A Kaleidoscope Of Sound or Zeus – Busting Visions

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A kaleidoscope pumps out from the stereo and a good day gets better. That is how I started the morning off. Reaching for some black vinyl, I clean it, spin it and my kids beg me to stop singing along as Zeus break into “Are You Gonna Waste My Time?” from their 2012 LP Busting Visions. Mesmerizing textures built around sound craft shake the morning cobwebs from my cranium. Who needs caffeine when they have Zeus on the turntable?

In the last few years they have been one of my favourite bands. Like the short lived 90’s acts Jellyfish and The Grays, they play highly developed power-pop that takes the Beatles and Big Star models and filters it through a Jeff Lynne/ELO lens. The results is a gathering of tunes that catch you musically on an emotional level without stooping into that “baby baby” bag of tricks plaguing the airwaves with ‘Disney-fied’ hits.

You can feel free to ‘rock out’ without your brain going into a syrupy malaise. “Love/Pain” starts off in a “Glass Onion” conversational place before building into an all instruments in climax. “Anything You Want Dear” pours in the power-pop confection with the fast/slow drama of relationships in flux. The one liners drop: “If you’re under water / Send a message in the bubbles.” I could and probably should go on, but the important thing is the music. You really should give it a listen.

For now there are only four options open – vinyl, CD, digital download and streaming. The 180 gram vinyl comes in a gatefold sleeve and has a download card included. It sounds freakin’ fantastic.

The only problem I have with Busting Visions is how to follow the damn thing up. Do I jump back to the 60’s, maybe the 90’s or, just play one of their other records? So many options and only one set of ears.

You can pick up Busting Visions at your local record retailer or online from Arts & Crafts.

In A World Of Neon Spaceships! Or Electric Light Orchestra – Out Of The Blue

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There was a point in the 1970’s when you couldn’t put on the radio for five minutes without hearing Jeff Lynne and co. pumping out crappy speakers with their latest single. Funny, but Electric Light Orchestra still sounded good through the crackle of a transistor radio.  ELO at their best took on Beatles inspired tunes mixed with classical music and prog productions and boiled them down into three minute hit singles. Whether the songs were anthems, ballads or straight up rockers there was an atmospheric quality that loaned itself easily to emotional resonance; in other words you either loved or hated them. Arguably, they’re greatest record was 1977’s double album Out Of The Blue, with songs “Turn To Stone”, “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” and “Mr. Blue Sky” leading the charge.

So what’s the vinyl story?

Well… being a massive band back in 1977, there was a pre-order of 4 million records in anticipation of their huge following. It wasn’t just released on the standard vinyl, cassette and 8- track, but also on reel to reel. Some special limited edition vinyl was released in the UK and US on blue translucent vinyl which can still be found at both ridiculously low ($10.00) to outrageously high prices ($400).

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The first batch of reissues started arriving in 86-87 with the release of the CD. As was popular at the time, it was just thrown out on the market without a proper remastering job.

In 1999, the first remaster resulted in a UK reissue on 180 gram vinyl. They can still be found on the reseller market for about $60 and up.

The biggest remaster was in 2007 for the 30th anniversary of Out Of The Blue. Released by Music On Vinyl on 180 gram vinyl the first 1000 copies were issued on blue translucent vinyl and all after were on black vinyl.

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Sound quality is reputed to be outstanding on the release with the blue vinyl fetching over $100.00 for unopened copies. The black vinyl will run you a minimum of $35 (it is a double album) but likely more in North America as it is an import.

Anyway, it’s great fun, and all you Muse fans should see what over the top production really means by giving this a spin. How can you go wrong in a world made of neon spaceships and classical influenced rock? I would love to get my hands on one of those original blue ’77 copies.

Comes With Big Explosions or Muse – Drones

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It’s hard to gain respect when you are the world’s most bombastic band. Ask ELO or Queen about critical reception and there will always be those critics who point out the over the top nature of such artists. On top of this Muse can’t shake the fact that vocalist/guitarist Matthew Bellamy phrases his singing like The Bends era Thom Yorke and plays flashy guitar reminiscent of Brian May. Thing is, if you were to describe the ingredients of a great sounding record, you could do much worse than those guys.

The only thing that can save artists from the line of ‘artistic achievement’ and ‘unholy disaster’ is a group of songs that both the band and their fans can embrace as “really f’in cool.” So now you have Drones, an album that uses the mechanical bringers of death as a metaphor for the loss of humanity, identity and empathy. It shoots for the stars and attempts to play more like a rock opera on the movie screen than a mere record put out in 2015.

Odd as it seems, they make it work. Sure you get the impression that they listened to a few popular 80’s records along the lines of The Power Station and Foreigner to update their previous sounds, but damn, it’s fun and they sell it with conviction. You might accuse them of being pretentious; an honest criticism in their case, but the basic fact is that Drones is entertainment. Think of it this way, not every war film made is about the consequences of violence; some are released so that people can watch big explosions and stuff popcorn in their face simultaneously…  and there is nothing wrong with that.

So when Bellamy sings “men in cloaks / always seem to run the show / mercy / from the powers that be” you can either roll your eyes or turn up the volume, but there is just no way you can ignore it.

Now for the purchase details.

Muse does know how to treat their fans and make a few bucks. You can buy Drones on all the usual physical mediums or you can buy this gorgeous gem.

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In a tri-fold cover, the deluxe edition contains two 180 gram red vinyl discs, CD, DVD, download card and two litho art prints. It’s pricey and you’ll need to cover shipping… but damn, it looks pretty sweet.