Pink Floyd?

Pink Floyd’s MOMENTARY LAPSE OF REASON turns 30 this year.  Like so much of “prog” (yes, I put this in quotes) of the 1980s, it’s still controversial.

The same thing happened to Genesis, of course.  Is ABACAB really a Genesis album?  Or, how about ELP?  Is EMERSON LAKE AND POWELL really an ELP album?  Or Yes?  Are 90125 or BIG GENERATOR really Yes albums?  Ok, I won’t drag this idea into the ground.  But, it’s fair to note, that the question regarding MOMENTARY LAPSE OF REASON is not unique.

At the time MOMENTARY LAPSE came out, I was living in Austria for my sophomore year of college.  My great friend, Liz Ehret (now Bardwell), was visiting an American Army base in West German and picked up a copy of it as well as copies of Rush’s HOLD YOUR FIRE and Yes’s BIG GENERATOR for me.  Of the three, the only one that floored me was HOLD YOUR FIRE.  Still, I very much liked MOMENTARY.

Continue reading “MOMENTARY LAPSE OF REASON at 30”

Bloody Dreams and Loveless Prog

LOVELESS, released November 4, 1991.

It’s rather hard for me not to feel a twinge of nostalgia as I think back a quarter of a century.  Through my great friends, Craig Breaden, Joel Haskard, and Kevin McCormick, I was discovering a world of neo-psychedelic pop.  Lush, organic, voluptuous.  The Sundays, Catherine Wheel, The Charlatans, House of Love, Mazzy Star, Jane’s Addiction, and the Cocteau Twins were in full (and fulsome!) form.  Phish, Smashing Pumpkins, and Lush were about to hit it big, though I really had no idea just how big they would hit.

Even old mainstays such as The Cure and XTC were releasing some of their best material at the same time.

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Album Review: @DaveKerzner — Paranoia EP and New World Live LP ★★★★★

Dave Kerzner continues to amaze. His new Paranoia EP starts off with two new tracks. Don’t underestimate these. The more you listen to them, the more they take hold of you. Dave is an underrated songwriter. This EP proves it. These first two tracks are incredibly finely crafted songs, but unlike most prog they do not draw your attention to that fact. Instead, they are subtle, and your appreciation of them will only grow. Absolutely stellar tracks, they leave me wanting more. I can’t wait for Dave’s next full album.

Also on the EP are two live tracks that are taken from the extended 2015 Deluxe Edition of New World. “Secret” was never a favorite of mine, but here in this live version the song is much enhanced. It works so much better live, and Dave even drops an F-bomb to liven up the saccharine Barry Manilow vibe that I always thought ruined the song. Well, I understand the track much better now. The sappy atmosphere is actually meant to be totally ironic. Listen to the lyrics, and you’ll get it. I now love this song. I guess it needed to be abstracted from the two-hours-plus version of New World in order for me to finally appreciate it. Well, I really love it now.

As for “Recurring Dream,” I always really, really liked the song. The way it starts is so cool, and the whole harmonious structure is so beautiful, graced with one of Dave’s very best melodies. I can understand why it seems to be being played as an encore here. Bravo! This is a rock solid EP, and a real gift to the fans.

Continue reading “Album Review: @DaveKerzner — Paranoia EP and New World Live LP ★★★★★”

Airbag’s DISCONNECTED: The Spirit of Mark Hollis and Rick Wright

Review of Airbag, DISCONNECTED (Karisma, 2016).  Tracks: Killer; Broken; Slave; Sleepwalker; Disconnected; Returned.

airbag disconnected
Airbag, DISCONNECTED (Karisma, 2016).
IDENTITY (2009).  It could be none-more-Talk Talk.


When Airbag first appeared on the prog scene with their extraordinary album, IDENTITY (2008-2009), they seemed a fascinating cross between Pink Floyd and Talk Talk, at least in their influences.  Or more accurately, perhaps, imagine Pink Floyd performing Talk Talk songs.  Even the cover of IDENTITY looked like something James Marsh would’ve painted.  The atmosphere the band created—at least in the studio—was nothing short of astounding.  Moody, driven, and meaningful.  One might be tempted to call their music prog shoe-gaze.

Their first and only (as far as I know) live release, LIVE IN OSLO, proved just how amazingly talented the four members of Airbag are.  After hearing them live, no one could dismiss them as a studio band merely.  As much as I liked IDENTITY, it was the 24 minutes of LIVE IN OSLO that utterly blew me away.  Upon my first listen to this short album, I knew this band was something special.

Continue reading “Airbag’s DISCONNECTED: The Spirit of Mark Hollis and Rick Wright”

Pink Floyd’s The Wall – The Best Ever?

I go back and forth between naming The Wall the best album ever, or Genesis’ Selling
England by the Pound
. They are both worthy of the title for different reasons. Selling England moves beyond the mere genre of rock and grounds itself in the western tradition. The Wall, though, tugs and pulls on our emotions while telling a timeless story. Does this make The Wall the better album?

Pink_Floyd_the_WallToday, I say it does. If you ask me tomorrow, I may tell you that Selling England by the Pound is the best ever. I’m annoying like that. The Wall has so much going on, and it all fits together so perfectly. In a way, it really is just one very long song, like Thick as a Brick. It tells a story beginning with Pink, a rock star, as a young man. It continues with his story as a rock star, living a life of debauchery and drugs, and it ends with his trial. Throughout the whole story, he gradually builds a wall around his emotions to protect himself from his pain.

We can’t all relate to having a crappy, oppressive childhood, but some can. We don’t all live like rock stars, surrounded by drugs and sex, but some do. We don’t all find ourselves standing before a judge after our wall has collapsed, but some do. We don’t all build a wall inside of us to hide from the rest of the world, but a lot of us do.

Even if we can’t relate to all or any of those things specifically, in some way, we either understand them or we have experienced something similar. That is the brilliance of The Wall. Every time we listen to it, it connects with us in some new and exciting way. Some days, we throw our fists in the air to “Another Brick in the Wall Pt.2” as a way of sticking it to the man. Other days, we close our eyes and sing along to “Comfortably Numb,” as we enjoy those fleeting moments of carefree protection within our walls.

From undertones of anti-progressive governments to emotional despair, this album has it all. Furthermore, what it means to me is likely much different than what it means to you, and it is probably different than what inspired Waters to write it in the first place (the death of his father and grandfather in the two World Wars).

That is why, today, I say The Wall is the best album ever made. It defies time and genre. It makes us ponder our own existence and whether or not we too are building emotional walls to protect ourselves. Were Pink Floyd the best musicians in the world? No, not by a longshot, but they managed to compose their music in such a way that it conveyed the emotions they were getting across in the lyrics. This album will persist long after we are gone, in part, because it connects with people at a deeper level than most music. That is why The Wall truly is the best.

Pink Floyd, 1965: Their First Recordings

Wow, I had no idea. Totally crazy that they didn’t make this more widely available. I am sure it is much better than The Endless River:

Two years before Pink Floyd’s 1967 debut Piper at the Gates of Dawn landed on record store shelves, the group – which still included guitarist Rado Klose – entered a recording studio and laid down their first recordings. The material sat in the vault for 50 years, but under Europe’s new “use it or lose it” law, the group was forced to release the material to extend the copyright. In turn, an historic recording by one of rock’s most esteemed groups was quietly released as a double seven-inch limited to 1,000 copies. Syd Barrett nuts were salivating at the chance to hear pristine versions of psychedelic tunes like “Lucy Leave” and “Remember Me,” while “Walk With Me Sydney” is one of the earliest-known tunes penned by Roger Waters. It’s a fascinating look at a band in their most embryonic stage. Who knows what amazing things they’ll be forced to release in the coming years?


Big band and jazz guitar take bold journey to “Dark Side of the Moon”

It is, as notes from the top, a “bold concept”: A big band and a jazz/fusion guitarist reinterpreting (“covering” isn’t it at all, not by a long shot) Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”—that modest little 1973 album that sold a bazillion copies and cemented Waters, Gilmour, and Co. as rock legends. The chances of such an audacious project going sideways, celebratingdarksideupside down, or simply “splat” are fairly high. Most Floyd purists, I suspect, would dismiss it immediately, and most jazz purists would be right behind them. (I hope I’m wrong, but I think that’s a fair guess.) That would be unfortunate, because “Celebrating the Dark Side of the Moon” is a stunning album, a splendid example of what can happen when exceptional jazz musicians take on exceptional rock/prog material with an equal measure of respect and experimental energy.

The album is the brain child of ACT-director Siggi Loch (ACT is a German label focused on contemporary jazz), and Stefan Gerdes and Axel Dürr, producers for the NDR Big Band; they enlisted legendary composer and arranger Michael Gibbs and the wildly eclectic, always surprising guitarist Nguyên Lê. The sleeve notes read, in part:

Nguyên Lê enlightens the Floyd’s repertoire – pure happiness – and enchants it with the collusion of the NDR Bigband and its brilliant soloists, deploying new sound-textures created by the uplifting orchestrations of Michael Gibbs. The arrangements here – Gibbs wrote three, Nguyên Lê wrote the others – provide choice settings for inspired improvisations and also reveal other compositions which appear as natural extensions of the original opus. The guitarist’s playing sparkles with those fiery, oriental accents we’ve learned to love, sustained by guests he can trust: Jürgen Attig, Gary Husband, or Youn Sun Nah, whose chalice is brimming with magnetic grace. “Celebrating The Dark Side Of The Moon” is no simple tribute to a record which made history. It fervently expresses the re-creation – exempt from all imitation – of a score which you can hear in filigree. This is a palimpsest. The writing can still be (re)read, with warm hues forged by respect for the original matrix and the multiple expressions of its identity. Like a principle of Life.

The playing throughout, no surprise, is top of the line; but what really jumps out is the muscular, bold, and detailed quality of the arrangements, as well as the propulsive fluidity of the solos and ensemble playing. Yes, you know you are hearing Pink Floyd songs, but you hear them in a new and invigorating way. Lê is especially dynamic; he plays the vocal parts in several songs, and his tone is as rich and expressive as any vocal, bringing out melodic qualities deep in the original material. Listen, for example, to “Money,” with the solo starting at the 1:00 mark:

The other stunner is South Korean singer Youn Sun Nah, whose solo work has always demonstrated a willingness to push—and sometimes simply flatten, by virtue of her power and precision—musical boundaries, moving from sweetness and light to primal, raging darkness at a moments notice (check out her rather harrowing version of “Enter Sandman”). Here she is singing “Breathe”:

The Telegraph gave the album a begrudging decent review, stating, “The remarkable thing is that eventually, the album persuaded me to forget the original. It does this very cleverly, by confirming and subverting our expectations at the same time.” Meanwhile, concludes its far more positive review by saying, “Nguyên Lê’s CTDSOTM is an ambitious, uplifting and frequently exhilarating project whose textural layers and conceptual riches are gradually revealed upon repeated listening. It should appeal to Floyd freaks, progressive big-band addicts and the musically curious alike.” I hope so!

Pink Floyd: The Endless River

[This is a review I wrote for the Hillsdale Collegian, my college’s newspaper. The website says somebody else wrote it (presumably whoever posted it to their website), but it was yours truly. This is part of my failing attempt to progify Hillsdale College.] 

It truly is the end of an era. This past November, Pink Floyd released their final studio album, “The Endless River.” Pink Floyd is one of the most iconic bands in rock history, and they are one of the greatest progressive rock bands ever. They have influenced countless budding musicians over the years, and many of their album covers are easily recog­nizable pieces of pop culture. To see such an important band release their final album is bittersweet. It is, however, a fitting farewell.

To read the rest of the review: