Rush – Grace Under Pressure (1984)

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When I first got into Rush, my friend Derik Rinehart (now an accomplished prog-rock drummer) made me a tape from his LPs, with this on one side and Moving Pictures on the other. Of course, I played the hell out of both sides, and I probably liked Moving Pictures a lot more because it rocked, and everyone likes it more, right? But I still listened to Grace Under Pressure because I didn’t want to waste my precious Duracells rewinding the D-90 in my walkman, and the album burned it into my brain. And I’m not sure if it’s the content of the album, or the thoughts back to that era, but when I think of this LP, I think of a sterile bleakness. My pal Simms once told me, “It’s the Cold War, man. I love it!” And maybe he’s right. But it’s something that now, 20 years later, I can’t completely reconcile when I try to decide how meaningful this 39 minutes and 26 seconds of music is to me. Continue reading

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Passafist – Passafist (1994)

I’m surprised I didn’t throw this album out a long time ago. I’m not saying that it’s that repulsive, I’m just saying that it never really clicked with me, and it went away in a box for a long time, until
recently, when it popped into my head and I had to dig it out of storage to give it another listen. Then I had to get on google and see exactly why I ever had a copy of the record in the first place.
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Geoff Tate – Geoff Tate (2002)

Look, I’ll start off the review by saying the obvious, and scaring off the 90% of you that just won’t get this album. First, this isn’t a Queensryche album. Second, it’s not even really a metal album. And if you best remember Tate as a guy racing through eight octaves of scales like an opera star on crystal meth, you aren’t going to like this at all. If any of these three things disturb you, go ahead and say “man, what a gyp”, and go back to downloading Dream Theater bootlegs. Continue reading

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Rush – Moving Pictures (1981)

You can divide the history of Rush into different discrete eras – in fact, the band did a good job of this themselves by putting out a live album exactly every four studio albums, wrapping up their career into nice little leather-bound volumes of history that chronicled their change from a Zep Clone band on the Toronto bar circuit to the prog-rock juggernaut they became by the 1980s. But if you had to look at their album output and find the one album that signaled (no pun intended) their high-water mark, the place the trio of long-haired, polyester flare-pant wearing Tolkein lovers switched into a tech rock genre unto themselves, you’d have to say Moving Pictures. Continue reading

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GTR – GTR (1986)

You know how now (with now being 2008), all of the major phone companies and wireless companies are merging together and buying each other out, so where before maybe you paid Southern Podunk Bell for your local line and ABC Wireless for your cell phone, and now you just make one check out to some huge monolith like Verizon? Well, basically the same thing was happening with prog-rock groups back in the mid-eighties, with all of the loose members of Yes and Genesis and Marillion and Asia and whatnot being all rolled together into big megagroups designed to succeed on the corporate level. GTR is an example of one of these prog-supergroup things. It’s also, unfortunately, a good example of how that doesn’t work, and indirectly, why Verizon is evil, but I’ll stick to the music part here and leave the phone company stuff for another forum. Continue reading

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Dream Theater – A Change of Seasons (1995)

Dream Theater has never been known to show up at a gig, play the songs from the new album, throw in a few old numbers, and call it a night. Similar to Frank Zappa, they’ve always been known for having a large amount of material available to play at shows, and they’re known to mix things up a bit. That includes playing stuff that’s never been on an album before, including songs that will make it to disc in the future, and other bits that are just place-holders, or things that happen live just for the fans. Dream Theater is also a band that listens to fans, both in emails and from the mail that comes in to their fan club.
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Queensryche – Operation:Livecrime (1991)

After the 1988 release of Operation: Mindcrime, Queensryche weren’t in a position to put on a lavish stage show or three-hour
headlining concert yet; in fact, they spent their time opening for Metallica on the epic …And Justice For All tour. (Unfortunately, they were only on the first leg of this tour; by the time I got to see Metallica supporting this album in the summer of 1989, we had to endure The Cult as an opener.) But after the huge success of 1990′s Empire, the band had enough clout to book an extensive headlining tour, which included all of the video screens needed to produce a show that could feature the rock-opera album in its entirety.
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Queensryche – Hear in the Now Frontier (1997)

This oddly-titled release is often bemoaned as being too “alternative” or “grunge” by many fair-weathered fans of the band, which is a pretty inaccurate comparison. This came at a time when many bands were cutting their long hair and trying to move out of the strictly-defined world of metal to survive, and bands from Metallica to Tori Amos were being called “grunge” or “like Soundgarden” by disgruntled purists. The funny thing is that this album was recorded in Nashville, and probably owes more to country, or at least the new alt-country sound of the era. And it’s also produced by Peter Collins, who desked Queensryche’s two most popular albums (Operation: Mindcrime and Empire) and is more of a direct connection to the band’s metal background than anything else.
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Queensryche – The Warning (1984)

While their self-titled EP sounded like some kind of generic heavy metal, this Seattle once-covers band started down the path of prog-metal with their first full-length release. This nine-song album features some great long-form metal pieces, excellent sound, and the beginning of the formula the band grew with over their career.
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Joe Satriani – Flying in a Blue Dream (1989)

Everyone remembers Joe Satriani’s third studio album as “the one where he started singing”, and it’s true. The guitar genius, for whatever reason, decided to add his vocals to some of the tracks of his otherwise instrumental discography, and it stuck out like a sore thumb at the time.  It’s also true that he released many more later albums without singing, and the people who stopped listening to his musical output in 1989  solely because “he sings now” are largely retarded, much like the people who claim Seattle grunge bands singlehandedly killed glam metal bands, even though most glam metal bands were a fad, and conversely, MTV was still kissing Guns N’ Roses’ collective asses and the Metallica black album was selling about 50,000 copies a day well after Kurt Cobain’s headless body had gone room temp. Satriani tried something, it didn’t work, he went on with other things. Right?
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