Saturday, October 29, 2011

One of These Days: Pink Floyd's Meddle is 40

 Pink Floyd - Meddle
Pink Floyd
Meddle
1971
Rating: ****

Although they had released five albums, Pink Floyd still hadn’t made it big time. The English progressive rock band was a four piece band still trying to find an audience in other places besides the UK. The band’s 1971 album, Meddle, wouldn’t reach that other audience but musically, Pink Floyd were finding the sound that would gain them worldwide popularity. Meddle is an example of that growth.
            Since the departure of guitarist and lead songwriter Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd consisted of guitarist David Gilmour, bassist Roger Waters, drummer Nick Mason, and keyboardist Rick Wright. Without Barrett, the leadership role in the band was open. Though the band struggled without Barrett, Pink Floyd were able to write music and make albums. They closed out the 1960’s with a soundtrack (More) and a double half live/half studio album (Ummagumma). In 1970, the band released Atom Heart Mother. The album includes the 23 minute self titled track suite, which the band had written with composer Ron Geesin. The album reached #1 in the charts in the UK but the critics panned the album. Years later, the members of Pink Floyd spoke negatively of the album. Recording began for Meddle in January of 1971 and ended in August.
            What you here in the beginning of the album is what seems to be the sounds of wind in a dessert (which was done by recording of a delayed wind drum). Suddenly, there’s the jangle of a bass…and then another. Believe it or not, there are two basses being played on “One of These Days”. The song is an instrumental and probably one of Floyd’s best instrumentals. Listening this compared to a song off Atom Heart Mother, the listener can tell the band has found a sound and it sounds good. While the song might be instrumental, there is a brief spoken word bit towards the end. It’s Nick Mason saying “One of these days, I’m going to cut you into little pieces” hence the title. Mason recorded the vocal with the aid of a ring modulator. The vocal was then slowed down to make it sound creepier. “One Of These Days” is followed up by the soft and warm sounds “A Pillow Of Winds”. David Gilmour is playing acoustic guitar and singing on this song. Gilmour, in my opinion, is one of the few people that’s both a great guitarist and great singer. Gilmour’s voice on here is almost hypnotic! Apparently, the title of this song came from the name of a hand in the game Mahjong according to Nick Mason. “Fearless” is another gentle song with another slow tempo. Roger Waters is playing acoustic guitar and Gilmour is on lead guitar and singing. The lyrics seem to be about not giving up and much like “A Pillow of Winds”, it’s almost like a folk song. The song ends with a field recording of Liverpool F.C. fans singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Carousel. The song had been made popular again by Gerry and the Pacemakers and quickly become the anthem of the Liverpool Football Club. “San Tropez” is a surprisingly jazzy track off the album. Rick Wright’s piano playing and Waters’ vocals and bass playing make this song shine. Waters is also playing acoustic guitar and Gilmour is on slide guitar. The lyrics talk about a place called Saint-Tropez, which is a commune of the Var depatement in the south of France on the French Riviera. Side one of Meddle ends with the bluesy and bizarre “Seamus”. It’s a standard blues number. Gilmour sings while we hear the sounds of a dog howling. It’s a real dog actually howling on the song. The track gets its title from the name of the dog “singing” on the track, Seamus. According to various sources, Seamus belonged to Steve Marriot (Small Faces, Humble Pie).
            Side two of Meddle has only one song that ends the entire album. “Echoes” is a 22 minute piece of music that some music critics (as well as the members of Pink Floyd) think is where the band had finally found a sound. The song came about when Rick Wright was simply messing around on the keyboards. Wright simply hit the highest piano key and with some special effects, it starts the song with a “ping” sound. The “ping” sound is drowned out by the band playing. This piece was under the working title of “Nothing” but eventually become known as “Echoes”. According to recording notes, Wright is playing two different organs. Without a doubt, the organs lead this wonderful track. Gilmour and Wright sing lead vocals together, singing lyrics about a place “Overhead the albatross” that “hangs motionless across the air” where near the sea there are “labyrinths and coral caves”. The lyrics to “Echoes”, written by all four band members apparently, certainly paint a picture which probably makes it my personal favorite song off the album. The lyrics are superb. One of my personal favorite lyrics is: “Strangers passing in the street/By chance two separate glances meet/And I am you and what I see is me”. Basically, it’s probably the idea of running into someone. The lyrics basically are about time and life, a theme that Pink Floyd would run into again. The organ and guitar solo get downright funky. Without a doubt, “Echoes” ends Meddle perfectly.
            Meddle was released on October 30, 1971. The album received mostly positive reviews from the critics, thinking it was an improvement compared to Atom Heart Mother. The album peaked at #3 in the UK charts while in the US, the album only made it to #70 in the pop charts. Over the years, Meddle has been able to go platinum twice in the US but back in 1971, the US still knew little of Pink Floyd. The band’s follow up to Meddle would be 1972’s Obscured by Clouds, which was the soundtrack to the film La Vallee. In 1973, Pink Floyd would finally achieve worldwide success with the release of Dark Side of the Moon.
            Meddle is still consider by critics and fans as one of Pink Floyd’s best albums. I would agree. It’s a great album with great songs and a wonderful sound. According to my list of favorite albums, I have Meddle at #205. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Deep Bands: Uriah Heep

 Uriah Heep - Uriah Heep

Hello, everybody! I'm so sorry for not having up anything in a long time. I've been very busy with school work and just haven't had the time to post things and honestly, not a lot is happening really. So to show that this blog is still active, I'm going to post here another installment of Deep Bands, this time on Uriah Heep. This one will be different: it'll just be line-up listings with history behind each one. I wrote this months ago so please enjoy and I'll have some reviews up for albums very soon. Thanks!

For pictures and more information on the line-ups, check out the official  Uriah Heep website. It's very informative!

Uriah Heep I (1969-1970)
David Bryon- vocals
Mick Box- guitar
Paul Newton- bass
Alex Napier- drums
Ken Hensley- keyboards

Albums
Very ‘Eavy…Very ‘Umble (1970) *titled Uriah Heep in the US

Notes: Uriah Heep formed in 1969. Byron and Box, along with Newton and Napier, were in a band called Spice. When former Toe Fat keyboardist Ken Hensley joined, the band’s manager suggested they change their name to Uriah Heep. The name came from the character of the same name in Charles Dickens’ classic novel David Copperfield. The band got to work on the debut album but just as the band was nearly complete, Napier left the band.

Line up length: One month

Uriah Heep II (1970)
David Bryon- vocals
Mick Box- guitar
Paul Newton- bass
Nigel Olsson- drums
Ken Hensley- keyboards

Notes: Byron’s good friend, Elton John, suggested they hire his drummer Nigel Olsson. Olsson was able to complete the work Napier left unfinished. With that, the Very ‘Eavy…Very ‘Umble was released. However, Olsson wouldn’t last for long. He left a month later to rejoin Elton John.

Line up length: One month


Uriah Heep III (1970)
David Bryon- vocals
Mick Box- guitar
Paul Newton- bass
Keith Baker- drums
Ken Hensley- keyboards

Albums
Salisbury (1971)

Notes: Keith Baker replaced Olsson and joined in time for the recording of Salisbury. The album would feature songs such as “Lady in Black” (which later became a huge hit in Germany in 1977) and the sixteen minute epic self-titled track, complete with strings and horns. Baker left the band soon after.

Line up length: Eight months


Uriah Heep IV (1970-1971)
David Bryon- vocals
Mick Box- guitar
Paul Newton- bass
Iain Clarke- drums
Ken Hensley- keyboards

Albums
Look At Yourself (1971)

Notes: Iain Clarke joined the band to replace Baker. With their fourth drummer, the band recorded Look at Yourself. Compared to the first two albums, it seemed as if Heep had found their sound with this album. Songs like the self-titled track, “July Morning”, “Tears in My Eyes”, and “Love Machine” are highly regarded as some of the band’s best material. Like the drummers before him, Clarke left the band. Not only did Clarke leave but original member Newton left as well.

Line up length: A year and one month


Uriah Heep V (1971-1972)
David Byron- vocals
Mick Box- guitar
Mark Clark- bass
Lee Kerslake- drums
Ken Hensley- keyboards

Notes: Mark Clark replaced Newton on bass and Hensley’s Toe Fat/The Gods former band mate Lee Kerslake joined as the new drummer. The band wrote some material at this time but end after Clark left the band.

Line up length: Three months



Uriah Heep VI (1972-1975)
David Byron- vocals
Mick Box- guitar
Gary Thain- bass
Lee Kerslake- drums
Ken Hensley- keyboards

Albums
Demons and Wizards (1972)
The Magician’s Birthday (1972)
Sweet Freedom (1973)
Wonderworld (1974)

Notes: When New Zealand born bassist Gary Thain joined in 1972, the band was set. Many Heepsters alike would agree that this was the band’s classic line-up, as they found the most success of any other line-up. Demons and Wizards is sometimes called the band’s best album. It had hits such as “The Wizard”, “Traveler in Time”, “Circle of Hands”, and “Easy Livin’”. The latter managed to crack the US charts. The band would appear again on the US charts with 1973’s “Stealin’”. The band even released a live album, which showed the critics that Uriah Heep was a band not to underestimate. The line-up ended when the band fired Thain. Thain had gone deep into drug addiction and the band dismissed him.
Gary Thain would later die in December 1977 from a heroin overdose.

Line up length: 3 years


Uriah Heep VII (1975-1976)
David Byron- vocals
Mick Box- guitar
John Wetton- bass
Lee Kerslake- drums
Ken Hensley- keyboards

Albums
Return To Fantasy (1975)
High And Mighty (1976)

Notes: Bassist John Wetton, fresh out of King Crimson, took Gary Thain’s place. Return to Fantasy was much of a “return to form” type of album for the band. However, High and Mighty wasn’t so lucky: it flopped badly. At the same time, Byron’s behavior was becoming increasing difficult to put up with. The band had no other choice but to fire David Byron. John Wetton also announced this departure from the band soon after.
David Byron later died in February 1985 from a heart attack due to his drinking problem.

Line up length: A year and five months

Uriah Heep VIII (1976-1979)
John Lawton- vocals
Mick Box- guitar
Trevor Bolder- bass
Lee Kerslake- drums
Ken Hensley- keyboards

Albums
Firefly (1977)
Innocent Victim (1977)
Fallen Angel (1978)

Notes: Lucifer’s Friend singer John Lawton became the band’s new lead singer. Former David Bowie bassist Trevor Bolder became the new bassist. This line-up released three studio albums, all of which were mildly successful. The band found hits with “Wise Man” and “Free Me”. Lawton was fired either due to friction between he and Hensley at the time or because of the presence of Lawton’s wife. When the band found Lawton’s replacement, Kerslake left the band after disagreements with the band’s management.

Line up length: 3 years and a month


Uriah Heep IX (1979-1980)
John Sloman- vocals
Mick Box- guitar
Trevor Bolder- bass
Chris Slade- drums
Ken Hensley- keyboards

Albums
Conquest (1980)

Notes: John Sloman replaced Lawton and Chris Slade replaced Kerslake. The line-up released Conquest in 1980 to poor reviews. It came to the point where Hensley was writing almost every song for the album. During the tour, Hensley wasn’t too happy with Sloman. Nothing against Sloman but Hensley had opposed to hire him in the first place. With bad management at the same time, Ken Hensley left Uriah Heep. This left Mick Box as the only original member.

Line up length: Five months




Uriah Heep X (1980-1981)
John Sloman- vocals
Mick Box- guitar
Trevor Bolder- bass
Chris Slade- drums
Gregg Dechert- keyboards

Notes: Gregg Dechert had the very difficult task in replacing Hensley. This line-up only released a single called “Think It Over” (which was later recorded by a different line-up in 1982). The line-up came to an end after Sloman announced his departure from the band. Slade and Dechert soon followed. Box and Bolder tried to see if David Byron was interested in rejoining the band but Byron declined. Bolder left and joined Wishbone Ash. This left Mick Box by himself for a few months until he decided to take part in the rebirth of Uriah Heep…

Line up length: Two months


Uriah Heep XI (1982-1983)
Peter Goalby- vocals
Mick Box- guitar
Bob Daisley- bass
Lee Kerslake- drums
John Sinclair- keyboards

Albums
Abominog (1982)
Head First (1983)

Notes: Box was able to recruit Kerslake, who had just been sacked from Ozzy Osbourne’s solo band with bassist Daisley. With Sinclair and singer Goalby, Heep was reborn. Abominog was released in 1982 and renewed interest in the band thanks to the MTV friendly video for “That’s The Way That it Is”. After Head First in 1983, Daisley left.

Line up length: One year


Uriah Heep XII (1983-1985)
Peter Goalby- vocals
Mick Box- guitar
Trevor Bolder- bass
Lee Kerslake- drums
John Sinclair- keyboards

Albums
Equator (1984)

Notes: Bolder rejoined the band in 1983. It’s a position he still holds to this day. Sinclair left in 1985. An exhausted Goalby left as well.

Line up length: 2 years and five months


Uriah Heep XIII (1986)
Steff Fontain- vocals
Mick Box- guitar
Trevor Bolder- bass
Lee Kerslake- drums
Phil Lanzon- keyboards

Notes: Phil Lanzon joined as the new keyboardist. Steff Fontain, however, didn’t stay for very long. Within two months, he was out.

Line up length: Two months


Uriah Heep XIV (1986-2007)
Bernie Shaw- vocals
Mick Box- guitar
Trevor Bolder- bass
Lee Kerslake- drums
Phil Lanzon- keyboards

Albums
Raging Silence (1989)
Different World (1991)
Sea Of Light (1995)
Sonic Origami (1998)

Notes: Bernie Shaw joined as the band’s sixth lead singer. To date, this line-up of Uriah Heep has outlasted all the previous line-ups. The band released a number of studio albums and toured frequently. In 2007, Kerslake left.

Line up length: 20 years



Uriah Heep XV (2007-present)
Bernie Shaw- vocals
Mick Box- guitar
Trevor Bolder- bass
Russell Gilbrook- drums
Phil Lanzon- keyboards

Albums
Wake The Sleeper (2008)
Celebration (2009)
Into the Wild (2011)

Notes: Drummer Russell Gilbrook replaced Kerslake. In 2008, the band release Wake the Sleeper. This marked the band’s first studio album in a decade. As of 2011, this line-up is still together. Uriah Heep lives on four decades later…

Line up length: 4 years and counting


Total number of members: 24 (6 singers, 6 bassists, 7 drummers, 4 keyboardists, and one guitarist!)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Edgar Winter Group drummer Chuck Ruff dead at 60

Chuck Ruff
May 25, 1951-October 14, 2011

Chuck Ruff, drummer for the Edgar Winter Group and various other bands/artists, died on Friday October 14, 2011. The cause of death is said to be from a long time illness. Ruff was 60 years old. Ruff was the drummer for the Edgar Winter Group when they formed in late 1972. The band's original line-up consisted of Winter, Ruff, guitarist Ronnie Montrose, and guitarist/bassist/singer Dan Hartman. The band's debut album, They Only Come Out At Night, was a huge success spawning hit singles out of "Free Ride" and "Frankenstein". The band would make another two albums, with Rick Derringer replacing Montrose. Although Winter dropped the name, Ruff would continue to play for Winter every so often. Ruff also played for Sammy Hagar's first few albums. Speaking of which, Hagar himself made a statement saying,

"I lost one of my old bandmates, Chuck Ruff. Chuck was my drummer on Danger Zone and Street Machine and many many live tours together. I have only memories of great times and great music with Chuck. My condolences to his family, friends, and loved ones."

RIP Chuck

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Paul McCartney and Nancy Shevell: officially married

Earlier today, Sir Paul McCartney and Nancy Shevell were married over at Old Marylebone Town Hall in London. The civil marriage ceremony lasted for 45 minutes before the couple exited, showered in confetti. The ex-Beatle had his brother, Mike McGear, as his best man while McCartney's 7-year-old daughter Beatrice was the flower girl. The service was small but filled with family and friends. Shevell's dress was designed by Paul's daughter, Stella. Also in attendance was Paul's former bandmate Ringo Starr, his wife actress Barbara Bach, and  Barbara Walters. McCartney's marriage to Shevell is the former Beatle's third marriage. His first marriage was to photographer Linda Eastman in 1969. With Linda, McCartney had three children (Mary, Stella, and James) and adopted Linda's daughter from a previous marriage (Heather). They were married until Linda's untimely death to breast cancer in 1998. McCartney would marry again in 2002 to model Heather Mills. The marriage caused controversy as McCartney decided to not have a pre-nup. They would have one daughter, Beatrice, in 2003. The couple separated in 2006 and were divorced by 2008. For Shevell, this is her second marriage. McCartney is 69 and Shevell is 51.

Congrats to Paul and Nancy!