Sunday, March 23, 2014

Alan Parsons Project The Sicilian Defence released

The Sicilian Defence

Alan Parsons Project


Released: March 23, 2014


Recorded: 1979


Peak: --


Sales (in millions): --


Genre: progressive rock lite


Tracks:

Song Title [time]

  1. P-K4 [5:00]
  2. P-QB4 (aka “Elsie’s Theme”) [6:22]
  3. Kt-KB3 [3:07]
  4. Kt-QB3 [1:15]
  5. P-Q4 [3:54]
  6. PxP [3:27]
  7. KtxP [4:01]
  8. Kt-B3 [0:53]
  9. Kt-QB3 [8:16]
  10. P-Q3 [3:30]

All tracks composed by Eric Woolfson.


Total Running Time: 39:52


The Players:

  • Alan Parsons (keyboards, synthesizer, programming, producing, engineering)
  • Eric Woolfson (piano)

Rating:

2.444 out of 5.00 (average of 7 ratings)

About the Album:

In 1979, the Alan Parsons Project were exhausted and ready for a break. However, their record company, Arista, set release dates for the band’s third and fourth albums. The Project responded by recording two albums at once. Parsons said in 2013 that they told the label, “These are your last two albums. Now give us a new deal.” WK The first of these, Eve, received a 1979 release date. The second, The Sicilian Defence, was not as well received.

Named after a chess move, the album was a collection of instrumentals recorded on the spot in three days instead of the usual months it took them to craft an album. OS There is some discrepancy as to whether the material was recorded in 1979 or 1981, but the stories seem to point more to 1979.

In an event, the songs were “produced rather lazily and poorly written on purpose as to figuritively raise the middle finger to Arista.” LM The album was really a collection of “incomplete sketches that were never fleshed out into proper songs, and whose titles follow a particular variation of the ches opening for which the album was named. WK The record company was reportedly “so horrified by the results that they stashed it away in their vaults, never to be released.” LM

Parsons himself said it was “created with very little effort or enthusiasm” LM and that “it doesn’t have the polish or finesse that all the albums that were released previously had. It’s really not up to the standard of the real Project albums.” WK In 2005, he said “it was never released and never will be, if I have anything to do with it. I have not heard it since it was finished. I hope the tapes no longer exist.” WK

Of course, the hype machine kicked in for fans of the Project who wanted to hear every scrap produced by the group. The album gained a “reputation for being a musical joke, or even a display of musical hooliganry.” OS Fans may have been led to believe that “Alan and Eric had really let their hair down on this one, making something of a [Beatles’] ‘Revolution No. 9,’ or of a Metal Machine Music,” OS the infamous Lou Reed album many cite as unlistenable. As such a work would have been very uncharacteristic of the usual polish associated with the Project, it naturally created “an atmosphere of intrigue.” OS

However, an edited version of P-QB4 was retitled as Elsie’s Theme and included on the 2008 reissue of Eve. The original is one of the longest tracks and “has the prettiest melody on the album, nocturnal and elegant, that may deserve salvation, even if six minutes is still overkill.” OS

In 2014, the full album was released as part of the 11-CD box set The Complete Albums Collection. There was nothing “atonal or rebellious or hooliganish” OS about the album. It consists of “a bunch of instrumental numbers – all of them rhythmic, usually set to simple drum machine patterns, all of them played either on synthesizer or on piano, all of them probably largely improvised, but mostly in standard keys, using standard chords, and generating the usual melancholic aura associated with the Project. Nothing particularly exciting and nothing particularly awful.” OS

The longest track on the album, Kt-QB3, “mainly consists of one single jazzy theme looped on endless repeat, and could, perhaps, work as a rhythm part for a more elaborate composition, but nothing else.” OS There are other tracks which sound like, “say, an early underworked demo for Pink Floyd’s ‘On the Run’…and others sounding like equally underworked demos for the Project’s own stuff, usually with one or two basic mu¬sical ideas per track.” OS

Parsons said in 2016, “I’m happy that it’s fulfilling a need to document, historically, the entire catalog of the Alan Parsons Project, but it’s not our finest hour by any stretch of the imagination.” WK Certainly “it ain’t [Bob Dylan’s] Blonde on Blonde where composing and recording on the-spot are concerned” OS but it is “interesting to hear…what kinds of things Parsons could come up with when working on autopilot.” OS


Notes: This appears to only be available as a part of the 11-CD box set The Complete Albums Collection.

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First posted 9/24/2021.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Asia’s Gravitas released

Gravitas

Asia


Released: March 19, 2014


Peak: 159 US, 92 UK, -- CN, -- AU


Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US and UK)


Genre: heritage rock


Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

  1. Valkyrie (2014, --)
  2. Gravitas
  3. The Closer I Get to You
  4. Nyctophobia
  5. Russian Dolls
  6. Heaven Help Me Now
  7. I Would Die for You
  8. Joe DiMaggio’s Glove
  9. Till We Meet Again

All songs written by John Wetton and Geoff Downes unless noted otherwise.


Total Running Time: 49:39


The Players:

  • John Wetton (vocals, bass)
  • Geoff Downes (keyboards)
  • Carl Palmer (drums)
  • Sam Coulson (guitar)

Rating:

3.000 out of 5.00 (average of 3 ratings)

About the Album:

Asia surfaced in the early ‘80s as a supergroup comprised of John Wetton (King Crimson, Uriah Heep), Steve Howe (Yes), Geoff Downes (Yes, Buggles), and Carl Palmer (Emerson, Lake & Palmer). The original lineup only lasted one more album before members started splintering off. Downes, however, maintained the group for the next two decades, often as the only original member.

In 2006, the original four reunited for a tour and followed it with their first studio release in a quarter century. The reunion lasted for two more albums before Steve Howe parted ways with the group again. The other three, however, soldiered on releasing Gravitas with Sam Coulson on guitar. The 27-year-old “acquits himself nicely” MC on the “more reserved album” MC which serves as a showcase for Downes and Wetton’s “longstanding partnership as thoughtful songwriters and technically proficient arrangers.” MC

“Asia have always moved back and forth between their radio-friendly pop side and more classical-influenced progressive side.” MC With its “elegiac, classical tone” MC, “Gravitas bends more toward the latter.” MC It has “moments of bright, burning rock intensity…framed by extended orchestral synth arrangements,” MC such as on the three-part suite Heaven Help Me Now.

While most of the songs were written for this album, the song I Would Die for You is a reworked version of a demo dating back to 1986. WK The song “brings to mind the band’s golden ‘Heat of the Moment’ period.” MC Till We Meet Again also harkens back to another era as it “conjure[s] Queen’s layered majestic harmonies.” MC

There’s also lead single Valkyrie which “draw[s] upon Norse mythology.” MC The song also served as the original title for the album before the band opted for Gravitas instead.


Notes: Various deluxe editions included acoustic versions of “Russian Dolls,” “The Closer I Get to You,” and “Joe DiMaggio’s Glove.”

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First posted 9/7/2020; updated 8/6/2021.

Monday, March 17, 2014

3/17/2014: Sia released breakthrough hit “Chandelier”

Last updated 10/24/2020.

Chandelier

Sia

Writer(s): Sia Furler, Jesse Shatkin (see lyrics here)


Released: March 17, 2014


First Charted: April 21, 2014


Peak: 8 US, 10 RR, 17 AC, 10 A40, 6 UK, 6 CN, 2 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, 1.8 UK, 6.81 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 2173.5 video, 925.0 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

At the onset of 2014, Sia had charted a few minor hits in her native Australia and even mustered a top ten hit in the UK (2000’s “Taken for Granted”), but had never dented the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 as a solo artist. In 2010, she took a hiatus from performing and co-wrote songs for Christina Aguilera, BeyoncĂ©, Flo Rida, David Guetta, and Rihanna. The result was a #1 song for Rihanna (“Diamonds,” 2012) and top ten hits featuring Sia for David Guetta (“Titanium,” 2011) and Flo Rida (“Wild Ones,” 2011). WK

The set the stage for Sia’s U.S. breakthrough when she returned with sixth studio album, 1000 Forms of Fear. Lead single “Chandelier” not only landed Sia on the U.S. pop charts as a lead act for the first time, but took her all the way to the top ten. She originally wrote the song with BeyoncĂ© or Rihanna in mind, but as she told Ryan Seacrest, “This time I was like, ‘Uh oh, I think I just wrote a full-blown pop song for myself by accident!” SF It worked. As Gigwise’s Andrew Trendall said, the song “springboards Sia from a behind-the-scenes genius into a superstar in her own right.” WK

The electropop song featured “electronica, R&B, and reggae influences. Lyrically, [it] has a melancholic theme; detailing the demorilisation and rationalization of alcoholism through the typical thought process of a ‘party girl.’” WK As MTV Buzzworthy’s John Walker said, the song toes “the line between celebration and self-destruction.” WK VH1’s Emily Exton deemed it “the best song Sia had ever written.” WK MuuMuse’s Bradley Stern called it the best pop single of 2014, as did Billboard magazine. WK The song garnered Grammy nominations for Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Pop Solo Performance, and Best Music Video.

The video, directed by Sia and Daniel Askill and choreographed by Ryan Heffington, featured 11-year-old dancer Maddie Ziegler from Lifetime’s Dance Moms. SF She wore a medium-length blonde wig which matched the one Sia wore when promoting the album. Ziegler “performs an interpretive dance in a deserted, dirty apartment.” WK As she said, “It was really different and weird for me because I usually don’t…[get] to be a crazy person.” WK Time magazine said it might be the best dance routine of 2014. WK It received nominations at the MTV Video Music Awards for Video of the Year and Best Choreography, winning the latter. Rolling Stone and Spin named it the best video of 2014. WK She told Rolling Stone that the video was “the best thing I’ve ever done,” inspiring her to continue as a solo artist. SF


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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Pharrell Williams hit #1 in the U.S. with “Happy”

Happy

Pharrell Williams

Writer(s): Pharrell Williams (see lyrics here)


Released: November 21, 2013


First Charted: January 18, 2014


Peak: 110 US, 13 RR, 16 AC, 16 A40, 14 AA, 112 RB, 14 UK, 110 CN, 112 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 7.0 US, 2.63 UK, 13.63 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 2109.9 video, 553.0 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

2013 was a remarkable year for Pharrell Williams. He aided Robin Thicke in landing at #1 for 12 weeks atop the pop charts with “Blurred Lines” and gave Daft Punk an assist on their #2 hit “Get Lucky,” which took home a Grammy for Record of the Year. Thanks to Pharrell’s work on the latter, ecstatic record label managers encouraged him to record a solo album, something he hadn’t done since 2006’s In My Mind.

Things kicked off with “Happy,” a song which Pharrell contributed to the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack and served as the first single for his 2014 album G I R L. The single was launched with a website, 24hoursofhappy.com which was billed as the world’s first 24-hour music video. The song is played repeatedly with people in Los Angeles dancing and miming along with the song. Pharrell appeared in the first segement of each hour.

The song, which Williams had originally written for Cee-Lo Green, became the year’s most inescapable hit, spending 10 weeks atop the U.S. pop charts and hitting #1 in 23 other countries. With 12 million in worldwide sales, “Happy” ranks as one of the 100 best-selling songs of all time. The song also garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. The standard four-minute video has garnered more than 500 million views on YouTube, making it one of the top 100 most-watched music videos in history.

His falsetto on the song earned favorable comparisons from critics to Curtis Mayfield. Music journalist Paul Tingen called “Happy” a “mid-tempo soul song in a faux-Motown style” WK while Rolling Stone critic Jody Rosen called it a “standout” with a “sprightly neo-soul funk groove.” WK Huw Woodward, critic from Renowned for Sound, described the song as a “happy affair with a cheerful beat and exuberant vocal that would indicate that the…singer is finding a lot of lightheared fun…in both music and life.” WK Contactmusic.com’s Holly Williams described the “unbelievably catchy” song as “the kind…that makes you want to dance and sing along.” WK


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Last updated 9/8/2021.