Monday, January 23, 2017

Monday afternoon Strange Music blowout!

* Billy Cobham: Moon Germs, The Moon Ain't Made of Green Cheese, Sea of Tranquility, all from TOTAL ECLIPSE. Upbeat mid-'70s jazz-rock from the Mahavishnu Orchestra drummer and a backup band full of stars. Nice keyboards and sax, actually better when it's quieter. Reminded in places of David Sancious, Soft Machine. And Mahavishnu, or course. The sparkly parts are nice. Cobham's band included Mike Brecker on saxes, John Abercrombie on guitar. Never heard of the keyboard-player, Milcho Leviev. "Sea of Tranquility" runs almost 11 minutes and gets pretty loud. OK, not offensive -- it all moves nicely despite the lack of tunes.
-- Read at Sid Smith's POSTCARDS FROM THE YELLOW ROOM website that Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit died today. He was pretty propulsive. He really made early Can tracks like "Father Cannot Yell" and "Yoo Doo Right" MOVE. Amazing, complex, hypnotic rhythms. On some of their later stuff I get lost in the noise, but the early tracks really do it. Some of their best stuff is on their 2-disc ANTHOLOGY.
* Billy Cobham: "Last Frontier" from TOTAL ECLIPSE. Uh oh, here comes The Dreaded Drum Solo. Think I'll probably make it through this side anyway....
* Mahavishnu Orchestra: A Lotus on Irish Streams, from THE INNER MOUNTING FLAME. Always had a soft spot for these guys' softer moments. If they'd done more stuff like this, I woulda been a bigger fan.
* Mahavishnu Orchestra: Awakening, from INNER MOUNTING FLAME. And here's the big beast coming to life again, with lightning-fast runs on the guitar and torturous high-speed unison riffs. And as pretty as Jerry Goodman's viola was on the last track, here he screeches along with everybody else. The mix of Goodman and Jan Hammer's keyboards grates a bit. Then John McLaughlin comes in and out-screeches everybody, Billy Cobham thrashing all over the drum kit in the background. What are those -- 67th notes? This is played in 67/4 time. At least it's over fast.
* Brand X: Born Ugly, from UNORTHODOX BEHAVIOUR. Starts out pretty funky for a bunch of English white guys. They play the same riff over and OVER for so long that after the 97th repeat I was CONVINCED the record was stuck -- and it wasn't. Tricky. That made me laugh out loud. Nice sparkly keyboards from Robin Lumley. The drummer hardly sounds like The Phil Collins we came to know and ... uh.... Then a nice spacey, dreamy midsection. I'm actually enjoying this more than Mahavishnu. Nice guitar from John Goodsall, more blinding-fast runs. Nice unison riff at the end. Very nice. A quick eight minutes.
* Brand X: Euthanasia Waltz, from BEHAVIOUR. More sparkly keyboards, with very active drumming behind. These guys are very lively, and don't mainly seem worried about how fast they can play, like Mahavishnu did. A light touch, with varying moods on display in each song.
* Brand X: Smacks of Euphoric Hysteria, from BEHAVIOUR. Despite the title, this is a little more standard jazz-rock, though nice. Punchy bass from Percy Jones, standout guitar from John Goodsall. More sparkly, atmospheric keybs from Robin Lumley. You can tell The Phil Collins drums on this, he brings a little more attention to himself. But these guys work well together, and everybody gets a bit in the spotlight. Nicely balanced. Not worried about being pretty, not afraid to be abrasive.
* Matrix: King Weasel Stomp, from WIZARD. This is way-lighter jazz-rock, from a nine-man band with lots of horns. Very lite keyboards. OK background music, not actually that far from Brand X. In the midsection, the horns pick it up and it starts to sound like something by Maynard Ferguson. Or Chuck Mangione. Six horn players, no guitar. But ... not bad. Hmmm.
* Peter Bardens: The Answer, from THE ANSWER. Nice dreamy keyboards lead into some hot guitar allegedly played by Fleetwood Mac's Peter Green under a pseudonym. Then some maybe-too-passionate over-the-top vocals that certainly aren't by Bardens -- he was much more laid-back than this. He might be doing the murmured backing vocal. The words mean nothing. This was done back around 1970, before Bardens helped form Camel.
* Peter Bardens: I Don't Want to Go Home, from THE ANSWER. More nice guitar, some pretty good flute, laid-back vocal, later a girlie chorus joins in on the vocals. The guitar's pretty good, I don't hear much of Bardens' keyboards on this, though there is a LONG flute break -- which made The Girlfriend's dog howl. The singing pretty much sucks.
* Renaissance: Jekyll and Hyde, from AZURE D'OR. The Return of Really Bad Prog? This is too streamlined, there's no contrast between the verses and choruses, they relied too much on Annie Haslam's vocals to carry the song. It sounds like they're rushing it, caught up in the New Wave. Where's their sense of drama? First time I've heard this since about 1979....
* Renaissance: Forever Changing, from AZURE D'OR. Co-written by drummer Terry Sullivan. This is actually pretty, though it's way lower-key than they usually were.
* Renaissance: The Flood at Lyons, from AZURE D'OR. The Big Finish? Starts off all complicated like Gentle Giant. Then Annie Haslam's voice used for color. If the keyboards had more depth, the choruses might have a little majesty to them. Then back to the jumpy verses. Doesn't build much, because the production has nowhere else to go. Was any band ever LESS prepared for the invasion of the barbarians?
* Mott the Hoople: Death May be Your Santa Claus, from BRAIN CAPERS. OK, this keeps trying to turn into Kiss's "Rock and Roll All Nite." Guy Stevens' production is muddy, but the choruses are kinda funny. There might be some cool things going on here, but the sound's so bass-heavy, how can you tell? Some nice keybs from Ian Hunter, but that Kiss hook keeps coming through....
* Mott the Hoople: Your Own Back Yard, from BRAIN CAPERS. Dion's anti-addiction song. Moving, but it would help if the production was clearer, so I could actually HEAR what all's going on....
* Dory Previn: Lady With a Braid, from MYTHICAL KINGS AND IGUANAS. Sounds a little like Janis Ian.... Pretty direct-though-light seduction song. Produced by Nik Venet, who allegedly produced the first few Beach Boys singles, among other things.
* Dory Previn: Her Mother's Daughter, from MYTHICAL KINGS. Now THIS is twisted.
* Curved Air: Vivaldi, from LIVE. Genuinely noisy. You should check it out if you like screechy violins. But it got the crowd off. Sonja Kristina's bluesy voice comes in about halfway through. I've never liked her much. Not sure a blues singer actually works in this arty context. Then some noise from my hero Francis Monkman's synthesizers. This is weird -- Sky does a superior version of this piece with no violins, and Monkman plays on that. But he started out here. Ferociously fast in places. Then it gets faster. More Really Bad Prog. I've yet to hear one good song by Curved Air. Heard they were popular back in the day....
* Kayak: Turn the Tide, from STARLIGHT DANCER. Pleasant, almost straight pop. Sounds vaguely like 1978-era Genesis. Some mildly arty lite keyboards. Attempt at a hit single?
* Kayak: Irene, from STARLIGHT DANCER. Instrumental. Lightly pretty. A little nice guitar toward the end, but still. Very light background music.
* Jade Warrior: WAVES. Two full sides of mostly VERY mellow flute and guitar music, with fake environmental sounds (instrumentally-imitated whale songs, etc). A low-key vocal or two by Steve Winwood. Gets funky near the end of Side 2, then drifts off. Very pleasant and enjoyable mood music, but not high-energy.
* Flash: Lifetime, from IN THE CAN. Instrumentally, sounds very much like early Yes, where lead guitarist Peter Banks came from. Lead singer Colin Carter's voice is lower and gruffer than Yes's Jon Anderson. Some nice guitar work, as you might expect. Not bad. Keep hearing sections that tune-wise and development-wise remind me of Yes's general sound. Might be more impressive if this album-opening track didn't last 10 minutes.
* Flash: Monday Morning Eyes, from IN THE CAN. Shorter, at least, and not so Yes-like. OK, but not distinctive. Forgettable. Ends abruptly.
* Synergy: On Presuming to be Modern, from CORDS. Ice-cold synthesizer tones from keyboard whiz Larry Fast. Like looking out over a glacial landscape.... Nice, dramatic pounding-drums ending.
* Synergy: Phobos and Deimos Go to Mars, from CORDS. More fun.... Rather bouncy, with bits of a nice tune.
* Synergy: Sketches of Mythical Beasts, from CORDS. This is kind of icy and gothic. Synergy usually features synthesizer works that are actual TUNES. I especially recommend "Warriors" on ELECTRONIC REALIZATIONS FOR ROCK ORCHESTRA, and "S-Scape" and "Classical Gas" on SEQUENCER.
* Synergy: "Disruption in World Communications," from CORDS. This is tricky and sneaky, and mildly annoying. But at least there's more going on here than icy musical landscapes. Has a vaguely Middle-Eastern tune buried among the shrieking keyboards....
* Synergy: On Presuming to be Modern II, from CORDS. And I just sat through an entire side. Fairly melodic. Been awhile since I'd heard any of Mr. Fast's work. This is not bad, if you're into synthesized stuff.

Friday, January 20, 2017

"Overnight Sensation"

There I was, 15-year-old me, knocking on 15-year-old Debbie's front door again for my 18-year-old brother Jay. Making sure it was "safe" so Jay and Debbie could get together.
I hated this, and it had gone wrong before. One night Debbie had invited Jay over to her house, and instead her father had answered the door when I knocked.
"Who the hell are YOU?" he grumbled.
"Is Debbie here?" I asked shakily.
"Get off my porch you fuckin' long-haired little SHIT!" he roared.
"I'm sorry," I said, always polite. "I must have the wrong house." And I freakin' disappeared.
But this night it was safe. We'd scoped the house out for 15 minutes just to make sure there were no parents lurking. Debbie answered the door. "It's OK, come on in," she said, and I turned and waved at Jay to come inside.
Debbie was babysitting some toddler who'd already been put to bed. Debbie was trying to relax -- the smell of pot was in the air.
I didn't like Debbie, but that was OK because she didn't like me either. She just wanted to see Jay, and I understood that. I was the third wheel here for other reasons.
Lots of girls liked Jay, and even an antisocial virginal dummy like me could figure out why. With his long wavy black hair reaching down below his shoulders, his big virile nose, the pack of Marlboros rolled up in his black short-sleeve T-shirt, leaning back against his black '62 Impala SS with the big wide tires on the back ... LOTS of girls fell in love as soon as they saw him. His appearance just screamed BAD BOY. I got that.
Debbie had been one of them. Debbie had long wiry brown hair and was a little big on top. She'd been in some sort of accident that messed up her neck, and she'd had to wear some kind of complicated neck brace for awhile -- and she was grateful that "the cage" didn't keep Jay from talking with her. Though I'm not sure how long they talked. I was the guy who got tossed out of the car whenever they wanted to "talk."
The cage was gone now. But the only time I saw Debbie was when she wanted to pass on the message that she wanted to see Jay -- that her folks would be gone or that she was babysitting somewhere else and she hoped he'd come over. I hated being the go-between for them. And it got to the point where if I ran into her in the crowded hallways at school, I wouldn't meet her eyes, I'd just keep walking. And I'd hear her yell "STUCK UP!" from somewhere behind me.
The only time Jay would see Debbie was when we had no gas money for the Impala and there was nowhere else to go.
That's why I was there. While Jay and Debbie were kissing or Whatever back in the bedroom, I'd be ransacking the rest of the house. Under orders from my brother.
I received these orders early. The first time he and Debbie got together while she was babysitting and started breathing heavily and grabbing at each other, then disappeared to the bedroom, I LEFT. Twenty minutes later, Jay appeared at the front porch at our house, where I was waiting, not wanting to go back inside and face our parents without him.
"Man, don't DO that anymore," he said. "Don't leave me ALONE with her like that."
I started laughing. "Why not?" I asked. "You didn't seem to be in any trouble."
"But man, I WAS," he said. "She wanted to FUCK! ... But I figure while I'm busy with her, you can dig around in stuff, maybe find us some money or something we could sell."
Jay was always desperate for money to fill the gas tank. So if I wanted to go cruising with him, I had to help find ways to put gas in the car. And I didn't have a job. I was still in 10th grade.
So since then, I'd been helping Jay steal gas cans, and looking through cabinets and drawers in the houses where Debbie baby-sat. I'd found a few dollars and some small change, nothing too big. And nobody ever complained about stuff being taken. At least that we heard about.
On this night, Jay and Debbie vanished almost immediately, so I started snooping. I found a few dollars rolled up in one drawer, and some pocket change inside an old incense burner. There wasn't much else, so I started looking at their album collection. The full catalog of Moody Blues albums, a few records by Spooky Tooth (knew nothing about them), some Jefferson Airplane, some Allman Brothers, the Beatles of course.
By this point, I felt kind of distracted, a little airy. I wondered if it was caused by the leftover pot fumes in the air. I wasn't happy to be there, and I was nervous about Debbie's folks coming home unexpectedly -- but suddenly I was relaxed and nothing seemed to matter too much. Strange -- pot had only given me a headache before.
The radio was playing, Casey Kasem's "American Top 40." The Raspberries' great "Overnight Sensation" was playing at Number 29 -- I was confident it'd sell millions. It was the best thing I'd heard in ages. How could it miss?
I drifted into the kitchen, started looking for snacks. Was it The Munchies? Started opening cabinets. Didn't find much. What, no snacks here? These people only eat Real Food?
Jay and Debbie reappeared at some point, quicker than I expected. Jay sat in the living room where I'd found the cash, and lit up a cigarette. I was still looking through cabinets.
Slowly, Debbie crept up behind me and put her arms around my waist. I REALLY hadn't expected THIS.
"Hello," I said falteringly.
"HI," she said warmly. "How are YOU doing out here?"
"Uh ... I'm kind of woozy. Really relaxed, you know? Not quite here."
Debbie laughed. "Could be the pot. You ever been high before? Could be a contact high."
"He usually doesn't toke," Jay told her.
The music was still playing, something else now. I couldn't focus on it. Debbie was swaying against me now, in time with the music. I liked it, even though it was Debbie. I turned to face her. Her arms were still around me.
"That's nice," I said.
"...You know what, you're a LOT NICER when you're stoned," she said. "...Do you want to come to the bedroom with me?"
"What?" I asked. I could NOT be hearing this.
"Do you want to come to the bedroom with me?" she repeated. "I think you might be a lot of fun."
"You SHOULD, man," Jay said helpfully. "It's pretty good." That must have made Debbie happy.
I did think about it for a second. But I'd never been anywhere NEAR bed. I had no idea what to do, what to expect. And I was pretty sure Debbie DID.
"...Uh... I don't really think I could HANDLE that right now...," I murmured, sort of drifting away from all this.
"That's too bad," she said. "Because I think you're really nice right now...."
I was still drifting. But I knew how I felt about Debbie. I still didn't like her.
"...But you're still a slut," I murmured.
"What?" she said, as if from a thousand miles away. She turned to Jay. "Do you think he meant that?"
"Probably not," Jay said. "You said yourself he's stoned. Look at him. He doesn't even know where he's at right now."
Debbie kept her arms around my waist until Jay finished his smoke, then pulled her away for a return trip to the bedroom.
I went and sat in the living room, the radio still playing, I couldn't tell what. I thought about what she'd offered, and I knew I wasn't ready for it. I hadn't even kissed a girl yet. I had NO IDEA what would happen if I went to the bedroom with Debbie, and it scared me. Besides, what if Something Happened and Debbie got pregnant? I knew she'd never blame Jay, and I didn't want to be the fall-guy for any accidents.
I don't think the idea of following my brother yet again ever occurred to me. It was buried by the idea that a girl -- no matter how stoned -- had said I was nice and expressed an interest in going to bed with me. That was an absolute first.
But I was certain that if I was ever going to go to bed with a girl, I wanted it to be someone I was in love with, someone I cared about -- not someone I could barely stand to see
After about half an hour, Jay reappeared and we left. On the walk home, Jay asked me "Were you really that stoned?" I didn't know. But it wore off after we left Debbie's house. And Debbie never got close to me again. And I didn't mind.
It was more than two years later before any other girl got that close.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The mission continues

Another wonderful weekend. On Monday, took all the music I was bored with and all the books I'm fed up with or will never finish reading (have a real attention-span problem with fiction right now) to Half-Price Books in Tacoma and turned it all in for cash. There wasn't actually that much to turn in, just a box-full, hardly anything compared to previous trips. And though the place was jammed -- everybody in town seemed to have the same idea, and the buy-counter was piled high with trade-ins -- it was worth the trip. Even found half a dozen good cheap vinyl albums in Half-Price's $1-or-less Clearance bin. There are some real bargains in there, if you don't mind digging and maybe getting a little dirty. However, the pickin's in the full-price music bins were kinda thin....
Then took the cash to Tacoma's Hi-Voltage Records, still my favorite record store despite their occasionally OUTRAGEOUS prices. They hadn't updated their bargain bin since the last time we were there (a week ago) -- but out in the big (and expensive) vinyl room, they had several boxes full of $3 jazz albums, and I found a few spacey things in there -- Return to Forever, Stomu Yamashta, etc.
After that, started going through the expensive-vinyl bins, which I still haven't picked clean of stuff I can afford. But the PRICES! FIFTY BUCKS for a vinyl copy of Miles Davis's LIVE EVIL?! Man, is someone gonna be disappointed. $30 for Miles's ON THE CORNER? Sure it was ahead of its time, but.... I also discovered that if I ever want to pay off the mortgage, copies of Gryphon's five imported albums run from $25 to $35. But I'm not giving mine up.
(One of the guys at Hi-Voltage's competitor a mile down the street, Golden Oldies, agreed that Hi's prices are sometimes off the charts, but he added that "If you're looking for something a little off-the-wall, there's a pretty good chance that you'll find it there." "But at what scary price?" I asked. Golden Oldies has VERY reasonable prices ... but you can browse through everything in the store in 15 minutes or less.)
Did find a few things. First two Byrds albums packaged together for $13 -- a bargain, considering they were selling separately for $15 each. First two Kansas albums cheap. Argent's first. Couple Anthony Phillips solo albums (early guitarist for Genesis). Journey's DREAM AFTER DREAM, Kayak's STARLIGHT DANCER, Jethro Tull's BROADSWORD AND THE BEAST, The Nice's ARS LONGA VITA BREVIS. Renaissance's AZURE D'OR for less than $6. (Really Bad Prog will be making its return soon.)
On the way home, listened to a blues album The Girlfriend found -- Bob Margolin's DOWN IN THE ALLEY. Some pretty rockin' stuff on there, with excellent guitar and piano work: "Boogie at Midnight" is straight out of the '50s, "Tough Times" is funny, "While You're Down There" is mildly raunchy and funny, and maybe best of all "Boston Driving Blues," which is about how tough you have to be to drive in Boston. Hilarious. I don't remember "All Blues" ever playing THAT.
After getting back home (and much of Tuesday), put some of this new stuff on the stereo. Argent's "Dance in the Smoke" is pretty freaking awesome, with a great build-up. It was so good I played it a couple more times over the evening. Best new music I've heard recently. Their "Liar" isn't too far off from Three Dog Night's cover version, either. I continue to think these guys were underrated.
Anthony Phillips's work on THE GEESE AND THE GHOST and PRIVATE PARTS AND PIECES seems to be mostly low-key guitar works, pleasant but very quiet. I had hopes for a piece called "Tibetan Yak-Music," but it turned out to be a 12-string showcase, pretty and very inoffensive. Nice background music.
The Byrds' "The World Turns All Around Her" still sounds great, and I tried a few other things I hadn't heard before -- "Oh Susanna" is kinda funny, and "Don't Doubt Yourself, Babe" is fun (all the hardships you go through just make you prettier, gorgeous). But I couldn't take "We'll Meet Again" -- had to put on The Turtles' version right afterward to wash the Byrds' downbeat version away.
The first side of Genesis's NURSERY CRYME is pretty cool -- Peter Gabriel makes a good Creepy Old Man in "The Musical Box." "Return of the Giant Hogweed" is also fun -- but they were very show-offy here. I was also surprised by how clear the production was. Much less muddy than I expected. Wonder what happened on FOXTROT?
Continuing with Peter Gabriel, both "D.I.Y." and "On the Air" from PG2 are interesting -- what surprised me most on these PG tracks was I didn't mind his voice. Maybe I'm getting over it, finally.
For contrast, turned to two tracks from Genesis's ABACAB -- "Like it or Not" and "Keep it Dark," which I hadn't heard in awhile. "Like it or Not" now sounds like a blueprint for Phil Collins's whole solo career -- strange that bassist Mike Rutherford wrote it....
Then turned to Jethro Tull. The Girlfriend has a block about Tull almost as big as her block with The Beatles. But she survived "the good parts version" of SONGS FROM THE WOOD (title song, "Ring Out Solstice Bells," "The Whistler," "Fire at Midnight" and -- yes, for contrast -- "Pibroch") edited by yours truly, and she didn't complain when I followed it up with Side 2 of MINSTREL IN THE GALLERY. Of course she was blogging and maybe a little distracted by then....
I finished off with Tangerine Dream's "Monolight" from ENCORE -- still sounds great. I gotta get some more of their stuff....
(On a previous trip to Hi-Voltage, found a two-CD best-of by English folkie John Martyn -- SWEET LITTLE MYSTERIES -- that was worth $12. Despite that he was an old buddy of Nick Drake's, I'd never heard Martyn before. "May You Never" and "Solid Air" are especially nice, I like his smokey voice and sometimes-slurred vocals, and there's a nice long guitar instrumental, "Glistening Glyndebourne." There is also more nice vocal stuff that may take more listenings. Some of the later stuff gets so jazzy it almost loses form, and by the time I got to the title song, I thought John could fit in on '80s adult-contemporary radio....)
Of course, all this listening is going toward finishing that Strange Music book I've been writing in my head for 20-some years. More updates will be coming in the near-future.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The return of Really Bad Prog

...with no coffee!
- Gentle Giant: "Words From the Wise" from GIANT FOR A DAY. Wow, really bouncy upbeat Gregorian-chant-style vocal rocker like they often did, but lots more energetic. I don't remember this being so shiny and energetic back in the day. or is it the lack of coffee? This is a little too upbeat for waking-up music, but it will bring some life into the room. When this came out back in '78, me and my old buddy Don Vincent thought it was the worst Prog album ever. Little did we know there would be much worse in the future.
- Gentle Giant: "Thank You" from ...FOR A DAY. Now this is clearly an effort to go "more commercial." This is just a straight love ballad that could have fit right in on late-'70s radio. Pretty simple. No tricks. OK for what it is, but kinda dull. Lotsa mellow acoustic-guitar strumming and good(?) vibes.
- Gentle Giant: "Giant for a Day." Annoying, New-Wave-style solo-vocal opening, followed by trebly guitar and electronics. They were listening to too many skinny-tie British bands. Or maybe too much Devo. But some playful bits in the midsection. Signs of too much coffee consumption. Mechanical.
- Gentle Giant: "Spooky Boogie" from DAY. Mildly tricky instrumental, sounds like Halloween soundtrack music. Split Enz did stuff like this later. OK, but way down from what these guys could do at their best. Why does trying to reach a bigger audience automatically mean you have to dumb things down and simplify everything? At least it's short.
- Gentle Giant: "Take Me" from DAY. Another mellow love song, with possibly the best construction and catchiest choruses on the whole side. Not Prog, but pleasant enough. Over quickly. A pretty fast side.
- Barclay James Harvest: "Song for the Children" from TIME HONOURED GHOSTS. Nice sparkly guitar and OK group vocals, but kinda anonymous. Where's the mellotron?
- Barclay James Harvest: "Moongirl" from GHOSTS. This sounds more like BJH, there's more keyboards and it has a dreamy, drifty sound. Still pretty anonymous. Could be anyone. Prog background music.
- BJH: "Titles" from GHOSTS. Now this is something different -- a sludgy ballad with a bunch of Beatles song-titles strung together for lyrics! Brilliant! But not very inspired. Musically limp.
- Jethro Tull: "Crossfire" from A. Didn't Tull take kind of a beating for dropping their folky approach and trying to streamline with the New-Wave times? This isn't too far off from their previous stuff, with Eddie Jobson's keyboard twinklings here and there and Ian Anderson's usual flute accents. It's maybe a little quicker, wastes no time.
- Jethro Tull: "Flyingdale Flyer" from A. OK, maybe they got whacked for the over-reliance on keyboards and electronics. This still sounds pretty straightforward and streamlined. It's maybe missing the tricky little intricacies of earlier Tull. But not bad.
- Jethro Tull: "Working John, Working Joe" from A. This seems to be a critique of business conditions in England at the time. Hmmm. Thank Ghod for the riffing guitar and mildly catchy choruses.
- Jethro Tull: "Black Sunday" from A. Opens with icy synthesizer straight out of Tull's STORMWATCH album, provided by Eddie Jobson. Then straight into a jumpy jig. Then fast, wordy verses. Pretty proggy. Nice keybs-and-guitar midsection. Ian joins in on flute later. This song also seems to be about too much work and too much travel. Too much stress from modern life. Been too long on the road.... Overall, a pretty fast and mildly enjoyable side, if a bit jumpy in places....
- Yes: "Release, Release" from TORMATO. Good Lord, haven't heard this in years. Opens with some rather nice, jagged Steve Howe guitar. Then more simplistic rocking -- though at high speed. Jon Anderson slams in a bunch of wordy lyrics. Another band listening to too much New Wave. Too fast. LOTS going on here. Then a drum solo, with crowd noises. Faster! Too much coffee! Where'd that cheezy organ sound come from? Yeezus, what a whirlwind. These boys need to calm DOWN.
- Yes: "Madrigal" from TORMATO. Well, at least this is CALMER. This is almost TOO sweet. Rick Wakeman could almost be playing that harpsichord in your drawing room. Very delicate acoustic guitar from Steve Howe. The lyrics don't match the setting: "Celestial travelers have always been here with us...."
- Yes: "Onward" from TORMATO. Comparatively simple, tranquil mood music. In this setting, a pretty, direct love song. Pleasant, but not stunning.
- Yes: "On the Silent Wings of Freedom" from TORMATO. This is more like it. Nice long opening with spacey guitar, keyboards and bass. Inventive guitar in the verses. It's actually too bad Jon Anderson has to sing, 'cos there's some interesting playing going on. It gets much more rushed later, back into that too-much-coffee feeling, just before closing abruptly. Makes for a quick almost-8-minutes. Couple more pieces like this, and this album wouldn't have been a waste.
- Klaatu: "The Loneliest of Creatures" from HOPE. Who ARE these gremlins? Not sure why John, Paul, George and Ringo allowed their voices to be all squinched-up like this, but this sounds a lot more like Queen. A LOT. Mildly funny. Kind of operatic and overbearing. And then it gets worse.
- Klaatu: "Prelude" from HOPE. Now this really DOES sound like Queen. A kind of overbearing symphony with added electric guitar and keyboards. Seems a good time to get another cup of coffee.
- Klaatu: "So Said the Lighthouse Keeper" from HOPE. Wow, it's Coheed and Cambria! Enough.
- Klaatu" We're Off You Know" from HOPE. Still sounds like The Beatles Meet Queen. With a weaker singer. Pretty clear, solid production for the time. You can hear the orchestra and horns clear as a bell. But cleverness isn't enough.
- Triumvirat: "The Capital of Power" from SPARTACUS. Very ELP-ish, though simpler and not as ... uh ... bombastic(?). Pleasant, almost catchy.
- Triumvirat: "The School of Instant Pain" from SPARTACUS. OK, ELP-lite. They could almost pass for the original if Greg Lake were singing. But bassist Helmut Kollen doesn't have Lake's declaiming vocal style quite down. Keyboardist Jurgen Fritz does have a lot of Keith Emerson's mannerisms, though. His keyboards are the best part of this show. Uh oh, then comes The Dreaded Drum Solo.... OK lite cheezy fun.
- Steve Hillage: "Lunar Musick Suite" from L. Who is this long-haired hippy? This is not at ALL the spacey cosmick guitar stuff I expected. Ferociously fast and loud. John Wilcox of Utopia hammering away on the drums. Then it slows down.... OK, even I have limits.
- Steve Hillage: "Hurdy Gurdy Glissando" from L. THIS is the spacey stuff I expected. Nice squiggly keyboards. Weedy vocals. Wilcox again impressive on drums. And if you think I'm gonna play Hillage's version of Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man," you're wrong. I can barely stand the original. ...This almost sounds like Gong. Is Daevid Allen on here somewhere?
- Starcastle: "Fountains" from FOUNTAINS OF LIGHT. Now we have Yes-lite. Nice airy keyboards. Light vocals. Ten minutes of this? They need to punch it up. This sounds rather ornately pretty, and the words mean Nothing. The billowy nature-centered lyrics could almost be a takeoff from Yes's "Roundabout." Still waiting for them to punch it up....

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Look into the future

Not sure how much longer I'll be doing this. Not sure how much longer they'll LET me do it. I already know they're watching me. The couple in the apartment next door are spies, and I'm sure they've been using their bugging equipment on us.
I'm allowed to review Strange Music and books from the old days, but nothing TOO far-out. And I'm absolutely not allowed to criticize the government. That kind of mouthing-off is Not Approved under the new regime. Gotta keep my head down or they'll haul me off to a work camp.
Things keep getting weirder, as if they weren't weird enough already. The Homeland Security guys in the big black trucks came around last week issuing our new Official Uniform, the black pajamas -- two pairs each for me and the Mrs. It was Strongly Suggested that we start wearing the black PJ's at all times -- not just when we're out in public or going to work. We're supposed to lounge in them, sleep in them, do the gardening in them. We're never supposed to take them off. Except for the mandated one shower per week. Taking more than one shower per week is verboten. That'll get you hauled off to a work camp quicker than you can say "Clean Air Act." Water conservation measures are now fully in force. Along with all our other conservation measures.
Like conserving gasoline so the military can use it.
They came and hauled away our cars a couple of weeks ago. Since there's no gas legally for sale anywhere anymore, there's no need for cars. They'll be crushed and recycled and turned into weapons for our military to use in our ongoing struggle against our enemies.
Instead, the Mrs. and I have been issued bicycles. Not fancy 24-speed bicycles. These look like something out of the 1950's. Basic black, one speed. And they all look the same -- kind of grimy and oily.
And I imagine I look kind of grimy and oily as I peddle the bike to my job, five miles into town in my black PJ's and sandals, even in the winter. Not even allowed an overcoat -- those went to the Army, and they'd detract from the "uniform." Peddle faster, citizen, it'll help keep you warm.
I have a new job now. I work at the local office of the Ministry Of Information. The job's not bad. I take news released by official sources and censor it appropriately for my area. Uh, scratch that -- make sure it's acceptable doctrine-wise to release to my fellow citizens. That means heavily editing any news coming in from Europe or Asia -- places where they still have a free press. Any criticisms of Our Beloved Leader are of course immediately eliminated.
This is a tough job to have. Holding it means that I already know a lot more about what's Really Going On than most citizens. Which is why they now watch me more closely.
For instance, I know our former friendly neighbors up in Canada have almost finished building THEIR wall -- to keep US OUT.
I know that all minorities have either been deported or executed. Millions of them. Dissidents and artists have been sent to work camps in the Rockies and the desert Southwest. Drug addicts have been executed, sent to camps, or left to die on the street.
I know our war in the Middle East is dragging on endlessly. But by next week we could be at war with Russia. Again. We continue to drop bombs and make drone attacks on all the people we don't like.
But most of my fellow citizens don't want to hear about this stuff anyway. They're too busy trying to keep their heads down, act like they're working hard, and praying that they won't get sent to a work camp.
It's hard to remember that this is what most of us seemed to want -- more or less. This is what millions of us voted for. Back when we could vote. This is what we chose.
But we don't remind each other of that. The constant surveillance would pick it up. They are everywhere, always watching.
There are no "people of color" anymore. All I see now at my job or in the streets are white faces -- washed-out white faces. Some of them are almost gray, beaten down with the shock of the many changes over the last couple years. The changes never stop, and each new change is worse than the last. And gray goes better with the black pajamas than the ghostly white of too many shocks.
There are many things I miss. I'll miss wearing a pair of comfy worn-in blue jeans to work, and lounging in my sweats at home.
There's no more radio, so I can't even complain about how bad recent music was. I also can't hear my favorite blues show on the weekends.
There's no more TV. Those 600 cable channels have all been eliminated by the government, and now there's only one channel, UTV -- Universal Television, broadcasting only what the government wants you to know.
I can still play my Strange Music at home, quietly, but I've already started hiding it. All my weird music is stashed in a cubby-hole under the stairs, and my books are hidden in a back closet. Because I think someday those big black trucks are gonna come back to confiscate all that stuff. And I'd like to be able to hold onto it for a few minutes longer. Before they send me to a work camp or shoot me.
I guess there are good things about our new lives. There are no traffic jams anymore, because there are no cars. Though I bet the bicycles get snarled up in something like traffic jams in the big cities.
Everybody's more physically fit now, because you have to walk or ride a bike to get anywhere.
Law and order prevails over all -- because every couple hundred yards there's a police kiosk with an officer inside. And he's armed with a pistol and a rifle in case of any disturbance.
Nobody's hungry anymore. The big black trucks swing by every week with a box full of food rations. You never know what you're gonna get, and it may be far from what you'd like -- but you won't starve.
Things run smoothly, the days are orderly, people are productive, everybody has a sense of purpose and urgency. Though they may just be urgent about covering their asses so they don't get shipped off to a camp in a big black truck.
I don't have friends anymore. You never know who might turn you in for mumbling some Unthinkable Thought under your breath during times of stress. It's just me and the Mrs. now, and that's more than enough for me. Times are too strange to expect much more.
There are probably many good things about this new regime. We're never hungry, we're never cold, we both have jobs. We never worry if we're going to have enough to eat or if the bills are going to get paid on time.
And if we both keep our noses clean, that should continue.
But it sure is quiet around here.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

More Strange Music with no coffee!

OK, you know the scam by now. Let's roll.
* King Crimson: "Cirkus" from LIZARD. Starting slowly and delicately this morning because that's how I'm feeling. Then an overbearing blast from Slash Fripp's guitar! So much for waking up with light mood music. This isn't bad -- some nice sax from Mel Collins and the usual fake-Moody-Blues mellotron. This wouldn't be out of place on KC's first album, especially Fripp's ominous guitar. And intresting how singer Gordon Haskell doesn't sound that different from original singer Greg Lake. The least attractive part of this is Fripp's intrusive, brooding guitar -- which makes it sound like Crimson, of course. Collins's sax is pretty great -- he always is.
* King Crimson: "Indoor Games" from LIZARD. This is fairly twisted lyrically, with some more nice gruff sax from Mel Collins, and Fripp on some nice acoustic guitar -- who knew he had that up his sleeve? And it still sounds like early Crimson, no matter who's in the band. Nice intertwining saxes later.
* Spirit: "Silky Sam" from THE FAMILY THAT PLAYS TOGETHER. Nice moody verses with Jay Ferguson's usual character-sketch lyrics. Comedy-sketch mid-section with the band playing poker. Airy wordless vocalizing on the "choruses." OK, different.
* Spirit: "Drunkard" from THE FAMILY. Interesting vocals-and-strings production, maybe a takeoff on "Eleanor Rigby"? Jazzy, ahead-of-its-time production from Lou Adler. Downbeat lyrics, trippy.
* Spirit: "Darlin' If" from FAMILY. Downbeat love ballad by Ferguson and guitarist Randy California, starts quietly and builds in instrumentation and power as it goes. These guys were definitely up to something different.
* Spirit: "Jewish" from FAMILY. Sung in Yiddish, it seems. Was California Jewish? I have no idea what this is about. Nice spacey guitar.
* Spirit: "It's All the Same" from FAMILY. OK piano-guitar-vocals mood-music. With a drum solo. It's a cloudy, rainy day here after a week-plus of freezing weather. 40 degrees and rain seems like a relief. In the past couple days I've been trying to read Professor Bill Martin's LISTENING TO THE FUTURE, another sorta history of progressive rock by the guy who took Yes WAY too seriously in his book THE MUSIC OF YES that I couldn't finish and didn't quite review awhile back. LISTENING is 300 pages long, but Martin's 70 pages in before he says he wants to start writing about prog -- up 'til then he's too busy organizing and sorting and setting his boundaries. And looking over his shoulder. Then he takes on rock critics. He's halfway through the book before he starts on a chronological look at prog from 1968 to 1978. Even then, he doesn't look very deeply. He keeps spelling Procol Harum wrong. He doesn't go too deep into COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING -- he doesn't even mention that two tracks sound like a heavier Moody Blues. And his look at Caravan's 23-minute epic "Nine Feet Underground" convinces me that he wasn't listening too closely. I think Martin was impressed by prog and wanted to write something about it, but couldn't leave his scholarly outlook behind. And my mind is wandering....
* Spirit: "A Dream Within a Dream" from FAMILY. Spacey lyrics with good group vocals, loud guitar and some impact. Sounds kind of like a heavier Turtles.
* Spirit: "She Smiles" from FAMILY. Nice group vocals. Another Ferguson character sketch. A lot of this stuff is more like song fragments.
* Spirit: "Aren't You Glad?" from FAMILY. Already knew this one, from their BEST OF. Nice, extended, leisurely, sort of an exhausted kiss-off to the Summer of Love. Nice group vocals and good screechy guitar from California.
* Be-Bop Deluxe: "Stage Whispers" from FUTURAMA. Ferocious, blistering attack of overdubbed guitars! Galloping tempos! Lightning-fast changes and shifts! The whole band's on uppers! There's too much going on here! Where's the coffee??? Then it slows down into a mere flamenco....
* Be-Bop Deluxe: "Maid in Heaven" from FUTURAMA. This is more like it. Dazzling guitar runs with actual verses and just enough happening that you can actually keep up with it. Could have been a hit. And it's over way too fast.
* Be-Bop Deluxe: "Sister Seagull" from FUTURAMA. Remember this from the opening guitar riff. Nice, but is Bill Nelson singing through a megaphone, or what? Could have gone on longer....
* Be-Bop Deluxe: "Sound Track" from FUTURAMA. I actually enjoy these guys, when I can get past Nelson's voice.... And he sure is some flash on guitar.... This is OK, there's a lot of noise and drama, but it doesn't go much of anywhere....
* Be-Bop Deluxe: "Swan Song" from FUTURAMA. Nice fanfare, and a lot going on here, what with the mellotron and the phased, jet-plane-inspired guitar flights. Pretty melodramatic, all the way to the cut-off ending. But not one of their best moments.
* Be-Bop Deluxe: "Modern Music" suite from MODERN MUSIC. Very conceptual. Bill tunes-in his radio to get to his melodic guitar music. Some of what's on his radio are other Be-Bop tunes, like "Sister Seagull." This plays up his more lyrical side -- Ghod knows he needed to calm down a little. Some nice flashy guitar work in the section called "Dance of the Uncle Sam Humanoids" -- a title Donald Trump might get a laugh out of -- but the rest is pretty quick and weightless. Though occasionally charming. Maybe too many little pieces.
* Nektar: "Marvellous Moses" from RECYCLED. This is certainly lighter than I expected -- especially since the track that follows is the cosmically heavy "It's All Over," the best thing these guys ever did -- though it picks up weight and speed later on.
* Nektar: "It's All Over" from RECYCLED. Yes! They should always have sounded this good, especially on the second keyboard solo. Turn it up LOUD!
* Led Zeppelin: "Hey Hey What Can I Do?" from THE NEW AGE OF ATLANTIC. Seattle's classic-rock station KZOK has been playing this a lot lately. To me it sounds like a sort-of dry-run for "Stairway," and I love the choruses. I guess this was a rare B-side...? Zep coulda gone mostly-acoustic and pulled it off just fine.... The older I get, the better they sound.
* Journey: "Spaceman/People/Anyway/You're On Your Own" from NEXT, LOOK INTO THE FUTURE and IN THE BEGINNING. This was the early, pre-Steve-Perry jazz-rock version of Journey, with Gregg Rolie's laid-back vocals and Neal Schon's sometimes languid, sometimes crazed guitar. I think these four songs make a good listenable side, though I barely remember "Anyway," the closest thing here to a standard pop song. "Spaceman" is mildly spacey, with amusing lyrics and great jagged guitar after the choruses. "People" is smooth and moody. "You're On Your Own" has an almost-annoying, whiny Rolie vocal but still closes the side with some energy. Odd how they couldn't make any money from this stuff. It seemed like the right time....
* Herbie Hancock: HEAD HUNTERS. This is probably too funky for a dumb white kid from Idaho, but I like the airyness of it and Hancock's squiggly keyboards. And Bennie Maupin is impressive on flutes and saxes. Not too far from later Miles Davis, though it probably won't replace my copy of IN A SILENT WAY....

Friday, January 6, 2017

Nostalgia radio

Don't think I've written about this yet. Way back in the mid-1980's, when I was assigned as a base newspaper reporter at Francis E. Warren AFB in Cheyenne, Wyoming, I got my only in-depth look behind the scenes at how a radio station works. Though it wasn't quite the romantic, idealized, high-tech vision I'd always had, it was still pretty cool.
This peek behind the veil was possible thanks to Keith Gardner, an Air Force broadcaster and moonlighting DJ who must have heard me vent about boring radio and wonder aloud if I'd chosen the wrong career path. Though Keith had the ego and self-centeredness to think his nighttime DJ job was pretty cool, he was also down-to-earth enough about it to see it as something of a joke.
At the time Keith and I worked in the FEW Public Affairs Office, he was also nighttime DJ at a local FM station -- not the leading album-oriented-rock station in town, but maybe the number two or three station down on the list. It was surprising enough to have more than one album-rock station in a town of 50,000 people where you'd think the only two types of music on the radio were Country and Western.
After hearing me rant and express my preference for "Strange Music," Keith invited me out to the station one night after work to watch him at his "other job" for a couple of hours. I thought the experience would be pretty cool. Keith urged me to not get my hopes up too high -- that to him it was really no big deal.
The station was located on Cheyenne's west side, set back off of one of Cheyenne's main drags, back in a field full of tall weeds. It was nearly dark when I pulled up to the place at the end of a long dirt-and-gravel driveway. I wasn't absolutely sure I had the right place, even with the tall transmitter tower directly out back. I was expecting something ... a little more impressive.
The building itself looked like three or four small tool sheds sort of smacked together. In no way was it marked as a radio station -- there were no glowing neon call-letters posted out front or anything like that. There were garbage cans around the only door and lots of trash seemingly everywhere. There was only one other car in the dirt "parking lot."
I slowly made my way inside, through a long poorly-lit hallway littered with shipping boxes, promotional albums and other music-industry paraphernalia I could barely see in the dark. I seem to remember lots of empty pizza boxes and other evidence of food being consumed sometime in the previous 20 years.
I turned around a corner to the right and faintly heard distant trebly sounds that could almost have been music. I called out Keith's name, and eventually his head popped out a door into the hall. "Hey," he said, "I'm down here."
The tiny booth he was in could have been a chicken coop. It was absolutely NOT plush. He had a desktop made out of unfinished plywood, with a couple turntables on it that I never saw him use. There were a couple of (eight-track???) players he popped "cartridges" into that had both the music he played and the commercials he had to run. He had a pair of headphones and a mike, and that was all the equipment. There wasn't even an engineer. I got the impression the place practically ran itself.
At the center of Keith's "desktop" was a diagram that was of central importance to his job. It showed how much music he was allowed to play each hour -- in 15-minute blocks -- and showed the places where he had to plug-in commercials. The stack of "carts" on his left were the commercials. The stack on his right were the songs he was "allowed" to play. As he went along, Keith logged on a notepad each song he played and each commercial he ran, and at what times.
After he explained the set-up, I was a bit disappointed. There wasn't much freedom here. It all seemed pretty regimented. Didn't Keith ever make his own musical choices?
"Sometimes," he said. "There's the music library down the hall that we can pull some tracks from."
Naturally, I had to see this music library. What I found was a room no bigger than most bathrooms, with a ton of vinyl albums filed on shelves from floor to ceiling. There were lots more albums piled and scattered on the floor, and down the hallway.... I was surprised there weren't more. It was a pretty small room.
Keith agreed there wasn't much room for free-form experimenting on the job, that it was basically the same 100 classic-rock songs over and over. But he said there were other bonuses about the job -- it was easy, not demanding, he could order a pizza and eat it at his leisure ... and he even had fans. A couple of them even called up while I was there, and gabbed with Keith in his on-air persona as "Steve Cheyenne" -- such an obvious fake-name that we both busted up laughing. Strangely, Keith didn't actually SAY much on the air.
There were some high points -- Keith played Blue Oyster Cult's "Astronomy" for me (off of IMAGINOS), the best thing I'd heard by BOC in years (didn't know then it was a remake of one of their old songs) ... and after awhile I liked the quiet, distant, separated-from-everything atmosphere that surrounded the place. Maybe during the day it was different, but at night it was quiet, no one else came in, no one bothered Keith while he was working.
After a couple of hours I got tired, thanked Keith for the tour, and went home. It had actually been pretty cool to be there, even if it hadn't been exactly what I'd expected. It also reinforced my theory that sometimes it doesn't take that many people to make what appears from the outside to be a big production -- like most of the newspapers I've worked for.
So now, whenever I hear radio, the first thing I think of is that tiny tool-shed/chicken-coop set-up on Cheyenne's western outskirts in the middle of a wheat field, blasting classic rock out into the Wyoming night, where maybe a dozen people were listening....

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Big listening parties set for 2017!

Happy New Year. Due to Factors Beyond My Control, I couldn't get out of bed early enough to do any music-without-coffee sessions this weekend. However, over the last few weeks (thanks to a Christmas bonus, etc.) I've been piling up lots of Strange Music for listening in the near future, almost all of which is brand new to me. And there will likely be more in the future. These intended targets for further investigation include:
King Crimson: LIZARD.
Genesis: LIVE, NURSERY CRYME, THE LAMB.
Be-Bop Deluxe: FUTURAMA, MODERN MUSIC, LIVE IN THE AIR AGE, DRASTIC PLASTIC.
The Move: SHAZAM!
Zombies: ODYSSEY AND ORACLE.
Kate Bush: THE DREAMING, AERIAL, THE RED SHOES, HOUNDS OF LOVE, THE SENSUAL WORLD.
Mahavishnu Orchestra: THE INNER MOUNTING FLAME, BIRDS OF FIRE. (yes, again....)
Matrix: WIZARD.
Klaatu: HOPE.
Incredible String Band: WEE TAM, EARTHSPAN, NO RUINOUS FEUD.
Jethro Tull: BENEFIT, STAND UP, THICK AS A BRICK, A PASSION PLAY, TOO OLD TO ROCK AND ROLL....
Solution: CORDON BLEU.
Stackridge: PINAFORE DAYS, EXTRAVAGANZA.
Audience: THE HOUSE ON THE HILL, LUNCH.
Peter Gabriel: 1 through 4.
Nektar: RECYCLED, DOWN TO EARTH.
Gentle Giant: MISSING PIECE, PLAYING THE FOOL/LIVE.
Argent: IN DEEP.
Procol Harum: GRAND HOTEL, NINTH, EXOTIC BIRDS AND FRUIT, BEST OF 2-CD set.
Strawbs: NOMADNESS, BURNING FOR YOU.
Dixie Dregs: DREGS OF THE EARTH, WHAT IF?, UNSUNG HEROES.
Utopia: ANOTHER LIVE.
Todd Rundgren: HERMIT OF MINK HOLLOW.
Jane Siberry: NO BORDERS HERE.
Triumvirat: SPARTACUS.
The Nice: WINTER TO SPRING.
ELP: TRILOGY, 1ST.
ELO: 2, ELDORADO, A NEW WORLD RECORD.
Passport: SKY BLUE.
Billy Cobham: TOTAL ECLIPSE.
Starcastle: FOUNTAINS OF LIGHT, CITADEL.
Kansas: MASQUE.
Manfred Mann's Earth Band: WATCH, NIGHTINGALES AND BOMBERS.
Dory Previn: MYTHICAL KINGS AND IGUANAS.
Wishbone Ash: ARGUS.
Fripp and Summers: I ADVANCE MASKED, BEWITCHED.
Renaissance: TURN OF THE CARDS, SCHEHERAZADE, NOVELLA.
Flairck: VARIATIONS ON A LADY.
Automatic Man: VISITORS.
Alan Parsons Project: EYE IN THE SKY, AMMONIA AVENUE.
Jean-Michel Jarre: OXYGENE, EQUINOXE.
Journey: IN THE BEGINNING, LOOK INTO THE FUTURE.
Horslips: THE BOOK OF INVASIONS.
Synergy: CORDS.
Return to Forever: HYMN OF THE SEVENTH GALAXY.
Focus: MOVING WAVES.
Steve Hillage: L.
Rick Wakeman: KING ARTHUR, HENRY VIII, JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, CRIMINAL RECORD.
...and there's more. All this listening-work is intended to help me finish that "Strange Music" book I've been working on for 20 years. We'll see how far I get....
I couldn't have piled up this stuff without the help of Tacoma's HALF-PRICE BOOKS' $1-or-less vinyl clearance bin, or the clearance section and other occasionally-cheap vinyl prices at Tacoma's HI-VOLTAGE record store. I recommend both of them, and also Port Orchard's NEW 2 YOU ANTIQUE MALL, Tacoma's GOLDEN OLDIES and the GOODWILL stores in Port Orchard and Silverdale. Also Port Townshend's QUIMPER SOUND. If you're in the Tacoma-Gig Harbor-Bremerton area, those stops will keep you busy for awhile. They still have stuff I wish I'd grabbed that I now want to go back and pick up.
More soon....

Friday, December 30, 2016

Check her out

Hey, The Girlfriend just started a blog. It's called THINK and you can find it here. She said she's wanted to start blogging for years. Well, now she's started.
This is not exactly Strange Music- and books-related -- The Girlfriend has some strong opinions about the recent election and how we treat people in this country. After living through the Civil Rights Movement and the Feminist Movement, she's concerned about the drift of this country right now, and her background and travels give her a range of experience I certainly don't have.
Her opinions and how she views Reality were among the things that first attracted me to her. This is the woman who got me to vote in a presidential election for the first time in almost 20 years.
So naturally, I hope she keeps going. Check her out if you feel so inclined....

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Strange Music with no coffee!

OK, here's the scam: i just woke up. I'm groggy. I haven't had any coffee yet. Girlfriend doesn't get home 'til after noon. So i thought I;d use this drugged condition to try out some new music and see how it sounds. Might sound different. might get some insight into these strange sounds I love. Could be fun. yeah, sure. Hell, I can hardly even type. Where's the coffee??? Onward. I won't even edit to put it in English.
* Gong -- Master Builder/A Sprinkling of Clouds. From YOU. OK, I'm cheating with these. i've heard both these tracks a few times before. But with Gong it always sounds like the first time.Nice hypnotic snythesizers from Tim Blake eventually opens out into a group jam. Blake's the star here. as the jam picks up momentum, his synthesizers get ever-more-further Out There. Til it explodes in a ferocious, sizzling, skirling Heavy Riff. Nice guitaring from Steve Hillage. Is it too early for this. watch out, neighbors. Then Didier Mahlerbe joins on sax -- he's always great and usually quite melodic. and his light sax work sets the whole thing off perfectly. For me, probably their best piece. And it makes a very quick 15 minutes.
* Gong -- The Pot-Head Pixies; Zero the Hero and the Witches' Spell. From ABSOLUTELY THE BEST OF. "Pot-Head Pixies" is REALLY silly, but I can almost stand the lighter-than-air group vocals, and one line SEEMS to say "Open on Fridyas from 7 to 9." Well, it made ME laugh. Just a cute little ditty with verses and a refrain. "Witches' Spell" opens with another instrumental jam, and thank Ghod for Didier Mahlerbe's sax, which always makes it SOUND like all this makes sense. Then some of that 'space whisper" vocalizing from Gilly Smith. Hmmm. Dogs can hear this better than I can. Then another, more ominous riff with more solid sax. Then it gets more insistent. Louder, more out of control. Then stops suddenly. Hmmm, almost like sex. Well, for some of us.
* Stackridge -- Do the Stanley. from EXTRAVAGANZA. Well, I'd heard of these folks. Let's go back to 1935. Very old-style vaudeville-ish musical setting, with maybe '50s-English-music-hall-type vocals. This seems to be about a dance craze. uh huh.
* Stackridge -- Who's That Up There With Bill Stokes? Well, this lightens up. Nice bouncy sax-led instrumental. Could almost be 1974. Then some opera vocals to keep me guessing. Sorta light and airy with nice sax from Keith Gemmell. Supertramp coulda sounded like this once, if they hadn't gone for totally commercial songs. Pretty nice.
* Stackridge -- The Indifferent Hedgehog. Now this is closer to the Incredible String Band. Which i also have waiting here.... Odd but pleasant.
* Stackridge -- Rufus T. Firefly. Another lite instrumental, led by keybs and guitar. Very light-but-complex sound. Nice clear production. More guitar as it progresses.
* Stackridge -- No One's More Important Than the Earthworm. a big, dramatic ballad, but very silly. Opens with some rather intense guitar then moves into something like Pink Floyd territory. Then more sax. With some heavier lyrics these guys could have been Something. Written by Gordon Haskell, who was bassist and singer for King Crimson for awhile....
* Stackridge -- Fundamentally Yours; Pinafore Days. From PINAFORE DAYS. "Fundamentally" is pleasant, but over with before it went much of anywhere. "Pinafore Days" is closer to Gryphon or Amazing Blondel, though with that British-music-hall sound again. This is all pleasant, though not stunning. Good-timey music, not sure about rock and roll.
* Stackridge -- The Last Plimsoll. Nice guitar, light vocals. This has some force to it. When they have a framework and don't get too silly, there's a lot of talent on display here. Pretty good little pop band. And it sounds like somebody listened to a lot of SMILE bootlegs -- with Wilson and Parks' 1880s throwback outlook -- before pulling this together.
* Stackridge -- Humiliation. Very gentle ballad. Maybe shoulda quit while I was ahead....
* Audience -- Jackdaw. From THE HOUSE ON THE HILL. My Ghod, seven minutes of this? Sounds sorta like AC/DC with an added sax. Howard Werth is a powerful singer. And the sax and flute -- by Keith Gemmell again -- do add to the agitated atmosphere. Definitely something different.... The sax-led jam in the middle could almost be King Crimson. Which naturally leads into....
* Audience -- It Brings a Tear. Comparatively gentle and brief, though led by Werth's operatic vocals.
* Audience -- Raviole. Orchestrated instrumental led by Werth's acoustic guitar. Arranged by nick Drake's old buddy robert kirby. OK, but not rock and roll.
* Wishbone Ash -- Blowin' Free. From ARGUS. Nice guitars, nice vocals. Lyrics are kinda dull. But I was told this was closer to the Strawbs or fairport Convention than metal. And I think i was misinformed.
* Wishbone Ash -- Throw Down the Sword. OK, the twin guitars work better here. Actually wished this was longer....
* Robert Fripp and Andy Summers -- What Kind of Man Reads Playboy? From BEWITCHED. Well, neither of THESE two gentlemen, I'm sure. early-'80s King Crimson meets Discotronics. maybe wouldn;t be bad if it weren't for the computerized handclaps. fripp musta decided he wanted to dance. am i typing even worse after more coffee? ... OK, made it most of the way through, but the melodic interest is kind of minimal.
* Incredible String Band -- Log Cabin Home in the Sky. From WEE TAM. Gong without electronics. Like the fiddle, and am amused by the way Robin Williamson and Mike Heron's voices clash with each other. This actually has more of a structure than some of their stuff. Gimme a hit of that....
* Incredible String Band -- My Father Was a Lighthouse Keeper. From EARTHSPAN. Now this is the kind of weirdness I expect from these old hippies....
* Incredible String Band -- My Blue Tears. From NO RUINOUS FEUD. This is a Dolly Parton song? And they play it straight, except for the keening vocals.
* Incredible String Band -- Weather the Storm. Adds sax and keyboards and a Bob Dylan-like vocal. But where's the Incredibles?