Steven Wilson on Porcupine Tree’s Unexpected, Slow-Simmering Reunion – SPIN

I’m excited you’ll be reissuing the first Storm Corrosion album this year. I know you get asked this a lot, but…have you and Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt talked recently about making another album?
It is the 10th anniversary, so we’re doing a new version, and we’re gonna get together and do some press to promote it. We even talked about recording a new track for the new edition, but we said, “If we’re gonna do that, why don’t we just do a new record?” So the subject certainly has come up. I think we would love to do something else together. I don’t think we’d do a follow-up to that record. I think we want to do something quite different again. I don’t know what that would be, but I know that’s the way he is and what I am. That record is so perfect and definitive in what it tries to do and what it achieves. It’s a little diamond, I think. And I think a lot of people missed out on it because it’s not what they expected us to do. But I know that for some people that it’s their favorite thing that either of us have done. I’ve heard that more and more. There’s a little cult growing up around that record.
— Read on www.spin.com/2022/06/steven-wilson-porcupine-tree-reunion-interview/

Owen Barfield’s “History in English Words” ~ The Imaginative Conservative

An extraordinary man by any measure, Owen Barfield (1898-1997), one of the least known of the Inklings, published his first book, History in English Words, in 1926, at the very young age of 27 or 28. One of the finest books I’ve ever read, History in English Words is an in-depth examination of the history of Western civilization as seen through the eyes of English speakers, measuring a significant number of words through their individual journeys and evolutions.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2022/08/owen-barfield-history-in-english-words-bradley-birzer.html

Yellowstone at 150 ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Granted, I love the American West. I love open skies, I love mountains, and I love cool, dry air. Even given all these personal loves, I still think Yellowstone is something truly special. Everywhere you look—in addition to seeing families—you see an abundance of nature, God’s creation at its most glorious. Mountain ranges, vast meadows, deep canyons, pine tree forests, dynamic rivers and waterfalls, boiling and steaming geysers, petrified trees. The landscapes in Yellowstone are as varied as they are vast. As my younger children noted, many of the landscapes in Yellowstone rivaled anything in a fantasy novel (specifically Narnia) or a painting.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2022/08/yellowstone-150-bradley-birzer.html

Yellowstone at 150 ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Yellowstone National Park is something truly special. Everywhere you look, you see an abundance of nature—God’s creation at its most glorious: mountain ranges, vast meadows, deep canyons, pine tree forests, dynamic rivers and waterfalls, boiling and steaming geysers, petrified trees… (essay by Bradley Birzer)
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2022/08/yellowstone-150-bradley-birzer.html

Glass Hammer Set to Release New Album

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Here’s the latest news from one of our favorite artists:

At The Gate, the third album of the Skallagrim trilogy, is set for release on October 7th. The new album follows Dreaming City (2020) and Skallagrim – Into The Breach (2021), bringing the story of the ‘thief with the screaming sword’  to its conclusion.

Vocalist Hannah Pyror is back to front the group and is joined by bandleader Steve Babb, keyboardist Fred Schendel, and drummer Aaron Raulston. In addition, vocalists Jon Davison (Yes) and John Beagley (Life In Digital) will contribute as well as guitarist Reese Boyd.   

Babb says to expect another 70’s metal-influenced project but also promises a return to the symphonic-prog sound the band is best known for.

“An album can be both things,” he claims. “Since the inception of the trilogy in 2020, it’s been my intention to tell this sword and sorcery-inspired tale with appropriate music. And to do that, I needed the sound to evolve toward something grand by the end of the third album. Skallagrim’s story is one of lost joy, of grief, and longing, and ultimately of a worn-down swordsman’s coming to grips with what the world can and cannot offer him. It’s probably the most important story we’ve ever told through music, so important to me that it led me to retell it in novels.” Babb’s book, “Skallagrim – In The Vales Of Pagarna,” was released in March of this year.

Babb adds, “So, for those who love our newer, edgier sound, they won’t be disappointed. But I’ve brought back the pipe organ, the choirs, and the sweeping ballads for those who miss the sounds of our earlier albums. I think it works, but the fans will be the ones to decide!”

America’s Anti-Slavery Legacy ~ The Imaginative Conservative

Yet, there are many problems with this. Aside from the critical fact that half of the states, prior to the Civil War, didn’t have slavery, and free labor radically outproduced slave labor (thus, leading to the conclusion that America and capitalism were really built on free labor, not on slave labor), perhaps the biggest problem resides in our very Founding and the documents that define it. In particular, it is worth considering the Declaration of Independence, passed on July 4, 1776, and signed on August 2, 1776. In it, Jefferson first defines the nature of the universe and man’s role within it. That is, “when in the course of human events….” In the following paragraph, though, Jefferson made a statement that astounded the world. But, to Jefferson and Congress, they were merely stating the obvious: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” To be sure, this has to be one of the most powerful sentences in the history of the world, especially in its non-religious history. Critically, the statement claims that “all men”—not some men, not non-Catholics (see, for example, the 1689 English Bill of Rights), or not non-whites—are created equal. The founders could have easily tempered this statement, but they didn’t. Indeed, it exists in a world of glory, and it became, as Martin Luther King, Jr., so profoundly understood it, a promissory note. Just because Americans did not live up fully to the statement in 1776 did not mean that they never would.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2022/07/americas-anti-slavery-legacy-bradley-birzer.html

The Bardic Depths’ “Promises of Hope” Is a Triumph

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The Bardic Depths, a musical project begun by musician Dave Bandana and lyricist Brad Birzer (who also founded this blog!) have just released their second album, Promises of Hope.

Rock artists fear succumbing to the dreaded “sophomore slump”, but Bandana et al. need have no worries on that front. Promises of Hope shows tremendous growth from their eponymous debut album, which was an all-around delight itself. (Reviewed on Spirit of Cecilia here.) There is now a stable core of musicians involved: Bandana on vocals, guitars, keyboards; Gareth Cole on guitars, Peter Jones on vocals, sax, penny whistle, and Tim Gehrt on drums.

Like their debut, Promises of Hope is a concept album, this time relating a tale of divine intervention in an attempted suicide in a fantasy realm. Sounds heavy, I know, but this is some of the most life-affirming music I’ve ever heard. The opening song, And She Appeared, is roaring rocker that is reminiscent of classic ’70s Rush. Cole’s lead guitar trades wonderful solos with Richard Krueger’s galloping organ. It’s an exhilarating way to begin an album. Lyrically, it introduces the main character, a woman who is

“Halo’d wrapped in white
Radiant wrapped in white
Innocence made real
Beauty made manifest”

However, there is something tragic in the offing, because she brings “promises of hope, but never of victory.”

Regal Pride, the next song, features lead vocals by Peter Jones, as well as his excellent saxophone flourishes. Our heroine has been betrayed by a man of mystery, and the melody is suitably somber.

Track three, Consumed, is the best of the album. It features a stunning classical guitar intro by Kevin McCormick, and soon shifts into a beautiful British-folk melody that sounds timeless. Jones’ penny whistle and Donny O”Connell’s spritely violin add Celtic atmosphere while Cole pulls off two more excellent electric guitar solos. The heroine has lost hope, and she is consumed by a fire.

Next up is The Burning Flame, which has a very spacey intro that calls to mind Wish You Were Here-era Pink Floyd. McCormick contributes another excellent guitar solo, this time on electric, while Paolo Limoli provides wonderful piano and Fender Rhodes accompaniment. Jones takes lead vocals here, and they have a definite bluesy edge. This entire track is a gorgeous, slow burn (pun intended!) of song that I wish lasted far longer than six minutes. Fortunately, it segues into the extended instrumental, Colours and Shapes, where Jones’ sax continues the spacey blues mood.

In Why Are You Here? our heroine is confronted in the afterlife:

Why are you here?
Did you not respect?
Did you not cherish it?
Could you not love life?

This is another somewhat slow song, but one that is enlivened by Limoli’s tasteful piano fills and Cole’s terrific guitar solos. 

Things pick up with Returned, where the protagonist’s suicide is rejected by her Creator:

“You must return
You will make good
Rewrite this wrong
You must Love”

These lyrics are accompanied by a triumphant melody that is bursting with energy. The album’s co-producer, Robin Armstrong really shines here, lending his talents on keyboards, vocals, bass, and lead guitar.

With our heroine given a new lease on life, The Essence explodes out of the speakers with an insistent beat and infectious melody that is truly exhilarating. 

“Reconciling hope, reconciling all.
Reconciling everything.
It is the universe made real.”

Bandana’s vocals and synths are outstanding here; they convey the pure joy of the lyrics.

The final track, Imagine, is a coda addressed to all of us and the choices we must make:

“Imagine a world in which we are judged by
Our most insufferable, our sorriest…

A horror beyond time…

Imagine a world in which we are judged by
Our best and our glory, our gift and our love…

There is a word and it needs to be heard.
It is hope. It is what you promised to me.
Rise up and see, it is our victory.”

Krueger’s church organ is appropriately employed here, because this last song is a hymn to hope. As the song unfolds, the tempo increases inexorably, and I’m reminded of the final scene in C. S. Lewis’ Narnia book, The Last Battle, where the protagonists reach paradise. As they realize where they are, they cry out, “Further up and farther in!”

Some final thoughts on this special album:

Dave Bandana has said that Robin Armstrong really pushed him to do his best, and it shows. His vocals and keyboards are terrific throughout. Peter Jones is the secret weapon of The Bardic Depths – his singing and sax work are some of the best elements in the mix. Gareth Cole’s lead guitar is AMAZING!

Promises of Hope is an outstanding album with an inspiring concept. The melodies complement the lyrics perfectly. As good as their debut was, this is even better. The core group of Bandana, Cole, Jones, and Gehrt have gelled into a formidable ensemble, and I hope they plan to tour.

Promises of Hope is on Gravity Dream Music. Here is the official lyric video for The Essence

THE POWER TO TAX IS THE POWER TO DESTROY

by Richard K. Munro

The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to get the most feathers with the least hissing.  ~  Jean-Baptiste Colbert

https://hwbrands.substack.com/p/taxes-taxes-taxes

The power to tax is the power to destroy. We left NY and NJ because the real estate taxes were exhorbitant. I now have no close relatives there. Everyone moved to Nevada, Arizona, North Carolina and Florida. We live in California where the tax situation is not ideal but thanks to Prop 13 our real estate tax is reasonable and under control which is important now that we are retired. Still gradually our real estate taxes, trash and insurance go up every year. We should be OK but If Prop 13 were rescinded we would sell and take all our savings and property out of state.

I knew a semi-retired doctor in NYC who owned his home free and clear and owed almost $50,000 in real estate tax. He sold his house invested in CD’s and moved away. He was cashing in $20,000 a year in CD’s just to pay his taxes. He said if he stayed in New York five more years he would be flat broke. That is wrong. Now he lives out of state in an apartment and pays zero real estate tax. Previously he paid NEW JERSEY STATE INCOME TAX, NEW YORK CITY INCOME TAX and NEW YORK STATE INCOME TAX as well as FEDERAL INCOME TAX. And he was a man who saved his money his whole life, paid off his home and made a very good salary at his medical profession. But he could not afford to be retired in NYC. Public housing is now the largest single landlord in NYC (about 8%). NYC is becoming a city of the few who are ultra rich and the poor. But taxes and crime are also driving younger New Yorkers and retired New Yorkers out of the region. A recent poll stated : “My family would have a better future if we left New York City permanently.”

The poll found 59% of respondents strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement, while 41% somewhat or strongly disagreed.

https://nypost.com/2022/04/06/why-majority-of-new-yorkers-would-rather-be-anywhere-else-poll/

Chicago and New York are losing so many people and businesses due to oppressive almost confiscatory taxes AND declining public safety and services. I haven’t been back to either city since the 1990s and I have no intention of living there or even visiting there again. Almost everyone I knew in school has moved out of state.

So back to my first point. The power to tax is a necessary power of the state, city and federal government. But when the state confiscates the savings and property of the retired middle class it is going too far and people will vote with their feet and pocketbooks.

Spirit of Cecilia Progcast 3

A special (MEGA!) progcast, featuring Tad Wert, Kevin McCormick, Dave Bandana, and Brad Birzer. Nearly 3 1/2 hours long, we play Tin Spirits, SAND, NAO, Oak, Nosound, No-man, Memories of Machines, Sanguine Hum, The Tangent, Big Big Train, The Flower Kings, and The Bardic Depths. All of the music was chosen to impress Kevin, and we find out his reactions to it all. Additional bonus feature: Dave talks a lot about the making of the most recent The Bardic Depths album, Promises of Hope.

Music, Books, Poetry, Film

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