“Spanish Key” by Miles Davis

It’s unavoidable.  It is impossible to speak of modern music, regardless of genre, and not take note of the critical importance of Miles Davis.  Call him what you will or what he called himself — a genius of composition, a dazzling trumpeter/performer and band leader/manipulator, an agent provocateur, a counter-racist, coke fiend, pimp, misogynist — Miles Davis was … Continue reading “Spanish Key” by Miles Davis

“Boléro” by Maurice Ravel

Maurice Ravel’s Boléro has a long, complex relationship with rock and roll, sometimes quoted explicitly (Jeff Beck’s “Beck’s Bolero”) other times through suggestion (Rush’s “Jacob’s Ladder”).  In its thematic and rhythmic repetition and building orchestration there is a tension and release, an erotic energy inseparable from rock’s spark.  This has often been perceived as a weakness of the work, even signaling … Continue reading “Boléro” by Maurice Ravel

“Jacob’s Ladder” by Rush

From Rush’s transitional Permanent Waves, “Jacob’s Ladder” is a psychedelic march, carrying up its spiral staircase Neil Peart’s cosmic Coleridge musings.  It thunders across the eastern deserts evoked by its title, a biblical steampunk, all dust and whirlwind and prophetic dreams set against Rush’s tightening musical clockwork.  The song’s three sections flow together, distinct but seamless, no … Continue reading “Jacob’s Ladder” by Rush

“I’ve Been Walking (part 2)” by Gazpacho

In 2014, Gazpacho’s Demon  was to progressive rock what, in that same year, Hozier was to pop and Sturgill Simpson was to country — voices that raised the bar, made others take notice and take stock.  Demon was Gazpacho’s eighth album, and many would argue they’d been producing classic, 5-star records since 2007’s Night.  This is true, but the organic, earthy … Continue reading “I’ve Been Walking (part 2)” by Gazpacho

“Living the Dream” by Sturgill Simpson

“Outlaw country” is an ironic descriptor at best, applied to a music that, without the modifier, began as a lucrative embarrassment to the phonograph salesmen of the 1920s, their newly-minted “hillbilly” record catalogs doing surprisingly well next to the more respectable stacks of whatever maudlin tenor was the operatic toast of the day. Country music’s … Continue reading “Living the Dream” by Sturgill Simpson