Saturday, June 6, 2009

I - Michael Iceberg - "Iceberg Does It Live"


I bought this album at Red Roof Resale Shop outside of Brenham a few years ago. The title and cover made the record intriguing enough to buy, despite knowing nothing about the performer. Through the magic that is “internet”, here’s a little background on Mr. Iceberg:

Michael Iceberg was a mainstay at Walt Disney World as a featured performer from the mid 70’s to the late 80’s. His show took place at the Tomorrowland Terrace, and had to have been quite the draw to have lasted so long. He was a solo performer who had constructed his own menagerie of keyboards, synthesizers, and electronics (known as “the Mechanical Contraption”) to present a wash of songs, notes, and noises to delight the masses who came to find their own inner “Mickey/Minnie” (some of them were bi, naturally – unfortunately, those that were upfront about it weren’t welcome in the park until 1990). This album is evidence that at least one of these performances was recorded and sold to tourists as a souvenir.

Michael was obviously talented, and obviously very proud of said talents. As the back of the album reads:

“There seems to be a proliferation these days of musicians who desire to be the orchestra, all by themselves. Michael Iceberg has gone to great lengths to make his keyboard dream come true, and is clearly leader in the challenge to be a one human being orchestra. So masterful is his control of his extensive array of electronic musical devices, that he demonstrates daily to thousands his remarkable facility to perform music with multiple synthesizers, totally live, and all alone. The dream, the Iceberg machine, is a collection of Michael’s favorite instruments. Iceberg has envisioned ways for the various products to interconnect and electronic geniuses have periodically arrived at the scene to carry out the visions. Without them, it would not exist.”

To sum up, this record blows.

I mean majorly.

But why? Well,
A) it’s clearly a souvenir album – to be bought as an impulse item and then never listened to again.

B) it’s a vanity project – there’s nothing much original here – it begins with a quote from “Puff the Magic Dragon”, of all things, then proceeds to quote:
· Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah
· Green Onions
· Dear Diary
· More than a Feeling
· Norwegian Wood
· It’s a Small World (After All)
· Handel’s Messiah
· Over the Rainbow
· Star Wars / Close Encounters Medley
· It’s a Small World (After All - Slight Return)
· Layla
· the William Tell Overture
But for the most part, it’s just a lot of Moog synthesizers (you know how I have trouble spelling “pretentious” (thanks again to spellcheck), I have just as much trouble with “synthesizers” (why can’t every album I own just be guitars, bass and drums?) burping and farting. It’s not creative, it’s not talented, it’s just noise meant to amuse the consumers (there’s a great quote from Pete Townsend early in the Who’s career that is appropriate here; in discussing quality in rock music, he said “the fact is that our group hasn’t got any quality, it’s just musical sensationalism. You do something big on the stage, and a thousand geezers go ‘AAAAHHHH!’” You hit the nail on the head, Pete. Now stop screwing around with “Tommy” – it wasn’t very good in the first place.)

C) When I say “not talented”, obviously Iceberg Slim knows how to play keyboards, but it’s so (moons over my) hammy that it’s unlistenable. (Plus he clearly studied at the school of Keith Jarrett, for he shares the unfortunate trait of singing along to the melody in a toneless voice off mike.)

D) It’s freaking SAD. This is a cry out for attention from a big spazz. You cannot tell me that Michael Iceberg didn’t spend YEARS in his basement trying to figure out how to make his keyboard sound like a pig (which he eventually DID figure out – this album has proof!) while his mother brought him dinner and occasional news of the outside world. At one point, he moans “Love is what we’re here for / down from the mountain / and we’re here to save ourselves”. This wasn’t a part of any song per se; he just threw this in apropos of nothing going on around it. Later on side two (and this is the tipoff), he groans “and if she really cares for me / that’s all I want to know.” The prosecution rests – he’s never had a girlfriend, and has personified the “Mechanical Contraption” into his betrothed. He did this passion play EVERY NIGHT FOR 15 YEARS, just him and his keyboards, and he took great joy in all the classical gas he was passing (look at the cover, for heaven’s sake! He looks like either a) a man so impressed with what he’s doing that he’s oblivious to mankind at large in his general viscinity, most of whom are eating popcorn & wondering when the line for Space Mountain shuts down (“it may be the oldest attraction in the park, but ALL the pretty ladies still line up to ride Space Mountain! WHOOOOOO!”) As Frasier Crane may have asked, “Michael, what color is the sky in your world?”), or b) he’s doing a sunglasses-free impression of Stevie Wonder. Either way, he looks like a creep.) My intense dislike of everything about this record is tempered by the immense pity I feel for the individual; enough so that I feel like I must surf the net and find out if he’s alright, if he did find the woman that would say “I care for you”. Yet, at the same time, I only paid a dollar for the record, so how much of MY life do I seriously need to invest?

Verdict: after furthur research, I’ve discovered that Michael Iceberg lives in Maryland, and, with a “Kathy”, produced a spawn named “Jimmy Neutron”, who is rumored to be a musical prodigy. Somehow this brings me a fair amount of inner peace; yet, after tolerating this record, I feel like ripping my own veins out with my teeth.
Video

29 comments:

  1. I will have to disagree with you about the album. I have a copy of the album which was tranfered onto CD. You have to put his show (and album) in the context of the time period it was recorded. Synthesizers were relatively new at the time and his show was quite impressive to an audience who had not seen or heard much music made by synthesizers before then. The animal special effects very pretty cool to hear too. The special effects Iceburg did back then seem pretty basic today. Now days, you can buy a synthesizer for a pretty cheap price. I think if you had seen his show in person, you might see his album differently.

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  2. I have to agree with anonymous above. Not only were synthesizers of the time very complicated devices, linking them together to achieve the Iceberg sound required considerable ingenuity.

    Sounds of pigs, chick singer, violins etc. were the actual sounds, not synthized. Think about it. Digital sampling devices did not exist then!
    I won't go into the technology here, but I suggest you listen to the album again with this information in mind.

    No, this album is not a work of art, but it is fun and interesting given its context.

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  3. Hey Joe...As a child I saw Michael Iceberg perform quite a number of times in Disney World. I would be very happy to purchase this album from you, for sentimental reasons.

    You can email me at: "sciomind at yahoo.com" and let me know if you would be willing to sell, and also how much you would require to sell and ship this to NJ.

    Thanks in advance!

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  4. Well the other have said it above. You really missed the point of this album and artist. After all, I came across you post while looking for this very artist.

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  5. would you be willing to sell the album?

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  6. I have an extremely-rare autographed copy in near-mint or a grade below that I'm thinking of auctioning-off on eBay starting for $10,000.

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  7. It was autographed by MI at Yavapai College in either 1982 or 3.

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  8. It's NOW up for auction on eBay!!!

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  9. The animal and real instrument sounds were coming from a custom Chamberlin keyboard (Google it)-the ancestor of the Mellotron (taped sounds playback)

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  10. Clearly you don't like this record, but I'm not sure the pop-psychology is warranted ("...he's never had a girlfriend"?!, oh please), it just makes you sound juvenile and self-important. I thought this record was a joke the first time I heard it, but it grew on me, and I saw it sell for $80 on ebay once so clearly there are others who like it. Sure, it's a bit hammy, and the humor is really cornball, but I dig his playing, and find the freeform flow of the music to be enjoyable: he doesn't stay on any song too long and you never know what to expect. His sad love song is kind of endearing (if the song were played by Casiotone For The Painfully Alone or a similar indie band nobody would bat an eye.)

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  11. good lord, of all the records i have, THIS gets the biggest response??? after re-reading my review, i thought maybe i was a little too rough (i was a little drunk) & put the record on again to give it a second chance. didn't make it through the first side. it sucks. terrible terrible stuff. that said, music is supposed to touch a chord in one's self, even if that chord be murderous rage. in which case this is the greatest album i own. next to "john denver in concert".

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  12. Maaaaaan oh man......JUST came across this post. Bought this record sealed for $10 in Texas. As far as listening pleasure.....can't really talk on that. But as far as sampling goes......GOOD GRIEF! This was one of my best buys in a looooooong time.

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  13. Own a copy.... LOVE IT! What a time-piece! And dude sounds out of his mind! Love the break downs and the drunken ramble... And I didn't see a mention of his quick rendition of Pink Floyd's 'Money'! - ICEBERG ROCKS!!!

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  14. Oh! and ...

    Hear this record on this show:

    The Weeekly World Noise.. (archived for two weeks only!

    http://archive.wort-fm.org/pls.php?mp3fil=2308

    the playlist:

    http://pledge.wort-fm.org/cgi-bin/playlists/playlistlist.cgi?showinstanceid=317&showdate=08-15-2010

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  15. Snark, snark, snark. Is that all you've got, son? It's not a bad album. And, I would speculate that if Mr. Iceberg were to subject Mr. Leduc (if that is his real name) to a similar scrutiny as in D) above, he would be playing that individual like The Singing Chick by the end of a very entertaining evening , with possible weeping in B flat and infantile sobbing in G.

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  16. Hi Jon, maybe you had to be there to really, really appreciate the man, meaning, in the 1970's at the Tomorrowland Pavilion in Disneyland when Michael played. Speaking for the nine year old boy (me) who was sitting in the seats, watching a man in a giant mirrored pyramid play all these fantastic sounds and groovy tunes (like the theme from The Lone Ranger) all the while with a marvelous light show, well, it was just WOW, really, really 'wow.' Yes, that was a nine year old boy's point of view, but that boy is still in me, and he still thinks michael's a god. Anyway, thanks for your review, and for clearly being my opposite, after all what's the universe without a little polarity?

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  17. a man who cared about nothing but the alien sounds he could create and getting lost in a wash of them. His wavering atonal singing just adds to it all. Long live the Iceberg!

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  18. Michael Iceburg was one of the greatest! He is souly responsible for much of Disney's music, including all of the "Main Street Electical Parade" music. He is and will forever be a Disney icon!

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    1. Actually, Micael Iceburg had nothing to do with the music from The Main Street Electrical Parade. That was all created and performed by Don Dorsey and with some help from Jack Wagner (the voice of Disneyland) was recorded in Jack's home studio.

      Don Schockow
      Theme Park Audio Archives
      http://www.themeparkaudioarchives.com

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  19. Steven G in FloridaApril 17, 2011 at 7:24 PM

    Michael Iceberg was and is one of the foremost advancers of electronic music. I had that album, ordered it from a place in Windemere, Florida when Michael was playing at Disneyland. I now have 3 of the 4 CDs he used to have for sale on a website he had.

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  20. I own the LP but that's it. I would be interested in a copy of the CD's. Thanks, Tom at tlevatin@tampabay.rr.com

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  21. There is a Michael Iceberg Fan Page on Facebook where you can purchase CDs (5 currently available) and leave messages for Michael to read. He's 71 now and retired but still gets the messages from the admins of the page.

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Michael-Iceberg/207950169239204

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  22. Um, I was there. I was an 8-year-old girl in 1978. We were visiting Disney with family. We had no idea what we were in for when we walked into the restaurant. We walked out with a lifelong passion for Michael and his creativity and wit. I can remember when the signed album arrived in the mail and my dad opened it. I spent years reliving the experience of Michael's performance every time my dad put that record on the stereo and the sounds of the Chamberlin blasted through the house.

    However, I can understand why it wouldn't mean as much to someone who didn't have the opportunity to experience this performance in person. It's probably one of those "had to be there" things.

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  23. I got to know Michael pretty well in 1976 in Aspen Co. where he played in the clubs for extended gigs. Not only was his equipment extensive, (this was before the ppyramid) but it was one of a kind. He was also one of the sweetest people you could meet and very genuine. His schtick was him and he enjoyed it and a huge number of people were entertained by him. I find that most music doesn't age well so to find someone who would trash his 40 year album isn't surprising. If taken out of the context of it's time is a bit unfair.

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  24. Dude this is one of my favorite albums of all time. I used to go to Disney *just* to see Michael Iceberg.

    But some people are just haters....

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  25. I am a HUGE Michael Iceberg fan. as a kid, watching him at the Tomorrowland Stage in Disneyland left a marked impression on me. To this day I can thank Michael for my continued interest in synthesizers and synthesized sound.

    Thank you for the great memories Michael. You will always be a huge and memorable part of Disney Park history and my happy park-going memories.

    Don Schockow
    Theme Park Audio Archives
    http://www.themeparkaudioarchives.com

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  26. Oh...I almost forgot. The song where he sings about a girl....well that wasn't to a fantasy girl. When Michael wrote that song, he was happily married and the song was written for his daughter :)

    Don Schockow
    Theme Park Audio Archives
    http://www.themeparkaudioarchives.com

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  27. I saw Michael Iceburg at Walt Disney World in the late seventies when I was a young kid, and his show to me was and in the context of it's day still is awesome. I still walk past the Tomorrowland terrace in Disney World everytime I go there and think of Michael Iceburg, as well as the theme to The Mainstreet Electrical parade. I own two copies of Iceburg Does It Livethat my mom had mailed to us in Michigan from Florida, still in the shipping packaging. I treasure them. He IS a Disney Icon, to true Disney fans.

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  28. For the fans of this album...Yes, you can hear him playing "Money" from Pink Floyd, but did anyone else hear the excerpts he plays from Yes, Gentle Giant, and ELP? It's in there, listen again.

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