The following are some of my “obscure” musical passions, in no particular order, shared on my Facebook page over four weeks in April and May of 2011, complete with video links and notes as to whether I’ve seen them in concert. How many of these artists do you know?
(Please note that some of these links may no longer work.)
Obscure Musical Passions #1: CAMEL
British band Camel is led by one of my all-time favourite guitarists, Andrew Latimer. I have all of their dozens of albums. Check out their song “Ice” at http://youtu.be/VhRgelkyeyo (listen to the whole thing!), “Coming of Age” at http://youtu.be/lWwt_V-syR4, and “Pressure Points” (live) at http://youtu.be/mciI_izIXCM (hang in there for when the song takes off properly at the 2:30 mark). These songs are just the tip of the iceberg—search YouTube for other Camel songs. See also https://youtu.be/Tn7E1LdC0wU and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camel_(band). [seen in concert several times]
Obscure Musical Passions #2: ZEBRA
I still remember the first time I heard “Who’s Behind the Door” by New Orleans band Zebra (driving fast over the winding roads of Mount St. Helena in California, at night, in June of 1983, after a day of summer skiing at Mt. Bachelor in Oregon, and the day before I flew to Hawaii for a vacation). See a video at http://youtu.be/XKpVw458q6s. No guitar solo here, but there are great ones on “The La-La Song,” “Bears,” and “Take Your Fingers from My Hair” (covered brilliantly by Dream Theater—see http://youtu.be/IceGhFW0r8w). Sort of like Led Zeppelin meets Boston. See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zebra_(American_band).
Obscure Musical Passions #3: JANE SIBERRY
I’ve been a fan of Jane’s cinematic and wide-ranging music since her first album in 1981. Her songs vary tremendously, and if I picked a couple you’d hardly guess it’s the same person—jazz, prog, folk, and more. Even spoken word. They speak straight to my soul. Dozens of favourite songs—where to start? Try “One More Colour” at http://youtu.be/rAToWdWVRj0. I love “Life Is the Red Wagon” (among so many other songs)—see it at https://youtu.be/nQ64BnqZCic. My favourite albums are The Walking and Bound by the Beauty. More info about Jane Siberry at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Siberry. It’s been my pleasure to have met Jane numerous times. She also renamed herself as Issa for three years, and didn’t know that was also the name of a Japanese haiku poet until I told her. [seen in concert many times, most recently on 8 April 2019 at the Triple Door in Seattle]
Obscure Musical Passions #4: JENSON INTERCEPTOR
Would love to get the first album by this Edmonton band on CD or digitally, but it’s not available to my knowledge. Check out “Tiny Thing,” a Canadian pop hit from 1980, at http://youtu.be/lJw_vKsco_Y. My favourite song of theirs is “Megatune: Theme for Bonnie Lee,” a mostly instrumental song that I’d equate to Elton John’s “Funeral for a Friend” (with a great guitar solo)—see http://youtu.be/YErZhWOFnDY. They sound a bit like Heart, too.
Obscure Musical Passions #5: GAZEBO
I first heard Gazebo (stage name for Italian musician Paul Mazzolini) in an unlikely place, while waiting for the Klein Matterhorn cable car (the highest ski lift in Europe) at Zermatt, Switzerland, while skiing in December of 1983. The song was “I Like Chopin” (see http://youtu.be/W8zRgRaVNv8) and I bought the album on vinyl in Zermatt that evening. Gazebo is Euro dance pop—not at all what I would have thought to have liked, but it’s very melodic (even if some of the lyrics are cheesy—English surely isn’t Mazzolini’s first language). See also “Love in Your Eyes” at http://youtu.be/M69wIbiIB4A (I love the instrumental ending), and an all-instrumental version at http://youtu.be/OyP5Rh8NsZ4. More info at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Mazzolini. A similar Italian band is Savage, especially their song “Only You” at http://youtu.be/pj9ZWjBlFew.
Obscure Musical Passions #6: BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST
This British prog band is huge in Germany, but pretty obscure in the United States. I’d equate their sound to the Moody Blues. I first got to know BJH when I lived in England. Dozens of great albums, but I think my favourite is Time-Honoured Ghosts (1975). Check out “Mockingbird” at http://youtu.be/urFcnTdnDd0. Also check out “Child of the Universe” at http://youtu.be/oc55U1S49Ws or “Beyond the Grave” at http://youtu.be/zzvxvbGl-kA. I could list a dozen more favourites, like the beautiful “Poor Man’s Moody Blues” at http://youtu.be/dc4enBNtNCQ. More info at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barclay_James_Harvest. And for something upbeat, check out http://youtu.be/fQMLRCUVoO8.
Obscure Musical Passions #7: DELERIUM
This Canadian band plays an eclectic mix of dance/prog/techno/trance/electronica, with world music influences (a bit like Enigma). My favourite Delerium album is Karma—Sarah McLachlan guest-vocaled on one of their songs, “Silence” (they’re on the same Vancouver label, Nettwerk)—see http://youtu.be/ZA-je1_Ejq0. Also check out “Euphoria (Firefly)” at http://youtu.be/36Uv2RvwMj8. See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delerium_(band).
Obscure Musical Passions #8: PHIL KEAGGY
One of my all-time favourite guitarists. He’s very prolific, has a voice like Paul McCartney, and a guitar sound unlike anyone. I have 50+ CDs by him and Glass Harp (he once released seven CDs in one year). Keaggy is a star in Contemporary Christian Music, and criminally unknown beyond that (except to guitarists), despite being one of the worlds’ most critically respected fingerstyle guitarists. Keaggy began recording in the 1960s. It’s been said that at one time Jimi Hendrix was asked what it’s like to be the best guitarist in the world, and he said “I don’t know, ask Phil Keaggy.” The story is apocryphal, but that’s the sort of respect Keaggy has—and had even in 1970. The Master and the Musician (1978) is a brilliant mostly instrumental album—see one of its pieces at http://youtu.be/zKjDFMqkdKA. Also try http://youtu.be/0T3to3DHLIE (a live guitar jam) or “Shades of Green” at http://youtu.be/Wp4wbcuKRn8 (showing his solo looping/improv). More info at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Keaggy. And check out Glass Harp’s ripping version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” at http://youtu.be/CgEz7IgIMD4. Oh, and did I mention that Phil Keaggy is missing one finger?!? [seen in concert many times, and I’ve met Phil personally]
Obscure Musical Passions #9: BUCKETHEAD
Yes, he wears a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket on his head. And a white mask. All the time. And he plays guitar like crazy. Buckethead plays hard and fast, but isn’t afraid of slow, so his albums have lots of variety. Still getting to know most of his albums, but Electric Tears is my favourite so far. Try “Padmasana” at http://youtu.be/5Nj1D2y-PY8. And yes, for several years he was Slash’s replacement in Guns n’ Roses, recording the guitar for the Chinese Democracy album. Or check out http://youtu.be/8akmP6Sjv2o—or nearly anything else by Buckethead on YouTube. More info at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckethead. Put him in the same guitar camp as Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Eric Johnson—not to be missed (although I wish more of his albums used actual drummers instead of drum machines). [seen in concert]
Obscure Musical Passions #10: CHRIS DE BURGH
You probably know his “Lady in Red” hit, but I’d almost prefer his music if that song didn’t exist. He’s a great singer-songwriter who excels at story songs (like Harry Chapin, but grander), with prog and pop influences. His music is very popular in numerous countries around the world, but not as much in the United States or his native Ireland or in England. Try “A Spaceman Came Travelling” at http://youtu.be/49k1EQdoMeU, “The Simple Truth (A Child Is Born)” at http://youtu.be/kOWb_M78eNk, “Crusader” at http://youtu.be/h6SkaFMTihI, or “Transmission Ends” at http://youtu.be/VZlWGSax19o. So many favourites! More info at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_de_burgh.
Obscure Musical Passions #11: DREAM ACADEMY
This British pop group’s “Life in a Northern Town” is atmospheric and transcendent, but I love pretty much all the songs on ALL their albums. It’s a shame they didn’t last longer. Check out “Life in a Northern Town” at http://youtu.be/8YablrXxFCc and “Waterloo” at http://youtu.be/sW2jsY6KmQA. The latter song, like so many of their songs, takes me back to England, with a dreamy-sad melancholy Britishness (I used to get to London via Waterloo Station when I lived in England). The coproduction of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour sure didn’t hurt them, either. More info at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dream_Academy. Here’s another link for “Life in a Northern Town” (different video and much better sound quality): http://youtu.be/mXqqw-gQqz.
Obscure Musical Passions #12: MARILLION
Marillion’s Misplaced Childhood is, for me, a perfect prog album. Their hit “Kayleigh” is here (see http://youtu.be/dphpDdfZUGw), but my favourites on the album are “Lavender” at http://youtu.be/Q7sIzWKHGwQ and the brief but exquisitely melodic and melancholy “Mylo” at http://youtu.be/Z9xux5fHHz0. More information at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marillion. “Sugar Mice” at http://youtu.be/kIPrJmzG7Ss is another favourite track from a later album, achingly searing, as is “Easter” (Yeats allusions) at http://youtu.be/yZ7QKWBUgYA and the ecstatic “Beautiful” at http://youtu.be/T_GzPCJWTmE. Great guitar all over the place. FYI, my name appears in the credits of three Marillion albums (not kidding). Fish, the original singer for Marillion, left after the first four albums, and he’s a favourite passion too, with his many solo albums. I remember first hearing Marillion in a record store in Winnipeg in the summer of 1983, just before I went to England for a year of college. Thank goodness for the obscure musical tastes of whoever was working in the store that day when I happened to walk in—and it was a chain store in St. Vital Mall, not exactly where you’d expect to hear such music. The guy was playing Marillion’s brilliant first album, Script for a Jester’s Tear, in which just a few seconds of almost any song would have hooked me. I stayed in the record store to hear the entire album while it played. I’ve seen Marillion in concert many times, most memorably for the Clutching at Straws tour, with Fish, at Coach House in San Juan Capistrano (where I also once saw Don McLean, in which he forgot where he was during “American Pie” and sang one verse twice!). [seen in concert]
Obscure Musical Passions #13: ANTHONY PHILLIPS
Ant was the original guitarist for Genesis (until 1970—yeah, ages ago). On his solo path he has explored the twelve-string guitar to its beautiful extremes, with dozens of instrumental and vocal albums (with a lot of Genesis members joining him). More info about Ant at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Phillips. My favourite Ant Phillips song, by far, is “Lights on the Hill.” Take a listen at https://youtu.be/Ezl8yZyrPik. You can listen to someone else’s amateur recording at http://youtu.be/bFtt8GNFJVU. And check out Ant’s piano improvisation at http://youtu.be/6AXRzv-WoW0.
Obscure Musical Passions #14: TROOPER
Another great Canadian rock band, influenced by Bachman Turner Overdrive and The Guess Who, but with their own accessible sound. Listen to “Pretty Lady” at http://youtu.be/SLX1X_-CUz4 (shades of Procul Harum) and “Two for the Show” at http://youtu.be/1aOjx4UQVwE (love the guitar). The previous two songs are ballads, but if you want something harder, check out “The Boys in the Bright White Sports Car” at http://youtu.be/pCVbyY2ZTjA (and much more). More info at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trooper_(band). Trooper is huge in Canada—a great shame that they weren’t as well known in the United States or elsewhere.
Obscure Musical Passions #15: KLAATU
This Canadian band’s second album, Hope, is #1 on my list of Desert Island Discs (albums I’d take with me to a desert island if I could take only ten; Marillion’s Misplaced Childhood would be another). Forget that rumour suggesting that Klaatu, which recorded anonymously at first, was the Beatles reunited. They were great songwriters, musicians, and arrangers on their own. More info about Klaatu at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klaatu_(band). While Hope is a prog masterpiece (a whole album sounding like Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”), their other albums contain lots of melodic pop/rock. Very creative throughout, such as on songs like “Silly Boys,” which contains an entire additional song overdubbed backwards onto it, and they make it all work seamlessly—see http://youtu.be/pKwDB1gFAS4. You can listen to the whole thing backwards at http://youtu.be/MZQ9M3dSJBE. Ballads, rock, lush production and arrangements, lots of variety, and overflowing verbal and musical wit—that’s Klaatu. I also have the original but only recently released orchestral version of Hope (with the London Symphony Orchestra), which has a few surprises, including an additional song that never made it to the official release. My all-time favourite Klaatu song is “Prelude,” which is part of a suite of songs on the second half of the “Hope” album (“Prelude” is sort of like Elton John’s “Funeral for a Friend” instrumental, with a great guitar solo, dueling with violin). Check it out at http://youtu.be/v56oQuZiatI (and remember that this is part of a longer suite, ending with the title track “Hope” and its inspirational lyrics). The Carpenters did a fun cover of Klaatu’s anthem, “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft”—see http://youtu.be/m5t0hO9sv7o. I love their addition of a guitar solo instead of the keyboard passage originally used by Klaatu, and the DJ talk at the start is a creative addition too. The too-short guitar solo by Tony Peluso starts at the 4:50 mark.
Obscure Musical Passions #16: STEVE HACKETT
Okay, not that obscure. Steve Hackett was the main guitarist for Genesis during its prog heyday, but left around 1977. His guitar solos with Genesis and as a solo artist are among my favourites. Start with “Firth of Fifth” (Genesis song) at http://youtu.be/SD5engyVXe0 (original version). Also check out “Every Day” at http://youtu.be/SQaGCNGgfe4, “Spectral Mornings” at http://youtu.be/FYWxjXmHu10, “Camino Royale” at http://youtu.be/WdBRVwNVD2I, and “Battle Lines” (John Wetton song, live) at http://youtu.be/0VkHLh3imaE. Or check out the brilliant Genesis acoustic piece “Horizons” at http://youtu.be/WdYUGlYv5gg (Hackett has released several classical guitar albums too). More information at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Hackett. I’ve seen him give several rock performances, mostly in California, plus a classical concert at the Barbican Centre in London (where I also saw classical guitarist Andres Segovia shortly before he died, and met Anthony Hopkins after he tapped me on the shoulder). [seen in concert multiple times]
I most recently had the privilege of seeing Steve Hackett perform at the Moore Theater in Seattle on 10 October 2019. I sat in Row C, Seat 7, in the balcony (great seat). Spectacular standouts were “Every Day,” “Spectral Mornings,” “Firth of Fifth,” “Dance on a Volcano,” and the encore. Here’s the set list:
Set 1 (mostly Spectral Mornings):
Under the Eye of the Sun
Fallen Walls and Pedestals
Beasts in Our Time
The Virgin and the Gypsy
Horizons (Genesis song)
The Red Flower of Tachai Blooms Everywhere
Clocks — Angel of Mons
Set 2 (including all of Selling England by the Pound):
Dancing with the Moonlit Knight (Genesis song)
I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) (Genesis song)
Firth of Fifth (Genesis song)
More Fool Me (Genesis song)
The Battle of Epping Forest (Genesis song)
After the Ordeal (Genesis song)
The Cinema Show (Genesis song)
Aisle of Plenty (Genesis song)
Dance on a Volcano (Genesis song)
Myopia / Los Endos / Slogans / Los Endos (reprise)
Obscure Musical Passions #17: SPOCK’S BEARD / NEAL MORSE
Southern California’s Spock’s Beard is one the current bastions of contemporary prog music, along with Marillion, the Flower Kings, Porcupine Tree, and Dream Theater, and a few others (who else would you list, if you have an opinion?). More about Spock’s Beard at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spock%27s_Beard. Check out “Jaws of Heaven” at http://youtu.be/BFW0fL4Nk4c or “Day for Night” at http://youtu.be/MablXWqx-Nw. For more, see “Beware of Darkness” at http://youtu.be/2nbXl1gX7TQ, and “Waste Away” at http://youtu.be/-sN-OJgAZNE. I confess I’m less passionate about this band than all the others I’ve mentioned so far, but I do like them. Also enjoy a lot of prog music by the group’s former lead singer, Neal Morse, who has been prolific since going solo in 2002, especially his work with the prog supergroup, Translatlantic. For more on Neal Morse, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neal_Morse. [seen in concert]
Obscure Musical Passions #18: LOREENA McKENNITT
Okay, Loreena isn’t really that obscure in the Celtic/world music scene, but I’m including her anyway. Try “The Mummer’s Dance” at http://youtu.be/0B7sH5QLyXY. Consider her a cross between Enya and Sarah McLachlan, playing harp and singing like an angel while travelling the world. More info about Loreena McKennitt at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loreena_McKennitt. I first heard her perform at Rainbow Stage in “My Fair Lady” in Winnipeg (late 70s?), long before her recording career started, and I’ve been a fan from her first album. So many dreamy, intelligent songs with a sometimes breathy, searing voice, and lush instrumentation that embraces many genres of music (I might even say some of it is prog, my favourite genre). Also check out the very moving “Dante’s Prayer” at http://youtu.be/FDw3CyOmj20, or her beautiful rendition of Tennyson’s poem, “The Lady of Shallott,” at http://youtu.be/Vw_cZGrVFqw. Or take a look at pretty much anything else of Loreena’s on YouTube. A related harp artist I really enjoy is Patrick Ball. I was present in the audience (around 1995) when Loreena recorded “Live in San Francisco at the Palace of Fine Arts.” [seen in concert several times]
Obscure Musical Passions #19: SKY
I recall first hearing of Sky in 1983, when I lived in England. This instrumental group is a hybrid of classical, rock, and prog, led by John Williams, the famous classical guitarist (not to be confused with the film music composer). Their rendition of Bach’s “Tocatta” at http://youtu.be/QgbgUrp1a70 is intense. Also try out “Vivaldi” at http://youtu.be/noVmRfbm9us (nice electric guitar). Other songs to explore are “Hotta” at http://youtu.be/7Swc1GISC0M, or, for something quieter, “Sahara” at http://youtu.be/e0TDxvKJBME and “Cavatina” at http://youtu.be/Vv0E94GP6kE. Also check out “Westway” at http://youtu.be/Y-XrNiFtMuo or “Troika” at http://youtu.be/ju88tqHtZ1o. More information about Sky at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sky_(band).
Obscure Musical Passions #20: CHRIS SPHEERIS
I first heard Chris Spheeris sometime during the heyday of New Age music, whenever that was. His frequently wistful and relaxing music is a world-music-influenced fusion of new age, instrumental, light jazz, pop, and rock, but it’s really his guitar focus that draws me in. Try “Aria” at http://youtu.be/-UXCncKbXps. Chris plays various instruments with pleasing melodies and instrumentation, with occasional vocals. One of my favourite songs by him is “The Gathering” (from his second album, Pathways to Surrender), which I use for a multimedia/photography slideshow I do called “Details of Japan.” On YouTube, listen to the song at https://youtu.be/Dy-O-bEbv4Q. But do check out “Where the Angels Fly” at http://youtu.be/-X87oMscmgw (this song has vocals), and “Aqualuna” at http://youtu.be/dY0ng4BB2eI. More information at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Spheeris. I hesitate to compare Spheeris to Yanni (whose music is pleasant enough, but that I’ve never connected with), but it’s a fair comparison. Ray Lynch and David Lanz are slightly similar, too, but they (and Yanni) are more keyboard-focused, whereas Spheeris is largely guitar-driven, which is the main reason I like his music better. Perhaps Craig Chaquico is a better comparison.
Obscure Musical Passions #21: GARY MOORE
I heard about Irish guitarist Gary Moore while watching the 2002 Winter Olympics. An ice-skating pair used the song “Parisienne Walkways” for their free-skate routine. I was immediately hooked by the ripping guitar and lyrical melody. Look at a video of the ice-skating performance, and the moment I first learned of this song, at http://youtu.be/hWr6UC-FCzI. This ice-dance mix of the song is less than half the length of live versions (all truly incredible, with some versions sustaining a single blistering guitar note for more than thirty seconds). Thanks to the Internet, I looked up the ice dancers’ names and found out what the song was, which was tricky because at the time I didn’t know the name of the song, the artist, or the names of the ice dancers. But I was persistent—I had to know what this song was—and discovered a new guitar hero, someone whose music is criminally underknown in the United States. See a great live version of “Parisienne Walkways” at http://youtu.be/vrz00Rs7mbA and http://youtu.be/qyTHJ40pasM. There’s a rare early live version at http://youtu.be/dMg015XIQ9E. Also check out “Messiah Will Come Again” at http://youtu.be/lWp-Mazmf88 (a heart-rending and melodic guitar rush). Gary Moore has many other superb guitar solos (frequently with a “Comfortably Numb” tone), and also many blues guitar albums, plus earlier work with Thin Lizzy. Check out “The Loner” (a favourite) at http://youtu.be/D3-TgDjcBL0 or a longer version at http://youtu.be/NKObilMtRFo. The guitar solo for “Empty Rooms” is spectacular too: See http://youtu.be/KFUW621lgXY or http://youtu.be/-DqvcvcQf_4 (best version, but dumb video), http://youtu.be/7mk9cYWlwBA (longer studio version), or see an ecstatic longer live version at http://youtu.be/ap78ZlJfNhU. For variety, see also “Separate Ways” (a ballad) at http://youtu.be/HU-TW8NVIm0, and “The Boys Are Back in Town” at http://youtu.be/SgkoY9d-rSo. Tons more online, including his highly respected blues recordings. More information at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Moore. See also http://www.gary-moore.com/. Can you tell I’m passionate about his music?!? I’m sorry to have recently learned that Gary Moore died of a heart attack in February of 2011, at the age of 58.
Obscure Musical Passions #22: BROWN BANNISTER
Brown Bannister is mostly known as a producer of Contemporary Christian Music artists such as Amy Grant (he’s won numerous Grammies), but what mostly grabs me (gently) is his lone album, called Talk to One Another, released on vinyl in 1981. It still sounds fresh and relevant, musically and lyrically. I consider it perhaps the best themed pop/rock album of love songs ever recorded. Mostly the album is a series of love songs (including one by Elton John), all gorgeously produced, with an acoustic/rock sound, with a slight prog/orchestral leaning. Just warm and beautiful. Alas, there’s almost nothing on YouTube, but there’s at least the title track at http://youtu.be/8dOe4v043wI, “Honesty” at http://youtu.be/Y69AS8MeBLA, “I Loved You Once” at http://youtu.be/oHjJ1_YkTPs, and one of my favourite tracks, “The Nature of Love,” at http://youtu.be/pGIcoxs_BXA (very clean audio production). My favourite track is the instrumental “Lutte de Coeur” (sharp electric guitar solo)—see https://youtu.be/Es36Zgw1ASY. For years, all I had was my vinyl version of this record, but I’ve just discovered from http://www.sweet-music.com/BANN-TOA-CD-r.html that it’s now available on CD-R—not an official CD release, but at least it’s available! And better yet, I’ve just downloaded the entire album in MP3 format from http://www.mediafire.com/?h8t2dn4i2gc3t9p. I’ve been waiting thirty years for this album, and now I have it digitally! Hooray! Read a little more about Brown Bannister at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_Bannister.
Obscure Musical Passions #23: PARKER MCGEE
My passion for Parker McGee, who wrote the hit songs “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight,” and “Nights Are Forever Without You” for England Dan and John Ford Coley, really comes down to his song “Angel Dancing.” Watch this song on YouTube at https://youtu.be/xq1BnoVkCpM, and try listening at http://mog.com/tracks/mn15425113/parker-mcgee/parker-mcgee/angel-dancing (if you have an account). If you know how to use Napster Free, you can find “Angel Dancing” there and listen to it without paying a fee—visit http://music.napster.com/search/doSearch.htm?searchTerm=parker+mcgee. It’s the last half of the song, the instrumental part, with the sounds of children, that I really love, for its sense of imagination and wonder. More information at http://www.answers.com/topic/parker-mcgee (no wikipedia page—and you know something’s really obscure when there’s not even a wiki page).
Obscure Musical Passions #24: LAWRENCE GOWAN
I still remember the first time I heard “Criminal Mind” by Canadian singer/songwriter Lawrence Gowan. I was sitting in my car in Winnipeg in 1985, about to play a racquetball game, and was so captivated by the piano intro to this song that I knew it was different from the usual pop-hook radio pablum. I was late for my game. Check it out at http://youtu.be/yIjddye2JSA. The preceding link is a music video version (and a little dated), and I think it’s shorter (5:10) than the album track, so I think it’s better to just listen and not watch! See a longer version (7:20), with lyrics showing, at https://youtu.be/weAhzk0SFic. The entire album this song is from has great prog/rock tracks, but “Criminal Mind” is the album’s standout track by far (many musicians on “Strange Animal,” like Tony Levin, also played for Peter Gabriel). There’s a great live version of “Criminal Mind” at http://youtu.be/OEmCsu4c9dI. Gowan later joined Styx, and they’ve recorded “Criminal Mind” too. See more information on Gowan at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Gowan. [seen in concert]
Obscure Musical Passions #25: RANDY VANWARMER
“Just When I Needed You Most” is his biggest hit, at http://youtu.be/2Pi2niIrXjo, but my favourite song by him is “The One Who Loves You,” at https://youtu.be/_nV4orIPEuM. He’s an unabashedly romantic singer-songwriter, with a lush and clean sound similar to England Dan and John Ford Coley, as well as Bread. More info at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randy_VanWarmer. His music is very different from Warren Zevon, but I heard he had similarly widespread music industry respect. He died of cancer in Seattle in 2004 at the age of 48. Speaking of Bread, I love David Gates’s “Clouds: Suite” (soft rock meets prog!) at http://youtu.be/nUwUKi9ouEc. Gee, I could go on and on about obscure musical passions. Not done yet.
Obscure Musical Passions #26: RODRIGO Y GABRIELA
In February 2010, I performed haiku poetry in Pasadena with guitar accompaniment by Chris Wesley. I didn’t know Chris before, but we got to talking about guitar, and on Facebook he turned me on to Rodrigo y Gabriela, who I saw in concert at Marymoor Park in Redmond, Washington in the summer of 2010. Blistering stuff. Try “Diablo Rojo” at http://youtu.be/cUibjcu2L_s. The best way to describe Rodrigo y Gabriela is that they play acoustic guitar like it’s heavy metal. I’ve also heard the style called “dark acoustic.” Take a look at “Hanuman” at http://youtu.be/ENBX_v1Po1Y and see if you don’t agree. Intense and varied guitar duets, with original songs and excellent covers, like “Stairway to Heaven” at http://youtu.be/vNc5o9TU0t0 (live) or Metallica’s “Orion” at http://youtu.be/L0CsLefLisE. The California Guitar Trio is similar (although they’re less intense). More information at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodrigo_Y_Gabriela. [seen in concert]
Obscure Musical Passions #27: SNOWY WHITE
Most known for playing with Pink Floyd and Roger Waters (and also Thin Lizzy), Snowy White really shines in his solo work. Check out his classic but relatively unknown 1983 song “Bird of Paradise” at http://youtu.be/grtZxysMTSc. Another song with great lead guitar is “Midnight Blues” (more rock than blues) at http://youtu.be/Q8F-DMgHXPs. Oh wait, all his songs have great lead guitar, like his version of “Little Wing” at http://youtu.be/DBaLLuuJyrA. More information at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowy_White. I definitely have to listen to more of Snowy White myself, as there are quite a few albums I don’t have yet.
Obscure Musical Passions #28: KEITH JAMES
Okay, this is probably the most obscure artist on my list, and perhaps a good one to end with (although I could go on for many more weeks). In February of 1984, I went into a record store in Wokingham, England and heard the store playing an exquisite acoustic guitar song. It was by Keith James, from an album called The Swallow. I bought the album on the spot—on white vinyl (no CD version of this album has ever been released, to my knowledge). You can buy a copy yourself at http://eil.com/shop/moreinfo.asp?catalogid=492006. The record store owner told me that Keith James himself drove around the country personally delivering copies of all his vinyl albums and settling accounts (I had just missed him at that store two hours earlier). He apparently performed small concerts all over England, but never had a major record deal, or even a minor one, nor their distribution. Why he wasn’t more widely known was beyond me because the guitar-playing, songwriting, and arrangements were all wonderful. Maybe he preferred running his own label and being in total control artistically. Anyway, Keith James is pretty obscure but YouTube does have a few songs by him. Check out “As Love Begins” at http://youtu.be/ENI3VO4gY8w, or “Circle Song” at http://youtu.be/bmL2MxvWXHA. What I’ve heard is good stuff—sort of like James Taylor meets Nick Drake meets, well, I don’t know. He’s done albums of Nick Drake interpretations, Canadian singer-songwriter songs, and settings of Lorca’s poems to music. You can read about him at http://www.keith-james.com/about_keith_james.php. Fortunately, he’s continued to excel musically in his own private way, and online I see I have a whole lot of excellent albums to catch up with, the more recent ones now on CD.
Thanks for reading all my OMPs (Obscure Musical Passions). I’m stopping at 28. Here’s a listing of all my OMPs shared over the last four weeks (hope you’ve enjoyed them—starred if I’ve seen them live):
*Camel, Zebra, *Jane Siberry, Jenson Interceptor, Gazebo, Barclay James Harvest, Delerium, *Phil Keaggy, *Buckethead, Chris de Burgh, Dream Academy, *Marillion, Anthony Phillips, Trooper, Klaatu, *Steve Hackett, *Spock’s Beard/Neal Morse, *Loreena McKennitt, Sky, Chris Spheeris, Gary Moore, Brown Bannister, Parker McGee, *Lawrence Gowan, Randy VanWarmer, *Rodrigo y Gabriela, Snowy White, and Keith James.
For the record (in the wake of listing 28 of my OMPs—Obscure Musical Passions), I’m also very passionate about music that isn’t nearly so obscure, including the following (starred if I’ve seen them live). Okay, maybe a few of these are a little obscure, too, but most aren’t:
Abba, America, *Chet Atkins, the Beatles, *Mary Black, Boston, *Larry Carlton, *Harry Chapin, *Phil Collins, *The Corrs, Christopher Cross, *John Denver, Dire Straits, The Eagles, Electric Light Orchestra, Enigma, Enya, Fleetwood Mac, *Flower Kings, *Dan Fogelberg, *Peter Gabriel, *Genesis, David Gilmour, Janis Ian, Elton John, Eric Johnson, Rickie Lee Jones, *Kenny Loggins, Mannheim Steamroller, *Sarah McLachlan, *Don McLean, *Pat Metheny, *Mike and the Mechanics, *Moody Blues, *Sinead O’Connor, Alan Parsons Project, Pink Floyd, Queen, Chris Rea, Joe Satriani, Simon and Garfunkel, *Al Stewart, *Supertramp, *Tears for Fears, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Steve Vai, Roger Waters, *Peter White, and many others. And I really am leaving out a whole bunch of others!