Thursday, December 30, 2010

Best Heard/Read in 2010

So, EVERY music & book blog does a Year's Best list at the Nd of each yr? Mustn't mess w/ tradition, right?
Here's a list of the best stuff I heard or read during 2010. Note: This stuff isn't necessarily the best of the PAST YEAR, just the best stuff I stumbled over in the last 365 days. Summa these titles actually ARE fairly recent, which is practicly a 1st 4 me....
Best Rock-Related Novel: If by "the last year" I can B permitted 2 include the last few days of 2009, the best rock-related novel of the year is EZily Nick Hornby's JULIET NAKED (2009), which I'm currently re-reading. I think NE1 who posts their opinions about music on the Internet otta read this book -- it's warm & human & funny & complex, & Hornby has some good insights in2 the way men & women handle relationships & artistic pursuits & obsessions, + the attraction of mystery. I saw a bit of myself in this book -- & if U're reading this, U probly will C yrself 2. The best rock novel since Lewis Shiner's GLIMPSES.
Best Best-Of: Can's ANTHOLOGY (2007). A real ear-opener. Keep in mind I haven't gotten thru Caravan's THE WORLD IS YOURS or Camel's RAINBOW'S END best-of's yet (both 2010). But I already know them, so I don't Xpect NE real major suprises there. Can was completely new 2 me & ... wow....
Best Rock-Related Non-Fiction (tie): Bill Bruford's THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY (2009) is thotful & funny & a breeze 2 read, I wish it had been 2wice as long. Sid Smith's IN THE COURT OF KING CRIMSON (2001) is the best book on KC I ever Xpect 2 read until Robert Fripp writes his version of the story. Almost a complete up-2-date history, & it offers some diffrent perspectives on summa the same stories covered in Bruford's autobio.
Best General Non-Fiction: Paul Theroux's THE HAPPY ISLES OF OCEANIA (1992) ... even tho it took me 9 mo's 2 get thru it....
Best Non-Rock-Related Novel: Ian McDonald's CHAGA (1995, published in America as EVOLUTION'S SHORE). Disappointing Nding, but up til then very vivid & involving as a form of alien plantlife "eats" the continent of Africa. Haven't gotten in2 the sequel yet, tho....
Most Disappointing New-2-Me Album: Group 87's A CAREER IN DADA PROCESSING (1984). MayB 2 trax coulda fit in on their classic 1st album from 1980. OK background music, but that's it....
Best New-2-Me Album of the Year: I guess it's Van der Graaf Generator's PAWN HEARTS (1971), but it's not like I play it every day 4 lite Ntertainment....
Best New-2-Me Song of the Year: Happy the Man's "On Time as a Helix of Precious Laughs" (1977). Nostalgic, moving, gorgeous, great dramatic guitar.
Most Popular Post: That long list of "mainstream" pop albums I posted here a coupla wks back, "Goin' Mainstream," has had 76 views as of this aft, according 2 Blogger's stats. Ghod Knows why. MayB cos music fans like 2 C what's in other people's record collections...?
"Posthumous," that semi-fictionalized long grump of complaints w/ the ultra-fast pace of the Modern World, has had 68 viewings since Blogger 1st started tracking this stuff back in June or whenever -- again, Ghod Knows why. Only Ghod could Xplain what people were looking 4 when they tripped over it & what they thot when they got thru it -- if they did. What kinda Google search would bring that up?: "Dissatisfaction with Modern Life"?
Happy New Ear....

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fleetwood Mac "strange"? You bet!

I wasn't a big Fleetwood Mac fan back in highschool, when they were at their popular peak after their albums FLEETWOOD MAC & RUMOURS came out. I didn't catch on til slightly later. I thot "Over My Head" was a nice pop single, "Rhiannon" had a striking guitar opening & some nice choruses, but "Say You Love Me" wore out fast & I thot "Dreams" was just mush.
I was stopped in my tracks by "Go Your Own Way," which I thot was a GREAT pop single with killer choruses & great guitar-work -- thot I might havta look into these guys. But the dull "Don't Stop" made me think they were Just Another Band.
In fact, despite "Go Your Own Way," I held off buying RUMOURS for a long time, mainly because I didn't think any album that held the #1 spot 4 22 weeks could possibly be that good -- commercial yes, but not "good" as I defined it then, as the daring, Xploring champion of "Strange Music" that I then fancied myself.
This resistance lasted til I heard "The Chain," which was definitely as dark & loud & spooky as anyone could want, with great group vocals, more great guitar, & an undercurrent of darkness & violence & frustrated love that this band hadn't unleashed previously.
Then I heard the bouncy "You Make Loving Fun," with its rolling rhythms & its breathy Southern California-style overlapping group vocals straight outta the Beach Boys, & that finished me off.
I still don't much like RUMOURS as a total album -- it's inconsistent, too many weak spots ("Second Hand News," "Never Going Back Again," "Oh Daddy," "I Don't Want to Know," + the above) -- but there's a lot there, & the album does take on & subvert the standard Southern California love-affair mores & morals of the time -- + there's more darkness on trax like "Gold Dust Woman."
For me, the best song was left off the album -- Stevie Nicks' gorgeous "Silver Springs," a cry of brokenhearted despair that Mick Fleetwood said in his autobiography he still doesn't understand why they left out. Maybe because it would've weighted the album 2 heavily with Nicks songs? & she already had the finale spot with "Gold Dust Woman"...?
Anybody who thot a band with such a creamy MOR reputation as Fleetwood Mac couldn't possibly get into any dark areas obviously wasn't paying much attention.
The Mac had been doing unique, striking, brilliant, off-the-wall, just downright strange stuff since their beginnings as a British Blues band at the end of the 1960's. From the poor-boy-blues-into-guitar-fantasia of "Oh Well" 2 guitarist Peter Green's horrific portrait of the Hellhound On His Trail in "The Green Manalishi," these folks were well aware of the darker aspects of life.
The fact that Green & rhythm guitarist Jeremy Spencer both dropped outta the band 2 join religious cults just made things stranger.... But I didn't find out this stuff 'til later....
I got really intrested when TUSK was released late in '79. It promised 2 B much more adventurous than RUMOURS -- the band was said 2 B stretching themselves a bit. & they did -- from the shimmering, icy, shivery production of Stevie Nicks' & Christine McVie's songs, 2 Lindsey Buckingham's more upbeat & raucous new-wave-influenced #'s, I thot the whole thing was pretty much a triumph, with a lot of hidden gems.
There was a lot to take in, 20 songs spread over 4 sides, from Nicks' epics "Sara," "Storms," "Angel" & "Beautiful Child," 2 the mysterious & driving "Sisters of the Moon," 2 McVie's gorgeous, breathy "Brown Eyes" & "Never Forget," 2 the stark "Never Make Me Cry," 2 Buckingham's brilliant shoulda-been-hit "I Know I'm Not Wrong" & his rough-edged "What Makes You Think You're the One," "Not That Funny" & "The Ledge," & the despairing "That's All for Everyone." & the echoey, chaotic title track.
Some folks thot it was disappointing compared 2 RUMOURS, but I wasn't 1 of 'em. TUSK became my fave album ever 4 doing household chores -- just the clash & combination of diffrent moods kept me bouncing around 4 weeks. It shoulda won a Grammy.
The 2-record LIVE came out at the end of the TUSK tour & was a nice souvenir, worth it if just for 5 songs: Buckingham's rousing opener "Monday Morning," Nicks' "Fireflies," McVie's lonely "One More Night," Buckingham's screaming molten guitar freakout on "I'm So Afraid," & the gorgeous breathy cover of the old Beach Boys # "The Farmer's Daughter."
MIRAGE came out in '82 & was described as "the REAL sequel to RUMOURS." I thot it was better, more consistent, with gorgeous tracks like Nicks' "Gypsy," McVie's smooth "Love in Store" & "Only Over You," Nicks' country nod "That's All Right," & Buckingham's '50s throwbacks "Oh Diane" & "Book of Love."
But Side 2 had some genuinely strange & wonderful stuff on it -- Nicks' rather chilly "Straight Back," Buckingham's marvelous doo-wop "Eyes of the World," & McVie's gorgeous closer "Wish You Were Here." I thot it was the album of the year.
I wasn't that thrilled with TANGO IN THE NIGHT, tho there's some great stuff on it -- "Everywhere" was another gorgeous ballad with more breathy vocals straight outta 1977, but McVie's "Isn't it Midnight?" combined that with some driving guitar, & the title track shoulda gone on longer with another 1 of those "I'm So Afraid"-style guitar freakouts.
I thot BEHIND THE MASK was deadly dull Xcept 4 the sinister & hypnotic "In the Back of My Mind." After that I lost track of The Mac 4 a few years while they had personnel issues.
Meanwhile, I looked in2 their past: Discovered FLEETWOOD MAC hadda coupla great overlooked trax like "World Turning" & "Monday Morning" -- by then "Landslide" had become the album-rock classic it deserved to be.
I heard their 25 YEARS/THE CHAIN best-of while living in the middle of Wyoming in the mid-'90s & 4 the 1st time I heard summa their early Blues Band stuff -- VERY diffrent from The Mac most folks have heard. I heard the original "Sentimental Lady" that Bob Welch later had a solo hit with (which I bought as a single), with help from Buckingham & Nicks. I heard a McVie-composed 45 called "Dissatisfied" (from PENGUIN, I think), that shoulda been a hit & woulda fit right in on RUMOURS. But the biggest suprise was the CD-set closer, a stunning brokenhearted McVie # called "Why?" that I still think is 1 of the best things the band ever did, & that made me seek-out MYSTERY TO ME, where I heard Welch's laid-back but spooky "Hypnotized."
A coupla years back when The Mac came out with a new album I didn't think there was a chance in hell it could match any of their old stuff -- especially when I heard Christine McVie had retired. Then I heard Buckingham's "Peacekeeper" & thot there might be some life in the old beast yet. But when I heard Nicks' charming "Say You Will," I hadta buy the album. & I was grateful 2 find that Buckingham was still pursuing his weirdness in songs like "Murrow Rolling Over in His Grave" (which paints a chaotic picture of R fast-moving ultra-modern media-obsessed society), "Miranda," the spooky "Red Rover" & the dark 6-minute epic "Come." I wasn't that impressed with summa Nicks' work, but I'm glad she's still around, even if it was just so I could hear that wonderful transformation in2 the children's chorus at the end of "Say You Will."
A few years back when the 2-CD VERY BEST OF FLEETWOOD MAC collection came out, I was working in the music dept of a certain department-store chain 4 the Xmas season. When 1 woman took a look at the CD, I began raving about what a great band The Mac was, what great songs they had, what marvelous production, great vocals, amazing rhythm section, on&on -- I went babbling on like that 4 a coupla mins. When I finally paused 2 catch my breath, she said: "I take it you must be a pretty big fan of these people?"
Well, yes.

Great Strange Music by Famous People

Ghod help us all, here comes Another List. I can't believe I haven't posted this before.
Here's a list I came up with a few years back of Great Strange Music by folks I'm sure you've all heard of -- music that got overlooked somehow (in terms of commercial success), or that at the very least you never (or hardly ever) hear on the radio.
This is all great stuff, even if it's a little diffrent or odd or off-the-wall, all well worth tracking down, I'll vouch 4 all of it. Most of this stuff I still play regularly. I make no guarantees about how up-2-date this list is, however.
This is a LONG list, so take a deep breath & here we go....

Aerosmith -- Seasons of Wither.
America -- Sandman, Only in Your Heart, Don't Cross the River, Today's the Day.
Julie Andrews -- Crazy World (from VICTOR/VICTORIA), Something Good (from THE SOUND OF MUSIC).
Bangles -- Hero Takes a Fall, All About You, Dover Beach, Going Down to Liverpool, Restless, He's Got a Secret, Silent Treatment, Return Post, Let it Go, September Gurls, Angels Don't Fall in Love, Following, Not Like You, I'll Set You Free, Glitter Years, Everything I Wanted.
Beach Boys -- Kiss Me Baby, Please Let Me Wonder, Let Him Run Wild, There's No Other (Like My Baby), PET SOUNDS, God Only Knows, Let's Go Away for Awhile, Trombone Dixie, I Can Hear Music, Cabinessence, This Whole World, It's About Time, Long Promised Road, Feel Flows, 'Til I Die, Surf's Up, California Saga (closing), Good Time, Lady Lynda, Good Timin'.
Beatles -- There's a Place, Tomorrow Never Knows, Across the Universe, Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey, Thank You Girl, Old Brown Shoe.
Bee Gees -- First of May, Spirits (Having Flown).
Pat Benatar -- Wuthering Heights, Precious Time, Hard to Believe.
Blondie -- Angels on the Balcony, Victor, Just Go Away, Union City Blue, 11:59, Will Anything Happen?, Sunday Girl.
Boston -- Hitch a Ride, Something About You, It's Easy, A Man I'll Never Be, Used to Bad News, My Destination, Can'tcha Say/Still in Love, Hollyann.
Lindsey Buckingham -- Holiday Road.
Lindsey Buckingham & Stevie Nicks -- BUCKINGHAM/NICKS, Without a Leg to Stand On, Crystal, Crying in the Night.
Byrds -- I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better, John Riley, 5D, Mr. Spaceman, My Back Pages, Chestnut Mare, Ballad of Easy Rider.
CAMELOT Broadway cast album -- Fie on Goodness!, The Seven Deadly Virtues.
The Cars -- Bye Bye Love, Moving in Stereo, All Mixed Up, Dangerous Type, Stranger Eyes.
Cheap Trick -- Surrender, Voices, Stop this Game, World's Greatest Lover.
Chicago -- Questions 67 & 68, In Terms of Two, Critic's Choice.
Eric Clapton -- Let it Grow, Another Ticket.
Phil Collins -- Droned/Hand in Hand.
Christopher Cross -- I Really Don't Know Anymore, Poor Shirley, Minstrel Gigolo.
Neil Diamond -- Do It, Shilo, I Am the Lion, Soolaimon, Holly Holy, Crunchy Granola Suite, Walk on Water, Done Too Soon.
Dire Straits -- Telegraph Road, Going Home (Theme from LOCAL HERO), MAKIN' MOVIES, LOVE OVER GOLD, LOCAL HERO soundtrack, The Way it Always Starts.
Doobie Brothers -- Nobody, Neal's Fandango, I Cheat the Hangman.
Bob Dylan -- One of Us Must Know.
Eagles -- Outlaw Man, James Dean, Seven Bridges Road (live).
Sheena Easton -- You Could Have Been With Me.
Electric Light Orchestra -- Twilight, The Way Life's Meant to Be, TIME, Ma-Ma-Ma-Belle, 10538 Overture, Cross the Border.
Fleetwood Mac -- Oh Well, The Green Manalishi, Dissatisfied, Why?, Hypnotized, The Chain, Silver Springs, I Know I'm Not Wrong, Sisters of the Moon, Brown Eyes, Never Make Me Cry, TUSK, Fireflies, One More Night, The Farmer's Daughter, I'm So Afraid (live), Big Love (live), Straight Back, Eyes of the World, Book of Love, Wish You Were Here, Isn't it Midnight?, Tango in the Night, Murrow Turning Over in His Grave, Miranda, Red Rover, Come.
Dan Fogelberg -- SOUVENIRS, Tell Me to My Face, Phoenix, Along the Road, Nexus, THE INNOCENT AGE.
Peter Gabriel -- Family Snapshot.
Genesis -- Ripples, Mad Man Moon, Robbery Assault and Battery, Entangled, Squonk, Dance on a Volcano, Your Own Special Way, Afterglow, Wot Gorilla?, The Musical Box (closing section, live), Supper's Ready (live), The Carpet Crawl (live), Vancouver, Inside and Out, Like It or Not, You Might Recall...., In the Cage (live).
Go-Go's -- Can't Stop the World, You Thought, Forget That Day, Capture the Light, I'm With You, Mercenary, TALK SHOW.
Grateful Dead -- Uncle John's Band, Terrapin, Passenger.
Arlo Guthrie -- Presidential Rag.
Daryl Hall -- Something in 4/4 Time.
Heart -- Soul of the Sea, Mistral Wind, Sweet Darlin', Rockin' Heaven Down, Love Alive.
Hollies -- ROMANY, Magic Woman Touch, Long Dark Road, Sandy (4th of July, Asbury Park).
Jefferson Airplane -- Crown of Creation, Good Shepherd, We Can Be Together, Volunteers, Mexico.
Jefferson Starship -- All Nite Long, FREEDOM AT POINT ZERO (& title song), Fading Lady Light, Save Your Love, Winds of Change.
Billy Joel -- Traveling Prayer, The Entertainer, All for Leyna.
Elton John -- Teacher I Need You, Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding, Gray Seal, The Ballad of Danny Bailey, All the Girls Love Alice, Your Sister Can't Twist But She Can Rock and Roll, Social Disease, Harmony, Roy Rogers, Step into Christmas, (Gotta Get a) Meal Ticket, Ego, Song for Guy, Sartorial Eloquence (Don't You Wanna Play This Game No More?), Have Mercy on the Criminal.
Journey -- Feelin' That Way/Anytime, Something to Hide, Daydream, People and Places, Spaceman.
Carole King -- Snow Queen.
Kinks -- Village Green Preservation Society, Shangri-La, Victoria, Apeman, Celluloid Heroes (live), Sunny Afternoon, Dead End Street.
Cyndi Lauper -- Money Changes Everything, When You Were Mine.
Led Zeppelin -- The Rover, Carouselambra, Fool in the Rain.
Gordon Lightfoot -- Canadian Railroad Trilogy, Ten Degrees and Getting Colder, Beautiful, Don Quixote, Summer Side of Life, High and Dry, Seven Islands Suite, The Circle is Small.
Kenny Loggins -- Conviction of the Heart.
Jeff Lynne -- Lift Me Up, Every Little Thing.
Madonna -- The Look of Love, Oh Father, Dear Jessie, Bad Girl.
Paul McCartney/Wings -- Let Me Roll It, Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five, Love in Song, Magneto and Titanium Man, Medicine Jar.
Men at Work -- Be Good Johnny, Down by the Sea, No Sign of Yesterday.
Joni Mitchell -- Raised on Robbery, Coyote.
Monkees -- Take a Giant Step, Papa Gene's Blues, Sweet Young Thing, Shades of Gray, Your Auntie Grizelda, The Kind of Girl I Could Love, The Girl I Knew Somewhere, You Just May be the One, Randy Scouse Git (Alternate Title), Sunny Girlfriend, No Time, The Door into Summer, Love is Only Sleeping, Words, Daily Nightly, Tapioca Tundra, I'll Be Back Up On My Feet, The Porpoise Song, As We Go Along, Listen to the Band.
Moody Blues -- Peak Hour, Evening: Time to Get Away, Simple Game, Eyes of a Child (Part Two), It's Up to You, Our Guessing Game, One More Time to Live, You Can Never Go Home, For My Lady, You and Me, Land of Make-Believe, In My World, Meanwhile, Nervous, Veteran Cosmic Rocker, THE PRESENT, Blue World, Meet Me Halfway, It's Cold Outside of Your Heart, Running Water, Sorry, No More Lies.
Van Morrison -- Caravan, Into the Mystic, Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile).
Olivia Newton-John -- If Not for You, Suspended in Time.
Stevie Nicks -- Think About It, Outside the Rain.
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band -- House at Pooh Corner, Some of Shelley's Blues.
Alan Parsons Project -- The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether, Some Other Time, Winding Me Up, I'd Rather be a Man, The Gold Bug, Don't Answer Me, Days are Numbers (The Traveler), You Don't Believe, THE INSTRUMENTAL WORKS.
Pink Floyd -- Flaming, Astronome Domine (live), One of These Days, One of My Turns, In the Flesh?, The Trial, High Hopes, Keep Talking.
Police -- Can't Stand Losing You, REGATTA DE BLANC, Omegaman, Secret Journey, Darkness, Does Everyone Stare?, On Any Other Day.
Pretenders -- Mystery Achievement, Lovers of Today, Up the Neck, Tattooed Love Boys, Space Invaders, 2000 Miles, Time the Avenger, Hymn to Her.
Prince -- Sometimes it Snows in April, Anotherloverholeinyohead.
Queen -- '39, The Prophet's Song, Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to....), Save Me, Rock It (Prime Jive), It's Late, INNUENDO.
REO Speedwagon -- Roll With the Changes, Blazing Your Own Trail Again, Don't Let Him Go.
Ronettes -- I Wonder, The Best Part of Breakin' Up.
Linda Ronstadt -- Long Long Time, Someone to Lay Down Beside Me, Party Girl, I Can't Let Go.
Todd Rundgren -- Saving Grace, Song of the Viking, Couldn't I Just Tell You?, Real Man.
Rush -- Red Barchetta, The Camera Eye, Distant Early Warning, Manhattan Project, Force Ten, Time Stand Still, Mystic Rhythms (live), Show Don't Tell, Marathon.
Boz Scaggs -- Dinah Flo, You've Got Some Imagination.
Simon and Garfunkel -- The Only Living Boy in New York, Keep the Customers Satisfied, For Emily Whenever I May Find Her.
Steely Dan -- My Old School, Gaucho, Third World Man, Pretzel Logic, Barrytown, Any Major Dude Will Tell You, Dirty Work, Don't Take Me Alive.
Rod Stewart -- Handbags and Gladrags.
Barbra Streisand -- Sweet Inspiration/Where You Lead (live), Stoney End.
Donna Summer -- I Love You, State of Independence.
Supertramp -- School, Crime of the Century, Babajii, From Now On, Gone Hollywood, Just Another Nervous Wreck, Child of Vision.
Tears for Fears -- The Working Hour, Broken.
'Til Tuesday -- Maybe Monday, Don't Watch Me Bleed.
Ike and Tina Turner -- River Deep Mountain High.
Turtles -- Lady-O, We'll Meet Again, Sound Asleep, Grim Reaper of Love.
Pete Townshend -- A Little is Enough, Jools and Jim, Gonna Get Ya, And I Moved, North Country Girl, Uniforms, Somebody Saved Me, Slit Skirts, Zelda, Now and Then, Misunderstood, My Baby Gives it Away.
U2 -- I Will Follow, Twilight, Into the Heart, Out of Control, Gloria.
Suzanne Vega -- 1st album, Small Blue Thing, Marlene on the Wall, Knight Moves, Cracking, Freeze Tag.
Joe Walsh -- Meadows, Rivers (of the Hidden Funk).
Who -- I'm the Face, The Kids are Alright, Substitute, Disguises, SELL OUT, Little Billy, Dogs, Melancholia, Call Me Lightning, Let's See Action, Bell Boy, 5:15, Doctor Jimmy, The Relay, Slip Kid, Blue Red and Grey, Dreaming from the Waist (live), Daily Records, Another Tricky Day.
Steve Winwood -- Still in the Game, Spanish Dancer, Night Train, Dust.

...If anybody out there can get thru this list alive, we'll talk more....

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Singles Maven

When I Bcame "singles buyer" at that Boise, Idaho record store The Musicworks 30 yrs ago, my biggest challenge was trying 2 keep up w/ what Idaho teens might actually BUY when it came 2 45-rpm records.
U2? The Clash? The Records? Judie Tzuke? Probly not.
Queen? Blondie? Billy Joel? The Knack? Oh yeah....
By that time I'd pretty-much stopped listening 2 local radio & was way more in2 buying albums -- when my budget could stand it. But I was 20 yrs old then -- so I bought music & books B4 I bought food....
What I didn't C coming as "the singles guy" was that I was gonna start buying singles again 2 -- & I was gonna get more of them 4 free from the record companies than I was ever intrested in hearing.
At this point, ROLLING STONE music critic Ed Ward's old theory proved true -- lotsa albums can B boiled-down in2 a good single or 2. Especially if you're onna tight budget. So when there were albums out that I lusted after but $$$ was tight, I'd buy the single instead. Or sometimes those generous folks at the record co's (this was the late-'70s, remember) would send out some good freebies addressed "Attn: Singles Buyer."
I bought The Pretenders' "Kid" until I could afford the album, & later grabbed copies of "Message of Love" & "Talk of the Town" 4 the same reason. Ditto Journey's "Daydream" & "People and Places." I grabbed The Records' "Starry Eyes" & "Teenarama" as much 4 the picture-sleeves the records came in as I did Bcos they were great songs & I couldn't afford the album. The Cars' "It's All I Can Do," New England's "Don't Ever Wanna Lose Ya" & "Hello Hello Hello," The Shoes' "Too Late" & "Now and Then" -- there were lotsa others, & w/ some I never bot the albums -- like w/ The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star," & Gary Numan's "Are Friends Electric?"
This was pretty compulsive behavior, & I'm pretty-much still the same way 2day.
Sometimes the record co's sent out some really good free stuff -- advance copies of U2's "I Will Follow," Roxy Music's "Dance Away," Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk" & "Never Make Me Cry." But mosta the time "Name" acts didn't need much promotional push, so there were no free promos 4 the singles buyer. 4 instance, I never gotta chance 2 C the Moody Blues B-side that Threshold/Polygram may have mis-printed as "Veteran Comic Rocker" -- at least that's the title the company sent-out in their order pamphlet....
Tho I got sent lotsa stuff by people I'd never heard of & never played, record co's sometimes sent out tons of promo singles 4 songs that SHOULD have hit -- New England's "Explorer Suite," Dan Fogelberg & Tim Weisberg's "Tell Me to My Face," Judie Tzuke's "Stay With Me 'til Dawn"....
About my biggest "success" as singles buyer was helping 2 get local radio 2 play The Korgis' kinda mushy "Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime." It peaked nationally in the low teens. It certainly wasn't "Xciting." But there wasn't much Xciting going on at the time.
Local radio didn't needta B prompted 2 play Cheap Trick's "Dream Police" -- tho the best local station (KFXD) never jumped on "Surrender" -- couldn't they HEAR?
Almost NEthing by Queen or Blondie or Billy Joel got played on local radio -- even the weak stuff. "One Way or Another"? Urgh -- try the B-side, "Just Go Away." Now THAT's a great song, & it's FUNNY. "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me"? Ugh. "Another One Bites the Dust"? Well, I sure woulda preferred "Rock It (Prime Jive)" or "Save Me," or how 'bout "It's Late"...?

Readership's up!

Not trying 2 blow my own horn here (no more than usual), but according 2 Blogger's statistics, readership is apparently WAY up 4 the Holiday Season here at the Back-Up Plan -- about double the usual amount.
Ghod Knows why -- mayB people R looking 4 strange music&book gift ideas 4 Xmas? I'm not doing NEthing diffrent, & in fact have lately bn a little more difficult & self-involved than usual.
Nevertheless, visitors have included folks from a Fleetwood Mac fan site called "The Ledge" (, which picked-up on my recent mention of that band occasionally performing some rather "strange" stuff. I hope those folks realize that I meant strange in a GOOD way -- that The Mac's periodic strangeness is 1 of the many things that I thot made them so great. I've bn considering doing a write-up citing specific Xamples of their stranger work -- TUSK would B merely Xhibit A -- but I assume NE real music fan is already pretty familiar with their best stuff. The Mac has bn doing great, unusual, brilliant, unique, off-the-wall stuff since as far back as "Oh Well" & "The Green Manalishi."
NEway, that write-up -- along w/ a long list of Great Strange Music By Famous People -- will likely B coming along soon ... unless I already posted it at some point in the past. I'll havta check. I hate getting old....
Other visitors included folks from a Lady Gaga fan site that glommed on2 my brief mention of her awhile back -- I'm not SURE I've ever heard a single song by the lady. Which clearly shows how up-to-date I am....
...Then there was that poor soul who visited here apparently hoping I was going 2 write something in-depth about Camel's RAINBOW'S END best-of. Ghod bless ya, I DID write a LITTLE about it, 5 or 6 songs' worth. But I haven't gotten 2 the rest of it yet. But I will, I will....
The Ntire nation of Denmark also visited recently, apparently. Still can't quite figure that 1 out....
Have also noticed that the recent "Goin' Mainstream" list of pop albums has bn getting a lotta looks -- hey, I wanna know what's in other people's music collections, 2 -- I guess that Xplains it. U want more lists?
...Is the Nostalgia stuff working 4 NEbody, or is it just fun 4 mememe?
More visitors have come 2 the Back-Up Plan from "Drew's Odds and Sods" ( than from NE other referring website, apparently. Thanx 4 linking 2 the Back-Up Plan, Drew. Hope U're not still digging out from that recent 10 feet of snow up there in Wisconsin....
It would B cool if some of these mysterious visitors would actually LEAVE A COMMENT, even if it's just 2 tell me I'm fulla crap or they can't follow my hideous typing, but You Can't Always Get What You Want....
Isn't it neat all the great info Blogger's STATS function provides? I could look at it 4 days. What a geek....
Thanx 2 every1 out there 4 yr support, & I hope U all hadda good Xmas. & Happy New Ear, while I'm at it.
More silliness is likely ahead. Keep rockin! -- TAD.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Singles Going Steady

1nce I was old enuf 2 get out&about w/o the help of my parents, I started seeking out my own places 2 buy music. 1nce we moved back 2 Idaho, I was disappointed 2 discover there wasn't much 2 choose from within walking or bike-riding distance of my house, 4 music-buying purposes.
1 old department store -- an old Boise landmark called Grand Central (long closed-up) -- was able 2 supply me w/ copies of "Tubular Bells" & "I've Been Searchin' So Long," + a couple albums, The Carpenters' SINGLES & Neil Diamond's DOUBLE GOLD best-of -- but the store wasn't much 4 atmosphere. I hadta seek that out elsewhere.
Thanx 2 old highschool buddy Jeff Mann, we began journeying 2 such places as Budget Tapes and Records, The Nickelodeon, & The Musicworks -- where I Nded-up working a coupla yrs later.
Nickelodeon was pretty great 4 atmosphere -- there was a Head Shop next door (closed within a coupla yrs), & a "balcony"-style 2nd floor w/ nothing but Xotic imported albums & used records. I bought a copy of "Born to Run" there, but Nickelodeon seemed geared more 2 pot-smokers than 2 "serious" music fans. By the time The Musicworks bought the store a coupla yrs later & I briefly pulled a few shifts there, the Head Shop was gone & hardly NE people came in....
Budget was perhaps somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. With a whole long wall full of pre-recorded factory cassettes & a full table's worth of cheap "cutout" albums (from which R friend Don Vincent could pull brilliant-yet-unheard-of albums with amazing skill), Budget was briefly the destination of choice. I grabbed Blue Oyster Cult's AGENTS OF FORTUNE & Janis Ian's BETWEEN THE LINES and AFTERTONES from Budget. (Bet that's the only time U'll ever see Janis Ian & BOC mentioned in the same sentence....)
Budget also had a clerk named Robb Campbell who seemed really cool, knew his music trivia, later worked for Musicworks, & was 4 awhile a DJ at the local college radio station, KBSU. Robb's show was the only time I've ever heard stuff like King Crimson's "Starless" & Steeleye Span's "Alison Gross" played on the radio.
The Musicworks was a little more family-oriented, but the folks who worked there told great music-related stories -- store manager Gary Apter helped Caravan haul their equipment in2 a concert in San Francisco -- & just walking in2 the store you'd overhear an ongoing musical game of Can You Top This? They were all hilarious & fast & smart & cool -- no suprise I wanted 2 work there.
+ they hadda HUGE selection that covered the spectrum from rock 2 punk 2 country 2 jazz 2 classical. + imports, & 2 WALLS full of cutouts, amazing stuff amazingly cheap -- LOTS of old ECM jazz releases, Gryphon's amazing RED QUEEN TO GRYPHON THREE, Can's FUTURE DAYS, EGE BAMYASI & SOON OVER BABALUMA (neat covers, but I knew nothing about Can then), old Hawkwind albums like HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN GRILL, & TONS more.
The store staff probly had me marked from the moment I walked in the door. I walked in asking if they had any copies of Boise band Providence's album EVER SENSE THE DAWN (which had bn outta print 4 5 yrs by then). Gary said it was EZ -- just give him $2,000 & I could have his copy of the album. (I later found 6 copies 4 $2.19 each -- they made great Xmas presents that yr.) Gary quoted me the same price 4 a copy of Cheech & Chong's "Santa Claus and His Old Lady" 45.
Musicworks only stocked about the Top 30 local 45's, but I was getting 2 the point where I was more intrested in albums. During early visits 2 the store I bought copies of The Beatles' '62-'66 & '67-'70, the WHITE ALBUM & ABBEY ROAD. This was followed by almost the entire Moody Blues catalog, & Mike Oldfield's TUBULAR BELLS & OMMADAWN. Yes's YESSONGS came soon after. Then Caravan's FOR GIRLS WHO GROW PLUMP IN THE NIGHT, King Crimson's imported best-of THE YOUNG PERSON'S GUIDE TO...., & after that you couldn't stop me.
At 1 point, Don & Jeff & I all shared an apartment that was basically right around the corner from the store -- & 4 awhile I would pop in there EVERY DAY & just BROWSE 4 an hr or 2. & sometimes I wouldn't even BUY anything. It was fun just 2 hang-out & overhear the jokes & conversation.
I probly nagged them 4 months B4 a job opened up. Store-owner Steve Breen didn't wanna hire another music freak -- he wanted somebody w/ some cashiering Xperience, which luckily I had. + I guess I was nice enuf 2 people. Steve gave me a music-trivia test, which I'm pretty sure I failed (could YOU name all the members of Van Morrison's 1978 backing band?) -- but somehow a few days later assistant mgr Robin Royball called 2 ask if I'd B intrested in working part-time Tuesdays & Fridays, 8 hrs a wk.
U bet yr ass I was intrested, since I'd bn unemployed 4 6 months & had bn forced 2 move back in w/ my parents -- I jumped at it. I Nded up staying with The Musicworks 4 almost 3 years -- it was my Dream Job. When my shift was over I stayed as long after as possible just 2 B THERE, cos the rest of my life seemed pretty boring in contrast.
I Nded-up Bcoming a full-time employee w/ MW, even hadda T-shirt w/ the store's logo, which I wore ALL THE TIME.
After a yr or 2 I became the 4-store chain's official "singles buyer," responsible 4 making sure we had all the local hot hits on sale in R stores. It was a lotta fun trying 2 guess what Idaho teens circa 1980 would & wouldn't buy.
Unfortunately, I had pretty-much given-up listening 2 local radio about 3 years earlier, so I was maybe a little out-of-touch (tho not as much as I am now). Among many other achievements, I was the guy who told my bosses that Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" would NEVER be a hit....

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Buying 45's

1 of the reasons I got hooked on buying 45-rpm singles back when I was growing up was Bcos of the mostly-neat places that sold them. 1 of the 1st places I ever bot 45's was at Tacoma, Wash.'s famous B&I -- a sorta cross Btween a flea market & a Turkish Bazaar, with 100's of stalls selling everything from jewelry 2 furniture ... + there was an indoor zoo & a game arcade.
Every week Mom & Dad would load my Sister & I in2 the car, haul us in2 town 2 wander around the B&I 4 an hr or 2, mayB followed by dinner at McDonald's. Mainly it was just an Xcuse 2 get out of the house at least 1nce a wk.
During 1 of these wanderings I stumbled over the records section, at 1st not even realizing what it was. My eye was at least partially attracted by huge posters 4 then-fairly-current album releases like Santana's ABRAXAS (hard 2 miss that 1 or not B attracted....), CSNY's DEJA VU, & a big gaudy pink&green day-glo poster of Frijid Pink (remember them?).
The next time we visited, the records section had been moved -- & Xpanded. Not only did they have LOTsa albums (which I couldn't afford then) -- they had the Top 75 singles on sale in a huge singles section that took up three "walls" of the records dept or booth or whatever.
R local Top Singles list each wk totaled 100 titles -- many of which U can B sure I don't remember ever hearing on the radio, & some of which I've never heard since. Wouldn't I love 2 C those lists now, & I wonder who compiled them back in the day...?
When I started buying 45's in late 1970, a single ran 77 cents at B&I. Sometimes U could find them cheaper -- my closest local grocery store had a few not-current 45's arranged in a couple of little cardboard boxes, 4 69 cents each. That's where I found a copy of Chicago's "25 or 6 to 4" in the summer of '71. The local grocery also hadda coupla singles on the Moody Blues' Threshold label that'R probly worth some $$$ now. Wish I could remember who they were by....
If anything, B&I had TOO MANY CHOICES. Imagine Bing an 11- or 12-yr-old music fanatic without even an allowance, whose parents might grudgingly LET you buy a single or 2 1nce or 2wice a month. Then yr faced with 75 possible choices on how 2 spend yr $$$.
Some purchases were immediate no-brainers: "Joy to the World," "American Pie," "Signs," etc. Others hadta B put-off. I thot the Rolling Stones' "Tumbling Dice" was GREAT, but it came out at the wrong time, there were other songs I wanted more (& now I can't remember what they were) -- so it hadta B put-off til the next trip, & by then copies were either gone off-sale or there was something ELSE I wanted....
(The B&I still Xists, but it ain't the same -- tho there R even MORE little stalls & stores there now, & the records section is long gone, needless 2 say....)
Then my parents discovered K-Mart. This was not so much fun. This K-Mart store kept their 45's in a locked cabinet, so you hadta go find the records dept guy w/ the key. The 1 time I remember buying NEthing there, the guy w/ the key was talking over current pop trends w/ my Dad -- it was 1 of those "What kind of weird shit are kids listening to NOW?"-kinds of conversations. The guy was describing the Buoys' hit "Timothy," which was a thinly disguised cannibalism tale, a song which had hit #1 locally without ever getting played on the radio as far as I knew. The song was a mystery to me.
But my Dad topped him: My Mom had signed us up 4 Capitol Records' 8-Track Tape Club, & 1 of the tapes we received was a Capitol-label various-artists' best-of that included Bloodrock's gruesome "D.O.A.," 1 of the ugliest pieces 2 ever make the Top 40.
& my Dad told the guy: "Ever hear that song 'D.O.A.'? It'll blow your mind."
(My Dad hardly EVER said something would "blow your mind" -- in 44 years I've heard him use that phrase twice. & Bsides, there was 1 great song on that Capitol best-of -- Linda Ronstadt's "Long Long Time"....)
4 awhile my folks listened 2 everything I bought -- making sure I wasn't getting corrupted by that heathen rock&roll, I'm pretty sure. But after "Joy to the World" they pretty much gave up. Probly a good thing they never heard "Signs." Or "Maggie Mae." I still remember their reaction a few yrs later when we sat down 2 dinner w/ Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" playing on the radio in the background. When it got 2 the "opera" section toward the Nd, my parents both said -- almost in unison -- "What in the hell is THIS shit?" My parents weren't big rock& roll fans....
-- To be continued....

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Not-cranky travel writing!

Paul Theroux earned a reputation as a rather downbeat realistic novelist (THE MOSQUITO COAST, MY SECRET HISTORY), & as a really cranky travel writer (A KINGDOM BY THE SEA, THE GREAT RAILWAY BAZAAR, RIDING THE IRON ROOSTER, FRESH AIR FIEND).
Part of the fun of reading Theroux's often marvelous travel books is his grumpiness -- his sour moods, the way he depicts the odd people he runs in2, the way he always seems 2 get them embarassing themselves with their own words.
Tho there's some of that in THE HAPPY ISLES OF OCEANIA (1992), Theroux is happy thru most of it as he island-hops his way across the Pacific Ocean in a kayak -- & at the end he arrives at a new home ... in Hawaii.
The book opens w/ Theroux reeling from his separation & divorce, using the Xcuse of a book tour as a reason 2 run off 2 Australia & New Zealand. The opening section in which Theroux meets the Kiwis is vivid & hilarious, & U will SEE some of the breathtaking places Theroux visits in those islands, so vivid R his Dscriptions.
But 4 me the book bogs down about 100 pgs in, when Theroux starts wandering aimlessly around the Australian Outback -- writing that should have bn vivid & funny drags instead. I've already 4gotten parts of this section. Paul hangs around 4 pgs w/ Aboriginies & beachcombers & I had 2 put the book down 4 awhile -- for 8 months, as it turned out.
But then it gets better. Theroux takes his kayak & heads north 2 New Guinea, then east thru the Solomons, Fiji, Tahiti, Samoa, the ghostly Marquesas, on 2 creepy Easter Island, & then finally 2 paradise in Hawaii.
Tho the Hawaii section may simply reinforce the visions of that island paradise we've all seen, Theroux's other stops R eye-openers. Each island is diffrent, each 1 stranger & more beautiful than the last -- even Easter Island with its ghostly rock faces -- & the people R an almost constant mystery. Dspite visiting some 60 islands in his journey, Theroux only gets hassled by natives a few times. The rest of the time he lives a life a lot of us might envy -- camping on the beach, paddling thru scenic gorgeousness, living cheaply, paddling on 2 a new destination when he gets bored.
There R some suprises. Theroux has always bn 1 4 including all the delays in his travels -- where he got hung-up & why, which bureaucracies gave him trouble, etc. In this book it's clear he would never have made it across the Pacific without catching a plane or 2 -- Easter Island's 2,300 miles from NEwhere -- but he hardly ever mentions this. Also, at the end it's unclear how a travel writer trying 2 live cheaply can afford 2 stay in a $2,500/day luxury bungalow on Hawaii's Big Island. But mayB he thot we didn't need 2 know that much about him.
In all of Theroux's previous travel books I've read, the final sections R always a kind of homecoming -- clearly that's the place the traveler has bn heading all along. It happens here 2, as Theroux Nded up spending at least 6 yrs in Hawaii.
This is a long book (530 pgs), but it's worth the trip -- & as w/ writers like John McPhee & Tim Cahill, you will SEE the places Theroux's bn -- U'll sweat in the hot ocean sun, U'll squint as the sun reflects blindingly off the water, U'll feel the waves splash around U, U'll see the ocean of stars overhead at nite, U'll see those wind-carved rock spires that line Kauai's Na Pali Coast 4 miles. It's like watching a really good nature video. Since most of us Rn't gonna C this stuff in Real Life, this book's the next best thing.
My fave Thoreaux book is still A KINGDOM BY THE SEA, about his walk around the British Isles, which I've read 2wice. It is, as is all his work, vivid & hilarious. But OCEANIA has all that & a really happy Nding. If U're a fan of the South Seas, sailing, island life, check it out.
As 4 me, I think I might go back & C what I missed in that Australian section when I fell asleep. He said he was gonna go visit Ayers Rock, & I don't remember that happening AT ALL....

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ratings, etc.

Here's a good 1 4 discussion: Has NE1 out there ever stumbled over a good, reliable, reasonable, defendable shorthand system 4 rating albums?
I useta think critic Robert Christgau's letter-grades (in his CONSUMER GUIDES & elsewhere) were a pretty solid way of showing an album's overall quality -- even if I hardly ever agreed w/ him -- & I liked the way he could sum-up the effect of an album in a quick 100-word capsule. The fact that he hated mosta the stuff I loved was way 2ndary. Shit, he was even funny....
Then I got familiar with the "star system" used in latter-day issues of ROLLING STONE & in lotsa review sites on the Internet -- U know, ratings of from 1 to 4 or 5 stars -- a 5-star album meaning (I assume) An Album That Will Change Your Life, & a 1-star rating indicating an album that could possibly end it.
With the site-browsing I've done over the past coupla yrs (which reached its peak over a yr ago when I had the audacity 2 review a bunch of other music-review sites), I've found on-line reviewers who have developed their own odd formulas 4 trying 2 Xplain how good (or bad) an album is -- something about adding-up the # of worthwhile songs vs. the # of total tracks & dividing that against a sliding scale of 47 or something....
There's also the popular # system, 1 thru 10 on the scale -- 10 being stunning & 1 being stunningly useless, I assume....
4 awhile I tried my own rating system, ranging from "*" 4 discs of utter brilliance down 2 "-" 2 indicate albums I'll never willingly sit thru again unless held at gunpoint. 4 awhile this satisfied me, tho I don't know how many of my mythical readers understood why those dots & squiggles & +'s & *'s were there, or whether they cared or not. Cos I was still gonna babble about stuff whether NEbody noticed the ratings or not. & of course I never took NE time 2 discuss my rating "system." Why bother when I could B writing something funny or outrageous instead....
I would much rather read some deeply sincere, thotful review of some overlooked album -- like the long in-depth essays magazines like ROLLING STONE & TROUSER PRESS & CRAWDADDY & others useta run & that some on-line reviewers still post -- rather than scan thru somebody's star-rating list of the ELP catalog. I'd also Njoy much more some reviewer's hilarious thots on said catalog rather than what they think of an album as Xpressed by a letter-grade or #.
But lately I've bn wondering if there's some way 2 combine these approaches in a reliable way 2 shorthand the overall quality of a release but still highlight what makes an album unique. I've thot the fraction method might work -- count worthwhile trax versus the overall # of trax, w/ a point thrown-in 4 each "life-changing" song.
Under this system, Gryphon's pretty-brilliant RED QUEEN TO GRYPHON THREE gets 4/4ths, while their slightly-above-avg MIDNIGHT MUSHRUMPS gets 3/6ths, & the mostly-marvelous TREASON gets 6/7ths. Hmmm. That almost works.
Providence's classic EVER SENSE THE DAWN scores 10/12ths, while Group 87's classic 1st album bags 10/9ths -- every track's a winner, at least 4 me, & the closer is stunning. 2 bad nobody else ever heard it....
Xpanding this a bit farther 2 include releases somebody may actually have HEARD OF, the Beach Boys' CD version of PET SOUNDS gets 14/16ths. The Who's WHO'S NEXT gets 11/9ths. Nick Drake's BRYTER LAYTER gets 9/10ths. Bare Naked Ladies' pretty-great STUNT earns a rating of 9/13ths, but Coldplay's A RUSH OF BLOOD TO THE HEAD ends up with 2/11ths -- which I'm actually OK with.
But this mayB doesn't work so well on albums of Xperimental stuff where there R longer & fewer pieces of music. King Crimson's IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING gets a mere 3/5th's under this system (which is fine w/ me), but David Sancious and Tone's sometimes-brilliant TRANSFORMATION (THE SPEED OF LOVE) rates only 2/4th's. & side-long Xperts like Mike Oldfield really suffer: TUBULAR BELLS & OMMADAWN both rate only 1/2. INCANTATIONS gets 1/4th. & HERGEST RIDGE gets 0/2.
Actually, this is working fairly well so far. But I know there R flaws: Caravan's rather brilliant FOR GIRLS WHO GROW PLUMP IN THE NIGHT rates 7/8ths, while their nearly-as-good BLIND DOG AT ST. DUNSTAN'S picks up 6/6ths on my scale, mainly just 4 having fewer actual songs (& medleys) on the album. So something's wrong here.
Pink Floyd's DARK SIDE earns 7/10ths from me, while WISH YOU WERE HERE gets 3/5ths. Hmmm....
NEbody out there found a simple rating system that really works without a long justifying supportive Xplanation...?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Goin' Mainstream

...or: "I'm not strange, I'm just like you."
I do a lotta writing here about music I think is Strange or Overlooked or Deserves More Attention, but after reading recent posts like Drew's list of his faverite late-'60s/early-'70s albums (at, it occurs 2 me mayB I haven't done enuf writing about music we probly all have in common & likely all love -- cos I'm convinced most "classic rock" fans have a very similar musical history, if U go back far enuf.
+ I recently heard from my best friend in highschool -- Jeff Mann, who I've mentioned B4 in this blog -- & he said he recently got round 2 buying summa the Strange Music that I & R mutual friend Don Vincent listened-2 back in the late '70s when the 3 of us shared an apartment 2gether -- specifically Yes, Camel & Gentle Giant. I congratulated Jeff on his efforts 2 keep up w/ the times -- & assured him that at least 1/2 of the stuff we useta hassle him about listening-2 back in the day ... both Don & I later Nded-up buying.
So here's a list (without critical comment) of summa the more "normal"-sounding music I've got in the house, stuff U'd probly Xpect 2 find in NE Dcent record collection. Turns out -- 2 my suprise -- the strange stuff makes up only mayB a 3rd of what I've got hanging around here. Summa this "mainstream" stuff I may love even more -- & play more often -- than summa that off-the-wall stuff I write about all the time. We'll C how mucha this stuff shocks ya, & then we can talk about that....
...of course, Strangeness is in the ear of the behearer. The Beatles did a lotta off-the-wall stuff. So did Fleetwood Mac -- try "Murrow's Rolling Over in His Grave," or much of TUSK. & have U heard Queen's "The Prophet's Song," or Blondie's "Angels on the Balcony" or "Victor"? I'll pick this up again later, but most "mainstream" acts have done some pretty strange stuff, sooner or later. & this blog has always mainly bn about the strange & overlooked.
Meanwhile, here's The List:

Beatles: Abbey Road, White Album, '62-'66, '67-'70, Revolver, Introducing (the album B4 "Meet the Beatles").
Led Zeppelin: IV, In Through the Out Door, Houses of the Holy, III, II.
Journey: Infinity, Escape, Evolution, Captured.
Moody Blues: "Classic 7," Long Distance Voyager.
Carpenters: Singles.
Jefferson Airplane: Worst of.
Creedence Clearwater Revival: Chronicle, Cosmo's Factory.
Jefferson Starship: Freedom at Point Zero, Earth.
Paul McCartney/Wings: Venus and Mars, Band on the Run.
Pretenders: 1st, II, Learning to Crawl.
Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here.
Who: Who's Next, Quadrophenia, Face Dances, Thirty Years of Maximum R&B.
Beach Boys: Good Vibrations/Thirty Years of, Summer Days and Summer Nights, Party!, Best of, Best of Volume II.
Fleetwood Mac: Tusk, Mirage, Live, Rumours, Very Best of, Fleetwood Mac, Tango in the Night, Mystery to Me.
Rolling Stones: Tattoo You, Forty Licks.
Stevie Wonder: Number 1's, Best of.
Kansas: Leftoverture, Monolith, Audio Visions, Best of.
Yes: Yessongs, Going for the One, Drama, 90125.
Queen: A Night at the Opera, The Game, Jazz.
Police: Regatta De Blanc, Ghost in the Machine, Synchronicity, Every Breath You Take/The Singles.
Tears for Fears: Songs From the Big Chair.
Cars: 1st, Candy-O, Complete Greatest Hits.
INXS: Best of.
Bread: Best of, Best of Volume 2.
Elton John: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Greatest Hits 1970-2002, Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player.
Cat Stevens: Teaser and the Firecat, Best of.
Al Stewart: Year of the Cat, Time Passages.
Simon and Garfunkel: Bridge Over Troubled Water, Bookends, Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme.
Chicago: VI, Greatest Hits.
Three Dog Night: Harmony, Golden Bisquits, Celebrate/The Three Dog Night Story.
Jethro Tull: Songs from the Wood, Minstrel in the Gallery, War Child, Stormwatch, M.U., Best of.
Dan Fogelberg: Phoenix, The Innocent Age, Souvenirs.
Bangles: Different Light, Everything.
Go-Go's: Beauty and the Beat, Vacation, Talk Show.
Neil Diamond: Classics/The Early Years.
Gordon Lightfoot: Gord's Gold, Sundown.
Norah Jones: Come Away With Me.
Partridge Family: Album, Up to Date, Sound Magazine.
Peter, Paul and Mary: Very Best of, Moving.
Mamas and Papas: Greatest Hits.
Lovin' Spoonful: Greatest Hits.
Grass Roots: Greatest Hits.
Monkees: 1st, More of, Headquarters, Pisces Aquarius Capricorn and Jones Ltd., Head, Greatest Hits.
Electric Light Orchestra: Out of the Blue.
Alan Parsons Project: I Robot, Eve, Best of.
Genesis: And Then There Were Three, Seconds Out, Abacab, Three Sides Live.
Phil Collins: Face Value.
Rush: Moving Pictures, Chronicles, Power Windows, A Show of Hands.
Steely Dan: Greatest, Gaucho, Pretzel Logic, Aja.
Cream: Best of.
Heart: Dreamboat Annie, Bebe Le Strange, Heart.
Hall and Oates: Voices.
Tom Petty: Damn the Torpedoes.
Pat Benatar: Crimes of Passion, Precious Time.
Katrina and the Waves: 1st.
Bananarama: 2nd.
Iron Butterfly: In-a-Gadda-da-Vida.
Supertramp: Breakfast in America, Crime of the Century, Even in the Quietest Moments.
Blondie: Parallel Lines, Eat to the Beat, Autoamerican.
Missing Persons: Spring Session M.
Boston: 1st, Don't Look Back, Third Stage.
'Til Tuesday: Voices Carry.
Byrds: Greatest Hits.
Blue Oyster Cult: Agents of Fortune.
Bee Gees: Spirits Having Flown, Best of, Best of Volume II.
Cyndi Lauper: She's So Unusual, True Colors.
Christopher Cross: 1st.
Stevie Nicks: Bella Donna.
Seals & Crofts: Greatest Hits.
Doobie Brothers: Best of, Stampede.
Linda Ronstadt: Mad Love.
Steve Winwood: Arc of a Diver.
America: History.
Eagles: Greatest Hits.
Jackson Browne: The Pretender, Hold Out.
Men at Work: Business as Usual.
Bob Dylan: Greatest Hits.

...Not sure what all this proves, if nothing more than a LOT of my disposable income has gone 2 music over the last 35 yrs, & that U've got 2 start out SOMEPLACE, but....

(Delayed by torrential downpours, thunderstorms, & poor signal/connections, but finally completed & posted at 12:08 am 21 Dec 10.)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

My Uncle's garage....

For those who hoped/Xpected 2 C a mop-up job on the rest of Caravan's THE WORLD IS YOURS 4-CD best-of, I'll get 2 that. But 2nite I felt nostalgic....
Back when I was growing up, my Uncle Lyle useta repair jukeboxes & pinball machines 4 bars & watering-holes thruout the Boise Valley in Idaho. When I was way younger, it was the pinball machines that attracted my eye -- the old '60s-style jobs with the wooden cabinets & the spray-painted decor & the big floppy plastic mechanical flippers 2 keep the ball in play. When Uncle Lyle was in the middle of repairing 1 of those or Cing if 1 was ready 2 send back out 2 the public, he'd hook it up 4 me & my Cousin Jim & let us play 4 hrs 4 free.
It wasn't til later that I noticed that the walls of his garage/workshop were lined with thousands of old 45-rpm single records taken outta jukeboxes & filed 4 later use.
When I was back in Idaho on vacation in the late summer of 1972, Uncle Lyle allowed me 2 pick thru his files & carry-off some 3-dozen 45's, as many as I could carry. I was in the middle of my early-teen singles-buying frenzy at that point (see earlier nostalgia pieces), & I kept nagging at him until he caved-in.
Then, when I was finally allowed the run of his stacks, I was overcome w/ that feeling I've felt at practically every used record store that I've visited in the many years since -- the certainty that there Rn't enuf hrs left in my LIFE 2 find all the Good Stuff that was there somewhere in front of me.
Making it more complicated was the fact that Uncle Lyle's piles of singles were in NO ORDER. What couldn't fit on shelves along the walls were piled on shelves & work benches around the garage. All I could do was dive in & C what kinda Good Stuff I could pull out.
I never got all the way thru the hoard.
& I never got another chance 2 dig thru it, either.
Now remember, in the late summer of '72 I woulda just turned 13 yrs old, & as such I had No Musical Taste. The Beatles, The Partridge Family, Three Dog Night, Neil Diamond, Bread, The Raspberries, The Who, Lobo & The Carpenters woulda bn summa the acts I woulda looked up 2 at that time. I was thrilled just 2 find songs whose titles I recognized -- & 2 B able 2 double the size of my singles collection -- 4 FREE? Well, I was in heaven.
Some of those beat-up old X-jukebox 45s I still have & still play. Others vanished LONG ago -- I gave some 2 my sister B4 I ran off 2 join the Air Force, some I replaced (much later) w/ the albums the songs came from. So some of this I'm doing from memory. But here's mosta what I remember picking-out....

Rolling Stones: Ruby Tuesday, Paint It Black -- I was looking 4 "Satisfaction," of course, but never found it....
Ocean: Put Your Hand in the Hand.
Looking Glass: Brandy.
Brotherhood of Man: United We Stand.
America: Horse With No Name.
The Seekers: I'll Never Find Another You.
Bread: Make it With You.
English Congregation: Softly Whispering I Love You.
Paul Mauriat: Love is Blue -- I've always bn a sucker 4 instrumentals.
Association: Windy.
Carpenters: For All We Know, Rainy Days and Mondays.
Fifth Dimension: Last Night I Didn't Get to Sleep at All.
Gilbert O'Sullivan: Alone Again Naturally.
Music Explosion: Little Bit of Soul.
John Fred & His Playboy Band: Judy in Disguise.
Steam: Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.
Rascals: Good Lovin'.
Free Movement: I've Found Someone of My Own.
Gallery: Nice to be With You.
Rare Earth: Get Ready.
Gerry & the Pacemakers: Ferry Cross the Mersey, Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying.
Dave Edmunds: I Hear You Knockin'.
Carole King: It's Too Late.
Monkees: Daydream Believer/Goin' Down, A Little Bit Me a Little Bit You/The Girl I Knew Somewhere -- coupla killer B-sides here.
Gary Lewis & the Playboys: This Diamond Ring -- no "Count Me In," still my faverite....
Neil Diamond: Do It.
Stevie Wonder: Fingertips Part 2.
Simon & Garfunkel: Cecelia/Keep the Customer Satisfied.
Don McLean: Vincent.
Mark Lindsay: Silver Bird.
Tom Jones: She's a Lady -- laff if U want, I don't mind....

...There mighta bn more, but that's all I can remember off the toppa my head & from looking thru the current collection. I remember my uncle wasn't Xactly thrilled w/ the pile I collected -- neither were my parents. They thot I was taking advantage of him. But mayB they were also worried about all the new noise they'd B hearing....
I took the stack of records back to Washington & wore-out some of them -- & I made my uncle promise that if he ever wanted 2 get rid of his collection 2 B sure 2 call me....
A coupla yrs later my family moved again & we were 1nce again living across town from my uncle. & from time 2 time I'd ask if he planned 2 get rid of that garage fulla 45's NEtime soon. & his answer was always "Someday, when I retire...."
Sometime Btween 1977 & 1982 my uncle got outta the machine-repair bizness & sold his garage full of music in some kinda massive garage sale. & he never even called me. He told my parents later that it never even occurred 2 him. I imagine the last thing he wanted was some obnoxious opinionated longhaired teenage bozo like I was then running off w/ half his stuff when instead he could get $$$ 4 it. I chastized him a coupla times 4 not calling me, but what can U do when it's Family?
But I still wonder ... what else was in that garage? & what else could I have found if I'd bn just 5 yrs older & 5 yrs more knowledgable....?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The World is Yours, Part 1

Caravan has bn 1 of my fave rock bands since 1978, when the guys in my fave record store (which I later worked at) slapped on a copy of the single-disc BEST OF CARAVAN (on London Records) -- & by the time I got 2 the slammin finale of the "live" version of "For Richard," I was hooked. I bot it & took it home, & was back 4 more the next day.
That single-disc BEST OF wasn't even that good. It was sorta a cross-section of the Canterbury group's best ("For Richard," "Memory Lain/Hugh/Headloss") & silliest work ("Golf Girl," "If I Could Do it All Over Again I'd Do it All Over You," "Love to Love You (And Tonight Pigs Will Fly)"), with maybe the bouncy & charming "Aristocracy" covering the middle ground.
But I went back 4 more NEway, stumbling over an 8-track(!) copy of the amazing FOR GIRLS WHO GROW PLUMP IN THE NIGHT in the cutout bin 4 $3.99. That album proved perfect 4 screaming along with later as I rolled down the freeway on the way to work at the record store. Crank-up "Memory Lain" or "The Dog, the Dog, He's at it Again" or "Be All Right" or "A Hunting We Shall Go" & just screech along as the car rolled past the Idaho cornfields....
Tho FOR GIRLS was at times a pretty big production job, what grabbed me -- along with the nice vocal harmonies & the silly lyrics -- was the jazzy, swinging big-band sound that Caravan had, & that they seemed to be able to get even when there were only 4 instrumentalists playing.
I found more later -- the nearly-as-good BLIND DOG AT ST. DUNSTAN'S, the jazzy WATERLOO LILY, the seriously disappointing CUNNING STUNTS & the even-worse BETTER BY FAR & THE ALBUM -- & a 2-record best-of called CANTERBURY TALES that really did seem 2 include mosta their best stuff.
There R at least 4 Caravan best-of's by now, but the recent THE WORLD IS YOURS (2010) seems 2 get it right, pretty much, & covers a LOT of ground -- 4 CDs tracing the group's work from their 1st album in 1968 thru the end of their classic period in 1976, closing with BLIND DOG's "All the Way With John Wayne's Single-Handed Liberation of Paris" -- 1 of the prettiest lovesongs you'll ever hear. The set includes halfadozen trax from their very 1st album, & all of what was apparently their most popular release, 1971's IN THE LAND OF GREY AND PINK.
The set ain't perfect -- there R some trax that Rn't here that I think otta B, but it all sounds great & Caravan fans should love the handful of previously-unreleased trax, BBC sessions, live versions, etc. I'm gonna split this review in2 2 parts since the set is 2 huge 2 tackle all at 1nce. Here's what I listened 2 offa the 1st 2 discs onna recent Friday:

Place of My Own/Love Song with Flute/Where But for Caravan Would I?/A Day in the Life of Maurice Haylett/And I Wish I Were Stoned/Asforteri/With an Ear to the Ground You Can Make It/Golf Girl/In the Land of Grey and Pink/Winter Wine/I Don't Know its Name (The Word)/Feelin' Reelin' Squealin'/The Love in Your Eye (original version without overdubs)/The World is Yours/Aristocracy.

"Place of My Own" sounds a little "bassier" than the version previously released on the 2-CD CANTERBURY TALES best-of, but it's still a great song with terrific singalong choruses & the 1st of many great organ solos by Dave Sinclair -- who group leader Pye Hastings rightly points out in the liner notes was right up there with Keith Emerson & Rick Wakeman among the great keyboardists of '70s prog. Sinclair took the Soft Machine organ sound & made it more melodic on Caravan's 1st few albums, & later on he sounds like no1 else on his own "Davoli" synthesizer.
"Love Song with Flute" has some nice overlapping vocals in the middle -- a trick these guys would use often later. In fact the middle section sounds a lot like "And I Wish I Were Stoned".... "Where But for Caravan" rocks a bit more than their stuff usually does, & makes 4 a rather short 9 mins. Clearly these guys needed more room.... "A Day in the Life" is a previously-unreleased 5-min Nothing, but with some nice keyboards.
"And I Wish I Were Stoned" perhaps has a slightly diffrent mix than earlier versions -- U can hear Pye's backing vocals more clearly here. But the main attraction is another Xcellent organ solo, & some nice guitar work later on.... "Asforteri" is a brief, trancelike vocal round, something they'd master on the later "The Dog, The Dog".... "Ear to the Ground" is a 9-min medley that I wish rocked a bit more. The Nding would B stronger if it rocked out like the middle of the piece.
"Golf Girl" is silly & charming, & there's some nice flute by Pye's brother Jimmy Hastings at the Nd. "Grey and Pink" has more of bassist Richard Sinclair's silly, charming lyrics. The middle section of his "Winter Wine" has melancholy lyrics reminiscent of the "Disassociation" section of Caravan's epic "Nine Feet Underground": "Life's too short to be sad/Dreaming of things that you'll never have...." The previously-unreleased "I Don't Know it's Name/The Word" has another nice flute solo by Jimmy Hastings & summa the jazzy feel the band would follow on WATERLOO LILY.
From that album, the version of "The Love in Your Eye" included here is "unsweetened" -- there R no strings or horn overdubs. It sounds pretty stark compared 2 the version on the album, but there R good vocals by Pye & some nice keybs by the British Steve Miller. The mix of "The World is Yours" included here moves Pye's vocals in2 the background, as they were on the original album. The version released previously on the CANTERBURY TALES package moved Pye's vocals up-front with the gtr & keybs. It's still a great song -- I always thot the problem w/ the original was Pye seemed 2 far away.... "Aristocracy" is still bouncy & charming.
I have saved the best 4 last. Included on the 2nd disc here is a May 1971 BBC session that features a 9-min cover of Kevin Ayers' old Soft Machine tune "Feelin' Reelin' Squealin'," which is probly the loudest, most obnoxious thing these guys have ever done. It's rockin, screeching, noisy, hilarious -- a nod 2 their roots, I assume. (The members of Caravan & Soft Machine all started out in the same R&B/soul/jazz ensemble, Canterbury's legendary '60s band Wilde Flowers.) Pye sounds like himself 4 about 30 seconds -- the rest of the time he & Richard Sinclair R busy channeling the original Soft Machine lineup. I swear it sounds like Ayers is singing mosta this -- & then somebody apparently starts making fun of the manic out-of-control muttering that Daevid Allen(?) contributed 2 the original Softs' recording. It's all a scream. I'll havta compare the 2 some more, but talk about a suprise -- Caravan was NEVER this loud & obnoxious NEwhere else in their recording career. They were always pretty smooth. I don't think U could play this track 4 Njoyment, Xactly ... but 4 clearing your house of unwanted guests it'd B unbeatable. EZily their most SCREAMINGLY LOUD track ever....

Coming Soon: Part 2, & Camel's RAINBOW'S END best-of....