2016 – Favourite Music Acquired This Year

The year is coming to an end and what a year it has been. In the news there have been so many high profile deaths and many others of lesser fame yet still tragic losses to the music world. On the bright side, this is the year that I made a number of new musician friends whose music careers have been taking off or climbing steadily higher.

Since we are at the end of another year, it is time for me to post where my journey in music exploration has taken me this year. In some ways the year started out as usual. Orders placed at the end of 2015 were brought home in early January and by February I was checking out the top albums of 2015 on Prog Archives and seeing which ones I thought would be worth ordering. By spring I was back into music history, topping off my Canadian 70’s hard rock and metal and my 60’s garage band collection. Then I discovered the progressive music of Quebec in the 70’s and brought home over a dozen albums from those exciting days. There was a brief period of Slayer and Megadeth classics, and then by the end of the summer I was checking a few more recent prog albums before launching into a 2016 release festa. In fact, I ordered more new releases this year than any other year since the mid-eighties when I was rapaciously following everything metal.

Here are a few lists of songs and albums that I really enjoyed.

Albums of 2016

img_121810. Strategies by Jesus Munoz – Quite a surprise this one. Jesus Munoz is a Spanish amateur guitarist who recorded an album’s worth of music in 2015 and then released it with two additional tracks and a real drummer in 2016. His playing style reminds me of a cross between Steve Howe and Steve Morse. “The Limpid Green” is the track that stuck in my head the most, though nearly every track on the album is really great.

9. Distance by Structural Disorder – I heard about this band through the Facebook page, Progressive Rock Fanatics. The fact that they use an accordion as a lead instrument but make it sound like a synthesizer for most songs intrigued me. I pledged money toward their new album and I was not disappointed. Progressive metal with lots of atmosphere and beautiful slower parts included, I enjoyed listening to this several times before reviewing it.

8. The Perfect Map by Elephants of Scotland – An album that was getting some attention during the end of the summer, I picked it up in the fall and was impressed. Though the vocals need a little more something, the music is top notch modern prog.

7. The Clockwork Fable by Gandalf’s Fist – Three discs! And a concept album! What made this one stand out was not so much the great music but the narrative that it went with. While most narratives are told in the lyrics, this album has a cast of voice actors and comes across as a radio play with musical interludes. For the first two listens, I was more interested in the story than the songs!

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6. Land of Blue Echoes by Marco Ragni – An excellent psychedelic / space rock inspired album of progressive music. Marco released a new album a few months later, “California” which is also very good. It’s thanks to this album that I got to know guitarist Peter Matuchniak of Gekko Projekt.

5. Silence Between Sounds by Karmamoi – An Italian band that don’t sound like RPI, Karmamoi’s album will keep you guessing where each track will take you. Four female singers contribute to the vocals. Great music and singing!

4. Holophinium by KariBow – A perfect blend of melodic rock and progressive rock. Oliver Rusing’s KariBow has been a personal project for nearly 20 years. “Holophinium” was his big leap into having a band and including several guest musicians. He also rereleased an older album, “Man of Rust” in the fall.

3. Overwrite the Sin by Maglev – Another almost one-man-band, Joost Maglev’s first full-length progressive rock album is a treat. Five songs each with its own approach and expertly executed.

2. Evership – self-titled debut. What a class act this is! A perfect blend of modern prog with late seventies / early eighties progressive rock sounds. A real treat!

ctp

1. Hair in a G-String (Unfinished but Sweet) by Colin Tench Project. The subject of my previous post, let’s just say this is a blend of many styles, sounds terrific and is entertaining as well.

 

Favourite Songs of 2016 Purchases

fish-on-fridayOf course each of the above albums had songs that stuck in my head and demanded repeat plays, sometimes over the course of a week, sometimes coming back again and again. CTP’s “Part 4b”, Maglev’s “Judith”, Evership’s “Slow descent into Reality” and KariBow’s “Quantum Leap” were some of the songs that became favourites this year. But here are ten other songs from my 2016 purchases that were played well over a dozen times.

Orbit by Thundermug
Phasors on Stun by FM
Madman by Klaatu
Bloody Well Right by Supertramp (yes, I finally bought some Supertramp albums)
Back to the Stars by Rosenkreutz (one of the best 17-minute plus songs I’ve heard in a while)
A tout le monde by Megadeth
The Endless Knot by Haken
Tick-Tock by Fish on Friday
Meditations by Modern-Rock Ensemble
A ciel ouvert by Grandval

Harmonium_-_Si_On_Avait_Besoin_D'Une_Cinquième_Saison

Rock progressif Quebecois – 10 favourites
I wrote about the progressive rock of 1970’s Quebec in a previous post. Here are some favourite tracks.

En pleine face by Harmonium
Eclaircie by Et cetera
La marche des hommes by Morse Code (keyboard player Christian Simard passed away recently at age 67)
Vivre la mort by Pollen
Voisins (mon chum) by Vos Voisins
Les folleries by Maneige
Algebrique by Sloche
Agneau de Dieu by Dionysos
L’alarme a l’oeil by Contraction
Le chant du Guerrier by Octobre

coney-hatch-outa-handHere’s a list of five new favourites from the hard rock and metal of Canada of the late seventies through to the early nineties.

Turn It Loud by Headpins
Don’t Say Make Me by Coney Hatch
Too Much Carousing by Goddo
Under the Influence by Sven Gali
Metal on Metal by Anvil (such a classic)

nemo

 

Finally, I want to mention ten bands and artists that were mostly new to me whose albums impressed me enough to deserve their own list.

Cocoon by Tiger Moth Tales (Peter Jones)

Refuel by Rocket Scientists

The Road to Avalon by The Minstrel’s Ghost (Blake Carpenter)
Chapter One by Cell15 (Robert Scott Richardson)
Coma by Nemo
Ones & Zeros by 3rdegree
Who’s the Boss in the Factory by Karmakanic
Godspeed by Fish on Friday
The Ones I Condemn by Sacrifice (I’ve known about Sacrifice since the 80’s but this album really stands out)
Mood Swings by Harem Scarem

I want to close off with honourable mentions going to Peter Matuchniak’s solo work, GorMusik, Grandval, Yuka & Chronoship, Q65 (a Dutch garage rock band of the 60’s), and The Troggs (for some of their hard and heavy hitting music of the 60’s).

Guitar Rock Explosion!

Several years before the birth of heavy metal, in a time that is now recognized as the beginnings of punk rock, there existed various styles of aggressive and energetic guitar rock. On the English side of the Atlantic, young musicians were plugging in to a rock and roll band format but playing African American blues. Other bands were into the Mod beat music scene. Then one day, Ray Davies heard the American garage rock classic song “Louis Louis” and decided to try to write his own riff rock number. The result was the 1964 hit “Girl You Really Got Me” and its sibling “All Day and All of the Night”. This in turn inspired Who guitarist Pete Townshend to write “Can’t Explain”. In the final months of 1964, a single American garage rock hit had inspired three English riff rock classics.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic Ocean in the U.S. of A, garage rock bands who were busy tinkering with classic 50’s rock and roll, frat rock, and surf rock and turning it into proto-punk garage rock got a taste of the British Invasion. Beatles’ popularity aside, it was the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Who (self-described purveyors of “maximum R&B!”) and The Yardbirds that intrigued many bands to take on the English renditions of American blues and give these songs a shot of their own juice. Thus as the American garage rock scene was building up to boiling over, many bands took a decided and guided turn into adding English R&B to their set lists.

A big kick to both sides came in 1965. Previously used by select artists as an effects device for an occasional song or instrumental track, the fuzz box gained overnight popularity when The Rolling Stones’ new single “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” with its fuzz-toned memorable riff hit the charts. Before 1965 was over, bands on both sides of the Atlantic were testing the capacities of their speakers with the alien buzzing of the fuzz box.

the sonics

Were they loud to compete with the Boeings? The Sonics from Tacoma, Washington.

On the American side, Tacoma Washington’s The Sonics were already well-versed in overdriven, over the top classic rock and roll covers, giving them an unbridled, feral injection of power. Their 1964 single “The Witch” loudly proclaimed what this band was capable of and fully intended on doing, which was to push the needle into the red as far as possible. Back in jolly old England, The Pretty Things were turning their R&B sound into something grittier and dirtier, a sound that matched the image the band was also earning for themselves. Ronnie Wood started up his first recording band, The Birds, a band that frequently put an emphasis on hard-hitting guitars. Their cover of “Leaving Here” in 1965 would later be covered by Motorhead for their debut single.

pretty things

The Pretty Things: making long hair for men trendy since 1965.

In 1965, The Yardbirds lost Eric Clapton but gained Jeff Beck. Beck’s contribution to the band would be a harder edged sound with frequent diversions from standard English R&B to something that permitted fuzz box experimentation and loud, resonating power chords. Their urgent and charging cover of Johnny Brunette’s cover of “Train Kept A-Rollin’” became an inspiration to future bands and was covered in the 70’s by Aerosmith and Motorhead.

The typical sound set up of bands at this time, regardless of their preferred style(s), was a four or five member band with drums, bass, vocals and then usually either two guitars – one clean rhythm and one lead guitar often employing fuzz tone – or a keyboard. The Music Machine and The Seeds, both of California, chose Farfisa organs while The Artwoods in the U.K. had a young Jon Lord on Hammond organ. Original songs were typically about unfaithful girls. Some bands experimented with a harder, more aggressive sound for some of their songs while others may have only ever recorded a song or two that even come close to the proto-punk, proto-metal arena. Australia’s The Easybeats – featuring George Young, older brother to Malcolm and Angus Young of AC/DC fame – hit a few upbeat guitar rockers but changed their sound with the times. Meanwhile Eric Clapton left the Yardbirds when he felt they were not truly dedicated to the blues after recording the chart-making “For Your Love”. Still, bands like The Sonics, The Seeds, and The Troggs caught attention exactly because they went for volume, grit and edge.

shadows-of-knight2

They should have put the all of the taller guys in the back. Chicago’s The Shadows of Knight.

It was 1966 when this transatlantic breed of music hit its undisputed peak. From the American garage rock perspective, many bands began at last to release albums. The Remains released their one and only album, The Shadows of Knight released two long-players that year, and The Music Machine released an album in December. That last band deserve mention in particular because they combined the garage rock sound with the emerging psychedelic rock sound. They dressed all in black and dyed their hair black, down-tuned their instruments a semi-tone and built their own fuzz box. While their teen angst song “Talk Talk” became their one big hit, the band recorded mostly mature and intelligent songs about various topics such as women’s liberation, food waste, and environmental abuse. A good number of their songs feature heavy, fuzzed out guitar and leader Sean Bonniwell’s powerful, and at times acerbic vocals.

musicmachine_002

Making black the new black: The Music Machine

Another band that was about to blow the music apart but whose candle was snuffed out on the brink of stardom was California’s The Misunderstood. Originally a band chiefly inspired by The Yardbirds, The Misunderstood gained good fortune at each time their first two guitarists had to leave for the draft. The first time, they gained steal lap guitarist Glenn Campbell and the second time they gained English lead guitarist Tony Hill, who later formed the progressive heavy rock band High Tide. The band were in London, struggling to get a record deal when Hill joined and the chemistry between him and singer Rick Brown buzzed so well that they wrote out a song on the same day. Their rare six-track recording in London combined blues-inspired rock with a heavy flower power sound that was unlike anything in their day. No one would come close to that sound until at least 1968. Unfortunately for them and us, Brown was drafted and the band collapsed.

q65

Taking the long hair thing one step further: Q65 of the Netherlands

While garage rock was chiefly an American (and also Canadian) phenomenon and R&B had found a new sound in English rock bands, this music was not limited to two or three countries. There was a kind of zeitgeist that inspired teens and twenty-somethings around the world to try to play this more aggressive style of guitar rock. From Iceland to the Netherlands, from Australia and to Japan, fuzz-toned guitar rockers were cropping up everywhere. Some followed the garage rock sound, others went for the English R&B sound. Still others fused the emerging psychedelic sound into their songs. Not everyone was going for the level of intensity that The Sonics were and not everyone was trying to be the baddest boys on the block. For most bands, the pursuit of the chart-topping single was still paramount because it would mean the record company would be happy and there would be money to allow the bands to record more music. However, the desire to play harder, louder, heavier, and with more energy was made apparent in songs like “Louis Louis” as covered by The Sonics or The Troggs, The Yardbirds “I Ain’t Done Wrong”, Q65’s “Cry in the Night”, or Guess Who’s “It’s My Pride”.

Yardbirds_including_Page

The Yardbirds once boasted having Jeff Beck and Jimmie Page in the band.

The band who best brought heavy to a new definition had to have been Cream. Though their debut album in 1966 was essentially a blues album, the whole sound of the album was unlike anything that had gone before it. Mostly notably, “Spoonful” and “Toad” included guitar chords that were heavy enough to blow everything else out of the water until Blue Cheer’s “Summertime Blues” cover or Iron Butterfly’s “Iron Butterfly Theme” both released in January of 1968.

By 1966 the elements that would distinguish the future path differences between punk rock and heavy metal were already cropping up. Psychedelic music and progressive rock meant that bands who played songs constructed by simple three-chord riffs could now begin experimenting more with song structure, styles, and sound. Most of these mid-sixties rockers are associated with the proto-punk scene namely due to their rawness and simple, energetic, often angst-filled songs. Nevertheless, from a heavy metal perspective, energetic, guitar rock with guitar distortion, lead guitar solos, and driving riffs are what made heavy metal recognizable. Plenty of elements exist here among the proto-punk files.

creation1

Eddie Philips of The Creation in 1966: “Hey, Jimmie Page! I’ve got an idea. A bowed guitar!”

The final glory year was 1967. British R&B and Mod beat had given way to freakbeat, a kind of aggressive guitar rock style that strove for catchy vocal melodies. The Creation, The Action and The Attack managed to find degrees of chart success but soon after faced a critical turning point in the sound and of popular music. The Creation folded; The Action recorded a album’s worth of songs in a new style which was not released until decades later; and The Attack attempted to move toward a heavier British psychedelic sound before disbanding with guitarist Jon Cann then forming the early heavy progressive band Andromeda.

The+Litter

The Litter, a decent bunch o’ lads

Psychedelic rock, acid rock, and flower power were upsetting the garage rock scene in the U.S. Short, three-chord rockers about cheating girlfriends were no longer in vogue by 1967. Some bands like The Litter and The Amboy Dukes (the Ted Nugent-fronted version) released their debuts that year with decent success; however, by ’68 their styles were changing with the times. Bands the world over, in fact, were trying out new approaches that included more acoustic tracks, adding strings, more experimental and art rock styles, catchy pop rock and bubblegum songs aiming for the charts, and anything else that could hopefully ensure their survival in a rapidly changing popular music scene.

Above all of these changes in popular music was the appearance of Jimi Hendrix on the scene. Guitar playing was never the same afterward. There was simply so much more potential in electric guitar playing. By 1968, bands like Vanilla Fudge, Iron Butterfly, and Jefferson Airplane were bringing a completely different kind of guitar rock to the scene. For those earlier bands that survived, 1969 vindicated their persistence. Heavy blues rock, a new more evolved but still raw and aggressive garage rock, and the first generation of heavy metal music emerged from the other end of the peak psychedelic years. Hard and heavy guitar rock had a new sound.

Now, it’s interesting to look back to those years from late 1963 to 1967 when English R&B and American garage rock cross-pollinated and gave us often hard-hitting and testosterone-fueled rock that has earned the title of proto-punk but also holds many of the fundamental elements of heavy metal.

The Tench Connection

colin everything

In the summer of this year, Corvus Stone received a wave of praise from critics and also reviewers on Prog Archives for their download only release, Corvus Stone Unscrewed. The album was made available for free to people who had previously purchased the band’s albums (Corvus Stone, Corvus Stone II) and it included a menu of remixed songs and new material. Corvus Stone had already attracted much attention for their 2012 debut and won even more fans with last year’s sophomore album.

A multi-national band, Corvus Stone is comprised of Colin Tench – guitars, Pasi Koivu – keyboards, Petri “Lemmy” Lindstrom – bass, and Robert Wolff – drums and percussion, and is based in Sweden. Each member has his background and involvement with projects past and present, but of the four, one member’s history stands out as rather unexpected for a recording musician, one who jests that he’s not a professional even though he bloody well works like one.

The Long Road to London

Colin_TenchColin Tench had been an avid listener to music since a very young age; however, the thought of becoming a professional musician was not something he dwelled on with any degree of seriousness. Originally from England, Colin went to live in Sydney for three years and spent 11 months backpacking across Asia. During his stay in Sydney he began learning to play the guitar. He joined a band alongside some other blokes who were either from England or who had English parents, and they called themselves The Pommie Gentlemen. This humorous appellation would presage Colin’s approach to music in the distant future. The band played parties and joined Battle of the Bands, but by Colin’s own admission they were not particularly good. (An interesting footnote is that the drummer ended up playing on two tracks of Corvus Stone’s debut three decades later!) His band did, however, discover AC/DC’s original vocalist, Bon Scott in the audience one night.

Eventually, Colin made his way back to London via a six and a half month journey across Asia. The guitar was temporarily forgotten until Colin decided to audition for a new band called Odin of London. Both he and another guitarist, John Culley, passed the audition. It was only after the band got going that Culley revealed to the other members that he had been a member of Black Widow and Cressida – a professional with some serious seventies cred. Thus Odin was born there in London in 1981.

Odin of London performed in pubs but gradually grew tired of playing for small audiences. They hoped that by recording some of their material they might release a record and move up to bigger crowds. Unfortunately for them, every record company door they entered became a swift exit. The band folded, but not without three of the members putting their musical heads together to come up with a cunning plan for a new band project.

colin buncha

The end of Odin and the beginning of…

A Bunch of Keys

It was 1985 and Colin Tench, Gary Derrick and Cliff Deighton decided to put together an album of songs that would have absolutely no popularity whatsoever in the mid-eighties. With the discovery of the elusive fourth chord, they deigned to record an album of crossover prog (as those in the know might call it), something that they wanted to create for themselves – a notion that seems decades ahead of its time. Songs they could come up with, but money for studio time was another problem. A game of poker led the lads to the fortuitous encounter with a gentleman who was planning to build a recording studio. Before the evening was out, the three musicians had agreed to help build the studio in exchange for recording time (one wonders if any bets were lost). Thus began the music of Bun Chakeze and what was to be the seed from which would sprout the trunk bearing all of Colin’s musical projects 25 years later.

As the band’s music came together, lyrics were written for some songs. But who would sing them? At last, the band got a hold of a singer, Joey Lugassy, from California. The music had a strong progressive rock sway to it, and Joey did his best to deliver vocals for the songs. The resulting product was rather bold for the year of 1985 – a melange of styles including Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis, and other classic sounds of the 70’s – but as one could expect, no record companies were interested. Bun Chakeze packed up their instruments, and Colin packed his travel bags and went off in search of adventure in foreign lands… for 24 years!

colin buncha cover

The album that would change the world!

Chance Encounters

In 2010, Colin came in to roost and had John Culley on his mind (remember him from Odin of London?). They had been out of touch since 1985, and Colin decided to search for him on the Internet. As Culley had once been a member of Black Widow, Colin tried to get a hold of the fellow in charge of running the Black Widow web site, Pasi Koivu (this guy is instrumental, so to speak). The contact between these two men led to some important things happening in Colin’s life. First, Pasi got to hear some of Colin’s recordings from the 80’s and encouraged him to release the music. Odin of London became available as a download only but BunChakeze was released on CD. Colin began connecting with musicians and other interesting people on Facebook and came in contact with several who liked what they heard. Among them were artist Sonia Mota, singer Blake Carpenter, and musicians Stef and Yolanda Flaming. Then Pasi asked Colin to contribute some guitar to a piece he was working on. And that was where it started.

Over the next two years, remarkable things began happening for Colin and he found himself hauled fret board first into the world of a professional musician. Between 2011 and 2012, Colin formed Corvus Stone with Pasi Koivu, Petri Lindstrom, and Robert Wolff with Sonia Mota contributing artwork and opinions, and Blake Carpenter doing a bit of vocals. They released their debut album in 2012. Colin was also asked to play guitar for Blake Carpenter’s band The Minstrel’s Ghost and his album “The Road to Avalon”. Colin became an integral part of Andy John Bradford’s Oceans 5 and helped create the music for and played guitar on the album “Return to Mingulay”. In addition, Colin re-formed BunChakeze and also began working with other musicians and singers on his own Colin Tench Project. And as if playing in bands was not enough, Colin learned about mixing and mastering and mixed and mastered the debut album “Time Doesn’t Matter” by Stef and Yolanda Flaming’s band Murky Red. Not bad for a guy who hadn’t played guitar since Culture Club was popular!

A Modern Minstrel

Over the last few years, Colin has found himself keeping very busy. Aside from recording Corvus Stone II and the special follow up “Unscrewed”, Colin has been working on a few other projects such as the bands Coalition and Transmission Rails. As well, CTP is coming together, soon to be ready to release a full first album. Colin also played guitar for Andres E. Guazzelli’s symphonic rock peace “Wish You Could Hear” and mixed Murky Red’s second album “No Pocus Without Hocus” and squeezed in some lead guitar on one track. Finally, the project United Progressive Fraternity featuring many musicians and including legends Jon Anderson and Steve Hackett, includes Colin and his music.

colin double neckIt’s hard to imagine a musician with more irons in the fire than Colin. In addition to playing guitar and writing music, Colin also mixes, something he learned to do after he was not happy with the engineer’s job on an Oceans 5 recording, and has learned web page design. Once there was a time when bands had money and hired people to do these things. Now Colin, along with support from his trusted musician friends in Murky Red and painter Sonia, does a lot of different things for maintaining his band projects.

Colin’s playing style is at once easily identifiable with Corvus Stone and impressively diverse in his other projects. Often playing staccato notes reminiscent of Ritchie Blackmore, Colin has a chameleonic ability to adapt his playing suitably to different styles of music. He can adopt an almost flamenco style to his playing and add folk influences or go with a seventies rock groove or switch to symphonic prog guitar. One has to wonder though, after not having played for a quarter century, how does he do it? Colin admits that it is not easy – fingers and memory don’t work like they used to – though he says he can avoid making the same mistakes he did in the 80’s. Some other important points are that:

– He doesn’t take himself seriously though he certainly takes playing and recording seriously.
– He tries to make the most out of each note because he doesn’t play that many in a minute.
– He believes that more than shredding, making a guitar solo work with the melody of the music makes for a good guitar solo.
– He thinks of how to add a different twist to his music, go the opposite way from what might be expected..
– He has fun playing.
– His band Corvus Stone don’t try to sound like anybody and they don’t try NOT to sound like anybody.

Connections

Colin Tench has worked regularly with quite a few people. Here are some.

Blake Carpenter – Colin plays guitar on the album The Road to Avalon by Blake Carpenter’s band project The Minstrel’s Ghost. Blake sings on the Corvus Stone albums and is part of the band project, Coalition.

Sonia Mota – The painter who provides Corvus Stone with stunning artwork, she is also an ideas person who came up with the name for the band. She did the artwork for Oceans 5 and for Progeland, a band that includes Corvus Stone bassist Petri Lindstrom.

Stef Flaming – Colin’s good friend, Stef is involved in Transmission Rails with Colin, played bass in Oceans 5, and appears on Corvus Stone’s cover of Murky Red’s song “Boots for Hire”. Stef is the song-writer, artist, and vocalist for Murky Red and plays guitar as well. Colin mixed and mastered both Murky Red albums and plays lead on one song.

Phil Naro – Phil can be heard singing on some Corvus Stone songs, contributed vocals to the Coalition band project and sings on some tracks of the Colin Tench Project. Phil’s career goes back to the eighties when he played in TALLAS with Billy Sheehan. He currently sings with Unified Past.

Andres Guazzelli – Andres wrote and arranged some of the music on the Oceans 5 album and wrote his own 12-minute symphonic prog piece called “Wish You Could Hear” with Colin playing guitar.

With several band projects on the go at once, it’s difficult to guess where Colin’s machine heads will turn up next. His most recently released appearances are on the forthcoming United Progressive Fraternity album and a CTP release for Christmas called, “Natal”.

In just a few short years, Colin Tench is branching tendril-like into the prog scene. It must be all thanks to him discovering that fourth chord!

Corvus Stone home page

 

 

 

 

 

ron_-bon-scott-24169361-627-476

The Pommie who? No, I don’t ever remember seeing them.