Monday, April 30, 2012

#553: If you wanna please me you're gonna havta cheez me

My buddy Gardenhead over at Asleep on the Compost Heap got a question at his Tumblr site that rang some bells with me: He was asked what's the "cheesiest" song he really likes & actually listens 2? G chose the Hues Corporation's '74 hit "Rock The Boat," which actually was pretty cheezy.
But it started me thinking & looking at the tapes I take 2 work 4 motivation & uplift, & I realized cheez is still a pretty big part of my musical diet.
When I read G's question, the 1st song I thot of was Edison Lighthouse's immortal '70 cheez-pop hit, "Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes" -- it's so lite & fun & silly & catchy. You can't help but sing along with it, & it builds 2 a great joyous finish -- every time I hear it the damn thing puts a huge smile on my face no matter what kinda mood I'm in. I played it at work awhile back -- possibly on a tape where it came right after Mike Oldfield's "Incantations," placed there on purpose by me 2 deflate the seriousness of Mr. Oldfield's opus. But I haven't bn able 2 find it since -- or else I'd play it more often. It ALWAYS works.
I've always bn a sucker 4 guilty pleasures like this, & naturally I Have A List....
* How bout the Bee Gees? Loved "Lonely Days" when I was in gradeschool, & have finally grown 2 accept that "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" is a HUGE piece of cheez -- & I love it NEway. Always loved their really melodramatic stuff -- "First of May" is freaking brilliant. "Nights on Broadway" -- great! "Fanny" was always gorgeous. "Tragedy" is awesome, & I always loved "Spirits Having Flown" from the day I 1st heard it on the radio back in '79.
Even their disco-era stuff sounds WAY better now (as do a lotta disco hits -- it helps that it's 35 years later & we're not hearing that stuff 24/7 anymore). Even tho I HATED them at the time -- when I thot they were turning in2 The Disco Chipmunks -- now "Stayin' Alive" & "Night Fever" & "Jive Talkin'" sound pretty great 2 me. Weird, ain't it?
* I think the Stylistics were classic Sweet Soul, but 4 some they were just a little TOO sweet. Still think "You Are Everything" & "Betcha By Golly Wow" R classic early-'70s stuff.
* Olivia Newton-John? Hey, "If Not for You"'s a great song -- course it was written by Bob Dylan. I even like "Have You Never Been Mellow." & summa her other early-'70s hits have a nice nostalgic glow around them now....
* The Carpenters? Well, summa their stuff was pretty great. My all-time fave is "Goodbye to Love" -- great guitar! "Hurting Each Other" & "Rainy Days and Mondays" were both classic melodrama. "For All We Know"'s a real sleeper, written by 2 of the guys from Bread. & then there's "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft"....
* Captain and Tennille? Who can resist "Love Will Keep Us Together"? "Shop Around"? "Come in from the Rain"? Not "Muskrat Love," tho -- America's version is a lot more charming. But if you can track down a little number called "Ladybug," it's freakin gorgeous, the best thing these guys ever did....
* Some might find the Ronettes a little cheezy, but I reject that argument. Songs of theirs like "Baby I Love You" & "I Wonder" (not to mention "Be My Baby") R, 2 quote Lenny Kaye: "The sound of yearning." Gorgeous, timeless stuff.
Here's a few more slices of cheez from my work tapes:
* The Cowsills: "Hair." Of course I think it's perfect. 1 of the high points of my life was hearing my 2 kids sing along with it....
* Mercy: "Love Will Make You Happy." Sorta late-'60s adult-contemporary, but it's freaking gorgeous.
* Association: "Windy" & "Everything That Touches You." Irresistible. Gorgeous harmonies, great production from Bones Howe.
* Does Paula Abdul qualify as cheezy? "Blowing Kisses in the Wind" is gorgeous melodrama, & I resisted "Straight Up" 4 years -- pointlessly.
* Celine Dion: "Nothing's Broken But My Heart." The only song of hers I can stand. Every artist has 1 song they were MEANT 2 sing....
* Vanessa Williams: "Save the Best for Last." Ghod, it's perfect. I'm also a sucker 4 "Love Is."
* Wadsworth Mansion: "Sweet Mary." Heard this on the local oldies station awhile back & was suprised by how well it's held up. Great singalong choruses (including some real nonsense), & the lyrics gently tell of a really strained relationship....
* Bobby Goldsboro: "Pledge of Love." Wasn't much of a hit, but it's SO sweet & innocent, & Bobby's overdubbed vocals R great....
* Vanity Fare: "Hitchin' a Ride." Another 1 of those songs that made me notice what a radio was 4. My 6th-grade class useta play this song on the record player EVERY DAY at lunchtime....
* Glen Campbell: "It's Only Make Believe," "Try a Little Kindness," "Pave Your Way into Tomorrow," etc. ...& almost anything else Glen did with great unheralded producer Al deLory....
* Grass Roots: "Sooner or Later," "Temptation Eyes," "Midnight Confessions," etc. Who can resist those great singalong choruses?
* Gordon Lightfoot: "Beautiful." I love a LOT of his stuff, but as "sensitive" as this is, it really brings back Summer '71 4 me....
* Lobo: Practically everything, but especially "A Simple Man" & "I'd Love You to Want Me." Pure early-'70s nostalgia. Ah, 2 B 13 again....
* Tom Jones: "She's a Lady." Mosta his stuff I avoid at all costs, but this is a powerhouse. Kinda showbizzy, but.... "Resurrection Shuffle" ain't bad, neither. & has NE1 else out there heard his new "duet" with Jack White on "Evil"? Wild!
* Archies: "Sugar Sugar" still sounds awesome. But I always thot "Melody Hill" was even better....
* The Partridge Family? Don't get me started. I got over "I Think I Love You" pretty quick -- but mosta the other songs on their 1st 3 albums still sound like classics 2 me.
So what's your favorite embarrassing cheezy stuff? C'mon, you can admit it -- it's the Internet, no1 will ever know....

Sunday, April 29, 2012


3rd in the series ... I think....

Soft Machine -- THIRD (1970), live bonus tracks only: Out-Bloody-Rageous, Facelift, Esther's Nose Job.
Pat Metheny -- ZERO TOLERANCE FOR SILENCE (1994): Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.
Bill Frisell and Vernon Reid -- SMASH AND SCATTERATION (1986): Landscapes in Alternate History, Size 10-1/2 Sneaks, Amarillo Barbados....
Hawkwind -- STASIS: THE UA YEARS best-of (1990): Urban Guerilla, Psychedelic Warlords, Brainbox Pollution, Seven by Seven, Paradox, Silver Machine, You'd Better Believe It, Lord of Light, The Black Corridor (live), Space is Deep (live), Earth Calling (live)....

Ummm, where 2 start? Still looking 4 more GOOD noise these days. Soft Machine's THIRD album is fairly noisy, British jazz-prog from '70 that got RAVE reviews from the critics ... but left me kinda cold when I 1st heard it years ago.
I'll admit summa the themes from the 4 full (vinyl) sides have stuck with me 4 YEARS, which is 1 definition of good music, right? But I also thot most of it was weedy-sounding under-produced noise. Former TAD's Regular Rastro thinks THIRD is possibly The Best Album Ever -- some of it he 1nce called "music of the spheres." So which is it?
4 me, keyboardist Mike Ratledge's 2 sides, "Slightly All the Time" & "Out-Bloody-Rageous," were the 2 best, with the most memorable music. When I recently stumbled over a sorta 40th-Anniversary package of the album with a bonus disc featuring 40 mins of live trax, I figured it was time 2 get THIRD back in the house, just 2 see if my ears had opened up any more over the years.....
& of course I started with the bonus trax, all of which were recorded live at the BBC's Pop Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in London in Aug 1970.
"Out-Bloody-Rageous" opens with saxist Elton Dean's memorable, bouncy, honking theme statement, then Mike Ratledge's noisy entrance on distorted organ -- very 1970 Prog. But the organ sound mellows a touch. After that there's a cool, tight ensemble sound led by Dean's breathy sax. Later there's some powerful drumming from Robert Wyatt, & some rather lyrical sax from Dean.
"Facelift" opens with a long blast of more distorted organ from Ratledge, then honks from Dean, & some heavy bass from composer Hugh Hopper. This is followed by a powerful full-band theme statement. Then Ratledge's organ takes over, with more powerful drumming from Wyatt. Then more Dean -- he is some sax player. Things develop in2 a tight, whole-band riff, driving & fairly dramatic. Dean freaks-out in the high registers near the end. I could never get thru the original version of this on THIRD, but this version is pretty good noise. Is this another band that HAD 2 B heard live?
"Esther's Nose Job" features more Xcellent sax & powerful riffing. There's a jazzy wordless vocal from Wyatt & some moody keybs from Ratledge. Then some echo-chamber sax, electronics, & yelping vocals in the middle. Then some more scurrying sax & some wildly amplified whoops -- Wyatt is freaking out somewhere in the hall. This is followed by an amplified, echoed drum solo ... Dean's sax comes back in ... there's more torrential drumming from Wyatt, then a powerful group re-statement of the theme -- which cuts off 2 quick.
These guys were forceful & powerful live, even if they were a little thin on tunes. I was gonna continue with the rest of THIRD, but it was interrupted by the arrival of....

Pat Metheny's ZERO TOLERANCE FOR SILENCE got MISERABLE reviews at -- fans wondering how this formerly-melodic jazz guitarist could possibly have produced such NOISE?! So, being a glutton 4 punishment, & seeking more guitar noise, I ordered it. Bsides, I've bn wanting 2 write about Metheny 4 awhile.
Pat's earlier albums have some great trax -- he always seemed 2 crank-out lotsa memorable tunes you could whistle or hum along with, gorgeous pieces like "The Search," "New Chatauqua," "Ozark," "Praise," "San Lorenzo" -- even his spacey WICHITA FALLS epic was pretty melodic, there were at least themes you could follow.
If Metheny had NE weaknesses, it was that he & his Group sometimes drifted in2 TOO LITE jazz, airy stuff that just floated in2 nothingness -- like "(Cross the) Heartland" or "Airstream" from their album AMERICAN GARAGE.
No danger of stuff floating away HERE, tho. Part 1 of ZERO TOLERANCE is 18 mins of furiously strummed, massively overdubbed guitars, torrential waterfalls of LOUD, distorted gtrs. Everything's turned up to 11. There R no tunes here. Out-of-tune gtr tones clang & ring & whine & honk, competing with each other. The few rests Metheny takes speak volumes. He keeps returning 2 a furiously strummed "theme" -- but there is no melody, no rhythm, almost no feedback. There's no real structure. The noise just goes on & on....
What possessed him? Anger? Rage? Frustration? Boredom? Was he tired of playing "pretty tunes"? He musta tore his fingers 2 shreds playing this stuff....
It's not COMPLETELY unlistenable. There R some rather nice overtones, & something LIKE a tune sneaks in around the 9:15 mark -- as if he couldn't help himself. A rhythm almost develops -- but then it disappears in a frantic blur. There is more blurred, frantic strumming -- the worst sort of industrial noise, which goes perfectly with the grainy gray CD-cover. Dozens of massed gtrs start screaming in a blurry wash -- THIS will wake you up.
There is almost NO contrast, just lotsa screaming gtr. It doesn't lead NEwhere -- there's just a slightly-louder screaming blur at the end that cuts off dead.
...This is followed by 4 MUCH shorter pieces....
Part 2 is slower, with actual dreamy attempts at ... chords. It's almost oriental-sounding, not as furious. There R more nice overtones & dischords. There's an attempt at an almost-funky TUNE ... but it Bcomes the same riff played over&over. Sorta a loud-but-dreamy finish. Not bad.
Part 4 features some frantic finger-picking -- the sorta jagged gtr line that Bob Fripp & King Crimson might do ... & it ends just as suddenly as something of theirs....
Part 5 has some overdubbed acoustic/flamenco gtr, which really sets things off contrast-wise. There's more frantic electric work in the background. If Pat had used this approach & added some tunes, this album mighta gone somewhere.... Not a bad finish.
NOT the gtr-meltdown album of my dreams -- there Rn't enuf tunes -- but not COMPLETELY unlistenable....

Vernon Reid attracted attn as a Hendrix-inspired gtrist with Living Color. Bill Frisell was the bad-boy jazz bassist & gtrist who went on 2 produce lotsa people & sit-in on lotsa sessions. With a title like SMASH AND SCATTERATION you'd think there'd B some noise & activity, right? Maybe it's on the part of the CD I haven't gotten 2 yet....
"Landscapes" is less noisy & more funky-disco-y than I'd Xpected, with its synthy sound & electronic drums. There's an actual attempt at a tune....
"Size 10-1/2 Sneaks" has some nice finger-picking acoustic & banjo, & a spacey down-home country feel. A sorta loping, easygoing sound....
"Amarillo Barbados" is a pleasant, spacey mix of country & Caribbean....
But nothing bites. It's all so POLITE. I have the Xact opposite of the feeling I got with ZERO TOLERANCE: These R doodles, miniatures. This stuff is pleasant, but 2 lite. Maybe later....

Hawkwind -- British heavy-space-rock from the early '70s. This is more like it. Their HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN GRILL (1974) is a pretty good heavy-prog album, with an Xcellent 2nd side that features 2 classics, the anthemic "You'd Better Believe It" & future-Motorhead Lemmy's grim "Lost Johnny."
STASIS opens with "Urban Guerilla," which is nice driving gtr&keyboard heavy-rock with a good vocal by Bob Calvert -- & the lyrics R hilarious.
"Psychedelic Warlords" led off MOUNTAIN GRILL -- I never liked it much & hadn't heard it in YEARS. But it sounds better now, & ever since hearing it again I've been chanting the 1st verse & the chorus. Lemmy's vocal makes this sound almost like Motorhead -- only with spacey keyboards added. The choruses R great 2 screech along with. The single version included here cuts off 2 fast -- the album version goes on 4 another 4 mins....
"Brainbox Pollution" sounds a bit like "You'd Better Believe It" crossed with Hawkwind's Top 3 British hit "Silver Machine" -- it's driving, with lotsa upbeat energy. The way Dave Brock's gtr mixes with the keybs & Nik Turner's sax makes 4 a wall of sound like no1 else's.
"Seven by Seven" drifts a bit -- it's not heavy or spacey enuf. But there's some OK bubbly keybs & Calvert's vocal is kinda Bowie-ish....
"Paradox" is the closer from MOUNTAIN GRILL, remixed here 2 bring 4ward the vocals & keybs. I prefer the muddy-sounding live original with its better wall of sound. The clearer vocals don't help, tho this version IS spacier -- the forceful group vocals really helped on the original version, especially toward the end....
The great thing about "Silver Machine" is that they could just as easily B singing about a Harley or a jet plane instead of a UFO. There's lotsa spacey, swirly atmosphere. It's kinda silly.
"You'd Better Believe It" is their best song, trimmed a little here 4 release as a single. Somebody cut out mosta the great instrumental midsection, tho they kept Simon House's spacey violin. Actually, this version is trimmed a little TOO tightly -- the original runs almost 6 mins, & doesn't waste NE of it....
"Lord of Light" is spacey. "The Black Corridor" has a kinda silly recitation from science fiction writer Michael Moorcock. "Space is Deep" & "Earth Calling" continue the spaciness -- the live trax allow them 2 space-out more, but the intrest level drops. Also, the wall of sound (& previous noise) was starting 2 give me a headache, so I gave up. But mosta the studio trax R pretty great....

And yet more noise again soon!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

#551: 2 months on!

Maybe it woulda gone better if I'd posted a photo quicker.
On the other hand, that mighta made it worse....
Awhile back I decided maybe I wasn't dead after all (romantically speaking), that I'd probly never get all my Issues with my old girlfriend cleared-up 2 my complete satisfaction, & that I was probly lonelier than I'd ever admit.
So after shopping around 4 a bit, I decided 2 put myself out there & joined, an on-line dating website.
I was XTREMELY nervous about this, so I joined 4 a month at a time, which cost me more. I ended up spending $70 I couldn't really afford, but I learned some things.
I learned that on-line dating has as many rules & points of etiquette as Real Life. That it's just as complicated. That there's just as much mystery & missed connections & questions. There's probly just as much lying 2, but I didn't Xperience that part -- I don't think....
I didn't get 2 meet anybody in Real Life, I didn't go out on a date, it was never even close. At the end of 2 months I gave up, Bcos it never got any better. I was warned not 2 get my hopes up 2 high -- that women dating on-line were liable 2 B REALLY cautious. They WERE, & I don't blame them.
I Xchanged e-mails with 4 or 5 very nice women. But it never went anywhere. They mostly decided I was not the guy for them, & that's fine. I decided 1 woman definitely was not the right gal 4 me.
Any mess-ups were entirely my fault.
I made 1 BIG mess-up early:
It took me A MONTH 2 post a photo.
This is probly the single most important thing I learned: I am a COMPUTER IDIOT. Obviously I know enuf about computers 2 get in trouble with them -- but it took me A MONTH 2 figure out how the webcam on my laptop could be used 2 take photos. It was staring me right in the face the whole time, but I couldn't find my way in2 it, couldn't figure out how 2 access it. When a friend finally showed me how -- & it took less than 10 seconds -- I felt like a complete high-tech moron.
By then the damage was probly already done. I'd had a good time writing a personal profile 4 the site, listing my likes & hopes & dreams & preferences.
But then I learned lotsa women won't respond or even notice a guy who doesn't post a photo. Not fair, but there it is. So I was kinda in a panic about that. I can see how posting a photo lets the ladies out there know that you're not really The Elephant Man ... & on-line dating is all about looks & mutual interests & chemistry, etc. So....
So I finally got a photo posted a month in2 the Xperience -- & then women in my area learned that ... I REALLY DO LOOK LIKE THE ELEPHANT MAN! With a photo posted, I had more women looking at my profile -- at least 2wice as many! ... but fewer women seemed intrested in e-mailing/talking.
By then I had noticed other things about the dating site that struck me as funny, & I updated my profile 2 make note of them. This was probly a bad mistake. But I was trying 2 impress the ladies with my wacky sense of humor, don't ya know. Probly shoulda backed off on that 1, but it's 2 late now....
Like, 4 instance: 90 percent of the women on the site woulda LOVED romantic walks on the beach with an attractive, financially-secure, emotionally-available, passionate mate who Doesn't Play Games.
Well, WHO DOESN'T? But how many of them R available?
So I sorta made fun of that, & then talked about the Reality -- which is 2 say, me.
Tried 2 keep the laffs going: "I've got a job, so I won't be begging you for money!"
"Never been arrested! Haven't had a traffic ticket since 1980!"
"Don't smoke! Don't drink! Nothing stronger than coffee!"
"Boring! Quiet! Loyal as a puppy dog!"
I really tried 2 sell it, such as it is. I was probly a little TOO honest.
1 very nice woman said she absolutely loved my profile -- it made her laff a lot. But she was looking 4 some1 whose income she could retire on....
Hey, I'm looking 4 some1 whose income I CAN RETIRE ON, 2.... Can't really blame her, I guess.
1 of the neat things about dating sites is that every day they point you toward profiles -- little autobiographies -- of folks they think you might B compatible with, based on yer intrests, likes & dislikes, etc. At 1st I was fascinated by those profiles. Some of them were VERY intimate, like reading poetry. Some of these women had obviously thot about what they wanted quite a lot....
Then the profiles started getting kinda same-y. EVERYBODY wants romantic walks on the beach with an attractive, financially-secure etc. etc. etc....
I started skimming the profiles. I stopped bothering 2 read profiles written by women whose photos made them look older than my mother. I stopped reading profiles that had misspelled words in them -- yes, ME, having issues with bad spelling! I KNOW! Unfair, impatient, uncaring -- but true.
Some of the profiles were actually 2 sad 2 read. More than 1 Asian lady wrote that they wanted -- I PROMISE I'm NOT making this up -- "A nice man. Man who don't drink too much. Man who don't smoke too much. Man who not yell. Man who not angry all time. Man who don't want sex first thing. That not first thing I want."
I felt sorry for those women. I thot they painted a real clear picture of what their previous relationships were like -- of what A LOT of relationships seem 2 B like these days....
Don't get me wrong -- it was a fun Xperiment. I might even go back 4 more. But I coulda bought a lot of books & music 4 $70, so I think I might just rely on Reality 2 meet new women from now on.
Dating sites R full of people (women, at least) who still believe in The Myth Of Love -- in Chemistry, in Meeting The Right One, The Love Who Will Last Forever.
Hell, I still believe in all that. At least I WANT to. I probly shouldn't have made fun of it. Even in the intrest of Keeping Things Light.
Because Life doesn't get much more Personal than that.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


2nd in a series.... (See below 4 the Comedy portion of R program....)

Weather Report -- LIVE IN TOKYO (1972): Vertical Invader/Seventh Arrow/T.H./Dr. Honoris Causa, Surucucu/Lost/Early Minor/Directions, Orange Lady, Eurydice/The Moors, Tears/Umbrellas.
Borbetomagus -- (1ST) (1980): Concordat 1, Concordat 2, Concordat 3, Concordat 4....

I love noise in music, really. 4 me, there's nothing better musically than hearing a band in full screaming, blasting, roaring mode. As long as it's purposeful noise -- as long as they're GOING somewhere.
King Crimson's "Red," the last 8 mins of "Starless," all of "Fracture" -- all great stuff. Steve Tibbetts' stunning guitar-meltdown "Ur"! Nektar's gorgeous guitar-feedback whirlwinds! Parts of Wigwam's rumbling, ominous "Bless Your Lucky Stars" -- especially the tearaway guitar at the end -- great! The blowout closing section of Happy the Man's "Wind-Up Doll Day Wind," especially the screaming sax -- marvelous! The end of Yes's "South Side of the Sky," with Jon Anderson screaming in2 the wind on that mountainside -- magnificent! David Sancious's "Transformation (The Speed of Love)" -- now there's some great noise.
But there's noise & there's NOISE.
Which brings us 2 2nite's albums up 4 review. Weather Report has (near as I can tell) cranked out some really glorious noise at least 1nce -- on the screaming "Badia/Boogie Woogie Waltz" medley & maybe in a coupla other spots on their live 8:30 album. So I had really high hopes 4 LIVE IN TOKYO -- I was hoping I'd hear some more of that glorious out-of-control noise, like driving down a steep mountain road with no brakes.
5 segments from the 2-CD TOKYO set were previously released as the 2nd side of WR's 1972 album I SING THE BODY ELECTRIC. (The rest of TOKYO was only available as a Japanese import 4 YEARS....) Those segments sounded pretty good on BODY, so I was hoping 4 some fireworks. Well....
TOKYO opens with those familiar sections in front of a VERY polite Japanese audience. "Vertical Invader" opens with a LONG solo from drummer Eric Gravatt. Keybsman Joe Zawinul & saxist Wayne Shorter join in later with some atonal blasts -- you can't really tell the sax from the keybs. Gravatt was some drummer, & he is awfully busy here. I don't sense the "clubbing hostility" that the PENGUIN GUIDE TO JAZZ got from his performance, but he is all over the place.
A pretty piano passage opens bassist Miroslav Vitous's "Seventh Arrow," with Gravatt & Shorter pulsing in the background. This is pretty nice waking-up music. Maybe "Arrow" was left off BODY Bcos it was 2 pretty?
The pace picks back up 4 "T.H." There is a pronounced, moving beat; Shorter adds some brief honks, & Zawinul doodles on keyboards followed by what sounds like blasts of rage or frustration. Shorter adds more sax squiggles as Gravatt pounds on.
There R more pretty keybs 4 the start of "Honoris Causa." Then the keybs go sour as Shorter squeaks & slides. By this point, the Reporters have the drive & force DOWN -- they're obviously going SOMEWHERE. All they need now R some tunes....
The album-side-long "Surucucu" medley opens with flute(?) & mouth-percussion & silliness from Dom Um Romao. There R sound effects over a swing beat, followed by more sour-toned keybs from Zawinul."Directions" gets pretty hot & frantic B4 the end. Powerful, but there's not much in the way of melody. Wouldn't these guys B awesome if they just had some tunes?  
"Orange Lady" opens very quietly & gracefully, with sparkly keybs & smooth Shorter sax. It's the only tune here they don't medley-ize. "Eurydice" opens with more silly mouth-percussion, followed by some tinny bass & some very straight, formal piano. Later there R some nice bouncy keyb & sax tones -- the closest they've come 2 that "Boogie Woogie Waltz" sound so far.
"The Moors" opens with lotsa screaming sax & bashing drums. About 10 mins in they get that screaming electric DRIVE going again, with Gravatt pounding, loud atonal chords from Z, & Shorter howling. Xcellent noise.
"Tears/Umbrellas" is a full-band groove -- an Xcellent propulsive beat with keybs & sax on top -- not much of a tune, but it doesn't matter cos it ROCKS. Gravatt's drum solo unfortunately just slows things down. They pick it back up & it gets pretty fierce, but it ends 2 soon.
As tuneless as mosta this stuff is, it's still better, more lively than WR's rather lame studio work. Some bands R just MEANT 2 B heard live -- this & 8:30 have gotta B their best work....

Weather Report thot THEY were noisy? Borbetomagus is punk free-jazz from New York City, 1980. There R no tunes, just screeching loudness that makes my teeth hurt. It's somewhere beyond music, beyond atonal & dissonant -- about as Xtreme as you can get, I think. It's an intresting test 2 see how much you can take. The 4 trax I made it thru have gotta B right up there with Lou Reed's METAL MACHINE MUSIC as the most unlistenable stuff ever.
It is, however, amazingly VISUAL ... uh, "music," ... like a sound effects record on drugz, forcing me in2 even more of a stream-of-consciousness review-approach than usual....
"Concordat 1" is 12+ mins of squalling sax, electronics & feedback. Like the sounds I get from turning the volume on my old turntable up way 2 loud so it overloads & feeds back. Static & screeching, like a buzzsaw cutting thru sheets of metal. Metal fatigue -- like the Titanic settling on the ocean floor. (This part is actually kinda soothing 1nce you adjust....) A teapot slowly coming 2 a boil. I imagine that on a dark nite this stuff would B truly scary -- an Xcellent soundtrack 4 a slice&dice film....
"Concordat 2" opens with overdubbed(?) squalling saxes, followed by ... elephant mating calls? The saxists, Jim Sauter & Don Dietrich, REALLY BLOW ... Uh, I'm not sure if that's a compliment or not....
"Concordat 3" opens with Brian Doherty's rumbling deep-bass keyboards shaking the house, followed by saxes that can B heard way-2-clearly 3 rooms away. ... The sci-fi time-warp keyboards sometimes act as a question-mark 2 the other squalling noise, as if 2 say "Is this really what you wanted to hear?" SCREECH! ... A rather dissonant, staccato gtr riff actually seems 2 emerge briefly from the din... Then more elephants pass thru the studio ... These guys must've gone deaf while recording this....
"Concordat 4" was the band's "smash hit," according 2 the sticker on the CD box -- which has gotta B a joke -- I like their sense of humor. Now we've got duck calls, ducks being abused, chipmunks on speed, laffing chipmunks, chipmunks being tossed in2 a blender, some1's muscle-car being revved-up in the background, saxual question-marks, phones ringing, a saxual conversation, chipmunks running back&4th in the 4ground, some actual recognizeable gtr, more car-engine-revving, keyboard farts, more ducks & chipmunks being tortured, screaming in pain, mumbling saxes screeching out the same phrase over&over, and a partridge in a pear tree. Man, I haven't had so much fun since I tried 2 figure-out that snurfling-dog sax on Miles Davis's LIVE EVIL....
NOT 2 B Continued....
There R 2 more trax if you think you can take them, including a bonus track reportedly rescued "from badly deteriorated master tapes." How could they tell?!
I don't plan 2 keep this, tho I admit that it was BRIEFLY an intresting Xperiment -- but if you feel brave & wanna see how much you can take, leave yer address & I'll send you my copy -- POSTAGE DUE, of course. That's part of the migraine-inducing Xperience....

Friday, April 20, 2012

#549: Sandy goes to Finland!

1st in a series of reviews of all-new-2-me music....

Wigwam -- LUCKY GOLDEN STRIPES AND STARPOSE (1976): Sane Again, International Disaster, Timedance, Colossus, Eddie and the Boys, Lucky Golden Stripes and Starpose, June May be Too Late, Never Turn You In, In a Nutshell, Wardance, Tramdriver.
Sandy Denny -- LIKE AN OLD FASHIONED WALTZ (1973): Solo, Like an Old Fashioned Waltz, Whispering Grass, Friends, Carnival, Dark the Night....

Wigwam's NUCLEAR NIGHTCLUB (1975) is 1 of those 2nd-string prog classics: Not a bad track on the whole album, but only a handful that really jump out at you. Tho they really sound like no1 else, if you added a saxophone 2 this Finnish quintet they'd sound almost like Supertramp, with their lite, melodic, bouncy, silly songs ("Simple Human Kindness"), occasional driving guitar ("Do or Die"), & sometimes a burst of brilliant weirdness that seemsta come out of nowhere (the rumbling, ominous classic "Bless Your Lucky Stars").
Wigwam's follow-up LUCKY GOLDEN STRIPES is kind of a disappointment Bcos there's nothing on it as bouncy, silly, driving or weird as the earlier album. & yet, there is some good stuff....
The opener, "Sane Again," is pretty downbeat compared 2 NIGHTCLUB. But from the start the production is smoother, more mainstream -- less Northern & distant. Also less distinctive.
"International Disaster" is more like it, with that bouncy Supertramp-ish sound highlighting a lite song about warfare & unrest all over the world. Coulda bn a minor hit....
"Timedance" is a brief gtr riff, obviously edited out of a longer jam. "Colossus" has some rockin' unison gtr/keyboard/bass passages, & more of that gently rolling sound from NIGHTCLUB.
"Eddie and the Boys" is sort of a cha-cha, with some nice Pekka Rechardt gtr & silly lyrics. There is no ending -- it just trails off in a nice bouncy mood....
The title track opens with some sparkly gtr, & there's more spacey gtr in the middle. "June May be too Late" is the most rockin' piece so far -- with more of the lite feel of "International Disaster" & some definite signs of life....
"Never Turn You In" replays the Jesus & Judas story, opening with more lite offhandedness, but really gaining in strength as it goes. This is more like it, but it cuts off 2 soon.... "In a Nutshell" is basically more lite silliness.
"Wardance" has more lite bouncy sounds & a nice keybs&gtr mix. The best track so far. A bonus track on the CD, it was the B-side of....
"Tramdriver," which is also pretty nice, & also livelier than the resta the album. Intresting that the 2 best trax here R singles that were thrown-in as CD bonus cuts.
Overall, a low-key sorta bass-heavy production; pretty mellow. It doesn't rock much. Mildly disappointing. A shocker like "Bless Your Lucky Stars" or the chaotic gtr instrumental "Pig Storm" off the earlier album really woulda bn a +....

Sandy Denny's voice is gorgeous -- but on her solo albums it's also usually sad. Like 1972's SANDY (reviewed below), LIKE AN OLD FASHIONED WALTZ is full of very deliberate, evenly-paced songs that don't rock much. It all seems kinda solemn. I wish she'd lighten it up or rock it up more, like she sometimes did with Fairport Convention. But maybe she wasn't that happy. Maybe "happy" wasn't what wanted 2 come out in her songs.
"Solo" has gorgeous choruses & a huge production -- but it's lonely. Sandy's voice is also in fine form on the title track. "Whispering Grass" is an old Ink Spots song with a sorta lite ragtime-y approach. It's a nice break. But it's brief.
"Friends" is a kiss-off 2 an old friend who carried around 2 much drama. It's very direct -- kind of ... mean. "Carnival" is pleasant but ... kind of dull. "Dark the Night" is a little lighter, but there's still not much of a spark here. Something more is needed in the midsection Bsides Rabbit Bundrick's electric piano. The song's OK, but kinda flat.
All these songs R very straight-ahead & deliberate -- a little break or a change in tempo makes a BIG diffrence in them. But I wish there were more breaks.
I want 2 love these songs Bcos Denny's voice is great -- but mosta the songs Rn't that strong. They're all very same-y. & as a result she's sadder 2 listen 2 than Nick Drake.
(To be continued....)

Coming Soon: Weather Report's LIVE IN TOKYO, Pete Townshend's ANTHOLOGY, Nektar's RECYCLED and DOWN TO EARTH, Illusion's (2nd) and ENCHANTED CARESS, Borbetomagus, fairly recent Al Stewart, Eric Burdon, Incredible String Band, The Headboys, & lots more....

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

#548: When I woke up

The key moment in growing up 4 me was the fall of 1970, when I finally realized what a radio was 4 & that music sometimes came out of it. In gradeschool I finally noticed my classmates playing 45-rpm vinyl singles at lunchtime, & enjoyed summa the music they played -- Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky" with its great heavy-fuzz-guitar riff; Robin MacNamara's silly & catchy "Lay a Little Lovin' on Me." Wish I could remember what else they played....
But it was a whole diffrent world back then. When I started shopping 4 45-rpm singles 2 play on the record player at home, I found TONS of them, available at NE Dcent department store -- 77 cents was the usual selling price, tho you could find them 4 69 cents if you looked around. Oldies were available 4 as little as 50 cents if you kept your eyes open. You can't even buy a candy bar 4 that now.
Albums were $3.99 & up -- some were $4.99 -- but that seemed like a lotta $$$ 2 me back then. I was still a coupla yrs away from buying my 1st record album.
My price sense is still stuck around 1972. When I finally sorta started paying attn 2 the world around me -- in the summer & fall of '70 -- gasoline was 28 cents per gallon 4 Regular & 32 cents/gallon 4 Premium. & that's all the choices you got. It was major news when gas prices went up a penny or 2.
In that summer of '70, my family moved 2 Tacoma, Washington. My family 1st lived in yer standard 3-bedroom single-level nothing-special suburban house in South Tacoma, just a few miles directly north of McChord Air Force Base, where my Dad worked. Every day, sevral times a day, HUGE C-141 cargo jets would fly directly over the house, rumbling & roaring, seeming low enuf 2 reach up & touch, lining their flightpath up with McChord's runway just a few miles south. Xperienced my 1st-ever earthquake that summer & 1st thot it was a 141 flying REALLY LOW over the house....
South Tacoma Blvd., just a few blocks 2 the west of our house, was lined 4 miles with used car lots, trying 2 attract young military folks with Xtra $$$. Back then you could buy a RUNNING used car 4 as little as $200 if you weren't picky about looks, & a REALLY GOOD used car 4 $600. My Dad bought lotsa used cars cheap, either off the lots or thru newspaper ads, then fixed them up & sold them -- a '57 Chevy BelAir that he had repainted baby blue 4 $19.95! A yellow '62 Cadillac Coupe DeVille with the huge twin nosecones on the front grille. An olive-drab '57 Chevy Nomad stationwagon. My Dad now wishes he had those cars back -- & a score more that he went thru when I was a kid: White '65 Mustang, brown '66 Barracuda, white '67 Impala Super Sport as big as a boat. We had no idea how good we had it....
There were new-car dealers along South Tacoma Blvd., too. Back then a Dcent mid-sized new car -- a Chevy or an Oldsmobile -- would run around $4,000. Something sportier -- say a Chevelle or a Cutlass -- might run $3,500. Bigger, "classier" cars would run around $5,000. A Corvette'd B at least $6,000 -- & probly a lot more.
But compared 2 now, prices were cheap. McDonald's still had 35-cent hamburgers in Summer 1970, & 45-cent cheeseburgers. The Big Mac had just bn invented & was priced at (if I remember right) a scandalous 99 cents! I could eat 2 of them, a large order of fries & a chocolate milkshake -- & still want MORE! This usedta make my parents CRAZY....
Mom & Dad could take me & my baby sister out 4 dinner 2 a "real" restaurant -- or even the corner cafe -- & still have it cost less than $10. But that was big $$$ at the time, a real Xtravagance. We didn't go 2 restaurants more than 1nce a month -- & I was glad, cos restaurant food couldn't fill me up like McDonald's did. + if you ordered a burger atta real restaurant THAT'S ALL YOU GOT & it wasn't enuf. That's when I learned 2 order & enjoy salads....
I started looking at television (other than cartoons) fairly devotedly at age 10. In Tacoma, in the mornings we got the Seattle area's morning kids' TV icon J.P. Patches, at the height of his fame, brilliance & silliness in the early '70s. I can't remember much of what was on TV in "Prime Time," beyond silly comedies like THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY and THE BRADY BUNCH and HERE COME THE BRIDES and ROOM 222. It was a LONG time ago.... I know I was bored 2 death by TV news, & news shows like 60 MINUTES were an immediate channel-changer 4 me.
I got a mini-bike when I was 10 & followed my Dad on his motorcycle all over the hills across the street 2 the immediate east of R house -- the hills that still separate South Tacoma's suburban neighborhoods from the non-stop 24/7 roar of Interstate 5. Can't believe that in 40 years no subdivisions have sprawled across those hills, which R almost a mile across & a couple of miles long -- but we sure rode all over them, up windy dirt&gravel "roads" & thru the rolling woods atop the hills -- & sometimes practically straight down the steep trails that led back 2 home.
I didn't Xactly memorize prices -- or much of NEthing else -- back then, but the only way I can make sense of today's prices is 2 divide everything by 4. If gas is over $4 a gallon, & your dollar's really only worth a quarter -- then allowing 4 inflation, I guess today's gas prices kinda make sense. Can't quite stretch that 2 make sense of $25,000 cars or $200,000 homes, tho -- I can't stretch the inflation that far.
The 1st house my parents bought in Boise, Idaho in 1965 -- a 3-bedroom nothing-special ranch-style house with attached garage -- sold 2 them 4 $18,500 when it was brand new. When I went back home 4 a visit 2 years ago, the same house was in the newspaper with an asking price of $185,000. & it's still nothing special. Xcept 4 the tree my Dad planted in the front yard the 1st summer we lived there -- IT's grown 2 10 times its original size. It's freakin' HUGE....

Monday, April 16, 2012

#547: The week Spring FINALLY arrived....

They haven't ALL been great days -- it's raining outside right now, as a matter of fact -- but 4 mosta the past week the weather here has been a LOT better & there's been a lot of people out at nite, making my job like a Friday nite almost EVERY nite. Everybody wants it 2 B Spring For Real. I hope they're right....
Along with my usual overplayed stuff, the playlist at work over the past week included:

Moody Blues -- Peak Hour, Tuesday Afternoon, Evening: Time to Get Away, Twilight Time, Departure, Ride My See-Saw, Legend of a Mind, Voices in the Sky, The Actor, Simple Game, Send Me No Wine, The Dream, In the Beginning, Lovely to See You, To Share Our Love, Never Comes the Day, Floating, Eyes of a Child Part 2, Out and In, Gypsy, Watching and Waiting, Question, It's Up to You, The Story in Your Eyes, Our Guessing Game, After You Came, One More Time to Live, You Can Never Go Home, For My Lady, You and Me, Blue World, Sorry, Meanwhile, Veteran Cosmic Rocker.
Justin Hayward & John Lodge -- This Morning, When You Wake Up.
Pretenders -- Precious, Up the Neck, Tattooed Love Boys, Space Invaders, Stop Your Sobbing, Kid, Lovers of Today, Mystery Achievement, Talk of the Town, Message of Love, Birds of Paradise, Pack it Up, Back on the Chain Gang, My City Was Gone, Time the Avenger, 2000 Miles.
Keith Jarrett -- Country.
Pat Metheny -- First Circle.
Wigwam -- Save My Money and Name, Pig Storm, Bless Your Lucky Stars, Kite, Do or Die, Simple Human Kindness.
Stories -- Circles.
The Nice -- America, Rondo.
Dave Brubeck -- Blue Rondo a la Turk, Take Five.
Kansas -- Journey from Mariabronn.
Clannad -- Journey's End.
Happy the Man -- Service with a Smile, Wind-Up Doll Day Wind, Open Book, Steaming Pipes, Morning Sun.
Mark Knopfler -- Going Home, The Way it Always Starts
Dave Clark Five -- Any Way You Want It.
Marvin Gaye -- Ain't That Peculiar?
Steve Tibbetts -- Ur.
Camel -- Sasquatch, End Peace, First Light, Unevensong, Never Let Go, Mother Road, West Berlin, Rain Dances, Flight of the Snow Goose.
Caravan -- Place of My Own, A Hunting We Shall Go....
Group 87 -- One Night Away from Day.
Alan Parsons -- The Gold Bug.
Raspberries -- Overnight Sensation, Let's Pretend, Tonight, Ecstasy, I Wanna Be With You, I Can Remember.
Pink Floyd -- Astronome Domine (live), Flaming.
Carolyne Mas -- Stillsane, Sadie Says.
Holly and the Italians -- I Wanna Go Home, Rock Against Romance, Youth Coup, Just Young, Miles Away.
Bananarama -- Cruel Summer, The Wild Life, Dream Baby.
The Pop -- Go!
Golden Earring -- Snot Love in Spain.
Queen -- Death on Two Legs (Dedicated to...), Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon, I'm in Love With My Car, You're My Best Friend, '39, The Prophet's Song, Sweet Lady.
Rush -- The Camera Eye, Show Don't Tell, Time Stand Still, Distant Early Warning.
Nektar -- Astral Man, Fidgety Queen, Do You Believe in Magic?, The Dream Nebula Parts 1 and 2, It's All in Your Mind, King of Twilight, Wings, It's All Over.
Yes -- America (long version), Looking Around, Time and a Word, Sweet Dreams, Your Move, We Have Heaven, The South Side of the Sky.

A few things I learned -- EVERYBODY knows the Moodies, even the stuff they don't play on the radio: 1 woman walked in during "After You Came," recognized the song, & gave me a website address where I could look up Moodies tour dates. A Regular walked in during drummer Graeme Edge's poem "The Dream," stopped in her trax & said "I haven't heard this in YEARS...." Another Regular walked in during some other Moodies track (I forget which) & said "What's with all this hippie music?" & I said "Yeah, ain't it great?" A 20-year-old guy got sucked-in by "In the Beginning," & when he found out who it was, he said "Interesting...."
Another Regular mis-identified Yes as Queen during "America," but when he figured out who it was (with no hints), he said he hadn't heard THAT in years. That's my job, folks....
A younger woman recognized the Pretenders, said she liked the soundtrack, & told me we've got the coolest store in town....
That's what makes my job worth showing up 4....

Sunday, April 15, 2012

#546: Best music memoir ever!

Rob Sheffield is a Ghod, & his book LOVE IS A MIX TAPE (2007) is the best music-based memoir I've ever read.
Take that, Nick Hornby!
Technically, MIX TAPE is about Sheffield & his late wife Renee -- how music brot them 2gether, kept them 2gether, & how it still connected them after Renee's sudden death less than 5 years in2 their marriage.
At 1st, it seems like MIX TAPE is gonna B 1 of those deep, dark memoirs about lost love, as Rob sits at his kitchen table & plays back 1 of the mix tapes his late wife made 4 him, & he stays up all nite listening & remembering.
At 1st it seems like it might B kinda dark & painful & hard 2 take.
But it's not. Oh boy, is it not.
MIX TAPE is lite & funny & beautifully written & moving & touching & all that other good stuff.
It's also funny as hell. There R big laughs all thru it, starting around Page 2. Big belly laughs. (Really -- 1 of the jokes is about the band, Belly.)
It will also make you tear up, but in a really good way. Despite what happens, it's really a joyous book. & it's a quick read -- just a little over 200 pgs. You can gulp it down in a coupla hrs. & you'll want 2.
There's something else going on here, 2. Sheffield convinces me that I missed a lot when I dropped outta touch with music in the '90s. Tho he includes a lotta familiar songs & artists in his lists of mix-tape contents, I didn't recognize at least 2/3rds of the music he mentioned. Which means I might havta check-out L7 & Sleater-Kinney & Pavement & The Pixies & The Smiths & Yaz & lotsa other stuff, cos I'm a real Musical Idiot when it comes 2 that decade.
There's some other good stuff -- a pretty great chapter on the death of Kurt Cobain (yes, I've heard of him, & Nirvana, tho I sure wouldn't say I'm an expert); & on the heavy symbolic meaning of '80s synth-pop duos.
But of course the best stuff is the story of Rob & Renee, as clearly observed as Sheffield could probably get. That story is warm & human & funny.
The chapter on Renee's unexpected death starts around Page 140 -- & even it isn't as hard 2 take as I'd expected. I dreaded reading about it.
There is a slight chance that the last couple chapters of the book R just a bit of an anti-climax, as Rob comes back 2 life & starts talking 2 people & making friends & making mix tapes again.
& tho it seems odd 2 say it, Bcos of the subject matter, the laughs on the way there make this book worth it. It's bn awhile since any book has made me laugh this much. Sheffield's just hysterical in places -- real good with the 1-liners.
So, how did I go 5 years without discovering this book? Why didn't any of You Folks Out There warn me about it?
All music blogging is at least partly about the connections music makes between people -- which means anybody Out There reading this is part of the right audience 4 this book. Seriously, it's some of the best, most vivid, most moving music-based reminiscing I've read in a long time. 4 gosh sakes, go read it....

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

#545: "The Good Life"

In the Summer of 1991, during what I thot were the 2 worst years of my life, while living in Turkey, just a month B4 my daughter was born, I was picked 2 help close down Hellenikon Air Base in Athens, Greece.
Tho I wasn't thrilled about going when my wife was 8 months pregnant, I had no choice. I took the trip 2 Athens as a sorta vacation -- a 3-week break from what had bn a very demanding 18 months in Turkey.
The folks at Hellenikon wanted a journalist 2 crank-out a coupla newsletters each week as the base slowly drew down, update folks on transfers & base facility-closings, & help out the 1-person base public affairs office in whatever way helped most. Looked EZ.
It wasn't. 1st I hadta GET there. Turkish Air Lines -- which everybody recommended I NOT take, due 2 their poor safety record -- were on strike at the time, bummer! So I ended up taking a bus 1/2way across Turkey from Ankara 2 Istanbul, then caught a Greek flight on 2 Athens. The buses were NICE, but with my 12 fluent words of Turkish, communicating wasn't real EZ. I had 2 memorize the Turkish word 4 "airport" & hope the taxi-drivers in Istanbul wouldn't gouge me 2 badly 1nce they realized I didn't know where I was going....
Made the connections somehow, & LOVED the plane flight over the Med 2 Athens. When we landed, I was struck blind -- EVERYTHING was painted a dazzling white, & the bright sun reflecting off the gorgeous Aegean Sea ... well, I can't describe it. The 1st thing I did was buy a pair of sunglasses so I could SEE.
Athens seemed HUGE, bigger than Ankara -- which had 4 million people. But it was like nite & day: Ankara was sprawling, endless, dirty, HOT in the summer, full of coal smoke in the winter -- generally hazy year-round.
Athens was like being in California only with Greek roadsigns -- there were palm trees! The Greeks thot Athens was polluted, but I thot it was GORGEOUS.
Only 1 problem: It was XPENSIVE. The 1 remaining hotel where American servicepeople were cleared 2 stay cost $50 per nite 4 a room that I swear was No Big Deal. Dinner in the dining room there reportedly cost the same amount. I never ate in the hotel.
A block down the street was the Aegean -- which I WAS able 2 stick my toes in a time or 2, but most of it was fenced-off from the public 4 the benefit of Rich Tourists. (That definitely didn't mean ME.)
Across from the waterfront was a rather nice, homey little taverna under the trees, where I learned that a decent dinner of a pork chop, green salad & room-temperature cola would cost me $7 per nite. I ate there a lot, & I liked the atmosphere -- down-home, definitely not flashy, informal. I didn't havta dress up. & they put up with the fact that I didn't know A WORD of Greek.
Next door was a newsstand with all the latest paperbacks from Great Britain. Somehow, surrounded by the glory of Greece, I became a fan of Paul Theroux's travel books -- reading about train trips thru China while I was surrounded by 1 of the oldest cultures on earth. Problem was, with everything so Xpensive, I couldn't afford 2 go out & SEE NE of it....
I got in2 downtown Athens 1nce during my time there: The American Embassy asked 4 some Air Force bodies 2 B on-hand when former President Jimmy Carter arrived in town. We made the crowd of Americans look bigger, I guess. Carter looked just like himself -- with grayer hair & more wrinkly, but otherwise.... On the bus on our way 2 the festivities, we passed by the Parthenon -- & I was stunned at how SMALL it seemed, perched on its little hill (the Acropolis) there overlooking downtown Athens....
Oh, the job? Well, it actually turned out 2 B a bit of a stretch trying 2 find enuf news 2 fill-up both sides of a notebook-sized sheet of paper 2wice a week. I ended up printing news briefs like: "The Base Post Office will be closing permanently this weekend. Base personnel should be sure to pick up all letters and packages by midnight Friday...."
The base was still selecting Airmen and Non-Commissioned Officers of the Month as its last days approached, so I wrote-up a few of them, too.
The rest of the time I answered phones & wrote long letters home on the office computer -- & tried 2 help out the spunky, good-natured Air Force captain who was the only other military person in the shop. My 1st day there she took me out 4 a cup of coffee & a chance 2 talk, & we discussed why the AF would close down a base in such a beautiful spot. Looming over the cafe & downtown was a chain of dry, rocky, towering hills -- a terrain much like the California coast.
"The Greeks don't want us here anymore," she said. In fact, some Greeks VERY MUCH didn't want us there -- some terrorists had shot & killed an AF master sergeant just a coupla blocks from the base within the past couple of weeks. ...Then the conversation ground 2 a halt & I looked around at the suddenly very empty streets around us....
The Greeks I met were very nice, warm, friendly people. 2 young Greek women worked in our office & were always laughing. 1 told me if I thot things were kinda tense & Xpensive there THEN, I shoulda bn around a few years earlier when the country was under military rule.... The other 1 gave me a ride 2 the airport when I ended up leaving earlier than Xpected....
I got a couple calls thru back 2 Ankara. During 1 of them, my boss back home told me I'd B coming home a week early cos the docs wanted 2 induce labor on my wife. I was thrilled -- I was soon 2 have a beautiful baby daughter -- but it took me 2 days 2 get out of Athens. The 1st flight they booked me on was packed FULL....
Just B4 I left, I wrote the best story I was able 2 do while in Greece: I interviewed a Greek civilian employee who'd worked at the base for 40 years -- as near as we could tell, he was the Greek national who'd worked at the base the longest.
He told me some great stories about how the Americans & Greeks useta have huge dinner parties on the beach back in the '60s -- about how the Americans would set-up huge dinner tables running down the beach & 100's of Greeks & Americans would have dinner & bring their families & go swimming in the Aegean. There was music & wine & lots of good times, & nobody ever talked about the military or war or fighting or terrorism.
He laughed, & sighed, & those days seemed very far off compared 2 1991.
"It's too bad you missed it," he said. "It was The Good Life."

(Jack Ketchum's horror novel SHE WAKES gets down the mood & look of Greece PERFECTLY -- & the story's pretty great, 2....)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

#544: The Moodies!

Can't believe I haven't written about this B4 -- The Moody Blues were my 1st Serious Musical Addiction, even B4 The Beatles. My cousin Jim had a copy of the Moodies' DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED, which I heard a few times while growing up, & I always loved their stuff when it occasionally came on the radio -- "Ride My See-Saw," "Question," "The Story in Your Eyes," "Tuesday Afternoon," & especially the suprising hitbound return of "Nights in White Satin" in '72.
Their songs always seemed 2 have a mystical, spacey, massed-chorale quality that seemed lacking in almost all other Top 40 hits. That mystical quality likely set me off on my search 4 more Strange Music that's continued ever since. In late 1974 I took the plunge & bought their 1st 7 albums all at 1nce & disappeared in2 them 4 months....
Tho I still think they did some genius stuff, the Moodies could B inconsistent. Almost all of their albums have at least 1 song that is impossible 2 take. & almost all of them have at least 1 song that's so damned catchy or brilliant that you'll never forget it.
At their best, the Moodies always had gorgeous group vocals, dynamic & melodic guitar work, strong pop-based songwriting by all the band members, & great mellotron/keyboard sounds. Tony Clarke's heavy production was way ahead of its time -- especially the way he made whole sides of Moodies albums flow together like song suites that couldn't B interrupted.
If the Moodies had bn promoted more in the late '60s & early '70s, I think they coulda had 1/2adozen more hits, as I shall note below....
After more than 35 years of listening, here's what I think of their output....
DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED (1967) is a rock classic, but 1/2 of it's slushy movie-soundtrack instrumentals. The actual SONGS R hard 2 beat -- bassist John Lodge's Dave Clark Five-ish "Peak Hour," guitarist Justin Hayward's gorgeous "Tuesday Afternoon" & "Evening: Time to Get Away," flutist Ray Thomas's "Twilight Time," & Hayward's classic funeral-wail "Nights in White Satin." I can almost take Thomas's "Another Morning" & drummer Graeme Edge's poem "Late Lament" -- about the only place where the orchestra actually ADDS something. But the opening of Side 1 is actually the album's weakest point. Dated, but still great.
IN SEARCH OF THE LOST CHORD ('68) is the Moodies' most dated album, all full of Eastern philosophies & "cool" Indian instrumentation. But there's still some great stuff: The queasy opening chromatic slide ("Departure") in2 the dynamite "Ride My See-Saw," the dated-but-spacey "Legend of a Mind" (with some nice flute from Ray Thomas), the hushed "Voices in the Sky," Hayward's dramatic "The Actor." But the bad stuff is Really Bad. Worst is the howlingly silly "Om," possibly their dumbest track ever.
ON THE THRESHOLD OF A DREAM ('69) opens with a great mini-drama "In the Beginning," then in2 a catchy shoulda-been-single, Hayward's "Lovely to See You." The rest of the 1st side is pretty solid Xcept 4 Thomas's kinda lazy "Dear Diary." The Moodies even make their 1st try at Country with "Send Me No Wine"! The 2nd side opens with another shoulda-bn-classic "Never Comes the Day," but then it's almost all downhill 2 the closing 6-minute psychedelic freakout "Have You Heard?/The Voyage." Graeme Edge's poem "The Dream" is his best piece ever, even tho it does set up that anticlimactic closing....
TO OUR CHILDREN'S CHILDREN'S CHILDREN ('69) has a distant, remote, icy feeling that is absolutely unlike NE other Moodies album. It takes longer 2 get in2 -- I hated it at 1st -- but it soon Bcame 1 of my favorites. The 1 Required Stupid Track here is the opener, "Higher and Higher," which is moronic. Things get rolling slowly with Lodge's "Eyes of a Child," which flows directly in2 Thomas's bouncy "Floating." The killer here is Lodge's brief-but-ferociously-rockin' "Eyes of a Child Part 2" -- they coulda filled up a whole side with something as good as this! "Beyond" is a spacey instrumental that keeps getting interrupted by silly keyboard doodles. "Out and In" is keybsman Mike Pinder's 1st great song on a Moodies album -- but Real Fans know he also wrote "Simple Game," the killer B-side 2 "Ride My See-Saw" -- those doo-doo-doo vocal choruses get me every time!
*AHEM* ... Over 2 Side 2, which opens with the best thing here, Hayward's driving "Gypsy," which has great spacey lyrics, driving guitar, & some of those Moodies-patented wordless-vocal choruses. Pinder's "Sun is Still Shining" is nice & litely bouncy, not unlike a replay of "Floating" from Side 1. Lodge continues his roll with the moody "Candle of Life." Hayward teams up with Thomas 4 the spacey closer "Watching and Waiting," which I insist is narrated by a planet waiting 4 humans 2 come Xplore it. There's a couple other brief sketches, but they're not much. Overall, an album tough 2 love at 1st, but it REALLY grows on you....
A QUESTION OF BALANCE ('70) opens with Hayward's killer single "Question," & mosta the resta the 1st side is also classic. Edge's driving "Don't You Feel Small?" is his 1st & best Real Song so far. Lodge's "Tortoise and the Hare" is a bouncy move-along based on the old fairy tale. The Thomas & Pinder trax R less than their best work, tho I can almost take Thomas's romantic "And the Tide Rushes In" in a weak moment.
The 2nd side shoulda bn pressed in gold. It opens with Hayward's classic shoulda-bn-hit "It's Up to You," which has everything a hit needs Xcept a solid ending. Lodge's "Minstrel's Song" keeps the quality level high, & Hayward's "Dawning is the Day" continues the mood. Pinder's "Melancholy Man" gets a little preachy, & Thomas/Edge's "The Balance" really goes over the top, sounding almost like a church sermon ... but a pretty good 1....
EVERY GOOD BOY DESERVES FAVOUR ('71) has some weak spots, including the directionless opening instrumental "Procession," but then it Gets Good. Hayward's "Story in Your Eyes" was a killer single, & Thomas's "Our Guessing Game" woulda made a great follow-up with its terrific choruses. Lodge's "Emily's Song" is a little romantic & slushy, but Edge's "After You Came" is a driving rocker with lotsa Hayward gtr.
Side 2 opens with a Lodge epic, "One More Time to Live" -- big production, lotsa drama. They follow it with Thomas's lite kids' song "Nice to be Here." Heaviness kicks back in with Hayward's melodramatic "You Can Never Go Home," which is my fave track here. Pinder's "My Song" turns in2 more mellotron-freakout, a disappointing ending.
SEVENTH SOJOURN ('72) has some great stuff, but it was programmed backwards. It shoulda opened with Edge/Hayward's "You and Me," a brilliant end-of-the-world rocker & 1 of my fave Moodies trax ever. Hayward's "Land of Make-Believe" continues the high quality. Lodge's "I'm Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band" was 1 of 2 hits offa this album, which reached #1 in the US in early '73.
Over on Side 1, things get going slowly with Hayward's slushy "New Horizons," but Thomas's "For My Lady" is a gorgeous old English sea-shanty/beer-drinking song. Lodge's "Isn't Life Strange?" was a hit, but it just sounds like Bad Early Bee Gees, 2 me. There R 2 Pinder songs on this album, both lacking in tuneage.
THIS IS ('74) is a best-of which is 1 of the few places you can find Pinder's great "Simple Game." Most of the rest of the choices R pretty obvious....
Justin Hayward & John Lodge's BLUE JAYS ('75) isn't a Moodies album, but the best stuff here stands with the band's best work, especially the dramatic opening "This Morning" & "Remember Me My Friend," Lodge's anthemic "Saved by the Music," & the gorgeous cosmic closer "When You Wake Up."
OCTAVE ('78) was a disappointing comeback. I hear maybe 4 decent songs: Edge's "I'll Be Level With You," Lodge's silly "Steppin' in a Slide Zone," & Hayward's "Had to Fall in Love" & the closing "Day We Meet Again." The rest sounds awfully tired....
LONG DISTANCE VOYAGER ('81) was the real comeback, & 1 of my favorites. Only a coupla weak trax. Hayward's "The Voice" is almost a patented, cliched Moodies hit -- spacey, cosmic, driving. I can't take "Gemini Dream." Hayward's "In My World" is pretty gorgeous tho, & almost worth its 7 mins. The really great stuff is on Side 2, tho -- Hayward's "Meanwhile" is a gorgeous, sparkly classic that shoulda been a hit. Lodge's "Nervous" is the best Barry Manilow song that BM never wrote -- ultra-romantic, melodramatic, a great sappy lovesong. Thomas's "Veteran Cosmic Rocker" is an absolute hoot that shoulda also bn a hit -- rock&roll as circus, swirling, dramatic, brilliant. They coulda retired after this.
THE PRESENT ('83) is my fave Moodies album ever, but it isn't 4 every1 -- it's a bit Adult-Contemporary/EZ Listening, a mature, mellower Moodies, looking back from Middle Age. That said, I think it's their most consistent album ever. It opens with a REAL cliched Moodies almost-hit, Hayward's "Blue World" -- I LOVE it, but listen 2 the lyrics -- it's all a string of Moodies cliches. Hayward & Lodge's "Meet Me Halfway" keeps up the melodic high quality. Lodge's "Sitting at the Wheel" is another bouncy rocker. Over on side 2, Hayward dives back in2 Country with the twangy "It's Cold Outside of Your Heart," & follows with the ultra-romantic "Running Water," which coulda bn the themesong 4 this album. Ray Thomas closes with the '60s throwback "I Am," then the angry, driving "Sorry," which I think was a helluva way 2 end a career. They really SHOULD have retired after this....
Of the stuff that followed, I liked "Your Wildest Dreams" & "The Other Side of Life" & tried 2 get in2 that album but couldn't. KEYS OF THE KINGDOM ('91) was their worst ever, not 1 song with NE life 2 it -- I've read that Thomas's "Celtic Sonant," buried at the end of Side 2, was pretty good -- but I was numb by then.
SUR LA MER had the wonderful "I Know You're Out There Somewhere" & the pretty-good "No More Lies," but the rest was pretty weak, including Hayward's hideous & Mbarrassing "Deep." STRANGE TIMES (2000) started OK with Hayward's "English Sunset," but after that I just drifted off.
Their TIME TRAVELLER box set has most of the songs mentioned above on it (Xcept 4 "Simple Game"), + 1/2 of Hayward&Lodge's BLUE JAYS album. There's 2 much from LOST CHORD & KEYS, & not enuf from DAYS, VOYAGER & PRESENT, but they get most of the other stuff right.
Of course, I coulda made up a better box set selection, + written a better historical essay 2 go with the box, but they didn't ask me....
Last I heard, the Moodies were still touring with Hayward, Lodge & Edge + a ton of help. Thomas had retired, & replacement keybsguy Patrick Moraz (who never got enuf credit 4 livening-up VOYAGER & PRESENT) is long gone. I'd still go see 'em if I had the chance....

(This post is 4 Lex Dexter, who nudged me ... & made this the EZest music-review post I've done in quite awhile....)

Monday, April 9, 2012

#543: The work continues....

The Blogger's Curse works! Since my last post -- which droned on&on about what a rotten "Spring" we've been thru here in the Pacific Northwest -- we've had 2 GORGEOUS sunny days: We hit 65 degrees on Sat & 70 on Easter Sunday.
I've already gotta nice sunburn going 2 make up 4 last Summer -- which was so short I didn't even get a tan....
& everybody wants it 2 B Spring For Real, here. There were a LOT of people out Sun nite, almost like it was a Summer Fri nite. It's still 47 degrees outside at 1 am -- warmer than some of R cloudy, rainy days have been lately. It's a real change 4 us.
Course it's sposta start raining overnite....

...But my Real Work continues. In my ongoing effort 2 turn unsuspecting members of the suburban US on 2 some slightly Strange Music, the rest of this week's playlist at my job included....
Pat Metheny -- As Falls Wichita So Falls Wichita Falls, The Search, Ozark, Praise, New Chatauqua, First Circle.
Lyle Mays -- Ascent.
Synergy -- Icarus, Warriors, S-Scape.
Nektar -- Do You Believe in Magic?, The Dream Nebula Parts 1 & 2, It's All in Your Mind, King of Twilight, Wings, It's All Over.
The Nice -- America.
Moody Blues -- Veteran Cosmic Rocker.
Justin Hayward and John Lodge -- When You Wake Up.
Rush -- The Camera Eye, Red Barchetta.
King Crimson -- The Great Deceiver, Lament, The Night Watch, Coda from "Larks Tongues in Aspic, Part 1," Red, Starless.
Happy the Man -- Service With a Smile, Wind-Up Doll Day Wind, Open Book, Morning Sun, Steaming Pipes.
Group 87 -- Future of the City, Magnificent Clockworks, One Night Away from Day.
U.K. -- In the Dead of Night/By the Light of Day/Presto Vivace and Reprise.
Mark Knopfler -- Going Home (Theme from LOCAL HERO).
Steve Tibbetts -- Ur.
Camel -- Sasquatch, Breathless, Echoes, Wing and a Prayer, Down on the Farm, Starlight Ride, Rhayader/Rhayader Goes to Town, Lady Fantasy suite, City Life, Please Come Home.
Alan Parsons Project -- The Gold Bug.
Mike Oldfield -- Arrival.
Scarlet Rivera -- Day of the Unicorn.
Jethro Tull -- Dark Ages, The Whistler, And the Mouse Police Never Sleeps, One Brown Mouse, Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day, The Third Hoorah, Nursie, Life's a Long Song, A Christmas Song.
Steeleye Span -- Allison Gross.
Hawkwind -- You'd Better Believe It, Goat Willow, Lost Johnny, Hall of the Mountain Grill, Paradox, Web Weaver.

...Response was somewhat low-key, tho 2 folks responded 2 Pat Metheny's "Wichita Falls," 1 Regular asking if we always played Cambodian music in the store ... & another customer commenting that "You sure play some strange music here...." & "Wichita Falls" isn't even that strange!
Another Regular was thrilled 2 hear Tull's "Skating Away," which he'd apparently never heard B4. He recognized the voice but couldn't place the song, & then stayed 2 hear the whole thing!
1 young guy said he really enjoyed a few mins of Synergy's epic "Warriors." Another Regular was stopped in his tracks by Hawkwind's "You'd Better Believe It," then said only that I'm "into some strange stuff...."
Signs R Ncouraging. This work will continue, of course....

Coming Soon: More Sandy Denny, Richard & Linda Thompson, more Weather Report LIVE, Eric Burdon, Nektar, Illusion, Borbetomagus, & more.....
& coming slightly later: "2 months on," a terrifying story you won't want 2 miss....

Friday, April 6, 2012

#542: Boredboredbored....

While the rest of the country Xperiences Spring, here in the Great Northwest it's mostly rainy & in the low 40s. We had 1 nice day, this past Mon, when it was sunny & actually hit 60 degrees -- & I "celebrated" by mowing the lawn 4 the 2nd time this "spring."
I'm bored, & Winter seems 2 B dragging on Ndlessly, as usual here. Maybe y'all Out There R bored 2 -- there seemta B fewer of you these days. Awhile back almost every post seemdta get around 25 to 30 looks -- now I'm lucky 2 get 10. I hope wherever you R, the weather's a LOT better than here, & hopefully you have Better Things To Do.

As 4 me, in an effort 2 shake things up, I MTed out my overnite bag of cassettes I'd bn taking 2 work, & took a whole mostly-new batch of tunes in starting 2nite. Tho I'd had some people ask about Fairport Convention & Aaron Copland over the past week, I figured I couldn't keep playing the same Five Man Electrical Band and Poco songs over&over, so....
2nite at work I went a little weird & folks got 2 hear:
David Sancious and Tone -- Transformation (The Speed of Love).
Mike Oldfield -- Incantations (Part One), Arrival.
Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays -- As Falls Wichita So Falls Wichita Falls.
Fleetwood Mac -- Oh Well.
Happy the Man -- Service With a Smile, Wind-Up Doll Day Wind, Open Book.
Group 87 -- Future of the City, Magnificent Clockworks, One Night Away from Day.
Scarlet Rivera -- Day of the Unicorn.
Synergy -- S-Scape.
Pretenders -- Precious, Up the Neck, Tattooed Love Boys, Space Invaders, Stop Your Sobbing, Kid, Lovers of Today, Mystery Achievement, Talk of the Town, Message of Love, Back on the Chain Gang, Pack it Up, Time the Avenger, My City Was Gone, 2000 Miles.
...I even tried some silence 4 awhile, & that sounded pretty good 2.
More at-work musical weirdness coming soon....

Been trying my best with Neville Judd's AL STEWART: THE TRUE-LIFE ADVENTURES OF A FOLK-ROCK TROUBADOUR (2005), Bcos I was/am a pretty big Al fan & wanted 2 know where some of his Xcellent historical songs come from.
If you're looking 4 a practically-minute-by-minute recap of Al's career, his many tours, his legal problems with Janus/GRT & Arista, & why he sorta floated away in the early '80s, you might Njoy this book.
My feeling is that Judd had a TON of info & unprecedented access 2 his subject -- & then had trouble giving much shape 2 all his data. It's not the smoothest-written rock bio ever....
I haven't learned much that I didn't already know or that I couldn't have figured out on my own. I also think Judd gave a bit 2 much room 2 Al's early career & weaker songs -- while Al's time in the limelite coulda bn Xpanded a bit. But if you want tour info, legal complications & band members' data, Judd's got it wired.
Judd thinks a lot more of TIME PASSAGES and PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE than I do, & a lot less of 24 CARROTS than I do. 1 of Al's best later songs from his classic period, "Rocks in the Ocean," is barely mentioned -- & the fact that Al's old folkie buddy Robin Williamson of the Incredible String Band plays fiddle on it isn't mentioned at all.
About MODERN TIMES and YEAR OF THE CAT we seem 2 agree. As 4 the later stuff, well, I've got 1/2 a CD of Al's later stuff that I haven't gotten 2 yet....
However, Judd's book HAS got me looking 4 a CD full of Al's demos & vault songs, IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME, so maybe this long, data-filled, densely-packed trip was worth it.
There R some good quotes from Al, lotsa lyrics, lyrics from demo-songs nobody's ever heard, & some other good stuff -- but not enuf. I want 2 know where summa these songs CAME from. There's plenty, 4 instance, on "Apple Cider Reconstitution" & "The Dark and Rolling Sea," but only a paragraph or 2 on "Modern Times" -- the book doesn't even tell me if that little drama really happened. Disappointing.

Coming soon: Sandy Denny's LIKE AN OLD-FASHIONED WALTZ. & eventually, some new stuff....