Big Big Train News: Live Video & More …

Straight from the horse’s mouth …

We will be releasing our new Blu-ray on 6th December.

The Blu-ray was recorded at our run of sold out shows at Cadogan Hall, London and features the best version of every song performed at the concerts, providing a full set-list from our 2017 shows.

The digipak includes a 20 page booklet.

There are two bonus performances and the Blu-ray features stereo and 5.1 mixes.

Region free.

Reflectors of Light (the Blu-ray companion to BBT’s 2018 Merchants of Light CD/vinyl set) is now available for pre-order from Burning Shed and The Merch Desk.  The Reflectors of Light track list:

Folklore Overture
Folklore
Brave Captain
Last Train
London Plane
Meadowland
A Mead Hall in Winter
Experimental Gentlemen (Part Two)
Swan Hunter
Judas Unrepentant
The Transit of Venus Across the Sun
East Coast Racer
Telling the Bees
Victorian Brickwork
Drums and Brass
Wassail

Bonus tracks:
The Transit of Venus Across the Sun (with reprise)
Summer’s Lease (recorded live at Real World studios)

Nellie Pitts’ Merch Desk also has plenty of swag from Big Big Train’s just-completed UK tour (signed tour posters, programmes, t-shirts, turntable slip mats, beanies and bamboo fans) too!

— Rick Krueger

2019 Prog (Plus) Preview 2!

More new music, live albums, reissues (regular, deluxe & super-deluxe) and even books about music heading our way between now and Christmas?  Yep.  Following up on my previous post, it’s another exhaustive sampling of promised progressive goodies — along with other personal priorities — below.  Click on the titles for pre-order links — whenever possible, you’ll wind up at the online store that gets as much money as possible directly to the creators.

Out now:

Andrew Keeling, Musical Guide to In the Court of the Crimson King, 10/50 Edition: composer/musicologist/online diarist Keeling’s revision of his 2009 book (the first of a series acclaimed by King Crimson’s Robert Fripp).

Marillion with Friends from the Orchestra: 9 Marillion classics re-recorded by the full band, the string quartet In Praise of Folly, flautist Emma Halnan and French horn player Sam Morris.  Available on CD.

A Prog Rock Christmas: Billy Sherwood produces 11 holiday-themed tracks from the typical all-star cast (members of Yes, Utopia, Flying Colors, Renaissance, District 97, Curved Air and more).  Download and CD available now; LP available November 1.

 

October 25:

King Crimson, In the Court of the Crimson King (50th Anniversary Edition): featuring brand new stereo and surround mixes in 24/96 resolution by Steven Wilson.  Available in 3 CD + BluRay or  2 LP versions.  (Note that the new mixes will also be included in the Complete 1969  CD/DVD/BluRay box set, which has been delayed until 2020.)

Van Morrison, Three Chords and the Truth: 14 new songs from Van the Man, available in digital, CD or LP versions.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Colorado: the first Young/Horse collaboration since the 2012 albums Americana and Psychedelic Pill, available in CD or 2LP versions.

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In Concert: Steve Hackett At the Edge of Spectral Mornings’ Light …

It was great to see Steve Hackett return to Grand Rapids with his latest Genesis Revisited show.  It was also great to catch up with fellow Progarchist Bryan Morey again!  Brian’s review of the show is admirably thorough, so just a few points from my perch (20 Monroe Live’s left upper mezzanine, nicely depicted in the photo above):

Hackett has changed rhythm sections every time I’ve seen him: Lee Pomeroy and Gary O’Toole were on bass and drums in 2013; Nick Beggs and O’Toole in 2017; Jonas Reingold and Craig Blundell this time.  Reingold and Blundell gave the low end a slightly heftier vibe throughout the show, while being every bit as fleet and fluent as their predecessors.  I especially enjoyed how Reingold wielded a double-neck 12-string guitar/bass a la Mike Rutherford with both delicacy and devastating power on multiple songs.  And Blundell brought the thunder throughout the night; as I said to my wife afterwards, “believe it or not, that’s how Phil Collins played before he became a star.”

I enjoyed both halves of the show about equally — partially because, unlike so many Gabriel-era Genesis fans, I’ve never warmed to Selling England by the Pound.  Perhaps it’s because of the way I was exposed to Genesis’ music (starting with — horrors! — … And Then There Were Three … and working backwards), but I’ve always thought Selling England to be five-eighths killer and three-eighths filler (“More Fool Me”, parts of “The Battle of Epping Forest”, “After the Ordeal”, “Aisle of Plenty” — rather a lot, really).  Between The Musical Box’s 2018 tour and Hackett’s current show, I’ve heard two bands make an excellent case for the album, and I’m still not convinced; Trespass, Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, A Trick of the Tail and Wind and Wuthering all strike me as better Genesis records.

But my point of view isn’t germane here; Steve Hackett obviously loves all this music, so who am I to carp at his choices?  Ably supported by Reingold, Blundell, Rob Townsend (consistently taking courageous improvisational chances on sax and flute), Roger King (the bedrock of this band — understated yet wonderfully dexterous on the keyboards) and Nad Sylvan (a solid singer and an arresting stage presence throughout), Hackett was on top of the music all night, whether sticking to his guitar parts as written or stretching out in new directions, taking strong lead vocals or deftly harmonizing with the ensemble.  If you haven’t seen him, you should; if you have, he’s worth seeing again.  Either way, I’d argue he’s at the height of his powers — making some of the best music of his career with At the Edge of Light, and still enjoying the music that made his bones, both from Genesis and (in the well-considered highlights of Spectral Mornings) from his earlier days as a solo artist.

As Bryan mentioned, it was a rowdier audience than usual — he didn’t even get to see the, uh, interpretive dance that an audience member treated the mezzanine to on “Dance on A Volcano” and “Los Endos”.  (I’ve had to work hard to unsee it.)   Fortunately, I can put on At the Edge of Light, Spectral Mornings or Selling England, close my eyes, and hear Steve Hackett’s supple, soaring guitar work instead …

Steve Hackett’s current Genesis Revisited Tour plays North America through October, plays the UK in November — then returns to North America in March 2020!  Check out the tour dates here.

King Crimson: Celebrating 50 Years of Hot Dates in Concert

King Crimson, Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University, Chicago Illinois, September 10, 2019.  (Featured photo by King Crimson manager David Singleton.)

“Expectation is a prison.”  Robert Fripp says that a lot.

He said it again this past Tuesday in Chicago.  Specifically, to about sixty fans who had paid a lot of cash for a King Crimson pre-concert VIP package.  Even more specifically, to one particularly zealous fan, who nervously, repeatedly begged Fripp to reveal if “Cat Food” was on the evening’s setlist.

Fripp wasn’t biting.  Having already pivoted from reflections on music’s ability to change the world and the necessity for presence in the musical event (like an abbot exhorting his monastic chapter) to “wittering” on the disadvantage of playing guitar while seated (“pimples on my arse”, spoken with the endearing delivery of a bawdy rock-and-roll Mr. Magoo), his response was firm, but simple: when you don’t know what’s coming next, consider it a challenge to pay more attention.  And to be more present.  Then Fripp let us take his picture while he took ours; manager David Singleton teased another possible US tour next summer (he deliberately doesn’t look at the setlist); and bassist Tony Levin engaged in a much lighter Q&A session (but he wasn’t telling, either).

As blunt as Fripp frequently is, his admonition came in handy Tuesday night.  This is the third time I’ve seen the current version of King Crimson live, and the personal temptation to tune out in anticipation of repetition from previous years (even seated in the center of the sixth row) was surprisingly persistent.  Fortunately, Fripp and friends weren’t about to let the sold-out, 4000-strong audience off the hook; the evening swiftly turned into another hot date with one of the best working bands in the world.

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District 97, Screens

Impossibly sick drum groove by Jonathan Schang: check.  Heavy unison guitar/bass riff from Jim Tashijan and Tim Seisser: check.  “Yep, that’s District 97. Now where was I?”

But then new keyboardist Andrew Lawrence joins in, steering opener “Forest Fire” in a head-snapping direction with cool, jazzy chords.  Cue Leslie Hunt, riding a thrilling vocal line over a cascade of progressions and textures  — including off-kilter breakdowns from Lawrence and Schang.  By the time the track climaxes with a powerhouse unison lick (all in under five minutes), my head’s where it belongs — in the music.

Screens feels like a fresh start for District 97.  The Chicago quintet’s trademarks — Hunt’s lush tone and oblique, syncopated melodies, Tashijan and Seisser’s thick crunch and odd-time riffage, Schang’s lateral ideas and heady polyrhythms — are all present, correct and on point.  But to me, Lawrence is the secret ingredient that’s taken them to a new level, bringing a love of jazz fusion and a rich sense of harmony to the party.

This edition of the band isn’t afraid to take chances with the new tunes — leaving more space, leaning into dynamic contrast, unexpectedly launching skittery, Zappaesque flurries of noise.  Which enables shorter tracks like “Sea I Provide”, “Trigger” and “Blueprint” to cover lots of ground, and the extended efforts “Sheep”, “Bread & Yarn” and “Ghost Girl” to feel like genuine epics. Everybody contributes to the writing and all the players solo — which makes the overall sound more unified and more expansive at the same time.

And all this gives Leslie Hunt more room to run than ever.  It’s hard to think of a vocalist in progressive music with so many tools at her disposal: a gutsy, versatile sound and technique; deeply expressive emotional range; a fertile, eclectic imagination powering her melodies and lyrics.  On Screens, Hunt simultaneously sounds fully unleashed and fully integrated into the band.  Focusing on the lyrical theme of isolation (self-inflicted in “Sheep” and “Shapeshifter”, imposed by others in “Trigger” and “Ghost Girl”), she makes a meal of it: throughout the album, she reacts, resists, reflects, rages — and when she can, reaches out (especially in the poppy “Sea I Provide” and the gorgeous ballad “Blueprint”).   She’s something else.

For all their obvious love of the genre, talent and energy (I’ve been bowled over both times I’ve seen them play to hometown crowds), I’ve sometimes felt that District 97’s music had trouble standing out in a crowded field, especially when they’ve leaned into the metal.  Trouble with Machines and In Vaults are fine albums, but over the years they  blurred together in my ears.  Gratifyingly, Screens busts out into new territory, stretching D97’s sound and style in refreshing, exciting ways, and setting the table for continued growth.  This one’s a winner that’s worth your time and attention.

Screens is currently available as a signed advance CD from the band.  The digital version (released October 4) can be pre-ordered at Bandcamp.  The regular CD (released October 11 in the US) can be pre-ordered at Amazon.

d97

— Rick Krueger

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tool, Fear Inoculum

My history with Tool?  Checkered.  I didn’t tune in during their initial rage-metal period at all; if I had, I probably couldn’t have got past the vulgarity or the in-your-face attitude.  King Crimson opening for Tool (in my mind, Tool closing for King Crimson) got my attention in 2001, and I thought that Lateralus was a nifty hunk of knotty art-metal, with lyrical directions that began to clear a path through the bile.  10,000 Days?  For me, a loooong album that started strong, then meandered through one bizarre, tenuously connected detour after another.  It wound up giving me a headache (also my consistent reaction to The Mars Volta).  So no, Tool has typically not been my cup of tea.

Which is why I’m completely — and delightedly — flabbergasted by Fear Inoculum, Tool’s first album in 13 years.  Beyond being as heavy, brainy and cathartic as one might expect, this is deeply thoughtful, richly layered, compelling music — a satisfying, unified work from start to finish that also rocks like a truck full of bricks.  If this is what Danny Carey, Justin Chancellor, Adam Jones and Maynard James Keenan have been aiming for all these years, it’s been well worth the wait, because they’ve nailed it.

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Pink Floyd: The Later Years, 1987-2019

Be afraid, Pink Floyd fans — they’re coming for your bank balance!

After 2010’s reworking of their catalog (single-disc Discovery remasters, with Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall also released in multi-disc Experience and super-deluxe Immersion sets), followed by 2016’s massive Early Years set, the Floyd is preparing to unleash The Later Years: 1987-2019 this November 29th.  Focusing on albums and shows from after the split with Roger Waters, you may be surprised at what’s included — what’s not — and what it’ll set you back.  But that’s for after the jump …

Continue reading “Pink Floyd: The Later Years, 1987-2019”