Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Tuesday afternoon Strange Music blowout!

OK, it's after lunch and I'm tired of politics, so let's get to the music!
* Dixie Dregs -- Hereafter, from DREGS OF THE EARTH. OK, I've played this before, but it sounds different to me every time, so.... I still think the Dregs only have about three or four real tunes, no matter how nicely they play. This is one of their best -- a long guitar showcase with an elusive main melody that starts out with almost Oriental simplicity, then slowly builds in complexity and intensity. Then there's a long, sweet violin section that leads back to the crashing main theme. Nice guitar pyrotechnics by Dregs mastermind Steve Morse near the end. I coulda used one more repeat of that very nice instrumental chorus, but.... I think they were maybe a little too complex for their own good, but it pays off here.
* Zebra -- Who's Behind the Door?, from their first album. Didn't this get some AOR radio airplay? Think I heard it once or twice a decade or so ago and was impressed. Opens with some nice acoustic strumming. Sounds vaguely like Styx, or maybe Rush. Lotsa massed backing vocals behind the lead singer. Nice and airy, but then I haven't heard it a thousand times.... OK spacey sound effects, maybe getting a little cheezy toward the end. Going for some hair-metal cliches before the fade-out. Why did I play this?
* Pink Floyd -- Chapter 24, from THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN. Yeezus, haven't heard this in YEARS. Do I need to be on LSD to really appreciate this? Charming, in a very Olde Englishe way....
* Hatfield and the North -- The Stubbs Effect/Big Jobs (Poo Poo Extract)/Going Up to People and Tinkling/Calyx, etc., from their first album. Charming Richard Sinclair-vocal intro, then into light, tricky English prog. Energetic, light on their feet, a lot going on, but it's all so LIGHT. Then into Robert Wyatt's equally light, wordless vocal on "Calyx." Later, the Northettes will come in and do these same vocal tricks. I like the lightness, but nothing has any impact. Or real force.
* Rick Wakeman -- The Breathalyzer, from CRIMINAL RECORD. Isn't that the ugliest keyboard sound you've ever heard? Even uglier than Mike Ratledge's tone on old Soft Machine tracks. But at least it's funny.... And who is this Bill Oddie who seems to be a cult comedy figure in England?
* Rick Wakeman -- Judas Iscariot, from CRIMINAL RECORD. This starts out all gothic and ominous, then Rick plays around sorta dinkily with the theme, and after that he comes back to the gothic stuff even MORE hugely and ominously. Then a church organ, and a choir, and ... man, those were the days.... Then he backs off a bit for a sort of church-organ fugue, with a hushed choir, and then.... He comes back in and freakin' BLOWS YOUR SPEAKERS UP. Could he get any more melodramatic? I don't see how. I like this, because it does exactly what I expected. Great cheap laffs. What a comedian.
* The Byrds -- Goin' Back, from THE NOTORIOUS BYRD BROTHERS. A gentle Goffin-King classic with nice group-vocal harmonies and a subtle string section. Bittersweet nostalgia.
* The Byrds -- Wasn't Born to Follow, from THE NOTORIOUS BYRD BROTHERS. Goffin and King Go Country. Way back when I was a kid in California, this song was turned into a Lucky Lager beer commercial. And it sorta sounded better that way. Nice vocals, though. OK spacey guitar in the middle.
* Horslips -- King of Morning Queen of Day, from THE BOOK OF INVASIONS: A CELTIC SYMPHONY. Haven't heard this in YEARS. Rather nice sprightly pop-song/dance with medieval lyrics, nice guitar and sparkly little keyboards. The singing isn't perhaps the best, but it builds in momentum to nice medieval-style choruses. If they had a better singer, this would be pretty good stuff. Sort of a watered-down Gryphon or Amazing Blondel, if that's any use to ya.
* Starcastle -- Shine on Brightly, from CITADEL. No, not THAT "Shine On Brightly." Opens with a nice guitar-and-keyboards fanfare. Three minutes in, this is already better, livelier than the only other track of theirs I've heard, "Fountains" on FOUNTAINS OF LIGHT. Nice shimmery keyboards and guitars. Suddenly Rick Wakeman takes a brief keyb solo! Then some OK guitar. This is nicely punchy -- sort of prog looking for some radio play, not far from Styx or Kansas. And a repeating riff that's worth waiting for. Singer Terry Luttrell could maybe be stronger, he's not mixed out-front enough. But not bad. Worth hearing again. And it's over with fairly quickly.
* Starcastle -- Shadows of Song, from CITADEL. More crystal-clear guitars and keyboards. Suppose Roy Thomas Baker's production helped punch them up? The singing's still not strong enough. The group vocals are OK, but this is merely average. Not enough tune here.
* Flairck -- East-West Express, from VARIATIONS ON A LADY. Acoustic guitars, flute and a string section -- bouncy instrumentals from a late-'70s Dutch band known mostly for their sexy album-covers. Starts out all bouncy and then turns darker. Then we're into a melodramatic spaghetti-Western tune. Then back to the original theme, faster and faster 'til an abrupt ending. The original theme's nice.
* Flairck -- The Butterfly, from VARIATIONS. This is almost classical soundtrack-music, but how'd that sitar get in here? This is pretty, though it's sure not rock and roll. Some flashy violin-playing later on. Gains in intensity toward the end. Nice, different.
* Flairck -- For Antoinette, from VARIATIONS. Light, short, pastoral acoustic-guitar piece.
* Flairck -- De Stoomwals, from VARIATIONS. Flute, viola and acoustic guitar. Pretty. Gains momentum as it goes. Can't translate the title, so don't know what it means. This is nice stuff, though it's a long way from rock. The ending sounds like a merry-go-round running down ... until the train whistle goes off at the very end. And that's the side.
* Alison Moyet -- Invisible, from ALF. I've heard this English singer compared to Kate Bush, though "alto greatness rather than soprano greatness." The song was written by Lamont Dozier of Motown fame, producers Steve Jolley and Tony Swain (Bananarama, many others) are all over it. Kinda mechanical, tho Alf sings well. OK for mid-'80s pop, and it gains a little as it goes. It could have gone on longer....
* Alison Moyet -- Steal Me Blind, from ALF. OK, not bad. The '80's version of Adele?
* Alison Moyet -- Love Resurrection, from ALF. Hmm, now she sounds a little like Joan Armatrading ... or maybe Annie Lennox. I've heard this song called "tasteless," and I guess it veers that way a little in the lyrics, but not too much. Still a little mechanical-sounding. Pretty-much standard '80s pop, not too distinctive.
* Todd Rundgren -- Onomatopoeia, Determination, Fade Away, from HERMIT OF MINK HOLLOW. "Onomatopoeia" is pretty cute, though very short, sounds like it ended before it should have. "Determination" is another crazy-fast rocker, not too far from "Couldn't I Just Tell You?" on SOMETHING/ANYTHING, but faster. "Fade Away" is a slightly dreamy, slightly overdone album-ender.
* Jefferson Starship -- Winds of Change. Haven't heard this in years, either. Always used to love the Starship's science-fiction chorales, even if the songs weren't top-quality. This is on the downhill side, but I don't care much. Still love Craig Chaquico's guitar, Grace Slick's operatic vocals, the spacey science-fiction lyrics, all of it.

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