Lovely Leah, Again

Leah, Metal Maid.

Leah, Metal Maid.

I finally received my copy of Leah’s extraordinary new album, KINGS AND QUEENS, along with a very nice t-shirt this past week.  It has taken me several listens to get what Leah is trying accomplish, and I’ll post a long and serious review sometime in the next week or two.  Her previous EP had simply punched right into the best of my soul, and I still listen to it weekly or so.  My entire family loves it.  It was a delicate and bardic affair.  KINGS AND QUEENS is something altogether different.  It’s much more metal, and no one would dare call it delicate.  As always, the three trademarks you’d expect from Leah are there: her outstanding voice (rivaled in the rock world only by David Longdon and Susie Bogdanowicz); her compositional confidence; and her sibylline lyrics.  It’s a Leah album, and, yet, it’s something quite special as well.

But, for now, I need to get ready for St. Augustine in one class and John Dickinson in another.

To order or visit Leah, go here.

The Neal Morse Band – Alive Again and On Tour

Alive Again

Last Night in Nashville, TN, The Neal Morse Band kicked off their tour in support of their new album, The Grand Experiment. Performing in the intimate confines of Rocketown to a very enthusiastic audience, Neal and his cohorts tore through an energetic set that lasted more than 2 hours and included some surprises in the set list.

They got things started with the a cappella opening to “The Call”, with every band member nailing his vocal part perfectly. Eric Gillette, a veteran from the Momentum tour, is on lead guitar, while Bill Hubauer (another Momentum vet) plays keyboards, clarinet, and sax. Of course, no Morse band would be complete without longtime collaborators Randy George on bass and Mike Portnoy on drums. I brought a friend with me to the show, and he was blown away by Mike’s performance, saying, “I haven’t seen anyone play drums like that since Keith Moon!” Eric was incredible throughout the show, singing occasional lead vocals and playing some absolutely shredding guitar. Bill’s instrumental and vocal versatility give the band almost two musicians in one person, and Randy George holds it all together with his fluid bass runs. As Neal proclaimed at one point, “Randy with the bass pedal solo – how prog is that!”

The band played every song from The Grand Experiment except (surprisingly) “Agenda”. Highlights included Neal playing a beautiful instrumental on acoustic guitar that led into “Waterfall”, as well as the Kings-X-sounding title track. They also played “Into the Fire” from ?, “The Creation” from One, and they got a roar of approval when the intro to “In Harm’s Way” (from Neal’s Spock’s Beard days!) boomed out.

This being the first gig of the tour, there were some inevitable glitches, but Neal took them in stride – even stopping “The Grand Experiment” to restart a tricky vocal section. The audience loved it, and once they were back on track, they never looked back.

There are few performers who can connect with their audience the way Neal does – conducting them during singalongs, raising his arms in appreciation, and even jumping off the stage to sing and play among them. He and the entire band gave all they had, every minute. As my friend exclaimed to me in the middle of a song, “It sure is nice to see a band just having a great time playing together!”

Neal asked if we could handle “one more epic” (of course we could), and then launched into “Alive Again”. Neal has written many, many epics, and this one is near the top. It rocks, it soars, it ebbs, and just when you think it’s over, it comes roaring back for an incredible finale.

As far as the encores, I won’t be a spoiler. Suffice it to say that there are some really fun surprises, both in terms of performance and song selection!

It’s been said (I have no idea if it’s true) that Keith Richards was once asked what it was like to be the world’s greatest rock and roll band. He replied that on any given night, there was a band playing in a club, somewhere, and for that night they were the world’s greatest rock and roll band. Last night, Rocketown hosted the world’s greatest.

You can get details of the rest of the Alive Again Tour at Radiant Records. Don’t miss this one.

Update: I mentioned above that “Alive Again” is one of Neal’s best epics. Actually, all of the songs on The Grand Experiment are a group effort, and Neal, Mike, Randy, Eric, and Bill all deserve credit for them.

 

The Tangent Come to Boulder!

Well, Andy Tillison and Sally Collyer did, and we had an amazing, very good, awesome, wonderful time!  They’re on their way home now, but the memory and goodness of their visit remains palpable.  Tillison lectured as well as performed before a Boulder audience on Thursday.  It was an amazing event, and I’ll report more fully about it in the next day or two.

In the meantime, pull out some Tangent, put on the headphones, and turn out the lights.

Tillison, lecturing on the transformation of the protest song in a world of Facebook and Twitter.

Tillison, lecturing on the transformation of the protest song in a world of Facebook and Twitter.

Yours truly, Andy, and Sally--at the end of it all.

Yours truly, Andy, and Sally–at the end of it all.

Radiant Records Seeks New Bands, New Talents, New Submissions

Radiant Records
Greetings from Radiant Records!

 We are pleased to announce that Josiah Baker is joining our team as our first Artist Representative! Josiah will be bringing to Radiant Records and Radiant Studios years of experience in artist development, booking, social media management, promotion, and networking. If you’re an artist looking for a label or some fresh exposure, Josiah is here for you! Contact him today to find out how you can record in the same studio as Flying Colors, Neal Morse, and the Prog “Album of the Year” award artists, Transatlantic!

 

Josiah is accepting downloadable material submitted through email or physical copies through mail. All contact information is below. 

 

Josiah Baker, 
Artist Representative
 
 
 
Mailing Adress: 
322 Blue Lake Circle
Antioch, TN 37013

God Bless,
Megan Batista 
Radiant Records

Big band and jazz guitar take bold journey to “Dark Side of the Moon”

It is, as AllAboutJazz.com notes from the top, a “bold concept”: A big band and a jazz/fusion guitarist reinterpreting (“covering” isn’t it at all, not by a long shot) Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”—that modest little 1973 album that sold a bazillion copies and cemented Waters, Gilmour, and Co. as rock legends. The chances of such an audacious project going sideways, celebratingdarksideupside down, or simply “splat” are fairly high. Most Floyd purists, I suspect, would dismiss it immediately, and most jazz purists would be right behind them. (I hope I’m wrong, but I think that’s a fair guess.) That would be unfortunate, because “Celebrating the Dark Side of the Moon” is a stunning album, a splendid example of what can happen when exceptional jazz musicians take on exceptional rock/prog material with an equal measure of respect and experimental energy.

The album is the brain child of ACT-director Siggi Loch (ACT is a German label focused on contemporary jazz), and Stefan Gerdes and Axel Dürr, producers for the NDR Big Band; they enlisted legendary composer and arranger Michael Gibbs and the wildly eclectic, always surprising guitarist Nguyên Lê. The sleeve notes read, in part:

Nguyên Lê enlightens the Floyd’s repertoire – pure happiness – and enchants it with the collusion of the NDR Bigband and its brilliant soloists, deploying new sound-textures created by the uplifting orchestrations of Michael Gibbs. The arrangements here – Gibbs wrote three, Nguyên Lê wrote the others – provide choice settings for inspired improvisations and also reveal other compositions which appear as natural extensions of the original opus. The guitarist’s playing sparkles with those fiery, oriental accents we’ve learned to love, sustained by guests he can trust: Jürgen Attig, Gary Husband, or Youn Sun Nah, whose chalice is brimming with magnetic grace. “Celebrating The Dark Side Of The Moon” is no simple tribute to a record which made history. It fervently expresses the re-creation – exempt from all imitation – of a score which you can hear in filigree. This is a palimpsest. The writing can still be (re)read, with warm hues forged by respect for the original matrix and the multiple expressions of its identity. Like a principle of Life.

The playing throughout, no surprise, is top of the line; but what really jumps out is the muscular, bold, and detailed quality of the arrangements, as well as the propulsive fluidity of the solos and ensemble playing. Yes, you know you are hearing Pink Floyd songs, but you hear them in a new and invigorating way. Lê is especially dynamic; he plays the vocal parts in several songs, and his tone is as rich and expressive as any vocal, bringing out melodic qualities deep in the original material. Listen, for example, to “Money,” with the solo starting at the 1:00 mark:

The other stunner is South Korean singer Youn Sun Nah, whose solo work has always demonstrated a willingness to push—and sometimes simply flatten, by virtue of her power and precision—musical boundaries, moving from sweetness and light to primal, raging darkness at a moments notice (check out her rather harrowing version of “Enter Sandman”). Here she is singing “Breathe”:

The Telegraph gave the album a begrudging decent review, stating, “The remarkable thing is that eventually, the album persuaded me to forget the original. It does this very cleverly, by confirming and subverting our expectations at the same time.” Meanwhile, AllAboutJazz.com concludes its far more positive review by saying, “Nguyên Lê’s CTDSOTM is an ambitious, uplifting and frequently exhilarating project whose textural layers and conceptual riches are gradually revealed upon repeated listening. It should appeal to Floyd freaks, progressive big-band addicts and the musically curious alike.” I hope so!

Andy Tillison Speaks, February 19, Boulder, Colorado

I’m privileged to announce that Andy Tillson (PO90, The Tangent) will speak tomorrow night at the University of Colorado-Boulder.  If you are within driving range, please join us.  Tillison will speak at the Old Main Chapel, Boulder campus, 5:30-7.

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Jimmy Page and Alex Lifeson: Mutual Admiration Society

Originally posted on rush vault:

bush_fAlex met his guitar idol Jimmy Page in 1998, when Page and Robert Plant were briefly reunited for a series of shows, one of which was in Toronto. Alex was home at the time and had been invited backstage to say hello, so he brought a copy of Victor, his 1996 solo album, to give to Page. “I was freaking out Victorand my hands were shaking,” Alex has said in interviews about that meeting.

But the admiration was mutual. Page has said that he has long been an admirer of Rush. That’s saying something when you consider how much disdain he held for a lot of the hard-rock bands that tried to look and sound like Led Zeppelin. First among the bands singled out for Page’s disdain over the years is Def Leppard, but Page really didn’t like any of the so-called hair bands. There was one exception: Whitesnake…

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Album Review: Imagine Dragons – Smoke + Mirrors

Originally posted on Drew's Reviews:

So, Imagine Dragons just might be for real.

After wringing as much as they could out of their 2012 smash album Night Visions the quartet hailing from Las Vegas finally stopped releasing individual singles that seemed to serve only as fuel to keep afire the momentum to their ostensibly endless, and sold out arena tour the last few years and dropped their second full-length album.

Imagine Dragons released Smoke + Mirrors today and unlike what tends to happens to bands after a highly successful first album only to see a sophomore effort fall flat, Smoke + Mirrors holds up quite well to its predecessor.

The band gave fans a taste of what’s to come with their leak of the singles “I Bet My Life” and “Gold” both of which are on this album and sure to be accompanied by several more hits radio should eventually play ad nausea.

Singer Dan…

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Most Anticipated Album Releases of 2015 – Part 4

Originally posted on The Blog of Much Metal:

I know, I know, it’s getting a little silly now isn’t it? I’m beginning to lose count but here are another ten or so bands that either are or may be likely to release new material during 2015. It was all sparked by the first band in my list who I only just realised were in the process of writing new material. Knowing this, I couldn’t afford to miss them off my list as they are such a great band.

If for any reason you’ve missed parts 1-3, you can access them here:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

But now, here’s the next (and probably last) instalment in this series…probably…I hope.

Wolverine

As stated, Wolverine are one of the main catalysts for this fourth instalment ever since I realised a new album was on the horizon for 2015. The Swedish progressive metallers are a special and unique band and…

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PJMedia’s “Best 6 Rush Albums”

In honor of Rush’s upcoming R40 tour, PJMedia’s J. Christian Adams ranks their top 6 albums. The list may surprise you!

Here’s an excerpt:

Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart have been producing music since they they first took the stage together at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena in August 1974. Peart was the new guy in the band then, but has since become its voice, penning lyrics that made hipster critics cringe – touching on, in chronological order – Tolkien, male baldness, the Solar Federation, starship Rocinante, forced equality of outcome, FM rock, automobile bans, Space Shuttle Columbia, concentration camps (Lee’s parents survived Auschwitz), Enola Gay, China, clever anagrams, chance, AIDS, the internet, expectations shattered by 9-11, more expectations shattered and finally, carnies.  It’s hard to find a list of rock’s greatest drummers that doesn’t include Neil Peart.

Over the decades, hipster critics praised acts like Elvis Costello, Tom Waits and the Talking Heads while they mocked Rush. But 40 years later, Rush fills arenas and tops album charts, forever reinventing a sound that defies categorization. It’s just Rush.

You can read the whole thing here.

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