The Graham Bond Organisation Play “Wade In The Water”

The_Sound_of_'65Listen to this track  by British R&B soul-jazz gurus The Graham Bond Organisation. It’s “Wade In The Water” a version of a traditional song that appears on their second, and final, album The Sound Of ’65, released that very year in March. The band consists of Bond on organ and alto saxophone, Dick Heckstall-Smith on tenor saxophone, Jack Bruce on bass, and Ginger Baker on the kit.

Along with Alexis Corner’s Blues Incorporated, The Graham Bond Organisation (misspeling of Oxford English “orginisation” is deliberate, everyone …) was a very well-respected unit on the R&B scene in London from the early to mid 1960s. If the Beatles and the Stones were the bands that the record buying public loved, then Graham Bond and his compatriots were just as beloved by their musician peers on the London club scene. For a time, even future jazz-fusion innovator John McLaughlin was a part of the band on guitar. For those looking for pure chops and blues authenticity that was so sought after at the time, then these guys were it.

As short-lived as this band was, they helped to sow the seeds of the progressive rock and jazz-rock movements in Britain that would flourish by the end of the sixties and into the seventies. As influential as they were, there was much trouble at the root for these guys when it came to personal demons. Read more

Rush Plays “Red Barchetta”

Rush Moving PicturesListen to this track by hard rock prog trio hailing from Willowdale Ontario of all places (just north of Toronto for you out of towners …) Rush. It’s “Red Barchetta”, a cut off of their 1981 landmark album Moving Pictures. That album kicked off the decade for them as a new-wave influenced, although still rock-oriented unit and with this song being a stalwart fan favourite and live number, often introduced as “a song about a car”, which it is. But, there’s more to it than that.

This song is set an era when the ominous “Motor Law” makes muscle cars and Italian sports cars illegal, enforced by gleaming alloy air cars roving the roads in search of joy-riding perpetrators. The intricacies of this aren’t really outlined, and it probably doesn’t matter. If you were a teenager in 1981, you’ll know why. How many muscle car-driving Rush fans were there at that time? Too numerous to count. For all of the time-shifting math rock and seamless and staggering musicianship for which the band is known, they knew their audience.

But, what else influenced the writing of this song? Read more

Traffic Play “The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys”

Traffic The Low Spark of High Heeled BoysListen to this track by progressive rock collective Traffic. It’s ” The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys”, the title track to their self-same 1971 album. It would be one of their career highlights of the second phase of their career, coming back from a break-up in 1969 that turned out only to have been temporary.

This phase of the life of the band featured an expanded line up that included Ghanaian percussionist  Rebop  Kwaku Baah who had previously played on Nick Drake’s “Three Hours”, former Family/Blind Faith bassist Ric Grech, and Derek & The Dominos drummer Jim Gordon. After a comeback record in John Barleycorn Must Die, scoring critical acclaim, this record that followed it up was a million seller as well as being critically praised. It reached platinum status by the middle of the decade. With those new members added to the talents of  core members guitarist-keyboardist-vocalist Steve Winwood, woodwind player Chris Wood, and percussionist-vocalist-lyricist Jim Capaldi, the band were able to explore the deeper territories where rock, jazz, and soul connect.

But this particular track owed something not only to those musical threads, but to another medium entirely – cinema. Read more

The Fierce & The Dead Play “666…6”

Here’s a clip of British post-rock instrumentalist four piece. It’s their track “666…6”, a feature off of their most recent EP, On VHS,  the first release to feature the four-sided version of the band; Matt Stevens (guitar), Stuart Marshall (drums), Kev Feazey (bass), and newcomer (but, old friend) Steven Cleaton on second guitar, keyboards, and “fx”.

The Fierce & The Dead (from right); Steve Cleaton, Matt Stevens, Stuart Marshall, Kev Feazey

The track reveals the range of influences, particularly those of guitarist Matt Stevens, with this track, and others, originally intended for his next solo record. Radiohead, Mogwai, Robert Fripp, and Celtic Frost (and others besides) all make up the band’s approach, marrying melodic, ambient, and hard-edged facets of progressive instrumental rock music that is gaining attention in prog circles, and beyond. These efforts were helped along by the recent Fierce & The Dead record If It Carries On Like This We Are Moving To Morecambe. This EP is a chaser to that record, turning up the intensity.

As a solo artist, and as a part of the band, Stevens has been a major proponent in putting his music across via a dedicated online fanbase, as well as generating a following offline as well, particularly in the last year when the band have been especially active as a live act. This video was created with a YouTube audience primarily in mind, featuring some pretty odd imagery that also helps to highlight the dynamism of each player.

This track in particular demonstrates how much varied textures are important to the band, with thundering riffs set next to more delicate fingerpicking, atmospheric electronic flourishes, crisp and dextrous drumming, and bald and brawny bass lines each taking center stage.

I personally appreciate the value of tightly arranged playing that still lets you hear the moving parts at the same time. It’s not an easy thing to pull off. And that’s what stands out for me on this track.

On VHS  is available for download right now. So, you should.

For more information, you should also investigate the official Fierce & The Dead website.

Also, check out this candid video interview with Matt and Kev of The Fierce & The Dead about their humble beginnings as blossoming musicians among other things, including the making of the new EP.


Querkus Perform “Half-Acid Lee”

Listen to this track by Winnipeg-based art rock duo Querkus. It’s “Half-Acid Lee”, a cinematic John Barry-meets-prog-meets-pop song as taken from the band’s 2011 debut album Spaces Between the Leaves Make Room For the Stars. The song is a part of a richly-textured record that pulls in all kinds of influences which range from that 60s film music sound that also fueled acts like Portishead and early Goldfrapp, to the progressive rock complexity of King Crimson, with splashes of PJ Harvey and Kate Bush in there for good measure.

The band is comprised of two creative minds in vocalist/keyboardist Karen Asmundson and guitarist/vocalist Edgar Ozolins. Both are interested in amalgamating disparate styles and sounds together into an ambitious whole. This song is a shining example of the results of their efforts; a large-scale, and decidedly menacing track that is marked by the contrast of Asmundson’s voice against the abrasiveness of Ozolins’ guitar.

After featuring this track on my recent Winter Indie Round-Up post, I got in contact with the song’s writer Karen Asmundson. She and I talked a bit about the making of this song, about how the Querkus sound is interpreted in a live setting, about the pressures of making a debut record, and about visions of some very angry trees …

Oh, and I thought it might be fun to give away some copies of the record to you guys here. Details at the end of the interview!

*** Read more

Steve Hackett Plays ‘Ace of Wands’

voyage-of-the-acolyte-steve-hackettListen to this track by progressive rock guitarist, composer, and one-time Genesis member Steve Hackett. It’s “Ace of Wands”, the lead track from Hackett’s debut solo album, 1975’s The Voyage of the Acolyte. This is an album he recorded and released while still a member of Genesis, and with the help of two of his bandmates; Phil Collins plays drums and sings lead on a number of tracks, and Michael Rutherford plays bass, and second 12-string guitar.

What can be gleaned from this track is just how important Hackett’s playing is to the classic Genesis sound; angular, yet lyrical, and evocative of a certain spirit of the time that actually pulls the whole genre into focus. Hackett takes his influences of rock and classical music, and synthesizes an approach to both, making the music on the record extremely evocative of a something that suggests a wordless narrative unfolding, like a soundtrack to a film that the listener makes up as the music plays.  That’s what prog always strives for, after all!
Read more

The Moody Blues Play “Tuesday Afternoon”

Listen to this track by progressive rock artistes and concept-album toting quintet The Moody Blues.  It’s “Tuesday Afternoon”, a track awash in mellotron and orchestral flourishes, and a highlight as taken from their 1967 concept record Days of Future Passed, and released in single form the following year. Also known as “Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?)” as a part of the album, this song helped to carry the group, and a certain strain of rock music, into the 1970s.

The song was released as a single in 1968, under the title “Tuesday Afternoon” and re-cut as a stand-alone track, written as it was by relative newcomer to the band Justin Hayward who wrote the song on an actual Tuesday afternoon, playing outside with his acoustic guitar –  in a field no less.

The album version leads into fellow Moody songwriter Graeme Edge’s “Evening”. Both tracks contributed to the concept of the album; tracing the course of a day, which started with “The Day Begins”. Eventually, the record concludes with the final track, which you might have heard of – “Nights in White Satin”, yet another single written by Hayward. Read more

Robert Wyatt Sings ‘Sea Song’

Listen to this track, a melancholic love song from former Soft Machine drummer, and Matching Mole prime mover Robert Wyatt.  It’s “Sea Song”, a mythical tale of idealized womanhood, with textures that alternate between the crystalline, the haunting, and the discordant. The song is taken from Wyatt’s landmark Rock Bottom album from 1974, his first project after an accident which rendered him a paraplegic.

Robert Wyatt’s connection with British progressive rock, and with the formation of Soft Machine with Kevin Ayers and Daevid Allen, was a key contribution to the post-psychedelic Canterbury scene, which also included the bands Caravan, and Gong.  Soft Machine would prove to be somewhat unstable where consistent membership was concerned . But while the band were a going concern, they pushed the boundaries of rock music, injecting a strong vein of jazz and experimental textures. Wyatt served as drummer and singer, that combination of roles being out of the ordinary at the time. All the while, Wyatt had branched out on a number of musical excursions and had made a great many friends who would appear on his subsequent  projects.

In June of 1973, at a party in Maide Vale in London, Wyatt fell from third floor window, breaking his spine and leaving him paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life.  Before this event, he had written much of what he intended to be the next Matching Mole record, his follow-up band to Soft Machine.  Since he had extended time in the hospital to craft the material, Wyatt decided to put out a solo album instead of a band record.  “Sea Song” was one track that came out of this process.

I don’t think there has ever been a song that is so unsettling as it is poignant.  Wyatt’s keening and decidedly English tenor is at the center of it, always a beautifully brittle instrument .  Sparse keyboards create an otherworldly, atmospheric, and downright ghostly sonic backdrop, which evokes the feel of a lost folk song as filtered through an ambient jazz arrangement.  Lyrically, the imagery of a mythical female sea creature is certainly in line with its time, even if that mythic imagery is also coupled with the lines “Joking apart, when you’re drunk, you’re terrific when you’re drunk”, which brings it out of pure fantasy, and makes it a well-observed, down-to-earth love song.

Rock Bottom, was produced by Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, another post-psychedelia band’s drummer, perhaps appropriately.  The album established Wyatt as a respected solo artist. Many critics recognized the album as a singular achievement. It even sold well!

Later in the year, he would also release a straight up cover version of the Monkees’ “I’m A Believer”, arguably another tribute to idealized womanhood albeit in a different vein.   This was proof too that Wyatt felt empowered to follow his instincts as a solo artist in whichever direction it took him. It is an approach that he has maintained since, releasing albums when it occurs to him to do so, and splitting his time with other artistic pursuits and political activism.

More recently, “Sea Song” was recorded by Northumbrian folk band Rachel Unthank & the Winterset, perhaps illustrating the reach of his influence as well.

For more information about Robert Wyatt, check out the Robert Wyatt MySpace page.


Genesis Performs ‘Entangled’ From A Trick of the Tail

trick-of-the-tale-genesisListen to this song by a post-Peter Gabriel, Genesis.  It’s ‘Entangled’, the second track from the 1976 album Trick of the Tail , on which a supremely gifted drummer becomes lead singer upon the departure of a charismatic frontman.   Such a turn of events in the life of a band of this stature is usually considered the beginning of the end.  Yet in this case, it turned out to be more like the end of the beginning where international popularity is concerned.

On Gabriel’s departure from Genesis in May of 1975, the reality of the situation came to light for the remaining four members – drummer Phil Collins, bassist Mike Rutherford, keyboardist Tony Banks, and guitarist Steve HackettThe New Musical Express and other music papers of the time called the band’s future into question, and fans were understandably concerned. It seemed prudent to look for a replacement lead singer immediately.  In the meantime, the instrumental tracks of this album were being recorded.

Collins was the most involved in coaching prospective lead vocalists on the band’s material.  After all, Collins had provided backing vocals, and occasional leads, since he joined the band in 1971.  He knew the cues.  And eventually, it was decided that Collins was the man for full-time lead vocals, even if Collins was initially reticent to be anything other than a drummer.


And the result was this album, released in February 1976.  As this pristine, beautifully layered song ‘Entangled’ reveals, the album was something of a return to their early 70s sound, and a little less angular and psychologically knotty than the previous, Gabriel-led The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.   So, where the prog-rock strain of the band is still in place here, in some ways this record, and this song, was a kick-off to new era of pop accessibility.

The approach served them well during this time of transition. This album scored them the highest chart placements than they’d ever enjoyed before, with a number 3 in the UK, and a number 31 in North America.  With a popular frontman gone, and with a new lead voice in place, Genesis had beaten the odds and then some.

The four-piece incarnation of the band would see them through another album, Wind & Wuthering, and a two-disc live album in Seconds Out, which featured Yes/King Crimson drummer Bill Bruford helping out on drums with Collins singing out front.  Chester Thompson would perform a similar role on subsequent tours for decades to come, although Collins would continue as drummer as well as singer, both on tour and in the studio.

After the release of the live album, guitarist Steve Hackett would also leave the band to  pursue a solo career full time.  Hackett recorded a solo record before his departure, Voyage of the Acolyte, which featured, among other musicians, Phil Collins and Mike Rutherford, and is often thought of as something of a lost Genesis album.  But, by all accounts Hackett’s share in recorded material on the Wind & Wuthering was less than he was comfortable with.  The freedom of a solo career seemed the obvious choice for him.

The band would not replace him, officially.  Much like the way Collins filled in for Peter Gabriel, bassist Mike Rutherford would double on guitar in the studio, and work with guitarist  in Daryl Stuermer in live appearances, joining Chester Thompson as a long-term touring musician.  The next album by 1978, … And Then There Were Three, was aptly named.  And the out and out pop song “Follow You, Follow Me” would mark yet another career trajectory; multi-million selling top 40 chart success as a trio.


[UPDATE: March 13, 2018 – here’s an article that goes into even more detail on how Phil Collins transitioned into the lead singer of the band – reluctantly, and gradually over the course of rehearsals for this very album!]

Arietta: prog and indie meet!

Here’s a link to the MySpace page of a band brought to my attention this week from the guys at  They asked me to post something about the group,  who I heard and liked a lot, and who are currently touring into the summer.   The group in question is Arietta, based in Toronto and pulling from various strains of rock music, most notably from modern progressive rock, yet with pop hooks in mind.

As such, the group covers the bases for those who are interested in tight playing, yet who are still interested in hearing songs, rather than extended jams, although fans get those too.  This band is like an outpouring of a parallel universe, when it was prog, not punk, which was the prime motivator behind modern indie guitar music.  Yet the showiness of prog which turns a lot of people off is absent.  This is big rock music.  But, it doesn’t forget its audience.

The groups record, Migration is due out on April 28th.