Classic Rock Review

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John Lennon Imagine (1971)

John-Lennon-Imagine---Sealed-507669From starling.rinet.ru

The second equally important Lennon album is usually considered inferior to Plastic Ono Band, and I’ll have to guess why. So, my first guess is as follows: while the latter is still spoken of as an ‘underproduced’ wonder (‘how can such a great effect be achieved with such minimum arrangements?’), the former is unquestionably much more complex in the musical sense. So what? Damn the arrangements, the songs on here are totally and unashamedly great! Well, with one annoying exception: the closing ‘Oh Yoko’ is the first in a series of darned Yokosongs.

I just can’t stand all these lyrics, like ‘in the middle of the night I call your name… in the middle of a cloud I call your name… in the middle of a shave I call your name…’ Me, I wouldn’t call Yoko’s name even if I were in the middle of a scaffold, but that’s just me. I’ve always said it that if George Harrison sings about God as if He were a female, then John sings about his… err… ‘female’ as if she were God. Throw this song in a dumpster! Or, better still, think of another set of lyrics for it, cuz the melody sure sounds great. It’s upbeat, punchy, minimalistic, whatever, and almost invites you to sing along, but I can’t – I blush up to my ears if I ever try to sing along with ‘Oh Yoko, my love will turn you on’.

Apart from that, you get your average classic in the title track. I’ve been thinking of some cunning ways to find a fault in this song so that I wouldn’t have to mention it as the best song on the album and would look very smart, but all I could think about was saying that it’s saccharine and openly commercial. And if I’d say so, I’d end up looking like a complete dork instead of looking smart. So I can’t help it. Sorry, folks. This is the best song on the album, no matter what else you’re gonna say about it. Anyway, if ‘Love’ was a great song, why not ‘Imagine’? This is where Lennon finally manages to come up with his own ‘Yesterday’: funny it took him six years to outsmart McCartney for the most “overall-respectable” song of his career.

One thing’s for sure, though: there’s much more to this album than just ‘Imagine’. There’s a couple more gentle sincere sad ballads in ‘Jealous Guy’ (if it’s John excusing himself before Yoko, then it’s the first in a series of ‘apologetics’ songs culminating in ‘Aisumasen’; however, this one’s a much better song, if only because of the wonderful whistling) and the sentimental ‘Oh My Love’ whose piano melody isn’t any less genial than the one used on ‘Imagine’. It just so happened that it’s a love song and not a universalist anthem. So what? Does it matter for a true music fan? Nope.

The sentimental side also strikes through on ‘How’, an unusually gentle philosophical song along the lines of ‘Look At Me’, that is, once again John is trying to ‘take a decision’ on which way to turn and is left wondering without an answer. Yet there is no pain – ‘Look At Me’ was clearly a song reflecting a tormented and depressed mind, while ‘How’ reflects a far more gentle and loving conscience that’s almost ready to make peace with any situation, however grim or uncertain it might turn out to be. An interesting change of mood for John at the time.

A couple of retro numbers (the great guitar/piano shuffle of ‘Crippled Inside’, the hard rockin’ guitar/mighty brass swing of ‘It’s So Hard’) cook nicely, too. Some of ’em people like to despise ‘It’s So Hard’, for reasons unknown. C’mon people! What can be cuter than the lyrics ‘You gotta live, you gotta love, you gotta do something, you gotta shove. But it’s so hard, it’s really hard, sometimes I feel like going down.’ I like that stuff! Moreover, I even like the overlong, Phil Spector-trumped ‘I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier’. This is the only track which features a ‘wall-of-sound’ on the whole album (I’m beginning to think that it was really easy not to have Phil messing around with your music.

You only had to come up to him and say: ‘Phil! Just don’t you mess around with my music’. And he wouldn’t), but it’s OK: John clearly wanted to have a really menacing song to himself, and it works: the echoey boomy drums, the threatening guitars that go in and out again, the waves of brass in the solo breaks, and John’s scary lyrics also rushing like waves, all of this produces a really unique effect. I don’t mind the repetitive lyrics, I don’t mind the simplistic melody: I mind the atmosphere, the paranoid drums, the intense, strained punch of John’s voice, the climactic brass breaks, it all thrills me to the extreme, and I fully identify with the song, much as everybody else hates it.

Angry foaming-at-the-mouth classics also include: ‘Give Me Some Truth’ with some of John’s most politicized lyrics up-to-date and a frantic George Harrison lead break; and ‘How Do You Sleep’ with some of John’s most anti-McCartneycized lyrics up-to-date… and a frantic George Harrison lead break. The lyrics hit Paul straight in the eye, so that he even had to hasten up with releasing his witty answer ‘Dear Friend’ on Wild Life. I don’t know how exactly Paul slept before hearing that song, but it sure could disturb his sleep after its release! Good ol’ John! That kind of treatment towards an old friend! Aaaarggh. The melody, though, is extremely hooky. Just listen to that riff that he plays during the refrain, you’ll get my drift.

Overall, Imagine showed that Lennon was on a terribly high roll at the time, one by one spewing forth terrific melodies of prime Beatle quality (yes, you heard – that’s prime Beatle quality on here, even if few of the songs would have been deemed suitable for a true Beatles album), and only something extremely exclusive and unnatural could get him off his feet. That “unnatural” factor, unfortunately, happened to be John’s full-fledged involvement in politics and reinterpreting music as a social tool rather than an artistic element on his next album.

April 12, 2013 Posted by | John Lennon Imagine | | Leave a comment

Genesis A Trick Of The Tail (1976)

7b163899fb8ad1c3360416f24584dbe8_fullFrom starling.rinet.ru

What differences are there between the Gabrielled Genesis and the Gabrielless Genesis? Well, first of all, as one might guess, a Gabrielless Genesis features no Peter Gabriel. That meant that somebody had to replace his showman/singing abilities (the songwriting would be quite modestly handled by those old pals, Mr Banks and Mr Rutherford). After trying out dozens, if not hundreds, of potential candidates, they suddenly found out that the answer was right before them all of this time. Our old friend, Phil the Boomer, rose to the challenge and demonstrated his ability to take the place of Peter. And so begins the Odyssey of Phil Collins and his rapid rise from one of the best drummers in progressive rock to one of the crappiest performers on the adult contemporary scene…

One might note, though, that Phil Collins isn’t really responsible for the song material on this album (nor is he really responsible for the following two albums, for that matter). The compositions are mostly penned by Banks and/or Rutherford, with an occasional collaboration from Collins or Hackett. The latter seems to have been relegated to purely decorative functions. If one complains about the lack of audible guitar on the ‘classic’ 1971-74 Genesis albums, he should throw this stuff away even without looking at it. The little bits of guitar that you might discern aren’t certainly worth a whole band member (moreover, some of them might just as well be played by Rutherford). Sure, Steve gets in one composition of his own (‘Entangled’) and is responsible for some of the most beautiful moments on the album (the breathtaking solo on ‘Ripples’, for instance), but these sound more like a sop hastily thrown to the man by his more ambitious colleagues.

This means that Hackett’s departure in 1977 really made little influence on Genesis – contrary to what many people believe. Poor Steve, he was virtually squeezed out of the band – what you’ll find on here, actually, is a lengthy, 50-minute feast of Banksynth noises. Alas, even when he turns himself to normal pianos, it doesn’t always help. The sound is as uniform and monotonous as it might be, and while the actual melodies still stand out, Genesis seem to be heading more and more in the Kansas direction – and may I remind you that Kansas had built their entire early career on ripping off Genesis. Not to mention that they are among the most boring progressive groups to have ever existed. Granted, the sound might still have been fresh in 1976, but now it just sounds dated – pointless studio gimmickry which sure makes the music sound ‘modern’ (that is, ‘modern’ for 1976), but it sure doesn’t make the music sound entertaining.

Moreover, Phil’s singing is highly disappointing after all those Gabriel cookies – to me, at least. Yes, he does sound like Gabriel, but where are these cute little changes in intonation, these spoken passages, these inspired rambling mutterings? Phil delivers his lines in a boring, monotonous way, and even so he’s often muddied down by the production. His voice is not bad at all, but he isn’t able to model it at all, and just ends up overemoting on each track. From now on, Genesis vocals are crisp and professional, but are no longer a standout.

So… why an eight for this album, then? Well, see, the song material is actually quite strong. Whatever I may hold against Banks, at this point he did know how to turn in a great little tune (on occasion), and, hell, Rutherford was a really talented composer. His beautiful ballad ‘Ripples’, dedicated to the problems of aging, is one of the definite highlights on the record, romantic and tear-jerking, even though a little bit overlong (as a matter of fact, everything on here is overlong: the band just never knew when to shut up). Still, it does have that great solo thrown in by Steve. Other wonders include the tragic anthem of ‘Squonk’, with a charming fantasy story about a little animal who dissolved itself into tears when it was cornered, and the thrilling story of ‘Robbery, Assault, And Battery’ which again plunges us into the world of Genesis-like Britishness (strangely, the lyrical matter evokes the subject of ‘Harold The Barrel’).

Not that the songs are really that British as the album cover, with its Boz-like illustrations, suggests: in fact, without Gabriel there to deliver the lyrics, Banks often ends up sounding as a lame parody on Pete Sinfield (‘Mad Man Moon’ – arguably the worst track on here, an overlong sloppy ballad which doesn’t hold a candle to ‘Ripples’ or, well, ‘Musical Box’, for all my life’s worth; it does have a nice atmosphere to it, though, which is more than I could say about its successor on the next album, the dreadful ‘One For The Vine’). Still, his best composition on the album (title track) should be considered a classic. On ‘A Trick Of The Tail’ everything seems to gel perfectly, maybe for the last time on a Genesis album. The lyrics (a story about a devil who, for some unknown reason, came to seek happiness on Earth) are decent, the melody, a nice shuffle with delicate key changes, is invigorating, and even Phil manages to somehow lift up his spirits on this one. Try it, you’ll like it.

Plus, the other three compositions are okay. ‘Dance On A Volcano’ is anthemic, ‘Entangled’ is, well, entangled, but listenable (watch out for that mighty crescendo at the end – it’s pure heaven when the headphones are on), and the closing ‘Los Endos’ is clever, even if it’s nothing more than an average prog-rock instrumental with snippets of some other tracks and a quote from ‘Supper’s Ready’ inserted at the end. In fact, there’s little offensive stuff on the record, as far as songwriting is concerned. Just imagine how this might have sounded if they’d bother to substitute some of Banks’ tools for, say, a twelve-string? Oh, okay, an extra six-string would easily do, I’m sure.

P.S. Considering one of the reader comments which reflects a widely spread statement, I’d just like to combat one nasty myth: namely, the assertion that after Gabriel’s departure Genesis became more “musically-oriented”. Genesis always paid most of their attention to the music – ‘Supper’s Ready’ and Selling England might have their theatrical moments, but 99% of their charm stems from the actual music. If anything, Genesis became less “theatre-oriented” after Gabriel’s departure, actually, they dropped the ‘rock theatre’ vibe almost in its entirety. But they didn’t ‘compensate’ for it by paying more attention to the music, simply because they couldn’t ever have paid more attention to the music than they did in the Gabriel days. On the contrary, what was so amazing about Gabriel-era Genesis was that they managed to combine ‘rock theatre’ with perfectly written music.

If you complain about your attention being drawn away by Peter’s antics, well, it’s your problem; I, for one, can concentrate either on Gabriel or on the music, whichever I prefer, and therefore consider the early Gabriel-Genesis experience twice as rewarding as whatever followed. Yes, post-1975 Genesis never wrote such mini-show pieces as ‘Get ‘Em Out By Friday’, but the main charm of these pieces stems from the fact that they are all highly melodic and incorporate blistering musical performances; the music in there is in no way overshadowed by Peter’s delivery. So much for the illusionary “theatrical/musical” Genesis opposition.

April 12, 2013 Posted by | Genesis A Trick Of The Tail | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Hang Onto Your Heads (Baton Rouge, February 1975)

zep_hangonFrom collectorsmusicreviews.com

LSU Assembly Center, Baton Rouge, LA – February 28th, 1975

Disc 1 (51:26): Intro, Rock And Roll, Sick Again, Over The Hills And Far Away, In My Time Of Dying, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Kashmir

Disc 2 (53:58): No Quarter, Trampled Underfoot, Moby Dick

Disc 3 (60:44): Dazed & Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Black Dog

The second leg for Led Zeppelin’s tour in 1975 started on February 27th in Houston, but no tape is in circulation for that concert. Baton Rouge is the second date and has been in circulation thanks to one of the best audience tapes from the era which was first pressed on vinyl on Led Astrayon the Artemis label. The earliest compact disc version was discs five through seven of the Mad Dogs box set and on the original Tarantura label, who issued Freeze! (T3CD-2) (named after the taper) with a picture of Jimmy Page on the cover, both in 1993.

Tarantura reissued Freeze! again the following year but with a picture of Robert Plant on the cover. The date on Tarantura was erroneously listed as from February 13th and also made the claim it was sourced from the master reel-to-reel. Silver Rarities in Europe released Led Astray (SIRA 194/195/196) in 1995 and the Immigrant label released Blaze (IM-040~42) about the same time. Capricorn released this show except for “Dazed & Confused” on Bon Soir, Baton Rouge! (CR-2028/2029).

Hang On To Your Heads is one of The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin’s final releases. It first came out in the fall of 1999 as a limited edition boxset with a 12 page insert full of tour pictures (from the Earls Court shows). Several years later it was released in a jewel case. Like the others, it has excellent sound and dynamics, runs at the right pitch, and has not been remastered to death to let it have a natural sound.

Zeppelin took close to a two week long break after concluding the first half of the tour on February 16th in St. Louis. They started off the second half in much better health and with much more confidence than the first, setting a high standard in their performance. The show starts off with “Rock And Roll” and the new song “Sick Again” before Plant explains the program for the evening, speaking about the “cross-section of musical color that we’ve managed to get together in the last six and a half years. Some old stuff, some new stuff, some cool, and some pretty raunchy stuff too. So hang on to your heads.”

A groove is reached with “Over The Hills And Far Away” where the guitar solo sets the precedent for continued experimentation by Page later on in the tour and “In My Time Of Dying” is the first announced song from Physical Graffiti, ”that’s just it’s finally been … the egg has been laid .. or it it the guy who got laid?” “Kashmir” is another and is dedicated to “quite a few people who passed our way. Mr. Royston, who’s travelling with us, Mr. Harold, who’s travelling with us, and many other folks who’ve given us inspiration from time to time.”

“No Quarter” is the first epic and is changed somewhat from the first leg. John Paul Jones played the electric piano during the solo in the early dates, but now switches to grand piano. One can assume the first such arrangement was in the previous show in Houston, but Baton Rouge is the earliest tape with this. This version is very confident with an economic delivery and concise ideas from Jones making this one of the more effective performances from the tour.

“Trampled Underfoot” follows which Plant describes as “about a motor car, but as you people know, the guys who used to sing the songs back in the thirties, like ‘Terraplane Blues,’ and things like this, they used to sing about a motor car, but all they were talking about was boogying, you see? Does anybody know anything about boogying? … So this is an English version of the southern yazoo delta boogy song.”

The second long epic of the night is twenty-five minutes of “Moby Dick” featuring “the man with a bicycle clip caught in his sock, the greatest percussionist since Big Ben, John Bonham.” The showpiece of the set is “Dazed And Confused,” lasting thirty-five minutes long and featuring CSNY’s “Woodstock” in place of Scott MacKenzie’s “San Francisco.” Page attempts several unique riffs during the long improvisation.

“Stairway To Heaven” closes the show and Plant has a long, strange speech where he calls Led Zeppelin “just a fun bunch of boys” who “really intend that every gig that we do should be really, we really intend to have a good time every time we play. Otherwise, you’d understand that we wouldn’t be on the stage anymore together. It wouldn’t be true, you know what I mean? True, true, true, true, and if what you’re doing you don’t do with conviction, then you’re lying to yourself, right? So I wish we could all join hands and sing this together, but as there ain’t enough room, here it goes.”

Page expended much energy in “Dazed And Confused” and delivers a sloppy version of the closing track. He hits a few bum notes during the verses and can’t seem to generate many new idea in the solo. The encores include the first long theremin solo as a link between “Whole Lotta Love” and “Black Dog” which will be greatly expanded in a few weeks time to include “The Crunge.” Page again delivers a painful to listen to solo in the final song “Black Dog.” Plant thanks the audience and says, “I’m gonna smoke such a sweet cigar. Good night Baton Rouge.”

April 12, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Hang Onto Your Heads | , | Leave a comment

The Rolling Stones Exile On Main Street (1972)

rolling_stones_exile_on_main_street_2000_retail_cd-frontFrom sfloman.com

This album actually received mixed reviews upon its release, but today it has pride of place among all Rolling Stones albums on most all-time greatest albums lists. In turn, this has led many in recent years to claim that the album is overrated, which if you look at the above rating you’ll know that I think is complete nonsense!

So, what makes this album so great? Well, it’s hard to define, exactly; the album contains no all-time classic tracks like “Sympathy For The Devil,” “Gimme Shelter,” or “Brown Sugar,” and there are several tracks that I wouldn’t vehemently disagree against if you referred to them as filler.

But Exile is its own self-contained world like few albums, and therein lies its magic, as even the most flawed songs generally add to the overall ambiance of the album. So I guess I was wrong in my Satanic Majesties review when I said that it was the only Stones album that was more about sound than songs – the difference is that this album has tons of great songs too.

As for the sound, well, who isn’t aware of the album’s murky sound quality, courtesy of Richards’ villa basement in the South of France (where they were tax exiles due to money problems)? The raw, dirty sound actually works to the band’s benefit, and the Stones wrote a diverse batch of songs that dip into r&b, blues, soul, country, gospel, and ragged rock n’ roll with equal assuredness.

Also, Jagger sings with an uncommon force and directness, even if his unintelligible lyrics are often buried amid the raging rhythms and slashing guitar interplay (you could argue that this album represented Richards and Taylor’s peak as a guitar team). Once again session stalwarts such as Nicky Hopkins, Billy Preston (if the organ has a church-y sound it’s probably Preston rather than Hopkins), Bobby Keyes, and Jim Price play a key role in colouring the albums incredibly rich overall sound, which also includes many a soulful female backing vocalist.

Still, it is the band’s airtight rhythms, even when grungily applied, that anchors their sound, and Keith also aids with some emotional backing vocals as per usual. As for individual song highlights, “Rocks Off” and “All Down The Line” are simply great groove rockers, “Rip This Joint” delivers a pure adrenalized blast of rock n’ roll, “Sweet Virginia” is a soulful, countrified sing along, and “Ventilator Blues” (Taylor’s only credited co-write with the band) is a bluesy, brassy stomper on which Mick sounds all hot and bothered and the guitars really cook.

“Tumbling Dice,” with its memorable riffs and catchy backing chants, is the album’s best known song for good reason, and “Happy,” a gloriously surging rocker, similarly earns its distinction as being Keith’s signature vocal showcase. The band’s earthy, spiritual brand of gospel rock is in ample evidence on stellar tracks like “Loving Cup,” “Let It Loose,” and especially the sublime “Shine A Light,” while the melodic, countrified “Torn and Frayed” is similarly superb yet criminally underrated. Having mentioned what I consider to be the album’s best songs, I must also duly note that Exile On Main Street is a “repeat listens” sort of album that really must be listened to as a whole in order to be fully appreciated.

Even then it seems that not everyone “gets” this album, and maybe there’s some validity to those among you who would criticize the lo-fi sound while also claiming that the album overextends itself at eighteen songs. But aside from maybe ditching one or two tracks I wouldn’t change a damn thing about it, as this gloriously unkempt collection is as richly authentic and representative of the band’s greatness as any of their previous albums, even if it doesn’t quite match up to the last three on a song-for-song basis (as an aside, I’ll note that most of this album is obscure radio-wise, which further endears it to me).

Alas, this would be the last time that the band would ever work at such a consistently high level again.

April 12, 2013 Posted by | The Rolling Stones Exile On Main Street | | Leave a comment

John Lennon Sometime In New York City (1972)

John-Lennon-Some-Time-In-New-507733From sputnikmusic.com

Some Time in New York City… This album was not kicked off with a good start. After John and Yoko moved to New York, they started to get involved in anti-war protests, and protests to get John Sinclair out of prison. All of these were followed with Richard Nixon’s attempts to deport John Lennon, which would last for around 5 years afterwards. The original album was, and still is, a double album, filled with mostly songs of a political nature, and some that would cause an about face with Lennon fans who were expecting something like off his Plastic Ono Band release or the Imagine album that was released a year ago. What did people get? Mostly a bunch of half-baked ideas, and the ones that are fully-baked were the ones that caused John major controversy.

The album kicks off with one of the more controversial songs off the album , “Woman is the N****r of the World”, which, contrary to its song title, is about sexism rather than racism. All the fuss about the n-word aside, the track is pretty strong, and really needs a better social climate to listen to it. Just be careful if your friend asks to see your iPod and ask what you’re listening to. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is also really good, mostly based off the Bloody Sunday Troubles in Northern Ireland, and you can see where John’s sympathies lie, and it is a surprisingly upbeat. The other track that stands out for the recorded set is “New York City”, a Chuck Berry inspired piece about John and Yoko’s new home in the Dakota and Manhattan. It may get a little repetitive, but it’s a rockin’ song, so I guess I could let it slide. Basically, stick with all the Lennon tracks, as they are the strong parts of this whole record.

The other gems on this record are all live, and they comprise of everything after track 10 (which I’ll get to in a little bit), and they come from two different concerts, one of them the live UNICEF jam from 1969, the other from a Fillmore East gig featuring Frank Zappa (yes, that Frank Zappa) on guitar from 1971. The sound quality from the UNICEF jam is a little bit on the poor side, but it does show Lennon’s prowess in a live setting. The later tracks are in better quality, but most could be indifferent about what the tracks contain, especially with Zappa.

Now, I have to talk about the bad parts of the album, and unfortunately, it comprises a lot of the album: Yoko.

Let me clarify my stance on Yoko in this album, because this is an interesting case. I think her songwriting is some of her best on this album, because she had gotten better before this album. Unfortunately, her voice is just really annoying on this album, like many reviewers at the time liked to point out. The song contents of “Sisters O Sisters” and “We’re All Water” are really good, and it forces a reader of the lyrics to really think. When a person listens to them, however, it makes you want to eat your least favorite food for about a week and then spend a night near the toilet. Even the two Lennon songs about the Troubles, including “Luck of the Irish”, are simply spoiled by Yoko’s screechy voice, which is a shame because these songs are pretty good, but why did Yoko have to be on the most sentimental songs of the whole album??!!

On the whole, like most John Lennon albums, the good stuff is really good. The opening song is great, the back-to-basic song is great, the live jams are really good. There could have a lot of opportunities to make this album one of his greatest, but a lot of opportunities were wasted for what they are.

April 12, 2013 Posted by | John Lennon Sometime In New York City | | Leave a comment

Genesis Foxtrot (1972)

075678267420From starling.rinet.ru

More of the same formula: lengthy marathons with boring instrumental passages, increasingly complicated prog lyrics and Gabriel’s fantastic singing skills. But even better this time around; the instrumental passages are generally less boring because they tend to be shorter and more multi-part, the lyrics are getting interestinger and interestinger, and Gabriel’s singing skills are on the rise again, as he goes deeper and deeper into his amazing brand of “rock theater”.

Just like in Cryme, there are three lengthy marathons, but one of them is really long. You know, of course, what I’m talking about: the famous side-long ‘Supper’s Ready’. While you’ll see quite a few reader comments condemning me for my initial rejection of the most part of the suite below, time has certainly improved my feelings towards it. Obviously, the suite was written mostly with the aim of “not falling behind” the other prog bands like ELP, Van Der Graaf Generator, King Crimson and particularly Jethro Tull, all of which had already released side-long pieces by the time – and some of them had done pretty well on the charts. But fortunately for us, Peter Gabriel was such a talented fella that the effort eventually turned out to be much more than an obligatory tribute to his predecessors.

‘Supper’s Ready’ is basically Gabriel’s take on the Apocalypse (actually, one of the parts is subtitled ‘Apocalypse In 9/8’) – I will not go into details on the song’s ‘spiritual essence’ and the meaning of all of its individual sections, because all such things are rather debatable. There are lengthy resources for the explanation of ‘Supper’ on the Net, together with resources annotating The Lamb; check ’em out for yourselves. Here, it must be noted that most of the parts are supposed to have actual meaning, and the suite flows quite well. Kudos to the band, in particular, for actually providing us with quite a few melodies: the twenty-plus minute length is fully compensated by the multiple themes, ranging from soft and subtly ominous to gritty and openly aggressive. With all their pretentions and ambitions, they could have easily pumped out the Close To The Edge formula (a few good melodies diluted by tons of acquired-taste atmosphere), but instead they’re in for some real musical meat.

And thus, after a few listens that are needed to get used to the tune in general, it only sags in a couple of places: some instrumental breaks are, as usual, lengthier than they should be, and a couple sections like ‘How Dare I Be So Beautiful’ and the already mentioned ‘Apocalypse In 9/8’ are, well, overshadowed by the better moments. But when said moment is better, it’s usually topnotch. ‘Lover’s Leap’, with its tale of two lovers merging as one, is sad and romantic, driven forth by a gorgeous medieval guitar line; ‘The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man’ is climactic, with loads of wonderful atmosphere; and ‘Ikhnaton And Itsacon And Their Band Of Merry Men’ is a stomping piece of battle fury with Hackett at his very very best. The fun comes on ‘Willow Farm’, where Gabriel is the main and only star: it’s one of his most impressive theatrical British deliveries ever. And ‘As Sure As Eggs Are Eggs’ brings us back to the climactic moments of the second part, culminating in the triumphant coming of the Lord ‘to lead his children home, to take them to the new Jerusalem’.

Throughout, the band pulls out nearly everything out of their sleeves: Tony’s playing is moderate and restrained, resulting in quite a few blistering organ and Mellotron passages, Rutherford is supplying pretty acoustic guitar, Hackett stays in the shadows but the presence of his guitar in the background is always noticeable, Phil is Phil, and Gabriel… no, his starry hour had yet to come with the next record, but his singing on ‘Willow Farm’ definitely puts him in the league of Supermen. If you haven’t yet seen that video of the Genesis History, rent it if only with the aim of witnessing Mr Gabriel hop around the stage in his flower outfit while doing the ‘Willow Farm’ bit. An unforgettable experience. So screw the meaning – Apocalypse or not, this is simply a hodge-podge of enthralling musical ideas and inspired vocal and instrumental performances.

For me, however, side A hardly refuses to match Gabriel’s interpretation of the Apocalypse on side B. Not all, of course: ‘Can-Utility And The Coasters’ is classic Genesis filler, it doesn’t do a single thing for me. Some people seem to like it, but I don’t see how it is better than, say, ‘Harlequin’ on the previous record. Genesis are essentially a power band: they very rarely get on by soft melodies alone, it’s the contrast between soft and hard (I mean, upbeat and majestic) that makes their songs work. There is hardly any power in ‘Can-Utility’, just a lot of atmospheric acoustic guitar and a few more Mellotron notes that don’t seem to achieve any positive effect.

But the fan favourite ‘Watcher Of The Skies’ is certainly a great song, even with all those corny Mellotrons that predict the much later murky Wind And Wuthering synth stylizations: the melody manages to be memorable while not being very simple (as usual), and the lyrics, pretentious as they might be, are at least funny (I don’t know, I for one find a lot of fun in the lines ‘maybe the lizard shedded it’s tail/This is the end of man’s long union with Earth’). It also manages to go from stately and calm to raging and rocking with the transition effectuated smoother than most prog rock bands could ever manage such subtle changes – courtesy of Mr Hackett, whose guitar technique is even more impressive than before.

Same goes for the more obscure ‘Time Table’, with Gabriel at his most ‘universally-important’ tone – the gorgeous chorus of the song is, well, gorgeous, and Tony’s tinkling electric piano solo is utterly cute; why didn’t the man stick to non-electronic devices more often in his life is way beyond me. But my absolute favourite on the album is the sadly ignored ingenious sci-fi tale of ‘Get ‘Em Out By Friday’ in which the corporation of Genetic Control buys up all the housing on the planet and then reduces humanity to half its size so that they could make more money by putting twice as many inhabitants in each house. What a bummer, eh? Why hasn’t Ray Davies come up with a rock opera like this? (Which, by the way, is no idle question: there’s much more in common between Ray Davies and Peter Gabriel than you might imagine).

‘Get ‘Em Out By Friday’ is a worthy inheritor to ‘Hogweed’, with an even more complicated, but an even more funny and entertaining structure and Gabriel taking pure delight in impersonating both the ‘innocent lambs’ and the ‘big bad wolves’ of the story. While the song is nowhere near as ‘all-encompassing’ as ‘Supper’s Ready’, it manages to enthral me even more successfully: after all, it’s like an entire play stuffed in eight and a half minutes, not to mention the tons of cool melodies the band throws on here without any serious effort. Finally, Rutherford’s two-minute classic guitar showcase on ‘Horizons’ is at least a brief relief after all those nauseating Banksynths. So you see, there’s enough to make this record stand out even without the silly supper that’s finally ready.

Whatever I might say, though, there may be no doubt that this is Peter Gabriel’s peak as a lyricist. His exaggerated ‘Britishness’ shines through on all the corners, but it seems to be not the kind of ‘conservative Britishness’ that characterizes the Kinks, or the kind of ‘medieval-minstrelian Britishness’ that characterizes Jethro Tull. I’d call it ‘fairy tale Britishness’: in his imagery Gabriel relies on Germanic and Celtic mythology and old folk tales and pagan practices rather than on ‘social Britain’. So, at least in this respect, we might say that Genesis certainly delved itself a unique niche in British prog rock. Let it stay there for all its worth. And move on to their glorious culmination!

April 12, 2013 Posted by | Genesis Foxtrot | | Leave a comment

Robin Trower Bridge Of Sighs (1974)

robin_trower-bridge_of_sighs(1)From sputnikmusic.com

My father is the one responsible for getting me into music and he did so by showing me some of the best from his era, that era being the 1970’s. He showed me albums like Led Zeppelin IV, Boston, Sticky Fingers (Rolling Stones), and this album, Bridge of Sighs by British blues guitarist, Robin Trower. This used to be one of my favorites as a kid and I hadn’t listened to it again until recently. Listening to it again, now with more of an open mind to different kinds of music, I feel like I can say that I can fully appreciate this wonderful record. It’s a very fun listen with enough flashy licks to satisfy the guitar player.

I knew as a kid that this was certainly a great offering upon hearing the title track, “Bridge of Sighs”. Through listening to this song, I felt that I knew what a guitar should sound like. Robin Trower’s guitar roars (literally) through the surreal soundscapes set by the ambient textures. Vocalist and Bassist James Dewar does great in both of his respective departments; his singing perfectly complements the hypnotizing guitar line and his skills as a bassist shouldn’t be overlooked as he is definitely technically proficient and does well alongside drummer Reg Isidore. That being said, Reg definitely ain’t a slouch on the kit. Yeah, this song is slow, but going slow on the kit isn’t quite as easy as most would think. Most musicians’ ideal tempo is around 112 beats per minute and this song is around 45-50 and he does it quite nonchalantly to say the least. You’re probably thinking now, “Man, if this song is so slow then how in the world could I possibly listen to it without nodding off or something?” That my friend brings us back to those ambient textures I love to rave about. Without any ambiance or reverb behind the song it would surely be a dozer but these “sonic decorations”, if you will, keep the listener on edge.

“Bridge of Sighs” was written about a bridge in Venice, Italy of the same name where criminals waited to cross to their imprisonment; getting their last glimpse of the outside world. Truly heavy stuff if you ask me. This album certainly provides for the “Goldilocks principle”, as the songs are never too indulgent and fall just correctly within the realm of good songwriting. In a matter of speaking, Robin Trower and co. certainly knew how to stir the porridge on this release.

As far as riffs go, “Bridge of Sighs” is packed with them. Trower plays with a jazzy flare and is never too flashy as all the licks are there simply to provide for the music instead of showing off his chops (cough Yngwie Malmsteen cough). Both “Day of the Eagle” and “Too Rolling Stoned” feature a very catchy funk laced riff and how could anybody forget the aforementioned title track’s main riff? “The Fool in Me” features a funky stomping rhythm section which is a perfect partner to Trower’s riff-age. The solo in this song is probably my favorite off the album behind “Bridge of Sighs” on the “just right” scale. Trower enters with a chaotically strummed set of 9th chords and then proceeds to tear the face off the listener with his guitar expertise. Even on the more jamming tracks, “Bridge of Sighs” doesn’t falter or fail in anyway.

However, this album really shines when the group goes softer. “About to Begin” is a perfect change of pace from the rocking tracks. The track features a waltz-y rhythm from the drum set, mellow tones from Trower and some emotionally charged vocals from James Dewar. Dewar’s voice though sometimes having an imposing masculinity on other tracks really calms down on this one. If placed anywhere else in the tracklist, this song wouldn’t have the effect it has. “In This Place” also provides more room for Dewar to shine as well as effectively changing the pace from the title track before it.

In conclusion, with “Bridge of Sighs”, Robin Trower succeeds, but he didn’t do it alone. Without James Dewar or Reg Isidore this would have been a different release. On most songs, Trower is the highlight though on some tracks like “The Fool in Me”, the rhythm section really shines. Overall, this is a wonderful release. If you’re a fan of cool guitar riffs or just a fan of classic rock in general, this is definitely a release for you.

April 12, 2013 Posted by | Robin Trower Bridge Of Sighs | | Leave a comment

LZ-’75 The Lost Chronicles of Led Zeppelin’s 1975 American Tour by Stephen Davis (2010)

lz75From amazon.com

As one of the “millions of kids” that attended a Led Zeppelin concert during their 1975 “Physical Graffiti” Tour, I consumed this book immediately. Stephen Davis’ newest contribution to the Led Zeppelin canon was nothing more than a refreshment of every “Circus,” “Rolling Stone,” “Creem” or “Hit Parader” article written about this tour that I had read.

Davis’ scholarly/historian pen of “Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga” has been superseded with a dumbed-down adjective-laced prose that borders on corny. Gleaned from decades lost notebooks kept while on assignment for The Atlantic Monthly, placing Davis among Zeppelin’s entourage for two crucial months of the tour, this mere 217-page chronicle comes off as a rush job instead of the Tour de Force it could have been.

Davis writes from his own perspective as a journalist, not a fan. Readers should keep this in mind. As any good reporter, Davis gives his readers the “who, what, where, when and how,” but is less than successful at the “why” events happened the way they did. Davis’ offers personal slant, but, unlike “Hammer of the Gods,” little hindsight or analytical reflection. Having observed Led Zeppelin in their acclaimed 1969 Boston Tea Party Concert, Davis seems to view Zeppelin’s 1975 Tour as a gaudy spectacle: repeatedly alluding to the addition of John Bonham’s drum riser, the laser beam light show, and a radiant 15,000 light bulb Led Zeppelin that closed every concert.

Davis reminds us that this tour was wracked with problems from the start: The tour took place in the worst winter weather in recent memory. Robert Plant suffered from the flu, which noticeably affected his vocal performance during the early shows. Jimmy Page smashed his hand in a sub-way door that almost canceled the tour, and the release of the new album, “Physical Graffiti” was delayed,

The author paints his own portraits of the band members, as well. Legendary drummer John Bonham, affectionally known as “Bonzo” to his adoring fans, is called “The Beast” behind his back among Zeppelin’s inner circle. Drowning an acute bout of homesickness in alcohol, Bonham lashed out violently and would physically assault the closest man or woman at a whim. Davis has an obvious dislike for Bassist/Keyboardist John Paul Jones, perhaps because Jones avoided everyone, especially journalists. Davis repeatedly ribs Jones about everything from his exceedingly long, boring “lounge music” keyboard solos, to his new hair cut, which Robert Plant likened to that of Liberace.

It is not until almost the end of the book that Davis finally credits Jones as being an indispensible contributor of Zeppelin’s music. Davis paints Jimmy Page as the unapproachable reclusive tortured genius of the band. When not on stage, Page remained in a darkened hotel suite, lit only by an array of candles, an insomniac, often sitting on a couch at all hours strumming an acoustic guitar craving new inspiration. Just how far Page was into what would become a debilitating heroin addiction, and whether the myth that the Satanic aficionado Page offered his soul to the Devil, in the form of an oath signed in blood by all band members, in exchange for the musical fame are questions Davis ponders, but, not surprisingly, cannot nail. Davis portrays Robert Plant as a jovial, blonde rock god, early multi-culturalist, already delving into traditional Moroccan and Jamaican Reggae music, but by 1975, singing a full octave lower than the early albums. Davis’ adventures arranging and ultimately conducting hotel room interviews with Page (brief) and Plant (lengthy) are entertaining and revealing.

As an on-the-scene-journalist, Davis noticeably, but expectantly lacks a musician’s perspective coupled with a glaring unfamiliarity with Zeppelin’s fans. As an insider, Davis knew not what a fan makes, just as a fan knew little of life in the inner circle. On the plus side, Davis sums up every show in a few sentences. Interesting are his translations of Plant’s coded bantering between songs, and how the band mixed up the set each night: changing the encore, or inserting parts of songs in the middle of others. Davis has a few favorite songs which he refers to repeatedly: “Kashmir” and “Trampled Under Foot” for example. Less accurate are Davis’ interpretation of the fans reactions to Zeppelin’s new material.

For instance, Davis argues that not until the long awaited release of “Physical Graffiti” in late February 1975, did concert goers finally warm up to the hauntingly slide rendition of “In My Time of Dying.” Davis seems to have forgotten that radio stations were already playing advanced promo cuts from the new album, and Led Zeppelin fans possessed more musical savvy than the hoards of teeny-boppers Davis portrays them to be. Davis mistakes the fan frenzy of 1970s rock concerts (throwing of fire crackers and items onto the stage) as signs of disapproval of the new songs. Pleasing to this reviewer’s memory was Davis’ description of the February 8 show at the Philadelphia Spectrum in which huge burly security guards roughed up a fan simply trying to take a photo. During the scuffle, Page kicked out one of the vaudeville type foot lights (Davis forgot) while Plant poked the ruffian with his mike stand (I forgot).

Davis was welcomed into Zeppelin’s entourage, and when his research was deemed complete, immediately let go (the author continues the narrative to the UK Earl’s Court concert, and Plant’s tragic car accident that forced the cancellation of the second leg of the U.S. tour). Along the way, readers get a peek into Zeppelin’s world of drugs, Groupies, and life on the road with the world’s greatest rock band at the pinnacle of their career. For a new generation of fans, too young to remember, Davis offers only a brief overview. For us Baby-boomers who do remember, a more mature, in-depth approach would have been nice. Three-and-a-half stars.

April 12, 2013 Posted by | Book LZ-'75 The Lost Chronicles Of Led Zeppelins 1975 American Tour By Stephen Davis | , , | Leave a comment

Stairway To Heaven Led Zeppelin Uncensored by Richard Cole (1992)

9780671004736From amazon.com

Review 1 From UK: I very quickly came to the conclusion, reading this book, that I didn’t like Richard Cole at all. Nor did I like the members of Led Zeppelin, with the possible exception of John Paul Jones, for having the sense to stay clear of the rest of the band between gigs.

But this is an interesting book about what stardom can do to people. I’m not expressing any sympathy, here; the Roger Waters/Billy Corgan school of “life’s awful for rich and famous rock stars” whining is beneath contempt, basically. If they have a problem with being rich and famous, they can cure beng rich with a five-minute phone call to any charity, while fame takes, oh, six months to cure. By “what stardom can do to people” I am talking about turning people who are initially no worse than most of us into brutalised, narcissistic morons, too drugged and too stupid to know how ugly they are becoming.

Cole’s book is from the inside of that culture in every sense; he actually expects us to laugh along with the band and their hangers-on, when “losers” get beaten up, when people who aren’t rich have their property smashed and Bonzo laughs at the promise to pay for the damage, making it clear that the payment won’t happen.

The treatment of young women is one of the least of the band’s appallingnesses; mostly groupies got more or less the experience they came for, and where there is informed consent there is no abuse. This goes even for Page’s interest in underage girls and whips, usually the focus of most moral condemnation of this band; but Page emerges as a relatively gentle soul, and at least one of the girls as a rather stronger personality than him.

On the other hand, Cole expects us to share his amusement about kidnapping a group of underage girls and flying them interstate without their consent, or their parents’ knowledge or consent, leaving them to find their own ways home. The point was to have a joke on Plant. Cole warned the girls not to talk to Plant, and then watched Plant fail to seduce the terrified girls, and wonder what had happened to his charms. (Plant didn’t wonder long; in no time he’d concluded they were all lesbians.) What a laugh, Cole expects us to think: but this is creepy, skin-crawling stuff.

But it’s still a compelling book. The waste of Led Zeppelin’s astonishing talent was a tragedy. Sure, the talent that produced the first five albums, bits of Physical Graffiti and most of In Through the Out Door was not entirely wasted; that’s a respectable body of work that is still exciting to hear 30-odd years later. But the potential that was thrown away in smack, booze and ego-driven excess is far greater than the achievements. Anyone who was wondering how come Presence and much of Physical Graffiti is so uninspired, and how come such a bountiful well ran dry so fast, need only read this book.

It is, of course, abysmally badly written, but that’s part of its authenticity, if you like.

Review 2 From US: What you must first know before reading this book is that it is written from a very limited perspective, something that the author himself, who practically considers himself the Led Zeppelin version of the fifth Beatle, rarely admits. Richard Cole knew Led Zeppelin for 12 years as their road manager. From the accounts of the book, he spent much more time observing/fostering their boyish antics than actually conversing with them intimately.

The quotations he gives are highly dubious at best; many of them are second-hand hearsay. It is highly unlikely that he could remember much of what was actually said twenty-something years before the book was written since he spent most of the time with them either high or drunk. The dialogue has the flavor of trite situational comedy. On top of this, Richard Cole provides very (very) little insight into Led Zeppelin’s music, or music at all, for that matter. Either he did not to care to talk with them about the thoughts and experiences behind their music, or he just thought one more anecdote about John Bonham throwing something out a hotel window or defecating on/in something was too juicy to pass up.

One gets the impression that Bonham may have been the only member of Led Zeppelin to talk with Cole at length about anything. The others don’t really seem to know that he existed as anything more than the guy who counted their money and was high or drunk all the time, even though he suspiciously plays a central role in all of his stories about them.

All of that said, if you’d like to read dozens of accounts of how Led Zeppelin lived a life as decadent as a Caligula or a Nero, then perhaps you could do no better than hearing from their number one parasite, who shared in all of their dinner tables, women, and alcohol, and in the end exaggerated his importance to the group in much the same way that a slave or a parasite from Roman Comedy does. Richard Cole helped Led Zeppelin out of many a tight jam, but his attempts to get behind their their music or their personnae, even John Bonham’s (with whom he was closest) are a failure.

In the end you know nothing more about the members of Led Zeppelin than these generalities: Plant (somewhat haughty, tempermental, and doesn’t like going second with a fellatrix), Page (an insecure perfectionist fascinated with the occult), Jones (quiet, not indulgent in excess), Bonham (liked to vandalize things and offend people for no reason). None of this is a revelation.

Review 3 From New Zealand: If you are endevaoring to start reading any books on Led Zeppelin, Richard Cole’s Stairway to Heaven is the place to start. Keep in mind that Coles claim to fame is that “he was there.’ Furthermore, Stephen Davis of the Hammer of the Gods fame was the first author to release an unauthorized biography. There was a plethora of Led Zeppelin books written from1985 until the present. Many these books are now out of date and out of print. The 2 books that have stood the test of time are Hammer of the Gods and Stairway to Heaven. Hammer of the Gods has been superseded by When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin by Mick Wall. Jimmy Page is no longer on speaking terms with Mick Wall, so therefore it is another must read.

Most Amazon reviews are simply a personal attack on Cole (not completely undeserving) with the benefit of hindsight. Keep an open mind because, like him or hate him, most books to this day still quote him as a primary source so he will never be obsolete. The band members do not like the book and John Paul Jones (Jonesy) has legitimate reason s for disliking Stairway to Heaven and claims that Richard Cole:
1. deliberately lied to the band as was the primary source for both Stairway to Heaven and Stephen Davis book Hammer of the Gods
2. gets the stories muddled up and conveniently names Bonham as instigator and culprit, knowing full well that Bonzo can’t defend himself
3. Treats John Bottom (Bonzo) like an imbecile… Bonzo appeared to be Bi-Polar problem that was not officially diagnosed, yet casts him as buffoon, rapist and a violent thug and in fact blames just about every negative event as quote “this happened ….. and Bonzo made it worse.”
Richard Cole does not deserve your pity or empathy. He is a recovering alcoholic and surprisingly has an excellent memory when it suits the author, but, grows hazy when discussing for example, the incident at Oakland.

Name Dropper
Cole is an unashamed name dropper.
For example, Cole alleges that he assists Robert Downey jnr to stay clean on, and, apparently lived with Downey whist he filmed certain movies. Cole goes on to say that he also helped Ozzy Osbourne stay clean. I have never heard Ozzy or Sharon Osbourne thank Richard Cole publically or privately.

1977 and The Oakland Incident
I have always been interested in Zeppelin’s 1977 tour. What really happened? Cole but infers a bad vibe and spiraling drug use but glosses over most of the tour. The incident at the Oakland Coliseum is the darkest in the bands history. Cole in Stairway obviously admits he was there, but, blames the incident on Peter Grant and Bonzo. The ’77 Oakland incident is discussed in far greater detail both in Mick Wall’s When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin and Keith Shadwick’s efforts in Led Zeppelin 1968-1980.

Shadwick cites references from Stairway to Heaven but it is obvious that he detests Richard Cole. Shadwick’s description of Oakland incident is extremely detailed and has Cole as the instigator. In fact Shadwick, as does Mick Wall and Bill Graham in their books, highlight the fact that Cole was instigated the majority of violent incidents that marked that horrific 1977 tour. I won’t ruin the shocking surprise, but Wall describes a shocking incident concerning the famous seventies drummer Aynsley Dunbar of ELO fame, that will you feeling with nothing but disgust for Richard Cole.

When asked about the book, Robert Plant claims that he has only read the post 1980 chapters, as he was interested to see what Richard Cole did after Zeppelin separated. These in fact are the best chapter in the book and you may begin to feel some empathy towards Richard Cole. However I urge you to read would be Mick Wall’s When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin. When Giants Walked the Earth is Hammer of the Gods with additional detail. If you are into extreme detail, then Keith Shadwick’s effort in Led Zeppelin: 1968-1980 is a must. You can then compare all three and make up your own mind concerning Richard Cole.

April 12, 2013 Posted by | Book Stairway To Heaven Led Zeppelin Uncensored By Richard Cole | , , | Leave a comment

Genesis Wind And Wuthering (1977)

Genesis-WindWuthering-FrontFrom starling.rinet.ru

Oops, I blew it. I said something good about Tony Banks in that last review, haven’t I? Well, screw it. Forget it. From the opening notes of this album and down to the last second, it’s a nauseating synthfest. These electronic sounds seem to infiltrate you, spoil the very air you’re breathing, poison the cup of tea you’re sipping at while trying to get through to the melodies. And remember: I’m not against synthesizers as long as they’re used in the correct way. You can put out a killer synth riff, something like Gentle Giant’s ‘Alucard’. You can use the synth to create outstanding fantasy-world or just outstanding spiritual musical textures, like Brian Eno.

You can at least demonstrate your vast instrumental prowess by playing a technically immaculate, warp-speed solo – something in the style of Keith Emerson; I admit that some would hate that last style, calling it self-indulgent etc., but it’s at least motivated. But when you engage in series of pointless, draggy instrumental passages that do neither of these three things, the reasonable question is: why? Why did Tony Banks clutter this huge, fifty-minute album with loads of these routine, boring, monotonous synth passages that do nothing besides just sit there and fart around? Okay, the tone he gets on this album and the general ‘atmospherics’ of his playing is basically not the worst thing in the world. But it’s absolutely the same tone and absolutely the same atmospherics he used on the previous album, and he doesn’t change at all throughout all of these fifty minutes! Just noodle noodle noodle noodle… until I really can’t tell one song from another, apart from a couple relative highlights I’ll be mentioning shortly.

My guess is that Tony desperately wanted a serious album, plus he wanted to establish a clear monopoly on the new Genesis sound. But in doing so, he managed to successfully forget about everything that made earlier Genesis so great – awesome melodies, light-hearted lyrics, diverse instrumentation and stylistics, and above all, the irresistable playfulness of Gabriel’s style which made the music complex and serious, on one side, and easily accessible and delightful, on the other one. This is still Genesis, for sure, but it’s a formal, lifeless, clumsy Genesis that completely misses the Genesis essence of old. Where such bands as Kansas were once faithfully copying Genesis in form, but not essence, Genesis now seem to be copying Kansas themselves. Yyyyuck.

As for Steve Hackett, he must have played a total of two or three notes on this album (speaking figuratively, of course), which explains why he left shortly after recording the album – the contradictions with Banks were getting irresolvable. Rutherford holds out, though, contributing yet another in a series of his beautiful, classic-influenced ballads (‘Your Own Special Way’), and Collins certainly does him a huge favour by stretching himself on it totally. Perversely enough, this is usually the fans’ least favourite number on the record, because it’s – go figure – too much pop for them. Well, it’s not the greatest song ever written, for sure, but at the least, it has a memorable and idiosyncratic chorus, and that’s far more than I could say about the rest of the album.

Two more songs manage to garner my attention in the long run. The album opens on a high note – ‘Eleventh Earl Of Mar’, dedicated to a metaphoric description of an old Scottish upraisal, buzzes along at a suitable pace and does include a couple of those long-lamented synth riffs that make it listenable. I can even disregard the ‘deconstructing’ of the melody (initiated on tunes like ‘Squonk’, where, if you remember, the verses got stretched out, twisted and disstructured in the most brutal way imaginable), as well as the fact that a large part of the vocal melody was shamelessly taken over from ‘Battle Of Epping Forest’ (and some – from ‘Squonk’ itself); the upbeat tone and the presence of real melodies make it tolerable and even enjoyable. And the Hackett/Collins collaboration ‘Blood On The Rooftops’ is a nice breather in between all the muck, opening with a pretty acoustic intro and accompanied with a Mellotron rather than a synthesizer all the way through. It’s not as well-constructed as ‘Entangled’ on the previous album, but if anything on this record feels sincere or moving, it is ‘Blood On The Rooftops’.

But the album is also cluttered with pointless, meaningless and deadly boring instrumentals (‘Wot Gorilla?’; ‘Unquiet Slumbers’) which make any instrumental passage on a 1970-74 Genesis album sound inspired and brilliant in comparison. “Self-indulgence” is the keyword here: either you make an instrumental memorable by basing it on a good melody, or you just drive the listener breathless with the energy and technical level of the performance, but if you fall somewhere in between, how can you stand the competition? Awful, awful compositions…

…yet not as awful as that ten-minute abomination on the first side. There, Banks reaches an all-time low with a brooding and raving ‘epic’ (‘One For The Vine’) which is just such a horrible load of pseudo-intelligent bullshit that I refuse to acknowledge it as a Genesis song. The lyrics are super-pretentious but mean nothing, with overbearing cliches and idiotic preachiness strewn all over the song, and the melody could have been written by Elton John at the age of 10. And this is supposed to be going on for ten minutes? Holy crap! Needless to say, no humour, no playfulness, and not even the percussion-heavy mid-section helps to bring the song out of its grotesque, overbearing, nauseating atmosphere. ‘One For The Vibe’, it should be called, and ‘Zero For The Effort’.

Oh geez, I must have been very offensive here – and I’ve just remembered that Wind And Wuthering seems to be a fan favourite! Where are we living, Eldorado? Nah, shucks. Were we living in Eldorado, Tony Banks would have been expulsed long ago. All I can say is that if this is a fan favourite, I suggest all you average boozers avoid hardcore Genesis fans. They might bite you.

So overall, this is a rather sad picture the band has drawn of itself. All these instrumentals, ten-minute Banks compositions… sad, very sad. Exhaustion? Stagnation? Overproductivity? Touring excesses? Yes, all that, plus somebody’s huge ambitions and vast ego. Nah, no way. Stick to Trick Of The Tail, where the band was still at least partially following in Gabriel’s footsteps, with lightweightness preserved in ‘A Trick Of The Tail’, Britishness preserved in ‘Robbery, Assault And Battery’, pure beauty preserved in ‘Ripples’, good riffs preserved in ‘Squonk’, shimmering guitar work preserved in ‘Entangled’, and rocking energy preserved in ‘Dance On A Volcano’. How many categories did I mention? Six? Wind & Wuthering doesn’t have a quarter of that.

April 12, 2013 Posted by | Genesis Wind And Wuthering | | Leave a comment