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Re: [ProgAndOther] The U's Continued And The Start Of The V's..........

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  • stevesly@aol.com
    Hi Brett, Yes good points on both.  For some reason I was thinking Dance The Night Away was a cover of someone else, but after looking at it again you are
    Message 1 of 3 , Jun 8, 2008
      Hi Brett,

      Yes good points on both.  For some reason I was thinking "Dance The Night Away" was a cover of someone else, but after looking at it again you are correct it is an original number.  As for the keys, looks like I was wrong on that too.  Going back and listening to "Cradle" I can distinctly hear the Wurlitzer in there. 

      Steve Sly
      ProgDay 2008

      -----Original Message-----
      From: all4rains <all4rains@...>
      To: ProgAndOther@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Sun, 8 Jun 2008 12:43 pm
      Subject: Re: [ProgAndOther] The U's Continued And The Start Of The V's..........

      Love the reviews Steve, but the Van Halen reviews need a little clarification. "Van Halen II" doesn't start off with two straight covers--indeed "You're No Good" is a cover, but the song that follows it, "Dance The Night Away", isn't. It's a VH original. And there are no other covers on that album. Also, Eddie's first use of keyboards on record wasn't on "Fair Warning" as you mentioned, but on "And The Cradle Will Rock", which was on the previous album, "Women And Children First". Eddie plays a Wurlitzer that he ran through his Marshall rig.

      stevesly@aol. com wrote:
      831.                    UMPHERY’S MCGEE – LOCAL BAND DOES OK – 2002
      Umphrey’s McGee came out of South Bend Indiana building a loyal following mainly by constant touring.  The band straddles the line between jam band and progressive rock often being compared to bands like Phish and The Grateful Dead.  Personally I was never a big fan of either of the above mentioned bands, but I enjoy most of what Umphrey’s does.  I really think it is the prog element of this band that brings their sound more to my personal taste.  One thing that this album demonstrates is that this band can pull off just about any musical style there is.  They are all over the place stylistically with plenty of instrumental fireworks to please jam and prog fans alike.  The vocals are nothing spectacular and their lyrics are serviceable, but nothing mind blowing (better than Phish’s however).  Highlights include “Andy’s Last Beer”, “Ringo”, “Prowler”, “Uncle Wally” and “Nothing Too Fancy”.  This album seems to come the closest of their studio discs to capturing the band’s live sound, although live many of these tracks are stretched out far beyond what you hear here.  I give this one a solid 4 stars.
      832.                    UMPHREY’S MCGEE – ANCHOR DROPS – 2004
      Umphrey’s continues their exploration of modern jam band and progressive rock with their 2004 release Anchor Drops.  This one is similar to their previous effort with a mix of vocal and instrumental songs that cover a wide variety of musical styles.  The jam band thing is prominent, but there are also songs here like “Miss Tinkle's Overture” that are pure progressive rock.  The band even throw in a country ballad (actually a duet with an excellent female vocalist) that almost sounds like something Alison Krauss might do.  The band feature chops galore as all the instruments are in fine form.  The band still seem to have a hard time capturing their live energy in the studio and none of the songs go much beyond the 5 minute mark here, but overall this is a good album that grew on me with repeated listens.
      833.                    UMPHREY’S MCGEE – SAFETY IN NUMBERS – 2006
      Another studio album from a band that is mainly known for their live shows.  The title of this one pretty much says it all.  The band play it “safe” on this one not taking any real chances and continuing down the path they have gone on their previous two albums.  I have to admit that I was disappointed with this one.  Being a fan of progressive rock I have always liked the more adventurous side of Umphrey’s music, but much of that is missing here.  This is by far the band’s most “song” oriented release which I assume is designed to get them airplay and a more mainstream following.  Unfortunately it makes for a rather bland album.  This is not to say that there is not any good material here.  “Liquid”, “Nemo”, and “Ocean Billy” are all good.  “Women Wine And Song” could have fit right in on a Little Feat album circa about 1975, and is a decent song.  Actually there really isn’t anything here that is bad, but a lot of it is just kind of blah compared to what I know this band is capable of.  The bottom line is if you are looking to explore Umphrey’s music I would recommend “Local Band Does OK” or “Anchor Drops” before you pick up this one.
      834.                    UNDER THE SUN – UNDER THE SUN – 2000
      For a time it looked like Under The Sun was going to be the next big thing in progressive rock, especially in the United States.  This their debut album was received with almost unanimous rave reviews.  Their live shows were greeting with equal applause  On the strength of this momentum the band was invited to perform at the premier progressive rock festival in the U.S. NEARfest in 2001.  Then, it all seemed to fall apart and to my knowledge they have not released another album since this one 8 years ago.  It’s a pity, because this is a really good album that straddles the line between progressive rock and metal.  The music is all solid and the vocalist has a unique voice that really does not sound like anyone else that I can think of.  My favorite tracks are “Breakwater”, “Dream Catcher” “The Time Being” and the would be single “Seeing Eye God” which is simply a great little rock track.  Although these guys are somewhat similar to other Magna Carta label bands at the time I think there is enough uniqueness with them that push the band to a different level.  I liked this album a lot and enjoyed seeing the band live at NEARfest.  Here’s hoping that they eventually put out another album.  If you never got this album back in the day it is definitely worth a look.
      835.                    U2 – HOW TO DISMANTLE AN ATOMIC BOMB – 2004
      U2’s most recent disc is another high quality release.  The album starts out with one of their all time great singles in my opinion, “Vertigo” and is for the most part strong albeit a bit pedestrian the rest of the way.  My reaction to this album is fairly typical of most U2 releases.  I always like them, but they never blow me away like they do for a lot of people.  This album hits me about the same.  I like it, but don’t love it.  The material here is fairly straightforward with the band not taking any major risks like they did on many of their late 80’s and 90’s albums.  This can be seen as a great return to form by some or a blatant attempt to pander to the masses by others.  I guess I fall somewhere in the middle.  “Bomb” is one of the rare albums in my collection where I think the singles are actually the best songs on the album.  Along with the aforementioned “Vertigo” Bono’s lament about his father's death “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” is a heart wrenching killer of a song and another of the albums top cuts.  Overall I give “Bomb” about a 3.5 star rating.  Above average, but not great.  The band has certainly done better, but this one has enough to like about it to make it worth a listen.
      836.                    VAN HALEN – VAN HALEN – 1978
      When Van Halen hit the record stores and airwaves back in 1978 it was truly something unique.  Today there are hundreds of guitar wizards out there who have copied Eddie Van Halen’s style, but back in the day there was no one else who sounded like this band.  I never really became a Van Halen fanatic over the years, but I have a lot of their stuff and have always enjoyed pulling the albums out for a listen now and then.  This their debut remains one of their all time best in my opinion.  The album spawned 4 hit singles but with the exception of “Runnin With The Devil” it is the lesser known songs that I think are the best here.  “I’m The One”, “Atomic Punk”, “Ice Cream Man” and “On Fire” are my fave’s here. 
      837.                    VAN HALEN – VAN HALEN II – 1979
      Van Halen II is definitely a step down from the band’s debut to my ears.  Starting the album off with two straight covers gained them hits, but is not very original, and seems to be an indication of a struggle to come up with new material.  This album always seemed like a summer party album to me.  Great to listen to as background music at the beach or rolling around in your car with the windows down, but not something that I would take out for a serious headphone listen at home.  Eddie shines on “Spanish Fly”, and “Somebody Get Me A Doctor” and “Bottoms Up” are both patented David Lee Roth rants, but overall I find this album rather ho hum, and I think the first album blows it away.
      838.                    VAN HALEN – WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST – 1980
      After the somewhat lackluster “II” album Van Halen made a nice comeback with this one.  In fact I think this is one of the band’s best discs.  Things get started with the heavy rocking “And The Cradle will Rock…” and “Everybody Want’s Some” both big hits and great songs.  I am not a huge fan of the next track “Fools”, but after that “Romeo Delight”, the short Sabbath like instrumental “Tora Tora”, “Loss Of Control” and the bluesy acoustic “Take Your Whiskey Home” are all great tunes.  “Could It Be Magic” and “In A Simple Rhyme” close out the album and are both good tunes as well.  By today’s standards this album would only be an EP at a little over 30 minutes, but at least it is all original material with no covers.  This is one of the band’s best discs and essential for fans.
      839.                    VAN HALEN – FAIR WARNING – 1981
      “Fair Warning” is kind of the black sheep album in the Van Halen catalogue.  Other than “Unchained” the album did not receive a lot of airplay (at least compared to the band’s other Roth era discs) and is probably the least commercial of their late 70’s early 80’s works.  The band took some chances on this one which for me is a good thing.  This is also probably the least party / fun oriented album of the Roth years.  There was tension within the band by this point and it shows.  There are no acoustic guitars to be found here either as the majority of the album is hard and heavy.  The first use of keyboards by Eddie can be found here on “Sunday Afternoon In The Park”.  These would become more and more a part of the Van Halen sound on later albums.  The album really starts out strong with “Mean Streets”, “Dirty Movies”, “Sinners Swing”, “Unchained” and “Hear About It Later” all solid tunes.  The second half of the album is not quite as good, but still decent.  I would probably rate this one as my 3rd favorite of the Roth years.  Although it did not spawn a lot of hits and was a commercial disappointment this one is well worth owning for fans of the band.
      840.                    VAN HALEN – DIVER DOWN – 1982
      I am not sure if the band was just in a writing slump or what, but this album contains 5 cover songs (The Kinks “Where Have All The Good Times Gone”, Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman”, Martha And The Vandels “Dancing In The Street”, “Big Bad Bill” and the traditional western “Happy Trails”).  For an album that is less than 35 minutes long this is a lot of non-original material.  I have read that this whole project was kind of thrown together after the band had cut a single and the record company wanted it followed up by a quickie album.  If that is the case it would certainly help to explain the contents of this disc.  Of the original stuff there some nice short instrumentals, especially “Cathedral”, but as always with Van Halen albums the instrumental stuff is too short and never really develops into anything.  Of the new tunes “Little Guitars” and “The Full Bug” are both good.  Overall though this is probably the weakest of the Roth era albums and the last one I would purchase if I was filling out my collection.

      Steve Sly
      ProgDay 2008
      http://www.progday. com

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