Thursday, December 07, 2006

My Favorites:

Given the other three Positive Liberty bloggers have done this, I guess it's my turn.

1) Leftoverture by Kansas. Kansas are the most underrated progressive rock band. At their best, they are on par with the best of Rush, Yes, Genesis and ELP. Kerry Livgren is a brilliant prog-rock writer and Steve Walsh had one of the best voices (Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett once said Walsh had the "perfect white rock voice." Walsh sang "Narnia" on Hackett's solo album Please Don't Touch). While Walsh also wrote some of their songs (most of them not as good as Livgren's), he was going through a "dry spell" during Leftoverture. So Kerry pretty much wrote the whole thing, which turned out to be their best written album. It spawned their commercial hit "Carry On Wayward Son," but has so many other gems, like "The Wall." Here is a recent performance of that tune.

2) & 3) Jeff Beck's Blow by Blow and Wired. Jeff Beck once said of his music that it complicated rock but simplified John McLaughlin. Today, instrumental rock guitar ala Satriani and Vai, and jazz-fusion ala McLaughlin and Dimeola are sort of "sister styles" and have produced monsters like Andy Timmons whose styles draw equally from both schools. Jeff Beck was one of the first (and best) guitarists to straddle the line between instrumental rock guitar and jazz-fusion and these are the two albums where he broke such ground.

Here is his and Jan Hammer's classic tune off of Wired, "Blue Wind."

4) Sabbath Bloody Sabbath by Black Sabbath. I know this is going to sound like a line, but I liked Ozzy/Sabbath before it was "cool" to like them. Growing up, I had all of their stuff on cassette tape and saw Ozzy play when I was 15 (on his 40th Birthday party). Ozzy's/Sabbath's formula is great songwriting and an innovate, dark sound.

This is a really cool song -- "Spiral Architect" -- from that album. The video isn't theirs though.

5) Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti. They are another group all of whose albums I owned on cassette growing up. Like the Beatles, they never wrote a bad song. Physical Graffiti is thus my favorite album of theirs because it has the most songs, all of them good. While that album gave us their monster hit, "Kashmir," it also has "Ten Years Gone," my favorite Zeppelin tune. Here they are performing it, courtesy of YouTube.


Leo said...

Concerning Kansas, Leftoverture (The Wall was certainly my favorite) seems to be the apex of their career though all of their albums have their moments. It may be due to Livgren writing all of the music. I think that the first three AD albums were very good.

Incidentally, I met Kerry Livgren, Dave Hope and John Elefante briefly during the Vinyl Confessions Tour. The only musicians of that caliber that I have ever met. They seemed very approachable. I do seem to recall some stress when Robby Steinhardt walked into the room. I think the Christian influence in Kerry's life and on the album where wearing thin on him at that point.

Jonathan said...

That's very interesting to know.

Yes, it was quite amusing that after Livgren converted, some of the non-Christians like Steinhardt, Williams and Ehart (who I think was always and still is a more lukewarm Christian) stayed in the band.

I like Livgren's first solo album, "Seeds of Change" and the choice of Ronnie James Dio to sing "Mask of the Great Deceiver." Perfect irony.