Tuesday, September 15, 2015

More Hayoth and Other Musical Digressions

Light & Shade is done, and damn if I'm not pretty happy with it. I'm even - shocker - kind of OK with how I sing on it. I know, and have always known, that I wasn't going to be Plant, but the process of figuring out how to be the best vocalist I can be continues. I don't have the greatest range, but I am figuring out how to use what I have.

Which isn't to say that I still don't harbor the fantasy that a REALLY good vocalist, who also somehow magically happens to be a person I can get along with, might drop into my world, and I can re-record a whole pile of this Hayoth stuff. I kind of long to hear how, say, Getting Dollars Back or Warp might sound with a really confident vocal attack. Even on the tracks where I am...relatively...happy with the vocals, I am not confident about what I'm doing, and that's a big difference.

I also managed to write an entire song on Sunday. I'm calling it Tallahassee Bridge, at this point, but that may change out of deference to Bobbie Gentry and Billy Joe. It's a acoustic-based story song, and, like most of the stuff I write quickly (Uptown, after a lot of consternation, came really quickly), I think it's pretty strong. I'm hoping to get a good start on recording this week. I have a base acoustic guitar rhythm done, and was working on percussion last night.

Riff, or whatever the hell it becomes, is ready musically, but I need to figure out lyrics.

Now, outside of what I've been working on, what have I been listening to?

Beck, Bogert, Appice by Beck, Bogert, Appice

An oldie, but a goodie that I finally downloaded recently. The 1984 collaboration of Jeff Beck (guitar), Tim Bogert (bass & vocals) and Carmine Appice (percussion) is a solid slab of blues rock. I'm particularly taken with their run at Stevie Wonder's Superstition. Yeah, Bogert's vocals aren't the greatest, but when the musicianship is this good, it's a minor annoyance, at most.

High Country by The Sword

I had hoped for a little more from this. It's a truly good record, in terms of technical recording, it may be their best, and it's really great to have a modern "metal" band that seems intent on evolution. This promised another return to a more "classic hard rock" sound, which, I feel, dominated their best album, so far, 2010's Warp Riders. The disk is certainly a turn in that direction, but more in the frame of psychadelic rock (it's so, so drug influenced) than Thin Lizzy-esque hard rock. It's not a bad thing, and I have been listening to this record a lot. It's full of terrific riffing and jams. I just had pretty high hopes.

Sol Invictus by Faith No More

Just isn't grabbing me. Superhero is a great track, but I seem to consistently peter out shortly after. I know they're an important band, I know they're great musicians, I know this is a really good album, but I haven't been struck with it yet. I'm sure it will hit me, at some point.

Meliora by Ghost B.C.

I am not the biggest fan of this band, the theatricality sometimes gets in the way of the music for me. I often can't tell if the whole thing is a joke, or not. I'm also fully aware that it may be a joke, and not a joke, all at the same time, but I get tired of trying to parse it out. All that said, I am consistently struck by at least a couple of songs on each one of their albums. In this case, From the Pinnacle to the Pit and Majesty are both just terrific tracks. They've anchored an album I've been listening to far more than any of their others.

The Book of Souls by Iron Maiden

Look, it's a new Maiden album, you pretty much know what you're gonna get. Thing is, I like what I'm going to get a whole lot. It's another really good record, but, despite anything Nicko McBrain says, it's not as good as their classic records, and I don't even think, as a whole, it's as good as The Final Frontier from five years ago. That said, The Red and the Black is an instant classic song for me, as good as anything they've put out since their 80's heyday. The record also starts out VERY strong with If Eternity Should Fail. I am a little tired about the constant comments about Empire of the Clouds being eighteen minutes long. So, it's long, big deal, there are better songs on the album, and other bands have crafted songs of this length that are better.

The Story of Sonny Boy Slim by Gary Clark Jr.

There were so many Stevie Ray Vauhan clones that erupted out of Austin after the great man was killed. So many blues guitarists who were supposed to be the "next big thing," so when I heard about Clark, I was dubious, and, while I marked him as someone to check out, I wasn't rushing to do it. After seeing him play in a film called Chef, and in Dave Grohl's Sonic Highways TV series, I got excited enough to pick up his first full-length Blak & Blu. I'm a big fan of how Clark melds traditional electric blues with hip-hop influences, and this album provides more of the same. The guy can play the guitar, but I don't feel like it's as in your face as with other artists he's been compared to. The guitar doesn't feel like the centerpiece of the song...the SONG feels like the centerpiece of the song. It's really refreshing and exciting. Sonny Boy Slim provides more of the same, and frankly, I also think his songwriting has improved. This is "total package" material, and I love it.

I've also been listening to a lot of the prog supergroup, Flying Colors. They have a new live disk due in a couple of months, and it inspired me to revisit their two albums, Flying Colors and Second Nature. Truly top-notch melodic, technical rock and roll. I also enjoy their 2014 Live in Europe set.

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