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3’s A Charm

20 October, 2010 2 comments

I wasn’t going to do this while I was home… but those who know me must have known I wouldn’t be able to resist ;o)

It’s been a few days since I returned to the fold, and they’ve been bliss. Family and friends, music and looking forward to more of the same over the remaining week.

Why am I posting then? Well, having been away I haven’t been able to pay as much attention to new music as I’d like so, over the last few days, I’ve taken the opportunity to give some new releases the attention they deserve. There have been many, and some I’ve yet to listen to, but 3 in particular have been given the full treatment, lights off, volume up, AKGs on…

I had one of them sent to me in Afghanistan but I wasn’t able to give it the attention it deserved (and believe me, it needs attention!) out there, the other two were waiting patiently on my desk when I returned home.

First up, ‘The Big Red Spark‘ from the world’s smallest progressive rock band, Tinyfish. This is a hard one. Despite knowing one of the members I’d heard very little of Tinyfish’s previous material and so had no bar against which to measure. Perhaps this is a good thing as I doubt anything that’s gone before could have been compared to this. A concept album in every way ‘The Big Red Spark‘ can, in my opinion at least, only ever be listened to in its entirety (discounting the 4 extra tracks on the bonus DVD in the version I received).

Cover art from Tinyfish's The Big Red Spark

The Big Red Spark

There’s a flow to the album which demands that you follow the curve, to jump into ‘I’m Not Crashing‘ without having heard the previous 18 minutes or so would diminish the experience to the point of negating the whole thing. With this in mind I find myself drawing comparisons between ‘The Big Red Spark‘ and another concept album I have to listen to in its entirety, Marillion‘s Brave. Now, I’m not saying that Tinyfish are similar to Marillion by any means (although the influence of Mr Rothery is more than apparent in the guitar playing of Jim Sanders), I just feel that there is a similar impetus to the album. Both are dark concepts however Tinyfish manage to portray the darkness and concern of the ‘doomsday’ machine while retaining a levity to the music. It’s this juxtaposition of concept and performance which I find most intriguing, and it’s this which makes it works so well.

Next up was an album I’ve been waiting on since I heard of its release very early this year. Alter Bridge have already released an album which is up there in my favourites, 2007’s Blackbird, and expectations for this, their 3rd release, were high. I’d heard a couple of tracks from AB III

Cover art from Alter Bridge's AB III

AB III

prior to it’s release, the single ‘Isolation‘ which was available to stream from the Roadrunner website  and the ‘Words Darker Than Their Wings‘ which was available as a free download for 24 hours from the same site prior to the album’s release. I must admit to being somewhat disappointed on my first listen, but then perhaps day 1 of R&R wasn’t the right time to try it out… but then I listened again and felt the same. Oh dear! Not one to jump to conclusions I waited a couple of days and set myself down in a quiet room with my headphones and tried again. This time it clicked, the power of Mark Tremonti‘s riffs is dumbfounding, the dynamics, the breaks, the arrangements are outstanding and Myles Kennedy‘s voice is, as ever, quite simply staggering. In retrospect I think the difficulty I had at first was that I was expecting a Blackbird II, or at the very least something which resembled a mixture of One Day Remains and Blackbird, but ‘AB III‘ is something completely different. As stated by the band the subject matter of this album is for more introspective and, as a result, it also smacks of a darkness not found in the previous offerings. Highlights for me would include the opening couplet of ‘Slip Into The Void‘ and ‘Isolation‘ along with ‘All Hope Is Gone‘ and the storming ‘I Know It Hurts‘, but to pick these out is an injustice to what is, finally, a tour de force in the catalogue of what is fast becoming one of my favourite rock bands of the new millennium.

And now for something completely different…

It may come as a surprise to many that, despite my various links to the band, and my predilection for the style of music they play, I have never owned an original release by Mostly Autumn. Shocking I know, but it’s the truth! Yes, I’ve seen them live on several occasions and yes, I know several of the current members very well (not least Andy Smith who plays bass in Morpheus Rising!) but I quite simply have never purchased anything they’ve released.

Well, I’m glad to say that’s now all changed. I’m one of the individuals who pre-ordered ‘Go Well Diamond Heart‘, Mostly Autumn’s first album with Liv Sparnenn as lead vocalist.

Cover art from Go Well Diamond Heart

Go Well Diamond Heart

I had no choice really, Liv collared me at one of the Morpheus Rising gigs earlier this year and ordered me to buy it as some of the content would ‘mean’ something to me? And she wasn’t wrong. ‘Go Well Diamond Heart‘ has a theme running through it, not a concept as such, merely a common thread to several of the lyrics interspersed with some of the band’s more usual ethereal fair. The title track is dedicated to Ben Parkinson, a member of 7 RHA, who was caught in a landmine explosion in Afghanistan while ‘And Now The War Is Over…‘ could have been written for any serving member of the Armed Forces who have served in any conflict. The album has something for every kind of MA fan, there’s the acoustic folky feel to tracks such as ‘Violet Skies‘ and ‘Deep in Borrowdale‘, the straight forward rock of  ‘Something Better‘ to the grandiose of the title track and ‘Ice‘ (included on the 2nd CD only available with the pre-order). Knowing members of the band I’m only too aware of the amount of work which was involved in producing this album and the end result is a testament to every minute of it. Emerging from 13 years with Heather Findlay as the lead female vocalist this album could have been lost somewhere in the ‘in between years’ while the band found their feet. I’m glad it hasn’t, and I’m glad I broke the cycle and bought this album, it’s a diamond.

3 great albums which will each rate highly in my 2010 rankings, but 3 very different experiences.

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Mid-Season Break

11 October, 2010 Leave a comment

Yes, I know I only posted yesterday, but it’s my party!

Unless something exceptionally noteworthy occurs in the next 48 hours this may well be the last post for a couple of weeks. On this blog at least. Why? Quite simply because I’m due my R&R soon and intend to spend the time catching up with family and friends.

I took the time to look over the posts on here today and have come to a conclusion; it’s been a hell of a ride so far! Emotions have run high, and low, tempers have flared, lyrical juices have ebbed and flowed, but one thing’s for certain…

I’m shattered!

So, it’s lie ins under the duvet, cuddles from the kids, cuddles from the wife, days out with the family, live music at night, and no boots for a fortnight!

In the meantime, here’s something I prepared earlier:

Flip Side

Waiting on something you don’t even know is on it’s way,
every day seems a lifetime as you wait for the call to let you know it’s ok,
you don’t want to worry but the night’s seem longer every day,
holding on to thoughts and memories of glory days

Waiting on the call to let you know it’s all a-ok,
getting back to the life you left behind you on your way,
it’s the little things that matter out here so they say,
it’s about time they called to let you know you can have your say

Different sides of life,
Balanced on a knife,
I’ll catch you on the flip side
Counting down the time
Waiting on the line
I’ll catch you on the flip side

Holding back the tears as you listen to your life fall apart,
trying to control the locomotive beating of your heart,
a simple knock on the door left you lying on the floor,
as you saw for the first time your nightmares come rushing to the fore

Guilt rides high as you balance your frustration with the cost,
it seems a small price to pay when you think of all that’s been lost,
petty little dreams take on whole new meanings in the light,
as you think of the reason you’re sworn to silence in the night

Different sides of life,
Balanced on a knife,
I’ll catch you on the flip side
Counting down the time
Waiting on the line
I’ll catch you on the flip side

And rest… See you in November.

P.S. You can keep up with all that’s Morpheus Rising on our band blog and on Facebook. And, if you’ve been given food for thought by any of the posts in this blog then please pop over to this page and lend your support, I would personally appreciate it as would everyone who benefits from the charities involved.

Categories: Lyrics, Personal

It’s the little things…

9 October, 2010 Leave a comment

The intention was to post to this blog each Sunday evening while I’m away. For many reasons that hasn’t happened;  long nights, trips away, nothing to say, too much to say, too tired, too busy, the reasons go on. The primary reason however is the lack of control over whether or not there will be internet access available.

All over Afghanistan there are pockets of British personnel and, in most cases, wherever they are there is the provision of welfare internet, both user terminals and WiFi hotspots for using with your own laptop, netbook or other internet enabled device. This service is a double-edged sword, both a welcome capability and a security threat. It is also a liability.

Every time there is an incident in theatre involving a British soldier (and some other coalition nationalities) the internet is turned off. It is done for many reasons but the primary one is that of protecting the relatives of whomever is involved in the incident from hearing rumours or gossip about what may, or may not, have happened. It allows the correct procedures to be followed and people to be contacted in the proper manner to advise them of the situation over here. Sometimes that contact could be a phone call from a son letting his Mother know that he really is fine, others may be a member of the unit advising parents of their child’s injury or, in the worst cases, a Casualty Notification Officer advising someone that their son, daughter, husband or wife has regrettably been killed in action while serving on operations in Afghanistan.A brass shell cross and stone cairn in memory of those fallen on operations in Afghanistan

The process is called Op Minimise and, for much of the two plus months I’ve been in theatre, it has been in force.

Yesterday, last night and this morning we were again in the grips of Op Minimise and something I heard discussed gave me pause for thought. There is much said of the British ‘squaddie’ and not all of it is favourable, we are maligned as drunken boors, womanisers and bullies (among other things not all of which I might add are as negative). And yet last night I heard something that epitomised man’s compassion for his fellow man or, in this case, his fallen brethren.*

A couple of young soldiers were chatting outside their accommodation and I heard the conversation turn to Op Minimise and the reason for the current imposition.

It’s terrible, don’t you think, that we know what’s happened and yet we also know that it’s taking so long for the relatives to be informed. It must be so hard for them to find out like that.

I’m ashamed to admit I was quite taken aback by this, and also impressed. I know the soldiers in question and despite my knowing their characters I hadn’t expected this train of thought from a young man in his situation. Especially when  most of his peers were simply feeling hard done to due to the lack of internet capability in the accommodation due to this inconvenience.

To say I was impressed by this would be an understatement, it made me proud and reminded me (not that I needed reminding) that there is far more to our soldiers than people give them credit for.

It also made me look at myself and wonder how many times I’d felt hard done to when I hadn’t been able to ring home or jump on Facebook or WordPress because some poor soul had found himself joining the ever growing list of casualties in this conflict.

And it made me count my blessings.

* The brass cross in the photograph had 3 plates of names when I was last here in 2007, it has now been moved and stands on a larger, two levelled stone cairn with 13 plates on it. Over 100 of those names have been added in the last year.

(I did have a lyric to post with this, but on second reading I think it’s better to wait.)

Wasted Days…

6 October, 2010 Leave a comment

The whole reason for this blog was to document the writing process for material for the band I sing with, Morpheus Rising, while on tour in Afghanistan. As with all things it seems to have grown legs and formed a life of its own. I always intended to write about songs I listened to as well, and various aspects of life out here, but it seems to have been so much more than that so far. And today is more of the same.

One aspect of this life I have never been able to reconcile with my role as husband and father is the amount of time I spend away, missing birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and other holidays. and this time is no different. I’m due to miss Christmas and New Year (again), my eldest daughter’s 18th (not that she’d want me cramping her style!), my younger daughter’s 13th and today… Well, today is the birthday of the most important person in my life and, yet again, I wasn’t there to celebrate and make her feel as special as she deserves.

When I was younger I used to listen to songs which meant something to me as they seemed to echo my experiences at the time. There were loads of them, some were up beat and full of life, others not so much. Through the years many of them have continued to have meaning and I usually find one to fit my mood, forcing me further into despair (in an effort to shake myself out of it), or lifting my spirits to a point where nothing else matters. Not so today.

So, today, I found myself trying to find something to voice my thoughts, air my concerns, but instead I found myself making up my own. As with ‘Another Life’ which I wrote earlier on this tour, I’ve written something which may not fit within the Morpheus Rising stable, but nevertheless I think it belongs on this blog which has become so much more than a diary of an album’s lyrics.

Special Days

Another one passes by
Did I say goodbye?
Should I?
What am I doing here?
Telling myself it’s for the greater good
Looking out over the sands of time
Who’s watching over you
That labour should be mine

Time seems to fly
Did it really go by?
But I
I shouldn’t be here
Telling myself it’s for the greater good
Leaving all of you behind
I should watch over you
More of the time

These special days will never return
These special days should be the greater good
Making up under cover of cold dark nights
Time spent together putting the world to rights
These days we’re wasting should all be special days

Little boys cry
Girls starting to drive
Flying by
I should be there
Telling myself it’s for the greater good
Looking out for all that’s mine
I should be there
More of the time

These special days will never return
These special days should be the greater good
Making up under cover of cold dark nights
Time spent together putting the world to rights
These days we’re wasting should all be special days

To Rose, and my three beautiful children, I’ll see you soon.