Sunday, January 6, 2013

#621: The world ain't listenin'

OK, so let's forget about the Grammys -- ain't nothin' intrestin' happnin' there, as usual -- & instead let's stumble back in2 the past on a mid-Winter mostly-new-2-me music break. Here's the list:

Michael McGear: McGEAR (1974, Side 1) -- Leave It, Sea Breezes, What Do We Really Know?, Norton, Have You Got Problems?
Nektar -- Nelly the Elephant.
Beatles -- I'm Down, Hey Bulldog.
Gentle Giant: GIANT FOR A DAY (1978, Side 1) -- Words From the Wise, Thank You, Giant for a Day, Spooky Boogie, Take Me.
Kracker -- Because of You (The Sun Don't Set).
Fleetwood Mac -- Why?
Arlo Guthrie -- Coming into Los Angeles.
Tom Lehrer: SONGS OF TOM LEHRER (1956???) -- I Wanna Go Back to Dixie, Lobachevsky, Fight Friendly Harvard, The Old Dope Peddler, Be Prepared....
Illusion: (2ND) (1978) -- Madonna Blue, Never be the Same, Louis' Theme, Wings Across the Sea, Cruising Nowhere....

Mike McGear's "Leave It" was almost a hit in Boise, Idaho, in the Fall of 1974. But it never made the nationwide Top 100, & I wonder why? Is it because Mike really does sing "Peeling off her underwear" at 1 point in the lyrics? Could be. Doesn't matter -- still bouncy & charming, tho faster & shriller than I remembered. Mike's brother Paul McCartney produced, & it's basically Wings doing the backup -- like a good off-the-wall Wings song, not as great as "Junior's Farm" but better than "Sally G."
So's mosta the rest of at least the 1st side -- "Sea Breezes" has a nice, big atmospheric production, but I haven't heard the Roxy Music original. Brother Paul produced & co-wrote mosta the resta the album: "What Do We Really Know?" sounds kinda rushed & silly, more echoes of Wings. "Norton" is spoken silliness, sounds like Robert Calvert from Hawkwind -- some nice brief guitar, tho. "Have You Got Problems?" sounds like Wings-album filler, but with some good pushy choruses, & it gets a bit Elvis-y near the end. OK good-time music. Warner Bros released this -- I wonder why it didn't get more of a push?
"Nelly the Elephant" features some good loud fuzz-guitar from Roye Albrighton on an instrumental with bits of silly narration by Viv Stanshall of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. Jeez, there's even a horn section. Not the stomper that I'd hoped 4....
"I'm Down" is more like it. A hilarious screamer. Paul's line about his date telling him 2 keep his hands 2 himself puts me on the floor every time. & how bout that hysterical organ solo? Great screaming vocal by Paul.
"Hey Bulldog" has more great vocals from John, & the lyrics about NOT communicating R VERY direct -- John sounds angry. Nice gtr riff. & some intresting chaos at the end....
Hadn't heard GIANT FOR A DAY since 1978, when I thot it was The Worst Album Of All Time. Turns out it's not even close. (& of course it sounds better almost 35 years later, almost everything does.)
"Words from the Wise" is very pleasant 1nce you get over the lack of blatantly-obvious musical tricks. (Of course, musical trix is what I WANTED back in '78....) Apart from the acapella opening, the song's a very nice commercial compromise, pretty catchy. Sounds a little like Manfred Mann's Earth Band meets Yes in a couple places.
"Thank You" is just a nice, low-key, mellow lovesong, not 2 far away from GG's earlier great "Think of Me With Kindness." The title song, however, IS annoying -- speedy, whiny, trebly, New Wave-influenced -- they've had WAY 2 MUCH coffee. The choruses Rn't completely terrible.
"Spooky Boogie" is kinda generic Halloween music, mildly playful with some OK keyboards. At least it's not 2 long. "Take Me" has some OK choruses -- it's nice tho not stunning, & definitely not distinctive. Overall, these 5 trax make 4 a short side. I might even get brave enuf 2 play Side 2 again someday soon....
After acclimatizing from not hearing it 4 35 years, I've decided "Because of You" is pure 1972 -- a tight, mostly-Hispanic 5-piece band with great playing & nice group vocals on a catchy, hypnotic song that shoulda been a hit. Jimmy Miller co-produced, the album came in a deluxe fake-cigar-box, & I'll bet neither Dunhill/ABC or the band got their $$$ back....
The Mac's "Why?" is just glorious, from Bob Weston's twangy slide gtr in the opening 2 the dreamy group vocals & strings at the end. It's been 1 of my favorites since I 1st heard it at the end of THE CHAIN box-set while I was living in Wyoming 15 years ago. You can also find it at the very end of Mac's MYSTERY TO ME. Buried treasure.
Arlo's "Coming into Los Angeles" is a hilarious classic that shouldabeenahit. D'ya spose The Subject kept that from happening? WB should re-release it now. Arlo sure sounds like Bob Dylan. & there's some nice spacey gee-tar.
I fished Tom Lehrer outta the bin at Goodwill cos I know Rastro's a big fan. I find TL funny in a dated kinda way, like listening 2 a jazz-era hipster talk, daddy-O. 4 some reason, I don't know why, I'm also reminded of Al Jolson.... There R some bright spots: "Fight Friendly Harvard" is hilarious & VERY dignified, & the liner notes on this 10-inch mini-album R a must-read. & I gotta give Tom props 4 having his own record label at the end of the '50s(!). Is this disc a collector's item?
Illusion's OUT OF THE MIST has been 1 of my all-time fave albums since I 1st heard it in 1978. Seemed 2 me then that Illusion had the Renaissance-style sound DOWN -- symphonic art-rock, but punchier, more forceful, not prissy or stuck-up, with good gtr & keybs 2 match the lush vocals. But then, they SHOULD have had their stuff 2gether by then -- members of the band were in Keith Relf's original Renaissance, back in the late '60s.
What a shock then 2 put on Illusion's (2ND) & B transported back 2 '78 by "Madonna Blue," which is dreamy & lush & dramatic & forceful -- & as confident-sounding as the best stuff on OUT OF THE MIST. So sue me, I'm a sucker 4 this stuff....
But it doesn't STAY that way....
"Never be the Same" is short, single-ish lovesong material, nice but not great. "Louis' Theme" drags a bit at 7 mins. "Wings Across the Sea" is more lovesong stuff, nice but not stunning. "Cruising Nowhere" sounds XACTLY like Renaissance, with some nice John Hawken synthesizer -- but it also has some embarrassing lyrics about NOT being a member of the In Crowd.... A peek at lyrics 4 the concluding "Man of Miracles" & "The Revolutionary" promised more of the same -- 1 thing OUT OF THE MIST didn't have was embarrassing lyrics, even when the production was going all semi-operatic....
So far, what Illusion's (2ND) could use is a lighter lyrical hand & some more of Hawken's forceful keyboards, like on "Candles are Burning" on the earlier album. But even tho it was probly dated-sounding on the day it was released, it's really nice 2 hear this kind of prog done pretty-well again, & I'll B finishing-up the album in the near-future.

Coming up next: Millard Fillmore's birthday!

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