OK, so I see that the wall Trump wants to build between us and Mexico could cost U.S. taxpayers $15 billion! You KNOW Mexico isn't going to pay for it. So if this proceeds, we'll have something ELSE in common with the Russians. Remember the Berlin Wall? There's ANOTHER country that spent billions on Protecting The Homeland and building weapons, and comparatively nothing on its people and upgrading its infrastructure.
But who cares about all that political stuff, right? On with the music!
* Gordon Giltrap: Quest, from PERILOUS JOURNEY. Pleasant, lite, bouncy guitar-based progressive-rock instrumentals. Even more than Giltrap's guitars, the star here seems to be Rod Edwards' keyboards. John G. Perry, formerly of Caravan, on bass. All-star Simon Phillips on drums. Pretty and lively. Not real distinctive. Gets mellower and more ... lyrical(?) at the end. Only Giltrap album I've heard much of is THE PEACOCK'S PARTY, which is pretty great -- but I found JOURNEY and VISIONARY dirt-cheap at Half-Price Books in Tacoma, so what the hey....
* Gordon Giltrap: The Deserter, from JOURNEY. This focuses more on Giltrap's guitar, and has a stronger tune. It's also orchestrated. Nice.
* Gordon Giltrap: "Pastoral" and "Marbio Gorge" from JOURNEY. Well, these start off pastoral. Then the instruments kick in, and "Marbio Gorge" almost rocks. Classy soundtrack music. or, as they say in England, "One for the late-night wine-and-cheese-and-good-friends crowd." Nice, though. Different. No wonder he never made it in America.
* Colosseum: Walking in the Park, from THOSE WHO ARE ABOUT TO DIE SALUTE YOU. Late-'60s/early-'70s jazz-rock keyboards-and-horns jam-band from England. Swinging big-band sound not too far from WATERLOO LILY-era Caravan. production's a bit primitive. They've got the energy, though. Series of brief solos from the two keyboardists, sax, and guitar. Dick Heckstall-Smith's sax stands out most. Least attractive is whoever's doing the singing.
* Colosseum: Valentyne Suite, from THOSE WHO ARE ABOUT TO.... Ok, we'll see how far I can get into this 15-minute three-part thing. Opening has nice mystical keyboards and lots of energy. This ain't no laid-back New Age stuff. More good sax from Dick Heckstall-Smith. Riffy, with lots of activity -- drums, vibes, that sax, guitar and those double keyboards, all busy doing something. Jon Hiseman's a good drummer, too. They sound way better when no one's singing. Kinda dated organ sound, but I don't care. The organ really takes off in the second part, then the heavy riffing starts. I'm reminded a bit of Caravan's "For Richard." Then Keith Emerson comes in and shows off! Shocking! These guys rock! ... Then a sorta chorale section for contrast, then more riffing. If there's gotta be jazz-rock, it should all sound like this. Then there's a mellower closing section that sounds vaguely like "A Whiter Shade of Pale".... Then a noisy ending with LOTS of sax. Not bad, could grow on me. Probably will, thanks to the heavy riffing.
-- Maggie Roche of The Roches died over the weekend. She was 65. I bought the first Roches album back in '79 -- was convinced as soon as I heard Bob Fripp's guitar in the middle of the gorgeous "Hammond Song," which Maggie wrote. Fripp's guitar was what sold me, but it's the luminous vocal harmonies that mean the most to me now. Maggie also wrote a couple other highlights on that album -- "Quitting Time" and "The Married Men." Linda Ronstadt and Pheobe Snow teamed up to sing "Married Men" on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE around the same time. Only other Roches album I heard much of was NURDS, which was pretty loopy. No suprise they never got really famous. But "Hammond Song" is amazing -- you should try to track it down.
* Manfred Mann's Earth Band: Get Your Rocks Off, from GET YOUR ROCKS OFF. Bob Dylan wrote this heavy riffer with the crude lyrics? Shocking. Sure it helped him win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Nice guitar from Mick Rogers.
* Manfred Mann's Earth Band: Buddah, from ROCKS. Dreamy verses, heavy choruses, then it gets spacey in the midsection and manfred shows off a little. What did I expect? Nice keyboard sounds. Gains momentum in the middle as it goes. OK, but somehow I expected more.
* Manfred Mann's Earth Band: Pretty Good, from ROCKS. This is a John Prine song. Nice guitar work, and a catchy chorus. Manfred messes around just a little in the middle, but overall pretty straight-forward for these guys. And the chorus'll grow on ya.
* Manfred Mann's Earth Band: Messin', from ROCKS. They sure were heavier when Mick Rogers was around. This has an ecology theme, sort of a mantra for choruses. Ten minutes of this? Time for lunch! ... The midsection starts spacey, then leads into a long Mick Rogers guitar freakout, which is worth hearing. Doubt if anybody got the ecology message -- they were probly too busy gettin' off on the heavy sounds, man.
* Argent: Lothlorien, from RING OF HANDS. Though not as great as their mantra-like "Dance in the Smoke," this has lots of excellent show-offy keyboard, and the vocals are nice. Melodic, too. I still think these guys are underrated.
* Argent: Cast Your Spell Uranus, from RING OF HANDS. Uh, er, um, hang on. I might've spoken too soon. This is just silly. Both the song and the lyrics are worthy of Klaatu. More nice keybs from Rod Argent, though.
* Argent: Celebration. More nice keyboards from Rod Argent, and a catchy chorus.
* Intergalactic Touring Band: Love Station, from their only album. Gimmicky sci-fi disco, with Ben E. King on vocals as intergalactic DJ Romeo Jones. Some nice playing, but the album package and concept is more entertaining than the music.
* Intergalactic Touring Band: A Planet Called Monday. OK, a low-rent Alan Parsons Project. Not terrible, but pretty light.
* Intergalactic Touring Band: Approach. Synergy's Larry Fast on keyboards and mellotron, backed by the London Symphony Orchestra. Cosmic enough, I guess. A real oddity. Recommended to 55-year-old STAR WARS fans.
* John Tropea: The Funk You See is the Funk You Do!, from SHORT TRIP TO SPACE. More sci-fi disco, tho way funkier. Tropea's a jazz guitarist, played on Deodato's hit "2001," among many other sessions. Starts out sounding a little like Earth, Wind and Fire, then gets lighter. Nice guitar solo. Too bad about the singing. "Can't Hide Love," which follows, was an EWF track first, and sounds just like them, I recognized it right off ... so what's the point?
* John Tropea: Short Trip to Space. This is more like it. Spacey, but bouncy, so it moves and doesn't get boring. Nice keyboards by Don Grolnick, good trumpet solo from Mike Brecker, and Tropea ain't slouchin' around either. OK background music. Yes, I admit I bought this album because of the outer-space cover....