Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Grumpy Jazz-Rock Friday!

Currently it's 20 degrees & windy, in the middle of a rather nasty snowstorm here, this winter's 1st -- but cast your mind with me back 2 last Fri afternoon, when it was gray & overcast & rainy & in the 40s, & snow was just rumored 2 B "on the way" -- a perfect setting 4 Grumpy Jazz-Rock Friday!
Believe me, if I could actually FIND some grumpy jazz-rock, I'd B listening 2 it. Instead, here's The List, some of which I actually LIKED....

Synergy -- Icarus.
Pat Metheny Group -- Eighteen/Barcarole.
Pat Metheny & Ornette Coleman -- Song X.
John McLaughlin -- Don't Let the Dragon Eat Your Mother.
Mahavishnu Orchestra -- Birds of Fire/Miles Beyond/Celestial Terrestrial Commuters/Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love/Thousand Island Park/Hope/Sanctuary/Open Country Joy/Resolution/The Noonward Race/A Lotus on Irish Streams/Awakening.
David Sancious -- Suite Cassandra/Dixie: March of the Conditioned Souls/Civil War of the Soul.
Weather Report -- Vertical Invader/T.H./Dr. Honoris Causa.
Pentangle -- Haitian Fight Song/Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.
Ian Carr's Nucleus -- Gone With the Weed/Out of the Long Dark.
Miles Davis -- In a Silent Way.

"Icarus" is something of a jazz classic, but Synergy's synthesized version of its haunting melody is the best version I can find. Both the Winter Consort & composer Paul Winter's solo versions R a little 2 mushy. At least Synergy's version has some 4ce 2 it -- it sounds really good 1nce U 4get the fact that it's totally synthesized. From SEQUENCER. Haven't heard Oregon's version of the tune, tho....
"Eighteen" isn't bad -- it's got some nice lite&bouncy guitar, & is EZily the best thing on OFFRAMP, near as I can tell, tho it's far from Metheny's best work. It's not Xactly distinctive -- lite jazz that's perfect 4 throwing out the household trash. "Barcarole" is noisy & has no tune -- it's as bad & painful in its way as "Forward March" off Metheny's FIRST CIRCLE album ... but nowhere near as funny. But 4 some REAL noise....
...There's "Song X." There's 2 much of Ornette Coleman here -- he's squeaking & squalling all OVER the place. There isn't enuf of Metheny. There's no melody whatsoever -- which I know was Coleman's whole point 2 Bgin w/. Jazz critics said SONG X was supposedly 1a Metheny's more "legitimate" albums, closer 2 "real jazz." I'd prefer something more illegitimate. & this track's only 6 mins long; summa the trax on the album R over 11 mins -- how the hell am I sposta get thru them?
McLaughlin's "Dragon" is loud but kinda spacey, w/ some nice gtr runs from McLaughlin & equally nice sorta-rain-droppy organ tones from Larry Young. OK, but over 2 soon. From DEVOTION.
"Birds of Fire" -- Wow, a tune! Mostly carried by Jerry Goodman's viola. Good riffage goes a long way w/ me. "Miles Beyond" hasa cool close-miked gtr (bass?) solo that un4tun8ly is over 2 quick. "Commuters" is also over 2 fast, w/ another good riff & some nice synth & gtr work. The 22-second "Sapphire Bullets" just made me laff -- Rastro got a whole write-up outta this? "Thousand Island Park" sounds like David Sancious (C below), w/ some nice piano from Jan Hammer. "Hope" is brief & anticipatory -- makes U wanna turn the record over.
"Sanctuary" is also pleasant & over way 2 fast. "Open Country Joy" features some very nice quiet keyb&violin sections & is over 2 soon. "Resolution" Cms 2 B building up 2 a big finish -- another good riff ... that just Nds.... "Noonward Race" is more noise from lightning-fingers McLaughlin -- I couldn't finish it. "Lotus" is a quiet piece 4 violin, gtr & keybs that again sounds like David Sancious -- or now I know where he got his sound from. Mahavishnu's quieter, more reflective pieces (like this 1) R pretty good. They shoulda done more stuff like this. "Awakening" is another furious rave-up, a lightning-fast riff w/ more screeches & smears. Overall, not bad. From BIRDS OF FIRE & THE INNER-MOUNTING FLAME. I'll listen 2 the 10-min "One Word" sometime in the future. MayB listening 2 King Crimson 4 so many yrs made it so I can finally hear these guys summa the time....
I heard "Suite Cassandra" 1nce a coupla yrs ago & still remembered the theme this time around. Sancious's melodies R sometimes pretty memrable. His 1976 TRANSFORMATION (THE SPEED OF LOVE) album is utterly brilliant in places, & where the melodies work they really stick with U. These trax from Sancious's 1975 debut FOREST OF FEELINGS Rn't quite as brilliant -- "Cassandra" lays-out his method: a sometimes-striking piano-theme statement followed by variations, w/ a return 2 that striking theme at the Nd. "Dixie" really does take-off from the Civil War standard; the 2nd section has some OK spacey synth effects toward the Nd, but that's about all.
Weather Report's live medley from I SING THE BODY ELECTRIC features some pounding, relentless drumming from Eric Gravatt & some good squawking sax from Wayne Shorter. There's some of the same feel here as on their classic "Boogie Woogie Waltz" medley from their later live album 8:30, tho this isn't as tuneful & there's nowhere near as big a finish.
I don't have NE Charles Mingus in the house, so I thot I'd try 2 Mingus pieces by Pentangle, a late-'60s British folk group known 4 their instrumental interplay. "Haitian Fight Song" gets a nice bouncy riff going, but both trax R pleasant but 4gettable.
Nucleus was a horn-based '70s British jazz-rock band. "Weed" gets funky in places, "Dark" was quieter & I couldn't finish it.
I closed w/ "In a Silent Way," which I've bn playing every now&then since I was in my 20s. Nice raindroppy piano & organ tones, soothing gtr by McLaughlin, Miles's trumpet cutting thru, perfect 4 a rainy afternoon....

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Guilty pleasures....

Due 2 Technical Difficulties, there will B no Mostly New Music Friday write-up 2day. But that's OK cos I had Something Else planned NEway.
Can't Blieve I haven't written about this stuff B4 -- mayB I have in other contexts. Ghod knows I've looked.
NEway, mayB it's something about the holidays approaching, but whenever I stop 4 a min 2 think about all the things I have 2 B Thankful 4, that automatically Cms 2 lead 2 Confessing My Sins. So here's a list of my all-time faverite musical Guilty Pleasures, some of which I still slap on the stereo now&then when the moon is full & all the planets R lined-up wrong....
& after I've Mbarrassed myself in public, it'll B YOUR TURN 2 Confess All. Don't B scared....
* The Partridge Family -- Go ahead, laff. I don't care. The Truth is the Partridges' group-chorale vocal style has continued 2 influence pop music up 2 the present day, coming down 2 us thru acts like Fleetwood Mac, Clannad & Enya, among others. Their 1st album (1970) is a solid, consistent set of pop songs including classics like "Singing My Song" & "I'm on the Road." UP TO DATE (1971) was patchy but included the gorgeous "I'll Meet You Halfway" & Keith Partridge's almost-rockin' "Lay it on the Line." SOUND MAGAZINE (1972) rebounded w/ their best work, including 2 side-closing masterpieces, "Love is All I Ever Needed" & "I'm On My Way Back Home." Their producer Wes Farrell really Knew His Stuff. But of course if U can't take Keith's huge ego....
* The Osmonds, 1st album (1971) -- NOT "One Bad Apple" or "Sweet and Innocent," both of which made me gag even back then. But this 1st album includes the startling social-protest song "Think," the dramatic "Catch Me, Baby," a version of "Most of All" that beats B.J. Thomas, & a closing medley of 4 Motown hits ("Motown Special") that definitely MOVES & is almost ... funky. & their group-vocal version of "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" beats the Hollies & Neil Diamond.
* Helen Reddy -- I could go thru life happy if I never hear "Delta Dawn," "Ruby Reddress," "Angie Baby" & "I Am Woman" ever again. But "I Don't Know How to Love Him" has a great vocal that starts out very hesitant & gets stronger & more dramatic as it goes, & "Peaceful" has a breathtaking string arrangement that clearly evokes fresh air & relaxation. Around '72 Helen also did a vicious Carole King-written death-of-a-ladies'-man song whose title escapes me & that I can't find NEwhere. NE ideas?
* Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass -- THE BEAT OF THE BRASS (1969) is an Xcellent late-'60s pop album w/ 3 classic trax: the best-ever version of The Mamas & The Papas' "Monday Monday," with horns & bells & lotsa other stuff, brilliant cos it sounds NOTHING like the original -- they coulda spaced it out 4 20 mins. "A Beautiful Friend" is more like Herb & the TJB -- a mellow, laid-back horn piece w/ a great hook. & then there's Herb's modest vocal debut on "This Guy's in Love With You," which was a #1 hit single....
* Carpenters -- They've gained some dorky-cool over the yrs. "Goodbye to Love" (great guitar!), "Hurting Each Other" & "Rainy Days and Mondays" R all Prime Melodrama, "Solitaire" only slightly less great, & "For All We Know" is a brief but charming wedding song written by 2 of the guys from Bread. I'll even put on "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" 1nce in awhile -- it's really sorta a companion piece 2 Rush's "Mystic Rhythms," ain't it?
* Bread -- Grab their 2 GREATEST HITS albums & count the classics: "Been Too Long on the Road," "Mother Freedom," "Guitar Man," "Let Your Love Go," "Everything I Own," "It Don't Matter to Me" -- & summa their album trax R stunning: "Too Much Love," "Down on My Knees," "Look What You've Done," "Take Comfort," "He's a Good Lad"....
* Neil Diamond -- His mid-'60s stuff ("Kentucky Woman," "Solitary Man," "Cherry Cherry," etc) has gained in cool over the yrs, but his late-'60s/early-'70s stuff is really great & pretty strange -- "Holly Holy," "Soolaimon," "Walk on Water," "Done Too Soon," the goofy "I Am the Lion," "Crunchy Granola Suite," & much more! 4 yrs I thot Neil could do no wrong, then about '76 or so he went 2 Show Biz 4 me. Still, I've worn out a coupla copies of his CLASSICS: THE EARLY YEARS, & I still have a copy of his fairly-wretched JONATHON LIVINGSTON SEAGULL soundtrack in the house -- I'm also 1 of the 12 people in the world who paid $$$ 2 C the movie back at Xmas '73.
* Linda Ronstadt -- MAD LOVE (1979) is about 1/2 of a good New Wave album: Her cover of Elvis Costello's "Party Girl" is intense & dramatic, "How Do I Make You" does the job, & "I Can't Let Go" is gorgeous. & her cover of EC's "Talking in the Dark" is pretty silly. Summa her singles were pretty great 2: "Long Long Time," "Someone to Lay Down Beside Me," "Poor Poor Pitiful Me," etc.
* The Bee Gees -- Speaking of melodrama, these guys always had it. I'm a sucker 4 the crashingly dramatic "First of May," thru classics like "Lonely Days" & "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart," 2 later stuff like "Fanny," "Nights on Broadway," & "Tragedy." Not a big fan of the disco stuff. But "Spirits (Having Flown)" is a gorgeous calypso piece that shoulda bn a huge hit....
* Janis Ian -- She's also gained some cool over the yrs. Jeez, a few yrs back there was a science fiction anthology published based on her songs, which I think is a 1st. BETWEEN THE LINES (1974) is about 1/2 brilliant, w/ the gorgeous "When the Party's Over," the brutally honest "From Me to You," & masterpieces like the stark, brief "In the Winter" & "Watercolors." AFTERTONES (1975) isn't as strong, but includes the Xcellent title song & "Love is Blind."
* Lobo -- MayB it was my age, back in '71. Not much I can't listen 2 on his BEST OF, & he did a string of brilliant pop singles. MayB my fave now is "A Simple Man," which was never a hit but shoulda bn. & if U can find a copy of his 1st album, INTRODUCING, it's priceless. Hardly a bad track on the whole thing....
* Nik Kershaw -- HUMAN RACING is a classic, w/ the hit "Wouldn't it be Good" & LOTS of other silly stuff. My absolute fave is the loopy "Gone to Pieces," in which Nik bids goodbye 2 the human race & The Chipmunks chime-in on the choruses. Brilliant & hilarious.
* Tracey Ullman -- YOU BROKE MY HEART IN 17 PLACES shows she coulda had a whole diffrent career. U probly know the hit "They Don't Know," but "Breakaway," "I'm Always Touched by Your Presence, Dear," "I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten" & others R all great fun, & they're not played 4 laffs, either.
* Weird Al Yankovic -- U know the song satires, but how bout the brilliant "Nature Trail to Hell," "Polkas on 45," "One More Minute," "Christmas at Ground Zero," "Dare to be Stupid"....
* Go-Go's -- Their 1st 3 albums R fulla 4got10 gems: "Can't Stop the World," "Fading Fast," "Lust to Love," "This Town," "Worlds Away," "The Way You Dance," "You Thought," "Capture the Light," "Forget That Day," "I'm With You"....
* Bangles -- Shoulda been bigger. Their 1st album ALL OVER THE PLACE has a 4-star 2nd side & the 1st side ain't no slouch neither. & the overlooked stuff on their later albums still sounds great: "Dover Beach," "Restless," "Silent Treatment," "September Gurls," "Angels Don't Fall in Love," "Following," "Not Like You," "Return Post," "I'll Set You Free," "Glitter Years," "Everything I Wanted," "Where Were You When I Needed You."
Now it's YOUR turn....

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Throw something at the wall....

...and see if it sticks!
(Mostly New Music Friday #3)

B.J. Thomas: Rock and Roll Lullabye.
Split Enz: Poor Boy.
Spooky Tooth: Feelin' Bad.
Yes: No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed/Clear Days.
It's a Beautiful Day: Soapstone Mountain.
Jade Warrior: Dark River/Obedience/Borne on the Solar Wind.
Alan Parsons Project: The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether/You Don't Believe.
Leo Kottke: Whine/Embryonic Journey/Losing Everything/Drowning.
Ike and Tina Turner: River Deep, Mountain High.
Turtles: Lady-O/Sound Asleep.
Nilsson: Remember (Christmas).
The Move: Tonight.
The Kinks: Victoria.
Van Morrison: Wavelength/St. Dominic's Preview/Listen to the Lion.

Opened this session w/ a beat-up old vinyl copy of B.J. Thomas's "Rock and Roll Lullabye," from a GREATEST HITS album found at Goodwill 4 $1 -- & Dspite the scratches, Duane Eddy's twangy guitar & the gorgeous backing vocals by Carl Wilson & Darlene Love still did their magic. The best & most comforting thing ol' Beej ever did.
Split Enz's "Poor Boy" is 1 of the best things they ever did -- Tim Finn's song about falling in love w/ an alien. Along w/ the spacey/cheesy gtr & keyboards (like something strait outta some '50s sci-fi B movie -- or probly something more like a D-), summa the lyrics R pretty funny: "I've never seen her face/Between us there's too much space...." From HISTORY NEVER REPEATS/THE BEST OF, & TRUE COLOURS.
Spooky Tooth's "Feelin' Bad" is (2 me) classic late-'60s goodtime British rock, especially great 4 the ragged almost-gospel-ish group-vocal choruses, impossible not 2 screech along w/. From SPOOKY TWO.
4 me, Yes's "No Opportunity Necessary" is 1 of the great mismatches of all time, great silly fun as 1 of the un-funkiest groups ever covers a Richie Havens song. & how bout those TOTALLY over-the-top orchestrations? The strings&horns middle section sweeps along like something from an old Marlboro cigarettes commercial -- U can almost C the Marlboro Man riding boldly across the plains.... The great thing is, it pretty much works -- the later remastered version on YESSTORY clears up the musical chaos & is a lot punchier, boosting the band's instrumental work & Jon Anderson's kinda ballsy(!) vocal. Brave & silly, whatta band. The orchestra actually works kinda well toward the end of Jon's brief solo-vocal "Clear Days." Both these R from TIME AND A WORD.
"Soapstone Mountain" has some kinda nice gtr toward the Nd. Other than that, pretty dull.
Jade Warrior helped invent New Age -- way back in 1971. All these trax R instrumentals from LAST AUTUMN'S DREAM: "Dark River" is rather Mike Oldfield-ish, mixing tribal drums, flute & acoustic gtr -- pretty in spots, but not rock&roll. "Obedience" has lotsa loud electric gtrs, which was always The Other Side w/ this band (at least in its early days), the loud boogie always waiting 2 escape out from under the placid stuff, leading 2 ugly #'s like "Snake Bite." "Solar Wind" is a big, stately, metallic gtr theme repeated over&over w/ few variations 4 3 mins....
"Dr. Tarr" is 1a Parsons' early singalongs -- I'm a sucker 4 the backing vocals & choruses. "You Don't Believe" apparently outlines summa the creative strain Btween Parsons & his partner, lyricist & vocalist Eric Woolfson. Kinda compelling no matter what it's based on, tho there R no real suprises.
"Whine" really does start out with a catchy & whiny gtr theme, which unfortunately gets lost B4 the Nd. "Embryonic Journey" is a solid cover of Jorma Kaukonen's old Jefferson Airplane tune. The other 2 R vocals, 1 about relationships breaking up, w/ some kinda clever lyrics. I can't even remember what the other 1's about, Xcept that w/ titles like these, they Rn't the kinda things I otta B listening 2 on an overcast, rainy aft when it's so obviously November outside. Kottke mayB sang 2 much on this album (BALANCE) when his gtr spoke more than well enuf.
Blame "River Deep" on my buddy Crabby. In his recent Top 10 he talked about a late-'60s Ronettes song that didn't chart but should've, & it occurred 2 me that I hadn't played NE of Phil Spector's stuff in awhile. I'm sure I musta heard this at least 1nce B4 a few yrs back, but even w/ the overcast & rain outside, Phil's Wall Of Sound did its magic. I had tears in my eyes, man. I don't know if I love this more than "Be My Baby" or "Baby I Love You" -- Tina screeches a little -- but it shoulda at least charted. It shoulda sold a million. It woulda sounded great on the radio next 2 "Good Vibrations".... From Phil's GREATEST HITS.
Needed a break after that. The Turtles' version of Judee Sill's "Lady-O" is gorgeous & also shoulda bn a hit. "Sound Asleep" is the other Xtreme -- pure laffs. & how bout that chorus of quacking ducks at the Nd? From their Dutch-import 20 GREATEST HITS.
"Remember (Christmas)" is a heartbreaker, the essence of nostalgia.
"Tonight" is more silliness. Whatever happened 2 Roy Wood?
I predict an upcoming Xplosion of Kinks music Bing discussed here. "Victoria" is a screamer that sounds almost dignified in its original studio version compared 2 later "live" versions as on say TWO FOR THE ROAD. But the original has great gtr sound & some nice horns, + brother Dave Davies whooping it up in the background. From ULTIMATE COLLECTION, & ARTHUR. I'm also a sucker 4 "Apeman," "Shangri-La," "Dead End Street," "Village Green Preservation Society," "Sunny Afternoon," "David Watts," "Celluloid Heroes," "Misfits"....
1nce it gets going, "Wavelength" is pretty good. But it coulda gotten there quicker. "St. Dominic's Preview" is an OK rolling, relaxed sorta-jam track. "Listen to the Lion" is a pretty amazing vocal performance from Van as it slowly gains intensity & mutates over 11 mins. Involving & hypnotic, tho I'm not sure about Van's growling in the middle. & again, this coulda bn cut by a coupla mins. I'm wondering if Van needed an editor or a producer (other than himself) who might notta indulged him quite so much. Xcellent instrumental work on all these, all from STILL ON TOP/THE GREATEST HITS.