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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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And so it begins…

12 August, 2010 Leave a comment

Things have gone fairly well, and in our favour, over the last few days. The flight was delayed 24 hours which meant an extra day with my wife and children, the transfer in Cyprus was delayed an hour so there was ample time to start the browning process before the final leg, and the induction days were significantly shorter than we were led to believe they were going to be. Which can never be a bad thing, can it?

Actually, in this case it did not bode well… Finishing early today did not result in the hour’s roasting session followed by an upper body blast as hoped. Instead it meant I was available to start work 18 hours early! Yup, as ever, the best laid plans fail to survive first contact with the enemy!

The only annoying thing so far has been the lack of contact with the ‘real world’ (henceforth to be called RW) and the inability of the bloody system to recognise my WiFi login 48 hours after I registered it. This hasn’t been the only reason I couldn’t get online, but it has been the most palatable.

I was here in 2007 and I wrote a journal/diary at that time which made very clear how hard it could be dealing with incoming Chinooks… 3 years on and it has not become any easier. There were 3 flew into that HLS in the middle of camp yesterday and the flags were again flying at half mast last night. It didn’t take long for the reality to hit home when I heard the first ‘wocka, wocka’ this morning…

To top it all off I haven’t even listened to any music since I arrived! I meant to chill a little last night but having been on the go for 36 hours by the time we actually finished the day’s work I lay down at 19:00 and didn’t surface again until 04:45 when we started today’s sessions.

Hopefully I’ll get to post this tomorrow and, having started the normal working routine I’ll manage to get some time to start the ‘real’ work at hand! I can but live in hope!

09/08/2010

I know this was meant to be published on Sunday, but I do have a much better excuse for not handing in my homework than the proverbial dog!

12/08/2010

Hmmm… 3 days on and I’m only just managing to get back online… Ah well, at least the time’s passing quickly!  I’ve met friends from across the years already and have settled in to what looks like being a very challenging few months.

Op Minimise has been on more than off since we arrived in Theatre and today we’ve heard of a Mercian who died from his injuries back in the UK. It’s hard to justify this, to anyone, let alone the families and comrades of the fallen.

I finally managed to get in touch with home yesterday, that was an emotional experience… Some quiet time was called for.  I’ve taken every opportunity to listen to music over the last day or two, some of the lyrics seem particularly pertinent.

A Few Words For The Dead:

Somewhere in history you were wronged
Teach your children to bang the drum
Tell all your family, tell all your friends
Teach your brothers to avenge

Steve Hogarth, Marillion.

Expect a full update on Sunday ;o)