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Bice's year-end review: the old stuff

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  • Landgraf, Virginia
    Bob wrote:
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 23, 2000
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      Bob wrote:

      <<Magma, Magma /Wurda Itah /Retrospektiw I&II / Live / MDK - My new
      obsession of the first half of '99. And the timing was perfect -
      after getting into them, I got to see a rare U.S. live performance
      and then picked up a bunch of CDs at NEARfest and ProgDay.>>

      I'm really glad you wrote about their performance with such enthusiasm,
      because otherwise I might not have ended up seeing one of their performances
      on their other visit to NY this year, and it was great!

      <<Thinking Plague, In Extremis>>

      I'm going to get this when I finish a chapter of my dissertation. No more
      CD purchases before then, though. Must get my nose to the grindstone.

      <<National Health, Complete - Thanks to Rob LaDuca for reserving this one
      for me at ProgDay, and thanks to whoever it was that made me a CDR of disc
      one when mine turned out to be defective (I've already forgotten who it was
      - curse me for the ungrateful slob that I am). This album practically
      defines the Canterbury style.>>

      Isn't this a great one? I took this to the party that the GG list had in
      NYC in October and put it into the CD mixer at the microbrewery (they had
      agreed to let us do this). "Tenemos Roads" came on, and we all cheered at
      the climaxes.

      <<Faust, the Faust Tapes - very bizarre mix of everything under the
      sun. One long track that sticks pop, prog, avant garde and minimalism in a
      blender and mixes up a truly strange result. I like it.>>

      I have Faust's 1st two albums on LP back at my parents' house. My bizarre
      Faust memory is that shortly after I got their second one, _So Far_, which
      has a creepy, repetitive song called "Mamie is Blue" on it (which goes
      something like, "Mamie is blue / Daddy is blue," so I wondered if they were
      intending to say "Mommy" or "Mummy" instead of a proper name, and I also
      wondered if they were thinking of the German sense of "blau" as "drunk"
      along with the English implications), my parents and I were visiting some
      relatives in Tennessee. On the bookshelf in the room I was staying in were
      various books they had used with their children, including one about
      spiritual guidance for young teenagers. I happened to open that one at
      random and the first sentence in the chapter was, "Mamie was feeling blue."
      Talk about freaky . . . too bad I don't remember the name of that book or
      its author, because I never dreamed that 15 years later I'd be telling
      people that story!

      <<Area, Crac! - an energetic mix of symphonic prog and jazz, with a manic
      vocalist. Might be a little too weird for straight symphonic prog fans, but
      a must-have for those who like a little avant with their symph.>>

      I'm really glad you recommended this too, because it's great fun. The
      vocalist does some rapid ululations (speed yodeling?) that remind me of a
      jazz cut I've heard on the radio a few times -- I think it's something by
      Pharaoh Sanders, maybe called "Upper & Lower Egypt" (Kenny, help?). The
      instrumentation & composition are tasty & varied, and they pack a lot of
      different things into each song. The singer, Demetrio Stratos, was Greek,
      and occasionally there are snatches of eastern Mediterranean dance music in
      the compositions. Some of the keyboard playing reminds me of GG, but
      there's a lot more jazz & horn activity. Then fairly late into the album
      they launch into a straightforward acoustic guitar riff on "Joy and
      Revolution," which is an exuberant change of pace.

      <<Older stuff I picked up that turned out to be disappointing:

      Nick Drake, Pink Moon / Time of No Reply - these albums aren't bad if
      you enjoy singer/songwriter type stuff, but they just didn't live up to the
      high praise they get on rec.music.prog. The tracks with orchestral backing
      tracks sound like sappy elevator music. I'm wondering if Drake would still
      be considered a genius (by some) if he hadn't died young.>>

      The Nick Drake album that blows me away is _Five Leaves Left_. That's his
      first one, and it is remarkable to me for its intensity of mood and the way
      the songs perfectly blend together (I'm not a guitarist, so I can't comment
      on his chops). The instrumentation (ranging from piano, vibes, flute, &
      cello to some tastefully done string sections) seems to fit perfectly with
      the songs. _Bryter Layter_ and _Pink Moon_ never made nearly as much an
      impression on me as wholes (_Time of No Reply_ is a posthumous collection of
      outtakes, and I haven't heard it in its entirety). I think part of what
      perpetuates the Drake reputation is not just that he died young but that he
      was so introverted, so seemingly devoted to put out only what was pure and
      authentic.

      <<Van Der Graaf Generator, Pawn Hearts / Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each
      Other - another band that gets high praise on rec.music.prog. I just don't
      see the appeal. This strikes me as the original neoprog - very
      mellodramatic vocals and lyrics over so-so symphonic prog. I've given these
      albums a bunch of spins trying to figure out what everyone sees in them, but
      they're just not growing on me.>>

      I should preface this remark by saying that I haven't heard all that much
      VDGG, but what I have heard is much rougher in sound than any of the neoprog
      I've heard. Not that I don't understand why you might not relate to this
      band if you're not into lyrics or certain types of singing. But I'm feeling
      amused right now because I know somebody on another list who would probably
      hit the roof to hear VDGG compared to neoprog. He once described himself as
      "A music snob since 1972 -- and proud of it!" and hates most neoprog but is
      a big VDGG/Peter Hammill fan. Oh well. To each his/her own. :-)

      <<Robert Wyatt, Ruth is Stranger than Richard - another one that I thought
      I'd like based on r.m.p praise, but which just refuses to grow on me after
      several listens. It's OK, but I thought it would be a lot better based on
      descriptions.>>

      This album doesn't have the unity of mood and purpose that _Rock Bottom_
      (Wyatt's first solo album after he fell out of a window and lost the use of
      his legs) has. I had both on vinyl and taped _Rock Bottom_ (b/w Procol
      Harum's _A Salty Dog_) to take with me to Thailand, but RiStR I left at home
      and didn't miss. "Team Spirit" is one song that sticks with me, though.

      <<Khan, Space Shanty - I'm gonna hazard a guess that this disc is so
      overrated because it's so rare. Sounds like slightly worse-than-average
      psychedelic, garage band music to me, with just occasional hints of
      brilliance. I'm tempted to auction this one off on ebay and see what I can
      get for it.>>

      Wow, I'm sorry you didn't go for this, since I'm one of the people who's
      been praising it. But having given it a spin the other day, and knowing
      some of your proclivities, I can see that there are some aspects of it you
      might not like -- too many vocals or hippy-spirituality-oriented lyrics.
      But if I saw the phrase "worse-than-average psychedelic garage band music" I
      would think of something with a lot less compositional fiber than this -- a
      mix of 3-chord songs and aimless feedback (maybe because 3-chord garage band
      songs were all the rage when I worked in college radio, and although I love
      dancing to that kind of music I find it musically limiting after a while).
      Although the title track (which I love) has an echo of straight riffing
      metal in its main vocal section, subsequent instrumental sections go in
      completely different directions. There are interesting chord changes and
      time signatures galore. But you didn't like a Soundgarden song with
      interesting chord changes and time signatures either, so I can see that if
      the texture doesn't appeal to you, it might not be as fun a listen for you
      as it is for me. Still reminds me of Aper´┐Żu/DoMNS without the violin
      though.

      Ginny
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