Circa HQ - album review - Billy Sherwood

I’m relieved to hear that prog-supergroup Circa is currently working with ex-Toto lead singer Bobby Kimball for an upcoming album. The vocals happen to be one of the weak points on Circa’s recently released HQ album. The group is made up of stellar musicians including two former Yes members - Billy Sherwood and Tony Kaye, guitarist Jimmy Haun (who played on Yes’ Union album) and current Asia/GPS/John Payne drummer Jay Schellen. These guys are phenomenal players that would make any prog/rock-fan proud. But the album lacks memorable material and Sherwood’s vocals are weak, thin-sounding and limited in range. Perhaps if the album consisted of all-instrumental music, I would have viewed it differently but the fact remains that the sound of Sherwood’s voice really ruined it for me. It’s very disappointing because I like these guys and think Sherwood is a great musician and producer.

The recording sounds fantastic and the sound palette is pleasantly reminiscent of Yes without crossing the line into parody. But until you reach the last two songs on the album (”All Intertwined” and “Remember Along the Way” ), it just seems like a group of musicians lost, trying desperately to find a hook or a distinct melody line. The chops are clearly there - Haun with his fluid, tasty guitar lines, Kaye with his Hammond organ and Sherwood sounding a bit like Chris Squire with his Rickenbacker bass. But it all doesn’t really come together until those last two songs. And even though those two songs last a total of twenty minutes, they can’t save the album as a whole. I was expecting a lot more from musicians of this caliber and lineage. Well, at least we have another project to look forward to now that Bobby Kimball is fronting the group.

A Wizard A True Star LIVE - Rundgren - AWATS

Todd Rundgren fans are in for a treat this coming September. Rundgren is scheduled to perform the entire A Wizard, A True Star album live at the Akron Civic Theatre in Akron, Ohio on September 6, 2009. This is a very unique event for Todd fans and depending on the demand for tickets for this event, it may be THE ONLY CHANCE to see AWATS performed live. The idea of a special AWATS show has been floating around for quite some time but for some reason concert promoters weren’t interested in putting the show together. But thanks to Todd fans Doug and CruiserMel, the dream will now become reality. Known to most Todd fans as the voices behind Rundgren Radio, Doug and CruiserMel recently dipped their toes into concert promotion themselves by putting together various shows for Rundgren and Kasim Sulton over the last year or so. The show will also mark the 2nd year of their popular online talk radio program, Rundgren Radio. AWATS is considered a landmark album in Rundgren’s long recording career and seeing him perform the whole thing live is a dream come true for most fans.

Time Inc. - Mine Magazine - first issue

Time Inc.’s Mine Magazine was initially touted as a groundbreaking new concept in print media which allowed subscribers the ability to customize the content of their magazine. Well, I just received the first issue of Mine and I have to say that I’m completely underwhelmed. Yes, I understand that this is a trial run but from the looks of it, this is not going to work. There are only a total of 36 pages and the majority of the pages are taken up by graphics, logos and of course advertisements which in this case are from Lexus.

The content is made up of previously run articles from Time, Sports Illustrated, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Money, In Style, Golf andTravel + Leisure. As a subscriber, we had to choose five of those magazines and then fill out a questionaire so that the advertisers could “personalize” the ads according to our preferences and where we lived. The “personalized” ads ended up in this case more like “mad libs” where your name and location were inserted into the Lexus ads. Yeah, impressive, right? *yawn* oh, and apparently there was a glitch during the printing of the first issue. Time Inc. apparently didn’t print out the correct versions of the magazine for some of their subscribers (including me). For instance, I remember listing Food & Wine as one of my five, but Golf appears as one of my selections instead. But my main complaint is *content*. If there aren’t any interesting articles in the magazine, there really isn’t a need for me to read it, is there? OK, OK, if Time Inc. included the SI swimsuit pictorial in my issue I probably wouldn’t be complaining so much BUT they didn’t.

Incredibad - The Lonely Island

I’ve got mixed feelings about the new comedy album titledIncredibad by The Lonely Island. Like a lot of folks, I’m a huge fan of those SNL digital shorts created by the Lonely Island trio - Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer but since a good portion of the CD is comprised of their past video hits (including “Lazy Sunday”, “Jizz in my Pants” and “Dick in the Box”) the album understandably suffers and feels a bit dated because of this. I suppose the problem stems from the fact that this type of comedy tends to be disposable and due to the short shelf life, there isn’t a lot of “replay value” here.

Just think of it as “fast food” comedy where it’s good in short bursts but not so good for the long haul. and although I recognize the creativity that went into the recordings, the “Beastie Boys” retro style rapping overstays its welcome after a couple of spins. Plus it doesn’t help matters when each song contains only one or two punchlines. Some tracks like “I’m on a Boat” or “The Old Saloon” don’t even really have a punchline to speak of. I guess it’s nice for the comedy trio to have “official products” out on the market to sell but their type of humor really works best as online videos or as SNL shorts. and I don’t know about you but I feel like a pimple faced fourteen year old listening to all the toilet-humor on this album. heh. highlights include: “Who Said We’re Wack?”, “Sax Man”, “Like a Boss”