Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Steve Taylor & The Perfect Foil - "Goliath"

Steve Taylor & The Perfect Foil - Goliath
2014, Splint Entertainment

1. Only a Ride
2. Double Negative
3. Goliath
4. Moonshot
5. Rubberneck
6. The Sympathy Vote
7. Standing In Line
8. In Layers
9. Happy Go Lazy
10. A Life Preserved
11. Comedian

The thing that surprises me about Goliath is not its high quality. With this group of guys I don't think there's any way this could have ended up anyway but excellent. No, I'm surprised by its brevity. The whole album clocks in at a mere thirty-nine minutes. Many of the songs are under three minutes. Yet in that short amount of time this band accomplishes more than most bands can in double. The songs feel complete and weighty and after several listens over two weeks I'm still thirsty for more. I'm also surprised at just how aggressive Goliath is. "Only a Ride," "Rubberneck," and "In Layers" will rock your face off. Age has not slowed down any of these guys one bit. Steve's trademark wit and satire is in full force but the lyrics are a bit more vague, more akin to Chagall Guevara than his solo stuff. I think once the band is done doing this album they plan to go back to their day jobs. I would implore them not to. Please make more albums. Please. 

Useless Fact: Peter Furler from Newsboys plays the drums. I have very intense negative feelings toward the Newsboys but as it turns out Mr. Furler is a pretty good musician. Maybe I'll have to give the Newsboys a second chance. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

McKennitt, Loreena - "A Midwinter Night's Dream"

McKennitt, Loreena - A Midwinter Night's Dream
2008, Quinlan Road

1. The Holly & The Ivy
2. Un Flambeau, Jeanette, Isabelle
3. The Seven Rejoices of Mary
4. Noel Nouvelet!
5. Good King Wenceslas
6. Coventry Carol
7. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
8. Snow
9. Breton Carol
10. Seeds of Love
11. Gloucestershire Wassail
12. Emmanuel
13. In the Bleak Midwinter

This disc has been on my "Christmas wish list" for a long time. Loreena McKennitt and Christmas music go together like peanut butter and chocolate. One think I like about this album is that it's not full of the same stuff you've heard a million times. There are some recognizable tunes, for sure, but there are a lot of different songs you don't often hear. I've never heard "The Seven Rejoices of Mary" but it's one of my favorite tracks. Also, while you do hear the first verse of "Good King Wenceslas" often enough in movies and television, people don't usually sing the whole song. I quite like this song as well. Basically, if you're a fan of Ms. McKennitt's music you're going to want this album for all your holiday rituals.

Useless Fact: Some songs on this album first appeared on a little Christmas EP called A Winter Garden.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Connick, Jr., Harry - "Harry For the Holidays"

Connick, Jr., Harry - Harry For the Holidays
2004, Columbia

1. Frosty the Snowman
2. Blue Christmas
3. The Christmas Waltz
4. I Wonder as I Wander
5. Silver Bells
6. Mary's Little Boy Child
7. Santa Claus is Coming to Town
8. The Happy Elf
9. I'll Be Home For Christmas
10. I Come With Love
11. Nature Boy
12. O Little Town of Bethlehem
13. I'm Gonna Be the First One
14. This Christmas
15. Nothin' For New Year
16. Silent Night

I can't believe this isn't already on the blog. I've had access to this for years. I borrowed a friend's CD and copied it to the collection. It's only recently I got a hard copy for the vault. I like this one just as much as the other one. I especially like "Frosty the Snowman" and "The Christmas Waltz" which are probably my favorite versions of those songs. I also didn't realize how much I liked "Mary's Little Boy Child" until I heard it on this album. Not too much more to say. If you're getting this album you already know what you're in for and you will not be disappointed.

Useless Fact: Apparently almost every CD has to end with "Silent Night." It's like a law or something.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Devin Townsend Project - "Z2"

Devin Townsend Project - Z2
2014, Inside Out

DISC ONE: Sky Blue
1. Rejoice
2. Fallout
3. Midnight Sun
4. A New Reign
5. Universal Flame
6. Warrior
7. Sky Blue
8. Silent Militia
9. Rain City
10. Forever
11. Before We Die
12. The Ones Who Love

DISC TWO: Dark Matters
1. Z2
2. From Sleep Awake
3. Ziltoidian Empire
4. War Princess
5. Deathray
6. March of the Poozers
7. Wandering Eye
8. Earth
9. Ziltoid Goes Home
10. Through the Wormhole
11. Dimension Z

Z2 is the long awaited sequel to Ziltoid the Omniscient. It's been a long time coming too. Devin has said he's been working on it off and on throughout Casualties of Cool and Epicloud. I honestly don't think Devin really wanted to do a sequel. In fact, most of this album isn't even about Ziltoid. It contains two separate albums: Sky Blue - which is just the Devin Townsend Project, and Dark Matters - which isn't really even a sequel to Ziltoid but just another different story. There's no continuity between the two.

Sky Blue definitely evolves the sound that DTP had on Epicloud. While it's still got Devin's signature "wall of sound" chaos going on, it's a lot less commercial, a bit more melancholy, more contemplative. The theme seems to be "life is short so live and love while you can." Devin truly embraces his inner Enya here, especially on tracks like "A New Reign," "Sky Blue," and "Forever." It's also mixed in with some full throttle rockers like "Fallout" and "Silent Militia." He weaves some pretty compelling tapestries on this album that took a bit to grow on me. Anneke van Giersbergen returns to share lead vocal duties, which is always welcome.

Dark Matters is set up like an old fifties radio show with cheesy narration and everything. Dark Matters is certainly heavier and more progressive than Sky Blue but the songs are also simpler and for more melodic hand hook-laden overall. Honestly, the first few tracks kind of run together for me until "War Princess" where I feel like the album really kicks in and starts to get good. I have the three disc edition which includes a raw mix of Dark Matters without all the narration. I actually prefer that to the original as you can really hear what's going on musically.

If it sounds like I'm not quite as excited as I should be about new Devin it's because I still just don't know how I feel about this album. I don't hate it, far from it. I like it better than Epicloud for sure. In fact, I think this is actually my second favorite Devin offering right after Addictied! So I guess I'm saying I don't know what my problem is.

Useless Fact: My buddy Uvulapie actually sings background vocals as part of the Universal Choir.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Cole, Nat King - "The Christmas Song"

Cole, Nat King - The Christmas Song
2009, Capitol

1. The Christmas Song
2. Deck the Hall
3. O Come All Ye Faithful
4. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
5. O Tannenbaum
6. O Little Town of Bethlehem
7. I Saw Three Ships
8. O Holy Night
9. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
10. A Cradle in Bethlehem
11. Away in a Manger
12. Joy to the World
13. The First Noel
14. Caroling, Caroling
15. Silent Night
16. Buon Natale
17. All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)
18. The Happiest Christmas Tree
19. The Christmas Song (ft. Natalie Cole)

I've wanted to replace my Chestnuts Roastin' Nat King Cole collection with a proper one for a long time. This year I finally did it. If you're looking for a Nat collection, this is the one to get. I like that the balance of songs on here is more toward the hymns and carols and less to the silly, fun songs. Not that there's anything wrong with silly, fun songs - I just like more of a balance. Now I just have to get some Frank Sanatra and I'll have the "holy trinity" of Christmas performers.

Useless Fact: I am happy to report that there is no version of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" on this disc.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Vengeance Rising - "Released Upon the Earth"

Vengeance Rising - Released Upon the Earth
1992/2014, Roxx 

1. Help Me
2. The Damnation of Judas and the Salvation of the Thief
3. Released Upon the Earth
4. Human Dark Potential
5. Instruments of Death
6. Lest You Be Judged
7. Out of Bounds
8. Bishop of Souls
9. Tion
10. You Will Be Hated
Bonus Tracks
11. Interview (Daniel & Johnny)
12. Interview (George Ochoa)

Released Upon the Earth is a much better album than Destruction Comes. I think this is due in part to Roger having some help from people like Jimmy Brown (Deliverance), Johnny Vasquez (Sacred Warrior), and Jamie Mitchell (Scaterd Few). I think Roger wanted to move to a more death metal sound as a few tracks on this album boarder on that ("Human Dark Potential" and "Instruments of Death"). Still, it's not quite up there with the first two albums. Simplistic riffs still abound but the fantastic drumming, Roger's unique lyrical style, and overall vibe manage to make it enjoyable. There's even some pretty good bass work by Victor Macias (Tourniquet). Specifically, the bass line in "Lest You Be Judged" is just sick - one of the best tracks, by the by. It's odd that the album begins with a six-minute "almost instrumental" with "Help Me." It's a plodding and ponderous song that's quite unsettling when you remember just what was going on with Roger at the time. Hearing him scream "HELP ME! SOMEBODY HELP ME!" kind of puts chills down my spine. 

Released has just been... well... released by Roxx Records. It has been remastered and expanded a little bit. There are a couple interviews included as bonus tracks along with some liner notes by the touring guitarist. The remaster sounds great and the artwork and design is awesome too. They even kept that strange font the song titles were written in on the original edition. That earns some definite points with me. 

Useless Fact: "Tion" will rip to your Itunes as "Zion" so keep that in mind.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Pentatonix - "That's Christmas To Me"

Pentatonix - That's Christmas To Me
2014, RCA

1. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
2. White Winter Hymnal
3. Sleigh Ride
4. Winter Wonderland/Don't Worry Be Happy
5. That's Christmas To Me
6. Mary, Did You Know?
7. Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy
8. It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
9. Santa Claus is Coming to Town
10. Silent Night
Bonus Track
11. Let It Go

I heard about Pentatonix on Facebook. One or two of my Facebook friends were writing statuses like, "ZOMG! PENTATONIX IS THE BEST THING EVAR!!!11!!!" Or something to that effect. So I asked my wife if she knew who they were and then she pulled them up on You Tube for me. Holy smokes! They may not be the best thing ever but they are dang good. I'm not even really into a capella music that much. The things they do with their voices and song arrangements are really a thing of beauty. This Christmas album is superb - definitely an instant classic. Everyone's voices are so smooth! So wonderful! This album is such a success because they give all these holiday classics a unique twist that you're not going to hear anywhere else. I mean... they do "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" just with their voices.... and it rocks. I would go as far as to say that if you can't find something about these kids to like then you're an idiot.

Useless Fact: The bass singer looks like Josh Grobin. The tall white guy looks like a Twilight vampire.