Tag Archives: Electric Light Orchestra

Art Decade Transforms Symphonic Rock

27 Jan

Art Decade

Whenever I first hear a band that does not conform to the bromidic classifications of a normal rock genre, I immediately explore some category to place the band in, although such a fastidious task is often misguided. Not all bands fit any category though. Such is the case for Boston-based Art Decade, the spawn of the Berklee School of Music mixed with pop overtones.

Art Decade is different, and I like change. Different, though, is only one part of new, exciting music. The tunes need to be good. Fortunately, Art Decade has this covered. On my first listen through their debut album, Western Sunrise, I was immediately shocked by the maturity and complexity of the compositions, but this confusion was satisfied when I observed the talent producing the music (more on this later).

Art Decade is to the 21st century what Electric Light Orchestra/Queen was to the Classic Rock genre. ELO and Queen were some of the pioneers of Symphonic Rock bands of the 1970s. This sub-genre evolved from the Progressive Rock movement (encompassing such bands at the Moody Blues and Emerson Lake & Palmer). Symphonic rock, though, took the sound of Prog/Rock and focused attention to modeling classical compositions and instrumentation and musical complexity. ELO, led by the venerable Jeff Lynne, took this concept and added pop melodies. Thus, the music was intelligent and accessible. Queen also emerged from Prog/Rock and added its own flavor on Symphonic Rock.

Flash forward to the late 20th century and early 21st century, and power/pop bands like Fun, Muse, Guided By Voices, Fountains of Wayne, and Keane bathe listeners with a wall of pop rhythms. Fun, specifically, focuses on creating a world of theatrical pop, an ode to the upbeat sounds of ELO and Queen.

Art Decade has combined Symphonic Rock and Power Pop into an amalgamated super genre of Classical Rock/Pop, which, although some may label it as Indie, is far more compound. The music is multifaceted and intelligent. It is effervescent and enjoyable. It has elements of hard rock, classical music, pop, and a whole lot more pushed into tracks, like a clown car of material – 15 clowns get out and you are wondering how the band fit so many elements into their music. And its clean. It is so tight and well manufactured. It is skillful.

It also makes sense considering that Art Decade’s guitarist/vocalist/arranger Ben Talmi grew up on a diet of classical music and attended Berklee School of Music.

“A strong musical education can do many things to a musician, oftentimes people become jaded with their acquired musical knowledge, becoming frustrated with the state of popular music and its general lack of musical depth,” said Talmi in a press release for Art Decade’s debut release. “Others are unable to escape the education and end up producing very indulgent and selfish music. I truly hope to take what I have learned and apply it in a very mature way.”

“Western Sunrise” is a multifarious piece that implements several classical elements into waves of remarkable instrumentation and mellifluous sounds culminating in a repeated diapason; all wrapped up neatly by a powerful vocal and music video that plays with the ocean motif and a colorful, pointillism-like construction. Oh, and it’s accessible for all ears. The song features so many elements that at some points I think I am listening to Trans-Siberian Orchestra and at other points I think I am listening to Keane. The music oscillates with such precision. I must credit the entire band for this magical composition.

Here is the Pt. 2 of “Western Sunrise,” another sprawling symphonic piece that flows with creative strings, vocals, piano, and other instrumentation. In some ways I am reminded a bit of Paul McCartney’s work with Wings. 

I am excited to hear more from Art Decade, a band that I’m sure you all will be hearing more about in the future.

Check out their website, Facebook, and Twitter.

The Idle Race – Bands at Bauska Castle

2 Feb

I started the section “The Bands at Bauska Castle” as a way of highlighting underrated and under-appreciated bands of the 1960s and 70s. Many of my categories have to do with crediting musicians who portrayed brilliance at a time where musical brilliance was actually commonplace. Hence why many bands remain unknown even though their music was excellent. Today I want to feature an eclectic 60’s band that found themselves caught in the trap of bad luck. They are The Idle Race.

There were many incarnations of the band that became known as The Idle Race and this constant transformation may have been why they did not gain the popularity they deserved. The band also did not release much material. But, in my opinion, I think the Idle Race remained critically acclaimed but unpopular among the masses because they were playing music that was five years before their time.

The band, who originally were known as Mike Sheridan and The Nightriders, failed to break the charts even though a young Roy Wood played guitar and composed. Wood is best known for his work with The Move and Electric Light Orchestra (who will come up later). After not gaining success with The Nightriders, Wood left and joined the Move in 1965. This prompted Mike Sheridan to leave as well. Left in the band were rhythm guitarist Dave Pritchard, bass guitarist Greg Masters and drummer Roger Spencer. This core remained together and went searching for a new leader. After a short stint with guitarist Johnny Mann, the core three put out an advertisement for a new guitarist in 1966.

The guitarist that won the job was a young prodigy named Jeff Lynne. Anyone connect the dots? Lynne and Wood went on to form Electric Light Orchestra where they became incredibly popular playing similar experimental music that The Idle Race played years earlier. Lynne inspired himself. I am getting ahead of myself.

The band wanted to showcase Lynne’s vocal and guitar talents so they changed their name to The Idle Race. Wood, who had become quite successful with The Move, helped get them a record deal with Liberty Records. They released two LPs that did not do well and Wood convinced Lynne to join The Move which dissolved into ELO.

But with The Idle Race, Lynne released some awesome material that is seemingly always overlooked by 60’s rock writers. I would like to highlight two songs from different albums.

“I Like My Toys” is a psychedelic pop piece off of The Birthday Party (1968), the first album released by the Idle Race. It sounds like an esoteric nursery rhyme. It is also somewhat disturbing if you listen to the lyric. It is about a 16-year-old who is obsessed with toys and proclaims that he “is not well.” It almost sounds like Pink Floyd’s work with “Bike” and “Free Four.” They are relatively effervescent songs with disturbing undertones. The song is simple but very different. Listen to some of the keyboard and guitar elements. Doesn’t it sound a bit like ELO.

In 1969, The Idle Race released Idle Race and off of it came “A Better Life (The Weatherman Knows).”

10 years later, Lynne released “Need Her Love,” and minus the 70’s style effects the songs are very similar. You can hear a lot of ELO in the above song. It may have just not been popular because it was before its time. A beautiful song by Lynne and Idle Race.

Six Degrees of Your Ipod #3: The Glorious Return

16 Sep

Will this be one of the songs? I don't know. This post is happening in real time

I forgot how much I liked this post category. It was lost in all of the song of the days and court links over the summer. But, in searching for something to post today I came across this category and chose it for a solid Thursday post. By the way, my laptop had a slight problem around two weeks ago that caused my file of lyricists to be deleted. So, I need to create a new list. Top 100 lyricists will be back, but, not for a while. Now let us explore how the first and sixth song that randomly appear on my Ipod relate to each other. The Six Degrees of Kevin…I mean…your Ipod

1.) “10538 Overture” by Electric Light Orchestra

“10538 Overture” was the first single released by Electric Light Orchestra. This song was actually intended to appear as the B-Side of one of The Move’s (British rock band featuring Roy Wood) singles. Rick Price, of the Move, played bass on the track but was never credited because in edits the bass line was lost and ELO everything Jeff Lynne had to lay down a new track. The song, about an escaped prisoner, is perhaps best known for its fantastic guitar riff and cello. Lynne writes, “I had this guitar track, like a real big riff on a guitar. I laid it down in the studio and Roy Wood got his cello, his Chinese cello, and he overdubbed about fifteen cello riffs, just double tracking all the time– and it sounded fantastic. We thought, it was like ‘Wow!’ and we just sat round playing it for days.”

2.) “Dominoes” by Syd Barrett

3.) “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

4.) “That is Moves” by Greg Laswell

5.) “And Your Bird Can Sing” by The Beatles

6.) “Groovin” by the Young Rascals

Ah, 1967. The Young Rascals release the future number one hit, “Groovin” a classic 60’s song about love and a calm summer afternoon. The ultimate 60’s chill song written by Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati. It also has some excellent diversity. The song includes elements of Afro-Cuban music including a Cuban-based bass guitar line from session musician Chuck Rainey.

The Connection:

Okay, this may not please everyone but these two bands are connected more on their music then their members. Let me explain. The Young Rascals hail from New Jersey. ELO is from Birmingham, England. It’s going to be tough to connect them. But, let’s look at these two songs more in depth. The Rascals, who were always considered blue eyed soul, release this new song with Afro-Cuban beats and a relaxed groove that is completely different than their white-soul roots. So much so that Atlantic Records head Jerry Wexler initially did not want to release the song. Flash forward five years and ELO is taking normal rock n’ roll and adding horns and strings to it in order to create a different classical sound. Both bands expanded their genre and had success. That, to me, is connection enough.

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