Saturday, October 2, 2010

Still alive and ... well....

Greetings. I'm still here. Been listening 2 music a lot more than usual lately, been reading a lot as usual, & hava lotta stuff I wanna tell you about. Briefly.

MUSIC: The past few Fridays have been sunny as Western Wash TRIES 2 have an Indian Summer, & I've been awakened early by our next-door-neighbors' sawing, hammering & nail-gunning as they try 2 turn their old garage in2 a church dormitory or something. 2 keep my mood up I've musicked-out a lot more than NEtime since last April or May. Fighting my cheap & cranky CD player all the way, the playlist has included:
Van Morrison: Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile)/Wild Night/Into the Mystic.
Jade Warrior: A Winter's Tale.
Happy the Man: On Time as a Helix of Precious Laughs.
Fleet Foxes: Blue Ridge Mountains.
Doobie Bros.: Neal's Fandango.
Rush: Time Stand Still.
Norah Jones: Shoot the Moon/The Long Day is Over.
Vertical Horizon: Everything You Want.
Fairport Convention: Stranger to Himself.
Badfinger: In the Meantime/Some Other Time.
Caravan: Memory Lain/Hugh/Headloss.
U2: Sometimes You Can't Make it On Your Own.
Coldplay: Clocks.
Kenny Loggins: Conviction of the Heart.
Mary Chapin Carpenter: Passionate Kisses/The Hard Way/The Long Way Home.
Fleetwood Mac: Say You Will.
Strawbs: Down by the Sea.
Keane: Somewhere Only We Know/This is the Last Time/Bend and Break.
King Crimson: Sleepless/Three of a Perfect Pair/The King Crimson Barber Shop/Frame by Frame/Happy With What You Have to be Happy With/The Sailor's Tale/Bolero.
Pam Tillis: Whenever You Walk in the Room/Homeward Looking Angel.
Hatfield and the North: Share It/Fitter Stoke Has a Bath/Mumps.
Soft Machine: Why Are We Sleeping?/Feelin' Reelin' Squeelin'/Love Makes Sweet Music/Hope for Happiness/Hibou Anenome and Bear/Out-Bloody-Rageous/etc....

A few notes: On these musicking-out Fridays I start out w/ lite, breezy stuff & then tend 2 search out music that performs open-heart surgery on my emotions, 4 whatever reason. In this lineup, Happy the Man, U2, Fairport & even Kenny Loggins(!) all had me in tears (the latter with the line "To forgive and be forgiven"), so obviously there R still a few issues I have yet 2 work out.
As 4 the others, the Jade Warrior still has a gorgeous guitar-fanfare close, as great as it was when I 1st heard it in 1977; the Doobies shoulda gone on 4 about 6 or 8 mins; Fairport's "Stranger" is a stark, lonely funeral march; MC Carpenter's "Long Way Home" is an (eventually) winning lecture about not forgetting 2 stop & smell the roses; KC's "Barber Shop" is only about the 3rd on-purpose joke in their entire career ("Cat Food" & "Happy With".... R the other 2 I know of -- tho Belew's line in "Sleepless" about submarines lurking in his ceiling gets me every time). "Happy With" was a lot more fun when I saw them do it in concert in Seattle in 2003.... (& how bout going from KC 2 Pam Tillis? Whatta segue! Who else woulda dared....)
The Hatfields' "Share It" is pretty neat -- I like Richard Sinclair's direct-comedy #'s. Late drummer Pip Pyle's "Fitter Stoke" is more of a lonely, forlorn piece, tho still amusingly sung by Sinclair. & "Mumps," the Hatfields' supposed magnum opus, is pretty good, w/ a nice repeating theme that's a real treat when it turns up again toward the end of the piece. Still think Dave Stewart's organ sounds R a little weedy, & the band's twiddly gtr/organ bits w/ female-soprano vocals soaring over the top is pretty much their trademarked sound ... but I'm 2 the point now where I sorta like it.
& Soft Machine. Well, "Why Are We Sleeping?" is pretty great. Nice 2 hear Kevin Ayers' low&mellow vocals again, since I rather stupidly traded-off his ODD DITTIES best-of album a coupla yrs back -- how'm I ever gonna live without hearing "Connie on a Rubber Band" 1 more time?
Mike Ratledge's organ tones sound a lot like early Caravan, which is fine, tho I prefer Dave Sinclair. But hearing early Caravan & the Hatfields mayB gave me a door in2 the Softs, finally. Some of this stuff may strike me as thin or dated or silly, but I'm not giving up -- & I was suprised I remembered the theme 2 "Out-Bloody-Rageous." Haven't tried "Moon in June" again yet, tho....
More soon.

BOOKS: Currently finishing Sid Smith's IN THE COURT OF KING CRIMSON, the best bio on KC I ever Xpect 2 read until Bob Fripp writes his -- which he SHOULD. Smith not only provides a thorough history of the band, he also looks at each album track by track, talks about where each song came from, analyzes musical content, & covers how the band feels about the work in hindsight. Smith also isn't afraid 2 say if something sucks. My only real complaint w/ his book is that it's 2 short -- w/ everything that's here there's still more I'd like 2 know. + I'd like 2 know what kinda gyrations the band went thru while recording THE POWER TO BELIEVE.
Intresting that 4 all the great music that was produced by this band, it still wasn't enuf 2 make the folks in it happy -- Adrian Belew never felt he got enuf credit 4 his great lyrics & wild guitar; Bill Bruford apparently took 25 yrs of abuse. Smith's book also shows-up Bob Fripp 4 the controlling, perverse weirdo he's always been, & puts a different spin on summa the events also mentioned in....
Bill Bruford's THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY, a sorta 400-pg retirement speech from the drummer, who gave up public performance in Jan 2009. There R LOTS of great stories here, tho of course I woulda loved 2 hear more -- Xactly the kinda stuff that Bruford sez in the book bores him 2 tears. Ah well. My only REAL complaint is that his book isn't 600 pgs. You might also B amused by summa the rather icy things Bruford sez about summa the people he's worked with -- How Yes hadta hold a committee meeting 2 Dcide what day it was; the reason why bassist Chris Squire's nickname is "The Fish" -- Bruford calls him "torpid." There's a whole CHAPTER on what it's like 2 work w/ Fripp. There R also chapters about touring w/ Yes, KC, Genesis, UK, Gong, National Health, Bruford, Earthworks, & more. If you like any of these acts, you'll wanna read this book. Sheez, I'm thinkin bout readin Keith Emerson's autobio, now....
Still looking 4 the ultimate prog-rock history book, haven't found it yet. Charles Snider's STRAWBERRY BRICKS GUIDE TO PROGRESSIVE ROCK reviews 250+ prog-related albums from SGT. PEPPER to THE WALL, including a LOT of German & Italian stuff I've never heard -- there's a lot of real good info in it. But. Snider's timeline cuts off a little 2 early -- I think he coulda at least gone on thru 1982 or so. Snider has no idea what 2 do with apostrophes or commas, & he occasionally gets musicians' names, album titles & record labels wrong. Despite that, the info in Snider's book is MILES ahead of say, Jerry Lucky's PROGRESSIVE ROCK FILES. But somebody shoulda proofread it 4 him....
Edward Macan's ROCKING THE CLASSICS is about on the same level as Paul Stump's prog-history THE MUSIC'S ALL THAT MATTERS -- but Macan looks at prog as almost entirely a British creation -- American proggers such as Kansas, Dixie Dregs, Happy the Man, Starcastle, etc. R mentioned, but that's all. Macan is strong on the sociological & economic forces that led 2 the rise & fall of progressive rock, & he is VERY strong on technical analysis. He also analyzes 4 prog pieces in-depth (TARKUS, "Close to the Edge," WISH YOU WERE HERE, "Firth of Fifth"). His book at least mentions Camel, Caravan, Gentle Giant, Soft Machine, Hatfield and the North, etc. I wished his range was wider, but he knows his stuff.
Some of the best things in Macan's book R footnotes -- how Atlantic Records Prez Ahmet Ertegun asked ELP to make LOVE BEACH "as commercial as possible;" Dave Stewart's frustration when Virgin Records turned National Health down for a contract after they'd previously been home 2 Stewart's Hatfields....
Intresting that Bruford quotes from both Macan & Stump on their theories about the decline of prog -- BB was there, I thot he might have his own theories on what happened & why. & he does, but you havta read Btween the lines about his experiences w/ UK 2 find out how he feels about the whole commercialization issue....
DO NOT be sucked in by UNCLE JOE'S GUIDE TO PROGRESSIVE ROCK. Joe Benson is an LA DJ who thinks he knows a few things just because he's read the backs of a few album covers. Unless you're looking 4 VERY basic song-title/composer/album/release-date info, you're not going to find much of intrest here. If you're a fan of the bands you probly know more than Uncle Joe does already -- maybe you should write a book? Example from Uncle Joe's chapter on the Moody Blues: Mike Pinder's song "Simple Game" could NOT have been an outtake from the Moodies' 1972 album SEVENTH SOJOURN, because it was recorded in 1968 & issued as the B-side of "Ride My See-Saw" -- after that I gave up.
I've had 2 take a break from music-related fiction 4 awhile, I was burning out. As a result I've gotta lotta novels on the shelf that're gonna havta wait -- Harlan Ellison's SPIDER KISS, Norman Spinrad's LITTLE HEROES, Bradley Denton's WRACK AND ROLL, Don DeLillo's gloomy GREAT JONES STREET, Laurence Gonzales's JAMBEAUX (6 chapters in, still not sure where it's going).
I AM trying 2 finish Rafi Zabor's THE BEAR COMES HOME, about a jazz-saxophone-playing bear in search of the meaning of music & his own destiny. It's funny, & in places it's beautifully written -- Zabor useta write some wild jazz & pop reviews 4 the old MUSICIAN magazine -- but it's not gripping. I set it down a couple yrs ago 3/4 of the way thru, when the Bear was at the start of a nationwide tour in support of his 1st album. Recently I made it another 75 pgs & it's bn worth the trip, but.... THE BEAR won Zabor the PEN/Faulkner Award 4 best 1st-novel -- you can now get a copy from 4 6 cents. (This is not an ad.)
Fiction just isn't grabbing me NEmore like nonfiction can. Lately if I get bored w/ a novel I'll take a break w/ Paul Theroux's travel writing, like the marvelous THE KINGDOM BY THE SEA (about his walk around the shoreline of the British Isles), or the shorter pieces in his FRESH AIR FIEND. I'd still B willing 2 try a good rock novel, if I could find NE. There R a few others out there I'm aware of -- John Shirley's TRANSMANIACON and ECLIPSE, rocker Mick Farren's THE TEXTS OF FESTIVAL....
...Sorry I've been gone 4 so long. Haven't either felt much like posting or had much 2 write about. & sometimes The World's Smallest Laptop has trouble finding enuf signals 2 transmit. But I'm still functioning. Sorta....


tad said...

PS -- While posting the above in my usual 1/2-asleep state, I 4got 2 mention Soft Machine's "The Soft Weed Factor," which builds slowly over 11 mins & dozens of minor variations in2 a big ensemble piece -- but it doesn't really GO NEwhere, if that makes NE sense. Still, intresting -- I know NOTHING of their later work after THIRD. Xploration continues....
Also: How bout that banjo-ish clangy-metallic guitar on Crimson's "A Sailor's Tale" -- THAT sound's a 1st 4 Fripp. So's "Bolero," orchestrated classical music with hardly NE gtr at all. Very diffrent 4 KC, quite pleasant. Who sez best-of packages can't B educational...?
More soon! -- TAD.

Perplexio said...

Might I recommend an album that's both old and new at the same time... Black Country Communion's Black Country... It was just released on 9/21 but there's definitely a 70s hard rock vibe to the music (and right there should be with Glenn Hughes and Jason Bonham in the band with Joe Bonamassa and Derek Sherinian). I particularly enjoy their Song of Yesterday (track 6). I'm working on a review of the album myself, just haven't had a chance to finish writing it.

rastronomicals said...

Interested to see Fleet Foxes in your list. Picked up one of their EPs at Best Buy one evening recently when I was buying an adapter jack for my newest iPod. The cover art was at the least intriguing. Whether they are a Steeleye Span for the new millenium, time will tell, as I incorporate their music, but, yeah . . . interesting, and I'd be interested to hear what you think.

"The Soft Weed Factor" has been a favorite of my various iPods, and of course I urge you to to continue digging into the legacy of the Soft Machine. Things continue to get more and more fusiony after Third, so if that's an issue, you might have trouble.

But on the other hand, the band would never make an album as noisy in its parts than Third, so if it's that which had been bothering you, you'll be good to go.

Of course, no Robert Wyatt vocals after Third and none of his amazing drums after Fourth, but fortunately for us Wyatt was only one of the three distinctive voices in the Softs: Hugh Hopper contributes his glorious fuzz bass through Six and Mike Ratledge contributes his keyboards and his razor-sharp compositional mind through Bundles.

Perhaps if you don't like the books on prog you see, you should write the ideal one yourself :-) Can't think of too many more expert on the subject.

tad said...

R: Thanx 4 yr comment & Ghod bless ya. After reading it, I sat down over the next coupla days & bashed-out mostly offa the toppa my head a discography of Prog albums & songs I thot were at least worth hearing. When I started running outta names & titles I dug thru the collection 2 jar my memory.
Nded up w/ a 10-pg single-spaced list covering about 90 artists. That's OK 4 starters but it's not enuf, & I know there R big gaps in my listening that I'd havta fill B4 trying 2 tackle a book.
A few Xamples: Most pre-DARK SIDE Pink Floyd, studio Yes from YES ALBUM thru RELAYER, lotsa early Jethro Tull, lotsa early ELP, Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, King Crimson from POSEIDON thru ISLANDS, Soft Machine, Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Procol Harum, The Nice, Can, Van der Graaf, Krautrock in general, Italian stuff, & much more. U C what I mean?
I'm not worried about my enthusiasm -- the best of this stuff moves me like no other music. & $$$ isn't really much of an issue, since these days NEthing I trip over that intrests me I usually buy if I can afford it. But the amount of listening required makes me hesitate. This would B a Life Project. I'd havta re-buy & re-listen-2 TARKUS. & TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS! Do I really havta listen 2 DUKE again? Or OCTAVE? KEYS OF THE KINGDOM?
If I do this -- & I've got notes 4 it dating back 2 1987 -- my title would B "Listen to THIS!"
So, doing NEthing serious 4 the next 10 years? Wanna team up?
Thanx at least 4 getting me thinking about this again. It's made 4 a very pleasant last few days....
...& I thot Fleet Foxes' album was pretty great -- sorta early '60s folk music meets SMILE-era Beach Boys. When I 1st got hold of it I played it all the way thru 3x inna row. 1st time I've done THAT inna LONG time. "Blue Ridge Mountains" is still my faverite, & I think summa the lyrics R a little silly, but man can they SING.... -- TAD.