Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mechanical Music

It has been said that the first side of the Rush album 'Moving Pictures' is the finest slab of rock music ever recorded. Comprising the incomparable selection of Tom Sawyer, Red Barchetta, YYZ and Limelight it is hard to disagree.

I am currently listening to the live rendition that features on the 'Live in Cleveland' recording from 2011 (30th anniversary of the studio version) and indeed it stands proud and strong still.

However, it is not my own obsession with the band and their work that compels me to write this. On May 12th, 2011 Rush did visit Dublin for the first (and realistically last) time. This tour, the Time Machine Tour, was to feature the Moving Pictures album in its entirety. For the geographically disadvantaged Irish fans this was something of a momentous occasion - the band did not disappoint and the crowd response was overwhelmingly positive. I was in the privileged position of having seen the band more than once before so the reaction of my fellow concertgoers was of particular interest. None more so than my great friend Trevor Mooney who would not have proclaimed to be a fan at all. But he was in attendance and some short time into the second set (somewhere between Red Barchetta and YYZ at a guess) he sent me a text message (that I did not see until after the show) that read 'ROCK! ROCK! ROCK!'

Here was a celebration of a great live Rush performance being experienced for the very first time: I was pleasantly envious and quietly chuffed that this connection was being made.

Friday, October 25, 2013


Here it is. The final album release from The Room of Rock in Wicklow. Whether I have saved the 'best for last' will never truly be known, but this collection is nigh on impossible to categorise. I'm sure I don't know what a pigeon-hole is but Progressive Rock will suffice for me. I'm confident I have paid homage to all of my favourite players and nodded to all of my major influences.

Though it is designed to be heard in one sitting I imagine most people won't be able to get their head around the mess or maybe even past the first 10 minutes - not that it's overtly madcap or technical or even original - but because unless one is Frank Zappa, eclecticism doesn't sit well in mainstream entertainment.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Outcasts (Part Two)

Some new soundtrack music from The Room of Rock in Wicklow.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My First Memories Volume 6 - Porcupine Tree

Porcupine Tree - Opeth...
Opeth - Porcupine Tree...

This is a kinda 2-for-1 deal as I see it. I discovered both bands around the same time, via the same initial source and there are some obvious connections between the bands beyond the purely musical. As such either band could occupy the number 5 slot. At the time of writing, I'd say Opeth just edge it for me...but there you go: that's the beauty of these lists!

Going back to 2005, many contributors to the Rush forum had been championing PT as the true front runners in the Prog race for a couple of years. At that time, Rush had recently (Autumn 2004) made a long awaited and triumphant return to British shores with their R30 extravaganza. I was adamant that no band would be able to get anywhere near Canada's finest, but still I was curious. What was so good about this oddly named band that had Rush fans so fired up?

My first actual listening came late one Friday night in the rehearsal studios I frequented when I was part of the Dublin band, One More Outnumbered. Not unnaturally we would fraternise with the other bands that shared the space - trading beers and new music. Typically, the room next door was home to some very extreme metal: where the likes of Pantera and Machinehead were considered lightweight. Excellent bands...but lightweight! However on this particular night I heard an acoustic guitar riff (in 5/4) that made me want to sit up and listen more closely. Turns out this was a song called 'The Sound of Musak' by PT.

Now I knew what all the Rush fans were talking about with such heightened enthusiasm. This was definitely something I wanted to explore further. Thankfully, a very nice man called Dave Lack (fellow English Gent, Fellow Rush fan) offered to put together a CD sampler - these used to be called mixtapes, I think! - for my initiation. This was littered with PT standards such as 'Blackest Eyes', 'Trains', 'Russia on Ice', 'Lazarus' and 'Arriving Somewhere but not Here' and compounded my thoughts that this was a band to be reckoned with.

Right now, PT is on a break of indeterminate length (shame) but be assured I will be right there with them again when 'the time is now again'.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My First Memories Volume 5 - Opeth

This is not a sign that I am coming out of retirement, but I have wanted to revisit this series for some weeks so here is the next chapter.

Thinking about it now, this represents that last time I truly took a punt on a band without having heard a single note. My introduction to Opeth came in the latter part of 2005 - when I bought 'Ghost Reveries' on a whim (HMV, Grafton Street). I was aware of the Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) connection, and the band's merits were well celebrated on the Rush forum site The National Midday Sun. This certainly seemed qualification enough that they deserved my attention.

No doubt about it, Opeth music is genuinely progressive when taken as a whole, but on first playback I was struck by what I dismissed as a straightforward cross between Dream Theater and Voivod...with decidedly gruff, death-metal styled vocals. Good. Well played. Modern production. But not amazing. Ok, well it was my own fault for not doing the research extensively...there really aren't any excuses in this overconnected age. However, I still liked to think of those days when you would go to record shops (!) and try something new based on a trivial connection: the album cover, the band name, the track titles, the producer that produced your favourite album by such and such a band...and so on. By 2005 those days really were ancient times but I am a music fan, a music collector, and I can still experience that hopeless (love?) optimism that you will be able to find new treasure in recorded music.

Eventually (read: a few weeks later - Ed), I did find the treasure. Not unnaturally, it was in the quieter, groovier moments that I first started to get to grips with this masterwork. However, it is in the grandiose title track and the epic 'Harlequin Forest' that I actually heard Opeth for the first time. 'Ghost Reveries' was an album that I found I could listen to on constant repeat and was ideal for the lengthy bus commute into Dublin. It is an album of tremendous complexity and texture and fully demonstrates the excellent vocal range of band leader, Mikael Akerfeldt. The man has at least 4 strong vocal personalities and he utilities them expertly as musical tones that weave in and out of the heavily orchestrated guitars.

I have since become a major fan of the band, travelling to see them if necessary. Subsequent albums have seen something of a stunning rise to the top of the Prog tree, and I am sure there are still several moments' of genius still to come.