Electric Light Orchestra – Afterglow

Electric Light Orchestra - AfterglowThis wonderful three-disc set arrived at the height of my ELO-worship, but I only wish I’d had my CD player at the time. Very seldom in my music review pages will you hear me complain about the quality of anything other than the music itself, but here I have to offer you, the consumer, a strong warning: if you’re going to get Afterglow, get it on CD. Even if you don’t have a CD player, get the discs and have someone make you a copy of them on tape and then put the discs away. The cassettes on which Afterglow was duplicated were hideously cheap, and I went through two cassette copies of the third and most important volume of the set before I finally bought the CD box set. That’s the end of my consumer warning.

The reason the third CD is the most important is because it features several previously unavailable songs which were B-sides to singles from the 1980s, or were tracks deleted from Time and Secret Messages prior to pressing. The Time B-side “When Time Stood Still” is worth the cost of the entire set, being one of the best examples of what really made ELO great in the 80s. Other highlights of the “new” material include “Buildings Have Eyes”, the jazzy “No Way Out”, the dreamy “Mandalay”, and the epic-length and too-consciously-trying-to-be-Beatlesque “Hello My Old Friend”, all tracks which would have made 1983’s Secret Messages not only a double album, but a great double album, at least on a par with Out Of The Blue. The rest of the box set consists of usually well-chosen tracks from throughout the band’s history, though as always I like the album tracks better than the singles, so the box set’s emphasis 3 out of 4on ELO’s popular fare leaves me high and dry. Curious omissions from the set include the music from 1980’s Xanadu (removed from the set at the request of Jeff Lynne, according to Rolling Stone), and the beautiful instrumental B-side “After All”, which I only have as a scratched-up 45 and desperately want on CD. Perhaps someday…

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    (Third disc only)

  1. Prologue (1:16)
  2. Twilight (3:33)
  3. Julie Don’t Live Here (3:40)
  4. Shine a Little Love (4:39)
  5. When Time Stood Still (3:33)
  6. Rain is Falling (2:57)
  7. Bouncer (3:13)
  8. Hello My Old Friend (7:51)
  9. Hold On Tight (3:06)
  10. Four Little Diamonds (4:08)
  11. Mandalay (5:19)
  12. Buildings Have Eyes (3:55)
  13. So Serious (2:39)
  14. A Matter of Fact (3:58)
  15. No Way Out (3:23)
  16. Getting to the Point (4:28)
  17. Destination Unknown (4:05)
  18. Rock ‘n’ Roll is King (3:07)

Released by: Epic
Release date: 1990
Total running time: 68:50

George Harrison – Cloud Nine

George Harrison - Cloud NineOkay, I admit it, I got this album mainly because ELO’s Jeff Lynne produced it with Harrison, as well as helping out with songwriting duties. The collaboration was a rare spark that re-ignited Lynne’s post-ELO career, and bested all of Harrison’s previous album sales. There was obviously some wisdom in pairing an ex-Beatle with a Beatle afficionado who had grown up learning all the nuances of the Beatles sound. In many places, though, it does sound like ELO with Harrison singing lead (the title track in particular sounds like it was lifted right off of Balance Of Power), though the best songs on the album are those where Harrison’s ability to craft a bittersweet or nutty pop tune were perfectly married to Lynne’s ability to produce such a song crisply. “Someplace Else”, “Devil’s Radio”, “This Is Love” and “That’s What It Takes” have always appealed to me much more than the two singles everyone remembers, the Beatles 4 out of 4tribute “When We Was Fab” and the boringly repetitive number one hit “I Got My Mind Set On You”. Why this album has not been followed up on with this unique combination of talent is a complete mystery to me. While the Traveling Wilburys were fun, they didn’t offer the enormous possibilities of further Harrison-Lynne collaborations.

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  1. Cloud 9 (3:15)
  2. That’s What It Takes (4:01)
  3. Fish On The Sand (3:25)
  4. Just For Today (4:06)
  5. This Is Love (3:45)
  6. When We Was Fab (3:58)
  7. Devil’s Radio (3:53)
  8. Someplace Else (3:53)
  9. Wreck of the Hesperus (3:34)
  10. Breath Away From Heaven (3:36)
  11. Got My Mind Set On You (3:50)

Released by: Dark Horse
Release date: 1987
Total running time: 41:16

Johannes Brahms – Sextet #1 in B Flat Maj. – Op. 18

Johannes Brahms - Sextet #1 in B Flat Maj. - Op. 18I’ll admit it, I only tracked this down after becoming obsessed with the short snippet of the Andante Ma Moderato movement featured in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Sarek. This CD pressing of a 1952 monaural performance sounds an awful lot like – no, make that exactly the same version used in a pivotal scene in that show. I was curious as to what else there was to this lovely piece of music, and was not disappointed; my interest in it has certainly rating: 3 out of 4transcended the means through which I discovered it. If you’re into very heavy, funereal chamber music, I give this my highest recommendation; it’s one of my favorite classical pieces of all time. The slow, stately, mournful second movement alone is worth the price of purchase.

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  1. Allegro ma non troppo (12:16)
  2. Adante, ma moderato (10:27)
  3. Scherzo – Allegro molto – Trio. Animato (2:53)
  4. Rondo – Poco allegretto e grazioso (11:08)

Released by: CBS Masterworks
Release date: 1952 (released on CD in 1988)
Total running time: 36:44

Moody Blues – Days Of Future Passed

Moody Blues - Days Of Future PassedI’ll probably be lynched for saying this, but here goes: Days Of Future Passed, not Sgt. Pepper, was the best rock album to come out in 1967. I can buy the arguments that Lennon and McCartney are/were masterful songwriters, and even that Sgt. Pepper was a huge technical leap for rock music. But the sheer beauty and depth of emotion with which the Moody Blues imbued their most famous – and so far unparallelled – album puts it light-years of the material the Beatles were turning out at the time. Days of Future Passed paints a humblingly poetic view of the progression of a single day, and the music keeps getting better as the “day” in question goes on. Naturally 4 out of 4everyone remembers “Tuesday Afternoon” – which was here titled “Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?)” – and “Nights In White Satin”, but my all-time favorite Moody Blues song has to be the exotic Mike Pinder tune “The Sun Set”. The combination of an unusual rhythm and the flowing orchestral melody never fail to entrance me. It’s definitely on my DNP Album List.

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  1. The Day Begins (5:55)
  2. Dawn is a Feeling (3:48)
  3. Another Morning (3:56)
  4. Peak Hour (5:27)
  5. Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?) / (Evening) Time to Get Away (8:24)
  6. The Sun Set / Twilight Time (6:40)
  7. Nights in White Satin (7:32)

Released by: Deram
Release date: 1967
Total running time: 41:42

Alan Parsons Project – Tales of Mystery & Imagination

Alan Parsons Project - Tales Of Mystery & Imagination: Edgar Allan PoeThis album kicks off a string of brilliantly executed studio concoctions attributed to a “band” of session musicians that have secured a place in my heart as one of my three favorite rock acts of all time. This first effort – which was originally intended to be the only one of its kind and, as such, was originally pressed on vinyl under the title of The Alan Parsons Project referring to the album and not the group performing it – sets the style for the remainder of the 1970s for the Project. A group of songs inspired by sundry poems and stories by Edgar Allan Poe ranges from chilling (“The Tell Tale Heart”, though a lot of the credit for the spinal shivers still belongs to the source material) to ethereally gorgeous (“To One In Paradise”, the last track). In between there lies mystery (“A Dream Within a Dream”, an instrumental which perfectly balances rock and classical elements, a Parsons4 out of 4 trademark in later years) and a huge, entirely instrumental orchestral suite depicting The Fall of the House of Usher, among other points of interest. The CD liner notes booklet is lavish and incredibly informative, and there’s an added treat in the form of two narrations recorded for the album by Orson Welles but omitted from the original LP release. Very uneven but highly recommended.

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  1. A Dream Within A Dream (4:13)
  2. The Raven (3:57)
  3. The Tell-Tale Heart (4:38)
  4. The Cask of Amontillado (4:33)
  5. (The System of) Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether (4:20)

    The Fall of the House of Usher:

  6. Prelude (7:02)
  7. Arrival (2:39)
  8. Intermezzo (1:00)
  9. Pavane (4:36)
  10. Fall (0:51)
  11. To One In Paradise (4:46)

Released by: Mercury
Release date: 1976
Total running time: 42:35

Star Trek: The Motion Picture – music by Jerry Goldsmith

Star Trek: The Motion Picture soundtrackThis Oscar-nominated score redefined the musical mindset of Star Trek and set a standard by which all future music for the Star Trek entity, whether in the theater or on TV, would be judged. (Need proof? What music did Star Trek: The Next Generation use for its theme?) This definitive Trek movie score has yet to be surpassed or even so much as equalled – not even by Goldsmith himself, who scored the fifth, eighth, ninth and tenth movies in the Trek saga as well as coining the theme music for the Voyager spinoff series. The unique combination of contemporary, ancient and futuristic sounds for the first Star Trek movie is indicative of the enormous scope of the story, and makes for some excellent listening away from the sound effects and dialogue. The traditional orchestral complement combines with the distinctive sound of something (!?) called the Blaster Beam (the signature sound of this movie, it sounds not unlike the combination of a distorted electric guitar and a chainsaw) and the gothic tones of the organ to produce a sweeping, awe-inspiring atmosphere. Countering that effect, this was the only Trek movie to date which required a genuine, sweeping, romantic love theme – which really says more about the nature of the later Star 4 out of 4Trek films than their successive composers. Due to the length of the movie and the length of the overbudgeted special effects sequences, Goldsmith’s score is prominent throughout the film, and there’s a lot of it. This is easily the best score ever to have graced any of the Star Trek movies.

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  1. Main Title / Klingon Battle (6:50)
  2. Leaving Drydock (3:29)
  3. The Cloud (5:00)
  4. The Enterprise (5:58)
  5. Ilia’s Theme (3:01)
  6. V’ger Flyover (4:56)
  7. The Meld (3:15)
  8. Spock Walk (4:17)
  9. End Title (3:16)

Released by: CBS
Release date: 1979
Total running time: 40:02

Star Trek: The Doomsday Machine / Amok Time

Star Trek soundtrackThis is more like it. And the choice of episodes couldn’t be better – the two acclaimed second-season episodes featured some of the most memorable music to be heard from this point on in the series. The late Sol Kaplan’s familiar, belligerent Doomsday Machine action cues often underscored tense situations for the rest of the series, and Gerald Fried’s exotic bass guitar from Amok Time became the signature theme for all things Spockish or otherwise Vulcan. The mastering on the 4 out of 4album is outstanding, and the liner notes on the composers are interesting. Highly recommended for any fans of the original Trek.

  1. Star Trek main title (1:00)

    The Doomsday Machine music by Sol Kaplan

  2. Approach of Enterprise / The Constellation (1:08)
  3. Going Aboard (1:38)
  4. Commander Matt Decker / The Crew That Was (1:56)
  5. What is Doomsday Machine / The Planet Killer (1:58)
  6. Strange Boom / Decker Takes Over (2:49)
  7. The New Commander / Light Beams / Tractor Beam (4:09)
  8. Violent Shakes (2:45)
  9. Spock Takes Command / Decker’s Foil / Sneaky Commodore (2:26)
  10. Goodbye Mr. Decker (3:10)
  11. Order this CD Condolences / Power Drain (1:09)
  12. Kirk Does It Again (3:45)
  13. One’s Enough (0:22)

    Amok Time music by Gerald Fried

  14. Vulcan Fanfare / Prying (0:46)
  15. Mr. Spock (1:22)
  16. Contrary Order (2:58)
  17. T’Pring (0:47)
  18. Marriage Council (1:51)
  19. Vulcan (1:03)
  20. The Processional (1:36)
  21. The Challenge (3:02)
  22. The Ritual / Ancient Battle / 2nd Kroykah (5:25)
  23. Remorse / Marriage Council II (1:12)
  24. Resignation / Lazarus Return / Pig’s Eye (0:42)
  25. Star Trek end title (0:47)

Released by: GNP Crescendo
Release date: 1991
Total running time: 41:04