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Genre: Rock\Acoustic

Year Of Release: 2008

Record Label: Transmission

Recommended for fans of: Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, John Wesley and Steven Wilson.

 

Track Listing:

  1. “The Sky Moves Sideways” – 4:02
  2. “Even Less” – 3:27
  3. “Stars Die” – 4:33
  4. “Waiting” – 3:52
  5. “Normal” – 4:52
  6. “Drown With Me” – 4:09
  7. “Lazarus” – 4:29
  8. “Trains” – 4:04

Review

 This recording is quite a treat for long-time fans of the band, however it didn’t turn out as originally planned. The full band were set to appear at Park Avenue CDs in Orlando, Florida, however due to lack of space, it was decided that only Steven Wilson and John Wesley would play to 200 fans that had managed to cram themselves into the store.This is very interesting because John Wesley isn’t even a full member of the band, he just helps PT in the live environment, and adds to the studio recordings when needed. I’d argue that he may as well be part of the band full-time, something which wouldn’t bother me at all, but seems to have some PT fans divided.

Whichever camp you belong to, you can’t deny the mans talent, and it shows on this recording! The first 3 songs are played by Steven Wilson on his own, and then John Wesley comes and adds to the last 5, the songs are mostly semi-acoustic arrangements of the full band versions, most of which work extremely well in this kind of setting.

 The album starts with ‘The Sky Moves Sideways’and is probably the hardest to re-arrange given the source material, the original being 36 minutes in length divided into 2 parts that bookend the album it comes from. It has been arranged so only the section with lyrics has been used, which makes much sense, and is one of the best parts of the original song anyway! Before the song begins, it is announced that Porcupine Tree are coming onto the stage, to which SW replies ‘actually, its only me!’ which is met by an enthusiastic applause, its nice that the SW/Audience interaction is kept on the record, it enhances the performance. The song itself is wonderful, with the omission of an acoustic arrangement in favor of an electric approach, at first I thought the vocals were too high in the mix, however its just because of the new arrangements sounding different to the originals, the mix is perfect for a live recording. 

The albums only low-point follows the fantastic opener, it’s in the shape of ‘Even Less’a song which has been acoustically performed before and sounded wonderful. The problems lies in the way SW decided to perform it on this occasion, full marks for creativity, none for the execution, its performed entirely on an electric guitar in a sort of jazzed up tempo, which just sounds plain wrong. The electric guitar just doesn’t work very good with the sung verses. You know you don’t like a song when you skip it on your winamp playlist everytime its about to play. 

However bad the arrangement of a PT classic, the next track makes up for it 100-fold, we’re told by SW prior to him starting, that ‘Stars Die’ was the first PT song to get radio play back in 1993. It’s also a song that very rarely gets played at all these days, and almost never by the full band, so its inclusion on this album is an absolute joy to the ears. I’m conflicted to whether I prefer this version to the original album version, it’s a close call! 

John Wesley joins the fun for the next song ‘Waiting’ which is one of my favourite PT songs of all time, it appears on the album ‘Signify’ in 2 parts [or phases!] this arrangement doesn’t stray too far from ‘Waiting Phase 1’, the solo sounds refreshingly different, which I’d guess JW is playing. Again this song is also a rarity these-days for the full band to play so it’s great to hear it in any form. 

The only new material on this release comes in the form of ‘Normal’, a song that is from the recently released ‘Nil Recurring EP’. There is some hilarious talk from SW addressing the issue of how hard the song is to play live, with the finished product the result of much studio wizardry [and multiple takes!], he even rang up Robert Fripp [King Crimson] to ask for advice on learning the part he had written speed wise, since Fripp is a big fan of guitar discipline. The song itself is largely stripped down from the EP version, and its essentially just the chorus, however it works because of its freshness. This is because as far as I’m aware it wasn’t even played by the full band on the FOABP/NR tour dates, so its already cemented itself in history as the only live recording of the song in some form! 

The next song is the highlight of the album, ‘Drown With Me’ has always been a bit of an oddity in the sense that it didn’t make the final cut on the ‘In Absentia’ album. It’s possibly one of the best PT songs ever written, and better then a lot of the tracks that did make the final cut of the album. Regardless, this version is an absolute treat to behold, it’s a song that has always sounded good due to the fantastic harmonies that it contains. I’ve always liked JW’s singing, he does sing at a higher pitch then SW, so when the two combine on this track, the end result is awesome! It’s worth buying this release for just this one song, if you’re having any reservations. 

The last two tracks are fairly standard PT tracks that have been getting regular playings on tour dates for years, both being fan favourites.‘Lazarus’ is always a treat to hear, and I think it works better like this then played by the full band, as such it’s sparser, but it actually increases the strength of the song. Typical for a finishing song ‘Trains’ follows, to which the crowd go nuts about, only fair really being quite an amazing song. The live version has always been different from the studio release, in a faster tempo and lower key, and I prefer the live arrangement, has far more energy and is a treat to see played live. 

So with ‘Trains’ the 33 minute live event closes, I read somewhere that ‘Stop Swimming’ was going to be played, but ‘Lazarus’ replaced it at the last minute. So my only other criticism other then the poor version of ‘Even Less’ would be why not to have included ‘Stop Swimming’ as well?  

‘We Lost The Skyline’ is a good addition to any PT fans collection, however I’d wouldn’t recommend it for PT newbies, they’d be better starting off on the full albums before they would enjoy the material as it appears here.  

Lineup: 

Steven Wilson: Acoustic and Electric guitar, Vocals
John Wesley: [Tracks 4-8] Electric guitar, Backing vocals 

Score: 3.0/5.0 

D.P

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First Reviews Up!


Ok gang, I’ve uploaded the 1st two reviews on this blog! They are:

Blackfield: Blackfield II

Porcupine Tree: Deadwing

I plan to add 3 more albums to the Porcupine Tree section this week, and other reviews will follow soon after!

Enjoy!

D.P


 

Genre: Rock/Metal
Year Of Release: 2005
Record Company: Lava
Recommended for fans of: Tool, Opeth, Anathema, Radiohead and Muse.

 Track Listing:

1. “Deadwing” – 9:46
2. “Shallow” – 4:17
3. “Lazarus” – 4:18
4. “Halo” – 4:38
5. “Arriving Somewhere But Not Here” – 12:02
6. “Mellotron Scratch” – 6:57
7. “Open Car” – 3:46
8. “The Start of Something Beautiful” – 7:39
9. “Glass Arm Shattering” – 6:12
 

Review

Deadwing is the first ever Porcupine Tree album I heard, I had always wanted to check these guys out after I heard the track ‘Sever’ on a classic rock CD that came free with the magazine Classic Rock UK. Having checked the bands website I downloaded and watched the promotional video for the album which I enjoyed, watching Steve Wilson and Co mess around in the studio. So right after watching it, I thought the time is now and immediately ordered a copy, and I wasn’t let down when it arrived.Now there are two kinds of people [in my opinion] when listening to Progressive Music, the 1st would listen to the album once, form an opinion [usually a bad one] and move on. The 2nd person is like I am, an active listener and actually gives the album a chance by many a repeated listening. Truth be told I heard the album once, even twice and thought its alright, nothing special, but nothing could be further from the truth, for it’s essential to have many a repeat listening before it strikes you just how good this album is. Then the quality and production of this album really hits you!

‘Deadwing’ opens with some soft synth in a repeating rhythmic phase, it catches your attention because on the first listen you have no idea where the song is going, and this is crucial for the opening track. Then wham, straight into a hard-hitting progression that’s in drop D [gotta love lowering your bottom E!] it carries for a few measures and then, ‘what’s this you’re saying?’ it sounds like ‘Opeth’, yeah it does but with a bit of PT magic in there, SW goes crazy on the guitar and gives us a meaty palm muted riff. Then his voice enters ‘Something warm and sumptuous passed me by’ he softly sings, what can he be on about? More I must hear more! ‘My bleeding heart does not extend to charity…’ you can almost feel pain in SW’s voice, the lyrics in this song may be on the depressing side, but there’s something to relate to for everyone. Midway through the song the main riff is repeated with a mini-solo that sounds cool layered on everything else, and then the best bit of this track begins. It goes all quiet the synths come back, followed by a quiet guitar solo. Then the main theme comes back and the song finishes on the quiet side, it is a 9-minute mini-epic that is very cleverly written.

‘Shallow’ follows the title track, and is possibly the most aggressive [at least in the sense of all the way through] on the album, and is the most radio friendly, lets hope it gets some airtime. Nice killer riff is prevalent throughout. With gentler prechorus and consistent drumming. I’d like to think that this song is about how Shallow some people can be and take things at face value ‘it’s easier to talk to my PC’ and ‘All I know is on my own’ would seem to confirm this. The middle 8 of the song has a cool guitar based jam with some excellent sound FX’s and voice manipulation, it just screams ‘frustration’. This is a good track to show to potential listeners, as it will draw them in real fast! It’s not my favourite track on the album though, because it’s not as varied and progressive as the others.

The next song ‘Lazarus’ is a gorgeous acoustically led track, with some synth piano backing, it shows just how good a writer SW is, he can write soft tracks and hard tracks no problem [he combines the two perfectly in Arriving Somewhere Not Here] and this is a great chill out track. Has a sort of Banjo Solo near the end of the song that sounds sublime, only a short track but it has the desired effect. ‘Follow me down to the valley below, moonlight is bleeding from out of your soul’ beautiful! If Coldplay had written this song it would have been MASSIVE. So fans of the band should check this song out.

‘Halo’ starts with an immense bass line, backed up with some drums and synths, then a crazy bit of fast picking guitar line enters, as the lyrics continue. This song seems to be about the errors of religious fanaticism; the lyrics, especially the chorus is very catchy. I think SW is trying to imply that a lot of religious people seem to think they are better then non-religious people, when it doesn’t really matter. Still the song is awesome, nice heavy middle 8 with a crazy solo in it, before the main theme is reprised and the song ends.The 12-minute

‘Arriving Somewhere But Not Here’ is arguably the best track on the album; it’s so immense and achieves its aim. The way it builds up is very clever, it starts soft and you’d be mistaken in thinking it’s going to keep like that, for as the song builds up and segues into the middle 8 section, it’s happy days for headbangers! Such a forceful riff that changes into another forceful riff, and then by the wonders of multitracking is joined by another cracking riff that drives the middle 8. The drumming is very rhythmic near the end, almost sounds like bongos. One of the best tracks that PT have written without a doubt!
‘Mellotron Scratch’ starts with a nice clean electrically led riff, with some decent electronic percussion, then SW’s voice enters, sounding rather downbeat before the song picks up some pace. It’s the chillout track of the album there’s no doubt about that has a decent enough chorus and the lyrical content is ok. It is a little sublime though, especially the outro, which I think, is the best part of the song. Has a nice repeating riff, backed by a light electric guitar solo. My least favourite track on the album but its still top notch.

‘Open Car’ is a track has grown on me a lot; at first I thought it was just a Shallow clone, but its actually better then shallow and a lot heavier in places. Opens up with the kind of palm muted riff that Tool or Opeth would use extensively with SW hitting you with strong lyrics. Then wham into a heavy metal riff, as the drums enter. The chorus is a little lighter on the ears at least till the end, killer riff and excellent vocal work by SW, ‘Hair blown in an open car’ he yells! I’m still trying to figure out what this song is on about; I think maybe it’s about things falling apart in your life. Nice song to rock to.

‘The Start Of Something Beautiful’ is at least initially the least accessible song on the album, at least for me; the music itself is very strong, what you would expect Porcupine Tree of delivering now. I particularly like the solos, which sound quite menacing in places. The main riff is good, and the piano that follows it is a bonus. The outro is very simplistic in the fact it’s just the main riff but heavier and some uplifting SW lyrics, about not giving a damn. I think this song is about being knocked down at the beginning of a relationship, when you in fact think it’s all right, but then after thinking about it not actually giving a shit about it. That’s cool.

‘Glass Arm Shattering’ is the final song on the album and its wicked, perfect for rounding off what’s been quite a trip throughout the whole of the album. Starts off with some static and some nice guitar, then some spacey synths enter [bonus!] before SW starts singing in an uplifting [as if he’s come to a conclusion about something] voice, which is very relaxing to listen to. The track progresses quite nicely, with a nice piano led middle 8. The song finishes after a heavier section more or less as it started, nice and mellow, the lyrics lead out to finish the song. Lovely!

So there you have it, it’s pretty much their best album to date as regards progression of their sound, since they have leaned towards a harder edge this time round, which is certainly refreshing. Be nice if the soundtrack could accompany a film of some sorts as SW originally intended. The futures bright for this band, you never know quite what you’re going to get and that’s what progressive music is all about.

Lineup:

Steven Wilson: Vocals, Guitar, Piano, Bass, Keyboards & Hammered Dulcimer.
Richard Barbieri: Keyboards & Synthesizers
Colin Edwin: Bass
Gavin Harrison: Drums & Percussion

Guests

Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth) – Guitar & Vocals
Adrian Belew (King Crimson) – Guitar

Score: 4.5/5.0

D.P


 

    

 

 

 

 

 

Genre: Rock/Pop

Year Of Release: 2007

Record Company: Snapper Music/Atlantic/We Put Out Records

Recommended for fans of: Coldplay, Keane, Radiohead, Porcupine Tree.

Track Listing:

 1. Once (4:03)
2. 1,000 People (3:54)
3. Miss U (4:13)
4. Christenings (4:37)
5. This Killer (4:06)
6. Epidemic (4:59)
7. My Gift of Silence (4:05)
8. Some Day (4:22)
9. Where is My Love? (2:59)
10. End of the World (5:13)
 

Review 

Backfield are one of those bands that don’t get the coverage they deserve in certain countries, in this case I doubt if many people in the UK will have heard of them so let me clear a few things up.

Blackfield is a collaboration between Porcupine Tree’s front-man Steven Wilson, and Israeli superstar Aviv Geffen, and by superstar I mean it, this guy is huge in Israel, like Robbie Williams huge. Whereas Porcupine Tree music could be described as having progressive leanings, Steven Wilson uses his Blackfield outlet to explore the world of light rock with a pop twist to great effect; I dare say it works better then the likes of Coldplay and Keane. What I mean by this is that Blackfield’s music is easily accessible to listen to, and any of the tracks they have produced would fit in on commercial radio stations with ease.

This is Blackfield’s 2nd release, the first being in 2004 with ‘Blackfield I’; indeed the Led Zeppelin methodology of naming albums is being followed here with the 2nd album being called ‘Blackfield II’. I can heartily recommend the first album, however this 2ndalbum is a much more polished affair, whereas in Blackfield I the tracks whilst atmospheric, seemed a bit sparse in places.

So the 2nd album opens up with a track called ‘Once’which features some well placed drums and guitar before some soothing vocals, the popish element to the song writing is noticeable straight away yet the addition of a thundering guitar riff within the song is perhaps something bands like Coldplay and Keane wouldn’t use, yet Blackfield take the tempo up a notch and it works. ‘1000 People’ works on so many levels, not only because it’s a simple pop song, but also because it has depth in both its lyrical content and instrumentation, it’s a relaxing soothing 4 minutes with a darker chord progression.

The next track ‘Miss U’opens up without warning to some marvellous guitar work before Aviv Geffen takes lead vocal duties, the song which features some rather impressive orchestration is absolute ear candy during the chorus, and even though its only 4 minutes long, there’s time for a short guitar solo at the end which is perfectly placed in the song.

‘Christenings’ is a bit of an oddball, the song was originally written during the Porcupine Tree Deadwing’ sessions, and for some reason which is probably because it wouldn’t have fitted into Deadwing very well its ended up on ‘Blackfield II’. The plus point of this move is that it sounds more like Blackfield then PT, however I was quite curious to learn that as it appears on the album it’s the version that PT recorded, couldn’t Blackfield have re-recorded it? Seems simple enough to me, they play the song live on stage! Regardless of this criticism the song is a musical delight, and one of the best songs on the album, apparently the lyrics are based on the downfall of Syd Barrett [Pink Floyds original guitarist and songwriter who died in 2006] and work really well.

‘This Killer’ is probably the sleeper track of the album, meaning that whilst it might not strike you as particularly delicious on the first listen, it grows on you and gets better every listen, ambient and full of vocal delight. ‘Epidemic’is a good a choice as any for a single from this album and I have to say my all time favourite Blackfield track, its full of energy from the opening piano playing to the excellent guitar fuelled bridge, most of all the addition of a little shouting [you’ll understand if you hear the song] in the middle of the bridge by Aviv Geffen is quite marvellous, could be an absolute hit if it got regular airplay.

‘My Gift Of Silence’ continues the album focus on lyrical content, swarming in beautiful layers of keyboard melodies and quite breathtaking harmonies, I have a feeling this track is really moving when performed live. ‘Some Day’ is a straightforward affair, with the last 2 minutes of the track being particularly strong with its orchestration and the layering of guitars, ‘Where Is My Love?’was originally included on the first album as a bonus track in the form of a rough demo, this version is far better being more polished in every-way and the build-up to the ending is far more pronounced.

The album closes with ‘End Of The World’that is sure to become a live classic as an encore at future Blackfield gigs. It closes the album perfectly in a rather positive manner, despite the name of the song.

Overall this is the best Blackfield release yet, and its sounds far stronger and more mature then their first effort. Their audience is bound to grow within the UK quicker then they might expect seeing as Porcupine Tree are becoming bigger news every year , Blackfield will be discovered by a whole new legion of fans, indeed times look good for this band, and their 3rd release could be very much the album that gets them the recognition they deserve.

Lineup:

Steven Wilson – Guitar, Vocals
Aviv Geffen – Guitar, Vocals
Daniel Salomon – Keyboard, Piano
Seffy Efrati – Bass
Tomer Z – Drums

Score: 4.0/5.0

D.P


Well then, I guess it’s time to explain the reason I’m starting this blog.

I’ve always enjoyed writing, it’s something that chills me out and is also a very good form of expression,  however in recent years my writing has been almost entirely confined to written essays and exams due to the heavy work load associated with studying for a Bachelors degree.

 Well now that I’ve graduated, I can concentrate on writing about my interests rather then ‘someone elses’, no longer will I write about ‘working class crime on council estates’ or ‘political issues surrounding the criminal justice act’, 10 points to the first person who has a guess at what degree I did! Now I can concentrate on one of my favourite hobbies, that of MUSIC!

 I have set myself the challenge of reviewing every single album I own, which is not easy as I own a vast quantity, It may take a couple of years until I have even 75% of my collection reviewed, but one thing is certain, I’m unlikely to finish given the rate at which I buy new albums!

 Regardless of my work ethic, should you find this page and find an article of interest, please read it and leave your own comments, feel free to agree/disagree and contribute your own 2 cents worth if you like!

 Hope You Enjoy The Ride!

D.P