Kate Bush – The Kick Inside

Kate Bush’s debut album came out in 1978, and I am dumbfounded that I never heard of her until three years later.

Flashback to Fort Campbell, 1981. There was a group of us soldiers that would take turns jamming in the barracks to songs we dug, in part, trying to wow each other with music the others hadn’t heard before. When one of the guys cued up “The Kick Inside”, I was beyond WOWed! I was mesmerised by the totally unique qualities and vocal range of Kate Bush’s voice. On top of that, her songs were intoxicating and amazing.

Now, no matter how much you listen to music, there will always be great out of the mainstream music that will slip past you. So that I missed noticing Kate Bush until 1981 didn’t surprise me. What did, was that she was discovered and highly supported at this early point of her career by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour who was, and still is today, my all-time favorite guitarists in my all-time favorite band. Not only that but “The Kick inside” was produced and arranged by Andrew Powell, from the Alan Parsons Project, another of my favorite bands. I’m usually good at following side projects and other doings of artists I really like, but I really felt I had dropped the ball here.

Three years. How had I not heard of Kate Bush? How had I never heard her amazing voice? How had I been totally oblivious to her incredible music?

But then I realized, the important thing was, now I had.

Pink Floyd – Live in NYC 1977

On July 7, 1977, Pink Floyd performed live at Madison Square Garden and somehow, someone in the audience was able to sneak in a good quality tape recorder to capture part of the show as it happened.

Maybe they had connections to someone at a record cutting facility. Maybe they gave a copy of the recording to a friend who gave a copy to a friend who gave a copy to a friend who had connections to someone at a record cutting facility. The exact details will never be known.

The bottom line is that an unofficial (bootleg) recording of the concert was unofficially released on Pass to Dust, an Italian record label (unofficial releases are almost always released on Italian record labels). The recording is an amazing document of what an unbelievable live act Pink Floyd was at the time. “Live in NYC 1977″ captures Floyd performing their ninth studio album, Wish You Were Here” live, in its entirety as the second half of their show that evening. Typical for Floyd, the first half of the night would have been their most recent album, “Animals” in its entirety, and the evening would have closed focusing on songs from Floyd’s masterpiece “The Dark Side Of the Moon”.

Is this a live recording to the standard of what an official Pink Floyd release would be? Hell no! This is from some dude who snuck a tape recorder into a Pink Floyd concert. But what it lacks in sound quality, it more than makes up for in content. Pink Floyd’s performance here is relentless and near flawless.

I wish I had an official recording of this performance but I honestly don’t know if one will ever exist, so I’ll take what I can get.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Damn the Torpedoes

If I could own only one Tom Petty album, this would be it. As a matter of fact, “Damn the Torpedoes” is one of my 10 picks for if I were stranded on a desert island. And that’s saying something because in his forty-year career Petty released twenty albums; thirteen of them with his band The Heartbreakers; not one dud in the lot.

A staunch believer of keeping artistic control of his music, Tom Petty was a true artist who always stood out in rock and roll because he didn’t believe in following trends. Petty formed The Heartbreakers while living in his hometown of Gainesville Florida, also the home town of southern rock superstars Lynyrd Skynyrd. After Lynyrd Skynyrd hit it big, the area around Gainesville became inundated with southern rock bands trying to follow in the wake if their success. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers took the riskier path of intentionally sounding different from the pack. With an often jangly Rickenbacker guitar sound influenced by the 1960’s band the Byrds, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers didn’t get as many gigs in the local clubs but they did score a record deal; a pretty good consolation. lt took a few albums for them to find an audience, but with “Damn the Torpedoes” they finally hit paydirt. The album became their world-wide breakout, taking the number 2 position on the US album charts (it was denied top honors by Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”) and going on to sell more than 3 million copies.

For Tom Petty, from that point forward, it was “Damn the Torpedoes”, full speed ahead.

Pink Floyd – The Dark Side Of The Moon

I don’t know if I would call Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon” my favorite album of all time but it definitely ranks up there.

In my music collection, I definitely have more copies of “Dark Side of the Moon” than any other recording. In addition to the at least six digital versions, including a Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab 24 karat gold master CD recording, a 5.1 surround sound DVD mix, a remastered anniversary edition and copies included in compilation box sets, I also have three different versions of DSotM on vinyl records. The vinyl version that is probably most desired by collectors is the MFSL Original Master Recording. I also have a recently released 180 gram remastered vinyl copy. But of all the copies of “Dark Side of the Moon” I have. this is my favorite and most highly valued. This is the very first copy of DSotM I ever owned. The cover may have a little wear, (I later learned to use plastic outer sleeves to prevent this) but the record itself is pristine; complete with all the extras it originally came with.

“The Dark Side of the Moon” single-handedly changed my perception of what music is. Emotion. Expression. Innovation. Technical ability. Creativity. Originality. Dark Side of the Moon has it all. When I first heard it at the tender age of ten years old, it forever changed my perception of what music could be. It made me listen more intensely and analyze more deeply, the meaning in lyrics and the production behind the songs. It may sound cliché, but this album changed my life. It made music important to me.

I babied this album from the day I bought it because I knew from day one, this was a recording I would always own, although I didn’t know then that one day I would have several different version of it. Maybe its just because of nostalgia, but I think I get the most pleasure cuing up this copy.

Now that I listening to it and think about it, Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon” is my favorite album of all time…and this is my favorite copy of it.

Pink Floyd – A Dark Side Of The Moon Live

This is not an official Pink Floyd album. Some would call it a live concert bootleg. Others would call it an Italian import.

Copyright laws are not the same in every country. Italy in particular, has some of the least restrictive when it comes to live performances. I’ve never looked up all the legal mumbo-jumbo, but however their laws are written, there are a lot of unofficial live recordings that come out of Italy on obscure record labels.

Typically, Italian Imports are from a specific concert performance. “A Dark Side Of The Moon Live” is a recording of a Pink Floyd concert at the Wembley Empire Pool in London, England on November 16, 1974. It’s a double album on which Floyd performs their incredible 1973 album “Dark Side Of The Moon” in it entirety as well as their epic song “Echoes” from 1972’s “Meddle” as an encore. It is an incredible performance one of the best I have heard actually. But It’s not without its flaws in both performance and recording.

You see, that’s the good and bad of Italian Imports. On the good side, you get a rare recording of a band performing live, with no studio overdubs or post production cleanup. If the band makes a mistake, or there’s tape malfunction, It’s going to be on the record. But you really get the feel of the performance. On “A Dark Side Of The Moon Live”, there is a part of the song “Breathe” that is chopped out with a horrible edit in the very beginning. Other than that, the recording is flawless. And the sound quality is excellent.

Oh yeah, that’s the other thing with Italian Imports. Because they are unofficial, the original source of the recording could be through the mixing board or some dude out in the audience with a microphone. Decades ago, it was hard to know what the quality of an Italian Import record was until you bought it. Today, with the Internet in your pocket, it’s easy to do a little on the spot research to get an idea.

Italian Imports are typically for the hardcore fans of a band. I am a huge Pink Floyd fan, and have a few Italian Imports by them. Some are on CD, and some, like “A Dark Side Of The Moon Live” are on vinyl.

Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon

After some long negotiations, I finally convinced my wife to let me not only have a turntable in the man cave, but also upstairs in the living room. As I was getting out of bed, eager to start hooking up the new system, she added one more point to the deal: no playing any Jethro Tull upstairs (for whatever reason, she hates Jethro Tull). I told her that “Aqualung” was the first thing I wanted to play on the new setup. This earned me a bit of an expected scowl in return. 

“I’m joking” I replied, adding “You know what the first thing I always play on any new sound system is.” 

She just said “You’re such a nerd”, rolled over and went back to sleep.

The Alan Parsons Project – Pyramid

The Alan Parsons Project was actually a duo. Obviously one of the members was Alan Parsons, who was known for his engineering work on the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” and Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”. The other significant member was Eric Wolfson, a Scottish born musician and songwriter. Although Wolfson was more widely known in the music industry, Alan Parsons had a name more recognizable to record buyers because of his work with the Beatles and Pink Floyd, so the latter’s name was chosen as the moniker for the band.

Like its two predecessors, Pyramid was a concept album that was heavy in its use of orchestration in choral arrangements. The Alan Parsons Project’s first album was based on the literary works Edgar Allan Poe. Their second, “I Robot”, focused on the rise of technology and its potential to overtake man. Like its name implies, “Pyramid” focused on the mysteries and fascination that America and much of Europe had with pyramids at the time of its release.

I remember buying this album as an alternate choice to what I actually wanted. I had gone to the record store that day to buy “I Robot”, but it was sold out. “Pyramid” had just come out so I figured I’d pick it up instead. 

I also remember at first being somewhat disappointed with the album. Although it still sounded like the same band, it had a distinctly different feel to it than its predecessor. I don’t know why that surprised me, the same could be said of the first and second Alan Parsons Project albums. As time passed however, the music on it grew on me and I now find I like Pyramid” as much as, possibly more than the album I actually wanted to buy that day.

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (half speed mastered)

More than any other Pink Floyd album, “Wish You Were Here” is a showcase for Rick Wright’s keyboards. Sure, David Gilmour lays down some impressive guitar work (as usual), but it’s really the synthesizers and other keys that set the mood of the songs on this record. 

The album opens and closes with “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, a tribute to Pink Floyd’s former guitarist and founding member Syd Barrett, who had tragically become a mental casualty of the late 1960’s drug culture. He had been kicked out of the band before the release of their  second album because he just couldn’t function anymore. He went into seclusion shortly thereafter. 

Sandwiched in between the opening and closing of “Shine On…”, were “Welcome To The Machine”, “Have A Cigar”, and the title track. The first two were somewhat scathing commentaries on the music industry. The song “Wish You Were Here” was a song about longing and isolation – it was also a tribute to Barrett. Throughout all the songs, Rick Wright’s jazz tinged keyboard style consistently sets the tone perfectly, making this one of my all-time favorite recordings – one I am elated to have a half speed master copy of.

Half-speed mastered albums were audiophile pressings that were done in very limited numbers and offered superior sound quality because of the slower speed used to cut the master disk that the copies were made from. “Wish You Were Here” is the first audiophile copy I owned of any album.

Pink Floyd – Animals

Pink Floyd’s tenth album, Animals, is perhaps the band’s most scathing, sociopolitically charged album. Loosely based on a book by George Orwell, Animal Farm, it categorizes society into three classes of animals: pigs, dogs, and sheep. The pigs represent the government and bureaucracy. The dogs are symbols of the ruthless corporate world. And the sheep are the complacent followers and often victims of the other two. Fitting perfectly with the subject matter, the music has an edgier, more raw sound when compared to any of Floyd’s previous albums. More than just a collection of songs, this is an album that needs to be listened to in one sitting to be truly appreciated.

The front cover shows a power station with a pig floating in between smoke stacks. Right after the picture was taken, the cables holding it in place snapped and the helium filled pig went floating over the skies of London. All flights from nearby Heathrow Airport had to be temporarily grounded as the giant flying pig floated through its airspace. The pig eventually crash landed in a nearby farmer’s field. Pink Floyd has been associated with flying pigs ever since and all of their concerts have featured a pig flying over the audience at some point during all their future live shows.

Pink Floyd – The Wall

Sometimes, rock and roll can be home to the most unlikely collaborations.

Question: What do you think “In The Flesh?”, the opening track to Pink Floyd’s eleventh album and “Muskrat Love”, by the Captain and Tennille have in common?

Answer: Toni Tennille sings on both of them.

I love music and I’m  a curious person. So naturally, whenever I buy a new album I have to read the liner notes. Who wrote the songs, who produced the songs, who mixed them, and who played and sung on them. The more information, the better.

So when I bought The Wall back in 1979, reading liner notes was of course, a given. When I saw Toni Tennille’s name listed as one of the seven background singers on The Wall, I was like “WHHAAA??? NO WAY!” But after some research, I learned that she actually sang backing vocals on four songs on the album. In addition to the opening track, Tennille also sang on “The Show Must Go On”, In The Flesh” (same title as the opening track, but no question mark at the end), and “Waiting For The Worms”.

Now, as much as I try, I can’t totally dislike “Muskrat Love”. There is now forever, this weird connection between that song and one of my favorite albums by my favorite band. I still don’t like “Muskrat Love” that much, but I have to admit, it’s not that bad.

Well played Toni.