• Rush, Permanent Waves

    Gen 8 2010, 10:05

    The lead off track of this album by Rush, "The Spirit of Radio," was written for and about a Canadian radio station, and it perfectly captures a moment in radio history, between the payola of the 60s and the corporate conglomerates of the 90s. For those of us who grew up listening to radio in that period, the tune is bittersweet, especially the prescient ending wherein Neal Peart rewrites Simon and Garfunkel's lyrics from "The Sound Of Silence" to lambast the emerging profit-only centered radio programming. It's a strong statement and song, and one of Rush's best singles (it may even have been released as a single, which would have been unusual for Rush).

    Permanent Waves is the first album that adds synthesizers to their three main instruments of guitar, bass and drums. Subsequent albums would increasingly feature the use of synthesizers, but it is here where Lee began to use them for more than atmospheric effect; there's an occasional solo as well as background melody/harmony provided by synth here. There are still remnants of the excesses of previous Rush albums present here, with two songs extending over 7 minutes. All of the songs are self-contained (rather than multi-part suites), however. Peart's lyrics reflect his literary aspirations; some people, like me, find them intelligent; detractors find them pretentious. "Freewill" puts forward a basic philosophical concept across in 5 minutes (not deciding to choose something is still making a choice), while "Natural Science" uses biology (tide pools) to illustrate how humans can't see the bigger picture.

    But this is still Rush, with many time/key changes contained in each song, syncopation plays between bass and drums, and some of the best coordinated playing of the time. There's not a dud song on this album, although the long ones do seem to go on a little more than you expect them to. This would be resolved in their next, and best, album, Moving Pictures.
  • Bruce Almighty

    Mar 28 2007, 18:09

    Fri 23 Mar – Acoustic for Our Earth

    We thought it a bit unusual that Bruce Cockburn would be playing a set at the Washington National Cathedral, but who are we to turn down an invitation to see an artist that we've liked for some time (I can distinctly remember hearing "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" in the mid-80s in Austin, and seeking out the album that it came from). We arrived to the cathedral right at concert time, so the general admission seats we got weren't the farthest pew back, but we might have considered getting their a little earlier. Must have been my latent church-going ways coming back to me--I mean, who sits in the front?--but to get their earlier would have meant that we couldn't have enjoyed our dinner at Chef Geoff's, either.

    The cathedral representative came out first to welcome us to the first in their new "Rock the Church" series, which received a smattering of applause and woops, people still feeling a little awkward about making noise in the echoing hall of high arches and stained glass. The idea behind the series isn't so much as having rock stars play inside the cathedral as to elevate the idea that popular music can be as uplifting and spiritual as old hymns. We figured that there won't be a number of bands that wouldn't get invited to play, such as Blue Oyster Cult and Black Sabbath, even though the cathedral is nondenominational.

    Cockburn came out and started with a number of new songs. The acoustics in the cathedral highlighted the echoes ("more reverb!") which he used to good effect on the choruses, but it made it quite difficult to understand the verse lyrics for songs you were unfamiliar with, as well as understanding the between song comments. This got better as the night went on, as I suspect the audio engineers in the back were fiddling with it and made some improvements.

    He played about fifteen songs, half of which were from his last two albums (the most recent being Life Short Call Now, for which he played the title song), and then a smattering of his greatest hits, including "Wondering Where The Lions Are," "If A Tree Falls," "Dust And Diesel," "Lovers In A Dangerous Time," and my personal favorite, "Peggy's Kitchen Wall" (which he introduced by saying that the person the song was about had passed away just recently). He had about four guitars that he switched out every few songs, including an acoustic steel guitar and a twelve-string, and, if nothing else, you could tell from this concert that he was a masterful player. The audience was clearly fans, often calling out songs (although the funniest request was "play them all!") to which he responded good naturedly, "it's great that you guys know all those." On several songs, he invited folks to join in and sing, saying, "that's not so out of context here."

    It was an enjoyable concert, and while the acoustics weren't the best for a rock concert (even one without distortion), they were better than, say, the Iota or the Black Cat, where the space is too small for the sound, rather than being too large. The next event is Sheryl Crow on Earth Day, which is only somewhat tempting.
  • The best live album, IMHO

    Dic 2 2006, 18:44

    I've listened to a bunch of live albums, but the one that continues to be my favorite of all is Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense.

    Full review on my blog immediacy.
  • Ben Folds at Washington College, Chestertown, MD

    Nov 25 2006, 14:24

    We went and saw Ben Folds last weekend, with a strange fellow named Corn Mo. More details at immediacy.
  • The Outsider

    Gen 31 2006, 17:09

    Probably my favorite album released last year. Full review on immediacy
  • Aerial review

    Dic 16 2005, 2:21

    I like it, but recognize that it's for the fans. Full comments at immediacy.
  • My favorite album

    Dic 2 2005, 22:25

    I thought I would add links here to the reviews I've written on some albums on my blog. I'll start with mentioning my favorite album, Darden Smith's Trouble No More, which I still get goosebumps to when I listen to it.

    The review is here.
  • Interesting in Hearing Tracks

    Nov 8 2005, 15:39

    A small group of friends hang out on my discussion board (http://forum.engel-cox.org) and talk about some of these tracks. Contact me if you'd be interested in joining in.