Album Review: Magick Touch, “Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire”

We’re only halfway into the first month of the new year, and already a solid, superfun metal release is with us. On January 5, the awesome new album from Magick Touch was released: “Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire.”

I learned a hilarious new genre term from Angry Metal Guy’s review of the disc: “DAD METAL.”

LOL! If you are like me, then you’ll say: excellent, dude! Bring on the old school!

This album is pure undiluted fun, and it’s totally guaranteed to lift your spirits on any down day.

Check out the (for me) especially standout tracks: “The Great Escape” (video below, complete with chains), the AOR adrenaline-fused “Believe in Magick,” the slick metal odyssey “Siren Song,” and the magnificent “After the Fire” (which is perhaps my fave headbanger here).

Who says you can’t travel back in time? It’s worth the trip! Especially if you’re a time lord on a quest for the best “dad metal” currently available before the March release of the new Judas Priest album.

Prog fans will note the running time of the title track, which concludes the album: 6:18. Yeah, baby!

They Might Be Giants: “I Like Fun”

NPR has a preview of the new album coming January 19 from They Might Be Giants:

Flansburgh and Linnell wrap everything in radiantly bubbly power pop, and fuzz-guitar punk, and Beach Boys vocal-harmony flourishes. I Like Fun is a series of lugubrious songs about death, dismemberment and other unfortunate events dressed up for a Friday night joy ride. Of the several missing limbs discussed in these songs, the most disorienting comes just after the joyous Jackson 5-style guitar introduction to “Push Back The Hands:” “You would give your right arm to go back to when you had a right arm.”

Likewise, TMBG look at death from all sides. “I Left My Body” employs a sanguine, Kinks-ish tone to tell of a departure, and it all seems fairly conventional until the line about how “they’re gonna tow you if they think you’re abandoned.” It’s the parking authority as the essence of fear, even in death’s aftermath.

It’s the same vaguely absurd idea-juxtaposition that They Might Be Giants have always dished, just lifted into a loftier place — song-nerdism taken to rococo extremes. When you consider all the songs that these two people have written, it’s downright inspiring to hear them still out there trawling for those divine (and increasingly elusive) moments of pop bliss.

Dr. Bill Bruford’s Uncharted: Creativity and the Expert Drummer

How many of your favorite albums has Bill Bruford played on?

All those amazing early Yes albums (oh man, who can ever forget the way the drums come back in along with Rick Wakeman’s organ solo in “Roundabout”?), plus King Crimson albums like Red and Discipline (to name just two of my favorites), not to mention his insanely great solo work (I will always love “Fainting in Coils” — am I right, Kruekutt?) and, all considered, it is undeniable that if anyone ever deserved 100 honorary doctorates for contributions to progarchy, that man would be Bill Bruford.

But now he’s Dr. Bill Bruford, and he earned the doctorate himself. You can download and read his dissertation (thanks, Internet!) or buy it this year in print because it is being published by the University of Michigan Press.

Congratulations, Dr. Bruford! And welcome to Academy!

The Analog Kid

CBC reports that the CD is not dead yet, because records execs are trying to keep whole album sales alive by any means necessary:

CD sales were boosted this year by a trend that saw some concert tickets for big arena shows — including tours by Arcade Fire, Shania Twain and Pink — bundled with a copy of the band or artist’s latest album.

Many concertgoers were offered the choice between a digital download or a CD sent through the mail. Whether those CDs were ever unwrapped is anybody’s guess, but each ticket sale helped rocket those performers to the top of the album charts in their first week of sales.

Preliminary numbers from Nielsen Music Canada show that while CD sales fell 18 per cent over the past year, still selling roughly 10 million units, they were relatively strong compared to the more dramatic erosion of digital album sales through stores like iTunes.

Digital album sales tumbled nearly 25 per cent for the year to 6.2 million units, extending what is expected to be a steep downturn as more listeners embrace streaming services.

David Bakula, who oversees Nielsen’s industry insights operations, said the changes in digital habits mean the CD is representing a larger share of the declining album sales market.

He believes that writing the obituary for the CD is premature as labels look to bolster album sales however they can, while older listeners stick to their usual buying habits.

“We’re not seeing this flight from the format,” he added.

Walmart also dramatically scaled back its CD selection while fellow retail giant Best Buy recently scrubbed music from its stores entirely.

All of this certainly hasn’t boded well for boosting sales figures, but music historian Alan Cross is confident record labels will follow the dollar.

“If they can’t get people into the store to buy a CD, well then (they’ll) just send the CDs directly to them, whether they want it or not,” he said, pointing to expectations that the success of ticket bundles will only lead to other artists experimenting with the strategy.

“By nature a lot of music fans are collectors and that means they need a physical thing to collect.”

It’s possible an established act like Bruce Springsteen or the Rolling Stones could try to up the ante by pairing scarce concert seats with an exclusive CD box set.

Best Albums of 2017

prog-rock-metal

Hello! Christmas greetings from Canada!

As the above diagram illustrates, some bands hit all the sweet spots.

But however you classify it, great music is just great music, wherever it lands.

TOP 10 (PROG) ALBUMS of 2017

TOP 10 METAL ALBUMS of 2017

TOP 10 ROCK ALBUMS of 2017

Thank you to all my fellow Progarchists for sharing so much great music this year.

Keep calm and prog on!

Or, as BBT would also say, “Merry Christmas!

I can’t wait to hear what 2018 has waiting for us.

Top 10 Rock Albums of 2017

As promised, in addition to my TOP 10 PROG and TOP 10 METAL lists for 2017, here are my TOP TEN ROCK ALBUMS of 2017. I say “rock” but really this is the list where I include everything that is not so easily divvied up onto either my metal list or my prog list. So I guess it’s really ROCK/POP/OTHER, but that doesn’t sound as good in the title. In any case, I am sticking to the usual constraint of ten, but of course (as usual) I also abandon the metric system to make the list into an expanded imperial dozen:

Hobosexual Monolith is heavy and hilarious retro rock, so good that you will want to own it in its delicious gatefold LP edition. The lyrics will have you laughing at all the references, especially in wild songs like “VHS or Sharon Stone.”

U2 Songs of Experience is an unexpected delight, being the best album they have released in eons. It incorporates all the best elements of each of their past musical periods. I have been with these guys since Boy and October, so my opinion carries credibility. Believe me, it’s so good it takes you back to those happy memories from the early days, when you heard something truly fresh and unique and infectious.

Weezer Pacific Daydream starts off with the archetypal Weezer sound on “Mexican Fender” (a killer single) but then suddenly morphs, around about track five, into an album that mines the sounds of the 1950s and 1960s for the rest of the disc. Unexpectedly, it works. Kudos to Weezer for not playing it safe, and for taking musical risks.

Continue reading “Top 10 Rock Albums of 2017”