Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Even more Really Bad Prog

- Jethro Tull: Aqualung. You know, I've always hated this, but maybe I just wasn't paying attention. I love Tull's lighter, folkier stuff, and the phased vocals, light guitar, and formal piano in the second parts of the verses aren't too far off from what I prefer. But then the heaviness picks back up again. Maybe I've just heard this too many times over the years for it to have much impact for me. And I've been tuning it out after those first few notes for a long time.... Decent show-offy guitar from Martin Barre in the middle. Too bad they then play the whole thing over....
- Jethro Tull: Cross-Eyed Mary, from AQUALUNG. And of course one of the big problems with Tull is you've got to get past Ian Anderson's voice. But some nice flute work in the opening and middle. Too bad about Ian's ugly vocal tone.... And it's all so deliberately heavy and ugly.
- Jethro Tull: Wond'ring Aloud, from AQUALUNG. This isn't bad, but it sounds just like "Nursie" on LIVING IN THE PAST. Except it's longer.
- Jethro Tull: Hymn 43, from AQUALUNG. Heard this too many times, too. They're trying so hard to be heavy. Can't see why anyone would want to hear something this ugly more than once. "But it ROCKS!" they scream. And if you think I'm gonna play "Locomotive Breath," you're nuts.
- Kayak: I Want You to be Mine, from STARLIGHT DANCER. On the other hand, ugly's better than bland. This sounds like bad early-'80s Genesis (same thing, right?). I remember this album getting a big push when it came out back in '77 -- saw a couple record stores with posters of the album-cover in their front windows. Wonder why? This isn't truly terrible, but it's way light -- dinky keyboard sound, bouncy little rhythm, and lame attempts at hooks. Perfect for MOR radio!
- Kayak: Ballad for a Lost Friend, from STARLIGHT DANCER. Rather nice dramatic guitar and keyboards up front, then a thin Phil Collins-like vocal. Then more cheezy keyboard. Guitar's not bad, though. That repeating guitar fanfare's the best part. Get this: Their music-publishing company was called Heavy Music. Haha. OK, not bad.
- Strawbs: The Promised Land, from NOMADNESS. Not bad -- the big sound the fans loved, and a built-in contrast from Dave Cousins' weedy, sometimes grating vocals. Then some VERY grandiose piano. Equally show-offy guitar. At least it's fairly short.
- Strawbs: Back on the Farm, from NOMADNESS. Hey, acoustic! Lighter, not as heavy as they often were during this period. And on the album it follows "Absent Friend (How I Need You)," so it comes as a real blessing after that overwrought piece of crap. Nice little English-country feel.
- Strawbs: Alexander the Great, from BURNING FOR YOU. Believe it or not, this seems to be the story of a has-been rocker who tries for a big comeback. Yoked to a heavier, bouncier production than on the last album. Too bad about Dave Cousins' over-the-top vocal. Some piercing heavy guitar. Kinda pushy, bad-time music.
- Strawbs: Barcarole (for the death of Venice), from BURNING FOR YOU. Pretty, simple chorale-and-keyboard piece. Not overwrought. Kind of soothing. But as precious as anything they ever did.
- Strawbs: Burning for Me, from BURNING FOR YOU. Not bad. Hushed, dramatic ballad. Could actually see playing it again sometime in the future. The best thing here.
- The Nice: Ars Longa Vita Brevis. Taking you back to 1968! ...Wow, sounds just like ELP! I really like Keith Emerson's squiggly keyboards. But what's that ORCHESTRA doing in there? ...They're not gonna mess this up by SINGING are they? Yes, they are, eventually. Nice prelude -- but they're only three minutes in, and they go into a drum solo? They were kidding, right? ... Yeezus, and it's a really LONG drum solo.... Then into a long, jazzy keybs-and-drums interlude ... then a keybs-and-orchestra movement, some of the tune stolen from Bach's "Brandenburg Concerto." Some of this is OK, especially for the time, and the production seems clear enough, which is kind of a surprise. Emerson's keyboards are really pretty bouncy and enjoyable. And that orchestra swings! If they'd taken out that drum solo, I'd be pretty enthusiastic. Then Emerson gets five more minutes to show off. Overall, not completely awful. "Art will still be there, even if life terminates." -- Keith Emerson.
- The Nice: Daddy Where Did I Come From?, from ARS LONGA VITA BREVIS. No, I'm not gonna play "America," because even with its awful muddy production, I still think it's pretty freakin' great, so it doesn't fit in here. THIS, however, is just silly. A musical bad joke, with spoken-word interjections and spacey phasing on the backing vocals. Also some nice keyboards even though they don't take center-stage. And The Question never really gets answered....
- Todd Rundgren's Utopia: Another Life, from ANOTHER LIVE. Hey, I like the wobbly three-keyboards-and-guitar sound. I like the five-minute introduction. Not sure about the group vocals, they're a little operatic. Sounds kinda like THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. Could almost be Magma.
- Utopia: The Wheel, from ANOTHER LIVE. This is way more down-to-earth. Pretty gutsy to try a simple acoustic singalong like this after that opening.... This sounds like an above-average Todd ballad. How'd it slip in here? Todd goes on a little long on the solo vocal at the end. But it had its moments.
- Procol Harum: Typewriter Torment, from PROCOL'S NINTH. Lyricist Keith Reid whines about having to write words for this overbearing classic-rock band. But he would have been happier if they'd sold more records. Very small laughs. This isn't as overbearing as I'd expected. Bit of a bluesy undercurrent, and you can hear the piano loud and clear -- organ's mixed down so it doesn't get in the way, except on the middle break. Fairly lively, not completely terrible. Produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.
- Procol Harum: Eight Days a Week, from PROCOL'S NINTH. Yes, THAT "Eight Days a Week." Flattened out, not joyous like the original, almost sounds like the Strawbs. Singer/pianist Gary Brooker sounds pretty uninspired. Not the worst version of a Beatles song ever, but ... Pretty bad.

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