Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Magical Mystery Listening Tour: Day 51

Embarking on the "F" albums!

R.E.M. - Fables of the Reconstruction
The Kinks - Face to Face
Gorillaz - The Fall
Dream Theater - Falling Into Infinity
Oasis - Familiar to Millions
Rush - A Farewell to Kings
Spock's Beard - Feel Euphoria
Semisonic - Feeling Strangely Fine
Paul McCartney - Fenway Park, Boston 7/9/13
Led Zeppelin - Festival Hall, Osaka, Japan 9/29/71

R.E.M.'s third album was also the one that nearly broke up the band and it's a tense, uneasy, but also experimental and unique-sounding record within their discography and one of my favorites. Face to Face from 1966 is the Kinks' first great album from beginning to end and began their run of incredible albums that went up to and included 1972's Everybody's in Showbiz. Gorillaz' fourth and final album is really more a collection of ideas, recorded on the road during 2010's tour supporting Plastic Beach and done mostly on an iPad and portable recording equipment. It's okay but not worth repeated listens...listening to it in this batch was the first time I'd played it all the way through since 2012! Dream Theater's fourth album was the one that almost broke them up, when outside influence from their record company led to them being pushed into a more commercial direction, causing strife within the band (mainly between John Petrucci's camp, who wanted to acquiesce, and Mike Portnoy's camp, who wanted to stick to their guns and resist). However, it's a good album with some great cuts, most notably "New Millennium," "Trial of Tears," "Lines in the Sand," and "Hollow Years." Oasis' 2000 live album is solid if unspectacular...perhaps one had to be there, but even then I never thought they were a particularly good live band (I saw them once, in 2001)...very boring and static stage presence and they were never the greatest of musicians. It seems Oasis live were more a communal event for the fans than a chance to see a top-notch band blow you away with their act. A Farewell to Kings from 1977 was Rush's first complete masterpiece, where every track was a winner, and the second in their run of classic albums beginning with 1976's 2112 and going through 1985's Power Windows. Feel Euphoria was the first Spock's Beard album after Neal Morse's departure and while there are some good songs on it, it's quite uneven and not cohesive at all...the multi-part epic, "A Guy Named Sid" that closes the albums sounds forced and is a real hodge-podge that encapsulates the best and worst aspects of the album as a whole. 1998's Feeling Strangely Fine was Semisonic's high-water mark, commercially speaking, and included the mega-hit single "Closing Time," but the entire album is a great collection of their brand of power-pop. Rounding out this batch are two excellent live shows: Paul McCartney from Boston in 2013, a show I was at and which was one of the greatest concerts I've ever been to, and an absolutely storming and epic Led Zeppelin show from their wild and raucous first tour of Japan in 1971.

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