Tracks: 1—Thursday Afternoon.
Tags: Ambient, Electronica, Minimalist, Drone
Release Date: October 1985
When Compact Disc technology first became popular in the mid-1980s, it naturally became a challenge to electronic composer and experimental minimalist Brian Eno to come up with something unique to this new medium. At that time, a disc could easily handle up to 70 minutes of recording time. Eno’s trick was to create something that would be available exclusively on CD — a work consisting of a single, uninterrupted, ambient musical track lasting 61 minutes. Continue reading “Thursday Afternoon”
Arnold Schoenberg (composer)
Tracks: 1—Mondestrunken; 2—Columbine; 3—Der Dandy; 4—Eine Blasse Wäscherin; 5—Valse de Chopin; 6—Madonna; 7—Der Tranke Mond; 8—Nacht; 9—Gebtet an Pierrot; 10—Raub; 11—Rote Messe; 12—Galgenleid; 13—Enthauptung; 14—Die Kruze; 15—Heimweh; 16—Gemeinehiet; 17—Parodie; 18—Der Mondfleck; 19—Serenade; 20—Heimfahrt; 21—O Alter Duft.
Tags: Atonal, Unlistenable
Composed: October 16, 1912
Arnold Schoenberg selected and set to music 21 of the 50 poems in the lyric cycle of the same name, written and published in 1884 by Belgian poet Albert Giraud. The work comes from Schoenberg’s “atonal” period and features a vocal part accompanied by a five-person ensemble — flute (doubling on piccolo), clarinet, violin, cello, and piano. The work is generally hailed as a masterwork of musical expressionism; Schoenberg stated that the greatest goal of the artist is “to express himself.” In the cycles, Pierrot — the archetypical white-faced clown known as “Punchinello” in Italian and “Punch” in English — is represented (in some fashion) by a seven-note motive most easily heard at the very beginning of the first selection, “Moondrunk.” The work is effectively subdivided into three seven-poem segments. In the first, Pierrot sings of love, sex, and religion; in the second, of violence, crime, and blasphemy; and in the third, of his return home, haunted by his past.
None of this explanation saves this work from sounding like crap. Continue reading “Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21”
Tracks: 1 — True North (Paul Speer); 2 — Flightpath (Jonn Serrie); 3 — Third Stone from the Sun (Speer); 4 — Stolen Fire (Serrie); 5 — Touchwood (Tangerine Dream); 6 — Whispers of Light (James Reynolds); 7 — Adagio Dolente (Speer); 8 — Tingri (Serrie); 9 — One More River Passing (Reynolds); 10 — True North/Reprise (Speer)
Tags: Compilation, New Age, Light Rock
Release Date: Listed as January 24, 1995 (see text for more)
Compilation, theme, and concept albums have a hit-or-miss feel to them, generally. Theme discs like those of Chip Davis’ Day Parts series (e.g., Sunday Morning Coffee) are usually quite good. This particular album is rather like a tire that’s been badly retreaded — not necessarily dangerous, but perhaps not really worth risking taking a ride on. Continue reading “True North”
The Moody Blues
Tracks: 1—The Day Begins; 2—Dawn: Dawn is a Feeling; 3—The Morning: Another Morning; 4—Lunch Break: Peak Hour; 5—The Afternoon: Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?) and (Evening) Time to Get Away; 6—Evening: The Sunset and Twilight Time; 7—The Night: Nights in White Satin and Late Lament.
Tags: Progressive Rock, Concept Album, Rock
Release Date: November 10, 1967
Only the second album released by the “Moodies” (as they were familiarly known), this exemplary mix of ballads, poetry, and rock orchestra remains one of the defining collections for both the group and the genesis of what became known as progressive rock. Both singles from this album, “Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?)” and “Nights in White Satin”, became anthems of their time that are still covered and re-covered fifty years later. Recorded in what was called “Deramic Sound” (created by the Deram record label), this album was one of the first released in true stereo. Continue reading “Days of Future Passed”
Tracks: 1—Aurora; 2—Devic Dances; 3—Coeur de Lion; 4—Heartland; 5—The River Why; 6—From Heart to Crown.
Tags: Instrumental, New Age, Meditative
Release Date: August 30, 1994
A meditative, multi-instrumental presentation from a (regretfully) lesser-known master of the genre, this album is excellent for background, for a thoughtful mood, and for soothing frayed nerves after a long and tiresome day. Woo performs with harp, strings, and winds to create an aural soundscape that deserves a lot more praise and discussion, so keep reading. Continue reading “From Heart to Crown”
Tracks: 1 — Tuna Fishing (Michael Stearns); 2 — The Great Masturbator (Michel Huygen); 3 — Shades of Night Descending (Walter Holland); 4 — Inventions of the Monsters (Djam Karet); 5 — Impressions of Africa (Loren Nerell); 6 — Face of Mae West (Klaus Schulze); 7 — Assumpta Corpuscularia Lapislazulina (Bo Tomlyn); 8 — Birth of Liquid Desires (Steve Roach and Robert Rich); 9 — The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory (Steve Roach); 10 — Rhinocerotic Figure of Phidas’ “Illisos” (Steve Roach and Robert Rich)
Tags: Electronica, New Age, Meditative
Release Date: 1990
I found this recording a few years after its 1990 release. It’s a tribute to the life and works of surrealist artist Salvador Dali; the composers turned to Dali’s paintings for their inspiration, and these tracks are the result of that labor of love. Like Dali’s own work, this album is not for everyone. There will be times when you will have to suspend your prejudices about music in order to hear what the composer was working to achieve — and that goes for everyone from lovers of classical music to aficionados of grunge metal. There are sounds and musical experiences in the collection to challenge anyone of any taste, and if you’re lucky, you’ll come away with appreciation if not pleasure in the experience. (Happily, none of it is as grotesque and inaccessible as Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, which I’m loathe to inflict upon anyone.) Continue reading “Dali: The Endless Enigma”
featuring his orchestra, Bill Lee (Dreamer), The Ralph Brewster Singers
Tracks: 1 — The Professor; 2 — The Conductor; 3 — The Caretaker; 4 — The Cocktail Party; 5 — The Pink Houseboat; 6 — The Nightmare; 7 — The Girl on the Rock
Tags: Musical, Program Music, Concept Album
Release Date: 1953
This “musical for record album” features the experiences of the Dreamer (sung by Bill Lee) as he experiences each environment. We follow him through each dream, and every morning, he wakes to the raucous, jangling alarm ringing and the spoken, sing-song litany of, “Wake up, brush your teeth, wash your face, comb your hair, eat your breakfast, go to work…” until, with the last dream, he lets himself stay in the last, best dream. Continue reading “Seven Dreams”
Trachs: 1—Dance With Me; 2—Feline; 3—You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me (with Phoebe Snow); 4—All Feets Can Dance (anybody ‘thout feet can dance on their hands); 5—Sightless Bird; 6—Peace; 7—Jubilee; 8—Hallucinations; 9—Chicken
Release Date: 1982
Tags: Vocal, Debut Album
In novel-writing, there is a theory that one must prove one’s worth by writing a few formulaic novels (or, to use a more descriptive and technical term “crapola novels”) first; after having proven that one can produce mediocrity at its most pointless, there is some peculiar reasoning on the part of publishers that you will then be capable of producing a work of genius. I’ve never understood this idea, particularly when it could injure an artist to approach his art this way. By this same token, had this been the first work by Bobby McFerrin that I’d heard, I’d have dismissed him without a second thought and not gone on to enjoy his later works. Continue reading “Bobby McFerrin”
TRACKS: 1—Sentinel; 2—Dark Star; 3—Clear Light; 4—Blue Saloon; 5—Sunjammer; 6—Red Dawn; 7—The Bell; 8—Weightless; 9—The Great Plain; 10—Sunset Door; 11—Tattoo; 12—Altered State; 13—Maya Gold; 14—Moonshine.
TAGS: Instrumental, Follow-up Album
RELEASE DATE: August 31, 1992
When this album first came out in 1992, I desperately wanted to like it. For one thing, the original Tubular Bells was pretty good. For another, the brain-dead trend-heads at Entertainment Weekly magazine panned the album, calling its sound “too new age”. Knowing as I do that EW is almost never right about anything, and that they rarely praise anything without being paid for it in one way or another, I was prepared to really enjoy this disc. I can still safely say that they’re dead wrong about one thing: The term “new age” has nothing whatsoever to do with this music. For the rest, however, I’m forced to admit that it really does stink. Continue reading “Tubular Bells 2”
Dudley Moore (guest artist: Kenny G on “Brogan” and “Faithfully Yours”)
Tracks: 1—Six Weeks, Part 1; 2—Waltz for Suzy; 3—Patrick; 4—Thank You, Ilich; 5—Anemone; 6—Six Weeks, Part 2; 7—Brogan; 8—Faithfully Yours; 9—Skylarking; 10—Three Blonde Mice; 11—Satie; 12—Show Biz; 13—Theme in F Minor
Release Date: October 29, 1991
Tags: Instrumental, Light Jazz, Piano, Blissful
I had originally reviewed this album in 1992, a year after it came out, and I still stand by what I wrote…
I read somewhere that his agent referred to Dudley Moore as “The Wee Wonder.” Moore, who didn’t quite come up to five and a half feet, proves that the most magnificent gifts do indeed come in small packages. With an acting range that ran from the comedic Crazy People and 10 to a brilliant romantic/dramatic role in Six Weeks, Moore was less known for his musicianship. His exceptional talent as a pianist won him a “co-starring” role with Sir Georg Solti in the documentary Orchestra! Whereas he previously had Victor Borge-like comic appearances on The Muppet Show and various talk shows, it took him until later in his life for him to be recognized for his musicianship. His film soundtrack work includes Staircase and Six Weeks, and this album is a tribute to a beautiful soul. Continue reading “Songs Without Words”