Monday, May 6, 2013

#662: Living in the past

Has there ever been a better title for a blog post here? Can't think of one. I almost called THE WHOLE BLOG "Living in the past." Might change the name yet....

Suddenly it's in the mid-80s & gorgeous in Western Washington. (While the Midwest gets buried in snow.) Not complaining -- this is what we were longing for back in February. What's gonna suck is if it cools back down into the 50s & 60s & starts raining again. That's what it did last year. Last year it rained through the 4th of July....

The playlist:
Kirsty MacColl -- Free World.
Rascals -- See.
Strawbs -- The Hangman and the Papist, Benedictus, Golden Salamander, Tokyo Rosie, Hero and Heroine,  Backside (Ciggy Barlust), Out in the Cold, Round and Round, Oh How She Changed, The Battle, Grace Darling, Blue Angel, Here it Comes, The Shepherd's Song, We'll Meet Again Sometime.
Kinks -- Victoria, Days, Apeman, Dead-End Street, 'Til the End of the Day, Dedicated Follower of Fashion, Sunny Afternoon, Better Things, Come Dancing, I Need You, Where Have All the Good Times Gone?, A Well Respected Man, Shangri-La.
Stylistics -- You are Everything, Betcha By Golly Wow, People Make the World Go Round, You Make Me Feel Brand New, Rockin' Roll Baby.
Spinners -- I'll Be Around, I'm Coming Home, Rubberband Man.
Nick Drake -- Cello Song, Hazey Jane I, Things Behind the Sun, From the Morning, One of These Things First, Northern Sky, Which Will, Hazey Jane II, Pink Moon.
Sandy Denny -- The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood, Listen Listen.
Rush -- Time Stand Still, Force Ten, Marathon.
Yes -- South Side of the Sky, Tempus Fugit, Leave It, It Can Happen.
Five Man Electrical Band -- Absolutely Right, Signs, Julianna.
Weather Report -- Badia/Boogie Woogie Waltz medley (live).
Jethro Tull -- A Christmas Song, Teacher, Life's a Long Song, Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day, The Whistler, Dun Ringill, Living in the Past.

NOTES: Again I urge you to track down Kirsty MacColl's "Free World" -- it's worth it all for the great driving guitars & the angry lyrics. & then there's her VOICE....
Ditto the Rascals' great "See," which has some hilarious psychedelic poetry & excellent late-'60s heavy-organ sounds. These guys should've done more stuff like this.
The Strawbs -- hmmm. I SHOULD love these guys, because they're right up my folk/rock/progressive alley. & at times I DO love them -- the apocalyptic "Down by the Sea," the angry "Where is This Dream of Your Youth?," the WAY-over-the-top "Hero and Heroine," etc. But a lot of the time they're just kind of average. Their lovesongs are kinda syrupy & smarmy. & leader/main songwriter Dave Cousins' whiny voice can wear on you.
Their best-of's are kinda confused: The American HALCYON DAYS has a dozen different songs from the British version, & it's in chronological order -- the British version is all over the place, & the song choices don't seem as strong. The 2-record CLASSIC STRAWBS has one GREAT side -- but the rest is kind of spotty. & of the original albums, JUST A COLLECTION OF ANTIQUES AND CURIOS is a bore except for "Dream of Your Youth." GRAVE NEW WORLD has two listenable tracks (including the shockingly bitter "New World"), & the rest is pretty awful. I haven't been brave enough to go much farther, although (judging by the tracks recycled on the best-of's) GHOSTS, BURSTING AT THE SEAMS and HERO AND HEROINE all seem pretty strong.
In the above batch, "Hangman and the Papist" is highlighted by Rick Wakeman doodling all over the opening. The story is a bit overly dramatic, but Cousins is often best when pushed to the emotional edge. "Benedictus" is a morning prayer. "Golden Salamander" is silly. "Tokyo Rosie" is more relaxed, the guys letting their hair down a bit -- which they should've done more often. "Hero and Heroine" is practically the definition of ELP-like bombastic, lots of pushy keyboards & hysteria -- & Cousins correctly guessed that this "big sound" is what got them an audience in the U.S.
"Backside" is a sort-of David Bowie/Spiders From Mars satire, funny on first listening, above-average after that. "Out in the Cold" is a downbeat lost-love piece, a bit smarmy. "Round and Round" returns to the big, dramatic sound -- & has some disturbing lyrics at the end. "Oh How She Changed" is early stuff, but features the nice contrasting voice of Tony Hooper. "The Battle" is more tortured imagery as in "Hangman and the Papist."
Nick Drake accompanist Robert Kirby's guys'-church-choir is the best thing about the wedding march "Grace Darling," which overall is pretty pleasant. "Here it Comes" is a laughably obvious attempt at a hit -- which didn't work, & I couldn't get through it. Also couldn't get through the overwrought 9-minute "Blue Angel." I'll have more on these guys as I finish their British HALCYON DAYS best-of....
The Kinks -- ahhh, what a relief. I used to think the live "Victoria" beat the studio original to death -- I was wrong. It's a hoot to hear Brother Dave whoop it up in the background, & those one-word choruses are great. "Days" is very pleasant, though I think the huge hit version of this song is still waiting to happen. Ray's lyrics are sweet & moving, & very revealing -- & the guys' version is at least better than Kirsty MacColl's. But I still think this forgotten classic could be rescued by someone....
All those other Kinks Klassiks Up There still sound great, especially "Apeman" & "Dead-End Street" & "Sunny Afternoon" & "Shangri-La" -- an amazing song which sums-up most of Ray's Class Issues in 5 quick minutes. "Dedicated Follower" & "Well Respected Man" are both pretty hilarious. (Are these from that album about "manners and things" that Ray was once going to write?)
...& "I Need You" is the Silliest Heavy Song I've heard since Spooky Tooth's "Evil Woman." Those lyrics are really INTENSE, Ray. We MEAN it, man....
The Stylistics were so sweet they could rot your teeth right out. "You are Everything" is still glorious, but "Betcha By Golly Wow" is so sweet it's almost embarrassing -- no wonder Radio won't play it anymore. "People Make the World Go Round" even sounded pretty good, & I hadn't heard it in years. It's no Marvin Gaye '70s-social-commentary-insight piece when it comes to the lyrics, though....
Shouldn't have to push the Spinners on you. They still sound great -- & they shared a producer with the Stylistics, the great Thom Bell. Lot going on in "I'll Be Around." Linda Creed wrote some great lyrics for both groups. & "Rubberband Man" is a comedy classic that deserved to go to #1.
Nick Drake depressing? Well, only the over-produced stuff. There is also a kind of joy-in-spite-of-it-all that bubbles up in his music, in "Northern Sky" & "Fly" & "One of These Things First" & "At the Chime of a City Clock" & "Hazey Jane II," & even on "From the Morning," the gorgeous last song on his last album, PINK MOON. If his WAY TO BLUE best-of had "Fly" & "At the Chime of a City Clock" on it, it really would be Essential....
It's a short jump from Nick Drake to Sandy Denny. She's well worth hearing solo if only for the stark, dramatic, almost-acapella "The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood" & the incandescent, glorious "Listen, Listen." She did have an amazing voice....
Don't know how I missed Yes's "It Can Happen" -- knew the choruses, but it's like I missed the whole rest of the song, or thought it was something off of DRAMA ("Tempus Fugit" still sounds pretty great, too). Though "Owner of a Lonely Heart" died for me a long time ago, the other stuff from that period still holds up pretty well -- "Leave It"'s still pretty-much a knockout for me. Too bad "Changes" from 90125 isn't included on their DEFINITIVE COLLECTION -- it's also pretty punchy, still.
I also urge you to check-out Weather Report's live "Boogie Woogie Waltz" -- which I'm starting to think may not quite be the 4-star raver I previously blathered about, but turn it up LOUD & it will Do The Job on you anyway.... For me, the only place the WeatherMen woke up was when they were performing live....
Ah, the Tulls. Talk about a band that needs a GOOD best-of. All the current best-of's frustrate me. & the loud, ugly, noisy shit is inescapable. However, "Christmas Song," "Teacher," "Skating Away," "The Whistler" & etc. all still sound great. But why isn't "Baker Street Muse" on their best-of box?
Suggestions for further reviews can be submitted below....

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