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

The History of Red Hot Chili Peppers – In Chart Form

So, in 1987 I was attending Trinity University in San Antonio.  Lot of good Mexican joints in San Antonio and one of the craziest…and (for a suburban white boy from Dallas) scariest places was Taco Land.  But I was there one night…not real sure how or why….and with no introduction or warning four guys started jumping around acting crazy and playing “music”.  They looked like extras from an 80’s Mad Max movie:  skinny, bare-chested, tatooed, mohawked, pierced.  And they WOULD NOT STOP jumping around; they jumped on tables, kicked shit over, ran up the walls.  And the music was something I had never heard before….rapid fire raps over staccato funk riffs but all barked out at eardrum-piercing decibels.  Generously speaking…there were maybe six people in attendance.  And we were spellbound; not sure what to think.  But one thing was for sure; you couldn’t ignore these guys and no one who was there could have possibly forgotten what they witnessed that night.

That was my first exposure to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Honestly, I thought they were a bunch of crazy locals; had no idea they were from Southern California.  And when I found out they had actual albums I was astounded.  But then I listened to them and they were, as expected, terrible.  But six months later a friend said hey, those Chili Pepper guys have a new album and it’s great!  And I didn’t believe him but he played it at a party and he was right!  It was great!

So I became a Chili Peppers fan.  And they’ve been around ever since evolving from hyper-crazy funk wannabes to the most popular of the “punk-funk-rap-metal” movement of the late 80’s / early 90’s to mega-huge “alternative” radio stars to mellowed middle-aged pop-rocksters.  Throughout it all they’ve always been the Chili Peppers, never trying to be anything else.  They write tunes about love and peace and hippie dippie shit like that and get away with it because it comes from the right place.

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The History of (David Lee Roth era) Van Halen – In Chart Form

So, Van Halen came into my consciousness in 1979 at the age of 13.  I can’t imagine a band more perfectly designed to appeal to a 13 year old than early Van Halen.  Some would say Kiss but even 13-year old me thought Kiss was ridiculous.  No, Van Halen was literally perfect for 13-year old me.  Other bands like Led Zeppelin were totally awesome but they were also old (to a 13-year old).  Van Halen were fresh, exciting, contemporarary.   I’m pretty sure everyone of my age can remember the first time they heard Eruption.  When it came to guitar there was what you knew before hearing Eruption and what you knew after; it was that cataclysmic.  And if you were a big music fan like I was….you were completely enthralled.

So I was a big Van Halen fan.  I bought every album the day it came out.  I attended every concert (my older sister slavishly taking me because I wasn’t old enough to drive).  But unlike many of my favorite bands of that era there is a real shortage of material.  There’s the six original albums from the band’s early years……..and that’s it.  There’s no live albums.  No concert videos.  No bonus material.  It’s a very one-dimensional catalog; but we’re here today because that one dimension is outstanding.

1._Career_Tabel[1]

Six of these releases come from the LP era; add the fact VH was notorious for releasing short albums (average length of 35 minutes)….and the total output here barely tops 4 hours.  A highly -rated 4 hours but for a band with such a huge legacy it’s seems….underwhleming.

Some may ask…why is the Van Hagar era dismissed?  Because Van Hagar sucked.  I’m sorry, but they did.  I know many consider 5150  among Van Halen’s best but I don’t.  I tried enjoying them.  They just seemed grossly subpar compared to the DLR era (other than one exception from the DLR era which we’ll get to in a minute).  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The lack of any live, video or bonus material is a travesty.  Van Halen were a huge band from the day their first album came out.  Their live shows from that era were outstanding.  They were an MTV darling when MTV finally came around five or so years later.  There’s absolutely no reason we shouldn’t have a multitude of live recordings and DVDs from this era and yet the cupboard is completely barren.  Yeah, there are some things out there for the desperate fan….but be warned….you WILL be disappointed.  It looks like we’re left with the studio output forever.

6._Members[1]

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The History of (Fish era) Marillion – In Chart Form

So, in my high school year Iron Maiden was the band that most consumed me.  By the time I was in college it was Marillion.  I picked up Script for a Jester’s Tear at Bill’s Records because:

  1. The album cover was awesome (just look at it):SFAHT - Full
  2. Bill said he didn’t know much about them but that people who liked them loved them

The reason I picked up a used version at Bill’s is because Marillion was a largely European phenomenon and finding their music was difficult at mainstream record stores in the US.  They were, however, quite big in Europe.  All I know is I fell in love with their music immediately and eagerly bought up everything I could get my hands on thereafter.

But they were short-lived, like a brilliant, shining star that quickly burned out.  By 1987 it was all over.  And while the band got a new singer the music was more mainstream, less daring, less interesting; I never really paid them much attention once Fish left the band.

As for Fish himself he quickly put out a double-album after leaving the band.  It was good, not great but he quickly fell into an endless pattern of sub-standard, mediocre efforts.  Marillion enjoyed sustained success post-Fish but the singer himself never came close to recreating his Marillion-era accomplishments.

But for five glorious years in the early/mid-80’s they were almost perfection.  As always a couple house-keeping items:

  • 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 Rating” 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)

1. Summary Table

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The History of Queensryche – In Chart Form

So, late in the 80’s when “metal” bands like Poison, Ratt and Bon Jovi were dominating airwaves and MTV, Queensryche toiled in relative anonymity, earning the “thinking-man’s heavy metal” monikor.  I liked this.  I considered myself a thinking person, I enjoyed heavy metal music, I always rooted for the underdog and I LOVED Queensryche.

They were actually my favorite band from the day I picked up their 1983 4-song EP.  That began 10+ years of super-high quality output, from head-banging beginnings to classic Prog-Metal concepts to top of the 90’s rock charts to brooding, post-grunge introspection.  Queensryche was, for a significant part of my younger life, my favorite band.

Since then it’s been rather embarrassing to admit being a fan of the band.  They have continuously disappointed long-time fans such as myself.  (Except recently!  Just now they released their best album in 20 years!)  In fact, there’s been very little of the band’s output since 1994 that would be considered either “thinking” or “heavy” or “metal”.  And yet, the catalog, overall, is pretty impressive and here we’ll take a look.

As always a couple house-keeping items:

  • 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 Rating” 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)
CAREER OVERVIEW

1. Summary Table

Fifteen albums with over 11 hours of music give us a large catalog to consider.  There’s also over 9 hours of live music, 7 hours of video and another 2 hours of bonus music.  In total almost 30 hours of material.  As we’ll see, the quality from one format (studio to live to video) is very consistent, varying only with the quality of the band itself at any given time. (One note:  this analysis does NOT include the Geoff Tate-led release Frequency Unknown or the band’s final Tate-led release Dedicated to Chaos?  Why?  Because by that point the band had fallen from my good graces and would have to win my loyalty by creating some good music before earning my money again.  Those alubms are bad; I listened to them.  But guess what?  The band minus Geoff Tate has re-emerged – in a BIG way!

2. Summary Chart

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Album Review of the Week: Queensryche’s Condition Human

CH

So, if you’ve read my History of Queensryche you know the band has suffered almost two decades of mediocrity.  And that just made the departure of long-time frontman and original member Geoff Tate in a messy breakup in 2012 looked like the proverbial final nail in the coffin.

So it is with equal amounts of surprise and satisfaction that three years later we find the band re-energized and producing the most dynamic music they’ve released in over 20 years.  Condition Human combines a return to the band’s progressive metal roots while also sounding very contemporary in 2015.

CH Chart

Stubbornly dedicated fans such as myself know this is the second post-Tate album.  The first, titled simply Queensryche, was a rebound album.  It featured a return of the harmonic dual guitars and soaring, operatic, dramatic vocals that first made the band famous.  New vocalist Todd La Torre is  both eerily similar to Geoff Tate’s original vocal offerings and vastly superior to anything Tate had produced since the 90’s.

However it lacked ambition.  There were only 9 real songs and all were relatively short; the album’s original content added up to only 31 minutes of music (they added three live versions of classic QR as filler).  Progressive elements were lacking, with a virtual absence of solos, intros, outros and significant bridges or transitions.  Condition Human built on that by keeping everything good and adding the missing progressive elements.

It is a stunning triumph for a band that has lacked virtually any positive developments since founding member Chris DeGarmo left in 1998.  In fact Progressive Archive’s contributors rate CH 4.09, which would make it the band’s second highest ranked album on PA.  I’m not willing to go quite there.  I have it rated 84 overall; the highest ranked release since the band’s classic era (slightly higher than 2006’s underrated Operation:Mindcrime II) and sixth in the band’s overall catalog.  It’s a “did-that-really-happen” return to form that any rock, hard rock or progressive metal fan would enjoy.

One last note….the album’s title track and closing song is, by far, the best song the band has written since the glory days.  It’s a nearly 8-minute opus that combines brooding overtones, advanced musicianship, clever transitions and progressive interludes in classic QR prog-metal fashion.  It joins a long litany of outstanding album closers in the band’s catalog.  Even on some of the band’s lesser releases they’ve produced outstanding closers and I thought it’d be fun to look at them:

Closers

Eight of the band’s albums close with a 5-star song.  Here’s how I’d rank those 8 from best to worst (kinda hard to do but what the hey):

  • 8:  Anybody Listening
  • 7:  Eyes of A Stranger
  • 6:  Right Side of My Mind
  • 5:  Spool
  • 4:  I Will Remember
  • 3:  Condition Human
  • 2:  Someone Else
  • 1:  Roads to Madness

For what’s it’s worth the first 7 of those could easily be mixed up in just about any order for me….and Roads to Madness clearly stands alone; I consider it (along with Suite Sister Mary from the original Operation:Mindcrime) the best song the band has ever recorded.

Combined we’re talking 14 songs, 82 minutes and an overall rank or 89.  More than anything else…the fact Condition Human can add yet another super-high quality song to the band’s catalog of outstanding closers make me hopeful for the future of my once favorite band.

 

 

The History of Dream Theater – In Chart Form

So, according to my half-assed music library database I own more non-bootleg songs by Dream Theater than any other band.  This makes sense; I was a huge fan for many years and the band has consistently released official studio, official live CDs and DVDs and an enormous catalog of “bonus” CDs and DVDs for over 25 years.  This adds up to 45 full length CDs and DVDs in my collection which yields almost 70 hours of content.  I could listen / watch Dream Theater for almost 3 straight days and not hear a single repeat.

While there have been blips in the road here and there in terms of quality…and the band peaked over 15 years ago, the total catalog is extremely impressive, with an overall rating of 75.

A couple house-keeping notes:

  • All charts can be clicked to see a full-scale version
  • I use a ratings system I’ve developed for my purposes.  It’s not very complex but it does account for the difference between a really great 3-minute song and a really great 25-minute song.  Read the link if you’re interested.
  • You’ll also see something call “Prog Arch” or “Prog Arch Rating”.  This is Progressive Archive’s rating for the same item; gives you a sense of how my rating compares to the masses.  The site is user-generated and I’ve found it to be an excellent reference; the contributors are clearly big fans of music in general, progressive music in particular and, in aggregate, are a highly informed, conscientious source of music knowledge.  Their ratings usually make sense to me and don’t suffer outrageously generous scores like those found on Amazon or the flattened scores (with nothing ranking too high or too low) found on Rate Your Music.

Career Summary - Table

As seen, the band’s official studio output is substantial (over 15 hours) but it makes up less than a quarter of their entire catalog.  This is because the band has consistently toured and released many, many live CDs and DVDs.  In addition, there is a huge library of “bonus” material.  Remarkably the majority of all this music is consistent, high quality with very little filler or duplication.

Career Summary - Graph

Any band that’s been around for 25+ years is likely to have some turnover; probably a lot of turnover.  Dream Theater isn’t an exception but the band has been relatively stable.  While there’s been a total of 9 members, the core four of John Petrucci on guitar, John Myung on bass, Mike Portnoy on drums and James LaBrie on vocals played together for 17 years, generating 10 studio albums.   In fact, there’s only been one change since 1998:  Portnoy, a founding member and the face of the band for many years, left in a messy dispute but the band had continued on, seemingly unaffected.

Members

Studio Releases

Unlike many long-lived bands, DT has never taken a sabbatical, never going more than 2 years between a full-length studio release, for a total of 13 albums spread over 24 years.  That’s a consistent output and while there have been some not-so-stellar releases it’s hard to criticize the band’s catalog in its entirety.

Studio Album Table

Again, we see a familiar pattern:  a series of extremely high quality releases early in the career.  Since the band’s peak in the 90’s they’ve produced a lot of good music but nothing that has ranked higher than a 75.

 

Studio Album Graph 2 Continue reading