Blessed Are The Collectors of Music For Their Souls Know Peace

MusicCollectionMany of us are album collectors.  Some of us (we know who we are) are a bit more then that.  Some of us are archivists.  If you were to look at our libraries, you would instantly note that there are is an awful lot of music.  Contained on LPs, and CDs, and maybe even tapes, some people just buy and buy.

There is a legitimate boast that some libraries contain thousands and thousands of albums.  These days, the library can also be a massive collection of accumulated MP3s, or, as the audiophile goes, WAV or FLAC files.

So much music.  A worthy collection.  And I must say, I can barely stifle a smile at the mere thought of such expansive selections.

But, with so much music at our disposal, one thing becomes quickly evident, the lack of time to enjoy it all.  With only 24 hours in a day, and a required 8 hours of sleep (for most), which is further divided by the usual 8 hours of work, there is but  an hour or two, maybe three depending on your level of obsession, that can be devoted to the dedicated listening of all that favored music.

Then there’s that other little issue.  If we’re listening to some of that accumulated music, that leaves little time, if any, for the active discovery of new music.

Now, I’m not trying to decry this great hobby.  But I do have to ask the question.  Do we collect too much music for our own good?  It may be that the chosen approach is to listen to as many songs as is possible within our limited time frames, kind of like reading books.  With books, we rarely go back to re-read the same story over and over.  And you may be one of those that is quite content with new songs.  But human nature likes revisiting a good song, a good album.  They represent things, many things.

What is it that you do?  What kind of collector are you?

Me?  I’m an insatiable buyer of music.  I sleep usually around five hours a day.  I listen to so much music I wonder how I do it.  And I actively search out new stuff.  Currently, I’m revisiting the ’70s, and ’80s via the music of bands I never paid much attention to.  Which is great fun!

Your turn.

What Went Wrong With: Tormato – YES

YESTormatoLet me start this one out with a disclaimer (of sorts):  I have no problem with Tormato.  And not that I think it’s in the same class as earlier works such as  Close To The Edge, Relayer, Fragile, Going For The One, or even Tales From Topographic Oceans.  But I do recognize that it’s not extraordinary craftwork even of it has some excellent tracks like “Arriving UFO”, “Circus Of Heaven”, and “Don’t Kill The Whale”.

I’m saddened in a way that I don’t pull it out as often as I do those earlier sets.  I listened to it on the eve of supposed destruction (12/21), and reaffirmed to myself that, yes, it deserves being heard.  But still, in some way, I know that YES changed a little too much for me with this album.

Howe’s guitars are as inspired as ever in this album as ever (listen to the excellent “On The Silent Wings Of Freedom”.  Squire’s bass, and White’s drumming are up to the task, and Wakeman’s keyboards still light it up.  Jon Anderson’s vocal work is as good as the material allows him to be.

My concern is that the album was far too rushed to the studio.  It lacks (for the most part) the heart of effort that their previous works deliver.  Tormato feels like an album for the sake of producing one.  Since Anderson and Wakeman had left after this, was there damaging strife in the band during its production thus poisoning what it might have been?  And I won’t even discuss what was left off (“Some Are Born”).

I understand there is that change with the times bit.  But this period was still vintage YES, and they might have been able to turn Tormato into something that is commanding to listen to.  And so I ask, What went wrong with this one album?

Of course, this question will be ridiculed by strong YES fans, especially those that determine that the band could do no wrong.  However, I’ve a feeling that we could tug some lively debate out of YES fans concerning Tormato, the band’s definite pivotal album.  The album that followed close on the heels of Going For The One, and the album that  steered them toward Drama (albeit without Jon Anderson, and Rick Wakeman).  Drama is loved by some, but not by I although I won’t go into that now.

Is Tormato great YES or did it falter?

Review: No Sadness Or Farewell – Crippled Black Phoenix

NoSadnessOrFarewellCrippledBlackPhoenixCrippled Black Phoenix was a new band for me in 2012.  I had stumbled upon a small review note of their last album, 2011’s Mankind (The Crafty Ape) and tried them out.  I suppose the last time that a band completely knocked me off my feet was Porcupine Tree in the 90s and Phideaux in the past decade.  So now another band has worked its way up my current favorites list.

Mankind is a genius album, probably their best of their first five albums, and now comes this “EP” of 45 minutes recorded a year later, and I am still totally blown away.  These Brits follow their own path for sure, are very social/political, and are a large collective of musicians.   

 There is nothing I can compare them to straight across (but I’ll try). They mix Pink Floyd, U2, Folk, Heavy and Spacey Rock, R.E.M. and even some 4AD sound, like This Mortal Coil, into a heady cauldron of intensity.  They are on the dark side of the musical spectrum, like the areas that Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson explore, but they also have elements of old American Folk with occasional banjo along with slide guitar.  The subjects are often about anarchy, unrest and revolution – they could be the sound-trackers for a movie like V for Vendetta.

The leader is Justin Greaves, the principal songwriter and drummer, guitarist, bassist, and player of assorted electronics and even the saw.  Along with Greaves, this version of CBP includes Mark Furnywell on keyboards, Karl Demata on guitars, Christian Heilman on bass, Miriam Wolf on keyboards and vocals, John E. Vistic on vocals, and Mark Ophidian on keys.  But most of these musicians are multi-instrumentalists as well.  When playing live, Ben Wilsker is the principal drummer.

The opening track, “How We Rock”, is twelve and a half minutes of instrumental soaring guitar over slow-burning, sweeping electronics.  Powerful bass and pounding drums build and build into a crescendo wall of sound.  It brought me back to the final minute of the Beatles’ “A Day in a Life” to some extent and clocks in at nearly seven minutes.

“Hold On (So Goodbye to All of That)” begins with a pulsing beat and vocal reminiscent of U2’s “I Still Haven’t found what I’m Looking For”.  Lamenting banjo over echoing vocals creates a cathedral sound and something that perhaps would be on Johnny Cash’s last couple of albums.

The ten and a half minutes of “What Have We Got to Lose” piggybacks from “Hold On” with lonely banjo and synths and a plaintive female vocal with similarity to Cowboy Junkies if Pink Floyd were playing backup.

The short (over three minute) “One Armed Boxer” carries on with an almost Oriental style sound and is instrumental.  Played with synths, guitars, bells and piano it begins and ends with quiet, reflective notes.

Major heaviness returns with “Jonestown Martin”, six and a half minutes of powerful guitar chords, choir voices, quiet interludes and then pounding drums with slow-burning guitar.  It brought to mind David Bowie’s “The Bewlay Brothers” from Hunky Dory but with heavier guitar soloing.

The final track, “Long Live Independence” begins with gentle acoustic guitar chords and then turns into a galloping romp, snarly vocals, punky chords and even banjo again in a Magazine-styled mix. This wall of sound continues for over five minutes.

Taking the whole album in, on repeated listens it comes across more as a multi-part suite.  Subtle guitars and keyboards float behind the bigger and louder parts, creating similar themes that weave through many of the tracks.  To listen to Crippled Black Phoenix is to get absorbed into their world.  I hope you will give them a try.  Be prepared to fall under their spell!

Here they are on MySpace: . Check out the video of “Laying Traps” from (Mankind) the Crafty Ape and then some of their other songs.  I can recommend all their albums, but the first one, A Love of Shared Disasters, is more eccentric and not in their recent mold.  I would go to that one last.   

Release Date: November 6, 2012

–Bob Metcalf

TAPSheet: Release Notes – 12- 21-12 (US Report)

As we all know, the holiday seasons is a time where news for most labels seem to take a back seat to the hustle of the timeframe.  Even so, there are dribbles of news that make themselves available.  Before I drop what I can, please know that I wish you all a happy holidays, and hope that 2013 will bring good things.

Also, as you may be noticing, especially if you happen to log in during one of my testings, that I’m experimenting with new themes.  I apologize for the fooling around.  But it is kind of fun.

I’ll be back some time next week.

On January 22, and as it was expected, Columbia Records will release a 2CD album of some of the performance tracks from 12/12/12: The Concert for Sandy Relief.

New West Records plan the LP and CD release of Electric from Richard Thompson on February 5 including a 2CD Deluxe Edition that adds in a bonus disc of seven extra bonus songs.

ThompsonElectric

The newest album from Sarah Brightman, Dreamchaser, has been delayed until some point in April.

Legacy Recordings have another Jimi Hendrix album on the calendar.  The album, People, Hell and Angels, have been scheduled for March 5.  This album’s twelve tracks represent unreleased Hendrix studio tracks.

HendrixPeople

Audio Fidelity will release Rock Of The Westies by Elton John on 24k Gold Disc with a planned date of January 22.

KK Records will release a new Kris Kristofferson album, Feeling Mortal, which is slated for January 29.  Now, I’ve been a Kristofferson fan for many decades.  He has never disappointed.  I’m betting that Feeling Mortal will be top-notch.

KrisKristoffersonFeelingMortal

Rhino UK (WB) will release a New Order album, Lost Sirens, on January 22.  Keep your fingers crossed for a domestic US release.

Mobile Fidelity will reissue Learning To Crawl from The Pretenders as a Hybrid SACD with a selected release date of January 15

Sire Records have a new Johnny Marr solo effort, The Messenger, scheduled for issue on February 26.

On February 19, Robin Trower will release Roots and Branches.  I want to hear it.

RobinTrowerRootsAndBranches

RED will release new Adam Ant music with the issue of the wordy Adam Ant Is The Blueblack Hussar Marrying The Gunner’s Daughter (whew!) on January 22 .

429 Records will release new Joan Armatrading with Starlight, scheduling the album for February 26.

Nonesuch Records will release the collaborative set from Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell called Old Yellow Moon, on February 26.

The Savage Playground from Crashdiet is planned for release on January 22.

Shout! Factory will reissue Fandango (1982) by Herb Alpert on February 19.

HerbAlpertFandango

Century Media will release Target Earth by Voivod on January 22.

TAPSheet: Release Notes – 12/19/2012 (US Report)

Warner Brothers plan the release of When It Was Now from Atlas Genius, planned for CD release on February 19.

Warner also has Holy Fire coming from Foals on February 12.

Four Worlds Media plan the release of X from Focus with a scheduled date of February 5.

FocusX

Motown Select will release 50th Anniversary: The Singles Collection 1964-1972 featuring the music of Four Tops.  This CD collection is slated for April 2.  On the same date, this label will release the same title collection for Martha Reeves & The Vandellas.

Plastic Head plan  LP releases for Kaizoku Ban (Live in Japan), and Russian Roulette (Accept); Emperial Live Ceremony (Emperor);  Hardware, Headhunter, Metal Rendezvous, and The Blitz (Krokus), all on February 5.

Virgin Records will re-release The Complete Studio Recordings 1972-1982 from Roxy Music with a new scheduled date of  February 5.

Columbia and Legacy will release Love Songs from Destiny’s Child on January 29.

Atlantic Records will release Greatest Hits featuring the music of Jewel, coming on February 5.

JewelGreatestHits

Nonesuch Records will release How I Knew Her by Nataly Dawn in both CD, and LP (with bonus CD inclusion), both on February 12.

Concord Records will release Summer Horns from Dave Koz on May 7.

Eagle Rock will release House On Fire: The Jeff Healey Band Demos and Rarities, and Nemesis by Stratovarius. both planned for CD on February 26.

Big Machine will release Two Lanes of Freedom by Tim McGraw on February 5, CD, and LP.

Blue Note Records will release Without A Net by Wayne Shorter on February 5.

Eagle Rock will release Live at Wembley featuring Queen on DVD on March 12.

Legacy and Epic Records will reissue a 2CD Legacy set for Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble of Texas Flood, with a planned date of January 29.

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Repairs

Due to incompatibilities between the latest installation of WordPress and the theme I had been using, the comment section (a necessary component of TAP) had been inaccessible.  I have installed a new theme, spending a bit of time in its  necessary functionality, only halfway achieving the results.  I will continue to work on it and get thinks back to normal.

I’m reasonably sure that you can now add commentary once again.

Underrated Classics

WishboneFourHere at TAP, I’m always asking opinions.  Usually, it has to do with things that we like a lot,  Often, it has to do with a particular band.  At times, we discuss the values of our music, how we listen to it, and a host of other things.

Every once in a while, I seem to find an album that I think is brilliant, butr seems to not gain the same accolades that other albums from the same band gets.  For an example, I find Trilogy by ELP to be better in most ways than any other album that they did.  But a lot of ELP fans tend to disagree.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Ignored Album post.  My current uprooting has gotten in the way of quite a bit, it has.  But, as I thought of this, I decided to put it out there and see what you have in mind for an underrated album.

I find Wishbone Four from Wishbone Ash to be an underrated album.  Filled with great songs, Wishbone Four took a step away from the potential trap of being a slave to the Argus style (which I loved).  But they felt a need to take a stab at straight ahead rock and roll, and I think they knocked it out of the park.  “Ballad of the Beacon”, “Doctor”, “Rock and Roll Widow”, the stunning “No Easy Road”, and “Sing Out The Song”.  I do recognize the heaviness and length of “Everybody Needs A Friend” but ohhh what a song it is.  Track for track, Wishbone Four might be Wishbone Ash’s finest unrecognized moment.

You get the idea.  With so many bands out there, and so many great albums, especially under-appreciated works, I’m quite curious to hear your selections of underrated classics.

Review: Silver Smoke, Star Of Night – Jill Tracy

JillTracySilverSmokeThe new album from Jill Tracy is a short collection of holidays music, with one original track tucked in. But it is more than an album of novelty holiday standards that fill the shelves of retailers. Instead, the style of Jill Tracy turn these endearing hymns into moments of reflection, a hallmark and intent during these times of the year.

Jill Tracy recreates these songs on piano. The music is softly perfected, providing a feel of the spirit of the songs. You can sense the reverence of the original words as you soak these in. You absorb the music like a warm cloth placed over your when you feel chill. They fill you in a strangely comforting way.

On Silver Smoke, Star of Night, the seven hymns and the self-penned, “Room 19” are cabaret-styled, and yet they are beyond entertainment. The songs, “O Come O Come Emanuel”, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, “Coventry Carol”, “What Child Is This?”, “We 3 Kings”, “Carol of the Bells”, “In The Bleak Midwinter”, and her own, “Room 19”, are all gold.

If you’re a holiday music fan and have the sense of awe that can be found inside of these holidays, then I can recommend Jill Tracy’s engaging Silver Smoke, Star of Night. With its aching violins, the softly played piano keys, the bells, percussion, and drums, and the entrancing voice, you’ll be inside of the holidays in a spiritual sense.

That’s quite a value these days.

Release Date: October 16, 2012

–Matt Rowe

Review: Four Pieces – Cailyn

CailynFourPiecesI’m always searching the net and my favourite sites for new music. And as you may already know, finding new music is easy – it seems to come out constantly and there is a lot of it. But finding music that really does it for you – that’s a different kettle of fish.

I subscribe also to a real magazine made of paper – a terrific quarterly called Progression.  And in the latest issue was a review of a Progressive Rock album entirely performed by a one-woman band named Cailyn Lloyd from Wisconsin.  She’s a dentist and runs a recording studio and chases tornados – in her spare time!!  Reading further, however, really did it: her new CD features her take on three classical pieces plus one of her own.  And the first piece on the disc happens to be my favourite piece of music of all time – Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis”.  I had to hear this, so I went to her website and ordered the disc.  When I got it I put it on with, I have to admit, some dread as this is, after all, my numero uno desert song.

I needn’t have worried.  This is an amazing CD, from start to finish, and whether you are into Classical music or not, the music she has chosen, as well as her own piece, is beautifully played, with electric Rock instruments (guitars, keys, bass and drums) replacing the full orchestrations, and adding more Rock power to the proceedings.  Guitar appears to be her main instrument and she can play – emotional sustaining notes like David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) and Andy Latimer (Camel), speed-playing like Jeff Beck.  Her keyboard interplay with her guitar, the steady and powerful bass lines and her heavy drumming sounds like a four piece, she is that good on all instruments.

Her version of Fantasia is true to the original score, which makes it amazing in two ways.  One, it captures the entire RVW piece in all its glory without making it “too modern”.  The other is to hear how important Fantasia is to the birth of modern Rock music.  I say there may not have been ELP, or Floyd, or Camel, or Yes or Genesis or King Crimson without Ralph Vaughan Williams and this one piece of nearly 14 minutes that he wrote in, get ready, 1910!!!  I could go on how important I believe it to be, but I don’t want to take away from this review – it is about Cailyn and her amazing skills and musicianship.

Track two is “Largo”, the beautiful and dense second movement of Dvorak’s New World Symphony.  Another stirring tour de force in the annals of Classical music, her interpretation is at once technically brilliant but also delicate, as the movement is an emotional roller coaster of soft and loud, fast and slow.  Here, she takes liberties and shows her bluesier chops with a leaning toward Jeff Beck in places.  Her fluid speed will have you air-guitaring for sure.  And her drums – you’d think that she hired Mike Portnoy to play!

Track three is Barber’s Adagio for Strings, probably one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever.  It was used as the recurring theme on the soundtrack for Oliver Stone’s Platoon and many other soundtracks.  The keyboards have to be the dominant instrument here, with its sweeping themes (I suspect Barber owed a nod to RVW too). But her slow guitar solos over top are things of beauty.  (See video below.)

Track four is her own composition, Nocturne. It is similar to “Of a Lifetime”, the opening track of the first self-titled Journey album (a major heavy rock/psychedelic classic that should be heard – not the top 40 Journey for sure). It has a slow build-up and searing guitar with plenty of tension.

So I can’t recommend Cailyn’s CD enough, especially if you like longish pieces with plenty of big, sweeping arrangements, power guitar and instrumental music.  She is a talent that I hope will reach a lot more ears.

Release Date: July 30, 2012
Website

–Bob Metcalf

The Age of Vinyl…Again?

VinylLPI know a lot of you.  If we’re not talking about some rock band, or some new reissue, or some new band release, we’re talking to each other via email.  So, in a funny kind of way, I know a lot of you and the way you like your music.  Which leads me into this small thing.  I already know that more than a few of you are not as pleased at the resurgence of vinyl LP.  But I, for the life of me, can’t understand.  Let me tell a story:

For years, I have been going to the Orange County LP show, picking up an album here and there.  This has turned into a kind of new obsession.  Basically, my current goal is to regain as much of the old vinyl I had (and I’ve had tens of thousands through my life).  It is so much fun revisiting the thrill of finding that beloved album.  But the story…

I was soon joined by a friend who didn’t have a turntable.  I just convinced him to come and enjoy a lunch at the show (they serve great sandwiches).  He’d leave right after the lunch and I would fall into perusing and buying, ten discs at a visit.  The following day, he would ask what I found.  I’d tell him.

One day, he decided to look around “for a bit”.  He ended up buying a few LPs despite the fact he had no turntable on which to play them.  But I think he had already resolved to getting one soon.  Very quickly, he stayed the duration with me usually buying as many as I did.  He eventually got that turntable.  And his reaction was as expected…the sound coming from his speakers were pretty incredible.  He was hooked.  He now comes to every show.  We have recruited a few pals and every once in a while, they come too.

The underlying part of this story is that LPs really do sound great.  Perhaps greater than they should but there it is.  Analog trumps digital.

Not long ago, Wired magazine ran a piece on a bit of research they undertook.  They compared every kind of music playback to the method’s counterparts.  MP3s, Flacs, CDs, LPs, etc.  And in every case – EVERY CASE – they found that LPs trumped the other formats.

Now, if a new band releases in LP, I will picked that up as the preferred media.  I especially like 180g (or heavier) weight LPs.  And I have so, so many to acquire – and reaquire –  between now and the day I go to see the Great Band.  And there are those I have never had in vinyl, those I list and look for jealously, like The Sundays’ three albums (as an example).

Yeah, I still get CDs, and the occasional MPs or FLAC.  But it’s LPS I desire most of all.  I’m very, very pleased to have vinyl available to me, more so now than any time since the mass acceptance of the CD.

So now, let’s hear what the TAP community at large has to say on this subject of vinyl LPs.  Past history?  Or a welcomed reentry into our world of music?