Category Archives: Music

The KC Expansion

Just in case you thought you were alone in liking Fripp & Co,

You can visit the comprehensive web site at :
http://www.elephant-talk.com/

Tony Levin has a web site at:
http://www.papabear.com/

and Trey Gunn at:
http://www.treygunn.com/

Most of Robert Fripps CD’s are distributed through :
http://www.disciplineglobalmobile.com/

And the KC related music I have :

King Crimson

King Crimson ABSENT LOVERS
King Crimson B’BOOM (Live in Argentina)
King Crimson BEAT
King Crimson DISCIPLINE
King Crimson EPITAPH
King Crimson FRAME BY FRAME
King Crimson IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING
King Crimson IN THE WAKE OF POSEIDON
King Crimson ISLANDS
King Crimson LARKS TONGUE IN ASPIC
King Crimson LIZARD
King Crimson RED
King Crimson STARLESS AND BIBLE BLACK
King Crimson THE GREAT DECEIVER (LIVE 1973-1974)
King Crimson THE NIGHTWATCH
King Crimson THRAK
King Crimson THRaKaTTaK
King Crimson THREE OF A PERFECT PAIR
King Crimson V’ROOM

Then in the 1990’s

“The aim of these smaller Crimson projeKcts is to function as R&D for the greater Crim”
ProjeKct Four West Coast Live
ProjeKct One Live at the Jazz Club
ProjeKct Three Masque
ProjeKct Two Live Groove
ProjeKct Two SPACE GROOVE

From Members of the Band:

Belew, Adrian DESIRE CAUGHT BY THE TAIL
Belew, Adrian DESIRE OF THE RHINO KING
Belew, Adrian OP ZOP TOO WAH
Belew, Adrian YOUNG LIONS
The Bears RISE AND SHINE

Gunn, Trey ONE THOUSAND YEARS
Gunn, Trey THE THIRD STAR

Bozzio Levin Stevens BLACK LIGHT SYNDROME

From the God of the Gong :

Bruford, Bill FEELS GOOD TO ME
Bruford, Bill MASTER STROKES
Bruford, Bill ONE OF A KIND
Bruford, Bill (Earthworks) A PART, AND YET APART
Bruford, Bill (Earthworks) DIG ?
Bruford, Bill (Earthworks) EARTHWORKS
Bruford, Bill (Earthworks) STAMPING GROUND
Moraz and Bruford MUSIC FOR DRUMS AND PIANO
(Patrick Moraz of the Moody Blues)

and some of –
YES 90125
YES BIG GENERATOR
YES CLASSIC YES
YES GOING FOR THE ONE
YES UNION
YES YESSHOWS
YES YESSONGS
YES YESTERDAYS

From Robert Fripp’s Crafty Guitar Lessons was formed :

California Guitar Trio Invitation
California Guitar Trio PATHWAYS
California Guitar Trio Yamanashi Blues

Frippian albums by the Guitar God :

Fripp String Quartet THE BRIDGE BETWEEN
Fripp, Robert 1995 SOUNDSCAPES VOL 1: RADIOPHONICS
Fripp, Robert 1995 SOUNDSCAPES VOL 3: THAT WHICH PASSES
Fripp, Robert 1999 SOUNDSCAPES VOL 2: A BLESSING OF TEARS
Fripp, Robert A Blessing of Tears
Fripp, Robert EXPOSURE
Fripp, Robert GOD SAVE THE QUEEN/UNDER HEAVY MANNERS
Fripp, Robert NETWORK

Sylvian and Fripp DAMAGE
Sylvian and Fripp DARSHAN
Sylvian and Fripp THE FIRST DAY
(David Sylvian ex Japan)

Summers & Fripp BEWITCHED
(Andy Summers from The Police. 1 of 2 albums from the 1980s)

Bob also contributed contributed to :

Bowie, David Heroes
Grid EVOLVER
Rimitti Sidi Mansour
Rieflin Fripp Gunn THE REPERCUSSIONS OF ANGELIC BEHAVIOUR
Ten Seconds TEN SECONDS

Even his wife sings :

Sunday all over the World KNEELING AT THE SHRINE
Toyah (Wilcox) LOOKING BACK

The KC Experience

—————— A I V I R T S I N I M D A ———————

Date: Sat, 01 Dec 2001 22:29:21 -0600
From: “Toby Howard” <moderator@elephanttalk.com>
Subject: NEWS: Sid Smith’s new Crimson book is out

Sid Smith’s new book, “In The Court Of King Crimson” is now out, published by Helter Skelter, ISBN 1-900924-26-9.

That’s the news.

This is my comment: I bought my copy two days ago and am REALLY enjoying it.

Toby


Date: Sun, 02 Dec 2001 22:07:36 +0000
From: “Nigel Baker” <bakern@inet.net.nz>
Subject: Starting KC from 1981
I’m but 17 years old, and got introduced to KC when I was 16 ….
>Ive always wondered what it would be like to discover KC late in the game and THEN discover the rest of the catalogue, especially coming from an 80s/90s frame. I wouldn’t even know how to pose the question as to what the experience is, as, having heard and seen them from the start, amidst such a hugely differing environment (physically and mentally), I’m not even sure comparative grounds exist.
Well, this has prompted me to write my first email to ET.
I’m slightly older than 17… OK a LOT older, and I started
with the 80s material.

It all happened one fateful day in the early 1980’s when browsing
through the bargain bin at a record shop. There was a plain blue LP
with the name of a band I had never heard of. I was curious to know
what a “stick” was and already knew of Bill Bruford.

I was already aware of YES, having purchased the “Classic YES” LP
several years before. This was thrashed to death on a cheap LP player and at a volume sure to annoy the neighbors. It was probably also purchased on a whim due to the Roger Dean cover art.

At the time I thought of YES as just another rock band. I was not aware of “progressive rock”. In fact NO progressive rock was played
in New Zealand that I can recall. To this date, the only KC I have ever heard played on radio was “In the Court of the Crimson King”, and that was years ago.

Anyway, I got “Beat” for $4.99 (about half the price of a normal LP) and immediately loved “Sartori in Tangier” as until then I had never heard of anything quite like it. I spend years trying to find music of bands like KC. I eventually gave up. Around the same time I found Discipline and 2oaPP which I immediately liked.

I found out more about KC from books and discovered they had a past life. Over several years of scouring used record stores I managed to find all the previous studio albums. But I’m still kicking myself for not getting Earthbound and USA when I could.

These LPs tended to stay on the shelf and not get played much. I didn’t like the 1969-74 stuff as much as the 1980s trio. Strangely, it was not until I heard Frippertronics and the ProjeKcts that I could appreciate the earlier material. Now Red is one of my favorite albums.

On reflection, I think it is easier to approach KC from the 1980s albums.
They have the “Belew” songs that at least sounded like a conventional popular song, with a steady beat and verse/chorus/verse structure, a more familiar type and understandable by a non-musician like me. And the rest of the songs were a starting point to atonal music, dissonance and just plain weirdness.

For me, KC were the start of a musical journey back into the past that would end at the beginning of the 20th century with Stravinsky and Edgard Varese.

After 3oaPP and the breakup of KC I assumed it was all over (this was before the influence of the internet) and Fripp had retired. Then, about 1994-95 I was browsing a music magazine when I spotted a review of Thrak. I didn’t know of the reunion, and checked out the record store. I immediately got Thrak, Vroom and B’Boom. Since then I found ET (read every single issue) and now have just about everything Fripp has been involved with.

There is one thing I have always found constant with KC. Usually when I get a new album, I don’t immediately like it. But the more I play it, the more I like it.

Some have mentioned a link between Fripp and Miles Davis. For me there is a definite historical link. I can remember when one of our music shows played the video of “Sleepless,” it was just once, but I still remember it. At that time (mid 1980s) I was interested in searching for different music. When they played the Sleepless video, they also played the video for “Decoy”.

Until then, to me jazz was of two types :
– Big band swing jazz
– smaller bands with lots of meaningless solos where everyone goes
“yeah – right on” before the soloist returns to the group effort (BORING)

Miles Davis’s Decoy was a revelation. At last jazz had a “rock attitude”
and could be appreciated. I am also a Miles Davis fan and have just about all his albums since Bitches Brew.

Question:
I can vaguely remember hearing the opening chords of “Matte Kadusai” used in a BBC production many years ago. I think it was a nature, or possibly a travel TV program. The music was played over a scene on a beach. I cannot find any reference to it in the FAQs. Maybe my memory is fading. This would be 10-15 years ago. Anyone remember ?

Some of you have bean moaning on about getting email on ET, what you can and can’t say etc etc. I have a gripe with some of you out there (I’m not blaming the moderators for this). I just HATE it when someone writes a block of text 40 lines long without double line breaks. A solid block of text is difficult to read. PLEASE break your text up so paragraphs are no more than 4-5 lines long

BTW – are there any other ETers in ChCh, NZ ?

Nigel Baker
Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Heaven and Earth

Projekct X – Heaven and Earth (2000)

Adrian Belew — Guitar and additional ‘V Drumming’
Robert Fripp — Guitar and Soundscapes
Trey Gunn — Bass Touch Guitar and Baritone Guitar
Pat Mastelotto — Traps and Buttons

This release is comprised of jams from The ConstruKction of Light sessions. It’s much better than Thrakattak (1996) which is just a lot of guitar wankery and silly noises.

The main reason it really works is drummer Pat Mastellotto, taking the attitude of ‘get out of the way or follow’.

The sound is cosmic and futuristic, built with an unrelenting tension from the manic electronic driving rhythm pulses.

He contrasts Bill Bruford’s cerebral attack, creating a new KC that’s has an electric energy and trippy, organic subsonic stomp. Stick player Trey Gunn, really anchors the bottom end with a snake-like prowess; winding and driving against Pat’s dominating beats.

Mastellotto’s performance is scarily propulsive and far more congruous with this style of the material than ever before. Instead of using an electronic kit to merely replicate the cymbal washes and snare pops of an acoustic kit, he uses sampled sounds to his advantage, using spontaneous studio jams to retrospectively create arrangements that embrace the dark, electronic trance pulse of the digital age, while at the same time retaining the angular improvisation.

Everyone else is just there to fill in the void.

As labyrinthine as the roadmaps were for previous albums, they were still roadmaps; and often laden with guitar parts recognizably descended from territory of the 1980’s lineup.

Here Fripp and Belew shed the calculated straitjackets and let roar like never before. It is a true window into the age-old Crimson manifesto of attempting to control chaos.

‘Superbottomfeeder’
Is a big blast of Pat and Trey hitting the low end while Fripp & Belew riff over it all.

“Heaven and Earth”
Is the best track, having a more composed form and structure. It begins quietly, but soon morphs into a strong groove by the rhythm section.

This a favorite album of mine because of it’s unrelenting crazy crackling energy.

 

Three of a Perfect Pair

King Crimson – Three of a Perfect Pair (1984)

Left side:
1. Three of a Perfect Pair
2. Model Man;
3 .Sleepless
4. Man with an Open Heart
5. Nuages (That Which Passes)

Right side:
1. Industry
2. Dig Me
3. No Warning
4. Larks? Tongues in Aspic III

Other side:
1. The King Crimson Barber Shop
2. Industrial Zone A
3. Industrial Zone B
4. Sleepless (Tony Levin mix)
5. Sleepless (Bob Clearmountain mix)
6. Sleepless (Dance mix – F. Kervorkian)

Adrian Belew – fretted and fretless guitars, lead vocals
Robert Fripp – guitar, frippertronics
Tony Levin – bass, backing vocals, stick, synth
Bill Bruford – acoustic and electric drumming

This is the KC album I remember waiting for. Checking the music store weekly until its release in NZ.

To coincide with the release, the band set off on a Japanese tour (as can be seen on the Neal and Jack and Me DVD) at the end of the same month, followed by a lengthy tour through the US and Canada, culminating in a pair of concerts in Montreal in July (immortalized on the Absent Lovers album). The album and tour were the final recorded and live statements for the 1980s band, with the various members returning to their solo interests immediately afterwards.

It’s an experimental and unique album that brings 80s contemporary influences into the mix, while also staying true to King Crimson’s legacy of unforgiving vision.

Three of a Perfect Pair
One of the most radio-friendly song by the band to date. The guitars lock in together rather than teetering on the edge of falling apart. There is a steady beat and some of Adrian’s best lyrics.

She is susceptible
he is impossible
they have their cross to share
three of a perfect pair…
he has his contradicting views
she has her cyclothymic moods
they make a study in despair
three of a perfect pair…

one, one too many
schizophrenic tendencies
keeps it complicated
keeps it aggravated
and full of this hopelessness
what a perfect mess…

Model Man
Might be an eighties new wave ballad. It pulses along nicely with minimal frippertronics and a great chorus.

Look at the signs
Look at the symptoms
Look at the slight
Calm before the storm

I feel the silence
I feel the signals
I feel the strain
Tension in my head
Well, what more can be said…

Not a model man
Not a savior or a saint
Imperfect in a word
Make no mistake
But I
Give you everything I have
Take me as I am…

Sleepless
Another great Belew song will a nice call/response between the string players. It is best known for its distinctive opening bass-line which features Tony Levin slapping on the strings to create its pulsating beat. It came from Levin’s habit of tapping the strings in rehearsal as well as at sound-checks. The 2001 re-release features several different versions of the song. The opening bass-line has been used as the show theme for Australia’s RAGE program, since 1987. There was a video made of the song for MTV.

In the dream I fall into the sleepless sea
with a swell of panic and pain
my veins are aching for the distant reef
in the crush of emotional waves…

alright, get a hold of yourself
an’ don’t fight it, it’s over your head
it’s alright, the rumble in your ears
it’s alright to feel a little fear
an’ don’t fight it, it’s over your head
it’s alright, you wake up in your bed…

silhouettes like shivering ancient feelings
they cover my foreign floors and walls
submarines are lurking in my foggy ceiling
they keep me sleepless at night…

hey, can you picture the sight
the figures on the beach in the searing night
and the roaring hurt of my silent fight…
can you pull me out
of this sleepless night
can you pull me out?…

Nuages
brings with it a shift. Building off a beat with electronic pads from Bruford and some Frippertronic noises, it gradually builds into a darkly ambient, floating piece with odd guitar solos from Belew.

Industry
rolls in slowly. Frippertronics take centre stage over a barrelling low end from Levin and Bruford’s shifting rhythm. More modal experimentation, with outbursts from the rhythm section that seem uncertain, sudden, jarring. A distorted guitar fades in threateningly, moving inside and out of the pounding rhythms, now completely maniacal. The piece builds and builds, slowly, but soon all tentativeness is lost. It is marching right out of the speakers at us, coming for us. Soon even the guitars begin to hide in the shadow, screeching and sliding away from the madness.

Dig Me
hearkens to days of yore, with a whacked out guitar rhythm and a rhythm section that sounds like it’s just struggling to keep up, with metric and modal shifts uncertainly off-centre with one another, a disturbed vocal melody that swings in all the chaos, a song on the verge of falling apart completely.

Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part III closes the album well, opening with frenetic Frippian guitar work and moving into an updated interpretation of the old theme from the classic 70s album of the same name, Bruford’s rhythms feel at home in this twisting instrumental, menacing in the right ways but more willing to have fun than the previous versions. More interlocking guitars create off-balance harmonies. Still, it’s just not quite as powerful as the 70s conceptions.

The 80s lineup had lasted less than four years – recording three studio albums and undertaking numerous tours.

This final piece of that studio output is augmented with extra tracks including all of the mixes of Sleepless, two slabs of electronica and the band’s only recorded excursion into barber shop quartet vocals complete with humorous lyrics “We’re the King Crimson band, we don’t do 21st Century schizoid Man..’ Ultimately, a King Crimson lineup including all four members of the 80s band, would perform Schizoid Man, but that would have to wait for another decade.

Discipline

King Crimson – Discipline (1981)

“Discipline is never an end in itself, only a means to an end”

Adrian Belew – electric guitar, lead vocals
Robert Fripp – electric guitar, devices (Frippertronics)
Tony Levin – Chapman Stick, backing vocals, bass
Bill Bruford – drums

Side one
“Elephant Talk”
“Frame by Frame”
“Matte Kudasai”
“Indiscipline”

Side two
“Thela Hun Ginjeet”
“The Sheltering Sky” (Instrumental)
“Discipline” (Instrumental)

This is the second KC album I purchased, after getting Beat (1982). It was King Crimson’s first album following a seven-year hiatus.

Right away it is clear that this is a unique album. There is a distinctly eastern feel to the music. And it came at a time when Fripp was starting his guitar lessons and devising his alternative guitar tunings.

Tony Levin kicks off the album, with a crazy chapman stick riff in “Elephant Talk”, a perfect opener if there ever was one. Tony and Robert’s parts collide with each other into one powerful force, accumulating into great chemistry between them. Adrian Belew’s vocals and rhythm guitar lines add a sense of spontaneity to the band. While the other members are primarily musicians, he’s definitely a bit of a showman and personality. Adrian’s yelps of, “Talk, its only talk. Babble, burble, banter, bicker bicker bicker. Brouhaha, boulderdash, ballyhoo. Its only talk…” introduces a sense of eccentricity that is fields away from the serious nature of middle-70s King Crimson.

“Frame By Frame” continues the story of “Elephant Talk”. The lyrics don’t seem to have any specific meaning, but there is a chance that they are completely interpretational due to their broad nature.

“Matte Kudasai”, is s brooding chilled-out lullaby. It features some of Adrian’s best vocals on the album and contains a seagull effect that can be seen on the live DVD performance.

“Indiscipline” is similar to the first two tracks. But rhythmically more conventional. Adrian rambles a bit before coming up with:

“I repeat myself when under stress”
“I repeat myself when under stress”
“I repeat myself when under stress”
.
.
“I Like it !”

“Thela Hun Ginjeet” (an anagram for “Heat in the Jungle”). It’s funky, spaced out and weirdly fun, but still has a strict King Crimson personality. Robert Fripp plays his guitar in 7/8 time while everything else plays in 4/4, eventually coming into syncopation with each other later.

While the track was being recorded for the Discipline album, Adrian Belew, walking around Notting Hill Gate in London with a tape recorder looking for inspiration, was harassed first by a gang and then by the police. On returning to the studio, he gave a distraught account to his band-mates of what had just happened to him. This account was recorded by Fripp without Belew’s knowledge.

“The Sheltering Sky” shows Fripp and Belew feeding off each other perfectly. Robert Fripp’s Frippertronics system is in full effect. The track is named after and partially inspired by the 1949 novel of the same name by Paul Bowles. Bowles is often associated with the Beat generation, which would be an inspiration for ‘Beat’.

“Discipline” is the highlight of the album, in intricate intertwining of repeating odd time-signatures between two of the most thought-provoking guitarists ever and creates a flawless statement in minimalism.

King Crimson made a vital progression with this album, instead of keeping with the same sound like so many of their progressive rock contemporaries. Robert Fripp’s guitar lines have never been so refreshing while Tony Levin’s chapstick device and Bill Bruford’s expansive drum sound added another layer to King Crimson’s ever growing domain.

Red may be more influential and sentimental, but Discipline manages to better it in a lot of different ways. It’s sad that ‘In The Court of the Crimson King’ might be considered their best, because in reality, Discipline and Red betters it out by a wide margin.

Beat

King Crimson – Beat (1982)

Robert Fripp: Guitar, Organ, Frippertronics
Adrian Belew: Guitar, Lead Vocal
Tony Levin: Stick, Bass Guitar, Support Vocal
Bill Bruford: Drumming

Sometime in the early 1980’s I would regularly browse music shops. It was a time before CDs, Vinyl LPS were the most popular medium for music. In a bargain bin of LPs I found an album with a blue cover. I was vaguely aware of the musicians but I had not heard of the band. This would be the first King Crimson album I would buy, and one to come back to as a touchstone of progressive music.

The first side is mainly songs written by Adrain Belew. These were almost pop songs, but with a harder edge.

“Neal and Jack and Me” (4:22)
The album’s catchy opener features Fripp on Hammond electric organ, and Belew’s quirky lyrics (which are full of references to the Beatnik writer duo, Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassidy).
The ‘Jack’ of the title is Beat writer Jack Kerouac, while ‘Neal’ is Kerouac’s best friend Neal Cassady.

“Heartbeat” (3:54)
Undeniably cheesy, this is still a great song, and you may actually hear it on the radio from time to time (a rarity with King Crimson). Subtle time signature changes and a moody guitar melody underscore Bill Bruford’s textural drumming and the “backwards” guitar solo.

I need to feel your heartbeat heartbeat
so close, feels like mine
all mine
I need to feel your heartbeat heartbeat
so close it feels like mine
all mine…
I remember the feeling
my hands in your hair
hands in your hair
I remember the feeling
of the rhythm we made
the rhythm we made
I need to land sometime
right next to you
feel your heartbeat heartbeat
right next to me…..

“Sartori in Tangiers” (3:34)
The antithesis of pop, this Stick-based instrumental is very much Tony Levin’s creation. Opening with a pseudo-classical intro, it quickly moves though Hammond and guitar leads, ending only too soon. Note: The title is a clever twist on Kerouac’s classic, Satori in Paris. This remains a favourite track. For years I tried to find music like this.

“Waiting Man” (4:27)
Similar to “Discipline” (from the likewise titled album), this tune reflects KC’s fascination with world music. Bruford uses his Simmons electronic percussion pads to create a counterpoint to the bass line.
Unfortunately, the lyrics and vocals are not Belew’s finest moment.

I come back, come back
You see my return
My returning face is smiling
Smile of a waiting man

I, I’ll be home soon, soon, soon
Soon cry on your shoulder
Your shoulder against my burning tears
Tears of a waiting man

One two three four, one two three

I wait every moment
I wait, wait for my chance
I wait for my friend to say
Hello, you’re waiting man

Feel no fret, feel no fret, feel no fret
You can wait and feel no fret
And so I wait, so I wait, so I wait, so I wait

I return, face is smiling, be home soon cry on your shoulder
Tears of a waiting man, every moment wait for my chance
My friend say hello, feel no fret, feel no fret

The second side is more Fripp than Belew. It first I didn’t like this side as much, but after years of listening to music on the edge of sound, I like it more and more.

“Neurotica” (4:48)
One of the great crashing intros. With Bruford’s free-form drumming supporting Belew’s bizarre, paranoid lyrics this song comes off as full of demented imagery that describes the insanity of a big-city night.

“Two Hands” (3:23)
A nice little love song, or is it ?
Like The Police Song ‘Every Breath You Take’ it appears to be about a stalker or observer.
Always loved the shifting guitar textures that underpin the song.

Oh they’re touching
They’re touching each other
They’re feeling
They push and move
And love each other, love each other
They fit together like two hands…

I am a face
in the painting on the wall
I pose and shudder
And watch from the foot of the bed
Sometimes I think I can
Feel everything…

The wind is blowing
My hair in their direction
The wind is bending my hair
There are no windows in the painting
No open windows, no open windows, no…

“The Howler” (4:13)
This excellent tune name-checks Allan Ginsberg’s classic poem, “Howl”. Another catchy guitar figure and nice lyrics.

“Requiem” (6:38)
This instrumental track is the most avant-garde of the album. At this point I had not heard Fripp’s solo frippertronics albums so was surprised with the odd sounds.
Beginning with a distinctly Frippian guitar solo, Bruford’s jazzy drumming and Levin’s subtle additions flesh out the tune, making for one of the darker Crimson pieces.

My Idols

Haley & Crystal

American Idol has finished on Season 15.
Unfortunately the best singer, La’Porsha Renae lost to Trent Harmon.
So I have gone back over my favorite singers and found the albums they released. Which is the best singer and the best album ?

The contestants are:

Caleb Johnson – Testify (2014)

Candice Glover – Music Speaks (2014)

Crystal Bowersox
Farmer’s Daughter (2010)
All that for This (2013)

Haley Reinhart
Listen up (2012)
Better (April 29, 2016)

David Cook
Analog Heart (2006)
David Cook (2008)
This Loud Morning (2011)
Digital Vein (2015)

Siobhan Magnus
Moonbaby (2012)
Old Cape Cod (2013)

Danny Gokey
My Best Days (2010)
Hope in Front of Me (2014)
Christmas is Here (2015)

Jordin Sparks
Jordin Sparks (2007)
Battlefield (2009)
Right Here, Right Now (2015)

Melinda Doolittle – Coming Back yo You (2009)

Unfortunately some of the powerful voices (Melinda Doolittle, Candice Glover) have been served with albums aimed more at the teen market and poorly produced albums. My favorite singers are Haley Reinhart. and Crystal Bowersox. Haley released a very pop-oriented first album but has gotten better, especially when singing with Jazz bands. She has a new album ‘Better’ coming out in a few weeks. The single sounds like a promising start to the album.
Crystal Bowersox has two albums that are consistently good. So at the moment it’s a tie between Haley Reinhart and Crystal Bowersox.

 

Lana Lane

Lana Lane is a North American rock singer. She sings lead in her eponymous band, and has sung backing vocals for the band Rocket Scientists and guest sung on Ayreon and Erik Norlander albums.

She is married to music producer Erik Norlander, who co-produces her albums with her at their own studio, Think Tank Media in Woodland Hills, California.

Her first album Love is an Illusion was released in 1995 and obtained a fair amount of success in Japan, as did Curious Goods – her second album, from 1996.

Lady Macbeth is a collection of songs based on William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, from Lady MacBeth’s point of view.

Lana Lane appeared as a guest vocalist on two Ayreon CDs, Universal Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer and Universal Migrator Part 2: Flight of the Migrator, singing lead and harmony vocals. She also provided the computer voice for both albums.

In 2003 Lana sang the part of Queen Guinevere on the concept album Once and Future King Part I by Gary Hughes.

Secrets of Astrology (2000)

 

This was the first album from this group of musicians I purchased. The samples sounded interesting and I was intrigued by the cover. This was certainly a musical style I could relate to. I could hear a resemblance to the work a decade before of E.L.O.

Those strings and full harmonies and melodies. The album starts off quietly, a simple theme repeated with instruments slowly added (like Tubular Bells). Then, after several minutes a machine gun-like drum set kicks in. From then on until the end it’s flat out heavy, symphonic rock. There is no arguing with Lana’s title as “Queen of Symphonic Rock”. She is often compared to the Wilson girls from Heart. But as Heart is not a band I know a lot about, I can’t compare her to anyone.

While there are technically better singers, Lana has a powerful voice that rises to her husband, Erik Norlander’s songs. As for the cover, it is by Michael Parkes, one of my favourite painters. His work features in other albums by Lana and Erik. Erik even uses an image by Sci-Fi illustrator Jim Burns I am familiar with on his ‘Seas of Orion’ CD.

Love is an Illusion (1995)

After the first Lana Lane CD, I was hooked. I set out to get her remaining albums.

Her first album starts with someone tuning a radio. This changes to a choral effect then the title song’s main theme. The second track starts the song, Erik Norlander plays all the keyboards and propels the fast tempos along, ably assisted by Don Schiff (Chapman Stick) and Tommy Amato (drums).

Things slow down for the mid-tempo song “Coloured Life”. A good song with nice interplay between the keyboards and guitars. “Cold Outside” starts with a heavy metal guitar and assured rhythm section. In the chorus Lana gets to stretch out, he voice sours over the arrangements there is a catchy melody easily remembered after the album finishes.

“Through the Fire” is another song with all the necessary elements; chugging guitars, rock steady drumming, again that soaring voice and plenty of progressive elements to keep it interesting. Keyboards dominate in the foot tapping “Through the rain”, containing a good dose of swing rhythms.

“Faerie Tale State of Mind” dates from 1993, a nice ballad with grand sweeping orchestral effects. “Dream Burning Down” is more of a by-the-numbers heavy rock tune. “Can’t find My Way Home” looses its way a bit in the verses, but redeems itself with a strong chorus.

The album was re-mastered in 1998 by Erik, which wasn’t really necessary. The original is far better than must albums in the genre and he should be happy with the result.

This first album isn’t a heavy and overwhelming as latter albums. I suspect (like most first albums) that he had a good number of well rehearsed songs ready for recording.

This remains a favorite of mine in her discography and despite the above comments, I usually play the 1998 version with it’s fuller sound.

Curious Goods (1996)

With her second album, Erik and Lane had to prove they could do it again.

Although not the greatest Lana Lane album, it does have some of her best songs. A sample of ‘Eschers’s Staircase” sparked initial interest in her work. This is a great progressive rock song, with a strong chorus and nice instrumental breaks. It has a great driving bass line throughout most of the song.

The other good song is “Symphony of Angels” that merges fast guitar riffs with slower keyboard passages. At over six minutes, there is lots of scope for variations in the arrangements and tempo.

Erik Norlander is becoming a better composer and arranger although the material here is not as strong as in the next two albums.

Garden of the Moon (1998)

According to Erik Norlander, this album ten times the number of the two previous album. It’s not surprising, this is a harder, more rocking band that provides Lana with a consistent wall of sound throughout the album. The second track, “Destination Roswell” is a six minute radio friendly song with hit potential.

Things do slow down for the excellent “Under the Olive Tree”. Again a great symphonic song with some nice guitar solos.

The title tune is an Erik Norlander instrumental that could have come from a Rocket Scientists album.

This is perhaps the most commercial hard rock album of them all, but for me the best was yet to come.

New Opera

I’m not a fan of Opera, but there is a certain grandeur in those thundering chords, over the top string arrangements and some poor soprano trying to hold her own above it all. In the last 10 years there has emerged a marriage of rock and opera styles. Retaining the sound weight of an orchestra and adding drums, bass and metal-style guitars here is the new breed of operatic albums.

After Forever – Prison of Desire (2001)

They are often called ‘gothic metal’ and lumped in with artists like Nightwish and Edenbridge. But this album is different, where the other bands sound like a rock outfit with strings attached, this is the other way around. The compositions have a definite symphonic structure.

Throughout each song the themes and melody can change, often the percussion stops to allow the strings to take over. And on top of this is the voice of Floor Janseen. There are male grunts, characteristic of ‘gothic metal’, but here they are used sparingly and don’t overpower the orchestrations. This is big, bombastic and completely over the top, which is why I like it.

 

Aesma Daeva – The Eros of Frigid Beauty (2001)

As you can see from the cover, it looks like a CD of medieval music, possibly baroque. The trumpet fanfare that opens the albums confirms expectations, then comes a heavy metal guitar and crashing drums. A clear soprano voice sings among the musical spaces This is definitely not something by J S Bach. Further investigations reveal that John W Prassas II wrote all the songs. With a website named www.rootofallevil.com things may be a bit heavier than expected. Instruments include french horn, violin, flute, trombones and what sounds like a harpsichord.

The difference with this album is that not every instrument has to be present in every track at all times. Often things get very quiet and ambient, then slowly the intensity and volume increases. There are wide dynamics in most of the tracks and all of them have female vocals. Because of the wide variations in style, it’s difficult to categorize the album as a whole. Definitely something for the more adventurous listener.

Therion – Vovin (1998)

Therion (Greek for Beast) was first known as a Swedish Metal band when it was formed in 1990. The first albums contained male grunts and offered little different from most metal bands. Then in 1996, with Theli things changed. A string orchestra was added. Male and female choirs probably more acquainted with Handel joined the production.

Symphonic speed metal comes to life on Vovin.

Bandleader Christofer Johnsson fashioned a hybrid that displays how the potent elements of the two divergent genres can be fused. The recording is cohesive and robust, the strings, choral singers, and band merge together perfectly.

The emphasis is mainly on the musical arrangements of the orchestrations and choirs. The impression I get is that the guitars and percussion was added later. Classical music with heavy metal influences never felt so good.

Other surprises include the scarcity of rock vocals throughout and the charming Middle Eastern overtones found on the opening track, “The Rise of Sodom and Gomorrah.”

“Birth Of Venus Illegitima” is a more absorbing musical experience. The shifting between the low voices and the higher soprano/alto voices is a very nice touch.

“Clavicula Nox” has beautiful female lead vocals and acoustic guitar solos.

“Black Sun” and “Draconian Trilogy” uses a foreboding piano-line surrounded by gothic orchestration to create memorable songs.

 

New Symphonies

The orchestral symphonic form has been with us for several centuries, from Bach through Beethoven and Berloiz. Composers have used a long form of music to express themes and musical ideas that can range from a ten minute suite to excessive works that fill the best part of a day. Just because orchestral music has fallen from favor as popular music doesn’t mean it has been abandoned. Modern orchestral composers are now best known for film music. But the old tradition continues with other musicians……

Steve Hackett – A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1997)

Steve Hackett may be a great guitar player, but the reason he is not on my ‘Guitar Gods’ list is that he is an even better composer. Through his long career, he has performed a wide range of music. From Genesis to his solo works there is always a freshness and originality that shines through.

This album is similar to ‘Bay of Kings’ from 1983. Just Steve, an acoustic guitar and musical accompaniment. Here, the small orchestra on its own could be playing anything from the romantic period. The music is lyrical and sweet (but not too much). Then, when the theme seems exhausted, the guitar enters and continues the tune. Although there are 13 tracks from two to six minutes in length, comprising just over an hour, they all merge together to form one complete work.

Anyone who likes the guitar concertos of Villa-lobos or Rodrigo will like this. It’s modern with a wonderful warmth and glow that will remind you of compositions from years ago.