Rock Operas, Episode II – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

After two side posts, here I am again with yet another rock opera. As promised, this time I bring you early Genesis (12 years before their hit Invisible Touch and 6 before Turn it on again) and their magnum-opus, their “big lump story of music”, in Peter Gabriel’s words.

The album tells the surreal story of a half Puerto Rican juvenile delinquent named Rael living in New York City, who is swept underground to face bizarre creatures and nightmarish dangers in order to rescue his brother John.

Their live shows were largely theatrical (check next picture), with Gabriel changing customs (check the last picture – a slipperman) a lot and with a lot of scenario-related props. However, they differed from their contemporaneous bands in that they still focused on presenting very well structured music, rather than only on the show, as Circus’ Ron Ross said:

“Where groups from the Who to ELP [Emerson, Lake and Palmer] impress their fans
visually with walls of amplified thunder-machinery, Genesis’ [sic] set is virtually bare of
electric equipment. Steve Hackett and Mike Rutherford’s amps are so well hidden that
their music often appears to emanate from the air itself. No mountains of synthesiser
technology surround Tony Banks. Aside from the panoramic three-part slide screen
and an odd little rock formation at the center of the stage, the most striking “prop” is
Phil Collins’ beautifully complete and well-ordered drum kit. It is almost a sculpture in
itself, but, of course, its function is strictly musical.”

The show would start with Peter Gabriel, dressed like a common pub-rocker, saying these words:

Good evening. We’ve written a big lump of story and music and we’d like to play the whole thing for you tonight. It tells of how a large black cloud descends into Time
Square and straddles out across 42nd Street, turns into a wall and sucks in Manhattan Island. Our hero, named Rael, crawls out of the subways of New York and is sucked
into the wall, to regain consciousness underground. This is the story of Rael.

Then, Tony Banks’ keyboard would sound, just like this:

For me, the best song of the whole 90 minutes is In The Cage, which deals with fear. At this point Rael has awakened trapped in a cave in a state of great fear and sensory agitation.

Probably one of the better know songs from this album is Carpet Crawlers:

Peter Gabriel as a Slipperman

I’m sorry for not explaining better the whole meaning of this, but, in opposition to the first episode the story is not as straightforward, having many dreams and creatures, and hidden meanings… There’s even books written about this, such as the very good  Genesis and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by Kevin Holm-Udson, from which I took some of the info here posted.

I really hope you liked this small sample of the great music created by Genesis, as I completely love their 70’s work..

Stay tuned for the next episode, Jesus Christ Superstar!

A treat to many of our viewers: Não percam o próximo episódio, porque nós, também não!

EDIT: If you want to read the whole story, here it is.

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A Great Musical Weekend: GAR2012

GAR2012 posterHi there!

Yes, I know what you’re thinking… “Not this guy again, please!” You thought you’d gotten rid of me, did you? Sorry to inform you that after a week I’m back and this time with 10 (ten!!!) artists on my luggage.

This weekend a progressive music festival took place in the beautiful city of Gouveia, on the side of Serra da Estrela (our biggest continental peak), the Gouveia Art Rock 2012. To celebrate the 10 years of the festival, they brought 10 artists, and I couldn’t miss it!

The atmosphere in the place was amazing and very open, I got to talk with the artists, even have a beer with them (and 100 more people :P) in the theater’s bar, and have them sign my festival’s programme 😀 It was really amazing to see live and even shake hands with bands I’ve been following for some years now, as well discovering new bands for my library 🙂 Now, for the music itself (click on the photos to see a music video):

(WARNING: Some of the pieces posted here are really unorthodox and require an open mind and careful listen)

 Click to see the video of Abîme Lazuli

A relatively new, dark and dense French band with very good musicians and a unique instrument: the léode.Great concert. The singer spoke (tried to) Portuguese.

Curved Air

A british band who, back in the 70’s, had a few minor hits and is fronted by the energetic and (back then) beloved Sonja Kristina. Very nice concert, showcasing every musician’s abilities. To note: Paul Sax the violinist, Kit Morgan the guitarist and Robert Norton the keyboardist.

 Click to see the video of Marie Antoinette
 Click to see the video of A Presença das Formigas A Presença das Formigas

The surprise of the festival. A breath of fresh air and simultaneously a very traditional Portuguese band. Loved the show, the voices, the instrumentation, the complex and still folksier sound.

Calomito

An avant-garde, jazzish Italian band. Very tight musicianship, complex arrangements and a drummer who speaks Portuguese with brazilian accent. Really nice concert.

 Click to see Parliamone
 Click to see Jordrok Änglagård (garden of angels)

This band was one of the most influential in the genre to be born on the 90’s. Sadly, they stopped making music in 94 and touring in 03. 9 years later, they reformed and played their 2ndconcert here in Portugal. On the luggage they brought 2 new songs that they’re going to release in the upcoming album.Amazing show, intricate arrangements, and a mix of brutal and quiet sound that make this Swedish band so special.

Univers Zéro

These guys were the founders (along with Henry Cow, and others) of a music movement, the Rock-in-Opposition back in the late 70’s.They are heavily influenced by dark, intense 20th century chamber music. Their music is not for everybody’s ears, but, then again, almost none of these bands are. Breathtaking show, with a lot of improvisation and amazing, very disciplined musicianship.

 Click to see them live at GAR
 Click to see Ile des Fievre Shylock

This is another comeback. These guys haven’t played live in 33 years, since the release of their second album, Ile de Fièvre. However, they still sound fresh and original, with very complex and unorthodox arrangements. Sadly the guitarist was with a terrible cold, but it didn’t transport into the music. Great show and an historical moment. Loved the energy of the drummer!

Patrizio Fariselli

This guy here founded one of the most important, and strange, I must say, Italian bands of the 70’s: Area. He is also an accomplished soundtrack composer and pianist. It was a thrill to see him play, alone with his piano, Area’s tunes, including a ancient greek piece with more than 2200 years!!

 Click to see Efstratios
 Click to see New World Strawbs(Acoustic)

I need not introduce this guys again, as I already did here.Their show was awesome! Dave Cousins guided us through their 40 years history like a story-teller, with many humorous moments in the good british way. Loved them!

Focus

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go to this 70’s dutch band concert, because of the 4/5 hours trip back home. However, I was able to shake hands with the very interesting Mr. Thijs Van Leer, the leader of the band. They play mostly instrumental rock, sometimes almost rock and roll, sometimes more mellow and melancholic. Worth listening to, really! Oh, I just remembered, you probably heard them in the Nike Commercial Write the Future in the part when Rooney misses a pass.

 Click to listen to Harem Scarem

Here and here are (portuguese) tv snippets about the 2009 and 2010 (where Hackett from Genesis played) editions.

Thank you for reaching this far in such a long post. I hope you’ve enjoyed it 🙂

Rock Operas, Episode I – The Wall

Rock opera. What the hell is a rock opera?

No, it doesn’t have opera singers singing over guitar riffs, bass lines and drum licks. It is rather a rock album that presents a storyline and a base theme spread throughout several songs and or parts in a similar way to an opera. It can be understood as a type of a concept album, of which you may already have heard.

Ok, but why am I bringing this subject? Because several rock operas have been hugely successful, and you have certainly heard some related songs.

I myself enjoy very much a rock opera, as we can hear a theme, both musical and lyrical, in different ways and varied instrumentations, for example. So, I’m going to start a series of posts regarding this matter.

Today’s post is about the most celebrated rock opera ever: The Wall by Pink Floyd! Who hasn’t heard the children choir singing “We don’t need no education” ?

In 1979, Pink Floyd released what would become their greatest worldwide success, an album (and a movie) that explores abandonment and isolation, symbolised by a metaphorical wall. The songs create an approximate storyline of events in the life of the protagonist, Pink, a character based on Waters, whose father was killed during the Second World War. Pink is oppressed by his overprotective mother, and tormented at school by tyrannical, abusive teachers. Each of these traumas become metaphorical “bricks in the wall”.

The protagonist eventually becomes a rock star, his relationships marred by infidelity, drug use, and outbursts of violence. As his marriage crumbles, he finishes building his wall, completing his isolation from human contact.

Hidden behind his wall, Pink’s crisis escalates, culminating in an hallucinatory on-stage performance where he believes that he is a fascist dictator performing at concerts similar to Neo-Nazi rallies, at which he sets men on fans he considers unworthy. Tormented with guilt, he places himself on trial, his inner judge ordering him to “tear down the wall”, opening Pink to the outside world. The album turns full circle with its closing words “Isn’t this where…”, the first words of the phrase that begins the album, “…we came in?”, with a continuation of the melody of the last song hinting at the cyclical nature of Waters’ theme.

On 1980, they had a small tour where they staged the whole album, similar to the movie that was also released (with Bob Geldof as Pink), with a wall being built and destroyed during the performance. Later, when the Berlin Wall was destroyed, Roger Waters (then already outside the Floyd) organized a huge concert with many guests in Berlin. 20 years later, he toured the world again recreating the 1980 concerts. I was fortunate enough to have witnessed the awesomeness that is The Wall! Check the whole concert here 😀

Ok, the post is growing long and I still haven’t posted what is considered David Gilmour’s best solo, and one of the best rock solos ever, Comfortably numb (in the recent Roger Waters tour)

Finally, one piece of music that I love from the movie: empty spaces / what shall we do now:

Hope you enjoyed this rather long description of one of the best albums ever, and stay tuned for the next rock opera:

The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by Genesis

Let’s break some rules, shall we?

Hey again!

Disclaimer: You’re about to hear groundbreaking music. I’m not responsible for any brain damage resultant from these videos.

Zappa's trademark moustache and goatee (taken from http://drbristol.wordpress.com/2009/08/19/blast-from-the-past-frank-zappa/)

Now seriously, today I’m gonna speak about Frank Zappa, one of the greatest guitarists (even musical performers, damn it) to have ever lived, and certainly one of the best composers in the late 20th century.

Ok, he was all that, but he was also completely nuts. Come on, the man wanted to name one of his sons Dweezil, and as the hospital didn’t permit, he named him Ian Donald Calvin Euclid Zappa, after the first names of his bandmates. Still, not the strangest name he gave to a kid 😛

One of the most amazing things about his sadly shortened career (he died of cancer in 1993) is the diversity of musical styles he offers in more than 60 albums, in which he covers rock, reggae, funk, classical, comedy rock, jazz, big band and what I like to call zappa-esque music.

As a great fan of the guitar, I obviously had to get to know mr. Zappa, as everyone has heard of him (unfortunately, not his music). However, the size of his musical output discouraged me, and Hot Rats, the album I tried, didn’t get my full attention then. As my musical acceptability grew wider, I took another shot of his music and was completely blown away. His live work is absolutely amazing and diverse! Try one of the You can’t do that on stage anymore volumes or the album The best band you never heard in your life and you’ll get my drift.

But, enough talking, time to be forget every musical rule and hear a fusion of every (good) style anyone ever invented 😀

In this video, Zappa and his band incorporate the song Owner of a lonely heart by Yes into his solo, in what is a very good mashup. You can see that he almost seems distracted and there only to conduct the band, but when he picks up his guitar, you are struck by his in-your-face solo! Another Zappa’s trademark are the lyrics, full of puns and jokes like this song, which starts with “Oh lord, the shit done hit the fan” and ends with “And the reason you have not seen her, seen her
Is she is underneath the lawn”..

Earlier in his career, he worked with a man nicknamed Captain Beefheart, who had a very peculiar voice. He sounded like a drunken sailor with a rusty voice, but that is what makes it nice 😛 A staple song from that era is Willie the pimp

And finally, if you enjoyed both songs, I’d advise you to listen to Zomby woof, another great song. If not, well, from my personal experience, I’d tell you to give it a try in a few months, his music is sometimes very intricate and difficult to digest..

Hope you liked the post, I sure enjoyed preparing myself to write it by diving into Zappa’s songs.. Oh, and sorry for the long post 😉