Linda Hoyle and her first album in 44 years

Linda Hoyle — The Fetch
★★☆

Do you remember the band Affinity and their only album released in the 1970?

Linda Hoyle sang on that wonderful album, and their music sounds like The Zombies stepping out from their sunshine psychedelia towards mellow, jazzy prog. The band sadly disbanded while they were recording their second album, leaving behind such classics as their 7-minute wonderland visit called Night Flight and their 11-minute cover of All Along The Watchtower.

Below is their cover of Eli’s Coming (originally sung by Laura Nyro and covered by Three Dogs Night)

One year later in 1971 Linda released an album of her own called Pieces of Me. This album is a very personal exclamation, in which Linda unleashes her strong feminist side. Each song is a statement, such as Hymn to Valerie Solanas especially (read more about Valerie Solanas and her relationship to Andy Warhol here) and once I discovered the album, it immediately became one of my favourites. Compared to the sweet prog Affinity had, this album has some unusually rough and heavy material. Black Crow is paying tribute to Beatles‘ Hey Bulldog and the featured song of the album Pieces of Me is one of the heaviest pieces (pieces of me are so heavy!) yet released at the time, while still preserving its somewhat jazzy structure.

The opening track to Linda‘s solo album, Backlash Blues:

Now, that was to remain Linda‘s last release for 44 years, which is a real shame, since she has such a marvellous voice, said by some to be a crossover of Grace Slick‘s grace with the power of Janis Joplin.

But then!

Suddenly, while I was discussing Affinity on one of the prog forums and bringing up Linda Hoyle‘s solo production, I couldn’t help but notice that a new album was released — in August of 2015, just one month ago!

That was an even stronger surprise than seeing Robert Plant perform on stage in Pori Jazz. I had to immediately have a listen to the album, and so I did. Even if just for a while, it felt like I was living in the 70’s! It was not just a fantasy anymore — all the music that was made then, all the artists, they suddenly became a reality. And I was a part of that reality.

The opening track The Fetch from the album The Fetch:

Let’s not bring up that Linda‘s new album The Fetch wasn’t really that good. Most of the songs were not interesting musically, rather resembling Christmas carols concentrating on the quality her voice — which had lost quite a bit of its shine due to the years. Yet there were a couple of very good, proggy songs, and the voice was good enough to clearly hear that it’s still her singing, Linda Hoyle, in person, true to her style! Some of the lyrics also had some of that feminism left in them (even the word “fuck” was heard, quite abruptly so amidst a relaxing, jazzy piece), and the first song of the album is pleasingly different from all the prog I’ve heard until now. I just hoped that the whole album would be just like its first piece, however this album gave me more than just music. It gave me new feelings, just like Hoyle‘s first solo album. “Affinity fans spanning generations will surely be overjoyed. It’s as if Linda never left…”, Tom Semioli writes in Huffington Post.

An interview with Linda Hoyle promoting her new album:

What is more, Linda states in the interview above that she’s writing “a lot, so much that I have to restrain myself” and that she’s already working on her next album. This is surely happy news for anyone respecting her style.

I’m considering writing her a fan letter, there is a whole lot that I would like to convey. I also think I’ll drop by the store today and see if I can find either a copy of The Fetch or Pieces of MeAffinity will also do.

p.s.

By the way, do you have any idea who is responsible for the album cover art of The Fetch? That’s right, it’s Roger Dean himself! The person who’s famous for painting the surreal album covers of Yes and a great deal of other prog bands. Just another little thing that was done right for Linda‘s album.

Album Saturday — Rush Hour, part I

First of all I need to mention that I’m not the utmost Rush fan. There’s something about their style that just doesn’t seem right. Still, Rush is a band highly appreciated by many, so I thought I needed to get over it and have a listen to their albums. As I sail through the years, I’ll try to understand whether there is actually something wrong with Rush, or whether there is just something wrong with me.

What may have spawned that feeling is that Rush seem to have a quite distinguishable style, and their sound is different from that of the other bands. Therefore it might be easy to take a stance for or against this band.

Rush — Rush
★★★★

This is the first album by Rush, way before they went prog. The album starts with a driving piece, Finding My Way, perhaps the best song of the album. This blues drive continues then throughout the album, and the songs feel connected to each other — even though this is no concept album — and good mood is in the air. The Led Zeppelin influence seems evident, yet they fail to get close to Zeppelin‘s level of mastery. The guitar solos are ok, but they could have been much better, and the compositions miss that particular “hook” phrase to be remembered by. Anyway, there’s nothing particularly dissatisfying with their first album, although there’s no song that would really stand out either.

Rush — Fly By Night
★★★

In this album the rising progginess can be heard right away in Anthem. As their first work was quite straightforward and not particularly interesting musically, I like how this album features more complex and entertaining guitar riffs. By Tor & The Snow Dog is their first song that could count as progressive, consisting of different parts and lasting for over 8 minutes, featuring nice stops and changes of pace, showing a glimple of the true potential the band possessed. Yet not all of the songs are quite that accomplished. The song by which the album was named, Fly By Night, meeked in comparison with the preceeding epic. Making Memories seemed more like a modern rock dilemma, something you end up listening to because there’s nothing better on the radio. I also appreciate the effort of making tribute to Tolkien with their song Rivendell, and the lyrics are fine too, but just a bunch of picked chords doesn’t cut it for a tune. And In The End came the outrageous mass-oriented whining I hate the most. All in all, the feeling I got from listening to Fly By Night didn’t match their debut album.

Rush — Caress of Steel
★★★☆

This album starts off a good foot with Bastille Day. The riff feels interesting but not too intimidating. I Think I’m Going Bald sounds just right, and the passages might be something that Zeppelin themselves would love to play. And with that I would say it’s their best song so far. But that was only until The Necromancer came along, a 12 minute epic, which they managed to keep sounding grave and stylish. In my opinion it could have used a little more decoration in the beginning, and the fast guitar solo in the middle stopped way too suddenly, but that is fine.

The progginess unexpectedly continues with The Fountain Of Lamneth, an even longer, 20 minute piece, which finally brings out the true colours of the band. It’s still partly very simple for my taste, the drum solo could have been better, and slow piece the fourth part of the epic, Panacea, is not exactly what I liked to hear, but far better in comparison to Rivendell, a similar piece in their previous album. Moreover, the six parts of the epic don’t fuse with each other but fade out before the next part, kind of slicing the song into little pieces. But those were all quite a trifle — all in all I enjoyed this work.

Rush — 2112
★★★★

This album begins with 2112, the first piece I got to know Rush by. The beginning grabs the listener in right away, and doesn’t leave place for second thoughts. It’s great to see the band grow this much from their first proggy try-outs in Caress of Steel. Rush are more experimental than ever, the stops between the parts don’t feel too rushed (what a pun!) and even the solos fall right. 2112 is a true work of art.

Even judging by the rest of the songs on the album, Rush have become far more polished since their debut, especially their guitar solos have improved. A Passage to Bangkok is a goofy song, but it features tasty riffs, and has that “hook” to be remembered by. The Twilight Zone has become another favourite of mine, the whispering into the left ear works, and the band manages to create an eerie atmosphere. Sadly Tears fall into the same category with Rivendell and kind of ruin the whole mood, so I’m forced to only give 4/5 to this album.

Rush — A Farewell to Kings
★★★★☆

A Farewell to Kings begins, well… With A Farewell to Kings. And with A Farewell to Kings thou canst see and hear how much, much better their guitar solos have become. The next ten-minute piece Xanadu also shows Rush have matured and continue to uphold the level they’ve achieved in 2112, or perhaps have gone even further. Closer to the Heart first starts like any other wimpy love song, but that mistake gets corrected along the way. Cinderella Man is nothing supreme, but demonstrates once again that Rush can handle those guitar solos now. Madrigal sounds just like in could be a part of the 2112 epic, so with nothing new to be heard there, I proclaim it to be the worst piece of the album. Otherwise this A Farewell to Kings was highly satisfactory, and the best one by Rush so far, ending with an amazing first “book” of Cygnus X-1, just to be continued with “Book II” in their next album, Hemispheres.

Rush have become steadily better, as you might see from the ratings I’ve given to their albums. And I’ve also seen Hemispheres a lot everywhere. I’m having high hopes for their perhaps best album. Can they hit the full mark? I can’t wait…

Rush — Hemispheres
★★★★★

I guess I wasn’t left disappointed. I’m still amazed with the progress this band has made. They’ve grown into a full-fledged prog band, and their compositions on this album sound smooth and clean, yet powerful. Cygnus X-1 proved to be a whole lot better than 2112 even, which sounds still rough and unpolished. Practice makes the master, as they say. Rush have succeeded in creating their own universe with this album, and set the listener to experience a feeling well described by a quote “I am dead, and yet on board.”

What differs this Rush album (and partially A Farewell to Kings as well) from their earlier work is the variety of sounds they produce. Of course, that variety is not even close to the 40 instruments used by Gentle Giant in their album Acquiring the Taste, but the amount of sounds Rush use here provides them with a richer, more mesmerising sound.

Book II of Cygnus is followed by Circumstances, a wonderfully powerful song, then The Trees the have charmed my soul (“There is unrest in the forest”… love that rhyme), and finally La Villa Strangiato, a mesmerizing instrumental that has been one of my favourites for a long time already. This album doesn’t have anything that would displease me, and I know this sounds too good too be true, but this album deserves my full mark, and I’m happy to contribute to this little fairytale of a band slowly but steadily rising towards perfection.

 

So, what can I say about Rush in the end? I can say that I was wrong. They are a worthy band, and it seems like I had previously only stumbled upon their lesser, early works. I can’t wait to continue with Part II of their albums, especially Moving Pictures that is considered to be the peak of their age. Oh, and there are the Permanent Waves in between too. This should be grand!

Read the second part of the Rush reviews here.

Gentle Giant — Acquiring the Taste

Gentle GiantAcquiring the Taste
★★★★★

I decided to start my Gentle Giant reviews with this second album, because I already had listened to the first one before, and also due to this declaration, found on sleeve text of the album:

“…It is our goal to expand the frontiers of contemporary popular music at the risk of being very unpopular. We have recorded each composition with the one thought – that it should be unique, adventurous and fascinating. It has taken every shred of our combined musical and technical knowledge to achieve this. From the outset we have abandoned all preconceived thoughts of blatant commercialism. Instead we hope to give you something far more substantial and fulfilling. All you need to do is sit back, and acquire the taste.”

And the album IS extremely rich in ideas. The music takes you by the hand and constantly leads you to a new phrase, hardly ever repeating itself. The sounds itself are extremely diverse. Over 40 different instruments were used in the making of Acquiring the Taste. One time they whisper right into your ear, the next moment they drive you on with rock elements, another while they take you back to the medieval era, just like Gryphon does in their first album.

Listen to this, acquire the taste, and discover something new about yourself as you do.

Starcastle — Citadel

StarcastleCitadel
★★★★

In their third album, Starcastle try a more pop approach. All songs are 4-5 minutes long, and especially songs like Can’t Think Twice and Could This Be Love were made ready to become hits, which can be noticed musically as well as lyrically. Yet, Starcastle manage to preserve their usual ”yessish” sound, and the album is not only as enjoyable as the ones released before, but even contains some new elements to entertain a listeners mind.

Long Fin Killie — Houdini

Long Fin KillieHoudini
★★★

This experimental rock album is from 1995 and tells about a man named Houdini and his sexual experiences. Some songs get quite good at times, yet the vocals are not satisfactory, and many compositions lack variation. Hollywood gem draws clear reference from Yes, but falls short in many ways. The Heads of Dead Surfers might be the best song of the album, with a successful touch of avant-garde. If you’re in an experimental mood, you might enjoy listening to this.

 

Album Saturday 1.3. — Schedule

This Saturday some rock album essentials will be played once again.

Here are the estimated starting times for the albums (GMT+2):

 

12:00 Led Zeppelin — Led Zeppelin II

 

12:40 Black Sabbath — Paranoid

 

 

13:25 Pink Floyd — Wish You Were Here

 

14:10 The Velvet Underground — The Velvet Underground & Nico

 

 

15:00 The Beatles — Help!

 

15:30 Emerson, Lake & Palmer — Brain Salad Surgery

 

 

 

16:15 The Who — Tommy