Κυριακή, 11 Οκτωβρίου 2009

Vortex Navigation Company - Things Make Patterns As They Fall

Vortex Navigation Company is the duo of Salamander's Sean Connaughty and Wes Morden (sharing duties on guitar, vocals, and loops/fX), with various guests (mainly percussion), to a large part doing spontaneous improvisations in one or the other's basement 'studios.' "Green Pyramid" is an experiment in mild droney dissonance and spooky lead guitar - not bad for a start. One of the few composed numbers, "Holler" features peculiar extra-bassy vocals over a misty potpourri of acoustic guitar, cricket chirping, and Peter Hollis' organ. It's October and Halloween is almost here... perfect timing! As you can probably tell, the whole album is moody and (presumably) introspective, and "Europa" is perhaps the best result of this approach. Subtle mallet percussion (by Wivinus no less) works beautifully behind the tapestry of warm echoey sounds... hard to distinguish the synthetic loops from the guitars sometimes. Later in the 20-minute piece, it turns slightly grey and even more soupy...a mind-numbing bliss out. Perhaps you won't even notice the Little Drummer Boy making an appearance in the background. "Down in the Willow Garden" is a traditional folk ditty that Sean probably heard drifting across a plantation one day while time-travelling from his current Georgia home-away-from-home. The other VNC original composition is "The Welcoming River," an acoustic piece but is rather unsettling in a very intriguing way - probably my favorite track on the album. On a par with Roger Waters' better dark-toned works anyway. 'Things' wraps up with another lengthy echo-drone work "Flying Low over Green Hills" that builds towards a freak-out climax and then a gradual easing off. All in all, this album is a pretty nice collection of things to lighten your spirit even as it darkens the skies overhead.

Kansas - Vinyl Confessions

Replacing Steve Walsh with singer/keyboard player John Elefante, Kansas demonstrated that they could carry on by scoring their biggest hit in four years with the Top 20 "Play the Game Tonight," the leadoff track from Vinyl Confessions. Like now-undisputed group leader Kerry Livgren, Elefante was a born-again Christian, however, and his involvement in the songwriting turned the group decisively toward religious lyrical sentiments, often of a judgmental, us-versus-you nature. It's possible that fans who had been happy to accept the notion that "we are dust in the wind" were less patient with the ideas expressed in Elefante's "Face It" ("How many times do I have to tell you?") or Livgren's "(You're Standing on The) Borderline." Or maybe it was just that it was getting hard to distinguish Kansas from Foreigner and Journey. In any case, Vinyl Confessions was Kansas' first album since their debut not to go gold.

Tangle Edge - Tarka

TANGLE EDGE is a norwegian music group that plays a kind of music that is purely instrumental and mixes improvisation with written parts. Stylistic they combine rock with elements of jazz, etnic and classical music. Though their style is very personal and unique blend, they have by their audience been categorized as differently as progressive rock, krautrock, free- jazz, space rock, canterbury rock, psychedelia, jazz- rock and experimental rock. The band was founded around 1980 by Ronald Nygård (guitars and keyboards) and Hasse Horrigmoe (bass guitar and 12-string acoustic guitar). The current lineup including Kjell Oluf Johansen on drums, has been operating since 1988. Since 1989 they have released four CD's, and toured England, Russia, Italy, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

Verity - Interrupted Journey

John Verity has been jobbing around the music scene since the sixties forming one band after another. He was spotted by Rod Argent and asked if he'd be interested in joining Argent as vocalist as the band's original singer Russ Ballard had departed. He stuck with them for a few years tasting a modicum of success before Argent decided to disband the group. Verity then decided to try his hand at producing before going back into the studio with a new band and producing Interrupted Journey. I use the term band loosely because various people have been invited along to contribute – including Rod Argent, Russ Ballard and Mike Rutherford.This is a surprisingly good album that's worn well over the years. Sure it's hard rock with an AOR bent but there's a solid journeyman approach to the project that retains its credibility. Tracks like "Rescue Me", "Just Another Day (In The Life Of A Fool)" and "Are You Ready For This" will never win any awards for originality but there is an integrity and belief inherent in Verity's powerful voice and proficient guitar playing that makes you sit up and listen. Even powerful ballads like "Fallin'" and "In The Arms Of Someone Else" sound fresh and meaningful. There's an absolutely superb version of "Stay With Me Baby" and special mention must be given to "It's Comin' Right". The song is so much like Styx I was looking for credits for Dennis De Young and Tommy Shaw on backing vocals!

Mandragora - Earthdance

Mandragora are a space-rock/world dance-music band from Brighton, England, whose formative output can be described as psychedelic rock with ethnic sounds and tribal rhythms. Formed in 1983, the band have released 5 albums of their own, and a collaborative album with Phil Thornton. They built up a loyal following on the free festival circuit of the 1980s and '90s, and were signed to Delerium Records. In recent years Mandragora have evolved into a world music/electronic dance act featuring singers and musicians from all corners of the globe.

Cirkus - One

This is a good re-master of the debut album by this typical UK "Proto-prog" band... a kind of stuff that is not absolutely fascinating, nevertheless it's a good example of the early 70's UK "Proto-prog" (Moody Blues, Spring and Cressida oriented), with a soft symphonic mellow touch. There are interesting and simple songs here, such as "April 73", "You are" and other sad songs like "A prayer"; moreover you find here the best and most progressive song, the title-track, which is divided into two parts, by adding the mellow sound, the classic organ and real fine strings ... well I don't like this genre very much (actually I don't like the majority of the bands whose sound is too much Moody Blues and Barclay James Harvest oriented !!), but anyway I recognize a certain taste within these simple compositions, making this album quite interesting ...

Mike Harrison - Smokestack Lightning

Best known as one of the founding members of The V.I.P.s and Spooky Tooth , following the release of 1971's "The Last Puff" and the breakup of Spooky Tooth, vocalist/guitarist Mike Harrison set off in pursuit of a solo career. Recorded at Muscle Shoals Studios, 1972's "Smokestack Lightning" was co-produced by Harrison and Chris Blackwell. While it wasn't perfect, his sophomore release was far stronger than the debut. On the downside Harrison remained a singer of limited capabilities (an expansive vocal range wasn't one of his strengths). Moreover, on tracks such as "Paid My Dues" Harry Robinson's extensive string arrangements all but drown Harrison's lower register vocals. Those criticisms aside, backing from Spooky Tooth alumnus Luther Grosvenor (who turned in a couple of tasty guitar solos - check out "I Wanna Be Free") and the cream of Muscle Shoals studio players (Barry Beckett, Clayton Ivey, Roger Hawkins, etc.) certainly helped salvage material such as "Tears Behind My Eyes" and the self-penned "Turn It Over". Harrison also proved fairly deft working with the blues - "What a Price" and the title track (though clocking it at over 12 minutes, it was six minutes too long), were both impressive, sounding like something off one of the early Spooky Tooth LPs. To our ears it's probably the best of his three solo releases. Unfortunately, with sales proving non-existent, the following year Harrison and Gary Wright (to that point equally unsuccessful with his solo career) reformed Spooky Tooth. "Smokestack Lightning" track listing: 1.) Tears Behind My Eyes (Jimmy Stevens) - 4:13 2.) Paid My Dues (Jimmy Stevens) - 4:20 3.) What a Price (Domino - Maddux - Jussup) - 5:51 4.) I Wanna Be Free (Joe Tex) - 4:12 5.) Turn It Over (Mike Harrison - Luther Grosvenor) - 6:30 6.) Smokestack Lightening (C. Burnett) - 12:29