Posts Tagged ‘WXPN’

It’s Progressive Rock All Over Again

January 3, 2009

Gentle GiantThis weekend I’ll be guesting on Highs in the 70s: Progressive Rock on WXPN in Philadelphia It’s among a series of irregularly scheduled retro shows they run.  It’s going to be an 8-hour marathon, from 10AM til 6PM on Saturday, January 3. I’ll be in for the first half, Chuck Van Zyl from Star’s End will be on in the second half and the whole thing is being run by WXPN’s Dan Reed and his cohort, Biff Kennedy.

These progressive rock retroscursions are always an interesting exercise for me. I was a progressive rock zealot in the 1970s and that music informs much of what I listen to today and play on Echoes. It keeps coming up in unusual situations with musicians you might never suspect citing progressive rock acts from the 1970s as influences. Ulrich Schnauss can name Tangerine Dream tracks just from the opening applause. Toby Marks of Banco De Gaia lifts mellotron samples inspired by Genesis.  Steve Roach had a poster of Yes‘s Tales from Topographic Oceans in his studio.   The Album Leaf references Neu!, The Dandy Warhols pay homage to Can and everyone bows at the altar of Pink Floyd.

Selling England by the Pound It’s been about 30 years since I last spun Progressive Rock on WXPN’s Diaspar show and I don’t go back and listen to a lot of this music now. Certain artists, like Steve Tibbetts, Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno remain in my music life, while others like Genesis, Nektar, and Tangerine Dream have diminished in relevance.  I still enjoy it when I hear it. I just don’t feel compelled to hear it. Rubycon

But I’ll be inundated with it for a few hours this Saturday. Outside of the odd fundraising retro-special on PBS, this may be the widest exposure that Progressive rock has had in the US in about 25 years.  At least, I’m not aware of any major market radio station with an audience of over 300,000 dedicating a lot of time to progressive rock.  I don’t know what music I’ll actually get to, but I’ll have a bag with recordings from Hawkwind, Mike Oldfield, Vangelis, Steve Hillage, Can and many more.

So if you want to take a trip to the fantasyland of prog, tune in to WXPN at 88.5 FM or on-line at

John Diliberto  (((echoes)))

The Best Echoes Songs Ever? O Superman? Music for 18 Musicians?

August 25, 2008

Even though we play individual songs on Echoes, I don’t usually think of the music that way. Being from the pre-digital generation, I still organize music in terms of artists and albums. I thought of this recently as our local Echoes affiliate, WXPN in Philadelphia, has been pumping their latest poll,  The Top 885 Essential XPN Songs. (885 because their frequency is 88.5 FM) Listeners are being requested to submit their top ten lists on-line. 

My Top Ten Artists list has been stable for years, and my Top Ten Albums only changes occasionally. But Top Ten Songs?  I think that could change every 10 minutes. When you think about songs across genres, and open it up completely, how do you narrow it down to ten. Even limiting it to the current core XPN sound of singer-songwriter and alternative rock is pretty broad.  Hell, I don’t even think of Echoes music in terms of songs.  It’s more like sounds, moods, and at most compositions.  I tried to keep that in mind when I submitted my poll.   This is the Top Ten Essential XPN Songs list I submitted that tried to split the difference, but in the end didn’t succeed. There is no ranking to the list.
Miles Davis “In A Silent Way” In A Silent Way
Jimi Hendrix “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” Electric Ladyland
Klaus Schulze “Frank Herbert” X
Dead Can Dance “Cantara” Within the Realm of a Dying Sun
Kate Bush “The Dreaming” The Dreaming
Steve Tibbetts “10 Years” YR
Brian Eno “Sky Saw” Another Green World
Beth Orton “She Cries Your Name” Trailer Park
Laurie Anderson “O Superman” Big Science
Steve Reich “Music for 18 Musicians” Music for 18 Musicians

As I peruse this quickly tossed together list, I realize I kind of blew it.  Most of these are indeed, compositions, not songs and in the context of XPN, it’s a little like voting for the Green Party (no offense).    So here’s my amended Top Ten List:                                                                                               
Jimi Hendrix “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” Electric Ladyland
Dead Can Dance “Cantara” Within the Realm of a Dying Sun
Kate Bush “The Dreaming” The Dreaming
David Sylvian “Let the Happiness In” Secrets of the Beehive
Beth Orton “She Cries Your Name” Trailer Park
Laurie Anderson “O Superman” Big Science
The Beatles “Tomorrow Never Knows” Revolver
The Rolling Stones “Satisfaction” Out of Our Heads
Moby “Porcelian” Play
Jane Siberry “Calling All Angels” When I Was A Boy

It’s still a bit off base I suspect. 

If you’re a listener to WXPN, you can cast your vote on their website ballot. The deadline is September 7. Who knows what might show up on there amidst the inevitable selections of My Morning Jacket, R.E.M, the Cure, Tori Amos, Coldplay, U2, and Bob Dylan tunes. In fact, I should have put some of them on my Top Ten. Yep, that list took about 10 minutes to change, twice. 

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

Echo Location: Ozric Tentacles

August 6, 2008

The program director of an Echoes affiliate asked, “Are those guys still around?”  But Ozric Tentacles are still taking trips to the center of your mind.

(You can hear an audio version of this Echo Location, with music.)

Guitarist Ed Wynne was only born in 1961, but he has a unique perspective on the 1960s. Growing up in London, he lived in a duplex home next door to psychedelic folkie, Donovan.

Ed Wynne: Yeah, yeah, he rented half the house we lived in when I was growing up, it was very normal to have Donovan around the place and…
Brandi Wynne: And normal to have the Beatles around the place.
Ed Wynne: Yeah, yeah, they were popping in as well, and um stuff, yeah.
Brandi Wynne: Jimi Hendrix.
Ed Wynne: Yeah, it was funny in school when Donovan use to pick me up from school sometimes he was, you know we if my mom was busy or something and he’d come and pick me up from school, funny.

It was all just another magical mystery day for Ed Wynne. He was too young to actually participate in the 1960s revolution, but he made up for it when he formed a band called Ozric Tentacles at the Stonehenge Free Festival in 1984. Ozric Tentacles created a bridge from 60s acid rock to 80s rave culture.
Erpland/Jurassic Shift Erpland

Ed Wynne is the only original member left in Ozric Tentacles. He’s a goofily affable presence on stage with shaggy brown hair curling down to his shoulders. He’s managed to keep this band going through shifting trends, releasing over 30 albums and becoming the Grateful Dead of space music. Ozric layers syncopated grooves, synthesizer swirls, deep throb bass lines and serrated guitar solos from Wynne. He was heavily influenced by the band Gong and their guitarist, Steve Hillage.  (Hear Hillage Echo Location here)

Ed Wynne: First off the guitar did not necessarily sound like a guitar to me, and I thought well okay, there you go, that opens up a whole little door way there.

Like Hillage, Ed Wynne can turn a single strummed chord into an epic tone poem, morphing it through effects and torquing a whammy bar the way Picasso wielded a brush.

A lot of musicians have passed through Ozric Tentacles including some that have gone on to play in Eat Static, Transglobal Underground and Jamiroquai. Currently Ed Wynne and his wife, bassist Brandi Wynne, continue waving the Ozric freak flag high. With Ozric Tentacles, you strap yourself in and hold tight for the ride.

The latest album from Ozric Tentacles is a live set and DVD called Sunrise Festival. This has been an Echo Location, Soundings for New Music.
Sunrise Festival

(You can hear an audio version of this Echo Location, with music.)

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

Echo Location: The Penguin Cafe Orchestra

July 23, 2008

The Penguin Cafe Orchestra along with Harold Budd, virtually created the Ambient Chamber Music genre. Their CDs have just been re-released. In this Echo Location we return to a 1988 interview with PCO founder, the late-Simon Jeffes.

You can hear an audio version of this blog with music here.

When Malcolm McLaren decided that Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious should cover the Frank Sinatra hit, “My Way,” he got Simon Jeffes to write the string arrangements.

Simon Jeffes: His singing was grotesque, but at the same time there was something moving about it. And it wasn’t a send up when I did the arrangement. I actually got quite touched by it. Because although it sounded totally moronic in a way, it was full of kind of anger and despair and yet life, there was really life
in the piece.

“My Way” might be Simon Jeffes’ most notorious work, but it’s not the music for which he’s best known. That would be the quirky chamber music group, The Penguin Café Orchestra. They were an ad hoc assemblage of musicians headed up by Jeffes from 1973 until his untimely death 24 years later. They recorded their first album for rock and new music auteur Brian Eno‘s label called Obscure Records. The roster included John Adams, Harold Budd and Michael Nyman, but even more than those genre- bending composers, the Penguin Café Orchestra was unclassifiable.

You’ve heard the Penguin Café Orchestra on NPR shows, IBM commercials and even the Napoleon Dynamite soundtrack. They were an influence on modern chamber rock and Trey Anastasio, guitarist from the jam band, Phish, was looking to the Penguin Café Orchestra when he composed his instrumental album, Seis De Mayo.

Trey Anastasio: If there was a sound that was in my head, interestingly, it was probably the Penguin Café Orchestra. I don’t know how many albums they had but I had one of them, and I use to always play that album while I was cooking. So when I sequenced and mixed this album I literally sequenced it in the kitchen while cooking, and I use to think I want to have an album that you can cook to, like the Penguin Cafe Orchestra.

I think Simon Jeffe’s would’ve appreciated the music for cooking scenario.

Simon Jeffes: It was whole idea of an orchestra playing Beethoven in a smokey atmosphere, I think was very exciting. People with a sparkle in their eye and sort of maybe a cigarette in the corner of their mouth.

Several albums from the Penguin Café Orchestra have just been re-released.

You can hear a longer version of this interview, Tonight, July 23, on Echoes. You can also here an audio version of this Echo Location with music.

It’s hard to pick out on Penguin Café Orchestra album. Signature songs are scattered across their 4 studio recordings.

Signs of Life My personal favorite is Signs of Life. Besides key tracks like “Southern Jukebox Music,” it has a few songs of unalloyed and quaint beauty including “Rosasolis” and “Perpetuum Mobile.”


Music From the Penguin Cafe (Reis)  Music from the Penguin Café, their debut, is still a standout. Playing ukeleles and quatros, with earnest string arrangements, this album was so unhip that it was ultrahip. “The Penguin Café Single” stands out here.

                                                                                                                                                                    Penguin Cafe Orchestra The self-titled album, Penguin Café Orchestra contains “Telephone and Rubber Band,” the closest they came to pure novelty, although they always flirted with that. (Note that the CD cover links to the original CD issue. The remastered version wasn’t on Amazon at this writing.)

Broadcasting from Home Broadcasting from Home has some signature tracks, including “Music for a Found Harmonium.”


When in Rome When In Rome is a live album and contains faithful renditions of most of PCO’s best-loved tracks.


 John Diliberto (((echoes)))

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