OK, you know the scam by now. Let's roll.
* King Crimson: "Cirkus" from LIZARD. Starting slowly and delicately this morning because that's how I'm feeling. Then an overbearing blast from Slash Fripp's guitar! So much for waking up with light mood music. This isn't bad -- some nice sax from Mel Collins and the usual fake-Moody-Blues mellotron. This wouldn't be out of place on KC's first album, especially Fripp's ominous guitar. And intresting how singer Gordon Haskell doesn't sound that different from original singer Greg Lake. The least attractive part of this is Fripp's intrusive, brooding guitar -- which makes it sound like Crimson, of course. Collins's sax is pretty great -- he always is.
* King Crimson: "Indoor Games" from LIZARD. This is fairly twisted lyrically, with some more nice gruff sax from Mel Collins, and Fripp on some nice acoustic guitar -- who knew he had that up his sleeve? And it still sounds like early Crimson, no matter who's in the band. Nice intertwining saxes later.
* Spirit: "Silky Sam" from THE FAMILY THAT PLAYS TOGETHER. Nice moody verses with Jay Ferguson's usual character-sketch lyrics. Comedy-sketch mid-section with the band playing poker. Airy wordless vocalizing on the "choruses." OK, different.
* Spirit: "Drunkard" from THE FAMILY. Interesting vocals-and-strings production, maybe a takeoff on "Eleanor Rigby"? Jazzy, ahead-of-its-time production from Lou Adler. Downbeat lyrics, trippy.
* Spirit: "Darlin' If" from FAMILY. Downbeat love ballad by Ferguson and guitarist Randy California, starts quietly and builds in instrumentation and power as it goes. These guys were definitely up to something different.
* Spirit: "Jewish" from FAMILY. Sung in Yiddish, it seems. Was California Jewish? I have no idea what this is about. Nice spacey guitar.
* Spirit: "It's All the Same" from FAMILY. OK piano-guitar-vocals mood-music. With a drum solo. It's a cloudy, rainy day here after a week-plus of freezing weather. 40 degrees and rain seems like a relief. In the past couple days I've been trying to read Professor Bill Martin's LISTENING TO THE FUTURE, another sorta history of progressive rock by the guy who took Yes WAY too seriously in his book THE MUSIC OF YES that I couldn't finish and didn't quite review awhile back. LISTENING is 300 pages long, but Martin's 70 pages in before he says he wants to start writing about prog -- up 'til then he's too busy organizing and sorting and setting his boundaries. And looking over his shoulder. Then he takes on rock critics. He's halfway through the book before he starts on a chronological look at prog from 1968 to 1978. Even then, he doesn't look very deeply. He keeps spelling Procol Harum wrong. He doesn't go too deep into COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING -- he doesn't even mention that two tracks sound like a heavier Moody Blues. And his look at Caravan's 23-minute epic "Nine Feet Underground" convinces me that he wasn't listening too closely. I think Martin was impressed by prog and wanted to write something about it, but couldn't leave his scholarly outlook behind. And my mind is wandering....
* Spirit: "A Dream Within a Dream" from FAMILY. Spacey lyrics with good group vocals, loud guitar and some impact. Sounds kind of like a heavier Turtles.
* Spirit: "She Smiles" from FAMILY. Nice group vocals. Another Ferguson character sketch. A lot of this stuff is more like song fragments.
* Spirit: "Aren't You Glad?" from FAMILY. Already knew this one, from their BEST OF. Nice, extended, leisurely, sort of an exhausted kiss-off to the Summer of Love. Nice group vocals and good screechy guitar from California.
* Be-Bop Deluxe: "Stage Whispers" from FUTURAMA. Ferocious, blistering attack of overdubbed guitars! Galloping tempos! Lightning-fast changes and shifts! The whole band's on uppers! There's too much going on here! Where's the coffee??? Then it slows down into a mere flamenco....
* Be-Bop Deluxe: "Maid in Heaven" from FUTURAMA. This is more like it. Dazzling guitar runs with actual verses and just enough happening that you can actually keep up with it. Could have been a hit. And it's over way too fast.
* Be-Bop Deluxe: "Sister Seagull" from FUTURAMA. Remember this from the opening guitar riff. Nice, but is Bill Nelson singing through a megaphone, or what? Could have gone on longer....
* Be-Bop Deluxe: "Sound Track" from FUTURAMA. I actually enjoy these guys, when I can get past Nelson's voice.... And he sure is some flash on guitar.... This is OK, there's a lot of noise and drama, but it doesn't go much of anywhere....
* Be-Bop Deluxe: "Swan Song" from FUTURAMA. Nice fanfare, and a lot going on here, what with the mellotron and the phased, jet-plane-inspired guitar flights. Pretty melodramatic, all the way to the cut-off ending. But not one of their best moments.
* Be-Bop Deluxe: "Modern Music" suite from MODERN MUSIC. Very conceptual. Bill tunes-in his radio to get to his melodic guitar music. Some of what's on his radio are other Be-Bop tunes, like "Sister Seagull." This plays up his more lyrical side -- Ghod knows he needed to calm down a little. Some nice flashy guitar work in the section called "Dance of the Uncle Sam Humanoids" -- a title Donald Trump might get a laugh out of -- but the rest is pretty quick and weightless. Though occasionally charming. Maybe too many little pieces.
* Nektar: "Marvellous Moses" from RECYCLED. This is certainly lighter than I expected -- especially since the track that follows is the cosmically heavy "It's All Over," the best thing these guys ever did -- though it picks up weight and speed later on.
* Nektar: "It's All Over" from RECYCLED. Yes! They should always have sounded this good, especially on the second keyboard solo. Turn it up LOUD!
* Led Zeppelin: "Hey Hey What Can I Do?" from THE NEW AGE OF ATLANTIC. Seattle's classic-rock station KZOK has been playing this a lot lately. To me it sounds like a sort-of dry-run for "Stairway," and I love the choruses. I guess this was a rare B-side...? Zep coulda gone mostly-acoustic and pulled it off just fine.... The older I get, the better they sound.
* Journey: "Spaceman/People/Anyway/You're On Your Own" from NEXT, LOOK INTO THE FUTURE and IN THE BEGINNING. This was the early, pre-Steve-Perry jazz-rock version of Journey, with Gregg Rolie's laid-back vocals and Neal Schon's sometimes languid, sometimes crazed guitar. I think these four songs make a good listenable side, though I barely remember "Anyway," the closest thing here to a standard pop song. "Spaceman" is mildly spacey, with amusing lyrics and great jagged guitar after the choruses. "People" is smooth and moody. "You're On Your Own" has an almost-annoying, whiny Rolie vocal but still closes the side with some energy. Odd how they couldn't make any money from this stuff. It seemed like the right time....
* Herbie Hancock: HEAD HUNTERS. This is probably too funky for a dumb white kid from Idaho, but I like the airyness of it and Hancock's squiggly keyboards. And Bennie Maupin is impressive on flutes and saxes. Not too far from later Miles Davis, though it probably won't replace my copy of IN A SILENT WAY....