Classic Rock Review

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The Who At Kilburn 1977 (& The Coliseum 1969) DVD


The press materials for The Who at Kilburn 1977 describe this DVD as “a holy grail for fans after decades of anticipation,” and that’s no piece of bull dreamed up by somebody in marketing. Die-hard Who fans (a group of which I proudly include myself as a member) have long since obsessed over obtaining audio and/or video from a handful of legendary shows, including, but not limited to:

London, 5/2/69: the premiere of Tommy to the press at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club;

Newcastle, 11/5/73: the sixth night of the Quadrophenia tour, when the band’s backing tapes failed, resulting in Townshend pulling longtime soundman Bobby Pridden across the soundboard, ripping out backing tapes and smashing equipment, all to the disbelief of the rest of the band … and the entire crowd;

Kilburn, 12/15/77: aka the second-to-last Who concert to feature Keith Moon, filmed for inclusion in Jeff Stein’s masterpiece rockumentary The Kids Are Alright but shelved because of a subpar performance by an out-of-practice band (save for the inclusion of “My Wife” on the TKAA soundtrack and a few 15-30 second clips over the years).

Audio from the Kilburn show surfaced on a bootleg in the early part of this decade (oddly enough, most likely from one of my cassette tapes, but that’s another story) and last week, the full concert, warts and all, was finally released in all its six-camera, 35mm glory, along with a second disc featuring footage from a Tommy show at the London Coliseum.

So now, the questions can be answered: were the ‘oo truly ‘orrible? Is the Kilburn show nothing but a display of mediocrity? Were the Who justified in shelving it for all these years?


A bit of historical (Whostorical?) context for you: 1977 was, by and large, a Who-less year. The band had played their last full concert in front of a paying audience in October of 1976. No Who records were released in ’77 and until Kilburn, no concerts were played. It was pretty much the longest period of “dead time” the Who had experienced in 14 years. Pete Townshend released his collaboration with Ronnie Lane, Rough Mix. Roger Daltrey released yet another mediocre solo record, One of the Boys. John Entwistle laid low and Keith Moon got high, living the only way he knew how, in excess in Los Angeles.

As Jeff Stein was gathering material for his documentary, he realized there was very little footage of the band playing their ’70s classics live (the band had banned video recordings after 1970). He asked the band to reconvene for a special filmed concert at Gaumont State Cinema in Kilburn. They agreed.

The concert came at a terrible time for the Who. Townshend, citing problems with both his ears and his role as a husband and father, had recently mentioned he no longer wanted to tour. Moon was in terrible shape, overweight and slow (although, to be fair, he wasn’t exactly in fighting form in ’76 either). The band had lost some of its internal communication, that sixth sense that kept them in sync with each other on the stage. Relying on a typical 1976 setlist, they actually forgot how to play a few of their songs, like “I’m Free” and “Tommy’s Holiday Camp.” (Pete sings “How can we follow?” and Roger responds “Where the fuck are we?”) At Kilburn, after only a couple of rehearsals at most over the year, The Who were sloppy, and Pete Townshend was angry.

Did you read that? Pete Townshend was angry. And Lesson Numero Uno of the Who: an angry Townshend is an exciting Townshend. When shit goes wrong at a Who show — even now — keep your eye on Pete. You’re going to see some amazing stuff. And Kilburn is no different. Watch in awe during “My Wife,” as Pete hits himself in the head with his guitar (twice!), leaps all over the stage, and, near the end, throws a tantrum by his amplifier and causes a roadie to most likely piss his pants in the process. (Addendum to my previous statement: an angry Townshend is an exciting Townshend … so long as it’s not directed at you.)

But forget anger for a moment. Here’s the thing about Kilburn: the Who still were, for my money, the greatest live rock n’ roll band in the world in the ’70s. The Who on an off-night is still The Who. Which means that despite any flubs, the band still sounded pretty fucking amazing, and gave every second of their performance 100% devotion and sweat. When the band line-up consisted of Daltrey, Townshend, Entwistle and Moon, they simply didn’t know how to do anything less. Watching this DVD, you’re not only viewing a great concert. You’ve got a front-row seat to some kind of perverted rock science experiment, observing a band fighting tooth-and-nail to retain their identity. You’re also basically witnessing the end of an era; Keith Moon would be dead less than a year later.

Because this concert was professionally shot with six cameras, it offers a rare look at each member of the band and how each of them contributed so much greater as a cohesive unit. You’ve got the time to marvel at Entwistle’s blurred fingers, Daltrey’s lasso of a microphone, and Townshend’s gymnast-worth leaps on, well, just about every song. And even though Moon can’t match his work from the ’60s and early-to-mid-’70s, he’s still playing the shit out of his kit. There’s a fantastic shot during the “My Generation” jam of his little feet and jangly legs, dutifully kicking away at two bass drums. It’s been said that Moon was ashamed of his physical condition (and perhaps wore the god-awful purple jumpsuit to hide it), which makes it all the more fascinating to observe how he, always the clown, forgets about his problems and does his very best to keep a frustrated Townshend in good spirits.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, a second disc features the Who at the London Coliseum on December 14, 1969, a number of months into Tommy mania. Though the visual quality of the concert can’t hold a candle to Kilburn — much of it is a blurry mess — it’s a performance like this one that begat the genius of Live at Leeds and is fascinating from both a musical and historical perspective. Now this is the Who at pretty much their peak power: young and hungry with something to prove. Round these two discs out with fantastic liner notes from four Who historians (and genuine fans), and you’ve got a collection not to be missed.

I first discovered the Who at 17 years old. Shortly after, I went to my local library and rented The Kids Are Alright. I sat mesmerized as I watched the band rip through a version of “Baba O’Riley” so electrifying from both aural and visual standpoints that I had to actually pause the video and calm myself down. My heart was beating a mile a minute after watching such well-filmed performances from four musicians with fire in their guts. The Who at Kilburn is an hour of this stuff. 14 years later, I still can’t watch these guys without stopping to catch my breath.

February 27, 2013 Posted by | The Who At Kilburn 1977 (& The Coliseum 1969) | , | Leave a comment

The Who At Kilburn 1977 (& The Coliseum 1969) DVD


This is a pretty amazing DVD of a show that’s been waiting for video release for over 30 years. In late 1977, as part of their bid to assist Jeff Stein in the production of the authorized band video biography The Kids Are Alright, the Who got back together at Kilburn in North London, before an invited audience, to play their first live show in a year.

They got off to a rough start in terms of timing and cues — “I Can’t Explain” is a little looser than it comes off in earlier live performances, but once they leap into “Substitute” it seems like everything locks in, in terms of the playing at least.

Roger Daltrey’s singing also catches up to its previously high standards about midway through the latter number, so that only four minutes into the set this becomes a perfectly good — if not quite great — Who performance. Of course, this is the latter-day Who, with a little more finesse and less sheer energy than one got from them a decade earlier, but they make up for it with precision in the small details in performances of their post-Tommy material.

Nothing will ever completely replace the power with which they attacked numbers like “Substitute” or “Summertime Blues” in the 1960s, or even up through their 1971 tour, but when Pete Townshend does his little slide pyrotechnics down the fretboard on “Baba O’Reilly” or they stretch out on the break during John Entwistle’s “My Wife,” it does compensate for the ravages of age that were overtaking performances of their earlier repertory. And they also do full justice to their 1970s-era songs which, if they mostly haven’t endured the way the classic stuff has, are still great fun.

As to the video, it’s all state of the art, now as well as then — after all, Stein was capturing this show for his movie, and he doesn’t miss a camera angle or an edit anywhere — the letterboxed image (1.66-to-1) is crystal clear. Ditto the sound, which is about as good as any Who performance that was ever captured officially, from Monterey Pop onward. And this was Keith Moon’s next to last live performance with the band, and he does get his moments and more before the cameras.

The Kilburn show by itself would be worth the price of this double-disc package, but even better is the second disc, The Who at the Colosseum, filmed in 16mm at a December 14, 1969, show at London’s largest theatrical arena. The sound is crude, the video is often dark (and sometimes limited to a single camera, as those in use needed to be reloaded more than four times an hour). But here is the classic Who in action, in their prime, at their peak as a rock & roll band.

Tommy, mostly represented in excepts as a bonus feature on the disc, makes up a big chunk of the show, as tended to be the case that year, but 70-plus minutes of the Who doing almost anything from this period, even badly lit and shot from static (and not always well-placed) cameras, is worth the price of admission — and this disc doesn’t disappoint, even with a scratched and grainy image (letterboxed at 1.66-to-1). And the close-ups, when they do work — and they do much of the time — capture all of the youthful energy, and some surprising moments of subtlety and elegance, as in their transition from “Fortune Teller” to “Tattoo.”

This is the Who in all of their glory, and by itself this disc — though treated as a “bonus” — is worth the price of the package and then some. Anyone who ever wore out copies of their first half-dozen albums, or at least two of their singles, should grab it immediately.

February 27, 2013 Posted by | The Who At Kilburn 1977 (& The Coliseum 1969) | , | Leave a comment

The Who Thirty Years Of Maximum R ‘n’ B DVD (1994)


Rest assured I did not shell out this box set’s full value’s worth, or else this’d have been the most arrogant (actually, the most predictable, too) rip-off in my shopping career. Actually, this boxset made a lot more sense in 1994 than it does now; reissues of the Who’s entire catalog have rendered it almost useless nowadays. Back then, though, it was a smash hit among the critics and was often proclaimed as everything a good boxset should be. In my mind’s eye, however, the principle of a boxset intended both for neophytes and collectors is either a ridiculously stupid or a non-ridiculously money-grubbing idea, so I consider it as a rip-off even back then. Ah well – at least it’s got good collector’s value.

As you might expect, the four CDs here present you with a rather detailed retrospective of the Who’s past, even if “thirty years” is a bit of an exaggeration – hey, just because you guys reunited in 1989 to tour and in 1991 to record a song for an Elton John tribute album doesn’t mean you’ve been kicking the world’s ass all through the Eighties. However, as far as the tracklisting goes, I don’t have too many problems with it. Okay, so I have a big problem – I want more rarities and live versions – but as far as “stupid boxsets” go, this one is at least reasonably structured. It should be noted that even out of the well-known songs, many are remixed in a way that makes them sound completely different from what you get on regular CDs. Which actually helps – sometimes – because you can trace every note that is played, but sometimes doesn’t; check out ‘Rael’, for instance, where Townshend and co.’s extremely thin backing harmonies are brought so high up in the mix you can easily notice how limp and flawed they are, almost as if you were listening to a raw demo version of the song.

Actually, if you really are a Who completist, at the very least buying the boxset gets you rid of the necessity to buy any “greatest hits” compilation, as all of the Who’s classic singles that didn’t make it onto either the original studio records or the re-issues are here: ‘I Can’t Explain’, ‘My Generation’, ‘I’m A Boy’, ‘Pictures Of Lily’, ‘The Seeker’, etc., etc., together with the lesser standards like ‘Let’s See Action’ and ‘The Relay’. Only ‘Substitute’, for some absolutely ridiculous reason, has been “substituted” for the live version from Live At Leeds – a pretty crappy decision if you ask me (not that the live version is bad, but how’re you supposed to be getting the studio one? Buying a compilation? Aaaargh!).

Even so, though, after sorting out all the “hits” and previously available album tracks, and after sorting out all the tracks that made it onto the latter day reissues, you can still come up with about one CD’s worth of material that’s hard to come by otherwise – songs that are only available on out-of-print rarities compilations and songs that, to my knowledge, really aren’t available anywhere else. Some of this stuff isn’t recommendable at all, yet still some is very recommendable – to the point that if you’re a fanatic, I can’t imagine seeing you without them. Let me now briefly introduce you to this rare material by browsing through the four discs.

THE FIRST DISC roughly covers the Who’s formative years and the early punkish/lightweight-artsyish years of 1965-66. As you might expect, it features a huge amount of hit singles plus some of the more important album tracks off the first two albums. Some of the rarities on here ended up as bonus tracks to A Quick One and Sell Out, but others did not. Among the earliest stuff you’ll find a not particularly inspired cover of Bo Diddley’s ‘Here ‘Tis’, as well as the B-side to ‘I’m The Face’, the Shadows-style ‘Zoot Suit’, which is kinda fun (I think it’s also available on the Quadrophenia movie soundtrack album). More impressive is the B-side to ‘Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere’, the band’s furious rendition of ‘Daddy Rolling Stone’ which – if you really need my opinion – is one of their very best renditions of a true classic R’n’B number. Granted, in the Who’s case that ain’t saying much, but it really beats the shit out of the feeble James Brownisms of their debut. Then there’s ‘Happy Jack Jingle’ (‘Happy Jack had some fun here on Radio 1!’); the band’s feeble, almost laughable, but still historically curious Stones tribute cover of ‘The Last Time’ (the other Stones-supporting song, ‘Under My Thumb’, can be found on the reissue of Odds & Sods) and the disc concludes with the rare B-side ‘Call Me Lightning’, actually one of the more “rocking” numbers done by the band in 1967. A bit slight already by The Who’s current live standards, but catchy and melodic. Oh, and the most bizarre thing on the disc is the “hybrid” version of ‘A Quick One’, which incorporates parts of the studio original into a live version recorded at the Stones’ Rock’n’Roll Circus – but it’s NOT the live version you can hear on Kids, apparently it’s a different take. Certainly gives you something to think about.

THE SECOND DISC, covering the “hippie glory years” of 1967-70, is somewhat less rarity-abundant, but there’s some real good stuff on here. Namely, there are studio versions of ‘Fortune Teller’ and ‘Heaven And Hell’, which are both heavier and crunchier than any other studio Who of the period; still don’t match the ferocious Leeds renditions, of course, but they DO kick ass nevertheless, and Pete’s soloing on ‘Heaven And Hell’ is as ecstatic as ever. There’s also ‘Dogs’, the unsuccessful 1968 single which might just be the most eccentric song The Who ever put on record (I feel a strong Keith Moon influence here, too!), with Roger singing in a heavy Cockney accent about how ‘there was nothing in my life better than beer! until you, little darling…’. A good song to play to those who don’t feel just how quintessentially British these guys are – obviously, it flopped for the same reasons as Village Green and Giles, Giles & Fripp’s one and only album: 1968 wasn’t exactly the best year for showcasing one’s “traditionally-oriented” side. There’s also a slightly extended (in comparison with the version on Kids) ‘Sparks’ rendition from Woodstock, preceded by the infamous ‘Abbie Hoffman incident’, when Pete booted Abbie offstage for talking political bullshit in the middle of the concert (too bad we don’t get to hear the actual KICK!), and for some reason retitled ‘Underture’ even if it’s not really ‘Underture’; and the Leeds rendition of ‘See Me Feel Me’, also a weird ‘hybrid’ because the opening is taken directly from the studio version, and probably heavily edited. Overall, though, about half of this second CD is now on The Who Sell Out, so it’s less interesting.

THE THIRD DISC covers the Who’s Next/Quadrophenia period and is the least useful of all cuz it’s mainly devoted to reproducing the radio standards off the former album. Out of these, only ‘Bargain’ is presented in an alternate version – a live rendition recorded at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium (and earlier available in a fuller form on the rarities album Who’s Missing). It’s a cool live number with a fake ending and all, but I wouldn’t say it annihilates the studio original or anything. And unless you count stuff like ‘Let’s See Action’ or ‘The Relay’, the only other two really rare numbers are: a live performance of the classic rocker ‘Bony Moronie’, taken from the band’s Lifehouse sessions at the Young Vic (it’s always fun to hear Pete go through a generic rock’n’roll riff, but I get the feeling the song is kinda “hurried”), and a weird, weird, weird re-recording of ‘The Real Me’ at the first rehearsal sessions with Kenney Jones (sic!). Weird, because it sounds like the original slowed down a couple of notches – I can almost feel Pete, John, and Kenney falling into a hypnotic trance as they play along! No, really, listen to that bass, it sounds like yawning. Ever heard a bass guitar yawn? John makes it yawn. All the more weird because Roger’s lionish roar might be even better than on the original. A very confused performance, well worth hearing if you wanna get yourself a good puzzling.

THE FOURTH DISC, chronologically covering the hugest span with tracks ranging from 1971 to 1991, fortunately picks up the “rarity-fullness” again. The kickass live version of ‘Naked Eye’ here is now officially available on the reissue of Who’s Next, and I might be mistaken, but the live 1976 version of ‘Dreaming From The Waist’ might have made it onto the reissue of Who By Numbers (I don’t have that one, so can’t really tell), but in any case, it features some of the most awesome moments in the history of John Entwistle’s flying fingers. But the Swansea live version of ‘My Wife’ is certainly unavailable elsewhere, and it showcases the Who at the top of their game just as that other version of the same song, available on Kids, showed them at the total bottom of it. Hah! Fans of Keith Moon will be happy to have this particular disc, too, because of those four snippets of Monty Pythonesque comedy (‘Life With The Moons’ etc.) shoved in between some of the songs on here. They’re certainly cute.

Finally, the post Keith Moon period is intentionally drastically underrepresented (no complaints here – they did take ‘You Better You Bet’ and ‘Eminence Front’, unarguably the cream of the period’s crop, and wisely left out everything else), but you’ll still be getting two good live covers: the band doing ‘Twist And Shout’ on the 1982 tour (very aggressive and almost inspired, I’d say, although John on lead vocals sounds like total shit – what’s up with the guys singing and a laryngitis epidemy throughout the whole tour?), and the band doing ‘I’m A Man’ on the 1989 tour, with a very respectable Daltrey part. And they round things up with that Elton John tribute, which actually almost beats out the original cuz you’d sure expect Roger Daltrey to be more natural in his “tough guy” image than Elton himself; besides, it’s fun to see the traditional “macho Roger main part/sentimental Pete middle eight” opposition recreated as Pete unexpectedly inserts the chorus to ‘Take Me To The Pilot’ smack dab in the middle.

And there you have it. Now you can actually decide for your own whether you wanna follow in my footsteps or you prefer to back out. One thing’s for certain – almost none of these rarities fall under the “total shit” category, so if you’re a ‘casual fan’ and just want a “one-time” cash spending on the Who, the boxset is a reasonable buy. On the other hand, I can’t imagine anybody who would like the boxset and not want to invest in the actual albums anyway. So think!

February 27, 2013 Posted by | The Who Thirty Years Of Maximum R 'n' B | , | Leave a comment

The Who Odds And Sods (1974)


A slightly more obscure album of outtakes selected and cleaned up by John while the other band members were following their own fortunes. The good Ox thus lent a hand to the band in that (a) 1974 did not pass out without a Who album and (b) some of the real good stuff has been given out instead of dusting on the shelves. Still, one should always approach an outtake album with caution since, well, outtakes are usually something the band does not like from the start, and if even the band itself does not like ’em, why should we? In fact, the only great outtakes album I know seems to be Tattoo You, but most of them were reworked, so it’s not a clear-cut case… Oh, never mind.

This stuff mostly falls in three categories, one of which is Lifehouse outtakes, the other one is tunes written somewhere around 1972-73 but not directly related to any conceptual project, and the most precious part is earlier stuff which for the most part rules. Funny enough, they decided to include even their first single which was yet recorded under the High Numbers moniker (‘I’m The Face’, a dorky mod anthem set to the melody of Slim Harpo’s ‘Got Love If You Want It’ and lyrics of early mod guru Pete Meaden). It’s nothing special, but it is funny, and especially weird-looking in this context.

The early stuff also includes the anti-smoke groove ‘Little Billy’ which was originally made for a cancer society or something like that but rejected because the company thought it was too scary (ha-ha! little Billy didn’t mind!), and the gorgeous ballad ‘Faith In Something Bigger’ with some unsurpassed vocal harmonies and an excellent, soaring guitar solo (modestly hailed in the liner notes by Pete as “the worst I’ve heard”). Apparently it could have easily fit in on Sell Out. Plus, the shorty ‘Glow Girl’ provides some insights into the beginnings of Tommy – and did you know that ‘Tommy’ was supposed to be a girl in the first place? All these songs are very far from being classics, but that’s no big reason to dismiss ’em none.

Unfortunately, the 70’s stuff is not that good. Sure, it has ‘Naked Eye’, one of their most fascinating rockers with some of Townshend’s most hard-hitting, socially biting, pessimistic lyrics (check out an early, abbreviated, one-verse version on Isle Of Wight, as well as a live version as a bonus track to the re-issue of Who’s Next). It’s even a bit theatrical, with Roger impersonating the “power guy” and Pete playing the “bitter cynic”, thus leading to their more famous vocal interplay on ‘Punk And Godfather’. A classic track by all means. But then this stuff also includes ‘Pure And Easy’, which is the kind of real bombastic stuff I dislike about the Who; it’s in the same vein as ‘Song Is Over’, with even more of that smelly ‘universalist’ flair, and even its good melody and brilliant, understated, economic guitar solo don’t save it from ultimately getting my pukes. And the two songs of lesser cult status – ‘Put The Money Down’ and ‘Too Much Of Anything’ – are pretty average: no wonder they were left off of Who’s Next. Too slow, plodding and long; can’t say that the former lacks power (Roger screams his head off just fine), or that the latter lacks prettiness, but they cause way too little emotional resonance to justify the length and pomp.

The real dreck, though, comes with the even later stuff: Entwistle’s bleak travelogue ‘Postcard’, which unexplicably is used as the album opener, just doesn’t bother to be melodious (sadly, somewhere around this time Entwistle’s talents at songwriting slowly began to sink down the drain. Maybe that was because he ceased to incorporate black humour? Who can tell?), and ‘Now I’m A Farmer’ is one of Pete’s least convincing grooves.

I do like Keith’s hilarious impersonation of a gardener at the end of the track, though – pretty much saves the whole experience for me. Oh well, at least they bothered to have ‘Long Live Rock’ here. In case you haven’t heard it, it’s a brilliant anthem to rock music as a genre, and far surpasses the Stones’ ‘It’s Only Rock’n’Roll’ in that respect. Might seem a little dumb, but hey, it is meant to seem a little dumb – anthem or not, it’s obviously supposed to be taken in an ironic key, and that’s the way I take it. Don’t know about anybody else. Still, an album that has at least one duffer for every gem is not that big of an achievement, I guess, and my original rating here was a weak seven – which is still pretty good by anybody’s standards, and pretty good considered that these are outtakes, but…

PS. Hey, but wait! The new re-release of the album is greatly improved! It has almost twice as many tracks as the original, bringing the album’s running time to 77 minutes, and some of them are good. And what’s more, it’s not just that they are good: actually, none of the bonus tracks are great, but the way they added ’em and rearranged the running order, you get a fascinating “discobiography” of the Who – from their earliest stunts like ‘I’m The Face’ and ‘Leaving Here’, through the poppy period, the rocky period, and the mature philosophic period. Kinda like the Beatles’ Anthology popped into one seventy-minute discs, only most of the stuff are not raw demo versions, but real accomplished songs you ain’t never heard before.

Among the general “additional” goodies you’ll find such groovy novelties as studio recordings of ‘Summertime Blues’ and ‘Young Man Blues’ (both inferior to the live recordings, quite naturally, but still fun to listen to, especially since these are practically the only pieces of ferocious feedbacky, distorted rock’n’roll they recorded in the 1967-69 pop art era); more Lifehouse outtakes (a ‘heavy’ version of ‘Love Ain’t For Keepin” with Pete on vocals, the gorgeous, not-a-bit-overblown ballad ‘Time Is Passing’; the studio version of ‘Water’ – again, inferior to the live takes, because hey, ‘Water’ is supposed to be ten minutes long, not four, goddammit, but, surprisingly, the distorted solo at the end is truly excellent), and some early bits of amusement (an old acetate of ‘Leaving Here’/’Baby Don’t You Do It’).

Missed anything? Oh sure! What about the hilarious cover of Eddie Cochran’s ‘My Way’? The pleasant organ version of ‘Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand’ with Al Kooper on said instrument? The pathetic bluesy “introduction” to ‘Cousin Kevin’? The “save-the-Stones” cover of ‘Under My Thumb’? The… wait, there’s just too much of that stuff here. Hell, it ain’t exactly the greatest music these guys ever recorded, but it’s all so diverse, intriguing, well-performed and involving that it’s no problem for me to upgrade the overall rating one point. Get the reissue, not the original, and screw all you pessimists.

February 27, 2013 Posted by | The Who Odds And Sods | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Georgia On My Mind (Salt Lake City, May 1973)


Salt Palace, Salt Lake City, UT – May 26th, 1973

Disc 1 (62:38): Rock and Roll, Celebration Day, Black Dog, Over the Hills and Far Away, Georgia On My Mind, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter, The Song Remains the Same, Rain Song

Disc 2 (55:52): Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love

The first hint of the Salt Lake City soundboard came in 2000 ”Dazed And Confused” and “Stairway To Heaven” were used by Celebration for Song Of Detroit(Celebration SOBO-005/6), labeling it part of the July 13th Detroit recording. The quality of the tape between the two new songs and the pre-existing Detroit material was very pronounced. Celebration released “Rock And Roll,” “Celebration Day,” “Black Dog,” “Misty Mountain Hop,” “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and “No Quarter” on Unidentified Live (Celebration, SOBO-023) and attributing this to May 23rd Albuquerque.

The complete tape with proper attribution surfaced simultaneously in 2002 on both Salt Lake City 1973 (Watchtower WT 2002087/88) and Georgia On My Mind with the only real difference between the two is that Empress Valley is a touch louder (and therefore hissier) and the packaging. Watchtower comes in a gatefold sleeve in a box while Empress Valley employ a fatboy jewel case with slip cover. The Empress Valley was copied on Dazed And Confused In Salt Lake City, a no label release with identical pictures on both the front and rear covers.

The concert received a rave review in the press. David Proctor wrote: “Like four British Caesars Led Zeppelin came, saw and conquered a frenzied, sold-out Salt Palace audience Saturday night. Easily the most elaborately staged rock performance ever seen in Salt Lake City, it will be remembered for years to come. Messrs. Page, Plant, Jones and Bonham are in the midst of a $3-million nationwide tour and the 11,000 plus fans here probably will be the smallest crowd they encounter. But it didn’t seem to affect Zeppelin in the least. In fact, they seemed to enjoy the audience contact – something you don’t encounter before 58,000 people in a baseball stadium.

“The Salt Palace stage was a collage of lighting scaffolds, spotlights, huge banks of speakers, various light-reflecting devices, 14-foot-high mirrors and, of course, the four stars themselves. Super-singer Robert Plant and Jimmy Page fronted the band and drew most of the attention while the rhythm section of bassist-keyboardist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham supplied the music’s foundation. The band continued the fast-slow pattern through most of the night -alternating older, familiar tunes with new album cuts. Also in the format were Page’s guitar breaks of varying lengths during almost every song. Most of the time, he carried it off admirably, but inevitably he began to repeat himself. But preciseness wasn’t the object. It was the flash…the excitement…the theatrics…the total audience involvement that Zeppelin was after. They succeeded – and then some.”

Despite the enthusiastic review, this is a a mediocre show. Page’s guitar is out of tune for much of the show and he struggles to make the songs sound right. “Celebration Day” sounds really bad, even in the audience recording. “Black Dog” is an improvement but “Over The Hills And Far Away” is butchered since one of the strings breaks. There is a long delay as they fix the guitar and Robert Plant gets motor mouthed to fill in the awkward silence.

“Right, we…what I was going to try to say before, now that Jimmy’s just broken a string, it gives me the opportunity to say that we been, us English folk are usually living on sea level, you know? For over a week now, we been above four thousand five hundred feet, and ah, I suppose it’s like the dinosaurs, and the complete evolution of things, the way you get, you know, the way you get out of, sort of a certain environment, into another. We been managing to stay awake about eight hours a day, and we’re supposed to have a good reputation for staying awake twenty four hours a day. So anyway, it’s been a really good tour. I’m doing a bit of spiel, which you’ll appreciate while a string is being changed. It’s been a good tour.

“We played in Tampa and we thought we’d see a few people there, but fifty eight thousand people came. That was, so then we played in Atlanta, and we thought we’d see, and fifty four thousand people came. So we had to sit down for a few days, and work it out. Anyway, we got back into the swing of doing concerts and things again after sitting down for at least three days. So we want this one, we want tto make this one, cause we move from here to the west coast, this is the last midwest thing that we do before we get entirely crazy in California. We’re gonna do, we’re gonna make this gig the best one in the midwest. What we’ve had to do, to do this, we all got out of bed about an hour ago, so as we could do it properly. So if you could excuse this little gap we’ve sent so many things on to California that ah, we even sent all of the spare guitars, and I even found one foot of mine that was drifting across there. Now, how are we doing Raymond? We got a Scotsman doing the guitars tonight, so he might be a little distorted with the height above sea level. So if you’ll just talk amongst yourselves for a second, we’ll have a chat. Now this is a very very professional run group, so cool it for a bit. I could do a harmonica solo, but me harmonicas are in the west coast too.”

John Paul Jones begins playing the electric piano and Plant reacts, saying, “Ahh, another musician amongst us.” Plant sings “Georgia On My Mind,” a song they never included in any medley and never covered before or since. Bonham also get into it, underlying the melody with a gentle beat. Right when the song gains momentum they’re interrupted, “Ahh, wait a minute, hold it, hold it. The night club is now closed down, and we can get on with the concert. Right, this is a track from the album before the one with the title. It’s about what happens, you see we speed up again. It’s the one about, about if you’re caught walking through the park with the wrong stuff in your cigarette papers” before “Misty Mountain Hop.”

“No Quarter” begins a Houses Of The Holy interlude. Aquarius 11 in the liner notes calls this one of the worst versions of the song. It’s not the best but is effective and is followed by “The Song Remains The Same” and “The Rain Song” with Jones as the “Henry Mancini orchestra. What ever happened to Henry Mancini?” Plant quips.

“Dazed And Confused” is very intense as is “Stairway To Heaven.” Someone throws something on stage at this point. It’s not clear exactly what occurs but it prompts Plant to say “I reckon the guy who did that should at least get a rotten carrot. Very well done sir. Actually, I’ll keep the rest of it to carry as a memento of Salt Lake City.” It is serious enough for them to drop “Moby Dick,” play a quick version of “Heartbreaker” and drop the boogie in “Whole Lotta Love,” although the tape is cut after only four minutes.

The overall impression of this show is mixed. Although Page fights with an out of tune guitar they manage to play an effective show, especially with Plant’s enthusiasm so high early on. It then takes such dramatic downturn in attitude after “Stairway To Heaven” that they simply go through the motions and get off the stage quick afterwards. On other tapes where riots, firecrackers and police intervention are occurring during the show and audible on the tapes Zeppelin never abandoned a show so quickly. This isn’t an essential show from the ninth tour but interesting enough for experienced collectors. Georgia On My Mind is packaged in a fatboy jewel case with slip cover and insert with liner notes from Aquarius 11 describing the tape and show.

February 27, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Georgia On My Mind | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Burn Like A Candle (LA Forum, June 1972)


The Forum, Los Angeles, CA – June 25th, 1972

Disc 1: LA drone, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Over the Hills And Far Away, Black Dog, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Stairway To Heaven, Going To California

Disc 2: That’s The Way, Tangerine, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, Dazed & Confused, What Is And What Should Never Be

Disc 3: Dancing Days, Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love (includes Everybody Needs Somebody To Love, Boogie Chillun’, Let’s Have A Party, Hello Mary Lou, Heartbreak Hotel, Slow Down, Going Down Slow, The Shape I’m In)

Disc 4: Rock & Roll, The Ocean, Louie Louie, organ solo, Thank You, Communication Breakdown, Bring It On Home, Weekend

Bonus cd: Wolfman Jack interview, January 22nd 1973 Southampton sound check (drums & mellotron tuning, Love Me, Frankfurt Special, King Creole, Love Me (reprise))

The audience tape for Led Zeppelin’s June 25th, 1972 Los Angeles show first began life on vinyl on the simply titled LA ’72 (TT02) and received wider circulation as A Night At The Heartbreak Hotel (Artemis). Both of these titles are very good quality but incomplete. Silver Rarities released one of the earliest compact disc versions of the complete show on Burn Like A Candle under their unique Smoking Pig label, a title which has pretty much stuck with this tape ever since. Tarantura released the four-disc set Route 66 (T4CD-3) that contained an incomplete copy of this tape coupled with the San Bernardino show.

Route 66 has only “Rock And Roll” from the long encore section. This was copied on Silently Ravaging America (WLL016/017) on the Whole Lotta Live label. Missing Link tried to revive the early vinyl title with Night At The Heartbreak Hotel (ML-011/12/13) which was a copy of the Silver Rarities including the spurious encore “Weekend” and Cobra released the three disc set LA Forum (Cobra Standard Vol.024) about this time. Equinox released the three disc set Burn That Candle (EX-00-010/011/012) which omits the encore and includes the Wolfman Jack interview from the following night.

Empress Valley followed that with Burn Like A Candle in three editions. The first was had LP sized packaging with three discs, followed by a gatefold sleeve edition with a fourth disc containing the Long Beach soundboard fragment which was followed by a third edition released in a jewel case. Finally Wendy released Burn Like A Candle (WECD-63/64/65) last year.

Just like Smoking Pig and the Empress Valleys, Wendy too uses the William Stout artwork of the burning candle on the front.

Tarantura is the latest label to issue this tape on Burn Like A Candle. This is a gorgeously packaged box set where the show is spread out over four discs and includes a bonus disc. The four discs are housed in a gatefold sleeve which fit nicely in the box with the bonus disc in a single sleeve which comes in different colors depending upon he number you receive (#1-50 are white, #51-100 black, #101-150 cream, #151-200 yellow, and #201-300 green, and we are all encouraged to collect them all if we can). The tape is a very good to excellent stereo audience recording taped very close to the stage with wonderful dynamics capturing the warmth of the performance beautifully.

There is distortion during very loud parts but nothing to detract from the enjoyment of the show. Tarantura use only the older source and do not use the newer source that surfaced recently. Cuts at 1:30 in “Going To California” and at 17:53 in “Whole Lotta Love” are still present. They also include “Weekend” as an eighth encore although it is now generally conceded to be from the June 14th Nassau Coliseum tape. The bonus disc contains the Wolfgang Jack radio interview with Robert Plant the night after the show which first surfaced on the Graf Zeppelin interview compilation which is followed by the short, five minute rehearsal from a gig in Southampton, England the following January.

The reason for its inclusion in this set is not apparent since it has nothing to do with neither the Los Angeles concert nor the famous rehearsal tape that is sometimes attributed to this date. Compared to older releases this is not a major upgrade but it does rank among the better sounding versions of the tape with a more natural timbre.

Tarantura spread the show over four discs when it fits on three. Nevertheless this is great sounding and is a good, high quality deluxe production of a concert that is essential to own. Much of this was released officially on How The West Was Won, but it is good to hear the songs unedited and Robert Plant’s speeches on stage which gives this show its characteristic warmth. The set is nothing less than a great summary of the first five years of Led Zeppelin’s recording career.

This show is notable also for having perhaps the longest encore section ever performed by the group containing their cover of “Louie Louie” including very rare Jimmy Page vocals. John Paul Jones plays Sly And The Family Stone’s “Everyday People” on the organ as a prelude to an epic version of “Thank You”. It is also enjoyable having the Wolfman Jack radio show as a bonus since it contains a rare glimpse of Plant on the radio giving an immediate reaction to one of Zeppelin’s legendary gigs. Burn Like A Candle is another limited edition set released by the Tarantura label who is focusing upon releasing tapes from the lowest generations possible releasing the definitive edition of well-known tapes.

Note on the final encore “Weekend”: Many years ago the track “Weekend” was considered a legitimate encore for this show. The reason why it is in much more poor quality from the rest is because the taper was leaving the venue and didn’t know they were going to come back for more. This song was thus taped at the back of the venue.

My claim above about “Weekend” being from the June 14th, 1972 Nassau Coliseum show has been a common assumption for many years and is the reason why the latter day releases of this tape by Empress Valley, Equinox and Genuine Masters omitted the track. For this release Tarantura received a fourth generation copy of the tape which includes “Weekend”. Comparing “Weekend” on the Tarantura with the version on Missing Link reveals that it is more clear and several seconds longer and Plant can be heard speaking at the song’s conclusion, saying what is assumed to be “good night”.

Comparing the Tarantura with the most recent release of the New York tape on Whole Lotta Led demonstrates that the common assumption is correct. The performances between the two are identical. Plant says something like “vocal” before the band start the song and the greetings at the end sound the same.

Plus the performance sounds the same too with Plant singing the first three verses of the song before Page plays his solo. Plant returns to sing the final two lines of the song (“No harm done, just a-havin’ some fun on a weekend / That was all, we had a big ball on the weekend”) before singing the first two verses again. Also Plant’s intonation for the policeman’s line (“The police with a flashlight bright & nosy / Sayin’, ‘Holdin’ neck o’er there, what is all this?’”) is the same.

Zeppelin may very well have played “Weekend” as a final encore that night in Los Angeles, but since there are no cuts surrounding the track on the New York tape it is safe to assume that the recording on these releases is not from Los Angeles and may have been imported early in the tape’s history for completeness.

February 27, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Burn Like A Candle | , | Leave a comment

The Who Tommy (1969)


Yes, this is the apple of controversy. People either pray or spit on this album, holding no middle ground. Let us hold the middle ground and see what happens.

On the Conceptual Side. This is a rock opera about a deaf, dumb and blind pinball messiah (?). Actually, for a long time I thought this was the first rock opera, until the worthy reader Boris (see the comments below) quite correctly corrected me with a correcting correction, namely, that the Pretty Things beat the Who to it a whole two years with S. F. Sorrow. Well, at least it’s the first universally acknowledged rock opera, let’s stick with that? (And, if we really want to set the thing straight, the first rock opera was ‘A Quick One’, which beat the Pretty Things by one year). So, anyway, Pete Townshend was not only responsible for rock opera’s origins, he carried this genre high and proud to its climax.

I presume you already know the story. If you don’t, you might as well look it up in a million more interesting places – you might also go and see the movie, which is at least vaguely entertaining, even if it does distort the original conception in quite a few ways. Here I’ll just say that this concept is at the least interesting and entertaining, no matter what other feelings you might experience towards the plot and the message. Also, it was not a gimmick: Pete certainly took the idea seriously, so it probably meant a lot to him. We’ll just leave it at that; in any case, do not hurry to dismiss the concept as a load of pretentious nonsense simply because you feel like it at the moment. The concept does have its fair share of truly emotional moments.

On the Musical Side. The actual music of Tommy is often neglected when it comes to foam-at-the-mouth battles about the importance of this rock opera and whether it makes sense or not and if it does, whether it should make sense or not. But screw the plot – name me a record that has more original guitar riffs and I’ll call you names. Indeed, this is Townshend’s high point as a composer. The themes of ‘Go To The Mirror’, ‘Pinball Wizard’, ‘Amazing Journey’, ‘Sparks’, ‘I’m Free’, ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ and ‘See Me Feel Me’ are all quite different, but they all have something in common. And that something is – all of them are built on short, simple, catchy and consequently brilliant riffs. Plus – tons of them played on acoustic guitar! How’s that for musical purity? You tell me! And, since it’s an opera, these riffs keep repeating themselves, but almost always in different arrangements and with different moods. The majestic (and not a minute overblown, as people keep deceiving themselves: it’s a prayer, for Chrissake! Prayers cannot be overblown!) theme of ‘See Me Feel Me’, for example, is reprised four times throughout the album, but that don’t make it any more boring. And if you do not shed tears over the gorgeous ballad ‘1921’, you must have a heart of stone – and, by the way, do you realize that ‘1921’ is actually a blues number? Eh? Nobody seems to realize that!

Even the shorter tracks that were primarily needed for unfurling the plot are OK: this is a rare thing in rock operas, since usually ‘plot-related’ songs are the weak links in that genre – when you’re too busy with composing the lyrics, the music is necessarily saved for later. Not here. Ever heard the great hit numbers ‘There’s A Doctor’, ‘Miracle Cure’, ‘Do You Think It’s Alright’ and ‘Tommy Can You Hear Me’? Well, wait, wait, of course they weren’t hits – the longest of these numbers is one and a half minutes long, and the shortest is about twelve seconds long. They’re all great, though – melodic, catchy and a bit funny. Now that’s what I call real care for melody. And, just to add a saving touch of humor, both John and Keith contribute little tidbitds of their own. John’s ‘Cousin Kevin’ and ‘Do You Think It’s Alright/Fiddle About’ deal with poor Tommy being mistreated by really bad dudes, while Keith’s ‘Tommy’s Holiday Camp’ is a boyscout tune shamelessly inserted between the serious stuff. The fact that Townshend let these bits be incorporated is very important. After all, it’s laughter that’s gonna save the world, ain’t it? The saving touch of humour! How can one really complain about the bombast and bloatedness of the opera when John comes up and growls: ‘I’m your wicked Uncle Ernie/I’m glad you can’t see or hear me/As I fiddle about, fiddle about, fiddle about…’ Pete used to complain about the tune’s cruelty (actually, Uncle Ernie sodomizes poor Tommy), but that’s about the same as complaining about the cruelty of ‘Boris The Spider’: poor, poor Boris…

And what about the sound? The sound is great! Rumours say that Pete wanted to push up some strings and horns and orchestras, but he just hadn’t had time for that ‘cos there was little food left in the larder and the company was pressing him on so that he could finally pay for his broken guitars. And maybe that’s good, because I shudder at the thought of the original Tommy sounding like that movie synthesizer-itis version. As it is, acoustic and electric guitars ring out loud and clear, the bass and drum work are outstanding as usual, and Daltrey finally shows us that he has mastered his voice, whether it be macho clamouring in ‘Pinball Wizard’ or the gentle, loving notes of ‘See Me Feel Me’. Of course, this sounded nothing like the original Who, but all these changes were only for the better. Of course, the sound can seem pretty monotonous after seventy-five minutes, but in that case you’d better just split the listening process in two parts so as not to spoil the impression. The actual tunes are all swell.

So why only a 9? Well, unfortunately as it may seem, the ‘Oo managed to blow it even here. Prolific as he was, Pete just couldn’t produce enough material for a double album. So he decided to take the wonderful ‘Rael/Sparks’ theme and have some fun with it. Unfortunately, this results in a ten-minute bore called ‘Underture’ (a silly pun) which only serves to show that the theme was so perfect it was impossible to variegate it. So he just redoes it over and over again for what seems like ages until I find my finger pushing the ‘Forward’ button. Also, a couple of ‘plot’ songs aren’t that good, notably the slow ballad ‘Welcome’ where Tommy invites people to his holiday camp (Pete eventually realized it himself, so it was dropped from the stage version). But apart from these little problems, there’s absolutely nothing wrong about this album.

February 27, 2013 Posted by | The Who Tommy | | Leave a comment

The Who At Kilburn 1977 (& The Coliseum 1969) DVD


The Who at Kilburn is actually a double DVD with two concerts. One DVD has the Who live in 1969 at the London Coliseum and the other is the advertised 1977 gig filmed on a soundstage for the movie The Kids Are Alright but scrapped by the band due to the performance quality.

Both of these concerts are amazing and are a must have for any fan of the Who. Let’s start with the 1969 show. This is actually the second DVD and is cited as ‘bonus material’ on the box. I think that highly undersells what you get with this set. Yeah, the film quality is not that great – it’s similar to the footage of Young Man Blues in The Kids Are Alright movie. It’s dark and since the concert was never intended to be released on film, there are moments of blackness on the stage and funky camera angles.

The first song looks kind of like a fan video on YouTube. Then the other cameras kick in and we have multiple angles and close ups. But who the hell cares? This DVD captures the Who on the cusp of their prime. The band had only been performing Tommy live for a few months. They are broke, young and hungry. They are not yet mega-stars and indeed it was just before this period where drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle were going to quit the band and join Jimmy Page and Robert Plant in their new supergroup.

Put simply, the 1969 show is The Who at their very best. Moon is in full tilt, twirling his sticks and generally putting on the most incredible show. I have never seen anyone play drums like that before or since. Pete is in the white boiler suit playing the Gibson SG, Daltry in the fringe jacket, etc. If you like Live At Leeds, the 1969 DVD is basically that album on film.

Note that to see the whole of Tommy and A Quick One you need to access the bonus features on this DVD. There are a lot of camera and audio gaps, so it looks like the directors wanted to keep Tommy as a whole out of the main DVD program. A bit confusing, but if you get annoyed that Tommy picks up near its completion in the main concert, just access the bonus features!

In general, the Tommy stuff is out of control and other high points are Young Man Blues, and a totally heavy Happy Jack. And a final note – the band’s vocal harmonies are prevalent and very tight in this period.

Then we also get the 1977 Kilburn show, which is really the focus of the DVD.

This is the same band 8 years later, but are they really the same? They are now rich and famous. Punk is in full force and the Who are seen by some in this new movement as dinosaurs of the same ilk as Yes and ELP. The band has nothing left to prove but is still trying to remain relevant.

Compounding this problem is that Keith Moon, a central power in the Who’s live show, is a shadow of his former self. The last 14 months, he has been in California, partying and not playing drums. He is overweight and is lacking the confidence on display in the 1969 show.

Sure enough, the first thing Daltry says onstage is that the band hasn’t played in more than a year so he’s not sure what is going to happen.

Having said all of this, I don’t think the band disappoints. Yeah, there are a few train wreck moments where Moon comes in at the wrong place, and one spot where Pete gets totally lost. But it’s great to see the band this raw and this human.

I actually feel like Moon is more on the ball in this show than he is at the show filmed six months later that was used in The Kids movie (Baba O’Reilly and Won’t Get Fooled Again). On this latter show, Townshend is certainly more on the ball. He is smiling and clowning during the songs in the Kids film.

In the Kilburn film, he is surly. He does not look happy to be onstage and there is a classic moment where he goes back to turn his amps up and a roadie interferes. Pete throws a tantrum and shoves his Hi-Watt amps backwards off the speakers. The hair stood up on my arms when he did that.

The song choices are great in the Kilburn concert. Some of the standouts are My Wife, Dreaming from the Waist, Shakin All Over and a really rough keyboard-less version of Who Are You, which the band was just learning.

Despite the weird energy onstage, the band is seriously on fire. Yeah it’s raw, but it’s LIVE. Daltry’s voice is still raging, and Entwistle does not disappoint either. I still found myself focusing on Moon. Even though he was not up to his prime, he is still unreal. And frankly, a pissed off Pete is a great Pete live.

These two concerts could not be more different from one another. In 1969, you have a young, hungry and broke band, still really trying to prove itself. In 1977, you have a bloated supergroup trying to prove it is still valid. It is fascinating to watch live footage from both of these periods.

February 27, 2013 Posted by | The Who At Kilburn 1977 (& The Coliseum 1969) | , | Leave a comment

Genesis The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (1974)


The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway is a difficult album to summarize, and is even more difficult to summarize concisely. I could probably write a novel about this album, or at least a Master’s thesis. But I’ll try to make my comments relatively brief.

At least one critic has described The Lamb as the first postmodern rock album. Despite the fact that “postmodernism” has become for some an excuse to avoid thinking, the idea behind this argument seems fairly secure. The narrative of The Lamb is impossible to judge from a linear standpoint, and only makes sense as a work of multi-layered symbolism. Although a general link between the songs can be found if the listener seeks it out, no single concrete interpretation of any given lyric seems sufficient to encompass its multiplicity of meanings.

(Alternately, of course, the critic who referred to the album as a postmodern work may have been an over-eager literary critic who decided that the “pop culture” references were the most important aspect of the album. They aren’t, though they do have a place in the overall context of the work.)

At the initial release of the album, critics complained that its plot was too convoluted. This criticism has continued, even among some progressive fans who have otherwise defended the merits of the album. Some regard the “concept” as a red herring entirely. I would argue otherwise.

For those who do not already possess The Lamb, it may be necessary to provide a brief outline of those few details of the plot which can be universally agreed upon. The album is a depiction of the life of Rael, a Puerto Rican youth who lives on the streets of New York City. As the work begins, Rael is seen in the Times Square/Broadway area, hiding his spraygun after a late-night “assault” on the values of mainwave society (spraying his name on a subway station). Completely out of nowhere, a lamb suddenly lies down on the Broadway streets; it’s presence is never explained. As Rael turns to leave, a “wall of death” emerges upon him. And then, the deluge.

The remainder of the album is less immediately coherent, but it can be reasonably agreed upon that it involves a turning inward, as Rael moves through a series of memories towards an apparent resolution.

If the listener is to assume that the plot of the album after “Fly On A Windshield” is devoted to Rael’s slow process of moving from this plane unto a separate realm of (non-?)existence (as many Genesis fans have currently accepted as the “unifying theme” of the album, the accusations of thematic ambiguity would seem to be of diminished relevance now). This interpretation would seem to explain the various mental states which Rael finds himself in as the album progresses. My own suspicion is that even this might not be enough to explain the entire album, but it outshines any other theory I’ve yet encountered.

Even if this is to be accepted as the general plot of the album, the question of “how the songs actually fit the theme” could still make for a few valid objections. “Counting Out Time” doesn’t quite seem to fit with the general character development of the album; the position of “The Grand Parade Of Lifeless Packaging” strikes me as being a bit tenuous as well, and “Cuckoo Cocoon” might not be necessary as a link between “Broadway Melody” and “In The Cage”. “The Lamia”, moreover, is problematic — it fits with the general theme of the album, but its position in the narrative (in relation to what comes before it) doesn’t seem quite right.

The accusation that much of the album was “forced to fit” the theme may therefore be valid, but I would still argue that the general theme may still be understood in spite of these problems.

A few other notes first, though. The idea behind this album was, indisputably, the creation of Peter Gabriel. On earlier Genesis albums, Gabriel and Tony Banks had tended to share the lead songwriting duties, generally creating thematic concepts which the band as a whole would work out the music to. On this album, the balance was offset. It’s possible that Tony Banks has never had as little control over any album that bears his presence as The Lamb (perhaps excepting From Genesis To Revelation), as Gabriel’s domination of the project’s “vision” was nearly absolute.

This obviously caused problems with the rest of the group; these problems were not smoothed over by Gabriel’s attempts to create a multimedia version of the album while the recording was still in progress. Gabriel and the rest of Genesis actually broke apart for a time during the making of the album (Phil Collins was later heard to comment that they were considering releasing a double-album of instrumental music), and a reconciliation was only made possible by Gabriel’s eventual willingness to scale back his vision somewhat (granting that his lack of Hollywood connections probably played a considerable role in this as well).

With Gabriel and the rest of the group at swords, the axis of Banks/ Rutherford/Collins began to take greater control over the instrumental aspects of the pieces; according to the Bowler & Dray Genesis book, Gabriel was in the habit of having them write musical accompaniment to his more general themes at this theme, generally abdicating his share of control over such matters (with some exceptions — Gabriel claims the chord progression for “Carpet Crawlers”.) Surely enough, a nucleus of a Genesis lineup without Gabriel was forming.

… but, what about the fifth member of the group? Steve Hackett’s level of contribution to The Lamb has been a matter of some debate. Hackett himself has commented that he believes the album to be “unfinished”, and his compositional role seems to have been the least significant of all of the members involved (to say the least). Hackett’s hand injury late in the recording sessions (severing a tendon after crushing a glass, reportedly as the result of accumulated stress as regards the development of the group) may have contributed to his diminished presence, but it doesn’t explain the entire story. Certainly, there’s little that can justify his virtual absence from the first quarter of the album on such grounds. Although SH’s alienation from the rest of the group did not start with The Lamb, it was certainly most pronounced here.

And Brian Eno’s role? This, too, has been a matter of some debate. Eno himself has never specified his role, claiming only that he helped the group to adjust a few tracks. Frequently suggested possibilities as to the identity of these tracks include: vocal distortions on “The Grand Parade”, keyboard distortions on “Riding The Scree” and “In The Cage”, effects on “The Colony Of Slippermen”, etc. Tony Banks has recently claimed that Eno’s role was actually quite minimal, and that he didn’t really deserve an official credit. Nevertheless, this mystery, too, refuses to die.

Made under extremely difficult circumstances, The Lamb nevertheless deserves recognition as one of the few truly essential albums of the progressive genre. The mysteries involving its plot and creation are interesting enough, but unravelling these matters is not needed for an appreciation of the music included therein.

Some have criticized The Lamb for containing fewer of the “epic” progressive works as the earlier Genesis albums, but this doesn’t really make much sense. Genesis were not, on this album, abandoning longer material in favour of a more commercial output — the songs were shorter, but the material was in some ways more esoteric than before. Some might argue that the expanded backing vocal role of Phil Collins (compared with Foxtrot and Selling England By The Pound) set the stage for future problems, but this assumes far more than could have been known at the time. From a musical standpoint, The Lamb rates at about the same level as the earlier Genesis albums.

From a lyrical standpoint, it may well be the most successful album of the progressive genre.

The album begins with the title track, setting the stage for the plot which is to follow. The keyboard introduction to this track is quite unsettling, appearing as a fleeting, dreamlike piece with more than a bit of a sinister edge to it. Banks dominates the music throughout the song, and Collins and Rutherford are in top form as well, but the narrative is clearly the focal point here. As the street youth are forced from their nightly resting grounds, Rael emerges from the subway area with his spraygun hidden. The lamb appears as an outsider to this scene as daily commuters start their routines. An excellent introduction, all things considered. One minor problem would be Hackett’s seeming absence from most, if not all, of the track; even without him, though, it still works quite well.

[Interpretations: (i) It doesn’t take a great leap in logic to connect the hidden spraygun with a sexual reference, especially given that Peter Gabriel is the author. The reference to Rael “wiping his gun” and “forgetting what he did” in the middle of the song could have any number of meanings, some more sinister than others, (ii) It similarly doesn’t take a great leap in logic to connect the lamb with a emissary from another plane of existence, alerting Rael of the fate which soon awaits him, (iii) It does take a certain degree of interpretive skill to associate the line “cabman’s velvet glove” with the Velvet Underground, as at least one listener has done. Andy Warhol worked as a cab driver at one point, you see. If this is an accurate interpretation, one wonders what exactly Gabriel meant by the line, (iv) I’ve often thought that The Lamb contains certain homoerotic references, matched with heterosexual representations in a somewhat confusing manner. Here, the “Wonder women, you can draw your blind/Don’t look at me, I’m not your kind” line could be seen as verifying this possibility. More on this later.]

The tone of the album becomes more elusive with “Fly On A Windshield”. Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford present a dark, apprehensive melody at the beginning of this track which accurately sums up the mood of the entire album. Over this, Gabriel describes Rael being ensnared by the aforementioned “wall of death”, and phasing out of the New York scene. The inward journey thus begins. For the second half of the song (counted as part of “Broadway Melody Of 1974” for the remastered version; I’m using the old system of division here), the Banks/Rutherford/Collins team creates an impressively dark instrumental piece on par with their best work on earlier albums — Hackett, moreover, is finally audible, playing an emotive solo leading up to the next track.

“Broadway Melody Of 1974” consists of Rael’s vision of a distorted Broadway parade consisting of various deceased (and declining) cultural icons: Howard Hughes, Groucho Marx, Marshall McLuhan and Caryl Chessman all play a role in this procession. The last two are, from the point of the song, the most interesting. McLuhan, of course, is a Canadian communications theorist who presented ideas on “active” and “passive” mediums which are about as dense as The Lamb itself; nevertheless, the “casual viewin'” reference seems to indicate a loss of control over one’s position. Caryl Chessman (to quote the information on “The Lamb Explained”, a very useful web page for those interesting in getting even more information out of these obscure references) was the first American citizen to be executed under the re-instituted death penalty. The connection to Rael’s own situation should be clear.

From a musical standpoint, the piece is primarily an extension of “Fly On A Windshield”, only without a strong presence (if a presence at all) by Hackett. As against this, the guitar passage at the end (a lead-in to “Cuckoo Cocoon”) may very well be him. The key focus of this track, however, is clearly the narrative, a profoundly dark examination of both the sedative role of Broadway life and equally sedative interpretations of an afterlife. The image offered by the depiction is, even on a surface level, far from comforting.

This leads to “Cuckoo Cocoon”, which sees Rael emerging from this “parade” to a new state of existence. The lyrics are sung entirely from a first person perspective, and concern Rael’s uncertainty as the nature of his newfound surroundings. Electric guitars appear under distortion as the track being, against which Gabriel’s stark voice recites the character’s lament (interestingly, it would be Gabriel’s voice that underwent the most distortion in live performances). Banks eventually takes a leading role, playing another disturbingly pleasant accompanying piece. Phil takes a greater backing vocal role, and Gabriel’s flute makes another appearance as well. There’s nothing terribly wrong with this track, but it lacks some of the intensity of the first three numbers — my suspicion is that the album could work without it.

A heartbeat bass tone begins “In The Cage”, a truly disturbing number describing Rael’s general state of internal confusion involving his present condition and his past memories (which are soon to make their appearance). Gabriel’s vocal intensity is nothing short of amazing here, filling the lyrics with the urgency which they deserve. From an instrumental standpoint, Hackett again appears undermixed; he can be heard in the left channel in the first “primary” section of the song, but only faintly in comparison to the other band members (this is actually fairly interesting for the purposes of instrumental texturing, but the fact that it was Hackett who was given the subservient role doesn’t seem accidental). Meanwhile, Rutherford’s bass line is mixed remarkably high, with Collins’s drum line playing off against it in a slightly disjointed manner.

An easy highlight of the song is the instrumental segueway section which appears at about the three-minute mark, presumably consisting of both Hackett and Banks in some harmonized balance. The piece then shifts to a “match to the gallows” section, wherein Rael first encounters his brother John (who refuses to release him from his “cage”). In perfect palindromic sense, the piece then returns to the instrumental section before returning to a reprise of the first full-band theme. The internal diversity in this track is quite impressive, as are the performances throughout. The song ends with Rael being granted liberty from his “cage”, and spinning about into another altered consciousness.

This is the point in which Rael begins the journey through his slightly disjointed memories. We are first presented with “The Grand Parade Of Lifeless Packaging”, an extremely clever number which nevertheless seems slightly problematic in the general context of the album. The song, essentially, describes a factory production of human identities, all of which are smoothly hewn of their distinctive characteristics so as to be made presentable to the world in general. Each individual is reduced to a corporate entity, and each advertises himself/herself as such. Gabriel’s vocals are heavily distorted, and Collins’s staggered drum line seems entirely appropriate. One could argue that the parade represents the sperm/DNA from which Rael was originally conceived; John, being a part of the “parade” would therefore be an aspect of Rael’s own personality — which would make some measure of sense later in the album. One problem with this theory, however, is that is says little to account for the subsequent “leap forward” of 17 years to “Back In NYC”, the next track. Perhaps this leap was Gabriel’s intention, but it’s difficult to argue this with any certainty. One way or the other, though, the track is able to stand up on its own.

With the beginning of the second quarter of the album, the band seemingly becomes a reasonably integrated unit again — Hackett’s presence returns to relatively normal levels, and some of the songs sound as though they could have been written as cohesive links of words and music. This “side” begins with “Back In NYC”, generally regarded as “Rael’s anthem”. Gabriel’s first-person depiction of our protagonist’s violent impulses is both articulate and relatively realistic (it isn’t every upper-middle class British kid who could get away with this, after all). The track begins with a deliberate reprise of the “In The Cage” bass line, but quickly shifts to something rather different. Musically, the track consists of the internal shifts and instrumental variation that Genesis (pre-1978) are best known for — the 17/8 “chorus” is particularly impressive. The final “no time” is probably sung by Phil Collins, creating an eerie “third person” counterpoint to the rest of the song. A success.

[Interpretations: (i) Gabriel acknowledged in concerts on the Lamb tour that the phrase “cuddled the porcupine” refers to masturbation; that this image is juxtaposed directly with descriptions of Rael’s violent impulses is somewhat telling, (ii) re: homoeroticism — one line of the song goes as follows: “I’m a pitcher in a chain gang, we don’t believe in pain”. “Pitcher”, it should be noted, is an American slang for the “active” participant in homosexual encounters, (iii) another lyric of this song goes as follows: “Your progressive hypocrites hand out their trash/But it was mine in the first place, so I burn it to ash” — given Gabriel’s dissatisfied position in Genesis and his desire to leave the progressive rock genre in later works, it seems unlikely that an interpretation of this line can be restricted to the Rael character.]

“Hairless Heart” is the album’s first instrumental track, dominated by Steve Hackett’s harmonizer-based guitar lead (sounding oddly like a violin, actually). Banks and Collins have impressive showings as well. This brief number, entirely satisfying on its own as a piece of music, is used thematically to accompany the ceremonial removal of Rael’s pubic hair (as suggested in the previous track, and as verified in the live show).

This brief number leads to “Counting Out Time”, a novelty track concerning mathematical applications of sexual instruction manuals, which was the first single from the release (it failed to rise in the charts, amusingly enough). Plotwise, the story goes that this piece is meant to correspond to Rael’s first sexual experience — my suspicion is that this was a convenient excuse invented after the fact to give the song a place on the album. Regardless, this track is about as amusing as a pop single of the progressive genre could be expected to be. Hackett’s overbearing guitar lines at the beginning (that is Hackett, right?) work well as an expression of “tension buildup”. The mid-song solo by Hackett is … equally amusing, if not moreso; Tony’s charmingly innocent keyboard lines only add to the overall value of the piece, of course.

[Interpretation: This song is also significant for its emphasis on numerology, which is given a more serious role in the subsequent tracks.]

“The Carpet Crawlers” is easily the highpoint of the album, well integrated with the thematic course of the album, and completely capable of standing on its own as well. Musically, it features one of Tony Banks’s most beautiful performances ever, playing a fairly consistent pattern through a series of impressive chord developments. The bass line, though fairly simple, works extremely well — Collins is excellent on both harmony vocals and drums, while Hackett’s embellishments add to the value of the work as well. The song is open to numerous interpretations, but its primary meaning (to judge by recent discussions) is that of conception, with the “Crawlers” signifying the individual sperm attempting to achieve the process of reproduction — numerous metaphors work throughout the track as well. The transference of “biological memory” through DNA seems to be a strong focus too; the “staircase that spirals out of sight” has been taken by some to be a reference to the physical pattern of DNA itself. The lyric also seems to suggest that Rael’s own memories necessarily return to him in this process (hence the alternate metaphor in “my second sight of people”). The echo effects on the keyboards are among the most notable musical creations featured on the album. This easily counts as one of the best songs of the progressive movement, on virtually every level. (As a side note, I might also add that this song occasionally receives airplay on certain FM stations in North America, despite the fact that it, too, had no initial success as a single.) A minor quibble: despite having a role in the theme of the album, this song seems only tangentially connected to the plot development in the second half of the album.

From there, we arrive at “The Chamber Of 32 Doors”, another of the more enigmatic themes here. The track begins on a guitar lead, quickly leading to an extreme expression of grandeur (apparently representing the chamber which the protagonist has found himself in). Collins takes a more prominent role on vocals, again. Lyrically, this song involves Rael’s attempts to interpret his surrounding in this mysterious Chamber, with various cultural archetypes appearing around him. The key to understanding all of this is — qv. the earlier note on numerology — Kabbalism.

In the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, there are 32 paths in total, connecting the various planes of existence. The positioning of man on the Tree is invariably at the lowest condition, regardless of what steps are made in other directions (ie. “But down here, I’m so alone with my fear”). The line “My father to the left of me, my mother to the right” is also a direct reference to the individual’s positioning in this Tree. As such, by wishing to remove himself from the “Chamber”, Rael is presumably expressing a desire to leave the system of temporal life itself.

The song isn’t quite as successful as the rest of the side. After four consecutive works of excellence, this one (whatever its own merits) is a slight letdown — perhaps the narrative had a bit too much control over the music, in this case. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this track, but it doesn’t really stand together as well as the rest of the “side”.

The third quarter of the album begins with “Lilywhite Lilith”, which rates on the same level as “The Chamber” as far as quality goes. This is easily the most rock-oriented track on this “side”, featuring a variation on the musical themes of “Fly On A Windshield/Broadway Melody Of 1974”. Collins shines on drums, and the rest of the band develops the piece rather well; the track simply doesn’t stand on its own as well as the rest of the side. Thematically, the most obvious archetypal development in the album is featured in this track — Lilith, of course, course to a temptress in both Kabbalism and related forms of Christian Gnosticism, ultimately leading her followers unto death. The track ends as “two golden globes” enter the room to which Rael has been led to (and abandoned in), followed by “a blaze of white light”.

This leads to “The Waiting Room”, the track most likely to bewilder anyone who only knows Genesis through their debased ’80s incarnation. This track is, essentially, devoted to the exploration of terror through musical form — the first half consists to numerous chaotic/grotesque sonic elements, on par with the output of some German progressive bands of the era; the second half consists of an instrumental theme (dominated by guitar) which is almost equally frightening, in some respects. It was not without reason that this track was referred to as the “Evil Jam” during the original recording sessions. In live performances, the band would play a slightly extended version of the track as a means of “blowing off stream” from the stress caused by the project. That aside, this is easily one of the more impressive musical moments of the Genesis career.

The narrative of The Lamb continues with “Anyway”, another keyboard-dominated track concerning Rael’s emergence from the near-death experience of the previous track. The middle section of the work is dominated by a guitar spotlight, impressive in its grandeur (as befits the piece). The track, recited from the first person, consists of Rael’s surprisingly literary and articulate musings on death (I have a hard time believing that “Different orbits for my bones/Not me, just quietly buried in stones” isn’t related to Kabbalism as well, by the way). The character of Death makes a belated appearance as the track ends.

“The Supernatural Anaesthetist”, a brief vocal duet track between Peter and Phil, concerns the attempt of the Death character to ensnare Rael’s soul with the use of his poisonous gas (which Rael miraculously escapes — this isn’t explained in the lyrics, and one must rely on statements made by Gabriel in live performances to attain this particular meaning). Most of the song is instrumental, featuring another excellent guitar solo by Hackett (instrumentals tend to become more frequent at this stage, with the narrative having been concluded in a somewhat hasty manner.)

Following this comes another shift in the linear development of the story with “The Lamia”, which begins with a mysterious piano line accompanying Keats-inspired lyrics (Keats is thanked in the liner notes, by the way). The focal point of the song is again the narrative, which goes roughly as follows: Rael enters a strange room, enters (believing himself “quite alone”), encounters three lamia creatures (ie. half-woman, half-snake) who sensually assault him, and joins the lamia creatures in their pool — on their first exposure to Rael’s blood, however, the lamia shrivel and die. Following this, Rael consumes the remainder of the lamia flesh (the consequences of which are elaborated on in a subsequent track) and departs the area.

The listener will be forgiven for wondering if all of this is really relevant to the plot at hand, but, anyway. One of my theories is that the “intruder” element of the song could suggest that the “poetic” descriptions were actually invented by Rael to disguise his role in an act of sexual violation (this is, of course, only a theory). Gabriel has certainly explored similar themes in subsequent tracks of his solo career (ie. “Intruder”), and I wouldn’t completely rule out the possibility here. Alternately, it could simply be a reference to an encounter with a mysterious prostitute. The room for interpretation is rather open.

Returning to a discussion of the music, it should be noted that the aforementioned keyboard lead recurs fairly consistently throughout the track (in various settings, though). A few harpsichord effects create a certain element of absurdity in relation to the theme. The song ends with another guitar lead, which develops into an extended outro.

“Silent Sorrow In Empty Boats” is the album’s second instrumental, a quasi-symphonic arrangement on a reasonably basic theme. It takes the form of a lament, and is otherwise notable for displaying the powers of the group to create a work of beauty which has a highly ironic placing in the context of the album.

“The Colony Of Slippermen” is divided into three sections. “The Arrival” begins with an amazing series of sonic effects by the four instrumentalists, creating an extremely disturbing ambience. Following this, the “song proper” begins musically in classic Genesis style — this is another high point of the album. After a paraphrase of Wordsworth, the song describes Rael’s arrival in a land of grotesque, distorted individuals known as the “Slippermen”, who too have undergone the previous encounter with the lamia creatures — Rael discovers that he, too, has assumed their distorted form (side note: if the “intruder” interpretation is to be used for “The Lamia”, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to associate this setting with that of a prison). The other elements of this culture inform him that the only manner in which he can escape his condition is to be castrated by the nefarious Dr. Dyper. And that leads us to …

“A Visit To The Doktor” (part two of “The Colony Of Slippermen”) is a brief section, connected musically to the previous section. Gabriel’s vocal urgency is again quite impressive, as he orders the Doktor to undertake the painful operation (the sound effect which corresponds to the castration effect is quite interesting, by the way). Rael is accompanied by John in this operation, with said brother-figure too having become afflicted with the Slipperman condition.

Then comes the final section of the song, entitled “The Raven”. After the operation (which features an amusing vocal alteration), Rael is given a pouch carrying his castrated member … which is promptly stolen by Raven, a giant black bird that preys on the area. Steve Hackett’s guitar line in the “theft” section is perhaps the ultimate depiction of an anapest rhythm in musical form, by the way. After his, Rael chases after Raven to the edge of a cliff, whereupon Raven drops the castrated unit into a giant lake [note: obvious mythological reference here]. The music is excellent throughout this section, with some very interesting percussive effects (that could possibly be Eno’s creation).

The following songs seem slightly inferior in comparison to the general flow of the album, perhaps due to the time constraints placed upon them. That said, it isn’t really fair to regard “Ravine” as a separate track — consisting entirely of guitar and keyboard effects (probably Banks and Rutherford), the track is almost completely atmospheric. Perhaps it would have made more sense to have this as the last section of “The Colony” … though, in that case (for the conspiracy minded) the number of songs on the album wouldn’t have worked out to a perfect 23. Hmm …

The lyrics to “The Light Dies Down On Broadway” were reportedly written by Banks/Rutherford as a means of clarifying the narrative to some degree, which they do fairly well. Rael here is given the opportunity to return (via a magical portal) to the streets of NYC, but, upon seeing his brother John drowning in the waters below (disturbing metaphors regarding the “fertilization” of the waters by the castrated member are appropriate), decides to risk his own life and attempt a daring rescue. This is a much more “concrete” song than anything else on this side, and has some narrative value as such. The distinction of Banks and Gabriel in terms of lyric-writing is made quite clear here; gone are the sexually-oriented imagery, replaced by Banks’s somewhat abstract descriptions. Musically, it’s very good, if a bit behind the higher points of the album. The flute effects are a nice touch as well.

And that leads to “Riding The Scree”. Primarily an instrumental number, this track begins with an altered keyboard passage which seems to have been guided by Brian Eno in spirit, in not in actually. The guitar and bass lines suggest a funk-oriented motif, oddly enough; and harmonized section in 9/8 is extremely good. Gabriel’s lyrics describe Rael’s endeavours to reach John as he rushes towards the rapids.

That, in turn, not surprisingly leads to “In The Rapids”. I will admit that my rating for this particular song in somewhat higher than I originally suspected that it would be. From a musical standpoint, there is little in the way of virtuosity here — as an atmospheric number, however, its dirgelike qualities work extremely well. The song ultimately succeeds on the basis of Gabriel and Collins, whose vocal and drum contributions and a level of emotive strength that corresponds to the theme of the song extremely well. What pushes the song “over the top”, however, is the concluding section, and the sudden rise in tension as Rael encounters John and realizes that he is actually staring into a double of himself. His consciousness shifts between the two figures, and evaporates from the corporeal sphere entirely.

“It” is the consolidation of the mystery that is the album — seemingly a self-contained unit, it depicts a creative force in a state of abstraction, as applied to various particular situations. The sonic effect of the “shift of consciousness” is nothing short of incredible. Hackett’s guitar effects (seconded by Banks throughout) work amazingly well throughout the number, and Gabriel’s impish puns are the perfect resolution to the theme — once knowledge has been gained by the lead character, it can only be transposed to others via elusive proverbs.

[Interpretations: (i) the number of drug references throughout the song — the words “horse”, “shaken”, “dope”, and “rock” are used in rapid succession — can hardly be coincidental. It’s not quite clear what point Gabriel was trying to make … (ii) re: homoeroticism — I trust that the possibilities presented by two male individuals reaching a state of perfect unity in an area of raging water need not require too much explanation; the line “When you eat right fru it” from “It” might suggest these possibilities as well, albeit expressed in a slightly politically incorrect manner (presumably without malice, of course), (iii) this one is a bit of stretch, but has anyone else considered as a reference to a “single’s bar” on an album steeping in Kabbalistic references could actually refer to the “son of a single entity”, perhaps corresponding to the mental entity created by the merger of the two Rael figures. As I said, this is a bit of a stretch …]

And, of course, the album ends in a cheeky bit of Gnostic humour with the line, “It’s only knock and know-all, but I like it”. What could be more appropriate?

The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway is a mysterious, beautiful and disturbed work, and is ultimately one of the most essential of English progressive albums.

Given the creation of this album, it’s completely understandable that Gabriel and Genesis were incapable of working together on future projects. Gabriel’s ventures were clearly beyond what the others were willing to endeavour towards — it’s amazing enough that Tony Banks appeared on even one album of this sort, and a second would have been virtually unthinkable. Still, as a “once in a lifetime” experience, the creation of this album is highly important in the history of the progressive genre.


February 27, 2013 Posted by | Genesis The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway | | Leave a comment

Steve Hackett Beyond The Shrouded Horizon (2011)


Former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett has racked up over 20 albums over the course of his long solo career. After his indelible contributions to that group’s classics such as Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, Hackett followed Peter Gabriel out the door in 1977. His solo career had actually begun in 1975 with the great Voyage Of The Acolyte, and has continued at a prolific pace ever since. And as unlikely as it may seem, the 61-year-old axe-hero has come up with one of his finest efforts yet with Beyond The Shrouded Horizon.

Beginning with a wickedly powerful feedback-laden riff, which then opens up beautifully ala “Watcher Of The Skies,” the time-shifting “Loch Lomond” soon settles into an acoustic groove that just screams Selling England By The Pound. Although Steve’s vocals have always been a little on the thin side, his guitar playing has always more than made up for it. In the case of “Loch Lomond,” his electric solo midway through is a powerful testament to the man’s talent.

More than anyone, Hackett is aware that he is a guitar player first and foremost. His solo recordings have always held a fair amount of instrumentals, and Beyond is no exception. Of the 13 tracks on the album, five are instrumental. One of Steve’s trademarks is in providing a short, acoustic introductory piece to his songs. Actually this practice dates back to Genesis, and the indispensable “Horizon’s” which precedes “Supper’s Ready” on Foxtrot. For Beyond The Shrouded Horizon, he prefaces two tracks in this manner. “Wanderlust” does a nice job of setting up “Til These Eyes,” and “Summers Breath” performs the same function for “Catwalk.”

Without a doubt it will be the final song on the album that will receive the most attention. “Turn This Island Earth” is a nearly twelve-minute slice of prime British prog, and longtime Hackett fans should love it. I know I do, as it features time and mood changes galore, as well as plenty of guitar.

Even though Steve Hackett qualifies as a bona-fide guitar legend for many of us, he has never received the widespread acclaim he deserves. Although I realize that this album will probably not be heard much outside of his avowed fan base, it should be.

Former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett has racked up over 20 albums over the course of his long solo career. After his indelible contributions to that group’s classics such as Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, Hackett followed Peter Gabriel out the door in 1977. His solo career had actually begun in 1975 with the great Voyage Of The Acolyte, and has continued at a prolific pace ever since. And as unlikely as it may seem, the 61-year-old axe-hero has come up with one of his finest efforts yet with Beyond The Shrouded Horizon.

Beginning with a wickedly powerful feedback-laden riff, which then opens up beautifully ala “Watcher Of The Skies,” the time-shifting “Loch Lomond” soon settles into an acoustic groove that just screams Selling England By The Pound. Although Steve’s vocals have always been a little on the thin side, his guitar playing has always more than made up for it. In the case of “Loch Lomond,” his electric solo midway through is a powerful testament to the man’s talent.

More than anyone, Hackett is aware that he is a guitar player first and foremost. His solo recordings have always held a fair amount of instrumentals, and Beyond is no exception. Of the 13 tracks on the album, five are instrumental. One of Steve’s trademarks is in providing a short, acoustic introductory piece to his songs. Actually this practice dates back to Genesis, and the indispensable “Horizon’s” which precedes “Supper’s Ready” on Foxtrot. For Beyond The Shrouded Horizon, he prefaces two tracks in this manner. “Wanderlust” does a nice job of setting up “Til These Eyes,” and “Summers Breath” performs the same function for “Catwalk.”

Without a doubt it will be the final song on the album that will receive the most attention. “Turn This Island Earth” is a nearly twelve-minute slice of prime British prog, and longtime Hackett fans should love it. I know I do, as it features time and mood changes galore, as well as plenty of guitar.

Even though Steve Hackett qualifies as a bona-fide guitar legend for many of us, he has never received the widespread acclaim he deserves. Although I realize that this album will probably not be heard much outside of his avowed fan base, it should be.

February 27, 2013 Posted by | Steve Hackett Beyond The Shrouded Horizon | , | Leave a comment