Here's what I played from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. --
* Nick Drake -- River Man. I always start slow. I love Nick Drake, but this is very laid back and mournful, even more low-key than Nick usually is, and Harry Robinson's strings-and-horns arrangement is a little more intrusive than Drake's usual arranger Robert Kirby. On first listening, not Nick's best. But pleasant enough. From FIVE LEAVES LEFT.
* Happy the Man -- Starborne, Stumpy Meets the Firecracker in Stencil Forest. From their first album. "Starborne" is a nice spacey keyboard-and-sax instrumental with some bubbly synth later. "Stumpy" is heavier and more complex, and has more great, soaring Stan Whittaker guitar and the mechanical sound of their second album, CRAFTY HANDS. They sound like a wind-up-toy band.
* Happy the Man -- Knee Bitten Nymphs in Limbo. With a title like that, who needs a song? Also from their first album. Bouncy, jumpy, hyperactive, this could be the theme song for some current TV cartoon show. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Did you know producer Ken Scott recorded these guys playing at half-speed so they could actually PLAY their complex compositions? Forceful, driving, with plenty of great guitar from Stan Whittaker. The sound they got was worth the price.
* Alan Parsons Project -- A Dream Within a Dream, The Raven. "Dream" is a nice keyboard-driven instrumental with a catchy piano section in the middle. "Raven" is a vocoder-led almost-rocker, spooky and atmospheric. Not as heavy as they would have tried later, but punchy enough. Both from TALES OF MYSTERY AND IMAGINATION/EDGAR ALLEN POE.
* Alan Parsons Project -- What Goes Up. I'm sure I heard this when their album PYRAMID came out in '78 or whenever. It sounds better now. Nice vocals and good guitar. Wow, horns? Pretty smooth, overall.
* Jethro Tull -- Jack-a-Lynn, Pussy Willow. From the Tull best-of with the swirly song titles on the back that I can't read. "Jack-a-Lynn" is a mushy acoustic love ditty. Delicate and sweet enough. Goes on kind of long, though. Is Ian serious? ...Oh, never mind. The heavy beat just kicked in.... OK, but is that all? Decent, but. "Pussy Willow" is gutsier from the start. Like this better already.
* Jethro Tull -- Broadsword, Under Wraps II. "Broadsword" is moody and atmospheric, with horn-like synths and some nice Martin Barre guitar in the middle. Almost sounds like Tull's answer to Zep's "Immigrant Song." About the only thing "Under Wraps" has to boost it is the way Ian Anderson sings it. It's not much.
* Jethro Tull -- Minstrel in the Gallery. Man, sometimes don't you wish Ian would just GET TO THE POINT? There's WAY better stuff than this on Side 2 of MINSTREL IN THE GALLERY. But there's some nice Martin Barre guitar in the middle....
* King Crimson -- Doctor Diamond. From THE GREAT DECEIVER/LIVE 1973-74. OK, I'm cheating on this one, but it's been a few years since I've heard it. Sorta a subway horror story. Nice slurred John Wetton vocal, eerie, jagged Bob Fripp guitar in the middle, and do I have to mention how awesome a drummer Bill Bruford is? Best new track on the whole box-set. Why was a version of this never on any Crimson studio album? Couldn't they have fit it onto STARLESS AND BIBLE BLACK? Maybe in the first half of Side 2...?
* King Crimson -- The Law of Maximum Distress Parts 1 and 2. More from the GREAT DECEIVER box. This is the improv where the tape runs out just as the band gets really cookin'. Thus proving Fripp's maxim that things fall apart at the worst/best possible time.... Wow, pretty noisy, even for KC.
* Pink Floyd -- Sorrow. Lots of very heavy guitar at first, then a heavy beat and Dave Gilmour's tired voice. Oh wait, finally got to the chorus.... OK, kind of a dirge, but the guitar is good....
* Pink Floyd -- See Emily Play. Nice loopy keyboards, great vocals, catchy choruses. Psychedelic! Very nice. I predict a big future for these kids.
* Rush -- 2112 Overture, The Temples of Syrinx. Man, they sound so YOUNG. Overly-heavy, self-consciously melodramatic drumming and guitar in the Overture. Lots of sound and fury signifying nothing. And the "singing"!? No future for you....
* Rush -- The Trees. Sorry, this is just silly. Yeah, man, I know it's a metaphor. Nice keyboards. A little good guitar later on. If you get there.
* Rush -- La Villa Strangiato. OK, this is a little more like it. An instrumental. Let the music do the talkin'. Not too flashy, good guitar runs, moves nice. No silly lyrics to get in the way. These guys could have a future after all.
* Beatles -- Good Morning Good Morning. Wow, sounds like Pink Floyd.... Better than I expected. Lotsa fun if you like John in his Silly mood.
* Beatles -- Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! Well, this is Different. Great production. Tune's nothing much.
* Beatles -- Fixing a Hole. Nice, pleasant, airy ditty about Paul's mind wandering....
* Who -- Melancholia. This is nice, but I think Pete Townshend's demo of it on SCOOP is better. At least Pete sings it better, more convincingly....
* Pink Floyd -- Pigs on the Wing Parts 1 and 2. This is the nice acoustic-ditty frame for ANIMALS. Very compassionate, not angry. No time in today's format to play "Sheep," which is worth it all just for Dave Gilmour's raging guitar riff at the end.
* Elvis Costello -- Radio Radio. Whiny skinny snot-nosed punk sounding like an English Joey Ramone complaining about how he gets no radio airplay in this country. If I had a voice like THAT I wouldn't expect to get on the radio either. Plus the organ and production are so 1956 that no one's gonna listen 'til the end anyway.
* Led Zeppelin -- Going to California. What IS this hippy shit? Sounds like Neil Young before he went electric. Next!
* Don McLean -- Everyday. Has-been geezer tries to bring back a dated vocal approach from the '50s. Who does he think he is, Buddy Holly? No more yodeling! Next!
* Lynyrd Skynyrd -- Workin' for MCA. Spelling-challenged wild-eyed Southern boys. Great guitars. Hilarious lyrics. Good stuff. Why have I never heard this before?
* Procol Harum -- Whaling Stories. Some good guitar (by Robin Trower?) and good organ, but some of the lyrics are pretty silly. And such melodrama....
* Spirit -- Mechanical World. This was a single? Hopeless dirge. Goes nowhere, slowly. A real downer. Jazzy in spots, but I gave up after 3 minutes.
* Spirit -- Uncle Jack. Better. More upbeat, a little bit of energy. Sounds like 1967.
* Spirit -- Dark-Eyed Woman. Well, they were certainly in touch with their sensual side. Starts promisingly, with a bluesy feel and some driving guitars, but the long instrumental midsection drags.
* Spirit -- Silky Sam. Where they turn into the Firesign Theater. Pretty self-indulgent. Enough.
* Beatles -- Flying, Blue Jay Way, Your Mother Should Know. "Flying" is a brief, gentle surf-tinged instrumental with silly group vocals. The last thing you'd expect from these guys. "Blue Jay Way" is a seemingly endless, foggy George Harrison dirge. George, please don't be long. "Your Mother Should Know" could have been charming, but Paul tries to get too far with just one verse and a chorus. Let's face it, it's finally all clear to me now -- the Beatles were a tremendous hype.
* Led Zeppelin -- The Ocean. Speaking of hypes.... Why did Robert Plant so often sing in that silly squinched-up voice? That has nothing to do with the blues. This isn't bad at all, but the vocals certainly don't help it.
* Led Zeppelin -- The Song Remains the Same. Wow, sounds like Rush!
* Florence + the Machine -- Lover to Lover, Heartlines, All This and Heaven Too. There isn't much on Florence's album CEREMONIALS (2011) that isn't a thundering, booming, high-impact anthem. But it's been a few years since I've heard more than the first three songs on it. So, just to re-confirm -- these are all pretty exhausting. Maybe you could listen to the CD in small doses.
* Poco -- You Better Think Twice, Pickin' Up the Pieces. Light country-rock pickin' and grinnin' from the band without whom the Eagles wouldn't exist. Like a breath of fresh air.
* The Church -- Myrrh, A Month of Sundays. Propulsive guitars, murmuring vocals. Nice stuff. I'm still trying to figure out the name of a guitar-heavy instrumental of theirs that got played on the radio once in Cheyenne, Wyoming back around 1988.... I KNOW it wasn't on their STARFISH album.
* Fairport Convention -- The Hexamshire Lass. Short, fun, bouncy traditional tune with good lively vocal by Dave Swarbrick.
* Rush -- Mission. Pretty smooth. Don't know why you don't hear more of their '80s stuff on the radio. Don't know how anybody could think their earlier work is better. Their later songs are stronger, more smoothly constructed, more memorable. Stuff doesn't stick out so much -- they seem to have a better idea of what they're trying to do. And they never embarrass themselves. Or did they just calm down and get dull? Different views on this, but I prefer the songs from MOVING PICTURES and after to their earlier albums. Might depend on when I first heard them, I guess....
* Genesis -- Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers ... In That Quiet Earth. Some nice ghostly Steve Hackett guitar at the start; the rest of the band joins in later. OK 7-minute instrumental, pleasant enough, not stunning.