Steve Morse Band

REVIEW: Deep Purple – In Concert with the London Symphony Orchestra (1999)

Thanks for joining me this week for Purple Week at mikeladano.com.  Today is Part 5 and the last album for now.    But don’t worry, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Deep Purple around these parts…  

Part 1:  Shades of Deep Purple
Part 2:  The Book of Taliesyn
Part 3:  Perfect Strangers
Part 4: Whitesnake Live in ’84 – Back to the Bone
Part 5:  In Concert with the London Symphony Orchestra 

DEEP PURPLE – In Concert with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Paul Mann (1999 Eagle Records)

The original Concerto for Group and Orchestra (1969) was Jon Lord’s baby.  The rest of the band didn’t care too much for it, and it had only ever been performed twice.  The Albert Hall recording became a successful live album, and it was performed once more in Los Angeles.  Soon after, the original score was lost, permanently.  Even if Deep Purple wanted to (and let’s face it, if Blackmore were in the band he’d probably say no), it could never be performed again without the sheet music.

I’ll let Jon Lord take it from here.  From the liner notes to the CD:

“Marco de Goeij, a young Dutch composer…had decided to re-create it by listening to the recording and watching the video.  Over and over and over again.  A task of mind-bending complexity, dexterity and musicality, which then only left me the far simpler job of filling in what he had been unable to decipher, re-creating what I could remember of my original orchestration, and in part, as those who know the work will hear, re-composing where I felt it needed it.”

Conductor Paul Mann had independently been searching for the original lost manuscript.  When Jon informed him of the re-created one, Mann was on board with the London Symphony to do it once more.  Deep Purple now had a new guitar player, Steve Morse, who undoubtedly would have to bring his own slant to the guitar solos.  For Jon and the fans, it’s the stuff of wishes come true.

Since the Concerto was really Lord’s project, it seems like a fair compromise for each of the members of Deep Purple to also get a moment or two to showcase their solo work.  In fact many musicians from those solo works are welcomed to the stage, including the Steve Morse Band, Ronnie James Dio, Mickey Lee Soule (ex-Rainbow and ex-Gillan), Sam Brown, and more.  Deep Purple fans are generally open to different styles of music, and this album showcases those styles in a professional, classy format.

Once again at the Albert Hall, the set commences with a disc highlighting the solo careers. Lord’s “Pictured Within” (with Miller Anderson)  and “Wait a While” (with Sam Brown) begin the proceedings with a quiet, powerful pair of songs backed by Jon’s piano and dramatic strings. These versions are, dare-I-say-it, superior to the original studio versions.

From there, Roger Glover’s solo career gets a looksee, with “Sitting in a Dream” and the irresistibly bouncy “Love is All”, my favourite. Ronnie James Dio reprises his vocals from the original Butterfly Ball versions, sounding as great as he did nearly 30 years prior!  It really is impossible not to like “Love is All”, which of the two is especially fun.

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In 1988, Ian Gillan and Roger Glover did a project together called Accidentally on Purpose, a quirky tropical pop rock album.  “Via Miami” is one of the more upbeat tracks from that album.  Ian’s “That’s Why God is Singing the Blues” features his solo band’s guitarist Steve Morris (not Morse!)  Both it and “Via Miami” spark and roll along joyfully.

Steve Morse (not Morris!) is up next with the Dixie Dregs’ “Take it Off The Top”.  It’s the Steve Morse Band and the Kick Horns.  It’s always a pleasure to listen to Dave LaRue, Van Romaine, and Steve Morse playing together, but to hear them at the Albert Hall?  That’s a venue suitable to the genius they wrench from strings and wood.  Graham Preskett joins on violin to dual Morse with string acrobatics.

Ian Paice’s spotlight song is a horn-laden jazz version of Purple’s “Wring That Neck”. This is my kinda jazz, the kind with a rock beat you can swing to!  The violin solo lends it a bluegrass feel, too. The first CD ends with a powerfully heavy “Pictures From Home”, originally from the immortal Machine Head record, performed by Deep Purple with the London Symphony.  It’s a powerful, dramatic song on which for the full Deep Purple to enter.

Disc two features the entire Concerto from start to finish, all three movements, roughly 50 minutes in length. This truly was Lord’s baby, the piece that kept him up nights in 1968 and 1969 writing little black notes on white paper. It made Deep Purple a unique property when it was released on LP 1969, but had not been heard live in 30 years. Purple fans will be in seventh heaven with this de-extinction. Indeed, Morse’s guitar is different, but he hits the right notes at the right time while still playing within his style.  Otherwise, I’ll be damned but I can’t tell the difference.

What can I say of the Concerto itself?  I think it’s pretty cool, and I’ve always geeked out to stuff like this.  Jon envisioned it as “rock band meets orchestra” — at first they say hello, and play around, then they start shouting at each other, and before long it’s all-out war!  Speaking of shouting, my favourite is probably Movement II, which has Gillan’s all-too-brief but oh-so-perfect vocal.

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The disc concludes with three more (three Morse?) of recent vintage. “Ted The Mechanic” and “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming” are two of the best songs from Purpendicular, and “Watching The Sky” is probably the heaviest song from Abandon. I personally feel that all the Abandon material was better live than on album, and “Watching The Sky” maintains that.  Unfortunately none of the Abandon songs were really that great.

Of course, “Smoke On The Water” ends the album with guests returning, including Ronnie James Dio who takes a verse. “What do you think Ronnie!”  Then the Elf himself is up at the microphone singing “Smoke on the Water” with Blackmore’s old band Deep Purple.  I shouldn’t need to tell you that this is one of my all-time favourite live versions of “Smoke”.

This album, which ended up being one of Lord’s last with Purple, was really a special gift to the fans. It is a beautifully crafted live performance containing some of the rarest of the rare gems in the extended Purple canon. An event like this will never happen again. There is a DVD of this show, but beware, it is only about 2/3 of the set.  What a disappointment that DVD version was.  You want every moment, but you won’t get it.

If you do hunger for more after this, then you can binge on The Soundboard Series 12 CD boxed set. It consists of 6 shows, two of which featured full live performances of the Concerto, with guests such as (yup!) Ronnie James Dio. There is also Live at the Rotterdam Ahoy which lacks the Concerto portion, but makes up for it with a more extensive set of classic rockers, including Dio’s own “Rainbow In The Dark” and “Fever Dreams”!…But that’s another review.

5/5 stars. For the true fan, and anybody who’s not afraid to expand their listening territory.

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REVIEW: Flying Colors – Live In Europe (2013)

FLYING COLORS – Live In Europe (2013 Mascot Music)

There hasn’t been a new band that got me going like Flying Colors did in a dog’s age.  Their 2012 debut is a fantastic album, and it’s only grown on me more since I first reviewed it.  Songs like “Kayla”, “The Storm”, and “Shoulda Coulda Woulda” had me hooked on repeat — in the car, at home, it didn’t matter.  Flying Colors has been on constantly for months.

That’s why I decided to get the double Live In Europe CD.  I had to have more.  Who cares that it’s a double live album immediately following a debut!  All 11 songs from that album are here, plus covers and songs from each member’s past.  I am glad to report that Live In Europe is as stunning as the debut, even over its long running time.  When you have a band made up of guys like Mike Portnoy, Steve Morse, Dave LaRue, Neal Morse and Casey McPherson, you can count on a live show full of explosive instrumental pyrotechnics.  And that is present.  But it’s the quality of the songs and the humour of the band that makes it special.

The band open the set with three album tracks in a row, each different from the last.  “Blue Ocean” is the long, breezy opener, which is followed by the pummeling “Shoulda Coulda Woulda”.  Then, “Love Is What I’m Waiting For” is more soulful.  All three are outstanding songs with stunning playing.

Portnoy does most of the talking, but Casey McPherson gets the first solo outing.  “Can’t Find a Way” is from his former band Endochine, but played by Flying Colors, it fits seemlessly in the set.  Its soft vibe is similar to some of the quieter material on Flying Colors, and McPherson’s emotive vocals set it apart.  Steve Morse throws down one of his classic solos and seals the deal.  This powerful number could have been on the album easily.   They follow this one with my favourite song, “The Storm,” and the whole place ignites.

From 1978’s What If album comes the Dixie Dregs’ “Oddyssey”.  Since Flying Colors don’t have a violin player, it’s very different, but every bit as jumpy and complicated.  Coming back to something a little more straightforward, the band rock out to “Forever In A Daze.”  Then McPherson stuns the crowd with Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”.  Yeah, it’s been a trendy song to cover lately, but when you pull it off as well as MacPherson does, why not?

The first CD ends with a mellow “Better Than Walking Away,” and by now a Flying Colors concert already feels like an emotionally uplifting experience.  It is a song like this that underlines not just the chops, but the melodic tendencies of this band.  It’s always fun to listen to a bunch of guys shred for 90 minutes, but it’s even better when they play a bunch of great songs, too.

The second CD commences with “Kayla,” which to me is already a classic.  The vocal harmonies of Neal Morse and Casey McPherson really dance.  After this, Mike Portnoy takes over, at the request of Neal Morse, sings lead on his “Fool In My Heart.”  I quite this swinging little ballad, and there’s nothing wrong with Portnoy’s vocal.  Dave LaRue’s solo piece, “Spur of the Moment,” leads into a Dream Theater classic.  “Repentance,” from 2007’s excellent Systematic Chaos, is part of Mike’s “12 Step Suite.”  As such it’s only fitting that he sings it himself.  It’s not the whole 10 minute version, it’s pretty much just the first half, “Regret.”  But it is every bit as powerful as Dream Theater’s original, yet very different.

From 1998’s The Kindness Of Strangers, Neal Morse performs “June” by Spock’s Beard.  This bright ballad enables McPherson and Portnoy to harmonize very nicely with Morse.   It’s certainly a nice respite before the slamming “All Falls Down.”  After the band lays waste with that tune, it’s only epics from there forward.  From the album, 8 minutes of “Everything Changes” is only topped by 12 minutes of “Infinite Fire”.  While these two are still “songs,” the shredders get their wishes granted with some long-bomb jams.

In a band like Flying Colors, you can’t single out any one player as an MVP.  It seems like a band powered by all five members equally.  Having said that, Steve’s Morse’s guitar solos are always a treat, and it also a pleasure to hear the rhythm section of LaRue and Portnoy gel like this.  They give the whole album a tremendous pulse.  Turn up your bass and see what I mean.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Flying Colors – Flying Colors (2012)

 

FLYING COLORS – Flying Colors (2012 Mascot Music)

How many bands is Mike Portnoy in anyway?  I have no idea, but I’ve bought many of them over the years.  Flying Colors is another, a supergroup featuring Steve Morse, the unrelated Neal Morse of Spock’s Beard, Dave LaRue from Steve Morse Band, and Casey McPherson of Alpha Rev.  McPherson is the only one I’m not familiar with from elsewhere, and he handles lead vocals as well as keyboards and guitar.  Peter Collins (Rush) produces, a man who knows plenty about progressive rock that gets played on the radio.

FLYING COLORS_0004Together they created an accessible album of jaw-dropping chops but also something melodically engrossing.  While these guys are all primarily renowned as musician’s musicians, together it seems they know how to write a song or two.  The 7-minute opener “Blue Ocean” is a great example.  It’s very hard to describe because it’s not any one thing.  It has a hypnotically cool lead vocal, but backed by a neat shuffle and Morse’s trademark hybrid style.

“Shoulda Coulda Woulda” is a heavy one, again with a hypnotic vocal.  It’s unforgettable and one of the most powerful tunes.  Steve Morse lays yet another awesome guitar solo on top of it.  It’s not how many notes he plays or how fast he plays them.  It’s what he wrenches out of them.  Then like a 180, “Kayla” opens with some gorgeous classical guitar, as if we switched to a Blackmore’s Night album!  But this is temporary; “Kayla” is a sparse mid-tempo rock song, with an anthemic chorus.  “Kayla” is one of the most instantly catchy moments on Flying Colors.  The vocal harmonies in the middle section are killer.

This is followed by my favourite tune, the radio-ready “The Storm”.  The chorus here is the best one on the album, powerful and layered.  The verses are soft and melodic; commercial rock goodness.  Portnoy perfectly compliments the song without overplaying.  Only a classic Steve Morse solo could further elevate “The Storm” to the heavens, and that’s exactly what happens.

LaRue funks it up a bit on “Forever in a Daze” which thumps along nicely.  “Love is What I’m Waiting For” has a Beatles vibe, which is interesting enough.  It’s probably worthy of radio play in a perfect world.  “Everything Changes” is another 7 minute long-bomber, and I don’t want to call it a ballad, so I’ll call it “quiet”.  It’s an epic.  It has acoustic guitars and strings and all kinds of cool stuff, including plenty of electric Morse.  Once again, I hear Beatles.

The introspective “Better Than Walking Away” is another really good song, soft and pretty but lyrically intense.  Then like a cold slap in the face comes “All Falls Down”.  This the most “metal” moment on the album, a blazing blitzkrieg of guitars and drums.  It’s over in 3 minutes and 20 seconds, but it’ll leave you knocked out.  I really love the vocals on this song too.

Approaching the end, “Fool in My Heart” is a slow dance.  Its melodies are warm and classic sounding.  This serves to cleanse the palette  before the final 12 minute feast of “Infinite Fire”.  It’s one of my favourites, and it’s over more quickly than it seems it should be.  It doesn’t wear out its welcome; it has a bit of everything in it including melody and spellbinding playing.

How the hell have Portnoy and Morse managed to put out multiple great albums in 2013 is beyond me.  Why are guys like these not the biggest rock stars on the planet?  Thankfully, a live album and second studio record are on their way.

4/5 stars

FURTHER READING:

REVIEW: Steve Morse Band – StressFest (1996)

STEVE MORSE BAND – StressFest (1996 BMG)

Steve Morse certainly needs no introduction here.  What’s incredible is that the dude joined Deep Purple in 1994, released a Steve Morse Band album in ’95 (Structural Damage), and then both Deep Purple and SMB albums in 1996.  Even more incredible when you consider that Morse wrote all the material for the SMB albums himself, and co-wrote every track on Purple’s Purpendicular.  The man seems to have no shortage of ideas.

StressFest is another reliable Steve Morse Band album.  Joined by Dave LaRue and Van Romaine once more, the band  created another textured, varied album that skirts multiple genres with jaw-dropping chops.  There are traditional sounding electric blues jams like “Live to Ride”, more delicate moments, blazing guitars, funk, jazz, bluegrass, rock…a little bit of everything.

One cool tune is “4 Minutes To Live”, a soft composition with a “piano part” that is actually Steve playing through a guitar synthesizer.  But don’t let that scare you.  There are plenty of 64th-note thrills and chills, fast picking and deep bends.  Backed with the inventive drums of Romaine and the bouncy bass of LaRue, Morse’s songs are a challenging but rewarding listen.

STRESSFEST_0003What’s especially cool (and reason enough to check out an album like this) is, even though both Deep Purple and the Steve Morse Band are loosely classified as having some sort of relationship with progressive rock and serious musicianship, the music they create is nothing alike.  Morse’s guitar is the foundation of both, but there’s little overlap.  StressFest‘s songs wouldn’t work as a Deep Purple album, even though there are elements of them that could.  Likewise, Deep Purple’s material in general is quite different from the Steve Morse Band.

I remember my parents brought this CD back home to me from Michigan, because you couldn’t get it in Canada, even though it was distributed by a major label.  Sadly, it is still only available on import in Canada.  Bad, Canada!  Bad, bad Canada.

4/5 stars

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I love the cover art; that does look like a stressful day indeed!

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Rapture of the Deep (2 CD special edition)

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DEEP PURPLE – Rapture of the Deep (2 CD special edition, 2006 Eagle Rock)

Deep Purple, that hard rock institution that formed back in ’68, has been at it nearly non-stop with critically acclaimed albums and tours since reforming back in ’84. Lineup changes ensued, but by and large the band has retained its integrity even if only one member of the original ’68 lineup remains (drummer Ian Paice). However, this lineup of Purple is still 3/5 of the classic “Mark II” lineup that recorded Machine Head and Perfect Strangers, and is chock full of rock royalty.

Vocalist Ian Gillan is intact, his voice no longer screaming, but still unique and recognizable as a one-of-a-kind. His partner in crime, bassist Roger Glover is here, joining drummer Paice to complete the legendary rhythm section. On guitar is Steve Morse (Dixie Dregs), first joining Purple in ’95 and this being his fourth studio album. “New kid” in the band is keyboardist Don Airey, celebrating his second Purple album here, but no stranger to these guys from his work with Rainbow, Whitesnake, Ozzy and many more.

Airey’s first album with Purple, 2003’s Bananas, was a reboot of sorts. Gone was original member (and legend on the Hammond) the late Jon Lord, for the first time ever in Purple’s history. Also new on board was producer Michael Bradford, who was very much a collaborator. Bananas was a great album, but perhaps a little too commercial for Purple in the long run? Rapture Of The Deep is an attempt to steer Purple back to the sounds of ’71 while still retaining the modern edge that they gained with Bradford. It is raw and uncompromising, not slick at all, definitely and defiantly Deep Purple.

Purple and Bradford have produced here an album that is not an easy first listen, but a very rewarding 6th or 7th listen. If you give it a chance it will become a favourite. Keep in mind, these guys are musicians of the 60’s and 70’s. Back when people still had attention spans, you were supposed to listen to an album 6 or 7 times, usually in one night!

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“Money Talks” kicks off the album with the growl of a Hammond B3, that’s how you know this truly is Deep Purple. Morse’s guitar, very different from Ritchie Blackmore’s, leaves a lot of space between the chords. It’s a different kind of riffing, staggered and jagged, fast and genius. Gillan’s lyrics are, as always, witty and full of humour. Only Gillan can chuckle in the middle of a lyric and make it sound like it’s suppose to be there, and he does.

“Girls Like That”, the second song, is more melodic and commercial  A little bit more “Bananas”, and exactly what the album needed after the vicious “Money Talks”. Track 3, “Wrong Man”, has one of the most powerful Morse riffs on the album, and it sounds great live (more on that later). Fantastic song, great chorus.

The centerpiece of the album is the title track, “Rapture Of The Deep”. The guitar part sounds like a Morse trademark, slightly Arabic, rhythmically odd; just an entrancing song and worthy of the Deep Purple canon. As if this wasn’t enough, the next song “Clearly Quite Absurb” is simply one of the best ballads Purple have ever done. This is thanks to another trademark Morse guitar melody, and some wonderful singing by Gillan. The lyrics are emotive and optimistic.  It sounds a lot like material from the wonderful Purpendicular CD, and keep in mind this is a band that doesn’t do a lot of ballads. There’s only this one ballad on Rapture Of The Deep.

Other standout tracks on the album includes “MTV”, a wry look at the life of a band of the “classic rock” format.  Gillan and Glover must be used to certain interviewers getting their names wrong, and only knowing one song, judging by the lyrics:

“Mr. Grover n’ Mr. Gillian, you must have made a million, the night Frank Zappa caught on fire.”

“Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” is one of the heaviest tracks, Gillan attempting a scream here and there, sounding like the furious side of Deep Purple is alive n’ well. “Junkyard Blues” is anchored by a solid Glover bassline, simple but metronomic, and then that takes us into the final track, the atmospheric “Before Time Began”. At 6:30, “Before Time Began” is not for people with ADD!

A great album, demanding of your attention. Worthy of your attention. Deep Purple have always had some kind of standards when it comes to studio albums. Even their weakest have some sort of integrity to them. Rapture of the Deep is not an immediate album, nor will it unseat Machine Head as the fan favourite. But it does serve to remind the world that Deep Purple are still a great band, within the confines that age brings with it. Deep Purple are in fact one of the best bands of this age, because they just refuse to sell out.

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The bonus disc here is a treasure, and I am so glad I re-bought this album (third time now) to get these songs!

The “new version” of “Clearly Quite Absurd” sounds like a re-recording to me, with more orchestration. I’m not sure why this was done, the two songs have a similar feel even though they are instrumentally quite different.  Both versions are equally great in my opinion.  Yet even with a great song like this, Purple can’t get their new material on the radio! What a crime! “Things I Never Said” is a great song, a bonus track, with another busy Morse riff.  This is originally from the Japanese release of the CD. Next up, finally released in its studio version (but recorded during the Bananas sessions) is “The Well-Dressed Guitar”. You may remember this instrumental workout from Deep Purple tours and live albums circa 2002 (check out the Live at the Royal Albert Hall CD). Then, five live tracks, the first ever official live tracks with Airey on keyboards! Two are from this new album (“Rapture” and “Wrong Man”), and there are three classics including — yes — “Smoke On The Water”. These tracks prove that no matter who is in the band these days, they still sound like Deep Purple. The other two live tracks are “Highway Star” and “Perfect Strangers”.

4/5 stars.  Now What?!

I also have a single disc 2005 tin version from Edel Records.  This one boasts an enhanced CD with studio footage and an EPK (electronic press kit video) which I’ve never watched.

GUEST SHOT: 30 Albums that Uncle Meat Thinks You Should Visit (Or Re-Visit) Part 2

Missed part 1? Click here.

Here’s part 2 of 3 – 30 albums essential to Meat’s being, that should be essential to yours, too!  So, without anymore preamble, I’ll leave you with Uncle Meat, as he discusses 10 more albums, in alphabetical order by title, that you need to visit (or re-visit).

 

HIGH TENSION WIRES  –  STEVE MORSE (1989)

Simply put, Steve Morse is my favorite musician of all time.  I have had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Morse a total of 6 times when you combine The Dixie Dregs, Deep Purple and The Steve Morse Band.  Unlike the releases of some of his contemporaries, High Tension Wires is not your typical shredder album.  Oh it shreds alright, but Steve Morse is much more than a trickster.  There are beautiful compositions, unforgettable solos and some just plain ol’ rocking too.  Included is the link to a live version of a track perfectly named “Tumeni Notes”.  For more examples of the greatness of Steve Morse, introduce some Dixie Dregs into your collection.  You can thank me later.

 

HOT HOUSE  –  BRUCE HORNSBY (1995)

When Bruce Hornsby said goodbye to The Range, he immediately said hello with Harbor Lights, a heavily jazz-infused turn that completely changed the music world’s perception of him.  Hot House sees Hornsby taking that one step further.  The album’s cover speaks a thousand words.  It is a painting of an imagined band session between Bluegrass legend Bill Munroe and Jazz legend Charlie Parker. Nuff’ said there.  This recording contains many musical giants including Pat Metheny, Jerry Garcia, Bela Fleck and Chaka Khan.   Hot House is very addictive.  I know most of the words off by heart on this record.  Hopefully someday you will too.

JEFF BECK GROUP  –  JEFF BECK GROUP (1972)

This album definitely falls under the underappreciated category.  Sometimes known as  The Orange Album, Beck’s playing has never been better on this collection of original compositions and covers.  I would call this more of a Soul album than anything.  The incredible vocals of Bobby Tench seem to highlight this record at times, as you will see on the live performance of “Tonight, I’ll Be Staying Here With You” I have included for this entry.   Also worth noting, this album is one of the first recordings of the late Cozy Powell’s career.  The guitar work alone on “Definitely, Maybe” is enough reason itself to seek this record out.  Perhaps a rock n’ roll legend’s best work.

JOHN PRINE  –  JOHN PRINE (1971)

I actually discovered the music of John Prine while working at the same record store chain that Mr. Ladano speaks of in this blog.  There is no one quite like John Prine.  Some artists write great songs.  Some artists write great lyrics.  Only a select few truly do both this well.  There is no doubt that John Prine’s self-titled album contains some of the best lyrics ever written.  “There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes.  Jesus Christ died for nothin’ I suppose?”  That is just brilliant shit.  “You may see me tonight with an Illegal Smile.  It don’t cost very much, but it lasts a long while”.  I have said this many times and I am still saying it now.  John Prine is THE best lyric writer …. Ever.  Fuck Bob Dylan.  Yeah, I said it.

 

KRIS KRISTOFFERSON  –  KRIS KRISTOFFERSON (1970)

For the sake of alphabetical order by album, this Kristofferson follows the John Prine album on this list.  Really it should be the other way around.  While I stand by my earlier praise of Prine lyrics, I would certainly listen to the argument that there wouldn’t be a John Prine without Kris Kristofferson.  The songs on this album show a huge diversity and a sense of patience that just makes him so cool.  “Best Of All Possible Worlds” is just insanely-good storytelling and “Me and Bobby McGee” became a mega-smash for Janis Joplin.  Of all the great concerts I have seen, watching Kris Kristofferson and a guitar for two hours in 2006 will always be one of the best concerts I will ever see.  The true greats just need to show up.

LEGALIZE IT  –  PETER TOSH (1976)

After being a key member of Bob Marley & The Wailers for years, Peter Tosh embarked on a solo career.   On his first solo release, Legalize It, I personally believe Tosh recorded the greatest Reggae album of all time.  Fuck Bob Marley.  Yeah, I said it. (Wait why am I so hostile? Ha.)  Remember that one of Marley’s biggest hits “Get Up Stand Up” was co-written with Peter Tosh.  I love this album from beginning to end, and the album’s cover remains a visual anthem for Marijuana activists everywhere.  Sadly, Peter Tosh was taken from us when he was shot in the head during a home robbery.  Rastafarian music at its finest.

LITTLE EARTHQUAKES  –  TORI AMOS (1992)

There is only one way to put it.  During the spring of 1994 I became a literal disciple of Tori Amos.  By the end of 1996 I had seen her live 7 times.  Several of them in 2nd or 3rd row center seats, since this was back when you could actually wait all night for tickets and be rewarded for it.  This album spoke to me in a way no other album has, or really could.  Frustration with women, with Christianity and with life, I didn’t want to hear about hope in the horizon.  I obviously needed to experience the frustration of someone who understood.  I still have a red-head obsession because of Tori.  This is in my ten favorite albums of all time and always will be.  Little Earthquakes is full of intense and pretty compositions. The humor of “Happy Phantom” contrasts the pain of “Me and a Gun”.  And the included track here is “Precious Things”, which sees Tori Amos exposing herself as the angry and sexual piano player she truly is. Myra Ellen Amos is quite simply a beast.

 

MELISSA  –  MERCYFUL FATE (1983)

Mercyful Fate’s first two albums are among the best Metal albums of all time.  When you realize that this album came out a full year before Kill ‘Em All did you can start to see just how important this band truly were.  Mercyful Fate are the High Priestesses of underappreciation.  Yes King Diamond looks kinda ridiculous. And yes their lyrics are nothing short of evil incarnate.  Lines such as “Drinking the blood of a new born child” and “I’ll be the first to watch your funeral, and I’ll be the last to leave” sometimes are  so over the top that I guess it is understandable how an album this good could be ignored.  If Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden had a baby, and that baby grew up listening to nothing but Black Sabbath, the end result would have to look and sound something like Mercyful Fate.  It’s no coincidence that the best thing Metallica has recorded since …And Justice For All is their medley-cover simply-titled “Mercyful Fate”.  One of the greatest Metal albums of all time hands down.  Click on the YouTube link and hear the start of “Curse of the Pharaohs”.  If you don’t immediately recognize “2 Minutes to Midnight” you are lying to yourself.

 

NEVER, NEVERLAND  –  ANNIHILATOR (1990)

After Annihilator’s first album, Alice in Hell, it was time for a new lead singer.  Out was the awful singing of the ridiculously-named Randy Rampage, and in was ex-Omen singer Coburn Pharr.  The second album of this Ottawa, Ontario band was a vast improvement  over the first album in every way.   Without question the guitar playing of Jeff Waters alone makes this an absolute must-have recording for fans of thrash guitar or just guitar in general.  If you can think of a better Metal album to  come out of Canada then I would love to hear it.  If you have never heard this album, and you consider yourself a “Metal guy” then you are missing out huge.  I am having a hard time trying to pick a song to post here for listening purposes.  That is how truly great this record is from beginning to end.

 

OPUS EPONYMOUS  –  GHOST (2011)

I know, I cannot believe it either.   Only the second of twenty (so far) albums to be released after 1999 that appear on this list.  This album by Swedish band Ghost is nothing but special.  Before I heard this album I was told that it sounded like a cross between thrash metal and Blue Oyster Cult.  As it turned out that description really was right on the money.  Melodic background vocals nestled in between heavy riffing.  I have to say that this album is my favorite Metal album in probably the last twenty years.  The PERFECT blend of melody and heaviness.  This is the only album that since I have got my iPod, every time I switch the music on it I leave this whole album on there.  Every minute of this album is pure genius and I am super-stoked for their upcoming 2nd album titled Infestissumam that will be released this spring.  Hail Satan!!!!

 

That’s it for now, stay tuned for part 3, coming soon…