Peter Gabriel – So

Peter Gabriel - SoThis album, and the singles “Sledgehammer” and “Big Time”, were my first real exposure to Peter Gabriel, which is the case with a lot of people. This is easily Gabriel’s most accessibly mainstream album, but even with that in mind, it bears more than a casual listen. And it’s still my favorite, mainly due to simple personal-significance-in-my-life sort of reasons. But while this may be Peter’s most mainstream album, featuring as it did the singles “Sledgehammer” and the nutso “Big Time” (which therefore makes the latter my favorite of the two), it also has my all-time favorite Gabriel tune, a haunting little number called “Mercy Street” which to this day sends shivers down my spine. How much of that is the song itself and how much is actually just the instinctive correlation between hearing the song and remembering certain events in my life, I can’t tell, because I can’t separate them anymore. Whenever I seek a profound personal catharsis, I put my headphones on, crank the volume, and sing along as best I can. Again, whew. Let’s see, what else? Oh yeah, Laurie Anderson also does a guest vocal on the memorable “This Is The Picture”.

4 out of 4While I give this album my highest recommendations and include it on my DNP Album List, it has one other distinction not shared by many of the other albums I’ve enjoyed and reviewed – it is incredibly important to me personally. Thank you, Pete.

Order this CD

  1. Red Rain (5:39)
  2. Sledgehammer (5:16)
  3. Don’t Give Up (6:33)
  4. That Voice Again (4:53)
  5. In Your Eyes (5:29)
  6. Mercy Street (6:21)
  7. Big Time (4:30)
  8. We Do What We’re Told: milgram’s 37 (3:22)
  9. This is the Picture: excellent birds (4:18)

Released by: Geffen
Release date: 1986
Total running time: 46:21

Art Of Noise – (Who’s Afraid Of?) The Art Of Noise

(Who's Afraid Of?) The Art Of NoiseMy first exposure to the Art of Noise was hearing the upbeat “Close (To The Edit)” on the end credits of some documentary about special effects and computer animation, and it stuck with me. When I finally found the album from which that song came, it was entirely different from anything I’ve heard before, though various elements of the Art of Noise sound have become fixtures in dance music here some twelve years later. Samples of loud, metallic crashes and bangs are common percussion elements, along with samples of other people’s music and voices. The beats are quirky and syncopated, Rating: 3 out of 4though elements of more conventional pop and even classical rear their heads occasionally. Hailing from 1984, this album’s sound may come across as dated to those accustomed to hearing drum machines and samples, but at the time there was nothing even remotely like it.

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  1. A Time For Fear (who’s afraid?) (4:43)
  2. Beat Box (diversion one) (8:33)
  3. Snapshot (1:02)
  4. Close (to the Edit) (5:41)
  5. Who’s Afraid (of the Art of Noise?) (4:22)
  6. Moments in Love (10:17)
  7. Momento (2:14)
  8. How to Kill (2:44)
  9. Realization (1:41)

Released by: Zang Tuum Tumb
Release date: 1984
Total running time: 41:17


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.

Order this CD

  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