Friday, June 14, 2013

#684: Dog days

Not as in "The dog days of summer," more like as in "I've been working like a dog." But it's all turned out OK, & here's the latest playlist:

Suzy Bogguss -- Drive South.
Genesis -- Undertow, Afterglow, Your Own Special Way, Ripples.
New Order -- Regret.
Caravan -- Place of My Own.
Enya -- Storms in Africa.
Procol Harum -- A Salty Dog, Shine On Brightly, A Whiter Shade of Pale.
Bread -- Let Your Love Go, Too Much Love, It Don't Matter to Me, Why Do You Keep Me Waiting?
Al Stewart -- Where are They Now?, Red Toupee, Last Days of the Century, Fields of France, Trains, Night Train to Munich, A League of Notions, House of Clocks, Waiting for Margaux, Laughing into 1939, Almost Lucy, Running Man.

Hadn't heard "Drive South" in years, & it's a really good waker-upper. So I turned around & played it again. (Now where'd I put that Carlene Carter CD...?)
Have already posted my latest impressions of these middle-period Genesis tracks -- I still think they're all wonderful, but they sound kinda young&naive&story-book-ish to me now. Easy to see now why Phil Collins & Co. hadta punch-up the directness & immediacy a bit to get on the radio. But I think it's too bad they didn't get rich on this stuff. That '76 to around '83 period is still my favorite of their work.
"Regret" was my themesong when I was in the newspaper business. Maybe it still is....
Caravan's "Place of My Own" is a rouser -- but I prefer the remixed & cleared-up version on their CANTERBURY TALES best-of. The version on their first album sounds a bit ... muddy, though sound&approach-wise it could be newer than 1968. Still a great organ solo by Dave Sinclair in the middle....
"Storms in Africa" is about the only thing by Enya that's ever grabbed me by the throat -- it has some actual DRAMA, which a lot of her gentler, billowy, more New Age-y stuff doesn't seemta have much of....
Been playing Procol Harum rather a lot lately, though I dislike them when they start getting too heavy ("Simple Sister," "Whiskey Train"). "Salty Dog" is still three-quarters glorious, though I think the tempo is sludgy. Gary Brooker was quite a singer, though, & Keith Reid's lyrics are in this case mostly beautifully visual & dramatic. "Shine On Brightly" is a great lost single with some really nice screechy Robin Trower guitar in the choruses, & more goofy lyrics.
My complaints about their A&M best-of remain, however -- where's the 20 more minutes of music they could've squoze-in? "Long Gone Geek"? "Wreck of the Hesperus"? "In Held T'was in I"? Do I havta buy an expensive import best-of to hear more...? Never mind, I already know the answer....
Probably working up to another Bread attack here soon. If their DEFINITIVE COLLECTION included "Been Too Long on the Road," it'd be all anyone would ever needta hear. But of course life is not that neat or easy.... They still sound great -- check out that rockin' harpsichord on "Let Your Love Go"! & "Why Do You Keep Me Waiting?" is a lost B-side that almost rocks....
Al Stewart's DEFINITIVE COLLECTION isn't -- Rhino could've made some better choices on the early stuff, & I disagree with several of their choices from his hit years -- but I think it says something for the compilers that they actually left OFF "Midnight Rocks," which was an actual hit, even though it's just a collection of Al cliches....
Though the period from the one-great-side PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE & the really great MODERN TIMES through the above-average 24 CARROTS is pretty well represented, I was mainly interested in the later stuff I hadn't heard before, of which Rhino includes 10 tracks. I was worried some of this would be a letdown from Al's classic years, but happily that didn't happen. Some of these later songs maybe aren't as punched-up commercially as his work with producer Alan Parsons, there's less catchy sax & more use of acoustic guitars. But the songs themselves are pretty strong, definitely not embarrassing.
Probably the best are "A League of Notions," "Night Train to Munich," "Waiting for Margaux" & "Red Toupee." "Last Days of the Century" has the kinda big, dramatic production people used to expect from Al, but some of the lyrics are kinda silly. The same goes for "Where are They Now?"
"League of Notions" turns re-arranging Europe after World War I into a big game of Risk; it's not entirely serious. "Night Train to Munich" takes Al's previous cloak&dagger obsessions & plays them for laughs; it's fun. "Red Toupee" is over-the-top silly in the same way as "Mondo Sinistro" from 24 CARROTS (which should be here); it's an affectionate self-parody. Interesting that the best stuff here should be the closest to comedy -- make me laugh & I'm sold.
"Waiting for Margaux" is a slightly twisted lovesong, very nice. "Trains" is low-key, modest, charming. "Running Man" is Al's cloak&dagger/spy obsessions at their height -- it shoulda been a hit. "Almost Lucy" is another great lost single, sorta underplayed but very effective, especially the choruses.
But my complaints with Rhino's selections remain: They coulda squoze-in another 4 songs per disc. Where's "Modern Times," "Terminal Eyes," "Valentina Way," "Rocks in the Ocean," "You Should Have Listened to Al," "Life in Dark Water," "One Stage Before," "Broadway Hotel," "Mondo Sinistro"? What's here sounds great, but there should've been more....
More soon....

No comments: