Monday, April 30, 2012

Concerning Comments..

   As some of you may have noticed, it was kind of difficult to leave comments here.
The reason was that in order to leave a comment, you should have your own blog and make the comments through it. Well, not any more!
  I manage to change a few settings, and from now on anyone can leave a comment without any problem. (At least i hope so...)
I believe  this will make things far easier, and therefore more people will be tempted to write their opinions, suggestions, or whatever they like in general.
   Thank you in advance :)

IAN ANDERSON: Thick as a Brick 2...


'Thick as a Brick' was released on 1972, and it was the answer of Ian Anderson to critics and media when they were 'accusing' Jethro Tull of having become a Progressive Rock band. I believe the whole idea was extremely sarcastic, but in the end became one of the best and most famous albums ever recorded by the band.
The record contains just 1 song in 2 parts, (one part on each side). (approx. 20 mins each). If it was today, it could be one song of 40 mins length, but back then they had to make the song  in two parts, because of the two sides of the vinyl records.
   And now, on the album's 40th anniversary comes from Ian Anderson 'Thick as a brick 2'. The sequel...
 Truth is that except the title, and very few tunes that brings to the mind the first album, these two albums are quite different. Thick as a Brick 2 is a concept album, it contains 17 tracks, that most of them are between 2-4 minutes long. (Only exception the song 'A change of horses' that is 8 minutes long).
 But the songs are so cleverly placed in order, and also they have no space between them, that the final outcome is very nice. Here Ian Anderson tells the story of the 8-years-old-poet 40 years later. The story also incudes a few different options of our poet's future, given with the so familiar sarcastic way of Ian Anderson.
   For me part 1 of the first 'Thick as a Brick' was a masterpiece! Here you will not find any materpiece, but instead you will listen to a mature album, and by far the best Ian Anderson's solo work. (Also compared to Jethro Tull's latest records this is a better one.)
  His voice is in a good form, (or the studio engineers did a very good job), the songs are over the average, and the record as a whole is a very interesting job, that bends towards Prog-Rock in my opinion.
   Allthough in this record almost all the musicians who are playing are the ones under the name of Jethro Tull the last years, the record was released as a solo album.
   I believe that we live in a time that new good rock releases are very rare, and this record is one of them. It sure is worth giving it a try...
   Here you can watch the official trailer for this album:

 

Friday, April 27, 2012

A small useful hint...

   When I started this blog I had in mind the idea of making theme categories on the side, so if someone is just interested in travels for example,to be able to click this specific category and see all the travel posts.
As I found out later on, this can't happen. Or if it does, it is propably so complicated, that I don't know how to do it...
 Instead, if you notice at the end of each post I have put a label. For example travels, music etc...
So if someone wants to read posts only from one category he/she can just press the name of the label.
Then you will see in the screen only the posts from the category you chose.
I hope this will be a helpful hint.
Thanks :)

TRAVELLING: To the Land of beautiful Horses and beyond. Part. 2


                               In order to avoid the heat, we left Kusadasi  early in the morning. 
 A few hours later, and after we had passed some unimportant places we reached Pamukkale. The word Pamukkale in Turkish means cotton castle, and the name  fits perfectly in this place. In the middle of a plain area stands a –not –so- high- mountain, with its front side totally white. It looked like it had snowed, although it was the middle of summer.  This phenomenon is caused by the water which is running there for centuries and contains certain carbonate minerals that leaves a white mud. With the passing of time this mud holds on to the rocks, and becomes hard. So the whole cliff takes this white colour.
Every here and there you can see some small natural pools of therapeutic water. It is impossible to describe this phenomenon and the beauty of the place with words  I'm afraid. Only looking at the pictures you can get a small idea...
  Around the same area, you can find the ruins of ancient Hierapolis. A Greek city at first, and later Roman, very popular in the ancient world because of the hot springs. Hierapolis was maybe actually the first natural spa we know. The whole area of both Hierapolis and Pamukkale is considered to be a World Heritage and is protected by Unesco.
   Upon our arrival there, we found a descent  hotel and rushed out to visit the sights around.
 First we wandered in the ruins of the ancient city, which surely was very impressive at its glory days. Today the ruins cover  a very wide area which is better to be avoided under the hot sun. The ruins are scattered around, but the most impressive ones are the ancient market, the theatre, and of course the huge necropolis, with the hundreds of sarcophagus that are almost everywhere. There are many more to see there, but we were tired, it was almost noon, and the sun was burning like you couldn't believe. So we left the city and moved to the cliffs of Pamukkale to experience this unique feeling.
   We visited the white cliffs, enjoyed the hot waters in the little pools on the rocks, took a few pictures of the panorama around, and headed to the pool with the natural soda water. We paid the entrance fee and we entered to a very beautiful area with a few cafe's and restaurants. In the middle lies a very big pool that contains hot natural soda, and is on the exact same place as the ancient Roman baths. Inside the pool you can see parts of ancient artifacts, such as columns, parts of walls, roofs, etc. The pool itself is a very big one, with many small channels, bridges, waterfalls etc. Again the feeling of this place is very hard to describe. But I can assure you that we enjoyed for quite sometime the swimming there. We made head massages under the small waterfalls, we swam over the ancient artifacts, and in general was a great experience! But time had passed, and after all these the only thing we wanted was a nice food. So we left this area and headed fast to the small and very traditional village of Karahayit, where we enjoyed a really tasty food in a very traditional restaurant. When I say traditional restaurant, I mean that you leave your shoes in the entrance, you sit down on carpets and big pillows, and you eat on some very low tables. Interesting eh?
   Really very tired after all these rounds, we spent our afternoon exploring the small village of Pamukkale that lies under these rocks, but it has nothing special to offer, except for the nice view of these white cliffs. At night the whole mountainside is lighted with colours and is a really magnificent view!
   The next day again very early, we hit the road once more moving further into the inlands of Turkey. Next stop the small island of Egirdir, that lies in the middle of a lake and is connected with a very narrow road with the coast. It looked interesting in the books, so we decided to spend the night there.
 To be continued...
                                Next part: Egirdir and Konya

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Greece slideshow

More than a year ago me and my wife made a slide show about Greece, and we uploaded it on YouTube.
It was especially made for some friends from Europe with whom we were playing the Lord of the Rings Online.
Because my mind is scattered in general, and I'm also not famous for my memory, I forgot the passwords etc, and therefore I couldn't log in to my own account on YouTube. The main problem was that among all the others, I had also forgotten the title of the slide show, so even I couldn't find it! hahahaha
  But after making many different combinations, I did manage to log in at last, and... there it was!
 I also changed the name of the post, to be easier to find.
So, if any of you wants to take a look, you can watch it here:



Or by clicking on the following link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OK_85mU1XsY&feature=context-gau

Thanks! :)

Greatest Rock albums of all time - Part.11

        WISHBONE ASH: ARGUS (1972)

   I don't know about other countries, but Argus is a legendary album in Greece.
  It was released on January 1972, it was the 3rd studio album of Wishbone Ash, and it is considered their best work by far. Needless to say that is also their most famous work.  Many music magazines named it as 'album of the year' on 1972.
  The album has a Medieval theme, and the music style includes elements of Progressive Rock, Hard Rock and even Folk Rock.
  The major characteristic of Argus was the two leading guitars (instead of the usual one lead and one rhythm guitar), that gave to their sound a very different feeling. Actually, this album is considered as a landmark for it's special guitar sound. This two-lead-guitar style, was adopted later on from bands like Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden, among others.
  The sound engineer was Martin Birch, who had also worked with Deep Purple and later on with Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden.
In the years that followed, Argus became a big live attraction, which still continues in many occasions in our days.
   The record contains 7 songs, and with the exception of  Leaf and Stream (3.55), all the other songs are over 5 minutes long.
  Songs like Warrior, The King will come, and Throw down the sword are examples of how good and well-structured Rock music should sound like.
 I remember buying the vinyl edition at some point during the 80’s and the CD re-issue almost ten years later, which was including one extra song.
In my opinion, Argus is a brilliant album and a ‘must-have’ for every Rock fan.
In case you don’t know it yet, buy it without a second thought!


        

                








Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The city I come from, and the town I live in...


  
   I think I should have made this post earlier, but as the saying goes ' better late than never'...
   I was born and raised in Athens, in a rather central neighbourhood called Pagrati. It’s  location is great because it is close enough to many important places, and although it is considered a centre, at the same time it is not. We have Acropolis in 3km distance,  Syntagma square (where the parliament is) at 2.5 km, the centre of Athens at 4 km, and so on... The trademark of Pagrati is Panathinaikon Stadium, an all marble stadium that hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.
The problem started, when I realised that the neighbourhood I grew up was not there anymore, and Athens as well.
Everything around me seemed to be changing fast in the last years, and not in a good way. 
Pagrati became more populated, noisier, more polluted, and so on.
Exactly the same thing I can say about Athens, but in a larger scale. Don't get me wrong, I love Athens, I love my old neighbourhood, and I believe that is a very interesting place with many things to see and live. But in the last 5-6 years I started to realise that I didn’t want to live in a big city anymore. I was thinking what it was that the life in this city was offering me. Well, not much I had to admit. Maybe as I am growing older my priorities are changing, or maybe the quality of my life was getting worse year by year, or maybe both.
  It all started when for the first time in my life I was thinking how it would be to live in a small town and not in a central metropolis of almost 5.000.000 people.
The truth is, it was very difficult for me to imagine such a thing, because I had never lived anywhere else. (Except for small holiday periods here and there).
After giving some thought on that matter, I started discussing it with my wife (who is Turkish as I have mentioned in another post here), and we were both trying to figure out what to do, and what were our options. We didn't come to any conclusion then, and we let it hang for a while.
  Two things happened that made us start all over again thinking about these things: The birth of our first child Alexandros, and the forthcoming crisis.
For almost a year we were trying to find out what to do, how to do it, when, etc... We were considering every option that looked logical. We changed our minds 3-4 times about where we would live in Greece, and finally we decided something totally different!
 We were to move to Turkey! To be honest the idea was very scary for me.
This scenario was maybe the most difficult above all the others we had discussed so far.
   My wife comes from Istanbul, another huge metropolis. But in the last years  her parents had moved out and now they are living in a town next to the sea in the Aegean coastline of Turkey. The town is called Didim and took it’s name from the ancient Greek town that was in the same place called Didimos and was very famous for the temple of Apollo and the oracle center that were there once upon a time. So we thought that this was our best shot for many reasons.
   First of all, this town was kind of what we had in mind. The area looks a lot like Greece, the environment, the food, the climate, etc.
Second of all we had let's say a job ready waiting for us, as my wife's father owns a very big shop there and he needs all the help he can get.
                                             
   Didim is a medium size town for the standards of Turkey. On winter is about 50.000 people, but in summer there is a big increase on this number, especially because many Europeans (mostly English) are staying here 4-5 months, from spring till autumn. There are also about 4000 English living in Didim and around, throughout the year. Didim’s main income resource I believe is tourism, therefore you can find many restaurants, bars, cafe’s, and even a couple of clubs. In other words that means that at least half year is lively enough. The other half though.... :(
I’m not gonna get into details about the moving process, but I assure you it was a nightmare! We sold a few things, gave others as presents, we did throw many, and finally because of very bad luck and a stupidity we did, almost all our electronic goods were stolen. That includes, a pc, a laptop, Tv, a surround system, couple of dvd players, a play station etc... I have to admit that this incident was a serious blow!
After all these wonderful  things, we moved here and we tried to start a new life. Right now that I’m writing this, we are still trying... It’s almost a year we are here, and in this year I found many things that  I like and enjoy, and many I don’t like. But that’s normal I guess...
   The life here is more simple in general, calmer, without the stress that Athens was giving me.
We also found a nice house with a garden so the little monster can enjoy himself, we have many beautiful places to swim around, but on the other hand I’m missing many things that  I was used to all these years in Athens, and most of all my friends and my family. Well, I guess that is one of the prices I have to pay.
One of the main reasons I started this blog is to have something to occupy myself with, and not die of boredom! Hehehehe.
 As you can see already, I have added a few pictures in this post. On the top half are from Pagrati, and at the down half from Didim, so you can see how  the places I’m writing about looks like...
Thanks for reading this... :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Greatest Rock Albums of all Times Part.10

                                     

                                  PINK FLOYD: THE WALL (1979)            


  Starting this post, I want to make something clear: For me, Pink Floyd was a Progressive-Rock band, (especially in the '70's). But they became so famous, that they are considered as a classic Rock band, & that's the reason I am mentioning their records in these series of posts instead of the ones that are specifically for Progressive Rock.
   Now, about The Wall: It was the band’s 11th studio album, and it was released on the 30th of  November 1979 as a double album, and it became a smash hit almost everywhere. It is a concept album, produced by Pink Floyd and Bob Ezrin. (Famous for his work with Alice Cooper, Kiss and Lou Reed among others).
   The Wall was a concept album, and it’s about  Pink (the main character), and his relations with the people around him as he grows up, starting from his over-protective mother, his teachers in school, his girlfriends, his wife, all his friends, etc; and it ends with his final breakdown. The main idea was that Pink builds an imaginary wall around him as he grows up, and in the end he is isolated from everyone. There he collapses. There were rumours saying that this album was actually a Roger Waters project, and the main character was based on himself  as he was growing up. The story contains also many traumatic memories that Roger Waters (as a child) had from the 2nd World War where he lost his father. (Eric Fletcher Waters died in Italy in the battle of Anzio in 1944).   


   Some other rumours saying that Pink is actually a mix between Roger Waters and Syd Barrett. (The band's first leader in the '60's). In any case, the only sure thing is that Roger Waters was heavily involved with the story of this album.
   During the recordings there were many problems between the members of the band, and at this point, Richard Wright (the keyboard player) quit the band, but he remained as a session musician, and performed with them during 'The Wall Tour'. Actually, The Wall was the last album including the line-up Waters, Gilmour, Mason and Wright.
   Commercially, it was a huge success. Up to 1999 its sales were over 11.500.000 records in the USA, and over 20.000.000 worldwide, and it was certified 23 times platinum! It is also Pink Floyd’s best selling album, after The Dark Side of the Moon.
  Upon its release, it received contradictory critics. Some fancied it as a masterpiece, whereas others found it pompous and shallow. Despite the mixed critics, the album climbed at the charts all over the world, reaching No.1 on many occasions.
   In 1982 the director Alan Parker made The Wall a movie with the same title, and Bob Geldof (from Boomtown Rats) played the role of Pink. For the needs of the movie, one extra song was recorded (When the tigers broke free), and many others were re-recorded (or re-mixed). As for the role of Pink, it was given to Bob Geldof, who replaced Roger Waters on vocals as well.
Rolling Stone magazine, placed it at number 87 on its '500 Greatest Albums of all Time' list, in 2003.
  Speaking for myself, I literally grew up with The Wall, and in my opinion is a very important album and a must-have for every Rock fan. Nothing more, nothing less…



                                    

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Spotlights on: CAROL OF HARVEST

   Carol of Harvest is a widely unknown band from Germany. It was one of those bands that released one album in a private label and in a limited number of copies (500 if I'm not mistaken), and then vanished forever.
Their first (and last) record, named after the band's name, was released on 1978 and it is a great example of Progressive Rock. Their music consists of long arrangements with Moog synths, acid guitar solos, and the female voice that fits perfectly in the atmosphere of the album.
   With the passing years this record has been released a couple of times both in vinyl and cd, but again from small labels and in limited numbers.(The cd version is the one I  found myself). Therefore you can say it is kind of a collector's item. (The vinyl records).
I really tried to find more info on this band, but it seems impossible.
   So I decided to present them here without having actual informations to share with you, only because I believe that every Prog-Rock fan should have the opportunity to get to know them and listen to this album, which in my oppinion is a hidden jewel!
Here is the tracklist of the CD release:

1. Put On Your Nightcap (16:02)
2. You And Me (2:31)
3. Somewhere At The End Of The Rainbow (6:26)
4. Treary Eyes (4:17)
5. Try A Little Bit (9:59)
6. River (2:36) (Bonus Track)
7. Sweet Heroin (7:04) (Bonus Track)
8. Brickstone (1:14) (Bonus Track)

You can listen to a couple of songs from the afore-mentioned album here:

                                             
                                         









Saturday, April 21, 2012

Tales from the Progressive Oceans Part. 2

            VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR: STILL LIFE (1976)

   I'm sure that VDGG fans will propably disagree with me as they would prefere one of the first period's albums. But for me the second period (that starts with 'Godbluff' and finishes with the live album 'Vital'), is more mature, less experimental, and contains some of the band's finest moments.
 Van Der Graaf  is a difficult band to listen to, if you are not 'well trained' with Progressive Rock. Their music is dark, based more on piano/organ and saxophones, and with Peter Hammil's weird voice which at some parts is melodic and soft, while other times it is flirting with cacophony. (many times that happens in the same song).
 'Still life' released on 1976 a few months after 'Godbluff', and a few months before 'World Record'.
(The band actually released these 3 albums in a 13 month period).
It didn't become success, it didn't sell particularly, (only in Italy became kind of success), but it is a very strong album, that if you get used to it you will discover the magic of VDGG in all its glory.
Songs like 'Pilgrims' 'Still life' and 'Childlike Faith in Childhood's End', are in my opinion among the greatest synthetic moments of VDGG.

                                  My personal rating: 8 out of 10

In the following videos you can listen 2 songs from this record: 'Still Life' and the epic 'Childlike Faith in Childhood's End'...

       
                                         

Greatest Rock albums of all times Part.9

                        JETHRO TULL: AQUALUNG (1971)

  Aqualung was Jethro Tull's 4rth studio album and most successful one by far. It is considered as a concept album, featuring a central theme of ‘the distinction between religion and God’. Aqualung was a turning point in the band's career, that went on to become a major radio and touring act.
  After the release of their first 2 albums (Stand Up & This Was) which seemed to be influenced mostly by the Blues, the band tried to change their sound with the release of Benefit in 1970; and with the release of Aqualung the transformation was completed.
  Aqualung was the first album including John Evan as a full-time member, and also Jeffrey Hammond as the band’s new bass player. It was also the last album including Clive Bunker on drums.
  The painting on the cover was inspired from pictures of homeless people that were living around Thames, and were taken by Ian Anderson's wife. Aqualung, the main character, is one of those people, and on the first side of the album we listen to his story.
   The music style is Rock (in Jethro Tull's point of view), which on many occasions is "flirting" with Progressive Rock. Also, influences from Blues and Folk can be found here.  
  It is Jethro Tull's best selling album with more than 7.000.000 copies sold worldwide. In the years to come it would inspire many artists and bands, such as Iron Maiden for example, who recorded a cover version of Cross-Eyed Mary in 1993 and released it as a B-side on the single Trooper.
   Upon it's release, it received very good critics, climbed at the charts both in USA and UK, but failed to reach at the top. (Best chart position was No.4 in UK). The first single that was came out from this album, was Hymn 43, but it failed to reach to the high positions of the charts. With the passing years two songs that became the trademarks of Jethro Tull, both included in this album: Aqualung and Locomotive Breath.
   Aqualung was re-released on 2011 at the album's 40th anniversary. This release contains a new stereo and a surround 5.1 mix, made by Steve Wilson of Porcupine Tree. Definitely a 'must have' for any Rock music collection.
Other Jethro Tull albums I recommend: Thick as a Brick, Minstrell in the Gallery, Songs from the Wood.
In the following YT links you can listen to a couple of songs from this album if you want.