Uncle G’s 420 Reviews: Uncle G’s Corner (#06)

WARNING! WARNING! (age 21+ Cannabis)

09 January 2018
Uncle G’s FUN 420 Reviews
Words and Red Ashtray Photography by Gary “Uncle G” Brown
Twitter @GBrown0816

Seeing how this is an archival website, I’d like to introduce to my newer 420 readers, a series of essays I did for a non-profit pro-cannabis website out of New York City, some years ago. One that I’ve been involved with since the year 2011. The webmistress is the wonderful Arlene Williams aka Ganja Granny. I love her to death! The website: Green Ribbon World.

Please note … regarding this republishing. We’re going back in time. Six years ago. I was married for the second time. This past February (2017) that union was dissolved one day shy of us being a couple 22 years. No resentment or hard feelings. I’d rather look forward more than backward.

Editing: Versions 2.0 … my aim is to clean up any remaining typos and grammar errors. The originally published essays could be found on the Green Ribbon World website. When finally done (this could take some time) archiving all the past essays published, I’ll start writing new ones. In a way, I already have done so: Uncle G’s FUN 420 Reviews.

Uncle G’s Corner
Number: 06
JULY 2011

Topic: Headphone Memories

By age twelve, weed had entered my life. It’s sidekick; music. But really rockin’ out should be first in that order. So it’s sidekick; weed. Either way, in my life so far, they both have always been interesting, and wickedly entertaining in one sort or another, either separately, or combined.

Way before I became a cannabis user for medical reasons, and while just a wee lad, I fell in love with music. To this day it’s an important ingredient in my general makeup. Mom having had been the one to plant that seed. A professional musician. Her name was Thelma. Unfortunately, I don’t know as much as I would have liked about her. Already mentioned in previous Uncle G’s Corner’s, she passed away. At age 49. I was seven years old at the time of her death.

Alcoholic. Hardcore. Whiskey. Would have fit right in with Bill W’s first one hundred. Hid bottles all over the house. Disregarded the consequences. Ingested liquor with total abandon. As a result, many a time got sloppy, fall down drunk. Let’s assume at any given opportunity. Entertained in bars. Booze consumed the woman. Yet every time I looked her way, there was a vision only a small child sees. She was beautiful. All courtesy of unconditional love. Bottom line, she was my Mum. Sure I witnessed bad situations. But I was too young to comprehend fully what was going on around me. Which actually saved me. Was a natural protection mechanism. Fact is children don’t completely understand everything they fall witness to. Not the same way an adult does. Elementary my fellow potheads, it’s all in the skull. The time spent with Mom, my brain was nowhere near being fully developed. Not in seven years. I was a bright child. Memory worked. Processing those as I got older. Like playing tapes over and over, which sometimes caused apprehension. To say the least. I struggled for years coming to peace with past events that off and on, sometimes daily, bothered my subconscious.

I remember Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass. My Mom really dug them. I can recall her recording on a reel-to-reel tape system, an appearance they did on The Mike Douglas show. Daytime chat program. This is in the 1960’s. The album I remember from them more than any other; Whipped Cream And Other Delights. The green cover with a brunette woman wearing nothing but whipped cream. Hence the title I imagine. The dairy industry must have loved this. Sales through the roof. Whipped cream now being eaten, and not at all times from a plate of ice cream, or on anything made from flour, found in a bakery. The image, forever stuck in my young mind, igniting further my fascination with the female race. Get this…..speed up time….it’s now the wonderful 1990’s. I purchase a Herb Alpert Greatest Hits CD. Take it home. Play it. I know every song that he’s with the Tijuana Brass. Note for note. I could whistle along with it (my bird loves when I do that). Embedded in my brain all that time. I went thirty years not hearing many of those songs. And still, I remembered them.

Thelma Brown (re-stored 2013)

Promotional Photo: Thelma Willnetta Brown_Cordo Tones (Texas mid-1960’s)

My Mom played piano and accordion. She also sang. My favorite song that she performed; Red Roses For A Blue Lady. It’s a dear song that I hold very close to my heart, yet with over the two thousand music compact discs that I have, I don’t have a version of that song by anyone. This tune is from 1948. I actually think if a good vocalist recorded that song now, with some solid updated music behind the vocals, that it would chart and make money. Up the tempo. Just saying. Maybe that guy Casey Abram from the last American Idol? Season 10. He can play that stand up bass. Do the Wolfman styled vocals. He grunts. Surprised he never howled. Make Steven Tyler shout out; crazy good! And speaking of, what a loose cannon he was on that program. I was fascinated just keeping up with him. My only time watching a whole season of the show. By the way, my pick(s) lost. Imagine that.

Now let’s take a jump back. Back to my teenage years. At the second home, I lived in, after my parents were both dead. A pair of Sennheiser headphones. I’d go outside and smoke some weed. Then come inside, and put on the headphones. What music was I listening to you ask? Remember, this is around the middle of the 1970’s. OK? Here you go:

Uncle G’s Top 10 Headphone albums (cd’s that were meant to be listened to with the stereo headphones on, while under the influence of pot). And here we go:

Jeff Beck – Blow By Blow
Kraftwerk – Autobahn
Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells
Yes – Fragile
The Beatles – Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band
Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Brain Salad Surgery.
Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti
Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon
Nektar – Remember The Future
Alice Cooper – Billion Dollar Babies

Honorary Mention: The Who – Who By Numbers / Who’s Next

Note: Listened to these two Who studio releases on 8-Tracks, while smoking weed, and having dropped blotter acid one night. What a trip! Made me a fan of the band for life. And Pete’s solo material as well. His album: Psychoderelict. The misses and I so dig this. Came out the year we started dating (1993).

I later on while under the influence of said reefer we were smoking, and the acid I dropped, decided to go to the beach. A cool place to trip. Done it already a few times. Here I was with this girl name Diane. A cute blonde. She stayed straight that night. Our guardian angel for the evening. Me and another guy whose name escapes me at the moment. While totally peaking, we go to a pool parlor. A block from the boardwalk. The place was named; The Wild Carrot. And this is in Manasquan. So there I was playing a game of pool. I swear, the balls glowed. Could not finish the game. Ended the night on the beach. Most my experience with acid was good. Once while doing it, I jumped head first into a big bush thinking it was a giant mushroom. One track mind.

While a young teenager, I hung with guys who sometimes had older brothers in their life. And their friends. Socialized after school. On weekends. At get-togethers (like they say nowadays; just chillin’), or parties. Big, small, and by private invite only. Lots of weed. And always playing in the background, was the tunes. My mind was one big sponge soaking up whatever sounds that were out there. Explored what I liked. Ends up, I got turned on to lots of good bands/musicians just by being around like-minded individuals.  Unfortunately, I lack any ability to play a musical instrument. A friend gave me a bass not that long ago. It sits in my living room. “One day” I still tell myself.

For the most part, I stayed in two small seashore towns; Manasquan, and Long Branch. Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band were huge in that part of the World. The Jersey Shore. The same way, ZZ Top is big in Texas. Each having their own respected local followings. Way before becoming national celebrities.

From what I can tell, The Boss has stayed loyal to the Jersey Shore over the decades. Good for him. You know, he once gave my first wife tickets to a show. She worked for his answering service. One day Bruce was rehearsing and he hurt his foot/leg. He ends up impressed, and thankful for the speedy service she gave him finding a Doctor. Gives her two tickets to the Thanksgiving Madison Square Garden performance. She baked him a loaf of banana bread.

Springsteen had just come out with The River. Double album. A very important performance. Critics. We sat with the press/record company folk. They for the most part just sat there and watched the concert. No jumping up and down and actually getting into it. And we did have one drunk try to fuck with us. He got flagged. Bruce and the band were great. Another long show. We had to leave before the end so we could catch our train home; the night owl out of Penn Station.

As I got older I started disliking Springsteen, mainly due to his politics. One example. He publicly supported John Kerry. And here’s what killed me. Not for any specific reason. Only because he opposed Bush. On national TV this came out. It was an interview. Asked why he supported Kerry, Springsteen said nothing. The quietness was deafening. Spoke more to me than if he opened his mouth.

Regarding entertainers. Let me get this straight. I’m spending hard-earned money, and precious free-time consuming myself with their products, not just Springsteen’s, due to their performance abilities. That’s why I purchase the concert tickets and their latest releases. I’m attracted to their acquired musical skill, and or their talent to entertain. I’m not doing this because of their current views on drilling for oil in the Gulf, or whatever the hot topic of the day is. Mix those two, and you lose me. My singers, I want to sing. My actors, I want to act. Not educate me, or instruct me as to how to conduct myself in certain situations. It’s a pet peeve. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Throwing controversy aside, Springsteen & The E Street Band, especially the early material, is simply outstanding. Worth getting, or checking out if not in your collection already.

As a youth, I collected albums. Had some of the most simplistic home sound systems I could barely afford. Foster kid. No money. Check this out….I had one empty cigarette box, housing a tweeter. My friend would have Pioneer speakers, and I’d have Marlboro. But it worked. And I’d be playing all this great music. Would sometimes put pennies on the tone arm so the needle would not skip. And all this enjoyment, mostly under the influence of cannabis.

Attended concerts. My first rock show was Yes. They were touring the album, Relayer. Played two summers in a row. I attended both concerts. Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, New Jersey. The second summer show was on the radio; WNEW 102.7 FM. Out of New York City. Where most of the entertainment came from when living in New Jersey. I have wonderful memories of this radio station. One of them was a DJ name; Scott Muni. What a natural deep radio voice he had. We’d turn the bass up when he was talking. Would rattle the windows. Made us stoners laugh, every time. Then there was Alison Steele…The Night Bird. Listening to her late at night, could turn a penis hard, and keep it there till morning. Like it was an antenna zoomed in on her radio frequency. Besides the dee-jays, for many years they played what was new then, and now the classic rock hits of today. Would spin whole albums; Emerson, Lake, & Palmer’s – Pictures At An Exhibition. The 1970’s. A wonderful time for radio. And music in general. I once heard Steve Howe of Yes / Asia / GTR fame, say in an interview how the record companies were way more relaxed back then, allowing complete freedom to create. Lucky them. And lucky me. And Lucky Man was one of my favorite songs. One of the many that made for a cool soundtrack to my growing up. And life today as well.

Music CD’s playing in the background while I typed this; Jon Anderson – Survival & Other Stories / Steve Hackett – Out Of The Tunnel’s Mouth / Ant-Bee: Electronic Church Muzik.

Bonus Paragraph:

I saw Led Zeppelin. At Madison Square Garden. June 13, 1977. Pot everywhere. Got super wasted just walking around the outside of the Garden. Joints being passed to anyone who wanted a hit. Not to mention inside the place. What a blowout! Was hanging out with a pretty smelling young lady. We hitchhiked from Long Branch to the city. Was at Zep’s Swan Song office building most of the day. Met a lot of characters. And later that night saw one of the best rock bands ever. These guys were like Gods. A concert I’ll never forget. When back home the wee hours of that evening, my then new girlfriend and I detoured a couple blocks from her home, and we went into the woods. Sometime later, she was yelling “I’ll be right there Mother” with her panties down, and me munching on her custard pie.

Onward Through The Fog

Rest In Peace: Clarence Clemons (January 11, 1942 – June 18, 2011)


Music Review: Exovex – Radio Silence

As Seen On: ClassicRockRadio.co.uk
First Published: 06 June 2015
ClassicRockRadio.co.uk NEW Music Review
Spotlight: Exovex – Radio Silence (2015)
By: Gary “Uncle G” Brown
Twitter @GBrown0816

 photo Exovox - Radio Silence - cover_zpsp4w6enir.jpg

Everyday I open my snail mailbox, I never know what I’m going to find. Eliminated bills by going paperless, so that cut down on the volume delivered, a little. Now the metal containers contents range from the typical junk mail, that we’re told pays the letter carriers salary so to please tolerate, to correspondence by those unfamiliar with email, or just not having my email address. Items I buy on the Internet arrive on time and unharmed, thanks in part to the Katy, Texas Postal Service doing an excellent job, and then I get total surprises. Could be items from friends, or family. And then last but not least, comes the small boxes and bubble pack envelopes that have music CDs, or DVDs in them. Some I ordered, and some I didn’t have a clue was coming. I think of these as; GIFTS FROM STRANGERS. Those who play along know that if inspired, that I might use their product as something to write about, and thusly tell the world via the world wide web, my hopefully positive opinion of their newest project. Musicwise it could be a musician, or a band that I already know, or a player(s) that I’m entirely unfamiliar with. It happens. In the case of Exovex, I was completely unaware of its existence, up to the time I opened the package it arrived in. Also, the name, Dale Simmons, who is the principal musician in Exovex, didn’t ring any bells. What else to do but put the new CD in my Philips CD player, and press the play button.

As a writer, one will develop a reputation. Those who read my columns on a regular basis know that when it comes to rock, I may prefer hard rock to soft, but I’m a Prog-Head through and through. Stimulates my mind more than, say a three cord, three minute, straight forward rock n’ roll song would. Then again make it upbeat, and possibly I’ll dig that as well.

Fact is Prog-Rock is special to me, be it old school (Yes, Pink Floyd, or Genesis .. just to name a few), or today’s Modern-Prog sound. I certainly don’t confess to enjoying it all. Besides liking something, the flip side would be whatever I hear bores me to tears. Acoustic guitar and voice is hit and miss as far as I’m concerned. Or to my ears, the vocal performance could just out and out suck. Sound out of place. Sometimes I’ll tolerate or even come to enjoy what I consider questionable vocals, if I like the other musicians the vocal performance is associated with. Other times not, with strike one, meaning you’re out. If I can’t make it past two plays, I can’t review it. Apologies ahead of time.

Part of writing is the research. The most important question to me after committing to writing about my experiences listening to Exovex – Radio Silence was; Who is Dale Simmons? Answer is; a professional singer, lyricist, songwriter, guitarist (acoustic, electric, and bass), piano / keyboard player. And besides doing his own thing, was a front man for several bands from the early nineties. Experience to me is a good thing. Dale digs progressive art rock, jazz and funk. He’s also a self proclaimed coffee addict. A little more research and I could tell you his shoe size. Neither here nor there.

Joining Dale Simmons in which he performed and produced all six songs that make up Radio Silence is members of Porcupine Tree, Nine Inch Nails, Devo, Sting & Steely Dan! Featuring Josh Freese (Nine In Nails, A Perfect Circle, and Devo) and Keith Carlock (Sting, John Meyer, and Steely Dan) on drums. The album also showcases two members of Porcupine Tree, Gavin Harrison on drums and Richard Barbieri on keyboards and synthesizers.

If a first timer reading my work, within what is considered the prog-rock realm is, the concept album. Tells a story. Radio Silence tells one of a man who just wants to be alone. For every action a reaction as the man finds out isolation isn’t as fulfilling as he has thought it would be. Official promo for the album states: “The central theme of the album focuses on the downward spiral and ultimate demise of a man due to the psychological and physical effects of a long term, self-imposed isolation.” I conclude, lyrics are brain candy for those once focused. Dale’s vocals ranging from mild to wild.

Musically I hear sounds at times that remind me of prog-music past; David Gilmore late 70’s and forward playing style, and Circa:, a superb modern prog rock band with Billy Sherwood, and among others, original keyboard player for Yes, Tony Kaye. More so comparing vocal sound and style in which is delivered. I also hear 90’s prog-rock group Porcupine Tree somewhat, with their being a good reason as to why. Two musicians from that band make guest appearances on Exovex – Radio Silence; drummer Gavin Harrison, and keyboardist Richard Barbieri. Fit very nicely to what Dale got going on. Each performing on a different number. Other notable players join in, drummers Keith Carlock, and Josh Freese. Credits also include Nicole Neely, adding textures of cello, viola, and violin. If keeping score at home, we have Dale in three positions (all vocals, all guitar work, and all piano / keyboard work except for the one song in which Richard Barbieri kicks ass), Vs a drummer and string position. Nice touch by the way. Wait…Tim designed the CD cover. Bonus point for the win! Ends up being what you hear coming out of the speakers, is three quarters all one guy. Very impressive!


Using the one to five star rating system, whereas one star means it’s not worth investing time nor money in, to five stars which means it’s not only cool to dive in head first and submerge yourself, but also spend your hard earned money on, Uncle G gives Exovex – Radio Silence …5 stars! Spacy prog to seriously rocking out, this album has it all. I would say buy it just to hear Dale Simmons play. He spent years perfecting himself musically. The guitar work on Radio Silence jumps out of my three foot speakers, and takes command of all inside the house. Dale’s piano / keyboard work is just as good. All other musicians contributions are top notch. On headphones, Radio Silence sounds crisp, and alive. A tip of the hat to those behind the scenes. Oh, and I also like the use of voice and sound effects, especially on a concept piece of work. Adds dimension, and believability if done right. Just perfect here! The more repeat listens, the more this brilliant debut album on the whole, will be appreciated. My experience exactly!

For additional information, please check out Dale’s official website @ http://www.dalesimmons.com/

Music Review_Circa: Valley Of The Windmill

As Seen On ClassicRockRadio.co.uk
Spotlight: Circa: Valley Of The Windmill (2016 Frontiers Records)
By: Gary “Uncle G” Brown
Twitter @GBrown0816

 photo Circa - Valley Of The Windmill - cover_zpszrw43plp.jpg

The newest Circa: record has recently hit the store shelves; Circa: Valley Of The Windmill. I ordered mine from Amazon Dot Com, a few days after it was released. Was a reasonable price, and it arrived in good time. The pre-sale promotion had me hooked. Four songs, for a total of around fifty minutes. The longest of them, the closing number entitled ‘Our Place Under The Sun’. Almost nineteen minutes. Just knowing that can make a long time progressive rock fan like myself, damn near wet themselves. After all, one characteristic of progressive rock, is the composition of longer musical arrangements. Now, throw in a quote from Circa: guitarist and vocalist Billy Sherwood saying how ‘super proggy’ the new release is, and it’s purchased without even hearing one note played. At least it was that way for me.

Circa: been around since 2007. This is their fourth studio effort. Joining Billy Sherwood, is original Yes keyboardist, Tony Kaye, who’s been with Circa: like Billy, from the beginning. Other players have come and go. Circa: 2016 also includes Scott Connor (Drums and Percussion), and Rick Tierney (bass). ‘Valley Of The Windmill’ is produced by Circa:, and was recorded and mixed by the master himself, Billy Sherwood.

Uncle G Discusses … Circa: Valley Of The Windmill

The first track called ‘Silent Resolve’ starts off for a few seconds real mellow like, and then kicks in. It’s the one song out of the four, that has continually stayed in my head, pretty much since the first play of the CD. For the most part up-tempo, as is the rest of the album. All musicians involved do a great job, but it’s Billy’s guitar work that for me makes this song so infectious. And speaking of which, this album marks the first time Billy played lead guitar and not bass on a Circa: studio offering. Does fantastic!

It’s the second track entitled ‘Empire Over’, where I can say it’s Tony’s playing that really makes the song for me. I love hearing his keyboard work, which is not only outstanding on this song, but throughout this whole album. Fans of Mr. Kaye work will rejoice knowing he’s don’t hold anything back, and that his trademark Hammond sound, is here in all it’s glory.

The rest of the album sparkles. Behind the drum kit, Scott Connor is there keeping things lively, along with Rick on bass. The lyrics are sharp, and holds one attention. Billy’s a fine lead vocalist, and always has been. The last two songs as as good as the first two. Bonus: Circa: Valley Of The Windmill has a cool looking album cover to boot. It’s the pure definition of a real progressive rock album, inside and out. Looks like one … Sounds like one … MUST be one!

Uncle G Rates … Circa: Valley Of The Windmill

Using the one to five star rating system, whereas one star would equate to drinking warm beer out of a can, and five stars equaling the best draft beer available in a chilled mug on a hot Summer day, I rate the new Circa: record, Valley Of The Windmill … 5 stars! Would like to see the band tour this record. At least do a few shows and have them filmed for audio / visual release. Am sure fans would be more than interested. I’d try to make one show if I could. California here I come?

Music Review: The Prog Collective – Epilogue

As Seen On: ClassicRockRadio.co.uk
First Published: Sunday, 29 September 2013
Spotlight: The Prog Collective – Epilogue (2013 Purple Pyramid)
By: Gary “Uncle G” Brown
Twitter @GBrown0816

 photo The Prog Collective - Epilogue - cover_zps3zhad9w5.jpg

Since arriving in my mailbox, the newest from Billy Sherwood’s The Prog Collective called Epilogue has been occupying all my spare time. I simply fell into it, and have been stuck in all its groovy prog-ness ever since first opening it up.

Like the debut Prog Collective recording, the foundation for this second offering called Epilogue, has been put in place by ex-Yes member Billy Sherwood. A multi-instrumentalist with over twenty years experience as a professional musician on stage and behind the scenes. I reviewed Billy’s work for Classic Rock Radio Dot EU on more than one occasion. My review of the first Prog Collective mentioned something about it being more on the melodic side than being a real rocker. A little time later and the second offering from The Prog Collective comes out called Epilogue. It not only addressed the issue I had, but in my ears took my suggestion. For there is enough real rocking out moments included in Epilogue so as to motivate the wiggling of any prog-heads bums should they be so inclined to do so. Am happy about that, for playing rock music in general is the reason I started listening to many of the superb players that are included in this fine new release.

The songs here are presented in typical prog-rock style; airy yet meaningful lyrics, long instrumental passages, different time changes, and styles of playing. That in a nutshell is, at least to me, what a good definition of what prog-rock is. Yet it’s also way more. Those who admit to being a fan know what I’m talking about. Hard to describe but I do know this. Prog Rock music fans are real music fans. We appreciate more than anything musicians who dedicate themselves to their craft. In prog, that’s pretty much commonplace. So prepare to come out of the shadows. Prog Rock fans unite.

The first song on the CD is also the first song to get stuck in my head titled “Are We To Believe?” Besides Mr. Sherwood, who is always doing something on every song, giving him some help here is Rick Wakeman (Yes), Colin Moulding (XTC), Steve Hillage (Gong), and Mel Collins (King Crimson). When Mel’s part comes in, I was immediately reminded of another Sherwood project called The Fusion Syndicate. Also on Purple Pyramid Records by the way. Came out last year. A solid CD and worth seeking out if you haven’t already. Anyway…so back to Epilogue, the CD starts off sounding like…well…prog rock. From the mainstream to those musicians so involved they sleep with their instruments (U Know Who U R), and simply never losing focus of what real prog rock sounds like.

Let me remind you that each song on Epilogue contains a who’s who of super-star prog rock musicians. John Wetton (UK / Asia), Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater_Billy Idol), and John Westley (Porcupine Tree_Steven Wilson) are on the second track with an another example of what a prog rock song should song like. Titled “What Can Be Done?” reminds me of some of the work Mister Wetton did when he was with the group King Crimson.

When I heard the third track for the first time called “Adding Fuel To The Fire”, I knew we had a winner here. It’s the rock in prog I always find most rewarding. The guest stars are Fee Waybill (The Tubes), Steve Morse (Deep Purple), and John Westley (Steven Wilson_Porcupine Tree).

“Tomorrow Never Comes” is yet another superb song found on this album. An old acquaintance, Peter Banks (original Yes guitarist) is on it. One of his last performances sadly, for Banks passed away in the first part of this year. On keyboards, Larry Fast (Nektar_Peter Gabriel) and providing wonderful vocals, Sonja Kristina (Curved Air).

“Shining Diamonds” is a showcase to display a knock-out lineup of Alan Parsons (The Alan Parsons Project), Steve Stevens (Billy Idol), Patrick Moraz (Refugee_The Moody Blues), and Chris Squire (Conspiracy). The latter of the two, their first time on a new recording since the seventies (Yes – Relayer / Chris Squire – Fish Out Of Water). Long overdue with both of their performances as good as any previous collaborations.

The seventh song is “Memory Tracks” with Billy Sherwood playing all instruments and just a tad help in the vocal department from none other than Roye Albrighton from the super prog rock band Nektar. Together their vocals make this one of the best singing performances on the album. Warning…this song also includes crazy cool keyboards. At around the 5:10 mark, just as the harmonies fade, crank up the volume. One of the best songs on the whole CD. A wonderful showcase for displaying Mr. Sherwood’s musical abilities.

“Just Another Day” is Billy Sherwood on lead vocals, with Gary Green (Gentle Giant) and Tony Kaye (ex-original Yes & present day Circa:) on keyboards. Segments into the closing number real well. The title song “Epilogue” contains some serious rock drumming from Jim Cuomo (Fireballet), and get this, spoken word from Hollywood’s William Shatner. For this is one of his BETTER musical moments.

Check it out, prog rock in of itself was made to include such things as Shatner’s spoken word performance. The Moody Blues and Rick Wakeman have included narrative in some of their biggest sellers. Leave it to Billy Sherwood to be able to find just the right vibe so as to present the iconic actor in the right environment. That and Cumom’s drum work is exceptional.

Rating: Using a one to five star rating system, Uncle G gives The Prog Collective – Epilogue 5 solid stars. Having played it enough times so when I hear it now, I know I’m playing a superbly finely crafted prog-rock album. Am looking forward to additional Prog Collective projects coming down the pike. Purple Pyramid take notice. The Prog Collective is a winner, as is their newest CD Epilogue.

Update: Billy Sherwood is now again with the band Yes, replacing co-founder Chris Squire, who passed away in 2015 (27 June).

Interview: Mark Murdock (Musician)

First Published: Tuesday, 18 June 2013
ClassicRockRadio.co.uk Interview
Spotlight: Mark Murdock
By: Gary “Uncle G” Brown
Twitter @GBrown0816

 photo Mark Murdock - Cymbalic Encounters - cover_zpsdlgbmh2c.jpg

A few months back I reviewed independent recording artist Mark Murdock’s new CD, ‘Cymbalic Encounters’, along with my positive review, many more followed. Due to good word of mouth and wonderful promotion, ‘Cymbalic Encounters’ is now being unleashed on the world with a previously unheard of bonus track on June 17th. I welcomed the opportunity to ask Mark a few questions.

Classic Rock Radio (UK): Mark, Can you start off by telling us about this new release date?

Mark Murdock: On June 18th ‘Cymbalic Encounters’ is being released worldwide via Gonzo MultiMedia which houses a host of notable Prog artists. I feel ‘Cymbalic Encounters’ has found a nice home with Gonzo. Up to the Gonzo release, the CD has been exclusively available through disk Union Japan and as a digital music download via cdbaby, iTunes, and Amazon. There will be a Bonus Track and an expanded insert with lyrics and more photos on the Gonzo release.

Classic Rock Radio (UK): What has been the most rewarding response to ‘Cymbalic Encounters’?

Mark Murdock: I have received a number of thumbs up for bringing John and Percy together on record, most likely from Brand X followers. I believe it has been a number of years since they have collaborated on any given project. More importantly, of course, is that the music has been for the most part well received. Some key radio programs like CRR Dot EU and stations in Europe aired it and there have also been numerous reviews featured in many key music magazines, all of which I wasn’t really expecting. I initially envisioned the CD would have a sort of an underground appeal amongst some shady group of characters from the late seventies.

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Photo: Behind the Drum Kit … Mr. Mark Murdock

Classic Rock Radio (UK): Have their been any attempts to play this music live?

Mark Murdock: There was an attempt to bring everyone together as a Brand X reunion and Cymbalic Encounters set here in Tokyo. Actually, I was asked by a promoter to do a Japan tour, and had agreement from all Brand X members but one key member. So to make a long story short, without this one key member it was an unlikely sale. So, at the moment I have a three piece group of local musicians, here in Tokyo, where we are rehearsing selected songs in hopes of playing a few local gigs.

Classic Rock Radio (UK): Regarding the songs, I was wondering what was the inspiration behind the song titles?

Mark Murdock: It’s funny that you would ask me that question, Gary. I keep getting asked about the song titles, as the CD title suggests a play on words, Cymbalic and Symbolic.

Songs like ‘Revert To My Senses’, ‘Illusion Nation’ and ‘Until The Sun Is No Longer’ portray a kind of struggle of existence in an unpredictable world.

‘Goodsall Funk Railroad/The Ballad Of Percy Jones’, just came to me as John is a great funk player (Grand Funk Railroad turned into Goodsall Funk Railroad) and Engine Percy from the kid’s show ‘Thomas’ that my son, Preston used to watch on Japanese TV. I’m not all that sure that Percy and John were approving of that. I might have pissed them off actually. I will be careful in the future, (laughs Mark).

‘Sunning Hill’ was the name of Phil’s old flat in Epson, Surrey U.K. (flat 3) that I used to visit when he was playing with Brand X. The flat had purple wallpaper, a red piano and a green painting on the wall of Eno’s Another Green World. They were in real need of an interior decorator. It was like a flashback to the psychedelic 1960’s.

‘Philosophically Sound’ has an intelligent kind of melody similar to a scientific formula. Percy is an inventor at heart so perhaps this song has some kind of equation hidden in the melody?

Classic Rock Radio (UK): Do you plan a follow up to Cymbalic Encounters?

Mark Murdock: Yes, I have a new Cymbalic Encounters in the works now and hoping by fall to have it completed and released. There will be fewer songs than Cymbalic Encounters but have John Goodsall and Percy Jones on board.

 photo Mark Murdock - Cymbalic Encounters - promo pic_zps6osouf3u.jpg

Photo: John Goodsall_Mark Murdock_Percy Jones

“This new batch of songs seems more wide open harmonically.” – John Goodsall

Classic Rock Radio (UK): Any additional featured artists Mark?

Mark Murdock: My son, Preston is playing electric sitar and has a few guitar spots.
Desirably, I would like to incorporate some new guest artists on the CD and I have in fact invited a few respected musicians. Not sure who will end up on the recordings yet. Stay tuned….. Oh, but I can reveal that I have a professional cello player on a few tracks, which is a departure from previous projects I have attempted.

Classic Rock Radio (UK): You live in Japan. Any cool promotion there?

Mark Murdock:The Japanese magazine ‘Strange Days’ interviewed me. It is a popular music mag here which did a three page feature on the CD. They seemed interested in my involvement with Peter Banks (YES – R.I.P). Someday perhaps Mark Murdock will be a household name! Isn’t he the sushi song guy?

Classic Rock Radio (UK): Any closing thoughts?

Mark Murdock: Spread the word

Classic Rock Radio (UK): Thanks for the time Mark. We here at Classic Rock Radio (UK) are confident the Gonzo release of Cymbalic Encounters to be just the start of even bigger and better things. Already looking forward to whatever the next musical adventure will be.

Official Gonzo Media Group / Mark Murdock Webpage


Bonus: Cymbalic Encounters Sample (enjoy)



August 15, 2016
From the Desk of Mark Murdock

Gonzo U.K. and Diskunion Japan released Cymbalic Encounters second CD ‘Exploration of the Southern Constellation’ which like the my first CD features Brand X’s John Goodsall and Percy Jones.

Review: http://classicrockradioeu.blogspot.com/2015/08/reviewcymbalic-encountersexploration-of.html

As a performing unit, Cymbalic Encounters has been appearing around the Tokyo club circuit hosting events. On the playlist, we have been performing songs not only from CD 1 and 2 but songs from my Era-2 CD (Gonzo) which were co-written by Percy Jones. In addition we have played a tribute to Brand X in our show.

Cymbalic Encounters – Exploration of the Southern Constellation


What’s in the works?

CE3, a third CD has been in production for sometime. I actually have more songs that could go onto it, so will be releasing some as singles on CDBaby or Bandcamp soon.

CYMATICS is now available on cdbaby, iTunes, etc. This was a space-themed jazz-rock experiment using the Alpha Syntauri synth with the Apple II computer in 1981.
Percy Jones played a fretless 4 string Wal bass on it.


 photo Mark Murdock  - In Concert_zpsk2hscplu.jpg

Photo: Mark Murdock – In Concert!

NEW Mark Murdock Release:

Mark Murdock – Era 2 – Eyes Down and Seacloud (CD)


NEW BAND — MASHEEN MESSIAH — Debut Album will be Released: October 2016

DVD Review: Rick Wakeman – The Six Wives Of Henry VIII: Live (2009)

As Seen On: ClassicRockRadio.co.uk
First Published: 17 June 2015
Uncle G’s Classic Rock DVD Collection
Spotlight: Rick Wakeman – The Six Wives Of Henry VIII:Live at Hampton Court Palace (2009 Eagle Vision)
By: Gary “Uncle G” Brown
Twitter @GBrown0816

 photo Rick Wakeman - 6 Wives Live - DVD Cover_zpseivlblvf.jpg

There is a chain of retail stores in Houston, Texas, named Half Price Books, that buys and sells new and used; books, albums, CDs, cassettes, I think I saw an eight track tape there one day not long ago, VHS tapes, movies on a disc the size of albums, Blue-rays, and DVDs. They also have collectibles. Pre-printed metal signs, key chains, computer games, and whatever other items one could think that would tie in with everything else I just mentioned. A very cool store I try to check out every so often.

On my last trip there, I picked up a couple DVD concert discs. Brand new, and offered at a price lower than what it was when it was a brand new item. Ones a Aerosmith concert from 2013 in Japan, and the other DVD I have chosen, a Rick Wakeman spectacle, professionally recorded in 2009 entitled; Rick Wakeman – The Six Wives Of Henry VIII: Live at Hampton Court Palace. Put out by Eagle Vision. Known for putting out quality concert DVDs / Blu-rays. Again they have outdone themselves. The Wakeman DVD comes with special features, and a nice booklet, giving detailed information about the special performance, and the subjects in which the music glorifies.

Rick Wakeman’s 1973 album Six Wives Of Henry VIII was the second Rick Wakeman album in the first album collection I had. Journey To The Centre Of The Earth (1974) was the first. Then Myths and Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table (1975) my third. Purchased that the first week it came out. I have since that time, purchased various versions of these three classic Rick Wakeman offerings. If an youngin’ wants to know why Rick Wakeman is as famous as he is today, point them to any of those three albums. Or any that came after, which dig into various styles of piano / keyboard playing. I have my favorites; Rick Wakeman’s Criminal Record (1977), and Rock N’ Roll Prophet Plus (1993).

Rick’s Six Wives project was extra special to me for various reasons. For one it was a rock instrumental. My Mom, (God rest her soul) being a professional musician and seriously into Herb Alpert back in the 1960’s, introduced me to music without words. A preference today. Songs containing longer than usual passages of time in between lyrics, in my mind is a plus the majority of the time. The band Yes excelled at this, as did many one of their contemporaries such as Pink Floyd, and Genesis, just to name a couple.

My introduction to Rick’s keyboard was the group, Yes. Another reason why the album Six Wives fits my taste, is because various Yes members appear on it. Early nineteen seventies. The Fragile / Close To The Edge / Tales line-ups. All but Jon Anderson, which includes Yes’ two drummers at the time, Bill Bruford and his replacement, Alan White. Some of my all time favorite musicians on the planet. Them being on this album just makes it even better in my book.

This live version recorded over two nights, the first and second of May, in the year 2009, according to the keyboard wizard himself, is Henry and the Six Wives of Henry The VIII, as it was meant to be performed / presented. Long story short, way back when, their were recording limitations. Now the whole piece could be appreciated in it’s entirety, as it was meant to be heard. And as the spectacle as it should be. Besides Mr. Wakeman, a very large number of professional musicians, a robust narrator, and a backdrop worthy of all the work involved to make the show go without a hitch. Again, performed two nights in a row, involving hundreds of people. The DVD I imagine the best of each song performed. So many good moments. Cool bonus features. A DVD worth purchasing, as I assume the CD is as well, in which I need to start seeking out. The additional music flows as freely as the original. If a fan of Mr. Wakeman’s, then this historical 2009 Rick Wakeman concert DVD is a MUST HAVE.

DVD Song Track Listing / Running Order

01. Tudorture/Henry’s Fanfare
02. Tudorture/1485
03. Catherine Of Aragon (2009)
04. Kathryn Howard (2009)
05. Jane’s Prelude
06. Jane Seymour (2009)
07. Defender Of The Faith
08. Katherine Parr (2009)
09. Anne Of Cleves (2009)
10. Anne Boleyn (2009)
11. Tudorock
12. Tudorture (Reprise)

Running Time: 125 approx.

 photo Rick Wakeman - 6 Wives Live - DVD Back Cover_zpswopohvnd.jpg

Rick Wakeman Official Website: http://www.rwcc.com/

Music Review: Leon Alvarado – The Future Left Behind (2016)

As Seen On: ClassicRockRadio.co.uk
24 July 2016
Music Review: Leon Alvarado – The Future Left Behind (2016)
By: Gary “Uncle G” Brown
Twitter @GBrown0816

Am pretty sure my admiration for progressive rock concept albums started back when I began seriously getting into collecting record albums.

As a kid in my single digits, and entering my teens, I had 45’s (singles) of whatever bubble gum / novelty songs that caught my ear. At around age twelve, from hanging out with my school friends, and sometimes their older siblings, I became exposed to more of what they were playing on the FM radio stations, then the AM ones. Bottom line, rock n’ roll was my thing. I’m drawn to music having a catchy melody, and many times over, with a solid beat.

My first real rock album; The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band (1967). Then came bands like Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, and Yes. Time wise for myself being the first half of the nineteen seventies. Records albums around then cost on the average of five dollars. Double albums more. To help keep in perspective, the minimum wage was under three dollars an hour.

My parents were both dead by my 12th birthday. I was thrown into foster care. No one gave me money. Having no real skills, I did what I could do to make a buck, so I could buy the things I wanted. This would include selling weed. A typical joint would go for a dollar. Rolling twenty in the morning, I’d have them gone by the evening. Doing that, and working full time as a dishwasher at age 16, I managed to keep myself in cigarettes, and I always had a pretty cool record collection. Saw a lot of concerts too. Even with not being able to play an instrument, music was definitely my thing.

An LP record as it was back then, and still is today, was typically a collection of songs. Whereas a single would play out, side A and side B at say ten minutes, an 33 RPM album would clock in playing both sides, at around two thirds of an hour. When playing LP’s, I got into the habit of listening to the whole release, and wasn’t into skipping around the record, only listening to the hits. Occasionally a song I labeled a stinker would be included in the mix, but I try not to focus on that too much, and just hang in there till the next track. This is where CD’s were cool. One could program the player to not play a song(s) one disliked. No more having to walk over to the turntable, and moving the needle, if a song didn’t interest you. I enjoyed the advancement in technology, but frankly it didn’t really matter much to me. All that time I had trained myself to persevere, when I heard a tune I wasn’t into. That and maybe I was too lazy to bother trying to learn how to program the newest advancements in playing music. Easier to put in the disc, press play, and let it go till it was over. I’m a CD guy nowadays. Vinyl to me, was always a pain in the ass. My CD count is in the thousands. And if a disc has more music on it that I don’t like, more than I do, I simply just don’t play it anymore.

One type record which was designed to be played from start to finish, and not skipped all around, was the concept album. This is where the lyrics were all about one idea. Like Yes’ Tales From Topographic Oceans (1973). Some even told a story, such as Nektar‘s Remember The Future (1973), or Spock’s Beard – Snow (2002). Many bands / musicians saw success doing this while others were mocked / laughed at; Styx – Kilroy Was Here (1983). My best loved concept albums were by keyboardist, Rick Wakeman. His ‘Six Wives of Henry VIII’ (1973),’Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ (1974), and ‘The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table’ (1975), was one solid piece of work, after another. The subjects of each release intrigued me. I got into how the stories were presented, and of course I dug the music. Another one I could not play enough times by Rick was his 1977 release, Criminal Record. Yes’ Chris Squire (RIP), and Alan White both contributed to this record. The album contained three thirds of what was then Yes. Squire and White was one of the absolute best bass / drum teams in all rock n’ roll music. They played together in and out of Yes for over forty years. These guys were amazing!

Uncle G Discusses … Leon Alvarado – The Future Left Behind

 photo Leon Alvarado - The Future Left Behind - cover unopened_zpse8r7oro6.jpg

First off, I became aware of Leon Alvarado a couple years ago. Was sent an EP CD he put out called, ‘Music From An Expanded Universe’, for possible review. I ended up doing so praising it not only for its musical contents, but it’s cover art as well. A year and a half later (give or take) I get another package in the mail with Leon’s newest release. A forty one minute full length concept album entitled, ‘The Future Left Behind.’ Includes guest players Billy Sherwood (Yes – Circa:) on guitar, and a legendary musician I already mentioned; Rick Wakeman. He’s credited with a Moog solo on the second track (Launch Overture), and extra keyboards. Seeing how Leon plays keyboards himself, it’s figuring out, and then knowing the different styles of the two men to guess who’s playing where. The majority of the keyboard work is Leon. That much I know. Leon also takes care of the drum work. On top of that, the sci-fi story is by him, and he writes all the all the songs on ‘The Future Left Behind’ except for one where he shares songwriting credit. That would be with guitarist Johnny Bruhns (Circa:) on a number called; To Be Loved. An outstanding acoustic guitar number performed by Johnny, who appears on that one track.

What I labeled a sci-fi story, takes place in the 22nd century, if my calculations are correct. The Earth as we know it, has gone to shit. Blamed on pollution, and overpopulation. The wealthy get to live life anew, being blasted off into outer space, and living in one of the many huge space cities, that orbit our planet, and also that of Mars. A work in progress for those there, and also for the poor people left behind. For they need to come up with a solution to the planet’s problems, or die trying. We learn all this through a narrator. No singing, thus not through lyrics. Instead in between instrumental tracks, we hear the story unfold before us. A brilliant job done by Steve Thamer, who at first listen I thought was Michael Dorn (portrayed Worf on Star Trek: The Next Generation). Oops … my bad.

Music wise I have my favorite tracks. One would be ‘Launch Overtune’ that I also stated included the Moog playing of Mr. Rick Wakeman. Another song on here, ‘The Ones Left Behind’ reminds me of Rick, and his backup band; The English Rock Ensemble. And I really dig the last track; The Star Seekers.

Uncle G Rates … Leon Alvarado – The Future Left Behind

Using the one to five star rating system in which one star means it’s absolutely dreadful, to five stars which means it’s safe to spend your hard earned disposable cash on it, I rate Leon Alvarado – The Future Left Behind … 5 Stars! I wish in places it rocked out a tad harder. Genuinely, music wise, I find it hard to complain. Also, I can’t say enough good words about the story. A solid futuristic, apocalyptic tale that inspires intelligent thought.

In closing, I strongly recommend to the consumer to shell out the extra money and get the physical CD. The total packaging really compliments what you hear. The artwork / photography stands out. Comes with a very well done booklet, that includes the story in written form, plus comic book illustrations. I can’t say enough good things here. Leon Alvarado – The Future Left Behind, is really, really well done! Okay to buy the download as well. The rest so they say, is icing on the cake.

 photo Leon Alvarado - The Future Left Behind - packaging_zpsblyzvswf.jpg

For more information: http://www.leonplaysmusic.com