Posts Tagged ‘David Gilmour’

1. Cannonball (7:40)
2. Still in Love (4:28)
3. No Inbetween (4:41)
4. Better Days (6:12)
5. Brother Where You Bound (16:34)
6. Every Open Door (3:05)

Rick Davies – keyboards, vocals
John Helliwell – saxophone, vocals
Bob Siebenberg – drums
Dougie Thompson – bass, Cha Cha, background vocals (2)

David Gilmour – guitar solos (5)
Scott Gorham –  guitar (5)
Scott Page – flute (4, 5)
Marty Walsh – guitar (1, 2, 4, 5)
Doug Wintz – trombone (1)

When Roger Hodgson left the band in 1983, many were ready to write Supertramp off for good. After all, the interplay between his distinctive high-pitched vocals and Rick Davies’ gruff, bluesy tones, as well as their differing songwriting styles, had always been one of the main points of attraction for the many fans of the band. It was therefore quite a shock for the sceptics to be confronted with such a strong release as 1985’s Brother Where You Bound – a still relatively underappreciated album that, however, can easily be put on a par with the band’s renowned Seventies output.

Starting from the elegantly minimalistic cover, depicting the stages of man’s evolution in five different colours on a pristine white background, Brother Where You Bound simply oozes class. Supertramp always had the uncanny knack of marrying catchy hooks with interesting, thought-provoking lyrics, and this album is no exception. Rick Davies, left alone to cope with vocal duties, unleashes a performance that is nothing short of awesome, especially on the album’s pièce de resistance, the 16-minute title-track. Add a couple of prestigious guest musicians to the mix, and you have a near-masterpiece on your hands.

In the best tradition of a band known for strong opening tracks, “Cannonball” does not disappoint the listener. Backed by a steady, almost danceable beat, and introduced by Davies’ scintillating piano, it is one of the vocalist/keyboardist’s many songs about a broken relationship, where you can positively hear the anger in his voice, belying the mock-cheerfulness of the sudden bursts of horns and the almost singalong coda. However, while the horn-heavy “Still in Love” seems to reprise the apparently carefree mood of Breakfast in America, on the whole the songs come across as definitely more somber and less accessible. Both the slow, understated “No Inbetween” (featuring great keyboards and sax) and the relentless “Better Days”, with its frantic pace and splendid flute solo, convey an aura of almost claustrophobic pessimism and disillusion

Interestingly, it is mainly Davies’ voice that makes Brother Where You Bound a markedly darker, less upbeat offering than Supertramp’s 1979 mega-hit, Breakfast in America.The title-track, in particular, is anything but an easy, radio-friendly listen, made up as it is of various parts interspersed by recorded voices, odd noises and sudden silences, underpinning the oppressive atmosphere conjured up by lyrics imbued with all the paranoia of the Cold War years. Davies’ stunning, highly dramatic vocal performance and David Gilmour’s trademark, crystal-clear guitar tones link all the pieces together to create what is possibly the band’s best epic. In comparison with such a wild, exhilarating ride, album closer “Every Open Door”, a slow, moody piece, is a tad anticlimactic, also on account of its decidedly more optimistic message.

If you only know Supertramp for the likes of “Dreamer” and “The Logical Song” (which is as perfect a pop song as they come), you will probably be inclined to dismiss them as little more than ‘prog-lite’ for those who hesitate to delve into the more demanding examples of the genre. Although it is true that the band possess a great feel for melody and memorable hooks, they are also outstanding musicians, and purveyors of above-average lyrics.  While they may represent the ‘easier’ side of prog, they do so with inimitable style and class, displaying songwriting skills that are far from average. Brother Where You Bound is a prime example of ‘crossover’  prog at its very best, and as such highly recommended to anyone but those prog fans who think that ‘pop’ is inevitably a bad word.

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1. Sat in Your Lap (3:30)
2. There Goes a Tenner (3:26)
3. Pull Out the Pin (5:30)
4. Suspended in Gaffa (3:58)
5. Leave It Open (3:25)
6. The Dreaming (4:41)
7. Night of the Swallow (5:25)
8. All the Love (4:35)
9. Houdini (3:52)
10. Get Out of My House (5:30)

Kate Bush – vocals, piano, keyboards, strings
Alan Murphy – electric guitar (5, 10)
Brian Bath – electric guitar (3)
Ian Bairnson – acoustic guitar (5, backing vocals (1)
Paddy Bush – mandolin, strings (4, ), bullroarer (6), backing vocals (1, 6, 10)
Liam O’Flynn – Uillean pipes, penny whistles (7)
Sean Keane – fiddle (7)
Donal Lunny – bouzouki (7)
Rolf Harris – digeridu (6)
Del Palmer – bass (2, 4, 7, 8), backing vocals (9)
Eberhard Weber – bass (9)
Jimmy Bain – bass (1, 5, 10)
Danny Thompson – bass (3)
Dave Lawson – synclavier (2, 4), string arrangement (9)
Geoff Downes – CMI trumpet section (1)
Bill Whelan – string arrangement (7)
Andrew Powell – string arrangement (9)
Preston Heyman – drums (1,  3,  5, 10)
Stuart Elliot –  drums (2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9)
Esmail Sheikh – drum talk (10)
Gary Hurst –  backing vocals (1)
Stewart Arnold – backing vocals (1)
Dave Gilmour – backing vocals (3)
Gordon Farrell – backing vocals (9)
Paul Hardiman – backing vocals (10)
Gosfield Goers – crowd (6)
Percy Edwards -animals (6)
Richard Thornton – choirboy (8)

After a few weeks’ break, my blog is ready to resume is activity with another milestone release of the early Eighties – proving once again that the  much-maligned decade was not the wasteland for challenging music that many hardcore progressive rock fans purport it to be.

I have been a fan of Kate Bush for as long as I can remember.  Being a woman, I have been able to focus my appreciation of this multi-faceted, highly individual (and often imitated) artist  on her musical and lyrical output, without any considerations on her physical appearance clouding my judgment. A genuinely progressive artist (though seen by far too many people as little more than a purveyor of  intelligent art-pop),  known for her almost obsessive search for privacy and the infrequency of her releases (especially in the past two decades), Kate Bush has blazed a trail for a slew of women artists ranging from Tori Amos to P.J. Harvey – all of them very intriguing in their own way, though rarely as mesmerizing as  Kate can be.

The Dreaming, Kate Bush’s fourth studio album, is generally considered inferior to its follow-up, Hounds of Love – especially by those who find it way too adventurous for its own good.  With multilayered vocals, an impressive, often exotic instrumentation, eerie sound effects, lyrics dealing with intense, occasionally disturbing topics, it is probably Kate’s most progressive album in the true sense of the word, and as such not to everyone’s taste. Indeed, The Dreaming may be effectively compared to her good friend Peter Gabriel’s ’80s releases, which share the pervasive presence of ethnic rhythms  and instruments (immediately introduced in opening track “Sat on Your Lap”), as well as topics like the plight of indigenous populations. The influence of  the so-called New Wave movement  is also quite evident in both Kate’s and Peter’s output of those years, especially as regards the use of electronics – though it is only one of the ingredients of an intensely personal mixture.

There is very little in the way of filler on The Dreaming, although, in my view, the lilting, lighter-hearted “There Goes a Tenner” and “Suspended in Gaffa” are not as successful as the other tracks. On the other hand, the album’s  highlights rank among Kate’s best work. The echoing, heavily percussive title-track is awash with the voices and sounds of the Australian outback; while the achingly beautiful “Houdini” (to which the cover picture refers) sees one of Kate’s most poignant vocal performances, enhanced by plaintive strings and sparse piano.  Kate also explores her Celtic roots with the gentle ballad “Night of the Swallow”, laced with the distinctive sounds of the Uillean pipes and fiddle. However, the album features a true masterpiece in the haunting “Pull Out the Pin”:  with Pink Floyd’s legendary guitarist David Gilmour eerily emoting on backing vocals, the song focuses on the Vietnam war seen from the point of view of a Vietcong: “Just one thing in it, me or him/And I love life…” The lyrics starkly reflect on the absurdity of war, bearing once again witness to Kate’s deep insight into human nature.

The Dreaming is arguably not as easy to get into as either its predecessor, Never For Ever, or the highly praised Hounds of Love. With markedly fewer instances of catchy melodies such as “Wuthering Heights” or “Babooshka” , and an overall experimental feel, it also relies quite heavily on innovative production techniques, which at the time many listeners found rather baffling . However, none of these factors mar the excellence of an album that, even more so than other Kate Bush releases, manages to be soothing and unsettling at the same time – a truly ground-breaking effort from one of the most iconic artists on the current music scene.

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1. Let There Be More Light (5:38)
2. Remember a Day (4:33)
3. Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun (5:28)
4. Corporal Clegg (4:12)
5. A Saucerful of Secrets (11:57)
6. See-Saw (4:36)
7. Jugband Blues (2:59)

Syd Barrett – guitar, vocals
David Gilmour – guitar, vocals
Nick Mason – drums
Roger Waters – bass, vocals
Richard Wright – organ, piano, vocals

Needless to say,  Pink Floyd do not belong to the contingent of lower-profile or just plain obscure bands that are often featured in blogs like mine. On the contrary, their fame is such that, outside the restricted circles of progressive rock fans, they are considered as mainstream an act as the likes of Madonna or Michael Jackson. However, with A Saucerful of Secrets we are as far removed as possible from the stadium-filling phenomenon the band would become just a few years later. This a disc of whose existence most fans of the band’s best-selling albums are barely aware, and that gets unfairly overshadowed by the cult status achieved by The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.

Pink Floyd’s sophomore effort is undoubtedly an album that can polarize listeners’ opinions. Some see it as dated, or lacking in cohesion, since it was released at a turning point for the band, when Syd Barrett, who was slowly descending into mental illness, was being gradually replaced by his friend David Gilmour – which involved a significant shift in the band’s overall sound. In my personal opinion, though, it is one of the great unsung masterpieces of  progressive rock.

No mean feat for a band specialized in killer openers, A Saucerful of Secrets can boast of one of the strongest opening tracks ever committed to record.  “Let There Be More Light” is the archetypal psych/prog composition, with weird, mesmerizing, Eastern-influenced sound effects, and vocals alternating between chant-like whispers and shouts. Together with the album’s best-known song, the equally iconic and hypnotic “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” (whose definitive version appears on the “Live at Pompeii” movie), the track was written by Roger Waters, who was well on his way to becoming the band’s true driving force. Those who maintain that Waters was a less gifted composer than Gilmour should probably take a careful listen to both songs.

The mood changes almost abruptly with the following number, the Richard Wright-penned “Remember a Day”. With soothing, wistful vocals that match the nostalgia-filled lyrics (which seem to foreshadow Wright’s untimely passing), it is a delicate, charming piece that is definitely easier on the ear in a musical sense. In a similar key, the lullaby-like “See Saw” (also written by the late keyboardist) is not, however, equally successful, and is, in my view, the weakest track on the album. On the other hand  “Corporal Clegg” and “Jugband Blues”  hark back to the whimsy of much of the Floyd’s debut album, with endearingly zany vocals, odd noises and ironic, nonsense-filled lyrics. “Jugband Blues”, which closes the album in stark contrast to the eerie soundscapes of the opener, can be seen as Barrett’s testament, and feels particularly poignant nowadays, four years after Syd’s demise.

An album’s title-track often acts as its focal point, and this is particularly true of the schizophrenic masterpiece that is “A Saucerful of Secrets”. Over 12 minutes long, the track is introduced by an uncontrolled chaos of weird noises and hypnotic percussive patterns, a sonic storm that suddenly abates to be replaced by a solemn, organ-driven section, featuring wordless singing somewhat suggestive of a church choir. In a way, the song reflects the nature of the album itself, and the circumstances in which it came into being.

For those who have come to know Pink Floyd through their milestone albums of the Seventies, this record may well turn out to be a disappointment, since it is in no way as accomplished, let alone as polished as regards production values. A Saucerful of Secrets is a child of the late Sixties – raw, experimental, slightly incoherent – and as such captures the essence of an era in which creativity and envelope-pushing were rife. It also captures Pink Floyd’s full potential just a few years before the quantum leap that would lead them to conquer the world. An essential listen, and – incidentally – my own favourite  release by the band.

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