Supper's Ready

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As a result of You-Tube exploration, I went back to the vinyl collection that I have kept from my early interest in music and wondered, other than the fact that the technology is now so primitive as to be nearly outmoded, why I didn't listen to these things what were so formative for me at the time.

So I turned back to several favorites and listened to them as I thumbed through the Amazon Catalog (and finally contacted a friend who had been ripping vinyl to MP3). Chief amongst these early works were Tales of Mystery and Imagination by The Alan Parsons Project, Phantasmagoria by Curved Air (the You-Tube cut by Sonja Kristina, "Melinda (More or Less)" is from this album) and Foxtrot by Genesis (with Peter Gabriel).

Foxtrot is something of a "concept album" with the second side consisting of a single song in multiple movements. I remember listening to this over and over again at the time it was issued. I thought it one of the most profound pieces of music ever written. You won't be astonished to hear that I was wrong. But the people who wrote the lyrics knew how to pull strings and how to set up certain expectations. Much of this is youthful pretension--one can end up reading all sorts of meanings into the song, but much of this is an exercise in reading the overstuffed and vague lyrics in a certain way. All of this amounts to a certain amount of pretension--a pretension that comes of youth.

"He watched with reverence as Narcissus
was turned to a flower. . .

A Flower?. . ."

And the next song bounces along "happy as fish and gorgeous as geese" hops along in its odd sort of way.

And take this delightful bit of nonsense:

Lyrics from "Supper's Ready"

Apocalypse In 9/8 (Co-Starring the delicious talents of Gabble Ratchet)

With the guards of Magog, swarming around,
The Pied Piper takes his children underground.
Dragons coming out of the sea,
Shimmering silver head of wisdom looking at me.
He brings down the fire from the skies,
You can tell he's doing well by the look in human eyes.
Better not compromise.
It won't be easy.

666 is no longer alone,
He's getting out the marrow in your back bone,
And the seven trumpets blowing sweet rock and roll,
Gonna blow right down inside your soul.
Pythagoras with the looking glass reflects the full moon,
In blood, he's writing the lyrics of a HIP brand new tune.

And it's hey babe, with your guardian eyes so blue,
Hey my baby, don't you know our love is true,
I've been so far from here,
Far from your loving arms,
Now I'm back again, and babe it's gonna work out fine.

As Sure As Eggs Is Eggs (Aching Men's Feet)

Can't you feel our souls ignite
Shedding ever changing colours, in the darkness of the fading night,
Like the river joins the ocean, as the germ in a seed grows
We have finally been freed to get back home.

There's an angel standing in the sun, and he's crying with a loud voice,
"This is the supper of the mighty one",
The Lord of Lords,
King of Kings,
Has returned to lead his children home,
To take them to the new Jerusalem.

And we're to make what of this? I remember back before they published the lyric sheets just trying to figure out what the heck they were singing. Now that I know, I'm little better off. And yet there is such a tremendous sense of fun about the whole thing--sheer delight in verbal wordplay. "666 is no longer alone. . ." such an interesting observation that can be taken so many ways depending upon one's perspective.

That said--it is still solid and interesting. One can forgive the excesses of youth and even engage in them from time to time. This is the kind of thing that true geniuses look back on and say, "Oh well, youth, what can you do about it." The music moves in all sorts of interesting symphonic ways and rock ways--there are about 20 styles and segues that lead through a labyrinth of possible meanings to result in sheer entertainment.

So rather than faulting meaning or lack thereof, it's far better to sit back and enjoy the sheer loveliness of some of the treatments and let the rest go. Yes, some of it is silly, some pretentious, some overblown. But there are delicate interludes and a real sense of unity and organization in a piece that goes on for about 22 minutes--a true symphony of sorts. And it still charms.

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Occasionally, this image pops into my head.

And occasionally, I wonder whether I should recommend The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway to my son as he looks to fill up his iPod, or just never listen to it again for fear of how it's aged.

Dear Tom,

It's probably just me, but I'm amazed at how fresh Foxtrot still seems. I haven't gotten around to The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway yet. At the time, I found it ponderous in comparison; but then I was into making fine distinctions and robbing myself of some enjoyment. Or perhaps receiving greater enjoyment from making fine distinctions than the freedom to enjoy the music might have given me. I look forward to hearing it again. When I've set up my mechanism to rip vinyl, I'll probably do that one among the first. (Very first is likely to be the eccentric and entertaining Camembert Electrique.

Thanks for writing, it's good to know that I'm not alone in the Catholic world.





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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on January 16, 2007 10:39 AM.

To All Flesh Will Come. . . was the previous entry in this blog.

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