Saturday, April 30, 2016

April 30 - Night Comes In

Today's son is the second time I let Richard and Linda Thompson's Pour Down Like Silver be represented, and within a short time as well. Today's song contains the album title in the lyrics, but it is still not quite the title track. There isn't much to say, other than it contains some of the most tasteful fretwork I have heard from Richard Thompson. Night Comes In - and it is dark and smooth as velvet.

Friday, April 29, 2016

April 29 - Alison

It's already been 12 years. Just like with Emma, Alison was a scheduled induction;  however, the schedule became a little more difficult as United Memorial Hospital in Greenville had several first time moms who occupied all the nice birthing suites.  We ended up in the old birthing unit, where the amenities clearly showed signs of aging. I had to go to work in the morning, as I was low on available sick time, but I did make it in time for the birth. And what a birth it was.

 Any plan of anesthesia was quickly abandoned as the anesthesiologist left the room stating, "she is crowning." The stirrups were not up yet so I became a manual stirrup. And when she was born, they still hadn't cleared off the baby warmer which had been used as storage for towels and other linens.  She came out quickly, with an urgency to be here, and I still see that urgency in the way she lives her life.

 When it came to naming Alison I was very happy that we agreed on the name without too much problem. There was no fighting over Emma's name either,  but I was very happy that I could name  my second daughter after song that I truly love. The song is by Elvis Costello, and it's from his debut album called My Aim Is True, and we retained the traditional British spelling with one l. It was one of his first singles,  and I thought it appropriate that I play the song on her 12th birthday. Please enjoy Elvis Costello with the song Alison.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

April 28 - The House at Pooneil Corners

Today's song was scary when it was recorded by Jefferson Airplane, but it got even scarier in 1993, when Motorpsycho put their hands on it. It is a song that is on the Mountain EP, following their breakthrough album, Demon Box. Demon Box was a double LP, but their record company, Voices of Wonder, did not want to release it as a double CD, so out of space restrictions, the song Mountain, which is one of my absolute favorites from that album, was left off Demon Box, but later released on its own EP. I have since sought out the original, but Motorpsycho's version of The House at Pooneil Corners is so dark and scary sounding that it is the one I prefer.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

April 27 - The Drapery Falls

Not every song requires too much in terms of an introduction. Opeth made mixing metal and melancholy into an art form on their fantastic album Blackwater Park, especially the song The Drapery Falls. Hopefully you will appreciate the growls toward the end in the context of this song. Give it a chance - you'll get sucked in!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

April 26 - Daughter

16 years ago today my life changed forever. I was still fairly new to the United States, I was still fairly newly married, and I was going to school. But none of that would compare to becoming a dad for the very first time. I remember sitting in the living room reading the book Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot by now Senator Al Franken, for some reason thinking that hitting the vital signs screen to see how they had changed was a good idea, and discussing computers with the doctor during the delivery. It was a strange day, but it was a beautiful day.

When we went in to the delivery room,  we had two names to choose between, knowing that we wanted to meet her first. After holding her in our arms, it was clear that she was an Emma and not a Nina. And today she turns 16.

It's funny how songs take on new meanings over time, and today's  song is no exception. I was a fan of Pearl Jam from the beginning. Today's  song is taken from their second album, Vs., and it's a beautiful song. Here is Daughter.

Monday, April 25, 2016

April 25 - This Story Must Be Told

It's time to change gears. Again. Although I do enjoy the thematic weeks, sometimes they freeze my creativity a little bit more than I would like. In order to truly break free from the mold, today's song is by a band that shattered every mold you'd ever try to put them in. The band is put together in the traditional power trio format, with guitar, bass, and drum, but it is how they use those instruments that truly sets them apart from the rest.

The band is NoMeansNo, yet another great Canadian trio. They are most widely characterized as punk rock, but their music has clear elements of progressive rock and jazz in it as well. It is let by two brothers, John Wright on drums and Rob Wright on bass and vocals, and the guitarist slot was initially held by Andy Kerr, but Tom Holliston has carried the six strings to stage the past 23 years or so (since 1993). If you can't hear the jazz in today's song, it is clearly there in their cover (with lyrics!) of Miles Davis' Bitches' Brew from the album One.

I first heard of NoMeansNo when I was at Hustad Leir as a conscientious objector to Norway's conscription. Being a conscientious objector did not free me from my required service to the country - but instead of 12 months of military service, which often was cut down to about 9 months at this point in time, I had to do 16 months of community service. This was not a punishment, but it did serve as a disincentive for people to simply claim they were conscientious objectors to get out of military service and into a cushier way of serving their country.

I enjoyed my stay at Hustad Leir, although I was really excited to move to Bergen and finish my community service at Center for International Health. The nice things about Hustad was that it had people from very different backgrounds - Jehova's Witnesses and stoners lived side by side as part of the local crew. I got library duty, which fit me to a t (I started in the kitchen and really liked that too, but the early mornings weren't fun - and Library was much more my thing anyway). I spent a lot of time with the stoners in camp, and it was in their company I first heard NoMeansNo. This was the summer and fall of 1994, so I believe the album that was played a lot was The Day Everything Became Isolated and Destroyed. I really liked it, but I didn't really click completely with them until a couple of years later, when I was working in Studentradioen i Bergen.

One of my duties was to be the engineer for their punk rock show, but the name of the show escapes me at this point. On my last show for them, they even played NoMeansNo for me, and it was from their fantastic 1998 album Dance of the Headless Bourgeoisie, which was released during my final stint in Studentradioen. This is the album that really made me aware of them, and while more traditional purists would hold Wrong to be their best, this still has a very special place to me. The opening song itself is a great song, and that is the one I am leaving you with today: This Story Must Be Told.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

April 24 - A Day In The Life

Today's song is the final song in the series of great album closers, and what a gem it is. A Day In The Life closes Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and was one of the best songs The Beatles ever recorded. I state it as fact simply because it has widely been recognized as such - but even more so simply because I say so... :-)

To be honest, I never got the big deal about Sgt. Pepper. Is it a good album? Yes, absolutely, with some great songs on it. But is it really a concept album, as many suggest? I am not so sure. I would even suggest that it isn't. The songs don't tell a story - aside from the suggestion that they are all played by this fictitious band, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. But, this is really immaterial when you start listening to the songs on the album, especially Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, Getting Better, and She's Leaving Home. And then there's A Day In The Life, which so clearly represents both Lennon and McCartney. The first main theme ("I heard the news today, oh boy...") is Lennon, then second major theme - about the day itself ("Woke up, got out of bed...") - clearly is McCartney. In other words, more than being a collaboration, it is a collage of elements that they wrote separately - yet it works. And then there is the end of it. The most cathartic piano chord ever recorded. Just listen and enjoy this masterpiece.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

April 23 - All Apologies

I love today's song. It is another fitting ending to a recording career, as it is the last song on the last studio album Kurt Cobain recorded with Nirvana. I will say that I find that Kurt Cobain is highly overrated as a songwriter and musician. That does not mean that I think he was without talent - quite the contrary - but that I think that he in his suicide reached a top that he otherwise would have had to climb to. This is not something new - there are several examples of artists that died young and reached a mythical status in their death, such as Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Jimi Hendrix - but Kurt Cobain was the first in my lifetime, and I was still curious to where he would go next.

It is tough when someone finds that even though he has a lot to live for, it isn't enough - it is outweighed by a desire for death or non-existence. I think that his death was foreshadowed in All Apologies, which closed Nirvana's 1994 album In Utero. Following his death it is even more harrowing than it was when it was released.

Friday, April 22, 2016

April 22 - I Can't Give Everything Away

There really isn't much to say about today's song. It is the last song on the last album David Bowie recorded - and he recorded it knowing full well he was dying. He released a lot of other great closers as well, especially Rock'n'Roll Suicide from Ziggy Stardust, Fame from Young Americans, Wild Is The Wind from Station To Station, Subterraneans from Low, Bring Me the Disco King from Reality, and I personally also like Strangers When We Meet from Outside. It has been such a great career - but he wrote the perfect ending to it with Blackstar - and I Can't Give Everything Away is such a great and worthy ending to a stellar career.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

April 21 - Purple Rain

There really isn't much to say. Some artists are so great that only one name is ever used. Picasso. Hitchcock. Shakespeare. And then there are the ones who only use first name. I can think of three: Miles. Elvis. Prince.

 I will be playing Prince for quite some time now. This song is another album closer of his - Sometimes It Snows in April was also one of his great album closers - but tonight there will be rain, and it will be purple. Prince was a genius. I didn't like everything he did, but I still recognize his undeniable talent in everything he did. Thank you for the music, Prince Rogers Nelson.

April 21 - Biko

Some album closers are just so good that they immediately become concert closers as well, and Peter Gabriel's Biko from his third album with the title Peter Gabriel (there was a fourth one as well - the third one is often referred to as the meltdown album based on its cover) is one of those songs. On stage, the musicians walk off one by one until there are only the pounding drums left - then they finish and the concert is over.

There is power in the music - the bagpipe sounding synth riff, the pounding drums, the guitar that only plays drawn out chords - but the real power lies in the lyrics of the song, about Stephen Biko, an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa who died while in police custody. Police initially tried to say he died from a hunger strike, but eventually had a hard time explaining the bruises from the harsh interrogation (read: torture) in police room 619 in Port Elizabeth, just as the lyrics state. The way the lyrics are built is also very interesting. The first verse is almost like a news report, stating the facts, with the chorus proclaiming that "the man is dead." The second verse deals with conscience and how this death has an impact, while the final verse is turning it into hope and a growing fire. And, finally, in the coda of the song, "the eyes of the world are watching now."

I didn't know much about Stephen Biko until I was watching a screening of the Richard Attenborough movie Cry Freedom with Denzel Washington portraying Biko, but the movie and Biko's story had a huge impact on my 15 year old self. When I also discovered Peter Gabriel's song, it really became the guiding star and rallying cry for my very spirited talk against racism and apartheid (being against apartheid is easy when you are as far away as I was - the racism part was more personal) - and that has in turn shaped the part of me that tries to be very open to others, regardless of race, ethnicity, religious or political views, or any other differences I might have from them. Please note that I said that I try - I am well aware that I don't always succeed, but that doesn't mean that it isn't my goal to be open.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

April 20 - Dimming of the Day

Richard and Linda Thompson really perfected the art of the album closer. In three of the four albums that still are in print (they have two albums that appear to be close to locked away in Sunnyvista and First Light), their choice of closer are stunning: Wall of Death from Shoot Out the Lights and The Great Valerio from I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight - and then there's the song of the day: Dimming Of The Day that transitions into the instrumental Dargai from Pour Down Like Silver.

When Pour Down Like Silver was recorded and released in 1975, Richard and Linda Thompson had converted to Sufism, which is a mystical branch of Islam, often concerned with purification of one's inner self. The album clearly has a religious theme, and Dimming of the Day is a great example of this - although it can be read as a love song as well, a finer reading of the lyrics does reveal a religious aspect.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

April 19 - "40"

Sometimes the best big brother you can have isn't related to you at all. I know that is the case for me. When I first met Jon Inge, I was a 13 year old brat with a combination of a traditional bowlcut hair and a mullet. He was 17 years old and in high school - and he was sporting a mustache (and a mullet, but without the bowlcut - his was almost spiky). We met at the local radio station, and I think the friendship started pretty instantly. The first time I visited his place (he still lived with his parents), my hair was a little bit longer, and his mom saw us walking up to their house and told his dad to hurry up and tidy things a little bit, because Jon Inge brought a girlfriend home - so I can claim being his first girlfriend.

But our friendship has really evolved to the point of me considering him family, and today he turns 48. That could mean that I am 8 years too late in playing today's song, which closes U2's fantastic and very important album War from 1983. However, the number 40 refers to Psalm 40, which is where the lyrics are derived from as well. U2 has been Jon Inge's favorite band for as long as I have known him, and when they visited Norway on both their Zoo TV tour in 1993 and again on their PopMart tour in 1997, Jon Inge and I went to see them. It's hard not to be flooded with great memories today, so all I have left is to play the song and wish the best big brother I could ever ask for a very happy birthday.

Oh - and be very thankful I didn't dig out the only demo tape Decent ever recorded. While the song This is a Decent Song (Without Text) surely would be a hit, the instrumentation of rocking chair and broken children's guitar might alienate a few too many readers - and I don't have any to sacrifice.

Monday, April 18, 2016

April 18 - The Diamond Sea

It is interesting how my musical taste has evolved over time - but I am also fascinated by how what music I am listening to is so very dependent on what my personal circumstances and moods are - and for how long those periods sometimes are in effect. Sonic Youth is a great example of that. After an initial period of being completely enamored by them to the point where I both bought and bought into everything they released, I have had a harder time picking up their music again after taking a little break from them. I am not thinking it's not because a lot of it is challenging, but rather that the flaws really start to show up with a little distance. Don't get me wrong, their best work is absolutely stellar, but it's a great example for me for a band that really was important at one point in my life, but that might have waned a little bit in terms of importance for me since then.

This constant change also shows me why I have as large of a music collection I have - and why I keep adding to it. I have to admit that I have probably not listened to every song in my collection. Most of them, most definitely, but there are albums I couldn't bear listening to from beginning to end even though I loved some of their songs. However, I also know that there are albums that I listened to once, then put them away not liking them, only to pick them up later and actually enjoying everything. Sometimes it takes a long time - a great example of that is Frank Zappa's Jazz From Hell, which I purchased when I was 19, but probably didn't fully appreciate until this past year - almost 25 years later. So when I say that Sonic Youth represented a period in time for me, I am very aware that it might be the case that I won't appreciate them the same way ever again, but I still have the ability to pull out their records and listen to them again - whenever I want to and wherever I am provided I have an internet connection thanks to Amazon Cloud Player.

Now, Sonic Youth's 1995 album Washing Machine was never one of my favorite SY albums, but the closing track really gets to me. I am hoping that you all will let yourself be washed away by the crushing waves of The Diamond Sea.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

April 17 - Spiritual

When I said yesterday that this would almost be a Johnny Cash weekend, it is because today's song also was covered by Johnny Cash as part of his American Recordings series. The song Spiritual first came to my attention with the band Spain, led by Josh Haden, son of jazz great Charlie Haden. Like his father, Josh Haden plays the bass, but he also sings and was the band's major song writer. In other words, the he was the band's undisputed leader - at least it certainly looked that way.

Their first album, The Blue Moods of Spain, is an album that I have a hard time classifying. Wikipedia calls it slowcore, dream pop, or soft rock, but I have a hard time with all of those labels. Yes, the music is slow and sometimes dreamy, but I am thinking more dark rooms filled with smoke and whiskey with a jazz-inspired combo playing in the corner - although this isn't jazz. Since I already have pointed out that I find labels to be about laziness, I won't dwell on that, but I do have a hard time describing their music as well.

Following their second album, She Haunts My Dreams, they came to Trondheim, and I remember dragging my dad along (he wasn't hard to convince) as well as my good friend Arve and his brother Rune to Veita scene, a great venue right downtown Trondheim that no longer exists, and that is a shame, because I had a lot of great experiences there. The concert was great - provided you, like me, are there to listen to the music rather than watch musicians jump around, because it did seem like they might have come in with nails earlier on and nailed their shoes to the stage so they would keep their place. However, the concert was somewhat marred by a drunken prick in the front row who insisted on touching Josh Haden's microphone stand. And when I say touching, it almost seemed like it was in an attempt of displaced self gratification, because that mic stand started moving back and forth. However, after mr. Haden had offered to take the offender out (I am thinking another drink might have taken him out as well, but I think a broken nose would have been the most appropriate thing on that occasion), security stepped in and the drunken trønder stepped out.

Anyway, today's song, Spiritual, is the closing song on The Blue Moods of Spain, and it is the perfect example on how a song with religious/spiritual lyrics can move even a secular heathen like me. And I thought it fit well on a Sunday...

Saturday, April 16, 2016

April 16 - Hurt

In a sense, this is Johnny Cash weekend. However, I will not play his originals, but rather play two album closers that he covered as part of his American Recordings series. Both of them were stellar in Cash's interpretations, but the originals are oh so good as well. The first is Nine Inch Nails' Hurt from The Downward Spiral. I didn't pick up the album right when it was released, but the year after I was living in Bergen at Fantoft Student Village, a mess of more concrete than glass, but the small apartments were still pretty cozy. It was a rainy day, which really isn't too uncommon in Bergen - the rain clouds rolling in easily stop when they reach the city's seven mountains, keeping the city covered in wetness the majority of dates (apparently an average of 202 days per year, according to Wikipedia climate data). I had a little bit of time to kill close to the bus terminal, so I walked to Marken, a very quaint little street, and found a small record store that at least used to be there.

Anyway, I do remember picking up The Downward Spiral there. The songs were brutal and more synth based than I was expecting - but I hadn't really listened much to Nine Inch Nails yet and Head Like A Hole had not reached me at that time in my life. Some tracks were standouts - Closer is still one of my absolute favorite tracks from the album - but after almost a full hour of aggression, the closing song provides a perfect ending to the album. Hurt is still incredibly painful to listen to, but for me, this pain is cathartic. Trent Reznor was reaching rock bottom when he wrote and sang Hurt, and you can clearly hear it in the lyrics.

Friday, April 15, 2016

April 15 - Eula

I am cheating a little today. Today's song is the last song on Baroness' Yellow album, but since that only is available in tandem with Green and Green is the second of the two, the last track on Green, If I Forget Thee, Lowcountry, is the double album closer. However, since the two have distinctly different feel to them and indeed seem like two separate albums (the running time could fit on one CD, which I believe supports my take on the albums being seen as separate), I am choosing to accept Eula, which is the closer on Yellow as an album closer and the song of the day.

When Yellow & Green was released in July 2012, it received a pretty ecstatic reception. Following gradually increasing successes with Red Album and Blue Record, they were poised for greatness. Then they toured England, and on August 15, less than a month after its release, their tour bus fell about 30 feet (9 meters) from a viaduct near Bath. Original drummer Allen Blickle and the more recently added bass player Matt Maggioni both suffered fractured vertebrae and subsequently left the band. Guitarist Pete Adams suffered some injuries, but was treated and released rather quickly. Guitarist, singer, lyricist and only remaining founding member John Dyer Baizley had his left arm crushed and broke a leg. His injuries to his hand were the most severe; as online music magazine Spin points out, "It took two large titanium plates, 20 screws, a foot-and-a-half of wire and almost 50 staples to put the arm back together."

In the summer of 2013, almost a year after the accident, John Dyer Baizley and Pete Adams found drummer Sebastian Thomson and bass player Nick Jost and hit the road again, thanking their fans for staying by their side and supporting them in recovery. They found their way to Grand Rapids, where they held a show at very small and alternative venue The Pyramid Scheme. I had just been to the Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts watching my daughters perform with the Flat River Dance Company, and was dressed fairly conservatively - polo shirt and dress slacks - which made me feel like the odd man out in the audience. It doesn't help that you are in your forties when most people around you are in their twenties. However, I quickly got over myself and enjoyed their opening act, Coliseum, before finally getting to experience the mighty Baroness live. And let me tell you that it was quite something. While they still were getting to know each other musically, there was such an exuberant joy coming from John Baizley and Pete Adams especially - you could simply feel how badly they really wanted this. And I don't care how much people were hardened metal heads in the audience, Baizley's heartfelt thank you to the audience should have moistened at least the corner of their eyes as well. I know it did mine - but then again, I am a sentimental sap. Anyway - one of the things they do really well is blending melody with ferocious power, and if you listen to Eula, that is exactly what you will hear!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

April 14 - In The Court Of The Crimson King

When it comes to King Crimson, I have two album closers that really stand out. One I already have shared is Starless from the album Red. The other is the title track from their debut album, In The Court of the Crimson King. Their debut is a monster of an album. Opening with 21st Century Schizoid man, it is a tour-de-force all the way through the title track. The instrumentation is also intriguing - musically they were a four-piece let by master guitarist Robert Fripp (although King Crimson was a lot more democratic back then than they were in subsequent lineups). On bass and vocals they had Greg Lake, who went on to great fame with Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Michael Giles was their drummer, while Ian McDonald played woodwinds and keyboards. Their fifth member was Peter Sinfield, who wrote their lyrics and helped with production. While his role was nebulous, to say the least, Robert Fripp has stated that he was invaluable.

The album In the Court of the Crimson King sounds like it is recorded by an army of musicians, and not just four. The wall of sound on 21st Century Schizoid Man is filled with barbed wire and more brutal than just about anything else I have heard from 1969. While it is possible to assume that it is due to production techniques, live recordings from the time shows just how powerful they were as a four-piece. The rest of the album is softer - and when the title track closes the album, there is no doubt in my mind that this is one of the greatest debut albums in the history of rock music.

When King Crimson got together to get on the road last year, Robert Fripp had brought Ian McDonald back, along with three drummers with very distinct styles. And the second live document from the tour, Live in Toronto, features three tracks from In the Court of the Crimson King: Epitaph, In the Court of the Crimson King, and the show closer 21st Century Schizoid Man. It is an album well worth purchasing - it is adventurous and grand, and the three drummers keep every track very interesting. But for today, please enjoy In the Court of the Crimson King the way it originally was recorded!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

April 13 - When The Levee Breaks

Those drums. Those thundering drums. That's all you hear as this song starts, and they keep on driving the song throughout.

When I purchased Led Zeppelin's fourth album from a used record store located behind EPA, one of the bigger department stores in Trondheim - and my favorite, because they had an ice cream counter there that sold strawberry soft serve ice cream (or even a twist with strawberry and vanilla). Anyway, I saw this album cover that had a picture of an old man carrying a bunch of sticks hanging on a wall with disintegrating wallpaper around it. I had no idea what it was, but the guy running the store was Geir Otnes, an older kid from my neighborhood who sang in the band Team, which gave him instant rock-star status in my early teenage eyes, and he pointed out that it had Stairway To Heaven on it. Now I have to confess that I actually didn't know the song yet - but I had heard of it, and that was enough for me at that time in my life (ah - who am I kidding - I am pretentious enough to still let reputation be enough for me to pursue music. What can I say? It's an approach that has worked for me). The album didn't appear to have a name - but there were four symbols that showed up - one for each of the band members. It was their fourth album, and since the previous ones had been named Led Zeppelin I-III, it is most commonly known as Led Zeppelin IV

The album had a gatefold sleeve, which was a trait usually reserved for double albums, and when I opened it up, most of the inside was black, but along the top edge was something that looked like a wizard on the edge of a cliff overlooking a village with a lantern that held a star. Turning it from landscape to portrait orientation, it was magical and mystical in a way that can't be captured in a booklet that is 5" by 5" - or online. That awe-inspiring approach to artwork is what I miss the most about vinyl records. Pulling out the record sleeve, it was paper that to me appeared as parchment - and it had the lyrics of Stairway To Heaven on it, filling one side completely. The other side of it listed the songs and credits, and it featured the four symbols.

I bought the record, took it home, and put it on the turntable. As the needle dropped, the static gave way to a barely perceptible guitar sound before Robert Plant wailed "Hey, hey mama, said the way you move's gonna make me sweat, it's gonna make me groove..." Black Dog was an instant hit with me, and followed by Rock And Roll it is a great one-two punch that leaves you reeling. Another rocking song there would knock anyone to the floor, so they put in The Battle of Evermore, showcasing their folk influences and using Sandy Denny from Fairport Convention to duet with Robert Plant. And that's where they lost me when I first listened to the album. In my eyes, they barely recovered with Stairway to Heaven, which, even though I love the song, is one of the most overrated songs in rock history (and the subject of a current plagiarism law suit). Side B followed a similar pattern, although Misty Mountain Hop and Four Sticks were far from as powerful as Black Dog and Rock and Roll - but Going To California was as much of a buzzkill for my 13-14 year old self as The Battle of Evermore had been on Side A.

But then there were drums. John Bonham's thunderous approach to the rhythm of Memphis Minnie's When The Levee Breaks was amplified by the echo in a staircase of Headley Grange, a run down former poorhouse that was converted to a studio by the use of the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio, which has been used for both studio and live recordings by a multitude of bands, including it's owners, The Rolling Stones. Jimmy Page's guitar riff follows, and Robert Plant plays a mean harmonica on top of it. John Paul Jones' bass is almost not heard in the beginning, but it is there, following the guitar riff - and becomes more obvious on the break between verses. This is a great example of the power of Led Zeppelin, and is to me one of the highlights of their recording career.

Today when I listen to their fourth album, I can honestly say that I love all 8 songs, but the song that always makes me come back for more is the album closer - and just remember that "if it keeps on raining, the levee's gonna break"

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

April 12 - Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)

Following yesterday's song, I got to thinking about album closers - you know the songs that some bands hide all the way at the end in hopes that no one remembers that there are more than a handful of good songs on the record - or the ones that deliberately are placed there to place a fitting end to a solid record. I started looking at these songs, and I realized that I have more than enough material for not just one, but two weeks - and that is in addition to the ones I already have shared. Pink Floyd's Brain Damage/Eclipse, Motorpsycho's Big Black Dog, The Doors' The End, U2's Love Is Blindness - and those are just the ones I remember off the top of my head from this year so far.

And since I decided to create another series of it, I had to set one very important rule: No live albums included. Bands tend to top their sets in the beginning to hook you in and in the end so you remember how great the show was - and that means they are much more calculated and often with more material to choose from.

To start us off, I went with a great guitar player - one who took the electric guitar further than it had been before. Jimi Hendrix was a master in playing with the wah-wah pedal as well as controlling the distortion, and today's song is in my opinion his crowning achievement. The year was 1968, and Jimi had just brought his Experience in the studio for what was to become their swan song: Electric Ladyland. At the end of this double album, his guitar starts a wah-wah driven rhythm before the main riff enters, eventually accentuated by Mitch Mitchell's hi hat before the full drum set kicks in and Noel Redding's bass helps set a grove that lasts the next 5 minutes or so. What a fitting way to end the recording career of a huge power trio. This was also the last studio album released while Hendrix was still alive, and what a finale that was.

I really only started listening to Jimi Hendrix because of my mother, who simply had talked about him - I hadn't really heard him. But at one point, I found the tape Smash Hits on sale for 25NOK (about 3 dollars) - at least that is the price I am guessing it was - and I purchased it. When I went home after that trip to Playtime, I took the bus, but it was standing room only, so turning the tape in my Walkman was a challenge - however, it was one I had perfected. I didn't need to turn the tape to realize I had found a new golden nugget of guitar greatness, though. The opening riff of Purple Haze was more than enough to establish just how good Hendrix was.

I first heard Voodoo Child (Slight Return) on a compilation tape of great guitar songs, along with Judas Priest's You've Got Another Thing Coming and George Thoroughgood's Bad To The Bone, and I still consider it one of the best rock songs ever. Please enjoy The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Voodoo Child (Slight Return).

Monday, April 11, 2016

April 11 - Carry Me Away

When I was 17 and working in Radio Ung, we received a record from a band none of us had heard of.  This wasn't anything new - we got all kinds of strange music. Since we were a rather small station, record companies weren't shipping us all the best stuff, but we had someone working for us who listened to the music coming in, and he handed me the album and said they sounded like Guns'n'Roses. After listening to it for myself, the only similarity I heard was that they used distorted guitars. This band's singer was also higher pitched, but she was a woman, so that is understandable...

The band was Concrete Blonde and the album was Free. The singer was Johnette Napolitano, and I immediately fell in love with her voice. The album is still great - from the opening chords of God Is A Bullet to the closing song, which is today's song: Carry Me Away. The reason we got the album was that Concrete Blonde found their way to Trondheim, and I was given an interview opportunity with the band. Here is where it all went slightly wrong. I had not yet listened to the album. I had tossed it onto the turntable and listened to it in the background, but I hadn't really heard it yet. 

When I arrived at Royal Garden Hotel, which back then was considered a pretty upscale hotel - at least to me, who barely had been in a hotel of any sort - the interviews were set up in such a way that one of the bigger radio stations got to meet with Johnette Napolitano, while I was sitting with another radio station and the three guys. The good thing for me was that the other radio station's interviewer was the older brother of a very good friend of mine from elementary and middle school - and he had good questions for them that I also recorded. However, I made a rookie mistake when I admitted that I wasn't going to their concert that night. My second mistake was that I told them I was going to a party instead - and when they asked to come as well I told them no. Knowing my friend Sissel, whose house was the place for the evenings festivities, an American rock band would have been awesome... And, of course, the real mistake was not going to see them, as they are a great band. So today I bring you one of the truly great album closers: Carry Me Away

Sunday, April 10, 2016

April 10 - I'm Broken

Today's song is the third and final song in a trilogy of groove based songs from the early 90s. I was never the biggest Pantera fan, but I'm Broken from 1994's Far Beyond Driven is to me incredibly infectious and a great way to end my spring break. Pantera kinda broke up in 2001 - it wasn't an official breakup, but lead singer Phil Anselmo worked with his side project Down and was joined by bass player Rex Brown, and the Abbot brothers, Dimebag Darrell (guitar) and Vinnie Paul (drums), started the band Damageplan. Pantera reuniting was not at this point out of the question until Dimebag Darrell was killed on stage by a fan during a Damageplan concert in 2004.

But, like I said, I was never a huge fan of Pantera, but I think I'm Broken is an outstanding groove metal song.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

April 9 - In The Meantime

So I am on a roll with groove based songs from the early 90s. This next one is by the band Helmet, let by Page Hamilton, who after they called it a day for the first time spent some time in David Bowie's backing band at the end of the 90s before resurrecting Helmet again. Their drummer, John Stanier, has also been very busy since the original band broke up, playing with Mike Patton in Tomahawk as well as playing drums for Battles, which is a very interesting and experimental band. But in 1992 he played in Helmet, and they released their second album, Meantime, to critical acclaim. The opening track, In The Meantime is an exercise in locking into a groove and rolling with it.

Friday, April 08, 2016

April 8 - Sober

It's time to get a little heavier again - and I am talking about the music. Today's song is from Tool's first full-length album, Undertow, from 1993. I wish I could say it is about sobriety, but the chorus actually goes "why can't we not be sober..." - so it's quite the opposite. However, the power of this song really punched me in the gut. The bass and the drums locks into a groove that keeps jabbing at you throughout the song and leaves space for Adam Jones' guitar to float over it, much in the school of Alex Lifeson of Rush. Danny Carey is a master drummer, and he showcases that fully here - and while Paul D'Amour doesn't have the technical chops of his successor Justin Chancellor, he can lay a very groovy foundation. And then there is Maynard. Maynard James Keenan goes from whispers to screams on this track, which showcases his strength and versatility as a singer. Turn it up, try to sit back, and enjoy this suckerpunch of a song!

Thursday, April 07, 2016

April 7 - The Prophet's Song

If I say Queen, most of you will probably automatically think Bohemian Rhapsody, We Will Rock You, and We Are the Champions - or, if you grew up in the 80s, Radio Ga Ga and Under Pressure. However, there is a very, very wide range of music that is hidden underneath the hits that most of us know and love, and my song of the day is one of those. The choral section of Bohemian Rhapsody is well known, but there was another song on A Night at the Opera that used a similar technique - and I personally hold this one in higher esteem than Bohemian Rhapsody. This is one of those songs that words really can't do justice to, so I encourage you to play it. Hopefully you will enjoy it as much as I do.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

April 6 - Mogwai Fear Satan

I love songs that just build and build and build, and Scottish post-rockers Mogwai are experts at doing just that. Now, I did use the term post-rock just now, but I really don't like it. I really don't know what it means - which means that all I just did was repeat a term I had heard used about Mogwai just because it seemed like the right thing to do. To me, trying to put a label on everything still is an easy way out. Mogwai's music is something I would prefer to have people hear rather than read about - and Mogwai Fear Satan is a great introduction. It is a simple theme that gets more and more layered as the song goes on. Pay close attention to how the bass is used to alter the tension and the meaning of the three note ascending melody line that is carried through the guitar. Play it loud and let this song wash over you - it is a very soul-cleansing song.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

April 5 - Armageddon Days (Are Here Again)

It's hard to imagine that today's song actually is 27 years old, as the topic is even more appropriate today. The year was 1989, and Matt Johnson, who for some time really had been The The, had teamed up with Johnny Marr, who had been in The Smiths with Morrissey, to create Mind Bomb. Johnson's voice is complimented perfectly by Marr's guitar, and the style carried over to 1992's Dusk.

However, today's song is from Mind Bomb, and it was written as Salman Rushdie received a fatwa - or a death threat - from Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran that yielded several failed assassination attempts on both him and his publishers. It is deceptively upbeat for its topic - but pay close attention to the lyrics, and I think you will understand why I think this still is highly appropriate!

Monday, April 04, 2016

April 4 - Brain Damage/Eclipse

In one of the finest closings of any album of any time, Pink Floyd closed their album The Dark Side of the Moon from 1973 with the duo of Brain Damage and Eclipse. While this album really flows from one song to the next, there are several singular moments that are standouts, but to me, this end has always been spectacular. The Dark Side of the Moon was the moment when the transformation from a psychedelic band to the symphonically progressive Pink Floyd most people know was complete. It did not happen overnight - just listen to the live portion of Ummagumma or the album Meddle, whose Echoes takes up a whole side - but at this point in their career, they developed the music live, then took their time using the studio - Abbey Road Studio, to be precise - as an added instrument. The use of tape loops is very audible in these two songs, and that was a technique that was used over and over again on the album to great effect.

This iteration of Pink Floyd was led by Roger Waters, but my personal belief is that what made them so great at this point in their career was the tension between the very edgy Waters and the more melodically sensitive David Gilmour. If you listen to their albums from The Dark Side of the Moon through The Wall, you can hear this play out throughout - then The Final Cut could be as much a Roger Waters solo album as A Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Division Bell could be David Gilmour solo albums. Now, I am not trying to downplay the importance of Nick Mason on drums and Rick Wright on keyboards here - they really are integral part of the sound of Pink Floyd - but the Waters/Gilmour relationship was in my opinion as important as the push and pull between Lennon and McCartney in The Beatles.

I was introduced to Pink Floyd at weekend seminars with the teetotaling organizations I was a member of - and it was strengthened during an 8th grade work experience I spent with Jørund Hølaas, who was working for both Radio Ung and NGU at the time. He was a huge Pink Floyd fan, with several live recordings as well as a complete collection of their music - and it didn't take me long to get hooked. Of course, their moody and sometimes brooding music also lent itself well as a soundtrack to both regular teenage angst and periods where my depression took over. I have spent many an hour in my dark room with The Dark Side of the Moon blasting at full force. Listening to it today is a little different than it was, but the catharsis reached at the finale still gets me the same way, and I hope to share that with you today. Please take a moment to listen to Brain Damage and Eclipse from Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

April 3 - Sometimes It Snows In April

Prince is a genius. Yup, I really believe that. I don't always like what he does, and I haven't always liked him, but the switch eventually flipped, and I consider his mid-80s output from 1984's Purple Rain through 1987's Sign O' The Times to be one of the best strings of pop records ever recorded. Some will balk at the exclusion of 1999 (from 1982) and Lovesexy (from 1988), but this is still my blog - and my taste. I liked the albums that came after better than the ones that came before, and I like both of the aforementioned albums - just not as well as the 84-87 output.

Like I said, I didn't always like Prince. It is similar to my intense dislike for Michigan State, which started with just a slight preference for University of Michigan that became amplified as a protest to the "way too vocal to be healthy for any team" support I encountered for MSU - so now I obnoxiously support any team that plays MSU - including Middle Tennessee State University. It was a little bit of that with Prince as well. I didn't really have anything against him, I just wasn't sold on him. But I had friends, especially Svein and Are, who really liked him and talked a lot about him, so my inner contrarian eventually kicked in full force.

However, at one point, I think it was not too long after the friendship with Svein started getting closer, Svein actually convinced me to start listening to Prince. We were starting to play together a little, and one of the songs he suggested was The Cross from Sign O' The Times. After hearing it, I was blown away. Although I couldn't identify with the lyrics, I did recognize how good they were - and it rocked harder than a lot of what I was listening to. Discovering his edge made me listen - and then I fully discovered his abilities as a guitar player, which are highly underrated. All of this made me ask Svein to get a stack of his CDs for me when he went to the US to study - and I fully committed to this eccentric Minnesotan.

Today's song is inspired by the snow storm I drove through yesterday, even though that's really not what this song is about. It's a hauntingly beautiful jazz-tinged ballad from Parade (1986) called Sometimes It Snows In April. Unfortunately, Prince appears to be patrolling YouTube a little bit too closely, but my fellow countryman Espen Lind has a decent cover version of it - but get the original!

Saturday, April 02, 2016

April 2 - Firth of Fifth

I have really been listening a lot to Genesis again lately, and one son I initially just liked because I thought the title was cool has been playing over and over again - but now because I actually love the song. My favorite Genesis period was back when Phil Collins was the drummer, Steve Hackett played otherworldly guitar, Tony Banks played all the keyboards, Mike Rutherford focused on the bass guitar, and, my personal favorite, Peter Gabriel sang and played the flute. This lineup stayed together for four albums, released between 1971 and 1974: Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, Selling England by the Pound, and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.

Today's song is simply chosen "just because" - I love it and want to share it. From the mind of Tony Banks and released on the album Selling England by the Pound in 1973, here is Firth of Fifth

Friday, April 01, 2016

April 1 - 2112

Today marks the 40th anniversary of an album that if it didn't change my life, it certainly significantly enhanced it. Somewhere in the mid-80s - probably right in 84-85, the year I have talked about at great length before - Heavyrockmagasinet, my favorite radio show, did a special on Rush. The hosts were huge Rush fans, and it didn't take me long to get converted, thanks to Jan Are and his brother Leif Ove. This was around the time of Power Windows, which Jan Are really liked and I never got quite into. I remember Jan Are and I walking to his house talking about the fact that there was going to be a Rush special - and after listening to it, I think both of us were very excited about raiding Leif Ove's collection to find a Rush album or two.

The album that I first really connected to was their massive breakthrough album 2112, which was released April 1, 1976 - 40 years ago today. The first side of the album was a suite called 2112, and it told the story of a society led by some mystical priests where music is outlawed - but the protagonist of the story finds a guitar and starts playing it. He brings it to the priests of the temple of Syrinx, who promptly shuts him down. That's the nutshell version. The music is mainly written by bassist and vocalist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson, with lyrics by drummer Neil Peart. The story is inspired by the book Anthem by Ayn Rand, and Rush thus took me into exploring objectivism, which was Ayn Rand's philosophy. I will say that while I was intrigued by the focus on individualism and following your own thoughts and ideals, I quickly became disenchanted with the cold disregard for others she espoused.

When I later, in a philosophy course I took, once again was introduced to Ayn Rand, I finally saw the hypocrisy she displayed. We looked at a couple of her philosophical tenets, and then we watched the movie The Fountainhead, which she also worked on, including writing the script. I found it very disconcerting that she, in a movie talking about individualism, allowed for very classical poses - poses that were anything but original or individual. Cary Grant was cast as Howard Roark, once again a safe choice, and very little in terms of originality and individualism. It was hypocritical to me that a movie about individualism and originality gave in to all the tropes making it suitable for mass consumption, and I have had a strong dislike of Ayn Rand ever since.

Anyway, back to Rush. When they went in the studio to record the album, the record company was very set on one thing: No epic suites. On Fly By Night, their second album, they had started working on longer pieces with By-Tor and the Snow Dog, and their third album, Caress of Steel had two epics: The Necromancer, which closed out side A, and The Fountain of Lamneth, which comprised the entirety of Side B. While Rush did receive some airplay especially after their debut album, their records kept on tanking, and the record company thought that shorter songs that really could be played on the radio was the solution. Looking at it now, I really love the attitude they must have had, deciding to write an epic and to say that this is who we are and what we want to do - thus really letting their artistic vision trump any record company desire for increased sales.

The beauty of it all is that their artistic vision did lead to increased sales. Not right away, but gradually. It became their first Billboard top 100 album, peaking at #61, and it was certified gold in 1977. By 2011, it had sold more than 3,000,000 copies in the US alone, which certified it to triple platinum status. I cannot help myself, and I am giddy with excitement for it, but I just have to play 2112 in its entirety today. It is a good day for some serious Rush!