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Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Road to Life and Progressive Rock. Part III

The move back to California!

"Carry on my wayward son, there'll be peace when you are done, lay your
weary head to rest, don't you cry no more..."
Carry On Wayward Son/Kansas

Look away Dixie Land indeed!
Life in Gretna, Louisiana is OVER . . .
Me and my Dad had enough! Me at school and my Dad's jobs and the "good ol' boy"
attitudes. The only good things that came from living there were
Relatives, the
Seafood and the birth of my little Brother whom I love soo much.
But my Dad had traded (and sadly, my beloved...) the Ford 67 Mustang "Fastback",
that fell victem to the La. Humidity, for a Non-4x4 Chevy Blazer a few years before.
To this day, I miss that car, and I know it would have passed down to me.
Fricken' State even ate up the car!

The Birth of Comedy.
Through the hardships, I found my sanity through building model kits of Cars and
Warbirds. And I had always been the "funny one" in my small circles of friendships.
So having a sophisticated (for my age) comic sense, or rather a GOOFY comedic
helped. I think it was a gene from my Dad. He was always the Life of the
It also came from watching Monty Python and SCTV episodes, and the nation
wide broadcast
of the "Dr. Demento Show" on the radio, that featured funny skits,
comedians and bands with the likes of Weird Al (before he had a
contract), Shel Silverstien; Captain Beefheart; Monty Pythons Flying
Cheech & Chong; Spike Jones and his City Slickers; Barnes & Barnes
and it
would be the 1st time to hear Frank Zappa. And outrageous songs/acts by
(Okay, so this isn't a "Funny Song" but the antics are, and
Zappa shreds! Can you guess who the 2nd guitarist is,
close to the camera?)
So my "humour in music" was sown forever (later, I would listen to the direct
California broadcast for over the next few decades until its last shows).

. . . You can check out anytime you like... but you can never leave!"
- Hotel California/Eagles

Summer of 77.
1977, The road to California is a special memory because during the ride
across a few deserts (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California), we were
listening to "The Radio X" (and the sweet voice "sweeper" of a Latina saying,
California-Mejico [Mexico]" -The same station ZZ Top sang about).
And we
would hear newly released songs by the Eagles; Gerry Raferty; Bob
and the Silver Bullet Band; Al Stewart; Fleetwood Mac; Electric Light
Orchestra; Marshall Tucker Band and a Band from the East Coast . . .

"When I'm tired and thinking cold, I hide in my music, forget the day
and dream of a girl I used to know, I closed my eyes and she slipped away. . ."
- Boston
/More than a Feeling

"Boston". (The debut in 76, which was still
making its way on the airwaves-1st
hearing them a few months before leaving
La.) The dueling Guitars of Tom
Sholtz and Barry Goudreau were soo smooth
and Brad Delps soaring Vocals
really made an impact.
Their sound has always been very special to me.
Not until 1978 would we have their sophomore Album "Don't look Back" and
their unfortunate decline through various lawsuits:
Tom Sholtz, Being an M.I.T. graduate, would boast "No Synthesizers used!"
on their albums. It was amazing and puzzeling at the same time.
More than a Feeling to this day reminds me of the little girl that lived across
the street from me when I was 5 (my 1st kiss, Kimberly) . . .

I'd ask my Dad, for us to take a ride out to BellFlower Ca. (I think it was the
city of Cudahy to be exact) to see what the old nieghborhood was like.
Well, it was a sight alright, dilapidated Houses, trash everywhere, Gang
Grafitti, not the place where multi-racial middle class people lived in the
60's and early 70's, where I used to ride my tricycle on the sidewalks.
And where we used to walk to a Fosters Freeze to get Burgers and an Ice
Cream Cone.
" . . . She slipped away!"

Re-Settlement, and Re-Settlement.

We moved in temporarly with my Dads Sister and Brother-in-law in the San
Fernando Valley in the beginning of Summer. A few months later
we found an
Apartment on Van Nuys Blvd. in Panorama City.

I can remember the Heat, but in the early mornings, I remember them being
the most content sleep I would ever have in my life, and I would wake up (or
"fade out" of a comfortable sleep) to a cold breeze through the window,
seems to have never returned.

Soon I would start 1 year of school nearby as a Freshman, A School that I can
not even remember its name. I vaguely remember my 1st Art Class, A girl I
had a crush on named Leslie, with her friends, laughed at some idiots joke
about me being "Gay". I do remember the food, probably the best damn
lunches I would
ever have in school (3 choices of Entres and all kinds of

sides, including the individule foods at the outside counters).

The music of the time also reminds me of our drives down Van Nuys Blvd.
Where we would eventually live in an Apt. for over a year. The type of Apt. that
all the units surrounded a Pool in the middle (See "The Karate Kid", it was sort
of like what Daniel -Ralph Machio lived in), at least I think there was a pool (If
there was, I don't recall people swimming in it), something we were not used to,
since living in houses most of our lives.
Life on the "Strip" would see the
last days of Hot Rods and Lowriders "Cruising"
down the Boulevard as it
would be outlawed in 1978-79.
This "Film" represents 1979, but its very reminiscent of 77 (though I was only 14
and didn't have close friends until our next move):

As my folks, weary of living in the Apartment, in the sweltering heat of the
"Valley" as it was called (The San Fernando Valley, that Zappa would make
famous years later with "Valley Girl"). My parents saved for a new home of our
own and to make new roots. And we would take rides to different neighborhoods
to look at homes while my dads 8 track would play Santana, and Eagles Newly
released "Hotel California".
No matter what you think of them, this song had all the sensibilities what Prog
Rock was, but the Eagles made it their own, soo layered with sound and
guitar tones, and the vocal harmonies were brilliant, intertwined with
a blend of
Mexican Folk, "Tex-Mex", Country/Western and Rock.

With Orchestration, beautiful ballads, great storybook lyrics and high caliber
I still think its a great album through and through.
But, it would take years till I realized what the Song Hotel California actually
meant, and that all the songs seemed to take place in the same "State".
For many, the lines in the song were true. I'm one of the few that want to stay
. . . but I just want to move farther up north (but thats another story in my
years, the love/hate relationship of LA and a Los Angelino).

"Mirrors on the ceiling,
The pink champagne on ice, and she said:
'We are all just prisoners here,
Of our own device'
And in the master's chambers
They gathered for the feast,
They stabbed it with their steely knives,
But they just can't kill the beast..."
- Hotel California

Back at the Strip . . .

I would be skateboarding for longer distances at this time. Smooth marbleled
sidewalks at nearby outdoor plazas, skating through corridors, around Department
Stores and such, for
hours. There was also a Tower Record Store a block away
from home, and I
remember seeing all the LP's on the shelves, it was overwhelming
I think.
All the colours, the Art . . . but sadly, I wished I could hear every record.
Radio, was kind of all over the place as far as music, and their were all kinds of
genre's and bands becoming more popular and new ones being born.
But . . .
Queen; Led Zeppelin; Steely Dan; Santana; Rolling Stones; Wings; Alice Cooper;
Chicago; Supertramp, The Who and others were some of the exceptions, as other
Rock artists were getting lost among the Disco, R&B and "One
Hit Wonders" at
this time.

I didn't discover FM Radio yet, I was still stuck on the AM dial and Top 40 Radio.
I was missing out on the more creative stuff coming from Europe (Especially from
England) where Rock and other forms thrived.

Disco throughout 1977 thru 79 would slowly die off, as Rock grew strong. But
unfortunately Disco would influence R&B and completely kill (for the most part)
genre of music I enjoyed.
Again . . . "Rock is dead they say, Long Live Rock!"
And yet ANOTHER band would exclaim this Anthem against the Top 40
garbage at this time (1977-78). I would not discover them till 1981:

Santa Brings my 1st PrOg album!
For the coming Christmas, I would receive my 1st LP/Vinyl of my own, Kiss-
Alive II; ELO- Out of the Blue; and Foreigner (debut) From my Parents, who
also enjoyed their hit singles (sans Kiss).

Did you know, Sax, Keyboardist, 2nd Guitarist and Flute player in Foreigner-

Ian McDonald, was also in King Crimson?:
King Crimson:

(Another band I wouldn't discover till late 1980).

Electric Light Orchestra, for all that they were, could very well had been my
1st (technically speaking) Progressive Rock band:
But there was another album among these, that would change my world of
music, but . . .
I was just getting into Kiss the last year of living in La. But I think I was just
being a wanna-be, and maybe I just liked "Destroyer" and thought it was
strongest album. I knew my Ear was tuned differently than most kids, I
didn't know what it was yet. I was also getting albums on Cassette at
this time.
But Alive II held something that I never payed attention to till this
album . . .

The Drum Solo.
I thought Peter Criss was a GOD, the "Cat" could beat those skins, nevermind
that I saw Buddy Rich numerous times on Johnny Carson, this guy was it!

Soon after I'd start collecting a few of their albums on Cassettes, "Rock and
Roll Over"; "Love Gun" and others.
One day in Science class in 9th grade, I don't remember who I was talking to,
I was talking about Peter Criss and this great drum solo on Alive II-very
enthusiastically, and this tall black guy (I think he was the schools star
player) with a huge afro says to me,
"You want to hear a great drum solo, listen to Carl Palmer of ELP"
and he just
walked away . . .
WHO is this guy to tell me Peter Criss's drum solo isn't as exciting as . . .
Carl Palmer (ELP again!)?
And STILL, I didn't run out and get their albums!

Buddy Burnin'-
Buddy Rich on NBC's Johnny Carson circa mid 70's:

". . . I was going nowhere fast, I was needing something that would last!"
- Paradox

THE "Gift" that keeps on giving.

I was also hearing cuts on the radio from an album called "Leftoverture" that
was released the previous year.
But Songs like "Carry On" with its hard rocking edge resonated in me as a
prelude for what was to come (and would not purchase that album till the
late 80's) and a NEW single "Dust in the wind", still had that Top 40 vibe of

the era . . . but not.
I didn't realize what they were until 1977 and the release
of "Point of Know
" by Kansas. The 1st real Prog Rock band I'd fully
dive into. This
was the other album I had gotten for Christmas.
Its weird,
I'd brag about Kiss but didn't realize that it was Kansas that
broadened my
taste, painted pictures in my mind- with my favorite songs
"Lightnings Hand",
"Sparks of the Tempest" and "Closet Chronicles" (What
weird picks for faves
of a 14 year old) and the aggressive notes of "Paradox"
and "the Spider".

Yet I couldn't really grasp what they were doing, how complex the music really
was . . . I just LIKED it.

I would buy more Cassettes, single 45's and hearing the songs of Paul
McCartney and his band "Wings". It continued the love I had of the Beatles.
As well as John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison and their musics.
This carried on from Louisiana till this day. They will always be special.

It Changed my life Forever.
Another life changing experience, There were giant billboards all over Los
Angeles, Big black billboards with no images but a stylized white logo and the
headline, "A Long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away".
From the Opening "Crawl" to the 1st ship that flew over our heads . . .
to the LARGER ship that went on forever, and the scene of Luke Skywalker
on his Farm, looking over the Valley and the twin Suns, dreaming of
adventure far beyond . . . I was hooked.
The Summer of Star Wars would slowly take me from drawing cars, to drawing
Spaceships, eventually to drawing people in the later teens, and dreams of
working for Industrial Light & Magic, which at the time was a small slapped
together Company among small Warehouse suites in Van Nuys California
not far from where I lived! (But I did not know that, till years later).

On our Family Sunday outings, we would walk on Hollywood Blvd. "Window
Shopping" and from a Book Store (that is still there) I'd see many of these
These images and the Film would instill the possibilities of me to be, a
somewhat unknown career in movies . . . The "Conceptual" Artist.
I'd run to my room and get out paper and try to recreate what I had seen.
As I said before, from Cars, and Hot Rods, I'd start drawing Spacecraft,
, People in Sci-Fi garb, and I started to draw more Women, which I
think was influenced by Fantasy Artists Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo.
More and more I delved into the Art
and Films of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Soon, the "Music" and my new interest would go hand in hand.

"I came to learn perhaps to teach but I can tell somehow
The world that I was sent to reach has got no future now
Across the galaxy to spread the word and no one heard
I came for nothing I'm alone and Nobody's Home"

- Nobody's Home/Kansas

To be continued . . .

As we PrOguli (and listeners of the Female gender), enjoy many a Femme'
Fronted Prog Rock or Metal band within its many sub-genre's.

There are too few to thank for the movement.
I can think of Hard Rock/Metal Bands such as "Girlschool" (the all girl band
that Lita Ford and Joan Jett, got their start).
"Warlock" fronted by "Doro Pesch", who would go on with a Solo career.
"Chastaine (David T. Chastaine)"
fronted by "Leather Leone"; "Drain (STH)"
the all girl Metal band from Sweden;
N.Y. Thrashers "Znowhite" fronted by
Nicole Lee's raspy but powerful voice (She would later form "Fear of God").

And "Saraya", the AOR/Hard Rock/Metal band from New Jersey fronted by
the beautiful "Sandi Saraya".

These Artists paved the way for what was to come. But who came before

them? . . .

1977 would mark a breakthrough album for a band with an un-likely name,

Heart. The Seattle born band, that not only had a Female Guitarist (Electric
and Acoustic with 2 other Guitarists) and 2nd Lead and Backround Vocalist
Nancy Wilson, but her sister, the powerfully soulfull, bluesy, soaring and
Vocalist Ann Wilson, with her dark sensual looks (contrast to her
Blond Locks) were more than ready to rip heads off and astound their
listeners from ballads, to hard rock anthems. The song "Magic Man" brought

them to the radio. But it was 1977 when the album "Little Queen" was

And a single that stands as a staple for AOR Radio (if you still enjoy it or sick
of hearing it), as much as any Led Zeppelin, Beatles or Rolling Stone song.
"Barracuda" was pretty heavy for its time, and that it is sung by a Woman
breaks all barriers! If that "Chugging" riff were done now, it would be tuned
down, Overdrive/Distortion on 9, Saturation on 7, Bass knob turned up,
Treble on 5, Volume at "11" on the Amp and it be ready for Death Metal riffage.

The song hit #11 on the Billboard charts in 77 and it remains an Anthem for
anyone burned by someone.
1. Their story can be found here:
2. Little Queen Album:
3. The "official" story of Barracuda:
Barracuda Video:

Their next album "Dog & Butterfly", dare I say, even had Prog Rock
to some of their songs, but maintained the melodic Hard Rock they
were known
for (This became one of my all time fave albums).
Watch this and many other vidz of Ann, Nancy and the Boys and you will
to realize the huge influences on their contemporaries.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What happens after the music is done

So, the mix on the new Strange Land cd "Catharsis" is nearly done. Yay! Now we can party, right? Hold on, not so fast. There is a lot that goes into a cd beyond the music as I'm sure you can imagine. All the more time consuming for an indie band that doesn't really have "people". I have learned that I need to take my estimated time for project completion and triple it. It always takes longer than I want it to. Here is a snapshot of what happens after the music is recorded.

  1. Mix the music. This can take hours to weeks. With Strange Land we do a little bit together, then I finish up everything myself. I burn cds for Chad and Brad to listen to in various places, I often judge a mix in my car since that's where most of my listening happens. We kick this back and forth a few times until we are happy.
  2. Master the cd. Mastering puts the final 'pixie dust' on the recording and its often best to have another set of ears to do this, someone not in the band. This time we will give it to a guy who will tweak it, then we will meet with him to listen and finalize everything.
  3. Artwork and layout. Everything from the front cover to who gets thanked. This time out we had a photographer take some pictures, I am manipulating them, then I will send the cover to MAV (hi MAV) for a kick ass logo. Then I'll put the whole thing together. Time here varies depending on how many pages we will do for the booklet. And that can depend on:
  4. Who is paying for it? While all of the above is going on we are working with our contacts to see what kind of record/distribution deal might happen for this cd. The details of that can affect how many copies get made, how many pages the book has, and other things determined by who will foot the bill.
  5. Sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labor. Or run and hide for a while to decompress from the whole damn process. Or both.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

What is Progressive anyway? 4/5 - Discovering Marillion

Part: 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1

Discovering Marillion

When I started to listen to Dream Theatre I actually didn't have a clue about Progressive Rock or Metal. This was just Metal, although being of a different sort. It actually took me a couple years before I started to explore the genre.

What really got me started was Marillion.
For a while I had been seeking new and interesting music. So there I was in the record shop looking at the "special price" CDs and one of them was standing out because of a colorful and interesting cover. "Misplaced Childhood".

The funny thing about this album was that I had actually seen (I can't say that I listened) it before (as vinyl), but at the time I totally dismissed it. I suppose I was too young and too interested in "Top of the Pops". I was introduced to it a few later times, but I stubbornly refused to see its value. So what prompted me this time? I am not sure, maybe I just decided to take a chance, I don't know, but today I am happy that I purchased it.

I brought the CD home, listened to it...and the next evening I had altogether 4 new CDs in my collection. On the third day I went to get more...bought one of the new era Marillion albums (Afraid of the sunlight) and was severely disappointed. Just to say it shortly the new lead singer sucked...badly.

Ok, ok now, I'm too hard on Hogarth (top left), but comparing him to Fish (bottom left) is like comparing apples and oranges. Both are fruit, but of a different kind, and I just happen to like one better than the other. This was around 1995 which is probably why I still didn't have a clue about the term "progressive". I say this, because at that time the Internet was not much to talk about and I couldn't access it to find out more about this genre of music that I had started to like more and more.

In 1996 I got married and 1½ year after I moved to Finland. At work we got free Internet access and it didn't take me long to find out everything about Marillion and put a label on my new and favorite type of music.

Nowadays I hardly never pick up Marillion. They have not become bad. Its just that I have heard those 4 albums so many times that I can sing most of the songs...even the guitar and keyboard solos. There are simply no more surprises left. Instead I look elsewhere, and luckily there is still so much material to put my hands on all the way back from the 70s till now.