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Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (King Crimson, 1973) 6 September 2008

Posted by Basilios in King Crimson, Music Reviews.
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After releasing the previously reviewed In The Wake Of Poseidon, King Crimson lost those members with the greatest songwriting talent. The group found itself directionless from a creative point of view, and did what directionless groups do: drift. After a couple of not really good albums (Lizard and Islands, which I have but am not interested in reviewing at the moment, to be honest), the group finally collapsed.

Thus ended King Crimson, Phase 1; but that was not going to stop group leader Robert Fripp for very long. After a couple of years he assembled another group to raise the King Crimson standard, and set forth to create more innovative music; Phase 2 had begun. Once again, he picked very good musicians: bassist John Wetton (later of Asia), violinist David Cross, drummer Bill Bruford (earlier of Yes), and genial percussionist Jamie Muir.

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My Worst Presents – The Cheap Football Shirt 21 July 2008

Posted by Basilios in Fun.
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A family friend once gave me a present. It was a football shirt. A cheap football shirt. It was made out of a plastic shopping bag with the bottom cut open, so you’d wear the handles over your shoulders, like a sleeveless shirt. It was coloured with the colours of a football team. It was not my favourite team.

Since I was a good boy, raised to appreciate everything I was given, I said Thank you, and wore it. I even played football for a bit in it in my courtyard. By myself. After a few minutes the plastic on my skin was making me so itchy, sweaty and uncomfortable that I took it off, and by that time the lady who gave it to me was gone, so I just threw it away. I never was asked any questions about it.

What strikes me is that it was bought. It was not a self-made gift, it was printed. It even had a little logo saying Your Favourite Team right over the heart. And the lady who bought it is a very nice woman with whom I am still in touch and visit every time I pass by my town. So it was bought by a person that actually liked me, and yet it was so bad! The poor woman must have been swindled.

Friendly Advice: How to Deal With Visitors For An Absent Roommate 7 July 2008

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Once again a friend asked my advice to deal with an uncomfortable problem. This guy works in an office shared with three other people, and of course sometimes visitors show up looking for his roommates while they are out. The uncomfortable bit, my friend says, is where a visitor comes in looking for someone, sees an empty seat where that someone ought to be, and then asks “Is he not in?“, despite being able to see very clearly that he is not. Or asks “When is he back?“, like he’s their receptionist. This rubs him the wrong way, especially since his desk is located right in front of the door, so he’s always the one getting pestered.

This is where I come in. How could my friend, I was asked, deal with this continuous stream of thoughtless visitors? Fear not, I told him, for I am going to provide him with good, measured suggestions. The ideal solution would be for each of the people in the office to put a little note on their door when they’re out, but that requires those distracted visitors to actually notice and read the things. So you’d have to, ahem, encourage them.

  1. Let’s start with a simple approach. Cattle prods! Chap knocks, chap asks, chap gets electric shock. Nothing could be more elegant than this.
  2. Pretend you’re a boring person.No, X is not in, but lemme tell you about the variations in shades of brown paper in post envelopes/Italian politics of the 50s!”. Eventually they’ll get fed up and just mumble “Sorry, I’ll be back later” and go out. This is not a good idea if you hope to have their collaboration in the future!
  3. Absurdist answers. “X is in but he’s turned invisible“. “X doesn’t want to see you so he hid under my desk“. “X retired to a monastery in Tibet“. Again, not a good idea if you need their collaboration in the future.
  4. Chemical warfare. Get a great big soaker gun, and fill it with water and food colorant. Open fire on those that knock. Be sure they are not looking for you first.
  5. Artillery barrage. Get a bucket of cheap foam stress balls, and throw them at undesired visitors. Disadvantage: you have to pick them up after having your fun.

All the suggestions I presented above have advantages and disadvantages, and careful consideration is needed before picking up one. As for me, I favour the simple cattle prod.

Pill Review: Time And A Word (Yes, 1969) 24 October 2007

Posted by Basilios in In Pills, Music Reviews, Yes.
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A few months after Yes released its self-titled first album, they released their second, and it was something completely different. Peter Banks’ guitar, so prominent in the older album, remains unnoticed in the background, barely audible, and smothered by layers of orchestration. And was that a bad thing? (more…)

Pill Review: Yes (Yes, 1969) 15 October 2007

Posted by Basilios in In Pills, Music Reviews, Yes.
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This is the first album Yes released, and it sounds completely and absolutely different from any of its successors. None, not even the following one, sounded like this one. As for how this one sounds – in a word, poppy. In three words, poppy, jazzy and hippy. Well, sorta. What we have here, two covers and six original composition, is characterized by long jazzy instrumental workouts – they’re not jams, but more structured and focused than the random, aimless jams of contemporary groups – and by the high pitched voice of lead singer and main songwriter Jon Anderson.

Either of these can be turnoffs for many, and the combination of the two could be unlikeable for some; not for me, though, because I just plain like both: the way they play, with the prominent bass of Chris Squire and the fuzzy guitar of Peter Banks, and Jon Anderson’s voice, which is not memorable in this record, but pleasant and original, without sounding like fake falsetto or like forced screeching. The group will abandon this particular, guitar-heavy musical direction immediately after this album, so it’s something not to be experienced elsewhere.

Bad points: the song Looking Around, very nice on the old ears, but just a tad silly; the song Harold Land, not a bad listen, and interesting lyrics about the emotional damage of a man drafted to fight in a war, but the music doesn’t match at all the mood of the lyrics.

Good points: most of the rest, really, but I really like the opening Beyond and Before and the cover of the Beatles’ Every Little Thing. I also like the closing Survival, with its odd Darwinian lyrics.

In conclusion, a very pleasant, listenable album that doesn’t cover much new ground but has lots of musical skills on display.

Final Rating: 26/30

Pill Sized Reviews 15 October 2007

Posted by Basilios in In Pills, Music Reviews.
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Up until now I only reviewed an album if I thought it deserved attention and didn’t get enough of it. I realized this leaves out a lot of interesting music albums that did get quite a bit of attention, but are still worth considering; in other words, albums that do get a lot of attention but deserve even more.

As a compromise I’m going to experiment with shorter reviews for records that had their brush with fame but I still feel they are worth noticing. I’m not going to blather on and on like I do in the full sized reviews, but hopefully will keep it short and to the point.

Green River (CCR, 1969) 8 October 2007

Posted by Basilios in CCR, Music Reviews.
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Green River

Green River was third album for CCR here, and the second the band released in 1969, after Bayou Country and before Willy And The Poor Boys. 1969 was the annus mirabilis for Creedence, or rather, for John Fogerty, whose songwriting skills grew, developed and matured. This second album is an important milestone, and even if it’s not the best CCR released, it shows the group’s promise, and it’s certainly enjoyable on its own right.

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Bayou Country (CCR, 1969) 26 September 2007

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Time to introduce a new group! And I picked Creedence Clearwater Revival, to the delight of a mate of mine; as famous and renowned as they are, in my opinion they don’t get the fame and credit they deserve, thus matching my criterion for reviews. The album I will review this time is their second, Bayou Country. Right from the start, even from the album title, they establish their fictional image of a bunch of poor artists from the Deep South of the USA. Well, they’re not. They’re from California, but the Deep South is the inspiration of much of their musical choices, that can’t be denied. And nobody like CCR was going to be able to take the best of the American South and distill it in poppy, friendly albums. (more…)

Reggatta De Blanc (The Police, 1979) 16 August 2007

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Reggatta De Blanc was the second album The Police released. In a way, it’s quite similar to the previous one (reviewed here), sticking as it does to the same formula: a collection of well played pop songs, some of them with slight infusions of reggae elements. But this is not just Outlandos D’Amour vol 2: the band has really gelled together, playing much more tightly, and there are fewer reggae influences, fewer love songs, and more pop. In fact, Sting here takes his first step towards the poppy, smooth and occasionally boring style he’d adopt in his solo career. (more…)

Friendly Advice: How Not To Be Approached By People 19 July 2007

Posted by Basilios in Fun.
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Today I’m taking a break from music reviews to help a friend in need. This guy I know has a problem: he’s been invited to a social gathering that his arch-enemy will also attend. How to have a nice time at the party without being approached by an obnoxious nemesis? (more…)

Da Capo (Love, 1967) 1 July 2007

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Da Capo was the second album released by American band Love. Like virtually all other Love albums, this was another flop; but unlike them, one of the songs here, Seven And Seven Is, became a minor hit, peaking at the 33th position. This success, albeit limited, gave the group enough oxygen to continue its career, which would reach its qualitative peak with Forever Changes, the successor to this album, and one that, despite having no hit singles and no relevant sales to speak of, is more critically appreciated today. (more…)

Pictures At An Exhibition (Emerson, Lake and Palmer, 1971) 10 June 2007

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Today this ELP album sounds like an oddity. It’s a full-blown rearrangement of Modest Mussorgsky‘s composition of the same name, but done 70’s style, and reinterpreted with a rock language rather than played faithfully by the note. Today, modern listeners might not see the point of that, and ask themselves why mix classical music with rock, but at the time this album was one of a string attempting the experiment. (more…)

In The Wake Of Poseidon (King Crimson, 1970) 31 May 2007

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King Crimson‘s second album was released in 1970 and, as I mentioned in my review of In The Court Of The Crimson King, at that time the group was a shambles. Because of heavy touring and personal contrasts, the lineup that created the first album collapsed; McDonald and Giles had wandered off to create their uncelebrated minor masterpiece, and Greg Lake was busy starting his new group, Emerson Lake and Palmer. (more…)

Forever Changes (Love, 1967) 18 May 2007

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Now this is a hidden gem of an album. I never heard of this group at all, before seeing it mentioned on a few websites dedicated to music reviews. Many of them were enthusiastic, and even those that didn’t call this particular record a masterpiece agreed that it was a worthwhile listen, so I decided to give it a spin.

And it was a worthwhile listen indeed, very enjoyable, and, within its style limitations, quite varied. (more…)

Outlandos D’Amour (The Police, 1978) 13 May 2007

Posted by Basilios in The Police.
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As soon as I mention Police everyone nods and says “Ah, the white guys playing reggae“. Everyone that still recognizes them, of course. Or rather, everyone that recognizes them and only knows a handful of songs – more knowledgeable people will talk about their infusion of reggae themes into straight rock and mention The Clash as a comparison. Hardcore fans will rave on and on and on about how they were God’s gift to humankind, but I tend not to listen to hardcore fans very much, sorry! (more…)

Music Reviews are back 1 May 2007

Posted by Basilios in Music Reviews.
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I had to take a long break in my music reviews. It’s been more than one year, and I was ambushed by real life! It happens sometimes, and this time it happened to me.

I actually spent much of this time thinking of the next album to review. I was not keen on doing only progressive rock, and certainly not on concentrating on the bands and artists I prefer. i was looking for something that I liked enough to want to review it, but not enough to make it look like I was focusing on my personal favourites. In the end I could not really decide – so much to choose from – and I just picked a CD at random from my shelf. It happened to be the debut album of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and you can read its review here. Comments are welcome as usual.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP, 1970) 1 May 2007

Posted by Basilios in Emerson Lake & Palmer.
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Emerson, Lake and Palmer are one of the most reviled groups in rock music. They were incredibly popular in the early Seventies, especially with college students (or so I read), and then had a huge backlash against them in the later Seventies, when Punk was born. Punk musicians indeed targeted them quite often, with keyboardist Keith Emerson burnt in effigy to show contempt for what they felt was dinosaur music compared with theirs. And they were bloody wrong about this, what with Punk music being a conservative restoration of rock and a return to its roots, the three-chord fast song. But I digress. (more…)

In The Court Of The Crimson King (King Crimson, 1969) 3 May 2006

Posted by Basilios in King Crimson, Music Reviews.
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King Crimson! One of the most important groups in progressive rock, and one of the most long-lived ones in the music industry, through a long list of dissolutions and resurrections, but always characterized by guitarist Robert Fripp. He maintains that he is not the band leader, but I feel his presence is definitely fundamental for the group’s identity. (more…)

McDonald and Giles (McDonald and Giles, 1970) 1 May 2006

Posted by Basilios in McDonald and Giles.
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I thought I’d start this Music Reviews section with one of my most favourite albums, McDonald and Giles by Ian McDonald and Michael Giles. It’s possible those names won’t ring a bell, so I’ll tell you some back story, such as I was able to reconstruct.

Once upon a time in the late Sixties, rock group King Crimson, of which Ian and Michael were part, invented progressive rock practically single-handed with their first album, In The Court Of The Crimson King, that I’m going to review some time soon. (more…)

My Music Reviews 1 May 2006

Posted by Basilios in Music Reviews.
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Those that know me know that I like music very much, and those that know me a bit better know that I need lots of practice for writing. Those that know me even better (hallo, John!) know that I should put some content on this blog of mine, or what’s the point of having one?

So I thought, What could be better than writing about music? And that’s what I’m going to try: publish small reviews of music albums that I listened to and concerts that I went to. Hopefully it will help me improve my writing. Comments are of course gladly accepted, as long as they’re civil and make a point – U SUK LOLZ is not going to impress me too much, okay?

A word about marking: out of a completely capricious whim, I decided to award marks on a scale of 1 to 30. This is actually the grading scale employed in Italian Universities. I think it can give out more finely graded marks than the usual 1 to 10, without having to worry to much over single percentile points like the 1 to 100 one.