The Survivors: Part Fourteen

Richard Wagner
Der Ring des Nibelungen (Marek Janowski, Staatskapelle Dresden, etc.)
Toscanini Conducts Wagner (with the NBC Symphony Orchestra)
Overtures and Interludes (Herbert von Karajan, Berlin Philharmonic)

Wagner is obviously one of music history’s most punchable figures, but I sure do love some of this bullshit. I remember getting Janowski’s Ring cycle for Christmas one year and realizing that meant I had to actually listen to it. I’ve only listened through the full Ring cycle twice, once in this recording and once in the classic Solti. This one’s better. Better still, though, is any disc that presents Wagner’s beautiful symphonic writing outside the context of his often tedious, always overlong operas. My favourite such disc is Chailly’s with the Concertgebouw, but I never had it in physical form. The Toscanini set is a nice artifact. The Karajan disc is sort of dull, though it was the first recording of the Tannhäuser overture I ever heard, so points for that. I genuinely love Wagner when he’s not dictating the terms. 
Measure of gratitude: Large. Thank you. 

Tom Waits
Blood Money
Real Gone
Orphans (Promotional sampler)

I got into Tom Waits through the classic Swordfishtrombones/Rain Dogs/Frank’s Wild Years trilogy, and that’s still my favourite stuff for the most part. But I stole these more experimental ones from work, and they’re a lot of fun, if a little uneven. I really haven’t listened to them much. I wish I had stronger feelings about this; if my copy of Frank’s Wild Years had been a Survivor, I’d be waxing poetic. 
Measure of gratitude: Middling. Thank you. 

Rick Wakeman
Return to the Centre of the Earth
The Caped Collection

Rick Wakeman was my first hero. I dressed as him for Halloween once, when I was about eleven. Am I embarrassed by this? What would be the point? I still adore his performances on the classic Yes albums, and I can still deal with The Six Wives of Henry VIII, a lovely bit of 70s kitsch. But that’s where it ends. Return to the Centre of the Earth is a bad sequel to an only slightly less bad predecessor, featuring Ozzy Osbourne, Bonnie Tyler and Patrick Stewart all wasting their precious time. The Caped Collection is a compilation of songs that I suppose Wakeman must be proud of. But I am currently listening to “Slaveman” for the first time since I was maybe ten, and it might be the worst song ever recorded. Still, once upon a time I wanted to be Rick Wakeman when I grew up. That counts for something. 
Measure of gratitude: Large. Thank you. 

Ted’s Warren Commission
First Time Caller

Ted Warren came to Fort McMurray every couple of years when I was in high school to do workshops along with a few other wonderful Canadian jazz musicians. This album is pretty good. No further thoughts. 
Measure of gratitude: Medium. Thank you. 

Weather Report
Heavy Weather

Here’s a story. My high school jazz band used to play “Birdland,” from this album. At the end, I’d put down my trumpet, come up front, and play the synth solo on my Alesis Micron. It was my teenage apotheosis. Years later (this year), I was recording an original song. It reminded me of something, but I couldn’t figure out what I’d been ripping off. I thought to myself, hmm, this needs a synth solo. And I found myself recording a solo using the very same patch on the very same synth. The penny didn’t drop until I was mixing the song. I hadn’t thought about “Birdland” or Heavy Weather for half my life, yet here it was in a dumb song I wrote at the age of 30. The human mind, ladies and gentlemen. 
Measure of gratitude: Large. Thank you. 

Kanye West
The College Dropout
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

At this point I’d rather come face to face with Richard Wagner than with Kanye West, but I’d be a damn liar if I said I didn’t still love everything he did up to and including Yeezus. A thing I am genuinely embarrassed about is that I didn’t pay any attention to hip hop until Kanye sampled King Crimson. But what an entry point: “21st Century Schizoid Man” as a self-diagnosis. In one and a half seconds, I suddenly understood sampling. Fantasy will probably always be my favourite of his, as much as I love 808s. The earlier stuff is probably better, but I doubt I’ll ever see it that way. One of the most flawed geniuses of our time, and also a massive creep, but he got me into rap. That’s worth a lot. 
Measure of gratitude: Massive. Thank you. 

The Who
Endless Wire
Then and Now

Listen, I don’t like the Who very much. It’s one of my little quirks. But the hits can be fun every now and then. I mean, every Then and Now. The Who was my first big ticket rock concert, and it wasn’t very good. They had just released Endless Wire (on my sixteenth birthday), and they must have thought it was very good. It is not. 
Measure of gratitude: Small. Thank you. 

John Williams
Star Wars: A New Hope (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

The only album I ever ordered from Columbia House. (I mean, it was ordered on my behalf. I think it counts.) I was never as big a Star Wars kid as some of my friends. But this music was and is undeniable. Empire is arguably Williams’ best Star Wars score, but the first film contains possibly the best cue in any movie ever: “Binary Sunset.” I never listened to this very much, but it rules. 
Measure of gratitude: Medium. Thank you. 


My thoughts on this are largely the same as what I wrote in the last post about the Tangent, but on this album you can actually pinpoint which specific prog band they’re impersonating at any given time. There’s no shame in that, but I also struggle to see the point. I liked it for a while. 
Measure of gratitude: Small. Thank you. 

Rick Wright
Broken China

Roger Waters’ solo career is full of facile, if dramatic political statements. David Gilmour’s solo records declined from satisfying hard rock in the 70s, to the blandest Knopfler-ass rock imaginable on every album after the first. If we’re really being honest, Syd Barrett is the only member of Pink Floyd who stayed the course outside the band. (Improved, even.) This album by Rick Wright is a middle-of-the-pack Pink Floyd solo record. It’s pleasantly moody, albeit occasionally cheesy. And the lyrics, mainly by Anthony Moore, aren’t always up to the task of discussing depression with such frankness.
Measure of gratitude: Small. Thank you. 

Robert Wyatt

I don’t know why I haven’t heard more Robert Wyatt albums. Rock Bottom is an A++ album that grows on me more as I get older and sadder. And this one I bought randomly which isn’t even that notable is also really good. “A.W.O.L.” and “Stay Tuned” are heartbreaking in a way that only Wyatt, with his modest little voice, can pull off. A third of it is in Italian for reasons I don’t fully understand, but not fully understanding is par for the course with Robert Wyatt. I love him with a warm love that partially bypasses my brain. 
Measure of gratitude: Very large. Thank you.

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