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David Bowie Icon

David Bowie ICON; Published by ACC ART Books; 181 Pages. http://www.iconicimages.net; http://www.accartbooks.com; Picture Editing:
Stephen Reid, Daniel Rachel
and Carrie Kania
Interviews and Text:
Daniel Rachel and Carrie Kania; Project Editor:
Carrie Kania; Publisher, ACC Art Books
James Smith
Editor
Susannah Hecht
Design
Craig Holden
Production
Stephen Mackinlay

Photographs by
FERNANDO ACEVES
BRIAN ARIS
PHILIPPE AULIAC
ALEC BYRNE
KEVIN CUMMINS
CHALKIE DAVIES
JUSTIN DE VILLENEUVE
VERNON DEWHURST
GAVIN EVANS
GERALD FEARNLEY
LYNN GOLDSMITH
GREG GORMAN
ANDREW KENT
MARKUS KLINKO
GEOFF MacCORMACK
JANET MACOSKA
TERRY O’NEILL
DENIS O’REGAN
NORMAN PARKINSON
MICK ROCK
JOHN SCARISBRICK
STEVE SCHAPIRO
BARRY SCHULTZ
RAY STEVENSON
MASAYOSHI SUKITA
Introduction by
GEORGE UNDERWOOD

This is the finest collection of photographs you will ever find depicting perhaps the only singular rock icon to rival the visual power of Elvis. From the very start of his career David Bowie wanted to become a star. He did not covet rock stardom. No. He aimed higher. We should all be grateful.

The editors at ACC make clear this is not a complete set. That would encompass thousands of pages.

What we have in our hands with this tome is a representation of fine rock photography from 25 of the most legendary artists in this field.

If there is one common thread running through these pages its the sessions for each studio record being seen without their final texts or titles.

David Bowie represented so many different avenues of creativity it’s impossible to pigeonhole him into any category or frame. Every picture in this book will leave you with an impression that is yours alone to decipher.

For this is the goal of a genuine artitst. To keep you guessing. To keep you wondering. To leave you utterly astonished.

The team that made this book possible attempted a seriously daunting feat. They got a group of the world’s finest photographers to contribute their best work to a singular project.

This work shows the many sides of David Bowie from his debut through his glam starpower to his thin white duke class and the many projects that drove his creativity and genius.

This resulting coffee table prize is a success. If ever there was a time we needed art of this caliber it’s now at the end of 2020.

Band of Misfits

Featured
Queen formed in 1971. Their debut album was released in 1973. Several major labels turned them down. For 20 years Queen were: (L)—(R): Roger Taylor, drums/vocals, John Deacon, bass, Freddie Mercury, Lead vocals/piano, and Brian May, Guitar/vocals

The year was 1979. A pre-adolescent boy who was collecting his first records discovered a mail-order music club. Offering 14 LP’s for a penny as their introductory hook was too good to pass up. When the records arrived I opened up the albums with great anticipation.

I was always eclectic in my tastes for music. There was Waylon Jennings, Aerosmith, Jackson 5, and Queen among the selections. The record with the biggest impact was Queen Live Killers, a gatefold 2 LP package with a collage of full color images from their European and North American Tour in support of their Jazz record.

There on full display was Freddie Mercury in tight black PVC pants and jacket (shiny like leather) with his jacket open to reveal a bare chest. Unknown to me at the time was the cabaret style he was doing. This was a new image for him in 1978/9.

All I know is the first time I saw an image of Freddie Mercury was a poster from their ‘Opera’ Tour. His penchant for stripping onstage thrilled me to no end. Onstage in candy stripe shorts and red suspenders with the band’s logo in the center of the poster. My eyes popped out of my head like a cartoon wolf.

Although years later I heard how much the band disliked the mix of the record I felt strongly it was a great representation of their live sound. I loved how they played a medley of hits too.

I was taken aback by how different the songs sounded in a live setting. Nothing like the studio engineered layers of over dubs or multi-tracked vocals.

Except for a brief spell following the release of their bio-picture, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, I have never lost interest in them. That brief interlude was caused by too many kids finding them based on their parent’s tastes. Hey, that’s life!

For many years it was hard to find any Queen memorabilia in the states. I know this sounds crazy to the listeners of today. There are websites. Obviously there is the Queen Online Store which always has a great selection of Queen everything.

Back in the 1980s in America after their popularity fell away we had record stores and rock t shirt stores. Freddie Mercury’s most dramatic transformation into gay clone in 1980 was not appreciated by a largely straight audience.

Despite the huge success of The Game in ’80, the band ended their decade long relationship with Elektra records. The label released a Greatest Hits album in 1981. At the time it felt like rock fans were putting Queen out to pasture. Their Elektra years were ending.

‘Another One Bites The Dust’ by bassist John Deacon borrowed heavily from Chic. Becoming the best-selling single in Elektra’s history it topped The Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’, which gave the band an idea that funk rock was gaining traction in America.

The fact that Queen were in Munich, Germany enjoying the nightlife a bit too much influenced the next platter a lot. Freddie Mercury without stating it officially was out to anyone with two eyes, especially if you were gay.

What happened next was a mix of bad timing and trends that would exile Queen from the USA until well after Mercury’s death in 1991. In fact when he died I remember a news anchor stating there was bad news for fans of Queens. Queens? That was how out of touch our media were with Mercury’s death.

Rolling Stone magazine was never particularly kind to Queen. Freddie’s Obit was a single page in an issue with Michael Jackson on the cover. He was not an American star. I felt that kept the band’s mystique intact.

‘Hot Space’ was the final record owed to Elektra. The band never conformed to what their label wanted especially when it came to album covers. The label’s demand for a band photo was ignored for years. Greatest Hits has a portrait of the band taken by Lord Snowden. It has become an iconic image. The label got their wish granted by contractual obligation.

Freddie Mercury had a brief friendship with Michael Jackson. Mr. Jackson was a huge Queen fan. He was the impetous for releasing ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ as a single. Queen had a #1 hit with it. The new direction was clear for at least Freddie Mercury and John Deacon.

Freddie and John developed a friendship over the years based upon a mutual love for Motown music. The divide in Queen was clear. Brian loved heavy guitar driven music. Roger was into Punk then New Wave. Swaying him into drum techniques outside of traditional rock was done.

In the early days when they were in college the members of Queen were united in their dreams of rock stardom. As they grew in stature with the the rock audience experimenting with different sounds became a reality. Roger Taylor’s ‘Fun It’ was funky and danceable. This song in particular made me think it was not such a big deal for the band to express more of a funk beat in 1982.

Freddie’s single, ‘Bicycle Race’ actually incorporated rap within the track. Both songs were on Jazz. That title was a huge deal. A band that mixed every musical element in its music now titled a record for a specific genre. However, being the academically minded nerds that they were the name also meant calling the collection by a moniker that had many facets to it. Like the name Queen itself.

Change is inevitable. Every band faces it. Fortunately for Queen they were a big band by the time they grew out of their excessive 1970s persona. They could not be pigeonholed. Freddie Mercury never believed in doing anything by half-measure. He took every idea to its maximum. This attitude created amazing songs and music videos. The latter would compound their loss of popularity in America.

As a gay kid Queen were my idols. I bought every album as they were released starting with the #1 Game record. The video for the song, ‘Play The Game’, revealed a cropped haircut and mustache for the first time. I loved it. American fans hated it.

When ‘Hot Space’ came there was no doubt in the band’s new look and direction. Funk, dance, and disco were now emphasized. Even Brian May’s guitar was absent on some tracks, most notably the single ‘Body Language’ by Freddie Mercury. Pushing sexual boundaries the explicit video got banned by MTV. The sales dropped from the prior ‘Game’ LP and the tour proved to be the last in America with Freddie and John.

Throughout the 1980s I knew it was uncool to love Queen. I could understand why they lost their mojo with America. Homophobia was rampant. Conservatism was in power. New Wave and Heavy Metal dominated. Pop music developed new icons Madonna, Prince, and Duran Duran. Queen were the past, a relic of the 1970s. Despite releasing more records that hit #1 throughout the world, the USA would never allow them back into the Top 10. From Hot Space, ‘Body Language’ was the highest charting single in the US at #11.

Everywhere else in the world Queen kept selling records and tours. This was painful to me because I knew I missed my only chance to see them in concert with Freddie and John.

Back tracking here. In the 1970s I was a kid. Every Sunday I read the Times’ Arts section. There were ads for Broadway shows, movies, and rock concerts. I noticed that Queen played the Garden practically every year.

Then one fateful day following the debut of ‘Hot Space’ the Arts section had a full page ad for QUEEN Live In Concert with Special Guest Billy Squier at Madison Square Garden! Their faces appeared across the page in the Warhol—inspired, Freddie designed graphics of the album.

This was not the original Times ad but the graphics are the same. Queen played Madison Square Garden in early July for Hot Space. The set list was fantastic. The live album Queen On Fire Live At The Bowl from Milton Keynes, U.K. is my favourite Queen live album—not on vinyl in US yet.

I begged my parents to let me go see them. Nobody would take me. Back in the early 80’s tickets were like $12! Still in that time parents were not keen on their kids’ love of rock music. I have never gotten over the disappointment of missing this tour.

The opener was Billy Squier! I still love his music. Back in 1982 I was mental for both Squier and Queen. In the 1970s, Thin Lizzy, Styx, and Journey opened for Queen.

It proved to be their last here until Paul Rodgers joined them decades later in the naughts.

America ignored A Kind Of Magic and The Miracle. Both albums were enormous sellers around the globe even hitting # 1 in several countries like the UK, Japan, France, New Zealand, Australia, and Netherlands. The Magic Tour of 1986 became a record called Live Magic. The Tour and record followed Live Aid in 1985.

‘Magic’ was also partly the soundtrack for the fantasy film “Highlander”. Like “Flash Gordon” before it loved by Queen fans, loathed by others. The American sitcom “The Goldbergs” actually did an episode that featured Highlander and one of its stars, Clancy Brown who was now a regular on the series.

I never lost my love for music, especially Queen. They were misfits. Remaining so throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The critics never really appreciated them. Only after the death of Freddie Mercury from bronchial pneumonia brought on by HIV/AIDS in November 1991 had the press expressed any love for him. Freddie was a Jimi Hendrix fan. He understood how much an artist’s value increases upon death. He lived life his way. A true rocker.

Being a gay kid in the 70s was amazing and scary. There were so many great looking boys. And the hippie 60’s had a lot of left over guys who sported long-hair. And going shirtless was part of street style. And rock stars were no exception.

Mick Jagger of Rolling Stones, Roger Daltrey of The Who, Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, and every other frontman have appeared shirtless on stage. Then along came South African born Freddie Mercury! He took the image to a completely different level. He performed a striptease!

Loving Queen was difficult. I had my first rock music tee featuring the band from 1977. Wearing it to camp one day I got called a faggot. The group had become stigmatized by straight kids who hated Mercury’s effeminate posturing. The rock press had a field day with his sexual escapades. The worst magazine coverage for any artist I have ever seen was Creem, a rock rag from the 1970s and ’80s.

They did a story on Queen that was not a story. It was just the magazine hating Freddie and Queen. Anti—gay comments filled their coverage. Truly shocking to me.

Queen made their only appearance on American TV live on SNL’s Season Premiere with Host Chevy Chase. He hosted remotely from LA as a joke. Today this would be protocol. Danny DeVito introduced Queen. Performing 2 songs: “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” a #1 hit in America and “Under Pressure”. Freddie’s voice was in the low register only. Years later I read he was recovering from a cold when the band appeared on the show. This was not a good time for them.

Back to their transformation from 1970s glam to 1980s pop. Following the commercial failure of Hot Space which still went Gold in America, the band signed to Capitol Records in North America. They even recorded for the first time in Los Angeles. ‘The Works’ album featured all the trademarks of their sound with Brian’s guitar blaring and Roger’s drums more upfront. Then another music video did them more cultural harm.

John Deacon’s ‘I Want To Break Free’ was made into a video that parodied the British soap opera Coronation Street. It featured the band in drag! Not Freddie’s idea. In the USA once again MTV banned them. Momentum killed.

Although the album was a return to form with hard rockers like Brian May’s ‘Hammer To Fall’ the top ten eluded them in America. Roger’s anthem ‘Radio GaGa’ peaked outside the top ten stalling at #16.

I still believe Queen were ignored. Punished for Freddie’s unapologetic gay image. Other British bands from the 1970s did not suffer this fate—Genesis released pop music—Pink Floyd went pop—and The Who also went pop. Rolling Stones released a cover of the song ‘Harlem Shuffle’ which was totally their worst.

Why was Queen singled out? Strong expressions of gay sexuality were taboo in the states. Despite being multi–faceted Queen had only the one face in America. Flamboyant is code for gay. Liberace had the straight audience believing what they wanted to believe. Freddie did not suffer fools.

I went to Giants Stadium to see Pink Floyd, Genesis , The Who, and Rolling Stones on separate tours during the ’80’s. Their music was not very good at the time. It was crazy to me that Queen did not tour here. My theory was that Freddie’s HIV status prevented them from playing here. Sad but true.

In my teenage years I knew many people who were either indifferent to my love of their music or could not get into it. And a lot of the time gay people fit their stereotype with a love for disposable pop or dance tracks. I can tell you the Hot Space CD was on a jukebox in a gay bar.

Hot Space cover designed by Freddie Mercury. Like a Warhol silkscreen.

The Queen album most likely to be on any jukebox was Greatest Hits. Unfortunate since I always thought they had great songs that were never going to be hits. No doubt about the high number of singles/hits in their catalog. Later in this blog post I have listed my all–time favourite Queen songs.

Guns N Roses, Motley Crue, and Twisted Sisted were all influenced by Queen. The lead vocalists of those groups wore even more make-up than Freddie! Yet since they were hard rock/metal Americans accepted them. The make-up bands of the period were largely from America. Paradoxically this is also when the biggest make-up band ever, KISS, took their make-up off!

Unknown at the time that Dee Snider (Twisted Sister) and Nikki Sixx (Motley Crue) were in the crowd that saw Queen open for Mott the Hoople at New York’s Uris theater on Broadway, it makes perfect sense.

Until the Freddie Mercury tribute concert at Wembley stadium few Americans understood just how much Queen had influenced the heavy bands of the 80’s. The line-up featured England’s Def Leppard, America’s Guns N Roses and Extreme alongside Elton John, George Michael, and David Bowie. Eclectic to the end Queen also invited Freddie’s main influence, Liza Minnelli to the proceedings. He got so much ridicule from the press for loving Liza as well as Hendrix.

I believe today that Queen got into my marrow, my DNA because their image and music were original. Upsetting the status quo was part of their appeal. Decades after his death the film of his life was a blockbuster. He kept the mystique. Proving that no other rock performer could rival him, Queen became paragons of rock music. Today their legacy has grown in leaps and bounds.

Taking them into my heart has kept me alive too. Queen have a few explicit anti—suicide songs. Mercury admitted in his final days that the image he worked so hard to build became somewhat of a monster to his personal life. Becoming less active, meeting a man named Jim Hutton who became his partner until the end was his ultimate goal.

For the first time since reading several biographies about Freddie I understand why ‘Somebody To Love’ was a personal favorite. Love is what we all need to survive. Take a listen to the many tortured love ballads he wrote and performed. His delivery is genuine. That’s also why it touched me so deeply.

I think it’s why I met my beloved husband Brian. I love him more than anything. He has made my life the best possible. Our mutual love of music with great singers has created a bond.

Here for the first time I have compiled my list of personal favourite Queen tracks. B-Sides and rarities are not included here. They are taken from the 15 studio albums released from 1973—1995.

My Favourite Queen songs of all-time

  • My Fairy King by Freddie Mercury on Queen
  • Great King Rat by Freddie Mercury on Queen
  • Liar by Freddie Mercury on Queen
  • Nevermore by Freddie Mercury on II
  • The Fairy—Feller’s Master Stroke by Freddie Mercury on II
  • Ogre Battle by Freddie Mercury on II
  • The March of the Black Queen by Freddie Mercury on II
  • Seven Seas Of Rhye by Freddie Mercury on II
  • Doing Alright by Brian May & Tim Staffell on Queen
  • Lily of the Valley by Freddie Mercury on II
  • Now I’m Here by Brian May on Sheer Heart Attack
  • Brighton Rock by Brian May on Sheer Heart Attack
  • Killer Queen by Freddie Mercury on Sheer Heart Attack
  • Bring Back That Leroy Brown by Freddie Mercury on Sheer Heart Attack
  • Stone Cold Crazy by Mercury, Deacon, Taylor, & May on Sheer Heart Attack
  • Flick of the Wrist by Freddie Mercury on Sheer Heart Attack
  • Misfire by John Deacon on Sheer Heart Attack
  • Bohemian Rhapsody by Freddie Mercury on A Night At The Opera
  • 39 by Brian May on A Night At The Opera
  • The Prophet’s Song by Brian May on A Night At The Opera
  • You’re My Best Friend by John Deacon on A Night At The Opera
  • The Millionaire Waltz by Freddie Mercury on A Day At The Races
  • White Man by Freddie Mercury on A Day At The Races
  • You and I by John Deacon on A Day At The Races
  • We Will Rock You by Brian May on News Of The World
  • We Are The Champions by Freddie Mercury on News Of The World
  • Sheer Heart Attack by Roger Taylor on News Of The World
  • Fight From The Inside by Roger Taylor on News Of The World
  • Spread Your Wings by John Deacon on News Of The World
  • It’s Late by Brian May on News Of The World
  • My Melancholy Blues by Freddie Mercury on News Of The World
  • Jealousy by Freddie Mercury on Jazz
  • In Only Seven Days by John Deacon on Jazz
  • Dead On Time by Brian May on Jazz
  • Dreamer’s Ball by Brian May on Jazz
  • Don’t Stop Me Now by Freddie Mercury on Jazz
  • Dragon Attack by Brian May on The Game
  • Play The Game by Freddie Mercury on The Game
  • Rock It (Prime Jive) by Roger Taylor on The Game
  • Don’t Try Suicide by Freddie Mercury on The Game
  • Another One Bites The Dust by John Deacon on The Game
  • Flash by Brian May on Flash Gordon soundtrack
  • The Hero by Freddie Mercury on Flash Gordon soundtrack
  • Football Fight by Freddie Mercury (Instrumental) on Flash Gordon soundtrack
  • Battle Theme by Brian May (Instrumental) on Flash Gordon soundtrack
  • Staying Power by Freddie Mercury on Hot Space
  • Dancer by Brian May on Hot Space
  • Back Chat by John Deacon on Hot Space
  • Action This Day by Roger Taylor on Hot Space
  • Put Out The Fire by Brian May on Hot Space
  • Under Pressure by Queen & David Bowie on Hot Space
  • Las Palabras De Amor (The Words Of Love) by Brian May on Hot Space
  • Machines (or Back To Humans) by Brian May & Roger Taylor on The Works
  • Radio GaGa by Roger Taylor on The Works
  • Keep Passing The Open Windows by Freddie Mercury on The Works
  • I Want To Break Free by John Deacon on The Works
  • Hammer To Fall by Brian May on The Works
  • Is This The World We Created…? by Brian May & Freddie Mercury on The Works
  • Man On The Prowl by Freddie Mercury on The Works
  • One Vision by Queen on A Kind Of Magic
  • A Kind Of Magic by Roger Taylor on A Kind Of Magic
  • One Year Of Love by John Deacon on A Kind Of Magic
  • Pain Is So Close To Pleasure by John Deacon & Freddie Mercury on A Kind Of Magic
  • Friends Wil Be Friends by Freddie Mercury & John Deacon on A Kind Of Magic
  • Don’t Lose Your Head by Roger Taylor on A Kind Of Magic
  • Princes Of The Universe by Freddie Mercury on A Kind Of Magic
  • Breakthru by Queen on The Miracle
  • The Invisible Man by Queen on The Miracle
  • Rain Must Fall by Queen on The Miracle
  • Scandal by Queen on The Miracle
  • Was It All Worth It by Queen on The Miracle
  • Innuendo by Queen on Innuendo
  • I’m Going Slightly Mad by Queen on Innuendo
  • I Can’t Live With You by Queen on Innuendo
  • Ride The Wild Wind by Queen on Innuendo
  • The Show Must Go On by Queen on Innuendo

In 1995 Queen released Made In Heaven which re-worked some of Freddie’s songs from his solo debut Mr. Bad Guy. The record featured Mercury’s final songs. “A Winter’s Tale” was his last composition. The lyrics described Montreaux, Switzerland in his final days. The list of my all-time Queen songs continues below with the band’s posthumous release.

  • Mother Love by Freddie Mercury & Brian May on Made In Heaven —This was the last track he recorded.
  • A Winter’s Tale by Freddie Mercury on Made In Heaven

Queen Retired—Legacy Grew

My least favorite Queen album, Made in Heaven, was followed by years of inactivity. Then in America TV commercials began licensing their hits. LA Gear used We Will Rock You; Diet Coke used I Want To Break Free; Mountain Dew used Bohemian Rhapsody even copying the now iconic promo clip. These are just a few examples.

From 2004—2009 Queen added Paul Rodgers of Bad Company to their line-up. He was one of Freddie’s favorite singers. In the 1960’s he fronted Free. In the 1980’s he fronted The Firm with Led Zep’s Jimmy Page.

Brian May, Paul Rodgers, and Roger Taylor. Queen 2.0

The Queen+Paul Rodgers tours would return Queen to North America for the first time in 20 years! I never missed a show in New York. However, this line-up never played The Garden.

Queen+Paul Rodgers released a studio album, The Cosmos Rocks. There was a live album too.

American Idol, a talent search reality series would enable a meeting that was pure fate. Adam Lambert, an American youth who was also out auditioned by singing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Queen are his favorite group. Idol invited Brian May and Roger Taylor to perform with the show’s 3 finalists for its season finale. Adam came in second but in my opinion he really won.

Eventually Queen would announce touring with Adam Lambert fronting the group. It was made explicit that he would never replace Freddie Mercury. For the past decade now known as Queen+Adam Lambert touring the globe again.

Queen 3.0 has become the juggernaut that fans across the globe celebrate. The show has finally gone beyond the original line—up!

And this line-up brought Queen back to Madison Square Garden for the first time since Hot Space! The setlist celebrated the band’s live at the Rainbow concert in support of Sheer Heart Attack. They opened with II’s ‘Procession’ and Sheer Heart Attack’s ‘Now I’m Here’.

Adam Lambert has released new solo records while touring with Queen. He sang ‘Believe’ at the Kennedy Center Honors bringing Cher to tears!

His presence on stage is truly a sight to behold. Bringing back the flamboyance of Mercury without mimicking his moves. Adam’s voice is his own unique stamp. He can sing any Queen tune. He has a new album out now called Velvet.

The shows proved so successful that Queen returned to celebrate their News of the World album next time around. Complete with Frank the Robot in full mascot mode. Opening their shows with ‘We Will Rock You’ like they did in 1977. Brian May performed his solo against a backdrop of stars fitting for an astrophysicist.

Their current tour is centered around the global success of the film “Bohemian Rhapsody” which tells Freddie’s story. Albeit with a completely incorrect timeline of events to create a cohesive cinema narrative.

In Freddie’s brilliant words it has been no bed of roses for Queen. For 20 years, 1971—1991, they reigned with the same line—up of 4 creative songwriters with extremely different personalities. Fans felt proud of their achievements.

Then the untimely death of Mercury from AIDS in November 1991. Queen ended. I always thought they could continue if the right elements fell into place.

Elton John performed with them during a final concert as Queen. Mr. John sang ‘The Show Must Go On”. He encouraged Brian and Roger to find a way. He said of their catalog of hits: ‘it must be like having a Rolls-Royce in the garage that you cannot drive anymore.”

Having them back today means so much to me. I want Queen to go on forever…

In my lifetime I have not played another artists music as often as Queen. They have rescued me many times with their life affirming works.

I have many other favourite music groups: Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Judas Priest, Styx, and Elton John.

The Queen sound is unique and original. Their music is not rock nor disco nor black nor white. It’s Queen music.

The Queen catalog has sold over 300 million records worldwide. They are tied with The Allman Brothers Band at #52 on Rolling Stone’s list of Best Artists.

This image of the Classic Queen Line—Up on the Rolling Stone List of Best Artists.

In England Queen Greatest Hits is the top selling record in British music history. Greatest Hits II is #10.

The Queen studio album catalog seen below does not include The Cosmos Rocks. That album featured Paul Rodgers.

The Queen studio album catalog is seen here. All 15 LP covers. The final album with Freddie Mercury and John Deacon was Made In Heaven released in 1995. It blows my mind how all of their records are now iconic.

Waxing Rhapsodic

Today the world is quite different then the early 1970’s. The band’s legacy has become it’s own cottage industry. The Queen Online website is updated every day. The Online Store has a line of goods that any fan would enjoy.

The Royal Mint in the U.K. has issued Queen coins in sterling; The Royal Mail will issue Queen stamps on July 9th, 2020 featuring 8 album covers including The Game and News Of The World and a set of 4 concert images from their world tours plus a proper band portrait as seen below.

Queen become the third British band to receive this honour following The Beatles and Pink Floyd.

The sterling pound coins feature the band’s instruments and their logo. The piano has three keys shaded to mark the notes in Bohemian Rhapsody. Above you can see all 4 packet designs. A mini poster and full colour images and text about Queen are included. The coins are a singular design with the Queen on the back of each.

Queen have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They were inducted into the songwriters hall of fame and most recently were given a Lifetime Achievement Grammy.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” became the highest grossing bio picture of all–time. Rami Malek won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury.

The film won a Golden Globe for Best Picture.

On YouTube Queen+Adam Lambert released a new version of their classic “We Are The Champions” called “You Are The Champions” to help raise funds for Covid—19 relief workers via The World Health Organization and U.N.

Drummer and Vocalist Roger Taylor’s daughter appears in the video. She is a nurse!

To see this mobile phone created clip click here: https://youtu.be/7LcLqIHzNkY

This Fall two new books will be published: Neal Preston’s Queen photos from their Tours and The Treasures of Queen.

2021 marks the group’s 50th Anniversary.

Don’t stop them now!

Dear Readers

Thank you for reading my blog! To all my new readers, Welcome!

More Queen band features to come. Next week I will continue my posts featuring my photography.

Stay well! Wear a mask.

Album Cover Art In Our Digital Age

Since the 1960s the covers of long-playing records have undergone many changes.

Before the Beatles and Stones most records were just simple photographic images of the band leaders or crooners of the period.

During the 1960s when the counter-culture movement arrived albums underwent a major alteration.

The new artists had album covers that were more than just their mugs in close-up.

Before I continue let me be clear about what the cover of a record means to me.

I think covers are a canvas to be used to draw in would be listeners. It does not have to be literal or easy to understand.

After decades of releases before the internet we have thousands of covers to gawk at in pleasure and disgust.

The images can excite, enlighten, and become stand alone pieces of art.

In some cases they can also offend certain sensibilities.

The Beatles’ infamous butcher cover was censored by their record company upon release.

Capitol records pulled this album from circulation after distributors complained the cover image was revolting. If you can find this album with the offending picture it’s worth a lot today.

Guns N Roses biggest seller, “Appetite For Destruction” had its cover banned.

It featured a cartoon image of a flower girl being raped by a robot.

Guns N Rose’s original art got banned by their label. The cross and skull art is the cover now.

The aforementioned covers became highly valued on the market for collectors.

Their rarity increased the value of original prints. Digital representation of album art will never be valuable.

Many classic (old) rock groups hired artists to paint, photograph, and collage their cover art.

Roger Dean, Derek Riggs, and the firm Hipgnosis are good examples of why artists commission painters, graphic designers and illustrators.

The progressive rock group Yes compiled a catalog of music along with covers by Roger Dean.

His dreamscapes were colorful, fantastic, and surreal. This fit well with Yes’ music.

Fragile by Yes features the above art by Roger Dean to promote a greener planet.

Derek Riggs painted the first 8 Iron Maiden album covers.

His art became instantly part of the band’s image.

Each cover features the mascot Eddie, a decaying corpse reanimated back to life.

The art collective Hipgnosis was hired by British art rock icons Pink Floyd.

The indelible photographic elements are imprinted on the memory of any classic rock fan forever.

Their cover images include a cow for Atom Mother, a flying pig for Animals, and a prism for Dark Side of the Moon.

The records pictured above included extras you cannot enjoy digitally.

Styx and Pink Floyd had posters within their sleeves.

One more artist I want to mention is Michael Doret a designer, lettering artist, and illustrator based in Los Angeles, California.

He has created logos, album covers, magazine covers, and art for various brands in media, advertising, and sports.

The illustration he created for Kiss in 1978 was so eye catching the band worked with him again in the 21st Century!

Rock N Roll Over by Kiss was the last album in which all four original members performed. Ace Frehley had no writing credit.

Sonic Boom was released in 2009. The art is sort of a follow up to its 1970s predecessor.

On vinyl the album was issued with vinyl platters in six different colors.

The Rock N Roll Over album was reissued in 2015, complete with a sheet of full color stickers replicating the cover art.

The art is the original size meant for public view when it’s on a physical item.

Digital cannot transmit how vivid these covers actually appear.

Many albums have gatefold sleeves. This means they open up to show a two panel artwork.

Queen used an image by scifi illustrator Frank Kelly for News of the World in 1977. A two panel gatefold is featured.

Today album frames are sold as a means to display album cover art.

There are many examples of art for record covers. I have covered a few of my favorites for this article.

Keep in mind none of this art looks great in digital form. In physical presence you must stop and stare.

Record albums are cherished items. The extra goodies inside like posters are really cool too.

To be fair, digital music files can show the art. It’s tiny and trapped under the glass of your smart device.

MP3 files can become corrupted. I have had to stop my PC many times due to bad playback.

Records force you to take better care of your music.

It is much more of an experience to play an album on a turntable. You value it more. And the art is for keeps!

Thank You/Band Of The Year

This blog gets posted every Friday.

With each passing week I have seen my readership increase.

Keep spreading the word to friends who want to discover music.

At year’s end I would like to say Thank You for taking a few moments to read my blog.

There are so many things competing for our attention in this day and age.

Evan’s Gate will be here each week!

2020 promises a lot of potentially great releases from a wide spectrum of artists.

I will be covering new music every week.

Band Of The Year—QUEEN

During the past year no artist has approached the comeback of rock royalty in the British tradition known simply as Queen.

Their soundtrack album, “Bohemian Rhapsody” remains a top seller, even winning an American Music Award!

Their catalog has outsold all others this year as well.

Approaching over 300 million records sold worldwide, Queen are one of the best-selling bands in history.

The Rhapsody concert tour has sold out arenas and stadiums all over the world.

‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is the most streamed song from the 20th Century with over a billion views on YouTube.

In 2020 they have a 10 show residency at the O2 arena in London.

Queen will celebrate their 50th Anniversary as a band as well.

I wish all of my readers a happy and healthy new year! Keep reading and listening.

T H A N K S.

2019 Music And Books

This has been a strong year for metal.

Tool and Rammstein both returned after prolonged absences to deliver some of their original metal.

Reading is a commercial free pleasure that always offers too many worthy titles.

The long-awaited follow up to “The Handmaid’s Tale”, “The Testaments ” by Margaret Atwood brought an end to the dystopian saga.

Stephen King’s “The Institute” provided plenty suspense while Colson Whitehead’s “The Nickel Boys” examined the disparities of our penal system.

Here I briefly remind my kind readers to pick up a good read for a sharp mind.

Music first. In no particular order these are my favorites for 2019.

Top L-R: Tool and Opeth.
Bottom L-R: Candlemass, Rammstein, and Dragonforce

Rammstein/ Untitled the German steel unleashed their seventh studio effort this year. A minimal art image on the cover of an unstruck match allows for infinite interpretation.

Like previous records in the band’s arsenal they convey their messages in masterfully crafted bursts of metal blended with synth and industrial sounds.

I had to listen more than once to appreciate the sonic aptitude of the music involved here.

Despite the fact that all their songs are in German as a metalhead you come to realize it’s the most amazing synergy with this genre.

Tool/ Fear Inoculum had a lot riding on it’s success or failure. After 13 years the band delivered their most assured set.

Complete with epic length songs, interludes, and fantastic artwork it brought fans new and old into their fold.

Opeth/ In Cauda Venenum is an earthly delight from the doom metal stalwarts.

A funeral trip that engages a sense of hope beyond the grave. This is a band that remains focused from first riff to last outro growl. A true opus.

Dragonforce/ Extreme Power Metal I feel energized when I listen to the galeforce delivery here. Infused with great keyboards and tasty metal licks with thick choruses you too will hail our bright future.

Bright and colorful with brilliant musicianship, this album testifies to the kinetic energy inherent in power metal. It’s like Styx on steroids!

Candlemass/ The Door To Doom Death metal has had a strong year. This veteran group released quite a slab.

A tight set that runs 48 minutes. ‘Splendor Demon Majesty’ opens with a grand salute to the dark lord.

The record builds on all the classic instrumentation of Black Sabbath. A 1970s groove permeates. And this is a great result.

In fact, Sabbath founder Tony Iommi is featured on track 3—‘Astorolus-The Great,Octopus ‘. Sludgy and deep riffs abound.

Doomy choral backing vocals add to the impact. You will want to open this door many, many times!

Notable authors provided a feast for readers in 2019. Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Colson Whitehead, Delia Owens, Dean Kuipers, and Elizabeth Gilbert made my cut.

Where The Crawdads Sing/Delia Owens has now been near or at the top of The New York Times bestseller list for over 60 weeks!

It deserves this honor. A great story of survival against all odds. A young girl’s family abandons her in the marsh.

She will grow up alone in their beach shack. And along the way she gets accused of murder.

Teaching herself to become self sufficient she teaches her would be enemies in the art of love and forgiveness.

City of Girls/ Elizabeth Gilbert is a story set in 1930’s and 1940’s New York City. A young woman drops out of an elite college.

Sent to live with her eccentric aunt in the city who runs a playhouse.

A friend recommended this novel. If you love theater you must check it out!

The Nickel Boys/ Colson Whitehead a story of two boys incarceration in a reform school in Florida. Unknown to out of state authorities the systemic horrors of Jim Crow are alive and well.

The Deer Camp/Dean Kuipers a memoir of growing up in rural Michigan.

How a boy grows up to become an activist in New York only to discover that his estranged father needs him for his own life. His family’s survival depends on it.

A great exploration of healthy masculine ideals.

The Institute/Stephen King Young Luke Ellis is abducted, his parents are killed, and that is just the start of his new life as a subject of the mysterious lab he is now a part.

King keeps the suspense gripping and the facts that cometo light illuminate our current horrifying climate of espionage and black site operations.

The Testaments/ Margaret Atwood the conclusion of the dystopian tale of women’s demotion back into handmaids.

Gilead’s secrets are about to be leaked globally. A runaway becomes the symbol of a final reckoning that will reduce this cruel social to rubble.

Empath by Devin Townsend/ Review

You will need to set aside ample time for this record. If you listen well the rewards are plentiful.

“Empath” has minimalist cover art. The colors within the stylish letters represent the shades of feeling in this kaleidoscopic vision.

Side One: Castaway/ Genesis/ Spirits Will Collide/ Evermore/ Sprite.

The beginning is quite mild at first with ocean sounds. Do not be fooled.

The intro, ‘Castaway’, builds up into a calypso like rhythm before tossing us into the cataclysm of ‘Genesis’.

Choral walls of sound, death metal wails and electro dance beats will blend seamlessly here.

“Let there be light/ Let there be monsters/ Let us remember why we live”. A world begins out of violence.

We must find a way to live. To exist in cooperative ways does not mean conflict is erased.

‘Spirits will Collide’ with immense power. Great energy is released. This will be the fuel of survival. The manic progression uses several musical styles here.

“Evermore” is large and choral. A stunning piece that brings us to the poetry of “Sprite”.

Fable like in its spoken word opening that drop kicks the listener into a power metal frenzy that is wondrous and existential.

Then it revs up with a speed metal race through time. A sonic statement like this is impossible to ignore.

Side 2: ‘Hear Me’/ ‘Why?’/ ‘Borderlands’/”Requiem’/ ‘Singularity’.

On ‘Hear Me’ we get the repeated refrain: ‘all the world is bleeding though our hearts are open wide’.

“Why?” offers a grand counterpoint with lush vocals against a classical backdrop of sound. Almost operatic with falsetto and choral back up voices.

In the face of seemingly imsurmountable odds we do not retreat from living.

The overall feel of the piece is uplifting. It manages to incorporate cowboy balladry with growls of metal bravado.

The epic ‘Borderlands’ follows with a blender’s worth of sounds. It works as well as all that went before it.

All are encouraged to simply ‘shine on’. Gorgeous ambient music attains full blossom here.

A Zappa like snap and pop runs through the entirety of the 11 minute piece. Electronic dance elements are applied over the top of the vocals too.

The brief ‘Requiem’ with immense choral production and dark classical instrumentation will give way to the finale of ‘Singularity’, a 23:32 minute song.

Blending the parallel worlds of conflict and bliss into a single world with a loving core.

At times operatic, with simple chords and choral backdrops that give way to heavy metal vocals. Pleading humanity’s case lends itself to a broad use of its musical underpinnings.

A wondrous album that is executed seamlessly.

The cover art for the digipak CD release.
Devin Townsend plays guitar, bass, and keyboards.

I Wanna Rock/ Essay

At the end of the 1960’s there was much turmoil from politics. Music experienced psychedelia, folk, and lots of drugs. What came next was quite a turn…

Young men started bands. Influenced by artists who put out their first records in the 1970’s they continued a style and mantra critics saw as a flash in the pan.

Top: Mott The Hoople
Bottom: The New York Dolls.

Glam. Fancy dress. Machismo. Electric guitars. Rock players who had worn t-shirts and jeans now displayed leather and satin. Studded belts and wristbands accessorized the look.

KISS released their debut in 1973. The band’s name was set in glitter. Paul Stanley saw the New York Dolls dress up in satins. He took this style into a much heavier rock music.

Alice Cooper went solo in 1975 unleashing his version of this heavier rock music on the masses. He became one of the leaders in hard rock wearing satin outfits onstage as well as leather.

Slade from England and T-Rex also led the glam charge. The next wave of music would take this even further to create glam metal.

Top: Slade
Bottom: Marc Bolan

The guys who looked like girls in the 1970s like David Bowie or Marc Bolan would evolve into bands that looked fem but played hard with macho looks.

Motley Crue, Poison, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Hanoi Rocks, and Guns n Roses come to fame during this era.

Big hair, leather, spandex nd make-up are it. Labels sign bands like Twisted Sister, Ratt, Winger, Bullet Boys, Warrant and many others in their wake.

Funny enough that KISS retired their trademark makeup at a time when their progeny put it on.

KISS unmasked. (L) Founding members Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley; (R) Bruce Kulick & Eric Carr transformed the band into a hard rock glam act.

I came of age at this time. My first hard rock record was “Blizzard of Ozz” by Ozzy Osbourne, the former lead vocalist of Black Sabbath. Iron Maiden’s “The Number of the Beast ” was my first metal record.

While glam metal started up many bands from the previous era developed into heavy metal—Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. Both bands to this day are regarded as the top two acts in all of metal.

Scorpions from Germany also became one of the biggest metal acts in the world. “Rock You Like A Hurricane” was fierce; “Winds Of Change” was a ballad that appealed across the globe.

Scorpions in full leather.

During these years, Rob Halford of Judas Priest wore leather outfits head to toe with studded jewelry. Paul DiAnno, the singer on the first two Iron Maiden albums wore leather pants as did the entire group on their early tours.

Every fan wanted to dress like their heroes. The black leather motorcycle jacket became synonymous with the art form. Guys wore band tee shirts too. The truly passionate wore leather pants as well.

Iron Maiden in 1981.

I attended many concerts during this era. The concerts were KISS shows from the 1970’s brought up to date with new effects and sound equipment. Lighting rigs were state of the art.

When you went to the record shop you could easily pick out the hard rock/metal groups because of their image. A band’s logo was another tell tale sign.

Jagged type with dripping letters highlighted in primary colors were a big part of the logo.

Logos become band identity to the glam metal form.

The albums of these groups sold millions upon millions. There were several records released in the Glam era that are all-time best sellers including Bon Jovi’s “Slippery When Wet” and Def Leppard’s “Hysteria”.

Debut albums from Skid Row, Cinderella, Motley Crue, and Poison also sold millions.

Glam’s influence would impact other groups too. From Cheap Trick’s “One On One” to Judas Priest’s “Turbo” the sound of glam metal appealed across the spectrum of sounds.

Billy Squire would have his biggest records, “Don’t Say No”, “Emotions In Motion”, and “Signs Of Life” during the glam metal years.

I went to live shows to see Ratt perform their hits like ‘Round and Round’ and ‘You Think You’re Tough’ but also to be a part of the metal community.

Fans showed up to the Meadowlands arena in New Jersey in full leather outfits! Guys had long hair too. It was amazing.

Metal fans in the 1980’s.

The music happened to be great. The bands that got play on MTV had videos that matched their looks. Twisted Sister’s videos are among the most memorable ever produced.

The outfits, the logos, the hair, and the music made it all possible. Two of the components on every record were anthems and ballads.

KISS had anthems like ‘Rock N Roll All Nite’ and ballads like ‘Beth’. Every 80’s glam metal act would follow suit.

Skid Row had ‘Youth Gone Wild’ and ’18 and Life’; Twisted Sister had ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ and ‘The Price’. Quiet Riot would score with cover songs by Slade: ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ and ‘Mama, We’re All Crazee Now’ catapulted them to the top.

Glam metal fans continue to be devoted to their favorites. Today we are drowned by commercial mainstream pop. While not all of it is bad we yearn for heavy guitar chords to return us to former glam glories. There are new listeners today discovering these sounds for the first time.

Having begun to re-listen I have found how much I still love this type of music too. I do not have long hair anymore, but I do love the look and sound of glam.

A couple of bands making great music today are Blind Guardian and Dragonforce. Considered Power Metal I think they use some glam elements in their productions.

Their lyrics are akin to reading a fantasy epic by Tolkien along with guitar instrumentation that updates that glam metal sound from the eighties.

This art form is a form of escapist entertainment that has had its share of adversity.

During the 1980’s there were attempts to censor lyrics which led to labeling records ‘explicit’.

Organized religion especially Catholicism has often been at odds with metal music. What they view as satanic others see as rebellion.

Many metallers are just devil-may-care in their attitude. And sure, some do worship the dark lord, not that there is anything wrong with it.

Ghost are a perfect example of a current group that took all of its former influences from The Doors and Queen to Priest & Maiden producing a fresh blast of glam metal on the dark side. If you love music check them out.

In fact the opposition to all metal music enables it to continue to thrive.

There are now a multitude of radio stations that play it and magazines publish articles everyday updating a listener following that spans the entire world.

Loudwire, Rock N Roll Garage, Metal Voice are a few of the websites that publish every day.

Sirius XM has Ozzy’s Boneyard that plays classic metal.

I think it’s time for glam and metal to make a return. Perhaps 2020 will see it rise again. Tool topped the charts with “Fear Inoculum ” this year. A good sign for metal.

Wilco’s Ode To Joy/Review

Wilco was formed in Chicago in 1994. After a year off including a 2 1/2 year hiatus from touring they are back!

Jeff Tweedy is a songwriter who can create limitless visions with few words. “You never change, I never change. Somehow we’re still bright leaves.”

Setting a somber yet glorious tone that never leaves you, Wilco’s 11th studio album is filled with magic and poetry.

Yearning to change in a reality that despite its limitations still provides life’s greatest joys.

Simple. Pure. Listen closely to this record. You may just feel better that there are more questions than answers.

The single, “Everyone Hides” is the closest thing to a pop hit in the Wilco soundscape. A reaffirming song about our all too human ability to sell ourselves short.

Fear of vulnerability stops us from becoming our most fully realized selves.

Mr. Tweedy continues to dig deep into the enigmatic nature of life; discovering a form of joy that is protective armour around that soft shell.

The set list:

  • “Bright Leaves” – 4:10
  • “Before Us” – 3:22
  • “One and a Half Stars” – 3:43
  • “Quiet Amplifier” – 5:50
  • “Everyone Hides” – 3:00
  • “White Wooden Cross” – 3:12
  • “Citizens” – 3:03
  • “We Were Lucky” – 4:57
  • “Love Is Everywhere (Beware)” – 3:34
  • “Hold Me Anyway” – 4:00
  • “An Empty Corner” – 3:46

“Before Us” is a song that reminds you that we live in a continuum. Even at life’s turning point we are in the middle of something. Achingly beautiful with words that ring true:

“Alone with the people who came before us…I’m high for the people who came before us.”

I remember when wars would end”. Do you remember when wars would end? Now, when something’s already dead we try to kill it again.”

Depression is explored in “One and a Half Stars”. A strong desire to change is thwarted by the inability to get out of a bed two stories high; a prisoner of a domain either imagined or realized.

An internal engine at low hum is running throughout the songs. “Quiet Amplifier” resounds with longing.

Honey, no train’s gonna come. I’ve waited my whole life. I’ve tried, in my own way, to love everyone.”

Eternal questions of existence are internalized on “White Wooded Cross”. How would you cope with a serious loss?

Is it stranger to live?”

“Is it stranger to die?”

“Citizens” lifts the veil of civic pride to reveal we are the very personification of ‘white lies’ of our own making. “High times. High crimes. Medals for you to salute.”

“We were Lucky” has layers of guitar that tingle and reflect upon a life filled with beautiful moments. The sounds build to a humble flourish. Love is complex.

“Love Is Everywhere (Beware)”, “Hold Me Anyway”, and “An Empty Corner” are beautifully reflective works on par with their early releases.

Despite the foreboding nature of love we are consistently reminded that the gains outweigh the risks of exposure.

Wilco: John Stirratt – bass guitar, backing vocals (1994–present)
Jeff Tweedy – lead vocals, rhythm, acoustic and lead guitars, bass guitar, harmonica (1994–present)
Glenn Kotche – drums, percussion (2001–present)
Mikael Jorgensen – samples and sound manipulation, keyboards, synthesizers, effects, piano, organ (2002–present)
Nels Cline – lead guitar, loops, lap steel (2004–present)
Pat Sansone – keyboards, rhythm and lead guitars, backing vocals, synthesizers, maracas, tambourine (2004–present)

Wilco in concert December 15, 16, 18, 19 at The Chicago Theater .

TOOL’s Fear Inoculum

Each new decade begins with a clearing out of the sounds that animated it. Following the 1980’s metal stampede record labels embraced Grunge. This was the early 1990’s.

Then bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Alice In Chains were on top. Following their short-lived reign came a sight & sound nobody saw coming.

Industrial. Heavy. Nuanced. Not really traditional metal nor hard rock—alternative metal?

TOOL. The name was mono-syllabic. The logo was cool. The sound was enigmatic to its core. Songs were long. The vocals did not come in for two minutes! Their videos used animation of the stop-motion kind; thematically dark.

The first four albums have amassed three Grammy awards; sold millions of copies; topped the US chart twice. Then for unknown reasons the band disappeared from the music scene entirely.

13 Years later since their last record something truly amazing happened—TOOL’s social media page lit up with a post announcing a new record. The music listening public did not forget this band. The response has been quite large.

Legal problems and label disputes aside, the band’s music appeared on digital streaming services for the first time.

“Fear Inoculum” carries the band forward nicely. The running time on the digital format is 1 hour, 26 minutes.

The 10 tracks are formatted with 6 epic songs and 4 instrumental passages that form a type of connective tissue that support the lengthier songs.

This is an expertly crafted record. The band’s consistent sound serves the listener well.

Going underneath the surface of human physiology to dig deep into unanswerable questions of spirit and mind are TOOL’s strength as musicians.

I have the digital album on Amazon Music Unlimited. The vinyl version of this record is to be released this Fall. The CD had innovative packaging.

A 4X4 screen built into the three panel cardboard sleeve contains exclusive video images. It comes with a speaker and a cord for recharging the screen. The price for the CD was $30. Amazon sold out in minutes.

This is a review of all the tracks on the digital streaming format.

On the day of its release the band uploaded all eight of their music videos to YouTube for the first time! Click here for their channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1wUo-29zS7m_Jp-U_xYcFQ/videos

inoculum – a substance (a virus or toxin or immune serum) that is introduced into the body to produce or increase immunity to a particular disease.

“Fear Inoculum” opens with Buddhist chimes. Opening with this title track is an explicit mission statement. Fear is a disease/malady that will be reduced.

Maynard James Keenan’s laconic style of vocals have lost nothing to the years. His delivery makes you listen closely. The lyrics are among the best this band has ever delivered.

The music throughout is hypnotic. The length of each track will not matter if you allow yourself to tune into the depth of meaning here.

“Pneuma” literally means breath. In theology, the soul or vital spirit. The lyrics exemplify what it means to live. We must become our best selves over a lifetime.

At 11:53, it’s one of the longest tracks here.

At the 7:30 mark comes a theramin driven instrumental passage that is quite beautiful.

“Litanie contre la Peur” is the first of the four short instrumentals that act as connective tissue/support for the six epic tracks contained on the album.

It translates “Litany of Fear”. A relaxing depth takes hold by this point that will not let go until the end.

“Invincible” (12:44) opens with the sounds of tapping on an empty water jug. The guitars have a nice timber here. Evoking the mythical search for everlasting youth with the “chasing of Ponce De Leon’s phantom”.

A warrior’s lament. Reflecting on the epic of battles fought. Trying in vain to remain relevant as a soldier in our new age. “Tales told of battles won, things we’ve done, Caligula would grin.” Now time is bearing down on the pawns (tools?) of war.

“Legion Inoculant” (3:06) is a phase shifting instrumental that drifts into and out of distant sounding voices that struggle to be heard.

“Descending” (13:30). Opens the second half of the record with sounds of waves crashing on a beach. This invocation that we can rouse ourselves from a self inflicted sleep before it’s too late.

The lyric repeats”Falling is not flying”. Each of these six epic tracks have instrumental passages that are sweeping and understated.

The drone of guitars snarl into spiral patterns of harmonic riffs. A wake-up to our “wanton slumber” to “mitigate our ruin”.

“Culling Voices” (10:05). This track describes being in a state of psychopathy— a personality disorder characterized by persistent antisocial behavior, impaired empathy and remorse, and bold, disinhibited, and egotistical traits.

A melancholic track with great pathos into the psyche of “imaginal interplay”. The voices in our head are misleading. The repeated refrain of “don’t you dare point that thing at me” allows its listener to fill in their own blanks.

“Chocolate Chip Trip” (4:48). A connective instrumental. Out of left field is TOOL’s default position. A quirky buzz of beats and repetitive keys.

Those culled voices are being scrambled up into something else. The percussion and keys are quite hypnotic.

Realigning the synapses perhaps in its dive towards the final epic contained here.

“7Empest” (15:43). The band is obsessed with the number 7. It appears in some way on each of their 5 albums. The music reflects the lyrical meaning. Starting off slow with those Buddhist chimes mixed into the riffing it builds into the promised fury.

An examination of the mind gone off its hinges. A tempest in a teapot. TOOL takes the most cliche of metal ideas bending it toward the meaning needed to fit this inoculation of fear. “We know your nature…Calm before the torrent comes.” The ‘We’ is authoratative.

At 4:30 we get the most furious sounding riffs on the album. This rage up is the most straight-forward of all the tracks. It harkens back to “Sober” on their debut record, “Undertow”.

After eight minutes it churns and wends around you with guitars blazing. Like the abstract serpent on the cover art it twists and turns beautifully. You never see it’s eye. But the musical storm is omnipresent. It cannot be controlled.

The album closer is the final instrumental. A gentle outro to the proceedings of the past 90 minutes! “Mockingbeat” (2:05).

The final pitch from left field. Artifice or real bird sounds, voices, constant chirps all culminate in a soundscape you are not prepared for based on the previous 9 tracks. But this is what TOOL are all about. After the final chirp it’s over.

TOOL fans will love this record. For the new listener it may take awhile to get into this epic. After 4 listens, I love it.

The group’s line-up includes drummer Danny Carey, guitarist Adam Jones, and vocalist Maynard James KeenanJustin Chancellor has been the band’s bassist since 1995, replacing their original bassist Paul D’Amour.

Top L-R: “Undertow” (1993); “AEnima” (1996) on Zoo records.
Middle: “Lateralus” (2001) on Volcano records.
Bottom L-R: “10,000 Days” (2006); “Fear Inoculum” (2019).
Both also on Volcano records.

TOOL is on tour this October & November in the US with Killing Joke opening. For all dates and ticket info go to http://www.ticketmaster.com

Tue • Nov 19 • 7:30 PM Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY

Twenty One Pilots Reinvent Rock

Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” is a critically acclaimed play that keeps getting revived on Broadway. I saw the most recent production Starring Annette Bening and Tracey Letts.

It tells the story of an American defense contractor who knowingly sold defective plane parts that led to the deaths of 21 pilots during the war.

Vocalist Tyler Joseph took the name for his band from this play. He is the principal songwriter for the duo. His childhood friend Josh Dun is the drummer.

I loved the play. Arthur Miller became one of my favorite playwrights. Consequently, Twenty One Pilots are now one of my favorite artists in music.

The duo from Akron, Ohio did not try to sell themselves. Playing low key gigs in their home state until one fateful show with 1,200 local fans and 12 record label reps in the crowd took them by surprise.

They have recorded 4 studio albums. The third album”Blurryface” was their breakthrough to the commercial mainstream. The song “Stressed Out” went triple platinum.

I found them on SNL. Then I went to hear all of their music online. I could not stop listening. Their sound was unique. How could a rock duo seemingly reinvent the genre?

Tyler Joseph discovered for himself how to express personal struggles with depression, doubt, and survival using his voice. He plays keyboards/synth. The music has no guitar. This became revelatory to their success.

I felt strongly that no other artist reflected these times better. Exploring themes of faith, mental illness, death, insecurity and suicide on their eponymous debut, “Vessels”, and “Blurryface”, the duo took a year off to write a story focusing on the painful end of an order based on faith.

Their recent offering, “Trench”, was a concept record well received by fans and critics alike. Set in the fictional city of Dema, in a world known as Trench. Clancy, the main protagonist, takes a personal journey into this decaying culture to discover Nine Bishops control this crumbling society.

Trench Album & Josh Dun with Tyler Joseph seen above.

Dema means Towers of Silence. In Zoroastrianism the dead are placed inside of towers made of stone. Black Vultures feed on them. Ecology falters leading to the disappearance of these sentries to the eternal.

The songs tell the story well. Tyler Joseph and Paul Meaney of indie band Mutemath wrote all 14 tracks and produced the album.

‘Jumpsuit’ opens the record. A protective article of clothing needed to survive in Trench. ‘Levitate’ & ‘Morph’ describe the actions required to move around dangerous sections of the city.

The vocals vary from soft to outcries; falsetto to baritone; sometimes in the span of a single song.

‘My Blood’, ‘Chlorine’, ‘Smithereens’, and ‘Neon Gravestones’ cover more ground. The joining together to fend off enemies, cleansing away dark thoughts, and sacrificing for your community are expressed in these tracks. The music insists on our resisting old thoughts to operate in a discovery of improved life.

‘The Hype’, ‘Nico and the Niners’, ‘Cut My Lip’, ‘Bandito’ and ‘Pet Cheetah’ follow in quick order. The action moves fast; the thoughts need time to be absorbed.

This album takes more than a few spins but rewards its listener with catchy beats and introspective lyrics. The pop elements repeat a lot. I found it more soothing than irritant.

‘Legend’ and ‘Leave The City’ are about survival. Coping with new circumstances becomes the salve.

If you have not listened to this music yet start with Blurryface or Vessels. While Trench is satisfying to the duo’s now established following, it may not grab a novice.