Happy Birthday, Greg!

FB_IMG_1431890328173The utterly lovely Greg Spawton of Big Big Train has his 50th anniversary today! We salute him! Hip Hip Hooray!! 😎

A new Rush for every night of the R40 tour!

I wish I could follow Rush on tour all summer long and see every single live show.

That’s because on every night they mix it up and play different songs!

Check out the set list chronicles over at Cygnus X-1 and you can see the interesting variations to date:

R40 Live 40th Anniversary Tour Set List Notes

Set One
[1] – Clockwork Angels – played on May 8th, 12th, and 14th [performed after The Anarchist on the 12th and 14th]
[2] – The Anarchist – played each night however opened the show on May 10th, 12th, 14th, and 16th
[3] – The Wreckers – played on May 10th and 16th
[4] – One Little Victory – played on May 8th, 12th, and 14th
[5] – How It Is – played on May 10th and 16th
[6] – Distant Early Warning – played on May 8th, 12th, and 14th
[7] – Between the Wheels – played on May 10th and 16th

Set Two
[8] – Red Barchetta – played on May 8th and 14th
[9] – The Camera Eye – played on May 10th and 16th
[10] – YYZ – played on May 12th
[11] – Natural Science – played on May 12th

If I were to compile a wish list for their Vancouver stop this summer, here’s what I would hope for based on the apparent options implied by the above data:

Between [1] and [3], it’s a tough call, but I would pick [3].

Between [4] and [5], I would choose [5] without hesitation. (I never thought [4] was much of a song.)

Between [6] and [7], don’t ask me to choose!!! But if forced to, I would pick [7] because it wasn’t a video single whereas [6] was. (This would be an instance of invoking the “pick the more rarely performed song” rule.)

Between [8] and [9] and [10], don’t ask me to choose!!! But, if forced to, perhaps I would pick [9], by the “pick the more rarely performed song” rule.

Yet if [10] is picked, does that mean [11] also comes with it? I am unclear on whether [11] replaces “Jacob’s Ladder” on those evenings when [10] is played. The set list chronicles do not note this switch, but is that an oversight?

IZZ’s Everlasting Instant: Gorgeous Esotericism

IZZ, Everlasting Instant (Doone, 2015). Tracks: Own the Mystery; Every Minute; Start Again; If It’s True; The Three Seers; The Everlasting Instant; Keep Away; Can’t Feel the Earth, Part IV; Illuminata; Sincerest Life; Like a Straight Line.

Birzer rating: 9/10



Concluding their trilogy—which includes the brilliant The Darkened Room and Crush of Night—Everlasting Instant is full of wonders. Though I rarely employ labels, this album makes me wonder if this is more art rock or more prog rock? Like much of the music once made by Talk Talk and now by Gazpacho and Elbow, IZZ produces densely layered and atmospheric albums, mysteries in and of themselves. Lyrically, the album offers the highest of poetic visions, calling us to things much greater than this realilty.

Perhaps most impressively, IZZ sounds at once like a group of very talented individual musicians as well as a cohesive and intense community of like-minded persons. Few bands can balance the individual talent of the musician with the force of the group as a collective. IZZ can and does. And, it does it very well.

Electric piano begins the first track, Own the Mystery, accompanied by a soft but firm male voice. Drums and a woodwind join at just under the minute mark. There’s a John Barleycorn and Colour of Spring feel to this opening track, but IZZ is never derivative, simply respectful of those who came before and also brimming with taste. A woman’s voice joins, and a dialogue—not unbecoming an T.S. Eliot play—begins. Does age slow us down, or does it make us wise? Perhaps, at some level, it does both. Most importantly, do we “own the mystery,” accepting the beauty and flaws of ourselves and those we love? Or, do we simply glide through life?

Track two, “Every Minute” is instrumental, a short guitar- and keyboard-driven meditation, followed by “Start Again,” an actual rebirth of the album, truly a second beginning to this conclusion of the trilogy.

This rebirth, however, comes in darkness. Someone has abandoned us, left us to bleed, alone, and on the floor. In isolation, the protagonist cries in agony, but an agony that stems from the soul rather than the body.

If It’s True, the fourth song on the album, finds us in a skeptical nightclub of mellow upper-class tipsy folks, all awaiting papers from their lawyers.

“The Three Seers” begins with a Simon and Garfunkel vocal (gorgeous) and grand piano. Visions hover in the air. Are the visions fanciful or true? If the latter, a game change lingers in the room. The middle part of the song, interestingly enough, resembles some of Keith Emerson’s less over-the-top playing, the song reaching its apex a little over three minutes into it, as drums and spacey keyboards join. The Three Seers ends gently, moving without a break into the soft electronica of the title track. The voice is now female (actually two voices), and the song seems to put the listener in a faerie tale told in the nursery. Lyrically, the words continue to discuss “hovering in the air,” and the songs becomes full-out rock (IZZ style) at about 1:27. Swirling guitars and drums and bass blast forward, and the song reaches perhaps the most intense moment of the entire album.

Keep Away is another contemplative number, keyboards awash. Guitar and bass predominate about two and one half minutes into the song, and the bass, especially, resembles Chris Squire’s magnificent playing on 1975’s Fish Out of Water.  As with almost every song on the album, a number of changes take place, include a middle section again resembling the best of ELP. To make it even more interesting, however, a strong female voice comes in during the ELP/electronica part of the song, warning us not to “wake the sleeper.” Further, as the voice of Sybil, she warns that one must “swallow his pride to save his soul.” Dante could not have stated it better.

Can’t Feel the Earth, Part IV, of course, finishes the three earlier parts of “Can’t Feel the Earth.” The bass, again, is outstanding, sounding, however, more like Tony Levin than Squire here. A driving song, everything jams here: all of the instruments and the voices. The lyrics praise “inspiration” as the motive for greatness, beauty, and becoming.

Illuminata is a bizarre song. Still excellent, but truly bizarre. Again, throw in some ELP, musically. The reason it’s bizarre, however, has more to do with the lyrics than the music. The lyrics are at once blatant and esoteric. They plead for an honest evaluation of self, but the lyrics also claim this will lead to “illuminata”? I have no idea what this means, aside from the word being a form of Latin regarding revelation. Is this Catholic, new age, pagan? I have no idea, but I feel like it must matter—perhaps a critical point in the album.

The penultimate song, “Sincerest Life,” has a Jon Anderson atmosphere, and IZZ proclaims “this world is love.”

The final song, “Like a Straight Line,” a quiet piano and voice number that becomes quite theatric and hopeful, of course, concludes the trilogy. Again, while it’s clear that IZZ is proclaiming the never-ceasing love of some kind of holy figure, it’s equally impossible to know who that holy figure is. Is this Mary, Star of the Sea, Jesus, or someone else?

Everlasting Instant is an absolute gem. Of course, nothing IZZ does is unimportant, but this album is even great by IZZ standards. And those standards start near the top of Olympus.  Still, Olympus might be accurate.  The only real flaw of the album, and, hence, the 9/10, is simply that the lyrics are incomprehensible toward the end of the album.  It’s one thing to be artful, but it’s quite another to be so open to any interpretation as to become meaningless.  Let’s hope Galgano and co. explain a bit more what’s going on here.  They don’t have to give away the store, but it would be nice to know the prices of the merchandise within.

NellieNews: Barock



Ten original tracks over 70 minutes of rock music filled and powered with Progressive, Acoustic, Metal and Symphonic ingredients.

This is SKYLINE, the 4th release from BAROCK PROJECT, the Italian band that have built an international fan base over the years combining the Italian melodic progressive unique sound with English lyrics that opened a whole new dimension to their music.

After successfully completing a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter, with backers from 5 continents, the album is published as an independent release in partnership with management Stars of Italy (USA) and distribution company The Merch Desk (UK). The release date is set for June 8th (physical) and June 13th (digital) with pre-sales already on sale at www.themerchdesk.com

Three years of intensive composition and preparation by Barock Project’s mastermind, Luca Zabbini, led to a sharp turn in the music style and arrangements. SKYLINE is, in the words of Zabbini, “a much more direct approach, unloaded of excessive virtuosity, to music with a more melodic structure, yet periodically touching those buttons that appeal to prog lovers”.

Many influences are captured among the notes of each track, yet ONE very distinctive original touch, a contribution of each of the four band members (two of them are new).

In the mind of both band and management, Skyline aims to run for best album of 2015 in its league, thanks to its artistic contents and world class feature appearances. (Vittorio De Scalzi of New Trolls vocals & flute on title track and Paul Whitehead as album cover artist).

The track list:

1 – GOLD (8:40)

2 – OVERTURE (3:40)

3 – SKYLINE (10:21)

4 – ROADKILL (5:59)



7 – SPINNING AWAY (6:06)

8 – TIRED (9:58)

9 – A WINTER’S NIGHT (4:38)

10 – THE LONGEST SIGH (7:57)

The band will start promotional media tour right away and live concerts after summer 2015.


Luca Zabbini – keyboards, bass and backing vocals

Luca Pancaldi – Vocals

Eric Ombelli – Drums

Marco Mazzuoccolo – guitars

Special Guest: Vittorio De Scalzi (Vocals and flute on track #3 SKYLINE)

BAND SITE: www.barockproject.it

MANAGEMENT: www.starsofitaly.com

DISTRIBUTION: www.themerchdesk.com

BAND CONTACT (media/management): Claudio Cutrone claudio@starsofitaly.com


The Barock Project idea generates from a desire to deliver the finest and perfect structure of classical music (mainly baroque music) with a rock-style and a little bit of jazz harmony, supported by a pop framework with the intention to revamp the appeal of ’70s progressive-rock.

The project founder, pianist and composer Luca Zabbini, states that his passion for the music of famous keyboardist Keith Emerson (ELP), has fuelled his desire to compose and play a full range of styles, from classical to rock and jazz.

In the summer of 2004, Giambattista”GB” Giorgi, a young bassist influenced by rock sounds with big passion for jazz, and drummer Giacomo Calabria joined the band.

After a long European tour with “Children of the Damned” and Iron Maiden’s singer Paul Di’Anno, Luca Pancaldi joins the band as lead vocals in 2002.

In January 2007 the band performs live in Bologna (Italy) with a string quartet. All arrangements are written by Luca Zabbini and they release the performance as a DVD called “Rock in Theater”.

In December 2007, published by Musea Records, the first album “Misteriose Voci” makes a great impact with very good reviews and media coverage from all over the world (“Passion Progressive” France ; “Progressive World.net” USA ; “ProgNosis” USA ; “MovimentiProg” Italy ; “Raw and Wild Magazine” Italy ; “Manticornio” Mexico ; “Prog Nose” Belgium ; “PRPM” Brazil ; “ProgWereld” Netherlands …)

In the summer of 2009 the band releases the second album “Rebus” with the Italian label Mellow Records, again with very good reviews from all over the world.

In March 2012, published by French label Musea Records, the band releases the third album “Coffee In Neukölln”, with all lyrics in English.

In the summer 2014 the band welcomes on board two new members, Eric Ombelli (drums) and Marco Mazzuoccolo (guitar) and begins recording sessions for their 4th and most complex album. Towards the end of 2014 bass player Giambattista Giorgi leaves the project leaving Luca Zabbini to play and re-record the bass lines on the forthcoming album.

January 2015, Barock Project sign a management contract with Stars of Italy and immediately after announce their 4th album, Skyline.

The Band

Luca Zabbini (keyboards – bass – backing vocals) was born on 26 March 1984 in S.Giovanni in Persiceto, near Bologna, and lives in Crevalcore. His father Onelio is a flautist and saxophonist and his grandfather and uncle were both professional musicians.   Therefore, Luca was surrounded by music from his early days, listening to his father and grandfather while composing. In 1990 Luca took his first piano lessons and the first steps in improvisation, listening to jazz and rock from father’s vinyl. One of those recordings was by Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Luca was soon fascinated by ELP music and started playing Keith Emerson’s parts on the keyboard. In 1995 he had his first band called Fattore Comune, a disco-funky cover band.

In 1996 Luca founded the K2 band, with bassist Giambattista Giorgi (GB ) and guitarist Luca Comellini. This band played progressive rock covers such as ELP’s cover Tarkus, Pictures At An Exhibition, Hoedown, etc.   In 1997 Luca joined the “O.Vecchi” Musical Institute as pianist and composer.

Luca has written a great amount of compositions, from jazz to rock and classical, like Guadiana (a suite for two pianos and two cellos) and soon he will finish writing a concerto for piano and orchestra. In 2004 he became the keyboardist of Jesus Christ Superstar musical’s company in several theatres. His favourite classic composers are B.Bartòk, S.Prokofev , S.Rachmaninoff , A.Ginastera but mainly J.S.Bach and in 2006 he composed a concert for piano and orchestra.

After playing in several cover bands, in 2003 his dream came true when founded Barock Project, with the intent to spread the classical atmospheres mixed with the power of rock.   Visit his official site http://www.lucazabbini.com

Luca Pancaldi (lead vocal) was born on December 20th 1981 in Bologna. At the age of 13 he started playing bass because of his love for rock and heavy metal. He sang and played bass in several bands since 1996 and in 1999 joined Icon of Hyemes (a metal band), who published 2 mini cds and played concerts around Italy and other countries. Since 2001 he has been the singer in Children of the Damned (Iron Maiden’s Tribute Band) and in 2002 this band became Paul D’Ianno’s band (first historical Iron Maiden’s singer).

Paul D’Ianno and C.O.T.D. toured intensively all over Europe and he gained experience as a frontman. In 2005 he joined Barock Project as lead singer, leaving his backing vocals job at Paul D’Ianno and C.O.T.D.

Eric Ombelli (drums) was born on 15th May 1989 in Modena. Aged 8 he started playing guitar under several teachers and continued after to be self-taught. After ten years he decided to study drums, the instrument he loved as a kid. Under the guidance of Diego Crivellaro in 2007 and since 2011 with Paolo Caridi at Modern Music Institute in Modena, he practices rock style and especially progressive rock. His roots are in classic rock bands like The Who , Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple , although he likes to play in several styles, from funky to Latin and metal.

Eric has been the drummer of Barock Project since February 2012.

Marco Mazzuoccolo (guitar) was born on 14th September 1989 in Carpi, near Modena. In 2003, he fell in love with music after hearing Smoke on the Water riff played by his uncle.

At the beginning he was self-taught and concentrated mainly on the technical side of the instrument.

In 2006 he began attending guitar lessons with Khaled Abbas, who gave rise to his interest in harmony and improvised music. In the summer of 2008, he won a contest called “Bande Sonore” with a Prog-Metal cover band.

In the autumn of the same year, he enrolled in a Jazz course, at the G. Frescobaldi Conservatory in Ferrara, and at Modern Music Institute.

In February 2011 he got the Master qualification at Modern Music Institute with excellent marks, and in September of the same year he joined the teaching staff of the same school.

He has been the guitarist of Barock Project since February 2012.

The Barock Project music show perfectly suits theatre style venues and festivals.

June 1st Can’t Get Here Soon Enough…

Originally posted on The (n)EVERLAND of PROG:

…because there’s never enough BIG BIG TRAIN.

Greg, Andy, David and the gang will be releasing an EP on June 1st (mine is already pre-ordered on Amazon.com [sigh…I don’t like amazon, but it’s easy and I’m lazy].  The EP is titled WASSAIL.

The disc will feature a live bonus track (live is GREAT) but the real treat is NEW MUSIC: three brand new tunes for all of us ‘jones’n’ for our fix of the best band in prog!

Big Big Train are Andy Poole, Danny Manners, David Longdon, Rikard Sjoblom, Nick D’Virgilio, Dave Gregory, Rachel Hall and Greg Spawton

The track list is:

  1. Wassail
  2. Lost Rivers Of London
  3. Mudlarks
  4. Master James Of St George

As I listen to the youtube video of Wassail, I am salivating for not just the EP release but for BBT’s next full length magnum opus. They are somewhat like an English version of Clannad…

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Isurus – Logocharya – Album Review

Originally posted on The Blog of Much Metal:

Isurus cover

Artist: Isurus

Album Title: Logocharya

Label: Independent Release

Year Of Release: 2015

One of the biggest buzzes I get through writing this blog and writing about music in general is from the discovery of new music. I’m not one to sit still and rest on my laurels; I’m always on the look-out for the next band or artist to impress me and offer another fresh and exciting listening experience. The fact that I get bands coming to me on a daily basis asking for me to take a listen to this or that, is a bonus that I welcome. Some of it is not to my taste at all or is not of a great standard but occasionally, just occasionally, one artist will rise out of the flood of mediocrity and make a big impact upon me. One such band is Isurus.

Isurus are a London-based band that has been…

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Concert Review: U2 Gets Personal in Vancouver, BC

Originally posted on Drew's Reviews:

U2 Full Stage


U2 never seems to do anything small, whether it’s the stadium size 360 tour the last go-around or the implant of their latest album in the iTunes account of everyone in the world that has one.

Though they’ve scaled down the size of venue for their current tour in support of their 13th album Songs of Innocence it’s still everything as big as you’d come to expect from the band.

U2 opened their Innocence+Experience tour on Thursday in Vancouver, BC to a sold-out Rogers Arena, the first of two dates that kicks off a year-long trek around the world. By contrast, the Irish foursome ended their last tour in Canada, across the street at BC Place Stadium, a place four times the size of the current digs.

Though nearly every conceivable bit of space is used in the stage configuration (full arena seating and general admission floor), the…

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Native Construct – Interview – “if this music was not considered odd, I have no idea if I’d be interested in making it”

Originally posted on The Blog of Much Metal:

Photo: Sam Harchik Photo: Sam Harchik

It is rare these days that I find myself so daunted by an album or by a band. However, that’s probably the best adjective I can use to describe how I felt upon listening to Native Construct and their progressive metal debut, ‘Quiet World’ for the first time. It’s not an album that can be referred to as easy listening as there are a million-and-one things going on, seemingly all at once. It not really surprising though, given that the trio that make up Native Construct are all students of the world-renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston, USA. You have to be a seriously good musician to get into this establishment initially and, bearing in mind the likes of Dream Theater who originated from the same College, it’s likely that you come out of the other end even better and more highly skilled.

Nevertheless, having given…

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Steven Wilson Tour Primer–The Information You Need


North American Tour Begins May 19 in Worcester

Prolific singer-songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist and multiple Grammy nominee, Steven Wilson, will embark on the first leg of his North American tour in support of his current release, critically acclaimed Hand. Cannot. Erase. (Kscope), beginning Tuesday, May 19 at the Worcester Palladium in Worcester, MA.  Full routing below.

Wilson is arguably one of the most important artists in the music community today!  If you are not aware of Steven Wilson, he is a musician’s Musician!    Well beyond the reach of Prog with his new album, Hand. Cannot. Erase., Wilson weaves elements of ethereal Jazz Fusion, while taking you on a multi-layered audio journey inspired by the haunting true tale of a popular young woman forgotten by society and family as she sits dead in her apartment for more than 2 years.

The critics:

“…a towering masterpiece that will assuredly be a contender for album of the year.”  – Metro Weekly

“As someone capable of delivering accessible music that is, at the same time, compositionally and lyrically deep—detailed and, at times, unapologetically complex—Wilson makes absolutely no compromises in doing what he does. And yet, almost in spite of it all, his star continues on an increasingly rapid upward trajectory.
One can only hope.” –  All About Jazz

“Wilson’s refined skill as a songwriter and studio guru combine to fashion songs that deserve a much wider audience than one that views his work as a modern equivalent of Pink Floyd and Genesis.” –  5 stars – The Guardian

“It’s this ability to combine narrative and music in brave and adventurous ways during a time when the very longevity of the album-as-cohesive-statement is constantly being questioned that makes Wilson one of the most compelling musicians of his era. His music seeks to connect on a deeply human level, and stands in contrast to a popular music culture obsessed with disposability. This makes him a rare and precious commodity.” – Buffalo News

“Go ahead: Close the year-end polls in March.  This one is just a tremendous wonder-work.” – The Day

The following links are for a better understanding of the album, Hand. Cannot. Erase.

The story: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2011/oct/09/joyce-vincent-death-mystery-documentary

Blog: http://Handcannoterase.com

Video “Perfect Life:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOU_zWdhAoE

Tour trailer:  ▶ Steven Wilson – ‘Hand. Cannot. Erase’ Americas tour 2015 – YouTube

Best known as founder and front man of British rock act Porcupine Tree, Wilson has produced and collaborated with diverse acts as Opeth, Blackfield, Yes, Roxy Music, and XTC. His prolific engineering work can be heard on his mixes of classic releases from King Crimson, Jethro Tull, and most recently the 5.1 surround sound version of Tears For Fears’ classic Songs From The Big Chair reissue, released in November 2014. Porcupine Tree’s last album went top 30 in both the UK and USA, and the tour climaxed with sold out shows at Royal Albert Hall in London and Radio City Music Hall in New York.  Wilson has just sold out 2 nights at Royal Albert Hall in September 2015!

Steven Wilson has already begun his world tour tour, having assembled a virtuoso band – Nick Beggs (bass), Adam Holzman (keyboard), Guthrie Govan (guitar), David Kilminster (guitar) and Craig Blundell (drums).  His latest studio creation completed, the cinematic Hand. Cannot. Erase. features dynamic performances by Wilson, members of his touring ensemble, Marco Minneman on drums, and vocal accompaniment from
Ninet Tayeb.

# # #


Tour dates:

May 19                   Worcester Palladium                               Worcester, MA

May 21                   The Egg                                               Albany, NY

May  22        Berklee Performance Center                              Boston, MA

May 23                   The Whitaker Center                              Harrisburg, PA

May 24                   New Jersey PAC                                    Newark, NJ

May 26                   930 Club                                              Washington, DC

May 28                   Keswick Theatre                                    Glenside, PA

May 29                   Best Buy Theater                                   New York City

May 30                   Best Buy Theater                                   New York City

May 31                   The Grand                                            Wilmington, DE

June 02         The Palace Theatre                                Pittsburgh, PA

June  04        Park West                                            Chicago, IL

June 05         Park West                                            Chicago, IL

June 06         Barrymore Theater                                Madison, WI

June 09         Boulder Theater                                    Boulder, CO

June 11         Mesa Arts Center                                   Mesa, AZ

June 12         The Grove                                            Anaheim, CA

June 13         The Wiltern                                          Los Angeles, CA

June 14         The Warfield                                         San Francisco, CA

June 16         Aladdin Theater                                    Portland, OR

June 17         Neptune Theater                                   Seattle, WA

June 20         Vogue Theatre                                                Vancouver

June 22         Myer Horowitz Theatre                           Edmonton

June 23         Theatre Junction Grand (Flanagan Theatre) Calgary

June 26         The Danforth Music Hall                          Toronto

June 27         Montreal Jazz Festival                            Montreal

June 28         Montreal Jazz Festival                            Montreal

June  29        Impérial                                               Quebec City

Sept 28         Royal Albert Hall                                    London

Sept 29         Royal Albert Hall                                    London

–This information comes from the wonderful Kim Estlund

The Edge walks off the edge — U2 Live in Vancouver

The WSJ reports:

During the song, each band member intended to make an individual, grand exit across the catwalk. But the Edge took a bad step and fell off the edge of the catwalk on his way out (Bono did his best to keep the show moving, and kept on walking while the crew attended to his bandmate).

The set list:

“The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)”
“Out of Control”
“I Will Follow”
“Iris (Hold Me Close)”
“Cedarwood Road”
“Song for Someone”
“Sunday Bloody Sunday”
“Raised by Wolves”
“Until the End of the World”
“Even Better Than the Real Thing”
“Mysterious Ways”
“The Sweetest Thing”
“Every Breaking Wave”
“Bullet the Blue Sky
“Pride (In the Name of Love)”
“The Troubles”
“With or Without You”


“City of Blinding Lights”
“Beautiful Day”
“Where the Streets Have No Name”
“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”


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