I've been having what is technically called a 'splurge' recently - spending a considerable amount of my income on music, plugging gaps in my collection, but also finding some new music to listen to as well.
The gaps have come in the work of three bands in particular. The first was Yes, whose early work I have loved for years, but whom I kind of lost touch with during the uncertain days of the 1990s with the numerous line-up changes and internecine strife. I'd heard some bad reports of their work during that decade, so hadn't bothered to explore it until now. I have to say that, while not completely bowled over by the material it's not that bad, and I am particularly warming to 'Magnification', while eagerly anticipating the release on July 1st of the new album 'Fly From Here', their first collection of new material for 10 years.
Secondly there's Marillion. I was a big fan of them in their early years, but had not heard any of their material recorded with Steve Hogarth on vocals in place of Fish. He (Fish) gave the band its distinct feel (despite sounding at times like a Peter Gabriel clone), and I was again a little reluctant to see how the band had changed/ developed in his absence. Listening to their output since Hogarth stepped in has revealed a new sound for the band - it has amazed me how different they sound simply by changing singer. The 'new' Marillion at times lacks the fire that Fish's occasionally snarling vocals brought, but a gentler sound is not always a bad thing, and again their later work is growing on me.
Thirdly there's Iron Maiden. I first saw Iron Maiden at the Reading Festival in 1980, shortly after the release of their first album. Their best years probably came after they were joined by Bruce Dickinson on vocals - from their 3rd album onwards. I found that, like Yes, their music from the 90s was largely missing, so I plugged the gap. I have to confess to being more than a little disappointed with the two albums on which Blaze Bailey sings: they just seem to lack that certain spark that Dickinson brings to the band, and I was grateful that he was only away for a relatively short time. Musically it does exactly what it says on the tin - it's Maiden, it's metal and , on the whole, it rocks!
The new music has come from Seasick Steve, who continues to produce good, no-nonsense blues, now ably assisted by (among others) John Paul Jones, late of Led Zeppelin, and that influence at times is quite evident; from Bon Iver, whose debut offering was greeted with much acclaim and whose eponymous second album offers a similar style, though one that is more reliant on keyboards than the guitar-driven sound of his first recording; and from Black Country Communion, a blues-rock super group driven by the guitar talents of Joe Bonamassa, along with Glenn Hughes, Derek Sherinian and Jason Bonham, who once again have produced a collection of hard rocking songs that should delight rock fans everywhere.
But I'm also enjoying very much the latest release from The Echelon Effect, a short collection of tunes, combining quiet ambient sounds with driving post-rock, from an eventual four-part suite, 'Seasons', which you can find and download here. I never cease to be amazed at the amount of talented musicians there are out there, waiting to be discovered (and the amount of garbage that so often gets played on national radio at their expense). Listen, and tell your friends if you like it, and if you've got time check out this guy too. (Slightly biased but proud dad)