Other Players

XTC, Gentle Giant, other prog remixes- Steven Wilson

1

I guess I'm writing this one to Proteus, perhaps one or two discerning others...

Have you heard any of his remixed prog albums? Would love to hear your thoughts.

2

FWIW, I think hi-fi snobs in general are in favour of his remixes/masters. No loudness wars levels, from what I've read.

3

I haven’t yet, but i’m looking forward to buying yet another version of Black Sea, Nunsuch, Skylarking etc. some Tull, King Crimson, Yes (I have Close to the Edge.) It’s not as exciting for me any more as I lost the hearing in my right ear to a brain tumor. You can’t hear stereo with one ear. That said, it sounds better than the older versions but never better than I remember stereo sounding in the headphones.

4

Hey, Ade. I bought the Yes set for starters, and have compared some rigorously (not to say idiotically) to the last round of CDs. The SW mixes are "better" - but none so dramatic that it's like hearing the songs for the first time, or like it "took a blanket off the speakers", or "I heard things I never heard before." Modestly different balances,

Such is the power of suggestion and expectation that I thought that was the case a few times - but when I cued up the previous versions, nope, there was that part all along. (Comparison protocol: on a long roadtrip with a buddy, we put one version of the CDs in the changer, cued up another on an iPhone jacked into the car's sound system, started both media - and then could use the source selector on the system to switch pretty instantly between one source and the other. Sync was remarkably good.)

I guess I marginally prefer the SW versions: kinda more consistent in EQ across the catalog, with a more consistent audio sheen/texture. (Not surprising in that the originals were done over a period of many years, in many studios, with different gear, ears, engineers, and mastering. Where some original CDs were strident or harsh (I'm thinking of Relayer), not so much on these.

But it's not night-and-day dramatic, at least not to me. Maybe because I long ago internalized (to the degree I'm able) the musical content, and hear through the production to the music. At least Wilson's production doesn't get in the way, though.

I also find that whether remasters are objectively better or worse, listening to them has the effect of revealing the music again because you're simply focusing on it so intently again. Not quite like you're hearing it for the first time, but in trying to evaluate the quality of the quality of the "new" work, you hear better what was there all along...

I mean to buy the KC catalog in one swell foop, but that makes it an expenditure I have to think about. (Especially since I've bought it at least twice and sometimes three times in the past, dutiful to Robert's every "no-really-this-is-the-best-ever-remaster" entreaty at DGM.)

I'll probably get the Gentle Giant first. During these same roadtrips we've done a lot of listening (we've worn out topics of conversation long ago and current events are happening in another dimension I'd rather not visit); he wasn't familiar with GG, so we've plowed through the band's output, and goodgawd the 2nd-6th albums or so are just dazzling. Nothing like it anywhere else (or any time) in music. The composition, the voices, the hocketing, the chops, the sheer ferocious (and gentle) musicality of it all. For the ages, that stuff.

Didn't know SW had done XTC; that'll have to go on the list. (Though the last several XTC albums are already rich aural - and songwriting - feasts.)

Ultimately I want to spend more time making music than listening to it - which means I ask myself if I should be indulging in familiar music or exploring so much else that's out there. In the last year I've been discovering more new (and new old) stuff. Learning about Steven Wilson also introduced me to his own music - and through the usual rabbit-holing, whole other domains of prog and related fields since the late 70s I hadn't fully appreciated. Porcupine Tree, yessir - and The Flower Kings!

Oh my.

I've discovered so much stuff in the last year, it'd be fun to discuss it. But it's not really GDP-safe, and why annoy people or set myself up?

5

I've been very impressed with the Gentle Giant remixes. Not in a surgical, audiophile way, just in the manner that so much of what was pleasing has been retained- the spirit is intact, as is the dynamic range. Substantial improvements in balance have made Three Piece Suite (a compilation of the extant multitrack masters from Gentle Giant, Acquiring The Taste and Three Friends- ie not everything from the early album trio has survived), Octopus and The Power And The Glory really, really lovely in this latest form.

Across the three sets, the drums have been pushed (Pugwash is outstanding in a way only the live shows revealed- even Mortimer thumps now), Ray Shulman's bass is deeper and bolder throughout. This stronger foundation holds the often bizarre turns the band made in the songs on a much tighter rein. Kerry's keys are cranked lower down yet are clearer and keenly separated, which reveals the vocal twists and overlapping layers; Derek Shulman's voice which often matched commitment and stridency with a notable harshness, is conspicuously more pleasing. Gary Green's guitar no longer has to squeeze into what was left of the space, the extra room has given him, and the entire sound, a vital muscularity that I was quite unaware it lacked before.

I'm a bit of a strange fish- I'm not really into prog that much, but I sure love the 2nd-7th Gentle Giant albums. I'm also very surprised to be giving such a glowing report on these remixes, but goodness me, Steven has a great ear and a deep understanding of this material. Full marks from me.

An entirely unfair, Youtube fidelity (acquiring the) taste test follows...

6

The original mix of The House, The Street, The Room-

7

And the new Steven Wilson version of the same. For the casual listener this stuff is odd, to say the least, but you'd need a heart of stone not to admire in the sheer vitality, imagination and surreality of this. Enjoy Gary Green's furious guitar which positively erupts at 2:38-

9

I don't even call GG prog. It's the only category that would let them in.

10

The incredible, shifting inaccurate attemp to categorizing music never works. Charlie Parker was progressing music. The Beatles were being progressive. XTC was definitely being progressive but their category is power pop. Prog Rock is a relitively recent (to me) category. I was playing Yes and Tull and ELP in the early 70’s and didn’t hear the term until the ‘90s. We called anything that we liked that seemed to move music into the future progressive.

11

Well, exactly. When it was all just coming out - when it was what was new - Y, KC, LZ, PF, JT, BS, DP, ELP, PH, VDGG, GG, UH, GD, MB, DB, GF, Q, Focus, Gen, TW - were all just ... I'm sorry, ROCK. The labels came very much after the fact, and about 10 minutes after "progressive" was a term describing what the bands did, as you say, it became an insult wielded mostly by the English music press and Rolling Stone to somehow insult the music and damn it as less "authentic" than that made by various mostly middle-class and urban/suburban white boys laying claim to music which was no more theirs than the forms twisted and melded by any of the above.

Some bands of the time, I guess, either self-consciously or by way of imitation, tried to be faithful to or respectfully carry forward the particular conventions of "rock & roll", then all of 15 or 20 years old. The bands now damned as progressive, it seems to me, were caught in the act of gleefully and willfully taking parts and pieces from anywhere and stitching them together. They were, for my taste, more daring and creative - and, in a way, more "rock & roll" than straightforward rockers. (Because wasn't the original transgression of rock & roll that it fused musical forms from two cultures?)

For me there was less interest in just how well an artist represented or executed an existing tradition, and more in how inventive they were. I wanted my ears bent.

Little did they imagine their iconoclasm would later be codified into genre - but ain't that always the way? Jazz is an academic form; blues is headed there; rock isn't far behind. Bach and Beethoven thought they were kicking the music establishment's butt too. (They were, one way and another.) Debussy was subversive. Moussorgsky was a well-known troublemaker. Stravinsky was a howling dissonant polyrhythmic heathen tearing down the doors. (Add Diaghilev's choreography and staid Parisians rioted. God bless those crazy Russians!)

I guess one thing all the bands in my first paragraph had in common (a free set of strings and a guitar strap to anyone who can name them all) is that they were doing what came naturally to them - sometimes intentionally striving for the new and different, other times simply following their own quirky muses. At the time, I certainly didn't hear any formulas in there - other than those each band developed on its own, for itself, and those usually changed from album to album.

There were a few years - carrying on from late-period Beatles, when psychedelia and "acid rock" gave way to what came next, say from 1968 to 1974 or so - when no one I knew distinguished between what is retrospectively called "prog" and "metal." (Or, for that matter, between those proto-forms and the rootsier, down-homier, more conventional music of the Allmans, Fleetwood Mac, The Band, Dave Mason, any of the more straightforward "blues-rock" bands, what-have-you.) We thought we could like it all indiscriminately.

As early as 1971 or so, though, we did refer to country rock. That was late Byrds (MAYbe), the Dead on Workingman's and American Beauty, then wholeheartedly the Burrito Bros, NRPS, and, God help us, the Eagles (who drove nails in that coffin). SOUTHERN rock became a thing, 1973-74. Allman Bros sometimes lumped in there, but it took genre shape with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker, Chas Daniels.

I sometimes tried to distinguish Yes, ELP, and other similarly ambitious melders as "symphonic" rock, or "art rock," but those terms weren't universally recognized.

I even accepted the "fusion" (another damnable word, used as often to damn as to characterize) of Return to Forever, SpiroGyra, Mahavishnu Orch, and even Weather Report alongside any and all of the above. Likewise even Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk - we didn't know they were pioneering electronic, ambient, or dance music. Otherwise we'd've stayed away lest they infected us.


Crow, I guess I wouldn't think of XTC as "conventionally prog" (GAHHH how I hate myself). But they did evolve quickly from their punkity beginnings - more like picking up Beatle approaches, in some ways. For me, they got increasingly distinctive and sui generis as their run extended, and the last three albums are in a class of their own. (Least in my listening.)


You got me all excited to dip into the new GG mixes, Ade. I think we always knew there was an actual rock band lurking in there. And Green's guitar was always a surprisingly muscular element - so straightforward and unaffected (or effected), yet so well integrated into their kaleidoscopic collage. It will be great to hear Kinnear's delicate voice in a more rounded way too.

I saw GG live at the Agora in Columbus OH around 1974 or 75...smallish college-neighborhood rock bar...on a very small stage. It was stupendous. No one left there with any doubt they'd seen a rock band.


Thanks for thinking of me with this thread.

12

Thank you for delineating the difference between being "Prog" and being progressive. I think that, while it may have been an intentional insult by music press folk, it, like the term Country Rock, sort of gives you an expectation of what you might be in for, musically.

I'm still waiting for Southern Prog. Tickles the imagination, don't it?

13

I have a couple progabilly songs. It's perfect - I'll be slaughtered by everyone.

In a way, I think of Squirrel Nut Zippers and The Legendary Shakeshakers as a bit on the proggy/fusion side of rockapunkabilly.

14

Thank you for delineating the difference

Uh oh, sorry! I know when anyone "thanks me for delineating" that I've been entirely too pedantic and expository. Pologies!

15

They need to work fractals into their rhythms.

When I was in Austin with Furie, we walked in on a band that would only play in "fractal time signatures", whatever they were. And whatever they were, they were awful.

16

Math majors don't necessarily make the best rockers.

18

Thank you for delineating the difference between being "Prog" and being progressive. I think that, while it may have been an intentional insult by music press folk, it, like the term Country Rock, sort of gives you an expectation of what you might be in for, musically.

I'm still waiting for Southern Prog. Tickles the imagination, don't it?

– crowbone

Why wait? The Dixie Dregs we’re giving us that in 1972...in spades!

19

Oh yeah. The Dregs kept me going from 1976 through the 80s. That's a mighty pure flame of everything-fusion there: country-rock-jazz-classical-prog. Wonderful.

But I didn't know about them as early as 1972. I was thinking of them as 2nd-gen.

20

Now that I think about it, I didn’t hear about them til 1977. My friend and musical parter Joey moved to Atlanta and sent me some stuff. I was immediately drawn to Rod Morganstein’s drumming.

21

Thank you for delineating the difference

Uh oh, sorry! I know when anyone "thanks me for delineating" that I've been entirely too pedantic and expository. Pologies!

– Proteus

None needed.

It was a rare moment of sincerity on my part.

I'll try not to let that happen again.

22

I'll try not to let that happen again.

Good. We can't afford any-a-that stuff around here.

23

Why wait? The Dixie Dregs we’re giving us that in 1972...in spades!

Is that what that was?

24

Why wait? The Dixie Dregs we’re giving us that in 1972...in spades!

Is that what that was?

– crowbone

...or maybe it was country/rock/blues/jazz/fusion.

25

Interesting to read about the 'Yes' stuff, in terms of 'consistency' and what have you. This from (drummer) Bill Bruford's biography, about the recording of Close to the Edge (p56-57):

"Days rolled into weeks. Occasionally things would brighten up when we stripped down the mics and board, broke down the gear, loaded it into Big Red [the band van], and scorched up the motorway for a couple of weekend dates, reconvening the following Monday to continue where we had left off. Such a cavalier attitude to the consistency of the sound on the record would these days be considered heretical, but nobody worried about that."

I'd recommend the book as the best, most 'learned' rock biog I have read: it's got carefully-chosen supporting references, endnotes and a proper index in it - you don't get any of that in 'Child in Time' by Ian Gillan, I can tell you.

https://www.goodreads.com/b...

H59


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