Archive for July, 2010

What the heck is progressive rock???

Posted in Concepts on July 24, 2010 by Mr. Roboto

Have you listened to rock songs that are thirty minutes long with three drummers and you need to listen to it fifty times before you get it? That’s progressive rock!!!

Jokes aside, progressive rock or “prog” rock is basically just a complex form of rock. That’s it! Getting familiar with the ingredients that make rock more complex or “progressive” is the best way to understand the genre. Here are some of the most important ones:

Timbre – The instrumentation goes beyond the basic guitar, bass and drums. You’ll find flutes, violins, saxophone, synthesizers, etc…

Form – The structure is more complex than the simple verse-chorus format. You may find classical forms and extended instrumental passages. Songs can be pretty lengthy.

Rhythm – Time signatures other than common 4/4 and tempo changes.

Melody/Harmony – Unusual scales and chord progressions.

Lyrics – You’ll be hard pressed to find a common topic like love. You’ll find a lot of fantasy, folklore or social themes.

Concept – The music, lyrics and album art are unified by a common theme or story.

Technology – Production of this kind of music is usually pushes recording technology to its limits with synthesizers, computers and other inventive tools.

The more you find these elements in the music, the more progressive it is.

With prog rock is best to classify the material and not the artist. Some bands were only progressive for a while like Rush in the 70’s. And then there were bands that  released only one or two progressive rock albums like The Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers (considered the first prog rock album) or The Who’s Tommy and Quadrophenia.

The best examples of classic progressive rock of the 70’s are known as The Big Six: Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes, Jethro Tull, King Crimson and ELP.

There are also other notable bands that were progressive without the excesses like Kansas, Supertramp, Marillion, Styx and ELO.

Sheer Heart Attack – Queen (1974)

Posted in Album review on July 21, 2010 by Mr. Roboto

Sheer Heart Attack is Queen’s third album and a turning point for the band. It was their first international hit and marks the beginning of the classic Queen sound. The production style for this album became the prototype for all subsequent albums. The band would never look back again.

Overall, Sheer Heart Attack rocks out but with Queen, it’s always more than just plain rock and roll. Multi-layered vocals and orchestrated guitars in a melodic pop diversity setting marks the true unveiling of the band. Because of this variety, it’s always hard to select one song to represent a Queen album. Still, somehow the songs make a statement all together. Maybe this is due to the fact that all four members are songwriters bringing in a mix of ideas for the recordings.

My favorite songs on the album are the hits Now I’m Here, Killer Queen and Stone Cold Crazy but I also like Brighton Rock and especially Flick Of The Wrist.

Brighton Rock showcases a very typical Brian May guitar sound with echoes. It’s a joy for guitar players.

Stone Cold Crazy is one of Queens heaviest songs and was covered by Metallica.

The only song in the album I skip sometimes is the ragtime Bring Back That Leroy Brown.

For the collectors, keep in mind that all the early Queen material has been digitally remastered with bonus tracks.

So in the end, Sheer Heart Attack is an indispensable album even though it is often overlooked in favor of A Night At The Opera.

5 out of 5 stars.

Mr. Roboto

Double Vision – Foreigner (1978)

Posted in Album review on July 20, 2010 by Mr. Roboto

Foreigner’s second album helped get them past the sophomore jinx and stablish themselves as arena headliners. It’s their best-selling album and well deserved. Their successful formula of melodic hard rock works really well and helped inspire several bands. It’s a polished sound that still lets the band sound hard. The overdriven guitar riffs are complemented by melodic vocal harmonies and occasional keyboard lines without losing the edge. I think the song Lonely Children is a perfect example of this balance I’m talking about here.

On Double Vision besides hard and melody rockers, you also get power ballads and even an instrumental. It’s all here. The important songs on this albums are the obvious Hot Blooded, Double Vision and Blue Morning, Blue Day. Other stand out songs to me are Lonely Children and Spellbinder. They’re song crafting at its best.

The mega-hit Hot Blooded became the band’s trademark song and even made its way to the Guitar Hero video game.

The band’s original line up had members from the United States and from England so they’re foreigners wherever they go, hence the name…

I recommend the digitally remastered cd version of this album with a booklet and extra tracks.

If I had to choose one Foreigner album this one would be it. Perhaps 4 being the only other contestant.

5 out of 5 stars.

Mr. Roboto

Toys In The Attic – Aerosmith (1975)

Posted in Album review on July 19, 2010 by Mr. Roboto

Three is a charm. The third release from Aerosmith finally took the band to greater heights. It’s their second most successful album. Eight million copies sold. The proof of a great album: During the 2009 tour the band played the album in its entirety!

So what did they do different here from the previous two albums? Nothing really, just improved skills. They still have the same formula of gritty and raunchy rock and roll with strong Zeppelin and Stones influence. If you want to get more familiar with the older Aerosmith sound, this is a perfect album to start with.

There are no weak cuts on this album. My favorite songs are Toys In The Attic, Walk This Way and Sweet Emotion. Besides these obvious choices I really like Adam’s Apple and Uncle Salty. The only song in the album that doesn’t do much for me is the boogie Big Ten Inch Record even though is a popular choice. Still, no skippers here. This is quality classic rock and mandatory to any serious collector.

Walk This Way played a fairly important role in music history later in the 80’s when it was covered by rappers Run-DMC. It got the hybrid “rap/rock” genre going and helped resurrect the band. Aerosmith is one of the few classic rock bands that after the 70’s still did well and moved along with the times.

Toys In The Attic is definitely a mandatory album for any serious classic rock collector.

Question for you all. Who has the bigger mouth? Steven Tyler or Mick Jagger?

5 out of 5 stars.

Mr. Roboto

Brothers In Arms – Dire Straits (1985)

Posted in Album review on July 15, 2010 by Mr. Roboto

Brothers In Arms was the biggest selling album in 1985. Mark Knopfler hit gold with his mix of rock, pop and jazz. The album spawned several hits for the band and became their most accomplished work.

This is a great album. Just the song Money For Nothing itself is worth the price of admission to me. It’s my favorite song on the album. Great guitar riff. Controversial lyrics. Driving beat. Isn’t that what rock and roll is all about? Nice cameo by Sting…

The other stand out song is Brothers In Arms. It has one of the finest guitar playing I’ve ever heard on record. Stratocaster player Mark Knopfler pulled out his Les Paul to get the right sound, just like in Money For Nothing.

Two hidden gems on the album: Ride Across The River and One World. I like these two tracks.

This album has a very focused production, perhaps a little over produced. It was all digitally recorded and takes advantage of the CD format length. The vinyl version had the songs edited to make it all fit.

Also, I’ve heard Terry Williams did not play in this album at all. All he did was the crescendo in the beginning of Money For Nothing. The producer used some jazz session drummer for the whole album to get the desired feel.

Despite having most of its songs overplayed on tv and radio stations, I can still listen to this album all the way through. I want my MTV now!

5 out of 5 stars

Mr. Roboto

….

A banda inglesa Dire Straits lançou seu primeiro álbum em 1978, surpreendendo muitos músicos consagrados ao apresentar um rock com uma forte vertente pop, mas ainda assim um rock vigoroso e revitalizado – a canção Sultans of Swing foi aos poucos se tornando um enorme sucesso.
Contaram com um forcinha do Eric Clapton, que tocou Set Me Up em seu álbum ao vivo Just One Night de 1980 – gesto que Clapton já havia feito por Bob Marley ao gravar I Shot The Sherif. Nada como um “deus” generoso…

Após terem chamado atenção com o álbum ao vivo Alchemy – que serviu como uma espécie de reunião da banda após vários trabalhos de produção de Mark Knopfler -, chegava a hora do Dire Straits lançar um álbum de inéditas que pudesse mantê-los na mídia mainstream e gravar o nome da banda para sempre entre os grandes do rock. Impulsionadas pela então recente MTV norteamericana, bandas de rock e pop chegavam instantaneamente aos ouvidos de uma jovem e vasta audiência.
O guitarrista e cantor, Mark Knopfler, respondeu a esse chamado com o álbum Brothers In Arms. O quinto álbum da banda foi lançado em 1985, solidificando a posição da banda como uma das mais populares da primeira metade da década de 80.

Um bom videoclipe, com animação gráfica e uma música que ironiza a própria emissora de TV, fez do mega-hit Money For Nothing a grande alavanca do álbum – um rock de vocais elaborados e com guitarras distorcidas na medida certa para serem ainda facilmente digeridas por uma audiência genérica. O álbum saltou para o topo das paradas musicais em todo o mundo e se manteve em alta durante 1985 e 1986, vendendo mais de 9 milhões de cópias pelo mundo.

Contendo também baladas melancólicas, como Brothers In Arms e Why Worry, um folk como Man’s Too Strong, ou lentas melodias jazzísticas, como Latest Trick, (essa com um belo solo de saxofone), o álbum passeia pelo mais fino rock pop, desfilando um vasto repertório de recursos musicais da banda, passando pelo pop-funk e pitadas de reggae e blues. Bons arranjos que fugiam do maçante synth-pop que já impregnava a cena musical pop dos anos 80, principalmente o pop britânico.
A predominância da guitarra de Mark Knopfler não é à toa. O excelente guitarrista impõe sua marca também nesse álbum e, mesmo sendo uma obra ímpar na discografia da banda, é sem dúvida seu maior sucesso.

No meio do turbilhão de músicas e tendências da década de 80, quando havia tanto lixo quanto pérolas, a memória de um rock realmente popular entre todas as camadas de ouvintes retornou para mim ao ouvir novamente esse álbum.
Sem dúvida um bom álbum para classificar no limite do rock clássico.

4 de 5 estrelas

Ogro.

O que diabos é rock clássico?

Posted in Concepts on July 13, 2010 by Ogro

Se você leu o post anterior do Sr. Roboto talvez já tenha alguma resposta na ponta da língua para o título desse post.
Ou talvez você ache que rock clássico é um conceito tão óbvio, tão presente, que nem precisa ser definido – rock clássico é rock clássico, oras!
Qualquer que seja sua escolha das opções acima, ou uma outra que você está louco para compartilhar com o mundo, saiba que você está ERRADO… e certo ao mesmo tempo.

Alguns puristas dirão que “clássico” refere-se a um certo período da história somente, que não se pode usar esse termo para músicas de épocas diferentes.
Não importa a sua definição, alguns artistas do rock serão considerados clássicos por todos, não é?
O que você acha do Led Zeppelin? Rock clássico, claro. Alguns desavisados classificariam ainda como “heavy metal” porque além de Stairway To Heaven escutaram Rock And Roll e acharam muito “pesado”.
Esses mesmos ouvintes esporádicos do rock não sabem quem é Chuck Berry ou ouviram Help dos Beatles e acharam o máximo.
Bem, estão certos quanto aos Beatles, mas sabe quantos anos separam os Beatles do Led Zeppelin? Poucos.
Como definir um período para um gênero musical que tem pouco mais de 50 anos de vida?
Quando considerar um rock como “clássico”? Cinco anos depois, dez anos, vinte?

Esse blog vai colocar seus conceitos à prova.
Você acha que é um ‘rocker’? Então levanta da cadeira e aumenta o volume!

Ogro.

Putting the “Classic” in rock

Posted in Concepts on July 9, 2010 by Mr. Roboto

So what the heck is Classic Rock???

I want to start out by asking this basic question because all my music selection for this blog will be based on what I think classic rock is.

There are no hard and fast rules to define the genre so a lot of people out there have their own interpretation. Despite some different opinions, there are a few ideas out there that everybody seem to agree upon. I think all you have to do is to look at the name itself: Classic Rock. The definition of the word “classic” explains a lot: a work of highest quality with enduring value. Now the word “rock” simply narrows down to the kind of artwork we’re talking about here.

So with this information in mind. I ask myself three questions when defining a work as classic rock:

How old? To earn enduring timeless value you just have to be around for a while to prove it! I think a recording has to be at least 20 years old to qualify as classic rock. That also seems to be the norm out there.

How popular? I have my own personal taste of quality and value but common recognition is the key here. If I was the only person in the world who appreciated Mozart, it would not have been the classic (and classical!) it is today.

Who? Well, it has to be a rock recording coming from a rock artist at heart. This classification can be a challenge in itself. There are other types of artists occasionally recording rock music but I don’t take those into account.

So in response to the original question, this is my definition of Classic Rock…

Mr. Roboto