Lines join in faint discord as the Stormwatch brews

Currently listening to: Stormwatch and A by Jethro Tull. These are the remastered editions. Both bear the logo of hate but I bought them anyway, because they are still very attractive to me as a long-standing Tullie overall.
Buyer Beware though: both albums had tracking errors on my Diskman. The DVD player can cope with them fine.

Stormwatch is the last of a trio of folky-sounding albums, but it’s much darker than its predecessors. Ian Anderson played much of the bass guitarhimself and I love his angular approach to the instrument. It doesn’t sound like any other bassist I know. All the other instrumental playing is excellent. However, the record is let down by the songwriting, which doesn’t have the fluency of Tull’s best efforts.

A, which I already had an original release CD of, is a much more interesting album musically. The arrival of three new musicians gave the group more of an edge, and the sound was unmistakably fresh and new. The apocalyptic tone of “Protect and Survive” and “Fylingdale Flyer” fit the mood of the time very well, and these songs still stand today. Unlike Stormwatch, A has no bonus tracks, but instead has a bonus DVD containing the long-unavailable “Slipstream” video.
What’s annoying about all concert recordings from Tull is Anderson’s tendency to a) tinker with the recording in the studio, re-doing much of the vocals, and b) in the case of videos, the misguided urge to make them “more than just a concert registration”, which leads to the interpolation of staged video fragments, recordings from other sources and the use of cheesy effects. Living With The Past was marred by this, but the problem, if anything, was worse with Slipstream, where the concert footage is rudely interrupted by a music video set to “Sweet Dream” off the Bursting Out album, and another one of the then-current band performing a cheesy mime act to “Too Old to Rock’n’Roll, Too Young To Die”, recorded five years earlier by a different line-up of the group. On the up side, the concert footage itself is excellent, and one other video, for “Fylingdale Flyer” is actually moderately interesting. The package as a whole is more than satisfying.

I’ma starteeng a blawg!

Yeppers, I’ve got a blog now. I’ve always regretted the disappearance of the Spotlight from the ROCR site, and this will be one attempt at bringing it back while making it easier to do.
So I’ll discuss web and print comics, music, books and anything else that tickles my fancy.
To reduce the likelihood of this blog being abandoned, I’m inviting guest writers. If you’re a creative person with an interest in webcomics, email me to apply for a guest spot!

Wake

Publicity image of Navee, swiped from bdsillage.free.fr

For well-drawn, well-written escapism, check out Wake. Wake is the story of a human girl marooned on a jungle planet and picked up by a nomadic space community seeking to colonise planets for the many sentient races the Wake consists of. Young Navee is quite happy living the life of a solitary hunter-gatherer in the jungle she grew up in, but the Hottards, a species requiring extremely hot, dry weather, has chosen the planet to settle on. Because the Wake’s definition of intelligence includes telepathic ability, Navee is not recognised as a sentient being, and is slated to fry along with the other animals living on the planet. The first album, Fire and Ash, is about Navee’s battle to stay alive, ending with her being taken along as a research subject (if you think this is a spoiler, think again. As an origin story, it could only end that way, and in any case, the journey is a lot more important than the destination). The following books document her growing up and becoming integrated in the traveling community, becoming an undercover agent and adventurer. The fourth book, not yet available in English, seems to be the beginning of a new cycle in which Navee begins to uncover corruption within the system she’s serving.
Wake has excellent stories and presents a thoroughly developed, original Science Fiction universe with many interesting, believable alien species. I was impressed by the way the ostensible villain of the first story got to put in his defense at the end. What really makes the series special, though, is the art, which is clean, complex, spectacular and gets better with each new book. Page layouts and colors are breath-taking. If you enjoy science fiction comics, you’ll want to check out this series.

Book 1: Fire and Ash
Book 2: Private Collection
Book 3: Gearing Up

This is a backdated entry from before this weblog was started. It was originally posted on rocr.net.

Jethro Tull – Living With the Past

Even though they have been one of my favorite bands for many years, I didn’t have very high expectations of Living with the Past, their latest live album. Their 1999 studio album, Dot.com, hadn’t exactly set me on fire, and the last concert I’d been to had been, frankly, a bit on the dull side. Well, I must have caught them on an off night, because this live album, the bulk of which was recorded just a few months later, features the Tull I’ve loved all those years: a tight, dynamic rock group delivering classy songs with great instrumental skill and passion. Sure, singer Ian Anderson’s voice is the worse for wear, but on this record, he really makes the most of what he’s got, and on those long-standing live staples that he is the most confident with, songs like Aqualung and Locomotive Breath, he overcomes his limitations, helped by the vibes from his audience (I’ve observed this phenomenon in concert as well). Martin Barre’s guitar is outstanding (as always, only more so) and for the first time in their history, they’ve managed to create a live CD with decent production value. Feel the power!
The tracklisting includes those classic songs that they just have to play, but also some lesser-known chestnuts such as Roots to Branches from "long before September 11", as Ian Anderson puts it, and Jack in the Green, from 1977’s pastoral Songs from the Wood album. Most of the material is drawn from a concert in London in Novermber 2001, but it has been fleshed out with additional material such as a few acoustic sessions (including sterling recordings of Life’s a Long Song and Wond’ring Aloud with a string quartet, and three tracks from a long-unavailable 1989 radio session. The DVD edition has a slightly different track selection. Since I don’t have a DVD player, I can’t comment on that.

(Depending on where you are, you may prefer to get the CD and/or DVD from Amazon UK.)

This is a backdated entry from before this weblog was started. It was originally posted on rocr.net. Since posting the review, I have got a DVD player and the DVD. I can’t say I like the DVD as much as I like the CD – there is far too much post-production on the DVD. In their attempts to make it more than just a live registration, Ian Anderson and the DVD’s producers have managed to make it far less. It’s worth having for “Budapest” though.

Terry Pratchett and Paul Kidby – The Last Hero

Cover showing Cohen the Barbarian

The latest Terry Pratchett book is something special indeed! It’s a shorter story than usual, but this is more than compensated for by the lavish and wonderful illustrations by Paul Kidby who also drew the two or so Discworld graphic novels that came out a few years ago. Kidby’s interpretation of Rincewind is very close to the way I’ve always imagined him to look, and I’m glad to report that the incompetent wizard is in the story. I’ve only been able to browse the book a little (cuz I’m broke), but man, this is an object of desire, and would make a great Christmas gift for fans of fantasy literature and pretty picture books! I think there should be more illustrated books for adults in any case, and finding such a beauty in the shop just made me drool. Order it from Amazon.com or from Amazon.co.uk before it goes out of print or somebody has the bright idea of reprinting it without illustrations like Pratchett’s Eric novella.

By the way, Amazon.co.uk also announced Amazing
Maurice and his educated Rodents
, a new children’s novel by Pratchett.

This is a backdated entry from before this blog was started. It was originally published on rocr.net. Since posting this preview, I’ve read the book, and while I wouldn’t consider it the best that Pratchett has written, I do recommend it for the artwork.

From Hell

I have recently re-read Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s acclaimed Jack the Ripper saga From Hell, soon to be a major motion picture. Lately, I’ve often found myself rereading old favourites and going "What a load of crap", but not with this one. Granted, it did have some iffy moments at the start, where Eddie Campbell’s scratchy drawings look a little too crude for what he’s trying to do, and the long explanation of London as a magical constellation early on now looks forced, but once that’s out of the way, the writing settles in this relentless groove, the art becomes more and more sophisticated and From Hell quickly becomes one of those books that you can’t put down. Read it now before that movie hits the theaters (which it may already have done in the US).
Get it from Amazon.com in the US or from Amazon.co.uk in Europe

This is a backdated entry from before this blog was started. It was originally published on rocr.net

Finntroll: Jaktens Tid

The doughty warriors of Finntroll. Wouldn't you like to know the number of their interior decorator?
Finntroll make a pretty good metal noise. Their singer sounds like he has gargled sulphur dioxide and is very angry about it. The drums are at times like a carpet bombing, and the guitar alternates between furious rhythms and deep droning chords over a menacing keyboard backing. You’ve heard all that before, of course, but you probably haven’t heard the accordion, banjo and Sami joik-singing that make Finntroll more than just a good metal group. Their album Jaktens Tid has livened up my drawing sessions lately – it’s at the same time hilariously over the top and really very good musically. The songs, in Swedish, are mostly about fantasy subjects, particullarly trolls. Their rhythm guitarist is quite an accomplished fantasy artist, so you get some evil-looking monochrome paintings in the booklet. And don’t they look natty in their furs?

This is a backdated entry from before this blog was started. It was originally posted on rocr.net

Gjallarhorn :


Gjallarhorn: Sjofn album cover
Gjallarhorn
are a Finnish World Music group whose second record, Sjofn, I’ve been playing non-stop for over a week. Like Hedningarna, they keep a nice Shamanistic pulse going over which to sing and play those odd Finnish harmonies. They are a little more New Age oriented than Hedningarna, but in a good way: they create a soothing atmosphere which at any time
can start getting under your skin, usually just before it is interrupted by a Banshee shriek or a subtle but menacing mood change. (Gjallarhorn have a website, but it’s not very good so I’ve made the link go to Amazon.com’s information page about the album. )

This is a backdated entry from before I started this blog. It was originally posted on rocr.net.