Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Music Review - Beethoven's Last Night by Trans-Siberian Orchestra

I was listening to and on came an awesome piece of music.  I love mixtures of different genres and this was classical plus rock, definitely a favorite of mine.  I checked out the artist and saw it was the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  I requested a couple more songs from the album and that was enough - I had to have it. 

The album was Beethoven's Last Night and it totally blew me away.  This is the best blend of classical and rock I've ever heard.  Rock bands have played with orchestras before but the difference here is that the band and the orchestra are one.  They didn't get together just to make this album or play a couple of concerts, they are one and you can hear it.

The album is a concept album telling the story of Beethoven's last night on earth and the attempts of Mephistopheles to remove his music from the ken of man.  The music and vocals are very emotional and the album is very well produced.  I can't wait to hear more from them.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Music Review - Feel Euphoria by Spock's Beard

Spock's Beard was delivered a crushing blow when lead vocalist, keyboardist and main writer Neal Morse left. Their new album shows the band has not only recovered, but evolved into a new lean mean music machine!

Does this sound familiar? A progressive rock band brings out a double-album, a concept album about the adventures of guy in New York. Shortly after the lead singer leaves and the drummer takes over the vocal duties. Are you thinking: Genesis - 1974? Well you'd be right, but the story also applies to Spock's Beard - 2003. In an uncanny repeat of history Neal Morse (lead vocals) left the band after the double-CD concept album "Snow" and Nick D'Virgilio (drummer) took over.

For Genesis, the difference after Peter Gabriel left was noticeable but not too much for fans to bear. Gabriel was a writer and the front-man, but Phil Collins sounded very like him and most of the instrumental writing was done by the other band members even when Gabriel was around. The difference for the Beard is that Neal Morse was the band leader and the main writer. His style was stamped on everything the band did.

So you have to hand it to the remaining band members, not only did they have to replace a great vocalist who also played major keyboards and some guitar but they had to replace the main writer of the band too.

So how did they do? Incredibly well. First off there is new life and vigor in the music that I didn't know had been missing until I heard it on the new album. It starts off in high-gear on the first track and just goes on from there. Every song on the album is great.

Nick D'Virgilio is a great vocalist and very successfully replaces Neal. Ryo Okumoto steps forward to not only play his own Hammond and Mellotron parts, but to more than replace Neal's other keyboards. And the writing is fresh and lively while still retaining a distinctive Spock's Beard vibe. About the only thing missing is the classical feel that Neal brought to the band. The new style is definitely more rock oriented.

So as a fan of the band I am very pleased with the new album. Plus I have the solo career of Neal Morse to look forward to.

Feel Euphoria by Spock's Beard

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Music File Swapping

I just read an article on NewsFactor about the RIAAs efforts to stop pirating of music: RIAA Legal Tactics Scare File-Swappers

From the comments of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) representative it sounds like the EFF supports the pirates, not surprising when you consider their history of supporting copyright thieves.

I have friends who are musicians and writers and when someone copies (steals) a song my friends don't get paid anything for their creativity. The consequences are that they can't make a living from playing and writing and so they have to do something else and they don't create more music.

Now I'm not talking about big names or big stars, the kind of people who make millions, I'm talking about the people who make up the majority of the music industry - the people who make an average living playing in bands and writing songs. They don't make millions, they make about the same as the rest of us working at a 9 to 5 job.

So think of it this way, when you "swap" (steal) a song you just prevented another song from being created. Swap enough songs and there won't be any more new music.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Music Review - The Unknown by Conspiracy

Conspiracy consists mainly of Chris Squire (Yes) and Billy Sherwood (World Trade, Yes) and a great combination they make. The music is upbeat progressive rock with great harmonies, catchy hooks, smart lyrics and great melodies. That doesn't leave me with much more to say except that from start to end the excellence of the performance never flags.

I give it 5 stars. The Unknown by Conspiracy.

Monday, August 18, 2003

My Favorite Software Book Author

My favorite writer on software matters is Martin Fowler. What he has to say is always practical, useful and useable. I think the main reason for this is that he evaluates importances. He doesn't just throw 20 pieces of data at you without giving you any idea of what is important and what isn't.

For example, in his book UML Distilled he points out how useless Use Case diagrams are and that really the text of use cases is what you really need. I found this out the hard way myself when I utilized Use Cases for the first time some years ago. Reading his book first would have saved me a lot of wasted time.

Martin has a great website and an excellent blog called Martin Fowler's Bliki. I highly recommend them to any software developer.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Anti-Virus Software

I'm trying out the BlogThis! feature you can add to your links toolbar in IE so that while surfing, if you find a cool site you can immediately make a blog entry. Just drag the "BlogThis!" link onto your links toolbar and it'll create a button for instant blogging - very cool.

I just surfed to the site for my anti-virus software and clicked my new "BlogThis!" button and in no time flat a blogger window poped up and away we go! The link to the site is created so all you have to do is type your blog entry around it - here's the link: Panda Software Antivirus

By-the-way, Panda is an excellent anti-virus product, much better than Norton and MacAfee (or is it McAfee?). I use Panda Titanium Anti-Virus and not only does it use far less resources than Norton, but it has caught every virus that's ever tried to get onto my machine - mainly through email. It's got a great user interface and is pretty much a "set it and forget it" program.

Anyway, I like it so it must be good :)

Free UML Tool

There's a great free (yes FREE) UML tool called Poseidon for UML Community Edition . It's the base version of Poseidon for UML but comes with all the features you'd want.  Not only can it create all UML diagrams, but it will generate Java code for you and even reverse engineer from Java source code.  It is a Java application so you can run it on any platform that has a Java Virtual Machine.  Not bad for a free download.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Album Review - Celestial Entrance by Pagan's Mind

The review of Celestial Entrance by Pagan's Mind on ProgressiveWorld.Net caught my interest because the reviewer compared them to Dream Theater and emphasized the melody in their music.

On first listening I didn't agree. The album seemed rich in drumming and rythmic metal guitar but lacking in melody. However, after playing it on a different CD player (I've got to get rid of that old portable) I saw (heard?) the light. It took me three careful listens before I was hooked but I can now say this is a great album. And that's often the way it is for me, I'll think an album is okay or less than okay on first listen but it will gradually grow on me and end up being a favorite.

Pagan's Mind is a band from Norway playing high energy, intricate progressive metal. Celestial Entrance is their second album and if they can keep up this quality and energy it sure won't be their last.

About the only thing I'd like them to change in their future albums is their copying of Dream Theater riffs. They don't do it a lot and one of the songs is a tribute to DR, but I'd personnally prefer they stuck to their own music, which can certainly stand on its own.

On the plus side the musicianship is excellent. If they are half this good live then they are well worth seeing. Another thing I liked was the clever use of vocal effects to add drama to the songs.

This is a five star album.

This is my first post so forgive me if it doesn't really say anything except, "testing, testing, 1, 2, 3."