1960s singer-songwriter Kevin Ayers sings ‘Funny how the situation changes’, at the start of The Unfairground, his first album for fifteen years. How true that appears to be, given the biographical facts surrounding this formerly psychedelic, and almost mythic, ex-Soft Machine operator. Running to seed, as the story goes, in the south of France, he gets re-discovered, hauled back to the UK and a batch of new songs – recorded on the hoof in a range of locations – is conjured around Ayers’ wry, addictive, but ever so slightly broken, vocals.
From the opening tour de force reading of Coleman Hawkins' "Bean and the Boys" to the closing performance of Charlie Parker's "Dexterity," Magnificent brilliantly illustrates Barry Harris' unique rapport with the bop piano tradition. Absolutely unlike the enervating, curatorial approach of the neo-con movement, Harris deals with the tradition as a continuum, perpetually rejuvenating and extending it. Along with the opening and closing tracks, the classics on this 1969 date include a caressing exploration of "These Foolish Things" and a dazzling treatment of "Ah-Leu-Cha."
Hold Your Fire is an album in the purest sense; infinitely greater than the sum of its parts, it gradually draws in the listener by slowly revealing its nuances and secrets. While the use of keyboards is still overwhelming at times, Geddy Lee employs lush textures which, when coupled with a greater rhythmic and melodic presence from guitarist Alex Lifeson, results in a far warmer sound than in recent efforts. Of course, drummer Neil Peart is as inventive and exciting as ever, while his lyrics focus on the various elements (earth, air, water, fire) for much of the album.
Like much of the band's '80s output, Power Windows finds Rush juggling their hard-rock heritage with new technology to mixed results. With Alex Lifeson choosing sparse, horn-like guitar bursts over actual crunch, Geddy Lee's synthesizers running rampant, and Neil Peart's crisp, clinical percussion and stark lyrical themes (evoking cold urban landscapes), the result just may be the trio's "coldest" album ever.
After an extensive search for a producer, Rush struck gold with Peter Henderson. The band shared production duties with him, and completed the album within a few months. The continuous use of synthesizers and keyboards that began on the previous album, SIGNALS, is prominent here. Although Alex Lifeson's guitar always plays a key role, it's obvious the group could not shy away from the advancing technology in rock music in 1984.
In the '80s, Jethro Tull was no longer the dominant force on the rock scene they had been throughout much of the previous decade, but the indomitable Ian Anderson continued to make ambitious records based on themes of ages past, even in an era of skinny ties and drum machines. BROADSWORD AND THE BEAST has a marked swords-and-sorcery motif; Anderson is depicted as a winged elfin creature on the cover. Despite such leanings, producer Paul Samwell-Smith–original bassist for the Yardbirds–gives the record a modern gloss, weaving the synthesizer playing of Peter-John Vettesse and the out-sized guitars of Tull stalwart Martin Barre through BROADSWORD's vaguely medieval-sounding romps.
Making the transition from the heavy-rocking '70s to the synthesizer-driven '80s, the power trio Rush embraced the new technology with open arms. After the 1981 smash album MOVING PICTURES, Rush decided to lead their cult of loyal fans down a slightly different musical route while continuing to maintain their high level of expertise. The result, SIGNALS, was a very unique album for the group and ushered in an era that focused their sound toward keyboard-centered orchestrations and tight, stylized arrangements.
Not only is 1981's Moving Pictures Rush's best album, it is undeniably one of the greatest hard rock albums of all time. The new wave meets hard rock approach of Permanent Waves is honed to perfection – all seven of the tracks are classics (four are still featured regularly in concert and on classic rock radio). While other hard rock bands at the time experimented unsuccessfully with other musical styles, Rush were one of the few to successfully cross over.
This CD/DVD combination pack, in a jewel case, features the digitally remastered CD "A" and the bonus DVD "Slipstream", which features 60 minutes of classic, live footage from the 1980 concert in Los Angeles, along with 2+ music videos.
By the end of the 1970s, the golden age of progressive rock was over, and Jethro Tull, former rulers of the prog-rock roost, entered the '80s sporting a radical change in both personnel and sound. Some of the change was a result of circumstance–longtime piano player John Evans and keyboardist/arranger David Palmer departed after '79's STORMWATCH, and bassist John Glascock had recently died, leaving only Ian Anderson and guitarist Martin Barre. Anderson enlisted Dave Pegg, the rock-solid former Fairport Convention bass player; prog-rock veteran Eddie Jobson on electric violin and keyboards, and Mark Craney, the first of several Tull drummers in the '80s.
Falling somewhere in between heavy metal and AOR, Rush were one of the success stories of the period from 1976 to 1986–all the more surprising because few Canadians manage to break out from the land of the maple leaf in this area of music. Much of their following idolized Alex Lifeson, who was a guitar hero with the technical ability of a Page or a Beck. Occasionally Neil Peart's lyrics leave a little to be desired: "the shifting shafts of shining, weave the fabric of their dreams . . ." Jon Anderson from Yes was afflicted with the same condition of pretentiolyricitus. That aside, the music is faultless.