In came upon an interesting discussion following the recent passing of Whitney Houston. The only regular columnist I read is Bill Simmons, a sports columnist for ESPN who does a great job melding film, television, music and pop culture into his writing. In one article, a reader posed the question of which famous singer would have dominated the hit television show American Idol had they started their musical career as a contestant on the show. Simmons answered with Whitney Houston, and I completely agree with him: she would have absolutely have blown the doors off of that show, making all the other contestants feel impotent and possibly causing Simon Cowell-or-whoever-took-his-place to seize up and defecate in front of millions of viewers. The relevance to this blog is simple: few, if any, progressive music vocalists would have even made the show, let alone actually be competitive. You could make a strong argument that winners of these type of shows tend to have a style, especially in regard to vocal embellishments within songs, that progressive music fans consider superfluous. Still, it’s hard to deny a general lack of talent among featured front-men or women in the various progressive sub-genres. Here’s my take: at least for my taste, vocals are probably the least important part of the record. Some of my all-time favorite pieces are instrumental, and I have several favorites which include vocal parts that have been described by friends and family as “horrible,” “unlistenable” and “just plain bad.” Hell, I listen to extreme metal, with all of it’s growls and screams, and I can stomach it all because I see the voice as just another instrument. There, I said it. The vocalist can play a part in a musical play (see: Lucassen, Arjen), create an environment of poetic brutality (Opeth) poetic insanity (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum) or general silliness (Devin Townsend), or even literally be an instrument (listen to some Return to Forever sometime). In fact, I like my progressive musical vocalists just the way they are! And without further ado… THE NEWS:
- Ever heard of a guy named Tony Banks? Apparently he was a founding member of some Phil Collins pop band called Genesis. Hold on a second! What?!? Genesis used to be the pinnacle of progressive rock? They influenced many of my favorite progressive bands? The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway is one of the greatest progressive albums of all time? Anyway, Banks is keeping his proverbial solo artist gravy trail a-rollin’ with the release of his latest solo album, Six – Pieces for Orchestra, due out March 26. The album will be another Banks release to feature orchestral arrangements exclusively, and my sources tell me his scores will be played by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. In other news, my sources are the album cover art.
- This is actually two pieces of news. First, I need to address the matter of the upcoming Sleepytime Gorilla Museum album and film. That these two items were even forthcoming was the first shock, for I had assumed I’d heard the last of them when I selfishly refused to road trip to California for one of their final performances in 2011. Turns out, I was wrong. SGM fans such as Kyler have been patiently waiting for these new releases, and according to a recent release from “The Museum Staff,” there will be even more waiting. Which brings us to our next piece of news:
- Carla Kihlstedt and Matthias Bossi have started an online radio station called Rabbit Rabbit Radio that will play new music from SGM members for just a $1 monthly fee. This is great news for fans of this genre of music, yada yada, but let’s cut to the real story. What an amazing friggin’ idea. In an era where in one week millions of little teenaged and college-aged bastards steal enough music to have it’s actual retail value exceed the gross domestic product of Tonga, these innovative musicians have created something beautiful. Everybody wins: fans get fresh music on the cheap, SGM members get their music out to their fans with minimal pirating (assuming the site is secure and has those features in place), and money is actually being made by a musician. Hallelujah.