Saturday, April 27, 2013

#659: Hits Galore!

Here's what I've been listening to lately....

Harvey Danger -- Flagpole Sitta.
Rascals -- THE VERY BEST OF: See, Carry Me Back, Glory Glory, I Ain't Gonna Eat My Heart Out Anymore, Good Lovin', You Better Run, I've Been Lonely too Long, Groovin', A Girl Like You, How Can I be Sure, A Beautiful Morning, People Got to be Free.
Kirsty MacColl -- GALORE best-of: They Don't Know, A New England, There's a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis, He's on the Beach, Fairytale of New York (with The Pogues), Miss Otis Regrets (with The Pogues), Free World, Innocence, You Just Haven't Earned it Yet Baby, Days, Don't Come the Cowboy With Me Sonny Jim, Walking Down Madison, Titanic Days, Caroline, Perfect Day.
Bachman Turner Overdrive -- Blue Collar, Roll on Down the Highway, Hey You.

Harvey Danger's "Flagpole Sitta" is great obnoxious fun, with hilarious lyrics & great singalong choruses -- even though I didn't know what it was for years, & even though (like millions of others, apparently) I thought it was actually sung by Green Day. Great loud weekend music, & needless to say I haven't played the rest of their CD yet ... Because with a song this good, who needs the rest of the album...?
I was never a big Rascals fan back in my youth -- thought they were OK but not stunning. Then found their SEE album second-hand in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming & latched onto the title song, which I still think is their best track ever.
But when you line-up all their hits one after the other, they're pretty tough to deny. "Good Lovin'" is a frat-house-party classic, & these guys were the laid-back kings of their time ("Groovin'," "A Beautiful Morning," "I've Been Lonely Too Long," "A Girl Like You," "People Got to be Free").
About some of the rest I remain unconvinced. "How Can I be Sure" is just a touch too mushy, more fitting for Liza Minnelli or the Partridge Family. Pat Benatar(!) does a better version of "You Better Run," even though I wish there were more upbeat rockers on The Rascals' Rhino/Atlantic best-of. "Carry Me Back" is pretty great until they get to those silly lines about missing their old Kentucky home -- I thought these guys were from Long Island...?
But "See" still sounds great, with some marvelous psychedelic poetry & awesome keyboards. & these guys always had great backing vocals, keyboard & horn work, & even some rockin' harmonica!
For the hits & "See" & "Carry Me Back," well worth your time. They were always cool, but they've gained in coolness over the years -- at least for me.
Ever trip over an artist you think would be right up your alley -- but you never actually get around to hearing them? I did that with British singer-songwriter Kirsty MacColl -- knew she sang with The Pogues & wrote Tracey Ullman's sweet hit "They Don't Know" (& Tracey's cute non-hit "You Broke My Heart in 17 Places"), & I remember seeing ads for her albums KITE and ELECTRIC LANDLADY, & thought I should probably see what was up.
Then she was killed in a tragic accident off of Cozumel, Mexico in 2000 -- saving one of her sons before being hit by a boat & dying instantly.
Well, I never did look into her albums ... 'til I got a copy of her GALORE best-of in the mail last week. & I've been playing it pretty-much non-stop ever since.
It's patchy -- but the best stuff is REALLY good. You probably shouldn't listen to it in order, though, like I did. Because it opens with a kind of flat version of "They Don't Know," which doesn't take off until she hits that loud "BAY-BEE!" near the end. By then it's clear that Tracey Ullman's producer borrowed the arrangement, backing vocals & even the guitar solo from here wholesale -- & just punched them up a bit. & Tracey had the hit because her vocal was a lot more lively.
Which sort of defines the best stuff here -- the songs that work best are those where Kirsty could mouth-off a little. "There's a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis" is a rockabilly-style classic in which Kirsty can't take anything her date says Seriously. The Pogues' "Fairytale of New York" is a hilarious Christmas song that I'm happy to see has become a holiday classic. "You Just Haven't Earned it Yet Baby" is a hilariously self-pitying cover of a song by The Smiths -- who I've never heard but now might have to look into. "He's on the Beach" is a charming, bouncy lost-love number. "Caroline" is another charming, bouncy upbeat tune -- this time narrated by The Other Woman. "Innocence" is also bouncy, upbeat, nice.
Some of the others I'm not sure about. "A New England" adds the epic chiming guitar chords from Pink Floyd's "Run Like Hell" to a fairly standard love story. "Miss Otis Regrets" is an old Cole Porter tune, & even though there's a murder in it, I couldn't get through it.
Some of the other tracks seem to me flat or slow or dated. Kirsty does a pleasant but kind of flat version of The Kinks' klassic "Days" -- which just makes me want to hear Ray Davies' original again. "Don't Come the Cowboy With Me Sunny Jim" is Cute but TOO Country, & not in a good way.
Best of all is "Free World," which comes on as a speedy throwaway at first -- then the lyrics kick in, & the guitar is pretty ferocious. At first I thought it was a kiss-off to some rich boyfriend, but Wikipedia says it was at least partly intended as a criticism of Margaret Thatcher -- & it works in the U.S., too. Kirsty's lyrics are bitter & angry -- it's freaking GREAT. & it's over with WAY too soon. It's an absolute Must Hear. I wouldn't mind an endless loop of this playing over&over in my brain, right now....
I wouldn't tell you if I didn't care....

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

#666: King Crimson, of course

By the time I tripped-over King Crimson's massive, Xpensive English best-of THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO KING CRIMSON in Summer 1978, I'd already burned thru copies of their LARKS' TONGUES IN ASPIC and STARLESS AND BIBLE BLACK, & was still trying 2 figure out what all the fuss was about.
It just seemed like NOISE 2 me. Somehow I couldn't hear the ferociously driving guitars at the start of "The Great Deceiver," the slowly-building drama in "The Talking Drum." All I could hear was the electronic shrieking of "Larks' Tongues" & the lurid bump&grind of "Easy Money." & I wasn't impressed. I couldn't figure out how these guys' reputations could B so high.
YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE changed all that.
The cover grabbed me 1st -- the front depicting in sorta Tarot-card fashion a creature at a keyboard unrolling sheets of music down a mountainside. This painting, "The Landscape Player," indirectly inspired a 40-page piece of fiction from me about 10 years later....
The back cover showed an evilly grinning Moon. There was no indication of what kinda music was inside -- I assumed it was 1 of those obscure British various-artists collections. So I looked on the spine: KC? Must B a best-of. Well, whatthehell. The School Of Strange Music had taught me 2 take a chance on weird album covers....
At the time, this 2-record import album was the most $$$ I'd ever spent on 1 package -- around $13, a pretty good amount of $$$ 4 an album, back then. Took it home, put it on the player, & was slowly stunned by KC's range & control of mood.
The best-of opened with "Epitaph," a sorta heavier, doomier Moody Blues-like tune, with Greg Lake (later of ELP) on lead vocals. Heavily dramatic but easy 2 get in2, clearly some kinda forgotten classic.
Then came the delicate "Cadence and Cascade," which was the absolute flip-side of "Epitaph" -- light & pastel, kinda hazy, not heavy or violent at all. Then came "Ladies of the Road," which returned 2 the obvious bump&grind of "Easy Money," pretty dead-obvious 4 a bunch of arty intellectuals -- tho I could appreciate Mel Collins's raucous sax-freakout near the end.
Then came a demo -- Judy Dyble handling lead vocals onna version of "I Talk to the Wind" that coulda bn a hit. Sorta in the same neighborhood as Fairport Convention, tho lighter.
So far I'd been impressed by their range, heavy 2 light, with all bases in Btween covered. But then I put on Side 2. & was immediately pile-driven in2 the floor by the stunning 6-minute guitar riff "Red." No subtlety here, just blastin' heavy rock. This was much louder than mosta the stuff I usually listened 2.
They followed it with "Starless," also from the RED album. If I hadn't bn won-over yet, this 1 did it. After a long, moody opening, the band gangs up 4 an 8-minute coda that piles up the drama -- leader/guitarist Bob Fripp piling-on the single-note solos, drummer Bill Bruford slamming away at what sounded like massive, reverberating sheets of aluminum siding, Mel Collins & Ian McDonald joining in 4 screaming sax solos ... absolutely stunning, perfect music 4 plunging down a steep mountain road without brakes. 1 of the greatest, most devastating things I'd ever heard.
After that I was sold -- thru the bits & pieces on Side 3: The dramatic "Night Watch," the playful & silly "Cat Food" single, & the frustrated loveballad "Book of Saturday." Then over 2 Side 4 for the delicate "Moonchild" (the 1st 3 mins, sorta the "single version"), the delicate improv "Trio," & back 2 Heaviness 4 "The Court of the Crimson King" -- heavier than "Epitaph" & WAY spookier, if not as good.
I knew so little about KC then that I didn't realize summa their greatest stuff wasn't on the collection. Wasn't til later that I wondered why the screaming "21st Century Schizoid Man" & "Fracture" & "The Great Deceiver" weren't included. If Fripp'd dropped summa the lesser trax there woulda bn room....
2 lock it up, Fripp included a long booklet with a detailed history of the band straight out of his diary -- & including all the bad reviews KC'd ever had -- & there were LOTS of them. Great reading, kept me busy 4 DAYS....
After that, I worked my way backward & re-bought summa their older stuff. LARKS' TONGUES was OK but kinda trebly, badly mixed -- the live versions of those trax that came out on THE GREAT DECEIVER box set 20 years later were WAY better. STARLESS AND BIBLE BLACK had a great 1st side, but it took me years B4 I could even hear "Fracture" -- now I think it's 1 of their best ever.
I checked out the 1st album & finally heard "Schizoid," a scream of pain & terror like nothing else. But I was shocked how much wasted space was on that 1st album. & speaking of wasted space, if there was a great track anywhere on ISLANDS, I was never able 2 find it....
When KC reformed in 1980, I was listening. Bought DISCIPLINE the day it was released, & heard a mostly-new band carrying on a grand tradition with driving trax like the brilliant "Frame by Frame" -- especially that section in the middle where the guitars sound like a car skidding across the ice & crashing in2 a tree.... "Indiscipline" was stunning, 2 -- SO heavy. & the lyrics were hilarious! "Elephant Talk" had more great funny lyrics from guitarist Adrian Belew. "Matte Kudasai" was a pretty gtr-ballad, & "Thela Hun Ginjeet" was at least funny. But I kinda drifted away on Side 2, despite an OK successor 2 "Talking Drum," "The Sheltering Sky."
I was never able 2 get in2 BEAT -- still can't. But THREE OF A PERFECT PAIR has the GREAT "Sleepless," which has all the heaviness & humor you'd ever want from these guys. The title track's pretty great, & there's some nice loud, clanky stuff over on Side 2....
Tho I haven't heard all that much of their '90s stuff (bought VROOOM, & it about blew me outta the house -- somehow overlooked the delicate ballads like the Xcellent "One Time"), I saw KC in Seattle in 2003 ... & they were very professional & efficient -- still powerful. But I wanted 2 B run over & left 4 dead, I wanted 2 B absolutely flattened, & that didn't happen.
I bought their POWER TO BELIEVE CD anyway ... & thot it was professional & efficient. But not life-changing. "Level Five" was pretty stunning. But as I work my way back thru their '90s stuff I'm finding the trax that work best 4 me R the attempts at comedy -- like "Happy With What You Have to be Happy With" & "Prozakc Blues" & "The World is My Oyster Soup Kitchen Floor Wax Museum."
Tho they may not B as life-changing as they were 4 me back in the day, KC R still my heroes. I don't know of anybody else from their generation who's still pounding out the loud, powerful, original material these days, trying 2 make each new album a life-changing Xperience. I've had my life changed at least 3 times by them. May the same thing happen 2 you....

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

#658: "Credits" (conclusion)

Lately I've bn dreaming about disc stores A LOT. I can't remember the last time I was IN 1. A GOOD 1, I mean. A clean, well-lit, high-tech store with friendly, knowledgeable workers who could practically read my mind & tell Xactly what kind of music I've bn looking 4 2 fill the void in my life.
1nce upon a time music was more important 2 me than my next meal. & many times I bought music B4 buying food or paying the rent. Ask my X-wife.
I used 2 work in a disc store, & sometimes I still have nightmares about it. It was almost always empty, never stocked-up on the latest hit items. 1 of the reasons I quit working there (& went unemployed 4 a year afterward) was Bcos I got tired of always having 2 tell customers "No, we don't have it...."
The other reason was that their pay vouchers started bouncing....
In my dreams, that store has been transformed ... in2 a store with well-stocked shelves full of discs; an ultimate, glossy, high-tech store with complex hypno-graphics in the windows & sprawling floor displays & dazzling liteshows....
I also dream of a small, dark, cramped, hole-in-the-wall college-neighborhood store somewhere that -- even tho it's a dump -- has tons of discs I've always bn looking 4 & have never bn able 2 find NEwhere else.... Unfortunately, I can't read the prices -- they're printed in some unknown language. & the proprietor -- a bearded, frizzy-haired old man with thick, square, Lennonish eyeglasses -- seems only able 2 speak German....

You'd think after 20 years of reviewing that my search 4 the Ultimate Disc would B long abandoned, that I'd have given up a long time ago.
& you'd B wrong. The search never ends. & there's so much music out there waiting 2 B rediscovered, pointed-out & commented-on that the search begins again every morning.
I've dreamed of the Ultimate Disc B4.
I now have the nagging feeling that at 1 time I owned it, recorded it, lost it somehow & then 4got about it. There's some disc or suite of songs, or 1 song in particular, that I MISS, 4 some unknown reason.
In dreams, I've seen the backcover of this disc, which could B some sorta overlooked, forgotten Various Artists collection put out by Britain's Virgin or Harvest labels, or could B some obscure platter by some equally unknown British-German zonk band.
The backcover is black with white lettering ... or maybe it's white with black lettering. NEway, the only song titles I can see R squoze down in2 the lower left-hand corner. They R centered inside a small thin-bordered box, with the song titles in flowing black print, & the songwriters' credits underneath in a smaller, lighter, blockier typeface.
4 some reason, the track that haunts me is the 2nd-2-last on the disc. The song title is relatively long -- 5 words at least. & I have no idea what the title is.
I get the feeling that the whole disc is at least average, if not better, but this 1 track, thru some combination of vocal harmonies, gorgeous instrumentation, intense instrumental attack, or whatever, rises 2 epic proportions, easily outshining anything else on the disc -- tho the rest of it's no slouch. But this 1 track seems 2 combine all the best things about zonk in 1 great lost 5-minute package. It's a forgotten classic of the form.
I've dreamed about what the disc's frontcover looks like, tho I barely remember it. It's garish -- greens & reds mixed 2gether in a bizarre kaleidoscope. & in the splash of art -- which seems 2 almost physically reach out & grab me from the shelf the disc sits on -- the band's name & the disc's title R lost.
The worst part is the nagging feeling that I've at 1 time in the past owned this disc, played it, enjoyed it, memorized it, recorded it, cherished it ... & somehow lost all trace of it. Perhaps I traded the disc away 4 rent credits, & the cassette I had with the best track was eaten by 1 of my treacherous old antique tape-players, & now almost all memory of it is gone.
The search 4 that disc, & that piece of music, never ends. Sometimes, when I think long & hard, I get so close 2 remembering the song title, the name of the disc, & the band's name that I think I couldn't possibly just have dreamed them. They R far 2 real 2 me. It's music that could help hold my world 2gether ... & somehow I've lost it.
I couldn't hum that tune 4 U -- not right now -- but if I continue 2 mull it over, sometime soon I'll B able 2 hum that tune, just like I can cough up names, titles, credits & other obscure zonk trivia almost without thinking. They just seem 2 pop out of my fingers & in2 the keyboard ... & then off 2 the Cyclops.
That's my job. I'm a walking encyclopedia of zonk. That's what they pay me 2 B....

5 billion people. Every day, potentially 5 billion people could let me in2 their cubicles thru the Cyclops. They speak all diffrent languages, but music makes it possible 4 us all 2 speak the same language.
& the message I give 2 these 5 billion zombies is: Let's talk over some great new sounds, OK fans?
& just Bcos I have no solid evidence that I've ever broken thru 2 NE of them doesn't mean I should stop TRYING....
In my groping, stumbling, fumbling way, clumsily dancing all around it, what I've bn trying 2 say 4 years is how GRATEFUL I am 2 live in a universe where such wonderful music Xists, where I can have such glorious sounds 2 help hold my shaky world together.
I don't know how else 2 say it. This just happens 2 B the way I'm put together. I can't say it much better than this.
Thru all the articles 4 NM & the Cyclops & the newssheets, in all the typing I've done while pausing occasionally 2 look out this window....
What I've bn trying 2 say 4 all these years is THANK YOU....

I keep dreaming that there's 1 piece of music somewhere out there that's SO brilliant, so involving, that when I turn my sound system up 2 10 2 blast it, my neighbors don't complain.
They join in.
Suddenly we all have copies of the same disc, & we're all playing it at 10.
All up & down my CubeBlock, from every level, come the sounds of the same song playing at 10 on 100's of zonk systems, & the music pours out thru 100's of open windows in the mile-high wall of the block, in2 the noisy city air of the afternoon.
& all across the city, people turn the same song up LOUD, & it resonates & rings out over the wasted, dying gray landscape....
The motars strain 4 the highest note they can attain, & it's like a huge bell ringing in the sky over the city. In its loudness & intensity, it's like an earthquake.
At 1st nobody notices the shaking. Then the CubeBlocks start 2 crack. Huge, jagged cracks appear in the sides of the enormous, towering buildings all around mine.
I have a terrific view from my window.
Suddenly the blocks start collapsing, accordion-like. They crumple, topple & fall, & crash in2 each other, knocking over 1, then 2, then 5, 10, 100 diffrent bldgs.
The bldgs collapse and crumple, they plummet 2 earth & shatter in a seemingly endless crash. The colossal wreckage seems 2 rebound back up in2 the air, hovering 4 a moment B4 falling with a final smash. A huge cloud of dust arises from the fallen bldgs, & it scrubs away the smog.
Life comes 2 a complete stop as the blocks R leveled.
4 the 1st time in years, no car horns can B heard honking NEwhere in the city. A stillness descends as the dust begins 2 settle.
It hasn't been this quiet here in a long time.
The death toll is horrendous, astronomical.
& above it all, that final, distant, apocalyptic motar chord still rings, somewhere, far off above the wreckage.
Finally there is peace in the city. In all cities. At last.
Then we no longer need 2 live in huge, monolithic, block-shaped bldgs & tiny cramped cubicles, fellow zombies. We no longer need 2 live piled on top of each other just 2 have enuf space 4 all of us.
We can go outside. Then we have all the room in the world.
Those of us who survive.
Then a new tune starts playing....

Not everybody dies. Especially not me.
In the aftermath of all this wreckage, I go shopping.
There R a few other survivors, like me, & there R some bldgs that don't collapse, & in the middle of a huge vacant area bordered by 4 towering, miraculously still-standing CubeBlocks, a huge open-air market has sprung up....
Things R quieter, simpler now. Tho some sections of the city still seem 2 have electricity, there is no more Cyclops. The only connections I can make now R the personal 1's, & I was never very good at those -- ask my X-wife, if U can find her in the rubble.
Despite my almost perpetual hunger, the wreckage, the windblown dirt & garbage everywhere, the piles of collapsed bldgs & the 1,000s of corpses that must B entombed inside, this new life is not unpleasant.
It doesn't occur 2 me 2 wonder why we Rn't all sickened by R filthy, disease-ridden new surroundings. Maybe I'm just not surprised -- after all, I realize this is a dream, where all sorts of harsh realities can B avoided.
Tho some of my fellow survivors walk by with a far-off, shocked look in their eyes, things seem generally calm, relaxed, slower-paced. & much quieter. It's not so bad.
It hasn't been like this in the city 4 a very long time.
Besides, there's much more 2 consider than how odd my fellow survivors look as they trudge by. There R many merchants here in the open-air market selling their pitiful wares: fruits & vegetables & leftovers gathered out of some of the collapsed bldgs. Enuf peeks beneath enuf canvas-covered stalls & I might B able 2 barter 4 enuf food 4 my dinner 2nite.
1 particular stall catches my eye. The proprietor is missing most of his teeth & looks like he hasn't had a bath in weeks -- of course, none of us have. We have all new standards of cleanliness here in R New World. But this old man seems familiar, somehow. & he has something 4 sale under his canopy that none of the other merchants do:
True, the selection is pitifully small & horrendously dusty, slapped haphazardly & carelessly in2 a wooden crate -- a process guaranteed 2 scratch the discs beyond repair. But I am so astonished 2 find NE discs at all that I kneel there in the dirt & look thru every 1.
& the Ultimate Disc that I've bn searching 4 is there, naturally.
There's no doubt in my mind that I will somehow barter this disc out of the proprietor's hands -- even if the cost means I won't B eating dinner 2nite or breakfast 2morrow. I'll take the disc home, put it gingerly in2 the player (my electricity will still work of course, this is a dream), & will have my life fulfilled. Bcos the long search is over. Only now, after the end of everything else.
& the most ironic part of all is there's nobody I can tell about it. Bcos there's no more Cyclops.
Unless I want 2 walk up 2 total strangers & tell them how important my find is -- that immediately seems a stupid idea 2 me. I was never very good at passing on my enthusiasms 2 people in-person. & besides, nearly every1 I see has MUCH larger concerns than this.
Unlike me, they're much more worried about what they're gonna have 4 dinner 2nite & breakfast 2morrow than they R about their entertainment. Understandable, considering R surroundings. It may be a long time B4 they worry about such trivial things as entertainment again. They have enuf 2 do just trying 2 stay alive. & Bcos of their practical outlook, they may live a lot longer than me.
Basically this is the perfect ultimately-ironic post-apocalyptic world 4 me 2 stumble over the Ultimate Disc in. THERE'S a negative review 4 ya.... The only way it could B worse is if I didn't have electricity & no way 2 play the disc. Then I wouldn't B able 2 HEAR it, either....
As is, I can hear the greatness of the music, but I have nobody 2 communicate that greatness 2, nobody I can connect with, nobody I can share it with -- which was the name of the game 4 me all along.
Which must B why I can't shake this dream.
1 last thing happens B4 I awaken: I look up from where I've been crouching beside the bin of dusty discs, & I C the proprietor watching me. His thick, square, Lennonish glasses R filthy, his hair is frizzy, & he seems 2 B saying something 2 me in a low, guttural voice, thick with clicks & coughs. He seems 2 B speaking German. 2 bad I never learned 2 speak German. I can't understand a word he says. I can't read his prices 4 the discs, either....
The dream fades out....

So, what's the name of this unknown song that's driving me crazy? What disc is it on? Who R the artists who created it?
It doesn't really matter. I'll stumble over the answers someday, whether in dreams or in Reality. That's what I'm here 4. Sure the questions make me crazy. But the search 4 the answers fascinates me more. & hearing new music, finding new answers, discovering new facts & trivia, that's what this job's all about. That's what they pay me 4.
Enuf daydreaming 4 2day. It's time 2 get back 2 the Real World.
But U can bet I'll B back 2morrow with MORE dreams, fellow zombies ... if the folks at NM don't fire me 1st....

#657: "Credits," Part 2

Motarist Mark Taylor gives us something a little diffrent on his new disc, YR. This platter combines standard molten zonk feedback with Middle Eastern & Oriental ingredients 4 some amazing new sounds.
Taylor's partner, percussionist Barry Anderson, adds 2 the atmosphere with his work on tabla, tamboura, sitar, & all sorts of gourds, bongos, chimes, vibes & breakables. He seems 2 have stolen a few tricks from Euphoria drummer Alan Miller, but he doesn't bash a sheet of aluminum siding NEwhere on this album.
The simpler trax R the most successful, as on the dramatic opener "Errr....," which closes with a long, violent motar workout that'll melt down yer speakers. Recommended 4 the brave.

I sit back with a smoke & another mug of coffee, & gaze out the window 4 a few mins. I've pieced-2gether 4 reviews already this morn & it's only 11 am, so I'm entitled 2 a little break.
It's a typical fall morning in the city. The grayish-brown smog layer spreads out over the bowl in which the city sprawls & hugs the hillsides. None of the smoke escapes. The sun tries 2 burn thru the goop, but all we get is a wan gray light that makes it look like winter all year-round.
Winter is when it's the worst -- when the smoke gets so thick that I can't C the CubeBlock next-door. The smoke is a mixture of car exhaust, industrial fumes, burned coal, outpourings from the nearby oil refineries, & other leftovers -- & the SMELL is unbelievable. I get whiffs of rotting garbage, leftover dinners in other cubicles, busted sewer lines, & abandoned pets that have starved 2 death & R now decomposing in what useta B the block's courtyard far below.
Someday ALL big cities will look & smell like this, if they don't already.
From the far-off street I can hear taxi & bus horns honking, & the shouts of frightened pedestrians who got 2 close 2 the non-stop traffic.
It's much safer 2 stay inside -- that way you avoid the murderous traffic & the equally lethal air. Have yer groceries delivered. U can get a work-at-home job. I found 1, & look at the 2nd-rate skills I'VE got....

2morrow's latest disc, JOURNEYS IN, is 1st-rate orchestral zonk.
From the powerful opener "Memory Lane," thru pleasant vocal trips like "Surprise, Surprise," "Meritocracy," & "Chance of a Lifetime" 2 the dislocated loneliness of "Dissociation," 2 the gorgeous circular-vocal ending of "The Dog, The Dog," the drive & power behind the much-2-brief "Be All Right," & the beautiful lovesongs "The World is Yours" & "All the Way" ... well, the more U listen 2 this disc, the EZer it is 2 get lost in it.
Some zonk critics & even fellow zombies have complained that 2morrow's 2 old-fashioned, 2 conservative in their playing, singing & production -- but I've never agreed with them. This is high-quality stuff. Go get this 1.

I don't remember TV or radio. My parents do. I grew up with the Cyclops. It's always bn the ultimate media, all I've ever known, so there's never bn NE question about whether I'm comfortable with it or suited 4 it. Even tho I started writing 4 fans' newssheets, it was always the Cyclops I was aiming 4, & I think I fit in just fine.
My parents were horrified when the Cyclops came along.
When this multi-media, interactive, world-spanning news-entertainment-video&music dispenser arrived at the end of the last century, my rather strait-laced parents took it as something close 2 the embodiment of the AntiChrist.
There was already a backlash against TV in some parts of society. There were many commentators & televangelists who were saying in their strident, repetitive, boring ways that the only way 2 save The Family was 2 pry everybody away from that infernal TV set. Most of them were saying this while ON TV, of course.
They were 2 stupid 2 realize that The Family as they knew it was already long dead.
When the Cyclops came along, it marked the end of NE significant resistance 2 mass media. People by the millions just kinda caved-in. Nobody heard the few objections 2 the new media, Bcos there were suddenly 1,000 channels you could tune in2 -- just change the channel & the televangelists & old-timers faded away. As they had B4. But now viewers could get LOST among the channels & never havta deal with Harsh Reality again.
Various nicknames popped-up 4 full-time viewers. "Couch potatoes" had already bn part of the language 4 years, referring 2 constant TV-watchers. The new term that stuck was "zombies." Most of them wear the name as a badge of honor, these days. So do I.
The Cyclops gave people everything they wanted, NE time of the day or nite -- news, info, music, sports, movies, travelogues, magazines, fiction, porn, U name it. Every taste, every age was catered-2. Those zombies who could only handle sounds & images were given sounds & images all day long ... & all nite long, if they wanted that much. Those who preferred print (like me) could call it up in seconds. Those who wanted their news or reviews or novels read 2 them could have that 2.
Somebody told me 1nce that I should become an on-air personality & read my stuff over the Cyclops -- make more credits & become a household name. I appreciated the suggestion, but I'm not Xactly the most polished-looking person in the world, & if you're gonna B on the Cyclops, U havta B polished above all. Our ugly society has no tolerance 4 on-air ugliness, or 4 NEthing much less than what is commonly considered 2 B "attractive." & I don't kid myself about my looks. I have some Xperience in this area....
The best thing about the Cyclops, the hook that helped it catch-on so fast, is that it's all interactive, has bn from the start. If U don't like the news, U can respond -- & your opinions, no matter how illiterate or intemperate -- flow in2 the system where the whole world can read them ... or hear you scream them, if that's what you want 2 do.
That's how I got started with it -- rather than continuing 2 send my views 2 fans' newssheets, I bashed them in2 the hookup & sent them in2 the system. After only a few weeks of that, NEW MUZIK -- a sorta on-air newssheet 4 print addicts such as myself (there R, amazingly enuf, still millions of us) -- noticed me, & I've bn (relatively) happy & financially semi-secure ever since.
Due 2 the 1,000 24-hour channels & especially Bcos of the instant feedback & universal access 2 something near 5 billion people, the Cyclops grew hugely popular practically overnite. Most daily newspapers disappeared within months, tho a few newssheets survived & still do. Old-style TV & radio hung around 4 a coupla years while people updated their at-home equipment & switched over. The Cyclops was the New Wave, everybody realized it, & most of the population began channel-surfing on it with ravenous enthusiasm.
& when the system's creators realized that their revolutionary invention was going 2 B nicknamed by the mostly-illiterate zombiefied masses after the Greeks' mythological 1-eyed monster ... they must have bn just as horrified (in a diffrent kind of way) as my parents were.

Look, music means a lot 2 me. I've bn writing about it 4 the last 20 years. It's hard 2 tell if NE1 notices the work, if the message actually gets thru. It doesn't help that a lot of what I write about & want 2 point people toward is ... pretty strange stuff. I mean, I think it's great, & I'm a fairly-respected critic in my field, but so what? What the hell do I know?
It's never bn proven that criticism (or "reviewing," if U prefer, it's less snooty) has ever made NE diffrence in sales, musical quality, rescuing artists from their own self-destructiveness (C Kevin Alexander 4 evidence), or NEthing else.
4 all the feedback I get -- which isn't very much -- I'm not even sure NEbody out there really reads this stuff. They're busy talking about & focusing on whatever it is that they think is most important in their lives.
& I'll B damned if I can figure out what that's supposed 2 B.
If music/art/entertainment/videos or whatever Rn't important in peoples' lives, what is?
Their families? I've met more guys than I can remember who treat their disc collections with more care, love & affection than they do their wives & children. (Me included -- ask my X-wife.)
Their jobs? Everybody's cynical about their job -- Ghod knows I'm cynical about mine, tho I'm grateful 2 have it. Everybody does just as much work as they have 2 in order 2 get by -- & preferably no more. & I'm as guilty of that as NE1.
What is this line of work 4? Sure it means something 2 ME, but is NEbody else getting the msg?
There R more than 5 billion people hooked in2 that huge maw out there, the Cyclops. 5 billion people.
But maybe they're just looking 4 something 2 fill the void as they switch from channel 2 channel. Is NEbody REALLY paying attention? R they really all just zombies?
Just like me...?

Just got a msg from the folks at NM. Some of my output this morning has bn ... how can they put this delicately? ... "a bit despairing," sez here. "Don't do it again," they say. "U'll soon find yourself out of the loop, even if U ARE 1 of the most respected zonk critics on the Cyclops. There R always more where U came from, Lester, & 45 is a little late 2 start looking 4 a new line of work."
Right. Wow. They must B reading me pretty closely up there. Thanx 4 the warning, guys. At least I know somebody's paying attn.
& now, back 2 work....

The Zoo Consortium's 3-disc best-of set BIZARRE DISEASES OF THE MIND is finally out, & it's an absolute Best Buy.
I shouldn't havta list these song-titles 4 U, U otta know 'em by heart. & White Knight Discs has spared no Xpense 2 make this a collection of nothing but the Very Best work by the 1st real zonk band.
All the hits R here, from the glowing "Watching the Airplanes" 2 the delicate "Ethelion," from the spooky "In the Dead of Nite" 2 the triumphant "Day of the Unicorn," from the scary "?s" 2 the reassuring "Msg from the Country." & they all still sound great, naturally.
I shouldn't havta remind U that this band was the driving force in creating zonk as we know it 2day. These discs include nearly 4 hrs of music by 1 of the 2 most important zonk bands ever. & of course U already know who that Other Band is -- I've already reviewed 1 of their works 2day.
Indescribably Essential. Run, do not walk, 2 yer nearest disc store.

...Just got ANOTHER msg from NM -- they say I'm sending out 2 many positive reviews 2day! The zombies out there need 2 C me slam something now & then so they know I'm not going soft in the head in me old age.
But why waste my fans' time (if I HAVE NE fans) on trash? I could always slam Gross National Product 1 more time -- they deserve it. But there ain't much pleasure in it.
Sorry guys, right now I don't C NE discs around here worth trashing -- at least none that R within arm's reach of me here in the cubicle. U'll just havta wait til I stumble over something else that's really rotten.
After all, I don't wanna get all despairing again, right...?

& U thot '60s nostalgia was dead, right? Wrong, dead wrong.
The Go-Go Girls' latest, BACK TO SCHOOL, brings it all back 4 us, & if this platter doesn't sell at least a billion, I'll go in2 shock.
The songs R all brilliant, from bitter molten zonk freakouts like "Thanx 4 Thinking of Me," 2 in-yer-face putdowns like the great singalong "You Lost Control," 2 wistful lost-love laments like "Forget That Nite," & subdued folky numbers like "You're With Me (Remember?)."
Main songwriter Jayne Flowers is in top form here, composing great trax & adding terrific backing vocals. Lead singer Linda Carlyle has dropped some weight & picked up a few new vocal tricks. Lead motarist Charlotte Coffey plays brilliantly, & percussionist Tina Bloch Cms 2 have the best time of all, pounding the crap outta drums, cymbals, sheets of aluminum & NE breakables she can find. Don't leave NE boxes marked FRAGILE around this girl!
Their best disc yet. The Girls were originally tossed-off as a 1-hit-wonder nostalgia band, & it's good 2 C 'em back proving everybody wrong. Guaranteed Great Stuff!

So, NE more complaints out there? Is this stuff still 2 positive? U want more slams, more controversy, something 2 argue with & get upset about? ... Well, I'll C what I can do....

(2 B Concluded....)

Monday, April 22, 2013

#656: "Reading the Credits," Part 1

(Written in September 1990 in Ankara, Turkey....)

Good morning, fellow zombies. It's 9 am & I'm just now settling down here in front of the Cyclops with a giant mug of coffee & my smokes, waiting 2 C what kinda musical delights I can turn you on2 2day.....
This is who I am. This is what I do. & I've bn doing it 4 20 years....

Euphoria's 2nd disc, A SENSE OF DIRECTION, comes sealed in a black box, like a corpse. Which is only appropriate. This moody, low-key package -- arriving only a few months after the mysterious on-stage death of Euphoria's primary composer & keybsman Kevin Alexander -- is a dark collection indeed. But there R also a couple reasons 4 real celebration inside it.
1 is the closing track, "Raindance," an Alexander/Chris Leatham piece that starts as a downbeat funeral march & turns in2 a life-affirming anthem. It features great lead-motar work from Brian Redmond, superb sax & flute from Leatham, & Xcellent support by new keybsguy Mike Page. It stands as Alexander's signature tune, & the band's best work yet.
The band's future has 2 B seriously in doubt with the loss of their creative leader -- even tho Page plays Xcellently here. He just didn't write NE of the songs. Alexander has 7 composing credits on the disc's 9 trax.
Euphoria still provides the orchestral waterfall Xplosions, massive reverberating crashes & other high-impact zonk effects they're so well-known 4 -- but there's also a search 4 new paths going on here, as the band works 2 C what their future might B.
Let's hope that search continues. Brian Redmond has always bn the leader of this band on-stage -- now it's time 4 him 2 take over as their chief creative talent, 2.

I bash up another quick, EZ, off-the-cuff review 4 NEW MUZIK, & zap it off 2 them over the Cyclops. (That last review was a bit conventional, tho. I'll havta watch that. Maybe I haven't had enuf coffee yet. Haven't quite woke-up. Perhaps I should get another cup B4 I swing in2 the next review.)
1/2adozen more reviews & I'll have earned enuf credits 2 get thru another week. The cost of living gets a little Xpensive here in the lower levels of my CubeBlock -- but at least it beats life (or what passes 4 it) in the Undercity. At least up here I have enuf room 4 all my discs, old books & computer stuff, a comfy chair (which I also sleep in), even a kitchenette. I even have a window 2 gaze out when the words don't come quite as fast as I want them 2. I spend a lot more time looking out that window than I should.
It ain't much, but when I consider that 30 or 40 levels below me -- where costs R lower & space is MUCH tighter -- it's common 4 a dozen people 2 share a cubicle ... well, then I remember how much it costs 2 STAY at this level, & I get back 2 work pounding the keys....

Gross National Product's AMERICAN GOTHIC, unlike Euphoria's latest disc, would never have bn released if Kevin Alexander were still alive.
"Alex" planned GNP as the next step in his career after he left Euphoria -- a plan he already had in the works. He claimed in some of his last interviews that the stresses involved in being part of that superb, close-2-the-edge, trailblazing zonk band had destroyed his marriage & were wrecking what was left of his life.
That's Xactly what happened, of course, & this disc will do nothing 2 improve Alexander's reputation. As if it needed NE help.
Alex said in interviews that he planned GNP as a "lighter, funnier" band than Euphoria, a sorta zonk-comedy group that "wouldn't have 2 beat an audience over the head 2 get thru 2 them."
A great idea in theory, maybe. EZ 2 appreciate as Theater, perhaps. Alexander then began hedging his bet by hiring a singer who couldn't sing & who ate live rats during shows; "discovering" motarists who didn't know how 2 play their instruments; choosing a percussionist with no sense of rhythm or backbeat; & developing other, stranger, even-more-unusual antics.
None of which made-up-4 a severe shortage of Good Tunes.
GNP opened 4 Euphoria on tour sevral times, but there was never NE real reason 2 think Alexander saw the band as NEthing more than a not-very-serious hobby. Or even a joke.
Then Alex died, & the "band" went on without him. He actually gets 2 songwriting credits on this disc, tho (as with Euphoria's latest) he died B4 playing a note here. Luckily 4 him.
Singer Dirk Vomit certainly brings a diffrent kind of voice 2 zonk, but GNP's per4mance on this disc is nothing special. & Dspite Alexander's plan 2 not bash people over the head, GNP does Xactly that -- especially on the trax Alex wrote himself. It's the same sort of undistinctive, hammering, directionless music we've heard from uncounted numbers of other zonk bands.
Alex's "Dead Babies Tango" & "Afterbirth on Toast" R both WAY beyond hideous, but Kevin shouldn't B held responsible.

Well, that 1 got a little heavy. I'll havta watch that, go 4 something a little lighter next.

Electric England's new disc, SONGS THE ZOMBIES SING, is zonk-ized British Isles folk music, & great trashy fun. If you're looking 4 an antidote 2 GNP's thud&blunder or Euphoria's (mostly) gloom&doom-saying, this is it. I've played it a dozen times already, pounding my fists on the floor along with each song, & it makes me 1 happy zombie. (U might not wanna pound 2 hard on your floors, tho -- your neighbors might throw you out!)
These Englanders didn't write a single word or note of this disc, & I don't care. Wherever they're finding these songs, it was worth the trip 2 get there.
Such trax as "Minstrels" (a rowdy British beer-drinking song with lotsa what they useta call "pub-like atmosphere" -- U can almost hear the bottles breakin & the drunks pukin in the background), "I'll Show You Another" (about taking whatever misfortunes life throws at ya head-on & not giving up), & "Keep it With Yours" (a cry-in-your-beer brokenhearted lovesong that's sorta the flip-side 2 "Minstrels") make this an Immediate Best Buy.
The band's remake of Bob Zimmerman's old electric-folk chestnut "Subterranean Homesick Blues" completely remodels the original & turns it in2 an anthem 4 this gray, gloomy century.
Singer Maria Maclennon is a newcomer 2 watch -- & she sounds very fond of her ale. The disc's backcover lists a dozen British & German beer companies under "Special Thanx."
My advice is get down 2 yer nearest disc shop & fork over the credits required 4 this item NOW. It's bound 2 B voted-4 heavily at Nd-of-the-Yr Awards Time.

I should probly note here (especially in lite of that "pounding my fists on the floor" remark in the last review) that I don't turn the music up 2 loud when I'm reviewing, tho sometimes it's hard 2 resist. Often I wear earphones, tho sometimes you just GOTTA hear the sounds bounce off the walls....
Nothing would please me more -- from a pure Zombie Attitude standpoint -- on those occasional Bad Days when the words just won't come, than 2 crank the volume up 2 10 & shake the walls, blast the glass outta the 1 window I have....
But if the volume gets 2 loud, the folks in the cubicles all around me start pounding on their walls, ceilings & floors.
I pay Xtra 2 hava window, but I can't bribe my neighbors enuf 2 make them ignore the music. Ghod knows I've tried....
As 4 old-style headphones, well, they just don't work that well 4 me. I've always thot music needs a room 2 kick around in, however impotently. Headphones & earphones soften & miniaturize the sound, so what U get ends up sounding like a wind-up-toy zonk band. They distort the listening Xperience, so my reviews of Really Loud Stuff probly get distorted just a little bit. But it can't B helped.
I'd get a HeadSet if I could afford 1 -- the cassette compartment is installed right in2 yer cranium, the music flows directly in2 the hearing centers in yer brain, nobody outside yer head can hear a thing, & it'd certainly speed up the reviewing process. I could zap the music directly in2 my head at whatever volume I chose, & my neighbors would keep the quiet they seem 2 require.
NEW MUZIK should pay 4 it. Ghod Knows I've Earned It. But they refuse. I can barely make payments on this cubicle as it is, & I've never bn far enuf ahead 2 afford the surgery.
So instead I sit here by the window, in front of the Cyclops, let a little gray, muted sunshine & semi-fresh (at least compared 2 my cubicle) air in, turn the music up 2 about 4, & listen. & when I come up with something that's 1/2way intelligent & mostly in English, I bash it in2 the keyboard & send it off 2 NEW MUZIK. & a few minutes later my fellow zombies Out There R reading it.
It keeps the credits flowing in, however slowly. It ain't romantic, but it's the only thing I know how 2 do well. Ask my X-wife.
& at least I get the discs for free....

(2 B Continued....)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

#655: Spring Playlist(?!)

I use the term "Spring" with some hesitation, since here it's in the 40s & raining ... but the Weather Guys R saying possibly 70 degrees & sunny by Weds. I'll believe it when I see it.... We had ONE nice week of sun & temps in the 60s about 3 weeks ago ... & we've bn paying 4 it ever since....
Anyway, here's what I've bn listening 2 lately, during 1 of the craziest weeks in recent memory -- is the world going nuts or is it just me?

Randy and the Rainbows -- Denise.
Journey -- Feeling That Way/Anytime, Something to Hide, La Do Da.
Moody Blues -- Question, It's Up to You, The Story in Your Eyes, One More Time to Live, You Can Never Go Home, My Song, I'm Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band, Steppin' in a Slide Zone, Had to Fall in Love, Blue World, I Know You're Out There Somewhere, Say it With Love, Tuesday Afternoon, Nights in White Satin, Ride My See-Saw, Legend of a Mind, Lovely to See You, Gypsy, Watching and Waiting.
Strawbs -- Ghosts, On Growing Older, The Man Who Called Himself Jesus, Stormy Down, I Turned My Face into the Wind, Queen of Dreams, Witchwood, Keep the Devil Outside, The Hangman and the Papist.
Bachman Turner Overdrive -- Blue Collar, Roll on Down the Highway.
Byrds -- Mr. Spaceman, 5D (Fifth Dimension), My Back Pages, So You Want to be a Rock 'N' Roll Star, Mr. Tambourine Man, Turn! Turn! Turn!, Eight Miles High, I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better, Lady Friend, Did You See Her Eyes?, Ballad of Easy Rider.
Marvin Gaye -- What's Goin' On?, Inner City Blues, Trouble Man.
Stevie Wonder -- I Was Made to Love Her, My Cherie Amour, Yester-me Yester-you Yesterday, Signed Sealed Delivered, For Once in My Life, If You Really Love Me, You are the Sunshine of My Life, Superstition, Higher Ground, You Haven't Done Nothin', I Wish, Sir Duke, That Girl.
Temptations -- Get Ready, I Can't Get Next to You.
Boston -- Used to Bad News, Hitch a Ride, We're Ready, My Destination, Can't'cha Say/Still in Love, Hollyann.
Kansas -- Miracles out of Nowhere, Questions of My Childhood.
Beatles -- Eight Days a Week, Ticket to Ride, Help!, Paperback Writer, She Loves You, I Want to Hold Your Hand, Can't Buy Me Love, A Hard Day's Night, I Feel Fine.
Three Dog Night -- Out in the Country, Celebrate, My Impersonal Life, Let Me Serenade You.

Now then: Picked up a CD copy of Randy and the Rainbows' early-'60s doo-wop classic "Denise," which I'd heard maybe 2wice in my whole life. Tho the CD's a little TOO clean & clear -- it doesn't sound like the song's rolling out of your car radio from some distant radio station fading in&out -- still, there R some compensations. The vocals R amazing -- how did they hit those high notes? & it's SO sweet & innocent & pure. & it's over much 2 quick. 4 me, pretty much irresistible, tho of course I can't really sing along with it cos of the high notes....
Went on a brief Moodies kick cos of the 2 recent books I read about them, see below. Even tried out some new stuff. I'd forgotten how silly "Steppin' in a Slide Zone" is. It's really silly -- lotsa spacey sound effects trying 2 dress-up a song that just ain't there. I'd forgotten how lame "Had to Fall in Love" is -- it sounds like a demo. Maybe that's why I don't miss OCTAVE much -- it sez something that Graeme Edge's sorta-rocker "I'll Be Level With You" was the best thing on it.
The other Moodies stuff still sounds great of course, & I still think "I Know You're Out There Somewhere" is glorious. They shoulda retired after it. "Blue World" is a gorgeous overlooked collection of Moodies cliches. & "Say it With Love" is just BLAH.
...& now, the 1st of TWO corrections: The Strawbs' HALCYON DAYS best-of I bought a coupla years back is the UK version. The US version has 1/2adozen diffrent songs, is presented in chronological order (rather than the "stylistic" or "flow" or "whatever" order of the UK version), & still doesn't include summa my faves like the phenomenal live "Where is This Dream of Your Youth?" (a keyboard orgy 4 Rick Wakeman fans & a really angry performance by the band), & the great live "Man Who Called Himself Jesus."
All that said, the UK version also has some good stuff, & it's growing on me. "Ghosts" is (like almost all their stuff) a little overwrought, but there's a nice edge of hysteria in Dave Cousins' vocal, & it really rocks in places. (Cousins is often at his best when pushed, as in "Hero and Heroine" & "Down by the Sea" & "Where is This Dream of Your Youth?")
"On Growing Older" is not quite a joke -- they shoulda included "Oh Me, Oh My" instead. The studio "Jesus" is actually pretty intense too, I'm getting used to it, & it's a great story. "Stormy Down" is pleasant enuf, "Keep the Devil Outside" is the best & closest 2 a "pop" song in this batch, & Rick Wakeman doodles ALL OVER the opening of "Hangman and the Papist." There'll B more of these guys' work Coming Soon....
BTO's "Blue Collar" still sounds like some black R&B band rollin' out a gentle groove. Perfect late-nite listening.... & "Roll On Down the Highway" is still a great driving riff-rocker, even if I can't figure out 1/2 the words....
I loved the Byrds, but I'm 2 the point now where the overlooked stuff is workin better 4 me. "Lady Friend" & "Did You See Her Eyes?" gain a lotta strength with repeated listenings, & stuff like "My Back Pages," "5D," "Mr. Spaceman," "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better" & "Easy Rider" all still sound great. If "Wasn't Born to Follow," "John Riley," "Bells of Rhymney" & "Chimes of Freedom" were on it, 20 ESSENTIAL TRACKS really WOULD B essential....
Still playin' those Motown classics, but don't have much more 2 add about them.... Tho it's worth noting that Stevie Wonder's joyous vocal on "Yester-me" even cuts thru the heavy-cheez factor of that backing choir....
Played summa my Boston faves -- I loved those guys. & tho a lotta their stuff is overplayed, I'm still a sucker 4 all the above + "It's Easy" & "Man I'll Never Be" & "Something About You" & "Peace of Mind." I hadn't heard THIRD STAGE in awhile -- tho there R occasional lags, I think this song-suite is just a step below their 1st album, & therefore a step above the allegedly 1/2-finished DON'T LOOK BACK. "My Destination," "Can't'cha Say," "We're Ready" & "Hollyann" still sound just as cosmic as Tom Scholz intended -- actually, more cosmic now that they've got a few years on them....
...Why isn't "Please Please Me" on the Beatles' #1's? Didn't it make #1 ANYWHERE? Seems wrong....
...Consider most of the other stuff listed above as Recommended....

Nice 2 see Rush & Heart inducted 2 the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame -- but there's still so many deserving folks that have been left out. 1 of the guys from Rush was quoted by USA TODAY saying that now that Rush is in, they hope the door's opened 4 King Crimson & the Moody Blues.... Couldn't agree more.

...& now a 2nd correction: FINALLY got ahold of 1 of the singles I've been seeking 4 YEARS, Randy Edelman's "Pistol Packin' Melody," released by 20th Century in early 1975. 4 35+ years I'd been thinking the song was sung by Andy Pratt -- that's a long time 2 B wrong about something.
Course I haven't actually PLAYED the record yet -- I'm geographically separated from my turntable at this moment. But I WILL B getting 2 it in the not-2-distant future....

...& as I've bn typing this, it's started pouring rain outside. Not the scattered sun & high 50s they'd predicted 4 today. At least not YET. Wouldn't it B great 2 B a Weather Guy? B wrong more than 1/2 the time & still keep your job...?

Friday, April 19, 2013

#654: More Great Backsides!

B4 I get in2 this, I see from the news that photographer & album-cover designer Storm Thorgerson has died at age 69 after a battle against cancer. Along with the many album covers he & his mates at Hipgnosis did 4 bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin & MANY others, Storm also wrote almost the entire text 4 Hipgnosis's 1st collection of cover artwork, WALK AWAY RENE -- see if you can track down a copy, the STORIES in it R hilarious, & of course the photos & artwork R amazing. It's 1 of my favorite books ever....

Now then, here's some more great B-sides, including a handful I forgot the 1st time around & a coupla OBVIOUS 1's I shoulda remembered....
* Beach Boys: "God Only Knows" -- The B-side 2 the nice but kinda average "Wouldn't it be Nice," "God Only Knows" is the BB's at their absolute best, 1 of the most beautiful songs in all of creation. Check out Carl Wilson's perfect lead vocal, & the gorgeous choir-vocal finish. In "cool" mid-'60s LA, THIS was the A-side. Course the album it's from ain't no slouch neither: PET SOUNDS.
* Boston: "Used to Bad News" -- B-side 2 the lame non-hit "Feeling Satisfied." Buried near the end of the 1/2-finished 2nd side of DON'T LOOK BACK, this downbeat lost-love lament written by lead singer Brad Delp is a perfect modest miniature, 1 of the best things they ever did. Great organ & guitar work, & a superb hurt lead vocal from Brad. It had "hit" written all over it. Shoulda sold millions & otta B played every day by Classic Rock stations.
* Byrds: "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better" -- B-side 2 the lame Dylan song "All I Really Want to Do." From that rousing electric lead 2 the great group-vocal choruses, this Gene Clark composition beats the heck outta "All I Really Want to Do" -- jeez, even Sonny & Cher beat the Byrds on THAT 1. Couldn't the folks at CBS HEAR? Or did they just wanna go with another safe Dylan-song sure-thing 4 the A-side? Tom Petty covered this song a few years back, but he should just give up....
* Kansas: "Questions of My Childhood" -- B-side 2 "Carry On Wayward Son." What really sucked me in on this is that loopy keyboard hook that's the 1st thing you hear. & it picks back up again at the end. The lyrics R kinda cute & silly. Fake-Meaningful, lighter than air, & WAY better than "Dust in the Wind," 4 Xample....
* Journey: "Daydream" & "People and Places." "Daydream" was the B-side 2 "Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin';" "People and Places" was the B-side 2 some lame minor hit offa DEPARTURE. "Daydream" shoulda kept me from buying EVOLUTION, but I eventually caved-in anyway & was disappointed. "People and Places" DID keep me from buying DEPARTURE, cos "People" was by far the best thing on it. "Daydream" is a moody dream-piece with some nice Neal Schon guitar work; "People and Places" is an arty, airy vocal piece with rockin' choruses. Both songs R throwbacks 2 Journey's progressive-rock beginnings. They shoulda done WAY more stuff like this ... or at least this good.... But of course there was no $$$ in this arty, impressionistic stuff....
* Jefferson Starship: "Freedom at Point Zero." B-side 2 "Jane." I was always a sucker 4 Paul Kantner's science-fiction chorale pieces, & this rocker is 1 of the best Xamples. So's the album it came from, 4 which this was the title track. Most of the better songs on FREEDOM came out as B-sides -- "Fading Lady Light," "Just the Same"....
* Johnny Rivers: "It Wouldn't Happen With Me" -- B-side 2 the Top 3 hit "Memphis." Good as "Memphis" is, this is a comedy classic, all about how all those female fans out there will never get the chance 2 marry (or even date!) the Beatles or Elvis or Ricky Nelson ... but Johnny's Available! Some of the lines R just priceless, & it rocks!
* Neil Diamond: "Crunchy Granola Suite," "Done Too Soon," "Broad Old Woman (6 A.M. Insanity)." The insanely silly & catchy "Crunchy Granola" was the B-side 2 "Stones." After all these years, I'm still not sure if it's a celebration of Regularity or really about smoking pot. The brief history-lesson "Done Too Soon" was the B-side 2 "I Am, I Said." Wonder if Billy Joel heard this B4 he wrote "We Didn't Start the Fire"? "Broad Old Woman (6 A.M. Insanity)" was the B-side 2 the non-hit "Two-Bit Manchild." It really does sound like Neil & band in the studio at 6 am, working on a lame blues number that really HAS been cooking 2 long. See if you can track it down if you feel brave -- I coulda taken a whole album of this kinda stuff, back in the day....
* Ringo Starr: "Early 1970" -- B-side to "It Don't Come Easy." The world's biggest Beatles fan finally gets his say. Featuring brief, hilarious portraits of his mates in the Fabs, it's simple & modest enuf that Mr. Starkey didn't need any production help from heavyweights like Phil Spector. 1 of a kind, it finally got on an album with Ringo's BLAST FROM THE PAST best-of....
...Possibly more coming soon....

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

#653: The Church of the Moody Blues

We've sorta gone all Moody Blues-happy here recently, with me raving about their "Simple Game" in that post about Great B-Sides below, raving about all the other hits they SHOULD'VE had a coupla posts back, & chopping up that thin MOODY BLUES COMPANION book a few posts ago.
But indulge me 4 awhile longer, because there's a new book out about the Moodies, & it takes a look at the band from a somewhat different angle.
Charles and Barbara Whitfield's TIMELESS TROUBADOURS: THE MOODY BLUES' MUSIC AND MESSAGE (2013, 165 large-type pages with a glossary, reference notes and an index), written by a doctor and a therapist, proposes that the Moodies' music has healing, restorative properties and can help you live a better life.
Well, yeah.
But all music can do that. Anyone's favorite music has restorative and healing powers, and just hearing it helps you live a better, more satisfying, more fulfilled life.
The Whitfields' point is that due to their unique musical construction, optimistic and uplifting outlook, and continuous spiritual search for The Meaning Of It All, the Moodies' music is especially suited for this purpose.
Well, maybe.
This is the kind of thinking that made the Moodies a sort of laughing-stock in the "cooler" quarters of the late '60s/early-'70s counterculture, the folks who were too cool 2 B swept away by the Moodies' "cosmic" compositions & searches 4 The Meaning Of Life. There were also folks out there who thot the Moodies had Answers to all the Questions that were plaguing the hippie generation. It's that kind of thinking that led Moodies bassist John Lodge to write "I'm Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band."
And yet, I always liked the Moodies' cosmic outlook, their searches for meaning, their pontificating, their classical & cosmic pretensions, even mostly liked their lectures -- like "The Balance" & "Have You Heard?" & "My Song." Within limits. Not "Om," tho.
I remember a review CRAWDADDY magazine published back in '78 on the Moodies' "comeback" album OCTAVE. The reviewer was so busy being fake-cosmic & "clever" & sly & stupid about the band & its fans & its past that he couldn't even bother 2 say if the album was ANY GOOD.
& I was furious, because I loved those guys, had been sucked-in by everything they did from the time I 1st heard DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED at age 8 & later was reminded about them when I heard "Ride My See-Saw" blasting out of a tiny transistor radio at age 11.
I bought all their "Core 7" albums & disappeared in2 them (& Justin Hayward & John Lodge's great fake-Moodies-album BLUE JAYS) 4 months at a time as I struggled 2 get thru highschool. & the Moodies assured me that the work was worth it, that someday it would All Make Sense.
I'm sure if I read that CRAWDADDY putdown today I'd probly laff & admire the comedy writing & probly even agree with it on some level. But underneath I'd still B furious, cos the Moodies never got no respect 4 their uniqueness -- their great British-pop songwriting, their gorgeous vocal harmonies, Hayward's rockin' guitar work, the siren-wail of the Mellotron that trademarked their most memorable songs....
(*AHEM*) Now then: Even with all this as background, I had some trouble taking the Whitfields' central thesis seriously, and I'm sorry for that. I've become a little cynical in my old age. But I know the effect the Moodies had on me when I was younger, & that their best music still has on me. I even played "My Song" at work a few nites ago, & it sounded A LOT BETTER than I remembered. (Wonder what "Have You Heard?" sounds like these days?) I even played "Say it with Love" (from the empty KEYS OF THE KINGDOM) in the car a couple nites ago -- & didn't throw up! I wasn't thrilled, I wasn't gripped, but it was painless.
& tho the Whitfields missed some songs that I think would have supported their thesis, I havta reluctantly conclude that they might B right about the healthy, restorative, guide-for-your-life aspect of the Moodies' work. &, unlike the MOODY BLUES COMPANION dissected below, at least the Whitfields' book is mostly in Real English. They know how to put words together.
Would've liked 2 hear their views on "Question," 1 of the angriest of the Moodies' songs ... & about "The Balance," 1 of the most overtly "spiritual" of the Moodies' songs -- it even SOUNDS like a sermon. Also think "You and Me" is 1 of the most direct Moodies trax in terms of message, & that it's pretty clear that "Watching and Waiting" is narrated by "the voice" of Another Planet. The only obvious error I could see is the note that EVERY GOOD BOY DESERVES FAVOUR wasn't promoted by a single -- what about "The Story in Your Eyes"?
(The Whitfields also claim the Moodies have never tried 2 venture in2 Country music -- maybe they missed hearing "Send Me No Wine" & "It's Cold Outside of Your Heart" -- both of which R very twangy.)
What I liked best about this book is that the Whitfields invited comment from readers, & hava website at They want to keep the conversation going -- I think that and the openness & positiveness in their book is a tough combination to beat. I've already commented....
So this isn't the in-depth history of the Moodies that I'd been hoping 4 -- tho there is some new stuff here. I still think there's plenty of room 4 a detailed history, & I hereby volunteer 2 write it....

(Coming up soon for post #666: King Crimson, of course....)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

#652: Great Backsides!

No, we R not gonna talk about Kim Kardashian here. Or J-Lo. Or Beyonce. Those R all worthwhile subjects 4 a whole 'nother blog.
1nce upon a time, record companies used 2 release little 7-inch vinyl musical donuts that played at 45 rpm's -- they were called "45's" or "singles," & sometimes recording artists issued some great overlooked stuff on the non-hit-side of the single, the "B-side."
Can't believe I haven't written about this stuff B4, this list came 2 me so easily -- maybe I've mentioned them all previously as part of my series on Great Lost Singles. Anyway, here's a dozen or so worth checking out ... again....
* Fleetwood Mac: "Silver Springs" -- The B-side 2 "Go Your Own Way," this is the track that got squoze-off RUMOURS, & they shoulda found some way 2 squeeze it right back on there, there's sevral songs it's EASILY better than. This is 4 minutes of haunting, heartbroken melancholy, probly the best thing Stevie Nicks has ever done. Great mournful guitar from Lindsey Buckingham, too, & a great dramatic choral-vocal finish. Finally appeared on-album on THE CHAIN box set about 10 years later....
* Moody Blues: "Simple Game" -- In Europe, this was the B-side 2 "Ride My See-Saw," finally appeared on-album on the Moodies' THIS IS best-of in '74. Sorta a nod back 2 their beat-band roots, or a cross between their simpler beginnings & their late-'60s cosmic stuff, the "doo-doo-doo" chorus'll get you every time. 4 me, it's the best thing keyboardist Mike Pinder ever wrote. If Decca Records had been smart, this coulda been a hit in '74. & the Four Tops did a cover version....
* Dion: "Daddy Rollin' (In Your Arms)" -- The B-side 2 his big late-'60s peace-love&understanding hit "Abraham, Martin and John," "Daddy Rollin'" is a stripped-down country-blues number that seems to make vague references 2 Dion's well-known heroin habit. Not only does it rock more convincingly than anything else he's ever done, check out summa the vocals later in the song -- his cold, distant whining is really chilling. 1 of a kind.
* Kate Bush: "Empty Bullring" -- This stark, brief, stripped-down piano&vocal portrait of a disintegrating marriage was the B-side of Kate's Top 10 British single "Breathing," & it's among the 1/2dozen most haunting things she's ever done. Finally appeared on-album on her THIS WOMAN'S WORK best-of, where there's LOTS of other Good Stuff, like "Cloudbusting," "December Will be Magic Again," "Running Up That Hill," the heartbreaking "This Woman's Work," etc....
* Billy Joel: "All for Leyna" -- 4 me by far the best song offa GLASS HOUSES was the B-side 2 the hit "Sometimes a Fantasy" (I think....), so there was no chance of it ever getting any airplay. 4 me, this is among Billy's Top 5 best ever, sums up everything he tried 2 do on THE STRANGER, & adds summa that NYC Attitude, & it still rocks. Nice piano, too.
* Nino Tempo & April Stevens: "I've Been Carrying a Torch for You So Long That I've Burned a Great Big Hole in My Heart" -- I'm not making this up. The B-side 2 the 1961 #1 Grammy-winning "Deep Purple." Talk about stripped-down: loony vocals, strummin' guitar, & lyrics that R out of this world, like a deep whoop of lovestruck lunacy, somewhere between a yodel & a field holler. The folks at Atco Records were on some heavy drugz I guess, "Deep Purple" always sounded strange enuf 2 me....
* Electric Light Orchestra: "10538 Overture (live)" -- This live version of a track offa their very 1st album was the B-side 2 "Evil Woman" (I think....), & has the same majesty & catchiness & haunting melody that made "Can't Get it Out of My Head" a big hit. & even with the string section, it still rocks....
* Dave Edmunds: "Creature from the Black Lagoon" -- The B-side 2 the shoulda-been-hit "Girls Talk," this is a 3-minute horror-comedy-lovestory with lots of great driving guitar. Dave shoulda had 1/2adozen more hits....
* Genesis: "Vancouver," "Inside and Out" -- Do EP's count? The 3-minute runaway story "Vancouver" was part of the B-side 2 the British "Many Too Many" single. It doesn't overstay its welcome, the lyrics R great, Phil Collins's singing is sweet, it's perfect in its way. "Inside and Out" was guitarist Steve Hackett's last work with the band, & the 7-minute track features about 4 mins of great instrumental interplay at the end. It was the B-side of the British "Match of the Day" EP.
* Fleetwood Mac: "Monday Morning (live)" -- The live version of this song (from FLEETWOOD MAC LIVE) beats the studio original 2 DEATH. A rousing, rocking crowd-pleaser. The A-side is the gorgeous Beach Boys cover "The Farmer's Daughter," which shoulda been a huge hit....
* The Beach Boys -- They always had LOTS of great B-sides, like "Kiss Me Baby," "Let Him Run Wild," "There's No Other (Like My Baby)," "Here Today," "This Whole World," "She Knows Me Too Well," even silly stuff like the dinner-table chant "You're Welcome," or the hilarious "TM Song." Or how bout "Susie Cincinnati," which was a B-side at least 2wice B4 it ever got on an album?
* The Beatles -- Speaking of great B-sides, how 'bout "I Am the Walrus," "Old Brown Shoe," "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)," "I'm Down," "Thank You Girl," "I Saw Her Standing There," "I Should Have Known Better," "Strawberry Fields Forever," "Do You Want to Know a Secret," "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party," "Day Tripper," "Baby You're a Rich Man"....
...& your favorite backsides of all time are...?

Monday, April 8, 2013

#651: Songs of adoration

As I continue re-creating the musical lineup of my teenage years at work, with further Xcursions in2 '60s/'70s Soul/R&B, here's what I've been listening 2 lately....

Marvin solo -- Ain't That Peculiar?, You, I Heard it Through the Grapevine, Too Busy Thinking About My Baby, That's the Way Love Is, What's Going On?, Mercy Mercy Me, Inner City Blues, Trouble Man, Distant Lover (live), Got to Give it Up.
With Kim Weston -- It Takes Two.
With Tammi Terrell -- Ain't No Mountain High Enough, Your Precious Love, If I Could Build My Whole World Around You, Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing, You're All I Need to Get By.

Stevie Wonder -- I Was Made to Love Her, For Once in My Life, My Cherie Amour, Signed Sealed Delivered, If You Really Love Me, Superstition, Higher Ground, You Haven't Done Nothin', I Wish, Sir Duke, That Girl.
Supremes -- Reflections, You Keep Me Hangin' On.
Four Tops -- Reach Out I'll Be There, Still Water (Love), Ain't No Woman Like the One I've Got.
Temptations -- Get Ready, Beauty is Only Skin Deep.
Bangles -- Manic Monday, Let it Go, September Gurls, Going Down to Liverpool, Be With You, Everything I Wanted.
Boston -- Used to Bad News, Hitch a Ride.
Ronettes -- Be My Baby, Baby I Love You, The Best Part of Breakin' Up, I Wonder.
Righteous Brothers -- You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling.
Ike and Tina Turner -- River Deep Mountain High.
Moody Blues -- Question, It's Up to You, The Story in Your Eyes, You Can Never Go Home, Tuesday Afternoon, Nights in White Satin, Ride My See-Saw, Lovely to See You.
Van Morrison -- Sweet Thing, Cleaning Windows, Wonderful Remark, Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile).
Aaron Copland/Eduardo Mata/Dallas Symphony Orchestra -- Hoedown, El Salon Mexico.
Joe Bonamassa -- LIVE FROM NOWHERE IN PARTICULAR disc one....

Of all the music I've ever played at work, Marvin Gaye & Stevie Wonder have gone over the best (right up there with the Moody Blues) -- with folks walking in & singing along, 1 Regular dancing her way thru the store while Marvin was singing, & others tossing in tidbits like "Good jams!" "Classic!" & etc.
Been playing Marvin's VERY BEST OF 2-CD set a LOT over the past week. It's all pretty great, from the mid-2-late-'60s solo hits like the classic "Ain't That Peculiar" 2 the string of great duets with Tammi Terrell & Kim Weston, in2 his early-'70s "socially conscious" stuff.
Other than "Ain't That Peculiar," my faves R probly "Inner City Blues" & "Trouble Man," both of which I hadn't heard since about 1972, & both of which still sound freaking GREAT -- & the lyrics 4 "Inner City Blues" still work just fine today. That sense of relaxation in Marvin's voice in "Trouble Man," the ease of his singing -- there's a vocal riff in the middle of the song that's just amazing. This came as a suprise 2 me, cos I thot "Trouble Man" was movie-soundtrack muzak when I 1st heard it back around '72....
Among the duets, "You're All I Need to Get By" is pretty damn irresistible, but "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" & "It Takes Two" are no slouches either. The rest I'm sure will grow on me -- but it's gonna take a lot to top "You're All I Need." The love you can hear in their voices makes that song a pretty emotional Xperience. (More of these R coming up....)
My only real complaint with VERY BEST OF is that it doesn't include Marvin's hit duet with Diana Ross, "My Mistake," which I also thot was pretty great....
Hard 2 find a reasonably-priced Stevie Wonder best-of that covers everything I wanna hear. While Motown/UMG's cheapo best-of has mosta his early stuff, & NUMBER 1'S repackages the biggest hits, none of his best-of's includes the silly, glorious "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing," 1 of my all-time faves.
Anyway. Along with Marvin's duets, songs of adoration like Stevie's "I Was Made to Love Her" & "My Cherie Amour" really put me on the floor -- they just sound so PURE. Even the cheezy "For Once in My Life" sounds pretty great now. & "That Girl" gets better with repeated listenings.
All the rest of the Soul/R&B listed above you can consider recommended.... "Get Ready" still sounds great, & I never thot I'd hear a version I thot was better than Rare Earth's -- they were 1 of my fave bands when I was 11 years old....
But I wanna know why "It's the Same Old Song" & "Keeper of the Castle" Rn't on the Four Tops cheapo best-of. & if they'd tossed in their cover of the Moody Blues' "Simple Game" that woulda saved me some $$$.... & if "Up the Ladder to the Roof" & "Love is Here and Now You're Gone" were on the Supremes' cheapo best-of it'd B a 1-stop shop. But that'd keep us music fans from spending R $$$ & supporting the economy, right...?
...Needta get some Earth, Wind and Fire in here, & bring in the Stylistics best-of CD from home....

I DID listen 2 some other stuff, tho I don't have much left 2 say about most of it -- a lot of it was summa my old mood-elevator stand-by's.
Bangles still sound great, especially on the stuff that hasn't been played to death: "Let it Go," "September Gurls," "Going Down to Liverpool," "Be With You," "Everything I Wanted" -- but I'm still a sucker 4 the backing vocals on "Manic Monday," they just make me swoon....
Still a big fan of Boston's overlooked stuff, "Used to Bad News," "Hitch a Ride" -- also recommend "It's Easy," "Something About You," "My Destination," "Hollyann"....
Speaking of songs of adoration, try the Ronettes -- you can't lose with any of their stuff if you're a sucker 4 mushy romance & yearning. "The Best Part of Breakin' Up" sounds like the Beach Boys snuck into the studio, & "I Wonder" is a forgotten classic.
...& 1nce you get sucked-in by the Ronettes, it's on 2 those old early-'60s Phil Spector classics, almost all of which R songs of adoration. "Lovin' Feeling" is still irresistible, & if it doesn't make the Earth move 4 you, Ike & Tina's amazing "River Deep Mountain High" is an unbelievable emotional Xperience that will put a lump in your throat every time you hear it -- once you adjust 2 the kinda cluttered, overly-busy, heavy-contrast arrangement & production. Tho it's almost over-the-top, it's probly my fave Spector piece ever, at least partly because it BOMBED big-time in America. Somebody's got 2 love it....
Speaking of over-the-top, how 'bout the Moodies? If Decca Records had been smart, they coulda had at least a dozen more hits. I recommend "Simple Game," "Peak Hour," "Evening: Time to Get Away," "Twilight Time," "The Actor," "Voices in the Sky," "Lovely to See You," "Never Comes the Day," "The Dream," "Gypsy," "Eyes of a Child Part 2," "Out and In," "Watching and Waiting," "It's Up to You," "Don't You Feel Small?," "Tortoise and the Hare," "Minstrel's Song," "Dawning is the Day," "Our Guessing Game," "After You Came," "One More Time to Live," "You Can Never Go Home," "For My Lady," "You and Me," "Land of Make-Believe," "Meanwhile," "In My World," "Nervous," "Veteran Cosmic Rocker," "Blue World," "Sorry," "Running Water," "It's Cold Outside of Your Heart," "Meet Me Halfway," "No More Lies" ... How many songs is that? 35? ...See what I mean?
Speaking of adoration, check out Van's "Sweet Thing," which has become a new favorite of mine. To be so transported by love is an amazing thing. "Cleaning Windows" & "Wonderful Remark" R also of intrest. & "Jackie Wilson Said" is a stone classic.
...& then there's Aaron Copland, my fave classical-style composer ever. Tho "Hoedown" got turned in2 a "Beef: It's what's for dinner!" commercial a decade ago, it still hits pretty hard -- at least usually. The cheap CD of it I recently obtained unfortunately isn't as powerful as an old cassette I have of the same performance. Ditto 4 "El Salon Mexico," which should EXPLODE out of the speakers. You should also check out the majestic "Simple Gifts" section of Copland's "Appalachian Spring."
...& thanx 2 a store Regular, I also heard part of Joe Bonamassa's LIVE FROM NOWHERE IN PARTICULAR, & I gotta say I wasn't that impressed at 1st. Seemed like basic blues-rock, kinda predictable. But 3 trax in there was an impressive slow-burn blues number.... & then the 4th track, a 10-minute piece that opened with a long, fiery electric-guitar solo, followed by heartfelt lyrics about how his girlfriend is "free as eagles" (another song of adoration -- wish I had a title 4 this, quick check at indicates this could be the "India"/"Mountain Time" medley) ... well, by then I was hooked, & I was sold by the rest. The man can PLAY. & what a backing band he's got. & that 4th song is really great -- haunting even. Worth tracking down....

Next up -- Tchaikovsky's NUTCRACKER SUITE, Dvorak's NEW WORLD SYMPHONY, & Beethoven's 5TH SYMPHONY -- all of which went straight to #1!
More soon!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

#650: The perils of self-publishing

THE MOODY BLUES COMPANION, edited with an introduction & historical essay by Edward Wincentsen, 2001, 185 large-print pages, around $15 from

This is a beginner's book. It's for beginning Moody Blues fans, it's put together by a beginning writer, probably published in his basement, & it's tough to read because it has dozens -- possibly hundreds -- of typographical errors in it. The sentence structure in the intro & historical essay is awfully rough, & the best writing in the book isn't by the guy with his name on the cover.
In cases like this, you hope the information inside makes up for the awkward writing, the errors in punctuation, the bad structure, the sentence fragments, the factual errors, the lack of a table of contents or an index.
I was prepared to do a hatchet job on this book. I was ready to call it the most disappointing book about progressive rock since Jerry Lucky's PROGRESSIVE ROCK FILES or Joe Benson's UNCLE JOE'S GUIDE TO PROGRESSIVE ROCK -- 2 other self-published "classics."
But there are actually some good things in here, tho it's definitely not worth the $15.
The best thing here is a 10-page interview with Moodies producer Tony Clarke -- he provides the perspective & humor that isn't found anywhere else in the book. And my hometown heroes Providence get a name-check!
Other than that, the best writing comes from articles published in the HIGHER AND HIGHER Moodies' fan magazine, & from newspaper or magazine interviews with the Moodies or former band members.
The historical essay has a couple of interesting sections & is very strong on the circumstances surrounding the recording of DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED -- how the Moodies were invited by Decca to record a "rocked-up" version of Dvorak's NEW WORLD SYMPHONY, etc. It's on the money about paring-down production on A QUESTION OF BALANCE so the guys could do the songs justice on-stage.
But it's thin on the period surrounding SEVENTH SOJOURN & their vacation in the early '70s. Most of their other albums are just barely mentioned. & the info about how Beatles manager Brian Epstein might have managed the Moodies to greater heights had he not died in 1967 is a whole new area to me, & I'd not seen it mentioned anywhere before. Not sure what Wincentsen's source is for this info.
But overall, the history's a disappointment. The history in the TIME TRAVELER box-set is better, though still not an award-winner. Hell, I wrote an essay on the Moodies in high school creative writing class that had more depth than this....
So this book would not have satisfied me as a high school fan & it doesn't tell me much that's new now. But Wincentsen brought all the data together & says he hopes somebody will write an "authorized" book on the Moodies soon. So do I -- I'd like to read it. I'd really like to see somebody do a John McPhee-style history on the band, before the stories get any older.
The biggest problem with self-published books is that by definition they were probably too weak to be published professionally. There's usually an obvious weakness. Usually with self-publication the problem is that the manuscript never gets professionally proofread by somebody trained in spelling, punctuation, sentence structure....
You may think none of this matters much, but try reading it. This book has WAY too many punctuation errors and sentence fragments, & was clearly written by a writer who didn't know how to edit or proofread his own work. Referring to the Moodies' early history as an R&B "beat" band, Wincentsen refers to this music more than once as "R&B's music."
While I didn't find too many spelling errors, there is one VERY embarrassing reference to former Moodies keyboard player "Mink" Pinder. That mistake is enough to make you wonder about all the other information being presented. If the author can't spell someone's name right, what else has he messed up?
The writer owes it to his paying customers to do the job RIGHT. Writing clearly, fluently, correctly, isn't really that hard. But it does take time ... or even a second draft....
Other problems: The discography is a joke, there isn't even a list of songs on each album -- listing song titles & songwriting credits could have filled up the dozen empty pages at the back of the book, & it wouldn't have been that much more work. The discography doesn't include release dates -- the only place they're mentioned is in the historical essay. Solo albums aren't listed in the discography -- they're only mentioned in the history.
There's an essay that takes the central metaphor from the Moodies' album TO OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN'S CHILDREN and goes way too far.... There's a list of Frequently Asked Questions that actually has some good info in it, but not enough.... Did you know the Four Tops did a version of the Moodies' classic B-side "Simple Game"? Well, you didn't learn that by reading this book....
There's a long section with fans' stories about meeting the guys in the band, & they're nice, but ... they're probably not what you'd buy this book for....
Kudos to Wincentsen for seeing a need for this book and pulling the info together. He DID make it happen -- but then he didn't seem to know what he wanted to do with it, whether he wanted to make it a non-fiction overview or a fan's souvenir. One thing it ISN'T is an in-depth investigation of the band's work.
Overall, not much of a companion if you're a big Moodies fan. Two stars, max.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

#649: Daydreams R Us

In so many ways, I'm still the same 20-year-old I was back in 1979, sitting in my parents' house, playing old albums & listening over the headphones 'til 3 in the morning while the house was quiet, playing the same songs over&over, getting lost in them & wondering what the future had in store for me.
I knew then that if I was ever in a band, it would havta make music as good as the stuff I couldn't stop listening to. I knew I could handle the lyrics, but I'd somehow havta figure out how 2 play an instrument. Something not-too-obvious. Bass, perhaps?
It would have 2 B a band that'd create songs as great as Boston's "A Man I'll Never Be" & "Used to Bad News," Journey's "Feeling That Way" & "Anytime," Caravan's "Memory Lain" & "The Dog, The Dog," Camel's "Breathless" & "Echoes," King Crimson's "Starless" & "Red," the Moody Blues' "It's Up to You" & "You Can Never Go Home," Queen's "'39" & "The Prophet's Song," Fleetwood Mac's "I Know I'm Not Wrong" & "The Farmer's Daughter." Nick Drake's "Northern Sky" & Pat Metheny's "The Search," or Gryphon's "Lament" & "Spring Song."
Was it even possible that a band could cover that wide a range? Maybe if it was a big-enough band.... I figured with me & a dozen of my closest friends, we might take a shot at it. We were all young & energetic & passionate & had lotsa great ideas. Some of us were even musicians....
That was 1 daydream: I could see us all in a studio, painstakingly creating great adventurous stuff. I could see us on-stage performing live before thousands of screaming fans. A great rock&roll orchestra & chorus. Like Paul Kantner's Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra -- only BETTER!
Most of these daydreams eventually -- 25 years later -- got turned in2 an attempt at a novel ... which went on 4 about 30 tiny-print hand-written pages before I ran out of inspiration. I couldn't see where the story went next. Still can't. Most of it seemed 2 turn in2 long meditations of nostalgia & regret, likely intresting 2 nobody but me. 1/2adozen of the best, liveliest, most-easily-understood sections were posted here a couple years back....
Another daydream was 2 Bcome a Record Company guy. Figure out how come popular music & radio got so messed up, how come the Good Stuff was so good & the bad stuff was SO bad.
4 Xample -- Why was the 2nd U.K. album (DANGER MONEY) SO MUCH weaker than the 1st -- it couldn't just have been the loss of brilliant drummer Bill Bruford & guitarist Allan Holdsworth.... (I useta spend HOURS scouring that hideous 2nd album cover 4 clues, as if the answers were all right there in front of me if I could only break the code, figure out the symbolism -- I got my answer 2 years later when Asia appeared.)
Or: Why did Genesis spend a whole album (DUKE) stuck in the mud? I'd figure it all out, create best-of albums that artists would B PROUD of, not the confused crap record companies so often seemed to put out.... Didn't they have a brain? Didn't they have ears?
I also thot at 1 point -- after I got in2 the newswriting business & started devouring books by 1 of my heroes, John McPhee -- that I might love 2 write a book about long-distance truckers. I had an uncle (& now I have a son) who was in that bizness, & I thot it might B fun 2 just hang out & soak-up some atmosphere, go along with them & see what it's LIKE: What were the demands on the body, the stress, how much of the country did they actually SEE while driving thru it...?
A week ago I learned McPhee wrote at least part of a book about long-distance trucking a few years back -- it's called UNCOMMON CARRIERS. 20 pages in, I can tell you it's got the typical McPhee magic working, the lyrical attention 2 detail, + Xtra added jokes. McPhee's 1st few books were a little formal, I thot -- brilliant, well-observed as always, but very formal. He's lightened up a great deal over the years, 2 his credit. I'll hava review of this 1 coming soon....
Long B4 I ever heard of John McPhee, while I was still playing albums over the headphones in my parents' living room, I thot there was plenty of room 4 an in-depth book on the Moody Blues. 4 me, they opened a huge door in2 Strange Music -- from their launching pad there wasn't any kind of music I wouldn't try.
+ I never thot they got their due in terms of recognition, record sales, hits or press. As songwriters, I thot sometimes that they were right up there with the Beatles -- great British pop songwriting with easy, memorable melodies, gorgeous vocal harmonies & haunting guitar & keyboard work -- they coulda had a dozen more hits if their record label had been a little smarter.
I was doubly sure a book on the Moodies was overdue when their TIME TRAVELER best-of box-set came out & included a historical essay that even I (with my limited knowledge) coulda improved upon. Looking back, it probly wasn't that bad, but I was certain at the time that it DEFINITELY didn't tell me Everything I Ever Wanted 2 Know....
Last week I learned there IS a book on the Moodies, THE MOODY BLUES COMPANION, & I am eager 2 see if the book satisfies me as a lifelong fan now, or if it would even have satisfied the ravenous 19-year-old fan that I was back when. I'll B reporting on that 1, 2....
I still think there's plenty of room 4 a Progressive-Rock/Strange-Music Encyclopedia. I've been collecting information 4 it 4 YEARS....
I didn't Xpect 2 end up blogging with all my free time at age 53. But with the time I have left, if I could get any of these old daydream projects done, I'd consider it time well-wasted....

Monday, April 1, 2013

#648: Leftoverture

...No, this is not a review of the classic 1976 album by Kansas -- if you need me 2 urge you 2 check out that album at this late date, you really R in trouble. (But you really SHOULD check-out that album's songs "Miracles Out of Nowhere" & "Questions of My Childhood" & "Cheyenne Anthem" & "What's on My Mind" & "The Wall"....)
No, what this is instead is a collection of stuff I've been piling up 4 the last few weeks -- material that wasn't quite enuf 4 a post of its own. Here 'tis....

Hope you've been catching rock critics Jim deRogatis & Greg Kott's weekly music show SOUND OPINIONS on an open-minded radio station near you. (Here they're on the University of Washington's KUOW-FM, Sunday nites at 10 pm.) In recent weeks they've had a long interview with producer Tony Visconti -- who talked about how fast folks like David Bowie & Marc Bolan (of T. Rex) liked 2 work in the studio, & about spending 10 MONTHS in the studio with the Moody Blues recording THE OTHER SIDE OF LIFE. They even talked a bit about Gentle Giant, who Visconti produced sevral early albums 4. Visconti also talked about his book: BOWIE, BOLAN AND THE BROOKLYN BOY, which sounds like a hoot -- anybody out there got a copy? I can't afford Amazon's prices -- I promise 2 review it here, drop me your address below....
Last nite, March 31, 2 celebrate the start of baseball season, Jim & Greg talked about artists who achieved "grand slams" -- 4 great studio albums in a row. You can imagine summa the names that were mentioned -- Led Zep, etc., & there were lotsa critic's babies: XTC, Husker Du, Blur, etc. -- but I was suprised at summa the names that WEREN'T mentioned. I was working, so I didn't hear EVERYTHING, but... They SAID they weren't gonna include Bob Dylan, the Stones, Roxy Music. But how bout the Beatles? (REVOLVER/SGT. PEPPER/WHITE ALBUM/ABBEY ROAD)? How bout Pink Floyd (DARK SIDE/WISH YOU WERE HERE/ANIMALS/THE WALL)? Or The Who (SELL OUT/TOMMY/WHO'S NEXT/QUADROPHENIA)? How bout Fleetwood Mac (FLEETWOOD MAC/RUMOURS/TUSK/MIRAGE)?
...& then they quoted rock critic Lester Bangs on how "all music today goes back to the Velvet Underground," & listed their 4 great albums. Well, maybe. Xcept 4 "All Tomorrow's Parties," I've never been much of a Velvets fan -- but Jim & Greg said especially the Velvets' 2nd album, WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT, thrilled them & terrified them when they were young, & they submit that's what great rock&roll SHOULD do.
Well, still a pretty great radio show. Lotsa critics' babies, but. I've learned a few things. & they're a great argument-starter. Check 'em out, if you haven't already, if they're on-air where you're at....

Was listening 2 Blondie's charming remake of Randy and the Rainbows' early-'60s hit "Denise" (Blondie's version is on their GREATEST HITS), when I started wondering when was the last time I heard the original played on the radio. 4 me, it was near Salt Lake City, Utah, early in 1998, driving thru a snowstorm.
& then I started thinking about how Oldies Radio has failed us all if great stuff like this is forgotten in favor of the same old publically-acceptable 200 Oldies hits that everybody plays over & over.
When's the last time you heard Timmy Thomas's "Why Can't We Live Together" on radio? Marvin Gaye's "Ain't That Peculiar"? Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's "House at Pooh Corner"? Fanny's "Charity Ball" or "Butter Boy"? Or 100 others I could probly rattle off if I took a few minutes 2 think about it?
Can somebody with some MEMORY & IMAGINATION take over a radio station somewhere? I'd tune in... daily.

"THE BUG 3" -- Bagged a few more items during a trip thru a Bremerton 2nd-hand store over the weekend:
Mott the Hoople -- MOTT.
Mary-Chapin Carpenter -- COME ON COME ON.
Peter Gabriel -- 3.
Dusty Springfield -- YOU DON'T HAVE TO SAY YOU LOVE ME.
Nino Tempo and April Stevens -- DEEP PURPLE.
Patrick Moraz -- I.
Three Dog Night -- HARMONY.
Trisha Yearwood -- SONGBOOK best-of.
Carly Simon -- BEST OF.
...The Mott 2 replace a CD copy I foolishly traded-off 5 years ago. Gotta hear "All the Way from Memphis" & "Honaloochie Boogie" & "Violence" again ... The Mary-Chapin Carpenter is an olde favorite from the '90s, worth it all 4 "Passionate Kisses" & "The Hard Way" & the title song & a coupla others ... The Gabriel mainly 4 the heartbreaking "Family Snapshot" -- I'm sure I won't play it much, but it'll B good 2 have it around ... Dusty 4 the gorgeous melodramatic title song ... Nino & April 4 the foghorn-impression title song of course -- but mainly 4 the amazing B-side "I've Been Carrying a Torch for You So Long That I've Burned a Great Big Hole in My Heart" (I'm NOT making this up!), which is somewhere between a yodel & a field holler, something that coulda come from another planet ... The Moraz cos I loved his work with the Moodies & have always thot he was screwed out of a lotta credit 4 that band's comeback in the '80s ... The Dog 2 replace a copy I've foolishly traded off 2wice now ... The Yearwood 4 the country hits I can't stop singing along with ("She's in Love With the Boy," "Thinking About You," "X's and O's," "Wrong Side of Memphis") -- if "Woman Walk the Line" were on it, it'd B perfect ... Liz Phair cos she got rave reviews & all I've ever heard by her were a coupla middling hits a few years back, including the wonderful "Extraordinary" ... The Carly Simon mighta been a mistake. I've already got "Anticipation" on an old promo 45. Maybe 4 "Attitude Dancing"? Or so I could hear "Legend in Your Own Time"? I wonder what I put back by mistake...?
...I can also report that this apparently nameless 2nd-hand store in Bremerton's Perry Avenue Mall has a HUGE selection of reasonably-priced vinyl. I PUT BACK albums by Al Stewart, Incredible String Band, Rick Wakeman, It's a Beautiful Day, Fleetwood Mac, Rascals, etc.
Oh, they also have a Vee-Jay copy of INTRODUCING THE BEATLES, in a locked glass display case -- only $500?! Maybe if it were in the original shrink-wrap & had never been opened.... Damn, I coulda grabbed a copy 4 $2 back in 1976....
NEway, worth a visit if you're in the area....