Wednesday, December 31, 2014
"We Three Kings Of Orient Are" performed by Paul Horn
"Christmastime Is Here" performed by The Vince Guaraldi Trio
"Merry Christmas, Baby" performed by Lionel Hampton
"Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" performed by The Dexter Gordon Quartet
"Happy Holidays/White Christmas" performed by Sarah Vaughan
"All Her Love Is Mine" performed by Adrian Belew
"Midnight Mass" performed by Sloan
"Winterlong" performed by Neil Young
"The Warrior" performed by Patty Smyth
"Lay It On The Line" performed by Triumph
"Night Birds" performed by Ryan Adams
"Christmas At The Airport" performed by Nick Lowe-WSPC PREMIERE
"Green Earrings" performed by Steely Dan
"Ostinato (Suite For Angela)" performed by Herbie Hancock
December 2, 2014
"A Beautiful Morning" performed by The Rascals
"Thanks For Christmas" performed by XTC
"Shine A Little Love" performed by Electric Light Orchestra
"Dynamo" performed by Johnny Marr-WSPC PREMIERE
"Should I See" performed by Frozen Ghost
December 3, 2014
RADIO SILENCE IN HONOR AND SOLIDARITY
FOR ERIC GARNER AND STATEN ISLAND
December 4, 2014
"We Are The People Who Are Darker Than Blue" performed by Curtis Mayfield
"Each Day I Cry A Little" performed by Eddie Kendricks
"My People" performed by Erykah Badu
"Living For The City" performed by Stevie Wonder
"If 6 Was 9" performed by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
"Black Napkins" (live) performed by Frank Zappa
"We Gotta Pray" performed by Alicia Keys-WSPC PREMIERE
December 5, 2014
"Flash's Theme" performed by Queen
"Sound Chaser" performed by Yes
"Tenderness" performed by General Public
December 6, 2014
"Let's Make Christmas Mean Something This Year" performed by JAMES BROWN
"This Christmas" performed by Donny Hathaway
"What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas" performed by The Emotions
"Christmas Just Ain't Christmas Without The One You Love" performed by The O'Jays
"Please Come Home For Christmas" performed by Charles Brown
"Had To Hear" performed by Real Estate-WSPC PREMIERE
"A100" performed by Billy Corgan
"Cynical Days" performed by XTC
"Bye Bye Love" performed by The Cars
"Zen Machine" performed by Utopia
"It's A Wonderful Life (Gonna Have A Good Time)" performed by Fishbone
December 7, 2014
"Outside The Wall" (film version) performed by Pink Floyd
"Everyday Is Christmas" performed by The Chamber Strings
"2000 Miles" performed by The Pretenders
"Step Into Christmas" performed by Elton John
"Birthday" performed by The Beatles
"(Not Just) Knee Deep" performed by Parliament
"Hum Along And Dance" performed by The Jackson 5
"Blindness" performed by Justin Timberlake
December 8, 2014
COMMEMORATING THE 34TH ANNIVERSARY OF
JOHN LENNON'S ASSASSINATION
"Across The Universe" performed by The Beatles
"Watching The Wheels"
"Strawberry Fields Forever" ("Love" version) performed by The Beatles
"Out Of The Blue"
"I'm A Loser" performed by The Beatles
"Look At Me"
"Aisumasen (I'm Sorry)"
"It's Only Love" performed by The Beatles
"Steel And Glass"
"Grow Old With Me" (demo version)
December 9, 2014
"River" performed by Joni Mitchell
"I Was Thinking I Could Clean Up For Christmas" performed by Aimee Mann
"Fairytale Of New York" performed by The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl
"I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" performed by Wizzard
"Christmastime" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
December 10, 2014
"Lights Out" (extended) performed by Peter Wolf
"Jeopardy" (extended) performed by The Greg Kihn Band
"Der Kommissar" performed by After The Fire
"Blue Sky Mine (Food On The Table Mix)" performed by Midnight Oil
"I Feel You" performed by Depeche Mode
December 11, 2014
"Cycle"/"Morning" performed by Beck
"Hostiles" performed by Damon Albarn
"Make Believe" performed by James Iha
"All We Ever Look For" performed by Kate Bush
"Oceanea" performed by Thomas Dolby
"Come On Home" (acoustic) performed by Everything But The Girl
"The Little Drummer Boy" performed by Lou Rawls
"Thorn In My Side" performed by Eurythmics
"It Ain't Nothing To Me" (live 1985) performed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
"Crashing Down' performed by The Pursuit Of Happiness
"Bedstuy Parade And Funeral March" performed by Mos Def
"Christmas" performed by The Who
December 12, 2014
"Twelve Days Of Christmas" performed by Bob and Doug McKenzie
"I Wish It Was Christmas" performed by the SNL Players
"Good Love" performed by Isaac Hayes
"Ethiopia" performed by Red Hot Chili Peppers
"Christmas Reggae" performed by Bob Marley
"Winter Wonderland" performed by The Funk Brothers
"I Can Change" performed by LCD Soundsystem
December 13, 2014
"Jungle Love" performed by The Time
"Humpin'" performed by The Gap Band
"Aqua Boogie" performed by Parliament
"We Major" performed by Kanye West with Nas and Jon Brion
"Shimmy Shimmy Ya" performed by Ol' Dirty Bastard
December 14, 2014
"Sugah Daddy" performed by D'Angelo and the Vanguard-WSPC PREMIERE
"Hard To Laugh" (live 12-13-14) performed by The Pursuit Of Happiness
"Blues For Christmas" performed by John Lee Hooker
"Anti-Hero" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins-WSPC PREMIERE
"Sanctify Yourself" performed by Simple Minds
"I'm Running" performed by Yes
"Riu Chiu" performed by The Monkees
December 15, 2014
"Christmastime Is Here Again" performed by The Beatles
"Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight)' performed by The Ramones
"Christmas In Hollis" performed by Run-DMC
"Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron (Snoopy's Christmas)" performed by The Royal Guardsmen
"Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern)" performed by Miles Davis with Bob Dorough
December 16, 2014
"Give Love On Christmas Day" performed by The Jackson 5
"Frosty The Snowman" performed by Gene Autry
"Father Christmas" performed by The Kinks
"1000 Deaths" performed by D'Angelo and the Vanguard-WSPC PREMIERE
"Christmas Day" performed by Squeeze
"Merry Xmas Everybody" performed by R.E.M.
"December Will Be Magic Again" performed by Kate Bush
"Home For The Holidays" performed by The db's
"Christmastime Is Here Again" performed by The Smithereens
December 17, 2014
"Go Your Own Way" performed by Fleetwood Mac
"It's Up To You Now" performed by The Black Keys
"Execution Of All Things" performed by Rilo Kiley
"Constant Conversations" performed by Passion Pit
"Green Gardens, Cold Montreal" performed by Sloan
"Ain't That Easy" performed by D'Angelo and the Vanguard-WSPC PREMIERE
December 18, 2014
"Christmas Is Coming" performed by The Vince Guaraldi Trio
"One Little Christmas Tree" performed by Stevie Wonder
"The Christmas Song" performed by Marvin Gaye
"Christmas Song" performed by ABBA
"Thank God It's Christmas" performed by Queen
"Christmas Lights" performed by Coldplay
December 20, 2014
"Heart To My Chest" performed by Peter Frampton
"Lie For A Lie" performed by Nick Mason and Rick Fenn
"Betray My Heart" performed by D'Angelo and the Vanguard-WSPC PREMIERE
"Nica's Dream" performed by Wes Montgomery
"Beach Scene" performed by Tangerine Dream
"Winter Wonderland" performed by Dean Martin
"I Want To Spend Christmas With Elvis" performed by Debbie Dabney
"The Nutcracker Suite" performed by The Brian Setzer Orchestra
"Sugar Run Cherry (Dance Of the Sugar Plum Fairy)" performed by Duke Ellington
"The Snow Is Falling" performed by Ray Charles
"Nothing Can Change This Love" performed Sam Cooke
"Never Be The Same" performed by Bilal
"Another Life" performed by D'Angelo and the Vangard-WSPC PREMIERE
December 21, 2014
"My Love Is Winter" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
"Winter" performed by James Iha
"The Coldest Winter In Memory" performed by Al Stewart
"White Winter Hymnal" performed by Fleet Foxes
"Winter" performed by The Rolling Stones
December 22, 2014
"Frozen Love" performed by Buckingham Nicks
"Winter Time" performed by The Steve Miller Band
"Live Wire" performed by Tony Carey
"I Believe In Father Christmas" performed by Emerson, Lake & Palmer
"We Need A Little Christmas" from "MAME"
"Mary And The Holy Ghost' performed by Todd Rundgren
R.I.P. TO JOE COCKER
"She Came In Through The Bathroom Window" (live)
"Cry Me A River" (live)
"Have A Little Faith"
December 23, 2014
"Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" performed by The Jackson 5
"Santa Claus, Santa Claus" performed by JAMES BROWN
"Presents For Christmas" performed by Solomon Burke
"I Want To Come Home For Christmas" performed by Marvin Gaye
"Children's Christmas Song" performed by The Supremes
"White Christmas" performed by Otis Redding
"Santa Wants Some Loving" performed by Albert King
"ANOTHERLOVE" performed by Prince and 3rdEyeGirl-WSPC PREMIERE
"Make You Better" performed by The Decemberists-WSPC PREMIERE
"Reflektor" performed by Arcade Fire
"Ring Those Christmas Bells" performed by Peggy Lee
"Christmas Wish" performed by NRBQ
"Little Saint Nick" performed by The Beach Boys
"Merry Christmas, Darling" performed by The Carpenters
"Christmas Wrapping" performed by The Waitresses
December 24, 2014
"Christmas With You" performed by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash
"Mr. And Mrs. Santa Claus" performed by George Jones and Tammy Wynette
"Wonderful Christmastime" performed by Paul McCartney and Wings
"Countdown To Christmas Party Time" performed by XTC
"A Change At Christmas (Say It Isn't So)" performed by The Flaming Lips
"X-Mas Time Is Here Again" performed by My Morning Jacket
"Christmas Times A Comin'" performed by Dolly Parton
December 25, 2014
"Sump'n Claus" from Saturday Night Live-WSPC PREMIERE
"Christmas Day" performed by Detroit Junior
"Gee Whiz It's Christmas" performed by Carla Thomas
"I'll Make Christmas Everyday (For My Woman)" performed by Joe Tex
"Stone Soul Christmas" performed by Binky Griptite and the Dee-Kays
"Mistletoe And Me" performed by Isaac Hayes
"Get Down Santa" performed by The Jive Turkeys
"Funky Funky Christmas" performed by Electric Jungle
"Christmas Rappin'" performed by Kurtis Blow
"Merry X-Mas Everybody" performed by Brendan Benson
"Calling On Mary" performed by Aimee Mann
"Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" performed by John Lennon
D'ANGELO & QUESTLOVE LIVE at the BROOKLYN BOWL, NEW YORK-March 4, 2013-COMPLETE PERFORMANCE
December 26, 2014
WSPC/SAVAGE CINEMA PRESENTS "THE UNION" (2011)
DIRECTED BY CAMERON CROWE
"Prayer" performed by D'Angelo and the Vanguard-WSPC PREMIERE
"Again, Again, Again" performed by The Smashing Pumpkins
"I Got Life" from the film "HAIR"
"Freedom At Point Zero" performed by Jefferson Starship
"Play The Game" performed by Queen
December 27, 2014
"On The Way" performed by Paul McCartney
"Well, You Needn't" performed by Thelonious Monk
"Love Is The Drug" performed by Roxy Music
"The Charade" performed by D'Angelo and the Vanguard-WSPC PREMIERE
"Get It Right Or Be Gone" performed by Chuck D-WSPC PREMIERE
"The Last Trip To Tulsa" performed by Neil Young
"Secret Journey" performed by The Police
"Birthday" performed by The Sugarcubes
"Uncertain Smile" performed by The The
"A Gift" performed by Lou Reed
"Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine' performed by The Killers
"Hey Boy Hey Girl" performed by The Chemical Brothers
"Bodyrock" (live 2005) performed by Moby
"Born Slippy" performed by Underworld
"Europe Endless" performed by Kraftwerk
"Jump In The Air And Stay There" performed by Erykah Badu
December 28, 2014
"Rhiannon" (live 1976) performed by Fleetwood Mac
"Peek-A-Boo" performed by Siouxsie and the Banshees
"Shelter" performed by Lone Justice
"Strings Of Love" performed by Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians
"The English Roses" performed by The Pretenders
"Trip Through Your Wires" performed by U2
"Cabaret" performed by Liza Minnelli
December 29, 2014
"Today" performed by Jefferson Airplane
"People Say" performed by Papas Fritas
"Prisoner Of The Past" performed by Prefab Sprout
"Promised You A Miracle" performed by Simple Minds
"Dive For Your Memory" performed by The Go-Betweens
"This Tension" performed by Johnny Marr-WSPC PREMIERE
"Ring The Bells" performed by Pixies-WSPC PREMIERE
"Conviction" performed by Meshell Ndegeocello-WSPC PREMIERE
"The Night The Pugilist Learned How To Dance" performed by Sting
"50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" performed by Paul Simon
"Wistful" performed by Pete Townshend
"Really Love" performed by D'Angelo and the Vanguard-WSPC PREMIERE
December 30, 2014
HAPPY 67TH BIRTHDAY TO JEFF LYNNE
"Every Little Thing"
"Birmingham Blues" performed by Electric Light Orchestra
"Do Ya" performed by Electric Light Orchestra
"Xanadu" performed by Electric Light Orchestra
"Feel Too Good" performed by The Move
"Someday Man" performed by The Monkees
"Don't Call On Me" performed by The Monkees
"Circle Sky" performed by The Monkees
"Star Collector" performed by The Monkees
"Girl" performed by Davy Jones
December 31, 2014
"The Rest Of My Life" performed by Sloan
"Like China" performed by Phil Collins
"Ozone Baby" performed by Led Zeppelin
"The Closing Of The Year" performed by Wendy and Lisa with Seal
"Walk Unafraid" (live) performed by R.E.M.
"It's My Life" performed by Talk Talk
"Hands Of Time" performed by Groove Armada with Ritchie Havens
"Time After Time" (live) performed by Cyndi Lauper
"Time Is Passing" performed by Pete Townshend
"Doors Of Your Heart" performed by The (English) Beat
"Down In The Tubestation At Midnight" performed by The Jam
"Whatever Makes You Happy" performed by Paul Westerberg
"Battle Of The Dragon" performed by Stevie Nicks
"Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing" performed by Stevie Wonder
"So Glad To See You Here" performed by Paul McCartney and Wings
"Next Year" performed by Foo Fighters
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Released November 30, 1979
"ECHOES: THE BEST OF PINK FLOYD"
Released November 5, 2001
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS
Released between 2009-2011
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS
Released June 19, 2012
Released March 4, 2014
Released September 18, 2012
Released November 22, 1974
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS
soundboard recording 2008
Released November 4, 2008
Released July 27, 2014
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
WSPC'S FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2014
The music year of 2014 is just about to draw to a close and I was deeply impressed with how musically rich of a year it was, and despite what actually found its way onto commercial radio stations.
For me it was a year that saw strong new albums from Real Estate, Jenny Lewis, The Smashing Pumpkins, Broken Bells, Lenny Kravitz, The Belle Brigade, Sean Lennon's The Ghost of A Saber Tooth Tiger, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Johnny Marr, Tweedy, Temples, Foo Fighters and an especially terrific return from Ryan Adams and yes, even U2's completely undervalued and frankly, underheard latest release, the warm and intimate "Songs Of Innocence."
But of course, there were albums I especially loved this year, the ones that, to my ears, represented the best of the best the year had to offer (and based upon everything that I actually heard this year). At this time, I would like to present my favorite albums of 2014, in no particular order other than the top two.
"HIGH HOPES" BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN
(Originally featured January 2014)
"MORNING PHASE" BECK
(Originally featured March 2014)
"EVERYDAY ROBOTS" DAMON ALBARN
(Originally featured May 2014)
"...and then you shoot your cousin" THE ROOTS
(Originally featured June 2014)
"COMET, COME TO ME" MESHELL NDEGEOCELLO
(Originally featured June 2014)
"INDIE CINDY" PIXIES
(Originally featured May 2014)
"EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT IN THE END" WEEZER
(Originally featured October 2014)
"TURN BLUE" THE BLACK KEYS
(Originally featured May 2014)
"THE ENDLESS RIVER" PINK FLOYD
(Originally featured November 2014)
"ART OFFICIAL AGE"/"PLECTRUM ELECTRUM" PRINCE
(Originally featured October 2014)
"SONIC HIGHWAYS" THE HBO SERIES
As good as the companion album is, Dave Grohl's masterwork was his devastatingly beautiful eight part series that served as a behind the scenes making of the latest Foo Fighters album and most importantly as a cross country travelogue through eight cities that inspired the albums' songs. Grohl, who directed every episode, made for a passionate host, interviewer and chronicler of the American music landscape, providing an exquisitely rich tapestry of music history that educates and inspired triumphantly. I cannot wait to get this series on DVD!!!
ALBUM OF THE YEAR-RUNNER UP
I have played this album endlessly throughout the Autumn and beginning of Winter and additionally, this album compelled me to travel backwards through the entirety of their incredible discography of which there is not one bad or even mediocre album in the entire bunch. I do not know how this band has slipped through my grasp for so long now but now that I have them, I am holding them extremely close for now on. For most of the latter half of 2014, this album was firmly placed as my #1 pick for "Album Of The Year"...until...
(Originally featured October 2014)
"BLACK MESSIAH" D'ANGELO AND THE VANGUARD
The album that I, and so many others, thought would NEVER see the light of day finally arrived and despite all of the massive expectations, ti was the album that exceeded everything that I had hoped and wished for. It has been playing continuously in my car since I purchased it and I am just amazed with the sheer amount of songcraft, production, performance and overall delivery this experience has unleashed.
But I guess one of the most important things that I can say about the album is that it has been the one release this year that has forced people to actually talk about and listen to the actual music again. No videos or imagery exist to compliment the material and D'Angelo himself has remained surprisingly silent since the release. This is an instance where the music is doing all of the talking and absolutely brilliantly as well.
D'Angelo and the Vanguard had conceived a moody, dense, distorted and endlessly fascinating and voluminously funked up treatise of love, sex, sin and salvation, an odyssey of social political unrest and spiritual deliverance,
"Black Messiah" is this DJ's ALBUM OF THE YEAR by a clear mile.(Originally featured December 2014)
Saturday, December 20, 2014
D'ANGELO AND THE VANGUARD
D'Angelo: Vocals, Piano, Keyboards, Synthesizers, Guitars, Bass Guitar, Drum Programming, Sitar
Questlove: Drums and Drum Programming
Pino Palladino: Bass Guitar
Roy Hargrove: Trumpet, Flugel Horn, Cornet and Brass and Horn Arrangements
James Gadson: Drums
Chris "Daddy' Dave: Drums
Jesse Johnson: Guitars
Spanky Alford: Guitars
Mark Hammond: Flamenco Guitar
Produced by D'Angelo
Released December 15, 2014
I almost cannot believe that it has actually arrived! I just cannot believe it!!
Dear readers and listeners, please allow me to add my voice to the already massive choir as I proclaim my delirious excitement over the release of "Black Messiah," the third album from singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist D'Angelo, the first musical signs of life from him in over 14 full years.
It is an album that I was fearing would never see the light of day as I have been reading about how the work has been "99% done" for years now and also due to the artist's personal health and legal struggles over this lengthy time period. "Lost" or extremely long gestating albums are not an anomaly within the realms of popular music of course (think Guns N' Roses), but the fever pitch that I have felt over this particular work is something that I can honestly say that I have not felt since the days in December 1987 when Prince shockingly pulled his then latest work "The Black Album" from release mere days before it was set to hit the record stores, thus prompting its status as existing as one of music's most bootlegged artifacts before its eventual and decidedly quiet limited release in 1994. Yet for some reason, and with no disrespect given towards His Royal Badness, the appearance of any new music from D'Angelo feels especially miraculous.
While D'Angelo's "Brown Sugar" (released July 3, 1995) was the artist's slick calling card, it was his second album, the murky and moody masterpiece "Voodoo" (released January 25, 2000) that sent rapturous shockwaves through the popular music landscapes, most notably throughout soul, R&B and hip-hop as that album majestically bridged the gaps between all three of those musical genres plus several more on top of them. "Voodoo" was and remains an album that is a defining musical statement for one idiosyncratic artist as well as a musical touchstone that exists as a timeless work of art that has eclipsed so many of its musical peers through its vast reach and unstoppable influence. It is essentially the kind of album that really just isn't made anymore as it has only continued to not only reveal itself over the years but it has continued to feel completely fresh, urgent and vibrant regardless of the musical landscape that surrounds it. If D'Angelo had only made those two albums, his musical legacy would be set in stone.
Even so, "Voodoo" left me wanting more and wondering just where he could possibly go next and thus, I waited, waited, waited, waited and waited even more with all of you. Now that the monolithically entitled "Black Messiah" is here, I am compelled to deliver my first thoughts based upon my very first listen. I guess the best way to describe my emotions when listening to the album is that my mouth dropped open over and again throughout the nearly 60 minute experience as what I was hearing was unlike anything else that I have heard in 2014 and it clearly showcased the musical evolution of D'Angelo as I really think that his "Black Messiah" is exuberantly the album that forces us to listen in a way that we are currently not accustomed to listening, especially as music has become a commodity of instant gratification instead of luxurious art that is designed to be savored. "Black Messiah" is music at its most succulent and satiating.
For an artist who had reportedly been plagued with issues of decreasing self-confidence and mounting insecurity over the last 14 years, Side A of "Black Messiah" finds D'Angelo in supreme command of his massive musical powers. "Ain't That Easy" opens the album, as if from the sonic ether, with a groove that could only be described as a "pimp strut." The moment those stacked vocals emerge from the molasses thick bed of sound, complete with THICK bass and that amazing hand clap sound that hits right on the drum beat, the reality of the existence of "Black Messiah" just made me want to jump and shout.
The album's second track "1000 Deaths," is actually one that I was somewhat familiar with as I first heard a version of it many years ago through one of those pesky internet leaks. Now updated and fully completed, the track is a volcanic mind blower. One of the more overtly political songs on the album or else one complete with religious allegory, the sonic textures of this song are the most avant garde of anything D'Angelo has released so far as it sounds like an amalgam of Funkadelic's "Maggot Brain" (released July 12, 1971), Sly And The Family Stone's "There's A Riot Goin' On" (released November 20, 1971) and 1970's era Miles Davis, most specifically the cacophonous fury of a selection like the disturbing "Rated X."
D'Angelo's vocals are at their most distorted and buried in the mix as the propulsive bass (played by D), the searing guitars (also played by D) and Questlove's pounding martial drums are augmented by a preacher's ferocious sermonizing of a Jesus Christ that is not whitewashed but the one with hair of "laaaaamb's wool!" This song will definitely test the limits of your speakers as this truly sounds like nothing less than the apocalypse.
"The Charade" arrives as something of an ethereal aftermath to "1000 Deaths," as it offers another overt social/racial/political lament. "All we wanted was a chance to talk/'Stead we only got outlined in chalk/Feet have bled a million miles we've walked/Revealing at the end of the day, the charade," goes the chorus, signifying a constant sorrowful reality of life in Black America that is up to the minute as well as one that is weaved into the fabric of the nation. This is another track that I was familiar with due to all of the YouTube postings from D'Angelo's 2012 tour. At that time, the guitar tones and melodies fully revealed a massive Prince influence as it just sounded like a lost track from the "1999" era. Now completed, the song's Prince leanings have been tempered a bit in order for D'Angelo to fully make the song sound more like himself. He succeeds beautifully and mournfully.
From the darkness into the light. "Sugah Daddy" is the album's most playful track as it is a sassy, smutty tune complete with D'Angelo's peerless multi-tracked falsetto, hands tapping on legs drum beats and Roy Hargrove's elegant horn arrangement that instantly made me think of Duke Ellington.
Side A concludes with "Really Love," an atmospheric, smoky ballad that begins with a slow burn of building yet stormy, mournful strings and seductive Spanish guitar. For a ballad, somehow, this track made me feel not necessarily relaxed, despite its groove. But one that carried its own tension as if we are finding D'Angelo lost in a dream of romance and perhaps regretful reality of memory and loss. Compared to the compression and contention of the albums first four tracks, "Really Love" allows the music ample space to breathe and flow gorgeously, especially when D's vocals take center stage.
Where Side A felt to be about invitation and agitation (racial, political, sexual, romantic), Side B (which opens with audible vinyl scratches and pops) is a bit slower and more meditative. With "Back To The Future (Part 1)" we are given a relaxed funk groove of reminiscence that possesses house party crowd noises like in Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" and a light string section that for me recalled the strings heard in The Beatles' "Martha My Dear." When D'Angelo, sings his repeated refrain "I just wanna go back/ Back to the way it was," we aren't given any specifics about what he is wishing to return to, which I thought was genius because we can travel backwards while remaining in the present together yet in a completely individualized fashion. What do you wish to return to? As I listened to "Black Messiah," I lovingly recalled when the art of the album was revered, when listening was the main event, and there I was as a kid, being sprawled across my basement floor with album jackets and liner notes laid in front of me, my ears filled with whatever sounds emanated from the speakers.
"Till Its Done (Tutu)" brings us out of our flashback reverie straight to a nearly dreamlike or fitful sleep filled journey through our global ills of pollution and acid rain. This is followed masterfully by the stunning and self-explanatory "Prayer," which almost sounds like an unearthed track from Prince's "Sign O' The Times" era. This is woozy funk with inebriated keyboards supplying a nearly sea sick sway, superbly angular guitar work and those incredible drums which slow down out of the tempo and then jerk back to attention as if you are falling asleep only to be abruptly awakened. Come to think of it, that sounds like what it is to live in 21st century America. Well played, D. The spirits of both Sam Cooke and J Dilla are smiling upon you on this track that sounds like a transmission from the moon.
For "Betray My Heart," D'Angelo conjures up his inner Wes Montgomery or George Benson for light jazzy guitars and "The Door," with its downright nasty, DEEP bass guitar provides that good 'ol mid summer porch swing funk.
After a reprise with "Back To The Future (Part II)," the album closes with a jaw dropper. "Another Life," a nearly six minute ballad introduced by Questlove's unmistakable drums is D'Angelo's sweeping, beautifully melodic ode in the vein of Prince's "Adore" merged with The Delfonics' "Didn't I Blow Your Mind?" For all of you aspiring singers or for those who just do not even realize, D'Angelo's vocals (both lead and backing) are a MASTER CLASS in singing and how to convey real emotion and a depth of soul...something that is supremely lacking in music these days. It was a perfect finale yet it was also a song that I just did not want to end.
"Black Messiah," as credited to D'Angelo and the Vanguard, is simultaneously raw and lush, sparse and heavily multi-layered, familiar and esoteric, pristine and inscrutable, meticulously designed yet free flowing and loose in its performance and presentation as if the songs are shape shifting in real time every time. D'Angelo musical influences of Sly Stone, George Clinton and most notably Marvin Gaye and Prince continue to be worn heavily on his sleeves but so brilliantly, he is able to congeal his inspirations into a musical stew that is uncompromisingly none other than himself.
While D'Angelo continues to function as a multi-instrumentalist, he is aided and abetted heroically by The Vanguard, a collective of key collaborators from bassist Pino Palladino, trumpeter and horn arranger Roy Hargrove, the MIGHTY Questlove on drums plus new members to the fold including drummer Chris "Daddy" Dave, the glorious guitarist extraordinaire (and former Prince associate) Jesse Johnson and lyrical assistance from Funkadelic's Kendra Foster and the inimitable Q-Tip on several selections.
What is notable this time around is D'Angelo's increased and intensely serious commitment to his guitar playing, an instrument he has focused his attention towards during his lengthy sabbatical. Whether (mostly) alone or together, D'Angelo and the Vanguard have concocted a collection of late night grooves and intoxicating sonic textures that often feel as if they will fall apart only to remain rapturously together as well as those insistently repetitive rhythms that grow into hypnotic musical mantras. The musicianship throughout "Black Messiah" is the definition of superior.
But that VOICE!!!! D'Angelo's irreplaceable stacked vocals remain formidable and of a unquestionably rare breed as they can seduce as well as terrify all the while exuding the vastness of life between the church and the corner and all spaces in between. As with "Voodoo," D'Angelo's vocals are distinctly dense yet on "Black Messiah," they have grown more distorted, a tactic that I think (again) forces us to listen harder and lean in even closer to try and determine precisely what he is singing. Just think for a moment though. Did you ever really know what James Brown was singing? Even so, you always understood! "Black Messiah" is not a passive experience or mindless fashion statement. On just one listen while driving around the city, it is obvious that this is an album not only of D'Angelo's hallmarks of love, sex, sin and salvation but also one of societal unrest, political solidarity and uprising, and spiritual deliverance.
Like "Voodoo," "Black Messiah" from D'Angelo and the Vanguard feels as if this is an album that could only arrive at this point in time but yet feels powerfully out of time as it seems to encapsulate so much of popular music from the past, present and even points to its potential future all at the same time. But it is potential future for music if only we want it. "Black Messiah" is not just an album for music geeks like myself. This is music for every soul that wants to hear true artistry, skill and emotional on rapturously loving display from a musician who treats music as it should be treated: as a viable form of art and artistic expression.
Music is existing within a most precarious time, as far as I am concerned. But even so, 2014 has delivered a well spring of wondrous albums that I have been so fortunate to have been able to hear, add to my personal collection and now have the opportunity to revisit again and again and again.
But first...I have to listen to "Black Messiah" all over again. D'Angelo, now that you are back, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE STAY!!!!!!!!!!!!
Sunday, December 14, 2014
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS:
Billy Corgan: All Vocals, Guitars, Bass Guitar, Keyboards and Synthesizers
Jeff Schroeder: Guitars
Tommy Lee: Drums
All music and lyrics by Billy Corgan
Produced by Howard Willing with Billy Corgan and Jeff Schroeder
Released December 9, 2014
"The Pumpkins these days, we don't really consider it a band anymore. It's more like a concept."
-Billy Corgan interview with Gigwise October 22, 2014
On this site, and as recently as a few moths, ago, I have celebrated and defended Billy Corgan's musical vision as well as his right to continue releasing music under the banner of The Smashing Pumpkins despite the fact that he is the only original member of the band left standing--certainly a rock and roll normalcy and nothing approaching a musical crime.
Since the 2007 re-formation/re-invention of the band (or the concept as he is more willing to now describe), The Smashing Pumpkins have proven themselves to be a revolving door of musicians with Billy Corgan firmly at the epicenter as the sole creative songwriting force and widescreen conceptualist. For many in the fan community, all of the frequent personnel changes have proven themselves to be more than frustrating, leading one comment thread after another to still question whether The Smashing Pumpkins really are indeed who the name claims for them to be. As for me, and most especially while Corgan has confounded me with some of his decision making regarding his core musical collaborators, I have long reasoned to myself that as he proclaims, The Smashing Pumpkins are a concept, an umbrella that represents a certain aspect of Corgan's sonic identity and artistic vision, thus making him much less than a "band member" and much more like a figure like Guitarist Robert Fripp, the mastermind behind the legendary King Crimson, a band that has cataloged a 46 year history and a myriad of personnel changes with only Fripp himself as the guiding creative force.
I actually thought of King Crimson quite a bit as I first began listening to "Monuments To An Elegy," the latest album from The Smashing Pumpkins and the penultimate entry in the ongoing and wildly diverse "Teargarden By Kaleidyscope" musical saga, a 44 track song cycle loosely inspired by the Tarot which began as a series of free single downloads and continued with the near symphonic full album "Oceania" (released June 19, 2012).
Now I have to admit that I was more than saddened with the dual departures of both the sensational bassist/vocalist Nicole Fiorentino and drummer Mike Byrne (who was really a triple threat as he also played keyboards and sang) from the Pumpkins' fold as their contributions to Billy Corgan's songs made this version of the band one that could powerfully rival and possibly even eclipse the original foursome in some instances. Now with only ace gunslinger guitarist Jeff Schroeder (affectionately know in the fan community as "The Shredder") remaining as Corgan's right hand man, the duo enlisted the audacious aid of Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee to perform the entirety of the album's percussive duties, therefore making The Smashing Pumpkins exist (at least for the time being) as power trio, much like the incarnation of King Crimson with their blazing album "Red" (released October 6, 1974) which served as that band's iinitialswan song in the 1970s.
In Billy Corgan's recent round of interviews, he has given much lip service to the idea of this new album and next year's Pumpkins' release "Day For Night" representing a definitive conclusion. To exactly what, I am not certain as Corgan is being simultaneously explicit and cagey. But, if "Monuments To An Elegy" means anything more than reaching the end of "Teargarden By Kaleidyscope," The Smashing Pumpkins, true to defiant form, are not going out quietly or with any less surprise and evolution as this new album shows a vibrancy and purpose that has not dulled with time. It has only sharpened.
Where "Oceania" often felt like a 60 minute prog rock symphonic spiritual odyssey divided into three or perhaps four movements, "Monuments To An Elegy" is pointedly marked by its brevity. This album is the shortest album in the entire Pumpkins discography and it is also the shortest album Billy Corgan has ever recorded. And yet, the brief running time of just a hair under 33 minutes has not marked this album as something incomplete. In fact, while "Monuments To An Elegy" is clearly an album that could only have been created in 2014, it strikingly feels like an album stemmed in the past to a degree. Yes, there are sonic signposts to past Pumpkins albums and material throughout but on a much larger thematic scale, and as most albums ran this length 45-50 years ago, "Monuments To An Elegy" is essentially an album of pop music Smashing Pumpkins style.
On "Monuments to An Elegy," there are no guitar solos to be found nor are there Corgan's trademark poetically arcane lyrics or any six, seven or nine minute epics. On this album and as with the pop music of the past, this collection of only nine songs were written to pack as much music as possible into a very brief amount of time and designed to connect on a more immediate level. In a way, this album feels like a collection of singles ready made for a variety of radio formats, again signifying the diversity of Billy Corgan's first rate songwriting which does indeed take center stage on "Monuments To An Elegy." All nine songs are filled to the tip-top with sparkling melodies, simpler and more repetitive lyrics and choruses that stick on first listen while somehow augmenting every song with the sound that has made The Smashing Pumpkins what they are. Elements of prog rock, metal, updated New Wave and warm synthetic textures plus acoustic gentleness flow together and through the album to create an infectious whole that rewards repeated listenings.
The album's opening track "Tiberius" is a dynamic head slammer (which began my King Crimson comparisons) as it possesses a nearly waltz like and shifting time signature and through the wormhole acceleration which finds Corgan, Schroeder and Lee in perfect and pulverizing swing and attack. It is a song that, to my ears, recalled the Pumpkins' nearly seven minute and vaguely nautical epic "A Song For A Son," itself the first track debuted for the entire "Teargarden By Kaleidyscope" project as Corgan sings, "I've seen the world upon a thousand dreams," a sentiment that suggests the lengthy musical journey we have all embarked upon together. And furthermore it is a track that is certainly befitting of carrying the name of a Roman Emperor (or possibly the middle name of a fictional Starfleet Captain with the the aggressive strut).
"One And All (We Are)" and the title track "Monuments" are sonic thunder and lightning, complete with the patented Pumpkins guitar army aesthetics and further propelled by Lee's roundhouse drumming which gives the tracks a taste of the classic Pumpkins sound and the swagger of Led Zeppelin, respectively. Conversely, "Being Beige" is a heavy ballad at its most yearning. "Cherry blossom, this is goodbye," Corgan sings over delicate acoustic guitar pickings, minimal keyboards and a subtle drum machine metronomic beat before Schroeder and especially Lee join in and lift the song up to the skies with Corgan's swirling backing vocals echoing the words "the world's on fire" on and on into infinity and accompanied by the spiraling guitars and galloping drums. This track feels superbly likes the album's beating heart.
Before I delve any further, I must returning to the conceit of the power trio for a moment. In addition to King Crimson I also found myself mentally returning to the triumvirate of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart, of course, collectively known as Rush and their work contained on the classic albums "Moving Pictures" (released February 12, 1981) and "Signals" (released September 9, 1982), both of which featured that band's increased usage and incorporation of keyboards and synthesizers into their hard progressive rock style. I mentioned Rush and those particular albums because throughout "Monuments To An Elegy," I was reminded of those works due to the simultaneously subtle and dense usage of keyboards and synthesizers within the Pumpkins' songs, thus increasing the scope of the music's palate.
"Anaise!" finds The Smashing Pumpkins nearly embracing disco of all things as Billy Corgan splashes out a DEEP bass groove that rests in the same neighborhood as Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust." While Tommy Lee's pounding catwalk drum beat and the coo of Corgan's androgynous backing vocals completely tickle the ear drums, the synths spring from the speakers suggesting that we are scrounging around some European nightclub.
Speaking of nightclubs, "Run2Me" is easily the album's most controversial track within the fan community due to its lyrical simplicity (or over-simplicity) combined with the wall of synthetic textures that again bring a Euro dance floor immediately to mind. Remember dear readers and listeners, we have not received a "rock" album so to speak but a"pop" album and this track is one that not only showcases the breadth of Corgan's songwriting ability but just might also be a commentary upon our pop saturated 21st century culture as well as existing as a song of romantic urgency. The percolating synthesizers take the full stage and the harmony vocals swim around each other urging the object of desire to perform the act within the song's title. But Tommy Lee's drums surprise and take the song in unexpected directions as his time keeping shows such snap, power, and precision with its martial forcefulness.
The comparatively pensive "Drum + Fife," where the keyboards take on an enveloping symphonic sweep, feels like the driving soul of the album where the aforementioned "Being Beige" is the heart. From the quiet Mellotron fife sounds that open the song and Tommy Lee's slightly behind the beat hopscotch drum beats that propel it, this track feels like the most personal statement within the album as Corgan informs us repeatedly that he will "bang this drum" to his "dying day," a message of purpose and defiance that suggests that maybe we may not be hearing the end of him after next year anyway.
The album's final two tracks truly pack a one-two punch. "Dorian" is a hypnotically sublime slab of dream pop whose synthetic textures and angular guitar work feels as if this song emerged from the netherworld that exists somewhere in between Echo And The Bunneymen and The Smiths. The body slamming "Anti-Hero" makes for a stellar closer as the downright dirty guitars and pulverizing drums provide a lusty power punk fury while the sprinkling synthesizers perfectly illustrate the interior romantic fireworks that occur as Corgan desperately tries to win the hand of "a girl like you."
"Monuments To An Elegy" is not a grand proclamation or an exercise in lushly devised progressive rock. This is an album of immediacy which definitely implores and rewards consistent and repeated listenings. The guitar work of Billy Corgan and Jeff Schroeder is meticulously seamless to the point that is is nearly impossible to exactly pinpoint where each member's work begins and ends. Tommy Lee is the wild card and it is truly amazing how well he has inserted himself within the Pumpkins' universe. While not as bombastically poly-rhythmic as the masterful Jimmy Chamberlin or the prodigiously talented Mike Byrne, Lee's slamming drums are much more straightforward, which is very befitting of the album's pop leanings and certainly they give the songs more space to breathe and allow the melodies and harmonies to take up the room.
And with that...where does the concept that is The Smashing Pumpkins head after next year's "Day For Night," which has yet to be recorded? Who knows, and that may even include Billy Corgan himself. But as Corgan has long contested, it is all about the journey and as long as The Smashing Pumpkins continue to release albums as strong as "Monuments To An Elegy," a work with continued vibrancy and purposefulness, I will follow the band...or this concept absolutely anywhere.
Sunday, December 7, 2014
David Gilmour: Lead and Backing Vocals, Acoustic Guitars, Electric Guitars, Fretless Bass Guitar
Nick Mason: Drums and Percussion
Roger Waters: Lead and Backing Vocals, Acoustic Guitars, Bass Guitar
Richard Wright: Piano, Organ, Keyboards, Synthesizers
All music and lyrics by Roger Waters
except "Young Lust," "Comfortably Numb" and "Run Like Hell" music and lyrics by David Gilmour and Roger Waters
and "The Trial" music and lyrics by Bob Ezrin and Roger Waters
Produced by Bob Ezrin, David Gilmour, James Guthrie and Roger Waters
Released November 30, 1979
Celebrating the 35th Anniversary of the original release of "The Wall"
Sometimes the gift of music takes considerable time to be fully received...
At the age of 10 years old on Christmas morning 1979, my life was changed forever. I woke and entered my living room and surrounding the couch by the Christmas tree was what appeared to my eyes to be a veritable record store lined end to end with a series of new albums for my listening pleasure. Some albums (quite possibly ones from Electric Light Orchestra, Queen, The Eagles and one of those solo KISS albums) fit perfectly into my personal wheelhouse. I also received "In Through The Out Door" (released August 15, 1979), my very first album by Led Zeppelin. A most happy surprise was found in receiving Fleetwood Mac's double album "Tusk" (released October 12, 1979), an album that I ultimately never warmed to for over 10 years after it was released...but that is another story.
Then, there was one more album that seemed to be completely out of place from all of the remaining albums. I saw an album jacket that looked like nothing else but a white, brick wall and upon further investigation, I discovered that I had received a copy of "The Wall" by Pink Floyd, a band I knew absolutely NOTHING about aside from having heard of the name and of course, being a devotee of the hit single, the bass driven and nearly disco groove of the otherwise venomous "Another Brick In The Wall Part 2" with its iconic schoolyard chant "We don't need no education!" (itself a roof raiser on the school bus).
I spent that Christmas morning listening to my new album collection one after the other and if memory serves me correctly, I possibly saved "The Wall" for last as it was the most unfamiliar. Regardless of listening order of the day, I can express to you that once I removed the plastic from the album itself and opened up the gatefold jacket, I was more than a little confused as to what I saw on the inside.
The inside of the album jacket contained an image of the same white brick wall but now broken in the middle to display a barrage of surrealistic imagery of which I was completely unused to seeing and it disturbed me greatly. A stadium complete with militaristic marching hammers and a fearsome looking airplane descending into the arena was striking enough but the gargantuan mutant creature with backwards legs reaching upwards to reveal an equally giant anus was as confusing as it was grotesque. Further along the gatefold were other displaced bricks with more indescribable, distorted and downright appalling looking monsters emerging from the spaces. And at the very bottom was what looked to be a tiny man underneath a series of spotlights. I did not know what to make of what I was seeing in any conceivable way. Even the liner notes and lyric sheets looked to be written in the illegible scrawl of a madman. And so, with curiosity and much trepidation, I placed Side One of "The Wall" onto the turntable and began to listen...
Dear readers and listeners, before I go any further, I should inform you that at that age, I had only listened to AM rock and soul radio. I hadn't even discovered FM radio and its album rock formats yet. My ears were used to pop songs quite frankly. Not rock operas, concept albums or anything remotely dark, so to speak. In fact, even with my passionate devotion to The Beatles, I often found myself skipping past songs like "Revolution #9" or hurrying to the record player to just miss hearing Ringo Starr screaming about the blisters on his fingers at the conclusion of "Helter Skelter" as they each sounded too strange and even frightening to my ears. Even "Strawberry Fields Forever" just sounded wrong to me, so you can only imagine just what I was in for when I began to hear "The Wall" for the very first time.
By now, the story of "The Wall" is most familiar but for the uninitiated, the album unfolds as follows. "The Wall" tells the story of Pink, a rock star bunkered down inside of his hotel room while on tour and trapped inside a psychological and partially drug induced mental catatonia otherwise known as the wall.
In a non-linear fashion over the course of Sides One and Two, we learn Pink's backstory and discover all of the "bricks" that have constructed his wall. Pink grew up in post war England never knowing his Father as he was killed during World War II, an absence that fuels his emotional disconnect. Pink is therefore raised by his suffocating Mother, is tortured at school by a tyrannical teacher, eventually becomes a musician and rock star and enters into an embittered marriage where his elevating disconnect alienates his wife who soon develops a philanderous relationship.
All the while, Pink's precarious psychological state worsens as his feelings of isolation and mounting depression unleash "the worms," all of his negative thoughts, fears and demons which threaten to swallow him entirely. Feeling completely despondent and broken from his wife's infidelity, Pink violently lashes out against a groupie after a concert in his hotel room, which he soon demolishes. Pained from trying to navigate an increasingly harsh outside world, Pink fully and finally completes the wall as a barrier between himself and reality.
If Sides One and Two represent Pink's retreat, then Sides Three and Four represent his desperate need to reconnect with life and humanity. This stretch of the album, while more linear, fluctuates between Pink's oppressive existential sorrow, hallucinations and nightmares while he stares at a television screen broadcasting one World War II themed movie after another.
The breaking point arrives before Pink's next scheduled concert on the tour when his handlers, plus a physician, enter the hotel room to drug and revive the incapacitated rock star for the night's performance. Pink's self-loathing and megalomania in his specialized world of rock and roll excess metamorphoses itself into a harrowing sequence where Pink re-imagines himself as the leader of imaginary fascist group The Hammers, a mob of neo-Nazis who unleash their repugnant reign of terror over Pink's legions of fans and society at large.
The final strains occur when Pink inititates a self imposed trial starring the key figures from his life as witnesses. The conclusion is revealed when the judge (visualized as the mammoth anus), sentences Pink "to be exposed before your peers" and decrees at long last to "TEAR DOWN THE WALL!!!!" This action returns Pink to the world of reality as a thinking, feeling, fragile individual spiraling through existence alongside all of the rest of us thinking, feeling, fragile souls.
Dear readers and listeners, I nearly jumped ten feet straight upwards into the air as the first sonic boom opening notes of the volcanic "In The Flesh?" exploded through my speakers and I remember feeling completely shaken by the final and blessedly gentler strains of "Outside The Wall." Hearing "The Wall" that very first time was a listening experience unlike any other at that time of my life and frankly, I really haven't had a listening experience like that one ever since, save for my first listen to Nine Inch Nails' "The Downward Spiral" (released March 8, 1994).
Pink Floyd's "The Wall" was a exquisitely terrifying experience for me that first time as I had never heard anything that sounded so anguished, so horrific, so startling, raging, fragile, and even nightmarish. The three dimensional sound effects of descending war planes, crying babies, destroyed television sets, screams that sounded like howls in the dark, repetitive disembodied voices rattling around the speakers as if they were the darkest, most pained thoughts in your head were completely threatening to my ears. Even the actual music itself seemed to turn on me. That any time, I seemed to find my bearings, whether through a guitar solo, beautiful harmony vocals, or more familiar sounding rock and roll rhythms and power, Pink Floyd upended me all over again by presenting an album where every song sounded wrong, including "Another Brick In The Wall Part 2," when placed within its full context was transformed from subversive radio hit to something more impassioned and violent.
When I first heard "The Wall," there simply was no safe place. On that Christmas Day, I listened to all four sides of the double album in one sitting and by the end, I was convinced that what I heard was evil! I scoured the liner notes again and was also surprised to discover that there was not even as much as a band photo, something to signify that actual human beings truly created something this traumatic. I was so scared from the experience that I packaged the album back up and actually hid it deep within my Father's record collection as I just did not even want to see it again.
And yet, it somehow became one of my favorite albums of all time and I cannot imagine my life without it. It is just unbelievable to me to realize that it has been a full 35 years since I first heard the album, especially as the experience still feels so fresh. And truth be told, I still get the shivers when I think about that first time.
Perhaps weeks or even months later sometime in early 1980, when I actually had finally discovered FM album rock radio, I heard a song that sounded somewhat familiar and yet I couldn't quite place it at that moment. "Hello...is there anybody in there?" sang the lyrics and as the song ventured onwards, it dawned on me that perhaps the song was from that nightmare album I received on Christmas Day. But, this song didn't sound so scary within those moments and in fact, I found myself quite liking it a lot. My mind then endured some serious thought over "The Wall," as I wondered if I should dig the album back out from its hiding place and try it again. I do not remember if I tried it that day or some time after hearing the song on the radio but I did indeed unearth the album and I listened to it, quite fearfully to be honest, all over again. And then, I listened again. And again and again and again until it became a point of obsession as I just had to figure this thing out.
By the end of 5th grade, Pink Floyd's "The Wall," while it still frightened me, became my personal pilgrimage. Some friends of mine had also heard the album, mostly thanks to older siblings who owned it, and so then, I had someone to talk to about it as we all tried to figure out just what the hell was this thing. At home, I poured over the lyrics, which I now know backwards and forwards. Over time, even my own handwriting eventually began to transform as I naturally gravitated towards a certain free hand/cursive hybrid that looks like a collection of loops and harsh lines, like the scrawl on the lyrics sheets.
Years later, I became a devotee of the 1982 hard R rated feature film adaptation as directed by Alan Parker and featuring the sinister, surreal artwork and animation of Gerald Scarfe, which my Father took me to see on opening day when I was 13 years old (a decision I still wonder if he regrets due to his personal distaste of the film). The film also became a regular touchstone of my college years as it was featured as a midnight movie at the campus multi-screen theater which is now defunct.
But the original album itself is one that has remained a constant in my life. It is one I listen to at some point nearly every single year and due to growing, living and aging, its power has only increased while the initial fright has long diminished. As I think about all that this album gave to me and must importantly taught me, I am compelled to share with you in order to properly commemorate its 35th anniversary.
Pink Floyd's "The Wall" was the very first album I heard in my lifetime that functioned far beyond being a collection of songs or even as a full musical statement which served to extend the art of the album. "The Wall" was the album that pushed the boundaries of rock and roll as I knew them back when I was 10 years old, as it showed me how the album as a whole could weave and hold a full narrative, much like a film or a novel. And in existing as some sort of audio literature or movie, the album was also able to encapsulate the theatrical elements of radio plays, rock operas and psychological dramas.
The faceless nature of Pink Floyd as a band also served the dramatic quality of the music and story of "The Wall" extremely well in regards to the vocals of both David Gilmour and Roger Waters, who often trade lead vocals within the same song, therefore making every moment sound as if it is arriving from the same voice. Finally, those aforementioned three dimensional sound effects augmented the story and Pink's turmoil so superbly that it truly feels as if you are trapped inside of Pink's brain...worms and all.
All of those sonic qualities would mean absolutely nothing without Roger Waters' timeless, peerless lyrics which remain some of the finest I have ever heard. The lyrics of "The Wall," in addition to introducing me to elaborate, decidedly adult and psychologically driven concepts, also began to build and expand my vocabulary.
Words like "reproach" from "The Thin Ice," "psychopathic" from "The Happiest Days Of Our Lives," "unfurled" from "Goodbye Blue Sky," "obligatory" and "inevitable" as used in "Nobody Home," "receding" from "Comfortably Numb" and "surrogate" from "In The Flesh" were examples of language that did not appear in the standard pop song and they often made me race to either my parents or the dictionary just so I could understand the album even more. Even the profanities contained in the music (for example, "I've got thirteen channels of shit on the TV to choose from" in "Nobody Home") felt more artistic than self-consciously vulgar. My parents never expressed their distaste as I gathered they realized that what I was listening to was theater and not smut.
As always, context is everything and throughout "The Wall," Roger Waters' lyrics, which often housed a brutal acidity, often unearths his voluminous empathy and sensitivity. "The Wall" revealed Waters at his most personal as the character of Pink clearly was a Waters stand-in, as Waters' own Father was killed in World War II, a loss and absence that had haunted the musician and had found its way into his lyrics throughout his tenure in the band. Yet, by the time of "The Wall," this particular anti-war protest theme became especially explicit as the lyrics showcased the long range effects and damage that war can produce. Yes, we have the straightforward "Bring The Boys Back Home" which pleads "Don't leave the children on their own/No! No!" But even more provocatively, as the lyric exclaim in plaintive sorrow during the grim acoustic based selection "Goodbye Blue Sky," David Gilmour sings, "the flames are all long gone but the pain lingers on."
The seemingly endless cycle of violence and abuse is not cemented solely in acts of war. In "The Wall," we are also given songs like "The Happiest Days Of Our Lives," where schoolteachers viciously torment all of their students only to return home and be confronted with their "fat and psychopathic wives who would thrash them within inches of their lives" just to inflict torment upon the children at school again the next morning.
The painful and bleak truths of adult relationships that flew way over my head as a child also make their due within "The Wall." Just hear the juxtapositions contained in the wrenching "Don't Leave Me Now," as the vague doo-wop by downers structure shows how quickly the emotional states of adult relationships can twist and turn from the romantic to the dangerously ferocious. "Don't leave me now," begs Pink to his unfaithful yet long suffering wife. "How could you go?/When you know how I need you/To beat to a pulp on a Saturday night."
And in the opening and darkly poetic moments of "One Of My Turns," a song where "loves turns grey/like the skin of a dying man," Waters' composes a defeatist passage where Pink muses, "I have grown older/And you have grown colder/And nothing is very much fun anymore."
The unquestionable power of Roger Waters' lyrics also carried a huge hand in why I was so worked over by "The Wall." When the false lullaby of "Mother" proclaims, "Mama's gonna make all of your nightmares come true/Mama's gonna put all of her fears into you," that was more than enough to make me take the needle off of the record right then and there. But even earlier, on the album's second track "The Thin Ice," Waters' creates a lyrical passage of shattering, harrowing despair.
"If you should go skating
On the thin ice of modern life
Dragging behind you the silent reproach
Of a million tear stained eyes
Don't be surprised, when a crack in the ice
Appears under your feet
You'll slip out of your depth and out of your mind
With your fear flowing out behind you
As you claw the thin ice"
Even with all of the terror and anguish, the greatest gift Pink Floyd's "The Wall" gave to me was the realization that elegance, poetry and artistic beauty can be found in the abyss. While "The Wall" exists as personal statement from Roger Waters as well as explores themes of isolation, alienation and psychological scars, concepts that are so seemingly solitary, it is remarkable just how universal of an album it is, certainly the profound element that has contributed to its massive longevity. "The Wall" is an album of towering humanity, as Waters' semi-autobiographical journey and Pink's inner odyssey completely mirrors our own as we have all experienced forms of loss and tragedy to varying degrees, and we also combat our own personal worms who threaten to eat into our brains.
We all carry our own baggage as we voyage through life. We all have our walls and the variety of bricks that construct those walls of varying heights and thickness. The humanity rests within how we connect and help each other along through life and when one of us does indeed disconnect like Pink, how we still try to forge a re-connection and continue onwards together, As the track so richly describes in "Outside The Wall":
"All alone or in twos
The ones who really love you
Walk up and down outside the wall
Some hand in hand
Some gathered together in bands
The bleeding hearts and the artists
Make their stand
And when they've given you their all
Some stagger and fall
After all it's not easy
Banging your heart against some mad bugger's wall"
There's a massive brick in the wall of the life experience right there.
Out of all of the albums in the Pink Floyd monumental discography, "The Wall" is my forever favorite. Its provocatively adult themes and sensibilities that also tap into a powerful adolescent angst make this a timeless achievement of enormous reach and volume. From the story and lyrics to the outstanding caliber of songs from one end to the other, most notably, the towering monolith that is "Comfortably Numb," Pink Floyd crafted a musical experience with grit, class and rock and roll swagger unlike most releases and with massive influence.
And that very first listen nearly made me ignorant to this incredible, audacious experience. that art doesn't always have to make one feel comfortable. For sometimes, it is within that sizable discomfort that we discover vast riches.
That is why Pink Floyd's "The Wall" is one of this DJ's favorite albums of all time.
Monday, December 1, 2014
Let me please make this entry of the Session Notes short and sweet for this final month of 2014.
Do you remember those TV ads around Christmas time that implored viewers to "give the gift of music"? Well, I really think that we need to give that gift right now especially as the world seems ot be growing even more turbulent. A few times this year, I have written abut music's healing power, or at least how music has never let me down by always proving itself to be a constant friend. Music has lent me its voice in times of sorrow, grief, illness, rage, despair and of course, times of unabashed joy and euphoria. Whenever there have been those rare times when I just didn't want to hear any music of any kind, music remained patient, always knowing that I would return and it would prove itself to be ready for me when I was ready for it.
Music is unconditional love. Music is beauty. Music is the soul and the spirit of life made into song. I write these words not to just express what it means to me but what I really believe it means to all of us if we just make the opportunity to listen, to treat it with the respect and dignity it deserves and to also treat it as the art form that I believe for it to be and not the innocuous accessory that I am fearing that it is becoming.
Yes, give the gift of music. To loved ones, to cherished friends and family, to children, animals and most of all to yourselves. It is impossible for me to conceive of a world without something as glorious as music and as we travel through December, I hope that we can all take some time to think of the music that has meant the most to us during 2014. I really believe that if you think really hard, even those of you who may not be as passionate about music as others, you may be surprised at how deeply music has reached and shaped you.
My love for music is eternal. My love for music is unshakable. My love for music is essential and indispensable to just living my life.
What is music for you? Let me know. Lines are open...
And as always...PLAY LOUD!!!!!!!!!!!!!