I just saw over on the Jethro Tull website that original bassist Glenn Cornick passed away on Friday, August 29, at his home in Hawaii. He died of congestive heart failure. Ian Anderson writes:
It is with great sadness that we learned today of the passing of Glenn Cornick, bass player with Jethro Tull from the band’s inception 1968 until 1970. Of course, he had also played with the John Evan Band for the year during 1967 and so his contribution to the geographical transition from Blackpool to London and into the professional music scene was considerable.
Glenn was a man of great bonhomie and ready to befriend anyone – especially fellow musicians. Always cheerful, he brought to the early stage performances of Tull a lively bravado both as a personality and a musician.
His background in the beat groups of the North of England and his broad knowledge of music were always helpful in establishing the arrangements of the early Tull.
During the many years since then, Glenn continued to play in various bands and was a frequent guest at Tull fan conventions where he would join in with gusto to rekindle the musical moments of the early repertoire.
We will miss him hugely and our condolences go to his wife Brigitte and children.
On behalf of Progarchy, I send our sincerest condolences to Glenn Cornick’s family. He certainly contributed much to Jethro Tull’s first three albums, This Was, Stand Up, and Benefit.
Ian Anderson’s new album, Homo Erraticus, is out today, according to his website. According to iTunes, it comes out tomorrow. Today, tomorrow, whenever it is, this is a must have album. I have had a chance to listen to it a couple of times over the past few days, and I am thoroughly impressed. Ian Anderson proves, yet again, that he is a master of modern cultural critique. He is not just some old guy playing music. He is clearly aware of the world of today, and he does a masterful job of commenting on it in a humorous way.
I wish I could give you a full review of the album right now, but professors have this strange policy of wanting papers turned in on time. Weird, right? Briefly, the album covers basically all of British history, from Roman times, through today, and predictions for the future. Ian Anderson and company (which is essentially Jethro Tull, just not called that because of the absence of Martin Barre) wonderfully meld together history with cultural critique. I particularly enjoyed the backhanded reference to his son-in-law, who plays the lead role in the hit AMC TV show, Walking Dead.
The line up for the band is the same as it was on Thick as a Brick 2: Ian Anderson (vocals, flute, acoustic guitar), David Goodier (bass), John O’Hara (keyboards and accordion), Florian Opahle (guitar), Scott Hammond (drums), and Ryan O’Donnell (backing vocals). I noticed that they lowered the key of the music, so Ian Anderson sounds a lot better on this album than he did on TAAB2. O’Donnell also provides excellent backing vocals, sometimes singing lead. The instrumentation is amazing, as you would expect from anything produced by Ian Anderson. I am even more astounded by Florian Opahle’s guitar playing. As my friend and fellow progarchist, Connor Mullin, pointed out to me, his style of playing is more akin to King Crimson than it is to Martin Barre. This is not all that surprising considering Opahle toured with Greg Lake before joining Ian Anderson. His playing is simply fantastic.
In the end, Homo Erraticus should certainly be added to any prog rock collection. Ian Anderson has proved that you are never too old to rock and roll.
I like a variety of instrumentation in my music. In addition to the usual guitar, bass, and drums, I’m quite fond of a variety of keyboards, enjoy orchestral arrangements added where appropriate, and on occasion, woodwinds and brass. One of my favorite “unconventional” instruments is the mandolin.
However, the impetus for this piece is not itself the fact that I like the mandolin. Rather, somewhere back in time I remember someone (I can’t remember exactly who) telling me the mandolin wasn’t a versatile instrument. I balked at this assertion then, and I still do now. Having a forum as I do here at Progarchy, I’m now going to debunk that assertion, using different pieces to demonstrate the versatility of this wonderful instrument. While each of these songs feature the mandolin to one degree or another, by the time you have progressed from the beginning to the end of the list, you will have encountered several different musical styles that are markedly different from one another. Despite that, I will have barely scratched the surface of the mandolin’s versatility.
So, let’s get to the list.
Ian Anderson, Water Carrier
This song appears on Ian Anderson’s solo album ‘The Secret Language of Birds’. As many know, Anderson’s main band, Jethro Tull, features the mandolin prominently on a number of songs (‘Fat Man’ is one of my favorites in that category). This song features an uptempo mandolin front and center from start to finish. Underneath though are some very prominent Middle Eastern motifs – not exactly the kind of music you initially think of when you think of the mandolin. And yet, here it is, integrated perfectly.
Led Zeppelin, The Battle of Evermore
This is one of two songs on Led Zeppelin IV featuring the mandolin (‘Going to California’ is the other). Like our previous entry, this song has a somewhat mystical feel to it. However, instead of the Middle Eastern influences, this piece is more folk-inspired. Throw in Sandy Denny’s vocals, some Tolkein-esque lyrics, and you’ve got yourself a great song.
Heart, Sylvan Song/Dream of the Archer
There are a number of songs by Heart that I like, but these two (or this one, depending on how you look at it) are by far my favorite. This is basically one song divided into two parts each having its own title. The first part is instrumental, the second part includes Ann Wilson’s incredible vocals. This song remains somewhat within the realm of folk music as the previous entry, but has more of a “renaissance” feel to it, right down to the sounds of the forest at the beginning before the mandolin quietly makes its entry. It’s quite different from our first two pieces on the list, and yet it’s probably not a stretch to say that it was influenced by ‘The Battle of Evermore’ … as witnessed by Heart’s performance of the same here.
Drive-By Truckers, Bulldozers and Dirt
Now we make a big, big shift. Geographically, we’re moving from the Pacific Northwest where Heart originated down to Northern Alabama, from where the Truckers originally hailed. Genre-wise, some people call this band southern rock, others call it alt-country, and still others call it Americana. Whatever you call it, it’s a great song. Steel guitar appearing later in the song gives it a bit of a country feel, but the mandolin remains the dominant instrument. The strong ties to its geographic region are evident throughout, as is the bright, upbeat tone. From their album entitled ‘Pizza Deliverance’ (one of my favorite album titles of all time), this mandolin-driven song about what amounts to an overgrown kid that likes to play in the dirt is a gem.
Black Oak Arkansas, Digging For Gold
Now we move from Alabama to Arkansas, and there isn’t much debate about whether or not Black Oak Arkansas or their music falls under the umbrella of Southern Rock. The song begins with a chirping bird, an acoustic guitar, and a barking dog before Jim Dandy’s raspy voice makes an entry. The mandolin enters at about the 0:51 mark and is persistent through the remainder of the song. As a bit of unrelated trivia, lead vocalist Jim Dandy, he of the long, blonde locks and flamboyant presence was alleged to be the inspiration for the stage persona of David Lee Roth. Watch any live video of these guys from the 70’s, and you’ll believe it.
Led Zeppelin, Boogie with Stu
Now we’re taking another significant shift in musical style – from Southern rock to the blues. Here Led Zeppelin brings us one of two blues songs from Physical Graffiti that utilize the mandolin, the other being Black Country Woman. The mandolin is more persistent in the latter than in the song posted here (it doesn’t enter the picture until the 2:38 mark). That’s beside the point though – in both cases, the mandolin – an instrument invented in Italy of all places – is being featured in blues songs, and fitting in as seamlessly as a harmonica.
Arjen Anthony Luccassen, When I’m A Hundred Sixty Four
We started this list with one of the giants of the classical period of progressive rock, now we’ll end it with one of the giants of prog’s current renaissance. Luccassen here gives us a nice little romp that includes the mandolin and acoustic guitar with some strong Celtic influences adding extra flavor. This is a great song, possibly my favorite off of this album, ‘Lost in the New Real’, which is chock full of great songs. And speaking of great songs, Luccassen pays homage to another song on this list by doing an excellent remake of ‘The Battle of Evermore’, which you can listen to here if you are so inclined.
So let’s recap the list a little bit here. We started with music that had some strong Middle Eastern influences, moved to a couple of different folk songs, then took a journey down South with some Americana/Alt-Country/Southern rock, moved onto some blues, and finally to some full-blown progressive rock. Quite a variety, and as I said predicted above, I’ve barely scratched the surface of different musical styles into which the mandolin can be easily integrated. So does anyone still want to tell me that the mandolin is not a versatile instrument? I didn’t think so … :)
A happy Halloween to all! Considering this is the time to celebrate thrills and chills, I decided to compose a list of some of the creepiest prog rock songs and albums ever created. As an avid fan of the horror genre, I have always enjoyed reading the novels of Stephen King and watching the movies of John Carpenter, but I had never thought about what could be classified as “horror prog.” Here’s my list (albums first, in no particular order):
Premiata Forneria Marconi- Dracula Opera Rock (Italy’s greatest prog band released this creepy gem back in 2005)
Alan Parsons Project- Tales of Mystery and Imagination (Any album based upon the works of Edgar Allan Poe deserves a spot on this list)
Pink Floyd- The Wall (Think this isn’t scary? Check out the movie)
Aphrodite’s Child- 666 (It’s a concept album based upon the Book of Revelation; listen to The Four Horsemen and you’ll get the idea)
Mike Oldfield- Tubular Bells (It was used as the theme for The Exorcist. Enough said)
Goblin- Suspiria (The scariest prog album of all time. Sighs may be the creepiest song ever composed: just listen to it with headphones on before you go to bed)
Now the songs (in no particular order):
Jethro Tull- Sweet Dream (The music video features Ian Anderson dressed as a vampire. If that’s not scary, then I don’t know what is)
Blue Oyster Cult- Don’t Fear the Reaper (A Halloween staple, but the song could use more cowbell)
Peter Gabriel- Intruder (Check out the Youtube video someone made to this song featuring Jason Voorhees of Friday the 13th fame)
Van der Graaf Generator- Darkness (An eerie song by an eerie band; whispered vocals add to the overall creepiness)
Atomic Rooster- Death Walks Behind You (A dark opening to an album featuring a crazed Nebuchadnezzar on the cover)
King Crimson- The Devil’s Triangle (Not only should the band’s name inspire some feeling of fear, but this song reminds me of a march into a deadly battle)
Talking Heads- Psycho Killer (This may not be prog, but Adrian Belew did play with them for a time; David Byrne sounds as paranoid as ever on this piece)
John Carpenter- Halloween Theme (Most recognizable horror theme of all time? Check. 5/4 time signature? Check. How could I leave this off the list?)
Well there’s my list. It is by no means exhaustive. If you feel I am missing some songs, feel free to yell at me in the comment section. I only had so much time to compile all of these songs; most of them just popped into my head yesterday. If you haven’t listened to all of them, then today is the perfect day to spend some time with this list. Have a terrifying (but fun) Halloween! (And to our Protestant friends, a happy Reformation Day!)