Renaissance redux

Perhaps my enthusiasm made them think it would be more in keeping with what they would like.

Scheherazade and Other StoriesIn my recent prog rock post, I ended, “I own albums by FM, Electric Light Orchestra, Kansas, Renaissance, Supertramp, Genesis, and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, but not the ones listed.”


Then Arthur commented:

I don’t have most of the albums you talk about…, BUT the ones you list at the very end of this post, I want to know more about your connection to those. That’s because I had something by most of the bands you list, but you’re the only one I know who’s ever listed Renaissance. (I have two of their albums on vinyl and chose to bring them with me from America when I had to leave so many other things behind)

Let’s start with the group Renaissance. I must have heard them in New Paltz during my college days.

1977 was pretty much, from an emotional point of view, my annus horribilis, graduated from college but directionless. In the first months of the year, I was crashing on my parents’ sofa in Charlotte, NC. My birthday was coming up in March, and all I really wanted was Scheherazade and Other Stories, the 1975 album by the British group.

I received it, and I played it. I sensed a really unenthusiastic, albeit mostly unspoken, response from the family, especially my father, who said something like “Hmm” in that particular way he did when he was displeased. He had heard a variety of musical genres, Beatles, Stones, Young Rascals, Led Zeppelin on my turntable.

Yet, I got the clear impression that this particular group was just – I don’t know, how do I put it? – Too white? Too weird? Perhaps my enthusiasm made them think it would be more in keeping with what they would like. Or something; in any case, the rejection was a bit soul-crushing.

I played it all the more for that, but at the same time, it sucked much of the joy out of listening to it. I hadn’t heard it in years until I found it on YouTube. LISTEN. My, I love it all over again, especially side 2. I mean, the second half, which literally made me weep, as I anticipated movements I had not heard in three decades.

Anyway, less than two months after my birthday in 1977, I hitchhiked out of Charlotte, unannounced, and continued my wanderings. Did I take the LP with me, or did I have them ship it to me subsequently? I have no idea.

Coincidentally, this is an album that the Wife – even younger than YOU, Arthur 😉 – was familiar with, because her college roommate Alison played the music of the group incessantly.

Other prog rock groups

FM – I misremembered; I have a couple by a duo called AMFM, at least one of which I got from a Kickstarter sale by their label, Polyvinyl.

Electric Light Orchestra – A New World Record on CD, plus extra songs. Also, a greatest hits CD. Saw Jeff Lynne’s ELO perform a song from Alone in the Universe, the 2015 album, on CBS This Morning Saturday in November.

Kansas – just a greatest hits CD.

Supertramp – Crime of the Century and Breakfast in America on vinyl. Had to burn a copy of the latter onto CD, because I LOVE that album.

Genesis – I own none of the Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, though I have a LOT of solo Gabriel. Abacab (1981), Genesis (1983), Invisible Touch (1986), We Can’t Dance (1991), the latter two on CD, plus the greatest hits.

Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention – Vinyl: Fillmore East – June 1971. CD – Jazz from Hell, You Can’t Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 1 (show from 1974, released in 1988), the compilation album Strictly Genteel, the single Peaches en Regalia, and a greatest hits album.

Arthur also asked:

I’ve since had time to follow the link and saw there were a lot I’d never heard of. Which made me wonder, Roger: How many of those, if any, had YOU not heard of?

LOTS. 50-45, 42, 41, 39, 38, 36, 35, 29, 26-24, and 19.

December rambling #1: your first draft

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Now I Know: Gator Aid and How to Make the World’s Best Paper Airplane.

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The Jaquandor section

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GOOGLE alerts (me)

Time to Ask Arthur Anything. He answered mine about Prez and Veep candidates and Ranking the Republican candidates and The USA’s gun problem.

SamraiFrog’s 50 Greatest Prog Rock Albums.

Twing toustlers.

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St Peter’s set for £1.2 million renovation. “Admitting to being “very nervous” about taking on the large-scale project, Friends chairman Roger Green, who this year won an award for his volunteering, has agreed to stay on and see through the changes, which are not likely to be complete until at least the end of 2019.”

50 Greatest Prog Rock Albums of All Time

In the Court of the Crimson King I played a great deal in high school AND college, preferably very loudly

fragile.yesYeah, another Rolling Stone list, this time of “progressive rock” albums that I own. I’m not sure what the term “prog rock” means, precisely, but I hope, now that Rush has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013, that Emerson, Lake & Palmer; King Crimson; and especially Yes get in one of these years.

17. Mike Oldfield, ‘Tubular Bells’ (1973): 45 weeks on the charts, getting to #3

I never actually SAW the movie The Exorcist, yet I associate the album with the film’s foreboding theme. There’s so much more to the album.

My favorite part is that weird section “where ‘master of ceremonies’ Vivian Stanshall mock-pretentiously introduces an array of instruments — ‘glockenspiel!’ and ‘two slightly. . .distorted guitars’ — à la the Bonzo Dog Band,” which I think is a hoot. And Oldfield wasn’t even 20 yet!

LISTEN to Tubular Bells intro.

12. Emerson, Lake and Palmer, ‘Brain Salad Surgery’ (1973): 47 weeks on the charts, getting to #11

That first ELP album, the one with Lucky Man, whose synthesizer I could replicate, I listened to A LOT in college. I haven’t heard this album in a while, though, as I have it on vinyl. For years, my secret fantasy was to have ELP play ‘Jerusalem’ at my former church, which has a fine organ.

LISTEN to Jerusalem and
Still You Turn Me On.

10. Yes, ‘Fragile’ (1971): 46 weeks on the charts, getting to #4

I also listened to this album A LOT at college, probably once a week during my freshman year. It was/is hypnotic. I didn’t know, or particularly care, what the lyrics were.

LISTEN to Roundabout and
Long Distance Runaround.

7. Jethro Tull, ‘Thick as a Brick’ (1972), 46 weeks on the charts, getting to #1 for two weeks

This album I didn’t play very often, though I love that introductory narrative. Not nearly my favorite Tull album, as I preferred Aqualung and especially Songs from the Wood.

LISTEN to Thick As A Brick intro.

5. Yes, ‘Close to the Edge’ (1972), 32 weeks on the charts, getting to #3

Actually, I much prefer ‘Fragile’. This album consists of only three very long songs that were so exhausting to record that “when recording for the album finished, drummer Bill Bruford had grown tired of the band’s style and songwriting methods and left to join King Crimson.”

LISTEN to Close To The Edge, which took up all of Side 1 on the LP.

2. King Crimson, ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ (1969), 25 weeks on the charts, getting to #28

Now, THIS album I played a great deal in high school AND college, preferably very loudly. I especially loved the first song, and the title track, the two songs my friend put on a six-CD set of 1960s music.

I also related to the sentence in another song, “Confusion will be my epitaph.”

A few years ago, around Christmas, I heard Power by Kayne West, which samples the vocal from “Schizoid Man”; I thought was DREADFUL. The original version, incidentally, was dedicated to Spiro Agnew, Vice President of the US under President Richard Nixon.

LISTEN to Side one of the album In the Court of the Crimson King: 21st Century Schizoid Man, I Talk to the Wind and Epitaph (including March for No Reason and Tomorrow and Tomorrow)

1. Pink Floyd, ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ (1973): 741 weeks on the charts!, only 1 week at #1

The group’s eighth LP was one of the best-selling albums worldwide, ever, with an estimated 50 million copies sold. It was on the Billboard charts from 1973 to 1988. It’s often considered one of the greatest albums of all time.

But I didn’t buy it right away. In fact, I may have purchased The Wall in 1980 or 1981 before finally picking up Dark Side. I liked the single Money (#13 in 1973) but was turned off by the album’s seemingly cultish admiration. But I DO like it.

As Rolling Stone noted:
“From its sync-up with The Wizard of Oz (press play after the lion’s third roar) to the Flaming Lips and friends’ track-for-track covers project to Krusty the Clown’s lost Dark Side of the Moonpie to the endless hawking of the prism-and-rainbow logo, the album has endured as a pop-culture touchstone since its release.”

LISTEN to the whole album HERE or HERE or HERE.

I own albums by FM, Electric Light Orchestra, Kansas, Renaissance, Supertramp, Genesis, and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, but not the ones listed.

My favorite music: an iteration

I’m not at all sure what constitutes progressive rock.

music-notesArthur the AmeriNZ asks:

Over the years, you’ve mentioned songs and albums you loved, and you’ve shared various rankings, or, at least, lists. Do you have a personal “Top Ten” of songs, and is it static or ever-changing? Both songs and albums, by the way.

The easy part to answer is that the lists are ever-changing.

Let’s try the songs:

10. You Won’t See Me-The Beatles.
I realized in the last five years that it is the Mal Evans sustained chord on the Hammond organ throughout the last verse, last chorus, and outro that gives this McCartney song a special buzz.

9. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow – Carole King
Featuring the Mitchell-Taylor Boy and Girl Chorus. This arrangement practically begs for a cappella singing. From Tapestry, which I played so much, I wore out the LP.

8. River – Joni Mitchell
For lots of reasons, this reminds me of my late friend Donna.

7. Neil Young – Harvest Moon
Dancing in the living room with someone I loved.

6. Crying- Roy Orbison And k.d lang
Better than Roy by himself. And reminds me of the same past love.

5. John Hiatt – Have a Little Faith in Me
A key song on a mixed tape I made for my now-wife.

4. Billy Joel-Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)
Lots of songs about loss here. I heard an a cappella version of this, which was lovely.

3. Roberta Flack – Gone Away.
This song, part of the group of songs I used to play when love went south, really builds after the 1:30 mark, with instruments (a painful guitar line, and is that a tuba?) plus mournful vocals that feature the late Donny Hathaway.

2. I Only Have Eyes For You – the Flamingoes
My first favorite song.

1. God Only Knows – The Beach Boys
Brian and Carl Wilson pray together before the recording, and it’s almost palpable. The BBC version has only enhanced by feeling for the original.

Interesting that 7 of the 10 were in the Top 10 last time I did something like this, in 2008, and nine of the ten were in the Top 25.

Not sure I ever made an album list that crossed the decades, though. I had a 1950s list, 1960s list, and a later list or two. I’m reminded of the fact that the album lists I DID make were constrained by the fact that I couldn’t pick the greatest hits albums. No such problem now!

On the other hand, this list is suspect. I accept the albums ranking from the 1960s, which I evaluated thoroughly. The 1970s has so many GREAT albums that, if I bit the bullet and actually looked at a list, some might rank higher here; ditto the 1980s. But this is a blog, not a dissertation, so I shan’t sweat it much.

10. Jesus Christ Superstar (1970)
The source of a lot of theological discussions in my circle of friends.

9. Speaking in Tongues – Talking Heads (1983)
The album that came out around the time I saw them live.

8. Sly & the Family Stone – Greatest Hits (1970)
Features two or three songs that hadn’t been on an album to that point. A tremendous collection.

7. Who’s Next – The Who (1971)
Listened to this incessantly, even last decade.

6. Talking Book – Stevie Wonder (1972)
I could have picked any of those Stevie albums from this one through Songs In The Key of Life, but this one asserts his sonic independence.

5. Peter Gabriel (3 -Melt)- Peter Gabriel (1980)
The one with Games without Frontiers and Biko. When I thought of the top albums for 1971-1980, there were two sure things; this was one of them.

4. Beach Boys: Pet Sounds (1966)
It’s pretty much perfect from beginning to end. Paul McCartney gave copies to all his children as an example of great music.

3. West Side Story soundtrack (1961)
Seeing this movie was transformational. But it wasn’t just the story, it was the music.

2. Still Crazy After All These Years – Paul Simon (1975)
This was a breakup album for me. It remains an important album for me. I wrote about it HERE.

1. Revolver – The Beatles (1966)
From a kiddie tune (‘Yellow Submarine’) to painful songs about loss (‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘For No One’), a most eclectic album.
Jaquandor wants to know:

Prog rock. Are you a fan or not, and if so, which bands?

I’m not at all sure what constitutes progressive rock. Sure there’s Procol Harum, Yes, King Crimson, early Genesis, ELP. But I looked on the list and also found The Beatles, Todd Rundgren, Deep Purple, ELO, Queen, Renaissance, all of which I own, and none of which I would have thought of.

But yes, I like it, especially Yes and King Crimson, both of which belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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