Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

Heaven and Hell – Vangelis [#575]

Vangelis_Heaven_and_HellBeardy greek mashes his keyboards once more to produce an enigmatic work with a guest appearance from Jon “Yes” Anderson.

Years ago Carl Sagan did a TV show called Cosmos (the soundtrack to which has already been covered here). It told us all what we knew about the solar system and featured stunning imagery which inspired many young people to get interested in astronomy. Thirty-odd years later, the astronomy factory’s failed to surface and the teacher saying “Astronomy is full of maths” was the right thing to say to impressionable lazy young people embarking on their first tentative steps into the real world. While I was saved a failed career in astronomy thanks to that warning, I carried a little piece of Sagan’s masterwork in my memory, that of the theme tune.  A tune that brought to mind black and white portable television sets and eager cassette recorders waiting to catch the music from the final minutes of the TV show.

Years later, while searching for the music, I learned that the tune was actually from Vangelis’ work Heaven and Hell. While tempting to skip through to the actual bit from Cosmos the album is actually worth listening to in its entirety. Especially as near the end of the first side, our favourite high pitched male singer, Anderson, pops up with an outer space lyrical coda to the side. Indeed, I believe this is the album upon which Vangelis and Anderson worked before forming their own double act, the imaginatively named Jon & Vangelis.

Of course, if you have been following this project for the several years it has been running you might also recall that Vangelis was a member of Aphrodities Child which also dabbled in Biblical musical imagary, with their album 666.

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Fish Rising – Steve Hillage [#476]

220px-Steve_Hillage_Fish_RisingUncelebrated guitar king and one time Gong member, Steve Hillage’s first solo album following his departure from Gong.

By all other regards, this really sounds like a Gong album. It has Gong members Howlett, Moerlen, Blake and Malherbe but also features Dave “no the other one” Stewart who you might know from helping to arrange Fear of a Blank Planet or his work with Barbara “Spirogyra” Gaskin or his TV work.

This is exactly what I like about prog. Former band mates, guys you meet in the pub and pals from different groups getting together to make music. You don’t get that in modern times. You never see the likes of Gary Barlow getting together with say, H from Steps, Noel from Oasis and Mel C to do an album about a fish. For a start their agents and recording labels wouldn’t allow it but also it’d be complete bollocks.

As I said, Fish Rising by all accounts sounds like a Gong album but without the Gnomes, Pixies and Flying Teapots. A more relaxed background album than a fully fledged “concentrate or you’ll miss it” progressive concept album. It is however something you – if you’re a fan of Gong, Hillage or embarking on a life changing journey through prog – might want to listen to as an appreciation exercise to see if you can detect distinctive musical styles and flourishes. Or maybe you’re just high on something and have the old oil projection lamps going and need something to help you focus on.

 

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Fish Out of Water – Chris Squire [#475]

2015 saw the passing of one of rocks greatest bass players, Chris SquireFish_Out_of_Water_(Chris_Squire_album)_cover_art aka Fish, from acute erythoid leukemia complications. A great shame as he was a talented musician who formed and was a cornerstone of prog rock band Yes. Squire’s first solo album, released in 1975 in a period when the members of Yes were releasing solo albums, is today’s album, Fish Out of Water. 

I’d not listened to Fish Out of Water in its entirety before composing today’s entry I’m ashamed to say. I guess it didn’t sit well  with my appreciation of Yes’ development since 1986 but that’s not to say I wouldn’t have enjoyed it and appreciated it more had I had access to the album when I was younger.

Fish Out of Water is very early Yes in style and features Bill Bruford and Patrick Moraz as support musicians but it’s also possible to hear Squires own distinctive style which matured and resurfaced in later albums such as The Unknown and Conspiracy 

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Face the Music – ELO [#450]

ELO_Face_The_Music_album_coverOut of the Blue aside, having only ever really having listened to best of compilations of ELO I was reluctant to listen to an ELO album for fear I would become tired of the band and look away. However, what I wasn’t expecting was to actually enjoy the album.

Face the Music is ELO’s fifth studio album and features a new line up for the band. There are a fair number of tracks on the album I was unfamiliar with, tracks 3, 4 and 7 being the ones I had heard before. I would be inclined to put the album in to the “country and western” phase pigeon hole but the first and last tracks on the album spin in a different direction entirely.

ELO have been an integral part of my growing up from having the single Diary of a Horace Wimp since I was old enough to turn on a turntable. Following that I developed a rather hefty collection of “Best of” compilations of the band on cassette which kept my Walkman happy when I delivered the Liverpool Echo. In recent years though, the band has taken a back seat in my listening capacity with only popular songs occasionally popping up on random MP3 playlists.

Recently, as is most curious with the music project, ELO had a bit of a revival with Jeff Lynne relaunching the band as Jeff Lynne’s ELO, taking it on tour and appearing on chat shows to promote the new album. Of course, I’m a teeny bit uneasy about revivals and reformations having been stung by bands like Nightwish and Yes in the past. Really good bands, reform under different line-ups or names and then their music becomes a bit shit or unremarkable, Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe for example.

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Dressed to Kill – Kiss [#397]

imgresKiss are a comedy parody band right?

Gene Simmons et al glam and rock their way through 30 minutes of cheesy sleazy lyrics with no apologies to any of the listeners.

Not my cup of tea but my friend Jim swore I’d get used to it. Curiously though, he said exactly the same about The Darkness and Athlete. He was right about them so I’ll persevere…

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Dream Weaver – Gary Wright [#393]

Gary_Wright_-_Dream_Weaver_-_lowresBack in the 80s there was a television programme on BBC2 called No Limits. It featured the young Jenny Powell and some other bloke who hasn’t done owt since, poncing around the UK playing popular music.

There was a section of the show where they played “new” or “interesting” music. Songs such as The Hooter’s Satellite and Men Without Hats’ Safety Dance would be played often as well as other contemporary songs.

One song that featured regularly was Gary Wright’s Dream Weaver. I liked it. Like all the songs I liked at the time, they very rarely got airplay. Usually because they were too old or because I liked them. Even after appearing on the popular film Waynes World, airplay of Gary Wright’s Dream Weaver didn’t increase. So when the free-for-all internet download frenzy of the early to mid noughties was in full swing, I looked for the song and was surprised to see that it was a great deal older than I thought.

Wright released the song on his titular album The Dream Weaver back in 1976, way before Wayne’s World and way before No Limits back in a post-hippy pre-punk time. The album is  contemporaneous  and the influence of Wright’s friends, Lennon and Harrison, is evident in its floaty-vagina peace-love-man tones. As a result, and with the passage of time and a hint of personal attitudes, this is far-out tosh that probably should be given to a charity shop or thrift store.

 

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Dogs and Sheeps – Pink Floyd [#381]

Dogs and Sheeps - Pink FloydMore bootleg nonsense from Pink Floyd. This time just before Animals was produced and just after Wish You Were Here was released.

Interesting if only for listening to the evolution of some of the familiar songs in Animals.

 

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