Goodbye Chuck Berry

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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.

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

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Troy T.

Song Spotlight: All God’s People, By Queen

I love the adventurous guitar driven music that Queen made in the 1970’s. They explored so many diverse music genres including opera, vaudeville, progressive rock, classical, jazz, pop, heavy metal, blues and gospel, among others. I also love the commercial, keyboard assisted music the band made in the 1980’s. The music may have been more mainstream, but Queen’s adventurous spirit was still present.

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The band’s album Innuendo, released in 1991, perfectly balances the guitar rock of the 1970’s with the more keyboard and synthesizer heavy music of the 1980’s. Everything came together to help Queen produce an all time classic. Innuendo is the best album that the band released since their 1976 masterpiece, A Day At The Races. From the slow, heavy opening song Innuendo to the reflective closer The Show Must Go On, Queen displayed absolute brilliance one last time. As we know Freddie Mercury passed away nine months after the album was released.

Right in the middle of the album is my favorite song from Innuendo, the rock gospel track All God’s People. From the onset of their career Queen were a band that opened songs with big vocal tracks. Songs like Son And Daughter, Somebody To Love, Bohemian Rhapsody, It’s A Hard Life and Princes Of The Universe are prime examples. The beginning of All God’s People is one of my favorite Queen song openers. Since 1991 I have listened to the opening chorus countless times, it never gets old. This is the classic Queen sound in full force.

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Freddie Mercury absolutely shines on All God’s People. There are vocal overdubs in abundance throughout. I can not tell you how many voices are on this track, but in typical Queen style there are a lot! There is so much vocal depth and richness in the opening chorus alone. All these years later it still amazes me how full and rich the choruses sound.

Of course many will be reminded of Somebody  To Love, one of Queen’s earlier journeys  into gospel music. There are some similarities between the songs, but overall they are two very distinct takes on gospel inspired rock music. At times the big chorale vocals on All God’s People also recall the vocal sounds of Queen songs like March Of The Black Queen and Flash.

Brian May really flourishes here as well. This is clearly a huge vocal song, but he finds room to play a great deal of tasteful, well placed guitar licks. His trademark guitar orchestrations, long a hallmark of Queen’s classic sound, are present as well. Although he plays a great deal in the song none of the varied guitar work gets in the way of the vocals.

The piano, bass, drums and drum machine help to lay the musical framework for All God’s People. But it’s the keyboards that really are the dominant instrument. Brian May plays lead guitar throughout the song, so the keyboards supply the bulk of the music for the track. The keyboards on this track are wonderful. They really help to fill out an already vocally dense track. There is an orchestral feel to the keyboard playing that adds to the song’s sense of drama.

I love the gospel breakdown in the middle of the song. Roger Taylor’s drums kick in, The Queen Choir takes a short respite and a singular Freddie Mecury takes over. During this moment it feels as if Freddie Mercury and Brian May are on stage in a church. Both are testifying, Freddie on vocals and Brian on guitar. After this brief moment the choral vocals return for one last grand and majestic chorus.

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For a long time I have felt that this song would have been a better single than Headlong. I can understand why Headlong was released as a single. Headlong is a fun, upbeat rocker, but it is the weakest song on the album. All God’s People really has that classic Queen sound.  I feel that it would have had more of an impact than Headlong.   We’ll never know, but I do believe that the public would have responded better to the classic Queen sound displayed on All God’s People.

Troy T.

Steve Hackett, A Birthday Appreciation

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I want to acknowledge the 67th birthday of one of my biggest musical heroes, Steve Hackett. His music has been such a huge part of my life for over thirty five years. I first became aware of him in 1981 after hearing the Genesis album A Trick Of The Tail. After fully exploring the music of Genesis it was only logical to look into the solo albums of the band members. Highly Strung was the first Steve Hackett solo album that I purchased. 1981 started a musical journey with the music of Genesis and it’s members that has continued to present day.

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Steve Hackett’s unique approach to the guitar and to songwriting have had a profound impact on me. I would consider myself to be an amateur musician and songwriter. His work with Genesis, and more so his long solo career, have influenced me a great deal. I absolutely love his musical contributions with Genesis, but it was as a solo musician that he truly blossomed as an artist. Over the years he has established a musician vision that is uniquely his own.

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I applaud Steve Hackett for truly being a progressive artist. He has not been content to repeat the past or rest on his laurels. Four decades into his solo career and he continues to take risks as he pushes himself as a singer, songwriter and musician. It is astonishing how much music is inside of this one man. With each new album he continues to delight me. Just when you think that you have heard it all from Steve Hackett he puts out an album like his last one, Wolflight. Released in 2015 Wolflight features Steve Hackett taking his songwriting and guitar playing to new levels.

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His newest album, The Night Siren, is slated to be released in March of 2017. I am eagerly awaiting the opportunity to plunge into  his newest collection of songs. For some time Steve Hackett has been one of the few music artists that I trust. Whatever musical journey that he opts to go on I am right there along for the ride. Over the course of this long journey I can honestly say that he has disappointed me only twice. I was extremely underwhelmed by the albums Tribute (2008) and Beyond The Shrouded Horizon (2012). The albums are not  bad, they are just not up to his usual standards. I would definitely rank them as my least favorite albums in his catalog.  On the flip side his 1993 release Guitar Noir is my favorite of his solo albums.  I would also rank it as my favorite album by any artist.

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I will now proceed to wrap this up by listing my favorite songs by Steve Hackett. With over twenty studio albums to his credit picking favorites could be a difficult task. After some very deep thought, here are my top twelve favorite songs by Steve Hackett.  Of course this list is subject to change over time.

Walking Away From Rainbows
Spectral Mornings
The Steppes
Overnight Sleeper
Little America
Valley Of The Kings
The Virgin And The Gypsy
Hoping Love Will Last
Icarus Ascending
Take These Pearls
This World
Every Day

Troy T.