December 8, 2019

Various Artists-A Prog Rock Christmas

Release Date: November 1, 2019
Label:  Purple Pyramid

Imagine looking forward to eating at a hyped new restaurant, only to have them lose your reservation, serve you an undercooked entrĂ©e, and an overcooked side. Such is the experience of listening to A Prog Rock Christmas. I had hoped this collection would deliver a progressive twist of sonic experimentation to these seasonal standards. What it provides is ordinary fare minus any prog-rock flights of fancy I had anticipated.

Producer Billy Sherwood, currently of Yes, would have been well served with advice to focus on quality over quantity. Six or eight tracks that elevate and push the boundaries of these classics would have been preferable to the thirteen tracks, which offer little to no such exploration. 

Leslie Hunt and Robin McAuley attempting to cover “Fairytale of New York” is either brave or ill-advised. I’d side with the latter as no version will ever come close to the bittersweet growling of the Shane MacGowan & Kirsty MacColl rendition. Malcolm McDowell as the mean one, Mr. Grinch is so pedestrian and dull, I forgot I was even listening to it and walked out of the room. 

While as a whole, the offering is tepid at best, there are a few individual gems hidden in the rough, which would serve the listener well by adding to a holiday playlist. “Carol of the Bells” by Steve Morse is one such track that actually sounds progressive. “Linus & Lucy” by Geoff Downes is a much-needed playful number. The jazz-fused piano bounces in your ears and sounds fresh. “Happy Christmas (War Is Over) by John Wetton” is soulful and hearty, yet comes across as more country-western than progressive. 

All in all, there is very little “prog” in A Prog Rock Christmas. If you’re looking for some standards interpreted by apt musicians for your office holiday party, this album will serve you well. If you’re looking for an envelope-pushing take on these classics, you’d be better served looking elsewhere. One such place might be The Jethro Tull Christmas Album. It is a season’s celebration with original material mixed with Ian Andersen-interpreted traditional arrangements. It will leave you feeling like Scrooge after his journey with the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, full of hope and cheer at the promise of redemption and the essence of Christmas itself.

Tom Endyke - MuzikMan.net Staff
December 4, 2019

REVIEWS PROVIDED BY:

Tracks:
01.  Run with the Fox (Jon Davidson)
02.  Christmas Lights (Kasim Sulton
03.  Carol of the Bells (Steve Morse)
04.  The Twelve Days of Christmas (Annie Haslam)
05.  Wonderful Christmastime (Billy Sherwood, Patrick Moraz)
06.  I Believe in Father Christmas (Martin Turner)
07.  Fairytale of New York (Leslie Hunt, Robin McAuley)
08.  O Come All Ye Faithful (Sonja Kristina)
09.  A Christmas Song (Thijs van Leer)
10.  You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch (Malcolm Mcdowell)
11.  Linus & Lucy (Charlie Brown Christmas Theme) (Geoff Downs)
12.  Silent Night (Nik Turner, Simon House)
13.  Happy Christmas (War is Over) (John Wetton)

December 4, 2019

Book Review: The Ballad of Jethro Tull

Product Details
Title: The Ballad of Jethro Tull (Hardcover)
Release Date: November 15, 2019
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Rocket 88
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1910978426
ISBN-13: 978-1910978429
Product Dimensions: 9.7 x 1 x 11.3 inches


The iconic prog-rock band Jethro Tull is immortalized through their music. There are other ways to achieve that status if you have been around for over 50 years. One way is to provide your fan base with a lavishly bounded hardcover book covering the history of the band. 

We now have The Ballad of Jethro Tull. It is quite an overview from Ian Anderson the band’s originator and leader, and other members of the band over the years.

I had the opportunity to speak to Ian about the book but unfortunately, the audio for my podcast did not transfer over. It was a sad day for this music fan and lifetime JT fan. But such is life and I did retain what was said. What I garnered from our conversation was that Ian was approached by the folks at Rocket 88. It was not his idea nor was he thinking of such a project. 

It all turned out wonderfully as the book is a beautiful documentation of the band with some colorful commentary from Ian and the band members that were involved with the albums that were covered to the point when Ian cut his ties with band and went solo then subsequently got a lineup capable of covering all of the JT catalog and his solo projects. I was amongst the many that saw him and that band on the 2018 50th anniversary tour.

I have to say I have never received anything quite like this book covering a band. The quality of the cover and all the pages and photos are superb! And it is definitely worth the price of $50 on the book’s website. It is going for $70 on Amazon so the choice is yours depending on what shipping costs add up to. Now that is for the classic version. If you want to go with signature version at $350 and claim one of the 500 limited edition copies, Ian’s autograph, a 7” single created by Ian for the book’s title b/w “Marmion,” original art prints by cover illustrator Peter Klucik, all in a clamshell box, then go for it. But you better make your move now as I am sure it will sell out quite quickly. That is quite the gift to put under the tree for your Jethro Tull superfan. 

I had a lot of fun reading all the stories and viewing all the pictures. If you are a fan you will go through this book quickly compared to others you may have hanging around in a box somewhere collecting dust. I admit I am one of those people. If I find a book I have a great interest in like this one, then it is a complete joy taking in every visual and every word and varying viewpoints of all the different band members.

The Ballad of Jethro Tull is an up-close look inside one of the most successful band’s in the world. I think what is so incredible was how it all started and where it all went. It is an amazing story of determination, wit, and persistence getting to the top of the heap in the world of prog-rock and music in general. From the humblest beginnings to superstardom and multi-millionaires is always a great story!

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
December 3, 2019

Founder of:

Review Provided By Prog Rock Music Talk

December 3, 2019

Crossover Prog Review: Be-Bop Deluxe-Modern Music Reissue (4 CD/1 DVD)

Release Date:  December 6, 2019
Label:  Esoteric Recordings


Born out of the blues-based British rock scene of the late 1960s, Be-Bop Deluxe are part glam, part pop, part punk, and part prog. This limited five disk (4 CD/1 DVD) reissue of their 1976 classic Modern Music is a complete remaster from the original tapes. The box set contains unreleased out-takes, a BBC Radio concert performance, A TV session from BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test, and a previously unreleased bootleg of a performance at the Riviera Theater in Chicago. These recordings were all captured during the height of the band’s creativity in 1976.

Founder Bill Nelson’s vocals conjure the earthiness of Billy Joel mixed with the gravitas of David Bowie. Lyrically, the album was inspired by the disillusionment Nelson felt toward the music business after touring the U.S. and a longing for home. Far ahead of their time, one doesn’t have to listen too carefully to hear the influence they had on post-punk English bands such as The Jam, XTC & Joy Division.

Disc 1 contains the remastered album in its entirety. “Kiss of Light” is chockfull of catchy hooks amplified by screaming guitar. It is but one side of the band as they switch gears with a softer, multi-textured beauty in “The Gold at the End of My Rainbow.” “Shine” is an extended seven-minute rock and funk jam initially released as the B side to “Kiss of Light” and this reviewer’s personal favorite.

Disc 2 is the real gem of the collection with “First Versions” and “New Stereo Mixes” of the entire album.  Those that stand out are: “The Bird Charmer’s Destiny” and “Forbidden Lovers.” Free from the sanitization of heavy production, these tracks are sharp, organic renditions, and the heart and soul of the collection. The “New Stereo Mixes” give the listener a feel for how alternative arrangements may have affected the final song.

Disc 3 gives the listener a taste of Modern Music live, with select tracks from a live show at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. “Blazing Apostles” is an extended twelve-minute sojourn where the progressive runs of Nelson’s concise guitar work are met with Simon Fox’s deep rhythms and Andrew Clark’s dancing piano riffs. This respite rings a bell in the harbor of your mind, clearing the fog and guiding you safely to shore.

While Disc 3 constrains itself to Modern Music, Disc 4 reaches back with music from the band’s first three albums, Axe Victim (1974), Futurama (1975), and Sunburst (1976) live from Riviera Theater in Chicago. Previously unreleased, the live guitar work of Bill Nelson on this disk is exceptional and will leave you wondering how he flew under the radar for so long and never reached the commercial success he so deserves. On this disc, you’ll hear the unrestrained sounds of the band breathing new life into their most popular hits at the time.

Be-Bop Deluxe is a sound you’ll feel you’ve heard before, yet it is unlike anything you’ve heard before. Textures, even within the same songs, are interspersed to produce a profound effect. You’ll hear T-Rex-like rock riffs followed by Genesis-like playful explorations followed by Jeff Buckley-like resonant vocals. If you’re discovering Be-Bop Deluxe for the first time, you’ll be pleasantly surprised and feel as if you’ve unearthed a real gem.  If you’ve known them all along, this reissue, especially Disc 2 and 4, will take your appreciation to new heights.
 
Tom Endyke - MuzikMan.net Staff
November 22, 2019

REVIEWS PROVIDED BY:


TRACKS:
Disc 1: CD
Modern Music
The Original Stereo Mix:

01. Orphans of Babylon
02. Twilight Capers
03. Kiss of Light
04. The Bird Charmers Destiny
05. The Gold at the End of My Rainbow
06. Bring Back the Spark
07. Modern Music
08. Dancing in the Moonlight (All Alone)
09. Honeymoon on Mars
10. Lost in the Neon World
11. Dance of the Uncle Sam Humanoids
12. Modern Music (Reprise)
13. Forbidden Lovers
14. Down on Terminal Street
15. Make the Music Magic
16. Shine (B-Side of Single)

Disc 2: CD
Modern Music
The New Stereo Mix:

01. Orphans of Babylon (New Stereo Mix)
02. Twilight Capers (New Stereo Mix)
03. Kiss of Light (New Stereo Mix)
04. The Bird Charmers Destiny (New Stereo Mix)
05. The Gold at the End of My Rainbow (New Stereo Mix)
06. Bring Back the Spark (New Stereo Mix)
07. Modern Music (New Stereo Mix)
08. Dancing in the Moonlight (New Stereo Mix)
09. Honeymoon on Mars (New Stereo Mix)
10. Lost in the Neon World (New Stereo Mix)
11. Dance of the Uncle Sam Humanoids (New Stereo Mix)
12. Modern Music (Reprise) (New Stereo Mix)
13. Forbidden Lovers (New Stereo Mix)
14. Down on Terminal Street (New Stereo Mix)
15. Make the Music Magic (New Stereo Mix)
16. Shining (New Stereo Mix)
17. Forbidden Lovers (First Version)
18. The Bird Charmer’s Destiny (First Version)

Disk 3: CD
BBC Radio One “In Concert” October 2, 1976 at Hammersmith Odeon London

01. Made in Heaven
02. Bring Back the Spark
03. Kiss of Light
04. Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape
05. Fair Exchange
06. Ships in the Night
07. Twilight Capers
08. Modern Music
09. Blazing Apostles

Disk 4: CD
Live at the Riviera Theatre, Chicago, March 1976.

01. Fair Exchange
02. Stage Whispers
03. Life in the Air Age
04. Sister Seagull
05. Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape
06. Maid in Heaven
07. Ships in the Night
08. Bill’s Blues
09. Blazing Apostles

Disk 4: DVD