Thursday, October 11, 2012

Top Albums of the Year 2002, Part 2: Others

Other Albums from 2002 Worth Listening To

KENSO Fabulis Mirabilibus De Bombycosi Scriptis

TEMPANO The Agony & The Ecstacy

I first heard Témpano on the 2005 COLOSSUS/MUSEA RECORDS project, Odyssey: The Greatest Tale. They were great there. So, I went on an exploratory search for more Témpano. The stuff I found was okay. I've never been a fan of electric 'acoustic' guitars, gated drums, and the kind of keyboards they use throughout The Agony and the Ecstacy, and much of their music sounds simple upon first listening. Luckily, I did not give up there. Each successive listening has revealed more of the group's mastery of the "Less is More" principle--and also revealed more subtleties and nuances that are usually the signs of a more band made up of more mature members. This is, so far, my favorite Témpano studio album. A lot of PINK FLOYD similarities--especially the guitar work (both acoustic and electric).

Album highlights:  6. "Timeless Time" (9/10) and 14. "Imaginary Sky" (8/10).


Peter Gabriel has picked up the prog baton again as here he again synthesizes many interesting elements and guests into his music. Just look at that list of guest contributors--artists from all over the world! And the concert DVD that came from the tour after this album is incredible (as are all PG concerts.) In my opinion, this is probably the proggiest Peter has gotten on a 'solo' studio album
since his fourth eponymously titled album (known as "Security"). To drive home this point note that nine of the album's ten songs have a non-pop length of between six and eight minutes.

Album Highlights:  "Signal to Noise" (highlighting the inimitable Pakistani Qawwali singer, NUSRAT FATEH ALI KHAN) (9/10); the contagiously danceable "Growing Up" (8/10); the unusually dynamic "Darkness" (8/10); "Sky Blue" (8/1) (only for the amazing last two minutes with the Blind Boys from Alabama--though I much prefer the live version), and; "I Grieve" (8/10) (from the 1998 City of Angels soundtrack).


IZZ I Move

ULVER Lyckantropen Themes


35007 Liquid

QUIDAM The Time Beneath the Sky

TAAL Skymind

PARALLEL OR 90 DEGREES More Exotic Ways To Die

GRAND STAND Tricks of Time

A very polished prog band in the vein of  TONY BANKS/GENESIS, it is in their wonderfully clear, precise production that I actually find my issues: the way the drums are recorded (are they computerized? or just super cheap and super gated?), and the way the voice is mixed (seemingly without effects). The lyrics are a bit banal and the singer, though possessing a nice voice, is the least polished "instrument" in the band. In fact, some of his vocal attmepts sound outright amateur.

All in all, Tricks of Time contains some very nice music--especially if you are a fan of Tony Banks' keyboards (and solo work), Phil Collins' drumming 1970s style but 1980s sound, Mike Rutherford's bass/bass pedals and solo albums, and Steve Hillage, Steve Hackett, and John Mitchell's guitar styles and Eef Albers' guitar sound, and, most of all, the music of GENESIS between 1974-1977. The album's last song, however, the 16-minute, seven-part suite, "Old Man's Tale" (8/10) has (mostly) a different (non-Genesis) sound and style to it--it sounds more like some of GUY MANNING's work (except for the middle section which is almost stolen straight out of "The Cinema Show"). 


Albums from 2002 that Are, IMHO, Over-rated


What does it mean when PT gets heavier as it ages? The former master of PINK FLOYD imitation and prog revivalist has now decided to try to carve his own sound. With drummer extraordinaire Gavin Harrison, and seasoned keyboard master, Richard Barbieri, he has a great foundation to build upon. While I appreciate Steven's efforts and creative drive, most of the songs and dynamics on this album do more to bore or alienate me. I find myself only going back to three songs: "Trains" (10/10), "Blackest Eyes" (10/10), and ".3" (9/10). 'nuff said.

DREDG El Cielo

Excuse me?! Is this Prog? I mean, where exactly is the progginess in this that causes progressive rock reviewers to rate this so highly? Nice pop-that-will-never-make-it-to-the-pop-charts, but, prog or progressive? Yes, there are a diversity of sounds and styles. There is a nice singer, nice atmospherics and ambiences, good, solid rhythm section, some very catchy melodies and chord progressions and lots of sound subtleties (very important to me), and the interludes are often quite nice, BUT, besides "Triangle," perhaps "Whoa Is Me," and the instant Post Rock classic, "The Canyon Behind Her," this is really an alternative/art rock, albeit a concept, album. Put this next to Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Marillion's Brave, and Sylvan's Posthumous Silence and it does compare rather favorably in terms of emotional impact; it just doesn't hold a candle in terms of musicianship. Plus, the voice of Gavin Hayes, as good as it is, does get a bit monotonous.
***** 5 star songs: "The Canyon Behind Her" **** 4 star songs: "Same Ol' Road," "Sanzen," "Triangle," "Scissor Lock," "Of the Room," "It Only Took a Day," and "Whoa Is Me." *** 3 star songs: "Sorry But It's Over," "Convalescent," "Eighteen People Live in Harmony," and "Of the Room."

3.5 stars marked down for questionable progginess.


SYLVAN Artificial Paradise

On this early Sylvan album the band sounds as if it can't decide if it's ready to come out of the 1980s (yes! I said 1980s!). There is a lot of kind cheap computerized sounds reminding me of some of the colors and hair of the techno bands from the 80s. Two epics, "Deep Inside" (9:14) (7/10) and "Artificial Paradise" (20:17) (8/10), try hard to 'do something' new and proggy--and do give hints at what great things are ahead for Sylvan fans--but ultimately are really nothing more than songs of a proto-prog group--or maybe more accurately I should say, prog-wannabees.

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