Tuesday, January 17, 2012

#518: Noodling Btween snowstorms

On a clear, sunny (but not warm) Tues aft -- the calm Btween 2 snowstorms -- I didn't feel 2 terrible & was able 2 play a LOT of new-2-me music. 1 thing the new CD player has bn forcing me 2 do is start at the START of a CD & play it all the way thru 2 get 2 what I want 2 hear -- which is very much against my usual habit. The CD player has a remote but no batteries yet, so I can't skip around like I useta do. This may B a good thing 4 me. It's at least a change in habits. A playlist & comments follow....

Hatfield and the North -- (1ST ALBUM): The Stubbs Effect, Big Jobs (Poo Poo Extract), Going Up to People and Tinkling, Calyx, Son of "There's No Place Like Homerton," Aigrette, Rifferama, Fol De Rol, Shaving is Boring, Licks for the Ladies, Bossa Nochance, Big Jobs No. 2 (By Poo and the Wee Wees), Lobster in Cleavage Probe, Giant Land Crabs in Earth Takeover Bid, The Other Stubbs Effect, Let's Eat (Real Soon), Fitter Stoke Has a Bath.
Spinners -- Games People Play, Sadie.
The Fifth Dimension -- THE MAGIC GARDEN: Prologue, The Magic Garden, Summer's Daughter, Dreams/Pax/Nepenthe, Carpet Man, Requiem: 820 Latham, The Girls' Song, The Worst That Could Happen, Orange Air, Paper Cup, Epilogue; Last Night I Didn't Get to Sleep at All.
Animal Collective -- In the Flowers, My Girls, Also Frightened (opening).
Van Morrison -- ASTRAL WEEKS: Astral Weeks, Beside You, Sweet Thing, Cyprus Avenue, The Way Young Lovers Do, Madame George, Ballerina, Slim Slow Slider.
Hatfield and the North -- Share It, Lounging There Trying, (Big) John Wayne Socks Psychology on the Jaw, Chaos at the Greasy Spoon, The Yes No Interlude.
I wish the Hatfields were as good & as funny as their song titles. When they stuck 2 their charming, tinkly, sparkly stuff I thot they were OK; when they got heavier they were harder 2 listen 2. The Hats' 1st album (1974) featured 15 songs that flowed 2gether in2 side-long suites. Bassist Richard Sinclair's baritone vocals & silly lyrics (at the Bginning & end) were always nice 2 hear, but there weren't enuf of them on the 1st album, & some of the rest is tough going. Not enuf TUNES 4 me.
Mostly the 1st album is pleasant noodling that sometimes Dgenerates in2 noise -- usually when Phil Miller's screeching feedbacky guitar or Dave Stewart's sometimes-atonal keyboards take over. There R also nice airy backing vocals from The Northettes. "Land Crabs" has a nice jamming finish that gets cut off. Drummer Pip Pyle's lyrics on "Fitter Stoke" sound kinda lonely.
After that I needed something more down-2-earth. Always loved the Spinners back in their heyday. Hadn't heard "Games People Play" in awhile & was suprised how pleasantly it bounces thru 4-1/2 mins. It's almost TOO smooth, but the changing vocalists helps. "Sadie" is a hymn of praise 2 a young mother -- a relaxed, underrated R&B hit. Both from THE DEFINITIVE COLLECTION.
The 5th Dimension's MAGIC GARDEN is a 4gotten 1968 concept album with lyrics & arrangements by songwriter Jimmy Webb -- it's based on a bad relationship he had. Bones Howe produced with his usual great vocal sound; L.A.'s "Wrecking Crew" of top studio musicians (Hal Blaine, Larry Knechtel, Joe Osborn, Tommy Tedesco, etc.) play on the trax. Despite the 5D's Grammy-winning "Up, Up and Away" the year B4 & "Aquarius" a year later, MAGIC GARDEN bombed -- it didn't even make the BILLBOARD Top 100 LP's. "Carpet Man" & "Paper Cup" were minor hits.
Reportedly, British folksinger Nick Drake loved this album 4 the way it mixed pop vocals & orchestrations. All that said, some of it's very dated. "Summer's Daughter" especially -- Dspite the gorgeous group vocals -- is very Flower Power/1968-ish. But the title track opens with gorgeous, bouncy, sunshiney group vocals -- like late '60s soundtrack music at its very best. Then there's a dreamy closing. "Dreams/Pax/Nepenthe" sounds very vocal-lessons/show-offy, Dspite the occasional nice vocal textures. There's even some sitar....
But "Carpet Man" is just freakin' great, & the vocals really soar.
Some of Webb's lyrics on "Requiem: 820 Latham" R pretty vivid & passionate, & the solo vocal by 1 of the 3 guys in the group (which 1 isn't identified, & I don't know) is pretty great. "The Girls' Song" has a nice lead vocal by Marilyn McCoo. "The Worst That Could Happen" is just slightly less punchy than the later hit version by the Brooklyn Bridge -- & there's no real ending.
After that, I hadta put on "Last Night I Didn't Get to Sleep at All," which I've always bn a sucker 4, from GREATEST HITS ON EARTH. It's SO 1972. I'm a sucker 4 "If I Could Reach You," 2....
I've tried sevral times 2 hear Animal Collective. From what I can tell, their 2009 MERRIWEATHER POST PAVILION album is sorta trancey, pounding, synth-wash-type stuff. The keyboards R ever-present, the songs R built on a bed of them. But there's not enuf structure 4 me 2 grab ahold of.
The middle section of "My Girls" brightens somewhat, but their songs progress melodically as little as some of Coldplay's less-inspired stuff. The lyrics R the same lines chanted over & over. When the opening of "Also Frightened" looked 2 B more of the same, I hadta stop.
So instead I went 2 1 of Van Morrison's jazziest albums. "Astral Weeks" itself is musically very pleasant, tho I'm not sure about the lyrics. "Sweet Thing" is perhaps the best thing here, with a nice mood & good choruses -- it's also the closest thing 2 a structured song so far....
"Cyprus Avenue" has some nice fiddle & piano. All of this noodles along & drifts quite pleasantly -- the diffrence here is that I can HEAR what's going on, the production is very clear.
The horns R kinda corny & soundtracky on "The Way Young Lovers Do," which was an obvious attempt at a possible single. "Slim Slow Slider" is brief & the last verse is disturbing, & it cuts off abruptly. & then there's "Madame George"....
This isn't rock&roll, it's way closer 2 jazz. I don't know if this album is worth all the melodrama that rock critic Lester Bangs 1nce wrote about it -- I tend 2 think Lester's cosmic review was better than the album -- but it's hard 2 believe that this was all recorded in a coupla days, or that Van basically gave no musical direction 2 the backing musicians. If it weren't 4 them, the 7-minute "Ballerina" would have no structure at all....
Returning 2 the Hatfields' 2nd album THE ROTTERS CLUB 2 close: "Share It" features Richard Sinclair's usual good vocal & twisted lyrics. "Lounging There Trying" has the Hats' (& National Health's) usual sound -- Phil Miller's rather-more-delicate-than-usual gtr over Sinclair's busy bass & Dave Stewart's lite keys. A lot of National Health's later stuff sounds like this (as it should, only Sinclair is missing from that later band).
Then it gets heavier & noisier again with "Big John Wayne" & the suite that follows....

More soon. I've got some new Squeeze music in the house, & I only know about a handful of their songs, others I haven't heard in 30 years....

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