Archive for May, 2009

Rewiring Genesis: A Tribute to The Lamb

May 24, 2009

4 stars Rewiring Genesis, De-electrifying the Lamb

Various Artists (Tributes) - Rewiring Genesis: A Tribute to The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway CD (album) coverMan … I don’t really know where should I start from on how to write my views about this interpretation of the best Genesis album of all time: The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Too many things on my head about this version of Spock’s beard drummer & singer after Neal Morse left the band. I may end up writing a novel-long review to appreciate this album as created by Genesis and at the same time how brilliant Nick and his friends rewired the concept album wonderfully! By the time I am writing this, I have just been listening to this double CD for three spins in its entirety. It’s not that I rarely spin it because the first spin really got stuck at track 2 and 3 “Fly on a Windshield – Broadway Melody of 1974″ where i kept repeating it about 6 to probably 8 times because i was amazed with the arrangements.

You might think making a tribute album is quite simple because the basic music has been there and what you need is just to play. But I have another view because it posses two major challenges: First, the-music was not created by themselves so that they have to find the best way to play it. This may or may not be, depends on the complexity of the original composition, difficult. But one thing difficult, for sure, is to discover the soul of the music, especially The Lamb is a masterpiece prog album the world has been talking about for years. By the way, i’ve just realized that when i am writing this review using my Nokia E90 I am wearing T-shirt with the original Genesis album artwork, while sipping iced cappucino in a cafe at Kemang, Jakarta. Sennheiser PX100 headset is on my ears blasting the music of The Lamb from my old iPod from an mp3 ripped from CD with 320 bit rate. I am really enjoying my time now, really! And, man … I am not exaggerating that sometime I find tears in my eyes when I listen to my favorite album being replayed in its entirety by NDV and friends. It’s so wonderful. It touches my heart.

Second, interpret the music and grab the nuances, under the concept behind its music especially its storyline and rewrite the music with their own understanding and interpretation are not an easy thing to do. This is definitely a tough job because the musicians must think very hard on how putting back the music without jeopardizing the original soul. Thanks God, Nick and Mark have succeeded in this tough test, they come up with something fresh and crispy with their own arrangements. They do not really reinvent the music like you hear Kevin Gilbert did the rearrangement of Back In NYC. Rewiring Genesis focused on rewriting the textures of the music while maintaining original structure and melody. By doing so, it minimizes the risk of losing Genesis die hard fans. But don’t worry, you still get something fresh about this album because they have done excellent job in reinventing the textures that surround the music. Man, you must trust me on this: it’s a wonderful record that you should not miss!

Let’s have a look on how it flows …

At first spin the opening track did not impress me as it sounded, on surface, very similar with the original version. Nothing created a “wow !” experience for me. Later spin, i found joy as well with this track and found the “wow!” experience at last. But the second track “Fly on a Windshield” followed with “Broadway Melody of 1974″ were the ones that made me stuck for hours repeating them many times without any sense of getting bored at all. The more I spin, the more I discover how wonderful NDV and Friends have rewritten these two seamless songs. Well, there must be factor that contribute a lot in making the music so amazing for me, i.e. the original compositions are already wonderful. And with this version I appreciate highly the way NDV interprets the vocal job especially on difficult parts such as when Gabriel sung “Klu Klux Klan” and ?Smiling at the Majorette, smoking Winston cigarettes? part in the lyrical verses. It’s so wonderful version without having to copy exactly how Gabriel sung. So, NDV has successfully performed his vocal job excellently.

The key success factor of this concept album is the flow of the music and the roles of bridges between songs. And, this project has successfully managed them very well by putting deeper textures especially on bridges like “Hairless Heart” or “Cucko Caccoon” where you have a totally new and fresh experience as if you listen to new record. Musical instruments wise you will find a different role of electric guitar, the significant roles of violin to create string arrangements that replace symphonic keyboard sound and interesting additions of brass section (trumpet, sax, etc) to fill various roles of keyboard and sometime guitar.

De-electrifying The Lamb?

The overall textures of the music demonstrate concerted efforts that have been put by the musicians who have collaborated in this wonderful tribute album. One significant dimension that I discover is the efforts to replace something electric to become “less electric” such as the use of string arrangements with violin, brass section and Grand piano. That’s why I call it something like de-electrifying or making more acoustic, less electric, version of the original album. So, the music sometimes sounds like an orchestra with vocal but sometimes like a big band in jazz vein. It’s really rich in textures.

On some parts they sound weird at first listen, but it will be OK after second or third spin because you will discover the beauty. The bridge that connects to ?Fly On A Windshield?, for example, there is basically no keyboard is used. They use violin to replace keyboard to maintain the symphonic nature at the beginning of the track. The electric guitar playing in this version sounds much rockin? and energetic as compared to the original release. The typical howling guitar work usually played by Steve Hacket has been removed. The very great part of the ?Broadway Melody of 1974? is the additional string section that plays as background while Nick sings ?Echoes of The Broadway Everglades??.. The acoustic guitar and flute work at ?Cuckoo Caccoon? are excellent.

The keyboard-based ?In The Cage? has been approached differently by this project by replacing the keyboard with a combination of string section (violin) and brass. The guitar riff is also different, it all sound really nice. The string and brass arrangements make us forget the original taste of the song and this arrangement sounds really excellent. The wonderful keyboard (original version) part at minute 3:18 has been replaced brilliantly by speedy string section at the same tempo as Tony Banks played with his keyboards. Wow!!! It?s really wonderful man! Hey look ?!! Observe how great the inclining note that usually played by keyboard at minute 4:11 is now replaced by high register note trumpet work in long bars. I really admire the trumpet players (Steve Patrick & Jeff Bailey) who can play such high note in long sustain period. It reminds me to the style of Bill Chase (of CHASE fame).

On ?The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging? the music tends to be jazzy with the use of percussion at the intro augmented with choirs that might remind you to Manhattan Transfer style. ?Hairless Heart? has been rearranged wonderfully with great string section and stunning guitar fills. The touchy keyboard part is now replaced by piano. Oh man, the combined work of guitar, string and piano has produced great sound experience to my ears. When the music reaches “Counting Out Time” there is a tremendous change in music style to something like Dixie music which is totally different with original version even though the main melody is not changed.

The eerie keyboard intro in original version of “The Carpet Crawlers” is now replaced nicely by soft piano touch augmented by nice violin work at background accompanying great vocal line of Nick. The guitar work at “The Chamber of 32 Doors” has been made different and it sounds nice. One thing needs to note is the way guitar is played in this version, it?s not somewhat similar in style or whatsoever with the original. But it sounds really nice. It?s like a fresh sound of guitar but it still maintain the soul of original music.

There is no compromise on this version because the whole album in its entirety has been played by the band including the haunting ?The Waiting Room? with their own interpretation. It moves nicely to ?Anyway? which sounds brilliant on piano and string section. The guitar part is really rockin? and kickin? here. Another favorite of mine ?The Lamia? has been rewritten wonderfully. The intro part with acoustic guitar and vocal line sounds great. There is additional female vocal that takes part on the second verse of the lyrics. Their interpretation of “The Colony of Slipperman” is also nice especially on the replacement of keyboard with string and brass section. “Riding the Scree” has also been revamped totally with somewhat jazz-rock fusion style while maintaining original structure and melody. As this song has drums-intensive part, I like Nick’s drumming here. The dynamic part at approx at minute 0:47 has been performed brilliantly with jaw-dropping drumwork and brass section. Wow! It?s a great segment here.

In Conclusion

Just purchase this CD! Why troubling yourself with this novel-long review if the music in itself is excellent already. No one argues that The Lamb is a great album by Genesis and Nick d Virgilio is an excellent musician. Nick D Virgilio and Mark Hornsby, the key initiators of this project as the sleeve says so, have done a great job in interpreting this legendary album and rewriting it back differently but without jeopardizing the original soul and nuances of the music. If you really love The Lamb album, too bad .. you have no other choice: you got to buy the CD. I have been listening to this album in its entirety more than seven times and I am still planning to do it again, because it?s excellent, 4.5 stars! Keep on proggin’ …!!!

Peace on earth and mercy mild ? GW

Studio Album, released in 2008

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (5:25)
2. Fly on a Windshield (2:50)
3. Broadway Melody of 1974 (2:21)
4. Cuckoo Cocoon (2:19)
5. In the Cage (8:35)
6. The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging (2:42)
7. Back in N.Y.C. (5:51)
8. Hairless Heart (2:11)
9. Counting Out Time (3:50)
10. The Carpet Crawlers (6:22)
11. The Chamber of 32 Doors (5:46)
12. Lilywhite Lilith (2:38)
13. The Waiting Room (5:36)
14. Anyway (3:08)
15. Here Comes the Supernatural Anaesthetist (2:32)
16. The Lamia (7:14)
17. Silent Sorrow in Empty Boats (2:55)
18. The Colony of Slipperman (Arrival – A Visit to the Doktor – Raven) (8:41)
19. Ravine (1:56)
20. The Light Dies Down on Broadway (4:12)
21. Riding the Scree (3:58)
22. In the Rapids (2:34)
23. It (4:29)

Total Time 98:05

Line-up / Musicians

- Nick D’Virgilio / vocals, background vocals, drums, percussion
– Kat Bowser / background vocals
– Carolyn Martin / background vocals
– Mike Lusk / background vocals
– Dave Martin / bass
– Don Carr / guitars, sitar, banjo
– Jeff Taylor / piano, accordion, whistle, Rhodes, Wurlitzer
– John Hinchey / horn and string arrangements, trombone
– Steve Patrick / trumpet
– Jeff Bailey / trumpet
– Prentiss Hobbs / trombone
– Sam Levine / saxophone, clarinet, flute
– Doug Moffet / saxophone
– Leigh Levine / clarinet
– David Angell / violin
– Pam Sixfin / violin
– David Davidson / violin
– Kristin Wilkinson / viola
– Anthony Lamarchina / cello
– Jimmy Blankenship / sounds

Releases information

2xCD – Progrock Records, PRR 570

Bike to Prog with Porcupine Tree

May 8, 2009

JRENG! Yeah ….this morning I played Porcupine Tree’s “Fear of a Blank Planet” to accompany me on bike to prog forPorcupine Tree - Fear Of A Blank Planet CD (album) cover work. It was a cloudy morning and the music really stirred my emotion and elevated my energy, really! I played the album in its entirety on my iPod with my Sennheiser’s earphone. Why Porcupine Tree? Simple: it’s because something to do with Pink Floyd. It’s hard to say the music of Porcupine Tree has no relation whatsoever to Pink Floyd, because it is. Well, you can see from the soundscapes the band have always used.

I knew the band for the first time from its groundbreaking live album “Comma Divine”. Maaaan ….when you listen to this album, you will be amazed on how this live album is so great musically and excellent in terms of sound production despite it’s a live recording. This is because Steven Wilson is a great sound engineer. His presence in music reminds me (in some way) to Alan Parsons who was the sound engineer for Pink Floyd “The Dark Side of The Moon”. Alan Parsons later became a musician too as you must have known him.

I started my journey with the album third track “Anesthetize” (17:42) which features guitar solo by Rush’ Alex Lifeson. The reason I started with this track because the first two tracks, “Fear of a Blank Planet” (7:28) and “My Ashes” (5:07) had just finished when my set-up my back pack to be attached to the bike. I really enjoyed the guitar solo here. This album also features other legendary musician, Robert Fripp of King Crimson fame, who contributed to make soundscapes for “Way Out of Here” (7:37). Complete review of this album’s music please click here.

Actually there are many bands who have similarity with Pink Floyd, including RPWL – even though it’s not as powerful as Pink Floyd and too much in ripping-off Pink Floyd. The music and its musicianship are just mediocre. In addition to that they made a fatal tragedy by creating an album title “God Has Failed” where it’s 180 degree different with my view. God has never failed! How could they say it? Who created them (the members of the band) to live in Planet Earth?

But Porcupine Tree is great!

BTW, after the album finished, I continued to Wishbone Ash “New England” (1976). It’s another classic great music featuring double guitars.

Bike to Prog with Pink Floyd

May 6, 2009

JRENG!

As usual, this morning I rode my bicycle (I name him as “Jildhan-29″ because I love him) to prog while moving myself from home to project office. It’s a 22 KM journey and I was in doubt to go with bicycle because when I did Subuh at mosque this morning – it’s raining. When the clock started to show 5:30 I saw clouds… I almost drop biking. Having thought that yesterday I did not bike to prog, I finally decided to bike ..it’s just water, anyway ….

So I changed gear and prepared playlist for my iPod to play as this is a prerequisite that must be fulfilled before I could ride a bicycle. How can I bike if there is no prog music on my ears? It’s damn impossible!Pink Floyd Animals album coverSo I picked Pink Floyd (it’s merely because we will have a Tribute to Pink Floyd next month) and started with the first alphabetical order of the album. [Well, I have already ripped all my Pink Floyd CDs to my iPod]. Yeah, you damn right! It’s “Animals”. Some of you, I believe might guess why not “A Piper ..” as the first alphabetical order? The reason is simple and straight forward: iPod does not recognize “the” or “a” as character for the alphabetic order. So “A Piper ..” is recognized as “P” as the first character. Got it?

So …I rode my bike with high energy because prog music was on my ears. I told you …already…prog music makes great spirit and creates peace of mind. Especially when you have cloudy morning with little rain. I really enjoyed my biking this morning. When the lyrical verse says “And when you lose control .. You reap the harvest you have sown…” ooh MAAAAAAANNN … what a great composition “Dogs” is! I love this tune very very much ….

When I reached Senayan, the situation changed dramatically from crowded and heavily polluted situation into a really Pink Floyd Atom Heart Mother album coverpeaceful scenary inside the Senayan area… Thanks God, for letting me enjoy the morning with such environment. It’s so peaceful .. no noises coming from motor car, auto mobiles, metro minis …. and I could enjoy music intensely while biking. And then my Senheiser earphone produced a great orchestra as part of intro in “Atom Heart Mother Suite” … whooooaaaa …maaannn …. !! This is truly a paradise. I could not afford not to take rest to really observe how Pink Floyd played this wonderfully crafted composition! I was totally comfortably numb …. I did not even care that my back pack was full of dirty waters coming out from my bicycle tire due to wet road condition. But it’s OK man .. as long as I can prog in a peaceful environment.

When the suite reached approximately half-way, I started to bike again …going to the project office and again I rode the bike with joy (oh suddenly I remember Blind Faith’s song: “Sea of Joy” …yeah! it suits my situation, really), full of happiness, forgetting all life’s hardships…while my iPod was producing Gilmour’s guitar solo in the interlude of the suite …what a life man! Like it was carefully planned, by the time I reached the project office at Medan Merdeka Barat the “Atom Heart Mother Suite” finished. Oh so nice my friends ….

My folding bike (Jildhan-29) at Senayan, 6 May 09 morning.

My folding bike (Jildhan-29) at Senayan, 6 May 09 morning.

I didn't really care that my backpack had accumulated dirts ... It's OK as long as prog music surrounds me man!

I didn't really care that my backpack had accumulated dirts ... It's OK as long as prog music surrounds me man!

Anyway …what biking got to do with prog or vice versa?

It’s simple man …!!! If you really a progger (being a die hard fan of Genesis or ELP or King Crimson or Yes or Pink Floyd or Marillion or Van der Graaf Generator or Gentle Giant or UK or Dream Theater or Symphony X or Jethro Tull or Rush or Focus) …you must (defintely!) have a progressive mind. Those of you who have progressive mind must have progressive thoughts, don’t you think? And .. one of the thoughts must be to make this world eternal (even though it’s impossible as it’s said in Al Quran) or at least minimize the polluted air. Riding a bicycle (to prog!) is one of the progressive thoughts!

JRENG!

Yours progressively,

G


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