Category Archives: Music

Spreading the Good Word of Prog

Tony Rowsick, the host of my favorite music podcast, Prog-Watch, invited me to be a “Guest DJ” on the latest episode (#603). I had a really hard time narrowing my choices down to four songs, but I eventually settled on ones by U.K., Big Big Train (of course!), Sanguine Hum, and Glass Hammer.

You can stream the episode here, or catch it via iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, etc. ( Just search for Prog-Watch)

If you are a lover of prog rock, then you need to subscribe to Prog-Watch. I have discovered more great artists through Tony’s show than any other source. He is also an excellent interviewer of prog’s biggest stars as well as up and coming ones. It comes out weekly, and it is well worth the time spent listening. As Tony would say, “Until next time, be good to each other, and Prog On, my brothers and sisters!”

Ghost Rider

“Parking my motorcycle in front of a motel at the end of a long day on the road could certainly be sweet, like finally exhaling after holding my breath all day, but best of all was setting out in the morning. Whatever torments the night had brought; whatever weather the new day threw at me, when I loaded up the bike and swung my leg over the saddle, my whole perspective changed. Focus tightened into the mechanics and mentality of operating the machine, and awareness contracted to that demanding paradigm. As I let in the clutch and turned the throttle, my world-view expanded as i moved into a  whole new paradigm of landscapes, highways and wildlife. Infinite possibilities” p42, Ghost Rider

Not just the perspective, Neil Peart manages to express the very exact thoughts, emotions and even words any long distance motorcyclist would have endured. Brought back very distinct memories, even though my own experiences are from a totally different part of the globe.

Album from the archives — circa 2008-2010.

Welcome to Wayand

This Strange Engine by Marillion (1997)

This Strange Engine (1997)

Twenty-two years ago, Marillion released its album, THIS STRANGE ENGINE.  It should be remembered that this is the fifth album to feature the voice and lyrics of Steve Hogarth.  As such, reviewers still had to compare the Marillion of Fish to the Marillion of Hogarth.  While THIS STRANGE ENGINE earned its just share of good reviews, it also had reviewers crying that while Fish had innovated, Hogarth rested. 

AllMusic went so far as to label THE STRANGE ENGINE “ordinary.”

If only.

Granted, Marillion had just come off two of its most powerful and unrelentingly intense albums–BRAVE and AFRAID OF SUNLIGHT–but this should not lessen the power of THIS STRANGE ENGINE.  Rather, it should add context.

Yes’s 90125: My Favorite Christmas Album

Ok, ok, it makes no sense. I know, I know. Yes, 90125, Christmas? What the heck, Birzer?

And, if you pushed me, I still couldn’t tell you why with any reasonable explanation why 90125 is my favorite Christmas album, but it is.

I can feel no sense of measure

No illusion as we take

Refuge in young man’s pleasure

Breaking down the dreams we make real

Like almost every male of my generation, I purchased 90125 within a week or two of its arrival in the music stores. Combining old Yes, Trevor Horn’s growing signature new wave production, Trevor Rabin’s soaring and BIG guitars, libertarian, ponderous, and (mostly) optimistic lyrics, plus some of the best vocal harmonies of the 1980s, 90125 was a wonder.

I had grown up with Fragile, Close to the Edge, and Yessongs, but I had no prejudice against the new direction of Yes. This was crisp excellence and nothing less. Granted, I missed the intricacies of Roger Dean’s artwork, but the Apple graphics were pretty good and interesting–especially given the Jobs-ian minimalist trends of the day.

Music, good for you!

Music, good to you!

So, why Christmas? Well, because once I bought the album in early November of 1983, I couldn’t stop listening to it. Long before digitized music, I listened to the vinyl with headphones, over and over again. And, one of my most vivid memories of 1983? Laying down on my bedroom floor, staring out the window into the night sky, listening to 90125 with my huge and glorious headphones on Christmas Eve.

Reasonable? No. After all, 1983, Yes, Christmas, 90125. . . Stranger Things, indeed.

Jigsaw puzzle traitors
Set to spill the beans
Constitution screw up
Shattering the dreams
Blood flows in the desert
Dark citadels burning too
Watch! Look over your shoulder

For Christmas Day: “My Lord Has Come” by Will Todd

Shepherds, called by angels,
called by love and angels:
No place for them but a stable.
My Lord has come.

Sages, searching for stars,
searching for love in heaven;
No place for them but a stable.
My Lord has come.

His love will hold me,
his love will cherish me,
love will cradle me.

Lead me, lead me to see him,
sages and shepherds and angels;
No place for me but a stable.
My Lord has come.

Blessed Christmas to all!

— Rick Krueger

For Christmas Midnight: “What Sweeter Music” by John Rutter

What sweeter music can we bring
Than a carol for to sing
The birth of this our Heavenly King?
Awake the voice! Awake the string!

Dark and dull night fly hence away!
And give the honour to this day
That sees December turn’d to May.

Why does the chilling winter’s morn
Smile like a field beset with corn?
Or smell like a meadow newly shorn,
Thus on a sudden?  Come and see
The cause why things thus fragrant be:
’Tis He is born, whose quickening birth
Gives life and lustre, public mirth,
To heaven and the under-earth.

We see Him come, and know Him ours,
Who with his sunshine and his showers
Turns all the patient ground to flowers.
The darling of the world is come,
And fit it is we find a room
To welcome Him.

The nobler part
Of all the house here is the heart,
Which we will give Him; and bequeath
This holly and this ivy wreath 
To do Him honour, who’s our King
And Lord of all this revelling.

— Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

For Christmas Eve: “A Spotless Rose” by Herbert Howells

A spotless Rose is growing,
Sprung from a tender root,
Of ancient seers’ foreshowing,
Of Jesse promised fruit;
Its fairest bud unfolds to light
Amid the cold, cold winter,
and in the dark mid-night.

The Rose which I am singing,
Whereof Isaiah said,
Is from its sweet root springing
In Mary, purest Maid;
For through our God’s great love and might
The Blessed Babe she bare us
In a cold, cold winter’s night.

“O Herbert, that cadence to A Spotless Rose is not merely ‘one of those things’.  Brainwave it certainly is, but it is much more than that.  It is a stroke of genius.  I should like, when my time comes, to pass away with that magical cadence.”

— Howells’ fellow composer Patrick Hadley

Blessed Christmas Eve to all!

— Rick Krueger