Susie Bogdanowicz Live Today: 3PM EST

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Make sure you check out the live feed this afternoon with the ever amazing, incredibly-talented, and equally kind and personable Susie Bogdanowicz of Glass Hammer, this afternoon at 3pm EST.

The live feed will be available on Glass Hammer’s main Facebook page.  This should be the link (apologies if not!): https://www.facebook.com/glasshammerband/?fref=ts

Anyway, don’t pass up this chance to talk with the best voice in rock.

 

Kansas’ “The Prelude Implicit” is both agreeably familiar and remarkably fresh

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The members of Kansas, 2016 (Photo: www.kansasband.com)

The members of Kansas, 2016 (Photo: http://www.kansasband.com)

The title of the new Kansas album—“The Prelude Implicit”—is open to some interpretation, but the intent of the cover art, which features a phoenix, seems clear enough: regeneration and rebirth. The legendary band has long been known for non-stop touring, but the past few years have seen the sort of changes that either mark the end or a new beginning (and that is, I suppose, the likely implicit message of the album’s title). Like many other groups that achieved great commercial success in the 1970s, Kansas gone through several line-ups, as I cover in some detail in this 2013 review of a John Elefante album.

The members of Kansas, 2016 (Image: www.kansasband.com)

The members of Kansas, 2016 (Image: http://www.kansasband.com)

And there, of course, is the Big Rub, because when bands split and original members leave, fans are often faced with a dilemma: Is it Kansas really Kansas without Steve Walsh singing and playing keyboards, or Kerry Livgren playing guitar and keyboards, or Robby Steinhardt on violin and vocals? (Those who like to keep track of such things can find a good chronology here.) Livgren, of course, was key to the band’s distinctive, detailed, and orchestrated sound in the first decade, writing music that was at turns melodic (“Dust in the Wind”), anthemic (“Carry On My Wayward Son”), and esoteric (“Incomudro – Hymn to the Atman”, “Cheyenne Anthem”, etc), with lyrics that were loaded with references to spiritual turmoil, seeking, and wandering. And Walsh, the bad boy of the group, proved to be one of the finest vocalists of the era, with a pure, powerful tenor that was equally muscular and soulful (until the excesses of the oft-cited “rock lifestyle” began to eat away at it). Both facts come through clearly in the excellent documentary “Miracles Out of Nowhere”, which marked the band’s 40th anniversary and, it seems, marked a certain line of demarcation. “In truth,” I wrote in my review of the documentary,

some bands are far more interesting for what they did off the stage than for what they did on the stage. And then there are bands that really are, at the end of the day, all about the music, and it seems quite clear that Kansas is in the latter camp. It is rather striking how ordinary these six musicians appear to be, with only Walsh (who retired last year) giving occasional glimpses into a more prickly, difficult side. Ehart, whose warm humor and casual self-deprecating approach make him the star of the documentary, is keen to praise his bandmates, expressing obvious awe over Walsh’s vocal prowess and Livgren’s songwriting, saying that back in the day he didn’t think of Livgren as a musical genius, but perhaps only because they ate hamburgers together. And even Livgren, who nearly died in 2009 after suffering a stroke, seems genuinely surprised at the astounding run of classic songs he produced in those years, offering up thanks to God in a somewhat “Ah, shucks” sort of way.

Watching “Miracles Out of Nowhere” three times and listening to “The Prelude Implicit” some two dozen times now, I think that while the genius of Livgren and the distinctive abilities of Walsh are essential to the classic Kansas sound (the five first albums especially), we mustn’t overlook the duo that has proven to be the glue for Kansas for so long now: guitarist Richard Williams and drummer (and manager) Phil Ehart. I have long thought that Ehart, in particular, has never received proper recognition for his drumming, which is both virtuosic and musical—just listen, say, to “Song for America” and hear how he carries the entire tune and yet does so without drawing attention to his playing. In a word, his playing is “tasteful”. Ehart is the ultimate team player, and that quality comes through in the new album, on which he co-wrote nine of the 10 cuts. There is a certain Kansas-ish structure to songs—even ballads such as “The Unsung Heroes”—that shines through, and Ehart’s playing is essential to it. Continue reading

The Future of Riverside

From the Riverside Facebook page:

Dear Friends,

We’d like to thank you again for your friendship and support throughout this most tragic time for us and we’d like to officially announce that we have made a decision about our future.

We have decided that we are not going to do a casting for a new guitarist. Thus we have ceased to be a quartet and have become a trio. In this line-up we will prepare our new studio album. Both in the recording studio and on tour – if we get back to touring – we will be playing with session guitarists, who are our friends, whom we know and like. But the line-up of Riverside will be as shown in the picture.

Yes, we do realise that this is not going to be the same band. We know that for many of you the story of Riverside ends here, this year, and that “Eye of the Soundscape” might be the last Riverside album you’ll buy. We know that some of you can’t imagine this band without the characteristic guitar of Piotr Grudziński and for you Riverside has ceased to exist. But our story is not over yet; with a flaw, with a scar, with a wealth of new experiences, we have decided to go on.

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I Know What I Like: Fidelia and Marillion

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fear-marillion

Marillion Album No. 18, FEAR.

Well, it finally arrived.

At least officially.

At exactly 7:00 this evening, I received an email from PledgeMusic notifying me that the new Marillion album, FEAR, was ready for download.  Thanks to the very kind people at BWR PR (yes, Kim!), I’ve had a review copy for a bit.  And, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.  Unlike a number of my allies in the prog world, I actually prefer Hogarth-era Marillion to Fish-era Marillion, though I prefer either to most other music.

As to my Marillion street cred. . . I have friends who love the band more than I do, but not many.  I proudly own all studio albums (usually the special editions) and the live albums as well, and I even have Hogarth’s two diaries.  So, I guess I’m in kind of deep when it comes to my Marillion loyalty and devotion.  No corner shrine yet.  That is still reserved for St. Rose of Lima and St. Maximillian Kolbe.  St. Hogarth?   I’ve had the privilege of writing extensively about BRAVE, AFRAID OF SUNLIGHT, and MARBLES before, but I could definitely devote a bit more of my writing time to Marillion.

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