Wolfmother — Victorious (2016)

Or maybe not quite so victorious. Actually, not victorious at all.

Once again it’s been a while since I’ve written a review. Perhaps you can thank this most atrocious Wolfmother release for getting me back into blogging. Because it would have been quite unhealthy to keep all this rage within me.

Victorious, Baroness, Pretty Peggy… Especially Pretty Peggy. All complete, utter rubbish. Wolfmother has traded away its innovativity and creativity for some kind of… commercial success? I don’t think the band is even that popular any more. Where are the powerful rebels that spawned the White Unicorn, Apple Tree, Woman, Joker and the Thief, etc.? From a ground-breaking Sabbath-Zeppelinish spectacle it has turned into an alternative rock nightmare. Also, they had to add claps to their own songs, because obviously, no-one else is going to do that.

On the second side of the album, things get a little more interesting though — hence the two stars instead of just one. If you feel like skipping the worst parts of the album, start listening from the sixth track, The Simple Life.  The songs are still incredibly simple, but they begin to sound more like Doobie Brothers or some space rock campaign rather than commercial pop, and they flow nicely together rather than distract the listener. I hope that Wolfmother is in some transition phase, for they could use a change of style rather than trying to pursue the old direction people still expect from them, but which the band themselves probably don’t find any longer attractive.

WolfmotherVictorious
★★

And now comes the worst part of the deal for me as the blogger — to choose a representative song for a flop album. Should I then choose the best song or the worst one? Well, the last track was listenable, so let’s have that. Probably you won’t like it too much, but who knows — it’s in the Eye of the Beholder.

 

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R.I.P. David Bowie

I can’t believe it. I just woke up this morning and he’s dead.

We already lost Chris Squire and Lemmy. Who’s next? Roger Waters? Ian Anderson? Chick Corea? Linda Hoyle?

I am devastated.

David BowieBlackstar
★★★★

About his new album: you’ve got to listen to it. That is all.

The Raven on the Strawberry Path

Merry Christmas to everybody, and a happy New Year!

Fir albums

These are not Christmas presents as one might suspect. Rather, they are Christmas tree decorations.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post — again. I was busy, really busy indeed. In comparison to my usual workload at the university, I ended up doing 1.5x the courses I usually do. But it was fun, certainly. I even got to teach kids as part of my pedagogical studies.

However, lots of stuff happened in music as well. I began to spend my money on CDs. I have a growing collection of around 20 albums now. It’s an undescribable feeling, when you own music. CDs give music a material form, something to grab with you, something to look at, album art, lyrics, descriptions, labels, credits. It’s like collecting ancient treasure.

I partially feel like I have lost to all the copyright companies that shut down grooveshark. After all, here I am buying music, and that’s exactly what they want. If they only knew they wouldn’t even get a dime out of me if not for my musical education on grooveshark, in a brilliant community together with all other marvellous people. They have no idea.

But I don’t care about that now. My own enjoyment is what matters more. What I do respect however is the work of those clerks at the record store. How they manage to categorise all the discs and listen to the endless requests of the customers that all sound so obscenely similar. I say, I’ve been observing.

The record store I’ve been frequenting, Keltainen Jäänsärkijä. I used the picture from their website — with their blessings, I hope.

A record store is a temple of music really. A gallery of album covers and mysteries of what lies inside the box. It’s a place where a man can seclude himself in his own thoughts and breathe in the magestic air of thousands and thousands of hours these musicians have spent to shape their feelings into music. And once in a while, pretty often even, at the “oldies” department you come across an old friend of an album and you smile. “How do you do”, you ask, and it replies to you, with a similar smile: “I’m as great as ever pal. You should drop by for dinner sometime.”

Linda Hoyle — Pieces of Me

You can click on the pics to enlarge them.

And at times, you meet a long lost one, a distant, forgotten traveller, a rare bird at that. In your early years you might have exchanged some of those passionate glances at each other and felt the pleasant tention in your silent conversations, but your paths walked side by side never crossing each other, and both of you went your own ways before too long. But this time, you meet her in person again, and in a moment of bliss you hug each other by reflex and recall all the past moments you had. And she still looks beautiful after all these years.

Some days, as you continue walking around, you bump into a stranger. You apologise in a discreet manner, when you are suddenly captivated by the depth in his eyes. It feels like a gamble, but you go out of your way offer him a drink, and since the moment you walk out of the store, for that very night you become the best buddies; there’s so much you want to know, and he has lots of unique wisdom to give. He offers you a drink back, and it turns out he lives in a close neighbourhood and would love to have another chat soon. You promise to come and visit him often. And this time you know your promise is going to hold.

All these encounters I’ve had in these three months alone, pleasant, charming, to be remembered forever.Pieces of Me

It is perhaps needless to say that my regular stops at the record temple began since I had made up my mind on buying the new Linda Hoyle record (read my post about that here). It was the first time I felt like I wanted to support an artist. It’s amazing how one album might change your life like this, isn’t it? It’s beyond music already — it’s not like The Fetch was any close to the best albums I’ve had to listen. However, it was Linda‘s power, the undying hope and the connection with the past that I felt from it, all feelings that I treasure a lot now. Spectacular, I say.

My first visit to the temple wasn’t quite yet successful, as I couldn’t find that particular album in the store. However, there was a label named Affinity/Linda Hoyle with two albums under it. They knew who she was, I thought! And her first solo album was there too. So I bought it, Pieces of Me.

While I was at it, I asked the clerks for her latest album. They didn’t even seem to have heard about it before. I felt very important for a while, as a harbinger of news, a boy in his prime whose knowledge finally exceeded that of wise old priests and surprised them as they wrote the name of the album down on some tiny piece of paper, which one of them produced from behind a vinyl pile.

Fir the FetchFor now, however, I had to retreat from the battlefield — with a trophey alright, yet not the main goal still. But the pleasure was already there, as I listened to the album one time after another, each time finding new things from the CD and from inside myself. The whole treasure was there for me to exploit, to touch it, to feel it, to see it, to hear it.

One month later, I dropped by the store again. I didn’t even have the intention to buy anything, but when my gaze did behold Linda’s latest album! — brand and new — oh! How grand was my own surprisement, how majestic my excitement, how immeasurable my amusement. I had changed the world, and there it was for me to claim — and I grabbed it with my palm, payed my respects and marched out of the sacred temple, proud and victorious, yet most thankful. If only all people would listen to requests like these gentle priests do in their domain.

The FetchNow what about those strangers I met? Here’s one that I got acquainted with just a week before Christmas. I was searching through old used records, literally recognising each and every album, when suddenly, a raven hit my eye. Most puzzled, I pulled out the CD case and examined it. When the Raven has come to the Earth. The cover, it mesmerised me and called for me. The band’s name? Strawberry Path. Neverheard.

I made a quick search on the Internet for the band, but found nothing sufficient. And then I made up my mind — I shall have it. Actually, I had already made my decision as soon as I saw the cover and was simply gathering courage for it. This is how people treated music back in the 70s, it seemed to me. If the record looked interesting — they bought it. It feels ungraspable now, but bands like Caravan, Uriah Heep, Pink Floyd — all started as no-name bands. There was no Internet to explore the bands beforehand. You had to take a chance and have your mind blown after. Which most certainly happened with Strawberry Path.

Fir StrawberryTurns out, it was a Japanese band. And boy did the Japanese know how to make good music at the time. Somewhat similar to German krautrock, they incorporated the features of the hard rock and prog rock wave and made them their own. Bands came out of nowhere and vanished a couple of records later back to wherever they came from. Japanese rock scene from the 70s is full of riddles.

As I walked back out the store, I didn’t have a bag to carry the CD in, so I put it in my pocket — and I have a habit of keepin my hands in the pockets as I walk, especially during winter. This way I was continuously reminded of the disc and trembled with excitement the whole way home, which happened to be a particularly long one. The desire to find out what was on the disc was tormenting, yet spectacular. And after all this suspension, I finally got to throw myself back on the couch, put the disc in and listen to it, indulge into the pleasant realm of music and to realise it was good, almost too good; all this was quite something. That happened around 2 am.Strawberry Path

I never suspected the disc to be so good. There were hints of Hendrix in the guitar, driving chords and swift melodies. Woman called Yellow “Z” worked great with its heavy riff, but it wasn’t until the drumming tsunami of Spherical Illusion that I got blown away. The next morning I put the disc right in again and tuned up the volume. The party continued and my enjoyment was reassured as I understood that the disc was more than just the sum of its parts. I had found a new friend.

This concludes the tale about some of my best music-related experiences this autumn. Yet this is just the beginning — I’ll continue paying my visits to the temple and find new targets of worship. Moreover, since I do have those bought records in my shelf now, it would be odd not to provide some reviews on them. As a farewell Christmas/New Year gift, I leave you with the Strawberry Path song below, which I would urge you to listen in its entirety. So long, and until we meet again!

Strawberry PathWhen the Raven has come to the Earth
★★★★☆

Exploring the band further on progarchives.com, it seems like it is classified as progressive rock. I wouldn’t really agree — this album is pure rock, with some very imaginative passages nevertheless. Though one year later, this band grew into Flied Egg, indeed a prog band, one that I’ve heard of too. This could be the reason why some people might regard Strawberry Path as a prog band.

Electric Light Orchestra – Electric Light Orchestra (album)

Electric Light OrchestraElectric Light Orchestra (album)
★★★★

(known as No Answer in US)

Somehow I’ve been avoiding ELO albums until now, and I’ve been missing a lot! Their first record is full of creative and experimental pieces that are at least as good as any of their popular stuff. As an album it was somewhat rough, but a pleasantly different experience that expanded my understanding of music.

Even though I was already familiar with the 1st Movement instrumental, which I hold in high regard, my favourite piece ended up being the classical-sounding Battle of Marston Moor (July 2nd 1644). Enjoy!

Cleves — The Cleves [1970]

ClevesThe Cleves [1970]
★★★☆

Been a while since I last wrote a review. This album is claimed to be prog rock by multiple sources (Youtube & Allmusic), and when I couldn’t find the album on progarchives.com, the mother of all progsites, my interest grew. Moreover, the band turned out to be Australian, and there was nothing Australian that could come to my mind except for AC/DC. That’s when I knew I had to fix this gap in my knowledge, and fix it quick.

As it turned out, the only album by Cleves wasn’t anywhere near prog, although they obviously have a certain twist in how they groove. The Cleves is a pleasant mix of psychedelic rock and heavy-going solo jams, resembling somewhat the style of Argent. The steady beat on the background seems to unite the whole album. A nice listen, but nothing too special.

Below is the third song from their LP, Keep Trying, which I consider to be the highlight of the album.

Queen — Queen (album)

QueenQueen (album)
★★★

Queen sure are a difficult band. For every part on their debut album that I loved, there was a part that I hated. A ratio of one poor song to one great piece is not a bad one, you might think, but I would have been relieved if that were the case, since the instances of enjoyment and disgust occurred multiple times within each of the songs. How am I supposed to deal with that? Doing All Right and Liar are both examples of pieces that start off the wrong foot, but correct their stance as they move on. Also, it is easy to understand how Queen got their attention and fame; their sound is unique and the musical skills of the band’s members are unquestionable, even though those two traits combined do not necessarily add up to good music.

Iron Butterfly — Ball

Iron ButterflyBall
★★★☆

This is the third album by Iron Butterfly, in which they continue to practice their art as the pioneers of heavy psych. In spite of the trademark distorted guitar and organs, the sound on this album is warm and gentle, yet might appear somewhat monotonous to some, since the songs are lacking hooks to be remembered by. Still, this is a more than fitting chill-out album suitable for a lazy mood, one that soothes your mind on the background while not asking for any unnecessary attention.