Friday, December 23, 2016


It's sleeting outside, there's been an inch or two of snow here a couple times already, and I have to work a long day on Christmas. So what's new?
This: The Girlfriend has changed jobs, and her being around more often means I've been blogging less because I don't want to waste any time when she's here. Also, I'm happier, so I feel less driven to mouth-off as often.
However. There's still SOMETHING working. To celebrate the holidays, over several recent trips I've probably brought about 50 cheap new-to-me vinyl albums into the house, lots of stuff I've never heard before, in one last effort to maybe get that "Strange Music" guide written that I've been putting off for 20 years. Maybe I can actually get it finished in 2017 before I'm too old to bother with it anymore. Blog posts from now on are likely to be first impressions of new-to-me albums and updates on my progress. And by posting this here maybe I can force myself to finish it.
Just hope this goes better than my last dive back into Prog and "Strange Music" a few years back, in which I learned that most of the new stuff I picked to listen to was ... overall, pretty disappointing. And I spent enough on that adventure to fund a small third-world country.
Have listened to a little bit of this haul so far:
Kevin Ayers: "Connie on a Rubber Band" and "Gemini Child" from ODD DITTIES -- Found a $15 copy of ODD DITTIES at a hole-in-the-wall record store called Quimper Sound in cute old Port Townshend's small "underground" downtown. Some decent vinyl prices, and a few interesting oddities.
Hadn't heard "Connie" since I stupidly traded OD off a decade ago. A bouncy, silly, lighter-than-air piece of British reggae, probably not worth $15 to you all by itself. "Gemini Child" is a charming and direct mid-tempo rocker, more straightforward than Ayers usually is. And I'll vouch for the quality of half a dozen other songs on OD. Above-average in charm, good stuff from ol' deep-smooth-voice. But not worth paying $30 for a copy like some folks are asking.
Genesis: THE LAMB LIES DOWN ON BROADWAY, side one -- Got most of the way through the first side of this epic "rock opera." Would have liked "In the Cage" more if I hadn't heard Phil Collins' ferocious vocal on THREE SIDES LIVE. Production seems kind of muddy and flat, even for 1974.
Stomu Yamashta, Steve Winwood and Michael Shreve: GO, side one -- Airy, spacey, funky prog-fusion with Winwood's occasional vocals. I like the synthesizer atmospherics, not too sure about the more earthbound, funkier stuff. A nice-enough surprise; I'll have to play side two.
Jean-Michel Jarre: "Oxygene, Part 4" -- Bouncy synth piece with just enough melody to keep it interesting. But after 4 minutes, Jarre slows it down and he loses me. Shoulda kept it upbeat and bouncy.
Jethro Tull: THICK AS A BRICK, side one -- Love the folky first four minutes or so, which I'd already heard on various Tull best-of's. Then they got heavy and I went for the reject button. But I'll be getting back to this....
Kate Bush: "Under the Ivy" from THIS WOMAN'S WORK. My Ghod, when Kate isn't busy showing off her range and her singing lessons, she's pretty amazing. Much better when she just SINGS rather than being all studied about it. One of several great overlooked tracks on THIS WOMAN'S WORK. Also played a handful of songs from Kate's THE RED SHOES awhile back and have yet to find anything that sticks.
Gerry Rafferty: "The Royal Mile (Sweet Darlin')" and "Bring it All Home" from SNAKES AND LADDERS. OK, this isn't Strange at all, but it's beautifully produced by Hugh Murphy. Hadn't heard "Bring it All Home" in 30 years -- still sounds great. And I'd never heard "Royal Mile," which grew on me pretty fast. And the pennywhistle riff that hooks the song is played by my hero Richard Harvey from Gryphon.
Alan Parsons Project: TALES OF MYSTERY AND IMAGINATION/EDGAR ALLAN POE, side one -- I've always liked their rather predictable smoothness, but that's messed up pretty badly by Arthur Brown's crazed vocal on "The Tell-Tale Heart." "The Raven" and "Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether" are both pretty great, not sure about "Cask of Amontillado," and maybe I should play side two....
Alan Parsons Project: "Hyper-Gamma-Spaces" from PYRAMID -- Pretty funky instrumental, kept my attention. Why wasn't this on INSTRUMENTAL WORKS?
Supertramp -- "The Meaning" and "Two of Us" from CRISIS? WHAT CRISIS? -- Pretty much the chirpy upbeat stuff I expected. These could almost fit in on BREAKFAST IN AMERICA, though maybe they have a little more edge.
Reports on more new-to-me stuff soon.

BOOKS: Still getting educated. Colin Larkin's VIRGIN ENCYCLOPEDIAS OF 60'S AND 70'S MUSIC both seem pretty solid, all the way down to one-hit wonders and folks I thought everybody'd forgotten about. That's why I picked them up. Maybe not enough humor.
Musichound's ESSENTIAL ALBUM GUIDE (edited by Gary Graff) puts the humor back in -- very direct advice about what albums to buy, with WOOF! ratings for the true dogs.
THE ROUGH GUIDE TO ROCK seems geared for a much later generation than mine -- what, no Moody Blues? But lots of humor in the career recaps and photo captions, and a few careful recommendations about what to buy.
THE ROUGH GUIDE TO THE BEST MUSIC YOU'VE NEVER HEARD (edited by Nigel Williamson) does a nice job presenting one- or two-page bios of artists and bands you really should check out, plus tosses in detailed write-ups on albums awaiting rediscovery. Just enough Strange Music acts to make it compulsively readable for me.
More soon!

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