Saturday, September 29, 2012

NEW "SOUNDS" FROM ACROSS THE POND

MARILLION
SOUNDS THAT CAN'T BE MADE

With Sounds That Can't Be Made, their seventeenth studio album, Marillion continue their successful musical journey with an album that is as soulful and powerful as ever.

Recorded at Racket studio in England, the eight new songs on the album show once more their ability to contrast epic progressive songwriting with pop-rock sensibilities, both powerful and deep, that can speak the musical language of the new millennium.




Marillion are a band that has managed to quietly produce astounding music under the radar for the last couple of decades. Given up for dead after their original lead vocalist left in 1989, they were one of the first bands to recognize the power of the internet in the 1990's which allowed them to make music without the need to try to bother the charts with huge sales or satisfy record company execs with the content of their records.

After a wait of nearly four years, Marillion finally unleash their latest opus, and it was worth the wait! Two things get Marillion fans excited in advance of a new album: The word 'CONCEPT' or news  of some tracks longer than the standard three-minute single!  While there is no concept this time around, the band does deliver not but three epic-length songs, kicking the album off with "Gaza" which clocks in at a massive 17:30, and finishing with a 10:34 bookend, "The Sky Above The Rain."   "Gaza" is a powerhouse of a song, with haunting arabic rythyms and vocals mixed with a pounding bass line and some marvelous guitar solos (check out the aggressive solo at the 4 minute mark), and ranks alongside "Ocean Cloud," "This Strange Engine" and "Interior Lulu" as an instant classic. The rest of the album demonstrates an array of influences, with synth vibes remenicent of 80's Prince, pop sounds that echo a 70's Todd Rundgren, showcaseing superb songwriting and musicianship throughout, with hooks that would lend towards chart position if the band were ever to be given the radio airplay that is their due.  This may be the most consistent album Marillion have produced over their career-about as good as it gets. What are you waiting for?

As they have so successfully done in the past, the making of the album was funded by a deluxe edition that was available for pre-order. Some copies are still available directly from the band HERE.

Or, you can purchase a standard edition from Amazon.



POWER



THE SKY ABOVE THE RAIN



SOUNDS THAT CAN'T BE MADE


LUCKY MAN




POUR MY LOVE



Friday, September 21, 2012

REFLECTIONS ON RECORDING MUSIC PART 2







As promised, part two of David Bielank (of Marah's) post. Hope Dave does noit mind me reprinting it.....




"REFLECTIONS ON RECORDING MUSIC - PART 2" by David Bielanko


Again, I only write for those technically interested in recording music, making records, etc...and mostly to organize my own thoughts...

Yesterday, we recorded an ancient song called "Ten Cents At The Gate" for our upcoming Mountain Minstrelsy album. 12 people played on the basic track. I was playing my black acoustic guitar into a borrowed microphone. On the other side of the wall the piano was playing while two young ladies tap danced on an old table top. There were also 2 drummers, a bass, a banjo, the fiddle, a mandolin, a shaker and a washboard. Together we made a huge, old fashioned sound.

Our record is in mono. The old Studer tape machine holds all the cards now, at any moment she could turn on us and put an end to our fun, but she doesn't...our racket must be amusing to the old robot. Press "RECORD & PLAY," we play our song, press REWIND, press STOP, press PLAY, voila...la musica rock n roll. The church shakes.

The tension in the room surrounding the old technology is hard on me, it's hard on Christine too...we bow down to the 1969 Swiss electronic god...others don't sense it maybe, we try to mask our concern, but surely they must see our worried glances once in a while, hear us whisper stuff about the way the tape is spooling...don't think about it, don't think about it, hold your breath...now the tape is moving at 400 mph in reverse, it's engine could easily pull a rusty Pontiac out of a mud hole if we had a chain. It could remove your arm like a harvester.

Slap, slap, slap...silent sigh, thank god! Another day, the song goes back to sleep safely in its box.

Another day. Our work is constant.

We have no back up, no copies, we are slaves building a road in the dark.

It's also tremendous fun. The sound is huge and wild.

Gus's younger brother Huck played the washboard with us yesterday. Before the first take I told Huck it'd be cool if he screamed in the outro. He said, "Really?" I said, "Yeah, I'll let you know when. I'll say, now Huck NOW!"

TAKE 1: I counted off 1-2-3-4, the drummers began, then the whole lot piled on as we shifted down to the minor key. Now it's all business, concentrate, think about it, think about it...visual cues, eye contact, NOW, verses and choruses flying by like birds outside the Red Baron's little tin plane. Huck is deeply involved in the monkey dance...finally we pass the last challenging move and release into the outro, Christine's piano makes homage to "all the girls in France do a belly dance" ditty, it's a musical celebration, we are home free, we got this...I give Huck the cue, it's go time, "Now, Huck!" His trance suddenly breaks, his eyes roll back down. He remembers our deal, his face seeming to imply that even at 6 years old he is concerned with the cost of the tape that our music is occupying at the rate of 15 inches per second...he's a musician and doesn't wanna blow it. "Yeah, Huck, just do it! It'll work...it'll sound amazing!" With this his expression changed again, game face now. Then the dreamy tranquil period between pulling a grenade pin and all hell breaking loose.

*****************************************************************************

I miss my old friend Bruce Langfeld. He played all the steel guitar and some mandolin on our first record "Let's Cut The Crap..." He died. He would have loved this record we are making now.

Today I drove to a local Amish greenhouse to buy some plants, and on the drive back I spotted "LCTC" on the dashboard of the van, so I popped it in and skipped ahead to "Phantom Eyes." It sounded magical. it was the very first thing we tape recorded for that first record. Bruce Langfeld took it to a level we couldn't have reached on our own. He was older than us and more accomplished at playing stuff, but mostly he was a big fan of what we were up to.

I remember sitting with him in the Morning Glory Diner in South Philly after completing the album and he was going on and on about how my brother and I couldn't possibly understand our own unique chemistry and our ability to get other players to follow our vision and create eclectic, original R&R music...he was right (about that being lost on us.) At the time I thought I must be high or something. At the time we felt far from "good." We felt sloppy and out of tune and inconsequential...that's just how you feel when you begin anything new.

Later Bruce and us toured together a lot. Those were fun days...we did our best and learned fast. We played the support slot on Southern tours for a band called Blue Mountain. Blue Mountain kicked our asses so very badly night after night that we got way better FAST. The only other option was humiliation. Night after night playing in crowded sweaty clubs in Baton Rouge, Austin, Birmingham, Jackson...night after night Blue Mountain destroyed the rooms and took us to Rock School. From backstage their music was like rolling thunder, they were very tightly rehearsed. Cary & Laurie's voices wove together like old blues, Frank Couch played dervish drum fills, stopped on dimes, hit drums very hard. The Les Paul, the Fender bass and simple classic rock n roll drum set. Trio, hard as nails. After each show we'd end up at some motel party together and drink until the sun appeared. We'd sleep a few hours and roll out leaving a real disaster behind for some poor maid to deal with.
We meant no harm but everything just happened so fast back then.

Blue Mountain drug the state of Mississippi all over the USA that summer. Our mutual friend the late, great Larry Brown (who consequently is one of the best writers that ever lived) wrote eloquently about the way Blue Mountain music embodied the north Mississippi countryside. We learned "sense of 'place" from them...amongst other things. When we got home we started writing seriously about Philadelphia.

Ok, rambling now. Mountain Minstrelsy record is shaping up. It's a rock & roll record now, it just happened. We got 8 songs recorded, there are hang-ups...but we wait 'em out, keep hacking away, chopping away, very proud. Gonna record a new song this Friday night. Hang in there.

Thanks for reading,

D.B.


UPDATE JULY 23rd 2012:

This weekend we hosted two open house recording sessions - one Friday night and the other Sunday afternoon. Me & Gus pulled the rope and rang the old church bell and the pews filled up with all sorts of folks: ex-congregation members, young music fans, curious neighbors, a man in a dress, kids, old folks...it was a real impressive turn out and a fascinating mix of people. We made some recordings and we played some songs to illustrate what's been happening in that great old building this summer.
Between those two "open houses" we managed to nail two more Mountain Minstrelsy songs - a great old banjo/fiddle stomp called "The Falling of the Pine" AND "Harry Bell."

"Harry Bell" is a story song about a boy who finds work in a shingle mill and winds up getting himself killed, damn near cut in two by an industrial saw. Gus wrote the music. Somehow he instinctually knew that this song could only work in the old "major chord/minor theme" tradition...somehow Gus knows a lot of stuff that takes other people lifetimes to figure out. He stepped up to the microphone with his banjo and simply laid it down. Christine was engineer. Gus's eyes stayed fixed on the VU meter pins as they bounced on the tape machine. He missed no chords, he fumbled no words, and two and a half minutes later there was a new song in the world. The world suddenly became a slightly more livable place. He resurrected a dead old thing and brought it back to life in real time.

That night me and Christine transferred the song onto an old cassette we found in a Sunday school classroom behind the altar and went home and played it a couple of thousand times. Listening to the recording it would be impossible to know if "Harry Bell" was cut that Saturday evening or on a Saturday evening in 1931. I'm pretty sure it will always stand as one of the coolest, realest, most badass songs we will ever have had the privilege to cut. A real moment in time. An honest to god photograph. I wonder if it will reach someone a hundred years from now. I think it could. I hope it does.

Thanks! More later...

D.B.




Wednesday, September 19, 2012

REFLECTIONS ON RECORDING MUSIC PART 1

Marah are a band I have followed for years, and I found this post interesting. Marah are a country-rock band from Philadelphia who have become known for their intense live performances.

I've got a few You Tube clips at the bottom for you to check out, and I'll post part two tomorrow.


  
REFLECTIONS ON RECORDING MUSIC by David Bielanko

Peoples! We here in "Marahland" have begun a new recording process. Our current efforts are aimed at culminating in two very different, original, stand alone LP's.

Way back in about 2001 I remember vividly a night I spent out in Philadelphia with our old Marah comrade Mike "Slo Mo" Brenner. We were in a bar called Bob & Barbara's getting drunk on beer cans and listening to Nate Wiley and The Crowd Pleasers (a brilliant live organ trio) and Mike was telling me about something called "pro tools". He had used it a few days before at a recording session and he seemed genuinely blown away with what seemed like the machine's endless potential....moving snare drum hits, dragging Xerox copies of cowbells around....wha?....5 minutes later protools took over the Earth. It was everywhere. There was soon no alternative. Some studio owners could be reluctantly convinced ($) to let you cut your music (or at least your bass and drums) on their antiquated tape machines but you had to beg them, and even that would quickly be "dumped" into the Protools computer and that was that. You couldn't fight it. We couldn't.

Working as we had done for our first two records (albeit with a super talented young engineer/producer called Paul Smith), Marah recorded its music the old fashioned way, had to. We bought reels of tape and bottles of rubbing alcohol, we had razor blades and Q-tips.

The process was fun, it was creative, experimental and most of all it was exciting. I remember things like holding your breath while the wheels spun in FF to save a song that accidentally got wound on in the wrong direction. I remember lots of stuff...shit getting accidentally erased, fuck it, cut it again...recording backwards organs, hanging microphones out windows, hanging speakers out windows and running microphone cables out into the street on hot July nights in South Philly. On the beginning of our first album "Lets Cut The Crap..." the whole band was playing under the horn section of "Fever" but that wouldn't do, so we all had to hold down mute buttons on the mixer...now the horns began alone, it was majestic...not yet...not yet...wait for it...the castanettes...BANG! High fucking five.

Nostalgia can destroy you if you let it. I know that now. You can never go home again either. I struggle with that everyday. Making a record every two years as I have done since I was very young I guess I have every right to feel a little cheated by the old ways changing. I've tried to roll with the punches and move with the times but ya know what? I can't do it anymore. I feel lost. I'd rather work at Walmart then make another album on someone's fucking laptop. 
 

Photo: Lee "Scratch" Perry at work in Jamaica

When we came back from a Spanish Tour last October, we moved our big, beautiful Studer 8 track 1 inch tape machine to NYC for repair/alignment. Then we pulled the damn protools out of our joint, boxed it up and packed it away with the Christmas shit. We replaced it with several carefully considered 1/4 inch reel to reel tape machines. We drove to Walmart and bought rubbing alcohol and razor blades. I blew right by the job application rack on our way back out into the cold.

Now we're recording the new songs that have appeared around here over the last year or so. This will be our next "proper" record. We are also hard at work on a record called "Mountain Minstrelsy". It's something I've been trying to make happen since before we recorded "Life is Problem". We got it now. It's pretty and spooky and country and damn near academic in its way. I can't wait to tell you more about it over the next few weeks.

Anyway, if the subject of recording music still interests you, I urge you to click on the YouTube link above. It's a 5 minute clip of Lee "Scratch" Perry at work in Studio Black Ark in Jamaica. Lee & Co. are regular, talented, poor people making amazing shit happen in a mid-seventies, impoverished city. Lee is recording cool songs on very basic equipment - the TEAC 3340s 4 track tape recorder and a less than desirable mixer desk. He has a tape echo and a few average microphones. Mostly he has an enormous soul, some good pot and the desperate need to succeed at something in life. Something out of nothing.

Blah, blah, blah....this was written mainly for my own sake, to organize my thoughts and remember what the hell we are trying to do around here...anyway, hope you didn't find it too obnoxious. I'm going out into the woods now.

Anybody wanna buy a laptop?

Love,
D. Bielanko



MARAH & BLUE MOUNTAIN ON TOUR







Wed 10/10: Baltimore, MD - TBA

 
 
 

Monday, September 10, 2012

MISSED PERIODS IN A WHOLE NEW LIGHT

I cannot take full credit for the clever title of today's post.

Today, I welcome the lovely and talented Jenny Baranick, the author of the extremely funny and educational "Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares" blog. as a guest poster on my blog.

This is all part of a feeble attempt on my part to add class to this column.




Speaking of class, Jenny is a college english teacher. So if you don't pay attention, you're going to end up in detention, writing "I will not fall asleep on the DiscConnected blog" a couple of hundred times on a blackboard.

While Jenny accepts that her students will never stand on their desks and salute her as ther "Captain," she had found a style that presents the "do's" and "don'ts" of grammar in an amusing way that helps get the message across while making the reader laugh along the way.

This is a mission Jenny takes seriously.

And just in case you are thinking (and you know you are) that no young lady can take the English language that seriously, here are a couple pictures of Jenny's car!


The next one is my personal favorite...


You can see all of the pictures of the Grammarmobile here.


Somehow in between teaching and pimping her ride, Jenny found time to write a book, her recently released debut masterpiece, titled, oddly enough, Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares.




Similar to Jenny's blog, the book takes some of the more common grammatical transgressions and trespasses and shows the reader the enlightened path in an entertaining  narrative free of grammatical jargon.

If you like your grammar lessons on the risque side, this book is for you!

Today, in keeping with the musical theme of this blog, Jenny will compare and contrast the English language to the language of music.

I hope everyone who stops by will leave a comment to make Jenny feel welcome.

If you like what you read, why don't you buy the book HERE.

But enough from me-ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to Jenny Baranick !



Don’t tell my mom, but I am grateful that she made me take piano lessons.

I wasn’t quite as grateful when I was seven years old and complained that I had to practice my scales when I just wanted to go outside and play handball.

Nor was I grateful when I when I was twelve years old and wanted to repeatedly ride my bike past Matt Grey’s house instead of practicing chord progressions.

But as an adult, I love that I can read music.

Reading music is like being able understand and communicate in a different language.

It’s not just being able to read notes; it’s being able to understand the nuances of the composition.

It’s looking at the note and knowing how long it’s to be held.

It’s identifying a rest—and how long to hold that particular rest.

It’s comprehending the symbols for playing louder, for playing softer, playing faster, playing slower, for blending notes together, and for trailing off.

In a similar way, punctuation is key to written composition. It, too, can communicate tempo, volume, and flow.

Like a slur holds two notes together, a semicolon holds two sentences together.

A comma is like a rest we hold for half a count, and a period is like a rest that we hold for a full count.

An exclamation is like an accent symbol.

Parentheses are a bit like a diminuendo.

So, although our readers probably pay more attention to the words we use rather than our commas and periods, punctuation is an important part of the craft of writing.

So, don’t tell my ninth grade English teacher, but I’m grateful that he hammered us on punctuation.

Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares is available from fine retailers like Amazon.

It is a very reasonably-priced book, and while it may not replace your copy of "The Elements of Style," it certainly deserves a place on the shelf alongside it!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

RAMMING SPEED




Keep up the pace or get out of the way! Try keeping up with Neal Morse and you may have to catch your breath. Get in his way and he might run you over!

The gifted musician and prolific composer started off 2012 with the release of the Flying Colours project, followed that up with a second disc of cover songs (tiled, oddly enough, Cover 2 Cover) and now delivers us his seventh solo album of progressive of rock, Momentum.

Morse, with longtime friends Mike Portnoy and Randy George, once again demonstrates his mastery of progressive rock on a disc that is (in my opinion) a little more accessible than some of his earlier solo sets.



The music is creative and fresh, with heaviness juxtaposed against soaring, melodic, vocal arrangements.

There are also lighter, acoustic driven moments that harken back to early seventies prog.

Momentum would not be a Morse album without a half-hour song as the centerpiece, and this one concludes with an epic song in six parts, "World Without End."

This masterpiece contains Morse's signature vocal, piano and guitar arrangements along with deftly blended moments of atmospheric grandeur with metal-like heaviness-it is simply quintessential Neal Morse.

Up until this release, I have always said that Morse is at his best in a group setting-I felt that his Spock's Beard, Transatlantic and Flying Colours output topped his solo efforts (even though the solo efforts were quite good).

This album may have me retracting that statement. In short, Morse is a master of melodic and progressive rock, and Momentum is one heckuva fine album. You're going to want to pick this one up.

MOMENTUM



THOUGHTS PART 5


NOT JUST GIBBERISH


Although it sounds like a character from a children's story, Squackett is a collaboration between two progressive rock musicians with pretty strong resumes.

Chris Squire has appeared on every YES album and is widely regarded as one of the most influential bass guitarists of all time.

Steve Hackett first came to prominence as the guitarist with Genesis (from 1970 to 1977) prior to launching a prolific and successful solo career.

Over four years in the making, the "Squackett" album is much more than the sum of its parts. Most fans of either band may expect a hybrid of "Dance On A Volcano" and "Yours Is No Disgrace" but what the artists delivered is something a little more radio-friendly (if that terms even has meaning anymore).

With strong production, expert musicianship and strong vocal performances, my only knock on the album is its brevity (only 46 minutes long). Fans expecting album-side epics may be disappointed, but if you are partial to melodic hooks and interesting arrangements, this dose of ear candy is for you!





Wednesday, September 5, 2012

FILE UNDER BETTER LATE THAN NEVER



On April 24, Todd Snider released Time As We Know It: The Songs of Jerry Jeff Walker, a tribute to his original musical hero.

"I've always hoped I'd stay around long enough to get to make a record of Jerry Jeff Walker songs," Snider says. "He's the guy I saw at 19 and decided to try to be like. His are the first songs I learned."

The album was produced by Don Was (Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones), and features friends and admirers like Kix Brooks of Brooks and Dunn, Elizabeth Cook, and Amy LaVere.


The release follows close on the heels of Snider's acclaimed album 'Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables' on Aimless Records.
Time As We Know It: The Songs of Jerry Jeff WalkerTracklist:
1. Vince Triple-O Martin
2. Jaded Lover
3. Moon Child
4. Takin' It As It Comes
5. Derby Day
6. Sangria Wine
7. Continuing Saga of the Classic Bummer Or Is This My One Way Bus Ticket to Cleveland
8. Little Bird
9. Hill Country Rain
10. Railroad Lady
11. Laying My Life on the Line
12. Pissin' in the Wind
13. Mr. Bojangles
14. Will There Be Any


MR BOJANGLES


PISSIN' IN THE WIND



Sunday, September 2, 2012

HAVE YOUR CAKES AND EAT THEM TOO



Hot Cakes is the third album from British Glam/Hard Rock band The Darkness, and their first album in seven years. No new ground is broken here, but that's not why one purchases a Darkness record, is it?

The album finds the band picking up quite neatly where they left off, with falsetto vocals that are reminiscent of Queen and chunky guitar licks that are worthy of AC/DC. The sound is deeply rooted in the seventies, so much so that one track ("Nothin's Gonna Stop Us") sounds like it was lifted from a late Queen album.

No one will ever accuse the lyrical content of being too high-brow, and the music is derivative, but the finished product works on the same level as the prior two albums, so fans of those releases are going to want to pick this one up as well.


NOTHIN'S GONNA STOP US



EVERYBODY HAVE A GOOD TIME