2014-2015 "Album Night" Archives

Feel free to explore the "Album Night" archives from 2014 & 2015 below.  We listened to some great albums!  And check out the "Album Night" home page to see the upcoming featured works of art. I hope you can join me for many of these exciting events!

Wed, Dec. 2, 9pm EST - 'A Divina Comédia Ou Ando Meio Desligado' by Os Mutantes 

If you've never heard of Os Mutantes before I am pleased to be introducing you to this unique and brilliant band. Formed in the second half of the 1960's, this Brazilian psychedelic band sounds like no other band I'm aware of. The original lineup had Rita Lee on vocals with the Baptista brothers, Sérgio Dias and Arnaldo Baptista, handling instrumentation. Sometimes considered the fourth member, older brother Cláudio César Dias Baptista created instruments and effects that helped shape the far out sounds obtained by 'The Mutants'.

Released in 1970, A Divina Comédia Ou Ando Meio Desligado (English title: The Divine Comedy or I Feel A Little Spaced Out) was the group's third effort.  With influences from the Beatles to bossa nova to the Brazlian Tropicália artistic movement, it is no wonder this album is so stunningly unique and fascinating.  Add in the group's propensity for experimentation and you can begin to imagine the possibilities that this work of art can offer.  If you've heard this album before you are undoubtedly aware of its depth and the possibility of discovering something new with each listen. If this is your first spin, be prepared to be blown away.  To wet the palate without giving too much away, here are the track titles with some approximate english translations:

1. Ando Meio Desligado (I Feel A Little Spaced Out)
2. Quem Tem Medo De Brincar De Amor (Who fears playing with love)
3. Ave, Lúcifer (Hail, Lucifer)
4. Desculpe, Babe (I'm Sorry, Baby)
5. Meu Refrigerador Não Funciona (My refrigerator doesn't work)
6. Hey Boy
7. Preciso Urgentemente Encontrar Um Amigo (I need to find a friend urgently)
8. Chão De Estrelas (Starry Ground/Floor of Stars)
9. Jogo Da Calçada (Sidewalk Game)
10. Haleluia
11. Oh! Mulher Infiel (Oh! Unfaithful Woman)

Join the Brazilian psychedelic party with "Album Night" on Wednesday, December 2nd at 9pm and listen to the classic A Divina Comédia Ou Ando Meio Desligado by Os Mutantes. You won't be disappointed!

Wed, Nov. 4, 9pm EST - 'Red Apple Falls' by Smog 

The majority of this album is neither loud nor upbeat, from both a tempo and lyrical standpoint. It's primarily soft, slow and forlorn (perhaps that is why I love it so).  The instrumentation is minimal and any sort of guitar wizardry is completely absent. Does that mean it has little to offer? Of course not. Listen to the first track, "The Morning Paper", and you'll too be drawn into the fictional town of Red Apple Falls.  

Bill Callahan, who records under the moniker Smog, penned this concept album in first person. He presents deep and mournful stories of the empty and ultimately strained relationship between him and a widow. Revelations of his former deviant self, now in a new town unaware of his sketchy past, weave through the two upbeat (tempo-wise) songs on the album in "I Was A Stranger" and "Ex-Con". Encouragement to break free from bad situations and fantasies of being selfless do show signs of positivity ("Inspirational" and "To Be Of Use"), but overall the main character is presented throughout the album in a light more akin to the wounded bird crying in the woods outside his window "weeping into dead leaves, with wing torn and jutting bone" ("Blood Red Bird"). 

Despite the melancholy overtones of Red Apple Falls, the album does not come across as depressing. Instead it seems hopeful. And 18 years since its release it still feels fresh every time I listen to it. I look forward to spinning it once again during "Album Night" on Wed., Nov. 4th at 9pm EST. I hope you can join me!

Wed, Oct. 7, 9pm EDT - 'Pet Sounds' by The Beach Boys 

"No one is musically educated until they have heard The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds" - Paul McCartney

"If records had a director within a band, I sort of directed Pepper. And my influence was basically the Pet Sounds album." - Paul McCartney

Pretty heady stuff (putting aside the debatable claim from McCartney that he 'directed' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band).  Regardless, I'm not sure anything I write can be more inspiring than those quotes from Paul.  Briefly though, it must be said that there were clearly influences back and forth between The Beach Boys and The Beatles.  Rubber Soul (inasmuch as it was more of a concept album and not just filler songs amongst singles) influenced Pet Sounds which influenced Sgt Pepper.  McCartney also stated that the intro to "Here, There and Everywhere", from Revolver, was influenced by The Beach Boys.  I think it's safe to say that the UK / California connection helped enrich each group's recording output.  Would Sgt Pepper and Pet Sounds have been as brilliant without the influence of the other group?  They may have still been great, but perhaps in different ways. Or maybe the creators wouldn't have strived as hard or would not have realized all the possibilities without the influence of the other.  As we listen to Pet Sounds we can certainly debate these ideas. But of course "Album Night" doesn't need to be a debate but can simply be a time to sit back and admire a great work of art!

So join me on Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 9pm EDT for "Album Night" and a listen to the 1966 classic, Pet Sounds.

I'll leave you with this last quote which may help you decide how to enjoy this album during "Album Night" (or maybe just for subsequent spins):

"When you listen to Pet Sounds, use ear phones in the dark and you can hear everything" - Brian Wilson

Wed, Sep. 16, 9pm EDT - 'Sea Change' by Beck 

This was the first Beck album I ever bought.  I purchased it in the midst of a solo cross country trip back in July 2006.  I hadn't brought any CD's with me (I had my ipod in tow) so this one remained in the player the entire time. Needless to say I listened to it quite a bit (didn't always feel like hooking up the ipod).  I knew and had heard nothing about Sea Change when I bought it. I just knew I needed some Beck in my collection and was intrigued enough by the cover to shell out the dough for it.

If you really pressed me I probably couldn't tell you, off the top of my head, a single lyric on the entire album.  But that doesn't mean I don't love the album.  What I really love about it is the vibe and aura of it.  Driving through a lot of open landscapes on America's two lane highways was a perfect fit for this album.  Admittedly, some of the music can be a bit eerie and foreboding at times - not precisely a recipe for wandering the country on your own - but it can also be very comforting.  The presence of the instrumentation feels very thick as it wraps you up and draws you in.  And that feeling of closeness and warmth made for a great co-pilot on my trip.  

But of course the appeal of this album goes well beyond the limited scope of what made me connect with it on my journey.  Beck is obviously an immensely talented songwriter and musician, and although I've listened to the album a countless number of times, I'm really looking forward to listening to it again during "Album Night" where I can sit down and concentrate on nothing but the songs and anything and everything that is going on within them.  And that, after all, is what makes "Album Night" so unique and rewarding. Setting aside one hour every few weeks to really concentrate on a piece of art without distraction is often exactly what's needed in this chaotic world. Just as you would look at a painting and see every brush stroke, the same can be done with a great album. Every note, every instrument, every vocal and every sound is just like an individual stroke. Put them all together and you have an expressive work of art: 'The Album'.

And with that I invite you all to join me for "Album Night" on Wednesday, Sept 16 at 9pm EDT as we bask in the glow of Beck's Sea Change.  I'll 'see' you then!

Wed, Aug. 26, 9pm EDT - 'The Moldy Peaches' by The Moldy Peaches 

If you're looking for a polished, well recorded album this one is definitely not for you. There's a phone ringing on one track. There are missed lyrics and unscripted laughter. The production is crude at best, to say the least. If it sounds like it was recorded in a basement it's because a lot of it was.  But no one ever said you need good sounding audio and rock solid performances to make a great record.  This album is a great reminder that there is no magical formula for creating superb art.

The Moldy Peaches' self-titled debut album has spontaneity.  There's something in its rawness that makes it so appealing.  It has humanness. It's fun at times and sad at times. Sometimes it's vulgar and sometimes it's genuine. There's inventiveness and some great songwriting. Ultimately it's dynamic.  Kimya Dawson and Adam Green, who are The Moldy Peaches, bring new ideas to the table without being pretentious.  With songs about downloading porn, crazy hamburgers, the Thundercats, Little Bunny Foo Foo and even crack, there's a little bit of everything in this 2001 release.  Once you get past the low production value you're sure to be hooked!

So bring your sense of humor and adventure and join "Album Night" on Wednesday, August 26 at 9pm EDT for The Moldy Peaches.  I'll see you then!

*note: this was rescheduled from August 19

Wed, Jul. 15, 9pm EDT - 'Wish You Were Here' by Pink Floyd 

"Nobody knows where you are, 
How near or how far. 
Shine on you crazy diamond" - from "Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Part Two)"

Thus encapsulates the central feelings of Pink Floyd's 1975 release in regards to founding member Syd Barrett.  By that time, the former frontman had drifted into mental illness possibly caused, or at least accelerated, by a daily overconsumption of psychedelic drugs.  The band had successfully evolved to exist without him by the release of Wish You Were Here, yet his influences were still present.  In this sort of 'ode', Wish You Were Here finds the band exploring, questioning and lamenting the state of mind of Barrett.  What could he still ascertain?  Was he a victim of the recording industry's corporate machine?  The issues, though revolving around Barrett, were also penned by Roger Waters to have a broader sense of application.  One needn't be mentally dissolving to experience feelings of alienation, exploitation and betrayal.

Even with lyrics aside, however, the album is a gem.  The music is simply stunning. The opening track goes nearly nine minutes before a single word is sung, but its absence is never felt.  With their signature spacey sound (perfected on the previous release The Dark Side of the Moon), David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Roger Waters and Richard Wright remove you from normalcy and transport you onto a plain of thought provoking enlightenment.  The band does come back to earth for the title track though.  With a much different musical vibe from the rest of the album, "Wish You Were Here" anchors the album and remains one of Floyd's must beloved classics.  "We're just two lost souls, swimming in a fish…".  Well I'm sure you know the lyrics already...  

Some list Wish You Were Here as Pink Floyd's greatest album while others don't rank it in the top three.  What do you think?  Join "Album Night" on Wednesday, July 15 and make your case!

Wed, Jun. 24, 9pm EDT - 'Mind of Peace' by John Banrock ("Special Edition" New Album Release!) 

When I began pondering the best way to launch my new album, the answer became clear very quickly.  "Album Night".  Yes, a live performance on release night may have been the more traditional route, but ultimately I am releasing an album and wanted to present, well, the album. And so here we are.  After about a year and a half in the making I am proud to present to you my new instrumental album Mind of Peace.

Yes, a year and a half may sound like a long time to complete an album, but when placed in the proper perspective it may not seem so.  First of all I wanted to make sure that the album was not considered done until I knew that it was the best effort that I could put forth.  Furthermore I was the lone catalyst and creator behind the entire album (other than one track written and performed with longtime collaborator Lawrence Weber).  I wrote, performed, recorded, arranged, produced, mixed, mastered, and designed the entire project.  And within each layer I needed to allow enough time to sit back and reflect on it with a fresh enough perspective to assess it effectively.  I'm sure you can understand my excitement now that it is finally complete and ready to be presented!

So what is Mind of Peace?  In some small ways it is similar to my debut release Time, It Goes, though the likeness is primarily due to them both being acoustic instrumental albums. Mind of Peace, however, with its vast array of arrangements, tempos and new ideas really possesses a uniqueness all its own.  There were a great number and variety of instruments used on this album that really help paint a lush picture of the compositions they represent. Some compositions contain nearly full orchestral arrangements while the simplest track contains merely one guitar and a harmonica.  Each track was carefully evaluated and arranged with the precise number of instruments that would best convey the feeling and energy it possessed.  From there great care was taken to assemble the tracks in the exact order that created the most emotional and dynamic listening experience.  As you know, I firmly believe in the 'album' as an entire work of art and have concentrated my efforts into producing an enduring and enriching work of art that I hope you enjoy.

Still not convinced?  Well, here are some more great reasons to join "Album Night" for this release:
-Free streaming of MOP right here on JohnBanrock.com in its entirety during the event
-I will be posting interesting tidbits about each track as we listen during the event
-"Smile" co-writer and performer Lawrence Weber will be on hand for additional insights
-"Album Night" is an interactive forum so you can share your thoughts or ask any questions you'd like
-All purchases of MOP on June 24 will include the free bonus track "Oceans of Love" (not available anywhere else!)
-All physical CDs purchased on June 24th will be autographed by JB & LW!
-It's independent art!  It's where new ideas are born!

Lastly, this album is meant to be listened to in a quiet atmosphere.  I invite you to find your favorite home listening spot, grab your favorite beverage and relax with new music during "Album Night" on Wednesday, June 24th at 9pm EDT.  I look forward to sharing my new album with you!

Wed, Jun. 3, 9pm EDT - 'Good News' by Withered Hand 

Good News is the most recently released album to appear in the "Album Night" series thus far, and is actually only the second one to be released in this millennium (The Friends of Rachel Worth being the other).  

When I first heard this album a couple of years ago I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least.  I must admit that despite being a present day songwriter and musician, I am generally unimpressed with the mainstream recorded music of today.  This debut album by Withered Hand (the solo effort of Dan Wilson) is a real nice breath of fresh air and is proof that there is still captivating music out there if you are willing to dig past all that is being shoved down your throat.

The album starts off with "Providence", a song that feels as if it could easily be the closing track.  Instead, as the first track, it sets the tone for what follows.  Throughout the ten tracks of Good News, the lyrics weave through questions of life, the state of the present times, the merits and influence of religion, relationships, sex, masturbation and the memories of youthful innocence.  Musically, through elegant banjos, guitars and harmonies, many of the songs simply feel like they just float, only making the religious overtones even more meaningful and poignant.  Although Wilson uses crude language at times, the lack of hatred or animosity behind it prevents it from being offensive.  It is simply another color used to paint the images of his songs and the feelings that run within them.  Although two songs ("Joy" and "Hard-on") are covers, it is still Wilson's gentle singing and lyrics that bring the album to life.  When he leaves you off with "For the Maudlin", you'll feel better for it and will undoubtedly be eager for another dose of Good News.

Wednesday, June 3rd "Album Night" roars back into this millennium with the 2009 release of Good News by Withered Hand.  I hope you can join!

Wed, May. 13, 9pm EDT - 'Santana' by Santana 

Released shortly after their performance at Woodstock in 1969, Santana is a powerful meshing of latin rhythms and rock guitar.  Led by guitarist and vocalist Carlos Santana, this was the group's debut album.  And despite the popularity of primarily the frontman, it's the phenomenal group effort that makes this work such a standout. 

Admittedly, I've only heard this album a few times before and the first was only a couple of months ago.  But let's face it, there are times when the excellence of an album shines through on the first spin.  With that said, I'm eager to sit down for a very close listen, especially considering Santana has the honor of being the 25th album in the "Album Night" series!

I invite you to join me for this 1969 latin jam on Wednesday, May 13 at 9pm EDT. Hasta entonces!

Wed, Apr. 22, 9pm EDT - 'Five Leaves Left' by Nick Drake 

Nick Drake has never reached the level of popularity that many, including me, would argue he rightfully deserves.  The fact that much of his music is drenched in melancholy overtones may be a substantial reason for that lack of fame.  But those not afraid to take a walk on the sombre side are richly rewarded when crawling through the all too brief catalogue of Nick Drake.  

The first of only three studio albums to be completed by Nick Drake, Five Leaves Left (a reference to the message found when nearing the end of a packet of Rizia rolling papers) was recorded between July '68 & '69. The album, ultimately released on September 1, 1969, still remains an astonishingly brilliant debut album by what was then a little know artist.  Drake wrote every track on the LP (a feat he would continue on both subsequent albums).  And at the heart of each of those ten tracks (other than Way to Blue" which contains no guitar) are his rich vocals and beautiful finger picking guitar style.  Although two albums later, on Pink Moon, Nick Drake would illustrate that those elements were really the only two necessary to bring his songs to life, on Five Leaves Left, the additional orchestral instrumentation and arrangements rarely, if ever, feel tacked on or overdone.  In fact the balance between singer / songwriter and accompanying orchestration feel as if they were born to compliment each other.  That point is tremendously illustrated by the intimate feeling that shines through on these recordings. At the end of the day, yes, one could attempt to make the argument that those feelings are not uplifting.  But it would be difficult for anyone to contend that this album does not represent art in one of its highest forms.  So when Five Leaves Left closes out with "Saturday Sun", don't be surprised if you find yourself with a smile on your face!  

Join me on April 22nd for a visit to the world of Nick Drake.  It will be worth the trip!

(*note that this has been rescheduled from April 15th)