Thursday, August 12, 2010

Obscure album artwork

Here's something new...a site worth visiting for really weird album artwork.

Check out this list of the 100 most obscure and remarkable album covers of all time.

Your bound to run into a few things that you've never seen before...such as this sample from a band named Orca Survive, who I've never heard of before.

It's a testament to the power of a's one of those cases where the artwork gets you interested in what the band sounds like.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Song "Caravan" Out June 1, Name of New Rush Album Revealed

Heads up!: Spoiler alert involving title of Rush album slated for release in 2011!

With two new tunes available for download next Tuesday and their Time Machine Tour starting in June, more information from the Rush camp keeps getting revealed.

The band has been recording a handful of songs through the spring, with the intention of releasing a couple of them as MP3 downloads and limited edition CD singles, then taking the material out on the tour to road test it.  

The new songs "Caravan" and "BU2B" will be available on June 1, next Tuesday, for download through Amazon and other sources.

The plan following this short 2010 summer tour is to go back into the studio and record the remaining songs (and perhaps even re-recording the two songs if they evolve on the tour) for completing a forthcoming album in 2011.

So that being said, the last thing folks in the Rush camp were expecting was a leak of the album name...but that's what's so beautiful about surprises...they're so, well, unexpected...right?

It turns out that the new album will be called Clockwork AngelsThis is the source, which appears to be that's the latest and greatest.

FYI: the image you see here is the CD single for "Caravan"...which appears to have song lyrics as part of the background.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

'Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage' premiers in less than two weeks

The much anticipated documentary movie on the Canadian rock band Rush will premier at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.

Cool movie poster!

I can't help but noticing on the poster the mention that the film's slated for a release in theaters in the should be interesting to see what the response to it is and how widespread the release ends up being.

Now that I think about it, there's a remote possibility that I may have a cameo in it...being that when I was at RushCon7 three years ago, Sam Dunn was there filming the event.

At any rate, the Rush machine is revving up again...this new documentary, new material being recorded, and the Time Machine Tour this coming summer.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Jacob Moon steals Rush's "Subdivisions" and makes it all his own

I'm not typically a fan of the cover tune.  At first glance, it's always seemed like a cheap cop-out or a shortcut to getting your foot in the door as a you're not being authentic or something...I don't know, I'm sure I'm being way to critical of the idea.

There are exceptions to the rule, however...and from a cursory all-encompassing arc in my head (with eyes squinted shut), I can think of three sets of circumstances. 
  1. The first circumstance would be when an artist is really able to outshine the original version if it because it was subpar...or, dare we say, it completely sucked.  Examples (arguable, as many might disagree) might include Van Halen covering "You Really Got Me" by the Kinks.  All respect for Ray Davies & Co., but VH simply blows their version into the 4th Dimension.
  2. The second circumstance would involve the cover of a song, from an original version that's simply the effect that the cover becomes the famous version.  The perfect example here is Jimi Hendrix covering Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower."  Even for some of you reading this for the first time, that may be news to you...if you're wondering: "You mean Dylan originally sang that?  Really?"  I've even known Hendrix fans to be unaware of that little sorry everyone, Jimi didn't write that.  He just did a killer version of it.
  3. Then there's the third instance, which to me is the most's where the original version is a classic ingrained in the pantheon of music...YET an artist, perhaps many years later, is able to come along and morph it into something new and engaging.  This post is about that instance.
Canadian artist Jacob Moon, out of Hamilton, Ontario, accomplished that in 2008 when he shot this video covering "Subdivisions" by Rush -- a very, very difficult act to follow -- and he pulled it off all by himself.  

Moon reinvigorates the song in a way that I could have never imagined.  Through his tinkering with it and use of acoustic guitars, he makes "Subdivisions" even more engaging, tender, and emotional.  For those who understand the significance of the lyrics, it's as if he's "us" -- an audience of Rush fans going back decades with the band -- and representing a real perspective and emotional interpretation of it.  It's like he was the guy you knew in the neighborhood who went through all those things with you.

Not to mention this video of him, a performance taking place on the rooftop of a house in a subdivision...that's a suburb of Canada. It adds even more to the effect and aesthetic of the song.  Whoever thought of that is an absolute genius.

So watch Jacob Moon pull off what I never thought I'd witness in my lifetime: someone taking a classic from the Rush cannon and reworking it into something all their own.  This is great, great stuff.  Thank you Jacob Moon!

Monday, February 8, 2010

News, Weather, and Sports: Neil Peart & the Canadian Hockey Theme

For those of you who aren't aware, Neil Peart (drummer of Rush) is now the face of the new Canadian Hockey Theme. You can probably catch him at the beginning of hockey broadcasts on channels like ESPN or others.

Actually, I'm only guessing that...I really don't know when it's on, as I personally haven't seen it on a live broadcast yet.  You can get a flavor for it at the end of this post.

Meanwhile, Neil has written about his connection to hockey and how he got involved with this latest project, which can be read at his website.

Here's the you tube video of Neil drumming in the hockey theme song.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Dive into Britain's underground with the 'Mixtaped' DVD by No-Man

The following is a preview to No-Man, the Steven Wilson /Steven Bowness collaboration.  Last fall they released Mixtaped, their first live video DVD, available on Amazon as a 2-disc set (includes an 84 minute documentary about the band).  If you want some insight into the progressive pop underground of Britain over the last 20 years, this band is an excellent example and Mixtaped is the prime place to start with No-Man.

No-Man - Mixtaped 2DVD trailer from Kscope on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Two weeks left to vote in the "Insanity Poll!"

We've got several votes so far...but with less than two weeks left, we need several more!  If you haven't voted already, please do so in the margin to the right and let us know what you think.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Unknown Legend in Rock Today -- Part 1

As a kid who grew up listening to hard rock, and more or less always rejected music with pop sensibilities, I've spent the better part of the last decade trying to expand my palate with different genres of music.

The effort mostly stemmed from curiosity, but it was also partly driven by my picky tendencies with rock and a degree of boredom with the genre. I knew as I began this "quest of expansion" that I had lots of work ahead of me as I sifted through tons of material -- some rented from the library, and some purchased -- in search of lost or forgotten gems in the form of songs, albums, and artists.

I've expanded very deeply into jazz to establish certain tastes and preferences in that genre...I've also investigated some country, some bluegrass, some classical, some opera, world music, and noodled a bit into the blues. For the most part, I've been
willing to dive into almost anything; and in the process I've uncovered a TON of gems ranging from lost Johnny Cash songs to seeing Allison Krauss & Union Station perform in person twice, to a love for Andrew Hill's spellbinding jazz piano work and Clifford Brown's mastery of the trumpet. In the process I also circled around and bit deeply into the catalogs of Radiohead and Neil Young.

However, through it all, perhaps one the big
gest gem I've uncovered has been out of the rock genre -- and specifically more of the progressive type -- interestingly enough, where I start and was trying to get away from in the first place. Odd, yet somewhat predictable.

In 2007, as I was anticipating the upcoming release of Snakes & Arrows, I read somewhere in one of the pre-release interviews that Neil Peart was endorsing a band called Porcupine Tree and their new CD Fear of a Blank Planet (a band on the same label as Rush, Atlantic, so I don't know if the record company had anything
to do with that -- I'm sure if he didn't like them he wouldn't have said anything). Porcupine Tree was a complete mystery to me at the time, but I decided to take a chance and pick it up...something I don't do very often. I usually like to have a flavor for what the goods are before I dive in...but Neil recommended it, and Alex Lifeson was making a cameo with a guitar solo on it, so there had to be something decent happening with Porcupine Tree.

Needless to say, it was a decision I would not regret.

The album didn't take right away, even though I liked it. I may have been distracted with other things at the time, but through an initial listen I liked what I heard. I could also tell that this was something new and different, so I wanted to sit down and give it a diligent listen when I was in the right frame of mind.

When I did give Fear of a Blank Planet it's deserved time, I was totally blown away with the musicianship and songwriting. In terms of sound and studio wizardry, it's unlike anything I've ever heard before...the sonic textures of Pink Floyd being the closest thing that comes to mind (surprisingly, somet
hing few bands have tried to recapture since the Floyd) with some of Radiohead's modern day studio tricks to boot. Those passages are interspersed with the hard rocking and jamming tightness of Rush...and I catch other influences in there too such as Kraftwerk, and maybe a little Beatles...and maybe a little U2.

At some point, typical of my curiosity, I decided to find out who was behind all this...and who I ended up uncovering is a total anomaly in music: Steven Wilson. He's an ultra-talented one-man show who can do everything -- AND does everything very, very well.

Outside of being a songwriter and lyricist, he owns his own home studio in north London, called "No Man's Land," and manages an online distribution of his rarer material through Headphone Dust.

He has all the latest equipment in his studio to noodle with and produce albums. He's a modern-day Renaissance man, serving in no particular order as the writer, arranger, acoustic and electric guitarist, performing multi-instrumentalist, singer, technician, equipment manager, recording eng
ineer, audio mixer, and producer all rolled into one. In addition to being involved in some of the distribution, he works through another independent UK distributor Burning Shed, begun by a longtime collaborator of Wilson's Tim Bowness (more on that partnership in this series -- it's very significant).

It wouldn't surprise me if Wilson was revealed to be the airline pilot who fle
w the latest copies of his releases over the Atlantic. Seriously...I'd probably shrug my shoulders and say, "Sure, why not? No surprise there."

This talent as a one-man entity also has, in some ways, contributed in part to why he's not very well known. After all, the only reason I found about Steven Wilson was through something Neil Peart said one time in a random interview a couple years back...otherwise I'd have no idea. As a small act, it's difficult to get exposure. Sure, there's the internet, but with so many artists competing for the listener's ear, how does one tap into it deeply enough to be successful and maintain artistic autonomy, let alone simply survive and make a living?

While word of mouth is a slow process and bears a slow trickle of fruit -- there's another way -- which is right out of the rock 'n' roll textbook: touring.

Touring is essential, IMO, to being seen and taken seriously as a real act...and that being said, that can be a full-time job for a man or woman involved with ONE band...but what if you're touring in more than one band?

Now here's the brainmelter about this guy. Wilson has SIX different bands he's in. SIX...and he's the leader and
initiator (or co-initiator in the case of 2) for of all of them. SIX bands, and they all make albums and put out material. Out of those six, five of them are touring acts as real living, breathing entities. I don't know if my brain can fully absorb that, let alone understand how it's logistically possible -- but all of it is dead-on and completely true. To add, Wilson has even revealed that he loses money when he tours. That's how dedicated this guy is to his art.

All the bands are completely different and have their own unique motif. Wilson's first, No-Man, began in 1987 and has lasted as a collaboration with singer/songwriter Tim Bowness to this day...and they just released their very first DVD Mixedtape, which serves as the perfect introduction to the band. After No-Man began, Wilson started to take on other projects that began as essentially studio of which, oddly enough, formed into his most successful band Porcupine Tree. We'll get to them later.

One experiment he formed out of the krautrock/avant garde jazz genre, I.E.M. (short for the Incredible Expanding Mindfuck), put out music in the mid-late 90s, much of which is difficult to find copies of thes
e days.

Another experiment of more of the ambient/electronica genre is Bass Communion, also formed in the mid-90s -- and he's performed live with this act, which is captured in a recent concert in Mexico City and has tracks available for download. Bass Communion has several albums, many of which take on a an ambient drone of the more acclaimed being Ghosts on Magnetic Tape, which may soon become a rare recording (I believe I just got my hands on one of the last 2CD issues through Headphone Dust).

Blackfield, Wilson's collaboration with Israeli musician Aviv Geffen, formed in the early part of the decade and they have since created two albums of original material, in addition to performing as a worldwide touring act. Check out their DVD Blackfield - NYC (Live in New York) (also just released as a CD/DVD set), which captures the energy and depth of this songwriting collaboration...Geffen's involvement puts a really interesting spin on the love song/melancholy thing. The textures, songwriting, melody, and live presentation of Blackfield is new, fresh, and exciting. I hope we see more material from this band soon!

There's also Wilson's blossoming solo career and Porcupine Tree, which need their own post. We'll talk about those bands in the next post on Steven Wilson's career -- and continue more in-depth discussions of Blackfield and No-Man -- in addition to his other experiments and collaborations.