Thursday, April 27, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 9: Glenn Gould - Goldberg Variations (J.S.Bach)

From Emeticsage

Album: Goldberg Variations
Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer: Glenn Gould, piano
Release Date: Summer, 1955


People usually either hate or love Glenn Gould, there's very little room to be indifferent about his interpretations. I suppose any truly gifted and unique individual will provoke similar reactions. For those of us who were not around in 1955, it's almost impossible to comprehend the way this debut recording took the classical music world by storm. At that time, Glenn Gould was a brash 22 year old kid with very definite ideas about Bach. Until Gould came on the scene, the conventional approach to Bach was one of lush romanticism. Gould turned that world-view upside down with break-neck tempos, two wildly independent hands that showcased the virtuosic counterpoint that was always inherent in Bach's music, and a predilection for humming along as he played. A star was born.

Where Are They Now:

Glenn Gould died in 1982 at the far-too-young age of 50. He left behind a legacy of a truly unique approach to the interpretation of classical music, and was a truly unique individual. Much has been said of Gould's eccentricities: his love of solitude, his obsessive note-taking regarding his health, his need to wear a coat and gloves at all times, his renunciation of public performance early in his career, his use of a cut-down 18-inch tall home-made chair during performances, and his incessant humming while playing. Yet people who focused on these qualities were missing the forest for the trees, and deprived themselves of a truly wonderful listening experience.

Emetic Sage's Overall Take:

Through the veil of 50 years, this album still sounds fresh. While it is a mono recording, and subject to a fairly narrow dynamic range, the raw youthful energy and virtuosic playing shines through. One feels present at the dawn of a revolution in classical music. And, while Gould's performance is more of a re-interpretation of Bach's music, a Gould by way of Bach rather than Bach by way of Gould, the end result is sheer joy in the creativity and brilliance of both masters.

Much has been written about Gould and can be found on the Internet and in various publications. For the potentially interested listener of baroque and/or classical music, I heartily recommend checking this performance out, or any other of Mr. Gould's works, for that matter.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 8: Hum - You'd Prefer an Astronaut

Album - You'd Prefer an Astronaut
Artist - Hum
Key Players: Tim Lash - Guitar, Matt Talbot -guitar and vocals, Bryan St Pere - drums, Jeff Dimpsey - bass.
Produced by: Keith Cleversley

Original Release Date: April 11,1995

Overview - You'd Prefer An Astronaut was the third album released the Champaign Illinois band Hum. This was their first on a major label (RCA). On this record you will find the bands biggest "hit" with the single "Stars". The band would garner pretty positive press and be talked about (positively) on Beavis and Butthead, Space Ghost as well as Howard Stern. The band would release a followup to this record but due to disappointing album sales and a lot of changes with the labels (and being dropped in 2000) the band found, after a van accident in Canada to boot, it was time to call it quits. They played their final shows on 12/29/98 in Kansas City and 12/31/98 in Chicago

FDF Comments (the songs): The cd leads off with Little Dipper. There are some vocal effects used but the core of what lies ahead is right here. The wall of guitar sound with some "punched" drums. The engineer loved the crash cymbals as they are mic'd very well and you can almost feel you hair move when Bryan hits them. After the song segueway into "The Pod" the 4x4 drum time then launches the band full force. Stars has the quiet little intro that has you fooled (well it did) in that the guitars are gently strummed until the band comes down hard on that one note. A quick bars worth of strumming continues before the whap whap of the kit sets the song in motion. The defining moment for the song of course is the bridge towards the end. The heavy guitar riff has even the stuffiest of stuffed shirts strapping on their air guitar. The one portion I dig is how Bryan mutes the crash cymbal during this bridge. If you listen you can almost see him reach to the cymbal after beating the tar out of it to "mute" it. Its not the most technical or ground breaking drum move, but its timed so perfectly. I am uncertain if the 2 false starts on the Very Old Man are needed to show the band knows how to "take it down a notch" but the single guitar and vocals provide a drastic change of direction. The more soothing side follows with Why I like Robins, but don't let the smooth bass chug trick you, the band kicks it up a notch and you are reaching for your ear plugs before you know it. I'd Like your Hair Long I'd put up against any of the rock songs you hear on the radio these days. Slick guitar licks, tight driving bass and drums..what the hell is wrong with the listening public?!

Where are they now: Matt formed formed a bad Centaur and he also runs a recording studio. He is married and has 2 children.

Jeff resurrected a side-project from 1997,called National Skyline and from what I can find he is currently living and working in Texas.

Tim formed two groups, Glifted and Balisong. Glfited have released a cd and an ep is in the works. He works for the Unv of Illinois and is married.

Bryan seems to be out of music for the most part. He works in the Pharmaceutical industry and is married with children.

The band has done 2 "reunion" shows. In Aug of 2003 they did a one off at the Furnacefest In Aug of 2005 they played another reunion show headlining the first Rockfest Music Festival in Champaign. Rumors had it that Jeff moved back to Illinois and that the band "may" record again. They played a full set of music to over 3000 fans and that was that..for now??

FDF Personal Comments: I have seen the band live three times. The first is a date unknown as I don't have the ticket stub. Hum played the opening slot at the now defunct Mama Kin Music Hall (yep opened by Aerosmith.
They played the small room with headliner Chris Connolly (of Ministry fame). The room was like a hall way but I was down front getting my groove on. The band had some technical issues but still gave a great set. I went upstairs and met the guys, had them sign Astronaut as well as Electra 2000. The cool part is that my cd was an 'early pressing' so the guys were excited to see I had grabbed it "before" they got bigger. Nice guys for sure. The second was on July 27, 1995 at the The Paradise in Boston. Hum was opening up for the Verve(yes that Verve) it was pre-Bittersweet Symphony and I remember waiting in line outside for ages as the band sound checked. The Verve had stadium set ups for a small club so Hum was running late. They let us in as Hum was leaving the stage post sound check. Guitarist Tim Lash leaned down to fix something on the floor and when he looked up yours truly and 2 buddies were firmly planted in front. Hum was having some success at this point with "Stars" and as you'd imagine that brought the house down. When Hum was done we moved out of the front area and got a beer and hung. The Verve was okay from what I recall but I was there to see Hum. The final time I saw them I was in to taping live shows so I settled mid room at the Middle East in Cambridge on February 27, 1998. Who knew this would be my last time seeing them. I don't think anyone goes to a show and wonders if this is "it" unless of course its a bands farewell tour.

FDF Overall Take: Per the norm (at least with these reviews) you can find this cd for next to nothing in the used and cutout bins. This for me personally was a golden find. I started to really identify with harder music that I also felt was melodic and had a direction. They seemed like your average joes and made some pretty great records during their run. Of all of them I like Electra 2000 the best as it is just a complete package. Hey for a few dollars this is a cd you would not be embarrassed to have in your collection.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 7: For Squirrels - Example

Album - Example
Artist - For Squirrels
Key Players - John "Jack" Francis Vigilatura, IV - vocals
Travis Micheal Tooke - guitar
William Bradford White -bass
Thomas Jacob Griego Jnr - drums.
Producer - Nick Launay

Released - October 3, 1995 on Sony 550 Music

Overview - For Squirrels were a band from Florida. They recorded this record and hit the road to showcase some of it before it was released. After a gig at the legendary New York club CBGB the band was returing home. On route 95 in Georgia their van blew a tire and the van rolled over killing vocalist Jack Viglatura, bassist William White and the bands manager. Travis Tooke had broken his back and vowed to keep the band going. Travis Tooke and Jack Greigo regrouped under the name Subrosa with Tooke taking over on vocal, releasing their only album, Never Bet The Devil Your Head.

FDF Comments (the songs): 8:02 PM starts of pretty cheery with some guitar but the the wall of sound hits you and its one of those songs that you wonder how 4 guys could make this much of a sound. Before you know it you are rotating from the air guitar to the air drums. Orange worker shows a little of the softer side but its also one of those songs you really can hear John shine. The Mighty K.C. is a posthumous tribute to Kurt CobainSuperstar is a real barn burner shit stomping rocker that some lame American Idol contestant will one day cover and make me throw up in my mouth. The longest track on the cd is "Disenchanted" clocking just over 6:30. Its your standard lighter waving epic rock song of lost love but if there were any 2 songs I'd suggest to get you into the band it would be this and 8:02.

The tempo of the songs is good across the record. There is no 'quiet side' then 'loud side' they do a good job of trading the tracks up leaving you wondering where a song will go. Some songs hit a little harder than others but the vocal portions are very articulated. Its sometimes hard to understand what a rock singer is saying, and this is one of those few records you don't need liner notes to figure out what the heck he is saying.

Like most bands you can find some of their stuff up on the bands myspacepage.

Where are they now: As noted in the overview the band found a major tragedy early on forged on some, then broke it all off.

FDF Personal Comments - This was back pre internet so I'd use the printed media to guide me towards new music. I subsribed to (and still to this day do so) to CMJ New Music Monthly. In December of 1995 their issue came out with the cd sampler that it always did and on it was "this band". I played it for a co-worker and we both fell in love with it. Some local radio stations took a liking to Mighty K.C. and they got a little airplay here in Boston. It was always played then the tragic story told. How quick it ended.

FDF Overall take - Currently the cd not being printed but you can find it if you look. Its a hidden jem. Really top to bottom this is a great record. The song writing is strong and this was just a glimmer of potential for the band. Do yourself a favor and check this cd out, or blow the dust of your copy of it. Its a listen that has been a long time coming.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 6: LIVE - Mental Jewelry

Album - Mental Jewelry
Artist - Live
Key Players - Chad Gracey- drums, Chad Taylor - guitar, Patrick Dahlheimer - bass, Ed Kowalczyk -vocals
Producer - Jerry Harrison
Released - December 31, 1991

Overview - Formed in 1988 this is the first release from York Pennsylvania rock quartet Live. Released on the final day of 1991 Mental Jewelry was based on the writings of an Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti.

FDF Comments (the songs) - Like many debut records that find moderate success the band had a few years to hone their skills and its evident that they are all skilled players. Some could be the production work but the band knew when to hit hard and often (Pain Lies on the Riverside) or take a step back (Mirror Song). A strong aspect of this record as noted was allowing the members to shine. There a few tracks (Waterboy and Operation Spirit) where the bass is brought way up in the mix and the slap-pop bass work is prominent. I recall seeing the band do "Pain Lies on the Riverside" on MTV and the drummer actually played the maracas in one hand while he slapped out a good portion of the song on his drum kit.(if you heard the song you'd be impressed). The final track "10,000 Years (Peace is Now)" lets the cohesive band click. The drums are mic'd very well, the snare snaps are tight and the band opens up with some rousing bridge sections mid song. There are some vocal delay effects and the acoustic work closes the record out on a heavy, raucous, note.

Where are they now - Live are still at it. A new cd is due in May of 2006 and the band still has the original members. In 1994 they became about as big as any band could ask when they released Throwing Copper (Lightning Crashes is on this record). They continued to play festivals and tour the world continuing to release records every few years. Their popularity has waned in the last few years in America (the last 2 records have not even sold 500,000 copies) the band still has a large following overseas that continues to grow.

FDF Personal Comments - For a few years Live was one of my more favorite bands. After the "darker" Secret Samadhi record was released I started to lose interest. The band took on a a "bigger than you" attitude I felt. A lot of stage prancing and just a lot of arrogance in the press. It turned me off personally but I followed them with the next two records V and
The Distance to Here
. Distance to Here was the last straw, lackluster and flat out boring songs. They released a record after this called
Birds of Prey and I don't know a single person that owns it. I admit I am curious to hear the new stuff based of the overall strength of the first two records. I'll have to listen before I buy. You can find most of the later cds used for less than $3.00

As far as seeing them perform live I saw them on three occasions. The first was a "rescheduled" show. One member had an appendectomy and the show got pushed to a later date. During that time Lightning Crashes became massive and the band had to play this small club. So on April 27, 1994 me and 649 of my closest friends saw live play the Paradise in Boston. It was hotter than hell but the band smoked, I really felt I saw something special. That fall (Nov 22, 1994) I saw them at the 2800 seat Orpheum Theater. Weezer opened and it was a great double bill. The band ended with "White Discussion" and the place was just mad. The final time was July 30, 1997 at Great Woods. A 17,000+ outdoor amphitheater. As you'd imagine the band was pretty big and did little to come back to the strong records. This was the last time I saw them live. If memory serves me correct it was even more fun to make fun of them and the "Jesus poses" from Ed.

FDF Overall take - After those last few paragraphs you either think I am an idiot or way off base. I may have scared you away from the band but lets keep the focus of the review at hand. Mental Jewelry is actually one of the most rewarding listens in my cd library. I went for a walk a week ago and a song from this cd came up and I said "holy crap I need to do an FDF on this". Over the 12 tracks there are soaring sing alongs, great rocking tunes and heart felt melodies. Although it appears LIVE seem to have forgotten what made them so great this is a hell of a cd. There is not a single skippable track on this record.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 5: I.E.M - Arcadia Son

another fine submission from emticsage

Album: Arcadia Son
Artist: I.E.M.
Key Players: Steven Wilson (guitars, keyboards, electronics); Colin Edwin (bass); Geoff Leigh (sax, flute); Mark Simnett (drums)
Produced by: Steven Wilson
Released: 2001


I.E.M. is the brainchild, and one of the side projects, of Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson. Arcadia Son is the second of three I.E.M. albums, and the only one still in print at this time. I.E.M. was formed to explore Wilson's interest in experimental music, specifically inspired by cosmic jazz and krautrock of the late '60s and early '70s.

Emetic Sage's Comments:
Four of the listed tracks are little more than 1-minute clips of random sound samples. They can be ignored, but have a certain charm of their own when listened to in context. The other four tracks are extended jams: 'We Are Not Alone' is a jazzy instrumental, made eerie with speed distorted spoken voice tracks. 'Circadian Haze' is a bongo and flute improvisation, that ends with delicate strings and nature sounds. 'Arcadia Son' is a repetitious bass and drum phrase with flute and distorted guitar soloing above. 'Shadow of a Twisted Hand Across My House' is the showstopper, a 20-minute extended improvisation, firmly in the vein of krautrock, a driving drum and bass groove with soloing sax overlayed, that merges into an ambient electronic soundscape.

Where Are They Now:
Steven Wilson is currently still going strong with Porcupine Tree. He is living in Tel Aviv right now, writing the new Blackfield and Porcupine Tree albums. While there are no plans for another IEM release, one never knows what the future holds for this amazingly talented bloke.

Emetic Sage's Overall Take:
I.E.M. is not easy listening. Not remotely. It has nothing in common with the 3-minute pop song. Fans of Porcupine Tree will not necessarily dig this. Fans of experimental music, Bitch's Brew-era Miles Davis, and krautrock, however, will dig it. It is an homage to, but not pastiche of, the aforementioned styles. Give it a listen, though, if you can, and make up your own mind.

P.S.: I.E.M. stands for Incredible Expanding Mindfuck.


Friday, April 07, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 4: Mike Oldfield -Tubular Bells

FDF welcomes emticsage with his first (and hopefully not last) review.

Album: Tubular Bells
Artist: Mike Oldfield
All Instruments: Mike Oldfield
Recorded: The Manor, Oxfordshire, England between Autumn 1972/Spring 1973
Released: May 25, 1973


In 1972, Richard Branson, who later went on to fame as a pilot of balloons and star of reality show The Rebel Billionaire, incorporated Virgin Records. Their new studio facilities, The Manor, was host to a young 20 year old lanky englishman by the name of Mike Oldfield. During down time, and off-hours, Oldfield went on to create the world's first classical-inspired rock album. Branson shopped the album around to various record companies to little interest. He decided to take a chance and it became Virgin's first release, catapulting both Oldfield and Branson to fame and fortune. Later, parts of the intro to Tubular Bells were used by William Friedkin in the hit horror film The Exorcist, and Tubular Bells has come to be known as The Exorcist theme, for better or worse, ever since.

Emetic Sage's Comments:

Tubular Bells holds up pretty well over the span of years. It is clearly a product of a hurried recording process, and the quality of the recording itself is spotty here and there, but the sheer exuberance and inventiveness of the young Oldfield comes through in spades. The album is based on classical concepts of thematic development, but the instrumentation is quite modern. All instruments were played manually by Oldfield, painstaking track by painstaking track.

Where Are They Now?

Oldfield went on to have a long and relatively successful career, releasing on average a new album every year or two, although never quite again matching his early success. He has experimented over the years stylistically, dabbling in Phillip Glass-style minimalism, 3-minute pop songs, Celtic music, chill out, and on-line gaming. He is currently said to be done with his electronic computer-based noodlings, and will be returning to the sweeping hand-played works of his early years.

Emetic Sage's Overall Take:

At one time, the Sage was addicted to Tubular Bells. It's really excellent music, and in terms of its historical importance, it's something that everyone should at least give a listen to once in their lives. However, those who don't like instrumental music that takes time to grow and develop probably would not dig this album.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 3: Ben Folds Five Whatever.

Album - Whatever and Ever Amen
Artist - Ben Folds Five
Key Players: Ben Folds - vocals, piano, Robert Sledge - bass, Darren Jessee drums
Produced by: Caleb Southern and Ben Folds
Recorded - Sept/Oct 1996 in Chapel Hill, NC
Released - March 18, 1997

Overview: Whatever and Ever Amen is the second album from Ben Folds. "Brick" the song about Ben Folds girlfriend having an abortion was the biggest "hit" from this record making them somewhat household names. Ben Folds Five was around from 94-2000 totally as three-member band. Formed in Chapel Hill, NC they are seen as the fore-fathers of "piano rock". The joke is old "why are they called ben fold five when there are just 3 of you?" Folds is quoted as saying "Trio doesn't equal five?"

FDF Comments: Opening with the piano pounding One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces the bass is brought right out with a nice fuzz effect and for a trio of "piano rockers" they really get cooking. Brick everyone knows that song, what else can I say on that?. Song for the Dumped is the ultimate revenge post break up song. Kate was always a stellar sing along song..I WAANNNA BE KKKKKKKATE! Stevens last night in town has one of the fuller sounds due to a violin and clarinet part used in the song.. Battle of Who Could Care Less really showcases the bass work of Robert Sledge. Some of the slickest melodic bass playing you'll hear.

Where are they now: The band had an amicable breakup in October of 2000.
Ben Folds has gone on to release a few solo records and continues to tour heavily.

Robert Sledge sang and played bass in a band called International Orange but they disbanded in 2005.

Darren Jesse now fronts the band Hotel Lights. Their myspace page is here

FDF Personal Comments - FDF had the chance to see Ben Folds Five live three times. The most interesting part is the fact I saw them these three times all in one year?! May 27, 1997 was the first time at the Paradise in Boston. The funniest moment was a person yelling for "Uncle Walter" from the back of the room in the HEAVIEST Boston accent. "Play Uncle WHAALLTAH". The next was the second stage at the HORDE festival on Aug 8th. The highlight of that was meeting the band afterwards, telling them I taped them, and then getting their mailing address. Granted nothing came of it but still. The final time was Dec 2, 1997 when the band was part of the WBCN Christmas rave. On the bill the same night was Everclear and the ever amazing Catherine Wheel.

FDF Overall Take - A perfect introduction to "piano rock" if you will. The band were very talented and a trio of bass, drums and piano was just as off the wall as it sounds. It worked, was refreshing and fun. It still is fun and this cd will get your toes tapping.