Other Players

XTC, Gentle Giant, other prog remixes- Steven Wilson

26

I agree with you about Bill’s autobiography! He’s a really good writer and tells a good tale.

27

Writing about music (and musicians) is what this site is all about IMHO. "Prog-rock" (yeah, I read The New Yorker article...) should be as "GDP safe" as any other music. Frankly, I never understood these idiotic, marketing-based sub-genres. I discovered ELP about the same time I discovered The Yardbirds (singing Train Kept A' Rolling and who is this Burnette guy who wrote the song?) and enjoyed both immensely. I'm still trying to figure out what "indie" is (minor distribution system = musical genre?) in the few remaining music stores left in my area. I was proud to wear a brass Jethro Tull belt-buckle (done in English black-letter type) in high-school the late '70's.

I wouldn't have ever tried Miles Davis if a friend hadn't introduced me to Mahavishnu Orchestra. I picked up a Miles album what had McLaughlin on it, bought it with no idea of what I would hear. In A Silent Way is the first Miles album I ever heard and it's still the best. Just like when I got Revolver as my first Beatles album and it's still the best.

In the '80's a friend was raving about a guitarist what was giving a talk/concert at San Francisco State University -- my school. I wasn't at all familiar with this Robert Fripp guy but I was interested. He had a bunch of effects (Frippertronics?) on stage that kept -- annoyingly -- malfunctioning. He stopped, and said something like "It just doesn't want to happen tonight and I don't want to force it. Are there any questions?" There was a sea of upraised arms and I very much admired that he took this Zen-like approach to life/music. I didn't get too much into his music (finances and priorities) as this was about the same time I got my 6120 and got into X, the Blasters, Eddy and Eddie, how to better choogle and so on.

I guess what I'm saying is that music = diversity and that is the best thing. Feel free to continue on any and all subjects.

28

Here we are with our cuban heels bogged into a quagmire of definition. Oh well.

I do know this much, when a band goes from this-

29

To this-

It's progress.

I'd love to hear more about the Gentle Giant show you went to, Proteus. What a live band.

Also, am I hearing correctly that you're working up some new music? Great news.

30

The one group I'd like to hear remixed is Jethro Tull. Been a fan since "This Was". Of course, no one called it prog then.

31

The news is good, Wabash. Heavy Horses, Benefit, Too Old To Rock and Roll..., Stand Up, Songs From The Wood, Aqualung, Thick As a Brick and A Passion Play have all been remixed.

32

Ade, I'm always working on new music, but I'm never getting it done. HowEVer, manifold interesting gear (and guitar) projects (at least interesting to me) are rapidly coming either to fruition or admission of futility, and either result may inspire and facilitate progress in recording (or leave me without further excuse to proceed).

So there's hope for the intermediate future. Couple months out.


I don't remember much detail about the GG gig. Or, rather, I remember the setting, our seats, and the general impression in visceral detail. But not what songs they played.

Rock club converted from an early 20th-century storefront of some sort, I believe with the upper floor cut away in the middle to make 2nd-story balcony seating. Whole place would accommodate maybe 300 people. "Club," mind, not "concert venue." Tables, chairs, drinks, dancefloor maybe 20 x 40. Smoky.

Band and gear packed densely onto the narrow stage, keyboards at almost 90° angle and abutting the drum riser. Amps lining backstage. Ample PA system (for the day), a few mics on the drums, maybe light reinforcement of amps. We were definitely hearing what was coming from the stage. So...Gentle Giant playing in your living room, if you had a big living room. I was...15-20 feet away, and we could move around to take it in from any side.

General impression of magisterial virtuosity, by turns blistering and delicate; the rock bits were ferocious, the medieval and baroque bits like a scholastic olde music ensemble (but louder and with more conviction). Lots of trading-around instruments. Fabulous dynamics, light and shade, changes of groove and tonality coming at the usual GG pace - but all the changes feeling more dramatic at volume. Vocals less produced, of course, but they nailed it. (Yes, they did "Knots.")

Clearly their repertoire could be accused of being twee and fey (are those good English words?) - but not by anyone who saw it live. There was nothing precious about it (in the way Genesis could be Charterhouse school rarefied, don't you know). (But then, when a band takes Rabelais as their spiritual mentor, you're likely to get something a bit earthier than the Genes.) They weren't sly about the music - it was all earnest enough - but it was muscular and hearty and straightforward.

And witty. Very witty. They knew a lot of their music was fun-funny, and they enjoyed it.

It was just...staggering. Not grandiose like Yes or Floyd, and not otherwordly dark and portentous like KC. This was a band having a great time, who just happened to play what most of us would consider complex and challenging music. They seemed to have it as well in hand as a pit orchestra. With Yes, KC, even ELP, and especially Genesis, you always had the sense that while they were good players, they were often playing at (and a little beyond) their capacity. (That was part of the joy, actually, participating in their striving to get beyond themselves.)

Not GG. I don't mean to imply they were phoning it in, not by any stretch. Just that their sheer musical competence - their commanding virtuosity - was matter-of-fact. Sorta like the Dregs in that respect.

Dazzling - but not at all cosmic, man.

33

What a wonderful recollection. And it would likely have been their standard set of the time, perhaps including the live performance Runaway/Experience medley posted above. I enjoy the impression of the place, all that sound pushing outwards, bowing the walls of that little venue. The front-room feel is especially endearing.

You also touch on one of their most appealing characteristics- despite the byzantine complexity of the music, there's a palpable blue-collar work ethic at the heart of the matter, always. Excellence usually does look effortless when all the errors are exorcised in the practice room.

One of the members we haven't mentioned yet is Phil Shulman, who left after Octopus. He seems to cut such a shadowy figure, and they survived without him. Except that the vocal harmonies never quite floated in the same way afterwards, he brought quite a surreal and unsettling presence. The icy, brittle, edge-of-sanity feel of In A Glass House perhaps indicates that vacuum.

GG was a Youtube suggestion, because I played a Peter Gabriel song. I'd never heard of the band. First listen, roared with laughter- this is just ridiculous, so bad that I played it again to laugh a little more. Played another, hey, all this stuff is equally ludicrous and didn't quite notice that I. Was. Infected.

Tonight I had a nice relaxing evening playing harpsichord, working on the medieval middle section of Wreck. Funny ways, indeed.

34

Phil Shulman, who left after Octopus.

Born in '37, Phil was 10 and 12 years older than the two younger Shulman brothers, who must've come up at home (in a musical family) rather under his tutelage. Phil would have been musically at least partly formed when Elvis hit and rock & roll eventuated - the brothers much more of baby-boom/Beatles-gen age.

Interesting mix of eras and of family dynamics, and it's reflected in the crazy eclecticism of the music. Phil may have felt increasingly out of step in the freaky culture of the mid-70s, and may have bee exactly 10 years too old to bond with the kids the way bands do in their 20s. He bailed to go back home and "have a life."

Interestingly, given the music they did (though consistently with its work ethic), all three Shulmans have had successful post-rock-almost-star careers. They did that GG project while it paid for itself, and until they exhausted the concept, then instead of sulking or seeking to relive past (almost-)glories, they moved on.

Successful parenting, perhaps: not enough deprivation and trauma in their early lives to turn them into brooding neurotics. No Roger Waterses in the bunch.

• • • • •

In the vein of not-quite-mainstream proggity rockers of the era who went on to productive, interesting lives, there's Peter Hammill (God bless his stentorous bombast, and long may he rage) and his organ buddy Hugh Banton of Van der Graaf Generator. An acquired taste if ever there was one, here's a band based on organ, not guitar - but not screamin' B - and semi-operatic vocals that don't fit, weird winds, and primal pounding. Every song a dramatic epic, earnest and churning and yearning with psychological and philosophical turmoil, psycho-musical therapy for Hamill (which happened to give his co-players the opportunity for the damnedest sort of interesting musical interplay).

In a way, it's Bowie without the arch distance from self. But if you can't take the vocals (and I can't always), you can't hardly get in.

ANYway...Peter has never stopped being musically productive, an industry unto himself, with a daunting discography, keeping the faith. Meanwhile, Hugh the organist has had a career in organ (like church) construction and technology.

The old band has re-formed since the mid-aughts for several projects, all of the moment, vital, suffused with outraged humanity, bristling and harrowed, old men as angry young men. Invigorating for those of us occasionally tempted to just give up. Puts some heart in me.

Present, from 2005, has a slew of songs more than worth the listen; here's a sample. (The lyrics are stark, the arrangement equal parts stately elegy and the thrashing chaos of empires flailing.)

Every Bloody Emperor
- Peter Hammill, Van der Graaf Generator

By this we are all sustained: a belief in human nature
And in justice and parity...all we have is the faith to carry on.

Imperceptible the change as our votes become mere gestures
And our lords and masters determine to cast us
In the roles of serfs and slaves
In the new empire's name.

Yes and every bloody emperor claims that freedom is his cause
As he buffs up on his common touch as a get-out clause.

Unto nations nations speak in the language of the gutter;
Trading primetime insults the imperial impulse
Extends across the screen.
Truth's been beaten to its knees; the lies embed ad infinitum
Till their repetition becomes a dictum
We're traitors to disbelieve.
With what impotence we grieve for the democratic process
As our glorious leaders conspire to feed us
The last dregs of imperious disdain
In the new empire's name.

Yes and every bloody emperor's got his hands up history's skirt
As he poses for posterity over the fresh-dug dirt.
Yes and every bloody emperor with his sickly rictus grin
Talks his way out of nearly anything but the lie within
Because every bloody emperor thinks his right to rule divine
So he'll go spinning and spinning and spinning into his own decline.

Imperceptible the change as one by one our voices falter
And the double standards of propaganda
Still all our righteous rage.

By this we are all sustained: our belief in human nature.
But our faith diminishes - close to the finish,
We're only serfs and slaves
As the empire decays.


Gods, man. That's tellin' like we wish it wasn't - but fear it is.

35

So gosh, OK!

That took me far from the winsome frolicking of the gentle giant.

More in keeping, how about Gryphon? Here's a sort of prog rock with Telecaster, bassoon and recorder. Its more like music school medievalists experimenting with electric bass, guitar, synth, and drums than it is rock. They had about a 3-album non-career, but gave us Red Queen to Gryphon 3, complete with krumhorns and sackbuts. And we think WE have noisy instruments.

The funnest part starts at 12:25, but to appreciate the formal structure of the thing (and man, I'm sure it has one), with all its contrapuntal fuguetude, do listen to the whole thing. It's only a half-hour of your life.

36

Wow. I didn’t know I was missing Gryphon in my life. Sort of reminds me of the way Camel structured “The Snow Goose”. It’s the bassoon. It can be funny and it can be heartfelt. Love it. Thanks.

37

...and bits of Passion Play era Tull and a little ELP Karn Evil. Ok. I’ll stop. It’s it’s own thing.

38

As long as we have some XTC fans on this thread, have any of you heard the latest for Colin Moulding and former bandmate Terry Chambers?

It's called TC and I, and I'm very much looking forward to hearing it, as I haven't heard anything from Colin in about a decade.

39

Sort of reminds me of the way Camel structured “The Snow Goose”.

I can hear that, yessir.


I did not know about TC, Crow. Something to look forward to.

40

I have it. Wonderful. Like having half a new XTC record. Nice to hear Terry play again, not to mention hearing Collin has been up to.

42

I pre ordered it and got it a week or two ago. It’s called Great Aspirations by TC&I. A 4 song EP.

44

I pre ordered it and got it a week or two ago. It’s called Great Aspirations by TC&I. A 4 song EP.

– Bob Howard

I got to hear it tonight, and was suprised at how much it didnt resemble XTC.

45

I’ll give you that it doesn’t sound like an Andy written XTC song. I guess I’m hearing Collin’s voice and bass parts and hearing something like a Collin penned XTC type song. And Terry isn’t doing the bombastic drumming he was doing when he was a teenager.

It depends on to which decade of XTC you are comparing it. After English Settlement in 1984. each song on an XTC album sounds rather different any other song on an XTC album.


Register Sign in to join the conversation