Here's the blog. Mostly about the music. Comment! Enjoy!

Just a bit of fun No.2 

Continuing an occasional series where I learn a classic rock guitar solo, and hopefully discover something about the original guitarist's style and improve my own technique.

In this short solo that punctuates the end of the song, Andy Powell really shows off the ear he has for the harmony he's playing over. The very first phrase outlines the D minor by picking the A, immediately sliding up to D and without a pause bending on up to F, only to release back to the D and finish the phrase by hitting an F below. He's only starting as he means to go on though, following the backing chords with some nice intervalic jumps and lots more string bends including a double-stop bend towards the end.

Just forty seconds, but perfectly formed.



 

Just a bit of fun No.1 

I like to learn to play other people's solos to grow my own skills, and get insights into their playing.  The videos are just a bit of fun, and of course, I do not own the copyright.

I wish I'd known Laurie Wisefield at the time he played this solo.  He could have explained techniques to me that I've only discovered in the last five years. Specifically, economy and sweep picking. It's all over the guitar channels on You Tube these days, but back in the 1970s, the information was not so readily available, and passed me by entirely.

The Hunted (Gameplayers of Zan) 

This piece is one of several in the works currently, inspired by a science-fiction novel, The Gameplayers of Zan, by M. A. Foster.

Listen to the music.

The heroes we are following in the plot come from a race of slightly altered humans who live on a reservation, away from the sprawling overpopulation of ‘old humans’ that covers the planet, and with whom they live in an uneasy truce. At this point in the story, they have to enter the old human world to rescue an imprisoned friend. 

 The human world is strange, dirty, noisy and frightening to them, but the little party does manage to find the girl, and get her released into their custody. She is physically OK, though very weak, but appears now to have the mind of a new-born. 

They start making their way back to the reservation, but something goes wrong, and they realise that they are being tracked by a mysterious and sinister group of humans, and know that if they are caught, they may be killed. In fact, they are finally caught at the fence that marks the safety of their reservation, and the girl they rescued is shot and killed. 

In this music, I have tried to convey the alienation they feel, and the terror of the chase, ending with a lament for their lost friend.

Roughshod Theropod 

In a previous post, I said I’d be writing music inspired by M. A. Foster’s The Gameplayers of Zan novel.  Which I am.  But I’ve also been writing other things which don’t relate to that project, the first of which is Roughshod Theropod.

I’m very happy to have had two fine musicians play on this instrumental with me.  Thank you to Dave Blackburn who played and recorded the drums at his commercial studio Beat n’ Track (see my links page).  Also to the amazing Jim Reeves who played the bass.

I’m really pleased with the result. I hope you enjoy also.

 

New Review of Now There's No Room 

The Dutch Progressive Rock Page has published a review of the album.

'What at first sounds like a singer/songwriter album [...], I now regard a beautiful album cast by a songsmith. I especially like how many of the songs reveal their intensity slowly.'

'... an excellent album to sit down to enjoy with a peaty whisky.'


So pour yourself a glass of Lagavulin, and put on your headphones!

What To Do Now? 

'Now There's No Room' is written, recorded and released (and available here).  I had lots of things I wanted to say, and I got it all off my chest, so the question arises, what to write about now? 

I've decided to get right away from the political stuff and write some pieces based on a novel that I've loved since I first read it at age eighteen.  It is, I suppose, science fiction, but not in the 'cowboys and Indians in space' genre by any means. 

 The Gameplayers of Zan by M.A. Foster is an obscure novel. I've never met anyone else who's read it. I may explain some parts of the plot as each piece of music is completed, but here I'll just say that two major things have appealed to me. 

The first is that it's modelled after a Greek tragedy; the 'good guys' do succeed eventually in their endeavours, but at great cost to themselves.  It's intensely bitter-sweet.  The second only occurred to me recently, and it's that three of the four main protagonists are female.  They are strong not only in the way they're written, but in their characters.  That's refreshing - especially in the realm of science fiction, and laudable given the novel's publication date of 1977.

For more information about this unknown, but worthy classic, click here.

CD - Now There's No Room - Released Today  

This is a limited run of the CD version, so if you want a copy, get your order in!  Pre-orders have been posted, thank you to everyone who ordered.  If you'd like a copy, click here

Of course, if you can't be bothered with all that mucking about with physical things, you can grab a download of most of the music on the same page.  The CD album includes an extra track and a number of interludes that tie the songs together.

The Sibylline Books  Joni Mitchell sang, 'You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.' Never a truer word... 

Now There's No Room  How long until all the figures of speech we have that allude to animals are made permanently obsolete? 

Misunderstood  How to avoid worrying about anything. 

Trope - interlude 

Suit Some of the villains of the piece. 

Salt - interlude 

The Barefoot Chocolate Maker  By way of contrast, a true story about a good man who really made a difference. 

Theme  (extra track - CD only) 

Marionettes  'The puppets refuse to return to the box'. 

Glass Bubble - interlude 

Panopticon / Rome Burns  How much is it possible to really know in these post-truth days, and how should we respond? 

Greetings from Earth - interlude 

The Last Song  We certainly won't be around in a million years. Will there be anything at all to hint that we were ever here?

CD - Now There's No Room - 8th September Release 

Super excited about the official release of the CD album 'Now There's No Room' less than a week away - on the 8th September. This is a limited run, so if you want a copy, you should get your order in! You can pre-order right now, and it's at the perfectly reasonable price of £6.93 + £2.00 postage and packing.                               

The CD album includes an extra track and number of interludes that tie the songs together. These are only available on the CD version. 

1 The Sibylline Books

2 Now There's No Room

3 Misunderstood

* Trope - interlude 

4 Suit 

* Salt - interlude 

5 The Barefoot Chocolate Maker

6 Theme  (extra track)

7 Marionettes 

* Glass Bubble - interlude 

8 Panopticon / Rome Burns 

* Greetings from Earth - interlude 

9 The Last Song

Now There's No Room - CD album release  

Lathe of Heaven is proud to announce the CD album 'Now There's No Room' will be released on Saturday 8th September. 

You can click to buy on pre-order now, and we'll send you your copy in the following week.  In addition to the songs listed in the download section of the music page, there is free bonus material on the CD album version only.  This extra music was created to connect the songs together in a way that makes a complete, immersive experience for the listener.  Hey.... it's a prog rock concept album - how could we do it any other way?

Click here  for the music page.

Can we have an original hit? 

The Ed Sheeran / Marvin Gaye lawsuit going on currently points to a sickness in popular music at the moment. 

Over the last couple of decades, money has become increasingly tight in the music business.  It's more and more expensive for a label to get a top 5 hit, so even the profits on a successful song aren't a patch on what they were. 

Labels becoming more litigious is more likely as profits decrease. You've got to get your money somewhere, and you have to protect your brand.  What's more, whereas a suit used to be about a stolen melody, more and more, we're seeing claims about chord sequences.  Part of the Sheeran/Gaye lawsuit is the claim that the chord sequence is the same.  It'll be interesting when someone tries to claim ownership of the I IV VI V sequence, which has been used in scores, if not hundreds of hits. 

Which brings us to playing safe with song writing.  Again, because so much is at stake to produce a hit, nobody who seriously tries to make a living from their writing is going to try to be original. It's a waste of time.  While for the most part, nobody sitting down to write a hit says, "I'll start by stealing part of this other song," they may well start jamming on that trusty I IV VI V sequence. 

So we hear chart songs becoming increasingly similar because taking a musical chance is pointless, and we see more lawsuits as songs rely more and more on their similarity to each other in order to be hits. 

Another consequence is that over the course of a generation the average chart listener has heard less and less variety in harmony, and like a child who has only eaten burgers and fries, any new taste / harmony they're subsequently introduced to is treated with deep suspicion. 

And that's no way to have a hit. 

For music that ignores all considerations of chart success, but still wants to be loved, click here.