Monday, April 25, 2016

The Genesis Project - "Selling England By The Pound"

Genesis - Selling England By The Pound
1973, Atlantic

1. Dancing With The Moonlit Knight
2. I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)
3. Firth of Fifth
4. More Fool Me
5. The Battle of Epping Forest
6. After The Ordeal
7. The Cinema Show
8. Aisle of Plenty

I was a little nervous listening to this album for the first time. My experience with Foxtrot, while pleasant, didn’t really move me. It’s a classic to be sure but I always felt like I was an outside observer rather than an active participant. Selling England is the penultimate Gabriel-era disc so I was bracing myself for the inevitable emotional disconnect I would have with the music as I marveled at the talent. Imagine my surprise when I was immediate hooked by the first song, “Dancing With The Moonlit Knight.” 

“Can you tell me where my country lies…”

Somehow I was hooked. The opening guitar riff was mournful and melancholy, as were Gabriel’s vocals. The song seems to deal with commercialization and extreme capitalism (I think), but it almost didn’t matter. I could feel the meaning. I was there. It didn’t stop with the first track either. I was mesmerized throughout the album. I think some of this has to do with the more down-to-earth nature of the lyrics. “I Know What I Like” is about a gardener who can always hear what people say about him (there’s probably more to it, I admit) while the epic “The Battle of Epping Forrest” is about a turf war between rival gangs. The lyrics, while intelligent and conceptual, were a lot easier to identify with, with very little in the way of sci-fi weirdness or crazy left turns. Some might not like that as much, but I appreciated it.

I suspect another reason why I liked this one a lot more was because Selling England seems to be more music focused than concept focused. Some of the “aggressive intellectualism” of Foxtrot recedes to let the music take center stage. Fortunately, the melodies themselves are more compelling, more emotional. Take “The Cinema Show” and “Firth of Fifth” for example. Both are epic-length songs and are both fairly light on lyrics, letting the music itself carry the weight. The music was constantly interesting - I never felt like an outside observer. I felt like the album was always beckoning me, inviting me in to fellowship with the souls of these five musicians. 

Beginning with the first track, the album has kind of a back and forth. One track will be epic and progressive, the next one shorter and more accessible. This approach kind of gives the listener a breather between epics, settling into a pattern – the shorter songs serving as commercial breaks of a sort. One of which, “More Fool Me,” is sung by Phil Collins. It’s a simple, sort of down track about love gone sour. It sort of foreshadows some of the work the band would do under Collins’ leadership. While the closing number, “Aisle of Plenty,” serves as a bit of a reprise of “Dancing With The Moonlit Knight” bringing the album full circle.

As a result I can honestly say that Selling England By The Pound is my favorite of the four albums I’ve listened to so far.  It’s kind of a surprise because I’ve tended to prefer the Phil Collins-era material. I’m a little sad to have to leave it behind and move on to other albums. Especially since my next one is We Can’t Dance and it’s one of the band’s worst reviewed platters. I can say for certain that I will definitely be listening to Selling England…  long after this project is through.

Final Score 5 out of 5

Useless Fact: The lyrics for "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" are based off the cover painting.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Recon - "Behind Enemy Lines"

Recon - Behind Enemy Lines
1990/2016, Roxx Productions

1. In The Beginning
2. Lost Soldier
3. Ancient of Days
4. Choose This Day
5. Dreams
6. Take Us Away
7. Holy Is The Lord
8. Alive!
9. Eternal Destiny
10. Behind Enemy Lines
Bonus Tracks:
11. Light The Fire (California Metal II)
12. Dreams (California Metal II)
13. Eternal Destiny (Demo)
14. Alive (Demo)

Long ago... when the world was new there were such things as Christian book stores. These were wondrous places with all sorts of Christian merchandise, like Christian music. I frequented these stores in my youth. You know this if you read this blog regularly. While at one of these stores, I passed over Recon's debut album in favor of Bride's Silence Is Madness. I cannot tell you what prompted the decision other than Bride had the cooler cover. I did eventually hear Recon on the Hot Metal Summer III compilation. I liked the song, "Take Us Away," but for some reason never bought the album. I'm glad Roxx Productions decided to reissue this album as it gives me a chance to hear it. It's very Warning-era Queensryche - especially with Vett Roberts' soaring vocals and George Ochoa's guitar licks. I think if I would have bought this on that fateful day it would have been a favorite for sure. There is a ton of skill on display here. The album has been remastered but, honestly, it still sounds a little rough - though what can you do with twenty-five year old tapes? Glad I got a chance to pick this up all remastered and spit-shined. It definitely deserves its classic status.

Useless Fact: As I understand it, George Ochoa had the actual master tapes for this album and baked them just so they could be used for this remaster.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Teramaze - "Her Halo"

Teramaze - Her Halo
2015, Mascot

1. An Ordinary Dream (Enla Momento)
2. To Love, A Tyrant
3. Her Halo
4. Out of Subconscious
5. For The Innocent
6. Trapeze
7. Broken
8. Delusions of Grandeur

Teramaze has been a band that has sort of floated on the outside of my perception for years and years. I even owned a Teramaze album way back in the day (Tears To Dust, I think it was), but wasn't overly impressed with that album to go chase down more. They've had a few new albums lately and I've even had Esoteric Symbolism on my Amazon wish list for a while. I've seen a lot of "Best of 2015" lists and Her Halo is on a lot of them. Naturally, I decided to check the album out with the first one being the title track of this album.

Oh. My. Word.

It was, quite possibly, one of the best and most moving songs I've heard. The hook is big as life, the guitar work is amazing. I just had to have it. Best of all? The entire album is that good. The soaring, melodic vocals from a young man named Nathan Peachey are exquisite. I don't know where this dude came from, but he's got it. In spades. Then there's the intricate guitar riffs and leads. The strong hooks. I can't say enough good things about this album. My only regret is not getting it sooner so it could be on my own "Best of 2015" list. Though it might be on this year's list... you know how I do things. Cool cover art too!

Useless Fact: This is a concept album about a trapeze artist in the circus and how she is victimized by a destructive relationship with the ring leader. At least I think that's what it's about.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Circle of Dust - "Circle of Dust (Remastered)"

Circle of Dust - Circle of Dust (Remastered)
1992/2016, Fixt

1. Exploration (Redux)
2. Onenemy
3. Demoralize
4. Self Inflict
5. Rational Lies
6. Nightfall
7. Twisted Reality
8. Consequence
9. Dissolved
10. Nothing Sacred
11. Parasite
12. Bed of Nails

1. Neophyte
2. Nothing Sacred (Blue Stahli Remix)
3. Onenemy (Acoustic)
4. Exploration (1992 Version)
5. Demoralize (Cassette Demo 1990)
6. Dust 01 (Cassette Demo 1989)
7. Dust 02 (Cassette Demo 1988)
8. Dust 03 (Cassette Demo 1988)
9. Dust 04
10. Dust 05
11. Dust 06
12. Dust 07
13. Dust 08
14. Dust 09
15. Nothing Sacred (Blue Stahli Remix)[Instrumental]
16. Onenemy (Acoustic) [Instrumental]

So... yeah... this makes three versions of Circle of Dust's debut album. This one is a little different, however. Klayton Scott (formerly Scott Albert - he will NOT respond to Scott, so don't call him that!) was able to acquire all the rights to ALL of the Circle of Dust albums. As such, he is remastering them in depth, including hours of bonus materials, and reissuing them. Fine by me! I have to say, this is definitely the best this album has ever sounded. If this album were a Pokemon, this edition would be its final evolution. I'm very happy to see "Exploration" back on here as that was always one of my favorite tracks. I'm also glad "Bed of Nails" is now its own track instead of being buried at the end. Oh, and if that wasn't enough, "Neophyte" is a brand new Circle of Dust track. It's awesome. There is only one problem - no liner notes! Ugh! That seems like a serious missed opportunity. I would have loved lyrics, notes by Klayton on what he did with the tracks and why, reflections from the time, pictures, etc. It could have been so awesome. Don't know why he didn't want to include a booklet. Still, even if you have the first two editions this is totally worth getting just with the excellent, ground-up remaster and sheer amount of extra tracks. Cool new cover art as well!

Useless Fact: "Technological Disguise" and "Senseless Abandon" have still been left off. Klayton must really, really hate these songs!

Friday, April 8, 2016

XL and Death Before Dishonor - "Offensive Truth, Vols One and Two"

XL & Death Before Dishonor - Offensive Truth, Volumes One and Two
2016, Independent

Volume One:
1. In Need of Therapy
2. Devastated
3. Best Friend, Worst Enemy
4. Because of This
5. Rapist
6. The Stereo
7. Be a Real Man
8. The Wilderness
9. The Wrath To Come
10. Yeah I Know Right

Volume Two:
1. Going After Money
2. Failure
3. Methamphetamine
4. Daddy's Too Friendly
5. Corporate Elite
6. Dead By 45
7. My Hour of Desperation
8. Armed For Battle
9. The Wretched
10. Quit Drinking

XL & DBD was a unique little piece of Christian rock history. It was a metal/rap fusion at a time when no one was doing that sort of thing. I always thought it was too bad that this was the only album widely released (there's the fairly obscure Live From Ninevah, What's Next? if you can find it). If you liked that first release, make sure you get a hold of Offensive Truth - a double album of rock/rap goodness. You really need to get both because even though there are two volumes they really are one set. It's great to put on in your smoking room with a fine beverage. Listen to volume one, take a quick break, listen to volume two. Offensive Truth kicks open the door with the first track, "In Need of Therapy" and doesn't stop until the end. The album isn't quite as thrash as Sodom and America but it makes up for it with melody and sheer groove. XL is actually a pretty good singer and the melody gives the songs some variety. As far as lyrics go, XL's faith has taken kind of a strangled route from the debut album to now. A route that has involved alcoholism among other things. A lot of the lyrics deal with his struggles and eventual return to the faith. It's the same hard-hitting, pull-no-punches type of stuff as before, only with more experience to back it up. I'm really glad XL is back and I hope this is the start of some regular music output!

Useless Fact: XL has called in a slew of guest musicians for this duology. Among the bigger names are Jimmy Brown (Deliverance), Rex Carroll (Whitecross), and Jim Chaffin (The Crucified).

Monday, March 28, 2016

Panic! At The Disco - "Death of a Bachelor"

Panic! At The Disco - Death of a Bachelor
2016, Fueled By Ramen

1. Victorious
2. Don't Threaten Me With a Good Time
3. Hallelujah
4. Emperor's New Clothes
5. Death of a Bachelor
6. Crazy = Genius
7. LA Devotee
8. Golden Days
9. The Good, The Bad, and the Dirty
10. House of Memories
11. Impossible Year

Well, I thought I was pretty much done with Panic! after their last album. Boy, was that a stinker. Ugh! So when I heard they had a new one I really didn't pay it any mind. However, The Rock Critic on You Tube gave it a favorable review and he is one of the few people whose reviews I trust. My wife wanted it too, so that helped. I am happy and relieved to say that Death of a Bachelor is way better than Too Weird to Live, Too Rare To Die. Whereas that album sounded like a warmed-over Fall Out Boy record, this one sounds alive and vibrant. Brandon Urie is the sole member of the band at this point but the songs are so much more interesting. The hooks are better and Brandon's vocals are just amazing here. He's really giving it his all. I especially like it when he slows it down just a little bit and puts a little Frank Sinatra in his performance. Some of the vaudeville influences from their debut album show up too, which I appreciate. I always thought that made them stand out more. Not to say this album is a return to A Fever You Can't Sweat Out because it's not, but you can hear it a little bit in songs like "Crazy = Genius" and "Don't Threaten Me With a Good Time." I'm glad that the last album was a misstep instead of a downward spiral.

Useless Fact: The album's title comes from the fact that Brandon Urie was getting married. Thus, no longer a bachelor.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Genesis Project - "Invisible Touch"

Genesis - Invisible Touch
1986, Atlantic

1. Invisible Touch
2. Tonight, Tonight, Tonight
3. Land of Confusion
4. In Too Deep
5. Anything She Does
6. Domino
7. Throwing It All Away
8. The Brazilian

“Land of Confusion.”


That’s pretty much the best way to start this write up. That song was my first real exposure to Genesis. I’d heard songs from them here and there but never knew it was Genesis until much later. MTV was in full swing and I was just conscious enough to be aware of what was on television. The video for that song was surreal, creepy, and frightening. It was awesome. The song itself is excellent too, mixing a great hook with a sense of urgency that perfectly matches the mood of the lyrics. It’s one of those times when the video and the song went together like chocolate and peanut butter. The video still holds up today in terms of quality, though most people wouldn’t recognize most of the puppets.

It should go without saying that at the time Invisible Touch was released, the band was on top of the world. They were doing world tours and selling out stadiums. They were in constant rotation on MTV. Oh, did I not mention they had a slew of videos from this album? They did. This is the most popular they would ever be. For the most part, all the progressive snobs that loved the Gabriel era of the band had given up on Genesis, thinking they’d just made lazy music for the masses.

That’s a shame, because Invisible Touch is a dang fine pop album. I love it when progressive musicians do pop albums. Like when Devin Townsend did his prog/pop/rock masterpieces,  Addicted and Epicloud. There is a stark contrast between pop music made by amazing musicians and pop music made by one trollop and five “producers.” This particular album was written by three men – Phill Collins, Mike Rutherford, and Tony Banks. That’s it. They are extremely talented musicians and it shows, even when they are not writing ten-minute songs about aliens or whatever.

Though there is a ten minute song on here, “Domino”. Yeah, I guess the guys can’t totally exorcise their progressive past. Aside from the eight minute “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” the rest of the songs stick within the radio friendly three to four minute range. They are mostly all great, catchy pop songs. The album does sound a bit dated, but it was the Eighties after all. There is just one little problem…

“I know I love ya but I’m in too deep…”

Now this isn’t a terrible song, but it is definitely the most boring. Ballads don’t have to be boring but it feels as though the band looked at their seven amazing songs and realized they didn’t have a ballad, so they crapped out “In Too Deep” in an afternoon. When you hear someone go on and on about how far Genesis fell, they usually cite this track as exhibit A. While the band was no stranger to sappy balladry, “In Too Deep,” marks the start of a problem the band will have with its next album, We Can’t Dance. We’ll get into that in a few months.

However, as it stands – one mediocre ballad aside – Invisible Touch is an excellent album. It’s a time capsule of sorts and quite rewarding for those who are willing to forgive it’s complete Eighties-ness. It’s not trying to be a progressive rock album, it’s trying to be a pop album. I’m happy to say it succeeds brilliantly. Don’t be a hater, good tunes is good tunes.

Final Score: 4.5

Useless Fact: Tony Banks admitted in interviews for the reissue of this album that writing a three minute pop song was a lot harder for him than something progressive. He says everything in the pop song has to be right immediately and there’s no room to breathe.