Song Spotlight: Taking In The View, By Kansas

The 1980’s were very difficult years for progressive rock. It’s safe to say that every major progressive rock band was affected by the transition from the 1970’s to the 1980’s. Many bands streamlined their sound while others simply disbanded. American progressive rock band Kansas did both. Thankfully their breakup was short lived.

Kansas opened the 1980’s with a succession of increasingly commercial albums: Audio-Visions (1980), Vinyl Confessions (1982), Drastic Measures (1983) and Power (1986). In that span of time the band had three top forty singles. One could argue that they successfully transitioned and survived the changing climate of the music scene.

Their 1986 album Power is a very interesting one to me. The band disbanded and went their separate ways in 1984. Power is the first album by the reformed band. The album features the return of lead singer Steve Walsh after his departure in 1981. Also returning were the ever reliable Phil Ehart on drums and Rich Williams on guitar. Filling out the lineup were new band members Steve Morse on guitar and Billy Greer on bass. Absent from the reunion were long time members guitarist Kerry Livgren and violinist Robby Steinhardt.

cover_17188962016_r

Power is a very mainstream rock album, but it still carries the essence of the band’s sounds from the 1970’s Overall it is a very guitar driven album. Rich Williams and Steve Morse handle the guitar duties admirably. Steve Walsh’s keyboards are very present, but nothing like the keyboard heavy albums of the 1970s. It should be noted that Power is one of the few Kansas albums not to feature any violin.

I must say that I am a big fan of this album. Steve Walsh is in fine form vocally. The songwriting, band performances and production are exceptional. I do not  have a negative thing to say about this album. This is purely a rock album, but traces of progressive rock do crop up a few times over the course of the album. Power is the sound of a 1970’s progressive rock band successfully navigating the choppy waters of the 1980’s music scene.  The spirit of 1970’s Kansas is ever present, but the music sounds fresh and new.

KANSAS_08

I could highlight any of the ten songs on the album. But I will focus on the seventh track, Taking In The View, the album’s quietest song. Of all the songs on the album this one captures the essence of 1970’s Kansas the most. Musically the song features just acoustic guitar and keyboards, leaving plenty of space for Steve Walsh’s vocals. He delivers a typically passionate and powerful vocal performance. A children’s choir, something different for Kansas, appears briefly in the latter half of the song. This track would have fit right in on the classic Kansas album Point Of Know Return (1977).

Taking In The View is just one of ten songs that showcase Steve Walsh’s stellar vocals. The whole band delivers solid performances on the album, but Walsh is clearly the standout. Power is a testament to Kansas and their ability to remain commercially relevant and yet stay true to their musical roots. The album may not be as complex as prior efforts, but to this fan’s ears it still sounds like Kansas.

Goodbye Chuck Berry

ChuckBerry

I wanted to acknowledge the passing of Chuck Berry.  Just about anyone who has picked up a guitar to play rock and roll owes a debt of gratitude to this man.  His influence on us is immeasurable.  He truly was one of the early architects of rock and roll music.

southAmerica

Goodbye to a true music legend, a pioneer and trailblazer.  Goodbye to the great Chuck Berry.

p01gxk7y

Troy T.

The Movie Poster Art Of Dark Victory

Dark Passage is a 1939 movie drama starring Bette Davis. Let me state how much I love this movie.  Many fans, myself included, would be in agreement that Dark Victory contains one of her best acting performances.  The movie is extremely well written and has an excellent cast.  Some of Bette Davis’ co-stars include the incredibly likable George Brent, a young Ronald Reagan and Humphrey Bogart in one of his more interesting supporting roles.

Instead of focusing on the movie itself I instead want to look at the film’s movie poster art. Like many movies Dark Victory inspired quite a diverse collection of movie posters.  Some of them accurately captured the mood of the film.  I have chosen to highlight just a few.

I belive this is the poster that is  most associated with the movie.  It is a very colorful illustration that nicely features those wonderful Bette Davis eyes.  It really does not say much about the film.  Based on this image, as wonderful as it may be, it is unclear as to what the film is about.

0d7a0e8d422f0fc7e6da7f3118f51d49

I love this absolutely beautiful watercolor illustration taken from the Italian movie poster for the film.  This is my favorite image from the group. The poster features an incredible image of Bette Davis, however it may be just a bit too sad. There is a sadness to the film, but that is not the whole story. Tramonto translates to sunset or nightfall, both words could be fitting titles for the film.

img_2299

I really like the artwork in this Spanish movie poster.  The sentiment is very tender and loving.  However, the likeness of the two lead actors, especially Bette Davis, is not great.  Despite this it is still a fantastic poster that more accurately conveys the feel of the movie. Amarga Victoria translates to Bitter Victory.

This one is very different, and features another great image of the film’s star.  Perhaps this one is a bit melodramatic, but then again it is a melodramatic movie.  Overall this poster  does not relate enough to the movie.

img_2296

Here’s another poster with a great image of Bette Davis.  But this image is a bit too melodramatic and melancholy.  Despite the sadness present in the film there is still quite a bit of laughter and light throughout.

img_2298

This French movie poster is quite different.  The likeness of George Brent is nicely done. But the depiction of Bette Davis is not very accurate or flattering. Overall it is a very artsy poster. Victoire sur la Nuit translates to Victory On The Night or Victory Over The Night.

Posters-dark-victory-18866342-1275-1701

This last one is different, but it is the least interesting of the batch. Although it does display various emotional states of the main character, it does not convey much about the true essence of the movie.

MV5BNGQzM2VmMDItNDlkNC00NjYzLThjNDQtNDVkNzhlYmUzMDY2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjUxODE0MDY@._V1_

It is amazing how many drastically different posters can be produced for a single movie. I consider Dark Victory to be a work of art.  Revisiting some of the movie posters  and seeing how various artists depicted the film has been fascinating.  I do not think any of the posters featured here accurately depict the overall tone of the movie.  I do understand, it is an emotionally complex movie. Creating a single image to convey the mood and essence of the film would have been a tall order.  Some of the posters work better than others and that is fine.  They may be works of art, but their ultimate purpose was the promotion of the film.  This collection of movie posters, along with many others, were created to inform the world of a new Bette Davis film, Dark Victory.

Troy T.

In The Rapids, An Overlooked Gem By Genesis

In The Rapids is a Genesis song that really does not get much attention. It is the penultimate song from the band’s superb concept album The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (1974). At two minutes and twenty two seconds the track is short, but it sure is not sweet. The band packs an incredible amount of music and emotion into this compact gem.

Genesis-The_lamb_lies_down_on_Broadway-1

Peter Gabriel certainly had his fair share of great vocal performances during his time with Genesis. Dancing With The Moonlit Knight, The Lamia, The Battle Of Epping Forest, Back In N.Y.C. are just a few that come to mind. I would say that In The Rapids stands as one of my favorite vocals from Peter Gabriel.

It is amazing how much the band packs into this song. There is more brilliance on display inside of this short song than many bands are able to put onto an entire album. Every member of the band shines here adding their musical parts and pieces to enhance the collective whole.

5734de10b659a2829dcf7d901db817ab

The song has a deceptively low key intro, just clean guitars. Peter Gabriel enters soon after, initially delivering a reserved vocal.  At the 0.54 mark the rest of the band slowly enters. They spend the remainder of the song slowly building layer upon layer of musical tension, emotion and drama. To fully appreciate this gem you really have to listen to it with headphones on.

The band puts on an absolute clinic in subtlety and finesse. Initially the music is a foundation for Gabriel’s vocals. But as the song progresses there is so much going on, the music feels as if it is swirling around Gabriel’s vocals.

At the 1:29 mark Steve Hackett’s electric guitar wails and the rest of the band bring up the intensity. At this point there is less than one minute until the song segues into the album’s finale with the song It. The desperation in Gabriel’s vocal is nearly heartbreaking. Steve Hackett’s guitar adds to the melancholy felt during this end portion. It almost sounds like his guitar is weeping. Phil Collins is at the top of his game here and throughout The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. Not content to just display his considerable skills on the drums, Phil always had a musical approach to the drums. His drumming is not merely keeping the time, his playing elevates the somber mood of the song.

83d13722be3e5a8ad6f4d61d64dcb668

Before you know it the song is over. The tension is released with the siren like intro of the album’s final song.  As a stand alone track In The Rapids is very emotional. But taken in context with the rest of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway the song is so much more. At this point of The Lamb’s storyline as a listener you are emotionally drained by Rael and John’s journey.

For me In The Rapids is the most overlooked gem in the entire Genesis discography. At 2:22 it is all too easy to miss this track. After the tour for The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway the band never played this song live again. It is to bad that in later years Genesis never really explored much of The Lamb live beyond the title track, In The Cage, The Carpet Crawlers and a section of Colony Of Slippermen.  Granted, In the Rapids is an unusual song to play on its own. Perhaps it would have worked best in the context of a medley. I have included audio for both In The Rapids and It.  Since one goes directly into the next, it is hard to play one without the other.

Troy T.

Casablanca: The Bond Of Friendship

sharedfromfacebook

One of my favorite aspects of the classic movie  Casablanca is the relationship between Rick Blaine and Sam. Obviously the movie is of its time. When Ilsa Lund arrives at Rick’s Cafe Americain she inquires about Sam asking about “The boy who’s playing the piano.” It was not said in a condescending or malicious way, it was just how things were at that time.

With that being said Rick and Sam are obviously much more than employer and employee. It is quite apparent that there is history, trust and deep friendship between these two men. Their interaction with one another is that of mutual respect. Both look out for one another throughout the movie. Between Paris and Casablanca I am sure that they went through a great deal together.

casablanca

Casablanca is first and foremost a war time drama with a romantic subplot.  These two themes intertwine to give the movie its main storyline.  But the bond of friendship between Rick and Sam is definitely one of the movie’s most interesting and least mentioned subplots.

rick-sam-casablanca-1345037-450-336

The Music Of Cirrus Bay: A Trick Of The Wind, A Wuthering Tail

Cirrus Bay are a U.S. based band with its musical heart firmly rooted in 1970s progressive rock. One of the great things about this band is that they do not sound retro. They may be playing 1970’s styled progressive rock, but their sound is throughly modern.

The band’s predominant influence is 1970’s Genesis, with a huge emphasis on the keyboard stylings of Tony Banks. The overall sound of Cirrus Bay is a laid back, slightly folksy, take on the sounds of the classic Genesis albums A Trick Of The Tail and Wind And Wuthering. The big point of difference with Cirrus Bay is the band’s use of female vocalists. While the music heavily draws on the sounds of Genesis the female vocals help to give the band a different sound. The influence of Genesis looms largely on all of Cirrus Bay’s albums. The band utilizes that influence to create a progressive rock sound that is their own.

cover_44281015112009

To date Cirrus Bay have released five albums. With each new release the band continues to hone their craft. The first album, The Slipping Of The Day (2008), is a mixed bag. It features a male and a female vocalist. I am sorry to say that the male vocalist is not a very good singer. As a result about half of the album is good. On subsequent albums female singers have handled the vocals quite effectively. The band’s second album, A Step Into Elsewhere (2009), firmly establishes the Cirrus Bay sound. The band delivers melodic, keyboard driven prog accented by acoustic and electric guitars. Overall the music may not be as flashy as other prog bands. That said, there are plenty of long, well played instrumental passages present. Whimsical Weather (2012) and The Search For Joy (2014) continue the band’s evolution and subtle refinements. With their latest album, Places Unseen (2016), the band delivers their best album.

cover_22291015112009
Bill Gillham is the band’s main songwriter and he handles multiple instruments on the albums. It is quite obvious that he is heavily influenced by Tony Banks. Whether playing keyboards or piano he proves to be quite a skilled disciple of the unique keyboard styling of Tony Banks.

whimsical-weather-cover

Gillham also handles most of the guitar playing on the albums. He is quite adept at acoustic and electric guitar. Strummed acoustic guitars feature prominently throughout the music of Cirrus Bay. On the electric guitar Gillham does, at times, produce some Steve Hackett-like guitar sounds and riffs.  Keyboards may be the primary instrument on Cirrus Bay’s albums, but there is plenty of tasteful guitar throughout.

cover_4034101022014_r

For the bulk of the albums Sharra Acle and Anisha Gillham handle the lead vocals. On the band’s most recent album, Places Unseen, the lead vocals are handled by Tai Shan. All three singers have similar sounding voices that would not be out of place singing folk songs or ballads.

a3631898018_10

Mark Blasco handles the drums and bass. Cirrus Bay’s intention is not to showcase over the top virtuosity. This is reflected in Blasco’s handling of the drums and bass. A skilled player, he lays down the song’s foundation, playing what each song requires. When he needs to step it up for the more involved instrumental breaks he does so quite well. There are plenty of opportunities for the band to showcase their instrumental prowess.  Over the course of their albums some songs routinely extend pass the ten minute mark.

Although the main influence is A Trick Of The Tail and Wind And Wuthering the sounds of other Genesis album do crop up as well. Listening to Cirrus Bay’s catalog one can hear small musical traces of the Genesis albums Foxtrot, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, And Then There Were Three and Selling England By The Pound.

Another great aspect of Cirrus Bay are their beautiful album covers. There is a running theme of painterly landscapes on the band’s album covers. Some of these pictures are so good you want to hang them on your wall. Of the five albums The Search For Joy contains my favorite album cover.

With four solid albums under their collective belts Cirrus Bay has a lot going for them. I am really enjoying their modern take on 1970’s progressive rock. Their future appears to be very bright. If you like well written, melodic progressive rock with long instrumentals this might be a band for you. I highly recommend Cirrus Bay to fans of Genesis and 1970’s progressive rock.

Troy T.

Mike And The Mechanics, Don’t Know What Came Over Me

It is always a good time when one of your favorite bands is about to release a new album. I count Mike And The Mechanics as one of my favorites. Being a huge Genesis fan it was an easy transition becoming a Mechanics fan back in 1985.


Their latest album, Let Me Fly, has a release date of April 07, 2017. This is the follow up to The Road (2011), which was the first Mechanics album to feature the new post Paul Carrack lineup. The Road is a very solid album. It may not be the band’s best work, but it is a worthwhile addition to their discography. The two new singers, Andrew Roachford and Tim Howar, did a fantastic job on vocals. The songs were really good. Overall some of the music was a bit too low key at times, but The Road is an enjoyable album.


The newest Mechanics song, Don’t Know What Came Over Me, has just been released.  After the first listen I was hooked, I love it!  It is a catchy pop rock song with a hint of R&B. I am quite excited to hear the rest of the album. I do hold out a slim hope that The Mechanics will tour in America. I have never seen the band live. Based on viewings of online videos it looks like a fun show.

img_2294

I applaud Mike Rutherford for keeping the Mechanics alive.  The band’s popularity really fizzled in America after their highly successful second album  The Living Years (1988).  Mechanics fans know what happened in the ensuing years.  Paul Young passed away far too soon.  Eventually Paul Carrack moved on to focus more time on his own music. It would have been very easy for Mike to pack up his guitar and bass and retire quite comfortably.  I am thankful that he opted to recruit new singers and revive The Mechanics.  Mike really appears to be enjoying himself on stage with The Mechanics.  The fact that he still wants to create new music is a bonus.

Troy T.