A Summer of Perfect Pairs

Submitted for your consideration: perfect pairs that have been engaging my two ears and two eyes for the past two months, recalled as a Michigan summer enters its last hurrah …

Three of A Perfect Pair: Live Albums

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I’m thrilled that Esoteric Recordings’ reissue series from British folk-proggers Renaissance now includes 1976’s Live at Carnegie Hall;  recorded over three sold-out nights at the legendary New York venue, this set has been a favorite since high school days.  It captures Renaissance’s essence: Annie Haslam’s clear soprano vocals soar over Michael Dunford’s spacious acoustic guitar, John Tout’s supple piano and keyboard work, Jon Camp’s agile bass and backing vocals and Terry Sullivan’s orchestral drumming.  Members of the New York Philharmonic join the band for most of the set, bringing out the delectable French and Russian flavors of extended classics like “Can You Understand”, “Running Hard” and the “Song of Scheherazade” suite.  A bonus disc of BBC session versions show that Renaissance could conjure up the same magic without the orchestra as well.  If you don’t know this worthwhile band’s music, Live at Carnegie Hall is a perfect introduction.

As is a pair of new live albums from the Norwegian trio Elephant9!  Recorded during an extended Oslo residency, Psychedelic Backfire I and Psychedelic Backfire II (the latter with Dungen guitarist Reine Fiske sitting in) are two sets of unremittingly scorching jazz-rock improvisation.  Organist/keyboardist Ståle Storløkken spins out one mesmerizing solo after another, whether by himself or trading licks with Fiske, while bassist Nikolai Hængsle and drummer Torstein Lofthus stoke relentless, hard-driving grooves.  Whether subjecting Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” to a Bitches Brew-era Miles-style breakdown or building unstoppable momentum on “Habanera Rocket”, the music captured here is endlessly inventive and thoroughly compelling.

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The Big 2019 Fall Prog (Plus) Preview!

What new music, live albums, reissues (regular, deluxe or super-deluxe) and tours are heading our way between now and All Hallows Eve?  Check out the exhaustive (and potentially exhausting) 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 musicians.

 

 

  • August:
    • Dave Kerzner, Static Live Extended Edition: recorded at the 2017 Progstock festival.  Kerzner’s complete Static album in concert, plus selected live highlights & new studio tracks.  Pre-orders ship in late August.
  • August 30:
    • Sons of Apollo, Live with the Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony: recorded at Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s Roman amphitheatre (the site of previous live efforts from Anathema and Devin Townsend).  Available in Blu-Ray, 3 CD + Blu-Ray, and 3 CD + DVD + Blu Ray versions.
    • Tool, Fear Inoculum: Tool’s first album in 13 years.  Available via digital download, as well as “a deluxe, limited-edition CD version (which) features a 4” HD rechargeable screen with exclusive video footage, charging cable, 2 watt speaker, a 36-page booklet and a digital download card.”  Really. 

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Bill Bruford on Creativity

I really was going to write about hearing Bill Bruford’s scintillating lecture “Give the Drummer Some: Distributed Creativity in Popular Music Performance” with a packed house at the University of Michigan’s School of Music.  But stuff happened.

As previewed here, two days after the Bruford lecture I traveled to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall with the Grand Rapids Symphony & Chorus.  (How’d it’d go? 15 seconds of singing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony on The Today Show, 2300 in attendance on the night with multiple standing ovations, and a solid review from the New York Timesso it was cool.)  This was followed, not just by the renewed demands of workday life, but also by ten days of the death flu (from which I’ve finally recovered).

With all this intervening, the best thing is for you to do is check out Dr. Bruford’s lecture, as delivered last year at Edinburgh Napier University.  My impressions and photos will follow the jump:

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“Close to the Edge” by YES (Second Spring 9)

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1972.

“The shape of it is perfect,” Bill Bruford once said of the title track of the 1972 Yes album, CLOSE TO THE EDGE.  It’s hard to dispute Bruford on this.  If Yes wrote a perfect track, it is certainly “Close to the Edge.”  Other songs might be more innovative, more melodic, more complex, or quirkier, but no other Yes song matches the intensity of “Close to the Edge.”

In his own recollections of writing the song, Jon Anderson claims to have been influenced by a dream, and the dreamlike imagery is rather strong.  He also believed it to be a comment on the various Christian churches all vying for superiority, with the song actually introducing a “majestic church organ” with a Moog, itself replaced once again by “another organ solo rejoicing in the fact that you can turn your back on churches and find within yourself to be your own church.”

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Bill Bruford Tours Again! (Academia, That Is.)

From Bill Bruford’s website:

Further dates have been added to Bill’s series of talks on creativity in music performance … The trip ends appropriately enough in Cleveland, OH, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for this recent inductee. Just to clarify: excepting the R&R HoF, these talks are gently academic in nature and not about Bill or his career per se. He will not be performing, but he is happy to autograph a book and one other item only, should that be requested.

Dates are as follows:

  • March 5th: 5.00-6.30 pm. Rhythmic Music Conservatory, Copenhagen, Denmark.
  • March 8th. 7.00-9.00 pm. Rockheim National Museum of Popular Music, Trondheim, Norway.
  • April 10th: 2.45 pm. University at Albany, NY (uptown campus), Performing Arts Center (PAC) B-78. Visitors should park at one of the two visitor lots. Free admission.
  • April 11th: 3.00 pm. SUNY Oneonta, Oneonta, NY. Fine Arts Center M201, Ravine Parkway, Oneonta. Free admission.
  • April 13th: 4.00 pm. Onondaga Community College, 4585, W Seneca Turnpike, Syracuse NY. Classroom (P110) in the Academic II building. Free admission.
  • April 16th: 4.00 pm. University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY. Baird Recital Hall. Free admission.
  • April 17th: 7.00 pm. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. Watkins Hall, School of Music, Theater & Dance. Free admission.
  • April 18th: 11.30 am. Kelvin & Eleanor Smith Foundation Ballroom C, Tinkham Veale University Center, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland OH. Free admission.
  • April 18th: 7.00 pm. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland OH. Admission $10.

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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!

Rick’s Retroarchy: Favorite 2017 Reissues

by Rick Krueger

I still have a few more albums to listen to before finalizing my favorite new releases of 2017.  To warm up, here are the reissues from this past year that:

  1. I absolutely had to buy, and
  2. That grabbed me on first listen (whether I’d previously owned a copy or not) and didn’t let go through repeated plays.  Except for my “top favorite” at the end of the post, I haven’t ranked ’em — in my opinion, they’re all equally worth your time.

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