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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Art Griffin's Sound Chaser - Visions from the Present


Canada has been for me one of my favorite places I’ve always wish to go to. And the bands from that area whether it’s the sounds of Rush, Klaatu, Morse Code, Max Webster, The Musical Box (which I had the great pleasure of seeing them six years ago for their Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tour at the House of Blues), Maneige, and FM to name a few. It’s not just me loving these bands, but showing my support and seeing where the next direction will take the genre into.

In one of the projects that are taking those directions is Art Griffin’s Sound Chaser. Hailing from the Blue Mountains in Ontario, which is a town located at the southwestern area in Grey County and where the Beaver River flows into the rocky shores of Nottawasaga Bay by passing over the two dams by reaching its mouth. But it’s also a ski resort including the private Craigleith Ski Club.

But I’m off-topic. When this landed on my lap a few week ago, I didn’t know what to think of it. So I put the album on my portable CD player and for me, it’s not just a great album, but a very interesting release that was unleashed last year on the Velvet Orb label. It considers Art Griffin who is a multi-instrumentalist and composer, lead guitarist Kelly Kereliuk, electric violinist Victoria Yeh, and drummer/mixer Steve Negus of SAGA and Chris DeBurgh.

With a brilliant artwork of the album cover done by Roger Dean who’s done the Yes artwork, Osibisa, the Vertigo swirling logo, and White Willlow’s Future Hopes, he shows no sign of stopping. But let’s straight to the instrumental adventures with a few highlights on here. The alarm goes off on Nomadic Traveller as it delves into an electronic ‘80s voyage essence of the Trip-Hop groove as Art’s bass sets the tempo as the Wurlitzer goes into a wah-wah mode with a floydian-sque feel.

Red Sky at Night features mid-chomping rhythm sections between Art, Victoria, Kelly, and Steve. Ken Baird’s Rhodes takes you into driving across the highway with the fusion-sque beats while crossing between Yes’ Time and a Word-era and Rush’s Moving Pictures-era. It’s a combinational crossover, but the vibes between early ‘70s and ‘80s vibe works interestingly well.

Ascension pays its nod to 10cc’s The Original Soundtrack. Victoria’s beautiful violin work helps to say farewell either to a loved one or a friend as it sends warmth and hope to the stars. Near the mid-climax it has this ambient/atmospheric finale, but it goes back to the end by fading out into the sunset. Supersuit is a dynamic and heavy electro-rock thanks to the drum programming on here.

Both Art and Victoria are doing a dualistic melody between each other as if they are heading towards the solar system with a climatic ending whilst the 10-minute and 31-second epic, Happy Place which is a four-part composition, brings Kelly to the forefront. He takes the listener to his virtuosic improvisations channeling Steve Vai’s presence by going back and forth on the frets as Art gives him carte blanche to see him getting ready to fly with amazement.

Art has really brought a lot of ideas and hopes into his music. Now while I’m not crazy about the album, Visions from the Present, it has some brainstorming moments that just made me realize what he and his team will do next for the years and years to come. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Patto - Patto


Formed out of the ashes of Timebox, Patto brought the combinations between Jazz, Soul, Hard Rock, Blues, and Progressive Rock rolled into one in 1970. It’s a quite an amazing touch between some killer musicians. The late great Mike Patto just kills it on his lead vocals with his soulful arrangements. Then there’s Ollie Halsall who among supporters including XTC’s Andy Partridge, Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen, and Allan Holdsworth to name a few, is perhaps one of the most overlooked left-handed guitarist who never got the recognition he deserved. Not to mention drummer John Halsey and bassist Clive Griffiths into the foreplay in the rhythm section.

Their sole self-titled debut originally released on the Vertigo label in that same year, the band recorded the album with producer Muff Winwood at Island Studios in Basing Street in London, shows the power, the electricity, and the thunderous beats that Patto brings that is like volcano waiting to erupt at the right moment. You have the opening track, The Man which sounds like the could have been used in a sequence from the 1973 blaxploitation film, Black Caesar featuring Fred “The Hammer” Williamson walking towards the streets of New York as if he’s honored and shows his stamp of approval throughout the section of Harlem.

Money Bag begins with Clive’s bass leading into a winding groove followed by Halsey’s intensive grooves on his kit followed by Ollie’s off-the-wall guitar going up and down through his improvisation while Government Man which Andy Votel sampled on the 2005 Vertigo Mixed compilation, shows him more than just a guitarist, but playing the vibraphones near the end of the last 30 seconds of the piece to give a moody end as Clive’s melodic bass closes it out.

Red Glow sounds at first sounds almost like a session straight out of John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band and Imagine-era, but the engine gets all revved up to go. It begins with a reverb effect by Ollie that channels both of those two albums through his riffs, rhythm, and lead sections. He can take it up a notch whenever he would know where the band was going. It’s not just a powerful composition, but damn, Halsall is like a lightning ready to strike at any moment for the thunder at the right moment.

The three bonus tracks which are a part of a reissue done by Esoteric Recordings contains a 14-minute wildly improvisation turned into a ‘70s hard rock voyage with riffs and leads and done in the style of a heavier version between Allan Holdsworth, Blood, Sweat and Tears and Atlantis featuring Inga Rumpf on Hanging Rope. Then, there’s two live recordings done on BBC Radio One’s Sound of the ‘70s Session they did on November 3, 1970 performing Love Me and Government Man.

The 16-page booklet contains liner notes done by Sid Smith about the history about the making of their debut album, a history of the band’s formation, and an interview with John Halsey. It also contains photographs and live ads of Patto. This is an incredible reissue that just took me by surprise. I first heard about them 12 years ago on the 3-CD set of Time Machine: A Vertigo Retrospective 1969-1973 and of course the sample mix dedicated to the swirling logo done by DJ Andy Votel with Vertigo Mixed.

If you love the gems from the Vertigo releases of the golden-era of the 1970s between Clear Blue Sky, Nucleus, Colosseum, Manfred Mann’s Chapter Three, and Cressida, then dig deeper into the drive of Blues-Soul-Hard Rock sound of Patto.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Led Bib - Umbrella Weather


It’s been three years since I’ve listened to the London based quintet, Led Bib. Since their formation back in 2003, they have released five albums from 2005 to 2014 along with two live releases. They were nominated for the Mercury Prize for their third album, Sensible Shoes and received a 2005 Peter Whittingham Jazz Award for their debut, Arboretum. The quintet have never disappointed me with their essence of Experimental, Modal Jazz, and Punk Rock mixed into a giant blender and it sounds like a snarling beast ready to attack.

I first became aware of Led Bib’s music after hearing some of their music both on Prog Rock Deep Cuts with Ian Beabout and Sid Smith’s Podcasts from the Yellow Room. I can remember buying their fifth album, The People in Your Neighborhood on Wayside Music with my graduation money. And I was hooked. And then all of a sudden I completely forgotten about them....until this year.

They have released their sixth album entitled, Umbrella Weather on a new label with RareNoise Records. This is a Holy Shit release so far this year. It is a volcanic roar. And among one of those supporters is the godfather of punk himself, Iggy Pop who played their music on Iggy Confidential on BBC Radio 6. The album is like looking down the barrel of a gun and seeing if it is ready to reign hell and sweating bullets to kill.

Opener, Lobster Terror which sounds like a ‘50s Sci-Fi B-Movie (think Fiend Without a Face), kicks things off with a bang. The band channel Radiohead’s The National Anthem from the Kid A album. With its intense grooves, mid-tempo fast and exhilarating arrangements, Led Bib roars down like a flaming fire as if going into a gigantic blaze of glory. Fields of Forgetfulness is a tidal wave of destruction as if John Coltrane has hypnotized both Chris Williams and Pete Grogan’s alto saxophones while Mark Holub channels Elvin Jones with Too Many Cooks.

Screeching vibrations on one of their shortest compositions, the quintet delve into a haywire effect. On The Roundabout is a Brazilian-Swing Spacey Jazz Rock adventure. Donin’s intriguing bass lines and Toby’s chilling keyboards sets a scenario before Holub’s drums and the alto saxophones delve into the essence of King Crimson’s Lizard-era as the intense pulsating beats reach climax for the last three minutes in a trippy finale.

Toby’s keyboards takes you beyond the stratosphere and through the outer limits with Insect Invasion. This is another spaced and freak-out adventure thanks to the reverb and delay effects that he brings. He shows no sign of stopping. It’s almost as if he’s the new commander of the starship enterprise and telling his bandmates to make the jump to light speed as it ends in the styles of the New Orleans Jazz groove a-la Preservation Hall style!

Led Bib creates maximum volume and unexpected territories they bring to the Umbrella Weather. They are like a battering ram ready to swing down and bring the sever and extreme brilliance to the Jazz sound and I can imagine they are giving Kenny G the big giant middle finger to show real Jazz is supposed to sound. And they delivered it well. Play this bad-boy really, really, really Loud!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Magenta - We Are Legend


It’s been four years since we’ve heard from Magenta after the release of their 2013 album, The Twenty-Seven Club. The band have been very, very, very busy lately. Robert Reed has been doing work with Kompendium and his Sanctuary albums released in 2014 and a new one released last year, Christina Booth has released two solo albums from 2010 to 2015, and both of them appeared together on the Spectral Mornings EP release with Nick Beggs, Adam Hodgson, and Steve Hackett to name a few.

So it’s been a good while since we’ve heard some good music from them. This year, they’ve released their new studio album on the TigerMoth label entitled We Are Legend. There are three songs including one clocking in at 26-minutes! But it is a welcoming return for the trio and letting the fans know they are still here and never giving up on them. And Christina’s voice, will bring you to tears when she sings.

I first became aware of Magenta’s music nine years ago when I watched a live performance of them doing Demons from their Home album on YouTube. And I was completely blown away and I became a fan since then. 49 minutes of amazing music and astounding beauty. And added members including bassist Dan Nelson and drummer Jon Griffiths, you are about to be prepared to embark on a journey with the music of Magenta.

The opening track, Trojan begins with an eerie introduction done by Reed’s keyboards setting this post-apocalyptic wasteland that gives you the background what has happened before Chris Fry’s eruptive lead guitar roar. It reminisces between Steve Hackett’s playing and Muse’s Absolution-era a-la Matt Bellamy style that Chris does with those textures by bringing the two combinations as one.

Christina comes in to give you the story of Robots coming out of the sea as it’s inspired by some of the Japanese animated series. You can imagine this as an episodic rock opera done in the styles between Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, The Vision of Escaflowne, or Galaxy Express 999. It is a powerful and strong composition. Fry delivers well and I was completely surprised how he and Robert, who does his moog-like battle or floating to another scenario.

With orchestral sounds that made my arm-hairs go up, a mid-section haunting background with its Floydian vibe, Christina’s character in the song talks to the robot and knowing that both love and peace will happen one day. I love also that homage to Dark Side of the Moon with both the major and minor chords to honor the album that refuses to die.

Now for me, again I was surprised this piece clocked in at 26-minutes, but listening to this again and again, I fell in love with it and I was completely on the edge of my seat listening to this. Colours begins with an eerie lullaby with a toy piano-sque sound as it volcanically erupts between Reed, Fry, Nelson, and Griffiths. Fry delves into the blues whilst dipping his toe into the water on the delay/reverb effects.

The bluesy sections bring a different side to Magenta. Booth nearly goes into a style for a brief bit of the late great Janis Joplin. I can imagine them honoring the song Ball & Chain from Big Brother & the Holding Company’s second album, Cheap Thrills.

The piece is almost describing the listener of almost letting go of the past and present while moving on. Not to mention that little nod to Marillion’s Clutching at Straws-era in the last 3-minutes of the composition. The closing track, Legend which make listeners jump with that nod to the chilling classical nod to the alarming sound effect of THX, begins with a scenario of a battle that’s coming to an end.

It’s a sombering piece as Booth gives her force and energy by pouring it out as I can imagine her fighting back tears in the song as the piece staggers and shines brightly as you can the survivors are ready to have their own tomorrow’s for a new beginning and a new day. We Are Legend is a thrilling release this year.

And it makes us welcome Magenta back with open arms. Alongside their Symphonic and Orchestral side, Magenta bring the torch to life and as I’ve always said in some of the bands about the fires burning, Magenta makes sure that the flames never, ever, ever, ever burn out.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Kevin Kastning - A Connection of Secrets


It’s been a good while since I’ve listened to Kevin Kastning’s music. I have been so busy listening to some amazing music both old and new. I’ve always wanted to delve into the pool with Kevin’s music, and now I have with the release of his 24th studio album released on the Greydisc label entitled, A Connection of Secrets. He has never disappointed me with his sound. And with a title like that, it fits well with its themes. Alongside of the collaborations between working with Mark Wingfield, Sandor Szabo and Carl Clements to name a few, he's never done me wrong.

The themes which have ten compositions he wrote, deal with finding the deep and darker side of someone’s personal life on what they are going through their dark and troubling times. What Kastning does, is going through an ominous journey that takes us towards to which is not a pleasant scenario, but knowing it is a connection of what the person has become. The tones is a combination of neo-classical, surrealism, and avant-garde classical music. Believe me, it is a heavier atmosphere.

And with the instruments by using the contra-guitar, contra-alto guitar, piano, and the 15-string extended classical guitar. He’s been a very, very busy man. The album was recorded in three days at Studio Traumwald in Northern Massachusetts. And you can feel the pin drops in the different moments as if something terrible has just happen with its harsh chords, bright sounds, and mysterious atmosphere.

You can imagine walking through the looking glass and imagine going into this parallel universe of what was, has now become an eerie twilight zone scenario. Understand, Kevin’s music is not easy to get into, but the way he uses these themes, you can imagine him doing a score for one of either Alejandro Jodorowsky, David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick or Luis Bunuel’s films, it’s quite an astonishing and at times scary piece of music I’ve listened to.

A Connection of Secrets is another mind-boggling release that Kastning himself has unleashed this year and I hope he will continue to release more and more music to come in the years to come.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Fierce and the Dead - Field Recordings


Recorded on July 24th last year at the Ramblin’ Man Festival in Maidstone, England, sees The Fierce and the Dead giving their amazement, creativity, and eruptive/volcanic performance in their new live mini-album that the quartet did entitled, Field Recordings on the Bad Elephant Music label. They were on the same bill with Hawkwind, IOEarth, Von Hertzen Brothers, Procol Harum and Whitesnake to name a few as the quartet give audiences with the sounds between the genres of; Post-Rock, Post-Punk, and Electronic Rock at their finest.

The artwork which is done by comic book artist Mark Buckingham (Fables, The Sandman, Miracleman) based on the photo by Kevin Nixon, captures a very sci-fi artistry that Buckingham brought with a sci-fi futuristic feel of The Fierce and the Dead’s performance. For the four-piece, they have come a long way. From performing in clubs to be in a gigantic stage outdoors, it’s a long and winding road for them and they have made it.

The live recordings is very dynamic yet an eruptive release they have done this year. Not to mention they will be performing the first here in the States in May at RosFest at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. For me, with the Fierce and the Dead, that’s like (using sports analogy) winning the Super Bowl for them. And as I’ve mentioned earlier, they have come a long, long, long way.

Listening to the mini live-album, you can close your eyes and imagine yourself being at the Ramblin Man’s Festival and being there by showing your full support and knowing that Matt, Kev, Steve, and Stuart, deliver a volcanic performance. It’s almost as if my arm-hairs went up at 100.  The audience shows approval and applaud after they finish their compositions. Not to mention I think that it might be Matt Stevens’ sense of humor when he speaks, to show the band’s relaxation and having a blast.

There are moments on here which at times have a melody duel between the bass and guitars as the quartet take you on a journey with a mysterious, deep, futuristic ride that will put you on the edge of your seat. Again after listening to this twice now, this is for me…a Holy Shit performance I’ve listened to! While this was a short performance, I wish they could have done more to give the audience another ride to hurtle through the cosmos.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Allan Holdsworth 1946-2017

Allan Holdsworth was considered perhaps one of the most innovative, influential, overlooked, and virtuosic guitar players that was brought to life. He passed away on Easter Sunday at the age of 70. His death was announced on Facebook by his daughter, Louise. It’s a sad loss for a man who took the guitar and the SynthAxe to a whole new level. And with supporters including; Eddie Van Halen, Frank Zappa, Joe Satriani, Richie Kotzen, Alex Lifeson, and Robben Ford who considers him to be “The John Coltrane of the Guitar.”

Holdsworth started out back in the late ‘60s with the band, ‘Igginbottom when they released their debut album, ‘Igginbottom’s Wrench on the DERAM label in 1969 which included one of the co-producers Mott the Hoople’s Morgan Fisher. Then he would embark on other bands and artists including Soft Machine, Pierre Morelen’s Gong, Nucleus’ Ian Carr, The New Tony Williams Lifetime, Jean-Luc Ponty, Tempest, and Bill Bruford. It wasn’t until the late ‘70s when he joined up with the late great John Wetton, Bruford, and Eddie Jobson with the super group, U.K. in 1978 in which they released their sole self-titled debut album on the E.G. label as the band would release one more album, four live albums, two video releases, and the 14-CD/4 Blu-ray release of the Ultimate Collector's Edition.

Allan left the band due to creative difference after it was released while he embarked on a solo career. He released 11 studio albums from 1976 to 2001. I can remember when I was in College discovering Holdsworth’s music with his time with Tempest on their sole self-titled release back in 1973 on the Bronze label which featured Colosseum’s Jon Hiseman, Paul Williams on Vocals, and Bassist Mark Clarke.

It is perhaps one of my favorites. Not just because of the essence of Progressive and Hard Rock, but the musicianship on there is eruptive, powerful, and mesmerizing. It’s like this mid-cannon blast from the moment the song Gorgon kicks into high gear as Paul Williams delves into his soulful voice resembling Paul Rodgers of Free/Bad Company.

Holdsworth can bring the heavy roars through the complex guitars and it’s staggering along with the rising track, Up and On, the Cream-sque touch on Foyers of Fun, and riding down the highways shuffle blues rock on Strangeher.  Allan left the band due to differences which I believe he didn't want to have a second guitar player which was Patto's Ollie Halsall on the second album, Living in Fear in 1974. The band broke up after their second album was released as Jon Hiseman went to reform Colosseum (Part II). But I'm off-topic.

The loss of Holdsworth shows how much he was ahead of his time, pushing the boundaries, and always looking to see where the road will take him next. He was working on a next album which was announced two years ago entitled Tales from the Vault by launching a pledge campaign to crowdfund his album. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family in this difficult time. He was and will always be the Man Who Changed Guitar Forever.

If you want to delve or if you are new to the world of Allan’s music, here’s some recommendations I picked:

Tempest – Tempest (Bronze/Esoteric Recordings)
‘Igginbottom – ‘Igginbottom’s Wrench (Deram/Esoteric Recordings)
Allan Holdsworth – Eidolon: The Allan Holdsworth Collection (Manifesto)
Pierre Moerlen’s Gong – Gazuese! (Virgin Records)
Soft Machine – Bundles (Harvest/Esoteric Recordings)
U.K. – U.K. (E.G. Records)
The New Tony Williams Lifetime – Believe It (Columbia)

Or the 12-CD Box Set, The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever 

And if you want to show support for Allan's family for a family memorial service, please go to their GoFundMe and give your love and help which is up to $65,768.
(https://www.gofundme.com/allanholdsworthmemorial)