Reviews roundup – Frank Zappa vs. Reverend Freakchild vs. Telergy vs. George Varghese vs. Major Instinct
Roxy – The Movie
I’ve always had a sneaking admiration for Frank Zappa. After all, he managed to construct a lengthy career whilst remaing resolutely unlistenable. Emperors new clothes and all that. But I’m always willing to proven wrong, so settled down with this.
Two hours later and I would willingly have confessed to every major unsolved crime, going right back to Jack the Ripper just to escape the sheer pain I found myself in. Now, granted, that was mainly from pulling a muscle in my back trying to pull the plug out of the DVD player, but still, this is unmitigated tosh.
Which means, I suspect, that Zappa fans will really enjoy this. Seems that the shows he played with the Mothers of Invention at the Roxy Theatre in Hollywood in December 1973 formed the basis of the 1974 album “Roxy & Elsewhere”. But they were also filmed in 16mm and the film has been languishing in the Zappa family vault until they needed to top up their current account.
So, if you’re desperate for another dose of ‘Penguin In Bondage’ or just want to know why George Duke and Chester Thompson were slumming it, then this is for you. It’s a DVD or a DVD/CD or a Blu-Ray.
Hillbilly Zen-Punk Blues
Now, if you want to know how to be peculiar, without being shit, then cock an ear to the Reverend Freakchild aka singer-songwriter-guitarist Sal Paradise.
Damn, right he’s got the blues, but he manages to twist and subvert things without scaring off the neighbours. Most of the tunes see him augmented by an excellent rhythm section in the shape of bassist Tugboat Eustis and drummer Chris Parker, while Mulebone members High Pool on lap steel and harmonica and John Ragusa (flute) also sing harmonies in places.
It makes for a vital listening experience, as he works his way through some excellent numbers like ‘She Wants My Name’ and ‘Tears Of Fire’, while a closing cover of the trad. arr. ‘I Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down’, is an absolute peach.
Following on from his first two releases, “Chaos & Country Blues” and “God Shaped Hole”, this is required listening.
The brainchild of Robert McClung (yes, really), this is a fantastic concept album all about Hypatia of Alexandria, and one chock full of well known names. All of whom add, rather than distract from the music on offer.
And if all that weren’t good enough, all the proceeds from the record are going to a homeless shelter in New Hampshire. Good work, fella.
The concept tells the tale of Hypatia, the mathematician and philosopher of Alexandria, with a series of magnificent musical pieces, linked together with brief “scenes”, which hold the story together. He’s aided and abetted by the likes of Chris Caffery, Durga McBroom-Hudson, Bryan Hicks, Mike LePond, Oliver Holzwarth, David Ragsdale, Anna Phoebe, and many more, but the magic is all his.
It’s symphonic prog at its best, which holds the attention throughout, with elements of classical, symphonic metal and power metal. Sometimes fusion withers and dies on the vine, but not here. I haven’t heard his two previous albums, 2011’s “The Exodus” and 2013’s “The Legend of Goody Cole” but even if they are half as good, they will be twice the records that most manage to make.
Back In Time
Time for some instrumental prog fusion now, courtesy of Seattle based musician, George Varghese, who grew up in Bangalore, India, (home of the West Indian Potato and Rapeseed Oil company) living there for 26 years.
For this project, he has assembled a world-wide group of musicians to showcase his progressive rock instrumentals, with an assortment of Indian influenced flute, violin and tabla. And it works well. For sure, I might not listen to it over and over again, but for something to dip into, it’s very tasty.
He is a very good guitarist indeed, and when he marries that to a melody of the same quality, then tunes like ‘Caught in a Dream’ and ‘Crystal Waves’ really take off. The one time ‘best lead guitarist in India’ certainly captures a feel, and this is well worth investigating.
Roots and Wings
Lastly, for today, and it’s a new Swedish melodic rock band. This one has some pedigree, though, as it’s the creation of the annoyingly punctuated M.ILL.ION founder, main songwriter and bass guitarist B.J Laneby.
Across 25 tears and seven albums, they made a decent name for themselves, but after a near fatal illness in 2014, he looked at his life, knocked M.ILL.ION on the head, and decided to put this new project together. Although he insists it is a band, and to that end he’s pulled in Stefano Marchesini (lead vocals, ex Human Race), Magnus Mild (guitars), Johan Häll (drums, ex- M.ILL.ION) and 22-year old newcomer Gabriel Glamheden (Hammond & keyboards).
He wanted to carry on the seventies vibe of bands like Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, KISS and Deep Purple and, in places, he has achieved that. Although that is mainly when the Hammond organ is allowed to shine with ‘I Need A Drink’ the best example. Shame then that the first two songs on the album don’t really go anywhere, and it isn’t until ‘High Five’ arrives that you start to get the feel for it. It doesn’t help that I don’t really care for the vocals, and it may be down to some very large expectations following on from M.ILL.ION, but I can’t help but think that there is a great mini-album in here.