Tommy Bolin–TEASER (1975)

teaser_bolinReview by Garrett Jordan

Assigned by David Miller

My overall view on this album and its compositions could be summarized by my views on “The Grind,” the boogie rock number that kickstarts the album with a solid guitar riff. The vocal melodies in the verse and chorus are good but not outstanding, lacking the sort of special melodic twists that would implant them properly in one’s mind. Certainly, they are plenty satisfying while on, but I don’t find myself remembering them or humming them long-term. What really makes the song kick ass is the work of the explosive electric guitarist and the session musicians backing him. Bolin’s soloing in the last extended chorus of the song is excellent, as he screams bloody hell on the six strings. I particularly enjoy that ascending series of “wha Wha WHa WHAAA~AA~A” notes he ignites just before the song fades out. As for the session musicians, special note must go to the prolific Dave Foster and Jeff Porcaro, who respectively provide energetic barroom piano rolls and an excellent groove animating the song throughout.

Most of the album’s other compositions follow suit – good but not great vocal melodies and not terribly unique underlying instrumental backbones that are brilliantly enlivened by excellent instrumental prowess on the part of Bolin and his sessions musicians. Among the somewhat softer ballads on the album (they’re only somewhat soft when Bolin’s guitars always kick in one time or another on them), “Wild Dogs” is perhaps the best, with the strongest vocal melodies of the ballads and Bolin’s slightly restrained guitar work in the verses successfully painting the image of life in a run-down middle American town, as described in the lyrics. The weakest song on the album is “Savannah Woman” – the start-stop vocal melody and the Brazilian-ish rhythm in the verses are nice, and Phil Collins blesses this song with his presence on percussion, but the song only merits an occasional listen outside the album.

Among the vocal numbers, then, the title track stands out at the best cut on the album. Guided by a solid guitar riff through the verses, with Bolin spouting off some guitar fireworks throughout, it’s otherwise just solid chorus is amplified by the high-pitched squeals of Bolin’s guitar in between the lines of the chorus – it’s those squeals that really make the chorus explode into exuberance. “ She’s a teaser, and she’s not no heart at all. Dun dun wwWHHAA! dun dun WHAA!”

The best songs on this album apart from “Teaser,” however, are the numbers lacking vocals altogether – Bolin’s two instrumental numbers, “Homeward Strut” and “Marching Powder,” which sound like they were designed specifically for Bolin and his sessions musicians to launch fireworks on. “Homeward Strut” features a mid-section built on top a funky-as -hell guitar riff onto which much of the rest of the songs builds on, either with an excellent guitar-synth-duo riff played on top of the funk riff (strong riffs on top of strong riffs are always a winner for this reviewer), or with top-notch soloing from Bolin and Foster. “Marching Powder,” meanwhile, features the best guitar riff on the album and has an impressive buildup midway through, starting at a solitary bass line and expanding into another amazing Bolin guitar solo joined by David Sanborn’s saxophone, the drums and percussion meanwhile battering away so hard and with enough fills that they might as well be considered soloing here as well. Needless to say more, these songs kick serious ass. (I should also mention that the choices for synth tones across the songs are excellent – the synths still sound powerful and contemporary today.)

The electric guitar work is what elevates this otherwise simply good album to near-greatness. No wonder the great Billy Cobham of the Mahavishnu Orchestra selected Bolin as the guitarist for his solo debut. A 8 out of 10 for this great example of a solo guitarist’s skills, recommended especially for guitar lovers but really a solid album for any fans of 70’s rock out there.

P.S. 3-CD and 5-CD deluxe sets of this album have been released, featuring a wealth of outtakes and extended alternate recordings. I’ve not heard the additional discs, but it looks like a great deal to me.

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Britney Spears–OOPS, I DID IT AGAIN (2000)

81zgsth27ml-_sl1500_Revew by Alex Alex

Assigned by Marissa (Marissa, I can’t possibly remember your 2nd name, sorry)

Britney is the reversed Mowgli – raised by the future wolves she descends into the throne room of the present to declare law and order. Where Mowgli was of one blood with the mogwais she’s not that innocent, though. In its essence, however, the fairy tale is the same. Indeed, my Communist parents were always telling me New York is the jungle.

Children need Mowgli to model their behavior after – provided they are free to cry, run, jump, swim, climb trees and hunt for whatever treasures are hidden there in the old fashioned arbors of “et cetera”. Once you are bound by the chains of Capitalism to your gaming device you can only demand your joystick not be taken away from you – the Mowgli has already migrated into your TV but it’s not yet your turn.

A game must be realistic and if myriads of kawaii Lolitas will flock upon you from the crack in the skies made by the reversal of the time-arrow that would mean some bug – a human-centipede or the like. Instead, when all the trees have been cut off in the Mowgli Amazon forest, they hire teenagers from the Platonic Third World – to act in horror movies and music videos of the “past”. As much Platonic as it’s Third though – for there are endless demands on the reality from the actors and not much else.

It’s indeed a tragedy if someone not that innocent can not get satisfaction and as Britney is calling the service center to complain about that we realize it’s the same phone number as was dialed in Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”, the difference being the call is now answered.

Does anybody here remember Britney Spears?

The only way of remembering is still through the body, not the mind. As my body grows what it remembers are the things that are constant and have always been so. They stay the same – they are just out of reach now. It’s not that they don’t exist anymore it’s me who does not exist anymore in the places they still remain in. I say “this was the music of my childhood” as if I’m still that innocent.

 

Museo Rosenbach—ZARATHUSTRA (1973)

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Review By Logan Kono

Assigned by Roland Bruynesteyn

Italian progressive rock is bold, and like this album, it’s niche disposition of being stuck in obscurity allows it to sound a lot different than rock – even a lot of other progressive rock of the time. One possibility for the unique sounding musical ideas might be the fact that the singer, Giancarlo Golzi is the drummer (and percussionist who played the timpini) which leads to excellent dynamics. I keep using vague words like “unique” so let me explain how this album sounds different than most progressive rock that I myself listen to (and I consider myself a “mainstream” progressive rock fan, if there are those type of people) – Primus, Jethro Tull, Rush, Tool, King Crimson, Yes, Gentle Giant etc. I’m sure these bands ring several [Xanadu] bells. There are NO memorable hooks that stick with me from this album – yet on the other side of this – the album does not conform to a particular style (there is even a certain eccentric punk esque breakdown at the 27 minute mark that is awesome and has some kick-ass serenading Italian vocals on top).

The mellotron is fun – Jon Lordy improvisational Frippian atmosphere, and the keyboards are almost as unrestrained as the frontman.The drums are indulgent, as they should be if this ambitious Italian drummer wishes to tackle vocals at the same time. Which he does (with overdubs, I don’t quite know how many but some are obvious and necessary. There is no way you can sing operatic Italian long phrases while playing the drums like a madman as he does on this record). The drums are untamed, produced almost like drums from that progressive German band, Can. Very loose – it almost doesn’t work with the classic Italian vocals. Guitar and bass take a backseat to drums and the keys on this one. Although they are pushed back, I do enjoy some crunching minor chords throughout – and the bass is usually in a walking pattern that keeps the thing grounded enough to listen to.

Do not listen to Museo Rosenbach if you want hooks or anything to keep long-term, but if you are a fan of theatrical Italian vocals (I never thought I’d be recommending something like that in a progressive rock context), progressive 70’s rock, give Zarathustra a try. This band obviously didn’t care about commercial appeal – and decided to go crazy on a drum set and a keyboard in a very, very Italian way. I give it 7 Classic Italian Subs out of 10.

Osamu Kitajima—MASTERLESS SAMURAI (1978)

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Review by Francelino Prazeres de Azevedo Filho

Assigned by Victor Ferreira Guimarães

Why do people in this game keep assigning me instrumental mild-mannered electric folk-jazz? I don’t like this type of music, never did! Go figure. After reviewing Akelarre, in which American soulsman William S. Fischer travelled to the Basque Country to mix Basque folk melodies to modern genres, I now get to review Masterless Samurai, whose author, Osamu Kitajima, did the opposite. Born in Japan, he travelled, first to the UK, then to Los Angeles, to absorb Western influences and make fusion of his traditional Japanese music to prog and jazz. And it’s uncanny not only how those two albums resemble each other, but also in how they make me feel.
Consisting of 10 instrumental pieces, with most being less than 5 minutes long, and the longest one not even reaching 7 minutes, one would imagine they didn’t overstay their welcome. Sadly, this isn’t the case. The main problem is that the songs lack both dynamism and emotion. No song builds to anything, there’s no big changes or progression, they end the way they started, so there’s no tension, nothing to surprise the listener. And, mood-wise, everything just goes for “well-played background”.

Texture-wise, there is much less of those marvellous Japanese woodwinds than there could have been, which is a pity. My favourite song here, “Sei”, is precisely the one that explores them the most. It is also one of the few songs that goes for a mood (relaxing), rather than being just noise. The awful bossa-nova-ish “Floating Garden” is the worst of the bunch. Japanese strings are also present in many tracks, but again in a not very prominent position. The rhythm section is very technically proficient, but they are just there, making noise but not making sound. I really think this album could have used more minimalist percussion to great effect. The same could be said for all the guitars, synths and electric pianos present in all tracks. All songs invariably have sections with all those instruments, with no variation in tone or texture. The way it is, everything feels too busy with no payoff, and too samey.

In the end, Masterless Samurai feels like something that was done for the sake of itself. A mixture that was focused more on the ingredients that had to be put in the pot, rather than the taste of the stew.

Astor Piazzolla—PIAZZOLLA INTERPRETA A PIAZZOLLA (1961)

r-5319701-1433278688-6334-jpegReview by Roland Bruynesteyn

Assigned by Francelino de Avezedo

I only knew Astor Piazzolla as a traditional tango guy, who became more famous in the Netherlands 02-02-02, when prince Willem-Alexander (our current king) married an Argentinean lady by the name of Maxima. At the wedding, a Dutch bandoneon player, Carel Kraayenhoff, played Adios Nonino, Maxima cried a little (and became our favorite member of the royal family at that very moment), and the tango conquered the Netherlands all over again.

Upon listening, I am surprised that it is not traditional tango at all! Yes, there are tango structures and it still has a percussive tango feel in places, partly because for the instrumentation (a quintet, consisting of violin, piano, bass, and electric guitar as well Piazzolla on bandoneon).

It sounds more like a mix of jazz (especially when the electric guitar is featured a bit more prominently, as in Guitarrazo) and classical chamber music (by a somewhat unusual quintet, I admit).

The different songs convey different moods, and the sparse instrumentation does not bore at all. It sounds actually more varied than you would expect. Still, you can listen to the album in one go as nice background music while doing some administrative stuff, or in a more focused manner, listening to the music and thinking about your plans for the day (or the night).

It is more contemplative and less sad or serious than traditional tango or what I assumed traditional tango sounds like. Recommended for adventurous listeners that are willing to explore ‘new’ sounds.

Gojira—TERRA INCOGNITA (2001)

220px-gojira_terra_incognitaReview by Jaime Vargas Sánchez

Assigned by Logan Kono

First things first. The album title is a misnomer. It’s as much as a misnomer as if The Cure’s “Pornography” was called “Drinking Mojitos On The Beach”. As if Yes’ “Tales From Topographic Oceans” was called “Short Ditties For Easy Piano”. As if Jandek’s “Ready For House” was called “This Is Good In Any Way Whatsoever” (SEE, ANDREAS, I STILL HAVE NOT FORGIVEN YOU). That much of a misnomer.

Because this terra is not incognita at all, in fact it’s cognita all the way. It’s metal. Wikipedia says it’s death metal and progressive metal; whatever. I am not up to date with post-90s metal. I don’t see the progressiveness anywhere, so if you like this kind of metal you will like this album.

But let me rant.

The thrash metal scene of the 80s was awesome. And it was supposed to enlarge the scope of metal. SO WHY IS IT THAT THE END RESULT WAS THAT IT ACTUALLY NARROWED IT.

Oh well. Another rock genre that it’s totally dead. And people wonder why my musical tastes grow backwards in time instead of forward.

The Band—MUSIC FROM BIG PINK (1968)

61sn2bfrwvsl-_sx355_Reviewed by Victor Farias

Assigned by Isaac Varcoe

Music From Big Pink is the debut album from The Band.  It was released in 1968 and could be arguably be called the first Americana album.  The Band were Bob Dylan’s backup touring band from September 1965 through May 1966. After the tour Bob Dylan was in a motorcycle accident.  He invited the band to move closer to them and they rented a pink house that was close by (Big Pink). They backed Bob up in the recordings later called The Basement Tapes and also started writing the songs that would appear in this album.  Bob Dylan also wrote or co-wrote three of the songs that appear on the album. And you can hear his influence on the other songs, either lyrically or musically.

Prior to this review, I had heard about three songs from the album (The Weight, Chest Fever, and I Shall Be Released) and after listening to the whole album they still remain my favorites.

The album opens up with “Tears of Rage”.  This song was co-written with Bob Dylan. I like the guitar through a Leslie speaker sound in it and the brass band in the background.  Sound a little like a New Orleans funeral. Richard Manuel sings lead. Of all the Band members I like his voice the most. It’s really expressive.  The next song is “To Kingdom Come”. I really don’t have much to say about this song. Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson share lead vocals. It has a lot of Biblical references in the lyrics and a nice guitar solo at the end of the song.   The third song is “In a Station”. It is a keyboard dominated song with Richard Manuel singing lead. It’s a slower song with Richard’s plaintive voice being the highlight. Song four is “Caledonia Mission”. Rick Danko sings lead on this song.  The lyrics seem to be about a gypsy girl. It has a really countryish flavor. Song five, and the last song on side one if you are listening to the album on vinyl is “The Weight”. What can I say about this song that hasn’t been said before. It’s been on the soundtrack of a few movies, most famously Easy Rider.  A lot of other bands do the song and it has become a sixties anthem. It is The Band’s most popular song and deservedly so. The music and melody are excellent. The lyrics have a lot of Biblical and old blues song references that seem to point to some kind of apocalyptic event. It makes a perfect closer for side one in those vinyl only days.  And that really stood for something then.

Song six or the start of side two is “We Can Talk”.  It has a gospel feel to it with the organ and the piano dominating the song.  The next song is “Long Black Veil”. This is a cover song. The original was a country music hit.  It has a nice electric piano and organ. The eighth song of the album is another one of my favorites “Chest Fever”.  It has a long overdriven organ introduction that reminds me of Vanilla Fudge or Deep Purple. It chugs along and has a New Orleans type bridge before it goes back to chugging.  The next song, “Lonesome Suzie” is a ballad that has Richard Manuel singing lead. It’s a bit too slow moving for my tastes. It seems longer than four minutes. The next song “This Wheel’s on Fire” livens things up again.  The song has Rick Danko singing lead and was co-written by Bob Dylan. It has an interesting keyboard sound that to my ears sounds like a synthesizer. The last song of the album is “I Shall Be Released”. This is another song that was written by Bob Dylan.  Richard Manuel sings lead on it. It is another of my favorites. It has become another Band song that is an anthem. I really love Richard Manuel’s vocal on this. It really wraps up the album really well.

My final impressions of the album is that it is pretty good.  They mix up the musical influences to keep things interesting.  In my opinion, it’s their best album. I’ve listened to a couple more of their albums and they aren’t as good.  As a side note, I got to see The Band live in 1991. It was in Milwaukee at Summerfest. Billy Preston played keyboards.  I wasn’t familiar with their music besides their hits but felt they were a good band.