In memoriam Ray Thomas

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Ray Thomas, former bandmember of the Moody Blues, died the 4th of January aged 76 to the effects of prostate cancer to which he was diagnosed in 2010. He was an active member of the Moody Blues and with his warm, distinctive, voice made the Moody Blues what they were. Dr. Livinstone I Presume, For My Lady are just a couple of songs by his hand. He also recorded two solo albums which are nice pieces of melancholy work. Unfortunately he will miss the recognition in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is long overdue, later this year. 

Tribute concert Keith Emerson

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Legendary comedian Jim Davidson OBE is hosting a very special tribute concert on Friday 28th July at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham (photo) in memory of his friend, the late Keith Emerson.

The show will also feature the world premiere of Keith Emerson’s unfinished piece of music, Beyond The Stars, which is being performed for the very first time.

The show also features Rachel Flowers, an inspirational young keyboardist from the USA, renowned musician from France Thierry Eliez and bassist Lee Jackson, the only surviving member of The Nice, Emerson’s former group. Accompaniment will be provided by a 60-piece Symphony Orchestra conducted by Terje Mikkelsen and proceeds will be going to Care after Combat (www.careaftercombat.org) the charity founded by Jim Davidson and Falklands War veteran Simon Weston which works to support military veterans.

Always a fan, as a young man Jim would go through the bins at the Emerson, Lake and Palmer recording studio looking for souvenirs. Later in life when he became a successful entertainer he met Keith Emerson and they forged a lifelong friendship.

In Memoriam: Allan Holdsworth August 6, 1946 - April 16, 2017

Just before the performance of Steve Hackett at De Boerderij in Zoetermeer, the message came to us: Allan Holdsworth had died. Although it did not impact me enjoying the concert, it was always there in the back of my mind. Because that name had quite a familiar ring, as it turned out.
Inadvertently, my thoughts go back to the late seventies. As a great adept of both Yes and Genesis, I found myself in a bit of tough spot. Both bands, but that was just the same for any of the other giants of that era such as ELP, ELO and Pink Floyd, had not released new material due to various circumstances. Whether it was due to an overdose of success, the desire to develop solo activities or the persistent criticism and pressure of the new emerging generation embracing punk. The fact is that, after 1977, there was little new music in my popular genre, at the time deemed symphonic rock. With one exception after: the foundation of UK. A so called super band formed by ex-members of Yes, Soft Machine, King Crimson, Roxy Music and Zappa. With at the core my beloved ex-Yes drummer Bill Bruford. The man with the jazzy touch had finally found a vehicle that he loved and cherished after being in King Crimson. He was joined by KC mate John Wetton and the young keyboard virtuoso Eddie Jobson. And the, at least to me, still relatively unknown guitarist Allan Holdsworth. In addition to the fact that the self-titled debut album from these four musicians is to the present day considered to be one of the highlights of progressive rock music, and certainly part of my personal top 10 of all the time, especially the songs that were (co-)written by that mysterious guitarist, drew my attention. Mental Medication but especially Nevermore made an indelible impression on me. A guitarist like a violinist, the attack on his instrument turned down, fast-paced but with a lot of feeling, popping out a wonderful palette of musical colors and shades.
So when the band broke up into two pieces after the first album, I decided not only to follow the jobson/Wetton duo but I was even more interested in the Bruford/Holdsworth follow-up. And that laid the foundation for my interest in jazz rock. Because what these guys, assisted by bassist Jeff Berlin and keyboardist Dave Stewart, produced has until the current day, an impact on my taste in music. The debut album of the new band Bruford, "Feels Good To Me" from 1978, could not be better titled. Boy, what an incredible feeling, those strange rhythms, opposing techniques, brilliant compositions. Garnished with the voice of another strange bird of paradise, literally, Annette Peacock. The most exciting combination of rhythms and sounds that I had heard until that moment. And I was completely sold. Again, there was this fantastic sound of the guitarist with his fluent lines, who’s notes seemed to slip out of his hands like glissando’s. But once again he couldn’t be persuaded to stay for a longer period. The second album from 1979, “One of a Kind”, is already the last on which we can admire his superb play. To be replaced by a completely unknown guitarist, John Clark, one of Holdsworth’s guitar students, for only one reason: ​​he could best imitate the fluent violin-like sound of the master.
I continued to follow him in his solo career, but also made the step back to the beginning of his career. Which brought me to Gong, New Tony Williams Lifetime and Jean-Luc Ponty. But also and especially Soft Machine with Mike Ratledge and John Marshall, more specifically the album “Bundles” from 1975 on which he excelled. A groundbreaking album at that time. Again, however, he left quickly, apparently he was quite restless. And history repeats, he was replaced by a guitarist, John Etheridge, who had more or less copied Holdsworth's characteristic style of playing. Much later, the same was applicable for the talented Alex Machacek, who replaced him during the UK Reunion Tour in 2011. The story of his life apparently: to be unique, make a short but memorable contribution and then be replaced by an epigone after you leave. Irreplaceable, actually.
 
His output as a solo artist was quite vast and slightly varying in quality. Highlights for me were the “IOU” period, with singer Paul Williams from 1982, but also the albums “Road Games” and “Metal Fatigue” should be mentioned. A pioneer also, his attempt to bring attention to the SynthAxe, a strange cross between guitar and keyboard, was both refreshing and innovative. He is also renowned for his long association with Steinberger, headless guitars made from graphite and carbon fiber. A man of extremes as well, not afraid of a new challenge. Partly because of his good buddy, drummer Gary Husband, he suddenly found himself a member of the funk band Level 42 at the beginning of the 90’s, a more strange combination was hardly imaginable. But it worked, even if it was short and sweet.
I have been lucky to see him perform live two times with great intervals. The first time was way back in the 80's, in June 1987 to be precise, at the circus theater in my home town Scheveningen. ‘Jazz at the Circus’ was the name of the program and Holdsworth performed on a double bill with Stanley Clarke. The performance had made a big impression on me. Later, much later, in February 2009, I saw him play at de Boerderij in Zoetermeer, with, if I am not mistaken, Gary Husband on drums. Once again, his performance made a big impression on me.
But it wasn’t meant to be, once again we lose an icon of the music world. He will stay forever in my mind as the man who, along with his companion Bill Bruford, was responsible for opening my eyes and ears to a new love called jazz rock.
 
                                                                                  Nevermore
 
Text: Alex Driessen © 2017

In Memoriam: John Wetton (1949-2017)

Rock music legend John Wetton sadly passed away in the early hours of Tuesday 31st January 2017, after a long and courageous battle against colon cancer.
The prog phenomenon provided his vocals and bass to King Crimson from 1972-74, appearing on three highly acclaimed albums, "Larks’ Tongues in Aspic", "Starless and Bible Black" and "Red". From there he moved on to Uriah Heep, where he contributed bass, mellotron and vocals to 1975’s "Return to Fantasy" and 1976’s "High and Mighty". He also played with Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry on solo albums and tours. He created U.K. in 1978 with Eddie Jobson (Roxy Music), Bill Bruford (King Crimson/Genesis) and Alan Holdsworth (Soft Machine, Gong). The ensemble was very successful, especially given the jazz-prog-rock music. However, the band only lasted two studio albums and one live album. In 1978, after the demise of U.K., John joined Wishbone Ash on "Number The Brave" replacing Martin Turner, who had just left the band, contributing one song, That’s that, to the almost finished album.
Another song of his did not make it to the album, because it was rejected by the band. Here comes the feeling was later recorded by his new band, Asia, and would eventually sell millions. Asia included apart from John, Carl Palmer and initially Rick Wakeman and the unknown South African Trevor Rabin, later of Yes fame. But the latter two had to skip out due to contracts with other record companies. Hence the recruitment of Steve Howe and Geoff Downes. This line-up is the embodiment of the phenomenon surpergroup, with ex-members of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Yes and King Crimson. Their debut album, the eponymous "Asia", sold millions of copies worldwide, containing several solid hit singles. Incidentally, with Asia, so called ‘arena rock’ was invented. John stayed with Asia for only three albums, due to the fact that the last album "Astra" was a commercial flop. After that Wetton started a highly successful solo career with albums like "Caught in the Crossfire", "Battlelines", “Arkangel”, "Rock of Faith" and "Raised in Captivity".
He always managed to get great musicians to accompany him on his solo work, like i.e. old friend Robert Fripp. He toured with Steve Hackett during his Genesis Revisited Tour (I) and did a remarkable job on Firth of Fifth and the subsequent DVD which was eventually released. He would later join Steve’s band again on various Genesis Revisited tours. By that time, however, Asia reformed with the original line-up: John, Carl, Geoff and Steve recorded their appropriately titled "Phoenix" album in 2008. However, the songs were no longer arena material by that time. Nothing wrong with that, mind you. In 2011 he was invited by Eddie Jobson to do a U.K. farewell tour, which brought them more or less all over the world. Coincidentally, the U.K. special Xtra tour box was just released last year.
But now I'm gutted. My hero is not here anymore, I saw him perform live a couple of times, and even had a drink with him when he was doing one of his many solo and acoustic shows in Holland (Alphen aan de Rijn to be exact). He stepped in for Johnny Guitar Watson, who just died, unannounced on the The Hague Park Pop Festival the 30th of June 1996. I was lucky enough to be present and enjoyed the master with his band which included John Jowitt & Martin Orford from IQ. He was even playing on an event for TV and hifi stuff in Rotterdam, not his regular crowd, apart from us, maybe 10 persons were listening. So there you go... a performer who wants to perform, regardless. I am so glad to have met him (briefly) and ever so happy to have known his music.
How peculiar, an artist who, at one time or another, has managed to be a member of some of my all-time favourite bands: from King Crimson via U.K., Asia, Roxy Music, Wishbone Ash to Steve Hackett. No coincidence, and I am sure it isn’t. An excellent bass player with a wonderful and highly recognizable rock voice who also excelled at writing of sharp, compact rock songs. For the latter Asia was of course the perfect vehicle. The band was mainly formed as a counterpart to the lengthy music pieces for which the previous bands of the Individual members were known for. Which immediately explains some of the key success factors of this band, at the beginning of the 80’s. The same goes for a large part of his solo pieces as well as the work he produced together with fellow Asia buddy Geoff Downes in Icon.
Next to his driving but often melodic basslines, especially his unique voice made quite an impression. Especially during solo- and acoustic performances his talent was surfacing. One of these performances, as support act for Canadian band Saga in Paradiso in 1996, is still very clear in my mind. With only his voice, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, he managed to silence and captivate the audience who had clearly come to see the main act. With amazing renditions of Starless, the Night Watch, Rendez Vous 6:02, Heat of the Moment, Battle Lines and other songs from his extensive catalogue, songs which don’t sound the same without his vocals. That distinctive, melodic baritone voice from his heydays, capable of effortlessly reaching the higher regions, we will miss him.
Once again an icon slips away from us, the world of music in general and the progressive rock in particular has taken quite some hits the past few years. Talking about bass players alone we lost the likes of Chris Squire and Greg Lake during roughly a year and a half. And unfortunately, we know it's not the end; our heroes have, almost without exception, reached the dangerous age. Let's hope we won’t be shaken up by another loss for some time. After previously having encountered serious heart problems, a struggle with colon cancer has become the cause of the death of the legendary singer/bassist at the age of 67. Recent photos of his caused for a startling response by the fans, he didn’t look a shadow of the man he used to be.
John Wetton is survived by his wife Lisa, whom he recently married, 18-year-old son Dylan, brother Robert and mother Peggy. John will be sadly missed by everyone who loved him and enjoyed his musicianship.


I lay down, and then I close my eyes
Call your name, and whisper 'let it be'
I lay down, and when I close my eyes
Then I feel you lying next to me

 


 
I Lay Down (from “Rock Of Faith”)
 
Text: Alex Driessen & Frans Verweij © 2017
 
If you want to learn more about his musical carreer please follow below link:
https://peterviney.wordpress.com/john-wetton/

Obituary: Greg Lake (1947-2016)

The message came as a shock on Thursday morning. Greg Lake had lost the battle with stubborn cancer according to a tweet from his friend and manager Stewart Young.
Another one, was the first thought that entered my mind. And I certainly will not have been the only one with similar thoughts. Because the rock world has been hit hard this year by the loss of a large number of its icons. Successively Glenn Frey, David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen but also brother in arms and musical buddy Keith Emerson will not live to see the end of this calendar year, unfortunately.
Although I am an adept and proclaimed Yes fan, Emerson, Lake & Palmer has always held a special spot on my list of favourite bands. Not least because of the combination of bombastic, symphonic music with beautiful ballads, sung by The Voice. It was always difficult to choose between Jon Anderson and Greg Lake when it came to the title of 'best male vocalist’.
I missed out on the concert in Ahoy Rotterdam in May 1974, unfortunately, during the extensive tour for "Brain Salad Surgery" widely considered to be the artistic and commercial peak in the career of the trio. After several highly successful albums the disappointing "Love Beach" from 1978 meant the end, the band consequently broke up.
I had to wait for the reunion and concert series following the release of "Black Moon" to see the legendary triumvirate for the first time perform live. The Dutch leg of this tour took place in the Hague Congress Centre, in my backyard, in October 1992. I had been waiting for a long time and when it actually happened I was in for quite a disappointment: the singer with The Voice was a mere shadow of himself. Moreover, he was just about twice as heavy as in his heyday, including prohibition of wearing a blue shirt because of possible confusion with a Nivea beach ball. However, I can vividly remember a fantastic version of Pirates. Later I witnessed a memorable ELP concert at the Paradiso theatre in Amsterdam in June 1997 when he was much better in voice but Emerson still managed to steal the show with his knife-act, lying underneath his rickety Hammond organ.
That very Emerson mentions in his very humorous autobiography Pictures of an Exhibitionist that, when forming a new band, his mind originally was set on Yes bassist Chris Squire, unfortunately deceased last year at the age of 67. Squire did not envisage continuing as a lead singer and preferred to stay with Yes. Such is life, full of coincidences. For Emerson's band The Nice would perform as support act during a tour by King Crimson in the US in 1969. Greg and Keith got along fine and the foundation was laid quickly for the subsequent super trio.
He thus played a key role in the creation of super bands King Crimson in the late ‘60s, with fellow  Dorset man Robert Fripp, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, in the early ‘70s. Furthermore, his skills as a bassist certainly should not be underestimated, as well as his work as a producer and songwriter, alongside Pete Sinfield. He was very aware of the fact that people saw him mainly as a writer and singer of ballads, he wrote Lucky Man already when he was twelve, though he still saw himself primarily as a rocker. In that context, it is ironic that the musical differences with Emerson had their origins mostly in of Keith’ preference for orchestral and bombastic music while according to Lake, he himself first and foremost strived to preserve the rock side of the band.
 
Confident also, well aware of his talent. Robert Fripp said it before: "If there was anyone from the music scene at that time in Bournemouth who had the potential to succeed as a professional, it was Greg" And Greg knew it and behaved accordingly.
He also had a good sense for business, witnessed by the fact that he was at the cradle of the foundation of their very own Manticore Records label in 1973.
After the demise of ELP short periods would follow with, inter alia, Asia, Gary Moore, the legendary Ringo Starr and his own Greg Lake band, while relatively recently he struck up a partnership with Geoff Downes. Reportedly, his long-awaited autobiography, aptly titled Lucky Man, is to be released in 2017. Pity that he himself would not live to see its publication.
A beautiful monument of his abilities is his latest live album "Songs of a Lifetime" from 2013 which, besides beautiful music, also and above all contains anecdotes that make a deep impression. For example, on the writing of Take a Pebble and C'est la Vie, but also about his collaboration with the previously mentioned Ringo Starr.
Also the Emerson and Lake release "Live From Manticore Hall" from 2014, a live album with ten songs recorded during the world tour of the duo in 2010, is well worth listening to. The album offers a beautiful introspective into the music of ELP, this time in a largely acoustic setting, very delicate of nature.
But to me he will always remain the man with the distinctive, sonorous baritone voice, which, at times, he could almost make sound like a nightingale. The Great Orchestra in Heaven has gained yet another prominent member, although with Phil Lynott, Chris Squire and Jack Bruce it gets rather busy around the position of bass player. Otherwise, he can still join his old pals Keith, Cozy and Gary for a reincarnation of Emerson, Lake & Powell, with a guest appearance by Moore.
Gregory Stuart Lake, born November 10, 1947, died on Wednesday, December 7th, 2016 at the age of 69 from cancer. He leaves behind his wife, Regina, and daughter Natasha.
©2016 Alex Driessen
 

Wear sadness on your shoulders like a worn-out overcoat
In pockets creased and tattered hang the rags or your hopes
The daybreak is your midnight, the colors have all died
Disturbing the waters of our lives
 
       Take a Pebble