnations over the years. Above is my original Ralph Records vinyl from back in the day along with the RecRec and SHM CD's. I have to say that the SHM does sound as good as the RecRec, probably more detailed and dynamic. The overall remastering was done by Kazuo Ogino who has been responsible for all the Belle releases. I assume he takes the existing digital files and tweaks them a bit. It can be frustrating not being able to find information on the sources of these releases.

The bonus tracks are a mix of those presented on the RecRec releases and from other sources like the Keep the Dog live release which Frith released on his own label. I am particularly pleased to see the guitar piece "Oh Wie Schon Ist Panama!" Included on Gravity as that is a personal favourite. It is a thoroughly beautiful piece and is why I love Frith's guitar playing so much. For me, he is one of the best guitarists ever. He covers so much sonic ground, from tightly arranged sophisticated soloing through to completely free form guitar abandon. Yet, even in his manipulation and abusing of his guitar, he never once loses sight of the musicality of what he is doing. Always out of the chaos comes beauty and form. I don't think he gets the recognition that his multifarious projects deserve. He is quite unique.

So my Fred Frith box sits quite comfortably alongside those Art Bears and Henry Cow sets. Well done Belle for releasing these beautifully presented classic recordings. They are a delight! Along with the Gong and Phil Manzanera boxes, the Japanese SHM papersleeve industry have had quite a fruitful year.





Monday, 31 August 2015

Bill's Been Busy!


Simply, Bill Nelson is one of my life long musical heroes. Ever since I head Be-Bop Deluxes Modern Music back in the day I have followed Bill's musical inventions ever since. I was even a fully paid up member of the Bill Nelson Fan Club, which produced the wonderful magazine Acquitted By Mirrors, where apart from Bill's projects I was introduced to the world of Jean Cocteau and Erik Satie amongst others.

I am glad to see that a lot of his work during the 80's and 90's is being re-released via the Esoteric label. They produced a truly wonderful 8 CD box set representing his recorded output through the decades a few years back, which ably demonstrates what an extraordinary body of work he has produced as band leader and solo artist. They also re-released the hard to find 6 CD box set, Noise Candy earlier this year. They have faithfully reproduced the original colourful design, apart from the booklet which is separate and sits inside a flap within the box. I have the original which suffered from the notorious manufacturing problems like disc trays coming unstuck and booklets falling apart. Luckily, I don't believe they have reproduced those.

Currently he is in a hyper productive mode, even though he has suffered from some health problems recently. This year already he has released 4 albums of new material. The quality is very high indeed. He programs each album thoughtfully to give a cohesive feel to each set. His working method is fast, but the amount of consideration, detail and inspiration in all he does is breathtaking. These releases are limited to 500 copies, so you need to get in fast.

I hope his health improves and I know even now he is busy beavering away in his studio producing even more music. I suppose for him that is the best therapy there is!




Friday, 28 August 2015

Gong SHM Papersleeve Editions




I have at last listened my way through the Japanese SHM CD editions of the Gong catalogue. To my weary and aged ears they are a very good improvement over the old, worn out Virgin issues. Not hard really! But Gazeuse is the star of the lot. It was a very well recorded and produced album anyway, but the remastering brings out a lot more detail and separates the instruments a lot more that you hear stuff I hadn't heard even from the original vinyl. Francis Moze's bass is very prominent and the percussion is crisp with Pierre Moerlen's kit very well presented. Gong Live etc was also a bit of revelation in terms of detail, though not sure why the second disc started with Oily Way rather than Radio Gnome Invisible, which should have been the first track on record 2, if both discs were representing the original vinyl discs. No matter, it sounds the best I have heard digitally. Angels Egg and You are no better than the remasters, though maybe sounding less processed. I think they suffered a bit from the use of no noise processing, which doesn't seem to come through as much on these discs.

So overall, these discs are a nice upgrade compared to the existing CD's. Not too difficult as mentioned as they date back to the 90's apart from Angels Egg and You. The Japanese have done a very nice sympathetic remastering here and together with fantastic packaging these are the best digital versions available.