Tag Archive: july

Americana – Sound on Sound magazine review July 2013

I only read and respect the opinions of one music-related magazine and that’s Sound on Sound, which I’ve been a reader of since the early 1990s. I sent off a copy of “Americana” to them for review and here’s their firm, but fair, assessment of it.

Americana - Sound on Sound Review July 2013

Americana – Sound on Sound Review July 2013

Hopefully it inspires you to purchase your copy of this album as soon as possible! 🙂

Buy it here: http://music.darrenlock.com/album/americana

CD Review: Raised in Captivity – John Wetton

I’m not the biggest fan of John Wetton’s solo career, so I was a bit worried about reviewing his new album “Raised in Captivity”. The record boasts guest appearances from Steve Morse, Robert Fripp, Steve Hackett, Tony Kaye, Eddie Jobson and Geoff Downes.

The opener “Lost for Words” is memorable for its stop-start structure which elevates a pretty standard pop-rock song from the doldrums. In fact, it’s a pretty strong track to open an album, but it tootles along at a pretty pace, doesn’t outstay its welcome and features a pretty nifty solo from Steve Morse. The only downside is the lyrics drag for a while, but if you like Asia, you is going to love this.

“Raised in Captivity” features Wetton’s King Crimson bandmate Robert Fripp and his presence is noted from the outset with his familiar atmospheric soundscaped guitar, which bookends the song. It’s a shame that we don’t get a proper solo from our man Fripp. The song then moves into pretty standard rock riff territory and deals with one man being born into captivity. Of course, this is metaphorical restraint and he’s not talking about being brought up like a modern wolfboy or something. I really enjoyed the bass on this one, which sees Wetton slapping and sliding his way through the song.

The third track starts with a gallic sounding accordion and acoustic guitar. “Goodbye Elsinore” is a departure from the pop-rock style and is a real “hold your lighters aloft” moment – or maybe in this day-and-age you hold your mobile phones up. But what makes the track for me is a very complimentary guitar solo from Steve Hackett. My only criticism was his contribution was so brief.

“The Last Night of my Life” starts with a staccato guitar riff that wouldn’t be amiss from an Asia album or even a later day King Crimson record. Unfortunately, what starts promising descends into an audio fog and comes back out the other side again. I liked what they were trying to do here, but I think it might have worked better if some of the big guitar chords were stripped away and more space was given to Wetton’s vocals. He has a thick voice and the song just ends up being really dense on the busy parts.

According to the blurb “We Stay Together” is the bonus track of the album and it is a really big, pomp rock song but when push comes to shove it’s just another rock love song, which leaves me shrugging and going “meh”. Unremarkable really, but then I guess that’s why it is the bonus track and the lyrics are taken from the big book of Rhymes “Let’s spend the night together, spend our life together” etc. Not sure why they put it in the middle of the album – I thought bonus tracks came at the end normally.

“The Human Condition” (I kept wanting to call it “The Human Centipede”) lurches into life and resembles something that Emerson, Lake and Palmer might have done during the 1990s – Paper Blood, anyone? It’s big, plodding and brash with “The Human Condition” being sung as a backing vocal throughout. I don’t get it. I think I would have preferred a song about “The Human Centipede”.

Steffi’s Ring (piece) – sorry, “Steffi’s Ring” moves us into pseudo-folk territory with rambling acoustic guitars and a rustic air pervading the atmosphere. Ooooh, he used the word vermillion, and I am sure he’s meant to rhyme it with “creed or religion” but it sounds all mangled and he might as well been singing “cheese and onion” for all its worth. Listen to it and tell me what you think the line is supposed to be. Is that a real flute solo or did Geoff Downes perform it on the keyboard? These are the questions that need answers. And a hey-nonny-nonny to all that, eh?

I was expecting big things from “The Devil and the Opera House” as the lyrics were a co-write with old King Crimson lyric pensmith Richard Palmer-James. I found it a bit of a dull old thing, a worn sock of a song, but it was nice to hear Eddie Jobson scrape his bow across his violin again. But I didn’t get this song at all. Not sure what it wanted to be – lots of mixed imagery – but doesn’t add up to a whole heap of beans.

“New Star Rising” by now the album was testing my patience and my tolerance threshold had been reached. Underneath the guitars, there is an old-fashioned boogie-woogie number trying to get out I tell you. Nice to hear Mick Box from Uriah Heep on this though… I always have a soft spot for the Uriah Heep track “One Way or Another” from their High and Mighty album that features Wetton on lead vocals.

The penultimate track is what you’d call a power ballad and “Don’t Misunderstand Me” is pretty standard fare. Again, this has Asia DNA running through it though it lacks the shine and polish of that band. I’ll be honest, I didn’t like it. This isn’t a song for me, especially when Wetton sings that “this is straight from the heart” – I just want to reach for the sick bag.

“Mighty Rivers” is a much-needed musical departure, which embraces choral music and veers into symphonic rock territory with Wetton employing the vocal talents of soprano Anneke Van Geirsbergen and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. I like the intention of it, but as the song progresses I was thinking one word – one single word – and that word was “Eurovision”. The European visitors will know what I am talking but for those of you who are viewing this far and wide in the world, I suggest you use Wikipedia too look up the entry for the Eurovision Song Contest and all will be revealed. It’s not a bad song, it just feel so out of place on this record. But if the UK wants to win the Eurovision, I suggest getting John to enter this track.

I find it to be objective about an album like this because the music borders on the fringes of rock that I avoid. But I like John Wetton and admire him for his contribution to King Crimson, his time with Roxy Music and UK. Of course, marks are knocked off for Asia (spit). If you like this kind of MOR pop-rock then you are going to be well at home, but don’t come here expecting past glories. Unfortunately, this is an album that fails to engage with my sensibilities.

For that reason, and that reason alone, I give it a middle-of-the-road two-and-a-half Larks’ Tongues in Aspic out of five.

CD Review: Survival & Other Stories – Jon Anderson

Well this album came out before the new Yes album, so I thought it was a good idea to see how Jon Anderson was getting along with his musical endeavours.

The concept behind this record is that Anderson put a shout out via the web to musicians to collaborate with him and this album is the result of that.

The first track “New New World” is pretty standard fare and wouldn’t be amiss on an ABWH album, perhaps. It’s all very enjoyable with some Steve Howe type guitar and an orchestral sound palette being introduced. Unfortunately, the song lacks a little polish and comes off sound a little like a demo – but that could just be a fault of the production.

“Understanding Truth” on the other hand is a genteel, acoustic guitar-led song with the production stripped back and it sounds intimate and there is genuine warmth in the recording and I immediately got transported back to the days of listening to Simon and Garfunkel – though this could be further away. There was just that folky vibe.

The third track “Unbroken Spirit” is Anderson’s rallying cry and you get the feeling that this is his message to that bunch of bastards who dumped him at his lowest point. Lyrically it comes across a very personal song and again, there’s a warmth and intimacy here that’s often lacking from his previous records.

“Love of the Life” is a song that returns to standard Anderson territory and again it borrows a rhythmic palette from ABWH and the piano could have been lifted from Long Lost Brother of Mine. Love the bass line, very Tony Levin. And then the chorus goes all Vangelis and we are hearing echoes of State of Independence. Quite a fun track in all.

“Big Bhudda Song” has Anderson thanking all his spiritual heroes, which is OK, I guess. But I am a heathen so it means bugger all to me – but I did like the integration of “We Have Heaven” during the middle of the song. I love that kind of stuff, so this song earns bonus points for that exophoric referencing.

The pace slows down for “Incoming” where Anderson’s voice is complemented by piano and classical guitar. It’s the longest song on the album and at nearly eight minutes, I felt my concentration drifting off somewhat. The build up to the end section is a little anti-climactic and needs a little more welly.

The acoustic guitars return for “Effortlessly” and it is a sweet little song and I think this is where the strength of the album comes out. It’s when Anderson keeps his ideas simple and let his voice and the instruments do their work. OK – this is a slight lyric, but its homespun charm wins out.

“Love and Understanding” – by this point of the album, I was beginning to lose focus. It’s a pretty standard upbeat pop song, but lacks the musical bite needed to transcend it to the level of his ex-bandmates.

Again, the mood shifts down a couple of gears for “Just One Man” and we return to Anderson singing against a solo piano and as the song progresses there’s a really engaging violin solo, but for me it isn’t enough to keep my interest. I found it a bit dull, to be honest.

By “Sharpening the Sword” I was waiting for the album to end. I am sorry, but if you make it this far, you must have a great patience than myself. All the stylistic ticks and musical cues we’ve already heard are trotted out again and the song verges on a bad 1980s nu-age track.

Bad spelling is enough to make sensible person see red so the final track “Cloudz” is instantly on the wrong foot. But on the upside, this is the last track and we’ve made it through this marathon. I can say that I didn’t enjoy this. Lots of angelic imagery and talking of clouds was enough for me. I am sure some will appreciate its sentimentality, but it is hard to swallow.

It’s a shame because there are some half-decent tracks on this record, but Anderson needs a good producer and someone to pull him back from excess and repetition. For me, the album was too long and by the final third just run out of steam.

To rate this, I would give it three Olias of Sunhillow’s out of five.

How to restring a guitar with nylon strings

I hate restringing guitars. I used to enjoy it, but as life passes me by, the chore of maintaining my instrument wears on me somewhat. Sometimes I forget how to restring guitars and so I made this little video guide for my own reference. In it, I go through the process of restringing my Godin Multiac ACS SA Nylon with some new D’Addario strings.


CD Review: Incantations [2011 Deluxe Edition] by Mike Oldfield

The new version of Incantations hits the shops on 25 July 2011 and here is my take on the deluxe edition, which features remastered versions of the album, extra tracks and a 5.1 surround sound DVD.

Album Review: Brian Eno & Rick Holland – Drums Between the Bells

Here I am jabbering away about the new Brian Eno album.