Author Archives: critterjams

2018 Recap

2018: It was a bad year for Planet Earth, but a pretty good year for new music. Once again a lot of favorites were active this year, including some long-awaited and truly unexpected comebacks. As usual I didn’t get around to everything I wanted to, and I haven’t really been listening to a lot of *new* music, as in artists who have debuted sometime this decade. I guess that’s the price you pay for being somewhat of an obsessive; over time these lists get larger and larger, in part because I’m always gonna be interested in new material by some band I used to dig or am still on the fence about. But 2018 did seem to be unusually busy, especially in its first half. I’ve heard enough for a cursory glance back, as well as a holding spot for the stuff to be listened to later. Which I’ve come to realize is a lot.  This time I’m just gonna do it in alphabetical order, with links to the albums I’ve actually reviewed on here, plus some scattered thoughts.  Italicized albums were among my favorites.
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Avalanches – Wildflower (2016)

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It’s only appropriate that I pick this album for the return of Critter Jams, as Wildflower is also a highly anticipated comeback that many people said was never gonna happen. Can’t say I caught Avalanche fever the first time around, but these sort of constantly teased and perpetually delayed albums are always interesting to me, even when they turn out to be as overcooked and joyless as Chinese Democracy. I mean this thing was in the works for over a decade; I remember its release seeming imminent way back in 2007. By the time it actually came out they’d pulled the football so many times that its existence practically felt surreal.

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The ELP Permutations, Part 3.2: The Rules Have Changed (2018)

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Now for what this three-week trip down this strange tangent is really about. If you didn’t read the last entry about 3 (the one-off supergroup featuring Keith Emerson, Robert Berry, and Carl Palmer), here’s the gist of it: To the Power of 3 pretty much bites, but Live Boston ’88, released in 2015, kicks ass. Upon receiving a promo copy, Emerson phoned up Berry to say so himself, leading Berry to ask if he’d like to record another album together. He agrees, funding is secured, and soon the two start working parts out over the phone and saving them in ProTools. If you’re reading this, then you know what happens next. The album is shelved.
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The ELP Permutations, Part 3

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In 1988, Carl Palmer was free from his duties in Asia and ELP proper were set to reform. However this time Greg Lake came down with a massive case of “just not feelin’ it, you guys”, perhaps feeling burned by the Cozy Powell experience. This of course is a common occurrence in that camp. Something tells me that if ELP’s debut album hadn’t sold so well that Keith Emerson and Greg Lake would have never had anything further to do with each other; such conflicting personalities those dudes had. Hell, it nearly happened anyway when Tarkus was recorded. But money fixes everything, doesn’t it? Not even saying that to knock the guys…you’d be a fool to walk away from that.
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The ELP Permutations, Part 1: Emerson, Lake, and who?

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Emerson, Lake, and Powell will always be one of the funniest album titles to me. I remember encountering this at a used CD shop when I was 10, looking at the cover and wondering, “could it be…?”. At this point, ELP were one of the five or six bands I actually liked, thanks to my Dad playing them around the house all the time when I was young. But this was the mid-90s, and I didn’t have a record guide or anything like that, so really the only thing I knew about them was that they put out some cool albums before I was born. For all I knew they’d retired off to some island in the Caribbean, never to be seen again.  Seeing this in the shop answered a few questions for me.  Between the album title and the cover art (which resembled the cover of Scattergories more than the armadillo tanks and shirtless men of ELP past) I was able to figure that they’d likely fallen on hard times, and for some reason Carl Palmer didn’t want to play with them anymore, so they recruited another “P” and quickly dashed something out in the hopes that the fans wouldn’t notice he was missing.
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The Immortals – Mortal Kombat: The Album (1994)

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For years I tried to convince people that this album existed. I don’t remember where I first heard it…was it a friend’s house? The hobby shop? Blockbuster? All I remember is there were hard techno beats and songs about each of the characters. And screaming, lots and lots of screaming. It wasn’t the movie soundtrack, though the infamous Mortal Kombat theme song was on it.

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James Ferraro – NYC, Hell 3:00AM (2013)

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Back in the old days of the Web Reviewing Community there used to be one site which would sometimes grade albums with an additional “squirm factor” on top. I always liked that concept, and even though it didn’t mean what I thought it meant (it actually referred to what his infant son was doing while the album was playing), I still think about it sometimes. In particular when I’m listening to James Ferraro, whose music seems almost deliberately designed to make you fidget in your seat. His music just makes me uncomfortable, even the stuff I really like. It’s as if it’s trying to scratch an itch that’s been injected with novocaine.
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