Monday, May 20, 2013

#671: Not quite the same old same-old

Still not much New going on around here. Took my usual bagfull of rock&roll motivational CD's to work this past week, then got bored & added some Country Women (Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Pam Tillis, Trisha Yearwood, Wynonna, Carlene Carter, Suzy Bogguss) thinking they'd motivate me -- then got bored with them & added some New Stuff. Here's how it turned out....

Moody Blues -- The Story in Your Eyes, Question, It's Up to You, One More Time to Live, You Can Never Go Home, I'm Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band.
Boston -- Used to Bad News, It's Easy, Hitch a Ride.
Kansas -- Miracles Out of Nowhere, Questions of My Childhood, What's on My Mind, Cheyenne Anthem.
Bangles -- Let it Go, September Gurls, Angels Don't Fall in Love.
Beatles -- Eight Days a Week, Ticket to Ride, Help!, Paperback Writer.
Mary-Chapin Carpenter -- Passionate Kisses, The Hard Way, This Shirt, You Win Again, Middle Ground, Downtown Train.
Pam Tillis -- Homeward Looking Angel, Whenever You Walk in the Room, I Was Blown Away, Melancholy Child.
Wynonna -- Tell Me Why.
When in Rome -- The Promise.
Be-Bop Deluxe -- RAIDING THE DIVINE ARCHIVE best-of: Jet Silver and the Dolls of Venus, Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape, Maid in Heaven, Ships in the Night, Life in the Air Age, Kiss of Light, Sister Seagull, Modern Music, Fair Exchange, Sleep That Burns.
Barclay James Harvest -- THE HARVEST YEARS best-of: Early Morning, Mr. Sunshine, Pools of Blue, I Can't Go On Without You, Eden Unobtainable, Brother Thrush, Poor Wages, Taking Some Time On, Galadriel, Mocking Bird.
New Order -- Regret, True Faith.

My Usual Collection of upbeat rock&roll CD's for work does keep me moving & motivated, but I'm BORED. I'm bored with all the old familiar motivational stuff, & I'm bored with most of the new stuff I've recently tried unsuccessfully to break-in. & with the Really Bad new stuff, all movement & motivation grinds to a complete halt.
A couple nights this past week I got so bored musically that I even took to LISTENING TO THE RADIO. The music stations, I mean. & it didn't sound half bad....
Anyway.... "Passionate Kisses" is still a freakin' classic -- the version that's on MCC's COME ON COME ON, I mean. The later remixed version on her ESSENTIAL seems to bring her voice more out-front & she doesn't sound too excited -- & that's not good. I'm also a sucker for "The Hard Way," "You Win Again," "This Shirt," "Downtown Train".... MCC had a great run, but she needs a better best-of.
MCC wishes she had a band as great as Pam Tillis did. The best of Pam's stuff is classic, especially the old Jackie DeShannon/Searchers number "Whenever You Walk in the Room," a bittersweet lovesong that should've been a huge hit. "Homeward Looking Angel"'s a great twangy heart-puller as well, & I've grown to love "I Was Blown Away," which along with its great lovestory lyric features a wonderful though brief twangy-reel midsection. "Melancholy Child" is also 5-star stuff -- all these should've been huge hits. Whatever happened to this woman...?
Be-Bop? Well, SUNBURST FINISH is half of a great prog-rock album. Too bad most of the best stuff from it wasn't included on their single-disc best-of. Bill Nelson always did flashy, melodic, dramatic guitar work, & some of it's just plain gorgeous. Even if the songs don't work, the guitar usually does. But his Bowie/Ferry-style voice puts me off a bit, like he's not entirely serious or he's implying more than what's in the lyrics.
Among what's here, "Maid in Heaven" is too brief but just about perfect. "Life in the Air Age" gets better with repeated listenings, the lyrics are cool, & I love the tired, resigned electronic squiggles at the end. "Jet Silver and the Dolls of Venus" sounds very much like a Ziggy-era Bowie piece -- & I assume was so intended. "Kiss of Light" was intended as a single, & continues the direct approach of "Maid in Heaven." "Sister Seagull" has some more really nice guitar, not sure about the lyrics.
My pick for Be-Bop's best is still the hugely dramatic "Sleep That Burns," with more great soaring guitar & a nice nightmarish lyric. Best thing about the mechanical chugga-chugga "Ships in the Night" is the sax solo by Bill's brother Ian. Both these are from SUNBURST FINISH, as is the mean-spirited "Fair Exchange." Why isn't "Crying to the Sky" here? It has some of Bill's most gorgeous guitar work. Even "Heavenly Homes" would be more representative, & it has more stratospheric guitar. & the driving "Blazing Apostles" would be a nice addition.
I'll get back to these guys -- they have just enough talent & flashy pyrotechnics to keep me listening. Haven't figured out why their best stuff seems to have a Latin-like lilt to it...?
For me, Barclay James Harvest is still in the running for Worst Prog Band Ever. I'd love to love them -- they're from the right period & they've got all the right parts. But they're SO inconsistent, & they have whole ALBUMS that never get anywhere near Good -- try out OCTOBERON or XII & see what I mean.... ROLLING STONE once described them as "morose progressive rock," & there's a lot of truth to that....
Their best work is still 1977's GONE TO EARTH, where they rise above Average exactly 3 times: On the gorgeous, moody "Spirit on the Water," the soaring "Hymn," & the crashingly melodramatic "Poor Man's Moody Blues." You might also want to check-out their later "Ring of Changes" (their best ever!), "Play to the World" & "The Song They Love to Sing"....
But none of that stuff's up for consideration on THE HARVEST YEARS, which compiles "highlights" of BJH's first four early-'70s albums for EMI's progressive Harvest label. The earliest of this stuff is very lightweight, pastel psychedelic pop, utterly harmless, though they do know how to write a hook, & there are some darker undercurrents ("Mister Sunshine's not for me...."). On some of this, they sound like Syd Barrett's nervously straight younger brother.
"Brother Thrush" is the strongest, prettiest, catchiest of their early attempts at singalongs (even though it's set after the end of mankind), & "Poor Wages" starts their moodier, more dramatic streak. "Taking Some Time On" is a solid fuzz-guitar rocker in much the same vein as Badfinger's "Rock of All Ages" -- they should've done more stuff like this. But some of this early material is just unsuccessful -- though it was OK background music for mopping the floor at work.
"Galadriel" is a lighter-than-air portrait of an etheriel young woman, though I'm not sure about the LORD OF THE RINGS reference. "Mocking Bird" is rather good -- until the huge orchestra starts thrashing around & swamps it. Completely overdone -- BJH never did know when to quit.
I'll be listening to more of this -- including the slightly-later orchestrated stuff, still hoping to find more hidden greats....

Hope you've all been catching SOUND OPINIONS, rock critics Jim DeRogatis & Greg Kot's syndicated weekly music-news-reviews&interviews show (aired here every Sunday night at 10 p.m. on the University of Washington's KUOW-FM). In recent weeks they've had interviews with producer Joe Boyd looking back at the work of Nick Drake, & with former New Order bassist Peter Hooke talking about Joy Division & Ian Curtis. The Hooke interview included some tracks that reminded me just how great New Order's "Regret" & "True Faith" are -- I should try to hear the rest of their best-of someday soon. The only Joy Division tracks I've ever heard were the pieces played during this interview.... Jim & Greg also reviewed the Savages' SILENCE YOURSELF, & it sounds pretty intense, might have to check it out....

I still have a pretty-good-sized pile of mostly-unheard stuff here & will be going through it in bits & pieces as I've done lately with the Strawbs, Be-Bop & BJH. In the meantime, if you know of some music that'll light up my life & relieve the musical boredom, feel free to drop it in the comments section below.
More soon....

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