Musical coincidences # 399

July 2, 2013

I posted a Pilot song the other week. The song was from their 1976 album, Morin Heights, and that prompted side3 to suggest I listen to another song from the album. I did, and at one point I exclaimed: “Hey, wait a minute…”

This is why:

Pilot – “Maniac” (November 1976) (excerpt)

The Alan Parsons Project – “The Cask Of Amontillado (May 1976) (excerpt)

Considering the fact that members of Pilot played on that Alan Parsons track, there’s a fair bit of cross-pollination going on here.

Here are the full versions:

Pilot – “Maniac” (1976)

The Alan Parsons Project – “The Cask Of Amontillado (1976)

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Song of the day: The Alan Parsons Project – "(The System Of) Doctor Tarr And Professor Fether"

May 12, 2013

Thanks to commenter Mr. Tanner and his fond memories of Tales Of Mystery And Imagination: Edgar Allan Poe, the debut album by The Alan Parsons Project, here’s Mr. T’s favourite of the album’s rockier tracks:

The Alan Parsons Project – “(The System Of) Doctor Tarr And Professor Fether (1976)

It’s not mine, though.

Of the rockin’-ish tracks on Tales Of Mystery…, mine is this:

The Alan Parsons Project – “The Tell-Tale Heart (1976)

It must be said that how much both those tracks “rock” depends entirely on how you define “rock”. But The Big Tanner and I love that album and those songs.


Educating Peter # 46

May 5, 2013

Yay!

This week Michael sent me a song by The Alan Parsons Project. Yay!

The reason for that double-barrelled “Yay!” is that in the 1970s I was a huge fan of The Alan Parsons Project – well, the first three albums anyway: Tales Of Mystery And Imagination: Edgar Allan Poe (1976); I Robot (1977); and Pyramid (1978).

Love those first three albums. I didn’t think much of their fourth album, Eve (1979), and with my attention span I lost interest in The Alan Parsons Project shortly thereafter.

This means that I’m unfamiliar with any Alan Parsons Project music recorded in the ’80s. Cue Michael with an Alan Parsons Project song from the ’80s…

I dare say I would have become excited to the point of being insufferable if Michael had sent me a song from one of those first three albums (you really don’t want to hear me enthuse about The Alan Parsons Project).

But that ain’t gonna happen. Michael sent me a track from 1984’s Ammonia Avenue, the Project’s seventh album (i.e., three albums after I’d lost interest in them).

The song is “Don’t Answer Me”, and it was the first single from the album. According to Wikipedia, “Don’t Answer Me” was a “smash hit” (or to be more precise, a “Phil Spector-influenced million-selling smash hit”). I guess it would have had a fair amount of airplay on the radio then. I don’t remember hearing it on the radio.

For me, an Alan Parsons Project song from the 1980s is an unknown prospect. Will it be any good? Did Alan Parsons and his cohorts have any decent musical ideas in the ’80s? Or will they be like many other artists in the ’80s (i.e., going overboard with new technology and neglecting the songwriting)?

Enough conjecture. Let’s listen to the song.

Oh, one more thing:

Even if this song’s a stinker, at least it’ll be well produced. (Alan Parsons is one of my favourite producers.)

The Alan Parsons Project – “Don’t Answer Me (1984)

0:00-0:16 – Eek. This introduction is a bit… ordinary. I’m surprised at how ordinary it is. The chord progression is, for me, distressingly unimaginative. It’s two bars of C major, two bars of A minor, two bars of D minor, and two bars of G major. It doesn’t get much more ordinary than that.

What’s not helping is the sound. The first four seconds of this luxuriant production reminded me of two Electric Light Orchestra songs: the slightly overblown “The Way Life’s Meant To Be“; and the horribly overblown “Confusion“. (I think there’s a nice song in “Confusion”. It’s just buried underneath way too much sound.)

I’m getting the feeling that at some point in this song I’m going to use the word “mush”. I really don’t want to, because I think Alan Parsons is a superb producer. He’s someone who’s come up with some wonderful sounds over the years (maybe not the 1980s). Unfortunately, at the moment this song is an aural pillow that’s not holding my interest. (Example of an aural pillow that does hold my interest: http://youtu.be/jiIVA7tQIDo. And one in popular music: http://youtu.be/K8poht52GAs)

I hope I’m not reading too much into a 16-second introduction.

0:16-0:50 – This is nice. The melody for the verse is floating along, like a cloud. This is very pleasant. And that melody is sounding familiar. Maybe I have heard this song before. And maybe I wasn’t paying much attention to it whenever it was on the radio.

Sample lyric (0:33-0:40): “When we were living in a dream world, clouds got in the way”.

I’m going to have to say it: Mush.

But I will say this: Those castanets sound great.

And I’ll try not fill up with post with one-sentence paragraphs containing colons.

0:50-1:23 – This chorus is nice, too. It also sounds vaguely familiar. I guess I have heard it before.

I’d like to point out two things about this chorus:

1. The production. The sound and stereo spread of the background vocals is excellent. Each background singer is wonderfully separated.

2. The modulation. At 1:07 Mr. Parsons & co. chuck in a chord that’s not in the song’s key, and it’s a superb bit of modulation (i.e., changing key within a song). Unfortunately, Mr. Parsons & co. had already done that in “To One In Paradise“, a song from the first album (Tales Of Mystery And Imagination: Edgar Allan Poe), but I’m happy to cut that recycled songwriting device because… well, because it’s such an effective thing to do in a song like this. (It sure breaks up the monotony of a predictable chord progression.)

1:23-1:57 – A second verse that, to me, sounds indistinguishable from the first one. I’d hazard a guess and say it is different from the first verse, but from what I’m hearing, I can’t pick it. (This track was produced before computer-enabled cut-‘n’-paste became commonplace, so the two verses would have to be different.)

And this verse, just like the first one, went by very smoothly.

1:57-2:29 – Another chorus. Just like the first chorus. Ho-hum.

2:29-3:03 – An saxophone solo. The saxophonist is playing all the right notes, and in the right places, but for me this solo is singularly uninspiring. And it has me asking what I think is an obvious question: Why a saxophone? Why not a marimba? Or a tuba? Or a theremin? I’d love to hear a theremin solo in this song.

3:03-3:28 – Another amorphous chorus.

Nice timpani.

3:28-3:03 – A repeat of the chorus as we fade out.

***

Although I found “Don’t Answer Me” to be a dull affair, it did prompt a few thoughts:

  • Is “Don’t Answer me” the dullest song on Ammonia Avenue?
  • Am I doing “Don’t Answer Me” a disservice because the song might be a part of an overarching story within the album?
  • What’s the rest of the album like?

I think I’ll spend some time getting to know Ammonia Avenue.


Song of the day: Sam Page – "I Don’t Want To Think About Her Anymore"

February 6, 2013

When I turn the computer on in the morning, one of the things I usually do is visit a slew of power pop blogs. (There are about 10 I look at daily.)

I did that very thing yesterday morning, and it prompted today’s post.

When I was over at the Powerpopaholic blog I saw a review of Breach, an album by a chap called Sam Page. “Hmm. That looks interesting,” I thought.

Then I visited the Ice Cream Man Power Pop and More! blog, and the latest post there mentioned this Sam Page fellow as well.

And then it dawned on me.

Sam Page emailed me last month asking for a review of the album.

Oops.

So I decided to do what any decent blogger would do in this situation: listen to the album and then post about it as fast as humanly possible.

And that’s what I’m about to do.

Strap yourself in…

Sam Page – Breach (2013)

1. “I Don’t Want To Think About Her Anymore”

0:00-0:17 – The way this song begins (i.e., with twangy guitars and friskiness) makes me think I’m going to listen to a countrified roots-rock album.

0:17-0:41 – But then Sam started his rapid-fire talking/singing, and I thought more of that band – the one that had that novelty song, “One Week”. What was the name of that band? Bowling For Soup? Hang on…

The “One Week” song was by Barenaked Ladies, the band with the lead singer who looks like XTC‘s Andy Partridge. (See the “One Week” video for evidence.)

But back to Sam’s song…

0:34 – I wasn’t keen on how Sam pronounced “tiara” here. He says “tierra”, just to make it rhyme with “Sierra”. Grrr.

0:39-0:40 – I liked the little “yodel-ay-hee-hoo!” in the left channel here. Cute.

0:41-0:58 – Although I’m enjoying the beat and all those twangy guitars everywhere in the mix, I don’t think the melody of this chorus is strong enough for the song. The singing and phrasing’s fine, but for me it’s not much of a melody.

0:58-1:22 – I’m starting to get annoyed by all that talking.

1:19-1:21 – Instead of a little “yodel-ay-hee-hoo” hiding in the left channel, we have a “rrrowwwww”. Cute.

1:22-1:38 – Another chorus. I’d love to know why the background vocalist chose the note he chose at 1:26 and 1:34. I think it’s an odd choice of note for a background harmony. (Getting technical and uninteresting, it’s a suspended note instead of a more pleasing third. Sorry about getting technical and uninteresting.)

1:38-1:55 – A twang-a-matic guitar solo. I like it. And I liked how it became doubled and harmonised.

1:55-2:15 – Back to all that talking. I’m looking forward to the chorus. It may not have a great melody, but at least there’s less talking in it.

2:15-2:33 – This song is well recorded. You can tell how well recorded it is in this brief section, where Sam finally stops talking long enough for you to hear instruments.

2:33-2:39 – There’s that odd harmony note in the chorus again (2:37). I have two theories about that note:

1. The singer isn’t terribly familiar with the key the song is in; or

2. That note is deliberately off-putting because it signifies his dislike of the girl he’s singing about.

I’m going with theorem number two.

Incidentally, at 2:38, just before the chorus is repeated, someone in the left channel says “Alright, one last time”. I’d like it to be known that I thought that was a moderately pointless thing to say. Maybe it wasn’t pointless for the musicians recording it at the time, but it certainly didn’t need to appear in the song, where you’ll hear it every time you play it, and as you become more familiar with the song, and you know that the chorus is being repeated, you may end up saying exasperatedly in response: “Yes, I KNOW.”

2:33-2:39 – I did like the elongated “herrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr” (2:42-2:46), but I didn’t like the “Game over” spoken at 2:51. Comme ci comme ça.

2. “Hold On”

0:00-0:03 – When “Hold On” began, I immediately thought of the start(s) of two other songs:

Hey Ocean! – “Big Blue Wave” (2011)

and

Tal Bachman – “She’s So High (1999)

Plk, plk, plk, plk…

0:03-0:18 – And now Sam is singing with the plk-plk-plk-plk accompaninemt. That’s fair enough. I’m guessing this isn’t going to stay a plk-plk-plk-plk song for much longer. (Songs that start this way rarely stay that way.)

0:18-0:32 – Yep.

This section reminds me of early Elvis Costello. I’m not entirely sure why, but it does. (It might be the guitar’s rhythm. Or not.) Actually, this is reminding me of pretty much every artist who was signed to the Stiff Records label at the time. (1977 to 1983-ish.)

0:32-0:50 – And back to the plk, plk, plk, plk, but with a drum beat.

0:50-1:05 – Then we’re back in Elvis Costello/Stiff Records territory.

This song is so 1979.

1:05-1:48 – This is a moderately lengthy chorus. (I thought it had finished by 1:34, but it kept on going.) Despite its length, I preferred it to the chorus of the first track.

1:48-2:03 – This little twin-guitar thing is enjoyable.

2:03-2:17 – Sam’s singing here, sounding all gruff ‘n’ gritty, isn’t all that convincing to me, mainly because he wasn’t gruff ‘n’ gritty earlier in the song. Sam gets extra gritty for the word “off” (from 2:12-2:13), but I couldn’t see why.

2:17-2:58 – A repeat of that enjoyable chorus. I thought that bit of falsetto from 2:45-2:52 was well placed in the song (as were the ones that came after it), but I wouldn’t have minded it being louder, to sound more assertive. (As judges on television singing programs might say: “Own that falsetto! Own it!”)

2:58-3:00 – That’s a very nice drum fill. (I especially liked how it started with just the bass drum and then ended with that very quick run around the toms in very enjoyable stereo)

3:00-3:29 – This is a repeat of the chorus but instead of Sam warbling away it’s a guitar soloing. While that guitar’s doing what it’s doing, there are some nice wordless background vocals. I like that. And I like the energetic drum fill from 3:06-3:08.

Oh-oh. The solo guitar at reminds me of two other guitar solos: this part of Dire Straits’ “Sultans Of Swing”, and the end of the guitar solo in Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street”.

Sorry about bringing in other songs when I should be focusing on Sam’s.

From 3:22-3:28, the bass player got all melodic, but unfortunately I didn’t think the melody played on the bass fit the song.

3:29-3:35 – Well, that’s one way to finish a song.

3. “Now I Know”

0:00-0:07 – I like how this one began very much. It was so unlike the two previous songs, and I thought that it was refreshingly different to those rockers. This made me think of this Alan Parsons Project song. Excellent. I’d like to thank Sam for doing that. Thanks, Sam!

0:07-0:14 – Oh. At least I liked the first seven seconds. I might get used to Sam being all sensitive, and sounding pained…

0:14-1:18 – That’s better. The band has come in. That helps enormously. However, I’m not totally diggin’ Sam’s vocals. For example, Sam sings “…notice me…” at 0:26 in such an odd way that I feel compelled to use the word “fey”. I’m going to have to say it.

When Sam sang “notice me” he sounded fey.

And at 0:32, when Sam sang the “know” in “now I know”, he sounded like a cat meowing. (Sort of like “Now I meow”.)

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not minding the song so far. It’s just that there are some elements of it that are preventing me from enjoying it more (e.g., singing “care flea” instead of “carefully” at 0:48, and a guitar out of tune from 0:55-0:56 then again from 1:09-1:10).

1:18-1:46 – We finally get to the chorus. And I think it’s much better than the verse. Although I must admit that, for me, it could have been a bit shorter. (There are only so many times I can hear the phrase “Now I know” before I respond in frustration, “Alright already! You know!”)

1:46-2:04 – A little guitar interlude. Tasteful.

2:04-2:11 – The band has stopped, and it’s now just a solitary, lone, alone, lonesome etc. acoustic guitar dolefully strumming a few chords. The rhythm of the strumming reminds me of America’s “Sister Golden Hair”. The chords don’t, but the rhythm does.

I’d like to issue a correction here: That solitary acoustic guitar wasn’t solitary at all. There was an electric guitar playing along with it in the left channel. But that acoustic guitar sure did sound lonesome.

2:11-2:17 – The acoustic (and electric) guitar now has Sam moaning “Now I know” in slow motion. Sam, I know!

2:17-2:30 – Now it’s two Sams (one in the left channel, one in the centre) singing “Now I know” over and over again. They both know.

2:30-2:32 – There’s a frenetic drum fill here, and I think it’s the drummer’s way of saying “Sam, please stop saying ‘Now I know’.” It worked.

2:32-2:53 – A leisurely guitar solo.

2:53-3:11 – I think this is a middle eight. It’s different to the rest of the song, so I reckon it’s a middle eight. I’m enjoying the break from hearing the phrase “Now I know” repeatedly.

3:11-3:36 – I spoke typed too soon.

3:36-3:46 – The band plays its last chord, and it’s here that Sam sings the phrase “Now I know” for the last time. Yay!

***

I thought about commenting on all of the songs on the album, but I realised that if I kept doing what I did for the first three songs it would probably take me an entire day to do that. So I’ll leave it at what you see above. (Which is more than enough.)

Hopefully those three tracks gave you an idea of the kind of music Sam plays.

If you enjoyed any of them (despite my nonsense), then I can happily point you in the direction of Sam’s website, where you’ll be able to hear all the songs on the album – without interference from me.

Official website
Facebook
CD Baby
iTunes
Amazon.com
Soundcloud
Spotify


Song of the day: Gavin Guss – "Riga In The Fall"

February 2, 2013

Some time ago I talked about (I was going to say “reviewed”, but I’m hopeless at proper reviews) On High, an album by American musician Gavin Guss.

Well, I received an email saying that Gavin has released one of the album’s songs as a 7″ single (in hipster-attracting vinyl).

The song is “Riga In The Fall“, and it’s very nice.

To celebrate “Riga In The Fall” being released into the wild, a video has been made of it:

Gavin Guss – “Riga In The Fall (2012)


Gavin Guss – Riga in the Fall from Fin Records on Vimeo

Now that you’ve acquainted yourself with the song (or re-acquainted if you read my earlier post), here are the details about the single (I nicked the text from the Fin Records page where you can buy it):

7″ coke-bottle clear vinyl, artistically packaged with care and love. Limited to 500, hand-numbered copies, “Riga in the Fall” is meant to be savored. Digital download included.

Back when I, er, “reviewed” the album, I said “Riga In The Fall” reminded me of this:

Pink Floyd – “Us And Them (1973)
[From 0:34 onwards]

Well, now it reminds me more of this:

The Alan Parsons Project – “Day After Day (The Show Must Go On) (1977)

Official website
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I think all three are exceptionally pleasant songs.

Thanks, Gavin, for writing and recording a track that – for me at least – keeps very nice company with two splendid songs.