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That time Neil from ‘The Young Ones’ released his ‘Heavy Concept Album’

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Hippies make the best capitalists. They are the passive-aggressive masters who use their artificial sense of moral superiority to sell you shit you don’t need. You know the kind of shit. Shit, they claim that will save the planet, or feed your soul, or flow in tune with your karmic wholewheat astrological aura, kinda thing.

In a survey I’ve just made up at random, 99.9% of all hippies are capitalist bastards. Take The Young Ones for example. Here was a household consisting of four students from four very different backgrounds. There was a punk called Vyvyan, a radical-leftie-progressive-socialist-Cliff Richard-fan called Rik, a mature student-cum-yuppie-businessman called Mike, and a hippie named Neil. There was also rumored to be a fifth roommate, but we don’t talk about him. Now, you might think out of this small group that the punk or the mature student would go on to make the most money and have say, a pop career that sold literally dozens of records across the world and lasted for days if not weeks. But you’d be wrong. It was, in fact, Neil the hippie who saw the potential in marketing his miserable lentil-stained life and selling it on to an unsuspecting public.

And very, very successful he was at this, too.

It all started, you see, when Neil the hippie (aka the divinely talented actor Nigel Planer) recorded what some might describe as a kind of “novelty record” called “Hole in My Shoe” in 1984. Planer had astutely chosen to cover a song, which in many respects, captured aspects of Neil’s miserabilist, psychedelic personality. The song had originally been a hit for the rock band Traffic in 1967.

Planer used a little help from his friends to record his single. He collaborated with Dave Stewart, a prog rock keyboardist with bands like Uriel, Egg, and National Health, and singer Barbra Gaskin. Stewart, not to be confused with the other Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics, had scored a UK #1 with Gaskin on their cover of “It’s My Party” in 1981. Neil/Nigel’s “Hole in My Shoe” reached #2 on the UK charts. Its success led Planer, Stewart and Gaskin to go one further and record Neil’s Heavy Concept Album.
 

Neil sings ‘Hole in My Shoe’: Today the 45rpm record, tomorrow the 33⅓.
 
Neil’s Heavy Concept Album was the most splendid spoof LP since, well, The Rutles in 1978.

This was a concept album that paid homage to the, er, “concept” of a concept album, but didn’t actually have any real concept other than the unifying character of Neil who riffed on a variety of surreal adventures (a trip down a plughole, a meeting with a potato, a movie advert, and reading a poem to his plant) and singing a few classic, beautifully-rendered songs.

The whole album brilliantly parodied the musical form of those trippy conceptual albums released by progressive and psychedelic bands during the sixties and seventies. From the early musings and backward guitars of the Beatles, through Gong (Pip Pyle plays drums on the record), King Crimson, Pink Floyd, the Incredible String Band and a hint of Frank Zappa. The front cover mimicked that of the Rolling Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request album, while the back, in red with liner notes and four images of Neil, copied the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band but instead of a guaranteeing a splendid time for all, Neil offered that:

A heavy time is guaranteed for all.

 
More heavy concepts, after the jump, man…

READ ON
Posted by Paul Gallagher
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05.11.2017
01:26 pm
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Laserbeams, disco balls, smoke machines and ANALOG SYNTHESIZERS: Tim Blake’s Crystal Machine
03.07.2017
09:53 am
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When Gong’s pioneering synthesizer player Tim Blake exited the proggy spacerock group in 1975, he began an influential partnership with French lighting designer Patrice Warrener. The art project/band was called Crystal Machine (named after “The Octave Doctors and the Crystal Machine” a song composed by Blake on Gong’s 1973 Flying Teapot album) and was the first live touring rock show to fully incorporate lasers. Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd might’ve had a laser or two, too, but Crystal Machine was a full-on mirrored disco ball, smoke machine and Laserium-type experience/installation that was mounted in movie theaters and smaller venues for up to a week at a time. Occasionally Blake was assisted on stage by the young Jean-Philippe Rykiel, the blind-since-birth keyboard prodigy son of French knitwear designer Sonia Rykiel. For several years, Crystal Machine traveled around Europe and to Japan and Blake released two albums of what did not really have a name at the time, but would soon come to be called “New Age” and later “ambient” music.

The first of these albums, 1977’s Crystal Machine and was an odds-n-sods collection of two-track demos and live material that Blake had laid to tape over the previous years, although it has a coherent sound. The second, Blake’s New Jerusalem, had little to do with England’s green and pleasant land and continued on with the cosmic outer-space themes of the first album, and indeed of Gong, which to my mind merely indicates how much Blake contributed to Gong’s overall sound. However the lyrical content of Blake’s solo output was lacking, and of a terribly twee hippie variety, referencing the stars, the pyramids, ley-lines, Stonehenge, and other “heavy” themes as if the Incredible String Band had tried to turn themselves into late 70s Hawkwind, the band Blake opted to join himself in 1979. The words are a bit naive and goofy, making me wish he’d opted to stay instrumental.

Some of Blake’s electronic music sounds like early Kraftwerk, other songs call to mind Chris Carter’s “AB/7A” from Throbbing Gristle’s D.O.A. In one respect Blake’s Crystal Machine solo outings remind me of The Legend Lives On… Jah Wobble in “Betrayal” or Jerry Harrison’s (wildly underrated) The Red and the Black album because it becomes, well, crystal clear exactly what Blake’s unusual talents added to Gong’s cosmic sound in the same respect the aforementioned platters did for PiL’s bassist and the Talking Heads keyboardist. If you’ve heard any of these records, they leave little doubt who contributed what to each of those groups without really sounding all that much like them either.

See Tim Blake’s Crystal Machine in action after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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03.07.2017
09:53 am
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‘Tubular Bells’: Prog rock’s most famous ‘symphony’ played by Mike Oldfield & prog supergroup, 1973
04.12.2016
12:13 pm
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Mike Oldfield’s 1973 recording of Tubular Bells is the most famous prog rock “symphony” of them all—and a bit of a “love it or hate it” affair amongst music snobs—but in actual fact, most of the instruments played on the album are played by Oldfield himself, layered during the recording process.

Wikipedia lists Oldfield as playing “acoustic guitar, bass guitar, electric guitar, Farfisa, Hammond, and Lowrey organs; flageolet, fuzz guitars, glockenspiel, “honky tonk” piano (piano modified to sound more percussive), mandolin, piano, “Piltdown Man” percussion, Spanish guitar, producer, “taped motor drive amplifier organ chord,” timpani, vocals and tubular bells.” He was just a nineteen-year-old when the album was recorded.

Oldfield did bring in a few others—notably his sister, vocalist Sally Oldfield and the Bonzo Dog Band’s Vivian Stanshall as the “Master of Ceremonies”—but it’s fair to say, a few embellishments aside, that Tubular Bells is (almost) the work of a “one man band” or in this case, a one-man orchestra. Initially championed by BBC disc jockey John Peel (who played the entire album on his radio show), Tubular Bells has sold an estimated 16 million copies worldwide and was the first album to be put out on the Virgin Records label, making Sir Richard Branson a very, very rich man. The opening theme was famously used as the title music for The Exorcist.
 

 
An “in the round” live-in-studio performance of side one of Tubular Bells was taped for the BBC program Second House on November 30th, 1973 and aired on December 1. Taking part in this performance are Oldfield himself on bass and acoustic guitar, his brother Terry on flute, Fred Frith (and other members of Henry Cow), Gong’s Pierre Moerlen and Steve Hillage, Tubular Bells co-producer Tom Newman, Mike Ratledge and Karl Jenkins of the Soft Machine, Rolling Stone Mick Taylor, David Bedford and others. (Vivian Stanshall, in his role as the MC, is present, reading off the list of instruments at the end of the first movement in his plummy voice, but, sadly is not captured well on camera).

More after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Richard Metzger
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04.12.2016
12:13 pm
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‘This is the Moody Blues’ megapost
12.21.2015
01:48 pm
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This Is The Moody Blues is one of those almost mythical greatest hits albums from the 60s or 70s where every single cut was killer, the cocaine had not yet taken its toll and the group or artist had not yet begun their inevitable middle-aged 80s creative decline. It’s an album in the company of Endless Summer, Hot Rocks, the red and blue Beatles anthologies, Neil Young’s Decade and things like that. Albums that absolutely everybody had in the mid-70s.


 

Although they began as a straight ahead R&B band in their earliest incarnation, The Moody Blues were one of the first groups to integrate classical music with rock (novelty act Bee Bumble and the Stingers beat them to that claim by a few years with Kim Fowley-produced hit, “The Nutrocker,” back in 1962). Initially the group had been approached to record a rock ver"sion of Antonín Dvořák’s “New World Symphony,” by their label, Deram, eager for some product for the stereo high fidelity market and their “Deramic Sound System” offerings. Instead the group offered Deram their newest compositions, a projected song-cycle titled Days of Future Passed, about the events of a single day, with orchestral music and the sound of the Mellotron woven into the proceedings, and used as links between numbers.

Despite the label’s reputation for cheapness, they agreed.

The first single from the album, “Nights in White Satin,” was released on November 10, 1967. The song’s desperate, yearning lyrics were written by then 19-year-old Moody Blues vocalist Justin Hayward, inspired by a gift of white satin sheets at the end of one love affair and the beginning of another.

“Nights in White Satin,” probably marks the beginning of the prog-rock era. (Keith Emerson’s The Nice would soon follow down the classical-rock path with their first single, “America, 2nd Amendment,” in 1968, which adds an un-credited snatch of Dvořák’s “Symphony No. 9” from New World, to Leonard Bernstein’s “America” from West Side Story.)


 

I had This Is The Moody Blues on LP when I was a kid, on CD as an adult and recently I was even gifted with a quad 4.0 mix of the album (a bootleg sourced from a reel to reel tape) titled “This is The Quadraphic Moody Blues.” I’ve been playing that a lot around the house lately and decided to do a sort of “This is The (YouTube) Moody Blues,” or at least get as close to that track listing as I can using vintage video clips.

 
“Question” on The Lulu Show in 1970:

 

  More Moody Blues after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger
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12.21.2015
01:48 pm
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‘Frontiers of Progressive Rock’: Five incredible jams with ELP, King Crimson, Yes, and others


 
Lordy lord, do I love footage from the old Beat Club program from Germany in the early 1970s. (The show later turned into Musikladen). Last week we brought you some smokin’ hard rock jams including MC5, Alice Cooper, and the New York Dolls that originally appeared on Beat Club. This week we move onto prog—and the results are nearly as sublime.

This compilation is known as Frontiers of Progressive Rock (and was originally released on a Laserdisc), features five excellent prog bands in their prime, just fucking shit up. Yes, Soft Machine, the Nice, King Crimson, and the biggest seller of them all, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer are each represented with an early gem, and all of them just go to town. My favorite moment comes when Keith Emerson, dressed in glittery blue and green, hurls himself over his second organ and then rocks it back and forth from behind before playing a few notes from the “wrong” side.
 

 
I also really love how much of a premium Beat Club placed on ridiculous video effects. The ELP number has oscilloscope readings projected onto the back wall, whereas the entire Soft Machine number is enring’d in an orange halo on the screen. Meanwhile, during the Yes song a kaleidoscope effect is used wherein the center of the image is “reflected” around itself—you have to see it to get it. For some reason the Yes track incorporates a large revolving head suspended over an old-fashioned chair of some sort…. anyway, I love the intensity with which the bands play their songs, I love the varied instrumentation (violin, saxophone, etc.), and I love the acid-freakout visuals. If you’ve got nothing else going on, I recommend turning this on and finding a pharmaceutical or two to help you enjoy the day.
 

 

Track listing:
Emerson, Lake & Palmer: “Knife Edge”
King Crimson: “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic”
The Nice: “Hang On To a Dream”
Soft Machine: “Composition Based On 3 Tunes” (Medley of “Out-Bloody-Rageous,” “Eamonn Andrews,” and “All White”)
Yes: “Yours Is No Disgrace”

 

Posted by Martin Schneider
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10.31.2014
11:54 am
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Evil never sounded like so much fun: Magma’s magnificently menacing epic ‘De Futura’ live, 1977
09.02.2014
10:58 am
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Magma
 
For my money, the French avant/prog/metal band Magma’s greatest track is “De Futura.” A wild-n-heavy number that first appeared on their 1976 album Udu Wudu, it really came to life in a live setting, where epic versions often lasted 20+ minutes.

This performance was recorded live at the Hippodrome de Pantin in Paris on May 14th, 1977, and aired on French TV. Here the group features two drummers, including Magma founder Christian Vander (he’s the one making the best ROCK faces this side of Nigel Tufnel), and two back-up singers who look like cult members. Oh, and did I mention Magma’s songs are sung in their own made-up language? It doesn’t get more wonderfully weird than this, folks.

Unfortunately, this was edited for TV and the footage ends just shy of the ten-minute mark, because by then the band had worked themselves into a glorious frenzy (the background singers look hypnotized!).

Ah well, enjoy what you can. Evil never sounded like so much fun!
 

 

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
MAGMA’s cheerfully insane brand of sci-fi avant garde make them progrock’s weirdest outliers
Magma: the gods of French prog

Posted by Bart Bealmear
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09.02.2014
10:58 am
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MAGMA’s cheerfully insane brand of sci-fi avant garde make them prog rock’s weirdest outliers
08.19.2014
10:59 am
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H.R. Giger’s cover for 1978’s Attahk album

From the Dangerous Minds archives:

French progrockers MAGMA sing their lyrics in “Kobaïan,” a made-up phonetic language based on German and Slavic languages constructed by the group’s founder, Christian Vander, after he had a “vision of humanity’s spiritual and ecological future.”

MAGMA’s albums tell the multi-part sci-fi saga of humans who have been forced to leave a dying Earth behind and settle on the planet Kobaïa. MAGMA’s unusual sound is described as “zeuhl” in Kobaïan, which means “heavenly” and Vander claims his biggest musical influence is John Coltrane at his most celestial. One can also detect some Zappa, Stravinsky and “Carmina Burana.”

The mysterious MAGMA are considered somewhat tangential members of the progressive subgenre (“avant garde” might be a bit more accurate) and have little in common with the likes of Yes, Genesis or King Crimson. Certainly it can said that they hoe their own row! Often they sound like an extremely dark heavy metal band. You can’t really compare MAGMA to anyone else, they’re just that weird. Give me MAGMA over Emerson, Lake & Palmer any day!

As on YouTuber quipped:

If anything could be more twisted and insane than Magma, it’s early Magma.

They’re even weirder than Gong and that ain’t easy!
 

 
More MAGMA after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Richard Metzger
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08.19.2014
10:59 am
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The Power and The Glory of Gentle Giant
08.18.2014
03:00 pm
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70s progressive rock cult group Gentle Giant were known for their concept albums featuring complex lyrics (the work of Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing on mental illness inspired them, so did Rabelais) multi-part vocal harmonies, and abrupt tempo and key changes (often within the same bar). Their singular musical style featured unusual chord progressions, instrumental and voice counterpoint, “classical” and madrigal themes repeated and traded between instruments with medieval instrumentation and choral styles not often heard in the rock—or even progressive rock—genre.

Recently their 1974 album The Power and The Glory came out on the Alucard label remixed for 5.1 surround on DVD and Blu-ray by Porcupine Tree’s Steven WIlson. I asked group members Ray Shulman, Kerry Minnear and Derek Shulman some questions via email.

Dangerous Minds: What was your reaction to first hearing Steven Wilson’s 5.1 surround mix of The Power and The Glory?

Ray Shulman: Over the last few years we’d been asked by a number of people whether they could mix our albums in surround. We were always reluctant until Steven approached us. Having authored some of his other Blu-rays and DVDs I was very familiar with his work. What’s great is that he pays a lot of respect to the original mix in terms of balance and tone but by spreading it around the available sound field, in such a creative way, it gives it a new life and I would think even listeners already familiar with the album would get a new perspective on the arrangements. Hopefully you can tell I’m pleased.

Kerry Minnear: I enjoyed Steve’s stereo mix of The Power and The Glory very much finding him to be able to ‘beef things up’ but keeping the original instrumental sounds clear and vibrant. I don’t have a 5.1 system but I imagine that in that medium the counterpoint and part sharing in the music will be great to experience. I’m saving up for a new system just so I can hear it!

Derek Shulman: I was happy that Steven respected the sonic quality of original mixes. He “tweaked” parts of the low end of the drums and bass and made slight adjustments to levels of the bass and kick drum. Overall I was very happy with Steven’s work on the album.

Do you reckon that you’re seeing Gentle Giant attract new fans as a result of the 5.1 release? It would seem to me that there’s a real interest in among audiophiles about what Steven Wilson is doing, so that someone getting into Yes or Jethro Tull for the first time might pick up on his Hawkwind project, the Caravan album or your album because he worked on it. Has this been the case?

Ray Shulman: That’s a hard one for me to answer but I know that Derek, who’s out and about with other acts of our era, comes across many young fans hearing about us for the first time. More surprising is other acts, not associated with prog, who now site our band as an influence.

Kerry Minnear: There is an annual GG fan convention which I have attended and each year it appears that there is a growing percentage of fans in their twenties. I can only imagine this is the power of the Internet and the availability of GG music on it. I would certainly hope that this new release could make more potential followers aware of us, both young and old.

Derek Shulman: The ‘odd’ thing is is that after 40 years our music still seems to be relevant to both old fans and newer fans..I hope this indicated that we at least did some things ‘right’.

Steven’s involvement in the audiophile world is obviously very influential of course. We’re happy that a musician of his stature wanted to be involved with our music. If he can bring newer fans to listen to what we had recorded then we are very grateful to him.

In the way that pop culture gets recycled, at the moment, prog is the new reggae, which was the new easy listening, which was the new jazz, etc. It must be gratifying to so many new fans come into the fold, especially for a band with no intention of reforming or playing live again?

Ray Shulman: The amusing thing is how, in the late seventies and the dawn of punk, commentators hid their prog albums for fear of ridicule. Time has truly softened their stance and even the most hardened critics can now confess their appreciation of bands such as ours.

Kerry Minnear: It is gratifying, and it really was a privilege to be part of a band with such a unique set of dynamics. We could never have predicted the consistency of the music’s appeal through the years.I am often quite baffled by it all!

Derek Shulman: Well… as I had indicated I guess we may have by ‘default’ did some things right..or at least we didn’t stray too far from what we wanted to be as a musical entity. I think that in some ways the fact that new and younger fans are listening to our music says a lot about who and what a musician should be. We tried to push our own musical boundaries for ourselves first, to be better musicians for our own benefit. If we could make a living at that, this was enough. Not to sound pretentious for the sake of it wink but I believe fans old and new can see that our music was somewhat ‘authentic’ in that regard.

A friend of mine said that in the 70s, Gentle Giant were the band that comes after Genesis is in the rearview mirror, but Henry Cow is still off in the distance and too artsy and obscure for most people. Whereas there might be more than a little truth to that, I think it misses the fact that there was a sense of humor going on with Gentle Giant, too, at least that’s what I’m hearing. Were you guys always serious or was it more playful that that?

Ray Shulman: Although I don’t agree with your friends pecking order grin we never took ourselves too seriously. Even though we took our music very seriously we were all too aware things could come across as pretentious or pompous. To that end I think we were always quite self-deprecating.

Kerry Minnear: It’s a fact that humour played a big part in things, it was never far from the surface. No one was allowed to be a prima donna, they were quickly de-throned. It played a big part in the music too, as did another not so typical emotion, nostalgia. So much music is self-assured and self-promoting, it’s nice to hear some different human emotions creeping in now and then.

Derek Shulman: To be honest we didn’t really see anyone in the rearview mirror or indeed in the front windshield, either. We were quite a sequestered group and not part of any scene. What we were however were very hard working musicians who practiced and played more for our own personal pleasure to try to make ourselves better for each other and then for the audience who would come to see us.

That being said we never took ourselves too seriously as people or musicians. I had deliberately mentioned pomposity previously. There is a great deal of playfulness in our music if you listen carefully… VERY CAREFULLY!!!

Below, The Power and The Glory-era Gentle Giant captured on 16mm film directed by Christopher Nupen, a classical music film director who invited the band to record this concert in a film studio in Brussels for the German television station ZDF:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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08.18.2014
03:00 pm
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‘Prog Is A 4 Letter Word’: Exclusive Flaming Lips prog rock playlist
08.14.2014
01:54 pm
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Enjoy this exclusive mix compiled for Dangerous Minds readers by Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd of The Flaming Lips.

Prog Is a 4 Letter Word

“South Side of the Sky” - Yes
“Siberian Khatru” - Yes
“Knife Edge” - ELP
“Watcher of the Skies” - Genesis
“Archangel Thunderbird” (proto prog-punk) - Amon Düül II
“Darkness” - Van der Graaf Generator
“Yours Is No Disgrace” - Yes
“Cygnus X-1 book 1” - Rush
“The Inner Mounting Flame” - Mahavishnu Orchestra
“Thick As A Brick” - Jethro Tull

The pair’s Flaming Lips sideproject, recorded as Electric Würms with Nashville-based psych-rock band Linear Downfall, is called Musik, Die Schwer Zu Twerk. The EP is comes out on CD, vinyl and iTunes via Warner Bros. Records on August 19th. Later today we’ll premiere the Miles Davis-influenced track “Transform” from the new release.
 

 

Posted by Electric Würms
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08.14.2014
01:54 pm
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Prog perfection: Van der Graaf Generator’s ONLY live performance of ‘A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers’
08.14.2014
09:09 am
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From the Dangerous Minds archives…

Although history will recall the Van der Graaf Generator as being a “progressive rock” group, in many respects, this assessment has more to do with timing than the actual music this far ahead-of-their-time band actually made. Imagine if Pawn Hearts, their masterpiece, was released in 1981 instead of 1971, if you take my point.

It wasn’t for nuthin’ that the likes of John Lydon, Julian Cope and Marc Almond were all such massive fans of the group. David Bowie, too.

And speaking of Pawn Hearts, this is an album I’ve loved for decades, and yet I remained blissfully unaware of the existence of this single, solitary live filmed performance of “A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers,” the sprawling, 23-minute-long epic suite consisting of ten separate movements that takes up the entirety of that album’s side two. I found this by accident yesterday, looking for something else. My jaw dropped as I watched it.

This 1972 performance from Belgium television—which is nothing short of astonishing and quite intensely intense—was shot piecemeal and edited together because it was impossible to play the song all in one go. Apparently, this is the only time “A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers” was ever performed live like this by the original classic line-up of Hugh Banton, Guy Evans, Peter Hammill and David Jackson.

Peter Hammill told this to the Sounds music newspaper about the theme of the enigmatic suite:

“It’s just the story of the lighthouse keeper, that’s it on its basic level. And there’s the narrative about his guilt and his complexes about seeing people die and letting people die, and not being able to help. In the end—well, it doesn’t really have an end, it’s really up to you to decide. He either kills himself or he rationalises it all and can live in peace… Then on the psychic/religious level it’s about him coming to terms with himself, and at the end there is either him losing it all completely to insanity, or transcendence; it’s either way at the end… And then it’s also about the individual coming to terms with society—that’s the third level…”

 

 
Van der Graaf Generator performed “A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers” each night of their 2013 summer tour dates.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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08.14.2014
09:09 am
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‘What’s prog?’: Prog rock talk with Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd
08.13.2014
01:51 pm
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What is prog? Why is prog? Is prog good? Is it okay to like prog? Who is prog?

What’s an “Electric Würm”? Are Electric Würms prog? And if not, what “are” they?

These burning questions—and more—answered as Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd talk prog rock.

The new Electric Würms’ EP Musik, Die Schwer Zu Twerk (“Music that’s Hard to Twerk to”) comes out on August 19th on Warner Brothers Records.
 

Posted by Electric Würms
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08.13.2014
01:51 pm
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Heavy metal yodeling: What’s more insane ‘Hocus Pocus’ or ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’?
08.13.2014
11:23 am
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From the Dangerous Minds archives:

“Hocus Pocus” was an AM and FM radio hit for Dutch prog-rockers Focus, straddling the line between avant garde and just plain silly. Focus, you might say, were one of the few prog rock bands who didn’t take themselves so seriously. How could they with a signature tune like this one?

Although “Hocus Pocus” was originally released in 1971 on their Moving Waves record, it didn’t really become a hit until 1973 when they re-recorded a faster version for release as a single. Of course, it’s unlikely that any song which could be (accurately) described as “heavy metal yodeling” would ever get radio play in the first place, let alone become an absolute worldwide smash, but improbably, that’s what happened.

“Hocus Pocus” takes the form of a rondo, meaning a central motif (in this case the guitar riff) keeps returning as drum, flute, accordion and guitar solos each, in turn, take the spotlight. The lyrics are just gibberish. It might be the most elaborate hit single, either before or since Queen’s epically ridiculous “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

When Focus would perform “Hocus Pocus” live, the group would play the tune even faster, with each member of the band taking an extended solo. I admit to being the proud owner of not only Moving Waves, but also their live album, Focus at the Rainbow, which includes an eight minute-long version of the song. Many people will know the tune because it was used in a Nike commercial shown repeatedly during the World Cup in 2010.
 

 
Here Focus seen are performing their smash on The Midnight Special in 1973:
 

 
More Focus after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Richard Metzger
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08.13.2014
11:23 am
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Genesis: The legendary Shepperton Studios concert in HD
03.20.2014
09:42 pm
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The restoration of the film of Genesis performing at Shepperton Studios in 1973 is perhaps the single most heroic episode in the history of fanatical fandom.

I might not have all the details exactly correct, but the gist of it is that about ten years ago a guy who goes by the online handle of “King Lerch” became aware of a 16mm film of of a live Genesis concert from 1973 that was being auctioned off as part of an estate sale in New York. He then noticed that a small group of Genesis fans were planning to pool their resources, rather than bid against each other and joined forces with them. No one had any idea what exactly was on the film or even what condition it was in, so by banding together, their risk was spread out, and minimized.

Like most reels of Kodak film from 1973, the film had gone a bit red and required significant clean-up in that department. The audio was kind of iffy, too, coming as it would from the magnetic track on the celluloid print. Apparently a few hundred man hours were devoted to the project and it became widely known when it was released—for free—to grateful Genesis fans on the Internet.

The version that was done ten years ago amazed and delighted fans of the group, but a couple of years ago, good King Lerch and his merry men opted to make yet another better version, taking advantage of updated audio/visual technology, and the fact that many people now have Blu-ray burners, to offer an HD version—it’s free for download at the Genesis Museum—of the Shepperton concert. That’s… really generous

Old Michael went past the pet shop, which was never open, into the park, which was never closed, and the park was full of a very smooth, clean, green grass. So Henry took off all his clothes and began rubbing his flesh into the wet, clean, green grass. He accompanied himself with a little tune - it went like this….

Set list:
“Watcher Of The Skies”
“Dancing With The Moonlit Knight”
“I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)”
“The Musical Box”
“Supper’s Ready”

This is perhaps the single best representation of Peter Gabriel-era Genesis on film. Sadly there is next to nothing that exists of live footage of them playing their enigmatic, inscrutable masterpiece, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, but if I had to pick a second choice, it would be seeing them do their seven-movement progressive rock sonata, Foxtrot‘s epic “Supper’s Ready.”
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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03.20.2014
09:42 pm
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King Crimson: Incredibly heavy, yet somehow still gravity-defying live set from 1974
03.10.2014
05:11 pm
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As there is precious little live footage of the pre-80s incarnations of King Crimson—Beat Club, the poor quality fragment from Hyde Park in 1969 and the Central Park 1974 clip, not much—this extended 29-minute set from France’s Melody television show is a treasure (even with all of those goofy video effects, in fact, I think they enhance it nicely).

The line-up is Bill Bruford, John Wetton, David Cross and Robert Fripp.

1 - Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Part II
2 - The Night Watch
3 - Lament
4 - Starless

Larks’ Tongues here is frighteningly good.

The quality is great, but it’s even better on the deluxe 40th Anniversary Series edition of Red that came out in 2009. That release, with Steve Wilson’s insane 5.1 surround mix of the album (done with Robert Fripp’s participation), sounds like a jet plane lifting off inside your living room skull. Red happens to be one of the heaviest rock albums of all time. Crank it up loud enough and the sonic power of that album can blow you away like a feather in the wind. Most King Crimson albums I find to be a bit spotty (some of them are really spotty, in fact) but when they lock into a serious groove, like on Red’s unfuckingbelievable title cut, well it’s awe-inspiring.

If you haven’t heard the Steve Wilson 5.1 surround treatment of the classic King Crimson albums and you’ve got a 5.1 set up for TV and gaming, they are simply superb. I recommend starting with the first King Crimson album, In the Court of the Crimson King, because it’s a great—indeed the perfect—place to start anyway, plus Wilson did such a crazy good job with it. Ditto with Lizard. Hell, I never even liked that album, but in Wilson’s mix the “rock band as symphony” aspect of the work is teased out nicely and envelops you like you’re standing inside of a large (and especially complex) audio equivalent of an Alexander Calder mobile.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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03.10.2014
05:11 pm
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Emerson Lake & Palmer: Do they suck?


 
Over the weekend and for half the day yesterday, I tried—TRIED—to figure out if there was anything worthwhile in the Emerson Lake & Palmer catalog.

The answer is yes, but not that much! For the most part, they’re bloody horrible, exhibiting the very worst muso excesses of any of the progrock bands. Musical hubris on a very grand scale, pop pomposity writ large. Genesis seem humble compared to these guys. Even Yes never got even close to the edge of what ELP were all about. One album after another struck me as tedious, boring and just “virtuoso” shite, but there was occasionally a number—or a snatch of something, a moment in one of their longer pieces—that was not just good, but excellent. Those highlights were, quite honestly, to my ears, few and far between.

At their best, ELP could be sublime. No really. Carl Palmer is a truly great drummer. Keith Emerson is a keyboard god. Greg Lake, that man could sing! At their worst, they sound like three goofballs whose best idea was to rip off B. Bumble & The Stinger’s “Nut Rocker”, play it on the Moog and add an orchestra! Their problem isn’t their musicianship, it’s the fact that they have terrible, terrible tacky taste.

My wife politely inquired at one point “What the fuck is this shit?” When I told her, she rolled her eyes, shook her head and walked away from me, disappointed.
 

 
This isn’t the first time I’ve tried to figure out if there is anything decent in ELP’s recorded output. A double A-side of “Lucky Man” and the even better “From the Beginning” was one of the very first 45s I ever bought and I had most of their albums, purchased at a garage sale for 25 cents each. For a nine-year-old kid, the die-cut, fold-out H.R. Giger cover of Brain Salad Surgery seemed extra mysterious and cool, but the music left me totally cold. It’s not like I didn’t try to listen to it. A) I only had so many records at that age and B) because they were such a monster group, I wondered if maybe it was something that I wasn’t getting. (I listened to Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music around that same time, over and over again on headphones, because it irked me that I didn’t quite understand it.)

By the time Never Mind the Bollocks was in my hot little hands, I never gave Emerson Lake and Palmer another thought. Probably like the vast majority of you reading this, I would imagine.

Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to name a band so more or less forgotten, but who were once so MASSIVELY POPULAR. During their heyday, ELP sold over 25 million albums. There were basically tied with Led Zeppelin for the top-grossing touring act of 1974 and they co-headlined (with Deep Purple) the massive “California Jam” concert that year, a gig that drew over 250,000 people.
 

Awards? We got ‘em!

The next time I was reminded of them, they were hawking their box set on Live with Regis and Kathy Lee in the early 90s looking rather well-fed.

This is not a troll post, I promise. Maybe I’m the one still missing something… I’m happy to listen to anything by ELP that anyone cares to post in the comments. Here’s the best of what I found, my (admittedly short) list of Emerson, Lake and Palmer favorites.
 

“From the Beginning”—this song, a typical acoustic “Greg Lake number”—is killer. I’d rate this song a perfect 10/10. It’s awesome. Check out that fantastic Moog work from Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer’s delicate percussion. Why couldn’t they always be this restrained?
 

“Lucky Man”—another “Greg Lake number” (and written when he was just twelve years old!). This one’s a stone classic, nothing controversial in that statement, right? A great pop song. One for the ages.
 

Here you can see Emerson Lake & Palmer play Mussorgsky’s 1874 piece, “Pictures at an Exhibition” at London’s Lyceum Theater in 1970. Because this composition is often used to demonstrate “prowess” by concert pianists, I’m including this out of respect for Keith Emerson’s prodigious talents, but… yeah. This is all kinds of Spinal Tap…
 
More ELP after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Richard Metzger
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01.14.2014
03:34 pm
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