Jeff Bezos & Richard Branson Spaceflights Should Be Celebrated | National Review

A thirst for exploration has always been a crucial part of the American spirit, so it is fitting that both forays took off from the United States — Richard Branson’s from New Mexico, and Jeff Bezos’s from Texas. Americans should seek to build atop these admirable breakthroughs and to ensure that, 20, 30, 40 years hence, when the next vaultingly ambitious entrepreneurs try something astonishing of their own, they, too, find a safe and welcoming reception on American soil.
— Read on

NMB: “Bird on a Wire” Video

NMB (Neal Morse Band)– release video for “Bird On A Wire” the second single from ‘Innocence & Danger’NMB are set to release their much-anticipated fourth studio album ‘Innocence & Danger’, on August 27th, 2021. Today, the band are pleased to share the video for “Bird On A Wire”, the second single taken from the upcoming album.
Watch the video for “Bird On A Wire,” created by Christian Rios, here Portnoy says this about the track, “This was the 2nd song we wrote for the new album’s sessions. The main riff & groove stemmed from an idea Randy George brought in and the chorus was something Bill had…and the intro and middle shred riffs were Eric’s…another truly collaborative effort!”
Watch the video for the album’s first single “Do It All Again” here:
Watch a clip from “The Making of Innocence & Danger” here: 
‘Innocence & Danger’, featuring artwork by Thomas Ewerhard (Transatlantic), will be available as:
• Limited 2CD+DVD Digipak (featuring a Making Of documentary)
• 3LP+2CD Boxset
• Standard 2CD Jewelcase
• Digital Album

Pre-order now here:  Tour dates for NMB – ‘An Evening of Innocence & Danger’ are on sale now
across US and Europe here:
 USA 2021
Oct 8th & 9th – Cross Plains, TN – Morsefest 2021
Oct 12th – Seattle, WA – The Triple Door
Oct 14th – St Charles, IL – The Arcada
Oct 15th – Pontiac, MI – The Crofoot Ballroom
Oct 16th – Ft Wayne, IN – Pieres
Oct 17th – Cleveland, OH – The Beachland Ballroom
Oct 19th – Glenside, PA – The Keswick Theater
Oct 20th – Baltimore, MD – Soundstage
Oct 21st – Boston, MA – The Sinclair
Oct 22nd – New York City, NY – The Sony Theater
Europe 2022
May 28th – Madrid, Spain – Teatro Kapital
May 29th – Barcelona, Spain – Apolo
May 30th – Milan, Italy – Live Club
May 31st – Pratteln, Switzerland – Z7
June 2nd – Tilburg, Netherlands – 013
June 3rd – London, England – Shepherds Bush Empire
June 4th – Paris, France – Trianon
June 5th – Esch Sur Alzette, Luxembourg – Rockhal
June 7th – Cologne, Germany – Live Music Hall
June 9th – Brno, Czech Republic – Sono
June 10th – Krakow, Poland – Studio Club
June 11th – Warsaw, Poland – Progresja
June 13th – Hamburg, Germany – Markthalle
June 15th – Copenhagen, Denmark – Amager Bio
June 16th – Gothenburg, Sweden – Pustervik
June 17th – Oslo, Norway – Cosmopolite
June 18th – Stockholm, Sweden – Lilla Cirkus

With NMB’s previous two releases being concept albums, it’s perhaps remarkable that Innocence & Danger is a series of unrelated songs, but drummer Mike Portnoy says “After two sprawling back to back double concept albums in a row, it was refreshing to get back to writing a collection of unrelated individual songs in the vein of our first album.”
Indeed, making this album came easy to the band; while the initial inspiration came particularly from Bill Hubauer (keyboards) and Randy George (bass), the ideas flowed from everybody from there on, as George recalls: “I am excited about the level of collaboration that we achieved on this one. We even went in with a lot of ideas that weren’t necessarily developed, and I think in the end we have something that represents the best of everybody in the band.”
In fact – like its two acclaimed predecessors – Innocence & Danger is a double album by inspiration, rather than design, as Portnoy explains: “As much as we wanted to try and keep it to a single album after having just done two double albums, we wrote so much material that we found ourselves with our third double album in a row! That’s pretty prog!”
There is also plenty in Innocence & Danger to excite those prog fans who have a thirst for epics, as Neal Morse explains: “There’s one half hour epic and another that’s about 20 minutes long. I really didn’t realize that they were that long when we were recording them, which I guess is great because if a movie is really good, you don’t realize that it’s three hours long! But there are also some shorter songs: some have poppier elements, some are heavier and some have three part acoustic sections. I’m excited about all of it, really.”
NMB (Neal Morse Band) is
Neal Morse (vocals, keyboards and guitars)
Mike Portnoy (drums, vocals)
Randy George (bass)
Eric Gillette (guitars, vocals)
Bill Hubauer (keyboards, vocals)NMB

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Robby Steinhardt (1953-2021), R.I.P.

Steinhardt singing on “Can I Tell You” from “Live from Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert” in 1975.

This is sad news (via Rolling Stone):

“Robby Steinhardt, violinist and co-lead vocalist of the rock outfit Kansas, died Saturday, July 17th. He was 71.

“Steinhardt’s wife, Cindy Steinhardt, confirmed his death on Facebook. Cindy said Steinhardt was admitted to the hospital with acute pancreatitis in May. Not long after, he went into acute septic shock and was placed on life support, and although the outlook was ‘very grave’ at the time, he managed to recover. However, several months later, just as he was about to be released from medical care and moved to a rehab center, Steinhardt suffered another sepsis.”

Steinhart had suffered a massive and near fatal heart attack back in 2013 (which he discussed here, in a video well worth viewing), but eventually recovered. He was apparently finishing up recording on a new album at the time of his death.

I rarely agree with Rolling Stone magazine on anything (politically or musically), but this is absolutely on the mark: “Steinhardt shared vocal duties with Walsh, with the pair switching between backup and lead; but it was Steinhardt’s violin that helped distinguish Kansas’ sound from other bands.”

Of course, great bands, such as Kansas, are really bands; they are great because they are a marriage of many impressive talents. Phil Ehart is one of the most underrated drummers in rock history; Dave Hope was also underappreciated for his stellar bass play; Kerry Livgren is a musical genius; Steve Walsh, in his prime, was a searing vocalist. But Kansas would not have been Kansas without Steinhardt’s precise, emotive, classically-trained, American-drenched, haunting violin. It is what caught my ear when I first heard Kansas as a young teen. It was never a gimmick or an “add-on”; it was central to the band’s sound, as you can easily hear in all of the albums from the 1970s.

Of those albums, my favorite (as hard as it is to choose) is 1975’s Song For America, which is a stunning brew of rooted rock, prog grandeur, spiritual restlessness (“Incomudro-Hymn to the Atman”!), and existential longing. Steinhardt’s playing is essential to the entire mix.

To be honest, I probably never appreciated Steinhardt enough as a vocalist as I should. His lead vocals, on songs such as “Lighting’s Hand” (on 1977’s classic Point of Know Return), are fantastic, with a rocking edge that contrasts with his pure (although often driving) violin-playing. His harmonies were also exceptional; he and Morse (the two band members not from Topeka, interestingly enough) melded together effortlessly, with perfect pitch, their tones and phrasing were key to that immediately recognizable Kansas sound.

I do hope we will eventually be able to hear the album that Steinhardt was working on at the end. Outside of true-blue fans, he will likely never get his proper due. Kerry Livgren, in a 1992 interview, summed it up very well: “Robby had a totally unique function as a violinist, second vocalist, and MC in a live situation. Robby was the link between the band on the stage and the audience.”

Rest in peace, Robby.

Robby Steinhardt: RIP (Official Announcement)

The Steinhardt Family announces the passing of legendary musician Robby Steinhardt.

Robert Eugene Steinhardt, was well recognized as a founding member and original violinist and vocalist for the rock band Kansas.

His violin and vocals on, “Dust in The Wind”, “Point Of No Return” and “Carry On My Wayward Son”, have etched Robby a solid place in rock history.

Robby had been recording his new album with producer Michael Franklin, who put together an all-star cast of famous musicians in support of Robby’s comeback.

Steinhardt was very proud of this project, slated for release in late 2021. He had begun rehearsals for a national tour when he became ill.

Robby is survived by his wife Cindy, and daughter Becky. Steinhardt was 71 years old.

He will be deeply missed by all he knew and his music will last forever. A memorial will be announced in the future.

–via Glass Onion and Michael Franklin

Big Big Train – Common Ground (Album Review) – The Prog Report

Big Big Train matters. Common Ground matters.

A new release from Big Big Train is never just another release in the world of prog. Since 2009’s The Underfall Yard, the band has been one of the leading bands of third-wave prog, the signal marker and bellwether. Indeed, every release from Big Big Train for the past decade has manifested itself as a fundamental shift—a very rethinking of who and what we are as a community—of the genre itself. While there are innumerable great prog acts out there, none quite match Big Big Train when it comes to innovation, to creativity, and to cohesion. Is there any band with such a fanatic and determined fan base? If so, I’m not familiar with them. Big Big Train is as much a movement as it is a band.
— Read on

My 103 favorite albums

So, it’s the last day of vacation, and I just got back from a gorgeous hike in the Big Horn Mountains, Wyoming. For some reason, as I unwind, it just felt right to list my favorite albums of all time. Here’s hoping you enjoy. . .

  1. Anathema, Weather Systems
  2. Beach Boys, Pet Sounds
  3. Big Big Train, English Electric
  4. Big Big Train, Grimspound
  5. Big Big Train, The Underfall Yard
  6. Catherine Wheel, Adam and Eve
  7. Chicago Transit Authority
  8. Chris Squire, Fish Out of Water
  9. Cocteau Twins, Heaven or Las Vegas
  10. Cosmograf, Capacitor
  11. Dave Brubeck Quartet, Time Changes
  12. Dave Brubeck Quartet, Time Out
  13. Flower Kings, Flower Power
  14. Flower Kings, Space Revolver
  15. Flower Kings, Stardust We Are
  16. Genesis, A Trick of the Tail
  17. Genesis, Foxtrot
  18. Genesis, Selling England by the Pound
  19. Glass Hammer, Chronometree
  20. Glass Hammer, Valkyrie
  21. IZZ, Crush of Night
  22. Jethro Tull, Benefit
  23. Jethro Tull, Thick as a Brick
  24. Kansas, Leftoverature
  25. Kansas, Point of No Return
  26. Kate Bush, Aerial
  27. Kate Bush, Hounds of Love
  28. Kevin McCormick, Squall
  29. Kevin McCormick, With the Coming of Evening
  30. Led Zeppelin I
  31. Led Zeppelin II
  32. Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy
  33. Marillion, FEAR
  34. Marillion, Marbles
  35. Marillion, Afraid of Sunlight
  36. Miles Davis, Kind of Blue
  37. Moody Blues, Days of Future Passed
  38. My Bloody Valentine, Loveless
  39. NAO, Fog Electric
  40. Neal Morse Band, The Grand Experiment
  41. Neal Morse, Testimony
  42. New Order, Low Life
  43. Newspaperflyhunting, Iceberg Soul
  44. Nosound, Lightdark
  45. Peter Gabriel, Security
  46. Peter Gabriel, So
  47. Pink Floyd, Animals
  48. Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon
  49. Pink Floyd, Meddle
  50. Porcupine Tree, Fear of a Blank Planet
  51. Porcupine Tree, Sky Moves Sideways
  52. Pure Reason Revolution, The Dark Third
  53. Riverside, Out of Myself
  54. Riverside, Second Life Syndrome
  55. Riverside, Wasteland
  56. Rush, 2112
  57. Rush, Clockwork Angels
  58. Rush, Grace Under Pressure
  59. Rush, Moving Pictures
  60. Rush, Signals
  61. Rush, Snakes and Arrows
  62. Simon and Garfunkel, Bookends
  63. Simon and Garfunkel, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme
  64. Simple Minds, New Gold Dream
  65. Simple Minds, Sister Feelings Call/Sons and Fascination
  66. Simple Minds, Sparkle in the Rain
  67. Spock’s Beard, Snow
  68. Spock’s Beard, V
  69. Steven Wilson, Grace from Drowning
  70. Steven Wilson, Hand.Cannot.Erase.
  71. Steven Wilson, Insurgentes
  72. Talk Talk, Laughing Stock
  73. Talk Talk, Spirit of Eden
  74. Talk Talk, Colour of Spring
  75. Tears for Fears, Elemental
  76. Tears for Fears, Everybody Loves a Happy Ending
  77. Tears for Fears, Songs from the Big Chair
  78. Tears for Fears, The Hurting
  79. The Connells, Boylan Heights
  80. The Cure, Disintegration
  81. The Cure, Pornography
  82. The Doors, The Doors
  83. The Sundays, Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic
  84. The Tangent, Le Sacre du Travail 
  85. The Tangent, The Music That Died Alone
  86. Thomas Dolby, Golden Age of Wireless
  87. Thomas Dolby, The Flat Earth
  88. Traffic, John Barleycorn Must Die
  89. Transatlantic, SMPTe
  90. Transatlantic, The Absolute Universe
  91. U2, The Joshua Tree
  92. U2, Unforgettable Fire
  93. U2, War
  94. Ultravox, Lament
  95. Ultravox, Rage in Eden
  96. Van Morrison, Astral Weeks
  97. World Party, Goodbye Jumbo
  98. XTC, Black Sea
  99. XTC, Skylarking
  100. Yes, 90125
  101. Yes, Close to the Edge
  102. Yes, Drama
  103. Yes, Fragile