OK, I don't wanna mess with the turntable this morning. It's the end of my work-week and I'm not thinking clearly enuf for that. So we're gonna keep this simple and make it even easier to reject stuff we don't like by going directly to the CD player. Also better sound quality! Onward.
* Argent -- I Am the Dance of Ages, from the HOLD YOUR HEAD UP collection. Still think these guys were underrated -- when they kept things fairly simple. But some of their songs were worthy of Kansas or Klaatu ("Cast Your Spell, Uranus"? Please.) This has some of that pretentious, mystical sound going on here -- also some of the sound of the hit "Hold Your Head Up" in Rod Argent's show-offy organ-playing. But nice ... uh ... incantations. Dramatic. Wind effects. fades before it gets really silly.
* Zombies -- Care of Cell 44, from ODESSEY AND ORACLE. This is light, sunny pop, despite the subject -- which seems to be a letter from a guy to his girlfriend who's in prison! Rather too sunshiny for the lyrics, pure 1967, tho a little twisted. Nice group vocals on the choruses.
* Zombies -- A Rose for Emily, from ODESSEY AND ORACLE. More light, pretty pop. I'm of two minds about the Zombies -- nice inventiveness for their time, tho I've always hated the smarmy lyrical tone of their hit "Time of the Season." "Emily" is subtly disturbing. Wonder if this has any connection to the Nathaniel Hawthorne short story of the same title? Sounds like it does. Kinda dark for "sunshine pop," tho pretty.
* Zombies -- Maybe After He's Gone, from ODESSEY AND ORACLE. More pretty '60s pop-group vocals, OK piano and guitar. The Lettermen meet The Turtles, or The Association. In England. Pretty straight.
* Zombies -- Beechwood Park, from ODESSEY. (Hey, that's how they spelled it.) OK, this is going all dark and murky now, and it's a foggy enuf day here in Mirkwood. So we're done here. Tho still pretty....
* Genesis -- Happy the Man, from the Starbucks collection 14 FROM OUR PAST. An obscure B-side. Not too far from The Who's "Happy Jack," tho Peter Gabriel doesn't sound too happy. As usual. Nice vocal harmonies. Pleasant guitar strumming.
* Genesis -- Watcher of the Skies, from 14 FROM OUR PAST. Am I up to 7 minutes of this? Dramatic keyboard/organ opening that drags on a bit long. Get to the point, boys. Then Peter Gabriel's congested vocals. Don't think I'm awake enuf for this, tho Steve Hackett's brief guitar solo helps. Then some more organ from Tony Banks. Could that simple marching-band 4/4 possibly be supplied by The Phil Collins? Every time Hackett breaks in, things lighten up, tho the rest seems a bit simple. OK, I'm done.
* Alan Parsons Project -- You Don't Believe, from the ULTIMATE best-of. Always liked this, which seems to examine the Alan Parsons/Eric Woolfson songwriting partnership with a very bitter outlook. Builds in drama very nicely. Lenny Zakatek's vocal helps, tho he could be anybody.
* APP -- Days are Numbers (The Traveler), from ULTIMATE. always loved this, but. APP was often musically gorgeous, but the lyrics were sometimes kinda empty. Ear candy. You want lyrics that'll make you howl, check out APP's EVE. But even there, some of the music's amazing. Even if it's a little predictable. Someday I'll do an All-Alan-Parsons review post, got the albums lined up. But not today.
* APP -- Old and Wise, from ULTIMATE. Breathy-voiced former-Zombie Colin Blunstone on lead vocal. This is pretty, but I always expected it to be deeper, lyrically. Nice choruses, tho.
* Camel -- Dust Bowl, Go West, Dusted Out, from DUST AND DREAMS. "Dust Bowl" has more keyboard than I expected. "Go West" has a gorgeous pastoral sound and guitarist Andy Latimer's languid vocals. Why he got attracted to John Steinbeck's GRAPES OF WRATH I don't know, but concept-albums almost always worked for him. I already know "Mother Road" on this album is pretty great. This has that gorgeous, pastoral, laid-back later-Camel sound. Good stuff.
* Camel -- Mother Road, from DUST AND DREAMS. Disco-y beat and Latimer's kinda lazy vocals, but the great group vocals on the dramatic choruses make up for it. And then there's that great soaring-guitar middle section that locks it....
* Camel -- Needles, Rose of Sharon, from DUST AND DREAMS. Not sure why this album has The Sound, while Camel's later RAJAZ just seems kinda flat. This is good enuf to stand along with NUDE and THE SNOW GOOSE -- gorgeous, pastoral mood music. David Paton (of APP) and Mae McKenna team up for a duet on "Rose of Sharon," the lyrics to which are pretty personal and intense. Latimer had a pretty solid handle on this story. More excellent guitar at the end.
* Camel -- Milk n' Honey, End of the Line, from DUST AND DREAMS. More melodic mood music, that opens out and reprises the theme from "Mother Road" with an orchestra. "End of the Line" has more of Latimer's rather nasal vocals -- which here sound a bit like Bruce Springsteen ... which is fitting, considering the story.... Slowly gains in drama. Rest of the album is all-instrumental. I'll save that for another time....
* Phil Manzanera and 801 -- Tomorrow Never Knows, from THE MANZANERA COLLECTION and 801 LIVE. You can sure tell Eno's on this. Little atmospheric messin' around to start, then a steady beat and more spacey sound effects, including a bubbly synth. Eno also sings, which is oddly not that far off from Lennon's original -- yes, THAT "Tomorrow Never Knows." This is pretty involving, especially the bubbly synth. Sorta an update of the original, nice enuf, tho of course not "cosmic." If anything, they cut it off too soon. Good performance.
* Roxy Music -- Out of the Blue (live), from THE MANZANERA COLLECTION. Opens with brief Nazi marching music(?), then moves into Bryan Ferry's crooning. OK oboe and/or sax from Andy Mackay, wish there was more. Nice tho brief show-offy guitar from our host Phil Manzanera at the end.
* 801 -- Fat Lady of Limbourg, from 801 LIVE and THE MANZANERA COLLECTION. More Eno on lead vocals. Very odd. Sounds like something from CABARET. And this is a guitar showcase why? ... OK, a little guitar show-offery in the middle. And how bout those dated keyboard sounds? SO 1977!
* Roxy Music -- Impossible Guitars (live), from THE MANZANERA COLLECTION. OK, THIS is a guitar showcase. And it actually has some drive and excitement. Sorta a rockin' surf sound. best thing here, so far.... Ends too soon.
* 801 -- Diamond Head, from 801 LIVE and THE MANZANERA COLLECTION. Ok, more guitar show-offery, and quite nice. This collection shoulda started with more of this kinda stuff.... Always wondered where the hype about 801 came from (their LISTEN NOW sure won't convince you), now I see that their live album was the one to hear....
* Brian Eno -- Needle in a Camel's Eye, from THE MANZANERA COLLECTION. This has a sorta '50s sound, from Eno's vocals to the guitar-soloing. The pauses in the instrumental chorus are annoying. At least it's short.
* 801 -- Miss Shapiro, from 801 LIVE and THE MANZANERA COLLECTION. OK, I'm about done with Phil and his work for today. This has a Roxy Music-ish sound, even with Eno's arch vocals. Pleasant enuf, but not stunning, and there's not enuf guitar.
* The Move -- Blackberry Way, from SHAZAM! More sunshiney pop, with a little extra heaviness. Very nice, quite 1968-ish. Nice group vocals, shades of the Bee Gees: "So full of emptiness without her...."
* The Move -- Cherry Blossom Clinic Revisited, from SHAZAM! Heavy! Poor English guy gets stuck in an insane asylum 'cos of his thots, ya know. Funny! Hilarious choruses. Roy Wood took too many drugs! This would be Exhibit A for the prosecution. Acoustic guitar breaks into Bach's "Joy" halfway thru! Several times! And there's some Tchaikovsky from the Nutcracker Suite. Pretty funny. beautifully produced.
* The Move -- Fields of People, from SHAZAM! Monty Python meets The Beatles. Beautifully produced, and so 1968! Poppy, psychedelic, ornate, light, fun. If ELO could have been like this, we all woulda had a much better time. ... As if all this isn't enuf, they throw in a long crazed sitar workout at the end -- it comes across as a whole different piece, just something else they had lying around. A lot of talent at work here.... And then they interview a taxi driver in the street for his opinions on pop music....
* The Move -- Hello Susie, from SHAZAM! Well now, this is rather unpleasantly heavy if I might be so bold.... And they led off the album with it?
* Gentle Giant -- Two Weeks in Spain, I'm Turning Around, Betcha Thought We Couldn't Do It, Who Do You Think You Are?, from THE MISSING PIECE. "Two Weeks" is awfully jumpy. "Turning Around" is a rather nice lost-love ballad. "Couldn't Do It" is a high-speed comment on Punk Rock -- they couldn't do it. "Who" is more jumpy stuff. Thin. But "I'm Turning Around"'s worth hearing.