Here's what I played from noon to 8 p.m. --
* Rickie Lee Jones -- We Belong Together, Living it Up. When I'm playing stuff for myself I always start out slow. I'm a softie from way back. RLJ does some real heartbreaking stuff, and I don't even know what some of it means, or why it hits me so hard. "We Belong Together" is gorgeous and heartbreaking, clearly about holding a relationship together against all odds. Amazingly, it was released as a single and got no airplay at all. "Living it Up" is MUCH happier, and I haven't heard it in years. Sounds pretty great. But does anyone know what "On Saturday Afternoons in 1963" is about? I don't know, but it's SO SAD.
* Bee Gees -- Spirits Having Flown. Best thing they ever did, shoulda been a huge hit. And I can't stop myself from singing along with the choruses.
* Neil Diamond -- Walk On Water. My girlfriend would love this. Soon after we met, she walked into the store where I work while I was playing Neil's silly "Crunchy Granola Suite," and she said "I've SEEN Neil Diamond. I wasn't impressed." And thus a wild love affair began. But I've always loved Neil's quirkier stuff. However, this is off of a budget-priced 3-disc ND best-of, and they ALWAYS cut off the gorgeous 2-minute piano instrumental "Theme" that closed the original single back in '72! Why? BASTARDS! Onward.
* Left Banke -- She May Call You Up Tonight, Pretty Ballerina, Desiree. My Ghod, this stuff is gorgeous! The great group vocals! The piano! And the sound jumps right out of the CD player! "Desiree" is a bit cluttered, there's a LOT going on there, but if you're a fan of "baroque rock," WOW! I don't understand why two of these weren't big hits. "Desiree" peaked around Number 99.
* Fifth Dimension -- Carpet Man. Hey, I know they're WAY out of style, but wow. This freakin' sounds amazing, and Ghod knows I can relate....
* Lighthouse -- Sunny Days, One Fine Morning. Ghod, this is SO 1972. But it sounds great. I prefer "OFM" in the original edited single version -- the long version shows all the stuff they wisely cut out. But still pretty cool.
* Moody Blues -- You and Me. My favorite MB song ever. And why wasn't THIS a huge hit?
* Can -- Mother Upduff, Uphill. First a gentle little travelogue. Hilarious monologue, squalling noise, and it never lets up. "Uphill" is relentless, grinding noise. And how 'bout Jaki Leibezeit's drumming? Love it. How can you NOT move to those rhythms?
* Gong -- Master Builder, Eat That Phone Book Coda. "Master Builder" opens with spacey synthesizer and airy wordless vocals. Nice tribal drums. And Didier Mahlerbe's sax is freakin' phenomenal. Wow, and Steve Hillage burns up that guitar, too. I thought I'd heard this before, but maybe I was wrong, or wasn't paying attention. Clearly from some other planet. "Phone Book" is the slightly earlier, sillier Gong that I've always gotten annoyed with. I still do.
* Mike Oldfield -- Incantations Part 4 excerpt, Ommadawn excerpt, Tubular Bells opening theme. Wow, a best of Mike Oldfield. Who woulda thunk? It's called ELEMENTS. His INCANTATIONS album has a hypnotic, driving first side that I think is the best thing Mike ever did, but this isn't it. This is pretty, though. And pretty mellow. They picked the wrong part of OMMADAWN to feature here; it's pretty, but the section it LEADS INTO is what they shoulda picked. A REAL anti-climax. Folks who've heard that album KNOW what I mean. "Tubular Bells" sounds just like itself, only clearer than in the olde vinyl days. And THEN they FADE IT OUT before the dramatic closing section from the old hit single! Well, Mike never liked the single anyway.... Frustrating. Oh, and his sweet cover of Abba's "Arrival" ain't on here, either. What do friggin' record companies know?
* Aerosmith -- Big Ten Inch Record. OK, let's clear the air. This is hilarious. It's played great, too. How could I ever have thought it was CRUDE? I was a whole different person way back then. This one's for you, Jeff Mann, wherever you are....
* Aerosmith -- Seasons of Wither. This is the first Aerosmith song that ever really grabbed me. I still love the dark moodiness of it. I thought the band was kind of a hype way back then. Of course, now I think they're great. It just took me 20 years to get there. Jeff, you were right all along.
* Gordon Lightfoot -- Seven Islands Suite, High and Dry. This guy was amazing when at his best. "Seven Islands" is spacey yet laid back, great lyrics, nice atmospheric synth from Nick DeCaro. And how'd Gordy sneak in that line about being "shit out of luck"? Pretty ballsy for 1974. I love all of it, the way it flows together -- guess it was the B-side of "Sundown." Too bad. "High and Dry" is a nice frustrated love ditty.
* Nektar -- Fidgety Queen, Oops (Unidentified Flying Abstract). "Fidgety Queen" is a screaming rocker that should have been a huge hit. Great choruses, great horns, brilliant! "Oops" is a live jam with vocals. Kinda shapeless, but it rocks. Nice keyboards. And I like the way guitarist Roye Albrighton yelps. And he burns up that guitar, too.
* Pink Floyd -- High Hopes. Is this not The Son Of DARK SIDE OF THE MOON? Why do all the late/Dave Gilmour-era Pink Floyd albums get bad-rapped by fans? This is gorgeous and moody, and the choruses are freakin' great!
* Pink Floyd -- Bike. Maybe THIS is why. This is bouncy and silly and disjointed and disturbing and very alive. And it sounds like nothing else. Love those duck calls at the end. Whatta guy, that Syd Barrett....
* Pink Floyd -- Keep Talking. More excellent Gilmour-era stuff, with Stephen Hawking on lead vocals! Is later Floyd considered disappointing just because Dave sounds so TIRED? Listen to the lyrics.
* Pink Floyd -- The Great Gig in the Sky. A PAUSE now for five minutes of friggin' Godlike genius....
* Spirit -- Taurus, Fresh Garbage, 1984. OK, so "Taurus" is a brief guitar-and-orchestra instrumental, pleasant but not earthshaking. Not a miniature "Stairway to Heaven." Defense rests. "Fresh Garbage" is a lot of fun, with nice spacey keyboards from John Locke. "1984" is heavy, riffing, spooky fun, banned as a single in America back in 1969. Now it's all come true.
* Gong -- Tropical Fish: Selene, Flute Salad, Oily Way, Outer Temple, Inner Temple. More crazy stuff from Gong. I'd like to like this. The musicianship is amazing, especially Didier Mahlerbe on sax and flute. "Oily Way" is actually almost good, nice tune on the choruses. My problem's the singing and the lyrics -- it's so druggy-silly. I'm too sober for it. And I like to think I'm open-minded....
* Yes -- Every Little Thing. This is awesome. They're so young, they have such ENERGY, they're all OVER the place. And how 'bout that Peter Banks on guitar? And that sly little riff they throw in from "Day Tripper" at the end of the introduction?
* Yes -- No Opportunity Necessary No Experience Needed. If you survive the wild orchestral opening, you might have a pretty good time. Interesting that one of the least-funky rock bands of all time had the nerve to cover a song written by Richie Havens (of course they covered The Beatles on "Every Little Thing"). The orchestra's pretty awful -- that middle-break is straight out of some schlocky '50s Hollywood western. But there's some kind of soul here -- singer Jon Anderson sounds great through most of this, especially on the "Tell your mama" choruses. Whatta trip.
* Quiet Sun -- Mummy Was An Asteroid Daddy Was a Small Non-Stick Kitchen Utensil. Twisted, fiendish noise. Is Phil Manzanera really on here? And Eno?!
* Hatfield and the North -- Let's Eat (Real Soon). Nice vocals from Richard Sinclair, nice organ from Dave Stewart. Mildly funny. Nice. Pleasant. Not stunning.
* Faust -- It's a Rainy Day Sunshine Girl. This is kinda nice -- very minimalist, constantly-marching drums, little bit of keyboard, some harmonica toward the end, repeated chanting of the title. And some nice gruff sax at the very end. They were from Germany, right? I wouldn't be surprised if they were really Canadian. Very well-behaved.
* Alan Parsons Project -- The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether, You Don't Believe, Days are Numbers (The Traveller), Old and Wise. "Tarr and Fether"'s always been one of my faves, almost a rocker about good times and gettin' what you need. A perfect surface as always, marvelous production, great vocals. Shoulda been a bigger hit. "Believe" is supposedly about the clashes in the Parsons-Woolfson songwriting partnership, and it includes some bitter lines Eric Woolfson must have been happy to get on the record. Dated disco-ish beat, but good stuff. "Days" is pure ear candy -- I think the sound of it was more important than the lyrics. "Old and Wise" is beautifully sung by former Zombie Colin Blunstone, but it's never moved me that much.
* Fairport Convention -- Stranger to Himself. This brief, stark funeral march is Sandy Denny's last great performance with Fairport.
* Fairport Convention -- Mr. Lacey, Book Song, Chelsea Morning, Crazy Man Michael. "Mr. Lacey" is a sly blues, very funny. "Book Song" could be any '60s American West Coast folk group -- very soft and foggy. "Chelsea Morning" could almost be Joni Mitchell's original -- but it's rocked up just enough, and original Fairport singer Judy Dyble punches the lyrics just hard enough to make it stick, better than Joni did. "Crazy Man Michael" is the kind of tragic tale Fairport were so good at, beautifully sung by Sandy Denny.
* Magma -- Ghost Dance. My Ghod! Gremlins have taken over the CD player! It's a Gremlin opera! This shit will rot your brain.
* Argent -- Lothlorien. I haven't heard much by these guys, other than "Hold Your Head Up" and the stuff on their best-of. They were a long-lived second-string Prog Big Deal back in the early '70s. But Rod Argent's keyboards are really lively here, there's a nice light-symphonic sound. Best, most melodic new song I've heard all afternoon.
* Savage Rose -- Dear Little Mother. The piano's OK, but I can't take Annisette's baby-voice. Next!
* Amon Duul II -- Mozambique. No, not the Bob Dylan song. This matches up pretty well with Savage Rose. Why do Europeans think rock somehow descended from opera? Next!
* Comus -- Diana. I've played this before, and thought it was Something Different, and not without charm. But I can't take it in this context. Too much weirdness. Time to clear the air again. Wait -- some nice screechy violin. No, too many elves and gremlins singing here. Onward!
* John Denver -- Rocky Mountain High. Yes, John, exorcise those demons! Flash those whiter-than-white teeth! You can do it! Far out! I feel so much better now....
* Beatles -- I'm Down. Worth it all for that great line about Paul keeping his hands to himself.... And who plays the loopy organ?
* Fleetwood Mac -- Why? Oh Ghod, why wasn't THIS a hit? It's freaking GORGEOUS!
* Bangles -- Manic Monday. Here we go, something kinda mainstream to help me reel things back in. Gorgeous vocal harmonies, great keyboard hooks, terrific song construction, an '80s classic. They deserve a spot in the R&R Hall of Fame. ... Whaddaya mean Prince wrote it?
* Lucinda Williams -- Six Blocks Away, Something About What Happens When We Talk, Which Will. Williams wrote my favorite Mary-Chapin Carpenter song ever, "Passionate Kisses." Williams is a little country, a little rock. "Six Blocks Away" is a charming countryish album-opener. (The album is SWEET OLD WORLD, 1992.) "When We Talk" slows it down, but it's still sweet. "Which Will" is a slow, gentle live cover of a Nick Drake song. Williams has a sweet country voice. I thought she rocked more. And if she did, her songs might hit me harder.
* John Fahey -- The Assassination of Stephan Grossman. Wow, this is the shortest thing on Fahey's BEST OF VOLUME 2. I don't have time tonight to listen to a 13-minute Fahey "Sampler," no matter how good it is. This is nice finger-pickin' stuff. I've been told he's great, hypnotic, good trance music. I'll have to investigate more.
* The Move -- Tonight. Charming not-too-heavy Roy Wood song from the early '70s. I'm sorta reminded of The Kinks. Why wasn't ELO ever this good? And whatever happened to Roy?
* Sandy Denny -- The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood. Amazing, stark, almost a-capella performance of a Richard Farina song. This and "Listen, Listen" are Sandy's best solo works, I think.
* Talking Heads -- Road to Nowhere.