New and Noteworthy on Bandcamp!

Nearly six months into the worldwide coronavirus epidemic, Bandcamp continues to be a lifeline for musicians.  Since March, fans have purchased more than $75 million worth of music and merchandise there  — including more than $20 million from four Bandcamp Fridays, when the website has waived its fees for artists and labels.  Last week, the announcement was made that Bandcamp Fridays will continue for the rest of 2020.

So (as your pocketbook permits), what’s worth your hard-earned cash on August 7, September 4, October 2, November 6, or December 4?  From my Bandcamp collection and wishlist, a few suggestions:

iatmw things unseenI Am the Manic Whale, Things Unseen:  I’m blown away by the energy, humor and sheer delight these young British proggers bring to their story-songs; this third album could be their best yet, with crystal clear production by Rob Aubrey.  There’s wickedly cheery satire in “Billionaire” and “Celebrity”, an atmospheric trip to Narnia in “The Deplorable Word” and unbounded joy at the gift of children in “Smile” and “Halcyon Days”.  Not to mention IAtMW’s very own train song, “Valenta Scream”, challenging Big Big Train with (in my opinion) the best lyrical simile of 2020: “Making it look so very easy/Eating up the distance like a cheese sandwich.”  Really.

 

mcstine minnemannMcStine and Minnemann: left-field, shreddy art-pop to get your adrenalin flowing. Randy McStine (guitars, vocals, other stuff) and Marco Minnemann (drums, vocals, other stuff) prove steady hands on the steering wheel for wild rides like “Your Offenses” and “Activate”, as well as the stark ballad “The Closer”.  Sure, the songs are short; they’re also stuffed to the gills with ethereal melodies and harmonies, woozily evocative lyrics, ear-grabbing riffs, impossible  drum fills, freaky collages of sound and radical mood shifts.  Don’t expect to focus on anything else while you’re listening to this — just hold on tight and have fun.

 

sancious eyes wide openDavid Sancious, Eyes Wide Open:  a charter member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, Sancious led the critically acclaimed trio Tone before tackling wingman duties for Peter Gabriel and Sting.  The focus of Eyes Wide Open (finished before lockdowns and protests swallowed news feeds whole) on today’s cultural unrest proves eerily prescient; the vocal tracks “Urban Psalm #3” and “If” and the instrumental “War in Heaven” are ambitious statements on universal human dignity that can lay claim to the moody, magnificent heights of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On.  Sancious sings on half the tracks and plays burning guitar and keys throughout, fusing jazz, rock and gospel into winning combinations, atop unbelievably funky drumming by Vinnie Colaiuta, Will Calhoun (Living Colour) and Michael Bland (Prince).  

 

spiraling transmitterSpiraling, Transmitter:  Back in the early 2000s, Tom Brislin (now tearing up the keys in Kansas) led this obscure, wonderful power-pop band in between side gigs with Meat Loaf, Yes and Camel.   On this re-release from 2002, Brislin’s sardonic, appealing vocal delivery perfectly matches the bone-dry wit of “The Girl on Top (Of the Piano)”, “The L Word III” and “(Get Your Own) Holy Grail”.  And the music is built to match: irresistible hooks, propulsive rhythms and riffs that take unexpected detours, every sonic crevice crammed full of nifty synth riffs, effects and solos.  This is unbelievably catchy, unbelievably sharp stuff.   (Check out Brislin’s new, punky public service announcement too!)

 

tmt still aliveTiger Moth Tales, Still Alive/A Visit to Rockfield:  This isn’t the Tiger Moth Tales album Peter Jones planned to release this year — but it’s definitely one that fits the moment.  His gift for melody and innate hopefulness gives these six new tracks (well, five plus a reprise) an effervescence and a glow that can warm the coldest heart.  There’s a beautiful, broad range of expression here, from the optimistic fortitude of the title track and the epic sweep of “The Mighty Fallen” to the rhythm box-laden goofiness of “Whistle Along.”   The bonus DVD features Jones and TMT in session at the legendary Rockfield Studios.  Enjoy this love letter to the world from deepest Nottinghamshire.

 

soft machine baked potatoMoonJune Records: Soft Machine’s Live at the Baked Potato is the latest release from global impresario Leonardo Pavkovic.  On this beauty, the Softs’ explorations are every bit as daring and delectable as when I heard them live in 2018.  Plus, there are plenty of other face-melting instrumental jazz/rock/avant/ethno albums coming soon from Stick Men, touch guitarist Markus Reuter, guitarist Mark Wingfield and a host of other international talents!  Watch for more news at the MoonJune Bandcamp page, or do what I did; subscribe and get everything MoonJune releases for a year!

 

— Rick Krueger

In Concert: Progtoberfest 4, Part 2

As I exited the CTA Green Line on a crisp, clear Chicago Sunday, Reggie’s Rock Club and Music Joint beckoned with the promise of Progtoberfest’s final day: twelve hours of sixteen bands on two stages. Constantly unfolding delight or endless endurance test? Only one way to find out.

(Notes for after the jump: links are provided to bands’ online presence — website, Facebook or Bandcamp pages — wherever possible.  An asterisk [*] by a band’s name means I bought one or more of their CDs at the event; A cross [+] means the band didn’t have CDs for sale — but their music is now on my want list.  Here we go …)

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Continue reading “In Concert: Progtoberfest 4, Part 2”

Soft Machine: Hidden Details

From its formation in the heady days of the 1960s to its final dissolution about 15 years later, Soft Machine rarely stayed in one place for long.  The British band’s journey through technicolor psychedelia, meaty jazz-rock and idiosyncratic jazz fusion (equal parts Mahavishnu Orchestra, Terry Riley and Jimmy Webb) took shape on the fly, in a blur of live gigs and album sessions — along with multiple personnel changes following founding drummer Robert Wyatt’s departure.  At the end, changes came so fast that the final album of the original discography, 1981’s Land of Cockayne, was Soft Machine in name only — effectively the first solo effort by composer/keyboardist Karl Jenkins, foreshadowing his eventual emergence as a classical crossover star (and a knight of the British Empire).

But starting in 2002, the persistence, dedication and improvisational spirit of MoonJune Records impresario Leonardo Pavkovic accomplished the extraordinary — bringing together Soft Machine alumni from across multiple incarnations, first as Soft Works, then in a long-running series of tours and albums as Soft Machine Legacy.  2015 brought about the resumption of the original band name, with the group consisting of 1970s Softs John Etheridge (guitar), Roy Babbington (bass) and John Marshall (drums), joined since 2006 by prolific saxist/flutist/keyboardist Theo Travis.  Hidden Details is their sterling new album, released to coincide with a worldwide 50th anniversary tour.  It’s an impressive addition to the Soft Machine canon; there’s fresh, exploratory depth throughout, coupled with the immediate appeal of fine players enjoying both each other’s company and the exquisite music they’re making.

soft machine band shot

The tracks on Hidden Details span a broad range of genre and style: there’s driving slowburn riff rock (Travis’ title track), thick chunky funk (Etheridge’s “One Glove”), even a sprightly pop groove with a psychedelic lilt (Travis’ “Fourteen Hour Dream,” complete with 1968 title reference).  True to previous Legacy efforts, the band revisits vintage Softs classics, too; Mike Ratledge’s “Out-Bloody-Rageous” from Third features exuberant soloing by Travis, one-man horn section licks from Etheridge and plenty of steam in the engine room courtesy of Babbington and Marshall.  Also present and correct: Ratledge’s “The Man Who Waved at Trains” from Bundles, updating original elements like Babbington’s hypnotic, cyclical bass and Travis’ reimagined take on Ratledge’s electric piano ‘cosmic tinkles’.

Even more exciting than the great tunes is the way the band works together throughout this album; tight but loose, the Softs listen to and play off each other in unexpected, delightful ways.  Travis is equally at ease trading thick piano stabs with snarling Etheridge guitar on “Broken Hill,” saxing it up over a stutterstep Babbington riff during “Ground Lift,” and weaving flute-based loops punctuated by Marshall for the closing duet “Breathe.”  Etheridge runs a gamut of sounds and styles as well, from the lyrical semi-acoustic arpeggios on “Heart Off Guard” and “Drifting White” to the full-on electrified power of “Flight of the Jett” and “Hidden Details” (complemented by Babbington’s nods to Hugh Hopper’s ground-shaking fuzz bass). And when the quartet builds music from silence — joining in one at a time on “Ground Lift” or engaging each other simultaneously on the epic free blow “Life on Bridges” — the results are extraordinary.

So the 2018 incarnation of Soft Machine has nothing to prove; for all with ears to hear, they bring their experience, confidence and musicality to bear on Hidden Details, and the results really are superb.  It’s a winning album, great material for these Softs to bring to North American and British audiences this fall — in the US, for the first time in more than forty years!  Check out the new album on Bandcamp for yourself, and don’t hesitate to catch them live.

— Rick Krueger

 

 

Soft Machine: The Jazz-Rock Years

Continuing the saga of Soft Machine, who’ve already kicked off a 50th anniversary world tour (coming to North America this fall), and whose new album Hidden Details can be ordered at Bandcamp.  Click here for Part One of this series, covering the band’s psychedelic years of 1966-69.

When last we left our heroes, quoting their website,

The base trio [of Mike Ratledge on organ, Hugh Hopper on bass and Robert Wyatt on drums and vocals] was, later in 1969, expanded to a septet with the addition of four horn players, though only saxophonist Elton Dean remained beyond a few months …

Cuneiform’s archive release Noisette reveals Soft Machine shaping a new sound onstage.  Recorded live at Croydon in January 1970, this quintet set is dominated by Dean’s and saxophonist/flutist Lyn Dobson’s uninhibited blowing.  The psychedelic song suites have nearly vanished; Wyatt only sings on “Hibou, Anemone and Bear,” where he’s given a completely solo moment, and material from the first two albums is exiled to the end of the show.

With Dobson out, the remaining quartet pulled together live recordings, studio inserts and tape experimentation to produce the four suites (one per side) on 1970’s double album Third — their first for Columbia Records.   Hopper’s “Facelift” and Ratledge’s “Out-Bloody-Rageous” sandwich upbeat jazz workouts (asymmetric rhythms, harmonized sax sections, fired-up, skittery solos from Ratledge, Dean and guests) between Wyatt-less intros and codas — avant-garde improvs, classical fanfares, minimalist cycling keyboard riffs.  Wyatt’s vulnerable, stream of consciousness epic “Moon in June” was the only vocal piece — and he played most of it (drums and keys) himself, with Ratledge and Hopper tacked on for the playout.  Ratledge’s “Slightly All the Time” is the most integrated piece here, with the core group and guests swinging over appealing grooves and ratcheting up the excitement via Ratledge and Dean’s solo work.

Rough-edged it may have been, but Third was perfectly timed; with Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew pulling jazz toward rock, Soft Machine was heading for the same destination from the opposite direction.  The album gained attention, kudos and sales across Europe and the US, and the Softs became the first band to play at the Royal Albert Hall’s classical Promenade Concerts.

Continue reading “Soft Machine: The Jazz-Rock Years”

Soft Machine: The Psychedelic Years

The seminal British collective Soft Machine were many things in their history — psychedelic pioneers, proto-progressive rockers, avant-garde explorers, always bobbing and weaving in the borderlands between jazz and rock.  One thing they were not was stable; by biographer Graham Bennett’s reckoning, the Softs had 24 separate line-ups during their original run of 1966-1984!  As the band’s current incarnation embarks on a 50th anniversary world tour and releases the new Hidden Details album, I’m listening to their studio catalog along with selected live recordings, tracing the long, strange road they’ve traveled from then to now.

Per the band’s new website,

Soft Machine were formed in mid-1966 by Robert Wyatt (drums, vocals), Kevin Ayers (bass, guitar, vocals), Daevid Allen (guitar) and Mike Ratledge (organ) …

This first Soft Machine line-up became involved in the early UK underground, featuring prominently at the UFO Club, and subsequently other London clubs like the Speakeasy Club and Middle Earth. .. They also played in the Netherlands, Germany and on the French Riviera.  … Upon their return from their sojourn in France, Allen (an Australian) was denied re-entry to the United Kingdom, so the group continued as a trio, while he returned to Paris to form Gong.

The archival recording Middle Earth Mastersone of a fine series from Washington DC’s Cuneiform Records, captures the remaining trio a month after Allen’s departure.  Easing in with relatively conventional (though absurdist) pop tunes like “Clarence in Wonderland” by Ayers, the Softs quickly slip the reins.  Wyatt repetitively chews on the words of “Hope for Happiness” like they’re an Indian raga, the trio kicks into a high-energy riff — and Ratledge takes off.  With his Lowrey organ run through a fuzzbox and a Marshall stack, he bashes out speedy pyrotechnics, grinding harmony pads, and distorted pitch-bent chords; underneath him, Ayers and Wyatt slip and slide from sparse grooves through splattery swing to bludgeoning stop time.  Ratledge’s solo “Disorganization” is even wilder, a tornado of phenomenal technique, overdriven amplification, and rhythmic attack echoing free-jazz pianist Cecil Taylor.  Then the Softs slam into another extended medley, kicked off by the goofy, minimalist “We Did It Again” (four words, one riff, six minutes), climaxing with a clattering drum solo and feedback all around before Wyatt winds down with a hushed falsetto benediction.  Cliche though it might be by now,  in 1967 sets like this were a serious trip.

Sharing management with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Softs gained a support slot on that band’s 1968 North American tour.  Between tour legs, they piggybacked on studio time for Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland to record an album for ABC/Probe, with Tom Wilson (Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, The Velvet Underground) producing.  While the record sat in the can, lots happened: Andy Summers (yeah, the future Police guitarist) joined, only to be summarily fired at Ayers’ insistence; then Ayers himself quit after another US tour, feeling the Softs were heading towards playing (shudder) jazz. Wyatt remained in the States, Ratledge returned to England, and the band seemed finished — the perfect moment for ABC/Probe to release the first album!

Continue reading “Soft Machine: The Psychedelic Years”

2018: Reasons to Be Cheerful …

… If you’re a prog fan, that is.  Some of what’s in the forecast for the rest of the year:

3.2, The Rules Have Changed Robert Berry’s one-man tribute to and posthumous collaboration with Keith Emerson; released August 10.  Details and a teaser track here.

Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin, Star Clocks.  I’ll be writing more about Stewart & Gaskin’s music soon; suffice to say it’s some of the best intellipop you’ve probably never heard.  (With Gavin Harrison on drums, no less.) The new album is out August 17; pre-order it and investigate their back catalog at Burning Shed.

The Pineapple Thief, Dissolution.  Bruce Soord and the TPT crew are joined by Gavin Harrison — him again! — as drummer and co-writer.  Released August 31. Details and a teaser track here; check out Sonic Perspectives’ interview with Soord (which hints at a possible 2019 US mini-tour) here.

Soft Machine, Hidden Details.  The pioneer psych/prog/jazz-rock collective is back for a 50th anniversary world tour — and they’re bringing a new album with them!  Three members from the 1970s versions of the band plus sax/flute progger Theo Travis (Robert Fripp, Steven Wilson, David Gilmour) tackle new compositions and a couple of vintage classics.  Released September 9; watch for a Soft Machine retrospective series from me during the run-up. Tour info herepre-order options for the album and a sample track here;

Yes featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin & Rick Wakeman, Live at the Apollo.  The “unofficial” version of the band (albeit one with two “classic era” members plus the musical mastermind of 90125) weighs in for the band’s 50th anniversary year.  Released September 9 in various audio and video formats; details and a teaser here. 

Coming soon from In Continuum: the debut album by Dave Kerzner’s new supergroup, with contributions from: vocalist Gabriel Agudo (Steve Rothery Band / Bad Dreams); guitarists Fernando Perdomo (Dave Kerzner Band), Matt Dorsey (Sound of Contact) Randy McStine (Sound of Contact, The Fringe) and John Wesley (Porcupine Tree); drummers Marco Minnemann (Steven Wilson, The Aristocrats), Nick D’Virgilio (Big Big Train, Spock’s Beard) and Derek Cintron; and special guests singer Jon Davison (Yes) and guitarist Steve Rothery.  Release date TBA; more info here. 

Coming soon from King Crimson: Based on the liner notes in Crimson’s 2018 Tourbox, we can anticipate: a reissue/revamp of the band’s 2001 album, The ReConstruKction of Light; a related, more exhaustive box focusing on the era of the ProjeKcts and the Double Duo Crimson, Heaven and Earth; and a fresh concert set from the current Crims, Live in Mexico. Release dates TBA.  Meanwhile there have been rumblings from Robert Fripp ruling out Europe for Crimson’s 50th anniversary tour in 2019.  Does that rule in the USA?  Stay tuned …

Coming soon from Marillion: deluxe edition of Clutching at Straws (release date TBA); mass market reissues of the Racket Records live sets Happiness is Cologne, Popular Music (U.S. release in September), Live in Glasgow and Brave Live (U.S. release in November).  Clutching rumors to be found in the Lucy’s Friday Questions group on Facebook; live reissue info is here and here.

Coming soon from Steven Wilson: Home Invasion Live at the Royal Albert Hall, with guest appearances by Richard Barbieri (Porcupine Tree), Mark Feltham (Talk Talk), Dave Kilminster and Ninet Tayeb.  (Oh, and a Bollywood dance company).  Release info for the video TBA;  details here.

Bonus round from the Pink Floyd camp: Nick Mason expects to tour the USA next year with his new band Saucerful of Secrets.  The group’s set of early Pink Floyd classics (from the albums Piper at the Gates of Dawn through Obscured By Clouds) went down a storm in London earlier this summer; they embark on a European tour in September.  More info on the band and Mason’s box set reissuing his solo albums here.

— Rick Krueger

Travis & Fripp Appdate

From Discipline Global Mobile:

Three new [IPhone/IPad] apps featuring Theo Travis & Robert Fripp go on sale today.

Each app features a different selection of performances by Travis and Fripp, contrasting in mood and key. This trilogy recreates the unpredictable dynamics of live performance, creating a new experience on each listen.

The three apps utilise a wide selection of performances by the pair ingeniously designed to work together in infinite permutations. Both Travis and Fripp have recorded brand new music for the apps in the studio in 2018, but these performances blend and combine with others gathered from live multi-tracks from the albums: Live at Coventry Cathedral, Thread, Discretion and Between the Silence (2018 3CD) and also concert recordings from Malaga, Madrid, Newlyn, Rome, Broad Chalke and the Bath Festival.

Developed by [Burning Shed founder] Peter Chilvers, who has previously collaborated with Brian Eno on the apps Bloom, Trope and Reflection, each recombines a selection of performances painstaking assembled by Travis from multi-track recordings from over a decade of collaboration, enabling old performances to mix with new, studio recordings to mix with live, and exclusive unreleased material to play with familiar performances.

The apps present a unique type of performance of musical texture and space, the building of long slow melodies, and the creation of slowly shifting harmonic soundscapes. Once the apps are started they will play continuously allowing endless performances by this remarkable duo.

As DGM head honcho David Singleton says in his latest diary entry:

[The apps feature] improvisations and multiple layers that will randomize in glorious ways to create a unique performance every time you listen.

Anyone who has been reading my diaries will know that I am something of a “broken record” in my passion to liberate music from the single “frozen recording” into something more fresh and exciting. Not computer-generated music, which holds limited appeal for me, but recordings no longer frozen into a single artefact …

This is not for everyone, or for all music … I am a huge fan of the well-made recording. But just imagine if you did not have to choose between a number of different, but equally good, guitar solos. Or vocal takes. Or drum parts. They could be subtly combined so that you captured an extended present moment. Perhaps think animated GIF, not a full movie. Here’s to dreaming! In the meantime, anyone listening to the Travis & Fripp Apps will be hearing something that no-one has heard before or will ever hear again.

Not unlike a King Crimson concert …

Having been a stone fan of Robert Fripp’s ambient efforts since I attended a 1979 Frippertronics performance at Detroit’s Peaches Records, I give all three of these apps my heartiest recommendation.  Firing them all up today provided a marvelous musical experience while going about my daily business, reading, writing a blog post — or just relaxing and letting two master players do their thing in ways even they didn’t anticipate at the time …

— Rick Krueger

Soft Machine Returns!

News from Theo Travis, sax-man to prog giants like Steven Wilson, Robert Fripp and David Gilmour:

In September 2018, Soft Machine release their new studio album ‘Hidden Details’. This is the first Soft Machine album (as opposed to Soft Machine Legacy album) in 37 years – since ‘In the Land of Cockayne’. It features John Etheridge (guitar) Roy Babbington (bass) and John Marshall (drums) alongside Theo on Tenor and Soprano saxes, flute and alto flute and Fender Rhodes electric piano.

Theo has written four tunes for the album and there are arrangements of two classic Soft Machine tracks – Out Bloody Rageous (from Third) and The Man who Waved at Trains (from Bundles) . There are also various group improvisations. The music is broad ranging from psychedelia to jazz rock to free form improv’ to simple pop-ish tunes to hypnotic mood pieces …

With the release of the album the band featuring John Etheridge, Theo Travis, Roy Babbington and John Marshall will go on a Soft Machine 50 Years World Tour celebrating 50 years since the first Soft Machine album.

The various vinyl & CD editions of ‘Hidden Details’ are spelled out in Theo’s post; Sid Smith (author of the definitive King Crimson biography) has mentioned that he’s written the liner notes on his Facebook page.   Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if a download version of the album will show up at Soft Machine’s Bandcamp site.

North American tour dates (the band’s first since 1974, when founding organist Mike Ratledge, guitarist Allan Holdsworth and Adiemus guru Karl Jenkins were in the group) will include:

  • Saturday 06 October: Orion Studios, Baltimore MD
  • Sunday 07 October: Theater of the Living Arts, Philadelphia, PA
  • Tuesday 09 October: Roxy & Duke’s Rockabilly Roadhouse, Dunellen, NJ
  • Wednesday 10 October: Daryl’s House, Pawling, NY
  • Friday-Sunday 12-14 October: Iridium, New York, NY (3 shows)
  • Tuesday 16 October: Mod Club Theatre, Toronto, ON, Canada
  • Wednesday 17 October: The Tralf, Buffalo, NY
  • Thursday 18 October: Beachland Ballroom and Tavern, Cleveland, OH
  • Sunday 21 October: Progtoberfest, Reggie’s Rock Club, Chicago, IL
  • Monday 22 October: Shank Hall, Milwaukee, WI
  • Tuesday 23 October: The Turf, St. Paul, MN

Since I’m hoping to see the band at Progtoberfest, I’ve been listening to the Softs’ original recordings recently, and am primed to dive into the Soft Machine Legacy albums of the 21st century.  Watch this space for some serious Retroarchy coming soon …

— Rick Krueger

 

1969: A Blast from the Past

“Well it’s 1969 OK all across the USA
It’s another year for me and you
                                      Another year with nothing to do”  — 1969, The Stooges

I was 7 going on 8 in 1969.  But my brother was ten years older — and Detroit was a prime location to explore rock as it turned psychedelic, then progressive, still with plenty of punk attitude.  Our cousin from Lansing was about the same age as my brother — so they did a fair amount of concertgoing together.

The other day, out of the blue I got a letter from our cousin, reproduced below with my random thoughts interspersed:

Dear Cousin Rick,

I’m sending along a copy of the program from the festival I attended in the south of England summer of 1969.  I thought you might it interesting.

plumpton festival program(Hmmm … The 9th National Jazz and Blues Festival.  Waitaminute: Pink Floyd?  King Crimson?  Peter Hammill performing solo before the first Van Der Graaf Generator album? Yes?  The Who?  Keith Emerson with The Nice?  Not to mention Soft Machine and Pentangle?  And he was there? Doggone straight I find it interesting.  Please continue, cousin!)

I’d seen both The Who and The Nice at the Grande Ballroom in the spring before.  The Who played the entire Tommy opera both times.  The Nice as I remember had some kind of revolving organ at the Grande.  At the Plumpton fest they closed the show on Sunday backed by a large orchestra.  At the final song the stage opened and a regiment of bagpipers marched off the stage and into the crowd.  Those were heady times.

isle of wight 1969There’s also a copy of the Isle of Wight festival flier which I missed as it was the weekend which we were heading home.  Such fond memories.

(Bob Dylan & The Band?  The Moody Blues?  More from King Crimson, The Who and Pentangle?  Stop torturing me, cousin!!!  Actually, no — please continue as I wrestle with envy and wish Doctor Who’s TARDIS was real.)

The day we arrived in London the Rolling Stones played in Hyde Park celebrating the life of Brian Jones who had just passed.  Couldn’t quite get there but almost.  (Another King Crimson show!!)

I’d like to hear more about your music blogging/reviews.    P.S.  We didn’t arrive at the fest until Saturday so we missed all the Friday acts.  Booo!

Fortunately, the sounds of the Plumpton Festival aren’t completely lost in the mists of time; I plan to direct my cousin to Soft Machine’s and Pink Floyd’s sets online, and send him a copy of King Crimson’s set.

detroit rr revival 1969And talking with my brother later, I heard the story of how he and my cousin somehow got permission to go to the 1969 Detroit Rock’n’Roll Revival (with the MC5, Chuck Berry, Dr. John, The “Psychedelic” Stooges and many more acts) the night before my sister’s wedding.  Maybe I should rethink missing Yes’ 50th Anniversary Tour when it hits Grand Rapids.  Not to mention Wayne Kramer’s MC50 Kick Out the Jams 50th Anniversary Tour and Soft Machine’s world tour coming to Progtoberfest IV

— Rick Krueger

Allan Holdsworth (1946-2017): Endless Melody

It took me a while to get my hands on a copy of the late Allan Holdsworth’s new compilation, Eidolon.  It was well worth the wait.

What strikes me on the second listen to Eidolon is the seemingly endless flow of melody Holdsworth tapped.  Despite his stunning contributions to the first U.K. album, it’s clear in retrospect that the man wasn’t comfortable in a highly structured musical environment.  Like his hero John Coltrane, Holdsworth was much happier stating the tune at the start, in bebop head style, then seeing where he could travel with it.

Taking on the basic materials of scales and arpeggios from oblique directions, chaining them together into lightning fast, super-dense sheets of sound, slowing or stopping dead on a sustained note or an unexpected harmonic twist at just the right moment, all somehow connected to the chord changes he floated above — this is what Holdsworth brought to the Tony Williams Lifetime and Soft Machine, what he developed further in Bill Bruford’s band (before and after U.K.), and what he spent the rest of his life exploring.  From the evidence here, he never ran out of new territory to pioneer; minds were duly blown, and hearts were duly moved.

Despite the admiration and support of more famous shredders like Eddie Van Halen and Joe Satriani, Allan Holdsworth never broke through to wide acclaim. But Eidolon leads me to believe that the gift of music — especially of melody — always brought him joy. Kudos to Manifesto Records for their re-release of all of Holdsworth’s albums (compiled as The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever) and this excellent compilation — which you can check out below.

Rick Krueger