Random Video of the Week – Led Zeppelin-In My Time of Dying

So, as I wrote a while back Led Zeppelin is among my very favorite bands.  And lucky for us, they have a rich trove of video material to enjoy, everything from their early days to their last real tour.  This particular video comes from their 1975 Earl’s Court show which, based upon the six songs available on the exhaustive Led Zeppelin DVD, was a high quality show.

In My Time of Dying represents mid-career Zeppelin perfectly fusing their blues influences with their by-now well-polished hard rock chops, all wrapped up in a long, proggy arrangement that allows the band to explore various parts of the song.  It’s one of my favorites as it’s uniquely Zeppelin and captures Page and Plant at their live best, playing off each other at the height of their status as 70’s rock gods.

Random Video – Queen – Ogre Battle

So, hard to believe it’s been almost 25 years since the death of legendary singer / songwriter / pianist / front-man extraordinaire Freddy Mercury.  Luckily, Queen was such a uniquely talented band there’s an enormous library of content to appreciate, including four entire concerts captured in totality at different stages of the band’s history.  Luckily, one of those includes a show from early in the band’s career….before they had become huge, stadium-filling mega-superstars.

This song comes from a 1974 show at London’s legendary Rainbow club.  The band at that point is almost experimental, combining hard rock, pop, prog, cabaret, show-tunes and jazz elements in their setlist.  Ogre Battle captures the band at their hardest, most proggy…and shows that when they wanted to Queen could rock with anyone.

For me personally, I just love seeing legendary bands when they were still trying to prove themselves…building the foundation on which the rest of their career has long stood.  This one shows Queen at a unique time and it’s terrific.

Enjoy.

Simone Biles: Greatest Gymnastic Performance Ever – In Chart Form

So, unless you’re living under a rock you might be aware the Olympics are taking place.  And whenever the Olympics are taking place you can bet the American public will be treated to a tiny, whirling, young group of acrobats in the form of “women’s” gymnastics.  And I’ll be the first to admit I honestly don’t care much for a “sport” that relies upon fashions, smiles, hairtstyles and crooked judging when determining winners.  However, somehow this year I got sucked in.  Not sure how.

And everything was pretty much as I expected:  tiny girls with impossibly fit bodies performing jaw-dropping routines that no doubt required years of dedication, hard work, sacrifice and discipline.  I’ve never doubted the athleticisim and hard work required of any worl-class gymnast.  I’ve just never cared much about the outcome, as they usually seemed dependent upon which judge got the biggest bribe.

But there was something this year that was completely different: no-doubt domination.  American Simone Biles won the women’s individual, all-around competition by 2.100 points.  Note that I did not choose to use three decimal points, but I had to include three decimal points because most gymnastic competitions are determined by tenths and even hundreths of points.  So, Biles’ margin of victory here is pretty much unprecedented.  How unprecedented?  Let’s take a look.  Here’s the variance in scores between the gold and silver medal winners of every Olmpics between 1980 and 2012:

SB - VM 1

Several notes:

  • Five of the 9 competitions were decided by less than 1/10th of a point
  • Nastia Lukin’s 2008 victory was, by far, the largest margin of victory (6/10th of a point), more than twice the margin of 2012 winner Viktoria Komova
  • The average margin of victory was 0.158, or less than 2/10ths of a point
  • Note the scale of the chart….no need to go higher than .700 (7/10ths of a point) because the victory margins never reach that high.
  • Bottom line:  miniscule frations of points have historically differentiated champions from second place finishers in the women’s all-around; in fact ALL Olympic’s gymnastics (mens and womens) usually feature such tiny victory margins.

Now, an updated version of the chart including Biles’ historic performance:

SB - VM 2

Notes:

  • Insanity – one ginormous bard, a second small bar and a whole bunch of tiny, almost invisible lines
  • The scale of the chart had to be increased by more than 300% to accomodate Biles’ performance
  • The American’s winning margin is so large every other margin (except one) is reduced to some small portion of the first segment of the chart
  • Biles’ number is so big, it distorts the chart, rendering every other result “noise” with individual results virtually identical to ever other

Another way of looking at it:

SB - VM3

This was noted on that national broadcast…Biles’ margin of victory in this single competition is greater the aggregate of every women’s all-around between 1980 and 20212.  That’s 9 Olympics for those counting.  In fact, Biles’ 2.100 victory margin is so much higher than the aggregate…you could host 4 more Olympics and not expect the aggregate winning margin to match what Biles just completed.

Now, I’m a skeptic by heart so I was somewhat cynical of these claims.  So I did a little research.  And yep, it turns out the Olympic gymnastics has changed the way they score these things over time.  Back in the 80’s total scores tended to be in the 70’s, with the highest approaching 80.  Then from 1992 to 2008 the scores were generally in the 30’s with the highest approaching 40.  Since 2008 they’ve again been in the 70’s.

Now, different scoring systems can render “victory margin” numbers meaningless; winning by 1 point in a 100-point game is different than winning by 1-point in a 10-point game.  So, I decided to compare each winning score to the second place score by indexing them (silver medal score divided by gold medal score).  This eliminates the variances caused by varied scoring systems and determine whether Biles’ victory margin is really that historical.  The results from 1980 to 20012:

SB - SR1

What we see is these competitions are all incredibly close.  In no case did the silver winner accumulate less than 99% of the gold medal winner’s point total.  (This inherent drama is, I believe, one reason the gymnastics is so popular.)  Now, the same chart with 2016:

SB - SR2

 

Wow….just wow.  In a sport where the winners always have less than a 1% difference between gold and silver….Biles just won by nearly 3.4%  This, as the saying goes….is “off-the-charts”…..because her performance breaks the usability of the chart.  You can’t really see anything here other than the fact that Biles’ 2016 performance is a huge, huge outlier without historical precedence.

Good job Simone!  All the hype and overheated breathless commentary is well-deserved in this case.

Reviewed: Voivod – Nothingface

Artist:  Voivod

Release:  Nothingface

Year:  1989

Songs:  9

Overall Rating:  89

Nothingface

So I moved to Washington DC in January of 1989 to begin an internship working for a congressman on Capitol Hill.  It was supposed to be a temporary thing so I left most of my “stuff” behind.  But I did have one of these:

Jambox

And that meant that, against my very basic instincts, I actually purchased what I called “store bought” cassettes.  Before then I always purchased LPs and would then record them on high quality blank casettes.  This allowed me to keep the LPs in mint condition and enjoy the music in my car or wherever.  Store bought cassettes were terrible quality; they sounded like shit and would often get eaten by players.  Anyone who lived in the 80’s and listened to music knows exactly what I’m talking about.

So, one day I’m reading about music in Spin Magazine.  Spin was relatively new then, and in the pre-internet days such magazines were one of the few ways to learn of new, unkown bands without actually seeing them.  And they had a story about a “cyberpunk” band from Quebec.  I didn’t know what “cyberpunk” meant in 1989 but the write-up on the band was interesting and thus Nothingface became my very first “store bought” cassette purchase.  It was a good one:
Nothingface Table Nothingface Chart Continue reading

Random Video of the Week – Dream Theater – Instrumedley

So, I’ve outlined my feelings regarding Dream Theater.  One of the nice things about the band is they have a huge library of live videos.  Another good thing is the band understand that they themselves are the key feature of a live concert video and the editing and presentation reflects that understanding.

Dream Theater is best live when they move away from standard presentations of their songs, like when they perform extended jams or somehow mix things up.  This is one such case, as the band combines some of their most-loved instrumental sections from more than a half dozen songs.  The result is a stunning 15-minute grand opus that is as good as anything the band has ever done and perfectly captures their world class abilities.  Enjoy.

The History of Radiohead – In Chart Form

So, Radiohead.  Critics love them.  Loyal, devoted, hardcore fan base claim the greatest band ever!  A catalog of widely acclaimed releases.

But not exactly my thing,  And yet, surprisingly, I have all their music.  And….my “Best of Radiohead” playlist gets a lot of play.  That’s because when Radiohead are good…they’re uniquely good, unlike any other band before or since.  If you want to hear “Radiohead-like” music you have to listen to Radiohead (which is different than many bands that have a gaggle of sound-alikes).

So, take this for what it’s worth…a Radiohead career retrospective by a meh Radiohead fan.  Honestly I’d never be here were it not for my wife who is a dedicated Thom York fan.  She’s often grooving and singing along to what initially sounds to me like computer beeps with drowning cat accompinament.  But I’m open-minded, I’ve given it a chance…and yeah, some really good stuff to be found among the weirdness.

As always, a couple house-keeping notes:

  • The band has a long history and some of the images are hard to read; you can click any image for a full-scale version.
  • I have my own rating system; it’s not complex but read the link if you’re interested in understanding more about it.
  • “Point Rating” represents the rating on a 5-point scale
  • “Rating” converts the “Point Rating” to a 100-point scale
  • “Prog Arch” represents the average rating found on the Progressive Archives site
  • “Total Points” represents how many points the band earned, based upon my rating system.
  • “Potential Points” represents how many points were possible through my rating system (=minutes * 5)

So, Radiohead has been consistent, 8 studio releases over 20+ years.  While the band has never taken a sabbatical or broken up they’re also not the most prolific group.  You get about 20 minutes of music per year.  My overall ratings are pretty low; I wouldn’t create a “history of” post for most bands with these scores.  But because I really do like the Radiohead I like and because they’re a noteworthy band here we are.

1. Career Table

There’s also an abundance of bonus music, a complete absence of official live releases and two official live DVDs (and one bootleg…which we’ll get to).   In total, barely six hours of studio music, four hours of video and four hours of bonus material.

2. Career Chart Continue reading

Random Video of the Week – Heart – Battle of Evermore

When Heart burst upon the music scene in 1976 they were labeled by some the “female Led Zeppelin”.  And while that’s ridiculous….it wasn’t totally inaccurate.  The band played a wide range of rock styles, just like Led Zeppelin.  They also featured lots of different acoustic-based songs featuring not only guitars but mandolins and all sorts of instruments.  And while I’m not sure this is true….to my knowledge every live show Heart has performed featured a Led Zeppelin cover of one song or another.

Which brings us to this video, from Heart’s 2002 Seattle homecoming show.  The band Heart has long been synonymous with sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, who have enjoyed long, successful careers.   However, I feel neither has ever been given the appreciation they deserve for their instrumental accumen.  Ann Wilson is well-regarded as one of the very best female vocalists in rock history…and on this show she still wails as strong as ever.  But she also plays the guitar, flute, mandolin, ukelele and I imagine other instruments (I have no idea what the thing is that she picks up at the end of the song in preparation for the next song).  Sister Nancy is the more accomplished guitarist, and a fine singer in her own right….and on this song she takes over the mandolin responsibilities.

I know of at least 14 different Led Zeppelin songs Heart has covered over the years….but to me none are more surprising, difficult or impressive as this version of The Battle of Evermore.  Seriously, who would even think of trying to cover this oddity within the LZ catalog.  But the Wilsons pull it off with aplomb.  It features the duo’s fine harmonies and acoustin instrumental capabilities…which is the heart of their success.