Monthly Archives: November 2012

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Contributed by RKH
BLASPHEMY!

We’re halfway now in our trip to find out what albums are regarded fundamentally important before becoming an house-owner. And frankly, these lists from our two professors couldn’t be further apart at this point.

RKH:

26. DJ Shadow – Endtroducing….. (1996)
27. Patti Smith – Horses (1975)
28. Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1998)
29. Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead (1970)
30. Radiohead – OK Computer (1997)

GvZ:

26. The Byrds –  The Notorious Byrd Brothers (1968)
27. Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
28. Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde (1966)
29. Traveling Wilburys – Vol.1 (1988)
30. Simon&Garfunkel – Bridge over Troubled Waters (1970)

Dr. RKH shows an almost insulting disregard for the sixties and appears to have some unexplainable fetish with the nineties this week. Granted, albums like OK Computer and Entroducing….. are hallmark albums who gave music a new direction; hell, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is even featured in the design of this website! But still, Dr. GvZ is deeply disappointed in his colleague, especially because he already admitted to -spoilers!- not including The Notorious Byrd Brothers in his list. He even spoke words of blasphemy.

Progressive rock, a genre to love or hate.  It originated in the late sixties thanks to heavy psychedelic rock influences and was pioneered by bands that wanted to go beyond the standard verse-chorus  based song structures.  As a result, often complex instrumental songs were bundled on concept albums with epic pretensions. It’s well possible that you once caught yourself asking what the hell one of these bands was trying to tell you while listening to one of their albums. The answers are provided here, in Prog Albums Explained. All you need  is the album, a comfortable couch and some good headphones.

 

 

Year: 1974

Genre: Progressive Rock

Preceded by: Selling England by the Pound (1973)

Followed by: A Trick of the Tail (1976)

Related to: Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon

 

 

Side 2: (continued from Side 1)

Track 1: Back in N.Y.C. + Track 2: Hairless Heart

These tracks are also treated as one as the first song smoothly fades into the second instrumental one. As Rael has now seen something and some people he is familiar with, he’s thrown in into a flashback that takes him back to the streets of New York City. He’s contemplating the times he had there together with the gang. How he gained their respect by misbehaving in several ways:  I’m the pitcher in the chain gang, we don’t believe in pain. In this way, this song gives the listener a first glance at the distorted mind of Rael which was discussed earlier in the title track. The music is creating some panic at this point, before fading into the instrumental interlude. No time for romantic escape, when your fluffy heart is ready for rape.

Track 3: Counting Out Time

Despite this warning from the last track, everything is becoming much more brighter in this song where Rael has his first experiences with love. We are now confronted with the softer sides of his character in what’s probably the most accessible song on the whole album. It has a catchy melody with a lot of synths that will stay in your head for days after hearing it, but the lyrics are probably still way too odd to become a mainstream hit (Erogenous zones I love you. Without you, what would a poor boy do?). Perhaps we should be happy about that. In fact, this song is the prelude to the next one, as the album is now reaching its melodic peak. Move over Casanova.

Track 4: The Carpet Crawlers

We are now at another absolute highlight of the album, musically (this would be one of the melodies that Gabriel has written)  as well as lyrically. Rael witnesses a bunch of people that fail to reach the top of a spiral stair, where they can escape from their misery. While the dreamy keys and synths that are producing some harp-like sounds certainly add a great part to the atmosphere, it’s above all the great mix between Gabriel’s lead vocals and Collins’ backing vocals that portray the helplessness of the people so well. Mild mannered supermen are held in kryptonite.

Track 5: The Chamber of 32 Doors

As we learn (after a great guitar solo) in this song, Rael has succeeded to reach the top of the stairs. Pity for our hero, the escape from his misery is still far away as he now ended up in a huge room containing no less than 32 doors (Are you listening, Moody Blues?). The room is filled with a large crowd that are all pointing to different doors, as only one door leads out. Rael is becoming desperate and begs for someone to show the right door. I’d give you all of my dreams, if you’d help me find a door that doesn’t  lead me back again. Take me away.

 -Continue to Side 3

This is an ode to the shuffle. How better to get a good insight in your digitized album collection than by a classic shuffle? Finally discover the albums you never got into, finally throw the ones away you will never get into and worship those classics that never grow old again. The Shuffle of this week:

1.    The Beatles – Chains (Please Please Me, 1962)


Although it ended up to be a shuffle dominated by recent music, it flew a long way back to start. This is a 1962 song from the Fab Four’s debut album Please Please Me. It’s actually written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King and was a former hit for The Cookies, before being released by The Beatles as a typical short sixties rocksong.

2.    Fruit Bats – Blue Parachute (Echolocation, 2001)


Fruit Bats is a folk-rock band from Chicago that debuted with Echolocation in 2001. Pleasant album, time to listen to this one again. Tips about their recent work are welcome.

3.    Phish – David Bowie (Junta, 1989)

I discovered this band from Vermont thanks to an American friend that highly recommended it to me. Given the fact that this guy also is a real Deadhead, you get an idea of what to expect in case you never heard of the band. This song (counting 11 minutes) comes from their debut studio album (again!), which contains a healthy portion of improvised jams and prog suites. The band is also known for covering classic rock albums live.

4.    Bright Eyes – At The Bottom Of Everything (I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning, 2005)


No debut this time, but the sixth album by this indie folk band from Nebraska. This is the opening track, which starts with a spoken recording. See Fruit Bats.

 

5.    The Avalanches – Extra Kings (Since I left you, 2000)


Another debut and actually the only studio album from this Australian electronic group. Said to be one of the best albums of the 2000’s, should give it another try.

 

6.    Arctic Monkeys – Fluorescent Adolescent (Favourite Worst Nightmare, 2007)


I could ask myself ‘Where have those guys gone?’, but then I would ignore the fact that I ignored their last albums.

 

7.    Girls – Saying I Love you (Father, Son, Holy Ghost, 2011)


Californian indie rock band. An album I got this year, as it was praised as one of the best of last year in several lists. Still don’t know about that. This one very much sounds like Elvis Costello.

 

8.    Echo & the Bunnymen – Crocodiles (Crocodiles, 1980)


Another debut album, from the British post-punkers. I like their classic Ocean Rain, don’t know if I should give this one another try or search for their later work.

 

9.    Tortoise – Monica (Standards, 2001)


A nice 6’30” lasting surprise from the shuffle towards the end with this song of the post-rock band from Chicago. Standards is their fourth album and truly recommended for all the fans of the genre.

 

10.     Kyuss – Tangy Zizzle (…And the Circus Leaves Town, 1995)


No better way to close a shuffle than with two and a half minutes of dynamite by this Californian stoner band. Perfect album to blow off some steam.

 

Another ten all-time classic albums today that deserve to be in your record collection. Between 35 and 31 we meet no one less than The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Radiohead for the first time. As the numbers become smaller, the names are growing…

RKH:

31. The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
32. Pixies – Doolittle (1989)
33. Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde (1966)
34. Santana – Abraxas (1970)
35. Guided By Voices – Bee Thousand (1994)

GvZ:

31. The Band – Music from Big Pink (1968)
32. Jethro Tull – Thick As A Brick (1972)
33. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Green River (1969)
34. Radiohead – OK Computer (1997)
35. Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat (1968)

One album from 1967 this time, none less than Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Of course this album is added to the poll as we’re still trying to find the best album of this year during the countdown to #1. Other classics that are ranked in the thirties are Dylan’s epic double album (one of the first in music history) Blonde on Blonde and the legendary prog classic Thick As A Brick from Jethro Tull. The nineties are represented by one of the best albums of that decade and Bee Thou two of the best albums of that decade.

Progressive rock, a genre to love or hate.  It originated in the late sixties thanks to heavy psychedelic rock influences and was pioneered by bands that wanted to go beyond the standard verse-chorus  based song structures.  As a result, often complex instrumental songs were bundled on concept albums with epic pretensions. It’s well possible that you once caught yourself asking what the hell one of these bands was trying to tell you while listening to one of their albums. The answers are provided here, in Prog Albums Explained. All you need  is the album, a comfortable couch and some good headphones.

 

 

Year: 1974

Genre: Progressive Rock

Preceded by: Selling England by the Pound (1973)

Followed by: A Trick of the Tail (1976)

Related to: Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon

 

 

Introduction:

Genesis was one of the true pioneers of prog rock during the seventies, together with bands like King Crimson, Yes and Pink Floyd. The band was founded in 1967 by Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and some others who would be gradually replaced during the following years. Gabriel started as a drummer in his first bands before becoming the lead singer and theatrical frontman of this new band. Tony Banks contributed with his elaborate keyboard arrangements to what would become the typical Genesis sound, while Rutherford became the fanatical bass player of the group. They were joined in 1970 by Steve Hackett and Phil Collins (after having drummed for George Harrison on his solo track ‘The Art of Dying’), replacing respectively the former guitarist and drummer of the band.

In 1974, the band was at the peak of their popular and critical success, having released their epic masterpiece Selling England by the Pound the year before. But something bigger had to follow, so Gabriel designed a great project, just like Paul McCartney had done before with Sgt. Pepper’s and Roger Waters would do five years later with The Wall. At the same time it was the last album of the group with Gabriel, who contributed almost all the lyrics to the album. Those lyrics tell the story of Rael, a delinquent from NYC who is plunged into some surrealistic underground world that derived from Gabriel’s dreaming brain. The other guys came up with the music, but it’s the mind-blowing symbiosis of this music with the lyrics that produced an album that could impossibly ever be outbidden, even if Gabriel would have stayed with the band. Off we go.

Side 1:

Track 1: The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

A frantic and fast piano-intro launches us right into the album, after which Gabriel officially declares that the lamb lies down on Broadway. However, the title track doesn’t have the goal to clarify the role of this lamb, but to introduce us to Rael. Rael just comes out of the subway, where he sprayed some graffiti on the walls to keep up his reputation with his gang. Not the most outrageous violation of the law, but the ominous distorted bass throughout the song from Rutherford tells us there’s more behind this, but what? He’s forgotten what he did…Lord knows what have I done?

Track 2: Fly on a Windshield + Track 3: Broadway Melody of 1974

I treat those tracks as one as they really merge together perfectly. In a threatening quiet way, Gabriel announces the coming of the ‘wall of death’, which attacks Rael. Totally being in the magic air that’s always above Broadway, the reality dies right there for Rael when the dust settles on his skin and he’s being alienated from other people: They carry  on as if nothing was there. Rael is now captured inside this wall (represented by a bombastic wall of sound, an improvisational idea by Rutherford), where a stream of strange images reaches him as if it was one big psychedelic trip.

Track 4: Cuckoo Cocoon

From the chaos we return to serenity with this track, in which Rael wakes up again. Suddenly he’s captured in some cocoon, where he has never been before. But the panic from a few minutes ago is totally gone, as Rael is at ease on his new location. This is beautifully illustrated by the soft guitar sounds and the fairy-like voice of Gabriel, who proves once again what a splendid vocalist he is. And I feel so secure that I know this can’t be real, but I feel good.

Track 5: In the Cage

However, the serenity is just temporary, as this cocoon has suddenly transformed into a cave in this track. Rael is surrounded by cages formed by stalactites and stalagmites, which are capturing him also. Being caught in this cage, this is the first time that his Brother John appears. Rael cries for help, but John doesn’t seem a bit interested. The marvelous dynamic between the thrilling music (especially the manic keys from Banks and the tambourines from Collins) and Gabriels stressed voice (My headaches charge, my earaches roar. In the pain, get me out of this pain…) makes this song an absolute highlight on the album. Eventually, John leaves and Rael’s cage dissolves at that very moment…  Keep on turning. Keep on turning.

Track 6: The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging

Being able to escape from his dissolved cage, Rael finds himself now in a building he seems to recognize from the real world. But how can you be sure that this is reality when you just came from such a surrealistic world? Well, Rael sees how persons are lined up in a Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging, ready to be used for the consumer society: Stamped, addressed, in odd fatality. That evens out their personality. With profit potential marked by sign, I can recognize some of the production line. Scenario’s like these are too cruel to be made up in some surrealistic dream, so this must be our common reality. As cited, Rael recognizes some people and he even sees his Brother John again, labeled as No. 9! Is this the final explanation for John Lennon’s riddle from 1968?

-Continue to Side 2

Time to move on with our lists, presenting you another ten magnificent albums:

RKH:

36. Songs: Ohia – The Magnolia Electric Co (2003)
37. Nirvana – MTV Unplugged in New York (1994)
38. The Smiths – The Queen is Dead (1986)
39. Panda Bear – Person Pitch (2007)
40. Lou Reed – Berlin (1973)

GvZ:

36. Talking Heads – Remain in Light (1980)
37. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – F#A# (Infinity) (1997)
38. George Harrison – All things must pass (1970)
39. Crosby Stills Nash & Young – Déjà Vu (1970)
40. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin (1969)

A great variety in genres and years this time, ranging from the origins of hard rock in 1969 (Led Zeppelin) to the highlight of psychedelic pop in 2007 (Person Pitch). No doubt we’ll notice this latter album once more while we count down towards #1. Talking about number ones, Mister van Zwanendonk’s #38 features an album that is without any doubt at the top of  album lists from various people, being an album you want everybody to listen to when putting it on. The contrary goes for Mister Hofmeijer’s #36, an album which he described as being ‘appropriate for the more intimate moments’.

More golden classics next time!

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LedZeppelinII1969 doolittle1989 afterbathingatbaxters1967 unknownpleasures1979