Genesis - "Evidence of Autumn"

Musical addiction du jour – “Evidence of Autumn”

Genesis - "Evidence of Autumn"It doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but on occasion I find myself fixated on one particular song or album. And thanks to my iPod, I can nourish this addiction anywhere. At home, in the car, in a job interview…the possibilities are endless! My current addiction is “Evidence of Autumn,” from the Genesis box set Genesis Archive #2 1976-1992. I’ll be honest – I passed over this set when it came out in 2000, feeling that it couldn’t possibly compare to the superb first Archive, which covered the band’s Peter Gabriel era. But thanks to my Rhapsody subscription, I recently downloaded the whole magilla.

“Evidence of Autumn” first appeared on 1982’s Three Sides Live, although the remastered version (the one I have) excluded it. It also appeared as the B-side (for those old enough to remember those) of “Misunderstanding” in the UK. I can only assume that it was left off the Duke album for a good reason, although I can’t imagine what it was. For my money it’s just as good as anything else on that album, which incidentally is probably my favorite Genesis release.

The only argument for leaving the song off Duke would be that it is a little too similar to the equally subdued and melancholy “Heathaze,” although the upbeat interlude puts me more in mind of “One for the Vine.” In any case, “Evidence” to me embodies what was so great about Genesis (Duke in particular) during that brief period – it’s a satisfying mix of intelligent songwriting coupled with a great melodic sense. Not as experimental as the Gabriel/Hackett era, but not as schmaltzy as what was to come later in the ’80s.

The song also typifies one of my favorite eras of Tony Banks’s songwriting; where he penned songs expressing a strong sense of longing and wistfulness. “Cul-de-sac” and the aforementioned “Heathaze” from Duke are great examples of this style, as are “Burning Rope” and “Many Too Many” from …And Then There Were Three.

I hesitate to check iTunes to see what the play count for “Evidence of Autumn” is up to, but I’d wager it’s in double digits for the last few days, easily.

Enhanced by Zemanta

People found this post by searching for:

    "evidence of autumn"

“The Only Thing You Have to Do, Is to Shoot Humans…”

I’ve never played any of the Grand Theft Auto games, nor any of their supposedly ultra-violent brethren. Quite honestly, they don’t seem all that appealing to me. And I’m too cheap to spring for an Xbox, PS3, or any other high-end gaming system. So while I don’t care to enter the already heated debate about the impact of video game violence on kids, I guess I’m going to anyway.

You see, according to my crack research staff violence in video games has been around for years. Like, many years. Take, for example, this little gem from 1986 — Robert Pfitzner‘s Commando Libya. I played this game more than a few times on my beloved Commodore 64, and somehow didn’t feel the urge to bring a machete to school.

Commando Libya screen shot (Commodore 64)

Well at least the psycho game developer is polite.

As you can see, the tone is pretty much set right away — “Welcome to ‘The Sadism Game’ of the Year.” I’m not sure what other games might have been in the running for the coveted “Sadism Game of the Year” honor but something tells me Commando Libya was a deserving winner.  The official title of the game seems to be Commando Libya Part I, although there never was a Part II.  I can’t  imagine why.

Commando Libya screen shot (Commodore 64)

Snazzy graphics!

Pretty much everything you need to know to play Commando Libya is this — Shoot people with poorly color-coordinated uniforms and giant billy clubs, whilst also shooting explosive barrels lobbed at you from some unseen mountain hideout. For those unfortunate enough to get hit by your supernaturally powerful gun, gooeyness soon follows.

Commando Libya screen shot (Commodore 64)

That’s some right powerful gun!

Should you prove your skill on a level, you get to the “bonus round,” where the sportsmanship kicks up a notch:

Commando Libya screen shot (Commodore 64)

UN-approved since 1984!

Yup, no action game geared towards kids and teens is complete without an old fashioned execution level. And the best part is there is no time limit. You can linger on this scene as long as you want, and you can’t even advance until you actually mow down your prisoners and leave a bunch of pink stains on the wall. Now THAT’S quality entertainment!

So that’s pretty much it — the entire game. Oh, there is one added treat — for those good enough to beat the high score, you get to record your initials in a rather unique way. By beheading three prisoners, each bearing one letter. Oh yeah, they went there.

Commando Libya screen shot (Commodore 64)

Wow. Yeah, I guess I can see why people are so upset over the “recent” trend in video game violence. Too bad we can’t go back to the salad days when we just played innocent games like Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros., or Destroy the Heathen Brown People.

For another review of this timeless example of wholesome entertainment, check out Lemon.

People found this post by searching for:

    "commando lybia", "Commando Libya"

Deep Cuts: Queen

Flash! Aaaaaaaaaaaah!Here’s the first in a series of entries dedicated to exploring songs from my favorite groups that don’t get a lot of attention. These represent the ten best songs (in no special order) from an act’s catalog that were never released as singles, don’t get radio play, and are typically appreciated only by hardcore fans. Up first is Queen, for no other reason than they showed up on my iPod today.

  1. In the Lap of the Gods” (Sheer Heart Attack, 1974) – What makes this song great is the completely over-the-top opening and some of Queen’s sweetest vocal harmonies ever. Listen to the super-high part – that’s drummer Roger Taylor, a key element of the band’s vocal presentation.
  2. Football Fight” (Flash Gordon, 1980) – Although not fully fleshed out, this is still a gem of a tune. It features a crunching guitar riff and some tasty early-’80s synth lines. And it’s got an undeniable groove.
  3. “Action This Day” (Hot Space, 1982) – Although Hot Space is probably Queen’s most vilified album, it really is quite good. It’s one of the more straightforward songs on the record, with a rather insistent beat. The synthesized sax solo is rather dated but still appealing to my ears.
  4. Doing All Right” (Queen, 1973) – This dates to Brian May’s pre-Queen band, Smile. Despite being an early song, it sports a pretty advanced arrangement. Brian May carries the song with some delicate guitar work (acoustic and electric).
  5. The Prophet’s Song” (A Night at the Opera, 1975) – A prime example of the delicious bombast that highlighted Queen’s mid-’70s heyday. The vocal canon (which makes liberal use of tape delays and loops) punctuates the harder and more progressive parts of the song.
  6. My Melancholy Blues” (News of the World, 1977) – A tasteful jazz-inspired song that is unique in the Queen catalog. John Deacon contributes some especially tasty bass work.
  7. You Take My Breath Away” (A Day at the Races, 1976) – This one is all about Freddie Mercury. Gorgeous piano work and a wall of trademark Queen vocals.
  8. Dragon Attack” (The Game, 1980) – This song proves that Queen could not only bring in da noise, they could bring in da funk. Successive solos by Roger Taylor, John Deacon, and Brian May highlight this propulsive jam, and segue beautifully into the next track, “Another One Bites the Dust.”
  9. White Queen (As It Began)” (Queen II, 1974) – Although Freddie was the star of the band, true fans know that it really was a four-man effort. This is an early example of Brian May’s skilled songwriting, and highlights the “White” side of the second queen LP.
  10. All Dead, All Dead” (News of the World, 1977) – Yet another gem from Brian May, this low-key lamentation starts off as a piano-driven ballad and features a wall-of-guitar bridge section.
  11. The March of the Black Queen” (Queen II, 1974) – In retrospect, it’s nearly impossible to listen to this and not hear it as a foretaste of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Most of the elements of “Rhapsody” are present here, although this is not as polished as the latter.

People found this post by searching for:

    "queen Deep Cuts"
Who's winning, the dashes or the lines? I can never tell.

Retrotisement – NFL Deluxe Electronic Football

Tudor NFL Deluxe Electronic Game (1980)

Who's winning, the dashes or the lines? I can never tell.

Hot on the heels of the wildly popular Mattel Football handheld game, Tudor Games released NFL DELUXE Electronic Football in 1980. Toy companies are certainly no stranger to hyperbole, but I think even by their standards this ad strains the limits of credibility. I have to hand it to any kid who could play this and envision themselves in the Super Bowl. Speaking of which – people, Super Bowl is two words, not one. No one ever writes about the Rosebowl or the Meineke Car Carebowl. Sorry, that’s just a major pet peeve of mine.

Anyway, I am curious about one thing – if this is the DELUXE version of NFL Electronic Football, what does the regular version look like? A circuit board with the NFL logo on it? Well thanks to Google, now I know. It looks like this. Oh yes, a huge improvement. I’ll say this for kids back then – they sure had active imaginations.

Even more incredible than the game’s claim of NFL excitement is the price tag. NFL DELUXE Electronic Football checks in at a modest $34.95! According to my handy inflation calculator that would be $85.85 in 2007 dollars. Dayum!

For more NFL DELUXE Electronic Football action, check out this page. You can even view the manual!

Retrotisement – Triumph cigarettes

I say any time you can incorporate your company’s name with an advertising slogan, that’s a stroke of genius. So what exactly is the “UMPH!” in Triumph cigarettes? Carbon monoxide? Formaldehyde? Whatever it is, it’s AWESOME!

And let’s give it up for our ciggy spokespeople, who are totally rocking the earth tones here. Tweed Jacket seems torn between the realizations that his nicotine-stained fingernails now match his pants, and the much cooler fact that he can totally flip people off with his strategically placed cigarette. Meanwhile, Pleated Skirt is poised to satisfy her craving by sinking her teeth right into Tweed Jacket’s jugular, thus obtaining for herself some of that sweet, sweet Umph!

People found this post by searching for:

    "triumph cigarettes"
Coleco Tabletop Pac-Man

Video Game Daze: Coleco Tabletop Pac-Man

Growing up, I was never very much into arcades. When it came to whiling away the precious days and weeks of my youth, I preferred to play video games at home. And in the early ’80s there were plenty of platforms to choose from. One of the most interesting was the series of tabletop arcade games produced by Coleco.

Coleco’s strategy for miniaturizing video games apparently involved three crucial elements – A satin jacket, oversized navigator-style sunglasses and some jiggly hands. Being only 7 years old in 1982, I lacked the jacket and sunglasses. Therefore I had to wait until my birthday to receive my own tabletop arcade game. I ended up with Pac-Man, the undisputed king of video games in the 1980s (until he was dethroned in a bloodless coup by a seemingly harmless Italian plumber).

In retrospect, everything about the Pac-Man tabletop game is great. Except for the game itself. It had the looks (sweet packaging, and of course that awesome commercial). It had the novelty (I still find the notion of a miniature arcade game kind of fun). But once you get past the hype, the experience itself was lacking. The game only displayed three colors (red, yellow and a greenish color). The sound was OK for the time, but it produced a buzzing effect that is acceptable for a sensory overloaded kid and no one else. And lastly, the controls were awkward. With the Atari, you had joysticks you could really grab hold of and move. With the tabletop, you had a little white nub.

That being said, I probably killed a few hundred hours with the Pac-Man tabletop. But charm aside, it certainly can’t hold a candle to the low-tech fun that was the Atari and the supreme awesomeness that was the Nintendo Entertainment System.

A Loving Tribute to “Slave to the Metal”

Slave to the Metal

In the days before CD players, iPods and file sharing services became a part of everyday life (aka The Dark Ages), the mix tape was an essential part of a music lover’s life. There were two varieties of mix tapes – homemade (for yourself or some girlfriend/boyfriend whose name you can’t even remember anymore) and store-bought.

Store-bought mix tapes (known in the industry as “compilations”) were superior in two ways – they exposed you to bands you might have never heard before, and they didn’t take five hours to put together on your crappy home stereo. During a road trip from New Jersey to Florida in the mid-’80s, I purchased my first mix tape at a Stuckey’s in South Carolina. Or maybe it was North Carolina. No, it was South Carolina. Maybe Georgia.

Anyway, being a proud metal head at the time, I could not resist the opportunity to pick up a compilation called Slave to the Metal. It could’ve been the song selection or band listing, but it was probably the cover art. I mean, it had the metal-ish font (not the traditional Olde English or Gothic, mind you) and a skeleton. But the topper? The bars of the window were really guitar fret boards. It doesn’t get much more metal than that.

But what about the songs themselves? Well, since you ask, here is my take on the actual content of Slave to the Metal, nearly 20 years after its initial purchase:

Side A

Twisted Sister, “The Price” — I was never a big Twisted Sister fan. I loved their videos, but never got into them past that. Still, “The Price” is actually a decent song that still holds up pretty well. It lacks the tongue-in-cheek humor of the group’s more popular songs, which is probably a good thing.

W.A.S.P., “Blind in Texas” – Now things really kick into high gear! Apparently W.A.S.P. is fond of drinking, and celebrates it with vigor in this song. This little slice of hedonism is definitely a relic of its time, but still fun to listen to.

Scorpions, “Can’t Live Without You” – How a balding guy with a thick German accent was at one time one of the biggest singers in the world is beyond me. That being said, the best stuff the Scorps produced was at once heavy and extremely melodic. This cut is no exception.

Accept, “Balls to the Wall” – This is the epitome of the metal anthem. It’s got the march-like plod, violent lyrics, shrieking guitars, and even more shrieking vocals. But alas, it’s a bit too corny and heavy-handed to be a true classic. When you actually hear the sound of a nutcracker, you know you’ve crossed into Spinal Tap territory. There is indeed a fine line between clever and stupid.

Stryper, “Soldiers Under Command” – Christianity and metal. Each is fine on its own, but combine them and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. ‘Nuff said. This one always prompted a dive for the fast forward button, but I’ve warmed up to it a little as the haze of nostalgia grows thicker.

Side B

Judas Priest, “Love Bites” – Ahhh, that’s better. A solid entry from one of metal’s all-time best bands, from their last decent album of the ’80s (Defenders of the Faith).

Dio, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Children” – Dio never really was able to recapture the magic he had with his early ’80s Black Sabbath albums. Banal lyrics, and a video that is about as cliché as they come. Still, that voice carries the day. RIP Ronnie.

Yngwie Malmsteen, “I’ll See the Light Tonight” – I admit it, I dig this song a lot. It is completely cheesy and over-the-top in every way possible, but I can’t stop listening. We all have songs like that; this is one of mine. Jeff Scott Soto’s vocals are insane.

Helix, “Heavy Metal Love” – A pretty bland entry from one of the rockinest bands to come out of Ontario! The lyrics actually contain the words “caress of steel.” Perhaps they hoped that making an oblique Rush reference would elevate this otherwise turgid tune. If it weren’t for the fact that it was on Slave to the Metal, I wouldn’t have listened to this song 79 times like I have.

Queensrÿche, “The Lady Wore Black” – A great way to end the tape. This is a very good song from the period in Queensrÿche’s existence when they had yet to make the transition from slightly above-average metal band to top-notch art/progressive rock band.

While my musical horizons have expanded a great deal since my youthful metal phase, I still own Slave to the Metal and view it with fondness. So much so that I actually made a mix CD of the exact same songs. All of them. Even Stryper. Because damnit, I am a slave to the metal!