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Jem's Thoughts

31st December 2006 - Oh What A Year That Was!

26th December 2005 - The Last Few Months

28th December 2004 - Looking Back On 2004

31st December 2006 - Oh What A Year That Was!

As much as I would like to use this look back over the past twelve months to talk about nothing but music (barring the usual tangential departures), friends and regular visitors to the site will understand when they find a slightly more boring introspective piece.  For that I apologise but I feel that some explanation for the rare updates in 2006 is necessary.

Taking a 40 minute nap without falling asleep and opening one's eyes to find that they can't see is at best disturbing, but that is how I found myself on the morning of 3rd February this year.  Holding sown the fast forward button through the hospital in and outpatient appointments, CAT and MRI scans (I took Floyd's Animals to listen to but it was futile given that the machine was noisier than a hundred weight of coal in a washing machine), my sight slowly returned.  For a few weeks I could only see half words (Genesis would look like 'esis; to me - as does the semi reformation of this once proud band) not matter how I tilted my head or closed one or other eye.  Nothing wrong with my eyes of course.  I has suffered what is known as a TIA, sometimes known as a mini stroke and the vision deciphering part of my brain had been damaged.  Reading was impossible as was tying and writing.  Even TV posed difficulties as I could not make out subtle detail and often missed what was happening in a scene and driving was a no no. 

The web site suffered and I seriously considered calling it a day (the website not me) and perhaps I should have done.  The overwhelming support and understanding from everyone persuaded me to persevere.  For the time being at least.  Steve Morris offered his services as a reviewer as did Jane Vincent and a little light was to be seen at the end of the tunnel (vision?).  Work commitments have curtailed their input so far and poor Steve was subject to two burglaries in succession culminating in a recent house move so we are hopeful that 2007 will be more fortuitous.

My sight has improved sufficiently to read most things except for dismally dark text on dark backgrounds that are often the choice of some webmasters, and I am driving again with the blessing of the DVLA, however there are days when I am not so good and my current anaemia is causing weakness and tiredness.  TLC is always welcome from the female quarters.

So what of 2006?

Like a castaway on a raft on the ocean with all that water and non of it drinkable, I am sitting metaphorically on a stack on CDs yet have lacked the concentration to listen to all but a couple  Yes, I am ashamed.

The unexpected good news this year has been MySpace.  Frankly, I saw MySpace as another of these waste of spaces occupied by the great illiterate who speak only using mobile text speak to publicise their ignorance to their peers, some of whom may have the entrepreneurial skills to market a dubious webcam service to those who find a Playstation hard to operate.  Bur enough about UK school leavers!  They are avoidable, at least on MySpace.

There is a wealth of music waiting to be discovered on MySpace and that is just the progressive and related sounds. I can only suggest that you click on the link at the top of the HHH home page and then click on 'all my friends' when on the MySPace page.  Select at will and listen to some of their output.  It is varied from the out and out prog to the jazz fusion, folk rock, space rock, metal and even classical but you are certain to discover something that presses the right buttons.  No doubt we will be bringing a few of the artistes to your attention in our review pages in due course.

We were most saddened to hear that top prog DJ Alan 'Fluff' Freeman passed away in November.  Progressive rock never really received any airplay in the UK as most stations would only cater for the 4 minute song maximum.  There were some DJs who played the odd track now and again such as Annie Nightingale (Steve Hackett's The Lovers), the late Tommy Vance (The Enid's In The Region Of Summer Stars), and Danny Baker (one side of Tull's Thick As A Brick) on his breakfast show!  However, Alan Freeman pushed his bosses for an album show and then populated it to a large degree with prog, God bless him.  In some respects it is a shame we can't all stay young for ever.

That wasn't the only sad news.  Pip Pyle was taken from us way before his time, illustrating just how precarious life is.

A surprise this year was classic prog on TV.  No, not another top ten of prog but a sitcom by and starring Alan Partridge creator Steve Coogan, called Saxondale.  Tommy Saxondale is a 50 year old ex-roadie come rat catcher who has gone through an acrimonious divorce.  He is a stickler for grammar, loves powerful cars, hates 'boom boom' music and loves classic rock, which seems to be almost entirely prog, with tracks from Focus, Tull, Camel and comments of disdain of Genesis post Gabriel and Hackett.  Even the reference to Led Zeppelin was the cue for their proggiest of tracks (Kashmir of course).  The character's view on the decline of British Society and music and his faith in the music he loves is only part of it.  The dialogue is also deliciously funny at times.  And before anyone else makes a snide remark, I am not a rat catcher and have never been a roadie and all other similarities with the Saxondale character are purely coincidental.  A new series is due in 2007.

Best wishes for 2007.

26th December 2005 - The Last Few Months

The last few months have been a bit of a nightmare, with illness and computer problems causing delays with updates to the site.

As some of you will know, I suffer with a severe form of rheumatoid arthritis, which is reluctant to improve greatly regardless of the expensive medication thrown at it.  Without going into detail, there are risks associated with these medications, the worst of the side effects being death.  Earlier in the year I started having problems with liver and kidney failure as well as extreme dizziness and headaches and consequently so you can imagine that my focus was largely on my own personal hell. 

To remedy the problem, medication had been added and altered and reduced.  Thankfully the liver and kidneys are generally behaving themselves, with just the odd blip but the headaches and occasional dizziness and nausea remain as well as increased pain with the RA..

In July, in spite of having good up to date security in place including antivirus, firewall, anti spyware and a handful of other 'lock and bolts', the main PC became infected with a download Trojan that had yet to be recognised by the security companies.  The security in place appeared successful in stopping any leaks to the system but the Trojan could not be removed and attempts to do so resulted in the PC refusing to boot.

A little respite in health over the Christmas weekend enabled me to have another attempt at a 'cure' (for the PC, not me) and, touch wood, it appears to be operational again.  A different and even more expensive security system is now in place so I am hopeful that nothing else can mess things up at least in the short term.

With the PC back online a backlog of emails has been downloaded.  Emails have been received during the 'down time' using the back up laptop but for some strange reason, some remained on the server.  I am wading through them and will try and send replies within the next few days. 

My thanks goes to those who have written to us and patiently been waiting for reply.

We have many excellent CDs and DVDs awaiting review and we are very conscious of the frustration that may be experience from bands and labels who have perhaps almost given up waiting for our opinions.  Please be assured that we will be working to get back on track with these reviews but ask for your continued patience.

And my thanks also goes to our many readers some of whom have been generous with their praise considering the scarcity of updates recently.

We wish everyone all the very best for 2006.

28th December 2004 - Looking Back On 2004

Thirty years ago, I wondered if... well, a lot of things.  Would I ever tire of prog, would bands I love cease to exist and when, would prog disappear.  Things looked bleak in the 80's and, yes, bands did cease to exist but good music continues to be created, old 'names' maintain their magic and bands that called it a day many moons ago have since reappeared.

In 2004, Audience made a triumphant return, a little older and wiser yet giving the impression that they had never disbanded back in 1972.  MAN are once again making their mark and Thjis Van Leer and Focus are gigging like there's no tomorrow.  YES can still fill the large venues regardless of ticket price and have shown how they can adapt their classics in their Acoustic DVD.  The long gone Gentle Giant are definitely not forgotten thanks in a big way to Kerry Minnear who has been actively raiding the archive and releasing such gems as the Giant On The Box DVD (if only he could be persuaded to release a solo album some day). 

The Canterbury chaps are always busy with Richard and Dave Sinclair seemingly on a continual return ticket to Japan and the occasional festival, Caravan winning more fans on the back of the most recent studio album, The Unauthorised Breakfast Album, and news that Hatfield And the North will be releasing an 'archive series of CDs from January 31st 2005 (who knows, there could be a performance or two if we are lucky).  Camel in the form of Andy Latimer and Susan Hoover, will be moving back to England shortly, which will the beg the question 'will some impromptu UK gigs be on the cards with Brew and Camel stalwarts, Ward and Ferguson (and A.N.Other)'?  Whilst some of us relish the thought we can all enjoy the recent Camel Footage DVD featuring those great televised performances of yesteryear.

Some musicians have a knack for producing new music which spins one back to prog's halcyon days and, incidentally, the days of my youth.  Nick Magnus' latest album, Hexameron, is a case in point and goes some way in 'reforming' the classic Steve Hackett band of the late 70's with the guest appearances.  Another personal favourite on the 'classic prog' side is Tennessee's finest, Glass Hammer, who, with three new releases in 2004, must have set some sort of record if you pardon the unintended pun.

Guitarist Steve Adams is another class act who should appeal to fans of Satriani, Hackett and Camel.  Then of course, there's Riverside and Sylvan who are both relatively new and very modern yet have that certain something which is extremely addictive.  On the fusion and jazzier front, Heon, Edition Speciale and Theo Travis are but just three of those who have provided a groove that delights this year.

Labels such as Musea, Unicorn and Laser's Edge (and others) are either run by musicians or fans of music so they tend to sign only the cream of the crop.  Releases in 2004, well the ones that we have heard, have not disappointed.  I remain astounded how these guys find such fine music.  Technology moves on and the major record companies, of which there are three, whinge about losses due to illegal copying and downloading, and there is much talk about phasing out the CD and going down the MP3 route.  Maybe they would be better off reviewing their A&R and policy of making a quick buck on mediocre acts catering for a bored pre-adult market.  They said that vinyl would go when CDs were introduced but, though rare, vinyl can still be had and new Hi Fi turntables bought.  Most prog artistes are independent, which is good on the creative side but not so good when the lack of financial backing could sound the death knell at any time if the next CD doesn't pay for itself.  The audiophiles among us will hope that CDs will continue or that something even better replaces them, but not MP3 please; part of the enjoyment of our music is the album package and sound quality and though MP3 or equivalent may be popular for the latest mainstream single among the 'throwaway' youth of today it is only really suitable for soundbites.  Support bands by attending gigs and buying there CDs whenever you can and enable them to continue to provide us with entertainment.  If we copy an album we would other wise buy (assuming it is available) and can't be bothered to drive to a venue, we will be to blame if our favourite musicians are forced to call it a day.  2004 has seen many young bands that are developing music which, often by accident, has a progressive edge, but sadly their desire to be signed by a major label is, in the present climate, unlikely to be achieved.  Producing good music is a vocation; the money depends on the appeal to teenyboppers and that is down to looks, not the music, packaging over substance.

It is always a pleasure to receive emails from our visitors and particularly pleasing to learn when we have been of some assistance in helping to discover or rediscover a band.  Keep them coming in in 2005.

You may be reading this and wondering why didn't I mention 'so-and-so' or 'whatsit band' or label.  Rest assured that if there is a review on this site, the music will be good and worth listening to.  We are selective in what we choose to review and we do on occasion have to turn away some stuff that we consider does not meet the grade.  The fact that I have not mentioned someone here is because the list is just too long!

Happy New Year to one and all.

 

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