Sunday, June 12, 2016

Music that changed my life

In more-or-less chronological order....
* Top-40 radio 1971-72 -- It was the songs, the mood, the DJ's, the optimistic outlook of the times (to me), the energy, the brightness and friendliness of the format that grabbed me and woke me up. Too many great songs to list, music I still play every week.
* Moody Blues: "Classic 7," LONG DISTANCE VOYAGER, THE PRESENT -- I was hearing the Moodies by 1968 thanks to my cousins, but I didn't really notice 'til '72, when "Nights in White Satin" and "Ride My See-Saw" broke through the AM haze and grabbed me. I still think they should have had a dozen more hits in the '60 and '70s, I've still never heard anyone quite like them (except Providence, see below), and I still think THE PRESENT is their best, most consistent album. But I'm a sucker for nostalgia and mushiness. If you're a fan, don't miss Justin Hayward and John Lodge's great BLUE JAYS album, basically a Moodies album in disguise.
* Beach Boys: PET SOUNDS, SMILE -- Their mid-'60s hits were dreamy washes of gorgeous sound, but I didn't hear PET SOUNDS until 1978, and it was a whole 'nother world. Anyone who gets hooked by that seems to get obsessed by what followed -- the long string of uneven albums from SMILEY SMILE at least to HOLLAND. There's a whole CD or two that could be filled with gorgeous songs from those uneven eight albums. And when SMILE finally came out a few years back, it was everything I'd hoped for, absolutely NOT an anti-climax after 35 years of waiting.
* Beatles: ABBEY ROAD, WHITE ALBUM -- DOUBLE WHITE is of course the greatest piece of strange music ever. Who could have foreseen that the loveable moptops coulda come up with such a quirky, personal, dark and revealing collection of songs? You can disappear into the two discs for months and never figure them out. And ABBEY ROAD is pure sonic gorgeousness. The "Big One" Suite on Side 2 always sends me into a trance.
* Yes: YESSONGS. When I first got ahold of this, I was disappointed that it wasn't a studio-greatest-hits package. Don't know what I was thinking. The greatest live album ever, so great you can throw one disc away and not miss anything -- filled with gorgeous songs, great singing, great playing, lots of fireworks -- and the ultimate art-rock masterpiece, "Close to the Edge." I don't even care what the songs mean. I don't think they mean much. It doesn't matter. This could happen to you.
* The Who: WHO'S NEXT, QUADROPHENIA, etc. -- The clarity, drive and excitement of their best stuff from this period blew everything else off the radio, and they shoulda sold more. I still can't go too long without hearing "My Wife," "Going Mobile," "Behind Blue Eyes," "The Song is Over," "Gettin' in Tune," "Baba O'Riley," "Join Together," "The Relay," "Bell Boy," "5:15," "Love, Reign O'er Me."  
* Providence: EVER SENSE THE DAWN -- A kinder, gentler Moody Blues album on their Threshold label by a Boise, Idaho band. Gorgeous songs, great singing, amazing lyrics, and a laid-back pastoral approach that shoulda caught on in the singer-songwriterish early-'70s. Too bad their follow-up never got out of the studio. They coulda ruled the world, or at least the Pacific Northwest.
* Gryphon: RED QUEEN TO GRYPHON THREE, TREASON -- RED QUEEN is the greatest album of rock-flavored British instrumental folk music ever. TREASON is a kinder, gentler Jethro Tull album with one forgotten art-rock monument, "Spring Song." WHERE is their reunion album?
* King Crimson: YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE best-of -- Oh my Ghod. From the heavy-Moody-Blues of "Epitaph" and "Court of the Crimson King" to the guitar crunch of "Red" and "Starless" to the folk-music pastorals of "I Talk to the Wind" and "Cadence and Cascade," this was a stunning band with a wide range of moods. And some of their very best music isn't even included.
* Caravan: FOR GIRLS WHO GROW PLUMP IN THE NIGHT -- This swinging big-band art-rock sounded like nothing else, and between the pounding modal riffs and the hilarious lyrics, it coulda blown anything else off the radio. But they never broke through. Too clever.
* Nick Drake: BRYTER LAYTER -- Gorgeous folk music by the depressed English singer-songwriter. Luminous melodies ("Northern Sky" and "Fly" are breathtaking), sly, clever lyrics ("At the Chime of a City Clock," "One of These Things First," "Hazey Jane I and II," "Poor Boy"), gorgeous playing. Even the instrumentals are beautiful -- "Sunday" is heartbreaking. Addictive.
* KPLU's "All Blues" -- Over the past couple years, this weekend blues show has filled up huge holes in my musical education at a point where I thought I was bored with everything. I owe DJ John Kessler for introducing me to the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Joe Bonnamassa, Sonny Landreth, Johnny A., John Cleary, half a dozen great Aretha Franklin songs I'd never heard before, Joe Tex, Shaun Costello, Geneva Magness, Irma Thomas, The Neville Brothers, Elmore James, Slim Harpo, and so many more. And they're streaming from 6 p.m. to midnight Pacific Time each Saturday and Sunday at

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