Rock and Roll

Purple Encomium

My “woman from Tokyo”, a “gypsy” named “Anya” looked at me with a “demon’s eye.” She’s a “strange kind of woman”. “You fool no one,” she said. “Don’t hold your breath.” I’d told her that, although I’m not a “fortune teller”, someday Deep Purple will wind up in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The place may seem like a “castle full of rascals” for their “wicked ways” in keeping them out so long, but “lady luck” finally came through. No one on the admissions committee had been a “speed king” about it. They thought we fans had “time to kill”, but “halleluiah!” The group will be inducted in 2016.

Some may think I’ve got a “bad attitude” and should “hush”. It’s unfair to criticize the hall for their “wicked ways”. Sorry, but this affront won’t be “soon forgotten.” “Sometimes I feel like screaming” about it. But then again, no longer can I say “the battle rages on.” Deep Purple will no longer be “mistreated” by the hall. For some the “truth hurts”, but they’re in.

The guys weren’t “lazy”. They worked their “fingers to the bone” to get enshrined in Cleveland. This is something every rock group “burn”s to do.

I can’t stand people who try to cleverly insert names of bands’ songs when they write about them. Just about anyone who does that is an “almost human” “ramshackle man” who’s a “nasty piece of work”. Just this one time, I can’t resist. I’m thinking the guys may decide to “abandon” “Don’t Make Me Happy” from the set-list when they jam at the ceremony.

Congrats go out to all members of Deep Purple past and present. I hope this achievement doesn’t mean they’ll “sail away” into retirement “this time around.”

“Talk about love,” I’ve been a huge Deep Purple fan for years. I am in “Seventh Heaven” and “any fule kno that.” I’m heading out to the pool with my copy of Deepest Purple. I’m going to grab a cigar, hop on my raft and have a “smoke on the water.”

 

Music Review – Ozzy Osbourne: Live and Loud

Who would’ve thought someone with an appetite for rabid animals could turn out to be one of the greatest front men in Rock and Roll history? Nowhere is the extraordinary interplay between performer and audience more deftly displayed than on Ozzy’s 1993 release Live and Loud. Ozzy Osbourne built a rapport with his fans that I haven’t heard since the late James Brown’s 1962 performance on Live at the Apollo.

When I first heard Black Sabbath’s latest release, 13, it made me feel old. In my old age I can’t handle the modern Heavy Metal scene. So I had to go back and listen to some “classic”, mellower Ozzy. That inspired me to pull Live and Loud out of my CD collection and give it a listen. Just like every time I give Led Zeppelin discs a hearing, the monumental talent of the performer struck me just as it did the first time I heard his music.

Ozzy recorded Live and Loud during his 1991 – 1992 “retirement” tour. Fans now shed “No More Tears” as Ozzy thankfully re-considered. (If Ozzy is reading this: please stick to the music and give up television.) The audience can also be grateful for this monumental career retrospective from one of Rock’s most colorful characters.

This album had it all. The band played the classic Black Sabbath tracks us old timers can unwind to such as “Paranoid”, “War Pigs”, and even “Changes”. As an added bonus, the original members of the band re-united, thankfully not for the last time, to perform “Black Sabbath”.

Ozzy also included tracks from his solo career. The band cranked out killer versions of tunes from the Randy Rhoades era, as well. They included such gems as “Mr. Crowley”, “I Don’t Know” and “Flying High Again”. They also played many tracks from the No More Tears album as well as others.

I thought Ozzy’s back-up band outstanding. I liked the heavy bottom end tone Bassist Michael Inez used throughout the entire recording. To my ears it sounds like a lot of modern bass players put guitar strings on their instruments and crank the treble on their amps. It pleased me not hear that on this album. It always brings a smile to my face when the bass sounds like a bass.

I found Randy Castillo’s drumming competent. I did think him guilty of “overplaying” at several points throughout the album. I heard some bass rolls that seemed excessive. I thought he did some unnecessary snare rolls. Before readers comment and point out to me that’s what Heavy Metal drummers do, I still think some of Castillo’s playing excessive. I do concede, however, that he’s not as over-the-top as Mike Portnoy during his Dream Theater days.

The true highlight of Live and Loud was undoubtedly Zakk Wylde’s guitar playing. The tone he got out of his “Bull’s Eye” Les Paul Custom sounded both rough and clear at the same time. He got that legendary Gibson crunch tone on tracks like “Suicide Solution” while sounding great clean on “Goodbye to Romance”. While no Randy Rhoades or Tony Iommi, Wylde added his own unique voice to their guitar parts and made them his own.

The only criticism I have of this album is Ozzy’s repeated use of a certain four letter f-word.  (Hint: It wasn’t farm.) When I first purchased this album in the mid-1990s I lived with my parents. I positioned my sound system next to my bedroom window that overlooked my neighbors’ porch. While I thoroughly enjoyed the music on Live and Loud I couldn’t play it without head phones due to Ozzy’s repeated profanity. This was the one drawback to the album. Due to the sound quality, especially on the tone of Wylde’s guitar, this was an album I wanted to blast at full volume through my speakers. Unfortunately, it was only able to live up to half its title when I bought it.

Ozzy Osbourne’s tremendous passion for his music came through on every song. His sincere love of his fans was evident every time he addressed the audience. I’ve heard many live albums and been to my share of concerts. I’ve never heard a performer as effusive in his appreciation of his fans. After listening to the 1995 re-mastered version of Live and Loud, it’s we who should be thanking Ozzy.  

Hail to the King

There’s only one king of rock and roll. Fans affectionately know him collectively as “Crimso”, others attach the more formal appellation King Crimson. I recently pulled The 21st Century Guide to King Crimson Volume One 1969 – 1974 out of my archives. Even listening to it now, I’m struck by just how original and innovative their music was in their heyday. You know a band was ahead of its time when hearing music they recorded over forty years ago you think it would revolutionize music if recorded today. There’s no greater example of that than the tracks from In the Court of the Crimson King.

King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp did an exceptional job remastering these cuts. When I crank songs such as “21st Century Schizoid Man” and “Epitaph” I feel like I’m in the sound booth with the recording engineer. The box has every song from the album, although the version of “Moonchild” is abridged. I’ve heard most of these songs on previous releases, but the sound quality on the box makes it well worth the expense alone.

The box also included five live tracks recorded by the same line-up that recorded Court. The true highlight for me was “Mars: The Bringer of War.” It’s a version of the first part of Gustav Holst’s The Planets performed by a rock band. The arrangement would’ve made the composer proud. The piece increased in volume throughout building to a loud crescendo at the end. I swear my house shakes when I play it at full blast. The “Mellotron” does not reflect its name the way this group utilized it. Keep in mind this is from a band substantially influenced by classical music theory. All this in an era before Heavy Metal came to prominence.

While these songs make the box set well worth the cost and time to listen to it: there’s much more. Fripp included a disc of studio material from the Fripp/Wetton/Bruford/Cross era of the band. This one has some of my all time favorite prog-rock masterpieces. Crimso classics such as “Red”, “Easy Money”, and “Larks Tongues in Aspic Part II” appear in their entirety. A shortened version of “Starless” is on there as well. The way the disc is mixed makes it so all the tracks lead into one another. I thought that a very cool feature.

As with the earlier incarnations of the group, this line-up also has a live disc dedicated to it. The true mother lode on that one is a live instrumental improv called simply “Asbury Park” after the location the band recorded it. Imagine if you will a hybrid of classical music, heavy metal, and funk. If you don’t think a group of musicians could pull this off, listen to this track. It really defines the essence of what “Crimso” was all about in the mid-1970s.

The only real criticism I have of this box is the same critique fans have of any compilation: I don’t agree with all the song selections. The compendium has four different versions of “21st Century Schizoid Man”; one studio and three live performed by various incarnations of the band. None are of the same quality as the version the original line-up performed, but I can understand why Fripp chose to include them. To this day it stands as Crimso’s signature song. On the piece from the Earthbound album, Fripp chose to excise Boz Burrrell’s vocals in lieu of the instrumental parts. (The late Burrell went on to play bass guitar for Bad Company. To be fair to him, he was a great musician, but he was a much more proficient bassist than rock vocalist. Then again, so was John Wetton.)

I really liked the inclusion of a live version of “Easy Money”. It’s certainly one of the best tracks in the King Crimson catalog. I just didn’t care for this hybrid version of two different performances. The band played the song regularly during the early to mid-1970s. Fripp had myriad other renditions to choose from. He included some great recordings of it on the 1992 box set The Great Deceiver. I’m not sure why he didn’t go with a more powerful recording here.

And my big complaint: some songs from The Great Deceiver appeared on this box. I can’t wrap my mind around why Fripp didn’t include “Doctor Diamond”. That song had a mind-twisting time signature even by King Crimson standards. Since The Great Deceiver is now out of print, I don’t understand why “Doctor” wasn’t added to this box. It would have truly enhanced the song selection.

I would strongly encourage any Progressive Rock fan to give The 21st Century Guide to King Crimson Volume One a listen. I recall reading an interview with John Wetton (Bass/Vocals 1972 – 1974 ) back in the late 1990s. He said that whenever he played at Progressive Rock Festivals he’d listen to the new bands and smile. He thought they sounded a lot like Crimso did back in the 1970s. Based on Mr. Wetton’s observation, I’d say why listen to the imitators? Why not pay court to the grand-daddy of them all, King Crimson?