All posts by bradbirzer

By day, I'm a father of seven and husband of one. By night, I'm an author, a biographer, and a prog rocker. Interests: Rush, progressive rock, cultural criticisms, the Rocky Mountains, individual liberty, history, hiking, and science fiction.

Every Soul a Battlefield: Rush’s HEMISPHERES

A review of the 2-CD remastered version of Rush, Hemispheres, 40th Anniversary Edition.  Please note: I have NOT seen the deluxe edition yet.  It should be arriving soon.

An album that wants us to find the whole person.

Hemispheres represents Rush at its most progressive best—that is, until 2012’s Clockwork Angels. 

Indeed, Hemispheres represents Rush at its earliest progressive best. Caress of Steel might be more wacky; 2112 might be more anthemic; and A Farewell to Kings might be more diverse in tone; but Hemispheres is an album without flaw. Even though much of the album came about at the last minute and with little thought, Geddy and Alex were certainly at the height of their musical experimentation, and Neil had moved from writing short stories and prose poem to write a full novel and creating its own logically consisted internal world. Having already explored the mystical fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien, the bizarre individualism of Ayn Rand, Peart now embraced the work of one of the most complicated and best philosophers of the modern age, Friedrich Nietzsche. What made all the glorious pieces of this majestic moment in Rush history come together, though, was certainly Terry Brown’s flawless production and Hugh Syme’s surreal art.

The inspiration for Peart’s exploration of Apollo and Dionysius.

It would be hard to exaggerate Brown’s productions skills. On Caress, everything felt like a razor’s edge cutting through the haze of psychedelia. 2112 felt righteously angry, a call to arms to protect all that is good in western civilization. Farewell felt justly wise and statesmanlike, three intelligent men challenging the corruption so comfortably residing in their midst. Hemispheres, however, perfectly combines classical myth and 1970s era space opera, allowing a narrative that explains the Aristotelian notion of moderation while clothed in the tragic prose of Nietzsche and yet still giving us a Skywalker-esque hero in Cygnus. “Let the love of truth shine clear.” The first side ends with the apotheosis of Cygnus, becoming not just the god of moderation, but the most integrated and indispensable man yet to emerge in the universe. [Make sure to go to page 2–by clicking below]

Socialism Kills

Socialism kills.

I’m happily shocked that the New York Times would print an anti-communist article. I also notice that the piece conveniently left out the fact that the Times once left one of its reporters behind in Cambodia, Dith Pran, a man who suffered a year in the gulag before making his escape.

The two mentioned in the article are two of three (the third being Pol Pot) responsible for murdering upwards of 50% of the Cambodian population between 1975 and 1978.

Their communism combined Karl Marx, Thomas Jefferson, and Jean-Paul Sartre.

Socialism kills (yes, worth repeating).

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/16/world/asia/khmer-rouge-nuon-chea-khieu-samphan-genocide-cambodia.html?emc=edit_th_181117&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=455752581117

The Genius of Sam Healy and NAO

A review of North Atlantic Oscillation, Grind Show(Kscope, 2018). Out today.

Ok, I’m in the confessional. Bless me, Sam Healy, for I have sinned. Well, sort of.  When North Atlantic Oscillation came out with their first album, Grappling Hooks, I was stunned. Just stunned.  I had it within days of its initial release, back in late 2009, and it seemed (and still seems) to be the perfect mixture of prog and pop. Truly art rock in the best sense of the term, following in the line (of tradition, not sound) of the Beach Boys, XTC, Kate Bush, and Tears for Fears.  It opened my own mind and soul to a million possibilities in music and art, and it also introduced me to the label, Kscope.  Kscope, I’d assumed, was the British prog equivalent of Pixar in the United States—a techno fun house of intense creativity and unending paths into realms unknown.

When NAO released Fog Electricin 2012, I wasn’t sure what to think of it.  I liked it very much, but, for some reason, it didn’t resonate immediately with me. It was clearly intelligent (to the point of just being downright cerebral), but it seemed a bit cold to me. Then—and I remember it as a glorious moment—I tried it again, roughly a year after its initial release. Something hit me profoundly just as the album hit the 13-minute mark in the middle of track 4, “Empire Waste,” and the entire album just clicked for me.  In prog rock, typically, one expects the song breaks to mean something, the start of one idea and the end of another.  Not with NAO. The great breaks come in the middle of songs, not at the beginning or the end.  I didn’t catch that until my listen of Fog Electric, a year after its release.  To this day, a half decade ago, I regard it as one of the finest albums I’ve ever heard.  If pushed, it would certainly be in my top 25 all-time favorites.

Crisis in the Catholic Church

Fewer things in the world could be more depressing than reading this article (linked below), explaining how the majority of the Catholic leadership sidestepped a real and meaningful movement toward exposing the darkness now in dwelling in Christ’s house.

US bishops punt resolution encouraging Holy See to release McCarrick documents
— Read on www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/us-bishops-punt-resolution-encouraging-holy-see-to-release-mccarrick-documents-75688

Ugly and, frankly, evil. The decision has more the stench of Satan than of incense.

Continue reading Crisis in the Catholic Church

Why Spirit of Cecilia?

For six years, I was one of five folks who founded and ran a website dedicated to reviewing and promoting music.When we formed in October 2012, we originally wanted to be a fan site for the English (and now Anglo-American-Scandinavian) band, Big Big Train.  We broadened our reach almost immediately, attempting to review music of all forms.  

We ended up having a blast, to be sure.

After six years, though, several of us thought it was time for a change.  That is, time to take us not just into music but into all of our cultural loves: music, art, poetry, fiction, history, biography, and film. Certainly, we could’ve done that with the old site, but that site had taken on a life of its own.  We wish them nothing but love and success!  We’re certainly not leaving music behind with the Spirit of Cecilia, but we are adding quite a bit to it. So, not just Big Big Train, but Big Big Train plus Margaret Atwood, T.S. Eliot, Willa Cather, Miles Davis, Leo Strauss, Philip Melanchthon, Sir Thomas More, Edmund Burke, Alfred Tennyson, J.R.R. Tolkien, Kevin J. Anderson, Christopher Nolan, and Alfred Hitchcock.

We threw around a number of titles for this website, knowing all along that our inspiration was St. Cecilia, the Roman Catholic (and Anglican) patroness of music and the arts. Traditionally, St. Cecilia is depicted as a young woman, holding and performing on some kind of instrument, with an angel or two watching over her. Though quite Catholic, such depictions are most likely Christianized updates of the muses inspiring a Mediterranean musician.  

Kevin McCormick finally came up with the name, “Spirit of Cecilia,” and it stuck.  Indeed, more than just stick, it seems perfect for what we want to do. 

And, this brings us to a second form of inspiration for the title–arguably the greatest album of any type of music of the last six to seven decades, SPIRIT OF EDEN by Talk Talk. With all due apologies (and praise for) to James Marsh, the cover artist, I did my best (and, sadly, my best is pathetic!) to create an icon something akin to the original 1988 cover to that album.

My terrible imitation of Marsh’s work.
Ok, show off.  Art by James Marsh, 1988.

Well, as is natural for all human institutions and works, this website will evolve over time as well. No matter what, though, we promise to write our best, to think our best, and to give you. . . you guessed it. . . our best. Thanks for joining us.  We hope you enjoy the ride.

–Brad Birzer

Coming Soon. . .

A verve-acious blog pursuing the good, the true, and the beautiful and taking seriously music, art, poetry, fiction, essays, and film.

Guided by the Spirit of St. Cecilia, patroness of the arts.  Featuring the writing of Carl Olson, Father Jay Watson, Paul Watson, Dedra Birzer, Bryan Morey, Kevin McCormick, Stephen Catanzarite, Tad Wert, Erik Heter, and more.

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