It’s impossible to adequately summarize or describe Lee “Scratch” Perry’s life in sounds; from inventing/advancing dub to mentoring Bob Marley to an entire decade (the ’70s) that saw him churn out masterpiece after masterpiece and produce/direct some of the best reggae albums of all time; to becoming Jamaica’s Crazy Uncle, an extended second (third? fifth?) act where he kept making music because he could, because he had to.

It’s likely that, in death, a proper and thorough recognition of his output and influence will begin, and Perry will increasingly — and correctly — be regarded as one of the most…


I was recently involved in a discussion about Led Zeppelin’s least understood and appreciated album, In Through the Out Door (a topic I covered exactly a decade ago for a feature entitled “Ten Albums That Supposedly Suck (But Don’t”), and although no sane person with working ears would ever doubt the brilliance of John Bonham, I found myself pointing out that one of his most impressive performances occurs during a song that not only didn’t require bombast, but the opposite. The song in question, the loved/loathed “All My Love” (and put me firmly in the former camp when it comes…


Happy 75th to an artist who has not merely helped shape and define whatever it is, exactly, prog rock has managed to encompass, but as a positive force for music: an impeccable craftsman and perfectionist; a visionary who marches defiantly and purposefully to the beat of his own axe; at turns a sly and droll chameleon and stern taskmaster; and always, a gentleman.

For much more on the man, his ceaselessly inspiring discipline, and an overview of the embarrassment of riches that is his career and living legacy, I encourage you to go directly to the source.

(Much more, from…


Whatever one’s feelings about progressive rock, Jethro Tull’s Aqualung is a rare album that remains at once part of, and above, the fray. It is, to be certain, a cornerstone of the then-nascent prog-rock canon, but it did — and does — exist wholly on its own terms as a great rock album, period.

One of the many reasons prog-rock is controversial, and taken less-than-seriously by the so-called serious critics, is because fairly or not it frequently gets associated with sci-fi and fantasy. Matters of musical proficiency aside, it is true to suggest that little of the material holds up…


(*Author’s note: Equal parts infuriating and appalling (and, for our country, embarrassing) that this piece, written ELEVEN years ago, holds up. Indeed, that things have only become more obscene via Trump is pitiful. Good riddance to our least favorite cultural cancer; a hollow husk of a man who elevated projection and self-loathing to an exceedingly remunerative art-form. As I do when I consider his comrade in arms DJT, it gives me comfort to know that he very likely never knew a moment of peace, anything like joy, something that approximated generosity or compassion. …


It was 40 years ago today…

Every band, if they’re lucky, is able to create a definitive work — a document that embodies their unique qualities. Most great bands, at some point in their career, successfully produce an enduring statement. Some artists, like The Beatles or Pink Floyd, are able to capture — or create — the Zeitgeist on more than one occasion On the other hand; there are plenty of worthwhile and beloved bands who have never quite been capable of distilling the necessary ingredients of a classic recording. Finally, there are those almost unfathomable works that only a handful of bands can claim credit…


Beethoven at 250.

Aside from the two other points in the eternal triangle, Bach and Mozart, has any artist contained such multitudes, expressed so much in ways that are ceaselessly challenging and rewarding? Maybe Shakespeare? Perhaps Hendrix or Coltrane had they been given more time? Suffice it to say, the list is exceedingly short, and while it’s a fool’s errand to single out one human being, I have no problem putting Beethoven at the top of the list. …


Considering that the only constant during the early years (and later, for that matter) of King Crimson was change, the quality and variety of their third and fourth albums are astonishing. The line-up rotations turned out to be a fortuitous blessing, as both Lizard and Islands sound original and unconnected. This is actually a rather exceptional phenomenon within the prog rock movement. Where bands like Genesis and Yes steadily built up confidence and momentum, eventually hitting on all aesthetic cylinders (on albums like Close to the Edge and Selling England by the Pound), King Crimson, almost by default, churned out…


It was forty years ago today…

Where were you?

I was in my mother’s bedroom, kissing her goodbye before I caught the school bus, and I heard the horrible news on the clock radio (incidentally, I was in this same room when news of Len Bias — the other devastating death of the decade– flashed across the bottom of the TV screen). As a burgeoning Beatles fan (fanatic), this hurt. And I was old enough to know that this was a major blow: on an artistic, social, human scale.

John Lennon’s death, not too many people would debate, was our…


photo courtesy of Salvatore Ferro

When it comes to Eddie Van Halen, we are talking about an artist everyone would agree was — through the typical combination of hard work, good fortune and inexplicable gifts — a once-in-a-generation type of talent.

And no one is going to deny that Van Halen set a new standard in terms of its influence (and not only on every other band going forward, but Van Halen itself).

Whether he squandered subsequent decades and a great amount of his gifts is debatable (hint: he did), but what he did for that first string of albums, from ’78 to ’84, is…

Sean Murphy

Executive Director, 1455, @1455LitArts. Avoiding quiet desperation by any means necessary http://seanmurphy.net

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