When Joyce Carol Vincent died in December 2003, no one noticed for over two years.
Was she a lonely old lady nobody knew? Not even close. She was an attractive young woman with friends and family. And slowly but surely, she simply melted away in the anonymity of the city (London, in this case).
Steven Wilson, a musician I like very much (and who has worked closely with Tom Woods Show guests Ian Anderson and Steve Hogarth), was struck by her, and based his 2015 release Hand. Cannot. Erase. loosely around her life.
When I first listened to it, I didn’t like it at all. I didn’t think there was anything there.
Was I ever wrong.
I can’t stop listening to it now. It’s beautiful, brilliant, and emotionally captivating. I’m listening to it as I write this.
The character in Wilson’s story makes the deliberate decision to disappear from society by moving to London. Sounds strange: you’re going to move to a big city to disappear? But as Wilson notes, the strategy makes sense. You could never accomplish this in a small town, where everyone knows you and someone would check in on you.
On the other hand, with masses of people all around, you can simply…disappear.
If you’re intrigued, grab yourself a copy.
Be warned: you’ll need to devote some time to this. These aren’t pop songs you hear on the radio. At first you just won’t see it — well, if you’re like me, anyway. But suddenly you’ll become aware of the beautiful melodies, the evocative turns of phrase, the emotional intensity, all of it.
In the past I’ve given out free CDs of music I like. As a surprise, I told my supporting listeners they could have an album of Tom-approved music if they just asked for it. I sent a $20 double album out last year.
Wilson’s album is selling for just under $10 on Amazon as an mp3 download. If you’re a Tom Woods Show supporting listener at the Silver, Gold, or Platinum levels, just use my contact form to send me your mailing address if you’d like one.
This offer expires March 15, 2016.
If you become a supporting listener at one of those levels between now and then, you’re eligible, too. Just send me your address.
The way forward:
best of 2015, Dave Kerzner, Failure, Gazpacho, Glass Hammer, Jethro Tull, john mitchell, Kevin Keller, La Strada, Lonely Robot, Love Fear and the Time Machine, Minstrel in the Gallery, Neal Morse Band, new world, Night of the Demon, Please Come Home, Riverside, The Breaking of the World, The Grand Experiment, The Heart Is A Monster
2015 continued the trend of the past few years of providing tremendous offerings for lovers of prog.
For starters, Best Reissue:
The number of exciting and revelatory reissues of prog classics is growing at an exponential rate. The best one of 2015 is La Grande Edition of Jethro Tull’s Minstrel In The Gallery. Ian Anderson was at his peak, songwriting-wise, at this point in his career, and this lavish set (including a new 5.1 surround mix) does one of the band’s best albums true justice.
And now for some new music:
A great Seattle band of the ‘90s that never received the acclaim it was due. They have reunited 20 years later. They are all older and much wiser, and it shows in their music. It’s still tough, melodic, and full of energy, while exhibiting a confidence and ease that is very gratifying.
A very nice live set that provides a good sample of Gazpacho’s output. The band is incredibly tight while performing some demanding pieces. This is an excellent introduction to a band whose music is often enigmatic.
Technically, this is a 2014 release, but the expanded double album came out this year, so I’m including it in this list. Strong Pink Floyd/Genesis influences which Kerzner uses to springboard into new territory. This is a concept album with an intriguing storyline – a stranded astronaut has to make it back to civilization on a planet. This is the most “classically prog” rock I’ve heard in a long time, and it’s tremendously appealing.
Kevin Keller is a classical pianist and composer who loves Rush in general and Neil Peart in particular. His compositions are melodic yet challenging, and his production values are top-notch. His latest album is the perfect accompaniment to a relaxed Sunday afternoon.
Before 2015, I knew nothing of John Mitchell; this year I immersed myself in his work, listening to Frost*, It Bites, and above all his solo project Lonely Robot. This is prog with a pop orientation that never disappoints. He is an incredibly talented guitarist and vocalist, and I hope this is the first of many Lonely Robot albums.
3. Glass Hammer: The Breaking Of The World
Wow. Ode To Echo was an amazing album, and “The Breaking Of The World” tops it. Carl Groves is the best vocalist they’ve ever had, and he’s no slouch in the lyrics department. His voice works perfectly with Susie Bogdanowicz, as you can experience on their other fine release of 2015, “Double Live”. On this album, the band is fire, powered by Steve Babb’s endlessly inventive bass and Fred Schendel’s keyboards.
Neal Morse continues his streak as one of the most prolific artists in prog, and this time he offers up a true group effort, with all the band members sharing songwriting credit. “New Jerusalem” may be the best short-form song he’s ever been involved in, while “Alive Again” ranks up there with his finest epics. The band tore down the house when they performed these songs live; here’s hoping this is more than a one-time experiment.
For their sixth full-length album, Riverside has tightened up their sound to deliver their best set of songs ever. Mariusz Duda marries the ambience of his Lunatic Soul project to a definite ‘80s sound – Discard Your Fear would be right at home on a Tears For Fears album, while Duda’s bass work has Peter Hook’s influence all over it – and the result is the most beautiful album I’ve heard in years. I listen to it two or three times in a row, I put it aside for a while, and I bring it back out. I have yet to tire of it. Be sure to read Erik Heter’s excellent and illuminating interview of Duda.
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.