A deed of mercy:The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Spirit of Cecilia

Richard Berkey and to the right my kinsman, whom I knew very well as a boy and young man NORMAN ELIASSON (10th Armored Division) Bronze Star V for Valor (Bastogne, Dec 1944)

The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The thronèd monarch better than his crown.
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptered sway.
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings;
It is an attribute to God Himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this:
That in the course of justice…

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Through A Glass Hammer, Darkly

One thing I’ve learned in my eight years of being an avid Glass Hammer fan is to expect the unexpected. While every album of theirs is consistently excellent, there is not a consistent style that runs from their debut through to their latest offering, Dreaming City. So, I shouldn’t have been surprised at the onslaught of metal that greeted my ears when I cranked up the first track, The Dreaming City. Wait, is this the same group that gave us the light-hearted Chronomonaut last year? Yes, it is, and I like it. Actually, I love it! Under the massive guitar attack I can still hear Steve Babb’s melodic bass pounding away, and Fred Schendel’s keyboards providing bursts of furious punctuation.

The core group of Babb (lead vocals, bass), Schendel (guitars, vocals, keyboards), drummer Aaron Raulston, and singer Susie Bogdanowicz have augmented themselves with Reese Boyd (guitars, vocals), John Beagley (vocals), Brian Brewer (guitars), Joe Logan (vocals), James Byron Schoen (more guitar!), and Barry Seroff (flute). Dreaming City features the largest cast of contributors of any Glass Hammer album I am aware of, yet it doesn’t sound crowded or too busy. It’s a surprisingly lean production, with every instrument locked into the overall groove.

Dreaming City is the soundtrack to a very dark fantasy adventure, with the songs seamlessly flowing into each other, much like 2012’s Perilous. Our hero is a lowly thief, Skallagrim, who awakes in the land of Pagarna,  ruled by an evil sorcerer who has kidnapped his love. While in the Dreaming City, he is surrounded by evil ones who want to kill him. At the last possible moment, a sword appears over his head, which he grasps and uses it to save himself.

The sword, named Terminus, is possessed by an angel who provides the hero strength and hope during his daunting quest to rescue his love:

“And the sword is hope that comes from without by divine design, not from within.”

I won’t relate any more of the story, but there is a wonderful twist to it at the end which took me by surprise.

Musically, this is one of the most diverse and satisfying set of songs Glass Hammer has blessed us with. They are brimming with confidence and invention, and every track is a delight to listen to. The aforementioned opener, The Dreaming City, is the heaviest thing GH has ever recorded, while The Lonely World is an aural dose of pure pop. The angelic-voiced Susie Bogdanowicz sings lead on the beautiful October Ballad, while the epic closing track, The Watchman On The Wall, is a glorious and triumphant song that recalls the heyday of Permanent Waves-era  Rush.

I could rave about every single song, but I must single out Terminus for special praise. If Rush and  The Alan Parsons Project had a love child, Terminus would be it. A propulsive beat and a fantastic synth line serve a hook-laden melody to combine for a compulsive listen. Other highlights include the atmospheric instrumental tracks, Threshold of Dreams and The Tower, both of which are reminiscent of classic Tangerine Dream. But, as I wrote, every single song is outstanding.

What is most impressive about Dreaming City is how all the tracks come together to create a most satisfying whole. This is an album to listen to in its entirety, as it tells the compelling tale of an unlikely hero thrust into a desperate quest to overcome evil, and in the process find hidden strength within himself – with a little divine assistance. In Babb’s words, “This is all about evil people robbing us of our joy – holding it hostage. There can be unfortunate episodes in life where that happens and you can barely even remember what “joy” was like – may even become resigned to the thought that you may never know it again in this life, but determine to look for it nonetheless. So this was an important story for me and I hope it brings encouragement to many.”

Dreaming City is an extraordinary and career-defining work from one of America’s finest rock groups, and I can’t wait to hear what unexpected delights they have in store for us in the future.

 

happy international talk talk day

As some of you might very well know, today is International Talk Talk Day.  Sometime in 1987 or 1988—the memory fades—Kevin McCormick and I vowed that every April 5th, we would listen to the entirety of Talk Talk’s mid-period masterpiece, The Colour of Spring, as a reminder of three things.

First, that no matter how dark the world might become, beauty endures and promises—through the seasons—eternal renewal.

Second, that no matter where we are in the world, our friendship endures.

Third, that Mark Hollis (RIP) was a genius.

Since the late 1980s, Tad Wert has joined in the pledge.  Please join us in celebrating that miracle that was Talk Talk.

Here she comes
Silent in her sound
Here she comes
Fresh upon the ground
Come gentle spring
Come at winter’s end
Gone is the pallor from a promise that’s nature’s gift
Waiting for the color of spring
Let me breathe
Let me breathe the color of spring
Here she comes
Laughter in her kiss
Here she comes
Shame upon her lips
Come wanton spring
Come for birth you live
Youth takes it’s bow before the summer the seasons bring
Waiting for the color of spring

–Mark David Hollis, 1986

To get a copy of The Colour of Spring, go here: https://burningshed.com/talk-talk_the-colour-of-spring_cd?filter_name=talk%20talk&filter_sub_category=true
Painting by James Marsh, ©1986.

Keep the Faith: Marillion’s “Afraid of Sunlight” at 25 ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Each of these four tracks builds in soulful intensity and bardic purpose until Mr. Hogarth is begging us to answer, “how do we now come to be afraid of sunlight”? It is a plea for a recognition of the human condition, in all of its majesty and tragedy.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/04/keep-faith-marillion-bradley-birzer.html

The Founders’ Moral Mind Was Revolutionary, and Free | The American Conservative

Thompson sees his own work as a fulfillment and filling out of the work of his beloved mentors, Bailyn and Wood. As such, Thompson’s book is, properly and justly, filled with attempts to understand free will. Where Bailyn and Wood gave too much credence to the power of ideas (again, as somewhat determinisms and deterministic), Thompson wrestles with the much more difficult problem of individual free will. After all, imagine a world in which every single person—past, present, and future—is a moral agent. The world gets very, very complicated, very, very quickly
— Read on www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/bradley-thompson-birzer-america-revolutionary-mind-founders/

John Marshall: A Primer ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Perhaps more than any other figure in the early history of the American Republic, Marshall shaped the Supreme Court as well as attitudes toward and understandings of the U.S. Constitution. While many of the cases over which Marshall presided are important to a constitutional understanding of America, five in particular stand out. The first, Marbury v. Madison, 1803, established the power of the Supreme Court to Judicial Review, which served as a defense of the judiciary against the other two branches of government. In the twentieth century, the Supreme Court reinterpreted Marshall’s advocacy of Judicial Review to mean judicial supremacy, but such an interpretation was never Marshall’s intent. Marshall only desired for the third branch of the federal government to be equal to the first two.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/03/john-marshall-primer-bradley-birzer.html

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