Sunday, January 15, 2017

The return of Really Bad Prog

...with no coffee!
- Gentle Giant: "Words From the Wise" from GIANT FOR A DAY. Wow, really bouncy upbeat Gregorian-chant-style vocal rocker like they often did, but lots more energetic. I don't remember this being so shiny and energetic back in the day. or is it the lack of coffee? This is a little too upbeat for waking-up music, but it will bring some life into the room. When this came out back in '78, me and my old buddy Don Vincent thought it was the worst Prog album ever. Little did we know there would be much worse in the future.
- Gentle Giant: "Thank You" from ...FOR A DAY. Now this is clearly an effort to go "more commercial." This is just a straight love ballad that could have fit right in on late-'70s radio. Pretty simple. No tricks. OK for what it is, but kinda dull. Lotsa mellow acoustic-guitar strumming and good(?) vibes.
- Gentle Giant: "Giant for a Day." Annoying, New-Wave-style solo-vocal opening, followed by trebly guitar and electronics. They were listening to too many skinny-tie British bands. Or maybe too much Devo. But some playful bits in the midsection. Signs of too much coffee consumption. Mechanical.
- Gentle Giant: "Spooky Boogie" from DAY. Mildly tricky instrumental, sounds like Halloween soundtrack music. Split Enz did stuff like this later. OK, but way down from what these guys could do at their best. Why does trying to reach a bigger audience automatically mean you have to dumb things down and simplify everything? At least it's short.
- Gentle Giant: "Take Me" from DAY. Another mellow love song, with possibly the best construction and catchiest choruses on the whole side. Not Prog, but pleasant enough. Over quickly. A pretty fast side.
- Barclay James Harvest: "Song for the Children" from TIME HONOURED GHOSTS. Nice sparkly guitar and OK group vocals, but kinda anonymous. Where's the mellotron?
- Barclay James Harvest: "Moongirl" from GHOSTS. This sounds more like BJH, there's more keyboards and it has a dreamy, drifty sound. Still pretty anonymous. Could be anyone. Prog background music.
- BJH: "Titles" from GHOSTS. Now this is something different -- a sludgy ballad with a bunch of Beatles song-titles strung together for lyrics! Brilliant! But not very inspired. Musically limp.
- Jethro Tull: "Crossfire" from A. Didn't Tull take kind of a beating for dropping their folky approach and trying to streamline with the New-Wave times? This isn't too far off from their previous stuff, with Eddie Jobson's keyboard twinklings here and there and Ian Anderson's usual flute accents. It's maybe a little quicker, wastes no time.
- Jethro Tull: "Flyingdale Flyer" from A. OK, maybe they got whacked for the over-reliance on keyboards and electronics. This still sounds pretty straightforward and streamlined. It's maybe missing the tricky little intricacies of earlier Tull. But not bad.
- Jethro Tull: "Working John, Working Joe" from A. This seems to be a critique of business conditions in England at the time. Hmmm. Thank Ghod for the riffing guitar and mildly catchy choruses.
- Jethro Tull: "Black Sunday" from A. Opens with icy synthesizer straight out of Tull's STORMWATCH album, provided by Eddie Jobson. Then straight into a jumpy jig. Then fast, wordy verses. Pretty proggy. Nice keybs-and-guitar midsection. Ian joins in on flute later. This song also seems to be about too much work and too much travel. Too much stress from modern life. Been too long on the road.... Overall, a pretty fast and mildly enjoyable side, if a bit jumpy in places....
- Yes: "Release, Release" from TORMATO. Good Lord, haven't heard this in years. Opens with some rather nice, jagged Steve Howe guitar. Then more simplistic rocking -- though at high speed. Jon Anderson slams in a bunch of wordy lyrics. Another band listening to too much New Wave. Too fast. LOTS going on here. Then a drum solo, with crowd noises. Faster! Too much coffee! Where'd that cheezy organ sound come from? Yeezus, what a whirlwind. These boys need to calm DOWN.
- Yes: "Madrigal" from TORMATO. Well, at least this is CALMER. This is almost TOO sweet. Rick Wakeman could almost be playing that harpsichord in your drawing room. Very delicate acoustic guitar from Steve Howe. The lyrics don't match the setting: "Celestial travelers have always been here with us...."
- Yes: "Onward" from TORMATO. Comparatively simple, tranquil mood music. In this setting, a pretty, direct love song. Pleasant, but not stunning.
- Yes: "On the Silent Wings of Freedom" from TORMATO. This is more like it. Nice long opening with spacey guitar, keyboards and bass. Inventive guitar in the verses. It's actually too bad Jon Anderson has to sing, 'cos there's some interesting playing going on. It gets much more rushed later, back into that too-much-coffee feeling, just before closing abruptly. Makes for a quick almost-8-minutes. Couple more pieces like this, and this album wouldn't have been a waste.
- Klaatu: "The Loneliest of Creatures" from HOPE. Who ARE these gremlins? Not sure why John, Paul, George and Ringo allowed their voices to be all squinched-up like this, but this sounds a lot more like Queen. A LOT. Mildly funny. Kind of operatic and overbearing. And then it gets worse.
- Klaatu: "Prelude" from HOPE. Now this really DOES sound like Queen. A kind of overbearing symphony with added electric guitar and keyboards. Seems a good time to get another cup of coffee.
- Klaatu: "So Said the Lighthouse Keeper" from HOPE. Wow, it's Coheed and Cambria! Enough.
- Klaatu" We're Off You Know" from HOPE. Still sounds like The Beatles Meet Queen. With a weaker singer. Pretty clear, solid production for the time. You can hear the orchestra and horns clear as a bell. But cleverness isn't enough.
- Triumvirat: "The Capital of Power" from SPARTACUS. Very ELP-ish, though simpler and not as ... uh ... bombastic(?). Pleasant, almost catchy.
- Triumvirat: "The School of Instant Pain" from SPARTACUS. OK, ELP-lite. They could almost pass for the original if Greg Lake were singing. But bassist Helmut Kollen doesn't have Lake's declaiming vocal style quite down. Keyboardist Jurgen Fritz does have a lot of Keith Emerson's mannerisms, though. His keyboards are the best part of this show. Uh oh, then comes The Dreaded Drum Solo.... OK lite cheezy fun.
- Steve Hillage: "Lunar Musick Suite" from L. Who is this long-haired hippy? This is not at ALL the spacey cosmick guitar stuff I expected. Ferociously fast and loud. John Wilcox of Utopia hammering away on the drums. Then it slows down.... OK, even I have limits.
- Steve Hillage: "Hurdy Gurdy Glissando" from L. THIS is the spacey stuff I expected. Nice squiggly keyboards. Weedy vocals. Wilcox again impressive on drums. And if you think I'm gonna play Hillage's version of Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man," you're wrong. I can barely stand the original. ...This almost sounds like Gong. Is Daevid Allen on here somewhere?
- Starcastle: "Fountains" from FOUNTAINS OF LIGHT. Now we have Yes-lite. Nice airy keyboards. Light vocals. Ten minutes of this? They need to punch it up. This sounds rather ornately pretty, and the words mean Nothing. The billowy nature-centered lyrics could almost be a takeoff from Yes's "Roundabout." Still waiting for them to punch it up....

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