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!