Sunday, January 8, 2017
On January 8, 1947, a baby named David Robert Jones arrived on Earth just twelve years after another legend was born in Elvis Aaron Presley. While Jones would adopt many personas such as Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke, Jareth the Goblin King, and so many others. He would be famously known to the world as David Bowie as the man who, like Elvis before him, would change the world not just through his music but also for what he gave them in their own search for identity. His passing on January 10, 2016 has been catastrophic as tributes were held by many while fans were able to get a final gift from him two days before on his 69th and final birthday with his final album Blackstar. In what would’ve been his 70th birthday, many will hold tribute to him as it would be one of many goodbyes to the man who gave us so much.
For this tribute that I’m writing, I decide to make a list of 70 songs by David Bowie that I love but it will not include many of the hits that many know and love. That is too easy as a list of the hits is just immense. Then of course, there’s the famous album cuts like Moonage Daydream, Quicksand, and many others that fans love as they won’t appear in the list as well as instrumentals as there’s too many great instrumentals to choose. For my approach on this list, I will choose not just album cuts but also rarities, live version, and alternate versions of songs that he did that means a lot. I could make a bunch of explanations on why I chose these songs but that would be too long. These are just songs of Bowie that I really love and feel that anyone who is either new to Bowie or have heard the hits and some famous album cuts should check out as there is so much to what the man has done in the span of a career that will never be equalized. They’re all diverse and has something to offer as it show how broad Bowie was not just as a musician but as an artist who was backed by musicians who knew how to play.
I want to send a special shout-out to the people at the Echoing the Sounds forum for giving me suggestions as they’re just as big fans of Bowie as I am. This list will be broken into chronological periods from the eponymous debut album in 1967 to Blackstar:
Part 1 (1967-1973)
1. Silly Boy Blue (BBC Session)
2. Drive-In Saturday (Live Version 1972)
3. Velvet Goldmine
4. Cygnet Committee (BBC Session)
5. The Prettiest Star (w/ Marc Bolan)
6. Holy Holy (1970 version)
7. Bombers (BBC Session)
8. Moonage Daydream (Arnold Corns version)
9. Lady Stardust (demo)
10. The Wild-Eyed Boy from Freecloud (BBC Session)
11. Conversation Piece
12. Janine (BBC Session)
13. Running Gun Blues
14. Saviour Machine
Part 2 (1974-1982)
15. Space Oddity (1979 acoustic version)
16. Who Can I Be Now?
17. Because You're Young
18. Candidate (demo)
22. Red Sails
23. Drowned Girl
24. Cat People
Part 3 (1983-1991)
26. As the World Falls Down
27. That’s Motivation!
28. Time Will Crawl (MM Remix)
29. Sons of the Silent Age (Glass Spider live w/ Peter Frampton)
30. Never Let Me Down (Glass Spider live)
33. Look Back in Anger (1988 remake)
35. Prisoner of Love
36. Sacrifice Yourself
37. Shopping for Girls
38. Baby Universal
39. A Big Hurt
Part 4 (1992-2004)
40. Real Cool World
41. Black Tie White Noise
42. You’ve Been Around
43. The Buddha of Suburbia
44. Untitled No. 1
45. Strangers When We Meet (Outside Version)
46. A Small Plot of Land
47. I'm Derange
48. Subterranean/Scary Monster (live w/ Nine Inch Nails)
49. Dead Man Walking (acoustic version)
50. Seven Years in Tibet (Mandarin version)
51. I Can't Read (The Ice Storm version)
53. Can’t Help Thinking About Me (VH1 Storytellers)
55. Let Me Sleep Beside You (Toy Version)
56. Stay (BBC Live)
57. Shadow Man (Toy Version)
58. Heathen (The Rays)
59. The Loneliest Guy
60. Fall Dog Bombs the Moon
61. Bring Me the Disco King
62. Loving the Alien (Reality Tour)
Part 5 (2013-2016)
63. Valentine’s Day
64. (You Will) Set the World on Fire
65. You Feel So Lonely You Could Die
66. If You Can See Me
67. Sue (in the Sea of Crime) (Nothing Has Changed version)
68. Girl Loves Me
69. I Can’t Give Everything Away
70. No Plan
Thank you David. We will miss you.
Studio Releases: David Bowie (1967 album) - David Bowie (1969 album) - The Man Who Sold the World - Hunky Dory - The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - Aladdin Sane - Pin Ups - Diamond Dogs - Young Americans - Station to Station - Low - "Heroes" - Lodger - Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) - Let’s Dance - Tonight - Never Let Me Down - Tin Machine - Tin Machine II - Black Tie White Noise - Outside - Earthling - ‘Hours…’ - Heathen - Reality - The Next Day - *
Live Releases: David Live - Stage - Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from Mars - Tin Machine Live: Oy Vey, Baby - Bowie at the Beeb - (Live at Fashion Rocks (w/ Arcade Fire)) - (Live Santa Monica ‘72) - (Glass Spider Live) - (VH1 Storytellers) - (A Reality Tour)
Soundtracks: Christiane F. - Labyrinth - The Buddha of Suburbia - (Lazarus)
Miscellaneous: Peter and the Wolf - Baal - Sound + Vision - (Early On (1964-1966)) - (All Saints) - Toy - (Nothing Has Changed) - (No Plan)
© thevoid99 2017
Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Kraftwerk. The German electronic group that are really the godfathers of electronic music is probably one of the most influential groups in the history of popular music. Their innovative usage of the synthesizers, vocoders, and other electronic-based instruments that would be the basis for all of electronic music definitely changed the course of music despite the fact that they still haven’t been inducted in the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame even though they’re not a rock band. Yet, Kraftwerk’s influence in popular music is undeniable as it helped pave the way for the synth-pop groups of the 1980s to emerge while David Bowie was inspired by them for the title track to his 1976 album Station to Station. In the early 1980s, Kraftwerk would also play a key role in the emergence of hip-hop when Afrikka Bambaatta and Soulsonic Force sampled the title track of Trans Europa Express and the song Numbers for the very seminal Planet Rock.
While the group is currently led by its co-founder Ralf Hutter with longtime electronic percussionist Fritz Hilpert and another longtime member in keyboardist/percussionist Henning Schmitz along with live technician Falk Grieffenhagen who joined the group in 2013. The band has maintained that sense of prestige as they’re currently taking part of another American tour of their 3-D show which includes a rare show here in Smyrna, GA at the Cobb Energy Centre. The idea of them coming to somewhere like Atlanta as they’ve been known for playing mostly major cities like New York City and Los Angeles is just astonishing. For me, it was something where I had to go as it is likely this is the only show they might ever play here and fortunately, it was only a few minutes from where I live.
Leaving at around 7:45 as it was just a nice drive from my home to the Cobb Energy Centre which I have never been at. It is a beautiful place as I was at the second mezzanine in a good seat where it was in the middle right towards the stage. There were a few people dressed up like members of the band during the 1970s as one of them got his vinyl copy of Tour de France Soundtracks signed by the band. At around 8:35, noises from the stage began to emerge with the curtain displaying images of pixilated robots in front of the curtain with a screen behind the curtain going on. Then, the house lights were off as the band made their arrival to the stage to begin with the song Numbers. The downside of the show is that despite the amazing light and screen show they display. It has to be seen in 3D with 3D glasses as they’re given to the audiences for free as they get annoying to wear throughout the show. Yet, what they do with the 3D effects actually makes the glasses worth it no matter how annoying they are.
The fact that a lot of the visual effects come right at the screen and in display in 3D is truly wondrous as it is clear that in an age of high-energy lights and spectacles that is common with a lot of EDM shows. Kraftwerk is a group that does it right by just going for something simple but also create something that is truly out of this world. Notably in the visual performances for tracks like Computer Love, The Man-Machine, and Spacelab where in that track. There are these gorgeous 3D images that includes a Google Earth map pointer on Smyrna, GA which got cheers while the satellite seen on 3D would be right at the audience. The song would end with a flying saucer landing in front of the Cobb Energy Centre as it is one of the visual highlights. Songs such as The Model and Tour de France feature film clips in the background with the latter featuring added visual 3D effects as it also can be seen without the glasses.
Other highlights are some of the backing videos for the songs Autobahn and Trans Europa Express as it has these gorgeous images that play into the world of modernism. Another highlight of the show was in its encore for Robots where robots appeared moving around with video images behind them. It is a moment that is just fun to watch while the group would return for the final two songs as they would wear these unique costumes throughout the show as it featured lights on the suits that would appear for a different song.
Though the show wasn’t a full sellout, the reaction from the audience was definitely positive despite the fact that everyone has to sit though there were a few in the back that was dancing to the music. It was hard to sit and not stand just so the music can be enjoyed. Before the show began, ushers revealed that recordings can’t be allowed but since this is the age where everything has to be captured on a phone. Some were able to record whatever they can as did I though I only got a minute of Computer Love through the phone while I also, guiltily, admit to taking some pictures of the show while frequently apologizing to the man sitting in front of me as I don’t know how to turn off the flash. Plus, it’s not my phone as it’s my mother’s as it is something I don’t own (and I just lost the photos and videos when trying to copy them into my laptop).
The show overall is incredible as it’s really a once-in-a-lifetime event. Kraftwerk really put on something that music fans have to see. It’s not just in the music as it sounds great while putting on a set devoted to some of their finest songs. Especially as the men who were the godfathers of the electronic music scene not only still manage to create a show that will never be replicated but also prove they’re still ahead of everyone else. In the end, Kraftwerk 3D is an experience that is really unlike many shows that are out there.
Setlist: Set 1: Numbers/Computer World, Computer Love, The Man-Machine, Spacelab, The Model, Neon Lights, Metropolis, Autobahn, Geiger Counter/Radioactivity, Tour de France, Trans Europa Express
Encore: Robots, Planet of Visions, Music Non Stop
© thevoid99 2016
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Album of the Month: Radiohead-A Moon Shaped Pool
There is no question that Radiohead is one of the most important bands of the last 25 years. The run they had since their 1995 sophomore release The Bends to 2007’s In Rainbows is pretty much a streak of albums that many of today’s artists/bands wish they could have. While 2011’s The King of Limbs was polarizing, the band’s ninth release isn’t just a return to more experimental ideas but it is an album that has a lot more going for. Notably in the way the band mixes their idea of art-rock with these orchestral flourishes courtesy of guitarist Jonny Greenwood. Every song on the album is just phenomenal while the big standout is a recorded version one of the band’s very old songs in True Love Waits as it feels like a new song all over again.
Song/Single/Music Video of the Month: Bat for Lashes-Sunday
The second song and video from the upcoming album The Bride by Bat for Lashes is a more upbeat yet eerie song as it also has an air of darkness. The video itself feels like a continuation of where its predecessor In God’s House as it is set on the road but with a lot of ghostly images. Lyrically, the song has these haunting imagery into what she is singing as it plays into elements of death. The video itself feels very surreal where it is obvious that it is inspired by some of the works of David Lynch.
Ariana Grande-Dangerous Woman
Now as someone who is in his mid-30s, Ariana Grande is probably the last artist I would listen to as I’m not part of her demographic. I prefer Frank Zappa and Yoko Ono instead of a lot of today’s music as it doesn’t do anything for me. Yet, I will admit that every once in a while. There is a pop song that comes into my radar and I could get a reaction of this. Ariana Grande is actually a good singer as I did like the song Problems a few years ago but this one is incredible. She’s a singer that can really sing and doesn’t need a bunch of machines to make her sound good as this song is just really good with a bit of danger while the video itself is definitely nice to look at.
The Stone Roses-All for One
The first new recording by the Stone Roses in 22 years is an event as they are one of the greatest bands to come out of Britain. Of course, when it comes to the Roses. Expectations are high and it often can fall short of what people want but since this is from a band that hasn’t made any new recordings in a long time. They deserve some benefit of the doubt as this song is actually really good. Sure, it’s more based on rock with a few psychedelic flourishes but it really does rock as it features a blazing solo by John Squire while it features a steady rhythm from Mani and Reni and raspy vocals from Ian Brown. Who cares if it’s not as good as previous work. It’s a song that at least has more heart and soul than whatever bullshit that people are calling rock nowadays.
Due to the lack of albums that are covered for this month, the reason is due to the work I’ve been doing on covering Prince’s discography as it has been huge as well as being a massive undertaking. I took a break from the project though I do plan on finishing it as the inaugural piece of this series of lists called Ranked… Next month will not just feature Prince but also some favorite acts like the Cure whom I hope to see later in June during their tour.
© thevoid99 2016
Saturday, April 30, 2016
Album of the Month: PJ Harvey-The Hope Six Demolition Project
If there’s one person who is pretty much making unparalleled with anyone at the moment, it’s PJ Harvey. Dating back to her 1992 debut album Dry, Harvey has been making albums with such consistency and care as she is someone that continuously pushes her own boundaries and never makes the same record twice. Her ninth (eleventh if you count her work with John Parish) studio release is no different as it is her most socially-conscious record to date as many of the lyrics relate to people who are disenfranchised in places as Washington D.C. Kosovo, and Afghanistan. Musically, Harvey harkens back to earlier ideas while delving into other ideas such as psychedelia, blues and folk as cuts like A Line in the Sand and The Wheel are prime examples of a woman who has no equal. While other female artists like Beyonce and Taylor Swift maybe selling more records and be seen as icons. Neither of those bitches hold a candle to what Polly Jean Harvey is doing.
Song/Single of the Month: Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions-Isn’t It True/She’s in the Wall
Whenever Hope Sandoval is coming out with something new whether it’s in Mazzy Star or in her project the Warm Inventions with My Bloody Valentine drummer Colm O’Ciosoig. It’s always exciting to hear as the leading single from their upcoming third album showcases that amazing voice with some amazing instrumentation. The first single is just upbeat thanks in part to O’Ciosoig’s drumming while the B-side is just this simple folk-ballad as Sandoval’s dreamy and nocturnal vocals are just seductive. There are really no vocalists like her and hearing her again is a joy.
Video of the Month: D’Angelo w/ Princess (Maya Rudolph & Gretchen Lieberbaum)-Sometimes It Snows in April
Every tribute towards Prince has of late has everyone doing the song Purple Rain which is fine and all but Prince fans know there’s so much more to the man. On The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, D’Angelo decided to do something else and what better song to pay tribute to Prince than one of his most beloved ballads with the aid of Maya Rudolph and Gretchen Lieberbaum on backing vocals. It’s just a simple piano ballad that is really one of his most touching songs. Yet, when D’Angelo says Prince’s name is where for anyone that is a fan. Yes, the tears will start flowing as this is just the best tribute to Prince himself from my point of view.
Though they’re unfortunately lumped into that sub-genre of late 90s/early 2000 metal known as nu-metal, what Korn, Linkin Park, and Limp Bizkit lack isn’t just consistency but also the will to push themselves musically. The band’s eighth studio release isn’t just an album that is very heavy musically and sonically but also has the band just doing so much more while taking risks as they’re pretty much at a point where they don’t need to coast on their past glories. It’s not just the single Prayer/Triangles that is a key example but also cuts like Doomed User, Hearts/Wires, and the title track that show that they can still be heavy but also have a sense of melody as Deftones have now affirmed themselves as one of the premier metal bands like those that had done so much to the genre like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Metallica.
For all of the praise that is lavished on mediocre acts like Maroon 5 and Coldplay, it is clear that the one band the public really need to hear is Autolux as their third album Pussy’s Dead is just incredible. With its mixtures of blues, art-rock, and jazz, the album showcases a sense of musicianship that isn’t heard a lot through the playing of its bassist Eugene Goreshter, guitarist Ken Andrews (from the band Failure), and drummer Carla Azar as they all sing. Songs like the single Soft Scene, Listen to the Order, Junk for Code, and Brainwasher showcase music that is dangerous yet exciting as this is a band more people really should discover.
The Joy Formidable-Hitch
One of the newer and more exciting bands to emerge in the past five years, the Joy Formidable have brought a sound that is a mixture of straight-ahead rock with elements of shoe gaze that made their 2011 debut album The Big Roar one of the year’s finest. While their sophomore release two years later in Wolf’s Law was a good album, it didn’t have the immediacy or strength of the first. The band’s third release doesn’t just mark a newfound maturity in the band musically but also in terms of its production where the band produced the record themselves at the home of vocalist/guitarist Ritzy Bryan outside of Molds in Wales. It’s not just that sound of the band is fuller but also with a sense of confidence in songs like the single The Last Thing on My Mind as well as cuts like Liana, The Brook, and The Gift where it’s not just the band displaying a musicianship in the more rock-based songs. They also dabble with folk and traditional musical genres as it shows a band not just coming into their own but a band that has what it takes to be something important.
King Crimson-Live in Toronto 2015
King Crimson is pretty much one of the definitive bands in the world of progressive rock as there isn’t really thing bad to say about them. In another series of live recordings the band is releasing in their DGM label is from a live show the band in Toronto in 2015. Led by the band’s founder in guitarist Robert Fripp, the line-up includes regular collaborators in bassist Tony Levin, drummer Pat Mastelotto, and saxophonist/flautist Mel Collins along with new members in drummers Gavin Harrison and Bill Rieflin and guitarist/vocalist Jakko Jakszyk. The material features an array of songs and instrumentals from many of the band’s near 50-year history as it very exciting as well as loud while it is really a live record fans of the band need to have.
Pet Shop Boys-Super
Pet Shop Boys are one of those acts from the 80s that should never be considered a nostalgic act as they’ve continued to put out music that is very vital and creative. The band’s thirteenth studio release does have the band not only flirt with current dance trends in the single The Pop Kids. Yet, it is in the middle of the album where tracks like The Dictator Decides, Pazzo!, Inner Sanctum, and Undertow showcase the duo of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe at their strongest. Not only in terms of its production but also in how heavy it sounds. Though it’s a somewhat uneven album, it is one of the group’s worthwhile recording in a 30-year history that shows them still going strong.
Animal Collective-Painting With
Animal Collective are probably one of the great acts of the 2000s in terms of being out there and experimental. Yet, their tenth studio album is kind of a let down considering that there’s not a lot of material that stand out nor does it really have them do anything new. While the single FloriDada is a killer opening track, the rest of the album doesn’t hold up as it’s kind of a dud considering that there’s too much experimentation and not enough work in turning these ideas into songs.
Yeasayer-Amen & Goodbye
The band’s fourth release is once again a very adventurous and weird album as it’s a band creating something that is surreal and enthralling. Though it doesn’t have a lot consistency and can sometimes be weird for its own good. The album does at least have some songs that do stand out like Dead Seas Scroll, Gerson’s Whistle, and I Am Chemistry. Especially as there’s also album cuts that manage to help out with rest of the album despite some of the issues in its sequencing.
© thevoid99 2016
Thursday, April 21, 2016
Prince Rogers Nelson aka Prince aka the Artist Formerly Known as Prince. What is there to say about him? The man was a genius. Not just as a songwriter, a producer, a performer, and a musician. He was a lot of things and more. The man was essentially it. In a decade that was defined by superstars and icons, it can be debated on who was the bigger star yet Prince was undoubtedly a man in his own world in terms of his showmanship and the fact that he could play like a motherfucker. Some said he was a bit like James Brown in terms of being a performer. Some said he was like Stevie Wonder for the fact that he could play so many instruments and be so gifted. Some said he was like Little Richard in terms of flamboyance and showmanship. Some said that he was a bit like Jimi Hendrix in terms of his skills as a guitarist. Yet, he’s all of those things but he is Prince.
For anyone born in the 1980s such as myself as there was always one or maybe more that people loved. Though for me as a kid, it depended on who I was into at the time in the age of MTV. Whether it was David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Van Halen, Talking Heads, the Clash, Bruce Springsteen, and the Cars. Prince was also part of that circle as songs like When Doves Cry, Let’s Go Crazy, Little Red Corvette, 1999, and Raspberry Beret were part of that soundtrack of songs I was listening to at age of three to five. Once I would grow up as so many things were happening and I was in elementary school, Prince was still around though the kids were more into hip-hop and hair metal but I still thought Prince was cool. Once I became a teenager and the music I was listening to and would become part of the soundtrack of my life were Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam, Metallica, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers but Prince was still around as he had songs I liked at the time like 7 and Cream.
I think once I got into my 20s where it was around the time where I had fully immersed myself into the music of Bowie and other older acts like the Beatles, Pink Floyd, New Order/Joy Division, the Clash, and several other acts along with NIN and Radiohead. Prince was someone I was also starting to re-discover but also go into deep into his work as I believe his work from Dirty Mind in 1980 to the original bootleg release of The Black Album in 1987 are his most defining work and a must for any fan of music. Though much of his output after that would have some great moments, they were also moments that were spotty as it’s hard to say if any of the albums he made after that were as good as classics like Dirty Mind, 1999, Purple Rain, and Sign “O” the Times. Albums like Controversy, Around the World in a Day, Parade, and The Black Album had other things to offer as it showed that Prince, like Bowie, wouldn’t be confined to one genre.
While it is obvious that Prince and Bowie are similar and probably were admirers to each other, for anyone that know that a couple of Prince’s songs like Cream and Peach are based on the work of Marc Bolan as it seems like Prince is more of a Bolan fan than of Bowie’s. This is just one of the aspects of Prince that is unique where he can do straight-up 70s glam but also do soul in a song like Money Don’t Matter 2 Night. There was no boundaries in the man while the persona he created was probably more eccentric than Bowie’s from his first appearance on American Bandstand where he didn’t say a word during his interview with Dick Clark to the time he opened for the Rolling Stones during their 1981 U.S. tour where he was wear black underwear, stiletto boots, ass-less chaps, and all sorts of crazy shit during the tour for Dirty Mind where he withstood the boos and catcalls he received.
During that time where I was learning more about him, I realized how way ahead of his time he was while also being very dangerous which is lacking severely in pop music. The line “am I black or white?/Am I straight or gay?” in the title track to Controversy was quite racy for its time while a song as catchy as Little Red Corvette was just as shocking with that line “she’s got a pocket full of Trojans, some of them used”. As a kid, I thought the song was about a car but once I grew up into my 20s and realized what it was about. I was like “Oh!” as I couldn’t believe that got played on the radio and MTV. Once the years went by where Prince’s eccentricities tended to sort of overwhelm the music. I had become a casual admirer of his work while accepting his eccentricities since geniuses are allowed to be eccentric. Still, that didn’t deter me from enjoying his music or his performances such as the one he gave at the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 where he basically gave one of the best guitar solos on the Beatles' While My Guitar Gently Weeps where he performed the song with Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne in celebration of George Harrison.
Then in February of 2007, he gave what I think is the definitive Super Bowl halftime show performance as he pretty much took every performer before and since to school. There’s great shows but Prince just goes all out in not just doing the hits but also a medley of covers and did something that can be defined as Godlike. Very few can do that. Freddie Mercury did that in Live Aid back in 1985. Prince did that in February 2007. There will never be the likes of that ever. Plus, for someone as serious as Prince is as it comes to his music. There was a man who also had a sense of humor.
One of my favorite thing that related to Prince is a skit from In Living Color which was an add for Prince’s butt-out jeans where Jamie Foxx is Prince and said some of the funniest shit that I have ever heard. It’s a skit that I constantly watch and it never gets old. Then of course, there’s the legendary Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Story on Prince on the Chappelle Show in which Dave Chappelle played Prince. It is a must-see as it all revolves around a basketball game between Charlie Murphy’s boys vs. Prince and his boys where it was shirts vs. blouses.
There’s a lot of songs of Prince that I’m sure many love aside from the hits. My favorite album is Sign “O” the Times as it is just nuts in terms of what he was able to do musically in different genres where it also had so much to say. It’s an album that belongs in that list of great double-albums such as The White Album, Exile on Main St., Quadrophenia, The Wall, London Calling, and The Fragile. It’s not just the songs on the album that are so special but the way it flows and talks about elements of spirituality, social issues, love, and other things that can be serious as well as humorous. The fact that he no longer exists nor will be doing any shows or make any albums is unthinkable. Especially as it just adds more sadness to a year that isn’t very good at all. I guess the only thing to say to Prince is thank you for the music and the memories.
R.I.P. Prince Rogers Nelson
© thevoid99 2016
Friday, April 8, 2016
Favorite Albums Friday is a series of mini-essays weekly or bi-weekly that explores classic albums that made an impact on the world of popular music whether are albums famous to the public or albums that the world needs to hear.
Throughout the history of heavy metal, many often wonder when the genre had gone into its periods of decline as some said it was in the mid-1990s because of the emergence of grunge, alternative music, and hip-hop while the most popular consensus of the genre’s first decline was in the late 70s due to the emergence of punk rock in Britain while disco and corporate rock were considered contributing factors to the genre’s decline in America. Yet, there were still some important albums that came out of that period as one of the bands who would still continue to carry the flag of metal was Rainbow as their 1976 sophomore release Rising would be an album that showcased a more symphonic side to the genre.
While it’s a band that always had a constant line-up change for the bulk of its nine-year period from 1975 to 1984 with a reformation from 1993 to 1997. The one constant of that group was its founder and leader in guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. While he is largely famous for his work in the seminal hard rock band Deep Purple, Rainbow was formed just after Blackmore left the group over creative differences as he wanted to go into something more classical-based. Instead, the band in its Mach III line-up of Blackmore, keyboardist Jon Lord, drummer Ian Paice, and then-new members in bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes, and vocalist David Coverdale were venturing into a more groove-based sound for the album Stormbringer. With Blackmore out of Deep Purple, he decided to form a new project with a band he had encounter earlier called Elf that featured a vocalist who would later become an icon in heavy metal in Ronnie James Dio.
The band’s first release entitled Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow wouldn’t just feature interpretations of songs by Steve Hammond and songs based on classical material. It would also feature elements of medieval fantasy courtesy of Dio as the band’s lyricist at the time yet the line-up for the band’s first album was brief as it would the first of many things that would happen for the band as the group’s first tour would consist of bassist Jimmy Bain, keyboardist Tony Carey, and drummer Cozy Powell. Powell was already famous for his work as a session drummer as well as playing with Jeff Beck in the early 70s as he would be the catalyst for what Blackmore wanted musically. Though the first album did modestly well in the U.S. and U.K. because of Blackmore’s name, it was a major hit throughout the rest of Europe where the idea of classical music fused with heavy metal was more accepted than in Britain and America.
The band’s acceptance in Europe would allow them to record their second album in Munich, West Germany at the Musicland studios with Martin Birch who had co-produced the band‘s first album with Blackmore and Dio. With their sophomore album, the band wouldn’t just create something that would push the boundaries of metal and hard rock to new heights but also provide something was also very challenging musically. At the same time, the production would be heavier and broader to capture the scope of the music while Dio’s lyrical approach would contain a sense of imagery filled with ideas of fantasy that relates more to medieval times as the six songs on the album contain a lot of that. Notably the ferocious opener Tarot Woman as it is this song full of power in terms of its blistering rhythm section led by pummeling fills from Cozy Powell’s drums, Jimmy Bain’s heavy bass, and Blackmore’s fierce guitar work. The track opens softly with Tony Carey’s swooning Moog synthesizer before it becomes this menacing song where Dio really shines vocally with his operatic growl.
For someone as small as Dio, the fact that can bring such a massive voice just adds a lot to his legendary status as he would also provide a lot of range in a mid-tempo song like Run with the Wolf that features these raunchy riffs from Blackmore’s guitar that includes a blues-based sliding solo that is supported by a bopping rhythm that include these amazing fills by Powell who is probably one of rock’s most underrated drummers outside of the world of metal. The upbeat cuts like Starstruck and Do You Close Your Eyes definitely plays into that world of fantasy in terms of what Dio is saying lyrically. The former is a blues-based song while the latter is more based in hard rock as both tracks feature amazing performances from Blackmore and Powell in their respective instruments. Another upbeat track in the album closer A Light in the Black definitely has the energy of punk but it’s more based on bits of blues-riffs and pummeling beats. Yet, it would also feature elements of classical in Blackmore’s guitar solo that do display a sense of virtuosity which was something punk wasn’t about at all.
The album’s centerpiece and often considered the band’s crowning achievement is the song Stargazer. Nearly eight-and-a-half minutes long, the song is not just a true definition of an epic song but it has so much to grasp on. Opening with these pummeling and blistering drum fills for a solo by Cozy Powell, it just adds to the musicianship of the song as Bain’s bass and Blackmore’s guitar hits with the latter coming up with these ferocious riffs that go wow, wow-wow-wow, wow, wow-wow-wow, wow, wow-wow-wow, wow, wow-wow. Dio’s vocals is the voice of an angel of metal where it has these ranges that can be calm to operatic as the lyrics he sings are cosmic in their imagery as they’re accompanied by Carey’s swooning synthesizers that sound very symphonic. That sense of orchestration and need to be symphonic would come into Blackmore’s solo that is probably his best solo as it sounds like a violin from outer space.
The album in its initial release on May 17, 1976 was quite daring considering that it was coming at a time when the music scene in Britain was about to change with the emergence of punk as many say the summer of 1976 was the Summer of Punk. Albums like Rising was considered a big no in Britain despite doing well in the U.K. album charts peaking at 6 while doing modestly well in the U.S. peaking at 48. While the band would focus largely with their growing audience in Europe, the line-up of Dio, Blackmore, Bain, Carey, and Powell wouldn’t last as Carey was fired as Blackmore felt his playing was too complicated while Bain was also fired for being seen as substandard in Blackmore’s view. The two would eventually be replaced by David Stone on keyboards and Bob Daisley on bass where they would help complete parts for the band’s third album Long Live Rock n’ Roll. Dio would leave the band after its tour where Blackmore wanted to go into a more commercial, AOR-oriented style.
In the years since the album’s release, it is often considered the band’s best work despite the many changes in line-up and musical styles the band would do. The 2011 deluxe edition of the album would feature not just the album in two different mixes in the mixing stages set in different studios in New York and Los Angeles but also a rough mix as its second disc that featured expanded versions of Stargazer. Unless one is an audiophile, the New York and LA mixes do sound the same but some of the songs have different time lengths while the rough mixes showcase what the band was trying to go for before the final mixes. Yet, the standout in that deluxe edition are the rough versions of Stargazer as one featured an extended keyboard intro by Tony Carey and another version is from a rehearsal as it is very rough but does maintain that sense of power in the song.
It’s been nearly 40 years since the album has been released as it’s also bittersweet as three of the members in the band have currently passed on as bassist Jimmy Bain just passed away in late January to lung cancer while vocalist Ronnie James Dio also succumbed to cancer in May of 2010 and drummer Cozy Powell died in April of 1998 in a car accident. Despite their passing, their contributions to music will live on as Rising still holds up in terms of its ambition and power while also being an album that rocks. It’s also the kind of album that gives hard rock and metal fans something more as some believe this album provides a template of sorts of the metal sub-genre power metal which is very popular in Europe. In the end, Rising is an album that is metal at its finest as it proves to be operatic, loud, and provide some escape thanks to the band that created it in Rainbow.
© thevoid99 2016
Thursday, March 31, 2016
As part of a new end-of-the-month series for this blog, I will do not just mini-reviews of new albums that I’ve heard in the following month but also profile songs that people should listen to as well as music videos to watch. With this blog now returning but in a new state where it’s just there every once in a while as I don’t have the desire to write full album reviews for the time being or maybe ever unless it’s for one particular artist or band like I did last month for David Bowie. For now, here is what I heard and such in the month of March 2016:
Album of the Month: Iggy Pop-Post Pop Depression
In his seventeenth and, maybe, final studio album of his near-5 decade period in music, Iggy Pop goes out with a bang in what is definitely an album that few of his age and stature would make. Produced by Joshua Homme of Queens of the Stone Age who plays in the record with Queens multi-instrumentalist Dean Fertita and Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders, the album sounds definitely recalls the work Pop did in the late 1970s with David Bowie as it has that sound of something that is machine like but with an edge that is just terrifying. Songs like Gardenia, Sunday, and In the Lobby showcase not just Pop’s mastery as a songwriter that can create catchy songs but also with a dark edge. Something that occurs in American Valhalla which is one of album’s standout cuts as is the closer Paraguay that is Pop at his most vicious proving that the Godfather of Punk isn’t going away quietly.
Song of the Month: Deftones-Prayers/Triangles
Though they’re often linked to the late 90s/early 2000 metal sub-genre of nu-metal, unlike many of their contemporaries like Korn. Deftones has managed to really create music that is always different with a sense of edge and creativity that really makes them one of the last unsung heroes of metal but also offer audiences something more in terms of melodies. From their upcoming eighth studio album entitled Gore, the leading single is a track that has a lot of layers in its sound from the melodic guitar textures and slow drumming in its verse. Then goes loud and pummeling in its chorus as Chino Moreno’s vocals is even more powerful while the production and sound itself is even more enthralling thanks in part to Stephen Carpenter’s guitar, Abe Cunningham’s drums, Frank Delgado’s ambient-based synthesizer, and Sergio Vega’s bass. This song is a sign that Deftones are back and metal is still alive and kicking.
Video of the Month: Bat for Lashes-In God’s House
From the upcoming fourth release by Natasha Khan’s Bat for Lashes moniker in a concept album The Bride is its leading single In God’s House. The video is truly one of the most gorgeously shot videos in recent years while saying a lot as it plays into a bride dealing with the loss of her groom. Shot in the desert, the video does have this sense of loss but also elements of surrealism in the fact that a car lights up from inside while Khan sings very somber lyrics of what had happened and how her character in the song is just falling apart.
Massive Attack-Ritual Spirit EP
It’s been a very long time since Massive Attack put something that has been worthwhile as their trio of 1990 albums in 1991’s Blue Lines, 1994’s Protection, and 1998’s Mezzanine are considered landmarks for the world of electronic music and defined the sound of trip-hop. After that, things have messy as albums such as 2003’s 100th Window and 2010’s Heligoland didn’t have the consistency of their previous albums nor material that is memorable. This 4-track EP however is actually the best thing they’ve done since Mezzanine as it doesn’t just feature the long-awaited return of trip-hop artist Tricky in their first collaboration since Protection in the song Take It There. The track is just one of the highlights as the rest of the record including the song Voodoo in My Blood features the group in their darkest and most dangerous as it is probably a glimpse of hope that the band could deliver once again with a great album as the video for that song starring Rosamund Pike is just phenomenal.
2013’s More Light was a return to form for the British indie-rock group after a near-decade of albums that were messy or misguided as eleventh studio release sort of scales things back a bit while being more of an electronic-based album. Featuring contributions from Haim, Rachel Zeffira, and Sky Ferreira, the album does bear elements of past albums but in a more simplified presentation that also owes more to today’s electro-pop. Yet, the standout cuts in the single Where the Light Gets In with Sky Ferreira and the folk-based ballad in Private Wars with Rachel Zeffira are the big highlights. The rest of the album show that Primal Scream still has some juice left and can still provide music that is vital.
The second studio release from the post-punk band may not have that same air of thrill like its predecessor. Yet, this album proves that the band still has that ferocity and danger that made them so fucking good in the first place. The album does feature some more melodic elements than its predecessor in cuts like Slowing Down the World, When in Love, and the first single Adore. The rest of the album is about that energy and danger as it is the kind of record that audiences need in a sea of over-produced pop music that plays it safe.
One of the most influential and certainly one of the most important bands of the 1990s Brit-pop movement, Suede who reunited in 2010 and released their sixth studio album Bloodsport to great acclaim returns once again proving that they’re here to stick around. Their seventh studio release may recall some of the ambitious elements of the band’s 1994 album Dog Man Star in terms of its symphonic approach yet it still has that sense of rock bombast that the band is known for. There are also moments that are quite catchy and melodic as it’s an album from front to back that really has a lot of bite and flair for the dramatics that should put the band up there with the many great bands that defined British music.
Underworld-Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future
For anyone that was listening to electronic music in the mid to late 1990s would know exactly who Underworld is as they were one of the groups in that period that defined not just rave culture but also electronic music at its finest. While the group has been keeping a low profile for much of the 2000s as they focused on film scores, they never stopped making albums. Their ninth studio release is the sound of an act that isn’t just feels revitalized but it sounds like a group that is moving forward while creating the kind of electronic music that means something. Not the kind of music that is made for radio and clubs but rather the kind of music that plays into the senses and the body while showing these young deejays with their laptops in how it’s supposed to be done.
© thevoid99 2016