The Purple Pinup Guru Platform

When purple things are pulsating on your mind, I'm the one whose clock you want to clean. Aiding is Sparky, the Astral Plane Zen Pup Dog from his mountain stronghold on the Northernmost Island of the Happy Ninja Island chain, this blog will also act as a journal to my wacky antics at an entertainment company and the progress of my self published comic book, The Deposit Man which only appears when I damn well feel like it. Real Soon Now.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Part 2
I'm not a Monkey anymore swinging off the branch of the Flower King Family Tree
I apologize for the mess of the last entry. I went a tad little overboard with all the font variations and some such. For some unfathomable reason that I couldn't comprehend, it seemed hopeless to fix or to edit. No spaces in between paragraphs- links not working- spell checking on the fritz, who the fuck knows who's minding the limbo shift at cyber wonderland at the time who would allow this kind of shit to go down.
Anyway, I'm bored out of my fucking skull right now. There's been no work for me to do all day which is making me all tense and bothered. And to further exacerabate my discomfort, I'm waiting on phone calls from two females acquaintances of mine on whether or not they are able to attend two separate functions with me. When I got word that they were inviting employees only to a special screening of the pilot for Joey, the unfortunate spin-off of the can't leave well enough alone sityuppiecom Friends, I immediately whisked off a e-mail to Tara de Lis, a online restaurant critic who's crazy about the show - but she hasn't got back to me and neither has the recruitment person to confirm the invites. On Sunday, I want to get a table at the Los Angeles Comic Book & Science Fiction convention to locally celebrate the release of my new book with special guest: Ms. TigerLily - but she hasn't confirmed that it 's definite yet and I need to get a money order in the promoter's hands by the end of Friday.
But my daily woman woes are not the reason for today's entry. It's time to conclude the second half of my comments on last weekend's mighty prog purchases. Sweden's answer to the Grateful Dead, The Flower Kings has just released their eighth album, Adam & Eve on my favorite ground swell home label for progressive rock, InsideOut Music based in Germany or Insideout Music America that's operating out of Pittsburgh. Now I'm sure that there are those who will be arguing with me that technically this would be the band's ninth album - considering that ringmaster Roine Stolt wrote and performed on a solo album called The Flower King a year earlier before forming a group called the Flower Kings who went on to record their debut disc Back in the World of Adventures in 1995. The tour's tagline touts that this is the band's tenth anniversary going out on the road, but I still digress. Roine Stolt's debut however does mark the beginning of his collaboration with keyboard player Tomas Bodin, whose masterful multi- ivory contributions is what attracts me the most to nearly becoming a completist.
I immediately became a convert after first witnessing a appearance they did at a Prog rock festival they did at the Variety Arts Center located in downtown LA just around the corner from the legendary Pantry eatery. Who would have thought that Sweden would boost of some fine musicanship of such rock star stature? Seeing them perform marked the first time that I ever had the hunger or desire to wanting to possess one band's entire discography right there on the spot - (at the time, they only had two albums to their name, the afore-mentioned Adventures and 1996's Retropolis- They did however perform unleased material from their first double disc, Stardust We Are). Soaking in the splendor of heavy swirling Hammond organs and mellotrons was like chiming in with the euphoria of witnessing the birthing spawn of Yes, Genesis, and King Crimson merge in total unison, but it is their hippie inspiration of peace, love and understanding that is expressed so heavily in their lyrics that are akin to what is familar territory already covenanted by the Grateful Dead.
With the help of Dave Mulloy and his online service; Pendragonusa, I was able to get all the obscure albums that they were releasing independently through the band's own Foxtrot label before
Insideout took control of their distribution. Many are stand out acheivements and my mind boggles at how much excellent music they can cram unto one disc. There is a common theme of combining twenty minute or more epics with short digestable three minute songs - but some more than others go on tangents of blending reggae, jazz, and chamber music in short or improvisational interludes. Some even go the distance of being on such double discs as 97's Stardust We Are, 1998's Flower Power (the first disc nearly encompasses a entire 50 minute plus song- The Garden of Dreams!!), and 2002's Unfold the Future. But I can attest that without fail, there hasn't been a year that goes by where the Flower Kings haven't released a new product, and with the body of work that they've managed to record is unmatched by anyone or anything. Even if they were to sound like shit, it still doesn't tarnish the image of impeccable intricate musicanship that can go on non-stop without showing any sign of fatigue. And I have to concede- that the new Adam & Eve is a little on the weak side, BUT it's better than most of what's already out there. I think the nearly twenty minute opening track, Love Supreme (along with the eighteen and a half bookend piece Driver's Seat) has them falling into a proverbial rut. It's sound as if it's just business as usual for the Swede boys espeically with added on soulful singer, Hasse Froberg trying to make some working sense out of some droll lyrics with Tomas Bodin adding a few sqiggles of the Nord synths here and there. Hasse really shines on the short numbers such as Cosmic Circus and Starlight Man. Bodin, who is a worthly contender to picking up from where Patrick Moraz left in his tenture with Yes (if their album, Relayer were to stretched out to ad infinitum) always is the one who contributes to the explorational side of the band when he employs real exotic sounding timbres to his array of sounds, per example on the minute and a half instrumental interludes of both Babylon and Days Gone By. One of the most new puzzling additions to the album this time around is the inaugration of Pain of Salvation vocalist Daniel Gildenlow grunting his way through the harder edgier songs such as the bolero inspired Vampire's View (Vampires - bah, Arena already covered a similar sounding topic on their 1998 The Vistor album) in addition to the title track which I presume were to save this album from becoming too much of throw away material. I don't know what really is behind Roine's motivation to include Daniel in the band or the necessity of incorporating two lead singers but my guess would be the contrast in styles that signfy that maybe Hasse is scaling back on the more complex tonsil duties. Of course this could be the evil dark Irish ale talking to me at 2 AM.
(see previous entry)
The album's cover art is another Heavy Metal magazine homage - the Adam character looks to be a direct swipe from Richard Coben's Den coupled along with a Eve that looks as if she stepped out of a Frank Frazetta Conan paperback book cover.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Not having much to show for the time spent in San Diego - goodie wise that is, I decided this week to treat myself to a heapin' dose of pre-packaged shoveled shit to amuse myself over the weekend- which loosely translates into forcing myself to seeing a junkload of flicks (If Collateral's Tom Cruise doesn't turn the good guy actor turned bad guy actor fad back in vogue like his predecessor Denzel Washington did earlier in Training Day- I'm going to go fucking ballistic. I'd start campaigning for Cruise's race to the Best Actor Oscar seat beginning RIGHT NOW if I were you.), going to the comic book shop and try to catch up to that old mainstrean super hero scene, and buying a new pair of prog albums from my all-time favorite record label: Insideout Music .
I used to buy a lot of obscure albums by relatively unheard of bands whose fanbase fester mostly in European countries either from online mail order enterprises such as Dave Mulloy's pendragonusa merchandising or festivals that cater to this ever ebbing music genre. Through mail orders and shows I was reunited to the territories that were once reigned by the likes of Yes, Genesis, Marillion, IQ, & King Crimson - now expanded upon and explored by a new generation of trendsetters passing the mantle; such as Spock's Beard, Arena, Magellan, and The Flower Kings.
A couple of weeks back while I was away at Comic Con International- The Flower Kings managed to release a new album, as they're usually prone to do every year without fail. I have that album with me now- but I'm not going to talk about it. I'll try get to it on Thursday.
Instead, I want to talk about this: , Arjen A. Lucassen, a musican of whom I know very little about.
I remember chatting with Dave one day about what was lurking in his inventory repertoire that I hadn't heard. Dave made two recommendations to me: one was a swedish act called appropriately enough; A.C.T. : a sort of amalgamation between old style Queen (harking back to the a Night at the Opera or Day of the Races era ) and Canada's Saga. I was immediately sold on the uniqueness of that premise and neglected the other which Dave was trying to sell me about the idea of Star One, a cross pollination of Hawkwind, Pink Floyd, and Deep Purple. Already feeling I've been down that aural road before, I declined and bought some other stuff instead. Star One is another project or group run by Lucassen -and by Dave's description, I wasn't in any real hurry to get it.
Fast forward a couple of years. I had now expanded my listening horizons to include a local San Fernanado Valley outfit called the Rocket Scientists on my spin rack. I've also been talking to Arena keyboardist, Clive Nolan online about helping him get some movie scoring through my studio connection and through one of his Verglas Records newsletters I've happened to stumble upon Clive's involvement with Luccassen through another band he did a few synth solos on called Ayreon. Ayreon is supposedly pronounced AY (medieval influence AYLESBURY) and ON (futuristic influence i.e; electron, proton, nuetron, or whatever the fuck) and the reason the word was made up was because a singer who Arjen was working with in the studio kept mispronouncing his first name and that gave genesis to the idea that his name would sound more cool as a band name- but rather than go the Van Halen route- Arjen decided to make up a variation on his name. Sounded interesting enough- but I still wasn't completely sold yet.
So when time came this weekend to seek out the new Flower Kings album on a lurch due to the low distribution of Insideout Music products being sold in Tower Records (some titles come in, some don't) - I was in luck that it did come in, but I wasn't really satisified if I just walked out of Tower with just one new album- I needed something else to go along with it - plus to serve as a excuse to get blitzed on some Guinness that evening. Sort of a warm up exercise, if you can relate. I made a conscious decision to check out the roster of other Insideout titles and what I could find was mostly all heavy metal related. Some of it I can get into and some of it just doesn't do anything for me if it sounds hackneyed from the likes of Dream Theater, Metallica , or Queensryche- so when I stumbled on Ayreon's Special edition of the Universal Migrator - I approached it with loaded trepidation - Do I really need another hard rocking thrashing disc that's only going to serve in pissing off my neighbors and roommates when I begin blasting past it midnight? I looked down on the cover- it sort of reminded of a Heavy Metal or a Les Humanoides cover painting; plus seeing that it was a double CD for the price of what goes for a single- it instantaneously telepathically linked with my wallet over to the cash register.
Or to further promulgate: Most fucking definitely- YES!!
Once I loaded disc one I found out that the material was written and played out to be as a concept album. I like concept albums because a concept album is essentially a prog rock enthusiast's version of a broadway musical come to life (which incidentally as fate would have it, it has revitalized the Who's Tommy to intermitently live on in infamy as a stage show although some would be pressed to argue that Who were actually considered to be progressive rock in the first place as much as the Beatles were when Beatlemania broke box office records- but tread not stage lovers: seeds are currently being planted by Dave Gilmour to set in motion to turn Pink Floyd's The Wall into a big grossing Tony contender- although Roger Waters had probably beaten him to the punch when he went out performing the entire show more than a decade ago in front of the Berlin Wall with a few celebrity guest stars in tow.) complete with far out plots and wigged out characters to sing the lyrics and act out the roles. Genesis tried this approach with the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Marillion had Misplaced Childhood. David Bowie had Ziggy Stardust and recently IQ tried it on for size with Subterranea along with Arena's remarkable The Visitor.
Aryeon's Univeral Migrator is pure and simple, a science fiction novel put to music as it takes place on a dying colony on Mars. The last of the colonists are forced with the calamity of losing what is left of their food and air supply and the only one who can save the day has stumbled upon a ancient recreation machine of sorts (Chariot of the Gods, anyone?) and is cryogenically plugged in to embark on a journey to relive his previous lives several times over that extend all the way back to the beginnings of time itself. The first act, The Dream Sequencer that opens disc one is reminiscent of revisited space rock stylings, most notably in Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon or Wish You Were Here, but here it takes a slightly delicate turn when the track of My House On Mars comes bursting through that strongly evokes haunting memories of now deceased Camel's keyboardist, Pete Burdens' solo effort, Seen One Earth that it nearly brings a tear to my eye - if not for vocalist, Johan Edlund trying to pull off his slightly uneasy Leonard Cohen impersonation. The Floyd influence is further impacted on another track called the Shooting Company of Captain Frans B Cocq that you would think that guest singer, Mouse(?) was holding a seance with the spirit of Syd Barrett. Some of the songs on this side would even appease the most ficker of comic book creators- Heidi MacDonald could sit back and listen to the following track 'Dragon on the Sea' and exclaim - 'Hey that was a song about pirates!'. The following track, Temple of the Cat would be of some interest to Neil Gaiman , since it deals with the traverses of one soul entwined within Egyptian gods and mythology - which is surely, without a doubt, Sandman territory.
The first disc concludes with Spock's Beard's Neal Morse contributing vocals and lyrics to the Beatles ode to IKEA neanderthal living with The First Man on Earth.
The second act - Flight of the Migrator is mostly heavy metal based, much louder and punchier (both discs were first released back in 2000 as seperate discs) and thereby employs a lot of fast crunching guitars, a swarm pounding rhythm of drums and basses amidst a swirl of triggered appeggiated keyboards and sequencers slamed against a dexterous array of specially percisioned synthesizer solos (my all time favorite kind of musical expression). This selection, although hard and deafening stills manages to keep one engrossed in the storyline that extends through one's soul across the eons of what lies waiting beyond the dawn of time to the birth of black holes and other cosmic anomalies through catchy melodies and fine crafted musicianship. Even Iron Maiden's lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson gets to chip in halfway through this side.
My hat's off to Lucassen for eclectically keeping a firm hand on not allowing things to spiral too out of control with the various singers and diversity of guitar and keyboard players that alternate off and on with each track. I was suprised to discover that Rocket Scientists' Erik Norlander contributed to most of the keyboard work on this project in conjuction with Luccassen. Listening to this effort certainly makes me want to seek out the newest effort released on the Insideout Music label called the Human Equation .
Listening to this almost makes me want to take the old synth warhorses out of the mothballs. Maybe get back in the game of tweaking out on the ivories again.
I coulda been a contender.