Saturday, July 2, 2022

Top Albums of the Year 1987: Masterpieces and More

Though Prog Is Alive and Well in the 21st Century, I have decided to go back and "fill in" the years upon which the 21st Century is built--and not just the "classic" years of 1967-76. Each year will be given its own page, containing reviews of the albums I determine are worthy of recognition (both positive and negative). As usual, these pages will be works in progress, to which I'll be adding information as it comes my way.

My Favorite Albums from 1987:
1. SWING OUT SISTER It's Better to Travel
2. PAT METHENY GROUP Still Life (Talking)
3. MR. SIRIUS Barren Dream
4. THE CURE Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me
5. DAVID SYLVIAN Secrets of the Beehive
6. LES MYSTÈRES DES VOIX BULGARES Les Mystères des Voix Bulgares
ZAKIR HUSSAIN Making Music (with Jan Garbarek, John McLaughlin and Hariprasad Chuarasia)
9. PRINCE Sign 'O The Times
10. THE ART OF NOISE In No Sense? Nonsense!

11. DANNY WILSON Meet Danny Wilson
12. DEAD CAN DANCE Within the Realm of a Dying Sun
13. JANE SIBERRY The Walking
14. DEF LEPPARD Hysteria
15. JOHN SERRIE And The Stars Go With You
16. LOVE AND ROCKETS Earth, Sun, Moon
17. ROBBIE ROBERTSON Robbie Robertson
18. SUZANNE VEGA Solitude Standing
19. U2 The Joshua Tree
20. DEPECHE MODE Music for The Masses

21. WHITESNAKE Whitesnake
22. PET SHOP BOYS Actually
23. STING ...Nothing Like The Sun
26. SWANS Children of God
27. DAVID TORN Cloud About Mercury
28. JANE'S ADDICTION Jane's Addiction
29. VIOLETA DE OUTONO Violeta de Outono

Honorable Mentions:
VOIVOD Killing Technology

Five Star Prog Masterpieces 
(Ratings of 100 to 93.34) 

1. MR. SIRIUS Barren Dream 

WARNING: This is NOT a Canterbury Scene album. Nor is it facsimile of Canterbury style music. It is a representation of an eclectic array of many styles that were explored in Progressive Rock music between 1966 and 1986, including (in fairly equal proportions) Symphonic, Jazz-Rock Fusion, Canterbury, and Neo Prog. This is the remarkable and, in fact, quite extraordinary debut album from Japanese artist/composer/multi-instrumentalist Kazuhiro Miyatake. He is joined by brilliant recruits, Lisa Ohki, a mezzo soprano vocalist and classically-trained pianist, and drummer Chihiro Fujioka.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Lisa Ohki (Hiroko Nagai) / vocals, grand piano (3,5)
- Kazuhiro Miyatake (Mr. Sirius) / flute, guitars (electric, synth, 12-string, Classical & acoustic), keyboards, piano, Mellotron, Hammond, synth, sampler, bass, accordion
- Chihiro Fujioka / drums, tambourine (6)
- Fumiaki Ogawa / grand piano (5), Mini-Moog (8)
- Raven Ohtani / lead guitar and solo (5)
- Yoshihisa Shimizu / lead guitar (7)

1. "All the fallen people" (11:57) a gorgeous suite that opens fully representative of all things Canterbury before sliding deftly into GENESIS/ANT PHILLIPS-like Neo Prog. (28.5/30)
.. I. Overture - the opening movement is full of both Canterbury and Neo Prog sounds and nuances. (4.75/5)
.. II. Madrigal - The second movement 
includes the wonderful AMANDA-PARSONS-like voice and piano stylings of Lisa Ohki (Hiroko Nagai singing in Japanese) in a gorgeous pastoral kind of Anthony Phillips story telling passage. (10/10)
.. III. Rhapsody - drums and circus-like noises denote the shift into this section, which becomes a Neo Prog feast of sound: active, chunky bass, AMANDA-PARSONS-like vocalese, a variety of TONY BANKSian keyboard synths, and a very GENESIS-like chord and melody structure with Lisa singing in English "all must be done" over a very GENESIS-like sound palette. (9.25/10)
.. IV. Fantasy - with the signature marker of a classical guitar, a mystical journey of synths and piano is unveiled to play out softly, beautifully, to the end. (4.5/5)

2. "Sweet revenge" (1:44) using a Hammond organ and flute, the full band puts forth a very DAVE STEWART-like fast-paced instrumental ditty. (4.75/5)

3. "Step into Easter" (7:47) opens with a chorus of Lisa Ohki voices singing something only it's been reversed. Classical guitar, flute, and accordion give this a very STEVE HACKETT-like sound over the next two minutes. Flute and accordion take turns exposing the melody over the classical guitar play as if in a conversation before male and female voices enter singing in English in a very archaic GENTLE GIANT-like style and melody. The classical guitar takes over the sole musical carpet in the fourth minute before Lisa returns, this time singing in Japanese. The music here still feels like a combination of the delicate sides of STEVE HACKETT and GENTLE GIANT. The elegant guitar playing is exquisite as is this masterful, almost-classical song. (15/15) 

4. Intermezzo (5:18)

5. "Eternal jealousy" (8:14) (20/20)
.. I. Prelude - solo piano plays delicately in a soft jazz KEITH JARRETT way. (5/5)
.. II. Intake - turns on the synth strings with a series of orchestra-like chords before full band enters like JAN AKKERMAN and his FOCUS gang in all their glorious precision and technical perfection. A jazzy piano solo ensues to fill the foreground over the high-powered jazzy bass and drums before the AKKERMAN-like guitar shredding continues. (5/5)
.. III. Stillglow - notes a shift into full Canterbury regalia with PHIL MILLER-like guitar (which later turns more Mike Oldfield/Alan Holdsworth) and organ and intermittent vocalese from Lisa. (5/5)
.. IV. Return - a return to a FOCUS-like sound and theme in which 
Electric guitar, flute, piano, and synth all take turns up front. (5/5)

6. "Lagrima" (4:11) harpsichord and picked and strummed 12-string guitar provide the simple-yet-full musical fabric over which Lisa Ohki sings her extraordinary classically trained voice in Italian, French,  Japanese, and English in a very European aria style. Ends with a very ANT PHILLIPS-like flourish. (9.5/10)

7. "Barren dream" (13:28) (28.5/30)
.. Act I - synth strings open this before solo piano takes over at 0:22. At 0:47 the full band enters in jazz mode with two flute tracks sharing the exposition of the melody. At 1:20 the rock side takes over with electric guitar taking over for the flutes. At 1:45 there is a shift back to more classical sound with classical guitar. This interplay of classical/acoustic alternating with full rock/electronic instrumentation repeats a couple of times 
(9.5/10) before a soft synth strings chord sequence bridges us to 
.. Act II - a wonderfully dreamy strings synth-and-piano-turning-to-solo piano passage over which Lisa Ohki sings in her operatic best beginning at the end of the sixth minute. Flutes, piano, synths, and secondary vocals interplay with Lisa's voice in this extraordinary nostalgic section. What crystal clarity Lisa's voice has! At the end of the eight minute a flute and synth flute duet weaves about before strings synth take over for Lisa's next operatic section. I am here so reminded of the amazing vocal work of CAROLINA PRIETO on the early KOTEBEL albums. (14.5/15)
.. Act III - a jazzy bass with sensitive drum rhythm open this section at the beginning of the twelfth minute before the pace picks up and returns us to the more aggressive Jazz-Rock sounds and styles of the opening Act. The section ends with a very pensive piano outro. Wow! (4.5/5)

Total Time: 56:29

A wonderful display of compositional virtuosity with some amazing instrumental and melodic contributions throughout. The heavier, more intricate sections of the compositions sound much like country mates KENSO and AIN SOPH, while the more pastoral passages feel close to the stylings of ex-GENESIS soloists, ANT PHILLIPS and STEVE HACKETT, while the vocal passages feel forceful and dramatic enough to fit on the stages of Broadway or London's West End. The complexity of vocal symphonic passages are quite reminiscent of Keith EMERSON as well as jazz musicians like MANHATTAN TRANSFER and today's MOETAR.

96.59 on the Fishscales = A+/five stars; an unquestioned masterpiece of progressive rock music and as fine of an album you'll find in all of Prog World, old or new.

2. PAT METHENY GROUP Still Life (Talking)

An album filled with some of the most gorgeous, danceable, sing/hummable instrumental jazz fusion songs EVER! I remember playing this tape every time I got in the car for a long drive (which was quite often in my late 20s) and just CRANKING everysong--singing the melodies at the top of my lungs throughout each and every song--especially when the vocalists (Armando Marçal, Mark Ledford, and David Blamires) chimed in. And then I got to see them live in concert at Meadowbrook on this tour. As I've told many people over the years, I never had so much fun dancing in my seat, playing my legs for drums, and singing the wordless vocals at the top of my lungs from row 26 at any concert in my life. And I would argue that the lineup I saw performing that night could stand up shoulder to shoulder with any instrumental ensemble I've ever seen--and that includes Yes, Crimson, McLaughlin, and Di Meola with Jan Hammer.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Pat Metheny / acoustic & electric guitars, guitar synth, co-arranger & co-producer
- Lyle Mays / piano, keyboards, co-arranger & co-producer
- Steve Rodby / acoustic & electric bass
- Paul Wertico / drums
- Armando Marçal / percussion, backing vocals
- David Blamires / vocals
- Mark Ledford / vocals

Five star songs: the amazing epic, 1. "Minuaño (in Six Eight) (9:28) (20/20); 2. "So It May Secretly Begin" (6:25) (9.5/10); "It's Just Talk" (6:17) (9.5/10), the wild and rollicking Brazilian rompus, 4. "Third Wind" (8:37) (20/20); the hypnotic 3. "Last Train Home (5:41) (8.5/10); "the atmospheric space soundtrack, 6. "DIstance" (2:45) (4.25/5), and; the stunningly gorgeous finale, "In Her Family (3:17) (10/10), which became anthemic to me as it inspired a poem that I wrote to become its lyric.

Total Time: 42:31

96.18 on the Fishscales = A/five stars; a true masterpiece of jazz/world fusion from a collection of some of the finest musicians to ever grace the analog, digital, or acoustic airwaves. Bassist Steve Rodby and drummer Paul Wertico are gods!

The "Minor" Masterpieces
(Ratings of 93.33 to 90.0)

3. MARK ISHAM Vapor Drawings

The William Ackerman's Windham Hill label championed this young artist through a wonderful period of his life and development.  

Lineup / Musicians:
- Mark Isham / Synthesizer, Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Piano, Saxophone, Electronic Valve Instrument [Steiner EVI], Percussion [Electronic Percussion] 
- Peter Van Hooke / percussion, electronic percussion, snare drum

1. "Many Chinas" (4:05) What a great opener! With some great climactic hooks, as well. (9.5/10)

2. "Sympathy and Acknowledgement" (8:17) minimalism taken into a new direction! And all electronic! Peter Gabriel's "San Jacinto" taken further. (17.75/20)

3. "On the Threshold of Liberty" (7:27) atmospheric ambientia à la Brian Eno & Jon Hassell--that is, until the two bass/synth chords at the end of the first minute. Distant battlefield trumpet and military drums begin to rise from far away in the second half of the second minute, eventually accompanied by a pulsating synth note place on permanent repeat. This could be the soundtrack to a Ken Burns series! The trumpets begin to play a melody of confidence and courage in the third minute that becomes more of a cry of hopeful assertion in the fourth. Quite the cinematic journey. No wonder Mark became quite a little force in the soundtrack business hereafter. Meanwhile, the military onslaught continues to advance as the music builds. So cool! (14/15)

4. "When Things Dream" (2:43) solo impressionistic jazz piano opens this one before shifting into a very thick and hazy (and very cool) dreamscape of muted synth washes and distant synth horns and piano. (9.5/10)

5. "Raffles in Rio" (4:38) a percussive weave that feels part African, part Gamelan/Balinese before the synth strings enter, then it becomes more familiar 1980s techno pop. The synth chords and their melodic weave that are brought in at 1:20 offer a completely new and different mood--something lighter and more tropical junglese. Another stunningly refreshing listening experience! (9.5/10)

6. "Something Nice for My Dog" (2:49) a dog waltz? Muted synths create a slow, lazy melody, layering over the course of the brief song--at least until the 1:30 mark when a MIKE OLDFIELD "Incantations"-like synth flute takes over for a bit. Then we return to the main weave for the 45-seconds. (9.125/10)

7. "Men Before the Mirror" (6:07) another song that has the feel of a military soundtrack, but then switches into Tangerine Dream territory at the 30-second mark. This is good--made me miss the "old" Berlin School music that had been diluted into New Age crap by the techno-computer 80s. A song that previews the sound palettes to be explored for his masterful soundtrack of the amazing film, Never Cry Wolf. (9/10)

8. "Mr. Moto's Penguins (Who'd Be an Eskimo's Wife?)" (3:18) a very playful song fabricated through the use of several playful sounds programmed into a percussive weave together with a little bit of playful trumpet play in the background. (8.75/10)

9. "In the Blue Distance" (4:06) another contemplative piano intro (previewing the music for his soon-to-be soundtrack to Alan Rudolph's Les Modernes). When the horns join in it changes the feel and direction by making it more lyrical, not as much atmospheric, but then the cinematic style returns for the final 90-seconds. (9/10)

A very pleasant, often fresh and innovative instrumental album. Mark's immediate future is quite natrually headed into the world soundtrack music (Never Cry WolfMrs. SoffelLes Modernes) but who would ever have expected him to be teaming up with experimental guitarist David Torn and then tour with Torn and David Sylvian?

91.55 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of mostly-cinematic post-fusion showing the progression and evolution of jazz-rock fusion.  

4. DAVID TORN Cloud About Mercury (1987)

Line-up / Musicians:
- David Torn / electric & acoustic guitars
- Mark Isham / trumpet, piccolo trumpet, flugelhorn, synthesizer (2)
- Tony Levin / Chapman Stick, synth bass
- Bill Bruford / Simmons & synth drums, percussion

1. "Suyafhu Skin... Snapping the Hollow Reed" (8:15) a song that opens with David's fretless guitar chords but then turns to a kind of Japanese/Chinese koto instrument with "distant" Mark Isham trumpet notes (very much in line with the sounds we've come to know and love from him on his own solo albums and soundtracks). David comes unnannounced at the 3:40 mark, renting a tear in the fabric of the universe with his chainsaw sword. In the background are flugelhorns and Bill Bruford's Simmons-generated minimalist percussion weave. I'm sure Tony Levin's been in there somewhere with is synth bass or ChapmanStick, but I never clearly detected his presence until the sixth minute. Bruford switches into a different set of programs for his drums (as well as looping some of his previous ones) while Torn slashes and burns his way through the skies. Amazing the kind of sound and tapestries that musicians can make! (18/20)

2. "The Mercury Grid" (6:32) Bill Bruford is in full Simmons mode though his cymbal play through the first minute is nice. Tony Levin's ChapmanStick is quite prominent but it's Mark Isham's trumpet that is the lead in the first four minutes. Then David takes over and takes down the music, leading the crew into mayhem and chaos. Wow! I was not ready for that! (9/10)

3. "3 Minutes of Pure Entertainment" (7:05) funny title for a seven-minute song! Isham's muted and effected trumpets give this an old-world kind of feel while Torn's sustained and bent chords play over Bruford and Levin's KingCrimsonian weave. David's guitar play is like someone put Adrian Belew on acid! Mark backs off for a while to give the listener full attention to David Torn's work, but then he comes back in the fourth minute. The further the music goes on (and the more "normal" the rhythm section begins to groove) the more the Adrian Belew comparisons seem totally appropriate. (14/15)

4. "Previous Man" (7:52) as much as I love acoustic instruments, I am so thankful for electricity for the fact that it gave me the musics of artists like these four (trumpeter Jon Hassell also comes to mind) to enrich my life. As much as this is a David Torn song--and he is fantastic on this--Tony and Bill really elevate this, but it feels like Mark is deserving of top billing: his trumpet play is so melodic and real. (14/15)

- The Network of Sparks :
5. "I - The Delicate Code" (4:50) lots of looping on this one; in fact, it feels like a solo piece by the guitarist on his own. (8.75/10)

6. "II - Egg Learns to Walk... Suyafhu Seal" (10:22) The first half of this song has the feeling as if four classically-trained jazz musicians walked into a room in which only electronically-enhanced instruments were available for them to play. I don't know the order in which the album's songs were created and recorded, but this song feels like the one in which all instrumentalists have not only clicked into sync with one another but also the first song in which all instrumentalists feel loose and relaxed enough to really let go and be themselves--while still feeling very tightly synchronized with each other. I can't think of a David Torn song in which he is so attuned., supportive of his band mates--to the degree that his interplay of chordal accents in the third and fourth minutes are astonishing!
    The second half sees the song degrade into a flotilla of outer space discombobulation, but that's all right: at least we had that amazing first half! (18/20)

Total Time 44:56

It's really so difficult assigning ratings to any of this music because it is so foreign to anything the world has ever heard before. Even now, 35 years later, there so little music that I've ever heard to compare this to. At the same time I am so grateful for the mind-expanding magic these four artists have contributed to my life!

90.83333 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor-masterpiece of mind-blowing music that could be called "future jazz"--even today! 

The Near-Masterpieces
(Ratings of 89.99 to 87.50)

5. VOIVOD Killing Technology

In the 1970s Québec produced a number of very high quality prog bands, mostly of a symphonic orientation. Now begins Québec's major contributions to the metal and Post Rock scenes--this one starting the "thrash metal" movement.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Denis Bélanger "Snake" / vocals
- Denis d'Amour "Piggy" / guitar
- Jean-Yves Thériault "Blacky" / bass
- Michel Langevin "Away" / drums

- Killing Side :
1. "Killing Technology (7:33) clear and concise punk sound (like the CLASH--especially the lead vocals--sung in English!). So that's what "thrash" comes from! (13.5/15)

2. "Overreaction (4:45) more punk sound coming from the drums and flailing guitars. The difference between this music and 1970s punk rock is the more serious skills and embellishments of the instrumentalists. (8.875/10)

3. "Tornado (6:02) take Blue Öyster Cult and Thin Lizzy and give them some King Crimson lessons and this might be what you get. 8/8 time with riffing guitar and screaming PHIL LYNOTT-like voice singing over the top in a CLASH/BEASTIE BOYS kind of way. And there's even some time signature switches in the second half! Nice (8.875/10)   

4. "Too Scared to Scream" (4:14) sounds like a punk version of a THIN LIZZY song! When multiple voices are used it gives it a BEASTIE BOYS feel (plus the lyrics have that BB feel and sound to them). And since Denis Bélanger is not screaming (as he has on the previous songs), one can surmise that he is very scared. (8.75/10)

- Ravenous Side :
5. "Forgotten in Space" (6:10) a bit of Metallica's chugging pace and guitar riffing over which Denis Bélanger is screaming. After 90 seconds there is a shift in time signature for what could be considered a 15-second chorus. Again, I am so reminded of THE CLASH's singing style and tone in this second verse. The "chorus" time shift recurs and is extended a bit before the musicians seem to wander off into a new motif. Interesting and different song from the previous ones. Buck Dharma Roeser-like guitar solo in the fifth minute before another disciplined Crimsonian exercise over which Denis shifts his own singing style--several times--to fit into the mix. The band seems so relaxed--so confident--as if they've been playing this very complicated song forever! Pretty impressive! (9.25/10)

6. "Ravenous Medicine" (4:23) a longer than usual intro before the band puts it into drive and heads out into morning traffic. It's rather Blue Öyster Cultian. Denis sounds like he's singing while standing up in the car's sunroof! The guitars, bass, and drums are much more shifty and fluid throughout this one--moving in and out of different motifs and different time signatures with amazing ease. Denis' vocal is once again reminiscent of classic Joe Strummer at his angry-most impassioned. (9/10)

7. "Order of the Blackguards" (4:28) some complex guitar and bass play over straight time drumming. Denis singing starts out more relaxed but then he amps up as he gets behind the words' meaning. The guitar-bass riffing turns cyclical in the second half of the second minute and continues through a 45-second instrumental section--in which the drums finally leave the straight-time punk pocket. When Denis returns it is to scream some single word over a few times, but then we return to the original motif for a THIN LIZZY finish as Denis repeats "The Blackguards control" over and over. (8.875/10)

8. "This Is Not an Exercise" (6:18) one churning theme for the first minute while Denis warms up with an heraldic chant, but then we switch into a different more AC/DC-like motif in which Denis screams his lyrics in his BEASTIE BOYS style. The band slows down for a very weird contemplative YES-like patch at 4:30, but then ramps back up at 5:00--this time a little more slowly paced (sounding more like METALLICA) while Denis CLASH-scream-talks his message. Some very interesting and totally unexpected events in that song! (8.875/10)

9. "Cockroaches" (3:40) frenzy and frenetic music and vocal (Denis' vocal performance here actually reminds me quite a bit of LES NEGRESSES VERTES lead singer, Noël "Helno" Rota). The music again takes some very interesting turns and directions--and displays more decent AC/DC-style guitar soloing. (8.875/10)

Total Time: 47:34

For some reason, somehow, I find this music much more accessible than the full-on Tech, Doom, and Death Metal that are yet to come. I don't know if it's the clarity and distinctiveness preserved for each instrument's sound (as opposed to the "walls of crushing sound" emanating from future prog metal artists) or the punk-simplicity of some of the song foundations (especially from the drums) but I like this! And I definitely noticed a progression from the more simplistic punk sounds and constructs of the first three songs to a gradually increasing sophistication (and ease) with complex, shifting song structures.

89.34 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music--taking a Crimsonian approach to the still-evolving realm of punk rock. Definitely an excellent addition to any prog metal lover's music collection.  

6. SWANS Children of God

A band that I had never heard of until the sensation of the release of 2012's amazing The Seer hit the pages of ProgArchives. To have this kind of power and manipulative music going this strong for over 40 years is quite remarkable! You go, Michael Gira!
Line-up / Musicians:
- Michael Gira / lead vocals, keyboards, acoustic guitar, "sounds" & production
- (Jane) Jarboe / lead & backing vocals, piano, "sounds"
- Norman Westberg / electric & acoustic guitars
- Algis Kizys / bass
- Theodore Parsons / drums, percussion
- Simon Fraser / flute (2)
- Audrey Riley / cello (6)
- Lindsay Cooper / oboe (9,10)
- William Barnhardt / piano (10)

1. "New Mind" (5:13) Michael Gira's commanding stage presence can be felt so strongly through his vocal performances. All this with one chord and steam engine crawling along at a snail's pace! It's like being at an old-time revival! (8.75/10)

2. "In My Garden" (5:34) two chords! Arpeggiated! Accompanied by piano! and flute! With airy-breathy voice of seductress Jane Jarboe. Wow! I was not expecting this! Sounds like something Zeuhl that predates Magma--as if it should have come from the 1960s Flower Power era, before the spaceship from Kobaia arrived. (9.5/10)

3. "Our Love Lies" (5:50) part Johnny Cash, part Sergio Leone, part Leonard Cohen, the gospel background vocals and plodding C&W guitar with Michael's theatric vocal reminds me of Maynard James Keenan's Pucifer theatrics. As powerful as this music is, it would probably be moreso were I not deaf to the lyrics. (8.75/10)

4. "Sex, God, Sex" (6:49) screaming, wailing guitars within which Michael wallows and wades his dirge-like propheteering. Again, I feel as if I'm at a revival with people speaking tongues and writhing on the ground beneath Michael's radiant hands and attentions. (13/15)

5. "Blood And Honey" (4:46) a bit of Dead Can Dance feel in this one. Jane Jarboe takes a turn singing in a low, sultry breathiness--like Souixsie and Lisa Gerrard are capable of doing. The breathy spoken word vocals at the end remind me of Irene Pappas with Aphrodite's Child. (8.75/10)

6. "Like A Drug (Sha La La La)" (5:36) abrasive industrial noises mixed in with syncopated industrial guitar chord repeating itself ad infinitum while Michael slowly drawls out his slow-motion sentences. Interesting "sha la la la" chorus. (8.75/10)

7. "You're Not Real, Girl" (4:21) acoustic guitars strumming and picking with synth strings and Michael's slowly drawling voice. He sounds strung out. Again, I am completely surprised at how powerful these songs can be with such simple musical support. Portends MAUDLIN OF THE WELL. (9/10)

8. "Beautiful Child" (5:16) fireworks and industrial samples precede punk-ish drum and guitar train--sounds like a food processor doing its work. Then Michael and background Greek chorus enter and transform the song into an ancient tragedian exposition--as if we're in a slave scene in a Cecil De Mille film. Violent but powerful. Portends of PUCIFER. (9.25/10)

9. "Blackmail" (3:34) gentle piano and torch singing from Jane Jarboe matched up with a subject matter that is quite the opposite of gentle and passionate. (8.75/10)

10. "Trust Me" (5:23) acoustic guitar with oboe open this one on what sounds and feels like a gentle romp through memory lane. But then at 1:07 Michael's heavy basso profundo almost-growl enters causing an immediate shift into ominous electric music. The way Michael uses his voice and annunciation is so masterful--so mood commanding. Like that of Leonard Cohen and Jacques Brel, it's truly a marvel. (9/10)

11. "Real Love" (6:23) sounding like an old-fashioned surfer ballad, Michael's Leonard Cohen approach to vibrational delivery takes us on a journey that is filled with such conflict and ambiguity. Harmonica and female background chorus of wordless notes only adds to the indescribable uncertainty and mystery. (8.75/10)

12. "Blind Love" (7:46) steady tribal percussion tracks interspersed with industrial noises from electric guitar provide the foundation over which a somnambulant Michael Gira talk-sings-coos--until 3:25 when guitars and cymbals crash over everything for a bit. Not as engaging or powerful lyrics as many of the previous songs. (13/15)

13. "Children Of God" (4:34) interesting mix of 1960s sounds (organ & drums with gospel-like background vocals) with modern editing and punk guitars create another interesting blend of seemingly polarized influences and directions. And this is it: No Michael Gira singing! Female chorus sings the whole song! What a weird way to end an album so thoroughly dominated by the vocal theatrics of one man! (8.75/10)

Total time 71:05 

Wow! What a journey! While not musically complex (in the least), it is perfect support for Michael & Company's revivalist act. The duplicity in the match between these titles and the product are stark and provocative. Not the type of music I will sit and listen to for pleasure, but I am definitely a victim of the power and spell of Michael's shtick.

88.57 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; I don't care what genre or sub-genre you want to assign this music to, and I don't care what score the sum of the individual songs reveal, this is a masterpiece of listener manipulation via musical means!


While former band-mate/collaborator Bill Bruford spins the MIDI technology now available through his Simmons drums, Allan is busy exploring the same through his new SynthAxe. The results are incredibly similar with both confusing ears and eyes by producing unheard of sounds (both "acoustic" and synthetic) from their favored instruments, respectively. On this album Allan demonstrates that he's finally figuring out how best to use his new favorite toy. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Allan Holdsworth / SynthAxe, guitar (3), producer
- Alan Pasqua / keyboards (3)
- John England / Mac computer programming (6)
- Jimmy Johnson / bass
- Biff Vincent / Octopad bass (6)
- Gary Husband / drums (1,3)
- Chad Wackerman / drums (4,5), percussion (6)

1. "Sand" (5:25) solo SynthAxe used to generate the intro (now, this is the way I always felt the SynthAxe should be used!) Chord play continues after Jimmy Johnson and Gary Husband have joined in. Hey! This is working! At the three-minute mark Allan uses his Axe to generate a pleasant solo over his rhythmists. (Too bad the sound mix is so odd: it's as if Chad and Gary and the Axe chord progression are coming out of the boom box while Allan is playing his lead solo in the room by himself.) Still, this is a much better/more successful blending of the "gifts" of the SynthAxe with the contributions of a more traditional rock support crew. (8.5/10)

2. "Distance Vs. Desire" (5:17) Now this is more like the ideal format for experimentation (and delivery of such to a remote listening audience) of the SynthAxe. Quite similar to the guitar-and-keyboard sound and textural experimentations done by Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays (only I think this is all Allan). (9/10)

3. "Pud Wud" (6:43) Allan piddling around on his SynthAxe for three minutes while generously letting his posse have some free-play time (nice work both Jimmy Johnson and Gary Husband), but then he steps into the front with his "old Allan" guitar to steal the show. He yields to Alan Pasqua for one fine keyboard performance (at least, it feels like a real keyboard, not the SynthAxe) before weird-noising it to the end.(8.75/10)

4. "Clown" (5:14) more weird noises conveyed through the SynthAxe. At least Allan's getting a bead on what works with a support band cuz this definitely works with Chad Wakcerman's drums and Jimmy Johnson's fretless bass. In fact, this might be the best SynthAxe-led song I've heard yet from Allan (or anyone, for that matter, including Chuck Hammer, Lee Ritenour, and Roy Wooten). (9/10)

5. "The 4.15 Bradford Executive" (8:28) A synth-pop take on Peter Gabriel's "We Do What We''re Told"? The SynthAxe chordplay is actually quite cool--even pretty, but Chad Wackerman's accompaniment over the first 2"40 is totally unnecessary. (The song would have been much better if Allan were left alone for that opening section). But then "old Allan" shows up and Chad's reactive interplay become's quite appropriate--even perfectly complementary to Allan's work. (17.25/20)

6. "Mac Man" (4:02) Allan's welcome and to computer-generated/programmed sound and song construction/production. If there's one thing we should applaud Allan for it's his openness to new technologies and ideas. (At least at this point in his life/career.) Very cool song! Definitely one of my top three. 
     I find it amazing how similar the parallel tracks of Mssrs. Holdsworth and Bruford were at this point in their lives/careers. (9.25/10)

Total Time: 35:06

After the fiasco that was his previous album, Atavachron, I think Allan was figuring that out how and where the SynthAxe should be used (as well as who and what it should/could be used with). Thank heavens. All we have to do, then, is wait for his next album to see him really get back into the full realization of his genius and potential. 

88.21 on the Fishscales = B+/four stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection.

8. DEAD CAN DANCE Within the Realm of a Dying Sun

The Aussie duo's third album release sees them exploring the pseudo-religious "mediæval" musical traditions of Europe and the Middle East.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Lisa Gerrard / vocals, performer
- Brendan Perry / vocals, performer
- Ruth Watson / oboe
- Mark Gerrard / trumpet
- Richard Avison / trombone
- John Singleton / trombone
- Andrew Claxton / tuba, bass trombone
- Alison Harling / violin
- Emlyn Singleton / violin
- Piero Gasparini / viola
- Tony Gamage / cello
- Gus Ferguson / cello
- Peter Ulrich / timpani, military snare

1. "Anywhere Out Of The World" (5:08) the signature DCD sound--like a soundtrack to a B-grade mediæval vampire film--is born with, interestingly, Brendan doing the first lead vocal (despite the fact that everyone automatically associates Lisa with DCD sound)! (8.5/10)

2. "Windfall" (3:30) interesting tension-filled soundtrack music. (8/10)
3. "In The Wake Of Adversity" (4:14) another Brendan-sung song, this one with a bit of an Ancient Egyptian soundscape. The vocal melody line sounds a bit like Debbie Harry's "Rapture." Brendan's voice is just too muddied by his heavy, heavy use of reverb. Otherwise, this is a pretty cool song--with great sound choices and chord progressions. (8.75/10)

4. "Xavier" (6:16) another Brendan-sung song, this one with a bit too much washed out soundscape.(Brendan always has a tendancy to over-drench his voice in effects [reverbs]). I can sense what they're going for but they're not there yet, still too inexperienced in sound & instrument choices. (8/10)

5. "Dawn Of The Iconoclast" (2:06) "horns" in the "mediæval" sense championed by Hollywood (and Monty Python) followed by the introduction of the iconic vocals of Lisa Gerrard. It's as if she's tapping into another time in history! (4.5/5)

6. "Cantara" (5:58) slow, steady "harpsichord" and "lute" arpeggi with synth strings wash chords set up this spy-thriller soundtrack piece. At 1:55 we shift into a different gear for a chase scene over which Lisa sings in some interpretation of an Eastern European or Middle Eastern vocal tradition. Lisa is incandescent; the music a little less so. (8.75/10)

7. "Summoning Of The Muse" (4:55) replication of true mediæval European religious music--as if we're in the chapel or cathedral hearing a female choir with tubular bell accompaniment. (9.5/10)

8. "Persephone (The Gathering Of Flowers)" (6:36) one of the most complex (rare) and beautiful songs Lisa and Brendan have ever put together. That synth-strings chord progression throughout the second minute is one of mankind's most beautiful sequences ever constructed! Abnd this followed by a nearly-transcendent vocal passage! (9.5/10)

Total Time: 38:43

88.0 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of timeless world music satisfying an Electronic Prog Folk categorization.  

9. JANE SIBERRY The Walking

The most proggie album by one of the most truly experimental/progressive rock artists in North America. If you haven't heard her (or of her), the Kate Bush comparisons are bandied about quite a bit, and this album is probably the most worthy of that comparison. Jane (or, now, "Issa") is as much in her own world--and definitely in the driver's seat with her music--as Kate is. More poetic than Kate, her lyrics are often cryptic and hard to get, though they can also be so direct that they feel like a punch in the gut, and her music uses instruments in spacious layers better than almost anyone (except for David Sylvian).
     The album that really shows Jane's mastery of the Fairlight CMI.

1. "The White Tent the Raft" (9:12) A tough song to get used to for its sometimes jagged, angular changes in direction, years of familiarity have helped make it feel comfortable. Saying this, I have always appreciated the creative genius it took to envision and make this song. (17.75/20)

2. "Red High Heels" (7:19) an innocuous pop song whose sometimes plaintive story fails to connect with me. (12/15)

3. "Goodbye" (4:17) talk about pulling on heartstrings, this one does and more. One of the most powerful stories, lyrics, and deliveries in Jane's repertoire. Beautiful spacious soundscapes. (10/10)

4. "Ingrid and the Footman" (7:06) taking from her country/folk roots, this song is a portent of things to come in Jane's future (1989's Bound by the Beauty). (12/15)

5. "Lena is a White Table" (6:41) I always feel as if I'm in a Lewis Carroll story when I listen to this one. The multiple track, multiple Janes, vocal theater used to construct this feels like a stage on which multiple Jane's are spotlighted doing various daily activities, all at the same time. Brilliant and interesting if not beautiful. The pounding chorus is where it all gels for a second, before fragmenting slightly for the reemergence of the multiple personalities. (8.75/10)

6. "The Walking (and Constantly)" (6:16) A pretty piano-based song that is again about relationship loss and contains a powerful vocal performance. Unfortunately, it drags on a bit with a nearly one-dimensional soundscape and style. (17.25/10)

7. "The Lobby" (6:19) a repeat of the mood and spaciousness of "Goodbye" but with a totally different lyrical theme (external criticism of appearance, emotions, what is important). Great use of choral voices to voice the opinion of others ("they"). A cry for independence, autonomy, and freedom. Beautiful. Genius. Amazing vocal performance. (9/10)

8. "The Bird in the Gravel" (10:34) the most theatric, visual, Alice in Wonderland song yet--and proggy. Part one over the first three minutes kind of sets the stage for the carnivalesque fourth minute, but then we have a frog-accompanied walk through the country night air before Jane picks up the mic again. Singing in her most angelic wisp of a voice, guitar strums, tom hits, piano pounds, aggressive bass chords, and the voice of subconscious begin to fly into and fill the soundscape. It builds and builds while calm angelic Elizabeth Fraser voice of observer-Jane sings on, steady in her dispassionate yet ever-appreciative view of the world. A stunning display of strength and centeredness. Amazing. Ending with a little street performer's organ play. My favorite song on the album. (20/20)

87.95 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a truly artistic album that takes one far, far away from the life around us--perhaps more into the "madding crowd" that is inside our own brains. The highs are stupendous and shocking, the lows perhaps too personal and painful. A near-masterpiece of progressive rock from this amazingly innovative Canadian songstress. 

10. DAVID SYLVIAN Secrets of the Beehive

While I liked this album well enough, gone was the magic and experimentation of Brilliant Trees and Gone to Earth. There are definitely amazing songs or parts of songs on this album--including one of my Top Five David Sylvian songs of all-time, "Orpheus" (4:51) (10/10), "Let the Happiness in" (5:37) (8/10), and (on some versions of the album/CD) the studio recording of the amazing Ryuichi Sakamoto song, "Forbidden Colours" (6:01) (9/10) which was originally composed for his soundtrack to the film (in which he also starred--an amazing performance!!), "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence"--but the rest of the album is pretty much forgettable (as I have done). The tour supporting this album, however, was INCROYABLE! David, his amazing brother Steve JANSEN on drums/percussion, with the extraordinary David TORN on "guitars" (unlike any guitars I'd ever heard) and the one and only Mark ISHAM on trumpets & keys. What a night! A lot of improvisational music, sometimes very heady, sometimes very dreamy-spacey, and yet absolutely mesmerizing.
     Here we have the above-mentioned players as well as the inimitable contribution of double bass god, Danny THOMPSON. Guitarist Phil Palmer's contribution to "When Poets Dreamed of Angels" is integral and Ryuichi's orchestral arrangements for much of the music provide some of highest highlights.

Line-up / Musicians:
- David Sylvian / vocals, organ, synthesizer, piano & treated piano, acoustic guitar, tapes, arranger & co-producer
- David Torn / electric (2) & acoustic (7) guitars, guitar loops (3)
- Phil Palmer / acoustic (6) & slide (4) guitars
- Ryuichi Sakamoto / organ, synthesizer, piano & treated piano, string & brass & woodwind arrangements
- Mark Isham / flugelhorn (4,8), trumpet (6,8)
- Danny Thompson / double bass (2,4)
- Steve Jansen / drums (4), percussion (8)
- Danny Cummings / percussion (2,6-8)
- Brian Gascoigne / orchestral (4) & string (8) arrangements

1. "September" (1:17) (4.5/5)
2. "The Boy With The Gun" (5:19) (8.5/10)
3. "Maria" (2:49) (4.5/5)
4. "Orpheus" (4:51) one of my Top Ten All-Time Songs involving David Sylvian. Danny Thompson's double bass work is timeless. (10/10)
5. "The Devil's Own" (3:12) tremendously boosted in the second half by orchestral instruments. (8.67/10)
6. "When Poets Dreamed Of Angels" (4:47) beautiful acoustic guitar work from Phil Palmer. (8.75/10)
7. "Mother And Child" (3:15) Victoria slays me! (8.33/10)
8. "Let the Happiness In" (5:37) (8.5/10)
9. "Waterfront" (3:23) David with piano and Ryuichi's orchestra. (8.5/10)

Total Time: 34:30

Bonus track on 1987 CD release:
10. "Forbidden Colours" (5:59) (9/10)

Despite the presence of several of my all-time favorite prog artists this album has always left me a bit cold. I count only "Orpheus" and the sometimes-included "Forbidden Colours" among David's all-time best, and "The Devil's Own" and "Let the Happiness in" each on a rung or two down. David was experimenting a lot with discordance and chromatics--here using more acoustic instrumentation than ever before.

87.8125 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection. 


Band-leader Bill Bruford has taken a whole new musical direction with his Simmons drums' MIDI sound capabilities--gathering young up-and-coming jazz musicians around him to create some of the freshest new "jazz" music the planet had heard.  

Line-up / Musicians:
- Bill Bruford / drums & percussion, whirled instruments
- Iain Ballamy / saxophones
- Django Bates / keyboards, horn & trumpet
- Mick Hutton / acoustic bass

1. "Thud (4:14) some Crimsonian "industrial" bass and drums laid down for the rhythm track while the horns and horn keys establish a syncopated, staccato melody above. The synth soloing that takes the first lead starting at 0:50 sounds very much like a joyful Chick Corea foray. The soprano sax takes the next turn, spewing notes out at an impressive speed in a very nice, fluid Kenny G solo. Mick Hutton's gorgeous double bass play beneath provides all the engine needed to keep this one on the road as Bill starts to play a little with the timing belt beneath. While the solos are all stellar, it's Mick's bass that keeps me happy (and I'm oh, so happy). (9.25/10)

2. "Making a Song and Dance (5:56) the opening motif of this song is one of the band's most signatory: sheer music magic with tinkling piano flourishes, fast-walking double bass, beautiful soprano sax melody-making all played over Bill's Simmons drum-delivered MIDI chord sequence--until 2:45 when two "Owner of a Lonely Heart"-like cymbal crashes signal a shift to a more gruff motif--which then, quite magically, becomes smooth and gorgeous as tenor sax takes over the melody delivery with some gorgeous play. The band then shifts back to the song's original motif for the final minute with some more beautiful soprano sax melody-making taking us to the end. Such a cool song! (9.75/10)

3. "Up North" (5:28) another song that got radio (and VH1) airplay. Simple and melodic. This is part Joe Jackson, part Jazz Crusaders, part pop-elevator schlock, but it works! (8.667/10)

4. "Pressure" (7:26) opens like some heavy techno-rock 80s song before the horns arrive. Then at 1:45  there's a radical stop-and-shift to a sensitive piano-based sensitive jazz piece that turns full-bop in the fourth minute. Nice jazz drumming, Bill. Nice jazz piano playing, Django! Nice jazz double bass play, Mick! Very nice. Reminds me a lot of Chick Corea's jazziest piano play. At 5:25 we then bridge to a more industrial Crimsonian pulse motif. Bill really goes off while the horns and bass support. At 6:40 we iump into a big band-like finish. Cool! (13.25/15)

5. "My Heart Declares a Holiday" (4:40) opening with a Crimsonian "Discipline" polyrhythmic weave. It's as if you were to combine the song "Discipline" with some Miles banking and soloing. A top three for me (cuz I love that minimalist sound and feeling of "Discipline"). A top three song. (9/10)

6. "Emotional Shirt (4:48) the foray into avant-garde music: part hypnotic minimalistic chromagnum part Thelonius Monk and/or Don Pullen free jazz. May be accomplished but it's not my favorite. (8.25/10)

7. "It Needn't End in Tears" (5:15) old-style love ballad given a William Henderson (Pharoah Sanders) keyboard treatment. (8.667/10)

8. "The Shepherd Is Eternal" (1:52) picking up on the cross-cultural appropriation that artists like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders and Peter Gabriel were doing …
9. "Bridge of Inhibition" (4:17) and then moving more into the straight jazz territory that Miles still had his feet cemented in is what this pier of songs feels like they're doing (they're even using some Sketches of Spain melodies!)--only add a bit of Broadway musical pit orchestra (coming from Bill's Simmons drums MIDIed sound programs) to it and then, Boom! You have it! (Nice trombone from Django Bates.) (8.667/10)

Total Time 43:56

Though I played this album to death when it first came out, when it came time to writing a review for it, it had been a long time. But it is amazing how familiar it is and how much I enjoy it. But now, with many years and many, many more albums to reference inside my assimilative brain, I can see how many old and new musical sounds and styles are reflected herein. Miles Davis, Chick Corea/Return to Forever, Pat Metheny Group, and of course, the industrial sounds of King Crimson, the angular chords and melodies of both Dave Stewart and Allan Holdsworth are all present and accounted for in these song expressions--all gathered and synthesized through Bill and company's conscious and unconscious minds. Mind-expanding and brilliant! 

87.65 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent addition to any Jazz-Rock Fusion lover's music collection--and definitely an essential listening experience for any prog music historian.

Other Recommended Albums:
(ratings below 87.50)

RUSH Hold Your Fire

A band devolving further into the quagmire of 1980s techno-"New Wave" pop rock.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Alex Lifeson / electric & acoustic guitars
- Geddy Lee / basses, bass pedals, synthesizers, vocals
- Neil Peart / drums, acoustic & electronic percussion
- Aimee Mann / additional vocals (2)
- Andy Richards / keyboards, synth programming
- Jim Burgess / synth programming
- William Faerey Engineering Brass Band / brass ensemble
- Andrew Jackman / brass arranger & conductor
- Steven Margoshes / strings arranger & conductor
- Peter Collins / co-arranger, co-producer

1. "Force Ten" (4:31) Nothing here but techno-glam-rock reflective of the music of the period. (8.25/10)

2. "Time Stand Still" (5:08) a song I remember for its limited radio airplay, despite its shadow reminder of the Rush of old, it's still so simple and so pop-oriented. The fretless is too much, the toms so canned (and so plastic), the guitars so simplistic, the keys so thin, the sound engineering so compressed. (8.75/10)

3. "Open Secrets" (5:37) sounds so much like a song from ART IN AMERICA's debut album. Such poor sound production. Please take that fretless away from Geddy--and please let Alex go free more often! (8.667/10)

4. "Second Nature" (4:36) a band that normally delivers far-above average lyrics seems to have sold out (as has Alex Lifeson. Alex: you are note Jamie West-Oram!) A gentler, more standard pop song (reflecting a lot of the music of the time). Nice keyboard exposé in the fourth minute. (8.25/10)

5. "Prime Mover" (5:18) opens with a true RUSH feel before it goes a little Bon Jovi. Can the band really have sunk this low? (8.25/10)

6. "Lock and Key" (5:09) horrible melodies and chord progressions. Not even Neil's herculean efforts can pull this one out of the trash can. (Can't believe the band tried to promote this one as a hit single.) (8.25/10)

7. "Mission" (5:15) the first half of this song makes me feel so sad for Alex Lifeson: it must have been an all-time low for him to stoop down to playing those "Don't You Forget About Me" chord strums. The second half offers some of the most interesting and fully-developed music of the album. Finally! The real Rush is shining through. Unfortunately, Geddy's vocal (and message) do nothing to bring us into the song. (8.667/10)

8. "Turn the Page" (4:55) more Simple Minds chord strums and Jamie West-Oram bended arpeggi and chord strums. Neil must've been getting so bored by now. Less rolling fretless is such a nice thing. Alex gets to unleash a little in fourth minute (I can sense all of the pent up frustration he's releasing). The vocal here is actually engaging and memorable. (A unique event with Geddy giving in to the suggestion of using multiple tracks of his own voice to deliver quick, repetitious phrases.) Amazing how big a difference it is for me when Geddy's vocal is inviting instead of off-putting. (8.75/10) 

9. "Tai Shan" (4:15) a slower, less 80s-sounding sound-scape (aside from Alex's guitar arpeggi). Weird to hear Geddy sing a kind of subdued "love" ballad. Weird to hear so much of the instrumental palette coming from collaborators outside of the main three. (8.5/10) 

10. "High Water" (5:33) a disco-based song in which Geddy's voice sounds like he could care less. Even the keyboard chords used in the second verse are recycled from old material. Obviously, Geddy is having fun with the fretless--he's been running around that fretboard for 50 minutes now. And even Alex seems to have somehow been convinced that the pitch-unstable twangy (chorus-drenched) 80s guitar sound is the latest greatest. I hope it's over. Drumming superman Neil Peart just seems to keep on going: nothing seems to phase him or deter his enthusiasm for his job. The SIMPLE MINDS sound Alex uses around the four-minute mark is shameful. The "Owner of a Lonely Heart" chords and "In Your Eyes" lifts that follow even moreso.  (8.33/10)

Total Time 50:17

What horrible sound production was allowed/condoned in the 1980s! Where 1985's Power Windows foray into the techno-pop world of synthetic sound seemed to go so well, this one sounds as if a new inexperienced band has burst onto the techno-pop scene. What happened? Not only are the instrumental performances reined in and watered down (or worse, made to sound horrible: cite Geddy's fretless bass and Neil's plastic toms), even the song compositions are disappointingly simpler. 

85.42 on the Fishscales = B-/3.5 stars; a fair if dated addition to any prog lover's music collection--but surely an embarrassing contribution to any Rush fan's proud display. 

Not As Good As Advertized:

MARILLION Clutching at Straws

What?! No album concept or 1970s Genesis copying? Finally, the band actually feast on the imitation of several other bands.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Fish / vocals
- Steve Rothery / guitars
- Mark Kelly / keyboards
- Pete Trewavas / basses
- Ian Mosley / drums, percussion
- Tessa Niles / backing vocals (2,11)
- Christopher "Robbin" Kimsey / backing vocals (7)
- John Cavanagh / Dr. Finlay voice (8)

1. "Hotel Hobbies" (3:35) the  opening sound like the band is struggling between going the direction of FLOCK OF SEAGULLS and BON JOVI, but then the Peter Gabriel vocal approach starts, over some pure 80s music. (Fine Young Cannibals? ABC?) Nice guitar and drums passage in the middle of the third minute. Weird, sudden end. (8.75/10)

2. "Warm Wet Circles" (4:25) despite Steve Rothery's continued adherance to Steve Hackett's guitar sounds and stylings, this song is rather their own (despite the Nektar guitar arpeggio that the opening section is founded upon). The band is establishing their own independent sound. (8.5/10)

3. "That Time Of The Night (The Short Straw)" (6:00) Now I know where Mirek Gil got his guitar sound! Another song that seems to indicate that the band is ready to throw off the Genesis mantle and establish themselves for their own sound and style. Fish is still stuck in the PG style of theatric singer-songtelling, but this is my first exposure to Steve Rothery finally establishing his own sound. The keys, bass, and drums are solid, more reflective of the 80s than late 70s Genesis, so, the band is caught on a fence: the majority moving toward establishing their own sound and style while Fish is still firmly entrenched in imitation of a bygone era. Still, this is one of my favorite Marillion songs of the 1980s. (9/10)

4. "Going Under" (Not included on LP releases) (2:47) nice original melody lines established by arpeggiating guitar and Fish. Now this is the NeoProg sound that IQ has been dragging along for the past 35 years. (5/5)

5. "Just For The Record" (3:09) like solo PG! A reworked "Moribund the Burgermeister" with some Cagey Tony Banks synth work and early 1980s Phil drumming. (8.5/10)

6. "White Russian" (6:27) Some of the best, most confident drumming I've ever heard from Ian Mosley! The rest of the song is forgettable (even the Genesis-imitative delicate part after 3:54), but, you go, Ian! (8/10)

7. "Incommunicado" (5:16) The Who! Full on! The only Genesis here is a bit in the keyboard department, otherwise, the band have finally chosen another superband to copy. And they do it pretty well. (8/10)

8. "Torch Song" (4:04) lyrics sounding half PG, half Rickie Lee Jones (lyrically). Rhythm guitar sound is so 1980s. (We all used this sound!) (8.5/10)

9. "Slàinte Mhath" (4:45) Simple Minds! "Don't You (Forget About Me)" Nice performances by Fish and Ian Mosley. (8.5/10)

10. "Sugar Mice" (5:46) Roxy Music! "More Than This"! Turns into guitar-oriented classic rock during the heavy, instrumental section--and then there's no going back. (8/10) 

11. "The Last Straw" (5:58) Whitesnake! Pure classic hair band rock song construct. Poor Fish! This is just not a good fit for him! Despite a cool middle section, this song has nothing to help me remember it. (8/10)

Total Time: 52:18

Never thought I'd like a Marillion song much less album--especially from the Fish-era--but here we have one. I guess anything is possible. 

83.75 on the Fishscales = C/three stars; the best Marillion effort yet--though they are definitely going through an identity crisis. Who will they become? 


The Belgian avant gardistes experimenting with 1980s technologies. I hear a lot of the influence of Phillip Glass and Christian Vander here. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Thierry Zaboitzeff / vocals, bass, cello, sampler, tapes, keyboards, percussion
- Patricia Dallio / grand & electric pianos, keyboards
- Gérard Hourbette / viola, violin, grand & electric pianos, keyboards, percussion
- André Mergenthaler / cello, alto sax, vocals (bass)

1. Epithalame (20:12) weird weave of tribal sounds pulsing like a Phillip Glass soundtrack with C. Vander-like castrati singing in the background. Hypnotic in an African drum-circle, Joni Mitchell "Dreamland" kind of way. (34/40) 
2. "Baboon's Blood" (5:35) obviously the band was experimenting with a lot of the new sounds and technologies that the digital, MIDI, and computer world were making available to the art world. The vocals are laughable, the Art of Noise samples and sounds embarrassing, but the strings contributions are okay. (8/10)
3. "A Drum, a Drum" (20:20) what opens as a creepy soundtrack to a horror film turns more musical in the fifth minute--though still scary/creepy (The vocals are just weird. I like the band much more as an instrumental band.) The Middle Eastern-sounding saxophone can get a little grating. Then a drawn out washy coda turns into an almost-Berlin School section reminding me of some of Mike Oldfield's poorer passages. The use of some of the 1980s technologically available innovations only serves to date and mire this music in anachronistic time capsule. I'd love to hear the 21st Century, all-acoustic version the band would do of this today.
     Overall, I'd say this song is quite a failure. There is nothing exceptional, virtuosic, engaging, or even particularly fresh much less entertaining. (30/40)

Total Time: 46:14

Overall I think this album is a sad testament to the limited and limiting technologies coming available in the 1980s--sounds that have either been vastly improved upon or simply (and with embarrassment) discarded. I'm glad they went back to their unplugged acoustic sound palette. 

80.0 on the Fishscales = C-/three stars; a brick of an album that is more historically valuable for the example of how wrong a band's experimentation with latest technologies can go. 

Other Highly Recommended Prog Albums
(Other albums recommended by prog lovers)

PINK FLOYD A Momentary Lapse of Reason

Line-up / Musicians:
- David Gilmour / guitars, vocals, keyboards, sequencers, co-producer
- Richard Wright (credited as guest) / Hammond, Fender Rhodes, Kurzweil, backing vocals
- Nick Mason / acoustic & electronic drums, sound Fx, spoken voice (1)
- Michael Landau / guitar
- Bob Ezrin / keyboards, sequencers, percussion, co-producer
- Jon Carin / keyboards, programming, vocals
- Patrick Leonard / synthesizers
- Bill Payne / Hammond organ
- Steve Forman / percussion
- John Helliwell / saxophones
- Tom Scott / alto & soprano saxophones
- Scott Page / tenor saxophone, guitar
- Tony Levin / bass, Chapman Stick
- Jim Keltner / drums
- Carmine Appice / drums
- Donnie Gerrard / backing vocals
- Darlene Koldenhoven / backing vocals
- Phyllis St. James / backing vocals
- Carmo Twille / backing vocals
- Andrew Jackson / addit. Fx, mixing

1. Signs of Life (4:24)
2. Learning to Fly (4:53)
3. The Dogs of War (6:05)
4. One Slip (5:10)
5. On the Turning Away (5:42)
6. Yet Another Movie (6:18)
7. Round and Round (1:10)
8. A New Machine, Part One (1:46)
9. Terminal Frost (6:17)
10. A New Machine, Part Two (0:38)
11. Sorrow (8:46)

Total Time 51:09

Albums on the Fringe of Prog World

PRINCE Sign O' The Times

Perhaps Prince's greatest album and definitely a favorite of mine--there is no side or no song that I skip or don't listen to all the way through. Sheer genius.

Full five stars on the Fishscales; a true masterpiece of boundary-pushing music.

U2 The Joshua Tree

Just give me those first four songs and we're good. ("Where the Streets Have No Name," "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," "With or Without You," and "Bullet the Blue Sky."

Probably four to 4.5 stars on the Fishscales.

THE CURE Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me

An album that I first heard being played, start to finish, all four sides, on the radio, while driving one day. The opening song, "The Kiss" (6:17) (10/10) alone is worth the purchase, but other great songs include "Snakepit," "One More Time," "How Beautiful You Are," and "Just Like Heaven."

Probably deserves a four star rating on the Fishscales.


The boys' sound and melodies have yet to get old or stale on us.

Four stars on the Fishscales.


1. "Crying in the Rain '87" (5:37)
2. "Bad Boys" (4:09)
3. "Still of the Night" (6:38)
4. "Here I Go Again '87" (4:33)
5. "Give Me All Your Love" (3:30)
6. "Is This Love" (4:43) iconic song with great elements all around plus great vocals of David Coverdale and earworm guitar solo. (9.75/10)
7. "Children of the Night" (4:24)
8. "Straight for the Heart" (3:40)
9. "Don't Turn Away" (5:11

on the Fishscales = / stars;

ZAKIR HUSSEIN Making Music (with Jan Garbarek, John McLaughlin and Hariprasad Chuarasia)

This was the first record that I found of Zakir's outside of the Shakti albums--and boy did I eat this up!

Line-up / Musicians:
- Zakir Hussain / vocals, tabla, percussion
- John McLaughlin / guitar, acoustic guitar
- Hariprasad Chaurasia / flute
- Jan Garbarek / soprano sax, tenor sax

1. "Making Music" (12:29) one of my favorite memories from my first solo living in the 1980s was the discovery of this album and, in particular, this gorgeous song. I was, at the same time, just starting my studies of Yoga and meditation and it seems that my suddenly-urgent spiritual thirst was attracting all-things Indian into my life. This was one of them. This song conveys and evokes such peace and natural beauty; it could very well have been a soundtrack song for many of the Eastern spirituality books that were falling into my lap--including Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha. (24/25)

2. "Zakir" (6:21) a beautiful gift to their beloved percussionist; obviously John's idea for his tender acoustic guitar play has rarely been topped until the Bill Evans tribute album. Hariprasad Chaurasia's flute feels nearly as loving. What a beautiful melody the four have discovered! Zakir and Jan join in around the three minute mark as John strums away. (And you know how much I love John McLaughlin's strum work!) Jan's tenor sax play is a little gritty--not quite as pretty or reverent as the play of the other two, but luckily Hariprasad's flute is there to temper him. (9.5/10)

3. "Water Girl" (3:54) Zakir using his tabla and percussives to try to create the sounds of dripping water. Flute gentle inputs in the background from Jan Garbarek and, later, John McLaughlin add gentle "flow" to the mix. but it's really the flutes that provide the Balinese-like mood and melody. (9.25/10)

4. "Toni" (3:50) more reverent music from Jan, Hariprasad, and John. How generous of Zakir to hold sacred space for these amazingly emotive and in-tune artists to express themselves so fully. (9/10)

5. "Anisa" (9:13) It is sad that an album full of such beautiful, pure, and reverent music as this could start to "get old" but, after 27 minutes straight of this gorgeous music, the Western brain does start to move it to the background--to seek amusement and attention in other things and thoughts from the world of Maya. However, were one to start their listening experience with this song--or isolate it as its own entity--one would find the same ecstatic--even a little Al Di Meola feel to it (in that fourth minute)! Then Zakir gets his meditative solo time. It's mesmerizing! Especially when he starts vocalizing a dialogue with his own tabla playing. (South India's Carnatic tradition called "Konokol") (/20)

6. "Sunjog" (7:38) (/15)

7. "You And Me" (2:09) (/5)

8. "Sabah" (3:40) (/10)

Total Time 47:54

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