R, pt. 2
- Continuing on with the "R" titles...
Dave Kerman & 5uu's, Regarding Purgatories - I can't explain
what I like about this album, but I really like it. It's
so weird, with so many twists, turns and changes, that I
can't even begin to try to describe it, other than to say
that if you like your avant prog really "out there", this
is an album for you. Not quite up there with "Hunger's
Teeth" or U Totem's self-titled album, but close. The
opening track, "Meteora", is a thing of beauty.
Yes, Relayer - Another classic. I don't even have to listen
to the CD anymore, I have the whole thing memorized. I think
I told this story on the list before, but the first time I
heard this album was in college with a friend who was also
a fanatical Yes fan hearing the album for the first time. We
were so jazzed by "Gates of Delirium" that we were running
all around his dorm room beating on the walls, desks, beds
and anything else we could reach with drumsticks. I still
think Relayer is by far Yes' best album. The jazz-fusion-
loving bassist that I work with heard this disc in the car
today as we drove to lunch and asked if we could stop at a
used CD store on the way back to work so he could look for
a copy. He didn't find one, but he's listening to my copy
at his desk as I type.
Bill Hicks, Relentless - Hicks, for anyone who might not
have heard the name before, is a comedian who died young.
I think that early death really added to his "legend",
because many people talk about him as if he was by far the
most brilliant and humorous comedian who ever lived. I
think he could be funny, sometimes very funny, but he's
wildly overrated by most of his fans. He stole a lot of
his "angry, screaming guy" delivery from Sam Kinison, and
a lot of his material from Steve Martin. This disc opens
with Hicks talking about how bored he is with doing
stand-up routines over and over, and then saying something
like "but I love being here...in whatever the hell town
this is". Both of those bits are from the old Steve Martin
album "Wild and Crazy Guy". A while back I remember someone
on some newsgroup pointing out other bits that Hicks stole
from other comedians. I think the things that make people
think Hicks was a genius were his abusive attitude, his
political rants (sounding a bit like early Dennis Miller)
and his left-wing tendencies and pro-drug thoughts. I
agree with most of what he says, but that doesn't make him
a brilliant comedian. To his credit though, he was doing
the "making fun of rednecks even though he had a southern
accent himself" thing long before the Blue Collar TV crowd.
Pink Floyd, Relics - I'm usually not big on compilations,
especially for bands where I already own all their albums
anyway. But Relics does a really nice job of presenting
the band's early, psychedelic days. It starts off strong
with Arnold Layne, Interstellar Overdrive and See Emily
Play, then hits a bit of a weak patch with Remember a Day,
Paintbox and Julia Dream but rebounds with Careful With
That Axe, The Nile Song and Bike all in the back half.
The rare track Biding My Time is a nice addition - I bought
the album just for that song, but ended up liking the
track selection and sequencing of the whole thing. If,
somehow, you've never heard any early Pink Floyd, this
disc makes a great primer.
Magma, Retrospektiw I & II - I like Magma, but I don't
know if I'm a rabid enough fan to justify owning this.
Yet another live version of MDK (which is my favorite
piece of Magma music, but do I really need another
version?), and a live Thuesz Hamtaahk, which is nice
but I could live without it too. Here is where Jason
and Jeff jump in to explain why this album is required
listening and differs greatly from other versions.
Men Without Hats, Rhythm of Youth / Folk of the 80s - this
band was an oddball one-hit-wonder, but they were actually
fairly creative and unusual for an 80s pop band. Lyrics
that are clever and often intentionally daft, and music
that is catchy but surprisingly angular and even minimalist
at times. According to the liner notes, early in their
career the band was often compared to Kraftwerk, and I get
the feeling that if they had started out in the early 70s
they probably would have been a prog band. I copied a
cassette of "Rhythm of Youth" from a dorm neighbor back in
the mid-80s, and listened to it so many times over the next
20 years that the tape got worn out. I tried to find the
album on CD, but it was never reissued on disc in the U.S.
I finally found a mail-order place in Canada that had this
two-fer CD with "Rhythm" coupled with the band's next album
"Folk of the 80s, Part III" (part I was an early EP, and I
guess "Rhythm" is part II). "Folk" isn't quite as good, but
has a few decent songs on it - I probably would like it more
if I had first heard it back in the 80s. Nostalgia is a
weird, powerful force. Speaking of which, this disc of
"Rhythm" didn't exactly match my old tape, so I had to burn
a CDR to re-arrange the track order and buy a "best of" CD
so I could include the extended version of "Safety Dance"
and the "Antarctica" single that were on my tape. I filled
the remaining space on the CDR with the best tracks from
"Folk" and a cassette of "Pop Goes the World" to create my
own "best of Men Without Hats" CDR. Speaking of "Pop", one
of the tracks on that album has Ian Anderson on flute, so
there's another prog connection.
Universe Zero, Rhythmix - this is a band that avant prog fans
are supposed to love, so I bought three of their CDs and
checked them out at NEARFest...and for some reason this band
just fails to blow me away, despite the rave reviews they
usually get. Of the three CDs I own, "Ceux Du Dehors" is
my favorite - it has some great stuff on it, but also a few
tracks that don't thrill me. "Heresie" just completely
fails to move or impress me in any way. This album falls
somewhere in the middle - there are bits that I like, but
nothing as good as the best bits of "Ceux". Then again it
doesn't bore me like most of "Heresie". Rhythmix sounds a
lot more modern than the other albums and, as the title
implies, it's a lot more rhythmic. The music gives me the
visual image of a small chamber orchestra playing in a dark,
noisy factory. Makes for OK background music.
Sausage, Riddles Are Abound Tonight - I bought this from
another P&O member for $2. Just goes to show how tastes
differ, because I think it's a great album. The word
"propulsive" was invented to describe Les Claypool's bass
playing. The title track, "Shattering Song" and "Girls
For Single Men" are standout tracks (although I wouldn't
play the latter song around young kids). The song "Here's
to the Man" has a strong anti-handgun message; the lyrics
tell the story of a young boy who figures out where his
dad hides is gun, decides to play with it and shoots
himself. A surprisingly serious message from the
usually goofy Claypool. Overall a really good CD.
Jimmy Buffett, Riddles in the Sand - this is the album
where Buffett's output started to slide downhill, IMHO.
He went from being a decent singer/songwriter with a
country/tropical bent to trying to be a "pop" songwriter.
He also seemed to be running out of steam, as this album
is about half filler and that percentage would just
continue to climb over his following albums. Still,
this one has some decent songs, like "Who's the Blond
Stranger", "Ragtop Day", and "La Vie Dansante".
The Native Flute Ensemble, Riding Thunder - this is a
disc that my wife picked up somewhere, possibly while
visiting relatives in Oklahoma. It's a new-agey sort
of thing, featuring Native American flutes as the main
instrument. The songs are all supposed to be about the
herds of wild horses that used to roam the western
plains. I notice that the liner notes don't say
that the music was actually played by Native Americans,
and other than the flutes and drumming, the music
sounds like many of the other "relaxation" CDs that
my wife owns. Decent background music, but that
flute sound gets old fast.
Phish, Rift - the band's fourth album, and by most accounts
the last of their early "proggy" phase. Rift is supposedly
a concept album, although the concept is loose enough that
just about any song could fit: the narrator has just
broken up with his girlfriend, which causes him to have an
evening's worth of disturbed dreams. There are a lot of
good tracks on this one, from songs that show the band's
instrumental muscle ("Rift", "Maze") to ones that show
their odd sense of humor ("Weigh", with lyrics like "I'd
like to cut your head off so I can weigh it, what do you
say?"). They also pull off the more introspective stuff
like the album-concluding "The Horse" and "Silent in the
Morning" nicely. I rarely think of this album when putting
together a mental list of my favorite Phish discs, but
whenever I listen to it, it always hits me what a great
album it is.
Duran Duran, Rio - Oh god, Simon LeBon...the horror, the
horror. Make it stop! Needless to say, this is one of
my wife's CDs. I'm kind of surprised to find that
musically the band isn't too bad in a generic 80s pop
sort of way, but LeBon's vocals...man, is he whiney,
nasal, off-key and annoying. Arrrgggh.
Consorzio Acqua Potabile, Robin Delle Stelle - this is the
lavishly packaged concept album from the surprise sensation
band of ProgDay '99. The disc comes with not just one
thick booklet of liner notes but two - one chock full of
color illustrations to go with the album's story, and
another printed on parchment-like paper with the lyrics.
And the whole thing comes in a jewel box wrapped in a gold
colored slipcase. Considering how much work went into the
packaging, and how good the band's ProgDay set was, it's a
shame that the actual music on this CD doesn't live up to
expectations. There are some nasty audio glitches here and
there (surprising considering how much work they put into
the visual aspects of the album), and the music rarely
rises above run-of-the-mill symphonic prog standards. It's
fairly predictable and even borderline amateurish in places.
I'm glad I also bought their no-frills live "Sala Borsa"
CD from 1977, because I like that one a lot more. I should
have sold off my copy of "Robin" back when the band still
had a buzz around them from their ProgDay performance.
Robin Zander, self-titled - I'm enough of a Cheap Trick fan
that I bought their singer's 1993 solo album when I found
it cheap (no pun intended) in a used CD store. Zander put
together an impressive array of guest musicians - Mike
Cambell and Benmont Tench from the Heartbreakers, J.D.
Souther and Don Felder from the Eagles, Mick Fleetwood and
Stevie Nicks from Fleetwood Mac, and there are probably
others in there if I felt like taking the time to scan the
fine print further. There's also some interesting choices
of material, like a cover of Neil Young's "I Believe in
You" and a hip-hop-like song called "Jump Into the Fire"
that features a bunch of samples from other songs,
including drum parts from Yes' "Owner of a Lonely Heart"
(hey, a tenuous prog connection). But unless you're a
big fan of Zander's voice, or really, really like those
bland hit ballads that Cheap Trick was churning out in the
late 80s and early 90s, this isn't a must-have album by
any means, even if you're a big Cheap Trick fan.
Rock Music That Changed Our Lives - wow, that title promises
a lot, doesn't it? This is an odd compilation disc that a
friend of my wife's got somewhere for free and passed on to
her. The songs are mostly from the 90s, but there are a
couple odd choices from the 70s and 80s thrown in there too.
As for changing our lives...I doubt there are too many
people who's lives were changed by the J. Geils Band song
"Centerfold" (other than J. Geils), or Megadeth's "Almost
Honest". Half the songs on this disc I had never even
heard of before. This disc does have the distinction of
containing the only Radiohead in my collection - the song
"Fake Plastic Trees" (is that song about what I think it's
about?). Who is Ben Harper and why does his song "Faded"
sound like such a Led Zepplin ripoff?
Rock of the 80s, vols 2 & 3 - I'm really hitting a lot of
my wife's discs in this section. She listened to the radio
a lot more than I did in the 80s, so she owns a lot of
compilation discs of 80s pop. These two discs have a lot
of junk on them, but there are a few gems in there too.
I'll be forever grateful for vol 2 because it has the
longer version of Thomas Dolby's "She Blinded Me With
Science" - I originally had the cassette version of
Dolby's "Golden Age of Wireless", and it used the long
version of that song. The CD release, for reasons I'll
never understand, uses a shorter, edited version. I had
despaired of ever getting the "good" version on CD until
the wife brought home this disc. Vol 2 also has Gary
Newman's "Cars", and the Buggles "Video Killed the Radio
Star" (although I already have that on "Age of Plastic").
Vol 3 also hits paydirt with two of my favorite oddball
one-hit-wonder songs of the 80s, "Turning Japanese" and
"Mexican Radio". I was never much of an Oingo Boingo
fan, but this disc hooked me on the song "Weird Science".
-- Bob "Bice" Eichler