Tag Archive 'Album reviews'

WELCOME TO MY TOP TEN NINETEEN ALBUMS

Welcome to my top ten nineteen albums.
It wasn’t easy choosing amongst all the great albums that I have owned and listened to over the years.
I hope you dig the albums I have chosen and my articles inspire you to find copies of them and have a listen.
I would be most interested in what you music buffs out there have to say concerning the albums I have chosen as my all time favourites,
Some of you will never have heard of them and others will know and love then as I do.
So in the words of Stanley Unwin from Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake –

“Life is just a bowl of All-Bran
You wake up every morning and it’s there
So live as only you can
It’s all about enjoy it ‘cos ever since you saw it
There ain’t no one can take it away.”

TALES OF MYSTERY AND IMAGINATION – THE ALAN PARSONS PROJECT

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Tales Of Mystery And Imagination by Alan Parsons was another of my early teenage discoveries. It was an album that transported me to places within my mind that I never knew existed. I would listen to the song “To One In Paradise” and in my idyllic teenage mind, imagine myself floating through the sky towards the end of school and the start of my life proper. This was certainly one album that helped me through my difficult teenage years.
As most people from my generation who are into music would know, Alan Parsons was the engineer on Pink Floyd’s brilliant album Dark Side Of The Moon.
Anyone, no matter how talented, would probably think twice before making a progressive rock/concept album based upon the horror stories and poems by Edgar Allan Poe, especially as their debut but I have to admit even the title of the album attracts and entices a person to want to have a listen.
Anyone who has heard it would agree, Alan Parsons did a great job in making this album which rocks, cradles and soothes as it takes you on a journey through its grooves.

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THE ALBUM

Tales of Mystery and Imagination is the debut album released in 1976 by the progressive rock group The Alan Parsons Project.
The album’s avant-garde soundscapes kept it from being a blockbuster, but the interesting lyrical and musical themes — retellings of horror stories and poetry by Edgar Allan Poe — attracted a small audience.
The title of the album is taken from a popular title for Poe’s macabre tales of the same name Tales of Mystery & Imagination first published in 1908 and many times since under this name.
Critical reaction to the album was often mixed, such as Rolling Stone, whose Billy Altman concluded that it mostly failed at reproducing Poe’s tension and macabre fear, ending by claiming that “devotees of Gothic literature will have to wait for someone with more of the macabre in their blood for a truer musical reading of Poe’s often terrifying works”.

This album was released in U.K. originally with a different name. Simply called “The Alan Parsons Project” it was successful enough to achieve gold status but later that year the same album was released under the name of “Tales of Mystery and Imagination”

“The Raven” features actor Leonard Whiting on lead vocals, with Alan Parsons performing vocals through an EMI vocoder. According to the album’s liner notes, “The Raven” was the first rock song ever to feature a digital vocoder.

The Prelude of “The Fall of the House of Usher”, although uncredited, is based on the opera fragment “La chute de la maison Usher” by Claude Debussy which was composed in 1908-1917.

The original version of the album was available for several years on vinyl and cassette, but was not immediately available on CD. This was due in part to Parsons’ desire to rework some tracks.
In 1987, Parsons completely remixed the album, including additional guitar passages and narration (by Orson Welles) as well as updating the production style to include heavy reverb and the gated drum sound of the 80s.
The CD notes that Welles never met Parsons or Eric Woolfson, but sent a tape to them of the performance shortly after the album was manufactured in 1976.

Track listing

“A Dream Within A Dream” [instrumental]
“The Raven”  (ft. Leonard Whiting on lead vocals, Alan Parsons lead vocal through an EMI vocoder, backing vocals by Eric Woolfson)
3. “The Tell-Tale Heart”  (ft. Arthur Brown)
4. “The Cask of Amontillado”  (ft. John Miles)
5. “(The System Of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether” (ft. John Miles and Jack Harris)
6. “The Fall of the House of Usher [instrumental]
1. “Prelude”
2. “Arrival”
3. “Intermezzo”
4. “Pavane”
5. “Fall”
7. “To One in Paradise”  (ft. Terry Sylvester)
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PERSONNEL

* Alan Parsons – Organ, Synthesizer, Guitar, Keyboards, Recorder, Vocals, *Producer, Engineer, Projection
* Eric Woolfson – Synthesizer, Harpsichord, Keyboards, Vocals, Vocals (bckgr), Executive Producer
* Orson Welles – Narrator (1987 version only)
* Leonard Whiting – Vocals, Narrator
* Arthur Brown – Vocals
* John Miles – Guitar, Vocals
* Jack Harris – Vocals
* Francis Monkman – Organ, Keyboards
* Kevin Peek – Guitar (Acoustic)
* Terry Sylvester – Vocals
* Laurence Juber – Guitar (Acoustic)
* Andrew Powell – Keyboards, Arranger
* David Paton – Guitar (Acoustic), Bass, Guitar, Vocals, Vocals (bckgr)
* Ian Bairnson – Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar, Guitar (Electric)
* Chris Blair – Assistant Engineer
* Peter Christopherson – Photography
* David Katz – Violin, Leader, Orchestra Contractor
* Burleigh Drummond – Drums
* English Chorale – Vocals
* Bob Howes – Choir, Chorus
* John Leach – Percussion, Vocals, Cimbalom, Kantele
* David Pack – Guitar
* Smokey Parsons – Vocals
* Joe Puerta – Bass
* Tony Richards – Assistant Engineer
* Jack Rothstein – Leader
* Daryl Runswick – Bass, String Bass
* David Snell – Harp
* The English Chorale and Played Ti – Choir, Chorus
* Stuart Tosh – Cymbals, Drums, Vocals, Tympani [Timpani]
* Tom Trefethen – Assistant Engineer

* Pat Stapley – Assistant Engineer

* Aubrey Powell – Photography
* Storm Thorgerson – Photography
* Hipgnosis – Design, Cover Art
* Sam Emerson – Photography
* Colin Elgie – Artwork, Graphic Design, Layout Design
* Billy Lyall – Piano, Drums, Glockenspiel, Keyboards, Recorder, Fender Rhodes
* Gordon Parry – Engineer
* Jane Powell – Vocals, Vocals (bckgr)
* Andrew Hurdle – Bass
* Christopher North – Keyboards

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(thanks to Wikipedia for the information supplied)

OBSCURED BY CLOUDS – PINK FLOYD

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PINK FLOYD have made some brilliant albums (all of them as far as I’m concerned),
and most people would say that Dark Side Of The Moon was their best and I wouldn’t argue the point because they’re right. I chose OBSCURED BY CLOUDS because it was the first Pink Floyd album I had ever owned and got into.
The first two tracks “Obscured By Clouds” and “When You’re In”, are my favourites from the album and the lyrics for “Childhoods End”  which explain growing from childhood to old age in a clear, clever and wonderful way are an example of Roger Waters genius as a lyric writer.
The fact that the album was made as a sound track for a french film called “Le Vallee”, about a group of people journeying through the wilds of New Guinea, where I was born, held a special meaning for me.

THE ALBUM

Obscured by Clouds is a rock album by Pink Floyd based on their soundtrack for the French film La Vallée, by Barbet Schroeder. Some copies of the album refer to the film by its alternate English title, The Valley.
The LP was released in the United Kingdom on 3 June 1972, on Harvest/EMI and then in the United States on 15 June 1972, on Harvest/Capitol.

At this point in their career, the band was not new to scoring movies. They had already scored the films More and Zabriskie Point in 1969 and 1970 respectively. So when the band went into score the movie, they had a lot more experience and therefore produced a much finer product.

The band was already working on The Dark Side of the Moon during this period, but production was interrupted when the band travelled to France to score the movie.
Nick Mason refers to the project:

“After the success of More, we had agreed to do another sound track for Barbet Schroeder. His new film was called La Vallée and we travelled over to France to record the music in the last week of February… We did the recording with the same method we had employed for More, following a rough cut of the film, using stopwatches for specific cues and creating interlinking musical moods that would be cross-faded to suit the final version… The recording time was extremely tight. We only had two weeks to record the soundtrack with a short amount of time afterwards to turn it into an album.”

While recording the music, the band was free to use “Standard rock song construction” to their advantage, and was such the case for “Obscured by Clouds”. The title track featured an early use of electronic drums, or “electric bongos” as Mason calls them. Rick Wright foreshadows what is to come later with his use of synthesizers on this album. A droning note (played on an EMS VCS3 synthesizer) begins the album. This song was often used to open their live shows in the following years. The band also used themes to their advantage. The melody played in “Burning Bridges” is echoed later in “Mudmen”. The song “Childhood’s End” is said to have been inspired by Arthur C. Clarke’s novel of the same name.
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“Free Four” was the first Pink Floyd song to get significant airplay in the U.S., and the first to deal directly with the death of Eric Fletcher Waters, Roger Waters’ father.

In an interview that appeared in the “Director’s Cut” edition of Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii, Roger Waters stated that early pressings of the album contained excessive sibilants in the vocal tracks, a problem that was corrected in later pressings.

Obscured by Clouds was the first Pink Floyd album to feature the VCS 3 synthesiser.

Pink Floyd opened some shows in 1973 with an extended jam based on the pairing of “Obscured by Clouds” and “When You’re In”, accompanied by smoke and a light show.

“Childhood’s End” is the only other song from the soundtrack to find its way to the stage.
It made several appearances in Europe in 1972 and at the start of the band’s March 1973 tour of North America, usually with an extended instrumental passage.

“Wot’s… Uh, the Deal?” saw revival as part of David Gilmour’s set list during his 2006 solo tour. One of these performances can be seen on Gilmour’s 2007 DVD Remember That Night and on the vinyl version of his 2008 live album Live in Gdańsk.

Side one

1.     “Obscured by Clouds”       Waters, Gilmour
2.     “When You’re In”       Waters, Gilmour, Nick Mason, Richard Wright
3.     “Burning Bridges”       Wright, Waters
4.     “The Gold It’s in The…”       Waters, Gilmour
5.     “Wot’s… Uh the Deal?”       Waters, Gilmour
6.     “Mudmen”       Wright, Gilmour

Side two

7.     “Childhood’s End”       Gilmour
8.     “Free Four”       Waters
9.     “Stay”       Wright, Waters
10.     “Absolutely Curtains”       Waters, Gilmour, Wright, Mason

Pink Floyd

* David Gilmour – guitars, vocals, VCS3
* Nick Mason – drums, percussion
* Roger Waters – bass guitar, vocals, VCS3
* Richard Wright – keyboards, vocals, VCS3

* Hipgnosis – cover

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(thanks again to Wikipedia for the information supplied)

LIZARD ~ KING CRIMSON

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KING CRIMSON have always been an extraordinary band, constantly changing styles and band members. In 1970 they released LIZARD and blew me away.
It is a bizzare, strange, trippy album that I’m sure would be disturbing to someone under the influence of psychedelic drugs.
But it is also a brilliantly pieced and arranged album full of great songs that you will have never heard the likes of before in your life.
It is not for all as I’m sure it is an album that is an acquired taste but once you have tasted it, you will never listen to music n the same way again.

When choosing an album of King Crimson’s as one of my favourite’s, it was a toss up between this album and “LARKS TONGUE IN ASPIC”.
Both brilliant albums as far as I’m concerned but LIZARD just won the race in weirdness.

ALBUM
Lizard is the third album by the British band King Crimson, released in 1970.
It was the second recorded by a transitional line-up of the group that never had the opportunity to perform live, following In the Wake of Poseidon.
This would be the first (and only) album to feature bassist/vocalist Gordon Haskell and drummer Andy McCulloch as official members of the band.

Haskell was previously a classmate of Fripp’s at Queen Elizabeth’s grammar school in Wimborne near Bournemouth, the pair having subsequently played together in local band the League of Gentlemen.
After Haskell contributed vocals to the track “Cadence and Cascade” on In the Wake of Poseidon, Fripp asked him to become an official member of King Crimson for the recording of Lizard.
Another supporting musician on In the Wake of Poseidon, saxophonist/flautist Mel Collins was also asked to become a full-time member of this line-up, as was drummer Andy McCulloch.
The group was then augmented with supporting players, including another In the Wake of Poseidon alumnus – the noted jazz pianist Keith Tippett – together with Yes vocalist Jon Anderson, and brass/woodwind players Robin Miller, Mark Charig, and Nick Evans.

Lizard is arguably King Crimson’s most jazz-inflected album, developing further in the direction suggested by the track “Cat Food” on In the Wake of Poseidon (also released as a single). King Crimson lyricist Peter Sinfield’s contributions to Lizard include some of his most imaginative and evocative work.

The powerful opening track, “Cirkus”, is perhaps the best-known track on the album, and begins with a hushed verse from Haskell before launching into a menacing theme played by Fripp on the mellotron.
The song’s verses then alternate with this signature theme, and the track boasts some of Fripp’s most dextrous acoustic guitar playing, not to mention a soaring saxophone solo by Collins. With a memorable lyric by Sinfield rich in circus imagery, the track builds up into a cacophonous climax.
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The next two tracks, “Indoor Games” and “Happy Family”, are offbeat and full of mischievous humour – the former with lyrics evoking various forms of hedonism and borrowing heavily from the guitar breakdown of Led Zeppelin’s Dazed And Confused, and the latter with lyrics about the dissolution of the Beatles.
The Beatles are represented in “Happy Family”‘s lyrics as ‘Judas’ (Paul McCartney), ‘Rufus’ (Ringo Starr), ‘Silas’ (George Harrison), and ‘Jonah’ (John Lennon).
Haskell’s vocals are distorted on both “Indoor Games” and “Happy Family”, and the two tracks are separated by the sound of Haskell laughing uncontrollably, as he tries unsuccessfully to sing the words ‘hey ho’.
His laughter, he later explained, was provoked by the fact that he thought these words ridiculous – which seems to be representative of his attitude towards Sinfield’s lyrics in general.

“Lady of the Dancing Water” is a more tranquil piece, whose lyrics and instrumentation have a medieval feel, in the tradition of “Moonchild” on In the Court of the Crimson King and “Cadence and Cascade” on In the Wake of Poseidon. The track is most notable for Mel Collins’ beautiful flute playing.

The album concludes with the bombastic title track, “Lizard”, the longest composed (as distinct from improvised) piece ever recorded by King Crimson.
This piece is divided into several sections and even subsections, with a narrative running through its entirety, about a prince who takes part in an epic battle.
The track’s grandiloquence verges on (self-) parody.

Lizard’s opening section, “Prince Rupert Awakes”, features Jon Anderson in his only ever contribution to a King Crimson recording. This section of the track alternates between sincere and ethereal verses, and an amusingly folksy chorus accompanied by handclaps. The two styles are then combined in a rousing, worldless chorale, that segues into the track’s next section, “Bolero”.

“Bolero” provides a showcase for the talents of supporting musicians Tippett, Miller, Charig, and Evans. Playing over McCulloch’s bolero-like drum part, they are given the space to develop progressively more jazzy solos around a central theme.
When this section of “Lizard” was excerpted from the whole, for inclusion on the compilation Frame by Frame: The Essential King Crimson, Gordon Haskell’s bass guitar was replaced with a part recorded by the later King Crimson bassist Tony Levin.
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As “Bolero” comes to a halt, it is followed by “Dawn Song”, the first of three subsections that comprise “The Battle of Glass Tears”.
“Dawn Song” opens with an ominous theme led by Robin Miller on cor anglais, which is then joined by a subdued vocal sung by Haskell.
The next subsection of “The Battle of Glass Tears”, “Last Skirmish”, is arguably the instrumental high point of the Lizard album. A lengthy section intended to simulate an epic and increasingly fraught battle, it culminates in ever more forceful repetitions of an ominous theme similar to the main theme of “Cirkus”, all reliably underpinned by McCulloch’s syncopated drumming.
If “Last Skirmish” represents a battle, then “Prince Rupert’s Lament” evokes the bloody aftermath, a funeral rhythm section providing the backdrop to Fripp’s plaintive guitar part.

“Prince Rupert’s Lament” having concluded “The Battle of Glass Tears”, “Big Top” then concludes both the “Lizard” suite and the Lizard album as a whole.
This section consists of distorted fairground music, echoing the album’s carnivalesque opening track “Cirkus”, faded in and out while it is simultaneously sped up.

By all accounts, Haskell and McCulloch had an unhappy experience recording Lizard, Haskell especially – a devotee of soul and Motown music – finding it difficult to connect with the material. Following the album’s completion, Haskell left King Crimson during rehearsals for a prospective tour.
During the next 19 years, he sought legal redress, because he believed that he had been cheated out of royalties owed to him for the album. Shortly after Haskell left the group, McCulloch did likewise.
The press release drafted by Sinfield to promote Lizard wryly quoted Max Ehrmann’s poem “Desiderata”, which contains advice on how to chart a true course through confusion.

Collins, on the other hand, remained in King Crimson with Fripp for the recording of the group’s next album, Islands. Haskell was replaced with Boz Burrell on bass guitar and vocals, while McCulloch was replaced with his sometime housemate Ian Wallace.
The Islands line-up of the group would finally give the Lizard material a live airing, with “Cirkus” and “Lady of the Dancing Water” becoming part of King Crimson’s touring repertoire. More recently, “Cirkus” has become part of the touring repertoire of the 21st Century Schizoid Band, whose members include Mel Collins.
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Lizard’s outside cover art is by Gini Barris, who was commissioned to produce it by Peter Sinfield.

The album’s outside cover consists of the words ‘King Crimson’ spelled out in ornate medieval lettering, the word ‘King’ on the back cover and the word ‘Crimson’ on the front cover, with each letter incorporating one or two discrete images.
These images in turn represent Sinfield’s lyrics from the album – the images in the word ‘Crimson’ representing the lyrics of the various sections and subsections of track 5, “Lizard”; while the images in the word ‘King’ represent the lyrics of tracks 1-4.

Whereas the images representing “Lizard” are medieval in content – depicting Prince Rupert, his environs (including a peacock), and the Battle of Glass Tears – the images representing the other four tracks juxtapose medieval and contemporary scenes.
The image around the letter ‘i’ in ‘Crimson’, for example, depicts the Beatles, corresponding with their pseudonymous appearance in the lyrics to “Happy Family”. Around the “n” on the front cover, there is a depiction of Rupert the Bear driving a yellow aeroplane.

The inside cover of Lizard consists of a marbled pattern, credited to Koraz Wallpapers.

Track listing

All songs written by Robert Fripp and Peter Sinfield.

Side one

1. “Cirkus”

Including:
* “Entry of the Chameleons”

2. “Indoor Games”
3. “Happy Family”
4. “Lady of the Dancing Water”

Side two

1. “Lizard” – 23:15
1. “Prince Rupert Awakes”
2. “Bolero: The Peacock’s Tale”
3. “The Battle of Glass Tears”
1. “Dawn Song”
2. “Last Skirmish”
3. “Prince Rupert’s Lament”
4. “Big Top”

MUSICIANS

* Robert Fripp – guitar, mellotron, electric keyboards and devices
* Gordon Haskell – bass guitar, vocals
* Mel Collins – saxophone, flute
* Andy McCulloch – drums
* Peter Sinfield – words, VCS3, pictures

ADDITIONAL MUSICIANS

* Keith Tippett – piano, electric piano
* Robin Miller – oboe, cor anglais
* Mark Charig – cornet
* Nick Evans – trombone
* Jon Anderson – vocals (track 5, part 1 – “Prince Rupert Awakes”)

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(thanks to Wikipedia for the information supplied)