Saturday, November 14, 2009

Musical 1st impressions....

As 1 of my heroes, SF writer & critic Algis Budrys, 1nce wrote: "Criticism is not susceptible to the democratic process. Thank you for your kind attention, and now let's get on with it."
Some of the items in this list go back almost a yr, but here's my 1st impressions after a few hrs of listening....
The Strawbs: HALCYON DAYS best-of (1997) -- *Grumble, grumble* Mildly disappointing at 1st. "Where is This Dream of Your Youth?" -- the best thing they ever did -- isn't included. Leader/singer/songwriter Dave Cousins' angry & bitter "New World" isn't included; Tony Hooper's retro, lite, silly "Oh Me, Oh My" isn't here. The version of "The Man Who Called Himself Jesus" included here ISN'T the electric "live" version (which I've only bn able 2 find on an Italian-import cassette!). "I'll Carry On Beside You," which shoulda bn a hit -- isn't here.
Then there's John Tobler's rather Dfensive liner notes which point-out in the opening sentence(!) that the Strawbs' biggest success in the U.K. & U.S. came after keyboard whiz Rick Wakeman left the band 2 join Yes.... No reason 2 B Dfensive; Wakeman did some great work w/ these guys & a little bit of it's here -- like his busy-busy keybs on "The Hangman and the Papist" -- the best part of that song, really. & RW's successors, Blue Weaver & John Hawken, did some Xcellent, flamboyant keyboard work 2....
Still, bitchbitchbitch. There R 1/2 a dozen diffrent "Best of Strawbs" repackages out there (dating back 2 about '74), & none of them R perfect. Could it B these guys did so much Good Stuff U can't fit it all on a coupla CD's? Don't know yet, but....
The big + here is that all this stuff SOUNDS GREAT. It ain't all up my street -- the early folkie "Oh, How She Changed" is just 2 wimpy & soggy. In the liner notes, Cousins hits on what I think is key 4 this band -- their development of "the big sound that the Americans loved." Hate 2 sound like such a stereotype, but these guys R at their absolute best when they go over-the-top -- like in the crashing melodrama of the doomy "Down by the Sea," & Cousins' hysterical vocals & the pushy keyboards in "Hero and Heroine" (pretty-much the definition of "bombastic"). "Round and Round" also has some of this pushy delirium, B4 coming 2 some disquieting lines at the Nd: "It's just the revolution that I despise...." "New World" is a better, more shocking look at Cousins' disgust w/ Modern Life. (It's on their partly-listenable GRAVE NEW WORLD album.)
There's some bonuses -- "Keep the Devil Outside" is an Xcellent folk-rocky outtake; "Backside," a B-side released as performed by "Ciggy Barlust and the Whales From Venus," is a sorta David Bowie satire that's relaxed & funny -- other than the singalong "Part of the Union" (& "Oh Me, Oh My"), it's about the only place in their career where the Strawbs cracked a joke -- they shoulda let their hair down like this more often. Even "Tell Me What You See in Me," a 1991 remake of a song off their 1st album, sounds great -- even tho the song itself is kinda dull.
But the stuff they left off bugs me. "Where is This Dream of Your Youth?" is 9 mins long, but not 2 long 2 have fit here -- there's other stuff included that's LONGER -- & it has some of Wakeman's wildest playing EVER, & the resta the band is in a fiery mood 2. (U can find it on their otherwise-avg 1970 "live" set JUST A COLLECTION OF ANTIQUES AND CURIOS.)
Still, they didn't ask me 2 assemble this. I know what I like -- the big, melodramatic stuff. & I hope I find more....
Badfinger: WISH YOU WERE HERE (1974) -- The best things here R the long medleys that frame the 2nd 1/2 of this album. "In the Meantime/Some Other Time" makes such a perfect, dramatic epitaph 4 this talented band that I'm suprised they didn't close the album w/ it. The closer, "Meanwhile Back at the Ranch/Should I Smoke?" at least Xpresses some hope 4 the future.... (6 mo's later, leader/songwriter/gtrist Pete Ham hung himself, leaving Bhind a pregnant wife.) Whether U interpret these medleys as metaphors 4 the financial & management hassles that plagued the band at this time, or as Dscriptions of troubled love affairs, they can B read either way. & Chris Thomas's production & Anne O'Dell's string arrangements up the drama level big-time.
Some of the other trax R ... kinda dull. Ham's "Know One Knows" might take more listenings, & Joey Molland's "Love Time" was so dull I hadta skip it 1/2way thru. But Molland sure sounded like McCartney, didn't he? Especially on "Some Other Time".... I'll B listening more, hoping 4 more drama....
5 Man Electrical Band: BEST OF (2009) -- "Absolutely Right" still sounds perfect from start 2 finish, "Signs" is still its angry, classic self. But summa this is stuck permanently in 1972. "Julianna" especially suffers from a sloppy, overly-busy arrangement & annoying falsetto vocals. & the "family" vocal-impersonations in "Werewolf" don't do it NE favors, either. C, my musical taste has 2 improved since I was 13....
Lobo: BEST OF (1993) -- I already had mosta this stuff & grew-up w/ the hits. But after 35+ yrs of looking 4 "California Kid and Reemo" (it was never on an album B4 this), I now find I can't actually listen 2 it -- it's 2 wimpy & mushy, even tho there R some nice things in it. I put-on the nursery-rhyme-catchy "A Simple Man," which still works just fine & shoulda bn a bigger hit -- & then "I'd Love You to Want Me" sucked me in B4 I could stop myself. The way the backing vocals join-in on the choruses -- 4 me, there's still a little magic here. But then the liner notes almost told me more than I wanted 2 know: Lobo was a loner w/ a shaky marriage who couldn't handle fame & turned 2 drinking 2 prop himself up? R ALL rock&roll success stories the same?
At the risk of alienating some of my new friends overseas....:
Television Personalities: MY DARK PLACES (2006) -- Wow. I'm reminded of Syd Barrett. Didn't his solo albums sound something like this? After reading about some of leader/singer/songwriter Dan Treacy's struggles (jail, homelessness, mental breakdown?), I Xpected the lyrics might B pretty in10se. I didn't Xpect the stark, simple production, some of the rudimentary playing (the piano playing all-on-1-key in "Special Chair"), the nursery-rhyme "All the Young Children on Crack," or the childlike girl back-up singer. Some of the lyrics R kinda funny ("Ex-Girlfriend Club," "I'm Not Your Typical Boy"), & I'll B listening more, but.... This was a pop band?
Animal Collective: MERRIWEATHER POST PAVILION (2009) -- Kinda nice mix of group vocals & electronics in a watery sorta wash.... I haven't found NEwhere 2 grab-on yet & I think this may take a few listenings 4 me. So far, pleasant but kinda formless. But I'll B getting back 2 it....
Love: THE DEFINITIVE ROCK COLLECTION (2006) -- Multi-racial '60s LA band unlucky enuf 2 B on the same label as The Doors. Early stuff is sorta noisy gtr rock, later stuff psychedelicizes but loses the tuneage. The middle-period stuff from their album FOREVER CHANGES is fairly amazing, especially the pretty fake-flamenco "Alone Again Or," the bouncy "Maybe the People Would Be The Times, or Between Clark and Hilldale," & the brilliant, moving "You Set the Scene," which has LONG bn a fave of mine, & the only song of theirs I'd heard B4 buying this.
Some of it's just weird: "Your Mind and We Belong Together" starts as a gorgeous love song, then turns a corner in2 psychedelic gtr noise -- but it works! Still not sure about "7 And 7 Is," Cms sorta like punk-gtr noise (which U might like more than me). But their version of Burt Bacharach's "My Little Red Book" is a grabber -- I started singing along with the choruses the 1st time I heard it! I KNOW those lyrics! WHO hadda hit w/ this song?!
Gentle Giant: LIVE/PLAYING THE FOOL (1977) -- The live version of "Funny Ways" is worth the price of the album. Creepy. At 1st I related 2 it totally. Then I started wondering if mayB the narrator's sposta B a sociopath. Chilling. ...Oh, there's some other good stuff here 2, including a 15-min medley of themes from their album OCTOPUS. No live version of "Think of Me with Kindness," un4tun8ly....
Weather Report: 8:30/LIVE (1980) -- The "Bahia/Boogie Woogie Waltz" medley is AMAZING. 2 me it's a depiction of a harried NYC commuter running 2 the subway train as his wife shouts honey-do's out the window Bhind him, then there's the stressful trip 2 his destination -- & at the Nd, the train crashes & sprawls across the concert stage -- in slow motion. There's some other OK stuff here, but nothing else that's NEwhere near as amazing.
Updates & more soon....

2 comments:

rastronomicals said...

Listening to "Where Is the Dream of Your Youth" for the first time on your recomendation right now. I'd always known Wakeman had played in the Strawbs, and I'd even heard of this "Antiques and Curios" thing, but I'd never listened to 'em.

Very nice, actually, though the song as presented here anyway is little more than window dressing for Wakeman's lengthy soloing. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose.

Now the Itunes has moved into "Down by the Sea." Clearly Wakeman is gone by the time this was made. I guess my opinion is that the song fades in and out of interestingness, but that there are still meaty parts. I'll keep both, though the "Youth" is cooler coz of Mssr. Wakeman.

Still waiting for "The Hangman and the Papist" to come in. Thanks for the handy guide . . . .

tad said...

Thanx, R. As a prog fan from Way Back, U might also like "Hero and Heroine," tho it's Out There. I didn't know whether 2 laff or scream the 1st time I heard it.
& thanx 4 yr continued support. It's like U're the only guy reading me right now.... -- TAD.