Zweig & Co. Display Many Musical, Lyrical Moods On Their New LP

Courtesy: Ric Zweig and Fresh Air

Independent rock act Ric Zweig and Fresh Air recently announced it will release its new album More Rick Zweig and Fresh Air next month.  It is currently scheduled to be released independently June 1.  The record has the potential to be a true success for the band thanks to its wide variety of musical and lyrical moods.  That is exhibited right off the bat in the album’s opener ‘Rescue Me,’ which will appeal to fans of Carlos Santana, Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews Band and other similar acts.  Its follow-up, ‘The Stranger,’ supports that statement even more as it reaches fans of Bruce Springsteen with its collective lyrical and musical content.  ‘Here Comes The Rain Revisited’ supports that previously noted statement even more as it takes listeners back to the 1970s with its gentle, almost contemplative guitar-driven arrangement and equally thought-provoking lyrical theme.  Each song shows in its own way the reach of Ric Zweig and Fresh Air on its new album.  Those songs, together with the rest of the record’s songs, make a whole that is proves to be a breath of fresh, musical air for true music lovers everywhere.

Ric Zweig and Fresh Air’s new album is a record that proves to be, as already noted, a breath of fresh, musical air for true music lovers everywhere.  That, again, is due to the wide range of musical and lyrical moods exhibited throughout the record.  Its opener presents just one of those varied moods thanks in part to its mix of Carlos Santana-influenced guitar licks and more funk-infused riffs.  The juxtaposition of the two sounds (and their combined sound) creates an infectious, celebratory groove that will instantly make listeners want to move.  The song’s lyrical content matches that upbeat tempo and vibe exhibited through the song’s musical arrangement.  That is evident as Zweig and his band mates sing happily in the song’s chorus, “Baby, baby/Set me free/Maybe, baby/You and me…Baby, baby/Rescue me.”  The song’s verses add to that upbeat vibe as Zweig sings, “Gotta get back  my beats/Going back to New Orleans/Wanna play some rock and roll.”  He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “Gonna set up a chair on French Street/Gonna put a tip jar at my feet/I think it’ll be good for my soul/Just to play that rock and roll.”  Interestingly enough, Zweig, who is a former judge, also sings about police trying to run off the song’s subject as he sits in his chair, playing his rock and roll.  The subject sings that he will just come back another day.  It is a statement that imbues such happiness even with its laid delivery.  The same can be said of the song’s musical arrangement.  When the two are joined for one, the end result is a composition that will put a smile on any listener’s face and heart.  By contrast, the slower, more contemplative composition that is ‘The Stranger’ will move listeners in another way, showing even more the wide breadth of musical and lyrical moods exhibited throughout this record.

‘Rescue Me’ is a good way for Ric Zweig and Fresh Air to open its new album.  The song is a happy, celebratory piece that will bring joy to any listener.  By contrast, the album’s very next song, ‘The Stranger’ is the polar opposite.  This is not bad, though.  That is because it serves to show through comparison, the wide range of musical and lyrical moods exhibited throughout the record.  In regards to its musical arrangement, it instantly conjures thoughts of Bruce Springsteen’s most emotional works with its ethereal, almost brooding guitar line.  The simplicity in the arrangement couples with Zweig’s own gravelly vocal delivery to create a sound that one would easily mistake for Springsteen if one were to hear this song without knowing it wasn’t him.  What’s more, the arrangement’s secondary guitar line, with its airy and bluesy sound conjures thoughts (in at least this critic’s mind) of songs included in Pink Floyd’s melancholy 1994 album The Division Bell.  Yes, that seems like quite the dichotomy of sounds.  But somehow it works.  The end result is a musical arrangement that will have a deep emotional impact on listeners.

The song’s lyrical content is just as emotionally impacting as its musical arrangement.  That is because Zweig seems to be singing here about possibly confronting one’s mortality.  That is of course only this critic’s own interpretation and should not be taken as gospel.  That interpretation is made as Zweig sings about “a tall dark stranger looking at me…he says you gotta come with me/I need you now.”  He goes on to sing, “That stranger/Why won’t he let me be?/Can’t he see/He should let me be/Instead I think/He gonna  be  a haunting me/He’s no stranger to me/He’s no stranger to me .”  What’s interesting here is the subtle addition of what almost sounds like church bells off in the distance as Zweig sings about the stranger haunting the song’s subject.  That may or may not be an intentional timing between that line and said element.  But the juxtaposition of the pair definitely leads one to think even more that Zweig’s “stranger’ is perhaps the Grim Reaper.  Keeping that in mind, if Zweig is in fact addressing having to come to terms with mortality, then the lyrical manner in which he has broached the subject is definitely original and heart wrenching.  It is right up there with some of Johnny Cash’s songs about accepting his mortality before his death at least lyrically. Of course when that emotional impact is joined with that of the song’s musical arrangement, the pairing makes the song in whole one of the album’s hardest hitting compositions, showing even more the wide array of musical and lyrical moods presented throughout Rick Zweig and Fresh Air’s new self-titled album.  It is not the last of the songs that exhibits that far-reaching impact.  ‘Here Comes The Rain Revisited’ displays even more the record’s wide musical and lyrical diversity.

‘Rescue Me’ and ‘The Stranger’ are both critical additions to Ric Zweig and Fresh Air’s new album.  That is because set against one another, they show the diverse musical and lyrical moods exhibited throughout the album in whole.  They are not the only songs that serve to show that diversity.  As the album progresses, another song – ‘Here Comes The Rain Revisited’ – shows even more that diversity.  This song’s musical arrangement takes listeners back to the 1960s and ‘70s with the gentle, laid back guitar-driven groove.  It is a direct contradiction to the song’s seemingly melancholy title.  The very contradictory nature of the two elements makes the song’s musical arrangement that much more enjoyable.  The song’s lyrical content adds to that enjoyment as  Zweig sings, “Just set me down/By the river/Just let me down/By the river/You know it’s been a long time/Since I met you baby/Has life been good to you/A lot of time’s gone by/Just take me down/to the ocean/Just bring me down/To the ocean/You know it’s been a long time/You always leave me tongue-tied/I wrote this song for you/I love you just because/Here comes the rain/Take me to the other side/Never been more ready/Here comes the rain.”  This doesn’t seem like one of those standard songs about a long-lost love.  It seems like someone who is just happy to see a former love.  Perhaps this was a relationship that didn’t end as badly as so many countless others apparently have.  That would explain why the song is so happy despite a title that doesn’t seem so happy.  Keeping that in mind, the seeming upbeat mentality exhibited in these lyrics adds to this song’s enjoyment.  When it is joined with the song’s equally upbeat musical arrangement, the whole of the two elements serves to show even more clearly a song that stands out clearly from its counterparts.  That helps the song to show even more the wide variety of musical and lyrical moods exhibited throughout More Ric Zweig and Fresh Air.  When this song is joined with its counterparts in one whole, they make the album in whole a work that is, as already noted, a breath of fresh, musical air for music lovers everywhere.

Ric Zweig and Fresh Air’s new LP More Ric Zweig and Fresh Air is an impressive new effort from the independent Florida-based outfit.  That is because of the variety of musical and lyrical moods exhibited throughout the record as evidenced in each of the songs discussed here.  From joyous to deeply contemplative to just happy and points in-between, this record offers plenty for audiences to appreciate.  More information on the album is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.riczweig.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ric.zweig

 

 

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

“Facing The Music” Is Easy With Townshend’s ‘Face The Face’ Live

pete-townshends-deep-end-face-the-face-live-cover-art

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Universal Music Group

Guitarist Pete Townshend is best known for his role in the legendary rock band The Who.  The British band is one of its country’s greatest rock acts next to The Beatles, Deep Purple, Judas Priest and a select group of others.  While Townshend is best known for his work as a member of The Who, he also had a relatively successful solo career.  This past September Eagle Rock Entertainment released a rare performance from Townshend’s solo career in the form of Face The Face.  This recording is an important artifact of sorts from Townshend’s career, and thus, a piece that fans of The Who will appreciate just as much as Townshend’s fans.  That is due in part to the recording’s companion booklet.  It will be discussed shortly.  The recording’s set list is just as important to note in examining its presentation as its set list.  It will be discussed later.  The concert’s production values round out its most important elements.  Each element is important in its own right to the recording’s overall presentation.  All things considered, Face the Face proves in the end to be, again, a recording that The Who’s fans will appreciate just as much as Townshend’s fans.

Eagle Rock Entertainment’s recently released performance from classic performance from Pete Townshend and Deep End is a recording that fans of The Who will appreciate just as much as Pete Townshend fans.  It is a very rare live recording from the two acts, as audiences will learn in the recording’s companion booklet.  Speaking of the booklet, it sits at the center of the recording’s presentation.  The booklet presents an in-depth history of how Townshend and Deep End came to work together thanks to writer Matt Kent.  It also notes that the concert presented here almost didn’t happen yet somehow miraculously did happen.  That story in itself makes the recording’s companion booklet well worth the read.  As if that isn’t enough, audiences will also learn that Prince’s beloved album Purple Rain was at least one influence behind Townshend’s solo record White City: A Novel.  Townshend was touring in support of that record when this concert was recorded. That, too is noted in the booklet along with a thorough outlining of the concert’s set list, another of the recording’s key elements. Before touching on that subject, one would be remiss to ignore all of the other key information that Kent includes in the recording’s liner notes.  Between the material noted here and that material not noted here, the information Kent provides audiences in the recording’s companion booklet will engage audiences just as much as the concert’s set list.  Speaking, again, of the show’s set list, it is the next most important piece of the recording’s overall presentation to discuss.

The booklet included in Eagle Rock Entertainment’s Pete Townshend/Deep End live recording Face The Face is a key piece of the recording’s overall presentation.  It isn’t the first time that a live recording’s booklet has proven to be the recording’s most important element.  At the same time, though, it is very rare for any recording’s booklet, live or otherwise, to be so critical to its presentation.  Face The Face’s companion booklet is undeniably important to its presentation, but it is also not the recording’s only key element.  The concert’s set list is just as important to note in examining its overall presentation as its companion booklet.  The show’s set list features classics from The Who, songs from White City and hits from other Townshend solo records and even some covers among other songs.  Kent outlines the concert’s set list in relative depth, again, in the recording’s companion booklet.  This, again, shows the importance of the recording’s companion booklet.  That relatively thorough outline also serves as a solid starting point for a musical history lesson of sorts; not just a history lesson on Townshend’s arrangements but in music history overall.  Getting back on the subject at hand, the set list presented in Face to Face presents a wide swath of material and talent on the part of both Townshend and the members of Deep End, among whom included Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour.  Considering the breadth of material and talent presented throughout the concert’s set list, it becomes clear why the set list is just as important to Face The Face’s overall presentation as the recording’s companion booklet.  It still is not the last element to note in examining this recording.  The concert’s production values round out its most important elements.

Matt Kent’s liner notes included in Face The Face’s companion booklet and the recording’s set list are both key pieces of the recording’s overall presentation.  The booklet expertly sets up the concert experience, preparing audiences for the concert.  The set list is just as important to the recording as its booklet because of the wide array of sources for the featured songs.  Kent outlines the show’s set list in relative depth in his liner notes, adding even more to the concert’s viewing experience.  Keeping all of that in mind, both elements are clearly important pieces to the recording’s whole.  They are only two-thirds of the recording’s whole that should be noted.  Its production values are just as important to note here as its companion booklet and set list. The concert looks and sounds far different than concerts recorded today.  For lack of better wording, the concert’s video and audio are rough.  The thing is that said rough presentation creates a certain appreciation for how far recording technology has come since 1986 (the year when this concert was originally recorded).  Between the sometimes airy sound in the audio mix and the at times equally uneasy cuts between cameras, watching the concert is an interesting experience, especially for those who grew up in the 1980s.  Again, it reminds audiences of how far recording tech has come since the days when this concert was captured. So really, it presents its own history lesson of sorts, too.  Keeping that in mind, the recording’s production values are just as important to its presentation as its companion booklet and set list.  Each element is important in its own way to the recording’s presentation.  All things considered, Face The Face proves in the end to be a recording that, again, Pete Townshend’s fans will appreciate just as much as fans of The Who.  It supports even more this critic’s statement that Eagle Rock Entertainment is the leading name in live recordings.

Eagle Rock Entertainment’s recently released rare performance from Pete Townshend and Deep End is a rare piece that fans of The Who will appreciate just as much as Pete Townshend’s fans.  It proves once again why Eagle Rock Entertainment is the leading name in live recordings.  Those statements are supported in part through the recording’s companion booklet.  The booklet features in-depth liner notes by Matt Kent that will engage readers just as much as the recording’s featured concert if not more so.  Speaking of the concert, its set list is just as important to the recording’s presentation as its booklet.  The concert’s production values play their own key part in its overall presentation, too.  Each element is important in its own right to the concert’s overall presentation.  All things considered, Face The Face proves, once more, to be a recording that The Who fans will appreciate just as much as Pete Townshend’s fans.  Considering the concert’s rarity and everything else noted here, it proves once again why Eagle Rock Entertainment remains to this day the leading name in live recordings.  Face The Face is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other titles from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.eagle-rock.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt

Twitter: http://twitter.com/EagleRockNews

 

 

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Eagle Rock Entertainment Off To A Solid Start In 2015 With Live At Knebworth

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

Woodstock. Live Aid. Farm Aid. The Concert For New York City. These concerts are just some of the biggest concert events of the 20th century. As memorable and important as they are to the music industry and the history of modern popular music, they are only a small handful of the most important concerts held throughout the 20th Century. Next Tuesday, Eagle Rock Entertainment will add another concert to that list when it releases Live at Knebworth. The concert was held June 30th, 1990. Tabbed as “The Best British Rock Concert Of All Time,” it was held to raise money for Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy and for The Brit School For Performing Arts. Even a quarter of a century after it was originally held, it proves to be just as enjoyable a concert experience as any that have been held since, including those previously noted. One of the reasons it proves so enjoyable twenty-five years after it was originally held is its lineup. The show’s lineup consists solely of British acts, many of whom had themselves received the coveted Nordoff-Robbins Silver Clef Award at one point or another. Along with the acts tapped to perform at the benefit, their choice of songs for the concert adds to the concert’s enjoyment. Having noted both the concert’s lineup and the performers’ chosen songs, they would be nothing without equally notable production values. Thankfully, the audio and video both prove to be quality even a quarter of a century after the concert was first held. The audio has even been tweaked, creating a sound that especially those with home theater systems will appreciate. The combination of all three elements in this one presentation makes the package in whole even a great start to 2015 for Eagle Rock Entertainment.

When it was originally held on June 30th, 1990, Live at Knebworth was tabbed as being “The Best British Rock Concert Of All Time.” When compared to other major concert events such as Woodstock, Live Aid, Farm Aid, and others that have been held since, it proves to be more than just “The Best British Rock Concert Of All Time.” It proves to be one of the best concerts of all time, too. One reason for the concert being bestowed both titles is its lineup of performers and acts. The concert’s lineup is composed of some of the greatest British acts of the 20th Century including but not limited to names that today are music royalty. The list includes the likes of: Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Robert Plant, and Genesis. Audiences will be interested to find out that many of the acts tapped for the concert also were recipients of the Nordoff-Robbins Silver Clef Award. That aside, audiences will especially enjoy every act’s performance. From Clapton’s full on performance of ‘Tearin’ Us Apart’ to Paul McCartney’s emotional performance of ‘Hey Jude’ to Pink Floyd’s ethereal ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’ to its equally driving show closer ‘Run Like Hell,’ the acts chosen for this concert and their performances keep audiences fully engaged from start to finish, clearly showing the importance of their inclusion in the show.

Speaking of the songs , the songs chosen by the acts on the bill are just as important to the presentation in whole. That is because in large part, the songs chosen by each act are songs that were familiar to fans then and are just as familiar and popular with the current generation of fans. Dire Straits’ set included the hugely popular ‘Money For Nothin.’ Genesis included its beloved hit ‘Pinball Wizard’ in its set along with ‘Mama’ and ‘In The Midnight Hour’ among a number of other fan favorites. The Beatles’ ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ and ‘Hey Jude’ are even older than this recording. But they are just as popular with Beatles fans of all ages today as they were when Paul McCartney was part of the then Fab Four. So having both of those songs included in his set will create a sense of both joy and nostalgia among fans of both McCartney and the Beatles regardless of age. The sight of McCartney’s late wife Linda singing along, handling keyboard duties serves to enhance those feelings even more, this showing even more the importance of the set lists chosen by each act. Robert Plant’s mix of solo material and Led Zeppelin classics generates just as much enjoyment for anyone that has any knowledge of Plant’s career both on his own and as part of what remains one of the greatest rock bands of all time. The songs noted here are songs that are still played on classic rock radio stations across America and even the U.K. to this day. The fact that they were just as insanely popular back then as they are even today speaks volumes. It’s just a microscopic view of the impact of the acts’ set list on the enjoyment of this recording. There are plenty of other songs that could make that argument just as easily. And audiences will agree with that sentiment, even finding their own songs to make that argument when they pick up this recording for themselves next week. It still isn’t all that makes the concert so enjoyable for audiences. The quality of the footage both in terms of its video and audio lies at the base of everything. If not for the quality of the footage in both avenues, neither the acts nor their set lists and performances overall would be worth the watch.

The acts chosen for Live at Knebworth, their performances and set lists are all equally important to the concert’s overall enjoyment. However as important as each element proves to be, not one of them would be of any importance without the hard work of those charged with restoring the footage for its presentation here. Of course, being a live recording from Eagle Rock Entertainment, only the best is expected. And the best is what audiences get here. The audio has been re-worked and presented in DTS-HD. This will make anyone with a home theater system very happy as it will re-create with ear precision the feeling of actually being there. Even those without such a system will appreciate the work in question as the concert sounds just as good on a standard HDTV; especially one that allows audiences to switch to a “music” setting with their remotes. And while the original concert footage was recorded in standard definition, it doesn’t show thanks to the work of those charged with restoring the footage. Unlike so many older recordings that have been up-converted, the picture is relatively clear instead of grainy. While there is at least a little bit of that grainy look, it is hardly enough to work against the footage. Rather, it actually enhances that feeling of nostalgia created by the acts’ set lists. So to that extent, the work of those charged with restoring the concert’s footage has paid off even more than they might have known. Coupled with the set lists, the performances, and the very list of performers, the restoration work done for this concert becomes part of a whole that any classic rock fan will wholly appreciate, and that proves once more why Eagle Rock Entertainment remains today the leader in live recordings.

Live at Knebworth will be available on SD-Blu-ray next Tuesday, March 17th. Proceeds from the sale of the concert will continue to raise funds for Nordoff-Robbins Therapy and the Brit School for Performing Arts. More information on this and other releases from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online at:

Website: http://www.eagle-rock.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt

Twitter: http://twitter.com/EagleRockNews

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Pink Floyd Documentary An In-Depth Examination Of An Iconic Album

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment

The Dark Side of the Moon is one of the most iconic albums of not only the 20th century but of all time. This record is one of those pieces that even decades after its original release continues to influence a whole new generation of music lovers and musicians alike. The reasons for this are varied. Whether one asks the average listener, music historian, or educator, each will have his or her own reasons for including The Dark Side of the Moon on their list of the best records of all time. Now thanks to Eagle Rock Entertainment, audiences from every walk of life will get an even more in depth evaluation of the album’s importance in the release in Pink Floyd: The Making of The Dark Side of the Moon. Audiences are taken song by song through an explanation of the album’s creation from Pink Floyd’s members. The explanations from the band members comprise one reason that audiences will appreciate this latest Pink Floyd documentary from Eagle Rock. Audiences will also enjoy learning from those behind the glass how the various tracks came to life. In simpler terms, audiences learn through this documentary how various tracks were produced and mixed. It offers an extra vantage point, adding to the depth of both the album and the documentary. The history behind the album and its production are both valuable additions to the presentation in while. The finishing touch to the presentation is its bonus material. Eagle Rock has included as bonus material on this presentation, even more discussions on the album’s songs that didn’t make the primary feature. Those extra discussions along with the primary discussions make the presentation a whole that any Pink Floyd fan and any classic rock fan will appreciate.

Much has been written and spoken of The Dark Side of the Moon. The album, which is to many the band’s most iconic album, has been evaluated time and again by everyone from average listener to academic. Each has found one reason or another behind the album’s continued importance to this day. Now thanks to Eagle Rock Entertainment, the members of Pink Floyd—Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright—give audiences perhaps the most in depth explanation ever of the album’s importance through this new documentary. The men explain track by track what inspired each song, and how each song sprung to life. From discussions on how ‘Time’ and ‘Money came to be to Syd Barrett’s death influenced another track and more, each explanation gives each song (and the album as a whole) even more importance and emotion. The “in-studio performances” by Gilmour and Waters help to illustrate and heighten the discussions in question. To add to it, audiences get some on the spot musical moments of sorts as a result. Those musical moments essentially serve to help viewers get a better grasp of the songs in question. And those moments succeed at their goals, too.

The explanations and stories offered with each of the album’s songs by Pink Floyd’s members create so much depth behind the album. Just as much depth and substance is added to the album through the discussions from those behind the glass. Anyone that has any interest in music production will appreciate the discussions on how the songs were produced, engineered and mixed. Audiences see on that side of the glass with songs such as ‘Money’, ‘Time’ and others how each one was layered. Audiences will see how certain sounds were created through sound effects mixing and how certain guitar riffs came to be the basis for others. What’s incredible about all of this is seeing just how much technology was available for bands to utilize even at that point in time. And engineer Alan Parsons utilized as much of that technology as possible. Such understanding makes this documentary all the more important for fans of Pink Floyd. It gives an angle rarely seen or heard when it comes to any music documentary. And it serves to show just how intricate the album was and how much work went in to making the album a reality.

Both the stories from the band and the technical discussions from Alan Parsons work together to make Pink Floyd: The Making of The Dark Side of the Moon an important addition to the library of any Pink Floyd fan. The added discussions included as bonus features collectively put this documentary over the top. On one level, they could be compared to perhaps deleted scenes on a DVD that ended up on the cutting room floor. Audiences learn extra little bits of information such as the social commentary that is meant to be interpreted in ‘Money.’ There are also discussions by Waters on his personal world view and how it led to much of the album’s rather grim lyrics as well as much more for audiences to take in. These additional stories along with those shared in the documentary’s main feature and the technical discussions make Pink Floyd: The Making of The Dark Side of the Moon all the more valuable an addition to any Pink Floyd fan’s home library.

Pink Floyd: The Making of The Dark Side of the Moon is available in stores and online now. More information on this and other releases from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online at http://www.eagle-rock.com and http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Collins’ New Project An Impressive New Prog-Rock Record

Courtesy:  InsideOut Music

Courtesy: InsideOut Music

First impressions are everything in this world.  Whether it be a first date, that first job interview, or a band’s first album, that first impression makes all the difference in said person(s) future successes.  In the case of prog-rock trio Sound of Contact, the band’s first impression in Dimensionaut is quite the first impression.  Fronted by second generation rocker Simon Collins—son of Phil Collins—the band’s twelve-track concept album is one of the year’s most intriguing records.  Being released via InsideOut Music, it also qualifies as one of the year’s best independent releases.  Throughout the album’s sequencing, listeners are treated to a record that obviously draws from a number of influences.  Those influences include the likes of: Porcupine Tree, Pink Floyd, and even his own dad’s former band, Genesis just to name a few.  The thing of it is that the trio has taken those influences and made a record that improves on the sounds crafted by those bands.  In turn, it becomes an album that stands out as a fully original and enjoyable listen from start to finish.

Dimensionaut offers listeners more interesting moments than can be listed in one sitting.  So one will try to pinpoint just a sampling of what makes this album a success.  Right off the bat, the band impresses on its short, acoustic opener, ‘Sound of Contact.’  The harmonies between Collins and band mates Dave Kerzner (keyboards, acoustic guitar, backing vocals) and Matt Dorsey (guitars, bass, backing vocals) are spot on.  And the gentility of this opener makes it s perfect opener, as it leads to the surprise heaviness of ‘Cosmic Distance Ladder.’  Having gone from the gentility of the album’s opener, it serves a double purpose.  On one hand, it makes for a solid transition within the context of this album.  And keeping in mind the album’s overall concept, the song’s very title makes it all the more well-placed in the grand scheme of things.  On another hand, it proves how effortlessly the band’s members can switch from the softer side of the prog world to the much heavier side of things.

‘Pale Blue Dot’, the album’s third song, is another highlight to Dimensionaut.  This is one of those songs that openly draw from earlier prog bands, including that of Collins’ father.  Strangely enough, if one allows one’s self to fully be immersed in this song, nowhere does he sound more like his legendary father.  If one were listening to this song without knowing it was Simon Collins, one would very easily be led to believe that it was indeed Phil Collins.  That is how close the father and son sound to one another.  In terms of the song itself, it’s another well placed piece in the album’s overall layout.  The album as a whole is about a being that can travel between time and space.  The being’s journey is one meant to broaden the human experience.  So it is only natural that early on in the being realizes how insignificant we are in the universe.  The metaphor is used, comparing mankind to a “pale blue dot.”  It’s a relatively good visual.  And in partnership with the almost ethereal musical style, it stands out as one of the most incredible moments on this album.  It is so easy to close one’s eyes, take in the music and really be able to visualize what the being in question must be experiencing at this point in the story. 

The whole journey culminates in what can only be described as prog-rock at its best in the near twenty-minute epic, ‘Mobius Slip.’  The four-movement opus offers its share of heavy and soft from start to finish.  Its ability to mix its more mainstream elements with material more appealing to prog-rock purists makes it the perfect ending to this musical and lyrically existential journey.  Collins’ drumming is just as solid as his father’s, if not better.  The musicianship of his band mates is just as expert as the epic eventually leads to a conclusion that wonderfully book ends the album, closing it just as it opened.  By the time that the song ends, listeners will have realized that they have just experienced an album unlike anything that they have ever heard.  And they will realize, too, that this is an album that proves the promise of Sound of Contact for the future.  In the meantime, audiences will get to experience this journey live when the band hits the road in support of its debut.  The band will perform at the famed Whiskey A Go Go in West Hollywood, California on Wednesday, August 21st.  The trio will also be playing dates in San Diego, California, Birmingham, Alabama, Atlanta, Georgia and more.  Fans can get the band’s most current tour listings online at http://www.facebook.com/soundofcontact and the band’s official website, http://www.soundofcontact.com

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Dio Re-Issue A Hard Rocking Tribute To A Rock Legend

Courtesy:  Niji Entertainment

Courtesy: Niji Entertainment

Concept albums are typically reserved for the realm of rock music that is progressive rock.  Bands the likes of Pink Floyd, Dream Theater, and The Flower Kings have been largely linked to concept albums through rock’s history.  Apparently during his lifetime, nobody had sent this message to rock icon Ronnie James Dio; either that or he got the message and didn’t care.  Regardless of which argument holds more truth, the ultimate truth is that Dio proved that commonly held belief to be entirely untrue with the release of his groundbreaking album, Magica.  Now thanks to Niji Entertainment, Dio’s ever growing legion of fans can experience this work once more.

Over a decade has passed since Magica was originally released on Spitfire Records.  And three years have now passed since the world lost Ronnie James Dio.  In the time since RJD’s passing, a lot has changed in the music industry.  Thankfully, Niji Entertainment has re-issued this landmark album and reminded audiences that it is still possible for rock to be more than down-tuned guitars and indecipherable cookie monster growls.  It is a true treat for Dio fans of all ages.  The album’s new deluxe re-issue offers the original story of Magicka completely restored and sounding as good as ever.  The soaring string instrumentations that accompany the band add a beautiful counterpart to the band’s heaviness throughout the record.  And Dio’s vocals were in prime form on this record, as long-time fans will attest. 

The primary disc’s re-issue is outstanding to say the least.  But the real treat of Magica is the deluxe edition’s bonus disc.  The bonus disc is anchored by RJD himself reading ‘The Magica Story.’  Instead of the full on rock opera that is Magica audiences get Dio serving as storyteller.  The style with which he reads the story leaves listeners hanging on his every word.  It conjures thoughts of Trans Siberian Orchestra.  And being that this legendary singer is sadly no longer with us, hearing him personally reading the story is a wonderful memorial to Dio’s memory.  And since the story is printed out in the booklet included with the re-issue, they can even follow along as he reads the story verbatim.  There are no attempts at bad voices or any other over the top moves.  It is just RJD with a calm music bed as he reads the story.  The manner in which he recites the story’s final lines is wonderful.  He is about to start the next story but instantly cuts himself off, laughing as he says, “That’s another story.”  It makes the whole experience of listening to this record more personal for lack of better wording.  It is just part of what makes the re-issue’s second disc a true bonus.  For that matter, it makes one wonder what Magic 2 and 3 would have sounded like.  Luckily, listeners get a hint of that on the bonus track, ‘Electra’ that is also included on this re-issue.

The reading of ‘The Magica’ Story by Ronnie James Dio himself is a wonderful continuation from the musical story contained on the re-issue’s main disc.  The included bonus tracks and live bootlegs make the second disc even more of a bonus.  Considering that they are called “bootlegs”, the term bootleg should be taken very lightly.  This is a good thing in this case.  That is because the audio quality of the live “bootlegs” here far exceeds that of what one would think when one thinks of the term, “bootleg.”  The bonus studio tracks complete the package, musically speaking.  ‘Electra’ gives a pretty good hint at the later story that Dio references in this story.  It makes one wonder if he perhaps had some manuscripts tucked away somewhere that as is the case with certain late authors have yet to see the light of day.  It’s a nice heavy piece that continues the style established in Magica.  ‘Annica’ is equally intriguing in that it bears what some could argue to be Pink Floyd influences, in terms of the guitar parts.  That in itself is enough to make for even more discussion.  And it is that discussion that helps to make this record’s re-issue an even more completely enjoyable listen that will grow with each listen.  The record is available in stores and online now.

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Spock’s Beard’s Eleventh Album One Of Its Best Yet

Courtesy:  InsideOut MUsic

Courtesy: InsideOut MUsic

Spock’s Beard, as a band, has been through so much since the release of its debut record way back in 1995.  Since that time, the band has seen lineup changes.  It has also seen its albums released on a number of different record labels.  Through it all, the members of this prog-rock fan favorite have weathered every storm.  And it’s because the band’s members have kept going that the band has released in its new album, Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep, some of its best material to date.  The band’s new double-disc album evolving even more from its equally impressive fan-funded tenth album, fitting titled X.

A big part of the reason that the band has evolved sonically on this album is that the band played a little game of musical chairs so to speak.  Nick D’Virgilio, who had previously replaced Neal Morse on vocal duties, left the band after the release of X.  D’Virgilio had originally handled drumming duties for the band while Morse was still the band’s vocalist.  So having D’Virgilio out, the band was joined on this album by a new vocalist and new drummer.  This brought a whole new feel among the band, obviously.  That’s evident from the very beginning of the first disc in ‘Hiding Out.’  The song’s opening strains offer an interesting take on composer Edward Grieg’s ‘Morning’ from the Peer Gynt Suite before going into a full on old school rock vibe complete with guitar and keyboard solos.  This is the kind of song that will make even Dream Theater fans proud as the similarity between the two is there, musically speaking.  The song’s musical side is a good fit with its introspective lyrics, too.  New singer, Ted Leonard soars effortlessly through the song as he sings, “I need you now to come and find me/I’m hiding out in a den of thieves/Be sovereign now, don’t’ crucify me/I’m hiding out!”  In the same vein, he maintains control even in the song’s more intense moments, yet still has his own intensity.  It’s just the start of what’s to come on this standout album among the band’s current catalogue.

The album’s second track keeps the energy flowing with its obvious Rush influences.  Leonard again shows listeners that he was the right choice to take over for Nick D’Virgilio.  And new drummer Jimmy Keegan gets to exhibit his skills behind the kit.  His ability to handle some pretty touch polyrhythmic patterns is impressive to say the least.  Keeping in mind the Rush influence in this song, he definitely holds his own with Neil Peart here.  One could even argue that he shows he’s just as good as fellow prog heavyweight Mike Portnoy.  Lyrically speaking, it would be interesting to find out the story behind the song.  It sounds like a story about someone with quite the storied past.  Leonard sings of his subject, “I know the secret that you keep/I know the demon deep inside/I know the reason you can’t sleep/I know the past you’d like to hide/I know the monster you have made/I know the wars you don’t regret/I know the blood that stains the blade/You know I won’t let you forget.”  Suffice it to say with such lyrical content and such a powerful musical side, this song is certain to be a topic of discussion for fans.  Then again all of this album’s songs are sure to be topics of discussion for both their musical and lyrical side.  Another prime example of this is the closer on the first half of the album, ‘Waiting for Me.’

‘Waiting for Me’ is an epic twelve-minute plus opus that bridges the band’s gap between its past and its future while also incorporating some other influences at the same time.  The guitar and keyboard solos throughout the song’s mid-section will instantly conjure thoughts of Pink Floyd.  The song’s “A” section and “C” section expertly bookend that middle, making for a solid end to the first half of the album.  The song screams to be played live.  The manner in which it ultimately crescendos to its final seconds, is incredible.  One can listen to this song, eyes closed, and almost see a setup like that of Floyd performing The Wall live with this song to equal joy from audiences.  The second half of Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep picks up right where the first half of the album left off.  It has that certain heaviness exhibited throughout the first half of the album in ‘The Man You’re Afraid You Are.’  ‘Down a Burning Road’ exhibits more of that mix of the band’s past and present, musically speaking, while ‘Wish I were Here’ perhaps offers a glimpse of what is to come in the future for this band.  It’s another rather heavy piece that would make any prog-metal fan proud.  This is another one of those songs, judging by its lyrics, about which it would be interesting to learn the story considering it was written by Alan Morse.  On one hand, it could be a commentary, considering how Leonard sings about “Watching TV with Dave (perhaps Letterman?), eating Hot Pockets and drinking PBR.  Again, it is that ability to make audiences think and create discussions that makes this another high point to the album.  That ability to get audiences thinking and talking along with the song’s music makes it so impressive.

By the time that audiences get through ‘Wish I Were Here’ and the remix of Something Very Strange’ (which is strange yet interesting in its own right), they will realize that they have experienced something very special.  This is especially the case for long-time fans of Spock’s Beard.  They will realize that what they have experienced is an album that is one of the best works released by Spock’s Beard to date.  Fans don’t have to wait to check out these and all of the songs on this album.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct online from the Spock’s Beard online store at http://spocksbeard.com/buystuff.html.  After ordering the new album, fans can keep up with the latest news and updates on the band’s tour online at http://spocksbeard.com, http://www.facebook.com/spocksbeard, and http://twitter.com/SpocksB

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.