Friday Random 10, 3/20

Mar 20 2009 Published by under Music

  1. Valley of the Giants, "Back to God's Country": I mentioned Valley of the Giants a few weeks ago, as one of my favorite post-rock bands. A few weeks of listening to them incessantly hasn't changed that. They're absolutely brilliant. This track is very typical
    of them; it's got a slow start, with an almost droning main melody. And they take that,
    and develop it, through rhythm and harmony, until it's almost unrecognizable. And then
    everything changes.
  2. Hawkwind, "World of Tiers": typical Hawkwind. If you like them, you'll like
    this. If you don't, you won't.
  3. The Flower Kings, "Rumble Fish Twist": a live track by the Flower Kings. Every time I go for a while without listening to tFK, I'm amazed when I turn them on. Roine Stolt and company are just so incredible. To me, there's a kind of near perfection about the Flower Kings work that no one else comes close to.
  4. Kruzenshtern and Parahod, "Focus Pocus": Some of the strangest stuff I've ever
    listened to. K&P are somewhere between progressive Klezmer, Jazz, and noise... They're really amazing, but hard to describe or classify. If you can find a copy of one of their CDs, I highly recommend it, but they're very hard to find.
  5. Gong, "Infinitea": This band is yet another example of the "How did I not know about these guys?" phenomenon. They've been around for quite a while, coming out of
    the Manchester scene. They're basically a spinoff of sorts from Soft Machine. They are
    a really amazing progressive band, from the Jazzy side of things. They've been doing stuff
    since the 70s, and are still making new albums now.
  6. The Reasoning, "Dark Angel": This is a band that I can't make up my mind about. They're neo-prog. They've got brilliant moments, and they've got a lot of moments that are rather dull. I can't quite decide what I think on balance; I need to listen to them a bit more. On the good side, they've got three members with good (but very different) voices, and do a lot of really nice vocal harmony work, which is unusual.
  7. Uriah Heep, "What Kind of God?": A great disappointment. I've heard about
    Uriah Heep for the longest time, and I finally got around to buying one of their albums. I find it just intolerably dull. Really profoundly mediocre music.
  8. Sonic Youth, "Silver Rocker (live)": old Sonic Youth. I really love SY, and I
    think that their songwriter has gotten stronger over the years. But there's still a raw
    energy to their early stuff which the new can't match. It's still the same sound, and the
    older songs can sometimes tend towards being a bit on the simple side, but there's still
    something really special in their older material.
  9. Sylvan, "Strange Emotion": And another mixed bag. I was looking at other reviews of Sylvan, and someone described them as "Emo Prog". Not a bad description. It's definitely neo-prog, with the kinds of sound and structure that you'd expect; but it's got that mopey, self-absorbed feeling of emo-dreck.
  10. The Wishing Tree, "Ostara": And still another mixed one. This is Steve Rothery's band. (Rothery is the guitarist from Marillion.) I'm a huge Rothery fan - he's got both
    fantastic technical chops, and also fantastic musical taste. He's not just a loud fancy
    guitarist; he's a very musical guitarist. He's got an extremely distinctive style,
    and yet also manages to fit himself into whatever's going on around him. This album has
    some absolutely wonderful material; but it's also got a lot of really dull
    derivative stuff. The singer (Hannah Stobart) has a really beautiful voice, but she
    doesn't have her own style. She always sounds like she's trying to be someone else. Mostly that's Kate Bush, but at times, she sounds like she's trying to be Tori Amos, or
    Melissa Etheridge. But you can almost always listen to her and say "She's trying to
    sound like X". On the whole, I like them, but think they'd be much better if Ms. Stobart
    just figured out how to sound like herself.

No responses yet

  • Joe Shelby says:

    I grew up with one particular Heap album in the house, Salisbury, which has 2 great tracks on side one and a decent (but not spectacular) side-long track on side two. They really are, even in the John Wetton middle-70s (one thing he did post-Crimson), just a straight out rock group. Historically, the Heap are more known for being an influence on the arena-rock bands in their early stages, bands like Journey (pre-Infinity), Styx (the Wooden Nickle years), and REO Speedwagon, before each of those groups respectively turned into a pop ballad phenom.
    What made them special for the time was, well, just that. Between the heavy prog scene of Yes, Crimson, Tull, Genesis, ELP on one side, the relative ancient history that was The Who (even though their 70s output was nothing like their 60s), the pop movements of the Stones, the fading away or mellowing out of the handful of other 60s rockers that didn't die in 1970 (CSN, the Balin era Jefferson Starship), and the dominating pop hell that was the early 70s*, straight-forward "rock" was a rarity, so the Heap stuck out. There simply wasn't that much else for a rocker to listen to besides Pink Floyd and Wings at the time (which may explain why those two bands sold so many albums even through the assault of punk).
    * Trust me, I've tried to listen to an American Top 40 rebroadcast from the early 70s on XM, and it really is simply intolerable the garbage of the time. I have better luck enduring the disco of the late 70s than 4 hours of Partridge Family clones.

  • Dave M says:

    I too am surprised that such a big prog-head as you are hadn't heard of Gong. IMO their best records are the mid-70's Flying Teapot/Angel's Egg/You trilogy, but there are a lot of others too. They've put out a lot of stuff since then, under a lot of names - Daevid Allen must be eighty-five years old by now.
    If you like Gong be sure to check out Steve Hillage's solo records, esp. Fish Rising, which is as good as any Gong, and the ambient classic Rainbow Dome Musick.

  • roffe says:

    Uriah Heep released some good stuff in the early seventies, such as Deamons and Wizards and The Magincians Birthday. Either you like their style or you don't but the theory that their claim to fame basically is that there wasn't a lot of competition in the early seventies makes some sense.

Leave a Reply