Saturday, January 8, 2011

Michael Fremer Album Review

The Power and the Glory

Gentle Giant
Capitol/Alvcard ALUGGVO2 180g LP
Produced by: Gentle Giant
Engineered by: Gary Martin
Mixed by: N/A
Mastered by: Carl Rowatti at TruTone Mastering



Prog Rock Classic Back on Vinyl
by Michael Fremer
December 01, 2010

The British progressive rock group Gentle Giant never achieved exalted status among the genre's aficionados, though they were well respected and their following was loyal and vociferous. When I was on "free form" FM radio in the mid 1970s I'd get calls from fans requesting Gentle Giant, but when I played through the albums, I heard nothing that I thought would grab listeners. Listening today to this and to Free Hand (ALLUGV03)—the two albums falling midway in their recording career— makes clear why that was so, and why they are deserving of a second listen almost forty years later.

Musically they were more inwardly directed and less given to bombast. While the level of musicianship was extremely high, keyboardist Kerry Minnear wasn't interested in showboating like Keith Emerson. Lead vocalist Derek Shulman (who went on to a very successful career in the music business after the band broke up) had a big voice but not a commanding presence that demands your attention. He was more a vocal technician than an emoter of emotions. He had neither Peter Gabriel's dramatic prowess nor Jon Anderson's, soaring, hypnotic pull. And as lyricists the Shulman, Shulman, Minear team never produced memorable lines that jumped out and grabbed. No "in and around the lake, mountains come out of the sky and they stand there," kind of moments.

So one could listen to this album or to Free Hand (Alucard ALLUGV03) and greatly appreciate the boldness of the musicianship and the complexity of the parts produced by the five musicians but not be moved or changed. Then and today these records come across as technically brilliant but emotionally flat—more like intellectually satisfying exercises than physically gripping and emotionally moving ones. The listening experience doesn't transcended the physical and leave you moved. These are inner thoughts expressed, with little resulting action.

They adhered to all of the genre's musical conventions, which if you don't dig in the first place, you won't like here, but in some ways they upped the ante, with precise vocal harmonies, complex, shifting rhythms and melodic inventiveness and harmonic complexities few other groups came close to achieving. While Keith Emerson used to toss classical music quotes into his solos, these guys actually made serious music!

The Power and the Glory is a cynic's delight: a concept album about authority, subjugation and foolish faith in and dissatisfaction with authority, even by the person exercising it, but the chessboard-like tunes spawned by the concept are lyrically uni-dimensional, which produces little drama or emotionally dynamic contrasts. You're invited to watch but not in.

Still, I bet prog rock fans of Genesis, Yes and some of the other bigger acts of the genre who may have missed Gentle Giant will be delighted by what they find here, for beyond familiar conventions, lies higher resolution musical complexity than made by some of the bigger selling groups. A Yes fan unfamiliar with Gentle Giant who plays side two's "Cogs in Cogs" first might exclaim "how the hell did I miss these guys?"

Sonically, both of these records could only be described as "decent" and "competent," but not mesmerizing or transcendent; sort of like the music. Don't expect spacious vistas. Instead, the instruments are closely miked in what sounds like a fairly small studio, with little if any reverb, except on specified parts. Why muck up the incredible playing precision with expansive, rhythm smearing reverb?

The Power and the Glory is the more musically dense and challenging of these two reissues (though both are dense and musically challenging), while Free Hand is more baroque yet jazz-like. If you can find a free MP3 of "On Reflection" somewhere, you'll marvel at the complexity and ingenuity of the vocal arrangement that's jazz like, yet medieval at the same time. If you think Jethro Tull did this sort of thing well, wait until you hear this track!

Sonically it's no contest: Free Hand sounds far more spacious, three dimensional and transparent. Perhaps its just a coincidence that the jacket says "Mastered from the original 1/4 inch tapes 2010" and The Power and the Glory, which sounds flatter, more two dimensional and less transparent doesn't. The sound knob 7 is for The Power and the Glory. Free Hand gets an "8".

Thanks to Michael over at for the exclusive rights to reprint this material. Stop by for more reviews and features.

Copyright © 2008 & Michael Fremer - All rights reserved Reprinted by Permission

Music News & Notes

Blackguard Reveals Artwork For Upcoming Album

Canadian metallers Blackguard have revealed the cover art fort heir upcoming album. The new album, 'Firefight,' is scheduled for release on March 29, 2011 through the band's new label home in Victory Records. The band commented on the new album by saying:

"This is going to be our most dynamic release to date. We’re going to have a few slower songs on this album; more head banging tunes. We’re also going to be introducing some new elements to our song to mix things up a bit. Not to sound too cliché but we definitely don’t want to write the same record over and over again and this record is going to be a great step forward for us."

Cool cover art!


Tesla in the Studio Recording New Album

It's being reported that rock vetsTesla’s Jeff Keith and Frank Hannon are currently in the studio working on tracks for a planned acoustic album to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the band’s landmark Five Man Acoustical Jam disc. However, no release date has been set for the yet-to-be-titled album, but it’s expected that stripped-down versions of “Changes” and “Paradise” will be among the tracks included. Also slated for inclusion is a brand new song titled “2nd Street” and an acoustic version of “Better Off Without You.”

Released in 1990, Five Man Acoustical Jam was highlighted by a cover version of “Signs,” the classic hit recorded by the Five Man Electrical Band in 1971. Tesla’s version topped out at #2 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart. The album also featured covers of The Rolling Stones’ “Mothers Little Helper,” Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Lodi,” and The Beatles’ “We Can Work it Out.”


New Robbie Robertson Album Due In April

Robbie Robertson returns this April with his fifth solo album, and first since 1998.

“How To Become Clairvoyant” – co-produced by Robertson and Marius de Vries - will feature several guests, including Eric Clapton (who co-wrote three tracks and plays on six), Steve Winwood (organ on two songs), Tom Morello, Robert Randolph, Trent Reznor and more. The album is due April 5.

"It turned out quite extraordinary," Robertson tells Rolling Stone. "I think I’ve written some really good songs, and the boys helped me out."

The title track from the record is set to be featured on the Season Two soundtrack for the popular HBO television series, True Blood.

Rolling Stone also reports that “This is Where I Get Off" is reportedly about Robbie’s departure from The Band in 1976; if true, it’ll be the first time Robertson has ever addressed the issue in a song.


Chandler man preserves art of record sleeves

by Randy Cordova  The Arizona Republic

When Jeff Marcus was a toddler, there were clear signs where he would go in his life. Just ask his mother, who remembers watching him stare in wonder at the family record player.

"He was just watching it go round and round," Elaine Marcus recalls. "Then when the record stopped, he just said, 'More music.' "

"More music" could be the mantra by which Marcus has lived his life. The Cave Creek man is a lifelong music buff who makes his living as a disc jockey working corporate events and weddings. Now, he has added another title to his resume. With the publication of the two-volume set "A History of Collectible American Record Sleeves," Marcus is an author.

Read the rest HERE


Victoria Record Store Celebrates 25 Years In Business

Midnite Rambler Collectibles is a music library in vinyl form. Rows of records line the shelves, while the overflow sits piled wherever there is room.

It might appear to be a sort of chaos, but it's an organized chaos. Owner Ruben Flores said he knows what he has in stock and where to find it.

That's the sort of savvy that comes naturally after years in the biz.

The business just celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Read the rest HERE



SONIA Kuehne was a late bloomer when it came to rock star Elvis, but she continues to hold a flame for the singer.

``Even when he talked Elvis had a bloody sexy voice,’’ the Hebersham great grandmother said.

For 15 years, Mrs Kuehne has been collecting Elvis memorabilia and can’t believe he’d be celebrating his 76th birthday this week.

``I’ve always liked his music and the collection which is now in the hundreds, started with old vinyl records,’’ the 78-year-old said.

``It’s just grown from there and whenever I have a birthday everyone asks me what I want I always say Elvis, Elvis, Elvis.’‘

Read the rest HERE


Entering A Musical Time Warp

By John MacCormack

Bobby J spins jazz recordings from his collection during his "The Mainstream 120" show on Saturday mornings on KSYM 90.1 FM.

As tributes to radio DJs go, it doesn't quite match those given to Wolfman Jack, the great border radio howler who was immortalized in the movie “American Graffiti,” and in various rock 'n' roll hits.

On the other hand, in San Antonio, if you get a mention in a song by Los #3 Dinners, you've pretty much made it, and by that standard, KSYM DJ Bobby J stands alone.

“Our most recent CD has a line in it that says, ‘Listenin' to jazz with Bobby J, trying to chase the blues away,' and almost all our fans know just who I'm taking about,” said Eric “Lenny” Friedland, a guitarist and vocalist for the group.

“Listening to his show is always an education, no matter how much one thinks they know about jazz, plus he has the uncanny ability to pick songs that have a logical and cool connection to each other,” Friedland said.

And for more than two decades, an unassuming guy named Bobby J has been serving up tunes and stories from the golden age of jazz for two hours each Saturday morning from the San Antonio College campus.

“This is Bobby J. Your dial is set on FM 90.1 at KSYM, San Antonio,” is how it has begun a thousand times or more since January 1989.

Read the rest HERE

 Happy Birthday To The King Of Rock & Roll

While I am not the biggest fan of Elvis, I do know that he helped shape rock and roll and our musical culture.  Here is a bit of info from Wikipedia, and you know the rest :O)

Elvis Aaron Presleya (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977) was one of the most popular American singers of the 20th century. A cultural icon, he is widely known by the single name Elvis. He is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King".

Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, Presley moved to Memphis, Tennessee, with his family at the age of 13. He began his career there in 1954 when Sun Records owner Sam Phillips, eager to bring the sound of African American music to a wider audience, saw in Presley the means to realize his ambition. Accompanied by guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black, Presley was one of the originators of rockabilly, an uptempo, backbeat-driven fusion of country and rhythm and blues. RCA Victor acquired his contract in a deal arranged by Colonel Tom Parker, who would manage the singer for over two decades. Presley's first RCA single, "Heartbreak Hotel", released in January 1956, was a number one hit. He became the leading figure of the newly popular sound of rock and roll with a series of network television appearances and chart-topping records. His energized interpretations of songs, many from African American sources, and his uninhibited performance style made him enormously popular—and controversial. In November 1956, he made his film debut in Love Me Tender.

Conscripted into military service in 1958, Presley relaunched his recording career two years later with some of his most commercially successful work. He staged few concerts, however, and, guided by Parker, proceeded to devote much of the 1960s to making Hollywood movies and soundtrack albums, most of them critically derided. In 1968, after seven years away from the stage, he returned to live performance in a celebrated comeback television special that led to an extended Las Vegas concert residency and a string of profitable tours. In 1973, Presley staged the first concert broadcast globally via satellite, Aloha from Hawaii, seen by approximately 1.5 billion viewers. Prescription drug abuse severely compromised his health, and he died suddenly in 1977 at the age of 42.

Presley is regarded as one of the most important figures of 20th-century popular culture. He had a versatile voice and unusually wide success encompassing many genres, including country, pop ballads, gospel, and blues. He is the best-selling solo artist in the history of popular music.  Nominated for 14 competitive Grammys, he won three, and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at age 36. He has been inducted into four music halls of fame.


Records? They're Making a Comeback!   By KSEE News