Cream – Disraeli Gears (1967)

The late 1960’s was a very interesting time for music. Psychedelia was in fashion, but then again even if that weren’t so, great records were being made.

This is often considered Cream’s best album. It probably is not as good as Fresh Cream. But hey, it still rocks well. Let’s have a listen, track by track. It’s trippy for sure.

Strange Brew kicks off the album. It’s an ode to dangerous drugs right from the outset. It has some proto Black Sabbath style riffs and psychedelic imagery in it. It’s a good starting point, the band sound top here. It’s a great start to a great album. Very enjoyable.

Sunshine Of Your Love was likely written for and inspired by Jimi Hendrix, who was one of their contemporaries. Funnily enough, Hendrix loved this song and covered it live from time to time. It’s a terrific tune, and we go into interstellar overdrive with this number. It’s the best song from the album, and a great listen as well. The solos here are fantastic, typical Eric Clapton goodness.

The more modest piece, World Of Pain, actually is a lot more cheerful than you’d expect. It talks about difficult emotions, yet is just simply a solid piece on the album. It sounds so mellow that it is essential listening. Good wah-wah guitar is here, too. It’s a nice tune.

The next song, Dance The Night Away, continues our surreal adventure into a fantasy based world. It’s different, and still very very good. Jack Bruce’s subtle singing is fantastic, better than belting out the lyrics too harshly or loudly. He just sings – and this song is one of his best examples of singing here.

Blue Condition is a riff driven piece that has piano in the background of the song. It’s a nice piece about being blue. Despite the troubled emotions in the lyrics, the band sounds really happy to play these songs. A little strange, but fortunately it is another good song to hear. Ear candy.

Tales of Brave Ulysses is the most psychedelic piece out there on this album. It is so tripped out lyrically especially, that one cannot help but think the amount of drugs these guys consumed. In other words, a lot of drugs. “Tiny purple fishes, run laughing through your fingers…” is a totally great example of these tripped out lyrics. A great effort indeed.

The next song, SWLABR is a nonsensical piece that sounds rather bluesy and complex structurally and musically. It’s a good listen and although seemingly is more of the same, it is not in any way inconsistent or unlovable. All these songs are great here on this album.

The follow up We’re Going Wrong is a subtle and interesting piece to follow onto. Some brilliant tom-tom drumming by Ginger Baker is here. All three members of Cream excel fantastically at their craft here. It’s a great listen about love lost. Nice. The interplay between the vocals and guitar is nice here.

Outside Woman Blues is about the nasty topic of cheating partners. It’s not an easy subject to talk about. But it’s a great listen here, and indeed a subtle reminder of what damage cheating actually does. Of course, divorce rates were much lower in those days. But still, the sentiment remains the same here. A good little blues number here.

Take It Back sounds rather country-esque. It shows the band had many influences in their work. It’s a cheerful number with some harmonica here as well. This album is very enjoyable listening, and this song is no different whatsoever. It’s a dance-able and fun piece here.

The last piece, Mother’s Lament is a cynical satire about a mother and her malnourished infant. It’s simply taking the mickey out of those who have large families. There is just singing and piano here. We end this album feeling satisfied and happy with our listen.

This was Cream’s greatest commercial success as an album. It sold well and took the band into the history books. Unfortunately, Eric Clapton and the others in the group fought fairly frequently, causing Clapton to eventually leave the group in search of a new sound. Despite all that, this is a fine album to listen to.

Short and sweet.

8/10

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)

It was a strange time for music. The mid 1970’s was all about progressive rock. This was both positive and negative at the time. Of course, Pink Floyd took notice and crafted a more progressive rock style into their music. This album is proof of that.

It’s actually devoted to Syd Barrett, their original guitarist and songwriter. Apparently after recording The Dark Side Of The Moon, Pink Floyd were stumped to know where to go musically. Memories of their old band mate inspired this album’s material. Ironically Syd himself walked into the studio when the band were recording the Shine On You Crazy Diamond parts. How sad and strange…

That being said, this is a superb listen. Let’s dive in and have a listen to the album.

We begin with Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Pts. 1-5) which has ethereal sounds, a keyboard based flute and the feeling that we are going to be transported into something really great here. The lonely flute melody sticks out, it’s not a fast track, and it never was intentionally so. Some trippy keyboard sounds back up this part of this song. David Gilmour’s Fender Stratocaster then enters. My God, it’s good. His playing sounds fantastic here. The sound is nice and bright. Mysteriously, the sound almost fades into oblivion, before we hear THAT four note guitar figure, which sounds ghostly. Nick Mason and the others come into play afterwards, driving the song rhythmically. The song just flows and evolves here. It sounds mega emotional, even though there are no lyrics here just yet. The sound slows down once more, just before going uptempo again. Pink Floyd sound like a solidly united musical front here, not willing to back down for anyone or anything. Then Roger Waters finally starts singing the chorus, and goodness, it is mind blowing. A nice development of things, clearly being about Syd Barrett. It’s a lament for their lost band member, and the performance here is fantastic. After all this, we have Dick Parry playing a beautiful saxophone solo and some trippy and interesting guitar parts in the background. The song then fades out gracefully and nicely as well, before we jump into the next piece on the album.

The next song Welcome To The Machine begins with some mechanical noises, before launching into an acoustic number about railing against the record industry. It’s easily the weakest song on the album, and even then it’s worth a listen. Some brilliant playing is here, Pink Floyd had no equals with the sort of music that they were making in this era. It’s more a sonic journey this one, but hey, Pink Floyd were experts at this sort of thing. After more Theremin like noises, the song ending is rather strange. Without spoiling it, it is worth following along for the listen.

Have A Cigar is a very funky piece again about the trappings of the music industry. It is musically better than the previous song, with a friend of theirs (Roy Harper) singing this song. There are many descriptions of the nasty business of the album based record industry of the time: “And did we tell you the name of the game, boy? We call it riding the gravy train…” Obviously Roger Waters was fed up of being prodded by record executives to sell more records. Indeed, this is true of many rock bands, why sell out to compromise artistic integrity? There is no point, but the funky guitar solo at the end rocks hard, segueing into the next song.

Wish You Were Here is a sad acoustic ballad about missing someone who you have not seen in a very long time. It may or may not be specifically about Syd Barrett, but is likely so. It’s a great radio ready number for the masses. It uses a comparative analysis to observe different situations at hand. The slide guitar and melodies here are beautiful, a very nice song indeed. The wind blows this track away at the end, before we enter into the next piece.

The next piece, Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Pts. 6-9) revisits the first part of the album, just in a very different way. We have some different keyboard and guitar based melodies here this time, whilst still keeping the theme of the album going. It is very well structured here. It then suddenly burst into a shuffle sort of groove based section here, before leading us back into the main melody of the song. It sounds a bit more messy a mix than the first sections of this song, but it is intended to be so. High pitched keyboard sounds propel this number along. We then go back to David Gilmour’s stunning guitar parts, and Roger Waters sings about the long lost Syd Barrett legend that the band dearly missed. The backing vocals are mint here as well. The whole piece is thoroughly consistent throughout. The trippy riff comes in after the singing is complete, and then we finalise our musical trip with a beautiful, almost jazzy section to boot. The keyboard brings a groove based piece to light with more funky, quacky sounding guitar playing. We then return to familiar territory with the ethereal keyboard sound, and lastly enter the final, very relaxing section of this song. After some gentle music, we conclude the album here, feeling very satisfied.

This album is just as good as Dark Side Of The Moon, although not as popular. It should be essential listening for Pink Floyd fans though. A very decent and overall excellent musical accomplishment. Pink Floyd were at their best with Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here. It’s a great listen here, don’t miss it.

9/10

Pink Floyd – Atom Heart Mother (1970)

This is the first really good album of Pink Floyd’s after Syd Barrett’s departure. Understandably, this was new territory for Pink Floyd and the group was still coming to terms with the loss of Syd. Still, it’s a very good listen, despite the fact it is no Dark Side Of The Moon. It’s essential listening if you like Pink Floyd. It was also their first UK #1 album as well.

It’s likely inspired by recent acts of the time, such as King Crimson. Pink Floyd were art school students, and they treated their work as such. This is a perfect snapshot of the era.

We begin with the 23-minute long title track Atom Heart Mother. It begins with some dark electronic sounds and some trumpets, before emerging into a glorious-sounding piece. It sounds classy, and English. The band then enters the scene, with some nice drum work by Nick Mason. A motorbike speeds off as well. Layered keyboard pieces then arrive, which sound sweet. More instrumentation enters the scene, with beautiful slide guitar to paint the picture. Classical type instrumentation arrives next, and this is just the first five minutes. An era evoking trippy organ and gospel vocals match the piece after that. The gospels vocals are emotional here, proto Dark Side Of The Moon style. The drums then re-emerge into the picture, sounding suitably appropriate. The melody suddenly changes, allowing Roger Waters’s bass and David Gilmour’s guitar playing to really shine here. The latter will touch your soul here, it sounds so beautiful and wonderful. That fades out, leaving us with some chanting and well-mixed melodies. It is a rewarding listen here. We then revisit the trumpets and drum led part, before sliding into a discordant section. It sounds rather creepy. A crash like sound makes the instrumentation fall apart. Much of the previous sections of this song are then revisited, like a retrospective LSD trip. The main section is reintroduced. Violins match the main part, and the slide guitar returns. The crescendo emerges, and we finish with the climax of backing vocals. A great trip indeed.

Following is the song named If. It’s a short and melancholy based piece. It’s a devotion to emotion, and there is some gentle singing along with acoustic guitar and electric slide guitar to boot. It’s a nice little change from what has been before, but all the same, just as emotional, artistic and effective.

Summer ’68 is the last Syd Barrett Pink Floyd song. They simply added some instrumentation to this vocal cut and sounds very emotional. “How do you feel?” asks Syd. Pink Floyd obviously missed Syd’s presence, and it is a nice traditional swan song for his vocals. There is piano and acoustic guitar to match here, a nice song regardless. It nearly stops in the middle of the song but starts again. A good twist.

Fat Old Sun follows with wedding bells, to begin with, and end with, and then emerges into a smooth vocal and acoustic guitar with Roger Waters singing. It’s a rather throwaway piece, but all the same fits the album nicely.

The 13 minute long Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast is a bit of sound effect based trip for a guy who makes breakfast. There is a nice musical interlude in between the delay heavy samples here. Piano and organ enter the scene, and Richard Wright excels here with his playing. Guitar parts also occur. It’s nothing special this, but still a good listen of a guy who is making his own breakfast. The musical interlude comes and goes again. Sounds very laidback. Towards the end, the sounds repeat, like a reoccurring LSD trip. It’s a pleasant listen and ends the album nicely. We end the album feeling satisfied, as Alan leaves the scene and goes on to do other things for the rest of the day.

This is a real art based album. There are many different elements and structure in this recording. If you dig psychedelic/progressive rock and want something unusual to listen to, in a good way, Atom Heart Mother is a good place to start.

8/10

Van Halen – Van Halen (1978)

The late 1970s seemed a bad time for rock and roll. Indeed, most of the good progressive rock had been done, disco was everywhere and punk was a nasty underground movement of the time. But, along came a California based band called Van Halen to save the day.

The band was a bunch of virtuosos. The four of them each had an ability to rock and showed a great ability to do so. David Lee Roth could howl, Eddie Van Halen could rock out, Michael Anthony could really excel as a backing vocalist and bassist and Alex Van Halen could do loud and powerful drumming like nothing before.

So, what does the album sound like? Let’s have a closer look.

The intro to Runnin’ With The Devil and the entire album is a mesh of the band member’s car horns, slowed down of course. It then kicks off. It’s a loud, in your face, rocker and does so well here. It’s a great song too.

The instrumental called Eruption is a hugely popular Eddie Van Halen piece, all recorded in one take. Producer Ted Templeman overhead Eddie Van Halen play it and suggested that he record it. The result is a wonderful, futuristic sounding shred fest which is short and sweet. A great job from Eddie.

You Really Got Me is indeed, a cover of The Kinks song. But it’s such a great cover that it sounds like an original from the band. With a twist in the guitar solo and David Lee Roth sounding very sexual, it’s a great cover.

Ain’t Talkin ‘Bout Love is a great song. It has a variety of sounds on it and goes very quiet in the middle. It’s likely that David Lee Roth was talking about the importance of non-romantic sexual experiences here, and does pretty well in serving up a solution. A great song by Van Halen.

The next piece is the quick and upbeat I’m The One. It’s a very party-like song but is not dull at all. It breaks down into an interesting midsection where David Lee Roth goes into female soul singer mode. Brilliant.

After that we have Jamie’s Cryin’ which is a fairly weak track, but not out of place on the album. It’s about a girl who is in love with the wrong sort of guy. It’s still listenable, mind you.

Atomic Punk sounds, wow, kind of different. The palm-muted intro by Eddie Van Halen sounds awesome here. It’s a good song too, about a postmodern mythical Atomic Punk. It’s likely these guys were influenced by some Progressive Rock ideals here. Still, it’s great to listen to.

Feel Your Love Tonight is a good piece with a chugging riff to boot. It is representative of these guys in a good way, and even though it does seem a little weaker, it’s still sonically awesome to hear on this album.

The next piece Little Dreamer talks about someone who was bullied at high school, only to surprise everyone by surviving. It’s a strange sort of sentiment, but hey, it sounds very good indeed.

After that, we arrive at Ice Cream Man. This is acoustic blues, and totally underrated too. It’s very brilliantly done, particularly by David Lee Roth, and sounds refreshing. These guys obviously had studied their musical history as well.

On Fire is a great song to finish the album by. It has some awesome yelping by David Lee Roth and some nice guitar licks by Eddie Van Halen. It fades out nicely as the album comes to a close.

This album made Van Halen. It has sold 10 million copies and secured guitarist Eddie Van Halen into the rock history books. But also, the songs are fantastic here. It is absolutely worth listening to this gem of an album, it’s almost perfect in its own way. Van Halen has made many recordings during their lifetime as a band. This, by far, is their best though.

9/10

Nine Inch Nails – The Fragile (1999)

It was a difficult time in Trent Reznor’s life. He had achieved some commercial success with The Downward Spiral in 1994. But, from the release of the album onwards, he became increasingly depressed and felt suicidal. He spent the next five years honing his craft onto this double-disc concept album, The Fragile. It was quite a while to do so. Some fans became impatient with this approach, and this affected sales, not selling as well as The Downward Spiral.

Despite all this, Trent Reznor made a truly great album here. It’s a double-disc concept album about attempting to rectify a bad time. The time making the record was not wasted. We can hear a huge array of interesting, unique and consistent sounds on offer. It finishes the nineties trilogy of primary releases by Trent Reznor of Broken, The Downward Spiral and this album, The Fragile.

Let’s observe this masterpiece, track by track.

We kick off with Somewhat Damaged. It’s a great listen, with a basic chugging riff, electronic sounds and pounding drums galore, along with Trent Reznor screaming. It blows away everything else at the time. It’s so unique and well done, a great way to start the record.

The next piece, The Day The World Went Away, is a very depressing sounding piece. There are no drums in it, making it sound unusual, for sure. It talks in a very dark sense about struggling to deal with emotional torment, not exactly easy listening, but great all the same.

The Frail is an understated solo piano piece with some atmospheric sounds at the end of it. It’s very sad sounding but is a welcome change with a variety of instrumentation in the album.

The Wretched continues in fashion the piano playing, leading into a proper song this time. It’s about the fragility of human existence with respect to doing the right thing. “Now, you’re one of us. The wretched,” sings Trent Reznor. His screaming returns in the chorus. Epic piece.

The next song, We’re In This Together, is a prolonged piece about being in a miserable situation with someone, and sharing that experience. It goes on for seven minutes or so but never lets up in terms of an interesting piece. It is so well done though, it sounds futuristic.

The follow-up, The Fragile is the title track and a sad love song discussing preventing a lady from falling apart. It sounds more so that Trent Reznor is falling apart emotionally here, but is excellent nonetheless.

Just Like You Imagined is not specifically that, but is a good instrumental that uses a great variety of sounds together for listening. Not bad a listen all the same.

Even Deeper explains emotional distress and has a great bassline to it. It’s a more subdued piece from Trent Reznor, but a good one which is rather catchy. It’s progressing the concept of this monster album very nicely.

Another instrumental, Pilgrimage, sounds like a disturbed pilgrimage at that. It’s a short and not as good as you’d think instrumental, but all the same, listenable.

The heavy metal inspired No, You Don’t with its repetitive and catchy riff is a good piece about comparing oneself to another person, “You think you have everything, but, no, you, don’t!” cries Trent Reznor in his typical sung/screaming complex. A good piece, with a twist at the end.

La Mer is a mostly solo piano piece with some beautiful French interpretations of Nine Inch Nails lyrics. It’s a great piece nonetheless, and one of the most beautiful and simultaneously depressing pieces that you can hear today. Mint.

The Great Below is by far one of the most depressing Nine Inch Nails pieces out there. It seemingly talks directly about suicide and negative issues, but it is well worth listening to. Disc one ends here.

Disc two kicks off with The Way Out Is Through and repeats the lyrics, “All I’ve undergone…I will keep on…” suggesting some hope in the dark music at hand. It features a wonderful array of vocalized sound effects that sound very much like something from a video game, brilliant indeed.

The follow up Into The Void reprises La Mer with the main melody, but is very weak a piece. It has Trent Reznor going from mumbling to screaming as the song progresses, which is a nice touch.

Where Is Everybody? is quite a good rhythmic and danceable piece, although as indicated already, Disc Two is not as good as Disc One. Still, it’s okay overall for the flow and concept of the overall album.

The Mark Has Been Made is the next piece, and it’s a sonic rich, yet dull instrumental. There is no great melody or memorable parts to it. Outside of the album, it falls flat. Fortunately, it fits well on the album.

The next song, Please, is much better. It has Trent Reznor screaming about urges in life and the way he feels about it. It’s the calm before the storm of the next piece.

The main hit single from the album Starfuckers, Inc. sounds awesome, catchy and quiet/loud. It’s an awesome piece, well worth listening to, having a cynical stab of the nature of being a rockstar. Brilliant.

Complication is a short instrumental, which is okay, but not out there fantastic. It ends with some warm bass like sounds, before entering into the next song.

I’m Looking Forward To Joining You, Finally is a very good piece, despite it sounding like a pseudo-suicide note by Trent Reznor. It’s revealing and we are glad that Trent Reznor battled on throughout whatever issues he may have had. A good effort.

The next piece, The Big Come Down, is about said subject. “The big come down, isn’t that what you wanted?” asks Trent Reznor. It’s a funky yet somewhat weak piece from our master of doom but fits in okay with the album.

Following up is essentially a remix which is called Underneath It All. It’s a very good remix of The Great Below. The outro is fantastic, featuring some very trippy vocals and finishes the piece nicely.

Ripe (With Decay) is the final piece on the second side of this album, which is the last piece on the whole album. It’s a picturesque instrumental and we come to the end of this very dark album.

Realistically speaking, this album is a better sonic journey than that album. There are many different sounds and layers to explore on it. If you really have had a bad day or experience and need some music to vent through, look no further.

9/10

Pink Floyd – A Saucerful Of Secrets (1968)

Syd Barrett was melting down quickly. No doubt that his mental health was erratic and unstable. He was undergoing a lot of issues within the band, quite possibly triggered by excessive psychedelic drug use.

This was the last recording to have Syd feature predominantly. But not the last to feature him altogether. David Gilmour, a friend of the band, replaced Syd as a guitar and vocalist after the group decided not to pick up Syd on the way to a Pink Floyd gig early in 1968. That changed everything for Pink Floyd.

It’s really Syd’s swan song before he did firstly a solo career and then isolated exclusion from society until his death in 2006. It is so sad to hear about the brilliant genius turn into a total mess. But then again, the group were always inspired by Syd.

This album, therefore, is a rather big mish-mash of ideas, sounds, and innovation. It’s brilliant still, but not as strong as The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. It does have that Pink Floyd magic about it, however. It’s primarily a mixture of art based electronic noodling and the childlike pop that Syd Barrett was capable of.

We lead off with Let There Be More Light which has a funky introductory riff and a soul exploring via a psychedelic theme. It’s good, but we can hear the band sounds a little worn out in terms of musical direction as they had lost Syd. It’s still brilliant all the same.

The next piece Remember A Day has a beautiful slide guitar sound and piano as well. It’s a nice piece, although it lacks energy pace-wise. Nice vocal sound effects at the end too.

Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun will dazzle you with its space travel theme and brilliant psychedelic structure. It looks ahead to later, more progressive Pink Floyd works. Awesome.

Corporal Clegg follows and seems the only weak track on the album. It’s still fun and tells a contradictory psychedelic story about a war hero. It has a kazoo-like piece on it, rather than a guitar solo, which is amusing.

The epic title track A Saucerful Of Secrets is a trippy journey in an instrumental. It has four sections in it (i. Something Else; ii. Syncopated Pandemonium; iii. Storm Signal; iv. Celestial Voices) and sounds ultra freaky for the most part, until it bursts into relief at the end. It’s almost proto-progressive rock and is just awesome. Strap in the seatbelts for this trip. It’s just so well done that you’ll be dazzled by the darkest trip to the lightest relief. Brilliant.

The follow-up See-Saw is a childhood story which compares children to adults later in life. It’s a retrospective melancholy piece which sounds mostly pleasant. It’s a good way to show off Pink Floyd’s songwriting side after the trippy instrumental before it.

Jugband Blues finishes the album with Syd playing acoustic and singing, before having various horns, harmonies and reversed guitar parts attack you. It ends with Syd questioning various things in life. It’s definitely awesome to hear.

This album is no doubt a transition album for Pink Floyd. After they lost Syd, the band struggled for half a decade with doing electronic noodling and song structures, with mixed results before going interstellar with The Dark Side Of The Moon. It’s still an essential listen as much as The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn though, and takes you back over 50 years to 1968.

R.I.P. Syd Barrett

8/10

King Crimson – In The Court Of The Crimson King (1969)

It’s rare that we find a recording so enjoyable. The debut album by King Crimson is an absolutely wonderful and beautiful album to listen to. It’s a snapshot of a generally better musical time where music was considered true art. This album, although only having five pieces on it, is truly a majestic listen. You won’t be able to find it online, so make sure you order it in from your music store.

The leadoff 21st Century Schizoid Man (including “Mirrors”) starts with some train noises before crashing into the song itself. It has a variety of interesting textures with some squealing sax riffs, awesome drum rolls, and excellent processed vocals. It’s a quirky take on pop music but just fits the bill nicely.

Following up we have the flute let ballad I Talk To The Wind. Greg Lake’s brilliant delivery holds this piece together nicely. It’s just so beautiful that it’s one of the best things that this album has going for it. Majestic. Greg Lake later left King Crimson and joined Emerson Lake and Palmer which were also successful in their own right.

Epitaph (including “March For No Reason” and “Tomorrow And Tomorrow”) is a tearjerker ballad led by wonderful mellotron and acoustic guitar. It’s delivered so well here in its various sections that you will be blown away by the pseudo-classical nature of the song here. Truly awesome to hear to this day.

Moonchild (including “The Dream” and “The Illusion”) is an extended piece going for well over 10 minutes which discusses the astrology sign Cancer and is fantastic in delivery. When the song finishes, you are surprised with an instrumental improvisation that is very quiet in nature, perhaps alluding to jazz master Miles Davis’s In A Silent Way. It’s so well done that it deserves eager listening in this regard.

The album concludes with The Court Of The Crimson King (including “The Return Of The Fire Witch” and “The Dance Of The Puppets”) is just an awesome way to finish the great journey we have here on this record. We are placed into said place in the title of the track and we learn the tale of the said Crimson King. It’s a medieval scenario that refers to the king, queen, courtiers, and jester as well. It also has a very surprise ending to conclude the piece.

This album is a perfect fusion of psychedelic and progressive rock music and has a fusion of classical, jazz and rock sounds that are futuristic. In fact, it kick-started the 1970s progressive rock movement and many bands likewise have been inspired by this wonderful recording. It’s truly artistic and surprisingly fresh. Although many bands followed in the wake of King Crimson, very few had the ability to match this effort. If you are curious about the music of the late 1960s or just wish to hear the best of an LSD trip style setting in music, start here. It’s also frequently rated as one of the greatest albums of all time too.

9/10