Saturday, February 5, 2011

On Reflection....

The further I get in2 Will Romano's MOUNTAINS COME OUT OF THE SKY, the more my opinion of this book changes. Already some of the initial impressions I had about this illustrated history of progressive rock have been proven wrong.
Yes, Romano makes some mistakes. Yes, the book coulda been proofread better -- I think that about MOST books, these days. Yes, at least 1 band member's name is wrong. Yes, Romano has his blank spots. & his sentences do sometimes go on & on when he tries 2 cram 2 much data in -- I'm the last person in the world who should complain about that.
Yes, there R things I woulda done diffrently. But I don't wanna knit-pick this book 2 death 4 small errors, cos I think the effort involved was worth it, Bcos the interviews alone musta taken MONTHS of work, & Bcos it's so much better, so much more solid on facts & Dtails -- & so much closer 2 Bing in Real English -- than some previous attempts in this area (STRAWBERRY BRICKS GUIDE TO PROG, PROGRESSIVE ROCK FILES).

PLUSSES: Some of the sections on individual bands R pretty great. The section on Jethro Tull is really well done & quite Dtailed -- I learned some things -- even tho Ian Anderson's quotes R VERY formal -- they sound like they came from a prepared statement, rather than a face-to-face interview. & it was good 2 hear from original guitarist Mick Abrahams & keyboardist/strings-arranger David Palmer.
The section on Kansas is outstanding -- lotsa history & Dtail & depth. The whole section on "Prog Folk" is very well done -- good attn 2 the big names as well as the obscurities, even those who I don't really think qualify as "prog." I also learned a lot from the section on Gentle Giant.
The section on the Strawbs is a better history than that included in their HALCYON DAYS best-of, including info on why they left A&M Records, which leader Dave Cousins calls "the stupidest thing we ever did."
The graphics & artwork R superb. Summa the album covers Romano dug-up R great 2 C. Actually, there coulda bn more album-cover art.
Romano often names his chapters & sections after well-known prog song or album titles ... like I sometimes do here. It's a little thing & it's silly, but I like it.

MINUSES: Romano has a real blank spot with the "poppier" end of prog, "prog-pop" or "symphonic pop" if U want. Alan Parsons Project gets a write-up in some Dtail, but the Moody Blues R ignored after DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED, Camel is basically dismissed after RAIN DANCES, & there's a chapter that looks at the "commercializing" of later Genesis & Yes in not-very-positive terms. I think you can miss a lot of good stuff by ignoring the pop side -- the Moodies did a lot of great "pop" stuff that was still a ways out there; Camel's later more "commercial" albums hava lotta hidden gems, & their NUDE is 1 of their best albums ever, quite diffrent & proggy, & Romano ignores it.
A section on Barclay James Harvest is fairly Dtailed, but unfortunately focuses mainly on their 1976 album OCTOBERON, which is 1 of the worst albums of theirs I actually made it all the way thru (some of theirs, such as XII, I NEVER got thru). The only member of BJH interviewed is keyboardist Stuart "Wooly" Wolstenholme, who complains he could never record anything angry, bitter or cynical with the band -- but his songs with them always struck me as the most sentimental & mushy of the group's 3 songwriters. Romano also ignores the occasional great stuff BJH did after 1977 ("Hymn," "Spirit on the Water," "Ring of Changes," "Poor Man's Moody Blues," "Play to the World," "The Song They Love to Sing").
Gryphon is mentioned but their music isn't actually discussed. (Kraftwerk & Neu! R mentioned in the section on Krautrock, but that's all.) Actually, there R sevral bands whose album-cover artwork is included, but whose work is never looked at. & I'm not sure about the wisdom of blowing Nektar's album-cover artwork up big 4 the Krautrock section, but giving the band 2 paragraphs of Dtail buried at the Nd of the section.
MayB Romano had 2 cut some of his book. A coupla sections seem 2 Nd in mid-thot, as if the essay continued but we don't get 2 C it, as with the Nektar write-up above. Mike Oldfield gets 3 pgs just Bcos of the success of TUBULAR BELLS, & tho his other albums R mentioned, I think Romano coulda done more.
Procol Harum is ignored after "Whiter Shade of Pale."
The section on American prog bands asks whether the US can compete w/ Britain & Europe, then profiles only Kansas & Styx. Other US acts make it 2 Romano's "Top 300" list at the end of the book, but they're mentioned nowhere else in the text: Happy the Man, Dixie Dregs, etc.
The book doesn't make 2 big a point of directing you toward great bands you've never heard-of before. Outside of the sections on Germany & Italy, I'd heard mosta the names B4. It's not until that Top 300 list that some unfamiliar names pop up: Ethos, Cathedral, etc. You won't find Providence, Group 87, Sky, Glass Moon....
Some1 else will havta judge if the book's last section on neo-progressive & current prog bands is accurate -- I've hardly heard NE of the music, tho it was neat 2 C Coheed & Cambria mentioned. & 2 Tool albums R included in the Top 300, but they're not in the book. But then, lotsa artists listed in the Top 300 Rn't in the book.
In fact, that Top 300 list kinda bugs me. No way do I think Camel's MOONMADNESS is the #5 prog album ever -- I don't think it's even among their best 1/2-dozen. I wish Romano talked less about albums & more about the songs & pieces that R ON them....

Does this mostly sound like bitching & whining? MayB. How I woulda done it diffrent? MayB that 2. But I still think this book is worth getting. Score a copy & have fun disagreeing with Romano yourself.....
...I'm probly not done with this.

...Realizing that I've been writing a LOT on books & not much on music lately, I was going 2 get up early Friday & totally music-out ... but I woke-up late instead & then Real Life got in the way.
But: I'm losing a roommate soon, which should mean I'll B able 2 play strange music more often without scaring people out of the house, so there should B more music-reviewing appearing here soon. Hope U'll stick around 4 that.
Attack of the 45's!
Really Bad Prog!
Camel's RAINBOW'S END best-of -- I mean it this time....
...& possibly, if I can go thru with it, "Wine, Women and Songs," possibly just in time 4 Valentine's Day, if I don't lose my nerve....
Thanx 4 reading....

No comments: