S, pt. 2
- Continuing on with the never-ending alphabetic quest...
Mark Knopfler, Screenplaying - another used CD store
find. This disc gathers the soundtrack music that
Knopfler did for four movies. I bought it mostly
because I was curious about the music from "Local
Hero" - I liked the one song that's on Dire Straits'
live "Alchemy" album. The music is more varied
than one would expect from the man who wrote Sultans
of Swing and Money For Nothing - the music from
"Cal" sounds like Irish folk music, and the tracks
from "Last Exit to Brooklyn" are mostly string
quartets and orchestral. There's also music from
"The Princess Bride"; I've always liked that movie,
so it's nice to have soundtrack music from it. And
the stuff from Local Hero is pretty good, although the
song used for Alchemy is probably the best of the lot.
Genesis, Seconds Out - yet another sign of my total
burnout on symphonic prog...this album used to be a
favorite, but listening to it now I can't remember
what was so exciting about it. Even "Firth of Fifth"
doesn't thrill me much anymore. I do still like the
last 20 minutes or so: Cinema Show, Dance on a
Volcano and Los Endos. Those are good. They always
make me think of fireworks, because I originally
bought the album on cassette during summer and
listened to that side while watching 4th of July
fireworks (which it worked really well with).
Electric Light Orchestra, Secret Messages - ELO's last
good album. When it first came out, I was disappointed
because I was hoping for "Time part two" (the previous
album, Time, is one of my favorites). Then I got
obsessed with trying to find and unravel the backwards
messages that are all over the album. Finally a high
school friend who was also a big ELO fan convinced me
to listen to the album on its own merits, and I
realized that it's a pretty darned good 80s pop album.
The four songs that originally made up side one are
each gems and they segue nicely into each other. The
back half isn't quite as good, but it has the beautiful
song "Stranger" and a couple other decent tracks. The
album was originally supposed to be a double, but Epic
cheaped out at the last minute and made it a single,
with the "leftover" songs trickling out as bonus tracks
on various boxed sets and CDs over the years. Plus
they stuck "Time After Time" on this CD right between
the original side 1 and side 2, which wrecks the flow
of the album, IMHO (it's not a bad song, but it sticks
out like a sore thumb). And I'm still pissed at Sony
for the piece-of-crap "remastered" disc they put out
a few years ago. It's louder (probably due to
compression, based on the harsh sound) and sounds a
bit clearer, but the album is now littered with
dropouts and tape-speed fluctuations. Makes it
downright painful to listen to on headphones. Yet
more proof that Sony absolutely sucks.
Redmond, Selections from "Measure of One" - if I
remember right, the band was handing out these
three song demo CDs outside a Mike Keneally show
that I went to in Philadelphia. I know absolutely
nothing about the band. This demo disc is pretty
good, but not proggy in any way - just straight
ahead, blues-based rock. Reminds me a little of
the Black Crows. I'm not sure why they thought it
would appeal to Keneally fans.
Bondage Fruit, Selected - I had completely forgotten
about this CD. I think I found it in a used CD store
shortly before beginning the alphabetic quest. The
title implies that this is a "best of" album - it only
had five tracks, but the last one is a 25 minute epic.
Great CD - this band has amazing energy. The drummer
must have dropped dead of exhaustion after that 25
minute song. I did a web search and found out that
the band is considered a zeuhl band, which I guess I
can hear, but they don't sound that much like Magma
to me...well, maybe the fusionish stuff on the "Live
Hhai" album. It's mostly instrumental, with guitar,
bass and drums going for broke and occasionally joined
by keys, violin, tuned percussion and wailing female
vocals. Somewhat repetitive (a strength in zeuhl)
and extremely lound and aggressive. Yet it oddly
makes for good background music at work...as long as
I use headphones so as not to anger my co-workers.
Genesis, Selling England By the Pound - another prog
classic. Kind of an odd coincidence that this follows
so closely after Seconds Out. Maybe I'm just in a
better mood this morning (wouldn't know why - I've
just had what was one of the worst weeks of my life,
but that's neither here nor there). Anyway, this
album is sounding much better than the live one did
the other day - maybe I just like the subtleties of
the studio versions better. In particular, Phil
Collins' drumming on "Cinema Show" is sublime. It's
a damn shame they ever let him step in front of a
microphone. The "Firth of Fifth" guitar solo nailed
me this morning, and "Dancing With the Moonlit Knight"
also sounded great. Even the oft-slagged "Battle of
Epping Forest" went down well this morning. Maybe I'm
not as burned out on symphonic prog as I thought.
Peter Banks, Self Contained - the second solo album of
the 90s from the original guitarist of Yes. Not quite
as good as "Instinct", but still a worthwhile album if
you're into the one-man-band, guitar hero thing. The
music is mostly synthesizers and programmed percussion
backing all sorts of guitar solos, from fast and firey
to atmospheric and moody to smooth and jazzy. It's all
instrumental, except for a few spoken word samples taken
from TV, movies, etc. One of my favorite bits is in the
first track,"Radio Foreplay", in which we hear Mr. Bank
dialing through various radio stations and suddenly
picking up a old Flash song, which gets the response
"Oh, god" and the radio is quickly turned off. I also
like his comment about home recording in the liner
notes: "Often a 'Great Idea' should have been erased
clean off the tape, otherwise it will haunt you years
later on the re-released, limited edition, re-mixed
bonus track presentation boxed-set with rare
Soft Machine, Seven - another odd coincidence - I just
reviewed this one for Ground and Sky a couple weeks ago.
Decent fusionish instrumental album. Lots of keyboards.
By this time they were down to one original member left,
so the music was starting to sound a little more
"mainstream" (i.e. more like other fusion bands of the
time), but it's still recognizable as Soft Machine. Not
the band's best work, but if you liked the previous six
then odds are that you'd like Seven too. Makes for good
background music at work.
Miles Davis, Seven Steps to Heaven - as with a lot of
jazz albums, I don't know enough about the genre to say
anything more than "I like it". Excellent music to
listen to while programming computers on a Friday
afternoon, trying to kill those last couple hours
until the weekend. Which I'm sure is exactly what
Davis intended it for. Seriously though, I think this
is the album where Herbie Hancock came aboard on piano
and Tony Williams on drums, which lead to a string of
really good jazz albums.
Dennis Haley, Seven Seconds After... - Haley was the
keyboard tech for one of the ProgDays years ago (the
CD is copyrighted 1999, so I'm guessing that's the
year). He also played short solo sets on a wall of
keyboards set up in front of the stage to fill time
between the other bands. I liked what he played, so
I bought this CD. It's another one-man-band album,
this time with the emphasis on keyboards (in fact, I
think everything was played on keys - there are 16
different synthesizers listed on the back of the CD
case). The music is spacey and the tracks are long,
ranging from just over nine minutes to over 23.
Another pleasent disc to spin on a lazy Friday
Cheap Trick, Sex America Cheap Trick - this is a great
example of what a boxed set should be. If you don't
like Cheap Trick, this box won't change your mind, but
if you're already a fan it fits the bill nicely. All
the band's big hits are included for the casual fans,
and for the more hard-core types there are a ton of
b-sides, alternate versions, live versions, unreleased
tracks and songs recorded for soundtracks. The first
two discs are from the band's prime years - up to the
Dream Police era, before the departure of their original
bassist. But the last two discs are surprisingly good
too, considering how the band's studio albums slid
downhill during that time, with pressure from record
companies to have more radio-friendly songs and ballads
like the big-selling "If You Want My Love" and "The
Flame". I particularly like disc one, with it's very
different early version of "I Want You to Want Me", and
great live performances of "Down on the Bay" and "Mrs.
Henry". If you like the occasional good-time garage
band rock, this set is worth picking up.
Sex Mob, Sex Mob Does Bond - this is one of my wife's
odder CDs. It's lounge jazz versions of incidental
music from the James Bond movies. Very slinky sounding
for the most part, with lots of horns and John Medeski
of Medeski, Martin and Wood playing organ throughout
the album. My wife's a big fan of the Bond movies, so
as soon as she heard about this CD she put it on her
Christmas list. I don't think it was quite what she
was expecting, because as far as I know she hasn't
listened to it more than two or three times in the
four years since I bought it for her. It sounds like
something that would appeal to me more than her, but
to be honest I'm not that wild about it either.
Beatles, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - I'm sure
I'll be called a heretic by the hard-core Beatles fans,
but...man is this album overrated. I bought it for "A
Day in the Life", which I still think is a great song,
and there are a couple other good bits like the title
track, Lucy in the Sky, Good Morning...but the majority
of this disc just sounds like sub-par filler to me. Why
do so many people think this is one of the greatest rock
albums ever made? And why oh why was it made into a
horrible movie in the 70s starring the B.G.s? Who's
coke-fueled nightmare of an idea was that?
Greatful Dead, Shakedown Street - this album doesn't
scream "70s" as much as "Go to Heaven" does, but the title
track here is definitely disco Dead. But it's still a
fun song, as are the cover of "Good Lovin'" and the song
"Fire on the Mountain". Speaking of the latter - I swear
this is a true story: my sophomore roommate in college
moved out the next year to live in a house full of
deadheads, and one evening the guy who lived in the attic
left a candle burning when he went out. It set some curtains
on fire, and soon one of the other housemates came running
into the living room yelling "Dudes! Our house is on fire!"
The reaction to that from the other inhabitants was to
discuss which Dead song they should listen to while putting
the fire out. They eventually settled on "Fire on the
Mountain", and proceeded to go into fire fighting mode.
They made about a dozen trips from the ground floor kitchen
faucet to the attic with pots and pans full of water before
they realized that there was water available in the bathroom
right next to the attic stairs. Anyway, back to this
album - despite the high cheese factor, I like most of this
one. But I'll never understand why they decided to throw
steel drums and an island rhythm into a song about France.
Peter Gabriel, Shaking the Tree (Sixteen Golden
Greats) - this disc has become almost superfluous in my
collection. I had to buy "So" because they didn't include
"In Your Eyes" on this hits disc (grrrr), and recently I
bought a cheap used copy of Gabriel's third self-titled
album, and those two CDs cover the majority of the
songs on this disc. Plus I've got "Solsbury Hill" on a
compliation CD of various Atlantic artists. I think the
only song I'd miss off this disc is "Shock the Monkey",
and I think I have the 45 of that lying around somewhere.
But if you don't have any other Gabriel albums, this
"best of" package makes a nice introduction.
Z, Shampoohorn - Yes, I'm such a sad Zappa fanboy that I
even buy his kids' albums, although I do at least wait
until I find them cheap somewhere, usually a used CD store.
Anyway, Z is the short-lived band that Dweezil and Ahmet
Zappa formed in the 90s. They were only around long enough
to release two CDs, this one and "Music for Pets". Neither
is up to Frank's standards, but I do enjoy the Z discs more
than Dweezil's solo albums. Mostly because Ahmet brings an
air of insanity and pure silliness to the proceedings that
make these albums more fun than Dweezil's. Plus it certainly
doesn't hurt that they had Mike Keneally in the band, playing
guitar and helping with the arrangements. Just a shame that
Mike wasted so much time in "Z" when he could have been
starting his own solo career. The music on this album
reminds me of the band King's X - mostly guitar driven,
fairly heavy and with similar vocal harmonies. But with
very different lyrics (I couldn't see King's X doing the
song "Jesus Clone"). The highlight of this album: Ahmet's
ode to the icons of his childhood, "Kid's Cereal", complete
with him going off on the rest of the band because they
won't sing the theme song to The Smurfs correctly at the end.
Gong, Shapeshifter - I wasn't expecting much from this album,
because how often does a prog band from the 70s put out a
great album 20+ years after their prime? Well, in this case
Gong pulled it off. Some of it sounds like classic Gong
(the 13 minute live jam of "Master Builder" that closes the
album certainly doesn't hurt), and some of it sounds like
the band is trying to update their sound for the 90s (like
the techno track Dog-O-Matic), and succeeding at it. My
favorite song is "Hymnalayas" - the bass line through the
first five minutes of that track is just hypnotic. I could
listen to that all day. It's a bit annoying that they
stuck so many little "filler" tracks on the album (of the
21 total tracks, nine of them are under a minute and a
half), but that's a minor gripe. Now if someone would
just explain to me what the answering machine message at
the beginning is all about (some mobster threatening to
break Daevid Allen's legs if he doesn't come up with the
money he owes).
Frank Zappa, Sheik Yerbouti - I always forget about this
album, or rather when I think about it, I just think of it
as containing a lot of sex and scatalogical references
and "comedy music". And it does have a lot of that, but
then when I listen to it I remember that it also has
great instrumentals and guitar solo vehicles like "Rat
Tomago", "Rubber Shirt" and "The Sheik Yerbouti Tango".
Plus there's "City of Tiny Lights" and the epic "Wild
Love / Yo' Mama" that closes the album. Even the comic
songs have an amazing energy to them, thanks mostly to
Terry Bozzio's hyperactive drumming and wild vocals.
The end result is that after hearing it, I always think
"That CD was a lot better than I remembered".
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, She's the One - it doesn't
seem possible that I got this CD for Xmas eight years ago.
That's just mind-boggling to me - seems like it was just a
year or two ago. Maybe because I only listened to it a
couple times and it's been sitting on the shelf ever since.
Listening now, it's better than I remembered, but it's still
one of Petty's weakest efforts. The music is from the
soundtrack of a movie by the same name - I think I tried
to watch the movie once on TV just out of curiosity, and
it was so boring I turned it off after half an hour or so.
The album has a couple highlights - mostly the bitter
anti-love songs like "Hope You Never" (in which the
singer gives the backhanded well-wish that he hopes his
ex-girlfriend never runs into someone as nasty as
herself) and "Asshole" ("You make me feel like an...").
A couple of the harder rocking tracks aren't bad either,
but it's hard to see how they would fit into a movie
soundtrack without being really distracting. Overall,
not a terrible album but I'm glad I didn't buy it myself.
Frank Zappa, Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning
Witch - This is one of those FZ discs that I *HATED* the
first time I heard it. Two of the first three songs
are intentionally annoying - "No Not Now" is a Bee-Gees
parody that's extremely repetitive and has annoying
chipmonk-pitch falsetto vocals, and "I Come From
Nowhere" has even more whacked-out vocals, remincient
of the singing on the earlier song "50/50". And right
in between those two songs is the novelty hit "Valley
Girl". Thing is, after a couple listens, all three of
those songs planted themselves deep in my brain, and
I eventually realized that the music behind the lyrics
(especially the bass playing) is actually pretty good.
And every now and then, even if I haven't heard the album
in ages, the chorus of "No Not Now" will suddenly get
stuck in my head. The second half of the album is
dominated by the lengthy and complex "Drowning Witch"
(both the song and album titles are based on the cartoon
line drawing of the cover - look it up on All Music to
get the joke if you've never seen the cover), with the
shorter instrumental "Envelopes" (written for the London
Symphony Orchestra album) and the comic rock song
"Teen-age Prostitue" closing things out. The latter
song is sung by Lisa Popiel, who's father Ron is the
guy responsible for quality RonCo products like the
pocket fisherman. No kidding. Hmm, I just realized
that with Lisa singing that song and Moon Unit singing
Valley Girl, this album probably has more female lead
vocals than any other Zappa album.
-- Bob "Bice" Eichler
- "Bice" wrote:
> Continuing on with the never-ending alphabetic quest...
Your alphabetic list is quite remarkable, containing the great, near
great, has beens, and never wases. However I did not see The
Move's "Shazam". No list with the magnitude of yours could be complete
Read Rolling Stone review from 1970 here: