Monday, 16 July 2012

A Legend Passes

I know it's coming and I can't stop it.

Another legend, another hero from my youth, Jon Lord - co-founding member and keyboard wizard of Deep Purple has died.

As I close in on my 50th year - 2 years and change away - an inevitable truth follows. Those who inspired, who gave me so much joy, who unknowingly 'grew up' with me, are falling into eternity. I speak here obviously of musicians, because no matter what we consider a part of our youth, music and those who create it, seem that much more important. Music seems timeless. 'Fad-music' comes and goes. The Donny Osmonds, the Lief Garrets, the Justin Biebers and One Directions will come and go, but there is a music that endures, that has grabbed hold of youth and adult and youth again, since the time of it's creation and refuses to let go. Call it 'classic rock' if you like, but what it really is, is just great music, enduring music.

If the 'Soundtrack of Kevin Rolfe's Life' was available on cd, the two bands who would be on it, from at least age 11 until now, would be Pink Floyd and Deep Purple. My favorite members of those bands - who's sounds have been with me this last 35 years - are both keyboardists and are both now gone. First Richard Wright of Pink Floyd, who died in 2008. A gentleman by all accounts and a wonderful atmospheric player, who always set the mood when it came to a 'Floyd' record. Who never seemed to get the credit he deserved, even if he did compose one of the most beautiful songs in the history of rock music 'The Great Gig In The Sky', from the forever classic album 'Dark Side Of The Moon'. Mr. Wright was such an important member of the band for me, that when he was effectively dumped by Roger Waters, I left too. When the band re-formed years later and Richard was a part of it, so again was I.

And now Jon Lord, my favorite member of Deep Purple has also passed. Where Rick Wright was all about atmosphere, Jon Lord was - at least while playing with Deep Purple and Whitesnake - all about Rock'n' Roll and not only man-handling his Hammond organ like nobody ever before or after, but maybe more importantly, making the keyboard a 'cool' instrument in 'heavy rock' and later for a slew of 'heavy metal' bands. Mr. Lord showed that keyboards belong when the music got heavy and influenced a host of players of the next generation of rock keyboardists. If the tributes pouring in at this very hour are any indication, Jon Lord may very well be one of the most influential musicians in rock music history - and may I add - very quietly so. Not only was he arguably the finest rock keyboardist of all time, but was a fantastic classical player and composer also and is recognized as such by fellow composers alike. This man was a major major talent and maybe more importantly, to those who were fortunate enough to cross paths with him, a lovely man who befriended and made comfortable those around him!

So as a legend and another of my all time favorite musicians passed away today, another part of my childhood died. Perhaps that's why I'm writing this post. Many more will write - with more articulation than I can muster - columns in the days ahead, that will focus on the man and musician. A cursory search of YouTube will unvail - for those who don't already know - how insanely talented, Jon Lord really was. However it won't reveal what he meant to me and many others who he guided through youth, with his music.

Paul Simon said: "Music is forever; music should grow and mature with you, following you right on up until you die". For me, Jon Lord accomplished this. From the first time I ever heard him play a note until this very day, his music has moved me, has grown with me and will stay with me until the day that I die. I may not be an expert in words, but this - I think - is the greatest tribute that I can give him.

R.I.P Jon Lord.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

My Brother The Wind - I Wash My Soul In The Stream Of Infinity

My Brother The Wind is a 4 man collective from Sweden, who play improvised space/psych/prog. The men responsible for this effort are all from other bands - Nicklas Barker ( Anekdoten ) on guitars and mellotron, Mathias Danielsson ( Makajodama ) on guitars and sitar, Ronny Eriksson ( Magnolia ) on bass and Hammond organ and Tomas Eriksson ( Magnolia ) on drums and percussion.

The first thing you notice about this album is the space. Not of the cosmic variety in this sense, but that the songs are allowed to breath and take shape, forming around a solid core, but on the outside of that core having the feeling of being ready to splinter and soar off into the universe. Not to worry, the 'Wind' somehow manage to keep it all together and make it all sound very cohesive. This is trance inducing, mind blowing music that carries you on a wonderful journey through the cosmos.

First track 'Fire! Fire!' starts the journey off in fine form. Almost like the starting of the engine, the guitar, keys and drums look for that spark that will cause all parts to work as a whole and when the bass line kicks in, this is the spark that unites! At 13 minutes long, this is a space/psych workout with soaring guitars, wild - almost out of control - drumming and that bass line keeping it all together. When the mellotron really kicks in near the end of the song you know you've dropped the booster rockets and are settling in for the rest of the trip. A great opener.

Track 2 is the much shorter and beautiful 'Pagan Moonbeam'. Acoustic guitar and sitar give this number a wonderful Indian feel as bass and drum move the song along at an almost plodding pace. The real highlight of the song for me though is the keys. It adds an early Pink Floyd touch over top of the Indian base. This one could've went on for 13 minutes also and I would have been perfectly happy with that!

Track 3 is 'The Mediator Between Head And Hands Must Be The Heart'. This is where the boys really kick up the improvisation. This song seems to be built upon Tomas Eriksson's drum line. It's almost like they said "okay Thomas, you play something and we'll all join in". However the track came about, it still evokes that 'floating through space' feel with the somewhat creepy mellotron seeming to pull it all along. By the end of the number, Thomas' drums seem to retreat from being the lead instrument and falls into rhythm with the rest of the band. Good stuff!

Track 4 'Torbjorn Abelli' is the slow burner of the bunch. The rhythm section of bass, drum and guitar slowly but surely move along at a nice pace while some outstanding lead electric - I assume from Mathias Danielsson - rips through it all. A hint of mellotron far in the background just adds to the depth and beauty of this number. This one just continues to ramp up for 11 minutes, with an added bonus of a second guitar lead - I assume from Nicklas Barker - at the back end of the song, until it closes out softly. The perfect space rock song!

Track 5 'Under Crimson Skies' is a foot tapping mind blowing full out bluesy/jazzy rock jam, for the first three and a half minutes anyways. This is re-entry folks! The rest of the song is very cool and calm, with great guitar sound, walls of spacey sounds, and bass and drum bringing it ( us ) all home. Another 10 minute epic!

Track 6 'I Wash My Soul In The Stream Of Eternity' puts our feet firmly back on ground as it begins with the calm sound of a rippling stream and with light guitar, keys and rhythm section taking us to the end, where stream and chirping birds close it out. A perfect way to end the trip. Beautiful!

This is the kind of album that reminds me why I love music so. It really can take you on a journey. From the tension of initial take off, to the relaxed semi-comfort of the middle part of the trip, to the nervousness of landing and the thankfulness of being home. This album conveys those feelings and it is why, it's my favorite instrumental album from last year. You don't need lyrics to tell a story, when you have musicians with this sort of vision and talent. Well done.

5 out of 5