All posts by MARowe

Al Stewart Tracks

A few weeks ago, we all tossed around the favored Al Stewart album.  With the comments and the personal emails that I receive (yes, there are some that find it simpler to just email), it was easy to tell that it was Past, Present & Future from 1974.

I preferred Modern Times even though I love much of Stewart’s work up through his last, Sparks of Ancient Light (2008).  And it’s quite a toss-up between Modern Times and Year Of The Cat.  Lately, I’ve been listening, heavily I might add, to Time Passages.  However, I keep coming back to Modern Times and its title track.

From start to finish, the song just is essential Al Stewart for me.  I can listen to it often.  And over the last 40 years or more, I have.

Musically, lyrically, the song works on every level.  The meaning of the song speaks volumes for me, especially its attention to the good and bad sides of nostalgia.

But while many of you chose Past, Present & Future, I’m wondering if it;s a song from that album that plays forever in your head.  Or is it a track from another album?

For the sake of discussion today, let’s share our favorite Al Stewart song, from whichever album it may issue from, even if the album is not your favorite Al Stewart set.

Maybe it might be easier if we did this:

There is a new Al Stewart collection on the table in the planning stages.  The label has called you to ask your choice of inclusion into the set.  Whatever you choose is guaranteed.  What is that song?

Gold Records On The Wall, or The Great Gulf Between Pop and Other Successes

I don’t know about you, but I always marvel at the great expanse of music appreciation that separates the world of popular music (or Pop music) from that of respected music, or even cult favorites.

In the past, major labels had no problem at all releasing not only the Michael Jacksons of the world (this is a massive list, folks), but also the music that may not have attracted a massive following, but definitely an appreciative one.

This is of varying degrees.  For example, Michael Jackson, the self-appointed King of Pop, sold many millions of albums.  Each album generated a selection of bonafide hits.  It is easily understandable why a label would want to continue releasing this kind of success.  Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, etc, etc.

Then there are the moderately successful bands and artists.  They still sold albums into the millions but amazingly not the numbers of Jackson or a Mariah Carey.  This would include The Rolling Stones, who may have sold around a few million copies of a particular album.  But when you realize the sheer amount of people in the world at the time of their popularity, why not more?  In fact, why would 15 million units for say, Goats Head Soup, be a difficult number to achieve?  Yet it was.  The Rolling Stones, while considered wildly popular, amazingly influential, never rose much above several million copies of any one of their titles, except for maybe Some Girls.

What’s the big deal, Matt?  Well, when you realize how many albums Michael Jackson sold of Thriller, you really have to wonder how a popular band like the Stones couldn’t replicate that kind of sales number.  Is there THAT much variance in taste that only several million fans can profess enough love to buy a Stones album, or a Beatles album, or others like these, and yet a much larger group of people have no qualms about spending that cash for a Michael Jackson album?

And then there are the cult bands.  These bands never sold a million albums. They may have delivered half a million units into households.  Still, labels gave these bands plenty of room to grow.  There are a ton of these bands.  Wishbone Ash, early J Geils, The Cult, and on, and on.

Then, of course, there are the bands that would only sell 250,000 units or less, and yet still received enough affection that they were kept on rosters.

This is in no way a knock on Michael Jackson, or Mariah Carey.  It is certainly not a bash at Pop, nor is it an indictment of “misguided” appeal.  I just find it amazing that a band like The Stones, or Jethro Tull, at their peak, could only move a million albums, and sometimes, even after decades can’t move some titles past a million.

The psychology of music appreciation is a mind-boggling one for me.  At a very early age, this used to make me wonder.  And I still think on this from time to time, marveling all the while of the kind of allure a Pop artist can hold over an audience, while a popular band can still only move a fraction of their “classics”.

Or did I ramble too much?

Let’s talk about this.

TAPSheet: Release Notes – 10/02/2012 (UK Report)

Lucky 7/Cooking Vinyl plan the release of Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da by Madness, which is expected to have the album out on October 29.

Salvo Records will release a remastered Frankie Said (The Very Best Of) featuring the songs of Frankie Goes To Hollywood.  This set is scheduled for November 5.

Rhino Records will release American Soul by Mick Hucknall, planned for October 29.

EMI UK plans a 4-disc collection featuring the music of Cockney Rebel.  The 49-track set will feature 2012 remastering.  It will be called Cavaliers: An Anthology 1973-1974.  Nice!

Decca Records will release Rod Stewart‘s next…never mind!

Rhino UK plans a 10CD Box set featuring the recorded works of Joni Mitchell for October 29.  It will be referred to as The Studio Albums: 1968-1979.

The hotly anticipated Jethro Tull classic Thick As A Brick, will get the 40th Anniversary Edition treatment, with the Special Edition being released in the UK on November 5.

Watch for the 2CD Live At Hull 1970 live set coming featuring The Who.  IT’s expected on November 19.

Mercury UK plan the release of a five-disc (including a DVD) Tenology featuring the timeless music of 10cc over 64 tracks, and 25 videos.  This must-have set is expected on November 19.

Island Records UK continue the Sandy Denny love with a 4-disc Box called The Notes and The Words: A Collection of Demos and Rarities, which is expected on October 29.

Atomhenge UK will reissue a new remaster of Palace Springs (1991 – Live) featuring the music of Hawkwind in an 2CD Expanded Edition (22 tracks) set for October 29.

Sony UK plan the release of 3CD Box set featuring the music of Manic Street Preachers called Generation Terrorists, which is expected on November 5.

Nova UK will release Live at Ebbet’s Field Denver featuring Gene Clark on October 29.

Watch for an Expanded Edition of War Of The Gods (1973) by Billy Paul (did he EVER make a bad album?) scheduled for October 29.

Edsel will release 2CD Collector’s Editions of Fine Young Cannibals (1985), and The Raw And The Cooked (1988), both by Fine Young Cannibals and both on October 29.

Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll (1978), the studio release from Rainbow will get a 2CD reissue on November 5 as will On Stage (1977).

Eastworld UK will release X from Focus (remember them?) on October 29.

Cherry Red Records plan the release of Yin & Yang, a collaboration between Jah Wobble and Keith Levene with a planned date of November 12.

Island UK plan a 2CD reissue of The End… (1974) by Nico that will include a number of Peel Sessions tracks as well as a few Grey Whistle Test performances.  It’s scheduled for October 29.

Newsroom Records UK will release a Deluxe Edition of Mid Air, the solo release from Paul Buchanan, on October 29.

The new Kris Kristofferson album, Feeling Mortal, is scheduled for UK release on November 5.

Big Beat Records UK plan the reissue of The Seeds (1966) by The Seeds on October 29.

Review: Senna – Mahogany Frog

Born out of the Prairies of Western Canada comes – a Psychedelic, post-modern, Canterbury-styled, rockin’ out band called Mahogany Frog? – you betcha’!!  This band caught me by surprise and hasn’t let me go since I first started to play this tremendous CD.  If you like the style of Soft Machine and Caravan, a sprinkling of Hot Rats and heavy Rock, catchy melodies, and blended with Tangerine Dream-style electronics, then you are in for a treat here.  (Plus, you are an adventurous musical type to boot).  I realize that this description may be hard to get your head around, but bear with me.

Beginning in Saskatoon and now based in Winnipeg, Mahogany Frog is a quartet featuring Graham Epp (guitar, keyboards, trumpet), Jesse Warkentin (guitar, keyboards), Scott Ellenberger (bass, keyboards, trumpet) and Andy Rudolph (drums and electronics).  This is all instrumental music with occasional voice samples and is melodic for the most part.  I made a reference above to Frank Zappa and I think that is justified in the way that MF play all over the place and challenge you, but still maintain melody and structure so that it doesn’t come across as Avant-garde or RIO (Rock in Opposition) – or at least not for long.  The multi-instrumentalists in this band really cook throughout and it is a treat to hear musicians not afraid to push a few boundaries, a rare thing in music these days.

There are eight tracks on the album.  They use all analogue equipment so there is a real organic feel to the production, which is super well recorded.  So on to the songs:

The album opens with “Houndstooth Part 1”, a four-minute “intro” of sorts with a powerful electronic sample of continuous upbeat pulsing overlaid with sweeping organ textures that build to a feedback crescendo.  This leads into Part 2, which builds on the beat with pounding drums, feedback guitars, and is really heavy.  This then changes course and you get into a syncopated “popcorn” sort of sound with the keyboards and guitars interplaying in a catchy melody.  This returns to the heavy attack again with a driving beat, Hammond organ – almost a Deep Purple-like instrumental.

Track three, “Expo 67”, starts with more soaring electronica, a pulsing that introduces another heavy song with very Zappa-ish fluctuations and permutations; a real freak-out that will have you relishing the fuzzy guitar and feedback.

“Flossing with Buddha” is a nod to one of my favourite Van Der Graaf Generator tracks, “Theme One”, with an uplifting keyboard melody and driving drums behind it.  This is majestic, goose bump inducing stuff.

“Message from Uncle Stan: Grey Shirt” begins with a somber and dense blending of keyboards, guitars and cymbals, ebbing and flowing.  Guitars begin to break through in a way that brings to mind Quicksilver Messenger Service’s first LP – very John Cipollina.  This is a modern take of 60s Psychedelica and a pleasure hearing such beautiful lines weave in and out.  This eight-minute opus gets heavier with real rockin’ power chords and feedback soloing – not to be missed.  This leads right into “Message from Uncle Stan: Green House”, that for three minutes goes into Soft Machine (Third) territory, with bass, tremolo keyboards and guitars slowing down for some heavy interplay.  They come back once again with the driving force of Part One before it ends.

“Saffron Myst” incorporates a very Latin-inspired rhythm with keyboards playfully soloing over the top.  A bit of respite from the sonics of the previous tracks but it also fits because of the tone of the instruments.
The final chords of “Myst” then lead into the nearly eight-minute “Aqua Love Ice Cream Delivery Service”.  And what a way to end the album.  This is really heavy Rock – pounding and intricate drum work, electronics, keyboards and guitars interplaying in a dense mash of Hendrix-styled intensity.  The final two minutes of the track (and album) features an electronic wash of sound with the final half minute a simple Bach-like harpsichord – unexpected but somehow it makes perfect sense!

I hope I’ve given you a decent idea of what Mahogany Frog’s music is all about.  It is a ride and a half and gets your juices flowing.  There are a number of bands out there playing in all types of meters and keys, but not many can keep the melodic side of Rock in their sites.  Mahogany Frog does it very well indeed.

Senna is their sixth album.  I’ve listened to the previous three (albums one and two are long out of print) and can tell you that if Senna grabs you, you will want to dive in to the other LPs as well.

The first link provided is to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s library that has an excellent bio and music samples.  The band’s website also contains lots of music and ordering information. Give these guys a try – I think if you are looking for a change of pace, MF will deliver!

Release Date: September 18, 2012

–Bob Metcalf

TAPSheet: Eric Clapton’s Slowhand To Get A 35th Anniversary Edition Release

Unfortunately, not all of our wishes get the Anniversary Edition.  This is the case with Eric Clapton’s wonderful, No Reason To Cry (released as [no reason to cry]) out in 1976.  That album not only generated the hit single, “Hello Old Friend”, it was also a party at The Band’s legendary Shangri-La Studios attended by Ron Wood, Bob Dylan (who contributed an unreleased Dylan track, “Sign Language”), Yvonne Elliman, all members of The Band, and others.  But 2006 has passed, and 2012 is near end (the album’s 35th Anniversary), and it looks like we will not see such a work in any kind of Anniversary Edition.


Eric Clapton’s next album, Slowhand, released in 1977 was quite the powerhouse.  It single-handedly delivered three high-charting singles, “Wonderful Tonight”, “Cocaine”, “and Lay Down Sally”.  In addition to those drivers, the album was given three-time Platinum status, a remarkable feat by ANY standard.

And so, on November 19, Polydor Records will issue a 35th Anniversary Edition for Slowhand.  The 35th Anniversary set will be offered in four versions that include LP, a 2CD Deluxe Edition, a 3CD/DVD/LP Super Deluxe Edition, and a single CD set.

The album will feature remastered tracks.  Other details that are expected too be with the set have not been released.  I’ll be sure to catch up this article with any fill-in info that is received concerning the 35th Anniversary Edition of Slowhand.

I’m just real sad that No Reason To Cry was ignored.

TAP Treasures: Dialogue Pt 1 & 2 – Chicago

Every once in a while, I hit on a song that spoke to the generation it was recorded for, but, as it stands, is just as timely today as it was back then.  At one time, I mentioned Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”, “Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)”, and “Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)”.  Those songs speak as easily to us today as they spoke in the past.

Today, I’m talking about “Dialogue, Pts 1 & 2”.  Released by Chicago on their exemplary album, Chicago V, in 1972, the song is a social statement in a ‘dialogue’, a Q&A between a concerned peer, and a spoon-fed clueless one.

In the Robert Lamm-penned song, sung by both Terry Kath, and Peter Cetera, Kath is questioning whether the oppressive concerns of the world are being attended to by the collegiate Peter Cetera.  Cetera’s world-view is that of apathy and blindness.  However, in the end, Kath feels eased while Cetera goes on to say, “if you had my outlook, your feelings would be numb, you’d always think that everything was fine”.

As this fine song draws to a close, choruses of “We can make it better”, “We can change the world now”, and “we can save the children” end the tune with optimism, as songs from the disconcerted and uneasy ’70s often attempted. The song finishes with a hopeful “We can make it happen”.

The lyrics are as follows:

Kath: Are you optimistic ’bout the way things are going?
Cetera: No, I never ever think of it at all
Kath: Don’t you ever worry when you see what’s going down?
Cetera: No, I try to mind my business, that is no business at all.

Kath: When it’s time to function as a feeling human being, will your Bachelor of Arts help you get by?
Cetera: I hope to study further, a few more years or so, I also hope to keep a steady high.
Kath: Will you try to change things, use the power that you have, the power of a million new ideas?
Cetera: What is this power you speak of and this need for things to change?
I always thought that everything was fine

Kath: Don’t you feel repression just closing in around?
Cetera: No, the campus here is very, very free
Kath: Don’t it make you angry the way war is dragging on?
Cetera: Well, I hope the President knows what he’s into, I don’t know, I just don’t know.

Kath: Don’t you see the starvation in the city where you live?  All the needless hunger, all the needless pain?
Cetera: I haven’t been there lately, the country is so fine.  My neighbors don’t seem hungry ’cause they haven’t got the time, haven’t got the time.
Kath: Thank you for the talk, you know ,you really eased my mind.  I was troubled by the shapes of things to come.
Cetera: Well, if you had my outlook your feelings would be numb.  You’d always think that everything was fine, everything was fine!

Part II:
We can make it better
yeah, yeah, yeah
We can change the world now
We can save the children
yeah, yeah, yeah
We can make it happen
We can make it happen
We can save the children
yeah, yeah, yeah
We can make it happen

We can make it happen, we can make it happen yeaah!

Social consciousness in music is not new.  But it is often eye-opening to me as I hear something like “Dialogue” and marvel just at how little we have really accomplished.  The issues that were important back in the ’60s and ’70s still seem to be here.  In many cases, the concerns are stronger than ever.

Still, I have hope!

On another note with regard to “Dialogue”, I find it an ignored song when you piece together ‘best of’ collections for Chicago.  When Chicago released their first ‘best of’, Chicago IX: Chicago’s Greatest Hits in 1975, “Dialogue was conveniently left off.  I remember being quite pissed in learning of this exclusion.  It wasn’t the first time a band left off an obvious choice in favor of something else, and it won’t be the last.  Nevertheless, I find “Dialogue” (both parts) not only musically pleasing, but an important part of the band’s wide array of tracks.  It spoke to their aware side.  And ours.

It still does.

Release Piece – Lux – Brian Eno

Brian Eno is the man!  With a varied history of musical works and affiliations, Eno’s resume is as impressive as any in the business.  Yes, he may raise an eyebrow from some person unknowing of Eno’s pedigree, but that doesn’t change the fact that Eno is THE man!

And so, with great excitement, I can tell you that on November 13 in the US markets, Warp Records will release Brian Eno’s first solo album since 2005’s Another Day On Earth.  The album is named Lux and is planned for CD, DD, and 2LP (180g) gatefold.  (The 2LP set is scheduled separately for December 11.)

AS bonuses, the gatefold CD softpack, as well as the 2LP set will add four prints to the mix.  In addition, the LP set will offer digital download rights.

Lux will feature four compositions, all titled after the name of the album.  The tracks will total approximately 76-minutes in length:

  • Lux 1 (19:22)
  • Lux 2 (18:14)
  • Lux 3 (19:19)
  • Lux 4 (18:28)

If you’re as excited as I am for a continuation of Brian Eno ambient, then mark your calendars for November 13, (December 11 for the 2LP set).

In Memoriam: Andy Williams

Since I was a young child, the voice of Andy Williams spilled out of every available speaker from somewhere.  Whether it was from the radio, from an LP, or, from a television set, Mr Williams’ recognizable voice was a warmly familiar sound.

Around our house, he was best known as Mr Christmas.  All of his many Christmas specials were avidly watched.  His versions of the many Christmas songs that played during the holidays were perhaps the only ones that really mattered.  Even today, I cannot hear “The Most Wonderful Time” without hearing Andy Williams’ version.  Even if someone else is singing it, Mr Williams’ version will trump it.

As I grew older, my fondness for Andy Williams grew with me.  My children, while not getting the benefit of watching an Andy Williams special (except for those found on DVD), developed a deep fondness for Andy Williams.

Today, the loss of Mr Williams was a great loss indeed.  He may not have been actively recording, but the fact that the voice that sang all of those loved tunes was still alive somehow gave me a sense of confidence that all was still right with the world.  I’m sure that came from all of the good times that I felt when I heard him.  Now, with his passing, I feel as if I have crossed a divide of my own.

Mr Williams, I will miss you.  I’m sure that many more, so many more than I feel the same about your departure.  “Moon River:, and “The Most Wonderful Time” are still here.  And I’m happy about that.

Thank you, Andy Williams.  Thanks for the memories.  They still keep my heart at peace.

Andy Williams

Review: Behind The Mask – Red Sand

Red Sand is one of (unfortunately) many “best kept secrets” in the Canadian Music scene.  When it comes to Progressive Rock, most of the newer bands are from the province of Quebec, a goldmine for wonderful and inventive music.  Sure, Canada has big bands, past and present, like “the Beeb”, Shania Twain, Alanis Morrisette, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, The Guess Who, BTO, etc. and many other artists that have been around for a long time.   But when it comes to the underground, which I think most Progressive Rock falls under these days, “more Indie than Indie”, you have to head to eastern Canada.

Red Sand has been around awhile, with Behind the Mask, the band’s fifth studio recording since 2004.  The albums are always well recorded and never sound like a homegrown project, which they are.  The mastermind behind Red Sand is guitarist, keyboardist, composer and artist (the album artwork) Simon Caron.  And what a guitarist he is.

His style falls into the same realm as David Gilmour (Comfortably Numb) and Steve Rothery (Marillion) in that slow burn, big tone sort of way.  Caron is edgier than either though; he brings a bit more danger to the notes.  His solos are quite emotional and always take off at the right places in the songs.  And he never overdoes things either – his compositions and lyrics are what matters.  And speaking of lyrics, he takes no prisoners when he has a bee in his bonnet.  Behind the Mask is no exception.

So don’t think you are going to sit comfortably numb through pastoral, symphonic Prog here; the music is emotional, angry and large – reading along is a treat and should be savored.  More on that in a bit.

The other members of the band are also up to his challenging compositions.  Stephane Dorval on vocals has a bit of a Roger Waters vibe;  Mathieu Gosselin is a major bass player and D. Robertson never rests with a simple drum roll – he is tense and always busy.  Both of these guys comprise an awesome rhythm section.  Also, Caron’s 14-year-old daughter, Pennsylia, provides piano and key solos – obviously musical genes run in the family (and, by the way, you wouldn’t know her age, she is that good).

So on to the music!  Red Sand mixes some different styles together, but definitely sound unique.  Fish-era Marillion is in there, as well as Pink Floyd and Van Der Graaf Generator and other bits and pieces that I will mention.  Most of the songs have that large, Pink Floyd “The Wall” sort of feel – starting with one pace, changing tempo, completing with another or back to the start.  Varied pieces often act as mini-suites with all the diversity that that implies.  Here’s what Simon says (pardon the pun) of this album in the liner notes:  ”The mask is for some, the easiest way to assert themselves.  For others, it is a way to entertain people and for some others, a way to hide the shame that exists in them.  But the fact remains, without it the world would not be the same”.

“Zero of War” starts off the album with a tense and heavy guitar-driven melody – think a harder-edged Marillion piece.  The drums are very tight, powerful and precise and the whole song rages on about the evil of wars past and present.  “Behind the Mask” has a Van Der Graaf Generator feel to it – again, the lyrics are really intense and describe the dark places where some people reside in drugs and homelessness and the insanity of these situations.  “Reflection” is an instrumental interlude with acoustic guitar, piano and keyboard strings that has a similarity to the theme of The Beatles’ “Blackbird”.  This becomes “Memory of Past”, with Rush-like riffs and a heavy onslaught from the band.  “Man of Liberty” follows with a driving beat that changes to a circus-like carousel theme then returns to a Marillion-like approach, especially kindred to Clutching at Straws.  “Veil of Insanity” bravely tackles the Middle East, terrorism and the connection with big corporate oil.  This piece is the most symphonic of the album and features dense piano runs and, surprisingly, a bit of a funky backbeat.

The seventh track is unnamed and runs right after the previous one, so perhaps it is just a second part.  In any case, it is uplifting with an Alan Parson Project kind of vibe – actually a welcome respite after over 40 minutes of intensity.

Red Sand will definitely appeal to listeners that want to experience music in the vein of Marillion, Pink Floyd and heavier, darker Progressive Rock.  With a lot of dynamic changes throughout, Red Sand have forged their own identity and make for interesting and involving music.  I highly recommend this recording, and would also recommend exploring their other albums as well.

Visit all things Red Sand at their official website.

Release Date: May 2012

–Bob Metcalf

Review: Pete Remembers Woody/A More Perfect Union – Pete Seeger/Pete Seeger and Lorre Wyatt

A thousand years ago, Pete Seeger gave a concert at my upstate NY college.  Through some creative excuse-making, I was fortunate enough to cut class early enough to get a seat on the stage where Seeger would be playing.  At one point in the ensuing concert, he switched off from banjo to 12-string guitar.  I almost fell off the stage when he handed me his banjo to “watch”.  As I took the banjo, I felt this burst of memories…all of the songs he’s played, the places he’s been (ok…so maybe I had imbibed in some illegal substances before the concert…it was the late sixties for crying out loud).

On the head of the banjo, I saw the handwritten words, ‘This machine surrounds hate, and forces it to surrender’.  To this day, I continue to be amazed at the capacity of music (doesn’t matter what genre) to document a culture and to impact what the values of that culture might be moving toward.  Nobody – I repeat, Nobody – has stayed as close to the issues that matter the most than Pete Seeger.  An unflinching advocate for social justice, equality, a fair wage, Seeger (now 93 years old) has not strayed from his basic values, that of ‘we’re all in this together’.

Appleseed Recordings has just released two recordings that serve to document and expand on Pete Seeger’s legacy.  The 1st album, Pete Remembers Woody (a 2-disc set) is a collection of reminiscences from Pete about his interactions with Woody Guthrie.  Sprinkled in between are versions of a few memorable Guthrie songs (Woody’s son, Arlo, with Pete on “66 Highway Blues”).  This is a must-listen for any true folkie, if not for the recollections about Guthrie,  then for the classic renditions of many of Guthrie’s most famous (and a few unknown) songs.

The second Seeger issue is a collaboration with Lorre Wyatt titled A More Perfect Union.  It is a collection of new folk songs where Seeger sings and plays 12-string guitar and banjo (if my fingers still move at age 93, I’ll be happy).  We’re not breaking any new ground here despite the presence of Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle, Emmy Lou Harris, and Dar Williams, among others.  It’s simply a collection of themes relating to the old Folk mode.  My favorite is “Old Apples”,  particularly poignant given Seeger’s gentle lead vocals.  To those who grew up on Folk music, I can heartily recommend these Seeger treasures.  The old master will not be here forever.

Release Date: September 25, 2012

–Bob Olsen