Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Landberk - Riktigt Äkta

I picked this CD up many years ago after I heard the closing track "Undrar Om Ni Ser." Though I liked it the first time I listened, it was one of those things that really started to grow on me even more after repeated plays, and when it had finally taken hold I just had to buy the CD. The whole album is really this way for me; it doesn't knock you over the head, but slowly works its way into your bloodstream.

Landberk hail from Sweden. Their music is dark and melancholy, but not oppressive. The songs are actually quite beautiful, and they take their time to develop. If you're expecting lots of flashy keyboard work and blinding unison leads, you won't find them here. There is lots of space, plenty of room to breathe, and some of the longer tunes (like the one mentioned above) build very nicely. Take your time with this one-- don't listen on the road or when you are busy with something else. Listen to this album with the lights off and just let it soak in.

The guys in Landberk are clearly great musicians but they know how to hold back and play tastefully. Keyboardist Simon Nordberg contributes some beautiful Mellotron work. Guitarist Reine Fiske is a team player but when the time is right he comes to the forefront with some searing, gut-wrenching guitar solos. Bassist Stefan Dimle and drummer Andreas Dahlbäck provide a solid foundation punctuated by appropriate outbursts. And even though I don't understand the language, it's clear that vocalist/guitarist Patric Helje is an expressive, emotional singer.

The aforementioned track that brought me to this album is still one of my favorites, but surprisingly, the other track here that stands above the rest for me is the bonus track "Tillbaka." Though the tone of it doesn't fit in with the rest of the album-- it's a short, upbeat track with a simple pop song structure-- it's absolutely brilliant. It's very catchy, with a angular guitar riff and prominent Melltron, and a burning guitar solo from Fiske. I don't know whether this bonus track is on other CD issues or not. The one I have is the Record Heaven CD from 1995. This one is worth seeking out!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


This album always makes me smile. I know it's supposedly been made superfluous now by a number of other releases, remasters, etc. that also include the extra tracks that were at the time previously unreleased ("America" and "Dear Father"). But I always come back to this particular compilation. It's a really nice selection of tracks from their first two records, and as far as the extras?...they are amazing.

"America" is pretty commonly known by now of course, and it's an absolutely brilliant rendition, but the one song from this record that always gave me chills? "Dear Father." It has all the components of a classic Yessong...the impeccable musicianship, strong melodies, and sense of drama, but most importantly...emotion. When I say this song gave me chills I mean it literally. Listening to this song as a kid was like a religious experience for me. To this day it gives me goosebumps. It actually boggles my mind as to why this was originally left off the Time And A Word album, as I think it's stronger than most of the other songs on it (and I love that album). The song has been added to the Rhino remaster of Time And A Word, thus correcting this terrible oversight, but it also brings me back to another reason why I need to own Yesterdays: I hate the sound of the Rhino remasters. But that's a discussion for another time. ;-)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

For the Mellotron lovers

If you are a fan of that great old Mellotron sound, then you may well have already found this, but I'm going to post it here anyway...Mellotron.com has lots of great info and tasty tidbits about the sound we know and love. And there is a nice list of recordings featuring the Mellotron on the site here.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I don't agree with Robert Fripp

You see, Robert apparently doesn't care for the King Crimson album Lizard. I know sometimes artists are too close to the creation of their own work to judge it, and it appears that there are some difficult personal feelings for him around the making of this particular album and some of the people involved. But for me, as a listener who knows little to nothing of the background...I think it's a pretty darn good record. I just put it on the other day and was remembering how good it really is.

Here's one of Robert Fripp's Diary entries on the DGM Live site that pretty clearly illustrates his distaste for this album:

Is it Crimson's best record? No. And to be fair, it has some awkward moments, overly dramatic parts, and one bit that sounds like the lost soundtrack to a late-60s spy show (the middle section of "The Battle of Glass Tears"). But I'll admit to even enjoying the goofy horns that lead off "Indoor Games." The opening track "Cirkus" is classic Crimson, and the mournful "Lady of the Dancing Water" is simply beautiful. And with Jon Anderson's stunning guest appearance on "Prince Rupert Awakes"?...well, how can you go wrong? I'd actually like to hear the story behind how Fripp and Anderson hooked up for this, I don't recall ever seeing anything about that.

I think Lizard is a very good album, maybe not in the same ranks as In the Court of the Crimson King or Larks Tongues in Aspic, but easily on the level of other early gems In the Wake of Poseidon and Islands. Any fan of Crimson will enjoy this one.

AREA: International POPular Group

Area has to be one of my favorite discoveries from the Italian scene. I always find these guys a bit hard to describe because they are sort of all over the map musically, melding influences from Mediterranean to experimental, yet they have an instantly recognizable sound. And they somehow also manage to include in that combination two of my favorite genres-- progressive rock and free jazz-- and somehow make it work. They are not your typical Italian prog rock group.

At this point I've got six of their albums: Arbeit Macht Frei, Caution Radiation Area, Are(A)zione (live), Crac!, Maledetti, and Gli Dei Se Ne Vanno, Gli Arrabiati Restano! My personal favorites at the moment are the first one and the last one. My understanding from reading some other articles on the web about them is that that last one (Gli Dei Se Ne Vanno...) is not as highly regarded as the others, but in my opinion it is actually one of their best. Really catchy melodies on that one, but at the same time it also has some of their most avant-garde oriented material and some nice vocal acrobatics to boot. Demetrio Stratos was just a monster of a singer. Stratos also released a couple of solo vocal albums...I've heard one of them and it's pretty unreal. He died in 1979 (age 34!) from aplastic anemia. A true tragedy, and I wonder the same thing that I wonder about Jimi Hendrix or John Coltrane...how much farther would he have gone with the music if he had lived longer? It's hard to imagine.

I don't think any description I give here will really give a sense of the Area sound. So as John Coltrane said "Let the music speak for itself"...

As Stratos seems to be such an integral part of the Area sound, I have not yet had the guts to check out Tic & Tac (1980) or Chernobyl 7991 (1997), which obviously do not include him. But I'd appreciate any comments from anyone who has heard either of these. I'm definitely curious. In fact, if anyone has recommendations or info on any of the material with Stratos that I've missed...any of the live recordings, or Rock Exhibition...and I think there are maybe a couple of others?...I would love to hear from you.

Friday, May 1, 2009

England - Garden Shed

I have been pulling this disc out a LOT lately. This has to be one of my favorite 'non-mainstream' (in other words, not Yes, Genesis, ELP, Crimson, etc...) prog releases. I'm kind of amazed that England didn't go on to do a whole lot more, but then again, I guess they were coming in sort at the end of the genre's popularity (1977).

While their sound is clearly influenced by a lot of the 'bigger' names from the UK, they really have their own sound and put their own stamp on it. Some progressive bands of course borrowed so heavily that they just ended up sounding like a bad copy of the bands who influenced them. Definitely not the case here. I hear the spirit of a lot of the classic 70s British prog, but this album is really pretty unique. To me it feels a bit like the 'lost album' of some band that you always hoped was out there, except in this case it's not by any of the bands you would expect...and it makes me scratch my head and wonder "where did these guys come from?"

The songs are intricate but tuneful, musically interesting but never to the point of over-complication just for the sake of it. Lots of strong melodies and hooks that really stay with you. The songs build nicely and have a real sense of drama, without going overboard. The playing by all the musicians is spot-on perfect. Personnel is: Martin Henderson (bass & vocals), Franc Holland (guitar & vocals), Robert Webb (keyboards & vocals), and Jode Leigh (percussion, vocals & bass). And Mellotron lovers, rejoice! There is plenty here for you.

"Three Piece Suite" is a highlight for me, but there is really not a bad track on the album. I'd also like to mention "Yellow" which is a beautiful ballad, and provides a nice break from some of the high-energy music on the rest of the album. I can't recommend this recording highly enough. If you are a fan of Yes and Genesis but consistently find yourself disappointed with the "clones," this is the album for you.