The Tragically Hip – Man Machine Poem

After hearing The Tragically Hip’s 13th album, “Man Machine Poem”, many felt the songs were about lead singer and lyricist Gord Downie’s previously announced diagnosis with terminal brain cancer. They are not. Downie wrote all the words for them before receiving the news. Still, it’s easy to understand how the connection could be made.

Like on The Hip’s prior albums, Downie’s lyrics are poetic tapestries that can have many deep interpretations; mortality and the inevitability of death being among them. Gord Downie went beyond being a song lyricist; he was a talented and inspired poet, a humanitarian, and from what I have read, a genuinely nice guy. I had the pleasure of meeting the band members back in 1998 and my impression was that all them were.

Though Gord Downie is no longer with us, his words will forever live on in the songs of The Tragically Hip. From their 30 year of recording together, there remains more than enough unreleased material to fill a posthumous album; so maybe there is just a little more from The Tragically Hip on the horizon. One can only hope.

Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits

I always liked Bob Dylan’s music and his poetic lyrics, but – and I know some will be aghast when I say this – I didn’t care for his voice. In “Song for Bob Dylan”, David Bowie best described the voice of Robert Zimmerman (Bob Dylan’s real name which Bowie refers to in the same song) as “sand and glue”. I can’t think of a more accurate metaphor. In recent years, I have come to appreciate that sand and glue.

As I sit here listening to the mono version of Bob Dylan’s greatest hits, I can’t imagine another voice accompanying the melodies of these songs and the poetry of their lyrics.

Except for “All along the Watchtower”; that will always belong to Hendrix.

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (white vinyl)

Fleetwood Mac’s 11th album, “Rumors”, is one of the best-selling albums of all time.  It has sold over 40 million copies and is one of the only albums to give Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” a run for its money as the all time best-selling album ever.

The album was recorded in a tumultuous period Fleetwood Mac’s history. There were members of the band having relationships with other members – sometimes multiple members. This caused a lot of tension in the studio.   But it was that tension between the band members that caused huge spark of creativity and resulted in an incredible work of art that stands the test of time. “Rumours” sounds as fresh today as it did back in 1977.

Not surprisingly, given the personal conflicts going on within the band, most of the lyrics “Rumors” are introspective poetry that speaks of love, relationships, and emotions.

This edition of “Rumors” is a limited edition, pressed on white vinyl. There is no reason albums need to be pressed on black vinyl other than that’s the way it was always done. The color of the vinyl doesn’t affect the sound quality so every now and then, limited runs of albums are pressed on colored vinyl. They usually cost a little more, but every now and then I have to splurge. After all, colored vinyl is cool.

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.