Jack's Picks Vol. 8
What is up, Prog Nation. The LPs included in this week's picks are absolute wizardry, anthropomorphic, sci-fi overload. Seriously, the warlock rock listed below is not for the layman's consumption. Proceed with caution, tread carefully, ready for war, and lend me your ears.
iam8bit - Battletoads Original Soundtrack
If you, like me, grew up bashing skulls with the OG A, B, X, & Y Super Nintendo gamepad, this soundtrack is likely for you. Battletoads was Rareware's answer to Eastman and Laird's wildly successful mega franchise Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Kids twenty years ago loved these hominine, justice-seeking sewage monsters.
I wouldn't really call Battletoads a knock-off, though. The original game spawned two sequels, one which saw the Battletoads crew teaming up with the brothers from Double Dragon. The plot of Battletoads is pretty straightforward. Three anthropomorphic toad bros. (Rash, Zitz, and Pimple) square off against an evil interplanetary space queen, with the player driving in typical beat 'em up fashion. If you see the cabinet at your local (b)arcade, I highly recommend checking it out. A warning: it's an extremely difficult game.
The vinyl! This is a pretty stellar release from the creative gurus at iam8bit. This year in particular, the Los Angeles-based gallery has been trickling out all kinds of original soundtracks on vinyl. The Battletoads release was part of a threesome that was announced earlier this year, releasing alongside Perfect Dark and Banjo Kazooie.
This particular LP really caught my eye, though. The jacket features all new, original artwork and a super gritty gatefold. The wax itself has an amphibious marble, looking a heck of a lot like the Battletoads themselves. I wrestled at first with whether or not there was a place in time - or in the day - for listening to a video game soundtrack. I'm a strange bird, but in my opinion, there is. It was a solid background track to this very article, and I'm now on my second or third play.
The verdict: Pick it up!
Condition: New (Only 3000 pressings...)
Camel - Mirage
Did I buy this album for the neo-Charizard, crystal-wielding dragon on the front cover? Yes. Yes I did. Did I keep this album for said dragon? No way. This album is straight-up, crystal clear prog-rock madness. Just five tracks, Mirage is 38 minutes of soaring guitar, rolling drums, and pure fantasy.
This is the only Camel album I own or have listened to. Mirage is the band's second album, and supposedly their second-best. I did some digging, and the cover above isn't actually the artwork the album released with. The original cover was basically just a Camel cigarette package, which, even in 1974, wasn't solid marketing.
Two of the tracks on this album are over nine minutes long. The camel crew basically gear up and take you through an epic journey, most notably on side one's "Nimrodel/The Procession/The White Rider." It is literally a three-part epic inspired by The Lord of the Rings, specifically Gandalf's transformation from Gandalf the Grey to Gandalf the White. One of my favorite movies is Ralph Bakshi's The Lord of the Rings, so this album really spoke to me.
This album is pure magic, a proclamation of fire and ice. Every track is an incantation, amazing to the last. Even if you're just a fan of heavy 70s rock, I highly recommend.
The verdict: You know what to do.
Where: Your local record store / Discogs
Captain Beyond - Dawn Explosion
Yes. Just yes. The amount of shameless, fantasy-laden progressive rock going on in the 1970s was positively off the charts. There is some serious talent behind Captain Beyond's original line-up: ex-Deep Purple, ex-Johnny Winter, and ex-Iron Butterfly members assembled to create a solid prog-and-psychedelic rock album.
If you've ever listened to Rush's "The Temple of Syrinx" (2112) and wondered where else that road may take you, you may find yourself at the doors of Dawn Explosion. I'm not saying Captain Beyond is or should have been as big as Rush, just giving you a little context for the genre.
One of the best parts about this album is the serious feels. You get the sense that Captain Beyond is essentially unstuck in time. At once they are a prog-rock band from the 1970s, and at the same moment, they are singing in the hall of a great kingdom. A sonnet, for your consideration:
"Sweet Dreams," Captain Beyond
Do you see
That shimmer as they float
Tiny fairies wave their arms
A never-ending show.
I joke, but I would consider this a good album. Not, "you must listen," but a "you should." My favorite tracks are "Do or Die," "Icarus," "Fantasy," and "Breath of Fire." There's a glockenspiel at the beginning of "Icarus" that is actually very cool. There are a lot of subtleties throughout that make for a great listen from flip to flop.
The verdict: If you like Deep Purple and Prog, pick it up.
Where: Your local record store / Discogs
And that wraps up this week's picks. If you have any comments, lay it down in the comments below and let’s start talkin’. I’d also be curious to see what you picked up this weekend, or what you’re planning on playing first on your Floating Record when it arrives. Until next time.