Tag Archives: phil collins

Rockin’ the City of Angels – How?

Click here to buy Rockin’ the City of Angels, the new book now available at Amazon.com

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This is the third in a three-part piece about my new book Rockin’ the City of Angels, and I want to answer the question – how did all this come about, for a guy that worked in the tech industry for so many years, and became a writer so late in life?

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Doug & Steve Hackett

In earlier posts, I established that I am a die-hard fan of classic and progressive rock from the 1970s and beyond. I saw almost every one of the 36 artists in the book in Los Angeles (the City of Angels) in the 1970s. But my first written piece on a rock concert was inspired by seeing Rick Wakeman live in London in 2009 with orchestra, choir, and Brian Blessed telling the stories of the six wives of Henry the VIIIth:
https://diegospadeproductions.com/2009/05/16/six-wives-live-live/

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Doug more recently in 2016 with Rick Wakeman and band

From this meager beginning my friend Jeff Melton, a writer for Expose magazine, helped me get the article accepted and into print. On that basis, I contacted several zines, determined to write about these concerts as they came along, and maybe about new and legacy record releases. Jonathan Downes at Gonzo Multimedia liked what he saw and picked me up as staff writer for his magazine: http://www.gonzoweekly.com

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Doug’s Review of Phil Collins’ Bio

After years writing for Gonzo, and also contributing to SomethingElse! I put a pause on my tech career and started the process of writing the book that is about to be shipped. It was a long two year process of incorporating to become a self publisher, locating photos, completing the manuscript, getting editors (Mike Edison, Courtney Lee Adams), a musicologist (Tim Smolko), and a designer (Tilman Reitzle) and others to take the journey with me.

One of the best aspects of the effort was the nearly two years I spent looking for photographs and memorabilia to illuminate the manuscript. I searched through thousands of slides in the basement of a photo agency in London, housed in the same building that was a workhouse, which inspired Charles Dickens’ portrayal of David Copperfield. I trolled websites figuring out how to find photographers from the day, Neal Preston, Richard E. Aaron, Neil Zlowzower, Lisa Tanner, some purely by accident, some who had photos already placed inside album sleeves and music magazines, others carried by agencies like Getty and Rex Features.

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Neal Preston

I will never forget the 2 hours Neal Preston spent with me on the phone talking about his experiences in the day following Led Zeppelin, The Who, and so many classic bands around the country as part of their posse and at times with best friend Cameron Crowe. He had never met me, but nonetheless was generous and enthusiastic on the phone. Also, I was lucky to find and connect with Italian photojournalist Armando Gallo, someone whose work I revere back to the days when his shots

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Armando Gallo

were the only way to see what Peter Gabriel-era Genesis was all about. I never expected the chance to visit both of these artists at their home studios, working together to pick out slides for this book, so many of which are theirs. 

Working with the fine purveyors of rare rock photography at the San Francisco Art Exchange, I was able to connect with many photographers, and one of their special clients Roger Dean, the artist who painted so many Yes album covers among many other achievements. Through this connection, it came to pass that Roger invited my wife and I over to his studios in Essex England while we were in London on vacation. Visiting this studio and meeting Roger and his brother Martyn (who worked with me to select his shots of Yes on tour in 1976) is now a cherished memory.

Doug at Roger Dean's Studio
Doug with Roger Dean

To top that off, I was able to work directly with musical heroes of mine from Ambrosia and Happy The Man to unearth ’70s photographs from their private collections. This we did, and I was also able to interview band members and document their fantastic stories. For Ambrosia, we focused on their classic Somewhere I Never Travelled, https://diegospadeproductions.com/2016/01/28/ambrosias-early-travels/

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and for Happy the Man, their famous Arista releases, the self titled debut, and the followup Crafty Hands https://diegospadeproductions.com/2016/04/02/happy-the-man/

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Another somewhat tougher climb, the five-month, seven-person introduction effort it took to find one photo of Camel in concert on the night they recorded The Snow Goose live with the London Symphony Orchestra. Oh, elusive photo….

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I could go on, but should stop here. It’s been a terrific ride, and here’s hoping that everyone who comes across this book sees the devotion that went into it, and loves what they see and read… Doug

Zappa at the Roxy and Warfield

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Frank Zappa


In 1980, when I was in college in San Luis Obispo, a then sleepy town half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, our exposure to the early advance of punk and “new wave” music from Britain was delayed. In the mean time, one of my best friends from High School moved up and we roomed together during that transitional year. We were both very into 1970’s progressive rock, but Ron was more attuned to jazz-fusion, modern classical music, and sometimes genre-bending experimental work. So we schooled each other in our tastes, which meant that while I pitched him Camel and Gentle Giant, he shared with me artists like Jan Hammer, National Health, and most importantly Frank Zappa, all of which required peer pressure and repeated listening to appreciate! I eventually screwed up that friendship, but ended up with a life long gift from Ron’s patient tutelage.

Zappa was the taste that took the longest time to develop. His compositions were often bizarre, shot through with absurdist humor and outrageous musical interludes that crossed multiple genres including rock, jazz, classical, progressive and the avant-garde, sometimes within one song! For some reason, probably due to my young age, I first understood the allure of Zappa via Roxy & Elsewhere (1974) and the opening track “Penguin in Bondage:”

She’s just like a penguin in bondage, boy….
Way over on the wet side of the bed!

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Chester Thompson

Somehow this made my late-teen funny bone rattle every time I heard it. Being a fan of low-budget horror films at the time, the song “Cheepnis,” a kind of tribute to those films, also became a favorite, along with “Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing,” which featured dual drum solos from Chester Thompson and Ralph Humphery. I had already seen Chester play alongside Phil Collins when Genesis came to Los Angeles in 1977 and after, so that was a known entity. Also, I knew Ruth Underwood for her work with drummer Burleigh Drummond on the urban-jungle themed “The Brunt” from Ambrosia’s wonderful album Somewhere I Never Travelled. References intact, my journey began.

As it turned out, Roxy & Elsewhere, and the masterpiece the followed, One Size Fits All (1975), brought together what remains for this patron one of the strongest Zappa lineups in history, the final version of his “Mothers of Invention,” featuring:

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Ruth Underwood

Napoleon Murphy Brock – flute, tenor sax, vocals
George Duke – keyboards, vocals
Ruth Underwood – marimba, vibraphone, percussion
Chester Thompson – drums, sound effects
Tom Fowler – bass guitar
and guests

Zappa_OneSizeCover_72dpiOne Size Fits All kicks off with the impossibly complex masterpiece “Inca Roads” for which a groundbreaking Claymation video was created. George Duke’s silky-smooth vocals are paired with his similarly stunning synth leads. Ruth Underwood absolutely owns the vibraphone, playing at a pace that defies the imagination (“that’s Ruth!”) Chester Thompson pins the whole thing down with an impressive display of fills and fusion riffs (“Chester’s Thang!”) It’s a fantastic way to lead off an album that never lags as it goes on to explore many diverse styles and moods. The upbeat “Can’t Afford No Shoes” grounds the record with some pure rock, “Sofa No. 1” brings some after-hours Manhattan soul, “Po-Jama People” sports some of Frank’s most entertaining lyrics, along with a lengthy, labyrinth guitar solo. And that’s just side one! Of note, three tracks on the flip side, “Florentine Pogen,” “San Ber-dino” and “Andy” demonstrate the best side of Zappa and his band’s many talents, veering as they do into the most difficult yet tight jazz-fusion excursions on record.

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To my great surprise, more than 40 years after it’s release, Frank Zappa’s son Dweezil, who continues to perform his father’s music under the touring name Zappa Plays Zappa, came to the Warfield in San Francisco, December 5th to perform One Size Fits All in its entirety, along with many other classics. The show was truly spectacular, as Dweezil and band have mastered the art of recreating Frank’s music, while breathing new life into the compositions. Everyone on stage put in amazing performances, and the very complex pieces received their due diligence from:

Dweezil Zappa: Guitar
Scheila Gonzalez: Saxophone, Flute, Keyboards & Vocals
Ben Thomas: Vocals
Chris Norton: Keyboards
Kurt Morgan: Bass
Ryan Brown: Drums

Ben took on the monumental task of covering vocals as diverse as Napoleon Murphy Brock, George Duke, and most notably Frank himself, proving his ability to pitch even the most satirical and wry bits without sounding like a mimic. Chris, Scheila, Kurt and occasionally Dweezil ably assist him and when they all sang together it was harmonic perfection. It was pure heaven to witness these amazing songs played live by this group of talented musicians and the man who keeps it “all in the family.” My only nit about the whole evening was the lack of a vibes player to take Ruth’s parts, which were instead simulated on synthesizer. Scheila captured the sound, but for those rapid-fire leads there’s no substitute for real vibes.

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But as it turns out, a film of Frank Zappa and the final Mothers performances at the Roxy Theater way back in 1973, including an early version of “Inca Roads” with Ruth in all her mallet-driven glory is now available on Blue-Ray disc! Some of the Zappa_RoxyMovie_Cover_72dpiperformances from those three nights were used on the audio only release Roxy & Elsewhere, but many remained on bootlegs or in the vaults, and the films have been completely unavailable, in no small part due to technical difficulties which rendered the audio elements nearly impossible to sync with the film footage. After extensive rework and painstaking editing, the films are finally available. The camerawork is excellent, as there are four cameras on stage and positioned at the back of the small club for the wide shots. The lens swoops in and out of the action, capturing crystal clear close-up images of each musician hitting their most challenging notes, while delivering the vocals, humor and stagecraft. At the end of the raucous evening, the stage is packed with guests, including a stripper who attempts to distract the dedicated players! Any fan of Zappa’s music during this period must have this video release – it’s an important document of the man, his band, and their most amazing musical performances.

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Selling England Again

This fall The Musical Box is taking their production of the Genesis tour for 1973’s Selling England By The Pound (hereafter SEBTP) to Europe once again. Also a series of these shows are booked in Canada next April 2016, including one night for them to stage the Foxtrot show. I’ve seen The Musical Box many times over the last 5 years, including Foxtrot, SEBTP, and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.

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The performances are striking in their accuracy, transporting this viewer and those in the audience to a time long ago, when to many listeners, Genesis owned the English progressive rock mantle.  The experience of seeing this band is something better than tribute.  They actually recreate these shows down to the set design, including slides, costumes, and props, and very faithfully perform the live music itself, with the same interpretation the band employed during the shows from the era.

The SEBTP album and tour represent the most uniquely British, pastoral output of the band.  Between the “a cappella” opening of “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight” to the majestic “Firth of Fifth” and melodic refrains of “The Cinema Show” this is where the band really hit their stride.  The Musical Box capture the live experience deftly, and hearing the work in it’s live format, complete with visuals, and Peter’s stories, explain what all the fuss was way back in those days.  It was even grand to see them wind their way through “The Battle of Epping Forest” usually dismissed by the actual members of Genesis as a bit of a mess.

I talked to one of the founders of The Musical Box and their Artistic Director, Serge Morrissette about these shows and their plans for next year and beyond:

DH: Is there anything we should know about the most current version of these shows? Are there new technologies to aid in the production, or other factors?

For this tour, there is no technical advance that comes into play – we still use old equipment – it’s like a moving museum on stage. The only thing that might change is to stage the “black” show. We’ve been doing the “white” show with the white sets behind the musicians and have done the “black” show less often. Back during the original SEBTP tour when Genesis returned to North America for a second leg of the tour the set list was the same, but they changed the sets and the background was totally black. Visually it makes a difference. The black show has some different slides, but it’s not as nice visually overall because the black curtain does not react to the lights. The white fabric reacts to the lights more effectively. I’m sure it was done on purpose in the beginning, because when they put the sets and arranged the lights over it, they realized it was nice. One example where the black show is better is during “Watcher Of The Skies” which is more dark – it’s a dark song and fits perfectly, while in the white show its like you are in the cloud! If we haven’t been to a venue in the past they usually take the white show because it’s the most spectacular visually. But if we are returning and want to make the presentation different, the black show is available, so we offer it to the promoters there.

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In addition to these dates, there are going to be a lot of U.S. shows in February and March. It’s going to be a pretty extensive list of venues, which is surprising. From the beginning we always plan a year in advance. After the last tour of SEBTP/Foxtrot we were wondering if there would be demand for the show again. When the demand is shrinking we select a different tour to present. We thought we would change the shows for 2016 but this U.S. tour will be the biggest we’ve ever done. I don’t understand this phenomenon exactly because it’s the same two concerts again, but for some reason promoters want to buy it so that’s fine with us.

[Ed: in our view these shows are so fantastic and theatrical, many fans will return to see the same concert recreated again and again – just as one might a play or film. Doug saw The Lamb show three times!]

DH: Fans are aware there were occasions where Peter Gabriel was raised from the stage at the end of “Supper’s Ready.” Has Denis done that and how many times did Gabriel actually do it? [Denis Gagne is the lead singer, playing the part of Peter Gabriel]

We have done the flying effect a few times. Genesis did the effect twice, once in London and once in New York City. The thing is, to do that they wanted to do more than one night in the same place because of the installation – it was not a one-night proposition. They had to install the gear, and make sure it was working, and adjust the sets so that the wire can’t be seen. When they did London it was 5 nights – for them at the time the most important series of concerts they had done. They wanted to add something spectacular so they arranged the sets so there was nothing in the middle but a black curtain. You could not see the wire. They continued in New York City, which was also a main venue and something big for the states. It’s about the same for us – we need a stage that can support that effect, so we have done it only as a special event at a larger venue for multiple nights.

DH: I was struck by how effective the simple staging for Foxtrot was – with just a few bits of stagecraft compared to SEBTP.

It’s true. At the beginning Mike Rutherford once told me you put a white curtain on stage with some black lights, and it hides the back line equipment and creates a unique atmosphere… and it’s cheap! It’s surprisingly simple and creates a unique atmosphere.

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DH: You’ve most frequently staged the Foxtrot and Selling England By The Pound tours. Would you go back to Nursery Crime?

The thing about Nursery Crime is back then the show was only 45 minutes long because Genesis was typically the opening act, or featured with other bands. We would have to do a short show, or combine say Trespass and Nursery Crime so you would have songs repeated. It’s not a matter of interest but more the constraint we have on doing a complete show.

DH: Any plans to present The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway again? Did your license to do these shows expire?

We don’t have plans to do it again. We have done it a few times. On the first attempt it took two years to get the rights. It had never been done before. There are some “grand” rights – it’s a type of legal contract – developed to protect musicals, operas, things like Phantom of the Opera, Cats, etc. When you have a concept like Pink Floyd’s The Wall, or Genesis’ The Lamb, it’s a story with music, and characters, and things like that. The Lamb is protected by these grand rights. You need a license for the music, which is easy, but also for the story, which is extremely difficult. You have to make agreements with multiple parties as to the value of the music, and story. After that agreement, you have the lawyers draw up a contract, etc. Subsequent tours took about a year to arrange this paperwork, mainly to adjust the terms. It has never been a matter of not allowing us to do it, just about the terms of the contract, which covers two years at a time. We might do it again but we have no plans just now.

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DH: What was your involvement in using the repaired slide show for the Genesis Lamb DVD? [Ed: The Musical Box invested significant effort to re-sequence the slides for The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tours, and Serge actually did the work to prepare these for the official Genesis Box Set which contains a DVD of The Lamb in 5.1 surround sound, with the slide show visuals during playback. It’s fantastic and worth the price of the whole set.]

I spent an afternoon with Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks at the farm looking at the slide show. It was in 2008 and at that time we were doing the slide show exactly as David Lawrence [original projectionist for the Lamb tour in 1975] had shown us based on his memory and also as we could see in bits of amateur film. Part way into it Tony said “let’s stop. You are replicating what we did, but it’s not what we want. We want the dissolves to come at the right time with the image” and I knew exactly what he meant. Sometimes the guys did not get the slide show right. So Tony said some sequences were wrong and I agreed to change it. I made the adjustments, and sent those back, and they agreed or gave me changes. So that was really fun – to listen to the Lamb with Mike and Tony – Mike said it had been 15 years since he heard the album. Tony had been doing the remixes, so he was more recently familiar. It was an incredible experience.

Genesis_SOutDH: The Musical Box has gone forward in time to do the Trick of the Tail tour. Have you discussed doing the Wind & Wuthering concert from 1977?

The main problem with Wind & Wuthering is being able to keep to our main objective, which is the exact recreation of the show. Trick of the Tail was pretty easy because it was basically the Lamb show with a few adjustments in terms of size, while Wind was really an arena size show – designed for a much bigger stage. It’s the main limitation; a stage like that would not fit in smaller venues, 1,000 seat theaters, and I’m not sure there would be demand to fill arenas, even though it would be fun to do it. They stopped doing slides and film for Wind because at the time they would have needed more powerful projectors for the larger screens. That’s a problem, as you need more depth, you could burn film, and things like that. That’s when they started to add more laser effects along with other changes.

DH: It was also the last time they had any staging right? There were the flowers that popped up on each side of the stage.

Exactly, after that they did the mirrors for the …And Then There Were Three tour, and after that the custom lighting and that’s another level of effort. Once I was talking to Tony Smith about the evolution of the stage at the time. He said that the reason why they had the moving lights developed is because when they did the show with the mirrors, they needed a lot of spotlight operators – it was a manual lighting effect. At that time they had to use the local union guys in each city. So at the last minute in the afternoon they had to train eight guys on spots to be able to do the show and it was a nightmare for them. So they wondered if there was a way to avoid that – something like a robot to operate the lights. They developed the moving lights after that, which was a major evolution in lighting.

We have the same problem with our tours – about half the venues don’t have a crew, so we can use ours who are trained. The other half we have to use their people – so for example we have one guy at the follow spot, and we teach the operator in the afternoon if that’s required. So for each role we have a double, and the result is not always good when it’s not our crew, though it doesn’t go wrong that often.

DH: What is The Musical Box planning next, after April? How long can you keep this up?

You know, we started back in 1993 just for fun – it was a weekend. Now it’s been 22 years, and we have never thought more than a year in advance, not because of our interest but because we have to gauge the general interest of the audience. We are going to do it as long as we can. We are lucky to have the involvement and support of Genesis. The main advantage of a production like ours is we can change musicians as we recreate the original productions. We never wanted to focus as much on the people as on the productions. Denis is very good, very disciplined and dedicated – it would be difficult to fill that key role if he stopped performing. He keeps in very good shape, and in control of his vocals, so as long as he can do that we don’t have to worry. We don’t have any plans to stop. As long as there are people who want to see it, we will continue.

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DH: Make plans to catch The Musical Box this fall, or early next year. You will be happy to like what you know!

 

Genesis – Like What You Know

Gallo App LogoFans of the band Genesis have something to be excited about this year, and it’s not the band’s official “R-Kive” box set and flawed documentary! Author and photographer Armando Gallo just released an iPad app titled Genesis – I Know What I Like that brings to life his landmark 1980 publication of the same name. Gallo and his team have fashioned a beautiful alternative to the long out of print book that presents revised text, dozens of interviews, rare audio recordings, film clips and beautiful photos of the group on stage and off. It’s loaded with features and represents a definitive account of this progressive rock band and their early years. This app comes highly recommended to all fans of Genesis and those interested in rock journalism.

Gallo BooksGallo’s original book was Genesis: The Evolution of a Rock Band published by Sidgwick and Jackson in the UK in 1978. This was expanded and improved with the release of I Know What I Like, by DIY Books, Inc. (1980), which added to the timeline, and contained the definitive account of Genesis up to that year. The book captured their history, recordings, astrological charts (!) and most importantly their stunning live performances, following the story from their inception through the 1970’s. Armando was the perfect biographer for the band as he had collected more than a hundred hours of interviews with the musicians, their families, friends, and collaborators, pairing this with his own exceptional photography.

The Iconic Photo: Gabriel performing "The Musical Box"
The Iconic Photo: Gabriel performing “The Musical Box”

Because Genesis was such a theatrical, visually stunning band in concert, the real treat of these books were the photos. The DIY release came on better paper stock, and contained perfectly rendered full color shots of the band together and apart. For more than two decades, prior to the emergence of internet fan groups, besides a couple of very low quality films from 1973 and 1976 these books were the only way to access quality imagery of the band in concert. Those of us who loved the group, and particularly those who missed the early years relished these images. The photos featured Peter Gabriel’s increasingly elaborate costumes and set pieces, from the fox head mask (with wife Jill’s red dress) to the old man of “The Musical Box”, the Apocalypse from “Supper’s Ready”, “Watcher of the Skies” and finally Gabriel as Rael from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Gallo LambThese were followed by gorgeous shots of the band as fronted by Phil Collins, after Peter’s departure, from the Trick of the Tail through And Then There Were Three albums and tours. This included perfectly composed shots showing guitarist Steve Hackett, bass/rhythm guitarist Michael Rutherford, and keyboard genius Tony Banks along with all of the fantastic staging and lighting from the shows. The book also covered the early solo careers of each band member, ending with a hopeful quote from Gabriel about what became an abandoned project to turn The Lamb… into a movie.

Gallo IntroGallo’s iPad app transforms this two-dimensional print experience into a new interactive journey. Using a software platform originally designed to create children’s books, the story is brought to life by including recordings of some of those actual interviews, short video clips, and additional color photos. Genesis songs play in the background. Anthony Phillips, Steve Hackett and Daryl Struemer supplied original songs and more than a dozen musicians from all over the world supplied original music. These musicians are fans from Australia, South America and Europe, who were inspired by Genesis to go professional. Visually, there is a most impressive ability to manipulate photos as they appear on the page. Readers can grab shots, move them across the window, resize and return them to the margins. Some free features included in the app are the ability to “pose” with members of the band for new snapshots, and grab and use prints as wallpaper. A modestly priced in-app purchase unlocks the entire book and many additional features, including a “lightbox” of Gallo’s slides. These are some of the most entertaining features of the app and are well worth the fee – go for it!

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The Lightbox – Use Viewer to Zoom In
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Tab through additional photos
Grab and resize photos
Grab and resize photos
Trick of the Tail Tour
Trick of the Tail Tour

Armando himself introduces the app with a bit of background, ending with the heartfelt coda, “I hope that this app will push the legacy of Genesis music into the future for a new generation to love and discover…welcome to the wonderful world of Genesis”. Download the app, unlock the entire book and extra features and experience that world with Armando Gallo…you will like what you know!

Gallo Credits

Phil Collins Must Be Going?

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Mr. Genesis Melody of 1978

I was cleaning out a bookshelf this afternoon and came across my senior high school yearbook, from 1978, in which had been scrawled “Genesis Rules” (with the band name in the font of their seminal 1974 album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway of course). These days instead of printed yearbooks, I spend some time in Facebook, and now belong to many fan groups for 70’s bands like Genesis, Yes, Jethro Tull, and Gentle Giant. As we did so long ago, the posts therein still frequently debate which instances of a band’s body of work had merit and which did not, and I find myself, more often than not at this stage of life, wincing at the derision shown to groups or players who are accused of having “sold out” to achieve commercial success. It’s all good – everybody is entitled to their opinion, especially on the web where we feel very entitled thank you. But for me, while I used to fall into the more critical camp I’m inclined to celebrate all of this work, whether “prog” or “pop”. The debate raged back then, and is still continuing today – questioning the artistic merit of 70’s bands as they “progressed” from more experimental work to the mainstream. It’s an engaging pastime for many of us, who pour through our favorite albums, examining the musical passages (some of them in 9/8), the meaning of the lyrics (unifauns?), and the art of album packaging. It was and still is a fantastic era for discussion – music that meant something to so many – music not to be listened to in awful compressed digital replications, but on hi fidelity audio systems we assembled with attention to how sound would be replicated in our rooms back at home or in the dorms.

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Phil – Hello I Must Be Going

But sometimes, all the analysis and hand wringing over the purity of the vision and musical prowess of progressive era bands misses an important point. In our zeal to celebrate the exceptional artistry of more complex early works, we may dismiss later efforts when oft times prog artists stripped down from a dozen keyboards to a few, set down their mandolins and flutes, and focused on music that was a bit more direct, unadorned, and actually rocked or touched the heart as priority one. In fact, most bands of the era went from long, complex compositions to more accessible three-to-five minute songs, more often than not in the verse-chorus-verse form and possibly even, gulp, including “love songs” or more overt “rockers” in the mix. While some were no doubt driven to this change by the popularity of punk (itself the ultimate celebration of raw simplicity) others headed that direction in order to feed their families, and some just did so as their own tastes changed. At the time, many dedicated fans felt betrayed by these rare bands that had so successfully engaged our analytical minds. When much of that faded away, we were left with music that was meant to appeal more to the heart than the head, and possibly even inspire, dare I say it, dancing (you know, to a rhythm, not the hippie free flow). For many, the emotional “divorce” from these early works, these heroes who left “home” to embrace new lives, left lasting scars on their musical psyches. Instead of being able to appreciate a wider body of music from these bands as they aged, listeners have been tempted to hold on to past glories, seeing all that comes after as being lesser than before. Many fans I know basically stopped listening to new music after the 70s unless it came from newer bands that played in the old way. I’ve always found this limiting view to be unfortunate.

Oh, those piano lessons...
Oh, those piano lessons…

As to my own journey, I studied piano for seven long years from age ten, and I had been introduced to music from the classical masters, knowing well what it took to create some of these compositions and perform them on record and in concert. Keyboard players like Tony Banks of Genesis, Rick Wakeman of Yes Keith Emerson from ELP, and Kerry Minnear from Gentle Giant were my heroes. Their work had been blindingly complex, and inspiring to trained ears. Much of it directly or indirectly incorporated passages from the classical composers, such as Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky and others, who had been their musical inspiration. I, like many, mourned the time when Tony Banks put away his Mellotron, and stripped his compositions back to their essence for albums like Abacab. The same kind of regret took hold when Kerry Minnear switched to simpler tracks and overt rockers for the last three Gentle Giant albums. But I had also liked Cat Stevens, Elton John, Supertramp, and others who started and continued in a more pop friendly vein, and who were unencumbered by the expectation that they deliver more complex works. While I mourned what seemed like the end of the classical prog era, I also was able to embrace the different work that followed from these artists, and new bands from the 80s on.

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Backstage, Universal Amphitheater

One musician who seemed to be the very embodiment of the prog to pop transition, and who caught the lion’s share of the derision for it all was, wait for it….., Phil Collins. Phil had spent time behind his drum kit as one of the best drummers on the planet – from his work in Genesis, to Brand X, and his long solo career, his artistry behind the drums was top tier. Yet Phil as a vocalist and songwriter very intentionally travelled this road from prog complexity to international pop superstardom, and he took a great many critical hits along the way. Part of this can be explained by his overexposure during the 80s, and part can be attributed to the fact that some of his pop work goes to the extreme side of the form, sometimes cloying (see “Sussudio”) and in almost complete opposition to his original musical roots. But to dismiss the entirety of his output after the 70s is tragic, as in the world of “heart ruling mind” he became a master.

Collins_ThruWalls
Thru These Walls

The defining moment for me in Phil’s transition was seeing him on tour supporting “Hello I Must Be Going” at the Universal Amphitheater, December 17, 1982, in “Los Angleeeze” as the man used to exclaim. That night Phil played an amazing set culled from his first two albums, and he included just one “theatrical” element, donning a dodgy overcoat for his ode to voyeurism, “Thru These Walls”. When he both sang and played drums for the hit “In The Air Tonight” it was enthralling – pure magic. But theater and mystery didn’t particularly matter on this night. For the most part, Phil told jokes, treated us to some of his clearest most beautiful vocal performances, and during a few tracks, his legendary powerful drumming. Basically, he entertained the talkative crowd, who raised drinks in celebration and chatted endlessly through the show.

Gabriel -Security Tour
Gabriel -Security Tour

Just the night before, in a tone that was a stark contrast, Peter Gabriel played the same venue, in support of his dark masterpiece dubbed Security. It was his darkest and most theatrical show since leaving Genesis. The players entered from the back of the venue, banging out the opening beats of the first track “Rhythm of the Heat”. As the band reached the stage, and stood in line across the front, still pounding out the Ghanaian beat, Gabriel climbed to the top of a structure center stage towering above, stood with his arms raised high, and let out a blood curdling tribal yell to open the song, and the show. A chill went down my spine that I will never forget. The audience in whole was immediately struck silent, in rapt attention as Peter took all on a journey through his most recent, brooding work. I recall looking behind me across the amphitheater, at a sea of blank faces, as audience and performer merged during the performance. The intensity let up only for the more upbeat “I Go Swimming” and Gabriel’s ode to going solo, “Solsbury Hill.” It was, and remains, the best concert performance I’ve ever seen.

Collins_Genesis_ReunionThe contrast between these two nights was extreme, and I’ve told the story to many since, recognizing Gabriel’s accomplishment, while at the same time appreciating Phil’s lighter, celebratory evening of entertainment. In fact, the two lead singers had just played together again only two months before at the first and only Genesis reunion in early October the same year. Peter would go on to record his most successful album So as a follow up to this one, shedding much of the dramatic tones of the early 80s and embracing a more commercially appealing approach. Phil continued on his pop solo career, increasingly driving Genesis to broaden their appeal as well, in agreement with Tony and Mike.

Having said all of this, tonight, we are relaxing, having some wine, and flipping through videos. We came upon some clips from Genesis during their 90’s era. While I still love the oldest songs best, I’ve realized that I really appreciate the pop-‘n-rock stuff too. Maybe I’ve gone a bit soft, sure, but maybe its a little needed perspective, after all these years. In the past Phil was omnipresent, but now that he’s almost gone, I wish he were here.

Anthony Phillips’ Majestic “The Geese and the Ghost”

anthony_geese_coverI actually tried to return this album to my local “Licorice Pizza” record store after spinning it just once, back when it was released in 1977. At that time, it was more common for a local record shop to employ teens who might help guide you to new records based on your taste, instead of making you feel like a complete idiot. Knowing I was a huge fan of all things Genesis the clerk encouraged me to keep it for another week and try again, that “it wasn’t rock ‘n roll, but I’d like it.” I loved the brilliant second Genesis album, Trespass, and knew that Anthony Phillips had been their guitar player then, but leaned a bit more towards the sound of “The Knife” than “Stagnation” at age 17. However, I followed his advice and have thought for over 30 years now about the thanks I should have given him for convincing me to keep this amazing record, one of the most beautiful thematic albums ever recorded.

That The Geese and the Ghost still comes up in Gracenote as a “Rock” album still brings a smile. The record is actually a combination of classical, renaissance and pastoral folk pieces, sporting three tracks in the verse-chorus mold. After short musical intro, the opening track “Which Way The Wind Blows” is sung in delicate tones by Phil Collins, recorded before he took on lead vocals for Genesis. The music and lyrics set the mood perfectly for what is to come:

anthony_geese_imageI sit in the sunset
Watching God’s evening,
Receding so gently now
Into the Westlands.
I think I’m at peace now
But of nothing am I certain
Only which way will the wind blow next time?

 Phil’s pretty, choirboy like vocals and 12 string guitar accompaniment draw the focused listener back to another, simpler time, evoking the pastoral scene gracing the album’s front cover. It’s one of the most graceful, exquisite songs of all time.

anthony_geese_portraitWhat follows is a magnificent showcase of acoustic 6 and 12 string guitars, bass, cello and violin (with occasional orchestra), winds (including flute, oboe, recorders, and lyricon), and all manner of piano and keyboards, with sparing use of electric guitar, drums and percussion. Besides Phil Collins and Michael Rutherford of Genesis, additional guests will be familiar to fans, including John Hackett (brother of Steve) on flute and Jack Lancaster (Blodwyn Pig, Lancaster Lumley, Aviator, and many others) on flute and lyricon. Viv McAuliffe sings a duet with Phil on “God If I Saw Her Now” – a lovely delivery on this touching song.

The featured tracks are two suites, the renaissance sounds of “Henry: Portraits from Tudor Times” and the title track “The Geese and the Ghost.” These suites are multi layered acoustic masterpieces featuring dexterous 12 string guitar playing, composed by Anthony and Mike – much of it way back when Trespass itself was written, then developed over the ensuing years. Anthony sings a third vocal track, “Collections,” in his breathy, quavering manner, ending the record with one of the most emotive, poignant piano pieces ever put to record, “Sleepfall: The Geese Fly West” ending with an orchestrated coda so delicate it seems to vanish in the distance of an imagined dusky sunset.

The material for the album was written and recorded over a period of seven long years, before finally seeing the light of day, due mainly to busy schedules and record label indifference. It’s a wonder the album did get released on Passport records in the states and Hit and Run records in the UK and elsewhere. That it did, and is now available in this new re-mastered release from the Esoteric label, available at Cherry Red records, is a blessing.

anthony_geese_bookletThe three-disc set is by far the best presentation of this material since the original LP release. The stereo CD is crisp, clean and most importantly quiet. The DVD disc includes a version of the main album in a 5.1 surround sound mix. These 5.1 mixes, which have been so popular of late for progressive rock re-masters, often don’t satisfy, but this is a case where they accomplish what is intended. The mixes place the listener right in the center of the dense acoustic recordings, illuminating additional detail, and retaining all the clarity and integrity of the stereo version.

A second disc of bonus tracks include several that fans will already know – one of the best being the track Anthony recorded with Mike and Phil in 1973, “Silver Song,” written for departed early Genesis drummer John Silver. This is followed by what might have been a B-side “Only Your Love” from the same period. The two tracks feature Phil again on vocals at a level of quality that should have made his replacement of lead singer Peter Gabriel two years later an easier decision. Apparently there had been consideration of making this a side project while the Genesis gem Selling England By The Pound was being written. Amazing how much music was pouring from these talented musicians during that period. Besides Anthony’s “Master of Time,” the rest of the bonus tracks are demos and outtakes from Geese – of interest mainly to fans who may want to dissect the final product. One last thing as far as content – it should be noted that a short segment of additional material was found for “Henry” – a reprise of “Lute’s Chorus” that will please fans and new converts alike.

anthony_geese_ghostThe package is a spoil of riches – Phil Smee at Waldo’s Design & Dream Emporium should be commended! Within a sturdy CD sized box comes the three discs, each in a thick paper slipcase, adorned with blown up images from the magnificent cover painting by artist Peter Cross. A fold out poster is included with the album cover and byline on one side, and the narrative for “Henry” on the other, each of the six segments include the original line drawings along with the text. For the uninitiated, it will aid your enjoyment of the record to read these while actually sitting down to listen – as actress and fan Rosanna Arquette nicely puts it, “…there is this feeling of hope, innocence, and fantasy when you made music for the sake of music rather than a single or hit record. It’s a whole experience, not just a chapter, but the book read cover to cover.” That booklet that includes this heartfelt quote, details the work and it’s long path to its March 1977 release, including liner notes and gratitude from Anthony. It includes photos and original adverts, which describe the album in a most fitting way for the time: “The Geese and the Ghost is a musical panorama from the intimacy of haunting love songs through the majesty of historical pageants to the drama and destruction of war.”

No question this album rewards the focused listener who is open to classical and renaissance era music, with just a hint of progressive “rock” for good measure. It’s [not] only rock ‘n roll, but I like it ….rather, I love it.

Following Protocol

protocol_adDuring a lifetime collecting music by all manner of progressive and classic rock bands, I’ve occasionally delved into the jazz-rock and jazz-fusion genres. Looking back to the 70’s and 80’s, there was just so much music to discover, these forays into jazz tended to be short lived but always added fulfilling instrumental ear candy to my collection. The attraction back then was usually when one of my favorite drummers joined a project of this kind. The first I can remember was Phil Collin’s work with Brand X and their unbelievable debut Unorthodox Behavior followed by Bill Bruford’s exciting first two solo albums. Many of my friends owned the Return to Forever album Romantic Warrior featuring the amazing Lenny White on drums. I also had Jeff Beck’s 1980 masterpiece There and Back (check out opening track Starcycle), and Mike Rutherford’s underappreciated Smallcreep’s Day (favorite cut Romani) from that same year, not realizing these included the incredible musician Simon Phillips on drums.

Simon Phillips
Simon Phillips

Instead, Simon Phillips name first came to my attention for his work on 801’s Listen Now and 801 Live (w/Phil Manzenera and Brian Eno) both recorded in 1976 but first heard by these ears until several years later. His technically brilliant, often polyrhythmic playing distinguished him immediately – it’s emotive, infectious, and smooth despite its complexity. Simon has plied this trade with scores of musicians and bands since the 1970’s, including a twenty-year stint with Toto.

Andy Timmons
Andy Timmons

Recently I’ve been fortunate to see Simon with PSP (Phillips Saisse Palladino) and last week with his “Protocol” band. The Protocol II album in 2013 established this new four-piece instrumental group with chemistry to spare, including Andy Timmons (guitar), Steve Weingart (keys), and Ernest Tibbs (bass) joining Simon. Last week, they staged a concert as Protocol II at Yoshi’s Oakland Feb 17, 2015.

Steve Weingart
Steve Weingart

It was a wonderful evening as these crack musicians highlighted some of the new work from the upcoming Protocol III album, along with prior tracks, and encore “Gemini” from Protocol II. The music would be considered as fantastic by anyone interested in smooth yet complex instrumental jazz-fusion, characterized by energetic playing, quick changes in meter and key, and abundant solos. With some jazz bands, lengthy solos and pyrotechnic displays can leave me bored and bewildered. Not so with this outfit as none of these elements are overcooked – instead the melodies are set upon solid compositions – with jams fitting tightly into the framework of every piece. Each of the four members are entertaining to witness live – Adam’s smoking guitar leads and sense of humor shine – Steve’s keyboard flights are fluid and organic – and Ernest while not coming up front for leads, consistently fills out the low end of the spectrum with fantastic fretwork. Simon is in a league of his own, sounding perfectly at ease with this band, he amazed us with his intense, precise and yet loose playing, coming to the fore a couple of times for short solos that demonstrated his immense skills. Catch this how if you can – it comes highly recommended!

The Band
The Band