Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

Keys To Ascension – Yes [#653]

As a teen I really liked Yes, I had forcibly had them played at me by my elder brothers so it was only to be expected. As my disposable income grew, I was able to purchase pretty much all of the band’s back catalogue either on cassette, vinyl or CD. Of course, this was fairly easy to do as the band went on hiatus between 1985 and 1988 then again between 1988 and 1991 and once more until 1994 and the release of Talk.

During those downtimes, no new music was released, instead regular “Best of” or live compilations, but to me, it didn’t matter then. I just went and bought what I could. But then something happened. I began to realise I was paying for the same songs over and over again. Nothing new. Maybe an unusual flourish or a change in tempo but really nothing new. I already had Yessongs, Yes Shows, 9012Live and Classic Yes so when I saw Keys to Ascension in the racking at HMV, I looked at the track listing and thought – why bother?

Keys to Ascension is a two volume compilation album featuring two discs per volume and features recordings from their live shows in 1996 of songs from the Going for the One and Tormato era (Interesting to note as they had just lost Trevor Rabin and Tony Kaye and regained Steve Howe and (briefly once more) Rick Wakeman) and some new tracks which later appeared on Keystudio .

This period of Yes history sets off my prickly brain. I really don’t care much for this period and even though the line up is the classic line up (albeit briefly and accentuated by Billy Sherwood), I don’t fall back into fandom with the band until Magnification and then, as if to take the piss, they do the whole “best of – live” shit again this time with touring live concerts (of which I went to three) until Fly from Here.

Lazy fan fanning and cheesy nineties rock do not make great albums. Indeed, Queensryche, Ayreon and Porcupine Tree were doing much better stuff at this time while Yes were following the Camel route of keeping the fans happy and experimenting. Personally, my music tastes were also changing at this time. I was no longer focussed on bands from my childhood and teenage, I was no longer being fed music by siblings, instead from more knowledgable peers, and I was starting to explore darker musical pathways which would eventually lead to a more mature adult contemporary pantheon of musicians.

At time of writing, Keys to Ascension is not available digitally on either Apple Music or Amazon but is available to buy on Amazon. I couldn’t care less about Google Play and I value my privacy too much to use SpottyFi.

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Into the Electric Castle – Ayreon [#638]

Ayreon_-_Electric_Castle album cover
Big-haired symphonic prog rocker Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s third concept album, with his collaboration project Ayreon, tells the tale of time-napped protagonists sent to find their way through some weird assault course like maze for some obscure reason that really doesn’t matter.

Marillion’s Fish, The Gatherings Anneke van Giersbergen and Within Temptation’s Sharon den Adel all play characters warbling their way through various trials and tribulations much like they might in some Jeff Wayne tribute musical if it was done right. The dramatic passion within the music illustrates just how talented and creative Lucassen can be if left to his own devices.

Into the Electric Castle is possibly my most played Ayreon album if not for the fantastically big hair rock Rainbow Bridge which often results in in-car rock performances while en-route to distant places indeed, I have frequently threatened to subject passengers to the entire album it’s so good.

I think if I’d come across the music in 1998 when it was released, many of the late night conversations I used to have about music with my pals would have resulted in even longer talks into the night. Sadly I only became aware of Ayreon when I had moved away from my hometown of Liverpool, leaving the opportunities for late night debate ever diminishing into the realms of misspent youth and early adulthood.

 

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I Like to Score – Moby #602

Moby_I_Like_to_Score

I Like to Score – Moby

Coffee table hipster music nineties style from everyone’s favourite baldy hipster nineties musician Moby. This is the album that everyone bought after he released Play in an effort to seem more culturally independent amongst their fellow Saturday Guardian supplement reading proto-hipsters by showing ownership of his previously released albums.

 

Comprising of a selection of Moby’s music written for film, I Like To Score does feature some good tunes including First Cool Hive from Scream, Ah-Ah from Cool World and his take on the James Bond theme as used in Tomorrow Never Dies. 

As I’ve said before, even though I have a few Moby albums, I’m not a massive Moby fan. But it’s difficult to have been an adult in the nineties/noughties without having some Moby in your music collection. As I’ve also said, I’ve tried to like Moby, but I really do struggle.

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How We Quit the Forest – Rasputina #596

How_We_Quit_the_ForestIn the early noughties, while the rest of the internet and Guardian supplement cultured Gen-Xers were going wild for the likes of Amanda Palmer, the Dresden Dolls and the Decemberists, I was trying to be a proto-hipster by bigging up the likes of Rasputina.

Sadly, Melora and co didn’t quite make the mainstream as Palmer did but hey, that’s not the point, the point being to make memorable expressive opine music that lasts regardless of when in time it is heard.

This album contains the first track I’d ever heard by Rasputina, Olde Headboard, and is a prime example of why album sales in the post-internet age depreciated with audience consumption methods.

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How to Measure a Planet? – The Gathering #595

 

The_Gathering_-_How_To_Measure_a_Planet

How to Measure a Planet? – The Gathering

Back in the mid-noughties I was directed towards The Gathering’s Mandylion album and swiftly became enamoured with the Dutch Prog-metal band. Yet, while Mandylion and Home scratched an itch, How to Measure a Planet? made sure that further irritants were applied to the metaphoric discomfort.

At the time I was a mature student studying Media at Huddersfield University which often required late nights of reading European Media Directives,  Media Theory and writing essays on audience paradigms. Sometimes, to get me into the study zone, I would listen to albums while wearing my headphones, often on repeat. How to Measure a Planet became one of those albums. Constantly on loop,  songs from the album such as Liberty Bell and Probably Built in the Fifties would often blur into each other in some sort of semi-hypnotic chant. Moreover, I would sometimes fall asleep, book flopping to my side, waking sporadically through the night hours to what seemed like an extended mix of the song I’d already woken and fallen asleep to. As a result, this album has a kind of important place in my life soundtrack.

How to Measure a Planet is the band’s fifth studio album.

 

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Greatest – Duran Duran [#550]

Greatest - Duran DuranThe problem with releasing your “best of” when you’re still an active band is, you might still be an active band in another 20 years. Such is the case with eighties popper, Duran Duran. Thing is, they’re still chucking out the odd song still.

I wrote about the other Duran Duran Greatest Hits/Best of compilation, Decade  in July last year. Greatest is the addendum to that. Effectively, this is all the songs from the 1998 compilation with the 5 hit songs that followed.

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Four Lads Who Shook the Wirral – Half Man Half Biscuit [#494]

Four_Lads_Who_Shook_the_Wirral_coverMore grumpy observations of the preposterousness pervading Britain from Nigel Blackwell and pals.

Four Lads Who Shook the Wirral is not an album with many memorable HMHB tracks on but it does come armed with the same bitterly amusing cynicism and acerbic observations of British middle class society as the other HMHB albums.

Surprisingly, despite the amount of HMHB I have, iTunes’ random play algorithm doesn’t seem to favour this album with it rarely appearing in any playlists. Which is a shame as I’d like to get to know it a little better.

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