Saturday, March 13, 2010

Neglected Albums of the Week

So, it was Fri! & the sun WASN'T out! But I put some music on NEway, 2 help me wake up & mayB get me ready 2 face the world....
Started w/ Jade Warrior's "A Winter's Tale," which I hadn't heard since 1982. Good wake-up music, w/ that transition from the quiet opening w/ the softly strummed acoustic guitar & the flute 2 the ringing electric finale. & it still sounded great after 28 yrs. Very much an early-'70s hippie-pastoral piece, but nice. They wisely led-off their 1972 album LAST AUTUMN'S DREAM w/ it.
I haven't heard the resta the album in 4ever, I'll havta play it all the way thru sometime soon. I remember parts of it as Bing rather unpleasantly, overbearingly heavy (especially "Snake") 4 what was really a pretty gentle band, now apparently Cn as "the godfathers of New Age"....
On then 2 Happy the Man's "On Time As a Helix of Precious Laughs," which I've bn playing A LOT. Can't help it, it's magical -- from the wistful lyrics about love & laffs & the passage of time, 2 Stan Whittaker's wailing guitar interjections against the lush keyboard backing -- HTM shoulda led their 1st (1977) album w/ this. It's also good wake-up music & it's immediately grabbing.
Next 2 Eno's "Burning Airlines Give You So Much More" (from TAKING TIGER MOUNTAIN BY STRATEGY, 1975), a kinda twisted travel-journal pop-song. Not bad, pretty cute. Wanted 2 go on 2 other Eno stuff, was especially looking 4ward 2 "Baby's On Fire" & "Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch" (on HERE COME THE WARM JETS, 1974) (doesn't Eno have great song-titles? I'm curious about "Mother Whale Eyeless," 2) -- but my 6-yr-old CD player/turntable/cassette player/radio/alarm clock/model-rocket-launcher botched up & would let me proceed no farther.
(Probly just a temporary thing -- it's very cranky, tends 2 get tired & stop working, the CD tray has tried 2 eat CDs B4 by closing unXpectedly, has locked shut w/ a CD inside & hadta B pried-open, & I'm suprised it hasn't taken NE of my fingers off yet. But hey, it's got *PERSONALITY!!!* ... MayB I can piece-2gether a new CD player outta band-aids & dead frogs or somethin....)
So. On2 vinyl. Started w/ the 1st side of BUCKINGHAM/NICKS (1973), which I also hadn't heard in yrs. Usually it's "Without a Leg to Stand On" that grabs me the most (still my fave), but this time it was "Crystal" that cot me short, not sure why. Xcept it's beautiful, much better than Fleetwood Mac's later version, w/ lotsa twiddly Lindsey Buckingham gtr & his relaxed lead vocal. Has NE1 noticed that "Crystal" is sorta a watery version of Mac's "Landslide"? Stevie Nicks wrote both of them....
...But the obvious choice 4 Neglected Album of the Week (start of a new feature here, mayB) was Camel's I CAN SEE YOUR HOUSE FROM HERE (1979). Of course it's got some real sub-par garbage on it -- most of Camel's later albums (Xcept NUDE, 1980) R pretty uneven: SINGLE FACTOR (1982) has a CLASSIC 2nd side, but the 1st side's like plunging offa cliff; BREATHLESS (1978) has a very strong 1st side, but the 2nd side's very hit-or-miss.
HOUSE was originally gonna B called ENDANGERED SPECIES, a title I like a whole lot better, & an Xpression of the record-co. pressure 2 B "more commercial" that Camel-leader/gtrist Andy Latimer & his cohorts were under.
The album's opener, "Wait," Cms sorta pushy & rushed, but the choruses grow on U & the yearning gtr phrases that lead back in2 the verses R pretty great.
"Your Love is Stranger Than Mine" is the 1st of 4 "commercial" trax -- it's not completely offensive, Dspite the bouncy-poppy tempo. But it could B NE1.
The other 3 "cmcl" trax R all on Side 2: "Hymn to Her" is just kinda lame & meandering. "Neon Magic" is absolutely offensive -- an Mbarrassing stab at new wave/punk rock, rotten from the lyrics on.
The computerized, then-ultra-high-tech "Remote Romance" was REALLY annoying the 1st time I heard it all those yrs ago, but it's really kinda cute & it grows on U like a fungus. But I kinda wonder if it wasn't gadget-y, high-tech album-producer Rupert Hine's idea....
The Good Stuff is buried in the 2nd 1/2 of the 2 sides, as if 2 say 2 hard-core fans: "OK, U got thru the gimmicks, here's yr reward."
"Eye of the Storm" sounds JUST LIKE Happy the Man, as it should, since 4mer HTM keybsman & then-new Camel member Kit Watkins wrote it. It's a gorgeous, simple, keyboard-dominated piece w/ a sorta martial-sounding fade-out. (I understand HTM's version is on their 3RD/BETTER LATE album, hard 2 C how it could top this version.)
"Who We Are" continues the high-quality stuff & is the best vocal piece on the album. A gorgeous, reassuring lovesong w/ 1 of Latimer's best vocals, it sprawls across nearly 8 mins & is absolutely worth the trip. These 2 trax R worthy of Bing included on a best-of.
The remaining track is the 10-min gtr showcase "Ice," reportedly recorded in 1 take. With summa the flavor of Camel's SNOW GOOSE & NUDE, "Ice" is intense & haunting but never quite Cms 2 get 2 wherever it's going. Latimer is a superb lyrical gtrist, but he & Anthony Phillips Xpress more emotion in the 2-min instrumental "End Peace" at the close of SINGLE FACTOR than Latimer gets across here. (So does Stan Whittaker in his short gtr interjections in HTM's "Precious Laughs.") Worth hearing, but I don't think it's among the best things Camel ever did....
Phil Collins supposedly adds percussion on "Ice" -- U'll listen in vain 4 it.
...I never got 2 Judie Tzuke's STAY WITH ME 'TIL DAWN (1979, another album I haven't played in a few yrs), sweeping orchestral singer-songwriter stuff that could almost B art-rock; or Amazing Blondel's folk-arty ENGLAND (1973); or the 2 sides of Nektar's THRU THE EARS best-of (1977) that I don't think I've ever heard; or Gentle Giant's LIVE/PLAYING THE FOOL (1977), most of which I haven't listened-2; or Synergy's ELECTRONIC REALIZATIONS FOR ROCK ORCHESTRA (1975), almost all of which I've 4gotten Xcept 4 the soaring epic "Warriors." Those will all havta wait 'til next time....
Currently reading: Alexei & Cory Panshin's SCIENCE FICTION IN DIMENSION (1980), which I'd hoped collected the series of critical columns (of the same name) that the Panshins wrote 4 FANTASTIC magazine back in the early '70s -- visionary, uplifting, optimistic articles which looked at then-current SF novels & the then-state of the SF field & urged writers 2 try "speculative fantasy," an approach in which the whole universe of the imagination could B Xplored & writers wouldn't havta write melodrama or spend 1/2 their time Xplaining everything....
A coupla those columns R included here. But mainly what SF IN DIMENSION is ... is a bunch of book reviews. & that's fine. I liked their book reviews 4 FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION 2, & mosta those R here. But so far there's very little of the visionary, uplifting, Ncouraging, daring writing I remember, & the book suffers 4 that. But we'll C where it goes....

2 comments:

rastronomicals said...

Trying to digest all this . . . always kind of heady reading your posts, all the names spin in space before me, I can't always keep them straight.

Think I downloaded some Camel at some point, the album that looks like the pack of cigarettes, except in double vision. And I sort of remember liking the song or two that I've heard, even if they hadn't sounded as much like Caravan as I remember expecting.

And this Happy The Man thing, not to be confused with Man, who had that album with Alfred E Neuman on the cover, if I remember my Album Cover Album correctly.

And of course Happy The Man is not Stone The Crows. Are there any other bands with names in the form x The y?

Since I'm guessing that "On Time As a Helix of Precious Laughs" HAD to be a tribute of sorts to Chip Delaney, I wonder whether Happy The Man had any other science fiction references in their music?

Eno DOES have great titles . . . . great lyrics too. Amazing that someone who became so disenchanted with the word as a musical tool had used them so very well.

tad said...

R: Thanx 4 commenting. Where 2 start?
The Camel album yr referring 2 is called MIRAGE, it's their 2nd, & has some good stuff on it, especially the long closing "Lady Fantasy" suite -- OK overall, tho (I think) simpler, more rocking & not as keyboard-lush as summa their later stuff, which 4 some fans is just fine. Their most Caravan-ish stuff is likely on BREATHLESS & RAIN DANCES (where Eno has a cameo on 1 track), where 4mer Caravan guy Richard Sinclair handles vocals & bass -- also on the suite-like layouts of SNOW GOOSE & NUDE -- I like all these albums, but then I always liked Camel's smoother, more pop-leaning stuff (tho not when they completely caved-in)....
Not sure if HTM's "Precious Laughs" is a Delany tribute or not, tho I caught the title's reference 2 Delany's "Time as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones".... I've read 4 Delany novels (tho haven't finished NEthing since NOVA), coupla books of his non-fiction/criticism, & mosta the early (pre-1970) short stories, & I can't C NE direct refrences, tho the title similarities R 2 close 4 there not 2 B something....
Also, HTM's "Wind-Up Doll Day Wind" offa CRAFTY HANDS is nothing but 1 long science-fiction reference -- very futuristic, mechanical, robotic, computerized, etc. & a real blow-out 1nce it gets going....
(Also guess I should write-up Delany's EMPIRE STAR someday -- it's really great, tho NE post I'd write'd probly B longer than the book....)
Will B getting back 2 Eno, of course, CD-player Dpending....
I saw Man in concert 1nce, opening 4 REO Speedwagon & Blue Oyster Cult (Boise, Idaho, 1975) -- I remember some OK guitar work but that's all ... but it was a LONG time ago. Never heard NE of their albums, tho they were everywhere 4 awhile in the mid/late-'70s -- & whoever signed rock acts 2 United Artists back then was pretty adventurous: They had Man, Can, Hawkwind, Amon Duul II.... & Man's leader/gtrist Deke Leonard was a big SF fan....
As 4 other band names in the BLAHtheBLAHBLAH 4mat, there is Toad the Wet Sprocket, which comes from a Monty Python routine....
Why I remember all this stuff when I can't remember last wk, I don't know, but I read a review 1nce that Dscribed a certain postmodern novelist as "a perpetual noticing machine," & sometimes I think that's a pretty good thing 2 B. Thanx again 4 commenting. -- TAD.