Paranoid was not only Black Sabbath’s most popular record (it was a number one smash in the U.K., and “Paranoid” and “Iron Man” both scraped the U.S. charts despite virtually nonexistent radio play), it also stands as one of the greatest and most influential heavy metal albums of all time. Paranoid refined Black Sabbath’s signature sound — crushingly loud, minor-key dirges loosely based on heavy blues-rock — and applied it to a newly consistent set of songs with utterly memorable riffs, most of which now rank as all-time metal classics. Where the extended, multi-sectioned songs on the debut sometimes felt like aimless jams, their counterparts on Paranoid have been given focus and direction, lending an epic drama to now-standards like “War Pigs” and “Iron Man” (which sports one of the most immediately identifiable riffs in metal history).
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music
WHAM BAM THANK YOU MAM
Deeply inspired by the rise and fall of Vince Taylor (whom Bowie incidentally met in 1971). David/Ziggy will mix this story with science-fiction themes, the atmosphere of the star rock system mixing the whole stuff with his androgynous look. Ziggy will appear as such on stage. Intelligent glam rock? Probably.
Legendary jazz greats Branford Marsalis and Kurt Elling collaborate for the first time on a full album, Upward Spiral. They ve been talking for a while about making a record together, and finally at the end of 2015 it all came together. They found time to play the new material in the New Orleans Snug Harbor club for four days and then recorded a variety of songs in the studio, all chosen because of their melodic richness and musical quality. Their versions of the chosen material are simply incredible, as the musicality of Branford and Kurt and their deep understanding of these songs shows through immediately.
Since making his debut as a leader with 2001's At Last, Marcus Strickland has established a reputation as a composer of remarkable depth and breadth. On Nihil Novi, his first Blue Note offering, Strickland showcases a new band – trumpeter Keyon Harrold, keyboardists Mitch Henry and Masayuki Hirano, bassist Kyle Miles, and drummer Charles Haynes. His new tunes offer an even greater array of styles, harmonic textures, and dynamics, and reveal his preoccupation with hip-hop beatmaking. (This isn't a jazz/hip-hop fusion record.) Nihil Novi was expertly and empathetically produced by Meshell Ndegeocello, who also guests on bass. Strickland also brings in some old friends and allies, including Robert Glasper, Chris Dave, Pino Palladino, and Chris Bruce.
The third studio meeting in nearly 17 years between Medeski, Martin & Wood and guitarist John Scofield has no easy referent to their earlier recordings – purposely. This quartet sounds like a real band on Juice, which is a mixed blessing. The positive aspect is that this longtime collaboration creates near instinctive communication. This is a much more inside date, though the rhythmic interplay between bassist Chris Wood and drummer Billy Martin is outstanding throughout.
Rui Massena conducts the Fundação Orquestra Estúdio’s recording of David Chesky’s fantasy for children The Zephyrtine ballet. The characters throughout the ballet are represented by specific instruments; the two main characters, Ben and the Zephyrtine, are voiced by the piccolo and the French horn. The Zephyrtine is a wonderful adventure that revolves around a little boy from Vermont, Ben, who meets a magical Zephyrtine and journeys to the enchanted land of Eudora. Eudora is a Utopian society where people are different colors, red, blue, green, and yellow! Vegetables are not grown instead built in factories, ice cream grows on trees, and fish fly. When the Blue Princess is captured by Ib the monster, it is up to Ben to rescue her and save the kingdom. Children are taken on a thrilling journey where they learn the importance of friendship and accepting cultural diversity.
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection.
Featuring "Hall Of Bright Carvings"
Not quite a "masterpiece," but almost. Titus Groan were an early (they formed sometime in 1969 and released their only album and single in 1970) art rock/ progressive band who sounded uncannilly like a cross between Czar without the mellotron and The Move circa Message From The Country with a bit of Jethro Tull thrown in for good measure. This means high energy melodic songs with lots of guitars. sax, vocal harmonies, and great percussion work/drumming. There's occaisonal organ and electric piano, but mainly a much earlier guitar battling with flute, sax, and oboe sound.
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive-rock music.
As Nice As Mother Makes It
After two very robust but patchy albums the Nice adopted a slightly different approach to their third by exploiting a half live/half studio hybrid. They felt that this (on the advice of their new manager Tony Stratton-Smith) would showcase the 'best of both worlds' as the studio precedents were not felt to do justice to their live performances.
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection.
Although admittedly a posthumous release, I was very surprised at the rather dismissive tenor of many of the reviews of this album to date. Hopefully this record will be reappraised soon as being a release worthy of anyone's consideration as I feel it does enhance an already rich legacy left behind by this very fine and innovative band. (So what if Charisma wanted to ride the slipstream of the lucrative ELP juggernaut?)
Excellent addition to any prog-rock music collection.
It is not possible to overestimate the Nice's importance to Progressive Rock. In their moment, they were prog and if the eye-opening debut Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack didn't show that, this dazzling follow-up did. Sure they're so old and dated you'd never put them on unless alone in the house.