Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Trans Siberian Orchestra - Wizards in Winter


December… Well Christmas must be the first thing most people think of when December rolls around, so I might as well embellish this common thought pattern.

Now as a cynical, miserable person it would be unnatural of me to say anything positive about a commercialized, Christianized, pagan holiday originally celebrating the coming of winter as you may have noticed December 25 is awfully close to the winter solstice which occurs every 21st or 22nd of December. I’ll spare you my negativity on this matter since this has nothing to do with music.

I suspect I am not wholly alone in my general dislike of Christmas carols and Christmas music in general. For the most part most songs written for Christmas are obvious attempts at cashing in on the finical feeling of season, which is consumerism. Furthermore any song written that can be credit as ‘good’ on its own merits usually suffers from being produced for the wrong reasons, naturally, once again commercialism. Overall I have grown extremely weary of any music in association with Christmas.

You can probably guess where this is going.

In 1979 a virtually unknown progressive rock group known as Savatage began their career. They would found no success until their 1987 album “Hall of the Mountain King,” which I have never heard, and never heard of until I looked it up. Supposedly they have experienced a relatively successful career since then but I could not possibly tell you any of their songs, they are a complete mystery to me. Founded by the Oliva brothers Criss and Jon, Jon would feel the need to change his career and life altogether after the death of his brother Criss in 1993. So that’s where we get Jon.

Paul O’Neill was originally a guitarist, whom toured with such musical as “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Hair,” you just might have heard of those. He went on to be a legendary manager in the music industry producing such groups as Aerosmith, AC/DC, Def Leppard, Ted Nugent, The New York Dolls, and the Scorpions. An impressive list to say the least. In 1991 he would team up the Oliva brothers to create the rock opera “Streets” which I have never seen or heard of before today. Anyway that is where we get Paul.

Robert Kinkel is a keyboardist who played with Savatage after Criss’s unfortunate death. That’s all. Robert is apparently the easy one to explain.

These three men, working in, and living in New York decided to combine their glorious efforts to create something very different; The Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

The concept for The Trans-Siberian Orchestra was Christmas songs done in a rock opera style. I think its safe to say nothing like this has been done before.

The name of the group comes from the Trans-Siberian Railway in Russia, which Kinkel says connects many cultures otherwise isolated, much like music. With such a name like “The Trans-Siberian Orchestra” you would think they are Russian, I know I did, but apparently not. Near as I can tell they are all American. Although with a name like Kinkel, we can assume some Russian heritage from Robert.

Studios, not surprisingly did not care much for the idea of Christmas rock operas, and I can’t say I blame them. However after the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s first release “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” in 1996 they became an immediate success, subsequently proving there is indeed a market for holiday music that rocks.

Recently the Trans-Siberian Orchestra has obtained some internet fame through Christmas lights maniacs setting their very elaborate and very, very, impressive Christmas lights to the song “Wizards in Winter.”

Have you seen it? I know this is old news to most people, but wow! If you haven’t make sure that you do:

Can you imagine living next to that? I really like how he has different sets of lights dedicated to different instruments.

EDIT:

It has been six years since I wrote this review, and since that time there have been many other efforts by enthusiastic Christmas lovers to set their lights to "Wizards in Winter"

2010

2010

2011

2012

Who knows what is going to happen in the future.

You got to admit it is a pretty sweet song, but what do you expect from a sixty-piece rock orchestra?

So this month “Wizards in Winter” is my song of choice. You can download the attached file and rock out this Christmas or you can do what I did last year and watch that video over and over again. I recommend both.

Until next year, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Seatbelts - Blue

I’m getting sloppy, it’s the seventeenth and I haven’t already sent out my monthly endeavor.

I had a certain plan set out for the next few months of what I wanted to do, but I like surprises, so I try to even surprise myself when I can, so lets shake things up a little.

I planned on waiting a full year to win over any doubtful minds that my messages of musical importance are in fact in good taste and possessed intellectual content. I figured I would play it safe with my song choices, the songs I have already gone through leave little doubt in the minds of rational people that I am obviously right to preach about their artistic wonder. But I am a man that likes to stand out, and since I already worry the risk running dry and boring it is high time I shook things up a little with a song a little more out of the ordinary.

Seatbelts is a musical group that is more or less out of Japan, though there members are many and from all over the world. Headed by Yoko Kanno they consist of somewhere between thirty to forty members, maybe more. The name “Seatbelts” came from the somewhat humorous express quoted by Miss Kanno herself, “we have so many styles within the band, you’d better strap on your seatbelts.”

Naturally like nearly everything out of Japan these days commercialism is how I came to know of Seatbelts. A lot of groups in Japan only really make it big do to their influence on soundtracks for animated series. You may have noticed the obnoxious amount of anime on television in the last five years. Well I liked Japanese animation before it was cool, way back in grade school, when I was still a kid and ironically anime for the most part was far more mature. Animation when done well is really nothing less then video art, and back ten plus years ago if I wanted to see something that actually contained subject matter that didn't completely insult my young intelligence I needed to look to Japan, or Fezetta and Bakshi but there movies were few.

Two of my favorite animes were hosted with the works of Yoko Kanno and her crew, “Macross Plus” and the now famous “Cowboy Bebop.”

Commercialism leads to second rate garbage, usually. The integrity to make music can easily be jaded when a pressure from outside money based influences push along the artistic project. However, as I am often caught saying, restriction often breeds true creativity. Anyone can create art if they throw random color on a canvas, and then lie about the meaning behind it all, but given a strict ridged objective and then finding a means to convey that message, meaning, or emotion is not only more challenging but often offers the greater creation. Who says creativity lacks structure, balance, and logic? Go back to hell with your random garbage. It comes out of you involuntarily, much like vomit and it shares the same value.

Macross Plus was a sequel to the infamous, “Macross, Super Dimensional Fortress” also know as “Robotech” in North America. Macross Plus however easily stands alone since any continuity that lays in mystery from original to the new is of such little importance the plot and characters remain wholly intact in the eyes of the viewer who does not know. The overall four part series is about rivaling test pilots that also share a common love interest, the fight each other in their transforming jets that take the form of humanoid battle suits. Obviously Macross Plus lies in the genre of science fiction. The music chosen is thus created appropriately, very techno and pop based are all the tracks, not my style of music at all, but as far as music of that sort goes I have to admit Macross Plus has a decent soundtrack.

Cowboy Bebop is where Seatbelts really shinned him my eyes.

Now anyone, who says to me, “I know about Cowboy Bebop, I saw the movie,” spare me your ignorance. The movie was nothing more then one long episode, and not a particularly good episode. Not bad, but not great.

The last anime I truly enjoyed, was naturally created back 1997, of course I wouldn’t see it until 2001-2002 when it finally came to late night cartoon television. It was also the last time I would dare say this about a TV show; “The entire project was a piece of art.”

Cowboy-Bebop, country-hip hop, a clash of styles. Well the entire series carried that subtle and simple side factor through beginning to end. The TV show was a western sci-fi about two bounty hunters living in a big ship in space, one was an older retired cop who was patient and responsible, the other a younger hot headed former Mafia hit-man that never, and I mean never, talked about his past. I’ve seen many a western television show try to rip off Bebop since 97 but they all pale in comparison.

The art style for each episode varied appropriately, from comedic, to jazzy, blues, western, samurai, heavy metal, drugs, mobster, and outer space. Every fight scene was in sync with the music, characters actually moved to music, and painfully subtle hints were given out to the main overall plot though never clearly stated. It was a show that rewarded the viewer who paid attention and further awarded the viewer to have the insight to connect the dots. They never really explain why Spike and Vicious hated each other so much; but you knew they really hated each other.

You can understand why I am so taken by Yoko Kanno can’t you? Each episode needed a different song to go with a clashing style of genres and themes, who else could do it except a group with forty members ranging from pop singers to opera singers, blues guitar players, to orchestra piano players, heavy synthesizer to Austria choir.

I am no big fan of jazz but they wrote some great jazz for the opening theme.

I like the blues a little and you might have guessed a moody show like Bebop contained a lot of blues.

The overall “cowboy” theme with the bounty hunter being named “cowboys” forced some country into the mix.

Lighthearted episodes were more techno and pop oriented, highly experimental… and not always for the best.

Do I need to explain the significance of an episode titled “Heavy Metal Queen”?

What they did with the Cowboy Bebop score was nothing shy of impressive. The final episode came so fast that to do this day there is an army of angry, nerdy, fans that are pissed about how it ended and that it did end. Frankly I couldn’t be happier with how it ended. It was powerful; it left me wanting more but excepting I couldn’t have more.

I don’t think I would dare describe in full the intricacies of the ending, why ruin it, and why ramble on more then I already have? But the final song for the ending credits for the last episode stung with power that is rarely obtained in anything.

The song “Blue.”

Simple enough name isn’t it. Holds only little literal meaning, symbolically, zounds.

I’m not sure I can describe Blue, but I’m going to try. It would be a pop song… it would be if not for the presence of the choir. It is fairly electric, with heavy synthesizers, but it is light and easy listening. A really, really, good pop song? I would almost say so, if not for the choir, it adds such a unique element to the song, the young voices… so beautiful, yet so haunting. The somber tone in the singer’s voice so morbidly depressing yet so hopeful and uplifting. It is such a brilliant clash of styles.

Never seen a bluer sky,
Yeah I can feel it reaching out,
And moving closer.
There's something about blue.
Asked myself what it's all for,
You know the funny thing about it,
I couldn't answer.
No I couldn't answer.

Things have turned a deeper shade of blue,
And images that might be real,
May be illusion,
Keep flashing off and on.

Free. Wanna be free.
Gonna be free.
And move among the stars.
You know they really aren't so far.
Feels so free.
Gotta know free.

Please Don't wake me from the dream.
It's really everything it seemed.
I'm so free.
No black and white in the blue.

Everything is clearer now.
Life is just a dream you know,
That's never ending.
I'm ascending

If you know Cowboy Bebop well enough you know those lyrics are very appropriate which means all the more Yoko Kanno and Seatbelts took the subject matter of the series into consideration when creating the perfect soundtrack. It may not be the best music ever, but it is the very best music for Cowboy Bebop. Then again a song like Blue, it is pretty awesome. It is really like nothing I have ever heard before. Blue is something so rare now of days, something truly original.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin

A great live performance:

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Scorpions - Crossfire/Deadly Sting Suit

It was the year 1999. Klaus Meine and Rudolf Schenker wanted to do something special for the turn of the millennium. For years they had thought about applying their music to an orchestra combining hard rock with a classical touch. Unfortunately, in a way, Metallica beat them to the punch, for even though Klaus and Rudolf had thought about such a concept album well before the fated S&M album was recorded, Metallica was much faster at producing a final product. Still there is no reason why two rock legends can’t do something similar.

The Scorpions are the most successful rock group to ever come out of Germany, and easily, believably the greatest. Founding members Rudolf Schenker (lead guitarist) and Klaus Meine (lead vocals) are the only two original members of the band left and as well, as I am sure you could have guessed the visionaries and leaders of what is The Scorpions.

Despite the massive success The Scorpions have had worldwide they are, tragically, mostly known only for their overplayed single “Rock you Like a Hurricane.” Still I am sure most of you have heard many of their other excellent singles such as “Wind of Change,” “No One Like You,” “The Zoo,” and “Can’t Live Without You,” just to name a few. However few of us here in North America realize just how successful and respected The Scorpions are. Not just within Germany but all across Europe and likely other locations across the earth The Scorpions are considered one of the greatest classic rock groups of all time. Usually they are held on accolades comparable to “The Who,” or even “The Doors,” which in my humble opinion is about as great as a compliment as one could ever receive. As far as musical ability and progression of the fine art of rock and roll I feel these standards The Scorpions are held too are perfectly justifiable.

It was the year 1999. The two leaders and visionaries of The Scorpions decide their special project for the new millennium should be their long dreamed project of teaming up with The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and kicking ass.

Honestly I was never very impressed with Metallica’s S&M album. It seemed like a great idea for a great band but when I actually listened to the album after it came out, it seemed like nothing more then a sub-par live album that happened to have some violins added into the mix. I believe a lot of the implementation of the orchestra felt forced and unnatural. There was so much potential with the concept of adding an entire orchestra with classic rock songs, but when it came to putting the parts together I have to say I believe Metallica failed. S&M is still a really good album, because even a sub-par live Metallica album is pretty good.

“The Scorpions live with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra; Moment of Glory 2000” would be the album to rock my socks off. It may be the single greatest live performance by The Scorpions and they also happened to have a highly skilled and highly talented orchestra with them. They redid classics like “Hurricane 2000,” “Wind of Change,” “Still Loving You,” “Big City Nights,” and “Send Me a Angel,” and for the most part made them better then the originals. There are two original songs for the album “Moment of Glory” which is sadly a pretty bad song no matter how you look at it, and the best song off the album “Deadly Sting Suite.”

“Crossfire” was a little virtually unknown track off their album “Crazy World,” they decided to redo this song in a big way. The simplistic drumbeat of the original version yielded itself perfectly to experimentation. They dropped all the lyrics out of the song reducing Klaus Meine’s role to playing one of the eighty instruments in the song, which somehow I just know didn’t bother him too much. “Crossfire” plays into the track “Deadly Sting Suite,” thus why I have ripped a mp3 of both tracks as one for this month’s review. Where “Crossfire” is an excellent example of taking an old song and making it into something new and mind boggling awesome, “Deadly Sting Suite” is the powerhouse of the album. All of a sudden the trumpets are roaring, the violins are spindling, and the glockenspiel steals the show with fast paced precision. Never thought I would be talking about a glockenspiel in such a manner and frankly I never get bored of talking about it, as funny as this is, this is no joke, that glockenspiel is wicked.

To this day “Crossfire/Deadly Sting Suite” is my favorite instrumental. Rudolf Schenker shows off some of his best work in his career with a rapidly changing tempo and style through out the song. The song builds up gradually, allowing the listener to fully appreciate the implementation of every instrument and the crucial role they play in making the greatest effort off the album. It feels like a journey well worth taken as the song grows towards a complex and extraordinary epoch.

You can’t buy “Moment of Glory” in North America, but HMV will gladly ship a copy in for you, that’s how I got mine. It is one of those albums that is so meaningful to me, not only because it is a phenomenal album that ranks among my ten albums on a deserted island list but it is like a diamond that I discovered. No one had any idea The Scorpions did this project here in Canada, just me online one day screwing around, and I found gold among a pile of rocks. Albums like “Moment of Glory” and songs like “Crossfire/Deadly Sting Suite” are why I started to do the monthly music in reviews, so much godly awesome music is out there and someone has to find it. Might as well be me, when I fall in love with something I learn every last detail there is to know, so I make a pretty good musical fanatic. I like it. I consider it an honor.

This month I’ve added several more emails to the monthly music in review mailing list, as I suddenly recall I have more friends then I previously thought. As always if you are one of my new listeners and are dissatisfied with your free service, or simply don’t want a smart-ass brain-lord shoving his opinions, rants, and ravings down your throat every month just let me know and I’ll leave you alone. I’m very negotiable that way.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin “The Brain-Lord” Kelly

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

John Lennon - Working Class Hero

I remember back in Cayley grade school. That’s where I was when “alternative” music became main stream. It took little thought on my behalf to recognize that ‘alternative’ would mean more often the not an alternative for rock music, or put more bluntly it was an alternative for good music. So I spent the majority of my teen years listening to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and The Who, when life gives you lemons….

Back then Greenday was just a new and untalented punk band. They became popular because the sound they accidentally created could be credited as somewhat original and also it fit in with the new wave of alternative music. Furthermore angsty teens at the time identified with them since both were deliberate attempts to break away from the norm for no reason at all. Sadly those were the good days….

Back then Greenday was nothing more then a sub par group that could easily be ignored and just as easily forgotten. But now, with their aggressive selling out they are hard to stomach even in small dozes.

Greenday sold out.

Don’t listen to Greenday, their dumb ass fans, or the liberal thinkers of North America who praise Greenday as a politically and socially aware group with something to say. Nothing could be further from the truth. Telling everyone how dumb George Bush is after he has an approval rating below 30% is not controversial; it’s safe. Pretty easy to be daring when you know at least two thirds of the country agree with you, or more accurately put when you agree with two third of the country you can be sure whatever you say will be well received.

Don’t get me wrong, I am against George Bush and his cabinet as much as the next person is. I was one the first people I personally know to say out loud that I thought the Iraq war was stupid, but unlike the current drama queens at the time I was optimistic. I hoped America went in got Sadam and got out. Made no sense why they were targeting him, sadly he was the lesser of evils in the Middle East compared to Iran and Saudi Arabia’s dictatorships, but still Sadam is easily evil enough to warrant execution. My optimism evidently failed, and now the war is a shit show and I keep wondering why they continue to damage their already tarnished reputation by staying where they are clearly not wanted, not by the Iraqis or even their own American populace. I fully agree with Eddie Vender when he said, “When you start a war for reasons that turn out to be false you deserve to lose you job.” Well done Eddie, you are a politically and socially aware musician.

I was swearing mad when I saw Greenday’s latest music video. Like most untalented musician after getting lucky with a few poorly written accidental hits they can’t come up with much more they just take from someone else. It is called a cover song, and frankly if you were going to cover a song wouldn’t you want to do something new with it, make it your own? Apparently not, since nothing innovate or creative was done whatsoever with Greenday’s John Lennon cover of “Working Class Hero”.

Have you seen the video? Could you literally feel yourself becoming stupider for having watched it? Or like me where you so enraged you were ready to take a flight to Los Angeles just so you could pick a fight with Greenday? The video depicts the current problems in Durfar, which is to my limited knowledge is a brutal civil war, fought primarily due to ethnic differences. The video shows victims who have seen the horrors of ethnic cleansing and genocide. There are many mentions of rape and murder of young people. Terrible stuff, absolutely horrible, and nothing to do whatsoever with the song “Working Class Hero.”

Working Class Hero is a song that describes the feelings of dread in the hearts of youth when they live within a structured society based on class. Massive amounts of information are thrown at you when you are young as well as the demanded importance of discipline. After they have broken your spirit with fear and anxiety then they expect you to be a normal person and think rationally enough to make big decision about what to do with yourself and your life. However John was quick to put a sliver lining in the song, because despite your fears and all the terror society has put in you, you can always be a ‘working class hero’. Just be yourself, work hard, and everything will be alright. It is a very meaningful song. It has nothing to do with genocide or civil war or anything like that. At the same time the crisis in Durfur has nothing to do with working conditions or the class structure.

Sadly Greenday is not wholly to blame for this act of de-evolving human intelligence, “Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur” is a whole compellation of John Lennon covers that have nothing to do with the tragedy. At least, the profits in theory are going towards benefiting Amnesty International’s campaign to help alleviate the crisis. But if you have any kind of a mind you should know by now that must acts of charity like this are usually just excuses to make money, and this has Yoko Ono written all over it. What do you do when your genius husband dies? Just keep making money off his incredible talent. Sigh.

I got into another rant this month sorry. Don’t compromise your taste with un-innovate modern bands, when in doubt remind yourself how wonderful the classics are.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Feelers - Pressure Man


If you ever sat down with me whilst drinking and let the conversation run dry you undoubtedly learned the hard way how much I like to tell stories. Get ready.

Many years ago my good friend Tyler Johnson showed me a music video containing the song Zed – Renegade Fighter. It was a fun song, nothing deep or poetic in any way, but it was a nice hard rocking fun song. I won’t be reviewing Renegade Fighter this month, but I probably will someday.

Several years later while working in my prep hall at the original Ceili’s with my brother Niall, whom I had gotten a job there. While working hard as usual, we were listening to a burned CD Niall had brought with him from home. One track on this miscellaneous CD was none other then Zed – Renegade Fighter.

Steve Gibb had been working at Ceili’s as a busser for several months by this point and is someone I would definitely consider my friend, he is just a really cool guy, real easy going. He wandered into our basement prep hall to get something; he was signing along with Zed under his breath and kind of rocking his head a little. I thought nothing of it, even though the song is virtually unknown by everyone except Tyler, myself, and those whom we turned on to it. Steve took no more then a few steps out of the prep hall before he had a moment of realization, turned around, and immediately returned.

He said something to the affect of “This is Zed.”

So I replied. “Yeah man, they rock.”

“This is New Zealand music.” Needless to say he was very surprised to find us listening to a hit rock song from a few years ago from his country that was unknown outside of New Zealand.

Even though nobody I knew had ever heard of Zed before, I should have guessed that maybe Steve would have known, after all both of them are from New Zealand, and its not that big of an island, haha. Steve recommended to me then that if I liked Zed I would probably like “The Feelers”.

After forgetting to download The Feelers a few times I finally found time away from my working, studying, and avoiding studying to do what I usually regret, downloading someone else’s recommendations for music. The Feelers was the best recommendation I have had in years. They were better then Zed! They were a legitimate rock group with an entire repertoire of great songs, and they were complete unknowns in this country.

Being so grateful as I was, during Steve’s going away party when we were all proper drunk I began to sing drunkenly the songs by The Feelers I really liked to the poor misfortunate Steve. Nonetheless Steve seemed impressed I had learned the quantity of lyrics I had in so short a period of time especially considering how drunk we were. Out of all the songs I had downloaded, and I downloaded somewhere close to twenty songs by The Feelers, Steve and I apparently had the same favorite “Pressure Man”.

I like that story. Nobody got hurt and even though it may be a little bit embarrassing what with the drunkenness and all, it is embarrassing in an innocent way that is almost charming… well almost.

Anyway Pressure Man is a great song, and to those of you who enjoy it as much as I do, I strongly recommend download several Feelers songs, they are a band that is worth our attention.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Thursday, July 5, 2007

HIM - Right Here in My Arms

Anyone who has talked to me about music in the last four to five years has probably heard me mention a band out of Finland named ‘HIM’. So it should come as no surprise that I was going to talk about them eventually, and I meant to do so last month, but this month is just as good.

In 1997 HIM’s first album “Razorblade Romance” would hit that stands, and they would become a success in their home country of Finland, other Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, for those of you who don’t know your European geography), somewhat in England, and they are HUGE in Germany.

The title of the album says it all, “Razorblade Romance.” This was one of those albums for me that when I put it into my CD player and began playing the album I sat down and did nothing but simply absorb the music. I sat there deeply thinking about the lyrics and studying the album art. Nothing on my mind at all except analyzing the songs and how they blended together in a haunting and almost epic symphony. It was probably the first album of modern music that grabbed me so since my high school days and my love of ‘The Tea Party’.

Let me be blunt for a minute and simply point out the overall message of “Razorblade Romance.” Well what do you think of when you hear the term ‘razorblade?’ Maybe I’m warped but one of the first things I think of is suicide via slitting of the wrist. I am not wrong in my interpretation in this example, suicide and romance, love and death, are the prevailing themes of this album and pretty much all of HIM’s work.

Basically HIM is by far the best Goth metal group ever, and that may not be saying much. I think my darker side, which has a tendency to come up now and then, was just waiting for a group to be as enthralled with romance and death, as much as I am. However I did not discover HIM through a moment pessimistic brooding, no, I heard two of their tracks by chance through the Internet and quite enjoyed them. Upon further investigation I was surprised to find out just how extremely and often lamely over the top the group really was, and it took time for me to get used to songs of such nature. I mean come on, one song is titled “Join me (in death)”, that is way, way, too over the top. However once you get used to the corniness of it all and begin to enjoy the excellent keyboard among other things you begin to realize, “shit these guys are really into this.” There is an awful lot of conviction in the voice of Vilo Valo, and there is something being said about how horrible a tragedy has taken place when the final solution to any meager form of happiness is to ‘let death bless me, with you.’

By this point in the ramble that is July 2007’s music in review I suspect I have lost about half of you. HIM is way too Goth, way too weird, and clearly suffering from something of a second language barrier to alienate at least half of you. Nonetheless bear with me for a few more paragraphs.

The first song I ever heard, and probably HIM’s best, was “Right Here in My Arms.” This is in my mind beyond a shadow of a doubt HIM’s biggest ‘pop’ song. It a simple hard rock song that is more or less a love song, admittedly many might consider the song too aggressive and subtly too dark to really be a love song, but that is what it is. The song is completely non-offensive in any way, is really catchy, and is really, really a rocking song. It is one of those songs I can hardly imagine anyone not enjoying; it is very universal and enjoyable no matter what your taste is.

If you had never heard of HIM, never seen them, and heard “Right Here in My Arms” would you realize they are a Goth metal group? I doubt it.

HIM is one of the few bands these days I truly enjoy, and they were one of the first groups to give me faith in the future of the music industry when I was completely begining to doubt any real progress for the recent decade. I suspect most of you will not enjoy HIM on the same level as me, but I’m willing to bet “Right Here in My Arms”, will be enjoyed by pretty much everyone. It really is simply a great song.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Jimi Hendrix - If 6 was 9

There is something very wrong with the world today. The culture of the west, which frankly I believe to be the best, holds a great problem within. The problem of which I speak is that of identity.

This problem is stranger then anything culturally the human race has ever experienced. In the west we live within a culture that is far more accepting and understanding then any form of civilization that has ever come before. There is choice, freedom, and liberty to all. Yet still people have no idea who they are, their minds and every thought that swims around in their brains is derivative of their friends’, the books they read, and the movies they watch. When all you do is focus yourself on an extreme point of view, never listening to the other side, you are what they call ‘conformed’. The problem at this moment is most complicated because as it stands there are so many different ideas out there in the media that people are constantly conforming to something and it is hard to find the true individuals. The people that say ‘fuck you, I’m not believing your shit until you prove it to me, until then I’ll think what I think is best!’ They don’t have to be so rude mind you, that’s just personal flier.

If you want to see what I’m talking about you need to look no further then MTV or Much Music. The same rehashed; unoriginal, uninspired garbage gets played over and over again, while most good music rarely sees the light of day anymore.

Goths/emos wearing black makeup and all black clothes, whining about how no one understands them, but honestly what is to understand? They state no personal problems, they share no grievances, and the only pain they wear on their face is the desperate cry for attention.

The hip-hop musicians going on about how they are ‘pimps’ and their cool ‘bling’ and all their ‘hoes’, but honestly what is so cool about glorifying all the worst aspects of poverty stricken African-American culture? Pimps are men who basically steal money from whores, they brag about crime, and they treat women like shit.

Lastly, and most hated by me anyway, is all the cry babies who try to be political and couldn’t put two thoughts together with any real coherency going on about how bad the world is. Oh really? What’s so bad about it? War = bad, no shit, thank god I have about a million mindless preteens telling me this, I couldn’t possibly figure out for myself. George Bush = stupid, again no shit, George Bush is proof enough that he is stupid, I don’t need whiny wimps on the ‘left’ coast telling me this. And lastly, and most importantly, they all go on like this: “I don’t care what you say. I’m going to be me!” Translated into honest English this is: “I am so brainwashed into conforming into this group I hate ALL other ways of thinking without ever thinking about it. I am a huge hypocrite!” You know the type, they take many forms these days but they are all the same.

Anyway sorry if this month’s music in review is a little preachy or too over top, I just really hate hypocrites. So on to the point.

You want a real individual, someone who actually did what they wanted, and expressed how they felt, without compromise, you want someone like Jimi Hendrix. Now it is a lot easier to find individuals in the music scene from the sixties and seventies. Back then when you were being political, you actually had a lot to complain about, but more importantly people actually tried to think of solutions to the world’s problems instead of just sitting around blaming the current cabinet in power and crying themselves like lost little children. Furthermore you see a lot of variety in, get this, the ideas put forth, insane I know, it was like they were all, gasp, individuals. More so it was easier, arguably, to create an original sound because the concept of a three to five man rock group was so young there was a lot of room to experiment freshly.

Not a lot of people know this but Jimi Hendrix started his career, playing guitar for Little Richard. The young Jimi Hendrix had a great admiration for Little Richie and began to mimic him in clothing and he even grew his mustache out like Little Richard. Little Richard fired Jimi with this words of wisdom “you are a good kid, and I want what’s best for you, and while imitation is the truest form of flattery, and I am flattered, I want you go out and become someone yourself. Woohooo!” I might have the exact words wrong, it has been a long time since I saw that Hendrix documentary, and I just imagine Little Richie goes woohoo, at the end of every sentence. Well thank god Little Richard is such a cool guy that he set Jimi straight because he would go on to kick serious ass.

Interesting notes about Jimi Hendrix, and I hope I get these all straight are:

Hendrix unlike the vast majority of musician (especially in rock) supported the Vietnam War. I believe he was even enrolled as a paratrooper at one point, but was injured in training, or something, and ended up staying behind.

Hendrix was innovating in a way rarely seen even to this day in regards of playing guitar. I mean come on, the man played with his tongue, his feet, and even suffered third degree burns when he played his guitar while it was on fire. To this day when you hear a guitar rift by Hendrix you say to yourself “Oh that’s so Hendrix” which is commendable, he has a sound that is purely his own. Only the best are granted this accolade, when you hear something mediocre like say Poison, you say, “This sounds like 80’s Hair rock,” or the Young Bloods – “70’s hippie rock.” And so on.

Jimi Hendrix faced racism on every front. The Black Panthers and other “Black Supremacy Groups” constantly pressured Hendrix to fire his band mates and hire black musicians to play with him, because he couldn’t work with, or even be friends with white people, sigh. Hendrix also had to put up with being told he shouldn’t be playing “white music” nor should he be entertaining “white people”. To these absurd statements Hendrix would always say “I only see color in my music.” Which was very big of him. Of course it is not like white people gave Hendrix an easy time either, he was kicked out of many cities for brining with him one of his white girlfriends, there were even times when this almost got him killed.

But still Jimi faced all that adversity and still managed to create three, and sadly only three, albums before his tragic death. He was one of those men when he says something about being an individual you better damn well believe him, because he didn’t have to say he was unique, he was unique, and his life was proof of that. We will never see another man like Jimi Hendrix only cheap, pale, imitations, its been nearly four decades now and you can already see that I’m right. Truly one of a kind, he was something we should all try to be, ourselves, each of us when uncorrupted and true is one of a kind.

Hendrix has a lot of good songs to choose from, but given my rant I ended up choosing the song “If 6 was 9”. The lyrically content is perfect for this vein of discussion. Maybe you could tell but it is something that really bothers me. Because people keep “Pointing their plastic finger at me. They're hoping soon my kind will drop and die, But I'm gonna wave my freak flag high, high.”

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Saturday, May 5, 2007

David Bowie - Five Years




It is another month and another review.

Recent developments in my life have been predominately overshadowed by a small and humble addiction to facebook. There are a lot of old friends who I have not seen or heard from in ‘five years’ and I have now made some form of Internet contact with. I spend a stupid amount of time on my computer every day. I would say at least twelve hours a day on average. Why is that? Well my computer has everything I need. Music which if you haven’t guessed by now I listen to a lot. Microsoft word which I use a lot to fulfil my hobby of writing my incredible long story (800+ pages now yeah!). Then there is school through correspondence, which I probably should be doing right now, but financing is surprisingly as difficult as it boring.

Since I have added something close ten new emails to my monthly review list, I will tell all you new comers what I told everyone else back in January; you will have to let me know if you actually enjoy my long-winded ramblings about music. I only do this once a month so it can’t possibly be that annoying, but at the same time I couldn’t find the time to ask ever person if they personally cared or not about my little music email experiment.

Anyway I regress from my point. That point is the lot of my old High River friends I am finally talking to again after “Five Years”.

David Bowie back in 1972 would make his mark on the world with his best album still to this date “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.” The opening track on this album is “Five Years”. Now the connection here to real life ends abruptly at the name, I remissness about old friends after five years of distances, while the song itself is about the end of the world. Frankly I am just looking for any reason to talk about this song anyway, but those who know me, know well I have a flair for the dramatic.

“Ziggy Stardust” is an interesting album through and through, but one aspect I would like to mention is this album is about super stardom all the while it was written by Dave Bowie before he had achieved such an accolade. This album is a dreamer singing about what was to come, and his wild imagination defiantly drew the album in an interesting direction to say the least. The basic premise is Ziggy Stardust is an alien who wants to come down to earth and rock and roll, but he is afraid that he is too outlandish (which is fair) and he will “blow our minds.” After some time he comes to earth rocks the house displays all sorts of strange and taboo subjects especially at the time of 1972, like multiculturalism and bisexuality, after all what would you expect from a gender-neutral alien? Anyway I don’t think ‘weird’ even begins to describe what this album is all about. Nonetheless the music is nothing of shy of phenomenal, even if the subject matter at times is a little confusing and possibly alienating, pun intended.

Anyway the first track “five years” arguably the best song on the album and as far I can think of this is the best song about the end of the earth I have ever heard.

The lyrics are powerful in this song, the message over the television forewarning the populace of the earth, “that earth is really dying.” How would you react? What would you do? My brain hurt like a warehouse; there was no room to spare….

I think my favorite part is the list of reaction David Bowie sings about, closely followed by his frantic freak out at the end yelling “My brain hurts a lot! Five years! That’s all we got!”

Bloody hell, I’ll just post the damn lyrics:

"Pushing through the market square, so many mothers sighing,
News had just come over, we had five years left to cry in.
News guy wept and told us, earth was really dying.
Cried so much his face was wet, then I knew he was not lying.

I heard telephones, opera house, favorite melodies,
I saw boys, toys electric irons and T.V.'s,
My brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare.
I had to cram so many things to store everything in there,
And all the fat-skinny people, and all the tall-short people,
And all the nobody people, and all the somebody people,
I never thought I'd need so many people.

A girl my age went off her head, hit some tiny children,
If the black hadn't a-pulled her off, I think she would have killed them.
A soldier with a broken arm, fixed his stare to the wheels of a Cadillac,
A cop knelt and kissed the feet of a priest, and a queer threw up at the sight of that.

I think I saw you in an ice-cream parlor, drinking milk shakes cold and long,
Smiling and waving and looking so fine,

I don't think you knew you were in this song.
And it was cold and it rained so I felt like an actor,
And I thought of Ma and I wanted to get back there.
Your face, your race, the way that you talk,
I kiss you, you're beautiful, I want you to walk.

We've got five years, stuck on my eyes,
Five years, what a surprise.
We've got five years, my brain hurts a lot,
Five years, that's all we've got.
We've got five years, what a surprise,
Five years, stuck on my eyes.
We've got five years, my brain hurts a lot,
Five years, that's all we've got.
We've got five years, stuck on my eyes,
Five years, what a surprise.
We've got five years, my brain hurts a lot,
Five years, that's all we've got.
We've got five years, what a surprise,
We've got five years, stuck on my eyes.
We've got five years, my brain hurts a lot!
Five years, that's all we've got!
Five years!
Five years!
Five years!
Five years!"

I had the privilege of seeing David Bowie a few years back when he came to Calgary on his “Reality” tour, and I had even the greater pleasure of hearing him play ‘five years’, in his closing set for that concert. For a man pushing sixty at that time (Bowie turned sixty in March of this year I believe), he kicked ass, as far as performance goes he did not show his age at all. One of the best shows I’ve ever seen.

I think I’ve rambled on longer this month then usual, so I will bid a due for now.

Until next month everyone, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Interpol - Leif Erikson


"She says it helps with the lights out
Her rabid glow is like braille to the night
She swears I'm a slave to the details
But if your life is such a big joke why should I care?

The clock is set for nine but you know you're gonna make it eight
So that you two can take some time teach each other to reciprocate

She feels that my sentimental side should be held with kids’ gloves
But she doesn't know that I left my urge in the icebox
She swears I'm just prey for the female
Well then hook me up and throw me baby cakes cause I like to get hooked

The clock is set for nine but you know you're gonna make it eight
All the people that you've loved they're all bound to leave some keepsakes
I've been swinging all the time think it's time I learned your way
I picture you and me together in the jungle it will be ok

I'll bring you when my lifeboat sails through the night
That is supposing that you don't sleep tonight

It's like learning a new language
Helps me catch up on my mime
If you don't bring up those lonely parts
This could be a good time
It's like learning a new language
Helps me catch up on my mime
You come here to me
We'll collect those lonely parts and set them down

You come here to me...

She says brief things her love's a pony
My love's subliminal
She says brief things her love's a pony
My love's subliminal"

I once heard someone say that only true poets could makes words their slaves to this song.

I love music, you probably noticed, but I love lyrics. Any musician who is worth a damn should have lyrics in their songs that is poetry in its own right. Some lyricist like to make smart-ass witty remarks in their songs like Pink Floyd, and Meat Loaf, they use the occasional swear to bring the song’s meaning down to earth and make it all the more understandable on a human level. It’s cleaver and witty, funny at times, very good lyrics. Some musicians are poets in their ability to be blunt but make a strong statement, John Lennon was particularly good at that, Metalica at their best is another example. Others like to use vague metaphors or personal reference to make the true meaning somewhat hidden, I can think of a lot of examples were this is excellent, but to the point Interpol’s - Leif Erikson is an excellent example of very deep lyrics that convey a great deal of meaning.

Leif Erikson.  This song has
nothing to do with him.
To this day I do not know why the song is called ‘Leif Erikson’, however the general meaning of the majority of the song can be easily understood if one takes the time to think about the lyrics. First I have to say the lead singer of Interpol (Paul Banks) must have been through some rough break ups.

The first verse says to me a great deal about intimacy, "she is like braille to the night," they talk through touch, very nice, and subtly referred to again later as he "catching up on his mime." His being obsessive over every detail must have been a major factor in the crumbling of the relationship, but then again those who do not consider their lover worth thinking about and worrying over, do they really care, or is their "life just a big joke?" He reassures he is calm and in control even though she is fearful, he "left his urge in the icebox." I will go on record saying none of us will ever hear a lyric about keeping your lust under control better then that.

I don’t want to give you a thorough analysis of every lyric, you can do that on your own if you like the song as much as I do. But I like to point out while this song is definitely about some long lost love, there is so much being said in each lyric, disdain and regret, passion and affection, longing and anguish. Even a paranoid over thinker like me can’t figure out every deep meaning going on in this song, and that says a lot.

Interpol will be in Calgary April 22; I am very excited to go see them. They have had two albums out so far in their career both are extremely excellent. They at an interesting point in their career, this next few years and the next album will be do or die. I don’t necessarily mean commercially either, you can look at a bad like Collective Soul, who had two very strong albums, and even though they are more a commercial success now then ever their music is far below par of what it was one. Also you can look at bands that start out strong never achieve huge commercial success but their music simply grows mundane and uninspired after their pinnacle first few albums. Interpol is at that phase, they have either reached their prime and now is the time to see them before they sell out or become mundane, or they are going to grow into something totally awesome and now is the time to see them while they are evolving before our eyes. I have never had the experience of seeing a band live at this specific point in their career it is going to be awesome.

Well everyone who knows me you knew I was going to go on about Interpol eventually, god I love those guys. This probably won’t be the last one of their songs I review.

Until next month, remember nothing wrong with being a slave to the details, because you are whether you know it or not, or is your life such a big joke? Good damn those are good lyrics.

- Colin Kelly

Monday, March 5, 2007

Meat Loaf - In The Land of the Pigs The Buthcer is King

On the eightieth, I’m going to go see Meat Loaf with my two little brothers and my good friend Jeff Agnew. It should be a great time. Because Meat Loaf will be in Calgary this month I might as well do one of his songs.
As those who know me, you know that I am likely the biggest Meat Loaf fan you will ever know. Of course I have all three Bat out of Hell CDs. I even have three of the five CDs of Meat Loaf’s that were never released in North America (Thanks HMV!). I know more Meat Loaf songs then anybody I know, by far!

So lets talk about Meat Loaf for a moment.

If you look at your Bat Out of Hell CD (I’m just assuming you have one), you will see at the bottom of the cover in small text “songs by Jim Steinman.”

So lets talk about Jim Steinman for a moment.

Jim Steinman for those of you who don’t know, and I presume most of you don’t, is one of the greatest songwriters of our time. Other then writing nearly every single Meat Loaf song, he is creditable for making stars out of pop sensations Bonnie Tyler, Ellen Foley, and Fire Inc. (maybe you’ve seen “Streets of Fire”, I haven’t.). He also helped Cilene Dion’s ass by writing every song of hers that is actually any good. Barry Manilo, yep, he wrote a bunch of his songs too. He also wrote the Hulk Hogan theme song, you know the one by Rick Derringer - “Real American”. More importantly he has won international success by writing theatrical musicals. Back in the seventies he meet Meat Loaf when casting for his musical “More Than you Deserve”, which is a great song by the way. Since then his biggest success was in 1998 with his German production of “Tanz Der Vampire”, or “Dance of the Vampires” if you prefer. My brother Niall has the CD soundtrack for “Tanz Der Vampire” and it rocks. Expect to hear more from “Dance of the Vampires” in future music in reviews.

So now that you know more about my friend Jim Steinman, lets talk about Batman, that’s right, Batman.

Music producers were in awe of how awesome Jim Steinman was at creating “Tanz Der Vampire” so they offered him another gig. Guess what? Batman the musical.

How I know what you’re thinking, “Colin that’s a stupid idea. Batman the musical?” Well all I have to say is SHUT UP! Jim Steinman could make it work and if you don’t believe me, listen to March’s song in review. Meat Loaf – “In The Land of The Pig (The Butcher is King)”. This is the only song written for Batman the musical that has been recorded to date. Yeah apparently most people felt that Batman was better off not as a musical so Jim Steinman was stuck having written five songs for effectively nothing.

Now Meat Loaf sings “In The Land of The Pig”, which now you know is supposed to be sung by the bloodsucking villains to Batman at the climatic end just before Batman busts their asses. I don’t know about you, but I can totally see Two-Face, yelling at Batman about how out of control Gotham has become.

“There’s only one law Batman. The law of averages!” Two-Face tosses his coin in the air; will it be good side, or bad side? “In the land of the pig, the butcher is king, Batman!”

See what I mean! They should have made this musical! Like you wouldn’t go see it just for the novelty of it all.

Anyway I hope you enjoy Meat Loaf’s version of Jim Steinman’s Batman song. If you are really impressed or just love Batman as much as I do, check out also off “Bat Our of Hell III” the song “Cry to Heaven.” This song was not written for Batman the musical exactly. It is a base song Jim uses a lot in musicals. In “Dance of the Vampires” it’s instrumental fundamentals helped make the song “Angels Arise”, but for “Batman the Musical”, “Cry to Heaven” is apparently more or less as it was intended to be off Meat Loaf’s “Bat Out of Hell II”.

Crazy world right? Batman… awesome,

Until next month keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin

Monday, February 5, 2007

David Gray - Please Forgive Me

Let me tell you about whom I consider to be the greatest light-rocker ever; David Gray.

David Gray is a tall, pudgy, balding Irishmen, who plays a mean piano and writes a lot of non-offensive easy listening songs.

Now I know what you’re thinking? Colin you are suppose to be a hardcore rock and roll machine, what is up with this love wuss light rock? I tell you want is up with this light rock stuff, David Gray RULES!

I first saw and heard David Gray on Monday morning TV. Some talk show host I don't bother to remember announced "Here is David Gray", and since the song started out rather pleasantly I sat and watched. Imagine my surprise when this Monday morning talk show actually had a decent live performance, the song was "Please Forgive Me", and frankly I loved it. But I was in for a real surprise at the end of the song, the lyrics stop and David Gray focuses entirely on playing piano, a rather fast piano. The man proceeded to rock the house. I couldn't believe what I was seeing this balding Irishman was practically head-banging to his piano. He REALLY got into it, and you could just feel the passion this man was putting forth into his music.

Immediately I went to my computer and began to download David Gray, and I was very impressed with his collection of songs. I now have three of his CDs and probably forty or so songs by him on my computer.

Now when you judge a musician, I believe one factor of many should consider is their ability to perform live. A truly great musician does not need the help of studio or his damn computer to create great music. Now the song I am review is David Gray - Live in New York - Please Forgive Me. This performance is so good that it is better then the original. Remember how I mentioned the piano at the end, yeah in this version that is 90 seconds longer, and it has some awesome synthesizer to boot.

It's a fun song, and even though I can't see good old David Gray on the mp3 I just know he is rocking out hardcore to his kick-ass light-rock. Also a fun note is his obviously insane musical guest whom I believe is playing the synthesizer. At the end of the song when David and his guest are thanking the audience his guest yells out; "Thank you, must be all those Turkish bades!" What is that suppose to mean? I don't know, but it makes me laugh every time.

So anyway for the sake of variety give my friend and yours David Gray a chance. This is just such a wonderful song, I feel good every time I hear it.
Until March, take care everyone.

- Colin Kelly

Friday, January 5, 2007

The Rolling Stones - Ruby Tuesday


Hello everybody.

For those of you who don't know me that well I am Colin.

The majority of you have probably heard in one form or another that I have begun a monthly music in review. I take a song that I believe to be important, give you my reasons why I believe they are important, and as well included that song attached to the email so you can listen for yourself.

My motivations for doing this are that I believe music is one of the single most important things in anyone who has a soul's life. Frankly with modern music there really is not a lot of good music out there anymore, or is there? I grew up spinning Zeppelin and Pink Floyd albums over and over again in my bedroom, because there was maybe six bands out during my entire teen years that were worth listening to and maybe only half of them on the radio. So all the brilliant music I have found and love now I want to share with the world. Be it some new song that no one knows about, or some old cult classic that few appreciate.

Now for January's revisited music in review.

The Rolling Stones - Ruby Tuesday.

I thought I would start with a classic, because I remember who brought me to the dance.

Did you go see Children of men? You should have it was a very good movie.

In the scene where Michael Cain's character ‘Jasper’ is introduced the song playing is The Rolling Stones - Ruby Tuesday, only its a cover, and a horrible cover at that. Some Latino Homo is singing the song and he can't sing to save his life. It was horrible, digesting and made me lose a little bit of faith in humanity. It was also the only part of the movie I did not like. So anyone who might have heard this cover I beseech you listen to the original, it is a really great song, in fact it is one of my favorite Rolling Stones songs, which speaks volumes considering how many great songs The Stones have.

Furthermore I have heard that a movie is being made based entirely around Rolling Stones songs, and the title is none other then "Ruby Tuesday". Apparently this movie is going to be an animated feature about a single mom trying to raise her family on her own. This does not sound like my kind of movie, but with The Rolling Stones, maybe that will be enough to make it worth the look I don't know.

Either way, the Latino cover, and the new movie coming out, let them not be the deciding factor of this classic rock tune.

That was a January in a nutshell. Good seeing all the new people on the list, it makes this endeavor all the more worth while.

- Colin Kelly