Friday music musings, 01.05.2020

Wow. This is just…incredibly depressing, all things considered.

I remember the first time I heard “I Can Love You Better,” the first single from Wide Open Spaces, the Chicks’ first album with Natalie. I thought they had a cool sound, and the entire album was really good. And they only got better with Fly and Home. As I have said before, when you think about it, in the context of early 2000s mainstream country, the latter record was downright revolutionary. There they were, doing a borderline bluegrass record with a shit-ton of fiddle, mandolin, and banjo…and it sold like crack. In the era of Shania Twain and Faith Hill. There were also appearances on tribute albums to Bob Wills and Bill Monroe. I very clearly remember back when they were touring with George Strait in 1999, a week before that tour hit Houston, they did an interview with the Houston Chronicle, and they talked about when they were asked to do a pop remix of the title track to Wide Open Spaces. Natalie herself had this to say:

“We like those other artists, and we’re fans of that other music, but we don’t want anyone thinking we’re trying to not be country….We’re trying to bring country back to country.”

So much for that, I guess. I know how we got here, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. And make no mistake, I DO NOT like it one little bit, any more than so many old Metallica fans liked what they did after …And Justice For All.

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This, on the other hand, is absolutely spectacular.

God knows I talked enough trash on Geoff Tate in the year or so after he was fired from Queensryche, and I still think they’re probably better off for having replaced him. But I have to be honest — a lot of that was because after hearing the mediocrity of American Soldier and Dedicated to Chaos, I never, ever thought I’d hear him sound like this again. I really thought his best days as a singer were far behind him. Had he sounded in 2012 like he does here, I might not have been so gleeful to see him fired from Queensryche. (Of course there’s the matter of the general quality of the songs in addition to the quality of Tate’s voice, but I suppose that’s a whole different discussion.) As a friend of mine on Facebook put it, “Welcome back to the top of the mountain, Mr. Tate!”

I bought Avantasia’s Moonglow for “Alchemy,” and the other song Tate guests on solo, “Invincible,” was really good as well, but the whole album is well worth the coin.

I also really like the title track (with Candice Night)…

“Starlight” (with Ronnie Atkins)…

and “Book of Shallows” (with Atkins, Hansi Kursch, Jorn Lande, and Mille Petrozza).

But “The Raven Child,” with Jørn Lande and Hansi Kursch, has gotten to be my absolute favorite upon repeated listens of this album. (I bought it not long after it came out.) Lande cutting loose on this song as he does in the last three minutes or so is a thing of sheer beauty.

But if you told me back in 2012 that down the road I would actually buy an album with Tate on it and that the songs on which he was featured would end up being among my favorites on the album, I’d have looked at you like you’d grown a third eye.  I have to say, Tate has redeemed himself pretty spectacularly as a singer.

It would be kind of a jerk move not to comment on Tobias Sammet himself, though, wouldn’t it? He’s a damn good singer in his own right and meshes very well with his guest vocalists; hearing him sing, you can tell he got a lot of his technique from Tate. It all fits together very well — the voices of Sammet and his guest vocalists, the grandiosity of Avantasia in general, and of the musical theme in particular. With my fandom of bands like Queensryche, Savatage, and Symphony X, I am not surprised in the least that Avantasia so far is right up my alley.

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