Queen

One of the joys I’ve always had with record collecting, is going back and discovering earlier albums by bands I like. After first hearing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, all over the radio, I was enthralled by their originality. After buying the album “A Night at the Opera”, and hearing “Sheer Heart Attack”, which a friend of mine discovered in his uncle’s record collection, I felt compelled to check out other music by this truly original band. Queen only had four albums out at this time and I had already heard two of them, so I figured I pick up their eponymous debut.

From the opening song , “Keep Yourself Alive” with is heavily phased guitar panning from the left to right speaker, I knew this was going to be a unique record that, just like their later records, would take full advantage of stereo sound. The production was a bit rougher than their later albums that I had heard, but it had a huge amount of variety and experimentation – a very ambitios alblum, especially for a band coming right out of the gate. The lyrics covered a wide range of topics from the mystic and medieval to religion; from personal introspection to songs that were about just having a good time.

When it comes to bands I like, I’ve always appreciated originality and innovation over virtuosity and technical ability, but I still highly regarded the latter. Queens first album had an abundance of both. It will always be one of my favorite albums of all time.

Jethro Tull – Aqualung (Original Master Recording)

Aqualung is the quintessential Jethro Tull album. If you own only one Jethro Tull album, this should be it.

Aqualung was one of the first albums in my collection that I “upgraded” to digital. Unfortunately, I got rid of the album before I actually listened to the CD – it sounded like s***.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a music snob. Scratch that, I am somewhat of a music snob, but that’s not why I thought the original CD release of Aqualung sucked. I thought it sucked because… well, it sucked… even the record company eventually admitted it. Because of litigation against them regarding the original CD release, Chrysalis records recalled it, offering a refund to everyone who had purchased the CD. They posted a recall of it in music magazines and it was announced on numerous radio stations, and I darn shure took advantage of it.

Care has to be taken when bringing an analog recording over to digital. When Aqualung was originally released on CD, that care was not taken. There was so much tape hiss and noise during the numerous quiet passages on the recording, at times it was overbearing of the music. The album was eventually, remastered as a 25th Anniversary Edition on CD where the time and effort were taken to do it right.

I always wanted to replace my vinyl copy of Aqualung. But again, because of the quiet passages, it was hard to find one in the condition of what I had gotten rid of. That is until recently, when I ran across an original master recording of it that was in mint condition.With as good of a job they did on the 25th anniversary CD, I can honestly say that this sounds way better. This is the best Aqualung has ever sounded, even compared to the 25th anniversary CD. This is the way it was meant to be heard.

If that makes me a music snob, so be it.

A lot of people think, because of the lyrics on Aqualung, that Ian Anderson was an atheist, or at least anti-religion. Nothing could be further from fact. What he was against was the corruption of religion, which he felt was the case with the Church of England.

He speaks of this revelation on the very last song on Aqualung. In it he tells of how, after some philosophical contemplation when he was a young school boy, he went to the school’s headmaster, and told him that the God he believed in was not the kind you “Wind Up” on Sundays. My beliefs couldn’t be more in line with his. Maybe that’s the reason I love this album so much.

U2 – War

U2’s third album, “War” is not an album about war. It is a protest album against it. I remember first hearing it when ironically…or maybe it was more fittingly, I was serving in the U.S. Army. Although war is the most common associaton made when one hears the word “army,” I served in the hope of defending freedom and the hope of one day having peace in the world. In 1983, this album spoke to me. It still does today – perhaps even more so. 

The closing song on War is “40”.  The song is based on the bible passage in Psalms 40 and is a plea for peace. The closing lyric to that song, “How long to sing this song?” is a beautiful loop-back to the same sentiment sung in the album”s opening song, “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, a song about the torments of war. 

Yes, this album still speaks to me. I firmly believe that the song of war and torment we all too often sing today will one day end in a beautiful song of peace. 

The only question is…

How long?