Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Scorpions - Ruby Tuesday



In January 2007 I started the Music in Review. It was an indirect way to say hello to my friends. I wanted to talk to my old friends but I did not feel comfortable rambling on about myself. I wanted there to more to the dialogue then simple attention seeking. There has always been one topic I am always excited to engage, and that is, obviously, music. So an emailing list with an individual song as the subject was my solution and I named it the Music in Review. Six years have passed, and in that time I have written ninety-nine “Music in Reviews,” five short essays, and one love letter. I love you Sara Quin.

The first Music in Review was a prototype. I was unsure whether I wanted to talk about a movie or a song. In the end I thought the great movie “Children of Men” would be a nice segue to introduce “Ruby Tuesday.” You see a really lame version of “Ruby Tuesday” is played in “Children of Men.” A cover so bad it was cringe worthy, and, well that was it; that was my introduction. Even though it was a somewhat weak review most of my friends found it charming and I felt it was a good creative writing exercise. Also I liked writing music reviews.

I have seen a lot of people start a blog, or mailing lists, or some kind of creative writing project, and utterly fail to create more than a few respectable offerings to their imagination. But I stuck with it, and after six years, I can, in all humility, say I have created something to be proud of. Every month I wrote a new review, two years and two months ago I started writing two a month, and I wrote three that last two months. Like clockwork I have written about my love of music, and hey, some of these are pretty good; well I think so anyway.

This is it, number one-hundred, and yeah, it feels kind of special.

It all started with The Rolling Stones – Ruby Tuesday, I feel it only fitting I should come back to that song. Late 2011 The Scorpions released a celebration (cover/compilation) album titled “Comeblack” and amongst the seven cover songs there is “Ruby Tuesday.”

I call “Comeblack” a celebration album because I lack an official term. “Comeblack” is half cover songs and half rerecorded versions of classic Scorpions songs, like “No one Like You,” and “Wind of Change.” This is similar to Helloween’s “Unarmed” or Uriah Heep’s “Celebration” albums, which, I love. I bought Uriah Heep – Celebration first, hence the use of the term.

In 2010 The Scorpions announced their final tour with the release of their final album “Sting in the Tail,” and I cannot help but suspect that “Comeblack” is a very direct follow up. There is a very reoccurring theme through “Sting in the Tail” about looking forward to the future, not uncommon for The Scorpions, but when they sing that the best is yet to come, I think the sentiment goes beyond a humble declaration that others will carrying on what Scorpions began. I believe the joy of life for our friends The Scorpions will only grow in the coming years. Somehow, at least in my mind, this ties in directly to them covering “Ruby Tuesday.”

“Ruby Tuesday” is not just a song about a whimsical girl, it is about the message that she brings.

“There’s no time to lose, I heard her say,
Catch your dreams before, they slip away.”

The emotion behind such words is not very commanding, more foreboding. We have a limited amount of time to live and our dreams, so many of which are so impossible, can only be realized within these brief moments between birth and death. It would be a sad song, if it was not so cheerful, if it were not so beautiful, because, running after our dreams, that alone is spectacular, and I know, you know, we’ve only just begun.

The Scorpions cover songs like “Tin Soldiers” and “Children of the Revolution” incredibly well, but “Ruby Tuesday,” perhaps just because I love the song so much, is the prize on “Comeblack.” The song fits them like a glove, almost like fate demanded they cover this song before they retire. When you look at songs like “Wind of Change” and “The Best is Yet to Come,” “Ruby Tuesday” just fits alongside them perfectly. Klaus Meine, who so often sang about the bright future ahead, is the perfect candidate to sing “Ruby Tuesday” in place of Mick Jagger. I do not know the man but I highly suspect that Meine feels a personal connection with “Ruby Tuesday,” and even if he does not, I feel a personal connection between him and this song. Meine is a good dude, you can just tell, and “Ruby Tuesday” is an uplifting song that puts a smile on your face.

Here’s to another one-hundred reviews.

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

- Colin Kelly

P.S.

Also, I know, you know, the best is yet to come:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Scorpions - Wind of Change



I have never considered myself to be a political person. Those who do consider themselves political are often singularly minded about it. They watch a lot of political commentary and news, they read books about it, and they listen to music deemed political. The majority of bands who are considered political are often, in my opinion, two things, bad and ironically not politically themed.

Green Day sucks and they bandwagon jumped onto the whole anti-Bush campaign right around the same time everyone else did, and I mean everyone. System of A Down has always sucked, and they believed that inappropriately mentioning events we all consider historically important qualified them as political commentators. We seem to have misclassified childish antagonism as the sole qualifier for being “political.” There is some dramatic point about modern society and the childish antagonism that is the modern political game in the things I have just said, but the point I am attempting to raise is that negativity does not need to be the only possible scene dressing of all politically commentaries.

“We played in Moscow at the Musical Peace Festival back in 89, and we went on stage and we were singing ‘Still Loving You” and a hundred thousand Russians were singing along with a German band; every word. I think that moment was the inspiration for this song I want to play for you now. Even though the wind is blowing in our face, I think there is always hope. Hope we stop killing each other and someday we all live in peace together on this planet. Here is ‘Wind of Change.’” – Klaus Meine

The Scorpions are an old German rock band. The founder of the Scorpions, guitarist Rudolf Schenker, formed the group back in 1965, but it was not until 1970 when Rudolf’s younger brother Michael and Klaus Meine joined the band that the Scorpions became a real force in music. Michael would assist with guitars for a few albums but Meine performs as The Scorpions’ front man to this day. It is a long period of time between 1965 (or even 1970) to 1989 when the Berlin wall finally came down, and I assume it meant a lot for the Scorpions to see Germany united and also friendship with the rest of Europe reborn.

It is amazing to think that in my lifetime I saw the end of the cold war and the opening of borders between countries that constitute some of the strongest friendship in the world. Admittedly I was too young to really appreciate the full significance of peace in Europe at the time the Berlin wall fell, being only eight years old, but it makes a lot of sense to me now hearing Meine’s words about peace and change. He was rocking for nearly two decades before he ever had the opportunity to play in Russia or even the eastern half of his native Germany. When you pause to reflect on the lyrics and the purpose of a song like “Wind of Change” it starts to feel all the more wonderful. This was a song written in many ways as an olive branch of peace and love between the east and west, and even more beautifully it was accepted wholesale.

"Wind of Change" appear on the
Scorpions' 1990 album "Crazy World"
One of the additional reasons I found “Wind of Change” so touching is that the negativity that tore Europe apart for so long is neither ignored nor dwelled upon.

“Walking down the streets,
Distance memories,
Are buried in the past forever.”

I believe this lyric applies to more than just the animosities between the west and the east in the cold war. I believe the sentiment of burying the past applies to the cultural divide in Europe that caused the first and second world wars. It also applies to the racial and political difference between the Germanic and the Slavic people, a racist grudge that many modern youths have completely forgotten. It also applies to the horrors committed by Nazis in World War Two, and no, I do not think it is easy for a German band to quietly brush over the topic. Everything about “Wind of Change” makes it a very political song, but since it is an earnest song about peace and cooperation it may not fit the expectations of modern political thinkers. “Wind of Change” is a hopeful song and everyone knows that does not make good news.

Knowing that “Wind of Change” is a song to unite Europe, and the world, it is wonderful to hear the variety of versions of this song. Other languages Klaus Meine has recorded “Wind of Change” in include:

Russian:

Spanish:

Interestingly enough I cannot find the German version, which I am all but certain must exist. I should like to say that I think it is fantastic that Klaus Meine can speak so many languages, or at least speak them well enough to sing one of his greatest songs in them. Furthermore I believe the Russian version is significant. The primary focus of “Wind of Change” is the opening of Europe from the fall of the former Soviet Union, Russia welcoming the rest of Europe into their country and the rest of Europe welcoming them as comrades. A German band singing in Russian may be a small way of giving back to that 1989 concert when a hundred thousand Russians sang along with a German band.

I love the Scorpions. They are quite possibly one of the most unrated bands ever here in North America. However in Europe Scorpions are regarded as one of the greatest of all time, which is exactly the kind of respect they deserve, and I hope my few words have sufficiently explained why.

“The world is closing in,
Did you ever think,
That we could be so close, like brothers.
The future’s in the air,
I can feel it everywhere,
Blowing with the wind of change.”

- Colin Kelly

Saturday, November 24, 2012

27 Songs about the End of the World

The world was suppose to end in 2012.  Disappointed?  Here are twenty-seven songs to cheer you up.

REM – I’m Gonna DJ
According to the lyrics, REM singer Michael Stipe plans on DJing at the end of the world. An admirable goal if there ever was one.

Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun
Disjointed lyrics symbolizing the devil, sex, shame, death and according to everyone the end of the earth is mentioned somewhere in there too. I never liked Soundgarden or this song. I don’t hate Soundgarden and I don’t hate “Black Hole Sun,” but this is a very immature song and the only reason I am convinced it’s about the end of the world is it would follow from the dark themes blatantly brought up in the beginning. I may not love it, but it still counts as a song about the end of the world and it still makes the list.

Muse – Apocalypse Please
The end is coming but Muse is surprisingly hopefully about the whole ordeal. Something will “pull us through” and “change the course of history.” It’s a nice song, not Muse’s best, but a good one, and definitely one of the more optimistic songs on this list.

Josh Ritter – Temptation of Adam
“Temptation of Adam” is the first of many songs about world war three ending everything. Josh Ritter is a great guitarist and light rocker, and he can’t help himself but be romantic and sing about love even when the end of the world is coming. If you have ever heard Josh Ritter before you know what to expect here, it’s another heartfelt, well written, rock ballad, only this one is about the end of the world too.

Metallica – The Four Horsemen
“The Four Horsemen” of the apocalypse, that’s pretty straight forward. Metallica have a lot of songs about death, destruction and dismay, but this was the only song of theirs I could pinpoint as being specifically about the end of the world. Off of their first studio album “Kill ‘Em All,” like many musicians Metallica’s first album was their rawest, and I believe this was the album that focused the most around death, so how fitting their only true end of the world song be there.

Elvis Costello – Waiting for the end of the World
How do you cope with the end of the world? Understandably Elvis Costello would be somber and sad, he would also pray. There should be no surprise the biblical reference and hopeful prayers are a reoccurring theme on this list. If you believe all of that it would make sense to pray to god to save us since he would technically be the cause of the end as well as the beginning. “Dear lord I hope you coming, because you really started something,” there is a couple different ways to interpret that line.

Barry McGuire – Eve of Destruction
Barry McGuire? I thought this song was by the The Turtles, oh they covered it, McGuire wrote it, cool. There is maybe a dozen or more cold war and fear of the reds references in this song. This is the second song about the cold war or world war three ending the earth on this list. McGuire is politically topical in this song, he mentioned the reds in China, the space race, southern racism, and probably a bunch of other important events I am too young and/or ignorant to get. No wonder this song was so popular in the sixties.

Eels – End Times
The end is coming and no one realizes it, except Eels lead man Mark Oliver Everett, and now does Mark take the news? Reflections are made by drawing parallels between the “ends times” and “she is gone now,” how do most people deal with a lover gone, somber sadness and eventual acceptance; “I don’t feel nothing now, not even fear. Now that end times are here.” Very nice, arguably more of a poem then a song, if such a distinction exists.

The Thermals – Here’s Your Future
Arguably a song that is not about the end of the world, “Here’s Your Future” is more about biblical violence, but I cannot escape the feeling that god proclaiming “Here’s Your Future” after laying out the horrors of past biblical destruction wrought by him could imply anything other than the violent end of all things as describe in “Revelations.” The Thermals are a modern punk band, interpret that however you want, but “Here’s Your Future” is a fast hard hitting song that does a good job of depicting god as a bully killing us and torturing us with fear.

The Temper Trap – Soldier On
Best known of their hit song “Sweet Disposition,” not everyone knows Australia’s The Temper Trap have an entire good album in “Conditions.” The world is slowly dying and what we must do is soldier on. This song is awesome for a few reasons; first of all it is a really good song just in general, second the message to tough out the end of the world is just so badass. The Temper Trap is not a loud hard rock band so this message of incredible toughness and resolve is for some reason somewhat unexpected, it’s like stealth badassier, which is not a real word.

Pink Floyd – Two Suns in the Sunset
“Two Suns in the Sunset” is off of Pink Floyd’s twelfth studio “The Final Cut” (1983). The second sun rising in the east is meant to be the explosion of a nuclear bomb the sign of the beginning of the end. This is not the first song about nuclear war destroying everything on this list and it won’t be the last. This is Pink Floyd, the song is great, and if anything I’m surprised they don’t have more songs about the end of the world.

Tom Lehrer – We Will All go Together
Finally a funny song about the end of the world!

Tom Lehrer may have received an AB in Mathematics from Harvard where he lectured for several years but he most likely will be best remember for his witty commentaries about politics through song. Nuclear war is coming, but don’t fret we will all leave this world together like one big happy family. Sure puts things into perspective.

Nena – 99 Luftballoons
“99 Luftballons” is one of the best known popular radio songs that happen to be about the end of the world, and like any pop song with subtext most people don’t know what it’s about. What are the 99 red balloons? If you still have to ask after actually paying attention to the lyrics to this 1982 German pop song than you may be an idiot.

Credence Clearwater Revival – Bad Moon on the Rise
And all these years I thought this song was about werewolves. The appropriate inclusion of this song on the classic horror film “An American Werewolf in London” gave me and others the false impression that CCR front man John Fogerty had written “Bad Moon on the Rise” specifically for the movie, however in an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine John Fogerty explained that the song was inspired by the movie “The Devil and Daniel Webster” in which a hurricane destroys a town. Fogerty thought it would be something if a storm destroyed more than just a town, how about the world. So that settles that, “Bad Moon on the Rise” is about the end of the world.

WWE – Armageddon Theme
Who could get forget promos with the Undertaker proclaiming himself the “angel of darkness and reaper of wayward souls,” or Triple H promising to stain New York City with Mick Foley’s blood? Ah the good old days of professional wrestling when the pretenses of it being real were replaced with overtop impossible characters and situations. Wrestlers have been predicting the end times since Wresltemania five when Hulk Hogan declared that when he and the Machoman Randy Savage battled the earth was going to open up and devour the audience and presumably the rest of the earth would be destroyed when the mega powers explode. As comical as wrestling has become there was something charming about the old Armageddon pay per views and how they advertised it as if the world would actually end because two strong men were going to wrestle, but what really sold those trailers was the song they used often called “The End.” I could not find any information about who wrote the song so I do not know who to credit, but whoever did write and perform this song was clearly influenced by The Doors, and their song “The End.” The voice sounds a little like Jim Morrison, the atmosphere of the song is forbidding and dark, and even the lyrics seem like something that would have fit in with the rest of The Doors end times song. Despite being created under very different circumstances the WWE Armageddon Theme has always sent chills down my spine.

Alan & Lande – Judgement Day
What happens when Symphony X guitarist Russell Alan and Gamma Ray/Masterplan lead singer Jorn Lande collaborate? We get great metal of course. To this day “Judgement Day” appears to be Alan & Lande’s biggest hit, and rightfully so, out of all the songs I have heard by the duo this is definitely my favorite. Once again we hear biblical references in this song and a sense of knowing what is to come. The message of this song seems to suggest that waking up surprised to find judgement day may be more of a consequence of misdeeds or lost spiritual awareness. All in all “Judgement Day” by Alan & Lande is a great song.

Morrisey – Everyday is like Sunday
I could argue that this song is not about the end of the world since it is set in a post apocalyptic setting, which would imply that the earth still exists and so does some remnants of humanity. However I would be probably be splitting hairs if I did that, and besides like I could resist putting this song on the list. World War Three has come and gone but here in the seaside town they forgot to bomb people linger on. Morrisey brings the severe sadness that is emo to the Armageddon in this song, and I suppose if there were ever a time to be morbidly sad it would be the end times, it is an appropriate fit and the end result is a very good song.

Prince – 1999
No Prince’s “1999” is not a pop cliché it is actually a meaningful song. People who actually bothered to listen to the lyrics of “1999” will quickly identify the song as one that is about the end of the world. The lyrics explicating state that the world with end in the year 2000, so we might as well make the best of it till then and party like it’s....

REM – It’s the End of the World as we Know it
Perhaps the most famous end times song ever recorded. REM struck gold when they wrote “It’s the End of the World as we Know it,” a humorously fun and infections song accepting/celebrating the end of the world, as far as we know it anyway.

Black Sabbath – War Pigs
The war pigs in question are those pesky politicians that start wars and send men off to die, but when the ultimate war unfolds and we began the end of days what will god think of them? War Pigs is something of a combination of end of world themes insofar that there is a huge war destroying mankind and also the apocalypse foreseen in revelations. Just when you think the war couldn't possible get any worse the fucking four horse men show up.

Black Sabbath – Electric Funeral
Ozzy predicts if the four horsemen don’t get us first the nuclear bombs will. Like so many songs earlier on this list the end of the world comes in the form of nuclear war, but this song is the most “metal.”

The Rolling Stones – Gimmie Shelter
Not exactly a song about the end of the world since the song is about surviving in a post apocalyptic world, however as stated earlier for “Every Day is like Sunday” that’s close enough. This song would have made the top five since it maybe the best song on this list but since it is not explicitly about the end of the world it only gets sixth. On an additional side note this song always reminds me of Mad Max.

Johnny Cash – When the Man Comes Around
Revelations again. Johnny Cash is a badass and I like his method narrating, very matter of fact. I also like Cash’s word choice is referring to god as “the man,” as if god is more like some kind of badass alpha male/top hierarchy corporate political champion, and when he comes around... we’re fucked. When god comes to clean this mess up, he’s going to be pissed. It’s a fun story and a great song.

Zager and Evans – In the Year 2525
In the 2525, if man is still alive, and if woman can survive, they may find....

And so on we count the years while foretelling the strangeness of millenniums past, until everything is dead.

A song this high on the list deserves special attention, it gets a full review:

http://colinkellymusicinreview.blogspot.ca/2012/11/zager-and-evans-in-year-2525.html

Prism – Armageddon
Out of all the upbeat songs about the end of world Prism’s “Armageddon” has to be the best. A unusual and truly unique song that wins the hearts of all who have ever heard it.

A song this high on the list deserves special attention, it gets a full review:

http://colinkellymusicinreview.blogspot.ca/2012/11/prism-armageddon.html

The Doors – The End
The ultimate end of the world song, The Doors “The End.” Not only is this song simply fantastic in quality and in poetry but it captures every possible interpretation and reaction to the end, not just the end of the earth, or the end of humanity, this is the end of everything.

A song this high on the list deserves special attention, it gets a full review:

http://colinkellymusicinreview.blogspot.ca/2012/11/the-doors-end.html

David Bowie – Five Years
This is the greatest song about the end of the world ever written, David Bowie “Five Years.” Like The Doors “The End,” Bowie’s “Five Years” means a lot to me. This is a song I have been listening to with perked interest and deep love for the better half of my life. There are so many memories attached to songs like “The End” and “Five Years” they mean more to me than just amazing songs about the end times, these songs even transcend the greatness of the historical and cultural impact on music, they are totems of our culture and species. The fear of death, the original conflict, the original antagonist, the endless battle between life and death sang to us by arguably the greatest song writer ever capturing all our fears and predictable reactions in one perfect song. “Five Years” is the greatest end of the world song.

Way back in May of 2007 I reviewed “Five Years,” and it shows just how much things have changed, in my writing, in my life and in me. That was five years ago....

http://colinkellymusicinreview.blogspot.ca/2011/03/may-2007-david-bowie-five-years.html

- Colin Kelly

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Doors - The End



I often wonder what it must have been like attending some of the early concerts of the great classic rock bands. I wonder what the atmosphere was like sitting in a club in Las Angeles in the 1960s and hearing The Doors play live for one of their first sets. Can you imagine trying to make sense of the erratic actions of the incredibly high Jim Morrison, or the strange new sounds coming out of Ray Manzarek’s keyboard? How would the average 1967 person have reacted to Jim Morrison screaming the line in “The End” about wanting to kill his father and fuck his mother? Badly I assume.

I do not think there has ever been a more perfect song to end a live set then The Doors’ “The End.” The simplicity of it all is seemingly such an obvious maneuver, but that is easy to say in hindsight; the song to best to end the night is “The End.” Appropriately “The End” is also the last song on The Door self titled debut album. “The End” is in every way a song about the end of all things, the end of the set, the end of the album, a personal end of everything and an external end of everything.

“This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end

Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I'll never look into your eyes...again”

Morrison opens the song by establishing the theme, the end of our plans, our surroundings, time, and each other. This is no mere song about a closing set, or an untimely death, Morrison sings about the end of all things, physical and non physical.

The main body of lyrics strongly hints to the drug use of Mr. Morrison. He refers to a great many confusing things; Roman wilderness, insane children, riding west, a blue bus, and a ride-able snake. Having read a lot of Jim Morrison’s poetry and having spent an entire childhood listening to every Doors song I have something of a special insight understanding what he is referring to with these strange examples.

“Can you picture what will be
So limitless and free
Desperately in need...of some...stranger's hand
In a...desperate land

Lost in a Roman...wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane
All the children are insane
Waiting for the summer rain, yeah”

“Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain” is to be lost to an ancient chaos, removing mankind from civilization, suggesting an end to civilization, and the youth of tomorrow degenerate into primitive animals, or are insane. The youth of people is lost, along with civilization, the end.

“There's danger on the edge of town
Ride the King's highway, baby
Weird scenes inside the gold mine
Ride the highway west, baby”

“Riding the King’s highway west” is clearly a reference to going to Morrison’s home of Las Angeles, but a king’s highway? Well Jim Morrison is the lizard king and he can do anything, perhaps he has inherited Las Angeles and its roads in the collapsed future, perhaps he considers himself the monarch of the city now. Also a king is a backward regression in political democratic advancement, yet another suggestion of the collapse of civilization, the end.

“Ride the snake, ride the snake
To the lake, the ancient lake, baby
The snake is long, seven miles
Ride the snake...he's old, and his skin is cold”

From reoccurring imagery in Morrison’s poetry it is safe to assume riding a snake is a sexual innuendo. “The snake is long, seven miles” this could be a humours exaggeration of Morrison’s own member, but my best guess is that it is a reference to a stretch of road as that would tie into not only riding a snake across some distance but also the earlier lyrics about riding the highway west. A highly sexualized quest to the ancient lake does sound like a tripped out adventure our friend Jim would go on, but how does this tie into the end of anything? The final lyric in this verse, “he’s old, and his skin is cold,” the snake is dying, but the sadness of the imagery is that sex and lust are dying, and with it procreation, and therefore the end of humankind.

“The west is the best
The west is the best
Get here, and we'll do the rest

The blue bus is callin' us
The blue bus is callin' us
Driver, where you taken' us”

When Jim Morrison says “the west is the best” he is basically saying “there is no place like home.” Morrison clearly sees Las Angeles as an extremely spiritual place, and he is strongly suggesting in this song that home, in the west, is where he is most comfortable, at peace, and safe, at least as safe and happy as one could be at the end times. I have no idea what the blue bus might be referring too, but I understand the frightful lyrics “driver, where you taken’ us,” I think we all know the final destination of the blue bus, it is the end.

“The killer awoke before dawn, he put his boots on
He took a face from the ancient gallery
And he walked on down the hall
He went into the room where his sister lived, and...then he
Paid a visit to his brother, and then he
He walked on down the hall, and
And he came to a door...and he looked inside
Father, yes son, I want to kill you
Mother...I want to...fuck you

C'mon baby, take a chance with us
C'mon baby, take a chance with us
C'mon baby, take a chance with us
And meet me at the back of the blue bus
Doin' a blue rock
On a blue bus
Doin' a blue rock
C'mon, yeah

Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill”

“Doin’ a blue rock” is such an obvious drug reference. These lyrics are deep but fail to tie in well to the theme of the end, at least as far as I can see. The killer lacks a clear identity, so he chooses a face from the ancient gallery. It is highly suggestive the reason this man has the title “killer” is that he has murdered his siblings and intends to finish with his parents. Perhaps these grim lyrics are the final destination of the driver, a scene far more graphic and relatable then the strange scenes described to us earlier; this is the end that is death, death through murder.

“This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end

It hurts to set you free
But you'll never follow me
The end of laughter and soft lies
The end of nights we tried to die

This is the end”

The most common criticism I hear regarding The Doors is the attack on Jim Morrison and his ridiculous drug abuse and how it affected his music. Ironically this criticism is actual one of The Doors’ greatest strengths. Jim Morrison was more a poet than a musician and it shows in the depth of his words, furthermore you could argue that Jim Morrison was more of a philosopher than a poet, he was a very spiritually man searching deep within and far without for answers to the most confusing abstract questions the human mind can conceive. The allure of drugs for Morrison had everything to do with expanding his mind, and if the drugs harmed his work, it is was probably his work as a philosopher not as a poet, and subsequently not as musician. If drugs clouded Morrison’s mind to greater truths that is unfortunate but it was those same drugs that granted him unique insights as well. The goal of art is to express, and you would need to be a fool or belligerent to miss the multiple layers of thought and feeling that is so powerfully present in every psychedelic Doors song. The mission of philosophy and science is the pursuit of truth, the mission of art is personal expression, but with The Doors we got a lot of the later and some of the former.

“It hurts to set you free”

Of course it does. It always hurts to lose someone. In Morrison’s mind there were planes existence beyond the physical, there was something profound and virtually unknown through the doors of perception, and in the end, when all that we are is lost, Morrison believed we would step through those doors and be free of so many things we never even realized binded us.

This is the end.

Until next month keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Prism - Armageddon



Prism is something of a troubled band. Prism has had twenty members and the current lineup does not have even one of Prism’s original five. How does that even happen? Why even call yourselves Prism at this point? The band formed in 1977, I am not even sure if the current line up was alive when they first formed. So when I tell you Prism was something of a troubled band I think you can see why.

Prism existence is divided into two active runs, the initial formation and run of the band with a somewhat consistent lineup consisting mostly of original members from 1977 to 1984 and a second and somewhat confusing run from 1988 to present. It should come as no surprise that all of Prism’s best work was created during that first run, most notable in 1979 with the release of their third and perhaps most popular/famous album “Armageddon.”

The album Armageddon remains a topic of interest for a variety of reasons. Armageddon’s producer Bruce Fairbairn won producer of the year in 1979 at the Junos. Bryan Adams assisted in the song writing for two of the tracks on Armageddon, “You Walked Away” and “Take it or Leave It.” I do not know for certain but as far as I can tell this was Bryan Adams’ first professional song writing gig, so I guess we have Prism to blame for Bryan Adams. Most note worthy, as far as I am concerned, is the title track “Armageddon” which has to be the most fun song about the end of world ever.

In the long standing history about singing about terrible things in the most upbeat way imaginable, Prism accomplishes the perfect mood for cheerful party music while singing about total war and the end of the world. There are other happy songs about the end of the world, but most of them are a mixed message. The typical format you see about happy Armageddon songs is partying in spite of the end approaching, like Prince’s “1999” or REM’s “I’m going DJ.” Prism’s “Armageddon” does not invoke partying or happiness in its lyrics, no, it accomplishes that through mood alone. The best comparison I can think of is Nena’s “99 Luft Balloons” but Prism’s “Armageddon” rocks out, so it is the better song.

All bemusement about the happy end times aside, “Armageddon” still holds up as a great song. In fact the eccentric use of seemingly out of place lyrics in what is an otherwise positive energy song is one of the least notable aspects of attributes of “Armageddon’s” quality. The mood is great in “Armageddon” there is a lot of positive feeling coming out of the melody and expression, and while I like to consider Prism a pure rock band and “Armageddon” a pure rock song I would be wrong to deny the pop elementals of dance like joy that exist in this song.

The best part of “Armageddon” is the opening and closing instrumental. Following the classic canon method “Armageddon” opens with the drums playing rhythm and is accompanied by what I believe to be a slow slide from the bass playing the accompaniment. Then the melody hits, with what sounds like violin but I am pretty sure it is a keyboard, and it is beautiful. Then most subtle of all is the harmony on guitar, and once the guitar hits the melody begins to flux in the most perfect way. There is something so pleasing about the canon method, it always gives you time to absorb all the sound being given to you and your mind has an easy time falling into the pattern of the song. There is a reason why this is like the sixth time I've mentioned the canon method, it is simple and highly effective. To bring the song back to continuity, the song ends with the same introductive pattern it opened with, drums and bass as rhythm and accompaniment, keyboard on melody, and guitar on harmony. It is the best part of this nearly eight minute song.

“Armageddon” does not feel like a seven minute forty-six second song. It flows so swimmingly, and so pleasantly that time just seems to fly by. That’s the sign of a really relaxing song, which makes it all the more charming that it is about the war and the end times.

“Armageddon, carry me home.” Is home heaven and since we are all going to die we are going home to heaven? Or is war humankinds’ natural way, so fighting in Armageddon is in a sense returning home to where we belong? Is there some kind of spiritual message here or a cleaver gag? I do not know, and I don’t care, it is a silly song, it could even be a stupid song, but that does not change the fact it is a great song and one of the best songs ever recorded about the end of the world.

- Colin Kelly

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Zager and Evans - In the Year 2525



In 1969 David Bowie released his first big hit “Space Oddity” and he was then accused of ripping off Zager and Evans and their big hit “In the Year 2525.” The history of classic rock of course remembers Bowie for so much more than just “Space Oddity” and very few people even remember the once spoken comparison between Bowie and Zager and Evans, however at the time the comparison was not entirely unfounded. “Space Oddity” is a psychedelic science fiction rock song about a man going into outer space and not wanting to come home, while the earlier released Zager and Evans hit “In the Year 2525” was a tripped out science fiction rock song about the far off and far out future.

The moon landing happened in 1969 and this stirred everyone creatively. Both “Space Oddity” and “In the Year 2525” came out in 1969 and this may not be a coincidence. At the time they must have been thinking if we could land on the moon in present day what could we do in the future, or how about in fiction? Since dreams about tomorrow and fantastic science were on everyone’s’ mind it should be no surprise that musicians at the time were experiencing some degree of parallel thinking regarding the topic, and I highly doubt Bowie was ripping off Zager and Evans, grim science fiction in music would quickly become common in the seventies psychedelic music scene.

“In the Year 2525” is perhaps the first original grim science fiction song, I cannot think of one that predates it. It is simple story telling, countdown the years to Armageddon, briefly explaining the changes to humanity as they occur, unusual and horrifying changes. Every verse is special, as every verse tells the listener something new and uncomfortable about the potential future, also every verse is a step in the countdown to the end. Every lyric is valuable;

“In the year 2525
If man is still alive
If woman can survive
They may find

In the year 3535
Ain't gonna need to tell the truth, tell no lie
Everything you think, do and say
Is in the pill you took today

In the year 4545
You ain't gonna need your teeth, won't need your eyes
You won't find a thing to chew
Nobody's gonna look at you

In the year 5555
Your arms hangin' limp at your sides
Your legs got nothin' to do
Some machine's doin' that for you

In the year 6565
You won't need no husband, won't need no wife
You'll pick your son, pick your daughter too
From the bottom of a long glass tube

In the year 7510
If God's a-coming, He oughta make it by then
Maybe He'll look around Himself and say
"Guess it's time for the judgement day"

In the year 8510
God is gonna shake His mighty head
He'll either say "I'm pleased where man has been"
Or tear it down, and start again

In the year 9595
I'm kinda wonderin' if man is gonna be alive
He's taken everything this old earth can give
And he ain't put back nothing

Now it's been ten thousand years
Man has cried a billion tears
For what, he never knew
Now man's reign is through

But through eternal night
The twinkling of starlight
So very far away”

I can only begin to guess at the variety of science fiction stories that have influence on the lyrics in this song. For example in the year 3535 using a drug to determine your personality was a major theme in L.P. Hartley’s “Facial Justice,” Henry Slesar’s “I Remember Oblivion” and John D. MacDonald’s “Trojan Horse Laugh” all stories involved using drugs for the purpose of manipulating people’s personalities in some way or another. Also in the year 5555 the idea that humans no longer do anything for themselves and rely on machines for everything was a common fear in darker science fiction and still prevalent today in movies like “The Matrix” and more light heartedly in “Wall-E.” Also in the year 6565 the dissolving of the family unit, an abandonment of romance, and the production of children in tubes, are all present themes in Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.”

Zager and Evans ended up being a one hit wonder, I actually have no idea what any of their other songs are, but it is still an honour to be remembered at all, and “In the Year 2525” is such a fantastic song. “In the Year 2525” has so many levels to it, it is a retro rock song, it is a grim narrative about mankind’s future and the end of time, it is full of science fiction references and reoccurring themes within that genre, also and perhaps most importantly it is an effective, creative piece of art that thoroughly succeeds at being both entertaining and invoking.

Be invoked.

- Colin Kelly

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Helloween - The Keeper's Trilogy - A Retorspective




It’s Halloween.

In 2010 Helloween released “Unarmed” a compilation album of reworked versions of their biggest hits. This was a great opportunity for the current line up to record versions of Helloween hits that they were not originally a part of. Primarily it gave Andi Deris a chance to sing studio quality versions of all the great songs originally sang by Michael Kiske, which is nice since Deris had been part of the band for nearly two decades by this point.

Given the chance to re-imagine and retool some of their classic songs was not wasted by Weikath, Grosskopf and the rest of the band, who made many fun changes to several Helloween favorites. They introduced a jazz stylization including saxophones to the monster rock song “Dr. Stein.” Operatic indulgences were made to the high emotion “A Tale that wasn’t Right” which was definitely a good idea. One of the most charming songs on the album is “Eagle Fly Free” which is sort of a cover of a cover. Sweden’s “Hellsongs” did an acoustic cover of “Eagle Fly Free” and the Unarmed version is combining aspects of the original Helloween version and the acoustic Hellsongs’ version. The Unarmed version of “Eagle Fly Free” is literally a duet by Andri Deris and Hellsongs singer Harriet Ohllson, and both bands are fully collaborative in this studio recording.

The entire Unarmed album is great but the track that made me take notice was “The Keeper’s Trilogy” a seventeen minute rock opera that combines all three primary tracks from the Keeper’s saga “Halloween,” “The Keeper of the Seven Keys” and “The King for a 1000 Years.” The idea of combining all three songs came from live performances and time restraints therein.

Andi Deris explained in multiple live concerts I have seen online that everyone always wants to hear “Halloween,” “Keeper of the Seven Keys” and “The King for a 1000 Years” in concert, but playing all three songs is approximately forty minutes worth of music, and a concert is only so long, so they combined all three songs into one reasonably long song.

To recap:

“Halloween” - The devil is haunting Halloween:

http://colinkellymusicinreview.blogspot.ca/2012/10/helloween-halloween.html

“Keeper of the Seven Keys” – A mythical adventurer goes out on a journey to slay the devil:

http://colinkellymusicinreview.blogspot.ca/2012/10/helloween-keeper-of-seven-keys.html

“The King for a 1000 Years” – The devil plots his return, all he needs is a mortal to be his terrestrial hand:

http://colinkellymusicinreview.blogspot.ca/2012/10/helloween-king-for-1000-years.html

In each review I explained why each individual song is special and fantastic, and how together there is something more to notice, the history of Helloween subtly unfolding, and an adventure saga involving the devil. I wrote in my “Keeper of the Seven Keys” review “If there is one sure fire why to win my heart it is with a long fantasy adventure rock ballad” this is true of “Keeper of the Seven Keys” but even more so for the grand opera of high adventure that is “The Keeper’s Trilogy.” When incorporating all the elementals from all three songs we begin to feel the connection between these three tracks more so than before. The lyrics regarding challenging the devil and fighting for mankind in “Halloween” are the transition point to “Keeper of the Seven Keys,” and the conflict with the devil in “Keeper of the Seven Keys” is the transition point to “The King for a 1000 Years.” These moments flowing together also increases the scope of the adventure. The ordeal of dealing with the devil begins to feel ancient; an enemy of yesteryear will continue to threaten us at least a thousand years from a future date not yet reached.

Maybe it is just me but the whole fantasy element of “The Keeper’s Trilogy” reminds of me a lot of the old PC role playing games like Might and Magic and Ultima. Just compare cover art.

Keeper’s Saga:



Might and Magic 3-5:



Ultima 1-3:



Ultima 4-6:



The Ultima series really seems to fit the Keeper’s saga, the villain Exodus basically looks like Satan anyway, and looking at the cover art of “Keeper of the Seven Keys – The Legacy” the colorization and feel is similar to Ultima three and perhaps even more so Ultima six. The Avatar standing over a writhing demon could definitely be compared to the keeper challenging Satan. The mysterious wizard/cloaked man on all the covers of the keeper’s albums is presumable the keeper himself and he looks like he could very easily slip into any of the video game box art above battling strange creatures in even stranger locations. I think the comparison is apt.

It is funny that I never noticed the female features on the devil on the “Keeper of the Seven Keys – The Legacy” album art before creating the images posted above. For some reason the half metal she devil seems all too fitting for a metal cover. Also the use of computer graphics on the “Keeper of the Seven Keys- The Legacy” album art is typical of metal albums that came out in the 2000s. It reminds me a little of Iron Maiden’s “Dance of Death.”

It is amazing what a bunch of rockers can come up with as their flag ship songs focusing on a Halloween theme. You cannot tell me this theme was not being used, it comes up everywhere. There is of course the song “Halloween” but also all the reference to the devil thereafter call back to Halloween. Dr. Stein is a very Halloween themed song. Pumpkins are the band’s mascot and present even on the Unarmed cover art. In the “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1 & 2” box set the cartoon artwork inside the booklet has a man listening to a song with repeating lyrics “Happy happy Halloween” and also his head turns into a pumpkin, I believe this to be a reference to the horror movie “Halloween 2” you know the one that does not have Mike Myers in it, the one with the television commercial that goes “happy, happy Halloween” and somehow the television broadcast was going to cause all the children’s mask, including a pumpkin head naturally, to seal around their heads and kill them. I am sure it is a “Halloween 2” reference.

How does Halloween tie into the Ultima series? I do not know, but I am glad Helloween went there.

Deris stated that it was kind of self indulgent to play all three songs of the Keeper’s Trilogy live given the tremendous length of time required. This gave me pause about doing a Music in Review for each one, because it might seem like I was being self indulgent. But I also remembered that I do not care, I love “Keeper of the Seven Keys” but if I was going to talk about “Keeper of the Seven Keys” I should probably talk about “Halloween” it came first and also it is an easier song to reference to introduce Helloween, but if I am going to talk about both “Halloween” and “Keeper of the Seven Keys” I should probably finish the series, but then there is “The Keeper’s Trilogy” which has all three, but explaining all three at once would be too hard to fit into one review. In the end this is what I ended up with, three Music in Reviews and one retrospective.

It’s Halloween and this is Helloween.

- Colin Kelly

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Helloween - The King for a 1000 Years



“Ages of fire - Aeon of darkness, fear and hate
Wake up my creatures
Stand up you bringers of man's fate
No one can kill us
We cannot die, a death one knows
Mankind is sleeping
My victory near, their end so close

I know your secrets
I know it all”

After the departure of Kai Hansen from Helloween, singer Michael Kiske would only stay on for another two albums, “Pink Bubbles Go Ape” and “Chameleon.” Around the same time drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg was dejected from the band, tragically Schwichtenberg suffered from schizophrenia and an addiction to alcohol and drugs which led the poor man to suicide. Guitarist Michael Weikath and bassist Markus Grosskopf would march on still carrying the banner of Helloween.

The departure of Kiske would prove problematic since his face and voice had become synonymous with Helloween so the replacement had to be someone special. The man they would recruit was Andi Deris a very talented singer, and more importantly he is very “metal.” In some funny ways Helloween experienced what Van Halen experienced when David Lee Roth left and was replaced with Sammy Hagar. Everyone likes Sammy Hagar but most people liked David Lee Roth as lead singer of Van Halen more, intense and needless arguments ensued. Meanwhile for Helloween, everyone likes Andi Deris as a singer but everyone likes Michael Kiske more and intense and needless arguments ensued. I am of the popular opinion that Kiske is the better singer both in and out of Helloween the guy is just amazing, however I really do enjoy Deris’s voice. The two singers are fundamentally different in their range and style but it makes for a variety in Helloween that I believe was advantageous.

What made Helloween famous was the Keeper’s albums. The albums that came after, which I am sure are decent never made the same impact as “The Keeper of the Seven Keys” but there was room to grow and a mythology that could be expanded if only they dared go there. In 2005 Helloween released a double CD set titled “The Keeper of the Seven Keys - The Legacy.”

Unlike “The Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1 & 2” the over arching narrative in the legacy has more continuity from one song to the next, themes such as devil worship, quests for immortality, betrayal, and sorcery reoccur. Furthermore there is a direct narrative from the song “Keeper of the Seven Keys” and the primary song of this third addition to the mythology “The King for A 1000 Years.” After being sealed away by the keeper of the seven keys the devil and his minions have been waiting biding their time to return and ruin mankind, and suddenly we have continuity.

The leap from the keeper’s sage in 1987-88 to 2005’s legacy was plenty of time for Helloween to change, and looking at the multiple members involved in the band’s history it is easy to see why Helloween changed. Music had changed too, metal music had gotten heavier and harder and Helloween had in so many ways mimicked this and for a song about a hateful Satan rising up from hell and threatening all mankind, heavy is a good thing.

Another interesting detail is the differences in narrative style from “Keeper of the Seven Keys” to “The King for A 1000 Years,” in “Keeper of the Seven Keys” the entire story follows the hero fighting the devil, who won’t let us be, while in “The King for A 1000 Years” the story follows Satan and his efforts to break through to our world, most notably through the corruption of humans.

“Say you want to live forever
Minus one day
Say you will obey and I

I will show - I will show
I will show your Reich of gold
And I will show - I will show
I will show you friend and foe”

What a great line, “say you want to live forever, minus one day,” this is very much the kind of backhanded crooked deal we have come to expect from the devil of our modern culture. Though I still need to look further into Helloween’s discography I suspect that “Keepers of the Seven Keys – The Legacy” along with the song “The King for A 1000 Years” is Andi Deris’s best work and Helloween’s best work since the keeper’s sage in the eighties. It helps that “The King for a 100 Years” and “The Keeper of the Seven Keys – The Legacy” tie back to the memorable albums of the eighties, and perhaps it speaks of Weikath’s creativity since he wrote the two best songs from the series, the last two. Perhaps Weikath revisiting “The Keeper of the Seven Keys” reignited some of the passion he had for the genre of heavy metal demonic fantasy adventure. Whatever the creative reason, it is these three songs “Halloween,” “Keeper of the Seven Keys,” and “The King for A 1000 Years” that really made me fall in love with Helloween. Everything you need to know about Helloween is being told to you in these three songs, the theme and stylization of Helloween’s music and how it changed over the years, also who was involved in each song explains a lot of that. Helloween is a band that has had many talented men come and go but thanks to Weikath and Grosskopf there has remained a unique consistency of metal spirit that can and will stand the test of time.

Say you want to live forever, minus one day....

- Colin Kelly

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Helloween - Keeper of the Seven Keys



If there is one sure fire why to win my heart it is with a long fantasy adventure rock ballad, which is exactly what “Keeper of the Seven Keys” is, a thirteen minute musical epic. The song’s opening jumps right into the fantasy theme and never deviates far.

“Put on your armour
Ragged after fights
Hold up your sword
You're leaving the light.
Make yourself ready
For the lords of the Dark
They'll watch your way
So be cautious, quiet and hark”

There are so many lyrics in this song, it’s practically a book, and they hit so many fantasy references, “will o’ the wisps, “dwarves of darkness,” “guided by spells,” and “the seas of hatred and sin,” all silly stuff but also awesome. The second time I listened to “Keeper of the Seven Keys” I was listening to the lyrics casually and I thought I heard, “kill that Satan who won’t let us be” and I thought “wait a minute is this song about killing the devil?” The answer was yes, big time yes, “Keeper of the Seven Keys” is one hundred percent about fighting and killing the devil. Typically in fantasy epics the big bad guy is some sort of lord of darkness and rarely something as culturally significant as Satan, but in incorporating the devil the song reaches an additional level of dramatic.

“Keeper of the Seven Keys” relates to the song “Halloween” in a few ways. First “Keeper of the Seven Keys” is the title track to Helloween’s second and third album “Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1 & 2” so in a way all the tracks on both albums lead to the swan song that is “Keeper of the Seven Keys,” even though “Save Us” is technically the last tack. “Halloween” was the focus point of part one and “Keeper of the Seven Keys” was the focus point of part two, however the over arching theme of the two albums is a little disjointed, there are songs that fall into the Halloween theme really nicely like “Dr. Stein” an obvious Frankenstein homage, but a majority of the songs stand alone and do not fit into any story being revealed to us in either of these two big epic tracks. “Halloween” flows into “Keeper of the Seven Keys” through the presence of the devil in both songs, the devil is haunting Halloween in the first song and is a full blown antagonist in the second.

But the story of fighting the devil in a fantasy world is not the only narrative going on between these two songs, the story of Helloween is unfolding before us as well. I think I was right to call Kai Hansen the leader of Helloween as I did in the last review, he was a primary song writer, lead guitarist, and lead singer on the first album, but there is a great change occurring on the second installment on the Keeper’s saga. Rhythm and lead guitarist Michael Weikath takes over the song writing department on part two of the Keeper of the Seven Keys, having written five of the ten tracks on the album and three of the four hit tracks including “Keeper of the Seven Keys.” Interestingly the only hit song on the second album written by Hansen is “I Want Out” which is a song that clearly hints at how Hansen wants out of the band. No one is really sure why Kai Hansen was so unhappy in Helloween, the band he had help create, but he was upset enough to write a song about it so he must have been something serious. Seems a shame that Hansen felt that way and everyone in Helloween seemed surprised by the development and departure of Hansen after their third album. Hansen was only around for a short time in the most memorable band he would ever be a part of, he came and conquered, he was part of the two best Helloween albums, which were in turn two of the best rock/metal albums ever to come out of Germany.

When we look from “Halloween” to “Keeper of the Seven Keys” we see a transition in Helloween. “Halloween” is a song written by Kai Hansen with new lead singer Michael Kiske capturing all the raw intentions and emotions of the young band. “Keeper of the Seven Keys” takes the band into a fantastic new direction of fantasy and adventure and is written by Michael Weikath the ongoing creative leader of the band hereafter, Weikath along with bassist Markus Grosskopf are the only two members of the band to be with Hellowen since the beginning to the current day. The Keeper’s sage was a two piece set and important changes occurred within Helloween between the first and second installments; these albums are valuable records in the ongoing history of classic rock.

The story does not end there though; there is a third part to this trilogy.

- Colin Kelly